Friday, April 24, 2009

Two Poems

Every Friday - or nearly every Friday - we work on creating poetry in our happy, little homeschool. We've skipped a few days, but other Fridays that we don't write, the girls will type and then illustrate their poems. At the end of the year I will compile them into booklets of some sort and I think we'll just put them on our bookshelf for easy access and enjoyable reading instead of filing them away with the rest of the year's schoolwork.

As we near the end of another school year and I think ahead to next, I think I'll keep the poetry writing. Sometimes it proves frustrating as we grapple with new concepts/new formulas; quatrains proved especially challenging for some reason this year. But I love, love, love the surprises the bloom from the wordplay. And Maia, especially, continues to stoke her passion for words in general. She is referring to herself these days as artist and writer. Am I thrilled? Am I THRILLED?! Oh, yes, you bet I am!

Occasionally, depending on the day and the duties at hand, I will jump in and write with them. I have written poetry on and off for years. Compiling my own is not a bad idea either, now that I think of it.

Today, the poem formula was a "sestina." Click here for Ms. Rogers' explanation of just what a sestina is. Her lesson plans are some of the majority of what I used with the girls this year. I'll likely cycle back through them again too; the ideas are fun and excellent!

According to Ms. Rogers,

A sestina has six unrhymed stanzas with six lines in each stanza. The last words of the first six lines ccur in a definite pattern in all of the other stanzas... Remember, it is the WORD that appears at the end of each line, NOT the entire line itself.

Again, click on over there to see just what she means. It's cool.

At first this felt so daunting, but, as often happens, the words really provided the poem somehow. So here is mine:

Nowhere

A whole week of nowhere
that I had to be.
I almost couldn't believe -
kept checking the calendar -
that I could spend the days
watching squirrels and sitting in the sunshine.

Sunshine lay in pools among the shadows of the branches.
Nowhere serenaded me with the promise of
days stretching out before me.
Be a writer or a prophet or an artist, the
calendar is quiet here.
Believe that there could be more time like this.

Believe that commerce isn't everything and that
sunshine deserves a place on your
calendar.
Nowhere is a wonderful place to
be...
days moving into days.

Days filled with space to let your mind wander and
believe in posibilities again.
Be an idealist, if only for a few hours.
Sunshine can do that if you have to be
nowhere on a day in the spring, April on your
calendar.

Calendar squares seem so innocent
days appearing limitless, blank space to be filled.
Nowhere feels frightening; unproductive. Without pushing we
believe we have no worth. Work ethics and
sunshine do not seem to mix. Do we need permission to
be?

Be an outsider. Maybe DON'T be a success.
Calendar blanks appear for all, but
sunshine can be few and far between.
Days can become choice morsels of memory if you
believe in the seduction, in the value, in the power of
nowhere.

nowhere be
believe calendar
days sunshine



Inspired by my morning poem, I wrote another this evening, in the midst of running errands!

Can you write a poem
about pushing your shopping cart
back to your car
in the parking lot of Wal-Mart,
the gulls all circling and crying overhead?

They are not seagulls here;
there is no sea. Just
cement and cars
and rap music
from that truck that just drove by.

Can you write a poem about that?

I bought bread
and crackers for my kids.
I bought rechargeable batteries
because we need them.
But I also bought a sketchbook
and watercolor paper

because I still want to have a voice.
Even if I have to write a poem
on the back of this receipt, even
in suburbia.

It's surprising how fun a little poem can be. You should try it. Poems are little; you have time for one. Really. Just one. A haiku is especially small and words are free. You have something to say, you really do. :)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Earth Day 2009

Haven't felt like posting much of late. Perhaps blogging may be waning for me. What with Facebook and the millions of other ways to connect nowadays, it's grown too challenging for me to keep up with all of it. Still, Earth Day holds a very special place in my heart.

Today we will only do math for school and will be dedicating the rest of the time to celebrating our beautiful planet.

First, we'll decorate the sidewalk and driveway with sidewalk chalk in honor of Earth Day.

