Tuesday, April 15, 2014

On With the Show!

Yesterday was one of those unexpected school days that can only happen at home. I had made lesson plans, carefully lining up our learning for the day -  Bible, math, English, spelling, history, etc. - and we got as far as Bible and history. After our history chapter for the day, the kids decided that they wanted to write plays.

Of course it would've been too easy for everyone involved if they had chosen the same subject matter and collaborated. Instead we have two completely separate plays, taking place on two completely separate continents, with only the general time period being similar, but in no way relevant.

Mim wanted her play to be about Catherine the Great, and I don't think anyone should be surprised, at least not anyone who knows her, that she chose an empress as her subject matter, considering that each child was going to star in their own production. Zaya, on the other hand, wanted to write about Eli Whitney and the cotton gin. He is playing the part of a slave named Nicodemu. (The name came from a book about children from around the world. Don't blame me.)

This means costumes, props, and make-up for the court of a Russian noble and the hut of a slave in the South. It also means taking apart my house to find things that are "just right" for each part. Mim still has what looks like a geologist's lab set up in the hall bathroom as she experiments to find the exact sandstone that, when mixed with water and made into a paste, will color Zaya's face and hands for his role as an African slave. (It's just a thing she does. Don't ask. Usually it's make-up or war paint)

 Mim's entire production was written and performed in one day, while Zaya's will be performed later in the week. For one thing, I can only take so much, but it also turns out that it takes a while to build a fake cotton gin and write a full play. Yesterday we got so far as to unroll all the paper towels and scatter broken toothpicks on the floor because we needed the inside tube for the roller and the insufficiently strong toothpicks for the teeth. Pictures of the finished product will be forthcoming, assuming we all survive.

Mim's play was a great success, despite her brother's annoying tendency to jump out of character at the least provocation. It's hard to blame him, though, since his character, Peter (Ulrich)  III, was a drunken lout who dies at the end of the play to the joy of all involved. Mim even roped our neighbor kids into helping and playing their own parts.

I don't see the production hitting Broadway, but it had a good local run, and the audience (Daddy) was most appreciative. He was less appreciative of the state of the house after a full day, and I do mean a full day, of scrounging around for props and other accoutrement of the theater.

It's all learning though, right? No seriously, tell me it's all learning, because if it isn't I just let my children destroy my house, my sanity, and my lesson plans for nothing. I figure I can at least count it for history and writing. I haven't seen my children willingly write that much, in one day, in their lives.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Happy Birthday, Aunt Hazel!

My mother's family has had the honor, over the last few years, to get to know a new sister. Aunt Hazel, who grew up in the Philippines, married my Uncle Tom, and then was finally able to arrive in the U.S. in December of 2007.

We didn't really know her very well at the time, but we knew Uncle Tom loved her very much and so were excited to welcome her into the family. Over the years she has become an important member or our crazy little clan, and we love her dearly.

She might be a little quiet when there are so many of us together during the holidays, but her smile speaks volumes, and I know she makes my Uncle very happy. And let's be honest, anyone in a room with so many members of the P family is bound to be a little intimidated by the shear impossibility of getting a word in edgewise.

Today I was reminded of how precious she is to us, and to her family back in the Phillippines as well, by a video they made for her where they all gave birthday greetings and then sang for her. They didn't dwell on their separation, but instead sang a praise song and talked about how much they loved her. They made a huge sacrifice when they let their daughter, cousin, sister, friend leave them for the wild unknowns of west Texas. They love and miss her very much, but their love is the truest kind: unselfish and based on the love of Christ.

Hazel has now made herself an integral part of her workplace, her family, and her new country as she completed her citizenship in 2012. She is an inspiration to those of us who take our easy lives for granted. I hope that I will someday be able to say that my own love for others bears half the power of that of Hazel and her family.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Pi in the Sky

We celebrated Pi Day in style this year. Grandma Lilibeth gave the kids Pi shirts specifically for the occasion. You probably can't tell from the picture, but the pie image is made up of many tiny digits of Pi.  Here they are with Grandma. Aren't they stylish?

