Vocabulary

We’ll take that with a side of music –

bat

Going Batty – A few weeks ago, my son and I retrieved a frog from the backyard pool and lifted it to safety.  A few days ago, we again saw something fluttering madly in the water, and assuming it was another frog, we were stunned to find a little bat in our net!  Now we needed to read about bats (the biggest take-away:  bats eat TONS of insects) (yay bats!) and celebrate our successful life-saving effort by listening to a waltz from Johann Strauss’s operetta of 1874, “Die Fledermaus” (“The Bat”) (which is not about bats, but about amusing revenge plotted by a man who one evening wore a bat costume to a party).  (Not much to look at in this video, but we love the conductor, Mariss Jansons.  Beware the LONG 1 minute 20 second introduction):

Teaser!  A few posts back (May 25, 2018, “It’s All about the Triangle”), I mentioned that my son and I learned about Janissary bands, and it seems unfair to leave it at that, so:  Ottoman Janissary Bands, thought to be the oldest type of military band, date back to the 14th century.  (The Janissary were the elite infantry guarding the sultan’s household.)  My son and I speculated as to the type of musical instruments used in the 1300’s in Turkey – certainly pipes and percussion.  The music pretty much sounds exactly as we imagined.  Stirring. Nobody sleeps when a Janissary band plays:

The Body Beautiful –  We are chock full of interesting information from Professor Astro Cat’s HUMAN BODY ODYSSEY, by Walliman and Newman:

  • we know about the most useful joint in the body (the thumb)
  • we know about the speed of a sneeze (100 MPH!)
  • we know about hiccups!

Last night we read about the lymphatic system; tonight, the endocrine system.  Every few days we toast the healthy body by tapping our toes to the Powers/Fischoff/Keith GIANT hit of 1967, “98.6”:

We keep learning:

thesaurus

The Reference Section – After my son and I talked about the difference between a synonym and a definition, we read through the fabulously illustrated “Roget and His Thesaurus” by Jennifer Bryant/Melissa Sweet, and then compared a few words (book, study, snack) from our Roget’s Thesaurus (“treasure house”) and our dictionary.

hatchet alone

A Reread – This is our third time through “Hatchet” by Gary Paulsen, a book found on every  young adult book list, so I don’t need to wax on about the author’s skilled command of great story, poetic pace, and worthy theme (self reliance).  Even the third time through we are leaning forward to hear what happens next.

sand dollar cookie

(Story Problem) Little Picnic Boxes at Le Fictitious Local Diner – To surprise little Miss G and little Miss P, the diner’s favorite mini customers, the chef has added onto the menu a “Mini Mermaid Summer Picnic Box” (teeny tuna sandwiches, sea salt chips, sand dollar cookies, and blue lagoon lemonade).  Priced at $5, the picnic box is such a hit! 

(For my son to compute in his head, no paper)  A local elementary school is purchasing picnic boxes for the final day of summer school.  If there are 85 students enrolled, the school accountant needs to write the diner a check for how much?  (answer at bottom of post)
A.  $225     B.  $325     C.  $425     D.  $525

(For my son to compute in his head, no paper)  Did we mention that the recyclable paper boxes are super cute and are purchased in units of 50?  If the diner projects that they can sell 750 Mini Mermaid Summer Picnic Boxes during the month of August, and they add on the summer school order, how many units need to be ordered?  (answer at bottom of post)
A.  15 units     B.  17 units     C.  20 units     D.  25 units

insect painting

Insects in the Air!   What we were also listening to this past week:

Spring, Movement 1, from Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” (1721).  For about a half a minute, beginning at 35 seconds into the piece, my son and I can hear a chaotic riot of buzzing cicadas, mosquitoes, dragonflies, and bees.  Wow:

Fireflies, from the solo piano work, “Four Sketches” by Amy Beach, composed in 1892.  We love this piece;  when we lived in Georgia, our backyard was alight with fireflies all summer long and Amy Beach has captured the sparkly magic:  

La Cucaracha – well, this is just so sad.  The original words to this traditional Spanish folk song (composer unknown) tell about a cockroach who has lost one of his legs!  Somebody actually wrote a song about this?????  OH DEAR, the poor thing is hobbling about on 5 legs – and yet – the melody is full of upbeat happiness, encouragement and warmth.  Let this be a lesson!

