Monday, September 30, 2013

Design Wall Monday and Stash Report

Not very much has changed on the design wall since last week.  I'm still contemplating the arrangement of my String Star,  but I did finish the Rivendell block of the paper-pieced "Not All Who Wander are Lost" quilt:
I gave the elf-maid brunette hair because I assume she's Arwen -- tempting as it was to put myself, as a blonde, in Rivendell.  I'm just a stickler for literary authenticity.  I was humming Enya's "Marble Halls" as I worked on this one.  A recap of the other blocks in this quilt:

I'm afraid there has been no change in the stash report since last time:

Stash Report:

Fabric used this week: 0 yards
Fabric used year to date: 53 yards
Added this week: 0 yards
Added year to date: 49 yards
Net used for 2013: 4 yards

Knitting yarn: 
Yarn used this week: 0 yards
Yarn used year to date: 10,550 yards
Yarn added this week: 0 yards
Yarn added year to date: 5800 yards
Net used for 2013: 4750 yards

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Book Review: God's Harvard

I thought when I began to read God's Harvard: A Christian College on a Mission to Save America, by Hanna Rosin, that I would be even more annoyed by it than I was by A Year of Biblical Womanhood, which I read in the same time period.  God's Harvard, published in 2006, is an in-depth examination of the politically active evangelical culture at Patrick Henry College.  Rosin, an Israeli-born Jew who writes about religion for the Washington Post, had unprecedented access to faculty and students during a controversy-laden turning point in the college's growth.  I expected what I've come to expect from members of the mainstream media, a bash-the-fundies, anti-evangelical diatribe designed to mock and belittle.  But to Rosin's credit, she unfailingly treats both faculty and students with respect and human decency while delivering well-written, thoughtful analysis of the not-quite-perfectly overlapping streams of Christian culture prevalent at Patrick Henry: homeschooling, fundamentalist legalism, political activism, and high academic achievement.  Gone are the days, thankfully, when the Washington Post pigeonholed evangelical Christians as "poor, uneducated, and easy to command."  This is still an outsider's view of the Religious Right, but Rosin made a more conscientious effort to understand the "opposition" than Rachel Held Evans (who is a liberal Christian herself) did in A Year of Biblical Womanhood.

I attended 3 different Christian schools; the one I graduated from was a "start-up" that no longer exists.  I went to a well-established Christian college. Both my sisters went to a "start-up" Christian college that no longer exists. I now teach at a school which started around the same time as Patrick Henry.  Before that, I homeschooled Daniel for a year.  All of this is to say, I have experienced first-hand the culture that makes up Christian schools and colleges like Patrick Henry, and the growing pains that every new institution of learning goes through.  There comes a point when the initial start-up enthusiasm wanes and members of the community realize they don't necessarily share the same vision; what happens next will determine the future of the institution.

In the case of Patrick Henry, the crisis point came at least partly as a result of the big personality of its founder, Michael Farris.  Farris, who came to prominence as a homeschool activist, wanted a contemporary Christian response to the apostasy of the Ivy League colleges; a Christian institution of the highest academic caliber that would turn out graduates well-prepared for careers in government and entertainment.  And to some degree, he got it.  Talented professors flocked to design courses with a God-centered focus; bright and idealistic young people, the majority of them homeschooled by devout Christian parents, raced to enroll and compete for various academic honors.  Conservative Republican leadership in nearby Washington, D.C. offered amazing opportunities for internships and political experience to PHC students.  The college filled an important niche -- more academic than the typical Bible college, but still a "safe" place to send sheltered children.  If you think there is not a demand for this type of school, you are out of touch with a sizable segment of American culture.

But Farris' vision for politically astute Christian activism conflicted with a tendency to over-idealize the Founding Fathers; his desire for a rigorous, classical curriculum conflicted with his own pietistic disdain for the pagans and their influence; and most interestingly (to me) his expressed desire for high-level Christian scholarship conflicted with his disdain for some of the highest-level Christian scholars, like Augustine and Calvin.  Calvinists and Anglicans are "supposed friends of religious liberty who are actually enemies," according to Farris.

The real heroes of religious freedom were the uneducated Baptists and Quakers, who wanted to engage with their Bible in their own way, unmediated.  "Me and God, that's where liberty comes from," said Farris... Now it happened that most of the professors on Farris's staff were Calvinists, and philosophers to boot.  (p. 120)
 It was at this point that I knew things were not going to end well.  Rosin tracks one professor in particular -- Robert Stacey, who by all accounts developed a remarkable and challenging course in government and political philosophy.  But he and other professors pushed perhaps a little too hard for a nuanced view of their respective subjects, and asked students to think about things that were uncomfortable for some.  Five professors, convinced their academic freedom was being hampered, resigned together in the spring of 2006.  Farris resigned as president and now serves as college Chancellor, with Gene Edward Veith, a leading thinker in the field of Christianity and culture, serving as Provost.  Unfortunately, Rosin's book ends before describing the changes that have taken place since that time.

