Thursday, December 31, 2009

Oh Wow...Sorry

I just checked the comments awaiting moderation (all comments on posts that are a little old get moderated) and there were 179 comments there!! I will not be abandoning my blog so completely ever again. I hope.

Apologies to all who wrote me something (especially those of you who commented on the new dishwasher!) but never had their comments published. They're up now. Better late then never?

However, Mr. Link-Happy Anonymous and Japanese Porn Dude, no apologies for you. Only bad thoughts and rude gestures.

And Now Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Slackness...

I bet I worried some of you with my productive housewife post of a few days ago. Fear not! Today I ran to the local Chinese take out to get some food for tonight but they weren't filling any more take-out orders because every other person in the area had the same idea and they'd been swamped. So the kids and I went off to the local grocery store (not before ducking into the used book store where I got a Ursula K. LeGuin book to read to Catherine and yet another translation of The Odyssey) to pick something up for supper.

I picked many, many somethings up and every single one of those somethings was processed or premade and ready to either pop on a plate or chuck in some sort of heating appliance straight away. Frozen lasagna, french fries, puff pastry sausage thingees, salad...the list goes on. And everything came packaged in wasteful excess. Only the salad was sort of healthy and even that hint of healthiness was dampened by the unrestrained application of peppercorn ranch dressing.

Yum.

Yes, yes. I'm aiming for a healthier, more responsible way of getting and preparing our food but shucks, it's New Years Eve. If I can't go drink to excess and party hard well then I might as well stuff myself and my family with salt and trans-fats, no?

Hope you all are having a good time and I hope the New Years bring good fortune and contentment to everyone!

Now excuse me, I have to wade through plastic wrap and waxed cardboard so I can find the Pepto-Bismal.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Happy Homemaker

I had a stellar day as a productive housewife yesterday. I bought myself some new cookbooks with a bookstore gift card from my SIL's family (yes, she and her husband are awesome) and while reading them yesterday got all inspired.

I looked in my freezer, saw two big bones from past pork shoulder roasts and dumped them in a big pot to boil for stock. When it was done I let it cool and skimmed off the fat. Took out the bone and took off the meat. Dumped leftover peas, wilted celery and rubbery carrots into pot along with some pepper, garlic and bay leaves. Let boil for ages, strained, added meat and veggies and made the most excellent soup.

Made Oatmeal Raisin bread in the breadmaker.

Noticed old and bruised apples and plums in the fridge so cooked and mashed both (separately). Put the applesauce in the fridge for next day's breakfast and used the mashed plums to make Plum Quick Bread. Measured out and froze the remaining plums for future baking.

Used leftover mashed potatoes to make hash for lunch - fried them with the fat skimmed from the stock.

Made the world's best tea biscuits to go with the soup for supper (note to self - forget the store brand, always go for Fluffo shortening).

I felt so productive. Stuff I would have tossed out last week was turned into delicious food yesterday. And I had a nice pile of baked goods for meals or freezing. I was a proper, capable and perhaps even talented homemaker.

Then, after the kids were in bed Catherine yelled out to me that it was windy and maybe I should take the snowsuits off the clotheline in case they blew away.

The too-small snowsuits I'd hung up to give them a good airing before sending them to the local thrift store.

3 months ago.

Well, I can handle the food part of homemaking anyhow.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Update

I've sort of abandoned the blog in the last few months, haven't I?

Part of this has been pure busyness. Part of it has been some personal turmoil (I lost a dear friend this fall. I'll post about her in the future). But mostly I've just lacked the drive to write. I don't exactly have the drive back but I figure it's something I should be pursuing rather then waiting for.

Brief update for now then on some stuff I'll write more about later:

We're in the market for a new car. Sure our house is a little piece of heaven but the road we have to drive on to get home is a special bit of hell. It's a dirt road full of ruts and potholes and come the snow our pour little, low-slung '98 Elantra is scraping the snow and that ends up tearing off pieces of the exhaust system.

Fast forward to the garage where our mechanic lifted our car on the hoist and totaled up what it would take to fix the whole exhaust and the various holes in the underbody. Too much. Waaay too much. So our lovely little car will be retired and we are on the hunt for another car with decent ground clearance. Likely a newer used car but we've been pulling out the calculator on some of the new car 0% financing. And we'll get the next car undercoating and rust checked EVERY year. I promise.

Catherine is doing awesome in violin. She has her first RCM exams at the end of January. At the Christmas Eve service at my church she joined the choir, did a reading AND played a violin duet with the Rev. daughter (who's been playing for years and is awesome).

She's studying geometry from a text from the 1920's which has the best mix of constructive-hands-on-critical-thinking and plain old honest work method I've ever seen. It's the geometry text I'd dreamed of. Who knew I'd find it for $5 in a used bookstore?

We're reading Little Women and The Odyssey (Penguin prose translation by Rieu) out loud. We're halfway through Little Women and our enthusiasm is dying. I LOVE Little Women but it doesn't do so well as a read aloud. We're considering cheating by dropping it for now and renting the movie (the 1949 version with June Allyson as Joe of course). I'll preserve the book for a time when Catherine can read it on her own and harbour all those secret hopes for Joe and Laurie that I used to without the embarrassment of having her mom right there. It has led to some neat finds though. We found Authors (although a Biblical version), the card game Joe took to a picnic, at a local thrift store and Pilgrim's Progress, which we may dip into, at another thrift store.

The Odyssey however has been a thrill. It comes alive as a read aloud. Suddenly everything that needs a name is being called Calypso or Telemachus or Ithaca. Our favourite bit of long-long-dead-author literature since Ovid (although Ovid still reigns supreme. The translation we chose is rip-roaring fun as well and probably the easiest, yet masterful, introduction to the story for a younger person short of one of the children's versions.

Harry is a puzzle. We work on reading an he knows the stuff in context and yet a day later forgets it. I'm thankful he's not going to school though because he has a killer memory and will memorize a book without reading a word. I'm convinced that with any school with the slightest whole reading influence he be one of those kids who'd teachers would discover is illiterate at 17. A brilliant faker. I've decided to excuse myself from teaching him anything and instead pile up stacks of Lego and Star Wars books for us to look through and read. Unschooling. Got to stay with the unschooling with Harry.

Christmas was fun. Having a 10 foot tree was fun and gave me the feeling of being a little kid again for a bit. We bought less but smarter for the kids and they were thrilled. I got beautiful diamond earirings but knew about them before Christmas because neither my husband nor Catherine could contain they're excitement or wait for me to be thrilled. My husband actually said, "Even if you don't like them please pretend to for me!" Not worries. They are gorgeous. I also got a Guitar Hero game and lots of chocolate. Lots. Triple whatever amount you have in your head and you have about half of what I got. I love my husband.

I think that most of it. I plan to write some more detailed stuff about some of the stuff we're doing in homeschooling but I'll get around to that later.

Happy Holidays and Merry Xmas!

(No, I'm not late. We're in the 12 days of Xmas right now)

Friday, October 9, 2009

I Have a Dishwasher

Yes, after a decade of hand-washing, I have a dishwasher.

Last Friday my husband and I decided it was finally time (actually we got tired of not seeing the countertop for the dirty dishes) so we sat down out the computer and started researching makes and models. Our initial guess at a budget was $500 (Canadian remember!) but after checking out features we wanted we pushed it up to $700. Noise reduction, with an open kitchen and vaulted ceilings, was really important to us and it turns out that comes at a bit of a price. It happened that the Sears Kenmore models kept turning up at the top of lists so we scribbled down some model numbers and motored into our first stop, the Sears Outlet Store.

The Sears Outlet Store is a wonderful thing. This is where all the returns, the clearance items, overstocked stuff, damaged stock and such get sent to be marked down and sold. All sales are final but warranties are still honoured and the savings, always good, can occasionally be jaw dropping. We decided it would make a good first stop if nothing else.

My initial reaction when we got to the dishwasher section was disappointment. The selection that day was a little small and seemed to be either high end stuff out of our price range or budget models without the features we wanted. But with a little bit of looking we discovered one gleaming white Kenmore Elite that was marked down from $1000 to $750. A bit above budget, especially after tax. But as luck would have it there was not just a tax-free sale on but the store was also knocking $50 off every purchase over $500 which made our dishwasher exactly on budget!

I have to admit, we did spend more money. We planned to buy a chest freezer within a few months so when we saw a nice one that was marked down $150 bucks because of a golf ball size dent in the top we got that as well. And there was a long, low and very solid wood TV stand marked down to $100 from $800. The stand needed some new hardware and lots of touch ups but we figured we could get it and fix it up or go spend twice that amount for a cheap press board stand. So yes...Purchase!

