If I Should Die Before I Wake

Most of my energy came back yesterday, but it’s a fickle thing.  It likes to hang around all day eating up the Doritos, and then when I need it most, saunter out the door with me asking plaintively, “But where are you going?”  “Out.”  Fickle, fickle energy.

What I’m up against now is the Nighttime Coughing and none of my old tricks are helping.

Falling asleep with a cough drop–doesn’t work.

Sleeping propped completely upright in a chair–doesn’t work.

OTC cough suppressant–doesn’t work.

As soon as the sun goes down The Coughing begins.  Darling Husband has been delightedly making fun of my coughing as payback to all the fun I made of his cough earlier this month.  Ok, I wasn’t technically the one making the fun. Boy8 was.  But I did laugh at Boy8’s antics.  Clearly, Darling Husband is collecting his payback.

And then, when I lie down, it gets worse.  The dragon awakens in my lungs and begins to bellow.  Roar, roar, roar.  After an hour or two of endless coughing, I finally pass out from the drama only to be awakened again every 30 minutes from The Cough.  The Cough leaves me with no air in my lungs and me gasping for breath, tears streaming down my face from the force of the cough, afraid I’ll suffocate by morning. Really, I can’t breathe.  It makes the prayer, “If I should die before I wake” feel dreadfully relevant.

The only thing that works is standing up.  If I stand up, the urge to cough goes away.  I’ve spent the last three nights alternately trying to sleep on a chair, propped up on a couch, or pacing the room mentally inventing various harnesses that would hold me up in a standing position so I can get some sleep.

My last resort is a medicine called  Tessalon Perle.  It’s a gel capsule that is supposed to anesthetize the tickle that makes you cough all night.  Barbetta, my nurse practitioner friend, told me about it at dinner one day.  Someone else at the dinner was complaining of a cough and Barbetta talked about using “pearls.”  I thought this was fascinating since Barbetta is normally highly skeptical of home remedies.  Why would she think that swallowing pearls would help a cough?  But we got that all cleared up (tessalon perle, not pearls) and I said to her, a bit testily, “How come doctors never tell you about this stuff when you have a cough?!  How would I get my hands on this stuff?”  She said that you have to call them and tell them you cannot sleep and ask them for heeeeelp.  I filed this tidbit away for a rainy day.

So this morning, clearly a Rainy Day, after three nights of unrest I called my nurse practitioner (Jen) and got an appointment.  Jen works in the same office as Barbetta, which is a good thing.  I tell Jen all the time, “Barbetta tells me this and Barbetta tells me that,” about my medical conditions.  If Jen didn’t know Barbetta I’m sure she’d just roll her eyes at all the things “my friend Barbetta” tells me.  But Jen knows Barbetta and hopefully trusts that Barbetta knows her stuff.  So when I desperately grapped Jen by the lapels and demanded said, “Barbetta told me that Tessalon Perle can help coughs. Give me some!” she gave it to me.

We’ll know in a few hours whether or not it works.

Oh!  And she also said that it sounds like I had the flu.  The flu!  Influenza, people!  That’s way worse than a man cold.  No wonder there was all that whimpering and lack of energy and tissues everywhere and having my family wait on me.  The flu!  That’s what killed Edward and turned him into a vampire, people!  This is serious stuff!


I finished Breaking Bad two days ago.  I had to buy those last 8 episodes, if you recall.  Without giving anything away to those who haven’t seen it, the one thing I expected to happen, happened.  I mean, we all saw that coming so it wasn’t a big shock.  We were just curious as to how the writers bring it about.

But all the other stuff!  Ay yi yi!  Those writers were brutal.  Wow.  I didn’t expect any of the other thing to go down the way they did.  Breaking Bad is a cautionary tale:  If you do wrong, you’ll get your due.  No exceptions.  Even the innocent bystanders.  Yipes.

Apparently my 70 year old aunt is watching Breaking Bad, too.  She posted a bizarre post on Facebook calling us all “B——, yo!”  Huh?!?  Aunt Ginger!  You are not a 20-odd year old drug dealer!  You’re a little old lady!  You can’t go around calling people names like that.  Someone’s gonna beat you up, yo.

Why do we have to learn this stuff? When will we ever use it?

Huge tactical error on Boy11’s part.  Huge.

Boy11’s usual grammar assignments are for him to read sentences and then diagram them.  But yesterday under the Challenge section in his grammar book he was given the assignment to compose four sentences and then diagram them.  Ok, no biggie until you get to the end of the instructions.  You must compose sentences to be diagrammed and the sentences must include…are you ready for this?  no, really…are you ready?  The sentences must include direct objects, compound indirect objects, predicate nominatives, and predicate adjectives.

