Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Randomday - Walking and Whooping with a little Barking

I'm calling Randomday in the middle of the week.

Last week around this time I came down with the worst cough of my life.  I get hoarse, sore throat frequently during the winter months, aggravated by teaching and allergies, and I'm prone to getting a cold that lingers and turns into an annoying dry cough.  This was different... it came with chest congestion and severe fits of coughing that were only kept barely manageable through parent-teacher conferences by frequent cups of hot tea and nearly constant consumption of cough drops.

Did you know that the newer Halls cough drops have "pep talks" on the wrappers?  "Flex your can-do muscle."  "Impress yourself today."  Mildly amusing.

Anyway, Monday I had next to no sleep and had to excuse myself twice from the classroom to go outside to cough because I was afraid I'd throw up in front of the 8th graders.  And there is no worse nightmare, unless it is ... something else that could happen from coughing too hard in front of the 8th graders.  But anyway, I dragged myself to the doctor afterwards and he prescribed antibiotics.  It should be treated like walking pneumonia or whooping cough, he said.  Personally I'm going with walking pneumonia because it sounds cooler, and I've had my shots for whooping cough.  But I've been doing plenty of whooping too.  Yesterday I stayed home and rested, which I desperately needed, and today I'm feeling almost human again but very tired.  Quarta's got the punies though, so she stayed home today.

I have been drinking so much hot tea with lemon that I'm a little sick of it.  This is a strange thing for me, because I love hot tea.

I'm also supposed to put Vicks on my chest and the soles of my feet.  It brings back mildly unpleasant childhood memories, but putting it on the feet is new and intriguing.  It actually seems to help.  I have no idea why.

Tomorrow is the final exam in all three of my Latin classes.  And then grading.  I did a bit of knitting while lying in bed resting, but things will probably be quiet on the blog front for several days as I cope with catching up and grading.

We had an unidentified dog in our backyard today.  Steve thought it was a German Shepherd but when I saw it it was too small and looked more like... a coyote.  Do coyotes come into backyards during the daytime in the close-in suburbs in the rainy parts of the Northwest?  And this one was barking at me, not howling.  But I googled "Do coyotes bark?" and apparently, their Latin name is "canis latrans", which means, of course, barking dog.  I don't know.  But I just fetched Bilbo back inside for the night, just in case.  Smudge will have to fend for himself, but he's probably safe in his hidey-hole.

A friend of mine posted on Facebook, "If a man speaks in a forest and there is no woman there to hear, is he still wrong?"  So I quipped back... "That depends... if he's in the forest because he was too proud to ask for directions, then yes."

And that is all the brilliance I have to share for the foreseeable future.

Friday, March 21, 2014

3-21 World Down Syndrome Day

It's one of those under-appreciated holidays today: World Down Syndrome day, and I'm posting in honor of my daughter, "Tertia," who is 14 now and never fails to make my day brighter, just by being who she is.  At birth, the nurses said, they could tell she had an extra copy of chromosome #21 just by her "floppiness" and low muscle tone, and a certain slant to her eyes.  It took me a little longer and a lot of research before I could understand and accept that diagnosis, but I can say in all honesty now that the Down Syndrome diagnosis is only a small piece of our daily lives.  However, it's a piece that we can't ignore.  It's always there, and how we respond to the unique challenges the diagnosis brings will have a measurable impact on her life.

Tertia goes to a special education class for 8th grade with a more intensive academic focus than some. She has some classes (choir, dance, art) with the general population of her school and has genuine friends in that group as well as her own special class.  As you can see, she still is in her Disney princess phase, but fills the calendar with notes about concert, plays, and friends' birthdays.  Speaking of birthdays, she has an uncanny ability to remember them.