Anyway, all bragging aside, the husband picked up the dishwasher the next day. I called (who else?) my father for help installing it and he said he'd be up in the next week or two. I think my mother must then have had a chat with him because he called back 20 minutes later and said they'd be up the next day.

I have now had a working dishwasher for four days and it is wonderful. I really had no idea before what a lot of work the dishes were and how much times they took out of the run of a day. Marvelous.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Oh Yeah...My Birthday

Forgot to mention that it was my birthday yesterday. I'm now 36. I only mention that because I wanted to crow over my gifts.

The hubby and kids gave me two things: chocolates and an MP3 player.

Chocolates - These came from a local shop and were primarily irish cream truffles and ginger jelly things covered in milk chocolate. Oh. My. God. I have never eaten chocolates so slowly on my life. Both were fantastic but I has to say, the ginger is my forever and ever favourite. It's often said that women prefer chocolate to sex but these ginger chocolates pretty much are sex. I kid you not.

MP3 player - I dind't want one of these. I find most earphones and buds irritating. But hubby was tired of me carting his clock radio around the house so I could listen to CBC Radio One. Off he went to an electronics store and came back with a Sansa Fuze.

I was sort of not-thrilled when I first saw it but the geek in me soon couldn't resist the idea of 4 gigs of storage in something the size of a credit card. I opened it and turned it on. Okay, MP3 player yes. Only 4 gigs of storage but will take micro SD cards to dramatically expand the storage. Nice. Plays audiobooks and a ton of different audio formats (mp3, wma, ogg, flac) that cultish iPod Nanos can't handle. Also plays video and stores pictures (you can make a slideshow!). Interesting. Also receives FM (another things stinky iPods can't do). Ah! Now I see the husband's clever plan.

But two features have made me fall head-over-heels with this wonderful little device and promote it to the ranks of One-of-the-Best-Gifts-EVAR(along with Rowlf).

1) It's also a voice recorder! That means I can make up grocery list on the fly and transcribe them later. I can read my course text aloud and then listen to it later while washing dishes. I can record my choir songs and listen to my singing critically. I can record songs I know and then play them back and sing in harmony with myself! And yes, embarrassingly enough it's the last activity that's consumes huge amounts of my time. But isn't that cool!

2) It records radio!!!! That means mean that if I'm in the middle of an in-depth Van Morrison interview or an Ideas episode where philosophers are discussing democracy and the dog throws up or the kids decide to scream at each other I can just press "record", take off the ear buds, go deal with the problem and then come back and enjoy the recording at my leisure, preferably with a ginger chocolate or two or four! THIS IS FANTASTIC! THIS IS GROUNDBREAKING! THIS IS UNBELIEVABLY AWESOME!!!

That feature alone has changed my life.

So I end this with two recomendations. Get yourself some ginger chocolates and get yourself a Sansa Fuze (which is also less then half the price of one of those dorky iPod Nanos - Can you tell I've been fully inducted into the tribe of Sansa?)

Homemaking and Feminism - Is There a Term for This?

I've been bothered for some time by some elements of feminism that seem to dismiss the value of work that's traditionally done by women. This would be things like baking, needlework, housecleaning, etc. All the stuff I'm learning to enjoy, value and am becoming increasingly determined my kids should learn.

I want my kids to learn those skills for two reasons. One, if you can cook your own meal, knit your own scarf and scrub your own toilet then you can live a life that's got a measure more of independence then many adults have these days. Two, if you can make and can some crab apple jelly, knit a scarf and bake bread then you always have skills that you can always earn money from.

Now, I do consider myself a feminist. I live a very traditional life, the SAHM who cooks, cleans and leads a Girl Guide troop but I firmly believe that my enjoyment of that life wouldn't be possible if it weren't a life I hadn't chosen for myself. Feminism is what made that a choice rather then an expectation.

But back to the elements of feminism that seem to dismiss those of us on the home front (I'm going to be very bad and assume that's the case rather then provide citations to support that assumption). I have to wonder if that element isn't some kind a capitalist-feminist subset. Because if we're devaluing basic skills then it's because we accept that it's preferable to outsource those skills (cleaning, menu planning) or simply buy the products (that those skills would otherwise produce - jam, mittens) a company has produced in a store. We're accepting a model where we show our real value to society in our jobs, in the productivity we contribute to the market, not in the building of a stable home, family or character. Even parenting seems to be falling into this. Daycare is really outsourced parenting, parenting we purchase with the rewards we earn from contributing to the market.

I hope I'm making sense. I'm only thinking this out as I type and I'm quite sure it's no revelation and that commenters will point out things I haven't considered yet or to the volumes of discussion and writing that's already been done on this subject.

Bottom line is, I guess, that that kind of thing doesn't seem very feminist to me. It's about ceding to the market and/or pushing to have women valued by traditionally male standards. It's less about supporting women in what they are doing, revealing the value of that work, in whatever sphere they choose to step into.

As I said, this is all half-formed and mushy and I'll probably be embarrassed about how ill-stated it is by the end of the day but darn it, I go to write posts like this all the time and delete them because of poor writing and reasoning and well, the writing and reasoning won't get any better if I never open it to criticism and discussion.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Another Scary Story About Canadian Health Care

As a Canadian I feel I'm in a good position to let my American friends know what health care in Canada is like. I know you guys are having a bit of a debate down there and I know stories about Canadian health care and how horrid it is are flying down there so I thought I'd share my experiences on occasion to let you know that every bad and terrible thing you've heard about Canadian health care is true!

This isn't the first time I done this for you. Some time ago I wrote about the trials I had to go through for a renal ultrasound. Well, in the past week I've been put through the wringer again over a simple prescription renewal.

Last Wednesday I discovered I had almost run out of a medication I take most weekdays so I called up my doctor's office.

"Hello, Dr. So-and-so's office."

"Hi! This is Dawn so-and-so and I need an appointment to have my prescription of happy-day pills renewed."

"We have a spot tommorrow at 12:15pm"

"I have to be in town that day."

"Okay. What about 11:45 am Friday?"

Did you notice? She deliberately offered me an appointment I couldn't take! An appointment on a day I was busy! Oh sure, I got in to see the doctor within two days but does that honestly make up for the fact that she dared to turn my schedule upside down? The nerve.

So I go to the appointment and my doctor wrote out the prescription and I figured I'd ask her about perimenopause. My voice has taken a small dip over the summer and I've added a full two or three notes to the bottom of my range. I now have the deeper singing voice I've always wanted. I asked my choir director about it Thursday night and he cheerfully suggested perimenopause.

My doctor, all keen to be doctorish, suggested thyroid problems and ordered a blood test to rule that out. Being a bit of a keener she also thought it was time for me to have some more routine blood work done as well. Ridiculously forward of her I thought.

*sigh*

The future date happens to bee the following Monday - yesterday. I have to drive a whole 25 minutes to the local blood clinic. Once I get inside I don't even have a chance to sit down before a receptionist calls me over, take my health card and paperwork and then passes me off to a nurse. The nurse takes me to a chair, takes blood and I'm out of the clinic in ten minutes. No time to even scan an old magazine! They could have at least let me have five minutes of pretend wait time so I could check out an US magazine and find what Madonna's current kid count is at. Some consideration would be nice.

And to top the whole fiasco off I got a call just an hour ago from my doctor's office telling me my blood work was normal. No thought that I might enjoy the waiting, the tension of not knowing for just a little longer. No, with Canadian health care it's wham, bam, thank you ever so much ma'am. From first call to resolution in 5 working days.

The worst? That aside from my prescription no one even thought to ask for money along the way. My pockets are as burdened as ever.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Need a Belly Laugh?

Head on over to FUPenguin. It's the perfect remedy for LOL Cats overload. Lots of bad words but I promise that if your sense of humour runs a little on the snarky side you'll be thanking me.

Monday, September 14, 2009

I Got Math All Wrong

I read a post at Kitchen Table Math the other day which linked to a presentation (in pdf) by H. Wu called From Arithmetic to Algebra.

It's an excellent read and led to the revelation (for me anyway) that Algebra isn't about letters stuck in math equations or just about solving for an unknown or variables but, "...what is true in general for all numbers, all
whole numbers, all integers, etc." (from linked pdf). You can use x and y in place of numbers in algebra precisely because the operations you perform can be perform with all numbers. Huge light bulb moment and it fed my growing belief that algebra is totally cool and enormously important.

Anyway, that had been simmering on the back burner of my brain for almost a week when Catherine started geometry today. While I was in Ontario we visited a used bookstore and there I found the neatest little geometry textbook from 1920. It's straightforward, clear and compact and I thought I'd give it a try. I've been up in the air about whether to continue with Singapore 6A this year or take a break and do some geometry (Catherine's preference) so I took finding this little text as a sign.

