Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Wednesday Funnies

I do not feel like writing a blog post today.  Enjoy the funnies from my Pinterest board.  It's rather cat-heavy for some reason.
Latin has Lolcats.  Who knew?

Source: via Katherine on Pinterest
When Mom gives you "the look."

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Political Tuesdays - The Last One Before the Big One

One more week.  As the East coast attempts to pump out the floodwaters and dry off, the rest of the country is amusing itself by watching the Obama campaign self-destruct.  It feeds the basest impulses of human nature, snarkiness and Schadenfreude, but we just can't look away from the train wreck.

Every day it's a new desperate ad campaign, most of them unsafe for me to link in a blog I'd like to keep family-friendly.  Lena Dunham's "first time voter" ad, Michael Moore's foul-mouthed seniors on the ad.  Then there are the Biden gaffes -- did he really say that to a grieving father of a fallen hero?  Confusing Iowa with Ohio.  And did Obama really say that in reference to what 6-year-old would think about Romney?  Granted, as the child of a Rolling Stone reporter it was probably a familiar word, but still.  Deeper and more disturbing lies and cover-ups about the debacle in Benghazi.  It would be entertaining if it wasn't so ... sordid.  And if the race still wasn't so close.  Although there's very good reason to hope that's changing.

Oh, and the undercover film that busted Patrick Moran, son of sitting Democratic congressman Jim Moran, in a conspiracy to commit voter fraud in Virginia.  I have to say I enjoyed that one.  Jim Moran never met an abortion he didn't want your tax money to pay for. 

There was a half-hearted and completely tone-deaf attempt by the left to fight back with a campaign based on Romney's not-so-elegant phrase, "binders full of women."  I don't think it's helped them with real women, though.  Another attempt to gin up some outrage at Ann Coulter for tweeting the R-word.  Trying to enlist Big Bird to make a campaign appearance.  But no leadership, economically or on foreign policy.  Nothing but distractions, pettiness and smut.

What's happened over the last week or so is that the Democrats have lost Middle America.  Maybe they can salvage it and get it back, maybe not.  The vulgarity and tawdriness of the campaign has gotten to be a real turnoff.  Mitt Romney is looking more and more Reaganesque, and Barack Obama is looking more and more like a loser who hasn't lost quite yet.

More links of interest:

We've Heard it All Before - same old, same old.

Bob is a Racist - a YouTube video that ought to get a laugh from anyone who has encountered workplace double standards.

If you're still thinking of sitting out the election

Peggy Noonan, excellent as always.

Monday, October 29, 2012

"High Functioning"

"High functioning Down syndrome."  I've heard those words a lot from people describing my daughter, and I'm not really sure how to take them.  Should I be complimented that they think she's better off than most people with Down syndrome, or offended at the soft bigotry of low expectations that implies it is unusual for people with Down syndrome to achieve what she has?  She's fortunate enough to have benefitted from good medical care, early intervention, and education... but those are all standard procedure for individuals with Down syndrome now.  I don't really know, but I almost think "high functioning" is a backhanded compliment, and I don't use it myself.

Instead, I want to celebrate in today's post some of the things my daughter does with excellence.  Not just "excellent... for Down syndrome."  Excellent for anyone.  It's a pretty long list.  21 items long.
  • She gives the best hugs.
  • She loves unconditionally.
  • She never holds a grudge for longer than a few minutes.
  • If someone needs prayer, she keeps praying for that individual until told she doesn't need to anymore.  She will remind others to pray for that person too.
  • She is generous and compassionate.
  • She is a fantastic hula-hooper.  Her little sister might be as good, but until they came along we were a completely incompetent hula-hooping family.

  • She reads.  And she loves to read.  And she reads pretty close to grade level.
  • Back in the day, she was the quickest of our 4 kids to get the concept of potty-training.
  • She can amuse herself for an extended period of time without help or supervision (this wasn't always the case).
  • She sings in the choir, keeps her place in the music and keeps her poise in front of an audience.
  • She finds her place in the hymnal and follows along with every hymn.
  • She knows all the dance moves for "Thriller."
  • She remembers her schedule, knows when she has to be where at school and how to get there.
  • She has always been good with "calendar math" and could probably find work as an appointment secretary someday.
  • She remembers all the important announcements that the other middle-schoolers forget to tell their parents, like signing the permission slip for the school social.
  • She remembers people's birthdays.  She remembers the birthdays of her 2nd grade teacher and the little boy who was in her class in 4th grade.  She reads the church bulletin and makes sure to wish everybody listed in it a happy birthday or anniversary.
  • What she doesn't know about Disney princesses is not worth knowing.
  • She doesn't care if some other 13-year-olds have outgrown Disney princesses.
  • She laughs easily.
  • She knows a lot of people.  She is always running into friends from school at Target or places like that.  They come up and give her hugs.  This doesn't strike me as weird, because it is obvious they genuinely like her.  The rest of us barely survived through 7th grade... she seems to be thriving.
  • She gets on the bus every morning with a smile on her face; she gets off the bus every afternoon and runs, beaming, to give me a hug.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Love and Learning

I just realized that I can't go to bed yet... I haven't posted today in the 31 for 21 blog challenge, to raise awareness about Down syndrome.  And I have been writing a more in-depth post in my mind but it will have to wait for tomorrow.

For tonight, I want to give a testimonial for the Love and Learning reading program, designed for preschool children who might otherwise have a hard time with language skills.  Children with Down syndrome are very, very visual.  Although I am a big proponent of phonics education, it is true that phonics should probably not be the first step in teaching a child with Down syndrome to read.  We invested in these kits (books and videos) when our daughter was a baby, buying a few at a time.  Watching the videos and reading the booklets became one of her favorite activities, one which she associated with "cuddle time" with Mom and Dad.  She learned to read simple sentences by the time she was 3 (with lots of repetition, and at a very slow pace, this is quite possible).  After she had worked her way through 6 of the Love and Learning kits, I started making her personalized little books of her very own, and she has loved this approach ever since.  She still has the notebooks with the handouts and poems her elementary school teachers made for her, and reviews them for fun.

