Our duck tales aren't quite as sadistic or controversial as the primetime variety, but they fill a certain admiring space in the soul-- a space we call "school".
Good-looking folks, I say, even their shadows look handsome and well-feathered.
"Are they asking for food?" This was Gnome's burning question.
Prophet felt certain this vociferous feathered friend was going to nip her. I didn't think it was likely, but I wasn't sure so I decided to wait until we returned to find out if ducks do bite.
The day's learning laid itself out when Prophet expressed fear of being bitten and I couldn't distinguish clearly between geese and ducks, biters or not-biters.
Geese have teeth. Geese are also very territorial. Don't mess with a vocal gander.
Click on the image above to download the
free 3-page duck v. goose learning packet.
From my sketchbook musings..
Playing with dada and surrealism in my sketchbook and finding new fascinations to exploit, including the "optophone", an extinct early bit of technology with varied symbolic potentials.
The optophone is a device, used by the blind, that scans text and generates time-varying chords of tones to identify letters. It is one of the earliest known applications of sonification. Dr. Edmund Fournier d'Albe of Birmingham University invented the optophone in 1913, which used selenium photosensors to detect black print and convert it into an audible output which could be interpreted by a blind person. (Wikipedia)
The Israeli press describes a new and improved optophone ("Opto-Phone") designed by Zev Zavlesky that allows you to eavesdrop on conversations 100 feet away using laser beams.
I'm so taken in by the old school optophone right now- electrical circuitry and simple lines- that I printed this aged model as a coloring page for the little people. Eager to see how they'll "improve" upon it, perhaps with colors or collages.
Gnome's 2D and 3D sketchbook exercises.
We started with a lesson the previous day in 2D and 3D shapes. The final product was a mushroom, such an easy thing to draw and demonstrate the difference between dimensions.
Gnome's fantastic bowl of fruit.
Then on to a still life: a bowl of fruit, the simplest sketch exercise ever. But a favorite at the world's smallest, messiest castle.
Gnome added cherries and she couldn't resist from including a mushroom as well-- "even though it's not a fruit, mommy".
Prophet's rainbow bowl of fruit.
Prophet included strawberries alongside her cherries. She worked very hard to cross-hatch the colors. She wanted them the color pencils to "hatch so much they made the paper shiny."
Meanwhile, the Eldest revealed his portrait of Simon the dog. Impressive. The cock of head really gave me a sense of Simon's character, perhaps affable, interested, slightly gooofy, ready to play.
If only school was sketching and creative writing all day every day...
Bunica and Bunicu both sent flowers for v-day, and we've been watching the tulips open up a little more each day.
It makes for the perfect sketchbook prompt, this slow and steady tulip story.
We played with words as well, adjectives describing the different tulip faces (shy, tender, gallant, curious, delicate, etc.) and verbs to describe how the tulip occupies space in the world (shrug, bend, waver, falter, assert, transfigure, unwind...).
Prophet complained about not being able to hit the right shade of crimson in her sketchbook- not finding "the tulip's hair color"- so I encouraged her to cross-hatch a few shades of red, purple, and orange colored pencils but she was still not pleased with the final result. Perhaps you can get the picture without a picture?
Stopping along a very windy dirt road along Black Warrior Road, the Eldest bundles up. He spotted an American Kestrel a few minutes after I snapped this photo.
A nodding donkey took a nap nearby.
Our field trip to Sanders Ferry Road was inspired by the Alabama Birding Trails website, a terrific resource for birdwatchers and nature lovers in general. The West Alabama trails map included a myriad of local nature study hideaways but the Sanders Ferry Road inspiration came from a post on the Bird Talk blog.
The afternoon light didn't add red shades to the ashy white palette of the field.
An unidentified bird with a large wing span dipped through the shrubs. Can you see it hiding? Well-camouflaged, isn't it?
Prophet beat the Eldest to the deer track identification. We thought it might be a hind foot.
Imagine the bales.
Late winter colors along Black Warrior Road where a man stood in the road and stared us down until we drove away. Nature study can be quite a risky endeavor in a state where property rights trump human rights every single time.
GPS coordinates for Sanders Ferry Road: 33.1645525 -87.6788507
Plug in, pack the binoculars, and tune out the media out. And here's some interesting local history for the Sanders Ferry Road trip:
News article about Old Sanders Ferry Road six miles south of Coker (Tuscaloosa News, 23 July 1989)
Matthew William Clinton explains how Sanders Ferry Road was involved in Tuscaloosa's earliest recorded history (Tuscaloosa Early Days)
Druid City Bicycle Club rides this way
As an exercise for the Eldest in percentages and social science, I created a handout listing all the EPA Superfund sites for Tuscaloosa, Alabama and nearby. (Download it below if you'd like to go on this adventure with your kids.)
I explained that the list was compiled in 1997. Our first topic of discussion was what had changed in our community since 1997- new businesses, companies, manufacturing plants, facilities, etc.- and which ones might be added to the new list as a result.
Read and note the 2003 Uniform Environmental Covenants Act co-authored by William Henning, a professor at the University of Alabama Law School. How do you think this Act will help reduce or remediate environmental problems in our state? What are its limitations? Why might the drafting authors have agreed to settle for these limitations? Explain.
Warrior Asphalt Company is located in our zip code. According to the EPA website, a rosin spill was discovered in 1981. Review the online timeline of how this hazardous spill was monitored and assessed. In 2013, an administrative order on consent was issued. What does this mean? What might you expect to see next on the timeline? Why? Also why does the website say "NFRAP-Site does not qualify for the NPL based on existing information"? What does this mean?
In 2011, a Tuscaloosa Tornado Response was issued for 3700 KAULOOSA AVENUE and an on-site removal was conducted by Leo Francendese. What chemical or hazardous material was removed? How do you know? How might you find out? Why would this information remain unlisted?
What hazard did KMG Bermuth leave in the community?
Fuels and Chemicals, located in Coaling, Alabama, has an extensive case history with the EPA beginning in 1993 and last updated in 2009. What was the most recent action noted on the website? What was the result?
In 1998, Reliance Steel, located in nearby Cottondale, was added to the active site list. Using the data on the EPA website, provide a two-paragraph summary of the incident, the problem, the company itself, and what is being done to address it.
In 1988, a severe lead-based pollution was recorded at Central Foundry. Unlike other sites, this one is now listed as a federal site. What is currently located at the Central Foundry site (hint: use Google maps to help).
What was the Norfolk Railroad "SH release" in 2002? Do research through online news sources to see if the press covered the incident. Take notes. The incident itself was resolved in just one day. What was the "potentially responsible party emergency removal"?
The Alabama Dept. of Environmental Management is preparing to issue a consent order to Billy Boyd Realty and Construction Company. Why? Study the online document.
One handmade card for woof-lovers.
Our co-op is having a Valentine's Party and I'm not going to deprive my kids of something they anticipate and enjoy just because 36 years of life has taught me to depreciate Hallmark holidays. That said, there are ways to keep from supporting the consumerist aspect by making our valentine's cards by hand.
a nature walk in which you collect leaves and petals
dish clothes to dry leaves
a hole punch or stapler (I used both)
1. Pick up as many neat leaves, flower petals, and handsome detritus as you can find. Look for leaves that aren't too thick- leaves that hold a lot of water will take longer to dry.
2. Dry them off and flatter. Then arrange on a square of wax paper (make sure no two items are touching as this creates air bubbles. Place another piece of wax paper on top.
3. Set iron on lowing setting to carefully iron over until the wax adheres to itself. Then use a scissor to cut a clean border shape. Try a square, a vase, a circle, a heart- whatever suits your whimsy.
Gnome arranged this one to look like little man using dried rose petals and rose leaves from the backyard bushes. We dried the rose petals last summer...
This one was made from wildflowers dried last spring. So nice to anticipate their blooms again...
For kids on the autism spectrum, knowing how to ask for help (and how to offer it) is complicated. The Eldest says he's more inclined to step in and "do it for someone" without any explanation. In other words, he's inclined to give help without offering.
