Saturday, April 25, 2015


A true randomday; I just finished writing tomorrow's scheduled post, a book review.  I'm trying to wrap this up in less than ten minutes and head to bed.

Quarta has been working crew for the Cedar Tree Sherlock Holmes play that is now finished.  It has been a week of packed afternoons and some late evenings, but we went to the play yesterday evening and it was quite a treat.

I finished shampooing the living room carpet this morning, and was pleased to note that the carpet cleaner machine has stopped kicking out clouds of dust and started functioning more or less as it is supposed to.  I wonder if it had something to do with the broken piece of plastic that I removed from the belt access compartment.  I'm counting it a success, since it's at least 11 years old.

Shampooing the carpet in one room makes me realize the vast scope of the task of spring cleaning the whole house, which I don't think I will even try. Maybe I can tackle the family room next year.

This week I made an impulse purchase at Costco: I bought a stainless steel compost bucket, to replace the plastic gallon ice cream bucket that has been collecting kitchen scraps on the kitchen counter.  It is so much more elegant looking.

Steve found a snail this afternoon while gardening and Quarta adopted it and put it in an terrarium made of a salad greens container.  I think she's calling it Shellburt.

At least one of the reasons I haven't been blogging as much is because I have been obsessed with Duolingo for the last year or more.  Now, in addition to having completed the "trees" in Italian, French, Spanish, and German, and working on Dutch, Portuguese and Swedish, I have decided to try posting Latin lessons in the discussion forum, since there is a steady stream of people regretting that there is no Latin course available there.  Here's the directory I made for the course so far.  I'm kind of proud of it, but only time will tell whether I can keep up with it in the style of Duolingo.

And that's it, I'm going to call off random blogging and head in the direction of bed.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Randomday: Catching Up

Spring Break has come and gone, and I haven't blogged much.  Here are some pictures to catch you up.
Peter joined a Cedar Tree work group in Baja, Mexico, building a home for a deserving family and taking time occasionally to entertain the observers.
It's the second time he's been part of this trip, and it's great for him to have such a meaningful life experience.
Meanwhile, Steve, the girls and I went on a 2-day trip to Tacoma.  It was very pretty, as you can see.  We visited Fort Nisqually, which is a lot like a more compact version of our Fort Vancouver, and the Point Defiance Park zoo and aquarium.
Turtles sunning themselves at the fountain in the park.
A peacock obligingly showing off at the zoo.  We don't have pictures of the Museum of Glass, where we sat transfixed for nearly two hours watching the creation of a sculpture, start to finish.
When we returned, Quarta took part in a really cool birthday party for a friend of hers.  The girls dressed up in vintage clothing and had their pictures taken at various venues across town; Costco, 7-11, a diner, a cafe, and various living rooms of friends.  Peter returned from Mexico and we went right back into school this last week.  Maybe not quite as refreshed as we might have wished.

Now as we hurtle toward the end of the school year, Peter has to wrap up his Senior year and keep up with his National Guard duties (he is away at drill this weekend); Daniel is wrapping up his Junior year at college and writing impossibly long and complicated papers and applications for internships; Tertia is busy with school, choir and friends; Quarta is working crew for the Sherlock Holmes play the school is putting on this week.  I'm muddling along as best I can with Latin and the usual classes, and I'm half-heartedly thinking about cleaning the rest of the carpets I started shampooing over break.  The clean sections make the rest look worse.

Since I haven't blogged in so long, I have a backlog of random thoughts and observations that are in danger of being lost to the world forever (not that it would be a huge loss or anything).  I need to get back in the habit with at least a book review soon.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Randomday: Ides of March (observed)

