Tuesday, May 29, 2007

John Denver is Haunting Me

So oldest kid bought a dvd with some of her birthday money and we watched it last night, and as it opens, I hear... a choir singing a John Denver song. "Country Roads." Then Olivia Newton Bloody John chimes in. And the damn song is a recurring thing all the way through the movie--they keep singing it! the main character keeps writing alternate lyrics! the closing credits give us a rendition in Japanese! WTF?? Is this one of those practical jokes the universe plays once in a while? My kids had never heard of John Denver. The movie is Japanese, for crying out loud. Apparently John Denver is very big in Japan. Go figure. I recall that one of dh's Japanese colleagues was called John, because his friends thought he looked like a Japanese version of John Denver (having seen pictures, I'd say it's a stretch, but what do I know).

Thank you, Lucia; now that one is stuck in my head, too. Along with "Country Roads." And of course the Calypso song. And "Grandma's Feather Bed." And that song they play at weddings. Gack.

I have very sore legs this morning. Pilates class yesterday was a new (to me) and Fun Thing, where we do most of the normal exercises but this time, on machines that look like a cross between hospital traction and some sort of medieval torture device. The teacher scampered gleefully around, changing the weights for us. She's actually great; the class is good; it's a Good Thing, but my hamstrings hurt.

One of the uber-lessons of the class is that the point is getting strong and healthy, not skinny. The instructor is not what would fit an advertiser's version of "do this weird routine and you, too will look like this!" She is, however, astonishingly strong and flexible and clearly at home in her own skin.

I've gotten some gardening done, at last. Three quarters of the garden patch is de-crapified and the tomato plants are in the ground (still alive! one day and counting! whoo hoo!). I'll have to finish up and transplant the random strawberry plants, along with a very long list of other things, but Ta freakin' Da, at least a little bit.

No knitting going on. Some musing about a commission that's due in a couple of weeks, but that's about it. I don't think I'm up for a road trip to WEBS to see the inimitable Yarn Harlot. Kind of in a holding pattern, emotionally. Memorial Day is a busy ol' day at the cemetary (still can't spell it, see?), and I do want to plant more flowers there but don't know which kind and then I dissolve again. I still stay up far too late and wake up far too early. I think my mind doesn't want to let my subconscious have enough leeway to do too much processing at once. For the time being, that's okay. There's a whole physical, animal self that keeps crying out, too, and that's another kettle of fish; exhaustion beats that down rather effectively. So the hamstrings ache, and it is good. Much better than some of the alternatives.

See you around, all.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Pirates, matey

Sheesh, first a book report and now My Thoughts on the New Pirates Movie. Whatever next? Gads.

The last one kinda sucked, frankly. This new one? This one is totally awesome. Dude, seriously. It has lots of twists, very few gross-out moments, Orlando Bloom now looks rather pleasingly like a man rather than a boy (y'all *do* know what I mean), True Love and Heartache and all sorts of good stuff. Plus the most amazing wedding ever. EVER. And Bill Nighy gets to have at least one day on set where he's not festooned with tentacles. It's a very long movie (nearly 3 hours) and I am not going to spoil it, but...it's good. We were amused. The only thing that was annoying during the movie came out of my own odd little mind, and kept on distracting me: there's a character who's Calypso the Sea Goddess, and just about every time they said "Calypso," my twisted imagination helpfully played the John Denver song about Jacques Cousteau's boat. ("the stories you tell..." oh lord help me it's going again...) Complete with "la da dee-heee, ee ee ee ee, la da dee-eee-ooo."

Now, when I was about 8 I was a huge John Denver fan, and despite being deeply, deeply uncool, I do still kinda like a whole bunch of those songs. I still remember far too many of the words to them, too. Same thing with Barry Manilow. (My imagination is now helpfully playing a parody record by either Frank Zappa, Firesign Theatre, or Monty Python, which begins, "and now, the sound of John Denver being strangled," followed by a takeoff on the opening lyrics to "Annie's Song" which really render it unfit for a moderately family-oriented blog like this one. Thanks, imagination; thanks a lot.)