Alas, this contributes to misunderstandings and misconstruals so I put together a little activity inspired by an activity I found on the Teaching Tolerance website).
Gnome needed help to cross the ditch. The King lent a hand.
First flipped through recent photos and tried to identify scenes in which someone needed or gave help. Then we flipped through them again and looked for scenes where someone could have used help but the need went unrecognized.
Then we role-played how we might have offered help in those moments.
Finally, the kids filled out their own copies of the activity sheet (I was the Gnome's magic pen who transcribed her words.)
Download your own copy below.
Shhhhhh.... of course it's free. Haven't you figured out that every single worksheet, lesson plan, unit study, coloring page, and feeling on this website is free?
The Eldest and his best friend, E., wood-burned this sign for the backyard fence. I discovered it a few days ago.
Since there are no fewer than five painted wooden birdhouses in our backyard, I take it the sign refers to the bird houses.
"Uh, sure mom," responds the Eldest when I ask about the sign. The tenor in his voice suggests there are other things which matter more than questions about signs posted to fences.
The daffodils begin to open their faces.
The bare bones of nests pop up in trees.
Dandelions beg us to blow seeds into wishes.
Thank goodness for little people and their enchantment- think of all the flowers we owe to their disinhibited wishings.
The confederate jasmine vines grow green around the edges of our bedroom window.
Buds position themselves for every speck of sunlight.
Camellias pucker up.
Your daughter brings a handful of "purple girls" and you remind yourself not to scold her for picking... there are many more to come.
This is just the beginning. Just another beautiful beginning....
After the Eldest and E. sampled and tested the water at what they called "Red Pond", we entered the data online at the World Water Monitoring Challenge. The results weren't pretty-- the PH low as 1 and impossibly high turbidity.
Latitude and Longitude: 33.183157, -87.494773
The King wanted to see for himself so we set off to find Red Pond again, this time by foot. The Eldest debriefed him on the parameters- this is part of the Cribbs Mill Creek Watershed which has a watershed management plan and the problem area is right next to a massive storm drain in Lakewood Circle.
The Eldest took us through the woods between Cherokee Hills and Lakewood Circle. We entered just after Hardy's property and hiked our way through the underbrush.
Gnome kept getting snagged by thorns.
When we came out of the thick underbrush, we were behind the big kudzu patch in what looked like a fairway.
Granted, finding seven golf balls gave us the fairway impression. The girls "hunted eggs."
Poor Gnome was distraught at only finding one- "everyone else found balls but me."
There was something metallic, shiny like gasoline weeping from the creek beds further downstream. My pictures aren't very good but you can see it here- looks white because of the light.
A foot further, the banks have a reddish tint where the water empties into the creek.
And here it the gasoline-looking fluid is sitting in a marshy area. I wish I'd taken better photos...
Further downstream, where the boys like to build dams, the water is still ruddy and the smell is sewer or sulfur.
The view still further downstream, moving towards the lake in Cherokee Hills.
Hurricane Creekkeeper John Wathen said it looked like an iron seep but needs to put eyes on it. I am so grateful for everything I've learned about waterkeeping as a Board Member of Friends of Hurricane Creek, and the way this education has involved and included my family and children. The world is a better place to the extent that we invest in its care. And there is no investment without knowledge.
So the story continues...
The Eldest and E. were dressed, fed, and out the backdoor by 8 a.m. this morning in pursuit of a noble cause. Last night, they regaled us with stories of a "disgusting, blood reddish pond" in the woods abutting Cherokee Hills and Woodland Hills. They were determined to investigate further this morning.
By the time I rolled out of bed and doused my face in coffee, the boys had returned- "You've got to see this!"- and convinced me to hop in the spaceship and drive over to Lakewood Circle to photograph the curious pond. I parked on the street and crossed my fingers that no one would report us.
We entered the woods just past a water drain.
"Watch where you step," warned the Eldest. The kudzu hibernates during the winter but everything we see (and every step we take) is a mass of kudzu come summertime. Not what you'd call firm ground.
The Prophet and Gnome walked down the slippery slope, eyes peeled for holes and loose soil. They wanted to throw sticks into the "bloody water."
The boys were right. It wasn't pretty. And it came straight from the stormwater drain.
You could see the high degree of sedimentation just beneath the orange skein.
After having followed the water upstream and downstream, the boys had their theories. E. mentioned a possible sewer line spilling into the woods. We concluded the storm drain near the street was the probably source point of pollution.
Looking downstream from the pond.
The Eldest pontificates.
"Shouldn't we map out the watershed so we can see where all this is going?", I asked. The photos of watershed landmarks come in handy when map time rolls around.
The boys wanted to follow the water back to Cherokee Hills so I hiked back to the spaceship (which hadn't been towed) and drove back to wait for the budding waterkeepers.
"The water looks super yuck!"
Back at the castle, a hapless queen scoured the web for answers. The coolest geologist in the world (cough, Anne Wynn) gave us a clue- the boys were exploring the Cribb Mill Creek Watershed. And what do you know? A google search gave me the Cribbs Mill Creek Watershed Management Plan. The boys returned anxious to test the water and see the watershed plan. Cowabunga, let the good times roll.
We're off to test the water with our water testing kits. The mischief-maker in me says why not leave a geocache near the nasty pond to encourage others to bear witness but the fine, upstanding mom in me says what if some fool gets hurt. Who knows which side will win?
My first response to being nominated for the One Lovely Blog award was surprise- oh but I've been so un-lovely lately- then gratitude to Jordan for her generous heart. It's a gift to live life and write your way through it- and an honor to discover "kindred spirits" who encourage you along the way.
Now for the robes and rituals. There are 3 simple rules to accepting this award:
I am honored to officially accept this award from A Montessori Story. And it means the world to accept it from a fellow Alabama-raised female whose has lived beyond her borders. On her blog, Jordan Gurganus recounts her discoveries and inspirations as a Montessori teacher. I loved reading that Montessori opened the world of math to her because I feel that way about nature study and science. Perhaps a good teacher is one who loves learning a little more than she loves teaching so when the world opens its hands to her, she can't help sharing.
Tweezing my legs while waiting for a train in Poland.
Now for seven interesting facts about myself:
1. I was born in Romania and raised in Alabama. My parents defected from Ceausescu’s communist dictatorship when I was two years old. I don’t believe in birthrighteousness-- the idea that where you are born should determine your right to live there. Citizenship snobbery makes me sad.
2. I homeschool my three children because I want to give them a gender-flexible, wonder-infused childhood filled with weeds, dirt, poetry, travel, and endless cultural horizons. People and places are more important than products to me. I'm not impressed by your house or garden though I may be impressed by your heart.
3. If you told me I'd be homeschooling my kids ten years ago, I would have laughed in your face and muttered a simplistic trope which stereotyped homeschoolers and revealed my own narrow perspective.
4. I've traveled the gamut of the political spectrum- Repubicrat, Demican, conservative, progressive, anarchist, you name it... Though I sometimes look back on my life with disbelief, I am grateful to have known political parties inside and out because it reminds me that ignorance and snobbery are more powerful than evil. Lesson learned: Empathy is my main political position.
5. Between the margins, I steal time to write.
6. There is nothing I fear quite as much as people who like power. And mean people. Maybe they're one and the same.
7. I do not believe there is a correlation between happiness and success. On the other hand, there appears to be a strong connection between happiness and the ability to enjoy poetry. A girl can dream.
And my fifteen nominations..
Inspiring and insightful. Love this man.
Because Ginny makes me happy.
I'm a longtime admirer of Lori's project-based homeschooling.
CAMP CREEK BLOG
Spirit, solace, homeschooling, and light.
AN EVERYDAY STORY
Child-led learning and Reggio.
For her honesty- and inspiring feminism.
Inspiring handwork and crafts.
1 DAD 1 KID
Ideas and environmental education.
Not quite a blog but visionary field learning.
ART BAR BLOG
Creative hands-on art ideas.
The poetry of love and life.
Handwork ideas and personal embroidery guru.
Because world schoolers rock...
Dirt under the nails.
