Thursday, April 29, 2010

Three Wishes

[Editor's Note: This post ended up being a bit long, even for me. If you make it to the end, please help yourself to a gold star.]

“If you had three wishes, what you would wish for?” Ian asked me the other day. He was quick to inform me that HE would wish for … wait for it … ANOTHER THREE WISHES! Do you remember the first time you figured that out? Do you remember how impossibly clever you found yourself?

I thought for a moment. The truth is, my unthankful self wishes for little trivialities all the time (a better camera! an iPad! pretty clothes!). But these three wishes, of course, would have to matter. Little pitchers have big ears.

My thoughts spooled out in halting, rambling words, then, as I tried to explain to my nine year old why this question, one which I formerly loved to entertain as much as he does now, had become so complicated. The fact was, I couldn’t think of a single worthy wish that I could imagine granted without complications and regret.

For example. My first thought was, of course, that my dad would be healed from ALS. That somehow, eight years of slowly intensified suffering would be magically reversed, and he’d walk and talk and breathe again with ease.


Through my mind flashed a quick litany of all the blessings the Lord has brought into his life and ours over the past eight years, many as a direct result of the illness. (I don’t like to say “HIS” illness, as if he owns it.) Because of the ALS, he retired from his pediatric practice in order to use his remaining time serving God full-time. When he did so, he wrote a letter to his hundreds of patients that touched many, many hearts. Since then, he has shared the gospel, including his personal testimony, with folks from all walks of life, including many college students who were wondering about the purpose of their existence. Most dramatically, his testimony had a direct effect on his doctor, who, when she herself fell victim to ALS (yes, freakish, I know), confided in him. Although her husband and two young children had been believers for years, it was ultimately my dad who led this former atheist to pray, receive Jesus as her Savior, and find the ultimate meaning in her life just months before she died.

Furthermore, our family has been blessed abundantly with care from people all over the country, including a few who have moved from states away specifically to help take care of Dad. Our hearts and home have expanded to encompass them. We have learned to be less self-sufficient and more interdependent. And the Lord only knows how much more poignant those lessons have been for my dad – and how sustaining His presence has been in moments of suffering.

So. It’s complicated. Would I wish it all away – the package along with its wrappings?

Or here’s another one. I could wish that the Professor (my husband) had already been provided with a job that matched his qualifications and desire – one commensurate with the degree for which he labored for so long. Like, a real Professor job. With a real Professor salary. Or at least, that we knew WHEN that would happen, and WHERE we would be in a few months, or a year.


What if God has a place marked out for us, a place where we can serve Him as a family, a place where Tim can flourish professionally and where we’re knit in to a community? And what if having our answer RIGHT NOW meant not having His best? What if there’s more He needs to teach us in the waiting process? You don’t know how many times I tell Him, “OK! I’ve learned! Shall we move on now?” So far, the answer is always, “Not yet.” I'm like the kid in the back seat: "Are we there yet? Are we there yet?"

So. It’s complicated – although in this latter situation, the personal cost is far less painful. But still, would I rashly have my wish, with nary a backward glance?

Maybe I’d better stick with wishing for an iPad after all. Either that, or leave the wishing to those clever enough to ask for a lifetime supply of three more wishes. 

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Smencils: The Answer to Everything

Need a birthday gift or just a little token of your affection for a budding artist? Look no further: Smencils are here.

Eliza the Coloring Queen received a 10-pack of these for a holiday gift a while back. Do you remember, as a kid, using those scented Mr. Sketch markers? Okay, well, these are better. They're made from recycled newspaper, come in gourmet scents, stay fresh in their individual biodegradable plastic tubes, and arrive in a handy dandy zippered carrying case. Sample scents: Cinnamon. Root Beer. Grape. Mmmmmm. Coloring has become an olfactory event around here.

Apparently, Amazon carries them: Educational Insights Smencils Colored Pencils 10-pack (I know: big surprise!)

