Sunday, May 31, 2009

North Carolina State Tang Soo Do Championships

On May 9, the children competed in a Tang Soo Do tournament in Fayetteville. It was Sadie's first tournament and Benny's second. Sadie was the littlest little warrior there, with a pink mani-pedi, pink sparkle gel in her hair, and a sparkly butterfly hair tie holding her braids together. She was astonishingly cute, I confess.

The tournament was not well organized. It started (late) at 10:30 and then the children in Benny's ring (the biggest age group) were told to sit around the edge of the ring while all belt levels performed first for and then sparring. Benny is a child who sits still as easily as an elephant flies. He was sitting on the floor with nothing to do but keep quiet and watch for about three hours, I kid you not. There was absolutely no reason for this madness -- there could have been a schedule with certain belt levels at certain times, so that the rest of the kids could have gotten up to eat lunch, go to the bathroom, play DS, see the sunshine, etc. But whatever! Benny was remarkably well behaved, given the circumstances, and even though he got shouted at by a black belt at one point, I was proud of his patience and self-control in that ridiculous situation. I would have died if I'd had to sit there for that long. The adults planning the tournament should have considered if *they* would like to participate in such a thing. The other NKA moms and I were speculating if any moms had been involved in the planning. Our guess: No.

Here's Sadie's form:

And Benny's form:

In the background of that one you can see the other kids sitting around the sidelines, wishing they could go out in the lobby and get pizza, or still feel sensation in their feet.

Neither of our kids placed well in the form. The good news is that in the sparring Benny pulled out a surprise success -- second place. He was very happy!

I could spew some more bitterness and discontentment, but instead I'll just post some more pictures.

Sadie and her friend Keric getting some advice from Master Odom:

One of Benny's teachers, who has been very patient with him and really helped him clean up his form and in general get his karate more fierce and awesome. She got second place in the black belt division for grown-ups:

Benny made a friend while sitting on the sidelines. He was at the last Fayetteville tournament too, so they recognized each other.

The kids had fun, and the experience was great for them, if irritating for us. The next week, Sadie got her first yellow tip on her white belt! Karate is awesome.

For more pictures, some of them very grainy but definitely cute, check out my Flickr set.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Homeschoolers in the Semi-Finals of the Scripps National Spelling Bee

For a list of all 41 spellers who made the semi-finals, click here.

For a list of the nine *homeschooled* spellers who made the semi-finals, scroll down:

#16 Josephine Kao, Sacramento, California.

#36 Claudine Broussard, Nova Scotia, Canada.

#40 Veronica Penny, Ontario, Canada.

#65 Serene Laine-Lobsinger, West Palm Beach, Florida.

#158 Tussah Heera, Las Vegas, Nevada.

#168 Kevin Drew, Buffalo, New York.

#218 Connor Aberle, Portland, Oregon.

#270 Andrew Traylor, Charlottesville, Virginia.

#276 Tim Ruiter, Centreville, Virginia.

Go homeschool!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

This is the Face

This is the face of the boy who rode Griffon by himself today. We went to Busch Gardens to pick up Dan's phone, which fell out of his pocket while he was upside down last week. We thought we'd hang out for a few hours and just do some kiddie rides, splash in the water areas. It was just me and the two kids. Then we read on Benny's height check sheet that he could ride the roller coasters *unaccompanied.*

I called Dan. Would this be okay, did he think? Should I allow it? Beside me, Benny was jumping up and down, insisting that he would be fine - FINE. I waited for him. I watched every car. I followed the line as it went around. There were times I couldn't see him. I fretted and tapped my toe. He rode Apollo's Chariot, Alpengeist, and Griffon all by himself. In between we did Sadie rides and played in the water. He was patient. He was thrilled. He was, he told me, "self-responsible." Remember when Benny was born? This is that same boy, right now today:

Friday, May 15, 2009

Rush Limbaugh Says Non-Profits are Bloodsuckers

In a commencement speech at Arizona State University, Obama encouraged graduates to find ways to help their country outside a mainstream career track. Rush Limbaugh used this as a springboard to announce that non-profit organizations are parasitic bloodsuckers, not worth of attention from this year's graduates. Better find a real job than become a beggar, a dependent on society. Well, read it for yourself:

Obama: "Did you study business? Why not help a struggling not-for-profit to find better, more effective ways to serve folks in need? You study nursing? Understaffed clinics and hospitals across this country are desperate for your help. You study education? Teach in a high-needs school. Give a chance to kids who can't -- who can't get everything they need, maybe, in their neighborhood, maybe not even their home, but we can't afford to give up on them. Prepare them to compete for any job anywhere in the world. You study engineering? Help us lead a green revolution, developing new sources of clean energy that will power our economy and preserve our planet. Find somebody to be successful forward. Raise their hopes! Rise to their needs."

Rush: "By definition, how does a nonprofit operate? A nonprofit begs for money from other people. A nonprofit lives on donations, and the people that run nonprofits have to siphon some of the donations that they collect as their salaries. That, somehow, is preferable to going out and producing something and expanding the economic pie? Yeah, go to a nonprofit. Ask somebody else for money! Get credit for caring. Get credit for not being concerned for profit. I never met anybody at a nonprofit didn't care about money. People at nonprofits care as much about money as anybody else does, except they don't work for it. They beg for it. They feed off of others. They're like the US government, except they can't print their money. They're bloodsuckers!"

A short list of non-profit bloodsuckers who don't work for their money, parasites on our country who bleed from and destroy the rugged individual:

1. Focus on the Family
2. NRA
3. Swiftboat Veterans for Truth
4. The Heritage Foundation

Or how about a longer list...

1. The Salvation Army
2. Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts
4. American Red Cross
5. March of Dimes
6. Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (beneficiary of Rush's annual drive)
7. Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation Inc. (beneficiary of Rush's donation from his sale of Harry Reid's letter on Ebay)
8. Freedom Alliance (beneficiary of Sean Hannity's concert series)
9. USO: Operation USO Care Package
10. American Cancer Society

If the people who work for these organizations were listening to Rush's show yesterday they heard a powerful message: "You don't work, you beg. You don't help us, you bleed us. And you people who chose to get jobs working at parasitic suckholes like these should reconsider your careers. If you'd had any sense as college grads, you'd have pursued real jobs in real corporations where people work for their money instead of begging."

In other words, thanks!

Red Cross Workers Loafing Around

Bloodsuckers! You should be ashamed!

Shriners Children's Hospital: People working here should have gotten a real job!

The YMCA sucked the life out of all of these sad little children.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

How to Make a Magic Carpet

The study of Persian rugs is an interesting way to get into Persian history and Islamic culture. Why are Persian carpets so beautiful? In a culture where iconography is immoral, a functional object like a rug is a place where art can be expressed "legally." Like calligraphy, Persian carpets are art in the guise of a necessity. Given the significance of these rugs to the culture from which they come, it's no wonder they are sometimes portrayed as magical.

Here are a few things we learned about while studying Persian rugs: symmetry, the types of designs (geometric, curvilinear, pictorial), the elements of a rug (border, central medallion, repeated motifs), child labor laws, how to value a rug based on knot count, the difference between natural fibers and manmade fibers, and more.

Project materials:

Large canvas rectangles
Crop-a-dile or other awesome hole-puncher
Lace-weight yarn/thread in different colors
Poster paint and brushes


Punch holes in the short sides of all the carpets, about 1/2 inch apart. You are going to need a serious, no-kidding hole punch to get through canvas. I used a Crop-a-dile.
Cut the thread into pieces about 10 inches long. Deep rich colors are best.

Step One: Fringe

Give each child a choice of thread colors and encourage them to work in patterns. They can use a simple knot to create their fringe. Make a loop in the center of the thread, push the loop through the hole, and then thread both ends through the loop. Pull tight. You can fold over the edge of the fabric as you go to create a smooth edge.