Other things that did not suck: well, the last day of Thursday coop and associated staged reading of The Importance Of Being Earnest. I was team-teaching this workshop thing, and the kids really wanted to do a play, and J and I kinda went, aw...do we have to...ah, well, okay. I did a truly ruthless abridgement job on it (hi, Ruth!), to cut it down to less than three hours, and sent out a brief email, once, to the kids to please print it out, bring it, wear something sort of apropos and be ready. They didn't want to do just part of it, to their credit, and they came prepared, and J stage managed and people NOT ME twisted arms to get people to be quiet in the space, and we had ourselves a really funny play. I was amazed and touched and thrilled that it all worked out so well. The kids were great. I didn't have to nag anybody. Really, this is the way things are supposed to go, and usually don't, but now and then, apparently, they...do.

This morning, my kids all got up at a reasonable hour and started doing productive, educational things all by themselves. Amazing. Youngest was reading poetry, middle started and completed a sewing project, and oldest finished the aggressively-scheduled math for the week. Bonus heart-warming moment: classical radio playing, youngest stops and shouts delightedly, "Beethoven!" when he recognized the music. Yes, dear, that's right, it's Beethoven.

Oldest's birthday yesterday, which was also a good day. Youngest's birthday tomorrow. Must go shop for some of the few presents on the wish list. I only burst into tears while making breakfast, and later in the evening. I've had some fun distractions. I'm getting the hang of the online bill paying stuff, and learning to trust it a little bit.

Have a good weekend, all.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

What I Did this weekend

...was read Uncle Tom's Cabin. Well, finish it; I steamrolled through most of it this weekend, though (hi, blogless Lynne!). As one might expect from a nineteenth century bestseller, it’s a pretty zippy read.

I’d never read this before; my knowledge comes from talking points that I learned in elementary school and the loose adaptation within The King and I, “Small House of Uncle Thomas.” Well, golly, but that Tuptim sure got a lot of things wrong!

“Written by a Woooman Harriet Beecher Stowe!” – correct on this.
The stuff about Uncle Thomas living in his cabin with Topsy and Eva and Eliza having much of anything to do with it, well, that’s pretty mixed up. Tom is sold off from his cabin at the beginning of the book and never makes it back. Eliza never meets Topsy. Topsy drives the other characters nuts.
“Run, Eliza, run! Run from Simon!” – okay, that whole thing is totally wrong. Eliza jumps from teetering iceberg to teetering iceberg in the first 30 pages of the book, and it is most certainly not over water frozen hard enough to walk across—the river ice has broken up and she’s crossing anyway. Simon Legree doesn’t show up at all until the last 70 pages or so. The two don’t ever meet, let alone have a dramatic chase.
“Buddha make a miracle: snow!” It never snows. Not once.
I’m kinda fuzzy on whether “lover George” (husband, thank you) and baby son George die in the King & I version (you’d think I’d remember after being in a six week run of the thing). I do remember that Eliza or somebody or other ascends a staircase to heaven and union with Buddha, basically dying. This does not happen in the book, even transposing “Jesus” for “Buddha.” Eliza, her NOT baby but 7 year old son, and her husband all make it to safety in Canada.

Stowe is in all-out high Christian moral indignation throughout. The redeeming power of faith in Jesus is a huge part of the book. She appeals to the Christianity of her readers and begs them to abolish slavery, in the name of their professed faith. She takes on all the arguments I’ve ever heard justifying slavery, or even leaving it alone, and just knocks ‘em flat. Somehow at the end she manages to end up arguing that the biggest demonstrable evil of the whole system is that blacks could not testify in court proceedings against whites. It feels like she backed herself into a corner and couldn’t figure out how to extricate herself and get back to the basic theme: that slavery debases both slave and master. And there’s a kind of oddball “everybody move to Liberia” idea, which she then argues against anyway.

