Thursday, February 28, 2008

Yes, Sir!

Fine young gent, 5, the middle one. He's a quirky little guy. A still-waters-run-deep kid. Smart.

Today I was barking out orders, hustling everyone out the door. I pointed at him. "Shoes!" I said.

He stopped. Looked right at me. "Yes, sir!" he rapped out. Wicked little grin.

Did I ignore the attitude? Bawl him out for disrespect? Sweetly tell him that's not necessary?

"You'd darn well better salute me, young man, if you're going to call me 'Sir.' "

He saluted me for the rest of the day.

I could get used to this "Sir" thing.

Spring! Spring! Spring!


Blows the thaw-wind pleasantly,
Drips the soaking rain,
By fits looks down the waking sun;
Young grass springs on the plain;
Young leaves clothe early hedgerow trees;
Seeds, and roots, and stones of fruits,
Swollen with sap put forth their shoots;
Curled-headed ferns sprout in the lane;
Birds sing and pair again.


~from Spring by Christina Rossetti

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Random Ramblings

In Which We Go for a Nature Hike


In Which We Marvel at Spring

Spring hasn't exactly sprung, but it's springing! The tall trees were still bare and wintery, but the smaller trees below were doing this:
So lovely, seeing bright spots of green dotting the woods. It's hard to believe that a few weeks ago it was all snow and ice and stormy weather. The sun has been shining, the trees are budding and the birds are chorusing. Yesterday I went to call the boys in from a play break, and it was so fine outside that I couldn't bring myself to head back indoors. "Let's stay out here and let spring be our teacher," I said. The fine young gents cheered. I dug up the garden and turned the compost. We tethered the dog and let the chickens out to scratch around the yard. The gents took turns digging up worms and feeding them to the chickens.

In Which We Eat Rice, and Also in Which We Assert That We Haven't Damaged Our Child's Psyche...Too Much, Anyway

We served rice for dinner. Our rice hater said, "Rice! Can I have some? And do we have peas?"

(And a disclaimer related to the linked previous post: We did not laugh at our fine young gent. Not where he could hear us, at least. Nor did we insist that rice pass his lips in any way, shape or form, as we already know the futility of that battle. We did put rice on his plate and refuse to make him a sandwich. Then....we ignored him. Except for the camera.)

In Which The Moon is Eclipsed

We had front row seats to the dinner show. The lunar eclipse rose exactly outside our east-facing dining room window right at dinner time, so we ate dinner in the near-dark and watched the moon. After dinner the moon disappeared behind the neighbor's tall trees, so loving husband and I bundled the kids and walked to the church down the street to watch some more. It was lovely.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Brothers


Tuesday Ten:True Confessions


Ten Confessions on a Tuesday Morning

1. My house is not tidy. Yeah. Big surprise there, huh? Especially considering how many times I've written that I'd far rather play with the kids than clean. Let me state for the record, however, that my house is clean. Just not neat-as-a-pin tidy.

2. Sometimes I yell. I'm not proud of it, but there it is. I lose my patience. I can be grumpy, cross and easily frustrated. "Stop yelling at your brother!" I yelled yesterday. "No. More. Yelling!"

Oops.

3. I hate to play Candyland. Please don't tell. Littlest fine gent loooooooooves Candyland. It would break his little heart and send him careening into years of therapy as an adult if he discovers that his beloved Mama would rather hang upside-down by her earlobes than play Candyland.

Our old board was used one day as a diving board for stuffed dogs, and ripped down the middle. It still worked as long as we held the pieces together while we played, but someone (any guesses?) finally threw it away. What in heaven's name was going through my mind at Target the day I said to myself, "Heeeeeey. Levi's never played Candyland! I'll bet he'd looooooove to play!"

4. It was me. Mom, I broke the bird thingie in the yard, the one made by Grandpa Ed. I was eight. Nine, maybe. Then I lied about it when you asked me. Then I didn't say anything even though my sister got a spanking. I know I've already confessed it, but it's still one of my most vivid childhood memories, that awful feeling in my stomach when I told a thing that was not true, mingled with relief at not getting caught.

5. There are mealworms in my bathroom. In a jar of oatmeal, a science experiment. A science experiment with a lid. They're contained and harmless. But still, beetle larvae in the bathroom is a bit of a startling discovery when one is expecting towels or toilet paper, so I've decided to warn all potential guests. And a corollary....