Chapter one involves drawing lines, marking points and measuring distances. One exercise required that, given how many inches are in a metre, how many centimetres would be in 2 inches. Catherine and I got to work. As we did, she struggled. We had to work with decimals and she couldn't remember how multiplying decimals, in terms of how to move the decimal point, worked.

It was after we'd plowed through this that the Wu pdf came back to me. Algebra being about what's generally true about numbers. I realized that, of course, x and y in an equation could stand for a decimal or fraction as well and then that, of course, that meant there was really no special way of multiplying decimals. There is only multiplying numbers and how we multiply whole numbers is absolutely the same way we multiply decimals. The only difference is that we hide the decimal point with whole numbers and then need to introduce tricks and rules about multiplying decimals later on.

This is the same thing with fractions. Take diving fractions for instance. You don't divide, you multiply the reciprocal right? That's what I taught my daughter and it turned the operation into some kind of arcane formula that had to be remembered with tricks and was thought of as something special you do with fractions. But it's not! You can do the same thing with whole numbers and it's just as true and valid. 5 divided by 3 can also be 5 times one third and the answer will be the same. x divided by y = c can also be x times one over y = c, right?

So I did it wrong in a way. I fell into a trap of teaching fractions and decimals as if different rules applied when really I should have spent a little more time pointing out that the decimal point in whole numbers behaves in exactly the same way as the decimal point in decimal numbers when being put through an operation or that the tricks we do with fractions are in fact, the tricks we do with whole numbers. It's simply that we like to hide those things for simplicity's sake when we work with whole numbers.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Do You Know Where Our Homeschooling Stuff Is?

After our false start in August I was eager to get back to homeschooling this week. Did I? No.

Why?

I have no idea where anything is.

Singapore Math has dissapeared. Writing Tales is nowhere to be found. First Language Lessons for the Well Trained Mind is gone.

Where in the heck IS everything? And why did it all seem to get lost right after I finally caved and turned the never-used playroom into a school room so I could keep everything in one place?

AAARGH!!!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Back From Toronto

Wonderful trip.

I got to re-connect with my brother who I haven't really had a decent conversation with in over a decade. I got to know my sister-in-law better. She honestly seems to fit into our family so comfortably that qualifying the sister label with in-law hardly seems necessary. I also got to fall in love with my 1 year old niece. She however only had eyes for Catherine and the two of them had an absolute ball with one another.

Leaving was tough. There was nothing I could do or say that could help Catherine feel better as she said goodbye to her aunt and niece and when we had to give my brother a farewell hug at the airport she began to cry again. Turns out my daughter, who I always knew was a softy, has a huge and fearless heart. When she connects with people she doesn't hold back, doesn't keep pieces of herself in reserve or stay aloof in order to spare herself when the inevitable parting happens. She might be a little shy to begin with but it's not long before she's engaged with those around her and loving them fiercely.

For me, someone who always hangs back and is an absolute emotional coward, it's awe inspiring.

Monday, August 31, 2009

My Mind is in the Gutter

One more quick post.

I don't know what's with me lately but I've been misreading things in disastrously wrong ways lately.

The first instance was a couple of weeks ago when I noticed the word "hospice" above the headline of our community newspaper. The "o" was also a stylized sun so maybe that's why, when I first read it, I though it said Ho' Spice. All I could think was, is this some sort of clever name for an adult toy store?

But it was hospice of course, not Ho' Spice.

I know what you're thinking though. How could I even make that mistake? I'm in innocent, old-fashioned rural Nova Scotia. Who buys sex toys here? Why, the people who frequent our two local sex toy and accessory shops of course. Take a drive down the main road...Farm store, trail rides, sewing store, sex shop. A natural fit, no?

The other misreading was when a friend who reads my blog sent me a helpful email in response to a post complaining about the temperature here. I opened Gmail last week to find an email titled "heat film". Of course I immediately wondered why someone was sending me links to videos of animals getting...er...jiggy wit' it.

To make matters worse I could see a bit of the first line of the email which made it clear this was a Gila Heat Film. So it was lizards having sex then. Why on earth would someone send me a lizard sex film? I looked at the sender. Lorraine. Well, she does know my daughter likes science...

It tooks long moments to realize that the last I'd heard from Lorraine was in the comments to my post complaining about the heat in Nova Scotia. About how my fingers were melting into the keyboard as I typed. I then read the rest of the email. Oh. The film is meant to go on windows. To block the sun's rays. To combat the heat.

Too late Lorraine. Too late. I think my brain is already fried.

Leavin' on a Jet Plane

Wednesday morning Catherine, my sister and I are flying up to Toronto to see one of my brothers, my sister-in-law and my one year old niece. I'll only be gone until Sunday but I'm looking forward to it. I haven't seen my brother or my sister-in-law (a wonderful woman - my brother has great taste) since their wedding two years ago and I've never met my newest niece.

But I'm not going just for that. I'm also hoping to connect with a cousin on my mom's side who I only met once when I was a child. My mother thinks the world of this woman, her husband and their daughters so I'm betting I will too. I also suspect I'm part of a covert effort to lure them all eastward for a vacation at some point in the future.

(Wendy, if you're reading this I'll have given you my blog address at some point during the visit. Please know that if you come down east you'll have two absolutely gorgeous places to stay at, Mom's and mine. Both offer free room and board, eager tour guides and brilliant company!)

So wish us luck!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Getting in Shape (with actual content this time!)

Sorry about the last empty post. I have no idea what happened to make it publish before I was done. Weird.

Anyway, about getting in shape. Today was a beautiful day in the neighbourhood, all sun, blue skies and cool breezes, so I was outside stacking wood and mulching the gardens.

I've been mulching for about a week now. We got a quarter-ton truck load of red and brown cedar bark mulch so I've been heading out with a grocery bag full of newspapers each day, weeding, laying down a good layer of said newspaper and piling on the mulch. This wouldn't be too bad a job except I don't have a wheelbarrow so every time I need mulch it's a 15 foot walk to the pile and another 15 feet back. Not a big deal normally but when you multiply that by 30 or forty and understand that the woman hauling the mulch is chunky and out of shape then you'll understand why, once I went through a bag of newspapers, it was all I could do to haul myself into the shower.

(Why do we not have a wheelbarrow? Well, we did but it was left behind at the old house. I could say we didn't take it because it was a cheap, broken down piece of crap but I suspect the real reason was that we'd used it for a lot of jobs that involved fixing up the old house. Fixing up that house was like trying to swim upstream. One thing would be done and two more things would suddenly need to be done. So the wheelbarrow didn't make it because, even empty, it had too much baggage.)

Anyhow, I did my bag of newspapers today and was pleasantly surprised that I was only winded and sweaty as opposed to exhausted and soaked in sweat.

Tonight I got the bright idea that since there's still another 4 cords or so of wood that hasn't been stacked I'd do some of that. 45 minutes later I called it quits so I could chase the kids in the house to put pajamas on and jeez, I felt energized rather then pooped.

At this rate I'll be a burly rural housewife just in time to shovel and bring in wood for the winter.

Getting in Shape

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Long Time, No Type

Next summer, around the end of July, please email me and let me know that, for the love of all that's fluffy, homeschooling in August is an insanely stupid idea.

There might be parts of the world where it's okay but here in Nova Scotia where no heat is ever a dry heat and the humidity can push an honest 30 degree (Celcius of course) day into pit-of-hell territory it's just dumb. Granted, I have a pretty new house with a nice, cool basement and yes, all the homeschool stuff has been moved down there but frankly it doesn't matter. When you're under enemy fire you just can't get anything done, even if you are safely tucked away in a bomb shelter.

And yes, if anyone from my favourite message board is reading this I am recycling metaphors from a post there but frankly, I'm too lazy to care. Now excuse me but since I typed this upstairs my fingers have melted into the keys on my laptop and I have to go sit in the freezer for a bit before they'll solidify and I can peel them out.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

No Place for Kids

Joanne Jacobs has a post about a Montana mom who was charged with endangerment after dropping 5 kids off at the mall. Two were 12 and supposed to be responsible for the three younger ones. Full story is here, Endangered at the Mall.

There used to be a time when this would not have been unusual. There are many cultures where this would not be viewed as unusual. Where 12 year olds were seen as sufficiently responsible and mature to look after younger children. Where unaccompanied children were welcomed as part of the community. Not here in North America apparently.

So if not here, could it be that despite all our chatter we really don't value children as we should? After all, if children were really as precious as we pretend, wouldn't we build communities that didn't exclude them? That didn't view a group of teenagers with hositlity or didn't make us fear for the safety of a lone 6 year old biking to a local store?

Maybe the Montana mom exposed the fact that for all our bluster about child safety we have no real intention of making out world a safe and welcome place for children to live in. We'd much rather pin responsibility on a scapegoat.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Tomatoes and Bird of Prey

Sometimes, life is just too cool.

