Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Knitting Class

Two weeks in, and this is what we've done so far:

I bought some Lion Brand Fishermen's Wool at JoAnn's, using my 40% off coupons. I measured out about 65-70 yards, using my big measuring stick (measured 4 feet at a time, so I got about 50 lengths -- I didn't worry about being too exact with this).

I wound the piles of yarn into little balls, using a highlighter as a nostepinde (classy, eh?):

I got out 8 pairs of needles in sizes 10 or 10.5 or 9 -- again, this was a bit random. I cast on 25 stitches and knit 2 rows. I've noticed that the first row after casting on is the hardest to knit, so I thought I'd get them past that. Then I bagged each set of needles plus yarn in a big ziploc, and took them into the first class.

Handed them out to the 8 students, instructed those who already knew how to do a knit stitch (most of the class) to start knitting to sort of get warmed up, and then taught the 2 who had never held needles before in their lives how to do a knit stitch. I knit continental, so I taught them that way.

Then I asked who was ready to learn how to purl, and went around the room showing how to do a continental purl stitch. I encountered some really different ways of holding the yarn. I also observed that we have a mix of continental and English knitters, but thankfully none of the English knitters needed help that day, because, really, that whole business of holding the yarn in your right hand looks incredibly backwards to me (don't tell the students I said that, though, because I keep saying in class that there are lots of correct ways to do this stuff).

I sent them home with their little balls of yarn and needles, with instructions to practice. I emailed them links to various YouTube videos, selected according to how they held their yarn.

Some of them practiced, some didn't. One girl left her yarn at the place class meets, so she didn't work on it. One girl quit. Another girl asked to join. And thus we reached week 2.

Week 2 we worked on how to bind off. And I collected the samples that were finished (one wasn't done yet), put them in ziplocs and wrote their names with Sharpie so I could tell them apart. Although, really, they were fairly distinctive:

The one with the funky shaping in the upper left corner was a girl who already knows how to knit well -- the one who left her knitting in class. She was chatting away while binding off, and started knitting instead of binding off. So I said, "Oh, it's a design element!" which she thought was funny ... so she knit several rows over those few stitches to make a crazy shape. The person in the upper right corner had knit hers at home, and decided to add a bit of different yarn to see what would happen. Middle bottom was experimenting with knits and purls (she had just learned to purl the first week). To the right of hers is the one from the student who just started this week --"Do we have to use all the yarn?" "No, just until you're satisfied with it." She had a crash course in how to purl English-style, marking the first time I've ever done that in my life (glad I watched those YoutTube videos myself so I could fake it, although I admitted my brain was having to work much harder to show it to her). And piece in bottom right corner is from someone who just learned the knit stitch last week.

Close up of the piece featuring all the knits and purls. She managed to come up with a K1P1 rib, as well as seed stitch/moss stitch. She was fascinated that seed stitch had a name -- she was trying to do more ribbing, and "couldn't figure out what went wrong".

I'm now sending all of these through the washer with our towels. Some of the kids have started on cotton dishcloths. Others will start next week. And AnnaBeth is pretty sure she should switch over to our class, so she's working on a dishcloth here at home. The class was billed as "for ages 10 and up", but she'd be the youngest -- most are in grades 7-9.

So far so good. I think. I generally despise leading classes, but knitting is pretty much second nature, so it isn't horrible. So far.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Book Notes

I never did finish the library's summer read program, but here are some of the books I HAVE finished lately (if I write them down on paper I'll lose track of them):

The Spellmans Strike Again by Lisa Lutz. I've been reading this series from the beginning. The characters are crazy. I like books with crazy people in them. Real life with crazy people isn't quite so charming, but that's another story (the preceding seemingly random comment prompted by hearing the neighbor outside while I'm typing this, and wondering if she's out spraying our lawn with Roundup again, sigh).

Thursday Next: First Among Sequels by Jasper Fforde. I'd been reading this series a while back, and just caught on that there was a new volume ... which was published in 2007, so I'm a little late to be calling it "new". But, anyway. Love this series.

Star Island by Carl Hiaasen. Definitely not his best. Sort of plodding, in a full-of-insane-characters kind of way.

Currently reading:

First Contact by Evan Mandery. Very bizarre, and absolutely enchanting.

Gilgamesh by David Ferry. Well, not really by David Ferry, but his version of the various bits and bobs of the tablets.

And I'm probably some other things that aren't right here in front of me, so I'm not remembering them. If I wander around, find them and finish them, I'll write them down here.

