Tuesday, September 30, 2008

We are on message

Still feeling like sodden roadkill here. One of the moms at Eliza's dance class encouraged me to try an herb called quercetin, and my neighbor was practically taking notes on my behalf ("Did you get that? QUERCETIN! Sounds like "curse-a-tin" which is how your allergies make you feel!" Thanks, Emily. I needed another brain besides mine to be functioning right then.).

But in the midst of my sniffly, sleep-deprived, irritable day, my 5-year-old daughter spoke truth to me, and her words dripped like quiet honey into my ear. I had just taken her to task for Errant Behavior X, and after I firmly informed her that in conclusion, Behavior X was unacceptable, she nodded solemnly at me and answered, "But you STILL love me. Right, Mom? And that will NEVER fade away."

Gulp. That would be a definite yes. Sniffle, sniffle.


Monday, September 29, 2008

I'b so oddered

It's mold/ragweed season here, and I AB BISERABLE!!! I've become one of those annoying people to be around, constantly sniffling, attempting to clear my phlegm-y, rasping throat, wiping my streaming eyes, moaning with my latest headache as my longsuffering, Neti-Pot-using husband, plies me with morning coffee. (An aside: do y'all remember that episode of The Office where Jim gives Pam that teapot for Secret Santa and Dwight nabs it and plans to use it as a Neti-Pot? And that is just SO Dwight? Well, I read an online interview with Jenna Fischer (who plays Pam), and she said that ever since that episode introduced the concept to her, she's become a dedicated user! Doesn't that just make my husband even cooler?)

But guess what? On a far more cheerful note, my friend Jennifer was kind enough to nominate me for my very first BLOG AWARD! Wooohoooo! Now I get to pass along the award to seven other bloggers, and that daunts me to no end because I feel like I'm back in the schoolyard picking a kickball team (and here we veer sharply into historical fiction, because I was never, EVER picking the team) and Somebody may get left out and have hurt feelings and think I don't like her blog and nurse a grudge forever. My house may be TP'ed. If so, please use a good quilted brand like Charmin', since we're thrifty enough to collect the stuff and re-use it.

So, um ... if I don't nominate you, DO NOT BE OFFENDED! I love you and I'll leave you double comments next time!

Let's see.
Blogs of friends:
Another Nicole. Nicole is super-smart and super-articulate about things I wouldn't dare even try to write about (like politics). The girl reads Supreme Court Cases FOR FUN. I read her posts FOR FUN.

Yet Another Jenny (is there a theme here?). Her blog is just plain beautiful to look at, and she shares her gorgeous digiscrapping artwork plus the very honest ups and downs of life as a teacher and a mom. And we've been friends, like, forever.

Daddy Magic. Okay, this is totally cheating because my husband writes this one, but I love how he captures some of the moments at our house that I miss. Plus, there's a reason this family has two parents!

Hands, Head, and Heart. Melanie is such a creative and dedicated artist (principally as a stamper and stamp designer), and so generous in sharing her work, complete with instructions. (Cheating again: I met Melanie through my talented friend Vanessa, who also has a cool blog!)

Blogs of people I wish were my friends because they're just so inspiring:

Frog and Toad Are Still Friends
. Yup, can't help it, I guess I've become one of Beck's many groupies. Confession? When people are kind enough to say to me, "I love your writing," I've become secretly glad they haven't read hers. It's darn near perfect.

Blue Yonder. I totally want to meet this gal because she has three kids and lives somewhere near me (and has chickens! and homeschools!), but meanwhile, I'm soaking up all her great ideas, not to mention her ability to paint amazing pictures with both her camera and her words.

Trivium Academy. Journal of a homeschooling mom whose organization, dedication, and vision I totally admire.

Here are the rules, which apply to all seven awardees:

1. The winner can (and should, really) put the logo on his/her blog

2. The winner must link to the person from whom they received their award.

3. The winner must nominate at least 7 other blogs for an award.

4. The winner must place links to those blogs on their own blog.

5. The winner must leave a message on the blogs of the people they’ve nominated.

Have fun! I'm off to see if my kids left me any cough drops and to start a new book about which I am totally excited because it's about the National Spelling Bee and the subtitle contains the phrase "Word Nerds."

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Dis an' dat

First of all, a couple people commented on my new blog header. Yea, glad you like it! I have to give credit where credit is due, so the truth is, I did the basic design and Jenny, who is a digiscrapping Internet rock star and just happens to ALSO be one of my very best friends, lucky me, spiffed it up for me. Thanks, Jenny!

