Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Waiting for Wings

Oh my goodness gracious. Behind our house is the home of our neighbors and friends, the Graveses. They live a few doors down from where Friday Night Lights is sometimes filmed. Directly across the street from them is a school that serves lower-SES ("at-risk") Pre-Kers. Today that school was closed for the next two weeks due to a probable case of ... you guessed it ... swine flu. Or to be more correct, the H1N1 Virus. Guess we won't be playing at that playground for a while.

On an entirely unrelated note, I had one of Those Moments a few days ago. It occurred while I was watching my 8.5-year old son run into our neighborhood grocery store, by himself, with a ten dollar bill and a list that read, "1 head broccoli. 1 bag gluten-free chocolate chips."

I don't think any of you, except my relatives and Jenny and Tracee, knew this child as a toddler or preschooler. He really wasn't the kind of kid you could ignore -- or forget. From his birth, I chosen to practice attachment parenting, which different people define differently but for me meant being open to his needs and allowing him time to mature and reach milestones at his own pace. Weaning, toilet learning, reading -- they all happened with relatively little fuss when he was ready and eager. BUT, my son had an intense personality that could be, well, draining. Exactly zero soap operas and bonbons were consumed by me during his early years. (The count is still zero, just for the record.)

Example: At two, he had developed an OBSESSION with Thomas the Tank Engine. We had catalogs for the house, the car, the tub. Not that he really needed the information, since it was quickly committed to memory. Tim and I were usually on call to play trains on our giant custom-made train table, which is normal enough for a toddler, but it didn't stop there. Every car ride meant a command performance of Thomas-related stories. A performance by us, that was. Every bite of YoBaby yogurt that went into his mouth, shoveled by one of us, must be named for a Thomas character. This went on until he was three and a half. Then he discovered dinosaurs. Lather, rinse, repeat.

When Ian was two, we took him to France with us for two weeks while Tim conducted business at the Michelin world headquarters. My youngest sister was kind enough to accompany us to the small city in France where there is little to do but find parks to play in and laundromats to explore. One afternoon on a stroll through the medieval section of town, Ian had a tantrum royale over something, and I had to haul him up some steps to let him blow off some lava and then cool off. There was little I could do but just sit there and let the storm pass, tempting as it was to march off in the opposite direction. My sister could hear him from the street below -- "MOMMY CAN FALL DOWN??? MOMMY CAN CRASH FREIGHT CARS??!!!"

Okay. You get the picture. We don't even need to get into the countless nights spent sitting by a bedside, calming fears and waiting for elusive sleep to descend. Or the season when I was the only parent sitting in the gym during tumbling class because my child NEEDED me within his sights at all times.

Were there moments when I questioned myself, when I wondered whether I'd created some sort of high-octane parasite that would need me with superhuman intensity for the next twenty-five years. Was all the effort worth it -- even the many mistakes made in my exhaustion? By letting him sleep in our bed when he felt the need, were we setting ourselves for a fifteen year old to come crawling in during the wee hours? Would he be expecting us to call his college professors to get the assignments he'd blithely omitted to write down? (Assuming college wasn't too big and scary in the first place, of course.) Is it true that a need satisfied eventually goes away?

So, last Wednesday night the two of us are home alone. After about an hour of doing our respective things, I realize that perhaps an opportunity for quality time is being squandered, and go in search of my guy. "Want to play a game or something before everyone else comes home?" I ask. No answer. He's into something. "Honey? I'm available. Do you want to do something together? Read? Play Boggle?"

"Um, maybe in a little while, Mom. I'm kind of busy right now."

This happens with increasing frequency. He's into a book or a computer game, or making a stop-motion movie by taking 300 pictures of his Lego characters. Life is too absorbing ... but he knows I'm there. Good roots make good springboards.

Back in the parking lot, I wait, grateful to be spared the unbuckling and rebuckling of daughters, the clamor for grocery temptations and the requisite refusals. A blond head emerges from the store, looks hither and yon. Blue eyes light up in recognition -- of course you're waiting right there. My son stops to check for cars and then races toward me, proudly offering up the broccoli, the chocolate chips, the receipt, the exact change.

