Dorothy, and talk of scorpions

First a picture or two of Dorothy, to soothe the easily spooked:

So, yeah. Scorpions. I saw one about a month or so ago, and had planned for it accordingly, e.g., no beds on the floor anymore, clothes and toys kept picked up, check shoes before wearing, and so forth. Then the guys who are doing some interior work got into the ventilation system and WHOA NELLY. “It was like Indiana Jones in there!” said Terry. So I was right. When you see one scorpion there are definitely more.

Today I will find out what to do about them. The acute problem and the chronic one will likely have different solutions. I’m pretty confident that I can keep them down with boric acid and diatomaceous earth once we get rid of the ones currently partying in our air vents. Also very glad the house only has central h/a downstairs.

So far in my life I have dealt with fleas, wasps, mice, meal moths, cockroaches, ants, black widows, rats, ticks, and now scorpions. Never bedbugs or lice though!

(Yet. Shudder.)

Halloween prep

I waited too long to do Halloween costumes, eek! But I think it’s okay. This year we have two Rainbow Dash, one Scootaloo, one Minecraft Steve, one dragon princess, and PBS. Guess who that last one is, heh.

I need to make pony ears and pin dragon wings to a shirt. Also feminize the fit of a too-baggy shirt. All while minding a rather uncharacteristically upset baby! Today my friend T and her kids are coming, and I think Sophia.

But this is what I’m doing instead.

Et in Arcadia ego.

Since we are moving to the sticks next month (AKA the land of expensive capped bandwidth) I have been tasked with ways to put our family on a data diet. We use a LOT of bandwidth. 8 computer users in the house along with streaming video. We were blowing through around 200GB a month!

In the sticks we get 25GB. So, quite a crunch. Here’s what I’ve done.
I set our Roku device to force lower quality streams. It now uses 270MB for an hour of video. We were using around 1.5 GB. That’s 82% less! Before I figured out how to set it at the Roku level I set the streaming quality at Netflix, which could help someone reading who watches on their computer instead of the TV. But we also watch Amazon so I needed a deeper solution. By the way, to access the settings page for your Roku using the remote, hit Play 5x, then Rewind 3x, then Fast Forward 2x, like on an old Nintendo. I chose 0.6 Mbits and it’s fine for our television size and viewing distance.
Now, our video wasn’t all of our internet but it was a substantial portion. I also set Youtube on every computer to “I have a slow connection.” That helps. I will have to curb my Google Plus habit (sob!) and switch to Twitter for all my inane microblogging needs. And there will be more here too, no doubt. 

A Really Short History of Nearly Everything, by Bill Bryson

A Really Short History of Nearly Everything

This is great! I read the book it’s based on, Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything, several years ago, and this one takes the feel of the other book and condenses it into an illustrated kid-friendly tome. The drawings are reminiscent of the mammoth-machines in The Way Things Work by David MacAulay; very cartoonish but informative.

Highly recommend.

Poetry Friday: Happy Faustine’s Day

Every February 15th, I pledge my love to my Faustine, Sean. And every year he returns the favor. I have learned that the Faustine’s Day holiday is not universally celebrated, which confuses me, because it is a feast of a Roman martyr (and his brother, Jovita), beheaded by Hadrian. I am told there is some other such martyr who has a feast about the same time, who seems to get a lot more attention.

Anyhoo, the great thing about Faustine’s Day is there are frequently excellent sales on the sort of thing one would give one’s beloved: heart-shaped chocolates, flowers, pink teddy bears, and so forth. One thing lacking every single year, however, are Faustine cards. Sean always makes me one, with an illustrated poem, which follows.

Faustine, Hero of Love
by Sean Gleeson

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Long ago, in Roman days
Faustine went to and fro
To spread God’s love, His word and ways,
And Jovita, Faustine’s bro.

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On the city streets he’d preach,
And the alleyways thereof.
“Amo, Amas, Amat,” he’d teach.
I love, you love, He loves.

