Monday, October 31, 2011

Crumbing along nicely

I now have 63 blocks and counting for my Crumbs quilt.  Whenever I have a few free minutes I go and make some more and get threads all over my black skirt.
There are 12 star blocks...
...14 tree blocks (I'm seriously thinking this could be a good signature quilt for the upcoming Cedar Tree auction; just let the kids pick a light patch to sign on)...
...3 heart blocks, and the rest are all free-form, mostly log-cabin.  I figure I need about 140 for a dorm-bed sized quilt, but if I get tired of making them before that I can always make a generous lap-size quilt.

Most of my little triangles come from a bag of leftovers I've been saving forever.  I came close to tossing them during my last cleaning session, but I just couldn't do it.  And I've been cutting up some of my failed experiments or extra blocks, too.  Maybe I can give myself permission to toss them all after this project... goodness knows I've got enough new fabric I've been waiting too long to get to!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Reformation Day

The best costumes are cobbled together in 5 minutes.  Primigenitus wanted to be Job for Reformation Day, but Quarta had dibs on the one standard tunic from the dress-up box.  So I rummaged in my sewing scraps and found two lengths of corduroy, one tan and one green, from when I made little baby clothes for him... coming full circle.  I sewed side seams and shoulder seams and gave it to him to tatter further.  Those are his Hobbit pants and walking stick from last June.  Boils courtesy of Crayola washable markers.  They are mostly washable.
Secundus is too cool to dress up, so he went as a Cedar Tree student.  And made sure not to smile.

Tertia had a field trip to the pumpkin patch today, and wore ordinary school clothes.  She also participated in an assembly where her dance class entertained the rest of the school with a rendition of "Thriller."  She came home with green stripes painted on her cheeks, and a small pumpkin in her backpack.  Because she goes to public school, she is the only one in our family who knows the dance moves for "Thriller" and the Macarena.  Seriously, she should get some kind of special recognition for this.
Quarta saved her fake beard from the silly Family Camp video.  She and her 2 friends were going to be Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, but word leaked out so to preserve secrecy they switched to Abraham, Terah, and Isaac.  I think.  That linen tunic I picked up at a thrift store 15 years ago has seen service at least once a year ever since.

All the festivities at school meant no Latin classes today, but I had so many errands to run after a week of parent-teacher conferences and heavy grading that I didn't really get any time off and the house is still a wreck.  I did pick up the Megaquilter from the dealership but I haven't had time to test it out yet.  I'm a bit nervous about whether I can get it back up and running on the frame.

There is SO MUCH Latin teacher work to do still!  I have my pretests graded, but Finals to edit and print out still for next week and the specter of much more grading and lesson planning in the near future.  So in honor of Reformation Day, I will sign off with all my sayings for the week:
Sola Scriptura/ Sola Gratia/ Sola Fide/ Soli Deo Gloria/ Solo Christo
Ad fontes!
Cujus regio, ejus religio
Post tenebras, lux.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Wip Wednesday: the 6-inch Rule

Wednesday again, and lots more going on over at Freshly Pieced.  This week I made a lot of 6" and 6.5" blocks.
Farmer's Wife Quilt block #55: Linoleum.  I think the first time I saw this quilt at a now-closed quilt shop, this was the color scheme they used.
Block #56: Maple leaf.  Definitely going for an autumnal vibe with this one.
Block #57: Morning.  This is an unusual combination of prints, but they all say "morning" to me.
Block #58: Mother's Dream.  Three generations of dress scraps went into this: big flowers from one of my maternity jumpers, little red flowers from my mother, and the little pink calico from my youngest daughter's dress.  Misty water-color memories...
I just started the Crumb-Along quilt-along (blogged here and here) and have made this many more 6" blocks since Saturday.  In the interests of full disclosure and taking the process pledge, here is what my sewing area looks like when I'm doing this type of quilting:
Yeah, I meant it when I said "royal mess."  But it's a happy mess... like making mud pies when I was little... except I never really made pies, I made cities.  It's hard to know when to stop.

The Viking dealership just left a message that the Megaquilter is ready to be picked up -- that was just a little over a week!  But I won't be able to get over to that end of town for a few days (parent-teacher conferences going on at school).

So let's see, this week's progress:
  • Joined crumb-along and finished 32 blocks
  • Farmer's Wife Quilt - 4 blocks
finished or almost finished quilt tops waiting to be quilted:
  • Framed In quilt
  • Aunt Maggie's quilt
  • STARS quilt-along quilt
  • My daughter's 1st quilt
no progress on any of those tops this week, and no progress on the UFOs I have lying around (a log cabin and a sports-themed quilt for an auction donation).  I need to have a mega-megaquilter session once I get that thing back and set up again.

