talk about it more

a virtual baby book

When she was two, Fiona regularly said "Talk about it more!" to express her desire to know more about whatever we were discussing.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Party time!

Some of us may have been sick yesterday, but thanks to our fabulous neighbors and fun friends Fiona still got to go to a party yesterday morning. I wasn't with-it enough to get a picture of her while she still had a magenta streak in her hair (a la Mom) but here you can see her bright blue fingernails. She also made jewelry, participated in some spa events, and brought along a bear to try on doll costumes. Fiona reminds me that her toenails are also bright red.

She had a wonderful time, and I was doubly glad since life here yesterday was far from riveting. Thanks Addison, Tinea, Sydney, and Kathleen!

Just a little off the top

Yesterday morning started just fine-- until I realized I was beginning to feel cold. Really, really cold. I didn't actually get out of bed until around 10:00 am because I just couldn't bear to leave the relative warmth of the covers. Ian had set the kids up with activities downstairs before he left for work, and they just ran up to chat with me every now and again.

We had a slow day yesterday. We read in bed a lot, and the girls put together big puzzles in the hallway while I 'supervised' from beneath the covers. By late afternoon we ventured into the kitchen so Fiona could do some interactive musical games on the computer. Once she completes them, she'll get some local Philharmonic trading cards to bring to an upcoming library program.

Nora, meanwhile, had found a broken rubber band and was very interested in cutting it into smaller pieces. Despite the fact that she had already squeezed out a small mountain of pearly blue children's toothpaste onto a washcloth in the bathroom, I didn't hear any of my Mom Alarms going off so I set her up across the table from Fiona and myself. Nora cheerfully set to work, and Fiona and I got back to playing blues games online.

Things went well for about three minutes until Nora cheerfully crowed, "I cut my own hair! That's a good trick!" Her first statement was correct, anyway. She was due to go for a $3 haircut next week, so hopefully they'll be able to figure something out.

Our weird day was taking a toll on everybody. We didn't get tucked in right on time, and young people were still restless at 8:30 when Nora vomited all over her father in their bedroom rocker. Somehow we got them bedded down, though, and by today, Nora's up to crackers. Right now she's napping, so her hair should be relatively safe. I think.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Bright, bright sunshiny day

I was so delighted to come around the corner and see this sun Fiona had been working on during some down-time. It's as delightfully warm and cheery as it is cold outside. Perhaps this warm sun can help us appreciate our winter even more.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Very merry

We had a happy Christmas at Grandma and Toot Toot's this year. Surrounded by cousins, grandparents, friends and good cheer, we enjoyed a blissful and blessed holiday. If you celebrate it, we hope you did too!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever!

Srsly! Our friend Sydney was a baby angel in the play adaptation of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever this weekend. We caught her afternoon performance today. We had read the chapter book earlier this month, and were delighted to discover that we could enjoy it in a new format-- especially with a friend in it! It was a fantastic play, and Sydney had her part down pat. The girls especially enjoyed the shrieking and running around onstage because of the fire that was, at first, thought to be caused by Imogene's cigar in the girls' room.

Fiona's not sure whether she could envision herself acting on stage yet, but I reminded her that she already dances onstage, so we'll see whether she becomes interested later or not. In any case, we saw a great performance today!

All she wants for Christmas is...

you guessed it-- Fiona lost a front tooth on Friday! She's wiggling the other one daily to see if she can lose them both by Christmas, but I wouldn't hold my breath if I were you.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Roller skating

Fiona has expressed interest in roller skating, so we decided to try it out this afternoon.  We had a blast!  It had been years since the last time Jen or I had roller skated ... I think going on 30 for me.  And getting my roller skating legs back was challenging.  I did manage to skate around a couple of times without falling down.  Jen put on skates but then when I reported that it was trickier than I remembered, she took them back off and concentrated on getting Nora and Fiona going.  

