Je ne regrette rien

Homeschooling: Little House in the Big Woods

Posted in 100 Things, Book Babble, education, Homeschool, life, new orleans, Parenting by Amy on March 10, 2009

book-bigwoodsI remember when I was in third grade. Somehow, I had convinced my mother – who then had to convince my penny-pinching Irish father – that I wanted needed the complete collection of Little House on the Prairie Books. I grew up in Wisconsin. Every day, after school, I ran home from the bus stop to watch Little House on the Prairie from 4pm – 5pm on channel 9. Ten miles from my home, we had our own little pioneer village. I was at one with Half Pint. My mother purchased the books for me, and boy, was I proud of them! SO proud, in fact, that the very next day I took them to school for show and tell. Unfortunately, on my way to show and on my way to tell, I fell down in a snow bank and the paperback copies of the books were destroyed. I was heartbroken, ashamed, and afraid to tell my mother. I told her, she assured me it was ok, but I didn’t ask for anymore books after that, afraid the same thing would happen again.

Now that my daughter is eight, I am forcing introducing her to Half Pint, Mary, and Baby Carrie. Reading the Little House series is apart of the curriculum that I have created for her. I think it teaches her a lot of important things, as well as teaching her about the area that her Mama comes from.  This has an added appeal to her, as I she received the first season of the television show on DVD as a Christmas gift and we do have a lot of fun snuggling up with one another in my room and watching it while my husband productively spends his time playing Resident Evil or some other zombie killing game in the living room.

Our vocabulary for the first book, Little House in the Big Woods, is as follows:

basque
basswood
bladder
brindle bulldog
butcher
buttermilk
calico
cameo
catechism
churn
cowhorn
corset
crescent
curlicues
curried
deerlick
delaine
fawn
fiddle
fierce
flannel
flatiron
flounce
gaiters
griddle
gunpowder
gunstock
hasty pudding
headcheese
hearth
heifer
hickory
hoop
hull
jackknife
johnnycake
kerosene
lantern
latchstring
mink
mufflers
muskrats
muzzle
panther
pantry
petticoats
quivered
ramrod
ravine
rennet
rind
sap
savage
scalp
shock
slender
spareribs
spices
stalk
stout
sulk
thimble
thrashing
thresh
threshing machine
trough
trundle bed
venison
washtub
whetstone
whey
wisp
woodbox
yearling

We use this words as our spelling words and as practice in using reference books.

We have been making our bread from scratch, so she gets a bit of an idea of what goes into that. We also made two batches of Apple Cinn. jelly. Next week we are making cheese!

Easy White Cheese

Great for breading and frying, stir-frying with vegetables, or by itself, this mild cheese will keep refrigerated for one week.

1 gallon milk
2 T. lemon juice
3 T. white vinegar

Pour milk into a large enamel pot. Slowly bring the temperature up to 180F. This may take an hour. Stir frequently to prevent scorching, and hold the temperature at 180F for four minutes. Combine vinegar and lemon juice and add to the milk, stirring gently, until the curds separate form the whey. Line a colander with cheesecloth, and pour the contents of the pot. Tie the corners of the cheescloth together to form a bag and let it hang to drain for three hours. The cheese will be solid when its ready. Wrap and refrigerate. Yield: one pound. Variation: Herbed Easy White Cheese — Add 1� teaspoon dried chives and � teaspoon dillweed to the curds before hanging.

And we are making maps of Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Of course a Little House in the Big Woods unit would not be complete without making a handkerchief doll.

And our poem for memorization is :

Pioneer Dolls

By Judie Fordham

Judie Fordham, “Pioneer Dolls,” Friend, July 1992, 27
When pioneer children were crossing the plains,
They didn’t have cars, airplanes, or trains.
They walked beside wagons loaded clear to the top
With food, bedding, and seeds for the next season’s crop.
There just wasn’t room for a toy or a doll—
The wagons were filled with all they could haul.
So Papa’s handkerchief became a new toy,
A cherished soft doll that brought lots of joy.
This cute little doll loves to play or just sleep.
She’ll brush away tears if ever you weep.
So keep her close by—she’s easy to hold—
And pretend you’re a pioneer child of old.

Our big project, though, is to make a log cabin and all of the furnishings inside. The Dollar Tree has craft sticks for $1.00 and although it is a long way from actual logs, that is going to be the walls to our cabin. We are going to gather small rocks and clay for the fireplace.


