Sunday, December 30, 2007

Attack of the children

I have too many cute pictures so they get an entry of their own.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Impromptu Birthday Party

Where the C-family comes down with balloons and whoopee cushions while I scramble to make a cake and hors d'oeuvre and P-daddy steals the boy away for us to shout "Surprise."

And Dougie is surprised....
And shorn....


And so happy!



Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Our First White Christmas!



It snowed on Christmas Day here. While P-daddy though it was nice, the rest of us were enthralled. It's such a huge cultural thing here in the states to "dream of a white Christmas." Coming from the South, well, needless to say it has never happened for the children and me. The kids and I enjoyed it immensely, and girlie even built a Christmas snowman with her Daddy by scraping all the snow out of the yard.

Merry Christmas to All!


and may your cookies be tastier than ours......

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Happy Solstice

We enjoyed a wonderful celebration with our friends.

Nothing went as planned, pretty much....nothing! The cookies didn't turn out, the food didn't all arrive at the same time, and it rained alllll day so we didn't do the tree for the animals.

BUT we had fun! Much laughter, and love.

But we did have 14 children opening Christmas gifts at one time. That was impressive. And then we sang Happy Birthday to and shared cake with the Solstice child, who turned three that day.

This is us prepping, earlier that day:

Friday, December 21, 2007

Literacy is Good....and Funny

~G~ has really been feeling her oats lately with writing. She writes us notes all the time, knowing how much we love to read them. We get many of them at bedtime, asking us to sleep with her, or to let her stay up, etc etc. That's what I thought this one was going to be.

P-daddy had installed the new shelves in the school room and ~G~ was helping em put the supplies back up. We'd gone along at a steady clip when I realized it was way past her bedtime, and I sent her on, telling her I knew how tired SHE was because I was about to drop myself. We had a solstice gathering the next day and I knew we'd all be exhausted; she needed to sleep.

About ten minutes after I sent her to bed, in comes this note, careening to the floor:
I want to be with you. You'll never make it without me.

I burst out laughing, and told her "You know, you're right. But we're both still going to bed."

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

What happened to Romulus?

Romulus is our 15 year old mini poodle. Last night ~G~ couldn't go to sleep at all. I brought her back out to the living room and we watched Chronicles of Narnia and made a nest. After the movie, we left the Christmas lights on and she slept on the floor in a sleeping bag and I slept on the couch.

About 12.30, Romulus started screaming. I don't know if you've ever heard a dog scream but it is not pretty. I went in there to him and thought maybe his hair was caught in his grate. He likes to sleep in a little travel carry case, so I took it apart. His hair hadn't been caught, and he was listless, unmoving at this point. He could look at me with his eyes and he was still breathing, but he could not control his body. His nose stayed cold and wet, but he had lost his bowels. I wouldn't have heard him unless I was sleeping on the couch.

I got P-daddy because I wasn't sure whether he was dying or not. We cleaned him up and P-daddy went back to bed while I bundled the dog in towels and held him on the couch for an hour or so. He would intermittently shake, like he was seizing, but began to regain control one limb at a time. I kept talking to him, telling him it was okay, stroking his head. It was weird to watch. Finally, he went to sleep and I put him on the floor between me and ~G~. He woke me up twice, lapping water out of the Christmas tree stand.

By this morning he appears normal (for him anyway) but I am completely wiped. The last time I saw the clock it was 2.40am. The kids had been sleeping in until 9, but today we have the joy of all being awake at 7.40 am. I may have to carb load today. Smile

What happened to my dog?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Warming up for the Solstice

Yesterday we had a very calm day planned- I was potentially meeting up with the C-family while we ran a joyful Christmas errand, but then we were going to work on hanging shelves in the school room so as to get the boxes OFF THE FLOOR. I want them up for the kids, but hey yeah, the Solstice is coming and it would be more hospitable to not have people box-diving.

So my life is a sit-com and it didn't work out that way. But we had fun anyway. We ended up with the C-family here, with another friend of ours and her two boys joining us later. She'd thought the Solstice pot luck was yesterday instead of the coming Saturday, so she'd worked her butt off on her fabulous dish and had called to apologize for being late. "Late? What?"

So we said "Hey! Let's have a party anyway!"

And so we did.

I love Yuletime.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Seymour Salmon Day



The fabulous marine science classroom, complete with touch tanks.
This is about 1/5 of the class, which was one of two groups we homeschoolers were split into today. We are privileged to know a lot of homeschoolers.
Marine animals, with a little Northwest Rat tossed in.


Yes we are amusing. You may laugh at us now.


We hiked to a tidal creek where we were privileged to watch Chum Salmon spawning. Our little monkeys, imminently comfortable in the woods, took to the tree for a better look. Imagine their surprise when our Naturalist asked them to climb down!




On our way home, we stopped by Minter Creek because we knew the salmon were also running there. They were thick and still in the water, and you could clearly watch them spawn and then wander about after they were done, just waiting for the cycle to be over. (Do click-- it's impressive, even this late in the season.)


Thursday, December 13, 2007

Lil Bit of Baking

I am really looking forward to Christmas being over.

I am not sick of Christmas decor or music, not stressed out by the gifts (much) but I can feel SAD creeping in. Unlike last year, I am not without electricity or warmth, and this year I have last year's depression episode to warn me. I am seeing the crankiness and carb-loading for what it is. I will win. It doesn't make much sense to me anyway, because I LIKE the changes in the seasons. I LIKE the dark, and I know it's transitory. But my body, whoo boy, my body doesn't like it. The spectrum light bulbs really do help, but they don't fix it.

But anyway, I associate Christmas with the Solstice, and I will love it love it love it when the days begin to lengthen again.

