Friday, November 30, 2012


See the one in the middle, staring at the dust motes in the sun beam and fondling a toy grenade? Today is his first full day being seven.

He says it feels the same, since he's the same height and all. Maybe if he'd grown a foot overnight or something, it would feel different, but not as it is.

Yesterday, Daddy Honey woke up with him at dawn, and after admiring the pink and gold clouds, they played Wii well into the morning. We dropped Daddy Honey off at work, then went to see a movie, "Rise of the Guardians." He wanted popcorn. From the theater. He'd never gotten that before and wanted to try some. We dropped as much as we ate, but it was good, and they loved the movie. He still didn't believe in Santa or the Sandman or anything, he said, but the movie did help him to not be so afraid of the dark.

Back home in the afternoon, we made a vanilla cake with strawberries on top. I missed my mom's collection of cake pans. As a kid, I always chose heart-shaped. Some day, I want to make the boys a two-layer round. And he had asked Daddy Honey to make his sauteed bok choi for dinner. We ate the greens, sang the song, ate the cake, and played with presents--two toy grenades, two packs of cap-gun rounds, and a science lab set.

There was a surprise explosion! Vinegar, lemon juice, and baking soda under pressure in a capped flask then shaken up. "Lucky I was wearing my goggles," he said, "but I do taste kind of gross lemon juice."

This morning, he popped out of bed when it was still dark outside, woke Daddy Honey, and got back to the lab still in pajamas and before birthday cake breakfast. I asked that all the finished formulas be dumped in the tub, since they're mostly combinations of vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice, salt, and water. I had visions of going in there to give a good scrub, congratulating myself on not wasting the materials. But I have a feeling that some other ingredients got added at some point--maybe cumin, mustard seeds, and olive oil, because my bath tub is looking less like green cleaning recipes and more like hummus.

So far, seven is pretty great.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Losing Teeth

So, losing teeth.

I considered this a milestone, a very big deal, physical evidence of the transition from young, small, dependent child to less young, bigger, and ever-more independent child. It also happens around age 7, which, for many kids, is kind of a big one existentially. The little one loses the tooth, the mama keeps the tooth, and the next day makes for goofy, silly smiles, lisps, and maybe some sighs of my-baby's-growing-up.

But alas, Woody feels differently.

He lost his first tooth at the LSU-Arkansas game on Saturday with Daddy Honey, Uncle John, Beth, and cousin Caleb. He doesn't really know what happened to it. Maybe something about a hot dog. Popcorn, perhaps? He just noticed there was a hole there, he said. He said nothing of it until I noticed it hours later. I assured him that the tooth fairy came even though there was no tooth. Daddy Honey confirmed this before bed, to lay any worry to rest. Woody waved us off and said, "I don't really care about the money that much."

I was at a loss. Then, I shrugged acceptance. Our kids are their own little people, huh?

This morning, we woke to find that the other bottom tooth had come out. Luckily (for me, who had the special little container for lost teeth picked out when Woody was born!), Daddy Honey found the 2nd lost tooth in the sheets.

"Great!" said Woody. "Now I can go back to chewing on both sides of my mouth because I don't have to worry about a wiggly tooth!"

I'll sigh my sighs to myself, confident that the evidence of growing up is all around me and truly, requires no biological memento as proof.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Citizen Scientists

Woody popped out of bed this morning and ran to the window, scaring off a big mystery bird--maybe a blue jay? I only caught a bluish, white-striped glimpse. But the next half hour at the window proved just as exciting! We added to our two-day count an American Robin, a female Red-bellied Woodpecker, and a male House Finch. The last two Woody ID'ed himself with the help of the Common Feeder Birds poster we got with our Project FeederWatch kit, and I could corroborate with still more pictures from the  guide to use as comparisons.

We submitted our first round of data this morning. This Citizen Scientist thing is pretty cool.

Monday, November 19, 2012

In a moment at the window

A former acquaintance of our family, the father of a young friend a year older than Woody, was killed early Saturday morning when he stopped his car to try and intervene in a fight. He was run over with his own truck, twice, and died in the street. The suspect was caught. He has a serious criminal history, at 23 years old.