Knitting: a few rows of my On Your Toes sweater and I'm turning the heels on my 4th consecutive pair of Stashbuster Spirals socks.

I am halfway through a mountain of grading and teacher prep for finals week ... does that count?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Welcome to Holland

Source: None via Katherine on Pinterest

Every new parent of a baby with Down syndrome gets to read the "Welcome to Holland" essay by Emily Perl Kingsley.  If you haven't, you should.  It speaks beautifully about how your life is changed in unexpected but good ways by having a child with a disability.  For example, I become something of an avenging fury if kids use the word "retarded" as an insult in my presence.  And I think this picture, of my daughter taking her first steps while giving herself a round of applause, is one of the most beautiful in the world:

Now, in the real Holland, they have produced a series of short soap operas called Downistie, set in a world where everyone has Down syndrome, and pregnant women worry about a negative prenatal diagnosis for their children.  Here's one with subtitles; it's a real hoot:

Generally speaking, I'm in favor of pulling the plug on the soap opera genre, but I'd make an exception for this show.

Soap operas aside, the future for kids with Down syndrome presents unique challenges.  At present only 10% survive a prenatal diagnosis; not because of medical issues, but because abortion is widely seen as a preferable alternative to bringing a handicapped child into the world. (A friend tells me her doctor told her, "If it happened to me, I couldn't do it because I just don't have time to raise a special needs child."  Well, you can see why ordinary women might get the idea that Down syndrome is the Worst Thing Ever.  Thanks, medical establishment!)

That 90% abortion rate may go up even higher with the new fast, easy, accurate blood test for Down syndrome.  Now, pregnant women can find out even earlier whether their child has the extra chromosome 21, so that presumably they can have a "therapeutic termination of the pregnancy" (I recall the words graven on my memory from a handout we got at the hospital 12 years ago) while still in the first trimester.  The new blood test will also very likely make it harder to fund real scientific research on treatment options for Down syndrome, as this NYT article describes.  And as other sources who make it clearer than the NYT have observed, when there are no more patients with Down syndrome left, no one will be doing any research to benefit them.

I'd rather live in Holland, thanks.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Mousetrap

Source: via Katherine on Pinterest
Quick, there might be time still to get tickets to see Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap at Loves Street Playhouse in Woodland, Washington.  I've written about this charming and intimate community theater before when Cedar Tree students were performing the Magician's Nephew; this time, Steve and I went with Primigenitus to see P's good friend and a talented cast bring this to life.  Two more weekends of performances... they will probably be sold out very soon.  Definitely worth the trip up to Woodland if you haven't had the good fortune to see this play before.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Saturday Crumbs

Okay, I've made 24 of these blocks for the Crumb-Along quilt (about 18 in the last 24 hours) and I'm seriously hooked.  I need to stop now, though, because I'm bleary-eyed and I need to deal with real life for awhile.  I kept putting more tree blocks in there because they look nice and are easy to do, and I like the star blocks even if they're a little more work, and there are several free-form log-cabinish blocks in there, and some odd patches made with leftover HSTs and abandoned projects.  Amazing how they all seem to blend together.  At this rate, I might even catch up with the quilt-along.  But my sewing area is a royal mess!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Falling into the crumb bin

So I played with some of my "crumbs", or small scraps of fabric, and decided I'll join the Crumb Along With Me Quilt-along sponsored by Jo's Country Junction.  She's been going for several weeks now, but the final proposed quilt is pretty small and I was able to make several blocks in just a few days of playing, and it's a lot of fun.  So why not?  It's not like I'm planning on meeting a deadline or anything.
The beauty of this method of quiltmaking is that I can work very organically, half-buried in a pile of little scraps (and I'm not kidding about half-buried... what a way to go!).  Matching corners or not, it doesn't matter.  Matching fabrics or not, it doesn't matter.  The wonkier the better.  There are suggestions, not directions, and every block is different.  I've been saving little triangles and extra pieced patches from many quilts for a long time, thinking maybe someday I'll make something with them.  I've never let myself go completely scrappy and completely free-form like this before.  It's very fun and therapeutic.  And those little 6" blocks come together very fast.

