Sunday, December 17, 2006

Footnote to a frustrating afternoon

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Footnote to a frustrating afternoon
Current mood: productive

I recently purchased Foil Accent (Snowflake design) stationary and address labels.
The address labels are UPC code 67919. While I had no problems at all with the stationary
(it's easy to format myself), formatting these labels has been an epic battle.
It's extremely frustrating.

First of all I am on a Macintosh computer, and more significantly I do not have
Microsoft Word. The "web" formatting option was not available for this
product. I am pretty irritated that without one particular software product, well
then in this case the consumer is completely up the creek.

I did manage eventually to find an application that could open the Word document,
and though the formatting was all screwy I (through cussed stubbornness) eventually
managed to print two pages of labels. (The third page of labels was a casualty in
this engagement). I could have hand-written all the envelopes three times over by

I just wanted to write and let you kow that in this case, your "DIY Printables
Made Easy" were anything but. I'll be sticking with Avery labels in the
future- their formats are pre-installed in my word processing program.

Too bad that, after all that work, some of my envelopes will still be handwritten.
(Since one page of labels was ruined). I did at least like the stationary- I'd
buy stationary from your company again.

Thanks for your time,

Thursday, November 30, 2006

We're back, and thoughts on toy guns.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

We're back, and thoughts on toy guns.
Current mood: annoyed

Well well, we are back from our whirlwind tri-part trip. Part one: overnight trip to my Grandmother's for Thanksgiving. Part two: our very first overnight backpacking trip with the kids (Billy and I used to do quite a bit of backpacking together, but have not been at all since before we had Littleman. And of course, backpacking with young kids is another ballgame entirely). Part three: two nights in Gatlinburg TN for some fun with the boys. Whew!!

It was a lot, but we did have fun and I'm glad we went. Now I have all sorts of material to mull over, write about and enjoy. Right now however, the experience at the forefront of my thoughts is one I had this morning, while picking Littleman up from Montessori.

While we were in Gatlinburg, we bought Littleman a classic toy pop gun. Made of wood and pvc, it's an itty-bitty rifle complete with cork, string and sliding barrel- slide the tube toward you, and it pulls the cork snugly into the tip. Quickly push the tube away from you, and the compressed air shoots the cork out of the gun with a satisfying "pop"! The string keeps the cork from going very far. Littleman loves it, and had a grand time marching through Gatlinburg with his rifle on his shoulder, or popping the cork again and again.

Now, I am very aware that many people do not approve of toy guns. I have heard the arguments, and there is much there to think about. For awhile I was unsure whether or not I wanted to have any toy guns in our house, not because I am concerned that they promote violence (though many people feel this is the central problem), but because I do not want my children to learn that guns are toys. In our family backgrounds, there are many military personnel and many avid hunters, so guns are definitely a part of life for people in our lives. I don't personally believe that guns themselves are evil, nor do I think that a child who learns how to handle a gun is more violent than a child who never encounters a gun in his life (not that any parent can totally eliminate guns from the conciousness of their children). I intend my children to learn gun safety, and probably at some point to learn how to shoot. I think that the best way to protect my children from accidents involving guns will be to demystify the guns themselves, and to teach safe and proper behavior whenever guns are around. Of course, hopefully they will NEVER encounter a gun without proper adult supervision! But you never know, so I want them to understand what not to do.

Anyway, all that is still in the future for us, and back to the point- all I want to be doing now is to lay a foundation of some very basic concepts involving guns. I think gun play is a logical starting place. Gun play seems to be instinctual- Littleman hardly ever watches TV (only at relatives' houses from time to time), but somehow just that little bit, and his interaction with his cousins and friends, has taught him how to hold and point a gun (more or less) and that guns "kill". (Not that he has any understanding of what "kill" really means). Is it healthy then, to ignore this behavior, or to actively try and squelch it? I think actively discouraging it would actually encourage him, and ignoring it could lead to dangerous ignorance later on. So, I figure the best thing is to treat it like any other play-acting, and sometimes casually explain how one would handle this thing if it were real and he were grown up. I'll also start enforcing rules- for instance you only shoot guns outside, and you do not point guns in people's faces. Otherwise, let him have fun. Think how many loving, non-violent men (and women!) played with toy guns as kids. I don't think the gun play itself is a problem.

Anyhow (I had more to write about this than I realized!) the pop gun was in the car behind Littleman's carseat. I was in the drive-through at his Montessori school, and one of the school's officials was helping him into the car. He spotted the gun and excitedly tried to get it out, but I told him he couldn't play with it in the car. He didn't argue, and forgot about it promptly. The woman could not shut that car door fast enough, so she could turn away from me and hide her expression. She radiated waves of disgust and dismay, that I would allow this darling child to have and play with a toy gun. I understand that toy weapons are taboo at school, and that's totally acceptable (and logical!) I also understand that many people feel strongly against toy guns, and that's fine. But it's still irritating to have somebody so disgusted with me, and my parenting. It's so very condescending for her to think she knows what's best for my child, and I do not.

I am not terribly concerned with what she thinks of me, and I don't think this will affect how she interacts with Littleman. But it does leave a bad taste in my mouth, and makes me disinclined to be very involved with her. How irritating.

It's odd how, now that I have kids, I find I am judged all the time by all sorts of random people on how I interact with and raise my children. People that would never presume to tell an adult how to run his or her life are perfectly willing to tell a parent what is best for their children. Sometimes they are just trying to be helpful, but often the underlying current is much more negative. The vast majority of the time I hardly even notice, but it can be very irritating when someone I must deal with seems to think that my choices are "bad" for my children, and that their methods are so much superior to mine. (I swear this lady probably feels toy guns are tantamount to abuse! You should have been there. . .) The tension is totally unnecessary, and makes civil, comfortable exchange difficult.

