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Showing posts from 2011

Dorothy Saves Christmas

I readily admit that the Christmas season kicks my butt.

I get overwhelmed by the pressure of it all, saddened by the consumerism, frustrated by the greed, and worried about spending the money.

Tis' the Season to completely freak out.

But this year, I felt myself compelled to seek out an old friend, a book, actually, by a personal hero of mine, Dorothy Day. The book is The Long Loneliness, and I picked it up this morning and started re-reading it.

"We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community." --Dorothy Day


If I stay with these pages, I think I'll make it to the Epiphany in fine form. Thank you Dorothy.
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7 Quick Takes: The Christmas List Edition

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Seven quick Christmas wishes for my family.

~1~
For Little T:  My wish for you this Christmas is that you learn to think first and scream second.   Because that thing you do in the car, when you object to something I'm saying, or something someone else is saying, that blood-curdling shriek?  I think it endangers us on the road and I would like it to stop.  Lest you think this is a selfish wish, I have the best interest of your vocal cords in mind here, sweetheart.  You could probably do permanent damage to them if you keep up that obnoxious behavior.

And I also wish for you that you charge into 2012 with as much joy and verve as you are closing 2011 with.  And maybe a movable stuffed animal puppy.

~2~
For Lady E: My wish for you this Christmas is that the adults around you find ways to respond to your bright, inquisitive, lightening-quick mind.  May that brain be lit on fire and may that fire grow and grow throughout your life.  May you remember us little people when you are famous…

The Price I'm Willing To Pay

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The other day a friend of ours brought 5 coca-cola cans over for my children.  He was dropping off a bunch of other stuff, and thoughtfully decided to include the sodas so that I could enjoy the resulting caffeine-induced frenzy: THANKS!

This was in the morning.  So of course, I didn't let anyone have a soda that early in the day.  And even though coca-cola cans look exactly alike, and even though it does not matter which one you get, my 5th born child decided that one particular can was definitely hers.   She wanted a label on hers while the cans chilled in the fridge.  She brought me a very small slip of paper and instructed me to write the following on it:
"No one drink this soda, because it's Tallulah's and if you drink it, then after I take it back and drink it I will hit you in the head with it." She knows how to protect her own.

And no, she doesn't get that violent streak from me.  I am a peace-loving person.  And I don't even like soda.

I don'…

Just for Fun

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CHEERS!

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You Never Know

My husband used to be a teacher.

Actually, I should rephrase that: My husband is a teacher, and he used to get paid to teach full time.

Six years ago (or was it 7?), he left the classroom for the garden, and began designing native plant gardens for a living.  He's good at it.  He created a virtual paradise for us here, and when other people started asking him for help in their own gardens, he -- we -- took the leap and he changed careers.  He can visualize and then create really beautiful outdoor spaces.

But he's a teacher at heart.

Flash forward six years.  (Or maybe 7?)  The other night, he stopped into a local liquor store to get me, his grateful and lucky wife, some Stone IPA.  There, behind the counter, was a former student.

"Mr. A!  Whoa--that is so wierd!  I was just talking about you an hour ago!"

This was a kid Mr. A remembers well, and was delighted to see.  But an hour ago?  So Mr. A asked him why on earth he was thinking about his high school English tea…

7 Quick Takes: Volume 45

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~1~
This week marked the birthday of Dorothy Day, one of my personal heroes and saints.  So this first take is devoted to her.  She said:

The greatest challenge of the day is:  how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution  which has to start with each one of us?
In the midst of the Occupy movements happening all over the country, this question is more relevant than ever.

I have two books to recommend in honor of Dorothy's birthday.  The first is hers, The Long Loneliness, a wonderful, spiritually uplifting book about her conversion, her life and her work.  The second is the book The Life You Save May Be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage, by Paul Elie.  Described by its publisher as "the story of four modern American Catholics who made literature out of their search for God," this engaging book weaves together the biographies of Dorothy Day, Flannery O'Connor, Walker Percy, and Thomas Merton.  I received this book as a gift years ago, and although it's b…

7 Quick Takes: Volume 44

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I don't care if Monday's blue • Tuesday's grey and Wednesday too • Thursday I don't care about you • It's Friday, I'm in love.