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Book Blabber: Dirty By Meredith Maran

Posted in Alcoholism, Book Babble, life, Mental Health by Amy on February 6, 2009

dirtybookI enjoy non-fiction in all types, but particularly enjoy books that introduce concepts or exploration and follow with examples and stories of individual experience to illustrate concepts, inquiries, and argument. I wasn’t exactly sure what I was picking up when I picked up Dirty: A Search Inside America’s Teenage Drug Epidemic By Meredith Maran, but I found it at the library sale and thought that if I didn’t learn anything from it, perhaps I could pass it onto the social worker at my daughter’s school.

Teenage drug use is a subject that hits home for Maran. She reveals that one of her son’s dove deep into drugs in his teenage years. She looks inside the adolescent drug rehabilitation industry, drug courts, and juvenile detention facilities following three drug-using teenagers: Mike, Zalika, and Tristian. The three kids come from different backgrounds, have different dysfunctional familial units, but all find themselves constantly in and out of trouble over drug use. It was an interesting book as you follow the kids. It was also a heartbreaking book.

I don’t understand drug use. Call me a square or lame, but I don’t.

The first time I ever saw pot was when I was covering a band and watched as the bassist smoked pot from an apple. The only reason I was able to see this is because I was backstage watching the show. That was this year. I am thirty-two. Coke, Meth, Crack. None of that registers to me, except from what I have seen on Intervention or Sober House, and I ask my husband questions about drugs all the time. He has his BS in Psychology and worked briefly at a detox center.

I cannot understand what leads someone to use drugs. let alone become extremely dependent on them. From what I have seen, people act like idiots when they are high. They do stupid things. They get into trouble.

What keeps some people from getting involved in drugs and what keeps some people from not? What trigger goes off in a person’s head that leads them to decide that drugs are a place to go? I understand feeling hopeless. I understand feeling despair. Perhaps the thing I don’t understand is feeling.. desperate? I’m not sure. I think about this, though, and think about my children. Will the split custody affect my youngest two badly and will they be likely to turn to drugs, particularly since the one parent that would monitor that will have them less than the parent that needs to be monitored himself?

Or what about the kids I interact with at my daughter’s school every day? What is going to stop them? How many of them are going to be Mikes or Zalikas?

At any rate, an interesting read, leaving me to question one thing:

If AA and NA want people to admit that addiction is a disease – which is medical – why do they expect people to depend on a higher power – which is spiritual – to fix it? Just wondering.

Retreat!

Posted in 100 Things, Book Babble, Crime, life, Mental Health, new orleans by Amy on February 6, 2009

Last Sunday I was mugged in what I considered one of the safest places to be in this city. It has left me paranoid, hopeless, angry,  pissed off, and determined to not let some jerk-off run me out of this city. Many will say this is foolish of me, this determination to stay and fight, but they just don’t get it. This isn’t just a place to live. This isn’t just a city. This is New Orleans, dammit, and that MEANS something – regardless of how foolish our mayor behaves or what work is still left to do. It’s like a greek organization – from the outside looking in, you can’t understand it. From the inside looking out, you can’t explain it.

So, instead of going to the book club on Sunday like I intended (Sorry Elizabeth!) I ended up sitting in my home, on the couch, near fetal position, jumping at every noise, waiting for my husband to get home. I spent a lot of Monday like that too.  And Tuesday. Yesterday morning I picked myself and wrote a proposal for my daughter’s school, hoping to set up a Parent Association, which will hopefully turn into a PTO at some point. I set up a few shows to cover. Scheduled a couple of interviews. Did some writing. Tried to make things as normal as they could.

I am taking it easy for the rest of the week. I am starting to get a case of the respiratory virus going around and for me, that’s not good. So, I shall stay inside my bat cave and read. This is my happy place. It would be a happier place with a Snuggie, but alas, no Snuggie yet. Though I did get told my a friend of a friend that they are itchy and like cheap felt, not fleece. Am tempted to go to Wal-Greens and feel for myself.

Nothing really interested or entertaining going on, except trying to make it through what happened on Sunday.

And listening to music. Eyehatgod, Black Flag, The Smithereens, The Misfits, and The Ramones.

