Saturday, November 29, 2008

Homeschooled Wandmaker

Nick is a homeschooled preteen who makes hand-turned mahogany wands and sells them in his mother's Etsy shop. Are you seeking an excellent and unusual present for your Harry Potter fanatic this season? Have a look:

The wand can be inscribed with runes, your name, or any other small saying. You must click on the image and read the description on the Etsy page -- it's darling. Let's hear it for homeschooled entrepreneurs!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

That's a (Raw) Wrap! My Experience with the Raw Detox

These are the last observations on food that I expect to have for a while, or at least until the next friend asks me to try some new diet, which I will definitely enthusiastically have to try.

Here's how the detox went:

Day 1: Screaming, shouting, skull-rending headache due to lack of caffeine. Multiple pukes. Multiple calls to the husband (who had wisely gone to the office) to cry and whine. Three hours of torment followed by an inch of coffee, a handful of painkillers, and a one hour nap. After I woke up, I felt better. The children played a lot of chess that day.

Day 2: I ate a bunch of fruit and vegetables. I was not hungry but I did really want something hot, like tomato soup. Tomato soup seemed like the elixir of the gods, and its presence in my pantry tormented me. I noticed, on Day 2, that I was very calm. My writing on my Nanowrimo novel slowed to sedate saunter. I was patient with the children, so patient and reasonable that they started to wonder if I was really their mother. Nothing moved me. Nothing elated me and nothing depressed me. Everything was... fine. I ate more romaine lettuce than a person should eat in one day. I drank lots of water. I ate large apples, cut thinly. I ate grapes.

Day 3: On day 3 I started to wonder if life was really worth living without hot food. I felt so calm it was almost terrifying. I ate cherry tomatoes by the large bowl. I drank water by the quart. I stayed up very very late writing my novel, then at 2am took an extremely hot bath and a lot of my hair fell out! LITERALLY. If hair could be in droves then my hair would have been falling out in them. Droves, people. The interesting thing was that I stayed up until 2am without caffeine and I truly was not tired. I made myself go to bed.

Day 4: We went to IHOP in the morning and I ate a bowl of melon and grapes and oranges and was fine. I had one cup of coffee. Later in the day I took Sadie for a manicure. I drank lots of water. I was beginning to feel like a lifetime of hysteria and frantic neuroses was fading away from me. Then that night I went out for sushi with some friends, completely violating my diet and engaging in tempura, miso soup, california roll, and hot sake. OOPS. Definitely the best food I have ever eaten in my entire life. And I felt AWESOME.

Day 5: Back on the raw wagon, I had a very calm, peaceful day. Church, violin concert, getting from place to place by moving my legs and placidly drifting. I ate a pineapple during pizza night. The most complicated thought I had all day was why it says "Do not refrigerate" on tomatoes.

Day 6: I realized on morning of Day 6, looking back over my novel parts that I had written while raw, that it was complete garbage. Not in the usual "rough first draft" sense of the word, but in the "what medicated corn plant wrote this slop" sense of the word. The thing was composed almost entirely of subject-verb-object, subject-verb-object, etc and there was no internal life going on whatsoever. The characters moved through space without conflict, having a nice quiet time, they had no memories, no ideas, no flashback, no trouble. It was BLOODLESS. In a panic, and because I really wanted to eat crab dip, I ate a small plate full of toasted crackers and cajun crab dip. Then, while driving someplace, I had the most astonishing realization about my novel. When I got home that night I edited the first two chapters to reflect this change, and it was like the universe sang in a beautiful harmonious chorus. The clouds parted, a golden ray of sun shone down, and my boring pedantic novel was suddenly alive again.

Was it the raw that actually made me think of that idea? Or was I pinched in the brain by that crab dip? I may never know.

