Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Working mom, breathing mom

This Sunday, the family came with me to work to participate in the activities I'd planned to do with the UU kids. Fox and Daddy Honey went right away to play in the nursery. Woody stayed for the first half of my session, adding bits to our discussion and making a stained-glass heart. But, then he was a little out-of-sorts and went to the nursery to play. He later told me that the craft was great, but the part before that (the short talk and the song) was not his favorite. ("They were fine, mom, just not my favorite," he said, giving a quick sidelong look from behind the thick lock of hair he was chewing. He wanted to be sure he hadn't hurt my feelings. What did I do right in this life or the last to deserve the great love of this child?)

I don't feel quite comfortable yet being mama-teacher. The priorities of those roles are different, and it's hard when I am in a position where I choose serving one over the other. Still, occasionally I'm not going to be able to easily avoid having the boys with me while I work up at church. I plan things I hope they'll enjoy, and introduce them to other kids I think they'll get along well with, but I try not to hold on to an outcome.

Our old Doberman Brodie is having trouble with his back again. We took him in to get painkillers and muscle relaxers, and while we were there we learned about bones and cartilage and looked at a couple of x-rays. In the x-ray room, there was a big cage full of puppies. Fox literally lost his breath, and was fully ready to spend the entire afternoon playing with them. The puppies shared this expectation, and whined terribly when it did not come to be. Fox was surprised at how they sounded, "like little pigs!" he said.

We made mullein-garlic eardrops this morning. I collected the mullein from the side of a dirt road in the fall of last year, and the garlic we harvested this past summer. The mortar and pestle were fun for the boys to play with, but they have been busy this week with knights and pirates in various combinations and settings around the house, so herbs didn't keep their attention long.

Fox took my favorite necklace from the bathroom and tried to hang it from something in the kitchen. He dropped it on the tile floor and it broke into four beautiful pieces. 

The next part was a huge success for me: I sighed, told him how sad I was to see it broken, and then shrugged it off. He apologized sincerely, twice, helped me find the missing pieces in case it might be glued back together, and then went off to play, undamaged by my reaction. 

A couple of years ago, I would have hit the roof over this as a first--though not favored--response. (I would have felt guilty about blowing up, and would have apologized afterward, and been mad at myself for snapping at one of my children.) But I am taking the calm I felt as evidence that the work I'm doing to pause and breathe in the face of big emotions is working. Maybe those qualities increase with practice the way lung capacity or blood oxygen do for long-distance runners as they train. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Making sense

The barefoot big one is wearing patched jeans, for the first time. How we got this far without busting a pair, I don't know; it's certainly not for lack of hard play. He was shy about the patch, and unsure how to tell me so. He asked for another pair of jeans, and only reluctantly stepped into these when he realized it was the only pair clean. But then we went to the park, and he forgot all about it. Down by the creek we saw the splayed-out bloody remains of a squirrel that appeared to have been a meal for at least two animals. The stomach was torn out and the broken ribcage exposed, and the head was nearly gone, too. Fox kept walking up to it, announcing that it was gruesome or disgusting, then walking away again. 

I've seen videos of other primates doing this--coming and going and coming back again to that which disturbs. I still find myself sometimes making sense of the world so overtly, walking up in my mind to something that's "off," making a proclamation to myself or trying on an assessment, walking away again to think about something more pleasant such as chickens or chocolate or valentine hearts until I feel pulled over yet again to the worrisome place. 

On the way back from the park, Woody remembered the patch on his knee, complimented me on the stitching, wondered aloud whether we'd soon need to do the other knee, and asked if he could work the presser foot on the sewing machine when we did.  

This is a favorite page from Graeme Base's Animalia. It's a library book that we've kept in the car for three weeks now. Woody picks it up and reads it, stopping to spell out the words he doesn't yet know, then asking me what they mean, if they're new to him. He's learned a lot of new words this way, and the definitions of the new words lead to all kinds of interesting side-conversations. Fox makes requests from his carseat, and Woody turns to the page and reads from it, each of them weaving a story that moves past the phrases in the book and into the land of imagined things. 