Rosin spends more time describing the college from the students' point of view, and that's part of the appeal of a book like this.  Students have different concerns than the professors' for academic freedom -- there is a lot of recorded grumbling about rigid dress and behavior codes, including a culture of informing on other students who broke rules.  We get to go along the campaign trail with a carload of young campaigners, home for break to visit different families, inside the dorm wing where the campus rebels hang out, even to visit a few grads in their post-college jobs.

God's Harvard is of interest to any Christians involved in trying to build Christian institutions of learning and those who have a background in the culture wars.  It's also fascinating to see the picture of campus life at a Christian college, although perhaps a little disturbing for those of us parents who worry about sending kids off into that world -- no matter how sheltered the environment, there are dangers for the unwary.  It's certainly not always comfortable to read, and it could be criticized for more focus on rebels and naysayers than on more compliant students - although considering the access Rosin was given, she rarely takes a cheap shot even when there's a golden opportunity.  And she is quick to point out that the rebellious students at PHC would be model students anywhere else.  I loved the fly-on-the-wall picture of life at PHC and wish somehow I could read an update now, 7 years later with new leadership and a presumably more sophisticated vision for the future -- but this is the kind of book that can only be written once.

Saturday, September 28, 2013


Tertia, Quarta and I went to the Down Syndrome Buddy Walk today.  It had to be held mostly indoors because of rain, but it was a nice time.  You'll have to take my word for it, because I didn't take the camera and my cell phone camera hasn't been working for nearly 2 years.
I did take a picture of the Lovage, Caramelized Onion and Potato Frittata I made yesterday for dinner.  It was quite nice.  Lovage is an interesting herb/vegetable.  It tastes like very strong celery, but it looks more like parsley.  I followed the linked recipe except I made it a little bigger and added about half a bunch of chopped mustard greens and kale.

Rain.  We've had a more than usually rainy September and August.  Everyone thinks it rains all the time in the Northwest, but we can usually count on a sunny and dry second half of the summer and a nice Indian summer.  But not this year.  It makes us a bit grumpy.  Some of us, anyway.  I'm personally also grumpy because I don't get enough sleep, I can't keep the house clean, and I don't get enough time to knit and quilt.

Thursday, September 26, 2013


I really, really love this picture.  Most girls don't get up early on their 14th birthday and get dressed up for school.  Most girls don't really want to have their picture taken at the front door, waiting for the little school bus, with donuts to share with the rest of the kids in her class.  Not all girls have such a sweet and naturally happy smile.  Only a few families have this blessing.  We are really quite fortunate.

For dinner there was macaroni and cheese with hot dogs in it, green beans, salad, and a birthday blueberry pie.  She got a bag of M&Ms, a watch on a neck chain, a charm bracelet, and a new dress.  She now has her own email account so she can send letters to her brother at college.  She may eventually get Facebook, we haven't decided yet.  She mainly wants it so she can wish her friends a happy birthday.  She has about 150 best friends, and sees nothing abnormal about that.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Wednesday updates

I haven't linked up either to the Yarn-Along or WIP Wednesday for a few weeks because of, you know, school and all that.  I haven't quite found the right pace for combining school, family, and crafts, and you know what has to take a backseat.  I have been making very small bits of progress though, and I can at least show that much here.
I have two main knitting projects going on: a pair of Sweet Tomato Heel socks for Quarta in some Tofutsies that someone gave me, and the ongoing Rosalind sweater for me.  Both are comfortably past the halfway point, which is a nice place to be.  I need my knitting when life gets stressful.  I've been reading a fair amount too - my herb encyclopedia, God's Harvard (which I'll review sometime in the next few days), and the latest Agatha Raisin mystery.
This is the Circle of Fun rug I finished a few weeks ago - enjoying using it in our master bath.
It has been a few weeks since I put my Farmer's Wife quilt on the frame.  I am still working up courage to quilt it.  I want to do freeform feathers on the border, so I have been watching youtube tutorials and I think I just need to jump in and go for it, but probably it will go better if I pick some day when I'm not exhausted to begin with.

The other two quilt projects are the Santa Fe String Star and the Lord of the Rings "Not All Who Wander Are Lost" fan quilt.  I enjoy both of these projects but have only been making tiny, miniscule progress on them, so these are recycled photos.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Book Review: A Year of Biblical Womanhood

As soon as I saw A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans on the library shelf, I knew two things.  I was going to feel compelled to read it, and I was going to be seriously annoyed by it.  I was right on both counts.