Second, some bad news. I think Caroline's nap might be going to h-e-double-hockey-sticks in a handbasket. This week I think she napped two, maybe three days out of seven. The other days she was happy to stay in my room quietly for an hour or two (something her older sibs never grokked at that age). Would you like to know what I found upon opening the door? Would it be a peacefully drowsing toddler, opening her eyes to grin fondly at me? It would not. It would be the strong odor of nail polish, found (AND PUT AWAY!) on a high shelf in the bathroom, and applied fastidiously to the "fingers" and "toes" of the Waldorf-style doll my mom made for Eliza (sorry, Mom!). Or another day, all my shoes, and the shoe rack, removed from my closet and reorganized in front of the bed. A busy beaver, that one. Oh, and today it was waterproof mascara all over the eyebrows, making her look like a younger version of Martin Scorsese.

Next topic: angels. The kids have taken an interest in angels lately, since I informed them one day that according to Hebrews 13:2, there's always a possibility that in giving hospitality, we may unwittingly entertain angels. So, this week I had a visit from my very own angel. No, no, don't worry, this isn't going to develop into a screenplay for Touched by an Angel or something. I'm referring to a real live human, probably flawed in some way I haven't ascertained, but she sure could have been an angel to me.

Background: At our Friday Co-op, I lead a board games class. Yup, real strenuous, just as it sounds. It's actually tons of fun, except for one minor detail: one of the class members is my son. Have I mentioned before that he loathes losing any game, or even a part of a game? Even the PROSPECT of not being the NUMBER ONE WINNER? Yes, I do believe he'd be the one ripping off the silver medal and storming off the Olympic stand. So as I emerged from the classroom, shoulders slumped, mind whirling with my latest failure to deal gracefully with a very public emotional maelstrom, who should greet me but Mary, who taught Ian's Insects class last semester and now assists in his Story of the World class. She beamed at me and eagerly filled me in on how much she enjoyed having him in the SOTW class, how lively and perceptive his mind was, how brilliant his memory, etc. etc. etc.

I think my lip must have been quivering because she kindly took the next ten minutes out in the hallway to tell me how much Ian reminded her of her own son at that age, and how mightily she struggled with the behaviors that made him challenging to her and difficult to others. She was able to pull back at one moment, though, and realize that she had inadvertently headed down a more negative path than her conscience allowed. She made a turn, believing by faith that when her son seemed most unlovable, that was when he needed the most love and connection. She wouldn't allow unkind behavior, but she'd hug him or keep her hand on his shoulder to help him tone down. She invested the time, often when she least felt like it. Now he's a peaceful high school senior who writes sophisticated, focused essays and tells his mom he loves her, right in front of his friends. He takes care of his younger sister. It is as if, she told me, everyone has a chaotic time in his life, and her son got his out of the way earlier, while her "model" other children had their storms later.

Just to have someone see the best in my son, especially someone who's trod the often-lonely path before, shepherded my soul and reminded me what we're capable of and called to as human mothers. Later, at home, as I puttered about putting away the folded clothes, I marveled at the experience and prayed that I could be That Mom to someone one day.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Thank you

Oh, y'all. I am undone. I hardly know what to say in the wake of that last post and all the tenderly offered comments and private emails I received, including from friends-of-friends, strangers whose faces I couldn't recognize on the street, but who were kind enough to open up their hearts.

Nothing has changed, but I am resolved to wait on the Lord, wait until my dear one and I are clearly hearing and feeling the same thing, whatever that may be.

So, thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

And on a lighter note, I give you ... Monday afternoon at our place. 'Twas a rare afternoon where none of us were going anywhere, the temperature had sunk below 90 degrees, and we rediscovered what driveways are really for.

Hopscotch, bicycle obstacle courses, and chalk art, of course. Oh, and jousting practice for the Knight on Scooterback. No photo as I was drafted to hold the target.

And for more mischief, see the hilarious video on Tim's blog. O what a night!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

This post will be long and very personal

(Warning! If you don't think people should reveal personal stuff on their blogs, if you're uncomfortable reading about the gyrations of someone's deep inner soul, please skip this post, go look at our crafts or something, and come back another day. Only the few and the brave should read on.)

OK. Okay okay okay.

Here I am. I'm writing this. I've procrastinated like crazy -- exercising, reading shoe reviews on Zappos.com, you name it. Normally I'm bursting to write about things that are on my mind, but this time I'm suffering from writer's block, stymied by all the many versions of this post I've been composing in my head. So, this won't be very well-written. It will be a series of words, probably too many, spilled onto the screen like the beads that keep falling off my daughters' homemade necklaces.

