Friday, January 29, 2010

School Concerts of Yore (Long Yore)

So, when in elementary school (in New Zealand, remember) this is the type of thing we would attempt for school concerts. Not so ambitious, or professional, but we did learn poi in school! Enjoy this. It's really fab.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Eleventh Hour

Since we were all a-scramble to get the pinewood derby cars and rockets ready to race last Saturday, we have left other things undone. Last Friday night, we were still adding wheels to cars, and sorting out rocket propellers. The results were as follows:
Son's rocket placed 4 out of 4 in his den. Son cried.
Son's car placed 3rd out of 10 in his den. Son gets to race at Districts. Son wants to know how to make the car go faster yet. Parents wonder why Son didn't care about that last week.
Daughter's car won the popular vote for "most colorful car" out of all the entries... some 40 cars. Daughter was at pinnacle of happiness.

Now, it is Wednesday night. The eve of the science fair. Parents divided and "conquered." I let hubby pick the child. He picked Son, and his gravity project. Daughter and I got to work on her trifold: "What spiders eat."

I spent some time staring, horrified and unable to turn away, at computer images of spiders eating things. Like: a bird. (Hubby's comment: "That's Australia for you." He can say such things, being married to a kiwi wife.) Daughter roller painted her trifold with pink glitter paint. She has adhered lacy cutout webs, drawn spiders sidling up to flies, and typed or wrote all her labels. Things hang off her trifold from poorly rolled scotch tape that daughter insists is the way to adhere paper to glittery, shiny trifold. Points to OCD parent for not interfering.

Hubby played while the sun shone. Son also played. Right this minute, at fifteen minutes past bedtime, Son is dressed and messing with helium balloons. Hubby is desperately trying to explain how gravity is acting on mass.

I feel superior. However, the snow is coming, and there are terrific odds the science fair will be canceled.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Poor, Slighted Laura Ingalls

Well, the polls are soon to close, and Laura Ingalls is not someone we own up to being like. BUT, here is why we should?

Ahem. Herewith, my journal entry on Laura Ingalls acting out in LHBW:

The textbook Children’s Literature, Briefly (4th edition) recommends a list of indicators for “good” children’s books for classroom inclusion, and the list includes: “not depicting inappropriate behavior.”

In Little House in the Big Woods, Laura acts out spectacularly: “Laura’s throat swelled tight, and she could not speak. She knew golden hair was prettier than brown. She couldn’t speak, so she reached out quickly and slapped Mary’s face.”

For this indiscretion, Pa “whipped Laura with the strap.” I was surprised by how my memory of Laura Ingalls had blurred over the decades.

The debate over who has the "prettiest hair" has been brewing all day. Furthermore, when Laura’s pocket fell off her dress for the weight of stones she has put in it, Laura compares her fortunes with Mary’s:

“Nothing like that ever happened to Mary. Mary was a good little girl who always kept her dress clean and neat and minded her manners. Mary had lovely golden curls, and her candy heart had a poem on it.”

Right before Laura slaps her, Mary has just boasted that “Golden hair is lots prettier than brown.” The wonder becomes not that Laura slaps Mary, but that she waited so long to do it.

Pa whips Laura with a strap, and she is not so “naughty” again in this book. Cousin Charley, by contrast, who cries wolf three times “and still, Uncle Henry did not tan his hide,” gets his comeuppance in the form of hundreds of yellow jacket stings.

Pa’s comment?: “‘It served the little liar right.’”

Oh, Pa. I fondly misremembered you from the TV series... In any case, while the textbook has me unconvinced on this point I voted for Madeline, who doesn't stay in line either! Why did you vote the way you did?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Bottle That (And Make a Fortune...)

Daughter, appearing in manner of Peter Pan in our bedroom door, hands on her hips, announces: "I have cuteness!"

Son, same morning (yes, terrible parenting) playing video game: "Yep. I'm that good."

Isn't it nice to have such good self-esteem? I think I'll take those two to heart, and see what happens when I apply them systematically (and silently) through the week. What will you recite?

And a "why I heart hubby" moment yesterday. Daughter has a new set of "keys" from the checkout aisle of Wally world (yes, terrible parenting again). She seems to think they actually work, and keeps trying them in locks. The keys have three sound effects: alarm, double-pip locking sound, and remote engine startup. As hubby was running late, daughter "locked" the car with her keys. Hand on the car door and about to yank it open (running later by the second), hubby stopped, took a deep breath, and said: "Would you unlock it for me please?"

Also, am reading for the first time: A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L'Engle. Not sure how I missed out on it in childhood, but did. Now must acquire (borrow! must borrow from the library!) the remaining four books of the quintet. Without giving away spoilers if possible, have you read these?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Those Blasted, Pasted Tenses!

Daughter, contrite: I'm sorry! I spillded it, and it leakded out, so then I calleded you right away!

Tomorrow is my first day auditing Children's Literature, as taught by the Curriculum and Instruction department on campus. I'm so excited! I had to rearrange the schedule (now hubby will take Son and Daughter to school 3 mornings a week, for which I will do 4 of the daily pickups after school) but now get to go to class three days a week. My expedited (cheaper) textbook arrived today, and I have never been so excited to start reading a textbook. I'm looking forward to the whole topic presented from the other side of the curtain: teachers-in-training, and early childhood development.