And it's Friday, I'm writing Quick Takes.

~1~
Time to say goodbye to our 2011 Birthday Season!  Every Fall, we have 4 kid birthdays in 6 week.  The last one was a few weeks ago, but the party is officially tonight.  I am hosting four little girl guests for a sleepover.  There will be pizza.  There will be face painting.  There will be movie watching.  There will be cake.

There will be a tired mommy at the end.

Hopefully, there will be a happy 7 year old at the end, too.

And thus endeth the AIRY5 2011 birthdays.  If I start planning now, maybe the 2012 birthday season will go a bit more smoothly.

~2~
And this great advice letter made the rounds on Facebook this week; I've seen it before (it's been around since 2007), maybe you have too, but certainly, it's worth another read or two or ten.

Thankfully, I have no friends…

Support The Writer's Almanac

I received an email this morning that started out like this:

Dear Friend of The Writer’s Almanac,We’re writing because we need your help to support The Writer’s Almanac digital content, such as our daily e-mail newsletter, podcasts and extensive audio archive.You can listen to The Almanac in the time it takes you to drink one cup of coffee or make one sandwich. Its purpose has been to make five minutes beautiful and memorable.
That's all it took.  I clicked through.  I gave some money.  Because The Writer's Almanac does make five minutes of my morning memorable and beautiful.  Not that I get to listen everyday.  In fact, I listen maybe 50% of the time, and 50% of that time, my kitchen is too loud for me to really hear anything.
BUT!  I still love it, and when a little gem of information or poetry breaks through the cacophony, my day is enriched.  If you are so inclined, join me.  Click here and give.
Poetry, history, anecdotes, and Garrison Keillor's lovely, soothing, reson…

7 Quick Takes, Volume 43

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~1~
The five AIRY5 children are all sick.  That's 5 stuffy noses, 5 sore throats, 5 aching heads.  Time for 5 little shots of whiskey, all for mom to make it through the day!

Since everyone is sick, this will have to be the quickest 7 takes ever.  So for the remaining 6, here are some homeschooling takes I've been thinking about lately:

~2~
I highly recommend Draw Write Now for Language Arts for young children.  My girls are all enjoying these activities immensely, and ask to do them even when we aren't "doing" school.  Here are some of our creations:



~3~

Reading out loud is magical.  We are currently reading By the Great Horn Spoon, by Sid Fleischman.  Reading out loud makes us slow down and spend time together.  By reading out loud to my kids, I have discovered that my reluctant readers are amazing listeners: their comprehension is outstanding, and I would not have known that without taking the time to read to them.


~4~

When I showed the kids on an atlas that in …

Reward

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Today we locked wills. Today, you wanted yeses and all you got were nos. Today, we both shed tears of frustration for the same reason: not getting what we wanted.
I understand, my sweet. I see your amazing strength, your goodness, your will to kindness.  I see you.
So no, you are not just a handful, not just a challenge, not just defiant.
You are the light of the world.
And in a darkened living room, at the close of a day that swirled with anxiety, tension, conflict, you, your sleeping sweaty-ness, your warm weight on my lap, are my reward.
One I may not have earned today, but which God in his infinite goodness and mercy, has given me anyway.

I want this to be enough.  I want to be grateful enough and clear-sighted enough to let this beautiful face carry me through the day.  To keep me on the right path, to keep me hopeful, to help me be your light of the world, until you go on to light up other places.
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I Finally Figured Out This Parenting Thing

On good days, parenting is one of the most amazing, collaborative, relational, life-transforming acts a person can do.

On bad days, parenting is basically one miserable battle between the parent's sanity and the offspring's self-esteem.  Both cannot win.  One goes down in defeat while the other rises from the dust and struggle.

