Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Health and Safety

When the kiddos question us about something like car seats or standing on furniture, we always say, "Mommies are in charge of health and safety." We've covered both in fun ways in the last week.

Safety
This weekend, we went to a local firefighter open house. Despite the rainy weather, the kids had a blast. Of course, climbing in the engines was their favorite activity, followed by seeing the firefighters cut open a car in a mock extrication. Of course, there were free plastic red fire hats and lots of coloring pages, plus informational packets (including a free children's DNA kit for your freezer--ugh, don't even want to think on needing that) for parents. It was even exciting to use the firehouse bathroom, past the room with all their gear. The firefighter in full gear and actually breathing oxygen through a mask was frightening but at least now is familiar (kids apparently and understandably freak out and then hide when fully-dressed firefighters enter their rooms. I guess it's good that there are not hiding places in Bud and Sis's room.) And they got to practice dialing 9-1-1 on a telephone during an emergency. I can just see Sis calling 9-1-1 if Bud takes a toy or vice versa.

But the most memorable part was the mock fire. They had a truck fitted out like a small house that you could enter. After a brief introduction it filled with smoke, the alarms went off, and you exited. It was designed to introduce people to what it might be like (minus the noxious fumes and heat, but complete with inability to see and fear). The only down-side: they split up the parents and the kids. I know this would be true life--if the alarm here goes off in the night (which studies show, kids almost never hear), we'll be in different rooms--but it was unsettling to all of us. Sis listened closely to the kids' presentation on "get low and go" and was proud to be the second person out the little window, where we were waiting (adults got to go out the door, thank goodness), but Bud got separated from her and pushed to the back of the pack, where it was the smokiest. He was a little rattled, but came out the window by himself. He repeatedly said he didn't like the smoky room, but we reassured him that now he knew what to do. He's been fine since. And we'll re-visit it all when we set off our house alarm and practice our drill next weekend (we would've done it last weekend but never got to it).

Health
We met the tooth fairy this week. She came to our library, fully dressed in a pink gown with little white applique molars all over. Her wings were even molar-shaped! She talked about good brushing habits with her puppet friend Oscar (who "spit" on the children and was put in time out--Sis's favorite part), thumb sucking with Silly Sally (don't suck on it, sit on it--Bud like the sitting on his thumb part. Sis called Sally "the sucker"), what it's like at the dentist's office with masks and gloves and tools and "Mr. Thirsty", and how her tooth fairy castle is completely made of teeth. She even had two real teeth to show the kiddos, one healthy and one with a cavity (collective ewwwwhhhh here).

And what did the kids remember most from this visit? A video about a giraffe with a new tooth who dreams of a scary "King Cavity" and then helps him get good dental care (all made by Crest, of course). This really unnerved Bud, who has had a close call with "King Cavity" and had to have some cracked baby enamel in two teeth (genetic? grinding? accident of birth?) repaired at the dentist a few weeks ago to prevent cavities. The tooth fairy kept blaming cavities on the kids' brushing and eating habits, which I thought was unfair and not entirely true, in Bud's case anyway. But I kept telling him it was okay. And also that he could still have his loveys since it wasn't the same as thumbsucking (he rarely actually sucks on them). In the end, at least, they seemed to remember, in addition to the scary video, that brushing your tongue prevents bad breath and that you shouldn't share toothbrushes.

Gotta be healthy and safe, you know.

Thinking of Her

Our thoughts go out to Miss T whose Omi passed away on Sunday. She heads north for the funeral this weekend.

We're thinking of you and wishing you well.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Roof Over Our Heads

There is pounding and thumping and scraping overhead. A team of roofers is ripping off three-quarters of a century of roofing on this house. It will take a few days to the whole week, depending, I'm sure on how many (not if) quirky challenges they find.

I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Of Pickles, Prizes, and Prayers

We spent the whole day at our church's festival today, praying for no rain (well, we're UUs, so I can't really be sure if there were actual prayers said, just wishes, hopes, vibes, tidings, but I'm not sure about prayers). It didn't rain and we had a great day. (Hmmm, so what does that say about prayer or the lack of it? I mean, Falwell thought the gays caused Hurricane Andrew. Has anyone wondered why Houston got hit by Ike? Too much attention to Mammon? I digress). I was there early to set up the baked goods table, complete with cookbook, and the kiddos and Mama arrived when the fair opened to the public.

We played lots of games and won lots of little trinkets: there was duck toss and fishing and egg hunt and bean bag toss, all of which I think they actually remembered from last year. And, like last year, the kind coordinators of the booth let the kids have several turns playing each game without requiring tickets (though we did also buy at least $10 in tickets to play too). There was a new trinkets table--the church email announcing it said to bring all your junky little toys from fast food meals and the like and so I had intended to steer away from this completely because we don't need anymore of those--where Bud purchased a rocket ship (and not a cheap meal toy at all) for 25 cents much to his continued delight (and to that of the adults around us at lunch when he asked me "to put the rocket in my pocket."). Sis won a Pet Shop game with little pet figurines and also a stuffed Siamese cat at the Nothing But Nets fundraising booth for malaria nets--that and the kettle corn were her favorite parts. Bud loved the music--the techno sampler, the folk strings, the acoustic singalong, anything with a fiddle/violin. They also had their hands painted with spiders (Bud) and cats (Sis), but insisted on washing them off the moment we got home. Mama and I bought some books--a vegetarian cookbook for me and lots of kids books--and found a few tag sale treasures, including some really cheap but solid dollhouse furniture (most likely for Sis eventually) and a wooden plaque with a cat (the hobo sign for "a kind-hearted woman lives here), that we have intended to buy from Signals or Wireless or Paragon or whatever that catalog is for years. We saw several good friends--thank you, thank you, oh good-natured ladies who bought the cookbook (and to Mama Teacher who baked dozens of muffins to sell!)--and also a couple of people we haven't seen in ages. It was a really wonderful day.

The only downsides: I don't think we sold many cookbooks. And I saw our kiddos' carseats for sale at the tag sale--offered up with our knowledge and approval by the person we'd passed them to--but still kinda bittersweet to come across, since Harvest Festival was their very first outdoor outing in those very carseats 3 years ago, when they were only about 2 months old. Oh, they were cute in these little white and yellow sleepers with matching hats; we have pictures. Time flies. But I think I'm glad we have these annual traditions and rituals to help us mark it as it goes.

But what will the kids remember most? Something a new congregant taught them at the end of the day:

"Give me five,
On the side,
Cut the pickle,
Tickle, tickle!"

Oh, this was exceedingly hilarious and too fun not to share with everyone, especially Mama, me, and each other. Over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. If you see us during the week, definitely ask them about the "pickle thing."

Just make sure I'm nowhere nearby.

Friday, September 26, 2008

A Week of Changes

So, it's been a week of change: first, the tv ended up in the basement; then we cut up our credit cards (except one each for emergencies, to be kept NOT in my purse, just another way to cut spending in these uncertain financial times); we have been substantially cutting down on laundry because our dryer is still broken and Sears won't be here until next week (it's under warranty, luckily); and I have a new plan--one dish per person and you must wash your own! I read about it in a magazine. Some lady with 8 kids always had a pile of dishes in the sink and a fight on her hands to get someone to do it. So they each got one bowl-like plate that they decorated with their names and each is in charge of washing his or her own. I'm not going to take it quite that far but I did have the kiddos wash their own plates along with their hands today. And they loved it!! I think we might have something here. Maybe I'll invest in a fun sponge with the soap in the handle--this will also save soap. They've always loved playing in the water in the sink. Time to turn fun into usefulness. Getting older sucks, right? Yeah, but already being older and figuring these things out is great!

Self-Awareness

Sis just turned to me, "We're sick."

"Yes, you are."

"We'll have to stay home from school."

School isn't for 5 days so I assured her we were going to do everything we could to get both Bud and Sis over the sniffles by then. But it was touching and bittersweet to see her little face register that she was, indeed, under the weather. I'm not sure they've ever put a name to being sick before, even though they've had enough colds.

Let's hope it's a rare occurrence. And not just because I want them to go to school, but because they want to go to school.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A New Blog

Check out my playgroup's new recipe blog: Eat This You'll Love It.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Like Mothers, Like Children

So, we were examining the book order form today, trying to decide what to get.

Bud spotted Zen Shorts and wanted that. But we already have a copy upstairs. It's one of our favorite nighttime books.

He replied, "So, we need one for upstairs and one for downstairs."

My Car is Home

My minivan came home tonight, after almost 7 weeks in the shop.

It has a new hood, a totally new paint job, new driver door, new bumpers, and I think new front bummer and headlights.

And I'm devastated.

I don't know if it's because seeing it brought back all the stress of the storm and the days following, or if it's because I missed the car (which I never would have guessed because I am not a car person), or because the paint job seems darker, or because all my bumper stickers are gone, or because there are shards of glass and metal in all the little crevices despite an obviously good interior vacuum, or because there are smudgy, greasy handprints in odd places on the roof upholstery.

The kids jumped right in and were driving and having a happy time until I shooed their little barefoot selves out of the car. They went in to bathe and I went back out and sat in the driver's seat and wept.

Mom, I know you're not online right now because your part of Houston still doesn't have power, but is this how you felt after the burglary? after the fire? after the various floods at Dad's shop? after his Suburban was carjacked with you right there? right now, after Hurricane Ike? Just a little violated, a little unsure, a little overwhelmed, a little depressed? I know in the long run, or even in the short term, that everything is okay. It's just a car. And the car is still just fine. And we're all okay. But it doesn't feel like ours again yet.

Even if, in the end, my UU chalice medallion that hangs from my rearview mirror is intact, unscathed, and still in place, despite all the damage and clean-up. Surely, that's a sign.

A New Book Order

We have another book order sheet!!

Bud wants the trains book. Sis chose a bunny book. I like the "If You Give a . . . " books. No telling what Mama will want. We each get one selection.

Oh, and Mommy Goose, Little Prince Treats Mama--I'm bringing the book order to playdate tomorrow, so have your checkbooks ready!!!

Vegetarian Agita

Okay, I've tried and tried to write a post about a recent opposing opinions piece in Brain, Child, and I can't coherently or logically say what I want to say, mainly to enumerate why the piece made me crazy. The question was, "Should vegetarians raise their children as vegetarians?"

The pro-omnivorous children article seemed wishy-washy in its support of personal choice, which is, I think, the linchpin in the decision. I was disappointed because in no way did this piece stand up against the other piece (though of course, neither author would have seen the other opinion)--it gave no real answer to the question, nothing that clarifies the position.

But the pro-vegetarian children article was outrageous. It equated letting children eat meat with letting children eat lead (I should note that the author explains that his father died young of a heart attack). My goodness, that is hyberbolic. Were I a non-veg, I would be turned off from the whole idea of vegetarianism for myself much less my kids just by his unyielding, adamant tone. His accusatory tone reminds me of why I don't particularly like rabid vegetarians. I think he needs to read up on risk management, on probability and impact. The probability that an omnivore diet will be the main cause of death is impossible to determine independently--sure, heart disease is a killer, but there are mitigating factors such as exercise and genetics and even the kinds and frequency of meat (broiled fish vs. fried, grilled chicken vs. fried, prime rib . . you get it) consumed. Of course, the impact of dying of an omnivore-diet is high. But in comparison the probability of lead-ingestion leading to illness or death is high and, of course, the impact is high. While vegetarian diets can be healthy, they can also be unhealthy--with a focus on fats, carbs, refined sugars, to the exclusion of actual vegetables and fruits. Similarly, an omnivore diet can be either healthy or unhealthy. Everything in moderation. Especially attitude and judgment. Mercy, I can't imagine being one of his children, vegetarian or goddess-forbid omnivore, with his rigid, intolerant, judgemental attitude. Good grief.

See, not logical, coherent, or calm. Plus, very judgmental.

Tidbits

Sis has an eyebrow thing. She stares and then raises and lowers her eyebrows with no other change in expression when she is curious, surprised, or interested in something. I have yet to decide if multiple up-and-downs mean anything in particular.

-=-=-=-=-

Bud has several new favorite phrases and turns of phrase, including:
  • "That startled me." This began at the model train museum where I think he must have heard someone say it. It is now a part of his daily repetoire.
  • "Stop copying me." Usually when you are talking when he is talking, even if you aren't parroting him.
  • "Sure."
  • "----, it is!" Such as "Toast, it is!" or "Crayons, it is!"
  • Similarly, "----, alright!" such as, "It's hot, alright" or "That's blue, alright."
  • "That's not a good idea."
-=-=-=-=-

Sis is insistent that she turn off her own water when she'd done washing her hands and buckles the top buckle of her car seat. If you forget and do it for her, she'll ask to do it herself. Big girl.

-=-=-=-=-

Buddy has learned to pee standing up. Goodbye, clean bathrooms.

It's Official

My mom thinks I'm weird.

This in itself is nothing new, but I think even she is surprised that we took out our tv.

You would think I announced that we were going back to the land to raise sheep, grow our own food, spin our own yarn to make our own clothes, all without power, water, or plumbing.

Mom, we're not Amish.

And this isn't "Extreme Makeover--Old Sturbridge Village Edition."

We're just trying to make tv less central to our daily lives.

And, for the record, we are upstairs doing rest time with "Fireman Sam" on tv, because, of course, there is value in many kinds of shows, kids and otherwise. And some watching is okay. Especially when the kids are so obviously exhausted as they are today, after a full morning of school and a "First Day of Fall" picnic and hopscotch tournament in our yard afterwards.

Don't worry, we're not crazy. Yet.

Though, we do talk about homeschooling, or actually, "unschooling" a lot. All the good granola liberals up here do it

(That'll get her!)

Monday, September 22, 2008

Lessons Learned

Since the Democratic National Convention, I've been thinking about Michelle Obama's speech. Not the general points about her roots or how great a man her husband is, but what she said about lessons:

"And Barack and I were raised with so many of the same values: like, you work hard for what you want in life; that your word is your bond; that you do what you say you're going to do; that you treat people with dignity and respect, even if you don't know them and even if you don't agree with them. And Barack and I set out to build lives guided by these values and to pass them onto the next generation, because we want our children -- and all children in this nation -- to know that the only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work hard for them."

It started me thinking: what values was I taught, either explicitly or implicitly? what values do I want to pass on to the kids? And so, in typical fashion, I started a list of things I'd learned (or, at the least, been taught!):

  • How to be a good guest and a good hostess (this is important because hospitality is key).
  • How to listen and to communicate.
  • Generosity, don't sweat the small change, or "don't talk about money with friends"
  • Mom's "Bohemian work ethic": work before pleasure (and, by extension, "do it while you're thinking about it" which is why we'd catch her cleaning the fridge if she gone to get a soda to take in the car!)
  • Dad's work ethic, said to me repeatedly since the kids were born (and I paraphrase): "Suck it up." Which I'll take to mean, do what you have to do and don't complain (or as Mom would put it, "Don't tell me about the labor, just show me the baby.")
  • You have to love yourself before you can love others.
  • Try anything once, or try new things.
  • Live and let live.
  • Fight fair (or, Mom's favorite active-listening technique, "send 'I-messages'").
  • Friends and family are very important--let them know you love them.
  • History is important (from family stories and genealogy to local, regional, national history).
So, not phrased as prettily as Michelle Obama's list (I don't have numerous speech writers), but still a pretty good list. And I try to remember them all (did I forget any that you thought you taught me? That's a good post for you, Mom!)

Thanks, Mom and Dad.

A Kitchen of One's Own

Mama is working late tonight and the kiddos are in bed.

I have the house to myself.

And, with no tv and a bake sale coming up, I decided to spend the evening baking. I love to bake and don't get much time to do it a capella. Mind you, baking with the kids is great because we are creating something together and I'm passing on a favorite hobby and skill, but I've been ready to try some more complicated recipes. It has been at times frustrating, exhilarating, and rejuvenating. While I'll do lots of bake-sale baking with the kids--we made Jumbo M&M Cookies today--I wanted to do some on my own. I chose a recipe with liquor and a recipe with nuts, neither of which I would let the kiddos sample: Joe Frogger Cookies and Chocolate-Almond Biscottini.

The Froggers--an old molasses cookie with several spices and rum (think slavery-era food)--are chilling in the refrigerator, both spicier and saltier than the version I've had at Sturbridge. But the recipe is from several websites, many of them famed New England B&Bs, so we'll see. I'm going to add an OSV touch to them and sprinkle them with raw sugar.

Meanwhile, the biscottini--a small biscotti (or, probably, normal size, but not the huge ones you get here in the US covered in chocolate and about a foot long)--are having their first bake in the oven. They'll cool, then be cut crosswise, and baked on each side in batches. This recipe comes from our friend in Chicago who made biscotti often. I can't tell what book she got the recipes from--and she gave me 4 or 5 of them--but if this is successful, I'm going to track it down.

I know my baking project will keep me in the kitchen long past Mama's return later tonight, but I'm having such a good time. And she's out tomorrow night too. I wonder what cookies I'll make then?

-=-=-=-=-

Jumbo M&M Cookies


Nestle's Chocolate Chip Pan Cookie Recipe
2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
12 oz M&M candies

Preheat oven to 375F. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, both sugars and vanilla in large mixer bowl. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Gradually beat flour mixture into butter mixture. Stir in M&Ms (do not use mixer, as they will break). Drop by 1/4 cup measure onto cookie sheet, spacing several inches apart (usually 6 per cookie sheet). Bake 10-14 minutes or until golden.

adapted from the back of Nestle Chocolate Chips bag

-=-=-=-=-

Joe Frogger Cookies

A Colonial ginger cookie loved by generations of New Englanders, these were originally made by Black Joe Brown and Aunt Crese of Gingerbread Hill. Seamen took them on long voyages as they kept well.

3 ½ cups flour
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 ½ teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon allspice
1 cup molasses
½ cup vegetable shortening
1 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons Dark rum
1/3 cup hot water

Instructions:
Mix flour, salt, ginger, baking soda,cloves, nutmeg and allspice in a medium bowl. In a large mixmaster bowl, beat together the molasses, shortening and brown sugar. Combine hot water and rum.

To the sugar-molasses mixture, add alternately the dry ingredients and the diluted rum. (If the dough is dry, add an additional tablespoon or two of water, one at a time.)

Roll out the dough between two sheets of waxed paper until ¼ inch thick. Refrigerate for at least two hours. (If desired, refrigerated dough may then be put into freezer bags and frozen for later use).

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease 2 baking sheets.

Cut the dough into 3-inch cookies with a cookie cutter (or coffee can for the traditional larger size). Place them on greased baking sheets. Bake at 375 for 10 -12 minutes. Cookies should be dark around the edges and firm in centers. Set baking sheet on a rack to cool for 3 minutes. Then remove the cookies to a rack to cool completely.

-=-=-=-=-

Chocolate-Almond Biscottini

3/4 cup natural whole almonds
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa
2 teaspoons instant espresso coffee powder (I didn't have this so just added a tad more cocoa)
2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 egg white, lightly beaten

Adjust oven rack to center of oven; preheat to 350F. Place almonds on small cookie sheet and toast until the skins are a deep golden color, about 9 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board, cool slightly, chop coarsely, and set aside. Leave oven on.

Line a 14 x 17" cookie sheet with parchment paer; set aside.

Place flour, sugar, cocoa, coffee powder, and baking powder in bowl of electric mixer. Run machine on low speed to combine, about 40 seconds.

In a small bowl, whisk together whole eggs, 2 egg whites, and vanilla extract. Add to flour mixture and beat on low speed until dough starts to come together in a crumbly mass, about 30 seconds. Stir in almonds. Turn dough onto a well-floured work surface (dough will be soft and sticky). With well-floured hands, gently knead 2-3 times until dough begins to hold together in a sticky mass; divide dough into thirds. Shape into 3 ropes, each approximately 11" long. Place ropes 3" apart on lined pan. With fingertips, lightly flatten each into a log 1/2" high, 2 1/2" wide, and 13" long. Brush logs with lightly beaten egg white.

Bake in preheated oven until logs are firm to the touch, about 20 minutes. Place cookie sheet on wire rack and cool for 5 minutes. Lower oven temperature to 325F. Transfer logs to cutting board. Leave parchment on baking sheet. With a serrated knife, cut logs crosswise at a slight diagonal into 1/2"-thick slices. Place half of the slices cut side down on pan, spacing them 1/2" apart. Return to oven and bake until surfaces are dry to the touch, about 7 minutes on each side. Transfer biscotti to wire rack and cool completely. Reline pan with fresh parchment and repeat with remaining slices. Biscotti can be stored in a tin lined with wax paper for 3 weeks.

My hints: I used my silicon baking sheet. Also, when arranging once-baked slices on cookie sheet, put them all the the same direction (i.e. flat side towards you, or vice versa) so that when you flip them, you can tell which ones you've done.

Our Chicago friend

A New Look

For a new look at Babar, see today's NYTimes containing a review of a new exhibition at the Morgan.

There's even a tidbit about Curious George at the end--did you know his creators took their manuscript with them as they escaped Paris and the Nazis?

I'm not a big fan of either character but find the discussion of colonialism fascinating.

A Family Meeting

When we have important family issues to discuss, we have family meetings. Sometimes, it's lighthearted--do we want to go to Mystic Seaport or Sturbridge--but sometimes it's more difficult, like when we held our little family memorial for our friend in Chicago.

We had another meeting yesterday afternoon.

Because we were getting rid of our television.

That's right. We don't have a tv downstairs anymore.

We told the kids it was going to the basement. To questions of why, we answered because we don't need it, because there are other things we can do. We explained that there is still a tv in our room, for special times. And that was it. Mama dismantled all the components, took the tv, vcr, and dvd player downstairs; the cabinet is on the porch to give away.

There were a few more questions and a little panic in the afternoon. We had decided to tell them so we could deal with these as it was happening, also, so they didn't think parts of their world just disappeared overnight. For the most part, nobody missed it. Even after the kids were in bed, we were fine too.

"Why?" you ask, just like the kids.

Because we don't need it.

Recently, I have read different articles that have really affected me. The first was on "co-rumination," or the repeated discussion of problems or issues with another person, almost to the exclusion of solving the problem. You know, like teenage girls discussing why a boy doesn't like her, or why another girl was mean, or any of the myriad of dramas of adolescence. Or young adulthood. Or even marriage and motherhood. Experts have noticed that, while close friendship with discussion and sharing are important, too much discussion, or co-rumination is detrimental. In other words, too much sitting on the pot, not enough . . . you understand. Mama and I, as co-dependent lesbians, are experts at co-rumination. We can talk and talk and talk about the same problems and issues and drama for hours, days, even years, without making significant or permanent change.

Change. Yesterday, our minister gave a sermon on change and its inevitability. She talked about "loss aversion," or the fear of giving up what you have, even if it isn't great, and thereby not taking the risk on something greater. The best line of the sermon, which I will paraphrase, was along the lines of "don't be so scared of the risk of change that you don't risk change."

Which leads me to "eco-housewifery," from an article in Brain,Child about a woman who focuses on housekeeping in an almost 19th-century sense. She lives on a farm, grows and processes her family's food, and soap and no doubt clothes, etc., putting her family at the center of her endeavors. But, she says such an approach can be adapted to suburban, even urban, families. The goal is to put the family at the center of activity--not just the children, but everyone--and put taking care of the world at the center of the activity of the family, through "green" measures, charity, simple living. How is that different that SAHMing, she was asked. For SAHMs, the central activity is a consumer one--purchasing the right clothes, home furnishings, toys, and even more broadly, the right schools, extracurriculars, experiences. This leaves the SAHM at the mercy of marketers and materialism. There is more to life, to family, than that.

And so we got rid of our tv. Mama and I had talked--for months, if not years--about how we didn't want the kids to watch too much tv, to be fully engaged in the consumer culture aimed at kids, but also how we often wasted evenings watching things that didn't really entertain, inform, or even really interest us, just because it was there. And so we made a change. I had thought it up several times but was more inspired this time and brought it up last week. She was hesitant at first. Not because she cares much about tv--I watch more than she does--but she didn't want me to make trouble for myself, especially with the kids' rest time. How would I get them to take a break, thereby giving one to myself? And hadn't I said I didn't want them to grow up so outside popular culture that they would be freaks? She realized, though, that we should just embrace the change, which is not irreversible--I didn't take a sledgehammer to the tv after all--and see how it works. That, and we still have a tiny (12" 10 year old tv, I think) tv in our room for illness or special occasions like the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. Or for rest time, in an "emergency."

So far, so good. The kids woke up early and are already crabby--both want to lead, no one wants to share, they don't want to play together, then it changes again, with lots of tears and near-misses. But there is no tv to turn on so they are coping with the ebb and flow of their emotions and interactions, while I sit nearby and watch and type (and only occasionally need to instruct, encourage, threaten, or console). And more than ending co-rumination, or embracing change, or putting the family at the center of our lives, learning to get along is one of the best lessons I can teach them right now.

Shorts

My parents are still without power in Houston and thus are still staying at their bayhouse on the coast. The electric company hopes to restore power by Thursday, almost 2 weeks after the storm.

A man from the bayhouse community, the man who has the brain tumor, is back in the hospital with more bleeding and possibly more surgery. Our thoughts are with him and his family and friends.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

New Places

Our neighborhood store reopened!!!!

After weeks of remodeling during which the kids almost daily asked about the store, its owners, when it would open, would they have Skittles, the store put out its open sign yesterday. And so today after school, we went. Sis and Bud practically danced and sang in their car seats when I told them it was finally open.

Ooooh, it's fancy. So much cleaner and nicer and roomier than the old one. The food counter had more and better choices. There were more people making it all faster. And some of them were the same, which was good.

The kids couldn't be happier. They got their half meat sandwiches on a roll, plus Skittles and an M&M cookie (because there were no Hershey bars). With water, there being no juice boxes. I got a delightful panini and a Snapple. All of which we devoured outside. A nice little picnic. A great addition--re-addition??--to the neighborhood. I know we'll be back.

Another new place, or actually, new to me, place, that I've been recently is a nearby farmer's market. There weren't too many booths (I always think of the Greenmarkets in the city) but what they did have was delightful, fresh, local, and reasonable. Unprepared for a big spree, I bought a few eggplants, which we had in a pasta bake last night. Delicious! I'll be back, though, for more fruits and veggies, plus other little treats, probably with the kids in tow. I think they'll like it.

It's a Miracle

I ate a raw tomato.

Not a whole one, just 1/4 of a slice.

But it was a tomato and it was uncooked. See, I don't like raw tomatoes. Ketchup, fine; sauce, great; salsa, even better (not sure why, but it's ok). But plain old sliced tomatoes? No way. Not for 35+ years.

And yet, earlier this week, the green tomatoes we had picked had ripened into big red tomatoes. And the kids, especially Sis, were so excited. I sliced them up, salted and peppered them (trying to make it more edible because even then I sensed I was going to have some).

But no takers. So, I had a bit. And chewed and swallowed without making a face. It wasn't terrible, but still not my favorite by a long shot (raw tomatoes, along with cucumbers, anything licorice-y, cilantro, and most seafood are on my list of no-way). But I won't be so rigid in their avoidance in the future, as long as they are on other things and not straight up.

And the kids? They were nonplussed by my sacrifice and didn't even try them. Can't say I don't understand completely.

Empty Nest

My friend Lambeth has named my malaise--I have empty nest syndrome, even though my nest is only empty about 6 hours a week. Of course, I recognized that I was at a loss without them but hadn't put that familiar name to it. "Empty nest" is something parents of college students experience as the parents exit the full-time parenting part of their lives. He's right, though. I have mini-empty nest.

Today's NYTimes has an article about parents experiencing college empty nest, but many of the themes hit home. One woman comments, " I’m terribly lonely and a little bit cranky . . . . I’ve been pouring so much love and attention into the boys for so long, it just feels horrible not to have somebody to pour out love on anymore.” That's not exactly my case, but for three years, my day-to-day-world--previously filled with Mama, cat, career, grad school--was the kiddos.

I think I'm coping okay now. The article mentions that planning is key. Having passed the first day of preschool and moving into a rhythm, the plans I had made for my 6 hours are in effect (yep, I went to wellness workout this morning). And I'm sure pretty soon I'll be longing for 3 days a week or even full day school--or, dare I say it, college--to come. I just better start working on my plan.

It's Like Christmas in September

I just waded through three huge bags of hand-me-downs for Buddy, having gone through two bags for Sis about a week ago. It's like Santa left his huge gift sack at the house. Now, as you know, I'm not much of a clothes horse, either for me or the kids, but I really LOVE getting bags of clothes because a). I LOVE not having to shop b). it's always such cute stuff and usable too c). it's very green to reduce our purchases and reuse still-wearable stuff. And we're the recipients of lots of it because they're smaller than most of their friends and, with one of each gender, I can use anything.

We've given away clothes, bags and bags of boys and girls things, to the point that we have almost nothing in the basement now for all the little babies and toddlers behind us. But, come 3T-4T, I'll have tons of things for them. That is, if they don't pass us in size before we can pass it along! (This happened to one of our earlier clothes Santas--her daughter is small, though older, and Sis caught up). Gotta pay it forward. I do have some reserves in the basement, not for a future member of the family, but to keep memories of their babyhood with us. But, I think even our very generous clothes Santas have these stashes.

So, thank you very much to the clothes Santas in our lives! The kids will look great this fall (and spring and even summer) because of you. You'll see.

Of Biscotti and Amish Friendship Bread

It's bake sale time! I'm gearing up to bake several times in the next few weeks for our annual church festival. And, this weekend when my good friend from junior high visited, we had a long talk about quick breads and Amish Friendship Bread. I had totally forgotten about my obsession, just a year ago, with that goo. You'll remember that I tried to burden most of my friends with starter, but few takers took, and none managed to bake. Well, the kids can eat flour this year and can help me feed the pet (um, I mean starter) and bake with it. I think we can get a loaf off before the festival. I'm going to buy yeast today. My friend even recommended Vanilla Cinnamon Bread, with vanilla pudding and cinnamon. She also likes it with butterscotch--I wouldn't, but the kids will. And there's always chocolate! Fun, fun, fun.

We'll also be making my friend M's biscotti. She was from a big Italian family and loved to make biscotti--so easy, so impressive (just like her rainbow jello, which she sold every year at the annual December fair. It took 7 days to layer all the colors in little see-through cups). I found her biscotti recipes, complete with a note from her, this weekend and am going to make them in her honor, now and for Christmas, the first since her death.

Also on our list are Joe Frogger cookies, a traditional New England molasses cookie made in large "lily pad" sizes; chocolate chip bar cookies; and most like our standby Oatmeal Scotchies. I'll post the recipes as we do them.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

And Back Again

My parents have returned to their part of the Texas coast (outside the area of devastation). Their house in Houston has no power and Dad's business has only intermittent power. Lines for gasoline are 30-50 cars long which is intimidating (they worry about running out themselves).

And they are about 70 miles from Galveston!

Sing a Song

They are singing songs I don't know.

All during snack and then outdoor play, they sang, "Join hands and sing a happy song/Join hands and sing a happy song/Join hands and sing a happy song. We're thankful for the food we eat. We're thankful for the people we meet. We're one family." I can't quite tell the tune and I'm not sure I have all the lyrics, but they have sung it in various forms over and over and over again.

They've also been singing the call to circle time, or "Come Sit on a Star"--"come and sit down, come and sit down, come and sit down on a star, a star." I know the tune but not the name; I think it might be a polka or some dance tune. Mama can't identify it at all.

Apparently, there is also a clean-up song that is not the one we sing at home and a go-to-the-bathroom song. And an apple tree finger play about "two little apples smiling at me." I at least found this one when I googled it: "Two little apples hanging on a tree. Two little apples smiling at me. I shook that tree as hard as I could. Down came the apples. Mmmm were they good!" But I'm at a loss with the other ones.

At church, they've been singing a song about lighting the chalice but I haven't caught the words yet.

Of course, for any and all of these, I can check with the teacher if I'm desperate to know the song and sing along (and Bud did ask how to play the circle song on the piano, so I probably will ask for the sheet music, which I know they have). But for now, I'm letting it be their thing, their songs, something they can teach to me. It's not about my knowing everything they are learning. I want them to have the pride of teaching me, of knowing something I don't know. They are doing this on their own, even if I'm helping.

And, we're all learning.

Universal Convergence

I seem to be getting signals from the universe that it is time to purge, organize, and clean my house. First, of course, I just got a lot of extra time to do it in--about 4 more hours a week, not including the time for my workout and driving back and forth for preschool. Secondly, well, I spent a very tense hour or so in my basement as a storm raged outside not only scared of the tree that fell on us but on the stuff that surrounded us floor to ceiling. Then on Sunday, my minister spoke on acts of faith and ethical wills. One of the things she said was life is not about the stuff we leave our kids but the lessons we've taught them (hmmm, a la Randy Pausch's Last Lecture). And I don't want my kids to be materialistic and disorganized (or have to sort through all of this when we're gone). And then today, the NYTimes ran an article on personal organization and the consultants who can help you. I think my favorite tip was "In September, designate a box for each child’s artwork and school papers. Then go through them the next summer, when you are not so attached to them." I already have a full tub of artwork, mainly because Sis creates in series. Right now we're in her divisionist, or pointilist, period, when she likes to put single colored circles on a sheet of paper. (There was actually a more psychologically-penetrating article on hoarding--real, pathological (or is it neurotic?) hoarding in NYC apartments--a year or so back that was equally inspiring, though not as practical.)

Anyway, we just had company, my friend from high school (well, 7th grade), and that always makes you see your house with new eyes. Now, my hospitality skills are fine, if I might say so--I had a guest basket with towels, lotion, water bottle, and snack ready for her, tried to organize activities and meals based on her preferences, oh, and kept the kids quiet before 8:30 a.m.!!!! But I did notice piles of things I hadn't in awhile.

We have been doing much better and have cleared and sorted and purged quite a bit in the last two months, but it is an ongoing process. With Goodwill and Habitat for Humanity's Restore nearby, plus a used bookstore, as well as a fall rummage sale for church coming up (another prod from the universe?), we have several places that will take our stuff. We just have to go through it.

So, best get off the computer and get back to the cleaning, because, well, when the universe talks, I listen.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Moonstruck

Happy Moon Festival to you all!

This is the second most important holiday in Chinese observance, that of the harvest on the fifteenth day of the eighth month in the lunar calendar. We celebrated today by making lanterns (you know, the typical paper lantern with vertical slits and a handle) and eating mooncakes (small embossed cakes filled with either sweet lotus paste or a sweet mixture of nuts and candied fruits). The kiddos weren't up to see the moonrise, the brightest moon of the year, according to Ar-Ma. It was beautiful, though.

La bella luna!

School Supplies, or, Fun With Magnets

My favorite part of getting ready for school as a child was school supplies. Clothes shopping always meant a fight with my mom about clothes (or, at least that is how I remember it now, though, I can't imagine we fought about clothes when I was in, say, second grade). But, what's to argue about a new box of crayons and a lunchbox? Oh, the smell of a new box of crayons, or freshly-sharpened pencils. The feel of a new package of notebook paper or a new stack of folders and spirals. I always got a new lunchbox, couldn't even tell you now who was on them (Charlie's Angels, one year??) But they were always metal with a plastic thermos, complete with little plastic cup. And a new pencil box! Not a plastic one, but a cardboard one. Oh, how I loved those cardboard pencil boxes. It was later in my school life that Trapper Keepers and fancy notebooks were invented, so my earliest and best memories are of simpler supplies.

Shopping for school supplies with Sis and Bud had me contemplating a new backpack, one with a cupcake on it, which I totally didn't need (and didn't buy). Instead, I bought a package of sheet protectors and a package of business card magnets. With those, I'm making magic. I've put 2-3 of those little square magnets on the back of those clear plastic pockets and now use them to hold important school papers. But I also outlined two of them with construction paper--voila, a reusable artwork frame! Sis and Bud were thrilled to have a fancy place to display their art. I've also then made picture magnets from our leftover stash of wallet-sized pics so that there are images of them and other family members adorning our chalkboard wall. And today, I had the best idea yet: cut up those baseball cards Bud got in his schultute and put them on magnets to make a team for a chalk baseball field.

Well, both Mama and my visiting childhood friend were appalled that I would consider cutting up a baseball card. Oh, well. I'll have to think of more uses for the other 85 magnet backs I have. Any ideas? You might be getting magnets of the twins for Christmas this year . . .

Friend from the Past

A friend of mine for junior high is here for the weekend, to visit and to see a Yankees game.

Posts will be few and far between until Tuesday night.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Out of Harm's Way

My parents have headed down to the bay, near Port O'Connor (pronounced porta-conner). There is power there, and other family.

That is, if there is a clear road to get there. But my dad knows all the backroads. He's a one man GPS.

So, as far as I know, all of our family and friends are safe. We're just waiting word on how other Texans fared.

Another Update

I spoke to my parents at 7 a.m. They had survived the storm so far but were still getting rain and wind. No power or cell phones, but land line phones. And their fence had partially blown down. The radar seems to indicate that they are still getting buffeted but not as badly as before, hopefully.

They're in for an uncomfortable several days with no power but are at least safe now.

Hopes

Hurricane Ike made landfall at 2:10 CST a little southwest of Houston and is tracking northwest with 110 mph winds.

I hope my folks are okay. My grandparents, who stayed in Galveston for Alicia, said it was one of the worst nights of their lives and that the wouldn't want to withstand a hurricane again. I imagine my folks are having a rough night right now too.

The whole metro area of Houston is having a rough night, something like 5 million people, many of them survivors of Katrina who relocated from New Orleans to Texas. Having been through a storm, a tiny one in comparison (about 45 mph less), and short too (no more than an hour or so of the awful stuff), but with a tree that fell on us, I can't imagine staying through a hurricane.

I'm watching tv and reading the papers but can't get a good idea of what has happened. Darkness really hampers knowledge, both philosophically and practically. I'll write again later, but I hope I don't have to post the eulogy to Galveston that I've been working on in my head.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Updates

With everything going on, I'm edgy.

Here's the latest, as I know it:
  • Ar-Gong's angiogram went as well as possible. He has one arterial spasm (not the medical term) and two minor blockages (so minor that stents won't work--too big a hole??). So, he has to rest there a few more hours and then go home, with some prescriptions. We're glad things went well.
  • Our little friend, as far as I know, is still in the hospital, mainly because he can't keep anything down.
  • My parents are hunkering down for the hurricane which looks terrible. The National Hurricane Center warned residents of Galveston (my parents are far away in NW Houston, near the airport) that if they stay they will die. That's a pretty incredible warning, but then 8,000 people died in Galveston in the 1900 storm. They're predicting storm surge of 15-20', which is over the tops of most coastal houses.

Baking Experiments

As Ike threatens, a little friend is still in the hospital, and my FIL undergoes an angiogram, we decided to make some fun for breakfast this morning. Three variations, three different results.

Biscuit Apple Pies
Mama got this original recipe on some site for kids' activities.

1 package refrigerator biscuits
1-2 apples, chopped
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven according to biscuit package.
Combine chopped apples with brown sugar and cinnamon.
Separate biscuits and flatten each. Place apple mixture on half of biscuit rounds. Top with remaining biscuits. Pinch edges. Prick tops with a fork.
Bake according to the biscuit package (but be prepared to increase time).

Our suggestions: Perhaps use 1 round per "pie" and fold it over more like a pasty. This would increase the apple to dough ratio, which is Bud's preference. Also, the biscuits might cook more evenly. Or you could make a depression in the top of a single biscuit round and make an open-faced pie. And you'll have more of them!! We had extra apple mixture so we made these . .


Another Apple Pie

1 package crescent rolls (I had these because I couldn't remember if the above recipe called for rolls or biscuits!)
leftover mixture from recipe above

Preheat oven according to roll package.
Separate rolls. Place apple mixture in wide part of dough and roll towards small end.
Bake according to roll package.

Our note: Not a lot of apples fit in these but they are a lot less messy. I also like the dough better (we used reduced fat). Then we ran out of apples for 8 rolls, so we made these . . .


Pan au chocolat

1 package crescent rolls
chocolate chips (we had milk chocolate; semi-sweet would be better)

Preheat oven according to roll package.
Separate rolls. Place approximately 1-2 teaspoons chocolate chips in wide part of dough and roll towards small end.
Bake according to roll package.

Our note: These were my favorites, of course.


For any of these, you could use various fillings--mmmm, nutella comes to mind. Or marzipan/almond paste. Or apples and walnuts. Or, cheese--mmmm, ricotta with fruit, or cream cheese (reminds me of a kolache I get with cottage cheese, sugar, and shredded coconut!). With broccoli (the biscuit would be better for a mini-pot pie), for dinner. At that point, the combinations are endless.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Time Flies

I've been alone for about 2 hours. The house is quiet.

Well, no. I have music blaring as loud as my little stereo can handle. Remember, this was one of the things I've missed since having kids.

So, what did I do during my furlough?

I went to my wellness workout, then got a coffee. I sat in there a bit, reading my "new" book, The Ladies by Doris Grumbach, about a lesbian (yes, I know, they wouldn't have used that term) couple in 18th-century Ireland. Then I came home, after dropping off Goodwill and the dry cleaning, answered a phone call, wrote a few emails, vacuumed and swept the downstairs, sorted/purged kids books (to make space for all those new book order purchases!!!), went to the bathroom by myself (another thing I miss), am now blogging . . .

. . . and now the timer is telling me it's time to go get the munchkins.

Not bad for a first day by myself: no tears.

I could get used to this!

Get Well Wishes

Our thoughts go out to another Buddy (for those of you who can't figure that out, he has an older sister whose name begins with the same letter) in our playgroup who has a stomach virus that has put him in the hospital with dehydration. We'll be thinking of you and hoping you get well soon.

Remembering

Song for the Lonely (Cher)

When you're standing on the edge of no where
There's only one way up so your hearts got to go there
Through the darkest nights
You see the light shine bright
When heroes fall in love or war they live forever

(chorus)
This is a song for the lonely, can you hear me tonight?
For the broken-hearted, battle scarred
I'll be by your side
And this is a song for the lonely
When your dreams wont come true
Can you hear this prayer
Because someones there for you

Seven years ago this morning, I was listening to the radio while starting to work on my dissertation on a crisp, beautiful September morning. Mama had gone to work. We were in the city.

Today, I'm getting two preschoolers ready for their second full day of preschool, the first day to do this by myself. Mama has gone to work.

We're not in the city anymore, but we remember today. And honor both the lives lost and still living.


Don't give up, so let it find you
Just hold on, wherever you may go
Anywhere, I'm right beside you
You don't have to look no more
You don't have to look no more

-=-=-=-=-

I like this Irish saying that Bloomberg read at today's commemoration: “Death leaves a heartache that nothing can heal. Love leaves a memory that no one can steal.”

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Much Ado

I can't believe yesterday has come and gone. The kids have started school. They are preschoolers. And we survived without a hitch. I'm definitely relieved, but a little surprised. For months, several months, I've worried and cried about yesterday. And sure, some of that worry help me be prepared and to prepare the kiddos. But in the end, it wasn't awful. Yet? Maybe it will be hard and awful tomorrow, my first day doing it alone? Or maybe, with all the worry and planning, we at some point became ready for school? All of us?

Because Sis and Bud marched into school, dragging along their wheelie backpacks with snackpacks inside, went right to their cubbies and started to unpack. Sis even hung Shirt on the hook. And then Bud went off to find the tools and Sis headed straight to the sand table. Mama and I pretty much just stood there, having been so ready for tears and trouble. So, we "beep-beeped" the kids and left. We left.

Left them there. I had cried the night before while packing their snackboxes with dried apricots and crackers. How many should I pack? My word, how much do my kids eat? Would they be able to get the twist off lids open? Would they find their napkins? Would they find their little notes. Would someone help them? Who would help my babies? I had always been there to feed them.

And so, yesterday, while busily cleaning the closet, our designated keep-busy task during the first day of school, I realized it was snack time and I started to cry again. And insisted that Mama call to check on them. They were "great." The teachers "want to take them home." Whew. A few more tears, a lot more cleaning.

And the rain started to fall. We hurriedly finished cleaning and left to pick them up early because they wouldn't be able to play outside (the school recommends early pick up on rainy days during the first weeks as everyone gets settled). And as we entered the school, they rounded the corner. Buddy looked like he was trying so hard not to cry, so relieved to see us. But he didn't, just gave me a long hug. Sis sniffed Shirt and went straight for Mama. But they were both happy, or proud, maybe, and relieved. The teacher told us that they had played with fake food, making coffee for them all, and with some of the other kids. Sis had made a picture with markers. They had had a good first day. A great one. So we got all the assorted bags and pictures and book orders (YAY!) and newsletters and left to have a celebratory Chinese food lunch, despite the torrential rain. And so, it was in patches and pieces, that we learned about singing "Twinkle Twinkle" and "Hokey Pokey" and sitting on stars for circle time and Bud going to the potty and how they didn't go play outside. Luckily, there had been a note posted that allowed us to ask all the right questions about what they had done, not just "what did you do today?" Which we asked repeatedly anyway.

But it wasn't until late last night that I unpacked their snackboxes (from their new "cubbies" on the porch) and realized that Bud had eaten all his apricots but left a few crackers and Sis had eaten all her crackers but left most of her apricots. I had guess mostly right on who ate what and how much. And I cried all over again.

A True Artist

Check out the touching and fascinating article on Maurice Sendak in the NYTimes on the occasion of his 80th birthday.

Did you know he was gay? And just lost his partner of 50 years.

I think we only have Chicken Soup and Where the Wild Things Are, and, of course, all the Little Bears. I'll check out some others.

Something Wicked This Way Comes

My parents are, as I type, emptying their bayhouse of all valuable and sentimental belongings, moving boats inland, and boarding up windows. So are my aunts and uncles at their nearby houses.

A few counties away, my aunt and uncle are under mandatory evacuation orders because they are on the waterfront. The town will turn off water on Friday morning to encourage people to leave.

It's coming . . .

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

We Did It! (with apologies to Dora)

We woke up on time
and ate some toast
We did it!
We got "school cones"
and a happy day sign
We did it!

We did it, we did it, we did it, yeah!
Lo hicimos, we did it, we did it, hurray!

We picked our own clothes
and went to the potty
We did it!
We packed our snacks
and our school bags
We did it!

We did it, we did it, we did it, yeah!
Lo hicimos, we did it, we did it, hurray!

We took pictures
and left on time
We did it!
We got to school
and Mommy didn't cry
We did it!

We did it, we did it, we did it, yeah!
Lo hicimos, we did it, we did it, hurray!

We filled up our cubbies
and got our nametags
We did it!
We found our favorite spots
and beeped moms goodbye
We did it!

We did it, we did it, we did it, yeah!
Lo hicimos, we did it, we did it, hurray!

Our First Date

Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes,
Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Moments so dear.
Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?

About 12 years ago, Mama and I went on our first date. We weren't even officially dating--see, I was still, um, confused--but we both got dressed up, she brought roses, and we went out, theater and dinner afterwards. We saw Rent. It was a magical night, probably the night that eventually led us to getting together 11 years ago last month. We laughed, we cried, it was better than Cats.

We had bonded over musicals, though she was a devotee of Les Mis and I loved Phantom of the Opera. We compared notes on Gypsy, which we both saw with Tyne Daly (her on Broadway, me the touring company), also Secret Garden, Miss Saigon. I knew all the "old school" shows, from my dad's old albums and from going to the theater with my mom at, what seems now, a very young age--Yul Brynner in King and I, Donald O'Connor in Showboat, Robert Goulet in On A Clear Day, David Cassidy in Joseph, and so many others. And Mama loved the movie Pete's Dragon, which songs I could sing as soon as she mentioned it. She's always said that my knowing the lyrics to those songs--and doing a great Elliott imitation--made her fall in love with me.

But Rent was always our show. And not just because of the lesbians. In fact, we much prefer the duet between Angel and Tom Collins. The show encapsulated for me my first years in NYC, even if my life was nothing like theirs, and spoke to Mama's rebellious side. That, and she had wanted to go into the theater instead of computer--even got a full ride to NYU's Tisch School of Drama, in production, but didn't go. Though, if she had, would we have met (her Buddhist self says that we would have, since it's all fate)?

We never went back to see the show, even recently when we heard it was closing--it's last show was yesterday-- because nothing could top that first viewing together. She had even studied the lyrics and knew when the sad part happens and put her arm around me just before (see, I had seen the show a few months earlier with a grad school friend and had told her how that part had made me cry). We've seen some musicals together since then--Lion King, Ragtime, Jane Eyre, Whistle Down the Wind (we even went to Lincoln Center to see La Boheme upon which Rent is based)--though not so many since the kids and Connecticut (we're woefully behind). But it's always the sounds of Rent that take us back to the very beginnings.

In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights
In cups of coffee
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife.

In five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes
How do you measure
A year in the life?

How about love?
How about love?
How about love? Measure in love

Seasons of love. Seasons of love

Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes!
Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Journeys to plan.

Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes
How do you measure the life
Of a woman or a man?

In truths that she learned,
Or in times that he cried.
In bridges he burned,
Or the way that she died.

It's time now to sing out,
Tho' the story never ends
Let's celebrate
Remember a year in the life of friends
Remember the love!
Remember the love!
Seasons of love!

Oh you got to got to
Remember the love!
You know that love is a gift from up above
Share love, give love spread love
Measure measure your life in love. (Jonathan Larson, Rent)

Monday, September 8, 2008

Wedding Bells

"Bud, we're getting married," Sis said.

I warned him that that's how it sometimes happens, as she dragged him into proper couple formation. She was wearing her new dress-up pink princess/ballerina twirly dress and he had on his green pocket tee with his new dress-up pink twirly tutu (yes, his.).

"Okay, let's kiss," he said. Followed by the cutest, sweetest kiss. And more marching, while our babysitter and I sang the wedding song.

Best wedding ever.

(Apologies to the "other" new bride and groom).

Hurricane

Please, please, please direct your thoughts towards Hurricane Ike and hope it dissipates into some wimpy rainstorm. And doesn't hit Houston (where my parents are) or the Matagorda Bay area (where their bayhouse is, and also, inland, most of my mom's family) or the Corpus Christi area (where my aunt and uncle live 10' from the water).

Do-Over

Albus was slinking around again this afternoon, so we called our daytime vet, who had gotten the report from last night's ER visit, and said to bring him in. I laughed that maybe it was psychosomatic, that Albus might be stressful about preschool like the rest of us. Turns out, he probably pulled his back(like the rest of us! though, not recently, knock on wood) or bumped his spine. He definitely has a tender spot. And now has some painkillers. But he should be fine in a few days.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Again

Our cat Albus was acting funny this evening--disoriented and uncertain on his feet. We don't think he ate anything (it's always been that in the past) but something has happened. So, at 9:45 pm, Mama headed to the emergency vet. It's going to be a long night. Poor cat.

Update: Mama is home, about an hour later. They couldn't find any problems with Albus. Hmmm, maybe the stress in the house has finally gotten to the cats too. I think we'll be up awhile watching him.

36 Hours

Thank goodness we've reached the final stretch. Yep, 36 hours until school. Finally. Here are some snapshots of the last few days.

Make Up a Story: this is a game Mama came up with at dinner last night as a way to entertain the kiddos. Well, it's not new, but it's new to us: someone starts a story and the next person continues it. Last night, we told a long one about a kitty and a skunk who can't find his mommy. And then one about a giant playing in the mountains and clouds. This then became what kinds of things would we like clouds to "rain"--Sis choose chocolate; Buddy chose strawberries; I asked for yarn; Sis said Mama would choose "bars" as in granola bars. "Make up a story" was the first thing they asked for tonight.

-=-=-=-=-

"What's the good word?" I asked Buddy, just wondering what he was up to. "Please," he said.

-=-=-=-=-

A fly was caught in the car. It must have landed on Sis. "Mommy, I got . . . BUGNESS on me!"

-=-=-=-=-

Schultuten: I made the kids' "school cones" last night. It was Mama Teacher's idea to use foam and it worked great. We laced up a foam square--pink for Sis, green for Bud--and I decorated them with foam shapes and foam markers. Tres eco-friendly. I filled them with gifts--horses and cookie cutters for Sis, cars and baseball cards for Bud (mercy, it sounds so gender specific). I'll also put a felt heart in there, just a little token (also a suggestion of Mama Teacher's); I couldn't cut them in half as some had suggested, to match up with the other half that I carried when school was over--that's just too macabre for 3 year olds, I think.

-=-=-=-=-

We have new backpacks, though I'm not sure we need them for preschool. We already have snackboxes. That means that upon arrival and departure, I will be carrying four--count them, 4!--bags. I'm going to need a bag. But when I laughingly chose a cupcake one at the store today, Sis firmly reminded me that I was done with school. And thus shouldn't get a new bag. Well, it wasn't big enough anyway.

-=-=-=-=-

We had a great outing yesterday to see the model trains and then go for ice cream afterwards. Yep, we did win the "best mommies ever" contest.

-=-=-=-=-

It seems like the ABCs are everywhere these days. We had alphabet soup at lunch and the kiddos picked out letters, mainly those starting their names, and we came jup with other words with the same letters. Then, after lunch, Bud and Sis actually wrote those starting letters on the chalkboard. Without our help.

-=-=-=-=-

Practice: we've had two practices for our "drop off" day of school on Tuesday. First, we had visiting day on Thursday. That went pretty well. And then we had the first day of Sunday School today. A little less smooth. In fact, Mama stayed in the class for the whole 15 minute sesson today, just to calm nerves and reassure. But there were no tears or hysterics, so we'll see how it goes . . . .

. . . in less than 36 hours.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Deja Vu

I would be lying if I said I wasn't completely unnerved by the arrival of Tropical Storm Hanna. A tornado warning--which means rotation has been spotted-was issued for parts of the county. The kids even noticed the pounding sound of rain as they went to bed and were unsettled. Luckily, they've fallen asleep. But we're awake: flashlights nearby, weather tv tuned in, lights on outside so we can watch the remaining trees, stomachs churning.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Oh, Happy Day!

Two great things today:
  • We had a happy and successful visiting day at school, with a little hesitation but lots of excitement. I think they'll/we'll be fine in the long run, maybe with a few bumps these first few weeks.
  • We had no accidents despite refusing to go in a "foreign" potty and a 2-hour car nap (we did stop at home before lunch to go, though)!

It's 4 a.m.

Gosh, it's early, though I know I could pick up the phone and call my friend Mama Teacher and she'd be getting ready for work. I am too, in my own way, I guess. Today is visiting day at school, just another step towards starting school--and leaving them there--next week. We have new haircuts, new shoes, new backpacks. Not really any new clothes yet as none of the stores are carrying short sleeves and at 87F today it's still a little warm for long sleeves. But they'll have new (and new-to-them) clothes soon. I have a list of things I want to do before Tuesday, including the schultuten I'm planning, a felt heart "hug and kiss" to carry, notes for their snackboxes, a poster wishing them a great day at school (also to be used to date first day pictures), labeling everything they own, and cleaning off the porch. Okay, that last one is odd but I realized--as many people have noted ("I finally get them out of your house and then it starts all over again with the toys on the porch!)--all the toys on the front porch really slow down our departures and I want them out of there (yes, sometimes the obvious escapes me). That might take awhile. But we're supposed to have the remnants of Hurricane Hanna this weekend so we won't go anywhere really anyway.

I was really impressed at orientation tonight. I love the school, I love the teachers. I'm excited about all the activities. I was reassured by the attitudes and philosophies of the teachers, who really seem to work as a team. I'm looking forward to joining the parent committee and helping out on activity days. It's a little intimidating to meet all these new parents, as I have been so comfortable in my own little playgroup and church niche. But we already know two of the families, though the kids probably don't remember one of them. And I guess it's just a taste of the nerves the kids will feel. But I loved school and am comfortable in that environment--especially because there are no midterms, SATS, or orals for me (yes, yes, I'm sure it's going to be tougher watching them go through all of the academic and social hurdles, but I'm trying really hard to embrace the happy here; the worries come easily enough).

I remember preschool. It was surrounded by really tall pine trees, with a circular drive, and had long, low buildings. I remember one of my classrooms, where a boy I would go to school with through senior year, once tried to dramatically embrace me and ended up dropping me on my head on the linoleum floor (see, that NEVER worked). I remember that we put on a "3 Little Bears" play, complete with costumes. I remember the day we sampled crackers with butter, peanut butter, and jelly, or any combo of the three--I tried them all together--mercy, you wouldn't do that today. I remember dyeing blown out eggs but having one of my beautifully-colored creations roll out of my basket under the car on departure. These are real memories my mom couldn't have told me, some of the earliest things I remember absolutely on my own. I wonder what memories the kiddos will create without me?

And isn't that why I'm up at 4 a.m.?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Time Travel

Want to know how to go back 30-odd years in time?

See a Scholastic book order form at preschool orientation! It's still a folded colorful sheet with an order form.

And we get to order once a month!

I LOVE book orders: looking at the offerings (even when you were supposed to be listening--what were they thinking to pass those out before the end of the day), begging your mom for more than you "need," (hate the waiting, waiting, waiting), finding the pile of new books on your desk after recess (my teachers never seemed to use them to bribe us into good behavior. Apparently Mama's did, which pissed her off because she was always good), remembering and being surprised by what you had ordered, the smell and feel of brand new Scholastic books, the entire afternoon reading period we always got on book day.

WAIT, I'm the mom now. No begging! I can buy as many as I want (though, truthfully, my parents never really limited my book consumption. I'm going to continue that tradition, even though I'm sure it's an expensive one.).

And then there was book fair, usually coinciding with the week of Open House so you could coerce your parents into buying even more books.

I can't wait for the first book order! And we'll get two forms--one for me and one for Mama. It's like being 6 all over again.

The First Day of the Rest of Our Lives

THE KIDS WENT OUT TODAY WITHOUT ANY DIAPERS!!!!

MY GOODNESS, I THINK THEY'RE POTTY-TRAINED!!!!!

Free to Be

Johnson & Johnson's ad about how babies change everything is patently obvious.

But I forget how even the things least affected by having children have changed for me. Take Bend it Like Beckham, a movie we really like. We were watching it last weekend and I wondered, what would I do if one of the kids wanted to be something I didn't support? Not a soccer player, mind you, good luck to them (which they'd need if sports are a goal). But athletics was a real challenge for the Bamra family in the movie, who did not approve at all.

What would the kids want to become (or find out they are) that would send me into fits? Gay? This might be a problem for many American parents, but, um, not us. Been there, done that. The opposite on the continuum--a priest or nun (okay, I use "opposite" loosely here, folks)? A murderer? A pro-life activist? A Republican?

Okay, okay, seriously (Before readers get upset, I'm not saying those things are synonymous, mind you, just on the opposite end of the continuum from us, each in its own way). How do you handle when your kids take the opposite path you did? I guess it happened to my parents, though I don't think of me being in opposition to them. They are great and accepting about my being a lesbian, about Mama, and the kids. It's a non-issue. Even to say they are great about it seems to indicate there is a problem; there isn't. They are amazing people that way. But still, I didn't turn out the way any of us, including myself (though, as you have probably heard me say, looking backwards, many more things make sense now. Duh.), expected. Mama didn't either. And I have relatives, not even Catholic relatives, whose son is a monk. Would I be able to accept that? Just as the Bamras eventually do in the movie? And my parents have? Even as Mama's parents have now. I hope so. I think so. It's the first UU principle: respect the inherent worth and dignity of every person. Even if they do become Republicans (sorry to pick on the GOP today. Well, no, not really).

It just occurred to me, as I was about to wrap up this post, that many young children's books are about this very theme: Mommy, will you love me anyway? My favorite of the genre is Mama, Do You Love Me? where the young girl imagines greater and greater trials she could present her mom, from breaking eggs to running away to becoming a terrible polar bear (it's set in Alaska). In response to each imagined ordeal, the Mama responds that she still loves her daughter.

I will love you forever and for always, for you are my dear ones.

Voting with My Vagina

McCain has had me in mind, I know. I'm a pro-Hillary Democrat, supporting her in our state primary, and angry at the Obama campaign for their treatment of her.

But I'm not an idiot, which I'd have to be to consider voting for a Republican for president. Especially after the last eight years. Even with a woman on the ticket. Especially the woman he chose.

It's not the vagina, stupid.

Meal Deal

Sesame Street ran a segment a few weeks ago about what's a meal, kind of a game show (Mama says it's based on a real show but I don't know it) where you have to decide if the food is a meal or not. It certainly struck a chord here because we now find ourselves defining a meal frequently. "Is ice cream a meal?" Sis wants to know when we say it is mealtime. No, that's a snack (we try not to talk about dessert, not wanting to make that a habit).

What is a meal? Um, a protein (it can't be easy, can it? As vegetarians, we don't want to say it's a meat)--meats, beans, or eggs--with vegetables and fruit and some bread or rice or pasta (are they too young to understand "carb"?). So, then, Bud wants to know, can he just have blueberries, strawberries, and grapes? Sis would like just cinnamon raisin bread. We're not in the clean plate club and we don't reward eating, so we dislike saying they can have one food only after they finish another. But you can't just have bread or grapes. It's tricky, defining a meal, especially because as a nation, our concepts of food and meals are so skewed.

To make it more complicated, they still don't understand the difference between breakfast, lunch, and dinner, so we try to keep it to meal and snack. Until Sis wants grilled chicken for breakfast, which I'm not sure I could handle at 7 a.m. At that point, I'd rather give her ice cream!

McMuseum

Sis noticed the paintings on the wall first. "Look, Mommy, McDonald's is an art museum." Sure enough, there were four framed posters on the walls.

Ironically, the posters depict cute little Parisian streets, including a boulangerie and a bistro. Because, when you're lunching on Happy Meals, you think classic French cooking.

The Only Constant

Sure, we've all heard the saying that the only constant in life is change.

Ha, ha, ha. I hate change.

And I've had a lot of it recently. But as my neighbor, who has had more than her fair share of life's ups and downs, says life is about settling into the "new" normal; there is no getting back to normal. I think change must be the quintessential experience of parenthood. I've had more change in three years than I've had in a lifetime, practically. It's change on speed.

And, I don't handle change well. It's partly emotional, partly physiological (see this article in the NYTimes on irritable bowel syndrome/IBS. For those of you who don't know, I was diagnosed with this as a teen but can remember the first bouts of it in 1st grade. So, that's why sometimes I don't handle new experiences or going places well, especially parties, parks, movies, or new places. Ask Mama, I'm much better than I used to be)--change upsets my stomach. Even small ones that other people don't notice. I'm more comfortable with the predictable (or controllable), the familiar, or at least the similar. Which makes me, at times, a boring, unadventurous, rigid but also dependable and (at least I used to be) organized gal.

Hmmmm, that doesn't sound much like parenthood, does it? So, the change of school, even the change to potty-trained, plus numerous other little changes--a friend about to move, a friend back a work, the loss of my car, a change in our household routine--have me completely on edge, when added all together. Sure, change means growth. Yada yada yada. Do you know the saying about experience? It's what you have when you don't have anything else.

My mom loves that part in the movie Parenthood where they compare life to amusement park rides, rollercoaster vs. carousel. I don't like real or metaphorical rollercoasters. But I do love a carousel.

I hope that doesn't change too.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

All the World's Their Stage

I'm becoming a very good audience. I sit attentively wherever I've been assigned. And I clap vigorously when the performance is over. See, I have new season tickets to "Twin Theater." I've been treated to Bud's Magic Show, complete with lots of abracadabras and items disappearing from whatever proffered hand you choose; a sea chantey concert, with Sis stomping her foot and playing the guitar accompanied by Bud on drums, with both of them singing into microphones to "Strike the Bell"; numerous concerts featuring "The Bubbly Nose" song ("la la la la nose, wherever it goes, la la la la toes."); and some sporting events, such as soccer or baseball or football. I wonder what's coming up next season? I'll definitely keep subscribing.

Rain, Rain, Go Away

First, we are so glad that New Orleans and the Gulf Coast were spared repeat hurricane devastation this week.

We've been pretty lucky with weather recently, too. Mild--even some days with highs in the low 70s and lows in the high 50s AND it was AUGUST--with little real rain, a blessing, since the kiddos are actively re-living their storm experience. Sis particularly has been re-enacting the night of the storm. With toys, the fairy houses we built outside, or even just her and Bud in their playhouse, she imagines the rain coming, going into the basement, the tree hitting the house, the car being damaged, and people coming to help. She also remembers the "scary storm hotel" and how the car and tree were taken away. She misses the car, the only real tangible change in her world, since it's gone for a few more weeks at least. Over the weekend, we pulled out the sprinkler--it was warmer than the low 70s--and they pretended that it was raining and would run into their playhouse. Then Bud would be the roofer and come over and fix Sis's roof. Luckily, in all these games, people help out and everything ends well (we were encouraged by our pediatrician and minister to help them "finish the story" with a happy ending). But I'd still like the rain to stay away a little while longer. Bud and Sis want to play.

Who Do You Ask if You Don't Know Which Way to Go?

So, we have a GPS for the car now, "so I don't get lost" (read: so Mama never gets lost again with witnesses in the car as happened 48 hours before purchase of said GPS.) But I am prone to getting lost, even to places I go regularly, so a GPS is a good thing for the family chauffeur. And it really paid off in Texas when Mama had to drive for car naps in a "foreign" state (and I think she'd use that term with numerous connotations).

Anyway, Mama likes to play with her gadget, even when she knows where she's going because she wants to see how it works. And the kids are fascinated. Because, like Dora's companion, this map talks. It says, "turn right" or "turn left." And the like. And Sis, being the ultimate budding backseat driver says, "Mama, are you turning right?" Which, because Mama is often not doing what the map says, is not always true. It's made for some interesting conversations in the car, as Sis insists that Mama follow Map, with a capital "M." It's gotten to the point that Mama will turn off the sound until, of course, Sis notices and asks why Map isn't talking. At least she'll know left from right!

Bud likes maps too, but prefers paper ones like you find at highway rest stops or in travel guides. In fact, he's mighty obsessed right now with world maps. He particularly likes globes, like the one at our friends' house or the inflated globe ball we have--he always wants to know where we live, where our friends and family live, not really grasping the scale of the globe. And he really doesn't understand that it is a planet, of course, saying he doesn't want to live on a planet. We have a world landmarks puzzle with about 16 pieces that he loves to complete, naming the pictures of the "step pyramid" (Chichen Itza) or "stadium" (Colosseum) or "stones" (Stonehenge). Now to explain the significance of the Taj Mahal . . . Mama has also been saving a huge laminated map of the world with animals which she bought a year ago (Mama loves maps too, and I laughed at the time, because they were just 2, mea culpa) but pulled out just this weekend. We spread it on the living room floor and then brought out our considerable collection of plastic animals, matching up animals to their habitats. "Mama, all the white animals go together!"--in the Arctic, Sis noted. And we located where kangaroos, belugas, manatees, lions, monkeys, and beavers lived. Bud thinks all the continents are islands--which makes sense in its way--and began to make up names for them, even as we stressed Asia or Africa. No big deal. Sis then tried to group the families together on the continents so that soon the whole map was covered in plastic critters. We left the map out for the whole weekend.

The cats liked it too!

(What the kids--and cats--don't know is that Mama has an even better world map in reserve--a giant, felt board with puffy buildings, animals, and people cut outs with velcro--but we're going to wait at least, well, another week to pull that out!)

Milestone

That was my 500th post!

My word, how much will I write with 5 extra "free" hours in my week??

Best Wishes

. . . to our friends who started school today.

And their parents.

Our turn is coming, so we're definitely with you in spirit.

I Can't Think of Anymore Garden Sayings

It's another gardening post, but with no cute title.

Last week, Sis noticed that our ignored, storm-ravaged plants had actually born tiny little fruits: we found half of a mini yellow squash on the ground, clearly the snack of some desperate rodent, and a tiny green tomato hanging from the beaten stem of one of our tomato plants. Sis loved that little tomato--"Mommy, I didn't know we could grow a tomato!" She was so enthusiastic about seeing it turn red and in that excitement called her brother over to see it. He promptly (and probably unintentionally) pulled it off the plant. Ohhhh. I had to explain to her that it wouldn't turn red, even as she sat on the front step to watch it happen. Why, oh, why, hadn't we thrown out the withered plants right after the storm? For more than a brief moment, Mama and I toyed with substituting a bright red cherry tomato overnight. We didn't.

And so, this weekend, we decided to go to a local farm and orchard to pick thriving fruits from the proverbial vine. We got Ginger Gold apples, Canadian-something (honey?) peaches, green tomatoes (which we put in newspaper to ripen . . . please, please, please. If not, I have a fried green tomato recipe), yellow squash, zucchini, late late raspberries (it took 30 minutes to find 15 decent ones, but Bud thought they were divine! And they were pretty good), but no pears, as Sis likes to remind us. We were going to pick Asian pears but felt they weren't quite ready yet. Of course, Sis is still talking about the pears we didn't pick.

But at least she has forgotten the withered squash and little green tomato.

And as we have told them both, we'll try again next year.

-=-=-=-=-

Mexican Lasagna

3 squash (I used 2 zucchini and 1 yellow), sliced
1 onion, chopped
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 jar salsa
1 cup enchilada sauce
2 cups cheese (cheddar or Mexican blend), plus a little extra for topping
1 cup sour cream
6-8 whole wheat tortillas

Preheat oven to 350.

Saute squash and onion in skillet.

Mix beans and salsa in separate bowl. Mix cheese and sour cream in another bowl.

Spray 9 x13 baking pan with cooking spray. Pour about 2 tablespoons of enchilada sauce in pan.

Layer tortillas, then vegetable mixture, bean mixture, then cheese mixture. Pour some enchilada sauce over it. Repeat until done, ending with tortillas and a layer of extra cheese.

Bake covered for about 30 minutes, or until bubbly. Remove foil for last 10 minutes to brown cheese on top.

Inspired by Claire's Corner Copia, New Haven

Labor Day

Well, we weren't either a). free from Labor or b). celebrating laborers here this weekend. Instead, we were engaged in that milestone labor of toddler parenting: potty training.

For some reason, it's working. Sis has had one accident since Friday. Bud has had a few but he is getting very good at knowing when he needs to go--if only I remembered fast enough that "MOMMY!" has more import now.

We have washed hands more in one weekend than we have in their entire lifetimes! I know this because we have to drag the chair to the sink each time and turn the water on for them and then hand them the towel. Nothing is their size in our kitchen (our little bathroom off the kitchen doesn't have a sink).

But we made new sticker charts, which, oddly, aren't even that exciting to them. I think it really is the feeling of accomplishment that they are succeeding. It has nothing to do with new undies (and gosh it's hard not to call them panties, which is what I call them but we don't want Bud to be beaten up in preschool), or stickers, and they haven't even asked for a reward from the candy store.

That, and we aren't calling it "potty training." I realized perhaps our words were getting in the way because even now they say "I don't want to be potty-trained."

And then you know that it's long overdue!