Thursday, June 28, 2012

A day of Japanese

I had a most beloved book growing up, Grover and the Everything in the Whole Wide World Museum. I forgot about it for a long time, but remembered it when I saw it again on Sandra Dodd's website about unschooling.

I was reminded of this again today as I washed the last of the many dishes we dirtied while unexpectedly learning about new foods and Japan.

We started this morning by watching the movie Ponyo. There was no agenda, just a family-wide love of Miyazaki and the fact that our turn happened to come up on the waiting list at the library.

In one scene the little boy Sosuke and the little girl Ponyo eat ramen noodles.

Woody was very curious about the waiting-three-minutes, then ta-da! part of ramen, so while out running another errand (getting de-wormer for the poor dog whose preventive medicine we got a couple of months behind on), we stopped by the co-op to get a few packages of noodles. We started talking about Japanese food as we shopped, and Woody remembered the rice balls that he liked so much as a littler boy, but that we hadn't made in a long time. So, we got the ingredients for those, too.

I boiled the water for the noodles and read the instructions out loud, and Woody did the rest.

Then, we made the rice balls together. 

Woody first tried these when our friend, midwife, and whole foods educator Jill came to my middle school class to do a cooking workshop four years ago. I had Woody with me in the class, so he learned alongside the preteens and teens, doing a lot of snacking and sampling as we made rice balls, polenta-pesto lasagna, and kimchee, which he even ate raw and zinging hot!

He loved them as much as he remembered, but Fox! Fox gobbled and gobbled, not put off one bit by the black chewy seaweed skin and overall primordial appearance.

We ate them while watching the Ponyo special features, which were mostly in Japanese with English subtitles, and included a bit about the port city in Japan that inspired the location of the movie.

I liked thinking of today as a surprise stop in the "Everything Else" section of the Everything in the Whole Wide World Museum--a corner about Japan where you can hear the language, sample the food, and see a small piece of the islands. Sandra once described being a homeschooling parent as being a docent in the everything museum, one who's on hand with knowledge of the wheres, whats, hows, whos, and whens (who can also drive, help find matching shoes, and give long, happy hugs). 

Today, I had a good day on the job. 

Power Rangers Math

Emily, the yellow Ranger, surveying a valley full of enemy Moogars who are guarding Master and Antonio while the other five Rangers make their rescue plan: We're outnumbered 100 to 1!

Woody: 500! That's a lot of Moogars!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Technology and the Wilderness

This morning's market goods, with a couple of additions from the co-op.

The boys have been spending the last couple of evenings playing in the ash and dust in the backyard fire pit, grand pretend scenarios that involve warfare, rescue, and underground expeditions. They come in covered head to toe in a layer of taupe, and it's right to the bath for a half hour or so of playing in the water before dinner. They look wild and happy when they come in, smeared and surrounded by a cloud of dirt, falling over each other's words as they tell about their make-believe adventures.

Yesterday's post about TV may have sounded like I had fully embraced it in our lives--and on my best days that's true--but on days where other insecurities assert themselves, or I take personally friends' comments about what they perceive to be the ill effect of TV on children, I find myself wondering all those scary, old, hypothetical things: are the boys too passive watching it? does TV give them bad ideas about what's important and what's OK? is it zapping them of their original thought? their connection to the people around them? Even though I know how irrational these thoughts are, and how incongruent with my own and my own children's experiences, the fears persist.

This morning, Fox brought me a hamburger bun, something he's not all that familiar with since we don't get them often, and said, "Mom, look! Somebody gave us Krabby Patties!"

Ah, Spongebob.

Had I somehow short-changed this beautiful child by watching hours and hours of Spongebob with him instead of engaging him in a game of chess, a conversation in Portuguese, or an examination of water samples under the microscope?

Sometimes we do those things. But not when he wants to watch Spongebob.