For my color to tie it all together, I'm using green, but anything else can go into the scrap soup, too.  I noticed after working on flying geese units that when you piece them together they look like trees.  So do the ones that look like arrows.  This might turn into another Cedar Tree auction quilt, like the two I did before.  Here's the 2010 one, apparently I don't have a picture of the first one I did:

As you can see, I like tree quilts.  Actually, these were signature quilts, and the crumb quilt will probably just be a fun homey throw, but tree quilts have an enduring appeal for me in any case.  I'm in.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

WIP Wednesday #16: I like sewing again

Last week on WIP Wednesday I was mad at the world and down on sewing.  Well, I took the Megaquilter into the Viking dealership and I'll be waiting a few weeks to get it back.  In the meantime, I've been working on just fun little therapeutic sewing projects to try to get some of my mojo back.  That means Farmer's Wife quilt blocks... the first two are from more than a week ago.
Block 48: Homeward Bound.  Simple 9-patch.  I like the little hearts.
Block 49: Honeycomb.  I drew this on graph paper and then paper-pieced it.  I like the honey-gold colors and the autumnal background... I kept thinking of Keats: "Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness..."
Block 50: Honey's Choice.  5x5 grid, little girl dress scraps.  Sweetness.
Block 51: Hovering Birds.  Bird-named blocks mean lots of half-square triangles.
Block 52: Hovering Hawks.  More with the birds already.
Block 53: Jackknife.  Another 9-patch.  The four corner blocks are made from HSTs cut 2 7/8", then I used the  "fast 45" sew-and-flip technique with 1 1/2" squares on the corners.  I really like the color combination in this one.  Not fabrics I would usually put together.
Block 54: Kitchen Woodbox.  This is basically a Log Cabin with corners made from the fast-45 technique and 2 1/2" squares.  Bit of a funky modern color combination for me, but I like it.

Wow, almost halfway on these blocks and they're still fun.  I've found that almost all the blocks are also in 1001 Patchwork Designs by Maggie Malone... I have had this book for several years (originally found it at Goodwill!) and it's great because it shows the underlying grid for the blocks so you can draft them yourself, in any size.  I like the Farmer's Wife Quilt book for inspiration and the stories, but since I really don't like to use templates unless absolutely necessary, I appreciate the help with block analysis.  And if there's a Farmer's Wife block I absolutely hate, there are almost 900 others to choose from in this book.

I'm giving serious thought to joining another quilt-along -- the Crumb-along with me over at Jo's Country Junction.  It's just something I have to consider, with this pile of tiny scraps I've been saving:

Of course I would have to be absolutely crazy to save those teensy scraps, right?  Which makes me a perfect candidate for this quilt-along.  Even though it's mostly finished and I'd be mostly sewing on my own.  I'll decide whether to jump in in a few days, if I can tear myself away from the Farmer.

I'll be linking up over at Freshly Pieced, so be sure to check out all the other great things going on in the quilting world.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Book review - Sister Bernadette's Barking Dog

Sister Bernadette's Barking Dog: the Quirky History and Lost Art of Diagramming Sentences,
by Kitty Burns Florey.

I heard about this book at a workshop on diagramming sentences this summer at Veritas school... and as soon as my library hold came in I knew it would be a treat.  I expected a book that does for sentence diagramming what Lynn Truss did for punctuation in Eats, Shoots and Leaves.  But it's actually far more than that. There is in this book an attempt to reconcile the two opposing sides of Language Arts: the linguistic and the artistic.  Or the editor vs. the author, the philologist vs. the poet, the grammar police vs. the free spirit.  This conflict comes up frequently in the Latin classroom: while striving to produce students who can grasp the grammatical concept, I also need to get them to express it in English that will not make the listener cringe.  Some grammatical problems do not have pat solutions, or as another Latin teacher once remarked, if you push too hard on some constructions, the Literature and the Grammar sides would have to resort to pistols at dawn.  In the end, Florey acknowledges the delicate balance between writing correctly and writing freely.  Sentence diagramming is a tool to help you achieve both.

Florey traces the history of sentence diagramming, which is an American phenomenon (parsing was the norm in Europe).  Although you can get some how-to from this book, it's not intended for instructional use, but rather provides the inspiration for language arts teachers and other grammarians to do what they do.

My favorite part of the book was the chapter entitled "Poetry and Grammar," in which some of the most famous stylists of the English language and a few others receive the diagram treatment.  We've all heard the famous Gertrude Stein quote, "I really do not know that anything has ever been more exciting than diagramming sentences." (Or we should have, even if Stein herself seems to be like other artists such as Heath Ledger, driven mad by the very art they pursue.)  Compare and contrast the sentence structure of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jack Kerouac, Marcel Proust, Ernest Hemingway, Henry James, and Joyce Carol Oates.  Even more delightful, hear them dish dirt about each other: Mark Twain of James Fenimore Cooper: "There have been daring people in the world who claimed that Cooper could write English, but they are all dead now."