Once she had mastered the most common sight words, she was more than prepared for phonics instruction of a more traditional kind.  In fact, she was able to be fully included in a regular elementary school classroom all along, and her ability in phonetic reading was always grade-appropriate.  Now that she is in middle school, the schools place much more emphasis on reading comprehension, which is definitely harder for her.  However, I believe her ability to "decode" is still right on track for her grade level.  If I know what literature books she is reading at school, I can discuss them in context with her and help her understand plot points and character development (I was a literature major in college, it ought to be good for something!)  With quality movies being made of so many books, that provides an added incentive to read and discuss, and then watch the movie.

I highly recommend the Love and Learning kits for young children with Down syndrome.  They work best if you do not watch a lot of other television, because they are very slow-moving by comparison to most TV shows.  They made a huge difference in our daughter's academic aptitudes and, by extension, her self-esteem.  I believe she is much more independent because of her early introduction to the skill of reading.

Now, at age 13, she has a stack of books on her bed at all times and I have to nag her to put them away.  Could there be a better testimonial for a reading program?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Randomday: Picking on the Sixth Graders

I've just spent a vast amount of time correcting the 6-page, 60-point Gloria in Excelsis paper for my 6th grade class, and I can't seem to get away from them when I'm thinking about the random today.

It really helps to put your name on the paper.  A surprising number of 6th graders need to be called back to do this.  I really do not feel it is my responsibility to remind them of this, but I do.  I also tell them, multiple times before the paper is due, that the interlinear translation  must be completed, or I will take off 2 points per page.  Many of them completed the interlinear translation only on the first page.  I also do not feel it is my responsibility to tell them that they have to do the interlinear translation on every single page.  Isn't it obvious?

I tell them multiple times that the "vocabulary drill" section involves giving the complete, proper dictionary entry for each Latin word.  It is not a translation exercise.  Moreover, the vocabulary box is located at the bottom of the page.  If a word is repeated later in the reading, it is found in the vocabulary box of the page it first appeared on.  I had to answer a question about whether they needed to do this exercise on the lines where there was no obvious word in the vocabulary box.  "Yes, you do, in fact, have to do every line of the exercise.  If you've forgotten a vocabulary word, turn back a few pages."  I still had a handful of students who forgot it was not a translation exercise and filled in the English translation.

Let's talk about the parsing section.  In the phrase, "Filius Dei" ("son of God"), the word "Dei" is in the genitive singular.  Although we did learn that the -i ending for the second declension is used for the genitive singular and the nominative plural, I will mark it wrong if you write "gen. s./ nom. pl."  One of those is correct in context, and one of those is incorrect.  Hint: there is only one God.

Neatness counts.  Spelling counts.  If I can't read each letter of your answer, your answer is wrong.  You may or may not thank me some day.  At this point I'm a little past caring.  Please use only pencil, not colored pen.  If you take the staple out to work on the sheets individually, please make sure you re-staple them in the correct order before turning it in.  Please do not all 19 of you cluster around the desk with separate questions and expect me to take the paper personally from your hands.  Put it in the pocket of the folder like I told you to.

Moving along from the Lingua Angelica exercise, there are some concerns I have about your English usage.  Apostrophes... should not be used to pluralize.  I know you see it everywhere, but I will not tolerate it.  I will explain it about 3 times, and after that you really need to learn this.  Please do not ever give me a sentence again like "On account of heven Gaulls soldier's are in war."  I can't even make out what it was originally supposed to be, the assault on my grammatical sensibilities is so severe.

"Soldiers" is not spelled "soilders."  "Cavalry" is a bunch of horses and riders going to war; "Calvary" is the hill with three crosses on it.  And while the translation of the sentence "Pars hostium in colle est" that you rendered as "The enemies' part is in the hill" might be literally correct, it also is an assault on common sense.  When I am finished with you, it will be obvious to you that it should be rendered as "Part of the enemies is on the hill."

Much as it may sound like I am ranting, I do find that this group of 19 young people is one of the brightest, though extremely concrete, that I have ever taught.  I am confident that they will be one of my favorite classes in the future, when they are just a teensy bit more mature.

Oh, and read the directions carefully.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Cosmology: Creatio ex Foedo

I decided to enter this quilt in the Blogger's Quilt Festival over at Amy's Creative Side.  I made it about 3 years ago as a challenge to use some really, really ugly fabric that my friend Joyce had bought and then thought better of.  It's called "Cosmology: Creatio ex Foedo"  Cosmology is a play on the fabric line Cosmos from Connecting Threads which I used to complete the quilt, and which is not ugly; and Creatio ex Foedo is Latin for "creation out of the ugly."
You can see the ugly fabric in the center of each block and in the cornerstones.  It is this wacky combination of grass green, magenta pink, yellow and orangey-green.  But!  If you combine the ugly fabric with a bunch of pretty fabric and make sure the ugly fabric is cut up in smallish pieces, it works. 
I used a pattern called Glory Bee from a book by Evelyn Sloppy.  The original quilt is in patriotic red-white-blue colors, but I decided to pull fabric in magentas, greens, and golds, including a lot of light greens and yellows as well as darker greens.  I used my collection of fat quarters in the "Cosmos" line and another collection of shot cottons by Kaffe Fassett, plus a whole bunch of other fabrics, and the pretty fabrics took the ugly right out of the theme fabric.  The quilt has an interesting effect of looking like dappled light in a vineyard or a garden because of all the variations of value, and it's now hanging in my dining room.  I think it's funny that the more quilts I make, the less "planned" and the more scrappy I tend to go.  I loved both of those fabric collections, but could never get inspired to use them until I had an ugly fabric to combine them with.
It's quilted in an allover squiggle pattern with variegated green thread.  It measures 60"x74", so would be a twin-size quilt if put on a bed. 
Be sure to check out some of the other quilts in the Festival!  It's a great chance twice-yearly for quilt bloggers to show and tell.

Amy's Creative Side


Thursday, October 25, 2012

A day in the life...

I'm honoring my daughter (Blogname: Tertia) and raising awareness about Down syndrome this month in the 31 for 21 blogging challenge.  I've blogged every single day so far in October!  Most of the posts have not been about Down syndrome particularly, because I really do see it as just one aspect of my life.  But today I'd like to describe what a "typical" day for Tertia looked like.  This might help someone who has a very young child with Down syndrome and has fears or questions about the future.  At the least, it will be something I can look back on in future years to remember when she was this age.

