My little (nearly) champion

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Not too bad for a little guy who just turned 10 this week. 

My young spelling champion very nearly did it again.  He made 1st Runner Up at the regional spelling bee yesterday.  That means he missed his trip to Washington, D.C. by one word.  That word was diphthong. 

I think he’s amazing.  He learned so many new words, his brain probably doubled in size. LOL  He earned some very nice prizes…a savings bond, an Amazon.com gift certificate, and an impressively heavy dictionary worthy of a municipal library. 

This morning at church, one of the older ladies asked him what word he missed.

“Diphthong,” he answered, “but I know how to spell it now.”

That’s an attitude that will take him a lot further in life than Washington, D.C.

His words are following him!

“Mom!  I just heard the word hierarchy on tv!  My words are following me.”  Sean came running into the kitchen with this pronouncement last night. 

For the past month, we’ve been studying a list of obscure spelling words, at least, they’re obscure to a 9 year old.  He can spell meistersinger, nachtmusik, and quixote.  Tomorrow he stands against about 35 spelling bee champions for his shot at the national finals in Washington, DC.  I’ve been telling folks we’re just trying to live up to the stereotype.  Homeschoolers are supposed to win spelling bees, right?

A funny thing happened along the way.  He started tuning his ear to hear these words in daily life.  It’s like buying a maroon Tahoe and then suddenly seeing maroon Tahoes on every street and parking lot.  He spotted eiderdown and belladonna in a biography.  He found automaton in a modern day Greek myth (Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan…you should definitely read this series!).  He’d never known them before, but he owns them now.  They’re HIS words.  And they follow him everywhere.

Maybe they’ll follow him to Washington.  Maybe not.  All I know is the studying has paid off in terms of real learning.  He’s already a champ.

The war against clean

Animals despise clean vehicles.  I had suspected this before, but I didn’t realize the lengths to which they’d go to attack them.

We really don’t wash our truck that often.  Maybe we should, but the priority level is usually somewhere around “vacuuming under the couch cushions” and “re-alphabetizing the spice rack.”  This week, I cleaned it particularly because we plan a long road trip soon.

The truck stood gleaming in the driveway, a symbol of automotive beauty, a trophy of cleanliness.  This glorious state lasted nearly 4 hours.  And then the animals began to wage war.

First, the birds.  Okay, y’all KNOW what birds do to clean vehicles.  When I went back outside to actually drive the clean truck, a white mountainous splat caught my eye right off.  Sigh.  What can you do about birds? 

Then the cats began collaborating with the birds.  How often does that happen?

By evening, we had the most amusing set of muddy cat prints.  They began on top of the car near the center.  I’m not sure how that happened, unless the birds were still helping.  Muddy tracks plastered across the roof of the car and halfway down the windshield where the individual prints turn into a smeary slide.  Apparently, cats are good skiers.  Then the tracks continued across the hood where, presumably, that cat performed a back somersault dismount and stuck the landing for perfect 10.0 score.

You know what’s really weird about those muddy pawprints?  We don’t have mud.  No puddles, no wet yards.  It’s drier than tumbleweeds here right now.  How far did the cat have to travel to locate the nearest puddle?  How did he get all the way back to the roof of my clean truck with the wet mud still glued to his paws?  I’m impressed at his dedication to the task. 

I think the cat hates clean litterboxes, too, but that’s another post.

Tricksy little DJs (or Homeschool Benefit #98,362)

One of my founding principles of education is that participating in a process is better than simply reading or hearing about it.  This applies to many areas of life.  You can read a government textbook for years, but until you get out and get involved in the process you don’t REALLY know how it operates.

My son learned a small lesson this way in how the real world operates and how things are not always as they seem from the outside.

Frequently I allow the kids to listen to music while studying.  It provides a more pleasant atmosphere and sometimes fodder for conversation.  Their favorite station (www.929nin.com) constantly encourages listeners to call in on the listener line to make requests.  Hey – we’re not passive listeners, we like to voice our opinion!  So occasionally he calls in a request and gets frustrated by a less-than-optimum computer generated set of menus seemingly programmed to blockade any listener from actually making a request.

Yesterday he actually got through to a human dj!  Woo-hoo!  He asked to hear a Rob Thomas song.  Instead, the dj asked him to request Devin DeGraw’s “In Love With a Girl.”  (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pXTr9dLECfg)  He floundered for just an instant, confused by the response, but said, “Okay!” because he likes that song, too.  Sure enough, moments later, we heard Cameron’s voice on the air.  The recorded conversation had been quickly but carefully edited so that it sounded as if he’d called in just for that song.

