The makings of a criminal mastermind

If he’s like this at two, can you imagine what he’ll be like at 10? God help these parents. And his sister.

Fine Arts Friday: Too much of a good thing

Our artist for this term is Edouard Manet.   Here’s a good short kid’s bio of Manet and the list of suggested works from Ambleside. (We flipped terms two and three to accompany our history topics.)

I’m not going to talk a lot about Manet, except to say I like him a lot and because he was so prolific (+400 paintings), there’s a good chance there is a real live Manet near you! This painting, “The Railway,” is at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.

The Railway sm

A friend on Facebook asked about taking young kids–boys in particular–to art museums. I’ve been thinking about it, and I’ve come up with two mistakes that I think are common when going to a museum with young kids. This applies to most museums, but particularly art museums:

  1. We try to make them take in too much.
  2. We get between them and the art.

I think the number one problem is that we go into a gallery that has a hundred kajillion works of art and expect to see most of them. That’s just crazy talk. I understand the impulse, especially if it isn’t a free museum or if you’re on vacation and might not have another opportunity to see these wonderful pieces. But it’s the same thing as sitting down to a fine meal and gorging. You aren’t going to appreciate the individual dishes and you’re going to feel miserable afterward.

Particularly for a young kid who likes to move and touch and talk, asking them to exhibit proper etiquette in museum for a long period of time is hard. (And to be clear, I do think  you should expect proper etiquette in a museum. If your little guy can only manage that for 20 or 30 minutes, then there’s your time limit.)

So how do you get the most our of your museum trip?

  • Plan ahead: pick two or three highlights that you really must see and several more that you’d like to see if you can.
  • Let your kids pick something that interests them. Or if you see something that you know would interest them, include that in the plan even if it isn’t something you consider worthwhile.
  • This is big: Let your kids know what to expect. If you’ll be looking at art or an artist they know, show them the pictures. Remind them they’ll have to be quiet, that they can’t touch the art, and whatever other rules your family has for outings.  This is a great suggestion for all sorts of scenarios to help little ones learn to keep their hands to themselves.
  • Encourage them to ask questions! Point out the docent and give them a museum guide.
  • Plan breaks. If possible, plan breaks outside where they can run and shout and get their wiggles out.
  • Be observant of your kids–if they are getting grumpy or antsy, take a break or go home. It’s better to cut your trip short than be forever banned because Junior tried to ride the horsey sculpture.
  • I’m not a fan of worksheets, but I am a fan of maps. Print out a map of the museum with the location exhibits you want to see marked, and let your little guys lead the way.
  • Let your kid tell you about a painting. Even if it’s all “wrong”, they’ll be making that particular work their own.

The other big thing that I think we do wrong is mediate too much. We get between the kid and the painting, or we let other things like worksheets get between them (I really loathe worksheets), and we hinder them from just interacting with the art on their own. From loving it or hating it, from connecting it to other things they’ve seen, from forming their own opinion. I’m not saying you shouldn’t give them any information or context for the art, but primarily they should be experiencing it on their own. You can’t appreciate art for someone else, they have to do it for themselves!

Those are my suggestions for enjoying art museums with little kids. What would you add (or change?)

Find your happy place

It’s an epidemic of whining, crying, complaining, and flat-out disobedience. Plus stuff. So much stuff, and none of it’s flamable, so burning it with fire is not an option.

Lalalalala! I can’t hear you! I may be here in body, but my mind is far away. . .

fairy glen scotland

I’m about to hide in a good book. My favorite escape is Tolkien. How do you escape without, ya know, actually running away?

Hilarious injustice

There’s a amusing story out of Pakistan where a nine-month old baby was charged with attempted murder. Now the baby, who can’t yet walk, is on the lam.

So funny, that a justice system could take this nonsense to the point of fingerprinting a child. Can you imagine the grief the cop who charged him is getting? “Hey, Bob. I hear it’s your nephew’s first birthday party this weekend. Need backup?” Hilarious!