We'll take our annual clean-up walk with garden gloves on and trash bags in hand. The girls will also each get their own bag to keep with them for a week to collect their own trash and see just how much each of us creates.

We'll be doing some things over at Nickelodeon's The Big Green Help site - games and all sorts of other things over there.

We're going to go through our closets and rooms to see what else we would like to add to the growing collection of things to donate to Goodwill. I'm hoping we'll decide to get rid of more plastic.

We'll spend a good deal of time talking about "precycling." Not bringing stuff in to begin with.

We'll have a lights out night this Thursday night (we'll be at Grandma's tonight) at our house. We'll keep everything lit with candles only.

We'll discuss the things we're doing well and ways we can do better.

There's a lot to cover; it should be a fun day!

Are you doing something special today?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Creativity Abounding!

Eve and our neighbor, Kati, paint and draw and listen to World Playground 2 by Puntamayo Music
Maybe it was all that extroverted energy... yang energy... all that output... whatever you want to call it. Maybe it was all that outward energy of our own March Madness with family and friends that has caused the surge of creativity that seems to be happening around our home over the past week.


While creativity culminates in ultimately some sort of outward expression, there is all the wonderful, inward stuff that goes on in the process of creating. The process is what we love, isn't it? While it is fun and certainly possible to be creative in a group (and that in and of itself is a different energy all its own), it is the solitary work that the artist really needs. Time and - no, not quiet... not always quiet... because sometimes the right piece of music can really take you places. But time - yes, uninterrupted time - and no distractions.

Maia writing her story in her room. She moves from her story to her Manga practice and back again.
Oh, yeah. And there's algebra down on the floor too!

Manga drawing, painting with watercolor pencils, and story writing have all become forces of their own over the past week. A writing curriculum for school, Learn to Write the Novel Way, chosen for Maia for this year's Language Arts, has become more of a guide book than anything else. The exercises in it are excellent, but seem to be geared for someone who hesitates to write. For my girl who wanted to jump right in, the exercises seemed a bit tedious. We still read the book in sections from time to time for inspiration, ideas, and encouragement, but she is just really off and running with the writing.



She completed her first grapic novel about two months ago. With a few encouraging words, she is not only working on the original story for school, but her own novel, which is remarkably impressive. I'm thinking of doing some online research into writing contests for children to keep the momentum going, if and when things get sluggish... but that doesn't seem to be happening at this point.

So Maia was writing and then I thought, why not let Eve just write a story too? Yes, write instead of her formal grammar curriculum. And she fairly leaped at the chance! The chance to write just in the way her big sister is writing and get out of identifying random subjects and random predicates in random sentences. Oh, we still talk abou those things, but we locate them in her sentences and review nouns, adjectives, etc. from time to time. But the whole of language arts is taking place in her writing - just like Maia's. The girls write two days of the week, spend one day editing with me - reviewing sentence structure, spelling, etc., and type what they've written on another day - sort of simmering the whole thing and practicing their typing to boot.



We've moved from the black and white portion of our art curriculum into the color. This may take us into next school year, but we're all enjoying it so much, it doesn't matter. My girls have never been coloring fans. As someone who loved her coloring books as a child, and who still gets a silly grin on her face over a good whiff of crayons, this Mama had a hard time understanding the persistently black and white, if detailed, drawings over the years. Yes, drawing after drawing has occured. Ream upon ream of paper - a treasured necessity for each child in her own bedroom - has been consumed! But color? No thank you - or more like, "Naaahhh. I'm not into coloring. I like my drawing the way it is."

Our first color assignment wanted us to work in a single color.

So, somebody pinch me, please! When the girls voluntarily began coloring in their Manga characters... when the watercolor pencils and the jars of water and the brushes have been pulled out on the table every afternoon this week, you could have knocked me over with a feather!