At first, I couldn't externalize the skating as instructions - it was that daunting.  But as I remembered more, I was able to communicate how to do it to Fiona.  She wanted to do it holding on to me with both hands, but I said no, the other hand went out that way to balance; she tended to let me pull her, but I caught on to that and stopped letting her, encouraging her to push herself with her feet.  By the end, Fiona was holding on to me only very lightly, and at one point her grip relaxed enough for me to just let go.  After her initial surpise, she gamely went it alone, and did pretty well.  Nora also skated all the way around with Jen helping.  We're all looking forward to doing it again.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Ice, ice baby

We are still smarting from the fact that Ian didn't get at least the morning off due to last night's ice storm, but we have been trying new things inside the house today. During baths the girls experimented with ears beneath the surface (we usually don't do it because of ear tubes, but it was worth it just for once). The girls tried a duet, which is somewhat hilarious-sounding because Nora looks like she knows what she's doing sometimes, but a quick listen confirms that she's just playing around and jamming on random keys. We also finished Clementine's Letter, which was a big hit here with the younger set. I did venture outside long enough to take some quick pictures of our ice storm and discern whether it felt too slick still to take a walk in the beauty of it. I almost went flat on our front porch alone, so we may wait a bit for the stroll, but we sure are impressed by nature's beauty even when it's slightly inconvenient.

Another day on Schoolhouse Earth

The girls and I were delighted to find ourselves at the library this evening. We wanted to immerse ourselves in books I've been trying to read for our local Mock Caldecott and Mock Geisel programs, and we wanted to play, too. Thank you, Clare and Michal, for setting us up with a tub of reserve books to enjoy together!

While we were there, we signed Fiona up to read to a certified therapy dog. We don't come in specifically for that program but are delighted when we stumble into one during any library visit. We had already situated ourselves in a comfortable wall nook for read-alouds, and Fiona took a turn reading to Sam and her owner one cubby to our right, so I could be nearby without being intrusive.

With Are You Ready to Play Outside? by Mo Willems tucked under her arm, Fiona took her seat with the volunteer and her dog. When I overheard her inflections and expression, I knew she was doing all right with the brand new selection. I don't usually hear that much inflection the first time through unless she's pretty comfortable with the vocabulary. I was relieved. I hadn't even cracked the book beforehand, figuring her choice had roughly the same vocabulary as the other similar Willems books, which are fun but not terribly challenging. Besides, it's the one she wanted to read.

Once she finished, the volunteer must have asked Fiona about school, because I heard her ask, "Oh, you homeschool. What does your mother teach you when you homeschool?" and "Do you like learning at home?"

Having explained homeschooling to innumerable people who 'know better than we do' how children should be schooled, my hackles were raised-- fairly or not. These seemingly innocuous questions are sometimes the route people take to create an opening to bash home learning. I wanted to go pick up my eldest and begin my well-rehearsed litany of the benefits of homeschooling when I realized that Fiona must get these questions periodically as well, and I should simply give her a chance to answer them. Isn't this, too, a kind of school? I made myself stay still and gave Fiona a chance to reply.

"Oh, she mostly teaches me math," Fiona said. "I love school." I was still turning pages for Nora, but my hair stood on end. 'She mostly teaches me math?!' What about our cozy reading? Or the family piano lessons or ballet and art classes? How about the Science Central, Zoo, and Botanical Conservatory passes? What about the Extreme Helping Hands co-op, or the Early Reader Roundup programs? What about the symphony orchestra or Jim Gill or Justin Roberts? Or helping cook dinner, build a snowman, bake cookies, tend a garden, play chess, make a bed, or assemble a reusable Christmas tree? What about Park Day, or soccer camp, or math games with our neighbors and friends? Or our creative writing stuff we do with Dever, or the plays we see at the Scottish Rite center with Elena and Tessa? What about visiting the nursing home, or buying stuff with cash by herself when we go to the grocery? And religious ed. on Sundays? And play? What about everything else, honey? What about all that?! How can we convince our family, our friends, and our community that homeschooling can be a wonderful way to interact with both children and adults by absorbing all the wonders that Schoolhouse Earth has to offer while thriving with family members and friends if you infer we don't really do much of anything?

Right about that time Fiona finished her goodbyes to Sam the dog, and padded over to politely request permission to go to the Children's Services desk to get a paw print stamp on her hand. As I watched her trot off to get one, I was already feeling a little better. Fiona-- our beloved Fiona who is diagnosed with clinical anxiety-- was completely comfortable getting a bit out of view to speak to request assistance from the staff behind the desk. She is growing, bless her, and perhaps all those wonderful things we do together just feel like what we do together for fun, and not like learning at all. And if that's true then maybe, just maybe, this is exactly the school we've been trying to create all along.