For breakfast yesterday I made the boys shirred eggs (from my friend Penny's chickens--I'm so glad to have a friend again who sells eggs! as well as sage from our garden). Woody asked what shirred meant, and I said I didn't know, that we'd look it up after eating. He thought shirred might come from a different language, since it didn't seem to mean anything else in English. That, to me, seemed quite a lovely little wondering, though alas, it turns out the true origin of the word is a mystery. And shirred does have one other meaning in English: coincidentally, it is also a sewing term meaning pulled into pleats or ripples across parallel lines of thread. (Think of the puckered tops of sundresses.) 

These days have been rich with spoken words, some read and a couple written. Of all the gifts we give our children, I think the first and best is love, but the second-best is language.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Compost and chalk board drawings

Yesterday was the year's first trip to the city compost heap. This heap has a lot to offer to imaginative little kids:

You're looking at two first-class mountain climbers there who start rock slides for fun. I filled the back of our van with as much as it would hold while they scampered up and slid down, filling boots and nasal passages and fingernail beds with the rich, black gold.

We found the most wonderful zine, Herbal Roots. It looks lovely, and just from what I've gleaned online, I've already gotten scads of ideas for fun things to do from the herb garden. The boys take the garden stuff in small doses, but I'm good with that. They're doing the busy work of developing their own interests and skills, and whatever small areas we overlap, I'm thankful for, and I delve deep into that ground.

I am in way, way over my head at work, so like it or not, today was going to be a day up at the church as I tried to put in a few hours before the mad rush of this weekend. Luckily, they liked it. We stopped and got snacks on the way, which was good because we ended up staying from 11:30 to 4, all the way through lunch. They played happily in the nursery with the three vintage play kitchens, played a Barrel of Monkeys, drew with sidewalk chalk outside, helped me move tables and find books, made samples for the crafts I'm teaching Sunday, and wrote (for the first time) on a chalkboard. 

Woody wrote the word "snowball" off the top of his head and confirmed the spelling with me. Fox drew SpongeBob's naughty and a little bit evil alter-ego, DoodleBob, holding the magic pencil. (That episode of SpongeBob, and their drawing today, reminded me of a favorite childhood cartoon, Simon in the Land of Chalk Drawings, which we later found on YouTube and enjoyed together.) They asked me about the posters I was making about the practice of Loving Kindness, and we talked a little about it.

On the way home, I got a tentative OK from Woody that this would be our new Wednesday afternoon locale, though we'll have to see how that goes. 

It's a very different experience homeschooling as an employed versus unemployed parent. The competition in my brain for attention is fierce. Days begin with a little bit of anxiety over what must get done, what other people are counting on to get done, when I am committed to being where. On good days, I can let that anxiety pass, or verify with my calendar that nothing can't wait until after breakfast, or better yet, commit myself to my family, first, as soon as my eyes recognize the light of day. But I can feel that a sort of reprogramming has taken effect. Being a working parent is different. Being open, easy, and available for my kids is harder.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Atheist Church

A neti pot has been purchased. That's all I'm' going to say about the state of my sinuses. I am going to say one more thing: the co-op sells these neti pots at what has got to be close to their own cost--$12, when it retails on the website for $20. I just love co-ops. They embody everything I want to be right and true about economics, goods and services moving efficiently and humanely through society in a way that benefits the greatest number and improves quality of life for everyone and the earth, too.

Daddy Honey holds Atheist Church at our house while I am away at work at the UU church on Sunday mornings. By this he means he palls around with the boys and props open the front door to passively invite our neighbor across the street and his little boy over, and the house, for a few hours, is filled with chummy dude energy--lots of building and shoot-'em-up and games and wrestling and play pretend. Lots of play pretend: knights, soldiers, pirates, skeletons. It is a morning when the sacred secular is celebrated over coffee and breakfast of last night's shepherd's pie.

