Monday, December 31, 2012

Christmas Finale

We finished up Christmas this past weekend.  This year we had 2 weekends of relatives coming to our house, followed by Christmas Day, followed by a quick trip to Indiana to see more relatives.

Saturday we went to a hotel in Indianapolis, met Rick's parents for supper, and had Christmas with them at the hotel.

Then Sunday we headed to my sister's house for a brunch.  We toted along yet another Christmas craft project, an amigurumi Sneetch.

The star is attached with velcro, of course.

My parents love the story of the Sneetches, and occasionally do a reading of it.  Now they have a prop! Dad was quite amused when he opened the box.
After all, who really expects a Sneetch?

We had also made granola for gifts, although I've already lost track of the recipe.  This is highly annoying, since we'd planned to make more for ourselves.  Oh well.

Games were played, 
food was consumed, and then we zipped back home.  

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

Long time no blog!  While we were in silent mode, 
we have:
 Visited Santa

Saw Wicked at the Fox.  It was excellent.

Also, made lots of Christmas presents, like
this little bag that Annabeth sewed for me, and

this scarf I made for Thalia (uber-cool Tardis voile from Spoonflower), and

an amigurumi Dr. Who, 10th doctor (found the pattern on Ravelry), and

this little knitted fairy-rat I made for Annabeth (again, found the pattern on Ravelry), and

this bottle cap necklace featuring Sherlock that Thalia made Annabeth, and

these Dr. Who ornaments Annabeth made for Thalia (Spoonflower fabric, again -- a fat quarter was supposed to be used for finger puppets, but she stuffed them and attached Tardis-blue ribbons for hanging).

Plus, of course,

cookie making time!

Which had more of a Hobbit theme this year (yeah, the kids went to see the movie in IMAX that first Friday morning -- cheaper prices, but still able to see the Star Trek preview).

Then we were pretty much ready for Santa!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Weekend Stuff

On Friday Thalia took her driver's test.  She needed to get the parallel parking thing down before the test (plus we needed to contemplate how to pay for the insurance, but that's an old story everyone knows).  Imagine her surprise to discover right before the test that the actual size of the test parking spot was 25 feet, and that you could be within 18 inches from the curb and still considered successful.  Really?  That's easy-peasy, especially when you've been practicing in much tighter spots.  She zipped into that spot in about 2 moves.

That evening we went to Lindenwood University to see Shrek.  I'd give the theater a rating of 4 on a scale of 1-5, and the performance a rating of 3.

We hadn't been to Lindenwood before for a performance.  It's really a nice theater overall, although they could have laid out the seats better insofar as access to long rows of seats.  Yes, you lose some seats that way, but it's nice to not have to long rows end in a wall that prohibits exiting via any path other than climbing over a bunch of other people.  At least the leg room was adequate enough for people to scooch down the row.

We'd seen Shrek at the Fox a couple of years ago.  The dragon puppet in this performance was much, much better.  Several actors did a fine job.  Although Shrek himself did a better job of his accent, something about his makeup made me all twitchy with desire to go adjust something on the back of his neck.  The overall feel of the performance was raunchier, with the more-raunchy bits supplied by performers who seemed a little less talented in their roles.  We noted some odd problems with curtains and lights.  Overall, we've become more discerning about our theater experiences since we first saw the show, so maybe that's why it was all a bit disappointing. Also, the first time we saw it we expected it to be really lame (we'd been given free tickets) and were totally caught off guard by how fun it was; this time we expected to recreate that wonderful experience, and the performance didn't live up to our expectations.

Saturday was nearly 80F, and featured leaf raking.  Also, I found a place that sells dry ice on Sundays so I could use it on Mondays in a class, so that was pretty exciting.

Sunday was a trip to the Peabody Opera House for the Rockettes Christmas Spectacular.  I'd give the theater a rating of 2 or 3, the performance a rating of 3.

We'd never been to the Peabody before.  Our seats were way way way high up in the mezzanine -- somewhat akin to trekking up Mt. Everest to reach them.  If you look online for reviews of the theater itself you'll find mention that the ushers seem a bit clueless -- our experience was similar.  The theater  really IS gorgeous.  And has no leg room.  We were on the aisle, and people arriving late could barely squeeze by us (also, the performance started 10 minutes later than the stated starting time, and people were arriving 10 or 15 minutes after it started -- what's up with that, especially for a 90 minute show?).  Perhaps if we hadn't sat in the 3rd from the top/back row I'd rate the theater higher, but at the moment I have no real desire to ever return; it would have to be something totally spectacular for me to want to go there again.