Things to be grateful for:

  • She was born in the information age.  Answers to questions about medical care, education, social services and support groups are only a few internet searches away.  
  • The Down syndrome community itself is generous and supportive.  While I was still in the hospital, unsure how to process the information I was getting, I received calls from two different moms whose children had the same diagnosis, with lots of realistic encouragement for me.  It was so much better than the printed booklets the hospital handed out that there is simply no comparison.  I've been able to pay that forward a few times for other new moms and there is no better feeling.
  • No routine institutionalization anymore, at least not in America.  I just spoke with a man my age who never met his own sister until he was an adult himself.  I can't even imagine.
  • Modern health care, advances in education, and overall, a more tolerant and accepting attitude toward people who are "different".  
Things to be concerned about:
  • Prenatal testing.  It is possible now to diagnose Down syndrome very early in pregnancy, and frequently those mothers experience subtle or not-so-subtle encouragement to abort such a pregnancy.  I heard that an expert in Denmark proclaims his country will be Down syndrome free in another decade or so.  As if that's a good thing.
  • Newborns with Down syndrome in most modern countries have a very good expectation of a happy, healthy and productive life.  But in some countries, in Eastern Europe particularly, institutionalization at birth is still the norm.  Unless these children are adopted (usually not by someone from their birth country) they face transfer from orphanage to mental asylum sometime before they turn 18, and almost certain decline and death shortly after that.  This is a tragedy that few in America are aware of.  Check out Reece's Rainbow for more information on how anyone can help fund grants to adoptive parents.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Yarn-Along, and a teeny bit of Work in Progress

It's Wednesday again and I have a bit of progress to report.
I have officially separated the stitches for the sleeves from the ones for the rest of the sweater.  I think I finally got the math right and it's just more or less basic knitting from here.  This is Mint Chocolate, a free Drops pattern that I am heavily modifying.  The yoke alone was my Ravelympics project.  All the yarn has been sitting unloved in my stash for too long, but I like the combination of colors.  Now for the slow process of knitting the rest of the sweater.

Over last weekend Steve helped me figure out what has been going wrong with my Amazon links.  See, I signed up for the Amazon associates program, which means that if anyone wanted to click through to Amazon and order through the link on the right sidebar, or from any individual product link I put in the text of a blog post, a portion of the order would benefit our family.  But something about Blogger didn't get along with Amazon, and none of my links were actually good.  So after Steve's tutorial, I'm going to try to put in the links for the books I've been reading.  Hopefully the links from here on will be good... I enjoy writing about books, but I just don't have terribly good computer skills!

I've been listening to the audiobook version of Brandon Sanderson's fantasy novel Elantris.  Daniel and I attended Sanderson's book signing a few weeks ago for his latest novel, and I've read The Rithmatist, a much shorter book for the YA market.  Elantris is an interesting world of political and religious intrigue, where the main character, a prince, wakes up one morning to find himself dead - or something very like it.  It's long, though.  66 chapters, but who's counting?

Another book I'm still slogging through is Carthage Must Be Destroyed by Richard Miles.  Ancient history is always fun for me.

In quilting, a teeny tiny bit of progress: Celtic Solstice is just a few long border seams away from being a finished top.  Twelve border seams, actually.  Still, not too much more to go.  And I've begun the slow and painstaking process of seaming together the diamonds for the Rainbow String Star I'm working on, inspired by the Santa Fe String Star in Bonnie Hunter's book String Fling.  Very excited about how this one looks in my mind's eye, anyway!

Check out the other linkups at Ginny's Yarn-Along and Lee's WIP Wednesday.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Design Wall Monday

 My mother-in-law brought this quilt over yesterday for me to pin.  She says she enjoyed piecing it so much, she plans to do another, larger one.  I guess that's the measure of a successful quilt pattern!
This last week I finally got a chance to sew together the pieced borders for Celtic Solstice.  I'm thinking of a yellow fabric for the spacer borders.  I was hoping to have this together by now but not quite.  (Wouldn't it be nice to finish Celtic Solstice on St. Patrick's Day?  Oh well.)  Also, I started piecing the diamonds into strips for my rainbow String Star.  I still have plenty of string units to piece for that one too.  So, still no finished stash to report.