Reading Stella Vinitchi Radulescu's I Scrape the Window of Nothingness scooped me out so thoroughly that only scaffolding remained. The scaffolding and the notes jotted down in a sketchbook while crouched on a rock in the arboretum. A sample:
the truth belongs
who never say
or lie about
here in love
Where to begin? I'll begin in the black hole- the place where the literature of dissent abandoned its respect for language. Start with the sparse aesthetic of the political dictatorship, how it led to the absurdism of Eugene Ionesco, the veiled fruits of Herta Muller. What remains after totalitarianism (and utopian propaganda) rendered ordinary words meaningless.
Now progress to the shores of democracy where people know billboards better than the native plants in their backyards- look around, it's a brave new world and nothing is out of your reach if you're willing (and able) to buy it.
Alas, the hyper-mediated consciousness of consumer culture does not resuscitate language. Perhaps there is disappointment for the political exile upon discovery that democracy honors language by accident- and only on occasion.
The poet returns to the page with a mistrust of what man creates to make sense of things. No man-made signs can be trusted to offer truth. The words betray as swiftly as clock hands put us at another border, begging to be accepted into another country where only the moon is familiar.
But there are seasons, stars, and particular forms of light by which the world can be known. To read Radulescu is to re-learn geography. To jettison the GPS maps for enfleshed topography. To tell time by what we glimpsed in childhood faces or the heat of a mother's hand.
lend me your tongue
I buried mine a long time ago
there was no place for such a flame...
And then to hide what we know in our marrow but cannot afford to say- maybe because it fails to signify but really there are no words. No words unmolested.
The scene in Radulescu's poems winds through a distinctly liminal space- the thin skin stretched between light and dark. The space where superstitions are more legible than street signs. The space becomes the place where one expects the epiphany. For Radulescu, the poet's sacred absolutions- the pen, the paper, the attentive expectation- rarely give rise to revelation. She remains alone with a past she can't verbalize and a pen that draws blood without offering us a sentient body.
Other things I found: There are dogwood blossoms but they don't feel green. The flower's sensuality is held back. We are deprived of the resonance by which a bloom holds our attention. There is the ghost of Paul Celan. There is a moon (an eternity of moons). And other characters, or words, which return to re-orient us. There is ice, silence, wind, time, and light. There are eyes, scars, vowels, shadows, children, lovers...
The visual aspects are not effusive. In this regard, her poems resemble Eastern Orthodox icons more than photographs, oil paintings, or watercolors. Nothing of gouache's tender, wistful touch. The heaviness of holy things- gold foil on wood, the abstracted solemnity of faces who have seen holy things and yet cannot speak of them. The point at which silence morphs into reverence. The point at which she earns my trust.
She brings us to this point again and again and then refuses to go any further. I savor the non-adulatory awe- love the courage of language so bare you can see the swollen joints, the skinny knees knocking together.
Ultimately, what I find in Radulescu's poems is inseparable from what I know about being a Romanian defector: the past is easy to recount but impossible to translate. So I trust the bark of a tree for what it doesn't say. Maybe only a tree is equipped to handle the holy. Maybe the televangelists despise what they cannot touch.
a poet dying seeks refuge and
sets the page on fire
Radulescu offers her poems to a culture marked by impatience, a culture disinterested in the ineffable. Her courage comes from refusing to cater, pander, or prevaricate. Among my favorites from this book- "1955"; "bells & bones"; "rough winter, cold meals"; "starting point"- emblematic of her voice.
Sketch by George Terry McDonald [source]
I Scrape the Window of Nothingness will be available for purchase on March 12th, but you can pre-order a copy now from Orison Books.
"But why should I do this if you just finished saying Radulescu doesn't offer any revelations or certainties? Why bother if the poems won't fulfill me?"
Because any poet who fulfills you is a one-night stand on the bedside table; and what seems acrobatic at night looks foppish on two legs. Fulfillment is only temporary, a flash in the pan, but the silence of unspeakable things beguiles indefinitely. This is Radulescu's poetic gift- to convey the ineffablility of exile's place and the way language desecrates as much as it preserves. Read her for want of a moon.
Why not take our sketchbooks to a tiny cemetery and see what falls on the page?
As a prompt, the kids "collected" nouns- everything from oak leaves to infant tombstones. The Eldest settled into leaves and quickly began sketching the peculiar lineaments of lichen on stones.
Prophet copies the letters from gravestones- she feels confident when copying letters because they don't flip around on her as much. What is more difficult about dyslexia- the lagging behind on reading curves or the sense that letters play tricks with you, a fundamental mistrust of the written word?
Gnome abandoned her sketchbook to chase a squirrel. Something about the shadows and the silhouettes of a four-year-old's sketchbook wanted to become a story... but there is not time enough in the universe for all the stories I want to tell.
Upon her return, Gnome attempted various sketches before getting frustrated that her drawings "didn't match." The eraser washed across the paper.
"It doesn't have to match," I said, "just to capture the way you see it." Never let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
The Eldest sauntered through a corridor of graves and paused briefly to remind me how easy it is to get frustrated- and how hard to crawl out of it. There are moments when he takes life in stride (this one) and moments when he stomps hard enough to hurt.
The fence captivated all four of us so that we found ourselves sketch-collecting it together. Four people scrunched down like pinecones catching the fence from different angles.
I wondered who made the small fence- it didn't look like anything I've seen around Tuscaloosa- maybe a small business that passed away. Is there irreverence in attributing death to a business, in saying aloud what we believe at heart- that the life of a business bears more value than the life of children whose mothers raise them alone, scrimping every penny, worrying about whether they can afford the power bill this month?
How will they blend their colored pencils to capture the vagaries of rust?
We collected nouns and marveled over rust. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, those with enough mullah may also earn rust.
Art Lesson: Value (Art Outside the Box)
Art Doodle: Warm Up (Art Chick)
Art Elements: Space and Shape (Art Outside the Box)
Rainbow color and color wheel lesson (White Tiger Renee)
Art Elements: Color and Pointallism (Art Outside the Box)
Rainbow Roosters Art Project (Purple Paintbrush)
Math and Art: Fraction Pizzas (Art Outside the Box)
America's Southwest landscape art lesson and video (Deep Space Sparkle)
Crayon pop art lesson (Art with Mrs. Smith)
Helen Frankenthaller and the Art of the Stain (Art Lady)
Art Lesson: Shading and shadow (White Tiger Renee)
Art Activity: Patchwork names (Tim Donnelly)
Egyptian faces art project (Deep Space Sparkle)
Principles of Design: Proportion and Review (Whitney Panetta)
Abstract monotype printmaking for youth (Jessica Barber)
Gabriel Moreno art nouveau style pencil portraits (J Thomas Uhl)
"Guess It" game (Little Thinkers) Use the word as an art prompt.
Art history timeline (Art Teacher Diaries)*
Franz Marc's "Fate of the Animals" (The Art Curator for Kids)
Van Gogh art history cut and paste (Joseph Lemien)
Toulouse-Latrec art history cut and paste (Joseph Lemien)
"Gallery of the Louvre" art history cut and paste (Joseph Lemien)
"Say NO to Nazism" pop neorealist drawing lesson (Art Lesson Plans)
MOMA virtual lesson and field trip (nearpod)
Note: An asterisk (*) indicates a foldable which can be used with an interactive notebook or lapbook. Most of our science, math, nature study, creative writing, and global study work is composition notebook-based. A tilde (~) indicates a printable book, or emergent reader.
Fred Fisher, the husband of Angelynn Parks Fisher, spent many happy days at Hurricane Creek where his father-in-law, the late Stanley Parks, owned a large chunk of property. Upon the death of the late Stanley Parks, this property was sold to the Trust for Public Land, a land trust, for the purpose of fulfilling Stanley's wish that the public enjoy this land for perpetuity.
This area is known as Hurricane Creek Park, though the Friends of Hurricane Creek (disclaimer: I am on the Board of this organization) would prefer the name be Stanley Parks Nature Preserve. If you walk the trails, you'll discover all kinds of stories.
The North Loop leads through the area where Mr. Fisher once raised a barn and kept cattle.
