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27 August 2015

Day in the Life

A pretty typical day in our life. We have a 4th grader, a kindergartener, and a toddler. 

9:00AM - Alarm goes off. I snuggle Tigress(2) as she asks me repeatedly, "Are awake, Mama?" and chat with the Daddy for a couple minutes.

9:15 - Getting up and out of bed. Dragon(5) pops in to say good morning, and the Daddy wakes up Hero(8). We're meeting some friends for Nature Study at "our" preserve this morning, plus I need to stop at the church to let someone in to do some cleaning. I head to the shower, and the Daddy chases people into day clothes and starts getting breakfasts.

9:55 - My person calls me to let me know he's at the church and ready. I thought we were meeting at 10:10...

10:12 - We pull into the parking lot at the chapel. I start to think that I've timed this too tight and underestimated the chatty nature of the person I'm letting in. Oops.

10:30 - Still at the church. My friend is at the preserve, and texts to find out if we're almost there. I call her and explain. We take off.

10:45 - Arrive at the nature preserve. I love it here. I've been reading Biology in a Day, and I'm excited to look at the plants. I've read about a couple of families so far: mints and parsley families, and I know a bit about the Asteraceae family from work in my Herb First Aid class that I'm still slowly working through. We've been doing swim lessons all summer, and lots of travel, and this will be my first chance in a long time to do nature study with the kids. I'm excited.

We find this gorgeous thistle. The kids don't care today - they're running and shouting and having a great time. I can tell it's been a while since we've done this. But they'll settle down after a few minutes. My friend and I admire the thistle anyway.

I'm extra interested in the Queen Anne's Lace, since it's one of the umbral flowers in the parsley family. I can tell it's not the Yarrow I'm hoping to see, because the leaves aren't Yarrow leaves, so I post to the Plant ID group I found on Facebook, checking to make sure it actually is Queen Anne's and not something else.   

There's a lot of it, and I wonder if it spreads underground like Yarrow and Pando, and if it does, does that mean that all the Queen Anne's Lace in a given clump actually counts as a single plant? I don't know, and I'm not sure where to find out, but there's still plenty of botany to study. I shelve the question for later. Meanwhile, one of the toddlers pulls up a plant. I had been wanting to, because I want to draw it, so we tell him not to do that (it's a preserve, after all), and I quietly tuck the plant in my Nature Journal. 

At the pond, we watch turtles, speculate on why the water is so low, and try to identify a new bird the kids find. Virginia Rail, maybe? I'm really wishing for my big camera with the telephoto, but all I have with me is the phone. It can't see that far. Some of the kids adopt a caterpillar and carry it around. When they loose the first, they find another, bigger one. We catch minnows in our net, inspect them, and turn them loose real quick. The littlest kids are pretty interested in the minnows. Even more fun, after we catch and show, they learn to see them in the water, and the toddlers are both pretty excited about that. 

On the way to the "Stick Shack" we find this and wonder if it's a spent Milkweed pod. The Facebook plant people say it could also be a butterfly weed, and to look at the sap's color... but we've moved away into another section of the park. Maybe next week. Either way, it's pretty.

While the kids play in the dirt under the odd little roof/shed thingy they call the "Stick Shack" I hear bits from various of play building on some of the stories we've been reading (which I love), and I spend the next few minutes chatting with my friend while we stay out of the way of their game. We lament the absence of a bench, and I decide to sit down on the ground and start drawing the underside of the piece of Queen Anne's Lace. It's a delightful realization to think the kids are big enough now that I don't need to hover to keep them safe, so I can draw in my book! I get about 1/2 done while they play, before they want to go to the Tower and play hide-and-seek. We move, and while they play their game, I finish off my drawing. I'm surprised at how fast the flower is wilting, and have to kind of fudge the end of the drawing, because the flower has changed enough that it doesn't look like it did. It's starting to curl up and get limp. The pen in my pocket can't do justice to this work - I can't really do all the fine details on the little bitty flowers. But I'm happy with how it turned out, just the same. Dots suggest the little tiny flowers, even if they're not super detailed. I'm not sure that my drawing skills are up to any better than this, especially not in the time that I have: I don't want to take the plant off the preserve's property.

