June 30, 2006


First, we are done, done, done with Swim Club. Yes, the kids had great fun with ready access to a pool, their swimming improved tremendously, they loved wearing swim caps and goggles, and they adored swimming races and winning. But we don't have to be in town four evenings a week any more, and the two older kids don't have to do laps for an hour and a half every day. Yesterday was the last day, and we finished up with a barbecue potluck dinner for all the families at the provincial park.

Second, it rained this evening, just before supper. After a windy, drying week of temperatures around 90 degrees, and not much in the way of precipitation since the middle of the month, yoou could just about hear the garden heave a sigh.

Everyone and everything is having a bit of a rest this evening, appreciating the wet and quiet.

June 29, 2006

Having a Field Day

Grab a water bottle and pack a lunch, because today is the first ever (and Early Summer Edition) of Dawn's Field Day, packed with posts and photos.

I thought Dawn's closing thought, from John Muir, was wonderful: "When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world."

June 28, 2006

Don't get your hopes up

but inspired by the recent discoveries of the kildeer and bluebird nests, the peony's blossom, and how darn cute my kids are in the summer, I've been inspired to haul the digital camera out of the sock drawer. Since I know my courage and confidence need bolstering in the face of mod-ren technology, I've enlisted the support of the kids, who think this is all great fun and more than possible (which is more than their mother thinks). So far, Daniel has found some batteries and installed them in the charger. They should be juiced up by the time we return from Swim Club tonight. The actual photography should be easy enough, but the next hurdle will be the downloading or uploading or whatever you call it. Stay tuned, and clap your hands or cross your fingers or hold your breath or whatever you think might help.

Box of books: "Eating Outdoors"

My parents, who believe that the way to a person's heart is through the stomach, helped us celebrate our anniversary earlier this month by sending along a box of new cookbooks. Nothing is more fun than getting a box of books from Amazon or Chapters than getting a box of books you didn't order yourself. Inside the box were three enormous volumes, and one slim one (though considering the size of the three others, slim is a relative term). I'll post a recipe or two from each over the next while, focusing on summery ones.

First up is Eating Outdoors: Cooking and Entertaining in the Open Air by Lindy Wildsmith. Wildsmith is an English food writer and cook, and her book is lovely -- most of the recipes are double-page spreads, with a color photograph (by Martin Brigdale) on one side and a fairly simple recipe on the other. The recipes are divided into four chapters, "Barbecues", "Families Outdoors", "Picnics" (more of the elegant English style than the slapdash North American kind), "Elegant al fresco", and "Drinks".

Here's Wildsmith's recipe for Catalan Salad, "a refreshing change from the more usual Salade Nicoise", from the "Families Outdoors" chapter:
Catalan Salad with tuna and aioli (serves 4)

3-1/2 oz. thin green beans (haricot verts)
2 heads baby romaine lettuces
3-1/2 oz. thinly sliced serrano ham or prosciutto
4 hard-cooked eggs, halved lengthwise (the photo shows the yolks still moist and not too hard-cooked, er, boiled)
6-1/2 oz. good-quality canned tuna, drained and broken into large chunks; for a variation, you can use chicken breasts
8 large pitted green olives, halved
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp. sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 egg yolk [raw; this doesn't seem to be the concern here it is for most North American cookbook writers and publishers; if you have doubts about the freshness of your eggs and the safety of eating raw eggs, cook the egg in its shell in gently simmering water for 1 to 1-1/2 minutes first]
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

To make the aioli, put the garlic cloves in a mortar and bash them lightly with a pestle, pulling away the skin as it frees itself [you could use peeled cloves and just run them through a garlic press]. Add the salt and grind the garlic to a smooth paste. Transfer to a large, wide bowl, add the lemon juice and the egg yolk and whisk with a metal whisk. Continue whisking as you add the olive oil a few drops at a time; as the aioli starts to thicken, add the oil in a slow, steady stream. This should take about 5 minutes. If you prefer a lighter mayonnaise, whisk in 2 tablespoons of boiling water. Transfer to a serving bowl, cover and chill until required.

Cook the beans in salted water for 3-4 minutes until al dente, then drain and plunge into ice water. Drain and dry. Cover a large platter with lettuce leaves, then fan the beans around the rim of the platter, sticking out from under the edge of the lettuce leaves. Twist the slices of serrano ham and arrange them on the lettuce leaves, then arrange the eggs, tuna, and olive halves on top. Drizzle the olive oil and vinegar over the salad, then add salt and pepper. Serve with the aioli in a separate bowl.
Bon appetit, and merci beaucoup!

Quintessential Canada ahead of Canada Day

Some new and different things to share with your kids:

Sir John A. Macdonald action figure (at left), $11.99 CAN

Mike Ford's "Canada Needs You" CD, nominated for a Juno (Canadian Grammy) in 2005 for Best Children's Album. The 12 songs from pre-1905 Canada include I'm Gonna Roam, Thanadelthur, Les Voyageurs, The Oak Island Mystery, La Patriote, Turn Them Ooot, Sir John A. -- You're O.K., D'Arcy McGee, Louis & Gabriel, Canada Needs You, A Woman Works Twice As Hard, and I've Been Everywhere; just for fun, a little historical background on the songs.

Contes traditionnels du Canada [Traditional Canadian Tales], book & CD set, a bargain at $9.99 CAN

Our Canadian Girl and Dear Canada historical book series (similar to the American Girl historical book series). By the way, the fine folks at Penguin Canada have a very nice Our Canadian Girl free timeline for teachers and home educating parents.

Canadian children's publisher Kids Can Press

Professor Noggin's Geography of Canada card game and History of Canada card game, for ages seven and up. Noggin is a Canadian company but has some other interesting games, including ones based on the American Revolution, Creatures of Myth & Legend, and Ancient Civilizations.

Growing with Grammar 4 is here!

Great good news from my friend Tamy Davis at Growing with Grammar: she's finished with Growing Grammar 4, for fourth graders! Laura enjoyed using GWG3 this past year, and is looking forward to the next book. My Farm School review of GWG3 is here.

Don't forget, Canadians can find GWG at Academic Distribution Services (ADS) in B.C. The new volume was only just released, so ADS may not have it just yet.

I don't get any commission for spreading the word about Tamy's new series -- I just get a solid, grammar program for my kids, one that independent readers can use more or less on their own, and one that even reluctant writers won't find too taxing. And it's secular, too, which means you can spend your time teaching and learning instead of tinkering. Thanks, Tamy.

Speaking of education

Here's the latest in edumacation news in our fair province, where money is gushing out of the ground faster than brains can think:
  • According to the Alberta School Board Association, nearly half of the province's school boards are reporting annual deficits, four times the number in financial difficulty five years ago. Because I tend to think that what's wrong with education in Alberta (and likely elsewhere in North America) isn't a money problem -- which means that more money isn't the solution -- I don't see a light at the end of the tunnel with the finance minister's recent announcement of a surprise, and record $8.7 billion budget surplus, even if the government does decide to give the schools more moola. Locally, for example, the schools go on frequent computer upgrading sprees, clearing ever more books out of libraries to make room for monitors, so they can teach second graders how to make Power Point presentations. However, high schoolers are expected to make collages instead writing essays.
  • Throwing more money around, Alberta Education is spending $400,000 to find out why so many high school students are dropping out. The current "high school completion rate" is 77.4 percent, but the educrats would like to see it at 90 percent. The Edmonton Sun reports,
    [Education Minister and former teacher Gene] Zwozdesky said one idea might be to take students on more field trips to see various workplaces or to use computers and videoconferencing to bring close-up views of possible careers into the schools.

