Friday, May 29, 2009

Recipe for a Perfect Day

Step One: Arise while still groggy. Make coffee with and share with husband.

Step Two: At ungodly hour of 9:00 a.m., arrive with children at Bright Leaf Nature Preserve for a guided hike with four other families. Receive welcome surprise of seeing some friends you haven't seen for a while.

Step Three: Listen closely as the docent waxes eloquent about deer tracks and various plants and natural phenomena you wouldn't normally know a thing about. Reflect on how much better this is than your typical hikes: "Look, kids, at that pretty plant! Isn't it pretty? I wonder what it is. So pretty."

Step Four: Let oldest child/budding photojournalist document freely for his Wildlife Album.
From A Quiet Spot

Step Five: Proceed to Children's Museum to meet other friends.

Step Six: Meet same friends at the new P. Terry's for an organic burger. Watch children bury one another in sand pit.
From A Quiet Spot

Step Seven: Return home; immediately begin Quiet Time. Write blog post and wonder how to pack for tomorrow's trip to a city that had 90 degree weather last week, and 50 degree weather this week. The brain, it simply cannot compute. Better call Mom.

The votes are in

Y'all are too, too funny with your all-over-the-board votes on the postal impostor story -- and your enchanting reasons for your votes. Camille, you are generous with your comment about body type and gallstones, but alas, I did indeed require that particular surgery, for unknown reasons. And I did get carted out of our building on a stretcher once, BUT ... you were right! The fake story was #3, Carlotta the MailWoman!

(Amy, I did indeed hug the postman, but only because he gave ME a hug when I reached out to shake his hand, and truly, he's old enough to be my father. Plus, I'm a hugger. (But Jenny is NOT, so I don't hug her very much. Only every time I see her, which is once in the last three years. Blech.))

Proof of Story #4:

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

But I LIKE going postal

I am going to tell you four stories regarding my warm and tender relationship with the U.S. Postal Service. One of them is false. You decide.

#1. When we were living in South Carolina, a package was supposed to be delivered to our home. I got a yellow slip, indicating they'd tried to deliver it but missed me -- twice. Both times -- I had been home. After the second time, I marched off to our postage-stamp sized branch office to sort things out. A woman I'd never met before was behind the counter, and we had a rather, uh, vigorous discussion during which she all but accused me of lying about being home during the attempted delivery. I left the P.O., fuming. Later, my husband got a call from the manager, one of the "regulars" who witnessed the event. "Your wife," he apologized to my husband -- and imagine if you will a very courtly Southern accent -- "is a verrry nice lady. We will figure this problem out right away." And they did.

#2. When it came time to leave our friendly hamlet of Simpsonville, SC, I made my way to the P.O. to mail some change-of-address cards. "You're leaving?" Dean, the counter clerk and father of a six-year-old girl named Caroline, asked incredulously, as if this were a personal affront that we chose to relocate our family to a different address. When I affirmed the bad news, he requested that we make sure to come back and visit. He didn't mean the town. The post office.

#3. When we lived in Arlington, MA, before my gallbladder was removed, I suddenly suffered one afternoon from a terrible stomach pain that necessitated my husband calling for an ambulance. As we left our apartment building with me on a stretcher, we passed our mail carrier, Carlotta, on her way in. She looked at me in shock, but all I could do as I wished for the relief of unconsciousness, was to offer a weak wave. Two days later, home from the hospital and scheduled for surgery, I shuffled down to the lobby to collect our mail, opened the box and found ... a get well card from Carlotta.

#4. Here in Austin, our weekday mail is customarily delivered by a delightful gentleman named "Mr. Tony," who happens to be African-American. He has often passed through our front yard as we sit on a blanket to read, and is ordered to stop and observe the latest tree-climbing trick, which he duly admires. Last night during dinner, there came a knock on our front door. It was Mr. Tony, in civilian clothing, just dropping by to let us know he was retiring at the end of the week and would no longer be delivering our mail. He got an intro to the chicks from the children, a handshake from Tim, and a hug from me.

