Saturday, February 28, 2009

Friday, February 27, 2009

My Kingdom For An Adult Conversation

Don't get me wrong; I adore my children. But there are times when I long for a few hours of adult conversation that is uninterrupted by childish sentiment.

Tonight E & K are in town, planning to attend the Jazz concert. The Jazz Festival has overtaken out entire town as it always does the last week in February, and it drew our good friends back into town to attend the concerts.

Hubby and I, however, being in penny-pinching mode for the most part and also being Celtic aficionados rather than Jazz-lovers, decided to skip the big concerts this year. That left a whole evening in which we knew our friends were having a sophisticated night on the town and we, envious, were at home with two preschoolers wondering what we could do to make our lives half as cool as our absent houseguests.

The plan we finally came up with, to me, was nothing short of genius, if I am allowed to write that about myself and my husband. We took the family out to a family restaurant where the kids had pancakes with smiley faces on them and where we split a hamburger. The place was packed with busfuls of highschoolers high on their recent Jazz performances, chattering about judges and Miles Davis.

Once we were all stuffed full, we drove downtown to our little hole-in-the wall video rental store and loaded up on kids' cartoons. Then we strapped the kids into their car seats, started the Lion King 1 1/2 and drove out of town.



For an hour and a half, our captive offspring sat with open eyes and slack jaws as they absorbed the entertainment industry's version of mental cotton candy. It freed Hubby and me to have a long, involved conversation of the depth I had been craving, discussing a recent biography we'd both read about C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien; from there it branched into social discourse, then into historical feminism, then into theology and on into other notable historical figures.

Just about the time our progeny got bored and began to whine, we arrived back at our house and did a quick get-into-jammies-brush-your-teeth-read-a-story-pray-hop-into-bed routine and the house was peaceful, ready for a glass of wine and settling down to watch the latest Survivor episode that we'd missed last night.

We may not be the life of the party but it's such a treat to enjoy each other's company and conversation so much that we can create a delightful evening together. And as for sitting my children in front of the television for an hour and a half, do I feel guilty? Not one bit! They have spent the whole week busy with learning and playing and preschool and reading and running around to the point that I think they enjoyed the down time as much as I did.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Blast From The Past

When I came across these old photo pages tonight and re-uploaded them, I thought that the family especially might enjoy browsing through them again. How time flies!

Family Photo Pages

Here's a sample:



Singin' the February Blues

The Blues. The Blahs. Everyone's got 'em. Except people in Australia, the bums. They post tauntingly of the sun and nice summery weather they have right now. Other than that, most everyone I talk to is cranky and impatient, including me, my husband and my children.

This is the time of year when winter activities pall, when bundling in sweaters no longer seems fun and when we are all tired of being chilly. I think longingly of the days when I no longer need to bundle little arms into coats and stuff little feet into snow boots. Someday the air will be soft and warm, flowers will bloom again and the world will no longer be drippy, soggy and muddy.

For now though, we nurse our runny noses and try not to snap at each other too much. The little things keep us going, like the days getting noticeably longer or the cheerful chirp of the first robin. We count down the long days until February is over and spring is that much closer.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

She Got Rhythm



Curly's violin teacher began introducing music reading to her this year in order to give her a familiarity with it for later when she really needed to learn it seriously. To our surprise she has devoured the rhythm reading like candy and can produce even the most complicated rhythms pictured above with 100% accuracy. She'll say "Line 2: short-short, shh-short, short-short, ti-ka-ti-ka, short-short, shh-short, long, long," on a steady beat, something I even struggled with in college when I was a freshman.



Hubby, who has generally been the one to sit down and work with her, mostly in just a playful, game-oriented way, has been absolutely stunned at the speed at which she picked up the reading. She'll read pitches too, playing them on the piano or her violin using solfegge rather than note names with surprising accuracy for her age. Neither of us expected this since she hasn't shown extremely unusual interest or aptitude for performing on her violin, doesn't sing on pitch and doesn't have a particularly good ear. But she absolutely loves the rhythm reading and begs to do more of it.

Whine

I want a wood stove to put in our basement! It's freezing down there and I just discovered that the power bill last month was $335!!! Eeek!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Winter Uplands

The frost that stings like fire upon my cheek,
The loneliness of this forsaken ground,
The long white drift upon whose powdered peak
I sit in the great silence as one bound;
The rippled sheet of snow where the wind blew
Across the open fields for miles ahead;
The far-off city towered and roofed in blue
A tender line upon the western red;
The stars that singly, then in flocks appear,
Like jets of silver from the violet dome,
So wonderful, so many and so near,
And then the golden moon to light me home--
The crunching snowshoes and the stinging air,
And silence, frost, and beauty everywhere.

Archibald Lampman (1861 – 1899)

Monday, February 23, 2009

Grocery List

Last week Curly and I were discussing the fact that were were out of bubble soap for the bathtub. We'd been out for quite a while, as a matter of fact, since we always forgot to add it to whatever current list I had going at the time. For fun, I suggested that Curly start a new list with that very item. She's never done anything of the kind before so I didn't know how she would react.