I went to knit night at Starbucks tonight (just got back) and finally divided for the sleeves on my yoked sweater.  I had some math challenges with working out the number of stitches for the pattern for awhile but I think I have reached the point where I know how to knit it from here.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Celebrating Randomday

There are a lot of minor holidays in mid-March.  Yesterday was Pi Day, today of course is the Ides of March.  And apparently, it's also National Quilting Day.  Monday is St. Patrick's Day.  And there is a lot of tyranny of the urgent stuff going on in March.  Special school events, the end of the 3rd Quarter, parent-teacher conferences, special social events.  It's enough to exhaust anyone.  So let's celebrate some randomness instead.

Last week's Latin Olympika: a few random pictures.
 The athletic events took place in drenching rain and mud.  One injury requiring stitches occurred.
 A random, unposed picture of students with a selection of awards.
Older students waiting for the excitement to begin.

That's it!  I was too busy otherwise moderating, scorekeeping and driving all over Oregon and Washington.

Today instead of an all-day event I hit a few stores and found some winter coats for Quarta at a resale boutique, to replace the one she's worn to shreds.  I took the girls to the library.  Secundus surfaced briefly between sleepover last night, work this afternoon and another party this evening.  I will attempt to make a plum pie for dinner tomorrow so we can satisfy the unwritten law that says I must make a pie to celebrate Pi Day.

I didn't have to give or grade quizzes this week because of the National Latin Exam, but next week will be a doozy.  We have a new web-based grade program, "School Speak" (sounds Orwellian, doesn't it?) which is replacing the old familiar Gradekeeper.  I understand that if you like your Gradekeeper you can keep your Gradekeeper... at least until the end of the year.

Steve and I watched "Populaire" on Netflix last night.  It's a French movie with subtitles, modern but set in the 1950's.  There's this really intense competition to win a speed typing contest.  It was cute, but I know the description sounds weird.

This week I figured out how to use an app approved by the local library to borrow, download and listen to audiobooks on my Kindle Fire.  This is in addition to the ability to use a different app to borrow e-books, which I figured out 2 months ago.  Loving the ability to use the library in this new way.  The first audiobook I'm listening to is Brandon Sanderson's Elantris.  Daniel and I actually went down to Powell's books in Beaverton recently when he was back here on break to hear Sanderson at a book signing.  I have only read one book of his so far (The Rithmatist) and he is the kind of author that an audiobook helps me get into.  The audiobook narration does the difficult part to bridge over my natural ADD at the setup of the story, and by the time a few chapters are done and I've driven my commute once round trip, I'm hooked on the story.

Some fun quotes have come up on the Cryptograms game I've been playing lately.

"The car has become a secular sanctuary for the individual, his shrine to the self, his mobile Walden Pond."
— Edward McDonagh

This one inspired me -- I had really been thinking that our minivan needs a name.  Why not "Walden?"

"A sense of humor is just common sense dancing."
— Clive James

"Those who know nothing of foreign languages, know nothing of their own. "
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

"Good teaching is one-fourth preparation and three-fourths theater. "
— Gail Godwin

"Never stay up on the barren heights of cleverness, but come down into the green valleys of silliness."
— Ludwig Wittgenstein

"Anyone who has passed through the regular gradations of a classical education, and is not made a fool by it, may consider himself as having had a very narrow escape. "

— William Hazlitt

"All my best thoughts were stolen by the ancients."

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Magistra's Day Off

"All me life flashed before me eyes.  It was really borin'."

