"Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to let you in."

-- Robert Frost

Thursday, February 25, 2010

feeling olympic

To commemorate the Olympics, the school put on a musical performance having each class dress as differing countries and sing songs from their origins. And though we haven't seen a stitch of Olympic coverage this year, it still put us in the spirit of things. I couldn't let it go without mention because I had a really good time watching each of them perform and find it so entertaining to see their individual personalities shine through on stage and with their friends. Not to mention, I myself had a great time sitting with some really good friends whom I always leave feeling amazed by. There's nothing like great friends!

Janie sang Australian songs as a girl from the Outback


Annie's class had an Asian theme


I know you all love quotes from my dad, so here goes. He always said that in his own mind, his personal version of Satan's Hell would entail being forced to sit on a hard chair in an overly hot elementary school gym whilst being forced to listen to kids sing "God Bless Amurica" in a deeply hick accent for hours on end. (Sorry Iotla Elementary, I hold those memories fondly, it's just that he had 9 children. Multiply those musical programs.) I say this because by the looks of Christian's face in these pictures, he thinks Granddaddy is right.


Ah, good times at Franktown Elementary!

Monday, February 22, 2010

tv free

Folks ask if we really do not have television and the answer is yes. Not specifically "a television". In all honesty, we have one in the basement with a DVD player for movie nights. But "television", the cable that runs into the house, the dish that could go on the outside, the programming and news that is viewed by the rest of mankind -- no, we haven't been connected in nearly three years. Crazy, I know but so worth it. A recent stay in a hotel with full television capabilities reminded us why we gave it up. Within five minutes of some children's programming on a certain channel, we heard so many of the things we desperately try to teach our kids not to say to one another. Not to mention how amazed we were that after only three years, the standard of decency seemed to have been lowered in commercialism and quality.

That doesn't mean we are completely disconnected from events. Our breakfast table is littered with newspapers in the morning so that we are aware of current world news and financial markets. We are probably the last family on earth that fights over the comic section daily. We read the stories, scan the movie reviews, critique the photos, clip the coupons, fill out the cross word puzzles, avoid the ads, wish over the travel section, try recipes printed, scoff at "Dear Abby", mail in haiku's for the weekly contests, toss the sports, fret over the business end, paint projects on it and eventually wad the whole thing up to start a toasty blaze in our rock fireplace.

I know it seems strange to most to have never seen an episode of "American Idol". I openly admit that I have missed all that the Olympics has to offer this last week and a half. But, my children don't seem to care one bit and that really is something. Recently, some kids at school mocked one of my children for not having TV or video games calling us "poor" because we lack these amenities. And yet, while discussing this very thing over dinner, my children spoke of all of the things they would miss if there was more time spent in front of the tube. Bike rides, family sledding, forts, animal tracking in the snow, walks with our favorite neighbor, backpacks filled with picnics, and roller skating in the shed. The list could go on, and if you ask me, that makes us some of the richest people alive.

Some of my most recent favorite things that I'm so glad not to have missed:

The rock family left on my kitchen counter:


Girls reading books while dinner is being made:


Rock washing on the porch in prep for our favorite game, "Rock Museum" -- only $.10 for a tour.


And worth every cent!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

separation anxiety

I'm experiencing some serious separation anxiety. It's not that she is clingy or can't live without me but quite the other way around.

This weekend, Newel is away and so I break protocol and stay up late. The house gets quiet and dark and I pull Eliza out of her usual sleeping spot in the bassinet and tuck her into bed right beside me as I read. She's tired and just lays there looking up at me all cozy with her blanket. She's into reaching out to feel things and silently keeps touching my arm and trying to get my cheek. I can't help but stop what I'm doing and talk with her which elicits such sunny yet sleepy smiles that my heart hurts. Inside I'm dying. I know this is it, the end of an era but I tell myself to freeze this moment and just remember every detail of it so I can bring myself back to this point when one day in the future I want to remember. But sadly I know when I look back I'll not be able to see or feel this as clearly as I'd like. What will I do when I don't have a baby anymore -- when there are no more babies -- when there are no more moments like these? It hurts.

Eliza ate her first jar of sweet potatoes this week and fairly slurped it down begging for more. The kids were thrilled and each wanted a turn to feed her this new delight. I'd forgotten her need for more in my selfish desire to keep her closer to me.

Grant and I took a trip one afternoon to the store and forgoing the baby seat, sat our new upright girl in the cart surrounded by her blankets. Grant danced around the cart singing "look at her now!". I was secretly happy when she grew tired of the arrangement and I deemed it just a little too soon to leave the baby seat behind.