I ordered Eliza's from Rainbow Resource Center when a friend and I put a large order together for free shipping. And I gave myself a little bonus: a peppermint-scented Smencil. (Tangent: When I was in college, my best friend's mother gave us a piece of valuable advice which I will now pass along to you. When you have the urge to buy something new, but the budget does now allow, go out and buy yourself a nice new pencil. Urge satisfied; credit history intact.)

Here's the thing with the peppermint-scented Smencils: Peppermint, among those in the know, stimulates the gray matter.  The pencil case reads -- and I quote -- "Studies have shown that peppermint may help improve mental agility and concentration."

This is such a relief, y'all. Simply by using this pencil on a regular basis -- so far I've failed to use it at full potential -- I should soon be able to answer pressing questions such as the following:

- Will my newly vacuumed floors ever stay clean for longer than thirty minutes?

- How is it that a child who will wearing T-shirts in the dead of winter can comfortably sport jeans and a sweatshirt through a full hour of tennis this morning?

- When I have a rainbow-colored pack of plastic kid plates from IKEA, all equally scratched and shabby,  what is so all-fired special and desirable about the green one?

- If I donate to one charity, how come I suddenly get phone solicitations from ten of them? Do they share my name with one another? Don't they realize that's kind of counterproductive, given my finite pool of resources, or do they just figure me for a sucker?

- Can you give someone an education, or is that something you can only help him or her give to him- or herself?

- How can I convince Steve Jobs that donating an iPad to enhance our home-educating lifestyle would be to his advantage?

- What should I make for dinner tonight that everyone will eat?

Excuse me. I need to go take a few whiffs of my pencil.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

We Went to the Beach

Sometimes, a family just needs to unplug and get away from it all. And sometimes, it's more fun to do that with good friends.

Sometimes, you need to show off your mad skills with the boogie board to your buddies. 

And when you're done, you just need to curl up on the warm sand under a towel. 

Sometimes, with enough sunscreen plus protective gear from Lands End, you can sit in the sun and dig for hours. 

Sometimes, you really prefer the shade. 

Sometimes, you need to get up close and personal with nature -- but not TOO close. 

Sometimes, you need to get so close you're actually rolling in it. 

And sometimes, you need to try to control the uncontrollable. It's you versus the ocean, and you. will. win.

Sometimes, you need to be able to fling great gobs of mud and sand around without any adults reprimanding you. 

And sometimes, you need an adult to be so cool that he lets you and your comrades actually lob those great gobs of sand in his direction -- and then dishes it right back. 

Sometimes, you, the mom, need to be somewhat extraneous to your children's entertainment. ("Need help?" "No, Mom.") In that case, you might retreat to your beach chair and read The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Four stars, y'all. Maybe five. My reward for making it through Light in August).

And sometimes, you need to know you're needed. Wanted. Valued. Irreplaceable. 

Sometimes, you need to prove you're powerful enough to summon a whole flock of seagulls with a handful of chopped hotdogs. 

Of course, sometimes what you really need is a little refreshment. 

Or a nap. 

Sometimes, you need quiet moments, preferably shortly after sunrise, to walk on the beach, stare at the sea, and realize that your Father's love makes that vast ocean seem like a morning drop of dew.

And feel so thankful for it all. 

(FYI: All this weekend loveliness took place in Port Aransas, a place we've visited before, and, our status as former South Carolina Beach Snobs notwithstanding, found surprisingly charming. We've stayed here and here, both super close to the sand and surf, before high season while the rates are lower. Recommended!)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

An Interview with a Real! Live! Celebrity!

Ever wonder what really goes on behind the scenes for those perfectly coiffed and polished people sitting at your local TV news desk? Well, my lovely, old (not age-wise, but length-of-friendship-wise) friend Caroline Cornish graciously agreed to answer a few of my burning questions for y'all's reading pleasure.
(Caroline being Glamorous Anchorwoman)

Here are a few pertinent facts I think you should know about Caroline:

1. Caroline recently became a new mom. (Congratulations, Cornish!) She's the only one of my high school friends (and I promise I had more than one) to have spawned offspring, besides yours truly.