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But the man in charge was bad
Hadrian the Great.
The emperor was spitting mad!
Haters gonna hate.

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“I shall kill Faustinus dead
To stop his words of love!
Make a trophy of his head!
Jovita’s too, by Jove!”

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Faustine chuckled at the king.
“Our heads are yours to lop.
But love is an eternal thing.
It can neither die nor stop.”

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So Faustinus spilt his blood
For love of God and Man.

Be my Faustine, if you would,
And I’ll be yours if I can.

More Poetry Friday entries can be found here.

skoolin, churchin

I’m ready for the next semester to start! Sixteen weeks, here we come. I’m going to use Famous Men of the Middle Ages along with A Child’s History of the World, and only sparingly dip into Our Island Story. The anti-Catholic bias is becoming apparent the closer we get to ‘Enry VII.

I went to Latin Mass again! I missed it so.

Oh drat, a child is coughing.

december

We passed a stressful December. Sean, Faith and Abby made an unscheduled trip to Chicago to see Sean’s family and were gone for nearly a week. That was tough. While they were gone, Gloria fell ill with influenza which has been working its way through the rest of the family since. Bede is sick now and the rest of us are done with it. Thank goodness.

Christmas was nice though! We celebrated Christmas here and then went to my parents’ house for Boxing Day and an extended family party. The children are pleased with their gifts, I think, which were selected with care and love. I don’t have many pictures of it though.

Gilbert got this neat-o racetrack, Neo Track. It has a bajillion pieces but it’s bendy and easy to use. Highly recommend. Even though Bede’s favorite thing is to take it all apart. They also got one of those spring-steel insta-tent things that’s a big hit. Many (many!) books, Toy Story 3, lots and lots of blocks, wooden railway, hmm, did I mention books.

Bread and Jam for Frances Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel Warriors Super Edition: Bluestar's Prophecy How to Be a Pirate [HT BE A PIRATE] The Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book One: Lightning Thief Deluxe Edition There's a Wocket in My Pocket!Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard Volume 1 Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator The Princess Tales, Volume I The Princess Tales, Volume 2 Flags of the World Richard Scarry's Bedtime Stories (Pictureback(R))

And there must be more.

tricky memory

This morning, Trixie popped up next to the computer here, clutching at my arm.

“Mama! Come see the party Gloria and I made for the toys!”

I obligingly got up and followed her, feeling how small her hand still was in mine. I was led to the little kids’ room, where an extravagant fete was laid, with block lemonade and blanket cakes.

She beamed at me.

I oohed and aahed, and while I did, I thought, she won’t remember this. Because Faith and Abby don’t remember all the hundred times I did the same for them.

So it’s my job to remember for both of us.

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sisters

One of the best things I ever did was have children.

And one of the best things I did regarding having children was have these two fifteen months apart. At the time, everyone thought I was crazy (many still do, no doubt!) but I knew it was going to be awesome.

IMG_0108 (Here they are giggling and chattering and discussing things of great import, such as snoring and Adam Young’s hair.)

These two kids are inseparable. They are different, in looks and in interests, and in personality. Abby is reserved, but with a bubbly sense of humor beneath the surface. Faith is a person of deep and outspoken passions, and a total goofball. Together they are a set.

I’m so happy to have them.

today

We had a very exciting week last week. Thanksgiving and visiting friends and then recovering from those things, then several children were sick.

To do:
Dishes
Sweep living room and dining room
Homeschool math and lit and history and science
Bake bread
Make turkey noodle soup

What I’m doing instead of peeling spuds

I should be making the mashed potatoes. I use Pioneer Woman’s recipe – it’s below – and man are they good. They get made tonight and get plunked in the fridge until tomorrow afternoon, at which point I reheat them. They are amazing mashed potatoes.