I worked steadily and in varied capacities all the day through, the kind of work that warps one's sense of time so that in between lookings at the clock, four or five hours are gone though. I came home just before dinnertime to eat a bit off the roast chicken that had grown lukewarm and the big salad that was prepared fresh just for me.

Daddy Honey has a big presentation and event tomorrow for MLK Day, so he was anxious about getting to his work. When a new SpongeBob episode had been queued up, he sat down with his laptop, but just then the boys bolted from the television, crawled in his lap and hung on his chair and pleaded for him to come wrestle. He was frazzled and stressed, and things melted down for a little while for everybody, but finally he packed up his things to try and squeeze in a few hours of emails and edits before the coffee shops closed, I pulled down the Keva planks, and after a little while we all relaxed into other things.

Woody told me just shy of 9 p.m. that he was tired. Remember the stack of 16 library books I mentioned hadn't been touched? He sifted carefully through them and chose three. Fox fell asleep before we'd finished the first one, and the last one, What Does Peace Feel Like?, provided the rhythm and structure for a long, lilting poem he told himself as he fell asleep.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

An Occupied Mind and the Velveteen Rabbit

I am having a hard time at work. It's a challenge to keep my brain on my boys when I keep wanting to wander over to this conflict, turning it over in my mind, seeking potential solutions, trying out different approaches. Saturdays are hardest since Sunday is my main work day. I was distracted from the time I woke up, and still congested with the cold that won't leave me alone.

So, for most of the morning I was up at the church, where it's easier for me to switch into job-mode. And this afternoon, we went to the theater.

The ODC Dance Company was in town performing the Velveteen Rabbit, and the tickets didn't end up selling out in advance as they'd anticipated, so they were sold at the door.

We learned of these last-minute tickets through one of our homeschool collectives. There was a list of posts about it, and one mom said something to the effect of her family not being a theater family. 

I could relate; up until this year, I would have said the same about my boys and me. I didn't think they'd sit through it. I didn't think I'd be up for the challenge of constantly shushing them and making sure they didn't kick the seats in front of them. I was certain it would be like pulling teeth to get them out of the house to go, and I would be upset if we ended up wasting our tickets.

And some of that has come to be. Fox climbs into my lap in the first five minutes, where he sits for about 45 minutes, then he wants to go home, regardless of what's happening on stage. It helps if I talk quietly in his ear about what's going on, asking him some questions, pointing out funny things. I don't really shush them. They picked up on the quiet cue on their own, and when they do talk to me in a regular voice during the performance, I respond in a whisper, and they adjust. We do struggle some to get out of the house, but no more than we do to go on a play date or to the park or the movies. It's a struggle right now, period. I do what I can to help, but it has less to do with the theater and more to do with these particular boys at this particular time, I think. And finally, we buy the cheap tickets. If we end up not being able to go, I'm out $15 max. I want to keep trying this, so I'm not willing to let myself get upset about the money. 

Are we a theater family? I don't know. Maybe. We're sure enjoying what we've seen so far this year, and I'm optimistic about the three more shows we have tickets for through May.

After the performance, we played outside in the rose garden, where there happens to be one of the painted pigs. The boys raced around the amphitheater like racecars on a track, then joined up in the middle for some dance-like moves around one another. Each time something like this happens, I think, See, there you go--even if we never have this experience again, the boys got something from it. 

There's freedom in that. If the goal is engagement, really experiencing something, and that goal is achieved, then the learning has happened. All future learning related to that first transaction is cake.

Friday, January 18, 2013

An Unexceptional Friday

It seems as if I've shared a lot of exceptional events and circumstances lately, and because I'm trying to represent a close approximation of our everyday experience with unschooling, I want to make a post that balances that impression out a bit.