One point that I hadn’t seen mentioned before was to do with the complicity of northern businessmen. You’ve heard the Triangle Trade bit, of course (and I was in a production of 1776, too, so I can even sing the whole frigging story if you’re not careful about how much wine you give me). What I hadn’t realized was that traders in the Northeast, when doing business with concerns in the slave states, would take nominal ownership of slaves and re-sell them. All they saw was the paperwork, but tradable assets included slaves. Estates would be “liquidated,” meaning all assets were sold on death of owner if needed to pay debts (which tended for Southern gentlemen to be rather shockingly huge), and that included auctioning off slaves. Plenty of northern lawyers were involved in the slave trade this way, apparently.

She also writes, more than once, that sure there are kind, saintly people who don’t do awful things, but since when is the majority of the human race made up of mostly saints? As good an argument against the Patriot Act as I’ve heard, that one.

Crazed Weasel book report now over. Have a spiffy day, all!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


Fireworks after the Apple Blossom Carnival went a long way toward dispelling the dark clouds. It took a couple days, but I'm feeling better. It's always nice to be back in a homeschooling groove. Youngest is really doing nicely with the new Latin book, and when I said, okay now we'll do a little Roman history, the response was "hurray!" Must be doing something right. It helps that the children are all older, of course, but somehow, copying Latin conjugations is okay with Youngest, when copying vocabulary wasn't. Go figure. Amo, amas, amat, amamus, amatis, amant!

A clarification on the AP book list I gave: it's gleaned from years' worth of past exams, covering as much as possible without blowing a teenager's mind or overwhelming with sheer bulk. The exam's long essays ask for discussion based on novels or plays, and since plays are short, I lean on those pretty heavily (you can use Hamlet for almost any topic!). I do like other Hemingway novels, but Old Man is so short that I go with that one. Spectacular badness: I did once have a group read Long Day's Journey into Night just before Christmas. I don't know what I was thinking. Actually, I remember exactly what I was thinking: "aw, it's not that bad. And we really need to whack right into Grapes of Wrath after the holidays." Uh, it really is that bad--first half, not so much, then...you get to the second half. And OMG. Bad weasel, bad bad bad.

Oldest takes her last scheduled AP exam in the morning, for this year, anyway. Go, kid! Then we'll discuss SAT subject tests and what APs to pencil in *really* for next year. And visiting colleges needs to be planned (and done). And so on. And the two younger ones need to not get lost in the avalanche of college countdown madness. I feel a Big Fun Project starting to come on...

I tend to be pretty structured with homeschooling. It feels pretty loose for me, but when I talk to other parents, there's such a range that I guess I'm more on the "structured" end of the spectrum. The kids have daily work, and other regular stuff. But I think we could all use a big ol' project, with fiddly bits and mess and different areas of the house and yard taken over by it. Hmmmm. This could be cool.

We went to the Museum of Fine Art for Mother's Day, with a group of homeschoolers--one of the dads has a background in art history, and one of the moms has been doing history with a bunch of kids, so T. led a tour of some of the collection, and we weasels tagged along. It was a great time! All 3 of my kids had friends who were there (and I did, too) and the adults got to talk about interesting art (and the kids did, too) and all behaved very well indeed. Yay!

Perhaps we'll be investigating egg tempera or some other high rennaisance paint technique.

Anyhow, thanks, you guys; it's a bumpy ride, but I do at least seem to be moving forward.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

What I did instead of go to NHS&W

Kids wanted to actually watch the parade this year, since it wasn't snowing or raining or 105 degrees F, for once, so we watched the parade.

I did a bunch of biology studying.

Talked to my mom.

Made sure youngest's baseball uniform is clean for the game tonight.

Went to the yarn store for some more Kureyon, for yet another stripey scarf, 'cause I need a mindless project. Another one. Well, I was also making up for not being able to go to NH for the sheep and wool and all.

