31 August 2011

Little T's Bedtime Send Off

Little T has been in bed for a bit, but she just stumbled down to ask us this:

"How do people die when they don't even hurt themselves?"

I told her that that can happen when people are very, very, very old, and after they have lived a long time and had a great life.  Lame.

Rick told her that "it just happens sometimes," and that she didn't need to worry about it.

She seemed happy with both answers.

Then, Rick took her onto his lap, cuddled with her for a minute, and said: "Will you take care of me when I am old?"

She said no.

After a little back and forth, she flitted back up to bed.  From her room, she fired down the final salvo:

"I BET YOU'RE OLD RIGHT NOW!"

So she's thinking: "I'm four, and he's asking ME to take care of HIM.  He must be bonkers."

Plus, we all know how she feels about old people.

She's not the only game in town.  I think he'd better put his money on a different horse.

* * *


30 August 2011

You know you have a big family when...

...you end up with the song Everything Is Broken, by Bob Dylan, running on an endless loop through your head when you (a) need to find something, (b) need to put something away, or (c) simply walk through your house.

It's either the big family thing or your house is actually a FEMA zone.

* * *

29 August 2011

So Close

Day 29.

Each day in August, I have posted on this blog. It hasn't been nearly as difficult as I thought it would be. I guess I hadn't considered the endless fodder that my family generates on a daily basis.

But tonight, with 19 minutes left on the 29th day, I am absolutely wrenching myself away from my book in order to put this post up, so that on Thursday morning, I can say that I did it, I posted every day for one month.

I'm reading Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand. I only have a handful of pages left. Unable to put the book down, I've lost sleep and as a result, lost patience with my children. I've neglected my laundry, my house, my offspring. I told my 4 year old I would not read to her tonight, so intent on this book have I been. It has all been worth it.

A fabulous book.

And I leave you with that.

* * *


28 August 2011

Really?

So one son came downstairs and announced that the other son, who was in the shower, was spitting on the ceiling.

What?

WHAT?

I went upstairs to investigate (because his father would probably have come on a little too strong, if you know what I mean) and the kid actually said to me: "I didn't do it on purpose!"

OK. I'm a listener. I'd like to listen to this. So I said to the bathroom door: "How, please tell me, do you spit on the ceiling by accident."

And the bathroom door said: "Well, I was just in here showering, and I'm bored, so I was spitting up into the air and seeing if I could catch it with my mouth!"

So I told the bathroom door. "OK, that's just gross, so don't do that, and if you're bored in the shower, that's a sign that it's time to get out. Now."

My walk back down the stairs and into the living room was full of questions. Well, one question really. Will this child actually one day be a fully functioning member of society?

Wow.

* * *

27 August 2011

Update

There has been an update to The Cake.

"Mommy, I forgot, I also want a tree, and a monkey in the tree, swinging around with a banana in his mouth."

I thought I was off the hook when we were in The Despised New Safeway the other day and she said: "Oooo, mommy, I want THIS cake for my birthday!" I quickly agreed to that, since I thought it would save me some work, but then I heard her telling her sister about her two birthday cakes. Silly me, I thought she wanted to replace her girl-on-the-park-bench, monkey-in-the-tree cake, but really, she was just trying to get more cake.

Yeah, I can't make that girl-monkey cake happen. But I will give it a shot. I will make a reasonable facsimile thereof, and maybe my efforts will ensure that Little T will grow up to be a happy, contributing citizen and not an ax murderer.

Why else would I go to the trouble?

* * *

26 August 2011

7 Quick Takes: Volume 36


Another Friday's come around,
We've made it here both safe and sound.
Glad you're here with me and mine,
Would you like a glass of wine?

I've had several, so up you catch!
And help me with a plan to hatch.
Find a way (or find some elves)
To make the children raise themselves.

So I can spend my days and nights
On silly fun and fancy flights.
On making life an endless game--
Oh wait--my kids already do the same!

Pull up a chair and share a toast
And visit our 7 Quick Takes host.
Visit the others playing along,
And may your weekend be a song.

~1~

Soccer season starts this weekend with a bang: three kids are in tournaments, which means we have 9 games minimum, and 12 if their teams all do well.

I think I will encourage Little T to take up knitting as a sport.

~2~

I just started a great new book: Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand. She also wrote Seabiscuit, although I have not read that. I'm only on page 25 and I am really enjoying it. The subtitle is: "A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption."

Usually, I read only fiction. But I've wanted to change that, and when a friend recommended this book to me the other day and put it directly into my hand to borrow, I was thrilled.

Have any of you read it? And/or: what's your favorite non-fiction book?

~3~

I am still adding to my list of movies to use during our new homeschooling year. My friend Nicole gave me another great idea today: Miracle. Thanks Nic!

Please, share your ideas for great family movies. They can be educational in nature, or pure fun, like the original Parent Trap. We will be watching one movie per school week on our crappy TV, and I'm hoping this will be a highlight of the year. And if anyone out there wants to buy me a flat screen TV, purely to enhance my kids' educational experience of course, I am totally open to that.

Also, let me know if you'd like to receive a copy of my List Of Super Awesome Movies For Homeschoolin' Families or For Peeps Who Just Like To Watch Movies, once it's finalized.

~4~

Another homeschooling milestone reached! Lady E ran into the garage today, where I was failing at yet another attempt at organizing chaos, and announced: "Mommy, Mommy! I finally learned how to arm fart!"

She even offered to give me a tutorial, complete with things she tried that failed. That's the beauty of education: sharing what we've learned with others.

I get a little teary just thinking about it.

~5~

There is a brand spankin' new Safeway in my neighborhood. It is gigantic. It is fancy. It has a sushi bar. It has a Starbucks. It has cafe seating. It's decor is all chocolate and mocha. It has hardwood-ish floors in the produce section. It has new disco mini-carts.

I hate it.

It's way too big and takes forever to get through. It's freezing in there. The dairy section is in a different zip code than the produce department. They now have 4,322 different kinds of cereal instead of 3,457. And their deli still takes a kajillion years to make a sandwich. (I know of what I speak: my first job, which I had for four years of high school was in a deli, and I know how to make a damn good sandwich fast. My fingers itch when I order sandwiches at the Safeway deli. Silly me, I though it might be different with a fancy new facility. Not true.)

A Facebook friend of mine put it best when she posted the other day: "I miss my ghetto Safeway." So do I, Carol; so do I.

I do kinda like the disco mini-carts, though.

~5~

Note to self: do not let practically 5 year old children take naps. You will pay dearly for it come 11pm.

And wouldn't you think a mother of five would have learned that by now? It turns out that sleep is seductive, both for the sleeper and for the beneficiary of a sleeping monkey-tornado.

~6~

"Foods" that irritate me: Hot Pockets. Pizza Rolls. Danimals. Lunchables. Smores-Flavored Pepperidge Farm Goldfish. Really?

Just because you can do it doesn't mean it's a good idea. Really.

~7~

A goofy photo for your Friday. I hope this makes you smile.


* * *


25 August 2011

The Worst Kind

I am the worst kind of homemaker.

There are three kinds, you know.

There's the kind that is very good at organizing her (usually her) house, who knows how to arrange furniture for maximum visual appeal and comfort, and knows how to keep things running smoothly. This person places a high value on what she provides to her family and does it well.

There's the kind that isn't good at any of it, and doesn't care. She is able to live her life quite happily without the burden of paying attention to domestic issues. Either someone else does it for her, or it all goes undone, and that's just fine.

Then there's me. I place a very high value on having a well organized, efficient and comfortable household...and I can't for the life of me make it happen. I live in chaos while dreaming of order. I wade through laundry while hoping for tidy drawers. I step over shoes while wishing for empty floors. Dreaming, hoping, and wishing do not a happy household make. At least not all by themselves. That whole piece of knowing how to make it happen? That eludes me.

And that's a recipe for frustration right there.

What kind are you?

* * *

24 August 2011

It Is Not Right

Family life is hard.

This post could go in about 100 different directions from that opening line, but today, at 10pm, when I am finally sitting down and everyone (almost) else is lying down, and I've got just enough Lagunitas Censored Rich Copper Ale down my throat, and just enough energy left to ponder the extremes of the day, the post will go here: It's hard to follow children down all the different paths and into all the different choices and through all the different things that happen to them.

• One kid dealt with jerks today, real assholes, to tell the truth. I don't usually curse on this blog, but tonight, there's no other way to describe the people my child had to deal with. All I could do was tell him how proud I am to have a kid who is not a jerk, not the kind of person other kids have to talk to their parents about.

• One kid dealt with mosquito bites. No biggee, you say? Well, the kid in question has an extreme reaction to them, so when a child has 8 bites, all about the diameter of grapefruits, swelling painfully, itching maddeningly, and when that child is weeping with pain and craziness, it's no small thing. It's hard to not be able to make a child feel better, even with medicine on board, topical remedies deployed, ice packs called into service, and everything else we could think of being thrown at the problem.

• One kid dealt with-- no, she made ME deal with repeated, frustrating, exasperating behavior that we've been trying like hell to change, but which I find myself dealing with every. damn. night. and which I find exhausting and infuriating, and which leaves me with the very real need to control my hands so that I don't grab her too hard in a furious attempt to again convey to her how much we need her to get. with. the. freakin'. program.

So. After a pretty exhausting day, I found myself ping-ponging from one kid in need to another, kind of amazed by the demands parenting sometimes makes upon us, and wishing I could do more than caress a mosquito-bitten forehead, encourage an asshole-weary boy, and futilely reprimand a monkey-girl-child who doesn't seem to care one bit what I have to say.

(I have two other kids. They are total rock stars. One helped dad fix a window and deflate 15 soccer balls. The other ministered to her itchy sister, bringing her applesauce, offering her a soft blanket, offering her water, a pillow, kindness. The two of them are signs of hope and goodness for me tonight.)

* * *

What's the best way to handle jerks, anyway? All those platitudes we've offered our son?

Don't let them see how much it bothers you; if they know they're getting to you, it will only make it worse.

You're better off being a nicer, more sensitive kid, even if you don't see that right now. You will someday.

Just do your best. Hold your head high, and remember that as long as you are taking the high road, you can be proud of yourself.

Beat the crap out of them. (Did I say that out loud?)

Jerks are everywhere; quitting won't help, because wherever you go, you'll have to deal with people like that. As much as you would like to get as far away as possible from those people, wherever you end up, there will be jerks just like them.

All those platitudes are great when you have the benefit of age and experience, when you have the hindsight to see the way life and people work out. They are of little significance or value in the moment for a kid who is righteously pissed off at the injustice of the fact that assholes exist.

Those words will help him. Someday. They are worth saying. They just do precious little for him tonight, and that makes me feel helpless and lame.

It is not right that assholes exist. How do we help our kids negotiate them?

* * *

23 August 2011

Summer Showers

The other day while I was taking a shower, I heard Little T screaming and crying, and carrying on to beat the band. All the other kids were home, but they all -- to a kid -- ignored her.

Alarmed, I rushed out of the shower, wrapped myself in a towel, and ran still dripping into her room, where I discovered the problem. She had been reaching into her Elmo suitcase, when somehow, she fell over on top of it, onto her bed, with her arm still in it. The weight of her body made it impossible for her to pull her arm out of the suitcase, and the zipper was biting into her arm painfully. Trying to push herself up off of the suitcase and the bed made the pressure on the zipper-trapped part of her arm hurt worse. She was stuck. And pissed.

I extricated her.

* * *

Today, Lady E had a friend over, and while the two of them and Little T played in their room, I took a shower. The playdate friend's mom arrived before I got out, and here's what greeted her:

My 12 year old son barely looked up from the computer screen to tell her that we (everyone else in the house) were all next door at the neighbor's house. Sensing this might not be true, she ventured upstairs and found the girls in their bedroom. The older two bolted, as kids who do not want a playdate to end are wont to do, leaving Little T behind. Why didn't she chase after them?

Because apparently, she had climbed up the over-the-door shoe hanger, gotten her feet jammed into two of the pockets, and then fell backwards in such a way that her feet were completely tangled and stuck in the pockets. This time, she wasn't screaming or even upset in any way. Just hanging out on her back, with her legs stuck up above her and her feet tangled in the shoe pockets.

The visiting mom extricated her. At least no one was dripping on her when she was rescued this time. Once freed, she promptly climbed into the kitchen sink to get a drink of water. See? She does play like a monkey!



Showers are starting to scare me.

* * *

22 August 2011

Where I Learn That My Cakes Have Created a Problem

Little T's 5th birthday is comin' up fast. She's seen the cakes I've made for other occasions. She came to me this morning with this:

"Mommy, you know what my cake wants to look like?

It wants to be grassy, with bushes, and flowers, and there’s a bench, with flowers and bushes next to it, and a little girl is sitting on the bench playing guitar, and her pants have flowers, and her shoes have flowers and her shirt says “Yeah, I play like a monkey, jealous?” And did I tell you about the sun part? I want the sun up in the sky. Oh, and a rainbow.

OK mommy? Can my cake look like that?"

Ru-roh.

* * *


21 August 2011

Lady E Makes Her Choice

Well, we survived the birthday sleepover, if surviving means being so tired you cannot lift your arms without hoping someone, somewhere feels really really sorry for you.

Even writing this post is costing me precious energy I can scarcely afford. But here's a recap.

They made forts. They played elaborate make believe games involving pretend pets. They made friendship bracelets. They ate an impressive amount of food. They watched a movie. They giggled. They danced to Train. They had flip-flop cake and watched the Birthday Girl open presents. They said please and thank you. They sort of sometimes included the little sisters. They made new friends. They were fabulous.

And when they left, most of my kids sort of kind of fell apart.

At one point, after too many slamming doors and too many screeches and bellows, Rick went into the living room where the fighting was happening and said wearily: "That's it. We're putting you all up for adoption."

Listening and cringing in the kitchen, I wondered if he might be emotionally scarring them with this bit of sarcasm.

He followed up with: "You decide if you want to be placed somewhere together, or if you want separate new families."

Without missing a beat, and before I had time to form a complete thought about the potential damage he was inflicting, Lady E piped up: "SEPARATE! SEPARATE!"

At least one of them will survive our unique brand of parenting.

* * *

20 August 2011

Flip This

Flip-flop birthday cake for an end-of-summer birthday party sleepover:


K, so I've got 9 little girls (11 if you count the little sisters, which you really have to do) draped all over my living room, watching The Parent Trap, the first one. These are the cutest, funniest, most polite, quirkiest, kindest girls ever.

My daughter is one lucky, blessed little girl. And her mother is one weary lady.

One down, four to go. Eight weeks from now, I will have pulled off birthday celebrations for all five kids. Just in time to gear up for the holidays.

* * *

19 August 2011

7 Quick Takes: Volume 35



"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." Dickens must have been talking about Fridays with small children.

Here are my Quick Takes for today. Please visit the original 7 Quick Takes and visit the links to other people participating today.

~1~

Sissi (pronounced See-See) came to my daughter's soccer camp today and ran the morning session. She was wonderful: playful and energetic with the girls on the field, and generous with her time afterwards, as they asked her to pose for endless pictures and sign an endless parade of jerseys, back packs, soccer balls, cleats, and even ipods. What a treat!


That's how we roll. We hob nob with International Soccer Stars.

~2~

I have up to now avoided one of the true milestones of parenting: the sleepover. My kids have gone on many of them, but I've never hosted one. I'm a slacker. Tomorrow night, all of that will change, as I welcome 8 or 9 little girls into my home for fun and frivolity.

I. Am. Terrified.

I just keep breathing and telling myself: "Pizza and a movie: how hard can it be?"

How scared am I to figure out the answer to that question? Very.

~3~

I need one of those Kill Your Television bumper stickers. Actually, I need several, so I can plaster them on our cars, my kids' bedroom doors, the refrigerator, and maybe a forehead or two.

Because when I left the house yesterday? These things did not get done to my liking:


After I went to all the trouble to write a nice, pretty list, the least they could have done was follow my instructions. Instead, I came home to a messy kitchen, dog poop in the garden, and only one load of laundry folded. (And no, they are not budding circus performers; juggling is a soccer thing.)

Had I added "watch mindless television" to that list, at least their completion percentage would have gone up.

Lists. I have become my father.

~4~

My son is planning to apply to the Oakland School for the Arts next year. OSA is a free, public charter school, but students must apply and be accepted in their chosen area of arts. Now, I may be biased, but if he is not accepted...


...they need to have their heads examined.

~5~

We have been revisiting the words of legendary coach John Wooden in our house lately, in order to teach our kids always to do their best and to see sports as metaphor for life. Here are some of my favorites:
Talent is God given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.

You can’t live a perfect day until you do something for someone who will never be able to repay you.

The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.

Make every day your masterpiece.
Google "John Wooden Quotes" for more gems.

~6~

Recommended reading with little ones: Bink and Gollie, by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee, and illustrated by Tony Fucile. We -- Lady E, Little T, and I -- have read this book a kajillion times and we aren't tired of it yet. Check it out!

~7~

And here's a little cautionary tale for all you grandparents out there. Lady E shared this with me the other day:


Just so you know, they will rat you out.

* * *







18 August 2011

Little T Has a Little Fun


* * *

Hmmm...Lotsa Little T posts lately. I might have to change the name of this blog to And I'll Raise Little T. All her siblings have gotten to the point where they say "DON'T PUT THIS ON YOUR BLOG" if they do anything even remotely blog-able. She hasn't started doing that yet.

So. Lotsa Little T posts.

Maybe it's time to have another kid.

* * *

17 August 2011

The Tiger Must Be Appeased

I am trying to be better about getting exercise. We have a stationary bike in our garage, and I've been pretty good about riding it most days lately. My challenge is getting my kids to leave me alone while I'm huffing and puffing my way through the routine. They're supposed to leave me alone, but -- surprise, surprise -- they don't always.

Today while I was riding, and during the most difficult, steepest part of the program, Tallulah wandered in. Yes, even though I had told them not to bother me unless 911 needed to be summoned. Again, such a surprise.

"Mommy, where's the paint face?" (That's her way of saying face paints.)

I breathlessly tried to tell her I didn't know and I would find them when I was done. She didn't like that answer, so she hung on the handle bars and commenced begging. Gasping and straining, I told her again that I couldn't help her right at the moment, that she would have to wait.

She was having none of it. After all, she was all dressed up like a tiger, and she wanted to complete the look by painting her face. She started to dig in and rev up her whine. Meanwhile, sweat was dripping into my eyes, my legs and lungs were burning, and I just could not deal with that tenacious little she-who-must-be-dealt-with thing she does.

So I went with the first, most expeditious solution that popped into my head:

"Just...(pant)...use...(pant pant)...markers!...(gasp)"

It worked. She left me alone. She found the markers and did a number on her face:


This little story illustrates the two basic problems with Me Time for Mom. First, Me Time makes me say really stupid things, things I would never say if I wasn't trying to do something nice for myself. And second, the aftermath is a bitch.

* * *

16 August 2011

Raising Kids Takes Common Sense

As my kids get older, I am having to negotiate the world of popular culture more and more, and no one issued me a road map back when the kids were born. I get all these questions like "Can I buy a song by Eminem? The Lonely Island? The Black Eyed Peas? Lil Wayne?" I am forced to give some thought to artists (and I use the term loosely) upon whom I'd really rather not expend brain cells.

Take Lil Wayne, for example. I do not live under a rock, but I spend a lot of time moving mountains of them, and thus, I have not been able to keep up on exactly who Lil Wayne is, or whether or not I should or would object to his music. And I use that term loosely too.

So today, when I received a text from my boys, asking if they could purchase the song How To Love, by Mr. Lil Wayne, or Mr. Wayne, or however one formally addresses this person, I really wasn't sure how to respond. On my own, I am ill-equipped to answer questions like this from my kids; who has the time or the desire to keep on all this stuff?

Enter Common Sense Media, an online resource "dedicated to improving the lives of kids and families by providing the trustworthy information, education, and independent voice they need to thrive in a world of media and technology." I took that text right from their mission statement, on their About Us page, which also has a listing of CSM's 10 Beliefs about media, all of which I can get behind.

CSM hosts an interactive site where parents and kids can find useful information about all kinds of media, from movies and websites, to books and music. I've used it for years to look up movies and see what people are saying about them. CSM offers a suggested age for which a movie or song is appropriate, as well as extensive written reviews. Parents, educators, and kids can also sign up to provide their own age-ratings and written reviews. I usually read the reviews written by CSM; my son gravitates to those written by young people. I find it incredibly helpful to read these reviews; they help me feel like I am armed with information, not flying blind while making decisions that matter to me about what my kids see, read and hear.

I don't always adhere to the suggestions on CSM and that's not the point. CSM wants to give us information we can use to make our own decisions for our families. I especially appreciate that they include Consumerism in the list of things they rate; I like to know what products are going to be in my kids' faces and how they will be marketed to by what they watch. CSM also rates things like drinking and drug use, language, sex, and violence. Plus, they answer the question "Is it any good?" which I also appreciate, because I had to sit through that stupid hamster movie a few years ago and it was dreadful.

Today was the first time I've ever used it for music; I looked up that Mr. Wayne song my boys wanted (on my smart phone with CSM's mobile app, no less!), and got the following:

common sense media says: Cleanest song yet from notoriously raunchy rapper.

Parents need to know that "How to Love" is one of the cleanest singles released to date by Lil Wayne. There's no profanity or violence and just one muted reference each to sex and drinking. Moreover, the song offers a positive message to girls and women, encouraging them to have high self-esteem. For younger teens who just have to listen to Lil Wayne, this is the best choice around.

See? I learned that Mr. Lil is one of those "notoriously raunchy rappers," which I did not know, and I also learned that this particular song has some good features in it and little to object to.

Still, I was on the fence. Because my kids certainly do not need Lil Mr. in their lives or their ears, but we are trying to give them enough exposure to popular culture so that we don't turn it into something absolutely forbidden and therefore even more attractive.

Did they get to buy the song or not? Well, that's not what this post is about. The point is, I realized today how much I appreciate what Common Sense Media does, and I thought that other parents like me, who wish they had more information about the media their kids are interested in, who want to navigate the world of popular culture, not hide from it or be passive in it, would want to know that this kind of help is available. And there's more: I noticed just today that CSM has tools and resources for helping kids become savvy internet users, including how to use Facebook wisely. They also engage in advocacy, providing a needed, independent voice to the debate about media in our culture. They do much more than I knew, even though I've been clicking around on their site for years.

In this media-saturated culture, when our kids are bombarded by so much more than we were and so much more than we even know, a resource like CSM is invaluable. CSM isn't making any decisions for us, but it is giving us what we need to feel good about the decisions we make for our kids.

Check it out: one more tool in your arsenal can only be a good thing, right?

Because raising kids? Is actually warfare.

* * *

15 August 2011

Recent Conversations

My son very much wishes we would join the ranks of, well, everyone else on the planet (according to him) and buy a flat screen TV. I'm sure we will at some point, but not fast enough for him. He told me today that my dad has promised to buy him a flat screen TV...just as soon as "they" find Amelia Earhart's body.

Poor kid.

He told me this while flipping through a New Yorker magazine in the car on the way to soccer practice, and he happened on a cartoon of a family in their living room. Indignant, he exclaimed: "SEE? Even cartoon people have flat screen TVs!"

Poor, deprived kid.

* * *

Little T: "Mommy, I decided that when I'm a grown up, and I have a baby, and I have the baby in my hand, I am going to give the baby my blankey."

Lady E: "I feel sorry for that baby."

Little T: "Why??"

Lady E: "Because that skanky blankey has had a sucked-on thumb all over it."

* * *

Little T: "Mommy, can I have some gum?"

Mommy: "No."

Little T: "Well, I'm gonna take some anyway. BOO-YA!"

* * *



14 August 2011

You know you have a big family when...

...no one ever invites you over for dinner.

* * *

Except someone did! And they didn't even know we would only bring two of our kids!

We had dinner with some friends this past Friday night, sans three of our kids who had other things going on. It was so enjoyable, and it made us wonder why we never do that anymore, like we used to, when we only had two-- Oh. Never mind. We get it.

* * *

Watch, Travel, and Learn

This weekend, I began putting on paper some of my ideas for homeschooling this year. I will be attempting to balance a little bit of structure with a little bit of freedom. We shall see how this goes. I vacillate between being quite hopeful and googling "boarding schools in remote mountainous villages with no internet connection."

I am planning to make two things happen each week: watch a great movie together and take a day trip somewhere together. So today I sat down with my pen and paper and started coming up with lists, of movies and destinations. Anyone else out there interested in helping build these lists? Let's get started.

Movies
Some of these I will have to review before deciding whether to show my kids and which kids to include; I'm really looking for great movies everyone can watch together. I think I am a teensy bit more permissive than the norm when it comes to what I let my kids watch. Any and all suggestions welcome!

  • The Miracle Worker
  • To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Born Free
  • Free Willy
  • Chariots of Fire
  • Breaking Away
  • Yankee Doodle Dandy
  • Gandhi
  • Grapes of Wrath
  • Judgment at Nuremberg
  • All the President's Men
  • Much Ado About Nothing
  • Roots I-VI
  • West Side Story
  • The Yearling
  • Winged Migration
  • My Fair Lady
  • Michael Collins
  • Oklahoma!
  • Gorillas in the Mist
  • What else should we see?

Destinations (Local-ish)
  • Monterey Bay Aquarium
  • Gold Rush Country
  • California Missions
  • The Capitol (Sacramento)
  • Google
  • A movie production studio
  • The Redwood Forest
  • The San Jose Tech Museum
  • Stanford University (just to see the Rodin garden!)
  • Find the painted alphabet letters in San Francisco
  • Where else should we go?

So my silly Netflix instant set up is not working, and I need to fix that before school starts, to make the movie part of my plan more efficient. I can't figure it out, and I'm unwilling to pay someone to fix it...although I'm getting closer to forking it over.

There are lists out there -- I'm just looking to make a couple of my own. Once I have nice long ones for both movies and trips, I will make them permanent links on one of my side bars; maybe other homeschooling families, or other people who like movies and going places, can use them too.

Let the listing begin!

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13 August 2011

Bring It On

I have an almost, practically, might-as-well-be teenager. It seems like just yesterday, he was a curly-headed, tow-headed little blob, cuter than hell and the most miraculous child ever.

Yesterday, I realized how radically things have changed for me. We were driving (of course we were driving) somewhere on a perfectly fine and normal morning, when it became clear to me that every word I uttered and my every gesture were annoying, disgusting, embarrassing and horrifying to my son.

Wow, I thought. He thinks I truly am the stupidest person on the planet.

Beginning this year, I will have a teenager or two or three living in my house for the next 13 years.

It's like the toddler years all over again, except this time, the kids are the hormone-ravaged ones. It's like month after endless month of hazing. It's like running a marathon, but no one is standing on the side of the road holding out a cup of water or cheering us on. Actually, it's JUST like that: The Loneliness of the Long Distance Parent, the one who spends a decade or more in each stage of parenting. We changed diapers for over 10 years, and now we are facing being shat upon in a different way for the next 10+.

All I think of to do is hold on and chant "They will be people again someday. They will be people again someday. They will, please God, be people again someday."

Bring it on. But let me fill my wine glass first.

* * *

12 August 2011

7 Quick Takes: Volume 34


Friday, Friday. Here you are, coming in on little pig's feet, looking all cute and innocent. You're actually getting ready to pounce, aren't you?

~1~

I have the privilege today of watching my first born child as Lucentio in a production of The Taming of the Shrew. He watched the film version with Elizabeth Taylor the other day and said: "Now that shrew was impossible to tame!"

Oh, is he in for a world of hurt.

~2~

There is very little that goes wrong in life that cannot be made better by a cup of hot Irish breakfast tea, with just the right amount of whole milk and sugar. It may not work for everything, but it works for many, many bad days. Give it a try.

~3~

Recommended reading: Nicholas Schmidle's article in the August 8, 2011 issue of The New Yorker magazine, entitled Getting bin Laden. American citizens should read this account so that, collectively, we understand what we as a nation did on May 1, 2011.

You can support what our nation did that day or you can oppose it. Either way, you should know what happened. Schmidle does a good job of telling the story and of letting the story speak for itself.

Many New Yorker stories are not accessible to non-subscribers: this one is. Go forth to click and read.

~4~

Summer is coming to a close. For us, that means it's time for me to figure out how we will do our 2nd year of homeschooling. I am surprised by how many people assume that our schedule doesn't change during the summer; I've been asked many times if we just keep up our "schooling" year round.

Most definitely, we do not. I have not required the kids to do any reading, for example, and we took the summer off from the math tutoring the boys were doing. We've basked in the lazy days of summer and we've focused on fun, fun, fun. And this has been the best summer we've ever had.

We were definitely unstructured schoolers last year, which was just what the doctor ordered for all of us at the time. This year, I'd like a bit more of a structure, a bit more of a plan. So while I may not be going over those crazy school supply lists the way many parents are doing these days (which ranks up there in the Top 5 Things I Don't Miss About Having My Kids In School), my mind is turning to plans and ideas for the coming year.

And this year? I've got Little T to contend with. Which makes me consider Kindergarten boarding school. Think one of these exists?

One thing I need to incorporate into my year is more networking and talking with other homeschooling parents. I'm ready to trade ideas, try new things, and hear about other people's experiences, etc. Last year, I wasn't. I just wanted to do my own thing and see where it got me.

Mostly, I am hoping that the Best. Summer. Ever. will lead us into the Best. Schoolyear. Ever.

~5~

Overheard: The other day, we were driving through the country, and Lola noticed a really lovely fresh, outdoor smell. We were talking about how nice it was, and Lady E, who couldn't smell it, said:

"Man, I guess I should have plugged in my nostrils this morning!"

Add that to the morning routine: plug in your nostrils and don't forget to bring your elbows.

~6~

Lessons learned this week: So it turns out that if you plan on what meals you want to make each day, and if you use that plan to make your grocery list, and then if you actually take your list to the store and get everything that's on it?

Mealtimes go much more smoothly and you save money. And you feel like a grown-up.

~7~

A Friday photo:


The other day my daughter, ever the negotiator, presented me with a bargain. "If I go pick blackberries, will you make a blackberry pie?" I agreed. As it turned out, we did not have enough blackberries, but we did have lots of apples. So...we adjusted the plan.

I really enjoy making apple pie, especially making the crust from scratch. Contrary to what you might have heard, it's super easy. So after a little effort, I was able to send my husband the following text: "Will you stop at the store on your way home for some ice cream and/or whipped cream for the apple pie I just made?" I think he wanted to marry me all over again.

The bad news? I didn't get even one slice of that pie. A pack of crazed puppies attacked it. I heard it was tasty though.

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Please visit our 7 Quick Takes host, Jen at Conversion Diary and clicky-click on a few of the links to other Quick Takers.

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11 August 2011

The Freedom to Fail


Yesterday, the Library of Congress announced the appointment of Philip Levine as the new Poet Laureate of the United States. The job of the Poet Laureate is "to raise the national consciousness to a greater appreciation of the reading and writing of poetry." (Taken from the website of the Library of Congress.)

Prior to that announcement, I knew little to nothing about Philip Levine, although his name was familiar. But the news came to me yesterday while I was lamenting the quality of my children's exposure to arts and culture, at least any arts and culture that doesn't make my ears bleed. So when, on our way to Shakespeare camp this morning (yes, I do see the irony there), our local public radio station, KQED, aired an interview with Levine, I turned it up. I wanted my kids to hear this guy talking about poetry. I'm sure my intended audience was more attentive to his/her electronic devices, but I turned it up anyway. I paused to explain to my captive audience what a Poet Laureate is, and was greeted by blank stares.

But I, for one, thoroughly enjoyed the interview. I liked what he had to say about teaching at Fresno State, where he has been for 30 years:
"I've got these students, who are capable of learning, gave themselves the freedom to learn because they gave themselves the freedom to fail."
He goes on to say that at other, more prestigious schools at which he has taught, like Yale and Vanderbilt, "students had a lot of trouble being told that their poems were no damn good." It seems that education, for these high achieving students, is more about being brilliant already than about expanding one's mind and possibilities. (You can access the whole interview here.)

What an important concept to keep in mind. Amidst all our striving towards excellence and achievement, it's easy to lose sight of real learning. We can forget the importance of failure in shaping our minds, our hearts, who we are, and how much we grow, in intellectual and in more personal or creative endeavors.

While we may want our children to work hard enough to go to a good college or university, what we want for them even more is the freedom to fail, the freedom to find more and better paths for their creativity and innovation to flourish. Maybe in art or poetry, maybe in engineering, maybe on a soccer field or in a medical lab, maybe in their personal pursuits or in common cause for others.

Maybe in family life and raising children, too. Maybe parents need the freedom to fail, in order to grow and get better at crafting children, the way a poet crafts his poems. Perhaps it's not about being perfect already, but about keeping ourselves open to the possibilities before us, to directions we aren't expecting to go.

Leave it to a poet to remind us how our hearts and minds expand. Thank you, Mr. Levine.

* * *

I'd like to help Mr. Levine out in his new job of raising poetry awareness. So please, find a poem to read today. Read one by our new poet laureate, or click on over to The Writer's Almanac and explore Garrison Keillor's poetry-promoting effort. Write one of your own! (I write poems, but they're really just shameless thefts of great works for my own petty purposes...not really what I'm thinking of here.)

Let's all let a little poetry into our lives, and see where it takes us. I'm guessing it will be somewhere pretty great.

* * *

10 August 2011

Go To Sleep, Girls

Daughters do not go gentle into that good night.
Young girls do burn and rave at close of day,
And rage, rage against the mother every night.

Though wise-ass girls in the end know mom is right,
Because their shouts have sparked great lightning, they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Strong girls, the last heads down, trying so hard
Their wild deeds to keep on spinning in a dark room,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Willful girls who catch the sun when its most bright,
And learn, too late, they should not grieve their mum tonight,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Tired girls, near sleep, whose eyes will not shut tight,
(Those eyes do blaze like meteors while I sigh),
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, their father, there on the sad couch,
Curse them, force them now with your fierce words, I pray.
Make them go into that good night.
Rage, rage against the striving of the sprites.

* * *

with gratitude and apologies to Dylan Thomas

09 August 2011

The Last 20 Minutes

Got home from the grocery store.

Trying to make dinner.

Girl doing laps through the house on heelies.

Girl playing "volleyball" with a rubber glove balloon.

Boy playing a loud video game.

Boy putting clean dishes away loudly.

Girl riding unicorn hobby horse throughout the house, yelling random things.

Girl opening freezer door forcefully and straight into her sister's forehead.

Boy doing his best imitation of Eminem.

Girl crying about something and yelling "HEY GIVE ME MY PONY BACK!"

Girl repeatedly kicking a soccer ball against the kitchen door.

Girl hiding Biscuit the dog from other girl.

Girl crying and yelling "WHERE'S BISCUIT???"

Kids ignoring orders to put stuff away.

Girl making tent in living room. This is the part where I go on record to say that I hate tents.

Children asking to watch a movie like they're entitled.

Boy singing Hey Jude.

* * *

Mom drinking beer.

* * *

08 August 2011

My New Mantra

Mine was not an athletic childhood.

I played a little basketball, and my most vivid memory of that experience is that there were not enough black uniforms for all the girls on the team, so I wore a black leotard instead. That was fine with me.

I played a little soccer, and have no vivid memories of that whatsoever.

I played some Little League baseball, and I remember two things. First, my sister and I were on the team with our two best buddies, twins Jennifer and Heather. The four of us had a great time, mostly centered around eating as much candy as possible without getting caught.

And second, I remember my hit. Yes, my one hit. It was near the end of the season, might even have been the very last game, and I was sick and tired of striking out. My skinny little 8 year old self decided I was hittin' that ball, no matter what. At my next at bat, I stood there thinking about all the batting advice I'd ever heard, about watching and waiting for the right pitch, keeping my eye on the ball, having the proper stance and swing. I swung and I missed. Twice. And then a ball was coming towards me, way too high, not in my strike zone at all, and in a split second, I decided I didn't give a hoot, I was going to hit that thing. So I raised the bat straight over my head, elbows pointing to heaven, and karate chopped with everything I had. I hit the ball and it was wonderful. Terrible, awful form, the very antithesis of perfect execution, but I made contact. Running to first base was like flying. In my decidedly unreliable memory, the crowd went wild, and I felt like a star.

Alas, it ended there. I didn't play Little League the next season, and I didn't care. I could eat candy with Jennifer and Heather any old place, and I just wasn't a natural athlete.

My daughters, on the other hand, are competitors. All five of my kids are already athletes, with four of them playing soccer and Little T playing at life, which for her is pretty much a contact sport she intends to win.

What I love about sports is how much it can teach a kid about life in general. And not having experienced this as a child, it's like I'm figuring out sport for the first time. Soccer provides so many fantastic opportunities for us to talk to the kids about life, hard work, devotion, team-work, committment, sportsmanship -- you name it and we've talked about it in the context of sport. (We tease Rick that he can make soccer a metaphor for anything. But it's true, he can because it is.)

And it is a particular joy to watch my girls play, and play hard. I love that they know what it's like to be strong and aggressive, to challenge themselves physically. I love that they will grow up with this as a norm, as something as natural to them as the endless artwork they create at the dining room table. And I love watching them play.

The other day, we got the girls some t-shirts that capture their love of sports. Lola made her own version at the dining room table that night:


Isn't that fantastic?

It's perfect for my girls, but it turns out it's perfect for so much more as well! A day or so after we got the shirts and Lola made the poster, I was talking with a friend about a difficult conversation she needed to have with a guy (see what you put us through dudes?), and out of my mouth came the perfect advice: "Play like a girl!" In other words, be tough, because you know you are.

So it turns out that my daughter's t-shirts are teaching me a thing or two about life.

Don't want to tackle my to-do list?
Feeling daunted by raising my teenager?
Unsure how to get that next project done?
Lacking a little confidence?

Play like a girl, Mama Monica! Get in there and play hard! You can do it! Take 'em down! (Sometimes, that last one is truly necessary.) I think we big girls need to make that our new mantra, our new rallying cry. It's all in there, all the courage and confidence anyone could ever need.

Looks like I need to go back to Target and see if they make those shirts in adult sizes.

* * *


07 August 2011

Better

Last night, I sat down with a new book, Sarah's Key. Six and half hours later, at 3:30am, I finished it.

At about page 25, I wasn't sure I wanted to keep reading. It was already brutal. By page 50, I couldn't put it down, and knew that I'd read it in one sitting.

I am bleary-eyed, exhausted, and inhabiting another world today, suspended in the pages of Sarah's story, so beautifully written by Tatiana de Rosnay.

Reading that book makes me want to be better, a better mother, a better wife, a better friend, daughter, sister. I can't say why or how. It makes me want to be stronger and braver.

I stayed awake for another hour, not thinking coherently, but acutely aware of the yearning the book had stirred in me, and wondering about it.

Today, with the daily tasks of motherhood and family life ahead of me, with all of the chores I loathe needing to be done, and with not nearly enough sleep, I will strive to be better.

* * *


06 August 2011

Go Cowboys!

My son took me to the movies today. Sure, he didn't pay for the ticket, but if not for him wanting to go see Cowboys and Aliens, I wouldn't have gone.

He had a lousy start to a tough week this past Monday, and he was pitifully miserable that night. I tried everything I could think of to make him feel better and nothing worked. If anything, all my encouraging words made him feel worse. Why is that? Why, when we are offering our children pure gold to chew on, are they most annoyed with us?

Anyway, I changed tactics. I did what we've all done. I bribed him. "If you'll stop that incessant whining, I'll take you to the movies on Saturday."

Maybe I didn't put it quite that way, but you get the idea. However I put it, it worked, and he finally saw that life wasn't quite so dismal as he feared. Nothing like a little mass media to soothe the soul.

So off to the movies we went today, he, his buddy, and I.

How was it? Well, it's a little predictable. It's got the standard issue characters: the handsome outlaw, the bespectacled saloon owner, the good-for-nothing weakling son, the gruff but good-down-deep Colonel, the Native American with all the integrity, etc . The dialogue is a little tired, with gruff confessions of past crimes and casually dropped lines full of significant information. There's a loyal dog. Of course.

But it was super fun, and sometimes, that's exactly what you want in a movie. I'll try not to give away too much, but I do "spoil" one line of dialogue below, so stop reading if you don't want to know it.

Overall, the movie is great. The aliens are creative enough to be interesting, which must be hard to do after so many alien creatures have filled up the big screen. The clash of the two genres, sci-fi and western, is something new and engaging. And the battle scenes are perfect for anyone who likes to see good guys go after bad guys.

The boys loved it. There were enough surprises and enough violence to keep them on the edge of their seats and happy. The special effects were good enough for me, although I'm maybe not the best judge of special effects, since most of the movies I go see require tissues instead of 3-D glasses. And there were some great last breath scenes, with people speaking the truth right before expiring. The best was the preacher, looking at the outlaw, gasping and saying: "Bring back our people. God doesn't care who you were, son. Just who you are now." Then he dies of a huge gaping wound inflicted by a sticky alien.

Awesome.

So yes, I recommend this movie. It helps if you take a 10 year old boy with you. He will think both the movie and you are awesome.

* * *

05 August 2011

7 Quick Takes: Volume 33


I spent way too much time writing my quick takes post this morning and lost the entire thing. Will attempt to recreate it now, double time. First, let me wipe away tears of internet-induced frustration.

Aaaand, here we go:


(1) Cringe.

I am an idiot. I just figured out yesterday that I've been mis-singing a lyric in my all time favorite Beatles song. I thought the Hey Jude line was "the moment you need is on your shoulder," but actually it's "the movement you need is on your shoulder." I've even used this line, or my version of it, in two blog posts.

I stand corrected. Sheepishly corrected. I fixed one of the posts, but left the other as is, to keep myself humble.

Please feel free to make me feel better by telling me your own most embarrassing Lyric Fail.


(2) Wisdom.

After a particularly awesome soccer practice last night, Lola Berry said:

"When you play hard and do well, you have more fun."
Perhaps this would be good to remember for life in general.


(3) Celebrating

Instead of being at BlogHer '11, I am here with my daughters celebrating Dangles the Monkey's birthday (she has a few per week). Little T took an orange coat off her Molly Wiggins doll, wrapped it up, and gave it to Dangles as a present. We think she looks charming in her new toggs. We are having blueberry muffins for "cake," and washing it down with Irish breakfast tea with cream and sugar.


All this and I saved at least $300!


(4) Sleep, or the Lack Thereof.

I need sleep. Badly. My son's alarm went off last night at midnight -- he claims he has no idea who set it -- and kept going off at neat five minute intervals for the next 35 minutes. Right next to his head. He did not hear it. I finally got up and crushed the thing with a stiletto heel to get it to stop, and then I couldn't get back to sleep until around 3am. Two hours later, I was awakened again, this time by a pee-soaked four year old. Don't worry, she didn't suffer the same fate as the alarm.

So. I'm tired. And I decided my girls can spend this particular summer day watching a movie. Their survival might depend on it.


(5) A Growl a Day.

To make myself feel better about letting my girls be couch potatoes today, I decided to take them and the dog on a quick walk before starting the movie. They wanted to ride various wheeled conveyances: Lola Berry, a bike; Lady E, a scooter; Little T, a trik. "NO WAY!" I said. "We will get half way down the block, and you will get tired, and you'll want me to take your wheels, and I will have the dog, and NO WAY!"

we won't we promise we won't we promise we won't we promise
Please, please please please please please
mommie mommie mommie mommie mommie mommie mommie

You know I gave in to that onslaught. Fast forward, not far, just half way down the block, and two of them were standing next to their wheels and wailing. That's when I heard a gutteral shout: "Stay with your wheels and ride! That's the deal!" I didn't even know I could make myself sound like that.

It all worked out. We made it all the way around the block with wheels turning and people riding, and by half way through, Little T had stopped whining "But my legs are full!" She even raced me the last stretch to home.

(6) The Price


I've written about this hillside a couple of times before. The first time, back in April of 2008, the sign read 4,012. More than 2,000 U. S. soldiers have died since then. We should always know the price of war. Today, it's 6,175 priceless lives.

Actually it's much higher than that, because that number only counts American servicemen and women, not soldiers from any other country, not American contractors, not civilians, not enemies.

But for the 6,175 and counting, there is a hillside to always remind us.

(7) The Sun.

It's overcast here today, so we had to find our sun from another source:


Luckily, we only had to go as far as our back garden. Here's hoping everyone finds a little sunshine in their Friday.

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Please visit Conversion Diary for the original 7 Quick Takes and visit the links of other Quick Takers!

And thank you for stopping by. Feel free to step out of the anonymous shadows and post a comment.

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04 August 2011

There Oughta Be A Law

You know how there ought to be a law against mothers getting sick?

Yeah, well, there isn't one yet, and I went and got sick yesterday, and the house...well...not that it was the picture of efficiency before I took to my bed, but let's just say the chaos took its best opportunity to get the upper hand and is now doing victory laps all over the property.

Things I learned when I emerged from my bed this morning:
  • Laundry piles breed like rabbits.
  • Yesterday's breakfast dishes had a camp out on my kitchen counter, later joined by the lunch and dinner dishes, and the party is still going on. I've heard talk of s'mores.
  • Shoes are magnetically attracted to my living room floor. I just counted 17 of them in there.
  • When I am sick, the dog seems to shed 3x as much as usual. I think she worries about me. Or perhaps she worries who will feed her if I am down for the count.
Suffice it to say, that even though I am not quite fully recovered from whatever bug was buggin' me yesterday, I cannot CANNOT be out of commission for another day. I'd wake up to to find my family buried underneath piles of dirty socks.

So I'm taking a page from Fly Lady's book, setting my timer, and cleaning as much as I can for 15 minutes. Then I am stopping and drinking water and blogging and checking email, texts, and facebook for 15 minutes. And then I will repeat the cycle. It'll get me through the day, and at least I won't be more behind by the end.

I'm a fledgling Fly Girl, but the 15 minute thing works for me.

The getting sick thing? Not so much.

* * *

bouquet courtesy of Lady E, age 6

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