Boy11 sat there miserably for our 40 minute grammar class staring at the paper and not actually doing any of the work.  This mean that he would have to do it after dinner for Homework.  Nooooooo!  Homeschoolers aren’t supposed to have homework!  What is the world coming to?  It was like Charlie Brown having to read War and Peace on his Christmas vacation. I mean, homework involving “predicate nominatives”? Was this assignment even real?  Does anyone even know what a predicate nominative even is?  Anyone?  Anyone?

Darling Husband loves grammar and loved diagramming sentences in school.  Today, when Boy11 was given the task of diagramming 14 (14!) sentences he asked Darling Husband to help him if he got stuck.  Darling Husband was delighted to be asked: he always loved diagramming after all.  There Darling Husband was, home due to a snow day and merrily ironing our air-dried wrinkled clothes, and he was asked to diagram sentences.  What a happy day!  He assured me from the next room, “I can help Boy11 diagram his sentences.”

With a concerned frown I hollered back, “Um…are you sure?  Do you remember how to diagram an indirect object?  Or a predicate nominative?”  Shifty-eyed silence from the room beyond and then, “Uh….Boy11, ask your mother for help.”

Anyway, back to yesterday’s assignment.  After dinner he managed to write the sentences and diagram them and they were mostly right  But look at what he handed in:

Sloppy work

Are you kidding me? What a mess!  As Miss Shields would say, “Margins, margins, margins–F!”

This morning I looked it over, checked the work, and then told him to re-write it, but this time to actually follow the rules of basic sentence structure, like, ahem, starting each sentence with a capital letter and ending it with a punctuation mark.  Yes, there was a touch of exasperation in my voice when I told him to re-write it following the rules.   I mean, he totally knows better.

So he re-wrote the assignment:

Neat work

Do you see how beautiful that is?  He has never, ever turned in anything this beautiful.

And that’s the tactical error.  He set the bar too high.  It’s not like I’m going to ignore this.  I am the same mother, after all, who made him write sentences with compound indirect objects in the first place.  You think I’m going to let him get away with sloppy work ever again?

Poor, poor Boy11.


Why in the world would I make Boy11 diagram sentences and learn what predicate nominatives and predicate adjectives and all the rest are?

Because one day he might want to be a history teacher in the state of New York.  In order to be a history teacher in the state of New York you have to pass a certification test.  On that test you have to read passages by our Founding Fathers and then write an essay based on the passages.  The passages are something like this:


Those are the practice passages New York gives to you.  The practice assignment is to write an essay explaining what government actions these two men would support based on the passages you read.

I’m sure you wouldn’t be surprised at how many people who are looking to me for help on this sort of essay are completely miserable over trying to decipher these passages.  They tell me, “I tried to write my essay, but I can’t figure out what these guys are even saying.”

This type of English isn’t esasy, but if you can sort through which words are modifying which words and who or what the direct object is, you can understand these essays without too much effort.

Boy11 may never becomes a history teacher in New York or an early American historian, but the exercises are still good for his brain.  That’s why we do it.

Nibbled to Death by Coughs

A true story:

Once upon a time there was a little girl.  She didn’t have any brothers or sisters.  Her father worked shift work.  It rotated: for two weeks he worked all day; for two weeks he worked all night.  After working all night he would come home, put a thick blanket over the window, and sleep all day long.

During the weeks when her father was sleeping all day, 26 of them every year, the little girl had to stay very, very quiet in the house.  She learned how to play quiet games like Traffic Jam where all her little matchbox cars would be lined up in a row and silently move forward an inch at a time.  She learned to doodle with smooth ball point pens, never scratchy pencils.  She learned to walk noiselessly and never snapped any twigs in the hallway when stalking prey.  She read many, many books.

She grew to love the silence of the house.

At that same time there was a different little girl.  Her babyhood was one of quiet happiness.  And then a little sister came along.  Then a brother.  Another brother.  Another sister.  Another sister.  Another brother and a last sister.  Her life stayed happy, but was never again quiet.

Babies cried, toddlers tantrumed, mothers hollered, brothers shouted.  Though she was the oldest of all the children, she stopped growing earlier than the others and ended up being the smallest.  In order to keep her younger brothers and sisters in line she had to learn to speak her mind.  She had to be bold.  She had to be LOUD.

