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Melissa Wiley is the author of The Martha Years books about Laura Ingalls Wilder's great-grandmother, Martha Morse Tucker, and The Charlotte Years books, about Laura's grandmother, Charlotte Tucker Quiner.
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1. We bite stupid people

That was the sign tacked onto the rail at Oceanside Pier, right next to this fellow. I was within arm’s reach before I noticed him.

pelican

Rose wants to know if she can hang the same sign on her bedroom door.

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2. Upcoming Events

March 4 is World Read-Aloud Day

Inch and RolyI’ll be celebrating with several special events in the San Diego area this month.

March 7, 2pm
Storytime at The New Children’s Museum to celebrate Reading Week. Join me for a read-aloud of Fox and Crow Are Not Friends!

March 13, all day
Greater San Diego Reading Association Author’s Fair, Kimball Elementary School, National City

March 14, 4pm
Learn2Earn Readathon Event at Carmel Valley Library

March 19, 5:30pm
Toler Literacy Night • featured speaker

***

Join me in Mankato, Minnesota this June for the
Deep Valley Homecoming

June 26-30, 2015
I will be a featured speaker at this very special Betsy-Tacy event. Hope to see you there!

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3. Education junkie

coursera

I’m always amused when the Coursera “recommended for you” email arrives and I get to see who their algorithm thinks I am this time. Coursera-Melissa has wonderfully eclectic tastes, doesn’t she?

I must say that Australian literature class looks mighty enticing. I’m sure the Planet Earth course came up because of the several climate change classes I’ve taken. Proooobably not going to squeeze any Econ into my schedule, though. ;) And as for learning C#, I’ll leave that to my daughter the computer science major.

If you’re looking for a lit class, I can highly recommend “Plagues, Witches, and War: The Worlds of Historical Fiction” with UVa prof Bruce Holsinger. I took that one last year and found it top-notch. Holsinger is an engaging lecturer and he brought in a lot of interesting writers for Q&A interviews.

I’m afraid to click around on the site too much right now, since I have a crazy amount of stuff on my plate this spring and I’m not likely to have much extra reading time. Still…I find the course lectures are most excellent listening material while I’m cleaning or (lately) sketching. Couldn’t hurt just to sign up for the Aussie lit class, could it? A little something to listen to while I’m scrubbing the bathroom floor?

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4. True story

Swiped from Scott’s Facebook:

My wife looks skeptically at the gorgonzola. “How can you tell if that’s still good or not?” the 14-year-old asks.

“I don’t know,” Lissa says. “It’s moldy and it smells like feet, so it’s probably okay.”

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5. Morning Snapshot

dandelion

Rose, stretched out on Beanie’s bunk reading Paradise Lost. Beside her, the bluebook she writes compositions in for the Spanish class she’s taking the community college, and a battered paperback copy of The Wizard of Earthsea.

Beanie, sitting on Rilla’s unmade* bed, drawing a sketch of Rose. Beside her, her Journey North Mystery Class chart.

Rilla and Huck in a corner of the living room, in the midst of a litter of Legos, deep in some complex game. Their tones are urgent, their faces serious. Vast, capricious forces are afflicting a host of small plastic people with a series of grave disasters. Rilla shoots a glance at her fellow demigod, brow furrowed.

“Nobody likes my jokes,” grumps the smaller deity. From the kitchen, I chuckle.

“Ha!” amends Huck. “At least Mom appreciates them.”

Wonderboy’s at school, Jane’s away at college, Scott’s in the back room writing a comic book, and me? I’m just soaking it all in.

***

*Recently overheard, Rose to Rilla and Huck: “Listen, there’s something you should understand about Mom. If she sees you’re in the middle of a really good make-believe game, she will never interrupt you to make you do your chores.”

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6. Thursday happy list

1. Journey North Mystery Class! Tomorrow is Week 4. I love this project so much. We’ve been doing it for ten years now—hard to believe.

2. This old post that Scott dug up from his archives for, I suspect, the sole purpose of making me melt.

3. Discussing “The Adventure of the Speckled Band” with Beanie and friends (yesterday but I forgot to include it).

4. A great editorial letter.

5. The other day I was cutting back the overgrown pumpkin vines and harvesting our little pile of pumpkins—far more than we had any need for. A neighbor happened by, walking her dog. She stopped to chat about the pumpkins—she said she’d enjoyed watching them grow—and I urged her to take a couple of them off my hands. Today she returned—WITH PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE. Somehow I think we came out way ahead in this transaction.

