Friday, April 2, 2021

Writing Again...

 I feel bad that I only seem to get on here once a year now. In my defense, the past year has been very hard. Aside from trying to keep everyone healthy, continuing to work at the library, and shopping for my parents, we discovered a neighborhood feral cat had kittens under our house. They were very cute, but after we caught, tamed, and adopted them out, the mom showed up with a new litter. I guess our house is very safe to her. We ended up keeping two from the second litter and also made sure to trap and spay the mom. I think all the money we saved not going anywhere last year was poured into vet care.

 On the plus side, we ended up with these lovelies: 


Life goes on. Today I got my first vaccine. My parents are fully vaccinated and just started doing their own shopping again. My husband and oldest two will be getting their second shots soon. Little by little, we return. Not back to normal, not by any standard from before this started, but back into the world after a long separation.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Sudden Homeschooling: A Beginner's Guide

I thought it might be time to dust off this little blog since it seems like there is a sudden surge in homeschooling thanks to covid-19. Who would have thought that there would be a time when children across the globe would be asked to stay home from school for an extended period and practice distance learning? Yet here we are.
So, dear parents, do not fret. Your kids will be fine. Some advice: 
  • The idea of having the kids home 24-7 can be overwhelming, but it is also an opportunity to deepen your relationship. 
  • Let your child have a few days to decompress. As much as we are worried about the pandemic, our children also worry because they can see our concern, even if we try to hide it. 
  • When they do hit the books, take it slow. Remember that they are no longer in a class full of students. Don't worry too much about creating school at home. A lot of classroom time is eaten up in quieting kids, collecting homework, and making sure everyone is learning at the same pace. You don't need to devote 45 minutes to an hour for each subject. Let your child set the pace. Spend extra time on things they don't understand and less time on exercises they figure out quickly. 
  • Don't forget you can learn in different ways. A cooking lesson can teach weights and measures, fractions, chemistry, and physics. Have them study the behavior of a pet or identify the birds outside their window. Try switching the language on a DVD they've watched several times. Find a book to read together. Play Scrabble or Chess. Use your imagination, and theirs.
Above all, take it one day at a time. Take a deep breath and let it out slow. You've got this, mom and dad.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

New Chapter

The beginning of March I started working full time as a library clerk. This whole month so far has involved adapting to my new role. I haven't worked full time since before my oldest was born. She's going to be 26 in a couple of months.

The biggest change is that we will now have health insurance through my job. I've never had that responsibility before. We also bought a second car, because the logistics of getting everyone where they need to be with one car required a time turner. From all of this, my first two weeks as a full time employee involved more paperwork than I've had to do since we bought our house. Maybe more. I need a break from adulting.

I am relieved to have health coverage now. Our coverage through the NY Marketplace took a big chunk of our income every month, and even with that I still had to get two of my asthma meds from Canada because we could more easily afford that than meet the $5000 deductible for our drug plan. The price for basic medications is ridiculous. Two of my maintenance drugs were $300 each for a one month supply, and my rescue inhaler was $50 for the generic. Of course, it had to be the exact generic our insurance would pay for, even though they didn't seem to be paying for it. And while it is a relief to leave the system behind, I would still like to see a better universal healthcare set up for my children's sake. No one should get substandard care because of income level. Not even income level, simply the lack of a full time position with benefits.

The sad part of my new job is that I won't get to spend as much time in the Children's Library. I loved getting creative with the window displays and helping kids find a book that made them happy. On the bright side, my daughter will now take on work as a clerk (along with her page duties) and she will get to step into some of the hours I'm leaving. It's a good job to have while she's working to break into the art world.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

A Milestone and a New Project

Another year is almost finished. This year I turned 50. It's pretty neat to reach the half century mark. I think of it as a new beginning, a chance to throw off the second stage of my life where I spent my time being a mother of young children, teaching them, hoping I'm doing everything right. Now they need me more as an advisor. I'm enjoying working at the library and going back to my artwork. Lately I've been working on a group project with other creative people (including my oldest). It's called the Arc of the Moral Universe: a Notebook Project. Each of the participants keeps a journal for a year. In it, we interpret the theme however we choose. Some are writing, some drawing, some are doing a mix of both. My own interpretation is that the Arc bends around the heart of humanity. We find our moral center through our shared humanity, and one of the ways we connect is through music. When I hear a song, sometimes a lyric will get me thinking. Images appear. And that's been my inspiration. Here is a small peek into my book so far.

