Sunday, February 28, 2010

Ready to say goodbye

My husband looked at me tonight and said quietly, "It's the last night of February". Oh, thank you.
I kept thinking it would get better, and then it just didn't. Little things helped - dates filled with cream cheese and toasted almonds. Chai tea. Watching Charlie Chaplin with the girls on Youtube. Watching my husband galavant around in his new superhero outfit (ie: red union suit). But none of it was enough to ward off a major meltdown this weekend, fueled by the lifelong desire to have my mind read and an inability to read the warning signs of destruction. I know this sounds dramatic, and in the grand scheme of things it is purely that, but it pulled us down. We hit a wall. Add to this the fact that we are in Week 8 of the ten-week quarter, Dan is taking his third out-of-town trip of 2010 next weekend, and his laptop has completely died. He is a graduate student, remember? With long papers to write? I am not the only one feeling stressed out, by far. (This is when I start thinking about the benefits of plural marriage - I mean, wouldn't it help so much to have one more of us around?? Or wait, would that just be one more of us stressing out???) (Can you see why I don't blog much when this is happening? I am chatty by nature, and it just doesn't come out very purty when I'm in this space. More pictures, less talk.)
Here is what I think is going to help: March. The sounds of ice sliding off of the roofs in our neighborhood. Mud. More sunlight. Sharing more time with friends who love us. Hearing the birds in the early morning (Mama, I hear birds, Ani whispers in my ear - doesn't that mean it's spring?). Finding some of that spring.
Here is what I noticed during my solo walk after dinner tonight - the feeling of a little extra effort in my legs as I'm walking through the snow; the sound the snow makes falling off of my boots behind me, making me look (twice!) to make sure there wasn't a little puppy running at my heels; the chill on my cheeks, making me feel lighter, cleaner. I lost some of the heaviness of the weekend, filled the well a little, giving me just enough space to hope for some better days.

I am feeling the need to add that I realize indulging these thoughts is...self-indulgent...but it also reflects where I am, so there it is. I am deeply grateful for the many gifts in our lives, and I know we don't know from hard, but again, this is where I am and that isn't what this post is about! Ok, little voice, enough.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

On reading

Well, first my mouth rubs against the words,
like "h-h-h-h-a-a-a-a-r-r-r-r-r-e-e-e-e-e"
and then my brain gets it and I read the word!
- Anika
You know, it's just like you and Dad kept saying,
once you can read, you can do anything!!! - Eliza

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Trying to wake up

February hits me like a ton of bricks. I know it's short, but it happens every time. A friend of mine gets the "aprils" - throws her for a loop every year. Me, it's February. I feel like I'm alternately sleep-walking through the days and exploding or crying at the smallest things. A bit rough, this month.
There is nothing like a child to force you to deal with yourself. You can't not eat, you can't not get up and at least try. You have to begin again. And again. And again.
Fortunately, children do not seem to hold grudges. They want to forgive you, are grateful for apologies, and a long snuggle heals many moments of short tempers or impatience. I do not want always for my children to have to listen to my apologies - do you know what I mean? I found myself saying to Eliza the other day when she apologized endlessly about something pretty trivial, "you don't need to be sorry, honey, just get on with doing it!" Hmmmm. I sometimes wish someone were saying that to me - you don't need to spend so much time being sorry, just get on with living the way you want to.
I am feeling regret that we did not think of going to Baltimore with Dan this week; he and I only just realized how much fun that would have been. What was I thinking? I truly feel like I was sleeping, not thinking, and missed a great opportunity (oh, am I beating myself up. a Science Center? and Aquarium? not to mention...PAPA?).
Staying behind forced us to get creative together, to find ways to connect after not connecting. To say yes to each other. To remember to show how much we love each other in our actions. To find our soft bellies.
Slippy-slidey on the kitchen floor, puppets (on the kitchen floor), reading reading reading, snuggling, wrestling...For me, it was also getting out (out! me, out!) - I was so fortunate to see a performance with Bela Fleck, Bassekou Kouyate, from Mali, and Anania Ngoglia and John Kitime, from Tanzania. Having tickets to this since September is probably the biggest reason we didn't think of going with Dan!
Breathing helped. No joke. And some homeopathic Calm Drops. Again, no joke - if only as a mindfulness reminder. A friend came over before Bela and after a quick hi to me sat with my kids and let them talk to her and crawl all over her for a half an hour straight, while I did the dishes in the other room and breathed. She knew, and I was so grateful. And reading posts like this one on the new collaborative blog Simple Homeschool - it was a wake-up call that the way we parent, the foundation of love that we are building for our children is the most important thing that we are doing right now. It makes the challenge feel worthy, if that makes sense - not futile, but worth every hard day, to get it right. Imperfectly so.
I am so fortunate to have these girls in my life. These people. They are amazing, they unfold daily as these incredible people, and if I can just shut up once in a while, and pinch myself awake, even in the middle of February, I might get to witness it all.
So sorry we weren't with you pops.
We are so happy that you're home.

Boom Snap Clap!

Do you remember hand-clapping games? Say say oh playmate? Or Miss Mary Mack? Or, if you are a child of the...let's see, it was the eighties...