- Babs the knitting hen in Chicken Run

So what has Carpe Lanam been up to lately, since she clearly hasn't been blogging?  Not much that is blogworthy, that's for sure.  I've been busy, yes.  I've been trying to shake the cold that has been plaguing me since Christmas.  Now, with the Ides of March fast approaching, is the busiest time of year for Latin teachers.  I'm kind of at the eye of the hurricane today, since I had the day off.  This is because my classes are all taking the National Latin Exam today and, by the very specific rules, the Latin teachers can't be present for that.  I guess they're afraid we'd coach our kids or something.  It's a welcome break, particularly since last Saturday I spent the day ferrying kids to the Latin Olympika, yesterday I was at school all day for an inservice, and tomorrow I'll be ferrying kids to practice for the Spring program, and next week will be both parent-teacher conferences AND the pretest for the final, and the end of the 3rd quarter is just a week after that.
 This morning dawned sunny -- wow!  And Tertia is naturally sunny.  She dressed up because she was supposed to give a presentation about rainbows in science class.  I started to try to steer her towards more carefully coordinated clothing, but then I decided that her ragamuffin chic fashion sense is pretty okay and anyone who doesn't like it is the one with the problem.  She wanted to pose with the other flowers.  She can blend in with the bed of daffodils, right?
 And just then the bus came along and she was off.  We had the big meetings last week for her evaluation and IEP... I'm impressed by how much her teachers genuinely like her.  It makes it a little easier sending her off to school when I can't be there with her every day to watch over her.  High School next year, though.  That's gonna be hard.
 The violets have been pretty lately.  A few more days of this sun and I might be able to get rid of the sore throat/ cough thing.
 Daffodils.  That's what happening in our yard in March.  Lots and lots of daffodils.

Since there was no school for me this morning, I did my weekly grocery run early, when Winco is less crowded.  I had a couple of appointments already scheduled for the afternoon even before I knew I would have the day off.  I scrubbed a toilet and unloaded the dishwasher and cleaned Malvolio's fish tank for the first time in I'm embarrassed to say how long.  After a bit I will make Mongolian Beef for supper with this recipe I pinned, and then I need to take the girls to buy new shoes.

And - the knitting.  So yesterday I discovered a slight error in my math calculations for the yoke, picked back 1.5 rows and added two extra stitches on the section that will eventually become the sleeves.  I think I have a handle on it but I'm not completely sure even yet.  I need to lengthen the yoke by about an inch before I separate for the sleeves, and the speckled pattern has to be worked over a multiple of 6 + 1, and I am a better Latin teacher than a math teacher.  I'm craving an evening where I can just sit and knit, but that's not so very likely.  No progress on sewing or quilting this week at all.

Books in brief:
I've almost finished The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley.  I like it but I'm not sure I like the heroine, Flavia de Luce, a rather horrible 11-year-old girl with a disturbing interest in deadly poisons.  I recently finished Branded: the Buying and Selling of Teenagers, by Alissa Quart, a dated (ten years in popu culture IS dated) bit of social criticism on the over-commercialization of American teenagers.  It was assigned reading for all teachers, and I suppose there is helpful information in it, but it annoyed me with its hand-wringing without any prescription to fix the problem.  And since I believe the author is secular, I felt that the only prescriptive advice she would have given in any case would be for government intervention.  It made me a bit more cynical as we began reading the now thoroughly dated (30 years) classic, Amusing Ourselves to Death, by Neil Postman.  Can a classic be dated?  Well, it merits further discussion after I've made it through the whole thing, but I was annoyed at the outset by Postman's assertion that it is impossible to "do" political philosophy (or any other important work of the mind) on television.  Really?  I'm pretty sure that I've seen George Will, among others, "do" it many times, quite capably.  I'm working on an idea, something about reverse chronological snobbery and dystopian literature, as if somehow our era (or the 1980's, in this case) is the most at risk of cultural collapse of any era in human history.  But as I say, I should really bear with it through reading the whole book before I do a full book report.  This is just a teaser.  Speaking of cultural collapse, I am about halfway through Carthage MVST Be Destroyed, by Richard Miles, which provides a lot of insight into the decline and fall of a civilization that one of the 5th graders, bless his heart, guessed was located in Australia at the Latin Olympika.  Study of the ancient Carthaginian culture is very helpful to understanding ancient Rome and also the culture of ancient Near East in Bible times.  Africa, not Australia.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

