Tuesday, July 31, 2012

we are the pirates who don't do anything

ander is now five years old.

that fact was the first thing on his mind when he woke up, followed closely by, "can i have some cake?"  we had purchased his cake the prior day at the store, a round one in two layers with chocolate cake and chocolate frosting and nothing else on it.  it fit his requirements perfectly.  diana was pleased that it did not involve mousse.

no, we did not have cake for breakfast, though it was tempting.  it was reserved for his party.  a pirate party of epic proportions.  ok, not quite epic, but it did involve some planning and achieved the intended results.  everyone, particularly the honored birthday boy, had a good time, and that's what i was going for.

now, one of the things that really irks me is searching for things on the internet and finding that the links only provide a hint of ideas, not the actual ideas themselves.  i am all for sharing content and not reinventing the wheel.  i am perfectly fine with offering up what i created and making it available to other parents who want something really useful really quickly because they, like me, waited until the last minute to pull it all together and want to use what's pretty much on hand at home and not have lots of preprinted prepackaged stuff with movie characters we don't know.  so if this is what you need, have at it, fellow parent!

i've summarized first.  if you are interested in the details of any participatory songs or activities, please make sure to read on (and on and on) until you come to the thing you most want to know.

background music:

participatory songs:
  • i've got a pirate on my head
  • a pirate ship  
 extras that make things more special:
  • name tags with sailing duty
  • costuming 
  • walk the plank
  • decorate a treasure chest
  • put the eye patch on the pirate
  • pirate lingo
  • riddle treasure hunt 
i was considering a sort of rum punch for the mamas, but this was to be a family party, after all, and it was around lunchtime, for goodness' sake!

participatory song: i've got a pirate on my head
this is to be sung to the tune and in the style of "i've got a dinosaur on my head" by peter apel
(please note: i cannot take credit for the lyrics.  i don't know who came up with them.  i am grateful that they did, though, and that they were shared with my son and that he shared them with me.)

i've got a pirate on my head
he's been there since i got out of bed
i don't know how he got there, or what i'm gonna do.
i've got a pirate on my head.

i've got a shark on my head
he's been there since i got out of bed
i don't know how he got there, or what i'm gonna do.
i've got a shark and a pirate on my head.
chomp chomp!

i've got a fish on my head
he's been there since i got out of bed
i don't know how he got there, or what i'm gonna do.
i've got a fish and a shark and a pirate on my head.
(kissy noise)
chomp chomp!

i've got a parrot on my head
he's been there since i got out of bed
i don't know how he got there, or what i'm gonna do.
i've got a parrot and a fish and a shark and a pirate on my head.
squawk squawk!
(kissy noise)
chomp chomp!

i've got a treasure chest on my head
it's been there since i got out of bed
i don't know how it got there, or what i'm gonna do.
i've got a treasure chest and a parrot and a fish and a shark and a pirate on my head.
woo hoo!
squawk squawk!
(kissy noise)
chomp chomp!

i've got a pirate ship on my head
it's been there since i got out of bed
i don't know how it got there, or what i'm gonna do.
i've got a pirate ship and a treasure chest and a parrot and a fish and a shark and a pirate on my head.
land ahoy!
woo hoo!
squawk squawk!
(kissy noise)
chomp chomp!

i've got a pirate on my head
he's been there since i got out of bed
i don't know how he got there, or what i'm gonna do.
i've got a pirate...
i've got a pirate...
i've got a pirate...

participatory song: a pirate ship
this is to be sung to the tune in the style of "a ram sam sam"
(please note: i cannot take credit for the lyrics.  i don't know who came up with them.  i am grateful that they did, though, and that they were shared with my son and that he shared them with me.)

a pirate ship, a pirate ship
sailing on the ocean in a pirate ship
land ahoy, land ahoy
sailing on the ocean in a pirate ship

a patch on your eye, a patch on your eye
a parrot on your shoulder and a patch on your eye
dig for treasure, dig for treasure
a parrot on your shoulder and a patch on your eye

extras: name tags with sailing duty
this one came entirely from the mind of diana.

everyone got a name tag that identified their role on the good ship "bulldozer."  there was captain ander, first mate mommy, and quartermaster diana.  for our guests, she assigned the roles of sailing master, boatswain, carpenter, swabbie, and abs (able bodied sailor).


extras: costuming
i had purchased a pirate costume at sweet potato pie for ander for last year's halloween and was glad it still fit him.