Yeah, you know who you are. Me, I used to spend hours with my best friend Jenny Kenny making up new hand clapping combinations to television jingles. I had sort of forgotten that treasure of an activity until this winter, when Dan and I sat planning our road map for the choir class that we teach for homeschoolers every week. After a year and a half of being involved in one way or another, under different direction, we had decided to not make it a performance-oriented class, but more of an exposure to all things musical kind of class. We do a lot with rhythm, listening, solfege, rounds, and of course, we learn songs. As we were brainstorming what kinds of things might spark some excitement in the kids, we thought of hand-clapping games. I was feeling a bit rusty (though that Bigmac one is imprinted indelibly in my brain), so I turned to the internet for a refresher. Most of what I found I decided I did not want to teach to my own kids (who are also in the choir) - lots of inuendoes, word slips, LOTS of who's kissing was a bit depressing. I also couldn't imagine the boys in the choir being very interested in "say say oh playmate". I started looking on Youtube, and I didn't have to look very far. The clean-cut teens of the Latter Day Saints came through for me! Dan and I stayed up late one night, learning a whole slew of new rhythmic hand-clapping games that are perfect for Eliza and the older kids in the group. I thought I'd share, as they've been so much fun...I love that she is old enough to do this with.

See the videos created by the LDS ladies here - they break each game down and go through it slowly so you can learn while watching. Eliza and I are working on learning the "cup" games...
Have fun!

Monday, February 22, 2010

So four...

Dan is back from Baltimore (or "Voldamore" as its been called around here this past week - Eliza is a hopeless, hopeful, ardent fan..."Mama, tell me truthfully, do you think Hogwarts is real? Do you think maybe maybe I might get a letter when I'm eleven, which is 1-2-3-4 four years away? Wait, no....think think...three! Three years!"). We didn't dissolve into bedlam, at least not completely, while he was gone, which is a relief and an accomplishment (!), and we even had some very good days. I am feeling almost On Top of Things once more - I've written a couple of drafts to process Life at this moment, but I'm wondering if they aren't thoughts better written into a journal? Might be. But for now, I wanted to share some photos I snuck of Ani; I didn't want to make her self-conscious or interrupt her flow, but to be honest, it wouldn't have mattered had I stuck the lens in her face - this girl has FOCUS in her storytelling, and I am hoping to give you a mere glimpse into the breadth of her imagination...she is telling a story in which the main characters are portrayed by...empty pasta boxes.

I love love love this girl.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


I think the thing we have most loved about the snow, aside from the initial thrill of sledding, and the beauty when it appears to cleanse the dirt and rubbish of the neighborhood, is how we can see the stories of the animals so clearly. On our walk to the coffeeshop on Friday, we saw the tracks of dogs, deer, squirrels, rabbits, and several different kinds of birds. Oh, and of course the tracks of some incredibly strange creatures...
When we made playdough the other day, Ani was trying to make prints like a bear's, so we got out the animal tracks matching game we have and she tried her hand (har har) at replicating some of those. We talked about how many toes each animal had in its tracks, whether or not the nails show...
Yesterday she took it to a new level. She at first asked to paint her rubber animals' feet, so that she could make prints across the paper length stretching over the kitchen floor. This was unsatisfying. Then we remembered the playdough and got out a cookie sheet, rolled it all out with a glass jar, and there it was - an untouched field for the animals to walk in.
There were some frustrations here too - the squirrel prints were not in the correct arrangement!! - so we talked about "gait" and what that can tell us about an animal. Ani noticed that the pig's hooves made prints surprisingly similar to those of cow, and the deer we see around here. Of course some animals were determined to be unique in their participation....
And I knew that sooner or later her own body parts would get involved...
And then sister appeared and discovered the paints, and well, it became a whole other activity...

Last night we took a walk just before dinner, as the sun was setting, and ended up across the street at the elementary school playground (please, mom? you know you love the swings...), where we found dozens of boot tracks and then one long, flowing track of a running deer...we followed to see where it went, dodging the play structures, around the tree, to the fence and away, then around and to the fence again where it found the opening and off into the woods, towards the community gardens and the river beyond they went...

Friday, February 19, 2010

the sun...

Friday My Town Shoot-Out: Town Plaza

Friday My Town Shoot-Out is a sharing of views of our communities. This week's theme is Town Plaza, chosen by Redlan, in the Philippines.

Ohio University - the focus of many in our town. In fact our town of eight thousand swells by twenty thousand every autumn to accommodate the large undergraduate body. The green, where these worn clogs (worn by my husband, a graduate student), should maybe serve as the town's plaza, the center of its livelihood, but the truth is my family has crossed its tree-lined paths only a handful of times, and never in what I would call community. It is more a through-way than a gathering spot for most of the local community.
I almost passed on this week's theme. I immediately thought, our town has no town plaza! No meeting place! No gathering place, no crossroads, no center. It was a depressing thought and I avoided it all week. It wasn't until I was contemplating my single-parent weekend before me, and found myself figuring out the bus (as we are also carless this weekend) so that we could keep our almost religious date with the Farmer's Market, that it hit me. We do have a center. Maybe, if such a thing is possible, a few small centers around which the community we have made here gather. I was out with a friend last night, and as I greeted people I knew in the crowd, she exclaimed, "where did you meet all these people??" - she sounded a bit frustrated, having lived here just as long as I have. It was here, at the Farmer's Market.

It's a place where familiar faces greet us every week, where we check in on each others' health, families, crops...
Where lettuces and generations mingle...
Where my children stroll as if they belonged, which they most certainly do.
Even in the winter, bundled up and playing pirates in the apple farmer's truck.
Food is a good community maker, and in lieu of a plaza, our family has found not only the market, but also the community gardens, to be a gathering of the people, plants and dogs of our town.

We commune with the compost, and greet the vegetables.
We pause to watch bike polo, or a game of cricket, or to swap stories and zucchini with another gardener.The center of our garden calls us even in winter, where the only beings to visit are the lingering kale and some ground coverings.

The new "town plaza" isn't always where you might imagine it to be...