Learning Notes Redux – Week of May 14th

– Sunday –

Today being Mother’s Day, there was nothing especially education that happened. David picked out a card from my stash of photo notecards that my mother makes me every year, and wrote a very legible ‘love you’ on the inside. And I got chocolates and mimosas and omelettes full of vegetables and bacon. I’ve had to go dairy free for Julian, so I didn’t get any cheese, or my traditional meal of bagels and cream cheese and lox, but it was a very lovely day ne’er the less.

– Monday –

We are currently reading A Wrinkle In Time, purely because I found it on the school shelf while I was cleaning for Easter and decided we were going to start it over and by gum we would finish it this time. Really, it was an inspired choice. David is really enjoying it. Today we read chapter four, when Meg, Calvin, and Charles Wallace arrive on Uriel, orbiting Malak, in Messier 101 aka the Pinwheel Galaxy. This lead us back to the chapter of Story of the World which dealt with the story of Abraham, and a discussion of the Semetic peoples of the Middle East. Malak means ‘angel’ in Arabic and Hebrew. Then we dicussed how Uriel is traditionally one of the names of the archangels. And we looked up Messier 101 and discovered that it is a spiral galaxy in the constellation Ursa Major. We talked a little bit about which of these places were real and which were made up for the story.

David said that Malak sounded like Mallock the Malign from the Lego Adventures of Clutch Powers, and that they probably picked Mallock because it sounded scary and weren’t really worried about what it meant.

We also began our large history timeline (12”x75’). We started Story of the World over (AGAIN) this maternity leave and now that my roll of paper finally came, I’m taking the events from the timeline in the back of the book and as we read about various events, David illustrates what he remembers about them underneath the event as I write it on the timeline. We’re a little bit behind with the timeline compared with the book, so he has a couple things to fill in every time he draws something.

Homeschooling means we are still in our pajamas at 3pm.

We did most of our morning basket today, but skipped the chapter of Acts of the Apostles.

He’s working on his 4x multiplication set. He’s been stuck on them for what feels like forever – he can usually get the right answers with enough time, but he can’t get the set of multiplication problems of randomized 1 through 15 done in 1:15, which is the time I allot for his mad minute.

I am saving our daily chapter of Swallows and Amazons as the carrot to get through the day. I’ve never read it and we are both enjoying it immensely. Today they had their first glimpse of another sailboat.

– Tuesday –

Because we skipped Acts yesterday, I read that first. Chapter 6 ends quite abruptly, and David was annoyed that it ended so sharply. At least he’s listening when I read, even if he’s standing on his head while I do it.

Today’s chapter of A Wrinkle In Time brought on another rabbit hole, this time about various dimensions. David is fascinated with the concept of a tesseract, a moving of points in space and/or time close together instead of going the long way around.

When we moved into Life of Fred – Cats, we read the chapter about the nurse stacking pillboxes in columns of ten, and chunking ten columns of ten together to make one hundred. This dovetailed very nicely with A Wrinkle In Time’s discussion of various dimensions. I maybe added an extra description of stacking ten chunks of one hundred pillboxes to make a cube containing one thousand pillboxes. All I can say is that I’m deeply grateful he has finally (FINALLY) grasped place value.

On the history scroll we have added a very nice before and after illustration of Africa showing the climate change that resulted in the Saharan desert, and an illustration of Sargon killing the king of Kish. Apparently Sargon’s weapon of choice was a catapult.

We finished the whole morning basket today. Right now, we are cycling through A Wrinkle in Time, The Golden Goblet, Acts of the Apostles from the New Jerusalem Bible, Life of Fred – Cats, Story of the World Volume 1, and Swallows and Amazons. I think I want to maybe add in another book or two, but I’m not sure what.

– Wednesday –

Today I learned that we never got a copy of Raphael’s birth certificate. Tomorrow he starts speech therapy and he needs a birth certificate to be enrolled in the local elementary before he can begin.

Therefore, we read a chapter AWiT and one of history, and then David spent the rest of the day working on his pictoral timeline while I tore the schoolroom/library/game room apart looking for a birth certificate that, as I deduced (around 6pm) by the presence of the partially filled out birth certificate order form that the hospital gave me almost four years ago, I never actually ordered. So, whether Raphael can get his speech therapy tomorrow is still up in the air.