We did a day of Pi-related school work and activities.They learned what Pi was, got certificates for memorizing it to a certain amount of digits, drew some pictures, then went to Walmart and each chose a Pi, I mean pie, for us to share with our guests this weekend. (Mim chose coconut cream and Zay wanted Dutch apple, if you must know.)

Coincidentally, it was also Albert Einstein's birthday. Zaya is wearing his Einstein pin from the Science Museum trip last fall. We had fun with it all, and the day felt like a little break from normal routine, which is always welcome.

Whether or not they'll remember anything about what we did remains to be seen, but it can't possibly have hurt. Maybe someday they'll be able to find the volume of a sphere that little bit easier.

Friday, February 28, 2014

When Life Gives You Rubber Gloves

If you were to walk into my kitchen right now, you would see a big red bowl on the table. You might think that I am in the middle of baking something, which has been known to happen. You would be wrong. If you investigate further, you would see that the bowl is partially filled with water, in which floats a blue rubber medical glove.

You would be forgiven for being very concerned about the sanity or health of my family. I cannot speak to the former, but we are all healthy. No, the reason for the bowl and accoutrements is that Mim occasionally likes to pretend she is milking a cow. ...yeah...

She fills the glove with water, carefully pokes tiny holes in the ends of the fingers, and proceeds to "milk the cow" back into the bowl. I blame all the field trips to "city farms" over the years. She demonstrated her technique this morning, explaining carefully how this worked and was very realistic. My daughter has never actually milked a cow, of course. This is all theory.

I don't know why this was suddenly the activity for the morning, but I let it happen. Personally I'm just glad that she hasn't thought of using real milk instead of water.

Maybe she's got a great career in the dairy industry someday. A mom can dream.

Dad to the Rescue

My best homeschooling decision this year has been to beg, trick and encourage my husband to take over the science class for the second semester.

Last fall we began doing a joint chemistry class with friends who also do school at home. I "taught" the class to the best of my ability, and I think we learned...something. Or I hope so. After Christmas, the plan was to switch to physics, since I think grade school level children can still have a "well-trained mind" without a year on each.

As I started looking through all my physics books, though, I became more and more stressed. Unlike chemistry, I never took physics in high school, and math is not my strong suit. Enter "Super-Dad!" also known as Art. He saw the growing panic in my eyes and offered to take the class for the semester.

It meets once a week at our house, and the kids are actually getting to ask questions and learn from someone who not only took physics in high school, but also has a degree in mechanical engineering. I feel much better about that.

They've talked about Isaac Newton, built marshmallow/spaghetti structures, flown paper airplanes, played with magnets and lasers...and presumably Art didn't have to write himself notes to remember what the definitions of their vocabulary words were.

Yes, there is some guilt in asking my long-suffering spouse to teach a class after he's worked all day, but the relief and joy is strong enough that the guilt has been mostly smothered.
I now get at least one hour a week to hide away in another part of the house while education happens. It's a great feeling.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

I Dual-Wield Kleenex

Last night and this morning we had a snowstorm. Our country church is a fair drive for almost all the parishioners, so the services were canceled and we had our own cozy church service here at home instead. I wouldn't want to switch to a permanent family church format, but it made for a lovely, peaceful morning- with our own unique twist.

I played the piano while we sang a few songs, then Mim had a Sunday school class. Art read a passage from the Bible and Zaya said our prayer. Mim's class involved a craft-time that she had prepared.

As usual, Daddy was a bit of an overachiever. I don't think the Bible ever specifies that angels like a little dual-wielding, but maybe he knows something I don't. Also, Zaya chose to take the phrase "make a star ornament" literally. This one (green) is complete with spots, flares and other stellar phenomena.

Art and the kids are planning to go outside to play, despite a high of 14F today and strong winds. I am planning to stay inside, because I am sane. If the house were on fire, I would leave. There isn't much else that would pry me out right now.

I do plan to help the kids make some snow ice cream later when they bring a bowl in, so I will come into contact with the stuff at some point during the day. However my snow ice cream will not include raw eggs. I know, why don't I live a little? I'm sure that handing out Kleenex and doing all the laundry and clean-up required to support this expedition will provide enough excitement for the day.

