Wednesday, March 22, 2017

How Homeschoolers Go on Vacation: Six Hours in Nashville

There are many things that I, personally, want to do in Nashville--watch a show at the Grand Ole Opry, eat hot chicken, check out the Johnny Cash Museum--but I didn't do any of them on this afternoon and evening that was all of the time we had in Nashville on this trip. Nashville will still be there another time, so this time we did just the things that I thought that the kids would love--a hands-on museum, dinner in a novelty theme restaurant, and an hour or so tromping around a fake Greek ruin.

First, 2.5 hours in the Adventure Science Center, an ASTC Passport Program participant that scores us free admission, thanks to our membership in our local hands-on science museum:




You know what connoisseurs we are of hands-on museums! This one was pretty special--it had the same nano exhibit that we've seen in several museums, BUT it also had an interior climbing area several stories tall, that ended in an aerial view of downtown Nashville. It had a VERY quirky exhibit on poisonous and invasive plants, based on this book--


--a space exhibit that not only encouraged Will to shoot tennis balls directly at my face--

--

but also let the kids experience what it's like to try to walk on the moon--

--a human body exhibit with a body systems display scaled to the average ten-year-old (how convenient!)--


--AND what is possibly the best thing ever:



a fart slide. Matt didn't know that it was a fart slide until he landed, which is pretty great.

I've seen these interactive projection games before, but they've always been projected onto the ground. This one was on a wall, and it mesmerized both children:



Oh, and they had eclipse glasses for sale! Buying eclipse glasses has been on my to-do list for MONTHS!!!, but I hesitated to buy them online because I wanted to inspect them first and make sure they wouldn't cause us to go blind when looking through them. I was stoked, then, to see a bunch of new ones in this gift shop, and I looked at them all and bought my favorite five. Now we have a spare, and perhaps a handy source of cash on the day of the solar eclipse.

I had planned to skip the Grande Ole Opry altogether, since we weren't going to tour it, but it turns out that the Aquarium Restaurant is in the mall across the street from it, so we popped by for just a sec:


I hadn't thought about this in years, nor am I a listener of country music currently, but as we walked across the parking lot towards the theater, suddenly stories began to pour out of me, stories of such little consequence that even Matt hasn't heard them, just stories of how I spent much of my childhood with Mamma and Pappa--lying on the floor in front of the couch and watching TV. We watched The Grand Ole Opry Live, and Hee Haw, and Wheel of Fortune, and a whole slew of black-and-white westerns that I barely looked up from my Barbies to notice, but I can still sing along to all the songs of the golden age of country, and I wanted to go to Opryland USA SO badly, and I could draw Minnie Pearl from memory, if I could actually draw, which I can't.

After that five minutes that's given me the gift of those memories, we went to the awesomest restaurant on the planet: Aquarium Restaurant. Its shtick is a little obvious, but effective:


I can't even tell you what we ate, except that it was expensive, but I was pretty much vibrating with happiness at eating whatever it was right by this giant aquarium with sharks and rays and puffer fish and such. I almost knocked over my glass of VERY expensive cocktail three separate times.

We wandered the entirety of the aquarium after dinner, then headed to what is probably the weirdest thing that Nashville has to offer:

Yes, that IS a life-size, full-scale, utterly accurate recreation of the Parthenon.

After our months-long mythology study, how could we NOT go there?!?







I think they have an art museum in there, but since it was nighttime, we had the place mostly to ourselves.

Atlanta was our tour stop for the next day, so when we could finally drag ourselves away from the Parthenon, we drove south for another hour, then stopped at a cheap motel, where Syd and I played Battleship and then I showed the kids a bunch of Youtube videos from The Grand Ole Opry. They were surprisingly into it--although much of it may have been their humor at the some of the appallingly racist songs of those decades of country music, sigh--and Will even became indignant that I hadn't been nice enough to book us a tour of the Grand Ole Opry.