At 6:45 this morning I flipped on the light in the girls' room and started the sometimes lengthy process of getting them moving.  Tertia is 13 and is not particularly a morning person.  I let them get used to the idea of getting up a bit gradually, but Thursdays are our super-busy schedule days, and I really needed them downstairs, eating breakfast by about 7:15 so we could pile in the car at 7:40.  Tertia came down around that time, dressed in capris and a pink Disneyland t-shirt.  This is pretty typical for her; she also wears light-up Skecher shoes with orthotic inserts for her feet, and bumblebee black and yellow ankle socks.  She has a smile on her face most mornings even if she is slow moving.  She selected leftover salad with Creamy Caesar dressing and some yogurt for her lunch, which I then assembled for her.  I filled her water bottle, then poured her juice for breakfast while she prepared her bagel.  When I remember, she also gets some Nutrivene D vitamin supplements with her breakfast -- I have fallen far behind on giving her the second dose every day in the evening, so in effect she just gets a half dose daily.  She can take capsules easily; has been able to since she was about 3.

We successfully piled into the car and Secundus drove us to Cedar Tree.  Teachers meet on Thursdays for prayer and Thursdays are the day I don't have a car pool, so I'm going to prayer meetings for the first time, and it's working out as long as I don't have to do it every day.  Tertia plays with the other early kids at the turnaround, soccer and basketball.  At 8:10 she sees me waving and comes running, after waving a cheery goodbye to her friends.  I'm hoping her presence there for this short time every week will make these privileged, private school kids a little more sensitive, and maybe I won't hear the "R-word" from them.  I don't very often, but you can be sure I go ballistic when I do.  The two of us drive back home, Tertia reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in the front seat next to me.  I ask her what's happening and she says something about Quidditch... and I ask absentmindedly, what houses are playing?  She says, they aren't at Hogwarts yet!  Oh, this is the World Cup, I say.  Yes, the World Cup, she says.  Later on in the drive she tells me that Ireland won.  She reads with the bookmark marking the line, at a pretty good rate.  I think she probably skips words, but I don't know... her phonetic reading ability is almost uncanny sometimes.  Comprehension not so much, but she does okay.

At home we have just enough time to finish packing her things before we have to go outside and wait for the bus.  Tertia really wants to kick back and relax in her room, but I won't let her and she comes down,  a little sulky and grumpy, and I hustle her into her jacket, grab her backpack and we go outside.  Our house is on a busy street and the bus driver is a sub today... I want to be sure she won't get missed.  The bus comes right around 8:40; she gives me a kiss and boards the bus with her usual smile, sulkiness forgotten.  The other 3 or 4 riders are all boys.  The bus has at least one more stop before heading off to the school.

At school Tertia is in an Intensive Academic Special Ed. classroom, as opposed to the Developmental Special Ed. classroom next door.  Apparently she is one of the "high-functioning" ones in her class.  I have a lot of thoughts about this, but I'll need to save them for another day.  Her class includes 6th-8th graders, and she is the only one in it who has Down syndrome.  Her teacher is a lovely, patient, and hard-working woman.  All the public school teachers we have dealt with have been lovely, patient, and hard-working.  They pour themselves into their students and they must spend countless hours doing soulless paperwork.  First period they usually do some study skills or a little bit of science. Second period Tertia goes with a few other students to a 6th grade general ed. "World Studies" history class, where today, they had a test on the peoples of the stone age.  This is her sole "academic" general ed. class; there is an aide who assists the special ed. students and makes sure they receive the adaptations they require.  Third period is dance (she has to change in the locker room), then I think she has lunch, and then 4th period is choir.  Both of those classes are in general ed., and she had both last year as well; other students are kind and accepting of her from what I hear. 

The rest of the day she is in the IAC classroom, for math tailored to her level, language arts (the curriculum is very simplified, but we have requested that she be allowed to read challenging books of literary quality -- she's working on The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe -- with the assumption that she will write book reports on them) and "social skills".  I feel more or less satisfied with her curriculum, but it's hard to know what it's actually like when I have to be off-site teaching her grade at a completely different school.  Sometimes it's a bit schizophrenic.

She comes home every day around 3:45; waves goodbye to her bus buddies and comes and gives me a hug.  After being around people for so much, I think she needs to decompress.  She likes to hang out in her room where she reads or waves pencils around.  This is a self-soothing behavior she has and I figure it's better than sucking her thumb, which she is trying to quit.  Sometimes she will make up imaginary stories, pretend she is a school teacher, or even carry on conversations with herself or her imaginary children.  She rarely naps after school but will often ask to watch a favorite TV show.  I'll let her do it if her daily chores are done.  This week she's supposed to unload the dishwasher, but she's been pokey about it, so it doesn't get done until I'm fixing dinner today.  I had to take the van into the shop and wasn't able to supervise/nag her about it earlier.  She enjoys Mexican mountains along with the rest of us for supper, and after some ice cream for dessert she makes her way upstairs to take her shower.  Some of us are planning on watching the Amazing Race episode we taped a few days ago, but Tertia is not really interested in this program.  She prefers to take her time with a long and leisurely shower, singing karaoke at the top of her lungs.

In the last few years she has become quite independent about most things, and I'm very glad about that.  It doesn't really bear thinking about what it would be like if she wasn't independent... we haven't really given her any other options because we don't have any!  She will always need help with some aspects of life, but with a loving and supportive family that is not a big obstacle.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

WIP Wednesday

Remember Works-in-progress Wednesdays?  I barely do.  What is it about this school year that has made it nearly impossible to free time up for quilting?  Actual work on my sewing machine is at a complete standstill other than emergency mending jobs.  My creative corner is a MESS!  But as something of a consolation, I have been doing some handwork and knitting while watching TV some evenings.  I'm binding the Log Cabin quilt -- I only have two partial sides and one corner to turn.  And then a label.
I've been working on a test knit project -- using this handspun from a few years back.  It will be another shawl for my 12 in 2012 challenge, but I can't take a picture of the finished product.  Besides, it's only half done.  The yarn is from a 4-ounce batt by Butterfly Girl Designs, called "Mardi Gras."  It's always fun to work with handspun.
And I started a new shawl, a Citron in some red Knit Picks Shadow.  I decided after the Camping shawl that I needed a break from the lace for the rest of the year!  As for what I'm reading (for Ginny's yarn-along) I'm mostly finished with Mossflower and borrowing the Mark of Athena from a friend.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Political Tuesdays: Reaganesque