I learned this a moment after a Carolina Wren came to the window, our first visitor at the new feeder. I was surprised at how light his stout little body was as he hopped around the tray. His feathers were smooth, russet above, soft buff below. His long, downward-curving bill made him look a little angry, but a dashing white eyeline and cheerfully uplifted tail diminished that some.

At my computer, beside the window still, I went through the wrens to make an identification and discover the bird's name. And then, something else: an email about Chris Breeze, a reminder that we are animals, too, animals who break each other and spread suffering to strangers and children.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

"Three... a magic number."

Magic, too, is Daddy's corduroy lap, Fox belly-chuckles, and Woody's smiling eyes.

Guess what we finished today!!! The tray bird feeder!!!

Red oak is a very, very hard wood. I knew this, and thought it would add to the feeder's longevity, and it may, but it also made nailing very, very difficult. Woody and I bent a dozen nails each trying to put it together. The staple gun, too, was defeated. Daddy Honey was a sport and only grumbled a little bit when we needed his help and he smashed his thumb. My first woodworking project, Woody's third. Learning as we go along. Pine next time.

Our Project Feederwatch materials should arrive any day, so we'll hope for plentiful bird visits to record.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Thoughts on reading

I was out of town for the weekend, from early Friday morning to late Sunday afternoon, for a job training. I had never been away from the boys for longer than 12 or so hours before. My training session was very full and very busy, and I met dozens of people, and by the time I got back to my room, at 10 o'clock at night, I was exhausted and fell right to sleep. So I had little time to pine.

But when I got back, I realized how much I  had missed them. So all day yesterday, we played. And I got to remembering how amazing them are, how beautiful, how kind and spunky and funny and full of energy and good ideas.

Today, as we settle back into our regular rhythms, it's as if I am watching with new eyes. I am astounded at how much these little boys are learning about the world.

Fox pulled the Great States Jr. game off the shelf. I was making soup for lunch, so asked them to get started without me while I cooked. They did. Woody read some of the instructions, and he intuited some of the instructions (matching colored cards to colored spaces and such). Starting the game, I was surprised to hear him read every single card. "Find the state that processes the most gold." And then he found and announced the answers. Nevada. "Find five states that start with M." Michigan. Minnesota. Maryland. Missouri. Montana. "Find the state where the first log cabin was built." Delaware. And on it went.

All by himself, and with plenty of support, he learned this. He learned how to read. We read together when he wanted to, when he requested or when I offered and he said yes. I answered questions when he asked them. I payed attention when he wanted me to notice something about his learning, a discovery of a word part or an unexpected rhyme or a word that was spelled in a funny way. (Arkansas. He still thinks it's odd that people say Arkansaw.) And here he is.

I had a realization about this.

All the time he spent learning to read, he was doing things that were fun for him and that helped him do what he wanted to do. He was playing games, learning in books about knights and vikings and pirates, sharing amusing information on billboards and signs.

Not one of those minutes was wasted, or tainted with resentment or frustration.

How much time would he have spent learning how to read if he were in school? How many hours of his fourth, fifth, and sixth years on earth? How would he have felt about his time being  used in that way? What would he have rather been doing? What would the instruction from the teachers be telling him implicitly about the ways people learn, about who the experts are, and about his own abilities to master skills? What would he have thought about getting a gold star or an A+ or a smile of approval for gaining that skill?

What, in his one wild and precious life, would he have missed?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Bird Watching

This was Woody's favorite page from a pretty snazzy kids' activity book about birds that we picked up at the feed store.

We are in the thoes of a new pastime at the Honey House, and if you know the Honeys, you know that looks like. Full-tilt.

It started with a mystery bird's sweet, clear little song, sang each dawn and at points throughout the day. The song was so distinct, and yet not familiar to us. Who was that bird, we wondered? In searching it out, I came across the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and their 26-year-old Project FeederWatch. I told Woody about it and asked if he'd like to participate this year, and he was excited about it.

