Strawberry DNA + Cheese

Two separate activities, of course. Homeschooling goes on, amidst everything else, and I’d like to report on what N is doing more frequently but, well, many things have fallen off the list here, replaced with super fun activities like cleaning and clearing all the things. It’s more of a priority to do the activities than blog about them, obviously. But I wanted to share some things from this week and lo! I have managed to.

Firstly, he is working through his chosen science curriculum, REAL Science Odyssey Level 2. It’s a challenge–this is definitely not just a review of things he already knows. Depending on the material, I have us cover a chapter in two weeks instead of one, so we’re just now starting Chapter 7, which introduces DNA. In one of my decluttering sweeps I found instructions for extracting DNA from strawberries, which we picked up years ago at an open house event at URI’s Graduate School of Oceanography. You can find lots of instructions online for this if you search. I like URI’s handout because the measurements are scientific and precise–in milliliters and grams–and it explains the why behind each step. The only thing I had to go out and buy was pineapple juice.

N is proudly displaying the test tube containing our results.

DNA extracted from strawberries at amyhoodarts.com

The DNA is that cloudy stuff right at the spot where the clear liquid (cold rubbing alcohol) and the pink liquid (strawberry mixture) meet. Here’s a close-up.

DNA extracted from strawberries at amyhoodarts.com

How cool is that?? So cool. Then we fished it out with a toothpick and looked at it under the microscope. You can’t see the double helix, of course, but it’s still so cool.

Earlier this week, he made cheese. Just about a year ago, he made his first couple of batches, and then…lost interest. He asked to do it again recently, and chose a dessert ricotta. The recipe called for citric acid powder, which we finally tracked down at the local Ace Hardware after striking out in all grocery stores we tried. The cheese was fantastic.

homemade dessert ricotta at amyhoodarts.com

We realized we needed something to eat it with, so we made cake. The next day I made ricotta cookies. We still have about half a pound of ricotta left, so I think I’ll make more ricotta cookies. This is a yummy project.

And one final thing related to homeschooling…the latest issue of Home/School/Life Magazine is out; my column is full of tips to make visiting an art museum with young kids fun for everybody. You can subscribe or buy a single issue of the magazine here, or try to win a copy at Mud Puddles to Meteors.

Working That Serenity

My youngest child turns six today. So of course I made her a new number shirt (using a freezer-paper stencil).

freezer paper birthday shirt at amyhoodarts.com

I used a different textile paint, a matte liquid paint that I suspect is just liquid acrylic, re-bottled and up-priced. She wanted purple, and it’s hard to mix a good pure purple with the textile inks I usually use. I think it came out really well (although I haven’t washed it yet).

I love these shirts.

As for the serenity I’m working? I chose that word as a reminder for 2014, in a nod to the work I’ve done being okay with uncertainty. And oh, 2014 has presented so much uncertainty! For a good chunk of the year, we weren’t sure if my husband would accept a job offer that had come his way, unsought. It was a process, and the decision-making needed the time it needed, and during that time, it was a possibility, but not a given. And now, of course, we’ll be moving. When? Who knows. Where? Not exactly sure. In the remaining days of October, my husband has two business trips, we’re hosting our daughter’s school friends for a birthday party, and we’re putting our house on the market. (That third thing takes place only four days after the party, and my husband won’t even be in town when the sign goes up on the front lawn.) We have all the regular things–school, karate, appointments. Halloween and costume planning and trick-or-treating. It seems like a lot for less than two weeks. I’m just working that serenity.

And the party! She wanted a Frozen theme, and we have some fun things up our sparkly ice-princess sleeves. That’s my main focus this week, along with photographing the various rooms in the house so the photos are ready for the listing date. I have my lists. I have Gilmore Girls to re-watch while my husband is away. I don’t have to conduct frantic pre-party cleaning/hiding stuff because I’ve been cleaning and decluttering for almost two months now. It seems to work best if I just focus on the day I’m in, and maybe a little bit of the next day or two. Things tend to fall into place. What it’s taken me all my life up until this year to really understand is that that’s true whether I twist myself into a nervous wreck about things, or not. So. I figure we’ll sell our house and find a house and maybe it will go seamlessly or maybe we’ll have to rent or stay in a hotel or who knows? I have a party to plan first. Hopefully I’ll post about our treats and trimmings later this week–but maybe it’ll take me until next week. We’ll just have to wait and see!