2. Caroline is a HUGE Red Sox fan. She's married to a HUGE Yankees fan. Proof that it can happen, and somehow, mysteriously, work.

3. Caroline is afraid of dogs. Especially big ones. Also, she doesn't swear (I *think* that fact is current). Although perhaps she does in the presence of big dogs.

4. When I met Caroline, I was wearing a sweater (her memory, not mine) that had apple trees embroidered on it. Somehow, she still decided to be my friend ... for the ensuing twenty years. Yup, she's a keeper.

5. Not all of her friends are apple-tree-wearing charity cases. She's seen, in person, four sitting presidents and met Bush (41) and Clinton. (Because she's extremely down-to-earth, you have to tease this information out of her.)
(Caroline being Un-glamorous, Radiant, Maine-living Mama)

Okay, ready for my questions and her brilliant answers???

Congratulations on having become a mother recently! I know that when you got married, and for years afterward, you were pretty decided on NOT having children. I know something of the mental process you went through, but is there a public version of what changed your mind about having kids?

I guess the main thing that happened was the death of my grandfather.  I come from a very close family, but for some reason it never occurred to me in a tangible way that at some point the generations before me would be gone, and if I did not have a child, there would be no one there to take their place.
I used to be of the mindset that once you have kids your life was over, and it was all about the kids.  But now it seems to me that these are just different phases of life, none more or less important than the others.
I had accomplished many of my professional goals and was very happy in my marriage.  So it all kind of came together.  I still wasn't 100% sure that this was the right thing to do, even when I got pregnant, but at that point, I had committed, so I decided to put my fears aside and do the best I could.

What have you enjoyed the most about motherhood so far?

First thing in the morning, when I go into Ellie's room after she's woken (me) up, she's in her crib, wimpering and fussing... until she sees me.  And then she gives me the biggest smile in the world, one of unconditional love.  It's the best way to start the day. [Editor's Note: I know exactly what she's talking about, and I TOTALLY AGREE.] I also love every time she figures out a new skill.  It seems like one day, you're just waving a rattle in front of her face, and the next, she's figured out how to grab it.  Those small accomplishments are very exciting.

What has been the toughest part?

Being patient and flexible with my schedule.  I'm someone who used to make a list of 10 things to do in the day, and get at least 8 of them done.  Now I'm lucky if I accomplish two, and it seems like I have zero down time.  I miss just being able to sit back and read a book for a couple hours.  My schedule seems very tight now.

What's been the biggest surprise?

There have been two big surprises:  One, I'm actually able to get a decent amount of sleep.  I have an amazing baby that started sleeping 11 hours a night at 3 months.  I thought the sleepless night period was going to last much longer.
However, on the flip side of that, I thought I'd be able to have more down time in the day when she's napping.  But she's a terrible napper.  She does not stay down in the crib during the day, and that means that in order for her to get a decent nap you have to either hold her, or take her for a ride/walk.  I didn't expect my indoor chores to be such a challenge!

How is the juggling of parenthood and career going? I remember that was something you anticipated being a challenge.

It's definitely a challenge, but I think it's going OK.  I didn't really think about how much "homework" I did for my job until it was suddenly much more difficult to get it done.  It's a lot harder to read the papers because Ellie demands constant attention.  A couple times, I've felt a little unprepared, and it really bothers me.  I'm getting better at time management, though, and it's not as bad as it was when I first got back to work!
And on the flip side, when I work late, I feel like I'm missing valuable time with her.  It's every working parent's dilemma, I think.
What makes it easier, though, is that my husband and I have organized our schedules so that we only need child care 10 hours a week.  When I'm working late, I know she's with Dad.

So speaking of career, what is your official title and job description?