If you study Communications in college (or even if you read an occasional news analysis article), you learn that the majority of all information conveyed between human beings is non-verbal.  Facial expressions, tone of voice, posture, grooming and dress choices, and emotional state all matter -- sometimes far more than the actual words said.  No one understood this better than the Great Communicator, Ronald Reagan himself.  To a great extent, the last 20-plus years of Republican politics have been the story of trying to recapture the Reagan magic.  Which is strange (I say as someone who was still a child when Reagan was President), because even Reagan was not Reaganesque most of the time.  But "Reaganesque" larger-than-life, the glory days of America winning the Cold War -- those are the nonverbal images that remain with us from those years.  Nonverbal communication is how legends are made.  In an age obsessed with image, no wonder we have more legends than are perhaps good for us; or that few of those legends stand the test of time.

The four political debates of the last month could all serve as textbooks for nonverbal communication in future college courses.  I believe they will also be analyzed in future because this is the first election cycle ever where the social networking platforms play a larger role in refining how voters react to the debates than the traditional media.  In all four debates, each side claimed victory and the media gave the Democrats the win on paper in most cases, but popular momentum online quickly shifted to favor the Republicans.  In each debate, the Republican candidate had the edge in nonverbal communication.  In case you did not watch the debates, here's my 3-word summary of each candidate's nonverbal performance during each debate, along with my attempt to intercept their thoughts at the time.

1st presidential debate:
Romney: presidential, positive, aggressive
What he was thinking: "Be presidential, be positive, be aggressive."
Obama: medicated, passive, detached
What he was thinking: "Um... Uh... why can't I have my teleprompter?"

Vice-Presidential debate:
Ryan: smart, professional, articulate
What he was thinking: "Get the facts across.  Don't get distracted by the buffoon."
Biden: mocking, belittling, gool-ol-boy trying to learn the kid some manners
What he was thinking: "Guffaw.  I just laugh at the newbie until he gives up.  It should work."

2nd presidential debate:
Romney: aggressive, positive, presidential
What he was thinking: "I know what it takes to get the economy working again." "Hey America, you do not have to stay with this bozo.  I will fight to restore your honor."  (There was a point where they locked eyes and my heart skipped a beat; it was like he was channelling Colin Firth in Pride and Prejudice.  And Obama was definitely Wickham.)
Obama: aggressive, angry, entitled
What he was thinking: "This is mine and I will not let it go without a fight." "Hey America, I'll pay for your birth control.  You will follow me because of that and because I am so innately superior to all others."

3rd presidential debate:
Romney: positive, happy warrior
What he was thinking: "Man-to-man defense: stay close and let him make his own mistakes."  "Restore America's honor and backbone."
Obama: angry, spiteful, petulant, condescending
What he was thinking: "L'etat, c'est moi. "  "My opponents are so infantile that I will treat them like 3-year-olds, demonstrating with hand motions what an aircraft carrier and a nuclear submarine look like and mocking horses and bayonets."

I've changed my opinion over the course of the debates.  I used to think Obama had a certain likeability even though I had no intention of voting for him.  Now, I think he's petty and selfish.  And Romney, who had never been my first choice for a Republican nominee, now seems Reaganesque and ready to take command of a bad situation.  How did this happen?  I would suggest that it was all in the nonverbal communication.  Now, how that nonverbal communication strikes me is one thing; how it strikes the undecided voters in the swing states will be key.

It's going to be a long couple of weeks.

In case you want to read other analysis:

Peggy Noonan

The Telegraph

Hugh Hewitt

Monday, October 22, 2012

Middle-School Teacher Appreciation Monday

I'm declaring today "Middle-School Teacher Appreciation Monday" on my blog.  I was inspired to do this by two events.

1. In G4 (6th grade) today, I was demonstrating a skill I call "quick homework correction."  This involves holding all non-essential questions and trying to make time through the exercises, without stopping every question to clarify whether it's okay to say "the soldiers' swords" instead of "the swords of the soldiers."  (I have a very ... concrete ... 6th grade class).  On a good day, we can get through sentence translation without having to write more than 2 sentences on the board.  So midway through this, I notice a hand in the air.  (I only get about half as many hands in the air when we're trying to move quickly).  And I don't name my students, but it's the guy who looks like Lewis on Meet the Robinsons.  "Can I go get a tissue?  I ... uh ... sneezed."  Gesturing to the front of his polo shirt, where rests the evidence that he did indeed sneeze.  And I find myself in the position of explaining to the kids that you don't need to ask permission to get a tissue ... I mean, what is this, anyway?  They're in 6th grade at an academically intensive private school.  They should be able to figure out how to handle a sneeze without teacher help!

Remember Daniel's Latin teacher meme?  I would think my kids do see me as Snape, except for the fact that I can't keep a straight face in front of them.  And there were kids in that class, I swear, who didn't understand why I was laughing.

2.  On the way home I heard a blurb on the radio that the world's oldest survivor of Auschwitz had died at age 108.  Antoni Dobrowolski, a Polish teacher, defied the Nazis by organizing underground middle-school classes during World War II.  The Nazis wanted to keep the Poles as a slave state and anything other than primary education was illegal.  This man literally risked his life to teach children about their language and heritage.  So I encourage those of you who value middle-school education and those engaged in it to take a moment of silence in honor of this courageous man's life.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Pretty in Pink, Then and Now

When she was this little, I used to be afraid of what was 10 or 15 years down the road...
... or sometimes, even two or three.  I'm not sure why, now.
"turn around and you're two, turn around and you're four, turn around, and you're a young girl going out of my door."

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Randomday: Hello Kitty Meets the Zombies

When only one kid in your family attends the public schools, she has some experiences you might not have thought of giving your other kids.  They aren't necessarily bad experiences, just different.  For example, at Tertia's school, the dance teacher likes to do a presentation of Michael Jackson's "Thriller" every October.  This is Tertia's second "Thriller" performance and she's getting pretty good at it. 