I see a History of Country Music unit study in our future, with a culminating project that involves a return to Nashville!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Work Plans for the Week of March 06, 2017: A Screaming Thrill-Ride through the Civil War

Girl Scout cookie season is almost over, my Friends! Our dozens of cookie booths are over (with another troop mom not accidentally locking us all out of the credit card reader app until the very last booth--it's a cookie season miracle!), our entire troop cookie stock--that's 6,490 cookies, for those of you playing the home game--is sold out, and all I have to do this week is make the final deliveries, order the last cookies to meet the last orders and pick them up and deliver them, collect all of the kids' money from their personal cookie sales, deposit all of that money, organize the final payment to the council, audit our account to make sure all of that money is where it's supposed to be, and fill out and submit all of the paperwork.

That's all.

You might have noticed that I didn't write weekly work plans for the entirety of February. We dropped most of our regular units for the month--History of Science, the Animal Behavior MOOC, and even grammar--while the kids continued with math, typing, mythology (including studying for and taking the National Mythology Exam), and SAT prep for Will, and worked a lot on Girl Scout badges, did a lot of goofing around while listening to audiobooks, played outside a lot, did a lot of art (even Will!), helped me with Girl Scout cookie stuff, read a LOT of books, watched some documentaries, and completed a couple of Junior Ranger badges by mail.

We homeschool year-round, so I don't let myself stress about the times that we're less focused on academics, especially not when I can see the kids visibly growing in other ways during these times. Will had a huge leap in effort and progress in fencing last month, and Syd discovered an online math game that she happily played daily, completing math fuss-free that would give her fits when done on paper. Will voluntarily spent time focused on activities that were NOT reading or longing for screens. Syd sold 1,000 freaking boxes of Girl Scout cookies, and I can't even tell you the amount of drive and determination and stick-to-itness that requires--just imagine doing it yourself, and see how you'd feel.

We're back to weekly work plans this week, just in time to zip through an entire Civil War unit in just one week. We'll be visiting three or four Civil War battlefields on our upcoming road trip, and of course a vacation just isn't fun unless you've studied for it!

We can get away with this week-long unit because the kids have studied the Civil War before, and can certainly recall at least the basics. As we go through it again I'll expect them to pick up more details and be able to contextualize better, and, of course, they'll be learning about three or four battles in great detail at the battlefield sites. I've added in some reading comprehension to assist in focusing on those facts that are going to fly by so quickly, and on most days, some play with online interactives to make the war come alive, and a recipe to make, mainly to engage Syd.

Books of the Day this week are a hodgepodge: a couple of books of Norse mythology, because the kids were intrigued by what they read while studying for the National Mythology Exam last month; a couple of novels (The Princess Diaries for Syd, to encourage her to read a longer book, and The Things They Carried for Will, in case our Civil War study accidentally romanticizes war); a couple of books on Ancient Greece, in case I can actually figure out how to get us to Greece on vacation this year; a couple of books on the weather, because I'm still trying to get that unit going but haven't yet, and a couple of good picture books, because you should always read good picture books.

Memory Work this week is a review of "The Gettysburg Address"--



--and a list of common prepositions. Other daily work includes practice with Typing.com, Will's work in the Khan Academy SAT prep program, journaling for Syd and copywork for Will (who flat-out refuses to journal, ugh), Wordly Wise for Will and a word ladder for Syd, and Analytical Grammar for Will and Junior Analytical Grammar for Syd.

And here's the rest of our week!



MONDAY: Our first day back sitting at a table all together has only been moderately rocky so far, with Syd exhibiting her typical level of distractedness and Will her typical level of surliness, but still word ladders, grammar, and math are being done... distractedly and in a surly manner, but done.