Parts of the show we saw were wonderful.  The LED backdrop was used to great effect in several numbers like the bus ride through New York and the dancing Santas.  The opening number was also great -- loved the costumes in that one, and in several others.  Overall, though, I have a tip for you -- do NOT take an Irish Dancer (retired or current) to a Rockettes performance unless you're prepared to listen to critique on whether everyone is actually on the exact correct spot in relation to the taped lines on the stage.  "I could show you teams that could keep a straighter line and they're AMATEURS instead of professionals like these dancers, plus they DON'T USE TAPE to help them!"  We really hated the Nutcracker as performed by dancing teddy bears -- I kept wondering if the dancers were regretting the years of ballet to dance pointe, only to be stuck in a bizarro bear costume -- I was embarrassed for them.   We were also sorry for the kids who performed in the vignettes with Santa -- the script was so bad, the pacing totally off, Santa himself was just plain annoying -- those kids were in a no-win situation.  Why did so many Wise Men slog across the stage during We THREE Kings?  Why did the Wise Men arrive at the stable and burst forth into a song about angels, when no angels were involved in that moment?  Speaking of angels, the angel suspended in the air during the earlier vignette reminded me of Carol Kane in The Princess Bride, except the angel's hair shone green in the lighting.

We RAN down the many many tiny steps from our seats at the end, which, by the way, was quite an accomplishment given the slope of the stairs and the busy pattern of the carpet on the stairs which made it difficult to discern where one stair ended and the next began.  Then we scurried down the 4 flights of stairs from the mezzanine to the main level so we didn't have to wait for the inadequate elevators.  Out the door, and down the myriad steps from the front of the building, past the homeless panhandlers, and through all the traffic that was apparently using Market Street as an alternate to eastbound highway 64 (actually, I have no idea why so many people were going east on Market St. at 8pm on a rainy Sunday night -- it was pretty weird, though, since the rest of downtown seemed fairly deserted).

In retrospect I don't so much feel like I've had an early kickoff to the Christmas season as a sense of relief that those performances are OVER.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Work in Progress Wednesday

Before the Halloween costume sewing, I was working on Simplicity 2689 for Annabeth.  She wanted it tunic length.  It still needs a hem (you can see pins at the bottom left of this photo where we were figuring out the length).  And it needs a belt, since it turned out looking like scrubs.  Also, the sleeve length and width is wrong for her, so we need to figure out what to do about that.

But the sewing machine is currently in use with Annabeth's project for sewing class, which is a hot pink skirt.  She's having a lot of fun making it, learning a lot.  I'd recommend this pattern, Simplicity 2226, for beginners.  Occasionally she'll ask me something along the lines of, "The directions say to do XYZ -- should I?"  and I'll say, "Nah, that's really not necessary."  But those are typically little things that would be handy to do if you haven't grown up around sewing -- things like pinning the interfacing onto the yoke before fusing it, which Annabeth felt very confident doing with this particular fabric and interfacing sans pins.

On the knitting front, a month or so ago I started knitting Uma from Chic Knits patterns.  I think my lack of progress is testament to my interest level -- so far I've only made the upper back and part of the upper left front.  (It didn't help that I suddenly decided to reread Ender's Game, which is much, much more exciting than a plain cardigan.)

So I decided maybe it was time to find a new project.  I logged on Ravelry the other morning to browse for ideas, and ended up finding this video

 and sat there watching it 3 times in a row rather than looking at any patterns whatsoever. I think this may mean that I'm just not that excited about knitting right now.

Lots of other stuff in the works, too -- Girl Scouts Fall Product Sale, plus Silver Award work, figuring out dual-enrollment classes for next semester, refinishing the stairway, auditions for Seussical in a couple of week -- more on all of that later.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

With Catlike Tread

Halloween 2012

Princess Aurora handed out candy at our house...
 The bare feet sort of drove me nuts -- it wasn't THAT warm.

while the Pirates of Penzance roamed the streets of the neighborhood
Vest is Simplicity 3809.  Shirts are from Shakespeare performances last summer, borrowed from the costume shop, as are the swords. I'm pretty sure the eye patch used up all the eye liner in the house.

Early evening version up the street:

Later they added a sword fight at the end.  And did an encore when the 2nd pirate's mom came to pick her up, although the next morning I noticed the 2nd pirate hadn't put the bandana back on her head for this video.

Some people realized that Thalia had left the act.  Others counted the same number of performers as last year and just said something along the lines of, "Oh, I always love it when you show up!"  And still others were new to the neighborhood this year.  Various neighbors recalled fondly the Irish Dance extravaganza, although one was convinced that was last year (that was 2 years ago). 