She grew to love the noise of her home.

When the two little girls grew up they became acquaintances.  One day they met at a bowling alley where their children were bowling with a group.  The alley had just opened for the day and the group was the only one there.  There was the smell of stale cardboard pizza, the sight of the faded neon carpet, and the sounds of children laughing and talking and balls rolling and pins falling.

Twenty minutes after the group arrived, the bowling alley owner turned on the music.  Loud music, so that it could be heard over the laughing and talking and rolling and falling.

The quiet little girl, now all grown up, frowned and turned to her loud acquaintance and murmured, “Why did they do that?  Everything was just bearable and then they had to turn on that music.  I wish they hadn’t.”

The loud little girl, now also all grown up, looked shocked and boomed, “Oh I love it!  It was too quiet in here.  I love the noise.  I was the eldest of eight.  When I moved away from home I lived in an apartment all by myself.  The silence was oppressive.  I would feel twitchy unless I had on the television and the radio at the same time.”

“Really?  When I’m alone I keep my house completely silent.  Listening to music in the house makes me twitchy.  I never use the tv for background noise and when it’s on, I keep it as low as possible and still be able to hear it.”

The two woman gave each other friendly “huh, well, waddya know” looks and went on their way—the quiet one sighing over the music and the loud one humming along.


Oh the noise!  Oh my poor little ears!  Oh the cacophony!


As happens every year, Darling Husband and Boy11 have been afflicted with Coughs since 7:52 a.m. on December 14th.  Ahhh….remember way back to December 13th when our house was peaceful and quiet?

At first they coughed just a few times here and there….and then it got worse….and worse…and worse…until the two of them were hacking away and doubled over and getting tears in their eyes from all the coughing.   Cough, cough, hack, hack…a few times every hour…a few times every half hour….every 10 minutes….every three minutes!


I haven’t been able to finish a sentence without pausing to wait for someone to stop hacking in 3 weeks.  You should have seen me trying to read to them.


The extraterrestrial peeked (pause for cough, cough, hack hack) through the louvers of the closet door.  The boy had (pause for cough, cough, hack hack) returned to bed.  The mother placed a tube in the boy’s (pause for cough, cough, hack hack) mouth and left the room.  The boy quickly held it up to the light above his bed, (pause for cough, cough, hack hack) heated the fluid within it, and placed it back in his mouth (pause for cough, cough, hack hack) as the mother returned.

The old scientist nodded. (pause for cough, cough, hack hack)  A trick known around the galaxy. *


Boy8 and I were being as patient as we could but the constant cough, cough, hack, hack wears on a person.  It was all we could do not to say, “Would you just STOP MAKING ALL THAT NOISE!?!?!”

Boy8 handled it the only way he could–by making fun it.  He’s developing quite the sense of humor and his impressions of Darling Husband coughing are hilarious.  Well, they’re hilarious to everyone except for Darling Husband.

Darling Husband is getting better, but Boy11 is still hacking away.

It doesn’t help that I started watching Breaking Bad in the middle of this whole mess.  The main character is diagnosed with lung cancer (first epiosde, I haven’t spoiled it for you) and HE COUGHS, TOO!   I just can’t get away from the coughing.  Every time the actor coughs I shake my head and think, “Lame!  That cough was lame!  If you want to hear a real cough, just head on over to my house and I’ll show you a real cough (yo.)”


* Excerpt from “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial in his Adventure on Earth” a novel by William Kotzwinkle.  You probably recognize that author’s name from the very famous book “Walter, The Farting Dog” (which I also own).  With a resume like that you know he’s a good author.

But seriously, it’s a fun little book.  It’s based on the movie E.T. and does a nice job of flushing out the details.  I read it as a kid and recently bought it to read it to my kids.

(Do I need to state the obvious, that I was the quiet little girl in the story?)

Colleges Close in the Snow but Homeschools Do Not

It snowed last night.  Darling Husband works at a college teaching meteorology.  Is there anything better than being a teacher of meteorology at a college?  Nope.  Nothing.

Darling Husband loves the weather.

Let me start over: Darling Husband is endlessly, hopelessly, helplessly enamored with the weather. It’s a love born from countless late nights riveted to obscure weather websites known to only those who are pure of heart, valiant in battle, and have undertaken many brave quests that involve much “talking about the weather.”  (Sorry, just got done reading a chapter from a King Arthur book to the boys.*)

Not only do snow events make Darling Husband’s heart sing, but he works at a college.  A college! Guess what colleges do in the snow?  They shut down!  Yes!  Darling Husband and the boys are out right now shoveling snow.  He couldn’t be any happier than he is right now: no work, shoveling snow.  This is the dream life for a weather lover.