OKAY! Cast your vote! Three of these stories are true. One is false. What'll it be?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Pluggers 'R' Us

Here's my latest definition of a parent: One who regularly utters/thinks the phrase: "I can't do this," and then, somehow, despite believing it rather impossible, DOES it.

I wish I had a dime for every time I've thought that I just couldn't make it through the day, like I'd just had it, I was too tired, I wanted to retreat to my room and lie down and sleep or read a good book while my children magically took care of themselves (note: don't get overly concerned about me. I'm fine, and I think I'm pretty normal). Or that I sure would love to call my husband and demand that he come home from work STAT. Or that I'd rather sit on the couch and watch The Office, while that sink full of dirty dishes just washed itself, since after all, I'd had a long day and deserved a break.

But guess what? You just keep moving, one foot in front of the other, one scrubbed toilet after the next, one sibling arbitration at a time. Or as Dory would say, you just KEEP SWIMMING. It doesn't matter what you can't do -- it has to be done, and so you DO. Until you find that it's DONE, and you DID it, and you're still alive and kicking, and the water has not claimed you after alll.

So this morning, I intended to write a lovely post about how the glorious time my children and I had at the GAHA summer kick-off party at the downtown sprinkler park. With gleeful photos, radiating summer-lovin' joy!

But we didn't make the party. Instead, my children learned from a logical consequence, that if Mama has to keep reminding you to do the same five things you're expected to do every morning (a.k.a. The Morning List), Mama does not have the energy to take you out for a special treat like that. A bummer indeed, but a rather rare opportunity to learn this lesson without hurting any friends' feelings by canceling a playdate, or wasting money by missing a class.

I am making a conscious effort, you see, to either dole out the logical consequences or allow the natural ones very calmly and consistently, rather than reacting emotionally to frustrating behavior. I'm working to notice and highlight, to actively seek out, their successes, however minor they may seem, and make a big deal out of THOSE instead.

Here's something that's helped us, in case you happen to have a high-maintenance child, or one with whom you find yourself engaging in more negative energy than you'd like: every night, at bedtime, each of you get to name a success from his/her day. The child reflects a moment he's proud of, and you point out a moment you noticed. "When your sister won that game of Go Fish, you didn't have a meltdown or stomp away. You held it together and let her enjoy the moment, and you even played another round. That was really good sportsmanship!"

It's easy to love parenting when you're snuggled up together with a nice picture book, or filling the home with tempting aromas from baked goods you've created together (both of which we ended up doing this morning). But those other moments? When you'd like to just check out and hand the kids over to a hypercapable nanny? They're all part of that same package -- and when you choose to homeschool, you sign up for more of both kinds -- more fun and laughter, more trials and desperate appeals for wisdom.

"In all these things we more than conquer through Him who has loved us." (Romans 8:37)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Why is My Bathroom So Stinky?

A weekend in our life, by the numbers:

TWO - boys playing on top of an enormous dirt pile
THREE - girls on a tire swing
459 - current measurement, in feet, of the paper chain (thanks to some helping friends)

7:00 a.m. - Time at which I was awakened by four children loudly playing with Legos this morning.

TWO - young screech owls in a tree on our street, brought to our attention by a friendly neighbor

FIVE - brand new, month-old chicks given to us by my SIL, named Penny, Pippi, Agent Fluffy, Snowball, and DC (for Dad's Chick). Currently housed in our shower and pooping up an odiferous storm.

THREE - Number of children who should be in bed right now, drifting off to dreamland.

THREE - Number of children "helping" Dad build a chick condo for the patio. 

EIGHT - people bunched around the dinner table of Sam and a very pregnant Vanessa tonight. We ate chicken. No relation. 

