Category Archives: Love This

Secret Worlds

Could it be a sign of perimenopause that just seeing that Studio
Ghibli logo in the opening credits of a movie makes me tear up?

Or is it just a symptom of the period of parenting we’re in, our girls
still childlike but obviously older, older, OLDER every day?

Not too old (never too old?) to look forward with great excitement to
The Secret World of Arrietty, another Ghibli film with a brave and
resourceful female protagonist, beautiful attention to visual detail,
and a gentle spirit from beginning to end.

There are so many things I love about earlier Ghibli films that are
present in Arrietty, which I will try not to spoil here. I love the
magical realism, the way the natural world is realized with such
loving precision that the magical elements—the little people, the cat
bus, the bath house of the spirits, the creaking house of Howl—seem
real too.

I love that there are girls at the center, that every Ghibli movie I
can think of passes the Bechdel test. I love the friendships that
don’t quite rise to the level of romance but are still true love.

I really love looking over at my girls in the dark theatre and seeing
them already looking back at me with big grins, silently communicating
“Isn’t this awesome?”

When I saw a scene in which a character moved in and out of a shaft of light, a number of times, it was like hearing a musician enjoying the opportunity to play a particularly beautiful passage, adding grace notes to the repeated sections, and I could feel my older daughter, next to me, watching.

She is nearing 13, already taller than some of my adult
friends, and she sits in the movie seat with her animal hat, her
Taylor Swift t-shirt, her Ugg boots, every inch a young teen. She had just told me the day before that she wanted to learn how to create light effects in video games, so I know she was watching that shaft of light doing something in that artist brain that is nearly inaccessible to me.

I wanted to go home and redecorate the attic just like this.

While she was at a sleepover later in the week, our younger daughter demanded to watch Totoro again, and soon afterwards we watched Spirited Away. We’ve always said she’s just like Mei, and she has embraced that image for herself.

In those movies too, the world is a magical place but nothing is more magical than clear water, tall trees, or a fresh ear of corn. No world is more beautiful than the natural world, but, Miyazaki seems to say, it takes a child’s eyes to see it.


Filed under Love This, Love this Music, Music and Art

Writer or Naturalist: E. B. White Was Both

I just heard most of this on NPR and can’t wait to seek out the book. It sounds wonderful. It also sounds like the kind of thing that inspires a twinge of writer envy, but that can’t be helped.

The NPR Science Friday segment has E. B. White reading a great passage from the book and wonderful discussion of the intersection of science and imagination.

The author mentioned he had set out to write a book about the natural world and several children’s books—Winnie-the-Pooh, Wind in the Willows—but E. B. White provided more than enough material. I wonder how often the best children’s books have an intimate connection to the natural world; even The Hobbit and A Wrinkle in Time seem to fall in that category. Makes me want to go raid the bookshelves!

p.s. I cannot even write a tiny paraphrase of that lovely line from Charlotte’s Web without tearing up a little.


Filed under In the News, Love this Book

Library Finds 8/2010 — Ulysses

We went for our first time as a family to the lovely, recently (completely) renovated Minneapolis Central library. It’s a great looking library, with a wonderful children’s room.


As I did my own browsing, I noticed that as soon as I stepped off the elevator on the 4th floor a display of homeschooling books greeted me — chic, indeed.

One (non-homeschool) education book I am very excited to read is Disrupting Class. I’m excited to learn more about online education and how it can bring freedom in education to more and more students, so that homeschool/private school/public school/unschool become increasingly meaningless labels.

I found this insanely cool, gorgeous version of the Odyssey for Victoria (and me).


We have been sporadically listening to Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters, which features Circe, Polyphemus, and lots of other characters and events taken from the Odyssey.


The book’s artwork is only tied for trippiest thing found at the library, however. Eggmaster came out of the mens room reporting that he found ample evidence of someone packing blunts on the 4th floor. (Google it.)

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Filed under Gifted Ed, Love This, Love this Book, Why Homeschool?

Go Read this Poem!

I would love to post the whole thing for you, but I’m sure that is a copyright violation.

Famous, by Naomi Shihab Nye, a Palestinian-American.

A taste:

The river is famous to the fish.
I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,
or a buttonhole. . .


