Saturday, June 13, 2015

Randomday and real life

So, this guy graduated.  And we're really proud of him.
Grandpa, Grandma Deb and Uncle Andy flew in to help celebrate.  They have not set foot in the Pacific Northwest for many years.

Peter celebrated by going to the beach with his classmates, and participating in a triathlon.

There was even a graduation party.  It was kind of like the Last Noel, but with barbecue and warmer weather.  And without Steve, who had to be in Seattle for a software conference.

Graduations are kind of a big deal.  It's just as well that they don't happen all the time.  All the regular end-of-school-year business was finished, or passably finished, in reasonably good time.  Now only Tertia has two more half-days of school to finish, and we have the summer stretching in front of us.  For Peter, he has AIT in July, which runs into the fall school schedule so he will be taking a gap semester.

Saturday, May 30, 2015


I had graded a gross of Latin papers since giving the exam yesterday (31 Logic students times 4 pages is 124, then 7 6th graders times 2 pages is another 14 making 138 and then I had bogged down on the 3rd page -sentence translations - without even realizing it was a gross until later) when I realized I faced three choices.  I could gouge my eyes out because of the constant infractions of the i-before-e rule.  I could continue grading when every fiber of my being rebelled. Or I could channel that revulsion and shampoo the carpets.  Yes, there comes a time when shampooing carpets is a welcome respite.  It doesn't happen often.  The downstairs and the steps have now been cleaned and the Bissell has been returned to its spot in the basement, there to rest for another few years.

And after cleaning the carpets and making bread dough and granola, and after Daniel and Steve spent the afternoon trimming the sycamore tree and doing other yardwork, I succeeded in grading those last few pages of exams.  I did have to make a trek to buy bubble tea, but that did the trick.  I might even finish the other chores I need to do to make the house ready for guests.  I guess Peter can graduate next week after all.

(No seniors were actually arrested in this picture; it was staged for the kindergarten class).

Saturday, May 23, 2015


For many reasons, probably having to do with grading a mountain of verb synopsis quizzes, this resonates with me right now.  Of course, most of my students overuse the hyper-active voice.  It is late in the school year, final exams looming, energy at lowest ebb, and I am very grateful for a long weekend to take a last gulp of laziness before submerging for finals week and graduation.

I've been thinking a lot about legalism and judgmentalism in our culture in the last few days as the Duggar scandal unfolds.  For all that they are part of that Bill Gothard legalistic subculture (which I am familiar with because it was prominent when and where I was growing up, but thankfully I was protected from most of it by wise parents), I find it ironic that it is the side of anti-christian bigotry that is quickest to muckrake and form a mob of zealots rushing to judgment from the dark underbelly of the internet.  I'm troubled by the cui bono question - who benefits by bringing this up now?  Certainly not the victims, as I imagine how they are feeling right now.  I do face the challenge of how to explain to Tertia, who loves the show, that all the cute kids are gone from TV now.  But that's a 1st world problem, and I'm not wasting worry on it.

Another 1st world problem... I'm mildly jittery still from last night's movie choice - One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.  Yep, I'd never seen it before, but it's a film classic that I suppose I needed to see. But I need to watch only light and fluffy things for the rest of the weekend now.

Tertia's school had an "Arts Night" Thursday with choir, orchestra, band and jazz band (all directed by the talented and very Hungarian Mr. Chartrey.  She has come a long way in choir, and I'm really proud of her progress there.  The theater ensemble also presented three skits, and then there was an art exhibit in the library.  I think Tertia has been lazy in art, (her piece was a page from a coloring book of a Quidditch ball from Harry Potter), so today I bought some watercolors and pastels and some sketch pads and I've decided that art will be her summer project, with Quarta as her art teacher. That should please both girls.

Peter is away at a Senior beach retreat this weekend; Quarta had an end of 7th grade party.  Daniel has a part-time job for the summer, which is great news, and still looking to take on more.  We will be having an influx of family for graduation week, and we have made arrangements to replace the roof after that.  Quarta is booked for two different summer camps and we are trying to get Tertia some day camps as well. So it will likely be a very busy summer.