But I've been getting some significant nudges, so I'd better stop hemming and hawing, stop waiting for the perfect time, and write this promised post.

Many of you have wondered, and have asked at various times, what Tim and I are thinking about our family size. Others just assume we're "done," and still others, living in the society we do, like to think that by now we've figured out "what was causing the problem and how to fix it," as someone so nicely put it, in reference to her own family, at a party the other night. (Those comments always make me sad.)

But something strange has been happening lately. Background: I calculated the other day that I have been either pregnant or nursing a baby/toddler, or both, for the last nine years (yes, Anne, I know you have me beat). Without interruption. Yes, for those of you keeping score at home, that means that Caroline is still nursing. In a few weeks, she will be my first child to make it to three without a new baby in the house. Until recently, I felt fine about that. OK, maybe not 100% -- I've never been able to say with finality, except during and immediately after Caroline's birth, that I am DONE -- but close enough.

Lately, though, my insides are all scrambled. The bottom line is, even since Caroline was a baby, I've always felt that three is an odd number. Wait -- I didn't FEEL that three is an odd number; it IS an odd number. Growing up, I had several bad experiences with friendship threesomes, and maybe that's why the idea always unsettled me a bit. I've felt for a long time, so deep inside that I hardly breathe a word of it to anyone, that someone in our family was missing, like another soul hovering nearby, wanting to fill a chair at our table or a space on the tire swing. Does that sound weird? I've told myself over and over, looking at my mostly-happy kids together, "Yes. Our family is complete," but it always feels like I'm trying to convince myself.

Why should I convince myself? Why not just go for #4? Oh, the reasons are many. My fears, my innate tendency to laziness, most of all, my LOGIC, supply plenty of arguments, many of which are sound. Here's a sampling:

- Money. This sounds so trite, but the reality is that children cost money, and not just the birth. Things are already tight around here with Tim in school for another year-plus. After that, we'll be trying to recover and save like mad for college. How could we afford to give a bigger family the lifestyle we want? (I'm not talking ski trips to Vail, folks. I mean stuff like the violin lessons Eliza's asked about and maybe a family vacation that doesn't involve a tent and lots of rain. Oh, and grocery shopping without getting palpitations at the checkout line.)

- My physical health. I am not a great pregnant person, if you know what I mean. My last pregnancy involved varicose veins in my legs that got so bad I had to wear compression hose (like really tight medical grade panty hose) all through the summer. I had sciatica, bad. In my first trimester I didn't get sick (unlike the nightmare of Ian's preliminary gestation) but I'd drop onto the couch in the middle of making dinner and Tim would have to take over. Once I have the baby, I end up needing to see the chiropractor, lots, because carrying around a baby all the time does unpleasant things to my congenitally weak neck.

- My mental health. No joke, people, I have been on antidepressants three times, after each baby, after things get so bad hormone-wise that I think obsessively about driving to the airport and flying away. Is it fair to put my family through another year or so of Moody Mommy? Can I really come up with the energy for another one?

- Speaking of antidepressants, since I'm on them now (see? I'm telling all!), I know I'd feel bad about taking them during a pregnancy -- but I haven't found anything natural (and affordable) that works well enough for me.

- My husband. I'm thinking that when it comes right down to it ... well, neither of us is Superman. I can't do this by myself, and pretty soon he'll need to be launching his career, ergo with even less spare energy and time. I worry this might send him over the edge. ;-)

- My capacity. I have friends with four, and read blogs of other moms with four or mom, and most of them seem to do it with such grace and relative ease. But I am not them. There are so many times when Caroline, that dangerous little girl, will say or do something that delights me so thoroughly that my heart breaks at the thought of not sharing these unique and fleeting toddler moments with anyone again. Or the kids will be playing together, getting along famously, and in a burst of quiet euphoria I'll think, "Oh, what's one more to add to the fun?" But then we'll have moments, or days, when I think, "Another child? WHAT AM I SMOKING???" 'Nuf said. Oh, and sometimes I think that my eldest may count as two children in terms of parenting energy required. Oh, and when they all talk at once my head feels like it's going to explode. Oh, and I couldn't count on any help from my side of the family because all the family womanpower is sort of concentrated elsewhere right now. And rightfully so.

- And that brings me to ... My dad. The ALS is progressing, and when the time comes that I need to be there and do more than periodic weekend visits, what if I can't legally get on an airplane? Just because Sarah Palin got on a seven-hour flight after her water broke doesn't mean I think it's a good idea for me. Just one of the many ways in which I am not Sarah. (For you, though, Dad, I might pretend.)