But instead I’m, well, now I don’t quite know what I was doing, because since I started this post I’ve been called away from the computer several times. Once to start a child’s shower. Once to end a child’s shower, and dry off said child. Once to discuss with the oldest child exactly how her life is filled with uncertainty and pathos because she has not yet seen the latest episode of Hannah Montana. Answer – it is not, actually thus filled (cf. Haiti, Afghanistan, Korea). Ah but look, now! She is brushing her teeth without reminder! Woohoo!

So I guess I best get hoppin’ on those potatoes.

Here’s the recipe.

still more whinging about internet addiction

I know this is tiresome. Don’t read it if you’re bored with me.

It’s already happening. I went back to Facebook, like, a few days ago and already my brain is fragmented. I can’t handle it. I forget things in the time it takes to walk to another room or to boot a computer. I know some of this is normal and human but there is a striking difference in my abilities.

Also, I’m such an addict, and I don’t use that word lightly. I feel anxious about not using the internet. I get a little happy surge when I do. This is bad.

In just days I went from 20 minutes to a few hours wasted on Facebook and that nefarious new-stuff-bringer, Recommended Items in Google Reader. The sad thing is there is so much good to be had from the internet but I can’t keep the bad away from myself. I haven’t got the will.

I think that’s it then. Do I have the guts to deactivate Facebook entirely? Let’s see.

deciphering the spoken word

Me: Did you have fun at the store with Dad?

Bede: Um. Yes.

Me: What store did you see?

Bede: Yes. Spongebob Squarepants.

Me: What was the store named?

Bede: Bede Gleeson.

Me: (slower) Was the store Crest or Walmart?

Bede: Oh. Um. Crest!

The above demonstrates why it is best to think carefully about what words to use! Bede seems to hear about the last third of a normally-paced spoken sentence – maybe it takes him a good three to five words before he begins to process it. So that means he heard something like this:

Me: noisenoisenoisewordnoise at the store with Dad raisedinflection?

Bede thinking – must need a response because her voice rose – store with Dad – I went to the store with Dad. Yes. I did.

Bede: Um. Yes.

Me: noisenoise see raisedinflection?

Bede thinking – response again – say ‘yes’ – wait, this is easy, though, who lives in a pineapple under the sea!

Bede: Yes. Spongebob Squarepants.

Me: noisenoisenoise ..ore named raised inflection?

Bede thinking – My name is Bede Gleeson.

Bede: Bede Gleeson.

Me: noise the store Crest or Walmart raisedinflectionthennormal?

Bede thinking – Oh! She wonders what store we went to! It was C-R-E-S-T. Crest!

Bede: Oh. Um. Crest!

That’s with no other noise either, we were in a room alone. More difficult to get with any other sounds, especially speech. Honestly it’s amazing he does so much! He wants to communicate, to understand and be understood. Just like everybody else. What a great guy he is.

(Bede this summer)

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Mostly what I do is clean things.

I make things and clean up. I clean up what other people mess up. It’s tiring.

Sean gets things. It’s got to be a similar sort of futility, to be bringing home, oh, milk every week. Didn’t I just buy milk? he is heard to say. We’re out already? Really? Yes, I say. Already.

Our food budget is high, I think. It averages out to something like $80 per person, per month. I feel like that’s high. I feel like I should be able to get it down to $70, or even $50. $50! Wow. Imagine that.

But that means I have to make more things. Even more things. And it’s not the making as much as the cleaning-after-the-making that is wearing me down, man.

My usual response to this feeling is to get rid of stuff. Because if it isn’t a source of good it’s a source of pain, and I’m anti-pain. Especially stuff-related pain. I think a clearing of the house is in order.

sickness, homeschoolers

Everyone is sick with a cold here. Gloria and Bede were the worst hit today, feverish and wan on the couch. Faith was very bad off yesterday but is much improved. So far I have not succumbed; I hope for the best.

It brought homeschool to a halt though. I did nothing today. Faith is reading Beorn the Proud and Abby is reading How to Train Your Dragon, and they both spent an hour or so reading, so i guess that’s countable.