Oh, well! In the meantime I rather like the classic, loud "pop"! We all do what we think is best. :)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

On TV, happiness, good health and gratitude

On TV, happiness, good health and gratitude

Current mood: cheerful

Wow, so I was stuck at the studio for awhile last night (my car is in the shop for routine stuff) and to kill time I was watching TV. I don't ever watch TV (we do not get any channels at all at the house) and I am pretty amazed. What an incredible, colossal waste of time! It was mildly interesting at times, but that wasn't enough to make up for the bland worthlessness, the blatant manipulation and absolute banality of the programming. It was almost like I could feel my brain cells begin to liquefy. I swear I do not remember TV being this bad- either it is worse than it was when I was in high school, or else my absence from the medium has given me an objectivity that I lacked before. I seem to remember the "educational" channels having some good stuff to show. . . but anything that caught my fancy last night turned out to be stretched, edited and beaten into submission so much that it lost what value it's premise held. Man, do they ever know how to beat a dead horse. My resolve to never get TV here at the house has been reenergized.

OK- that said, I did actually come away with a couple thoughts and ideas to ponder. Mostly they are recipe ideas from the food network (mmm, a pinot noir reduction as a glaze for turkey. . .), but there was also one program that discussed "Happiness and Your Health". (The long program could have been condensed into 5 minutes and still easily made it's point, but I digress). It talked about various studies that show that laughing a lot, being upbeat and happy, loving people and having gratitude will all improve your health in concrete ways. Furthermore, if you do not naturally feel happy, you can fake it and still reap many of the health rewards.

There are clubs around the world called "laughter clubs", whose members aim to laugh every day, for many minutes a day. (I remember someone saying 30 minutes a day is a good goal). If they don't feel like laughing, they fake it and laugh anyway- and lo and behold, their mood improves. Over time laughter can improve your mood, lower blood pressure, reduce stress and impart an overall feeling of well-being. (So can meditation, even for beginners).

Caring deeply for others improves your health. Positive people enjoy better health than negative people do. An ability to communicate well with others leads to a better sense of well-being and a more positive outlook. And cultivating a sense of gratitude for the good things in your life can actually have many concrete health benefits.

Which brings us to Thanksgiving: silly perhaps to have a holiday to remind us to be grateful for our blessings, but it doesn't hurt to be reminded of something we need to be doing every day. I love Thanksgiving, not least because I enjoy the food preparation, traditions and the shared meal. But it is also a holiday that is not so commercialized; a holiday whose original meaning is not obfuscated by layers and layers of ancilliary trappings. (Which might only be because it is such a young holiday, but the why of this point isn't really my concern here). It is a great opportunity to practice concious gratitude, and hopefully it can be a jumping-off place for us to remember to practice gratitude on a daily basis.

Be thankful- it's good for you!

Gratitude part 2: an article.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Gratitude part 2: an article.
Current mood: tired

This is an article that was sent to a yahoo group I'm in, and it directly relates to some of my earlier blog post today. I thought I'd reprint it here for you.

Hearth & Soul
Jean G. Fitzpatrick

How Kids Learn Gratitude
There are simple ways to cultivate your child's natural thankfulness.

Moments of thankfulness open our hearts to joy, fill us with peace,
connect us to those around us. They help us feel blessed.

Recently, scientists have been taking a closer look at how positive
emotions affect us. Barbara Fredrickson, for example, a psychology
professor at the University of Michigan, has found that cultivating
gratitude may actually undo the effects of negative emotions such as
anger and anxiety.
Too often, though, when we try to teach our children thankfulness we
go about it in surprisingly negative ways. We wait until moments when
we're worried we have spoiled them for life. "You ought to be grateful
for all the stuff you have," we tell them angrily after we have
tripped over their toys for the 10th time.

Or we teach thankfulness as "reverse envy." I once heard a
particularly grumpy Sunday school teacher lead a class in a prayer
that was a classic of the genre. "Thank you, Jesus, for all the things
we have," she said dourly, as her class of kindergartners bowed their
heads, hands folded. "Because we know that there are so many other
children who have no parents and no toys and no clothes and no nice
house." The underlying idea here is that we ought to value our
possessions because others don't have them--an approach more likely to
inspire guilt than gratitude.

The reverse-envy approach was studied by researchers at Southern
Methodist University and the University of California at Davis, using
three groups of volunteers. One group kept a daily log of five hassles
or complaints. The second group wrote down five ways in which they
thought they were better off than their peers. And the third group
wrote down five things each day for which they were grateful.

After three weeks, those in the group who kept gratitude lists
reported having more energy, fewer health problems, and a greater
feeling of well-being than those who complained or gloated.

What's the best way to help children experience the heart-expanding
effects of gratitude?
Here are some simple ways to help children cultivate gratitude on a
daily basis.

Give thanks in prayer. Set aside a regular time for thank-you prayers,
before dinner or breakfast, or at bedtime. Give thanks for small
things--finding a colorful fall leaf on the driveway, getting over a
cold, seeing the dog do a funny thing. Young children are naturally
thankful, according to Montessori teacher Sofia Cavalletti. She writes
in "The Religious Potential of the Child," "The prayer of children
up to the age of seven or eight is almost exclusively prayer of
thanksgiving and praise."

Say thank you to your family. Research suggests that people are
actually more likely to express their thanks to strangers or
acquaintances than to their own family members or peers, according to
the National Institute for Healthcare Research. But when parents show
appreciation to one another, to their children, and to other people in
their lives, children learn to do the same thing. When your child does
a household chore--even if it's one of his or her assigned tasks--say
thank you. When your partner does something considerate, express your

Slow down and smell the roses. Babies and toddlers are fascinated by
sights and sounds and smells, from the color red to a ringing bell to
cookies in the oven. The older we get, the more oblivious we become to
the everyday sensory pleasures of the world we live in. When we pause
to enjoy them, we regain the openness that is an essential part of
gratitude. Make sure your child doesn't spend so much time with
electronic entertainment that he or she misses out on the tactile joys
of flowers, plants, crayons, paint, music, and dancing.

Create a year-round thanksgiving spot. This is a home altar of sorts.
Find a convenient but safe place--the refrigerator door, a bulletin
board, or a small table or shelf. Make this a special spot for things
you are thankful for--pictures of people you love, souvenirs and
memorabilia, handmade treasures, and, of course, your child's artwork.
Invite your child to add his or her own items, and set aside time now
and then to admire the objects and pictures together.

