Monday, January 21, 2013

A little accessory love...

Realizing of course that I hardly EVER post about anything I WANT, but this print, from Target, has caught my fancy!

Lovely, lovely lampshade.

There are down-filled throw pillows to match! I suppose it's caught my eye because it would actually GO WITH as well as UPDATE the somewhat hand-me-down and NOT-replaceable-anytime-soon furniture we currently own.
PLUS if you look at the "collection" of stuff they have with it, that's the type of accessory I have crowding every cupboard and available shelf...

Just had to share.


What are YOU window-shopping for?


linking to Rednesday!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Not Quite Sleep Walking...

It seems I have spent an inordinately large number of hours lately, sleepless and walking through places of my childhood as I seek to nod off. Tonight I found myself walking the familiar paths through the house I knew as "Mawmaw and Pawpaw's"--even though I've not set foot there in at least sixteen years, the doorways and floor coverings, the worn spots on the kitchen counter and the bathroom backsplash, the door knobs and latch-locks all creak and rattle so realistically in my memory, it's like a motion picture. Slow motion, somehow. I can walk through in my mind and see every inch of it just as it was when I was a young kid.

Tonight what set me off thinking of the house was the memory of Mawmaw's bedside bag. She had sewn a small silky-fabric pouch that was tacked to the headboard to hold chapstick, her nitroglycerin pills, nail clippers, and tissues. I don't know if there was normally a bedside table or not, but I imagine in that cold old house just having those bedtime necessities within easier reach than the table was a high priority. Of course, the electric blanket control also hung beside the bag on the headboard. There was always an electric blanket in winter, and when I would sit or flop--as children will do--on one of the tightly-made beds, I was often chastened about being "on that blanket". The wires were apparently quite fragile.

Mawmaw's bedroom also contained a diminutive dresser with a mirror(it may have been considered a washstand, but my memory fails me on this detail)made of oak and a tall chest of drawers in a Deco style. Across the room, on the wall where the "path" ran between the kitchen and the "fireplace room" where my grandfather slept, hung her simple white-framed mirror where makeup was applied before trips into "town" to "see her boyfriend". She would joke with me about that as I watched her apply lipstick, first to her lips and then a dot smoothed into each cheek as rouge. The bathroom in the house received much better light than her little bedroom, but I never remember her putting makeup on anywhere but there, in that little no-bigger-than 11x14 mirror.
If I turn from the mirror wall to the right, I see the door into the kitchen. This door could be secured with a turn-latch made of a bit of wood and a nail driven into the door frame. The kitchen side had a hook-latch and a wooden thread spool screwed into the door to keep it closed--mostly to hold in the heat from the gas stove and floor heater on those COLD mornings. The table was right of the door, and the pantry,which was always a wonder-filled place to my young eyes, was in that corner. A few feet left is the door to the dining room, then the stove, a rolling cart that held Tupperware bins of cornmeal, flour, and sugar, as well as the bacon grease tin which always sat by the stove. Then the long expanse of jade marbled green countertop trimmed in aluminum stripping, and the large double-drainboard sink centered under the double windows. The dark honey-colored pine cabinets with their sleek chrome handles always shone in the morning light in that kitchen, even as old as they were. I have a tiny pine table with a silver handle that I bought right after we moved into THIS house--only because it reminded me of her kitchen cabinets.  
Moving around to the other corner was the dishwasher--a portable thing with hoses and knobs that rolled to the sink and dubiously hooked to the faucet to wash dishes. I think she hated that thing, but can't be sure. I do know she seemed to use it rarely, probably because there were "just the two of them"--although I KNOW she messed up some serious dishes, as she cooked nearly everything from scratch, and she cooked several times a day. In later years, after the Christmas when my 3 year old brother gave away the surprise, the microwave sat where the dishwasher had been. I'm not sure if it sat on top or on a cart...but it was next to the refrigerator, where I loved to stand gazing with the door open, and even now when I absentmindedly open the fridge, I can hear Mawmaw talking about "Cerenthia's at it again!" Cerenthia was her mother-in-law who apparently liked to gaze into the icebox. Odd what things are hereditary, isn't it?
Next to the refrigerator was the door to the back screened porch. My pawpaw used the open-framed roof under the tin on the porch to house many of his tools. Screwdrivers, hacksaws, measuring sticks, fly swats, oil cans, and many other things were stored there just overhead. I always thought that was a neat way to keep up with things! That screen porch had some seriously steep steps down to the back yard. They were hard too--I know because I rolled down them several times when opening the screen door would set me off-balance. The barn was off to the back of the house. Pawpaw always had a few cows milling about the pastures. The one I remember best was his BIG old black cow, "Candy".  In later years, we kept our own Jersey cow, "See Claus"--named by my 3 year old brother--in this pasture and barn. 