Yesterday I was getting supper ready and I grabbed a tomato and began slicing it up. I only managed to get as far as the first slice however because when the slice fell away I saw what looked like maggots inside the tomato. Thankfully, having a daughter who thought "baby flies" were cute when she was younger has done away with my fear and recoil reflex when faced with the little larva so I just took a closer look. They weren't moving after all.

They weren't maggots. They were sprouts! The seeds in the tomato had all sprouted and had not just a good bit of root but tiny leaves. How cool is that? I called the kids in and we examined them.

Today we looked at them again and talked about how they would have sprouted. The tomatoes came from my mother's house where she doesn't put tomatoes that she's buys in the fridge but sets them in the fruit bowl in her warm and sunny kitchen. We held the tomatoes up to the light and discovered they were translucent. The hypothesis is that in that environment, not cold from a fridge and with plenty of sunlight availible to the seeds ("and," added Catherine, "a rich source of nutrients - the tomato.") they sprouted. Later we'll be taking some down and planting them in some potting soil. We'll leave a few in a tomato slice as well and see how well each batch grows.

But what about the bird of prey? Well, we were outside on the front porch this morning (although it's a bit chilly today it's the first relatively sunny day that we've had in a week) and I heard a splash. I looked over at the pond and saw a great black bird just coming up from the water. The first thought, ridiculous as it was, was that a crow had fallen in the pond. But then I noticed the flash of white on the head and the white underbelly as it soared up into the sky. Osprey!

Now I know everybody and their dogs love Bald Eagles. I admit, they're pretty fierce looking birds but where I live they're a rather common sight and, well, they're as much scavengers as anything else. But an Osprey! Drop dead gorgeous and a real, honest-to-goodness hunters. They apparently occur worldwide but as a single species with some wonderfully unique features. AND they're our provincial bird.

Anyhow, once I realized what it was I told the kids and we all watched as it circled the pond for about 5 minutes looking for another fish. And then it dived, splashed and came up with one of our little speckled trout in it's talons. The kids were thrilled! We watched it fly off and hoped he'd decide this was a great place to fish.

Too cool.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

She's Riding a Horse!

Catherine's two weeks of riding lessons are almost up. The lady who's teaching her kindly sent along some pictures. I don't really know anything about riding but I don't think she looks to bad in the saddle.


Of course she's got to pay for these lessons somehow so when she's not riding she's grooming the horse, cleaning tack or doing her favourite job (and I am not kidding), mucking out the stall.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

An Excellent Text for the Safe Use and Storage of Firearms

Yesterday I took a drive into town and went to the local community college to register for a firearms safety course on the weekend. This course is mandatory in Canada if you want to get your FAC (Firearms Acquisition Certificate). Without an FAC you can't use a firearm or even so much as purchase a box of shotgun cartridges. In a country where gun ownership is a privilege, not a right, that seems like a reasonable and sensible measure to me.

Anyway, I showed a proper ID, paid my $50 and was given a textbook to study before the weekend. Good. Although I'm not uncomfortable around guns and there were always rifles and shotguns in the houses I grew up in I'm miserably naive when it comes to how a gun actually works. Having something to study would let me attend the course without feeling like a complete newbie.

Last night I started studying. Chapter 1 contained a short history of firearms starting with the invention of gunpowder and canons. Canons? Why on earth do I need to know about canons? Well, because all guns are basically miniature canons and understanding how a canon fires is an excellent first step for the noob on understanding firearms in general. The text then built on that by explaining how different muzzleloaders worked. An interesting step because it took me a step away from the canon but gave me a greater understanding of primers and there importance to firing a projectile. Finally it explained modern firearms where the primer has moved to the shell or cartridge and I had a real if basic understanding of how a gun works. Nifty.

The whole text, or as much as I read (I'm 4 of 9 chapters in) seems to build knowledge like this. After understanding how a gun works you learn basic safety procedures which makes so much more sense when you understand what exactly is happening in the barrel of a gun. The next chapter deals with ammunition and that again builds on the knowledge of the first two chapters.

All the text is clear and easy to read. All important points are repeated again and again but in different fonts or contexts so that you memorize it but don't skim over it. The illustrations are fantastic and perfectly illustrate the concepts (like the danger of using the wrong size cartridge in a specific shotgun). The review questions at the end of each chapter test the knowledge you should have gained by reading the chapter but also stuff the wasn't specifically covered but, given some knowledge, a person should able to reason out. The Appendices are invaluable and contain among other things a glossary of terms and legal definitions related to firearms legislation. And best of all it's an easy read of 270 pages.

Why isn't that what all textbooks are like?

If anyone is interested or curious I did find a PDF version of the text available for free download here. It looks like an older version then the one I have but it still seems to contain all the excellent information for anyone who's interested.

EDIT: I just found a way for anyone to download the more recent version if they want. It's just a matter of filling out a form here.

Monday, June 22, 2009

I Get Pi

I've never liked Pi. In school I was told that it was 3.14 and I remembered after school that it had something to do with circles and that it went on forever but there my understanding ended and I was lost.

Until recently when I decided to do a bit of reading and saw Pi expressed not as 3.14 but as 22/7.

Wait a minute. 22/7? With the circumference as the numerator and the diameter as the denominator?! You mean all this time Pi was just a freaking ratio that expressed how big the circumference was in relation to the diameter of any given circle?!?! And THAT'S why you'll get the circumference if you multiply the diameter by 3.14?!?!?

Holy crap! In an instant I understood what 6 years of junior high and high school and 35 years of living hadn't helped me understand just by seeing Pi in fraction form rather then decimal form. All those time when Pi was just presented as 3.14, when stupid news stories went gaga over the discovery of the next digit in the sequence or mathematicians sighed over the beauty of it's irrationality and all the romance and affection glossed over the fact that all a person needed to know about Pi was that it was a constant ratio. 22/7. Period.

Sheesh.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Here's Our Black Bear


I'm not convinced this is the guy we saw a couple of weeks back. This guy seems smaller. It was at around 6:45 am when I heard something banging about on the porch off the master bath. Then the dog started growling at the french doors. I figured it was a raccoon but when I looked out I saw the bear dragging off a Rubbermaid container we were using to hold birdseed a few weeks back. I opened the window and yelled at him (or her I suppose) but it only scooted as far as the treeline. I snapped a couple of pictures then cursed and grabbed a metal mixing bowl and a spoon and went out the master bath porch to make noise.

In that moment our bear had changed from being some majestic representative of the natural word around us to a 200 lb rat.

I banged on the bowl and he ran. Still cursing I trudged out, in slippers and housecoat, to grab the container and drag it back to the house. I think I have overcome any lingering fear of bears.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

We Have Horses...And More

Well, not us but the new neighbours across the road. Ever since we first moved in the gossip on this country road has been about how the other new folks were going to move their horses in. The new neighbours moved in at the end of April and have been working steady on getting up fencing and a horse shelter. Yesterday they brought up their horses. Catherine couldn't wipe the smile off her face.

But it wasn't just horses. We have a hummingbird feeder stuck to the front window and yesterday a coupe of males were fighting over it when one thumped himself on the glass. Catherine and I ran out to find him sitting on a fold-out chair. While he recovered we watched and got closer to a hummingbird (without looking through a pane of glass) then we ever have before.

Then last night we were at the Girl Guides closing ceremony and on a window outside the school were two of the largest moths I have ever seen. One of the girls snapped a photo on her cell phone so hopefully I'll get a picture to post but when I held my hand up for scale I realized one was almost the size of my hand. It's abdomen was as thick as my thumb. Wait a second, I just did some googling for "large moth" and lookee what it turned up (from this site):



It's a Cecropia moth, a gorgeous insect and the largest moth we have in Nova Scotia. The one in the photo is about the same size as the bigger of the two moths we saw.

What a day, eh? Except it wasn't over. On the way home we saw an Osprey, our provincial bird and, excuse me for my bias, a more impressive site then the Bald Eagles that are common around here.

I have been thinking that it's where we live that's been the reason for our increased sightings of wildlife but I'm beginning to think that's not the whole story. After all, the osprey and moth were nowhere near the house. I think what's actually going on is that we're all more aware then we used to. We're walking around with our heads up and our eyes open. We've seen the rewards that a little attention to detail can result in here at the house and so we're carrying that attitude with us and beginning to notice all the wonderful stuff even the oldest and most ordinary of our regular haunts can hold.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Carnival of Homeschooling!

I'm late with this post but Dana was right on time with her edition of the Carnival of Homeschooling!

Finally, Pictures of the House

I finally took some pictures of the new house (click on them for a more detailed view). I'll do a series of blog posts for you all. First up is the outside.