"I decided to go through Annabelle's mom's line when I got to the register," he tells me, because of course it makes sense to find a familiar face when you're making a trial flight into the wide world.

I can almost see those wings beginning to billow out behind him.

Go Figure!

Ooooh, y'all. We picked up the COOLEST math-related book called Go Figure!: A Totally Cool Book About Numbers
 last week at the library, and I think this one's going to end up in our home library (another copy of it, I mean. I'm not stealing from the public library. Yet.) 
Check it out! This is actually a book that one of my children -- protecting the innocent here -- has taken with him or her while answering nature's call. It's that engaging. This child later informed me with great enthusiasm that if I tried to write out a googolplex, I could fill the entire universe with atom-sized zeroes and still not be done. (Gosh, sounds sort of like laundry, doesn't it?) Big numbers are popular at our house, and this book gives us the names for numbers we never even knew we'd need. Like a vigintillion, which is 10 to the 63rd power. 
There's also plenty of cool stuff about prime numbers, infinity, Fibonacci numbers, etc. I don't think we've ever gotten this into a math book, but this one is A WINNER. 

And speaking of engaging books, I meant to note a few weeks ago that we found a good one on Amazon during our "study" of the Constitution. It's called We the Kids: The Preamble to the Constitution of the United States. It's basically the preamble to the Constitution, but illustrated as a family campout (hard to explain, but it works). The beginning of the book contains a glossary that puts the phrases of the preamble into plain English. Ian was able to both memorize the preamble AND end up with a pretty idea of what James Madison was getting at, which really is the whole point, no? 

Monday, April 27, 2009

O give me some soap ...

I never appreciate good personal hygiene (a shower, a blow dryer, clean clothes, your basic smattering of lipstick) as much as at the end of a camping trip. There is also the small matter of a good night's sleep.

I neglected to post my Friday Five a few days ago because between recovering from our Co-op Demo Day (i.e. unloading the mounds of STUFF from my van) and packing for our AWANA family campout (i.e. loading mounds of STUFF into the van) there simply wasn't time. This Friday looks more promising. 

But anyway, back to the campout. Here are the highlights:

1. Game time, during which I got to watch my husband face off (literally) against three other dads in the pie-eating contest, our whole family make a respectable showing in the obstacle course race, and myself and two other similarly-sized ladies triumph in the Moms' Round of Four Way Tug O' War (Scrawny Girl Power! Yeah!). 
2. Listening to people of all ages, from my 5-year-old dd on up to parents in their fifties, share their salvation stories on Saturday night. 

3. Playing with my children and the other families in the cold, clear Pedernales River on a hot Saturday afternoon. (No camera. Wahhh.)

4. Climbing with the kids on the rocks near Pedernales Falls, listening to them exclaim over the hidden caves and signs of wildlife they discovered. 

5. Letting myself relax about how well my children would do with winning friends and influencing people. We don't know these families terribly well, and despite the fact that, like many of them, we're Christian homeschoolers, our family style tends to be a little different. Also, one of my children is shy and tends to cling to me in social settings, while another has trouble reading social cues and joining in with an established group (but hey, don't we all?) so tends to want to monopolize one person or just be a bit overbearing. On a couple occasions I resisted my urge to jump in and "fix" things, and you know what? They did fine. Truly. 

And here are the lowlights: 

1. Feeling grungy. Personal comfort and vanity very much compromised. 'Nuf said. 

2. Not sleeping at all on Saturday night until the sun came up. Seriously, at some hour just before dawn, I was sitting in the car listening to a LOST podcast on my iPod just to pass the time. Between the wind and occasional rain spurt buffeting our tent and the sardine-like nature of our sleeping arrangement ... but wait, isn't that what our sleeping arrangement ends up being every night?

3. All of us feeling tired and cranky on the ride home -- rather a letdown after the euphoria of scrambling over rocks together. But hey, we stopped at Costco for "just a few things" and lo, they were serving a veritable feast of samples, including dark chocolate, coffee from New Guinea, and fine cheese from three different countries. At which point a peaceful, golden glow descended upon us, we rode off into the sunset, and we lived happily ever after. 