We're using History of US book 6: War, Terrible War as the spine for our Civil War unit, reading approximately 8 chapters a day. Our public library doesn't have this on audiobook, so I finally found a chance to use that free Audible trial they're always advertising to score the audiobook for free! The entire audiobook is about 4.5 hours, so that's about an hour of listening a day for Syd, and much less time reading for Will. They'll be filling in the blanks of this very thorough worksheet summary after each reading, and though the activity will be open-book, I think the experience will help cement the details into their minds.

We might spend more time on the Underground Railroad after our trip--I'd love to visit some sites, and I have it in my head that the kids and I should make a quilt--but on this day, they'll just play one of the Mission: US games that they love, this one on the Underground Railroad.

Syd especially loves to bake, and I know that all the reading in this unit is going to be pretty dry for her, so as a treat, on most days we'll also be baking a Civil War-era recipe. Today's recipe is Scotch short-cake, an 1850 recipe that would have worked well as a treat sent to the soldiers.

TUESDAY: Hardtack isn't the funnest recipe to eat, but it's a fitting recipe to make on the day that we'll be learning, in part, about the lives of soldiers of both the Union and Confederacy. Maybe I'll make chili for dinner on that day, and we can have hardtack with it instead of cornbread. The kids also have one more online activity on the Underground Railroad to complete, after the reading and worksheets.

WEDNESDAY: We're spending the day in Indianapolis! Will is serving as a page for the day in the Indiana General Assembly, and Syd and I... I don't know what we're going to do. Explore downtown, perhaps. Perhaps visit one of the museums in walking distance of downtown. Perhaps something completely different!

THURSDAY: Most of the Junior Ranger books for the battlefields that we're visiting are not online (including the Chickamauga and Chattanooga one, which I've heard is tedious and extensive, alas), but the one for Stones River National Battlefield is, so the kids can get a head start on at least that one, after doing their reading and worksheets. For a treat afterwards, we'll bake Mary Todd Lincoln's white cake... and then find something to do with six egg yolks.

FRIDAY: We'll be completing our whirlwind trip through the entirety of War, Terrible War today--feel free to heave a deep sigh with us! Brainpop has a good summary video, so the kids will watch that, pass the quiz, and do the online activities, and then I'll let them goof off on the site as long as they want. They LOVE Brainpop! Afterwards, we'll bake gingerbread loaf, a much-desired treat for wounded soldiers. We'll also clearly experiment with the oven temperature, as that wasn't a thing in the 1860s!

SATURDAY/SUNDAY: On Friday night, Will has the Spring Ice Show performance that she'll have been practicing for all week, and after that--we're going to relax!

What are your plans for the week?

Friday, March 3, 2017

Finally, the Apology Letter That I Deserve

Y'all know by now that this kid and I clash. A lot.


She is a wild little hellion who doesn't care what anyone else thinks, and who doesn't see why she should have to do the smallest thing that she doesn't want to do. She's independent and fierce, with a big brain and a big heart and a big... wherever stubbornness lives in one's body. That place is VERY big within her.

We were clashing the other day, in that I was telling her what I wanted her to do, and she was interrupting me every two words to argue as hard as she could against doing whatever it was--her math, or the dishes, or picking up that piece of paper off the floor. It doesn't matter, but she was willing to die on the Hill of Not Doing It if she had to.

Every time she interrupted me I would pause, let her finish her sentence, then say, "Did you hear how you interrupted me?"

She'd say something like, "Yes, ugh, sorry, whatever."

I'd begin my sentence again, get two words in, and she'd interrupt me.

Pause. Repeat. Interrupt. Pause. Repeat.

I finally got so fed up with this that I told her that she had to write me an essay, the topic of which would be "I Shall Not Interrupt."

Oh. My. WORD! If you thought that she was upset about doing her math or the dishes or picking that piece of paper up off of the floor, then you have actually seen nothing until you have seen her upset about having to write an essay of apology!

Side note: Is it just me, that every time I hit upon a consequence that inspires that kind of reaction, in my head I go, "Mwa-ha-ha! YES!!!"? It's probably just me. I'm mean like that.