There are kind words for the almost-lost art of Latin teaching in this book, too.  Eudora Welty, bless her, survived grammar school but didn't come to love language until her high school Latin class: "I could see the achieved sentence standing there, as real, intact, and built to stay as the Mississippi State Capitol at the end of my street."  Not since I encountered "Caesar non supra grammaticos" have I felt so validated.  And I loved the account of Eleanor Gould Packard, the famous copy editor for The New Yorker, who once found 4 grammatical mistakes in a 3-word sentence.  I have met my people, and they are a peculiar people indeed.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Grape Pie!

You should try this.  Concord Grape Pie is wonderful, even if it is a bit of work.  I grew up with this as a special treat and decided we should make it with our grapes.  It's popular in the East, especially around Amish country, where they know their pies.  Martha Stewart has a fancified version in her pies and tarts book, but she has you cutting each grape individually and pitting them by hand.  Can you imagine?! This is much simpler.
First you wash your grapes and make sure there are no spiders on them.
Then you pick each grape, one at a time, off the bunch and squirt out the innards into one bowl...
... and drop the skins into another.  Splurt...splat.  Your kids will want to help, of course.  What surprised me was that the older boys wanted to help before the little girls.

When all the grapes are separated, dump the innards (the green part that looks and feels like frog spawn... or eyeballs) into a pot and cook for about 5 minutes.  You know what homemade applesauce smells like when it's cooking?  This smells like grape sauce.  But you still need to get the seeds out: run the sauce through a food mill to strain them out.  Then combine the strained sauce from the innards with the skins.

To each quart (4 cups) of the grape mixture, add 1/3 C flour, 1 C sugar, pinch of salt, a squirt of lemon juice, and a few tablesoons of cut up butter, and dump it into a prepared pie plate lined with pastry.  You can make a lattice top or a regular top crust, or you can leave it open.  Bake at 400 degrees for 40-50 minutes, but make sure there's a pan underneath to catch the drips.  If you have more grape mixture, you can make up extra batches of pie filling and freeze them for the future.  Because once you have made this, you will want it again.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Cartagena: a song unknown to the internet


And it’s pull, boys, pull, till your backs and arms are sore,
It’s pull, boys, pull, as we slowly leave the shore;
We’ll leave the lasses weeping as we sail over the main,
And we’ll be rich on Spanish gold when we return again.
And it’s pull, boys, pull.
We all set sail from Portsmouth Town the second day of June;
Three and forty Englishmen to seek a large fortune;
Our ship it was the Falcon, up in Liverpool she was made;
A finer craft was never launched to ply our bloody trade.
We set our course to Westward then, towards the setting sun,
We spent our days in planning raids and practice with the gun,
Eight weary weeks we’d sail along, no other ship we’d see,
Till we took a Spanish galleon off the Sea of Caribee.
And as we lay off Kingston Bay we heard of Vernon’s call
To navy men and freebooters, he did invite us all;
And being loyal Englishmen that served our country’s crown,
We hoisted sail and set a course for Cartagena Town.
And as we reached Columbia all on that fatal day
Eighty thousand fighting men dropped anchor in the bay
The Spanish flag was flying as we lay before the town,
The trumpets rang, the swords did shine, their armor brightly shone.
But Vernon swore he’d take the town no matter what the cost
To scurvy, pox, and fever thirty thousand men we lost
The stench of death surrounded every ship that sailed that tide
And I became the captain when the Falcon’s master died.
The Spaniard who led the foe, no braver took the field,
One eye, one arm, one leg he had, but still he wouldn’t yield;
He led the charge so bravely as we bitterly attacked
Until at length we won the day and Cartagena sacked.
And now we sit in Portsmouth Town, our glasses in our hands
A-drinking to the mates we lost in that far distant land.
We’ll kiss the lasses merrily and drink another round,
And spend the gold we won that day in Cartagena Town.