- My "plans." Ever since Tim started school, I've sort of held onto this dream of taking a trip together, probably with the kids, after he graduates. A celebration of sorts. A baby in our midst would change what we'd be able to do. Why not wait until after graduation? Because I don't want the kids to be so far apart (Caroline will be four by the time he graduates) that they don't mix well as a group, you know? I've seen my youngest sister, who's sort of our "caboose," struggle with feelings of being left out or not always sharing the same set of memories or jokes that we older ones do.

Ahhhhh. Have you made it this far? If so, I probably have you pretty convinced that I shouldn't have another kiddo, right? Hey, if you happen to be a relative, you're probably shocked that I'm even HAVING this conversation monologue. You're running to the phone to ascertain what I'm smoking. Your call will be answered in the order in which it was received ...

But. Despite all that, the reality is that since Caroline was the wee-est of bairns, there's hardly been a day gone by that I haven't had some little conversation with the Lord about this very question. And I wonder, why can't I let it go? Why can't I just sell that box of cloth diapers that's been sitting in my room on eBay? Why do I have save all those baby clothes for my sister? Why not get rid of the Maya Wrap that's toted three babies through countless hours of their little heads against my heart? Why can't I feel, with full peace, that we are complete?

"Tell me, Lord," I've begged. "Tell me what You want." And even though I think I see signs from Him -- "See? I don't have the patience for another child! God is clearly talking to me here!" -- I have no rest in my spirit. Lately my prayer has been more, "Whatever your will is, to remain as we are or to expand, give me peace inwardly. I don't want to struggle against You, and I don't want to struggle against my own complicated mind." In other words, regardless of the outcome, I want the source to be faith, not anxiety or a sense of what we "should" do.

Thank you for listening, dear friends, if you've made it this far. Perhaps I should have broken this up into two or more posts, as if that were possible by now! Please pray for us, that Tim and I would both have the same feeling and that any decision we come to would be one that brings joy and peace. I have a feeling that many more conversations, between the two of us and between us and the Lamb whom we follow, lie in store.

(P.S. Yes, we've considered adopting, thereby circumventing the hormonal rollercoaster that is pregnancy and postpartum in the House of Hannah. But financially, that's unfortunately out of the question, much as we'd love to rescue a little Chinese bambina from a future as an underpaid, undernourished factory worker...)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Stuff we made this week

Oh, weren't we just a hive of busy bees this week.

I'm finally learning a bit of Photoshop Elements, and decided to do sort of a "hybrid" scrapbook page about our letterboxing, creating a 9-photo collage, getting it printed, then sticking on a title (created with elements from a digiscrapping kit that Jenny referred me to) and some journaling (which was a composite of my blog posts on the subject). So easy! Here it is; sorry that I don't have a scanner so I had to just photograph it:

Jenny, are you proud?

Also, I made this birthday card for my SIL's 40th this week. We surprised her with a party last night and she was so shocked she burst out crying! Her aunt even flew in from Cleveland to surprise her. Perfect!

The kids painted/decoupaged these wooden boxes, an idea I gleaned from the Colonial Kids craft book. You can probably tell whose is whose! Ian saved his decoupage for the interior of the box.

During our morning reading time on Thursday, Ian made marching band costumes out of paper for his Bionicles:

And finally, this isn't a craft, but we worked on our poor, drought-stricken garden today, pruning and watering.

That would be my gardening buddy at one of his many flattering angles: ;-)

Still working on that post everyone seems to want to hear. Maybe tomorrow ...

Thursday, September 18, 2008

What's keeping me up

Why am I so tired right now, aside from the fact that it's almost 11 p.m.?

Probably because I've been staying up way too late reading about a real-life tragedy, a nightmare of sorts, and if you haven't heard about NieNie you can get the scoop here. I found out about her, and her accident, a few days ago and have been reading her old posts, feeling shaken, haunted, by the idea that someone so young (younger than me) and so beautiful and alive and in love with her husband and four kids could, in a split second, have her beauty and nearly her life taken from her and begin a long, painful walk through the valley of the shadow of death. I read her posts and see her pictures with the dread of knowing what she did not know when she wrote them, so full of amusement and joie de vivre. The ultimate irony, of course, is that she was the one who bought her husband his first flying lesson as a birthday present two years ago. My mind races when I go to bed, until I realize once again that it is my job not to wonder how or why or when or if, but to pray for this woman whom I will never meet.

