Friday, August 30, 2013

Summer Merit Badges

I have a deep failing as a work-at-home Mom: it really irks me when I am working and others around me are playing.  Add to this the fact that my workload usually intensifies during the summer, and we’ve got major irkiness in the Common Household.  Starting about 10 years ago, I began making a ‘summer learning chart’ as an incentive for my kids to do something constructive, or at least stay the $&#@ out of my office.

At the start of this summer, I was at my wits’ end at the thought of Youngest Daughter spending the whole summer wasting her wits on computer games.  Here is the solution which YD and I developed together:  Summer Merit Badges!  (See below for badge requirements.)

Notice how the Cooking Merit Badge is a thinly veiled attempt to get the children to help with dinner preparation.  (I am not posting the "Summer Chore List" which was a blatant attempt to get the children to clean the house.  It was a complete failure.)

The front of our spiffy merit badge bookmarks

Once our college kids moved out, I spent about 20 minutes putting my atrocious art skills to use to make Merit Badge bookmarks.  Youngest Daughter and I had a 30 second ceremony to award each other our merit badges.  YD was awarded badges for Cooking, Music Appreciation, Writing, and Reading.  I was awarded the badge for Reading.

The congratulatory back of the bookmarks

How do you manage to keep your wits during the summer school break?  Or is that not an issue for you?

Summer Merit Badge Requirements

Science Merit Badge
1.  Write a valid hypothesis approved by Dad.  Does not have to be an experiment that could be done at home.
2. Design an experiment.
3. Perform the experiment.
4.  Write a conclusion, approved by Dad.

Cooking Merit Badge
1. Cook one tasty, approved-by-Mom dish.
2. Make a variation on an existing recipe.
3.  Make two cooking experiments.
4.  Learn a new cooking skill.

Music Composition Merit Badge
1. Compose a song based on the chord progression Cmin – A flat maj – E flat maj – B flat maj.
2. Arrange an existing song.
3.  Compose a song using a scale.
4.  Compose lyrics to go with any song.

Music Appreciation Merit Badge
1. Listen to and identify three different types of music.
2. Identify 5 facts about a composer.
3.  Put on a concert.

Playing Outside Merit Badge
1. Take a nature hike.
2. Ride either bike or scooter for 5 hours (not all at once!)
3.  Play Tag, Capture the Flag, or other physical game, outside with your family.
4.  Go swimming.

Acting Merit Badge
1. Do the “one-line Shakespeare” exercise with a Shakespeare play.  (Take a few lines from each scene of the actual play, and use them to reduce the play to its crucial elements.)
2. Play a family charade game.
3. Perform a play or skit with entire family (except for Dad)
4. Perform improvisation.

Writing Merit Badge
1. Do writing challenges with at least one other person.
2. Write a skit or play.
3. Write a short story.

Fishing Merit Badge
1.  Go fishing with Dad.
2.  Catch a fish and release it.
3. Put on your own worm.
4. Play ‘Go Fish’.

Reading Merit Badge
1. Read 5 fiction books.
2. Read 1 non-fiction book.
3. Read one classic that you haven’t read before. (no double-counting this book in part of the other requirements)
4. Read one play.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Guest Post: Horizon


Some thoughts from Youngest Daughter

The horizon always has a light just over the edge, when all is darkest. But we cannot touch that light, or know it. The heat it offers gives no warmth, except to those who can touch the horizon, and they can no longer share it with us. 

There are those who claim to enjoy the horizon, watching the light. There are those who claim to have touched the horizon, and go about spreading the heat they don’t have. 

Then there are those who claim nothing, and there are two types of these. One is people who know they cannot touch the horizon, and either ignore it or stare at it longingly. Then, there are those who reached out towards the horizon. And it touched them. 