Welcome to the best part of my day!
Jane BH
story problem answers:  C.  $425, and  B.  17 units

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Shout outs!

megaphone    megaphone   megaphone

If you are part of an autism family, may I share two fave resources?

1) One Stop Autism-Info Shopping –  Guess what happens if you “like” Autism Society San Diego on your FaceBook page?  You stay on top of the latest trends and breakthroughs:  

legal – medical – behavioral – educational – therapeutic – employment – advocacy

Really, you name it; this hip group misses NOTHING.  On top of that, “likers” are treated to stories of personal triumphs (our hearts soar), and inspired by the many ASSD sponsored activities (weekend family camps – gym night – sensory friendly movies).  This is a forward moving,  assertive group with a very public presence in the community.  San Diego kids on the spectrum and their families are lucky to have such powerful support.  The San Diego Autism Society:  A+ on every level. 

ampersand

2) Dr. Amy Yasko: so smart, so kind – My son follows the autism protocol of brilliant researcher, Dr. Amy Yasko.  (My son’s local doctor described Dr. Yasko’s work as being “the Cadillac of Autism Protocols”.  Whoa.)  When anybody asks me about her, the first words out of my mouth are, “she’s SO smart and she’s SO kind”.  But see for yourself:  dramyyasko.com – lots of free videos of her lectures:  you will see how smart she is, you will see how kind she is.  Supported by an astonishing intellect and impressive resume, Dr. Amy is able to clearly explain the most ridiculously complex systems and processes to the likes of me (and apparently thousand of other parents – great parent chat room at www.ch3nutrigenomics.com) (and that is indeed a “3” in the middle of that web address).  And her sincere empathy for the plight of families with an autism child?  It helps.  Really, we love Dr. Amy Yasko.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled STORIES AND STUDIES review:

From our nightly story problem collection – I am still laughing over this:  somebody recently wrote that distance from the earth to the sun is exactly the length of 8 CVS receipts – this led to a story problem:

From the purchasing office at Le Fictitious Local Diner – If the typical length of a local diner receipt is 2 feet (what with all the diner coupons attached), and there are approximately 100 receipts printed out daily, and a paper roll of receipt paper is 230 feet in length, how many rolls does the diner need to purchase per month (assuming a 30 day month)?  (answers at bottom of post)

  1. 17 rolls     B.  27 rolls     C.  37 rolls     D.  47 rolls

If each roll costs $2, how much should the diner budget for receipt paper per month?

  1. $24     B.  $34     C.  $44     D.  $54

war book

Reading for fun – we are revisiting all of our Tom Gates books (author L. Pichon), currently reading book 2, “Excellent Excuses (and other good stuff)”.  Tom Gates makes me laugh every single night;  I love his favorite rock band, “Dude 3”, I love his sullen sister, Delia, I love the way Tom’s dad tries to avoid his pompous uncle.  My son loves Tom’s doodles (vocab) and luckily, Tom is a chronic doodler.  We both enjoy trading Tom’s UK words and expressions for American counterparts (biscuits/cookies, jumper/sweater, that sort of thing).  Every page is entertaining and so worth a second read through.

Reading for our heart “The War that Saved My Life”, a 2016 Newberry Honor Book, by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley.  We look forward to opening this book every night.  The overriding theme focuses on children who were evacuated (vocab) from London during World War II, but cleverly balanced intertwining themes (horses/air fields/special needs/friendship) make this book difficult to stop reading every night.  Excellent discussion provoker.