We all got a huge laugh out of it.  He’d always thought that listener voices were speaking live on the radio, and I explained that most of them were recorded and played back.  That way djs can pick and choose the conversations they want and avoid total goofballs or inappropriate comments.  But obviously he was most surprised that they would spin his call so they could play the song they obviously planned to play anyway and make it sound like a listener request. 

“Tricksy little djs!” he said.  

I laughed and told him he’d never been able to listen to a “requested” song without thinking about this and wondering if the song was truly requested or not.  I understand that radio stations need to play certain types of songs at certain times to maximize their listeners and such.  I used to be a dj, and I remember being told by my boss, “Perception is reality!” 

Within 15 minutes, the station played his actual request, just without mentioning that it was a request.    Cameron wasn’t at all upset by the “tweaking” that KNIN had done to his request, just enlightened.  I don’t want my kids to be cynical, but they shouldn’t be completely gullible either.  Perception is NOT reality.  The truth will set you free.  It’s interesting to get a peek behind the curtain.

What girls build with Legos

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File this into the “boys and girls are different” file, just in case you require further proof of the enormous diffferences in thinking processes.

Last night, my boys dumped their impressive Lego Bionicle stash in the living room floor and proceeded to construct horrible, multi-weapon bespeckled mutant cyber-aliens.  That’s what they look like me, anyway.  The boys have names for them all, most of which prominently feature unpopular letters like Q and K.  Being boys, they left the mess out. 

This morning, the pink sparkly butterfly princess (aka Middle Sister) flitted into the middle of the leftover pieces and built something herself while I was reading aloud a biography of Elizabeth Blackwell.  She built a Lego Bionicle valentine.  The boys are horrified.  It’s an abomination.  It’s a waste.  It’s….well, it’s sweet.  Eww.

Don’t be alarmed

Random objects are stuck to my son’s pants.  Don’t be alarmed.  We’re actually used to that around here.

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Whenever I notice metallic stuff stuck to my son’s pants, I know he has his favorite magnet in his pocket again.  For reasons unfathomable to logical adults, this procedure brings him great amusement.  At least today the magnet isn’t in his mouth, causing random metal objects to hang from his cheek.  That’s a little creepier.

I’m all in favor of seizing teachable moments and turning interests into lessons.  If anyone knows how to turn this pocket-magnet thing into a useful science lesson, please let me know!  Otherwise, it’s just another quirk that he’ll laugh about someday.  And I’ll laugh about when his own children pull goofball stunts.

How to Traumatize a Tomcat

Little girls like to play dress-up, and anything that doesn’t move fast enough is fair game.

Apparently, our tomcat was moving a little slowly today.  I think he looks nice, don’t you?  We have similar pictures of Jordi’s little brother, back when he was much smaller and slower.  He hasn’t been caught in awhile, though.

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Crazy Dog Lady

It’s not there;  I checked.

I checked my kids’ baby books, and there’s no entry for the first time your child is falsely accused of terrorism.  Maybe it’s not such a common occurrence in this hemisphere, but my son hit this landmark at the wizened age of 14.  Maybe I should back up and explain.

This weekend, we treated ourselves to a delightful (and free) afternoon enjoying the spring sunshine at the Faith City Kennel Club dog show.  It was our first live dog show, and we were enchanted long before we entered the front door of the J.S. Bridwell Ag Center.  Throughout the parking lot, amongst the travel trailers and rows of dog pens, people were walking and caring for the most entertaining range of dogs, extremes from baby miniature Chihuahas that would fit in your back pocket to Bull Mastiffs you could hitch to a plow.  My daughter couldn’t stop squealing and pointing, “Mom!  Look!  Oooh!  Daddy, Daddy!  Looook!”  After that, her voice rose to a pitch that only the pedigree dogs could hear, but they didn’t seem to mind.

The Faith City Kennel Club must consist of some serious professionals, because for all the hundreds of dogs and people, the atmosphere was calm and orderly.  We roamed down each aisle, falling in love with each breed we saw.  The dog trainers, for the most part, seemed pleased by the enthusiastic admiration our obviously dog-loving children were lavishing in their directions.  Not a single one refused our request to photograph their dogs.  Many invited the kids closer to pet and stroke the dogs, invitations that all three kids (okay, and mom, dad, and Uncle Waggy) were happy to accept.  They patiently answered our questions and told us about their breeds with the loving pride usually reserved for parents showing off baby pictures to adoring grandparents.