Another obscure folk song to share with you today.  Sorry, no music file because I don't know how to do that, the one we have is of poor quality, and as far as I can tell, this song is totally unknown to the internet.  But if you corner any member of the Chapman family except for Secundus, we'll cheerfully sing it for you.  It is the ultimate family marching song.  It works very well with chorus sung in harmony and solo verses.  I taped it from a radio station in the D.C. market about 20 years ago - either WAMU or WETA, both of which fed my folk music fixation.  I have Cornucopia listed as the group.  But numerous attempts to Google them have turned up no folk music group called Cornucopia, and certainly no Cornucopia-Cartagena connection.  I have listened to the CD Steve made from the old tape repeatedly and feel reasonably confident I have all the words right.  So if you know of the group or the song, please let me know.  I suppose it's comforting that there are still some areas of human endeavor that have not been transferred to the internet, but it's always a little surprising these days when you find them.

I did figure out that this song is a very pro-English, revisionist account of the Battle of Cartagena in the War of Jenkins' Ear, which I had never heard of before.  And it's a pity, because how often does a war get named after someone's ear?  Admiral Vernon led the English, and recruited madly from the American colonies as well as the English navy -- George Washington's half-brother, Lawrence, was one of the few Americans to survive and return home, to rename the family plantation after his commander.  And the Spanish Admiral Blas de Lezo really did have one eye, one arm, and one leg.  The outcome wasn't nearly so cheerful for the English as the song suggests, and frankly, one begins to question the competency of the British leadership in this action.  But it's a great song.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Mingulay Boat Song

This is one of my favorite folk songs... this version is close to the one I taped off the radio more than 20 years ago, and Steve has transferred onto CD for me.  That version is by a group that I think was called the Dram Trio -- although 20-year-old scribbles that I copied from what I thought I heard on the radio may be unreliable.  But anyway, I'm greatly enjoying the CD containing all the MP3 files that he collected for me.  Everything from Jean Redpath and the Black family to Battlefield Band.  And a bunch of stuff that's more obscure.  In fact, the more obscure and hard to Google, the better I seem to enjoy it.  And if you happen to know of the Dram Trio and where to find an MP3 of their version of the Mingulay Boat Song, let me know, I'd love to buy it.  Failing that, I can probably convince three of my children to sing it with me next summer at Family Camp. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Sweet Tomatoes

Here are some closeups of the amazing Sweet Tomato Heel by Cat Bordhi that I wrote about yesterday.  My Ravelry page is here.
Stashbuster Spirals works well with these heels: each of the three wedges ends up being a different one of the three colors, and the colors in the pattern as written naturally change right before and after the heel stitches, so you know right where to begin the heel.  I did these socks two at a time on two circulars, as I do most of my socks.  The biggest problem is that all the little balls of yarn tend to get tangled as you work.  But it's worth it because you're using up lots of odd balls of leftover sock yarn that you'd been saving for years not knowing what to do with them.  And I've already started on my fourth pair, for Quarta.  After that I really should switch to a different sock pattern for awhile.  I want to try argyles.  Hoo boy!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

WIP Wednesday #15: Megaquilter Down

This is my mother-in-law's Around the World quilt, intended as a donation to CLC International.  I finished the machine quilting this week.  It's a small quilt, and I had it mounted one way on the Megaquilter to do the latitudinal lines.  Then I took it off and remounted it the other way to do the longitudinal lines... because the Megaquilter, not being a true longarm, can't do too much range of motion vertically.  All well and good, and I had done about half of one globe, when I must have pulled the top thread too far as I was trying to pop up the bobbin thread and KLUNK... broken needle.  And then, KLUNK.  Klunk (blunt needle). Klunk again.  Four ruined needles in quick succession and a call to the dealer... the timing's probably off, needs servicing.  Bring the machine in, pay $100 plus and wait for 3 weeks.  Seriously?  Do you know how much trouble I had getting that baby on the carriage 4 years ago?  I'm going to have to take pictures and notes as I disassemble the remote power switch, the stitch regulator, etc., and I'm going to have to have help physically lifting the thing off the carriage (after removing at least one of the bars). Ick.  Just when I was finally getting close to the point where I could work on some of my own quilts.  Oh well, it probably needed the servicing anyway.  But the dealership is on the far side of town, and no way will I be able to free up enough time to take it over there until Saturday.

So I quilted the rest of the quilt on my old Viking, which is a trooper even if it doesn't have a cool name like "Megaquilter."  And was able to hand it off to Grandma (I was on a deadline).  And I mended a pair of pants for Primigenitus that had had the side pocket seam ripped out (had to rip out the lining first, resew the seam, topstitch the seam for extra security, then resew the pocket lining).  And I did do 1 and 1/2 blocks of the Farmer's Wife, but no pictures this week, too tired.