And no collection of our everyday would be complete without,,,


The 4 year old deeply, deeply loves Spongebob. And most of our days start with an episode or two before breakfast. Fox warms up to his days slowly by watching favorite episodes the way some folks may switch on NPR or open up Spotify while they shower. He thinks deeply about the show, which may sound funny until you really watch them and then consider how they look through the eyes of a young child. He's sometimes uncomfortable with how Spongebob treats Patrick. He refuses to watch the one episode where Spongebob calls Patrick a dummy. He can't decide if Mr. Krabs is a good guy or a bad guy. When the girl characters wear lipstick, he notices, the boys like to try and kiss them. 

Breakfast was a few spoonfuls of peanut butter, a glass of raw milk, and a cough drop, followed by two bowls of cereal.

We watched the birds for a while. With binoculars Woody tried to spot the birds hiding in the bushes. I hung wash out to dry. I returned emails and made a phone call. I made the beds. Woody played a new video game, Stunt Master. 

We made pirate boats, dinghies, sea snakes, and a family of sharks out of clay. We played soldiers and Lincoln Logs. We read a sweet book that the boys both would have loved when they were younger, Goodnight, Construction Site. After one book, they were done, and wanted no more from our stack of 16 library books. 

Fox punched holes in a cardboard box using a screwdriver. We ate BLT sandwiches for lunch. We watched the new Lorax together on Netflix. "So, people with too much money are bad?" Woody wanted to know; the corruption inherent in big business in a major theme of the film. 

I put in about an hour of work from home, making an outline for a meeting, returning more emails, and promoting a new class to two other area churches. I called my mom. Fox was wrapping his head around the concept of rhyming, and tested his understanding on pairs and lists of words: clay, play, pay, day. Woody asked what the expression, "Bless my soul" meant. 

I started feeling low on energy in the afternoon. My cold is lingering, and the ends of the days feel long this last week. Still, we played with the marble works. We danced around to Schoolhouse Rock music. We played puppets--two frogs, a mommy and a daddy, and their koala baby. I threw the Frisbee for the neighbor dog over the back fence. (Our own dogs are old and tired, and they don't care about a Frisbee or anything else I throw for them, though they do like to lay in the grass in the sun on days like today and simply be outside while I'm outside.) I moved some rocks around where I thought a new garden bed might go in a couple of months. Fox pinched his fingers trying to move a big box out of his room and screamed in pain. Woody and I came running. Fox told us later he was glad we had both come so fast to help him.

We walked downtown to meet Daddy Honey, taking our time, stopping to look at cool leaves, a tossed-out spatula, a huge pile of dog poop in the middle of the sidewalk, a wall leaning at an improbable angle, a guardrail that was twisted and torqued, and an interesting pattern of tiles under the portico of an old building. 

And now, the sun is down, and we're all home. Daddy Honey read them another book in their room. Fox pretended to be a daddy carrying his doll on his shoulders. Woody's playing a new video game, talking to himself as he does, and Fox and Daddy Honey are sitting at the table singing and playing clay again. 

Most of our days have this--open spaces and unencumbered time. Big questions. Acts of love, incidental or on the heels of sadness or frustration. An ebb and a flow of energy. A moving from one activity to the next when the pleasure or purpose has passed. A quiet and a loud, thinking and doing, experimenting and remembering. Most of our days are dominated by this kind of rhythm. Most of our days glide gently into night.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The New (to us!) Homeschool Group

This is group hole digging, part of the fun that was had today with new friends.

From our limited experience, I have made the following observation about homeschooling groups:

1. The tone or flavor of the group is set by the most active parents.

2. The parents tend to be of the mom variety.

3. The group as a whole often leans toward free play/loosely structured activities or structured classes/school-at-home type group projects. (This isn't always spelled out , but you can tell after a little while.)

4. They often serve as a clearinghouse of information about cool offerings in or near the area, with heads-up about interesting festivals, events, activities, shows, etc.

5. There is a structure to them, even if it doesn't look like it or isn't explicitly stated. Some are cooperative, with most parents contributing somehow. Some have formal or informal organizers who host events and get the word out to other families. And some are more like cliques, but not in a bad way; they are more like groups of friends getting together to do things, and extending the invitation out to others (or at least being open to others finding them).

