Tuesday, July 31, 2007

I Scream, You Scream...

When we lived in Michigan, our house happened to be the main stop for the neighborhood ice cream man. We lived in the middle of a long stretch of houses and dozens of children would run from both directions all summer long to buy ice cream in front of my kids. I never bought. $1.75 for a Popsicle seemed extreme to me and so I would let my kids choose what they wanted from the pictures on the truck and then drive around the corner to Big Box Mart and buy them a WHOLE box for the price I'd have paid the ice cream man for just the one. This seemed to satisfy the kids enough.

I, however, felt a little bad about it...or sad, or something, mostly because I have fond memories of the ice cream man from my own childhood. I remember playing in the backyard with my siblings and all our neighborhood friends and hearing the music call us to excitement. There almost always were neighborhood kids in our yard. Nine children in one house was something of an attraction. One was always guaranteed a play mate at our house. A neighborhood girl my age was known to ask for me, then my sister if I was busy, then the younger brother and even younger brother in turn, all the way down...unless my mother found some excuse why the whole family couldn't play today. But often someone could play, and so she kept coming... and many others, too.

But I remember...

...summer days spent riding on bikes or roller skates through elaborate chalk cities we'd draw on many of the neighborhood driveways and how we'd even connect them through the road and ride freely throughout. I remember hop scotch and four square and jump rope. I remember comparing tans, running through the sprinklers, wearing Dr Scholl's and knowing there was corn on the cob for dinner. I remember hearing the music from the ice cream man and running with all the neighborhood to buy ice cream and candy. But I think it was nickels and dimes we had in our pockets--at least I don't remember my parents taking out a second mortgage so that we could buy ice cream.

When my husband and I moved with our children to Connecticut we saw and heard the ice cream man far less often, anyway. Also, I learned a funny trick from my older brother where you ask your kids if they "hear the tuna fish truck? Would you like to run over with those other kids and get some tuna fish, too?" Very handy trick, that. But it really only works on children under three years old. Older children have more developed remote candy detectors and they resent your joking about their thwarted desires. My children have learned that we don't buy from the ice cream man. We just don't. We get plenty of ice cream all summer long, but we don't ever get it from the ice cream man.

But I remember...

...buying, as a kid, enough candy from the ice cream man to save for summer nights. I remember wearing breezy pajamas and reading Beverly Cleary books in the long evening light while sipping water from a plastic mug and savoring Jolly Ranchers.

Then today, when we were on our way to the pool an ice cream truck parked out front. The children had run ahead while I gathered belongings. As I came up the rear, I could see them standing back from the truck, though eying it with a certain guilty curiosity. I remembered the cash in my pocket left over from yet another blueberry picking trip earlier in the morning.

"Would you boys like an ice cream?" I asked. All five lit up and looked surprised that I had any idea what they had been thinking. "Ya-ya-ya!" Nicholas shouted for them all and we walked to the truck. There was a small selection of ice creams for $1.00, but I was surprised to find that in order to buy one of those pops that looks like Spider Man's head, for example, you must pay $2.50 a piece these days. Luckily, my children have simple tastes and no special desire to eat Spider Man's head and so they were delighted with the $1.00 menu. A "Great White" lemonade shark, a "Cotton Candy" striped pop, and a few "Bubble Gum" swirly cones were ordered. Inside the pool gates I asked Simeon, "Is it good? Do you like it?"

"Yes," he said looking a bit confused, "Would you like some?"

"No, no...it's for you," I said.

"Ok," he laughed, "It's just that, that was the fourth time you asked me if I liked it."

Ah well, I don't think my five dollars purchased a wealth of childhood memories for my kids today, but I do think it eased my conscience a bit.

Monday, July 30, 2007

And For Dinner Tonight We're Having Photographs of Steak

At Lunch Today...

Me: Here are the cups. Pass them around. I'm going to get you a pitcher of Lemonade.

Zachary: Hey, this cup is empty. Where's my drink?

Alex: We're not getting any. Mama said all we get today is a picture of Lemonade.

Nature and Art


We've had a lot of activity around our Butterfly Bush lately. Rather than trap these beautiful butterflies in bug boxes for closer observation, I encourage the boys to release them from their nets into our sun room for a time. It has been fun to watch the butterflies flutter around and land near our artistic renditions.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Nutty Boy Humor

Found in our can of Pistachios.

Brief Update

This morning my husband discovered that he needed to hook the doo-dad on the thinga-ma-jigger. Once he did that, the installation of the garbage disposal went very smoothly. So, now we have a beautiful (?) new garbage disposal. Yay, husband!