The Gift Knitting Has Begun

My brain needs some soothing knitting, the kind of thing I barely have to focus on but have to focus on enough to hopefully quiet the hamster that’s running around on his wheel in there. Every time I cross something off my to-do list I think of something to add. Our youngest is turning six this month and since it’s her first year in school, we invited all the girls in her class over for a Frozen-themed birthday party, and then we’ll list the house a few days later. That sounds reasonable, right? Plus there’s Halloween this month and the things We Always Do (corn maze, carving Jack o’Lanterns, costume design). My husband is traveling quite a bit. The boys have a big-deal belt test this weekend. Something’s going to have to give, and hopefully it’s not my sanity.

So, knitting. I like to have a supply of gifts for the village–you know, the ancillary people in our kids’ lives. Our 10yo has a couple of those people working with him right now, and I’m not sure if these will be holiday gifts or good-bye-and-thank-you-so-much gifts, but either way, I want to make sure they’re ready and waiting. First up, Evangeline, a fingerless mitt pattern that I adjusted to suit my own tastes. I can practically knit it in my sleep, I’ve made it so often.

Evangeline knit mitt at amyhoodarts.com

I modeled on my own hand, of course, because it looks so much better on.

One of the recipients seems like a scarf person to me, so I began another Saroyan. This is also a pattern I’ve made more than once, so even though I’m following line by line, it’s not terribly taxing.

Saroyan in progress at amyhoodarts.com

Here, I’ve done one repeat on the straight section.

I’ll probably make more mitts to have on hand, although my youngest’s teacher already has a pair from when my middle child was in her class…but my oldest’s teachers don’t have any of my knitting yet. We’ll see how it goes. There is much left to do in the half of October which remains.

Introducing Art Together Issue Five: Shape + Space

Art Together Issue Five: Shape + Space at amyhoodarts.com

Wow! I am really happy to have this finished! I love researching and creating these magazines (or I wouldn’t do it), and of course I like sitting down and making art with my kids. But I’ve felt so harried with getting our house in shape that finishing this issue was hanging over my head–I wanted it done and out in the world, not reproaching me, not quite complete, from my computer. Here it is. I hope you find it worth the wait.

All the information, and how to purchase, can be found on the Art Together Issue Five: Shape + Space page. You can use the code SHAPE20 for 20% off any Art Together purchase, and speaking of codes, MOVINGSALE is good for 20% off in my Etsy shop until we move. (I’m aiming for less to pack!)

I plan to get back to posting here more regularly. I’m not done with decluttering and such, but I am done with having no balance whatsoever. At some point, all the listing prep will be complete, but I need to not be a frazzled shred by then.

October. October!

Issue Five Cover at amyhoodarts.com

Coming soon–next week, in fact!

I didn’t intend to be quiet here for so long. But since I last posted, my days have consisted of driving, homeschooling, all the other mama things, and cleaning and decluttering. Most of that doesn’t lend itself to terribly interesting blogging, and even when I thought about sharing something (like that workshop I went to on executive functioning), it stayed a thought, because I’ve really been using all the spare time to clean. Let’s just say that while I am very good at keeping up with the daily necessities–cooking, dishes, bathrooms, laundry, snow shoveling, and so on–that the condition of the house is proof that I’d rather create something or get outside than deal with clutter and deep cleaning. And so it is that I’ve not drawn or painted or sewn or created or even written much more than grocery lists for much of the past month, while I deal with the fall-out of all that time spent at the beach or reading on the deck or carving a stamp. And while I don’t regret those past choices, I’m feeling a little prickly at the lack of creative time right now!

However, I am on track to publish the fifth issue of Art Together next week. A printed-out hard copy is coming with me tomorrow because I have some wait time and I like to proofread and copy edit on paper, not a screen. Making use of that time! It’ll be good to have this one out in the world.