Unless you think of the sort of injustice that must go on daily in that system. Think of all the people–men, women, and children–who are subject to corruption and injustice, their property, liberty and perhaps even lives are taken from them. They don’t get anyone’s attention, much less that of the whole western world.

Speaking of injustice, the police had the hard evidence that proved this man was innocent of the murder he was convicted of since the night he was arrested. And if that doesn’t make you spit with rage, come here so I can smack you. Are you mad now?

Injustice abounds. It’s all around us, and sometimes it even captures our attention . . . for a minute.




Terrible Tuesday: April off the rails

Both the month and the person. One minute, we’re trucking along at a decent pace, the next I’m standing in the midst of chaos. Schedules, plans, lofty goals? All laying around looking punch drunk.

Really, April?

Dust yourself off links!

“You’re Still Here?”: A Brief History of the Post-Movie Credits Sequence.

Bees are getting poisoned and beekeepers are not pleased. This does not bode well for food prices and availability this year.

I want to do all of these to our backyard. Or rather, I want someone to do them for me. Any takers?

stargazing loft

Even if you don’t have a groovy sky watching loft, you can check out Mars from your backyard.

Worst nutrition advice in history? Kinda makes you wonder what current health trends are wrong, huh?

I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords. (Cracked link. Standard language and decency warnings apply.)

Is this how morning people are made? Baby wakes up dancing.

A service powerhouse

Like many people, after a powerful earthquake hit Haiti in 2010, I devoured the news coming from the devastated country. Somewhere in those first days after the quake, I don’t know where, but I saw news of this rogue group of veterans who knew they could help and were going to go help, experts be damned.

Well, obviously I loved that idea.

I’ve watched that plucky band of heroes has grown from four guys with a crazy idea to a powerhouse disaster relief organization of 15,000 volunteers. Check out my column at Communities Digital News to see how their handling their explosive growth and a pretty strong punch to the gut.

If you’ve never seen it, be sure to watch their genesis video. Heck, even if you have seen it, re-watch it. In an age of “slacktivism” where likes, shares, or digital petitions constitute “helping our neighbors,” these men and women inspire and challenge us all to do more.

Be sure to check out my article at Between Errands on Communities Digital News. And send some love (or money) Team Rubicon’s way if you can.

Learning about writing and myself

When I hit my one year mark for the Great Blog Project, I started re-evaluating what I’ve been doing, particularly my goals with regard to writing. I’ve been thinking about it a lot, although I didn’t have any clear idea where I wanted to go.

But slowly, I’m getting a better idea of what I want to be when I grow up. (Hereafter defined as hitting 40–24 days from now. Please be advised I reserve the right to move the goalposts.)  When I started writing this blog, and later my Communities column, I wrote my opinions. Then I wrote information informed by my opinions. Those are good things to write, but somehow it wasn’t hitting all cylinders. What I really want to do is to tell about people, things, and ideas I’m passionate about. I want to tell stories that spark the imagination and inspire people to follow their own passions. And, because writing is a passion of mine, I want to do it well.


This all crystalized for me as I was working on my article for this week’s Between Errands column. (I’m still working on it, so no spoilers! I think you’ll like it. Suffice it to say there’s a lot of passion involved in the people and project I’m writing about.) Last week, I wrote about one of my own passions–preserving and restoring the natural night sky. In fact, going back to the story before that, I also had to talk to people who had a passion for providing access to education for girls in Kenya.

Something clicked as I’ve been working on the current story: talking to people who are passionate about something is always interesting, but I don’t think I’ve conveyed that in my writing. What I’ve been doing is writing informative articles. Certainly I chose the topics because I found them interesting. I’m not sure that interest has been conveyed, although I think I’m a pretty solid writer.  I don’t want to just catalog data, but to translate passion. There are people out there dreaming and building and fighting the good fight. They have wonderful stories to tell, and I want to be one of the people who is telling their stories.

My goal from here out is to try to convey the passion behind the stories that spark my interest. I don’t know how that plays out in my writing yet, but already I’m more excited about the possibilities than I’ve been in a long time. Passion is motivating.