The ringing phone, the computer access, or just the common gathering that takes place in my bedroom, interrupts Eliza's much needed naps and necessitates that the crib finally be brought out from the basement. This weekend, I've given in and started the process. The girls are ecstatic though I keep reminding them that I may or may not actually put her in there.

And so separation anxiety continues. I'll probably cry at the first sign of a tooth and wail when crawling turns to walking, I'm not proud. I just need a forgetful mind to remember and cling to this moment right here, right now and never forget how much I have loved and will miss this.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

mancation

I'm always excited when Newel gets to go on his mancation each year with his buddies. He comes home so relaxed and refocused. It's actually one of my favorite times of the year. And while he's gone I start some project, stay up late into the night working, feed the kids pizza and pull out the paper plates. It's a win - win.


But, this morning his leaving for the ski trip nearly broke my heart. I'm his biggest fan, sure, but Grant is borderline stalker and it was so hard to watch this little guy go dig up his own gear and plead to go along.


So if you are reading this in Tahoe, have a wonderful time. Just know how terribly missed you will be and that I almost had to send the boy to school in pj's and ski garb.


and the little one said "Roll over"


1 Dad + 3 uninvited guests = 1 mom up and ready for the day earlier than expected. "And they all rolled over and one fell out ...." Never thought a California King could feel so small.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

milestones



By Jove, I think she's got it! Yes, she has blankets packed around her for stabilization, but I think she may be a high chair sitter yet. She's getting so big.

all work and all play

These guys can really clean a house from top to bottom. Yesterday we had our Dad home for a rare day off and I was recalling my own father's Saturday morning cleaning brigades. We would move along cleaning each room as he followed behind with the vaccuum. And these kids, along with their dad, put our house back in order all morning yesterday. As a reward, he took our family on an afternoon outing to swim at the recreation center.


Then we did a little bowling. And though I'm not allowed to say by how much **cough**cough**, I beat everyone (and I mean everyone -- including dads). Celia, as you can see, wasn't too thrilled with the scores -- or maybe it was the victory dance I was doing.


I love having fun together as a reward for hard work!

Monday, February 15, 2010

valentine happenings

Growing up, Valentine's day wasn't much of a big deal. I remember leaving the corridors of the high school and glancing through the glass doors of the main office to see it packed with flowers, stuffed animals and balloons in red and pink all exchanged between boyfriends and girlfriends. None of it was for me. There was that one time my brother sent me a "student council" corsage, but, for the most part, Valentine's day came and went un-notably. Even at home, my dad would grumble about having the calendar dictate a day that he HAD to say I love you, when after all, he'd already asked the woman to marry him!

Once I had children, it seemed like fun to make it a family holiday. I know it typically is a holiday for couples at candlelight dinners, but once there were children in the picture, it made sense that now I had more than just one Valentine. We've made it a point each year to make it a holiday celebrating love in our family. Here are some highlights that made this year special:

Our kitchen "heart attack". We started writing notes to each other on February first and by yesterday, the kitchen cabinets were covered with such sweet messages. It was fun to read what they had to say about one another each day.


Our annual visit from the Valentine fairy. I got a kick listening to the kids and Newel discuss over dinner what she looks like.


Fun dinner and dessert assisted by Celia. We used the cute mini-bunt pan she gave me for Christmas to make these and put a dollop of homemade vanilla ice cream on top.


But, I think funnest of all was the Conversation Hearts card game I found at the dollar store.


Here are some of my favorite questions and answers:

**If you only had time to say goodbye to just one person ... Who would it be?
Newel: "Myself"

**What's your favorite childhood memory?
Janie: "That time that realtor guy came to our class for career day"

**If you found a suitcase full of $100 bills ... what would you do?
Christian: "Go to the dollar store and buy a lot of silly string"

**If you could go back to a memorable time in your life, what would it be?"
Annie: "The day I was born!" (That was a good day for me, too, Annie!)

**What person do you admire the most and why?
Celia: "Mom, because she's got it all together" (Thanks Celia, I'm glad at least some of the apples didn't hurl themselves far from the tree!)




Saturday, February 13, 2010

redonkulous

Nobody loves Valentine's day like Christian. Nobody. Despite his rough exterior and daring personality, he's got a heart of gold. For as long as I can remember, he has taken Valentine gifts to not just one girl, but all of the girls he has interest in. There have been years with bags full of chocolates, bouquets of flowers divided into individual stems singly wrapped to give, and cards for all of his female friends so that no one ever feels left out. He fearlessly spreads good cheer to even the meekest of wallflowers and this year has been no different.