    "I think it's important for students to realize that the future is very much around a knowledge-based economy," said Zwozdesky. "The better paying jobs and the higher paying jobs and the jobs that provide great opportunities for personal growth are largely predicated on at least completing high school and hopefully more. There's a great value in education."
    For considerably less, I'd be happy to give the Minister an answer and save him some money: why waste time and money getting a high school degree when you can earn big bucks in the oil patch, or even serving coffee and doughnuts at Fort MacMurray (for around $14 an hour)? This is, by the way, what happens when people are taught, in high school and elsewhere, to confuse value with money, to value money, and to confuse an education with career training.
  • From The Globe & Mail:
    A battle for the moral high ground has erupted in Calgary, where the city's influential Roman Catholic bishop has issued a damning indictment of the local school board's decision to continue to use gambling as a source of fundraising for its cash-strapped schools.

    In a letter sent this week to each of the 97 schools in the Calgary Catholic School District, Bishop Fred Henry threatened "blacklisting" of schools that engage in "immoral fundraising, as well as stripping them of their Catholic designation, and announced that he won't preside at the liturgy to open the school year.

    "It is morally wrong for a Catholic institution to formally co-operate in an industry that exploits the weak and the vulnerable," he wrote. "The end does not justify the means."
    Although I don't agree with some of Bishop Henry's other opinions, I'm with him on this. Every year, organizations across the province from playschools to elementary schools to libraries submit applications to work at bingos and casinos (the booming Ft. MacMurray is a very hot prospect, with hall those oilfield workers eager to be separated from their cash) and to receive lottery funds. Interestingly, about $83 million annually from the Alberta Lottery Fund goes toward the budget for Alberta's Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission (AADAC), which also covers gambling. AADAC's own website points out that "An estimated 5.2% of adult Albertans have a gambling problem" and "An estimated 3.9% of adult Albertans are moderate risk gamblers and 1.3% are problem gamblers." And there's a lot of talk both at AADAC and the provincial Ministry of Gaming (bet you didn't know we had one of those) about "Social Responsibility". Though not the same kind the Bishop is talking about.

Carnival Time

over at The Lilting House, where Melissa and her daughter Jane have done a wonderful quotefull job. Archives for previous Carnivals of Educations are here at the archive. And next week's Carnival of Education will be hosted by NYC Educator; officially, you're submit your posts to nyceducator (at) gmail (dot) com by 6 pm NYC time on Tuesday, July 4th, but do yourself and NYC Educator a favor and have it in early.

The Steel Magnolias at The Homeschool Cafe are hosting this week's Carnival of Homeschooling. The weather's getting kind of steamy in that part of the world, so Natalie has moved the festivities indoors to the air-conditioned Cafe.

Intermittent blogging ahead

I'll have to admit right now that I'm just not spending enough time by the computer, or even indoors, to do much blogging and I don't think that will change much in the next while, especially with Canada Day, two weddings, and the fair in our future. So you've been warned.

We've had hot, dry, sunny weather for the past week or so (and desperately in need of rain once again -- some of the grass is turning white and the leaves are starting to fall off the alfalfa, which needs cutting), and we've all been outside, tending the vegetable and flower gardens (finishing the radishes and starting in on the new spinach), admiring the new peony that burst into blossom, traipsing through the public cemetery for Tom's uncle's interment (which the minister kept referring to as an internment), buying and eating Fudgsicles, Creamsicles, and ice cream sandwiches, playing cowboys and Indians in the tall grass, hilling potatoes, reading under the rhubarb, weeding half of our baby trees (that would be about 700 saplings, in double rows, with hoes, the push rototiller, the rototiller attachment to the tractor, and by hand), watering same little trees, fashioning cages out of page wires to keep the deer from eating any more leaves off my Mother's Day apple trees (that was at 11 o'clock last night), eating watermelon with seeds, going to the homeschool end-of-year swim party, playing softball, attending the annual neighbors' picnic at a friends' farm, discovering a killdeer nest in the middle of our smallest nest and making a ring of rocks around it to make sure no-one drives over it, and trying to figure out how to move the nest that a determined but misguided bluebird built in the swather tube.

Far down inside the six-foot long swather tube. What made Tom think to look inside the tube yesterday before hitching the swather to the tractor is a mystery, but when he looked, there she was, sitting on her nest. One small egg was out of the nest, so she must have thought something was wrong with it and kicked it out. We can get Laura or Davy to reach in and rescue the egg (the perfect addition to our home nature museum) but the nest is beyond the reach of even a long, skinny, young arm. Tom is thinking of fashioning a sort of "pizza peel" to slide the nest out, and is also trying to find something a similar shape to the swather tube -- four inches in diameter, square -- in which to relocate the nest. And then the haying can start.

June 26, 2006

My deal of the week

Possibly of the month. Found at the Loblaws supermarket this afternoon: MGM's The Frank Sinatra Collection of three wonderful movies in nobody-wants-it-but-us-
anymore-video-format, for a grand total of $1.33 each. Even in U.S. dollars that's a steal. It sure beats $10 for a collection of Pink Panther cartoons on DVD; we love PP around here, but only on deeply discounted video.

That's $3.99 total for "Anchors Aweigh" (with Kathryn Grayson, from the kids' favorite Kiss Me Kate! Gene Kelly, too! Gene Kelly dancing with Jerry the Mouse from Tom & Jerry!); "On the Town" (more Gene Kelly! And the Museum of Natural History and Miss Turnstiles and Ann Miller, also from Kiss Me Kate! Not to mention Leonard Bernstein and Comden & Green and Stanley Donen), and "High Society" (Grace Kelly! Celeste Holm! Louis Armstrong! Cole Porter!). I know, I know, "The Philadelphia Story" is better, but if you were going to make a musical version and in the fifties, this is pretty darn good.

That's it then. Give us back our Stanley Cup...

From The Guardian:
The author of what has been described as the definitive dictionary of slang is gobsmacked, gutted, throwing up bunches, honked, hipped and jacked like a cock-maggot in a sink-hole. A North Carolina school district has banned the dictionary under pressure from one of a growing number of conservative Christian groups using the internet to encourage school book bans across the US.
The book is the revised edition of Cassell Dictionary of Slang by Britain's leading lexicographer of slang, Jonathon Green, and it joins five other books formally challenged by the Wake County school district, including The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier, Junie B. Jones, Some Sneaky, Peaky Spying by Barbara Park, Reluctantly Alice by Phyllis Reynolds, and In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak. According to the Guardian, school officials acted after pressure from a local Christian activist group, Called2Action, whose website asks people to "join our E-army today to take your place on the front lines of the battle for our children's future." Not surprisingly, they're not wild about Harry Potter either.

Perhaps the group and school board confused the Dictionary with another one of Mr. Green's collections, The Big Book of Filth: 6,500 Sex Slang Words and Phrases.

Green is quoted as saying, "I'm very flattered. It's not exactly book-burning but, in the great tradition of book censorship, there never seems to be the slightest logic to it."

June 25, 2006

Special occasions demand special things (so said Mrs. Bird)

"Oooh," said Paddington, "is it really for me?" He stared hungrily at the cake. It really was a wonderful cake. One of Mrs. Bird's best. It was covered with sugar icing and it had a cream and marmalade filling. On the top there was one candle and the words: TO PADDINGTON. WITH BEST WISHES FOR A HAPPY BIRTHDAY -- FROM EVERYONE.