The front of the house:


As you can see I'm in the process of weeding the gardens. I've also planted some more seeds and bulbs to fill it in a bit more and plan to pick up some ground cover. But heck, look at those hostas! I have never had a garden like that with such big, beautiful plants. And everything seemed to come out a little early as well which leads me to think we have a bit of a micro-climate with this property.

The shingles are all cedar so I'm sort of planning to not paint them anymore and let them silver and blacken - a look I always loved and one that's sort of a classic Nova Scotia thing.

Here's the back:


The honeysuckle vine is climbing the porch off my master bath. Can you believe it? My own porch? Further on you can see the french doors off the dining room. It's there we watch the birds, deer and bear from. There's a ledger board installed for a big deck off the back but we're in no hurry to get that down anytime soon.

The pond:

You can see Catherine trying to catch frogs on the far side. It's pretty big, eh? We've also seen a turtle in the pond and in the evening the speckled trout in the pond leap out to catch the black flies and insects that gather above the pond's surface. We plan to build a little mini-wharf with a ladder for swimming and hope to pick up a little peddle boat at some point.

The backyard:
See the feeder? The first time I saw the black bear he was scooting between it and the house towards the woods. The second time we all saw it and it was sauntering across the lawn between the woods and the feeder. We got an absolutely beautiful view. But he was a timid soul and ran with either a dog bark or a yell from us. The feeder is also where we've been watching a large variety birds including purple and gold finches, warblers, sparrows, red polls, grackles, mourning doves, red wings blackbirds, evening grossbeaks and more. This winter our deer would come out to feed on the parsnip pile a few feet this side of the tree line. We've also had the usual squirrels and chipmunks. And all of it we can watch while sitting at our table.

If, in the backyard shot, you turned around 180 degrees you'd see this view, the land above the pond:

There's a big patch of rhubarb there and I'm thinking that would be the perfect place for a shade garden. The path goes down to a beautiful little frog pond that's on our neighbours property but the kids have permission to visit.

Here's the view from our front porch:
*sigh* I couldn't get the view out of my mind the whole time we were waiting for the sale on this house to close.

So there's the outside. I'll post some picture of the inside next.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Migraines? Me? Who knew?!

That's right. I've suffered from migraines for years and never had a clue. How is that possible you ask? Well, it takes a misunderstanding about migraines and a great lack of self-unawareness but I assure you, it's certainly possible.

A few weeks ago I was at the eye doctor for a routine check up and after he assured me that I still have my much-prized 20/20 vision he asked me if I had any other concerns. I told him that on occasion my vision temporarily goes funny. Not blurry but rather patchy so that I only see things in bits and pieces. It's very disorienting. He asked if those times were accompanied by headaches. Not that I remembered. Nausea? No. Exhaustion? Maybe.

So he told me that what I described was a classic ocular migraine. The vision troubles were the classic auras people with migraines experience. Apparently some people can have migraines with no pain.

Well shoot. I thought migraines were headaches, horrible, debilitating headaches but still, bascially headaches.

So today I got up. I was feeling okay, just a little tired. I went and got some breakfast and wouldn't you know it, my vision goes wonky. Ah! Here's my painless migraine coming on. But it wasn't. Painless that is. Within 30 minutes that aura was gone but a headache had started and I wobbled off to the bedroom to grab an ibuprofen, close the curtains and have a nap.

Lying there in the bed I realized how familiar it felt. I'm not exactly sure how the auras and the nap-requiring headaches got separated in memory but despite what I told my eye doctor those vision problems often do in fact come with headaches, exhaustion and nausea and a few other classic symptoms of migraines. My best guess is that the headaches and exhaustion became so commonplace and expected that I hadn't committed honest thought to them for ages. I really do have the auras without the pain at times so I suppose I'd must have dismissed the idea that they were somehow related.

So I have migraines. And I have the nifty aura phase that lets me know a headache is on it's way.

And so why didn't I, even without the auras, ever think my headaches might be migraines? Because they're mild to moderate and most of all, familiar. Sometimes they just slow me down. Occasionally they send me to bed for a couple of hours while the ibuprofen kicks in but most of all, having dealt with them, I guess I never thought they were painful enough. The migraine sufferers I knew in real life really suffered. They spent days or even weeks in horrible pain no medicine could help. I looked at what I dealt with and could see no comparison.

But now, after going through a day with my eyes open I'm amazed at just how ordinary and textbook a migraine case I am. I can Google signs and symptoms and there I am on every page.

And I'm absolutely thrilled. I've been dogged by these symptoms for years and always thought they were no big deal and I had to slog through a day anyway, pushing myself to get things done even though all I wanted to do was curl up in the dark. Now I have a magical word that, when I say it, makes my husband tuck me into bed and send the children outside or to the basement. And when I crawl out of bed and wander out to join the family they don't expect anything from me for the rest of the day and just let me sit back and do nothing until my head is right, my weakness gone and the colour has returned to my face.

Migraine. I don't think a diagnoses has given me such relief and peace since I was told I had ADD.

Now, if only I can just get over how I dense I am for spending years not seeing something so damn obvious...

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Kids Have the Best Punchlines

About ten mintues ago Harry stomped up from the playroom after yelling at Catherine. I asked him what in the heck he was upset about.

"Catherine said there's a thing called Hi-purple-lee and I said there isn't!"

"Hi-purple-lee? Oh, do you mean hyperbole?"

"Yes! And she said it was a real thing but I know it isn't"

"Well, I think you're both right. It's not a real thing in the way a monster or a rock or a tree is. It's an idea."

"Idea?"

"Yes, it's when you exaggerate something...Like if I said you're so skinny you could slip through a keyhole. I'm saying you're really skinny but you couldn't really fit through a keyhole, right?"

"Oh! And we're both right?"

"Yup."

"I'm going to tell Catherine."

And off he bounced to tell Catherine, leaving me to wonder how on earth they got started talking about hyperbole in the first place. Until I heard the following...

"Catherine! Mom said we were both right! So I wasn't wrong when I said I would die if I cleaned up the playroom!"

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Ovid in Our Day

To say Catherine and I are enjoying Ovid is an understatement. I don't think I've ever read anything aloud as well as Metamorphoses and that's due to the fact that I don't think I've ever enjoyed reading anything aloud so much. Catherine is constantly interrupting with giggles or with connections to past Greek tales or Bible stories or even pop culture. She's also decided Metamophoses is almost as good as Harry Potter. High Praise indeed.

Last night we ended with the story of Echo and Narcissus and it was one of my favourite parts so far. The way Ovid built the story was marvelous. First the tale of Echo and then the framing of the story of Narcissus as the boy falling in love (real, passionate, sorrowful love - not simply self-absorption) with an echo of himself. The whole tale was a play on the idea of echoes. And Rolfe Humphries' language is marvelous. I was often stopping to reread a portion because I found something so thrilling or poignant that I had to hear it again.

I have to admit though, I was beginning to wonder how more conservative Christian parents would handle Ovid. I know he's required reading for many classical homeschoolers but he's so darn engaged with the sexual lives of those in the story and nothing is shied away from. Not Jove lusting after every pretty thing he sees, not Juno lusting after her brother/husband, not all the girls and boys lusting after Narcissus. Not that anything is vulgar but geez, this is passionate, earthy stuff that taps into exactly what lust feels like. I can see a lot of parents being downright uncomfortable with Metamorphoses.

Today we'll be taking some cues from Ovid and Catherine will be doing some cursive copywork:

...The South-wind came out streaming with dripping wings, and pitch-black darkness veiling his terrible countenance. His beard is heavy with rain-cloud, and his hoary locks a torrent, mists are his chaplet, and his wings and garments run with the rain.


After she's finished she'll read the excerpt to Harry and hopefully he'll help her come up with an image to draw that shows what the passage describes. If I want to dig into the passage more then we'll probably discuss the use of commas, the grammar and go through all the words to make sure she understands the meanings. I'm also thinking she may rewrite the passage somehow...By the end of it we'll probably have something similar to what we did with the LOTR ring poem last summer. Hopefully copying, deconstructing and playing with Ovid will be something we continue.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Broadband is Coming!

I just learned that I will have high speed internet access by the end of this year! Our province had made it a matter of law a couple of years ago that every Nova Scotian have broadband access by the end of 2009. I'd sort of forgotten that.

Okay, high speed relative to what I have right now. At the old house I consistently got download speeds of close to 10 Mbps beating fellow geeks from places like Los Angeles and New York. The speed I'll have at the end of the year will top at 1.5 Mbps but that's better than both satellite and dial-up so that ain't too bad for a house out in the middle of nowhere.

But it won't be cable or DSL. How then do I get access?