Friday, May 22, 2009

Friday Five

                              Five Books that Celebrate Siblings

I don't know about you, but I'm not wild about reading books to my kiddos that feature siblings sniping at each other, or someone constantly playing the part of the annoying kid sister. Come on, we can use all the help we can get! And sometimes, a story is worth a thousand lectures. Actually, there's really no "sometimes" about it. So here you go. My main criterion is "heartwarming, but not saccharin sweet."

Dogger, by Shirley Hughes. This is a picture book that has actually managed to return to print since my childhood, and for good reason. A young boy loses his favorite stuffed dog, and his big sister sacrifices something of her own to get it back for him. Love it.

I Was Born to Be a Brother/I was Born to Be a Sister, by Zaydek/Akaela Michels-Gualtieri. Books written by an actual brother and sister, featuring readalong CDs and go-together catchy songs. A family favorite; we go around humming, "I'm the brother, the big, big brother ..."

The Penderwicks, by Jeanne Birdsall. For older readers (9 and up, I'd say; this was a readaloud for Ian). This author successfully walks a delicate tightrope, weaving a story that portrays a warm sibling bond while keeping the sugar out and the realism in. I want to be a Penderwick!

Rachel and Obadiah, by Brinton Turkle. Another childhood favorite, featuring a footrace between a close-in-age Quaker brother and sister on old Nantucket Island. Ends with a nice twist that leaves the child to deduce the outcome.

On Mother's Lap, by Ann Herbert Scott. This is a great one for children who are expecting or adjusting to a new sibling, and are coming to grips with sharing a parent's arms, attention, and heart. The message: a mother's love expands, and there will always be room for both of you.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Legoland ... and a certified Rant

Whee! Even we non-theme-park-loving folks managed to have a cheery time at Legoland California, which isn't just a wonderland of highly impressive Lego creations (think a re-creation of Washington D.C., including the Obama inauguration on the Capitol steps, completely made of Legoes), but also a place for fun rides for the 2-12 set, places to build and experiment, and even, in Ian's case, the chance to take a free Mindstorms class.

Bathrooms were clean, educational opportunities abounded, restaurants even offered gluten-free options. Oh boy!

Now ... for the RANT. Are you ready????

Let's talk about RULES. Can we all agree that law and order is a good thing? Can we agree that rules, in moderation, are necessary for protecting public peace and safety? Can we agree that, say, a height limit on a ride that would prevent a three year old from riding a high-speed roller coaster, just in case that child's parents are certifiably insane, is a fairly reasonable thing?

OK. So we all understand that I don't advocate anarchy. And I'm not against rules ... well, as a rule. But what I am against is mindless adherence to a policy handed down from above that makes no allowance for good old-fashioned common sense. I'm against the "no exceptions" mindset that implies zero trust in the ability of the guy on the job to make a reasonable decision.

Example #1: Tim takes Ian to the Mindstorms class. We are separated for one hour, and I'm on my own with the girls. We attempt several rides. Two of those rides involve (I find when we finally reach the head of the line) small vehicles that accommodate only two passengers. Both girls meet the height requirement, BUT there is a rule that passengers under 48 inches tall (both my girls) must ride with an older "friend." OK. So. What do I do? Logically, I should be able to ride with Caroline, and let Eliza ride just ahead of us, where I can see her as she putters along a fixed track at 4 mph, encountering ZERO chance of a collision, a derailment, etc. And friends, she is five and a half. She is not about to wiggle out of her seatbelt and start bounding all over the Lego safari.

But can we carry out this beautiful, sensible arrangement? No. She is not allowed to ride by herself. She must wait for us, out of my sight, while I ride with Caroline, and then, I'm supposed to leave my THREE YEAR OLD for five minutes by herself in the "waiting area" at a crowded theme park while I ride with my five year old. Excuse me? Which is the more dangerous option? My proposed arrangement, or the theme park policy? You tell me. Think about it while I go bang my head against the wall a few times. [Note: on that particular ride, I begged another disembarking parent to take the ride again with one of my daughters while the other rode with me. Mom solidarity. Just in case you wondered.]