And this afternoon, this afternoon I took a long nap.

Wherein I Behave Like a Maniac

We've taken the plunge. We're joining a gym. It's just a matter of which gym we are going to join. I am content at this time to be courted by two, as they offer me free trials and call me with once-in-a-don't-join-the-other-opportunities.

We tried out the YMCA on Friday. I left all five boys in the babysitting service there, something I have never done anywhere else--ever. I worked out for an hour by myself in the middle of the morning. Something I never do--ever. I had been running the occasional mile and a half here and there and even at that, not for a few months with life becoming more complex with these growing boys in my house and their ever more and more sophisticated needs. I ran over five miles on Friday in that hour.

Was it because I exercised at a time I don't usually or because it was more than I have been doing for some time, I don't know, but when we got home I started cleaning, cleaning like a mad woman and fixing things that were on my fix-it-over-the-weekend list. I even swept the driveway and waxed the van. I chased a huge and nasty beetle out of the toy lawn mower and signed for the delivery of a new computer the UPS man left in the breezeway. When my husband arrived home, I fixed up a creative dinner from the bare cupboards and served it with a smile. After clearing plates, I headed out the door to the mall in search a few things for me (can you believe it!) and few for the boys.

Arriving home at a late hour, I found the computer ready to go with software uploaded. I started ripping my CDs onto the hard drive in order to save what might be saved from our precious CD collection that the children have dutifully sandpapered over the years. In the meantime, I gave my husband a fashion show with some of the things I had picked up for myself.

Come midnight, my husband wanted to go to bed. Hu? I was just getting started. I realized the hour was late, but I just wasn't tired. I laid in bed for a while pretending I wasn't a maniac and that I would drift off at any moment into the ethereal world of dreams, but sleep would not come and so I got up and took a shower. Then I cut my hair. Yes. I cut several inches off and even gave myself a few long layers at 2:00 AM (naturally curly hair is very forgiving).

Next morning I was up at the usual time and serving breakfast to all, as my husband had an early meeting. I did not regret the cut, thankfully, and continued to rip CDs until my husband arrived home and I left for grocery shopping.

I returned a few items I had bought the night before and then headed out to grocery destination#1. I found myself in the middle of a wicked downpour. I stood, without an umbrella, or even a hope, in the parking lot of grocery destination #1 frantically throwing bags into the van as I received the drenching of my life. Once the groceries were secure and I took cover, the rain let up. That's when the the chill began; the chill that reached to my very bones and pained my sore, sore muscles with painful shivering as I shopped around grocery destination #2.

Arriving home, my husband was hard at work installing a new garbage disposal. As I unloaded the groceries, the late-night haircut seemed to catch up with me and the soreness in my muscles from the workout combined with the feverish chill of the downpour brought to mind such illnesses as I've only heard described in novels, illnesses we have vaccinated out of our own experience. But there was no time to dwell on such things; it was time to go to Confession. Leaving everything behind, I headed out again into the wet, wet world.

The rain came down in heavy sheets. The van threw up huge jets of water up like fins on either side as I sped down the road to the church. I parked the van and opened my bright, yellow umbrella into the brightest sunshine. The rain continued to fall despite the glowing rays of sun which seemed to gain in strength with every step I took, puddle to puddle, all the way to the huge and heavy church doors. I searched for a rainbow and found none.

There was no rainbow to be found though all the elements were perfectly aligned and the city seemed to stand breathless in eager anticipation. There was no rainbow, though I felt the sacrament I'd just received could itself offer one. I looked and looked and never saw one, neither then nor driving home. I searched the streets and sky. Surely there was a rainbow somewhere evading us at every turn.

"I can't get this" my husband said as I came through the door back at the house. He asked me to look over the last few steps required for installing the garbage disposal. "Let me see," I said. Moments later, I found myself cramped beneath the sink holding a very heavy object over my husband's trusting head, and that at such a strange angle and for far, far too long. I understood, perhaps for the first time, why some people cuss.

We were not successful in our installation and so I had to make dinner without a sink and I did so at a very late hour. Thank goodness for meal planning, for I was all out of creativity, all out of energy: Saturday night burgers on the grill with melted cheddar, chips and cole slaw, fried onions with mushrooms and bacon.

"I'm really tired." I confessed.

"I suppose if you had a glass of wine you'd pass out," my husband wondered.

The noise had cleared and I sat alone at the dinner table. Without a sink, there was no pressure to clean the dishes. I sipped slowly from my wine glass and tried to sooth away at least the thought of my sore muscles and tired, tired head, sore muscles, chilled bones.