Day 7: Because it was day 7 and because I had decided pretty much that raw food was making me stupid in my brain, I quit a bit early and cracked open that much-coveted can of tomato soup at about 3pm. I ate it with crackers. By the time I took Benny to karate at 5, I was almost doubled over with extreme pain. WOW, that hurt. I ate more raw stuff for dinner, raw the next breakfast, and then a bowl of chili -- possibly the worst food I could have chosen but again something I had coveted droolingly while raw. Again with the massive stomach pains. So, the road back to cooked was not easy. But, I am eating cooked food again.

Some observations and claims, maybe not all valid though true to me right at this moment, all definitely subject to change:

1. While raw, I stayed up very late with no fatigue and no coffee. That first night back on cooked, I ate a pop-tart and was asleep in 30 minutes. Ditto the next night with a popsicle. Conclusion: Sugar puts me to sleep.
2. My desire to eat processed sugar is almost gone.
3. My desire to eat fruits and vegetables is very large. I now somehow connect these foods in my brain with feeling better.
4. I think my mojo is back, on my novel, and I credit the artificial colors, artificial flavors, caffeine, alcohol, and processed food with my mental reawakening.
5. Eating raw made me a much better parent. Much more patient and insightful.
6. Eating raw made me feel much less claustrophobic in several different ways -- in space in my house, in time in the day, in emotional proximity of other people. It made me feel like I had more room, more time, more capacity to deal with other humans. That was part of the good calm. I was really amazed by that.
7. I need my neuroses to be interesting. I found myself incredibly boring while raw. I wanted to knit, watch tv, and think about carpet. Now, I knit and watch TV anyway, and there's nothing wrong with doing these things in combination or together, but when I was eating raw I was feeling really fulfilled by just knitting and watching TV, or even just *sitting*. I felt like I might be able to even *meditate* and that scared the whoosit out of me.
8. Eating raw made me a bad writer. I have learned to write without cigarettes, without hard liquor, without most of the vices I engaged in back when I was cool. However, I don't think I really need to sabotage myself completely by writing without hot food.
9. Going forward, I will eat less sugar, more vegetable.
10. If I ever find myself in an overwhelmingly emotional situation, or a situation when I need to be very calm, I will eat raw starting about three days out. Seriously, it was that big of a thing. It was like tranquilizer for me. Good, and bad.

One Last Day Without a Coat

Dan gave me a new camera, which is ery exciting. However, I don't know how to use it properly. It's a much better camera than my old one, and therefore has a steeper learning curve. Someone suggested the other day that I open that colorful bundle of papers that came in the box with the camera, but I assured that person that those bound documents were purely decorative and that "Instructions" means "Discard" in Latin.

So here are a few pictures of the kids, playing in the park with Zoe, who was visiting from northern VA.

Sadie and all her necessary animals.

Cute little girls in pink and orange.


Some of these pictures would have been awesome, had my camera been more reasonable about figuring itself out rather than expecting me to do all the figuring.

Maybe I should ask this guy's advice:

Doesn't he look like he has all the answers? Hehehe.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Goodbye Suzuki Book 4

Benny graduated Suzuki Book 4 at the Judy Blank Suzuki Violin Workshop. It was exciting. After he missed his official graduation recital because he was violently ill, it was a relief to be able to put on a suit coat and perform a couple of pieces to an audience, and be a certified, bonafide graduate.

Here he is doing one of his pieces:

So that's the end of Book 4. We're done with the unaccompanied Gavotte in Book 5 now, and polishing the 2nd movement of the Vivaldi in A minor, so now we've just started working on the first page of the G minor. Exciting.

I just want to take this time to unabashedly show off my children's violin position. They are awesome (which means, of course that their teachers are awesome).

Sadie participated in the workshop also. In her master class, we were congratulated on her awesome position, and Judy Blank just encouraged her to use more bow and produce more sound, and she gave us some games to play to help with that. She played Go Tell Aunt Rhody in her master class, and she's now learning May Song. Benny's master class was all about fingering and bowing stuff in the Bach Double -- different ways to practice hard passages. Neither got corrected on position, and I was so completely proud of them for being such cute little snickersnacks. I mean such fine musicians.

