Sunday, February 28, 2010

Harry Potter Obsessions

For weeks, Aleks has been listening to the Harry Potter books in mp3 format. We had books 1 and 2 on tape, which he finished awhile back over the course of several months. Then, we got hold of the rest of the books and put them in our iTunes library. I was able to load one book at a time onto our tiny iPod and he would carry this around the house. He would spend hours in the basement, jumping on the trampoline and listening to the soft cadence of Jim Dale's British accent. I particularly like when he does Hermione's voice, "'arry!"

Sometimes we would all listen together through the computer while Aleks drew, I cooked, and Bastian made endless games of relational battles and negotiations between his toys.
Aleks started drawing Harry Potter inspired images. Here is a wizard casting a Patronus. He decided his own Patronus would be a snake. There was a drawing depicting as much, but I was unable to find it.He also added HP creatures into the creature card rotation. Here is a phoenix.
Another creature card shows a basilisk.
Aleks began watching all six movies intermittently as well. One night last week, he wanted to watch all six straight, but didn't get started on the first one until late in the evening and fell asleep soon after the second one started.
He's been asking tons of Harry Potter questions all the time, wearing his Slytherin cape almost constantly, brandishing a wand, shouting out spells at random, carrying around our miniature Marauder's Map, and even decided that if he went to Hogwarts, he'd have a dragon deliver his mail instead of an owl. His dragon would be named Scabs, which I thought was a pretty gross name. He decided that Bastian would also have a dragon deliver his mail and its name would be Frank. He drew a picture of these as well.

Then, yesterday morning, Aleks finally finished listening to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (book 7). Aside from asking if certain characters had really died during the last chapters, there were not many questions or much discussion at all. He announced that he'd finished and then, the first thing he did was get out his tape player and the set of tapes of Book 1 and began listening to the whole series all over again.

Yesterday evening and today, he spent most of his time listening to the tapes and playing Wizard 101 on the laptop in his room.
I've created a monster. ......Actually, I love it. I'm thrilled that he's getting into chapter books, even if he's not yet reading them himself. The world is rich, the archetypes are dynamic, and there are certainly worse ways one could spend one's time.

We even bought special headphones (designed for children to limit the decibel level and save their ears)and an armband for holding the ipod so as to avoid losing it to frequent dropping (especially while on the trampoline).

The Place With The Moons

Bastian said he wanted to go to the place with the moons. He tried to explain what all was there - toys? food? I can't recall, but it was garbled and I couldn't figure out what he meant. He had been at the Natural History Museum with friends a few days earlier, so I assumed they'd gone to the room with, well, all the moons in it, and that this was what he meant. So, I gave a trip to the museum a shot.

Boy howdy, was I wrong! He did not mean the Natural History Museum. Aleks finally figured it out though. Bastian meant Borders. Of course. Why I didn't think of that is beyond me. /sarcasm

He meant these moons. Those would be the moons and planets and stars and comets and cosmic dust that decorate the floor of the children's section at Borders. We figured it out because he talked about puppets. Their puppet rack is quite impressive lately and the boys have enjoyed playing extensively with the puppets when we've visited.

So we went to Borders later in the evening after dinner (which also took quite a bit of convincing on my part to wait that long). I asked Bastian while we were there why he never plays with the puppets at our house. He said he doesn't like our puppets. He only likes the puppets at Borders. Admittedly, their puppets are pretty awesome, but we have a lot of puppets that never really get used. I keep holding on to them, realizing that the boys have quite a few years of childhood left. Well, at least a few years, anyway.

We went to the cafe after a bit of puppet play to get our usual hot chocolate. I drank tea and started reading Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. I liked that first chapter quite well and want to get the books to read to the boys. I'll probably get them from the library and end up reading them alone. Ah well.

While in the cafe, Bastian watched two men playing speed chess. He was thoroughly impressed and talked about wanting to learn how to play. I don't even really know how to play chess. Aleks talked about strategy and wondered how they thought up their strategies if they were playing so fast. I recalled friends who play a lot of chess and how they learned different strategies from books, how they were patterns they learned to remember and run through automatically. I told this to Aleks, but I don't think he quite understood. I barely know how to articulate the matter myself.
Bastian continued to watch carefully between sips on his hot chocolate. When the players accidentally knocked pieces onto the floor, he picked them up and set them back on the table for them. They were very friendly with us and we watched until the store closed.
At home, he got out our HABA chess set, but we haven't found time to sit down and play just yet due to deadlines and illness. Mostly, he's played with the pieces in whichever way he sees fit, which is the same way he plays with all his toys and guys: they battle and talk and cooperate and negotiate and make sound effects whilst he throws his body around on the couch.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

It Is Cold, Yet We Venture Out

Frigid temperatures have kept us indoors for some time now (in addition to the busyness/illness/laziness combo). I decided that something must be done about it, however, so we tromped over to the Natural History Museum after speech therapy to renew our membership and check out what I thought Bastian had meant when he said "the place with the moons." It turns out, he was very upset about my getting it wrong, but due to having to pick up Papa and already being there, after some fit-throwing on his part, we all agreed to go in anyway.