My official title is anchor/reporter.  On Saturdays and Sundays, I anchor the 6 & 11 p.m. news for two stations (the broadcast is simulcast), WCSH in Portland, ME and WLBZ in Bangor, ME.  The stations are the NBC affiliates in Maine and between the two of them, we reach almost the entire state.  Wednesday-Friday, I'm out in the field, doing interviews and writing.

Can you describe [in brief] a typical day on the job?

I have two different kinds of "typical" days.  During the week, I'll come in first thing in the morning (usually at 9 a.m., but earlier if the story demands it), make any phone calls I need to either do research or set up interviews that our assignment desk hasn't already thought of, and then get out the door to do those interviews.  I'm teamed up with a videographer, who makes sure we have enough video to cover the words I write.  When we return from our shoots, I will go through the video, writing down sound bites.  Then I write the story, and hand it off to the videographer to edit.  After that, I write a version of my story to post on our website.

On weekends, I come in mid-afternoon, and write up some stories that videographers have shot on their own.  I also read through scripts that other people wrote to make sure I know what they say and that I don't pull a Ron Burgundy (if you've seen the movie "Anchorman," you know what I mean).  Then at 6, I read the show on TV.  After that, I post some more stories on the website, and get ready for the 11.
Sorry, that wasn't particularly brief. :)

What do you think would surprise most people about your job, if anything?

Oh, there's so much!  A lot of people don't realize that we shoot most of our stories the day they air, that a lot of news anchors wear blue jeans on the set because you can't see their legs, and that we're not on the road 24 hours a day chasing "breaking news" -- at least not in Maine!
TV news isn't nearly as glamorous as people think it is either.  We don't have hair and makeup people or wardrobe people.  We do everything ourselves.  At the network level, it's a different story, but most local news people have to be self-sufficient in that respect!

How often do you get recognized around town?

A lot of people I work with get recognized all the time.  But I've been told I look completely different when I'm not on camera.  I think it's because I don't really wear makeup, and I dress very casually when I'm off the clock!  For some reason, I've been getting recognized a lot more when I'm out with my daughter, and it seems like every time my mom comes to visit, I get recognized, too!  Right now, I'd say I'm averaging once every 2 weeks or so when I'm not working.  Other people I work with get it every day.

I know that your husband is a producer for a rival station. Do you guys talk shop at home or do you have to keep the secrets of the trade? ;-)

We definitely talk shop at home all the time, but it's in a "how was your day" way.  We don't talk about special reports that our stations are doing, or anything that would be considered a station "secret," i.e. if one of our stations is about to launch a new show.
Also, I can get called out on breaking news from home, and when that happens, we have a "don't ask; don't tell" policy.  All he knows is that I have to go to work.  Because he has more of a desk job, he never gets called in spur of the moment.

There you go, reader friends. Isn't she great?

Your Totally Unbiased News Source

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Great Books for Boys!*

*and other -- ahem -- Discriminating Readers.

For a while now, I've been meaning to post an updated, fairly comprehensive list of Ian's favorite reading material. Remember, Ian is 9 [edited: now 10]. He tends to have a limited attention span for things that don't involve double-bladed light sabers. On the other hand, he has the capacity to read beyond, say, Diary of a Wimpy Kid. So, this is an unexpurgated list of twaddle-free books that he has read on his own, without much cajoling, and enjoyed. We could call it ...


Chapter Books

The Puzzling World of Winston Breen (Berlin)
The Guardians of Ga'hoole series (Lasky)
The Mysterious Benedict Society (Stewart)
Knight's Castle, Half Magic, and other titles by Edward Eager
George Washington's Socks (Woodruff)
A Series of Unfortunate Events (Snicket)
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (Konigsburg)
Gregor the Overlander series (Collins)
Percy Jackson series (Riordan)
Hatchet (Paulsen)
Time Cat (Alexander)

Graphic Novels

Rapunzel's Revenge (Hale)
Calamity Jack (Hale)
Mouse Guard (Petersen)
The Asterix series (Goscinny)
The Action Bible

I intend to keep this list as a sidebar and update it as often as possible. Hope it helps other parents who end up scratching their heads amidst the library stacks, thinking, "What on earth can I give this kid to read, assuming I don't want his literary incisors to simply rot into oblivion???"