You can recognize the premises by the mossy fence and the massive old tree, a survivor of storms and incubator of stories.
The relics of remain to be interpreted. Once upon a time, there was a barn built painstakingly by men to house and nurture cattle.
A tornado whirled through and demolished the barn and the workshop, the hallowed family places and spaces, pockets of nature that begin to feel like home. What you see is the remains-- what looks like junk from here is the skeleton of a family story.
What was this? What can we read beyond the rust? How do we keep the past from haunting us by its incompleteness?
After roaming through the old stable area, remembering Mr. Fisher mentioned horses- horseback rides through the woods at family events- I think of how much care we put into places that disappear. How much we hope in our hearts that someone will keep these places from disappearing completely. How only stories keep breathing when material expires.
The Eldest looks for tadpoles in the lake created by Mr. Fisher as a watering hole for the cattle. If you're looking for stories written in trees, visit Hurricane Creek Park and wander through the North Loop. Do it for the late Stanley Parks, whose family left this land for you.
And the truth is the first girl I ever kissed, tasted like tomatoes.
And I know this, because the second girl I ever kissed tasted like pepper.
It wasn’t unpleasant.
It’s just that I was expecting tomatoes.
(Excerpt from Koyczan's "Tomatoes")
A poetic feast of tomato poems...
"Cherry Tomatoes" by Sandra Beasley
"Tomatoes" by Shane Koyczan
"Ode to Tomatoes" by Pablo Neruda (plus riotous illustration)
"September Tomatoes" by Karina Borowicz
A shape poem variant on a tomato poem by Victor Hugo
"Patio Tomatoes" by Krista Lukas
"Tomatoes" by Stephen Dobyns
"Roma" by Matthew Dickman
"After Tomato Picking" by Maria Garcia Teutsch
"Fried Green Tomatoes" by Pris Campbell
"Diary from a Tomato Cannery, 1912" by Sandy Solomon
"Tomato Hornworm", a great teaching poem
"I Used to Like Tomatoes" by Flora Veit Wild
Image source: Gathering Books
Interactive notebook starter kit (Mrs. West Knows Best)*
Interactive notebook bookmark (Performing in Fifth Grade)
Tips for teaching with math games (Laura Candler)
Math Comics: Fractions (David Rickert)
Fraction foldable (Teaching with a Cup of Tea)*
Simplifying squid fraction packet (Inspire Teachers)
Pizza fraction fun for equivalents (Laura Candler)
Mixed numeral & improper fraction puzzle set (Dennis McDonald)
Simplifying fractions bingo (Laura Candler)
Comparing fractions foldable (Abby Sandlin)*
Factors and multiples card game (Literacy and Math Ideas)
Fractangle puzzles (Ms Haslacker Teaches 5th)
Place value foldable (Suzanne Karim)*
Graph foldable (Sonja McGinnis)*
Notorious scatter plot worksheet (Mr Doll)
Greatest common factor foldable (Hodges Herald)*
Factor race math game (Laura Candler)
Common divisibility rules foldable (That Math Lady)*
Decimal models worksheet (Michelle Moon)
Writing decimals in expanded number form (Raise the Rigor)*
Understanding decimals foldable (Fun in Room 4B)*
Decimal operations flow chart (Susan Thomas)
Converting fractions and decimals foldable (Middle School Math Moments)*
Why decimals repeat: Converting fractions to decimals (IgnitED)
Decimals art (Susan Ferdman)
Dividing decimals (Chelle)
Pirate decimal game (Teaching 5th Grade in Georgia)
Fractions and demicals reader's theater script (Rosalind Flynn)
Basketball throws calculations (Mindy Rosenberg)
Teacher guide: Decimals and fractions grade 5 (The iTeach Hub)
Teacher for a Day: Decimals, Percents, Fractions (Performing in Fifth Grade)
Maths about me activity (Mrs. West Knows Best)
Gallon robots craftivity (Laura Candler)
Units of weight foldable (Tanya Villacis)*
Customary measurement conversions foldable (Laura Candler)*
Mean, median, mode and range foldable (That Math Lady)*
Tangram polygon explorations (Laura Candler)
Type of triangle foldable (Ambedu)*
Lines, rays, and segments foldable (That Math Lady)*
Scientific notation foldable (Miss Shanky's Math Shack)*
Number properties foldable (That Math Lady)*
Understanding decimals foldable (Fun in Room 4B)
Triangles math foldable (That Math Lady)*
Finding perimeter foldable (To the Square Inch)*
Mystery Perimeters learning packet (Laura Candler)
Island Conquer Game: Area and perimeter (Laura Candler)
Understanding expressions foldable (Fun in Room 4B)*
Solving a system of equations foldable (The Crafty Math Teacher)*
Slope foldable (Bovio Math Creations)
Spot Math (Ying Zhang)
Note: An asterisk (*) indicates a foldable which can be used with an interactive notebook or lapbook. Most of our science, math, nature study, creative writing, and global study work is composition notebook-based. A tilde (~) indicates a printable book, or emergent reader.
It's almost that time of the year when everything begins blooming at Hurricane Creek, and each walk brings encounters with new forms of life.
We took Bunica and Gary along the bike paths this weekend... because they'd never hiked the creek before and the weather begged us into the woods.
Paused for a precipitous view near a woodhewn bench. The water was high- perfect for paddling. "May God remind us greener grass is not cleaner grass," I think.
The kids gaze down at the creek, listen to the water churn over the rocks. We can count on the neverending jazz improv of Hurricane Creek's riffles.
"Look mom, it's a shelf fungus!" Our necks crane skywards, climbing the bark of a dead pine.
Drawing closer, the color is soft, the impressions feather. Watercolor or gouache. Pastels.
How one hefty shelf captures a falling gymnast, a piece of pinestraw performing a perfect split.
I have to admit that I kept hearing Amy's voice over my shoulder- and missing the time we spent exploring together with the kids. Hurricane Creek is one of our places but it doesn't strike me so poignantly until I'm there without her.
And then it strikes me again when I see something that would make Amy laugh or else just groan.
At which point I realize, again, how little time in the world for all the people I love and value. The people-I-love commune dreams return... how perfect to have everyone near enough that a holler would be all that stood between us.
Unable to hold people near, I wave from faraway, beckon "come here", whisper "look here, see what we found", and hope somehow that the spirit of love and friendship moves from one open palm to another, sustained through the seasons of life.
Fire Safety: Digging your own fire pit (Christine Kight)
How to avoid lyme disease (Christine Kight)
Bug Scavenger Hunt (Green Grubs Garden Club)
Backyard Ecology Assessment (Science Stuff)
Garden Discovery activity (KinderKay)*
Read and Write on the Road packet (Erin Wing)
Cloud Hunt Bingo (Green Grubs Garden Club)
Green Events Calendar with Dates From Around the World (Green Grubs Garden Club)
Renewable energy sources foldable (Sandy's Science Stuff)*
Earth Day Is Everyday (Katy Did Doodles)~
Nature-Themed Cootie Catcher (Green Grubs Garden Club)
Math in the Outdoors: Bar graphs (Teach to Tell)*
Race to Write 12 for on the road fun (Laura Candler)
Animal Dwellings and Debris Hut Construction video lesson (Deep River Visions)
Daisy Chains Activities (Green Grubs Garden Club)
Public speaking or TED talks worksheet (Laura Randazzo)
Note: An asterisk (*) indicates a foldable which can be used with an interactive notebook or lapbook. Most of our science, math, nature study, creative writing, and global study work is composition notebook-based. A tilde (~) indicates a printable book, or emergent reader.
There are so many ways in which writing intersects with learning at home. Yesterday, I couldn't get the juices flowing so I played around in my notebookm making lists of favorite nouns- words like derby, montage, cellulose, and bravado- when I realized the activity could be extended to the include the kids. Let's face it, everyone has favorite nouns, including toddlers who spout off their affection for Thomas the Tank engine in grocery store lines.
So I whipped together a quick worksheet for the Eldest to distinguish between abstract and concrete nouns and then to assemble a collection of 50 favorites each. What I didn't mention was that the collection would be used for next week's writing and poetry prompts. We live with our choices, right? Live with and through them until the verses set us free.