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7. No slamming

Today’s happy list is three keeper moments from my boys.

1. Huck, wistfully: “I wish no one in this family would have more birthdays. I like everyone the way we are.”

2. A story my friend Patti told me. Last Friday afternoon, Patti organized a wonderful St. Valentine’s Day party in the park for the kids in our homeschooling group. It fell during my work time, so Patti offered to keep an eye on Huck and Rilla for me so they could attend the party. So nice! Today she told me that in the thick of the festivities, Huck came up to her with a pine cone. “This is for you,” he said, “because that’s how much I love you.”

So basically this kid just has me melting all over the place these days. And I know how he feels—I wouldn’t mind having a six-year-old around at all times.

3. Wonderboy has a recurring kind of email he likes to send to family and close friends, describing what he wants to be when he grows up. Sometimes it’s a teacher or a “pet shop man” or a UPS driver. Today it was a librarian. As always, he included a long and detailed list of holiday hours—you wouldn’t believe how many holidays his library has special hours of operation for. After the list come the ground rules. If you want to visit his branch, here’s what you should know:

1. Please do not talk on the phone as you come in.
2. Do not run.
3. No yelling.
4. Please check out book.
5. Please return your library book as you are done.
6. No gum.
7. No slamming.
8. No child should be bringing toys.
9. Please bring your key and library card.
10. Use the computer if you want.
11. As it closing time, just quietly leave.
12. No iPod or iPad or Computer, or DS or WII.
13. Bring a bag if you have so many books.
14. Bring a bag if you return so much.
15. Please Park somewhere near the library.
16. Please lock your car if someone gonna steal it.
17. No animal noises.
18. No hitting and eating books.
19. No ripping books.
20. No crashing.

Got that? You’d all better behave yourselves.

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8. 10 Ways to Cultivate a Family Art Habit

On Twitter, Kim asked if I had any advice for a family getting started with sketching and art journaling. Did I ever! I’ve Storified the conversation, if you’d like to see how it unfolded, but I’ll recap it here as well.

My replies below, expanded a bit. Points #6 and 7 are the most important.

Yes, lots!

1) Koosje Koene’s Draw Tip Tuesday videos. She also offers classes in drawing and art journaling. (Here’s a post I wrote about her videos in November.)

2) Sign up for a free two-week trial at Creativebug and take Dawn Devries Sokol’s Art Journaling class and Lisa Congdon’s Basic Line Drawing. I wrote about how much Lisa’s class inspired me in my “Learning in Public” post.

3) A bunch of books to inspire you: Lynda Barry’s wonderful Syllabus; Danny Gregory’s new Art Before Breakfast (it’s a delight; I’ll be reviewing it soon) and the much-beloved The Creative License; the Illustration School series; the “20 Ways to Draw a…” series; Claire Walker Leslie’s Keeping a Nature Journal; the Usborne “I Can Draw” series. And a few more recommendations in this older post.

4) Maybe try a Sketchbook Skool course! They offer a free sample class (I mean klass) so you can get a taste of the magic.

5) Cathy Johnson videos. Rilla loves Cathy’s art and her gentle delivery.

6) Most importantly! Really just dive in and do it—if you do it, the kids will follow. Mine truly love to see me working & playing in my sketchbook. Actually, Rose was just commenting on it today, before this Twitter conversation occurred. She said she has really enjoyed watching me start from scratch (so to speak) and work at learning to draw. They all seem to love to see me trying, making mistakes, learning, improving. My progress excites them almost as much as it does me. :)

7) The REALLY most important piece of advice I can give: Allow plenty of TIME and room for mess. Many parents say “I want my kids to be creative” but can’t tolerate mess. Art is messy. Creativity is messy. You need space to leave work out and return to it. Supplies in easy reach. And big spans of time for messing around, staring into space, doodling, doing things that look unproductive. I can’t emphasize enough how important this is to any creative process. Time and room.

When I’m writing a novel, my most intense work happens while I look like I’m doing nothing at all. Sitting and staring blankly, chewing my nails, or filling an entire page with tiny lines and spirals. This is my body getting out of the way so my brain can get down to the real work of creating.

And for the visual arts, these totally tactile pursuits, you’ve got to have a place to spread out your paints, your pencils, your small objects that make you itch to draw. You know what’s nice and tidy and doesn’t clutter a room? A cellphone. If you want them to spend less time staring at screens (I’m not knocking screens here, you know I love me some screen time), you’ve got to grant them some real estate.

