Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Meadow Creek

As part of my Work-At-Home job, I have been transcribing oral history interviews all summer. For hours upon hours, I have listened to people telling stories about the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, stories about wildfires, stories about animals, stories about dangerous mountain rescues. They have told stories about July snowstorms, and about the community of people who have lived in the wilderness, who have influenced the laws made to protect the wild land. They tell stories of fishing and stories of hunting and hiking and flying tiny Cessna 170 "tail-dragger" planes into wild, backcountry airstrips.

All of these stories have only whetted my appetite to go experience this amazing place for myself. When we found out that Ethiopia would be postponed until October, Hubby said, "well, why don't you plan a trip down there, then?"

So, that's what I did. I invited Mom along to go flyfishing, since she loves the wilderness as much as I do. We also decided to take Curly along for her first wilderness trip as well.

I printed out directions, and we set off. Two-and-a-half hours into the drive, I groggily asked where we were. "Kooskia," was Mom's answer. She was driving, and I wasn't paying much attention. We'd see the river divide into the Lochsa and Selway, and we'd turn up the Selway River Road.

Another hour passed. I commented to Mom that something wasn't right. We should be there by now. She replied that she had been driving a little on the slow side. I frowned, but didn't comment. Surely not that slow?

Another 45 minutes passed, without a single recognizable landmark. We passed several campgrounds, but since I hadn't brought a map of the area (nor did we have anything so sophisticated as a GPS) we did not know quite where we were. All at once, we found out that we were at the top of Lolo Pass and were poised to enter into Montana! We had driven over 80 miles past where we should have turned! We turned to each other in dismay, and then broke into helpless laughter. When you get lost that badly, there really is nothing else to do!

We ate dinner there, and then backtracked another hour and a half until it got dark. Finally, we found the turn, and decided to camp there rather than drive the last 20 miles of gravel road in the dark.

This changed the character of the trip significantly, since we had to break camp again in the morning, and I was really tired by the time we finally did get to Meadow Creek. I had been hoping to hike quite a few miles into the SBW, but I ended up having time and energy to only do two. Still, I got to be there, to see a part of that place, and to add my own story to the many stories in my head of the beautiful Idaho wilderness.

As a bonus, my daughter had a blast, learning to fish. Her fishing pole had a release button on the bottom that made casting quite similar to playing with the Wii. As a result, she was eerily good at it, and caught several trout. I didn't get pictures of her fishing, however, as I didn't take my camera. The two scenery pictures above were captured with my iPod while hiking.

Still, we had a fun three days of it, and left just as another wildfire began to make the air too smoky to be pleasant. I hope I can go back down there soon, and stay more than one night.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Dinner Math

As I was fixing dinner last night, Little Mister wandered into the kitchen and began to gaze longingly at the two leftover muffins on the counter.

"Do you want those for dinner?" I asked him.

"Yes," he replied, "but there are only two, and five of us love muffins."

"That's true," I agreed. "Daddy and I can probably do, though. How about we divide the muffins up among the kids?"

He brightened. "Okay!" he said enthusiastically.

I decided to challenge him mathematically, although the sort of fraction I was proposing, I would not have understood until much later. Still, he liked to think, and I knew he'd appreciate the attention.

"How are we going to divide these two muffins between three kids, so each kid gets an equal part?"

His first answer, as I expected, was to cut one muffin in half. I explained why this did not yield equal parts. This stumped him, and he retreated to the couch to lay down and think it over. I smiled to myself.

I expected him to forget about it, or come in and ask me for the answer.

"Do you want a hint?" I called.

"Sure," he agreed.

"It has something to do with thirds," I said.

He sat out on the couch for another few minutes as I rinsed fresh strawberries and cut off their tops.

"I got it!" he said, jumping up, and bouncing back in to the kitchen. "You cut both of the muffins into thirds."

"How does that give you equal parts for each kid?" I asked.

"Well," he said, in the manner of a professor warming to his explanation. "You have six pieces that way. If you give two to each kid, we all have the same."

"Right!" I said, pleased. "How much muffin does one kid have?"

"Two thirds," he reported, and headed back out of the kitchen. "And you can give Bean the cut-off pieces."