I had moments this week where I asked myself, "Why am I sewing anyway if I'm not having fun?" Seriously, I had all the enjoyment in sewing that I might have had from working in a sweatshop, and less pride in my workmanship.  Almost all my sewing was for other people, not me.  I had much more fun with my knitting, where I produced a finished object: Stashbuster Spirals with a Sweet Tomato Heel, this pair for Tertia:
They fit her pretty well, maybe a little long in the foot.  But the heel is amazing.  I'm thinking of using this heel for all my socks from now on, it's that simple and elegant.  It works very well with the Stashbuster Spirals.

Linking up to WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced even though I don't have much progress to report on my own account.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Quilts of the Past: Ohio Rose

Today is my birthday and tomorrow would be my mother's, Rosalie Ruth Maffett Bogue.  She was born on Columbus Day in 1940 and died of breast cancer on Groundhog's Day in 2004.  So here is the Ohio Rose quilt I made as part of the Mom Memorial Quilt Project, from her clothing, particularly the woolen and heavier-weight fabrics.
As a matter of fact, I had enough fabric for two quilts.  One lives with me and one with my sister Sarah in Virginia.
I was able to use some unconventional fabrics like knits on the appliques, which was kind of fun.  I also played around with the decorative stitching on my machine for the appliques, which are fused onto the backgrounds.
And for the hanging sleeve on the one I kept, I used the Mickey and Goofy measuring chart from my childhood that was "too special" to throw out.  Thinking about it now, nothing is that special, but I avoided having to make a painful call by putting it in the quilt.  Mom would probably have approved.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Book review - The Parthenon Code

I love mythology.  These are the stories that have inspired and delighted for hundreds of generations, and they are nowhere near tapped out, as anyone who likes the Percy Jackson books will tell you.  I must have been about 9 when my grandparents let me take Myths of Greece and Rome, by H.A. Guerber, from their library.  I read and reread it, and now am using it as the basis of my mythology unit for my 8th graders.  You're never too old to have these stories read to you... of course, you can't expect 13-year-olds to take them seriously (Cronos wearing "world's best dad" t-shirt while eating his kids... Juno, transformed into a cow, asking Jupiter "does this transformation make me look fat?"... Cupid and Psyche relationship status on Facebook: it's complicated.)

Which is why The Parthenon Code: Mankind's History in Marble, by Robert Bowie Johnson, was such a disappointment. I wanted to like this book: saw a blurb about it years ago and thought, "Oh cool, a Christian view of mythology."  It's kind of a special interest of mine... I believe that most of the myths originated in the time before Moses, perhaps even before Noah, and that many of them contain garbled but recognizable variations of Biblical truth.  Other fascinating books I've read that touch on the subject include Jonathan Edwards Confronts the Gods by Gerald McDermott and The Real Meaning of the Zodiac by the late D. James Kennedy - I recommend the Kennedy book as an approachable introduction; it's based on a sermon series he gave.

I had to get Johnson's book through inter-library loan; it's a vanity press publication, and has effusive praise on the back cover ("The most original book of the decade, if not the last fifty years") and overleaf ("...presents nothing less than a thoroughly substantiated unified theory of human history.")  But when I checked the bibliography, there was not one single reference from earlier than 1900.  This would seem to me to be a problem in a work touching on classical culture.  He also made the very puzzling choice of using the Concordant translation of the Bible for his Biblical quotes.  The extreme literalism of this translation is disastrous for anyone looking for clear English.  As a teacher of an ancient language, I spend a disproportionate amount of time trying to coax young students to form translations in good English.  This translation takes them in the opposite direction.  Rather than "the earth was formless and void" he insists "the earth became a Chaos," after God created it.  There are some serious theological problems there.

Johnson is interested in using analysis of the art on the Parthenon and ancient vases to prove his pet theory that Greek mythology stems from the line of Kain (he insists on this spelling, and also "Kentaurs") and is diametrically opposed to the true Biblical religion.  He claims that Hera represents the "primal Eve," Athena  or a-thanatos, the deathless one, represents "the deified serpent's Eve," and the little-studied old sea-god Nereus is actually Noah, who gets no respect from the line of Kain.  There is no mention of Deucalion, the Noah-equivalent most mythologists mention.  Art history helped make Dan Brown's The Davinci Code a huge phenomenon; Johnson probably hoped for some of that action.  I did enjoy the analysis of the art on the vases, and I'm not unsympathetic to Johnson's interpretation, but I think his labored writing style and preachy tone spoil any worthwhile point he was trying to make.  I get the impression he wants to market his books to Christian homeschoolers; but their money would be better spent downloading the Kindle version of Guerber's Myths book.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Schedule

I mentioned at the beginning of the school year that the schedule was probably going to be my hill to die on this year.  I have a little better handle on the schedule, and I still don't like it.  But here it is.