Well, she was thrilled to get to use an adult pen and list paper and she solemnly set to work. I tried to get her to spell it herself, just to see what she'd do.

She was so excited about her list that I let her add several other important items, then we were off to the store. While we shopped, she held the list herself, reading off items, making sure we didn't forget anything. A very great help.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Fun Overload

Our weekend was too busy. Yesterday we went to some friends' house to have an all-afternoon LAN party. Geekiness to the max, that was us. We hooked up five computers, played Starcraft, and Hubby came out triumphant, the victor of the day.

In the middle of the action I came home to give Little Mister a nap. Curly Miss I kept up, which may or may not have been a mistake, but our friends have a 4-year-old girl and I couldn't bring myself to cut short their fun.

We got done around nine PM and instead of coming home to put the kids in bed as wise and prudent parents would do, we went to hear the Celtic band play at Bucer's. Mister in particular loved the music and watched wide-eyed from the safety of Daddy's lap, patting his hands on the table in time to the music. Curly found B, her favorite babysitter (also my sister's best friend) there so she went and sat on her lap.



Today we went to Curly's preschool for their little program.



As you can see, she opted to wear her Lightning McQueen dress AND Lightning McQueen snowboots. The program went fine but we decided to stay for the rest of a reeeeeeeeeaaaaaallllllllyyyyyy long Lutheran church service.



By the end we were all so hungry and cranky it's a wonder we made it to lunch.



To make up for the long service, we treated ourselves to Mexican food.







This afternoon Curly once again did not nap, so by the time Small Group came to our house at 5, she was a miserable wreck. When some kids get overtired, they whine; others drift off to sleep in odd places; others get weepy. Curly does none of these. She becomes a rebellious tigercat. It's as though getting too tired gives her extra manic energy to torment her brother, to disrepect us and the babysitters and to snatch toys and scream about everything. Perhaps those things are always there and tiredness simply erases the patience she normally uses to suppress them. She got in really big trouble once right before Small Group, twice during and by the time it was over at 7:30, she had been permanently banished to bed for the night.

I was about ready to go find the nearest loony bin and voluntarily commit myself, but an hour of piano playing calmed my psyche back down to normal levels. Though that's not saying much.

Tomorrow, the beginning of another week, I shudder to think of meeting Curly again in the morning. I fervently pray that a good night's sleep has cured what ailed her. Also, for a few precious more months, I can ship her right off to Preschool on mornings like tomorrow and have a few hours of reprieve. I'll make the most of it while it lasts, but on the whole I enjoy her and will be glad when Preschool is done.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Feeding the Horses

Little Mister has been quite concerned lately that his Playmobil horses get enough to eat. He carfully lines them up with their dinners then comes to get me, dragging me across the room. "Look, Mommy, Look!" He says this over and over, showing me with delight that his toys are well-cared for.



This horsey likes eggs. Often the horsies eat eggs which is odd because Little Mister himself doesn't like eggs and shakes his head when an attempt is made to feed them to him. "Like it" he says combined with an emphatic head-shake to make the phrase negative. But his dislike of eggs has no bearing on the horsey's taste so eggs it is.



These horseys (and cat) are eating hay. Green hay. Alfalfa, maybe. They look much happier than when they were eating the eggs. I'm not sure how the cat is doing. If it is like my cat, after eating some sort of grass-like food, she'll race into the house and find the cleanest, nicest, most stainable rug and barf in the middle of it.

I'm actually pretty proud of my son for caring so deeply about his horsies' well-being. Not many two-year-olds would be so meticulous. But I have to admit, he has a ways to go, since the horseys, when they were done eating were stuffed into a pile of Lincoln Logs and unceremoniously lit into a pretend bonfire. Poor horsies. At least they weren't hungry.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Let Rise In a Warm Place

We're officially addicted to home-made bread. Hubby whips up a double batch once a week and we freeze half of the dough after the first rise to use several days later so it's always a fresh loaf.

The trouble is, once we let it thaw in the fridge for a day, it still needs the second rise and because the dough is cold, it takes forever to rise! The other day I was letting it rise in an 85 degree oven like usual but I wasn't getting the height that I wanted, even after two hours.



So while the oven was heating for baking, I set the loaf on the floor in front of our space heater, just to give it 20 more minutes of warmth. It struck me how odd it looked to have a loaf of bread sitting in the middle of the living room floor and I mentally thanked myself for remembering to put the dog and cat outside.

Strange as it looked, though, it worked and we had a lovely loaf of whole-wheat bread to enjoy this week.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Slushy Play

The weak, February sunshine beckoned us alluringly from inside the house where Curly Miss sighed and said, "We don't have to stay in the house ALL day, do we?"