12:00 - Realize that we have my husband's car, and he needs it to go to work. Drat. I have to put an end to the good things going on in the park. We stop by the nature center for drinks and I ask the guy some questions about why the pond is so low (it hasn't rained much) and if they get very many Virginia Rails. They don't (he's never seen one at the preserve) so that's likely not the bird we saw, but he suggests that it might have been a Green Heron, which they get all the time. We look it up, and it looks like a probable match for what we saw at the pond.

12:30 - We're home again, and everyone seems to be famished. Frozen blueberries in yogurt I made yesterday, plus leftover pancakes, egg salad for the Daddy, and some apples. I guess this is lunch. We have our Japanese songs playlist going, and the kids are singing along part of the time.

1:40 - The Daddy leaves for work. The kids are playing with legos, and I am messing with my blog and reading some stuff on Ambeleside's Facebook page.

2:00 - We do our hymn (I Believe in Christ) followed by our folk song (Barbara Allen). I think that we can change folk songs as planned next week, but we're probably going to need another week to do justice to all the verses of our hymn. It's extremely pleasant: I love being gathered around the piano with the kids.

2:30 - Hero is reading a comic book, and I do some work with a number line with Dragon, counting backwards. I'm surprised by how hard it is for him. Guess we'll practice that some more. Then, more legos. And some play with our hiragana (Japanese alphabet) toy. Best talking toy, ever: it's helping build exposure to their second alphabet, which will (eventually) help build literacy in the second language. 

3:30 - The kids want to finish off their lists on the markerboard, so that school will be finished. Hero vacuums the living room and the stairs. I set up to do calendar time. Dragon does his vacuuming - and with no tantrums today. Progress. Yay. I try to load the dishwasher, but get distracted.

4:00 - We're finally just about ready for calendar time. While they wait, Hero and Tigress play with Legos. It's just that kind of day. Then we do our calendar. It's a lovely section of the day that we do almost entirely in Japanese. We counted out the days of the month, added another straw to the pouch and practice counting and adding, and then sing the "Go-shu-shu Song." Loudly.

4:30 - We can't find Hero's memory work binder, so we substitute our Book of Centuries. He adds the Reign of Terror from yesterday's history work, and also Lexington and Concord from a little while ago. We're just picking back up with doing the timeline work, now that he's a bit bigger and can take care of it. We also get sidetracked with watching some of the videos in our Japanese playlist. Dragon brings me a cool Lego robot he built, then asks if he can play with our disassemblable body. 

5:00 - I'm thinking that if we'd done less legos we'd be done. But we're not. Hero asks me to practice violins with him. I'm using the 1/4 size one, which looks comical, and at least today, sounds hideous. Not sure why I can't make a decent sound. But Hero sounds pretty ok. I get out the littlest one for Tigress. 

5:30 - I ask Dragon about his lego creation and he tells me "Ka-BOOF!!" Tigress comes through with the body, "Bobby!" And starts riding it like a horse. I tell Dragon that it'll be his turn for violin momentarily. He grumbles. 

After a few minutes, the grumbles turn into a full-out tantrum. He looses his legos, and I switch to story time with Tigress. Pretty soon, stories are more interesting than tantrums. By the end, Dragon is still grumpy, but he's snuggling and listening, not throwing a fit. I call it a win, check Hero's grammar work, and go work on the half-done dishes -- and dinner. Hero plays Minecraft for a while. 

6:15 - The dishwasher is running and dinner's on the table. I read a few pages of Fellowship of the Ring while we eat; the Company of the Ring is about to be attacked by Wargs and flee to Moria. Very exciting! After dinner, Dragon takes a do-over, and practices beautifully. He asks me to play, too, so no pictures. He even asks me to help him practice every single day so that "when I am an old man  I can play better than Lindsey Sterling!" Sure. Daily practice I can help with. 