Filed under Love This, Our Philosophy (such as it is)

Violet, Meet Anne

Ever since Violet was an early reader I have been holding back books that I thought she might appreciate more as an older child — Harry Potter, the Little House series, and now Wrinkle in Time (though I think she is more than ready now). I doubt my judgement, sometimes, seeing that younger gifted kids are reading things I’ve been keeping in reserve, but it’s usually worked out.

One series I have waited on is Anne of Green Gables. I loved reading the Anne books, and read them all several times as a child and teenager. I did not want to risk giving these to a child fixated on fantasy and slapstick humor. What if she didn’t love them as I did? She’s already rejected Nancy Drew!

While we are busy with house stuff, I’ve tried to ply her with more reading, and finally I have gotten her a copy of Anne of Green Gables. The edition I found at Borders looks almost ridiculously designed to fool a modern girl into giving a gentler kind of book a chance. Being a little shameless myself, I chose it over the book covers that looked more like the ones I owned — something out Victoria magazine.

And it seems to have worked! She toted the book around all day yesterday, and claims to have read the whole thing. I knew she was hooked when I saw her reading in the midst of group activities, returning to the book after every task. Of course I like to think that she is embracing a book that I loved during my own childhood, but more than that I like to see — finally — her giving a little more attention to her gentle, dreamy side. Seems that Anne Shirley is the perfect guide for that adventure.


Filed under Gifted Ed, Gifted Heart and Soul, Love this Book, Our Philosophy (such as it is), Schoolday Doings

Recent Reading

Mostly I have been visiting the Sen Lin Hu website, thinking, post another damn picture of my daughter will you!

Of course she has been too busy to write, so I have no idea how she is or what she’s doing, except that if she were injured or having an asthma attack they would have contacted us.

We see her tomorrow afternoon — one downside of letting her take the bus home is that we don’t learn quite so much about what she’s been doing, how her learning was going, etc. All part of letting go, I suppose.

I finished Animal Vegetable Miracle a while ago, which I mostly enjoyed , so I decided to pick up The Poisonwood Bible, which everyone else read a long time ago. Especially in the end, you can see Kingsolver’s interest in food and nutrition and farming. At points it seems a little too strong, but perhaps that is only because I had just read AVM and could connect the dots a little too clearly.

I am learning about myself as a reader: as with so many things, I like a level of understatedness that is maybe unreasonable to expect. (Except when I like things crazy and in your face, of course.)

So in The Poisonwood Bible I got a little tired of Adah, the mute genius sister, and her palindromes and writing backwards and (what came to feel) affected profundity.

Still, it was a page turner (and I don’t mean that in the condescending way of, say, a Dan Brown novel), and on the last day of reading it I must have given over at least 4 hours, staying up til 1:30 am to finish it. Also, although the Adah thing became wearying — actually, the Rachel voice also seemed to become to heavily “Rachel” too — Kingsolver is a very good writer, as in prose stylist. Reminded me slightly of reading Virginia Woolf and thinking, “Dear God, I can never be a writer — look at how every word is so carefully chosen. Who can take that much time, let alone have that deep of a well of words? Serious envy. But that’s Virginia Woolf — who somehow can do crazy effects with her writing and never make me feel hit over the head. But we can’t all be Virginia Woolf — and we can’t expect every novel to be Mrs. Dalloway. (Thus perfectionism threatens to kill so many joys.)

Here is a nice tidbit from the Catholic priest gone slightly native, who is something of a foil to the Christian missionary whose family is the center of the book. He is talking about the difficulties of bringing the Bible to the Congo, and what gets lost in translation even into English. He says to one of the daughters:

Och, I shouldn’t be messing about with your thinking this way, with your father out in the garden. But I’ll tell you a secret. When I want to take God at his word exactly, I take a peep out the window at His Creation. Because that, darling, He makes fresh for us every day, without a lot of dubious middle managers.

Now I’m reading Mansfield Park, the most controversial of Austen novels. 😉 It is so hard to keep an open mind, after reading it a few times earlier and just really finding Fanny to be total weenie, and Edmund — oh man. This time around, I like Fanny better but I’m a little more grossed out by the tutor-pupil relationship and Edmund’s desire to make Fanny think just like him. Like Emma and Mr. Knightly, but with no fun.