Every weekday I wake up between 5:30 and 6:00, if I haven't had insomnia already.  I slowly acclimate to being awake while doing a little reading, and Steve heads off to work about 6:00 or before.  I'm showering by 6:30, dressed and waking up kids by 7:00, packing lunches and supervising breakfasts, chores, and the ready for school rush.  Georgie arrives around 8:00, picks up Primigenitus, Secundus, and Quarta, drops off Little Joe, who then proceeds to watch SuperWhy with Tertia until 8:30.  They then make their way into the living room and wait for the bus, which is supposed to arrive at 8:45 but is usually more like 8:50. 

After helping them onto the bus, I throw the laptop into the bag and head off for the 16 minute drive to Cedar Tree, where 1st period is nearly over by the time I arrive.  I deposit my things in room 202, put on my glasses so I'll look more like a teacher, and pack up the things I'll need for 6th grade in the little basket.  I usually manage a bathroom break, and get to the G4 classroom at 9:20.  They wrap up math and segue into Latin, and we really work quite hard on learning the difference between nouns and verbs.  I'm not always sure it's doing any good.

10:15 and I send G4 off to recess and hike back to 202, where the Seniors have their cubbies and are grabbing what they need at the same time 7th grade is thinking about settling down instead of blocking the door.  Room 202 is not really all that large, and that's about 25 people that can be in there at once, all clustered around the door.  By that time my throat is beginning to be hoarse so I fix myself some hot water for tea in the microwave.  The bell rings for 3rd period, and class begins.  We work very hard on learning the difference between active and passive voice, and between present tense and all the others.  I'm not always sure it's doing any good.

11:10 and the bell rings and the 7th grade leaves, 8th grade enters, and 12th grade is in and out once more: potential for 33 people in transition in room 202 at once.  11:15 and 8th grade Latin begins.  We work very hard on remembering 5 years' worth of Latin grammar and vocabulary and developing the ability to write translations in Good English.  I'm not always sure it's doing any good.

At 12:05 the bell rings and Logic 2 sprints out to lunch.  Rhetoric 4 enters more sedately; they take turns heating up things in the microwave and chatting about vegetables.  I might stay to wrap things up for the next day, or do a little bit of grading, but I have to be out of the classroom by 12:35 every day except Tuesday (when I stay for Logic teachers' meeting during lunch anyway).  I usually leave campus in time to be home by 1:00 if I don't have errands to run.  I might eat lunch myself anytime from 1:00 to 2:00.  If I'm fortunate enough to be at home I spend a little time on the computer and try to relax.

Then my alarm rings at 2:15 and I leave to go back to Cedar Tree to pick up Secundus and take him to Columbia River for Cross Country practice by 3:00.  Unless it's a meet day, and then I drop him off at the meet.  I don't get to stay and watch him because I have to be back home by 3:30 when Georgie drops off Primigenitus and Quarta, and definitely by 3:40 when the bus drops off Tertia.  It holds up traffic until it's sure she's going to be able to get in the door.  Then it's the checking homework, cleaning out lunchboxes, and pre-dinner rush until, well, dinner.  Then supervising dishes, baths, and the bedtime routine (although that's been shaky lately).

Some days I get to do extra stuff, like Mondays when there's laundry to wash and sort and Primigenitus works in the afternoons, and Secundus has to be taken to special dinners with the team, and there's Knit Night.  Or Tuesdays, weekly lunchtime staff meeting or monthly all-afternoon inservice; or Wednesdays, grocery shopping (if I'm lucky I have time to put away the ice cream before making the 2:15 run back to Ridgefield for Secundus pickup and then immediately afterwards the 3:00 run for Primigenitus, Quarta, and 2 of Primigenitus's classmates -- yes, there are 3 round trips on Wednesdays); or Thursdays, when Primigenitus has drama practice and the veggies get picked up; or Fridays, when there's almost always an evening event somewhere.