diana wore her sailor dress and steve's navy dixie cup.

they both have wooden swords (named scalliwag) purchased from a woodworker at last year's scottish games.  the swords were carefully stowed away before the party guests arrived.

activity: walk the plank
our living room coffee table is solid and sturdy and made of wood and is plenty used to being danced upon.  diana had the brilliant idea of laying our blue comforter down on the floor to pretend it was water.  the kids "walked the plank" and jumped into the ocean, complete with an amazing array of sea creature stuffed animals.

the big kids worked on their activities and ate their cake in the ocean.  the little ones played fishing games and "swam."

activity: decorate a treasure chest
when scrapbooking with diana at michael's a couple of months ago, i went crazy with their cricut machine and cut out all sorts of piratey things for ander's party (see, i did do some advance planning).  i never got around to finishing the invitations, but i did manage to cut enough little treasure chest boxes for all the kids out of a nice textured brown cardstock.  i hot-glued the parts together before the party.

since everyone has a different idea of treasure and what the chest should look like, i provided materials (star stickers, foam letter stickers, and some really awesome pirate skull cameo fancy doodads) and let them come up with their own decor.  ander is a minimalist (or perhaps a realist?) and did not put anything on his.  it looked fine just the way it was, thank you very much.

i did not provide any contents for the chests - each of these kids has plenty of little treasures at home and the chests were meant for them to use as their imagination saw fit.  yes, gold-foil-wrapped chocolate coins (as pieces of eight) would have been awesome, but that's been done already.  plus i didn't think of it in time to get them from world market.

activity: put the eye patch on the pirate 
actually, we didn't get around to this one, because the big kids went off to work on their LEGO games and the little kids went outside to play in the dirt with construction machines.

the idea, though, is based on pinning the tail on the donkey.   this version would involve a large picture of a pirate and trying to stick a paper eye patch on the correct spot on his face.  i suppose i could have expanded it and have the kids try different adornments, such as a parrot, peg leg, hook, mustache, earring, and other things i wonder if pirates really did have.  maybe we'll do this for talk like a pirate day.

activity: pirate lingo
i pulled words and phrases from a random unverified, yet amusing, source on the internet.  this was designed to entertain imaginative 8-and-9-year-old siblings and was not intended to provide an accurate, historical education about pirates.  the idea was to match vocabulary words and phrases in "piratespeak" to their american english translations.

Ahoy (just like saying - Hello, my friends)
Thar she blows! (whale sighting)
Heave Ho (give it some strength and muscle)
Buccaneer (a Pirate)
Swab the deck (to clean the deck)
Savvy? (did you understand me?)
Blow me down! (expression of shock, disbelief, strong emotion, surprise)
Shiver me timbers! (expression of shock, disbelief, strong emotion, surprise)
Dead men tell no tales (expression indicating to leave no survivors)
Sea-dog (an experienced sea-man)
Avast! (Hey!)
Aye (another way to say - "Yes!")
Lookout (someone posted to keep watch on the horizon for signs of land or other ships)
Shark bait (foes)
Grog (generally, any alcoholic drink Pirate's drink)
Grub (food)
Sail ho! (I see a ship!)
Shipshape (well organized, finished, under control...)
Booty (loot or treasure)
Jolly Roger (a Pirate's flag - one with a white skull and crossbones over black)
Yo-ho-ho (something Pirates tend to say, whether it actually means anything or not)
Fair winds! (goodbye, good luck!)

activity: riddle treasure hunt
this is what was the hardest for me.  everything i found in my late-night exhaustive search came up with things i could purchase or suggestions of how to come up with riddles.  what i really wanted were the riddles.  there was one single, solitary one i could use, it's the second one listed below, and i'm so glad my tired brain remembered to try the familyfun website.  they have really great, practical ideas.  the rest of the riddles are of my own invention and you are welcome to use them.  i printed them in a funky font and with a scroll outline in ms word.

each riddle had the last rhyming word left blank.  the kids (again, this was for the older siblings at the party) had to figure out the word to determine where they would search for the next clue.  i used inside and outside locations around our house.  the final clue led them to the treasure, ie. The Cake.   it was hilarious watching the kids scramble over each other to figure out the location and race to it.

Before he can hoist anchor and set wind to the sail,
He needs some directions.  They’ll be sent in the ____.
As any pirate ought to know,
This is where tomatoes ____.