Then I found out about another tragedy, here. More late-night readings, more insomnia. It's different with this one because without a personal blog, I have no way of knowing who she was before. The haunting comes more from reading the "after" -- all the pain and loss she's endured since her pneumonia went awry during an emergency c-section. It certainly makes my ordeal at Caroline's birth* seem like an annoying case of the sniffles! If you think of it, please join me in praying for the Lord to be their sweet shepherd in this time, and if He wills, to restore her sight.

I know this post is a bit of a downer, but it's what I've been thinking about of late. More Big Thoughts to follow in the next few days, on the subject of ... family size. Stay tuned!

*For those who weren't part of that drama, I'll sum it up with: Days in the ICU with double pneumonia for me (truly a Thanksgiving to remember); ensuing weeks of visiting various medical specialists to figure out why my newborn was incapable of pooping. Not a chapter in our lives we'd like to repeat ... but we're keeping it all in perspective.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

An accessory explosion

Something big has sneezed at our house.

I call it the Accessory Monster. In brief, I cannot walk through the Diller Estate without finding belts, silk scarves, and ties (dh's) everywhere. Oh, and let's not forget the car. Apparently, my daughters find it useful to be prepared for ANY fashion emergency.

But I held my head up high when I toted Caroline to Costco (for photos) and GapKids (for socks) today, clad in nothing but a huge tie-dyed silk that fit her like a strapless muuumuu, her big sister's pink flip-flops, and face paint (our Improv teacher is also a professional clown).

When we arrived home, the girls set to work playing one of their favorite: "Birthday Party." Of course, they needed me as a guest. The birthday party was basically an indulgence of their wildest sugar fantasies, including not only cake and ice cream, but also a verrrry looooong parade with lots and lots of people throwing candy at us.

At the coffee shop during Improv this morning, I was chatting with my friend Greta about household skills. Basically, she has them and I don't. No, no, I mean that Greta's very intelligent husband, who works long hours examining people's brains as a neurologist, would rather have a root canal than, say, trap the rats that have encroached upon their attic or plunge an uncooperative toilet. Therefore, Greta (have I mentioned that she herself was a doctor in her former life?) pulls herself up by her bootstraps and spreads peanut butter on the rat traps (or calls The Guy Who Does That for Money). So she is acquiring Skills. And setting a stellar example for her five kids in the process, who probably never hear the forlorn phrase, "Um, let's see if Daddy can fix this when he gets home."

I, on the other hand? My husband (also very intelligent; hi sweetheart!) just makes those rats Disappear (the ones in the chicken coop), and knows that he's not supposed to ever show me any of his hapless victims. He plunges the toilets (how bad am I about this? One time I made our friend Randolph, who had brought his kids over for Spanish class, do this task, as if the Y chromosome made him more fit for it. Because I am so the hostess that way). He fixes stuff. I, um, blog about it. Move over, Paris Hilton.

But, but, but ...

MOM!!! I need you to tie on my fairy wings!!!

Right on it, honey.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Our week

Hot, dry, and a bit windy today -- with nary of drop of rain. Power outages? HA! Our drought? Very much continuing! Hurricane Ike? Spent all its energy on the coast before migrating north -- not that I blame it.

Time for the weekly review, a bit late. I'm now paranoid about writing these because a friend innocently accused me of being one of those intimidating creative homeschooling moms on her blog this week, and now I'm thinking, oh gosh, maybe I should just keep this all to myself because what if other people feel the same way? As I told her, I'm always the one thinking all these other parents are so creative! How silly we are.

Eliza was so proud this week that, in a sudden burst of industry and inspiration, she finished Box One of the Bob books (it's the oversized box from Costco, so there are about 17 books). We immediately purchased Box Two, so she launched into that. I, lazy relaxed mom that I am, been sort of waiting for her to take some of her own initiative on reading like Ian did, so maybe this is it. We'll see. In the meantime, she's become a rabid Roald Dahl fan, begging us to read any one of the eight volumes we got in another Costco boxed set. :-) (Have you ever tried to read The Twits aloud? I felt so physically ill reading the description of Mr. Twit's facial hair that I had to pass the book to Ian!)

We're reading more about the Pilgrims and the Mayflower, and Ian added labels on straight pins to the salt dough map. I'm learning that although he likes being read to, he likes to do as much as possible on his own. He printed out the labels on my P-Touch, and stuck them all on. He likes just taking his math workbook or copy book and "getting it done," which works well when we have to be somewhere else (ah, the flexibility of homeschooling!).