This is exactly what we did.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Creating New Spaces

While I adore my darling little cottage, built in 1920, I will be the first to admit that it's small for a family of six. Generally, I think this is a positive thing. It teaches us to use manners, and to share. Sometimes, though, it makes it difficult to find space to do the things we want to do, particularly with a curious, marauding baby on the loose.

Curly chose a beginner's needlepoint kit as one of the projects to learn to do this fall. Secretly, I was thrilled, since I love to sew and do creative projects. She quickly found that she needed to work on it where Bean couldn't grab the yarn and eat it; for instance, she was found crouching on a table here.

We also decided to create a school room. The only space available was in my bedroom, which is a little unfortunate, but I was willing to donate the space for a good cause. We wanted a place for the kids to be able to work on their art projects or workbook pages when they so chose. I also voted for using this space, because it has more daylight than other parts of the house, and there is an intuitive part of me that loves having daylight when a person is learning.

We also wanted the computers to be upstairs again. We had them in the basement playroom all year last year. The problem with this was that the kids did not get enough support with doing things like logging into pages or updating Flash.

Our learning will still be unscheduled and mostly child-led, and we'll still involve a lot of hands-on outdoor learning. This school area is not intended to be limiting to the kids, but merely to be another resource and place for them to be. So far, they are wild with excitement about it, and they go in there whenever they have the chance. Little Mister, in particular, eats up workbooks like candy, and is on page 16 of his new Grade 1 Complete book that features reading, spelling, math etc. Several times, I have found him in there busily working away on it.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Elvish VoiceOver

In spite of our usual trouble finding a babysitter, Hubby and I have decided to take an enrichment course downtown on Tolkien's The Silmarillion. Like many Tolkien fans, I started this book several times, but like many Tolkien fans, I found it largely inaccessible. After the first class, in which we read the wonderful essay, "On Fairy Stories" (again), I feel like I have a much better framework with which to dive into reading The Silmarillion. We discussed Tolkien's approach to the "Perilous Realm" of Faërie; perilous, I believe, because the demons you confront there are not the dragons and monsters of bed-time story legends, but far more sinister: the parts of ourselves that we try hardest to hide. Once we enter the Perilous Realm, we become transparent in our naked humanity, and those things that we wish most to keep secret become exposed.

This, however, was not the subject of my blog post. I meant to stay much more in the practical and safe arena of the reading itself.

This year, as I have transitioned to reading accessible material, I've been pleasantly surprised at the ease at which I have been able to access the printed word. After a lifetime of eye strain, headaches and discomfort when reading, the effects of which cause me to skim and miss a lot of the text in order to finish faster, I now can read comfortably with a high level of detail using VoiceOver on my iPod Touch.

For this book, it took almost no time at all to go into my favorite reading app, iBooks, search around their store and buy an e-copy of The Silmarillion for the very reasonable price of $10, and set VoiceOver to reading it aloud to me. Some people dislike the somewhat monotone robotic voice that synthesized screen readers use to read. On the other hand, I find it quite easy to listen to. When you read a book with no illustrations, but only plain black-and-white text, you necessarily use your imagination to fill in the details. To me, computer speech seems similar to that. I take in the plainest of words, but in my imagination, colorful worlds and beautiful music emerge. In a way, it's almost better than having a human reader, who may tend to add an interpretation I disagree with, or who might emphasize certain words. In the same way, a badly done illustration can mar my enjoyment of a print book. The best book readers, in my opinion, read quickly and accurately with no personal interpretation of the story. Of course an interesting accent never hurts, such as Caroline Lee's gorgeous renditions of Kate Morton's lovely historical mysteries.

Sometimes, even despite the skill of the best human reader, I prefer using the computer to read to me. For one thing, I can set it to read much faster than the recordings done by readers. I like to read at a pretty brisk pace, take in the information, and then ponder it later throughout the day.

I've discovered an interesting feature of The Silmarillion as it pertains to VoiceOver. The text is packed full of Elvish words and names. I have to chuckle at times as the computer does its best to pronounce the long Elvish words, often full of umlauts, accents, and other oddities that Tolkien loved.

Many people have never heard a screen reader, so I've recorded a sample of the beginning of The Silmarillion, read by VoiceOver, exactly as I have been reading it this week. (If you have never read this, it's Tolkien's Creation account, where the Father, Ilúvatar, causes the world to come into being through song.)