With that in mind, I make a point of keeping art supplies in easy reach. We have a dedicated kitchen drawer for placemats, paper, paint supplies so even the youngest kids can help themselves. Jars of colored pencils & crayons on table, a sharpener on the kitchen counter, a stack of art books on the shelf nearby. I want them to have constant free access to art materials. It’s also a good idea to keep a bag packed for outings. I described ours in this old GeekMom post.

8) And what materials do I recommend? For littles: good paper, cheap paints. I elaborated on my reasons in this post from several years back:

When my older kids were little, I read lots and lots about the benefits of providing children with really high quality art supplies. In some cases, I still agree: Prismacolor colored pencils are worlds better than your drugstore variety. The lead is so creamy and blendable. They’re expensive but they last a long time—we’re on our second set of 72 colors in over ten years.

But watercolors? Real watercolor paper makes a huge difference, but it’s expensive; that’s one reason I was so taken with Jenn’s idea to cut it into smaller, postcard-sized pieces. But when it comes to the paints themselves, well, I’ve been the high-quality route, absorbed the persuasive literature that talks about rich pigments and translucent hues; bought the pricey tubes of red, yellow, blue; collected jars for mixing colors; watched my children squeeze out too much paint and gleefully swirl it into an expensive puddle of mud-colored glop.

Lesson learned. The 99 cent Roseart or Crayola sets work just fine. In fact, dare I say I think my preschoolers like them better? Mixing colors is fun, but there is nothing quite so appealing as that bright rainbow of pretty paint ovals all in a row. When Wonderboy and Rilla make a mess of their paints, Jane cleans them up with a rag and they’re practically good as new.

For older kids—and for yourself!—my advice is to skip the student-grade watercolors and go right to artist quality. More expensive but the difference is immense. You can use the money you saved buying cheap paints for the preschoolers. ;)

We’re still addicted to Prismacolor pencils—no other brand will do for me. And I like Micron pens for line drawing. The ink is waterfast so you can paint over it (like my pumpkins in yesterday’s post). I also picked up a few gel pens—white, silver, and gold—and Rilla has had unbelievable amounts of fun with them. I love the white one for writing on a dark surface, like on the tag of my pencil pouch here.

pens

The sketchbook I just filled up was a Canson Mixed Media, 7×10 spiral bound. The size worked really well for me. I also have a small Moleskine journal with watercolor paper, but it feels so special I find myself hesitant to use it and reaching for the mixed media book instead. (I’ve just started a new one, same as the one I filled up.) That’s my real playground, the place I’m not afraid to (in the words of my personal hero, Ms. Frizzle) “Take chances and make mistakes!” But I’m getting braver every day and the lovely paper in that Moleskine is calling to me.

I’ve also found I love doing my first rough sketches with a brown watercolor pencil, very lightly. I go over it with ink afterward and then, when I paint, the pencil just blends in and becomes shadow. I don’t sketch this way every time, but for some reason it seems to free me up. I’m more daring with this pencil. It takes me to a confident place between graphite pencil—with its sometimes overly tempting eraser—and straight-to-ink, which is sometimes exhilarating and sometimes terrifying. The brown Aquarelle feels like my co-conspirator. I don’t know how else to describe it. I have even starting making some first tentative stabs at portrait drawing, thanks to this pencil. (I tried a selfie-a-day project for a week. None of them looked much like me, but this attempt on day seven could maybe be a cousin?)

my cousin me
Guys, I still feel so shy about posting my drawings! I mean, I have so many friends who make their livings as illustrators—heck, one of them even just won the Caldecott! (GO DAN! SO THRILLED!) Do you know how nerve-wracking it is to know pros are looking at your rookie work? Of course you do. Because what I’ve learned is everyone feels that way. Even my most brilliant artist friends look at some other person’s work and sigh wistfully, wishing they’d made that piece. I’ve seen it happen time and again. So bit by bit I’m getting brave enough to share my baby steps. 

9) Okay, so you have your lovely sketchbook and drawing implements, now what to draw?? Well, I guarantee Koosje Koene’s videos mentioned above will keep you and the kids busy for a good long while. There’s also this wonderful Everyday Matters Challenge list at Danny Gregory’s blog. 328 suggestions, so you’re just about good through 2016. And Kortney tipped me off to this most excellent Lynda Barry post (in Rilla’s words, I simply adore her) about keeping a visual diary.

