Planning for school 2017 edition

I haven’t posted for a very long time, but Brandy requested a post about how we choose our homeschool subjects, so here we go.

Our process for picking subjects for the school year is somewhat cyclical and mostly based on what the girls need that year. I also take into account what the public schools are covering, as a reference point.

History is the most cyclical subject for us. We did early history in the beginning grades so that we could take advantage of the fun stories. Then we covered US history and Texas history in the years that Z would have done them in public school. This leads to a typical homeschool issue (at least typical for us-) when Z was in 5th grade and was supposed to do US history, Tiny was in 3rd grade. I’m not the type of homeschool mom to do two different history curriculum at once, so Tiny did US history in 3rd grade, at a 3rd grade level. This is where the cyclical nature of our approach comes in- she’ll do US history again when we cycle back through to it when she’s in 7th grade and will pick up lots of things that she didn’t get earlier.

The cycle is roughly (based on Z’s grade):

1st grade: Ancient history

2nd: Medieval/Middle Ages

3rd: Japanese history (this won’t be repeated in the cycle- probably) and World cultures

4th- Texas history

5th: US history

6th: Ancient history

7th: Medieval/Middle ages

8th: Early Modern and Mid modern World history
9th: US history through the Civil War
10: US history post Civil war to present

11th: Current events/World cultures

12: US government

All of this could change, of course, depending on what the girls do for high school, but this is the current plan at least.

We’re approaching science a little differently this year. In previous years I’ve followed the rubric outlined in the state standards, which covers a bit of a bunch of different topics. You get a little geology, a little astronomy, a little biology, etc. This year both girls are really interested in chemistry, so we’re going to make that our main focus.

For the arts I choose whatever makes sense for that year. (How’s that for clearing things up?) I know the general areas in which I want the girls to feel comfortable, and I pick from those what seems appropriate and fun for where they are. When they were younger, that meant classical music that they could dance or draw to. One year it was poetry, another Shakespeare (we’ll cycle back through him again too).  Last year we did American music along with our US history. This coming year we will be doing musicals, and painters that they don’t already know. We were going to do jazz, but I think waiting a year will be better, and then we’ll follow that with the history of rock.

This coming school year, Z will be in 6th grade and T will be in 4th. We’re changing up what we’re doing a bit, putting more of the responsibility on the girls to dig in and learn. We’re also changing things up by shifting to a year round schedule. Our summer term school days will be lower key than fall, winter, and spring, and will likely happen in the afternoon when it’s way too hot to be outside anyway.

So here’s what we’re doing.

Math: We will continue to use Math-U-See; it’s served us well up till now, and I can’t see that changing. Z is starting pre-algebra, and T is starting on fractions. (Z would like me to mention that Math-U-See is hard, and Tiny would like to mention that the pages don’t have color and are not interesting to look at. I don’t know what either of them is comparing against.)

History: This year we’re doing Ancient Civilizations, and we’re all excited. We’ll be covering Mesopotamia, Egypt, Persia/India, Greece, Rome, and the Byzantine Empire. I’ll have a menu of topics that the girls can choose from to research, study, and create a project about, including: government, architecture, art, clothing, famous people, mythology/religion, etc. Projects can include videos, informational posters, stories, dioramas, models, etc. We’ll do a number of these per civilization.

Writing: This year we’re using the Brave Writer curriculum, which includes copy work and dictation to learn grammar, and writing projects. The writing projects are things like creating a book jacket for your favorite book, or making up a new country and creating a travel brochure about it.

Artists: We’ve done a lot of art, and the girls know a lot of artists, so this year I’m trying to catch some that they should know, but don’t. These will include Munch, El Greco, Durer, Klimt, Rockwell, Escher (I’ve been saving him), Rothko, Dali, and Magritte.

Musicals: This is going to be fun. I made a list of all the musicals I think they should see, and we’re watching one a week for the entire school year.

Science: I already said above, we’ll be doing chemistry this year. I’m still sorting out how we’re approaching it, but hopefully it will be fun.

Of course, all of this is subject to change if it isn’t working, which is one of the beauties of homeschool.

Flying Butler Academy update

It’s the middle of the third week of school. It’s going well, we have our super positive days and our complain-y days. A hard truth of homeschooling that goes along with the fun field trips and craft projects is that when your kids wake up in an anti-school mood and won’t stop griping about how much they don’t want to do school, you are the one that has to get them ready in the morning, work with them through their attitude to get the school work done, and then you don’t even get to send them home because you ARE home, and you have them for the rest of the day. That can make for some frustration all around. But on the whole, our days have been good.

We start each day with our “inspiration time”, which is either music, art, or poetry. This month’s composer is Bach, and we listen to a piece of his and then talk about it. If it’s a new type of music (this week was concertos) then we write down a definition it in our music glossaries. And by we I mean the girls. Sometimes the girls conduct the music or dance to it. This month’s artist is Mary Cassatt, and we look at a painting and then the girls draw their version of it in a sketchbook that’s specifically for those drawings. Sometimes the girls fight this and get super frustrated, and sometimes they really enjoy it. For poetry I read a poem aloud, then the girls each get a copy and they each read it aloud and then we mark the rhyming scheme and note anything else interesting about it. This month is Mary Ann Hoberman. Her poems are a lot of fun and really accessible.

Next comes writing and grammar. So far this month we’ve worked on parts of speech and how they work together to make interesting and evocative sentences vs. boring ones. We just started on descriptive writing, which flowed nicely out of working with a lot of adjectives.

Then comes Spanish. We’re using Getting Started with Spanish: Beginning Spanish for Homeschoolers and Self-Taught Students of Any Age which is working incredibly well. The girls now know about 30 words and are fairly comfortable with them. I just made them flashcards that they can use to practice with, and today I had them make sentences with the cards and then the other girl had to translate the sentence. They had a lot of fun with it. The book breaks it down into little bit sized steps – on a number of days we did more than one day’s lessons at once. I really do highly recommend this book.

TEXAS! is next, and yes, that’s what we call it. 🙂 It’s a mix of history, social studies, government, and economy, all aimed at around 4th grade. Right now we’re working through the different regions of the United States and what makes them different from all the other regions (climate, economy, etc.) and how they impact Texas and the other parts of the US. The curriculum is fantastic, and the worksheets approach the information from a number of different angles. The girls have really enjoyed the mapping activities that require them to glue little icons for national monuments and such on their appropriate places on the map, using atlas, cardinal directions, and graphing notations to find the proper location.

We do science next. We did a fun experiment with eggs and vinegar last week, and this week we’re growing bacterial cultures in petri dishes (at least I hope we are).  Each day we check in on our experiment and the girls keep notes on their observations and hypotheses. We were scheduled to do more than experiment this week, but when I scheduled everything I wasn’t really looking at how long the experiments would take. So we adjust.