Later in the day, Woody said to me, "The thing I wouldn't like about camping all the time is that I wouldn't get to watch anything on TV." I agreed that would be missed. But I said that there are other things that the woods offer: running along paths and up hills; hearing and seeing animals and plants; feeling wind, rain, and sunshine; and seeing the sky. I said I was glad that we could have both, TV and being in the woods. Yes, he said. "There's things I like about technology, and things I like about the wilderness. What I like most about technology is that you can see what people are doing in other parts of the world."


Off he ran to jump in his huge cardboard box tank with the flame-patterned duct tape cannons.

Monday, June 25, 2012

from "Brave" to "The Circus"

Good Lord, is it hot in Arkansas. And I grew up in Florida! Ninety-eight degrees with no wind is near unbearable no matter where you are, I guess.

So this weekend we watched a lot of movies. Inside.

We caught a Brave matinee on Saturday. It was fantastic. I was moved to sobs through which I could no longer see or hear. But the scene that got me was so loud  I don't think I was a disturbance. It was a very, very powerful statement on motherhood and power struggles and fierce, fierce love.

I often get that emotional watching good movies (and reading good books, and hearing good friends' stories), but I think I may have been extra emotional since I had had a tough parenting moment on Friday when I accused Woody of trying to angle for some other kids' Popsicles when he probably wasn't (and more importantly, when he told me he wasn't). I rode my assumption too hard and too long, and had a big old apology to give later in the day when I was seeing things more clearly.

We watched most of The Outlaw Josie Wales. Luckily, Daddy Honey knows that movie so well that the potentially scarring parts were well anticipated. Later, there was some Jeremiah Jones, and because Daddy Honey was having a Western moment, about half an hour of Open Range.

But Sunday evening was my favorite. We watched the 1928 Charlie Chaplin film the Circus, every one of us in stitches. So much came up in conversation--circuses, traveling companies, the evolution of cinema technology, the treatment of single versus married women in that time period. I had never seen a Charlie Chapin film from start to finish, and I was astonished at his skill. He wrote, directed, produced, and starred in the movie, and it was brilliant. It was amazing to me, too, how timeless the humor was--84 years old!

There was a time when I would have thought about raising the boys without TV. I'm not much of a TV watcher, and I used to tend to watch when I was already bored and out-of-sorts, so it never felt like time well spent. But Daddy Honey feels differently, and it was an area I was willing to reconsider given his enjoyment of it.

I'm glad for that.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Dark laughter

Out by the fire as the sun went down and the longest day turned to night.

I brought the bagels up again today. The jalapeno peppers were only going to last so long, and I didn't want that key ingredient being spoiled to ruin the fun of the project. As often happens with large-scale endeavors (and yes, making bagels definitely counts as a large-scale endeavor in this house), the boys' attention waxed and waned throughout the process. So, after mixing the ingredients and pushing the dough a few times around the floured countertop, they were done and the remaining 11 minutes of kneading were mine to fulfill.

They turned on TV, and 30 seconds later, there was a knock at the door. It was my sweet neighbor Christian who had come to drop off a stack of winter clothes for Fox that no longer fit her boy Atticus. Among the garments was this oatmeal-colored sweater that her own mother knit. My yarny heart pitter-patted at this. 

Woody showed Christian how he likes to slide through the wood- and tile-floored house with socks Risky Business style, and said "When the house is clean like this, it's really fun!" Then I did something regrettable. I laughed, darkly, and made a face, because the house is far from clean, and it's a source of embarrassment and feelings of ineptitude for me. So I guess I was trying to show that I knew better, that mentally healthy people know the difference between a clean and messy house. Christian raised her eyebrows--a gesture that could have meant anything, really, and was surely completely  innocuous--but Woody sensed the difficulty of the moment, smiled, and said sweetly, "Well, the house was clean a couple of days ago. But we do a lot of playing around here."

I wanted to melt through the floor, with love, and gratitude, and a whole bunch of sadness. 

It was a thirty-second social lesson that I couldn't take back. Woody had recognized the social expectation that he sensed I feared we were not meeting, and he made an excuse for it. 