Well, it's Spring now, and the weather is nice.  I picked these in our yard today; the daffodils were lovely for a few days before being battered by some heavy rains.  But tulips are my favorite, especially pink ones.
The third quarter of school is over now, all but the grading.  I can hardly believe how fast it has gone.  The third quarter is when things get a bit frantic, sometimes there is a shipwreck in the harbor ("naufragium in portu") and I always feel, even if it isn't explicitly stated, that the teacher is blamed.  March is the big month for Latin teachers: Ides of March, the National Latin Exam, the Latin Olympika.  And there is always a bad cold, or bronchitis, or laryngitis on top of it all.  Spring break is coming soon... it will be good to get a bit of rest.  I seem to be more tired than usual this year.
School had a theme day Friday, kind of an Ides of March (observed).  I took a break from grading Latin finals Thursday evening and whipped up a pair of mother-daughter stolas out of some old lengths of flannel.  I used this general pattern, and I didn't bother to finish the edges or anything.  But I did put a button and buttonhole closure on the left shoulder of each one.  They could be worn again the next time we need to dress the part of Roman ladies.  My Roman name, I decided, would be Carla Flavia Scholastica.  Carl's daughter, the geeky blonde one.  Of course all of Carl's daughters are blonde.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

My Little Leprechaun

Tertia gets up very early for school; the bus comes at 6:50 most mornings, and we are still recovering from Spring Forward in our house.  She usually gets downstairs a little before me, fixes her breakfast and maybe even her lunch (although I like to make sure she isn't just packing rice and applesauce).  This morning I noticed her outfit as she was eating breakfast.
She didn't have the hat then, but it was pretty obvious, she was trying to be a leprechaun.  I really was hesitant to let her go off to school that way, but there wasn't a whole lot of time to make any changes, and her natural stubbornness was starting to kick in.  Sister Quarta is down with a stomach bug and I had been up since 3:30.  So I gave in.  "Just tell everyone you're a leprechaun, and it will be okay," I told her (I hope, I was thinking.)  I shouldn't have worried.  The shorts over tights with a shirt/jacket combo cut down from a somewhat outgrown dress has that look that I call "ragamuffin chic" - Tertia excels at taking that and walking it as if she's on Project Runway.  It must have conveyed enough of the leprechaun vibe that one of her friends gave her the hat to complete the look.  When I picked her up for her orthodontist appointment (she picked green rubber bands, of course!) I was fretting a bit that her fellow-students might have made fun of her.  But she is just a little too happy-go-lucky to be a target for bullies... it must be one of those natural defensive mechanisms that kids with Down syndrome have.

That, and I have to give credit to her school.  I can't imagine a girl like Tertia being accepted and genuinely liked at the public schools I attended decades ago.  It was a huge factor in why I was really hesitant to put her, or any of my kids, in public schools.  But the climate has so vastly improved since then.  They really are on her side, and they won't tolerate unkindness to her.  I love the fact that wherever I go, as soon as people figure out I'm Tertia's mom, they start to gush.  It happened multiple times today, picking her up at the attendance office - "We LOVE her!", being greeted by a girl she has known since elementary school, then later when I returned to the school for her IEP.  And this evening when an old teacher called to see if I'd be willing to talk with another mom about her middle school experience, and then was really thrilled to talk to the leprechaun herself, who had just finished doing her dishes.

There's always a bit of a disconnect for me, though.  I read this blog post recently, which sums up the difficulties parents of special needs kids face.  Are we just lucky that Tertia has so few issues and is so well-liked?  Is there something really important we're missing?  Is it about to get much, much worse?  What happens when you're double and triple booked and showing up late to your daughter's IEP because you're bringing her home from an orthodontist appointment that went late?  And what in the world am I supposed to say when some of my own students, when I detail some of the horrific deeds of the emperor Nero in a history lesson, respond with multiple cries of "that's so RETARDED!"  Sometimes there's just not enough bandwidth in the brain to deal with the complexities of life.
Case in point: Tertia and her childhood buddy from early intervention days, prepping for the first of two choir concerts this spring.  This is the young man we encountered outside of Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland a few years ago.  She's a bit of a mother hen, I guess it looks like here.  And that would be a correct assessment.  So her buddy, at the second of the two concerts a few weeks ago, was singing at a volume that she did not approve of, directly behind her.  First she put her hands over her ears.  Then she repeatedly tried to shush him by turning slightly and making shushing motions with her hands.  All of this while belting out "Yo le canto todo el dia" in front of a packed audience.

I laughed... and I was mortified.  Here's all this wonderful inclusion, with kids with disabilities being fully included in a concert choir, and mine is not being very inclusive herself.  It has taken me this long to write about it.  Now granted, everyone I have talked to about it thinks it was hilarious, and I should probably just roll with it and sincerely hope that Mr. Z's mother will be able to do that too.  But still, it makes life complicated.  Sometimes I really want a nice, simple life.