Fixed wireless! It uses radio frequency transmissions and I will basically have to slap an antenna to the side of my house to get access to the internet. My inner geek is very curious because I'd never heard of this before. Apparently it's the thing for those of us in "rural or remote locations". Very neat stuff. I'm off to research it now!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Be Careful What You Wish For

Part of the reason this house enchanted Shannon and I so much when we were looking this past winter is the fact that it's surrounded by woodland. Our 2 acres are cleared but we back on woodland that goes back for miles and miles. It's not a green belt but genuine forest. It's meant the kids have seen a wide variety of birds, chipmunks, squirrels, deer and all of it close up, within 10 or 15 feet of the french doors in our dining room.

So we have what we wanted and we've been loving it.

And then today I woke up to see a healthy young black bear rifling through our organics cart not 10 feet from those french doors.

I yelled for the kids and husband. Catherine saw it but before Shannon and Harry got there the dog saw it and began barking and that sent the bear running back to the woods.

I'm not all that worried about bears. We have bobcats, lynx and (according to some) cougars in our province and any one of those three concern me more then an easy-to-spook omnivore. But still, it's made the husband and I realize our choice to live here does mean there are a few inherrant risks we should be prepared to deal with.

As we cleaned up the organics mess, shoveled a pile of bear poop up and examined the paw prints with the kids we decided that it would not be a bad thing for the two of us to get our firearms certificates (here you have to take a course before you're allowed to purchase firearms) and pick up a rifle. Our compost will be getting moved out front into the open where a shy bloke from the forest might be more reluctant to visit and we've also decided that perhaps the backyard, which is really only a small strip of lawn between the house and the forest, isn't the best place for the kids to play.

I have to admit though, sobering though the black bear visit was, it was also completely and totally awesome. Catherine hasn't stopped talking about it and I'm secretly hoping I get to see him again.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Ovid! Can You Believe it?

So how do you get a 10 year old girl to giggle and snuggle in with you on the couch and keep her smiling for a good hour and make her so happy that she ends up hugging you and dancing around the living room?

Why, you start reading her Rolfe Humphries' translation of Ovid's Metamorphoses of course. Of course.

We went to our little local thrift store (now a not-so-local half hour drive) last week and as the kids dug through toy boxes in search of Hot Wheels and stuffed NeoPets I poured over the book section. I found some damn nice books too; an old edition of Mrs. Browning's Poems, a children's book called Famous Scientific Expeditions (do they even publish books for kids like that anymore?) and a nice Nat. Geo. book on the Renaissance. But the one I was excited about and the one my husband teased me about was Ovid's Metamorphoses. (Yes, he teased me. The guy I fell for because he was reading Appian's The Civil Wars while pumping gas at the truck stop we worked at. Some people.)

The husband figured it would never get read. He thought it might sit beside my Penguin edition of The Illiad, the one I swore I was going to read after zipping through a Colleen McCullough (yes, she of The Thornbirds fame) version. Or he thought I'd torture the daughter with it for a bit (after all, how fun could an ancient Roman poet really be?) and then forget I had it.

Ha!

I picked it up today, started reading and thought, damn, this is good. I sat down with Catherine tonight on the couch and before we were a dozen verses in she was as hooked as I was. We talked as I read and also consulted my Oxford NRSV Bible when we noticed some similarities between Ovid's creation story and the first creation story of the Bible. We giggled over Jove and Io ("Mom, do you remember when you said Zeus couldn't keep his pants on and Dad said, "of course not! The Greeks didn't wear pants!"). Catherine grew grave and I almost got teary as we read about the earth burning when Phaethon failed to control his father's chariot. When I finished for tonight Catherine bounced over (the dancing, remember the dancing)and gave me the biggest hug I'd had in days and a heartfelt thank you.

And should I add that by the time I was into the story of Phaethon Harry and my doubter of a husband were sitting in the living room listening to me read.

So if you want to enchant you children and show up your husband, Ovid, as translated by Rolfe Humphries, is your man.

She's in Horse Heaven

My daughter had a call from my mother today. Seems a neighbour of mom's has offered to teach my daughter how to look after horses and to ride. For free. Catherine would have to spend a couple of weeks at my parent's house but she doesn't seem fazed by that in the least.

This is good news because Catherine has wanted to learn how to ride and, more importantly, how to care for horses since about, oh, forever. This is great news because our new neighbours across the road, who bought their house just as we closed on ours, have spent the last couple of weeks putting up fencing and a shelter for the horses they have. Catherine is already hoping they might not mind a little help mucking out stables or brushing down horses and the fact that she'll actually have a little bit of knowledge to start with can't be a bad thing.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Bird Watching Resources

In the new house a lot of spare time has been devoted to watching the birds that come out to our feeder. Being on the edge of woodland seems to be a boon as we've been getting quite a variety. Evening Grosbeaks, Purple Finches, Common Grackles, Redpolls, Bluejays, etc. Our indespensible tools are a good pair of field binoculars and a Sibly Guide.

Bird watching has also led to a lot less school work. We're working on Winston Grammar again and Catherine loves Aleks math but that's about it for the moment. The birds have been dragging us back into unschooling and we've been happy to let that happen.

For anyone else who's eagerly putting up feeders and has a pair of binoculars close by just in case here's a list of resources that I've been looking through or have used:

Checklists- here are checklists of birds by state and province.

Homeschooler's Guide to Project FeederWatch - a PDF with lots of ideas for activities and resources to help a kid with an interest in bird watching.

All About Birds - An amazing resource with just about everything you might need from help with the basics to multimedia resources. From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Friday, May 1, 2009

ALEKS Again

Okay, we have the month long free trial and Catherine loves it. Too excess. She'll spend and hour and a half to 2 hours a day on it between the site and the worksheets. She thinks exponents and geometry are cool, likes the variety and speeds along at a good clip. The problem? There's no time left for Singapore or the Key to Series.

To those using ALEKS (okay, to my one reader who uses it :)), do you think it's enough? Sure, I'll through in some CWP and Life of Fred as supplements but could ALEKS be the core of a decent pre-algebra program for a 10 year old?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Please Help Bring Him Home

I have been alternately angry with and disappointed with my government for weeks. This is why:
That's Abousfian Abdelrazik, a Canadian citizen who's been trapped in Sudan for years. He traveled their to visit his sick mother and was jailed and tortured on suspicions of terrorism at the recommendation of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). Years have passed, Mr. Abdelrazik has been cleared of any suspicion by both the RCMP and CSIS and yet the Canadian government won't let him come home.

The girl in the picture is his daughter who he hasn't seen since he first left Canada.

There's more to the story. For the past year he's slept on a cot in the Canadian embassy and suffered declining health. The government sets requirements Mr. Abdelrazik has to meet in order to come home and when he does they shift the goalpost. The government refuses to inform Canadians just why it is that a Canadian citizen is being locked out of his country. But the core of it is this - The Canadian government has failed in it's legal and moral responsibilities to this man.

That leaves it up to Canadians to bring him home.

I figure that the only reason the Harper government won't bring him home is that they fear the political consequences of doing so. His presence might spark scandal in regards to the Canadian government committing acts of torture by proxy. Therefore the only way to get him home is by making the failure to bring him home even more politically dangerous.

So here's what I think. I think we need to turn up the heat. I think that every Canuck (although Americans are welcome too) blogger reading this needs to either stick this post on their blog (I don't care about copyright concerns in regards to this) or write their own.

I think those who read this need to go to this site, print out some postcards and mail them off the Lawrence Cannon. Then print out 10, 20 or 50 more and pass them out to friends and family to mail in. I think we all need to write letters to Stephen Harper and Lawrence Cannon.

I think we need to hound our MPs even if they aren't Tories to make them pressure the government on this matter.

I think we need to comb the resources at http://peoplescommission.org/abdelrazik.php#cresources, print out and distribute what we can and see if there are any upcoming rallies we can take part in.

I think we need to write letters to editors across the country.

I think we need to start a meme to end all memes and get the word out there so that Canadians can help save a fellow citizen.
And I think we all need to send a note to Mr. Abdelrazik at projectflyhome@gmail.com so he knows we haven't forgotten about him and we'll get him home so he can see his daughter again.
The government of Canada may have failed one of it's own but that doesn't mean the rest of us have to. Please, let's get him home.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

ALEKS Math

In my last post (from long, long ago) I wrote about Teaching Textbooks. I mentioned that my daughter really liked it but I wasn't all that sure of it. In the comments concernedCTparent pointed me in the direction of ALEKS Math. She mentioned a one month free trial but on the site I could only find a 48 hour trial. Bummer. Ah well, I signed us up, Catherine tried it and loved it. I discussed a subscription with my husband but we worried about committing to something that might just be appealing at first glance and decided to hold out for a bit.

Catherine didn't much like our decision and has been asking us to reconsider every day for the past week. I finally said today that if she really wanted to try it a bit more then she could pay for a month with her own money. Guess what? She thought that was a great solution.