Hang on…the boys are out shoveling snow?  Shouldn’t they be in school?  Oh yes, the dread truth of homeschool is that there is no such thing as a snow day.  The boys made a valiant effort at showing me how slippery the hardwood floor conditions were in the hallway this morning and there was no way they could possibly gain access to the school room.  It was almost convincing.  And then yesterday Boy11 had to get some medicine for a cough that Won’t Go Away**,and lo! he found a note from the doctor this morning.  See:


Inside was this prescription for the cure:


Wow!  I’d better set up that tv right away!  Gotta get the child curard.  Don’t want him to stay contagous.

But I’m going to squeeze in a spelling lesson beforehand.  And maybe some penmanship.  Cursive for sure.  And typing would help his case most of all.  There’s spell-check when you type, you know.


*The Story of King Arthur and his Knights by Howard Pyle

**Shoveling snow with a cough?  We were hoping the cold air would help.  Sometimes it does.

Whining Averted and Getting Beaten Up By Your Friends

It’s 3 hours later.

Boy8 and I watched a bunch of America’s Funniest Videos, so I defected the Whine Session.  He’s still never happy to leave the house, but is good-naturedly resigned to going out to dinner now.

And Boy11.  Oi.  Last night he was running around in the pitch dark and lost a tiny piece to his favorite toy.  (A sonic screwdriver, from Doctor Who.)  It was THE Christmas present.  He was devastated.  His friends had no clue about the drama going on and he yelled at them for not helping him.

Yeah, it was a mess.  Boy11 was a mess.  The friends were like, “Dude, whatever.”

Boy11 apologized, but no one was interested in hearing it.  New Year’s Resolution this year–make Boy11 read “How to Make Friends and Influence People.”  I’m pretty sure yelling at your friends at a New Year’s Eve party at 11 at night is not the way to endear yourself to anyone.  I need to tell him the story of my coworker who got beat up by his beefy lacrosse playing friends in college for being mouthy.

Mike was on the slender size and all of his friends were beefy college lacrosse players.  Mike’s always been lightning quick witted and can have a cutting sense of humor if he’s not careful.

One day, he was nagging and nagging at one of his lacrosse player friends and said friend had Had Enough.  So he started beating on Mike’s face.  He had him pinned on the floor and was punch/punch/punching Mike.  It took 3 of the other lacrosse players to pull him off Mike.

Mike ended up in the ER.  He called his dad and told him what happened. “Dad! My buddy beat me up!  I’m in the ER!”

Instead of the concern and words of comfort that Mike expected to hear, his dad sighed and said, “Mike.  What did you SAY?  What did you SAY that landed you in the ER?”

I don’t want my scrawny Boy11 ending up in the ER when his beefy lacrosse playing friends have Had Enough.

Anyway, after a tearful evening for Boy11, he went back to our friend’s house this morning in the light of day and found the missing toy.

We’re supposed to arrive at dinner in about a half hour.  Guess I should get dressed.

It’s still Happy New Year!

First Bleary Day of the New Year

After a wild and crazy New Year’s Eve party last night (picture us sitting somewhat droopily playing a never-ending Domino game until 3:00 in the morning) it’s time to wake up and face the day.

Boy11 got 4 hours of sleep last night and is priming himself for a bracing day of Being Crabby.

Boy8 got 10 hours of sleep and is Peopled Out and is bracing himself for a lovely Whine Session because we have dinner plans with friends.  “Why don’t we ever stay hooooome?” This is the kid I have to hide when people ask questions about unsocialized homeschoolers.  Left to his own devices Boy8 would quite happily never leave home again unless the destination involved the words “Pizza Hut.”  A few friends who’ve known him since birth have been shocked to hear his voice for the first time this year.  Honestly.  He’s slowly coming out of his shell but not without the aforementioned whining.

Darling Husband, well, I don’t know what Darling Husband will do today.  He’s one of the most even tempered people I know so he’ll just putter around being his usual pleasant self. 

I got 8 hours of sleep and am about to go on a hunting expedition to find breakfast.  From what I can tell, it’ll be leftover Halloween Frankenberry and chips and salsa for me.  

Happy New Year!

Homeschoolers can solve all your problems.

A few days ago I posted about my 17 hour school day.  It’s such a long day (but really more like 7 hours) because of the non-stop rabbit trails we take.