You can print your own free version by right-clicking the PDF below. I hope you enjoy it and do it along with your kids.
NOUNS: ABSTRACT VS. CONCRETE (PDF, 2 pages)
The holiday mantle decorations are packed and put away for next year. Things feel normal again, now that my armless wood statue girl is back in her place beneath the antlers.
"Why do you love that thing so much?" my husband asked earlier in our marriage. At the time, I didn't have an answer but today the shadow of a reason emerges. I like her because she's not smiling and because she looks as if she's cut from bone.
A statue carved from bone.... What if death was acknowledged by carving a statue of the each person from their large leg bone? Imagine all the space we'd save only one bone from our bodies was preserved and the rest was donated to hospitals and organ banks.
The Eldest has been helping Gnome make a paper craft village from the book given to her by Santa this year. Gnome expressed a desire to see her village "grow up" on the mantle.
Each house has its own set of residents, including pets. Dogs get their own houses but cats are expected to live indoors with their owners.
And here is the book by Delphine Doreau, My Town: A Little World For You To Build. If you aren't sure the book is worthwhile, download a few of Delphine's freebies (posted below) and see if your appetite changes.
Delphine Doreau's Generous Freebies
Free sample advent calendar house printable
Baby bear wreath printable
Surprise origami wrap printable
Angel ornaments printable
Mini owl paper dolls printable
3-D cuboctahedron puzzle printable
Delphine's dollhouse giftbox printable
Madame Sapin 3-d printable
Black and white matrioshka paper dolls printable
Colorful matrioshka paper dolls printable
Delphine's adorable hanging birdhouse printable
3-D polyhedron ornament printable
The King's cabbage salad.
Romanian girls aren't raised on sugar and spice and everything nice. We grow into our skins with the tangy sourness of vinegar and red cabbage salad.
Vinegar may not smell pretty but magic doesn't work wonders through smell. The vinegar in our blood preserves the words until we're ready to crack open the jar and unpickle the nascent poetry.
"The French poet, Rimbaud, predicted that the next great crop of writers would be women. He was the first guy who ever made a big women's liberation statement, saying that when women release themselves from the long servitude of men they're really gonna gush. New rhythms, new poetries, new horrors, new beauties. And I believe in that completely."
Surely Patti Smith craved vinegar when she made this remark....
Additional meditations on vinegar by minds worth excavating:
"What I've learned to do when I sit down to work on a shitty first draft is to quiet the voices in my head. First there's the vinegar-lipped Reader Lady, who says primly, "Well, that's not very interesting, is it?" And there's the emaciated German male who writes these Orwellian memos detailing your thought crimes. And there are your parents, agonizing over your lack of loyalty and discretion; and there's William Burroughs, dozing off or shooting up because he finds you as bold and articulate as a houseplant; and so on. And there are also the dogs: let's not forget the dogs, the dogs in their pen who will surely hurtle and snarl their way out if you everstop writing, because writing is, for some of us, the latch that keeps the door of the pen closed, keeps those crazy ravenous dogs contained."
- Anne Lamott
"As the best wine doth make the sharpest vinegar, so the deepest love turneth to the deadliest hate."
- John Lyly
"I was a thorn rushing to be with a rose, vinegar blending with honey…
Then I found some dirt to make an ointment that would honor my soul…
Love says, “You are right,
but don’t claim these changes.
Remember, I am wind. You are an ember I ignite."
Bunicu uses plaster to prepare the volcano as Prophet watches. He explains that plaster won't get sticky until you add water and then mold the wet plaster into a shape.
There are old black and white photographs from Romania-- photos from my baby days-- where I lay naked in the crook of his arm after a bath. I recognize the hands and how little they have changed-- still big enough to move mountains and gentle enough to soothe nightmares.
I only notice the cobwebs on the windows in retrospect-- when I see a photo, for example.
The plaster is dry-- and the volcano simulation is ready to go. "Everybody outside," Bunicu declares. The fastidious metallurgist within seeks extra cardboard just in case this volcano gets wild.
"Oooooh," admires the Eldest in his best faux-Romanian accent.
I try not to mention what strikes me at first glance-- hey, that's a really little volcano. The captive audience awaits an explosion.
Soon, the Professor is doing what he does best-- pontificating about chemical processes and molecular physics. It's my favorite part, if only because it brings back childhood memories of dinner.
In his hand circles a bottle of citric acid mixed with red food dye. This citric acid will be key to the volanic eruption.
"Hey," offers the Eldest, "you know vinegar works just as well-- maybe even better-- than citric acid."
"Bah," says the Professor.
The Professor (a.k.a. Bunicu) begins to squirt the citric acid solution into the tube which runs under and up the small plaster volcano.
A small trickle of red frothy liquid spittles up from the top of the volcanic cone.
"Oh no!" yells Gnome. "It's not working!"
The Professor continues his patient infusion. Finally, overhearing the Gnome's huffing and puffing, he asks what isn't working.
"The volcano!" shouts Gnome. "The volcano's not 'splodin'."
"I'll be right back"- and the Eldest returns with a bottle of white vinegar procured from somewhere in the nether-regions of the kitchen cupboard.
As the Professor watches, the Eldest pours a capful over the volcano's top-- "so the baking soda will fizz."
When it fizzes and soaks the cardboard box, a satisfied smirk appears on Gnome's face. "Now it's splodin'," she tells us.
"What did she say?" the Professor asks patiently.
"Oh. She said thank you."
Did I say thank you, dad? For all the ways your hands still grace our lives. Thank you.
The ground is still wet and the scent of frozen soil wafts upwards, beguiling us further into the backyard woods. Each of us decides to select a special, secret something for sharing. I find the prospect dizzying- there is too much to see and say, too many changes since we walked through the woods last week.
After the long winter rains, tiny bobbed mushrooms peak out from the foliage. It is Prophet who spies the shroom, and Prophet who kneels by its side and tries to sniff it.
"This is my special thing," she says, "but I wish it had friends, you know, so they could be a fairy circle."
Gnome wants us to come and rub the furry vine winding round a slender tree trunk. "It's not real fur," chides Prophet.
But Gnome refuses to be diminished- "Then how come he grew it? Hmph."
The Eldest lingers near a light orange fungus-- "a lichen growing on dead wood," he determines. Prophet wants to know what he's found; it's situated high enough in the trees for her to miss the view.
"It's symbiosis," he says as he removes the deadwood to show his little sisters. While he thinks mutualism, I think death and rotting and how the world is replenished by what we make of the recent past, how we churn it into legends and stories.
"What about yours mom?" Mine is the view through bitten evergreen leaf, the other side of magnolia's velveteen dress. At their urging, I remove the leaf and we take turns putting it to our face and peering through it like a glasses.
It is quiet. A dog barks in the distance towards our house. Home calls. Pinka needs food. We walk back in our heads, brewing wooded secrets.
All the things I wanted to study with the kids were in my head, so I took a little time between nursing a croupy Gnome and rubbing beeswax under Prophet's red nose to make a handout, a hopeful activity.
There's a simple handwork embroidery project on the reverse. A little freebie for celebrating plants and their role in the sustenance of life. Download and enjoy.
THE GIFT OF PLANTS (PDF)
The cut rose looks beautiful in a vase but why can't we bear the sight of her roots?
I took his name because part of me wanted to believe marriage was an all-consuming fire that no one could bear in their unadulterated, premarital form. Marriage changed the life and its subjects. Name change seemed slight in comparison to the overall geist.
To be fair, the romance began much earlier than the wedding vows intended to seal it. The little girl who wanted to be Joan of Arc grew into the woman waving signs along the sidewalks of Boston, D.C., and Birmingham, her parched lips repeating again and again “NOT IN MY NAME.” She shouted until she grew hoarse and finally lost her voice. To that woman who wore black for all the innocent victims of war, her protest upheld the magic powers of a name-- the dissident’s belief that words can change the world, the existentialist’s assumption that we embody our ethics with every choice and breath. She didn’t care if she marched with strangers or friends so long as she walked uphill, lifting her vocal chords for what the media called a losing battle but what sounded to her like the stained glass echo of a cathedral chorus.