Our Classical Music Choices – inspired by the UK locale of our two fiction books, we listened to the work of iconic British countryside composer, Ralph Vaughan Williams:

ralph vaughan williams stamp

  • “The Lark Ascending”, composed in 1914 for piano and violin, scored for orchestra in 1920. This well loved piece keeps placing #1 year after year in the Classical FM website Hall of Fame competition.  It is a bit lengthy (16 minutes or so), but it is original, soothing, hopeful and puts the solo violinist (in this case, virtuoso Hilary Hahn) to the test (Ms. Hahn delivers!):

  • “Sea Songs”, composed in 1923, Vaughan Williams seamlessly combined three sea shanties in a four minute jaunty piece (which appears to have been performed, recorded, and uploaded onto YouTube by more college orchestras than any other composition). The seemingly irresistible “Sea Songs” also reappears as movement II of Vaughan Williams’ “English Folk Song Suite”.  We’ve selected a performance by the Wheaton College Symphonic Band, expertly led by honors conductor, Elizabeth Barrett:

  • “English Folk Song Suite”, also written in 1923.  We listened to movement III, a spritely march, “Folk Songs from Somerset” (and sort of interesting:  repeated throughout the piece, my son and I can hear the first line of “The 12 Days of Christmas”).  A simply outstanding performance by a local Texas MIDDLE SCHOOL (!).  We are VERY impressed:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
 – Jane BH
Story problem answers:  B.  27 rolls,  D.  $54

April, at last

welcome mat

March was really a long month, full of planned and abrupt schedule changes.  A beloved grandmother, “The Peach” passed on (so many tears) – a cousin got married (adorable) – an iPad got lost in the TSA security screening at LAX (oh no, oh no, oh no) – and there was the daylight-savings time switch (ugh).  Not a dream month for an autism family, but STUDIES AND STORIES times were a constant, and that helped.

happy faceTSAhappy face

The “Lost and Found” department – this was a new concept for my son. (What? Hotels, schools, grocery stores, gas stations and the like are equipped to deal with people losing things?????  This is so handy!)  And happy, happy day!  The lost iPad turned up within 24 hours in the TSA “Lost and Found” office, and with a minimum of paperwork, was in a box on its way to our home in Texas.  Cheers cheers cheers TSA!  Their lost and found system really works!  Excellent!

geography books.jpg

Reporting from “The Cities Book” (a Lonely Planet publication) – reading about two cities per night, we are one third of the way through this book – the locations are presented in alphabetical order and we are just about through the “K’s”.  We scamper all over our globe finding each night’s destinations (this is actually kind of fun).  We are also interested in each city’s:

Primary Exports – some of the better conversation starters:
– Asmara, Eritrea – salt
– Baku, Azerbaijan – pomegranate juice
– Hamburg, Germany – Steinway pianos
– all cities on the equator – coffee

Observed Weaknesses – again, some of the better conversation starters:
– Ashgabat, Turkmenistan – bugged hotel rooms (yikes)
– Dhaka, Bangladesh – polluted waterways (yikes)
– Christchurch, New Zealand – situated on a major tectonic fault line (yikes)
– Florence, Italy – pigeons everywhere (yikes)

More geography – “The Philippines, Islands of Enchantment”, by Yuson and Tapan.  Side story:  It would be impossible to find a kinder heart, a more dedicated worker, a more mechanically adept young man than the super fantastic Ogie M, who cared for “The Peach” (grandmother supreme) for the final 10 years of her life.  Upon her recent passing, Ogie returned to his family in the Philippines.  So this has propelled my son and I to begin a Philippines unit with a book filled with beautiful photographs and decided opinions (this is not a “let’s pretend everything is perfect” book).  We are getting our first glimpse of this tropical paradise of 80 dialects (vocab) and 7,000 islands.

violin book

We thought we knew about violins.  We knew NOTHING.  This is changing:  we are reading “The Violin Maker”, by John Marchese.  Every night we get smarter and smarter, learning about:

Cremona, Italy, home to Stradivari and Guarneri, rival luthiers (vocab) of the early 1700’s who produced stringed instruments of astounding quality that remain highly sought after and extremely valuable to this day.
Sam Zygmuntowicz, recognized expert violin maker and stringed instrument historian extraordinaire.
The Emerson String Quartet (or “ The Emerson”), and specifically, quartet member Eugene Drucker for whom Sam Z has been commissioned to create a violin.
Bach’s compositions for the violin – and most emphatically stressed, the final movement of the Partita No. 2 in D minor, “the Chaconne” (composed around 1720).  This piece is the gold standard for the crushing relentlessness of loss, despair, and grief – I think my son and I are a bit too immature for this, but we did give it a try (and we listened to the best):    