Pirates sailed on their ships, yelling hardy-har-har.
Now people roll along the roads, comfy in a ___.

Looting can get dirty, so a pirate must rub-a-dub-dub.
If he’s especially grubby, he must bathe in the ___.

Pirates like to sing and dance a jig upon the floor.
When they want to keep a secret, they’ll whisper behind a ____.

Hearing of a pirate’s life, you may wonder if it’s a fable.
I’ll tell you though, I bet it’s true they can drink you under the _____.

When a pirate is tired, he can rest his head.
On a ship he’s got a hammock, but on land he gets a ___.

When a pirate wants to eat, there better be no shovin’
If you want to get some cake, better check in the ____.

ander said it was the best birthday party.  his friends sang "happy birthday" to him, he blew out candles, he ate cake, and he played with construction machines and space LEGOs.  he wants to do it again.  so we'll put candles in his slice of cake and diana and i will sing to him and we will play again.  every day should - and can - be this much fun, right?

there is a special place in my heart for the families who celebrated ander's birthday with us.  ander considers the little ones his friends.  diana considers the big ones hers.  and i consider the mamas mine.  our compatibility replenishes my spirit.  thanks to them for taking photos and videos, for giving such thoughtful gifts, and for being some of the reasons i am happyer at home. 

and for those of you who are wondering about the title of this post, it comes from the veggietales silly song of the same name.  we have the ultimate silly song countdown dvd and find all of the songs on it to be absolutely, utterly hilarious.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

clock of fate - guest post by diana

diana here, to talk about my new book!
here's my prologue for my completed book, clock of fate. enjoy!
please leave a comment if you want the entire story!
When the midwife pulled the baby from the dying mother, she was shocked. The baby girl already had a lustrous length of red hair, and she did not cry. Her eyes were a brilliant shade of purple. The girl weighed only 4 pounds, and was thin, not chubby like other babies.
But the midwife did not look at or pay any attention to these strange occurrences. She stared at the girl’s breast. For there, above the baby’s heart, was a gold timepiece with a glass front set into the flesh.
            As the girl grew older, living on her own, she began things only when she was told she would by the clock in her breast.   From this you’ll see that the clock told the girl’s fate, and only she could read it.

Friday, July 27, 2012

if you've got a big job, you better get a big mah-chine

one of ander's obsessions (along with LEGOs and anything to do with traveling in outer space) is construction machines.

not just any construction machines, mind you. ALL of them.  dump trucks, bulldozers, cement trucks, cranes, excavators, front-end loaders, backhoe loaders, skid steer loaders, graders, and compactors.  he can identify them by sight, knows the names of most of the parts, and can tell you their primary features.

he watches his favorite videos over and over and over:

i love big machines 2 (the songs on this one are catchy; we sing them all day long)
i dig dirt (there's a song on this one, too, but not quite as much fun after the 20th time)
all about heavy construction equipment for kids (love the genie in the thermos bottle)

these are about real machines, mind you, not toys.  he does play with toy versions, though, in the gravel driveway and the dirt around our plants in the garden.  our upstairs neighbor has a backhoe loader that ander wants to play with every morning as soon as he wakes up and in the afternoon after his swim lesson.  and a couple times in between, too.

we also look for construction machines working whenever we are driving.  most people i know try to avoid construction zones - we actively look for them.  and if there is a street with no traffic and some workers out on the site, we pull over so ander can watch and wave to them.  if there is a route where we've seen construction machines out before, we must drive that route again to see if they are still there.

i think i really made his day today, though.  while diana was in her watercolor art class, ander and i went to woodland tractor and equipment.  we went in and asked if we could climb up on the big machines we'd been admiring all week from the confines of the car in the parking lot.

they said YES!

i let him loose to explore anything and everything he wanted.



the bulldozer was his favorite.  he spent lots of time climbing up, down, and over the treads/tracks, checking out the rippers in the back, and pretending to move the levers around.

afterwards, we went back in to say "thanks" to the very nice man and he even offered us popcorn on the way out.  we indulged and looked at the chainsaws on display.  

we'll be back again, i'm sure.  what an awesome place.  ander wants the keys to one of these bad boys.

i am happyer at home today because i found a way to bring a dream into reality.

p.s. after i posted, i thought about the books we are reading about construction and wanted to share:

big wheels by anne rockwell
tonka: if i could drive a loader by michael teitelbaum
tonka: if i could drive a crane by michael teitelbaum
construction zone by tana hoban

music that touches my mind and heart 2

i used to watch bob ross on my local pbs station and loved to listen to his voice and watch him paint.

