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Showing posts from August, 2010

The Perfect Writing Lesson

OK, so see? Right here! This is perfect. Let's talk about what writing can really do. Now, you could say the following:

I slipped and hit my face on the couch and my tooth fell out. I bled a lot. It was gross.

There's nothing really wrong with that. It communicates information. It gets the idea across. But oh, the picture you could paint instead:

I was minding my own business, not bothering anyone, just going about my day. Little did I know what awaited me in my own living room. Two steps into the room and my foot met up with a sheet of paper carelessly (and typically) left there by my good-for-nothing brother, who never thinks of anyone but himself. My legs shot out from under me and WHAM! I slammed face first into the back of the couch. My first thought was, "That's funny, I didn't think I was eating anything just now" and my second thought was "Holy Moly, that's not food roiling around in my mouth, that's my TOOTH!"

My third …

Eight Year Old Wishes and Dreams

My eight year old daughter and I were enjoying a rare moment with just the two of us, being lazy and lying on my bed in the middle of the afternoon. She, with dreamy look in her eye, said: "Mom, wouldn't it be fun if you and me, just the two of us, were drifting in the ocean on a great big comfortable bed?"

I agreed with her that that sounded delightful. We had fun imagining the sun warming our faces, a sweet breeze moving us gently along. Then, she added the perfect final touch, eyes glowing:

"Wouldn't it be great if the bed had a mini fridge? And it was filled with meat?"

She meant the grass-fed, humanely raised, beyond organic kind, of course.

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7 Quick Takes Friday: Volume 11, the Homeschool Edition

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It's FRYYYYYYYYYYY-Day! Welcome to my seven quick takes for today. Please visit Jen at Conversion Diary, the lovely hostess of the original 7QT.

1. My facebook mom friends have been abuzz about their Back to School nights this week. We will miss that time-honored tradition this year, so I've decided to have one just for Rick and me tonight. It will include paella and adult beverages. That beats bad decaf coffee and stale cookies, dudn't it?

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2. Speaking of facebook, I had a moment of pure panic the other day, when I read my friend Karen's status update in which she gleefully shared that after 12 years of having kids at home she finally has all four of her boys in all day public school. Pure. Unadulterated. Panic. What have I done? See why I need adult beverages at my Back to School night?

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3. We are going to the Academy of Sciences -- the only place on the planet with an aquarium, a planetarium, a natural history museum, and a 4-story rainforest all …

Me Me Me Me Me Me Me

I have been tagged by Teacher Mommy to participate in a meme. Can someone tell me what "meme" means? Where it comes from? I've never googled it. If you have, please share!

So, I answer 10 questions and then I tag 6 people to answer the same 10 questions.

1. If you blog anonymously, are you happy doing it that way; if you are not anonymous do you wish you had started out anonymously so you could be anonymous now?

I do not blog anonymously. Sometimes, I wish I did, because it seems like it might be easier to express myself without upsetting people. But then, writing is not for the feint of heart. If I'm not comfortable writing about it, then I'm either not ready to or I'm being a wuss and should get over myself. Usually, I think I need to work harder to write in way that is true to what I am thinking but respectful to those who might be upset or disagree. Whether or not someone might get upset or might disagree with me should not be a reason to write or…

If You Give a Kid a Cookie

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If you give a kid a cookie, she's probably going to ask you for another one.

You'll think she's cute, so you won't see the harm in giving it to her and you'll say yes. When you give her the second cookie, she'll start to get that crazed look in her eye.

When you see that crazed look, you'll decide it's time to divert her attention, so you'll ask her if she wants to ride her bicycle in the back yard.

When she says yes, her older sister will want to come too, but first they'll both need to change their entire outfits, probably into something that includes a boa, and they both will need shoes.

You won't be able to find their godforsaken flip flops, so you'll have to take the time for socks and shoes that tie. Your own lunch will grow cold while all of this shoe business is happening.

When their shoes are finally on, they will change their minds and want to take a bath instead. They will want to wear their bathing suits in the bathtub.

Wh…

You Won't Convince Me Otherwise

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I have a kid who is not a hugger. He regularly eschews anything touchy-feely. He says "OK" when I tell him I love him, which is often. His father, one very affectionate and demonstrative dude, tells him: "We're Alatorres. We hug. Get over here." This kid resists.

But guess what? Lately, he has been letting me hug him. I've actually gotten to tickle him this summer. He's more and more playful. Just now, I sent him off to bed with an I Love You, and I got one back in return. I almost fell over, and not because I've had a few glasses of red wine.

I attribute this new found state of relaxation to the fact that he is not returning to school this year. This is the kid who, upon learning that we would be home schooling him and his siblings for 2010-11, sullenly responded "Why didn't you do this a year ago?" That was back before he was letting me hug him. Now, in his new, more-huggable state, he seems like a kid more comfortable …

Saved By Fingerpaint

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The sun was shining.


You were both under my feet, in my hair, on my arms and driving me mad.


Thank God for fingers and for paint and for the combination of the two.


Thank God for sunny days, when fingers and paint can come together out of doors and make a mess far from my dining room floor.


Thank God for bright colors, the yellow sun, the blue flowers and the orange hat.