For math we are still using Math U See, and I cannot say enough good things about it. Z just started fractions, and the manipulatives that they have and the way they present the information makes SO MUCH SENSE. I flipped ahead and the way that they teach finding common denominators made me understand the process for the first time ever. I knew how to do it before, but not why. And unlike some facets of Common Core that make sense to adults but are confusing for kids, I think this will make sense to Z too. Tiny is starting multiplication and it’s easy right now because it’s skip counting.

We’re using Words Their Way for spelling, and it is working SO well. The girls are noticing and understanding the spelling patterns and are actually applying those patterns to other words.

Starting next month we will be adding in cursive, and life skills (health, manners, and cooking, on a rotating basis). I’m still looking into extra curricular classes- Z takes aikido once a week, but Tiny doesn’t have anything yet, and they both want to start piano.

So that’s what we’re doing and how it’s going. Yay school!

How to homeschool when you’re scared

Today one of my friends linked to this post and said that while she is really interested in homeschooling, she also shares the fears of the writer of the post. She asked how her homeschooling friends dealt with those fears, and thinking about that inspired this post. Because, predictably, I have thoughts.

First and foremost, let’s just put it out there- homeschooling is scary. You’re stepping outside the norm, you’re taking responsibility for your child’s education, you’re taking on having them home all day, you’re taking on teaching them subjects you may not feel confident in. But just because something is scary doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. It also doesn’t automatically mean you should do it. So here are some ways to battle the fear.

“I’m afraid to take my kid out of regular school.”

Write it down:

Why? I’m being serious here, take a look at why you are afraid. Are you afraid of being judged? That your child will miss out on something? (If so, hold on to that, we’ll come back to it.) Are you afraid because you’re doing something unusual? Think of every reason you’re afraid and write it down. Identifying the sources of our fear can help in and of itself.

Read a lot:

The more you read about homeschooling, the more concrete it becomes in your mind as an option. Read far and wide, blogs, books, websites, anything that gives you perspective and options. Read The Well-Trained Mind, A Charlotte Mason Education, A Thomas Jefferson Education , Home Grown: Adventures in Parenting off the Beaten Path, Unschooling, and Reconnecting with the Natural World, and any other book that looks good. You don’t (and won’t) have to agree with all of them, but they’ll show you what is possible outside of a “regular” classroom. This goes hand in hand with

Figure out your philosophy:

My friends will laugh because I have a philosophy about everything, but this is really important. The book 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum is the most helpful source I’ve found for this, as the workbook pages walk you through thinking about what you want for your child’s education. Think about what it’s important to you that your child know when they graduate. What subjects do you wish you learned more about in school? Do you want them sitting at a desk a lot? Outside? Doing hands on work? Memorizing facts? Figure out what is important to you, so you know what approach you want to take. At this point, you may realize that a regular classroom is the best forum for realizing your philosophy, and that’s just fine. All of the possibilities are tools in the education toolbox, and if you need a classroom shaped hammer, then don’t try using a homeschool sized wrench.

“I’m afraid I don’t know enough to be a good teacher.”

Use the library:

The library is your best friend. The fact is, no one knows everything about anything. If you’re doing a unit on Egyptians, hit the library for age appropriate books about Egypt. Teach your child how to use the resources at the library to look up and find books in the non-fiction and fiction sections.

Use the internet:

There are so many fantastic resources on the internet. I rely on it all the time when I’m trying to figure out how to explain a math concept, or finding an answer to a question I don’t have an answer to. Youtube is full of great videos for visual learners, there are great games for practicing different subjects, and great websites with premade worksheets.

Make friends with other homeschoolers:

If you have a community of homeschooling friends, you have a pool of resources to pull from. Maybe one of them is great at a subject you’re not confident in and is willing to either give you a refresher or do some subbing in for you. Other homeschoolers are also a great resource for ideas for curriculum if what you’ve picked out isn’t working for you.

Look at classes and clubs:

You don’t have to be your child’s only teacher just because you’re homeschooling. There are lots of options for classes at different price points at gyms and community centers, as well as subject specific locations like cooking classes. Girl/boy scouts and 4H are also excellent opportunities for kids to learn outside of the home. The charter school that we went through allowed us to use state funds for certain classes, so that is also something to look into.

Remember, you don’t need to know everything and neither do your kids.

Check out the state standards for the grade your child will be in. See where other kids their age are expected to be at the beginning and end of their grade. It really isn’t necessary for your 1st grader to be able to tell you all of the relevant dates for the history of the Romans- being able to tell you about togas and gladiators and remembering the name of Julius Caesar is pretty awesome. The further I get in homeschooling, the more I realize that I was expecting too much early on. Learning should be interesting and mentally stimulating, not frustrating.

“I’m afraid I’m going to fail.”

Find a mentor:

This is, I think, the most important thing you can do to help yourself not be afraid. Find someone who has done it before, who is further in the process than you are and look to them for inspiration. When we started homeschooling, we went through a charter school that provided an accredited teacher to check in with once a month. I highly recommend this approach for at least the first year. Having someone who can hold your hand as you start is invaluable. My current mentor has no idea that I hold her in that regard, we’ve never met, she doesn’t know who I am. But Heather from Beauty That Moves is a homeschooling mama whose daughter is turning 18, and her posts remind me that this is a viable option, that homeschooling is a wonderful, edifying thing.

Make a schedule:

This is second on the not being afraid list. You can’t have a sense of what you’re accomplishing if you don’t know what you’re trying to accomplish. Determine at the beginning of the year what you want to accomplish. This can be anything from “By the end of the year I want my child to know how to read 3 letter words” to “I want us to do a science experiment every day” or “I want my child to progress through their math workbook”. The more specific, the better. Then break that year long goal down into monthly goals, and then weekly goals. You can go more specific than that, or leave it loose if you want more freedom. I know a lot of people who feel restricted by schedules, I used to be one of them. But I’ve learned that having at least a rudimentary schedule gives you the freedom of knowing that you’re getting the things done that you want to.

Have realistic expectations:

Figure out what your expectations are, and judge yourself against them, not against something impossible. Don’t expect perfection from yourself or your kid, you’re not going to get it. You’re going to make mistakes, and so is she.  If you expect your kid to sit in her chair while you work on math, don’t keep her there for an hour if she’s 5.  This is where a mentor and homeschooling friends come in handy- as a reality check when you get frustrated. Also, be realistic about what kind of homeschooler you are, not just what you think you should be. The fact that pinterest is filled with pictures of intricate reproductions of the Great Wall of China made out of sugar cubes doesn’t mean you have to do that with your kid unless you really want to.

