Friday, April 13, 2018

Sibling Harmony

Luke and Amanda are learning a fiddle/violin piece. I love it!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Recently I helped Luke's classmates make geodesic domes out of newspaper, using this website:
It was very satisfactory: the kids learned about the importance of measuring accurately, keeping track of progress, and how something that looks unimpressive to begin with can be actually amazing at the end.  I was even amazed ("It works!  Math works!" I exclaimed as the kids put the roofs on) and I've done it before.

To give the kids something to look at, we made a sturdier but smaller dome out of straws. I used this website, which has a mix of complete, accurate directions and pictures and vague, inaccurate directions, as well as nice pictures of a chicken run geodesic dome:

One important note: you actually need the following numbers of straws:
  • 90 long (7 3/4") straws, for 6 pointed stars
  • 50 short (6 1/2") straws, for the 5 pointed and partial 5 pointed stars at the bottom, and 
  • 70 medium (7 1/2") straws for connecting the edges of these stars.

The other things that are helpful is to realize that any 5 pointed star could do for the top---so to continue the design, make all the 5 pointed stars have the same configuration around it.  It also helped to look at his paper domes: those were much easier to figure out due to their color.

So here is an attempt at a picture of our dome, rather the worse for wear from being played with by elementary school children.  You can see that it really is sturdy, though: after going through through a couple car rides, being used as a tree topper, being squished through doorways (it actually goes through sideways quite nicely) and the aforementioned children, it still has its characteristic shape.

Saturday, December 9, 2017


At some point in my life, I am going to open a restaurant.  Its name will be, "Caramelized."  All the food will come out 10-20 minutes after you expect it, and will have a blackened crust, or blackened flakes (probably the onions) floating in it.  Every once in a while there will be a fire alarm and everyone will have to leave while someone opens all the doors and lets the smoke out of the kitchen. 

The motto will be, "It's not burnt, it's caramelized."

Not that I have any experience with this type of cooking at all.  Sigh.

Friday, December 8, 2017

A swiftly tilting planet

Most days we go on our merry way without being aware that we are hurtling through space at millions of miles an hour.  The other day I saw something that made me take notice.

Eleanor and I were driving to school, and as we drove up the hill out of our neighborhood we saw a beautiful picture of the moon and Venus framed by the trees on either side of the street. It was beautiful, and Eleanor took a picture with her phone.

A month later, we were driving at the same time, and saw the same arrangement of the moon and Venus, but it was over to the right, no longer framed perfectly by the trees.  We had moved, the moon, had moved, Venus had moved... It looks like we are on solid ground, but the earth is not actually as static as we assume.  And I'm sad because that picture won't come around again until next year... when my life will have moved to some different place as well.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Frontiers in growing up

The other night I was exhausted and feeling ill, so after getting Luke to bed (early, because he was sick as well) I told Amanda, "You need to put yourself to bed.  Get to bed at a reasonable hour."

Eleanor piped up, "Oh, you get 'reasonable hour' privileges!"  It struck me that the choice of when to go to bed one of the stepping stones on the road to adulthood.  Giving someone that privilege is not an assumption that they will always make the right choice (ask me whether, as a supposedly responsible adult, I always go to bed at a reasonable hour!). On the other hand, it does assume that the person can judge what the reasonable hour is, take steps to get to bed at that time, and take responsibility for their mood when they make a mistake.  The final step in responsible adulting involves evaluating whether what you did worked well, and adjusting your actions so that they are more constructive in the future.

Unfortunately for Amanda, I then looked at the clock, decided it was a reasonable hour, and sent her to bed.  I'm sure the responsibility will fall more on her shoulders in the future.    

Tuesday, December 5, 2017


Luke helped decorate the Christmas tree today---he's home sick, but you don't always feel like lying on the couch if you are sick. 

He decided that the glass ornaments should be put on the lower branches, because, "If the tree falls, they are less likely to break."  It wasn't too long ago that putting the glass ornaments on the lower branches made it more likely that they would break.

He also helped check every light on a string to find the ones that were burnt out so that the string would light again.  In the course of going through the lights we found some that made the string blink.  He wondered how it worked---after all, the bitty bulb wasn't big enough to have a computer controller in it.  When he looked inside at the bulb he saw a thick strip near the filament.  "A bi-metalic strip! That's brilliant!"  He was impressed by the genius of a bi-metalic strip for the next few hours.  I wonder if that's how they really work...

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Note to self

I asked Amanda if she wanted to bring her violin on this year's vacation to see grandparents.  It can be fun to make music with cousins and it is good to keep up on practicing while traveling so you don't lose your progress. It also gives structure to the days which can sometimes be long and boring.

However, Amanda said that she had written a note to herself telling her not to bring her violin along.  I understand that, I make imaginary notes to myself all the time.  But then she got out her notebook and showed me a page on which she had written, "Note to future Amanda: Do not bring your violin on a vacation."  Not an imaginary note---there it was, in black and white.  So we didn't bring the violin this time.  I think future Amanda appreciated the foresight.

Poor Luke plays piano.  On the one hand, he absolutely cannot bring his instrument along with.  On the other hand, many places have pianos and then he can practice.  We are still working out when we make him practice and when we don't.  On the one hand, after Music Camp he complained that there had not been a piano to practice on.  When we went to VA for family vacation he enjoyed improvising and playing for family, but we didn't have music and he had lost some of his skills so that he stayed on his pieces for a few more weeks.  And this week he has a piano and music (thanks to his aunt and his grandmother) but he doesn't want to at least learn the music so he can move ahead at the next lesson. So we will see if the minimal sessions we do at least keep him from losing his skills.

(Luke complains that he is actually in the right and I am wrong, and I am making it sound biased in favor of my opinion.  I invite him to start his own blog and tell his own story about how mean and awful his mother is.  I will certainly read it.)