For science, although we're still reading Pagoo, I feel a bit flummoxed about our "science experiments" time that we're supposed to be having with his friend Isaac once a week. So far, it feels a bit like pulling teeth for Isaac's mom and I to get the boys to drop their Legos and come do the experiment, and then I feel like it's kind of contrived. Here, boys, let's have a learning experience! I really want to do something with them that would be harder to do with just my own gaggle of goslings, but it doesn't really seem to be clicking yet. Maybe because our battery experiments require so much parental involvement? How can we be more hands-off while we're doing hands-on stuff? Suggestions welcome.

Oh, we started working on that fable I mentioned a while back. The one about the alien who's supposed to look before he leaps? Yeah. After a power struggle between the idealist (Ian) and the realist (me), we've compromised: his story, which is dictated to his hapless typist, will be limited to fifteen long chapters (we're two pages into Chapter One). Because he doesn't want it to be like any other fable that's already been written. Of COURSE. And Mom is so miserly that way. Other writing this week included letters of petition and "essays" to accompany his submission(s) to the Lego Company's drawing contests. A built-in lesson: how to properly address an envelope!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Battening down the hatches

(I just love that expression, don't you?)

So, I finally found it. The ONE good thing about summer spilling over, in all its 95-degree glory, into September, where it has no business being. Yup, just when it starts to get really depressing, just when you think you might drive off an overpass if another LL Bean catalog arrives proclaiming the arrival of Autumn with its lovely Fair Isle sweaters, you look out your window and you see this:

This called for a major post-dinner Oxiclean fest on the back patio, while the evening sky glowed strangely with the anticipation of something big coming. The setting sun reflected pink off of the huge clouds that had been quietly amassing all day. Tim was up on the ladder removing dead branches that could fall on the house during the night, and the kids watched for fireflies from their tree fort as I tried to remove potential projectiles (like water guns and Tonka diggers) and scrubbed the clothes.

It's very surreal, this Hurricane Ike thing. I know it's a big deal, and the poor people in Galveston, if anyone's left, are probably watching their leather recliners float down the street by now*, but here in Austin, easily in contention for Most Paranoid City in the Country, it's been hot and sunny all day. Because the roads were supposedly so incredibly clogged with evacuee traffic from the coast, all the schools were let out around noon today (some towns had no school at all), and the libraries and city offices closed at 3 p.m. Theoretically, everyone was preparing for the storm and trying to stay off the highways, but I can tell you as an eyewitness that an awful lot of them were at Target cleaning out the flashlight section and stocking up on Wine Cubes. Or at Costco, desperately hoarding water bottles, giant jars of jellybeans, and bottles of spinach-parmesan dip. You know, the bare necessities.

We've gathered our flashlights and candles in case we lose power tonight or tomorrow, and then there's the supply of games and books to help ward off the panic brought on by the loss of electronics. We might play this game, having learned it today and loved it and even sneaked in some math skills:

Eliza asked at dinner, "Will there be a storm while we're sleeping tonight? Will it be LOUD?" to which Ian responded, "But that will be cool! Because we can all cuddle up in the closet in one giant ball that's flourishing with blankets!"

Indeed, we -- the whole giant ball of us -- shall flourish. But in the meantime, I'm off to watch the local news media salivate over this real! live! disaster!

(Edited to add: I'm not trying to trivialize the very real possibility of losses of life there in Galveston, just to clarify. It's hard to understand why someone would stay there under those circumstances, but we're praying for them nonetheless.)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Where we were; where we are

I dread this day every year.

And here it is, seven years later, and I think it's fair to say that most of us, even those of us who didn't live there and didn't lose anyone we knew personally and therefore weren't PERSONALLY affected by the 9/11 tragedy, have not forgotten. I still tear up when I watch the replays, and I still pray for the family members who have to re-live their bereavement, like a re-opening wound that never loses its scar tissue, every year.

There are a handful of events, akin to JFK's assasination for my parents' generation, that sear themselves into our memories so intensely that we forever remember where we were that day. The day my dad told us of his ALS diagnosis was one of those for me -- I still remember what I was wearing, the picnic table where we were all sitting, and, among other details, the blessing that Ian nursed himself off to sleep in my arms for two hours.

September 11 is, of course, another worn and well-illuminated groove in most of our memories. Where were you? It was a Tuesday, and we were living on Neely Farm Drive in Simpsonville, SC. Ian was thirteen and a half months old. My neighbor, Holly, and I were getting ready to walk up the hill to our neighborhood clubhouse for the first day of Music Group, a mommy-and-me class taught by another neighborhood mom. The heat must have faded by then, because I remember the clear morning light as she and I pushed our strollers up the hill. She told me that her husband had just called her from work to tell her that a plane had hit the WTC. Weird, we both thought. Then at the end of the class, another mom got a call on her cellphone from her husband, and we all huddled around, finished with The Grand Old Duke of York and the like, to hear the news about the second tower and the Pentagon. Holly and I snatched up our little boys and fled to the playground, unable to shake the goosebumps and the sense that something very big and very wrong was happening.

