Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Looking for the groove

The 3 days of jury duty really set me back. It was so distressing to see people behave the way some of those people behaved. And some of us were really trying to do the right thing. I was depressed for several days afterwards. I think I am getting back in the groove. Well, actually there won't be much groove until next week.

Shoshie had a friend from Tel Yehuda come to spend the weekend with her. And the boys spent Sunday night at YJ sleepovers. Noach was local but Yakov had to drive to Richmond to serve as one of the event hosts. Fortunately the snow we had Friday evening was gone by Sunday morning so the drive was not too unsafe. Both boys had fun at their respective events.

Thursday I drive to Atlanta to attend a reception for my brother who is retiring from law practice. My mom and all my brother's kids and grandkids will be there. It will be fun. Then I turn around, drive home so that at 6am Saturday, Noach and I can drive to the mountains for a cub scout/boy scout campout. This is something he needs to do to crossover to the Boy Scouts in March or April. I just hope it is not real cold.

Soooo, maybe next week, we can get our groove back. I need it. PRM

Friday, January 18, 2008

Poetry Friday

by Paul Laurence Dunbar

Enthroned upon the mighty truth,
Within the confines of the laws,
True Justice seeth not the man,
But only hears his cause.

Unconscious of his creed or race,
She cannot see, but only weighs;
For Justice with unbandaged eyes
Would be oppression in disguise.

Sadly the jurors were not blind and some not without an agenda. PRM

Thursday, January 17, 2008


Yakov only has a 69% chance. And he's spent quite a bit of time planning for it. So it doesn't look that good for us.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Jury duty AGAIN

I have received my 4th jury summons in the 11 years we have lived here. There is the possibility that I will not have to go or will only have to serve one day. My experience makes me anxious, however.

My first summons was about 10 years ago. My teens were then in private school and had to do several days of expensive after-school care. They loved it but were ready for it to be over. Noach was a baby and had to stay with a woman who was familiar to him but he was ready for his mommy too.

About an hour after everyone arrived at the courthouse, fifty of us were moved to a courtroom and the judge began to give us a talk about our duty. Gradually it dawned on me that he was telling us this was a murder trial and the death penalty was sought. Whoa! I am no supporter of capital punishment. Surely they would realize that soon and let me go home.

Three days later I finally had my chance to speak. Did I have a conflict with being on jury duty for up to 4 weeks? Hell, YES. I had a 2 year old who was not accustomed to so much babysitting. No one cared. He'll get used to it. It was his civic duty. Actually they said it was my civic duty but I remarked that I didn't think he would find that comforting. Did I believe in capital punishment? No. But it is the state law. So what? The state law would not help me sleep at night. "It's not my fault, the law made me do it." I don't think so.

Now I already knew that they had picked a guy who did not believe in the death penalty. There was a guy who said he was a Catholic and pro-life. He had picketed abortion clinics when in college a decade earlier. But he admitted that the fact that it was state law did soften his stance. Weenie! They took him.

But they let me go. A woman I often sat with and ate lunch with noted that they had only picked white guys, like the Catholic man, and black women, like herself. Weeks, maybe months after, she yelled at me across the drive-thru lines at the bank, that she got out of it, too.

And that was the best part of the experience, spending time with a real cross-section of the community. I ate lunch with people, like that lady, a young black woman, I would never have met or had a real conversation with, otherwise.

And the jury they picked "gave him the chair." A few years after the trial, the DA was removed for not sharing all the evidence in some trials. I never knew if that was one of the affected trials. I'm glad though I didn't have to live with that question.

I am hoping for much less excitement this time. And much less time. PRM

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Burnishing her college application

Shoshie has decided to work on the Congressional Award as a way to boost her high school resume. She has really taken charge of this, calling and arranging meetings to set up validators and an advisor.

She is doing her volunteer public service at the Piedmont Environmental Center. Our homeschool group had a program for the younger kids this week and she went to help. The experience reminded her of field trips from the past.