Back inside the house, I walk through the kitchen door into the dining room where the big buffet, corner cupboard, and the table I now use as a crafting surface ALWAYS stood. This room was a pass-through to the living room, but it had lovely windows out to the side yard with a view of the huge pecan trees(where I spent many long hours swinging) and the pasture, and it had french doors that opened into the living room. The dining room was often kept shut during the winter, but I remember on several occasions helping Queenie the cleaning lady scrub those french door panes--she would get on one side and I'd take the other, until I couldn't quite reach the glass well enough. That was always fun and made me feel so BIG and helpful!

The living room is the largest room in the house. To the left of the french doors was the corner for the TV. It sat on a square table on casters with a gold-fringed tablecloth covering the table. Mom and I set the small Christmas tree up between those french doors and that TV table almost every year--while watching "A Christmas Carol," usually. Next to the TV was a window. One summer I opened the curtain to see a baby SNAKE sandwiched between the window glass and the screen. Pawpaw dispatched that chicken snake with the hoe quickly and efficiently, but I was always afraid to look out that window after that--afraid that the long coiled cord of the rooftop antenna would disguise another snake!
On around the livng room was a gas floor heater, then a rocking chair or loveseat(depending what year), a lamp table between the two front windows that look out to the porch, another rocking chair with an ottoman, and the front door. I would often get in trouble for turning the ottoman on its side and rolling on it across the floor. Once, Pawpaw even took his belt off and patted me with it, scaring me to death! He wouldn't have spanked me for real, but it made an impression. I can still see the twinkle in his eyes, as he knew he startled me pretty good that time!
On the wall just inside the front door was the sofa. In later years Mawmaw bought new furniture, but the sofa I remember best was an old rose-patterned shabby thing that looked like it had taken years and years of after-dinner(midday)naps under a man who had been outside working. Pawpaw "rested his eyes" after lunch every day. I don't know WHAT time he got up in the mornings.

Right of the couch stood the door to the tiny tile-floored hallway which contained four doors. Straight ahead, the small bathroom with its tub-only, toilet, and wall-hung white porcelain sink that I cleaned and cleaned and cleaned for FUN on long afternoons staying with them. Once I cleaned it with a Bounty paper towel and clogged the drain. Uh-oh! I never did THAT again! The bathroom had a wonderful closet where towels and such and wonderful mysterious bottles of all kinds were stored. It also had a clear crystal knob on the closet door. I just LOVED that knob.

If you turned LEFT in the hallway, you went to the front room, or the guest room. This bedroom also had a crystal-knobbed closet door, and it also held a dresser with a large mirror, again in the Deco style, and a tall chest of drawers and a bed that matched. The bed was wonderful--the headboard had sliding doors that concealed storage. Those cubbies held dusty old yearbooks from my mom's and aunts' high school days in Baton Rouge. It was kind of off-limits to hang out in that room, but I would sneak in there and "plunder" the drawers anyway. Mawmaw had some old toys in there--a Viewmaster with slides from a trip to California they once took to see Pawpaw's sister, Katie, and she kept some odd pieces of wonderfully outdated clothing packed away in plastic bags in the closet. This room was always wonderful to me because it had windows on two walls and a door out to the front porch. I always thought it would be PRETTY SPECIAL to sleep in a bedroom that opened to the porch!

Turning right in the hallway, exactly across from the guest room door, was the door into the fireplace room. This room had my pawpaw's bed, mawmaw's sewing machine, a large sleeper sofa, a chest of drawers, a small bookshelf that held stacks of old Reader's Digest magazines and a few books, and of course, the fireplace. It also had a wonderful walk-in closet where I would spend HOURS....Mawmaw kept bags of fabric remnants in that closet, along with her best dresses and shoes(her own bedroom didn't have a closet at all). There was one particular bag that held scraps of blue velvet and some of them had velvet-covered buttons still on them. I made tiny doll clothes out of some of that fabric, but was mostly enamored with her sewing box and all its amazing gadgets and spools and buttons. 