There was more arguing from her, I mean of COURSE, but I held my ground that nothing else good would happen in her life until she had written this essay, minimum 400 words. Nothing good means no screens. No library. No summer trip to Holiday World, if it goes that far. And then I eventually walked away, as she wept furious tears and screamed in outrage for me to come back so we could argue some more.

Maybe I hid in my room and had a little glass of the wine that was leftover from the night before. We were temporarily down to one car and I was home for the day, so you can't judge me.

Later, I walked by with some laundry and saw that she was, indeed, at the computer, but was just furiously typing "I shall not interrupt" over and over again. I reminded her that a good essay has a thesis statement, and evidence and original thought, and that I would only accept a single sentence written one time. Cue more outrage and fury and tears and screaming. I did the laundry and went to have a little snackie, because I eat my pain.

Much later, I walked by again, and this time she was typing away but smiling at the screen. "Oh, Lord, give me strength," I thought, but kept on walking.

Much, much later, with an honest-to-gawd smirk on her face, she presented me with this:




This little brat has just written the greatest thing that I have ever received. My favorite part is how she hits all of my sweet spots--she knows that I think I'm a crap gardener, and after our last fencing class she comforted me the whole ride home because our instructor decided to teach us the fine and subtle art of the victory yell (there are a lot of rules to this, and it's very psychologically interesting) and I immediately discovered that my victory yell actually makes me sound like I'm a freaking fairy princess of the Flower Kingdom, and I also have an awful celebratory pose that looks like I'm about to prance off the fencing strip and go to a child's tea party. And it's instinctual. I can't stop myself from doing it. And doing it repeatedly got me so frustrated that I lost all my bouts ridiculously, going for failed counter-attack after counter-attack, when really I should have been retreating and parry-riposting, because my lunge distance is too short to even think about pulling off a counter-attack. And I fell for every single stupid feint that my opponent gave me, even though he wasn't supposed to be feinting at all because the instructor hadn't added them to the drill yet. Ugh!!!

So, yeah. I liked the part about the victory yell.

I hope this kid never loses this spirit that drives her.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

A Road Trip to Georgia WIP

Now that we're past most (not all, but most) of the big stresses of February, our school days have been much happier and more relaxed for me. I'm enjoying watching the kids stay busy with the projects that consume this month--

Syd working on her Trashion/Refashion Show entry--we finished it yesterday and submitted it! Another February stressor done and DONE!
Will working on a project for her Cadette Woodworker badge--Girl Scout badges are great for the kids to work on as part of their schoolwork, especially when we're otherwise so busy. They're basically a packaged, kid-led cross-curricular curriculum, and it doesn't take a ton of extra planning to turn them into mini unit studies.

--while I, too, work on my February-specific projects. I'll be doing Girl Scout cookie stuff for another week and a half, although much of the work for that has already been done. Syd and I just finished her Trashion/Refashion Show entry--I'm not pleased with my photos, as it was a grey day outside AND her garment is mostly black and/or shiny, and that's impossible to photograph well, but at least it's done.

As a little reward for being so productive, I let myself spend some time working on a specific itinerary for an upcoming road trip. I've been researching it for a while, but it's high time to nail down a better list of options for where we want to go and what we want to do while we're there. Here's what I've got so far:

  • Nashville. Unfortunately, most of the things to do in Nashville are music-related things that only *I* would want to do, so we won't be doing them. I do occasionally drag the kids along to places that are for me, not them, but I don't think that this trip will include any of those occasions. We'll be spending a day or less in Nashville, then, and here are my only must-do places currently:
    • We probably won't go inside, but we've studied too much about the Parthenon in Athens to miss its recreation in Nashville!
    • We're ASTC Passport Program members, so we always like to hit up the local hands-on museum wherever we are. Passport museums in Georgia are few (Atlanta doesn't even have one!), so we'll for sure check out this one in Nashville
  • Nashville to Atlanta. There are two National Parks that I want to hit on the five-hour drive between Nashville and Atlanta. Since we'll likely be staying overnight in Atlanta on our way home, as well, we could hopefully hit one going one way and the other on the return trip:
    • Stones River National Battlefield. The only battlefield of note that we visited during our Civil War study years ago was Gettysburg, and the prevalence of Civil War battlefields on this trip has me planning a very brief second study for March. Revisiting a topic is one of my favorite homeschool strategies; each time we do so, the kids come to it with a better understanding, better able to retain more sophisticated information and a more-detailed context.
    • I have been warned that the Junior Ranger book for Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park is long (and tedious), so it's possible that we'll print it and do some of it in advance, or collect it on the way down to Atlanta, work on it some in the car, then finish it and earn the badge on the way back.
  • Atlanta. We've got two days in Atlanta, and more than two days' worth of things that I want to see, so I'll have to be selective, sigh...
    • The Georgia Aquarium is a must-see. We all adored our sharks study, and the Georgia Aquarium has whale sharks! I long to give Will this whale shark dive experience as a gift, but it's simply too expensive, alas. We'll just have to look at them through glass...
    • The Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site is another must-do, even though we've already been there once. The kids weren't collecting Junior Ranger badges when we first went there, and we've studied so much more Civil Rights since then that I'm eager to see the kids re-experience the place with more understanding.
    • Chatahoochie River National Recreation Area is a little outside of Atlanta, but would be a lovely way to spend some time if the weather is nice, and it has a Junior Ranger badge.
    • The Atlanta Zoo is a big maybe. The kids LOVE zoos, but I have far less patience for them (also they make me sad), and since we're already visiting an aquarium in Atlanta, the zoo will be low priority.
    • Even though it will surely be mostly glorified propaganda, like Hershey's Chocolate World was, I still want to visit World of Coca-Cola solely for the room where you can sample international varieties. It's right by the aquarium, so it's possible that we could spend most of the day at the aquarium and then the afternoon here.
    • The CNN World Headquarters is also right there, and we'll definitely stop by. I want to do the tour, but it's awfully pricey, considering how little info they give about what you'll see. I want to see real news reporting in the making! It also kind of depends on if we decide to purchase an Atlanta City Pass
  • Atlanta to Savannah. We have to make this trip in one morning, as we have tour tickets for the afternoon, so any stops we want to make will be on the way back:
    • Ocmulgee National Monument is a prehistoric Native American site, and I am REALLY excited about seeing it! It will, of course, inspire a brief review of North America's prehistoric settlement--A History of US is an excellent resource for this.
  • The Georgia Coast. We're heading to Savannah first for the afternoon, but I'm hoping that we can score a hotel on the beach--even better if it's on one of the islands!--and enjoy some time with sand and sun for a couple of days.
    • Juliette Gordon Lowe Birthplace. The kids and I are SO excited about this! A pilgrimage to the home of the founder of the Girl Scouts is a Big Deal, and by doing this, the kids will earn a special pin that they can keep on their uniforms for their entire time as Girl Scouts.
    • Fort Sumter is a little far away, but it's a possibility that fits into our Civil War study and has a Junior Ranger badge.
    • Fort Pulaski National Monument is the same, but in the opposite direction, and I've heard that its Junior Ranger book is so creative and fun that it won an actual award.
We don't usually make a production about eating out on vacation--in fact, one of the ways that we save money FOR vacations is by NOT eating out during them!--but I'm a Southern girl, and I miss my Mamma's home cooking, so I am going to make a point of finding a couple of places to eat that have the kind of genuinely Southern cuisine of my childhood. I'm salivating a little right now, thinking about buttermilk biscuits and country ham and fried okra and sweet tea and maybe, just maybe, maybe even pimiento cheese... yum.