I played along with the one-color assignment. Fun!
The best was when, just yesterday, a new game began: the girls and neighbor, Kati, were all drawing behind "screens" of upright notebooks.
"Top-secret drawings?" I inquired.
"No," said Maia. "We're drawing surprise pictures for each other and then the other one colors it in!"
They were so delighted over the game and gushed over each others' creations that they would now be able to add their own creativity to - through color.
So I'm grinning a lot. I love seeing them carry their supplies with them to and fro from Grandmas' (both of them) houses and referring to themselves as artists. I love peeking in the bedroom and seeing both of my girls with pages spread out around them, working into the night on their stories. I love how they are excited to read to us the latest additions and to share these passions with their friends who draw and paint and even write with them when they come over. Yes, there is Nintendo DS. And Webkinz and Wizard 101 are old and new favorites respectively. But there is room - lots of room - for creativity in this house. I am glad they are growing up with it around them. Glad that the materials have always been available. Glad that they've always seen me working on one project or another. Glad that they believe in the value of creativity and art as much as I do.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Transitions

We wound up our madcap month of guests this past Sunday with the departure of my dear friend, Susan, and her family.

Susan has been one of my best friends for round about 28 years. Wow... 28 years. That almost doesn't seem possible, but I'm so very glad it is.
She and her family arrived on Friday night and then headed up to Disney for a week of fun on Sunday afternoon. I was up at 6:45 Sunday morning to prepare for an Easter cantata at the church I used to attend. We sang for both services. At the end of it all - the two half-hour choir concerts spread out over 3 hours and the guests heading out down the road - I really could barely keep my eyes open. My sweetie pie, Paul, treated me to an awesome foot massage Sunday afternoon and I did, indeed, fall asleep briefly... only to wake up and have him still massaging my foot! Now that's a wonderful way to wake up! :)

So, now I find myself in a smaller season of transition. The long-awaited guests have come and gone and all the anticipation builiding up to their arrivals with them. Snow-bird friends have returned to the north for their spring and summer seasons with family and friends there. We have about 7 weeks of school left here and then we look ahead to the long, hot summer before us.
I look ahead with a mixture of pleasure and some dread as well. The summers here have been notoriously lonely for me. Families vacation or their children take part in summer camps. We can't afford to do either this year and so it is a challenge in some ways. Many of our friends tend to dissappear until the school year begins again. I am hoping it will be different this year. We have had some changes with some friends moving much closer in proximity to our home, so perhaps there will be a few more get-togethers than there have been in the past. Paul has evening work hours now and so it will be different summer with him available to us in the mornings. It is a wait-and-see game.
The pleasure I look forward to is both my brother and his twin boys coming for their annual visit as well as time for summer art and craft pursuits. I have some ideas for paintings I'd like to try. I also hope to try out dyeing yarn this summer. I think that would be a fun thing to try out in the backyard with my girls and any friends who would like to join us. I know that you can use kool-aide for dyeing (a much better purpose for it than drinking the stuff IMHO) as well as Easter egg dye. I bought two extra kits at the store this week, so we'll have those on hand. I plan to pick up some white or off-white sweaters at Goodwill and give it a try.