In personal development, she is working to improve her knitting. She decided to knit hats for the newborns at the hospital.
This is the first one she completed. She will try new patterns as a way of advancing her skills.

She has yet to work out her physical fitness and exploration/expedition projects.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Poetry Friday at Panera

We had a little problem with WiFi at home so we are having lunch and poetry at Panera. Panera is our favorite free WiFi location. We often take advantage of it when we travel.

Noach wants to share his favorite. He reads like Charles Kuralt, whose recording he has listened to for many hours.

The Christening
by A. A. Milne

What shall I call
My dear little dormouse?
His eyes are small,
But his tail is e-nor-mouse.
I sometimes call him Terrible John,
'Cos his tail goes on-
And on-
And on.
And I sometimes call him Terrible Jack,
'Cos his tail goes on to the end of his back.
I sometimes call him Terrible James,
'Cos he says he likes me calling him names....
But I think I shall call him Jim,
'Cos I am so fond of him.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Math woes

Math has been a consistent problem in this homeschool. Yakov hates it, which seems a bit surprising from a musician. Shoshie doesn't like it either but she keeps pushing along. I am really trying to do something different with Noach. He is working in Keys to... now and we are reading Murderous Maths everyday, which he loves. The most disturbing thing is that they are ALL quite capable in math. So somewhere I screwed up. I like math so I don't think I passed on math phobia.

Shoshie and Yakov have been doing ALEKS this year. Shoshie will finish Algebra 1 in the next week or so and will start Geometry with Life of Fred and ALEKS as a supplement.

What to do for Yakov is really on my mind. He has a very good shot at an 800 on each of the verbal and writing portions of the SAT but his math score will not be good. We are looking for a math tutor. The two of us walked into a new business here, Mathnasium, earlier in the week. I think it would be a good place for SAT prep, working at least 2 hours per week until May.

BUT, sitting at a table helping another child was one of his least favorite members of the local homeschooling community, a woman who has attempted to spread all kinds of bs about my children in the past. Not solely my children. There have been numerous victims of her venom. I realized a few months ago that whenever one of her children gets in trouble, her defense is a strong offense and Yakov, and less so Shoshie, have been targeted several times.

He does not want to work with this woman in any way and we don't know whether he would have to if he started that program. I don't know what to do. I think I will call the owner and discuss more specifically how the program works. I really don't want to, and will not, badmouth this woman, not a courtesy she would extend to me, of course. PRM

Editor in chief, revisited

Last month I wrote

When he was younger and I transcribed his narrations, he would narrate stories much longer and more elaborate than the originals. Now that I ask him to write his own narrations, he produces short and stunted works. Sometimes when we sit together to edit, I can get him to be creative and use the Synonym Finder to spice up the writing. He is always allowed to use the keyboard, but perhaps I should man the keyboard when we are editing. I think I will try that next time.

Well I am trying this now, with success so far. He narrated the story of Perseus yesterday, which I typed for him. It was over a page long. Today he will edit it, something that may not go so smoothly but I do expect it to be better than in the past. I left most of my typos uncorrected. And he needs to use some more descriptive words. I am anxious to see how this works out. PRM

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

clank, clunk, clank, clunk, rmmmm, rmmmmm

Of course, MRI. I had one of my left shoulder at 7:30 this morning. I saw the orthopedist last week and he suspects a rotator cuff tear. And the plain film looked like a spur. I go back to see him next Monday to get the MRI result and, I hope, treatment. I hope that treatment is not surgery. A nice needle and syringe with cortisone is much preferred.

"It is hard to get old but it beats the alternative." This is my mantra as I try to turn over in bed every night. PRM

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Eating in the state dining room

This was Shoshie's poetry choice yesterday.
I, Too, Sing America by Langston Hughes
I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

I'll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody'll dare
Say to me,
"Eat in the kitchen,"

They'll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed--

I, too, am America.