Here's Sadie's position:

I mean have you ever seen such a lovely bow hand on a four-year-old?

Here's Benny's:

His bow hand has come a long way, and his vibrato is now really amazing. He's matured so much as a musician in the last year -- I'm floored by him. There are many ways in which Benny is not the most mature 8 year old on the planet. However, being able to pull off that schmaltzy middle section in the third Seitz is something I have never been able to do convincingly, and he does it beautifully.

One more picture from the workshop, on the night of the potluck dinner. Yes, this is how I get results from my four-year-old! Artificial colors and flavors!

So here he is. Eight years old and on to Book 5. Suzuki forever!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Us as Muppets

Go make yourself a muppet at the FAO Schwarz Muppet Workshop. You can also buy a muppet version of yourself if you want, but I think I'll go for the digital version. Thank you Susannah for the link!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Hancock Fabric Ad Special Quiz Challenge Spectacular!

Here is the ad:

Here is the quiz:
1. In what year is a suede trench fashion forward?
A. 2008
B. 1978
C. Never. Suede in "stiff camel" is never fashion forward.
2. How gay is that guy in the vest?*
A. Super-gay.
B. He's so gay, he's my boyfriend.
C. Clay Aiken gay.
3. But, how did you know he was gay?
A. The way the cuffs are.
B. The way the collar is.
C. The way the eyebrows are.
4. It's cool to be gay, though, right?
A. Yes, but it's not cool to wear a suede vest with lapels.
B. Yes, but it's kind of weird that no one in this ad has hands. Even the girl in the trench. Where are their hands?
C. Yes, but a gay man in a pirate outfit doesn't make me want to fire up my sewing machine.
5. What says fashion forward more than a belted jersey sweater vest?
A. Anything on earth.
B. A big ruffly chiffon collar.
C. Matching earrings and belt buckle.
6. Who is the blonde girl?
A. She's that girl from Gray's Anatomy.
B. She's my third grade teacher.
C. She's the spokesperson for people with huge hideous animal-patterned growths on their necks.
7. What in this ad makes you want to visit Hancock Fabrics?
A. The background color: Abused dog turd. The font: Garage sale.
B. The scandalous thought that suede could be stretched!
C. The fierce, undeniably magnetism of the female models.
8. Based on this ad, what are the trends for the season?
A. Things that are the color of pork rinds.
B. Stuff left tossed over the pants rack at Good Will by people who found something better.
C. Foreheads.
9. What's your favorite word in this ad?
A. Dull
B. Polyester
C. Solids
10. Do you think it's possible this ad entered my email through a time warp from 30 years ago?
A. Yes
B. No
C. Eat a cheeseburger.
*You know I loves me some gay people but, the gayness of this particular guy makes me question my assumptions about the target demographic of this ad! It's not just that he is gay, I mean what male model is not gay, right? And we love them for it. But, the outfit itself is, like, a poet shirt under a cowboy vest? Super-gay! Yes, you heard me, I am *questioning my assumptions about the target demographic of this ad*. Believe it.

My Really Raw Detox with the Raw Divas

So, my friend Shez has apparently heard the news that I can be convinced to try anything when it comes to strange and extreme diets. My body and my metabolism have been the testing ground for everything from The Master Cleanse to something that Joshilyn and I ingested back in our Chicago years, which came in a bucket of horse medicine, caused us to enthusiastically gallop up 19 flights of stairs to our grad school office rather than taking the boring old elevator, and was probably methamphetamines. Boy were we skinny though. It was embedded in diatomaceous earth. We used to drink it in... Sprite or something? If you could suppress your gag reflex enough to keep it down, it really had a kick.

Aren't you glad we're getting to know each other better?

Anyway, so Shez, who is now probably completely horrified that she ever admitted to knowing me, suggested we do this Raw Detox via the Raw Divas. The Raw Divas are kind of like grrl power if grrl power was all about kale and cucumber, rather than lipstick and leather. They like to put special words in all caps for emphasis, and they say things like "watch the MAGIC unfold!" and "just imagine the beautiful CRISPNESS and COLORS of the food you're going to put on your plate!" It's just super. Super-de-duper.

