Friday, October 31, 2008

Mea Culpa

I did it.

I took the kids out for fast food.

We ate out.

And I knew in my heart we would beforehand.

See, we went to see the trainers at my "exercise class" who had said they were dressing up and wanted to see the kiddos. So, we went and, well, afterwards the kids asked what else we were going to do as I knew they would and if we could trick-or-treat at a restaurant.

So we went out for lunch at Duchess.

And it was okay and they were happy, even though they didn't eat much and it wasn't particularly good (but at least it has a veggie burger, unlike McDs).

But it messed up our 2 1/2 weeks without eating out.

Oh, well, consumer spending. I'm trying to save us from a deeper recession.

Yeah, that's it. I was being patriotic.

Out and About

"I am keeping my daughter home from school today"

I am keeping my daughter home
from school today.
She has fallen behind in some subjects
and they need special attention,
like birdwatching
and blowing on the dust bunnies
'til they scamper across the floor
and deciding once and for all whether
the crack on the ceiling is a sleeping dragon
or a boat to sail away in.

Later on
with furrowed brows
we will conference over cups of hot chocolate
our fingers curled
around the smooth ceramic surface,
both seeking and protecting its warmth.
Earnestly we will say to each other
that it is all very well
to excel in math and speling,
but if you cannot tell the difference
between a sparrow and a chickadee
then you're headed for some trouble in life.

Tomorrow
I think she can go back
when she is caught up,
when I am sure that she knows
how to catch the icy points
of the year's first snowflake
on her tongue.

Jenny Schmitt

-=-=-=-=-

I received the most recent issue of Mothering yesterday and, since it's not the pregnancy or breastfeeding issue (which still makes me a little defensive and depressed), I was inspired by many of the articles. My favorites were on spending time outdoors with children, in either Swiss and German outdoor kindergartens or on suburban hikes here Stateside.

I don't really like being outdoors much, definitely not if we're far from the trappings of civilization (namely good flush toilets). And I'm not a good walker, even though philosophically I would love to be like a long-walking Austenian heroine. I do enjoy a good picturesque view, and I use that word in its strict art-historical sense of looking like a picture, mainly, for me, Poussin, Constable, and Cole and the rest of the Hudson River School (oh, my brain for names has diminished. I like that Danish or Scandinavian early 19th-century artist who does all the snowy woods with the trees and churches.) I like the trappings of history in my landscape; a good ruin, or at least something ethnographic, really improve a landscape for me. This being New England, I do get quite a view beautiful, picturesque views. But romping through the Acadia National Park, as my mom recently suggested? I'm not so sure.

My parents are outdoorsy people, now even more than when I was a child--hiking, fishing, hunting (now taking pictures), bird watching, you name it, they like it. They didn't force me to be outdoors and I remember happily playing outside in the backyard for hours as a kid. And I loved Girl Scout camping. But beyond those rather tame environments, I'm not as happy. Mama is even less happy outside, though she has even more grand aspirations of hiking the Appalachian Trail and being more outdoorsy. And she doesn't even like walking in the grass in our backyard in shoes!

So, encouraging a love of the outdoors in the kiddos is an uphill battle here, for it comes to neither of us naturally or easily. But, as both magazine articles attest, nature is a great environment for children--the healthy air, the lack of dominating media and thus a chance to utilize innate creativity, familiarity with the natural world which will lead to a desire to learn about it and protect it. I can't imagine a kindergarten that goes outside, that is outside, with no building, all day, regardless of the weather. In Germany. It's warmer here, I think, but I still can't imagine it. Our preschool takes the kids out everyday as long as it's not raining and is over 20F. 20F? Where I grew up, there wasn't school if it were 20F because no one knew how to drive in the ice! It makes me shiver just imagining it, but I'm glad someone will be taking them outside because I don't think it would be me! And that's just 30 minutes. I can't imagine a whole day--I would hate it (now; I might have liked it some as a youngster).

But I can imagine hiking around our town, around the neighborhood, to nearby stores, in the parks, though not for the marathon two and three hours that the author in the article does. We get out some days, but not most, definitely not all. It just doesn't occur to me. And sometimes, only one of them is game. That was one challenge the hiking author didn't have, two kids to take for a walk (later she had one napping in the stroller). And what about potties? We're still only recently potty-trained. I think we'll start small, maybe even in our own yard everyday. My goal would be to make it such an adventure and so comfortable that they would want to go and then not worry about, you know, "going." It will be a good experience for all of us, I think. And maybe, just maybe, one of these days, we'll be ready to hike the Appalachian Trail.