Remember, homeschool isn’t regular school:

And it probably isn’t going to look like it. You’re most likely going to finish lessons in far less time because you’re focusing on teaching less children. Once they’ve got the concept, practice it and move on. School doesn’t have to take 7 hours because you don’t have to wait for everyone to finish. Don’t compare your school to regular school. One of the lovely things for us is that we didn’t have to worry about all of the Common Core techniques for math- once the girls found a technique that worked for them and that they understood, we left the rest alone.

If it isn’t working, you can always stop (for the day):

You are going to have days when you are frustrated beyond belief, or your child is frustrated, and what you are doing isn’t working. Just stop. One of the joys of homeschool is that you can take a step away, no matter what you have on the schedule for that day. If you’re all too tired, watch a video about animals instead of making an intricate sugar cube reproduction of the Great Wall of China. If borrowing is causing tears, cuddle together and read a book instead. Borrowing will wait until tomorrow, and will probably be easier with fresh eyes.

If it really isn’t working, you can always stop (and try something else).

Maybe you have your heart set on giving your child a Classical education and they’re bristling against the structure. Maybe you really love the idea of unschooling but you’re going a little crazy not having things planned ahead of time. Maybe the spelling curriculum that looked awesome causes tears and frustration every day.  Reassess and try something else. It can take time to find what works for you and your kid.

If it REALLY isn’t working, you can always stop (for good.)

Discovering that homeschooling isn’t working for you or your child (or both) isn’t a failure, it’s just a discovery. So you try something else. Maybe it’s public school, maybe it’s private school, maybe it’s a tutor. I know a number of families who tried homeschooling and stopped, and all of them are happier because they were honest about what was working and what wasn’t. Just because you start homeschooling doesn’t mean that you can’t do something else.

“I’m afraid that my child will be weird/not socialized.”

Give them a social education:

I approach my girls’ social education the same way I do their academic education. I plan playdates and social opportunities with specific parameters (not all the time, but you know what I mean) because playing with one friend takes different interaction skills than playing with two or three friends. Give your child lots of opportunities to be around other people and you’ll be fine and so will they.

Are you weird?

In my experience, homeschooled kids of weird people end up a bit weird. Homeschooled kids of fairly normal people end up fairly normal. It’s just kind of how it is. But a little weird never hurt anyone. However, if you (as parents) are introverts (I’m not saying introverts are weird), and you worry about your child feeling comfortable getting out and around other people, then work hard to give them that social education. They won’t have a forced interaction with 30 other kids every day, so you’re going to have to supplement what they’re getting at home.

Homeschooling can be scary, but it doesn’t have to be. Most fear comes from the unknown, and the more you know, the more confident you’ll be. If you’re a religious type who believes in prayer, pray about it. We had very strong promptings that we were supposed to homeschool. Other people might not. Every family and every situation is different. And this is all just my opinion, your experience may vary wildly from this. But hopefully it helps a little bit.


School for next year: Planning edition

Brandy asked for a post about our plans for school next year, and what Brandy asks for, she gets. 🙂

Of course I’m already waist deep in planning because a, that’s what I do to keep my sanity, and b, we’ll be moving right at the beginning of the school year, so I need to have everything in place. So here’s what we’ve got.

Math: We’re sticking with Math U See because it works really well for the girls. Both girls will finish the books that they’re on by the end of the month, so we will begin new books in September.

Spelling: I’m really not sure what we’re going to do with spelling. We used Spell U See this year, and I’m really not sure how much the girls have gotten out of it. We may go back to Spelling Workout, even though Z complained daily about it. I’m still thinking on that one.

Reading: We will have a dedicated reading time for the girls to each read out of an assigned book (on each of their reading levels). Then they’ll tell me what they read, and we’ll go over literary structures like plot, conflict, things like that.

History/Social Studies: Z will be starting 4th grade, which is the year when you’re supposed to do state history. Since we’ll have just moved to Texas, it will be a great opportunity for us to get to know our new state. I found a curriculum from Splash Publications ( that we’ll be using called Do Texas! that covers the geography, animal life, history, and government of Texas.  It’s got all of the lessons and worksheets and project instructions, which is awesome. Their customer service was also excellent.

Art: We’re focusing on women and minority artists this coming year. Most of them struggled through an illness of some kind, which adds an interesting through line to the year. We’ll be covering Mary Cassatt, Dorothea Lange, Faith Ringgold, Jacob Lawrence, Horace Pippin, Paul Klee, Frida Kahlo, Grandma Moses, and Andy Warhol. We’ll do a month on each- 2 times a week.

Music: The focus for this coming year will be on classical composers, in preparation for a focus on jazz the following year. We did a little jazz this year, which the girls loved, but B and I both think that they will be able to have a greater appreciation for what jazz does if they have a foundation in the classical music that it subverts. So we’re doing Bach, Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, Gershwin, and then we’ll end with John Williams, which the girls will love. Each composer gets a month, 2 times a week. As I was picking the songs that we would use, I got so excited about the girls hearing this gorgeous music. I do need to find a way to introduce them to some female composers- when I told Z we were doing classical she said, “That’s when they didn’t let women write music, isn’t it?”. I reminded her that they have tons of music written by women on their ipod, but more never hurts.

Poetry: Instead of doing Shakespeare, we’re going to focus on a different poet each month. As with the composers and artists, we’ll look at the individual’s work while also learning about general poetry vocabulary like alliteration, rhythm, symbolism, personification, metaphor, etc. We’ll study Mary Ann Hoberman, Ogden Nash, Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, Robert Louis Stevenson, Carl Sandburg, Ella Wheeler Wilcox, Eloise Greenfield, and Valerie Worth. My goal is to introduce them to the fun of poetry, how the words play on your tongue and capture so many things in such a little space.

Science: Science is all about experiments next year. I bought 5 books (Janice VanCleave’s Physics for Every Kid: 101 Easy Experiments in Motion, Heat, Light, Machines, and Sound (Science for Every Kid Series), The Science Chef, The Everything Kid’s Easy Science Experiments Book, Gardening Lab for Kids, Kitchen Science Lab For Kids) and sorted all of the experiments in them into categories so that we have units covering biology, earth science, the human body, chemistry, food science, and then a remaining 10 in different facets of physics, including rocket science and electricity, which Z is most excited about. We’ll do a different experiment every day. It should be very exciting.

There will also be lots of writing, which will get complained about. 🙂

Texas is really low key about homeschooling- you don’t report to anyone and you get no money from the state. There are only three requirements: 1. The instruction must be bona fide (ie. not a sham) 2. The instruction must be in visual form (ie. books, workbooks, video monitor), 3. The curriculum must include the five basic subjects of reading, spelling, grammar, mathematics, and good citizenship.  I love that first one, which, incidentally, is copied and pasted straight from the state website. No sham homeschooling!