So, the homeschoolers-seeking-community have a little feeling-out to do in any new group to figure out how thing go and if the group is a good fit for them.

So far, we have experienced a group that was more like a clique, and it was clique of moms with mostly older kids, so we had a hard time really breaking through to the friend level (me and the kids). And we have experienced the free play/loosey-goosey kind, which was great until we were the only ones faithfully showing up each week! And now--NOW! :)!--we have experienced one that, at least for the moment, seems to be loosely structured, AND geared toward the younger set, AND full of active contributing parents, AND has mucho friend potential.

We had a very terrific morning with these folks.

The group was an offshoot of the loosey-goosey group that we loved, but that kind of petered out. A handful of moms picked up the pieces and started to plan bimonthly crafts and occasional park days. The group grew. More moms contributed. I'm trying to stay in the moment, to take today's happiness for what it was and not reach out to expect more, but I am really thinking that this is going to be a very sweet part of our homeschooling here in Fayetteville, at least for a while.

The theme of the month that the organizing moms set on was birds, and we all knew in advance to bring bird-related show-and-tell. One mom circled the kids up and helped them to go one at a time. Woody liked this a great deal. He rehearsed what he was going to say when he showed out Project FeederWatch poster: "This is the poster we use to identify the birds we see." He said those words exactly, and smiled proudly when he sat back down. He chatted with other kids about what they brought to share.

There was a craft, ongoing so the kids could sit and do or go out and play, as suited them. Woody played, then did the craft--making a mini bird feeder from a craft stick dipped in peanut butter and rolled in bird seed--then played. Fox full-on played the whole time. The kids ran as a happy pack. Parents watched and helped as needed. The age range was 2 to 8. The potluck was healthy and delicious--deviled eggs, olive tray, egg casserole, corn chips and bean dip, sliced avocado.

It felt as if we finally found our little group. AND! When we came home, Woody immediately hung up his craft-stick bird feeder, and within moments two little Tufted Titmice came to investigate it. He was delighted.

A favorite Charley Harper print of my personal favorite songbird. I think what I like most about them is their sweet little faces with the big, dark eyes.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Birthday boy!

Fox turned 4 today!

It was a little off as far as celebrations go: We're all still sick with head colds, and a little sleep deprived because of it. Daddy Honey was out of town until 8:30 tonight, so we put off cake and presents until them. And once we did celebrate, things unfolded in a kind of manic way.

But that's the way it goes sometimes.

Still, there was this, a realization upon turning four:

"Mom, when I wake up and fart slow and gentle, you can't hear it, but you can SMELL it!"

Ah, to be new in the world, open to its wonders equally...

Friday, January 11, 2013

Poker, thorns, and colds

Woody done learnt how to play Poker. And Blackjack. And Rummy.

And he's good! This is a fun learning-that-doesn't-look-like-"real"-learning. There's counting, critical thinking, reading of body language and social cues, and links to further study (which for us, have been all about the Wild West, though I'm sure you could go in different directions with card games, too). He carries the deck of cards in his pocket. He asks to play a dozen times a day. He recalls past wins (past as in yesterday's!) fondly, retelling his strategy and the glory of the moment of triumph. It's sweet, and pretty satisfying from a homeschooling point of view.

We went to homeschool play day at the park today for a sum total of 35 minutes. Woody ran full-tilt into a 4-foot thorn bush and got pretty well torn up. Not too bloody, but probably fifty swollen scratches on his arms, legs, and stomach. He couldn't calm down, even though he knew he wasn't bleeding or in danger, and wanted to go straight home. We did, and he took an oatmeal-comfrey bath and felt much better.