Bits of Randomness

Elizabeth Wurtzel annoys me. Really, she just does. Right now I am sentenced to reading each of her books and to get through them has been a pain-stakingly difficult process. I just want to tell her to buck up, make better decisions, and quit action like she is the voice of my generation because, dammit, she is not MY voice, nor is she or was she ever the voice of my friends. Excuses, excuses. That is all that I am reading. Someone needed to really hand her a life where she didn’t have the opportunity to make excuses, but had to be busy living so she could survive.  It isn’t that I don’t understand mental health or mental illness or addiction. I DO. It’ s just every book, every essay, and every article is the exact same thing.

Yes, I am over-dosed on Elizabeth Wurtzel at the moment.

Class today was great. The kids were so excited to see me today and gave me a great welcome back. I helped them with geometry, learning about symmetry, and did some correction of English – work on commas. I leave the classroom with a full heart, despite some of the difficulties and problems I witness, I always do. I am excited to go back tomorrow. Tomorrow is creative writing.

I thought it was interesting that the kids were talking about the murder of Wendy Byrne. Half the class is split that the parent’s turned the children in because it was the right thing to do, the other half believed the parents were sick of dealing with the children and didn’t want them anymore so that is why they turned them in. I think that is interesting, though I am too tired to look at what that really means. Another interesting thing happened today. My daughter came up to give me a hug and one of her classmates that has taken a particular shining towards me asked, “Do you guys do that a lot? Hug?” I told him that yes we do. He then told me that his family doesn’t. That broke my heart. I told him that my family wasn’t very affectionate either, which is why I make sure I am affectionate with my children.  I told him that he would have to make sure he did that with his kids. He said he was never going to have kids, not with how crazy the world was. I thought that was very astute from a nine year old, and a bit sad, too.

I am reading a book on human trafficking written by  Linda Smith, who served in the U.S House of Representatives for Washington state, and founded of Shared Hope, International. Shared Hope, International is an organization founded to fight human trafficking, being inspired by a trip to India and seeing young girls caged up and sold for sex. Her organization has done a lot of work. In reading the book, a short little number, it is difficult not to cringe as she describes what she has seen. If you can get past the calling-from-God-isms that she writes about here and there in the book, I suggest going to the Shared Hope website and request your free copy. More needs to be done. I am currently reading more about human trafficking in the United States, particularly in Louisiana, and the things that I am learning – it is disgusting that people are treated this way.

My daughter was very sweet tonight and left a card on my bed for me. It was a thank you card and inside she wrote:

“Mom, Thank you for loving me so much and everything you do from cheering me up to making me smile. I love you like a puppy and will take care of you every day. Love E”

I totally needed that tonight, as I was a tad bit cranky. I have the best daughter. I really do.

John Updike March 18, 1932 – January 27, 2009

Posted in 100 Things, Book Babble, life, Writing by Amy on January 28, 2009

upd0-0041“A leader is one who, out of madness or goodness, volunteers to take upon himself the woe of the people. There are few men so foolish, hence the erratic quality of leadership in the world”

John Updike

New Orleans: Out on the Porch

Posted in 100 Things, Book Babble, life, new orleans, Uptown, Writing by Amy on January 26, 2009

porch_1308Today is one of my favorite kind of days in New Orleans.  The street is quiet, except for those walking home from church. My neighbor is in her yard, raking. The sky is overcast and the temperature is cool. And I sit on my porch, with a throw blanket and cup of coffee, breathing it all in. This is the New Orleans I love, the New Orleans were strangers wish you well as they pass by, where you can feel the history and the struggle and the triumph that this city has faced with grace, standing strong and standing tall.

There are about a million things that I should do today.  Not thos fun things that adults are required to do, like laundry and dishes or mopping the floor, but those things can all wait until tomorrow. Today I am going to sit here, out on the porch, and curl up with a book, notebook, and pen, and just enjoy this.

For anyone interested, Blue Cypress Books on Oak St. is going to be having a book club meeting, their first, on February 1, 2009 . The book they are reading is Toni Morrison’s A Mercy. I am pretty dang excited about that! Y’all should take a stop down at Blue Cypress Books if you get a chance. I absolutely LOVE this book store and never leave empty handed. And you can trade books in for store credit, too! They just started a frequent reader program that awards a free book after the book mark is filled. LOVE IT.