Feel free to send me your own recommendations, too!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Just picture this in your head

Setting: The Breakfast Table

Caroline: Daddy, do farmers have computers?

Daddy: Well, they do now.

Caroline: Oh, so they used to just have wooden ones, and they'd pretend the pictures were moving?

[Yes, and I wonder whether their neighbors would all gather to help them build these wooden computers? Like a barnraisin'? Followed by a hoedown and maybe a spell of high-jinks cornshuckin'?

Those winter nights. They could sure get dull.]

Friday, April 16, 2010

Friday's Finest

"'And that reminds me, Betsy. Isn't it getting pretty cold to write up in the maple tree?'
  Mrs. Ray knew all about the office in the maple tree. She had given Betsy the cigar box. Betsy's mother was a great believer in people having private places."

  "'But if you're going to be a writer,' [Betsy's father] went on, 'you've got to read. Good books. Great books. The classics. And fortunately ... that's what I'm driving at ... Deep Valley has a new Carnegie Library, almost ready to open. White marble building, sunny, spick and span, just full of books.'"

                                                                     -- Both quotes from Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown, Ch. 6.

Eliza and I are making our way through the Betsy-Tacy books, and I'm in love all over again, as I may have mentioned before. This chapter in this particular book is a diamond among gems. The way Betsy Ray's mother shows genuine zeal for creating a place for her budding authoress to bloom, the way she gently addresses the discovery that Betsy has been wasting her time on dime store novels, and the way she and Betsy's father come up with a plan to give their twelve year old, who so wants to soar, her first set of wings  -- well, it just makes me want to be Jule Ray when I grow up. I think Betsy's parents were ahead of their time -- but I never realized quite how cool they were until I became a mother myself, with my own nest of hatchlings to tend.

P.S. A while back I mentioned the List of Top 100 Middle Grade Chapter Books, as compiled by readers' Top 10 lists. Slowly, the list has been published, working its way down to the #1 slot. Care to guess the winning book?

Check it out here. Personally, I'm thrilled with the result. Agree? Disagree?

Friday's Finest is a meme from Bookful of Thoughts.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Joy of Tinkering

Have you ever heard of Gever Tulley?

Check out these short videos and see what you think. Whether or not you agree with his philosophy on letting the young 'uns make discoveries while doing things generally considered "dangerous" these days, I guarantee you'll find it thought-provoking.

Gever Tulley on 5 dangerous things for kids | Video on

Just by watching the videos, without even reading his book yet, the Professor and I got bitten by the inspiration bug. I realized that we had dysfunctional CD changer and an old blender sitting around awaiting their fate at electronics waste disposal. Why not do a little recycling of our own?

We gave the kids some screwdrivers. The hardest part was not worrying about someone getting an eye poked out, a la A Christmas Story, but figuring out when to step in and when to step back. To be available, but not to hover. Ah, such an apt metaphor for all of parenting.

What do you have lying around or gathering dust that you could let your kids (or yourself) take apart? Could a cranny* of your home become a tinkerer's workshop?

[There. I did it. Used "cranny" in a sentence without "nook." We might be making history here!]

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sushi Night!

Thanks to my friend Laura, plus two assistants who actually knew what they were doing (unlike self), last Friday the "Sail to Japan" class I teach in our homeschool co-op knocked their own socks off making sushi for lunch. Even the girls who refused to eat a bite -- and the girls whose sushi consisted of nori and just plain rice -- all took a turn to roll up some creative combinations.