But, we are all suffering from Fox's cold. I put together some Fire Cider for myself and cinnamon-honey and elderberry syrup for the boys. It's going to be a quiet, sniffly weekend, but hey, we have cards...! Also, games. Many, many games. As I was making dinner tonight, Woody was patiently leading Fox through a chess game played by the actual rules, which Fox doesn't often like to do. But Fox did like it, and Woody was so delighted in his successes--they both cheered when Fox captured Woody's bishop with a pawn! It was a lovely siblings moment, all the better because it afforded me 20 minutes to get food together so that nobody got cranky or started raiding the refrigerator.

A Medieval Loaf

Up at church, I found among the arts and crafts books one called Huzzah Means Hooray, about activities of medieval Europe. There are games to play, toys to make, costumes to approximate period dress, and recipes. It's all done quite nicely with simple materials and instructions, and a tight couple of paragraphs of history for each idea. Three captured Woody's attention immediately: the milk-jug knight's armor, the felt Robin Hood hat, and the loaf of bread.

I need a little while to get the materials together for the first two, but the last one we could certainly make happen. Fox has a cold--a snotty one--so I tried to keep him busy away from the ingredients while Woody did the mixing and kneading.

While it was rising, we read some about bread. We learned it was eaten at almost every meal. And that most villages had only one oven, so people would bring their dough each morning to be baked. Also, how severe the penalty was in some areas for cheating the scales when selling bread.

But truth be told, the most exciting part for Woody was cutting the slits in the top of the bread and then slicing the bread itself with our sharp steak knife. That's another thing he's growing more confident with, using things that, as a younger boy, he knew to be too dangerous for him to handle. He fairly beamed with that first buttered piece in his hand, ready to be eaten.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Money and an Art Class

Woody leaped out of bed this morning determined to count the money in his coffee-can bank. No reason, he said, just wanted to know how much he had to work with. He knows this is his bank, that he made, that he keeps track of, but he refers to the money inside as his and Fox's. I don't know that he'd actually be willing to split it, as in, give Fox half to do with what he wishes. But, he does like to imagine along with Fox what they might spend their joint money on. It's a funny, and pretty sweet, kind of sharing.

He asked for help counting the quarters only; the others--bills, pennies, nickles, and dimes--he counted on his own (by 5's and 10's when appropriate) and reported the total to me in the form of dollars and cents. This was a surprise. We'd only worked with money incidentally over the past several months, mostly when paying for things or seeing if we had enough money to go out and do or buy things. With the quarters, we talked about grouping, how four quarters equal a dollar, and about counting by 25's when there were less than four left. Then, we lined all the amounts up, talked a bit about place value and decimal points, and arrived at our sum: $9.26. 

I can see that he likes knowing money. That's good. It's not a lesson with a grade attached to it, it's a means to bring enjoyable activities and items into his life. 

An art class for 4 to 7 year olds was starting up today at a studio downtown, and several of our friends and acquaintances were taking it, so we gave it a go. The theme was birds, and the project was making artsy bird nests. Woody was into it. Fox was not. After the first five minutes, I felt pulled between a child who wanted very much to go home and a child who wanted help cutting fabric, finding pipe cleaners in the right color, wrestling the raffia, etc.

I'm not sure it's exactly right for us at this time, but Woody did enjoy himself a great deal and said he's like to go back, as long as I would go back with him (which is the part I may not be able to pull off). I think he liked being in an artist's studio, seeing other kids' creations, and getting feedback from the instructor. That was good for me to know. Even if we don't find a class that fits well into our life just now, I can work those other pieces in.  We can visit artist-friends studios. We can bring art that we make to them and talk about it. We can do art at home and invite friends to come over and do it, too.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Coffeetree and Visions

The wild boys and I passed an hour of waiting for Daddy Honey under a Kentucky Coffeetree collecting pods and prying out beans. They smell divine, chocolatey and smooth. The pods snap underfoot when you step on them, and at a quick glance at the ground, because of their shape and dull purple-gray color, they look like naked little moles.

There's an interesting history to the quirky name, too. It's a midwest tree, not one that we have in Florida. Talking out loud, I suggested we try to find a tiny drill bit so we could make necklaces out of the beans. Woody said no. He didn't need to wear them. He wanted to play with them exactly how they were. We wrapped a heap of them in my coat which, after twenty minutes of full-on tag, I no longer needed.

