Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Great Book

If you want to read a good book, try Marina Nemat's memoir, "Prisoner of Tehran." It's the story of her teenage years as a political prisoner in Iran. She was arrested because she walked out of class (at the teacher's order) after asking the teacher to teach math rather than politics. When most of her classmates followed her, it was assumed she was a communist leader!

She would have been executed after being tortured, but her interrogator fell in love with her and saved her life--reducing her sentnce to life in prison rather than death by firing squad. Later he forced her to marry him--when she tried to refuse he said if she didn't he'd have her family killed.

Anyway, it's an amazing story and I won't tell any more of it. Read it!


Daily Quote

You can live to be a hundred if you give up all the things that make you want to live to be a hundred.

--Woody Allen

Friday, July 27, 2007

Air Conditioning

Being married to Matt, the Saver of All Things Environmental, makes me feel guilty about having a house with central air. Unlike a lot of people with air conditioning, we do not turn our air on when it first gets hot and leave it on till the leaves start changing color. Seriously--our neighbor in our old house ran her air from May till October, even though the nights on Long Island are often in the mid to high 50's even in July and August!

We take a much lighter take on using the air. On the days it's hot enough to warrant it (and here we are at the end of July, and I think we've only used it 10 or 12 days so far) we leave the windows open until it's uncomfortable. Then we seal up all the windows and put it on at 70 degrees. After it's cooled to that, we nudge it up to 72 or even 74. Then we watch the conditions. If the heat dissipates at night, off it goes and the windows are opened after the chill is gone. If we're going to leave it on for another day, we make sure it won't be too cool for the night. Then when Matt gets up early for work, he puts it down again, to cool it off using the least energy (when it's coolest outside) and I turn it back to 72-74 when I get up.

Having said that, when the days and nights are hot and humid--it's been going in cycles this summer, with a week of stunningly perfect weather, then a few icky humid days, then maybe a day or two of rain, then back to perfect--I am happy to be an energy-hogging American with a cool, comfortable house!

Which I guess, you could argue, is the problem with being an American!!!!


Daily Quote

If you think dogs can't count, try putting three dog biscuits in your pocket and then only giving him two of them!

--Ed Norton

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Emma Talk

Yesterday we decided to drag the wading pool out of the shed. This would be the first time we've used it since moving into this house. Reason one: we live at the beach! Reason two: we have in ground sprinklers now, so the kids often just run through them, having a blast with no effort on my part!

However, we were looking for something new to do, and Julia got a little rubber fish as a prize at the library, so they wanted to have a place for it to swim. So out the pool came, filled with icy hose water, and in went three (and later four) kids.

Emma's comment while I was filling the pool, while she was putting on her suit, and the first ten minutes they were in there?

"I'M SO INCITED!!!" (excited, if you aren't versed in 2-year-old)

Almost a match for Rachel's 2-year-old phrase, "That's anfastic!" (fantastic)


Daily Quote

Women and cats will do as they please; men and dogs should relax and get used to the idea.                 

---Robert A. Heinlein

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Planning Lessons

Although it goes against my grain to even think about school when July isn't even over, I have to be practical this year. With Ben going into Kindergarten, therefore leaving me with three lesson plans to do, the time is now. I began with Ben because the younger the child is, the easier the lesson plan is to make. This is the first time I am beginning school with a child who doesn't yet read, so my main focus is on that.

However, he shows all the signs of being on the brink of reading, which is nice. He can write several different words--Ben, Emma, Mama, Hess, love--without any help. He asks how to spell words all the time. He puts letters together in nonsense patterns and asks what that spells. And he even comes out with surprises, like when he told me that "ooze" was spelled O-O-Z, or just this morning when he pointed to the egg carton and read "eggs". I felt a bit guilty on Sunday because I quizzed him with a story book that had the alphabet on the cover. I kept asking him to show me different letters, and he got them all right. And then we sounded out the word cat (which in retrospect was a bad example because C is such a confusing letter!)--and then I asked him how to spell fat, mat, bat, rat, sat, vat, hat and pat--and he got them all right, too. So he's just fine, especially since he won't even turn 5 till next week.