Inspired by a) the fun, b) my newfound skill, and c) all my leftover ingredients, I decided we'd try it at home on Saturday night. We used these directions for making the sushi rice. (I bought the Calrose rice at an Oriental Market, mostly to give my kids an educational experience and let them feel like a minority once in a while, but I think you can find it elsewhere.) It's vastly preferable to cook your rice a few hours (or a night) ahead of time so it's at room temp when the magic hour of family enchantment arrives.

For fillings, we offered dishes of cucumber and blanched carrots sliced lengthwise, imitation crabmeat, plain omelet, avocado, and smoked salmon. You can find oodles of other ideas online or by checking out the premade sushi at the market. These toppings offered a good variety for our crew, however.

(As usual, neighbor kids were over, and this one wanted to try her hand at sushi chef-dom.)

We wrapped all our sushi in sheets of nori (seaweed), which is easy to find at virtually any market (in our case, Central Market). The rolling mats are quite cheap -- I think I paid about $2.00 for one.

For specific, step-by-step instructions, check out this site, which walks you through it with cute pictures.

Oh, one more thing. When we did this at co-op, Elsie (remember her, the genius?) brought some sweet soybean wrappers into which the girls could stuff sticky rice. We found that the sushi-shy among them were more likely to eat the plain, sweet pockets they made with the soybean wrappers. Something to think about when you're grabbing things off the shelf in the Asian section at the store.

Now, can someone just tell me how to say "Bon App├ętit" in Japanese?

[Steady Mom 30-Minute Blog Challenge]

Monday, April 12, 2010

O Rock, You Enchant Us

We got the total beauty package on Saturday. Not a facial, massage, and pedicure, mind you -- although goodness knows my feet would have appreciated it --- but a complete feast for the senses courtesy of the Creator. 

The drive through the Hill Country to Enchanted Rock is currently a riotous celebration of spring color, with wildflowers of every hue carpeting the borders of the highway. With every mile, you become convinced there can be no prettier place on the planet at this particular moment in time. 

(Then you high-five yourself for bringing along your cell phone instead of a REAL camera.)

Things You'll Need Upon Arriving at The Rock:
1. Drinks, snacks. To nosh, perchance to picnic ...
2. Comfortable walking shoes
3. Sunscreen (The top part of the Rock is completely exposed, though delightfully breezy)
4. Thick skin to deflect whining from the wee-est one. (The middle one, who used to whine with the Big Boys during anything resembling a hike, scrambled to the top like an ibex.)
5. A sense of wonder. Surveying the panoramic view at the top, where the few visible smidges of civilization look so tiny, it's easy to think life is as simple as it will ever be. 
6. A promise of ice cream in nearby Fredericksburg for motivation. See #4.

For inspiration for getting outdoors with your family, see this post at Adventure in Progress. Then look around, note the lack of knee-deep snow in your environs, and get out there! 

Thursday, April 8, 2010

An Island; A Book

The children were particularly fractious this morning. To be specific, there were three girl-tantrums at our house, all before breakfast. (I know, this never happens at your house.)

I went here in my mind:

(Photo by Laszlo-Photo)

It was lovely, really. Nothing but the sound of silence. 

Then I returned to our humble kitchen, where the Professor and I swore the following blood oath: From now on, these children will be fed breakfast and have their blood sugar stabilized within thirty minutes of their eyelids opening. 

Now, what to feed them for breakfast is an increasingly complex question. I'd say we're officially stuck in a breakfast rut, but that oversimplifies the issue, as we're stuck in a few different breakfast ruts based on a few different eating preferences. Of course. 

This is why I laugh ruefully and maybe almost want to weep when I read The Seven Silly Eatersto my girls. They want to hear it over and over and over. But I think their reasons have more to do with how the family solves their truly nightmarish food issues with PINK CAKE. 

But don't let me spoil it for you. This book is meant to be savored.

P.S. Readers, I have heard you loud and clear:  I should not wear flip-flops while riding my bike! Got it! (So I shouldn't tell you about riding my bike barefoot around Fire Island as a kid, toting home the groceries for my grandmother?  No?) Duly busted.