A self-described liberated woman and popular blogger with ties to the evangelical Christian culture (she lives in the Bible Belt - beyond that, I'm not sure), Evans got a sweetheart book deal from Thomas Nelson: interpret the Bible's commands to women literally for a year and write about it.  Now, I've been blogging for a few years and I like the blogs that have interesting challenges: cook every recipe in Julia Child's cookbook; make a different quilt block or knitted afghan square every day; tell your family's story in pictures throughout the year.  There have been some enjoyable books and even movies that have resulted.  I'm still waiting for the book deal that combines my unique perspective on knitting, quilting, special needs parenting, and Latin instruction for the 21st century.  It's probably a niche market and I'm not holding my breath.  But whatever. If you can turn your personal blogging challenge into a book deal, my attitude is, "Nice work if you can get it."

But some of the free-spirited zaniness that might be appropriate in a blog challenge almost seems to become a stunt for the purpose of this book-length project, and if you add that to the sacredness of the text she is examining, it becomes, if not offensive, at least irritating, for those of us who do indeed believe that text is sacred.  Maybe it's when she makes herself sit on the roof of her house in penance for her "contentious" words.  Or when she pitches a tent in her yard during that time of the month.  Or spends a month calling her husband "master" - taking as her example not the biblical Sarah, but I Dream of Jeannie.  I've often said I'll tolerate any amount of heresy as long as it's well-written, and Evans certainly has a nice approachable prose style, but the fact that she has an axe to grind sucks some of the air out of her breezy style, for me.

The underlying premise of this book supports an "egalitarian" vs. "complementarian" view of the role of women in the Bible.  That much is fairly obvious, although I personally think the real issue is the doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture.  It's a key issue in Christian culture and one that sooner or later will become a hot button for just about everyone. Evans is at her best when she leaves off the gimmicks at the end of each chapter and delves into the lives of various women of the Bible using honest exegesis with no snark attached.  You may or may not agree with her conclusions, but she is clearly a fellow-Christian and deserves the benefit of assuming her intentions are good.  But then, combating the teaching that women should be silent and not teach in the church, she becomes rather flippant: just throw a head covering on and say you're prophesying, is her advice.

Evans interviews an interesting assortment of traditionalist women; a practicing Amish woman and another who has left that tradition; a Christian polygamist (her husband met another woman but didn't feel right divorcing her, so decided God was calling him to a life of polygamy); an orthodox Jewish woman.  I feel her treatment of conservative evangelical Protestant women was sketchy to nonexistent,  almost as if she was more comfortable setting up straw women from the fringes of Christian culture rather than engaging with a real live woman who disagreed with her.  I didn't find her disrespectful of traditions she disagreed with, but she kept them at arm's distance while pretending to take the Bible literally.  So, I guess I question her intellectual honesty.

Some petty things I wondered about as I was reading it: why would you choose Martha Stewart as your arbiter of all things Proverbs 31?  Why a battery-operated baby Think-it-Over to teach a 30-year-old woman about parenting, rather than volunteer time spent comforting real babies or helping real moms?  Why does buying fair trade organic coffee and chocolate make you a champion of the poor, and did you ever really eat guinea pig, or was that just a catchy chapter title?  And come on, it's not really that impossibly beyond you to sew and knit.  Some of us even do it for fun.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Randomday, Random Book Review

Two weeks of the school year down.  I love teaching, but it is all-consuming and there seems to be no way for me to do it without family life suffering and risking depression and burnout.  And always there is the sheer physical and emotional exhaustion.  And I'm just a part-time teacher.  I wonder how the full-timers manage.  Please understand, I'm not complaining.  It's just a fact of life.  I often think of the final scene of Goodbye, Mr. Chips.  Life goes on, but it rarely ends well for the teacher.  I think it's no coincidence that the iconic teachers in the classical tradition have always been single, no children.  (Those nuns in the Catholic schools!)

There are new challenges every year.  This year, it's not having a Latin room and having to itinerate from class to class.  I have to prep all my materials in advance and stage my day with the tactical foresight of Julius Caesar besieging Alesia.  My classrooms are deep rather than broad, so the unforeseen consequence of that is that my handwriting on the board is not large enough for the kids in back to see.  I have to practice writing big.  And there are new students - one completely new to Latin in 8th grade, and others who have had it before but need to be worked in and have gaps made up.  I'm sure I'll manage.  I'm not so sure that all my students will love Latin and get awesome grades.  I'm not even sure all my own children will love and respect me.  Come to think of it, it would be kind of strange if I were sure.

