30 September 2011

7 Quick Takes, Volume 40: The Twittery Edition

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!


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.


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.

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.

Homeschooling is a ridiculous proposition, true.  But so is having kids.  And getting married.  And getting out of bed in the morning.  So there.


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


Answer all the questions you are asked.  If your son asks if it ruins a soldier’s life to kill someone in a war, fumble through it.


Hardest thing about being a mom? Remembering that I’m supposed to be the calm, detached one. Not letting tantrums de-compose me.  Breathing.

* * *

Wow.  Twitter is a lot like Haiku.  Who knew?  OK, like millions of other people before me, I guess.

* * *

You Say Tomato

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.

* * *

28 September 2011

Nothing Better

This is the best dressing down I've ever seen on film.  I want to be Katherine Hepburn.  Or her character in this movie.  Or a combination of the two.

* * *

27 September 2011

A Good Day

Today has been a good day.  Little T spent much of it catching skippers.  V and L built a marble track.  People read.  People even did math.  E and L and I played a raucous game of Monkey in the Middle with a big red balloon.

And today is Tuesday, so it's movie day.  The kids are watching Guess Who's Coming to Dinner with Sidney Portier and Katherine Hepburn.

These are some damn lucky kids!

25 September 2011

Two Letters to Kids Who Play Soccer

The first one is not from me. This letter, which I wish I could photocopy and pass out to every parent on the four teams my family is a part of -- or at least to a few hand-selected parents on those teams, was written by Mike Woitalla, a coach with our own East Bay United and the Executive Editor of Soccer America.

If you have kids who play any sport, not just soccer, you should read and share this letter, addressed to Soccer-Playing Children of America. It's really quite wonderful, exemplifying as it does all of our best hopes for what the beautiful game can be for our kids.

Mr. Woitalla's words have been resounding in my head all weekend, as Rick and I split our time between four teams and three tournaments. But as the weekend wore on, and I found myself cajoling sibling spectators into their booster seats for the kajillionth time and laundering uniforms in the middle of the night and dashing to the store for more (some would say better) snacks, other thoughts started pinging around as well, so I composed a letter of my own. It's sort of a complement to Mr. Woitalla's letter...I hope. Read on, dear children:

Dear Soccer-Playing Children in My Family,

This was a wonderful weekend of playing soccer, in sun and shadow, in early mornings and late afternoons. We saw everything from you this weekend, running, dribbling, passing, fighting, scoring, assisting, scissoring, weaving, winning, tying, and losing with dignity. I hope you had fun out there, just like Mr. Woitalla hopes for you as well. I want you to read his letter to you. He expresses eloquently everything your father and I believe in our hearts about soccer and your participation in it. And after you've read it, read this one. These are just a few extra gems that are also important, and equally held dear by dad and me.

First, you've been doing a decent job this season of finding your socks, shorts, and jerseys the day before your game. It's not easy, but I'm proud of you for not giving up, even when you've been sitting in a heap on your bedroom floor for 10 whole minutes moaning that you can't find one of your socks. So far, you've fought through those struggles and come up with the elusive sock. To that effort, I would add one small thing: I hope when it comes time to leave the house for your field next weekend, you've got your shoes on and your water bottles filled. This is so important, and it will help set you up to have a fantastic game. Because if you don't, I'm probably going to scream at you out of sheer frustration, and screaming at you is definitely not a great way to send you off onto the pitch.

And you know how your siblings have been coming to your games for years and figuring out how to keep themselves entertained during long tournament weekends? You know how the little ones have learned that when mom and dad are intently watching a soccer game, twitching with every move, they're aren't ignoring their younger offspring, they're just really, really pulling for whichever sibling is out there? You know how we've been telling them for years, in the car on the way to your games, that someday it will be their turn? Well, that day is here, at least for one of them. So yes, you have to go to some of her games and even watch and even cheer and even pretend to be supportive. It's the least you can do. If you're looking for the least, I'm handing it to you on a silver platter. Sit. Watch. Cheer once in a while. Easy peasy.