No, Little Curly, we did not. After a wonderful morning of children asking to do handwriting worksheets and children happily playing with math games and children delightedly practicing phonics on the computer and investigating notes on the piano and learning about the tens column and fixing their own breakfast, what could be better than getting out in the fresh air and sunshine?



We walked through the chilly air to the park, one child on each side of me, their mittened hands holding tight to mine. When we arrived, the icy puddles drew them like a magnet. Sticks made glorious fishing rods, the puddle was a pond and my children spent a happy half-hour fishing for orange and white and brown and blue fish.



They were even nice enough to share their catch with me and the other parents standing huddled in coats at the edge of the play ground. "Here, want a fish, Mommy?" And of course I did.



We weren't the only ones happy to get out into the sunshine. A local hippy group who often frequents the park in the summertime held forth on the stage with their djembes, their ukuleles and their harmonicas, smoking cigarettes and composing music in a pulsing, rhythmic beat that undulated on and on, eventually blending into the background of our playful chatter.



It wasn't long before lunchtime beckoned us back home again.

Spring is fleeting here; some days like today it seems just around the corner then disappointment comes when another winter storm slaps you in the face. I have learned to enjoy the days like today but not to get my hopes up too soon.

Recycling Old Candles

For quite some time, the bracket on my wall held two red pillar candles that had burned down through the center until there was no wick left but around the edges plenty of wax remained. Finally I got some new candles to replace the old ones and took the sad remains of my old candles down. As I held them, about to throw them away, it occurred to me that maybe I could re-use the wax rather than just throwing them in the garbage. I loved that particular scent, pomegranate, and I hated to waste all that good wax.



So I took a kitchen bowl, lined it with foil, and set the old candle in the center. Then I turned my oven on to 250 degrees and set the bowl inside. It took probably 45 minutes to liquefy the whole candle.

I cut a length of hemp twine from the ball in my junk cupboard to use for a wick. Then I had to think of a way to get it to stick to the bottom of the jelly jar in which I planned to pour my hot wax. I tried several different things but what ultimately worked was pouring a little wax in the bottom of the jar and setting the end of the twine in it and waiting for it to cool and hold the twine tight.



From there it was just a matter of forming a little pour spout in the side of my foil "bowl" and pouring the hot wax into my jar. Because I was impatient and the whole candle wasn't melted, I did it in two layers. I clipped a pen onto the wick to hold the twine tight and centered while I waited for the wax to cool.



Using an old Glade candle jar I made a second recycled candle. I didn't know if my twine would work for a wick, but to my delight it worked perfectly. Now instead of throwing them away, I have two new Pomegranate-scented candles to set on my table!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Compulsion



For some strange reason, there is a compulsion in me to take pictures of things that are sleeping. For one thing, they are easy to photograph; they hold still. Anyone who has tried to photograph children or pets knows that this is not something to take lightly.



Ever since my daughter was tiny and I owned the most horrible cheap digital camera that looked as though it came out of a cereal box, I have had this fascination with sleeping. Maybe it was because as a new mother I never got to do it myself.



Maybe it's because when babies sleep they stick their little bottoms up in the air and it totally cracks me up. I like it when something totally cracks me up. It saves me the trouble of trying to be cheerful on my own.



Perhaps the perverse pleasure of sicking a camera right in the face of someone who isn't aware of it is what makes me do this. Naaah, this one was just so cute I had to capture the moment. At the time, I wondered if he'd ever get his spine straightened out again.



For a while, Little Mister had an aversion to taking a nap so I remember taking this picture in shock that it was actually happening. I needed to document it to prove to myself that on a very rare occasion, he did actually engage in the activity of sleeping, if only for a few minutes.



As far as catching others taking the liberty of sneaking a few winks, particularly after a very gigantic Thanksgiving Dinner after a long, sleepless night, when such a liberty might very well be excused, looks like I am not the only one with this photographic compulsion.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Home Barista



Anyone who knows me, and Hubby too for that matter, knows we're coffee-holics. Not just a nice cuppa joe, but the gourmet, frothy, sweet, takes-fifteen-minutes-to-make-it kind of coffee. Not surprisingly, our kids have learned this addiction at a young age under our fantastic influence.



As I prepare my morning cup of sanity, my kids invariably ask for a vanilla steamer as well.



They each have their own mugs and woe to the mother who gives the wrong color to a watchful child. Apparently a loving father not only will give his son a fish instead of a snake, he will also be absolutely sure to give him the green cup in the morning rather than the blue one.



It is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I makes me wonder if I sit there drinking my own morning coffee with the same unfocused stare and contemplative half-smile as if all is not well with the world until the caffeine has entered my bloodstream and begun working its magic? Oh, surely not.



Most mornings I feel like a really truly coffee-shop Barista, not only brewing my own wake-up-sauce, but churning them out in bulk for the demanding masses. I should start charging.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Thanks, Honeybear!