School chums will chide that he should focus on just one and teasing ensues over his multitude of interests. But as parents, we say youth is a time to keep your options open and learn about all sorts of personality types and traits. A gentleman makes every girl feel special and when the time comes, can easily narrow down to what is best for him. And it's so fun to watch the girls fight over him, because they know exactly what kind of guy he is -- respectful, good, and kind. It's also entertaining to hear him expound upon the "redonkularity", as he puts it, of the elementary school relationship factor. As eleven-year-old girls trick eleven-year-old boys into "going together" we have a good laugh about how far one can "go" with no driver's license in sight.

In our house, the Valentine fairy visits on V-day, leaving a little something special on the porch for each child in the dark of the evening hours. It adds to the fun of the day and lets them know that in our home, they are loved. The excitement is contagious as the doorbell rings and feet run to see what mystery awaits. Last year in Christian's class, his school teacher introduced a writing prompt about a favorite holiday. In pre-writing discussion, she asked the students to tell some of their favorite holidays. Some said Christmas and some Halloween, but Christian unable to contain himself, shouted out "Valentine's day!" The teacher turned to him and asked his reasons why and he flowed with excitement. "I like the cards, and I like the giving and I like the candy, and I love the Valentine Fairy". Yes, this was fourth grade -- a time to know better -- but on he gushed. The kids around him tittered incredulously "The Valentine Fairy???"

"Yes, you know the Valentine Fairy?!" he rushed on unable to stop himself, "She comes in the evening bearing gifts of chocolaty goodness and heart shaped pencils!" He quickly looked around questioningly at the blank faces around him. "You know the Valentine Fairy!" his voice strained. Kids around him began to snicker and chortle as the teacher calmly called the class back to order. "That sounds like a very nice tradition that your family has." she replied with kindness. And in that moment, Christian tells us, a light bulb turn on and the ugly thought occurred to him that perhaps there was no real Valentine Fairy ... and maybe ... just maybe ... he should rethink the giant pink rabbit that brings baskets on Easter as well.

Ah, almost as good as the time his father convinced him that for career day he would make an excellent weapons trafficker and Christian obliviously shared that with the class as well. But that's another story. Sure love that redonkulous kid!


We won't soon forget this year's biggest Valentine Box known to man, fully equipped with speakers and mood music.

Friday, February 12, 2010

school valentines

When we were kids, my mother came up with a brilliant plan to hand make our Valentines. She bought dozens of gum packages and oodles of construction paper and all nine of us would sit, cut, write and tape to create an "I 'Chews' you to be My Valentine" card. I don't remember the insanity but there must have been plenty of it because following her lead -- and being tired of ye old store bought kind -- we made ours this year.


And last night, I was thanking my lucky stars that we actually started this process a weekend ago. I'm not much of a pre-thinker, but this time it really payed off making our Valentine escapade semi-fun to do. (I say semi-fun because we had our moments.) Which also left us time to make dozens of these:


We wrapped these in stacks all done up in cute cellophane baggies and ribbon found at the dollar store to give to teachers, friends and **sigh** girlfriends (sorry Christian). I don't know why my children love Valentine's day so much. Maybe they just love a good celebration.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

spelling bee II


Spelling Bee update:

Doesn't this girl make stressful competition look fun? 71 kids, a gymnasium full of expectant parents, teachers and school principals, all hoping to have a connection to the one and only individual who can walk out a winner.


And though she was not the winner last night, she's such a winner to us. She did everything right in our book. Took her time, asked for sentences, definitions, alternate pronunciations, origins -- even wrote imaginary words on her hands to envision and clarify the thoughts in her mind.

But, you just can't fight the English language. "I before E except after C or pronounced as an A as in neighbor and weigh" doesn't apply for omniscient. I know that I wouldn't have even been thinking about my spelling rules under that kind of pressure. And though Celia looked a little bit sick up there last night, and is so glad today to have the ordeal behind her, we sure enjoyed the spectator sport aspect.

I just feel sorry for the guy who had to spell mosquitoey. I grew up in a mosquitoey place and didn't even know that was a real word.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

gullible

When it came to illnesses, my mother was relatively insistent that as children, we woke up, showered and dressed before accepting that the day could in fact be called a "sick day". It was almost impossible to pull over a fast one. Somewhere between the miraculous healing powers of the hot water and a healthful bowl of boiled wheat, a faker could be called out. She was compassionate yet discerning. From one direction, she was teaching that to face the day ready to stand would make most problems dissolve. But, from a mothering standpoint -- learn the ins and outs of the word gullible and never fall victim to it's prey.