Saturday, March 14, 2015


Randomday rolls around again.  The day the blog eats leftovers and doesn't complain.

Actually, I haven't been feeding the blog terribly often lately, so it's probably going to sue me for neglect pretty soon.
Just as last Saturday was beautiful, today is soggy and rainy.  The daffodils are looking waterlogged, and every so often I see a camelia fall from the tree with a kind of squishy thud.  The plum tree that I photographed a few days ago (above) has lost most of its petals now.  Time will tell whether we have a huge harvest again this year.  When we look back at pictures of when we bought the house in 1999, it's amazing how much larger that tree is.

I vacuumed up about 15 spiders from the corners of the ceiling in the living room today.  I also think I may have fixed the rumbling noise the vacuum has been making ever since we had to replace the band... it seems the plastic cover was not latched on properly so when I needed to fish a marble out of the brush assembly I was able to replace it the way it was supposed to be, and that must have been the source of the vibration.  Or maybe it's still making the sound and I am just wishful thinking that it is better because I need to feel appreciated.  This is also quite possible,

Quarta has been at a Minecraft... what? not seminar or symposium... maybe a class?  a geek-out session? ... at the library with other like-minded geeks in her age range today.  She came back very excited because she won her "creative" division.  Tertia has been bored.  Peter and some friends are having a gaming session.  Steve has been baking pies today, in observance of the Pi day of the century.  I'm not complaining.  We plan to take the girls out to see the Hobbit movie this evening.

Peter is training for a triathlon.  He joined the local LA Fitness this week and has been practicing his swimming.  I think our grocery bills are going to go way up, at the same time I am worrying about him losing too much weight.  Interesting how that works.

I received word today that the nurse who cared for me when I was a baby in the Netherlands has died.  Zuster de Vries, (Geertje I learned was her first name), must have been something like the Dutch version of "Call the Midwife," assigned to check on the ex-pat American couple and their puny newborn.  My mom told me that only foreigners and women with problem pregnancies delivered in the hospital in Holland at that time.  I was told I didn't gain weight fast enough to please Zuster de Vries, my mother worried a lot about it, ("nervous wreck" may have been her exact words) and still she became a good friend and steady correspondent with the family.  She never spoke much English so her annual Christmas greeting kept my parents accountable to use their Dutch at least a little.  She was unmarried and cared for her father, who lived to be more than 100, and she herself was born in 1920, so I guess she lived to a good age as well.  She always asked about me and sent a souvenir towel with the Groote Kerk in Dordrecht on it when she heard I was married.  I always thought it was a special thing to have been born in the Netherlands, and part of what made it special, maybe even a little romantic (like a fairy tale) was to have had a kind nurse who cared for me when I was a baby and still asked about me.  I am sad that I was never able to meet her when I would have appreciated it, and show her that I did indeed gain that weight she was concerned about.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Latin Olympika

Last Saturday we hosted our first ever Latin Olympika at Cedar Tree.  It required a tremendous amount of organization and preparation... thankfully not mine.  Kathy H. built the structure of the program in a way we could use again in future years.  I came up with the Level 1 certamen and the individual subject tests... content work that I enjoy, but is fiddly and time-consuming.  I was so pleased that the event came off without major glitches and everyone seemed to have a fun time.
The spirit of competition was lively but friendly.  Especially with the light-up buzzers.
The weather was beautiful, which helps foster a happy day.
Cedar Tree teams won at both levels, but the three other schools made us work for it.  We used upper level students and a graduate to supply the Certamen proctors.  It is fun to read these competition questions!  And a good learning experience for the next generation of leaders.

Then yesterday, the 5th-8th graders took the National Latin Exam.  Now we wait for the results to be processed and returned to us.  Tomorrow is the school's spring program; next week we have parent-teacher conferences, and I have to prep students for the final exam the following week.  It's the time of year that exhausts teachers on every possible level.  Last year this time I was developing a terrible case of walking pneumonia... so far, it seems like just garden variety upper respiratory stuff this year for me, and I hope sincerely that it stays that way.  The students, of course, are going to be fine.  They're much more resilient and capable than their parents may think.

