Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Their First Christmas Pageant

The Christmas pageant at our new church is always on Christmas Eve. I call it our new church although we've been going there since Sadie was able to walk. Apparently it still has that new church smell. For me anyway. Anyway, because of the timing of the Christmas show, our kids have always missed it, until this year.

Benny was the lead shepherd. What separates a lead shepherd from a regular shepherd? Well, you get to lead the procession of shepherds, for one thing, and he had a much longer crook. So, I will leave you to interpret that for yourself. Here he is responding to the prompt: "Look like a shepherd!"

Sadie was a little angel. When she processed in, along with a whole gaggle of other little angels, all with their arms up and looking all holy and perfect, I cried. She was so cute.

Here's a picture of the pageant in progress. Not a great image, since it was taken from my phone, but you get the idea. Joy to the world, etc.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Three Very Special Christmas Conversations


Me: I feel kind of bad that I don't bake or have traditional meals or anything at Christmas time.
Dan: Well, that's okay. No one minds or expects you to.
Me: I still feel guilty.
Dan: Think about it though -- how often have your really been here at Christmastime when you weren't too pregnant to be alive anyway.
Me: You're right! That's right! I'm never here at Christmas time! I am completely absolved!
Dan: Yay!
Me: Gee, honey, you could have gotten something homemade out of me on that one. You really played that wrong!
Dan: Did I?


Sadie: This is pink puppy! She's the strongest of all the dogs! She eats bullets! And guns! And monkey meat and kangaroo meat! And then, most furiously, CHEETAH MEAT!


Me: We have to take toilet paper upstairs when we go to bed. There's none in our bathroom.
Dan: Well we don't *have* to.
Me: Oh really? What are our other options?
Dan: We could just scoot around on the rug.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Nut has been Crackered

Benny and Sadie had their dance performance on Saturday. It was insane.

The image above was taken by Andi Grant (of the amazing Andi Grant Photography) and shows them wearing their "Drosselmeier and Doll" outfits. Benny was the mysterious Uncle Drosselmeier and Sadie was the ballerina doll that he gives to Clara as a present. We weren't allowed to videotape the show, but here's a video of them doing it at a local nursing home:

Here's Sadie hanging out backstage in her doll outfit:

And Benny hanging out with the boys' tap class, playing Nintendo:

Sadie had her number with her little girl class. They were the mice that come in after Clara falls asleep on the sofa next to the Christmas tree. They come in and do a little mousey dance and then when the bells chime midnight they go into the Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas song. It was very cute and there was a bit with red garland-covered hula hoops.

Here are the mice:

Here's a clip of the mice performing at the nursing home. There were only three of the girls at this performance but it'll give you an idea:

Here's a picture of the mice after the show:

But who's that guy with the mice? The guy in the white jumpsuit? That's Benny, bringing back his role as Elvis. This time he sang and tap-danced to "Santa Claus is Back in Town" and brought the house down.

The children loved the performance. I didn't get to watch -- I was backstage losing my mind with costume changes and mania. I love, love, love their Drosselmeier and Doll dance, especially Sadie's extended passe and their lift at the end. I wish I had been able to watch that, but at least Dan and Ahno did. I did get to sneak around to the house side and watch Benny's Elvis though. It was pretty spectacular.

Those children really know how to entertain and exhaust a loving parent.

Note: Andi Grant is an exceptionally gifted photographer. I couldn't believe the really excellent shots she got of Benny and Sadie when she brought her studio to the dance studio and set up. She was sweet to the children, fast on the shutter button, and a dream to work with. To see all the pictures she took of Benny and Sadie, go to her Art of Dance gallery page, click on "Dross and Doll." The password is doll. Thank you Andi Grant for your amazing dance photography.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Homeschool Biggest Loser

The Biggest Loser is a show on NBC where overweight people compete to lose weight over a course of three months of diet and exercise. Each week they weigh in and compare their weight loss as a percentage of their total weight. There are benefits to winning the “weigh in” each week, and then the winner at the end gets a large sum of money. All over the country, groups of friends, co-workers, and neighbors form their own “Biggest Loser” groups, combining public accountability with friendly competition to motivate them to lose weight.

I am organizing a group like this, locally, for homeschooling moms/dads/grandmas/whatever and you are invited to join us.