A few people responded to my post with compliments saying they thought my homeschool sounded like fun.  And while that’s very gratifying I have to say that I run into people like me all the time, so I’m not really all that special.

See, when I finally stop watching youtube videos with the boys and hand them a worksheet to fill in, I need to stay in the room with them or they get wild.  Sort of like in my 6th grade social studies class with Miss Davenport.  She left us alone in the classroom while she went to make copies on the ditto machine.  While she was gone all of us, the entire 6th grade class, turned into feral beasts.  When she came back she could hear our snarls and calls at the other end of the hallway.  She stood in shocked horror at the window to the classroom unable to believe her eyes: we were out of our seats, we were throwing paper, we were dropping books on the floor.  She stormed in and made us write, “We will not be wild animals when our teacher is away,” 200 times for homework.

What was my point?  Oh yeah.  You can’t really leave kids alone when they’re supposed to be doing schoolwork.  So I sit there, babysitting, while they work.  And I get Bored.  Capital B Bored.

So I do what all the other bored homeschooling parents do while their kids are working on independent work. I head to an online homeschooling forum and read what the other homeschoolers are up to.

And there I find people who are much more advanced in this whole “use whatever you can find to stuff knowledge into their heads” game we play. For example, the other day a woman wrote about her children’s love affair with all things bathroom.  Here’s what she wrote:

“Ok. I give up. I am surrounded by boys and girls who just adore poop and farts! I am so sick of it I am pulling out the big guns….. Ready to kill their love of the subject by requiring it as a unit study.
So, are there any unit studies on poop and farts? Any ideas you wish to share?
My first assignment was a cluster diagram on poop. 3 different kinds…. 3 details. Tomorrow they write the paragraphs! You should see their faces! Wait until they get their spelling list!”

I read it and figured that no one would really respond with anything helpful, but to my surprise post after post after post came in with all sorts of suggestions.  There were links to poop cartoons, to an education video about the “poop cycle” (oh my), and countless book recommendations.  When all was said and done there were 52 responses.  She updated the post a few days later to write:

“UPDATE: It worked!! My youngest has not written poop on one of his books in 4 days!!”

I mean, how can I stay away from this, people?  This is homeschool gold!  No matter what your problem is, these people can solve it for you.  If you want to read the whole post and all 52 responses, here’s the link.   The website is free.

But beyond solving any and all possible educational challenges, it’s also entertaining. A woman posted the other day about her son who has social issues.  This was posted in the “Learning Challenges” board, so that means he probably as Aspergers, so the issues are real and the woman is honestly seeking help.  She wanted advice on how to teach her son not to make himself a target for teasing.  Turns out that he likes to chew on things, so he took horse chew to his high school baseball practice the other day to chew on.  No, I don’t know what horse chew is either, but she wrote that the boy’s grandparents have horses and the boy figured he could just snack on the chew.  I’m guessing it’s like a chew toy for horses?  Or some sort of treat for a horse that is chewy?  Don’t know.

And here’s where I’m torn.  On the one hand, you feel sorry for the kid who doesn’t understand social situations.  But on the other hand, oh my goodness, imagine the looks on the other kids’ faces when they see their teammate chomping on horse chew?  That’s a little funny…

Sorta like the story my mother told me the other day about my aunt.  I have a branch of the family that I’ve only met once when I was a child.  Apparently my Aunt Barbara is in her 50s and has been into drugs on and off all her life–marijuana all the way to heroin–and her brain is a bit like “swiss cheese” as my mother says.  The other day, she decided to go on a little road trip with just herself and her chihuahua.  She started from her home in Colorado and drove to Moab, Utah.  Somewhere along the way, she turned on to a lonely dirt road in the middle of a lonely town in the middle of a lonely state.  She stopped the car, and attempted to leave it.  But somehow or other, she fell half in/half out of the car. A rancher found her two days later (alive), but stuck face down in the dirt.  When they lifted her up, they found her little Chihuahua, squashed under her (dead).

Part of me is completely horrified and part of me finds that hilarious.  Maybe if it had been anything other than a chihuahua.  And it didn’t help that my mother was laughing so hard when she told me the story that she could barely get it out.

Back to the bored homeschooling parents:  A post I just read today was about a woman who went to the doctor with a painful zit.  By the time all was said and done, she was hospitalized for her zit and contracted MRSA.  Again, I’m torn.  Poor woman with MRSA.  She said she’s feeling miserable.  And yet…a zit?  Hospitalized for a zit?  Kinda makes me giggle.