Teach your child to write thank-you notes. Even if kids write them on
a computer, thank-you notes means more when they specifically mention
the gift and say something appreciative about it. Writing thank-you
notes to coaches, teachers, baby-sitters, neighbors, clergy, and other
caring adults helps a child appreciate all the people who care about
him or her (and it's a nice antidote to the complaints most adults hear).

Keep a gratitude journal. One way to help your child develop
thankfulness is to cultivate it in yourself. In a notebook, write down
three to five things you're thankful for every day. Keep the focus
small and specific--give thanks for a child's patience during a long
wait, for a pan of brownies that turned out well, for a good joke
someone told at lunch. You may wish to share the journal with your child.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

Friday, November 17, 2006


Thursday, November 16, 2006

Current mood: crappy

I like the sound of rain on the roof, and the wind in the branches outside. I was awake last night when it started, gently at first with a sound like the house settling, building quickly to an intense steady pour. The house was quiet and cool; we were warm and snug under the blankets. The rain hummed me to sleep.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

all over the map tonight

Monday, November 13, 2006

all over the map tonight
Current mood: disappointed

"I am a big boy."
"Yes you are, sweetie."
"I have to get bigger so I can have a skateboard."
"Well yes, you are still too small to have a skateboard."
"Yes I have to get bigger and then I will get a skateboard, and I will ride it on the ramps. I will ride it on the BIG ramps, and I will carry my skateboard like this." (he demonstrates) "Hmm, what kind of skateboard will I get? Oh I will get one with a skeleton. My skateboard will have a skeleton on it and I will ride it on the big ramps when we go to the mall. I will have a skateboard and carry it like this."
"Wow, well OK when you get bigger you might be able to do all that."

* * *

Tonight I was all set to go to yoga again. We're supposed to meet my neighbor there. Diaper bag packed, kids fed, running late but can still make it on time. Sweetcheeks is dressed and ready; I'm helping Littleman dress quickly. I reach for his shoes. Not there. I quickly search around. Nowhere in sight. Littleman (of course) doesn't remember where they are. I rush about, grousing and still hoping to get out of the house in time, but still I can't find them. I run outside and look in the car. I call Billy on the off chance that he knows where they are, but no luck. (He helpfully suggests that I check the freezer). I continue looking, though I am realizing we're not likely to make it by now. Finally I do discover them, in the dirty clothes hamper. I don't know why Littleman decided they needed to go in there. We are actually buckled into the car, engine running, before I make a final realistic assesment of the time and decide there's not much point in going- the class would be half over. Dammit.

We drove around the block for the hell of it and came back inside. I left a message for my neighbor to explain our absence, and while the boys munched the goldfish crackers I'd packed for them, I at least do some yoga to a DVD in the living room. Even without the ever-present interruptions and distractions here, the DVDs are just not the same as going to a class. I'm not sure if it's that a class is more challenging (usually), or that I have an easier time relaxing when I am somewhere else and I am just following instruction. But in any case the DVDs, though better than nothing, do not leave me feeling as good as if I've just done a good yoga class. Sigh.

After my yoga DVD, I put on Winged Migration for the boys while I ate dinner. I've not pulled out that movie in a long while, and both boys were entranced. That was nice. Littleman even continued to watch it as I put Sweetcheeks to bed. I'm glad they enjoy it.

* * *

Tonight I am grateful for tea, for finding things that were lost, leftovers for dinner (ah so easy!) and for strong foundations.

* * *

Musing on homeschooling: there is always the question of "socialization". People think homeschooling can be bad for children because they do not get a chance to "socialize". Well, what does it mean to "socialize" someone? The American Heritage Dictionary offers three definitions. To "socialize" someone can mean: "To make fit for companionship with others; make sociable." OK. But "socialize" also means: "To place under government or group ownership or control", and "To convert or adapt to the needs of society." Yes, I'd say public schools definitely strive to "socialize" children. Let's just say that I don't think "socialization" is all it's cracked up to be.

* * *

I think that's enough random postings for tonight. :)

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

On yoga, and the beauty of knowing your neighbors.

Monday, November 06, 2006

On yoga, and the beauty of knowing your neighbors.
Current mood: refreshed

We've lived in this neighborhood for 5 years, and for most of that time (has it really been 4 years??) I've been active in the neighborhood association. Also for most of that time, the other active members (always the same hardy souls) could be counted on one hand. We have really struggled to keep things going, as this is a voluntary association and people generally don't do jack-shit unless they have to. So we were always strapped for cash and starved of feedback or participation.

Still, we've continued to limp along. Gradually we started getting a few new semi-regulars to the meetings and the occasional event. With dedicated door-to-door volunteers, we got the word out in person and added more paying members. We even have managed (barely) to get enough families to join the pool so that we could afford to keep the pool open. Next year looks even better. Partly this is from the dedication of all the active members, and partly it's due to new, younger families moving in that are interested in meeting their new neighbors.

But the really gratifying thing for me is to go to a social event sponsored by the neighborhood association, and actually see a lot of neighbors there enjoying themselves. People who would probably never have met are making friends, having fun and helping each other out. For instance, for Halloween we had a bonfire, s'mores and a haunted trail. It was great!! There were so many kids, and I saw lots of familiar faces from around the neighborhood- plus some newcomers! Everyone had fun. On Halloween night, we had a hay ride cruise slowly around the neighborhood to accompany the trick-or-treaters. I was passing out candy at home, and had more trick-or-treaters than we've ever had. This sort of thing is exactly why I wanted to be involved in a neighborhood association to begin with.

Getting back to the point of my blog entry, while helping at the bonfire I was chatting with some other ladies about the gym nearby. One of the ladies has a membership there, and mentioned that she really likes the weekly yoga class. I mentioned how much I miss yoga, which I love. She invited me to go along with her as a guest, but I said I'd have to come up with a babysitter first. When she told me there is on-site childcare, I said "Sold!"