We’re also planning to get the girls into some active activities; there’s a homeschool fitness class at one of the local gyms, and the girls really want to ride horses. Hopefully there will be other homeschooling families that we can do things with- the girls are so excited to be around kids they can actually talk to. They keep coming up with clubs that they want to have, sewing, cupcake making, science- so we’ll see what comes of that. We’ll be looking into 4H as well. So many wonderful options.

We only have 3 weeks left of school for this year, and the year has gone well. The binders worked like a dream, and I’ll definitely do the same for next year. It’s so lovely to just pull out the binder and know what we’re doing for the day.

The one big question is whether we will keep the Flying Butler Academy name or pick a new one. That’s a pretty good question to have.

Random thoughts:Or, Liveblogging my brain

Last night the weather prediction said that it was supposed to rain today around 11 am. When I woke up this morning, the sun was bright and the next door neighbor had her laundry hanging out, so I decided to risk it. (Pertinent facts: It’s supposed to rain for the next couple days, our dryer is not effective so we have to hang clothes out, B just came back from a week long trip so we have a decent amount of laundry to get done, and I trust my neighbor implicitly on all things laundry hanging related.) As it got closer to 11, the sky got darker and darker, and I began the game I like to call, How Long Can I Leave the Laundry Out? It is sister games with How Dry Will the Clothes Be? As it turns out, all but 1 pair of pants were dry by the time the rain started, so I think I win that round.

I’m planning our school curriculum for next year. It’s a bit early, but my parents will be visiting during April and May, which is when I would generally start working on it, and we’ll be traveling/busy/moving during the summer months and I want things all set and ready to go when the school year starts. That means preparation now. We’re continuing the artist and composer study that we’re doing this year, but without the guidance of a specific curriculum. I found that a lot of the activities that were provided with the composer curriculum that we’re working off of this year are just distracting to the girls and weren’t really serving a purpose. So I’m creating activities that will work better for them. We’ll be focusing on classical composers- Bach, Handel, Beethoven (“It’s under Beet oven in the index”), Mozart, Stravinsky, Tchaikovsky, someone else I can’t recall at this moment, George Gershwin, and John Williams. (I realize those last two aren’t classical.)  As I’ve been pulling out songs to use (I now have a very long playlist of 8 songs per artist) I have been so humbled as I listen to this gorgeous music. It’s just so very beautiful. And breathtaking to think that it came from someone’s mind. I really think that people who say they don’t like classical music either haven’t actually listened to any, or listened to the wrong stuff. Baroque stuff that’s heavy on the harpsichord I can see going a little sour on you. But how can this not make your heart sing at least a little?

For our artist study, we’re focusing on women and Black artists. This year we only had one woman artist in our study, and Tiny pointed out the inequity (be still my heart). I was going to do only women next year, but there aren’t nine women featured in the books we’re using as the spines of our study (to be accurate, there are, but we’ve done a couple of them already), so I figured we’d fill out the year with other non white male artists since we’ve already done lots of those.  I love that I have the freedom to impart values to the girls as they’re learning about things. They’re learning about art, yes, but they’re also learning that anyone can be an artist (and thus, THEY can be artists), and that it’s important to be purposeful and aware in our consuming of art. So we’ll be doing Mary Cassatt, Dorothea Lange, Faith Ringgold, Jacob Lawrence, Horace Pippin, Paul Klee (our token white male, but Tiny will LOVE his work), Frida Kahlo, and Grandma Moses.

We’re also continuing our Shakespeare study, which means I have to sit down and put it together. That’s the one that takes the most work, because I’m creating it all. But it’s fun to put together and the girls enjoy it, so it’s worth it.

While putting together the songs for music I was reminded of Josh Groban (I’m using his version of Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring along with a classical version). Somehow I’d forgotten he existed. Well, not that he existed, because I recently saw a thing about him and Kat Dennings dating, which DELIGHTS me to no end, because I adore her. Her rapport with Thor is far more entertaining than Natalie Portman’s. BUT ANYWAY. I’d forgotten that I really enjoy Josh Groban’s voice. So now I am listening to him. This song just came on and it’s my favorite.  (And I’d totally forgotten about the Corrs too! How does this happen?)

This is good, because I’ve been obsessively listening to Paloma Faith, and I’d gotten to the point where her songs were on constant repeat in my head, which gets a little old. But seriously, listen to this song, it’s SO good. The video has a parent advisory because there’s a skotch of a bare bum and a lot of rolling around on a bed. But it’s very pretty rolling around on a bed. I just realized that it also amuses me because she kind of looks like Billie Piper when she has the blonde hair.

Her pipes are just stunning- she can belt so cleanly.

I watched the 2008 version of Brideshead Revisited, finally. The book is in my top 5, so I had really high expectations. It suffers from the problem of many adaptations- there’s just too much to fit into a 2 hour movie, so a lot of the character development and plot get shorthanded. If you’ve read the book then you’re solid, but if you haven’t then I have to think it would be a bit perplexing. “Why in the world did he do that??” kind of moments. But visually- whoa nelly. It is breathtakingly gorgeous. The casting is perfection. I mean just look. So painful to watch two hours of these people, you know?




Matthew Goode is Charles Ryder and plays his hopeful obsessive part to perfection. Hayley Atwell is Julia Flyte, and while this should not surprise me because she’s an actress and it’s her job, she plays her so drastically different than her brilliant portrayal of Peggy Carter in Agent Carter. Her Julia is fragile and struggling with her faith and her obligations and she’s just so so good. And Ben Whishaw. Oh my giddy aunt. He plays Sebastian Flyte, who is easily one of my very favorite characters ever, and he SLAYS him. The bravado covering deep insecurity, the fear, the faith, the terror of being a disappointment, the flaws, oh goodness. He’s just so good.

The story, if you don’t know it, is pretty straightforward. It’s set in that magic time period in England between the wars. Charles comes from a modest family and goes to Oxford. He meets Sebastian (who is riiiiiiiiiiiiich and whose family lives in the Brideshead manor of the title) and they tumble headlong into that combination of friendship and love that seemed to happen at men’s colleges a lot. Sebastian doesn’t want Charles to meet his family, wanting to keep him for himself, which turns out to be a good plan, because as soon as he meets Julia (Sebastian’s sister) he is smitten, and when he meets his mother she tries to conscript him into influencing Sebastian the way she wants. Lady Marchmain (played briliantly by Emma Thompson) is staunchly Catholic, worrying more about her children’s eternal happiness than their happiness in this life. That Catholicism runs up against Charles’ atheism and her children’s doubts. Charles makes some hurtful decisions in the direction of Julia, Sebastian makes some hurtful decisions in response, and it’s all more complicated and complex than the movie can sustain, but they do their darndest. Lady Marchmain’s cry of “I just want to see my children safe, and all they do is hate me!” is so heartbreaking.