Today my pasty white children and I baked pumpkin bread and roasted pumpkin seeds. They actually ate their healthy dinner of sauteed chicken and wild rice pilaf. I suppose having pumpkin bread considered as a vegetable side dish will help speed matters along there.

~G~ drew out an artistic design for her big blank wall in her room. I think it's fabulous, and if we can pull it off, she'll have a rockin accent wall. I am definitely going to support her in this endeavor.

Speaking of ~G~, massive trauma today. Her surviving crab is hanging out of his shell. I hear Monty Python as I type this, regrettably, but I do have to note he's not dead yet. So he's either dying or he's molting. In the spirit of optimism, we returned him to his dark coconut shell house and shored him up with food and water. She got two crabs from Santa last year, and she has really taken very good care of them. One passed this summer,and she buried it under a rose bush. It would be most unfortunate to lose Flower so close to his birthday. She's planned a party for him, complete with wrapped gifts tucked under the tree. She made him a stocking out of felt and and has it hanging alongside ours. I feel terrible for her, really do.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Here is where I blog about our first gingerbread house


~G~ especially loved the marzipan characters.
Look at the window. This is one o'clock in the afternoon, and it is not raining.


Hands Hands Hands

Our little architect


The Bluest Eyes....



Doulapunk gave me the head's up that the kit at Trader Joe's is clean this year, (thank you!) so we used that one. It's a little kit but it was perfect for our first venture.

The problem is that the children have every intention of consuming the entire endeavor. Amongst themselves, quite amiably, they have decided who gets what part and every few hours or so go sit and stare longingly at it, admiring it's every detail.

I am not sure exactly what I thought would happen when we built a house made of cookies, but here's where we are!

Do you eat your gingerbread houses?

Monday, December 10, 2007

What do Hobbits read for Christmas?

Hearth-and-home day

The Christmas tree is sparkling, the fire is going in the hearth and I have pumpkins roasting in the oven.

We've spent the week enjoying both the season and the break from some of our classes.

We enjoyed Santa's early visit to our neighborhood, where he gave the kids candy canes and took G's letter. We've made cookies, and we decorated the house inside last Thursday, before meeting some friends for playtime at the human habitrail. Unfortunately, despite my repeated admonitions otherwise, G kissed her crab beneath the mistletoe and spent a day and a half puking from the couch. She rallied from that in time to go find a tree at a neighborhood tree farm, where me met this really awesome woman. I won't bore anyone with all of their commonalities to our family, but let's just we were saddened to see the big giant for-sale sign in their yard.

I went out alone to enjoy that evening with a woman's night out at a friend's house. She had real food, real wine, real coffee and we had a gift exchange. It was almost jarring to just be ~L~ for a while, and to use my beadwork. I even regifted the ball-warmer purse I have been holding on to for two years. I stayed out until after midnight, which is freakishly unusual for me. That definitely supports the idea that I need that! Much fun! Yet it didn't stop! The very next day G had a party for a friend of hers at the Y. It was so exciting for G to have a girls-only event, and the little girl actually liked G's present, so I was happy too. It could have gone either way, as G made a felt doll out of Popsicle sticks! (One of her gifts for Christmas is going to be a huge supply of her bendy dolls materials, because she's completely out.)

Today I had planned as an inside-laundry-let's be quiet-and-recuperate-day. Alas I am out of oatmeal and dishtabs. I am tired of a week of handwashing our dishes. Spoiled ~L~ is taking on Costco after the pumpkins are done.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

More Babyness....

We have a new niece!

Brynn Noell was born on the first day of Hanukkah.


This is number three for Mom and Dad, our very dear friends. Dad said to P-daddy "OK, the ball's in your court now, and I hope you guys stop the game!" He also mentioned a trip to TN, for the 2-for-1 vasectomy deal. This is the kind of weirdness you can expect when you have that many children between you!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Three years ago today,

we became Washington State residents.

It's hard for me to understand, but it's true. Sometimes I can't believe it has been that long, and sometimes I think "only three years?"

~N~ thinks he was born here and has no recollection of the "place" of SC, only the feelings and the people. ~G~ remembers, but things are fading; she told me this morning she can't really remember what a proper sandy beach looks like. ~D~ was not yet born--barely--when we flew into SeaTac at 6.30 that evening. It is incomprehensible for someone born and raised in a wholly Southern family, as I was, to have my children not know our city like they know their mother.

Time keeps on rolling for us all, and some friends from our past stay fresh and constant while others have faded into their own lives. We still love them and miss them all. We had family-friends in Charleston. I still think this was such a horrible time of the year to move away from family, to try to sell a house. Yet, I am wholly grateful we didn't have to deliver ~D~ unassisted, as we had planned. All blessings come with a balance, I think. We would be hard pressed to imagine our lives without our newfound friends in it, and were we to pack it all in and go back East to a culture we (adults) understand, we'd have a whole other group of people we'd sorely miss.

I do not pretend now, sitting here, that I have any idea where this family will be in another three years. I do intend for us to be as much a unit as we are now, together and thriving. Beyond that, I dare not hope for more.

Memories: http://mama-hobbit.blogspot.com/2004/12/and-fast-forward.html

Gingerbread House Help please

Every year I want to make a gingerbread house with the kids. Every year I don't because the kits are all contaminated for our allergies, (peanuts, walnuts and pecans) and I can't find an easy to understand recipe to make the walls myself.

Can you help me with information?

Sunday, December 02, 2007

First of December: Snow Falling on Cedars

Yesterday was an idyllic day to begin our winter months. We enjoyed a leisurely pancake breakfast, and then the snow began to fall. The kids pulled out their snowbibs, snowboots, hats and gloves, and went catching the gigantic, wet flakes with their tongues.