 

Classical Music Time – well, duh, we had to listen to more music that showcased the violin:

From The Emerson String Quartet   we always like listening to The Emerson’s (we are so in-the-know now) recording of Alexander Borodin’s “String Quartet No. 2 in D”, composed in 1881 (perhaps better known as music used in the 1953 American musical, “Kismet”, for which Borodin won a Tony, posthumously (vocab)):

The perfection of a performance by Itzhak Perlman – when we are tired, Max Bruch’s “Scottish Fantasy” (1880), movement 1, soothes us:

Thank you good friend Amy S for suggesting that my son and I would love “Song to the Moon” from Dvorak’s “Rusalka” (1900).  The performance by Joshua Bell clutches our hearts:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH

The Vocabulary of Vocabulary

In our quest to learn something about everything, the overly complicated focus of the past week was part of our “Vocabulary of Vocabulary” unit:

“Vernacular” vs. “Lexicon” – which became a little more understandable when we differentiated between the vernacular and lexicon in our current home state of Texas:

Group – Texans
VERNACULAR examples – y’all, bless your heart (meaning “OMG, how stupid is that?”)
examples from the LEXICON – impordant (the Texan way with “important”), fixin’ (meaning getting ready to do something)

My son learned that vernacular and lexicon are almost-but-not-quite interchangeable; vernacular referring to the unique language/jargon of a particular group and lexicon (almost like a mini-dictionary) referring to the specific words of the language.  (Wow, picky.)

Anyway, using the book, “Pirates Magnified” by David Long and Harry Bloom, we had a blast looking into the vernacular and lexicon specific to sailors and pirates of the 17th and 18th centuries:

Group – Pirates
VERNACULAR examples – aargh, avast ye, barnacle-covered, Davy Jones’ locker
examples from the LEXICON – privateer, cutlass, crow’s nest, swabbies

“Pirates Magnified” also provided conversation provokers –
–  the pirate’s code (the classic case of honor among thieves)
–  lady pirates (these women were SCARY)
–  voted most important discussion instigator:  a significant percentage of sailors on pirate ships were escaped slaves
Good book!

blue plateblue plateblue plate

Story problem from Le Fictitious Local Diner – the diner is rife (vocab) with vernacular (slinging hash, mayo, Adam and Eve on a raft, greasy spoon)…How about their “blue plate special”?  For the month of February, the diner’s blue plate special will include a grilled bratwurst smothered in home-made chili, a side of their jalapeño honey corn bread, and a heaping spoonful of the house chunky cinnamon-spiked applesauce.  Each blue plate special is priced at $8 and costs the diner $3.  If the diner sells 100 specials per week, what will be the profit at the end of February?
A. $500      B. $1,000      C. $1,500      D. $2,000 (answer at bottom of post)

pirate whyeth     bach

The rowdy and the refined – my son and I got so embroiled with pirates of the 17th and 18th centuries that it jarred our brains to think something else might have been going on in the world.  So, when pirates and privateers were wreaking havoc on the high seas (and we learned “the high seas” means “open ocean, not within any country’s jurisdiction”) what was going on in the drawing rooms of European palaces?  How about Vivaldi, JS Bach, and Handel?  What a juxtaposition! (vocab)

– Vivaldi (1678-1741) – we listened to Vivaldi’s “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” (1715). We love this quick paced piece and we’re ready to listen to all performances by conductor and harpsichord virtuoso, Trevor Pinnock:

– Bach (1685-1750) – we listened to Bach’s “Invention No. 13 in A minor” (1720).  Triple score here: 1) super short piece, 2) quick paced, 3) Simone Dinnerstein at the piano (heart, heart, heart):

– Handel (1685-1759) – we listened to Handel’s “Alla Hornpipe” from his Water Music (1717), performed by the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra (A+++).  What an upright, solidly British sound:

midnight clock

My, my, what a short post – I have no idea why there was so little material to work with for this blog post. Oh, yes I do:  my son has been in this most trying phase where he is not ready for stories and studies until WAY late (think midnight), so I have regretfully trimmed down our nightly study agenda.  Hope this is a short duration type of phase. (If wishes were horses…)