 This first drawing uses the lyrics from Mother and Child Reunion sung by Paul Simon.
 The next drawing was inspired by lyrics from Big Yellow Taxi sung by Joni Mitchell.
This drawing uses lyrics from Oh Very Young sung by Cat Stevens

Friday, August 31, 2018

Life After Homeschooling - A Catch Up Post

This is the first year I don't have to report anyone. After twenty years, I am done. No more quarterly reports or IHIPs. Finished.

This has been a difficult final year, made more difficult by a part time job at the library and my youngest child's anxiety issues. To summarize the last year and a half, we had a good therapist, she left, and now we have another therapist. There have been improvements, but it is a process, two steps forward and one step back. Add to that the uncertain nature of our health care and it has been quite a ride.

I enjoy the library. It's nice to be surrounded by books. I split my time between different areas, so I don't get bored. The front desk is hardest for me as I always second guess myself, which is not the best way to be when you have an angry patron who can't understand how they accumulated so many fines. The children's room is my favorite place to be. I work alongside the librarians to help kids find that book that will light their love of reading, and I reassure parents that their kids will be fine even if they aren't reading at a particular level. I also make seasonal displays. Here is the display I made for the summer reading game, Libraries Rock!

This summer I spent time at the Teen Desk as well. Just so you know, teens are awesome. They are also loud at times, like when they are playing games. I was there to keep the peace. It was nice. They have such incredible energy, and if you can direct it, they will make you proud.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Garden Variety Lifelong Learning

The busy never stops in our yard this time of year. On the one hand is the weeding, mowing, and watering. On the other hand is the photographing. I take a lot of pictures as the local wildlife starts coming in to enjoy the garden. Lately, a hummingbird moth and a hummingbird have come around to sample the bee balm blooms. It's frustrating and shows me how much I don't know about photography. And the hummingbird harasses me by hovering in front of me, daring me to get a good shot. Every time she returns I experiment with my camera. Lesson one: make sure the battery is charged. Here is a sample of my work from the past four days. Click on the picture to enlarge.

The moth was easier since I could get closer

I have a birdwatching setting. It works except the wings can disappear in the blur of flight

Similar issues with the moth's wings

Getting better. Nothing like a full charge on your battery!

I can almost see the wing. Almost.

Luckily, even hummingbirds need to rest

She stretched and flew off again

Day 4, I learn about the shutter speed setting
I hope to continue improving as long as she comes to my yard. And as long as I can hold out against the mosquitoes.

Friday, July 14, 2017

The Hall of Justice Cake

For my husband's birthday, he asked for a cake that was DC themed.


It's never a good idea to be so vague with me. I decided to go retro and make a cake that looked like the Hall of Justice, from my childhood memories of the Super Friends. Why? Because the Watchtower looked too involved and it was hot. Really hot. And humid. It's not fun to bake in hot and humid weather.

I started with my buttermilk chocolate cake recipe and made one and a half recipes. The method of using chocolate ganache as glue worked so well in May, I figured I would do that again. FYI, it doesn't work when the temperature is in the 90s. I spent a lot of time waiting for parts to set in the freezer.

The front part of the Hall of Justice was decorated with buttercream frosting. The back section I used whipped cream frosting. FYI, whipped cream is also hard to work with in hot and humid weather. I think I fought this cake from beginning to end.

I used a Pirouette cookie for the columns on the front. Next time I will just pipe them in with frosting. Apparently, nothing sticks to these cookies. Or maybe only melted chocolate does, but I didn't buy white chocolate for this cake. 

 The sculpture in the reflecting pool was made from broken pieces of sugar cone. I was happy with how the sculpture came out.