And another thing: early mornings really do suck. I know it's tough to get out of bed at 6am to get dressed and out the door to a 7am warm up. You know what's even harder? Getting out of bed before you do, at 5:30am, in order to make coffee for the coach, fix a warm protein-packed breakfast for lots of short people, make sure all the uniforms are clean and ready, and then get 5 reluctant risers to get ready for the day. All with a smile and an encouraging word or two. As much as I love the beautiful game, I also loved my beautiful pillow this morning, and yet I left it in order to be the force behind getting everyone where they needed to be.

Remember, the game is the thing. The game is why we do this. I know you love it, and I love watching you do what you love. A little reminder, then: We do not play this game for cheap knock-off neon-green Messi sweatshirts that look like they were slapped together in someone's garage and then hung on an old curtain rod sporting a $35 price tag. We definitely don't do it for that, and this half of we would really love it if you could let go of the prospect of owning that cheap piece of crap and focus on the game at hand.

Oh, and on a related note: not every ice cream vendor needs our business. The earth will not stop spinning if you don't eat ice cream at every soccer field your magical cleated feet grace. In other words, you are not a professional athlete, and you are not paid in ice cream.

We, your loving parents, will cheer and cheer, and try not to scream or coach from the sidelines (except your dad, when he actually is your coach, and even then, not during the game itself), and in return, we'd really appreciate it if you could recognize who it is that gets you to your games, buys your cleats, your uniforms, your shin guards, your balls, your power bars, your mangoes and your gatorade, drives to your practices, replaces your lost water bottle (well, once at least: after that, you're on your own), drives back to the field well after dark to see if your forgotten ball is still there, and generally gives up life itself to make this game possible for you.

I've told you before: I'm 100% willing and happy to do all of these things because if you love this game, then you should play it, as much as possible and as well as possible. What am I asking for? Work with me. That's it. Just work with me. Show good sportsmanship with me too, your mama, the captain of the team, so to speak, and the only person on earth who cares as much as you do about how your team does and whether or not you have a good game.

I care. So please don't piss me off.



ps: I think your father, coach-extraordinaire, more devoted to soccer than anyone you have ever met or ever will, could write a letter of his own. Maybe he will someday. Between all of your practices and games, I doubt he'll have the time. So on his behalf, let me just say this: Never forget how much time, energy, and love he puts into planning and thinking about you and how you are experiencing soccer. No one has or ever will do more for you, when it comes to soccer, than he does. We tease him that he can make soccer a metaphor for anything, but he's right, isn't he? Soccer is just like life: love and hard work will take you far. You dad will always be there watching, hoping, and cheering for you. So go forth to love and play hard.

23 September 2011

7 Quick Takes: Volume 39

No one listened to my request to slow things down, and now another Friday has come along at the speed of light.  I'm holding on by my fingernails.

Please visit the host of 7 Quick Takes, at Conversion Diary, and sample a few of the links to other Quick Takers.  And comment on them too!  We like comments, yes we do, we like comments, HOW 'BOUT YOU?


My mom gave the DVD The Way Things Go to my son for his birthday this month.  He loves it!  If you have a kid (or an adult) who likes mazes, contraptions, mechanical operations, domino tracks, etc., you just might have to get this DVD.  Here is a taste:

Pretty cool, right?


Finally, an iPod game I actually like!  My son has traveled the Oregon Trail several times this week on a cool .99 game we recently learned about.  Along the way, his wife died of dysentery, two of his daughters were carried off by hawks, and one daughter died of a fever.  He has traded goods for gold-panning supplies, learned how to churn butter (just put the freshly milked cream in a container and attach it to your wagon: the road is so bumpy, the milk will turn into butter), and repaired his wagon.

I was a little skeptical at first, because it seems to me that most "educational games" are sort of lame, but on this one, I keep having to warn him that he better be careful or he just might learn something.  It's scary for him.

Anyway, I've been getting a kick out of watching and listening to him play, and hearing the little tidbits of information he keeps coming up with.  Did you know that 3/5 of the agriculture produced and sold today comes from plants that the Native Americans used?  He does!


When I was a little girl, I hated blowing my nose.  So when I had the sniffles, I sniffled.  A lot.  It drove my dad crazy.  I remember him repeatedly, forcefully ordering me to find a kleenex.  I always felt slightly offended: apparently, he was more concerned about being annoyed with me than he was about my poor nose.  How bad could a little sniffling be, right?