But still, welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
Story problem answer: D. $2,000

The 11th Hour

clock

The eleventh hour, the twelfth hour, the oneth hour – Usually my son and I are up in his room ready for STORIES AND STUDIES by 10 pm, but a few times a year something upsets the schedule

train wreck

(let’s not go there right now) and we aren’t able to start until maybe 11 pm?  Midnight?  1 am?  Despite the pitifully late hour, despite the fact that my eyes are one eyelash away from slamming shut, my son is still counts on his STORIES AND STUDIES time.  We had such a late-nighter earlier this week.

It was time for THE EXPRESS PLAN:

wonder

  1. one chapter from one book – right now we are mesmerized by R.J. Palacio’s blockbuster “Wonder” – not only an outstanding read for us, but the chapters are mostly only two or three pages long.
  2. one poem – something soporific…something like Robert Lewis Stevenson’s wonderfully rhythmic “The Swing” or John Masefield’s “Sea Fever”.
  3. quick math computation problems instead of a story problem – a few nights ago I had my son figure out the age difference between himself and 4 members of the family.
  4. three of our shorter classical music recordings:
  • May we suggest Chopin’s “Minute Waltz”, more formally known as “Waltz in D-flat major”, composed in 1847.  It is only two minutes in length (the “Minute” refers to the “tiny” definition (mine-oot), not the “60 second” definition).  Perfect:

  • followed by a few pieces to induce drowsiness…something like Bruch’s “Scottish Fantasy”, the last half of movement 1 (the adagio cantabile) (5 min), composed in 1880:

  • and wrapping up with Peter Lutkin’s “May the Lord Bless You and Keep You”  (2 minutes), written in 1900:

– zzzzzzzZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzz –

Even when we are on the express plan, this is the best part of my day.
– Jane BH

The “C” Side

– we were finding the letter “C” all over the place last week –

CANDY – “Turtle in Paradise”, our third Jennifer L. Holm book, is giving my son a glimpse of life in the Florida Keys during the great depression (concept vocab).  No money.  No money at all.  What to do?  With the current emphasis on “Girl Power”, it is almost refreshing to see what a troop of young boys did to earn – well, not money, but CANDY – they banded together to form an exclusive club that tended to BABIES!  Babies????  This group of street-wise boys knew how to calm screaming babies and expertly change (cloth and safety pin) diapers – they even had a secret formula for soothing diaper rash.  AND it was considered an HONOR to be asked to be in the Diaper Gang.  There is so much more to the story than this amusing side theme.  Holm’s books make us glad to be immersed into her world.

lonely planet plus books

CIXI – We’ve recently finished “Cixi – Evil Empress of China?”, another excellent study from the “A Wicked History” series.  Cixi, oh my word – her multitudinous (vocab) self-centered ways provided the final nail in the coffin for the the end of the Qing dynasty (example – all public officials were expected to “donate” – GET THIS – 25% of their annual income to honor her 60th birthday!) (we stopped for a math problem).  While Cixi rebuilt her summer palace, China’s military budget was depleted – leaving the country vulnerable to outside forces.  At the end, my son and I were not completely certain she was EVIL (although there was that “poisoning her enemies” speculation).  OK, she was evil… but evil or not, she certainly was not the right person for the job – she was not interested in being  the leader that China needed.  This book provoked many side conversations.

CHILE – My son and I are in the middle of our South America unit – a DK book about the Amazon rain forest served as an introduction. We are now reading our first Lonely Planet book: “Not-For-Parents:  South America – Everything You Ever Wanted to Know”.  We’ve read about the fancy lady wrestlers of Bolivia, Panama hats (a product of  Ecuador – but used to be shipped to Europe from the Panama canal area. We looked at a map to figure out why these hats were being shipped from Panama), (it is sort of therapeutic to spend a bit of time focusing on hats), the driest place on earth (the Atacama Desert in Chile), and Alexander Selkirk who jumped ship and spent over 4 years on an island off the coast of Chile (inspiring Daniel Dafoe’s story “Robinson Crusoe”).  OF COURSE we have ordered a copy of Robinson Crusoe (duh).