Step Two: Paint

First have the children sketch their ideas with a pencil lightly so they can erase and redo it if they're not happy with it. Make sure everyone remembers to put in a border, a central medallion, and then repeated motifs.

The kids took home some interesting work! Painting on the canvas was challenging for a few, they needed reminding to keep a lot of paint on their brushes. However, making the carpets led to some interesting discussions about what the carpets mean to the people who make them. Here is the class singing a Persian folk song while they worked. They started singing spontaneously, then of course I had to run get my camera and have them do it again!

What class is this? My elementary literature class at Norfolk's premier co-op of extreme homeschool awesomeness, Homeschool Out of the Box.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Strawberry Picking at Three Sisters Farms

For years Veronica and I have taken our kids to the Three Sisters Strawberry Farm in Suffolk, VA, to pick organic strawberries. The reason we drive a long way to get strawberries that are organic is that this person...

and this person...

as well as Veronica's little people... do not hesitate to eat as many berries as they can, during the process. So, when you're at an organic farm, you feel like maybe your child isn't gulping down handfuls of mustard gas and won't be growing another kidney out the side of its head as a result. Or whatever.

So we get to Three Sisters Farm, and we start picking:

And the berries are HUGE. Massive, perfectly heartshaped berries, elegantly ripe, hanging in perfect, convenient clusters from every bush. And where are the weeds? There are no weeds. I don't know if you've ever been to an organic farm, but it is sort of weedy. In fact, some of the weeds are there on purpose because they help the pH balance or discourage invasive pests or recite pop poetry which the plants find nothing wrong with because, hey, it's entertaining, but the elitist slugs scorn, or whatever. So where, we wondered, were the weeds?

Veronica and I joked around that the Three Sisters people were sneaking in pesticides and just not telling anyone. Har har har. It is to laugh, right? Except OOPS, when Veronica actually investigated, she discovered that *BOO* they actually ARE using pesticides! It's not organic anymore! In fact, Three Sisters aren't even doing the farming -- they leased it out to something called Faith Farms which is slinging pesticides in great, heaping bucketfuls.

Which is why the berries were so nice and huge and perfect and the rows were so even and unweedy and easy to pick from. Which we found out after the children had eaten about a quart each of unwashed, mustard-gas-laden strawberries.

And so had I! I'm expecting a third kidney at any moment.

Fortunately, we still have our friends! And we will all be creepy third-kidney-havers together:

Another plus: the Three Sisters Farm still operates the store and animal farm connected with the property, and they had lots of completely organic baby ducks, turkeys, chickens, a fully organic cow, a couple of organic peacocks and these astonishingly cute organic kittens:

All in all, it was a super fun day with ice cream, candy, kittens, and massive awesome ripe delicious strawberries. I still highly recommend Three Sisters Farms. The berries might not be organic anymore, but you can always eat the kittens without washing them!

Friday, May 08, 2009

Norfolk Karate Academy Demo at Larchmont Elementary Carnival

Sadie and Benny showed off their kicks and punches with the rest of the little warriors in white from Norfolk Karate Academy, on the Mermaid Stage at the Larchmont Elementary Carnival last weekend. This was Sadie's first time out as a karate princess, and she rocked it.

Look at the face: serious, fierce, and focused. This is a little girl who would never leave the house without her tutu. Without her pink leotard with the sequinned stars on the front. Who collects Barbies like stamps. Whose Polly Pockets all live in their own elaborate estates. She is a girly girl of the first order. Glitter in her veins. Firmly believes in unicorns and fairies. You get the idea. She started karate in February at the same school where Benny has been a student for the last five years, and within two years had quit ballet and was at the dojo twice a week.

Here she is doing her form with her friend Keric. Keric and Sadie both have older brothers who are karate veterans. they grew up watching classes and playing together in the toy room at NKA. Don't they look *awesome*?

Of course, she wasn't the only little redhead to snap it out. Benny was also showing his skills, solo-ing on his blue belt form, Pyung Ahn Oh Dan:

We love karate...

...and of course we also love carnivals.

For more pictures and video, check my Flickr set for the karate demo.