Like I said, I've not been in the old house for at least sixteen years. When I moved off after I married, and then my pawpaw passed away, the house went to the oldest daughter of the family--she had done so much to care for Mawmaw and Pawpaw in those last sick years. They don't actually live there, so we don't get to visit the old place when we go to Mississippi to visit my parents. But every time we pass by there, be it spring when the azaleas are going strong, or fall when the leaves are changing and the spider lilies are in bloom, I expect to see someone sitting in the rockers on the porch, waving a hand and waiting for the next person to drop by for a visit and cup of coffee. When we are there at night and I see the lamplight(on a timer)in the front window, my heart skips just a little before I remember they're not there.
When I was VERY little, we lived in an old green rent house just around the sharp curve from Mawmaw and Pawpaw's, and there was such a wonder to me to be able to look out the bedroom window of that house and see Mawmaw's lamplight shining through her front windows through the woods.

I guess on these late-night treks through her house in my memory, I'm still just wishing I could look out MY front windows and see the lights of home.
There's really no place on earth quite like it.


Saturday, January 12, 2013

A Birthday Built for Two...

J had her 14th birthday party today, a few days after the day itself, but that's how the first couple of weeks roll in January.

Since Jinjersnap "the Christmas puppy" ALSO has a birthday the first week of January, they decided to have a party TOGETHER.

Jinjersnap wanted a red and white polka dot  dolka-pot party.

The J-girl asked for "springtime with tulips and bunnies."

So we did both.

Springtime, bunnies, flowers, and lemon drops(the gravy boat later held silverware).

Red and white polka dots. And flowers.

We had a good visit and lots of fun. I think Jinjer enjoyed turning ONE.

She's "one posh puppy." You can't really SEE the red sparkles on her shoes in this picture, but they're THERE. :) That's her little doggy-friend "Sweet Dog" sitting with her. She's sporting her butterfly glasses and her red dolka-pot dress she received from C as a Christmas gift. 

Her cake was vanilla with vanilla frosting.

She had several doggy friends in attendance, too.
Mocha guarded the coffee station.

Jacky led the "Happy Birthday to me" song for Jinjersnap.

Jill was around to be sure everyone reached maximum capacity on fun and food.

Princess Joey, Marcus, and Pepperkrakor just came for the FOOD(and maybe presents, but I forgot to buy dog bones!)

We have quite a large number of dogs around here.

I was up till two last night trying NOT to burn up the kitchen. We will just say that when a recipe says something like "divide batter between THREE 8-inch pans," it MIGHT be wise to take that seriously, rather than dumping it all into TWO pans at midnight and hoping for the best.

You can't TELL the cake set the oven on fire. It certainly was pretty.

Tasted good too.

I think J had a fun day. 

I'm SURE J-Snap did.

How did you spend YOUR Saturday?


linking to Tabletop Tuesday

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Tylenol Tuesdays Installment 1, or, CC Week 13

Tuesday was the start of week 13.
We will simply say that morning came early. For one, our schedule from the holidays and hubby not working "normal" hours is wayyyy OFF...for another, the girls were up long past midnight, and hubby was quite wired too. I was, in fact, the only TIRED one at bedtime Monday night. THEY all had nasty "Fundamiddles" cupcakes. I'm blaming the misguided sleep-depriving hyperactivity on THOSE.
Regardless of any reasons why everyone was up late, getting up on Monday was a tough one. I don't function well waking up before 7 on any day of the week, regardless of when I went to bed! We were thirty minutes past the "ideal" time to leave home for CC--I missed my second cup of caffeine AND my preventative Tylenol dose!

Thankfully, when we arrive at CC the younger kids and I have about 25 minutes to gain our composure before class actually starts. We skip morning assembly in order to acquire those few golden minutes of calm together.