I wondered whether I was just trying to soothe myself. Being a child's teacher is a little stressful, even though technically that's exactly what every parent is-- whether they define the role as such or not. Fiona came back to us to ask whether Nora might also have a stamp, since she'd undoubtedly want one once she saw it. Good thinking, Fi. As we all walked together to the Children's Desk, I asked Fiona whether the volunteer had been inquiring about homeschooling. When she assented, I asked her what they talked about. Fiona said, "Oh, I just told her we do math."

"Well honey," I countered, "you didn't even tell her we do some interesting stuff with reading?" I tried to sound measured. Don't hound her, Jen. Don't nitpick. Just try to find something out, and maybe next time try something more open-ended...

No matter. Fiona cleared it up for me right away. With an open, sincere face she said, "Well of course she'd already know that, Mama. I just read that dog a book I'd never seen before!"

Thursday, December 18, 2008


We visited a nursing home yesterday with our Extreme Helping Hands co-op and presented our Revue. Besides rubbing elbows with seniors, handing out candy canes, coloring pages, and gummy worms that were part of a joke told within the revue, the kids also did dramatic interpretations of "The Devil Went Down to Georgia", Weird Al's "Ebay Song", "Mairzy Doats", and The Chipmunks version of "The Twelve Days of Christmas". Between songs they told jokes, and if some of them weren't terribly funny, they were still pretty cute.

The performance impressed me. Somehow being on the actual stage for actual people gave it a cohesiveness I hadn't fully expected. They really stepped up to the task. But the very best part-- the part I really wanted our kids to practice-- was mingling with the residents. I was so proud of Fiona, who didn't know a soul there. She offered gummy worms and chatted gaily, loudly, and distinctly enough to be heard. I could see her trepidation melt as an elderly woman held her hand and commented on its warmth despite its relatively small size.

Now we're ready for another project-- who knows what that will be?! But we look forward to getting together with the EH2 gang to figure it out.

Monday, December 15, 2008


We were sad that our friend Robert was under the weather and we couldn't see him to go make cookies with him, but we had a lot of baking ingredients assembled so we just went ahead at home. I wish we'd had a copy of The Doorbell Rang handy, but Fiona decided that cookie math is really very enticing even without it.

We made (and sampled) lemon snowflake cookies, magic cookie bars, peanut blossoms, peppermint flavored twist cookies, chocolate pretzels, and got pretty far with the espresso truffles, too.

Visions of Gingerbread dance in our heads

We went with friends to see locally made gingerbread creations on Friday. How cool! Fiona saw them last year, but Nora and I were newbies. We were so amazed by the detail and ingenuity that we're inspired to try it ourselves next year. We'll see whether that inspiration holds till next year. They stayed interested in pet cat costumes for a solid year, so it could happen again!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Dance recital

Our dancers are old pros now, as you'll see in the video. Some of our favorite classmates are back this year with Nutcracker moves-- or something very like them, anyway.

Grandma and Toot-Toot were able to attend, which was exciting for everyone. You can see Nora get a little mesmerized by GM & TT, who were sitting front center, but Grandma gave a little arm cue and it all came flooding back for her.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Blind adoration

Today as Fiona and Nora were eating their breakfast, Fiona spilled a full cup of water. We navigated through that easily enough, with both Fiona and I working on the water together.

Nora watched the entire business carefully. I thought she must be trying to figure out how water got through the crack in the table, or the pattern it made as it spread across the table. She dawdled over the last bit of her breakfast as usual, and Fiona offered to spoon the last bites for her as I put our bowls into the dishwasher.

When I turned back to the table, though, I saw that Nora had spilled her cup of milk as well. In surprise, I asked her what happened, and Nora replied, "Fiona spilled her drink, so I did too. Like Fiona."

Saturday, December 06, 2008

No pictures

Today we went to ballet dress rehearsal and got to watch all the kids do dances to Nutcracker songs. It was a laugh and also lots of fun. Unfortunately, I forgot to bring the camera.

We also played with our friends Helena, Ada, and Paul this afternoon, but when I got ready to take a picture the teapot whistled. After that I forgot.

Tonight after supper we will try making salt dough for our Jesse tree ornaments. Think I'll manage a picture for that? Any guesses?