There are things that are refreshingly the same every year.  Sixth grade students are always very literal.  Some of them are going through growth spurts, but I always find it a fun wake-up call that their minds still need to be babysat with the step-by step instructions that you would give to preschoolers, repeated frequently and with assurance that it is All Going To Be Okay.  Seventh grade students are in full-on puberty and even the sharpest of them may space out from time to time; but it is encouraging that, all hormones aside, they have brains that can and should be developed.  And I get to help with that.  I'm not nearly as willing to do the babysitting of literal brains at this age, though.  It's okay, because most of them come to realize they don't want it anymore anyway.  In 8th grade, it's obvious they don't want it.  They're fully in charge of their own study habits and it's a delicate balance how much I should repeat the kind of things that are necessary in 6th grade, but in 8th grade can become ad nauseam very quickly.  You can see those cute little 6th graders slipping away and being replaced by young adults, not quite but almost mature.  And then, faster than you'd think, they're on to 9th grade and I only see them in passing.

Quarta is a new 6th grader this year.  Tragically, her pet hamster Winky died this week.  Tertia is plugging away in 8th grade in her public school.  It's hard not being able to be very involved with her daily routine, but I do get to be with her at the beginning and end of it.  Secundus is in 11th grade, working very hard and running cross country.  His pickup truck is operational now!  He may start driving himself to school soon.  We think he may have broken his toe back in August when he ran into a metal pipe while playing frisbee at Family Camp.  It isn't moving right, but he did manage to run a marathon on it last weekend.  Apparently it's not hurting too much, but I need to take him in to have it x-rayed.  Daniel is loving life on the AEX hall at Grove City College.  The rest of us are missing him.

Not much in the way of knitting or quilting is getting done... a bit of mending and just enough knitting not to be at a total standstill.  I have been trying to trap fruit flies with vinegar traps, but the best way seems to be to leave the lid of the compost bucket ajar and then close it suddenly before taking them out.  Steve is happy today; he gets to play in the garden, harvest seeds and turn over compost.  I may make another batch of salsa, for the freezer this time, and some grape pie filling.  The squirrels are coming out in force: our yard is a major thoroughfare for them and we have several nests high up in some of our trees.  They are fun to watch.

Yesterday evening Quarta watched a particularly creepy episode of Dr. Who with us (with the Ood, a black hole, and Satan trying to break out of the pit, part 1).  Tertia was whimpering in her room, as far away from the TV as possible because she thought it had something to do with mummies, which is her current biggest fear... we are not allowed to say the "m-word."  So to recover, we played a round of Apples to Apples.  I had a moment of brilliance when I played "pigs" to match "radiant" -- remember Charlotte's Web? Literary allusions for the win!  But I didn't win.  Tertia had a lengthy fit of the giggles when Steve played "underwear" to match "cute."  It was pretty priceless, actually.  Secundus was at a reunion party for his kindergarten class, where they played Apples to Apples, too.

And as promised, a random (short) book review:

Indiscretions of Archie by P.G. Wodehouse was written early in Wodehouse's illustrious career, and it may not be the best introduction to the master, but it's certainly a fun stand-alone tale.  In it, Wodehouse honed his stock characters; irascible business tycoons, subtly underhanded butlers, and a vast array of feckless but amiable young men from all walks of life and both sides of the Atlantic.  One of them is the titular Archie, who, after de-enlisting from service in WWI, wanders off from Britain to America to seek his fortune.  He immediately wins the enmity of hotel magnate Daniel Brewster.  Then, a few weeks later, he shows up at Brewster's hotel again, newly married to Lucille, Brewster's only daughter.  The rest of the book is an episodic series of attempts to rectify matters, written as only Wodehouse could.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Design Wall and Stash Report

Well, I survived the first week of school; there was even a little crafting.
I have made enough color-coordinated string diamonds to lay out a sample large diamond, or most of it.  This is my take on the Santa Fe String Star from Bonnie K. Hunter.  My plan is to use a solid gray as the background for the star, and I'm not sure about the border yet.  I think I like the possibilities.
And I finished a knitting project, for the first time in a long time.  This is my second Circle of Fun rug made out of many strands of cotton or linen from thrift store sweaters.  It's nice and squooshy and is going to be the new bathmat in my bathroom.

Stash Report:

Fabric used this week: 0 yards
Fabric used year to date: 53 yards
Added this week: 0 yards
Added year to date: 49 yards
Net used for 2013: 4 yards

Knitting yarn:
Yarn used this week: 4000 yards (estimated for rug; 8 strands worked as one)
Yarn used year to date: 10,550 yards
Yarn added this week: 0 yards
Yarn added year to date: 5800 yards
Net used for 2013: 4750 yards

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Book Review: The Rithmatist

The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson was recommended to me by my son Daniel, who loves nothing better than a multi-volume epic fantasy saga set in a complex and engrossing world.  Sanderson, famous for writing such tomes himself and even taking on the completion of epic fantasies begun by another author, simplifies his usual style in this book aimed at the Young Adult market.  Although it is the first in an intended series, it's easy to get into and quick to read if you're a distracted teen, mom, or teacher who has no time at the present for slow-moving epics.  I read it back in August but this is the first real book review I've done in awhile because, well, Pinterest has made it much more challenging to embed pins on one's blog and I have only just (maybe) figured it out.