I found a better solution though. I googled "ALEKS one month free trial" and came up with this link. There, I signed up for one month free and could qualify for two free months just by selling out and offering up the emails of two homeschooling friends. Whoo hoo!

One month is much better then two days. It's all too common to try some curriculum or program and get caught up in the newness of it only to realize a few weeks or a month later that it's been abandoned to the dusty pile of unused material that holds 85% of your homeschool related purchases. One month, hopefully two, will give Catherine and I a much better idea of whether ALEKS will be a useful tool. Because goodness knows, with Teaching Textbook, Singapore, Math Mammoth, the Key to Series and the several dozen odd texts and workbooks I've got sitting around we just don't have enough math resources.

Anyway, I thought I'd post the one month free trial link because I simply couldn't find it by wandering around the ALEKS site and thought there might be some others out there in the same boat. Enjoy.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Teaching Textbooks

I recently bought Teaching Textbooks Math 6 from a fellow Canuck blogger. It's a program I've been curious about for awhile for a few reasons. The first is that I sometimes find it really hard to explain concepts, even simple ones, to Catherine in a way she understands. TT has a software component with lectures and worked problems so that seemed like it might be a good solution. Second, Catherine loves software programs. Third, TT keeps track of progress for the software portion making for easy record keeping when you're a lazy homeschool mom.

Last week I installed the program (which requires registering the product with TT, something that can only be done on two computers apparently before it will refuse to install again and you need to have further discussions with the TT people) and Catherine eagerly checked it out. Demos can be tried on the TT homepage but the basic routine is that the child chooses a lesson, listens to a lecture, tries some practice problems then goes on to complete an exercise on the computer consisting of about 20 questions. The results are logged into the printable "grade book" for later review. Nifty. There's also a full text/workbook but after the first few lessons Catherine didn't bother with it. She was getting between 90 and 100% right on each lesson so why bother when she's mastered the lesson?

There was a reason Catherine was doing so well though. Although Math 6 is meant for a grade 6 level the initial review lessons were on things like place value, addition and subtraction; stuff she's had a firm grip on for several years. Looking at the table of contents I didn't notice anything that would be particularly challenging for Catherine or any reasonably skilled grade 4 or 5 math student. At this point it will simply be review and practice for Catherine and at the speed she's going I don't expect it will take more then a couple of months to complete.

Another problem I had with the program was the very reason I was interested in it in the first place - the explanations in the lectures. At one point Catherine was given a quiz with a question on long addition that went something like, "Carrying is when part of the sum is carried to the next column: true or false?" Catherine called me over, not happy with the question at all. She knew that according to her lecture, "true" was probably the right response but she also knew, from her Singapore work, that the whole concept of carrying, especially with that definition, wasn't a good description of what actually goes on in long addition. In fact, it covers up the truth of what happens in terms of place value. I think I'd rather muddle through explanations on my own thank you very much.

Regardless of my complaints, Catherine enjoys it. She wants to work through it and I can't see it taking up too much time so we'll stick with it for now. I'll probably add in Singapore or Key to Decimals again fairly soon though for real work. TT Math 6, with Catherine, basically amounts to easy fun.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Internet Freedom

In being away from the cluttered, compressed mess that was our former house I've made a discovery about me and my use of the internet. Formerly, I was pretty much an addict. When I didn't need to be doing something else I was surfing the web, visited forums or reading blogs. Now? If I don't get on the internet for a day or two or more I'm absolutely fine. And when I am on I do what I need too and then get off.

Now there's no doubt that having dial-up has had some role in my breaking free of the net. Surfing just isn't what it used to be when it takes tens of seconds for web pages to load and when some, like the real estate search engine and YouTube are essentially inaccessible. But that's not the only factor and not, I think, even the most important one. The biggest change has been having space for me.

See, I think I used to retreat to the internet because there was simply no where else for me to go in the house to be alone. There was no room where someone else wasn't doing something or even a corner where the noise of a home didn't intrude. Now I have tons of it. Our living room has become a quiet place for reading. The dining room is only occupied at meal times. My bedroom is pleasant and has a working door. There's peace and quiet and alone time potential all over this house. I've been reading and drawing more in this house in the last month then I had for the last 6 months in the other one.

If I don't post as often now, well, apologies but know that it's because I'm enjoying life away from the computer screen again.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

More Than Just Owls

The previous owners of this house dumped a pile of parsnips about 20 feet from the back of the house to feed the local deer through the winter. This parsnip pile was actually one of the things we were most excited about when we moved in. Imagine, sitting at your dining room table and watching deer feed just a few feet away.

Sadly, our dog arrived and scattered collections of poop and pee all over the back yard. No deer showed up and we decided the dog scents probably scared them away.

Last night we were eating supper at the table and what should poke her nose out of the forest but a White Tail Doe. She picked her way through the snow to our parsnip pile and fed for a marvelous 30 minutes. The kids were over the moon. Harry couldn't get over how beautiful she was and Catherine thought it was the neatest thing that we were so close we could watch the food travel down her throat every time she swallowed. We've seen deer up close before and even fed them but that was at our local wildlife park and there's no comparison between observing lazy, tame deer and alert, wild deer.

This morning, as we ate breakfast, she returned and ate her breakfast. By this time she was old news for Harry but Catherine was still amazed and after the doe left Catherine decided that maintenance of the parsnip pile was her job. She braved the rain and went out to free up some parsnips by chipping away at the frozen pile.

We've decided that between the owl and the doe and considering all the birds that visit our backyard bird feeder (that Catherine also cleans off and refills with joy) it would be a good time to start some sort of nature journal. Imagine that. We can fill up a nature journal with stuff we can observe from our living room.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Another Sighting

At dusk tonight I was sitting in the living room playing Mahjong on the computer. I looked out the window and there in ine of the telephone poles that lines our driveway was an owl. He was huge and I think, a Barred Owl.


Barred Owls are apparently very common but it was the first time I'd seen one and it felt rather akin to looking out and seeing a griffin or sphinx. I can't think of another bird, except perhaps for ravens and I see them all the time, more steeped in mythology and story. It was very cool.

The kids and I took turns observing him through the binoculars as he in turn observed the field below him, looking for a meal. Eventually the kids left to watch a movie. When darkness was just about to settle, and of course, in the moment I choose to look away, he disappeared. I'm hoping he's one of my new neighbours and I get a chance to see him again.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Finally...

I'm back. It's taken forever to get hooked up to the internet again for a variety of reasons I won't get into except to say that I still can't get on on MY computer which irks me to no end because I hate pounding on this stupid laptop keyboard.

But...The house is fantastic. Having the room to spread out has done some wonderful things for our family life. Confining the TV to a den in the basement has done some wonderful things for our family life as well. Having an air exchanger has been a blessing for everyone's health. And I can't emphasize enough what a joy it is to have a house I can invite people into for supper or tea or whatever.

*sigh*

For the good stuff:

Harry loves, loves, loves the truck bed.

The view out front is gorgeous but the view out back, where out house backs on forest, is darn neat as well. I saw a bobcat a few morning ago.

Having a dining room is amazing.

I can dry clothes without hanging them over doors.

A bigger house is soooo much easier to keep clean then a tiny one.

We haven't turned on the electric heat once. The wood stove heats the house and when I can't be bothered to keep it going the sun coming in the french doors in the dining room keeps the main living space nice and toasty.

The bad stuff:

Corner jacuzzi tubs aren't my cup of tea. I'd rather just have a regular soaker tub and save on water and energy.

Dial up sucks.

The road we live on is a dirt road so full of potholes that an SUV is very likely going to be our next big purchase as my poor little Hyundai Elantra is getting the living crap beat out of it every time I go somewhere.

The bad stuff isn't all that bad though and it's definitely outweighed by the huge leap in quality of life we've experienced by moving into this house.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

For Real This Time.

The cable man is coming this morning to take away my high speed internet. I'm not sure when I'll get the internet connection sorted out at the other house so I could be back on the weekend or it might have to wait until Monday.

Either way, this is the really real good bye. Next time I post I'll be in the new house!

Monday, February 23, 2009

A Guessing Game

I know I said I wasn't going to post but...I don't know. Maybe knowing I'll be withut high speed in two days is inspiring a sort of post rush. Regardless, I have a riddle for you all.

Harry and I played a game today. We watched TV and as we did we would call out "down" or "up". If we called out "up" I would grab Harry and tickle him. If we called out "down" we would simply sit in suspense. There were many, many downs and only the occasional up.

Can you guess what we were watching?

I Just Have to Say This About Sean Penn.

I've already heard people speaking up on message boards about how insulting they found Sean Penn's acceptance speech. He implied, they say, that anyone who voted for Prop 8 was motivated by hate.

