Tuesday, January 24, 2012


* I took K to see Beauty and the Beast 3d last week. It was fun to have the opportunity to take her to see another Disney princess movie in the theatre. We could have done completely without the 3d - the best I can say about it is that it didn't take away from the experience much. I mean, I recognize that even seen in the theatre, after 20 years (!) of revolutions in animation, including seeing what Miyazaki can do with hand-drawn animation it wasn't going to blow me away the way it did when I saw it the first time. But it's still a beatifully drawn movie, and the 3d made me think of some sort of 70s animation gimmick that doesn't quite hit the mark. Note to Disney: landscape that looks like a bunch of flat layers propped up in rows to give the illusion of depth as you move past them isn't what I would call an effective 3d experience.

* Alec often will sit and "read" books to himself, which has progressed in detail from the early days of merely going through books of animals and making the noise for each animal he sees to going through each page of Sandra Boynton's Doggies and saying "One dog - woof! Two dog - woof, yap!" etc. Today, he was reading through Peter Spier's Oh, Were They Ever Happy! (a childhood family favorite which serves as an excellent cautionary tale on what an ominous sentence "But the sitter never showed up" can be) by saying "Uh oh, paint!" on every page. Which just about perfectly sums up the plot of the book.

* I reached 26 weeks yesterday, the cusp of the third trimester. How did that happen? Mercifully, the pelvic pain hasn't kicked in yet, but my back (and sciatic nerve) is starting to realize that I'm pregnant. According to every test in this overmedicalized pregnancy, Godric is doing fine and growing well. He led the ultrasound tech on a merry chase for 45 minutes during the fetal echocardiogram (his heart is fine), and then lay sleeping sweetly nestled against my hip during the growth ultrasound two weeks ago (his growth is also fine), nicely covering up several parts that needed to be measured. He is certainly related to his big sister, the queen of ultrasound non-cooperation and fetal contrariness. I saw the cardiologist my ob wanted me to see last week and my heart is fine too (it always has been, just overenthusiastic). Meanwhile, Godric continues to happily kick away.

* I found the most fantastic children's series today at work - The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall. It looks exactly like one of the various happy family series written between 1920 and 1960 (The Moffats, All-of-a-Kind Family, The Bobbsey Twins before they started solving mysteries, etc.), but actually started in 2005. In fact, I passed it up the first time I saw it in our booksale room because I was sure we already had it in the library because we have all of those classic series. But no, it's actually a modern series, although it's next to impossible halfway through book one to figure out when it's taking place because there's been no mention of technology.

I think the thing I love about it is that it has all of the good aspects of those classic series without many of the drawbacks. The four-year-old, for instance, is captured wonderfully, without the horrible tweeness that seems required for this sort of book. All of the characters, in fact, so far seem to have a realistic blend of good and bad points and I suspect even the villain in the end will wind up being not so bad. Their problems are real problems, not nonexistent issues created solely in the minds of children because ha ha, children are Like That, aren't they and isn't that what makes them so funny? Best of all, a modern author means I've been able to read without wincing my way through rampant sexism and racism. I'm already looking forward to getting to B's library tomorrow to check out the other two books in the series as well as what looks like an absolutely charming picture book by the same author about a girl and her little brother who get blown away by the wind.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

FIAR: A New Coat for Anna

In the week after Christmas, we made a stab at schoolwork by rowing A New Coat for Anna. We didn't do it justice, since we only covered the fiber arts aspects of the book, but K's grandmother, who both spins and has dyed wool, was here and that made a great opportunity to do something fun enough to capture K's attention even in the Christmas season while we had a great resource present. Anna has lots of other aspects that are worth covering, so I'm hoping that we can pull it out again either to row on its own or as a supplement to other books with similar themes.

In A New Coat for Anna, a young girl living in post-war Europe (country unspecified, but most likely Germany, The Netherlands or somewhere in Scandinavia from the names) needs a new coat but she and her mother have no money. So her mother gathers up their valuables and proceeds to trade them for the things needed to make a coat - wool from a farmer, spinning it into thread and weaving it into cloth, then finally a tailor to make the cloth into a coat. So K's grandmother came for Christmas bearing several wool fleeces and her spinning wheel. They started with spinning, a process that fascinated both children. They wound up spinning enough yarn for a pair of mittens.

Then came the really exciting part: dyeing. In Anna, Anna and her mother use lingonberries to dye the cloth. I considered going to IKEA and getting either lingonberry juice or lingonberry cordial for the dyeing, but I was a bit worried about the high sugar content and how well it might wash out (in retrospect, it occurred to me that people use things like blueberries which are quite sweet and they seem to come out okay, so it probably would have been fine). Then I saw had used cranberries for the same project. Coincidentally, my absentmindedness around Thanksgiving had resulted in the purchase of four bags of cranberries, so we were well set in that respect. We simmered the cranberries the evening before and left them in the refrigerator overnight. The next day, we strained out the cranberries and added some vinegar, then put it back on the stove and added a skein of yarn.