Basically, every day we'll do some phonics/reading workbooks, we'll practice writing letters--he wrote the entire alphabet by himself for the first time yesterday, but of course his technique could use some polish! Also, although he wrote left to right on the page, he began at the bottom of the page, so ABCDE was on the bottom line, and WXYZ was at the top of the page....Then I have two simple math workbooks on shapes and numbers, which I'm sure he already knows, but it's always nice to make sure there are no gaps, and it gives young kids confidence to breeze through things. I also got two workbooks from Kumon that focus on cutting and pasting, which can double for art and improving coordination and endurance for writing. Then there's science. I got a book I love called "More Science Through Children's Literature" that we'll be using. Basically it uses stories or age appropriate non-fiction to teach different concepts, and then there's a list of maybe 20 activities that range from art projects to experiments to journaling. The first one I chose is based on the Robert McCloskey book, "One Morning in Maine," and we'll learn about fish, the fishing industry, feathers and seabirds, and even dental hygiene. In 1st grade, Julia had the same book for Social Studies, and it was great, so I'm looking forward to it. Add in our music CDs (they combine singing, movement and simple instruments, with directions to the kids right in the songs) and there you have it.

The greatest thing about Kindergarten homeschooling is that the child feels big--he's joining Lessons, he's now part of the pack of learners--and yet it takes about an hour a day! No muss, no fuss, and it's done. The 5 year old child needs plenty of freedom and time to run around--and he'll get all that while still doing school. None of this sitting in school all day and THEN coming home with homework--and I guarantee he'll learn more than he would in school, anyway!

I only planned about 5 weeks for Ben, though, because I want to reevaluate at that point. If he's learned how to read in those first weeks, which he very well could, then a lot of the things I was using will be too easy. If his writing of the letters is very good, then I won't need to use the several alphabet books I have---one thing about homeschooling several children is that you usually have more than you need. When I went through materials, I found I had 4 different beginning handwriting workbooks--more than I have kids in school! So rather than press on with the planning and having to re plan later, I'll do less than I normally would and see where he is by the end of September.


Daily Quote

The average dog is a nicer person than the average person.

--Jackie Gleason

Monday, July 23, 2007


Those chickens!

Last week Julia and Ben were playing outside and found a DOZEN eggs in a nest in the garden. They were not rotten, but when we cracked them we didn't want to take the chance eating them either. I suppose Marie and Scarlett have come to see the coop and even Lila's cat house as too dangerous to potential babies and are trying to be sly. The thing is, we didn't even notice that we were "missing" eggs--these two hens really lay a lot!

So now the kids have to have an egg hunt every day...I have noticed that we haven't had as many eggs in the past few days, so I think they've found a new hidey hole. Another chore to tend to....sigh!


Pig Pile

No, we didn't get a new pet!

Pig Pile is a charming game, invented by Julia (of course), which involves kids and any unwitting parent who may be reclining in bed piling on top of each other....for the first few moments everyone is happy, and then someone shifts position and chaos ensues. Either that, or Emma, who naturally is always the "top pig," can't maintain her balance and rolls off onto the floor.

Anyway, what's really funny about the game is that we can be cruising along, just snuggling or hanging out reading, and one of them will happily announce, "Pig pile!" and they all gleefully stop what they're doing and flock to their places. I wanted to put it on here because it's one of those games that can be talked about (probably embarrassingly!) all through a family's history--but it's also something that could be easily forgotten. I didn't want to forget it.


Daily Quote

Don't accept your dog's admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful.

---Dalai Lama

Saturday, July 21, 2007

The Past Week

I apologize for my lapse in posting last week. Matt's mom was visiting from Georgia, and we just didn't have a minute to spare! Every day was packed with fun, and I couldn't even think about the computer by the time the kids were in bed at night. We went to the beach, to Greenport, to Splish Splash, to a concert in the park, to the movies, to a play, out to different restaurants and shopping, read books, played games, had a bbq, etc....Matt and I even got to go out to dinner and a movie ALONE on Wednesday night, which was a rare treat. (Even though we sort of ruined it by going to see "Harry Potter,"--a kids' movie on a date?!)

Anyway, we all had a fantastic time with Grandma, and there were tears when she said goodbye to the kids last night...Matt got up early to drive her into Queens to get her flight home, and none of the kids were up, so they said goodbye last night.) Julia declared it "totally unfair" that adults don't have the whole summer off the way kids do, and we all had to agree. We will miss Grandma, but will as always keep in touch by phone, email and CARE packages.