We had a bit of a cold ripple through here late last week and into the weekend. I do sincerely wish I could keep even the slightest ill child home from school until every ounce of symptom disappeared completely so as to avoid infecting the world. I deplore the spread of illness bearing germs. I dislike being on the receiving end, and I dislike knowing that multiplied by six, we can sometimes be assisting the spread more than our fair share. But if I were to keep my children home for every sniffle and cough, I'd have to home school and that, my friends, is where I accept my limitations as a mother. Disclaimer given.

Friday morning, Annie awoke with a cough, terribly runny nose and eyes red and watery. She's my asthma girl so I deemed it necessary to keep her home from school. Janie was not pleased and claimed a cough as well. In the words of my father, "She didn't look sick to me" and so I sent her regardless.

It's a very small school and everyone knows everyone very well. Little did I know how well my own daughter had been working the system since day one to take ownership of such a small stage.

The secretary at the school called me to say that Janie had been to the health room complaining of a headache. They had given her a dose of Tylonol and sent her back to class but asked that I check by the office at kindergarten pick-up to see if there were any other needs. Obediently, I did. Both office secretaries are big fans of Janie's. I constantly hear stories and scratch my head that she has these two so tightly wound around her finger. It is endearing and yet lends credence to the term "pulling the wool over one's eyes".

And so they rounded on me. Yes, Janie seemed down in the dumps. Yes, Janie seemed not her self. Yes, Janie seemed out of sorts. ??? (I put question marks here because I'm wondering when Janie is not out of sorts.) One of the secretaries had even gone to sit with Janie at one point during the morning hours to ask her what was wrong and why wasn't she feeling like herself today. With a shrug, Janie'd replied that she just didn't know. And then down the hall came Janie's beloved teacher. She too, gave me the run down. She'd been walking down the school hall holding hands with our dear Janie, and had asked if she was feeling any better. Janie just didn't know, and had thought that after lunch she might need to go home.

Well, is she sick or is she not sick, I questioned these figures of authority. And then these three well meaning women turned me into what my mother had been teaching me as a future mother to avoid becoming -- gullible. All three stood before me and proclaimed with straight faced innocence that sometimes a girl just needs an afternoon home with her mother.

And I took the bait -- hook, line and sinker. Visions of cookie making and playing card games danced through my head. Oh, the Valentine's we could create as we lay in the sunny patch on the carpet in the living room! Needless to say, I signed my girl out and whisked her to the car where Grant sat buckled in, awaiting the trip home. And that's when it started ...

"Get out of my way!" she says, pushing her way past him. Is that the moment when I knew my mistake? If I'd turned around would I have seen a teacher and two secretaries snickering behind their hands safely locked behind the security doors of the school? Or was it when I got home and the demands for equality, that all that sick Annie had been bestowed and more be visited upon the new "sick" arrival, began. Either way, as I glanced at the clock and wondered to myself how unintelligent I might be perceived if I returned to the school, daughter in hand to finish out the day, I knew at that moment I'd been played. I was in fact -- gullible. And on so many levels, too.

But nothing cures perceived naivety like an afternoon of Windex, mopping and laundry to fold. Like hot water and boiled wheat cereal, it too can smoke out a faker and send a message as well. But the message I'd really like to send to teachers and secretaries alike, I may be easily fooled today but all good things must come to an end. I can cure a cold, and tomorrow is another day.

Monday, February 8, 2010

tomorrow


Tomorrow she'll be just a little bit bigger. Why is that a hard feeling for me?

Friday, February 5, 2010

directory

Ah, the kindergarten directory. I debate every year whether or not to publish our information in the kindergarten directory. I'm not really good at play dates. Maybe it's because my mother wasn't. Maybe it's because my kids are self contained. And I've had times where a directory has been used for alternative purposes. Not to mention there was that time when, after a certain girl left for school, I discovered an open kindergarten directory and telephone handset in the coat closet. A quick perusal of the caller id and callback revealed several calls made in the dark early morning hours to secretly arrange get-togethers. Bet those parents loved that. So every year, I pause a moment before putting down our numbers and email. And then I cave and do it anyway.

We are generally up early but this morning the 6:50 am phone call was completely unexpected. I answered with my "Hello?" and the little voice on the other end said "Did you know my mom had a baby last night?".

"She did?" I asked, still having no clue who was calling but not wanting to scare or startle such a happy messenger. "She did! She had a girl!"