Class begins at 9:30 for The Boy's class with Presentations. They have presentations every week. These are assigned topics, often a poem or joke to tell, just to get them up in front of the class. This week's topic was "My Favorite Things," meaning the kids all had a legitimized opportunity to trot out the brag list of what they got for Christmas.  This was probably a good idea, because it would've inevitably happened anyway. The Boy did a poem that Bilbo composed in The Hobbit.  His oldest sister finished reading the book to him last week--her efforts appear nearly altruistic to me, but I also know that she just LOVES the story. Any time she can spend in Middle Earth makes her just a little more jovial. We give in to this fascination pretty easily(we ordered Hobbitus Ille for her just yesterday). The Boy LOVES the story too--I am surprised at the accuracy of the details he remembers!
There was one other child who brought something other than a Christmas gift for presentation this week--a homemade periscope. We MUST do that activity here soon. The kids all loved it!

 After the thirty-minute Christmas-gift discussion session, it is time for Art. Art today is tempera painting in the method of Giotto di Bondone--apparently he used things found in nature like bugs, berries, clay, and minerals--to make his paints, so the kids crushed chalk in a styrofoam bowl with a rock to mix with egg yolk and water to make paints for their masterpieces.

 Egg tempera is such a fun art project with kids, but they didn't LET the kids "do" the eggy part(I can't imagine why!)!  As an aside, I was amused again that while waiting in line for art class, The Boy continues to mostly talk with a girl in his class who shares his oldest sister's name. This little girl is quite a reader too(like C), and I think they find fun things to discuss about stories. 
Interestingly, he also chooses to sit at a separate table from the boys in the class most of the time--I think he is afraid of getting distracted by their chatter and hyperactivity and then getting in trouble. I have been surprised at how seriously he takes the "learning" portion of the day at CC, as he has never really been in any formal schooling situation, even in co-ops.

In Science, after a review of the Scientific Method, they talked about the earth: its tilt, how the seasons are affected, and the spin/orbit of the earth.

 It was great fun playing with styrofoam balls, sharpened pencils, and flashlights!

They also talked about how ice can split rocks since water expands when it freezes. It reminded me of the time I soaked red beans overnight in a narrow, tall container. Beans can split plastic! Lol. I don't know why they do two experiments on mostly unrelated subjects each week--seemingly the kids would learn more if left to explore one thing in more detail.

After Science they process back to their "home" room for the introduction of new material. This is where the Tutor goes through all the facts of the next week's memory work, at the breathless rate of four minutes(I think)per subject. It leaves no time to think or ask questions, just rush through. The kids have a visual aid that the tutor prepares each week:

It begins with the timeline events--seven per week, then the history sentence(both of these have songs and motions to help memory). Their science fact today is learning the parts of the earth, and to "engage" the kids they are told they can "kick like a Russian dancer" while singing the song. I think this is probably an engagement backfire, because it renders them ALL distracted and giggling instead of listening to the crust, mantle, atmosphere, etc...

Latin this week is actually review, which is nice for the first week back. Noun cases. 

English grammar defines a helping verb to the tune of "This Old Man," but the song ends with the assertion "helping verbs make lots of sense"....this makes NO sense to me and is a pet peeve; often the memory song lyrics make random "values" assertions regarding the material JUST TO COMPLETE A RHYME. Ugh!

Math facts today are liquid equivalents. I giggle and hope the Redhead is getting it, as this is actually USEFUL and RELEVANT information for my would-be pastry chef...though they didn't cover the number of tablespoons in a cup...and then my mind wanders off trying to calculate the number of tablespoons in a gallon, while also pondering why there are FOUR quarts to a gallon when the pattern is "two of these equals one of those" brain is crashing, I think!

After the breath-taking presentation of new material is a half hour of REVIEW before lunch, which brings me to the point of explaining MY biggest problems with the CC program as we've experienced it this year:

1. There is NO time in class spent on the memorizing of Scripture. For a program that labels itself as "classical Christian," I find that remarkable. We also have kids in the older (Challenge) levels of the program, and if the tutor is not really well grounded in Biblical thinking, the kids may or may NOT get a Biblical worldview "just" from being in the program. It leaves too much wiggle room, in my opinion.

2. There are no breaks in the morning for the younger kids. By the time The Boy's class hits the 11 a.m. mark, most of the kids are in total "crash" mode. They need a snack. They need to potty. They need to giggle and talk and get a drink of water. The last half-hour sees more bathroom trips and verbal corrections than the previous two hours combined...the program does not allow for the physical limitations of kids (and parents. and tutors. It's too "schooly.")