Today has been a quiet day. Matt returned from LaGuardia bearing donuts--the kids were so excited they nearly knocked him over! We had coffee (a tea party for the kids) with those while we talked. Then I took Rachel to the library for her first afternoon of volunteer work--she helped kids make Harry Potter crafts and "supervised" the showing of the movie...pretty good work if you can get it! I ran to the market and home to put stuff away, but then went back and read on total silence for the remainder of Rachel's shift (another rare treat!) I came home to Matt finishing up mowing the front lawn while the other kids rode their scooters, drew with chalk, and played various things in the driveway. After a light dinner we'll go downtown to the Blues Festival playing this weekend.

In the coming days the daily quote will be about dogs. Thanks to my friend Carol, who sent them to me. Some of them are so good I have to share, and it's fitting, because we have two dogs this month--my parents' greyhound, Silkie, is having her summer vacation with us while they're in Europe visiting my sister Amy. Even though Silkie is not what I would call a dog--she never barks, jumps, sheds, or even moves a whole lot--having two dogs in the house is more hectic than having one! She is so lovable, though, with her huge eyes and pointy nose, and when she does come for attention (rarely) you notice, because she either leans her entire weight against you or pokes her nose into your hand. I consider myself much more of a cat person than a dog person, but there is truly nothing like a dog.


Daily Quote

We give dogs time we can spare, space we can spare and love we can spare.  And in return, dogs give us their all. It's the best deal man has ever made.                         

---Ed Robbins

Monday, July 16, 2007

At the beach

Julia the "Sand Prowler"

Emma in a hole.

Ben, staring at the water.

Daily Quote

Life without liberty is like a body without spirit.

--Kahlil Gibran

Friday, July 13, 2007


Related to my last post on painting....

For the first 3 hours I painted today, the kids were great. Ben and Emma had TV time, and then each played a game alone. Ben was playing upstairs while I was on the stairwell to the 2nd floor, and he was really into his pretend life. And Emma was playing in the box clubhouse the kids made this week (we got a bistro set to add to our existing patio furniture so we don't have to carry chairs out of the house when we want to eat out there, and the box was really big.) She had dolls and animals, and had a whole fantasy life happening. Rachel and Julia were pretending to be Amish girls in the family room (yes, Amish!) and I was singing along to "Hotel California" happily while I painted.

However, as any parent knows, whenever the kids are playing nicely and you are getting something accomplished, it will soon END! And it did--Emma wanted to "watch me paint," which over the last five days have become my most dreaded sentence from her lips. It consists of getting too close to whatever I'm painting, getting some appendage in the paint, and me trying to be nice but usually losing it and yelling....then Ben came along complaining Rachel and Julia weren't letting him play, and the girls protesting that he didn't want to play Amish family, blah, blah, blah. Whatever.

I snapped, and pointed out that since I was the one busting my hump to make our home a nicer place, the least they could do was play nicely. I further added that bedtime would be directly after dinner if they couldn't get along...so they dressed up for a while and then made cookies.

I have to admit, I cooked a lot with Rachel when she was tiny, and even a bit with Julia. I don't mind one kid helping, sometimes two is OK. But more than two--it gets crazy! They all want to do whatever job it is, they all want to see into the bowl, etc. I can't stand it. I only invite help while cooking if I can't avoid it. But Rachel handled it well. She put the mixing bowl on the floor (eliminates falling off chairs/the I can't see! wails too) and made them stay in strict age order for adding things to the bowl, mixing, and dropping the cookies onto the sheets. They were peanut butter chip cookies, and came out delicious.

Extra bonus--Rachel did every dish in the sink afterwards, even bowls from earlier fruit salad and the dog dish soaking in the sink! Yay!



I've spent this week painting. When we took the carpet out of the living room and dining room, there was a rather large gap between the wall and the floor (we assume that trim was taken away when the carpet was laid). We lived with it that way for a few months--it takes that long to get motivated to measure everything and make a sojourn to Home Depot--which is my least favorite store other than Wal-Mart--to buy the supplies needed to fix it. Then it took a few weeks for Matt to accomplish the job, since he had to measure and saw pieces to fit, move furniture and nail them into place. But at last it was done. Next problem? The trim is pine, unfinished, and the baseboards are white...