"That's wonderful," I said full of sunshine, "who would you like to speak to?" -- this would clarify things.

"Is Grant there? This is Aiden." Ah, mystery solved. I called Grant from warming his feet on the heater and told him there was a boy named Aiden on the phone for him. I was just tickled that he did know someone from his class at school!

"Hi Aiden, this is Grant." and then the voice on the other end became so loud that I could hear every word clearly and I didn't have the phone anywhere near my head.

"Grant! Did you know my mom had a baby last night ... it's a girl ... and the doctor ... had to CUT ... her out of my mom's tummy!!"

"That's kind of gross," is all the boy on my end could think of to say, and then, "Is she little?"

"Yeah ... she is ..... k, see you at school in a while."

"K". And then Grant hung up and looked at me with a smile and said "That was Aiden."

For today, I'm just a little bit happier that our phone number is in fact, in the kindergarten directory.




Wednesday, February 3, 2010

red in the morning

Last week, my bedroom door burst open in the early morning light and one little five year old ran to my bedside whispering as loudly as possible, "Mom -- you've got to come see the sunrise." I opened one blurry eye to peek out my window and it was one of those "red in the morning, sailor take warning" starts to the day. Grant urged me to hurry but moving too slow in clearing my head and gathering a bathrobe in the freezing temps, we missed the full effect of the red morning. His disappointment nearly killed me.

Yesterday, we made it in time to enjoy all that a Colorado morning has to offer.


And for the full impact -- and because 18 degrees isn't really comfortable sunrise viewing temperatures, we drove the quarter mile to the the top of our hill to watch from the warmth of the car.



I'm so glad he asked me to take him. What fun to drink in the start of a new day with someone so enamored by it's beauty.



Some other friends were watching too.


And Pikes Peak was breathtaking.


But more breathtaking still, is that this morning he woke Christian and insisted that he share it all over again -- only today, with his brother.



Tuesday, February 2, 2010

in one ear and out the other

When I had three little children, I lost a five-year-old Celia briefly at a 10k race that Newel was running. My search ended in my finding her seated with a girl in a wheelchair in the handicapped section of the stadium thoroughly engaged in conversation.

Upon moving here to Franktown, Annie struck up a friendship with a little girl in her class at school who requires a walker to get around. One field trip in particular, consisted of a hike into a nearby canyon and Annie's love of loves is collecting rocks of all kinds. Kids paired up for the hike and Annie's friend was partner less due to the fact that she would need to stay on a wheelchair assessable trail. That afternoon following the trip, I asked how the hike had been and Annie told me that she had stayed to collect rocks at the trail head with her friend so that she wouldn't be alone.

Last year, Janie came home with a note from her teacher explaining to us that a little boy in class had snipped her dress with a pair of scissors. The parents were mortified and wanting to replace the dress. Kids will be kids and we certainly know kids so we are highly aware that stuff happens. We explained to Janie that little boys will do all sorts of things to get little girl's attention and sent back to these parents that they need not give it another thought. Later at a school function, Janie hauled a teeny tiny little boy with obvious special needs over to meet us, hugged him and introduced him as the "dress cutter". And ever since, she talks about him at every turn.

Sometimes leading this group of children feels like a game of "Marco Polo". I'm calling out the directions and watching them blindly flounder around and catch myself wondering "Can't they hear me?" I remind them daily to remember who they are and what they stand for as they exit my car to the bus in the morning and then sit back and watch as they nudge and push to get out of the car stepping on each other as they go. It leaves one to wonder, is it all going in one ear and out the other? Should I worry about how they interact when I'm not around?

I ran into "the dress cutter's" mother at Costco this morning and came away with the highest compliment a mother can get. It's necessary for her to visit the school during lunch to ensure that her son will eat. It's been a constant battle but the solution turned out to be a simple one. Janie feeds him and he will eat. At recess he runs all over the playground and the special education teacher struggles to get him to come back in. Again, the answer was quite easy. Janie stands on the sidewalk after their game and calls his name. He runs to take her hand and she walks him back to class. His mother tells me that he's never been invited to a birthday party or had a play date but talks to their family every night at dinner of the games Janie invents for the two of them to play each day.

I think she made my whole week. I look at my children as a rough and tumble bunch so often that I fail to see what others see. I love that my children live blind to other's differences. I love their capacity to love others. I feel that certain tightness in my chest that threatens to well into tears at the thought that out in the world, they are looking out for others and one another. It's validating to know that at least sometimes they are listening. That they are learning who they are and what they stand for.