Dad, I get it now.  I have a kid who frequently needs to blow his nose, but never does, and instead, he sniffles loud, long and hard, giving me visions of his entire face turning inside out.  Annoying doesn't even begin to cover it.  I'm thinking that the noise rivals fingernails on a chalkboard.  It's beyond unbearable.  And I find myself ordering him to blow, with little to no compassion in my tone.  I just want that infernal noise to stop.

I hope he has a sniffler when he becomes a father.  I will make more sense to him if he does.


The AIRY5 family's soccer game schedule for the weekend:  minimum 10 games, maximum 13, depending on tournament results.


Further proof that children think parents are really, really clueless:

I wish this came from one of my kids, because it's so funny, but alas, this is from a friend of mine.  Her son, who is in 1st or 2nd grade, came home and said to her:  "My teacher wants the parents to do this page of homework, but you have to write really messy."

Is that classic, or what?


When I was a kid, we weren't allowed to watch much television.  So when left home alone, what would I do?  Yup.  Flick on the set.  Of course, I had to actually stand up, walk over to the television, and turn the dial through all 5 or so channels in order to find something to watch, and there usually wasn't much...but cheat I did.

As a young teenager, I had a standing babysitting gig on Thursday nights for the family that lived in our rental cottage, 20 feet away from my own house and on our property.  This meant that I could watch the forbidden Magnum P. I. every week, mere feet from my parents, without really going anywhere.  I was pretty bummed when the family's schedule changed and I was no longer needed on Thursday evenings.

Today, I've got a plan for the girls and we are leaving the house for a few hours.  I will be telling my boys that they are not allowed to be on the internet, watch TV, or play video games while I am gone.    So I'm wondering: do I go with old fashioned trust?  Or do I take the router and the wii cord with me when I go?  Please, take the poll:

(A) Leave it in their hands and trust the little sweethearts
(B) Ensure success: take all technology with me


Homeschooling update: Homeschooling is going great!  Every other day.  Or every other hour.  Or for every other kid.

It's complicated, and hard, and I do have moments where I wonder why I'm doing this.  But then, I have moments where I'm so glad I'm doing this.  Mostly, lately, I've been having little glimmers of fantastic-ness surrounded by lots of flashes of OMG-This-Isn't-Working.  Lots of back to the drawing board moments for me.

We have been watching some great movies, though, all of which fall in the category of Popular Culture History.  Here's what we've seen so far this year.

Destry Rides Again (Jimmy Stewart)
The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (Don Knotts)
Some Like it Hot (Jack Lemmon, Dean Martin, Marilyn Monroe)

We are also almost finished with our out-loud reading of The Thief Lord: a good one.

I have miles to go before I feel good about this...but you know, a journey of a thousand miles starts by getting up in the morning, right?  Getting up: check.  Teaching the children well: still to be checked.

* * *

21 September 2011

We Like Those Ladies

On our way to pick up our young Picassos from their art class, Lady E, Little T and I saw three Sisters of the Missionaries of Charity walking down the street.  I told the girls that these women are "Mother Theresa's sisters" and that they spend their days -- their lives -- feeding people who are hungry and taking care of people who are sick.  I explained that Mother Theresa started the order in India, and that she did small things with great love, and that we are blessed to know about her.

Little T got very excited, craning her neck to see the three women as they walked.

"Oh Mama, I like those ladies!  I would like to see those ladies every day!"

"I like them too, Little T."

"I love them!  Cuz I would love to have all that food they give people, because I LOVE FOOD!"

* * *

Dear Sisters,  I promise I will teach her and her siblings to love you for much more and to follow your loving example wherever they are.

* * *

19 September 2011

Spunk and Muscles

 I just woke up from a panic dream.

Little T and I were walking along a beach on a lovely summer day.  People were all around us, playing in the water.  We came upon a stand of bleachers facing the water, maybe four or five rows high, and on the bleachers was a group of students from our old school, getting arranged for a class photo.  The teacher, a woman we know and like, stood about 5 or 10 feet in front of the bleachers, with a camera, waiting for the kids to settle into position.

