Thursday, March 31, 2005

Nobody's home

This AP story appeared today in our local paper. The headline used was "Intimacy lost in families’ non-stop busyness."

Please go read it. It’s a story about families that are so on-the-go that they don’t eat dinner until after 10 p.m.; where homework is usually done in the back of the van on the way to hockey practice; and where it’s very unlikely that more than a couple of family members are even in the same room at the same time.

This is something Mama Squirrel feels very strongly about. Some of the squirrel family’s favourite evenings after supper are when everyone’s squished onto the queen-size bed, reading or cuddling or just fooling around together. (Although at those times she wishes it were a king-size bed.) There was something to be said for those old farmhouses with one warm room, though they had their drawbacks too.

Recently we’ve had some firsthand experience of the "on the run" lifestyle. The young squirrels have joined a choir that practices on Wednesday afternoons, and then they and Mama Squirrel take a twenty-minute walk (timed without any snow and no stops at the bookstore) to meet Mr. Fixit at his office for a ride home. By now it’s 5:00, so dinner is either something from the crockpot or (occasionally) pizza ordered before we leave the office. Wednesday night is also either the big squirrels’ night to go to a church group (while The Apprentice babysits), or The Apprentice’s turn to be driven to church for her youth group (20 minutes each way and she has to be there right after supper).

After a couple of weeks of this, Mama Squirrel began to have a great deal of sympathy for people who do this almost every night. Once a week is enough, thank you.

But the part about this newspaper story that really caught her attention is that the parents say "this is good for them [the children]." Now Mama Squirrel is not naive about the way newspaper reporters sometimes twist what people say (it has happened to her). But she wonders how this family came to that conclusion. Do these kids really want to be cramming their homework in the back seat? Do they like having no real dinner until after 10 p.m.? Do the kids ever get a chance to play in their backyard, or play a non-moving board game, or do some of the not-so-structured cultural activities that the Headmistress recently posted about? When do they play with their friends? Do they ever get to blow bubbles on the back porch? Although the parents described here say that their children are having a better childhood than they themselves had, one would have to wonder.

Mama Squirrel recommends the books What is a Family, by Edith Schaeffer, and For the Family’s Sake, by Susan Schaeffer MacAulay, for anyone who, like her, worries about what our togetherness is becoming.

Too many homonyms, Mom

I told Crayons a couple of nights ago, "Now you get in to bed." (Pronounced like that.)

She looked puzzled and said, "But there's only one."

Monday, March 28, 2005

Pounding the Keys

Bad Mama Squirrel...the blog stays blank for days at a time, but she means well, she really does. After watching the movie Finding Forrester, she was tempted for about ten seconds to dig out a typewriter (there's one buried at the bottom of the nest) in hopes that it would inspire her lack of writing productivity, but she quickly reconsidered in favour of high technology and the ability to cut and paste and make many copies of things.

Actually all the squirrels have been busy writing, so much so that we have to take turns on the computer. Mama Squirrel is pulling thoughts together for a Charlotte Mason workshop this weekend. The Apprentice is trying to finish her first ever "realio trulio" (lol Headmistress) research paper on Castles. Ponytails has been making menus (she goes around at meals and asks everyone what they would like). Crayons has been typing words on her favourite software program, which is called, strangely enough, Crayons. In fact, we have so much printer ink to use up that we've called a spring break from school this week.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005


After over a week of having everybody sick, the squirrel family is trying to get back to normal and get ready for Easter. Mr. Fixit is back at work. There are Garfield playing cards, toy dishes, hairbands, sunglasses, stencils and pencils all over the floor of the basement room where the squirrelings spend their mornings. (It had been abnormally tidy for the last few days.) Mama Squirrel is actually cooking something besides frozen pizza for supper.

The Apprentice has finished God's Smuggler and The Sword in the Stone (two of her term books) in the last two days and she and Mama Squirrel completed their Plutarch for the term this morning. And the sun is shining, so the heaps of snow around the nest are starting to dwindle a bit. Spring is on its way.

Sunday, March 20, 2005


Mama Squirrel has been sucked into the vortex of viruses as well. Well, we always said we like to do things together.

We had our own Palm Sunday devotions together anyway. We read from Dangerous Journey about Christian and Faithful going into Vanity Fair, and talked about how that was a little like Jesus entering Jerusalem. And we sang "My Song is Love Unknown." Well, warbled it. That was about all we were up for.

Friday, March 18, 2005

And another one's down

Ponytails is sick now too. Because she's hardly ever sick, she never seems to know what to do with being sick. She reacts in about the same way as she does when she loses at cards. For that reason in particular, all the squirrels hope she will recover very quickly.