Today is day 0, which means that today at 6pm I stop eating anything at all and then tomorrow at 6pm I can have an entire melon. After the melon, I can eat other things which are not cooked and then on next Wednesday I can resume cooking. Or, rather, knowing me, I can resume heating things which have already been cooked by other people in cold, grey industrial kitchens somewhere, where trolls ladle artificial colors and flavors into lasagna-shaped molds and cackle.

My husband's question: Can you eat Doritos if you don't cook them first?

Other questions: How will this affect my Nanowrimo? I am on track now to finish on time -- will I be able to sustain my word count without the helpful qualities of margaritas, peppercinos, cheese, and pirated Halloween candy? It's kind of like learning to write without nicotine, except that I'm not pregnant, so it must be easier.

I'll be keeping track of my daily progress via my Tumblr, where my Twitters, my photoblogs, and my blog posts all congregate to harrass each other and play red hands. You can also see my Tweets in my sidebar over there, if you

Here's to making the produce section my friend. The web site says my results will be "SIMPLE, APPROACHABLE, GUARANTEED!" Nothing makes me yearn for raw tomatoes like approachable results.

Are you on Twitter? Follow me @lostcheerio and send me a message so I can follow you.
Are you on Tumblr? Follow me and ask me to follow you too.

Friday, November 07, 2008

The Wreck of Odysseus' Ship: A Song About Homer's Odyssey

These lyrics remind us of the folly of Odysseus' silly crew and their willingness to eat anything that wasn't nailed down, including the cows of the sun god, which they had been specifically told not to eat. The song is sung to the tune of "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" by Gordon Lightfoot. If you don't have this song on CD, go to Project Playlist and search for it, then add it to your playlist and listen to it whenever you like!

The legend lives on from the Athenians on down
Of the big sea they call the Aegean
The sea, it is said, never gives up her dead
When the face of Poseidon is seething.

Odysseus set out with his faithful old crew
From the war with the Trojans they’d beaten
Those bright ships and the crew were just bones to be chewed
By the gales and the gods and the seasons

Odysseus was the pride of the Ithacan isle
Where his wife and his son were there waiting
and all through the years of Odysseus’ exile
One hundred young suitors placating.

They raided the island of Ismaros
And left all the villagers reeling
And later that night when the ships bell rang
Could it be the West Wind they'd been feeling.

They resisted the lotus and poked the Cyclops
but opened the bag from Aeolus.
Lost all but one ship to Laestrygonian chops
but handled witch Circe with boldness.

They fought through the dangers to follow their vows
when they came to Thranacia island
And there on the green were the sun god’s cows
From their nice sunny pasture they beckoned.

Does anyone know why they ate those cows?
Why they couldn’t just leave them there grazing?
Eating goat meat would not have made Helios mad
Yet they ate beef — is that not amazing?

The wind in the sails made a tattletale sound
And a wave broke over the railing
And every man knew, as Odysseus did, too,
T'was Poseidon’s waters come stealing.

The dawn came late and the breakfast had to wait
With the Mediterranean slashing
When afternoon came it was freezing rain
In the face of old Zeus’ fierce lashing

Odysseus sighed and he nearly died
For the good ship and crew was in peril
The rest of the crew must have sunk with the ship
Wishing they’d eaten something more feral.

Open Source Government

President-Elect Barack Obama has launched a web site at The purpose of the site is to make the transition operation more transparent to the public, and to solicit opinions and ideas from the American people. Under "American Moment" you can either "Share your Vision" or "Share your Story."

I asked him for unequivocal clarification about homeschooling.

I asked him for transparency in government.

I asked him for involvement, for a team effort, for more to do.

I stopped short of asking for a pony.

What will you ask for?

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Congratulations, Virginia

When we moved to Virginia, there was a Republican governor. There were two Republican senators. Virginia voted overwhelmingly for Bush in 2000. It was as red as a state can get.