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Love your neighbor

I recently heard on NPR (specifically, on Wait Wait Don't Tell Me), that a gentleman in England got himself into some legal hot water when he attempted to use a chicken dung catapult as a home security system. Note: He had originally constructed the catapult in the seventies to experiment with hucking his wife across the Avon River. Let's hope she had a sense of humor. 

I wished I had this guy's number yesterday, because I felt myself in dire need of my own chicken dung catapult. Let's see if I can make a long story short. 

We received a citation from the City of Austin, taped to our door, courtesy of our across-the-street neighbors. I have never spoken word one with these neighbors; they never acknowledged us a single iota when we moved into this house and pretty much just keep to themselves, except for the time that the dad, who likes to smoke cigars in the front yard, provoked a shouting match with our next door neighbors, with whom we are pals. We didn't get involved, but I have a feeling our friendship with next door didn't earn us any points. 

Now, on Thursday mornings I have hosted a milk delivery co-op in my driveway for about two years now. Every other Thursday morning, the farmer drives two hours to drop off about 60 gallons chez moi, while people gather to pick up their fresh milk and hand me their money, which I compile and hand to the driver. Never ONCE have I received any complaints from any neighbors from this arrangement. (And I could write a whole, long post about the milk co-op itself, and all the interesting characters I've met as a result. Another time.)

Two weeks ago, there was an altercation between my across-the-street neighbor (who apparently is the girlfriend of Smoky and the main child care provider for his two kids; their mom escaped to Arizona or something) and one of the milk customers, because the neighbor (let's call her Ms. Smoky) felt that her trash cans were being blocked and that she would therefore miss her trash pickup. Sure, that's annoying, but do we need to run out of the house with a camera and a raised voice? Seems like overkill to me. 

I hoped the incident would just die a natural death, but then we received the citation yesterday from the City of Austin Waste Services. Tim told me about it on my way home from work and I. Was. Furious. I had REASONS for being so. Not once had the Smokies approached us to voice their concerns! Not a single attempt to work this out reasonably between neighbors! And not once, in the entire two years that they had a trailer parked in front of their house, overflowing with tree branches and imperiling my van every time I backed out of the driveway, did I turn them into the city! That simply would not be the neighborly thing to do.

When I arrived home, I sat down and wrote a polite note to the Smokies. Don't even know their names, so all I could say was "Dear Neighbors ..." I apologized for the hassle, and offered to make restitution for any missed trash pickup. I gave them our phone number and email and asked them to address us personally if they have any further concerns. I told them I had asked my milk group NOT to park near their property. 

Then I stopped to pray, and to read a bit of spiritual enlightenment. 

You know what happens when I have a conflict with someone like this? (It's rare, because I avoid it.) I try to distance myself from the situation by reminding myself that these are not happy people, not normal people -- losers, one might even go so far as to say. That people act this way when they're unhappy with their lives (which as far as I can see, may indeed be the case here). 

But the Lord would not let me stop there last night. He would not let me dismiss these people just to pacify my outrage. He reminded me that He makes no mistakes in where He places us, even physically -- that like family members, we cannot choose our neighbors, but He is sovereign in HIS choosing. Then He reminded me that He also chose to suffer and to die for these people. And that because of He went through and my choice to accept Him, I now have living inside of me the One who can love the unlovable. 

I felt that love bearing me across the street to tape my note to their door. Before I knew it, as I retreated down their driveway, a prayer rose up in me to bless that family. I felt joy gaining ground over bitterness. I knew the process wasn't completed, because the issue still isn't resolved, and that there would be more opportunities to let Him replace me in my dealings with these neighbors. But it was a sweet beginning. 

And then I paused, as I often do, to pull a few weeds from my garden. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

There are times ...

... when five years old seems too much to bear.

When you're shuttled from an impromptu lunchdate with friends

To a birthday party (cake! candy! a clown!)