If Mama is ready too . . . .

We just have to figure out the differences between a sparrow and a chickadee (Pop and Gommie, do you know?)

Perfectly Stated

Sis is an exact grammarian.

Even if, technically, she gets a lot incorrect.

See, she knows the rules, not the exceptions, and therefore says "funner" or "I am't" for "I'm not." And anything she does, she adds an "-er" to the end, as in "I'm a good water-er" or "I'm a good taking turner." English is such a quirky language with so many exceptions, but she clearly understands the idea of comparatives, contractions, and whatever the last one is (gerundive?) and how they are usually formed, just not in particular cases.

It's actually really cute. I'm kinda sorry she'll ever learn the exceptions.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Halloween Day 2

"Can I have candy for breakfast?" is how we started the day, the calmest of our 4-day Halloween fete.

No, candy is a snack, not a meal. And that's our rule. They can have two pieces at their two snack times, but not at meals (because then they won't eat as they wait for candy and I'm not getting into that two-more-bites tug o' war). All candy disappears at midnight Sunday, with most of it going to church that morning to share with our friends.

At school--where there was no candy allowed (nor costumes, for that matter)--they celebrated Pumpkin Festival. They had been making pumpkin decorations for a few weeks--those painted plates that they added faces to (remember, Sis meticulously painted solid orange to add a face later, but Bud rushed and just painted an orange face?), an orange-painted pumpkin, a pumpkin with pumpkin seeds glued on. They sang pumpkin songs, read pumpkin stories, even carved out a jack o'lantern (with Bud enjoying the scooping of the "icky guts"). They even painted pumpkins on their faces, with Sis opting in and Bud opting out. Then they had their pumpkin parade, with the previously-mentioned paper plate pumpkin faces glued to craft sticks held aloft. When we got home they reenacted the parade for me and for our babysitter. And put the cute teddy bear magnets that their student teacher made, complete with their names, on our magnetic wall. To hold up some of those paper pumpkins.

It was a great day, calm before the frenzied holiday storm of tomorrow and our church party on Saturday. Stayed tuned.

Halloween Day 1, Part 2

About the only thing that wasn't "Halloween-y" yesterday was our Chinese class. But we even managed to give that a tinge of the holiday: Sis wanted to give her Laoshi one of our decorated cookies. She chose a pumpkin that I had iced and sprinkled with orange sugar. We carefully put it in a box, but Sis didn't deliver it. Bud did, by rushing up to the teacher and laying it at her feet.

Sis also wanted to give cookies to Mama's friends at her office. So, again, we packaged up the remaining pumpkins and cats and took them with us. They were, however, promptly forgotten in the car when we arrived during the hustle to get into costumes and find Mama. They've got this trick-or-treating this down. Sis would approach each waiting employee scanning their hands and offices for the telltale container of treats. If they greeted her but did not seem to have candy, Sis would wait a minute looking and then start to move on. And when she did find candy she'd carefully choose a Tootsie Roll--"long chocolate"--or, if none, something fruity. Then she stand patiently a little bit longer, hoping, waiting for them to offer her a second piece; most did. The girl is good.

She was not, however, amused that most of them didn't recognize that she was a vet. They just saw the white coat and stethoscope and assumed "doctor." Come on, people, what three-year old likes doctors? They give shots, take strep tests, and do other icky things. It's not a status-thing for a preschooler. And she was carrying a bunny. But most of the time, the bunny was covering the part of her coat that said, "Dr. Sis, Vet." So, eventually, she moved the bunny to the other side and would pre-empt people incorrectly guessing by pointing out her name, "This is how you can tell."

Bud, as a Yankee baseball player, got a lot of snickers from the considerable number of Red Sox fans (thank heavens neither was in the series), which he didn't understand. I don't think he even knows there are other teams! But most nodded in approval of the kid in the hat with the jersey and bat. Yep, bat. We armed him. And he actually turned any number of times too sharply and bonked Sis on the head (it was a padded kids' bat). He had insisted we bring his ball, too, so someone would play ball with him. The veil between reality and fantasy was very thin for him. He was more shy about marching up to the candy-giver and had to be encouraged, especially if there were scary decorations nearby. But we got him to laugh, finally, at a skeleton by calling it "silly old bones" (I told Mama it was a Red Sox.)