Such a woman has no business taking a man’s name after having worked to hard to say her own.
But I took his name anyway.
I took his name because romance felt sexier than revolution.
But also because my name sounded like boiled cabbage and foreign accents and the contaminations of communist history. “Stefanescu” is a common name in Romania, but raised eyebrows never ceased to remind me how uncommon such a name sounded in native Alabama drawl. “Stefa-what?” being the question I’d learned to anticipate at gas stations, courthouses, and extracurricular sports.
So maybe I took his all-American name to reduce the mispronunciation of my own. Or perhaps I thought Coryell sounded less suspicious than Stefanescu. Alina Coryell could be a good mom. Alina Stefanescu, on the other hand, couldn’t sit still.
The woman who took his name flips through albums containing photos of her previous versions. She looks back and admires the awkward, half-smiling teenager with unmanicured, soil-friendly hands. The girl in the photos doesn’t consider being anyone else except a future heroine. The girl in the photos is still trying to grow into the discounted Guess jeans she could barely afford.
I took his name because I come from an immigrant family that went red-white-and-blue. During the first year of college, my parents divorced each other, severed ties with their Romanian love stories, and moved into large, accommodating, American marriages brewed with the tasteful banality of Pottery Barn pieces. Suddenly, my email account inbox featured family events hosted on the July 4th.
My husband’s parents didn’t need to divorce and remarry to become authentic Americans. They were born here. Their first wails echoed down the sterile hallways of US hospitals. They didn't undergo the awkward process known as "naturalization." They’d always held hooplas on the 4th of July.
So I took his name. Erased my name to become another Coryell in a ceaseless succession of Coryells because, of course, every Coryell wife since Christ walked the sea of Galilee took her husband’s name.
But the external change failed to fix the internal discrepancies. Coryells hated flag-burners while Alina valued free speech more than sacred fabrics. Coryells voted Republican while Alina couldn’t bring herself to vote. Coryells were “pro-life” while Alina wondered why so many people who were pro-life valued the gestating life of fetuses over the life of suffering human beings. Coryells valued consumer prosperity while Alina feared it like the plague-- for its generous numbness, its splendid distraction, the danger of generalized, nonspecific good times.
As Alina Coryell, I had a responsibility to fit the family heritage. Looking different was fine so long as I didn’t think too differently. The pregnancies prevented me from thinking too deeply about my failures as a Coryell. Every family needs a black sheep. Some families need several. I’d find a way to fit in.
I took his name because my in-laws spent years in the belly of the marital-problem whale but stayed married anyway and maybe the name was a hedge against my own family’s legacy of divorce. The lucky talismans I’d been raised to revere weren’t much help from across the ocean. Not even the Carpathian mountain legends remained stable-- unstable stories are hard to recall, harder still to re-tell.
My childhood came back to me in another language-- a mystical, fragile, evocative language, a tongue difficult to translate. Going from Romanian to American is like moving from magic to meal-planning.
Finding no middle ground, I looked for clear and present signs of impending good fortune. I read surnames like self-help books or guides on how to walk through the minefield of entitled maskulinities.
The right name was a free ride to happy places-- destinations like Disneyland commercials where everyone laughed and smiled. Stefanescus divorced but Coryells stayed married for life.
I took his name because it mattered to him-- and I liked how much he wanted me. I kept this a secret from my Stefanescu self because she was the sort of feminist who wouldn’t approve. Maybe people were right about feminists. Maybe they were just bitter. Maybe they didn’t know how good it felt to let go and get lost. To become a well-coiffed woman.
I liked how he wanted me so much that he was willing to act like an amoeba and settle for nothing less than swallowing me whole. I took his name and gave our children his name and tried (so hard) to feel proud that we were all the same.
Instead, I discovered unspeakable shame. The shame of selling out.
Because I never became a Coryell and he married a Stefanescu and when a Coryell marries a Stefanescu what comes logically is Stefanescu-Coryell but somehow we become our inherited mutations and so Alina Coryell-- this mutant concoction-- acknowledges how marriage alters a woman while Husband Coryell stays unchanged.
My mother was a champion downhill skier, a physician who took flying lessons at age forty to overcome her fear of flying, and yet she married my father and permitted the mutation. She took his name.
I took his name. When friends asked why, I said "it's complicated." What I meant was wordless-- a persistent malaise at denying my family history and heritage to assume a foreign identity that, for all external appearances, approximated the coveted "normal."
Whatever my rationale for taking his name, the truth is simple: the name doesn’t suit me. Though I love my husband's family, I don’t want to be a Coryell. I don’t want to use air fresheners after taking a shit and I don’t want to put down my protest signs and become an apologist for cultural Christianity or neo-imperialism. I don’t want gift pedicures or marble countertops. And it still makes me cry sometimes to think of how my government terrorizes innocent civilians in foreign countries.
I'm an idealist, a tree-hugger, a person who thinks courage involves crying. I don't care if America looks exceptional. At this point, I'd rather we look humane and decent. And I will never ever ever so long as my name is Alina stop believing that love can save the world.
I lack a Protestant work ethic. I don’t have ambitions for a bigger house or to be the president of any association. I don’t want people to admire me, and I am humbly grateful for every friend and stranger who sees the best in me rather than the obvious worst.
I don’t want to be cool or coy or sexy. I like cool, coy, and sexy things but I don’t want to be a thing and I’m working on unliking the ways in which my mind objectifies others.
I’m a restless, homeschooling, wanderlusty dilettante who never needed to get married. When I agreed to do it with the only male that had been my equal partner in crime, I pretended the equality could persist if I signed onto the romantic myth of amoebal maskulinity. I was wrong.
I don’t want to smile stoically and tell young lovers that marriage is “hard work.” I will never tell anyone to stay married “for the children”-- no child should carry such a burden or be tormented by the guilt of being the world’s navel. Marriage is not (and should never be) an agreement to be deformed but an agreement to be formed together, alongside another human being. When marriage deforms a person, divorce is the most honest, decent solution.
In this castle I've built with my husband, we shoot the moon more than we build. Often, we tear a wall down and watch to see what grows in its place. It feels more like wonder than work.
There's no how-to manual for building the castle that you imagine. The risk doesn't settle into the cushion comfort of stability. We admire our callouses and weave stories from scar tissue.
If I thought changing my name would secure my marriage, I didn't bargain for the way in which it denatured me. So now I'm going through the ardorous and unbelievably exciting process of changing it back. Not because I don't love his family but because I didn't marry his family-- I married him.
Honestly, I think my husband will be relieved to lose the striving Mrs. Coryell, the worry-laden wife who felt guilty for not having a pimento cheese recipe or not giving a rat's ass about Disneyland. I tried to care-- honestly, I did. But it's possible to love and enjoy life without visting the Epcot Center or chilling with Snow White. There are many ways to be happy-- many different formulas for fun. I've grown to accept that my idea of fun isn't popular or cool-- and that taking his name didn't make me a better person or mother or wife. Only a less certain woman.
If my marriage can’t accommodate Alina Stefanescu, then my marriage is not related to me. Because I am Alina Stefanescu, a wild concoction of vowels, a name that crawls through teeth only to emerge as a song of myself, a racuous, immigrant litany.
While the kids work on their journals, I admire the sunlight and find myself captivated by the conversations of recently-read authors in my head. The motif is a combination of Ellis Island and Atlanta, Georgia, though I don't have any particular story I'm trying to tell about either.
The extraordinary grandchildren portrait
SAUL BELLOW: "Though everybody wished to be an American, everybody's secret was that he hadn't suceeded in becoming one."
The extraordinary family portrait.
LISEL MUELLER: "At her wedding, a woman gave up
half of her name
and exchanged it for another.
Half of her is public,
subject to trade; the other
private, treasure and loneliness,
what he thinks of as her ,
what she would share, if she could."
The King's cross-stitch design and handwork
SAUL BELLOW: "Dreams are readmitted only through the Ellis Island of science, by officials qualified in the legitimate interpretation of dreams. Music we bootleg. We bring it across the threshold surreptitiously."