So let me know if you have any suggestions for good places to eat, or what to do or NOT to do in Atlanta, or reasonably-priced beach accommodations on the Georgia coast, or good resources for our Civil War or prehistoric North America studies!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Slime and the Fire Volcano: The 2017 Homeschool Science Fair

I made it clear to my two that they were on their own with the Science Fair this year. What with Girl Scout cookie season and the Trashion/Refashion Show deadline, I am up to my gills in responsibilities that I'm already fulfilling for the children, and I did not have time to baby/bully two big kids through their umpteenth academic fair, as well.

Choose your topics and fly free, Younglings!

So that's how one kid chose Slime for her topic, and the other kid (in her second year of explosives-related topics) chose Fire Volcano.

Of course, I did have to help a little. I suggested to Syd that she research non-Newtonian fluids and include her findings in her presentation, and I made Will a fresh batch of rocket candy and suggested some flammable materials that she could add to her choices--rum was a bust, but rubbing alcohol was pretty epic.

The kids did everything else. Syd created several batches of gak and slimes, researched and wrote an interactive presentation (when she asks a question during her presentation, in her notes she's written down different things that she can say based on the response. It's pretty brilliant), created a display with no input from me (and it's better for it--I've never seen a Science Fair display with funny math jokes before!), and prepared a demonstration to be performed during her presentation.



The presentation kind of goes to hell after I cut off the video, because somehow, between pre-making the demo slimes and handing them out, the slimes all got really, really, REALLY sticky. Add to that the fact that Syd wasn't able to let her glitter slime steep long enough, so it was basically still glue at the end, and within 30 seconds all of the children's hands were covered in sticky slime. It was... chaotic. Syd's little face fell at the children's exclamations of disgust at the mess, and I was worried that she'd think her well-prepared presentation had fallen flat, but after the presentations, all of the children flocked back to the slimes, peppered her with questions, wanted to hold them all again, stickiness aside, and she packed up thrilled with the overall experience. Whew!

Will edited and compiled a video of her successful combustions (she left out rum and the cornstarch bomb, which were both busts)--



--and narrated the video as her presentation:



I'd wanted her to also create a display, and I told her so, but when she asked if she *had* to, I admitted that although I'd like her to, I was too busy to make her (or rather, I was to busy to offer several rounds of constructive criticism of her half-assed, unenthusiastic work on said display until after ages upon ages she'd finally reached the minimum level of effort that I would permit her to expend), and so she didn't. She also didn't prepare her written narration, nor did she look up, as I'd REALLY wanted her to, the combustion formulas for the materials, or the temperatures at which they burn (and ha! Because she totally got asked that one!), nor did she demonstrate, as I'd thought she should after what she was showing her audience, "Stop, Drop, and Roll." Oh, well... my limited free time and mental health are more important that making my kid have the most well-researched Science Fair project in Meeting Room 1B.

I'd been worried that the project was a little "homeschool"--you know what I mean?--but I often forget that with kids, simpler is always so much better, and there's a lot interesting in the simple observations of the combustion of various materials. The audience, at least, seemed fascinated, and asked Will tons of questions,  so many so that, as is probably clear on the audio, I became concerned that all of the children were about to go home, sneak their parents' nail polish remover out of the bathroom, and go set their yards on fire.

Fun fact: academic fairs are kind of the worst to sit through, as you have to patiently witness all the children practicing their newborn public speaking skills, and it's just so awkward to watch them being all awkward and uncomfortable, etc. Nevertheless, I LOVE kids' presentations, and their displays, and seeing what they're interested in, and I'm pretty sure that I was the first person on this one kid's homemade paper airplane testing field, although my paper airplane design, even though it was freaking brilliant, did not fly 27 feet in a straight line and therefore I was not able to sign my name at the end.

Humph.