7:30 - Last thing on Dragon's list: phonics practice. He chooses to do it on the spelling tiles, and he does great. Hero's time on the computer is done, and he's looking for his book (The Empire Strikes Back). Dragon wants some Minecraft. Tigress wants a turn too, so I introduce her to the joys of Starfall. She's a happy camper. She loves the tiger

8:15 - Tigress is dismayed to discover that it's her turn for the bath. She was pretty sad, until she noticed that I'd tossed in some Duplos (because there's not a enough legos in this day, yet). Then a bath was acceptable.

8:45 - Tigress is clean, Hero's headed in for his shower. I'm not sure what I've done with my Botany in a Day book (really, the "in a day" part is a misnomer, but I like the book anyway), so I decide to attempt to draw a Queen Anne's Lace seed pod in my nature book - they look really cool. Tigress is getting grumpy and clingy, though, so who knows how well this idea will work right now. I also spend a couple minutes trying to figure out if "seed pod" is actually the correct term for the thing I am drawing. So. Much. Vocabulary. I'm glad there's not a strict timetable or test for this stuff. That would not be very enjoyable, and I'm liking learning this stuff in my slow way. I read about seeds, but still don't know if I should be calling my thing a pod. I search some more, find little, and decide to try drawing instead.

9:00 - Dragon got off the computer and into the bath -- without throwing a fit. Give that boy a star; those are tough spots in his day. I haven't drawing anything in my book, yet, but I did learn that Queen Anne's Lace looks a lot like some poisonous cousins. That's useful to know. Maybe I'll look at them next. But, if you can tell them all apart, apparently you can make jelly. I'm pretty curious about that. But not so much so that I'd try it. Yet.

9:06 - The Daddy walks in the door. Yay!

9:20 - I've started drawing, but I think I should have done it in pencil. The pen I'm using today just isn't doing it for me. My seeds look painfully similar to ticks in a clump. But Dragon is just about ready to get out of the shower, and Tigress is melting down about ... I'm not sure what. It's definitely getting close to bedtime. 

9:45 - Drinks for the kids, family scripture reading (we're in Mormon 2, and the story is getting so sad), and family prayers. Tigress passes out on my lap, and I snuggle her while the boys brush their teeth. At that point, she's far enough gone that I can park her on her bed. 

10:10 - Upstairs for the rest of bedtime. Hugs, kisses, and prayers. Then, I read the boys' personal scriptures to them. Hero is in Numbers 32, reading about the entry into Caanan. Dragon is in Luke, and we discuss a couple of the parables of the Lord, and some of the tricky vocabulary. Both boys want extra tonight, and I happily comply until my voice is tired. Then they quickly fall asleep. Now I have to decide what I'm going to do with the rest of my evening. Study? Minecraft? Hmmm...

10:40 - Downstairs with the Daddy again. I like that. I grab a big glass of water and a little piece of toast, and work on my blog for a few minutes. Then, I look up Asclepias incarnata and
Asclepias tuberosa and see what I can learn about that seed pod we saw this morning. Then, some Minecraft while I listen to some of my herb class, I'm thinking. Allergies and a big Creeper fountain.

12:00 - I'm so done. (Except for re-checking Facebook and posting the link I said I'd find before that conversation is irreversibly lost.) But then, sleep.

17 August 2015

Artist Study: Norman Rockwell

I've been meaning to pick a new artist for us to look at, but hadn't done it yet. Today, one of my girlfriends told me that the local art museum has a series on Norman Rockwell. Sold! It's not even expensive. So here are the pictures that I'm planning to look at with the kids for the next 9 weeks. I think that the kids will like these. (All of the images here are from WikiArt.)

Doctor and Doll

Grandpa Listening in on the Wireless

Little Boy Writing a Letter

Boy and Girl Gazing at the Moon 

Good Friends

Spring Tonic

Marble Champion


Saying Grace

14 August 2015

Hymns, Folk Songs, and Poems

For the next 9 weeks, these are what we're planning to do:

Poems from Lord Alfred Tennyson
 I am surprised to find that several of these are familiar already. We won't be doing anything super-fancy with them, just reading and narrating a couple times a week.