Anyway just had to share.  I’m not all that different from lots of other homeschooling families out there.  I surely didn’t know you could find so much educational material about poop, but if there’s a topic to be studied, you know that some family is out there studying it and making models of scat out of playdoh  No, really.  Here’s the link to the Playdoh Scat Animal Poop Lab.  The woman’s high school aged kids did an entire study on it.  Maybe they’ll be hunters when they grow up.  Oh, look!  She even gives advice on field work and how you ought to use the macro setting on your camera to get better pictures of the scat you find.

Homeschoolers are weird.  🙂

Bedbugs (again) and Bow Chicka Wow Wow

Darling Husband was away overnight last night.  I figured I’d tidy up so he’d come home to a clean house.

Ha!  Not gonna happen.  My new camera gear arrived today.  Everything stops when new camera gear arrives.

Darling Husband was in Ohio because his aunt is moving here from a one-room efficiency to a small apartment and he’s helping her.  When he got there, she wasn’t packed yet, which may or may not have been a good things because she has…are you ready?


Oh heavens.

You may or may not know that we had bedbugs a few years ago.  It’s been my dread fear that we’d get them again.  Not because it’s creepy to have bugs sucking your very life’s blood while you’re innocently sleeping, nah–I can handle that.  No, the part that leaves me shivering in horror is the fact that they’re so stinkin’ expensive to treat.

Darling Husband asked me to call Ninja Bug Guy.  We were hoping that Ninja Bug Guy (our exterminator who looks and sounds just like this guy) would talk sense into Aunt Shirley.  Darling Husband and I know that pretty much everything just has to be thrown away.  Just toss it all and start from scratch.  It’s easier and cheaper.

She wasn’t convinced even with Ninja Bug Guy calling her on the phone, so Darling Husband and his dad spent hours and hours packing all her stuff into black bags to be inspected for bugs later.  The problem is this: what if little hitchhiking bugs have attached themselves to Darling Husband’s clothes?  No, no, no!

When Darling Husband finally gets home in the wee hours of the morning, he’ll see a sign I put on the front door: “Head to the screened in porch and remove all your clothes.” Since that sounded kinda racy I added to the bottom “bow chicka wow wow.”  Unfortunately, the boys can read and they wanted to know why I wrote bow chicka wow wow on the sign.  No, boys, trust me–you don’t.  You don’t ever want to think of “bow chicka wow wow” and “parents” at the same time.

Here are a few pictures taken with my new camera gear.

We started with Boy11 taking the pictures.  I said, “Direct me–what should I do?” He said, “Pretend I’ve just said something really, really funny.”  So I did, but the boys just stared at me aghast and said, “That was really creepy, mom.”  This is not a keeper:


And then Darling Husband called.  And then Scott from photo club called.  Like, dudes!  I’m trying to take pictures here!  Stop calling me!  I grabbed my remote control for the camera and still managed to get shots while on the phone. Neither sleet nor snow nor phone calls will stop me from using my new gear.  Scott called to tell me to bring my new gear with me to photo club tomorrow. Well, duh! Of course I’m bringing the new gear to photo club!  Where else can I go for free advice on how to actually use it??


In between photo sessions, I had to take the kids to Light the Night.  Sure, it’s a great little event in our town where the kids can go and get a ton of candy and play carnival games, but..but..but!  My camera gear was waiting for me!  Ugh!  Why was Light the Night the same night as when my camera gear arrived??

Fortunately they give out lots of candy.  We were all pretty hungry, since I sorta forgot to feed the kids because I was too busy taking pictures of myself with my new gear.  I tossed a puny McDonald’s hamburger at them for dinner on the way to Light the Night, but that only goes so far.


Things started degenerating about now.  The boys were up waaay past their bedtime and Boy8 ran off with my remote and kept snapping pictures when I wasn’t ready.  Here I am demanding that he hand it over.


This is the self-portrait that looks most how I think about myself.  I ended up with a bunch of fake-smile pictures, a few pictures that were a little too bow chicka wow wow and a few where I looked downright mean.  But this one is a good representation of how I feel about myself on the inside:


Why Does Homeschooling Take 17 Hours a Day?

Homeschooling the children takes forever each day. Forever.  Why?  Why does it take forever? (Whine.)

I paid attention to what we did today to try to find out.  The problem was pretty clear about 3 seconds into our school day.