10) And a last tidbit I almost forgot: A most beloved activity here (especially for Rilla and me) is to listen to audiobooks while sketching. Many of my happiest hours have been spent this way. We’re especially fond of Roald Dahl while drawing. Nobody brings on the whimsy like Dahl.

bfgjournal

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9. San Diego gardening is a quirky business

spring pumpkins

Remember those pumpkins I said might be ripe in time for Christmas? More like Valentine’s Day. We gave most of them away to a neighbor (who thanked us with pumpkin bread, so we came out ahead) but kept a couple to perpetuate the cycle. We’ll ignore these and let Nature do her thing, and maybe we’ll have some seeds sprouting earlier in the season this time around. In the meantime, I’m enjoying the jarring contrast of spring flowers and fall harvest.

Spotted two tiny caterpillars on the milkweed! Sadly, however, we also found a withered monarch chrysalis hanging on the fence with a pinprick hole in it. It looks like we’re raising caterpillars for something’s lunch. Not cool, Nature. Monarchs have enough to contend with these days.

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10. six weekend moments

pocketpalette

1. Leaving the house early yesterday morning, I spotted a pair of goldfinches feasting on the seeds of my basil—yes, another herb I forgot to pinch back, and now I’m glad

2. Pink milk and candy hearts

3. Saturday night ritual: art time with Rilla while the older girls watch TV with Scott (after the early-to-bed boys have conked out). This week, we binged on Cathy Johnson videos. Oh, I just love her, murmurs my girl.

4. Weeded the front-yard flower beds. Began, at any rate, and made good headway. After I mowed the other day, I discovered just how much is in bloom. Nasturtiums, coreopsis, sweet alyssum, snapdragons, viola, milkweed…Ellie said it’s okay to talk about my flowers, hope you don’t mind. ;)

5. Set up a new palette and spent a good while testing colors with Rilla.

6. This one’s a Big Happy: today I finished the last empty page in my very first complete sketchbook. I started it on August 30. Have drawn or painted almost every day since (even if only for a few minutes). Feeling pretty chuffed.

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11. I don’t know what I was thinking

Huck: Is there dessert?

Me: Why don’t you have a piece of your Valentines candy?

Huck: Actually, I ate it all immediately.

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12. Friday: five good things

garden tangle

1. I forgot (again) to pinch off the cilantro and it went (again) to seed. Every year I do this, and every year I glance across the yard one day and feel a rush of joy. I never think to put it on the list if you ask my what my favorite flowers are, but truly: cilantro is my favorite, even above milkweed. Unsophisticated blossoms, insubstantial at first glance, but blooming with such exuberance, beckoning the bees, mingling sociably with the sunny marguerites. Oh, I love them.

2. The stack of homemade Valentines on the kitchen table, slivers of colored paper confettied all over the floor

3. The sight of small boys in bright hats running up a green hill

4. Got the lawn mowed

5. Thought I had to make a health insurance phone call and then did not have to make it

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13. five Thursday moments

• Rilla came to me with a paper cut. Not that I’m happy she was hurt, just–it struck me so sweetly that she still comes to me for little hurts like that, still believes a kiss from mommy can help

• good IEP meeting—they all love him so

• cleaned up the side yard, threw out two bins of junk, pruned the pepper trees

• daffodils in the neighbor’s yard

• Huck wearing the old cloth barn on his head like a jolly little hat.
Hilarious! Also nice to see how beloved it still is, 16 years and 5 kids later

ikea barn and speckled band

Well, what do YOU wear to read The Adventure of the Speckled Band?

 

 

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14. Where I’ll Be in June: Deep Valley Homecoming

Deep Valley Homecoming badge

Attention Betsy-Tacy fans!

2015 Deep Valley Homecoming

A Celebration of Maud Hart Lovelace & the Betsy-Tacy books!

June 26 – 30, 2015

Make plans to attend this event. Fun for the entire family!

Activities include: Betsy & Tacy House Tours, Betsy-Tacy Neighborhood Tour, Narrated Horse-drawn Trolley Rides, Discover Deep Valley Bus Tours, Deep Valley Victorian Tea, Book Festival, Fashion Show, Play, Living History Actors, Programs, Speakers & Re-enactments, Gift Shop & Exhibits & Music, Vintage Car Show, food & crafts and more!

Registration form and schedule is in progress and will be posted very SOON!

 

DVH NEWS!

We are excited to announce that Melissa Wiley will be the feature speaker at the Deep Valley Homecoming (DVH) this summer. Melissa Wiley is the author of The Prairie Thief, Fox and Crow Are Not Friends, and the Inch and Roly series, as well as Little House in the Highlands and seven other novels about the ancestors of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Melissa wrote the forward to the HarperPerennial ModernClassics 2010 edition of Carney’s House Party and Winona’s Pony Cart by Maud Hart Lovelace.