And the cell phone was for checking directions on my GPS. I just knew someone would notice that. 

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Von Trapp Family Bikers

When I was a young 'un, my parents would occasionally (a word which here means, "too frequently for the liking of us kids") round all of us up for a family bike ride.

We'd sigh and roll our eyes dramatically as we cruised along, drily christening ourselves the Von Trapp Family Bikers. As in the Sound of Music. Keep in mind that we were only two kids and a few bedroom drapes shy of the full caboodle.

We were convinced that we had the only family in town whose idea of a fun Sunday afternoon involved falling into a line of two-wheelers. Actually, if memory of my hometown serves me correctly, purely anecdotal research supports this theory, as every other family was at home on the couch watching Melrose Place and Beverly Hills, 90210.

So guess who's singing Do-Re-Mi out the other side of her mouth now?

Fact 1: For the past four and a half years, our family has owned one car.

Fact 2: We care about not polluting this here planet of ours more than really necessary.

Fact 3: We are mean parents who demand that our children get exercise and sunshine on a spring weekend.

Fact 4: We are the proud owners of not only a bike trailer ....

... but also a Novara Afterburner.

Just let me coo for a minute about our Novara Afterburner. I can fold it up and stick it in the back of that one car (okay, minivan) we own. Twice a week, I tote it to the kids' taekwondo dojang, where the Professor affixes it to the back of his own bike and uses it to bring our eldest home from his lesson in most kinds of weather. Just seeing him cruise along with a pedaling papoose on the back bring smiles from drivers and especially from fellow bikers. And remember, we live in Lance-ville. There are bikers a'plenty, and a nine year old needs to feel part of the pack sometimes.

I rode it with Lizey on the Funky Chicken  Coop Tour on Saturday. I'm pretty sure we looked kind of adorable.

The Professor pulled Caroline in the trailer. Ian rode his own bike.

Now, if I could just get them to harmonize, as we whiz past, about tea with jam and bread. Or maybe more appropriately, "So -- a large bike pulling an appendage ..."

Monday, April 5, 2010

Doin' The Funky Chicken!

Our very full weekend seemed to have a chicken focus to it. And I'm not talking about the menu.

We warmed up by showing off our own fowl flock.

(Pictured at right is Jachin, whom I've known since we were toddlers, and who was visiting from California with his lovely wife Jessica. We had to break him in to the ways of the Ranch.)

Then we saddled up and took off for the Funky Chicken Coop Tour. It's like a Parade of Homes -- except instead of well-heeled guests ogling antiques and designer rooms, think families in REI footwear wandering through fifteen back yards and admiring an eclectic horde of chicken coops.

We saw a couple coops that looked much like ours ... and some that were like ours in the way that a white house is like The White House.

One coop hosted hens who were EIGHT YEARS OLD. Madelyn, forgive me for deeming you geriatric!

Another yard offered its hens a lovely, shaded bamboo grove in which to wander. They probably wondered why all the poor humans were sweating in the sunshine.

I saw a bunch of people I know, including Jimmy and Sarah, who ghost-write their toddler's hilarious blog. Check it out.

We saw baby chicks.

 Guess what we have our house now, hanging out under the heat lamp?

Meet Twilight and Peeper!

We polished off the weekend by lunching with some friends who live in a particularly affluent (read: not known for urban farming) area of town. Their next door neighbors joined us, and within five minutes, we'd connected over our joint chicken husbandry. It's a weird but instantaneous bond, this chicken owning thing.

One might even call it funky. 

Thursday, April 1, 2010

No foolin'. Well, okay. Foolin'.

Did you pull off any April Fool's jokes, my friends? Are you crackling with creative energy in that department or, like me, have you managed to somehow keep your kids in blissful ignorance about their duty to spice things up on this important Day of Days?

My fellow Americans, it turns out, are much more inspired. 