Birthday season is now over for the year. I'm thinking I should try to make a cake or two in the fall, just to keep in practice. It would be fun to make some designs without the pressure of a birthday deadline.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The 2017 May Birthday Cakes

My father's birthday is usually the kickoff to our May celebrations. With Easter so late, and a second cake to bake at the end of the week, I pitched an idea for the kids to make for their abuelo. I present to you the Scone cake. It's one and a half batches of Buelo's favorite treat, drizzled with chocolate ganache. It actually made a very light tasting cake.

The second cake would be a challenge. My youngest requested a cake that depicted a scene from Steven Universe: The Strawberry Field which was the Gem Battlefield. I baked a chocolate buttermilk cake and used buttercream frosting for decorating. Marina baked chocolate sugar cookies to use for the background mountains and shrubs and the Warp Pad (their transporter). I also skewered strawberries with little plastic cocktail swords. It looks like a stage scene. You really can only look at it from the front.

 Marina's birthday was next. I think she knew I really wanted to try making Lion from Steven Universe. Lion is a velvet cake decorated with whipped cream frosting. Melted chocolate was my glue to hold the pieces together and to detail the eyes and nose. I think the face is a little too flat. I baked a smaller cake for it and I should have sliced it on more of an angle. I also almost forgot to give him ears. Good thing I had plenty of cake scraps to work with! The eyes are slivers of marshmallow decorated with melted chocolate.

The final cake would come five days later for my son's birthday. I used both a velvet cake and a chocolate buttermilk cake for this one. He planned to play D&D that night and go out for his first drink, so I made cupcakes for him to bring to his friends. The base cake is a layer of chocolate cake and a layer of velvet cake frosted with whipped cream. Then I made buttercream frosting to decorate Aku, the main villain from Samurai Jack. My son had actually requested Scaramouche's head, but I thought Aku would add some color. (Who wants a gray cake?) Scaramouche is a cyborg that was cut apart by Samurai Jack. He's made with one and a half cupcakes frosted with buttercream. His spine is made from a Pirouette cookie. (Yes, I bought a whole tin of Pirouettes so I could use a piece of one cookie. It was a very hot week and I didn't want to do any more baking than necessary.)

In all, it was an incredibly busy May, between birthdays and work and some meetings. I'm glad I have a month's break before my husband's birthday. And just a note, I have come to depend upon those two cake recipes. When you have to bake so many cakes in quick succession, you want to rely on a recipe that is tried and true. Save the experiments for low stress baking!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Happenings: Sculptures by my Son

In case you were wondering, May is still hard, except now it starts in April.

I will post the May cakes after my son's birthday. He turns 21 this year. I haven't figured out what his cake will be yet. He just finished his spring semester at the community college. I think he has a bit of me in him. He always thinks he's doing worse in some classes than he actually is.

He also tends to surprise me with a conversations like this:

Him: So the student show opening is 11:00 to 1:00 tomorrow.
Me: And you're telling me now? (The time is 8PM)
Him: I told you I had a piece in the student show.
Me: But you didn't say when it would be.
Him: I just did.


So we went to the student show, and luckily it wasn't at the same time that I work. It's nice to see his work recognized when I had to "nudge" him a bit to take the sculpting class. I've watched him create sculptures from the time he was two or three. Here he is with his sculpture, made out of 100 plastic forks.

He also worked hard on this arm for a performance art piece for the same class. The fingers on the hand and the arm are rigged so he can move them with his hand and arm. I asked how he learned to do that. He recalled seeing it done on a short-lived reality series where contestants vied for a position at Jim Henson's Creature Shop. You never know where you are going to pick up a new skill.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Seasonal Changes

I think spring is finally starting to stick. We had a flush of crocuses in the yard that lasted about a day before a deer came and ate the largest bunches.

The pussywillow is coming to the end of its bloom. Snow delayed it twice. This is a valuable first food for the bees. I was happy to catch a few in action.

The goldfinches are throwing off their winter feathers. Their showy, bright yellow plumage is a welcome bit of sunshine at the feeders.

When my children were little, it was my greatest pleasure to take them out in the early days of spring to look for the signs that winter was almost over: tree buds, red-winged blackbirds and grackles, first flowers, early insects, spring peepers and birds singing. All tell the story of the season and the promise of life's renewal.

May you enjoy the longer days in the northern hemisphere.
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