Joining Melissa Wiley as featured speaker will be Nancy McCabe, author of From Little Houses to Little Women. Her book is a memoir about her return to the beloved books of her childhood and travel to places related to her favorite authors, including Laura Ingalls Wilder, Maud Hart Lovelace, Lucy Maud Montgomery and Louisa May Alcott.

Melissa and Nancy will participate in the Deep Valley Book Festival on Sunday, June 28 and will each speak during the DVH programs on Monday, June 29. We’ll have more details about what you can look forward to from these authors and all of our other speakers and presenters in the coming days.

For more information, visit the Betsy-Tacy Society website. Hope to see you there!

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15. I’m glad to see the DMV hasn’t allowed technological advances to compromise its brand

Automated voice answering system: What form would you like?

Me: Driver’s license.

AVAS: Sorry, I didn’t understand you. What form would you like?

Me: Driver’s license application.

AVAS: Sorry, I didn’t understand you. What form would you like?

Me: DRI VERZZZ LIE SENSE

AVAS: ::beep boop boop:: Thank you. I am sending you ‘Power of Attorney’ form. Is that correct?

Me: Nooooooooo

AVAS: Sorry, I did not understand you. Let me transfer you to one of our customer service representatives. ::beep boop boop::

New robot voice: All of our representatives are currently busy. Your wait time is one and a half hours.

Me: MAIN MENU! MAIN MENU!

AVAS: ::click click:: What form would you like?

Me: DuhRYVerrrz LIIIII SENSE

AVAS: ::beep boop boop:: Thank you. Your Disabled Veterans License Plate Application is on the way.

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16. All the books

Something the ten-year blog anniversary spurred me to do was to tidy up my archives a bit. In the early years, I still have the occasional broken link or an image hosted at the original Typepad site. I aim to tackle one or two months at a time, moving slowly forward until I’m caught up to March 2007, when I migrated to WordPress.

As I go, I’m creating a page that will serve as a visual index to all my book recommendations from over the years. Finishing this part of the project will take much longer! But if I add a book or two a day for, oh, say, another decade…well, I guess I’d still be ten years behind.  ;)

At any rate, if you’d like a peek at the work-in-progress, here it is!

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17. Wednesday: Five Moments

1. Spirited discussion of story structure with four bright girls, meandering into the all-important topic of why, why, why couldn’t Jo have ended up with Laurie?

2. Huck’s very delicate sneeze after dinner, which the older members of the family agreed was the cutest we’d ever heard

3. The way they laughed when my character fell off the log (again) in Harvest Moon

4. Video chat with Krissy, making plans

5. From yesterday, but I didn’t look at the pictures until this morning: Rose helping Huck learn “The Tyger” by heart

tyger tyger

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18. Ahem

Someone special is considering reviving her blog. It’s time to lay on the peer pressure, y’all. Pop over there and tell her why she should.

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19. Ten Years of Blogging, and I Almost Missed It

bonnyglennight_3

I entered the year aware that Bonny Glen’s ten-year anniversary was approaching on Jan. 20, and I had thoughts of all sorts of retrospective posts leading up to the occasion. Then, on Jan. 4, I started a new gig—the kind of steady behind-the-scenes work that makes the children’s-book-writing, homeschooling life possible. I went from Cybils-reading-load busyness to new-assignment busyness, and since I thrive on busy and new (oh especially new), I’ve spent the first weeks of the year in a satisfying whirr of learning and doing.

And I forgot all about the anniversary until I saw Melanie’s post this morning. We began on the same day—a coincidence; we hadn’t met yet; we met through the blogs—and her post puzzled me. Oh, she’s celebrating early, I thought. And then, hang on

The first kid-photo ever to appear on this blog, posted July 2005

The first kid-photo ever to appear on this blog, posted July 2005

Not early; Melanie is timely, I am tardy. It’s no wonder I lost track of the date; Scott is away for a few days on an adventure with his brothers, and on the rare occasions when he goes away, I always turn the house upside down for some kind of grand-scale cleaning/purging endeavor. This time, because I had resolved to sort through ALL THE BOOKS in January, I’m ignoring books entirely and overhauling the clothes situation. Ugh, clothes. Yesterday, up to our ears in piles, we were pondering the merits of Laura and Mary’s two dresses each. In a few minutes I have to get up and return to the fabric mountain. We’ve just gotten Wonderboy off to school, and Bean and Huck are on a “fog walk” (it’s a rare misty, moisty morning here), and Rose and Rilla are taking advantage of the topsy-turvy schedule to sleep in a bit.