We have the movie for How to Train Your Dragon but neither I nor the older girls and G-Lo have seen it. We would have watched it with everyone else but instead we went to a homeschool event on Saturday. It was a discussion followed by a hands-on demonstration of solar panels and wind generators – but we didn’t watch that part. The kids were far more interested in the dozen-plus homeschooled kids on the playground, so I wandered thataway instead. I talked with a charming homeschooled teenager named Chris and another homeschooling mom named Kara. Kara also has six kids, the oldest aged ten and a girl – who was playing with Faith and Abby as we spoke.

I was yet again struck by the ease and grace the multi-aged children exhibited in their social actions. I so rarely see that in groups of institutionally schooled children. Within minutes these kids, most of whom had never seen each other before, were playing with abandon. The younger kids were included and tended to if they got knocked down or squished. The difference between this Saturday and the last event we attended with institutionally schooled kids was very plain. Not to say that nonhomeschooled kids are mean, but they are stiffer socially across age groups, and slower to socialize. Maybe because they have been rebuffed in the past, whereas homeschooled kids generally have more positive experiences? Who can say.

It’s ironic that homeschoolers are badgered about “socialization”!

Also noteworthy was a visit from our friends the Roykas. Yall need to come more!

Beorn the Proud (Living History Library) How to Train Your Dragon Book 1

BOO!

Halloween is tomorrow, but TPTB decided we would trick or treat tonight.

Here are the Glees.

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Gilbert is the Tenth Doctor, Bede is Scrat, Faith is a gas mask “Muuuummy” zombie, Trixie and Gloria are both Dorothy Gale, and Abaigeal is Queen Elizabeth.

This was the first time out for both Bede and Gloria and they both did smashingly well. Bede attempted to go in the first house we hit, then gradually got the drift and by the last house was scripting the whole thing like a pro! Gloria’s adorable “Happy HalloWEEN!” thrown over her shoulder as we walked off each time was awesome.

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Gil and Faith

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Dorothy #1, telling me “I don’t know how to make a Dorfy face.”

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Scrat shows us his squirrel tail.

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Queen Elizabeth

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Dorothy #2

Just One More Thing

So we finished Rome, which was great. That tipped us back into the world of Netflix Watch Instantly, and we decided to continue working our way through Columbo.

I love Columbo. The disheveled coat and messy hair! The ancient, sputtering Peugeot convertible! The dog! Sigh.

Everyone underestimates Columbo, of course, which is part of the fun; watching the killer as he goes from magnanimous and self-assured to agitated and hostile, peppered incessantly by Columbo’s absentminded but penetrating questions, is one of the best things about the show.

Last night Sean and I watched “Mind Over Mayhem” from Season Three. It was fun. It has

A clunky chess-playing Robbie the Robot
A child genius
Charlie X of classic Star Trek fame
Jose Ferrer
Beep boop beep cybernetic supercomputers
Dog

While not the best Columbo ever, it was tight, and watching the robot type! on some sort of teletype machine! was awesome. The entire series is on Netflix Watch Instantly. I especially liked:

“A Stitch in Crime” with Leonard Nimoy
“The Bye Bye Sky High I.Q. Murder Case” about a Mensa-esque group
“The Most Crucial Game” with Robert Culp and Dean Stockwell
And, probably my favorite of all, “Fade In To Murder”, with William Shatner, playing a television detective in a delightful bit of meta.

That’s all for now, ma’am. Oh, wait, just one more thing…

late night

I was up for a large part of the night because Trixie had a coughing fit and needed the nebulizer (she had fallen asleep before taking her nightly antihistamine, and woke at around 3:30 wracked with spasmodic coughing) and also because Sean and I stayed up too late to watch the series finale of Rome.

That was a pretty good show.

So I slept late, and as a result I’m useless today. The girls are ready to learn some new concepts in arithmetic and I don’t think I have it in me. Later in the week. We’ll do our read-aloud and perhaps a smidgen of some other subjects. I think I’ll reteach one or both of them how to knit.

I need to make bread. Best get that going. Yawn.

Rome: The Complete Series