Therefore, I spent some time every day this week painting said trim--and then the baseboards, since when I put fresh white paint on the trim, the baseboards that I painted when we moved in last August looked dirty. Plus it's really amazing how, when you get close, you see all kinds of dings and flaws (not to mention a few pencil or crayon marks, black marks from shoes, and a couple of unmentionable things that our cat Mimi managed to sneeze out!) Then, of course, when you're painting the baseboards, the window frames and doors need just a bit of touching up....lastly, when we painted the house in 10 whirlwind days last summer, the only things we left unpainted were the stairwells to the basement level and the 2nd floor, and the bathroom and kitchen ceilings, which were in decent shape. I promised myself to get those stairways done "soon"--is 11 months soon?? Anyway, everything looks great now that I'm finally finished. The trim looks terrific and the stairways are bright and clean rather than the hideous shade of tan/cigarette smoke that they formerly were. Now to do those ceilings.....


Daily Quote

Aerodynamically, the bumble bee shouldn't be able to fly, but the bumble bee doesn't know it so it goes on flying anyway.

--Mary Kay Ash

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Picking Flowers

I am really getting to love this garden of mine! It is so lovely to walk outside and pick a bounty of pretty flowers to put in the house. I picked more of the bright yellow Montauk daisies, tiger lilies, and some sort of purple butterfly bush flower. They look so nice all together in a big glass vase on the dining room table. Also, we see so many butterflies around the garden because of the lovely flowers. There are more flowers budding--I'm excited to see what they will be.

There's a section of the garden that looks like lilies of some sort (the foliage is the same) but for some reason, they are always trampled to the ground. I know it isn't the kids--the chickens do go in there a lot more than I'd like, but I don't think they're big enough to do so much damage. It might be Sophie, I guess--but I never see her in there. I think that if nothing blooms this summer, I'll pull it up wholesale and plant my own selections. Now I'm getting confident! I got a garden catalogue the other day and was looking at many different perennials, thinking how pretty they are but how I really don't have room unless I start digging more beds (which is about the last thing I want to do!) So that might be the ticket; pulling up some old things and adding new. There's also a hosta or two--which I find very boring, and since it is anything but a shady part of the yard, I'm not sure why they were even planted there--that I could get rid of. I'd like to add some more colors, as the former owner favored yellow, orange and purple. I like those colors too, but wouldn't mind some pinks, reds and blues added in for variety.

The blueberries are also doing nicely--we pick some every day. The birds don't seem to be getting under the curtains I put over them. (Or if they are, there are a lot of berries on those bushes!) If we only had fewer kids, we'd actually be satisfied with the amount we pick....but anyway, they are delicious.


First Tomato of the Summer

We picked our very first tomato today! This is the first real tomato I have ever grown, by the way....when we lived in Iowa we had a pot of cherry tomatoes on the patio which we thought were doing well, but in the end gave us only about four tomatoes. Our plants here are doing beautifully--we have another one almost ripe, another five or six that are green, and many clusters of grape and cherry tomatoes. I am so excited!

I sliced it into our salad tonight, and it was truly beautiful. Deep red, juicy, not a lot of seeds. The best smell, and tasted much better than any of the store tomatoes.



Daily Quote

I was at this restaurant. The sign said "Breakfast Anytime." So I ordered French Toast in the Renaissance.

--Steven Wright

Monday, July 9, 2007

Daily Quote

There is nothing like a dream to create the future.

--Victor Hugo

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Ordering Materials for September

I finally got my order together to get the kids' curriculum for next school year. It's a fun job, I have to say, even though I keep wanting to put the brakes on summer so we never have to get to September again....I wanted to make sure to order early this year so that I can plan--last year with moving it was really hard to be organized and we started late. However, I found some really neat things that I'm excited to teach, and I did quite well even though I didn't shop around. My favorite homeschool catalogue, bar none, is Rainbow Resources. It's something like 1500 pages long, but the reason it's so long is because the family that runs the company reviews every product and really explains it. So I feel much more confident that it will fit our needs, and because they have so many choices I really feel like I'm narrowing down to the best possible one for each child.