Joel, the young hero, is an under-performing student whose one dream in life has already been crushed - he wanted to become a Rithmatist, a sort of wizard who engages in dueling by drawing chalk figures that come to life; but he missed his chance of being chosen at a mystical "inception" ceremony and is now too old, seemingly destined for a sub-par career and a life of poverty.  But all that changes when mysterious events at Armedius Academy transpire and Joel is thrown together with the Rithmatic students and professors.  He befriends Melody, a rather annoying girl who is underachieving for her own reasons, but has a knack for drawing chalkling unicorns.  Together they seek to find the cause of the attacks on students that are somehow linked to alarming events in the larger world -- the mysterious tower in Nebrask.

Like all recent YA fantasies, this book is obviously indebted to Harry Potter, but the "school story with a twist" actually reminded me more of the Pixar film Monsters University, with its overall lighthearted feel.  This is also a good introduction to the related genres of "steampunk" and alternate history.  Without being hackneyed or derivative, though: Sanderson has plenty of invention of his own.  The illustrations by Ben McSweeney contribute nicely to the feel of the book, and there is no objectionable material or disturbing violence.  Look closely and you may be able to detect echoes of some Mormon theology, perhaps.  I found it a bit odd to see the suggested discussion questions and book report project ideas at the back -- but Daniel assures me this is standard procedure these days.  I guess fantasy lit has come a long way if its authors now plan ahead for their books to be school assignments!  Back in my day, there was a bit of a stigma if you read this type of fiction.  I'm glad that's changed, but I'm not sure I'd kill the enjoyment of a book like this by turning it into an assignment.  A fun, different, refreshing read with potential for more enjoyment to come.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Randomday Marathon

The first week of school is in the books.  Well, not exactly, because I haven't entered any grades yet.  I came down with a terrible cold the second day and it wiped me out for a day, then became bearable until last night when it turned into a constant hacking cough from somewhere deep in my lungs.  The first round of laryngitis is due to strike about Monday morning.  I usually work in at least three a year, but I'm starting early.  I have fifty students in three grades.  That is an astounding number of young people.
Secundus ran his first marathon today.  Mr.Mac has been training for some time for his own personal Iron Man competition, and Secundus ran the marathon leg with him.
Start to finish in a little over 4 1/2 hours (I couldn't actually see my watch that last bit).  He said it was easy until his legs started hurting in the last 3 miles.  Secundus has had a busy couple of days: he finished 3rd in his cross country meet yesterday.  And Francesca (the red Mazda pickup) came back from the shop today.  We spent a lot more money on the temperamental redhead than we would have liked.  She had some fuel pressure and fuel line issues that were a serious safety concern, but she finally passed emissions, to everyone's surprise!  Now she needs to be licensed, and Secundus will need to practice driving stick before we let him drive her to school with Quarta on board.

Speaking of driving to school, I am making three round trips on Mondays and Tuesdays, and two round trips the other days.  On days when I drive the homeward carpool, my van may have 4 extra children on board, and I will have to be very creative to make sure that I am not late to get home to meet Tertia's bus, as I was Tuesday.  And on ... I think it was Wednesday, as I was driving to school down 199th street, a large spotted pig crossed the street in a leisurely manner in front of me.  An oncoming car also stopped to let it pass, and we two drivers exchanged a bemused glance, and then moved on.

I am caught up on Latin homework but am letting Steve work on Greek without me for now.  Maybe I'll shuffle the vocabulary cards or something.

The house has reached new lows of filthiness, and I have not quite but almost given up caring, because I am simply too exhausted and nothing I do can fight back the flood tide anyway.  Steve is making applesauce, which means more fruit flies, apple peelings and dirt ground into the floor, and spilled applesauce on the cooktop.  I did experiment with a few fruit fly traps.  I like the kind where you put apple cider vinegar in a small jar, cover it with plastic wrap held on with a rubber band, and poke holes in it with a toothpick.  But the floor is staying filthy until someone else decides to clean it.  It will be interesting, because Grandma is coming over tomorrow.

I'm almost done with knitting my circle rug.

I am going to drink half a glass of hard cider and go to bed.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Pickles and Salsa

Last Saturday, yes, my last "free" Saturday before the start of school, I spent canning.  Here are the results.  (I didn't post about this until now because, well, it's the first week of school and all that).  I made 5 quart jars of kosher dill pickles and 6 pints of salsa, loosely following recipes from the revered Ball Blue Book.  Combined with all my other jam-making, the pflaumenmus, the plum chutney... this makes the most I've ever canned in one season, or at least a tie.  I briefly thought about buying more canning jars. I feel like someone who would like to be more domestic than she can afford the time to be.