6. I don't much care for bugs. We have mealworms in the bathroom cabinet, pupating cinnabar moths in a butterfly enclosure in the sewing room, the beginnings of a mounted insect collection, an upcoming study of the praying mantis, the creepiest-looking bug alive, that includes live praying mantises, and I've promised a fine young gent some crickets for his bug habitat. Given my druthers, bugs would stay outside where we can appreciate them from a distance. But I've got a fine young gent who begs to bring potato bugs inside and keep them for pets. He names them and he doesn't mind letting their tiny little legs crawl all over his palm. He's fascinated by spiders and catches them in jars for observation. I am resolved to let him explore his interests, and nothing can kill an interest more quickly than Mom getting all squeamish and shuddery and saying, "Ew!"

Plus this young gent is always up for a good prank. An ounce of prevention.... I figure I'm saving myself from future worms under my pillow.

7. Sometimes I forget to brush the boys' hair. You're no dummies. You've probably already figured that one out. I post lots of pictures. The fine young gents desperately need haircuts too. And I don't always keep their nails trimmed as neatly as I'd like. And sometimes their feet smell like toast. I do wash and polish my children once in a while, you know. But sometimes I forget.

8. I hated Eat, Pray, Love (Elizabeth Gilbert). There, I said it. My secret is out. Everyone I know who has recommended the book to me loved it. Raved about it. "It's so good!" they said. I don't doubt it is, really. I trust your judgement far better than my own. I kind of liked the "Eat" part. It was a little charming but....eh. "Keep going, the middle part is the best, the part about India." Like, four people told me this exact same thing. So I kept reading. When I got to the point at which I wanted to give the writer a good long shake every time I picked up the book, I quit. And I never....rarely....give up on a book. I don't think I've ever before given up on a book that's entertaining and well-written.

9. Sometimes when I'm alone, I talk to myself. Entire conversations, out loud. Sometimes I forget I'm not alone. Loving husband used to ask, "Who are you talking to?" Then he caught on, and he started asking, "Are you talking to yourself?" I always say "No!" indignantly. It's a lie. I am talking to myself. But I'm embarrassed. Now he's learned to ask, "Who are you talking to?" because I'm never really talking to myself. It's not embarrassing to mutter to oneself, "Let's see, where does this go? Oh, here it goes." It is embarrassing to get caught holding a conversation, discussion or debate with another person when they aren't present. Once I told loving husband, "I'm talking to you. And I don't want to talk about it right now."

I do win a lot more arguments that way. My biting wit and articulate reasoning seem to work best when I'm all alone and my conversational partner can only say things like, "Wow, you're so cool and smart." or "Gee, you're right. I'm so sorry."

10. Sometimes I say snarky things to my kids. But they're funny snarky things, so that makes it all right, doesn't it? Like yesterday when lovely lady moaned about having to "go in nature" and I remarked that in nature some mothers eat their young. I told her it was a good thing I'd just had a sandwich.

She didn't think it was funny.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

From My Inbox

From a lovely homeschool mom we know:

"Dear Friends,

I hope you are well and happy, and full of wonder these days!
As most of you are aware, I have a book coming out in the very near future and I wanted to take a minute to tell you a little bit more about it since I don’t get the opportunity to see many of you on a daily basis. The title is Child of Wonder: Nurturing Creative and Naturally Curious Children.

The book is getting good advance reviews, which obviously pleases me. I’m very excited to see it having such a positive impact on those who read it. A personal education “hero” of mine and prolific author of related education material, Jane M. Healy, PhD. said, “This delightful and useful book is a joyous antidote to the canned electronic amusements which stifle our kids’ creative juices. Parents and teachers who explore its wealth of ideas will benefit themselves, their children, and the future potential of our society.”

It has also been reviewed positively by a few parenting/education magazine editors, La Leche League representatives, the Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood, and other authors such as Lawrence Cohen, PhD. ( author of Playful Parenting).

You can read the Foreword written by award winning author and educator Melissa Hart here: http://commongroundpress.com/Foreword.html

You can see the cover image here on Amazon:
http://www.amazon.com/Child-Wonder-Nurturing-Creative-Naturally/dp/0979702704/ref=pd_bbs_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1202758130&sr=1-1

or here (which also shows the back cover and spine):
http://www.commongroundpress.com/New_Releases.html

If you would like an autographed copy, I would be very happy to send you one. Any books preordered through me before March 15th will be autographed and given free shipping. The price of the book is $16.95. If you do order an autographed copy, please make sure you let me know who to make it to (especially if it is intended to be a gift)!