Wonderboy and Rilla, June 2006

Wonderboy and Rilla, June 2006

And here I am in the old familiar text window. Ten years of writing here. I began at Typepad in 2005 and migrated to this WordPress site in 2007. I’m always surprised by how short a span of time Bonny Glen resided at Typepad; so much happened in those two years, and I met made so many friends in the blog world, both homeschooling and kidlitosphere, that it seems a much longer period. I’d been blogging for about 16 months when Rilla was born, the first baby whose blog name I settled upon even before we’d chosen her real name. A month later, I was offered a job as one of ClubMom’s regular bloggers, so I set up camp at a second site, The Lilting House, and posted there about three times a week for a year or so. ClubMom shuttered the MomBlog program in 2007 and I folded Lilting House into my archives here. I still have some broken image links from those days that need cleaning up—a Someday project.

In those first years, I wrote a lot about homeschooling—not just the daily glimpses I continue to share here now, but also a lot of theory, a lot of methodology discussion. I was sorting out my ideas and I do that best by writing them down. After a while I had discerned that I would probably never fit entirely into any one camp—unschoolish but not unschooling, Charlotte Mason-inspired but not pure CM, etc—and I coined a term to describe what it is we actually do. I’ve written a good deal more about tidal homeschooling since then, but much more casually than I addressed education method in the first years of this blog. I smile sometimes over the difference between me in my 30s, with a houseful of pretty young kids, and me in my 40s, with a range from college to kindergarten. (Oh my heavens, when you put it like that.) I was so full of helpful advice back then! :) Now, with a lot more experience under my belt, I probably have better advice, but I dish it out sparingly.

view from point loma lighthouse

2007, the year after we moved to San Diego. Photos got bigger after I moved to WordPress!

2007 was the year I joined Twitter, and I can’t remember if Facebook came before or after for me. Either way, I experienced, like everyone else, a shift in blogging and combox conversation after the social media boom. There was a very good discussion of this topic over at Sarah’s last week, and in the course of it I had a little epiphany: even though social networks have had a dampening effect on the amount of conversation that happens in blog comments—what with so many readers preferring to do their chatting on Facebook or Twitter or elsewhere—it’s the humble blog that keeps such discourse lively. I might write a post here that draws a handful of responses from my most faithful readers, who by this time have become dear friends!—but the very same post will generate multiple long threads of discussion over on Facebook. It struck me what an important role the blog post still plays in our online conversation. In Sarah’s comments, I said:

…even though the ease of conversation at Facebook (with reply notifications, user tagging, all the bells and whistles that keep people tuned into the discussion) seems to have given it an edge in the comment department, it’s the *blog* that makes it possible—one permanent link for the original post, easily shared across a variety of networks, with embedded images and links. I couldn’t post a full Downton recap at FB, say, let alone Twitter or Instagram or anywhere else. So no matter what platforms we all drift to for our *discussions*, we still value the blog format for its completeness, its portability, its whole package. Truly, we can’t do without it!

Generating discussions isn’t the only thing I cherish my blog for. I’ve written before about how important it has become for my family—the primary archive of our adventures. I don’t scrapbook, I haven’t compiled a photo album in years, I don’t update baby books. Most of the kids don’t even have them. But I’ve chronicled our stories here for a decade, and we all enjoy laughing over the kid quips in the archives. I didn’t realize just how much it meant to the kids until recently when Bean and Rose told me how often they go back into old posts “to read about our childhood.” They know I pull back on posting kid-stories as they get older, out of respect for their privacy, but they tell me they miss being able to read about the hilarious thing that happened last week. Food for thought, for this blogging mom!

August, 2008. Heart in my throat, looking at this photo today—now I'm reading that same book to this wee girl!

August, 2008. Heart in my throat, looking at this photo today—now I’m reading that same book to this wee girl!

A challenge of blogging has been how to meld the personal and the private—how to share these family stories without saddling my children with a complicated Google history. And how to blend writing as the frank, flawed homeschooling mom I am with a more professional presentation as a children’s author some readers (students, teachers, editors) are looking to connect with. It’s complicated! I mostly muddle through it. I yam what I yam and all that.