P-daddy started a fire and we set out on a short walk. It was too warm to accumulate much where we live, so close to the sound, but the snow was falling fast enough to coat the trees and houses with a beautiful white mantle. After talking to some neighbors, we decided to head over to Kitsap to see what it looks like over there. Just a few miles away from the water, everything was whiter and colder, including the roads. Even though we were driving slow, the van didn't stop for the turn into Horseshoe lake when I tried to brake. At 32 degrees, enough had melted on the roads to make it slushy and icy, so back home we went. It was completely worth it though-- the kids and the parents alike just loved driving through "winter wonderland," as ~N~ called it. The farms especially called to the boys, with their expanses of white, while the trees are what held my eye. I love snow days for their inversion of light-- the whole world seems brighter.

When we returned from that short trip, the family made a snowman and had a snowball fight while I went in to make a pot of hot chocolate. With warm tummies and hearts, we made our way down to the tree lighting in the harbor. Three years we have been here, and this is the first time we remembered it on time! Not snowing anymore, it was just a freezing rain accompanying the festivities. It didn't dampen many people's spirits though; they had free cider and hot chocolate, and there were elves handing out Santa hats and glow sticks to all the kids. We got to meet a live Reindeer, and strolled the docks where the boatowners had a light display of their own going on. ~G~ made sure we had front row spot when Santa finally arrived and we counted down the tree. We were right there when the lights came on, and I have to admit I think my eyes didn't appreciate that.

By the time we arrived home at 6.30, all our snow had melted. I told P-daddy I was so glad this had been a Saturday. With the exception of our little snowman, there would be absolutely no evidence of the beautiful day we'd had, and I was glad he'd been right there with us. What an incredible first of December!

As I write this, the ground is again covered in a new dusting of snow, and it's falling again, though somewhat slushy. A little voice woke me up this morning, "Mom, hey, it's snowing........"

Friday, November 30, 2007

I had a very clear dream last night

In which I delivered an unassisted footling breech on the back porch in a windstorm.

It was another precip labor, where I had only realized that "this is IT" minutes before. Frustrated that dh wasn't listening to me about it (proof of a dream state-- dh is all over any labor alarm and would never behave that way), and doubting myself too much to call the midwife, I went outside to take a breather. As the wind whipped up, I moved from the yard up to the first step on the porch, cold in a sleeveless shift. I had a nasty contraction, one of those that comes from your thighs, through your back and straight into electrifying your cervix. That's when I felt the baby in the birth canal; out popped one foot, then another.

In the dream, I remember my rapidly cycling emotions, moving from panic to resolve to fear to determination. I remembered reading (during planning my UC-that-didn't-happen with ~N~) about how to deliver in a footling breech situation on Laura Shanley's site, and I tried to adopt the proper posture. I couldn't decide whether to continue climbing the stairs to get some help from my husband, and noticed the neighbor's gigantic bull mastiff crossing from their yard into ours. Smelling the birth situation, he was coming to investigate, and I didn't want him anywhere near me or the helpless, dangling child.

I remember thinking even if she didn't suffocate, she had to be FREEZING, hanging there in the cold wind. By the time the dog got to me, she was free. I reached over to smack him away, and that effort jerked me enough to push her out the rest of the way.

I scooped her up, tucked her into my bodice and rushed through the house (which was not my real house on the interior, but my Grandmother's) to my bedroom, placenta still inside. I clawed my way under the covers and kangarood the baby, layering both of us with too many blankets. She was looking at me with a quizzical "what? what just happened?" expression when my dh came into the room for the shock of his life.


What

the heck

was that about????????

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Ah yes-- A Carol for Our Community

Twas the Night Before Solstice
By Kristie Burns
www.thedreamangels.com


'Twas the night before Solstice and all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even our pet mouse

Knitted wool stockings were hung with care
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there

The children were tucked in organic cotton sheets,
The air filter blocking pollution from the streets.

While mama stayed up to make handmade gifts
I co-slept with the kids and watched auras shift.

When out in the herb garden arose such a clatter
I sprung out of our futon to see what was the matter!

Away to the solar panels I flew like a flash.
They took me hours to install, I hoped they hadn't crashed.

The crystals we'd laid out to absorb the moonlight
Sparkled like fairydust and blocked my sight.

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh without any reindeer.

At that moment I knew that the little old man
Had received my last letter so bold and so grand

Could you stop using reindeer? Last year I wrote him,
And enclosed with the note a PETA pin.

As he neared the house in his all-wooden sleigh
I noticed it was powered by wheatgrass and hay.

Ostheimer! Kinderkram! Stockmar! Fair Trade!
Don't bother landing if the toys aren't handmade!

"Hey Arriana," I called to my wife with chagrin,
"With that body mass do you think he's vegetarian?"

She paused only a moment from her crafting and said,
"One moment dear! I'm shaping this gol-darn Waldorf doll's head!"

On our roof I strained to hear the ole boy
But I'd recently insulated it with soy.

So I drew in my hand and was turning around,
When in through the front door came St. Nick with a bound.

The Advent wreath had caught in his hair
As I said, "Why in the world did you enter from THERE?"

The soot in your chimney contains poisons galore.
You should consider the environment more.

But he was dressed in fur from his head to his foot
So I said, "Look whose talking about my soot!"

A bundle of felt he had flung on his back.
"I hope you like handiwork," he said with a laugh.

His eyes - how they twinkled! His dimples were treats!
His cheeks reminded me of when I dye silk with beets.

He must be of the choleric type I mused.
It's a good thing with lavender the stockings I infused.