Just then, Nicholas came around the corner holding our illuminated globe. He set it on the floor beside me and plugged it in. In the ever darkening room, the soft blue light of the earth shone peacefully upon his face and on the hightlights of his summer curls. He turned the earth with gentle awe under his fat, toddler hand and exclaimed in bright wonderment over the all the features of our beautiful planet. And I sat, with aching muscles and chill-nipped bones in wonderment of him and all God's blessings.

Such is my life. A crazy life, a busy life, a harried life. A life where you probably won't see a rainbow when you think you've earned one and it would only be proper and you were looking everywhere for it and done everything right to deserve one, but a life where suddenly --and when you least expect it-- the whole world lights up and the joy you feel is so immense it leaves your tired body quite behind.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Note to Land's End

The only difference between this and this is the collar. You say Tunic, I say Maternity.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Confessions of a Spam Reader

Ok, I don't really read my spam, but I do try to scan it because occasionally someone I know gets trapped in there. And today I read this message just for the wonderful ridiculousness of it.

Soly Graves writes:

Dear you,

Good mood to you. I understand that I was looking for you all my life. It became evident when
I came here in search of my second half. It's unbelievable, but it's truth!
Do you agree with me that all people are so different and in the storm of
daily routine, it is so hard to make a right choice, to find your true love?
But hope is always alive in the heart and in spite of everything, you find
your happiness.
I know that my happiness is You, You are a man who will be able to make me
happy.
You may ask me how I do know. The answer is very simple.
Just look into your single heart which is missing love and care, and you
will understand everything.

If it weren't for the line where Soly calls me a man, I just might have fallen for this and clicked on the link that would surely have led me to happiness.

Don't Throw the Baby Out With the Bathwater

Or, hanging on to Montessori principles when the materials have been consigned to the basement...

I'm a big fan of Maria Montessori and her methods of education. The Secret of Childhood is a beautiful book written by a woman with a sharp mind and a gentle approach. This book, more than Montessori: The Method (which I find dry, dull and overly scientific) inspires me each summer when I read it again. Maria Montessori has a contagious respect for children and her insight into their development is invaluable.

I was first smitten with the Montessori approach through Simeon's experiences with the method in a Montessori preschool he attended. I read all the books I could get my hands on about the method and the more I read the more involved I wanted to become. I wasn't happy to be the mother of a child in a Montessori school-- I wanted to be his Montessori instructor, but I didn't want to be anyone else's, just my own son's. It became obvious to me that I wanted to educate him at home and so I took him out of preschool the following year and joined a Montessori Homeschooling group.

When our meetings took place I wanted to talk about Maria Montessori's ideas about education, but the other mothers wanted to share ideas about making your own Montessori materials at home. I was a bit on the fence with all the materials. I saw some good in them and had quite a collection myself at the time, but I was having a hard time seeing how these materials were the be all and end all of Montessori education. Pink towers, brown broad stairs, red rods and cylinders--certainly these items served a purpose in Maria Montessori's schools all those years ago, but were they essential to the practice of Maria's methods and principles? I had my doubts.

I did keep a Montessori style classroom with the manipulatives accessible at all times for years in my home with all the trappings I could get second hand or make myself. But it wasn't long before the cylinders started to go missing. I found myself spending an inordinate amount of time each day sorting, pouring and classifying the Montessori Soup that room would quickly become.

Why was I doing the work of a child? Who was this for anyway? And where was the child's natural desire for order Montessori had talked about? Yeesh. Well, when cylinders became hand grenades and red rods became guns-- and when one of those guns broke a pane of glass in the sun room door, I saw a light.

Montessori materials are made for classroom use. They aren't supposed to be accessible to children around the clock or used as toys. Many are, furthermore, designed to mimic home life and the home environment. A zipper on one's pants is better than a zipper on a dressing frame. Same for buttons. And the work of a child can be accomplished, the principles of Montessori education can be followed to good result without a pink tower, without a red rod, and without many many, of the materials that the The American Academy of Montessori will insist are essential to the methods.

I beg to differ. Maria Montessori herself begs to differ,

What method was used to obtain these results? There was no method to be seen, what was seen was a child. A child's soul freed from impediments was seen acting according to its own nature. The characteristics of childhood which we isolated belong quite simply to the life of a child, just as colors belong to birds and fragrances to flowers. They are not at all the product of an "educational method."

The first thing to be done, therefore, is to discover the true nature of the child and then assist him in his normal development.

From The Secret of Childhood, pg 136.

That's the perennial Montessori method. While the Academies of Montessori education have a "product" they must guarantee, we have no such burdens to carry or reputation to uphold in our home education and we are free to pursue Maria Montessori's inspiring principles within a natural home environment as we see fit for the good of the child and for the whole family.