Example #2: The airport security line. What's with the no-gels-and-liquids hangup? Yeah, I get it, a bomb could be hidden in t here. So, when we take our three children through the line, and our plane is boarding, and my daughter's breakfast is in my purse, and it is a factory-sealed Brown Cow yogurt, that somehow qualifies as a liquid or gel that might be loaded with explosives so that we can blow up an airplane containing those three beautiful children? Uh-huh. Oh, and it's your policy that not only can we not take this yogurt on board, but also we cannot consume the yogurt at security, but must exit the building, shove the yogurt at high speed into one very small mouth, and then return through security, sprinting sweatily in sock feet across the tarmac [small airport] since our wife has taken our shoes on board? Oh. I see. Yes, that makes perfect, perfect sense.

Anyone with me on this? Any other bureaucratic tales of terror out there? All together now ...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I'm back!

Hey guys! I'm back from California! Didja miss me?

WAIT! You say. I didn't even know you were IN California.

Well, that's because I don't usually say on my blog when I'm going to be out of town. Just in case some evil person actually cares enough to read MY blog and wants to come steal my stuff when I'm gone. You know, like my very expensive ... very valuable ... uh ... television that we inherited from Tim's grandmother when she died six years ago? The world's largest paper chain? I dunno. Just the thought of an ill-intentioned stranger violating our space is disturbing. And it happened to a friend a couple weeks ago; his laptop was taken out of his house while he took his kids to piano lessons, for goodness' sake! It would have to be someone who fails to realize that we own three exceedingly alert and vicious guard chickens.

So, yes. We were in California. And yes, we did experience an earthquake, despite my reassuring Caroline ahead of time that chances were very slim. But the rest of the trip was a roaringly good time. It felt like the Lord cherishing us the whole way. We stayed a night and a day in L.A. with my brother Paul and his wife Betty, and he made my mom's recipe of macaroni and cheese for us, which is not to be missed. (I got a mouthwatering salad with grilled scallops, since I am still off gluten.)

They were even so generous as to wait a whole 24 hours to watch the LOST season finale with us. Y'all. My brain is still smoldering from that event. So what exactly was the Incident??? (Among other burning questions with which we will torture ourselves for the next eight months.)

We stayed the rest of the weekend in San Diego with my brother Peter and his wife Phoebe. Both of my brothers and their wives are so amazing that they tolerated, smilingly, a family of five crammed into their small apartments, burning through their groceries, dampening piles of bath towels, and rolling around on their furniture. And my children are no shrinking violets at home, but on the road? Let's just say their voices PROJECT. And the youngest one gets cranky after a couple days of not being able to hang with her chickens and check for eggs five times a day.

The weekend had many highlights for me personally, most of which just involved the rare and precious time to hang out with my family members, all four of whom -- have I mentioned this already? -- are wonderful, wonderful persons, even the ones who think it's uproarious to pass gas loudly in front of my delighted husband and kids. That was even more special than watching the seals sun themselves on the La Jolla beach, or strolling through Balboa Park on a Sunday afternoon, or playing on the Santa Monica beach.

To be continued ...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Presenting Mr. Twit!

Ian learned an important lesson today: when you work hard on something, even when that work is repetitive and boring and seemingly endless, and you tell your mother so quite frequently, the culmination can be surprisingly rewarding. 

Due to some odd genetic mutation, he's pretty immune to stage fright, but we really didn't know how it would go today. Off he went with his black hairspray, his food-covered beard (see the Roald Dahl book if you dare), his most gravelly voice, his lines that we'd run through over and over in the back yard ... and the outcome? 

"That was so much easier than I thought!"


"I think I might want to do Zach Scott again!"

And being treated to a root beer float by his grandmother afterward didn't hurt either. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Learning to look

The girls were so excited this morning to discover a plethora of caterpillars in our front garden, munching away at this plant that I keep pulling up because it is so determined to spread everywhere. 
They named their little friends Ian, Eliza, Caroline, and Jungle Jim. Because he climbs, you see.