It had been Mrs. Bird's idea to have a birthday party. Paddington had been with them for two months. No one, not even Paddington, knew quite how old he was, so they decided to start again and call him one. Paddington thought this was a good idea, especially when he was told that bears had two birthdays every year -- one in the summer and one in the winter.

"Just like the Queen," said Mrs. Bird. "So you ought to consider yourself very important."
from A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond

And this year, their summer birthday celebrations fell on the same day, today! Here's Her Majesty's version. And, in another coincidence, both Her Majesty and Michael Bond are 80 years old this year. Many happy returns times two to all, and marmalade sandwiches and cream-and-jam cakes all 'round!

June 23, 2006

Poetry Friday: The long, the lovely day

Somehow my E. Nesbit poem disappeared. Blame Blogger. Will repost as soon as I get a chance (probably sometime after our 17 hours of daily sunshine disappear).

June 21, 2006

Speaking of fairs...

Melissa at The Lilting House has a great roundup of the current (home) learning fairs, festivals, and carnivals, but my new favorite has to be one post down at Lilting House, Dawn at By Sun and By Candlelight's terrific idea of a Field Day, a veritable "carnival of nature study". Dawn would like to post the Early Summer edition on Thursday, June 29, so please send her your submissions by next Tuesday, June 27; for details and particulars, see the previous link. Looks like lots of fun!

And another reminder: Melissa will be hosting the June 28 edition of the Carnival of Education. Send your submissions to her by 6pm on the evening of June 27 (have a heart though, the woman has five children -- one of whom is only two months old -- and almost as many blogs, so send your entry early if you can!) at her email address, which you can find in her roundup post; Carnival of Education archives are here. Now for some rainy days and long evenings to get all that writing and reading done!

Homeschooling Country Fair: First Day of Summer edition

What better way to celebrate the longest day of the year than at the Country Fair?

Head over to Doc's for a variety of articles tucked everywhere from the Pavilion to the Grange Hall to the midway to the livestock pens. She's done a blue-ribbon job putting it all together!

The next Country Fair will be out the third Wednesday in July. Posting guidelines and archives for the previous fairs are here.

June 20, 2006

What we did on our first day of summer vacation

from formal homeschooling. Yesterday was a gorgeous June day, complete with deep blue sky and big, fluffy clouds, so we

-- picnicked by the dugout [Western Canadian term for a manmade pond) to watch the mallard pair, the coot family with its redheaded babies, a Sora rail, and assorted sandpipers

-- (this is an "I" and not a "we" item) backed the truck up over the (only belatedly realized too muddy) ditch to help our aging, arthritic dog hop in, only to get the truck stuck in the mud, good and "we need the tractor and a tow rope" stuck

-- walked home through the pasture, finding the first yarrow, and one leftover buffalo bean from last month

-- made a survey of all the wild roses that have just started blooming; the wild rose is the provincial flower, and while most are a rosy pink, some are white and some are a very dark pink, almost fuschia, with bright yellow centers

-- startled a deer out of her daytime nest, which startled all of us. The kids were surprised to see how big her patch of matted grass was.

-- were delighted to see the cavalry (aka Tom) riding to the rescue, on his way home briefly to pick up more tools for work; My truck was quickly pulled from the brink, and the boys rode off with Tom, while Laura galloped about bareback while I fed the chickens and the bull, and pulled some rhubarb stalks for another crisp.

Our timing yesterday was perfect. This morning I awoke to rain, goldfinches in the spruce tree, and a daughter with an eye infection and a general malaise, so it's time for a quiet day at home, with some new library books: Birds: Nature's Magnificent Flying Machines by Caroline Arnold, very carefully illustrated by Patricia J. Wynne; Year of the Barn Owl inspired by the lyrical but realistic illustrations of Terry Riley and written by John Andrews (this is a beautiful book, English and out of print but worth tracking down at the library, though not worth the nearly $80 asked by a nutty Amazon used bookseller); the new An Egg Is Quiet by Dianna Aston and illustrated magically by Sylvia Long.

June 19, 2006

The Well-Upholstered Couch

The other day hornblower wrote a post called The Well-Decorated Home, which was wasn't really about home decorating or even home schooling, but a few hours later the kids and I walked to the mailbox where I collected the latest issue of Canadian Home & Country magazine. Paging through it later that evening, hornblower's article must percolated through or pickled my thinking, because as I read one of the features about a rustic house on Prince Edward Island (which frankly didn't look all that rustic to me), I kept thinking how much decorating has in common with homeschooling.

Maybe I'm finally in a planning mood for September -- I've even thought of some books and CDs to buy for next year (will post a shopping list another day) -- or maybe it's just rained too much, but the more I thought about it, the more sense the comparison seemed to make.

Here's part of a Home & Country article, and see if you don't think the principles could be applied to curriculum, too. And if you can't, well, nuts to the squirrels. And thanks, hornblower, for getting the percolating started.

"Susan's tips for taking old treasures and reinventing them for a new space:
  • Try not to be sentimental. If the piece was once used in a formal setting, dress it down for a casual new purpose with a slipcover or a coat of paint."
You have to be unsentimental about books and programs as well. If it worked for your eldest but it's not a good match for kiddo number two -- or if a friend raved about it but it's not for your family -- tweak it or pitch it. It's easy enough to sell curriculum, and there's no point in hanging on to something trying to get your money's worth if it's not a good fit.
  • "Remove furnishings from their original context to see them in an entirely new light."
You don't have to use a book or program as the author or publisher intended. If you want to use all of First Language Lessons or the Explode the Code workbooks orally because it suits your child better, do it. If you want to supplement Singapore with Miquon or Math-U-See rather than using Singapore as is, go ahead (though ratcheting up your selections to include three different math programs, as some families do, doesn't exactly promote a love of math in the kids or sanity in the parent). If you want to use just the Handwriting without Tears workbooks without the expensive wooden letters, or make the letters yourself out of fun foam, be my guest!

And, it's not a bad idea to look at particular methods of homeschooling, or just a particular method, as a Chinese restaurant menu, choosing one item from column A and two from column B. If you follow The Well-Trained Mind, which is after all subtitled "A Guide to Classical Education at Home", as a mandatory set of requirements, you will tear your hair out; however, if you consider it as a framework or guide, and the books and programs mentioned as simply suggestions -- not to mention remembering that even Susan Wise Bauer doesn't follow the plan to the letter (and she has her mother, who homeschooled her and co-authored the book, living right next door), you and your kids will have a much easier and more pleasant time of it. After all, when you take a trip, you certainly don't stay in every hotel, eat in every restaurant, or visit every site recommended in the guide.
  • "Invite a second opinion. Someone less emotionally attached may have a different vision for your favourite chair."
If you're following a particular homeschooling method, say, WTM or unschooling, you might find something worth borrowing from the Charlotte Mason approach, for example, short lessons or nature studies instead of a full-blown life science curriculum.

Or, if you are following, say, WTM, don't hesitate to look beyond that book for book and curriculum suggestions. There are a wealth of suggestions to be found from other homeschoolers you know, and online at various Yahoo groups, blogs, and websites; some are listed on the sidebar at right and there are oodles more.
  • "Push the boundaries: many contemporary pieces work beautifully in a simple country house full of honest materials and finishes. Likewise, the odd period piece can add interest to a spare environment."
Like the idea of classical and unschooling? Combine them! It's definitely possible, as various homeschoolers, from Doc to Faith at Dumb Ox Academy to EveryWakingHour, have shown, and in great detail. Do you want to skip science or Latin in the grammar years while still following a more classical approach? It's up to you. Would you prefer to move your studies around a more traditional, Latin center? It's eminently possible. You can even abandon all the labels and methods and go for an eclectic approach, choosing whatever books, programs, or methods that appeal to your family, regardless of style. This, fortunately, works much better in your figurative homeschool than in your literal living room, where a wild array of styles might give you a headache.