now i can watch and listen to him again, thanks to pbs digital studios.

now i can add this to the list of other songs/voices that make me happy, like carl sagan and mr. rogers.

i am happyer at home because these voices remind me of happy times in the home where i grew up.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

i did it!

the past few days have held several moments of joy for both kids, times where they felt a great sense of accomplishment and confidence in themselves.

at her last diving class of the session, diana was able to catch a ring thrown to her in midair while she dove off the board.  she had been frustrated with her previous attempts to do it, so the success was all the sweeter to her, because she recognized she had done something challenging.

ander, while waiting for his soccer practice to begin, decided to try climbing the rock wall at the playground.  he needed me to spot him and help guide his feet the first few times, then he did it on his own.  over and over.  each time, i could see that he was looking and feeling carefully for hand- and foot-holds, and he was so very, very proud each and every time he climbed on his own, saying "i did it all by myself!"

i cannot reach the top of this wall from the ground, even standing on tippy-toes with my fingers stretched way over my head, just to give my readers some perspective here.

we headed back to old sac for another time travel weekend where diana was going to dance with her group again.  her experience last week led her to practice more this week and spend concentrated effort in her class to work on her steps.  it also gave us time to talk at length about how this kind of performance is different than what she may have been used to seeing or participating in - it's expected that the other dancers will clap and yell her name and whoop and holler - and knowing this, she could feel encouraged rather than distracted.  she also had the time to adjust to the change of venue - outdoors on an impromptu stage is different than indoors in a dance studio or even on an indoor stage where she has practiced on and off for a couple of years.  i have not really been an onstage performer, so while i can appreciate that it takes effort to figure out how to adjust to a different size and kind of floor, i don't know it firsthand (i'm sure dancers and actors know it well - that's why there are dress rehearsals, right?).  it can also be unnerving for a young (or any age?) performer to have a line-up or song order change up until the last minute until, or even during, a performance.

she handled it adeptly.  she handled it much better than i did, for example, when i was not there with her shoes or the rest of her costume on time.  unbeknownst to me, the performance time was set for 11 am, not noon, and so ander and i were off enjoying our first ice cream of the day when i got a phone call from her, asking very calmly for me to get there right away, as she was getting on stage AT THAT VERY MOMENT.  she went out and danced the first song in her socks without any problem, even completing the opening step she was sure she wouldn't have the timing right for, but did.  then she had her shoes and smiled and was charming and entertaining for the remainder of the performance.  despite being super hot, she enthusiastically came out to the audience to hug ander (at his request) after each of her songs, then went quickly back to prepare for the next one.

yes, both of her feet are well off the floor here.
i'm still kicking myself for missing that opening dance and not capturing it on video to share with steve.  diana was disappointed, too, that ander and i were not there because she thought it was her very best one.  at least i saw her each and every other time she came out onto that stage with a smile on her face and definite springs in her step (which for irish dance is especially important).

her teachers talked with both of us afterwards about how diana did this time, and so did another reenactor who had been there for last week's performance.  it's lovely to have such positive and specific feedback, especially when it's consistent with diana's self-evaluation (she can totally tell when people are bull@#$%ing her about her work or just trying to make her feel better, trust me.)

diana had been nervous that morning, as expected.  but that day was amazing for her.  she spent a lot of time in the green room for the reenactors and she watched performers rehearsing with each other.  she saw the villain and his son working out their duel moves for the melodrama "the villain's revenge" and it suddenly became clear to her that the excellent performance she had seen them give on the stage of the eagle theatre was the result of hard work and plenty of practice before and in between each performance.  she recognized that she was among others, like the ladies from the ballet russe in the "new golden melodeon review," who spent time and effort dedicated to honing their craft and did not stop once the performance was over - there was always an opportunity to improve.  she loved being in the green room and feeling like she belonged.

the kids weren't the only ones who felt proud of themselves.  i did, too.  i saw each of my children step away from the comfort and security of my attentive care, venture out and try something new, and succeed on their own.  they experienced for themselves that they were capable and strong.  it wasn't about me telling them they could do it, it was about them telling themselves they could.  and through each moment, i stepped back and bit my tongue.  i did not offer any words on my own, i responded only when they asked for my feedback.  i didn't say, "i knew you could" because it didn't matter that i knew, what mattered was that they knew.  i cheered and hugged and congratulated and glowed quietly on the sidelines while they shone in the spotlight.  i was proud of myself, too.  that was evidence of my personal growth.