It took us a couple of days to get the birdseed, and we still don't have a feeder. (The cheap ones are flimsy and the sturdy ones are expensive. We may make our own.) But we're all set to begin recording the numbers and species that visit our (forthcoming) feeder in December and throughout the rest of the winter and early spring. That data will be sent in March to Ithaca to be added to their yearly report.

So all week, we've been heading out to the back and side yards, as well as all around town, with our binoculars, playing around and seeking out birds. Woody and I will doubtless get different things out of this project. Two days ago, when he had spotted a bird I happened to know, I whispered to him, "That's a Carolina Chickadee." And he turned and replied, "Mom, I'm not watching to see which ones they are. I'm just watching."

Point taken, as it more and more often is these days--Give me space! (Gosh, I wasn't ready for that at 7!) So I am prepared to pursue this my own way, and to assist Woody in a different way. But, we will overlap at the birds. Maybe the woodwork involved in building a feeder, if we go that route. The citizen scientist bit is pretty cool, too.Definitely the binoculars.

OK, I admit it, it is my new obsession and I may find nearly every single bit of it fascinating until I get saturated, like I usually do, and calm down about it. Meanwhile, even if Woody bows out now, he has learned so much from our exploration this week. He adjusts the binoculars' focus, beginning to see how focal points and lenses work. He sits quietly outside on the edge of the bushes, observing, describing, and comparing birds he sees. He knows a few parts of the bird--the crown, eyeline, breast. He compared various types and prices of feeders with me at the feed store. We talked about placement in our yard, taking into consideration several factors including the birds' safety, our ability to watch them from inside the house, and keeping the feeder out of the typical play-zone. He's read some about birds, and listened to some bird songs at the site, and watched birding videos with me. And it's been a nice, big helping of that outside time that, this year especially, lends itself to deep breathing, wonder, movement, and happy imaginative play.

Up at work one day, we stopped by the memorial garden on the property. There weren't any birds to look at, but there was plenty else.

The songbird turned out to be a White-throated Sparrow. If you click on the "Song" tab behind the pop-up, you can hear the song that we've been hearing outside the bedroom window for the last seven days. I'm very, very grateful for what this little whistle ushered into our lives.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Voting Day!

Isn't voting day so exciting? Daddy Honey is working from home this morning, so he took Woody in bright and early to vote with him. Five people told Daddy Honey they thought it was so great that he brought his daughter in to vote with him. Daddy Honey tried to respond in a way that communicated Woody's gender, "He's my son, Woody. He's excited to be here, too." But he said no one seemed to hear that part, and Woody said he didn't care anyway. (Apparently he's noticed that it happens from time to time.)

I had insomnia last night, waking at 2:30 a.m. and not being able to fall back asleep. Woody had been stuck on the end-of-level castle in World 2 of Super Mario Brothers on the Wii, so I passed it for him. He was super excited to be in a new world this morning.

Monday, November 5, 2012

A little too much talking, and Papier-mâché

Our Florida friend Alison sent us a Halloween card, and in it she included these little cardboard Civil War soldiers. Woody and I put them together, with a bit of glue for longevity, while Fox napped, and we set up a battle later in the day.

This weekend a stomach bug ripped through our family. First Fox, then I, then Woody fell ill with it. Daddy Honey escaped it. (I think that's because he cleaned up the least puke. Usually, it is my iron-clad constitution that eludes the viruses and bacteria.) So our weekend was spent quietly at home, with at least one person asleep at almost any given period during those 48 hours.

Today, I put in a few hours of work that I missed at the church while the boys played with Play-Doh, drew pictures, played with the train set in the nursery, and read books from the library. Two hours is the most they like to spend doing that, so I aim for an hour and a half to keep everyone in good moods.

On the way home, Woody asked me (out of the blue) why people open businesses. So we talked about money, and making a living, and doing things you like and are good at. When I said the part about things you are good at, I said good with numbers, and he asked why one would have to be good with numbers to open a business. We talked more about sales and salaries, taxes, mark-ups, and overhead.

But I had to keep it cool. Last night, he asked what the legislature did, and Daddy Honey and I totally geeked out on him about it. He listened, patiently, as he does, and then said in all honesty, "Wow. That went on a lot longer than I expected."

