Saturday, December 29, 2012


We left the day after Christmas headed toward Louisiana to check on the boys' grandaddy who is in the hospital for a while after a bad fall. It was a bittersweet visit, and on the drive back today, Daddy Honey was full of thoughtful silence and concentrated looks.


Friday, December 21, 2012

The Yule of the Bitten-Through Bottom Lip

That title's a spoiler, huh? Well, no hiding it. Our Solstice celebration ended with a puncture wound, from which the afflicted boy, number 1, is currently recovering on the couch watching Phineas and Ferb. Boy number 2 slept through it. And Daddy Honey left to calm his nerves with some noise rock.

But leading up to that was quite special, and also fun, and maybe meaningful for more family members than just me.

This afternoon, the boys and I made a sacred cave for the divine mother and child to dwell in on this the longest night of the year. Northwest Arkansas has the most perfect rocks in the world for this kind of project, and after some happy excavating and careful-for-the-toes (bare, always) placements, we had a pretty iconic cave, if I do say so myself. Then, we chose from our animal figures, some of which go back to my own childhood, attendants to the newly birthed pair. Oddly enough, Woody and I both had dreams about bears last night, so we included her, first, and the little fawn was a likely choice. But then things got crazy fun. Snails. Chameleons. Ears of corn. Fox added a couple of knights in full armor, but Woody discreetly removed them later, telling me, "I don't think Fox knows this is a no-war zone."

It was great. By the time we added Woody's warrior fairy from last year and the candle to the inside, I was fully smitten with this creche scene and vowed to repeat it until the day I die.

Next came swimming. That was unexpected, but our neighbor Gavin across the street invited us, and I knew the boys would have a blast. We picked up Daddy Honey from work and headed to the indoor pool with suits and towels and we swam until we were all pruny. Even Fox. 

We started the bonfire when we got home and added the Yule log from last year, to which we had tied our wishes for the year to come. We lit the candle in the little cave and watched quietly as everything burned bright and warm.

Then, Woody and Daddy Honey started playing night sniper in the dark, Woody tripped and fell into the wheelbarrow, and he bit down through his bottom lip. He flipped out. Daddy Honey flipped out. We called Amy Leigh, my sister who is a nurse, to confirm for anxious Daddy Honey that the injury did not call for a hospital visit. (Yep. Were he alone, he would have packed that poor kid in the car and started driving for a slit the size of a baby tooth.)

A few capfuls of peroxide in water for a swish and Woody's fine, though the spell of the night was broken. Or maybe not. I know what waits for our tiny mother and child, and it's this--addled dad and injured child and doubt that any of this was a good idea. It's a cave full of dirty dishes, wet towels, dog-hair speckled toys, and new shoes that are going to have to wait until January. A little heartache. A little blood and spit. You know this story, too.

Mothers of young children take their magic in small doses--warm feet around a pretty fire, giggle-worthy malapropisms from healthy 3 year olds, somebody saving for her (or more likely, forgetting about) the last blackberry Greek yogurt. Then it's back to action--dabbing with damp washcloths, a mad dash to the post office, scooping poop from the backyard, running alongside a wobbly bike, helping a partner to find his calm again. That's good enough. In fact, that's good. And when everybody's asleep and the house is quiet and the light in the tiny cave still glows, they'll--I'll--remember that it's exactly what I was hoping this life would be like, and even if all the little wishes I wrote to send out into the Universe on the smoke of the Solstice bonfire come true, it would just make things better than best.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Play and play and play

Good gods, these boys can play. And play, and play, and play.

Granddaddy sent Woody $10 for his birthday, and at the toy store he picked out this:

Notice that cannon and morning star ? He fairly ran to the register once he had this in his hands!

The boys had been in a Playmobil groove for days already (incorporating lots of other toys into the play, too), but this re-energized the knight scenario particularly, and we are on something like 15 waking hours of the last 48 playing with the clever German-made toys.