For our Hymns and Folk Songs, I've created playlists with nice arrangements, specifically including some that are just ordinary folks, rather than the professionals. I love to listen to the professionals, but generally their music is "photoshopped" quite heavily and one of my goals is to give my kids permission to sound like ordinary mortals when they sing. We're going to work on these for two weeks each, to help us learn the words. Plus, the plan is to listen to the playlist some of the time, which will help us as well. Nothing like a little repetition.

I picked up a used copy of Lives of the Musicians a few weeks back, and Vivaldi is the first in the book, so we're starting out by listening to him. The boys tend to be interested in violin music, so I'm anticipating that this should go pretty well. Plus, Dragon was very interested in the process as I was deciding on titles and building the playlist. I think my favorite is the 8th on the list - who knew that recorders were for serious music?! We played them in about 5th grade, and we sounded awful. But that guy sounds pretty amazing. They should have played some genuine recorder music for us, so we'd know what the potential for one of those things really is. I had no idea.

Anyway, that should be enough to get us going through the first 9 weeks of school. I'm trying some new planning ideas, so that's as far as I'm building my plans right now. I'll re-assess what point we're at when we get toward the end of those 9 weeks, and decide if this system works well for us. In the mean time, these play lists should help us get a good start.

Psalm 5: Meditation

One interesting thing about looking at the same passage of scripture over a long time - I've been looking at this Psalm off and on for nearly three months - is that you get to look at it in order and out of order, and all kinds of different ways. I look at the parts that immediately jump out at me, but then in the process of re-reading, and re-rereading it, other sections that I initially passed over start to come into better focus. The first verse was like that, for me.

Meditation. It can be hard to know what exactly that is. What it should look like. But it's pretty clear that it plays an important role in the development of our faith and understanding of God's plans and ways. It suggests to me a continued thinking. Ongoing. Repeated. Like what you see in the story of how Joseph found himself praying in the woods in 1830:

"...my mind was called up to serious reflection and great uneasiness; but though my feelings were deep and often poignant.."
"My mind at times was greatly excited..."
"I often said to myself: What is to be done?"
"While I was laboring..."
"I reflected on it again and again..."
"At length..."
-Joseph Smith- History 1:6-15

In reading about meditation I came across some interesting comments from Boyd K. Packer. He took it in a direction that I'd never thought to: he talked about meditation in the context of spiritual self-reliance, and he drew a connection between that self-reliance and our ability to receive revelation.

We recognize at once that it would be folly to develop welfare production projects to totally sustain all of the members of the Church in every material need. We ought likewise to be very thoughtful before we develop a vast network of counseling programs with all of the bishops and branch presidents and everyone else, doling out counsel in an effort to totally sustain our members in every emotional need. If we are not careful, we can lose power of individual revelation. ...

Now I fear that all of [these church leaders], both in the stakes and in the University, may be doling out counsel and advice without first requiring you to call on every personal resource and every family resource before seeking a solution of your problems from the Church.
-Boyd K. Packer, Self Reliance

He talks about Oliver Cowdery's experience in trying to translate: the problem was that he wasn't trying hard enough is how I'd always thought about it, and that's true, but specifically, the Lord tells Oliver that he "took no thought" and that he should "study it out in [his] mind" -- that's meditation. And the Lord ties it directly to the ability to receive revelation (see D&C 9:7-8). Brother Packer goes on to talk about this meditative process, and emphasizes how it can't be rushed.

When you have a problem, work it out in your own mind first. Ponder on it and analyze it and meditate on it. Pray about it. I’ve come to learn that major decisions can’t be forced. You must look ahead and have vision. What was it the prophet said in the Old Testament? “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18). Ponder on things a little each day, and don’t always be in the crisis of making major decisions on the spur of the moment.

Going back to Joseph Smith's experience with the First Vision, I'd always know that he'd put some thought into his question about which church to join, but I was absolutely stunned when I realized that it had been weighing on his mind for some two years.