And More Transitions

I’m still getting used to the new schedule. Between drop-off and pick-up, N and I are busy all day with his work, and then the next shift begins, with after-school activities and dinner. (Sometimes the former conflicts with preparing the latter.) I haven’t yet identified where I could squeeze in some pockets of time for me in this schedule, so I’m tired, but I know from experience it will shake out eventually.

Meanwhile, I can finally share (because it’s now definite) that we’ll be relocating from Rhode Island to the DC area, Maryland side, once we sell our house. So somehow, we need to deal with everything that’s cluttered up since we moved into this house almost 11 years ago and get it ready to go on the market. My husband and I both grew up here so this is a big change–but a very exciting one. I’ll miss this:

transitions 2-beach

Morning coffee at the salt pond behind the barrier beach–one of our favorite places, just 15 minutes from home.

But I won’t miss this:

Sometimes the snow builds up, and sometimes we get almost 2 feet all at once.

Sometimes the snow builds up storm by storm, and sometimes we get almost 2 feet all at once.

We’ve told the kids, and we’re helping them process the news and soliciting their ideas on what sort of house and community we’d like to live in. As the decision-making process was going on, my one request was that we remain together as a family. I didn’t want to end up in a situation where my husband was already in Maryland at his new position while the kids and I were up here, trying to sell the house so we could join him. We have a generous amount of time to relocate, but still, we need to get the house in order and start the process. So this space may be a bit quiet as I try to spend the pockets of time I do carve out to clean and declutter.

A Foot in Two Worlds

G first day of school

This child was very excited on her first day of kindergarten.

In the Venn Diagram of schooling options, the overlap between school and homeschool is probably the most difficult spot to be in. I’m technically part of both groups but not really fully part of either. I am a homeschooling mom, and I also have two kids in school. This is a difficult situation, to have a foot in both worlds. Some of the best benefits of homeschooling—freedom from the school calendar and daily routine—don’t apply here. We can’t take vacations whenever we want; we have to keep the school calendar in mind. We can’t sleep until our bodies say; I need to get all three kids in the car to drive two of them to school, and then N and I get back in the car in the afternoon to pick them up. The school decided everybody would get “depot” stops this year, so I’m either driving them to a bus stop because it’s too far to walk, or driving all the way to school. For now, I’m choosing to forego the new busing, which seems inefficient, with stops in unsafe areas as well.

I’ve seen two homeschool classes that N might enjoy and that would get him some time with other homeschoolers, but both run from 1 to 4 in the afternoon, over the state line in CT, and I can’t have him there and also get my other kids home from school. I’d thought, when our 5yo wanted to try kindergarten, that at least with her seventh-grade brother on the bus, if they beat us home by a few minutes, he was capable of escorting her off the bus and into the house, getting her snack and so on. But now I need to be there to pick them up or meet the bus with the car, so those homeschooling classes are beyond our reach.

Then, there’s school. My heart is in homeschooling. Much about school in general pains me. Yet I need to honor my children’s wishes to go, and so I do my best to provide what I feel school does not. I think they both have good teachers this year, and that helps. But there’s no hiding that I feel out of place at school. I never know how to respond when parents comment that they can’t wait for summer to be over, or what on earth will they do with their kids over school vacation week. I can’t wait for summer, to have all my kids together, to be free of adhering to an external schedule, for them to have the time to pursue interests not handed down by a teacher. I often feel like I don’t speak the right language when I’m at school. Over the years I’ve learned mostly to keep to myself, because I feel I’m always in danger of saying the exact wrong thing. And I obviously don’t think the school is wonderful for everybody, or we wouldn’t have withdrawn our middle child. I think the school is okay for many kids, and really good for some, and really bad for some, too. Writing that, I realize it describes a bell curve, which is probably about right for any school.

It’s hard to be very involved at school, too, because I homeschool. I’ve never regularly volunteered in classrooms. (Even when both boys were in school, I had a baby at home.) I try to attend at least one field trip, which involves my husband taking the day off to hang out with our homeschooled kid. Early on I did try to be more involved, but let’s say that decreased as my middle child’s difficulties there increased, and finally I mostly gave up.

