It is Sunday evening and the boys are all huddled around Nintendo 64, which
is a hand-me-down video game from Patrick, Danielís roommate. Unfortunately,
there are only three working controls, and four boys, so the scene is not
perfectly harmonious. I had no idea when I became a parent how difficult some of
the judgements that I would be called upon to make would be. Peter has an
overnight guest for the weekend, so that gives the two of them a privileged
status. The game "belongs" to Stephen and two of his friends have come
over to play, however Christopher claims that he has had significantly less
playing time. And on it goes. Benjamin at this moment is happy just watching,
but the problem with him is often that he wants someone to play with him when
the others have abandoned it.
It was such a pretty day outside that we sent all of them outdoors for the
afternoon. Then we had a round of a board game, Cranium (that had been one of
Christopherís birthday presents) until David had to leave for a meeting at
Lehigh. This board game is sure to be a hit with the college students, as it
combines elements from Dictionary, Pictionary, Trivial Pursuit, Charades, and a
few other games in an attempt to engage both right and left brained people.
Peter would like to improve it by including a math skills category. Perhaps the
highlight of the day, though, was that I kept a promise to Stephen and made
Christmas wreaths, his favorite Christmas cookie. Mom happened over just as we
finished, and she had a good laugh at the scene. I win the prize for being the
tardiest Christmas cookie baker (that was my first batch of homemade
Christmas cookies this year) but the scales will testify that none of us has
wasted away for the lack of them.
Another homemaking project that I was pleased with myself for pulling off,
even though I was a few months behind schedule, was canning applesauce. Last
year I skipped it entirely, but we were down to our last quart, and nothing is
as good as homemade applesauce. So, with some help from Mom, we made a bushel of
Stayman Winesap into sauce and canned them. Now if only I could get around to
reading my Christmas mail...
I neglected to mention in my last letter that we finally got to see the video
of Mom and Dadís Microsoft commercial, thanks to Judy, who taped it from a
television program. Their starring role is all of three seconds, but they are
School has started up, and this semester a new wrinkle is that Peter is
taking Engineering 1 at Lehigh, which meets four times a week. It is taking all
the available drivers in our combined households to keep up with the commuting.
Peter did meet my deadline for getting his driverís learnerís permit, but
the absolute earliest he would be able to get a license is in April. In other
car news, Daniel showed up one night this past week to claim his license (which
he had voluntarily surrendered for six months to save on insurance fees) and to
take our Ď92 Escort back to Baltimore. I would much rather have given it to a
stranger (preferably on the opposite coast) but we did throw into the deal a few
fervent prayers that it would hold up through his college years.
It was nice to see Daniel, if only briefly. His skiing trip to Salt Lake City
was a huge success (he came back with all limbs intact) and he obviously enjoyed
his taste of the lifestyles of the rich and famous. Returning to reality, he
spent a day at the dentist before going back to his warehouse job in Baltimore.
He and Patrick arrived around 11:00 P.M. Wednesday night, famished, and we had
to leave by 8:00 A.M. the next morning so it really was a whirlwind.
Another school wrinkle this semester is that Christopher is taking a course
in digital typography at the local community college. The dean of admissions was
very skeptical about accepting him because of his age, and we had a number of
phone calls and a private interview before she gave the go-ahead. Fortunately,
Christopher can ride the local LANTA bus. His class meets twice a week for three
hours. It will be a challenge for him to keep up with all of his work, but Iím
glad for this opportunity to pursue a subject in which he has a special
interest. Iím taking bets that Chris will end up a Mac devotee when all is
said and done. Chris succeeded at last in making it to a meeting of the
homeschoolerís chess club Friday night, though if you want to stay on his good
side, donít ask the age of the child who beat him!
Both Chris and Steve attend monthly book discussion groups at the public
library for their respective age groups. These are usually just a few students
and one of the childrenís librarians Ė Iím surpised that more
homeschoolers donít take advantage of this free opportunity to have some group
literature discussion. They fit in the assigned books between making progress on
books of their own choosing. Stephen is working on the Tolkein series, and this
is the year of the giant books for Chris Ė Les Miserables, The Odyssey. I
had a stomach bug for a couple days and thus managed to finish two good
books unrelated to school myself Ė Thatís Not What I Meant and I
Thought My Father Was God. Otherwise, all of my reading has been about the
One January tradition is the National Geography Bee, in which the local
homeschoolers have participated for many years. This was the first year that we
had only one family member of eligible age; that was Stephen. He acquitted
himself well and kept up the honored tradition of his brothers by being
eliminated on a question to which he knew the answer. When asked what grass was
the staple of the pandaís diet, I relaxed, since Stephen and Chris know all
about bamboo and frequently ask to visit Doug Seidel, who has a healthy crop of
it. However, Stephen didnít know that bamboo was a grass, so the question
stumped him. As the seconds ticked by I desperately tried to send him the answer
through mental telepathy, but our connection was poor and thus ended the chance
for national glory. I am proposing an award for mothers who survive sweating
through more than five of these bees in a lifetime.
Mom has been working away at her Christmas letters. One or two nights a week
we watch a video from the James Herriot series, All Creatures Great and Small,
which we find delightful, though Mom professes to be shocked at all the drinking
done in England. One evening (it happened to be Christopherís birthday) we
went to the local artsie movie theater, and saw the excellent documentary, The
Endeavor, about Ernest Shackletonís ill-fated trip across Antarctica. What
an amazing story! I take it as proof that men are by nature incomprehensibly
crazy. The boys have a special interest in Shackleton because their art teacher
is married to his grand-nephew.
Peter didnít go with us because his week was caught up in preparing for
semester exams. I think he has also been busy fixing his computer, but I have
become so tired of computer complications that I repress any knowledge of them
any more. Currently, my computer is working fine and has been brought up to the
high operating standards of my offspring thanks to the concerted efforts and
contributed parts of David, Dan, Peter, and Chris. I expect this happy state of
affairs to continue for about one more week before something mysterious goes
Peter is planning to go on an exchange trip in June with his German teacher,
so we are putting the pieces together for that excursion. They will be based in
Saarbrucken, the same place Uncle David went to so many years ago. I donít get
the feeling that Peter is all that eager to go on this trip, for the simple
reason that in Germany they usually speak German, and he will be staying (by
himself!) in the home of a German family. He tried to persuade me to take him
with me to visit Uncle Peter in Great Britain, where they have the good sense to
converse in English. He isnít the only one to want to accompany me.
Christopher, my friend Susan Fletcher, and even Mom have proposed joining me.
Things are always mildly chaotic around here. Friday night was no exception.
Christopher had chess club, Ben and Stephen had Awana, Mom, Dad, and I had
tickets to a faculty recital at Lehigh, and David had offered our house (and my
services) for the main course of the RUF progressive dinner. However, the
weekend before I escaped from this kind of thing by sailing off to the Residence
Inn for an overnight slumber party with my friends Mim and Susan. We cooked for
ourselves an elegant dinner, talked all evening and into the wee hours, talked
in the morning so much that we missed breakfast, and then went out to brunch at
an Irish tea room. A potentially major snow storm was brewing, so Susan felt she
should leave after lunch and head back to New Jersey. Mim and I did some
shopping and I took her for the grand tour of Wegmanís grocery store. Mom held
the fort down here at home, for which I owe her many thanks. It was a refreshing
and fun break. The snow was a bit disappointing because it warmed up the next
day, so the sledding was poor. Otherwise, a wonderful weekend.