I'm sure it will pass.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Political Tuesdays - How About a Quarantine?

If you like political theater, it's an interesting week.  I suspect President Obama is hoping the political maneuverings taking place on the subject of Syria will draw international attention away from any attempts at anti-American violence on the anniversary of 9-11 and Benghazi.  It might be a sound strategy up to a point, if it weren't for John Kerry.  And of course, the President's own mishandling of the issue from start to finish, which now creates a bizarre situation with Vladimir Putin scoring points against the U.S. in the "who can be more diplomatic?" competition.

I'm a little nostalgic for the Presidents of my childhood, who made special addresses to the nation not to whine about the political obstacles they faced, but to inform us of something concrete, like, "Two hours ago, on my orders, American fighter jets carried out an attack on x."  No navel-gazing, no inviting Congress to weigh in on something they claimed as a Presidential authority.  The buck stopped somewhere, and everyone knew it.  It wasn't even just Republican Presidents who did this, although Bill Clinton was most likely to authorize a bombing only if he needed to cover up a sex scandal.  They all knew better than to involve Congress unless a real war was imminent.  Congress doesn't do well at debating surgical strikes... they tend to be much less surgical, somehow.  More of a blunt instrument.

I'm sympathetic to an interventionist policy in the Middle East, rather than the more rigid approach favored by most libertarians... there are indeed some human rights abuses that demand a response from the civilized world, in my opinion.  But Obama's attempts to crowd-source a foreign policy (and leave a path open to blame the Republicans if it goes south) would be laughable if they weren't making the U.S. a laughingstock.

So I propose a middle ground for the Middle East: a quarantine.  Well, not completely.  Tempting as it might be to wait for two sides in Syria to kill each other off, like orcs fighting among themselves in The Lord of the Rings, that is unlikely.  But it is also most unlikely to solve the complexities of the situation on the ground in Syria by any military action, surgical or otherwise, without vast unforeseen consequences.  It's a sick society, with an entrenched evil dictator being challenged by evil-dictator-wannabes, and both sides using dirty tactics.  A sane foreign policy would be one that offered a small degree of protection to innocents (a humanitarian effort to relocate refugees) while denying aid to any faction whose cause is less than noble.  When any one of the warring parties wants to embrace democracy or stand trial for crimes against humanity, we should stand ready to assist if asked.  But until then, no money, no arms, no easy travel to and from, no embassies to become targets for hatred and resentment.  I would think both sides could agree on a minimalist approach to involvement in Syria, and if the strike really is necessary and could be "unbelievably small," couldn't it just as easily be carried out by the Oval Office alone?  Either that, or go the route to full-blown war, but to be successful at that, you really need an international coalition, a supportive nation, and a clearly defined set of objectives.  And expect a whole lot of opposition... just ask George W. Bush.

Monday, September 9, 2013

First Day of School - the Schedule

I think I survived.  I hurt a lot, all over.  Here's how it went:

6:00 a.m. - after fitful sleep, began the day by attempting to wake up the brain with a sudoku or two.  Then shower and dress.
6:45 - suggest to children they should begin waking process.  Quarta was already dressing, the other two were a harder sell.
7:15 - packing lunches and making a green smoothie for breakfast.  (Kale leaves, 1 mini cucumber, 1 green apple, 1 1/2 frozen bananas, mint leaves, vanilla almond milk, a dab of vanilla yogurt, some flax seeds and ice cubes).  This is the only back to school photo that made it onto Facebook.  The reaction of my friends ranged from "looks disgusting" to "nutty, crunchy-granola type" to "looks delicious, so healthy."  Obviously, green smoothies are fraught with controversy, but I don't think I would have made it through the morning without it.
7:50 - Penny arrives to pick up Secundus and Quarta, before I even thought about taking their back-to-school photos and posting them to Facebook.  Penny had lovely photos of her kids, I saw them later.  Everyone else had lovely photos.  I took a picture of glasses of green sludge on a messy countertop.  Hey, I've also been teaching a dead language for 14 years.  It takes all kinds.
8:27 - after cajoling and pushing and hurrying Tertia along to get ready in time, her bus shows up and she gets on.  The driver apologetically explains she has another student to fit into her schedule and will show up even earlier tomorrow.  I explain that this is good for me, but bad for Tertia, who has never been speedy in the mornings.  I will have to push and cajole and hurry faster tomorrow.
8:40 - I make my first of three drives up to school, find a parking space in an unusually crowded lot (just about every parent except me was there for the opening at the flagpole, it seems), and find room 503, where I hole punch 3x5 cards in an array of colors and count them out in the appropriate sequence for vocabulary and grammar cards for 3 classes: one with 14 students, one with 19 students, and one with 15 students.  This takes all the time I have until...
9:20 - I walk into the 6th grade class and greet Quarta and her classmates, who are starting off with 1st declension nouns.
10:15 - room 503 again, where my desk is, and 8th grade, which is reviewing 3rd declension nouns in preparation for a rigorous course of study culminating in translating excerpts from Caesar's Gallic Wars.  I find out afterwards that one new student has had zero Latin before, and I was not aware of this beforehand.
11:10 - room 403, 19 7th graders, several of whom did not have their books or other supplies and had many questions about how they were supposed to get those supplies, which I couldn't answer.
12:05, back to my desk, where I drank water for the first time since leaving home, tried to organize my notes for the next day, and took a bunch of master copies to the office and copied the next set of handouts for tomorrow, before driving myself home in a state of utter fatigue and hunger.
1:30 - warmed up some leftovers for lunch and relaxed for a short while before
2:10 - driving up to school again, arriving 2:25
2:35 - with Secundus, drive south to drop him off at Cross Country practice, arriving 2:50.  Turn around, drive right back up to school, arriving 3:05.  Pick up Quarta, and 3 other West side students who need to be carpooled home (one of whom wasn't sure she was supposed to go with me).  Tomorrow there will be 4 kids besides Quarta.  Drove N&S home first, getting a bit misdirected along the way, then O., and by that time Quarta and I made it home at 3:38 -- exactly 2 minutes before Tertia's bus pulled up.  Then it was back into the car to take Quarta to an appointment at 4:00, and home again just before 5:00, seeing Secundus breaking and entering into his 2nd story window (his house keys are on the chain with his car keys, which are with Francesca in the shop).
5:15 - cooked spaghetti and meatballs for dinner while tearing up from the realization that I will have to do it all again tomorrow, except it is an assembly schedule so classtime is even shorter and I will have one more kid to take home and beat the bus in the afternoon.  Correction, two more kids, one of them going with Secundus to sports practice.
7:30 - realizing I would either have to spend the evening curled up in the fetal position sobbing or knitting and drinking something mocha at Starbucks, I drove to Starbucks and knit a bit with my knitting friends.  I was somewhat heartened to be informed that I am considered an expert at Fair Isle in that circle.  I desperately need to be an expert at something, and it is painfully obvious it is not being the carpool mom.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Quick Randomday

School starts Monday.  There's no putting it off anymore.  I have a lot done, and a lot that will have to wait until after the first few days.  I will be teaching 2nd - 4th periods, starting with 6th grade, then 8th grade, then 7th grade.  This will be a bit of a challenge to my linear-functioning mind, particularly since I will also be hopping in and out of three different classrooms to do it and presumably will have to pack in and out everything I need.  I am still in search of the holy grail of 8th grade Latin teachers - a really great map of Caesar's Gallic campaigns.  The one I mainly use is an old map of Celtic Europe, with the naked Gallic warrior covered with a modesty shield made of black construction paper before I laminated it, and with a random bead I found in my old classroom taped onto Britain in the general vicinity of Jarrow.  (The Venerable Bede lived there.  It's kind of a pun.)

I was sad to say goodbye to my old classroom.  It had a great view of the quad and flagpole, even if it was too small and always smelled funny.  I will be in larger classrooms, but they keep blinds shut and always feel a little claustrophobic.  And the view isn't really worth opening the blinds for anyway.

Steve gave my laptop a lobotomy yesterday.  The essentials are back to normal.  Part of the deal was convincing me to switch away from Internet Explorer to Google Chrome.  I like the fact that it blocks the ads, but I haven't gotten used to the new interface yet.  This, combined with the new school year, is almost too much paralyzing change all at once.  I would like to hibernate with some books, knitting, and a large bag of something chocolate for a few days, please.

I went to the dentist yesterday to get my tooth adjusted.  (There was a problem with a filling I had recently, where it stuck up too much and altered the whole bite of my mouth.  It was compounded by the fact that I have no corresponding molar on the other side, so the bite was really off.)  It's much better now.  I asked about getting an implant on the other side to even things up, and it sounds like that might have to wait until after college for the kids.

Speaking of major expenses, I feel bad for Secundus, whose new truck ("Francesca") is in the shop.  We have just about reached the point where the necessary repairs authorized for her are equal to the amount that he shelled out for her in the first place.  We are optimistic that if these repairs are completed, she will no longer be in danger of exploding if driven.  We are not so optimistic about recouping these expenses anytime soon.  But on the bright side, enough money has been spent to more than qualify for a waiver on the emissions test.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Back-to-School quotes

Tertia's first day of public school 8th grade was yesterday.  I am grateful my happiest child is the one I'm sending off to the educational situation where I have the least involvement and familiarity with it; I still worry about her, but she will be all right.  It's her gift.  She also has a very cheerful, efficient and punctual bus driver, same as last year.  Any other mom could probably confirm how beneficial that is!