Looking forward to a bit of Spring break in a few more weeks.  Maybe I'll even blog about other things than school.  In the meantime, the plum tree is blossoming and looking beautiful.

Saturday, February 28, 2015


More than the usual randomness today.

I don't care what color the dress is.  Let's just establish that right off.  While the civilized world debates the color of a dress that has been passed through photoshop a few too many times, the Islamic State is committing genocide in the Middle East and Putin is working on combining the less-attractive characteristics of Stalin and Hitler and resurrecting the Soviet Union, but with less noble ideology.

And I am rather torn up about Leonard Nimoy.  I need to play Civ4, just to hear his voice narrating the newly discovered technologies.

We will be hosting our first ever Latin Olympika at Cedar Tree next week.  I'm not the one organizing it but I've spent all day for the last two Saturdays putting test material together.  Last week was the Level I Certamen; this week was the four individual subject tests in Roman Culture, Roman History, Derivatives and Mythology.  They were a little more fun to put together because I wasn't so worried about having to follow a certain specific format.  I have no idea if they will be too hard for the students though.  Unfortunately all this special event planning puts me behind in the data entry of regular grades.  Sometime I have to catch up.

The squeamish part of me (which is pretty significant) is still recovering from a secondhand account of Peter's morning, which involved the execution/culling/euthanasia (not sure what is the right term) of an unwanted goat for a friend, and a lingering smell of goat when he came back home (plus he brought back a horn as a trophy... ew!)  Steve says he doesn't know what goat smells like.  But I do.  When I was 4 or 5, we had an old-fashioned country doctor who said I was allergic to cows' milk and should drink goats' milk instead.  (I think he got kickbacks from the farmer).  We went to the goat farm once a week to pick up my milk and I remember drinking it most of the way through kindergarten until it became too difficult for my parents to get, or something.  I could tolerate it, but I never liked it.  My feeling on the matter is that if I really am allergic to milk, I will drink soy, almond, coconut or just plain water rather than going back to goats' milk.  But I doubt I was ever allergic to cows' milk.  I think it was just because I had tonsillitis several times that year.

This afternoon as I was driving out of the driveway, a raccoon was calmly climbing into the spruce tree as I went by.  Now there's an animal I'd like to see put down.  Broad daylight, bold as could be.  Unfortunately all I could do was yell at him and tell him he's not welcome in our yard.

I shopped at Goodwill with Tertia for a bit, then had to leave to pick up Quarta from where she was learning to make stage hairpieces for the upcoming Sherlock Holmes play.  On my way out of the parking lot I was flipped off by a couple of baby boomers who were apparently dissatisfied with the way I backed out of the parking spot.  As near as I can reconstruct it, they were at 4:00 and I have no way of telling who started backing out first because when I heard a little horn tooting I looked at the guy at 8:00 who was farther out than I was but I had to move before he could anyway, and there was a pedestrian at 6:00 that I had to let past too.  So by the time I had righted myself and was going forward Mr. Rudeski was giving me the finger, and when I turned right out of the lot and they screeched left at the same time (so they hadn't really lost any time even if I had held them up), Mrs. Rudeski was doing likewise. I guess they deserve each other.

Daniel is on Spring break, which he is spending with his roommate's family in North Carolina.  I wish it wasn't so far away or so expensive to bring him back.  They've had incredibly cold weather in Pennsylvania.

Yesterday we went out to the Saigon Restaurant and had a really nice meal -- everyone liked everything, and we shared around family style.  Salad rolls, beef curry in peanut sauce, pork with vermicelli noodles, shrimp chow fun, pad thai, garlic chicken and a big bowl of pho, which inspired a lot of punning.  Don't make a faux pas while you're carrying your pho.  Plenty of leftovers for tonight, which was nice.

Tomorrow is a fellowship meal at church and I made a double batch of pflaumenkuchen.  It may be winter in Pennsylvania but the daffodils are starting to bloom here, and Steve spent a lot of today pruning the grape vines and shrubbery.  There have been a few days this week where I haven't needed to wear a sweater, although it's probably better to keep one handy even so.