With his fur boots he slipped on the bamboo wood floor.
I offered him Arnica and then closed the front door.

After all that I'd paid to the energy company this year
I didn't want one bit of that cold air in here.

He had a broad face and a little round belly
I asked him, "Have you seen your naturopath lately?"

He was so chubby and plump I worried for his health
But I laughed when I saw him in spite of myself.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to task,
Needle-felting dragons and weaving a mask.

He knitted a pure cotton sweater and two pairs of mittens,
Then picked up a knife and carved 2 wood kittens.

He finger-knitted an entire nativity scene.
With the most amazing skill I'd ever seen!

When he sprang from his seat on the floor and arose
I yelled, "Arianna - watch - there he goes!"

With the unfinished doll she was struggling to sew,
Arriana went to watch him out the window.

And I heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight!
"Arriana, my dear, the stiches are too tight!"

Friday, November 23, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving Day!



We had two other families over and the children all ate like racehorses. P-daddy had a bonfire in the back yard and let them look at the craters on the moon through his telescope. It definitely felt like family, and was easily one of my favorite Thanksgivings.

The gravy is the end of it


A pretty, sunny day for friends


A simple setting for a casual Thanksgiving


We didn't plan a kids table, but we ended up with a Mommy's table. Oh, darn.




This what happens when you interrupt feasting children to ask them to say "Happy Thanksgiving!" They had me laughing so hard the pictures are hopeless.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

OMG My house smells so good

This is where Voluntary Simplicity meets CSA meets the joy of the hearth meets the warmth of friends.

My house smells like simmering chicken stock, roasted pumpkin and cooling cranberry sauce. Soon the yeast from the baking bread will waft out of the kitchen. I love times like these. I love making everything from scratch, the whole foods turning into dinner.

P-daddy is home today, so he's on Taxi Duty while I prepare the house for our guests. Tomorrow, he will kick me out of my kitchen like he does every year, so today I have to get in what I need to do ahead of time.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Farm Day Again

And my produce is still in the van. At least the van is in the garage, and it is not so different a temperature from the barn. I can get it in the morning. Another sunny day, after a stretch of grey.

I have lots I could write about, but I am pretty engaged in actually living it all instead of reflecting on it enough to have something germane to say. Even my pictures of late have been boring. Or maybe we're just so busy that I don't focus on them just now. I miss lunch on Wednesdays.

All I want to do is write about the kids' accomplishments and the days we spend with our friends. This week I got to intentionally see three different friends three days in a row. When I was in Toddler Land (the lifestyle ruled by playdates with other Moms with toddlers and babies, no dayplanner required), that was a pretty standard happenstance. In Taxi-Land (Reeciebird has congratulated me on graduating to the time-honored status of Mom-Taxi), time with my friends is much more precious. It has been worth it in the trade-off, though. I am watching my kids bloom yet again, and that's a sparkle I like.

Babies. Maybe I can write about babies. I wrote "sparkle," envisioned G's face, and saw her glowing. Not because she got her third black stripe in karate, or passed her swim test or finally conquered her fear of The Big Red Slide, but because she was holding a baby again. This family desperately misses babies. We love them so. I am really happy where we are in our own family, but I told that Baby's Momma that it was a curious feeling. Before I had the desire to stop procreating, I assumed that once I was done having babies, I wouldn't like babies anymore. That's so not the case. I love them just as much; love rocking, diapering, dressing, singing to them etc. They're just as precious, just as wonderful as they ever were in my eyes. How amazing to me, then, that all the cuteness of my baby and others doesn't set my ovaries to fluttering anymore!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Farm Day!

And a beautiful one at that, albeit cold. I don't want to be home, for some odd reason. I want to be gone already. Maybe I will make an early lunch, stuff them like piggies and just take off. Tuesdays are special days anyway, because the kids get to be dropped off at their classes by Mom and magically picked up again by Dad.

I am feeling very connected today to my friends, even the ones I hardly get to see. There's a lot of transition going on right now; careers, school, pregnancy, health issues of myriad kinds. Over a month away, I already feel the solstice calm growing. I've never felt it this early before, so it's ...interesting.

Of course, now that I write that out, I think it could be just a shadow of last year's solstice. Yesterday we had a storm that knocked out our power for a few hours. We had Y classes so we barely even noticed it. When we returned home we had power again, but we still screwed something up on our woodstove when we decided to have a fire anyway, and had roiling smoke billow into the living areas. Yup, pretty much exactly like last year. :)

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Another "fruitful" day

Diffendoofer is definitely in session, as are it's affiliate schools in Fall City, Puyallup and Tacoma. Every Momma I talked to today is marveling at how focussed the kids are this week with their manipulatives and studies. It's so much fun to watch, and I am thrilled to finally have peers right here in the experience with me.

Today the children worked mostly without me, studying music and reading. We did some math. The project of note today though, is that we planted a "European Herb Garden Kit" from Jiffy. The kids and I love to garden, and it's horribly out of season, but that in and of itself can be the lesson, can't it? So now Diffendoofer has a windowsill garden, just as every good classroom should.

The bigger note for me is that the D-meister is becoming, as Montessori would put it, "more peaceful." Up until now he has been the "not yet peaceful child," but he's been allowed that as part of the privilege of being a toddler. I have been really satisfied watching him fold into the family in this new way. Grateful, actually! :)

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Parts of a computer


Long ago my computer "Spot" died. I had two computers networked together so that ostensibly, P-daddy and I could spank each other in Age of Empires. All that ended up happening, however, was that Dalicious and I would sit side by side in my office and chat online with our friends. And sometimes each other. It was sad, yes, but hey we still all love one another.