So we enjoyed an evening of slime, Fire Volcano, the megaladon, flight--

testing their designs on the homemade paper airplane run
--birds, force and wind energy, and why salt melts ice. Then we read in the library for a while, then went out for frozen yogurt, then went home, then some of us ate sandwiches, and then all of us went to bed!

Check out all of our previous Science Fairs below:

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

I Made My Kid a Shirt

Does anyone actually like making muslins?

Not me! It's a freaking waste of fabric, that's for sure, although fine, I get even more pissed if I sew something and it doesn't fit correctly, especially because it would have fitted perfectly if I'd JUST SEWN A FREAKING MUSLIN FIRST.

I compromise with myself in that, when I DO sew a muslin, I try to make it something that will be wearable in its own right, if it works, but out of fabric that I won't be sorry to repurpose or turn into dishrags if it doesn't work. It's even fun, because I'll make fabric choices that I wouldn't normally make, such as the time that I sewed this muslin for Syd out of mismatched stash fabrics that she loved but that I didn't care for and probably wouldn't use in garments of my own design.

How do I end up with stash fabric that I don't love? I cave to kids in fabric stores, that's how.

I've made two recent "muslins that aren't really," both for Syd's Trashion/Refashion Show garment for this year. One was this basic upcycled jean skirt--

It's sewn from a pair of jeans that fit Syd well in the waist but that were too short and had holes in the knees, to boot--mending the knees of kid-sized skinny jeans is a nightmare repair job! The front piece is stash flannel, the blue dotted bias tape is the last scrap leftover from this hooded towel, and since it wasn't quite long enough for the entire circumference I made two matching pieces of bias tape from the pink flannel to piece it out to fit. See? A little too mismatched for my taste, but the kid likes it just fine.

--which I'm just now realizing the kid tricked me into making shorter than I'd like her skirts to be, but which also let me test out the construction method and desired look for the denim/formalwear fabric skirt that I'm entering in the show.

The other muslin is for a shirt that I'll also sew out of formalwear, but from stretch fabrics that allowed me to substitute jersey knit for the muslin. This turned into a shirt that I really love:

Why yes, I AM using the crap out of that "Think Spring" backdrop for as long as the drive-in owners keep it up. Fun fact: the other night, while I distracted the kids, Matt had to sneak over there in the dark and fix it back, because we came home from fencing and ballet to find that some hooligans had changed it to "Thick Pricks." And THEN about five minutes after Matt had gone out, I saw the lights from a police car RIGHT IN FRONT OF OUR HOUSE! I was about to tear outside and run over to inform the cops that Matt was FIXING IT, DAMMIT, but just then he came back in and said that he'd just finished, and the lights were just a police car pulling over a speeder. Whew!
 I really love the hood that I drafted, and the light blue/black color combo. The black fabric is stash jersey knit of indeterminate origin, and the blue fabric is from the backs of two matching Girl Scout camp T-shirts from a few years ago. I didn't think of the idea before I'd already tossed a couple of outgrown Girl Scout T-shirts, but now I'm saving them all for a couple of someday quilts.

The sleeves of this pattern were too short--see? So glad that I sewed a muslin!--and I was sewing late at night while Matt was finishing up a Girl Scout cookie booth with the kids and I managed to sew the ribbing on one cuff inside out. I just sewed the second cuff to match.

I altered the pattern piece of the sleeves to lengthen them after this, but then it turns out that the formal blouse that I'm using for part of the shirt in Syd's Trashion/Refashion Show garment doesn't have enough material for full-length sleeves, anyway, so that shirt will actually have half-length sleeves.

Oh, well. I like this pattern well enough that I'm sure I'll make a few more. You can't have too many long-sleeved hooded T-shirts!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Twenty Years of To-Do Lists

I was cleaning the other day (I know--big shocker!), and I found many random things. For instance, why did I move house with my entire cloth diaper stash, four years after my last baby toilet trained?

It's all on ebay now, although I probably would have made a lot more off of those diapers if I'd sold them when they weren't "vintage."