* * * * * * *

I asked YD what all this meant, and she said that the horizon represents The Divine or God.  During our prayer tonight, we thanked God for the spinach enchiladas, for the work we got done today, and for waiting for us at the horizon.  Sometimes the horizon is closer than it seems.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Einstein prepares for classes

Einstein - Mother's Little Helper

It’s amazing what Einstein and I can get done when the universe is aligned properly, which is to say:
            a.  Two kids successfully off to college
            b.  Youngest kid reasonably ready for high school
            c.  Nephew’s stuff we’ve been storing successfully delivered to his dorm
            d.  Work computer completely kaput
            e.  Mother-in-law moved to assisted living
f.  Mother-in-law’s house reasonably prepared to go on the market
            g.  Weeds in the gardens ignored

I’ve been working at cleaning up my desk for three days (ever since my work computer quit).  Finally tonight, Einstein stared me down and got me to take care of the last bit.  This is the cleanest this desk is ever going to get. 

Four days ago I cleaned the refrigerator.  Once the Common Household Son moved out, the refrigerator looked alarmingly empty.  Einstein says that’s the best time to clean a fridge.  I also vigorously scrubbed the kitchen floor.

My husband cleaned out Son’s room, which was atrociously dirty.  Einstein was smart enough to stay away from that scene. 

As soon as the college kids moved out, we discovered their bathroom sink was horribly clogged.  Cleaning a clogged drain is one nasty, smelly job.  Oh, where is our Scout with the Plumbing Merit Badge when we need him?!  Einstein would wisely point out that it was an excellent opportunity to get rid of all the junk that was hiding in the sink cabinet, including bath toys from 7+ years ago.  So I did.

Einstein and I are ready for school.  Just in time – classes start tomorrow for everybody in the Common Household.  Good luck with school, everyone!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Daylight Hike

We’ve just sent two kids off to college.  We’re adjusting to the new normal, which is just the three of us: Husband, Youngest Daughter, and me.

Today was a gorgeous day, and we had a free afternoon.  My husband proposed going into town for a walk along the river, but YD wanted to go for a hike in the local park, at a spot famous just to our family.

Fleet of foot, YD frequently had to stop and wait for us old fogeys.
Two years ago, for twenty terrifying minutes, Youngest Daughter went missing in the park as night fell. It happened after our synagogue’s annual outdoor worship service.  At dusk she had gone by herself on one of the hiking trails into the woods, with no flashlight and without telling anyone where she was going.  What?  Didn’t hanging out with her Boy Scout brother teach her anything?!  She had walked along the trail, happily communing with nature, until she noticed that it was quite dark, and then she turned around and walked back.  While we were calling the police, one of her synagogue teachers walked part-way down that trail in the dark, and found YD.

Today she said she wanted to hike that trail in the daylight.  After we entered the woods, the trail quickly led away from the picnic site.  We encountered some wildlife:  a snake, a cyclist, a leafcutter ant, a doe and two fawns.  We knew we weren’t too far from suburbia, though, because we could hear music and the referee whistle from the football field through the woods below us. 

Exotic wildlife.  Actually, we get deer in our yard at night.
Our neighbor has offered to shoot them.
Momma Deer did not stop staring at us.  Maybe WE were the exotic wildlife.

We had walked for about 20 minutes when I said to YD, “Well, this is probably farther than you went in the dark two years ago.”  She said, “No, I remember this spot. I went much farther than this.” 

We kept going, and the hillside along the trail got quite steep.  My husband said, “This was not the leisurely stroll I was imagining.”  I asked what he was imagining, and he said, “The Champs-Elysées.  With a café au lait at the end of the hike.” 

We heard the noise of the football game in the distance.  I offered hope. “There might be a concession stand at that football game.  Maybe they have sno-cones.” 
Not the Champs-Elysees.

He said, “A confession stand?!  I don’t want to confess anything! I just wanted to go for a walk.”  After another 10 minutes we turned around. 

Maybe next year we’ll get to hike the Champs-Elysées avec café au lait, but today I feel fortunate that nobody got lost or injured.  We even got a nap afterwards, no confession required.