Anyway, I digress. Spot died. Fido lives. Unfortunately, Spot had two hard drives and the master froze, keeping all my important journals to the kids inside it. Fours years later, I still have Spot's corpse, and any intentions I had of rebuilding it have gone the way of the Dodo. We live in Puget Sound, home of Microsoft and Boeing. I can pick up a desktop at a surplus sale for 25.00 that outsizes, outthinks, out-everythings this old machine.

So what does a proper homeschool Mom do?

She gives it to the kids. "Here's a screwdriver. Want to see what's inside?"






Here's a link to the words list I am using for their follow up: http://resources.kaboose.com/brain/comp-les2.html

Montessori and Gatto

Over and again I refer to these guys-- as well as John Holt-- as some of my best influences regarding educational theory. A blogger I read who also espouses Montessori at home has a nice entry on this today:

Montessori for Everyone

Sunday, November 04, 2007

I cleaned my room today

Even more neglected than my desk, my room rarely gets the attention of my domestic focus. The upswing is that unlike my desk, I also spend little time in there. Aside from a few piles of "get to it later" and "omg I get to read tonight," it doesn't actually get messy. It does however, get dusty, and how. When my darling 5 year old son complimented me on my "rockin' Halloween decorations!" upon spying the cobwebs in the corner behind my bed, I knew it was overdue.

The problem with cleaning my room is that I like cleaning my room. The cobwebs in the corner turned into every spec of dust in the back of the house. The dusting turned into the windows, and while I had out the windex, that turned into the mirrors. Have you read, incidentally, the fabulous children's tome If You Give A Woman A Bottle Of Windex? The mirrors (all) turned into the shower turned into the walls. Now my house smells like a bleach bomb and I haven't even turned on the vacuum yet. I am taking a break from this to write while I can because well, I like the computer, too. But my fifth load of laundry awaits and I know that with our new schedule, if I don't get all this stuff done TONIGHT, it won't happen.

Time to move furniture now! See you Tuesday!

Friday, November 02, 2007

Settling into winter

So this is what "having kids" looks like.

While having my first baby be seven acutely shows me that at 2.75, my last baby is still very much a "baby," he is still more a child than an infant and I know it. He's been out of diapers for some time and I think we finally weaned this week. He'll be 3 next month.

Things have changed. I've had a baby for 7 years, in one form or another, and now I don't. And it doesn't bother me. Things are fresh and I can look forward again. This isn't a lament about maternity, because I treasured that period in my life and I have close friends there now; it's just a dawning awareness in me that I have arrived "there." That "next phase" we talk about.

My weekly winter calendar is bonkers full of stuff for the kids, without regard to nap time or nursing or playgroup or diaper changes. We're busy taking classes, engaging in the community, and fully active in the home school community now. My bigger kids tell me jokes we all appreciate, and they actually make me LAUGH on a connected humor level, not just a "oh aren't you cute" level. They give back. They expect different things from me, and I find myself not wanting to disappoint them.

This is a really tedious entry. I know I am not expressing myself well. I will try again later.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Death and Children

There's a quote I don't particularly like, but it does concisely relate how I feel about the vulnerability of children: "To become a mother is to forever have your heart walking around outside your body."

I know several people online who have lost their children to death. Somehow, they got up the next morning, continued to feed themselves, continued to breathe. Some had other children before the death; some went on to conceive the siblings after the fact. In any case I am always humbled by the strength of their humanity, supremely grateful for them that they still have children to love in the here and now.

Every new parent who actually bonds with their child knows a fear of loss. Entrusted with this new life, this entirely helpless, squirming bundle for whom you've been overwhelmed with love, most of us have elaborate fantasies about how we will protect them from all comers. Modern consumer society is happy to oblige this instinct, selling parents everything from car seats to outlet covers to crawling-baby kneepads. Some are useful and reasonable, most are just an elixir one can purchase to buy off that feeling of NEED. If we buy enough protective gear, then maybe that pit of fear will go away. We can protect them! We can keep them safe and with us!

Most parents get over this in time. Every woman has a benchmark: "she's past the age of SIDS now," or "he's three, he can eat popcorn safely now." They grow beyond the need to take the baby to the bathroom with them, and the parent-child bond reaches a more manageable level. I make great fun of "first time Moms" because I was a classic example of the hyper protective, freaked out Mommy. I would use a stroller in the mall for my first daughter, when I wore a sling everywhere else, because I could put her carseat in it and make this hermetically sealed baby bubble by drawing closed both sun shades, shielding her from strangers' eyes and germs. By the time we had our third child, he never even got to use the travel system; who had time to navigate all that equipment?

The truth is, however, there is a big part of my heart still trapped in first-Mommy mode. We all know how horrible it must be to lose a child. We all know that our days are not promised to us. We all say we can not even imagine the heartache.... but frankly, I think I can. My daughter was 13 months old when she had her first anaphylactic reaction to peanuts. She was 18 months old when her allergist told me her IgE count was unusually elevated, even for his office. "This is one very allergic little girl," he said to us. But I was already well on my way to trusting the child, trusting life to take care of itself. He knew I wasn't understanding him. When someone looks you in the eye and tells you deliberately, "Listen to me. She will die if you don't keep these substances away from her," life pauses. Time stops. He got our attention. He changed my life.

Since then, her general health has improved to the point where she's probably healthier than most of her peers. While she still reacts to things, she hasn't had an anaphylactic reaction since she was three. It's easy to become complacent when her allergies only manifest anymore as the stuffy nose that so many of us walk around sporting. To look at her, to see her life and how easily she navigates our world, most people have no clue. She looks like a flourishing little girl with a nose-picking habit. I am both grateful and proud (for the flourishing part, anyway.) But sometime, at some point during nearly every day of my life, I feel that chill. This is something I do pray for: please let my children outlive me. please.