We started with History. The title of the chapter was “Alfred the Great”.  He was a king in Medieval England.  That reminded me of the Paul McCartney song Uncle Alfred.  Only, the song is actually called Uncle Albert.

Oh well.  It’s still catchy so we listened to it.

Why did we listen to a Beatles song?  Because kids are born knowing nothing.  They don’t have much to pin new bits of knowledge to.  If you can make what you’re teaching them memorable, or give them pins to hook that knowledge to, they’ll remember it better.  If the boys hear the Uncle Albert song in the future it’s possible they’ll remember that their mom made them listen to it because they were learning about King Alfred only she messed up the name.  Doesn’t work every time, but every little bit helps.

After listening to Uncle Albert we learned that the Vikings attacked Alfred at Christmastime. I asked who else they know from history who attacked at Christmastime.  Right–George Washington.  That reminded me of a picture I saw the other day.  So we popped online to look at it.  a 1 Eeeewww.  Yes, it’s been altered.  I pulled this from a blog that I follow.  I asked permission to use the picture and promised that I would link it back to him.  So, could the two of you who read my blog, please click on this link so that he can get a couple more hits on his blog?  Thanks.

Back to our history lesson.  The book reads “Alfred was not expecting an invasion.”  Well of course–no one expects a Christmas Invasion!  (Except for Doctor Who fans.)  That reminded me of the Monty Python “No one expects the Spanish Inquisition” skit.  We watched part of it and I made a big deal of comparing it to No One Expects a Christmas Invasion.  Pins, you know.

The book told us that Alfred hid from the Vikings all winter and waited until the crops were planted in the spring before summoning his army.  We considered why that was important.  Logan recalled from history lessons two years ago that whenever anyone tried to invade Russia someone or other always burned all the crops on the way in.  Then, when winter hit and the invading army tried to leave, they starved on the way out.

Which reminded us of this quote from Vizzini in The Princess Bride:

“You fool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders – The most famous of which is “never get involved in a land war in Asia” – but only slightly less well-known is this: “Never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line”! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha…

We watched it.

We read that Alfred’s remains were never found, but pieces of his coffin were found in 1999.  I searched for pictures of the coffin and stumbled across a brand new article from 2 months ago that they may have just found his bones after all.(!) I read it to the boys and we remembered the recent update on CNN Student News about finding King Richard III’s bones under a parking lot last year.

And finally, forever later, we were done history.  None of the above was planned.

After an uneventful math lesson, each boy read a chapter from the bible.  Boy8’s was about the walls of Jericho.  Which, obviously, reminded us of the Veggie Tale song sung by the French Peas

…which is clearly unabashedly copied from the Monty Python and the Holy Grail bit with the French hurling insults on King Arthur.  We watched both clips and compared them.  We’re going to be studying castles in a week or two, so this was timely.

I read the boys the proverb for the day which ended with:

No matter how much you know

or what plans you make,

you can’t defeat the Lord.

Even if your army has

horses ready for battle,

the Lord will always win.

Which reminded me of those aliens in Hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy who tried to invade the Earth, but due to a miscalculation of scale they were swallowed up by a small dog when they arrived.  See the correlation?  Strong army thinks they’ll win, only to find out they’re actually puny.   We watched a clip.

During lunch we watched part of the movie IQ, which is about Albert Einstein’s niece.  We watched it deliberately so that when we study Albert Einstein sometime in the future, they’ll have something to pin that bit of knowledge to.

Earlier in the day, I’d noticed that the blogger who posted the picture of the seasick soldier crossing the Potomac had also posted a picture of Einstein.  Here it is: a 4 (Here’s your last chance to click on the link to see the blog page where I stole this from. Go ahead, click.  I told him you would.)

Fortunately for us, a couple of weeks ago I made them listen to M C Hammer’s U Can’t Touch This when we learned about the French king Charles Martel.  Charles Martel means Charles the Hammer in English.  The boys thought the E=MCHammer was particularly funny.  See about the pins?

And finally, the boys’ writing curriculum teaches that in order to bring a report to a close, at the end you should refer to something from the beginning.  So to bring this to a close: in the movie IQ, Meg Ryan called her uncle, Uncle Albert.  The boys were delighted. “Hey! She called him Uncle Albert!  We just heard that song!”

Haaands across the water (water).  Haaands across the sky.

My Homeschool is Lame

It’s official.  My homeschool is lame.  We study for 6.5 hours during the day, plus an hour for karate on Tues and Thurs, plus 20 minutes of Latin in the evening with Darling Husband and 30 minutes of mandatory reading at night.  This fall we’ll start watching CNN student current events during breakfast and old Bill Nye science shows on youtube during lunch.  Whatever seat work that doesn’t get done in the day gets done in the kids’ spare time.