The only good part about this day was that, in the process of looking for the birth certificate, the school room ended a good bit tider than it began AND I fixed the broken closet door that Raphael had run off the rails months before. I also mounted the small American flag purchased 6 years ago and intended for the schoolroom wall.

So stuff happened, and none of that was even screen time, but it wasn’t exactly a stellar school day.

– Thursday –

Raphael had his first speech therapy today after all. I found out at 9:20 that I had a month to provide his birth certificate to the school. So in the process of forty minutes I got to prep all three boys for an outing, fill out the school enrollment forms, collect all the other paperwork, collect expired medication for David’s cub scout service project, and leave the house. We made it, but only just.

To my shock, Raphael walked off with the speech therapist in a combination of manful resignation and sass. He’s normally extremely reticient about interacting with new people. As a reward, he got lunch at Chick Fil A.

After lunch we betook ourselves to the one pharmacy in the area that accepts expired medications for safe disposal. This fulfilled one of the requirements for Paws For Action, and David is now almost finished with his Bear rank.

When we got home David prepped for his book club with the Sailor by rereading his chapters of the biography of Houdini that they are currently reading. I warned her when she came to pick him up, that we ran out of tea on Tuesday (he didn’t tell me we were running out!) and so he was going to be restless and flakey. When she brought him back, they came back with a fresh stock of tea – Sailor was so shocked at the difference in his ability to focus between a day with tea and a day without that she stopped, even though I had errands planned for the text day.

– Friday –

Today was errand day, and we had a ton of places to go, so we did a little bit of reading and then took off. We visited the Scout shop for his Cyber Chip and Webelos manuals and tee shirts for summer camp, and the homeschool store for another Life of Fred. Then we met Sailor for lunch and she showed us the hidden British import market only a couple miles from my house.

Sailor introduced us to Trader Joe’s as well. I’m not super thrilled with Trader Joe’s, primarily because they charge a dollar more for celery than HEB. But the boys enjoyed roaming through the store, tasting samples and looking for Timmy the Turtle. Raphael found him first. I was more interested in the bag of sriracha potato chips that I found.

After that, I was too tired and frazzled (and the boys were too wound up by Sailor) to do grocery shopping, so we just came home.

– Saturday –

David completed his last required Bear adventure today by making a trip with his den to the local firehouse. Meanwhile, Raphael and Julian and I went and did all the grocery shopping that we didn’t get done the day before.

Today was also Raphael’s birthday, so we had a Chick Fil A nugget platter for his birthday dinner. Raphael learned how to indicate he was 4 with his fingers – an easier task than three.

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Seven Quick Blog Posts I Haven’t Finished Writing Yet

1. I’m slowly unearthing myself from the haze of late pregnancy, emergency abdominal surgery, recovery, and the ADD-like experience of having a brand new infant in the house.

Theoretically, I could be posting baby pictures. However that is going to have to wait for him to stop impromptu soiling my sheets necessitating emergency loads of laundry.

2. Easter was especially glorious this year. It was the first year where it felt like Easter the way that late December feels like Christmas. The first year where putting the meal together was relatively effortless, so much so that I could even handle it with low amounts of sleep and a colicky baby. I have thoughts about Easter, but they seem to require more caffeine than is strictly healthy to pry them out of my frontal cortex (and possibly my cerebellum).

3. School has been going swimmingly since Easter. After fighting it for a long time, I have finally embraced the concept of the morning basket, and so we have a good six books going. Homeschooling has suddenly become enjoyable again, and I suspect it would become even moreso if only I could get the upstairs room clean and fitted out with the proper table.

4. Speaking of the proper table, IKEA is on my List. And not on the good one. They had a perfect table solution for me. The Linnmon table top in glossy white was perfect and I just needed to scrape together the spare change to buy it, and then when I HAD, it was unavailable.

I want a basic tabletop, at least 4’ x 2’, preferably 5-6’x 3’, that has a dry erase surface. That’s all I want. Apparently it’s too much to ask.