I have to confess, this is my idea of a great way to spend a snowy Sunday. If you come over this afternoon, you will find me here, by the fire, probably reading a book. This girl knows how to party.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

One Small Step for Rubbermaid

 You may think this is a plain, lime-green rubber tub, but you couldn't be more wrong. This is a space capsule. Inside this tub is an astronaut. While the outside of the tub is sitting near our wood stove, the inside is traveling across the galaxy with a small, slightly cramped astronaut inside.

Here she is, travelling to Betelguese as commanded by mission control, otherwise known as Zaya. Sometimes Mission Control takes his turn as an astronaut, but this morning he was content to direct the endeavor.

The astronauts are well fed on their journeys. Specifically, they eat apple chips, turkey jerky, and peppernuts - the snack of champions...and astronauts apparently.

The iPad has added another dimension to space travel. Usually it takes place in a cardboard box with the control panel and viewscreen designed by Sharpie and Crayola. Since this tub will be returned to Grandma T at Christmas-time, they decided to use an iPad app called SolarWalk to visualize the adventure instead.

Does this count as science? Sure, it does. Why not? 

Snap to it

 I hadn't really planned for electronics to figure into last Friday's curriculum, but Mim dragged out all the Snap Circuits so I decided to let them "play" when they probably should have been finishing their science vocabulary sheet.

Mim made an FM radio, and she is happily surfing the waves. Zaya was worried about what she might run across. To alleviate his concerns (and mine) we made a Christian or talking rule. Since the only talking she could find would be commercials or Trade-ee-oh, it wasn't a problem.

Zaya made a motion sensor and a siren. Why you would want to spend so much time and effort making various loud noises is beyond me. I suppose I need a Y chromosome to really get it.

While there was a little more "Mom, can you help me?" than I had hoped for out of playtime, it was worth it in the end. I hear electricians make a good living, and if all else fails they'll at least be able to construct the most critical parts of a cop car.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

All Dressed Up and Several Places to Go

 Another October come and gone, and the kids made good use of their costumes this year. They wore them to a Gymnastics party last night, a walk around the town square this afternoon, and trick-or-treating this evening. I was reminded that I really don't like Halloween; it seems like a fairly dumb holiday, but the dressing up and the free candy I'll take, particularly the dressing up part. Society can have the rest.

Once again we scavenged our home, the local thrift store, and the internet for props and pieces. I finally remembered to ask them about their costume desires early in the season. While I can scrounge up what I need to at the last minute, it was nice to have the luxury for accuracy.

Mim wanted to be Professor River Song this year. For the uninitiated, River Song is the wife of The Doctor, the title character from the TV show Doctor Who. She is a no-nonsense, time-traveling archaeologist who makes good use of hallucinogenic lipstick, a good blaster, and her vortex manipulator to travel the universe, occasionally saving the Doctor, and occasionally being saved herself.

We were trying to re-create this specific outfit. Did we succeed? You be the judge, but don't tell me if you think we failed. I couldn't take it. We did curl her hair as well, but it would've taken a lot more hairspray and a lot more time than I was willing to put into it to get those curls.

Zaya dressed as Dr. Erwin Schrodinger, the quantum physicist who famously postulated the Schrodinger's Cat thought experiment. If you want more details, follow the link to the Wiki page. His box there contains a "cat". (It's a plush lion because it was the only feline that fit.) He couldn't bear the thought of killing the cat, so he wore the vial of radioactive poison (glow-stick) around his neck in the evening.

His costume was occasionally mistaken for The Doctor (The eleventh Doctor, specifically.) and Harry Potter. It's understandable given the bow tie for the first and the round glasses for the second. At least one person thought he was dressed up as "a nerd". What can I say? Who am I to argue? He makes an awfully cute little nerd. I'm sure the real Schrodinger's mother thought the same.

We went around our little neighborhood with some next-door friends and another homeschool family. Most of the other kids were fairly shy, but good ol' Schrodinger came up with enough chit-chat to make up for the other seven quiet characters. At the very first house he yelled, "T-R-I-C-K to the power of treat," to the poor unsuspecting home-owner. River Song gave him a don't-embarrass-the-rest-of-us wallop, but I don't think it was effective. I decided to hang back with the other parents and let him be himself. River kept him in line, more or less, anyway.