It’s unproductive—but sometimes tempting—to think about what it would be like, all one way or the other. There’s no point in wishing it were different; this is the reality I have, trying to honor each individual child’s wants and needs. I’d probably identify myself as a homeschooling parent first, and I wonder if that’s even legitimate, given two of three children are in school this year. But it’s where my heart is, even as I go through the daily routine of packing school lunches, sitting in the pick-up line, checking folders for notes and following up on homework. It chafes, a constant friction between what feels most right to me versus what I’m actually doing. I know I’m not the only parent negotiating both homeschooling and school, but I don’t see it talked about much. And so I write about it, to perhaps begin a conversation.

Making + Listening::15/2014

A return to the making and listening link up hosted by Jen… this past week I printed a horseshoe crab linocut I recently carved.

horseshoe crab lino print at amyhoodarts.com

We found some horseshoe crab sheds on the beach earlier this summer so we took them home and I drew them and drew them again and painted it and finally carved one. A bit of testing and refining, and these are the final prints, drying. I’m using soy-based permanent ink, so when it finally cures and sets, I’m going to experiment with adding watercolor to a few of these. It’s incredibly satisfying to see how I’m getting better with lino carving.

Beyond that, this week my kids and I returned to some of our favorite places–rock tide pools and the salt pond beach–one last time before the oldest and youngest began school today. We’ve listened to gulls and lapping water, birds and katydids (they’re so loud at night!), shrieks of fun and splashing kids. I miss it already.

Transitions

I’m not ready for summer to end. Nope, not at all. Winter here was cold and snowy and dragged on and on well into spring. My oldest didn’t get out of school until the last week of June. He starts up again tomorrow, and our youngest will be joining him, trying out kindergarten. I have all sorts of mixed feelings about this. My heart is in homeschooling and all the serendipitous connections and freedom it allows. Watching my kids learn is amazing. I am sad about the academic-looking daily schedule we received that has no block labeled “playtime,” the 20 minutes allotted for lunch, the increased demands placed upon younger and younger children. But my extroverted girl wants to try it, so I’m swallowing my tongue, practically, at times and giving it a go.

On the plus side, I’m hoping our middle child thrives with the focused parent time with no sibling distractions. He’ll still be home, and he’s most excited about our new microscope.

new microscope at amyhoodarts.com

After looking at a few choices for science curriculum, he decided upon R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey Biology, and I’m super excited. I’m also impressed with the scope of what it covers, and how. (I have a degree in Wildlife Biology and took college courses in ecology, genetics, biology, and botany.) He’ll be using this microscope quite a bit.

at Beavertail State Park at amyhoodarts.com

He already knows a lot about ecology and habitats because of the things we like to do.

He also requested a curriculum to improve his spelling. He told me he’d enjoy writing better if he didn’t have to ask me to spell so many words for him. He had spelling lists in kindergarten and first and second grade while schooled, and predictably, he wasn’t at all interested in rote memorization of spelling words at that age. I don’t feel it’s developmentally appropriate, and felt that spelling would either come around as he gained mastery of reading, or he’d be motivated to improve it himself. And lo and behold, he is. After looking at several options, I chose Sequential Spelling.

We’ll be continuing to use Story of the World (we’re up to Volume 3) and A History of US for history, and Singapore Math for math. He reads voraciously, and writing happens organically. We’ll also be setting aside time for projects.

way up high at amyhoodarts.com

He loves to climb.

This spring and summer, we’ve been learning more about what makes our middle child tick and where he could use some extra support. Slowly, we’re building ourselves a village to help with this. It was suggested that I attend this seminar on executive functioning, and I have to say, I’m looking forward to it. Not the long drive or the long day, but getting useful information that I can implement at home, definitely. I’m glad we have the resources to send me to it.

So that’s where I’m at–sad that summer is ending, that it was so short, but trying to get in gear for a new season. I’m not happy about the shortening days, the crispness to the morning air, the signs of impending coldness and darkness. It feels like we only just emerged from winter! But I’m optimistic about what N and I can accomplish without distractions, and hopeful that my daughter enjoys kindergarten (because she is so excited about it) and that my oldest is finally challenged now that he’s in 7th grade. Transitions.