3. There really is very little "integration" of material, which is a HUGE, great-sounding buzzword you hear if you attend a CC info meeting. In fact, the breakdown of New Material and Review into two separate sessions makes most of the information segmented so that the kids are not readily synthesizing. I think that rather than the half-hour review game where the kids are all checked out while waiting for their turns, it would be best to intro the new material at the same time review is done...timeline in context. History sentence in context of the geography review...other classical programs I've seen DO it this way, and it makes sense that if "pegs" being driven is the goal at the grammar stage, then giving them more sensory input for their facts could ONLY help retention.
I find that the Geography is especially weakened by the rush and lack of integration. They usually don't DO Geography review with a map at all, just recite the five or six features for week X's memory work. Something as simple to make visual as Geography SHOULD be done well.

Kids playing the "fishing" game for review. Subject cards are color-coded, so any game with four colors works for random question selection...unless the kids aren't really engaged and listening. See the  body language in this picture?

The Boy waited to catch a BLUE fish this time on every one of his turns but one, as that is the Timeline card color, and he ROCKS the timeline. Interestingly, as we started this year knowing VERY little about the program(CC makes it hard to find out anything before you've paid your bookoodle bucks to be IN), the two somewhat coherent thoughts I had were that I wanted the younger kids to memorize the timeline and the MULTIPLICATION facts. Anything else is lagniappe. Maybe those were sound expectations....have I raised my own bar too high for the program? Likely. Why should CC be any different from other parts of my life?

When the REVIEW period is over, the kids all race to LUNCH. Which occurs on the floor. In the gym. In 20 minutes. Lunch is followed by recess, which usually involves a rowdy game of dodgeball IN THE GYM. So you'd best EAT and GET OUT.

The Challenge I group waiting for us to join them on the floor for lunch.

We parents all have rotating recess duty as well. One of those "by the way now that you're IN" bits that I would TOTALLY have opted NOT to do given the chance to know about it ahead of time. I dislike being responsible for entertaining OPK(other people's kids). It bothers me that our CC campus has RECESS time for those with tiny little bitty kids who have NOTHING in the afternoon...meaning that sometimes we whose kids MUST be there another three hours after lunch have to spend our MUCH-NEEDED midday "break" watching the littles...I know that if I still had my oldest as a seven year old, we wouldn't even stay for LUNCH. Naps and lunch happen at home. In quick consecutive order. Send the youngest families home before lunch, is what I suggest!

And wouldn't recess, if it MUST even BE, be better after the first hour of class time? So the kids could have a potty break and snack and avoid some of the brain melt they obviously experience by the last half-hour before lunch(and quitting time for Foundations)?

Which brings me to my bleary-eyed and fuzzy-brained conclusion at the end of EVERY CC day--if you are even THINKING of joining a CC "Community", ASK QUESTIONS. Be bold with them. Be obnoxious. Be nosey. Because you likely will get tight-lipped answers anyway. Find out all you can. Ahead of time.
You may go unwittingly into the school year with your own sweet vision of what your family's experience will be, and it may be TOTALLY different from your campus Director's vision for the campus. I do believe this makes a difference. Our campus is run in a very "schoolish" way--as if CC's job is not just to equip and help homeschooling families learn, but it is EQUALLY concerned with providing all the "schoolish" perks that  home educated kids (may?) miss out on. This can really conflict with your family's dynamics of time and energy(and finances).
 So ask.

Will my children be separated by age if I prefer that they be kept together?

Will parents' need to be with their children work alongside the expectations of the campus policy?
(Our campus insists that we be there with our kids, but I can't be physically in four places at one time, can I? This is overly stress-inducing.)

Are we required to help clean up the campus? On a rotating schedule? How often? Why is my facility fee for four children $200, then?

Will we have to help "sit" other people's kids AT ALL?

Will parents be welcome in ANY of their children's classes AT ANY TIME?

Can my family "opt out" of community-specific "obligations" at all, or is it all about uniformity?

Those are just a few of the questions that I did NOT ask at the outset, because there was no way to see those sorts of things coming as a part of being in the program. I wish I had known.

Open registration begins soon for the next CC year. Our family, barring some Divine mandate, will make THIS year our last year in a Classical Conversations community.  That said, the two youngers ARE memorizing the timeline and the multiplication tables, and they are getting to "do" science experiments EVERY WEEK.
Good thing I know a bit about lagniappe.

Happy Homeschooling~till next Tylenol Tuesday!