He was the one who wanted to eat the candy. Now. And so we finally parked in Mama's cubicle and poured out the candy on the floor, retrieving any they couldn't eat (and they had gotten good at knowing which one had nuts so there weren't too many for us to confiscate). Sis immediately gravitated to the candy corn, that iconic Halloween candy, saying, "I've never had these before." The girl likes new experiences. And then she worked her way through some Milk Duds (thumbs down), those light-colored, round candies in a roll (sweeties? Sweet Tarts? I like them enough but can't remember what they are called). Bud wanted candy corn too but didn't have any, so he ate some Runts (?), the little hard candy fruits. And some Twizzlers. And a lollipop. And a watermelon Jolly Rancher. That's when Mama went to the car to retrieve the cookies.

And then we had the classic dash to the bathroom. Bud decided he needed to go. And I had no idea where it was, so with him in tow and Sis running behind (after going back for her bunny), I was accosting employees to give me directions, which is harder than it sounds because it was through a warren of cubbies, across a pedestrian bridge, into another warren of cubbies, and then a turn and . . . well, I'm not great with directions and had to ask at each turn. But we made it in time! Whew. Mama found us in the bathroom and then we went to deliver cookies before we left. Everyone was game to select one and ooh and aah in front of the kids, for which I was very grateful. Sis and Bud, but especially Sis whose generous idea it was, were so proud.

And so was I.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Halloween Day 1, Part 1

I think this holiday is just getting longer. My babysitter said there is talk, though I haven't read too much of it in the NYTimes, of Halloween saving our economy. Well, I think I've spent $25, total, on candy, a costume, and some food colorings for cookies.

Yep, we just made Halloween cookies--pumpkins, cats, bats, and moons. We made the cookies yesterday, always the hardest part for us. The kiddos are impatient as the dough firms up in the fridge for half an hour. And then, they don't really understand the art of cutting cookies, which means the cookie cutter goes down plonk! in the dough with no room for others, so we do a lot of rolling out, which means the dough gets warm, which means it goes back in the fridge (even though we work in quarter batches). But this is supposed to be fun so I try not to be too concerned about how we cut out cookies.

Or decorate, which was today's operation. We hadn't made buttercream frosting before and it is such fun to cream butter and sugar, especially if we add my special Penzey's vanilla. Then I broke out the new colors! Wow. Orange, brown, green, yellow. Sure. But then requests for pink and blue. Why not? Even if I couldn't fathom what Halloween decorations are traditionally pink. Bud took on the moon, Sis did the cats. I did the pumpkins. And how different we all were. I got out my decorating set and practiced piping faces on regular orange pumpkins, some with a little orange-colored sugar. Then we all had a hand at piping. Sis was very meticulous in her icing and one-by-one addition of sprinkles. She piped faces on her cats. Bud, well, took what Pop would call the shotgun approach. Pile it on, it's bound to hit something. By the end of it, I was looking at his plate . . . for the cookie! I touched some of the sprinkles and jimmies and non-pareils and colored sugars, and Bud said, distinctly, "Don't dig for the cookie!" He has three huge plates of decorations. And only that much because we ran out. Sis exclaimed over everyone's cookies, "They're beautiful. They're so decorated. How fancy!"

And when I bit into a leftover moon and tried to share so they could actually taste what we were making, Bud was hysterical, "Those. Aren't. For. Eating! They're. For. Decorating!" He was inconsolable, even though I scraped off one of my moons and handed it to him to decorate. Luckily, I found a bottle of sprinkles lurking in the cupboard so he actually has something to dump on it.

All's well that ends well. They are playing trick-or-treat with their new candy bags. I took plain canvas bags from the craft store, stencilled on their names, and then drew representations of what they had been for their first four holidays, with space to add more until they are too embarrassed to carry these homemade bags. Sis was a cat, a gnome, Baby Jaguar, and now a vet. Bud was a pumpkin, a gnome, Mama Jaguar, and now a Yankees baseball player. We've been looking at pictures from their first Halloween since Gommie brought one and they are amazed at how small they were, especially when we pulled out the original one-piece jumpers and little hat (at which point, no surprise, I went to boo-hooing.)

And as they started to play with the food and candy they'd stacked around the house for trick-or-treat stops, Bud asked me what Halloween was. And I realized there isn't an easy answer to that, because it's not just about candy. But I have three days to come up with a good answer.