So if I had to compare my life to a  movie right now, it would probably be the faster-paced portions of Koyaanisqatsi, but I'd like to get back to Goodbye Mr. Chips (the Peter O'Toole version), which was where it stood for several years.  Actually, even closer would be the sitcom The Middle, which is sometimes just a little too true to my life for comfort.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

WIP Wednesday #14

I finished the body of my STARS quilt-along quilt, but still need to decide on and add borders.  I'm debating about making a wonky strip-pieced border, but I'll probably just add a narrow and wider border as the pattern calls for if I have enough of any one fabric.
Farmer's Wife Quilt block #46: Hill and Valley.  Fairly easy except for the small squares at the hilltops: their finished measurement is the square root of 2 (1.41) = 1 3/8" (generous), so they were cut 1 7/8" (generous).  The other triangles are HSTs based on a 3" measurement (cut 3 7/8"), HSTs based on a 2" measurement (cut 2 7/8") and QSTs based on a 2" measurement (cut 3 1/4").
Block # 47: Homemaker.  I had to draw this one out on graph paper (it is based on a 9-patch grid) and then paper pieced the radiating points units.  Then I still had to attach them to the center 2 1/2" square with inset seams.  It is a pretty block, but I'll never make another one like it.
Before making those blocks I did snap a picture of blocks 1-45.  It's getting to be a big bunch!
And these are my current Stashbuster Spirals.  More about them and the Sweet Tomato Heel I'm using on them when they're finished.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations

Tertia recently celebrated her 12th birthday.  She remembers birthdays.  She can tell you the birthdays of her 1st grade teacher, all her family members, and about half of her classmates from last year.  She will give you a hug on your birthday and make you feel like the most special person in the world, and her general outlook on life is definitely the dog's diary rather than the cat's diary.  It's a privilege to bake her birthday cake every year and present it to her for the standard pre-candle-blowout picture.

I don't usually blog about anything with "awareness" in the title, but Down syndrome awareness is a part of my life even when it isn't the official month for it.  There aren't any clearcut or easy answers for some of the questions that come up these days; the challenges of middle school are bigger than the ones in the preschool and gradeschool years, and there seem to be fewer resources, but she needs an advocate now even more than before.  I'm really pleased with her school and her teachers; but it does seem that by being pushy parents when she was younger, we've made her life a little harder now.  She reads too well, and even her math skills are too good, to just let her be babysat in the self-contained special ed classroom; but she will experience occasional frustration and anxiety in the general education and Learning Support classrooms.  Now, I know the "Life Skills" classroom is a wonderful, nurturing environment, staffed by experienced people who care deeply about kids with special needs.  And more and more, parents are hearing how these kids are going to be included in the life of the school.  But too often, what the school officials mean by inclusion is not really all that inclusive.  It's easy to include kids in lunch, art, and P.E. It's a bit harder to do it in academic subjects.  I was a bit shocked when we found out that Tertia is one of only 2 kids that go out of the Life Skills classroom to other classes.  Is she really "smarter" than the other kids, or is this just because we pushed more?  And (this is always at the back of our minds) how much can we get away with pushing before it backfires and hurts her, or gets us branded as uncooperative parents who won't face reality and accept the course of least resistance?

My hope for Tertia in these middle school years is that she can grow and develop without losing that special spark that has made her childhood such a delight beyond anything I ever expected that first day in the hospital, when it seemed we were dumped into the cold unfriendly territory of special-needs parenting.  And a big part of her spark, I'm convinced, comes from the fact that she has been included all along as much as possible in her family, school, and community.  And that inclusion has never been easy... it's hard fought for.  We have found, though, that when you set out with inclusion as a priority, when there is no question of non-inclusion, it becomes much easier.  Actually, it becomes a way of life.  And that's good, not only for our daughter, but for all the people around her.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Quilting Saturday

Saturday was our first quilting day at the church this fall.  We take the summers off, and then every 6 weeks throughout the school year we have a Saturday where anybody who quilts or is interested in quilting can show up at the church fellowship hall.  I always take more work than I have time to do, because it ends up being a big show and tell.
This is Sandri's work... she's always so artistic.
More Sandri. 
And a close-up.  Yeah, the rest of us are just playing with crayons by comparison.
Mary found this WIP on Craigslist and the lady who was "never going to finish it" gave it to her for free in hopes that she might.  It's a quilt-as-you-go piece with some panels already done.
And Julie... she and her daughter brought in 7 vintage quilt tops, either from her grandmother or Aunt Elsie.  This one is hand pieced... the closest I could come to naming the pattern was Friendship Knot, but I don't think that's it.
How about a vintage Grandmother's Flower Garden?  Also hand pieced.
Single Irish Chain?
Foundation-pieced scrap fiesta.
And this one, which has some of the most vintagey fabric I've seen.
There were even backings, patched together from bits of muslin and old feedsacks, intended for these quilts and stored in the chest along with them.  Some of them were patched several times... wouldn't want to waste any fabric there!

Yeah, that's why I didn't get much sewing done Saturday.