Unfortunately I was unable to attend the assembly yesterday because I was in the midst of parent-teacher conferences at Cedar Tree.  But I read the memo about the costume and it said to wear black/white costumes.  She was all set to wear pink because it was also "spirit day", but I talked her into picking a black or white top.  Specifically, she really likes the Hello Kitty boombox shirt, which is just her style.  Last year she came home with a little bit of green makeup on her face (for the zombie effect). But this year there was no makeup, and I'm just as glad.  Tertia doesn't like zombies: she says they are "creepy," but she knows they aren't real.

In the "Thriller" dance routine there is a particular dance move that I understand is called a "booty bounce."  I was a bit shocked at this the first time Tertia demonstrated it, but I told her it's fine in dance but not to talk about it at other times.

There's a joke going around in the Down syndrome community about the aptitude of our kids for dance: they have "Get-Down syndrome."  And it's true.  Tertia has a real gift for dance moves.  She is also the only member of our family who can dance the Macarena.

P.S. In the contest of Hello Kitty vs. the zombies, Hello Kitty will totally win.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Finished Shawl! Deep Water Dreamer

I finished blocking my 9th shawl in 2012.  I'm calling it Deep Water Dreamer after an Eric Bogle song that came to mind as I was unpinning it.   I'd started it back in August, actually at Family Camp.  It's the half-circle variation of the "Camping" Pi shawl in honor of Elizabeth Zimmerman's 100th birthday.  I was thinking of calling it Indian Summer since that's the time of year I finally finished it, but then I thought of the color of the yarn and cold deep water that you might see if you went camping this time of year.
I experimented with draping it over various foliage, but you can't really see the lace pattern as well as I'd like. 
It shows up better in the blocking picture.  The yarn was variegated in spots that matched rather nicely with the changes in the pattern.  I didn't actually plan it that way, but it looks rather nice.  This used up about 600 yards of my handspun Wensleydale and has a radius of 25".  I'm ready to knit some non-lace projects now.
Here's the detail of the little waves and how fussy it was to block.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Quarta's Turn

In an attempt at fairness in the distribution of cute baby pictures, here's the newborn picture with the three older kids and Quarta.  It was another rough couple of days at the hospital; I was still completely immobilized from the vertigo and the emergency C-section and did not pose for any photos. 
The girls have shared a room all their lives; and of course they could sleep anywhere if they wanted to.  In recent years Quarta has grown taller than Tertia, but Tertia still wears at least one size larger. 

Quarta has three parallel scars on her forehead: the first was when Tertia "pushed her into a bookcase" (she was about three), the second from a backyard mud-battle with older kids when she ran into a tree, and the third from when she ran into a parked truck.  It was at one of the E.R. visits resulting from these injuries that she acquired Blue Bunny:
Recently she has started displaying her crafty gene, which she probably gets from me, and made this outfit for Blue Bunny.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Softened Memories

This month I've made the commitment to blog daily in the "31 for 21" challenge.  Not all of my posts have been about Down syndrome, because I see it as just one aspect of a life that's full of many things.  But in looking through some older family photos, I've found too many sweet ones not to share.  Here's the picture of the boys at the hospital the day Tertia was born.  I've always been in awe at how thoroughly and snugly the nurses can swaddle a newborn.  We were kind of at loose ends that day, but the boys were excited to be big brothers (they each got buttons to wear!) and probably didn't understand why Mom and Dad were so frazzled.  Little Tertia was adorable despite a certain "squashedness" of her head that made her look a bit like General Burkhalter from Hogan's Heroes.  She and I had a very close bond starting that day, when I felt a little like it might be the two of us against the world.
I had already sewed a baby sling to wear her in.  We went everywhere and she hung out like a little kangaroo baby.  Here she is at the Portland Rose Garden... the one with real roses, not the sporting arena.  Emotionally what was the hardest for me was knowing that my beautiful baby girl was less than perfect in the world's eyes, and having her close to me was one small way of protecting her when I wasn't sure about how people would react to her.  Having this kind of close physical contact with her was good for her security and development, and good for creating a special mother-child bond.  None of my other children would hold still long enough... but I basically carried her for 9 months inside and 2 years outside.  Many of those days were hard ones; I was worried about things I'm not worried about any longer.  But if I had my little baby joy-bird close by, it was hard to be depressed for long.
So maybe you can understand why I found it funny, quirky, and profoundly sweet that she bought me fabric softener as a Christmas present last winter.  Now she's a big girl in middle school and could pick out her own presents and pay for them at the Dollar Tree.  She chose the soft blue bottle with a mommy and baby on it, and if you can't read the fine print at the very bottom, it says, "Soft as a Mother's love."

Mothers aren't supposed to have favorites, but this comes close to being my favorite Christmas present ever!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Political Tuesdays - Red Meat

Debate evenings are the one time I regret not having Twitter.  Politics, the favorite blood sport of ancient Rome, has finally come of age with social networking, with the thumbs-down vote travelling across continents at the speed of electrons.  I personally have always had a slightly slower reaction time... I prefer to be one of the morning-after analysts rather than the Twitter and Facebook mob in the Flavian amphitheater.  At least in theory, the pay is better.

Joe Biden apparently finds nothing more hilarious than the prospect of a nuclear Iran.  Minutes after it became obvious that his strategy in the vice presidential debate last week was mockery, I started seeing Proverbs 29:9 ( "When a wise man has an argument with a fool, the fool only rages and laughs, and there is no quiet") floating across Facebook.  It was in various translations and has kept popping up ever since.  The thing is, Biden's performance was red meat to the liberal Democrats that form the core of Obama's support in this election.  Biden was not passive, as Obama was the week before.  But the majority of the country, particularly middle-aged, middle-class women like me, found Biden's demeanor dismissive and rude.  And it has cost the Obama campaign in the past week, even more than Obama's first lackluster debate performance.  Ironic for someone who claims it's the other guy waging "war on women."

So will the Obama campaign find just the right combination of passive-aggressive this debate?  Is there a good combination of passive-aggressive?  Does anyone really watch these debates anyway, or is it just another way for political junkies to while away the agonizing wait until election day?