After a while, it was a nice dark pink and we took it out and rinsed it a couple times to get out the excess dye.

For variety, we also experimented with easter egg dye. K decided she wanted purple, but there was only one tablet, which didn't seem like enough, so I experimented with combining the blue and red/pink shades until I came up with a comparable purple color and mixed them together. We added the yarn and heated it in the microwave. Less than ten minutes later, we had a lovely purple yarn.


In the end, we wound up with one pink skein and one purple, which will be made into a lovely pair of striped mittens.


After taking a week off to go to Michigan, we started out this week talking a bit more about textile production. We read a bit on making cloth from cotton (from the every-useful What Do People Do All Day? by Richard Scarry), then pulled out the good old potholder loom for a lesson in weaving. K turned out not to be terribly interested, and after she played around with it enough to demonstrate that she understood how to weave, I decided she could probably happily live life without having made a highly synthetic potholder that will melt if used on something too hot and ended the lesson. I think I am going to try to teach her to knit soon - she was very excited about the idea of making a blanket for the baby, and while I think that will probably be too much for her attention span, she could certainly do a nice doll blanket, or maybe I could convince her to make a hat for the baby instead.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The last straw

We came to the conclusion this morning that we need to do something I really don't want to do: move. I really can't describe how much I don't want to do this. There are many things we love about this house, and we've done things like unpack the good china, hang pictures and put up a swingset. But the management company has gone from requiring weeks of nagging to make repairs to refusing to do them entirely. Our landline phone hasn't worked since the beginning of June, and I admit that the lease is a bit vague about whose responsibility the phone lines are (the phone service itself is ours, but the actual wiring in the house itself we feel is the owner's responsibility). But this morning when they refused to fix the broken garbage disposal, which is preventing the sink from draining properly and causing waste water from the dishwasher to back up into the sink when we run it was entirely unacceptable. Leaving aside the issue of the fact that the garbage disposal is an appliance specifically mentioned in the lease as being their responsibility, the ability to have water drain down our kitchen sink is something any reasonable tenant should be able to expect.

Sigh. I don't want to pack up all of our crap again. I really don't want to have to spend money we don't have right before adding another person to the family and a temporary reduction in income. The last thing K's schooling needs is the disruption of moving right before the disruption of a baby comes along. But we can't live in a house where things don't get fixed, and I have a strong feeling that since our lease is up at the end of February and we'll be moving to a month-to-month lease, if we call in a lawyer, we'll find ourselves having to move anyway, but not on our timetable.

Fortunately, we are close to the end of our lease, and I found at least three good-looking listings today. I've actually spent a lot of today reminding myself it's foolish to fall in love with an online house listing, since you can't really tell dimensions from online photos. Actually, I really like two of the listings for very different reasons (the third is essentially identical to our current house, but less stylish, although I'm willing to put up with ugly paneling for $100 less a month). I'm going to try to set up a schedule for us to go through the house systematically and purge and pack everything that's not vital to everyday life (while I will be eternally grateful to B's parents for all of the packing and moving they did during our last move since I didn't have the time to do it myself, it did have the drawback that I didn't get the chance to do some purging that would have been useful).

Argh, argh, argh. Contemplating all of this just makes me so tired. It definitely needs to get done before the baby arrives, since if there's anything worse than trying to move in your third trimester, it's trying to move while recovering from a c-section and breastfeeding a newborn. But that doesn't mean that moving in my third trimester is going to be a picnic either. I'm just hoping this will all coincide with nesting impulses and give me the kick I need to get unpacked promptly.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Happy New Year

Well, look at that - over a week into the new year and I haven't managed to write anything yet. Our holidays were very nice and low-key, yet by the time every evening rolled around, I was more interested in collapsing than typing. I'm still mostly feeling fine, but I think the third trimester is creeping up on me.

Anyway, B's parents were here for Christmas and it was wonderful, then we packed up and went to my mother's for a New Year's Christmas celebration with my brother and that was lovely, then we swung through Indiana and Ohio to see various friends and relations. A good time was had all around, the driving was surprisingly pleasant and we're awfully glad to be home.

I suppose now this means we need to get back to school again. We did engage in educational activities after Christmas, but although I brought books along, we didn't manage anything while we were in Michigan. I'm really trying to get us more organized this year. Hopefully if we can get ourselves in better habits in the next three months, we'll be in better shape to keep them up when we add another child. To this end, I'm going to try making extensive use of Google calendar, as well as setting up a chore chart for K and a concrete school schedule. I planned out our FIAR books through April today, and hopefully this week I'll get a booklist set up to go with each topic. After the baby comes, my plan is to only do math and reading until probably the end of the school year.