i believe that my continuous close presence and involvement with my children allows them to blossom in their own time.  letting diana cling to me (emotionally and physically) when she feels she needs to gave her the courage to walk off on her own, confident that she was ready to take on a personal challenge without me right by her side.  under my attentive guidance, ander is learning to gauge with greater accuracy what he is capable of physically mastering.  i do not throw them into the deep end of the pool, counting on my confidence that they will learn to swim.  i encourage them to wade in the shallow water first, staying as firmly attached to me as they desire, moving away and then back and away again as they gain their footing.  i am in no rush for them to become independent.  i do not wish to be a force that pushes them out or pulls them along.  i want to be the steadfast tree with roots planted firmly and branches that give sway in the wind, strong yet flexible.

i am happyer at home because i am home to and for my children.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

book review - clockwork by philip pullman

book review by diana: philip pullman's clockwork

"absolutely terrifying, but you get drawn in, really like clockwork.  once you start (or wind) it, it has to run its course.  a truly amazing yet horrifying story."

i wonder if this review is enough to include (or exclude) the book from next year's homeschool book club list.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

dancing back in time

old sacramento is currently hosting time travel weekends.  diana was invited by her irish dance teachers to participate in a perfomance last weekend.  it took some convincing to persuade her.  she has performed in public before, but this would be the first time without any of her fellow students from her class.

she's been asked to come up and dance with siamsa at the scottish games each spring, where she first saw them perform and was inspired to take lessons, but without her dance shoes or preparation for which dance it would be, she's declined the offer.  this time, we got a little notice beforehand and she had time to get comfortable with the idea.

and, she was to be in period costume, so that's more fun!

last year at woodland's stroll through history, we purchased a brown bonnet for dress-up.  at last saturday's farmer's market, diana found a pretty apron she just had to have, and we recognized the very same delightful lady had made it!

add the apron to the pioneer girl-style dress and matching bonnet we acquired via freecycle from another woodland resident, and diana had her outfit ready.
despite being nervous in anticipation of the performance, diana enjoyed being dressed up and belonging to the crowd of re-enactors.  rather than viewing the dances as a spectator, she was living the whirlwind excitement as a performer.  she received enthusiastic applause and encouragement from fellow dancers and entertained audience members.

the activities afterward at the victorian academy held great interest for her, especially constructing a cornhusk doll, which she named cornelia, and learning the skill of making a button whizzer work.  ander was particularly enthralled by the mechanics of the sewing machines.

it's going to be a scorcher next weekend, according to the weather forecast, hotter than last time, but the kids and i are gung-ho for going again.  diana will dance (mama might actually use the video feature on the camera correctly and capture a lovely snippet) and make another doll, ander will likely sew something, and maybe we'll get ice cream after watching the new golden melodeon review in the eagle theatre again - it was highly entertaining, and somewhat cooler than being outside.

ok, maybe two ice creams.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

camping - a family first

all four of us went camping together for the very first time just before steve departed across the country for his new job.

i am not what one would call a camper.  i did stay in a tent a couple of times in my life, i think, but it was when i was much, much younger.  before kids.  before being married, even.  i like the creature comforts of home: hot running water, flushing toilets, you know.

i'm so glad i stepped out of my comfort zone to do this.  it was magical.

italian soda
strawberry smoothie

mocha something
iced pumpkin chai from dutch brothers

across the sf-oakland bay bridge

coit tower, one of ander's favorite sights in sf

steve getting our tent ready

jen and linus, camping buddies extra-ordinaire

ander, sela and diana checking out the big climbing tree at our campsite

gazing at the pacific ocean

half moon bay

mountains, trees, sand & surf, relatively secluded campground - perfect!

despite the season, it was chilly in the morning.  been here in ca for three years and i still marvel at cool nights and hot days.  it's not like that in the midwest or the south.

we had nighttime visitors.  most everything was locked up tightly, so all we had in the morning was a lot of muddy footprints to clean up.

first-time kite flyer.  he's a natural, that boy of mine.  bodes well for flight school and space travel later in life.

i meant only to wade in up to my shins at most.  i didn't pay attention to how big the waves could be.  that water was really, really cold.

many, many thanks to our homeschool friends who made this a fantastic experience for us in many, many ways.