I was one of the many, many parents that day who flipped on the TV and tried to get some clarity about what was going on without exposing our wee ones to it, attempting to maintain the farce that Mommy is OK and everything else is too. Even today, I struggle with how much to say to my kids, how much more to add to their knowledge of what a terrifying place the world can be. I almost said something to them this morning, asking them if they knew what day it was, but thought better of it.

So now it's a Thursday, seven years later, and I have three children instead of one brilliant toddler, and we've been in the house all day because it's still too sticky out there, and one of my children has drunk at least four glasses of WHINE this morning and has taken over an hour to eat her lunch because she needs to get up and wander around every four nanoseconds, and another child was weeping and clinging to my leg until she went down for a nap, and another child just couldn't address any school work until he'd designed an intricate doorhanger for his room, and we had to stop and panic because we couldn't possibly do Latin when our Bionicle de-coder is lost, and people are coming to my house tonight when it is far, far from presentable, and we might be sheltering Hurricane Ike refugees this weekend in said unpresentable house, and no matter how much I clean up, the clutter seems to multiply like the heads of Hercules' Hydra, and this Hercules just wants a nap in a cool, dark room.

But we are alive, and we are together, and we have been given another day's portion of His tender mercies. And if I were trapped in a burning building today, I doubt I'd think about the tiny purple and pink beads all over the floor or the unfolded laundry that sits in front of the dryer. I need to look in their eyes, perhaps when they're most exasperating, and remember my three ordinary miracles today.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


Well, I may have scored points with that coordinated outfit yesterday, but tonight I was definitely in the doghouse. The princess was weepingly furious with me since I declined her demand to suspend all dinner preparations and retire with her to read more chapters of The BFG. Can you imagine??? Truly, I am running Stalag 13 here.

There seemed no way out of this sobbing quagmire until she submitted her next demand: to cook something. On her own. With no recipe.

We compromised: She could wear her own apron and do the baking, but she needed to follow a recipe under my gentle guidance from her very own cookbook.

Out came Pretend Soup.

Following the pictures and simple instructions that I read aloud to her, she was able to assemble a fine batch of whole wheat, slightly under-puffed, popovers.

Behold the pastries that saved our dinner hour.

Monday, September 8, 2008

And then some sugar 'n' spice

And THIS is how you know you've got a real, live five-year-old girl on your hands.

For one thing, on her first day of co-op, when her teacher asks the group to make a friendship web out of black yarn, with each of them telling one reason why they're special, she confides, quite seriously: "I'm special because I am a princess."

Her daddy has indoctrinated her, despite her brother's efforts to the contrary.

As we all climbed into the van today, the princess immediately noted my outfit. "Oh, Mama! Your necklace matches your shirt perfectly!!!" she exulted.

Flowered top: Four dollars at neighborhood consignment shop.

Beaded multi-strand necklace: Ten dollars at Ann Taylor Outlet.

Knowing your daughter finds you presentable: PRICELESS.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Boy, Crazy

This is how you know you're raising a real, live eight-year-old boy.

Morning: Earnestly and un-self-consciously shares with his Sunday School class about a very genuine experience he had of God calling him (they're studying God's Calling in the Old Testament). I think it's OK to share, in general terms, that he felt God calling him to complete a task that he had left halfway done.

This proves beyond all shadow of a doubt that THERE IS A GOD.

Afternoon: Practices diving in our empty-nester friend Dori's backyard pool. "Diving" involves some highly creative, let's-embrace-the-water-like-a-long-lost-friend belly flops. Beams with pride at his own accomplishments, and mercilessly badgers cajoles his mother into diving with him. Since she strives every day to fend off middle aged stodginess, she eventually yields.

Night: Plays Weapons and Warriors with father, convincing mother again to join in. Tiny plastic cannonballs zip and zoom all over the room as we assault one another's forces. The boy offers mature commentary in his inimitable style ("I'm sure glad I anticipated how good Daddy would be at this!"). But lest we be deceived, after the game, as one parent -- who is not I -- engages in some accidental celebratory flatulence, the boy lets out a whoop of exultation: "THE WINNER TOOTED!!!"

(Dh posted a nice review of the day, and his own rise to new heights of maturity, over here.)