The title for today's post came to me as I was shopping for dinner tonight.  I wanted to buy ground turkey to make soft tacos, but Safeway was offering it at almost $4 a pound, compared to $2.70 a pound for ground beef.  What's the deal with almost $12 for a family pack of ground turkey?  It used to be $.99 a pound, the cheap, healthy alternative to ground beef.  You'd think we were living in a mismanaged economy or something.  So we had the red meat instead.  Ready for the political season.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Sister Sweaters

Here at long last are the sister sweaters.  On the left is my original Rhinebeck, hand-dyed orange superwash, knit as "Miss December" in my 2009 12 sweaters dodecathon.  It's been one of my very favorite sweaters of all time ever since.  And sister Beth liked it so much, recreating it for her became my challenge for this year's Tour de Fleece and the the Ravelympics.  I put it aside to buy buttons for it and then the school year began and I just finished sewing the buttons on the first night of her short visit... but it fits and it went back to Scotland with her!  Secundus snapped this photo before she had to leave.  It may be a bit blurry but it works.  Great pattern, happy yarn (homespun is the best!) and I still love orange.  I would knit another orange sweater.

It has been weeks since I did a proper update on my stash report.  I finally have some movement in knitting and quilting to report.

Fabric used this week: .5 yards for binding log cabin, and I'm counting 16 yards as donated (or at least on long loan!)
Fabric used year to date: 74.5 yards
Added this week: 0 yards
Added year to date: 28 yards
Net used for 2012: 46.5 yards

Yarn used this week: 600 yards for camping shawl
Yarn used year to date: 6744 yards
Yarn added this week: 0 yards
Yarn added year to date: 3503 yards (all handspun, not purchased)
Net used for 2012: 3241 yards

I'm hoping to get back into both quilting and knitting now that the highest stress week of the school year is past and it's back to just ordinary stress!

Sunday, October 14, 2012


Inspired by the description of a German lady I know from my knitting group, and a box full of Italian plums from Costco, I browsed the web for some Pflaumenkuchen recipes recently.  Above is an interesting, yeast-leavened plum cake.  Recipe here.  It was good.  The yeast dough gives it a totally different texture and a less-sweet taste.
This one is a little closer to some other recipes I've tried... very nice.  We tried half the plums face up and half face down. 

I want to do another try with this recipe before the rest of the plums go bad.  In the meantime, just saying "pflaumenkuchen" is fun!

Saturday, October 13, 2012


Chaaarge!  This is the little push-wagon we had for Tertia's therapy when she was little.  Once she figured out how to climb she sometimes would get up on the boxes of dried beans we used for weights. 
Soon nothing was safe.
Hotel room drawers...
the dryer... she was everywhere!  I was looking through old pictures and I just can't get over how photogenic and cute she was/is.  Having a baby with Down syndrome is just as wonderful as having any baby, but you get the added benefit of a slightly slower-paced infancy and toddlerhood.  You can watch the miracle of human development in slow-motion, sometimes with therapists pointing out things you never noticed in your other children.  It's a little bit (just a little bit) easier to keep up with a developmentally delayed toddler.  But you still don't dare take your eyes off them!

Sister Beth is back home in Scotland.  The fall rains have started and it's cold enough to want to wear wool.  Secundus had a massively huge cross-country meet today in Portland.  I think he had his best time yet, but scores haven't been posted yet.

The school accreditors have left and we can all go back to the regular stress of teaching and grading.

I finished the bind-off on my half-Pi "Camping" shawl yesterday.  No energy for blocking it quite yet.  Actually, today I had no energy for much of anything.  Lots of standing around at the meet and I still need to grade quizzes and figure out food for tomorrow.

Friday, October 12, 2012


In the 31 for 21 challenge, I've been cheating a bit and blogging about general family things.  But this video came to my attention today and it's truly heartwarming.  Definitely worth the 15 minutes to watch.  So often our culture doesn't have anything positive to say to families expecting a baby with Down syndrome.  It may take a bit of time, but these families will frequently tell you that their child is one of the best things that ever happened to them.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


Not a bad birthday so far.  I had only one class evaluated today, and I guess no news is good news.  No one asked me why I was impersonating a teacher, so that's good!  Logic 1 and 2 both sang to me, and I was given a plate of home-baked cookies.

Beth took me out to get a pedicure today at the Athena Day Spa.  This place is good.  Not like the one we went to last year, where three separate people assumed I was her mother.  I chose An Affair in Red Square and I like how my toes look.

Steve is picking up his mom and making Pad Thai for dinner for us all.  Supposedly there will be an ice cream cake, and tomorrow Beth has to leave to go back to Scotland.  I blocked her orange sweater and it is still drying; I hope it finishes soon so she can take it with her!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Today was the day the accreditation team sat in on my 7th and 8th grade classes.  They slipped in the back of the class in their navy blazers and khaki pants, with their clipboards, opening the manila folder with the carefully-prepared, in-depth lesson plans.  I got the kids to stand up (we had already run through the more boring of our warm-ups) and we did the silly verb songs:

(to the tune of "Three Blind Mice")
o, s, t, mus, tis, nt
bam, bas, bat, bamus, batis, bant
bo bis bit bimus bitis bunt; or am es et emus etis ent
These are the endings for present system
Active voice.  Use the 1st principal part

i, isti, it, imus, istis, erunt
eram, eras, erat, eramus, eratis, erant
ero, eris, erit, erimus, eritis erint
These are the endings for perfect system
Active voice.  Use the 3rd principal part.

(and then to the tune of "Yankee Doodle")
r, ris, tur, mur, mini, ntur
Present system passive
r, ris, tur, mur, mini, ntur
Subject receives the action

Perfect system passive is a compound tense
with the 4th principal part;
PPP agrees with the subject,
then add a form of sum.

Then I hummed the "Twilight zone" theme and we entered the subjunctive zone.  Kids earned the right to sit down by correctly giving a grammar rule or verb form or translation.

Then I felt extremely awkward and self-conscious and I basically ditched my lesson plan.  Well, not really.  But in a flash of self-awareness I realized that I can't stick to a lesson plan when it's written out in that much detail, and the inspectors would not like to see me up at the board diagramming sentences, and anything else we might work on would be too much lecture and too little student involvement, but the kids really needed to work on translating sentences with purpose clauses.