And my new favorite thing is the Bubble Tea food cart on 78th street.  Blended Thai tea with Boba pearls.  I could go there every day.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Randomday; Little Things, Big Things

Very few blog posts in the last months could mean that I am unusually busy, unusually distracted, unusually sad or overwhelmed by life, or unusually unproductive in the areas of quilting and knitting that are my usual blog fodder.  All of these are true, I suppose, in varying degrees.  But I still miss blogging when it doesn't happen and want to do it more.  The thing I am really struggling with is taking, organizing and editing the photos that make people want to read the stuff I write.  Because I'm always writing in my head, but I know that most people won't read it without a photo.  I can take photos of little things, organize them, and eventually blog about them (witness, these pictures of my minor domestic achievement in January, organizing my spice cabinets):
(I have three lazy susan organizers, one for herbs, one for ground spices and one for seeds and whole spices.  After a trip to Penzey's in January I organized and alphebetized them beautifully, and stored the extra spices in the restock box neatly on the top shelf).
This, unfortunately, is no longer what my spice cabinet looks like when I finally get around to blogging about it months later... but the thought was there!  In the meantime, though, an awful lot of real and meaningful family life has passed by without photo documentation, and the alphebetized caraway, celery, cumin, and dill seeds on the whole spices organizer kind of pale in comparison to the son in college, the son graduating from Cedar Tree, the daughter in 9th grade in public school special ed, the daughter in 7th grade, and the nearly 40 middle school students I have the seemingly impossible task of teaching Latin. How can anyone adequately photograph and write about all these experiences?  I tried for a few years with varying success, and I guess the moral of the story is that you can only control the little things and try to position yourself as best you can for the big things that will happen with or without your help. And ideally, be able to "let it go" when you encounter the real or perceived disapproval of others.  That's the hardest part for me and will always be so.

Last night was Senior Thesis presentation night at Cedar Tree.  Here is Peter giving his 6-minute or less presentation on his take on the Just War theory.  I am very proud of him.  He's very glad it's over, and graduation is coming up fast.

The annual Hazel Dell Parade of Bands was this morning, just a few blocks away from us.  I've blogged about it more extensively in previous years when I was, you know, blogging more extensively.  It is an amazing bit of Americana and even though I get overwhelmed by standing for a few hours with loud noises and people all around, I still love it.  This year, three of Quarta's friends accompanied her home from Peter's senior thesis night, watched a Dr. Who marathon and went to the parade all together.  There were bands from all over, local politicians, antique fire trucks, local businesses throwing around candy.  Jimmy John's gave out sandwiches, someone else had popsicles, Big Al's moving company with the map of Samoa on the side of the trucks were handing out plastic leis.  Fun times for all.

And Daniel is coming home tomorrow from his Junior year at Grove City.  We are so excited to see him again.  And only three more weeks of school for the rest of us!  Maybe, just maybe, I can shampoo the rest of the carpets before graduation.  I wouldn't go so far as to plan to clean the whole house or anything.  Just the little things are quite enough.

Saturday, May 2, 2015


Quick, I need to write a Randomday post before I fall asleep from exhaustion.  I can usually manage that.

I have had this strange spring-cleaning compulsion, but not quite enough energy to do it right.  Today I cleaned the bathrooms.  I will do that if there is grading I am "supposed" to be doing.  I think those Magic Eraser things are just amazing for getting the scummy stuff off of the bathtub.  I am less impressed with the growth of the black moldy/ gunky stuff in between the shower doors, but at least it is better than it was.  There's something a bit reassuring about a bathroom that smells like bleach.

Daniel only has two weeks of his Junior year in college.  His housing group won the All-College Sing tonight on Parents' weekend, and we were able to listen in on the live broadcast for a bit.