We went tonight, and I am SO glad I did. I liked the class, and though I am way out of practice I was not as stiff as I expected I'd be. It helps that the class is a little less strenuous than my old yoga classes, without being too easy either. Mr. Cheeks was less than thrilled with me being gone an hour, but hopefully he will adjust. Poor kid. We'll see how that goes. I have unlimited use of the gym for 3 days, and after that I think I can continue going as a guest for $5 per class, if I am accompanied by a member. I need to check on that.

I just love that, by knowing my neighbors, this opportunity has come up for me to renew my regular yoga practice. I'd probably have never looked into what the gym offered if I hadn't been chatting with my neighbors over a bonfire on a fun October night.

Saturday, November 4, 2006

rocking to sleep

Friday, November 03, 2006

rocking to sleep
Current mood: happy

Densely packed, soft, humid miracle- sweeter than honey, than angels or pumpkin pie, sweeter than all the treacle cliches that come to mind. Halo of downy curls glowing into my neck, fingers that humble me, delicious, delicious juicy knees and the breath of god- as mist that thunders off a waterfall, as a butterfly lights on jasmine, as the moss that cushions footfalls in the hush of twilight. Nothing so elemental, nothing so fundamental, nothing so pure as this treasure melted into my arms, this love manifest, this ancient creature, this baby.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

fall color, delegating and a busy schedule

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

fall color, delegating and a busy schedule
Current mood: full

Wow, the leaves in the mountains yesterday were GORGEOUS. If you get a chance this week to drive around in North GA and check out the fall color, I highly recommend it. They are prettier than I recall seeing for the past few years. We had a lovely hike (planted a new letterbox, too!) and I got some great pictures. Plus I got to share a caramel apple with my boy. How fun is that? ;)

I think I need to learn how to delegate effectively. Which is something I've known, but not really understood until recently. It's a skill I'll have to practice.

Whew, we have a busy week coming up. Starting Wednesday night, it's non-stop Halloween and birthday (Littleman's 3rd!) festivities for awhile. Billy's sister joked that Littleman needs his own mini daytimer! (Pictorial, of course). It's wild that even when I try to keep things low key and easygoing, we can end up with a non-stop schedule sometimes. Makes me wonder who I'm trying to please. . . but I know it will be fun, and we'll all be glad we did it.

I thought about writing creatively tonight, but I am too tired. (And a little muddled with a glass of wine). Had a nice dinner with my sis, who doesn't see her nephews enough. (eh, G? ;) ) It was fun.

Fading. . . fast. . . still must check laundry. . .

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Spiced Pound Cake

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Spiced Pound Cake
Current mood: satisfied

Been busy busy busy (so what else is new?)

I love October- I like the color, the cool weather and that crystal clear quality in the light. Plus of course, it is Littleman's birthday month and Halloween! But it is a busy month for me.

Wow, I'm rather distracted by H. Johnson's show on public radio- he's playing something by Rufus Harley. (guessing on spelling). A jazz bagpiper. Ain't never heard nothin' like that before.

Anyhow. . .
I haven't updated frequently, not only because I've been busy but because I haven't been "called" to do so. I'm interested to note that despite the lack of fresh posts, my blog still has several hits over this past week. Thank you all for continuing to read- it keeps me writing even when I might otherwise slack off until I quit entirely. I feel like I should keep a supply of fresh posts for my loyal readers, LOL! But therein lies the beauty of a blog- the interactive format, however abstract, is an automatic incentive to keep it going.

I tried a new pound cake recipe yesterday (for a bake sale held at Littleman's school) and it's quite yummy- here it is, in honor of Autumn:

Spiced Pound Cake:
1/2 lb (2 sticks) softened unsalted butter
2 c cake flour (or all-purpose)
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg (fresh grated, if you have it)
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1 c sugar
5 eggs
1 Tbs bourbon (or 2 tsp vanilla extract)

- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9x5" loaf pan, coat lightly with flour and set aside.
- Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and spices in a bowl and set aside.
- Use an electric mixer to cream the butter until it is very smooth. Add about half the sugar, mix well and then add remaining sugar. Beat until the mixture is fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl if necessary. Separate the eggs and beat the yolks into the mixture one at a time. (Reserve egg whites).
- Using a spoon blend the dry ingredients into the butter-sugar mixture just until smooth; do not overmix and do not beat. Add the bourbon and stir until blended.
- Beat the egg whites until they hold soft peaks. Fold them into the cake batter gently but thoroughly.
- Turn batter into the loaf pan and bake for about 1 1/4 hours, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cake rest in the pan about 5 minutes before inverting it onto a rack. Turn cake right side up and allow to cool before slicing.

I got this recipe from How To Cook Everything by Mark Bittman. A great cookbook!

If you make it, I'd love to know how it turned out for you. It sold well at the bake sale. :)

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

a carp encounter

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

a carp encounter
Current mood: pleased

The Carp as a spirit guide (gleaned from a google search, so take it for what it's worth):

- Symbolizes courage, true love, foresight and the ability to attain high goals
- Encourages overcoming life's obstacles leading to consequent success

What an encouraging and aproppriate message for me, considering how overwhelmed I can get with all the things I hope to acheive.

- Fish in general symbolize good luck and prosperity, so that's a nice reinforcement.

Then I looked up Salmon, which I have a more in-depth reading of, and which is likely to carry similar symbology to Carp because they share some key characteristics, most importantly that they both swim far upstream to spawn. Salmon's tradition rounds out the reading nicely:

- (from the Druid Animal Oracle) "Braden brings not only wisdom but youthfulness and inspiration, but remember that to find these things you must maintain an attitude of openness and innocence rather than strong-headed determination."

So I have here reinforcement of my goals, encouragement to attain them and a suggestion on how to get there. Nice!