I love being married to my computer programmer husband. Not only did he give me a dozen red roses and a honey bear for Valentine's Day, but when he found out I was tinkering around trying to import posts to my blog, he sat down and found a geeky script on the web that would import all 831 posts at once including comments and tags. So now my blogs match.

831 posts! I think I have a lot to say. In 2008 alone I wrote 496 posts, which is almost 300,000 words, the size of a large novel. Wow. It's amazing what a little bit every day will do for you.

As I have gone back to read over some of the archives, I love having this journal record of our family. I'd like to go back and fill in some of the holes here and there in 2006 and back to when we got married.

I always knew I wanted to write; for years I have thought it would be something I might enjoy. But it wasn't until a year or so ago that TexasTschirgis inspired me to tell stories in my writing every day and I began to get addicted to blogging. Then I joined NaBloMoPo which inspired me to write a little bit every day. And I've gained a few readers here and there who seem to like my blog. That makes me happy, that I would be able to write something people enjoy reading.

Still, even with all of you wonderful readers and my new blog and all, I still write for me. It's therapeutic to turn a stressful situation into a humorous story, to log the milestones that my children pass, to vent about some opinion or happening or event. I love connecting with family and friends who read to follow the family news here and there. But at the end of the day, I simply write for the joy of putting words on paper, of searching for just the right phrase and for the creative pleasure of crafting a story.

On we go from here!

Here it is!

Curly and Mister try out the new piano

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Way Things Shake Out

A week ago I agonizingly made the decision to sell my bagpipes. A full set of Highland Pipes, going for nearly $1K is not only a highly unusual item but a very expensive one. I had a vague idea that I would sit for years with them on my shelves, occasionally submitting a classified ad here or there.

As usual when praying, I brought up the concerns of my heart to the Lord. I asked Him to show me the right thing to do and asked for His help and guidance in this. I asked for His comfort.

Then I placed ads in all of the local free classifieds and mailed the Pipe Major who had given me lessons. I waited only a few days before the firefighter contacted me with a real interest in buying them. After thoroughly checking them out, he did indeed buy them; their final destination being the Boise fire station.

With that completed, I decided to go ahead and begin my search for a small spinet piano, not one with a great big sound, but one that would fit neatly in a corner of our small house that my kids could play around on and that I could use to practice church songs and give notes for the four-part harmony that E, K, Hubby and I are so fond of singing when we get together.

A week ago when I actually made the decision, there had been no pianos for sale in the area at all. I was somewhat despairing that I would find one for less than I sold the pipes for that was in decent, playable shape. But today when I had a free minute, I sat down with my laptop and began browsing PalouseAds and Craigslist.

At the top of the list on Craigslist, the very piano I wanted sat there in plain view. A small upright, right in my price range and in good condition! I emailed the lady and she told me in surprise that she had only posted the ad a few hours before.

So I have spent the evening rounding up a group of guys from our Small Group to help us move it tomorrow after I go out and make sure it is everything she promises it will be. Just like that, in little more than a week, the transition occurred, something I expected to take months or even years to happen. It's odd how things work out, especially when you pray for them. I feel as though Someone has given me a hug and a little wink. Somehow this small thing gives me more faith to trust that the bigger things will work out just as smoothly, that our adoption will happen in just the right timing, that my kids will be safe and grow up well, and that I really don't need to worry about a thing.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentines and a Fire Truck

We headed down the hill to L-town with the vague idea of hanging around and being pleasantly lazy at Grandma's house while the kids played with toys. Once we got down there, however, we discovered that several sets of great-grandparents wanted to see the kids and I also wanted to visit my sister. So we spent most of the day hauling the kids in and out of the van and in to see extended family.

At G'pa W's house we admired their shop and played in the balmy sunshine. Then we stopped by the store to get a cards and gifts and on to see my sister who was working fast food. She was really blessed to get a Valentine, though, which kind of surprised me. Then on to Grandma Doh's house where the kids colored pictures and we chatted about sewing and the weather and our adoption. Then I got a call from one of the firefighters who wanted to take a look at my bagpipes and probably buy them.

Apparently it is customary for firefighters to play the bagpipes. In my case the firefighter's brother who works in Boise at the fire station there wanted to buy them. So we stopped by the station where the firefighter minutely examined my pipes and even played them briefly. Then he gave my kids a tour of the engines and ambulances. They got to sit in the driver's seat of the big ladder truck and turn on the flashing lights. I think it was akin to toddler heaven.

By then it was dinner time and neither child had gotten a nap. I was feeling pretty run down by that time as well, so we headed through Panda Express and then on up the hill, the kids nodding off to sleep while watching "Finding Nemo".

Looking back on my day I can't figure out why I am so absolutely exhausted. I guess it was just a really busy day and added to that was the sadness and closure of selling my pipes. The practical part of me is glad to have found a buyer so quickly and the sentimental part of me just never wanted to give them up.

Friday, February 13, 2009

It All Depends On How You Look At It

An email sat in my box today telling me the news that a friend is losing her eyesight. Other emails poured in from other friends expressing sadness and sympathy, wanting to make cards, to console and pity. Her news has been on my mind all afternoon, but my reaction was a bit different.