I found my wedding album, which I'd been looking everywhere for since I moved. What happened to its cover, however? No idea. I guess that now I get to design a new one!

I recycled several previous generations of instruction manuals for cameras and sewing machines that I no longer have.

I found my mending queue, stuffed into a box and moved to our new house and then put onto a shelf in the back closet. It was actually hard to look at that little stack of little pants with torn knees and little shirts with ripped seams--how did I ever have children so tiny? If you sew, then one day, while your children are still small, I want you to simply whisk away your entire mending queue--yes, the whole thing!--and put it into a time capsule. Look at it again when you and your kids share a shoe size. It will make you cry.

I also found a bunch of old notebooks, and when I flipped through them, I found a bunch of old notes! I don't know why I kept all of my college notebooks, from undergrad and grad school, but I'm pretty stoked to have them now. It turns out that I used to have way better handwriting than I have now, but I didn't start to take all of my class notes in outline format until grad school. I don't think I organized my notes at all as an undergrad!

It turns out, though, that I always wrote to-do lists, and lots of them. I don't remember when I bought my first planner, but it possibly wasn't until I had kids who had extracurriculars that had to be organized. Before that, they showed up in all of my school notebooks, all over all of the pages. Here's my to-write list of topics for the Opinion column that I used to write for my undergrad newspaper, The TCU Daily Skiff:


The other Opinion writers and I measured our success by how many Letters to the Editor were received in response to us. If you REALLY hit a nerve, sometimes a reader would send a personal letter directly to you, as well, or even find out your phone number and call you directly. I got a phone call once from the Student Health Center when I wrote that they should offer the morning after pill. I received a letter, like a genuine, in-the-mail, postage stamped LETTER once, in response to I don't remember what article, but I do remember that the writer was a very devoutly Christian woman who took deep offense to something sacrilegious that I'd written. It actually could have been the same column that pissed off the Student Health Center, as a matter of fact. Anyway, this writer made her points with different colors of inks, and stickers, and a lot of underlining and circling important phrases. Interestingly, my second job (I generally had three to four at any given time to pad out my scholarship) was in the special collections library, and I did a lot of work with the Marguerite Oswald collection. She was convinced that her son had been framed for assassinating Kennedy, and her papers consisted of her fruitless research into that topic, as well as all of the mail she received, both fan mail and hate mail. Many letters of both types were from crazy people. Many of them made their points with different colors of inks, and stickers, and a lot of underlining and circling important phrases.

I was THRILLED to receive my first crazy-person hate mail! I am sure that I still have it somewhere. Perhaps I'll find it the next time I clean...

These next couple of to-do lists make me the happiest, though. The first is from the summer that I had Will. It's clear that I was in serious nesting mode! I mean, washing the windows? I have washed the windows of this current house exactly once. This task listed below, if I ever got around to it, was probably the only time I washed windows in that house:

And this one, with a date of just days before I gave premature birth to Syd, I'm sure did not get completed:

I thought I had another six weeks to bust through that independent study project!

Here's what my to-do lists look like these days: 

All those cookie booths! 

I tend to put all my bits and bobs of notes in my planner these days, whether it's my percentages for making cookie orders, or my plans for sewing Syd's fashion show garment, or lesson plans for future school units or Girl Scout badges, or even, clearly, a bit of old-fashioned math.

I also keep these planners. I don't know if anyone will ever care about them, beyond me--I certainly don't expect to have my papers in a special collections library one day!--but I do like to look through them and reminisce. Looking at my schedule of taking little ones to gymnastics, or Creative Movement, or Montessori Family Night, is a reminder of how fleeting the inconveniences of their childhood are, as fleeting as the pleasures. Seeing something to do with Pappa or Mac written down as casual as you please is a reminder to appreciate my loved ones. Whole weeks blocked off remind me of our great vacations.

Although those to-do lists with things that never got marked through still make me kind of tense to look at...

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