This verse makes me think that meditation, like song, is a form of prayer. And that makes a certain amount of sense: the Lord knows our thoughts. He knows when we're working over a problem, and that process of pondering and meditating on something gives Him a chance to direct us, to whisper new ideas, new angles, and nudge us in the direction He knows will be best for us.

07 August 2015

2016: First Forum Debate

So, there's a quite a few Republican candidates - and some of them actually seem to care about the Constitution. So I'm attempting to compare their comments to the Constitution. Of course, you can't look just at talk; talk's cheap. But it's a starting point for looking at the candidates.

Rick Perry
First, they ask Rick Perry about illegal immigration, and what he would do about it. He wants to secure the boarder, sounds like with a combination of fences and soldiers. The moderator also wanted to talk about if we should reduce the number of Green Cards, at least until we have a handle on illegal immigration. Mr. Perry really didn't seem to want to talk about that. Instead, he went on a tangent about how the relevant (unnamed) agency is broken, and can't track the folks who are here on temporary visas.

What neither of them mention is that immigration is supposed to be nearly entirely up to the States, and not a federal issue at all, outside of making uniform rules, so that it works the same in every State (see Article I Section 8 Clause 4). This would have been a fantastic time for him to talk about this, and to showcase his work in Texas as being the Constitutionally correct course of action. He talked about how they've been very effective in Texas, but not about the Constitutional foundation of what they are doing there. He talks about how, when we know who is here, we can make smart decisions about visas, but I don't know how a single office can know that for all the 50 States.

Next, they ask him about the economy. GDP growth is at 2%. How's he going to make that number better? (This answer starts at 9:30) The gentleman from Texas then explained what he did in his state. These are his claims:
  • Texas created more jobs than anybody while he was governor, to the tune of 1/3 of all new jobs created being found in Texas.
  • That growth was caused by tax policies that let you keep more of what you earn,
  • by fair and predictable regulatory climate,
  • by not allowing "over-suing",
  • by public school policies that are "accountable" and give businesses a skilled workforce. This is a project that it is Constitutionally problematic to bring to the federal level: the Constitution does not authorize any federal meddling in education, whatsoever. Education is not mentioned, so it falls under the powers reserved, under the Tenth Amendment.
  • He wants to use North American (rather than Russian or Saudi) energy. That's not a bad idea, but energy isn't supposed to be a federal question. Tenth Amendment, again.

  • And he talked about reducing the income tax, though he didn't give any concrete details about what he wants to do.

Now, according to the Cato Institute, Mr. Perry did not shrink government while he was governor. (Though, he didn't claim to have done so either, in this segment, anyway) But he did get a B from Cato for fiscal restraint, which looks like it just might be something worth paying attention to. And apparently he's been serious enough about tort reform (and somewhat successful at enacting, it looks like), that there are some lawyers that really hate him.

Rick Santorum
The first question is pretty awesome: "Should the federal government subsidize any sector, and if so, which ones?" And, surprisingly, he gets the answer right. "I don't think we should be subsidizing..." Though, he kind of ruined the moment by adding that "but..."

I can just imagine the kicking and screaming if he was to actually stop a bunch of subsidies. He then spends a couple minutes waxing poetic about manufacturing jobs that we're losing. Then, a list of things he'd like to do about it:
  • A flat tax. 20%. That still seems like a whole lot to me. If we reduce our government to Constitutionally sound levels, 20% would be too much. 
  • Serious tax breaks for manufacturing that comes back to the US. This isn't exactly unconstitutional - the Sixteenth Amendment allows them to do this. However, the Sixteenth Amendment is, in my opinion, a terrible idea, because it violates the founding principles of our nation. The idea was to have equal treatment under the law in taxation, but this amendment specifically, explicitly gives them the power to play favorites, and tax whoever, for however much. As Chief Justice John Marshall said in McCulloch v. Maryland, "The power to tax is the power to destroy." When we passed the Sixteenth, we removed some significant restraints from that power, to our detriment.
Next, they talk about welfare reform. How does one motivate welfare recipients to go back to work? Santorum talks about some reform that he's already done, with putting time limits on welfare benefits, and also having a requirement to work when receiving these entitlements. Additionally, he touched on the need to create jobs for these people to go into. However, Constitutionally, there is no authority for the so-called entitlements.