The beauty of homeschooling is that, like furniture and home decor, it's not only flexible but should reflect your family and its tastes. As the article states, what you're meant to do is take "old treasures and reinvent them for a new space," make them fit their new surroundings, which is your own home school. Don't be afraid to try that lamp on the other side of the room, add a little Latin to your life, paint the kitchen purple, unschool science, whitewash everything -- walls and furniture -- (this idea, however, tends to give my husband the shakes), or try a new and different couch history book that's not recommended in the magazine book.


I completely forgot about Farm School's anniversary/birthday last Friday. I was reminded this morning when I read Chris Barton's anniversary post (congratulations, Bartography!).

I have no idea and don't much care about Farm School's Sitemeter stats (which tend to make me nervous, truth be told), or its status in the blog zoo and stock market. I don't even know how many posts I've written, though it's easy enough to check. What I do know is that I've very much enjoyed the additional writing I've been able to do, having a readily accessible place to park lists and other information and to share all the bits and pieces, and most of all, making and continuing new friendships. Now that's worth celebrating.

Call for submissions for the 4th Homeschool Country Fair

Heads-up from Doc:
For the summer season, one carnival a month will be published, on the third Wednesday of each month. The next carnival will be published June 21st (first day of summer, if you need a writing prompt!). Submit your entries as comments here, or email me here [I'm not sure how to link to an email address so find Doc's address at her blog]. See you at the fair!

THAT WOULD BE THIS WEDNESDAY. Come on, send me something. Write a summer haiku.

Update and warning: I'm going to be going through every blog on my blogroll and looking for an entry. (I'll ask for permission of course, to publish). Why make it hard on me? Just submit your favorite for me - you know you want to.

June 18, 2006

Something else again: Happy Father's Day...

...to all the marvelous and exciting fathers I know, especially my own father and the father of my children. There's nothing like an anniversary and Father's Day back-to-back to remind you of how very lucky you are.

From Danny, The Champion of the World by Roald Dahl:
"Good," I said. "Lovely." I reached out and slid my hand into his. He folded his long fingers around my fist and held it tight, and we walked on toward the village where soon the two of us would be inspecting all the different ovens with great care and talking to Mr. Wheeler personally about them.

And after that, we would walk home again and make up some sandwiches for our lunch.

And after that, we would set off with the sandwiches in our pockets, striding up over Cobblers Hill and down the other side to the small wood of larch trees that had the stream running through it.

And after that?

Perhaps a big rainbow trout.

And after that?

There would be something else after that.

And after that?

Ah yes, something else again.

Because what I am trying to tell you...

What I have been trying so hard to tell you all along is simply that my father, without the slightest doubt, was the most marvelous and exciting father a boy ever had.

June 17, 2006

Whoop de doo, darling

After 12 years, Tom and I continue to find each other as exhilarating as Cole Porter's lyrics, Bob Fosse's choreography, and Ann Miller's jazzy tapping.

And after 12 years, we know that love means not only having to say you're sorry (and picking up your socks), but also spending the day indoors at a pool with your three wonderful kids, and possibly not even going out to eat at a restaurant, even when said restaurant is within spitting distance of the pool, because it just happens to be Game Six of the Stanley Cup Finals, and why eat out when you can barbecue at home and catch the game. Even if you miss the face-off to stop off on the way home for necessities at Staples and Wal-Mart.

"From This Moment On"
Music and lyrics by Cole Porter

From this moment on, you for me dear,
Only two for tea dear, from this moment on.
From this happy day, no more blue songs,
Only whoop dee doo songs,
From this moment on.
For you've got the love I need so much,
Got the skin I love to touch,
Got the arms to hold me tight,
Got the sweet lips to kiss me goodnight,
From this moment on, you and I, babe,
We'll be ridin' high, babe.
Every care is gone, from this moment on.

June 16, 2006

And we're off, again

Yesterday was our last official day of formal school, though the kids will still be doing math (mostly Math-U-See), and quite a few other things, some at their insistence and suggestion, others at mine. Last summer we took quite a detour through Shakespeare, which everyone loved and which inspired Laura to memorize part of Henry V's "St. Crispin's Day Speech," so it's fun to think of where our academic travels will take us this summer.

Tom drove to Edmonton today for another machinery auction, hoping to snag a secondhand telehandler (no, I don't really know what one is, either, but I'm taking it on faith that we need one); I decided that the kids needed a bit of a quieter day before tomorrow's swim meet, so we're running errands and delivering eggs in town this afternoon and then all hitting the hay early.

Tomorrow we're off to the little city for Swim Meet Number Two, where all three are participating; Davy in one race, Daniel in two, and Laura in four. We have to be there by 8 am, and it's just under an hour away. Since tomorrow is our anniversary, and after nine hours of swim meeting none of us will have any desire to prepare a meal, Tom and I promised the kids dinner out, which means we won't be back on the doorstep until around 9 pm.

And we'll be spending the next day, Father's Day, hoeing those one-thousand-plus trees we planted last month. The rain that's been so helpful for getting the little saplings established has also been a boon to the weeds, which definitely need knocking down. Unless, of course, it rains enough between now and then that hoeing is useless, which is always possible.

Poetry Friday: Laureates, late and latest

In honor of the new Poet Laureate, and a past Laureate, some links and a poem:

A selection of poetry by Donald Hall; and by his late wife, the poet Jane Kenyon, from the very nice University of New Hampshire Library website;

Poet laureate poetry for children: Hall's Ox-Cart Man, illustrated by Barbara Cooney; and,

The Academy of American Poets page for Stanley Kunitz, who died last month at the age of 100, with a biography and links to several poems and interviews.

Peonies at Dusk
by Jane Kenyon

White peonies blooming along the porch
send out light
while the rest of the yard grows dim.

Outrageous flowers as big as human
heads! They're staggered
by their own luxuriance: I had
to prop them up with stakes and twine.

The moist air intensifies their scent,
and the moon moves around the barn
to find out what it's coming from.

In the darkening June evening
I draw a blossom near, and bending close
search it as a woman searches
a loved one's face.

June 14, 2006

You're a Grand Old Flag

You're a Grand Old Flag
Music and lyrics by George M. Cohan for the 1906 stage musical, George Washington, Jr.

There's a feeling comes a-stealing,
And it sets my brain a-reeling,
When I'm listening to the music of a military band.
Any tune like "Yankee Doodle"
Simply sets me off my noodle,
It's that patriotic something that no one can understand.
"Way down south, in the land of cotton,"
Melody untiring,
Ain't that inspiring?
Hurrah! Hurrah! We'll join the jubilee!
And that's going some, for the Yankees, by gum!
Red, white and blue, I am for you!

You're a grand old flag,
You're a high flying flag
And forever in peace may you wave.
You're the emblem of
The land I love.
The home of the free and the brave.
Ev'ry heart beats true
'neath the Red, White and Blue,
Where there's never a boast or brag.
But should auld acquaintance be forgot,
Keep your eye on the grand old flag.
Honest, you're a grand old flag!