But blogging is more than the sum of its parts—more than simple family chronicle, more than author portal, more than a place to engage in the kind of show-and-tell resource-sharing I love so very much—it’s a crucible for friendships. I get a little choked up when I think about all the very real, dear relationships that were born in the comments here. You, my friends. Some of you I’ve had the fun of meeting in person, and some of you live so far away our non-virtual paths may never cross (sob!), but the friendships run deep nonetheless. In the end, I write to share—and it’s you, the friends at the end of the page, I’m thinking of when I sit down and click “Add New.” Thank you—really, from the bottom of my heart—thank you for keeping me company on this journey. I’m so happy to have my own little house on the internet where you can come and visit.

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20. Downton Abbey Episode 5.3 Recap is Up at GeekMom

and I have my theories.

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21. Rohan Maitzen on Academic Blogging

“What I really tried to emphasize in my own remarks is that if we think about why we do research and publish it in the first place–to advance or improve a conversation–then writing online makes perfect sense. I also stressed that for me, the real benefits are intellectual. I specifically invited follow-up questions about ways my blogging had affected my teaching, my research, my writing, and/or my intellectual life. I didn’t get any questions about that at all, leading me to think that the single most important quotation in the presentation is the one from Jo VanEvery: ‘Scholars lose sight of the fact that academic publishing is about communication. Or, perhaps more accurately, communication appears disconnected from the validation process.’ What people wanted to talk about was “validation.” As I said at the close of the discussion, I think that preoccupation in itself is worth reflecting on. It’s inevitable, perhaps, because we are professionals trying to get and keep jobs and build careers, but I think concern about bureaucratic processes should follow on reaching a better understanding of the value of the activity, to the individual scholar, to the university, and to the broader community.”

via What We Talk About When We Talk About Academic Blogging » Novel Readings – Notes on Literature and Criticism.

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22. Scott Peterson on my reckless snack-distribution habits

“I trust you with my life, I trust you with my children’s education, I trust you with my finances—but I do NOT trust you with marshmallows.”

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23. Crazybusy Week

But in a good way. It’s always nice to be busy with work. Especially the paying sort. Of course, I suppose if I didn’t enjoy the non-paying kind, I wouldn’t make time for it. Well, I guess this week I didn’t find time for it (Downton recap is way late, etc), but that’s okay. It all balances out in the long run.

Something I did do this week—and had a blast at—was give a talk on poetry to a group of mothers from my local homeschooling group. My friend Erica invited me, and our friend Lisa hosted the gathering, and I got to talk about poetry nonstop for 90 minutes! Which is pretty much heaven. I shared my approach to the poetry workshops I do with kids. Their kids, actually—the talk came about after one of our Poetry Club meetings, when I was filling the moms in on what we’d discussed, and someone joked that she could use a refresher course in this stuff herself. :)

So we set aside an evening and had ourselves a nice long chat about types of meter, literary tropes, and poetry analysis. Did close readings of a couple of poems, including my favorite of Shakespeare’s sonnets: #29,

When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring this man’s art and that man’s scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
(Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth) sings hymns at heaven’s gate;
       For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
       That then I scorn to change my state with kings.
I adore this one because first of all, it sounds like something Scott would say (in slightly more contemporary language, mayhap*). And also because I find it hilarious—and absolutely true to form—that Shakespeare of all people is bemoaning his own talent, wishing he could write like some other guy. Nearly every writer and artist I know feels that same way. You always wish you were better, faster, more lyrical, more succinct, more visionary, something.
*”Slightly” because we do seem to have a taste for archaic language in this household. “Mayhap,” for example. A total Scott word.
***
 And tonight I’m off to a fun event: the Local Authors Reception at the San Diego Public Library. Every year the library organizes a display of books published in the past year by authors who live in the area. Last time around, a stomach bug hit my gang on the day, and I had to miss the event. So tonight will be my first time. Looking forward to it! Have no idea what to wear.
 ***
Posts look weird in readers now if you don’t include an image, so here’s a picture of some color therapy I indulged in last night after the week’s deadline was met. Paint = magic.
paintswatches
Bad lighting but swoony colors nonetheless. The stripes at the bottom are mixes I was playing with. I find I’m most enchanted by the grey at top right, a blend of Burnt Sienna and Phthalo Blue. On the page it separates out in places to tiny swirls of rose or blue. Swoony. I quite like the leaf green in that right column, too, a mix of Hansa Yellow Medium and Phthalo Green (blue shade).
But all those “FU” abbreviations are making me giggle. French Ultramarine, of course.
Sheesh, I’d better get going or I will have to show up at the reception tonight in ripped jeans and dripping hair. Offscreen life takes so much effort!