I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.
-James Madison, Father of the Constitution

There have been no Amendments allowing it, so this sort of spending is still illegitimate, however common it has become.

Santorum goes on to talk about the deleterious effects that he sees immigration, both illegal AND legal, having on the ability of unskilled American workers to find employment. As a solution, he wants to dramatically reduce immigration of all types, and to use an E-Verify system to find the illegals and send them home. Constitutionally, this is problematic because that sort of immigration enforcement ought to belong to the States. It's also problematic because it betrays a lack of understanding of the way that Markets work. He needs to take an Econ 101 class from Hillsdale. Rather than squashing immigration, he ought to be focusing on reducing the regulatory burden.

There are also significant issues with E-Verify. For instance: who wants yet another layer of Big Brother? Who wants to find themselves in a situation where they are tagged as illegal - and thus ineligible to work - even though they are perfectly legal? This is government we're talking about; it's not going to work as advertized.

Beyond the technical limitations of E-Verify, Mr. Smith and other supporters are holding out the false hope that an effective verification system will be the key to putting millions of Americans to work. That belief is based on the false assumption that low-skilled immigrants and low-skilled unemployed Americans are interchangeable. They are not.
Immigrant workers are overrepresented in low-paying, unpleasant jobs for the simple reason that not enough Americans want those jobs. The pay, status and working conditions do not match the qualifications and aspirations of the large majority of Americans currently looking for employment in our recovering economy.
-Cato: E-Verify Threatens American Jobs and Liberties

06 August 2015

Marking Scriptures with Kids

My little kids have always liked to draw in their scriptures. I mark mine, they seem me doing it, and do their best to do the same. But it does leave their books looking rather... chaotic. I felt like it was time to start teaching more intentional marking to both boys, so we're trying out some ideas I found on Pinterest, kind of adapted for school this afternoon.

There were some cool creation projects dealing with the entire earth, and I got to thinking, it could be fun to draw an earth onto the page, and let him color it. There's several of the Creative Periods all on one page, so we also decided to add a tree. In the next few days, I'm thinking we can draw the sun, a fish, and so on to help him remember what is happening.

I did just a little more with Hero. First, I asked him to do a crossword puzzle about creation. The idea was to get him to practice looking things up in the Bible, and finding things. Turns out, crosswords are tricky. It took longer than I had anticipated. We also had a conversation about the fact that there are different versions in addition to the KJV that we use, which explains why the text of the verses on the sheet were slightly different from his book in a few places. 

Then, we talked about marking scriptures a little. He's sort of halfway between little kid "marking" and learning to be more intentional about it as he starts to grow up. I suggested that he mark the days, so he looked at how I'd done mine, and then decided how he wants to do his own. 

That took quite a bit longer than I had anticipated, but I feel like it was time well spent. 

Tigress, of course, needed to study, too, since that's what everyone else was doing. 

05 August 2015

July Commonplace Sampler

This is the day that the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.
-Psalm 118:24

"There needs to be a new emphasis on honesty, character, and integrity in our time. Only as we build again into the fibre of our lives the virtues that are the essence of true civilization will the pattern of our times change. The question that confronts us is, Where shall we begin?

"I am satisfied that it must begin with recognition of God as our Eternal Father, of our relationship to Him as His children, with communication with Him in recognition of His sovereign position, and with daily supplication for His guidance in our affairs."
-Elder Gordon B. Hinckley, Feb. 1991 Ensign

If we and our posterity reject religious instruction and authority, violate the rules of eternal justice, trifle with the injunctions of morality and recklessly destroy the political constitution which holds us together, no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us that shall bury all our glory in profound obscurity...
-Daniel Webster


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