Guess which kind of day I'm having?  I'll give you a hint: the highlight of my day was listening to the phppt! of the Racer 5 cap as it was released from its bottle.

Oh, I've had the other kind of day, too.  Why else would all five of them still be alive?

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At Least She Knows What She Likes

Today, in the car (of course), Lady E and Little T got into a bit of an argument about who has the better life.  It started with Little T complaining that she never gets to have play dates with friends.  Lady E, to her credit, was merely trying to make Little T feel better by pointing out all the fun things the youngest one gets to do.

"You get to play in the garden!  In your sand castle!  In your pirate ship!  You get to play dress up!  And you get to go visit Emmett (our neighbor)!  And you get to play with Tule (our dog)!"

She went on for awhile.  It was a little too much for Little T, who started getting madder and madder.

Finally, from the backseat, Lady E said: "Mom!  I'm trying to make her feel better and she just said to me: 'Oh, yeah, and here's another thing I like to do: ANNOY YOU!'"

Sighing inwardly, I chided Little T: "Little T, that is not a very nice thing to say.  Your sister is actually trying to make you feel better."

Lit…

If I Lived in San Francisco...

...which, sadly, I do not, I would vote for John Avalos for Mayor.  San Francisco readers, as you know, election day is on Tuesday, November 8th.  For your benefit, I am sharing the following video produced by Madnomad Films for the Avalos Campaign.




Once upon a time, in what seems like a life time ago, I worked with John, so if he wins, I'll get to say that I personally know the mayor of one of the country's best cities.  So if you live there, vote for him, so I can have the bragging rights.  Plus, San Francisco, my native city, is near and dear to my heart, and I can't have just any ol' yahoo at the helm.  That wouldn't be right.  So again, vote for him, so my city can hold its head high.

What will you get out of it?  A mayor with integrity, vision, humor, humility, and skill.  A rare kind of mayor, one you can trust.

Plus, he's got the cutest kids!


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7 Quick Takes: Volume 42

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Well, another Friday has arrived.  Honestly, I'm not sure that's a good thing.  It's soccer season, so Friday just means it's my day to cattle prod the kids into getting ready for their games on Saturday.  By the time I close my eyes tonight, I will need to know the precise location of 6 pairs of soccer socks, 7 jerseys, four pairs of shorts, and two sets of team warm-ups.  Not to mention cleats, shin guards, and water bottles.  And since I'm not supposed to be doing things for the kids that they can do themselves (whatever), this Finding of Things will take forever.
Remember when Fridays were actually relaxing?  Yeah, neither do I.
But here's a relaxing thing to do!  Click over to Conversion Diary, our 7 Quick Takes host; click a few more times to peruse some of the other bloggers who are Quick Taking today, and by gosh -- leave a comment.  Comments are good.
And now...my takes.

~1~
I have been watching Little T "skip" for months now.  Except she has…

Trippin'

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We've been field tripping all over the place.  Trippin' with Little T is quite an experience.  While getting ready for one of our trips this week, I stood in the shower and listened to Little T pound all over the house yelling "I'm not ready to go yet!  I'm not ready to go yet!"

Later, in the car, watching all the people stuck in our hideous Bay Area traffic, I remarked on the awesomeness of the carpool lane.  And as we zipped past all those barely moving cars, my sweet five year old pointed at them and said: "Yeah, SUCK-AHS!"


Sigh.

Anyway, our trips this month: We went to the John Muir Historical Site, and learned about one of the greatest hippies who ever lived.  He had a "scribble den" in his big beautiful house.  I want a scribble den.    A photo from the trip:



We went to the California Academy of Sciences, a place that rocks.  And that has lots of cool rocks, too.  A video of that trip:



There are a surprising amount of fish in the Ac…

Monday Morning Pop Quiz

In order to get your intellectual and creative juices flowing for the coming week, I've come up with a little quiz.