So I invented a game.  I called on a team of two volunteers from each House to come up and jointly race to translate and diagram the 1st sentence from tomorrow's homework.  I called on members of their Houses who remained seated to help them with grammar advice.  This is 7th grade so there was a lot of need for grammar support.  It actually went surprisingly well, for a seat-of-the-pants innovation.  Either I've invented the newest fun Latin game, or I've cost the school its shot at accreditation. 

Eighth grade was a little more traditionally structured.  We had a bread-and-butter lesson to get through.  The fun review happened before the inspectors walked into the classroom, and then it was just going around the room and correcting sentences.  Simple sentences, so we didn't have to put any up on the board.  Then introduction of the new lesson (hic/haec/hoc and ille/illa/illud).  We made vocabulary and grammar cards, we reviewed the honking geese who aren't shy (these geese that come right up to you) and the tweety birds (those shy birds off in the forest).  My kids were troopers and had their homework all done well.  It might have been a more interesting class if they hadn't, but I'm glad they had.

I'm putting an end to it for tonight and making grape pie

Do you suppose spontaneous is just another word for random?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

All God's Critters

I love this song so much.  Sister Beth is flying in soon to spend a few days with us.  Wish it could have been a few less stressful days in the school calendar, but oh well.

That is all.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Quilts of the Past: Jane's Wedding Ring

I'm continuing to participate in the "31 for 21" blogging challenge to raise awareness of Down syndrome this month.  However, there's really just so much I can say about Down syndrome, and while digging around for cute pictures of my daughter from her early years I found this quilt I've never shared with the blog world.  So hey!  Easy Monday entry.  And for the first time in a couple of weeks I have something to share with the Design Wall Monday, even if it's 12 years old.

My college friend Jane got married in the fall of 2000, the last of our group of friends to tie the knot.  This is the second Wedding Ring quilt I made using John Flynn's book, which I highly recommend.  Someday I'm really going to make one for Steve and me.  But anyway, Jane's colors were blues and peach, so I had a great deal of fun piecing it because I love those colors too!  I can't remember much about the quilting process, but it was on my trusty old Viking that I still have... it was long before I had the Megaquilter.  I do remember spraying it with water to get the water-soluble blue marks off afterwards.  Binding a double wedding ring quilt is time-consuming... this was before 9-11 so I took it with me in a bag on the plane, along with my little needlework scissors.  I had a layover without having to change planes midway through, maybe at St. Louis.  The gentleman on the aisle seat also stayed on all the way through D.C., and the scissors came in handy when his lunch had a bag that wouldn't open.  I put the last stitches in on the binding about an hour before landing at Reagan National.

That was the first time I'd been away solo from the kids and Steve.  I called home the first day and Secundus had stuck some keys in a power outlet.  That was back in his danger-toddler days.  My friends were struck by overhearing my side of the conversation: "Did he electrocute himself?!"  He didn't. 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

"Sweet and Loving"

I'm continuing to blog in the "31 for 21" challenge to raise awareness about Down syndrome this month.  When our daughter was born we were told that we would get tired of hearing the stereotype "They're so sweet and loving!"  But you know, sweet and loving is not a bad way to be, and when mostly happy goes along with it, a mom can't really complain.  Maybe that's why, after a few months of sadness for what might have been, I fairly quickly came to the point of seeing her birth as one of the best things that ever happened to me, and I haven't looked back much.  This picture reminds me of those busy days of therapy, when we fitted her booster chair with duct-taped rolled-up magazines so she couldn't slump over.

Saturday, October 6, 2012


Randomday.  When I can finally put this on the blog.  Ever feel like your week was like this?  And where is the ball, anyway?

The accreditation team is coming to inspect all the teachers next week.  I may have mentioned it once or twice before.  I'm a little nervous.  My sister Beth is coming too, for her once yearly visit.  I bought buttons to sew on her orange sweater.  Tertia helped me pick them out.  Secundus has another cross country meet and daily practice, and I'll be turning 45.  And I've started going to a chiropractor... daily headaches were just getting to be too much.  I've got a new pillow.  Now, that was a random paragraph.

I really like John Sununu.  If you haven't seen this clip with Andrea Mitchell yet, it's one of the funniest things I've seen all week.

If analysis of President Obama's lackluster debate performance isn't your thing, check out the laser printer ad that Moth Heaven has on her blog.  Icelandic knitting!  Real Iceland scenery!

I wish I were doing more knitting.  I didn't finish my September shawl yet, and I've been asked to test-knit a shawl for Melinda Vermeer from my knitting group... using some of my handspun.  I can't describe how much I want to do this, but I keep getting snagged for other things.  Boring things like grading, paperwork, cooking and cleaning.  Actually, not so much of the cleaning.  Unless it's my classroom.  Do you have any idea how many kleenexes I have to pick up off the floor when the 7th grade leaves?

My quilting is only slightly better. I'm attaching the binding to the Log Cabin quilt.  There is a large pile of ironing awaiting me, and one of the ways I can entice myself to do it is promising myself to sew a seam or two between shirts.  I should really try this.

Our grapes are ready for harvest.  We have some lovely seedless ones, and I want to make a batch of Concord Grape Pie filling for the freezer.  Steve has been making homemade applesauce every week, but it's a big production.

And that's all the random for now.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Our Cheerleader

While looking for some older photos to share during the 31 for 21 blogging challenge, I came across this one from 2000.  It's amazing how some things don't change.  Well, our carpet isn't as clean.  And she's bigger.  Same personality though.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Digging in the Backyard

Steve was moving the compost pile a few weekends back, and Quarta was helping him.  She got very dirty, but she made a little tunnel in the compost pile.  Another potential civil engineer in the making!
We've been having a lovely Indian summer in the Northwest.  So glad the rains haven't started yet. Unfortunately the various cold and stomach viruses have started working their way around the school population.  It makes it challenging trying to get students caught up after an absence.  Work crews came to dig the foundation for the new portable classroom building this week, and they're going to pour the slab soon I think.  Next week is the visit of the accreditation committee, and all teachers are under strict instructions to present our most stunning lesson plans.  Nothing must go wrong.  Must not get sick.  But stay relaxed and confident!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Summer tomato salad

I'm participating in the 31 for 21 challenge, but they say you don't have to blog about Down syndrome every day and today is one of those busy days and yesterday's post took a long time and I've been waiting to share this photo for a week, so here goes:

I can never have enough of this salad.  When the tomatoes are finally ripe, I cut some of them up, together with about an equal amount of peeled cucumbers.  Red onion is nice, but I had a leek so I used it here.  And sweet basil leaves are a must... although I usually chop them.  Drizzle with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and sprinkle with salt and maybe a little freshly ground pepper.  The only problem is it was too big for the bowl.