WIP Wednesday, Mini Yarn-Along, and March Goals

 Well, it's Wednesday again.  It's pouring down rain outside, I am trying for the Guinness Record for World's Longest-Lasting Cold (not really) and my craft achievements in 2014 are as abysmal as the weather and the leaky basement.  I don't think I knit a single stitch this last week.  But I did make this miniature broom out of some handspun flax yarn from years back.  You see, Tertia is in her school's production of Snow White, as the castle maid.  And cast members are supposed to dress up the stuffed apple with items that exemplify their character.  I think the broom is rather cute.  And it's all the work I've done with yarn this week.  The napkin is for size reference.
 There it is, stitched onto the apple.  I really do want to pick up my knitting again but there's this math that I'm balking at, a bit.
I have at length assembled enough string-pieced diamonds to consider sewing them into strips for the String Star quilt.  Not much sewing has happened this last week, either.  But it surely will change!

I have been reading - currently, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.  And Carthage Must Be Destroyed , in the non-fiction category.

I hesitate to report my progress on February's crafting goals.  The only thing I made any progress on at all was my Olympic sweater - I did finish the goal I set for myself there, by finishing the yoke only.  The other 3 goals were ignored.
(This is the math that I'm balking at - I have to calculate how many stitches for each section and continue from the yoke downward).

So, time to set some new goals in the "get it done" challenge, which I will probably ignore in March as well:

  1. Random UFO goal: #4, the Scrappy Trip Around the World., 
  2. Farmer's Wife Quilt machine quilting ... to the 3/4 point of the main top.
  3. Knitting - Either continue the sweater above to the halfway point, or finish the argyles.
  4. String Star - time to make some progress on this.
Bonus points if I finish the sewing room cleanup that needs to be done, or shift focus and make significant progress on any of my other projects.  At this point, I just need to make a little progress on something more than a miniature broom.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Neglecting My Blog

I had always meant to share the picture of Il Duomo with the cupola on top.  I'm really quite proud of Quarta for making this.
It has been awhile.  I think about blogging, I really do.  But there is this exhaustion thing going on, and the cold/bronchitis/laryngitis/hopefully not strep thing I've been fighting for weeks, and work, and family... and curent events.  Rather disturbing what's going on in the Ukraine right now.  When the rare moment comes that I'm free, I'm crashing at home and can't bring myself to post.

Daniel is home for Spring break.  We are very excited to have him.  He seems to be excited to be away from the arctic temperatures and snow.  We even have flowers blooming for him here.  He was offered a position as RA for the freshman dorm next year, which is great news.
This picture was actually taken of Daniel with Tertia when my Kindle was new,  but I just figured out how to transfer it off the Kindle this last week.
Tertia was living it up when she went to see the Little Mermaid Jr. production two weeks ago.  Ariel is a church friend... aren't they both so cute?  This week is going to be very busy with Tertia's evaluation and IEP meetings.
No progress has been made on any knitting or quilting project since this picture was posted after the Olympics.  Actually, I did pick up the provisional cast-on.  But I have some calculations to do to figure out the number of stitches for the sleeves, the underarms, the body, etc.  And math is just not that appealing at the moment.  Same thing for putting the borders on my Celtic Solstice quilt.  It's a crisis of willpower.  I'm afraid I'll have to change the name of the blog or something, there is so little craft work going on.

Tonight I bailed on my usual Monday night knitting group... I'm too tired to feel like knitting.  But the sinus congestion and cough are starting to break up and I'm hopeful that I'll get into it all again, very soon.

I have been reading a lot.  I'm struck again by how prescient that last Tom Clancy novel was.  I spent a good deal of last week compulsively reading The Help.  And now it's The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.  I'm getting familiar enough with Italian that I would feel perfectly comfortable if someone were to pay my way to Italy for a vacation.

On the "vacations that might actually happen" front, I've made plans to fly to Grove City in April, to see Daniel, take Secundus for a college visit, and participate in the farewell choir concert for Dr. Browne, who is retiring this year.  I am seriously excited about the chance to sing some of the most beautiful music ever... just hope my voice comes back before then.

The Ides of March approaches... there is a Latin Olympika to help coordinate this weekend, and next week, of course, the National Latin Exam.  I recently found this cool app online that lets people practice for the NLE.