Listen here.

The Music of the Ainur

There was Eru, the One, who in Arda is called Ilúvatar; and he made first the Ainur, the Holy Ones, that were the offspring of his thought and they were with him before aught else was made. And he spoke to them, propounding to them themes of music; and they sang before him, and he was glad. But for a long while they sang only each alone, or but few together, while the rest hearkened; for each comprehended only that part of the mind of Ilúvatar from which he came, and in the understanding of their brethren they grew but slowly. Yet ever as they listened they came to deeper understanding, and increased in unison and harmony.

And it came to pass that Ilúvatar called together all the Ainur and declared to them a mighty theme, unfolding to them things greater and more wonderful than he had yet revealed; and the glory of its beginning and the splendour of its end amazed the Ainur, so that they bowed before Ilúvatar and were silent.

Then Ilúvatar said to them, ”Of the theme that I have declared to you, I will now that ye make in harmony together a Great Music. And since i have kindled you with the Flame Imperishable, ye shall show forth your powers in adorning this theme, each with his own thoughts and devices, if he will. But I will sit and hearken, and be glad that through you great beauty has been wakened into song.”

Then the voices of the Ainur, like unto harps and lutes, and pipes and trumpets, and viols and organs, and like unto countless choirs singing with words, began to fashion the theme of Ilúvatar to a great music; and a sound arose of endless interchanging melodies woven in harmony that passes beyond hearing into the depths and into the heights, and the places of the dwelling of Ilúvatar were filled to overflowing, and the music and the echo of the music went out into the Void, and it was not void. Never since the Ainur made any music like to this music, though it has been said that a greater still shall be made before Ilúvatar by the choirs of the Ainur and the Children of Ilúvatar after the end of days. Then the themes of Ilúvatar shall be played aright, and take Being in the moment of their utterance, for all shall then understand fully his intent in their part, and each shall know the comprehension of each, and Ilúvatar shall give to their thoughts the secret fire, being well pleased.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

In Which I Am Not Bored

I spend a lot of time watching the kids. Primarily, I make sure they're safe, happy, and not pounding on one another. Usually, though, I don't play with them, as it takes more energy than I have to expend. I'm not lazy; I have chronic pain, and bending over to play with a pool full of plastic toys is excruciating. Once in a while I do play, but generally I just sit and supervise. There's a problem with this method, however. It's boring.

Today, the kids and I got out the new bigger kiddie pool (thanks Amazon!) and filled it up with water. They busily filled the pool with bathtub toys and put on their swimming suits, even though the freshly filled water had to be about 50 degrees F.

While I watched, I amused myself with photography: playing with the depth-of-field, getting the autofocus to behave, and shooting macro shots from my perch on the front porch. Result: the kids had fun, and surprisingly, so did I.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Almost Too Big

Bean and I still share a few precious moments of bottle-nursing each day. We both love that sweet time of baby intimacy, although I know it will end all too soon. I love my baby!


My friend Alice over at Braille T-Shirts made this awesome t-shirt for me. It says "Braille Nerd" which is an inside joke among a certain group of my Twitter friends, all of whom love braille, ASL and Auggie Anderson.

I also got new glasses. I love the sides, which have a lacy pattern and cute little sparkly crystals. The lenses, though, make me feel like an owl, they are so thick. Oddly enough, wearing thick glasses was a vehicle to meet some other wonderful low-vision friends on Facebook. Apparently, a person can find a common interest over just about anything on the internet!

Children Getting Dirty

I've had conversations with several different moms recently about allowing your children to get dirty, and get their clothes dirty.

Obviously, I am of the philosophy that it's fine; in fact it's normal for children to get dirty, to play in mud, and to get their clothes filthy. My mom always laughed and said, "You'll wash" when I came in from making mud-pies. On our camping trip, Bean had pretty much taken a dust-bath, which is why his shirt came off for dinner.

Curly's face was still dirty when we sat down to dinner, but that's part of the beauty of camping. Whether it's camping or just playing at the park, I'm a big believer that play and learning are much more important than keeping an outfit pristine. So they got dirty.