Now is a time of questions from Woody. My favorite recently was, What makes a beach a beach? What else is the edge of the land and water called when it's not a beach? There's a reckoning there, of concept and language, that is part mechanics and part poetry. It's exciting to watch your child walk to that place of understanding. And the beach... Part of me--a very sad part--wishes we could go back to Florida this February like we did last year. But, now there is a much smarter budget, and a second job, and no recent or impending births to help justify the southern journey.

Perhaps that's a good challenge. How can we make the most of our first February in the Ozarks? We've still yet to experience a heavy snow, sledding, or crocuses. We may get to see a new bird at the feeder. The earliest buds on trees and bushes. Any or all of those would be nice.

I assisted with a visioning board workshop up at church this weekend. I've made a few in years past, and this was the first that didn't include wanting a baby or wanting to travel more. Right now, I feel pretty good where I am with both. But what was on my board was being smart with money and keeping myself in good health. I wanted to put in so much more--having great homeschooling days, doing well at my job, more time made for creative writing, a splendid garden, and dare I still hope? Chickens, bees, and rabbits. (I did sneak a couple of those in, but in the periphery, so as not to pull the focus away, and mostly because they make great pictures.)

Was it not a week ago that I was morose about the whole idea of looking ahead, with intentions or not? Ah, well. Minds and reality changes.

My friend Sue says that in all the years that she's made visioning boards with groups of women, she has figured that 85% of what is on them comes to be, and the other 15% people report is either in process or they no longer want. She's a pretty witchy and all-around fantastical lady, so I'm inclined to believe her. More vegetables, honey, rest, and financial sense and security sure couldn't hurt.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Rogers in the morning

Today: a traffic court summons that turned out to be just a time and place to go to get assigned a real court date and time; then, the Daisy Airgun Museum; accidentally, the dump; and then, a little park--a nothing of a park, a place I would never have expected we'd have as much fun as we did, where I was glad to share time with two kids who know who they are and what they mean to me and each other.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

An unexpected day of muchness

Getting out of the house. Still a struggle some days, even after days in a row of staying home, even with plenty of lead time or no lead time, even with car snacks and the promise of fun errands (like stopping at the toy store to spend birthday money) and even with cheerful consent having previously been given.

So I kept my ambitions small today--run the one errand we had (that I thought they'd enjoy)--going to the bike shop to exchange the too-small bicycle helmet that Daddy Honey got me for Christmas. At the last minute, I went for broke and angled for the library, too, since the boys are growing bored of the Netflix movies. Also, Woody has developed an inexplicable aversion to the library these last few months, despite always enjoying his time there, so I want to pepper his experience with some good library times to consider along with any other impressions he's developed.

Woody stayed true to form and balked about leaving the house at first, and second and third, but I kept moving us closer and closer to being ready to get out the door until, at about 11, he had finished level 6 on his computer game and Fox had finished his episode of Sponge Bob, and lo and behold everyone already had pants and shoes on and the car was packed. There was a tiny bit of yelling (him, not me), but then he loaded up and was chatty and happy within two blocks.

I am stumped, but also OK with the idea that this may be a kind of "tick," a pattern of being that he's stuck in even though its source is long forgotten and its purpose no longer served. We'll keep doing to dance for now.

From left to right, the new-to-us skeleton book, the cardboard base for the giant puppet head, the new-to-us castle popup book, the canvas bag full of our borrowed library items, and our bird count sheet for today.

The boys had been to the bike shop initially to buy the bike helmet, so they enjoyed showing me how to find it with a little help from iPhone Google Maps. Though at one point, when I made a wrong turn, a disagreement between the boys escalated to the point of shouting. I insisted that the navigators must stay calm in order to keep their jobs.