Which brings me up to the terrorism threat.  My oldest son, bowled over by the friendliness of the crowd and thoroughly pleased with the afternoon’s activity, uttered his fateful words.   He said it would be “awesome” if he could pet ALL the dogs.  That’s it.  That did it.  You see, despite that dozens (possibly hundreds) of dogs were being walked, bathed, groomed and handled all around us, many more were inside cages and clearly off limits to him.  We did not approach them too closely. 

A woman (presumably a dog owner/handler) sitting next to a cage we were passing, wrinkled her face into a shocked mask of horror.  “What a terrible thing to say!” she gasped.  “Don’t even joke about that!” 

We were all a bit puzzled by her intense reaction.  You see, he wasn’t joking.  He really did think it would be awesome if all the dogs were outside cages so he could pet them.  After all, the ones who were outside cages that we’d been privileged to pet had been awesome.  We didn’t think that was a terrible thing to say.  But the stranger continue to berate him, and his dad assured her that he meant no harm to her safely caged animals, he just like petting dogs.  Seems to me like a reasonable sentiment for a kid at a dog show.  People who hate dogs don’t generally attend these events.

We walked on, eager to put some space between ourselves and the crazy dog lady.  If that’d been the end of the incident, we’d have brushed it off with little more thought.  Within seconds, we’d been invited to pet a fluffy English Sheep Dog who clearly appreciated the attention and a friendlier owner was chatting to the kids about the breed.  Before we rounded the next corner, though, an official in a suit and badge caught up to us to deal with a complaint against my son.

You see, the crazy dog lady who’d been inattentive enough not to notice that my son was a kid who simply liked dogs (again, something you might expect at a dog show) had tracked down a judge and attempted to have my son thrown out of the dog show.  We were flabbergasted.  What makes a person so twisted inside that she launches a vendetta against a child she’s never met for expressing a fondness for dogs at a dog show?  The judge was friendly and seemed to realize that our child, supervised as he was by 3 adults, posed no great harm.  He was simply doing his job.  Somehow the crazy lady had associated my son with PETA, an extemist activist group which has been involved with animal related terrorism. 

We were informed that at some point in space and history, PETA representatives had sabotaged a dog show and set all the dogs free, causing mass chaos and aggression among the loose dogs which led to injuries.  Obviously, that would be cause for alarm and security action.  The question remains, how do you make the monumental leap of logical fallacy from, “It would be awesome if all the dogs were out of the cages and we could pet them!” to “I’m a PETA activist and I’m going to run around throwing all the cage doors and setting the dogs free!”  Especially when she’d already been reassured by the child’s parent and uncle that affection, not harm, was meant by the remark.

After a moment’s talk, the judge left and we were free to enjoy the rest of the show.  We admired some impressive Great Pyrenees, oohed and ahhhed at the Corgis led around the ring, and petted a truly remarkable 9-month old Bull Mastiff named Kevlar.  Kevlar was my favorite, and I’m determined to own one someday, after I outgrow my Beagle attachment.  We came to no permanent harm from the incident, just a confused son and some natural parental resentment over a stranger berating our son in public and baselessly accusing him of terrorism. 

I’m afraid the reputation of the Faith City Kennel has been permanently harmed, though, in our eyes.  We no longer think of them as the friendly, professional dog lovers running a magnificent dog show.  They’re now the mostly friendly, professional dog lovers and one bitter, humorless mean woman.  She should go home and pet a dog.  Might do her good.

Hide and Seek Virus

It’s back again.

And again.

I’m just about tired of this flu-like virus that plays hide and seek with my family.  Someone (up to 4 at a time) in our family has been ill for the entire month of February.  I’m trying to keep a good attitude, because I know the world is filled with greater sorrows and trials than sore throats and fevers.  We just keep passing the virus around and around and back and forth.  Each time someone is well, someone else takes sick, and then the virus returns to the original owner.

A few times I’ve thought, “Finally!  All better!”  Yesterday was such a day.  My husband was still completely listless and exhausted, dragging to bed before 9 p.m., but he was functioning.  All the kids acted fine…no fevers…only a few lingering coughs.  Then I got shaken awake and heard a whisper that any mom would recognize the tone of instantly.

“Mom!  Sean’s throwing up again!”  Wide awake instantly, I fumbled for my robe and found my little man shaking and crying and…well, you know the rest. 

And it’s back again.