Are you happy with your jeans size, your resting pulse, and your energy level? Then I salute you. If you’re not, then you and I have something in common. We’re not as skinny as we’d like, as healthy as we’d like, as active as we’d like, but basically we’re happy with life and it’s not that much of a priority to get fit. I’d like to lose forty pounds, but my weight isn’t an urgent issue for me. Most of my clothes fit, I manage to struggle around, and my husband likes me alright. I suffer from a lack of motivation, but as soon as competition is introduced, I am suddenly motivated.

We start January 1 and go for 12 weeks. So, the first official week ends on January 8 and the last ends on March 26. This is for locals in Hampton Roads only - sorry!

You weigh in each week on the same day with at least one other person. The aspect of public accountability is key to the “Biggest Loser” concept. You can sign up with a buddy or you can have a designated weigh-in person. That person reports your weight to our super secret data collector (Shez, who is not participating) and it gets put into the tabulation device (an Excel spreadsheet) and at the end of every Thursday, she will announce who lost the biggest percent of their total weight. If you’re switching the day you weigh, or if you don’t weigh in with someone else in a given week, you forego your chance to win that week’s prize but from then on you’re back in the contest. You could theoretically report one weight at the beginning and another one at the end and still win, if you have lost the biggest percentage of your starting weight.

The “buy-in” is two ten dollar bills which you put in the communal “pot” when you sign up. Each week the winner for that week gets one ten dollar bill. At the end of the 12 weeks the overall winner gets the $120 that’s left in the pot. This is assuming we get 12 people. If we get more, there will be more left in the pot. Or we may up the weekly winning, depending on what everybody wants once we get rolling. Shez will be operating the "pot" also, so you'll need to get your two tens to her at some point before January 1.

Everyone has to continue to love each other dearly.

Did I leave anything out? Do you have any questions? It’s late, and I’ve been formulating my plan to lose weight. It involves the Wii fit, a required number of tomatoes per day, and dog-walking.

If this contest sounds awful to you, I totally understand. Maybe it’s completely backward and wrong to combine money and competition with health and wellness. However, if this sounds like something that might be fun, might get you into an exercise routine or a healthier diet, then you are welcome to join us.

What do you think? Any takers? We have 7 members so far, and we have just launched a community on Ning where we can share photos, reports of celery consumption, whines about exercise, and keep track of weekly winners and fun events. You can see that here:

Saturday, December 13, 2008

How to Make a Sweater from Scratch

First, purchase six skeins of a yarn that's cursed with the insidious, unbearable, name "Softee." Purchase it because it is $2/skein at Michael's. Think, "I will make a prayer shawl out of this." Any chunky yarn will actually do. It doesn't have to have a title that makes you want to hack off your head with a rusty saw.

Cast on 62 stitches on size 9 needles. Begin knitting a ribbed pattern, knit 2 purl 2 etc, for ten rows.

Begin faux cabling, using a very fancy sneaky non-cabley cable recipe that you learned by creepily staring at Colyn while she was knitting. If you don't know Colyn, you can spookily leer at any knitter who's doing a stitch you admire. If they look at you suspiciously, compliment their glasses. That always works.

Cable for a while.

You should at some point in the first 30 rows gasp and realize that due to the scrunched-upness of the cabling and ribbing, this prayer shawl will be only wide enough to wrap up some kind of sad terrier.


Decide that what it really was all along was the front of a sweater for your four-year-old daughter.


After you've knit until the bottom of the sweater comes to your daughter's hips when the top of the sweater is at her armpits, cast off 5 on both sides and switch to your second color.

Continue until the top of the white is at your daughter's neck when the bottom is at her armpit, then cast off all but three repeats of the cabling thingy, and continue making a little asymmetrical tab thingy on *one side of the sweater only.*

Make a duplicate for the back. Now when you put these two things together, the little tab thingy will be on opposite sides, will form a shoulder, and you can stitch them together. See, this is the shape:

After you've got two of those thingies and you've put them together at the sides and shoulder, it's time to start panicking about the sleeves. Make a complicated plan. Confuse yourself. Live for days in inner turmoil.

This is a good time to hang out with some experienced and intelligent knitters. You might want to clutch at your head periodically and loudly say, "I DON'T KNOW WHAT I'M GOING TO DO ABOUT THESE SLEEVES! MY MY!" Hopefully someone will stop you from knitting and tearing out mysteriously shaped sleeve pieces which you intend to set in, and say, "Just pick up the stitches around the arm hole." In my case it was Deva.

Pick up the stitches around the armhole on size 6 double pointed needles. Celebrate! Rejoice! For me it was about 40 stitches. Continue knitting stockinette in the round until when you put the garment on your daughter she says it is almost the right length. Then switch to ribbing for 10 rows.