Sean Penn drove past this on Oscar night:


It seems to me that the best way to put the lie to what they think Sean Penn said would be to completely and totally condemn the Westboro Baptist Church. Further, to actively campaign against their message of hate, especially as it relates to gay people.

It's a very easy thing to get righteously indignant when you feel you've been slighted. It's a much harder thing, but immeasurably more powerful, to defend the targets of violent hate.

The trick is that the rest of us have to believe you love gay people more then a political agenda. That you find hatred more offensive then gay marriage. That you are more willing to fight against hatred then to feel insulted.

Anything less simply suggests that maybe Sean Penn had a point.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

I'll be Back in One Week.

Okay. This is it. Only a few more days until closing on both this house and the one we're buying.

I'm going to take a break from posting until next Sunday when hopefully we'll have the basics set up in the new house and I'll have my computer hooked up to our new, lightning fast dialup account (sob!). At that time you'll get pictures of the move (after I take them to my sister's and upload them to photobucket - double sob). Wish me luck!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Shhh! It's a Surprise!

With the move only one week away we're picking up some furniture we'll need. Last week we found a 7 piece Maple dining room set for $450 on Kijiji. This week I ordered a new mattress set for us and a mate's bed for Catherine from Sears. This weekend we pick up a bed for Harry.

This is the bed:


Cool, eh? Harry will be thrilled.

Now, if we were buying new we probably would have gone for something more mature and bed-like but since this one won't cost much we couldn't resist. If he only gets a couple of years out of it it will still be worth buying. The hood is a toy chest and the roof is, as pictured, a most excellent play space. It looks like it might need a touch up or two but that's not a big deal.

The thing is, Harry doesn't know. I know, the husband knows, Catherine knows but Harry doesn't. We'll pick it up and store it until Friday and then, while the kids are at they're grandparents, we'll move it to the new house with the rest of the stuff and set it up for him. And we'll not say a word until he sees it.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Places a Nintendo DS Can Take You

My daughter has 100 Classic Books for her Nintendo DS. She loaded it up yesterday and started looking through the titles which range from Dickens to Shakesspeare, from the Bronte sisters to Jane Austen. There are also quite a few childrens book; Alice in Wonderland, The Secret Garden, Black Beauty...I originally got the "game" not because she'd had any interest in it but just because I thought it couldn't hurt to have that as a choice amidst all the Petz and Mario games.

So tonight I asked her to grab her book and head into our room (her brother was going to sleep in the room they share) for quiet time. She said no and instead grabbed the DS.

"Catherine! That's not a book."

"Yes it is. I'm reading Black Beauty on it. I already finished the first chapter. It's about a horse, you know!"

I know. I tried to read the book at her age and found it dreadfully boring. But her eyes lit up when she told me she was reading it so she's obviously getting something I didn't.

How cool is that though? Not only is her DS a reader but it's also how she's being introduced to some classic literature. There's a story for those who turn up their noses at video games systems.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Waiting

It's going to kill me, this waiting to move thing. I'm not good with anticipation. Waiting for something big is almost painful and this new house thing is huge. 11 more days.

See, I still can't get to sleep, stay asleep or sleep in at Christmas. When I get a parcel card in the mail it's absolute torture if I have to wait before I can run to the post office. And those are short term things.

My solution lately has not been a good one. I turn on the TV or the computer and basically surf the day away. The kids, with few toys left to play with and Mommy mentally absent, take the opportunity to annoy each other like never before. I'm going to have to get off my butt and have some fun with the kids. For their sanity as well as mine.

Either that or take up drinking.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Guess that Genre

Harry came up to me while I was on the computer. He said he wanted me to find some music for him. I asked him what kind.

Him: "The kind that goes like this...Da da da DA, da da da DA."

Me: "Um, that's helpful but do you know what kind of music it is?"

Him: "It's the coooool music."

Not helpful.

Me: "Could you tell me where you might have heard it?"

He rolled his eyes and then ran to the living room. He came back with his Thomas the Tank Engine hat on...Backwards. Then his folded his arms and thrust out his chin.

Him: "This kind of music, Mom."

Ah!

Me: "Hip hop?"

Him: "Yeah! Hip hop!"

He's now happily spinning around the kitchen floor to Kanye West.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Stay off my Doorstep.

I had a visit from my JW lady. She comes around a few times a year and I generally look forward to her visits. She's pleasant and it's a nice break in the day.

Not today though. Today she thought she'd tell me about all the signs that the end times are upon us and topping the list, bigger then murder and disease, were those filthy gays and lesbians.

I didn't say anything. I should have but it often seems to be in those moments when I really should say something that words fail me.

Damn it.

Ah well, it's good to know that if she manages to show up at the new house (it's only 10 minutes up the road) I'll no longer feel any obligation to listen to her, to be polite or even to open the door to acknowledge she's there.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

House Inspection

We had the house inspection today. The inspector was pleased, said we were lucky and that it was nice to inspect a house without any real problems. And he loved the view. Everybody loves the view. And why not, today we looked out the window and saw a windtower that is about 25 miles from the house. Wowsers.

An added bonus - he said that although the cedar shingles have had a coat of something-or-other put on them to maintain their colour we don't have to maintain that. We can simply let it wear off and let the shingles silver over time. Which is what I'd prefer anyway as I've always wanted a house with silver cedar shingles. I had thought that once they were shellaced or what ever it was that was done, they always had to be. Not so! Whoo hoo!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

We Got the House

Part me can't believe this. We're supposed to live in little cheap houses where there's always a long list of stuf to be done. Not a new build that looks spectacular and only needs some trim.

The inspection is on Saturday and we close on the 27th.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Decision

Last night we looked at one last house. It was a huge century home with a 1 acre lot in the middle of a nearby village. It had a wrap around deck. It had gorgeous firplaces all over the place. It had hardwood floors and original trim. It had a 21 by 13 kitchen with acres and acres of cabinetry and countertop. It had a ton of charm and was drop dead gorgeous. When we left the house we knew we were down to two house. The old charmer in a village or the rural new build.

Well, after we slept on it there was one house we were still thinking about. The new house in the boonies. This is it:



This is the kitchen:


This is the living room:


This is the whirlpool corner bathtub in the master bath (the door leads to the, ahem, master deck):


This is the fish/skating pond:


If we get the house I'll snap a picture on a nice day and post a picture of the view because the view is amazing. Ultimately, it's where this house is that made it the favourite. 10 minutes further away from everything then our current house but when you're staring out the front window it feels like years away from everything.

The one bad thing? I'll be on dial up. And I just realized that means that when I snap that picture of the gorgeous view it will take me absolutely forever to upload it to this blog. Oh my.

Anyhow, we make an offer tommorrow! Wish us luck!

Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Barn House Has Been Eclipsed

Spectacular though the barn house was, it wasn't new, it was expensive and it didn't have a stocked fish pond/skating rink on the property. Yes, I've fallen in love yet again but this time my husband has also and we're in a position to do something about it.

Pics to come!

Fantastic History Read-Aloud

On one of the message boards I frequent a member posted about a book she'd picked up, A Little History of the World by E. H. Gombrich. She raved about it and said it was suitable for secular homeschoolers. On her recommendation I ordered it and since it was one of the few books I didn't pack, I picked it up to read aloud to the kids last week.



What a fantastic book! First written in 1935 this little book is packed with fantastic writing, colourful stories and lots of humour. The author knows how to use an image when needed; the exploration of history is compared to dropping a light down a well where we can only see a parts of the well at any point in the light's descent and eventually, we can't even see the light. That doesn't mean he gets flowery though. This guy is my favourite kind of writer, one that can edit his writing down to the bare minimum needed to get an idea across and yet still leave the reader full images and curiosity.

Gombrich's style makes reading A Little History of the World aloud a real joy. It has a conversational tone that engages the kids and let me relax in a way I couldn't with Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything. The sidetracks and explanations in Bryson's book, although also full of humour, sometimes lost us a bit. But that's only to be expected. Bryson wrote a work for adults while Gombrich is writing for children. But "writing for children," doesn't mean Gombrich talks down to kids. It means he constructs a warm tone, doesn't overload the reader/listener with too many dates and frequently draws connections between characters in history so a child can construct a mental timeline.

This book does talk about pre-history and espouses an Old Earth or evolutionary view but it's such a joy that I wouldn't want a YE creationist to skip it just on that account. It also discusses some aspects of biblical history as history (although not to the extent of Wise-Bauer's Story of the World) but again, it's such a joy that it would be a shame to dismiss it because of that.

Gombrich died in 2001 so I can't write the man any fan letters. But I can and will plug his book to anyone who wants a well-written and engaging approach to history for their kids. And I can offer up a thank you to the man for leaving this book behind for us to discover.