Tonight our governor is a Democrat, both our senators are Democrats, and we just sent our 13 electors to vote for Barack Obama. I'm proud of my state, proud of the work we did, proud to change my blog's tagline.

We no longer live in a red state. Barack Obama has done what many thought impossible. All the ugliness, all the smears, all the dirt that was slung at him -- it didn't work. He is going to be President anyway. Congratulations, America. You did the right thing.

One Last Bit of Motivation

Monday, November 03, 2008

Book Bash Announcements

Hello all! :)

1. Winners. We do not have the list of winners yet. If you're checking the Book Bash web site for updates, then you know that we are waiting on the judges to respond to their finalist packets. When the responses are in, we will announce the winners, process the critiques and get the winners their comments. We anticipate this will happen in the next two weeks. However, there may be some categories that take longer. Please be patient with us. If you have not yet determined if you're a finalist, please check the page for the category you entered on the Book Bash web site, and find out if you're listed.

2. Prizes. We will be awarding prizes to the winners in all categories except the adults. When the contest was conceived, we were planning on an award ceremony that would happen locally, where a table of trophies would be distributed, kind of like the science fair last year. However, we were not anticipating the country-wide and in some cases world-wide attention the contest would get, and the fact that the vast majority of our finalists are outside driving distance for any Norfolk event. If we buy trophies and then pay to mail them to you, the mailing will definitely cost more than the trophy. Instead, we are going to send Barnes & Noble gift certificates and let you have that money rather than the post office. More info to come.

3. Feedback. I am working my way through a huge pile of entries that did not make the finals but that I feel should have some feedback. I am not giving feedback on all of the poetry or picture books, but I am responding to all novels, short stories, fables, etc. In particular, I am giving suggestions and encouragement to the amazingly huge number of students who wrote novels in the 3rd-6th grade, the 7th-9th grade, and the 10th-12th grade categories. Unfortunately, several of the entry forms have email addresses that are illegible or incomplete. One person had an email without the part. One had one that was so garbled I tried sending my comments to 4 different possible variations and they were all sent back. That is a little frustrating. So, if you do not get comments back and you wrote a novel or short story, you may be one of the people whose email address was wrong or garbled or incomplete. I tried.

I think that's it! Thank you for your patience and understanding!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

How to Make a Bat Costume, and also a Jedi Robe with No Instructions

First, she wanted to be a cheerleader. I groaned. Then, she wanted to be a rabbit. I cheered up. Finally, she wanted to be a bat.

It confused me, because bats are neither pink nor sparkly. They do not glitter, nor do they connect in any way with rainbows or unicorns. However, the bat decision was firm and passionate, never mind the fact that I had a cheerleader costume and a rabbit suit sitting ready in the closet. She wanted to be a spooky, scary bat.

Have you ever tried shopping for a bat costume? Not so easy. The only ones I could find were adult costumes like "Naughty Bat" and "Saucy Fire Demon" or whatever. Not that I wouldn't have tried to alter them to fit, but the wings were taller than Sadie, so it wouldn't work. Anyway, she had a specific vision -- bat wings she could extend and fold up, in a swooping fashion. So, I had to make the darn thing. Here's my process, starting with sewing felt half-circles to the seams of a black shirt. The ears were just triangles of felt rolled up and sewed onto a beanie type hat. I cut up some coat hangers with wire cutters and taped them to the wings with electrical tape for support. Then we added some black leggings and face paint:

Then there was the Jedi robe. Right up until Halloween day, Benny was planning to be a "Colonial Man." On Halloween we put on his colonial jacket to give it a test fit, and the sleeves were WAY too short. Apparently he grew. So, I said I could put another cuff on the sleeve and add a cowl around the jacket neck, but Benny decided he would rather be a Jedi. So, hey, I happened to have some brown fabric, but no pattern. This is the result:

He wore his karate uniform underneath. Here they are together:

Look out, Norfolk! Bat and Obiwan Kenobi are on the hunt for some candy!