Some of these principles include...
  • The freedom of the child
  • The absorbent mind and its functioning
  • The importance of work: How a child's work differs from that of an adult
  • The sensitive periods of development: Child led learning
  • The prepared environment
  • Spiritual preparation of the teacher
  • Poverty of spirit
  • The need to protect and shield the child
  • The importance of joy in work

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Where There's a Will, but Not Yet a Way


Make an on-line slideshow at www.OneTrueMedia.com

This is Zachary at four months wishing he could crawl, but not even sure how to hold up that big head. Jacob is calling to him in the background.

These are the movies I'm finding buried in my pictures as I upload everything to the web.

It's like finding gold straw in your hay.

No babies in heaven? I don't believe it.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Blueberry Bash



Pull up a chair, have a muffin, join us for coffee at the Bluberry Bash now going on at The Virtual Kitchen.

Monday, July 23, 2007

July


XIII
Blessing of the Cornfields

...All around the happy village
Stood the maize-fields, green and shining,
Waved the green plumes of Mondamin,
Waved his soft and sunny tresses,
Filling all the land with plenty...

(Exerpt from The Song of Hiawatha by H.W. Longfellow)

(Top Photograph: Taken by my nephew, Max. He borrowed my camera at the dairy farm we all met at for their homemade ice cream-- best ice cream in CT. Bottom Photograph: Taken by my sister, Helene)

Blueberry Bash


Last call for blueberry recipes. The Blueberry Bash will be held tomorrow, Tuesday July 24.

Join the fun. Send me your recipe today.

Thanks!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Cruel, Cruel Logic

Jacob: Can we have our ice cream, now?

Me: Nobody said we were having ice cream tonight.

Jacob: Papa said we would.

Me: Did you, dear? The boys say you told them they could have ice cream tonight.

Cruel, Cruel Husband: No, no, no, I didn't say that. I said if they didn't eat well they couldn't have ice cream. I didn't say they could have ice cream if they ate well. If they eat well they may or may not get anything.

I'm Enjoying the Weekend

How about you?

Why is it...

...that a child who is more than capable of being very, very loud will suddenly become very, very quiet when you ask them to repeat what they have said? And if you ask them a second time to repeat themselves, they will become perfectly inaudible.

Friday, July 20, 2007

The Missing Piece

Ever since Alex and I completed the Usborne Wildlife puzzle while we were on vacation in Cape Cod last year, I wanted to work with him on the Usborne Wildflower puzzle.

We very nearly completed it on Wednesday (with a little help from Grandmaman), but found that we were missing ONE piece. Very frustrating. I looked for that piece, but didn't find it. This morning Simeon found it just lying on the floor in the middle of a room I had searched a hundred times. There it was, somehow mysteriously in a place it wasn't before, plain to see and there for the taking--the piece that completed the puzzle.

How I wish I could say that this is the perfect metaphor for where we are at in life right now, but it just isn't so. Not just now. I think such moments are quite rare. So, rather than sit around waiting for one to come my way, I will take satisfaction knowing that small things come together here every day in their own little ways and that these are great victories in themselves.

Overheard

...from my couch where I was reading a good book as the rest of my family sat on the other couch watching part of the Discovery Channel's, Planet Earth.

Boy1: What is that?

Boy2: Oh, it's a tapestry of mucous. Disgusting, and still so beautiful.

Boy 3: OOooohh, look at that. That's bat dung.

Male Parent: Did they say 300 feet? That pile of bat droppings is THREE HUNDRED feet tall? WHAT is it covered with?

Boy1: Those are Cockroaches.

Boy 2: Yea, hundreds of thousands of Cockroaches. Wow!

I think I'll stick with my book.

Strange Things Come out in the Rain

Simeon morphs into an Amphibious Creature Thing on a dull and rainy afternoon.

I should have snapped pictures of the others. Alex was a bearded baker. Zachary was Robin Hood of the Round Table with a green hat and plume, silver cape, and bunny ears around his waist. Best of all, Nicholas was going by "Mary Poppins" as his pirate's hat was worn inside out-- giving it a rather English look --and he brandished an enormous srtiped umbrella.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Trouble Brings More Trouble

My very first first post to this blog was more of a vent. Simeon had ripped our shower curtain rod out of the bathroom wall and I had just discovered that not just any ol' shower rod could replace it, but that our tub required a Neo-Angle shower rod. Incidentally, that word grouping "Neo-Angle shower rod" draws a considerable amount of traffic to my blog every month. I guess we're not the only special family with a special tub, but I bet we're one of the few with a special BLUE square tub.
In any case, we dropped that $200.00 or so on that Neo Angle rod only to find that the quality of these new/vintage materials is far, far less than the originals. No surprise there, really, but it left us with a sagging middle on our enormously long rod. Neo angle indeed, as in obtuse rather than right. Since the weight of the sagging middle was slowly pulling the hardware from the walls, we supported the rod with a handy little chain that attaches to a hook and screws into the ceiling. Nifty, right?