In the meantime, this list is heavily weighted towards fiction involving mentally unstable characters. Is there a message in this trend?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Graham Feis 2010

You know, sometimes when Irish Dance folks are chatting someone will say, "What's the worst feis you've ever been to?", and for the past year I would say without pause or hesitation, "Graham Feis 2009." But get this -- if you asked me today to name a really, really good feis, I'd say "GRAHAM 2010!"

They moved the feis to the Ballpark Hilton, which is the site of the Irish Arts feis every year. It's an okay venue, although Irish Arts seems to suffer from disorganizational weirdness every year. And the organizational masterminds at Graham used the hotel to its best advantage for this feis.

We were on stages 3 and 4, which is an area I've never been in before. It was HUGE, with a large lobby just outside for kids to relax or practice their dances. My one tiny quibble is that the signage to find stages 3 and 4 was lacking -- when we got to the hotel the sign at the bottom of the escalator pointed up to indicate that stages 1,2,3,4,5, and 6 were upstairs, but when we got to the top of the escalators we could only find signs for stages 1,2,5, and 6. The signs for 3 and 4 were waaaay down the hall, which was full of people, and thus we couldn't see the signs.

But, of course, we eventually found where we were supposed to be and spread out our stuff. Did I mention how roomy this place was? I think I was scarred by how cramped the Graham feis was last year; but this was the most spacious layout I've seen in a hotel feis. Check out the leg room between rows of chairs:

You could dump all sorts of crud all over the place, and still have room to move.

The feis itself ran in sort of a typical way. Our stages went at typical feis speed -- not the most amazingly fast ever, but not horribly slow. A friend with 3 children scattered throughout the feis commented that stage 1 and 2 were running quite slowly -- they were still in soft shoe at lunch break. The results seemed to be posted quickly during the day. Frankly, at the end of the day I sent the kids down to collect their results while I collected our flotsam, so I have no idea how they handled the end-of-the-day rush, although our kids seemed to reappear from their adventures in results-getting. Graham typically makes use of all the "best practices" in this area, so I expect it was pretty organized.

As for our personal feis saga, Thalia spent part of the morning looking over the Used Solo Dress rack (digression: it was in an alcove outside of the ladies room, which was the only place she could access the hotel wifi and thus email her friends -- she pent quite a bit of time parked in that area with her iPod). She found one that fit okay -- needs some alterations, but it's in the ballpark of fit. And it needs some crystals re-glued, and general spiffing up, but our teacher gave it an "okay". So Rick bartered with the woman selling it, et voila, Thalia has a new solo dress by the end of lunch break.

And even though it's really too short in the back, and even though it needs some work, I asked Thalia if she wanted to wear it right away. Because, what's the downside -- she's dancing in a school dress, which is fairly dumpy on her, so who cares if the judge is upset that the skirt is an inch or two too short in the back. The biggest problem was a strand of crystals on the front bodice that was falling off, but Annabeth suggested using sock glue, which is about the consistency of Krazy Glue but water soluble. The people sitting behind us while I was using the sock glue on the dress were fascinated by the process, having never seen anyone do something like that.

Anyway, the crystal strand seemed to stick sorta kinda okay after that, so she went up to check into her next dance. The other girls she'd been competing against were suitably impressed that she'd had a major costume change over lunch. And, really, the dress didn't look bad onstage:

We told her so after she danced. She said that was great, and it was too bad she totally messed up the dance (blanked out on a step), but oh well, whatever.

And when I happened to check results a few minutes later I discovered that she had placed first in the dance. The dance that she flubbed. Because, folks, IT REALLY IS ALL ABOUT THE DRESS. I totally believe it now. It's not SUPPOSED to be about the dress -- it's supposed to be about the dancing. And some judges can rise above the sparkles. But, really, it's funny and sad all at the same time that the competition that people sometimes call a "sport" can be so swayed by apparel.

Anyway, kudos to Graham for putting on a fantastic feis. I'd highly recommend it to those thinking of attending next year. Just bring a fancy dress.


Since it's a busy week (aren't they all?) and since Annabeth is sick (you know last week when I was saying Thalia either had really bad allergies or else was sick? Now Annabeth has the same thing) it was perfect timing for someone to say that they weren't going to use their tickets for the Fox Club for Tuesday's performance of Shrek, The Musical, and that we were welcome to them. So we said yes, even though we didn't have fake Shrek ears to wear.

And, honestly, I wouldn't have bothered to purchase tickets for this, because I thought it was going to be pretty dumb. Come on -- making a cartoon into a musical? Really? Some things are better left to the movie screen, you know what I mean?