I read the other day that the most effective scenes are those in which everyone is right (I want you to know that when I read that, I thought, “I should copy this because I’m going to want it at some future point”. But I didn’t. So just now I tried to go through all of the websites I would have looked, in order to find it. And I thought, “if only there was some way to go back and look at the history of all the websites I’ve looked at. Oh wait.” And I just went through my browser history to find it. You’re welcome.) It was Beau Willimon about House of Cards, a show I don’t watch. But he said,

David Fincher told me this maxim and it’s so true and one of the best writing lessons I’ve ever learned: In a great scene everyone is right. And I think they’re both right in that scene. When both people are right, but not right to each other, then you have conflict.

And that’s at the crux of the story of Brideshead Revisited, everyone thinks that they’re right. It’s such a compelling story, and you should read the book and watch the movie because they’re both glorious.

I’ve been struggling with reading lately, I think I’ve started 6 different books and not finished them. It’s gotten to the point that I’m not starting books that I really want to read because I know I’m in the wrong mood for them. I’ve been reading the new Catherynne Valente book for 3 days, which should tell you something, because I inhale those things in hours. (The book, The Boy Who Lost Fairyland, is lovely, the problem is totally me.) I need to get over this because I just got new books early for my birthday, and there is a new Gail Carriger book coming out soon (Prudence (The Custard Protocol) ). My continued existence on this Earth depends upon me reading it as soon as it comes out.

I play a little game when I read the synopsis for books (or movies) that consists of seeing how many words into the blurb I get before I am definitively in or out. Gail Carriger’s books are always within the first sentence of the blurb. My friend was telling me about a book the other day and said, “I’m just giving you two words. Clones and opium.” and I was in. Sometimes it takes more than that- for example, the book  Our Ecstatic Days by Steve Erickson. The synopsis is this:

Our Ecstatic Days begins as the memoir of a young mother desperate to forget a single act, committed out of love and fear, that has changed forever the world around her. In the waning days of summer, a lake appears, almost overnight, in the middle of Los Angeles. In an instant of either madness or revelation, convinced that the lake means to take her small son from her, Kristin becomes determined to stop it. Three thousand miles away, on the eve of a momentous event, another young woman — with a bond to Kristin that she can’t even know — meets a mysterious figure who announces in the dark, “The Age of Chaos is here.”

Are you in, or out? I’m in, at “convinced that the lake means to take her small son”. The lake appearing is good, but her take on it is what makes it interesting. But then you have something like Aurorarama:

New Venice–the “pearl of the Arctic”–is a place of ice palaces and pneumatic tubes, of beautifully ornate sled-gondolas and elegant Victorian garb, of long nights and short days and endless vistas of crystalline ice. But as the city prepares for spring, it feels more like qarrtsiluni— “the time when something is about to explode in the dark.”  Meanwhile, a mysterious and ominous black airship hovers over the city like a supernatural threat–is New Venice about to come under assault, or is it another government ploy?

And I’m close at “the pearl of the Arctic” and fully in at “ice palaces and pneumatic tubes”. Sometimes that’s all it takes.

Or The Rabbit Back Literature Society:

Only nine people have ever been chosen by renowned children’s author Laura White to join the Rabbit Back Literature Society, an elite group of writers in the small town of Rabbit Back. Now a tenth member has been selected: a young literature teacher named Ella.  Soon Ella discovers that the Society is not what it seems. What is its mysterious ritual known as “The Game”? What explains the strange disappearance that occurs at Laura White’s winter party? Why are the words inside books starting to rearrange themselves? Was there once another tenth member, before her? Slowly, as Ella explores the Society and its history, disturbing secrets that had been buried for years start to come to light. . . .  In Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen’s chilling, darkly funny novel, The Rabbit Back Literature Society, praised as “Twin Peaks meets the Brothers Grimm” (The Telegraph), the uncanny brushes up against the everyday in the most beguiling and unexpected of ways.

I’m in solidly at “the Game”, and the rearranging words, secrets and comparison to Twin Peaks are just icing on the cake.

Conversely, it’s similarly innocuous things that put me “out”. For example:

Back in the run-and-gun days of the mid-1990s, when a young Billy Graves worked in the South Bronx as part of an aggressive anti-crime unit known as the Wild Geese, he made headlines by accidentally shooting a ten-year-old boy while struggling with an angel-dusted berserker on a crowded street.

“Aggressive anti-crime unit” did it for me. Not interested.


On a searing August day, Melisandre Harris Dawes committed the unthinkable: she left her two-month-old daughter locked in a car while she sat nearby on the shores of the Patapsco River. Melisandre was found not guilty by reason of criminal insanity, although there was much skepticism about her mental state. Freed, she left the country, her husband, and her two surviving children, determined to start over.

Yeah, no. Out at locking the kid in the car, further out at starting life over.

U., a “corporate anthropologist,” is tasked with writing the Great Report, an all-encompassing ethnographic document that would sum up our era. Yet at every turn, he feels himself overwhelmed by the ubiquity of data, lost in buffer zones, wandering through crowds of apparitions, willing them to coalesce into symbols that can be translated into some kind of account that makes sense. As he begins to wonder if the Great Report might remain a shapeless, oozing plasma, his senses are startled awake by a dream of an apocalyptic cityscape.

Out at “corporate anthropologist”.

Those were all from books Amazon recommended for me based on previous purchases, so it’s not like I couldn’t possibly like them- that’s what makes it interesting to me. Just the question of what draws people in and what doesn’t.

Speaking of what draws me in, I’m super excited about the new Sherlock Holmes movie with Ian McKellen as an older Holmes. It looks so good.

I’m going to go work on curriculum. What’s going on with you?

Random thoughts

It’s Jan. 2 and we’re all lounging about, doing not much at all. I got to sleep in until 9:45. It’s a nice  way to start the year.

Bruce and I watched Ascension (the Scyfy mini-series) last night. It was so thought provoking, and I just can’t stop thinking about it. I hope that they bring it back for a full season, because I have questions and theories. Did you watch it?

I just read this article about the problem with reading challenges (like to read a certain number of books in a year) and I agree with it, even though I have reading goals for myself. (Go read it, so you know what I’m agreeing with.)  I want to make clear that I don’t post about the books I’m reading here to boast, but because I love books and I love hearing about books I don’t know about, and figure that you might too. Besides, writing about them helps me sort out my thoughts. I have thought about having a year where I just read really long books. I’d only finish like 20 in the year, but they’d all be massive.