I know the value of children's unstructured play has gotten some press lately in contrast to the great lengths and expense that some parents go to in order to get their children into certain preschools. In my family, this special kind of play, the whole-house, rambling, collaborative, imaginative, incorporative play has been one of the best things in my life. I can see the connections, both intellectual and interpersonal, being made in each moment. Mornings of play often lead to afternoons of questions and quiet reflection and investigations using books, documentaries, trips around town, and the like. It's flexible and adaptable to many circumstances and personalities. It's fun. And on days when I feel unsure about our homeschooling, I think to myself, "Well, if nothing else, we sure do know how to play." And if I let myself relax into the whole world that play opens up, I realize that's not only enough, but that it touches on everything.

Monday, December 17, 2012

the Hanging of the Greens

Razorback pomander, by Woody.

One of the things that's great about being part of a faith community is that people regularly get together to do cool stuff, and they want you to come, too. Now, I'm not going to wax nostalgic about the particulars of that, because every church, temple, synagogue, mosque, or other sacred space is different, and any one of them can feel different from one week to the next, depending on who's in the building. But on a good day, a day when everybody seems to be looking at the mission together, and looking into their hearts to find responses, and looking in the mirror asking their best selves to show up, then it's a thing of beauty. All the better if my kids actually want to participate in whatever's going on.

The Hanging of the Greens this Sunday evening was like that. We all went. The boys, at first, were sold by the promise of decorating sugar cookies with copious amounts of icing and sprinkles. They did that, took two bites, and then went to enjoy everything else.

The youth group kids helped them to make lemon pomanders, twisted-paper stars, and highlighter drawings that glowed under black lights. There was face painting and a shell game played with overturned clay saucers and Mardi Gras beads. Fox laughed so hard at each of his wins at this game that his face turned red and he stopped making sound, and people got worried, until all his joy erupted in great shrieks of happiness.

If you know my grumpy little boy, you know this is a Big Win. He seldom gets past scowls in public, sharing any positive impressions from the safety of his carseat on the drive home. And at the twisted-paper stars station, they twisted their paper into mustaches, tied them to their faces with string, and had the most fun a bunch of kids can have in places filled with love, support, and resources.

See the star there, in red and yellow? And the mustache--far more popular--in light green.

There were as many adults as children, and the adults were paying lots of attention to the kids, a main ingredient in a happy mixed-age experience. And Daddy Honey was there, doing his Daddy Honey thing, which in our family is like having the big, sturdy ship to sail on.

It's not always like this, and that's a tough truth since, as the paid person in the religious education position, I am often partly responsible--or at least seen as partly responsible--for the times we fall short of creating this kind of wonderful. But last night, it was there, and as the parent of two deliriously happy little boys, I was thankful for it.

Friday, December 14, 2012

the 5th night of Hannukah

Last night was our neighbor Gabrielle's weekly movie night, but it was also the 5th night of Hannukah. She and I joke about being dormant Jews, since her mother and maybe my maternal great-great-grandmother were Jewish. How one or others define or claim Jewishness has varied over the centuries and locations, and relates to genealogy, culture, and religion. But one of the more well-known notions is that one born to a Jewish mother is Jewish.

But really, that's just playing. Last night, we did Hannukah for real. At the movie night were Yaniv and Daniel, Yaniv who is Israeli and Daniel who was raised Jewish but hasn't practiced for a long time. Daniel made sweet potato latkes and salmon. There was a  little silver menorah, which they lit while reciting the prayer in Hebrew. Then Yaniv, who is a terrific jazz keyboardist, played and sang several Hannukah and pouplar Israeli songs in Hebrew.

The boys ate and listened quietly during the prayer, but their attention waved, as one might expect, when Yaniv was telling about the history of Hannukah, how it's celebrated in Israel, and some of the fundamental pieces of Judaism. It was fascinating for me, but over their heads for sure. Fox got wiggly and kept asking to go home. I got embarrassed about that, so was feeling a little stressed out after a certain point. During the music, I offered to take them back over to our house, and they were glad to go. I had Daddy Honey make our excuses so we could leave without distracting much from the goings-on.