I am also considering trying to form a writing group in the Carrolton/Oak St. area. If anyone would be interested please e-mail me at theharpy@live.com

Book Blabber: Latter Library Sale and Mr. Book Hoarder

Posted in 100 Things, Book Babble, life, new orleans, research, Uptown by Amy on January 25, 2009

latterlibrary18 lib 1I love Wednesdays and Saturdays for one reason and one reason alone –  the book sale the Latter Library on St. Charles Avenue.

I am like a little kid on Christmas morning, waiting anxiously for Mom and Dad to wake up so I can tear into my gifts, seeing what surprises are hidden inside each beautifully wrapped box. I look at the clock, tap my foot, look at the clock some more, try to wake my husband up, watch the clock, try to wake my husband up again, and as soon as it hits 9:45 am, I am waking him up with an edge in my voice, wanting to go see what treasures I can find. As soon as I get there, I follow the same routine. First I look in the books that have had movies made from them, then the award winning books, then to the children’s section, self-help section, and ending with the trade paperbacks. I never leave empty handed, leading to the problem of too many books, not enough space that I am trying to tackle in my house now. Everyone wins with the book sale: owners get rid of old books hanging around, I get new books to hang around, and the Friends of the Library raise money for things needed in rebuilding the library system. The way I look at it, the more I spend, the more I am helping, right?

It may seem like such a simple thing, a library book sale, but how many of you get to go to a library that was once the mansion of a silent film star? Yeah, I didn’t think so. *sticks tongue out*

There is only one thing that burst my bubble on library sale day. PMS, Whiney Child, Cranky Husband, More month than money, illness, rain, sleet, snow

Mr. Pseudo-Intellectual, Book – Hoarder.

You see, every time I go to the book sale, which is nearly every week, twice a week, Mr. Pseudo-Intellectual, Book -Hoarder gives me and my husband the stare down. He sees us coming, he clutches onto his books a little tighter, starts searching a little harder, and douchebags it up a little better. He has watched us, my husband and I, and has studied us. He knows that I look for classics, while my husband looks for first editions of local and regional writers. He knows that I have a fetish when it comes to old, hardcover books. He knows this because, we intimidate him. Why? We could potentionally scoop up something that he missed.

He will hover over those work the sale, watching as they bring new books out, making sure he is the first person to see what is newly in place to be sold. While he is busy preying, his books sit on the stairs, and he will not be afraid to let you know that “Those. Are. Spoke. For.” as he pushes up the glasses on his face that have slipped down. Normally, I browse around him, knowing what his gig is, preferring to simply not acknowledge him.

Until today.

You see, Mr. Pseudo-Intellectual, Book Hoarder is too busy hovering and preying and hoarding to wander into the back rooms where the memoirs and the trade paperbacks call home. Me, well, I prefer the back areas – less people and more time to truly consider your choices! Today I came upon a heck of a find – Surprised By Joy by CS Lewis – Second Impression – from England – from 1955.

As we were in line, behind him, he noticed the book. My husband happened to be holding onto it, as I wanted him to check it out and my hands were full and books were close to falling out of them.

“Can I see that?” he stammered.

“Uh, yeah, sure man, ” my husband said, looking at me.

“Is that a first edition?” he asked, hovering over my husband, like a striped hyena hovering over a bird egg. I swear I saw him wipe the corner of his mouth, a direct result from the salivating he was doing at the thought of a first edition C.S Lewis book.

“No. It’s second impression, unfortunately.”

You could see the color drain from his face. He was clearly disappointed. Why, I am not sure, since my husband was holding onto the Holy Grail, clearly intending on bringing it home to the Promised Land.

“It is still quite a find, ” he said, almost like he was waiting for us to tell him to go ahead and take it.

“Honey, ready?” I said to my husband, waiting for that final book until our transaction could be complete and we could be on our way home to laze away the afternoon and read our new finds.

As we walked away, I looked at my husband, who was looking at me.

“Can you believe that guy?” my husband asked.

“No kidding, right? Every single week it is like this. You know, I really wish it would have been a first edition so I could have seen the look on his face as we walked away with the one that got away.”

Moral of the story: Don’t be a Mr. Pseudo-Intellectual, Book-Hoarding Type. There are enough books to go around for you to hock on E-Bay and for the rest of us to enjoy.