-=-=-=-=-

Sugar Cookie Cut-Outs


½ cup oleo or butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups flour
½ teaspoon vanilla

Cream together oleo/butter, sugar, and egg. Add salt, baking powder, flour, and vanilla.

**My additions: divide dough into 2 balls, flatten, and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes. Roll out ½ of 1 ball at a time, approximately ¼” thick. Tania suggests refrigerate the baking sheet or silpat as well. Cut cookies.

Bake at 400F for 8-10 minutes on greased cookie sheet. (let cool 4-5 minutes)

Miss Tobi


Buttercream Frosting

1/3 cup butter/oleo
4 ½ cup powdered sugar
¼ cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Beat butter. Add 2 cups sugar. Beat in milk and vanilla. Add the rest of the sugar. Chill up to 1 week.

*For colors, separate into as many bowls as colors needed. Add color by toothpick and stir.

adapted from Church Miss L's mom

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

thumbs up

well, it was touch and go for awhile.

see, i sliced open my left thumb on a can while fixing dinner tonight.

and that was 15 minutes after burning my right hand on a 400F oven.

but i went to the clinic and didn't need stitches on the cut or anything specific on the burn (and i've had a recent tetanus).

i'm just going to hurt for awhile.

and to think that "klutzy" was already our word of the day after a can fell out of the cabinet on the lunch i was making and i knocked some plastic containers off the counter.

i guess i won't be crocheting much in the next week.

or doing dishes. :)

My Cats are Crazy

I don't know if it's the rainy, windy weather or the change in light with the shortening of the days. But Albus and Hermione are being crazy. They were up before 4 a.m., chasing each other around the whole house, hopping onto bookshelves, and knocking things off. A stuffed animal landed on Mama's head in the middle of the night! Right now, Hermione is behind the microwave, having been on top of the refrigerator considering how to get behind it. Albus similiar has been on top of the kids' easel thinking about how to get on top of the curtain rod next to it.

I won't be able to blog long; I might have to go rescue a few cats.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Updates

The kids seem to be feeling okay this morning after a full night's sleep and no fever since yesterday afternoon. But noon is Sis's fever time so we're waiting to see if it's over. Right now they are playing "Farmer Sis" and "Farmer Bud," complete with bunny hutch and pumpkin patch, actually two of each but on the same farm (if I understand it correctly).

Otherwise, this week is full of Halloween celebrations, from a party at Mama's office after Chinese class, a pumpkin festival at school, Halloween itself, and a party at church. But I'll make that a separate post later this week.

Lastly, I am ready for this election to be over. But only if Obama wins. Otherwise, I can wait for the election forever so McCain can to continue to shoot himself in the foot. Is it just me or does he seem to have changed into everything he previously abhorred? Amazing how the GOP can take what seemed like one of the more decent Republicans and turn him into something more, well, Republican, so quickly. And that running mate of his! I hope that if McPain loses, we never hear from that governor on a national stage again; let Alaska keep its own. Just like I wish Texas had (yes, yes, I know, and I've said so, the Bushes are actually not real Texans, but, in the end, they've been embraced by that state. I agree with the Dixie Chicks, it's embarrassing.). I haven't written much here on the current president or the election, as both make my blood boil and I become too incoherent to form rational sentences--come on, I'm a lesbian, feminist, pro-choice, environmentally-conscious, almost Socialist, pagan-leaning UU with bi-racial children who advocates for just wars only (though sometimes I'm even more of a pacifist against all war), tighter gun control, the abolition of the death penalty, civil marriage, the complete separation of church and state, universal healthcare, a higher minimum wage, a caretaker tax break, higher taxes for the wealthy, and good public schools--the last 8 years have been hell. But I will be glad on January 21, 2009, as one bumper sticker put it, "the end of an error."

Let's just hope it's the beginning of the Obama era.

Otherwise, we might just give up the United States as a lost cause and move to Canada.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Party of Parties!

I went to the party of parties last night.

No, not because there were tons of hip and happening people drinking and eating in merriment or in deep and clever philosophical conversation (no offense intended, you're hip and merry and clever, there just isn't a ton of you).

Nope, because it was a Tupperware party.

The iconic suburban mom party.