Ketchup (the cat) had a good idea of how to spend the afternoon:

The weather is beautiful. I'm feeling aimless and sad and strange. I did a lot of crying yesterday. I picked up a copy of the town report, and eventually flipped to the list of deaths for the year; dh's was listed first, as his - our - last name starts (started?) with A. It said he was 48, and I thought, no he just turned 49--oh, wait. No, actually, he didn't, did he. And the vortex opened up, and I've been intermittently in tears ever since. It is possible to count exactly how long to the day his life was, which had not occurred to me. It's an aspect of his life being over that my head hadn't gotten to yet. Over, finite, no more days to come.

He will not see our oldest agonize over where to go to college. He will not see our youngest play baseball. He will not take pictures of the parade going by our house. He is missing a beautiful day, and I wish so desperately that ... he could be here, teasing me for being chilly when it's just perfect out for him.

Mother's Day last year was when we had the flooding of biblical proportions, that washed out roads and bridges all over the Northeast, and dh drove us up to NHS&W in the middle of it because it was something I love and it was Mother's Day and we should do something I like on Mother's Day. I have a picture of him smiling ruefully at me in the rain, and another of him taking a picture of the flood.

No rain this year. This year, for the first time in ages, the weather could not possibly be better for a fair. The grass is green, leaves are out, the apple trees are in bloom, and even our semi-wild yard looks lovely.

A perfect day. Except it's without him.

Friday, May 11, 2007

The busyness

What we've been up to for the last couple of days is getting ready for oldest kid's AP exams, keeping her and the other two younger kids on some sort of track with their other academic work, and that sort of thing. Oldest took an exam yesterday, and felt very good about how she did, so HUGE HUZZAH!

If you're interested, here's the Crazed Weasel AP English Literature Reading List (bearing in mind that "English Literature" really means world literature):
A Doll's House, Henrik Ibsen
Saint Joan, George Bernard Shaw
Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, Tom Stoppard
Hamlet, Shakespeare
(optional: Julius Caesar)
Long Day's Journey into Night, Eugene O'Neill
The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway
The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
Death of a Salesman, Arthur Miller
Antigone, Sophocles
Antigone, Jean Anouilh
Our Town, Thornton Wilder
No Exit, Jean-Paul Sartre
The Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka
Rhinoceros, Eugene Ionesco
I do like plays. They're heavily symbolic and thus good fodder for analysis.

The new Socks That Rock sock club shipment arrived last week some time - I love that it's a silk blend, not so in love with the pastel-ish colorway, but it's fine. I've finally finished the first sock of the last shipment's pattern. I will have to rip out the top of the sock and re-do. The instructions call for going up a needle size. It is a reversible cable pattern. I have taken an all-day seminar in reversible cabling. I know damn well you really do need a larger needle for this kind of knitting. Did I do it? Of course not. So the sock, while lovely, only just barely fits over my heel and onto my foot. It is for all practical purposes unwearable. So I'll fix it. Eventually.

I finished planting flowers and greenery in the urns outside my kitchen door. They're pretty! Yay!

Gotta run, but enjoy the day, everyone. Yes, Carla, yes, Lorena, Rhinebeck, really, let's definitely meet up. More later.

Monday, May 07, 2007

A bit of randomness

Okay, yes, I realize that all my posts are essentially random. Moving along.

Today's mail included this:

I am mystified. Who knew there was a backgammon lifestyle? and that Hugh Hefner would be a major player in said lifestyle? We live and learn.

This week's reason for Why I Haven't Posted in Nearly a Week is...I was trying to get gardening done first so I could post triumphantly about that. I still can't decide where to plant things, though, so the meager results of far too many hours yesterday:

I had to find hooks with which to hang the two baskets (yes, I know you see only one basekt. There is another one that is identical on the other side of the porch.). Then I had to find screws with which to attach the hooks. Then we were at our familiar impasse with the mysteriously missing drill bits, with which I would have liked to make guide holes for the screws that hold up the hooks that hold up the baskets. No such luck. I used a very thin nail instead, and hammered as gently as possible on the ancient wood of the house. It worked just fine, and now, the front of the house looks a little bit prettier. Yay! It took me about two hours, between searching for hardware and all.