As the last few posts have shown, teenager-ness is dominating my life right now.  I'm sure (I hope) that by the time my 3rd, 4th, and 5th kids are teenagers, I will be a pro at this, but for now, everything is new and challenging.  I'm definitely still getting my Teenager Legs.  I'm almost at the point where I don't need to run to the starboard side and vomit over the railing every time there is an upheaval.  Almost.

Anyway, I've got Teenager-ness on the brain.  Thus, this quiz.

(1) Finish the following sentence:  "Trying to get a teenager to help with the weekend yard work is like ___________________."  (Bonus points if you include "with a helpful attitude" after the phrase "weekend yard work."

(2) Scenario: Your teen has an evening guitar recital for which he is less than prepared, and he has expressed to you that h…

Genius

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Takes 8, 9 and 10

Yesterday, after posting 7 things I've learned since welcoming my first teenager, I thought of three more!  So, here they are.

~8~
I have learned that when lecturing your teenager on the importance of self-control, it's a good idea to maintain a little yourself.  A tirade about self-control that includes none whatsoever is not effective and worse, makes you look ridiculous.  And a teenager needs no help seeing his parents as ridiculous, so it's best not to give him any fact-based evidence to support that view.

My kids love the story their dad tells them about his Pop Warner football coach, who would come unglued at some player's mis-step, and then scream like a wild animal, with eyes bulging and arms flailing: "COMPOSURE!  COMPOSURE!  KEEP YOUR COMPOSURE!"

I'm learning just how much I do not want to be that coach.  Oh, and also how hard that is.

~9~
I have learned to love the electronics that my kids obsess over so much.  Oh, I still hate the 24-7 access th…

7 Quick Takes, Volume 41: The OMG I HAVE A TEENAGER Edition

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It's official.  I have a teenager.  Life has fundamentally shifted.  I am still getting my bearings.  Here are 7 things I've learned so far:

~1~

Do.  Not.  Under any circumstances.  Attempt to fight every battle.  There are just too damn many.  You'll tire yourself out and the enemy will win.  Actually, both of you will lose, because no one wins when everyone is yelling.

~2~
It's true: teenagers live inside a bubble of self-absorption that is nearly impossible to burst.  It would be impressive to behold if watching it didn't feel like an all over body itch on the inside of my skin.

~3~
My teenager really does believe, with all his heart, that I am daft.  Nerdy, daft, pitiable, and so, so clueless.  I do not need to take this personally. I just need to wait a few years, until I suddenly become brilliant again.  (Of course, given that he has four youngsters beneath him charging inevitably towards the Teenage Years themselves, I actually have something like 13 years bef…

A Family Scene

The scene: a minivan in middle America.  And by middle, I really mean on the edge of the country, one earthquake away from beachfront property.

The cast: Mom, Girl #1 (6 years old), Girl #2 (9 years old), and Girl #3 (5 years old.  Doesn't really figure into the story.  Spends the entire scene sucking her thumb.)

Backstory: It's been a long, grumpy day for everyone.  Lots of whining, shrieking, complaining, and yelling.  The kids haven't been all that great either.

____________________________________________


Mom looks in her rearview mirror and sees surly Girl #1 slumping down in her booster seat, definitely not taking advantage of the safety benefits of said booster.


Mom:  "Girl #1!  Sit up straight!"

Girl #1: "No!  I don't want to!  Why should I?"

Mom: "Because it's not safe to sit like that."

Girl #2: "Yeah, you might get hurt if mom smashes into the car in front of us."

Mom: "Sit up!"

Mom sighs deeply and lets her mi…

Not Sure What This Is

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We do lots of stuff around here.

We make homemade pasta with friends.


We make cornbread.


We sport some lovely aprons in the process.


We do puzzles.


We write the most adorable stories about girls and dogs and flowers and suns and rainbows.


We weave beads.


Sounds fun, right?  We also watch great movies, do a little Kahn Academy, juggle soccer balls, make an insane amount of art, and read lotsa books.  We are almost finished with our current out loud book, The Thief Lord.