Despite being your standard suburban mom (no, really), I had never been to a Tupperware party before. Sure, I've been to the knock-offs and imitators, either in format or product--Pampered Chef, Tastefully Simple, Southern Living, Bath & Body, Stampin' Up--but never the original, the one that started it all.

And I had great fun. And bought some Tupperware. Did you know that red and blue ball with yellow shapes that we all played with as children is a Tupperware toy? We had one so I didn't get one, but who knew? Great first birthday present. I did get a jello mold. A real plastic jello mold. Bud's going to be so excited to see his jello salads in a ring instead of my boring old baking dishes. For Sis, predominantly, I got some holiday art stencils. And a lettuce saver--it had a fancy title, but in the end it keeps lettuce or other veggies fresh--so that I can quit using my fridge as an indoor compost heap to rot expensive organic produce that I forget to eat in time. I figure if the venting box saves a week or two worth of lettuce that it's paid for itself. What else? A round container, for pies, or cupcakes, or a 9" single layer cake, which will be great for church potlucks and playgroups (too bad you can't take treats to school for birthdays anymore because between the carrier and our baking trip into the city and my cookbooks and my cupcake lessons, I am so ready. I might do what the hostess has suggested and stalk the schoolkids just off school grounds with a trunk full of goodies, "Hey kids, it's Bud and Sis's birthday, want a cupcake??" Just kidding.). There were other things, but they are gifts so I can't mention them here.

Apparently, Tupperware is one of the only companies, in addition to McDonald's, that is turning a profit right now (and no, the Tupperware lady--I meant to ask if there are any men--didn't tell me that, the hostess did. And I'm not getting paid to endorse them, though I got a free gift of a personal salt and pepper shaker)? I guess as a nation we're either eating $1 value meals or taking our lunches and trying to keep leftovers safe. I must say, Tupperware has always been one of those jokes I never really thought was real, or still in existence. You know, kinda like the old actor you find out has died and you were surprised to hear he hadn't died a long time ago?

But Tupperware still seems to be alive and kicking.

And the hostess's two dips--please, please post the recipes or send them to me, Mama Teacher--looked great and tasted great on your lovely assortment of Tupperware.

I guess I'll just have to buy those pieces next time (if the hostess becomes a Tupperware lady herself and I throw a party. I promise, no jokes).

-=-=-=-=-

Basic Cream Cheese Spread

Serve block of cream cheese with a spicy chutney (I think hers was mango) poured over the top. Great with crackers.

Hubris

I should know better, really, because my undergraduate degree is in Classical Studies and I've read and/or translated most of the Greek tragedies.

Hubris.

Thursday, on Thursday, I wrote here on this blog that we hadn't been sick in months.

Well, strike me down.

Sis came down with 102.5 fever (and probably a tad higher as she wasn't that interested in having her temp taken) this afternoon while we were in the city visiting with Ma and Gong. Tylenol and some tv with Mama allowed her to perk up enough to enjoy some soup and some Chinese books, but she is low (or high) again.

Which means, sooner or later, Bud will have a fever too.

I just hope we're over it before Monday morning, so they'll be clear to go to school on Tuesday.

Too bad they won't be learning about hubris there.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Multicultural Foodways

I've been thinking on food today. It started with Ms. School Director and I reminiscing about gelato in Italy, specifically at a place near the Pantheon called Della Palma that we both remembered. Then, I went to the library during my down time today and picked up a few new cookbooks to read: Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, a book on "freezer meals," and Nathan's Jewish Holiday Cookbook, which I'd been meaning to find because I love her Q&A for Passover and Rosh Hashanah. Then I looked over one of those seasonal cookie compendiums for sale at the grocery store checkout, which I always seem to be buying, and planned my holiday cookie baking while sipping some tea. Chocolate-Orange biscotti, anyone? How about Apricot-Almond squares?

We had matzo ball soup for lunch (this was before my trip to the library), from a Steit's mix. Sis thought it looked Chinese; Bud wondered if it were Italian. I tried to explain Jewish and how matzo is made. They liked it. A lot.

For dinner, Mama and I are having falafel, dolmades, and hummus.

The kids had ham.

It's just been one of those wonderfully diverse days.

Another Anniversary

So, I've been thinking of anniversaries today: one week with no restaurants, a month without a downstairs tv, almost six months as a vegetarian, and it's been almost two months without diapers!

I came to a realization about being potty-trained: we have gone the longest we have ever been without some kind of major cold-like illness. I think it must be the constant washing of hands. We've never been this clean!