Then, as soon as we got home, all the kids went into the bathtub!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

It's Tough To Be Little

We're going camping this weekend. The kids, bouncing around the house, oozing excitement, gradually got on my nerves to the point where I finally decided to give them the packing list. Why not put some of that extraordinary energy to good use?

I trapped Bean in the living room with me, so the kids could get on with their work unimpeded by a small person who joyfully unpacks everything they pack with as much chaos and alacrity as a hurricane.

The gross unfairness of this plan became manifest when Bean figured out that Curly and Mister were going up and down the stairs, and in and out the front door without him. He let his opinion be known in ear-splitting high-decibel shrieks that I'm sure could be heard down the street.

I told him that he would get to go camping too, and this incarceration was only temporary. He would have none of it. There was fun to be had right now, and he was held against his will by a mean, cold-hearted Mommy and a big, long plastic fence.

The only respite he got for his trouble was a nap.

It stinks to be the littlest one.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Now What?

At the store last night, Curly found a math workbook that had a Cars theme, and begged me to get it. I agreed, and that set Little Mister off. Please, Mommy! So, I found him a workbook with a Handy Manny theme that looked about his level of preschool work, with counting and numbers and quite a bit of handwriting practice. I figured that it would keep him out of our hair this fall while I was working with Curly on multiplication.

This afternoon, he sat down and did the entire workbook in an hour and a half.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Coffee Roasting Video

Here's a little video from a couple of weeks ago of Hubby roasting coffee downtown. Source

Coffee Roasting at Bucer's from Austin Storm on Vimeo.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Nosebleeds, Silly String, and Kiddie Pools

Bean woke up this morning having had a nosebleed sometime during the night. He'd tried to take care of it himself by rubbing all over his face, his crib, the wall and his sheets. Perfect.

(This representative nosebleed photo is actually from a couple of weeks ago. Same thing happened.)

Now that the weather is hot, the kids have been begging to get the kiddie pool out. I used a garden hoe to poke the blue plastic pool out of the rafters of the wood shop, and dragged it out to the front yard where I filled it and let it sit to warm up.

Because it looked so small for three kids, we loaded up into the van, and headed into town to find a soft-sided larger pool. After McDonald's and the bank (both, thankfully, with drive-throughs) we tried Rite Aid, which had fall and back-to-school stuff, but no more pools.

Next, we tried Walgreen's, where Bean sneezed another nosebleed all over my shirt, then again all over his shirt. The kind lady at the counter loaded us up with Kleenex, pointed us toward the bathroom, and suggested we use saline solution on Bean's nose (uhh, ya think?). In the bathroom, I stationed the kids in front of the door and stripped my shirt off to wash the blood out in the sink. Thankfully, no one came in, and I put my (wet) shirt back on, washed Bean off and headed back out to look for pools.

No Dice. We bought silly string instead, and went home. Thank goodness for Amazon.com! I ordered a pool, which should be here Monday, and then let the kids play in the dinky one we have.

They spent a happy half-hour dousing one another with water and silly string before they got cold, and we went inside for nap-time.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Mathy Game

If you get the answer right, you get to keep the card. If you get the answer wrong, Mommy gets to keep the card. Who do you suppose won the game?

On a side note: I have not drilled addition with him at all, and have only ever played this game with him once. He hasn't done math workbooks. He has, however, talked about math ideas, played with counting blocks, and listened to his sister drill math a little bit. He also asks constant questions. It's like he's a little learning machine. I have to ask him to stop learning and put on his shoes at times. I love unschooling!

Pictures From Far Away

We got new pictures today with our monthly update of Abi. For the third month in a row, she is frowning. Granted, she is three, and perhaps she is just being contrary when it comes to cameras. Still, her little frown makes me sad. It was much easier to get pictures of her when she was smiling.

I wish I could share her darling pictures with all of you! When we get her here and all of the red tape is behind us, I hope I can post this year of pictures and show all of you how she has grown, how beautiful she is, how each picture makes me want to gather her up in my arms and snuggle her.

When we meet, I expect she'll be hesitant. I'll be one more white stranger, and I doubt she'll want a hug. The snuggles will come later. On my part, however, I want to hug her and snuggle her, and tell her that good things are coming her way.

Ten and a half more weeks.