* * *
This all stems from my rather magical encounter with a monstrous carp last Sunday. I was relaxing all by myself (amazed? I was) in my kayak in the small lake at Billy's parents' place. It's a lovely spot anyway, but it's particularly special to me because Billy and I were married there, on a dock over that lake. Anyhow I'd paddled around for awhile, and was happily sitting back, just drifting aimlessly and daydreaming in the middle of the lake. A motion caught my eye, and I peered to see what it was- turtle? beaver? snake? fish? Interestingly enough, it was a dorsal fin- swimming lazily, poking out of the water shark-style. It wasn't huge of course, but I could tell it would have to be a pretty big fish. I decided to see if I could paddle for a closer look without scaring it away.

One of the lovely things about a kayak is that you can get around very unobtrusively, so quiet that you can observe wildlife more easily. It took me a long time to get very close, since I was being so careful and the fish was swimming away from me. When I did finally get alongside though, I was amazed- nose to tail, the thing was probably almost as long as I am tall. It was a huge lake carp. I drifted next to it for a few minutes before it suddenly noticed me, and vanished. It was beautiful encounter.

Sunday, October 1, 2006

nature trail

Saturday, September 30, 2006

nature trail
Current mood: calm

The trees meet overhead, creating a tall tunnel for the nature trail. Plenty of light streams through, illuminating select trunks and dappling the gravel path, dancing through the undergrowth like half-seen sprites in the forest. Every once in awhile I zip past an opening in the knotted plantlife to my left, and brief vistas of rich wetland flick past my vision before being swallowed by the trees again. I stop the bike at a particularly nice view and admire the woven stretches of water and grasses- vibrant greens fading to muted gold, ochre and some lavender. Groups of pines tower here and there, and farther down I can just see the tangled construct of a beaver dam. Last time we were here it was evening, and the cricket, frog and owlsong swelled as a huge blue heron took flight. Magic, magic. The veil is not so thin now, in early afternoon. But it is beautiful nonetheless.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

What are public schools for?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

What are public schools for?
Current mood: groggy

Well, the boys are in bed early tonight. Littleman was very sick yesterday, out of the blue. He couldn't even keep water down. Finally after another puke around 2 am I was able to very gradually introduce some diluted Gatorade, and it stayed down. He slept well after that and today has been his normal self again! WTF?? Well I am glad it resolved so well so quickly. I have still been cautious with what he eats and drinks, but it almost seems like he was never sick. I may even let him go to montessori tomorrow.

Anyway, so here it's barely 9 and I am "free". I'm exhausted though, from dealing with Littleman last night and then (when he was finally settled) helping Sweetcheeks who woke several times in the night. I got a broken nap this afternoon but I think it just left me more groggy. I think I will just do some minimal tidying, put the pot of homemade chicken soup in the fridge (mm, the house smells good!), take a nice hot bath and go to bed.

Before that however, I wanted to share a quote I found in one of the homeschooling books I am reading. It is giving some background information on how public schools began in the United States, most of which I now recall studying but had forgotten. Horace Mann was one of the reformers who advocated a new public schooling system.

He recommended common schools to produce urban workers who would be "more orderly and respectful in their deportment, and more ready to comply with the wholesome and necessary regulations of an establishment".

There you have it, folks- that's what public schools are for. And they are generally very good at it, aren't they?

Saturday, September 23, 2006

a quiet breath

Saturday, September 23, 2006

a quiet breath
Current mood: peaceful

Well, once again I've gone blogAWOL for awhile- sorry! No guilt, vacations or major life events to point to, I've just been too busy and it wasn't on my mind.

Now that I'm here, I can't think what to write, LOL! That's what happens when I slack for awhile- without regular exercise, my writing self starts feel stiff and out of shape.

Still it's nice to sit for just a moment and try to stretch my mind a little, or at least take a calm breath and watch the sunny branches dance in the breeze outside my window. The boys are asleep, conked out after a fun trip to the playground with friends this morning. The house is cool and quiet, with public radio softly broadcasting opera in the background. I can take the time and attention to observe these things, which usually go unnoticed in the backdrop of my busy days. There are so many things I want to do that I have not, so many things I want to finish that I can't seem to find the time for, so many things that I want to do better or more often than I do now. But I must remind myself, even ad nauseum (for it's so soon that I forget. . .) that these quiet moments for "nothing" are vital. They should not be lightly cast aside, nor taken for granted. Ah, blessed peace.

Monday, September 11, 2006

a hike

Sunday, September 10, 2006

a hike
Current mood: good

The grass is soft, and long enough to tickle my back where my shirt rides up. There is only a breath of a breeze, but the day is not too hot. As the sun sinks it turns the light golden, and I gaze out at the mountains around us. The bird rises into view again, coasting gracefully on the thermals, sailing and circling with no visible effort. As it wheels slowly overhead I point it out to Sweetcheeks, who focuses on the bird and watches it with improbable concentration for a one year old. He is relaxed and seems very happy out here, touching the earth and sky. He turns to me suddenly with a delighted grin, and points at the bird. Then he points at the trees, whispering his little baby language to me. Next it's the mountains, then a nearby rock. He pats the ground and rolls off my lap to crawl through the soft, long dry grass that arches over his head. I keep an eye on him while he explores.

I hear Littleman and Billy wandering back up the trail, where they'd gone to explore. Soon we'll need to hike back down the mountain, and I'll dawdle with Littleman as we examine mushrooms, oak trees, bird sound and pools of orange sunlight. He is so interested in these things, and it's a joy to answer his questions. "That one's a maple tree", and "I don't know what the bears are doing, sweetie. Probably finding things to eat. They like to eat berries (especially blackberries, around here), grubs and old meat." Then he tells me a story about how a bear will come right here and talk to him- it will tell him where the campfire is on the mountain, and that soon it will be going to sleep. He'll understand the bear, and then tell me what the bear said. I say "Wow" and really mean it, though not in the way he thinks. Wow. How cool to be here, how wonderful to share this time and place with our boys, how amazing to show these delights to them and to spark original questions and stories in return. Wow. What a true blessing we have.