To a dance lesson

Only to realize that your brother has been invited

For a sleepover with those above friends

And you have not

Which, really, seems quite unfair.

Worthy of tears, even.

The world is simply too much with you.

Your mother does not like the phrase, "LIFE isn't fair,"

So she withholds this unfortunate truth from you

Letting the evening work its magic.

And somewhere between a quiet dinner outdoors

And an evening romp with the chickens

While the mourning doves continue their constant cooing

And the wind sighs deeply through the spreading ash tree

You allow yourself to be drawn back to happiness

To a warm, honeysuckle-scented bath

And clean sheets, and damp hair, and a story

And a soft rendition of "Jesus Loves Me"

And a little sister to share it all with.

The world is small, and comforting, 

And just as it should be. 

Monday, April 20, 2009

Wot larks, Pip

My sister Kristen passed a major milestone this weekend -- thirty years of blessing this planet with her selfless and generous spirit. She really deserved a blowout party, but she wanted just family so  ....  we obliged. Her husband brought her over after we had decorated the house and whipped up some mocha cupcakes (gluten-free, so I could eat them (April being the month of the Great Gluten-Free Experiment). 

They were yum-diddle-icious!

Upon arriving, my sister complimented Caroline on her clean face, apparently an anomaly worth noting. It didn't last long, though. After the first cupcake, the wee one requested another, only to be told that if she would just lick around her mouth, she'd easily find her seconds there. 

My mother-in-law also came, bringing my two nieces, who then stayed for the rest of the weekend. See, one really nice thing is that my husband's family considers my family to be part of their own. So, "just family" can be generously interpreted. (I know this is unusual. Get this: Ten years ago, before my SIL and started reproducing, we all went camping together in Yosemite, which was the first time in recorded history that my family did not experience a downpour on a campout. We hardly knew what to do with ourselves in the middle of the night without dashing out to throw tarps over everything and shiver in our sodden sleeping bags.) 

Anyway, back to the party. We played pin-the-tail on the donkey and Snorta, a very fun family game at which I am very bad. It involves speed, you see, and instant visual recall. Let's just say that Mama always gets to model good sportsmanship when we play this game. 

She also got to model good sportsmanship when all five children decided to have a water fight after dinner (Actual words from my soulmate, on his way out the door: "All right, you guys can do that, but just don't make mud, OK?" BWAHAHAHAHA! Can I have some of whatever you're smoking, dear?) My children seem to hold the philosophy that whenever friends visit (the more the better), they must all cover themselves in  mud from head to toe, track said mud through the house, and finish off with a giant bathing fest in the bathroom. (See also, "Friday Afternoons with Truman.") A playdate just ain't a playdate unless Mama's down on her hands and knees with towels and a spray bottle. 

Just wait 'til they have kids. Grandchildren will be my best revenge, and I plan to welcome them to this earth by presenting their parents with a  mop and a bucket. 

There will be mud. 

Friday, April 17, 2009

Friday Five

I thought I'd start myself a little series, cleverly titled "Friday Five," where every Friday, until the well of ideas runs dry, I present a thematic list of five things to inform, to educate, to tickle your fancy. 

This week's theme:

Five Tips for living on a Budget. 
(Note that I capitalized "Budget." Not an accident. In case I haven't mentioned it many times before, the main breadwinner in this family has been a full-time Ph.D. student for the last three years.)
(Also note that this theme was somewhat inspired by Vanessa's recent post.)

Ahem! Without further ado ...
My Five Tips:

1. Stop buying disposable paper/plastic goods and use re-usables instead. (OK, I make an exception there for toilet paper.) We use cloth napkins for our family (paper for guests). I haven't bought paper towels in eons; we use dish towels instead. For dusting, we use rags made from cut-up T-shirts -- my husband produces a steady supply. For baby wipes, I used baby washcloths kept moist in a wipes warmer. For snacks and sandwiches on the go, we use these (made by a mom in our homeschool co-op), 
and these (made by me, from my mom's quilting scraps and lined with the plastic casing in which new pillows come). 