Only trouble is, our new system fails the boys' durability test. Now my only hope is to find some way to keep the boys from hanging on that highly tempting ubiquitous shower curtain every night when I send them to brush their teeth. So far, nagging hasn't gotten me the results I need. I'm thinking more along the lines of a repellent spray for the curtain itself. Do you think I could find a broccoli scented room spray? How about quiche?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Blueberries For Us

Caldecott Honor book, Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey is a whole-family favorite book at this house and it comes back in season every July.

We enjoyed it again this year with our favorite fresh blueberry scones as an afternoon snack and read aloud.

That little Sal can't seem to stop putting handfuls of the delicious berries in her mouth.

We can relate.

The scone recipe can be found at The Virtual Kitchen today.
Remember to send me your recipes for the Blueberry Bash taking place next Tuesday at The Virtual Kitchen. Send them to me by email or in the combox below.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Stopping by the Laundry Room on a Monday Morning...

...after a week of deep, deep house cleaning which precluded any laundry.

Whose pants these are I think I know,
With grass and blood they're stained though.
He plays outside while I am here,
watching the piles of laundry grow.

The stains are many, dark and deep,
but I have promises to keep,
and piles to go before I sleep,
and piles to go before I sleep.

(Apologies to Robert Frost's Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening)

Blueberry Bash



July means blueberries. Few foods are healthier and few more delicious than blueberries. Blueberry scones are my favorite, made with plenty of cream and butter, but blueberry muffins are a classic and hard to beat. Pie is good too... and cobbler and cake--or just by the handful right out of the fridge.

Send me your blueberry recipes by email or in this combox. Send me links to your favorite recipes or to your food blog. Send along any of your blueberry ideas. We'll have a Blueberry Bash over at the Virtual Kitchen on Tuesday, July 24th.

Spread the word!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Flu-Flies


Butterflies on the sun room ceiling that the boys made from a Dover publication.
Nicholas loves these "flu-flies."

Friday, July 13, 2007

When you're Nine...

...Star Wars characters are real and Sesame Street Characters are just Muppets.

Simeon: I just now realized who does the voice of Cookie Monster and Grover. It's Yoda!

I wonder if Yoda gets a paycheck.

Rock On


I just love this pink button. I love the little star and the Rockin' title, especially the word Girl. As blessed as I am among men, I love, love, love all things feminine. Don't let them know... but the truth is I never, ever, not even once in all my childhood dreaming of my future life-- a la all things domestic-- imagined myself surrounded by so many males. Many of my friends find this fact very amusing because, I suppose, it seems a funny juxtaposition of the feminine and masculine. Me, little me, with my cooking and cleaning and baking and crafting and ALL THOSE MEN. Well, the truth also is that I love, love, love all those men and consider myself a very lucky woman--but I still won't miss the opportunity to celebrate being a Girl, and a Rockin' Girl at that. Thank you, Elizabeth, for giving me the honor among others of becoming a Rockin' Girl Blogger.

I pass it along...

Sarah ponders some beautiful (and very funny) things and I love to read her insights.

Ana is an amazing artist and photographer and always has some something interesting to share.

Mopsy is a talented writer, a fiercely devoted mother, and the kind of person I'd love to know in real life.

Alicia is intelligent and contemplative and humble and hard working. She rocks.

And last, but certainly not least, Jennie is bold and brave, and is a tender hearted mother, and soldier's wife.

Weighing In

I weigh myself every day. I have done so for years. It's a habit I developed not so much because I am super healthy, but mostly to avoid becoming super unhealthy. I find facing the music every day helps me to keep from sliding too far off the mark. So, every morning I step barefoot onto that scale while clinging to the doorknob and to the wall. I slowly release the wall, then the doorknob... and look down with one eye to the number below.

What does that number mean to me?

I'll tell you what it isn't. That number is not an indication in any way of my worth as a person, as a mother, as a wife, or as a woman. Bathroom scales measure a quality of bodies-- not souls-- and in that sense, the number isn't all that important to me. I've made that scale spin when I've been pregnant and brought it amazingly low amazingly quickly after babies have been born. My husband loved me the same wherever I measured and we hope to have the chance to make it spin again.