There's an exhibit on aging with lots of games. While the boys watched other boys work the wrinkling machine, I sat around being self-absorbed. I'm not really certain what prairie dogs have to do with aging. I didn't read the sign.Aleks really likes gems for some reason, so I talked him into checking out these massive jewels they've got lying around in the crystal gallery. He seemed mildly impressed, but was wondering why the sapphire was yellow.
We also looked at the wide variety of opal. I think he likes that gems are worth a lot of money and the idea that they come from the ground is appealing. In his mind, it seems that one could just find a ruby while digging in the garden and then you could sell it and make tons of money to buy whatever you want with. I tried to explain mining to him, but he hasn't quite caught on yet.
We watched the ducks out the window in the cold, cold, cold snow.
I took goofy photos of myself.
The children love the dinosaur skeletons. LOVE. Bastian doesn't quite get how long ago the dinosaurs died and thinks that the bones are really their bodies. Aleks was able to completely explain how fossils are formed, however.
We noticed this giant prehistoric deer for the first time. It's an Irish Elk (Megaloceros giganteus), the biggest variety of deer that ever lived. It lived during the late Pleistocene. It is thought that humans may have helped to drive them into extinction by hunting them. It is really, really, really big.
The boys touched the giant rotating earth as we passed by.

Aleks Has Devil Eyes

Just like that goat. He wanted you to see this.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Snow Fort

I believe there are toys that you can buy specifically for making bricks for snow forts. This seems silly if one owns any plastic food containers. We do. The big one once held Sebastian's placenta. We put snow in it.The placenta container made great big bricks.

We used ice cube trays and other smaller food containers to make battlement details. It worked out nicely.

Bastian liked it.
Aleks snuck off into the house on his own after a bit. He said he never got the opportunity to be in the house alone. When Bastian and I came in, he was playing World of Warcraft.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Beethoven's Ninth Symphony

This morning, the boys spent some time conducting Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. This is the fourth movement, just before Ode to Joy. I had looked up the scene from Immortal Beloved when Ode to Joy plays (which was amazing on the big screen, when I was 15) on YouTube and after watching it, played one of the related videos which was just the music itself. I realized after a moment of listening that the children were moving all about behind me. I turned to find they'd both procured conductor batons (I believe they were out for magic wands for Aleks' Harry Potter obsession) and were flailing madly around the living room "conducting" the music.

Pay no attention to Aleks' uncombed hair and pajamas. Where are these kids' parents?!?

Playing Hooky

I've mentioned the sinus infection, yes? I believe so. I'm a big whiner. Aleks has speech therapy every Thursday and I decided that due to the fact that my face hurt and that Papa had taken the car, that we would forgo making the trip.

Later in the evening, however, I started to feel better, as though I was turning the corner on the illness, and I didn't get dinner together, so we decided to venture out for Mexican food at Mi Pueblo, which is an excellent little dive. Little did I know that everyone from the place at which Aleks has speech therapy would be dining in this same establishment. We were careful to avoid their gazes and managed to miss a confrontation (not that we'd get in trouble, but who wants to bother?).

Aleks has been supremely moody lately, but we got him to chill by making a face out of a tortilla. Note the ipod on the table, which held book 5 of Harry Potter. Aleks carries it everywhere.Bastian calmly did mazes out of his maze book.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Bathtub Science

Bastian and I took a candlelit bubble bath together this evening. We ate rolos and talked at length. He took a great deal of time to observe my face mask, to point out the spots that were still wet and ask why they were wet. I told him there was so little water in the mixture that the heat from my body evaporated it, turning it into a gas, and leaving behind just the dried green clay. Then I told him not to touch it with his wet hands because it would wash it away.

We watched the candles flicker when the forced-air heat clicked on. When he snuffed them out later with a snuffer, I explained that the flames needed air to burn and that putting the snuffer over the wicks took away the air. He noted the liquid left in the candles and asked why there was water in them. I explained that it was melted wax because the candles were made of wax and that when the fire burned it melted it.