I will have to jog from that class to the two I teach back-to-back immediately following, but at this stage it all seems completely worthwhile.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Three Day Weekend

Today's edition of he said/she said:
Son got in the middle of dispute between Father and Daughter, thus getting himself into trouble. I attempted to comfort him by telling him that I, as the oldest child, had that same tendency and used to get into trouble for inserting myself in parental vs. sibling disputes too. "So," I added with a sense of maternal sufficiency, "I know how you feel." Son's victorious reply: "So THAT'S where I get it from."

Good news from Australasia: acceptance of my first ever published fiction, a story called "Monty is from Mars," forthcoming in April 2010 issue of Explore Magazine, an Australian kids' mag published by an education publisher!

Finally, after enjoying Julie/Julia (the book, but of course with Meryl Streep the film was great fun too), and now reading Not Buying It (a year without shopping), am wondering what great venture I would task myself with for a year. I tried to read a book about a family who only ate what they grew for a year, but it was unspeakably exhausting to read if you just aren't a large scale (or competent) gardener to begin with. I then realized that I am in fact still in my first year of writing for children (begun May 24, 2009), so if I can get something amazing to happen before the end of May, I could reverse engineer a wittier blog and write a book about it. Don't worry; I think that was a joke!

Met in KC at Borders with my critter group yesterday, and it has been a big month for two of them, at least. They have launched new and exciting ventures in the web. One, similarly inspired by the Julie/Julia project, has gone live with a commercial blog meshing nursing/parent advice/humor called, appropriately enough: NurseMommyLaughs. Already she has pediatricians beating a path to her door! Another is growing Blessing Beans, a devotional website with spinoffs, and already has a trademarked product. And for a third, with whom I meet for chapter book critiquing, she says she has given up lucrative employment possibilities to carve out 90 minutes of writing time a day and stay home with her three children. Vacations have moved from Florida to nearby St. Louis instead, but she and her husband are bucking the trend of the Joneses they run with. So we're back to Not Buying It again! (But of course, I had to buy the book.)

Saturday, January 16, 2010


We are trying to honor the unfolding catastrophe in Haiti by being mindful of our circumstances: fresh water, house, food, ordinary lives. That seems to be a way to have the children aware of things, without having them be traumatized by the images in the media. I think about the kids in Haiti who will have this in their minds for the rest of their lives.

But I can't believe it's taking so long to get aid in. Didn't Katrina give us any tools to do it better (at least faster) this time around?

Friday, January 8, 2010

Sweet Nothings I Love to Hear

Things I really do love to hear in this first week of 2010.

From the surgeon, after surgery that was going to reattach a torn tendon in my rotator cuff: "We didn't have to do open surgery, and in fact it wasn't the tendon at all. We removed an inflamed bursa, and shaved down your bone a bit."
It makes me wonder, retroactively, about the efficacy of the two MRIs I had that diagnosed the problem, but hey. No tendon or muscle cutting = fast recuperation. I'm already typing with both hands!

From the lovely editor of KC Baby:
"Would you like to do that piece on Baby Signs you pitched for our spring issue?"
YES! Yes, I really would. I will have it in early. It will be no more than 750 words. I can't wait to get started.

From the school automated phone call system, Thursday morning:
"Due to extreme cold temperatures and blowing snow, school is canceled today and tomorrow."
Because I am still on vacation, and getting up early to get kids to school in frigid sub sub zero temps is actually no fun for the parents either. So yay! Snow days!

From the editorial staff of a certain Australian kids' magazine:
"We are considering your story for our next issue."
Really? I'm thrilled. I think it's a neat story too, and it would be a first fiction publication in magazine format, and my mom lives in Australia, and she could read it fresh off the newstand... Ahem.

If 2010 can just hold on like this, it's gonna be sweet.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Little House in Town, With All the Modern Conveniences, Please

I found myself rereading Little House on the Prairie these holidays, after... some 30 years or so. Two of the actual houses are within an hour's drive of here, and although I have not yet been to see either of them, they are on my resolution list for 2009. I skipped past the first two books in the series to get straight to Kansas.

Apart from the obvious appreciations I have thereby rediscovered (my microwave, dishwasher, and central heating, topping the list this week as we sit under inches of snow) the story is more phenomenal than I remembered. I can't imagine riding over a frozen lake in a covered wagon, and hearing it break up the day after the crossing. I'd never ride over a frozen lake in a snow covered wagon again after that, if it was up to me, let alone ford a swollen river in one, and then spend a summer getting to some predetermined destination in a field of tall grass in "Indian country." The charm of the story barely disguises the constant threat to life and limb from wolves, malaria, prairie fire, chimney fire, and such. Every time Pa goes off to trade furs, I worry he won't return and that his four women on the prairie won't even have the wagon to get to Independence in.

I've gone back to read The House in the Big Woods, in an attempt to discover why on earth they ever left their cozy log cabin beset by bears. But there is so much incident in every chapter, I'm keeping a close eye on craft along the way. I had been wondering if it was time to begin reading them to Daughter, but she is nervous enough about robbers and other picturesque disasters of contemporary life. I don't know how useful it would be to scare her silly with buffalo wolves to boot.