Mostly I felt sorry for the 3 girls the same age who showed up right after them at a house with no plans to even tell a joke -- the people asked them, "So, are you going to sing?"

New idea: Maybe we should hand out ballots like they do at the Muny, so people could vote on what they want to see next year.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Dress Up

The neighborhood Halloween Parade was Saturday morning.

Belle made an appearance.

As did the Sugar Plum Fairy.  It was really cold out, by the way.  The temps had gone from mid 80s a couple of days earlier to low 30s.  Hence the coats and gloves.

They helped wrangle other participants, including a tiger.

Saturday night and Sunday afternoon was a dance performance.  Annabeth was in the chorus of a presentation in the Book of Ruth in modern dance.  

Naomi, Orpah and Ruth expressed their sorrow at the deaths of their husbands by dancing with and into the silks dangling in the picture below, wrapping themselves in them and suspending themselves (too bad I didn't get a picture of that -- think "circus arts" and you'll have the idea).  It was very cool.  I love the choreography this dance teacher composes.

Thalia ran the light booth, and was appalled that I came up to take a picture. (They also helped build the sets, and Thalia sewed all the large, gauzy curtains.)

Sunday night was a Trunk-or-Treat.  They had planned to go as Disney Princesses to hand out candy, but were officially Wiped Out by all the running around all weekend, and skipped that Dress Up opportunity.  But that's okay -- tonight is another chance!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

House Robe is from an Etsy shop.

Saturday, September 22, 2012


Sometimes you really question your choices in homeschooling, partially because there are just so very many choices to make.  Which subjects to cover, which curriculum to use for each subject, how much time to spend on each subject (both per day and as a cumulative total) ... down to nitpicky details like which type of paper to use and how to teach pencil grip.  I've seen knockdown drag-out fights online  in regards to pencil grip.

And then every once in a while you get some sort of validation.  This week we had a couple of those moments.

Thalia is taking Spanish at a university, and I had heard that this was really a bad idea considering she's only piddled around with the language before this -- she was doomed to being unable to keep up since she hadn't actually studied it as a school subject before.  But she's really doing alright.  She commented the other day that part of what makes it easy is all of the Latin we did.  Not that we ever completed any particular program, and not that any of us have any fluency in Latin whatsoever.  However, she remembers conjugating Latin verbs, and the little charts I made to show the conjugations (which I based on how I learned to make charts in Spanish class, by the way).  So now when they conjugate Spanish verbs in class she realizes things like "just leave off the t in 3rd person [Latin] and you've pretty much got it."

Apparently our slovenly approach to learning non-English languages accomplished something.

Her dual enrollment English class is going well, too.  Whenever she has a question about a part of speech she diagrams the sentence, and that clarifies things in her mind.  I never learned to diagram.  Frankly, I barely learned any grammar in school at all.  But Susan Wise Bauer assured us (via her books and articles) that learning to diagram would be a good idea.  So we did, using Rod & Staff English, First Language Lessons, and, finally, Analytical Grammar.  And now, years later, Thalia is earning extra credit for speed and accuracy in her ability to analyze a sentence.

It might be enough to go to a homeschool parent's head, you know?  Except then all of these discussions of past curricula made me nostalgic for those early days of homeschooling, and I started looking through old photos....

Oh, look, an archeological dig!

And hieroglyphics!

Dying cloth purple, just like in Tyre!

Yeah, we've got tons of photos from studying ancient history.  We also have tons of maps we drew of the various countries.  We were using Story of the World, including the Activity Book -- if you've used it you know what I mean.  Do you want to know how much the kids retained of this?  Almost nothing. They remember the time we recreated the burning of London in the driveway and Annabeth was so excited that she tripped over something and bloodied her nose when she fell.  It's like all of those maps, not to mention most of the projects, never happened. Sigh.

It's sort of like we've been throwing stuff against the wall for the past 10 years and seeing what sticks.

Other notes from the homeschooling trenches:

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

Check it out -- I'm Mystique!

 10th Doctor

Saturday, September 15, 2012

This Week in Homeschool

Thalia:  "It seems like I have less homework this year, but I also have less time."

The "less homework" is due to shorter, more intense classes.  The "less time" is because we spend so much time in the car.  Which brings us to the Big Question of the Week -- how can we better utilize the time we spend getting places?

(The Small Question of the Week was whether Annabeth needed to do the long division section of Lial's Basic College Math given that she liked and understood the RightStart way of doing long division.  That one was solved by doing the section test to see if she really was proficient.)

We have somewhere to go Every Single Day.  Not all of us go someplace everyday, but someone always has to be somewhere, and it's usually at least 20 minutes away.  That adds up by the time you get there and get back home.