I'm not sure if we ever really do any science.  Or history.  Although, we do watch movies that could be classified as history.  And come to think of it, we did a pretty cool little project about bones, joints, and the skeleton.

The kids and I are getting ready for our first monthly meeting with our "Educational Consultant" at which the kids will need to hand in their monthly work samples in Language Arts, Math, Science and Social Studies.  So it's my monthly round of a little mind game I like to call …

12 hours later...

...and I'm nearly dead.

I made the dinner.  I do not have the energy, will, or desire to actually serve it.

Chili, corn bread, and salad, all ready to go, and whaddya wanna bet some of these people still starve, due to my recent announcement that if they want to eat, they need to serve themselves?

The angels have quieted considerably since the glorious chorus that attended my morning.

I'm going for day #2, anyway.

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Ya' Hear That? Yup. It's Angels.

I did it!  I did it!  I got up before my family and did my morning routine!

Wait -- does one morning make a routine?

Doesn't matter.  I don't care.  I did it.

And it was, and is, glorious.  I'm sitting here sipping my 2nd cup of joe, having been awake for 2.5 hours and I haven't had to interact with a single solitary soul.  Which is a very good thing for my single, solitary soul.

So here's what I did.

I woke up around 4:50 and struggled to keep my eyes open for 15 or 20 minutes.  Then I stalled a little by playing scrabble on my iPhone.  Finally, I got up and started workin' my list.  I folded laundry, put it all away, rode the exercise bike for 20 minutes while listening to NPR (total NPR geek here), ate breakfast (Fruit Loops*. Can you believe that?  And a banana.  And water and coffee.), quick cleaned my bathroom, took a shower during which no one knocked on the door, prayed pretty much the entire time (please God, let this getting up early thing not be a …

Ridiculous, But I'm Going For It Anyway

My whole nutty life could be summed up in one phrase: Attempting the impossible.

I'm certainly not the only one for whom this is true.  But I put it out there because really, I spend precious minutes being utterly flabbergasted by the truth: I can't do all of the things I am being asked to do, and I can't figure out what to delete from the list.

Take, for example, my morning routine.  My morning wish routine, as in, I wish it was my routine.

A few months ago, I decided that I needed to give myself a morning routine that would prepare me well for the day.  You know, as opposed to dragging myself out of bed at the same time as the kids and needing to hit the ground running over gritty floors in bare feet and then not stopping the running until hitting my pillow many, many hours later.

So a few months ago, I came up with my dream morning.  It goes like this:

Get up around 5am.Ride the exercise bicycle OR walk the dog: 25-30 minutesPray: 15 minutesShower: 20 minutesFold and pu…

7 Quick Takes, Volume 40: The Twittery Edition

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Quick!  Read these quick takes.  And quick! Go visit the Mother Ship and check out Quick Takes from whence all others spring.  And quick! Click on some of the links to other bloggers playing along.  And quick! Have a great Friday!


~1~







I avoid Twitter.  I need another distraction like I need another hole to pour food into 3x a day.  But I’m curious, so I’m experimenting.



~2~

Today is my last day in a Teenager Free Zone.  Tomorrow, I will have a teenager.  Tomorrow, you all need to start praying very hard.
~3~
Michelle Norris, do you talk to your kids in that soothing, velvety voice?  Can you teach me how?  Guttural barks aren’t working so well.
~4~
Homeschooling is a ridiculous proposition, true.  But so is having kids.  And getting married.  And getting out of bed in the morning.  So there.
~5~

Answer the questions you are asked.  If your daughter asks how to make a drink “on the rocks,” tell her straight up, no chaser.
~6~

Answer all the questions you are asked.  If your son asks if it ruins a …

You Say Tomato

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I say Boo-Yah!


If you plant tomatoes in April and completely ignore them for 5 months, you might get lucky and still come up with a few!

We haven't picked much from our sadly, reprehensibly neglected garden this year, but today Little T harvested strawberries, peppers, tomatoes and the last of our green beans.  And giggles and delight.


Giggle seeds.  Plant 'em.
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