All converged to ensure that I survived another day without losing my precious mind. I have lived to scream another day. But not today, because today the sun was shining, and there were fingers and paint in lovely motion.

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Why We Are Homeschooling Our Kids

It came down to this: one afternoon in early Spring, after picking up the kids from school and having yet another miserable ride home, it struck me as virtually inevitable and unavoidable that we would have to take them out of this school and begin teaching them ourselves. Thus began my reluctant path to homeschooling.

We made this decision going on five months ago and in that time, I’ve talked to many people about why we are doing this. The first thing I tell people, always, is that we’ve thought about it for years, since before our oldest child started Kindergarten. The next thing I tell people is that our boys were not fitting into the box of a classroom…that the cost of our private school was getting prohibitive for us…that our public school is not an option…that it’s not possible or practical to hope they could all get transferred to the same better public school…that we love our school community, but just couldn’t stay. I had the whole speech down.

The other day, I unexpectedl…

The Week That Guilt Ate

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Ever get close to the end of summer and realize you haven't done all those great things with the kids you thought you were going to do? Or are you one of those people who annoys me who does everything she says she is going to do?

I'm the former.

So we're packing it in this week. Monday we took a cruise around the San Francisco Bay, and got to see sea lions and dolphins. Tuesday we played at a lake all day, complete with pedal boats and frog catching (and releasing). Today, we're hitting a swimming pool with some friends. I am comatose, but my kids are happy, and doesn't that make me a good mother?

Goodness, there's quite a bit wrong with that last sentence.

Anyway, I've been away from the blog because I've been busy assuaging my summer guilt. I have also been crafting a post that addresses our decision to begin homeschooling our children. It's time to stop revising that one, so I hope it will be up tomorrow. For now, I will say that I am very …

Space

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I awoke this morning determined to make space.

Our home has evolved in a rather haphazard fashion, so that book shelves and hutches and suches occupy spots that can only be called random. Our living room, a very big, light-filled, potentially lovely room, looks more like a parking lot for used furniture than anything else. Our dining room is less a dining room and more a Kids Do Art And Make A Mess Every Single Damn Day room. Our kitchen is where the mail goes to die, and so, apparently, does a hell of a lot of other stuff.

And we're about to spend more time than ever in this space, what with our new homeschooling adventure beginning soon.

So today was my day to transform all of our downstairs common areas into inspired spaces where children will grow ever more brilliant. And spaces where, after a hard day of molding young minds, I can enjoy a cold beer without worrying that my beverage will be knocked over by piles of mail and magazines.

The first 30 minutes were spent walking fr…

Do You Hear What I Hear?

It's early in the morning, in a mostly sleeping house. My three year old is dozing on the couch next to me, while I watch the one and only Oprah episode I have ever recorded, the one featuring Michael Pollan and the documentary Food, Inc. If I don't watch it now, at 6:30am, I won't have another chance to watch it all day. My daughter stirs, wakes, looks up at me and says: "I can hear a song playing in my ears!"

At this moment, during a commercial, the TV is on mute. No, I don't know why I don't just fast forward through the commercial, perhaps because it's very early in the morning and my brain hasn't soaked up enough coffee yet. The point is, there is no music playing. She's got a song stuck in her head.

She sits there enjoying the music only she can hear. "Do you want to hear the song in my ears, mommy?"

Of course I do, dear!

She scoots up to me. I think she means to sing to me, so I try to get my ear as close to her litt…

I Wish It Were Monday Morning

Most people dread Monday morning, and the work week that comes with it. Most people live for the weekend. I enjoy weekends, yes, but I bet there are a few parents out there who might agree with me that all that Family Time carries its own brand of stress and angst.

But that's not why I like Monday mornings. I like Monday mornings for the possibilities they represent. Every Sunday night, I get myself ready for the week. I make a pretty list. I strategize. I ooze organization and preparedness. And Monday morning brings with it optimism, energy, and the belief that I can do it all. Mondays usually go very well for me, the momentum of a good list carrying me through the day.

With each subsequent day, I lose a little heart. By Wednesday, I'm slumping. By Thursday, I'm hoping to survive five minute increments of time. Fighting children, greeted with detachment and clarity on Monday morning, elicit a growing rage response as the week progresses. Repetitive tasks, like…

I Hope They Don't End Up Slicing Off Parts of Their Bodies...

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...but I do like having artists in the family.

Vincenzo Van Gogh's work:






Lola O'Keefe's work:





Nicole, don't we have talented youngsters?

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I Can Fool Some of Them Some of the Time

My "twins" spent two nights at my mom and dad's house this past weekend. No, I don't actually have twins, but we've started referring to Child Born 2nd and Child Born 3rd as The Twins because they are interested in the same activities, can play together for hours, and have similar temperaments. They have this sympatico thing going on.

So "The Twins" spent the weekend with my folks, where they learned a few things:

If you compliment Poppa's BBQ-ed chicken, Grandma will decide to have him make some for dinner.

The creek running along the property is just as much fun as Mom says it is.

If you say how much you like going to the pub for lunch, Grandma will bring you there.