I'm no cranky hanky panky,
I'm a dead square, honest Yankee,
And I'm mighty proud of that old flag
That flies for Uncle Sam.
Though I don't believe in raving
Ev'ry time I see it waving,
There's a chill runs up my back that makes me glad I'm what I am.
Here's a land with a million soldiers,
That's if we should need 'em,
We'll fight for freedom!
Hurrah! Hurrah! For every Yankee tar
And old G.A.R.
Ev'ry stripe, ev'ry star.
Red, white and blue,
Hats off to you
Honest, you're a grand old flag!


The Library of Congress has a Yankee Doodle dandy page devoted to "You're a Grand Old Flag" in its Patriotic Melodies section, with everything from a history of the song,
The original lyric for this perennial George M. Cohan favorite came, as Cohan later explained, from an encounter he had with a Civil War veteran who fought at Gettysburg. The two men found themselves next to each other and Cohan noticed the vet held a carefully folded but ragged old flag. The man reportedly then turned to Cohan and said, "She's a grand old rag." Cohan thought it was a great line and originally named his tune "You're a Grand Old Rag." So many groups and individuals objected to calling the flag a "rag," however, that he "gave 'em what they wanted" and switched words, renaming the song "You're a Grand Old Flag."
to links to the sheet music (both the "Grand Old Flag" and "Grand Old Rag" versions) and sound recordings (n.b. Billy Murray, "The Denver Nightingale," is not to be confused with Bill Murray).

Other Flag Day and George M. Cohan links:

U.S. Flag Picture Gallery at the Betsy Ross Home Page

A U.S. Flag History from PBS's A Capitol Fourth

Doc's Flag Day links

George M. Cohan's biography, from Musicals101

June 13, 2006

Librarian's, and readers', most wanted

Liz B at A Chair, A Fireplace, and A Tea Cozy and her librarian friend Chris have announced their new blog, Librarian's Most Wanted. Their idea is,
instead of talking about books after we've read them, to talk about them before. Why pick that book? What made you decide to read that author? We're calling it Librarian's Most Wanted. We hope to get some additional regular contributors, as well as guests who will share what is on their hold list or "to read" pile.
I'll add one item right here, something another mother recommended only tonight at Swim Club: The Star of Kazan by Eva Ibbotson, which I thought of for Laura, because it seems to cover a lot of her interests: Lipizzaner horses, an intrepid heroine, history, and the Vienna of her great-grandmother (which is also the Vienna of Frau Ibbotson). And coincidentally, as far as Librarian's Most Wanted's first choice, the ALA review at Amazon compares Kazan favorably with Wolves of Willoughby Chase. More coincidences: one "E. Bird of Manhattan" gives it a five-star review. Now to chase it down via interlibrary loan.

I knew them when...

Great good news! Fibbing pal Gregory K. at GottaBook has GottaBookDeal, in part as a result of all the fabulous fibbing the other month that spiralled like a, well, like a Fibonacci sequence. Congratulations, Greg. The kids, who know Greg as "your friend who came up with the idea for the fun poems", are excited at the prospect of coming across the books in the Scholastic flyers we look forward to so much each month.

And more good news -- I'm not telling any secrets that superblogging NYPL librarian Fuse #8 is actually the Elizabeth Bird (and I have in fact been known to address her as Betsy, so there) who was interviewed on NPR about kids' summer reading picks. You can listen to and read about her choices here, under "Elizabeth Bird's Book List". And here's Elizabeth's library's Summer Reading 2006 site.

We move in rarified circles out here on the prairie!

June 12, 2006

The final list of Cool Girls from Children's Litertature, 200 strong

I'm more than a bit behindhand in my blog reading and posting, so I was delighted to see that Jen was able to tally the votes and compile her list, for two lists: the Top 20 Cool Girls in Children's Literature (you'll just have to hop over to see who won), and in alphabetical order by name, all 200 girls nominated, with links for all the book titles no less.

I have to admit I'm not too familiar with most of the modern entries (the kids and I have started reading the first Harry Potter book and we're not even up to Hermione yet), but some of my oldest, dearest friends are on the list. And I have a feeling Laura and the boys will be discovering some new and equally treasured friends; I'm thinking I should print out a few copies of the list, one to tuck in our library bag and another near the computer for online interlibrary loans. Thank you, Jen!

Question of the day

"How does money dry up?"

From the five-and-a-half-year-old, while eating his poached egg this morning and listening to a news story on the radio about skyrocketing construction costs and the Edmonton city government's unwillingness to cough up more cash for a proposed community center.

Possible answer, supplied by his seven-year-old brother several hours later:

"Does it have anything to do with that money laundry business?"

June 11, 2006


We had a long but fun and ultimately successful day at the pool yesterday for the local swim meet. The kids and I left the house at 7:30 am, getting to the meet about 15 minutes later. The swimming started at 9, but Laura and Daniel had at least an hour before their races to get the hang of things and figure out what they were supposed to do. Best of all, as with Pinocchio and the poetry recitals, they showed not a trace of nerves, just excitement. I had to wince when I saw the mother of one young swimmer, about Daniel's age, lean over and say, "Now don't be nervous"; the look on her daughter's face showed that while she hadn't considered that option previously, it was now at the top of the heap. I was glad my kids were on the other side of the pool and didn't have the chance to overhear this. Oy.

I spent the morning marshalling the swimmers, which meant getting them ready for their races; the organizers had set up four benches, so the "on deck" swimmers were in place well before their turns. But I was relieved of my duties for Laura's and Daniel's races, and was able to watch them, which was a thrill.

Laura, in the "8 and Under Girls" (a group of about 30) placed third in her 25m backstroke heat (placing tenth overall, not bad with many girls back for a second year in the category) and won her heat in the 25m front crawl (will I never learn to call it freestyle?), and had great fun with the three other girls in the two relays, one medley (Laura swam backstroke) and one front crawl; all in all, she swam 100 meters yesterday, which is more than I could have done at age 8. For winning her heat, she was given a beautiful rainbow colored ribbon, which is now proudly affixed over her bed.

Daniel did well, too, especially with only eight in the "8 and Under Boys" category, a good statistical lesson for the kids. However, as a proud mother I also factor in that he just slipped into the category, making the May 1st cutoff to turn seven by two days). He won his 25m backcrawl race, took third in the front crawl (would have placed second if the coach had explained to keep going until he touched the wall -- oy again), and placed 3rd overall, for which he won a medal. Tom missed their first races, but arrived in the late morning for the rest of the competition. We arrived home at 6 pm dreaming of the steak in the fridge to find that the barbecue was out of propane, so it was a supper of Raisin Bran, a quick call to my mother to share the good news, and then bed.

We are very, very proud of them, including Davy, who not only occupied himself while I was busy marshalling all morning but also didn't complain once about not swimming. And a huzzah for the rest of the team, especially the older members who took all of the new kids under their wet wings and gave cheerful support, advice on what to do, and directions on where to go.

Next week we get to do it over again, minus the marshalling and other volunteer work, in the little city 40 minutes down the road, which means we have to be on said road by 7 am. Davy is excited for his first race, with the flutterboard, and all three are much confident and eager now that they have a better idea of what to expect. And since I do too, I can tell the insistent Liz with apologies but no regrets that there won't be too much time for the MotherReader's 48 Hour Book Challenge next weekend. Throw a wedding anniversary and Father's Day into next weekend, with early Friday bedtimes for all, a long day cooped up in a humid pool breathing chlorine fumes, and all any of us want to do on Sunday is sleep late and spend the rest of the day outdoors, catching up on farm and garden chores and riding bikes and a horse. Speaking of which, I'm headed back outside now to do some more weeding and sow more lettuce, which came up rather patchily, thanks to all the birds.