cinnamon sticks

CIDER – Story Problem from Le Fictitious Local Diner – The diner is gearing up for their booth at the town’s “Autumn Daze Festival”.  The diner will be selling cups of hot cider, each garnished with a cinnamon stick. The facts:

– each gallon of fresh-pressed apple cider will cost the diner $5
– the diner will purchase 50 gallons of cider
– there are 15 servings of cider per gallon
– the diner will purchase cinnamon sticks at a cost of $15 for 100 sticks
– each bio-degradable (vocab) cup will cost the diner 10 cents

1)  If the diner sells out of cider, how many cups will they have sold?
2)  How much will the diner have spent for cider, cinnamon, and cups?
3)  If the diner sells each cup for $2, what will be the profit? (answers at bottom of post)

 

bach concerto

(Bach’s actual handwriting – Concerto No. 5)

You say “Concertos”, I say “Concerti” – All of a sudden, I felt my son needed to be exposed to the full scope of JS Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos.  We had listened to No. 3 several times, but was that enough?  My son already knew the definition of a concerto (for those like my mom, “The Peach”, who have no idea: a concerto is an orchestral work, usually consisting of 3 movements, showcasing ONE particular instrument) (OK, sometimes more than one, but no need to confuse The Peach).  Here is what my son learned:

  •  “concertos” or “concerti” are both acceptable terms for the plural of “concerto”.
  •  the Brandenburg Concertos each showcase SEVERAL instruments. This type of set-up is referred to as a “Concerto Grosso”.  Very popular in Baroque times.
  •  HEART-BREAKING:  in 1721, Bach sent the set of 6 concertos to the Margrave of Brandenburg, as sort of a job application…there is no record of the Margrave acknowledging the music.  FOR SHAME.  The music was simply archived in his library, forgotten, and FINALLY found 128 years later (1849).  Felix Mendelssohn, then conductor of Leipzig’s Gewandhaus Orchestra, understood the significance of the discovery and brought the Brandenburg Concertos to world wide attention.  OMG, thank heavens.
  •  these concertos are DIFFICULT to perform.  Jeanette Sorrel, from the Cleveland Baroque Orchestra writes, “The featured solo instruments(s) in each piece requires a level of playing that is literally athletic”.

We listened to all six concertos over and over.  These three selections are so noteworthy:

Brandenburg Concerto No. 2, movement 3 – this is the concerto that puts the spotlight on the trumpet soloist.  Due to the abundance of high notes and the speedy tempo, this is regarded as perhaps the most difficult music to play in the classical trumpet repertoire (vocab):

Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, movement 3 – our fave:

Brandenburg Concerto No. 5, movement 1 – this concerto exhibits the skill of the harpsichordist, in this case, the great, great, great Karl Richter.  I do not see how anyone can watch this man play this piece without thinking THIS IS INSANELY RIDICULOUS.  The solo part is simply exhausting:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answers: 1) 750 cups, 2) $445, 3) $1, 055)

JUMBLE!

jumble 2

Jumble! – we have been playing our own version of the popular-since-1954 newspaper word game, “Jumble”.  I mix up the letters of a word, and my son unscrambles the letters. My son LOVES this challenge!  As opposed to this:  I thought my son might be interested in watching a plant grow from seed, so a few nights ago I brought up a packet of radish seeds to the STORIES AND STUDIES CENTER and was met with (in Victorian terms) “the cut direct”.  Well, bummer.  But at least I can tell when my son is engaged and when he is not.  And whether he likes it or not, we are going to be serving up home grown radishes in a few short weeks.

radish

Farmer Brown grows radishes (story problem) – (oh my, this one is so easy) It is rather late in the growing season, but Farmer Brown is laying in another crop of radishes – Le Fictitious Local Diner will buy all that he has to sell, and the radishes grow so fast.  If Farmer Brown plants 1,000 radish seeds and is able to harvest 800 radishes, what percentage of the seeds transformed into an edible (vocab) vegetable?  If rabbits ate half of the unharvested radishes, how many did they consume?  If the local diner garnishes every salad with two sliced-up radishes, how many radishes do they need for a PTA luncheon of 150 attendees and a bowling league dinner of 20 team members? (answers at bottom of post)