Friday, September 8, 2006

Over the river and through the woods, to Grandma's house we go

Friday, September 08, 2006

Over the river and through the woods, to Grandma's house we go
Current mood: numb

Yesterday, I took the boys to visit Grandma and Grandpa. Littleman's cousin (the one closest in age) was there, and the boys would get to play together and drive the battery-powered jeeps around the property. We planned to stay for dinner, get Littleman ready for bed and drive home at a reasonable bedtime, since Littleman had Montessori to get to this morning.

I brought a quilt I have been working on (read: a quilt that has been sitting around, that I keep meaning to work on) since I was pregnant with Sweetcheeks, and a book I am reading. Ha ha ha. Who was I kidding? It was one minor emergency after another. Potty training accidents, an episode with a goo-filled toy that sprung a leak all over Mr. Cheeks (is it toxic? did he eat any? I don't know. . .) and the resulting baths, a rebellious toddler and a tired baby who positively refuses to nap, and constant surviellance in a home that's not baby-proofed. By the time we'd finished dinner and I was helping clean up, I was ready to go. Probably, Grandma and Grandpa were looking forward to some peace as well. I got the boys ready to go and picked up a couple things to load in the car.

I couldn't find my keys. They were not on the table, and I remembered I'd seen them under the table on the floor when I was sweeping after dinner. (By the time I'd swept my pile into the dustpan and tossed it, I'd already forgotten about my keys. My attention span is SHOT). I figured Mr. Sweetcheeks had taken them when he was playing under the table. It had been less than an hour- they couldn't have gone far.

We turned that house upside down. We searched for three solid hours before giving up for the night and going to bed. (Isn't it fun to stay the night someplace when you absolutely did not pack for it? Especially with two young children? One of whom will be missing school in the morning because you can't find your keys?) Before turning in finally I had to tape plastic over my open car windows, since there was no way I could roll them up. I'm glad it didn't rain after all. Luckily Littleman slept well, but Sweetcheeks woke several times throughout the night. In the morning, we still couldn't find the keys.

After a few phone calls (Billy helped from home) we decided I should get to a Subaru dealership to have new keys made. I figured I'd get a couple copies, and not buy a new keyless entry remote since I still hoped my keys would turn up somewhere (and it would have cost $60!). Grandma decided to forgo a luncheon she was supposed to attend, and amidst my car alarm sounding I managed to remove the car seats from my car and install them in Grandma's van. (The car alarm shut itself off eventually, thank goodness). I'd not had breakfast, but we were in a hurry. We all drove the long way to the nearest Subaru dealer, and luckily it was pretty quick and painless to show them the required information and get the new keys made.

On the way back to Grandma's, Grandpa called to say he'd found my keys upstairs in his office. (!) We are still scratching our heads over that one. It can only have been Littleman or his cousin, who went upstairs with Grandma for just a couple minutes the night before. It doesn't take much. Though I am beginning to favor a more supernatural explanation, since I often have trouble finding my keys there and I do not have this problem elsewhere. Grandma and Grandpa have lost at least one key there and it's a total mystery. I think one of the spirits/ghosts who lives there must like keys, and enjoys moving them about to drive us crazy. Anyhow that's my explanation. ;)

SO, at least now I have a couple working spares, which I should have had to begin with. I fed the kids lunch and Grandma made her next appointment on time. I re-installed the car seats, loaded up the car and with the boys in their last clean articles of clothing (a shirt and underwear or diaper for each of them) we finally arrived home.

But wait! There's more! I get mostly unloaded, the kids are upstairs playing and I check my e-mail. Lo and behold, there's a reminder for a curriculum night at Littleman's school at 6 pm tonight. It's now 5:00. I'd completely forgotten. I really needed to be there, and I'd feel very guilty missing it because I've somehow managed to miss every other school presentation so far this year. I call, and discover they are not providing childcare. Argh. So I start phone calling, trying to find someone to watch the boys for an hour or so.

I do find a babysitter, I hastily pack the diaper bag and get them dressed, drop them off at my neighbor's house, and make the meeting (only 20 minutes late! Ha!). I'm glad I went- it was enjoyable and enlightening. Only a glass of wine would have improved things, LOL. I picked up happy boys from cheerful sitters (who watched the boys longer than an hour for me), paid my $20 and went home. Dinner, bath and bedtime later, I am finally at the end of my story here. Whew. I am glad to be home.

Tuesday, September 5, 2006


Monday, September 04, 2006

Current mood: cheerful

I've been reading up on homeschooling, and it's getting me excited about the prospect all over again. You see, once upon a time I was an education major in college, and the more I learned about learning the more I was bewildered by our public school system. How can we know so much about how children learn best, and yet be applying so little of that knowledge in our public schools? I started looking for alternatives- how could we teach better, how could we meet the needs of children, and not squelch their innate love of learning?

In one of my education classes I got the opportunity to do extensive research on any area of education, and I decided to delve into John Holt and his ideas. John Holt was a pioneer of "unschooling", a term he coined to better describe homeschooling's true reach and strengths. He was a very strong and vocal supporter of homeschooling at a time when it was not well regarded by the general population here in the States. His ideas and research resonated with me in a way that none of my other research or reading on education had done. Here was a way to meet the needs of children, to stoke the flames of their curiosity and nurture their need to learn! It's by far the best method of education I can imagine. Right then and there I was certain that I would try to homeschool my children, whenever I was blessed with that opportunity in my future.

So, here I am! It's the future, and I have two beautiful boys, and one of them is now preschool age. Time to dip my toe in the waters, and see how best to go about accomplishing this long-held goal I've nurtured. But I've been looking at my life now, and worrying about my time- I am already stretched; how can I possibly devote the time I should devote to something as important as my child's education? I've been feeling weighed down, like I am swimming upstream in an overcoat and boots. How can I ever make any headway? How can I ever pile on more responsibilities than I already carry?

Reading some of these books has been very reassuring. In reality, I am already doing much of what I need to do. It comes naturally- as a matter of fact, homeschooling is natural. Most parents do it as a matter of course whenever they are with their children. As the children get older it takes more effort to incorporate their advanced studies, but with practice that homeschooling comes easily. I am remembering why I was so enthralled by the idea to begin with. As usual, a trip to the library is the first step to my confident tackling of a new project!