I dug up a little Usborne book about Caterpillars and Butterflies, and summarized the salient facts for them, lest I kill their sense of wonder by droning on verbatim.

Then I looked in our Stokes Butterfly Book to discover that these were pipevine swallowtail caterpillars, and to show the girls what they would eventually look like, post-transformation.

Then I thought to myself, "Self, what if the plant these critters were eating is actually PIPEVINE?" So, of course, I Googled "pipevine." And discovered that pipevine is indeed what I have growing so stubbornly in my garden, and that it -- surprise! -- serves as an excellent host for pipevine swallowtails, which develop immunity to its toxin, which protects them from birds. Also, after a couple years, it flowers. I repented my earnest yanking and resolved to make a little more room for the wild things around here. Surely there is a life lesson in there for me as well.

You know what? Before I had children, I never would have bothered to look up all this information, or even to give those caterpillars more than the briefest of thought, even had I noticed them in the first place. It's a well-worn cliché, that little ones make us slow down and take notice, but only because so many parents have discovered this truth. Their unforced delight in the tiny things, the things down low that elude the adult eye, has invited me to stop, to look, to wonder, to take the time to find answers -- not just to "educate" them, but because I really want to know.

Makes me wonder, for the ten thousandth time, who's doing more of the teaching and who's doing more of the learning around here.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day, everyone! Hope everyone who IS a mother and everyone who HAS a mother had a wonderful, memorable day.

Caroline had a memorable day because after we emerged from the University Club where we have our traditional Mother's Day luncheon, her little feet got bitten by several fire ants. See below.

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln says the show was quite lovely.

And now, in honor of Mother's Day, instead of telling you about how my sweet children made me some nice mixed-media cards with my scrapbooking supplies and then left a mess all over the floor for me to clean up as I rejoiced in that very special irony, I will tell you three funny little stories, one for each reason I am a mother today.

Caroline went running into her room to get dressed yesterday morning, but the blackout shades were still drawn. She came pitterpattering back to our room, pouting audibly. "What's wrong, sweetheart?" inquired her daddy. "My room! It's ... FLOODED WITH DARKNESS!!!"

Eliza melted into tears Friday night upon discovering that Ian was about to shove off to his semiannual all-night lock-in at his taekwondo place. "But I'll miss you TOO MUCH!" she wailed. "I'll call you on the phone!" Ian offered. "But you can't do that while I'm SLEEPING!" "Eliza, honey," I intervened, "how can you miss Ian while you're asleep?" "Because he's just ..." sob, sniff, sniff, "warm and ...... snuggly."
Needless to say, she was allowed to go to the lock-in with him (Daddy brought her home at eleven).

Ian had the most delightful conversation with his friend Truman on Friday afternoon, and I got to eavesdrop and transcribe. Here's an excerpt:
Ian: You should meet Ashley, my cousin, she's awesome. (Pause.)
But sometimes she goes off with Amber and Eliza and does all sorts of
GIRLY stuff.
Truman: Ewww, girly! Ian, you're gonna have to marry one, you know?
Ian: I don't really have to, but yeah, I know, I'm gonna have to,
because I want to have kids.
Truman: You have to have kids with a girl, you know.
Ian, sighing: Yeah. I know.

(Not sure whose kids these are; we just noticed them sitting outside the restaurant this afternoon. Strange-looking critters, no?)

Friday, May 8, 2009

Friday Five

Five Great Home Learning Tools
(Or, Why We Don't Spend a Ton on Curriculum)

(Note: I didn't say "homeschooling," because I believe home can be a great source of learning whether or not you're conducting your formal education there.)

1. This globe. Yes, it's on the pricey side unless you get a rockbottom deal like I did at Amazon a few months ago, but when your five year old can tell you exactly where Libya is, and your three year old can find not only Russia but also MALI, both on the globe and on the world map, you know your dollars are well spent. I mean, seriously, people. I'm not sure I knew exactly where Mali was, and I'm thirty two. At least, I didn't know until my husband and I became wicked competitive over the GeoQuiz feature on this globe.