But it turned out to be FANTASTIC! They changed the story a bit (of course), came up with imaginative ways to stage some of the craziness, wrote some clever, witty, fun songs, had a great cast .... It was a fun, fun evening. I loved how they did the ending -- they all took their bows, the audience was standing up to applaud, and then they went into I'm a Believer with flashing lights -- very high energy, and the audience could dance around, be crazy, and celebrate!

I'll admit, though, that Annabeth sat on my lap for the entire 2nd act (since we were in the Fox Club we could sort of scoot the chairs around, and she laid against me with her feet propped up on her former chair; also, no one was directly behind us to be bothered by all of our shifting around). And although little kids might like the show, I think the 8pm showing was too late for a lot of them -- I think parents were setting them up for failure by taking them to a show that lasted until nearly 11pm and during which they had to stay in a seat and remain reasonably quiet. That's how we ended up with the tickets, by the way -- someone had planned to take a 5 year old and 6 year old, but then came to their senses.

So, go to the show! It's magical! (But if you're taking little kids, choose the matinee.)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Weekend -- Notes

Friday -- took Annabeth shopping for Thalia's birthday.

Saturday -- up at 5:30am and to the Graham feis at the HIlton. More about that in a later post.

Then home and run some errands (no cat food in the house, for example). Make supper. Take kids across town to a friend's house where they were running around like crazed maniacs playing Capture the Flag, etc. etc. while Rick and I went shopping for Thalia's birthday.

Picked up kids around 10pm, telling the friend's mom that if we didn't pick them up now (the party lasted until midnight) they'd be spending the night because Rick and I were about to pass out from exhaustion.

Home, and to bed.

Up Sunday for Sunday School and church. And, um, a loooong service it was. And set a new standard for "uninspiring". As a matter of fact, it was the antithesis of inspiring. Sheesh, it took a while to shake that one off. I usually don't give a lot of critique here of church services (although if you know me in real life you know that I"m pretty forthcoming in my opinions -- possibly a part of being a preacher's kid and growing up in a parsonage and hearing these things discussed quite a bit). But, wow, this was just. so. bad. that it's hard to keep quiet.

Then home for a quick lunch. Take Annabeth out for some more errands. Wind yarn for co-op knitting class tomorrow. Take kids to choir. Home, supper (Sansei), Thalia opened gifts (not her birthday, but we don't have time later this week), then cake. Wind more yarn. More errands for lunch items and school items for tomorrow's co-op classes.

Entertain solo rat who is lonely and needs little ratty friends. Dishes. Mounds of laundry -- it's been over a week since we've washed any clothing.

And now, time to fall into bed.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Weekly Report 9/10/10

A four day week which featured a sick kid. But still, a lot got done.

On Tuesday Thalia started her babysitting job at a local church -- she helps care for the kids of the women attending a Bible study. Not too difficult, but it does take up the entire morning, and she does get paid.

Then she came home for lunch, during which I read another section of Story of the World 4 (Hitler's rise). After that, Thalia headed to the learning center for classes in composition and Biology.

In the meantime, Annabeth and I worked on RightStart math level E, multiplying fractions, followed by Writing With Ease level 3 narration on the Declaration of Independence. In the afternoon she headed over to the neighbor's house to help out with their triplets.

When I picked up Thalia from the learning center she commented that she now understood better just what her composition teacher wanted with the compositions she had written (outlining a magazine article, then writing a paragraph using the outline -- the first article was assigned, but she got to select the 2nd one herself. We used the library's online databases -- from our home computer -- to find the full text of a fun article on the science used in the Star Trek movie that came out recently. LEARN TO USE YOUR LIBRARY DATABASES!) Since not everybody had done the first week's assignment -- some kids hadn't gotten the assignment sheet somehow -- she had the opportunity to rewrite her essays using her new insights. She also seemed really, really tired after all the new experiences of the day.

Wednesday Annabeth worked on RightStart again, more multiplying of fractions. And we did dictation from Writing With Ease. She did quite a bit of independent reading. She picked up a bunch of books from the library that cover 20th century history -- things from the Dear America series, etc. -- and has also been going through the Harry Potter series.

Thalia spent most of the morning wandering around in a daze, taking allergy meds. We considered cancelling her voice lesson, but she decided to give it a try. Home again after the lesson, a half-hearted attempt to do some Algebra, a dose of Nasonex, then dance class.

