Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Summer Words

Every summer we do some form of what we call Home School.  What we do is an insult to what people who actually Home School do (because that takes more preparation, dedication, and organization than anything we're attempting), but in our case it's just some manner of trying to make sure the kids' brains don't turn to complete mush while on vacation.  We've done this several different ways. 

One summer we had a rule that none of the kids could have screen time until all of them had had an individual lesson at the white board in the morning.  We did math with Aden, spelling with Mona, and whatever Quinn wanted to do. 

(We have a white board in front of the fireplace in the living room.  Right now it has some of Mona's dragons on it.) 

One of the things we sometimes do is have a word a day since all my kids could use help with spelling.  Every morning I write a word (or two) on the white board and everyone has to commit it to memory so by the end of the day when I quiz them they all spell it correctly.  I focus on words that are most likely to be included in a "What I did this summer" essay when they get back to school.  The summer word list a few years ago was rather distressing.  It included the words "hospital" and "cancer." 

But while sorting through a pile of things on my dresser this week I came across last year's summer word list.  It brought back some good memories.  I should give the kids a spelling test tomorrow and see how many of these words stuck:

summer vacation
cottage
bicycle helmet
grandparents
visitor
cousin
French
funny bone
garden
carrots
turnips
road trip
Michigan
holiday
sidewalk chalk
computer
mandola
breakfast
lunch
dinner
elephant
sea lion
crocodile bird
giraffe
kangaroo
mountain lion
gorilla
polar bear
monkey
moose
tiger
Mold-A-Rama
origami
fossil
dragon
heat wave
couch
picture
pitcher

This summer has kind of been too packed with guests to really find time at the white board (hence the dragons).  My dad was with us for a total of three weeks spread out over the month of June and part of July, and currently we have my niece with us for another week or so.  We've been reading a lot of Harry Potter, so I don't know how educational that is except Aden carved herself a wand, which meant I got to talk to her about using a knife and explain the different grits of sandpaper. 

But we are well on our way to creating a lot of memories this summer, whether my kids know how to spell any of them out correctly in an essay come fall or not.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Alone With My Thoughts

All my family (including the dog) left yesterday for fun at the cottage.  I needed to stay behind because, well, part of running our own business means we don't often get to leave town together for any extended period of time.  (I remember that from my childhood, when my parents ran their art gallery.  We took very few family vacations, and when we did they were crazy whirlwind events where we crammed in as many Eastern states and museums as possible.)

It's very quiet here.  It's especially strange not to have the dog in the house.  At least last year when I had to stay behind Chipper greeted me at the door in a frenzy of joy every day and gave me a sense of routine.  It occurred to me at work that if I didn't bother to go home at the end of the day it didn't matter and no one would know or care.  That's weird.  And I didn't realize how many habits the dog had shaped in me until he wasn't underfoot.  When I was cleaning out the fridge I could leave an open garbage bag on the floor, and I can run out the door for a moment without worrying the dog may get out if I'm not careful.  It sounds silly, I'm sure, but it's a peculiar level of freedom I'm not used to.

I had high hopes for both writing and violin making during all this uninterrupted free time, but I've fallen into a lot of cleaning instead.  The house has gotten completely away from me lately, and to straighten up a room and have it stay that way is sort of exciting.  (Because I am old and my idea of exciting is very sad.)  Being in my house right now reminds me of a time when I visited a friend who had no kids and I watched her put her keys on a table and it struck me that in her world, those keys would still be there when she went back later.  No little hands were rearranging random items as part of some endless game that threatened her sanity as a byproduct.  I marveled that I ever lived in such a world and never appreciated it.  But now I straighten up a room and when I walk through it the next day it's still clean.  Trippy.

Something I was not expecting to do was relive memories of Ian's deployments.  But while I was cleaning up a couple of rooms downstairs tonight I was listening to the radio and Terry Gross did an interview on Fresh Air with a writer named Angela Ricketts who has a memoir out about her experiences at home with three kids during her husband's deployments.  She lived through eight of them.  Eight.  I only had to get through two and that was plenty.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

When Life Really Is a Picnic

When my kids were smaller I used to wonder a little at how much there really was to look forward to when they got bigger.  I loved the baby hugs, I loved the unexpected things they would say and do, I loved the wide-eyed stumbly cuteness of it all.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Throwbacks and Holdouts

Check out my daughter's "new" phone:

I salvaged it from the cottage when my grandma upgraded to a touch-tone phone many years ago.  My kids used to play with it when they were small, and we actually have pulled it out to use during power outages when the phone lines were fine but our cordless land-line was rendered useless.  Aden has taken to spending more time on the phone with friends lately, and as a result we can never find a receiver, so I told her we could set up the rotary phone in her bedroom to use as her own.

She's very excited about it, and actually likes the fact that it's tied to the wall and she can't lose it.

I'm always amused by those lists and clips that circulate around the internet periodically, showing all the now retro things we grew up with that people are convinced today's children have never seen before.  My kids know all those things.  They play records.  They've messed around with tape recorders.  We still watch VHS tapes for movie night.  Before it went flukey we played Pitfall 2 and Frogger on our Atari and the kids loved it.

It's not that we're opposed to new technology.  I have an iPod shuffle for listening to podcasts, I enjoy Netflix streaming, I don't like to be without my laptop for very long, the kids have an iPad they share that they got for Christmas from their aunt....  But we are holding out of on certain things.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Random Violin Shop Things

I am really wiped out lately.  Lots of house guest stuff, odd weather, kid things, jury duty, Ian off with the Army here and there....  And lots to do at work.

Luckily I like my work, and in the past couple of weeks I've had some fun projects to do.  In case anyone is interested in what typical violin work looks like I thought I'd share a little of what I've been up to on my bench.  (And this is what my bench looks like when there is too much going on and I have to stop and straighten up.)

In repair work I've been getting to learn something new.  My assistant had experience doing soundpost patches before she got to my shop, so when she arrived it made sense (particularly with her schedule) to let her do those jobs when they came in.  But she may be moving on someplace new and I decided before she leaves I should have her walk me through a soundpost patch, because it's very different doing something yourself than trying to learn it through books and occasional observation.  Turns out doing a soundpost patch is really fun.  (In a picky, tedious, luthier kind of way, not in any way normal people think things are fun.)

Monday, June 30, 2014

Jury Duty

So, life has been busy lately with Ian out of state for Army stuff and lots of house guest activity and kids and work, etc.  Which means now is a perfect time to be called up for jury duty!  Why not?

Sunday, June 22, 2014

A Marbleous Idea

I read this post recently about using marbles to help kids manage screen time over the summer, and my first thought was that it was pretty much just another reward system like a sticker chart (which has never ever ever worked for us never ever).  But seeing as our summer was off to a rocky start in terms of too much Minecraft and TV and not enough doing basic chores without nagging, I figured it couldn't hurt to try.

Holy moly is the marble thing a good system.

Basically the way it works is one marble is worth 15 minutes of screen time.  When the kids do the chores they are supposed to be doing anyway, they earn marbles to put in their jars.  When they are ready to use screens they set a timer and "pay" for it by taking marbles out of their jars.  It's not so much a reward system, but a way of helping them balance out their time better between what they should be doing and stuff they know they need to monitor better.

I talked to them about it first to see if they were interested.  Quinn (who likes collecting things) and Mona (who already does her chores without being reminded) were excited about the idea.  Aden was wary, but agreed to give it a go.