I do have two reading goals this year. The first is that I want to read more books by women. Last year, almost exactly half of the books I read were written by women, but I’ve been thinking about the #readwomen2014 movement, which encouraged people to read more women authors (you can read more about it here ) and about some of the people who chose to read only women authors in 2014. I’m not going to make that complete of a commitment, as I have already pre-ordered at least a couple of books written by men that I’m dying to read, but I am going to aim for 80% of the books I read to be by women. I think that’s completely doable. I even went through all of the books on the Haunted Kindle of Doom (I got a new Kindle Voyage for Christmas!) and put all of the books by women into their own collection, so I can just go in and pick what to read next. There are a lot of books in there. I’ll be covered for quite some time.

This is good, because my second goal is to only buy one book a month. Last year my goal was to buy no new books, and I failed so laughably. I have come to the realization that I function with a scarcity mentality when it comes to books- I’m always looking for the next perfect book, and if I don’t buy books right now then I’ll never have the chance again. This is obviously disproved by the backlog on the H.K.o.D. So my goal is to focus on the collection of books I already have, and to allow for one purchase a month, of a book that I really really want. It doesn’t take into account a couple of books that I have pre-ordered that are all coming out in January, but I won’t buy an additional book in January.  We’ll see how it goes.

Speaking of goals, this is an awesome list of goals that have to do with writing, although they’re pretty awesome goals for anyone. My writing goals for the year involve editing, revising, and hopefully publishing at least one novel (maybe 2).

I’m also trying to step away from sugar. (I’m phrasing it that way so my brain doesn’t freak out.) I went all yesterday with no sugar, and frankly, I’m pretty amazed.

I also have the goal of doing something creative every day. Writing, sewing, painting, doodling, taking a picture, something. Doesn’t have to be good, just has to be something.

make 4I read a post about being embarrassed to still love the musical Rent, (which I think is ridiculous- you can think the bohos are kind of full of it for not wanting to be responsible adults while acknowledging the emotion and struggle as real and valid) and have had songs from it stuck in my head all week.

I love that music so much I can hardly stand it.  I’ve loved it ever since I saw the cast perform on the Tonys in 1996 and the soundtrack wasn’t even out yet, and I waited and waited and waited, and then it finally came out and I listened to it over and over until I’d memorized every word. Look at Idina’s hair!

I have also had The Phantom of the Opera stuck in my head. Apparently my brain wants more musicals. Speaking of which- this looks SO good. I have the soundtrack and it’s amazing.  Her songs go backwards, from the end of their relationship to the beginning, and his songs go from the beginning of their relationship to the end. So you piece the story together as you go. It’s beautiful and so sad. And I’d love to hear Anna Kendrick sing all the songs.

School starts again next week. We’re finishing up units on Monet, John Phillips Sousa, and Twelfth Night.  We start a unit on Duke Ellington in a couple weeks, which I’m really excited about. And we’ll do Hamlet as well, which will include references to both Nightmare Before Christmas and David Tennant, so that will be enjoyable.

If you haven’t watched this version of Hamlet you should, it’s so incredibly good. The portrayal of Ophelia completely changed the way I saw the play. Her genuine madness reveals Hamlet’s for the shadow it is. He’s not crazy, he’s grieving. Ophelia, on the other hand, has lost the plot, as they say.

That’s all I’ve got for now. Got to go start rice for dinner. Why is it always dinnertime?

Our days

We’ve been back in school (Flying Butler Academy) for two weeks now, and have settled into a routine. Every year I create a basic schedule for the day, and this year I decided to try something different- splitting the school day up into sections. Other than the fact that we don’t start anywhere near the time I have on the schedule (I based it on the girls getting up at 7, and they’ve been getting up closer to 7:30), we’ve been staying close to it, and it’s been working well.

I get up around 6:45 and take a shower and get dressed. Things really go so much better if I’m up before the girls are. Some days, remembering that is the only thing that keeps me from going back to sleep. I check my email and Facebook and look over my to do lists, and basically get my brain in properly.

The girls get up between 7-7:30 and have breakfast and get dressed. I put in a load of laundry now.

First we have our “Inspiration Hour”, which does not take an hour. We say our pledge (“Butler, butler, flying butler!),  read scriptures, and do one of the following- artist study (this month is Van Gogh), composer study (we’re learning about the orchestra), or Shakespeare (intro to his life and times). This takes anywhere between 15 minutes and 1/2 hr., and then we take a break. When the girls finish a school segment, they get to put stickers on a sheet they have to track their assignments for the week. At the end of the week, if they have all of their stickers, they get to put a big sticker on the page. Last week, when they got their big sticker, they decided that they needed to give speeches.IMG_4033

Tiny pretended to cry as she thanked all the little people. It was hilarious.IMG_4040

During the break, the girls play a little, and I hang out the laundry to dry and start cleaning. For 1/2 hr we tackle a room of the house. The girls have jobs to do in the room (for which they can earn money), and I clean the rest.

Then we get back to lessons and do spelling, social studies/geography, and math. This takes about an hour, then we take another break for about 15 minutes.

When we come back from the break, we do Language Lab, which consists of grammar, writing, and handwriting. It takes about 20 minutes. By this time it’s around 11, and the girls are free until after lunch. We eat around 12.

After lunch, we do Special Subjects, which is Life Skills on two days of the week, and science on two. (On Mondays we don’t have Special Subjects because the girls have Japanese class in the evening.) This takes about 15 minutes.

At this point, we’re done with school. We have the rest of the day for the girls to play and for me to get things done. On days that we are going to go out and go somewhere, we can fit in a grocery trip before lunch, or we can take out some of the breaks in the early parts of the day and move Language Lab and Special Subjects to later in the afternoon. Then we can go out around 10 and have until around 2 to be out and about.

We go a big grocery shop once a week, and stop by the bakery to get bread 3 or 4 times a week. My parents are here with us for a couple months, so once or twice a week we go out to see sights around Tokyo.

On Fridays after school is over, I prep for the next week- replacing the girls’ finished assignment sticker sheets with new ones, cutting out anything that needs to be cut out for art or music or geography, and making sure I have any supplies that we’ll need for science. I also make notes about what we did that week for my school records.

I start making dinner for the girls around 4:45 and they eat at 5. (My parents and I eat with B when he gets home around 6:45.)  They take a shower after dinner and then are free again until 6:30 when it’s reading time. They read to themselves for 1/2 an hour, and then I read to them from 7-7:30 when it’s bed time.