Thursday featured Annabeth and I working on RightStart E again, and working on a narration about the Magna Carta. Thalia regained conciousness around 11am, wandering around in a daze for a while. We all read Story of the World 4 on Francisco Franco (who I actually remember from my childhood, much to the kids' amazement). Thalia and I discussed that she would not be going to any social events this weekend if the schoolwork wasn't caught up in a prompt fashion. We all went to a piano lesson, Thalia working on Algebra during Annabeth's lesson time. Back home, and Thalia tried out the restored laptop (a whole OTHER story) for revamping her earlier compositions (amid much complaining about how silly she felt the IEW checklist is, since she does all of those things anyway), toting the compositions over to a printer via a memory stick. She also read a bunch of biology and a chapter of history (HIstory of the Ancient World).

Now we're in the midst of our Friday routine. Annabeth did a review sheet for RightStart E -- after this she only has 2 more lessons to finish the book. Writing With Ease was a dictation passage that was a paraphrase of Clause 29 of the Magna Carta regarding habeus corpus. Thalia is working on a biology test and will use one of the first 3 chapters of Hist/Ancient World to write another outline and summary for composition class, as per the assignment. Actually, she has to do 2 of those summaries -- not sure if she plans to do them both on history, or use something else. But it gets 2 subject out of the way if she uses history.

Will she finish in time to be allowed to go over to a friend's house? We'll see.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Work in Progress Wednesday

Yes, it's another installment of Cotton Dishcloth Bonanza! Woohoo!

This week we've got a cable cloth:

I probably should've blocked it to make it look better. But, then again, this way the students will see how cables pull the knitting in to a narrower shape.

Also, I goofed up a knit/purl there on the left:

I can explain to the students how to fix it. Not that they'll retain HOW to do it, but they'll retain the idea that it can be fixed (at least, I hope they'll remember that).

Overall, this project reminded me how much I enjoy cables. Something about how the stitches wind back and forth just fascinates me.

Also, a heart, which is heavily based on the iconic diagonal dishcloth pattern:

Oddly, the pattern called for size 10 needles, although every other pattern I've done has used size 7. Same yarn and all, different needles. So I used size 7 anyway, figuring these cloths stretch like crazy as soon as they're wet.

We're getting to the end of this exercise, which is probably good since my productivity has dropped tremendously (totally due to boredom with it). The class for which I'm knitting all of these starts next week, and I still have to do a boatload of prep for our first project, which will be learning to knit using felt-able wool yarn. Also, Annabeth has realized that she needs a crocheted Jiji after watching Kiki's Delivery Service this weekend. So, new adventures in crafting ahead!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Our Holiday Weekend

The Plan:

Drive to Kansas City on Friday afternoon. Attend KC Feis on Saturday, then drive back home.

Have kids from Musical Theater class over to watch White Christmas on Sunday night, since they're doing something or other from it and some of the kids haven't ever seen the movie. When Rick heard that some of the kids hadn't seen it he said, "Have them over on Sunday night -- I'll buy a new television," because the tv in our basement is from 1988 -- it was rated as an "unreliable" model, but still worked just fine. Except that back in 1988 people didn't try to plug a Wii into their television, etc., etc.; he'd been hoping for years that it would stop working, but decided this was the excuse he needed to give it to the Goodwill and go buy something a little more up to date.

The Reality:

One of the rats, Callie, got sick -- very lethargic. If you know pet rats, you know that that's an emergency. We got her right in to the vet, who listened to her lungs and said they sounded pretty clear, but gave us antibiotics for pneumonia anyway since there didn't seem to be anything else wrong with her -- apparently when in doubt with rats you treat for pneumonia. She seemed somewhat perkier when we got her home, but dozed off while eating from her food dish. And so it went -- we'd rouse her every couple of hours to urge her to eat and drink. She was always interested in the food and water, but then would get so. very. very. ... tired .... and doze off before she ate much. So, of course, we couldn't just hop in the car and leave her there to eat and drink on her own, let alone give herself antibiotics.

And then, while Annabeth was holding her on her lap, Callie gave a little twitch and just stopped breathing. We could've probably thrown stuff in the car and made it to Kansas City then, but we were sort of wiped out by the experience. People ask if we cried ... um, we just spent hours babying this animal, doing everything humanly possible to help her (well, not putting her on pressurized oxygen or anything exotic like that, because, frankly, I doubt she would've been too terribly happy about that), and she just DIED IN OUR ARMS. Yes, we cried.

So, now we're down to one lonely rat. Sigh.