Peter only has (... counting...) 5 weeks (well, 4 and a half) of Senior year at Cedar Tree.  He keeps taking part in long runs, swims and bike rides whenever I was hoping to take his senior pictures and plan his graduation party.  Having an official graduation party is apparently a Thing on the West Coast.  It wasn't for either Steve or me.

I took Tertia to a hip-hop dance at the Sons of Norway hall last night.  It's an activity organized by some of her friends' parents, to get more dance and social opportunities for our kids with Down syndrome and other diagnoses.  It kind of morphed into a karaoke night, and Tertia was up for that, belting out Katy Perry with the best of them.

We watched Paddington Bear with the girls tonight.  What a fun, sweet movie!  I'm continually amazed at the visual effects and computer animation today and what it's capable of.  But more than that, I think most movies today really try to do some faithful storytelling and character representation.  More so than was the norm in my young days.

Another beautiful day of sunshine today.  I finally did get around to grading a little, sitting outside in the breeze.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Book Review: Quiet

 Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking, by Susan Cain is one of those books that I wish I had written.  Page for page, I can't remember the last time I nodded, gasped or exclaimed in agreement and recognition of a nonfiction author's observations; observations that seem so obvious and common sense, but I had never seen articulated before.  I've known I was an introvert for, well, forever, and I've also always intuitively known that fitting into the world was harder for me than for others.  Self-fulfilling prophecy? No, now I think it is the Extrovert Ideal of our culture working itself out.  How many times have I been told to get a thicker skin, not to take things personally, be tougher, more assertive... and how many more times than that I could, again intuitively, tell that someone was thinking that in my direction.  Here, finally, is some positive reinforcement for those of us who have to mentally arm ourselves for the sensory assault of going out into the world and come home exhausted every day; we are actually important to the smooth functioning of society, whether or not society sees it that way.  Just give us our personal space, respect our need for down-time to recharge the batteries, and whatever you do, don't put us in an open office plan and subject us to endless interruptions, multitasking and meetings.

Cain visits such extrovert-only environments as Harvard Business School, Tony Robbins seminars, and Rick Warren's Saddleback Church to explore the extent of modern America's culture of extroversion.  It wasn't always this way; in the early days of this country, much more emphasis was placed on character, and many presidents were introverted.  It's hard to imagine that happening now.

She explores the complementary relationship (albeit deeply strained) between FDR the extrovert and Eleanor the introvert, Eleanor serving as moral compass to Franklin's energy.  In the same way, Rosa Parks was the quiet strength behind the Civil Rights movement energetically led by Martin Luther King (whom Cain assumes to be extroverted, although I've read differing opinions on that).  The unique difficulties of relationships between sometimes conflicting personalities are explored briefly.  Then she goes into the science behind the differences in the brains of introverts and extroverts.  This is fascinating information, some of it very new neuroscience.  I suspect her spot on the political spectrum is further left than I'm used to, judging by her examples (Darwin, Gandhi, Al Gore(?)) and the evolutionary assumptions underlying her scientific explanations.  I still think learning about the neocortex and the amygdala is a valuable exercise.  So it's the "fight or flight reaction" I'm experiencing every weekday when I walk into the boisterous 8th grade class.  Good to know, I guess, and it explains why I feel compelled to advocate for the concerns of my introverted students, who are in danger of being overlooked.

I really appreciated the final chapter on education and introverted children, and I believe all teachers should read it.  Our current system is heavily weighted toward group activities, which favor extroverts and leave no time for the quiet individual practice (10,000 hours to achieve excellence) and deep thought needed to perfect a skill.  In addition, the pushiest of extroverts tend to take over a group, introverts shut down rather than participate, and are left feeling there is something wrong with them, when they make up anywhere from 1/3 to 1/2 of the population.  I also really liked her brief historical survey at the very end of the book; attitudes toward introversion and extroversion through the ages.  Jacob and Esau; the four "humors" (melancholy and phlegmatic being the introverted ones); Milton's Il Penseroso as opposed to L'Allegro.

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.