What are you passionate about? How does that motivate you?

In the blink of an eye

From this …

sprite 1

To this…

leaving 3


Happy 12th birthday, my shark loving, creative, artistic, athletic, brilliant young lady. I can’t wait to see what you’ll do next.

shark poncho

Fine Arts Friday: Sing with me!

New month, new songs. You know the drill.

The hymn will sound very familiar, being set to the same tune as my favorite hymn. It’s nice when you already know the melody. The words are also lovely.

Lord of All Hopefulness
Lord of all hopefulness, Lord of all joy,
whose trust, ever childlike, no cares could destroy,
be there at our waking, and give us, we pray,
your bliss in our hearts, Lord, at the break of the day.

Lord of all eagerness, Lord of all faith,
whose strong hands were skilled at the plane and the lathe,
be there at our labours, and give us, we pray,
your strength in our hearts, Lord, at the noon of the day.

Lord of all kindliness, Lord of all grace,
your hands swift to welcome, your arms to embrace,
be there at our homing, and give us, we pray,
your love in our hearts, Lord, at the eve of the day.

Lord of all gentleness, Lord of all calm,
whose voice is contentment, whose presence is balm,
be there at our sleeping, and give us, we pray,
your peace in our hearts, Lord, at the end of the day.

Ambleside lists Scarborough Fair for the folk song. Lovely, almost stereotypical folk song. We’re not doing that. We’re studying the west, cowboys, railroads, and all that excitement. Do you know how many cowboy folk songs their are? Do you know how hard it is to choose from them? So I’m not. I’m going with a cowboy folk song sing along. Now we just need a fire, a cowboy strumming his guitar, and some coyotes howling in the distance.

Oh, sorry, that’s not it. Here’s what I have so far. I reserve the right to add to it. I’m hoping for a camping trip sometime this month for my birthday. We’ll be prepared for the campfire sing-a-long.

More on this terms composer, artist and maybe some poetry later. Enjoy your sing-a-long!

Rabbit trails and learning

While (not) doing math, Bulldozer drew a picture to illustrate how he thought the brain works–lots of gears, in case you were wondering. So I loaded up a brief video on how the brain really works, because I’ve learned if I want him to refocus I have to let him answer the questions in his brain. And hope it doesn’t lead to a slew of new questions.


If you think that’s messy, you should see what I cropped out.

Afterward, he said, “It’s not like gears, but it is like gears.” So we had a fun conversation about analogies.

And that’s why it took him 2 1/2 hours to do his math.

I had planned on going to the Oklahoma Land Run Reenactment put on by some homeschoolers, but there was the 2 1/2 hours of math, plus a stack of other work, and a storm blowing in and…

Oh, to heck with it, we went anyway. Most of the kids got most of their work done, and a little rain won’t kill us. Most likely.

It was pretty cool. There were probably 100 people or so there. Or about 5 homeschool families.


Getting our instructions and a bit of history.

There were no Sooners at this land run. Homeschoolers don’t abide cheating. We’ll shoot you with the guns we’ve made in our garages!


Sprite is up in front with the blue bandana. Lead with strongest runner, let mama mosey up whenever she feels like it.

This was our first year to attend, and we didn’t really know what to expect. It was a lot of fun. Homeschoolers are the entrepreneurist people I know. Everyone (except us) had something to sell. Bulldozer happened to have some left over cash from our Lego store trip (a minor miracle) and bought a sword and a shield and a paper airplane. Apparently we haven’t covered anachronistic yet. Satchmo gathered his coins and borrowed a buck off me for a wooden rifle. There were also games and snacks, and even someone selling the opportunity to hold a snake. No, thank you.

OKLR 3.jpg

Woohoo! We’re proud owners of the Southeast corner of section 1! Party at the Thompson Homestead!

Even though lessons didn’t get done, learning certainly did. But tomorrow, tomorrow the kid is going to finish his work.