I’m sitting with Aria on the front lawn, and she starts talking to me about something, I can’t remember what. She explains that (whatever it was), it “wasn’t that far.”

“Oh no? Not very far?” I answer, using the repeat-it-back-to-them method of keeping conversations going with six-year-olds.

“No, not far. Dad said it was about a penny of a mile.”

“A penny of a mile, eh?”

“Yeah. A penny of a mile. Not very far.”

“How about that. A penny of a mile.”

“Or maybe it was a nickel of a mile.”

“Oh, I see. A nickel of a mile. That’s a bit farther than a penny of a mile.”

Aria frowns. Something is not quite right with this conversation. “A quarter of a mile?” she guesses.

Ah, yes, a quarter of a mile. Accuracy trumps poetry. Oh well.

***

Saving Money with Shrinking Packaging?

This summer I told the SuperHusband that what I wanted for my birthday was a giant colander. He bought me a Venus fly trap instead. Oh well. Mr. Boy is having fun feeding it. But the reason I told the SuperHusband about my need is that he makes the best colanders – he takes a pair of matching (nesting) stainless steel mixing bowls, and neatly punches a set of holes in the bottom of one. Makes for a very useful and easy-to-clean combination of bowl and strainer.

But it appears that fly trap was just as well, because I don’t need the big colander after all. This because two boxes of pasta no longer makes two pounds of pasta – the food company has downsized packaging enough that two boxes of pasta fit in my current colander with no risk of spilling over. Of course, no more leftovers, either.

***

Pen Knife Mania

I’m a big G.K. Chesterton fan, and I hope that at least some of time this shows through favorably in my writing. But at the very least I can now report that we have tangible evidence of his influence here in the homeschool: knife-sharpened pencils.

I’m a convert. The truth is, it never even occurred to me that one could sharpen a pencil with a pocket knife. Not until I read GK complaining about the growing popularity of pencil sharpeners; he observed that the knife sharpened better and could be used for many other chores besides, whereas the pencil-sharpener didn’t sharpen pencils all that well, and would be absolutely useless for fixing lunch or cutting rope.

Wow. Never thought of it before. Tucked that bit of information away in the corner of my brain reserved for things-people-do-who-are-more-skilled-than-I.

Then the children got pocket knives. It was almost like the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup commercial: Over here we have a tin full dull and broken-tipped pencils, and over there, two freshly-armed big kids at loose ends. Put the two together, and, voilà!, sharpened pencils.

The real magic came, though, when I myself learned to knife-sharpen a pencil. At which point I realized how many other uses there were for a pocket knife, and furthermore discovered that the SuperHusband had a really nice little lightweight clips-to-your-beltloop knife that he wasn’t using any more, because he’d upgraded to some other really nice little lightweight clips-to-your-beltloop knife. Happiness.

***

Humor and the Sensory Learner

Four-year-olds are an inherently poetic bunch, but of all the children to date, the Bun wins the award. I wish I could even remember 90% of what she says; I am forever being struck by how simple and eloquent and achingly true are her observations, but I guess because the humor lies not in cleverness or confusion (as with the penny-of-a-mile above) but rather in her piercingly clear view of the world, the words tend to melt away and I cannot remember them. I should carry a notepad when I am alone with that child.

She is also, and I think the two are connected, the most sensory-oriented of our children. We visited a demonstration of a cotton gin this summer, and it was beyond her powers to resist taking home a little puff of freshly-ginned cotton. She knew it was wrong, knew she must keep her prize hidden, but could not, simply could not, resist the allure of holding something soft and fuzzy in her little hands, and pressing it up against her face, and giving it a name and a life. That’s the Bun.

So last night girls were sent to bed, and Aria comes out sometime later to inform us: “She’s going into your bathroom, rubbing mint toothpaste on her hands, and bringing it back to bed.” I thanked my informant – usually I am exasperated by bedtime tattle-tales, but this news I deemed worthy of breaking curfew.

I went first to the bathroom, and examined the evidence there. Exhibit A: open tube of mom’s toothpaste sitting out on the counter. Mom does not leave her toothpaste open, nor out on the edge of the counter.  Investigation proceeds to the girls’ bedroom. Exhibit B: The Bun, curled tightly up in bed, back to the world, determined to keep her hands from inspection. And Exhibit C, firmly extracted from hiding: two very sticky but fresh-and-minty palms.

I managed to keep a straight face as I ordered the Bun to go wash her hands. Reported my findings to the SuperHusband. Somewhere along the way the dam broke. Despite the obvious seriousness of toothpaste infractions, none of us six-and-overs could contain our amusement any longer. And then the indignant Bundle, crying to me, heartbroken, “Everybody’s laughing at me!”

And I, sympathetic but resolute, “I’m sorry darling, but if you put toothpaste on your hands, people are going to laugh at you.”

She herself did crack a slight smile at the humor of it, though she quickly returned to a vigorous display of Hurt Feelings.

Epilogue:

This morning in preparing for dance class, she tucks a tube of scented chapstick into her elastic headband, to have it on hand in case of need. More amused onlookers. More hurt feelings. And me, again, “I’m sorry dear, but if you are going to put a tube of chapstick in your hair, people are going to think it is funny.”

Ever practical, she found some other place to store her supply of fragrant goo.  I confirmed she was carrying concealed (she is by nature an honest child, despite the way her passions drive her to a life of crime), and made it clear to the carpool mother that the chapstick may need to be confiscated if it gets out of hand. Or rather, onto hand.

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