I've carried extra weight when I wasn't expecting as well and I've managed at other times recently enough to weigh less than when I was in high school. I like to be thin--I think we all do-- and most of us aim for a certain ideal number on that scale, but I think it's important to ask ourselves why. Why do we want to be thin? Who are we aiming to please? I think most husbands feel their wives obsess too much about their weight, so if it isn't for the husbands, who is it for? Ourselves? Other women? Strangers? Who? And why?

I've learned over the years to view that number as indicator and not so much a measure. It indicates for me a direction I'm heading in. If its on the rise, it indicates what I already knew: that I haven't been getting the exercise I need and the healthy foods that strengthen my body and balance my mind. I've slipped off the track toward good health and am heading toward a weaker body, lower energy levels, and a less peaceful mind. I have other indicators that warn me long before the scale registers-- but that number-- that observable and climbing number is an objective confirmation and if I make myself look at it every morning, I'm more likely to try to find the causes of the problem and remedy them.

I recently considered replacing the scale I've had since we were married--the edges have rust marks and the face is scratched up a bit. But as I stood on scale after scale at the store and realized how each one told me a different weight, I was hesitant to part with my scale. I know what the numbers on that scale indicate. I remember what I weighed on that scale the first morning in our new apartment together as a married couple and I remember what it read the first week of my first pregnancy ( a pregnancy we lost). I remember the outrageous number that scale hit in the eighth month of my pregnancy with Simeon...and where it was at six weeks after he was born. Those numbers mean a certain level of health or state of life to me and they only have meaning on this scale. That new scale or that one wouldn't be the same. They wouldn't know anything about me.

I don't mean to say, exactly, that all weight measures are purely relative, there are objective standards, but to place the focus on state of life and good health as opposed to fat or thin/bad or good seems a healthier way to consider weight, our bodies, and ourselves. I did not part with my scale. I actually touched it up a bit with some white paint. I love that scale-- as funny as it may seem-- it holds my history and guides me into a healthy, happy, and hope filled future.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Trained

My trainee is trained! He's in undies and dry both day and night. We've even weaned him off the treats. There may be set backs still, but for some reason I just don't think so.

Now my trainee is training me. He has a buzzer and bell system and I'm not sure where he learned it, but it works like this...

Z: May I have a cookie?

Me: No.

Z: Bzzzzt. (wrong answer)

May I have a cookie?

Me: Yes.

Z: Ding. (correct answer)

How long, do you think, before this gets old?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Odds-N-Ends

Remember my watercolor fruit? I finally got two of them framed and hung anyway.

The lamp I almost threw away(see below)-- up and working again.

The fabric (in need of ironing) I'm using to make curtains for that room. Designer: Waverly, Design: Heirloom Trellis, Color: Merlot--Yes, please.

New dish towels. Do not use the chicken towel. It is purely decorative. You may use the red towel. Thank you. These rules are necessary because my boys will do things like grab my cute new chicken dish towel to stop the bleeding on their toe-- the very day I bring it home.

Simeon starts a fifty states quarter collection. This holder came in the mail yesterday.

Simeon starts a chapter book bookworm. Let's wrap that thing around the room a few times, shall we?

A new lock box for all medication. After watching me pack everything in here and turn the key Simeon said, "Oh, I feel so much better now." So do I, my boy, so do I.

A cute carrot sink stopper Kristen sent me for no occasion at all. She's just sweet that way. Amazing how I want to keep my sink clean to "get the carrots." It's the oldest reward system in the book with updated style and flair.


Still not finished. This was supposed to be part of a quilt that would have had all the letters of the alphabet similarly stitched. The design is my own pencil drawing inspired by the illustrations in "A Little Alphabet" by Trina Schart. Once, my older brother saw me working on this project and said he would "eat a pound of dirt" if I ever finished it. Brothers!

Well, I haven't made it too far and I almost gave up entirely, but Alex found it, declared that this was his letter, "A" Alexander, and asked me to finish it for him. But, I'm at a standstill because I lost the blue floss of her dress and haven't been able to find more. What color would you make the top of her dress/sleeve?

Now taking suggestions...

Picking Up Where Martha Leaves Off


Martha Stewart has a handy tip for safely removing a broken light bulb from its socket. She says to use a small potato to press against the broken glass. Turn counterclockwise. Great.

But...

...what if (in the middle of family movie night) that light bulb is so completely shattered that there is not much broken glass to speak of, much less pierce a potato? And what if you didn't have a potato on hand, so you thought a firm apple might substitute?