2. Make copious use of the local library and its reserve system. Whenever I see or hear of a book I'd like to read myself or buy for the children -- and really, on what day does that NOT happen? -- I first check the library's online catalog. Much as I love the idea of building a huge personal library, the reality is that I rarely read a book several times over anyway, so why not require less shelf space and access tremendous literary wealth, three weeks at a time, for free?

3. Buy clothes secondhand. I'll admit it's taken me a while to come around on this one. I have a weakness for good clothes, not to mention cute little-girl duds. However, I've made so many great finds lately at resale/thrift shops, name-brand clothes for self and kiddos in quite respectable condition, that it now seems silly to browse retail shops for items I really can't afford. Example: a Banana Republic blank knit dress at the Junior League shop for $8. Have you checked prices at Banana lately? 'Nuf said. (I do make an exception for Hanna Andersson dresses, since they last forever, through multiple children, still looking brand new, but my sweet mother is kind enough to splurge on us once or twice a year, so I suppose that doesn't count.) 

4. Cultivate cheap dates. I can't remember the last time my beloved and I did dinner and a movie. When we do get a night off, thanks to the grandparents, we're perfectly happy to get takeout and watch whatever came in our Netflix queue. We spend less per month on Netflix than we would on two movie tickets once a month, and we escape bombardment from disturbing movie ads, so you do the math. Other options: Coffee instead of dinner out, a bike ride, a game night. It's not how much you spend, it's finding common ground when life's busyness operates to draw us into our separate worlds. 

5. Look for other ways to reduce, re-use, recycle. We run used paper through our printer, blank side up. We use the clothesline instead of the dryer whenever possible. We turn off lights. If we need something new, we try to see if something from our storage closet or elsewhere in the house might be repurposed appropriately. 

And you know what? Many of these are lifestyle choices that may have sprung from our circumscribed material circumstances. But they're choices I'm glad to have made, regardless. We live in a society that hounds us to throw stuff out the back door, while we're bringing a stream of new purchases in the front door. So tempting, yet when added together, not the kind of life we at our core want to lead. Don't get me wrong, I'm no ascetic, I naturally gravitate toward "the finer things" and some of the choices we've made in order to avoid consumer debt have certainly kept me on my knees. 

But becoming less wasteful? Valuing time spent rather than money spent? Learning to distinguish between whims, wants and needs? Modeling that kind of journey for our children? Aiming for contentment that cannot be bought? Finding abundance within limitation?


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Still dabbing my eyes

I'm shamelessly stealing from Leslee today, who posted a link on her blog to this Youtube video. I think I was the two million and somethingth viewer, and you may have already seen it, but if not, GO THERE NOW.

Okay, I admit: I love Cinderella stories. When this woman walked out on stage and did her little interview, you can see the cynical smirks from the audience, the eye-rolling from Mr. Simon "Botox" Cowell. As if it were totally inconceivable that a woman who looks her age (47) could possibly produce a thing of beauty from within. Look what happened when the music started and she opened her mouth.

Also, I admit: I adore Les Miserables, the musical. Every single song in that show is soul-stirring, although I've definitely heard "On My Own" a few times too many in junior high school talent shows. At exactly midnight on Friday, April 3, I finished all 1260 pages of the book, wiped away tears, and promised myself that I would one day reward myself by revisiting a live performance. 

In all honesty, however, were I Mr. Hugo's editor, I think I would advise him that he could tell the same story with just as much impact in about half the length. If you've read the book, replete with its minute descriptions of various now-extinct neighborhoods of Paris, you may know of what I speak. But forging through those more esoteric parts yielded a story both suspenseful and deeply moving, and well worth the work.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Latte with some compost, please

This morning we were watching a bit of When We Left Earth (which made me cry a bit, when they circle the moon and start quoting from Genesis), and Caroline became uber-excited. Remember the rapidly shifting career plan? Well, after "play mom" and "cowgirl" we've come full circle back to "astronaut." So she can float in outer space. And ... no kids. Which is sad, but probably a bit more realistically suited to the astronaut life. She does, however, "need a husband." In fact, if she doesn't have one, she "will DIE." I'm not sure if this is just melodrama, or represents her actual feelings about the survival of her own personal species.