Matt and I talked about trying to find the books individually, say through Amazon to get better prices, but really, who has time for that?? I'd end up getting sidetracked, maybe changing my mind, having it ship in 20 different boxes because Amazon uses so many suppliers, etc. And although Rainbow Resources espouses some ideals that I do not agree with whatsoever--evolution is a dirty word, your daughter should want nothing from her life except what some future husband wants for her, etc.---at least it's a family business so I like supporting that.

I got everything I need for Rachel, Julia and Ben for $380, free shipping. I will write about some of the curricula I chose at another time...too tired now. I have a date with a cup of decaf and my book, possibly with a foot rub later on when Matt is done talking to his Mom on the phone.....


Anna & Emma

This is my niece, Anna, reading to Emma on our vacation. Not only is it just a lovely picture, but it was so nice to see Emma warming to her cousins and actually letting one of the big girls hold her! Because she doesn't see her cousins from my brother's family very often, and when she does it's a huge family gathering--she gets overwhelmed. This results in her clinging to me or to Matt mercilessly, and not allowing anyone to even talk to her--although every one of my nieces dotes on her and wants to hold her, play and read with her. (If she'd just get the point, she'd have the constant attention she always wants that as the youngest of 4 kids she hardly ever gets!!!)

Anyway, our nice long getaway with the family allowed Emma to come off her high horse a bit and socialize. Maybe she'll even remember Anna's name the next time they meet...


A Sand Castle

This is the castle that my kids, nephews and nieces made on our beach vacation. They worked really hard on it, all together, digging and finding just the right shells to decorate it. By the time we left the beach that day, it was completely in the water, looking like a little pool. Emma liked sitting in the middle!



I had just been bemoaning the fact that except for the tomatoes, which are doing very well, my attempt at a vegetable garden this year has been pretty unsuccessful--but then we came back from our vacation in CT. I'd gone outside to check on the tomatoes, which had all been green before we left, but at least there were several large ones on the heirloom plant, and a tiny cluster or two on the grape and cherry plants. I wanted to see if they'd ripened or grown more--and they had. One large one was turning red, others were forming, the green ones had gotten bigger, and the cherry and grape plants had fairly exploded with clusters. So I was happy about that--apparently chickens don't find tomatoes appealing.

The herbs were also doing well, but the peas had been trampled mercilessly by those lovely birds. They had pulled up all the pepper plants and the watermelon vine that I'd had such hopes for weeks ago, and the cucumbers, eggplant and heirloom beans (a tempting combination of green, wax and purple beans!) were doing better than the peas, but not by much. Then I looked closer....

There were peas and beans all over the vines! The purple ones were so gorgeous they were nearly unbelievable. Dark, shiny and nice, with remnants on flowers at the top. The green and wax beans were just as I remembered picking from my Grandma's garden, and the peas had gotten a bit too large, but I still gleefully snapped them off into my basket. And two small cucumbers are hiding under their huge leaves, so adorable. The eggplant has flowers on it, too, but no fruit, so we'll wait and see. However--there was one pepper plant that although mostly out of the ground still has something that just may be a pepper forming on it. I almost tried to stand it up and bury the roots (again! the chickens keep yanking it up!) but then decided I should just let it be and see if it develops.

Next year I shall have to invest in garden fencing!!!


Flowers, so gorgeous!

When we got home from Connecticut two days ago, the garden was glorious. I picked bouquets from the perennial garden in the backyard, the bouquet garden that I planted by the front walk this spring, which has been surprisingly successful (I have never grown flowers from seeds with any measure of success before) and tossed in some roses from the bushes on the side of the house. They are lovely and make me very happy.


Daily Quote

The flower is the poetry of reproduction. It is an example of the eternal seductiveness of life.

---Jean Giraudoux

Home again

Well, we are home from our vacation in Connecticut!

It was fun to be with (almost) all of our family again! We hadn't seen Uncle David and Aunt Donna's family for awhile, especially Anna, so it was very enjoyable to see them and celebrate Nicolas' birthday!

We can't go on vacation without taking some pictures! Who can? :)


Here is Ben, in the water at the beach! Finally he is overcoming his fear of the ocean!

Here is Aunt Susan, lighting Nicolas' Birthday Pies with 4th of July sparklers!

Here is Emma, playing with some seaweed on the shore.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Daily Quote

If you wished to be loved, love.

--Lucius Annaeus Seneca