Sorry about the tilted picture here and the not-so-great lighting. I don't know why the picture posted like this; I've rotated it and saved it that way on my computer and for some reason Blogger wants it like this, so there you go.
As you can see, I finished crocheting my colorful and bright Granny Square blanket and I just love it! The photo doesn't do the colors justice. The pink is a really pretty raspberry and it is in the border - you can't even really see it in the photo here. Oh, well. I finished weaving in the ends Friday night just before our friends arrived.
All of the yarn is Vanna's Choice yarn by Lion Brand. I find it to be a nice, soft, springy acrylic and am so pleased with the results. Yarn snobs may stick their noses up at the acrylic, but I prefer knowing that no sheep were ultimately killed (sometimes after being forced to march many miles and then being crowded onto ships, taken to the Middle East, marched many more miles before their throats are cut - a typical Australian/New Zeland sheep story. Most merino wool comes from these countries and this is how the animals are disposed of when they are no longer wanted for their wool). As much as I enjoy and appreciate the qualities of wool - and believe me - as a knitter, I DO - my conscience and compassion lead me to continue to purchase and/or recycle man-made or plant-based fibers for my pastime.
I do not believe that this kind of torture to the animals justified simply for my human pleasure. There is more in regard to wool - and merino wool in particular - that is unsavory to say the least and I will share it here in the future, but not today. But suffice it to say that I just cannot live - or knit - in denial of the the things that happen to the animals every single day for my craft - or my tastebuds for that matter.
With this in mind, I am continuing work on my sweater made with recycled yarn. I have finished the cabled arm and waist bands and will block them tonight. Then I will finally, finally get to pick up stitches for the body of the sleeves and the sweater! Hooray!!
Recently, I also purchased another lovely, soft, blue, heathered sweater that I plan to make into my February Lady's Sweater. I had completed a good deal of this sweater with a yarn that was gifted to me, but realized when I was close to being done with the body, that I was not going to have enough yarn. This new (used) sweater is a women's size large with a cowl neck - plenty for what I want to do. These projects will be my main ones that, if they don't carry me through the summer, will at least get me off to a good start.

I am not rushing things, though. The older my children get, the more I cherish remaining in the present. We'll have standardized testing to get through at the end of this month, as required by our state homeschooling laws (we can choose testing or evaluations by a certified teacher each year - I do testing every few years and go with evaluations the rest of the time). After that will be the final month of school and the fun, as well as bittersweet moments of wrapping up another school year. So, I'll take my transitions slowly and enjoy them, too, for what they are: a turning of the page, chapter by chapter in the story of our lives.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Where We've Been

One day when the girls were playing outside with their cousins and I was inside working on lunch for everyone, I discovered the beautiful art that had been happening right on my own driveway. I love this darling girl and the artist - my own Eve - even more! I love how her head (the drawing's - not Eve's!) is huge and her feet are tiny and how she looks as though she would be floating upward, past you, in a dream.

This is just one of the images from my whirlwind days of March. I thought I'd share a few other favorite photos from this month as well. They don't capture everything. For one, somehow I have nary a picture of my brother-in-law or sister-in-law - at least ones that are specifically of them or us together and not just them in the background. Crazy! I think I just get lazy about it because they come every March for the month. But surely, next time, we will have to do a group photo!

My days of guests aren't over yet, though. Tomorrow night, friends from South Carolina arrive for a two-night stay before they head to Disney World. I confess I am quite tired, but still enjoying the ride.

I know these faces don't mean anything to most of you readers, but they mean the world to me. So, I'll share and hope you enjoy some of the sunshiny shots as Spring heads your way. With that, I share some shots of just where we've been.

My Maia and Paul at Lido Beach:


Three beautiful "babies" at the airport: My baby sister, Lael, her own baby, Celia, whom I met on the day of her birth, but have not seen for nearly two years :(, and my own first baby, Maia.

C. was so great on her first plane ride. After I kept her awake with songs and stories for a bit, I let this little one recharge her batteries.



Celia has some fun in Grandma's pool with Mommy.



The next day, cousins Misha and Cole enjoy Playmobil on the lanai with Eve. There's their daddy's leg. No head. *sigh*






A couple of windy days later at Sarasota Jungle Gardens. Lael and I share those same curly locks. No need to "pump up the volume" on this day. The wind worked quite nicely, thank you.



Pretty birds with prettier girls:




Mom and Jerry treated us to the Gardens. Here, they treat their feet to a well-earned rest.



A highlight of every Sarasota Gardens visit is feeding the flamingos. Can you see Maia's wide-mouthed expression of delight? :)


Celia enjoyed working on a smaller scale:


And my ever-fashionable girl, Eve, wearing her own hand-knit and crocheted scarf, despite the heat, got her own close encounter with a pretty, pink friend.



Well, that's all I have time for today, friends. We'll be off on some more adventures in less than 24 hours. Time to get a few more things done!











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