2. Magazine subscriptions: National Geographic (great for making collages!), Ranger Rick, Highlights. Who doesn't like to get mail? I also have my eye on a subscription to some of the Cricket magazines, like Spider and Ask.

3. Dice and cards. Nope, not running a gambling parlor here, but do you know how many math games you can play with these cheapies? Thinkfun makes a good game called ThinkFun Math Dice, but even a pair of plain dice can yield plenty of game possibilities. For suggestions, I recommend the great book Games for Math.

4. Jim Weiss CD's. I know, I know, I've mentioned these before. And I don't own stock in the company, seriously. It's just that ... well ... my children know and enjoy the stories of Robin Hood, Gulliver's Travels, the Three Musketeers, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Sherlock Holmes, etc. etc. etc. as a result of Mr. Weiss's storytelling, which I think will make the classics all the less daunting to them when they're older.

5. Nature guides, like Stokes Butterfly Book. Great for identifying those caterpillars you find all over one particular garden plant, or the snail the young 'uns dig up, or the birds that steal your chickens' feed and build nests under the eaves. Makes Mom look pretty smart, too. And we like that.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

And now we will run the gamut

First, the serious.

My friend Leslee's post and accompanying slideshow brought me to tears this morning. Their family has finally received the green light to bring home three adoptive children from Ethiopia! God is GOOD. Their story humbles me.

Then, the frivolous.

My mom sent me these shoes for my birthday. Aren't they the bomb?!?! Fortunately, my toenails were ALREADY painted red. I told her that after all, the book of Romans does tell us that all things work together for good to those who love God. She wasn't so sure that was what the Apostle Paul had in mind. Huh.

I intend to wear them on Mother's Day, if only to inspire my children and myself to not overlook life's little gracenotes. :-)

Then, the in-between.

Last night we attended Ian's AWANA Award Ceremony, basically the last hurrah of the year for the third graders on up to high schoolers. Reflecting on the fact that a year ago, Ian was dead set against doing such a structured activity, it sure felt good to watch him sidle across the stage to accept his book-completion award. And lollipop. Of course. Let no childhood accomplishment go unmarked by lollipops.

Tim and I had our moment on the stage to be recognized with the other leaders --a spotlight moment which was mercifully short. But standing there with the kids and the other serving parents, I realized what a blessing it's been to serve this year -- with the fifth and sixth grade boys, no less! That's where they were shorthanded (can't imagine why) so that's where Tim and I ended up, trading off weeks as sidekicks to a man who fits perfectly with those guys because he's really about twelve inside. Love him. There I'd be, sitting in a room with about ten boys -- the ones who soberly motored through their books, spouting verses reliably week after week, the one who literally could not sit still and would recite to me while running in circles around me, the one who lost his book halfway through the year and would bring his verse in scrawled on a scrap of paper, the one who would burst into tears when he failed to meet his self-imposed recitation quota. Boys, in all their glory. And put all together, they reassured me that my own boy, who could almost be a composite of all these young warriors, both is and will continue to be, a perfectly normal and completely mysterious Boy.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

More on the chain

Jenny asked: How did you measure this 215-ft. paper chain? Answer: I married into a family that collects erudite scientific gadgets. Specifically, my father-in-law owns things like ... a 300-FT TAPE MEASURE! Woohoo! I am just lucky that way.

Stephanie recalled a childhood attempt to earn a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records, which triggers my own memory of some such undertaking; I just can't quite put my finger on what the endeavor was. But she unwittingly illustrates a point I've been musing on, which is that children seem to find the whole idea of world records -- specifically, obscure ones that involve size and scope -- to be utterly compelling. They want to make the DEEPEST hole in the world, the BIGGEST catamaran, the LARGEST Twister Game (I actually participated in one of these attempts several years ago). Why?