As for me, I've spent the last two days in mandatory inservice.  Secundus and Quarta will join me Monday for the first day of school, at which we are expected to hit the ground running.  I was just up at the campus this morning, and I do have a desk now.  The paint is drying in the room where it will be.  I have three classrooms to set up as much Latin information as I am able to fit onto 1-2 bulletin boards and a bit of shelf space.  I have an entire year's worth of lesson plans canned from last year; I will need to manually change the dates and insert any different information -- that massive bit of text editing will take anywhere from an hour to 3 days, depending on variables I haven't calculated yet.  My biggest bit of copying is done (I added a ream of paper twice).  I would kind of like to know the names of the kids I am teaching before I walk into class Monday, but it will probably be okay.  I'm not quite so sure about the carpool.  Back to school will work because... there is no other option.  The moms and the teachers of the world need to make it work.

So without further ado, I will close with a series of quotes (from the website I've been playing obsessively lately) that for some reason made me think of the back to school cycle.

"The Romans would never have found time to conquer the world if they had been obliged first to learn Latin."
— Heinrich Heine

"Grade school is the snooze button on the clock-radio of life."
— John Rogers

"Good management is the art of making problems so interesting and their solutions so constructive that everyone wants to get to work and deal with them."
— Paul Hawken

"The sooner you make your first five thousand mistakes the sooner you will be able to correct them."
— Kimon Nicolaides

"I never guess. It is a shocking habit -- destructive to the logical faculty. "
— Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

"Acquire new knowledge whilst thinking over the old, and you may become a teacher of others. "
— Confucius

The way you overcome shyness is to become so wrapped up in something that you forget to be afraid."
— Lady Bird Johnson

"A human being must have occupation if he or she is not to become a nuisance to the world."
— Dorothy L. Sayers

"Life is mostly froth and bubble. Two things stand like stone - Kindness in another's trouble, Courage in your own."
— Adam L. Gordon

"When we are out of sympathy with the young, then I think our work in this world is over. "
— George Macdonald

Monday, September 2, 2013

September updates

I finally mounted my Farmer's Wife Quilt onto the Megaquilter frame in preparation for quilting.  That's the eggshell thread I will need to wind several dozen bobbins of, and there is just barely enough of the backing ... there better not be any shifting as I go along.  But I've been meaning to load this up and finally got around to it.  There will need to be lots of free-form feathers, but I think if I take it a bit at a time it's doable.
Here's what's on the design wall at the moment.  A few more string diamonds and 3 Lord of the Rings paper-pieced blocks for the Not All Who Wander Are Lost quilt.
#3, Weathertop is the most recently completed.  I'm having fun finding appropriate fabrics in my stash, and I love the gray runic circles on this fabric I used -- it looks exactly like ancient weathered stone.  There was some amazingly intricate piecing in those arches, although this isn't the best picture.  Fortunately the beauty of paper-piecing is that it is nearly fool-proof as long as your fabric piece covers the necessary area.  It makes it possible to do very intricate work accurately.

Stash Report:

Fabric used this week: 3.5 yards (extra-wide) for backing Farmer's Wife
Fabric used year to date: 53 yards
Added this week: 0 yards
Added year to date: 49 yards
Net used for 2013: 4 yards
Knitting yarn:
Yarn used this week: 0 yards (2 knitting projects about 70% done)
Yarn used year to date: 6550 yards.
Yarn added this week: 0 yards (still have some to ply, skein and measure soon)
Yarn added year to date: 5800 yards
Net used for 2013: 750 yards

So how did I do on my goals for August?  Not so great:
  1. Mount and begin quilting the Farmer's Wife quilt.  I want each little block to be beautifully quilted, so this will be a longer-term project. Mounted but not begun.
  2. Complete Country Stars top. Done
  3. randomly chosen from my list of 2013 goals: #4, the 3/4 bag kit. Nope
  4. Finish the Rosalind sweater. Nope
I do qualify for a bonus point for organizing my fabric, although the entire sewing area is only just passable and I started digging into my fabric again so it's no longer organized.  Still, better and more fun to spend time there than it was, as evidenced by the fact that I started two new quilt projects.

Goals for September:

  1. 33% progress on quilting Farmer's Wife
  2. Sew a bag - any of the three on my UFO list
  3. Make significant progress on either NAWWAL or the String Star
  4. Finish the Rosalind Sweater
I will award myself bonus points for any other completed knitting project, hand applique blocks, multiple boxer shorts, or a felted wool blanket.  I like having a wide variety of possibilities, hence the bonus points.  I can never predict in any given month where my whimsy will take me.

A big thank-you to Judy L. for hosting all these link-ups to keep me accountable!