Growing up, both my parents wore glasses; my dad in particular is always fussing with a prescription that is not quite right. No matter what the eye doctor did, he never seemed to see as well as he wanted. For me the blackboard at school started dissolving into blurry nothingness early in my grade school career. I have no idea when my eyes began going bad but I do remember getting my first pair of glasses in the third grade, the only one in my class who had them.

I remember stronger and stronger prescriptions but even so my school career is filled with memories of not being able to see the blackboard or recognize faces across a room. I suppose it was this that sparked my fascination with gear for the blind. It always seemed to me perfectly natural to find alternative methods of doing something if you could not see well enough to do it the usual way. I never qualified for services from the Commission for the Blind or free junk like my friend K, who is legally blind, but I don't see a whole lot better than she does, and less at night.

In junior high school I befriended a girl who happened to be totally blind and pestered her to teach me Braille. She thought it was cool that I wanted to learn so she taught me the basics. From there I taught myself the rest of the language and have enjoyed reading books by touch ever since.

There was a woman with a dog guide that I met in high school and after getting to know her I developed a keen interest in The Seeing Eye as well as the other dog guide schools around the country. I even wrote to several asking how to become a trainer. I was told I needed at minimum a degree in education. Then there were years as an apprentice at the school and the openings were few. Disappointed, I put that dream on hold.

Throughout my life, I feel as though I live in a sort of limbo-land, knowing intimately the world of the Blind, yet not part of it, still sighted, able to drive, yet understanding from the inside the idea that blindness is really nothing more than a hassle and the biggest inconvenience comes from the limitations placed by the pity of others, those people who haven't ever really thought about it and cannot imagine living with low vision or blindness. People who simply can't comprehend that there is an alternate method of doing just about everything, a method that actually works just as well and who have this idea that blindness is this paralyzing calamity and that those who live with it should be alternately protected from bashing their shins on the world and praised as inspirational if they do so much as cross the street.

Reading recently about David Patterson, the governor of New York, I was pleased to discover a blind person who was fulfilling a difficult public office with style and panache. Blind people work so hard to educate the general public and awaken them to the fact that blindness doesn't equate helplessness or catastrophe. It can be frustrating at times, like being extremely short or living a long way out in the country: adaptations must be made. But overall most people who have eyesight difficulties of any level just make do and get on with the business of living, hampered mostly by annoying people who alternately grab their arms to haul them across a street they didn't intend to cross or write syrupy articles praising them for their ingenuity in spreading peanut butter on their bread.

Back to my friend, I wish I could sit and have a long chat with her about this over a cup of hot tea. Very likely, since she hasn't been blind very long, she is still pretty shaken and at sea about the whole thing and dealing with friends who alternately tell her to buck up or offer sympathetic platitudes. But I have no doubt that she'll adjust; she is a tough cookie. She'll learn the tricks of the trade and find out that it is pretty easy to do things without sight. She will discover the joy of getting out into the woods and finding that it is really the same as it always was. She'll learn the humorous witty one-liners to shoot back at rude comments from strangers. I wish her well on her journey, for in doing so she will learn a lot about herself, just as I have.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Never Brag

On a message board the other day, some mothers were moaning about their houses being messy and their kids who would trash the house then not help clean up. I admit it was with some smugness I talked about my kids who clean up their toys each day because it is a habit we have worked on training for months.

Well, I spoke too soon. The last couple of days they have been terrible about cleaning up their toys. They mess around and play with them, taking four times as long to tidy as they need to. I've resorted to bribing them with M&M's to get the job done. How low I have sunk.

Parenting, it seems, is a never ending experience of having the rug pulled out from under your feet. As soon as something works, it doesn't work any more. As soon as you feel as though you have something figured out, you're blindsided by a child who thinks up some kind of mischief you never would have dreamed.

There have been so many times I think, "MY kid would never behave in such a manner" only to have my precious offspring DO that exact same horrendous things the very same day. It's very humbling.

It seems, too, that for every bit of parenting advice out there, a conflicting bit screams out at you that you should be doing the exact opposite thing as what the first bit said, or as what you're doing. According to the experts, I am setting my children up for weight problems as adults by making them clean their plates, but on those days when I let it go and don't make them eat all the food, they are being undisciplined and wasteful, not to mention how inconsistent I am and the fact that I don't brush their teeth after every morsel of food they eat. I'm ruining their teeth by giving them chocolate in the first place; even the bottle of milk before bed is sure to cause tooth decay.

In the morning when Curly climbs in bed with me for a snuggle, some would applaud me for the bonding we're doing while some would tell me I'm giving her a complex. Some experts say how horrible a spank or a swat is, while some insist that if you don't ever do it, you'll ruin your kids. Does leaving your kids alone while you take a nap promote independence or is it neglectful?