On the way to the library afterward, we stopped at the thrift store and found a skeleton book (for Fox, who else?) and a wonderful pop-up book about castles in great condition for a few dollars. We picked up Daddy Honey to share his lunch break and  hugs. (His first day back to work after a weekend is tough, but after a holiday is particularly hard.)

At the library, we checked out more books that we ever have at one time--25--and I read half a dozen to a rapt Woody while we were there, including a really sweet one called Grandmother Winter by Phyllis Root. I especially liked this illustration, done in scratchboard and water color and depicting two of our most faithful bird feeder visitors:

Just as we were about to leave, we ran into friends and played together for about half an hour. It was good surprise mama time. We talked about thinning hair and children's literature and dry skin and positive visualization, and really, when else does that combo come up except mama time?

Back home again, we set up nearly everything "knight" that we owned--the new castle pop-up book, the old castle pop-up book, the knight figures Nana bought the boys for Christmas, and the knight costumes from Halloween 2011. Fox played amidst the castles while Woody and I cut out a cardboard base for our giant king puppet's head. Papier mache tomorrow. Counting our birds. Picking up the milk. Working on Woody's sweater, if there's the opportunity. Probably a heap of reading of new books.

A fairly simple cure for melancholy emerged today that I may do well to remember, and that is to go to bed and wake up the next day ready to do some things you love with some people you love. We'll see how that serves tomorrow.

Bedtime, with the adorable The Dot.

The first snow

A first snow! For us, anyway. We missed the snow that dropped last week; we were driving back from Louisiana. This one was wet and light, and melted as soon as it hit the ground, but the boys and Daddy Honey earned pink noses and damp mittens, and had real occasion to don their snow boots.

Now, it's is early, well before dawn, and everyone else is asleep. My day of melancholy is up. Today, I want to make something beautiful. I want to wear my brights. I want to think less and do more. I wish I could gather up all the people I love and serve them breakfast of fried eggs and blueberry-banana smoothies, but since I can't, I'll think of each of them and wish them well. And today may be the day we start the giant puppet.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Of Crows and Snowflake Axes

It is New Year's Day. Whatever the season says about being midstream, or the eons tell us about unending (and therefore, unbegininng) cycles, the undeniable power of cultural conditioning asserts itself so that most all of us are today contemplating the new and the next and the patterns we hope not to repeat.

Maybe it's that this is my 35th year, the fifth seven, the point after which, statistically speaking, a woman's body works precipitously less well, but this New Year seems different to me.

I am reserving speculation. I've come to see that things work themselves out differently than I expect; that walking along doing my best, learning from mistakes, and being kind is really all there is to do; and that what I imagine and hope for will probably not be exactly what I turn out to need anyway. This year will be more of that, and many other unknowable things, too.

Still, Daddy Honey is in the kitchen preparing black-eyed-peas and greens. Inviting in good luck, I guess, can't hurt.

We marched with 60 or so other people in a New Year Eve parade last night carrying stick puppets and following the sounds of Daddy Honey's trumpet in fanfares around the town square. Woody went right for the black crow and Fox chose a snowflake that he referred to as a battle ax. I was surprised. I thought in the press of the crowd and expectation of performance, they'd change their minds. But they didn't. They walked. They stayed with me and other other children. They said they loved it.

Woody and I want to make our own giant puppets in the next couple of weeks. He wants a king, his size, with a giant head.  I found this resource and this one, and since there are artist-activists aplenty in this town, I bet we can find some help for this particular project. I am inspired to make one, too, but today is maybe not my day for big ideas.

Today, I am thinking about my friend Joy, who is suffering a relapse of a paralysis disease, and who, at 38 years old, is laying in the hospital having a hard time talking and breathing while her family and friends and the program she leads at her church wait for her to get better. And I am thinking about my father-in-law, David, whose brain and body are fading, and whose six children are thinking about things like long-term care and power of attorney. I am spending some time with sadness. Folding clothes. Putting away Army men and dominoes and remote controls. Feeling quiet and chilly and steely in the middle.