In my home community, the general attitude regarding food allergies isn't very accomodating. "Just don't eat it!" or "YOU need to keep her HOME if she's that sensitive," were the prevailing sentiments. They either didn't get it, or more likely, they truly didn't care. For us, with our awareness of a new layer of cruelty in the world, it wasn't until she was six that we started to relax out of that first-parent fear a bit: "She's old enough to say she's allergic. She's old enough to ask about it, to say no." Even now, I know she's not old enough to discern whether people are wrong, though, and it dismays me every time I have to correct an adult who has told my child to eat something that would harm her. Every time, I think about what would have happened had I not been there. Every time, I get nauseous and realize that my experience as a mother, our experience as parents, is different from most others'. They can't understand and they never will.

Nathan was seven this year when he died. Quinn would have turned seven this October. Their mothers know what it is to lose that greatest privilege and joy. Yet they're still breathing. They're still mothering. I wonder whether they resent their courage and the admiration they receive; because to them, those qualities are not a result of anything they have chosen for their families. They are coping with something they hate. I care for these women, I grieve with them. But just the fact they exist proves these things happen. The idea that our children were born the same time just pierces me. Death does come for children, and the obnoxious reality is that for some of us the odds are higher than others. All I can do is outwardly ignore the possibility and take comfort that we're doing the best we can. So is G.

My focus has shifted from protecto-mode to life mode. The allergy doesn't manage us anymore, we manage it. It's taken me years to get here, and I remind myself to take each moment into my heart. It's her life, and I gave it to her to live it.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Local Moms Frontier Co-Op

I am finally doing this in the coming month. If you are local and willing to pickup Chez Moi (except for someone who can not drive right now for health reasons) then you can be included in the co-op. Please let me know. We only need 250.00 for free shipping and between even three of us, we're golden. I won't be taking any action on it this week as we are settling into our new YMCA-bloated schedule.

Feast your eyes: https://wholesale.frontiercoop.com/whslpubl/FrontierWholesaleCatalog.pdf

Sunday, October 28, 2007

It's not your degree, it's your involvement

The Fraser Institute: Home Schooling Improves Academic Performance and Reduces Impact of Socio-Economic Factors

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Oct. 4, 2007) - Home schooling appears to improve the academic performance of children from families with low levels of education, according to a report on home schooling released today by independent research organization The Fraser Institute.

"The evidence is particularly interesting for students who traditionally fall through the cracks in the public system," said Claudia Hepburn, co-author of Home Schooling: From the Extreme to the Mainstream, 2nd edition and Director of Education Policy with The Fraser Institute.

"Poorly educated parents who choose to teach their children at home produce better academic results for their children than public schools do. One study we reviewed found that students taught at home by mothers who never finished high school scored a full 55 percentage points higher than public school students from families with comparable education levels."

The peer-reviewed report, co-written with Patrick Basham and John Merrifield, builds on a 2001 study with new research and data. It examines the educational phenomenon of home schooling in Canada and the United States, its regulation, history, growth, and the characteristics of practitioners, before reviewing the findings on the academic and social effects of home schooling. The full report is available at www.fraserinstitute.org.

Hepburn said evidence clearly demonstrates that home education may help reduce the negative effects of some background factors that many educators believe affects a child's ability to learn, such as low family income, low parental educational attainment, parents not having formal training as teachers, race or ethnicity of the student, gender of the student, not having a computer in the home, and infrequent usage of public libraries.

"The research shows that the level of education of a child's parents, gender of the child, and income of family has less to do with a child's academic achievement than it does in public schools."

The study also reports that students educated at home outperform their peers on most academic tests and are involved in a broad mix of social activities outside the home.

Research shows that almost 25 per cent of home schooled students in the United States perform one or more grades above their age-level peers in public and private schools. Grades 1 to 4 home school students perform one grade level higher than their public- and private-school peers. By Grade 8, the average home schooled student performs four grade levels above the national average.

Hepburn said a growing body of new research also calls into question the belief that home schooled children are not adequately socialized.

"The average Canadian home schooled student is regularly involved in eight social activities outside the home. Canadian home schooled children watch less television than other children, and they show significantly fewer problems than public school children when observed in free play," she said.

The report concludes that home schooling is not only a viable educational choice for parents, but can also be provided at a much lower cost than public schooling. The report notes that in the U.S., home schooling families spend less than $4,000 per year on home schooling while public schooling in the U.S. costs about $9,600 per child.

"Canadian and American policymakers should recognize the ability of parents to meet the educational needs of their children at home, without government involvement," Hepburn said.

"While home schooling may be impractical for many families, it has proven to be a successful and relatively inexpensive educational alternative. It merits the respect of policy makers, the attention of researchers, and the consideration of parents."

The complete report, Home Schooling: From the Extreme to the Mainstream 2nd edition is available in PDF format at www.fraserinstitute.org.

The Fraser Institute is an independent research and educational organization based in Canada. Its mission is to measure, study, and communicate the impact of competitive markets and government intervention on the welfare of individuals. To protect the Institute's independence, it does not accept grants from governments or contracts for research. Visit www.fraserinstitute.org.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Nights in the Northwest

Last night the house was quiet. No TV, no computer, no voices. Everyone else was asleep and I was up babysitting the huge pot of potato soup I had been brewing all evening. It wasn't late, maybe 9 PM, but the moon was out in its bright, silvery blueness I had not encountered before moving to the Northwest. With the lights out, I carried my steaming bowl into the living room, guided by the light of that moon, when I was swept up by the calming emotion I get when I feel like I am in the right place at the right time.