Here's a thought. Last week my high school alumni magazine arrived in the mail. My junior English teacher -- wife of the man who taught me sophomore English, senior Creative Writing, and senior Hamlet, and directed two plays I stage-managed -- presented, in the pages of this magazine, a very thought-provoking essay on the purpose of education. She talked about how a true education leads us to this paradox: our significance and our insignificance in the universe.

In other words, the more we learn that is truly of value, the more we both appreciate the depth and breadth of human beings and their place in the world, and get a glimpse of how much bigger it all is than our tiny individual selves. We are everything, we are nothing. For example, she cited a girl who wrote in her college essay about two defining moments in her life, one where she overcame her fears and delivered an theatrical performance in a starring role (significance) and one when she and her family were driving through the desert at night and stopped to get out of the car and look up at the stars (insignificance). (Note: I've done the latter. It is indeed the kind of moment you remember for life.)

So, back to the world record thing. I think that as children start to become aware of this paradox, of the fact that there are things out there -- numbers, objects, accomplishments, galaxies -- that dwarf the selves they've hitherto taken for granted as pretty central to the universe, they subconsciously develop some kind of drive to master, to tame, the bigness. If they can make the biggest/tallest/deepest/longest X in the world, they've done something, well, significant.

Gotta love that whole let's-grab-the-bull-by-the-horns impulse, and the fact that they follow through on it, unjaded by a sense of insignificance. Maybe the people who do truly amazing things, to great fanfare or very quietly, to impact the world in their adult years just never let go.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The world's longest paper chain

I would love to fill everyone in on the lovely birthday party my dear family held for me yesterday, but unfortunately I'm feeling rather unwell tonight. Very tired, upset stomach, etc. Instead, I present for your viewing pleasure ... Five Children and It! No, not the Nesbit book, but a project undertaken by my five children-and-nieces, to set a world record for the longest paper chain. You can probably guess who was cracking the whip on this particular effort. I have some deep thoughts about why children engage in this kind of challenge, but those musings will have to wait until the tsunami in my belly subsides. Enjoy!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Friday Five

Back from the depths of a migraine ...

I present, while it is still Friday for three hours and forty five more minutes ...

Five Cool Websites Recently Discovered by Me:

1. -- This is a site/blog dedicated to children's and parenting literature that promotes positive images of fathers. Raise your hand if you watch even the tiniest bit of TV and, like me, find the image of the clueless paternal idiot who only knows how to sit in his recliner and hasn't the foggiest idea what's really going on in his house or family just a bit much. And let's not get started on Papa Berenstain, Mama Bear's third "child."

2. Born Out There -- Here you can follow an Everest First Ascent day by day, watching and eavesdropping on a team led by Ed Viesturs, made famous to the rest of us (i.e. the nonclimbing community) by the Everest IMAX film a few years back. You'll find daily videos and dispatches here, so grab the kiddos and gather 'round!

3. Rethinking Schools Map Game -- Test your knowledge of the countries of the Middle East, from the Western Sahara to Central Asia. HT: Tim.

4. Slow Family Living -- I actually haven't explored this site as much as I'd like yet, but it looks really neat. Lots of inspiration and support for both the why and the how of an intentional family.

5. Ali Edwards -- I scrapbook as much as I can, and this gal's site is chockfull of inspiration. But I'm posting it here because I think her current article on "Breaking out of a Creative Rut" may be of general interest to all you creative people. And by that I mean you. Yes, YOU.

BONUS: My friend Camille's new blog! Camille is the mother of three really neat kids, including the famous Truman (actual true story: Once when Truman was over, my MIL dropped by for a brief visit. When I introduced her to Truman, he immediately walked over to her, stuck out his hand, and said, "Nice to meet you!" The kid is EIGHT. And a BOY. I immediately rushed him to Kinko's to photocopy him. Look for my "Well-Mannered Boy" listing on eBay shortly as I expect bids to rival those for the Virgin Mary grilled cheese sandwich.) I'll just borrow from E.B. White here and say that it's not often that someone comes along who is both a good friend and a great writer. Camille is both.