Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Carl Speaks

We are all painting at the dining room table (big mistake, I know).  Carl picks up Sven's (mostly) dried artwork and exclaims:

CARL:  Oh, wow!  Did Sven do this?

ME: Mm-hm.

CARL:  It looks real!  Was it fingerpaint?

ME: Mm-hm.

CARL:  It looks like a real tornado, sideways, on the grass.  I never knew that he could paint that good!  It looks awesome!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

In which Soren teaches himself music theory

Having a quirky, genius kid is often delightful.

I have been teaching Soren a little bit of music theory.  Actually, he has been teaching himself by reading the text in all the piano lesson books.  But I'll pretend that I've been scaffolding it some.

This week he has been working on identifying triads, a task I never dreamed I would teach my 2nd grader.  And then he figured out something additional that astonished and delighted me.

He is learning a song called "Cockles and Mussels" and I assigned him to say each chord name of the accompaniment while he practiced.  We went over it in his lesson; at that time he found all the obvious triads as well as the ones that were inverted or split between hands.  That was cool but didn't surprise me.

What did surprise me happened today, during his practice time.

He called to me from where I was stirring monkey mac in the kitchen.  "Mom!  I found a chord you didn't see!"  I put down my spoon and hiked the baby up my hip before going to see his discovery.

He began to play the coda, saying the chord changes as they happened.  "C major.  D minor.  E minor."  When he got to the last two measures, he called out a chord change for each beat, emphasizing the second one: "d, F, G, C."  After taking his hands from the keyboard, he explained to me how he had found his mystery chord on the second beat.  Although the third in the left hand was held for two counts, the complete neighbor tone in the right hand made a new chord, changing an inverted d-minor chord into a root position f-major chord.

What I am trying to say is, he found a chord that was divided both by hands and by time.

That was when my jaw dropped.  Seven years he has been my son and it wasn't until that moment that he floored me.  How did he figure that all out?

My next thought was: this is going to be fun.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Milestone: Crawling

Lest I forget, Leif learned to crawl this September.  He was 8 months old.  At the beginning of the month, he was making a cute but feeble effort.  At the end of the month, he could get everywhere and into everything.  His favorite destination: the cat's water dish.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Michaelmas 2015

Michaelmas came like a breath of fresh air this year.  It brought certain pessimistic ruminations to a screeching halt, reminding me once again that God is at the helm and His victory is assured.  Michael and his angels have fought and conquered the dragon once before; with the help of our Savior, we will do it again.  My faith is refreshed and my courage is bolstered.

Here is what we did to celebrate:

1. Yesterday, we went apple picking at a my husband's sister's friend's grandma's house.  She has more apples than she can pick and so we took a bucket and brought home plenty for our needs.  The trees were so full, it only took about 10 minutes for the kids to gather enough good apples to fill two buckets.  Soren got the idea that he might like to sell some apples so he filled up his shirt, too.

2. Then, yesterday evening, Scott helped me make boffer swords.  They were surprisingly easy but used a lot more duct tape than I expected.  We now have four service-able swords for our four boys.  I think we have given up for good on wooden ones.

3. This morning, Leif and I went early to the store to buy apple cider and donuts.  When we got home, everyone was up and excited to see the boffer swords.  They ate donuts and battled for a good chunk of the morning.

4. Later, the older boys went to fetch their cousin, Maddy, so the school-aged children could make dragon bread.  My favorite part of the process is kneading the dough with the kids.  I cut it into quarters and we each took a piece to knead while singing songs.  We took turns picking the song and at each new song, we would pass our lump of dough to the left.  This is my trick for making sure all the dough gets evenly kneaded.  Of course, the kids' favorite part is shaping the dough into dragons.  I have to say, their molding is much improved this year.

5. The other thing we did this morning was process apples.  Maddy brought over her family's apple corer and the kids all took turns using it.  That is a nifty machine!  It cores, peels, and slices the apples all at once!  We filled the crockpot with apples for apple-sauce and then we filled a bowl with apples for apple pie.  

6. The kids ate their dragon bread for lunch; everyone had their own loaf to "slay".  I save the big one for dinner.

7. I cooked all afternoon while listening to a Librivox recording of Dracula.  I made stuffed spaghetti squash, stuffed mushrooms, and apple pie.  Wow, that doesn't sound like much.  But it was a lot of work.  I really enjoyed myself, though.  There's nothing like a holiday to gives you an excuse for really getting into a project.  I didn't get anything done but cooking today and that's ok.

8. I did want to mention that Sven helped me with the cooking.  That was one of the best things about today.  He fetched me tomatoes from the garden and bravely added the spices to our simmering spaghetti sauce.  He was very happy to be helping like the big boy he is.

9. The kids' Nan came for dinner (along with Maddy and her parents).  While I was finishing the cooking, the kids took the boffer swords on the front lawn and fought each other.  They got their Uncle Ash into it, too.  When Carl asked him, "Do you want to come fight?" Ash responded, "Are you ready to loose?"  When the fighting got too heated, Rachel jerry-rigged a jousting game.  I think she was hoping to give them something to hit with their swords besides each other.  They thought it was terrific and she plans to create more games for next year.

10.  The feast was attractive, laid out on our buffet table.  I set the table with our china and silver, which made me feel very festive.  The St. Michael candle (or "voodoo candle" as my sister-in-law called it) was burning in its tacky jar.  Scott said a wonderful prayer and then cut the head off our dragon bread to begin the feast.  