Just in Time

"Friendly's is a restaurant," she said.
"With ice cream," he added. "And Bertucci's."
"And Ruby Tuesday's."
"Is Dunkin' Donuts a restaurant?"

Oh, goodness, we quit eating out just in time.

Okay, not quit, just slowed the pace some. Yep, it's been a week and a day since we started our fast from restaurants for awhile. I think I went to Starbuck's twice, which I had exempted from the restrictions, but otherwise, we didn't eat out or take out. We figured, given our usual habits, we would have most likely eaten out Saturday after the festival, Sunday after church, and gotten take out last night when I was mad that dinner wasn't good. Saved us probably $100 and untold calories and fat grams.

We're trying for week #2. And so on, until they can name more homecooked meals than restaurants!!

-=-=-=-=-

And a quick tv update: still television-less downstairs, which has occasioned all kinds of incredulity and teasing from friends and family. It reminds me of my vegetarianism: people suddenly become very defensive about their own habits (just like I used to pre-veg days, or now, when confronted with attachment parents or homeschoolers). You're okay, I'm okay. No judgment, no worries.

In fact, we're watching tv right now. Everyday. For rest time, for about an hour, in the middle of the day. Crazy, non-educational, commercial stuff like, well, right now, Dora. Other favorites: "Caillou" and "Fireman Sam." My favorite is "Miss Spider," so we always watch it last. I finish whatever I'm doing on the computer or the like, crawl up on the big bed, and put on "Miss Spider"--"be good to bugs"--and they know the end of rest time is coming.

But the tv-less-ness has revolutionized our evenings. We talk more, eat better, do more. But still can't manage to get to sleep earlier. Guess tv wasn't the root of all evil after all.

Time for "Miss Spider" . . . .

Yesterday Sucked

(For the mandatory reporters among my readers: No children were harmed in the making of this post.)

-=-=-=-=-

There is no nice way to put it: yesterday sucked. Which is why I barely posted. I just couldn't believe the sucky factor of it all. We were all completely sleep-deprived because Bud had woken up about every hour from midnight to 5 a.m., four times alone between 4 and 5 a.m. Separation anxiety, nightmares, special bunny falling out of the bed. It was brutal.

By 8 a.m, he had been in timeout three times, which is a record considering it had been a few weeks since he'd had any. Oh, the fighting and crying and whining. From all of us! Even people who called me on the phone could hear in the background how awful it was. We even had several "time-ins" when we try to make it better, explain our feelings, and say sorry or fix it. That didn't work either. Nothing seemed to.

Yep, it was not a pretty parenting day. I'm not usually a mom who bribes, threatens, or even yells, but I did all three yesterday. More than once (well, I think I only actually yelled once, to stop them from breaking a toy, but it was a good one). I hate it when I'm like that and apologized to them for losing my cool almost as soon as it happened. I'm glad yesterday was not our last day on earth, because it sucked.

And then Mama came home and we did our bedtime ritual. But instead of going to sleep or soothing themselves like they usually do, Bud kept crying out and then Sis would ask all sorts of questions when I got upstairs, even though I try not to engage them.

Twenty minutes of this found me weeping in the laundry room, exhausted and mad at the world. Luckily, they finally went to sleep. I know, I know, dear readers, I should feel so lucky that I'm complaining about 20 minutes of restlessness or one bad night of sleep, because many of you have that all the time. I'm spoiled.

I told Mama when I emerged from said laundry room, "You suck. And I hate you." She had been--get this--meditating while I was going up and downstairs (yes, yes, I told her it was okay to do her meditation then, but how was I supposed to know that the kids weren't going to go to sleep??) For the record, I do not actually hate Mama, and she knew I was venting, because we then went on to discuss how those two feelings differ and are not mutually exclusive. Also, in general, I don't like the word "suck" and its connotations, but it was what I was feeling yesterday.

But I digress. Mama hadn't done anything wrong, really, and I was mad at her anyway. It was one of our "I need to be not near you" moments. That free-floating rage that only seems to grab me in its clinches when I am PMSing (ooooh, I know, internalized sexism) really affects everything: dinner wasn't good, the house was messy, nothing was right. But, a new dinner was made, I laughed at the appalling-ness of it all (I can't think of a better word, but that one will do just fine) and my overreaction. Sometimes I am just as funny when I'm angry as Bud is when he furrows his brow like a baby neanderthal and says, "I'm grumpy. I need alone time." I think I just needed a timeout (long before I ended up in the laundry room): 38 (can we round up? My birthday is in two months) minutes of alone time. It really was, for a day with no emergency or real crisis, a crappy day.