I will continue to give updates about the book through the free monthly newsletter I write (going on four years now). If you are interested in signing up for it, you can do so here: http://gingercarlson.com/html/wonderwise.html
If you know any friends, teachers, parents, grandparents, childcare providers, or anyone else who might be interested in receiving it, please feel free to pass the information on."


Photos of the fine young gents are in Child of Wonder, these pictures.

Free bird coloring pages

Gearing up for spring bird-watching.

http://www.birds.cornell.edu/schoolyard/T_Resouces/ColoringBook.pdf

http://www.birdwatching-bliss.com/bird-coloring-pages.html

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Nearly-Wordless Wednesday: Rice

There is rice on my plate.

I don't like rice.

And no one cares.

Instead of making me a sandwich, they are taking my picture.


Fine. I'll try some rice. And some peas. And a tiny bite of fish.


Postscript from Mom: He did not choke or fall out of his chair or die. As a matter of fact, he said, "Hey. I like peas." And he ate all of the rice.

Wordless Wednesday: Flashback 2002



Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Love More

Two More Random Thoughts

Fear less, hope more; Eat less, chew more; Whine less, breathe more; Talk less, say more; Love more, and all good things will be yours. (Swedish proverb)

Last night I Googled something like "quotes positive thinking" and came across this little gem. It doesn't even really quite fit into my last post, but I had to stick it in anyway because it captured me. I haven't quite been able to let it go since. It's just spinning around in my head.

Hope more. Breathe more.

Love more.

That's it, isn't it? I'm not trying to get all profound and woo-woo on you, I promise. We've all got our own feelings, ideas and needs when it comes to becoming more centered, more grounded, more balanced. But "Love more." Once in a while the thoughts that you need appear unexpectedly; the message is clear.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians, 13:7-8)

Faith, hope, endurance. Love more and all good things will be yours.

Random thought #2: In non-woo-woo news, the chickens are laying eggs. More "Spring! Spring! Spring!" Poor Ethel molted in the very coldest part of December. A naked chicken is not a pretty sight. I'd have posted a picture, but...well, you wouldn't want someone posting a picture of you looking half-plucked, all bright red and pimple-y. Ethel is her fluffy feathery black-and-white self, and we got two eggs on Saturday morning which means that both chickens are laying.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Tuesday Ten: Random Thoughts

Ten Random Thoughts Passing Through My Head This Evening

1. Seeing Stars. The night sky was beautiful this evening. I briefly considered waking the fine young gents and taking them out into the backyard in coats and pajamas. Why am I not one of those parents who wakes their children in the middle of the night to see the beauty of the stars?

Maybe when they're older.

2. China. Some of us are still delighting in our experience hosting the lovely young ladies from China. Two sweet girls emailed when they returned home, charming messages thanking us for our hospitality. One of the girls volunteered to take the boys to the zoo and teach them to say "giraffe" in Chinese. I'm ready to learn Chinese, and hop on a plane. I swoon with envy when I hear that someone I know is planning a trip to China, or has been to China, or can eat rice with chopsticks without getting rice down the front of their sweater.

Actually, I've always swooned with envy over the eating rice with chopsticks thing. And noodles too. My noodles always swing all over the place from the ends of the chopsticks and fling soup drops on my front.

3. Spring. The calendar says it's winter. The birds, and the tight buds forming on the trees, and the bulbs peeking shoots above the ground say "Spring! Spring! Spring! It's coming!" Oh, and my nose says "Spring!" too, although it sounds a little more like "Spwig!" because it's dripping like a little snot faucet. Ew. What did people do in the days before allergy medications?

Aside from my nose, we've gone from wanting to hunker down on the couch with good books and hot chocolate to yearning to get outside and dig in the dirt. It's still too cold and wet for digging, really, but we can feel our selves stirring and greening too.

4. Birds. We've got a bright blue scrub jay squawking about the chicken yard. He steals the chicken scraps and scolds us for sitting at the table on a crisp sunny day, when clearly the thing to do is to hop around and scold people. We've got robins hopping about the yard, and of course the crows, our winter birds, keep them company. I saw a tiny yellow warbler, a Townsend's warbler on a morning walk at the coast. We're planning a bird study in the spring, the calendar school-year spring, but I'm not sure we'll be able to wait that long.