Sunday, September 3, 2006


Saturday, September 02, 2006

Current mood: drained

I was listening to The News From Lake Wobegone on the radio tonight, and it seemed to me that the story ended just a little too neatly. (I'm sure it was partly just my mood, as Garrison Keillor isn't exactly known for complicated plot lines). But it bugged me a little bit, and I thought, "Life is too complicated for that". I felt a bit cheated, like the real story would have been messier and more interesting.

But then I wondered if that's true: is life complicated? It sure feels complicated a lot of the time. We can certainly make it complicated. Certainly my perception of life is often complicated. But these things aren't necessarily reality- just because life seems complicated doesn't mean it is. It is my opinion that life is actually very simple.

I have to remind myself that the details are only that: details. This doesn't mean that they are not important; it only means they are just a small part of the big picture, and the big picture is gloriously uncomplicated. Life is not in the details. Life is the big picture. Am I happy? Are my loved ones happy? Am I walking towards something better than where I am? And, am I leaving things better than I found them? I think that might just cover it for me.

At least, for right now. I am tired and I need to go to bed.

Friday, August 18, 2006

just a hello

Friday, August 18, 2006

just a hello
Current mood: guilty

Sorry, I have not kept up with the blog as well as I'd like over the past several days- I am very busy, and in addition I've been feeling really guilty whenever I sit down to do something for myself. On the one hand I know how important it is for me to try and keep in touch with myself and my own interests, but on the other hand I have some serious expectations to live up to and I've been feeling like I am not measuring up. Hell, I know I am not measuring up, I just don't know if it's impossible or if it's because I'm doing something wrong. But in any case I have not been taking much time for myself lately, and the blog certainly falls under that category.

So, I'm starting to feel like I'm wasting time here, and I think I will go do some more laundry.
But I did want to check in since it's been awhile.

Tuesday, August 8, 2006

on toddler persistence, dog grooming and a writer's details

Monday, August 07, 2006

on toddler persistence, dog grooming and a writer's details
Current mood: lonely

There are few things as maddeningly persistent as a 3 year old. Often the maddening part is that whatever it is he is persisting in, makes no logical sense to me at all. From my utterly unenlightened adult perspective, this most irritating repetition is absolutely pointless. Perhaps the fact that it is irritating IS the point, but I hope not. I hope he is merely testing some parameter of his existence, and not deliberately pushing my buttons. Oh, wait- deliberately pushing my buttons IS a means of testing the parameters of his existence. Sigh. Knowing it has some sort of point doesn't really make it less irritating, though. I've been gritting my teeth and looking heavenward a lot more than I used to, these days. At least he is usually cheerful about it, even if I am not.

Why is it that the fur of a dog's hindquarters is the part that most needs thorough brushing, when it is the part most dogs least like having brushed?

I've been reading a Martha Grimes mystery novel. She is surprisingly little known it seems, and she is one of my favorite authors. She has a series of mystery novels featuring a Scotland Yard detective named Richard Jury, in case you want to look them up at your library. There are so many little things about her style that I enjoy. It seems every time I read another book in the series, I notice something else clever, interesting or skillful that she has done. For instance, the books are written in third person. The reader may follow Jury through the story, or any other character she chooses to send you with. Jury is a handsome man, with a certain inexplicable charisma. I noticed recently that while the reader is with Jury, the people (especially women) that he interacts with behave differently than they do when we are following a different character through the story- Jury's friend Melrose Plant, for instance. In Jury's presence, woman characters often primp in an automatic, distracted sort of way. The way Grimes includes this behavior is very subtle- I have read many of these novels, and only just noticed what has been going on. The effect is to very subtly reinforce what we know of our main characters, and sometimes to shed a small light on the peculiarities of bit players. When the reader is with Plant, most of these other characters lose this nervous behavior. (Though they may have different subtle reactions to Plant). It's very skillfully done, and I'm interested to note it because I've always thought characterization is one of Grimes' strongest points.

Wednesday, August 2, 2006

brief side trip

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

brief side trip
Current mood: busy

LOL, Sweetcheeks over there has just discovered that if he rocks the side of the playpen just right, it creaks in a most gratifying way. He is creak-creak-creaking it and giggling like crazy. :)

I think he made me forget what I was going to write about.

It is hot. HOT. Hot and muggy. Thank goodness for air conditioning, but I still think my head is heat-addled. Skedaddle. 'Twould be nice to cool my heels in a mountain stream right about now. Water so cold I lose sensation in my toes for a moment. The cool, sweet smell of wet leaves and fresh spring water. A light, warm breeze to set things off just right. Dappled shade, a dearth of mosquitoes and a comfortable rock to lean on. Ahh. Sounds good to me.

Guess I'll go do some laundry instead. :P Oh, well! :)

Saturday, July 29, 2006

another day slips past me

Friday, July 28, 2006

another day slips past me
Current mood: restless

I'd just like to reiterate: it's truly amazing how the day just disappears, and it's late at night and I feel as if I've accomplished nearly nothing. I've been busy all day (sometimes ridiculously so) and yet here before me are almost everything on my to-do list, still yet to be crossed out. How can two small children- two reasonably good small children- require SO much time and energy? It's easy to laugh off as an old truism that small children take time, but holy shit, is it ever true! Sometimes I feel so overwhelmed with everything that is expected of me- I know it's not possible for me to do it all. I'm just doing the best I can, while trying to hang onto my sanity.

A funny side note is that part of what takes me so long sometimes is Littleman's new avid interest in "helping". On the one hand, I am really glad for his interest, and I really want to encourage the idea. On the other hand, it would be so much faster for me to do it myself. But it's wonderful for him to fold laundry, swiffer the floor, dust and put away dishes. It makes him feel grown-up and helpful, like he is a productive member of the household. It is training him in how to do these things, so he can do them well when he is older. It helps him develop all sorts of areas, including hand-eye coordination, gross motor skills, social skills, sensory awareness, and other things like sorting and symmetry, for instance. And it's something he can participate in without his little brother dividing my attention. I'm glad of these things and this is an important part of his homeschooling, but ~sigh~ it does slow me down. Still, it's very cool.