But on the bright side, since we weren't in Kansas City, we suddenly had a free day with absolutely nothing scheduled. So Rick spent it buying an inexpensive plasma television (you wouldn't believe the deal he got), along with various cushions and bean bag chairs for the basement. Then spent the afternoon -- the most glorious afternoon we've had in MONTHS -- in the basement watching football and tennis. Amazing coincidence how his fit of generosity about buying a new television for the basement happened during the US Open and the college football season.

In the meantime, the guest list for the White Christmas kept changing as families headed out of town for the long weekend, various other events cropped up, etc., etc. Eventually we ended up with no one from the Musical Theater class at our house (well, except our kids), so instead of watching White Christmas they spent time talking, running around in the back yard:

toasting marshmallows (the nights are finally cooler, so I wanted a fire in the back yard -- having people over was just an excuse). The person in the blue shirt claims to have never toasted a marshmallow over a fire before. We commemorated the fact that she set a couple on fire with a photo:

And a couple of them spent the night. I think they eventually watched a movie -- some chick flick that most of them hated.

Monday was spent with homework, lawn mowing, and general STUFF. It was the last day the pool was open, and although it was hot it was quite windy. So once again we skipped closing day of the public pool.

Not quite the weekend we expected, but certainly a change of pace from the regular week.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Homeschool Happenings

What we've been working on so far:

Thalia is finishing up Jacob's Algebra. I think there are maybe 2 lessons to go. We have all the bits for Jacob's Geometry ready to go -- textbook (bought a used copy from Follett's on the advice of a friend -- it was half price and looks new), Enhanced Teacher's Edition, and the Ask Dr. Callahan DVDs (that same friend highly recommended these, so I bought them even though they cost twice what we saved on the textbook -- ACK!).

And Annabeth is finishing up RightStart E. We have slogged through long division this week -- RightStart really does a crappy job of explaining long division, by the way, so I jettisoned their pseudo-script and explained it in a way that made sense, but using their example problems. Anyway, now we're to the fun bits in the back, like the Guyana flag problem and the Moebius strip.

Thalia is working on Biology, even though the class doesn't start until next week. She's taking it a learning center, and the teacher had assignments starting 2 weeks before the class began. I think she's pumped up about the course. She really likes this teacher.

She's also working on some Composition assignments for the same learning center. We've discovered that the teacher is a fan of IEW, which I associate with florid, overwritten prose. Whoops. The above-mentioned friend had said she's a good composition teacher, though, so maybe this will work out. Right now she's supposed to be finding articles (that is, magazine articles, etc.), outlining them, then writing a paragraph summation using the IEW "dress-ups". Thalia thinks this is stupid. I suggested she go meta and find an article on concise writing by a writer who disdains "dress-ups" and using that to sum up and dress up. She refused to see the fun in that, though.

And Annabeth is still working through Writing With Ease level 3. She's also starting reading one of the LIttle House books for a co-op class she'll be taking.

We have piles of books all over the place, ready to start co-op and learning center assignments, as well as "home" assignments we haven't plunged into yet. We still need to organize art supplies and the laptop Thalia needs to take to co-op.

Girl Scouts and musical theater classes have started. Voice lessons for Thalia started a couple of weeks ago. Irish Dance and piano never really stop.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Work in Progress Wednesday

More dishcloth knitting, with a generous side of ennui.

Did I ever show you the finished lighthouse? The color is off in this shot, but you get the idea:

The most annoying lace pattern I've ever knit:

That diagonal cloth everyone knits, even though it then stretches on the diagonal and drives me nuts (I like the colors of this yarn, though):

Still more cloths to come, although I'm am so. bored. with. this. that it took most of the day to get around to binding off the final 4 stitches on the diagonal cloth.

Also, part of this afternoon was spent sewing on 12 Junior Girl Scout badges, 2 signs, and all the cookie falderal (and I do mean ALL, since she'd done booth sales, done Gift of Caring sales, attended a cookie rally, and sold over 100 boxes -- each of those items earns yet another patch), plus some other random fun patches. Scouts is starting up again for the year. I met with a couple of other moms this afternoon to get different names on the troop checking account (pity the guy who helped us because we were talking to each other NONSTOP the entire time, since we rarely get a chance to just sit and talk mom-to-mom except on camping trips).

Mostly, though, the day was spent figuring out curriculum. I awoke this morning with the firm conviction that Thalia should drop one of her classes (Constitutional Law, which I think might be a bit much for a high school freshman). She agreed, particularly since she just got a part time babysitting job that will be taking up some of her study time. Now we need to scurry around filling the void with history and perhaps logic.