5. Mother are mothers all over the world. I expect so, anyway. Talking to dear friend who lives just down the street about our experiences hosting the girls from China, I marvelled at how mother-hen we both felt toward these girls. So far from home. I just wanted to hug them and tuck them in and remind them to wear their jackets and make sure that they felt comfortable and safe and cherished.

6. Parenting teens is hard.

7. A nap works wonders. My sisters and I drove to the coast to spend the weekend with Mom. I took a three-hour nap on Saturday. I honestly can't remember the last time I napped. By Sunday, I was so relaxed and refreshed that when I woke to a slumbering house, I slipped on my shoes and went for a walk in the rain.

8. Ten minutes of five-year-old whining can undo an entire weekend of serenity.

9. Again with the China thing....What must it be like to have an entire generation consisting mostly of only children? I have no strong opinions for or against the One-Child population control policies in China, by the way. I'm mostly curious about the impact from a social and psychological standpoint. What must it be like growing up without brothers or sisters? Do children tend to form close lasting bonds with cousins, neighbors, friends that essentially simulate or replace the kinds of bonds we see between siblings? I know the girls from China were fascinated by the fine young gents, probably both because young children are entertaining and charming no matter where in the world one finds oneself and perhaps, too, because there are three little look-alike stair-step boys all in a row.

10. Life is good. Yeah, I know. I always say that. But life is good. The more we believe it, the more it becomes so.

A man is but the product of his thoughts; what he thinks, he becomes. (Mahatma Ghandi)

Life is good.

Fear less, hope more; Eat less, chew more; Whine less, breathe more; Talk less, say more; Love more, and all good things will be yours. (Swedish proverb)

Really good.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Happy Day

The only wedding picture I could find quickly.

Eight years ago loving husband and I got hitched.

Okay, so it was a little more romantic than that. We had a small wedding at a pretty B&B with a beautiful and delicious cake from Sweet Life Patisserie. Ah, memory lane.....

There I am waiting in the pretty upstairs hallway in my wedding gown, holding my flowers. Cue the bride music, so I start down the stairs walking slowly and gracefully as a bride should. (Don't worry, I'm not going to trip, though that would've made a good story too.) I hear laughter from the waiting guests. Enter the lovely bride, lots of talking, loving husband says vows, I squeak my way through mine because I'm trying not to cry in front of all of the people. We give family necklaces and say family vows to the lovely ladies. Lovely lady with autism, then 4, won't come out of the corner, so loving husband quietly goes to the corner with her necklace. Talking, a prayer, kiss and it's a done deal.

As I'm wandering around with cake in my hand, Peaches and Cream (man, that was good cake!), my mother-in-law said something like, "I can't believe that happened!" She sounded a little indignant. But we were both too distracted by food and friends for me to say, "What happened?"

Then neighbor lady walks up and starts apologizing profusely. "I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry, I am so embarrassed. I can't believe he did that! I just wanted to crawl into a hole!"

I'm a little startled, naturally. Not sure I even want to ask. "Did what?"

Her son, then eleven-ish, is autistic. We'd often see him wandering in his yard or down the sidewalk wrapped in a sheet or the like. It seemed to make him feel a little more comfortable. He was also an avid Star Wars fan. Still is, I think.

The bride music came on, heads turned in eager anticipation of my graceful bridal entrance....and in walks Darth Maul. This guy. Not so bride-like, huh?

I started laughing. "Did anyone get a picture?" I managed to squeeze out between giggles.

Less than a month later, loving husband and I were expecting the eldest of the fine young gents. That pretty much killed the romance. It's hard to be all lovey-dovey when you look green and pasty and feel like barfing every time someone even looks at you.

Fast forward eight years and three more children.

"It's our anniversary in three weeks," I said three weeks ago. "Wanna do something?"

"Sure," said loving husband.

"Do you want to buy gifts and all that?" I asked, looking at him kind of sideways.

"I dunno. Do you?" Sideways look back.

I hemmed and hawed. "Um, not really. Is that bad?"

"No, I don't want to either. Let's just go to dinner."

And that was that. Romantic Couple of the Year, that's us.

"So, we've been married eight years and we still like each other," I said to loving husband this evening at dinner. (Thai food, Ring of Fire. We used to go there when we were dating.)

"Yep," he grinned.