Friday, September 5, 2008

Week of 9/1-9/5

The girls had their well-child exams today, and this was the conversation that took place afterward in the back seat.
Caroline: I don't LIKE Nurse Stephanie. Because she gives SHOTS, and I HATE shots!
Eliza: Puh-leeze don't mention shots. It gives me the shivers.

But all was well when we returned home and got to paint our salt dough map.

Meanwhile, Caroline painted the furniture dolly that she and Eliza have reimagined as their ship that bears them off to Fairyland.
She, o she of the Magic Marker obsession, had the longest attention span for the painting.

Latin is still going well this week -- surely this is the first time the language has been translated directly into Bionicle code. As long as the interest remains high ...

For history, we finished Pocahontas and the Strangers and read some more in Exploration and Conquest and The New Americans. We're moving toward Plymouth in our studies, and I'm thinking the timing of our October visit to my parents in MA will be perfect for a little field trip to Plimoth Plantation!

Math, Psalm 23 memorization, and Pagoo continue apace. And we're having a ball with our Mark Kistler 3-D drawing book -- Ian came up with a truly impressive crocodile/knight today. I, um, drew a plain crocodile.

A couple of our activities, aside from the improv class I described last time, began this week as well -- Eliza's dance class and then AWANA for both older kids. It looks like it'll be more of a family affair this year, because Ian was willing, with the requisite grumbling, to try it out this fall, and let the teachers know as soon as we got him to the class that he was only trying it out. Within 20 minutes, the chip on the shoulder disappeared and he was ready to register so, sigh, another hurdle cleared. Among the several we attempted to leap this week, some more successfully than others.

And I got my article turned in to the magazine today! It feels like a celebration of overcoming inertia for four weeks, doing something I wasn't sure I could really pull off. Fellow stay-at-home moms, do you ever feel like a turtle withdrawing into her shell, wanting to remain in your own shrinking comfort zone indefinitely? It's like the emotional muscle that needs something to push against, that feels most safe when life stays in the same worn-in groove, grows flabby with passivity. I think of friends of mine who have stepped out on a limb a bit lately, like Tracee with her play auditions and Vanessa with her part-time job, and appreciate the oomph that takes. My own tendency is to crave adventure and experiences from a distance, but then to sit back and wait for things to happen, not wanting to poke my head too far out of my shell.

I'm not saying -- don't misunderstand me -- that simply being a full-time mother is not "enough," or that it doesn't require the creativity of Walt Disney, the diplomacy of Jimmy Carter, the patience of Mother Teresa, and then organizational skills of ... well, someone who doesn't become brain-dead by 10:30 p.m. It's just that for me personally, my children and home can become so much my little cozy sphere that I use those demands as an excuse to keep from growing into whomever God is calling me to be.

Now that I've covered that tangent thoroughly, I think I'll go see if Tim's up for a round of Boggle. 'Cause, you know, I laugh in the face of danger.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Revving Up

Our schedule is starting to get busier, which means I'm striving, as always, for balance. My eldest child has an expressed distaste for going out too much, which I have to reconcile with my own restless personality.

Tuesday is going to be our very busy day, finishing up with taekwondo(Ian) and dance(Eliza). This morning Ian and Eliza both started an Improv class at The Hideout downtown with the very talented improv actor, professional clown, and fellow homeschooling mom Jessica Arjet. Eliza's class is at 10 AM (Ian and Caroline and I wolfed down scrumptious breakfast tacos in the coffee shop downstairs as Ian theoretically applied himself to the schoolwork he'd brought along but actually had a long and involved conversation about Bionicles with another mom), and Ian's is at 11. It seems like it's going to be great for both of them, since Eliza's involves a lot of participatory storytelling, which will help draw her out of her shyness and appeal to her deep love of stories feating princesses, and Ian's involves learning to play games, tell stories, and be very creative IN A GROUP. Note the constraint. Very good for him.

It's funny, because there are hundreds of homeschooling families in Austin, but we always seem to run into the same 25 or so at our various activities. In fact, there's even a core of, say, 5 to 10, whose paths keep intersecting. Turns out that the one other child in Eliza's class (we're worked on recruiting more) is someone she's been in co-op with for two years now, and his mom and I served together on the board when she was Director and I was treasurer. A girl in Ian's class is the daughter of my good friend Greta and brother of Ian's friend Christian (we also met them through Monday Co-op, and Greta and I served on the board together). My friend Randolph, whom I know from Spanish class last year at my house, AAH support group meetings, and Friday co-op, plus the fact that he is, quite coincidentally, best friends with my next door neighbor, also showed up with HIS twins. It's a small, small world.