Mama Squirrel is still hanging in there. Maybe caffeine provides immunity? However, even healthy squirrels have been known to go down with this in a couple of hours, so if the blog gets no actions for awhile, it will be because she's decided to go curl up with her tail around her. (She might anyway, she was up quite a bit last night with the young squirrels.)

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Dress Warm

A funny I forgot to include from Crayons (before everyone got sick): "You have to wear a coat and hat when you go out in the snow, or you'll get amnesia."

Catching Up

It's sometimes easier to add comments to other peoples' blogs than it is to think of new ones for the Treehouse. However, this week even that doesn't seem to be working so well (my comments either get posted three times or not at all), so I'll post something of my own up here on the wall of the nest.

Almost all the squirrels are lying around the nest in various combinations of pajamas and clothes, getting over a virus. So far only Ponytails and Mama Squirrel have escaped it, and Ponytails is a little warm and cross today as well. In the middle of the night Mama Squirrel got up to take care of Crayons, and found Mr. Fixit and The Apprentice watching Dr. Who in the living room, since neither of them could sleep or breathe very well. So it's been that kind of a week.

However, yesterday while Mr. Fixit/Dad Squirrel was feeling somewhat better in the afternoon, he played Kerplunk with the young ones while Mama Squirrel walked downtown to spend a much-appreciated birthday gift certificate at the bookstore. (She also made a stop for some Vitamin C and a box of Breathe Easy Tea, which Mr. Fixit says works very well.) After browsing for awhile, Mama Squirrel decided to use the certificate on three books:

Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter, by Thomas Cahill. I know Zookeeper/Headmistress likes his book How the Irish Saved Civilization, but I'm not sure quite what I'm getting into with this one. Amazon reviewers seemed to be kind of mixed on whether or not he hit the right important things. But I'm looking forward to reading it anyway.

The Bush Garden: Essays on the Canadian Imagination, by Northrop Frye. Head Girl, if this is really good I'll let you know--I know you like Frye.

Shakespeare for All Time, by Stanley Wells. Kind of a combination biography and book about productions of his plays. A big fat hardcover, the kind that's so nice to get when it's a birthday gift!

So the nest is well stocked with reading matter for the next while. And what did Mama Squirrel stay up till midnight reading? None of these. "The Queen of Air and Darkness," book Two of The Once and Future King, which she also picked up at the bookstore for The Apprentice. Some of it reminded her of a Flintstones episode about a lovesick monster, but she doesn't want to spoil the whole thing for The Apprentice by giving away too much.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Friday, March 04, 2005


Crayons (almost 4) got her name because that's what she likes to do most, crayon; she likes to cut and glue too, but picture-making is her favourite thing. If she doesn't have crayons around, she makes pictures on the floor with Cuisenaire rods or pieces of Duplo. Her last Cuisenaire rod creation was a person with hair made of long yellow rods and some short red rods on top. When asked, she said the red rods were "highlights."

Crayons says that when she's big, she'd like to be "married, Santa Claus, and a really big girl."

Happy Jack: Narration by Ponytails

Hi, my name is Ponytails. My little sister is Crayons, my big sister is The Apprentice, my mom is Mama Squirrel and my dad is Mr. Fixit. My favourite thing in school is copywork. The thing that I'm best at is math. I am reading Happy Jack Squirrel. There is this squirrel named Happy Jack Squirrel, he's a gray squirrel. And he walked by a hickory tree, and he saw all these big juicy nuts. And then his cousin Chatterer the Red Squirrel came along, but he was scolding and stuff. Happy Jack hoped he didn't see the big fat juicy nuts. He hoped that he would get all of them, just like a hog. But he took one of the big juicy nuts, Happy Jack did, and he was ticklish, so he started to hug himself. And of course, holding a big fat prickly nut, he dropped it, right on the head of Chatterer. And of course he said, "Did you do that on purpose?" "I didn't," said Happy Jack. "You did!" said Chatterer. "I didn't!" "You did!" Look at those two foolish little squirrels, fighting over nuts.

But Happy Jack's tiniest little cousin, a striped chipmunk, gathered all the nuts that Happy Jack and Chatterer made fall down because they were fighting. The end!

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Saddest thing

Mama Squirrel is trying to escape from the cold bleak reality of snow piled deep around the treehouse, by watching movies like "In the Heat of the Night" and reading books about books. In Reading Lists for College Bound Students, by Doug Estell and some other people, Professor Huck Gutman from the University of Vermont says that students should do something before college in addition to reading lots of books. "Go to art museums. My most depressing experience of the past two years has been teaching Robert Lowell's wonderful 'last' poem, 'Epilogue' in which he compares what he does with words to what Vermeer did with paints. In two years, two classes, 60 students, no student knew who Vermeer was!" (p. 338)

Mama Squirrel is sad too, so she's going to make a point of introducing the young squirrels to Vermeer at the earliest possible point.