June 09, 2006

Transformation and Shakespeare's Kids

Some random links discovered in the past day or so...

Barbara J. King over at Bookslut, who writes thoughtfully about religion and science, sometimes religion AND science (she's a professor of anthropology at William & Mary, home too to Susan Wise Bauer), has a very good review of Karen Armstrong's latest, The Great Transformation: The Beginning of Our Religious Traditions, one that makes me realize this is a book to buy not borrow, because of both quality and quantity, or rather, depth. I've been wanting to read it since hearing Armstrong interviewed on the CBC one Sunday the other month. (P.S. For more of Dr. King's reviews and articles, go here.)

Camille at Bookmoot has the news that the University of Texas has unveiled "Shakespeare Kids", a new website to introduce children in grades K to 8 to the Bard. There are links for both parents and teachers, but parents would be wise to skim "their" page quickly, and move on to the much meatier teacher's section.

Water, water everywhere...

Several hours after Tom finished cultivating on Wednesday, the rain began to fall. It was so wet by 6 am yesterday that any hope of imminent seeding barely was, well, washed away. But it's high time for the trees and the garden, which were getting parched again. We had a tiny amount of rain earlier in the week, but only enough to cause the weeds to grow. Two days of soaking rain is just what everything already in the ground needed.

We're getting ready for the big swim meet tomorrow. Davy got the bad news the other day that there won't be any events for the under-sixes, and he was quite disappointed. Laura and Daniel, though, are excited because they're each competing in the 25-meter backstroke and 25-meter freestyle events. Davy has rallied and filled his backpack with a couple of Bill Peet books and Matchbox cars. If we're lucky, we should be home by 6 pm. No, I have no idea what's for dinner tomorrow and likely won't care as long as it doesn't involve water in the preparation.

And next Saturday we get to do it all over again, along with the 7:45 a.m. arrival time but minus the volunteering as a timer or marshall, in the little city 40 miles away next Saturday; Davy is especially happy because they're much more civilized to the east and have a special flutterboard event for the junior set. And after the races, if we're all still standing, I'm hoping to take advantage of our proximity to Staples and Zeller's to stock up on copier ink and boys' boxers, respectively.

Worth a peek

I was link hopping over at Fuse #8's kidlit blog and, going off on my own rabbit trail, found myself at the Museum of Online Museums (MoOM). As the MoOM curators explain, the webpage is organized in three sections:
The Museum Campus contains links to brick-and-mortar museums with an interesting online presence. Most of these sites will have multiple exhibits from their collections (or, in the case of the Smithsonian, displays of items not on display in the Washington museum itself).

The Permanent Collection displays links to exhibits of particular interest to design and advertising.

Galleries, Exhibition, and Shows is an ecelctic and ever-changing list of interesting links to collections and galleries, most of them hosted on personal web pages. In other words, it's where all the good stuff is.
Good stuff indeed.

Poetry Friday: Flint & Feather

Prairie Greyhounds
by E. Pauline Johnson

C.P.R. "No. 1," Westbound

I swing to the sunset land --
The world of prairie, the world of plain,
The world of promise and hope and gain,
The world of gold, and the world of grain,
And the world of the willing hand.

I carry the brave and bold--
The one who works for the nation's bread,
The one whose past is a thing that's dead,
The one who battles and beats ahead,
And the one who goes for gold.

I swing to the "Land to Be,"
I am the power that laid its floors,
I am the guide to its western stores,
I am the key to its golden doors,
That open alone to me.

C.P.R. "No. 2," Eastbound

I swing to the land of morn;
The grey old east with its grey old seas,
The land of leisure, the land of ease,
The land of flowers and fruits and trees,
And the place where we were born.

Freighted with wealth I come;
For he who many a moon has spent
Far out west on adventure bent,
With well-worn pick and a folded tent,
Is bringing his bullion home.

I never will be renowned,
As my twin that swings to the western marts,
For I am she of the humbler parts,
But I am joy of the waiting hearts;
For I am the Homeward-bound.

from "Flint and Feather: The Complete Poems of E. Pauline Johnson", first published in 1912.

E. Pauline Johnson, also known as Tekahionwake, was born on the Mohawk Reserve near Brantford, Ontario, in 1861. Her father was George Henry Martin Johnson, also known as Onwanonsyshon, Head Chief of the Six Nations, and her mother was Emily Susanna Howells, an Englishwoman and cousin of the American novelist William Dean Howells (who didn't think much of his relative's writing, it should be noted). In her lifetime, Johnson became quite well known in Canada, the U.S., and Britain for her writing and public recitations.

For more on Johnson's life, find Charlotte Gray's thorough biography, "Flint and Feather: The Life and Times of E. Pauline Johnson Tekahionwake".

June 06, 2006

And then there were few

Activities, that is.

Last night was the end-of-year piano recital for Laura and Daniel, and they both did a great job. Not only did they look eminently presentable, but they played beautifully -- and at the very last moment, inspired I think by a friend who preceded her, Laura ditched the music book and played her piece by heart. Surprising a few of us, including her music teacher.

Today is Laura's last lesson until September -- Daniel's was last week -- and where the kids will present teacher with their flowers from the greenhouse and homemade cards.

We skipped Swim Club yesterday afternoon in order to make it to the recital on time, as well as dry, fairly rested, and well fed, so it's a short Swim Club week before Saturday's meet. After swimming tonight, I'll drop the kids off at a friends' house, where a nephew will be babysitting, and she and I will head to her next door neighbor's for the end-of-year homeschool support group meeting. I haven't made it to a lot of these, but thought it would be nice to put in one appearance for the first part of 2006. I'll admit that the promise of the new Usborne catalogue from the local rep is a bit of incentive.

Tomorrow after swimming we have a birthday party (same friends the kids are staying with tonight), and it has been determined, especially after last weekend's activities, that the birthday boy needs cap pistols and a holster. It's also been determined that the nonbirthday kidlets in this house need cap pistols and holsters, which is no doubt why I found "CAP GUNS X 3" added in unauthorized handwriting to my grocery list the other day. This is the Wild West after all. At least the youngest one has multiplication and that pesky "x" figured out. And his spelling was excellent.

Happy Birthday, Grandpapa!

Selected especially by your three grandchildren, with many happy returns from all of us and urgent wishes to stay safe, healthy, and on the curb:

by Harry Graham

Grandpapa fell down a drain;
Couldn't scramble out again.
Now he's floating down the sewer
There's one grandpapa the fewer.

from Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Homes and More Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Homes by Harry Graham ("Col. D. Streamer")

June 05, 2006

Where the elite meet to tweak

Today's New York Times (free registration required or use Bug Me Not) has an article on homeschooling -- or rather, Home Schooling -- with private teachers, "In Gilded Age of Home Schooling, Students Have Private Teachers":
In what is an elite tweak on home schooling — and a throwback to the gilded days of education by governess or tutor — growing numbers of families are choosing the ultimate in private school: hiring teachers to educate their children in their own homes.

Unlike the more familiar home-schoolers of recent years, these families are not trying to get more religion into their children's lives, or escape what some consider the tyranny of the government's hand in schools. In fact, many say they have no argument with ordinary education — it just does not fit their lifestyles. ...

The cost for such teachers generally runs $70 to $110 an hour. And depending on how many hours a teacher works, and how many teachers are involved, the price can equal or surpass tuition in the upper echelon of private schools in New York City or Los Angeles, where $30,000 a year is not unheard of. ...

The United States Department of Education last did a survey on home schooling in 2003. That survey did not ask about full-time in-home teachers. But it found that from 1999 to 2003, the number of children who were educated at home had soared, increasing by 29 percent, to 1.1 million students nationwide. It also found that, of those, 21 percent used a tutor. ...

Bob Harraka, president of Professional Tutors of America, has about 6,000 teachers from 14 states on his payroll in Orange County, Calif., but cannot meet a third of the requests for in-home education that come in, he said, because they are so specialized or extravagant: a family wants a teacher to instruct in the art of Frisbee throwing, button sewing or Latin grammar. A family wants a teacher to accompany them for a yearlong voyage at sea. ...

Parents say in-home teaching arrangements offer unparalleled levels of academic attention and flexibility in scheduling, in addition to a sense of family cohesion and autonomy over what children learn. To them, these advantages make up for the lack of a school social life, which they say can be replicated through group lessons in, say, ballet or sculpture. ...

From a purely academic standpoint, it goes back to a much earlier era," Dr. Snyder said. "The notion of individual tutorials is a time-honored tradition, particularly among the elite."

Think Plato, John Stuart Mill and George Washington. Philosopher kings and gentleman farmers. Because of the cost of in-home tutoring, the idea will probably not spread like wildfire, and just as well, Dr. Snyder said.

"Public education has social goals; that's why we pay tax dollars for it," he said. "When Socrates was tutoring Plato, he wasn't concerned about educating the other people in Greece. They were just concerned about educating Plato."
Much as Tom and I are just concerned about educating just our three. Interesting, no?

As interesting in the fact that socialization/socializing/sociability or, erm, "social needs" (which puts the focus on the individual's desires rather than society's need for him or her to find his place, doesn't it?) along with "social goals" don't seem to be as much of a concern when one has money.

And if you read the rest of the article you'll learn about the English family who turned one floor of their Manhattan townhouse into a mini-Eton because they couldn't find a British school in the city. (Psst...you can do this at home, without hiring teachers at $70 an hour, if you avail yourself of Galore Park and Cambridge University Press books and programs. Seventy bucks an hour is the one thing that makes the Minimus TE look like a relative bargain.)

June 04, 2006

Summer travels with Miroslav Sasek

Kelly at Big A little a's "Sunday reviews" post points out a review of children's travel books this weekend in the LA Times -- "The Other Side of Summer: Whole Wide World"-- and I was delighted to find that Sonja Bolle's story is an appreciation of Miroslav Sasek's This Is... series -- This Is Paris, This Is London, This Is New York, and so on:
"As preparation for a family vacation, you can't do better than Czech painter Miroslav Sasek's "This Is …" picture-book series for children ages 4 to 8 (though, really, children of all ages will enjoy them). ...

"Sasek's genius as a traveler was for noticing things. Although some of the facts in his guides are outdated — and these are marked and corrected in careful, unintrusive notes in the new editions — what sings out clearly is Sasek's joy at discovering the character of a place through the gesture of a traffic policeman, the plantings in a public garden or the pattern of spires against a city's darkening sky."
I found a few Sasek books at BookCloseouts last year and picked up a few more for Christmas at Chapters. These are "living geography" books for leaving on the coffee table for enjoyment by everyone in the family, and visitors too.

If you enjoy Sasek's books or would like to learn more about his "wonderful world", this website is the perfect place to start, though sadly it doesn't seem to have been updated at all this year. Don't miss Sasek's biography and bibliography pages. Or Bolle's charming and thorough review.

Weekend report

Yesterday was Laura's end of year Brownies party at the home of our Swallows & Amazons friends. They had another fun day planned, for the eight girls who showed up. And the hostess's brother was quite happy to see our two boys arrive. The three banded together and headed off for the woods, with jacknives and cap pistols, for most of the afternoon.

The girls enjoyed a campfire, Brownie Olympics, and treasure hunt. We came home at dinner time just ahead of Tom, who brought the tractor to cultivate my former football-field Ukrainian-grandmother garden in the front yard; he wants to seed it to grass to turn it into a ballfield, which would be a most welcome change around here. Tom hadn't planned on cultivating or seeding this weekend, but Friday was unexpectedly warm -- around 90 degrees -- and yesterday warm and windy, which dried out the soggy soil nicely. Today is another sunny, breezy day.

A quick sandwich supper, after which he and the tractor headed north to the land we rent from his father for more cultivating. The tractor doesn't move that quickly, so the kids and I gave him an hour's head start, then followed along to give Tom a lift back to the corrals where he picked up his truck and headed back. That way I wouldn't have to go pick him up around 11 p.m.

The kids and I all took showers to get rid of the smoky smell from the campfire, and I washed a few loads of laundry.

Tom left bright and early this morning to do some more cultivating and to decide whether or not to seed barley there or just summerfallow the land -- it's a bit late in the season for planting but it would be nice to have a crop to pay for the rent of the land -- and the kids and I have been puttering around the house, doing more laundry and changing bedsheets. A neighbor stopped by with some wild turkey eggs he'd like us to incubate (a summer science project!); I brought the incubator home last night from the corrals and plugged it in, because it needs "preheating" like an oven. Needless to say, the kids are very excited and planning to keep detailed records. The eggs take about 28 days, so I'll keep you posted.

Tom should be back for lunch, after which we're going to pick rocks. You always knew farming was fun, didn't you?! At least the family that picks rocks together stays together...

If I get my rock picking done early, I'll slip away to weed the rhubarb patch and pick some for a crisp tonight. I'd like to get some more weeding around the house done too. We'll see how it goes. Most importantly, Laura and Daniel need to practice their piano pieces for the recital tomorrow night; one more piano lesson on Tuesday for Laura and lessons are done until fall. Thank goodness. After which Swim Club is the only extracurricular, and I don't even want to think about next weekend's swim meet right now, when I'd rather be in the garden.

June 03, 2006

On the shelf with Library Elf

Thanks to Hornblower (via Mungo), have just discovered the handy dandy Library Elf, a free online and email service that will help keep track of our library books, letting me know by email when books are coming due (and overdue) and when interlibrary loans have arrived and are ready for pick-up.

I'd heard of the service before, but assumed our smallish northern rural system wouldn't be included. Very happy to discover I was wrong. In fact, since our library system uses Dynix, I could have requested that Library Elf include it; this works for systems with Polaris PowerPac, too, and requested systems are apparently usually and very obligingly added within a day or two, according to the very thorough FAQ.

Security and privacy seem to be adequate, but just in case I was intrigued to see that the computerized system was more interested in our library card numbers rather than our actual names, which meant I could use nicknames rather than actual first names.

Many thanks to the elves in Vancouver, BC, who established Library Elf!

Jen's list has grown and now it's time to vote

Jen Robinson at her Book Page now reports that her nifty list of "Cool Girls from Kid Lit" has grown to (drumroll, please...) 144 girls. For the rest of the list, plus the characters with the most votes, go here. As Jen writes, "I'll give it a few more days, and then put up the combined list, and a list of who seems to be most popular, based on mentions in the comments."

Charlotte and her web have made it to the list, tee hee. As have my spunky old childhood friends Arrietty from The Borrowers, Katie John from the series of the same name by Mary Calhoun, Miriam from Calico Captive, and Penny and Petrova from Noel Streatfeild's Growing Summer and Ballet Shoes (respectively).

Interesting to note that Jen wrote in the comments of the first part of the list, "I am going to start a Cool Boys list sometime soon. It will be interesting to see if that garners the same level of response. I'm guessing that it won't, given, in part, the demographics of kid lit bloggers." True? I may have been a girl, but I'm raising two boys, and much as they love hearing about Laura and Caddie and the others, they definitely respond to strong and spunky boy characters. Put your thinking caps on now, and stay tuned.

June 02, 2006

Poetry Friday II: Because we all need a little more Ogden Nash in our lives

No, You Be a Lone Eagle
by Ogden Nash (1902-1971)

I find it very hard to be fair-minded
About people who go around being air-minded.
I just can't see any fun
In soaring up up up into the sun
When the chances are still a fresh cool orchid to a paper geranium
That you'll unsoar down down down onto your (to you) invaluable
I know the constant refrain
About how safer up in God's trafficless heaven than in an automobile
or a train
My God, have you ever taken a good look at a strut?
Then that one about how you're in Boston before you can say antidis-
So that preferring to take five hours by rail is a pernicious example of
At least when I get on the Boston train I have a good chance of landing
in the South Station
And not in that part of the daily press which is reserved for victims of
Then, despite the assurance that aeroplanes are terribly comfortable I
notice that when you are railroading or automobiling
You don't have to take a paper bag along just in case of a funny feeling.
It seems to me that no kind of depravity
Brings such speedy retribution as ignoring the law of gravity.
Therefore nobody could possibly indict me for perjury
When I swear that I wish the Wright brothers had gone in for silver
fox farming or tree surgery.


More from the man who suggested that "Candy is dandy/But liquor is quicker":

Ogden Nash's biography and bibliography

A Tribute to Ogden Nash and a selection of his poems online

Candy Is Dandy: The Best of Ogden Nash

The Life and Rhymes of Ogden Nash
by David Stuart

For the Kiddies:

The Tale of Custard the Dragon
by Ogden Nash

The adventures continue in Custard the Dragon and the Wicked Knight by Ogden Nash

Ogden Nash's Zoo

The Adventures of Isabel
by Ogden Nash

And for your classical homeschooling types:

Ave Ogden!: Nash in Latin
by Ogden Nash; you can read his "The Hippo" in Latin here

Horse Sense in American Humor: From Benjamin Franklin to Ogden Nash
by Blair Walter


Check back later today at Kelly at Big A little a and Liz B at A Chair, A Fireplace and A Tea Cozy for a complete round-up of the day's offerings for Poetry Friday.

Poetry Friday I: The Griffin Prize for Excellence in Poetry

It's not often I get to report poetry news, and glamorous poetry news at that. Yesterday it was announced that,
"Kamau Brathwaite and Sylvia Legris are the International and Canadian winners of the sixth annual Griffin Poetry Prize. [Legris won for Nerve Squall and Brathwaite for Born to Slow Horses.] The C$100,000 Griffin Poetry Prize, the richest prize in the world for a single volume of poetry, is divided between the two winners. The prize is for first edition books of poetry, including translations, published in English in 2005, and submitted from anywhere in the world. ...

"More than 400 guests celebrated the awards, including former Governor-General, the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, acclaimed Canadian actors Albert Schultz and Sarah Polley, Senator Jerry Grafstein and his wife Carol, among others. In addition, poets, publishers and other literary luminaries attended the celebration.

The evening's theme was Shangri-La and featured a silk route marketplace replete with banners of fuschia, purple and gold. Hundreds of pigmy orchids and butterflies in a dizzying array of colours adorned the room. The event, which took place at The Stone Distillery in Toronto, offered up a menu of decidedly Asian fusion cuisine. Appetizers included mango and Thai basil sushi rolls, deep-fried plantain, sweet corn tamales, crab cakes on a bed of remoulade, and a sweet potato and jicama salad. The main course featured seared strip loin of beef with a mini risotto wild rice pancake and for dessert, a chocolate fountain with assorted sweets."
And a tidbit even more interesting than the mango and Thai basil sushi rolls: "As in past years, copies of the submitted poetry books are being donated to Corrections Canada."

Griffin Poetry Prize Trustees include Margaret Atwood and Michael Ondaatje, and the Griffin Trust was created to serve and encourage excellence in poetry written in English anywhere in the world.

Believe it or not, tickets for the Griffin Poetry Prize short-list readings this past Wednesday were sold out. The Griffin website has a number of nice features, including "See and Hear Poetry" from Griffin shortlists and winners; a selection of poets' blogs; and a long list of related links.

Canadian success at the big bee

Back in early April the Farm Schoolers sent our best wishes to the Canadians who'd be competing in the Scripps-Howard spelling bee in late May. From the morning's news:
How do you spell s-u-c-c-e-s-s?

Being the only Canadian to make it so far at the prestigious Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Finola Hackett, a 14-year-old eighth grader from Tofield, Alta., took the $12,000 US second prize Thursday in the competition, worth more than $40,000 US for winner Katherine Close, from Ashbury Park, N.J.

Finola was poised, her hands clasped in front of her, as she nailed several tough words to make it that far in the final two hours of the two-day annual spell-fest, televised for the first time on ABC.
Read the rest to see how the rest of the Canadian contingent did. Congratulations to all, and especially to our champion Alberta speller!

June 01, 2006

Walking on sunshine

Just quickly...

The potatoes are in, the garden and the wheat are up, a bunch of weeds are out. The sun has been shining for two days in a row, and all of the moisture combined with the new warmth is making the plants just about jump out of the soil. My transplanted peony is exceedingly happy in its new home and ready to pop.

Our trees (both the 1,000+ shelterbelt ones and my two bigger apple trees) are flourishing with lots of leaves and roots, and the rhubarb is growing better than it ever has. The two plants are almost as tall as I am, and make a cozy, shady playhouse, I'm told. I'll be digging out some of my favorite rhubarb recipes in the next few days.

The first of the baby goslings were swimming around last week, the first of the ducklings spotted today, and the cinnamon-colored bison calves at the ranch down the road are arriving.

Supper tonight was popsicles at the pool (they have all the fancy kinds there) followed by ham sandwiches on homemade buns, and grapes in the loaner clown car on the ride home. We bought some more annuals and perennials at the big greenhouse, a few for us but most as thank you presents for art and piano teachers and Laura's Brownie leader. Wednesday was Laura's Brownie advancement, and the end of her time in Guides, since she is looking forward to 4H in the fall. Tomorrow is the last art class, and piano is done next month. The kids are definitely ready for the activities to come to a close and spend more time outdoors. We're enjoying the late Spring, and it couldn't be finer.

Added later: It gets better. Tom came home at 8:30 and told the kids, who were still zipping around on their bikes like dragonflies, that he was going to have a cattle drive tonight to move the mamas, babies, and bull to the other pasture. You'd think the kids had won the lottery. I expect everyone back in about two hours, filthy and exhausted. Thank goodness we homeschool or there'd be no time to get an education around here!

Even later: Unexpectedly Tom came tearing up the driveway at around 9:30 pm and said, "Get in the truck and bring the camera." While he and the kids had been checking the fences near our small forested area, they saw a deer bolt for the trees and came upon a newborn fawn, about twice the size of Tom's hand, all curled up in the grass. While I've seen new fawns before, I've never seen one so new or so small. We took a few pictures, unfortunately not digital so you probably won't be seeing them, and left it in peace. Back at the corrals, the kids amused themselves by catching frogs and watching me help Tom move our small, old red tractor (remember the kind Oliver Douglas had on "Green Acres"?). I wasn't expecting to be pressed into service, or I wouldn't have worn my Lily Pulitzer-style turquoise and hot pink capris and slides, in which no doubt I was one of the more fashionable tractor drivers in the neighborhood last night.