Or maybe I just relaxed. I don't know.

Warm bowl in hand, I leaned against the chilled window, peering up through the evergreens at the huge silver disc in the sky. It's that classic Northwest wilderness iconic image that is so quintessential to the mystique of this corner of the world. And it was my comfort tonight, as on so many nights here before.

When we moved here we ended up in a very congested part of Federal Way. There was little of the expansive wilderness one expects to breathe in upon arriving in the Northwest. The neighborhood was beautiful, to be sure, but it was that crafted, after-the-fall rebuild, using native plants and landscaping. I would stand in G's room after everyone slept and peer far into the East on nights like this. In the distance, the Cascades would silently guard the horizon; I could see the conifers everywhere, and the moon glimmering over everything. It gave me comfort then too, that we were at least on the right track. Wrong place, perhaps, but in the correct world.



Here in the wooded harbor, the home we chose is unprotected against how overpowering that world can be. We don't have streetlights, but I am awakened several times a month by the glare of that moon. We have skylights and large windows. Even though they are curtained, one can't shut it out, the nature of the Northwest. The owls sing to me, the coyotes bay in the distance and the moon lights it all. The power of this region, guarded by the massive sentinels of the Olympics and the Cascades, and nourished by the huge flows of water that comprise the Sound, is palpable even in this day and age. Living here, on the fringes of the urban world, makes me question whether I could even tolerate the raw energy of the true wilderness. People do live there, and they commute for HOURS just to bask in that beauty whenever they aren't required to satisfy the demands of modern life. Were I to try that, I know I could be lost to it.

Maybe later. Right now I have children to raise, a book to finish and a life to finance. The moon can keep me company in the meantime.


(click the link for a silver Northwest moon)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Adventures in weaning

“OK,” I said cautiously, “you can come sit on my coffeetime lap if you want to cuddle,” weighing the word cuddle meaningfully.

“OK,” D-baby said sweetly, nodding with eyes as big as he could make them. Up on the lap, up into my arms. For a brief moment I was able to enjoy the little legs and arms, the soft tufts of toddler hair. Then the wiggling and the arching began. Ah the true Machiavellians, the toddlers.

“Noooo D-baby,” I admonished, “we only nursey once a day, not right now!”

“YEEEEEEESSSS! NUUURSSSSSEYYYYYYY!” the stutter-temper-cry started, tensing me instantly.

“D-baby, D-baby,” I said calmly, straightening him up, “You’ll be THREE soon, and three year olds don’t nurse!” I silently prayed for forgiveness as I left off “in my house.”

“I a BABY!” he retorted. Choosing not to respond to that, I said “WHAT are we going to do for your BIRTHDAY party? You’ll be THREE soon!”



Blink blink.



“Do you want a pool party? A pizza party?”

“Noooooooooooooooooooo,” he grinned.

“Do you want a party together with Nomi?”

“NOOO! It’s MY ONE! Nomi can’t have my party!” he shouted indignantly.

“Well,” I asked again, “What kind of party do you want?”

He grinned mischievously…. “A NURSEY party! A BOOBY party! At the ComPOOTER party!”

AGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

Monday, October 22, 2007

Time for a change

I now officially hate my blog background and will be changing it dramatically.

Any ideas?

Friday, October 19, 2007

I am a product of the 1980s, it is true.

Which Tim Burton character are you?

Ed Wood

Voted worst director of all time, but you sure look good in that sweater!

Personality Test Results

Click Here to Take This Quiz
Brought to you by YouThink.com quizzes and personality tests.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Batch update

So with last week's news, whatever makes me me exploded and I kind of spun out for a few days.

"It's only money" works for me until we don't have it anymore. This repair-- 1800.00 will sink us for a while and we actually had to draft a budget. One I don't like, but it pays the bills and that's the important part. We haven't had a working budget in a few years so this is not a bad thing. I will look up and ahead.

Found out from this mechanic (this is the second time another mechanic has asked "Um, who did the engine replacement?") that Eric-the Dumbass in Port Orchard failed to put in two bolts that hold the engine IN the VAN. Further, he omitted to replace the harness that holds an O2 sensor in place, and it had been melting on the exhaust of the van. NICE. So I have chosen to be grateful for this fault because it probably saved us from an engine fire or worse.

G continues in Karate, and had a meltdown on Saturday because it is a mixed belt class. A more experienced student tried to toss her. G, who wasn't paying attention to the instructions, flipped out and was upset for a few days.

N started indoor soccer league on Saturday and some serious cuteness (and noise) abounded with 30 5 year olds running around chasing balls.

We had our campout last week at Camp Seymour, and the children duly had a wonderful time. It amazes me still how well run that program is. In 24 hours the kids learned to shoot bows and arrows, use orienteering compasses and sharpen their boating skills. Mom also learned a few things; this was much more of a "slice of camp" experience, and I felt confident for the first time that my kids could take part in a sleep away camp. They are really thriving in this program. We were only able to make it this week because another homeschooler loaned us her car while ours was getting fixed. How cool is that?

D-baby made me nuts the whole time though-- constantly escaping and being very TWO in a non-TWO environment. God bless homeschoolers; the staff was GREAT with him but it was the other children who really made him feel part of the experience and made ME feel at ease that he wasn't ruining it for them. During one breakfast, for instance, an entire cadre of Bainbridge Island home high-schoolers drummed on the tables and stomped their feet so Dougie could breakdance in the dining hall. P-daddy came at night, and while he couldn't stay because he had to go to work, he did share supper with us and he got to go to campfire. That made us all very happy.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Placeholder for our wonderful zoo trip

wherein I post pictures of the nice meet up we had with Nikay (including free boxes of won't-poison-you animal crackers they gave each child)

and

try not to cry again that I barely made it home because the tranny on THIS van has decided to kill itself.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Onions have layers

Like ogres. Like marriages.