I'll tell you what. That apple will turn and turn and drip juice all over the inside of the socket and the result will be nothing more than a sticky socket with a broken light bulb stuck in it and an apple with a circular cookie cut through the middle, filled with tiny, tiny shards of broken glass. Now what?

Martha had no suggestions, but I found a way.

First, let the lamp sit for about three weeks in its disgusting and unusable condition. Every once in a while, think about that lamp and the broken bulb inside, sigh and feel discouraged. As often as you feel that way, pick at the bulb with a needle nose pliers, chipping off bits of glass and toying with the strange gummy, rusty metallic apple pulp substance inside.

Let other items in the household go into disrepair. If you throw out the bathroom rug, for example, don't replace it. Find switches not working, toys broken, books outside in the rain. Go nuts. Make a long list of everything in the house that needs attention and attack. Spend a small fortune at your favorite Big Box Mart*. Decide to buy a new lamp, too. Realize that you like this lamp and don't want to throw it away. Hold it over the trash and tear the metal out bit by bit with needle nose pliers. Wonder for a moment if you aren't tearing out the lamp hardware along with the remains of the broken bulb, glass shards, and apple-element compote.

At long last, the pliers will take hold of the last twisted chunk of dilapidated ruin. Turn counterclockwise.

* There is a potty word in that video.

I Can't Help But Think...

...that Modern Philosophy could learn much from the common sense of a child.

While packing up after a pic nic at the park I discovered that someone had accidentally thrown the cover of one of my tupperware containers in the trash bin along with the disposable plastic and paperware. I held my breath and tried not to think too much about what I was doing as I reached in with one hand to retrieve it and waved away flies with the other.

"I found this in the trash," I said wrapping it in napkins before placing it in the cooler.

"Mmmm. Mmmm. Delicious," my husband said.

"Ewww," Simeon squealed.

"What's the matter Simeon?"

"It was IN THE TRASH."

"So? What's wrong with trash? Just because it is in that bin? I mean anything could be trash, like that cup your drinking out of, it's trash...you just haven't put it in the bin yet," I teased.

"Exactly," my husband played along, "It's just a difference of location, that's all."

Simeon looked at my husband and then he looked at my affected serious expression, he was quiet for a moment, then shook his head,

"You guys are weird," he brushed us off and ran to the swings.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Summer Daze

Nicholas and me in the fast lane

"Mama, mama," Zachary called to me from two horses behind.

"Yes, Zachary?"

He looked at me, his face filled with brow-pinching earnestness, and speaking with his hand held open he asked over the music and against the wind,

"Where is this thing going?"

We had a wonderful long weekend filled with family, friends, food and fun. How did five days pass so quickly-- like a flash of bright color? Two weeks of summer already done.

Where is this thing going?

Friday, July 06, 2007

Poverty of Spirit

My oldest son is hard at work this rainy summer afternoon. He is writing out a complete index of all the entries in his Animal Encyclopedia by hand. His younger brother is seated beside him, concentrating intently on his own project-- he is drafting and illustrating little "handbooks" with titles like How to Use a Stapler, The History of Wood, and Human Body Parts and How they Work. I'm not so sure these reference materials will prove all that handy when they've finished, but it seems to me a better use of time than watching cartoons or playing video games. Besides the basic handwriting skills, they are practicing concentration, proper punctuation, categorizing and alphabetizing, and they're learning how to give clear instructions-- or attempting to anyway.

We've never suggested that they do such things and we've certainly never modeled such odd hobbies; these are just the sorts of things children do when their imaginations are healthy, when their lives are not scheduled for them to the very minute and when they don't have unlimited access to media entertainment. These last two are most likely a cause of the first and are very simple to provide--just don't over plan your children's lives and don't let them watch endless television. It's very simple. My husband and I jokingly call this principle, "Formation by Deprivation," but of course it isn't really "deprivation" at all.

A recent trip to the ER constrained us to a whole day of unguarded television watching and it convinced me of two things. First, almost everything on Nickelodeon is stoo-oo-pid. Second, if given the opportunity, my children would do nothing but watch Nickelodeon all day... all summer long... drifting in and out of sleep-- the blue light of the television screen shining gently on their anemic faces. I am not ashamed to deprive them of that experience."Formation by Deprivation" is just a fun expression.

Maria Montessori has a more serious take on it when she speaks about the simplicity of the learning environment and how a certain poverty of the senses disposes us to contemplation.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.

It struck me, many years ago, how this poverty of the senses allows the imagination to thrive. The mind's eye is like the body's eye also in that it can be "burnt out" so to speak if it stares directly into a light that is too intense. Oftentimes movies, television and video games designed for older children overwhelm the younger child's imagination and can impress too much upon it so that the child is unable to imagine beyond the characters and actions of the television he's seen--much like the green sun spots that blind us when we come indoors after being overexposed to outdoor light.