She asked me when I can get her her own rocketship that will take her into outer space. Here's what I told her: "Maybe on December 16, 2050."

Because this is my new strategy: when one of children asks their habitual, "When can we get ..." questions -- since I clearly resemble an ATM -- I've stopped saying things like "I don't know," and "oh, maybe sometime," or "I think that would be too expensive." I just make up a date.

When can we get a Santa Claus pez?
- Possibly on August 2.

When can we go to Hey Cupcake?
- Probably on September 28.

And you know what? At least for the girls, these answers completely satisfy. Ian's onto me. But he's been bribed into silence. Because he knows that on May 4, 2010, he can get his very own motorcycle.

Just kidding.

My sister-in-law has a similar strategy with her daughters. Whenever they ask, during a car trip, "Mom, how long 'til we're there?" she answers unequivocally, "In an hour." When they pull into the H-E-B parking lot three minutes later, my nieces are so pleasantly surprised at how quickly that hour has elapsed. Gee, Mom sure knows how to make the time fly!

And, a propos of nothing, I will tell you what I found at Starbucks on Monday during my reading date with my son. 'Twas a basket with a sign reading "FREE. Please take one." Far be it from me to pass up something free, of course, so I approached for a closer look. Lo and behold, there were ginormous bags of coffee grounds all bundled up and ready to be distributed to the compost piles of conscientious Starbucks patrons such as myself. Of course, I grabbed a bag. Hopefully that atoned for the sin of patronizing Starbucks -- a chain! Egads! -- when I could have been doing my part to Keep Austin Weird.

Does Keeping Austin Fertilized count?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Learning as we go

A sweet friend of mine who just had her second child received some dinner from my children and me a few nights ago. As we briefly stopped in, I watched her, in her pajamas at 5 PM, as all good new moms should be :-), holding her tiny newborn and looking slightly dazed. The next day, I received a very nice thank you note via email which included the following momentous words: "I definitely did NOT magically gain the ability to deal with two children."

Which, of course, immediately plunged me down memory lane. Maybe this is a just a gross over-generalization, but I just don't think ANY of us are blessed with that magical, overnight ability. Looking through the girls' baby books with them yesterday and reminiscing about their first days, watching them hold each other and delight in a new sibling, thrust me back to the bittersweet days. Sweet, because our family was expanding and suddenly there was love enough for one more. Bitter, because everything about one more seemed so scary. How am I supposed to handle two (and then three) of them when there's only one of me? Can I really provide the new child with the same love and attention I did the first? Will our bond be as strong? Will the first feel envious at the diffusion of mommy-love? Will they grow up to be friends, enemies, somewhere in between?

(As an aside, I remember a few weeks before Eliza's birth, writing Ian this incredibly poignant letter about how life was about to change but my love for him would not, something he'll probably never read because it would embarrass both of us too much, and Tim finding me at the computer bawling my eyes out. Nice.)

Even now, there's really no magic to the whole equation. I've come to resign myself to the fact that there's only so much of me to go around. That sometimes I will handle those persnickety arguments over whose turn it is to start the dishwasher, who took the bigger helping of trail mix, ad nauseum, with grace and wisdom, and that sometimes I won't. That I need to revel in, to mentally scrapbook, the moments like this morning, when I awoke the sound of Eliza gently coaching Caroline to write her name on the whiteboard in the hallway. That maybe my choices will encourage their future solidarity, or maybe they'll be passive-aggressive frenemies until they're in their thirties. Or maybe there's really only so much I can do, and the rest is up to them (and God, and various forces outside my control). That loving them and committing to do my very best, but NOT expecting my home or behavior to be polished and perfect, will be enough.

And when it's not enough, I'm incredibly grateful that although we're now outnumbered, I have someone to step in for me! Tim scored big, big BIG points with me yesterday for taking out our merry little crew for SIX HOURS of bowling, seeing a friend's play at Zach Scott, eating hamburgers at P. Terry's, riding the city bus, and just generally lapping up Daddy's attention while giving me some cherished downtime. The man rocks, pure and simple. I was so energetic last night that I actually cooked a well-rounded meal for our dinner guests without feeling like a zombie! At all!