But it’s still lame.

Justin, the 13 year old exchange student from China, attends school from 7:30 in the morning until 6:00 at night.  Then he comes home and does 3 hours of homework.  Thirteen and a half hours a day.  He became utterly serious and emphatic as he told us, “Marks are the most important thing in China.  Most important.  More than anything.”

So, as you can see, my homeschool is utterly lame.  And so is yours.  And your private school and public school as well.

His 13.5 hours a day sure are paying off.  That kid is razor sharp.  He sat with us and talked politics, history, and economics as if it were the most natural thing in the world for a 13 year old kid to do.  We learned a lot from him.

Here are some things we learned from Justin:

1.  It is cold on airplanes so you must dress warmly.

The first night they arrived, I noticed that Justin’s clothes fit him badly.  I wondered at the tailoring in China.  His clothes were lumpy and his legs were stuffed into the pants like sausages.  What do the Chinese girls think of the Chinese boys and their lumpy clothes?

But after that first day his clothes looked normal for the most part, except that he wore a striped tie with a plaid shirt.  (He loves ties.)

On the last day as he was getting ready to leave he said, “It is so cold on the plane.  They tell us to wear two pants and two shirts.”

Ah.  I see.  So, when he’s on the plane, he’s stuffed into two pairs of pants.  I’m not exactly sure who told Justin to wear two pairs of pants because John came downstairs wearing shorts and a t-shirt.  I’m guessing that John was cold on the ride home and Justin was toasty warm.

Well, he was toasty warm until he arrived in China.  And then he was miserably hot.  Ever since they’ve been back to China, I’ve been getting messages from them.  Here’s the one I got this morning from Justin:

Justin:  Temperature in Fuzhou is 45celsius.  As soon as I had arrived in China, I felt very hot

Me:  45 celsius?!  Hot!  It is 19 celsius here.

45c = 113f

19c = 66f

Now, 113 seems a bit high to me.  I mean, really—113 degrees Fahrenheit?   Then again maybe not.  I just looked up the forecast for Fuzhou and it’ll be 104 with 59% humidity on Thursday.  That’s pretty hot.

Anyway, the reason that “as soon as I had arrived in China, I felt very hot” might not have all been due to the weather.  It might have been in part because he was stuffed into 2 shirts and 2 pairs of pants.

2.  Parents don’t understand.

When the students were here it was probably one of the best experiences my family has ever had together.  I’ve only lived in the mostly northern states of America, but I’ve heard of the graciousness of the American south.  The exchange students are from the south of China so perhaps there’s something about living in the boiling hot southern regions of a country that makes for good manners.

If a door needed to be opened, they opened it.  If something fell on the ground, they picked it up.  If someone was lifting something, they jumped to help.  They greeted us warmly each time we met (more on that later) and everything was please and thank you.

I’ve never met such gracious people.  Having them in my home was so easy.

But I’m smart enough to realize it was just for 2 weeks and very likely, after time, we’d have started getting on each other’s nerves.  Probably Justin’s first.

One night we were asking Justin questions about his home.  We asked what happens if he gets in trouble at home.  He said, “Very terrible!”  Then he went on to say that he is an impatient person and when his parents don’t understand him, he curses at them.

Parents don’t understand their kids?  That’s an old, old song Justin.

Literally, an old song.  Will Smith and Justin would get along great.  Parents just don’t understand.

3.  Tomatoes and corn are for poor people.

Justin talked about how after World War II China was poverty stricken.  Everyone was poor and everyone lived on tomatoes and corn.  But now, people like to eat a lot of beef.

Uh oh.  I love tomatoes and corn.  They’re my favorites.  One of my best memories growing up was when I ate 12 tomatoes in one sitting on the ride home from Harper’s Ferry.

In the picture below–dinner:  tomato based minestrone soup and corn on the cob.  Our students had to eat like poor people while they were in America.





Note the gobs of butter on Justin’s plate.  And that was just the beginning.  He added more.  They buttered everything like that.  The butter on their toast was thicker than the bread.

Later in the week I took them to Shannon’s house for a proper meat and potatoes American dinner so they wouldn’t think all Americans were poor, eating tomatoes and corn.


Obviously, there’s much more to say but my lame homeschool starts in less than two weeks and I’m supposed to be lesson planning right now.