"Good for us. Well, thought I'd better squeeze in a little romance talk since it's our anniversary. Enough mush. Let's talk about something else." And we did.

I don't need jewelry. I don't need fancy dinners or flowers or things wrapped in shiny paper. I have a husband who listens to me and understands me and likes me. I like him too.

Life is good.

Monday, February 04, 2008

A Day in the Life: Dragons

Making: Dragon puppets. We're planning a mini Chinese New Year celebration on Thursday, bringing in the Year of the Rat in style! Today was officially a "no school" day, as lovely lady, 14, was off school. I neglected to mention that our project was educational. We went all out: Paint, feathers, plastic jewels, even glitter. It was a glorious mess, and it kept us all occupied for the better part of gloomy drizzly winter afternoon.

Tomorrow we'll make red Lucky Money envelopes.

Directions for making dancing dragon and lion puppets here.

Read about Chinese New Year customs and traditions.

How to make a Lucky Money envelope.
More red envelope directions, and a lesson plan here.

Drinking: Hot chocolate. A shameless bribe. Anyone who cut out and decorated a dragon or lion head got a cup of hot chocolate with marshmallows. Loving husband makes our chocolate mix, sweet and chocolate-y with just a hint of cayenne. I love being married to a man who cooks.

Reading: Linnets and Valerians, Elizabeth Goudge. We've misplaced Swallows and Amazons. I know it will turn up someday, but for now we've got to move on. I remember sitting drowsy on the arm of the worn rocker while my mother read Linnets and Valerians.

Watching: A National Geographic show. Dangerous African animals. We're studying Africa this winter, for both geography and science. We saw hippo teeth, lions stalking, and several species of snakes.

That's it. It was a laid-back do-nothing day. Some days are like that. Life is good.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Snippet

"Mom. What would you get if you did googol times black?"

Fine young gent, seven. He asks me questions like this all the time.

Sometimes he even answers them himself. "I know. You'd get the most blackest black." (Pause, thinking.) "Which would be the same as the blackest black there is today."

Me, thinking to expand on his thoughts in an educational sort of way: "Right. Because if black is no color, then it's like zero, and even a googol times zero is still zero."

Fine young gent, in a patient voice: "Right, Mom. That's what I meant."

He's way ahead of me.

Friday, February 01, 2008

There are no strangers.....

There are no such things as strangers, only friends we haven't met yet. -- Anonymous



This week our Oregon Children's Choir hosted a children's choir visiting all the way from China. We volunteered to house four girls.

We were nervous:
Will they like us?
Will they speak English (They did, beautifully.)
Will they like our food?
Will they have fun?

What an wonderful adventure! The unexpected snow made it difficult for some families to meet the bus, so we brought eight girls home, scrambling at midnight for enough extra blankets and pillows to make up beds on the floor.

We all felt shy at first. Pets make good ice breakers. The cats, and even our excitable puppy Poppy, were oohed and aahed over. The boys were oohed and aahed over too. The oldest fine young gent found a fellow Harry Potter fan. Middle gent was delighted to suddenly have eight more big sisters in our house. Youngest gent was shy, but talked about the girls non-stop while they were gone, and even giggled a little when he got tickled on the belly. Our lovely ladies enjoyed their new friends too, although lovely lady with autism mostly hid in the basement playroom, as she felt very shy with all of the new people.

Highlights:

Hearing Chinese spoken in our home. Delightful.

Cheers when we served food from the Asian market.

Listening to the girls sing a Chinese song with our daughter.

Hearing the choir. We attended an evening concert, and it was absolutely wonderful.

Hugs. Hello hugs and goodbye hugs.

Isn't this what these kinds of exchanges are really all about? Meeting new people. Trying new things. Learning that a smile goes a long way. Making new friends.

It was hard to say goodbye after such a short time. I wasn't ready for the girls to go.

"Mom," five-year-old gent asked me tonight, "When are our Chinese girls coming back to our house?"

That's what the boys called them, "our Chinese girls," as though the girls somehow belonged to us. I suppose in a way they did. They stepped into our hearts when they stepped in through our door, just as though they were all a part of our family.

I told him that they were on their way back to China soon, and his face fell.

"But I want to play with them some more, Mom. I will miss them."

Me too, bunny.

"I know!" my little problem-solver says. "We can go to China tomorrow to see them!"

Dear young friends, you are in our hearts. If you ever make your way to Oregon again, you are welcome in our home, always.