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24. And suddenly it’s February

friday sky

A short one today, to help me get back in the swing. I miss my old blogging rhythm, when it was the first thing I did after switching gears from kid-time to writing-time. Spending half an hour writing about the kids was an excellent way to help my brain transition from one mode to the other. But now I’ve altered my workflow so that I jump right into time-sensitive tasks first thing, and blogging is my reward at the end of the night. Trouble is, by then (by now, that is) I’m running dry. All the things I meant to write about all day long are misting away. Some of them I’ll get to, eventually. Others: poof.

The pile of books to talk about: immense! Soon, soon!

Sarah shared this link to an interactive map of Middlemarch. I swooned. And then made it the wallpaper on my laptop. Every time I shut down tabs, I get so happy.

I finished an absorbing book (Going Clear) a couple of nights ago and have been in my usual post-satisfying-read state of restlessness, unable to settle on the next one. Which is silly, because if you assigned me a book to read I would suddenly have a dozen titles I was absolutely PINING to devour immediately. I remember how as a kid I would come home from the library with a dozen books I’d wanted to sit right down and tear into on the library floor, but once home I’d find myself unable to settle on which to start first. Option paralysis, my lifelong affliction.

I can hear Scott reading Rilla her bedtime chapter of Watership Down. Maybe that’s what I want to pick up next. It’s been too long.

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25. Lists of happymaking things

listography top

Every year or two I am reminded that I have a Listography account where, for brief spells, I have experimented with logging various kinds of daily notes. In truth, I have these ephemera all over the place—an old Typepad blog, a for-a-little-while side-blog here at WordPress, dozens and dozens of paper notebooks accumulated over the years…sometimes I wish I’d been consistent and kept everything in one place. One shelf of notebooks stretching back through all the years (not leapfrogging over so many), or one lovely Listography archive like the one Sue writes about in this post, which is what nudged me to check in on my own page. Now of course I know that this blog itself is my most consistent record, and here I have captured much of the stuff worth capturing these past ten years.

But as Sue of Mouse Notebook writes, there’s something particularly nourishing in the daily practice of noting things that made you happy.

Exactly five years ago I began the practice, at bedtime, of writing a list of five things that have made me happy that day. It has been so good for me to do this, to look for the small beauties of life as well as remember the big, wonderful things. I now have over 1700 searchable entries recording snippets from my life over the last five years, which feels like a priceless asset.

Her lists are simple and direct and quite wonderful. I don’t know how I came across her list-page (via Lesley Austin, perhaps?), back in June 2010, but I was moved to follow her example:

Inspired by Mouse’s lists of things she liked today. I’d been keeping something similar in my paper notebook, but this might be a better place (baby keeps running off with my pen).

And reading on, I see how many things I captured that I would have forgotten, had indeed forgotten until this moment.

listography middle

I see I kept with the daily notes barely a week, and then picked up again a year later for a handful of days. Interspersed with the ‘happy things’ lists are collections of links and book titles for various projects I was immersed in. Those have been fun to revisit, too—I’m laughing at the tentative summer reading list from June 2010. I’d be embarrassed to confess to the number of those books I have actually managed to read thus far—though, of course, the list of other books I did read would outstrip that one, thanks in large part to my Cybils-panel stints. (“So, huh, this is like four summers’ worth of books,” I noted at the bottom. Oh 2010 Lissa, you optimist.)

I love that I collected a list of rabbit trails inspired by my immersion in A.S. Byatt’s The Children’s Book, which I’ve reread twice since then! The sight of that jolly face on the jug makes me want to pick the novel up yet again (though it is anything but jolly).

Other sticky-notes there are collections of links I would probably just save to Diigo now, so they’d show in my sidebar. Or Evernote, if they were for me alone. Neither of those platforms (convenient and multifunctional as they are) can touch Listography for visual appeal, though. The look of those simple sticky notes was what drew me to Listography when I already had a perfectly good place to collect ephemera right here at Bonny Glen.

I played a lot of pennywhistle in the summer of 2010. Never got very good at it. By fall I was busy with other things and never circled back around to it (yet). Beanie has recently picked it up, though, and is already far better than I was.

listography bottom

By far the best notes on that page are the lists of happy moments from a handful of June days, a year apart. Planting sunflower seeds with the littles, rolling a ball down the slide, salt water taffy sent by Scott’s brother Jay…I’m glad I captured those. And Sue is right—imagine a list like that kept consistently year after year. What a treasure.

And look! Five years ago I was wanting to memorize all the monarchs of England—and this year I did it! William, William, Henry, Stephen, Henry, Richard, John

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