No no — open mind. Open mind.


Filed under Love this Book

Wonders of the Internets

Hurry for the internet, which allows us to peek in on our little camper, even if she forgets to use the stationery and stamps we supplied her.

This is the camp she attends.

And here is a photo of her I found — do you think she is excited to be there?


In other online news, I am on twitter, so feel free to call yourself to my attention so I have someone to follow.

My young one is requiring my attention — being the only child in the house right now — so I will direct you to one other internet location, my friend’s cool new homeschooling site: Homeschool Recess.


Filed under Love this Resource

A Brief Review of Up

Go see it

We cried, we laughed. We talked about aspects of the movie for the rest of the day.

The hero is a 78-year-old man — that alone charmed me — and the lovely story of how ordinary life becomes our big adventure can’t be lost on any adult who has put aside a dream or two in the pursuit of mundane human happiness.

Also, talking dogs.

Our viewing party ranged from ages 6 to 79, and all were pleased.

But bring Kleenex.


Filed under Love this Movie

Around the House

[Finally I am posting this — I had to get *another* connector for the digital camera. Where do they go?]

We recently picked up this set of books:

physics periodic table biology

I’m sure they’re not for everyone. Seriously science-minded kids — or at least, serious science-minded kids — may find them a little too silly. But they are fun and easy to pick up and flip through for a moment or read through for a while.

I got them for Victoria, primarily, knowing that everyone else in the house would want to read them too. I think the Periodic Table book is probably the best, but they were cheap enough (and not available at local libraries) that I got them all. But Victoria was in a funk today and told me that she could not read them, so — about 10 minutes after a big fight in which little sis “spanked” big sis and many 5yo screams were heard round the neighborhood — Violet offered to read to her, and Victoria accepted happily.


She had just turned down dad’s similar offer.

We are working on the yelling. We are like a set of dominoes — one person loses it and we all go off. So we are working as a family to yell less. The girls have put posters all over the house. I rather like this one.


If you cannot see, the mother figure is swearing. Violet said, “Well, you do swear a lot.” What?! Oh dear . . .


Filed under Family Fun, Love This, Love this Book, Schoolday Doings


I was tying up some work in my office, listening to iTunes. I am a little bored with my music lately, so I’ve let the “Genius” function create playlists around random songs. This one is based on “Higher Ground,” the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ cover of a (superior) Stevie Wonder song. It was pleasantly random and surprising, but when we got to the Barbie remix of “What I Like About You” I had to click over and see the whole thing. I also really like “Come To Jesus” (an alt/folk/country Christian song) right next to “Nemesis” (ultimate teen/goth/dance song from the 90s!).

Ponder the reasoning of the iTunes “Genius,” and don’t think too hard about what this weird mix of songs says about me:

Higher Ground, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Mother’s Milk
Where It’s At, Beck, Odelay
Mr. Brownstone, Guns N’ Roses. Appetite For Destruction
Cecilia, Simon & Garfunkel, Bridge Over Troubled Water
Cannonball, The Breeders, Last Splash
Good vibrations, Beach boys, pet sounds
In Between Days, The Cure, Staring At The Sea: The Singles 1979-1985
Middle Of The Road, The Pretenders, Learning To Crawl
Save It For Later, The English Beat, What Is Beat?
Carouselambra, Led Zeppelin , In Through The Out Door
Timebomb, Beck, Timebomb
Knock Me Down, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Mother’s Milk
Right Here, Right Now, Jesus Jones, Doubt
Come To Jesus, Mindy Smith, One Moment More
Nemesis, Shriekback, Oil & Gold
Start Me Up, The Rolling Stones, Tattoo You
The Tide Is High, Blondie, Best Of Blondie
Girlfriend, Matthew Sweet, Girlfriend
Lust for life, Iggy Pop, Lust for Life
We Got The Beat, The Go-Go’s, Beauty And The Beat
What I Like About You, Barbie & Friends, Barbie Hit Mix
Whip It, Devo, Now It Can Be Told: Devo At the Palace
Boys Don’t Cry, The Cure, Staring At The Sea: The Singles 1979-1985
Peace train, Cat Stevens
Space Oddity, David Bowie, Scary Monsters

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Filed under Love this Music