I’m liking this schedule because school isn’t rushed, and we still have time to fit in everything. Last year I always felt like I was rushing to get through school or leaving the room to move laundry or something (and then the girls would start daydreaming and I’d get frustrated), and none of us had very much fun. But with the breaks scheduled in, I know I’ll have time to get the laundry moved and still give my full attention to spelling, or whatever subject we’re doing. There is still complaining, (Tiny this morning: “I don’t want to do math! It’s easy and I can do it fast but I JUST DON’T WANT TO!”) but there’s less of it and we’re all enjoying ourselves more.

Random tip for the day- if your kids need to learn the countries/continents/oceans of the world and are aural learners, I highly recommend Geography Songsby Kathy Troxel. They are RIDICULOUSLY catchy, but not obnoxious, and within 3 listens your kids will be singing, “The continent of Asia has Hong Kong in China, Taiwan, Macao and Japan, and Mongolia. North Korea and South Korea are in this beautiful laaaaand.” over and over and over and over and over again.

Apparently she also has a states and capitals album and one about grammar, along with albums for addition, subtraction, and multiplication facts. But not division. No songs about division for you. The math songs don’t sound as strong as the others, but I’m going to try the multiplication songs and I’ll report back.

Time for lunch!


Paying for homeschool

Brandy asked in a comment about funding for homeschooling, so I shall tell you what I know.  (If you are considering homeschooling, please do your research on what the current situation is in your state. The things I’m saying were true in CA in 2012. I can’t speak for anywhere else.)

In California, money is allocated from state taxes for each child that attends public school. Private schools do not receive funding from the state, and they don’t have some of the same oversights from the state (I think. I’m not sure because I didn’t look so much into the private school option.)

When you choose to homeschool in CA, you can either affiliate yourself with a charter school or declare yourself a private school. If you declare yourself a private school (by filing an affidavit) you forfeit the money allocated to your child from the state. You also then are responsible for keeping all records about your child’s education and documenting their progress in relation to the state standards. The extent to which people do this varies quite a bit, I’m sure.

We chose to affiliate ourselves with a public charter school geared for homeschoolers. We registered Z with them and she was enrolled in their school, and as such,  they claimed the money allocated to her by the state. They managed those funds, but I was able to choose specifically what it was spent on- I would tell them what curriculum or supplies or classes we wanted to use the money for, and they would facilitate that. Because the money was connected with the school, we either used up the supplies or gave the non-consumable items back when we moved or Z leveled out of them. Anything that I knew we would want to keep, like the blocks for the Math-U-See curriculum, I bought myself.

For the sake of completeness, I’ll add in that through the charter school, we were assigned an accredited teacher who met with us every 30 days and went over Z’s work and counseled me in any thing I needed. She was the one who placed the orders for curriculum etc, and who tracked and documented Z’s progress. If Z had been old enough for standardized testing, that would have been done through the school as well at a testing facility.

Now, in Japan, we have no funding. We have no anything, because they don’t really pay attention to what we’re doing, which is a blessing because we don’t have to conform to any Japanese standards or regulations. Any cost associated with school  is paid by us. I try to minimize costs, but it’s not cheap. This year both girls leveled into new Math-U-See books ($30 each) and each have a new spelling book ($30 each). The curriculum I bought for geography, music, and art totaled $40. The science book we’re using was $10, and the books and sticker activity books we’re using for Shakespeare probably came to around $50.  I had the other curriculum books already, or we opted out of using a book (for writing, for example). We also spent around $100 for a subscription to Discovery Education Streaming Video Plus, because that service is amazing and we use it all the time. We have a $20 subscription to Facts First, a website where the girls practice their timed math facts. We have subscriptions to both the Reading Rainbow and Epic! apps so the girls have access to lots of books.  We pay for the girls’ weekly Japanese lesson, and if they start any new classes next year (they’re thinking about aikido), there will be that cost. There’s also any costs associated with paper, pencils, art supplies, binders, printer ink, etc. It’s not cheap, but it’s their education, so it is what it is.

I’m sure there are people who make more expensive choices, and people who spend almost nothing. There are definitely ways to do both of those.  There are very expensive curriculum that exist. There are also lots of less expensive curriculum that add up if you get a lot of them. Libraries are a gift to homeschoolers, and you can save so much money by visiting your library on a regular basis. That’s not an option for us, so we have to work around that. If you have the time and inclination, you can create your own lesson plans and curriculum for any topic, saving yourself money but costing yourself time. It’s all a balancing act.

Hopefully that all made sense, let me know if you have any other questions!


Flying Butler Academy

School is almost done for this year (1 more week!) and then we go to California for the summer. Since I didn’t want to have to plan next year’s school while we were on vacation, I’ve spent the last month or so getting all of our plans hashed out, and I’m almost done, so I thought I’d share.

We had to wade through a lot of whining this year about school (the girls seriously don’t know how easy they have it-), and the girls love the idea of academies and such (though they don’t want to actually go to one), so I told them that I wanted them to work together to come up with a name for what we would call school next year. I wanted it to be something kind of silly and fun so that they could reframe school in their minds as something they enjoyed. They brainstormed a bunch of ideas and finally settled on Flying Butler Academy, which is based on a family joke. So next year we convene Flying Butler Academy. Z will be starting 3rd grade and Tiny will be in 1st.

You know how some mom bloggers have a word for the year that symbolizes their hopes and aspirations? If we had one for school next year, it would be binders. I’m totally kidding, but I’m not. We are abounding in binders.  We’re using a number of curriculum next year that are very hands on, with lots of worksheets and pages to do that require me printing them out or copying them so that there is one for each girl. Instead of rushing to get things printed out the day we need them, I decided to do it all ahead of time. And to keep everything organized, I pulled out the binders.

IMG_4022In previous years, I’ve kept all of one subject in one place, which meant going to a bunch of different places to get what we needed for any one day. This year I decided to organize by month and week instead. Each binder (starting with red and going through the rainbow) is two months, and has divider tabs for each week (8 tabs per binder). Then I took each subject and put in its lesson plan followed by a clear sleeve that contains all of the worksheets that go with that week.



Any subject that doesn’t need something printed out, like math or spelling which have their own books, are noted on a page at the beginning of the week. That way I can open to the week we’re on and see what the plan is for each week.

IMG_4023The form in the picture isn’t completely filled out because that’s the next step I need to get done.  But the goal is to have everything we need for the week in one place. The math and spelling books will go right next to this binder, along with the teacher books for grammar and life skills.

The only way that I could split everything up like this is to know what we were doing each week (which I HAVE to know, or I get completely overwhelmed and feel lost).  That’s where my beloved spreadsheet comes into play.