Left to their own devices and encouraged by the gentle light of carefully selected, age appropriate books and media, children's imaginations thrive. The child who isn't distracted by the excessively appealing television junk programming that is marketed to him is more likely to take interest in the less animated, less action-packed world around him. He will contemplate and process the real world more readily and it is in those experiences that he will discover immortal truths. It is while considering the beauty of the natural world that he will see God's goodness, and in pondering the gifts of His creation that he will better understand his own place within it. (Do not miss that link)

In these ways, the child who is "poor in spirit" will come to understand more and more the ways of God... and that is to begin to inherit His Kingdom.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy Fourth of July!


Avery Cardinal Dulles [before he was made Cardinal] on Freedom:
In current popular thinking, freedom is understood to mean the capacity to do whatever one pleases, without moral or physical restraints. This arbitrary view of freedom points the way to uninhibited individualism, social chaos, and defiance of moral standards. Many people imagine that entering into firm commitments, such as a vocation or a family relationship, will impair their freedom. They therefore go through life unattached, guided by passing whims rather than firm convictions. Such lives quickly become empty and meaningless...

Lord Acton and other wise thinkers have taught us that true freedom is not the same as license. It is not the power to do whatever we like but to choose what is good. Morality is not a barrier to our freedom but a condition of authentic self-realization. To make responsible commitments is not to negate our freedom but to fulfill its purpose.


Read more here.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Last One, I Promise

Simeon: Why did the fireworks go on strike?

Me: Why?

Simeon: Because they heard they'd have to work or be fired on the fourth of July.

Sufjan Stevens - Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

Here's our favorite music video--the boys like to watch these animals over and over and over...
This is Sufjan Stevens singing John Wyeth's hymn "Come Thou Font of Every Blessing" words by Robert Robinson, 1758.

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet, sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I'm fixed upon it, mount of Thy redeeming love.

Here I raise my Ebenezer; hither by Thy help I've come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure, safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger, wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger, interposed His precious blood.

O to grace how great a debtor daily I'm constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love;
Here's my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for Thy courts above.

HT: Beck

Monday, July 02, 2007

Eeeew

Simeon: What do doctor bats serve at dinner parties?

Me: What?

Simeon: Blood samples.

Misty of Chincoteague

Misty of Chincoteague, by Marguerite Henry, 2006, Simon & Schuster, 173 pages, illustrated by Wesley Dennis, Paperback.

When a Spanish galleon carrying live ponies as cargo to be sold for labor in the mines of Peru is wrecked in a storm off the coast of Assateague Island, Virginia one stallion and fourteen mares swim ashore. There, they adapt to the island's climate and populate its beaches. Over time, the Spanish galleon becomes a remote memory to residents of nearby Chincoteague Island-- almost a legend.

Brother and sister, Paul and Maureen Beebe visit Assateague often-- the island of the wild ponies. They dream of owning a pony of their own, particularly the Phantom-- a wild and free mare marked with a white "map" of the United States on her withers. "Paul boy," Grandpa warns, "mark my words. The Phantom ain't no hoss. She ain't even a lady. She's just a piece of wind and sky."

But Paul and Maureen will not be dissuaded. Can they earn enough money by digging clams and gentling horses to buy the Phantom? And how will Paul capture the Phantom on Pony Penning day when no experienced Round Up man has been able to catch her and this is Paul's first year participating in the annual round up of the island's wild horses?

Newbery Honor Award winning Misty of Chincoteague is a delightful tale told with all the richness of the local dialect and color. In fact, Misty of Chincoteague is based on a true story and dedicated to the real life people its likable characters are based upon.

The wild adventure, the example of hardworking independence, the wise grandfather Beebe and Paul's initiation into the brotherhood of Round Up men clearly indicate that not all pony stories are for girls only. Misty of Chincoteague appeals to the young and old of both genders. It is an unforgettable tale told with exceptional craftsmanship. Lastly, Wesley Dennis' illustrations could not suit the story or its characters more perfectly. We love this book!

Others by Marguerite Henry we hope to enjoy include...

King of the Wind
Sea Star, Orphan of Chincoteague
Stormy, Misty's Foal
Born to Trot
Justin Morgan Had a Horse

* * *
As an added bonus, we are going to Chincoteague Island for our summer vacation. Though we won't be going for a little while yet, I'll be sure to post pictures of the sandy beaches and wild ponies when we return.

Sunday, July 01, 2007