Do the other sleeve.

Put the sweater on your daughter. She will say that it needs something. Something like pink flowers.

Decide that pink flowers can be stapled onto the front of the sweater like an afterthought. Crochet some little flowers in a similar yarn. Sew them onto the front of the sweater with the flower color yarn -- I recommend sewing down all the petals.

Now pick up the stitches around the neck and knit some ribbing until your daughter proclaims "IT'S CHOKING ME!" Tear out a couple of rows, and cast off.

You're done!

Disclaimer: I am an idiot who has no idea how to make a sweater. I was helped along by extremely generous and smart knitters who saved me from making stupid mistakes. Your mileage may vary!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Bach Festival 2008: Suzuki Violin Performance

Benny played with other students from the Academy of Music and Suzuki students from around Hampton Roads, at the Bach Festival, hosted by the Chrysler Museum. Here are a few pictures and videos. It was incredibly wonderful for Benny to have a chance to play with older children, and he really rose to the occasion. Definitely best ever effort at listening, following, and getting into step with the other kids. Seeing him play the Bach Double was very moving for me. I was very proud of him. He has worked very hard, and he also has a beautiful talent. And I love him.

A beautiful setting:

Serious artists:


And Bach:

Monday, December 01, 2008

Trip to Humandales

Ahno takes her Chihuahuas to a groomer to get bathed and manicured. We take Leroy there too, occasionally, if he's gotten unmanageably vile in the back yard or if he's got something unmentionable to be done to his hind end. Something that involves glands and squeezing. You know what I'm talking about. It's one of those things I will happily pay someone to do for him. The grooming place we like is called Groomingdales.

Ahno also goes to a nail salon occasionally for a mani-pedi, and the kids call this place Humandales.

For a while, Sadie has longed to go to Humandales to get her nails done. I don't know if she had a clear idea what would actually happen there, but she was deeply intrigued by the concept, and drawn to the experience like a thirsty gazelle to a desert oasis. That is to say: powerfully.

So, recently since the old techniques involving waving rusty saws and shouting broad threats of public school were wearing a little thin, and the children were dragging their heels on school stuff, I instituted a new motivational technique. I am always looking for ways to shift the accountability onto the children, so that instead of me saying "These are the things we need to get done today!" I can now say "If you want your star for the day, you must do X, Y, Z. Do these things, or don't do them, at your leisure, but until the star is on the chart, there is no electronic device in the house that will function."

As an added bonus reward (since I've recently been enlightened on the point that using rewards with children is pretty much just as awful as using the rusty saw, I want to really ass it up to the max) I told them that if they have five stars for the week, then on the weekend they will experience something special. Maybe a movie, maybe bowling, maybe... a manicure. So a couple weeks ago Benny had not managed to accumulate five stars, but Sadie had, so we went to Humandales and had a manicure together.

Here are some pictures:

Picking a color.

Many choices.

Waiting her turn.

Clutching her colors.

During her manicure and pedicure (they did a child-friendly version that didn't involve cuticle cutting or anything, just lotion and polish) she was almost completely silent. She answered questions the lady put to her, but only minimally. Everyone in the shop was amazed and impressed at how un-wiggly she was, how much she was concentrating. I was almost worried she wasn't enjoying it, that it was scaring her or disappointing her somehow. Afterward she was exhausted, and almost went to sleep while waiting for her toes to dry.

I asked her, when we were leaving, "Baby, did you like it?"

She clutched my neck as I put her in the carseat and whispered, urgently, "I loved it."

I realized then that she'd had a profound pink-related experience, and that it *did* take a lot out of her! She enjoyed her manicure to the max, and was very sad when we had to take off the polish a week later for ballet pictures. I can see that this is the beginning of a lifelong habit. And more importantly, it is a very powerful bribe!

For the benefit of locals, I went to Chic Nails on 22nd. Very cheery, fun, low impact procedure for the tiny person, and at $10 for fingers and toes, who can argue with the price? My manicure involved the full treatment with cutting and slicing and scraping and all of that, and was only $13. I recommend. Do not expect aromatherapy and candles and murals on the wall and potted palms. However, they did take care of my little princess gloriously.

Book Arts Bash Results

We don't have them all. But we do have some. And we decided to share those that we do have, while we wait for a few judges to come back with their choices. So click here to visit the Book Arts Bash web site, and discover the poetry winners and the multimedia winners. Congratulations to those the judges chose, and thank you to all our finalists, who are amazingly brave and talented.