The onset of the season has come full force. I can relax into October --autumn-- and feel the contentment I always feel this time of year. P-daddy is coming around, despite the weather change tossing him into a cycle of despair. I called his bluff about being miserable and wanting to move. I found a job for him in Chattanooga-- same pay, same title-- that is so interested in him that they emailed and called within hours of receiving an email resume. Chattanooga is on my very short list of acceptable places to move, so I was willing to call this out. He was taken aback and said, "No I think I am staying where I am for now." Well good, then. Your family loves it here.

October is also G's favorite month, but for a very different reason: Halloween. Living here has made it even more cool because of our town and because of our neighborhood. The town we live in has a downtown waterfront and the merchants all open their doors to trick or treaters. It's like a scene from that movie childhood I never had, where it's still light out and the little kids are swarming the streets, Moms in tow. Of course, in our real life, the Moms are toting umbrellas and sipping coffee, which is even better. Furthermore, there is usually a tall ship docked with a crew dressed as pirates, handing out gold coins, argh. It rocks.

Our own neighborhood is dark dark dark, but the people are mostly older. They genuinely love it when the little kids come through and give out the GOOD stuff. It's a lot of welcoming fun. Our personal traditions about Halloween, begun out of necessity, have served us well as the kids have grown. The Great Pumpkin who takes their offering of collected candy delivers a gift in return, usually sneaking in while they are taking their after-TOT bath. He makes lots of noise and flashes the lights. It's somewhat frightening if you ask me.

Having said all that, the amazing this is this: G is not excited right now that it's Halloween month. She is beside herself, checking the calendar every day, already packed and tingling, because Camp Seymour's overnight is coming. I can't tell you how happy that makes me!

Speaking of happy, our church had the Blessing of the Animals last night, and G sang in the children's choir while holding her hermit crab. So cute. Following, P-daddy took the kids home and I stayed for my best rehearsal YET in this state. Vivaldi! Luther! Hal! Oh yes! That SOUND that choirs make when it's right-- that SOUND that embodies worship of the great spirit for me-- that is what I have been missing. It draws me, addicts me, it humbles me and makes me feel grateful to be able to participate. It was a very good day.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Lightning and Hail and Froggie Boots

Welcome to autumn in a year we forgot to have summer!

Today we went to the Y to go for a swim. As we crossed the Purdy spit we looked over the bay at a very impressive, ominous stormcloud over the Eastern sky. We started making jokes about The Nothing coming to get us; it was so dark and huge and the sheets of rain you could see from the distance looked like combed grey wool being strung from the sky. We made it to the Y without the Nothing catching us, but while we were changing and showering for the pool it arrived.

G got into the pool faster than I, but the boys and I hadn't been in the pool three minutes before the lightning struck. (Here in WA, lightning is an odd occurence. P-daddy and I balefully miss the dramatic thunderstorms of the South) No one moved. I called my kids over to me and said, "Back home, we would be getting out of the pool because of a lightning strike like that." Hearing me, the closest lifeguard, a girl of maybe 16, looked at us nervously. Almost as soon as I had finished my statement, the pool supervisor came barreling out of his office, bellowing "OUT OF THE POOL! EVERYONE OUT OF THE POOL!"

The big kids and I started laughing. I was reassured that yes, we do have similar water safety in mind, but I am also perverse enough that I thought it was funny watching the newbie lifeguards scramble. Mommy won know-it-all points from the big kids, but D-baby was having NONE of it. His howls very nearly drowned out the thunder as we left the pool room.

After we changed and the kids shifted expectations, they decided to go for a run. All of them. G was dressed for it in her purple running outfit, but N, who wouldn't put down his new too-big-for-him backpack, couldn't keep up with D-meister. Yes, the D-meister was running laps at the Y, in yellow and orange tie-dye and green froggie boots. Ah, Washington.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Camp Seymour: All About Water


We actually started this year attending a YMCA camp program for homeschoolers. I'd read about it last year, but I blew it off thinking it too involved, or whatever. Who knows what I was thinking then. This year, however, we're going and oh my stars, it's so fabulous. What a treat to look forward to a structured, socially engaging outing like this once a month--that Mom doesn't have to plan, to boot.

Our reminder email read as follows: "
The theme for the day focuses on water and how important it is for so many different reasons. We will start the day off with a tour of Camp Seymours alternative waste-water treatment center, theLiving Machine. For background information see http://www.campseymour.org/uploads/documents/6.pdf Next we will go boating (rowboats, canoes, and kayaks for those 11 and older) rain or shine in beautiful Glen Cove. After lunch, were going swimming in our heated pool. PLEASE REMEMBER TO BRING A SWIM SUIT if you might go swimming. "

G heard that some Moms drop off and pick up,
and requested that I not do that. However, she blended into the "herd" and pretty much ignored me the whole time. Excellent! She really seemed to be enjoying herself full out, and found her own stride, and her own friends. The naturalists did a fabulous job, both professionally and personally. While the program is open to homeschoolers in second grade and above, the staff made true on their literature's promise that younger sibs were welcome. Both boys were fully included, active participants. I still am reeling by how inexpensive this program is for what they provide.


The lunchroom lodge



What a group! The kids had their choice of canoes, kayaks or rowboats.


Finishing up, stacking canoes



What do tired homeschoolers do after an hour of paddling? Spectator giant chess, of course!