LISEL MUELLER: "At night, with the lights out
and the TV turned up,
a woman whispers his secret name:
it frightens and excites him,
like the hundredth name of God."
The Eldest recoagulates.
SAUL BELLOW: "When the noise dies down you'll find yourself with the "I" you first knew when you came to know that you were a self-- an event which occurs quite early in life. And that first self is embraced with a kind of fervor, excitement, love-- and knowledge! Your formal schooling is really a denaturing of that first self."
HERBERT LOWENSTEIN: "If you are a poet, I hope you can use language not just as it is, an oily lubricant for the frictionless working of the system."
All family portraits were taken by the talented Wildnei Suane. You can see more of his work online at Willarts and schedule a photo session with him if you happen to be in Atlanta. Because Brazilian photographers rock.
Last night's torrential rains brought down branches and created new "creeks" in the woods behind our house. There's no time like the time after a big rainstorm watch watersheds in action.
S. and Prophet try to zip up their coats.
S. flashes a debonair grin while Prophet shows off her riot grrrrrin.
J. demonstrated a slight bit of jealousy when presented with the King's outrageous Zappa.
For every lovely moment in life, let there be green porta-potties in the background.
There was the seven square foot jagged rock with puddles in certain portions that captivated the kids. I don't know how many times the climbed the rock, teetering to and fro, looking like they might bust their heads, and then pooling all the energy to let out a passionate "yaaaaaar" and leap from the side of the rock onto the gravel below.
S. atop said gnarly rock.
Be still, my heart.
Little G. and his amazing, expressive eyebrows.
Little G. won't take no, maybe, or later for an answer. He follows his geist.
They are wild, unruly, wacky-yum-yum, and really cute to their parental units.
Fiction. Creative nonfiction. Avant-pop. Avant-garde. Dada. 2014 was a year of many events and occasions. Alas, when I look back, it's the books that leave footprints in my mind. The discoveries (and re-discoveries, in some cases) of my year-- not including books for younger people-- some of which disturbed more than they inspired but all of which illuminated dark corners and offered the candlelight's respite.
[A link means the text is available free online.]
A Lover's Discourse by Roland Barthes
The Notebooks of Malte Lorids Brigge by Rainer Maria Rilke
The Disappearance of the Outside by Andrei Codrescu
The Shape of A Pocket by John Berger (an annual read)
The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa
Channels of Desire by Elizabeth and Stewart Ewen
Compulsory Happiness by Norman Manea
Selected Writings by Robert Musil (German Library Edition)
Panorama by H.G. Adler
Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay (a must-read)
How to Be Alone by Jonathan Franzen
Light Years by James Salter
Madness, Rack, and Honey by Mary Ruefle
Mother Box and Other Tales by Sarah Blackman
Living Dolls by Gaby Wood
Hammer and Hoe: Alabama Communists During the Great Depression by Robin D. G. Kelley
The Woman Who Lost Her Soul by Bob Shacochis
The Holy Terrors by Jean Cocteau
The Prisoner of Guantanamo by Dan Fesperman
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
Complexity: The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos and M. Mitchell Waldrop
Different Hours by Stephen Dunn
Fugitive Days: A Memoir by Bill Ayers
Strangers and Sojourners by Michael D. O'Brien
Sleep is scarce.
The Eldest began using his holiday loom almost immediately.
Hand-painted ducky wrapping paper for Isla's gag gift.
Bunica and Ratpaw collected their handmade gifts, though I still have to finish stitching the ski pillow. It felt so different (make that "good", "cool", "spiffy") to have the King do the embroidery designs and stitching while I specialized in the sewing.
Uncle Germ scopes out the scene. Shortly after this photo was taken, he began grooving to Gogol Bordello.
Hand-embroidered Romanian tablecloth on the kids' tea party table....
There are books you haven't read by Romanian authors in the Dalkey Archive... The holidays are a time for catching up on things we love, including books.
People matter more than books. You should hang out with your partner and master the chain stitch together over a cup of lemongrass tea.
A frugal, green-tinted female might consider upcyling all the extra yarn for a hanging mural. It could be a new year tradition-- a way of weaving the past through the present. Imagine the symbolic value.
But harem pants...
Forget upgrading the house. Having a small carbon footprint soothes the way the soul treads over the earth.
Give the money to Habitat for Humanity and make spoon dolls instead. Imagine the family who will receive a house... imagine their story. Humanize the abstraction of love.
Make thank you cards for everything we've been given.
Anna and Prophet thought this was the silliest tree on the tinsel trail.
When it comes to trees and holiday decor, it's all a matter of perspective-- all about how we decide and agree to look at things.
And while we're looking at things, don't forget to sit and savor the moments. Nothing is perfect. Presents don't replace presence. And love is an ongoing story..... Sing it.
Because everybody needs a holiday playlist.
A scrap flower by the Eldest and a decades-old poem found in one of my diaries
Fear smells like old boots
left in a gas station restroom,
the kind you never wanted to put on
stinking from miles away
yet everything begins with this lack
for anything better to wear.
cowboy hat cocky
tries to pay for my gas
a heart races, doom sounds
like spinning vinyl
exits bloom into prospects
his eyes twinkle
Southern boy blue.
Fear tastes like a beard
after chicken at Denny’s
two shots of tequila
spiked us into sharing
the laugh that cinches the deal
not BOGO but one of a kind
desire crisped by the deep fry.
The salt from here
What the Eldest stitched for his friend, Erin
I love handmade holidays-- despite the incessant tug to stitch as I speak, walk, sit, wait, or daydream. So many beautiful things to make for people we love and admire. This year, we've been rummaging through the huge box of decorator fabrics donated by Pamela.... and all sorts of critters and creatures are coming to life.
The Eldest models his creation
The King spent at least an hour last night learning how to embroider from the Eldest. It's the first year in which the King has decided to participate in handmade holidays and I love hearing their husky voices bicker over thread techniques.
Miss Meow tries out Gnome's chair.
Little Isla took her ornament home on Friday...
though the box interested her more than the ornament itself.
"Mom, I really want to make something for Josiah's family...."
The Eldest and I collaborated on a ornament for our neighbors, the Blankenships, whose oldest daughter was born with Rett syndrome. If you haven't heard about Rett syndrome, it's probably because it is a rare congenital disorder. The Eldest designed the purple ribbon himself and wanted very much to make this gift-- which warmed my heart because it came without prodding or poking. The gift of life is a beautiful one, and if you're looking for a gift to give friends and family this year, consider donating to the Rett Syndrome Foundation. Research and cures cannot emerge from the woodwork-- and rare congenital disorders are not high on the research interests of any drug companies whose interest in profit rules the bottom line.
And so the stitching continues.... with every stitch, I consider the gift of friendship and family, sew love in between seams, backstitch with a kiss.
Our unfinished tree... a work in progress.
Since we are picky about toys (we prefer no plastics, no violent stuff, and no misogynistic toys), our family and friend frequently ask what to purchase for the kids for holiday gifts. Since it is no fault except my own for not answering, I decided to make a list of things we'd like or love to receive- precious things, many of which will allow us to learn more in our homeschooling.
(The ones with an asterisk are on our Amazon wishlist.)
Story Box Circus by Janod *
Story Box Farm by Janod *
Family Pastimes Cooperative Game *
Once Upon An Alphabet by Oliver Jeffers *
In My Heart: A Book of Feelings by Jo Witek *
Mooshka Tots Doll *
Apple sorting game *
Children's tea set which can be used to drink tea *
Water pouring pitcher for drink time *
You Are Stardust by Erin Kelsey *
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In A Ship of Her Own Making by Cathyrenne M. Valente *
A Kid's Herb Book by Leslie Tierra *
OGO Bild pod *
50 t-nuts for climbing holds *
25 kids' large rock climbing holds *
Discovery Kids motorized pottery wheel *
Melissa and Doug magentic wooden alphabet *
FOR THE ELDEST
The Wall by Peter Sis *
The Tree That Time Built by Linda Winston and other poets *
A Kid's Herb Book by Leslie Tierra *
Toy rope ladder *
The Microbiology Coloring Book *
History of Art Card Game *
Student Owl Pellet Kit *
FOR HIM AND HER
Into the Field: A Guide to Locally-Focused Teaching by Clare Walker Leslie *
Baxton studio chairs for the study *
Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay *
Spectrum: From Right to Left in the World of Ideas by Perry Anderson
It was a surprise. A sign intended to demonstrate when I was grappling with words, trying to write, and therefore better left undisturbed.