Ghiradelli makes the best brownie mix ever. Period.

My back hurts.

This morning, Billy was trying to get Littleman to say to me, "I'll give you the first million dollars I make" or something to that effect. (As an addendum to "please"). Littleman obediently starts to repeat it back, but stops himself and shakes his head. "No, I can't" he told me. LOL!

Tonight I am grateful for help, for a potty-trained toddler (yea!), for herbal tea and for my husband. :)

Monday, July 24, 2006

Lessons from the Cove

Monday, July 24, 2006

Lessons from the Cove
Current mood: pleased

It's not hard to imagine a life here. Without electricity, without running water. With few neighbors and little contact outside of the cove. I can imagine growing up here, free to roam the fields and forest as you please. Helping with chores and playing with siblings and cousins, making up things to do because there is no electric box around to entertain a passive mind. I'm sure it was a hard life, lonely and dangerous. But it was a life steeped in beauty, rooted to the Earth (gee that sounds so cliche but I mean it), and full of purpose. A life connected to the land around you and the people you depended on.

I am sure my rose-tinted glasses make it all seem much more wonderful than it felt at the time (as I have mentioned before, I'm not sure I'd relish laundry without a washer and dryer, for instance), but I do think there is so much to be learned in that way of life that we are missing in today's world. It would be nice to have your cake and eat it too, to live those experiences without the danger, the loneliness, the gossip or the stifling feeling it can instill. But of course it is precisely some of these things that help build character and self-reliance, the creativity and a sense of belonging. Without the hardships, many of the rewards are lost.

I guess the best thing to do is to try and recreate the best aspects of that life, discarding the isolation and some of the physical hardships. Become connected to the land. Wherever you are, it's possible, and in addition I think it's important to wander wilder landscapes as well. Teach yourself and our children about the Earth, about self-reliance (practical in any environment) and responsibility (to oneself and to the universe, in the sense that making your own small sphere of influence ring true will help sound echoes of harmony in the wider world). Stay connected, stay purposeful. Try to discard the distractions, if you dare (I'm not sure I do. . .) Let the children be bored sometimes. Force them to be creative. Little things regain their meaning. Let them contribute to their world; help them be useful and productive. Give them unstructured time and help them accomplish what they want to do with that time, if they need help. (Today we do not have the skills that used to be commonplace. Could you go make a working kite right now? Would you know how to fish? Do you remember jump rope games? Do you know how to build a raft? And the most important question for you today: Do you know how to learn?)

I don't think these are just idyllic, outdated pasttimes. I think they hold real value, true lessons that can not be found at Toy R Us or even on the neighborhood block anymore. And I think adults today would benefit just as much (often more) from returning to these pursuits than our kids will. Try it. I hope I remember to.

Thursday, July 20, 2006


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Current mood: creative

I stretch my legs out before me, rolling my shoulders back and pointing my toes toward the fire. I relax, breathing a deep sigh of warm, humid sweet mountain air. The sun has long since retired for the evening, but the moon is ripe and round, and her silvery shine mingles nicely with the golden red glow from the flames. The occasional sparks dance weightlessly up to kiss her, fading into nothingness somewhere beyond the branches overhead. I feel a little stiff from the bike ride today, but under that feeling my body has the liquid warmth I get from a good, active day- a certain suppleness that I don't realize I've been missing until I get it back. I feel good. Conversation continues around me, but I am leaning back to peer up through branches toward the winking stars. Toasty toes, cool air on my neck and the smell of wood smoke, moist forest and lingering cooking smells in my nose. The cricketts are creaking their summer song all around as the fire hisses and pops gently. We have not heard the wolves on this trip, as we once did camping here several years ago. Perhaps they are less vocal in the summer? But I sense a movement out of the corner of my eye and cock my ear for the soft whoosh of our resident wild spirit. The huge owl, like so many animals here, is relatively unconcerned with the trivial activities of the human visitors. She swoops through the campsite nightly on her hunting rounds. I get goose bumps as I watch her. A powerful totem animal, the owl. Laughter calls my attention back to our little gathering. Soon it will be time to turn in, and try to get some elusive rest this night. (Much as we are enjoying ourselves, Littleman is the only one in our little party who has been sleeping well this trip). I am tired, and the trip has been hard as well as fun. (Sometimes, more hard than fun- camping with kids is a new experience for us!) But I am grateful for this moment, for the people around me and for the memories we will carry forth from this week. I smile to myself wondering what seminal impressions we are cultivating in the kids- hopefully, they will reap the greatest rewards. Regardless, I am very glad to be here.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Sorry kid, the potty's all done

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Sorry kid, the potty's all done
Current mood: tired

The campground has facilities with running water, sinks and toilets (but no showers). Littleman was too busy most of the time to go potty (we went through a lot more diapers than he's been using at home) and we were slack (I admit) on pushing the issue. But he did go potty several times.

At one point he told me he needed to poop, so off we went. The toilets there have sensors that "know" when you've gotten up, and they then flush themselves. Sometimes they seem to flush randomly because they sense other movement. Littleman has never encountered this phenomenom before. We were in the stall, removing his shorts and diaper. This takes a little while, and the toilet apparently thought we'd gone so it flushed. Littleman was really startled, and said with real alarm: "But I want to go POOPY!!"

I had to reassure him that it was OK, he could still poop and we would just flush the potty again at the end. LOL!

* * * * *

I have more ideas on stuff I want to write for you, and some word crafting I'd like to do. But I am SOOOOO tired so this is it for now. I'm going to bed.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

I'm back!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

I'm back!
Current mood: busy

Sorry for disappearing- we were off camping in the Smokies for a week. It was a good trip! Littleman in particular had a really great time. I have been busy since we got back catching up on laundry, dishes and paperwork, not to mention all the other things on our calendar. I will blog as I find time. Now however, I really must get a few more things done.