I'm certain that my explanations are incomplete or imperfect accounts of the exact science of things, but this is how we learn every day about the world we're in. This is what it looks like when you stop worrying about what one is supposed to be learning and just do what you do.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Stuck Inside

I'm sick with a sinus infection, the roads aren't always great, and it's February. We're not doing a whole hell of a lot these days. Mostly, we're indoors and I'm trying to make sure the boys don't melt their brains with zombie games nonstop. I understand why some homeschooling families take this month off as "vacation": this month sucks. It encourages self-doubt, anxiety, and crisis mode coping (in the usually anxious, often self-doubting unschooling mother).

The boys were able to discover some new things to do, though. Especially since the cord to the portable DVD player broke and then the replacement cord quit working. For instance, they dragged the massive box of k'nex out of the basement and started working on geometry.
And engineering (the blur is the structure spinning, attached to a motor):
So at least that's something.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Here Be Lions

One morning last week, I lay in bed, sleeping between Bastian and Papa, likely in odd contortions, attempting to remain asleep despite them. At one point, I awoke and could hear the song "Gold Lion" by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs blaring from the living room. It wasn't quite loud enough to object to, so I closed my bedroom door and tried to get Bastian's elbow out of my back to go back to sleep.

Awhile later, Bastian awoke and immediately started to explain that he'd had a dream where he'd been eaten by a lion. I could guess as to why that might have popped in his head and just snuggled him close and tried to assure him that all was well. Aleks then came running in with a lion costume on and grabbed Bastian and ran to the living room. Then I heard him trying to get Bastian to wear a lion mask much to Bastian's annoyance.

I only just discovered this video on our camera, however.

A Brief History of Everything

We enjoyed this cartoon today.

We Wrapped Presents

For Ivy's 7th birthday. We did it fancy style by reusing old craft supplies.


Aleks spent several days watching the Human Clock on our computer, usually while listening to one of the Harry Potter novels (he's really into them and carries the ipod around all day long).

Other Stuff We Did

We babysat our friend Jack several times since the new year. Bastian showed him how to knead bread (this was after Aleks and I examined the yeast under the microscope). We made lots of delicious bread from the book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. It really does work and it really is awesome. The kids agree.

I Was Busy

Even before the last two posts (or more), I was busy doing a (feminist) theatre production (to very positive response) and so I spent most of January not thinking about my children much except to feel guilty for not being a better "homeschooling" parent, doing more to get them out and about, and fulfilling my duty as their mother to enrich their lives and prevent them from brain-melting via endless computer games and dvd viewing. Instead, I spent January in the blue glow of backstage.
But here and there, we did some things about the house and occasionally I remembered to photograph it for proof. We used the microscope the boys got for Christmas to look at the prepared slides and sometimes to look at things we found ourselves, like this pear, dyed red with liquid that came in the set. Also, we looked at onion skins, yeast, and some other stuff I can't recall.
We finally pulled our Rorschach snowflakes out to see how the epsom salts fared (the sugar solution started to grow mold early on and got pitched). After more than a month, we had a few crystals, quite different in shape and size from our borax crystals.
The boys climbed on Papa here and there.
And did some crafty stuff too, I'm sure. At least some painting.
More to come...

Friday, February 5, 2010

White Winter Walk

I've had the photo from our walk at Shaker Lakes as my avatar on Facebook for quite some time now and looking at it all the time has put images of the hills at Squires Castle covered in snow into my head. No idea why, but there you are. Thus, it became imperative that we make it out there and see it for real. As soon as we started walking, the boys started whining and Jon called from home, where he was locked out of the house, but we went onward anyway (Jon got a neighbor friend with a key to come let him in).

We spied a lonely little glove on our gnarly tree.

We discovered tracks. These belong to dogs, but Aleks found deer as well.

Aleks and I had a long talk about the point of school and about his future. He ignored everything I had to say and kept talking about the walk and other things. He eventually decided that he does not want to be a lion tamer or a snake charmer as an adult. Or a plumber, though he did not illuminate for me why precisely that is. In the end, he said he'd like to be a paleontologist or a miner (he's very into gems and gemstones). I may be getting a bit ahead of myself with all of this, but my laziness in combination with reading a book about families that included lots of perspectives other than my own on all manner of matters has inspired my fear and anxiety of late. Thus the talk about it to involve Aleks and see what he thought.

He didn't really. Think, that is. The future is out there still for him. Way out there. I should learn to get cozy with that. Every winter I go through this. Sigh.

In the end, I know they're healthy and happy and I've got nothin' but love for 'em.