And so, Mama started singing, "Oh Crappy Day" to the tune of "Oh Happy Day."

Honestly, that made it all better.

Learning the "Little" Things

Learning the Alphabet
Eating his alphabet pasta, Bud says, "Mom, look. If I bite off the Q's tail, it's an O."

He is also learning his sign language letters: "If you make a '2' and put them [your fingers] down, it's an "n." If you make a '1' and put it down, it's a 't." If you make a '3' and put them down, it's an 'm.'" Sis is only interested in the "t" right now. This morning, his interest in sign language letters led to a request for things that begin with "n" and I realized that, after the first several obvious ones, I was coming up with things like "novice" and "nocturnal." I think I need to find some more alphabet books!

Counting
We love to count. And to add, if adding is moving one M&M or Skittle from one pile to another and saying, "1 and 1 is two M&Ms!" but they've gotten up towards 6+1=7, as long as there is enough candy. Sis likes to count on her fingers, insisting on counting off her nightly happy thoughts on her hands; luckily when one happy thought includes more than one item, such as when she lists Gommie and Pop together, she doesn't need to add two fingers--we would be there all night. Bud likes to count his Chinese numbers on his fingers, which progress differently than English numbers because of the way Chinese characters look (hard to explain, but you hold your hand sideways, and 3 looks like a sidways gesture for "okay" because the character for "san" is three dashes.).

Telling Time
Bud is obsessed with telling time. Always, when he sees a clock, but only clock faces, not digital ones, he asks me what time it is. And he likes to wait for the "ticker," or second hand, to reach the top--when he knows it changes--and ask me again.

There still isn't much concept of the length of time, it being such an abstract concept. From minutes to years, the kids can barely keep them straight. "Is it tomorrow?" Sis just asked me. We try to describe it concretely: tomorrow is after we sleep tonight, Christmas comes when it is winter which is after fall; dinner will be ready in the amount of time it takes to watch "Caillou." That actually doesn't help much--not because we don't watch tv around dinner, but because they always confuse breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But they are starting to understand the difference between a snack and a meal.

Tying Shoes
I had a dickens (or should that be capitalized out of respect?) learning to tie shoes (and, also to tell time and tell left from right). But the kids, who both have velcro shoes, love to tie knots in strings and try to tie bows. But since neither one of them can, which is fine, I spend a lot of time unknotting my shoes, apron strings, my yarn, and the like.

Right or Left
Sis is intrigued with right and left. As a confirmed left-hander (she has always shown a preference; Bud switches back and forth, mainly because he watches her, but is right-handed), this no doubt will be a lifetime obsession--scissors, places at restaurant tables, whatever else. But, oddly, she likes doing things for her right side--shoes, jacket arms--first, and already seems to know which is her right and which is her left.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

End of Days

There was a news item in the NYTimes today about a woman who lovd the Carlyle Hotel in Manhattan and spent her last 10 weeks there, in a suite booked by her family for her last fight against terminal cancer. She apparently had hospice care, but could still go down to the bar and walk in Central Park.

So, with mortality and morbidity aside, I wonder where I would like to spend my last 10 weeks, if money and care were no object. I think, if it were spring ito summer, I would want to be at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, WI--great porch with rocking chairs, a nice lighthouse in the distance, lots of fudge to eat. Quiet, relaxing, pretty. But if it were fall into winter, I would go with NYC--the holidays in town are the best, as are the leaves in Central Park at this time of year. Not sure which hotel, but the Carlyle is too uptown for me. Maybe the Algonquin.

How about you?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

My Friend, the Baker

The article in the NYTimes recently about the sprinkle-loving cookie baker perfectly reminded me of my friend, Miss T. She is our playgroup's baker extraordinaire. And she doesn't just do cookies, but marvelous looking and tasting cupcakes (her passion), and creative, whimsical cakes, plus tasty pan and bar sweets (please, please try the brownie/cookie combo!). She's done the twins' birthday cakes twice, once with no dairy, wheat, or eggs! So, she's clever, inventive, and flexible too. I cried when I saw the wonderful allergen-free farmyard cake she made for their second birthday (because, unlike every 1-year old I know, they weren't allowed to have any cake for their first birthday, as there were no ingredients they could eat.) And she's even given me lessons--on cake decorating, when we made a groundhog cake for our first annual Groundhog's Day Party, and on cookie decorating (I forget the occasion--was it shamrocks? I remember a lot of green!). I just need a cupcake lesson.