The King got the kids to paint it in secret. How much more could I love a dude that understands my need for space and makes every effort to honor it without throwing a messy den or unmade dinner into the batch.
Do I use it? Sometimes.
Though mostly I write on the back stoop-- and in the bed-- anywhere I can steal the seconds. So I'm grateful. For the gift. And for what it symbolizes.
What to do with all the Romanian lei in our piggy banks? How to bring a little Romania onto our tree? Why not stitch an ornament?
1 Romanian cash leu (or euro or dollar or whatever)
thread and machine (use a constrasting thread color)
piece of colorful fabric cut to same length as cash
six inch hemp twine or whatever string for hanging
First, use your hole puncher to punch as many holes as you like in your money. Clever folks can punch a shape if they want to get frisky.
Then fold your bill down the center with your chosen fabric inside the bill. Make sure the printed side faces up so you can see the colors through the punched holes.
Use your machine to stitch together the edges, leaving a little room at the top for the string. Fold the string in half and tuck it 1 or 2 inches inside the folded fabric. Then stitch and backstitch to secure. Play around and make stitch designs until you're satisfied. Now you have a durable, longlasting ornament that can easily be slipped into an envelope to travel across the states and excite loved ones who come from Romania. Or whatever your native country might be.
At last count, we had over fifty unmatched socks. So I made a sock monster this weekend-- and the girls made sock cuffs. Get this, though-- the King made his own sock monster. He asked me nicely to help him out with the eyes (which I plan to do pursuant to fire tonight).
Part of me thinks it ridiculous that I can be excited when the King does something conventionally outside his gender's craft domain, and then part of me feels guilty for feeling excited. Should I just respond as if such things were normal? Isn't excitement a way of babying him?
No, self, it's just a way of reminding him that he can be good at needle and thread-- his penis does not prevent him from sewing or from enjoying it-- despite his socialization to the contrary. I know, I know, it's sexy for a woman to wield a circular saw or a power drill... I've seen the Man Show, I got the message that it's okay for us to build stuff because men have decided to find it "hot". (Part of me resists handling power tools for fear of pandering to the new sexy.) But the King doesn't get social sexy points for stitching. Instead, he gets nerd points. In my book, nerd points are the only points worth pursuing or having.
Because we didn't have the extra cash to purchase fancy Minted cards this year.... but boy did we have lots of materials from which to make collage cards. The kids either colored, painted, or wrote at least one part of each card to ensure our handmade cards were kidmade as well.
Front: kidmade watercolor, printed quote, glue stick, cardstock, scissors
Back: kidmade watercolor, glue stick, white mailing sticker, pen to write your message
Front: black ink pen, white paper, glue stick, family photo
Front: kidmade watercolors, scissors, glue stick, white paper, black pen
Front: kidmade watercolors, scissors, glue stick, white paper, black pen
Back: kidmade watercolors, scissors, glue stick, computer printout of words
Front: kidmade watercolors, scissors, glue stick, free printed gift tags
Back: black ink pen, yellow Avery office stickers, free holiday clipart, glue stick, white paper
Front: copper glitter, school glue, scissors, kidmade watercolors, white Avery office stickers
Back: kidmade watercolors, scissors, glue stick
Front: kidmade watercolors, scissors, glue stick, white paper
Front: kidmade watercolors, scissors, glue stick, white paper, copper glitter, school glue, black pen
Gnome and Prophet crafted ornaments for their own holiday tree, left by St. Nicholas near their shoes. They've been concocting ornaments from string, floss, and even uneaten cereal flakes and then adding them to the their tree. I'm glad they have a space to create their own version of conventional American Christmas.
In addition to the tree, St. Nicholas left some clementines, Guatemalan worry dolls, and suspenders for each.
While Prophet appreciated her Tetris-style suspenders, it was Gnome who forged a special relationship with what she calls "my wangs". After running about the yard by herself for at least half an hour, she raced into the house to ask if we'd seen her "flying"-- and how he wings "were flapping".
She insisted on wearing her wangs to the tree lot, under her coat, and even in her carseat. Boy oh boy did the scene get rough when the King suggested she remove her wings for the duration of our tree-hunting expedition.
Pajamas were also a red-letter area. Gnome cried and cried because she didn't want to take off her wangs. We compromised by insisting she change into pajamas and then attaching her wangs to pj bottoms. The kids colored and painted holiday cards while the King made a fire. Gnome slept with her wangs. Thanks for the wacky gift, St. Nicholas.
The manger scene is unpacked and put on the piano. There are so many stories lodged inside the nativity-- stories of tribes and discrimination, stories of poverty and tradition, stories of childbirth in which we resemble our animal brothers and sisters.
The wise men, or three kings, carry magic potions and Eastern incense which you can smell on a Sunday in any Eastern Orthodox church. We brought our own frankincense back from Romania a few years ago, and I love to burn it at Christmas.
The angel hangs from a metal rod with a star in the center of her chest. Who wouldn't love to bear the sky and its stars in their torso? Now for a little nativity craftivity...
MY FAVORITE NATIVITY FREEBIES
DIY wooden nativity set (DIY Candy)
Printable coloring nativity set (Marloes de Vries)
DIY lego nativity set (Apartment Therapy)
Simple wooden nativity scene (Dabbles and Babbles)
Felt nativity ornament (Wild Olive)
Christmas nativity tableau (lil blue boo)
Printable nativity scene (Made By Joel)
20 minute felt finger puppet nativity (Little Bit Funky)
Watching the last leaves change color and look like flames on the top of the grass.
Collecting the leaves where we find them and stitching them together with a needle and a long piece of embroidery floss, a hanging mobile collection of autumn leaves. Soon, the leaves will be too crinkly to withstand movement. Then we burn the mobile.
Going on picnics with a vat of Manna Grocery African Peanut soup..... because the cumin helps our sore throats.
Paying our respects to last year's holiday tree who resides in the woods behind our house. Don't ask me how his name became "Hairy" but that's the name by which the kids address him.
Welcoming Bunica from her long trip to Romania, where she voted in the presidential election and saw another little piece of history change for the better.
Hanging out with fantastic cousin Isla Alina, whose name still makes me want to cry a little when I say it in its entirety.
Wandering around the University of Alabama quad with dear old friends.
Playing dress up and then wrestling in high heels and fancy dresses. Because nothing says wrestle like sateen.
Isla hung out with us as we made our first sunprint yesterday.
Prophet selected fallen leaves and arranged them atop the blue sunprint paper. At first, we laid the acrylic insert over the leaves and left Prophet's assemblage in the sun for seven minutes. When we checked to see how it was developing, we discovered it wasn't.
Bleached white and ready to get wet.
So, we removed the acrylic top and left the leaves exposed to the sun for five minutes, thinking maybe the autumn sun wasn't strong enough to develop the print. Sure enough, five minutes later, the sunprint paper had bleached to white and the light blue prints lay under the leaves.
My hand left its mark.
I raced to the kitchen and let cold water run over the print while Prophet counted out sixty whole seconds.
Then we raced into the den and laid the print to dry near the big front window. Prophet said she was pleased with the result but we needed to wait for it to be "totally dry" before we could "decide whether to like it or not". That struck me as an interesting point.
And here is the final, ethereal version.
MORE SUNPRINT FUN
Moire patterns with sunprints
Haeckel’s Radiolarians Mobile
Sunscreen experiment with sunprints to measure effectiveness of different sunscreens
Record a magentic field by making a sunprint
Map the sun's path during a day
Darwin sunprint collages
Capture natural backyard shadows
Astronomy photography prints