So I muddle along the best I can. Sometimes I find something that works really well and I begin to pat myself on the back. As soon as I do that my children inevitably find a way to put me in my place and help me realize that I don't have all the answers; actually I don't have any of them.

Like the horrible mother I am, at this very minute I am gleefully setting a timer and bribing my kids with chocolate if they pick up their toys before it rings. I'm soothing my two-year-old with a forbidden bottle of milk and putting off brushing his teeth until bed time. I resort to time-outs and I tell Curly in no uncertain terms how frustrated I am when she doesn't listen to me over and over.

Somehow I hope my kids will survive my parenting of them. And I have learned my lesson to never, ever brag.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Pretty in Pink

Curly's Preschool teacher planned her Valentine party for today since Friday is a teacher work day. For that reason, last night saw us climbing in the big, new minivan and heading off to Wal-Mart for a girl's shopping expedition to procure Valentines to give to her entire classroom of little people, most of which are little girls.

It was with no great surprise that I watched Curly make a beeline for the Spiderman cards. I reminded her that these were for her friends, not herself and that it would be nice to pick cards that her friends would like. She pondered this for a moment then picked out a box of princess cards, to my great astonishment. Then we decided not to get candy as the treat but a small toy instead. Heading into the toy section, she selected a $20 remote-control car, but I quickly nixed that idea. We finally compromised on some little baby dolls with soft bodies which were, in my opinion, cuter than the usual cheap baby doll.

She also picked out a new pink shirt to wear to the party, which happened to read "If you think I'm cute, you should see my mom." I had to laugh that she picked that one, but Wally-World has a limited selection. After I had added a cartful of mundane items like paper towels, we were ready to go. Instead of heading home, however, I took her to a coffee shop and treated her to a steamer and a couple of board games.



Last year I wrote her name for her on ten valentine cards. I was surprised at how many of her classmates wrote their names themselves. So this year I had her write them. Although she has been writing her name for over a year, it was an exercise in a LOT of patience to get her to write it ten times today. Several of them she wrote the last "A" upside down. Then she tried one right to left. I don't think it connected that the purpose of writing her name was so that her classmates could actually READ it! Finally, after biting my tongue a number of times, and re-writing three of them, we got through it with ten semi-readable cards.



This morning she gleefully dressed in her pink shirt and tried to sit still while I painted little pink hearts on her cheeks. Asking Curly to hold still is like trying to capture a handful of feathers in a windstorm, but we managed to get two heart-shapes on her cheeks. Then we did her hair with pink barrettes.



Little Mister, watching the proceedings at our elbows, immediately proclaimed it to be his turn to get pink cheeks and hair barrettes too. Not wanting him to be left out of the action, I grabbed his pudgy chin and painted two hearts on his round cheeks. His curly red hair got a pink barrette and we set off through the dusting of new snow to Preschool.

While I sit at home watching Mister build Lincoln Log houses, Curly is giving and receiving Valentine cards, eating doughnuts and talking with her beloved Teacher M. There are definitely some benefits to being at school. If/when we homeschool, I'm going to have to think of fun ways to celebrate holidays like Valentine's day so that she has some fun memories like I have of paper hearts and gold foil doilies, of a big packet of cards from all my classmates and a bowl of candy conversation hearts.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Friends of all ages

Today a good friend, SS, and I got together to let our kids play at the indoor park. SS is homeschooling her boys and her philosophy is very similar to mine. One of the things we talked about a lot today is society's view of friendship.

Growing up, I believed that "friends" are people of one's own age who enjoy each other's company, have things in common who spend time together. As children, friends play together. As adults, friends chat or help one another with things like borrowing a pickup truck.

I remember as a child not having many friends.

As I examine the philosophies behind homeschooling and more particularly "unschooling"; as I chat with other parents and read blogs and message boards, one thing has struck me forcefully, something that is revolutionizing my outlook on learning, on socializing and on life in general.

I had a very narrow view of friendship.

If I had allowed myself a broader definition of what friendship really is, I would have seen that I had many friends. Let me attempt at a definition that I am beginning to accept for myself of what friendship is: Friends are people of any age, ability or social class who have common interests and enjoy each other's company. This can include family members or wide varieties of ages and abilities.

Because as a child I did not have much in common with many of my peers, I did not particularly enjoy their company, nor did they make me feel welcome. I found more in common with the adults with whom I shared a music stand in community band or choir or with much older or younger students who may not have been my age but who shared a love of reading or of animals, who may have understood how it felt to be unable to participate in sports, who had a vivid imagination, who enjoyed creative artistic pursuits. But for some reason I felt as though I was not allowed to number these people among my friends. In school I was encouraged to relate to peers who were close in age and taught that friends come only from this small pool.

As I redefine this narrow perspective for myself, I find the horizons for my children broadening as well. Social time for them may or may not include spending time with people who are just their ages. It should include spending time with people they enjoy, that they relate to well, but that doesn't mean those people have to be their own ages, genders, race or ability level.