Life goes on. No magic, nothing overnight, just little signs of growth, in all of us, day by day.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Improving by renewing

This morning as soon as I woke up, I remembered that last night, and most of yesterday in fact, I had been mucking about in this morass of self-pity and gloomy thoughts. And now here I was, poised at the edge, wondering whether I'd be falling in again.

My very next thought was of my mother-in-law saying, a couple weeks ago, something about the human mind always, when allowed to run free, ending up where it doesn't want to go. It's true, our minds to obey the law of entropy, spiralling downward into a chaotic place where we can make ourselves believe just about anything. (I'm just not cut out for this! I'm no good at anything! Etc. etc.) We switch to the wrong channel, and BLAM! we get the local news feed, just one disaster report after another.

I realized right then that what I felt incapable of doing the night before during my vent to my husband -- making a choice to think differently -- seemed possible after a night asleep. Vanessa's words in yesterday's comments were exactly the ones that came to mind: "His mercies are new every morning." All the mess from yesterday was glaring evidence that my mind needs some serious renewing, and how thankful I am that a new day promises new opportunity for that process to continue!

Today ended up being a good day to let go of the routine, read some books in pajamas, do only one errand and quit while we were ahead, let the kids get muddy, do an easy craft, pare down the housework, and, when my nerves started fraying, go pull some weeds from my garden. They yielded so easily. Yet another reason to be grateful for weeds.

Thursday, April 9, 2009


It's soul-baring time! 

Today is one of those days when, morning cuppa joe notwithstanding, I just feel tired and discouraged. 

We had been scaling back on Ian's ADHD meds since his improved sleep (due to melatonin, thank Jenny!) had seemed to be affecting his behavior and impulse control for the better. And since I already feel so ambivalent about the meds, as helpful as they are in some areas, any opportunity to scale back is welcome. 

So things were going fairly well until today. It is 12:45 p.m. and not a scrap of schoolwork has been done. Even my offer of a juicy readaloud has gone unanswered. Normally, he looks at his list of weekly to-dos, picks out five things, and sets to it, with minimal reminding. Today, I feel like we're back to where we were a few months ago. I've reminded him several times, and each time he says something to the effect, "Oh Mom, I'm sorry!" but next thing I know, he's drawing faces on his sisters' stomachs or playing Don't Break the Ice with them. 

Which is all well and good, it's not like he's juggling knives in the middle of the street, but it's very frustrating. I feel like I either have to be the policeman, standing over him and intoning "FOCUS!" or completely ignore the situation and go read a book (which I've done). That's the more relaxing option as far as our relationship goes, but it doesn't provide any consequences or motivation to think beyond 'what I feel like doing right this moment.' Sigh. Can you tell I'm not feeling so highly effective today?

On top of that, I'm reading this fascinating book called Healing ADD: The Breakthrough Program That Allows You to See and Heal the 6 Types of ADD, and the most enlightenment I'm getting is to recognize all these characteristics in MYSELF. Terrific! We're just one big flaky family, fumbling our way along and trying to figure out how three winter coats and one lunchbag can be missing. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Certain as the sun, rising in the east ...

Here are three things you can take to the bank with you in these uncertain times. 

1. When the children ask what we're having for dinner, and someone answers, "Hamburgers," they will always, always, shriek, "Ham-BOOGERS!" and then shriek with laughter, as if this is the VERY FIRST TIME anyone has come up with this astonishingly clever remark. 

2. When we read a book by a certain favorite author/illustrator of ours, Caroline (or whoever's listening) will say, craftily, "By who?" just so I can respond, "By Tasha Tudor," and she can yelp "Tasha TOOTER!" which is also, oh, so, funny, fresh and original. 