It was a busy day today and we finally redeemed our coupons for the Mexican restaurant that we got at the auction last May.  I'll relate one little cute story about Tertia* before signing off... we were ushered in and asked if we would need any kids' menus.  She stated, "I'm 13 now," and that was the end of kids' menus for her!  She ordered a taco salad.  And said "Gracias!" every time the waiter came to our table.  She knows how it should be done!

* blogname for my 3rd daughter, the one with Down syndrome.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Political Tuesdays: Down Syndrome, Infanticide, and American Public Policy

Four generations, Spring, 2000.  My daughter was supposed to be born on her great-grandmother's birthday, but she came early, September 26.  My birthday is October 11, my mother's October 12, and my grandmother's was October 8.

When my grandmother was a girl, in rural Ohio in the 1920's, she said she thought there was a family with a child with Down syndrome somewhere in her county.  "I suppose they just kept him at home, quietly," was her remembrance.  If so, the child was fortunate.  During that time of the Eugenics movement and for a long time afterwards, children with Down syndrome were known as "Mongoloid idiots" and were routinely signed over to large state institutions at birth.  There, subject to untold abuse and neglect, they lived out their usually short, sad lives.  Very few Americans were really aware of such institutions at all, because disabilities, particularly mental disabilities, were seen as shameful.  There was no such thing as informed consent; individuals with disabilities were routinely sterilized, and there was no attempt to educate them or integrate them with society.  As bad as it was in America, we of course stopped short of the widespread atrocities in Nazi Germany, although the lack of scrutiny received by these institutions insured that bad conditions here would last far longer.

When my mother was a girl, she was a big fan of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.  They had a child with Down syndrome, and defied societal expectations by not institutionalizing her, and even wrote a book about her short life, Angel Unaware.  Although her life was short, she had the benefit of being very much loved and accepted in her family.  Institutionalization was still the silent norm for most Americans with disabilities.  There was a strong, unwritten expectation that people with disabilities should not intrude on the public consciousness.  This expectation was most likely from both sides of the political spectrum, which was far less polarized then than it is now.  The people of America were decent, well-intentioned folks, but they disliked to be disturbed.

When I was growing up, people with Down syndrome were no longer routinely institutionalized, and great strides were being made in education and inclusion.  Yet paradoxically, the highest-profile case of Down syndrome I ever heard about involved the infanticide of a newborn child at the parents' wish-- an atrocity so much worse than anything I had encountered in America before that it left a deep and lifelong impression.  It was the case of Baby Doe in Bloomington, Indiana in 1982.  He needed relatively minor surgery to allow him to eat, but his own parents refused the surgery, presumbably because of his Down syndrome diagnosis.  The child slowly starved to death surrounded by the best medical technology in the richest country of the world, despite thousands of offers to adopt him.  Anyone who has ever heard Steve Taylor's haunting song can never forget it:

So the unthinkable became thinkable, and our country was further polarized, gradually reaching the point where prenatal tests for Down syndrome have become standard and abortion rates approach 90%.  And although both my grandmother and mother both started out as populist Democrats, they both reached a point later in life (my mother earlier than my grandmother) where they realized that the Democratic party no longer represented their concerns as Christians.  Political allegiances are complicated and I'm not trying to strongarm anyone into changing theirs, but in my experience, it was impossible to reconcile the conflict between the Democratic party's official policy of abortion on demand for any reason, and the desire of all decent human beings to do the right thing for vulnerable individuals.  Baby Doe was one of those moments for both my mom and me.  I remember at least one conversation where we both agreed we would be willing to adopt a child with Down syndrome, to save it from a fate like that.

Five years before my daughter was born, Al Gore made his little "extra-chromosome right wing" remark.  I remember looking up from unloading the dishwasher in shock when that came over the radio.  "If I had a child with Down syndrome that would be so offensive..."  It's another one of those semi-prophetic moments I look back on now.

I've had good people, well-educated and some with medical degrees, ask me why I even mention infanticide and abortion in connection with Down syndrome.  The implication is, "You love and want your child, you would never do this, so why concern yourself about what others choose?"  Well, for the same reason that John Donne said "ask not for whom the bell tolls."  Every time a child with a mental disability is denied basic human rights because of her mental disability, don't you think it affects the entire community?  Don't you think it makes it that much harder to gain recognition for the real needs associated with this diagnosis?  The desire to pretend that the intentional genocide of people with a particular disability is not happening is strong... it helps us feel better about ourselves and the country we live in.  It's less disturbing that way.  But it's not right, and it's not true.

Infanticide of newborn children with Down syndrome, and other disabilities, still happens.  The congressional testimony of Jill Stanek tells of an incident in 2001 at the terribly mis-named Christ Hospital in Illinois.  At this hospital, more often than you'd think, late-term abortions were performed by a method that allowed the fetus to be born alive, although very premature.  At this point, the infants, already born, were left to die.  More often than you'd think, this took hours.  It was hard on the nurses, to say the least.

At both the federal and the state level, a Born Alive Infants Protection Act was introduced to provide the smallest measure of legal protection to a child like this.  There was overwhelming support for this legislation.  But on three separate occasions, while an Illinois state senator, Barack Obama voted against it.  This is why you will hear (although never in the mainstream media) the charge of "supporting infanticide" leveled against the President.  Although he has tried, he has not been able to refute it.  And this is a fundamental reason why, no matter how "likeable" the President may be, I could not in good conscience support him.

Again, it would be a fair charge to say that I am "personalizing" the political issue.  I'd have to plead guilty.  This is very personal to me.  My daughter's birth did change the way I look at things.  I need to be more vigilant with her than with my other children, just to protect her and make sure she develops the skills she will need in life.  To have one class of people with Down syndrome, loved and wanted and included in society -- I think we all agree that this is a good thing.  But to have a secondary class, discriminated against solely because of their disability and status of being unwanted -- this is unconscionable in a society that values human rights.