It's just that his questions are getting so gosh-darn interesting to talk about! But, I will practice restraint and only give what I think he wants, plus a tiny bit of what he might find really cool. 

The papier-mâché castle is complete! Just the right size for Playmobils. Turns out papier-mâché has a cool history all its own, complete with several turns on the battlefield, across cultures and centuries!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Halloween candy and a paper castle

The boys have been on-and-off grumpy the past two days. I know a lot of folks would blame that on the large quantities of Halloween candy they've been eating, and that's partly true. They also have been going to bed late and waking up early, having recently decided they like seeing Daddy Honey off to work. And, the days after a big holiday are always a bit of a let-down, and young kids sometimes have a hard time sorting out feelings when there's a general mood of ennui.

But I wanted to share some about the candy, specifically.

Some people disavow the link between large quantities of sugar and moodiness. I don't. I see and feel it plain as day in myself, and I suspect it might be at play in my kids, too. But, I think it's a bad idea to base a family's food culture on that link. In fact, I think it's counterproductive to make much of that link at all.

Controlling food or coercing kids into making the food choices that you'd like them to make has the effect of 1) creating an artificial premium on the forbidden foods, 2) deteriorating kids' trust that their adults will help them fulfill requests to experience the world, 3) setting up a situation where they cannot help but judge others who consume the foods you've labelled as bad (or judge you, if you slip up and eat a "bad" food, or if they come to disagree with your assessments), and 4) depriving them of the opportunity to learn to listen to their bodies, something they can only do by trying new and different things (including stuff that may make them feel ill, jumpy, jittery, or grumpy).

I don't want it to be like that between my kids and me, or between my kids and their food.

So, I notice what they eat without judgment, comment, or look; I share with them happily; and continue to offer a variety of foods that they like, ask for, or may have never tried before. This morning's breakfast was a good example: mint tea, sliced oranges, cranberries, Greek yogurt with honey, small sausage patties, and Whoppers. (Fox reached in the candy bowl, pulled out a few packs of Whoppers, and set one next to each of our plates; their willingness--eagerness, even!--to share their Halloween candy this year has astonished me. I was NOT like that as a kid.) I skipped the Whoppers, myself. Woody went light on the sausage and ate only two of the three Whoppers in the package. Fox didn't touch the yogurt or cranberries, but ate the rest.

Yesterday I cleaned up more opened-but-uneaten or partially eaten candy than actual emptied candy wrappers. (But don't misunderstand me--there was a bunch of both!) For lunch today, we played restaurant with a real meal of rice and beans and dried papaya dessert, and nobody cared that the candy bowl was empty.

We found Woody's piggy bank this afternoon after months of it being lost, and in it was $22 worth of coins. He's been asking for a pair of hand cuffs, so we went to Wal-Mart to buy them. While we were there, I offered to buy a package of candy to refill our bowl. Woody said, "Nah, I'm good on candy." And Fox said, "No, but I do want a lollipop." He sucked on it for five minutes on the way home, then handed it to me and told me he was going to take a rest, and promptly fell asleep. I put him down when we got home, and Woody and I together read this article from Mark Bittman, Daddy Honey's favorite chef, entitled "101 Simple Salads." We chose the mushroom/onion/parsley salad to make together, and we split it.

That was our experience with Halloween candy this year. A hot flash of novelty and chocolate, then a refusal of more, two days later. For adults who didn't grow up with food issues, maybe this looks like not a big deal. But it's a big deal to me, that my kids can recognize the feeling of satiation and turn down a sweet.

Earlier, I started a project that I'd been thinking about a long time:

I envisioned this as a collaborative endeavor, a co-created paper mache castle made from saved cardboard boxes, cardboard tubes, and egg cartons. But, they boys weren't really that interested. Woody wanted to give me ideas for the design. Fox wanted to draw "guys" to go in the castle when it was finished. But neither wanted an actual hand in the mess, and their total involvement was probably less than 10 minutes.

Fair enough. I finished it up solo while they played Wii, built with Duplo Legos, drew with markers, and played knights outside. 

There's value in doing things alone, too, which may be a post for another day...