She and I started talking, making conversation, catching up with one another.  We talked about how she just went shopping at Costco in preparation for her students' First Communion.  We reminisced about the First Communion celebrations my kids had when we were one of the school's families.

Suddenly, the tide came in, fast.  The water came up to my rib cage and knocked me off my feet for a moment.  And instead of flowing back out, the water stayed in, high up on the beach, now at about the middle of my thighs.  I looked up at the bleachers, amused by the reaction of the children who were now looking down at water swirling around beneath their bleacher rows.

And then, of course, the panic: Little T.  Where was she?  She was holding my hand a moment ago, and now my hand was empty and all I could see was murky ocean water.  The water was starting to pull back out, and I couldn't find her.  Feeling the strong pull on my own legs, I couldn't stop myself from imagining what that force could be doing to my daughter, pulling her under and straight out into the ocean, without me ever seeing her go.  In my mind's eye, I saw her arms and legs tumbling and rolling beyond where anyone could save her.  Water was rushing by me on all sides, as I frantically scanned the beach looking for her.  I started shaking, and the beach started closing in on me. The moments passed, and with each one, my fear and panic increased and my stomach heaved.

And then, as the water drained from underneath the bleachers, a laughing Little T emerged as well.  She had scurried under the benches while I was talking to the teacher, looked up at all those wonderful jungle gym-like metal rods and planks, and started climbing them.  When the water came in, she just climbed higher, until, with the water at its highest point, she ended up hanging on to the bottom of the highest bleacher row, flexing the 5 year old muscles she was showing off to me just last night before bed ("Mommy, I'm five now, so look how big my muscles are now?")  She was fine, happy even, pleased at the climbing adventure she had had and tickled by the game of keep away she had played with the tide.  Tickled, of course, because she had won.  She hadn't even gotten wet.

She saved herself.

And I woke up with that panicky feeling still holding on.  But I figure that dream is telling me that Little T is a survivor.  All she needs are the muscles and the spunk she already has, and she is going to ride high above life's fray and come out smiling.  Oh sure, I still parent her and do the time out thing and set boundaries and encourage creativity and read her books and make her eat vegetables. But I don't think I'll worry about her very much.  Instead, I'll just hope she's around if I ever need a MacGyver-type set of hands in an emergency.

And I will add two new things to the list of what to pray for:  spunk and muscles.  For all of us.

* * *

16 September 2011

7 Quick Takes: Volume 38

Whoa!  Did I just blink and another Friday rolled around?  And why does time keep speeding up on me?  Seriously, whose in charge of slowing things down around here?  I would like to file a formal request.  Here's the basic text: "HELP!  SLOW DOWN!"  I sure hope I get a response by next Friday.

Please visit the lovely host of the original 7 Quick Takes and visit the links to other bloggers playing along.


Yesterday, I offered to take the kids to get ice cream cones if everyone finished their work by 1pm.  Little T looked at me in dismay.

"What?  Ice cweam cones??  Why?"

Her face crumpled.  She fell to crying.

Huh?  I was baffled.  Until she clarified that she didn't want just the cone, she wanted the ice cream to go with it and thought it was very mean of me to just buy the cone.

So yesterday, when my kids finished their work by 1pm, I took them all out for ice cream cones, and I even let them get some ice cream to put on top.


We have started playing around with the math videos and practice exercises on Kahn Academy.  If you are not yet familiar with Kahn Academy, you should be.  You want to be, you just don't know it yet.  What a cool site!  What an amazing resource!  I ♥ Sal Kahn.

And for further math delightfulness, check out this version of the fantastic Tom Lehrer New Math song:


We learned how to make these fun paper boxes the other day:

Perfect.  Right when I finally purged all those calendars and children's book jackets I had been hoarding for years.

No matter.  I'm sure I can replenish that supply in a heartbeat, and I expect this to be a fun activity we will do many times.  They make delightful gifts and gift containers.  Thank you Lori and Maddie for teaching us!