We went to bed soon afterward, and lie in bed talking for a long time, each from our single bed in the second bedroom. The night felt good, special but not pressured. It was something new that fit seamlessly into something wonderful that we've loved for a long time--gathering with friends at a potluck to talk and laugh and be.

Yaniv said that the essence of Judaisim is merging the material with the spiritual, knowing that this life on earth is everything and enough, that to eat and share and make babies and do work is to be a divine being. I don't know if the boys heard or understood that, but for me that rang true and right about our life together.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The theater

My boys are fascinated with nutcrackers. I think it's because they're terrifying, what with their giant teeth and bulging eyes (especially the way Maurice Sendak does them, above). Plus, they are usually dressed as soldiers, which always attracts the Honey boys' attention. So, when Woody found "Nutcracker: the Motion Picture" (a 1986 production by the Pacific Northwest Ballet) on Netflix, he asked if we could watch it. We did, and surprise! They loved it! I would have thought that a live-action stage ballet had little chance of keeping their attention for an hour and a half, and to be sure the fight scene and fiercest-looking dancers were the favorites, but they watched it twice in two days, told their dad the whole story, and have been playing pretend mouse king versus nutcracker with great feeling.

And I had no idea months ago when I joined the homeschooler collective to pre-buy tickets for the Walton Arts Center children's matinee performances that this would turn out to be a theater kind of week. But today, we went to see the Mermaid Theater of Nova Scotia's puppet show, "Guess How Much I Love You & I Love My Little Storybook." The boys were enthralled! It was a bit odd, sitting in the theater with hundreds of young school kids and a few handful of scolding teachers, but once the show started, there was no denying the holding power of that magic. Afterward, too, the puppeteers answered questions about how the puppets were made and how the show was put together. The boys liked the fact that the rabbit puppets' heads were attached with bungee cords. I immediately came home and wrote a fan and thank-you letter, because that is just something I like to do.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A fat Yes! to start your day with:

"Bring on the Learning Revolution!" A twenty-minute TED Talk by Sir Ken Robinson that you won't be sorry to watch:

"Education dislocates people from their natural talents."

"What we need is not evolution, but a revolution in education. This needs to be transformed into something else."

"The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we should save our country." -- Abraham Lincoln to Congress, 1862

"There are things we're enthralled to in of them is the idea of linearity, that it starts here, and you go through a track, and if you do everything right, you will end up set for the rest of your life...Life is not linear; it's organic. We create our lives symbiotically as we explore our talents in relation to the circumstances they help to create for us. We have become obsessed with this linear narrative...Human communities depend upon on a diversity of talent, not a singular conception of ability. At the heart of the challenge is to reconstitute our sense of ability and talent. This linearity is a problem."

"We have to go from what is essentially an industrial model of education--a manufacturing model--which is based on linearity and conformity and batching people. We have to move to a model that is based more on agriculture. We have to recognize that human flourishing is not a mechanical process, it's an organic process. You cannot predict the outcome of human development, all you can do--like a farmer--is create the conditions under which they will begin to flourish."


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A visit

We had a visit. A nice visit. For a good, long week. Nana and cousin Aila came from Florida, and we went downtown to see the lights, to the pizza place whose name Aila can't help but giggle when she says out loud (Damgoode Pies), to Hobbs State Park visitors center, Terra Studios, Little Bread Company, and the castle park. We baked a delicious cake and celebrated a big birthday for all three kids, whose birthdays span mid-fall to mid-winter. We did origami. We made window stars. We decorated the tree. We painted wishbones and hung them as ornaments. We shared knitting, bird watching, wrestling, play-pretend, hot cocoa, Scribblenauts, and taco night. And we practiced getting along when our little house felt much littler than it really is.

And today was back to a more typical rhythm which, in the wake of happy family visits, is a little quieter, a little softer, and for a few days at least, a little sad.