Perhaps other people were not bound by the narrow definition of "friend" that I always subscribed to, but I have found this new perspective incredibly freeing. All my life I have been surrounded by rich friendships and did not realize or appreciate them. I have friends who are 50 and friends who are 4. I am truly blessed.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Guest Post: How I came to be married on Valentine's Day

This was written by a dear friend of mine and used with permission. Happy 35th Anniversary, Trudie!

Duane and I had been dating for a while.. He maintained a apartment but for all intent and purposes lived at my place.

I realized I didn't want to be his *girlfriend* forever and told him to go home, figure out what he wanted, and if, IF, I was still available when he realized what an idiot he was to let me know.

He then suggested we buy a waterbed together.. where upon I went ballistic on his head. "You don't usually make major purchases with folks you're just 'going with'! WHAT ARE YOU THINKING!!?!?!!!!.".

He said that was his [lame] way of asking me if I'd marry him.

Of course, I said I would. So.. we started talking about when.. He kept saying "I'll let you know".. which I thought wasn't a keen way to start things. HE'D let me *know*?!!! I don't think so.

(I found out later he'd been planning with friends to meet us in Las Vegas for them to be with us while we got married there.. ufh.. he should have known that wasn't going to work for me! Although we did GO to Vegas after and they all surprised me by showing up.. we had a grand weekend.)

At the time there was a radio call in show called "Gripe Line".. I forget the guys name who did it.. but it was a hoot! Whoever had a gripe would call him and he'd call the other person and chew them out.

So... I called in. I was on the line and he called Duane at work.. and unbeknownst to us, the operator put the call on the loud speaker throughout the whole plant.

So.. this guy.. Dave something I think.. was grilling Duane about his financials, his commitment, how he was going to treat me, future plans etc, etc, etc.. Finally we got to what I wanted.. I said that Valentine's day (since it was coming up in the not too distant future) would be a lovely day to get married.

Duane, having this other [lame] plan going tried to dissuade me. Finally he said... "ok.. in exchange for getting married on the day of your choice, you will willingly give up rights to demand anything else".. that's something close to what it was. (it wasn't actually anything more than the "God-Husband-Wife" thing)

I said "sure"... then he said I needed to write it out and have it notarized.. I said "sure".. and did.. (I've still got the original on a plaque a friend made for us as a wedding present! I'm not joking..)

It said something to "I, Trudie, being of somewhat sound mind...do hereby [insert give up rights, etc, etc] Hints at Christmas, Birthdays and in the bedroom are exempted" sort of thing. It was really quite fun.

When I took it to the notary he laughed so hard he was almost crying and asked if he could take a copy to show his wife.. I said "sure".

Our friends gave the plaque to us at the ceremony.. and it's given us a lot of laughs since. All the guys at his work teased him and said he had it good. (hardly..) and the women were outraged that I caved.. (hardly)

But.. that's how we ended up having Valentine's day as our anniversary.

Branching out

For all you blogger users out there, I have created my blog here in blogger as well as livejournal. That way you can add me to the blogs you follow and I will reciprocate. I'm still working on importing all my archived posts. For now I plan to keep both blogs, so you only need to update your links/feeds if you want to.

I have been hugely enjoying the many layouts available on blogger as well as the flexibility to customize so many other things. But I have a soft spot in my heart for LJ, since I have been there for years.

Here's the link to my old blog: http://whistlererin.livejournal.com

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Sad

I have decided to quit the bagpipes and to sell my set. I hate to be a quitter but it is simply not working. At all. You see, I didn't realize when I started learning the chanter that the full set of pipes would cause a lot of pain in my back. When I got my set, I worked hard to learn to squeeze the bag hard enough with my left arm and as I did so I discovered that the posture to play it caused me a tremendous amount of pain. I figured I just needed to build muscle and it would get better. No such luck. I can only stand to practice for about five minutes at a time and it didn't get better after a lot of five minute sessions.

I finally have decided to be honest with myself that this is just not going to happen. It's not because "I don't have time" but because I can't handle the instrument or squeeze the bag hard enough to make it work with out huge amounts of back and shoulder pain. I have tried to build muscle and be more efficient. I have asked people about it and googled tips on playing and nothing works. So I am going to sell my pipes, unfortunately.

I emailed the pipe master who put so much effort into teaching me how to play. I feel as though I am letting down a favorite grandparent. But more than him, I am disappointed in myself. I used to believe I could do anything if I tried hard enough. Except maybe run. No matter how hard I try I cannot run. But I have learned lately that it works much better to pursue hobbies that don't cause huge amounts of back pain, since normal life causes huge amounts of back pain. Of course I have learned to manage it, but it doesn't make sense to exacerbate it needlessly.

So the bagpipes are going. Soon, I hope, so I can use the money I spent on them for other things. And also so they quit sitting on my shelf staring at me and taunting me to play them. I'd like to get a piano again, now that we won't be moving. A nice little studio piano that I can practice on and eventually the kids can play if they choose.