Cixi

“Cixi – Evil Empress of China?” – we are half-way through yet another book from the “A Wicked History” series.  These books NEVER disappoint.  So: China in the 1800s – we thought the book would be about inner-court intrigues or friction between royalty and peasants.  But no.  So far, the lead story is about the most preposterous foreign invasions. China had a centuries-long tradition of NOT welcoming foreign trade, so GET THIS – during the 1800s, Britain and France (I am sorry to say), using vastly superior military might, forced China to trade.  How upside-down is this?  My son and I seem to have this small discussion every night: does a country with any sense at all go to war to force a clearly reluctant other country to engage in COMMERCE?  Suffice it to say, we open this book every night hoping we will start to understand, and in the meantime learn more about Empress Cixi.  We are sort of hoping that her evilness doesn’t disappoint…tonight is promising – we will be reading a short essay that appears to infer that Cixi poisoned her enemies. Yikes!

greek quiz

Greek Mythology a la Ken Jennings – The fact is this: my son and I are still loving “Ken Jennings Junior Genius Guide to Greek Mythology”.  The fact is this:  the Greek mythology family tree is hilariously confusing.  There is a dizzying quantity gods, goddesses, muses, nymphs, and super-strength mortals.  Just to make sure my son had a grasp of the basics, I gave him two quizzes – one that matched Greek gods with Roman gods and a multiple choice quiz that covered mythology vocabulary.  I also gave the quizzes to my husband. They both did so well!  (And if you are looking closely at the photo above – my son selected correctly – researchers now say that Pandora had a JAR, not a BOX!)

“Penny from Heaven” – we’ve just finished this fun fiction read by Jennifer L. Holm.  As we found from another of her books, “The 14th Goldfish”, Holm excels in characterizing family dynamics – in this case we ended up wanting to be a part of the protagonist’s father’s extended Italian family.  For us, this was a captivating book with a handful of serious discussion topics.  Tonight we start on another Holm novel, “Turtle in Paradise”.

cake with sparkler

Bohemian Birthday – Classical music listening – Last Friday (September 8th) was the birthdate of composer Antonin Dvorak. So, after finding his birth country on our globe (Bohemia – now the Czech Republic), and a few basic arithmetic questions (Dvorak was born in 1841, how old would he be if he were still alive to celebrate this birthday?  Dvorak died in 1904, how long did he live?), we enjoyed three favorite recordings.

Sidebar notes –
1) For no particular reason at all, we selected Dvorak recordings conducted by international treasure Seiji Ozawa. (Not to be jerky, but it is hard not to take notice of Mr. Ozawa’s hair.)
2) Two of our selected compositions were recorded by the acclaimed Vienna Philharmonic – and if the music were just not SO great, we would have been preoccupied by trying to find women musicians in the orchestra.

Slavonic Dance No. 1 – composed in 1878, under full encouragement of Johannes Brahms.  We think if we were musicians we would like playing this sweetly rambunctious folk dance, and we would definitely like to be somewhere in the orchestra hall if only to gaze upon Ozawa’s CRAZY cartoon-style coiffure.  Nonetheless, superbly conducted:

Humoresque – It has been written that Dvorak’s “Humoresque” (referring to the seventh of his eight “Humoresques”, composed in 1894) is probably the most famous small piano work ever written (after Beethoven’s “Fur Elise”).  We first listened to this as it was written (for piano), and our thought was, “yeah, yeah, yeah – this sounds familiar – sort of boring”.  THEN we listened to to a recording of Seiji Ozawa conducting the Boston Orchestra, showcasing Itzhak Perlman and Yo Yo Ma: GAME CHANGER.  Who knew “Humoresque” was a heartbreaker???  This is proof of the power of a conductor’s vision:

“The Largo Movement” from Symphony No. 9 (“From the New World Symphony”, movement 2) – composed in 1892. Majestic loneliness. Ozawa’s hair under control:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answers: 80%, 100 radishes, 340 radishes)