Poppa looked like a little girl when he was a small child; there is photographic proof of this hanging in the upstairs bedroom.

But I learned something too. After they'd been back for a few hours, "The Twins" were talking about the Giants games they watched during their visi…

The What is Beautiful

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I am finally reading What is the What, and am completely taken with it. This line, in particular, made me stop and reflect on the beauty and power of this book. "The musty smell of the cattle warmed me and I rested my hand on their haunches as we walked."
Taken out of their context, those words seem lovely but not significant. But in their context?Beautiful. Evocative. Perfect.
Immediately, I could see the scene in my mind like a photograph, and the very image brought the story even more vividly into my mind's eye.
Thank you, Dave Eggers and Valentino Achak Deng. This story is captivating and I am so grateful that you both have told it. You are, however, responsible for the neglect my children are suffering from while I cannot stop reading.
If you have not, read this book.
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Bumblebee

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I made this cake for my friend Debra's housewarming party. See, we call her D'Bee for fun. Hence, a bumblebee cake.

I heart decorating cakes. It's the only Martha Stewart thing I do. Trust me, it's out of character.
I got the idea from a picture of another bumblebee cake I found on the internet, and adapted it to suit the tools and stuff I have. It was easy and FUN!
If I ever do this again, which is about as likely as my getting a PhD in astrophysics, like Brian May of Queen, I will shape the whole cake and the wings differently, to avoid the butterfly similarity. One of my daughters said: "That's not a bee, that's a butterfly, mom." She was a little disgusted with me.
No matter. I loved it. D'Bee loved it. That's enough.
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Time to Change the Game Plan

My very nearly 12 year old son is grudgingly helping me pick a few tomatoes. I told him to go get a colander to put them in. He asked me: "A colander? What the heck is a colander?"
I am so ashamed.
And I'm furiously rewriting my Parenting Manual as we speak.
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She's 100% Organic

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I put Little T to bed tonight, after her long day of playing dollies.
My day included cleaning out my linen closet, which meant thinning through 5 babies worth of baby blankets. We probably got 3-5 blankets each time we had a kid, so...lots of cute blankeys around here. But I don't got no more babies! So the thinning begins.
It's hard to get rid of stuff with the kids around. I'm sure some of you know what I mean. Half of the cute blankets in the give away pile ended up in the You Can Keep Them If They Stay in Your Room Pile. So after unearthing a stray farm veggie box from the garage, Little T spent most of the day making comfy beds for her baby dolls.
I guess the box bed just looked too comfy to her. This is what I found when I went in her room to check on the girls after they were asleep:

That doesn't even look comfortable.
Just goes to show that not everything in a box labeled organic is trustworthy.
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In Spite of Me: A Garden Story

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This is not a post about what an awesome gardener I am.
This past Spring, when we were planning our first real vegetable garden, my husband said to me: “I’m leaving the vegetables to you: you pick what we plant and where they go. You buy the seeds or plants. You put ‘em in the ground. You tend ‘em.” Etcetera.

This makes sense, because he takes care of pretty much every other square foot of garden space around here, of which there are many, and works hard to do it.

So I began my research on how to have a vegetable garden. Books are good right? So I started with a great one, Golden Gate Gardening. I leisurely (read randomly) flipped through pages and pretended I knew even what I was looking for. I made a ridiculously long list of what veggies I wanted to plant, and then felt my eyes glaze over while reading detailed care instructions. The more I read, the less inspired I got. So I did what any reasonable procrastinator would do: I stuck the list and the book next to my bed and …

Butter: A Dilemma

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I love real butter. Nothing beats a slice of fresh sour dough bread, lightly toasted, and touched by real, creamy butter.
Due to health concerns in my family, I buy fake butter, the Smart Choice brand after trying several. (Actually, I don't call it fake butter anymore, after my husband asked me to use the term healthy butter instead. More appetizing, I suppose.)
So my kids have grown up on the healthy butter, pulling the Costco size vat out of the fridge for their bagels, toast and what-have-you.
I also always keep real butter in the house, because I personally do not (currently) have any health issues preventing me from enjoying its creamy goodness. I also prefer to bake with real butter.
The other day, I made my son some toast, and used the real butter -- no particular reason except that's how I make it for myself. He was in heaven, and kept asking me why his toast tasted so good. How did I do that? When he makes it, it doesn't taste that good!
So. The Dilemma. …

The Moment I Needed

A few nights ago, Rick and I watched the White House tribute to Paul McCartney, during which Dave Grohl delivered an impressive cover of Band on the Run. It was incredible, even if I could barely resist the urge to reach up to the TV screen and brush the hair out of Dave's face so we could all see his eyes. Yes, I am a mother.

(You can watch a YouTube clip of Grohl's performance here; Band on the Run starts around minute 3.)

The event was in celebration of Sir Paul receiving America’s highest award for popular music − the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song − back in early June. All kinds of performers and musicians paid tribute, including Stevie Wonder, EmmyLou Harris and Elvis Costello. It was a little surreal to see all that rockin' going on in the East Room of the White House, with large portraits of George and Martha Washington gazing down at the proceedings. And it was touch disturbing to see the Jonas Brothers among the guests; I don't know …