IMG_4024The far left column has the school year split into weeks. The top row has each subject that we’re doing, with a notation of how many days a week we will do that subject. Once I figured out what curriculum we were using for each subject, I simply figured out how much we would do in a week. Math is an everyday subject, so the girls do 5 worksheets. Science is twice a week, so we do one main experiment on one  day, with a follow up experiment on the other day. On the whole, this part isn’t hard, it’s just time consuming to type everything in. The girls each get their own tab with their own spreadsheet so that I can note where things are different. A lot of what we do they do together, but things like math and handwriting differ, and having it all on one screen gets to be too much.

We’re continuing with Math-U-See for both girls next year, it seems to work really well for both of them. We’re also starting Spell-U-See, which will be new for us, but I’m hoping it will also be a good fit. We’re picking First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind back up for grammar, and using a program my mom gave me called Proud to be Polite for life skills, along with Million Dollar Machine which is a health curriculum. We’ll go through Proud to be Polite and then go to Million Dollar Machine.  We’re doing a year long study of the countries of the world from, as well as a composer and artist study curriculum from her. We’ll do a country a week and a composer and artist a month, respectively. (She has one of her year long artist studies for free download here, if you need such a thing you should grab it!)  We’re also doing a Shakespeare study that I created myself, that will cover 8 plays, and is heavy on the things I value in his plays. (Don’t fall in love and kill yourself when you’re 13! Don’t get over dramatic about love! Listen to the witty fools!)   For science we’re doing chemistry, using the book Adventures with Atoms and Molecules. The girls will also be learning about the different types of writing one can do (descriptive, narrative, informative, creative, persuasive, etc) and practicing those. And they’ll have Japanese once a week.

It sounds like a lot when I write it all out. Thank goodness it’s all neatly organized into my magic binders of doom. The girls will have their own binders too, to keep all of their work straight and to allow them to look back over it if they want to. They get to do a bunch of fun things like color in flags and make little books about animal habitats, so I’m hoping that they will use them for reference when they’re done.

So that’s that. I’m hoping that it will make for an enjoyable year for everyone, and a relaxing summer of not thinking about it. (For the record, I’m totally being a mean mom and making the girls do math every day over the summer so they don’t lose their progress. But that’s the only “school” we’re doing over the summer. They both read like fiends, so that will happen even if I don’t say anything about it, and we’ll have access to a library, so they’ll be in heaven.)





At this moment

It is 2:18pm.

It’s 65 degrees outside, and sunny, but cold in my house. I’m wearing long sleeves, tall socks, jeans, and a sweater.

The girls are playing upstairs.  They still have colds but are feeling a bit better today.

I’m listening to a class about book cover design taught Chip Kidd as I type this. Yes, I’m multi-tasking. He’s covering some really interesting things so far; I’m excited for the rest of the class. I absolutely love his book design, his work is really innovative and interesting.



This is one of his. My copy has a different cover. 🙁


Also his. These just happen to be Japanese, but trust me, you’ve seen his work all over the place.


See? I knew you had.


So far today I: woke up around 7 but didn’t get up until 7:40ish when the girls got up. I was awake for about an hour and a half in the middle of the night last night, laying on the girls’ floor while Tiny coughed, so I was tired. I made the girls breakfast, took a shower, put in 3 loads of laundry and hung them out to dry, cleaned up my room, the computer room, and the bathrooms, and the kitchen. The girls did their “jobs” – they’ve been wanting to earn money, so I came up with some extra jobs that they can do each week. They have 2 jobs to do a day that correlate with the room I’m cleaning that day (we’re off schedule this week because of people being sick). So they caught up on their jobs for the week so far. (For anyone wondering, they have 11 possible jobs and they get 10 yen per job. If they do all their jobs for the week, they get a bonus, so they have to potential to earn 150 yen a week – or $1.50.)  Then we did school- the regular math/spelling, etc, and then we’ve reached Japan in history, so we talked about the interplay of Korea, Japan, and China at the beginning of the Yamato Dynasty. It’s a period that I actually took a class on in college- well, it was part of the class- but the scope of the class was so huge that I ended up focusing on the literature of the countries rather than the history.  So it’s nice to revisit it now, albeit in a simpler way. This week in science we’re concentrating on learning the continents and oceans, but since the girls have been on sick days, we’re really only working on continents at the moment. Z pretty much has them down, Tiny’s still working on them. We had lunch and I took down laundry, and got some things ordered for Christmas, and started watching the videos for the class.

I’ve since taken a break from writing this to start working on my project for the class- I think you can see what I’m working on if you go here. Let me know if that link gets you to something you can see.  We’re supposed to design a cover for our favorite book.

I just remembered, I also managed today to knock a pretty new bird Christmas ornament off of the counter and break it. That made me sad. (Our Christmas tree is covered in birds. Or, you know, it will be, when we put it up. So I was excited to find a “Japanese” bird to add to it.)



It looked absolutely nothing like this, but I have a little owl ornament that kind of looks like this and it’s eyes make me laugh.

I also sewed up some handkerchiefs for the girls out of some super soft cotton that I got for a different project but that ended up being punky to work with, but that ended up being perfect for this. Their poor noses are so red and hurty that I thought fabric would be nicer than tissues. The whole endeavor did leave me questioning the person I have become, however. Apparently I am a person who sews fabric handkerchiefs for her children. Who knew?  (If this information is in any way making you feel guilty that you don’t sew fabric handkerchiefs for small children, know that every single one of them came out a wonkus square. The handkerchiefs, not the children.)

Speaking of being a “person who”, one of my wonderful friends shared a link to a new book with me and some of our friends, with the comment, “I have a feeling this would be a great book club “read” and might be Maryanne’s new favorite thing.” It was this, and I was in by the end of the  first paragraph, and by the end of the second paragraph I’d ordered it. The rest is just cake.  It should be here tomorrow, and I’m dropping everything to start reading it. The thing that makes me the happiest about all of it though, is that my friend read about it and thought, “You know who this is perfect for? Maryanne!”. I don’t know specifically why she thought that, which elements in particular screamed my name, but I absolutely love recognizing the perfect thing for someone else, and I love it when someone recognizes me in something that I end up being crazy about. Especially because I feel like I have rather random, esoteric tastes sometimes. Its the feeling of being truly known, don’t you think?  Anyway, I’ll let you know how it is.


The girls are now playing in the bathtub. They were playing outside and wanted to play in the water, but – no. So I said they could play in the tub. They are having a grand ol’ time.

Someone next door is practicing “It’s a Small World” on the piano. It’s only the melody, but they’re playing it well, so it’s not painful to listen to. Oh, I typed too soon. They just tried to add a second hand to it. That’s not going so well.

I feel like I’m just rambling at this point, so perhaps I’ll stop and add some pictures in to give you something to look at. What’s going on at your house at this moment?