11. After everyone left, Scott went out on the porch to sword-fight with the boys.  They were wildly happy about that.  He really got into it and I could see that some of his fencing training from college was being put to good use.  Soren was being really silly about it and shouting that he would use his "underwear power" to win.  They were very disappointed to come in when it was getting dark but were consoled by the fact that the swords will still be there in the morning.

12. To calm the kids down, I read a story before scriptures.  I couldn't find Margaret Hodge's Saint George and the Dragon at our library and had to settle for Tomie dePaola's The Knight and the Dragon.  It's considerably more light-hearted and the kids were busting up laughing about it.  I will have to purchase the other one before next year.  Michaelmas just doesn't feel quite complete without Trina Schart Hyman's beautiful illustrations.

A Mom's Life is Full of Urgent Tasks

Everything a mom has to do is urgent.  It all needs to be done NOW.

The broken glass needs to be swept up NOW, before someone cuts their feet.

The toddler needs to be caught NOW, lest he think that shouting "no" and running away is an acceptable response.

The soup needs to be stirred NOW, before it burns to the bottom of the pan.

The baby needs to be fed NOW, or the squawking will drive us all crazy.

The reading lesson needs to be taught NOW, before my homeschool looses its credibility because my six year old doesn't read.

The scraped knee needs to be bandaged NOW, because there will be no psychological peace until that is done.

The bedtime routine needs to start NOW, or else the young ones will be bears tomorrow.

The shoes need to go on NOW or we will be late for church/story hour/the pediatrician.

But what about all the things that are not urgent?  Like self-care?  Like cuddles?  Like cleaning the floors and cutting the peanut-butter sandwiches into cute shapes?  What about bubble baths and novels?  That's the stuff life is made of!  How can I complete the mountain of urgent tasks without becoming urgent myself?

And failing at that, how can I cultivate peace in the rush of NOW?


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A Mental Picture

Wednesday, September 23, 2015 at 1:15 pm
smooth, cool baby cheek
warm knit top
baby feet shifting weight on my legs
taste of tuna
industrial carpet littered with cheerios
two yellow pencils
pink-handled scissors
books on the dining room table:
   Getting Started with Latin
   Primary Mathematics 2B Workbook
   Story of the World, Vol. 1
   The Gift of Failure
   The Book of Mormon
   A Short History of Nearly Everything
orange carrot smoothie
brilliant teal skirt
burnt down tealight
humming refrigerator
cooing baby

Saturday, September 5, 2015

The Terrible, Horrible, No-good, Very Bad Day

Today, Soren had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.  I am so glad that he is in bed now.  Even though he's not sleeping, bedtime is so peaceful.  He doesn't complain at me constantly about how bored he is.  Isn't that ironic?  At the time when he has no options at all, he seems to be the most at peace.

I'm not sure what it is that he is so upset about lately.  Although last year was awesome, this year homeschool is a battle.  He is constantly "bored" and wishes that he could be doing something else.  Although, when I assign those other things that he professes to want, they are boring, too.

Every day this summer was boring as well so it's not that more free time would solve that problem.

And he was epic-ly angry today, even though there was no school.  After finishing his morning work, he wanted to earn some money to buy himself a Lego Airjitzu like Carl got for his birthday.  So I gave him a list of chores he could do for one dollar apiece.  But although he worked all morning, he almost didn't finish any chores.

He got bored with weeding in the garden.

He thought there were too many steps to cleaning the kitchen floor and threw the broom down in disgust.

He waited around for Scott to finish his bath so that he could clean the vanity but then threw a fit when Carl finished vacuuming the stairs (because he was "taking all the easy jobs").

He finally settled on changing the sheets for Sven's bed, which was done with many tears because they are large and hard to work with.  Actually, Scott did most of it because we really wanted him to be successful at something.

When he ended the morning with only one dollar to show for himself, he burst into tears at the futility of it all.  He had hoped to earn $11 in one morning and go to Wal-Mart this afternoon.

He complained bitterly during dinner that he was bored and his day had been a total waste.  When I pointed out that bored was not the same as unhappy, he countered that he was unhappy and bored because there was nothing fun to do.  Nothing!  I asked if having the Airjitzu toy would make him happy and he (perceptively) said no, that he would only want something more.  Ah!  Vanity of vanities!  All is vanity!

I hypothesize that he is just going through one of those regularly spaced bursts of development that makes him resist authority and limits.  But it seems so much stormier than those of the past.  I feel like I don't have any tools to help make things better; everything I do is wrong.  It kind of hurts my feelings to have him recalcitrant and gloomy all the time.  I'll just have to get over that.

OK, I should remember the good moments: when Soren and Carl were playing with Legos before breakfast this morning.  When Scott was teaching Soren how to plan a youtube video about mathematics after breakfast.  When Scott saved lunch by making peanut-butter sandwiches (Soren was about to have a fit over being forced to eat leftover pizza).  When everyone was quiet and I took a nap this afternoon.  When all the boys watched Scott build a Masonic temple in Minecraft after naptime.  When I helped Soren with his personal prayers this evening and he asked God to bless him to have a better day tomorrow.  And right now, when he is reading a book to Carl in a happy whisper.