Friday, February 29, 2008

Back from Boston

I don't think I have ever been to my hometown for such a short visit. We were there for less than an hour, after a 4 hour drive up...I drove right back home, and made it in less than 4 hours ( don't tell the CT State Troopers).

The audition went...OK. Libby was not quite as pleased as she has been with the others. Her D string went out of tune during the last piece, but most panels say they can tell in 30 seconds if a student is going to pass the audition. Let's hope they heard what they needed to hear in her first piece!

The next two auditions are critical--this Sunday (and maybe a callback on Monday) and next Thursday, especially. Prayers for Libby are always appreciated! Thanks family and friends!

Night in the Furniture Store?

Ever dream of living in a room at IKEA? Yeah. Me too.

Here's a guy living my dream. His name is Mark, and he lived for 6 days in a local IKEA. He has a series of videos on his experience. Here's my favorite:

See the whole story here.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

There Will be Music

So Don and I saw There Will be Blood, an interesting, if gloomy, film about California's early oil industry. Suddenly, the soundtrack became familiar. It turns out that two of Libby's audition pieces are featured in the film. And one, Arvo Pärt's Fratres, is pretty obscure. Now we are calling her audition "Hollywood". It ought to go over well in LA. ;)

Monday, February 25, 2008

Village (Snow) People

Just had to post these photos. Libby and I drove around our village (second smallest in NY) and took photos of the many snow-folks before they melted. Some are quite minimalist, and some are rather fancy. Enjoy!

Limbo lower now!


M'favorite: The Scotsman

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Blue Chip Puppy

So while I'm happily blogging my photos, I set aside the 8 gig chip that is usually in my laptop, only to hear a happy crunch-crunch from the puppy at my feet...

Convince Me

There is always some talk of having immigrant-owned shops put up signs in English, especially in case of an emergency. If the firemen, police or EMS can't read your sign, they can't find your workplace if there's a fire or robbery, right? The corollary is: Make sure you use the correct translation. I have a feeling that this is not the place to be convinced of anything, but, as it is a local corner shop, it's really supposed to be there for convenience. Also, those looking for a "Pone Card" might have found the only shop in NY that sells them. ;)

ETA: Or perhaps they are running a Cribbage Game.

Or maybe it is a place to be convinced first, and then which case, would you send your children in for a half-gallon of milk?
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We're All Individuals

Of all the wonderful blessings of homeschooling, I think my favorite is "being there" as my kids find their own way, develop their own habits, and indulge their own interests. To that end, I have tried to give them a varied and relatively free childhood, with plenty of different experiences from which to draw when pursuing those interests. After finding some interest(ing) items in the bathroom, I decided to take the camera around the house to catch the interests that the kids leave as evidence around the house.

Paul likes to stay in his room, quietly building with LEGOs. He'll come out with some new masterpiece to show me, from time to time. I took a quick photo of his bed, strewn with LEGO as usual, but also saw that his copy of Twelfth Night was there, too. I'm sure the director of our play will be happy to hear he has been memorizing his lines! I know I was! I can't wait to start rehearsals.

Annika, my neat, organized child, has a lovely collection of points ("arrowheads")...her interest in archeology is indulged by friends and relatives who bring her their finds (or purchases) when they visit areas of archaeological interest. Since she does not leave things around, it's harder to tell what she has been working on...but this display drawer is evidence! And her script is being used by Paul. Her lines? Probably all memorized at this point, so Paul, who mysteriously misplaced his script, is using hers. Fortunately, she is a good sport about it...

Trip has been working down in the cellar all week (school vacation--he attends a Catholic high school, but was unschooled through 8th grade). He cleaned it out quite well, and put all of his projects on a table. He also installed two more lighting fixtures down there, and basically organized the whole place. It's great! SO, on his table, one can see the remnants of his latest projects, including a propeller belonging to a real fuel-powered RC plane (he got it used with pieces missing, but is sure he can make it fly), bits of wire and telephone equipment, and it looks like he might have found a way to defeat the Daleks. Call the Doctor ( link)!

Libby...oh, Libby, Libby, Libby! What are that score and baton doing in the bathroom?? Ah. I see. You were conducting in the mirror. Good idea. But I bet the humidity in the bathroom is too high for books, and that they should not be left in there, right? BTW, folks, if you are looking for full orchestral scores for a great price, check out Dover Publications. At any given time, there are 5 or 6 of these Dover scores kicking around the house, often on chairs, on the floor, on the dinner table, and in the bathroom. Seems they are so useful, they never make it back onto the shelf. I mean, hey, you never know where you'll be when you get the urge to conduct, right? (Dover publishes those Shakespeare scripts, too. And many, many other great products.)

Life here is never dull, but it does require someone maintaining order. I am not sure I am the right person for the job, but here I am. I'm off to nag a bit--those clothes that were supposed to be put away by someone two days ago are still on the washer. Two kids owe e-mails to adults who have done them a favor. That puppy needs to be walked again (and again). As if that were not enough, there are two performances for Libby and three auditions over the next week and a half, so she needs to practice, which takes her out of the chore schedule (besides that she works four days a week, and has a college orchestra one night, chamber rehearsal another...on and on, but all good excuses).

I heard a rumor after Mass that some of the kids are going sledding at the golf course this afternoon. Trip has a lot of homework that he let go this week so he could organize the cellar. And at least one kid wants to go to a friends house for the wonder things are left undone, all over the house! Does it ever stop?

Friday, February 22, 2008

Every Year...

my darling husband puts on his most authoritative voice, and states that it's mid February, so that's pretty much it for the winter, and we don't have to worry about snow. Nearly every year, he is wrong. This year is no exception. In the last post, I added photos of lovely green shoots looking for the sun. Today, I am looking for the shoots. The dogs are having a blast. The kids are shoveling the walk in front of Don's office. I was left with the dogs...they love it!

Indy tries to catch the falling snow in his mouth.

Circe enjoys her first real snow.


Run!!!!! It's snooooowing!!

Everyone always asks if Circe is a husky mix. Nope! Both dogs are purebred Australian shepherds, which is to say, they are the decedents of dogs who came to the US with Australian sheep, but they are not Australian. The little blue dogs belonged to the shepherds, who were Basque. They are sure-footed, and love to climb...probably due to their heritage, herding in the hilly Basque country. Also, they are quite fierce, but cautious. In some parts of the US they are used to herd bison. In our house, they are used to herd children, and terrorize the mailman (and they can see him from yards away, and distinguish him from other humans, even when we are out on walks...strange dogs). Circe would like to hone her car-herding skills...thus, the tie-out line.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Last Audition

Yeah! Libby passed her last pre-screening and will be going to LA for an audition! And I get to go with her! California! Where it's warm!

And no, I 'm not driving. ;)

One More Wyoming Flashback

Yet another funny moment as we drove through Wyoming. Dirt roads, construction, and pilot cars lead us to lonely monastery in the middle of farm and pasture. It just happened to be the monastery where my friend's brother lives. Really. Oh. My.

It's also the home of Mystic Monk Coffee. Note the large tank of propane for the roasting of the beans.

We didn't visit, but just drove around the property a bit. It was very quiet, and we did not want to disturb anyone who might be praying, or roasting coffee.

The monks have quite a business going here. They roast and blend the coffees, and package them for sale. You can buy the coffee at .

As we drove away, we passed a UPS truck (you really have to imagine what this was like...we hadn't seen any cars except for pick-up trucks, and construction vehicles for hours). We knew immediately that this out-of-place apparition from civilization was headed for the monastery to pick up a coffee delivery. You can (maybe) just make it out in this last photo.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Back from Ohio, but it was Grand!

It was just like the video says--surprisingly super-friendly! I walked into the lobby of our hotel and was greeted by name. Then, they gave me a free upgrade to a jacuzzi room. The folks at the audition were so helpful and pleasant, and what a beautiful campus. I never imagined that Case Western was actually lovely, but it is (rumor has it that is does look better in the snow than on a grey muddy winter day). The music institute is right across from the botanical gardens (closed on Mondays, of course...), and near the art (closed for renovation) and natural history museums as well. Too bad we didn't have much time to visit, but we did drive around campus. I don't think I have ever seen so much Greek...

Libby finished up the audition and entrance exams early, saw a bunch of friends (no matter where we go she meets people she knows), including a boy from Mexico that she met in Aspen. We then met up with a gentleman from this organization and spoke with him at length about becoming involved with his project.

The downside was that Annika was ill, and really didn't enjoy herself, though after a kindly staff member gave her some Advil to complement the Sudafed she brought with her, she felt better. The temperature did not help. With a high of about 16 in Cleveland, we couldn't really get out and walk around. The wind chill was incredible. When we left NY, the temp. was 45, so, yeah...we were not really prepared. And we brought the snow home with us. It's cold and snowy here in the Empire State.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Way to Go, Ohio!

At 4 degrees F here in Cleveland, this is the coldest weather the girls have ever experienced. I actually had to stop fueling my car for fear of getting too chilled. And the drive was enhanced by snow squalls and white out conditions. Oh, and Ohio closes at 10pm on Sundays. Good night!

Friday, February 8, 2008

And There's Good News for Trip...

Trip has placed in the 97th percentile in the national German test! This makes him eligible for a trip to Germany. Here's the catch: Trip (aka Mr. Silent) has to pass an interview...

The First College Letter is in...

And it's an acceptance letter! OK. It's her safety school, but at least there's a place for Libby somewhere... ;)

T-Rex says "Hooray!"

Thursday, February 7, 2008

If It's Next Monday, It's Cleveland!

Could Cleveland really be this good? We'll find out on Monday! (This is not an endorsement of the show, but the video is fun.)

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Hiking in the Rain

Once, a friend of mine gave me a full set of foul weather gear for Martinmas, a day when one traditionally gives a coat to the needy. I must have seemed needy; as a naturalist working in the field, no matter the weather, I was frequently soaked. That's a bad thing, especially in the winter.

My friend's timing was perfect: It was November, and I was about to take a group of kids out on a research vessel during the first hour or so of a nor'easter. There was rain, the wind was high, and lightening stung the sea around us. I was warm and dry.

When folks ask about nature study in rainy areas, I always think of that day. If I could be comfortable in that kind of extreme weather, then anyone can get out for rainy day nature study. The gear consists of a rain jacket, rain pants, and a good rain hat or hood. These should be large enough to fit over regular cold-weather clothes. They can be very inexpensive (like a thin rain coat) or very expensive hi-tech extreme weather protection. For our purposes, since we are talking aobu t a quick nature hike in the rain, the thinner, less-expensive type of gear will do. A long rain poncho paired with high boots does well for younger kids. Once in a very unexpected torrent during a camping trip, we settled for ponchos made from large black garbage bags, a trick I learned on a schooner trip while in high school. They worked pretty well, but a long-backed Gloucester fisherman's hat would be helpful in preventing the rain from running down your back! Of course, kids love to carry umbrellas, and that's a fine way to stay dry.

Once you are prepared to stay warm and dry, a rainy-day outing is fun and different. If you go to the beach, the water might look angry and wild...or it could be calm and rippled, depending on the wind. In a rainy field, earthworms might be surfacing (they did in my yard last week, and despite the 38 degree weather, robins were pulling the unfortunate annelids out of the ground with a frenzy). Take shelter in a wooded place in the rain (unless there is lightning--take no chances!). The muddy circumference of a rainy-day pond is a perfect place to look for animal tracks. Bring plaster to make casts of any tracks you find. And this time of year, don't forget to check out the life emerging in temporary puddles or vernal ponds. Try identifying ducks while their heads are hidden under their wings.

When your hike is over, come home to a warm fire, a cup of cocoa or chowder, and a hot shower or bath. Cuddle up with a good rainy day book (Theresa has lots of good suggestions here). Or watch a rainy day classic like Noah's Ark for the little ones, or Captains Corageous for teens (lots of water).

Friday, February 1, 2008


Sci-fi fans, here's one of you. We have just finished The True Meaning of Smekday, the story of a girl (named "Tip"), a cat (named "Pig"), an alien (called "J.Lo."), and their adventures as they suffer the indignity of relocation when Earth is invaded by J.Lo.'s people. Through all this they are searching for the Tip's abducted mother. Written by illustrator Adam Rex, The True Meaning of Smekday is funny, smart, a bit irreverent, and completely satisfying.

Imagine aliens land in your city. They take your mother (they took her once before, and made her fold laundry on their ship, but no one believes that story). The aliens relocate all the humans to Florida after they realize that the two species just can't get along. You miss the relocation ship, and try to drive yourself from Pennsylvania to Florida (though you are 11 years old); your car breaks down, and is fixed and enhanced by a renegade alien...and then the real adventure begins. This is the tale of Tip and J.Lo., as they learn about each other even as they avoid the authorities, try to find supplies and make their way south. And to complicate things, a second group of aliens shows up.

The story is written as an essay to be entered in a time capsule competition, and is illustrated by Tip's "photos" and J.Lo.'s "drawings". There are no chapters, which makes the book difficult to put down--it just continues on and on.

Nice touches include a reference to Mass, and the Tip saying "Hail Mary's". Possible problems include the Lord's name used as an expletive (a quick black marker takes care of that), and single use of the words "fart", "as*", and "turd", always followed with an apology, and never used for name-calling. There is a fleeting "gay" reference in the abstract (can be skipped) and a description of flamingos "like drag queens". Tip's father is never mentioned; she lives with her single mom, who seems to have a mild mental illness. Overall, these are minor issues in a book which is worth reading on several levels. The themes of relocation, race (Tip is biracial), family and humanity are treated brilliantly without being heavy-handed--quite an accomplishment for a children's novel.

A nifty marketing gimmick is a YouTube video of a human interacting with one of the aliens (if you find it funny, this book will appeal to you...if not, avoid the book at all costs):

More details at

Curious Case of Flu?

I got the flu. Don got the flu. The kids had mild "sniffles." That's it. be young again.