Every day I grow up a little more. Giving up a dream hurts. But it is part of growing up.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Winter Market

Apparently our little town can't get enough of the Farmer's Market because they have begun holding a Winter Market in the community center. Once a month all of the Organics and Granolas come out of the woodwork and display their knitting and stained glass and beadwork and ethnic food. We went today and had a wonderful time looking at the handicrafts and fresh bread. A Christian table had balloons for the kids, effectively producing delights and giving them something to whack each other with for the rest of the morning.

The walk down to the center in the February sunshine reminded me that Spring is really coming. We're on the downhill slope out of winter and into warmer weather. For fun we even continued our walk into downtown where we visited the bakery and the thrift store.

By the time we walked back to the house were we all chilled but happy and refreshed. I can't wait till Spring when the community wakes up again and once again our town teems with people walking and biking and stopping to chat.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Sissi

Some neighbor/church friends invited us over to watch a movie they had picked up from Netflix. It turned out to be a cultural immersion since it was about Princess Elizabeth of Bavaria and her fairy-tale wedding to Kaiser Franz Josef of Austria. The movie, called "Sissi", has been viewed by nearly every German citizen, or so I am told by a woman at church who is German. It's popularity in Germany rivals "The Sound of Music" in America.

Since Spanish was the language I studied in school, I was surprised how much German I recognized; the subtitles helping tremendously, of course. The best part of the show was the gorgeous scenery, the lovely costumes, especially the royal court dresses and the magnificent sets.

We put the kids down in sleeping bags and to my surprise they went to sleep without much fuss. Getting them up and walking home seemed unjustly cruel though, since they were so curly and sleepy and sweaty and cute. But we managed it and got them tucked in again at home.

I think for me it was the socializing that was more of a treat than the snacks and movie.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Where You'll Likely Find Curly

In front of a heater.

When she was a baby, she would cry piteously if she got the least bit chilled. Since we lived in a drafty tin can of a trailer at the time, I had a miserable time trying to keep her warm. There were nights that I slept on the couch with her, simply holding her against my body, keeping her warm. That was before I discovered co-sleeping and still believed that I would somehow harm my baby by sleeping with her. With Mister I simply tucked him in beside me in bed and all was well.

Wait, I had a topic here. Oh, yes, heaters. Well, Curly is cold-blooded in every sense of the word. She gets cold if you even suggest we go outside. When sledding she is good for about ten minutes then she's ready to go in.



So while she plays in the house, I have a heater set up in the middle of the living room floor. Without fail, she is the one sitting in front of it, happy as a clam in her little warm world. I swear she wants the house to be 80 degrees.

Of course since she is sitting in front of radiant heat, I don't insist she wear socks or slippers. When she complains of the cold sitting at the table, I usually suggest she don footwear.

Several months ago when the weather got cold she continued to dress in short sleeved shirts, the ones that had pictures of her hero, Lightning McQueen, on them. Then she'd whine to me about how cold she was. I reminded her that she had scorned my suggestion of a warmer shirt so it was no surprise to me that she was cold. Her enterprising solution was to put on a warm sweatshirt or long-sleeved shirt then to layer her favorite picture-shirt of choice over top. It always makes for an interesting ensemble and I kind of like it. She's warm and happy; that's what matters.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Toy Irony

I found this today on my living room rug. We had gotten some extra Lincoln Logs and another Playmobil set for the kids since they are such favorite toys right now. So there on my rug stands a little rustic log cabin, looking for all the world like Laura Ingalls Wilder and standing next to is is the glaringly modern plastic replica of a Wal-Mart filling station that Little Mister picked up at the thrift store on one of our recent visits.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Finding My Homeschool Feet

Curly Miss has been asking questions lately about how money works.



This morning I got out the grocery money and dumped coins all over the kitchen table. My kids, excited, came hurrying over where we spend half an hour showing Little Mister the names of the coins and Curly Miss worked on making change.



We approached it like an exploratory game, looking at how many coins could turn into other coins, how much a nickel was worth and even looking at some of the bigger bills I happened to have in the grocery cup.



Both kids played with the clinky, rolly coins. Curly stacked coins all over the bills in an artistic pattern. Mister ate a banana.



I love doing "school" this way. My own memory of learning to make change in first grade was of the teacher using cardboard replicas of money and giving them to kids to hold. I remember out of the many times kids got to go to the front of the class to hold the coins I never got to.

How much more fun to use real money and everyone gets an equal chance to play with it. How lovely to go on to new explorations once the basics are learned rather than reviewing endlessly until the slowest student in the class finally catches on. How delightful to ask open-ended questions and let imaginations run wild instead of stifling the fun in favor of crowd control. What a difference it makes to a teacher to have two eager students who love to learn rather than a jaded class who would rather be anywhere but with you. My hat is off to the teachers who do it every day, but I have to say, for me, this is a LOT more fun.