5. One of the more interesting aspects of my maternity leave is that I didn’t quite have enough vacation and sick time to cover the entire maximum twelve weeks I can take. However my postdoc, who is a prince among postdocs and an all around excellent human being let me save up histology images to measure because I can do that slowly from home. Working from home has been an interesting experience, it requires far more discipline than just rolling out of bed and leaving the house, but is overall less exhausting.

6. I’ve been spending a lot of time on Facebook. This will forever be worthwhile because it led to a tidbit of information that has changed my life.

You MUST preheat cast iron before you cook on it. Otherwise, food will stick no matter how good your seasoning.

Since I learned this to be factual, I have been using my grandmother’s cast iron skillets every day. It works. Even for eggs. Even for bacon. The pans clean all the way with just a nylon scrubber and hot water. It is glorious. Rub a drop of flax seed oil into the cooking surface after it’s clean and dry to protect it during storage, and you’re golden.

7. Raphael has been officially diagnosed with an articulation delay. This means that we have an initial meeting scheduled with the local elementary speech pathologist for therapy. I am hopeful that a couple speech therapy sessions a week will knock it out before he becomes old enough for kindergarten.

This does NOT mean that he is not expressive in his own way. Yesterday he rushed over to kiss his baby brother before his daddy took him on a walk down to the mailbox to fetch the mail.

Mike: “You’re such a good big brother.”
[the door shuts behind him]
Raphael: “And STAY out!!”

I laughed so long, hard, and loud, that Mike came back in to figure out what was the matter.

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The Feast of the Domestic Church

Christmas is finally over.  And since the New Year, the whole family has been shuffling through one ailment after another, starting with my trip to the ER on New Years Day (poison ivy rash resulting in such severe swelling on my hands that I couldn’t use them) to Mike’s bout of food poisoning late last week.  Having both adults in a household containing small-to-medium sized children semi-incapacitated is not a picnic.
But last Monday we finally finished up Christmas, a whole week late.  The king cake was made and consumed.  The house was blessed.  Epiphany gifts had already been opened in their proper time, because 1) I am not a cruel mother, and 2) they were a useful distraction while people were itching and sneezing and being otherwise pretty sick.

And this week, when I looked back, like I do every year, at how Advent and Christmas went from the technical perspective (what worked, what didn’t work, what was enjoyed, what was endured, what failed and why) I had my own epiphany.

David doesn’t think Christmas is over until we’ve properly celebrated Epiphany.

The king cake must be assembled and baked and eaten.  The house must be blessed.  If we are a full week late, so be it.  If the house is a disaster zone of trash, new toys, and partially disassembled Christmas decor, so be it.  And if all the grownups are too sick and/or pregnant to attend to any of these necessities in their proper time, David will wait with the patchy patience of the 8yo until they can be achieved. He’ll make sure you don’t forget.

Now, it would be a tremendous fib to pretend that this has completely resolved all my Christmas related anxiety, and that I will, from this moment on, always rest easy, through whatever liturgical or social or familial provocation I am offered, secure in the knowledge that my kids know when the twelve days of Christmas are.  No.  Every year will have the stress of us leaving our home and traveling back to our own towns, for the family enrollment.  There won’t be any room in the inn.  On some particularly rocky and emotional years, we will need to flee to Egypt.  Familial expectations angst we shall have with us always.

But then we go home again.  And, days after the world is back to business as usual, but inevitably before we’ve had the physical time in our own house to unpack the bags or pick up the trash or take down the decorations, there’s another feast.  And for this feast, we must be at home.

Epiphany celebrates the manifestation of Christ to the world; both to the Gentiles, represented by the Magi, and to all the world, by the Baptism in the Jordan.  And our own home is our own place in the world.  Messy or clean, peaceful or chaotic, it is the place where Christ manifests to us in the ordinary things, and through us to the broader world.  It is the the octave of the feast of the Holy Family, it is feast of the domestic church.

So we do Epiphany big, although we’re still sorting out exactly what big means and how it works.  We bless the house at night, which involves processing around it in the dark with candles singing We Three Kings while Mike chalks the blessing up over all the doors, even the garage door.  This year Raphael was old enough to hold his own candle and he chirped ‘oh boy!’ excitedly through the entire blessing.  We eat king cake.  And the kids have some last presents.  One last feast to celebrate returning to our ordinary place and ordinary time.

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