3. When we are driving down the highway, I will be asked approximately 62 "Why?" questions, complete with about 3 follow-up questions each. When I run out of reasons and am backed into a corner (you know, "why is it safer to ride with the back of my seat up instead of reclined?" type questions that involve at least a passing understanding of physics or philosophy or whathaveyou), and I say, "Because I love you," the three year old in question will shout, "But I don't WANT you to love me!" because what she really, really wants is to have her questions answered, and she ain't fallin' for any of Mommy's cutesy tricks. At which point her mother will begin silent prayers along the lines of "Dear Lord, please provide me with a wall against which I may repeatedly bang my head, right NOW." 

Caroline informed me yesterday that she no longer wants to be an astronaut in addition to being a mommy. She wants, instead to be a "play mom." Which I find highly flattering, because I guess that's her version of my job description. I wish for her oodles of stamina and a lifetime supply of either very large coffees or very large tranquilizers.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Want to know something truly amazing and maybe even miraculous?

Today is my dad's SIXTIETH birthday. A feat in itself, but consider the fact that he's now surpassed his doctor's cheeriest predictions by at least three years. 'Tis mercy all, immense and free.

(No, he is not bedridden; this is Caroline helping Uncle Peter get him up from his nap during our last visit. And Caroline sharing bites of food with him, although he still feeds himself.)

Happy birthday, Dad! Hopefully Mom will remember to prepare your annual celebratory treat of brussels sprouts for dinner tonight! 

Sunday, April 5, 2009

A gardening we will go

And weren't we quite the gaggle of green thumbs last weekend!

          There's just something about that first Saturday in April that seems to bring out the amateur gardeners in full force, and our family was no exception. The kids were pumped up about picking out their own plants at the nursery, and Tim and I were full of plans for our babies (the vegetable garden in the back and the flower garden in the front, respectively). 

It thrills me to death that my children get into this, that far from us foisting our enthusiasm upon them, they're taking pride in their own plot of dirt -- even if it means that Caroline digs a hole, dumps in an entire packet of seeds, and considers the deed done. And I can't help wondering if my feeling mirrors that of my Lord, as He watches us to take joy in uprooting the the unwelcome weeds that threaten to choke what we've sown, in planting and tending the things we want to see grow, and in surv
eying (and sometimes eating) the satisfying fruits of our labor. 

Tomatoes, peppers, corn, watermelons, butterfly bushes and roses are in the works. The children worked diligently until degenerating into a mud frenzy, at which point I felt it was time to leave the house and deliver dinner to a friend with a new baby. If some children track mud in the house and their mother is not there to see it, or clean it up, did it ever really happen?

Don't you think my husband looks H-O-T wielding a wheelbarrow full of freshly unearthed compost? I think so too. 

On a totally unrelated note, I am hoping he will buy me this gorgeous rosebush, called a "Julia Child" rose, sighted at the Hancock Nursery. Maybe for Mother's Day, or my birthday, or just for being a completely awesome wife and no other reason, especially not any perceived similarity to Julia herself. Heh. 

Friday, April 3, 2009


For all ye kindred Jane Austen fans, you simply must have a gander at this, if you haven't yet.
(It's only funny if you're also on Facebook.)

Here's OUR version for this week:

Ian joined the group "Rabid Fans of Bill Nye the Science Guy!"

Hannah is considering summer camps for her kiddos. Choices and budget are inversely proportional.

Eliza just finished making pinwheels with Caroline and her friend Vaughn.

Caroline is sitting on top of the van with Eliza.

Hannah is wondering if that makes her a bad parent.

Tim joined the group "Family members in Favor of Attending Family Night Out at Central Market with the 0-9 Homeschool Activities Group."

Ian made a large wooden medieval weapon at Friday co-op today, called a ballista.

Hannah is wondering how she will fit this weapon into the van as it grows bigger, what she's going to do with all the burgeoning stash of weapons, and whether it's a good thing that her son is learning to use power tools. 

Caroline became a fan (sight unseen) of Matt and Virginia Alexander's new baby, Henry, born in the wee hours of the morning. 

Eliza is anticipating tomorrow morning's kickball game. Perhaps her team will be playing the Funky Monkeys? Or will it be the Gumballs?