We all moved on with the conversation smoothly, so maybe most of this was in my head. But there was something there that I felt uncomfortable with. I don't want my kids to internalize my silly insecurities or to make adjustments for them. And I really don't want them to know cynicism at home. 

Geesh, I have work to do. 

But we did finish the bagels. They were delicious. It was fun when they bubbled to the top of the pot of boiling water and we carefully fished them out. And we had a great conversation about what is considered American food and why.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

" if you were a giant red river."

Daddy Honey is in San Diego for a librarian conference.

We are jealous. But he is sending back many pictures, one of which was a Navy sub docked in the Pacific Ocean, and that went over very well.

This morning, I overheard Woody  in the bathroom making up a guided meditation/yoga session. I asked him if he'd be willing to record some of it on my phone. I am just learning how to make movies (using the free download Windows Live Movie Maker), so I put the audio file to a picture to test it out. The picture is a photocopy Woody made of his hand, which he thought was a very silly thing that people do.

 "Relax your body. Let your blood flow through as if you were a giant red river."

Naturally, having a recording device changed the play entirely, and within seconds he was recording voiced guitar licks and gun battles with Fox. He ended by recording a statement of how much he loved me, which he set to play, handed me the phone, then ran off giggling. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

We're back!

We had a fan-freakin'-tastic day, one too splendid not to write about. And that got me thinking.

I miss writing about our homeschooling.

I loved the Honey House Kindgarden project, the blog I kept of Woody's kindergarten year. It was sometimes hard finding time to write up those 180 posts in eight months, but it was fun, and I think I benefited from the regular opportunities to reflect on how things were going in our first year of homeschooling. And it's what I think about half the day anyway, so why not? I won't make a commitment to an exact number by an exact point in time, but I trust that I'll settle into a rhythm of a couple of posts a week.

So, we'll try the homeschooling blog again. There's no agenda. No hidden or explicit wish to convert the world to homeschooling, or other homeschoolers to unschoolers. Rather, I hope to offer pictures and pictures-in-words of what everyday learning looks like in our lives. There may be a handful of half-baked philosophy cookies tossed around, too. From them you can take what you will. I hope it's often encouragement to do what brings out the wonderful in you and your family, and to learn and let learn.

And so, we begin again:

At the Tuesday farmers market this morning we ate blueberries right out of the basket for breakfast. Blackberries, too, and one or two fat cherry tomatoes. Woody talked with one of the vendors about having long hair and his plans to cut it before it gets ponytail-length.

We went to the library afterward to look for a book on the history of fire, inspired by yesterday morning's experimental torches made from long sticks, pine cones, and strips of fabric soaked in olive oil. (Fox refused to put on shoes to go in the library, but agreed to black socks, which he stretched up to his knees and seemed proud as punch to have on his feet.)

Turns out there is no such children's book on the history of fire. Not even Amazon  had one that seemed right. Maybe we'll write one, but in the mean time, Woody picked up the storybook Jalapeno Bagels. The book had a recipe in the back that we are going to try out this afternoon.

In the bathroom at the library, Fox opened the door as I sat on the toilet. I lost my composure for a moment, and may or may not have channeled a banshee ancestor; hard to tell, as I blacked out from embarrassment briefly. But we all recovered. I apologized. We looked at miniature school rooms on the way out and stopped at the co-op for the peppers for the bagel recipe.

We also sought crackers, and Woody, all on his own, went up to an employee, said, "Excuse me," and asked for help. Then he led Fox and I right to them. Aisle 2. It was a growing-up moment, just like this morning when he told me, "Mom, just saying 'butt' doesn't make me laugh anymore. I'm too old for that," rendering my best parenting technique obsolete in an instant.

Some friends suggested I not give up so soon, but accept that as a challenge to explore the offerings of age-appropriate scatological humor more fully. My sisters and I had permutation upon permutation of fart-names for one another growing up. Inexplicably, Fart Blossom attached itself to me. I'll report back on how well this more mature silliness goes over.

Thanks for reading, and keeping up with us over here. Smell you later.