This is the picture that came to my mind when she was reading it. Langston Hughes died in 1967. It took 40 more years for this. I know black candidates have had primary success in the past, from Shirley Chisholm to, most successfully, Jesse Jackson. But this time, there just may be a black first family.

While I have some reservations about Obama politically, I would not be unhappy with our breaking the color barrier to the White House. I wouldn't mind our breaking the gender barrier, either, and I am no Hilary fan. In fact it feels a little weird to be supporting a white male candidate in these times. But I think he is the most progressive and that is where I am. PRM

Friday, January 4, 2008

Poetry Friday, again

Last year we each brought a poem to share on Fridays at lunch. Noach always read out of a silly poems book, long poems usually, and often he wanted to read more than one. His brother, Yakov, like to share short poems, sometimes haiku or a limerick, perhaps. It was not unusual for farting or pooping to be mentioned, thus creating literary value as measured by the 16yo male. Shoshie brought romantic poetry to the table. I tried to vary the offerings and introduce some classics. They had to be short to avoid whining from Yakov.

This fall we did not start Poetry Friday. Yakov was at the community college on Friday at lunch and it just wasn't the same without the limericks, I guess.

He's back this winter semester, and today, Poetry Friday was back as well. By popular demand. And Yakov shared a cool poem from his study for the Literature SAT Subject Test.

That was fun. I can't wait until next Friday. PRM

From the NY Times yesterday

Stinky Cheese! Ambassador for Children’s Literature

Jon Scieszka, the author of witty and subversive children’s favorites like “The True Story of the Three Little Pigs” and “The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales,” is to be named the country’s first national ambassador for young people’s literature on Thursday, a kind of children’s book version of the Library of Congress’s poet laureate program.

Jon Sciezka is one of Noach's favorites. He read Guys Write for Guys Read a few months ago and was really taken with reading stories about some of his favorite authors. It led immediately to his reading the Bunnicula books by James Howe. And that has led to his reading a bit more difficult material..

Mr. Sciezska said that above all he hoped to encourage parents and teachers to support whatever reading their kids want to do. “People say, ‘All my son will read is “Captain Underpants,”’ or ‘My son is crazy about shark books, is that O.K.?’” he said. “I want to be the person to say, ‘Yeah, that’s really O.K., as long as he’s motivated to want to read.’”

I struggled with this when my now 15yo daughter was first reading. We had not yet started homeschooling and she would bring Junie B. Jones home from school. Then she would speak like Junie B. Jones, incorrect grammar and all. I didn't like it and my husband, a bit of a grammar fanatic, was horrified. I put those books away. Shoshie, unlike her younger brother, very early became an enthusiastic reader so that what she read was never a serious concern again. Before I knew it, she was reading Harry Potter and Redwall and more and more.

Noach has been slower to take off with reading. So I let him read Captain Underpants and anything else that he would look at. This is contrary to my twaddle-free, Charlotte Mason preference but I have never denied him a book that he was interested in. I keep hoping he will really take off reading but it hasn't really happened yet. I keep hoping. PRM

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Reading like a madwoman


I have been reading two of my choices and enjoying them both. I hope to have a short review up on each in a day or two. They could not be much more different, heartwarming fiction vs sad, terrifying nonfiction. More info to come.

What we did this weekend was make these guitar stands from PVC for the basement music/movie/game room. JP did most of the work with a bit of help from Noach and me. There are 3 altogether, 2 completed and one to go. The last one is bigger to fit the acoustic guitars. This was a design he found on the internet but the instructions were a bit vague. I think he did an excellent job. I am really looking forward to the day, soon now, when the basement will really be ready to enjoy.

The teens spent the long weekend in New Jersey visiting a friend from camp. A brave mom invited 7 kids to spend 4 nights with her and her daughter. They took the bus into Manhattan Sunday for a few hours. My kids had a great time.

I am ready for a return to routine. PRM