-Our friend Quinn posted the following anecdote on Facebook this afternoon in response to my query: 

"Yep got Melibea [his wife] good. Sent her a text saying I was on my way to get Luke [their five year old] at school, told her he got in a fight and was in the office! LOL she went crazy, and I let her go for about 3-4 min. LOL she started all talking about parenting styles--it was GREAT!"

(I'm guessing Quinn's Fun Cup is excessively large. I hope his sofa is also large because I imagine that's where he'll be sleeping tonight.)

-NPR did their annual spoof, and I just happened to catch it in the Mom Taxi this afternoon. For a good chuckle (remember, they say NOTHING on air about it being a joke), find the written and spoken versions here

- My friend Amy texted her husband announcing her pregnancy. Six heart attacks later, he found he'd been April Fooled. 

- A well-respected mom wrought panic, then chuckles, on a classical homeschooling email loop I'm on by sending this out this morning: 


I'm sure you were as disturbed as I was this morning to read about the 
statement from the authors of The Well-Trained Mind, Susan Wise Bauer 
and Jessie Wise. The have apparently renounced the classical approach 
outlined in their writings and are, in support of the President's "Race 
to the Top" political agenda, now supporting a moderate/progressive 
public school model for education that advances "21st-century" 
technological tools and ideas in place of the historical and classical 
emphasis of TWTM.

This seems like such a betrayal, I don't know what to say. I for one 
will carry on with the ideals of TWTM, even if others abandon them for 
political favor.

You can read the gory details at

With sadness, but resolve,


You funny, funny people. Note to self: next year, you old stick-in-the-mud, start gathering ideas on March 31st.

The Quality World

An friend asked via email that I share more about the "Creating an Effective Family" course I'm taking. One exercise we've done in class is to brainstorm some components of our "quality world," or, in layman's terms, Things We Like to Have in Our Lives.

Here's mine, in no particular order. (Disclaimer: we did this in two minutes, so if you don't see yourself on here, you are hereby barred from taking offense.)

A clean house
Blogging (and hearing from readers)
My husband
Time with the Lord
Walks on the beach
My siblings
Yummy, healthy food
Secure relationships
Spring and fall
Extra money
Funny podcasts
Dark chocolate
Connecting time with the kids

As I said, no particular order.

The next week, we revisited our lists and decided which of the four needs (other than Safety/Survival) was met by each of these items. Some of them met just one -- but that didn't minimize their importance. Conversely, some met three or even all four but play a minor role in the big picture. For example, time with the Lord met my love and belonging need, albeit in a deep way. Although it may sound silly, LOST actually met all four, although obviously on a more superficial level. Here's how:

Love and Belonging: This is a connection that the Professor and I share. We inhabit separate worlds all day long, but watching and discussing the show once a week (or more often, when we were catching up), is part of our conscious effort to find common ground. Also, I have other people in my life -- my brother Paul, for example -- who share the interest and don't seem to mind texting about it.

Power/Competence: Although much of the time the complexity of the show leaves me baffled, I enjoy the challenge of trying to figure things out and develop theories about how the pieces fit together. It's a bit like solving a doozy of a crossword puzzle or discussing a masterfully crafted novel. When, once in a blue moon, one of my theories proves to be correct -- well, you don't want to be in the same room with me, 'cause there just ain't room for much else but my head.

Freedom: I'm in the parenting realm all day long. LOST happens after the kids are  tucked away in bed. Q.E.D.

Fun: Well. This is probably self-explanatory.

The point is that we need "things" (broadly defined) in our lives that address each of our fundamental needs -- particularly the needs we've decided are most important to us. The other side of the coin, of course, is to consider the people around us and to ask ourselves how we're filling their cups.

Since knowing what makes up their Quality World is a huge part of understanding what makes them tick and why, the next step is to sit down and do this with my kids. I sense a Family Meeting coming on. Better stock up on that frozen dairy substance that's surely on all three of their lists. I think it fills the fun cup, although they might argue it's all about Survival.