Cooking with Mama Monica

Hee-hee...oh, my, that title makes me laugh.  I'm sure it would make my husband giggle, too.  Ah, the hilarity!  But my limited range in the kitchen is exactly why I am sharing this recipe.  It is the single easiest thing I ever make, and really quite delicious.  Every time I make it, I feel like I'm getting away with something.  So here ya' go:

Rosemary Chicken

I use thighs.  Place your (frozen, if you're like me) chicken thighs in a baking dish.  They don't need to be thawed, another important feature of the easiest recipe ever, since I never remember to thaw things.

1/2-1 cup of red wine
1/4-1/2 cup of olive oil
1/4-1/2 cup of chopped onions (I've used red and yellow, depending on what I have.  Both work.)
1/2 teaspoon of sage
1/2-1 teaspoon of rosemary
You can add a dash of salt: I don't.

Whisk together all of the above ingredients.  Pour the mixture over the chicken.  That's it.  Seriously.

Whoops!  Forgot to tell you to preheat the oven.  Which makes sense, since I always forget to do it.  Anyway, set oven to around 375-400.  Sorry I can't be more specific, but I've got a really spazzy oven, and I'm never sure exactly what temp I've got goin'.   Cover with foil and cook for around an hour...remove foil and cook for another 15 minutes.  Maybe longer.  Test it for doneness.  If you're like my husband, that means cut it open, eye it suspiciously, and poke a forkful in your wife's face and say: "This look done to you?"  I just use a meat thermometer.

Enjoy over rice or pasta.  And bask in the glory.  This takes about 10 minutes to prepare, and tastes like it took much longer.

You are most welcome.


And a shout out to my 12 year old son, who broke his own juggling record yesterday.   I did not catch the momentous occasion on film, but I did get this video a few weeks ago, to give you an idea of what he is doing.  He got to 50 or so in the video...far below the new RECORD TO BEAT OF 475!

475!  Woot-woot!


It turns out the Serenity Prayer is perfect for teenagers.  I had occasion to tell mine about it the other day, which reminded me of this prayer for the first time in a long time.  I'm glad I stumbled on a chance to bring it back into my daily life (because I can't control much), and I hope my son makes it part of his.  This is probably better than the Golden Rule as a succinct life philosphy.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can.
And the wisdom to know the difference.

Really, what more is there?


And if the radically opposing natures of most of my posts have been giving anyone whiplash lately, if you can't figure out if I'm a big sap or a total cynic, if I seem to be sweet one minute and sarcastically cruel the next, welcome to my world.  It's confusing to be me, trust me. But really, what about my kids?  Say a special prayer for them, with me as their mom.  They'll either be hopelessly confused by the world, or ready for anything.  I'm going for better than 50%, so we'll see how that goes.

* * *

15 September 2011

I Don't Care About Your Problems

I mean, I love you and all, but let me just say this as gently as I can:  Shut the hell up and don't tell me a single word about how your brother or sister has wronged you in some entirely-new-to-the-human-experience way that shatters all measures of cruelty, offends decent people everywhere, and shaves years off your time in Purgatory.  I don't care.  When I say I don't care, what I mean is, I would rather listen to fingernails on a chalkboard, than be asked to mediate another argument for which I was not present, and which might require me to actually make a decision aka choose sides, and that's a trap I need to avoid like the Bubonic Plague.  I would rather go all Vincent Van Gogh on the side of my head than listen to the screeches currently emanating from your mouth.  Put another way, I'd rather listen to Ke$ha than to you right now.  I would rather have South Park on -- loud -- in a room with my five year old.  I would rather go de-flea the dog than be subjected to your Life Is So Not Fair and Why Do They Hate Me and Do You Like Seeing Me Suffer narratives.

I'm fairly certain that I have talked myself blue in the face with suggestions, with strategies for getting along.  I'm sure you know The Golden Rule.  And no, there is no addendum to that rule that reads "...as long as they go first."  I'm done encouraging you to rise above the fray, to take the high road, to be a peacemaker.  Conflict resolution?  Load of crap in reality.

I know you want to justify to me why your sister just sprinted past me screaming bloody murder with you in hot pursuit with that special murderous look upon your face.  I know you want to justify the pain you inflicted on your brother by filling me in on just how completely rotten and evil he is.  I don't care.  And when I say I don't care, I'm really saying that if you don't shut your pie hole now I will bypass Van Gogh and skip straight to Linda Blair, and you don't really want to see your mother's head spinning around on top her neck, do you?

I really, truly, with every fiber of my being do. not. care. why you are being a total pain in the ass.  I just want you to stop.


Stop yelling.  Stop fighting.  Stop bitching and moaning.  While you're at it, why don't you just stop talking altogether?  Just shut it.  Please.  I beg you, I beseech you, if you have any gratitude at all, even the slightest smidge, for the fact that I shoved you into this world, you will be blessedly, finally, silent.

Because I love you.  But I don't care about your sibling problems.  I just want you all to be very, very quiet.

13 September 2011

I'm Gettin' Educated

Things I've learned from homeschooling my kids today.

  • It's really hard to define the word 'opposite' without using the word 'opposite.'  At least, it is for me.
  • When you tell a child to go and look for something, say the movie you want to show them, it is necessary to explain the concept of looking for something because if you don't, she will just look at you funny and say: "But I don't know where it is!"  
  • There are few worse sounds in the entire universe than whining.  Actually, I already knew that, but it was definitely reinforced today.
  • No matter how many times you explain that a "scab" is a worker who is willing to betray other workers who are striking for better working conditions, kids will have more fun saying that a scab is dried up crusty blood, and then they will have even more fun showing off the ones they can find on their bodies.  (We are watching Newsies today.)

I have no idea if my kids are learning anything, but I'm definitely getting an eduation.

10 September 2011

Death and Life

My son asked me the other day how long it takes to get over the death of someone you love.  There is an inherent hope in that question, that getting over loss is possible, that everything will be OK at some point in the future.  I didn't want to answer him, because...well...who wants to tell a child that there are things you never get over?  But I answered.  I told him that you never get over a death, that you always miss a person whom you love, and no one and nothing ever can take his (or her) place in your life.  It's also possible, I told him, to go on and live a wonderful, full, exciting and happy life, to meet other people that you end up loving very much, to be joyful and to enjoy your life to the fullest.  But you don't get over death.  You don't ever go back to the way you were before a person you love dies.

My other son asked me questions today about 9/11.  He asked how it was possible for a small plane to bring down a building as big as the World Trade Center.  He had it in his head that the terrorists who flew into buildings that day were in small two or three seater planes, and had just taken off from wherever and flown to their targets.  I watched his face as I explained that no, actually, the planes were as big as the one he flew on to his cousin's wedding, that the terrorists were not the only people on board, that there were passengers on those planes as well.

Then he asked me about the field in Pennsylvania: why did the terrorists want to crash into a field?  Again, I watched his face as I explained that they actually wanted to hit another building, perhaps the U. S. Congress, and that some of the passengers fought back and caused the plane to crash into a field, and that by doing that, they saved the lives of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people who would have been killed had the plane reached its target.

I cannot describe the look on his face when I explained those things to him.  Horror, disbelief, rejection... Rejection comes close.  He didn't want to know this about the world, I could tell.  He thought he knew the story of 9/11 -- I thought he did too.  But the details, as one learns them and lets them sink in, are freshly tortuous each time, for each person.  I watched those details torture him today.

I turned my face away from him, because I teared up telling him these things.  I felt like the hijackers were making me hurt my son by showing him that these things are possible, that people can really do unspeakable things, and that people are faced with impossible choices.  He couldn't respond to me in words.  He had no more questions.  He just sat there, looking stricken and sick, and we drove on to the field where he would be playing in a soccer game in another hour.

* * *

9/11 gave us devastation, pain, suffering.

9/11 gave us the knowledge that people can do evil.

9/11 gave us dust covered faces and falling bodies.

9/11 gave us goodbye voicemails.

9/11 gave us a scorched Pennsylvania field.

9/11 gave us widows and orphans, and 3000 unfillable holes.

9/11 gave us sorrow.

9/11 gave me, gave Rick and I, something else, too.  9/11, five years later, gave us the deepest, fiercest kind of love, the strongest and best thing two people can produce together, 9/11 gave us Little T, in all her defiant and radiant glory.

She turns 5 as the country marks 10.  She'll wake up tomorrow overjoyed that this is her day, that she was born, that she is to be celebrated, even as the country wakes up to remember, soberly, lives that were lost to dust and steel 10 years ago.  She sees tomorrow as the greatest day ever in the history of the universe and in the history of every person ever born...because this is a kid who loves life like few people ever will.

When she said good night to me tonight, she asked about her Fruit Loops, since we let the kids eat sugary cereal on their birthdays.  I told her I still needed to go to the store and buy them, and she asked if I would be going tonight, or tomorrow morning very early.  When I told her I wasn't sure yet, she said, in that crazy cartoon voice of hers: 

"Well, if you leave tonight, and you think I'm asleep, and you leave without giving me a hug or a kiss?  Well, you can still hug and kiss me, even if I'm asleep, because I really don't ever want you to leave without giving me a hug and a kiss.  And sometimes, when I wake up and your car is gone, I think you should have given me a hug and kiss before you left."

And then she hugged me, with her strong and spindly arms and legs, and I felt her small frame pressed against mine, and I felt her smooth cheek, and I thought to myself there is nothing as purely good and right as the hug of a little kid.

She is --  all of my children are -- my hope that love will triumph over the evil done on 9/11 and the pain and suffering that reverberate out from that day.  She reverberates too: a resounding and repeating song of grabbing life with both hands, jumping in with abandon, and hanging on for the laughter filled ride.  

9/11/01 and 9/11/06 have given me the very same thing, namely this lesson:  hug and kiss the people you love, each and every time you leave them.  

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09 September 2011

7 Quick Takes: Volume 37

On Monday, I prayed to St. Anthony to help me find Friday, and LO! Friday has fallen into my lap. Amen.


I had a dream last Sunday night that I was buried underneath hundreds and hundreds of soccer balls.

Oh, wait.

That wasn't a dream...that was just my weekend.


When I was a kid, my family watched 60 minutes every Sunday night. For a long time, we've tried that here in my house, but the kids have been too little, too squirrely, too loud, too annoying...you get the idea. So instead of watching it, we've been recording it and then sometimes getting around to watching it.

But as the kids get older (because they do that, you know), things are a-changin'! We've actually watched the entire show three weeks in a row now, and the kids are starting to see it as part of our Sunday evening. Not all of them; some drift out of the living room and find something else to do, which is TOTALLY FINE. But I am thrilled that I get to watch it, and there's a bit of nostalgia in there for me, as I see my kids getting used to a tradition that was part of my growing up as well.

A couple of Sunday's ago, one of the stories, which was actually two segments worth, was particularly good. (The summer episodes are re-runs, so I'm not sure when it originally aired.) Leslie Stahl reported on Gospel for Teens, a choir program in Harlem, whose purpose is to keep gospel music alive as an art form. The report is an excellent example of how the arts can change, enhance and even save lives. If you have 40 minutes, go watch these two segments: it's well worth your time. (Google 60 Minutes, Gospel for Teens.)


Today's Homeschooling Tip: A Really Cool Pre-writing Activity!

I wanted the kids to reflect on what a TOTALLY AWESOME SUMMER they had (because they truly did) and I wanted to do a spin off of the What I Did For Summer Vacation writing assignment. So I consulted the resident writing expert (me spouse) and he suggested that we start with a Concept Map. The idea is that you create a visual representation, with words, pictures, or both, of something you will eventually write about. The Map gets to contain all the details and nuances you can think of, without having to be presented in a linear or logical fashion. It's creative and organic, and can lead a student to remember more and more details, add more and more information.

From there, eventually, you can use all of the ideas your map generated to write an essay; your ideas are all out there on your poster, not trapped in your head.

For ours, I created a poster for each kid, with the words MY SUMMER in the middle. From there, their task was to write or draw something to represent all of the fun things they did, shooting off from the middle of the poster. To draw out more detail, we asked things like: Who were you with? What did you do when you were there? What did you eat? What did you smell, see, hear, feel, etc.?

Given that it was the first time we've done this, not everyone jumped in and ran with it...and not everyone will. But at least one of my kids can't stay away from his poster, and keeps going back to it with more ideas and more details.

This activity was a success for us. I think we will use it again, and next time, I'll do one along with them.


That was a long take! Will try to be briefer.


Friday morning victory! My kids have 6 soccer games this weekend. Every weekend, we need to be ready with four pairs of shorts, 7 different jerseys (home and away for three kids), 5 pairs of socks, and team sweatshirts from three of the teams. Not surprisingly, I've spent many a late Friday night, and wee Saturday morning hours, weeping while hunting for these items.

Right now? Every. Single. Damn. Item. is found and ready. 24 hours ahead of time!

I am a soccer mom. Hear me roar.


I am re-reading The Outsiders, by S. E. Hinton, with my son. I first read it when I was about his age. We are trading the book back and forth and keeping up with the same chapters as we go. I'm actually getting teary reading it, and not just because of the story. No, it's the nostalgia that's getting me, the reminder of my younger self and how passionately in love with this book I was.

I keep having to hold myself back from grabbing my son by the shoulders and yelling "Don't you just LOVE IT? Isn't it AMAZING?" Probably, nothing would turn him off faster.

He does love it, though, so I needn't worry.

What book should you re-read?


And now, on our fourth day of homeschooling for the 2011-12 school year, we are off to the park, armed with books, water bottles and (of course) soccer balls. That's how we roll.

Enjoy your Friday everyone!

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As always, visit the original and click around at the others who are participating today.

07 September 2011

I Missed The Fish

Yesterday went pretty much as I expected.  Resistance and reading both happened.  I call it a success.

And I received an unexpected gift in the waning hours of the day: Little T and I found ourselves together with 1.5 hours to kill and everyone else at soccer practices.

This is what we did with our time:

I watched her chase waves and squirrels.  I watched her scooter around the empty Crab Cove parking lot. I watched her play chicken with the cold water.  I watched her on strong legs and sure feet run as fast as she could across a wide expanse of lawn, laughing as she went.

It is so rare that I get to do anything with just one of my kids.  This moment dropped in my lap, and I reveled in it.  Often, time with Little T feels like constant damage control, between her tantrums and her screaming, her demands and her mischief.  But yesterday afternoon, there was none of that, just mommy and Little T, being goofy and having fun.  She ate her yogurt and made me giggle by pretending each bite was utter ecstasy, and she said with the happiest of grins on her face: "I like making you laugh, Mommy!"

She's good at it.

I captured some of her antics on film, and then took my eyes off of the real girl to look lovingly at my iPhone, at the photos I had taken...and during that time, she saw a fish jump through the water.

"Mommy!  I saw a fish!  You missed it, though," she chided.  "You were on your 'clicky-click.'"

I missed the fish.  But I got the girl.

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06 September 2011

Back To School

The new school year starts today!  And my mind is overflowing with grand plans to be better, calmer and more organized.

Remember the start of the school year, that blank slate that promised possibility and offered greatness to anyone willing to work hard?  Remember the thrill of blank notebooks and clean pencils?  Remember the "This year, I'm going to really _____________!" declarations?

That's what it was like for me when I was a kid.  Each new school year thrilled me and made me dream of how awesome my life was going to be, both with friends and in the classroom.

A few decades later, and the classroom is my living room, the idealism is gone, and I don't have any new culottes in Fall colors to sport on the first day.

But the dreams are still there, and today, my dream is this:  I have a dream that one day, my children will do my biding and figure out that I am right about everything, and that if they only listen to me, read great books, and clean up when I ask them to, they will soar up and over the stars and become great people.

Today is all about turning the tide people.  Not rounding the turn, certainly, but beginning the long crank on the wheel that will begin to change the direction of this ship.  Turning the tide away from electronics.  Turning the tide away from the damn TV.  Turning the tide away from bickering and sniping.  Turning the tide away from impatient mothers and rude children.

And so, I need to keep one thing in mind:  Be patient.  Be clear.  Be kind.  Be hopeful.   I guess that's four things, but they are all intertwined together, and can be summed up as this:  Be the mom you want to be.

I think I can do it.  After all, I got 7 hours of sleep last night, a personal best over the last several weeks.  I have Peets coffee dripping through my veins.  And I have a clean notebook, and a kick ass Staedtler triplus fineliner black ink pen.  

Here goes!

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