Plus we end up with these odds and ends of time -- "we're going to leave in about 10 minutes" translates into "well, sheesh, it really probably isn't worth trying to wash the dishes/grade the math/get out the vacuum in that amount of time".  (Although, really, is it ever worth getting out the vacuum?  It's pretty much in permanent last place on my list.)

We kicked around the idea of doing audiobooks in the car.  One issue with that is the passenger list varies so much.  At any given time there might be 1, 2 or 3 people along for the ride.  And during the course of a trip, 1 or 2 passengers might be dropped off or picked up.

Maybe load books on the iPod so we can plug it into the car's sound system, and then click to different books according to who's in the car.... Seems awfully fussy, doesn't it?

Annabeth is always a passenger, so she simply takes along her homework to work on in the car.  Thalia does a lot of the driving, and I do the rest.

I"m really grateful that we live in an area that has so many opportunities. Also, it's great that we can take advantage of so many of them -- we have a car, we have access to relatively inexpensive fuel, we can pay for all of these classes.    And, really, the amount of running around we're doing this semester is about on par with what I've seen other families mess with for years at a time.  But I'm just thinking that we could somehow do it all better.

And I will say that I'm doing fairly well in the times I'm waiting for someone to be done with something.  During ballet I might walk to Dick Blick; during voice I can head over to Ben Franklin (at least for another couple of weeks).  I started reading a novel the other morning while waiting for my tires to be rotated; I finished it during all the various classes I was waiting around on.  I got all my co-op science planning done while kids were in backstage class. And it occurs to me that these would be wonderful times to do some handwork -- I just remembered a sweater I started knitting 2 years ago.  Maybe it's time to finish some of this stuff.

So, any words of wisdom out there?  Any websites or blog posts on the subject I should be reading and pondering?

Want to connect with other homeschoolers, including some who probably have actual answers instead of questions?  Follow the link:

Saturday, September 8, 2012

This Week In Homeschool

This week we've added another layer to our schedule, so to speak.  We've started most of the dance classes the kids are planning on taking this year, which will be tap and ballet.  And Scouts.  I've been to 2 Scout meetings for the same troop, which is stupid, but that's the way this group rolls.

Thalia is in an adult beginning ballet class.  This looks like it will be a good fit for her.  The class is both more rigorous and more casual than the class for teens.

She's also taking tap for a second year.  Annabeth will probably be joining tap classes also.

Annabeth is taking ballet at a different studio.  Her class meets 2  times a week, and is a better fit for her personality.

On Saturday Annabeth starts acting lessons at a new place.  This will be an adventure.  We're stepping back from such intense involvement in the place we went to last year, and trying out other places.  Thalia isn't taking any acting courses this year, although she's open to auditioning for anything interesting that comes along.

And then there's Girl Scouts.  Gah.  What can I say.  People still drive me batty.  Girl Scout parents tend to have a special knack for that.  This year I planned to be less passive about the situation by being a leader.  But the meetings are at a time that are so incredibly awkward for our family (and can't change due to general whiney "Oh, ick, I don't want to do that" from others) that I can't have much physical presence. Annabeth is disappointed by the way things are going, but doesn't want to quit.

As for other subjects, Thalia keeps asking if she's actually doing everything she's supposed to.  The classes are fewer in number, yet more intense, so it's a new sensation.  She's had tests in her 2 dual enrollment classes (Spanish and English).  Neither has been completely scored yet, but she felt good about both.  The English test was much easier due to her love of diagramming -- Analytical Grammar for the win!  Other than that, her only school subjects are math and science.  She's started  Lial's Precalculus; and she read the first chapter of her chemistry book in preparation for class which will start next week.

Lial's Basic College Math is off to an easy start for Annabeth.  I still haven't purchased a grammar program.  Thalia is convinced Annabeth should use Analytical Grammar, of course.  Other classes -- science, history, ASL, sewing, whatever-else-I'm-forgetting-to-mention -- continued without much ado.
Action shot of homeschool occurring without much ado.  The weather is suddenly gorgeous, and homeschoolers have the flexibility to take advantage of that.

Honestly, most of this week was sucked up in having a wood floor installed in our bedroom -- moving stuff in and out of the room, dealing with the actually laying of the floor, and all.  By Friday night I was ready to sit around watching Quantum Leap reruns (now available free on Amazon Prime) and eating those miniature Dove ice cream bars (the chocolate coating on the little ones is thinner and more fun than the coating on the full-size bars) and totally zone out.

But now it's time to grade papers from this past week and prep for next week.

Interested in what other homeschoolers have done this week?  Follow the link: