Friday, October 28, 2005

long week

I've been busy with sick kiddos this week. I've also been trying to organize 2 Halloween parties, one for Georgie's class and one for Lidia's. I signed up to be room parent for Georgie's, and then Lidia's teacher asked me to be hers. It's more work than they made it sound like.

I have a cold. Tomorrow I will be gone most of the day to youth dance festival. Normally that would be fun but I am not looking forward to it. I want to crawl into a hole and sleep all weekend. I haven't slept well all week.

I did finish Climbing Parnasuss: A New Apologia for Latin and Greek by Tracy Lee Simmons. I love this book. It is my book of the year. I hope I get to post on it soon.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

7th grade

Here is one more in a series of posts outlining my K-12 experience in public school district in central Maine. Here are the other posts: grade 6, more K-5, grades 3-5, grades K-2.

In my grade 6 post I already mentioned some aspects of the poisonous social atmosphere I encountered at school. But isn't that everyone's Jr. High experience? I never said I was unique. I'm just writing it down.

Throughout Jr. High I had a general feeling of wrongness. In 7th and 8th grade I started to feel more physically attractive, but still felt that there was something wrong with me. I hovered on the edge of the cool crowd. Sometimes I was invited to the cool kid parties, sometimes not. It felt terrible to not be invited, partly I think because there were just so few of us. It was a small town.

I think the greatest of party's was K.K.'s 13th birthday party. She turned 13 on Friday the 13th and she invited 13 friends. It was a blast. It was decadent. Somewhere I have a picture of us at that party. In fact, I think I have it scanned. I will see if I can find it because it is so, so funny. K.K. lived near the lake, so we ran around the woods and beach for awhile. I think we had a picnic, if I remember right. The details are hazy. I do remember that Top Gun had just come out on video and we watched it. We rewinded the part where Tom Cruise licks whats-her-name's neck 13 times. We found it simulaneously thrilling and repulsive. But our most decadent moment came later that night. Some of the girls (of course I was a mere onlooker) stuffed their nightgowns in to the front of their underwear to create a, eh-hem, bulge. It is impossible for me to describe the hilarity. Some of these girls were quite good physical comediennes. The next day my abdominal muscles hurt from laughing so hard. We remembered that little diversion years later when we read Lysistrata in AP English.

I'm not sure what I can say now about 7th grade to compare with that. 7th grade may have been my most challenging year academically, though it wasn't so hard. I occasionally clashed with my homeroom teacher because it was impossible for me to either respect or feel sorry for him. I would sometimes leave without asking for a pass just to annoy him. He called me a "smart ass" once and I told him I was gravely offended that he had used vulgar language in front of me. He made me write an essay on "rights vs. responsibilities." He was an odd duck. He picked his nose and flung it. No, I am not making this up. T, didn't you always sit in the back row during this guy's social studies class? I'm almost sure I remember you sitting back there. Wasn't he a nut? It makes me laugh to remember him and his sex-obsessed wife. She was the Home Ec teacher but her favorite thing was to talk about sex with children. I mean, talk to children about sex. (Watch out for those misplaced modifiers!)

Remembering that party seems to have put me in a very juvenile mood. So. One thing I remember about 7th grade is that I read a huge variety of books. And not all of them good, in fact many bad ones. My best friend was partial to the V.C. Andrews books. I read a few, and they were highly inappropriate. Pure trash. But then I would sometimes read short stories from my mother's college Freshman English text. I think that was the year I read To Kill a Mockingbird. The girls who sat beside me in homeroom read Sweet Valley High books. One of them loaned me one for silent reading one day I didn't have a book. I read it guiltily and hid it between my other books when I went to class. I knew it was silly stuff. And then I was discovered. One day J.H., a super-smart kid, discovered me covertly reading the Sweet Valley High book. He peered at me through narrowed eyes over his thick glasses and said reprovingly, "That is way below your reading level." I never read those books or any like them again.


I really dislike that word. It makes the hair prickle on the back of my neck. Lionel Shriver is a kindred spirit. She wrote the following in the weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal:

We've had the War on Poverty, the War on Drugs and the War on Terrorism. It's time for the War on Whatever.

I am not being glib. I have declared war on the word "whatever." More virulent
than E coli, more contagious than bird flu, this verbal virus has infected not
only the entire population of the United States, but has also reached pandemic
proportions in the U.K. (In his last bestseller, the novelist Nick Hornby used
four supposedly distinctive first-person voices; and all four narrators, from
tough-cookie kid to middle-aged bag, said whatever.) It was bad enough when this
pestilence spewed from my friends' mouths like toads. yet when Donald Rumsfeld
testified to Congress this summer that one of the armaments being sent to Iraq
was "whatever," I knew we had a national emergency on our hands...

...what does the W-word contribute besides a hackneyed gloss of
modernity? The adolescent's double-whammy of fillers--"He's, like, whatever"
--is so impeccably inarticulate as to constitute a triumph...

equally commonplace usage is far more exasperating. I will ask my husband, "Do
you want pork chops or pasta for dinner?" "Whatever," comes the reply. Various
translations present themselves: "I don't give a damn; "Don't bother me with
such trifling domestic considerations"; "I'm not really sure what I feel like
eating tonight"; or perhaps most credibly, "I'm not paying any attention to you,
and I don't plan to."...

...I can testify to the fact that once
contracted, this particular virus is fiendishly difficult to purge. Not long ago
I realized (too late!) that I had started saying "whatever" myself--which was a
little like looking down and discovering my body covered in suppurating
pustules. Take courage! After months of mindfulness, I vanquished the disease.
Yet a word of warning, for there is a downside to taking the cure: You will grow
hyper-alert to whatever-speak, and everyone else will drive you nuts.

I am officially joining in the War on Whatever starting this minute. I, too, must admit to having succumbed to this most virulent of words. Who will join with me in eradicating this menace to our language?

Friday, October 21, 2005

MEA outing

The third weekend in October is always MEA weekend in Minnesota. The teachers have meetings and the kids get school off Thursday and Friday. A few times we've gone to Nauvoo these weekends, as do many Minnesota Mormons, but this time we decided to take a shorter outing. We went to an apple orchard south of the Cities, and then an undiscovered, quite deserted little park J's business partner told us about. We had such a lovely time! We listened to Prince Caspian on cd for the drive. Poor Marcus was not feeling well and had to have a nap.

The orchard was swarming with chidren brought in school buses, children whose parents both work, I assume. Luckily they were fairly contained in the scarecrow festival, an admissioned event we skipped. There was no charge to roam the orchard and pick apples, and that is what we did. Supposedly the orchard was "sold out," but we quickly filled a big plastic bad with excellent apples. We could have picked more and the kids wanted to stay longer.

I was struck by what simple pleasures children enjoy. My kids didn't need the scarecrow festival with its hayrides, ponies, games, blaring music, etc., although I'm sure they would have enjoyed it. They had a great time picking apples.

We ate lunch at DQ (fast food is so gross) because the orchard restraurant had a long wait. Then we went further southwest to a little county park surrounded by hills. Real hills! I pretended I was in Maine. Though we are past peak fall color here, there are still lots of maples with leaves and it was a pretty drive. We'll return next year.



A hottie I picked up...




MEA outing

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

we've been reading...

Today after lunch Marcus and I settled ourselves for a cozy read together. We do this nearly every day. Often I read to Marcus and Bernie first, and then I help Marcus read while Bernie plays. Over the past couple of weeks, it's been very exciting to watch Marcus transform himself into an independent reader. At first we would alternate pages of the easy readers and I would have to help him with many words. Then he would do all of the reading himself, but I was still helping him a lot. About a week ago he started turning his little back to me so I couldn't see and thus couldn't help him! And about that same time he started reading entire level 2 easy readers in one sitting. He read Frog and Toad books, Owl at Home, Inspector Hopper, and others.

Today he read an entire Henry and Mudge book by himself, only asking me for help with words 3 times. Then he told me that book was too easy. A couple of days ago when we were at the library I had anticipated this moment, so I checked out Dinosaurs Before Dark by Mary Pope Osborne. It's one from the Magic Tree House series. Marcus stared on the first chapter today, and only asked me for help with 1 word. He is very, very excited about reading a big boy book by himself!

Georgie just took a reading comprehension test at school. I'm supposed to be finding books for her that are in her lexile range, which is 1080-1250. (For info on lexiles go to It's not easy finding books that interest her in that category. I mean, I don't think they even have any in her school library, and few in the children's section of the city library. Little Women, for example, is 1300. Maybe she would read that. She just read The Supernaturalist (650) by Eoin Colfer and is now reading Artemis Fowl (600) by the same author. She enjoys them, which is good. The Harry Potter books are 880-1030 which is better, but Georgie doesn't seem to enjoy those much. She told me something funny about them--she said they "don't give you much to imagine."

Lidia recently read the first two Boxcar Children (490) books. I estimate that her lexile is somewhere in the 700-900 range. The book she is starting today is Little Bo: The Story of Bonnie Boadicea (780) by Julie Andrews Edwards. Of my three older children, Lidia is the one who learned to read at the youngest age, yet she is the one who seems to least enjoy reading on her own. Georgie will read for hours. I can see that Marcus is headed that way. Lidia would rather be drawing or writing her own story than reading on her own. She does very much enjoy having books read to her. She loved the three books from the Anne of Green Gables series I read to them over the summer. She loves hearing books on cd in the car.

Don't think I'm obsessed with this lexile thing. I think it can be a more or less useful tool in finding books for your child, but certainly not the ultimate resource.

This is from the lexile site: Lexile measures are based on two well-established predictors of how difficult a text is to comprehend: semantic difficulty (word frequency) and syntactic complexity (sentence length). In order to Lexile a book or article, text is split into 125-word slices. Each slice is compared to the nearly 600-million word Lexile corpus – taken from a variety of sources and genres – and words in each sentence are counted. These calculations are put into the Lexile equation. Then, each slice’s resulting Lexile measure is applied to the Rasch psychometric model to determine the Lexile measure for the entire text.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

E. B. White

Athena likes E. B. White and I do, too. (If you haven't seen Athena's blog yet you are missing out! Have you ever dreamt of moving to France with your kids and setting up house there? That's what Athena has done, and you can read about her adventures in her lively blog.) Back to E. B. This weekend I laughed out loud as I read an article by David Gerlernter in the Wall Street Journal (where else?) about the new illustrated edition of Elements of Style. I don't know how many times I've read that handy little writer's best friend, and it is both appalling and hilarious to read what they've done to it.

I've been trying to paste in some of my favorite quotes from this piece, but I ended up not being able to do without 80 percent of it, so here it is in its entirety:

Back to Basics, Please
"The Elements of Style," illustrated? E.B. White wouldn't approve.
Friday, October 14, 2005 12:01 a.m. EDT

Literary society has decided to celebrate Strunk and White's "The Elements of Style" with a fancy new illustrated edition and associated promotions this month. The New York Public Library is even presenting a "musical adaptation." If the English language is one of the finest homes ever devised for the human spirit, "Elements" is the best guided house tour we've got. But E.B. White, who is the book's animating spirit, would have found our celebrations depressing. We admire him; he would not have admired us.

"Elements" has a complex history. In 1919, the young Elwyn Brooks White was a student in William Strunk Jr.'s English composition class at Cornell. The textbook was "The Elements of Style," Strunk's own work. Obviously White learned plenty; he became one of the most admired essayists of the 20th century.

Roughly 40 years after teacher and student first encountered each other, Strunk was dead and White was famous. At the request of the publishing house Macmillan, White revised "Elements," adding a new chapter on style and an introduction. The result was a smash hit. White revised this 1957 edition twice more; the 1979 version is last and best. He died in 1985.

In 1999, a new post-White revision appeared. The same revision has now reappeared with pictures by New Yorker illustrator Maira Kalman. Strangely enough, the reviser's name isn't listed in the new edition--which is just as well. The 1979 "Elements" will be studied long after the post-White versions have been filed under "mortifying mistakes" and forgotten.

These later revisions and the planned celebrations attempt to pay homage to "Elements," but White would have disliked today's literary world. He insisted on simplicity, clarity, concreteness. He would have despised subliterate email, unedited Web ramblings and gaseous literary criticism posing as philosophy.

White also hated politicized writing; in 1979, he added a new rule to "Elements" to explain just why "gender-neutral writing" is ridiculous. "The use of he as a pronoun for nouns embracing both genders is a simple, practical convention rooted in the beginnings of the English language. He has lost all suggestion of maleness in these circumstances." But the 1999 revision slips an extra sentence into White's rule, like an assassin slipping a stiletto into someone's back: "Currently, however, many writers find the use of the generic he or his to rename indefinite antecedents limiting or offensive." But White never minded offending people. He rejected the trendy and glitzy. He admired good craftsmanship. He didn't mind being called old-fashioned.

Maira Kalman's illustrations are the occasion for the 2005 edition and attendant hoopla. They are a well-meaning mistake. "What struck me upon reading the book," Ms. Kalman says in a press release, "were the absurd sentences Strunk and White wrote to illustrate their ideas. To me, these were little gems that demanded to be illustrated." Sentences such as "Be obscure clearly!" are the ones she means. But mainly her illustrations (there are many throughout the book) accompany perfectly ordinary sentences. "The best way to see a country, unless you are pressed for time, is on foot." (Use commas to enclose parenthetical expressions.) Out of this one sentence three Kalman pictures emerge, genie-like: a rocky outcropping, a waterfall, the Matterhorn in Switzerland.

White had nothing against pictures; he once drew a New Yorker cover. The problem with these pictures is their strange relation to the text. A section on pronouns includes a sample sentence that mentions "Polly." On the facing page is a loud, large picture of Polly--who has nothing to do with the topic under discussion. Ms. Kalman's pictures are like a kibitzer's random observations during a conversation among friends.

And one can't help thinking of White's fondness (to quote "Elements") for "plainness, simplicity, orderliness, sincerity." The decorator who refurbished this book by hanging these bright, jazzy, irrelevant pictures all over did not believe in keeping things plain and simple.

White's love for simplicity extended beyond language. He fled New York literary society to live in Maine among farmers, fishermen, housewives, schoolteachers and other non-hotshots. His foreign-policy ideas would have outraged modern New York literary society. He thought that democracies should "meddle in other people's affairs frequently, gallantly, and without warning--but with no ulterior motive." In June 1940, with the U.S. still at peace, White wrote that the president should have sent a telegram to Germany years ago: "Cut out tormenting minorities--Roosevelt." He should then "have dispatched a destroyer carrying a party of Marines, landed them at a German port, rescued two or three dozen Jewish families from the campaign of hate and shot up a few military police in a surprise movement."

Meanwhile many New York intellectuals were insisting that Britain and Germany were indistinguishable; that the U.S. should stay out of the war. And, internationalist or no--White believed strongly in the United Nations--he is responsible for some of the most moving expressions of patriotism in American letters. "To hold America in one's thoughts is like holding a love letter in one's hand." Sentiments like these are not likely to be popular with the crowd that turns out for the "musical adaptation" at the New York Public Library next week.

The difference between White and the throngs of New York literary types fawning over the illustrated and operatic versions of "Elements" is clear in the contrast between the author's original words and the postmortem revised edition. White tells us in his chapter on style: "The beginner should approach style warily, realizing that it is himself he is approaching, no other." Here is the post-White revised version: "The beginner should approach style warily, realizing that it is an expression of self." "An expression of self" is exactly the sort of pompous, high-flown abstraction White despised.

Of course these are subtleties. But good writing is a matter of subtleties. Feminist language, pseudointellectual literary criticism, an elite cultural establishment at odds with plain old middle-American patriotism, a politically corrected version of "The Elements of Style"--they are all connected. Mr. White would have taken one sniff and beat it home to Maine.

Mr. Gelernter is a senior fellow in Jewish thought at the Shalem Center, Jerusalem, and a professor of computer science at Yale.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Renaming of blog, address change

Why am I changing my blog name and address? I don't know--I just feel like it. Maybe it is brought on by the change of season. Maybe I don't quite feel like "Maine Girl" anymore. It all started out because I changed my quote, as you may have noticed. Then I felt like changing the blog name to something to do with Calandria, as that is my name. Calandria means "lark" in Spanish. The lark has a special meaning for Charlotte Mason devotees. I'll have to post on that later. Nido is "nest."

AVE, will it be too hard to remember? I don't have to change the address. Opinions?

After I had changed the blog name to "el nido de Calandria," I remembered the lyrics to a song I used to listen to long ago. It's from Linda Ronstadt's Canciones de mi padre:

Yo soy como la calandria
Que para formar su nido
Siempre busca rama fuerte
Para no verlo caĆ­do

I am like the lark
That in order to form its nest
Always looks for a strong branch
So that she won't see it fall.

I like that imagery and the implications. It is not the worst thing to periodically ask oneself, Am I building my home on a strong foundation?

What would you do if you were a big, fat balloon?

Tonight we didn't have one of those well-planned, 2-hr long Family Home Evenings. We don't get home from violin lessons until 5:30. I started making dinner and it wasn't ready until almost 7. The kids foraged in the cupboards and whined. As you might imagine, none of us were feeling too spiffy by the time dinner was finally on the table. I kept taking deep, cleansing breaths.

We ate and I felt like going to bed immediately afterwards. Instead we decided to have our FHE treat, ice cream, and practice saying the Articles of Faith in Spanish. Suddenly in the midst of a "nosotros creemos," Marcus belted out, "What would you do if you were a big... fat... balloon?" J said he didn't know, but what would he, Marcus, do? He replied, "I would float up high, high to the sky and see the whole world. Then I would turn back into myself with a parachute and I would float back down to my house."

We asked Lidia. She said, "I would float up into a tree. Then my owner would call 911 so the Fire Department would come. A fireman would climb the tree to rescue me, and I would pop in his face!" This elicited appreciative gaffaws.

Georgie: "I would float up into the Universe in search of a black hole. I would go inside and then look around a while for a way to get out. When I got out I'd return to Earth and find my home. Then I would do what Lidia did."

Bernie: "I'd float up, up, up and see my house."

J: "I would inflate bigger and bigger and bigger and then I'd go [huge raspberry sound]." (And more appreciative guffaws.)

Me: "I would let a small child like Bernie tie a string to me and we'd fly to Maine where we would float lazily around admiring the Fall colors."

After this we recorded a new outgoing message on our answering machine in honor of Halloween. If you've got our number, give us a call just to hear it.

For those of you unfamiliar with Mormon culture, Family Home Evening is a Monday night institution. We spend it together learning about the gospel, singing, praying, laughing, and eating. Treats. The treats are paramount here. It's a tradition we really enjoy. And sometimes the spontaneous ones are the best.

Change of Address

In one week I am going to change my blog's address. At that time I will change to

The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo

I haven't posted for awhile about what we're listening to in the car.

I think the last I'd posted was on Harriet the Spy, one we were listening to in the car. We finished. I asked Georgie if she thought it ended happy, and she did. We then heard a Focus on the Family radio theater production of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. It was an abridgement. I think the kids liked it that there were different actors for the different characters, but I found the sound effects distracting. I think I would much prefer an unabridged reading by one actor. I just got the unabridged Prince Caspian and Voyage of the Dawn Treader from the library and we look forward to those. We will start Prince Caspian this afternoon.

This morning we finished The Tale of Despereaux : Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread by Kate DiCamillo. The kids liked that one quite a bit and I did too, more or less. It is a dark story that portrays some real cruelty. There is one character, a servant girl of 12, who is beaten so regularly she has cauliflower ears. There are sadistic rats who enjoy the psychological torture of prisoners in a dungeon. When we first started listening, I had mixed feelings and even wondered if this was an appropriate story for my children to be hearing. It was depressing. However, I think there is great evil in the world and children need to be introduced to it somehow. I mean, they need to know that it exists, that it's out there. I think this book does that in an appropriate way. It does have a good ending. I think it was Arthur Henry King who said that children need to be told about evil in a safe, loving atmosphere. For this reason he recommended reading with children the original versions of fairy tales as opposed to the Disney sanitized versions.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Who is Charlotte Mason?

I referred to this lady (in fact I was insulting to her--good thing she's been dead these 75 years) in my last post and many of you probably don't know who she is.

Charlotte Mason was a British educator. She started a school for governesses and wrote a series of books about homeschooling. This link gives a great overview of her philosophies. Ambleside Online is a site that has additional info on Charlotte as well as curriculum suggestions. There seems to be something of a Charlotte Mason revolution now in homeschooling. Her ideas speak to many a homeschooling mother.

Charlotte Mason stressed the importance of home culture as a major influence in a child's education. She believed in training children in self-discipline that would allow them to eventually enter in to rigorous study. And here is one of my favorite Charlotte quotes on habits: "The mother who takes pains to endow her children with good habits secrures for herself smooth and easy days; while she who lets their habits take care of themselves has a weary life of endless friction with the children."

Charlotte Mason has been immensely inspiring to me, but sometimes in moments of frustration (with myself more than with my children) I feel like telling her to take a hike.

Friday, October 14, 2005

terrible horrible no good very bad day

Yes, it's been one of those. Or several of those, I should say. Yesterday combined with this morning worked together to almost put me over the edge. While I should be taking care of the pile of laundry on my bed, picking up the downstairs, or reading to Bernie instead of letting her watch a video, I am siting here preparing to write a list of the offensive little digs life has dealt me recently. I tell myself that I am helping others to feel better about their own comparatively inoffensive hours, or perhaps commiserating with those whose days have been equally barbarous or worse. But really I am just wallowing.

Our puppy was fixed on Wednesday and we picked him up that evening. We had to pay 125 bucks more than expected because certain things were not exactly where they should have been if you know what I mean. An additional incision was required.

We are supposed to keep him "subdued." This little guy will not be subdued in any way, and has been more obnoxious than usual and peeing more in the house than usual. I know I should feel sorry for him but it's hard because I feel more sorry for myself.

Bernie has been hanging on me for the past couple days. She wants me to carry her everywhere, and if I don't she bellows. My back hurts and my arms are tired. She wants me to carry her to the toilet and then "watch," as she insists. She continues to have potty issues, of which I will spare you the details.

It's been raining at night this week and the kids keeps tramping mud in. Their shoes are caked with it. Someone (no one will admit to this and frankly I don't blame them because the consequences would be dire considering the mood I'm in) even tracked mud into my bedroom. We have white carpets in our house and they look terrible.

My children's rooms are a disaster only a few short days after they were perfectly clean. How do they do it? I declared to them this morning that they have not earned the privilege of having toys and dress-up clothes in their rooms and they would therefore be losing those things for awhile.

My children are also very good at messing up their bathroom. They don't like it messy so they then try to use mine.

Georgie lost last night's homework, as well as two tests I was supposed to sign and return today.

Everyone got up late this morning, except for me of course. I'm up at 5:45 to let out that dog. I was reading and didn't realize how late it was, so I didn't wake them up on time.

I had to tell everyone to do their various morning things about three times each. They are the worse dawdlers I've ever seen. Georgie wanders around aimlessly and so I assume she has everything ready for school. Wrong!

My two older children will not bathe unless I remind them. And then sometimes I get grief about it. This morning I told Georgie I had way too much to do to be reminding a 10 year old to take a shower, and she said, "It's not a big deal. All you do is say, "Take a shower." That's when I lost it.

I reminded Georgie several times to take her violin (she has strings ensemble on Fridays), her snack, brush her hair, etc. I didn't think to remind her to take her backpack. Guess what? She forgot it. She didn't realize it until we got to school. I did feel bad for her then and I thought of even going to get it for her though that would take me an hour round trip. But then how will she learn to be responsible if I'm always fixing things?

My house is cluttered and messy. There is certainly nothing luxurious about my house, but when it's clean it is quite pleasant. When it looks like this it makes me want to get in the car and drive to another state. I do have cleaning ladies come every two weeks. I don't know why. Two days after they've been here the house has returned to it's messy state.

Charlotte Mason would sit me down and tell me I have not inculcated good habits in my children. And I'm afraid she would be right. But just look what kind of day I am having that I would say the following: Charlotte Mason, stick it!

Someone else would tell me that I should enjoy my delightful children while they are at this golden age and not to worry about the house. Please, no one make comments of this sort right now because I'm afraid today my reply would not be Christ-like.

Georgie, 62 lb. dynamo

Georgie related to me yesterday when I picked her up from school that she had done the second most push-ups and sit-ups in her class for the Presidential Fitness tests. She did 15 push-ups and 40 something sit-ups. But get this--her first try at push-ups the teacher got confused about something and made her start again--she had already done 18! She would have had the most push-ups out of the whole class if her dufus gym teacher hadn't made her start over.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

un gato, un topo

Marcus sings this song he learned at school that absolutely kills us. Here are the words and actions:

Habia un cocodrilo (make crocodile jaws with arms)
un orangutan (move arms like monkey)
una picara serpiente (move one arm like a snake)
un aguila real (stand on one leg, with arms out to the side)
un gato (two fingers on each hand up like ears)
un topo(same two fingers down side of mouth like large teeth)
un elefante loco, loco, loco (wave one arm like an elephant trunk)

The song (as Marcus sings it) starts out rather slowly. When he gets to "aguila real" (regal eagle) he doesn't say it quite right, but belts out something that sounds like "agee-la-gee-la." Then he does "un gato, un topo" and that is the part that kills us because suddenly the pace of the song picks up dramatically, also the actions are funny.

The clean up song (you know, like "clean up, clean up everybody everywere"):
Limpiar, limpiar
Guarda todo en su lugar
Limpiar, limpiar,
Guarda todo en su lugar.

Another fun one:
Manos arriba, manos atras,
Manos arriba, Chaz! Chaz! Chaz!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Mormons in Newsweek

For the whole article:

From Meridian:

The Mormon Odyssey

Newsweek tells the story of Joseph Smith and the Latter-day Saints as its cover story this week—complete with a picture depicting the First Vision as the cover. The following are three excerpts from the article with a hot link to send you to the entire story online.
[Joseph] Smith's times are much like our own, and his story has a particular resonance in the first years of the 21st century. Like us, he lived in an era of evangelical energy, deep patriotism, economic transformation, sharp political divisions and anxiety about foreign forces' inflicting harm on the homeland. Smith's teachings placed America at the center of existence at just the moment in our history—in the wake of the successful War of 1812—when nationalism was on the rise.
From Mitt Romney, the Republican governor of Massachusetts and a 2008 presidential prospect, to Harry Reid, the Democratic leader in the Senate, Mormons are increasingly visible in different spheres of American society, particularly in politics and the Fortune 500. Traditionally conservative but not really part of the religious right, the church opposes gay marriage and abortion (unless the mother's life is in danger or in cases of rape or incest). In the emotional case of Terri Schiavo earlier this year, however, the church diverged from many conservative Christians when it responded to news media by saying, "Members should not feel obligated to extend mortal life by means that are unreasonable." There is also room for policy differences among public figures who happen to be Mormon: Romney opposes fetal-stem-cell research, while Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah supports it. Meanwhile, the faith's traditional views on morality and the family are fueling its rapid growth in the developing world, where, despite a broad feeling of global anti-Americanism, the church is expanding even more rapidly than it is within the United States.
For Mormons, Smith's importance is singular. "He stands alone as a source of doctrine," says Dallin H. Oaks, member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, one of the church's highest governing bodies. The characteristic features of the LDS Church—sacred temple rites, personal revelation, tithing and a history of polygamy—come directly from Smith. So does the emphasis on high moral standards, family ties and community service: Mormonism appeals to the fundamental human impulse for connection, security and a promise of rewards not only on earth but beyond time and space.
Because of Mormonism's unique theology, some of which challenges early Christian creeds, many Christian denominations don't consider the LDS Church to be Christian. "There is no rightful claim by historic Mormon doctrine to the name Christian, because they deny almost every one of the major fundamental doctrines of Christendom," says Norman Geisler, founder of the Southern Evangelical Seminary. But for Latter-day Saints, who believe in the Jesus Christ of both the New Testament and the Book of Mormon, the cold shoulder from other denominations is baffling. "I am devastated when people say I am not a Christian, particularly when generally that means I am not a fourth-century Christian," says Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Elise Soukup

Monday, October 10, 2005

couple more sevens

Tenniel added two great lists, so I had to do it too.

seven books you love:
1. Book of Mormon (The First Presidency has asked us to read it by the end of the year. I'm in Helaman. How about you? I'm rediscovering this amazing book. I feel so blessed to have it.)
2. the Bible
3. Middlemarch
4. My Antonia
5. Chronicles of Narnia
6. Christy
7. Arm the Children: Faith's Response to a Violent World

seven movies you watch over and over again:
1. Philadelphia Story
2. Bringing Up Baby (Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn again--so, so funny)
3. It Happened One Night (can you tell I'm a sucker for screwball comedy?)
4. Pride and Prejudice (A&E version)
5. Rebecca
6. Roman Holiday
7. North by Northwest

Sunday, October 09, 2005

life in sevens

I was tagged by the other Mainegirl!

five sevens

seven things to do before I die
1. Start a Charlotte Mason school for girls
2. Read Britannica's set Great Books of the Western World
3. Serve a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
4. Live in a house where I can build (or have built) and cultivate a walled garden, like the Secret Garden--I want it to have a little door with a key and everything
5. Learn French and live in a French-speaking country
6. Walk on the Great Wall of China
7. Learn to make really good Thai food--It would save me some bucks

seven things I cannot do
1. Restrain myself from listening in on other people's conversations
2. Go without dessert for more than one week
3. Go to bed with dirty dishes in the sink
4. Sing the high notes
5. Watch more than 1/2 hr of t.v. without feeling depressed
6. Admit that I am wrong
7. Tolerate pop culture

seven things that attract me to my honey
1. His sparkly eyes
2. His laugh and big smile
3. The fact that he drives an old car and doesn't care
4. His listening ears
5. How he looks in a suit
6. When he takes the kiddos somewhere so I can rest or study
7. When he watches old movies with me even though soemtimes he doesn't like them much

seven things I say most often
1. Te quiero mucho
2. Goodness!/Heavens!/Hijole!
3. I want to be kind to everyone for that is right you see--
So I say to myself, "Remember this: Kindness begins with me!"
4. Whose is this?/Who left this out?
5. That'll be a family-size pad Thai...
6. We're leaving in 5 minutes, everyone
7. Would someone take Frodo out?

seven celebrity crushes
1. George Clooney
2. Joe Morgenstern (Wall Street Journal's film critic)
3. Ion Gruffud (Horatio Hornblower)
4. Colin Firth
5. Cary Grant
6. Laurence Olivier
7. O.k., so I like Dr. Kovac on ER, too

seven people I want to do this
ML, MajorMal, Athena, Tenniel, Mum, Gram H, AVE (last 3 not bloggers--but you can write in to my comments!)

Saturday, October 08, 2005


On Thursday I went to pick Georgie up from her classroom. As she was getting her things together, a rather nice-looking boy said, "Georgie, jugaste muy bien hoy en gimnasio" (you played really well today in gym). She smiled and muttered, "Gracias." It turns out she made the only two goals of her soccer game. She was on could nine. We had the complete play by play.

I felt so happy for her! Georgie played years of soccer, only to score one goal. And she always tried so, so hard. She played every game with everything she had.

At recess Georgie plays football with the boys. It seems that they're pretty accepting of her. She is quick on her feet and good at evading the tag. She has come home asking us things like, "What's a blitz?" The first day of school she was playing tag and one boy got frustrated that he could never get her. He finally ran smack in to her and she lost a tooth!

I've asked her why she doesn't hang out with the girls at recess and she says they are too boring. They just sit around and talk or sing. She told me, "Recess is not for sitting around. I sit around all day in school. I want to get out and move at recess!" You can't argue with that.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

School years: 6th grade and Jr. High social life

I'm finally continuing with the summary of my K-12 school experience. You can read past posts in this series by going to the August archive.

I thought I would die of excitement to start 6th grade at SeDoMoCha Jr. High. (Wondering about the name? It is short for Sebec, Dover-Foxcroft, Monson, Charleston, the four central Maine towns that send their kids there.) I thought I might finally learn something. I thought it was incredibly cool that I would have a locker and a bunch of different teachers, that I would have to cover my books with newspaper, that I would finally get to do homework. I had high expectations.

I felt strange in 6-1. As I mentioned in a previous post, I hadn't expected to be there. I didn't know if I belonged. I didn't know very well many of the children in my class. I don't know how they came up with the class lists in elementary school, but many of these children, the popular ones with professional or atleast college-educated parents, had been in the same class together since Kindergarten. I do think it's odd that they kept them all together like that. They always got the cool teachers. I was only with them in third grade. (That's the only year I got the cool teacher.) Perhaps it was only about half of the class or less that made up this popular group, but they were intimidating none the less.

The principal of our Jr. High always had a red nose. I'm not sure how he got the job. He certainly didn't seem very intellectual. He was fired for drunkeness several years later. My best friend's house was directly across from the town liquor store. We carefully kept track of who partook and how often.

The quality of teachers varied tremendously at my Jr. High. My 6th grade English teacher was pretty good, and the math teacher not too bad. I didn't learn a blessed thing in Social Studies and Science. The English teacher did have us write quite a bit. We had journals we wrote in daily. I've been very much reminded of this as we've listened to Harriet the Spy. Oh, how I identified with Harriet! I can't remember what year I read that book but I know it was before 6th grade. My journal contained quite a few observations a la Harriet.

I did not find the school work very challenging in 6th, and was quite disappointed. I was bored with the school work, just as I had been in elementary. I did find some diversion sketching during my social studies class, and even risked being yelled at by Mr. S to do so. My science teacher didn't teach us anything about science but he was interesting to listen to. He told funny stories. Another interesting person was our lesbian band instructor. She was a very good band instructor at that time, though I heard she later went steeply downhill after her lover left. She was interesting because she was so androgynous, in fact nearly identical to Pat in those old Saturday Night Live sketches. Also, she occasionally made inappropriate, rather sexually charged comments which were of course very interesting to Jr. High children.

Overall I was fairly miserable socially all three years of Jr. High. I simultaneously abhorred and longed to be part of the 10-minute break social life. During this mid-morning break pairs of boys and girls walked the halls together. These little couples were "going together." They achieved this state after a boy (or girl) coaxed a friend into asking the desired one to "go with him (or her)" and that person accepted. The most popular couples were surrounded by an entourage of friends and admirerers. Though I recognized the perfect ridiculousness of this ritual, still I longed to be one of those girls who always got asked. The ultimate honor for a sixth grade girl was to be asked to "go with" an older boy, a seventh or eighth grader. Only the very coolest girls pulled this off. A few boys did ask me to go with them, but they were far from being cool boys. They were "eeeww" boys and I felt intensely embarrassed and sorry for them when they asked me.

In 6th grade I was at an awkward stage and not so cute. But when I look back at pictures of me in 7th and 8th grades, I think I was durn cute. I had a good eye for picking out clothes that looked good on me and my hair was always cute. I was even an A team cheerleader for crying out loud! (No, not the A Team of 80's t.v., I mean "A" as opposed to the lesser "B" team.) Frankly, I still wonder why the popular boys liked to talk with me and hang out but never asked me to go with them.

durn Minnesota

On Monday it was over 80 degrees F and insufferably wet. I sweated all day. Mosquitos chewed on me every time I set foot outdoors. Tuesday night / Wednesday morning it rained over 6 inches in some parts of the metro and flooded. Today I sent my kids with hats and mittens to school because it was in the 30s. Sigh. While I do prefer the northern climate, sometimes it is so extreme!

On Monday night for Family Home Evening we made a scarecrow. We stuffed my old jeans and J's old shirt with newspapers. We attached garden gloves, old boots, and a baseball cap. We set him in a chair on the porch. Tuesday I bought a bunch of pumpkins and gourds to surround him. Yesterday I found a lighted jack-o-lantern head for him. Now that he's all decked out he is quite a sight. I'll have to get a picture of him and post it. Yesterday I saw someone slow down as they drove by our house so they could get a good look at him. Marcus checks on him every few minutes it seems.

What else have we been doing? Tuesday night J and I tried tp watch a DVD together. It was a fun Pedro Infante movie called "Los hijos de Maria Morales." We hadn't seen a movie together for so long because the kids got in to the habit of going to bed very late during the summer and they've been fighting desperately against an early bed time since school started. Well, Bernie is the worst. The other kids would not give trouble if it weren't for her. She came down and bothered us while we watched the movie.

Last night J layed down the law. He told the kids at 8:30 that if they came out of their rooms they'd be in big trouble. Bernie had to try that one out of course. She came tripping out with her little "I'm testing" smile. J took her down to the basement bedroom and told her she'd have to sleep there by herself. He put her in that completely dark room, shut the door, and sat outside the door. She tried to get out and he told her that she had made the choice to break the bed time rule so she'd have to be by herself. After a little while (she didn't cry or scream but she was scared) he told her she could go sleep in her room if she promised not to come out again. He told her he would take the light bulbs out of the basement bedroom and she'd have to sleep in there in complete darkness if she came out again. That worked.

It may sound harsh, but we've tried everything to get her to stay in her room and nothing has worked.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Ten Commandments

We have the Ten Commandments posted in our kitchen. Marcus (age 5) reads them to himself every day. This morning he announced, "I'm going to write my own commandments!" J got him a sheet of paper and pencil, and he delivered himself of the following:

1. Eat.
2. Say a prayer.
3. Get your clothes on.
4. Got to bed.
5. Do not covet.
6. Be nice.
7. Do dodge someone who hurts you.
8. If you [want you can] have a sleepover.
9. Get your stuff where you are going.
10. If snow comes, if you want, play in the snow.

It took Marcus about 5 minutes to come up with these. Familiarity with Super Smash Bros. would help with understanding #7. "No sleepovers" is a family policy. You're on your own for #9.