Last bit: It's been about twenty years since I've written a timed essay--an odd experience, to say the least. Apparently I passed the writing test I took on Harvard's website, so I am officially eligible to take the required writing course whenever I so choose. Yay! It wasn't very difficult. I'd have been really annoyed if my writing somehow wasn't up to snuff. I've been teaching essay writing of one kind or another at the homeschooling coop for a couple of years now; good to know I can still do an okay job of writing my own dang essay.

On the book pile: Uncle Tom's Cabin; Darwin's Origin of Species; I'm Grieving as Fast as I Can; and, still, Emergence. I'm enjoying them all, in different ways.

Hello, Carla, and Lorena, and everybody, yes, I do plan to go to Rhinebeck this year. Not sure how to manage the kids, but I'll figure it out. Not as optimistic about NH Sheep and Wool this coming weekend, though--the annual carnival is in town this weekend, too, though Mother's Day may be enough of an impetus that I'll manage it in the end.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

In a good groove

So we're having one of those days Chez Weasel where, just for a few minutes, things actually are the way you fantasize homeschooling will be like. I was sitting at the kitchen table with youngest, helping him with his Latin conjugations, while I quietly worked on Charlotte's Web (the shawl, not the book). Older two kids were working steadily on math. Classical radio station playing in background. And it's a nice day out, to boot. Ahhhhhh. The kids all got a respectable amount of stuff done, so we've called Official Quitting Time for the day, and they can do whatever the heck they want. The fantasy continues, as oldest is organizing violin music from past years' study, middle is reading, and both of them will be off to their martial arts class in a bit. Youngest is joyfully noodling on a mom-approved website.

Proof that the socks are indeed done - this is my feet up, wearing the socks, with a glass of amaretto, taken Friday after the ridiculous driving day.

About Charlotte's Web: I figured out where I went wrong, I think, and have made an executive decision that since the stitch count finally came out right, the damn thing is now right. Whether it's actually right or not.

Replies to various comments, since I persist in being unable to figure out how to reply directly to you all without resorting to Drastic Measures - those would be, "looking up your email addresses," and/or "switching to Haloscan." Both sound like more work than posting answers. So! In no particular order! Lucia: I have no idea what you're talking about--mileage improvement? other than simply driving the smaller car? I must be missing something. Sorry :( but thank you, I think I'm a pretty good mom, on balance. Farm-witch: ooo, no need to bribe; ideal bag is large, able to stand up without falling over, water resistant on the bottom (because I put things in puddles by mistake a lot), and bewitchingly beautiful. Oh, and the handles are long enough to go over the shoulder and don't disintegrate. Mel: yeah, if the rumored bag ban goes through, I'm going to have to spend actual money on cat litter disposal containers of some sort, which is a drag. Also, yes, those Danes know how to party. Jena: You are a wine nazi, but correct; I do not yet deserve wine. I shall repent my lack of progress on poor youngest's gloves and strive to be worthy. [Note: she is rightly amazed that the gloves are still not done and offered to buy me a glass of wine at Javaroom if I finished them by...last week.]

Thank you, Carole, and Ruth, and also Suzanne and Old Round and Carla. And Lynne. I'm excited about the course and trying to bone up on biology in time to not be totally clueless by the time the class starts.

Youngest and I were the first ones up today, so we had a nice chat and went out so that I could vote (I wrote in my Pilates teacher for selectman) (in addition to voting for an old friend) and littlest could choose a nice bully stick for the dog's birthday present. We had a really lovely morning together. Again, ahhhhhhhh.

It is the dogs' birthday! She is 3. She has just helpfully finished middle child's pasta for her. Fantasy over now, I think. 'Til later, all.