But there isn't much time, you see. My favorite baker, my dear friend, Miss T, is moving to Georgia in about 6 weeks, right after Thanksgiving. Before the holiday baking season. I don't know what we're going to do without her, as we all get excited when she RSVPs "yes" to playgroup and MNO get-togethers. We might all be thinner, but life won't be nearly as sweet. And I haven't even touched on what an incredible person--generous, passionate, wickedly funny and quick, thoughtful, dedicated/loyal, caring, creative, smart, informed, flexible--she is . . . but she reads this and I don't want to make both of us cry.

It's not goodbye yet, and I doubt I'll write much of a goodbye post. But I will write a long description of our baking trip to town. We're going to all the places mentioned in several recent articles on baking and cupcakes and cookies in the NYTimes, including the place where the crazy cookie lady in the article gets all her sprinkles. It's a fitting, and sweet, goodbye, even if I don't get that cupcake lesson . . .

Giving My Regards

I can't believe I used to live about 100 yards off Broadway. Twice, once in Morningside Heights and once in Times Square. I grew up listening to Broadway musicals. My mom and dad had all the LPs from the shows from their youth: South Pacific, Sound of Music (with Mary Martin), King and I, Camelot (with Julie Andrews), and, my dad's favorite, Oklahoma. When I was old enough to sit still for 3 hours, at about age 7, my mom started taking me to the traveling Broadway shows, which, in addition to the classics, soon began to include new shows by Andrew Lloyd Webber, who quickly became my favorite. I listened to musicals throughout school (in addition to a major obsession with Wham!, George Michael, and Culture Club) and then moved to NYC, where I could go see them in person: the original cast of Rent twice, Donna Murphy in Passion, Glenn Close in Sunset Boulevard, Ragtime, Titanic, Lion King three times, others I'm not remembering right now. It was something Mama and I bonded over, even if she liked Les Mis better than Phantom and always liked to gloat about seeing the original casts and not the touring companies when she was a girl (because, when you grow up in the city, you go to real Broadway shows for school field trips!!!!) But we haven't been in years--I think the last shows we saw were Jane Eyre and Big River performed in ASL, meaning unlike the rest of the musical-loving world, we haven't seen Spamalot, The Producers, Mama Mia!, Wicked, or whatever is popular now.

But I am finally listening to musicals again, after a hiatus for Laurie Berkner, Raffi, and anything instrumental with an instrument that Buddy could identify (i.e. fiddles and banjos and such in Zydeco, Celtic, folk). Last week, I pulled out my Sound of Music cd, with Mary Martin (NOT the movie soundtrack) and the kids and I paraded around the house singing to "My Favorite Things" and "Do-Re-Mi." Sis did not like the "lady-o" Lonely Goatherd song, so we kept going back to the first two. They loved it and I felt like I was passing along their musical heritage: third-generation Broadway musical lovers. We're going to work our way through the canon, beginning with the classics that are child-friendly (read: NOT Rent). That way, when they see Pop for Christmas they can all sing "Kansas City" together!

And soon, though probably not as soon as we'd like, we'll travel back to my old neighborhood and see a real musical on Broadway.

Alone Again

Mama is out late tonight, again, at her meditation class.

So, I had the kids in bed 30 minutes early and am sitting here enjoying some computer time, about to work on my crocheted blanket. There's one cat nearby, another upstairs. And a rainstorm with the most dramatic clouds that just blew through.

There is also a pan of No Pudge brownies in the kitchen. I added about a teaspoon of good cinnamon to the mix, maybe more, and that made them fantastic! Also, dropped about a 1/4 cup of chocolate chips on top. Sure, that makes them less "healthy," more pudge, but also more fun.

And I'm listening to Aspects of Love, the Webber musical with "Love Changes Everything," one of my favorite songs.

Not a bad way to spend an evening.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Basta

Okay, enough is enough.

I'm not posting again today. I've written something like seven pieces. I don't want the computer to replace the tv in monopolizing my evenings.

So, I'm off to crochet a blanket.

Good night . . .

Nonviolent Communication

As a parent of preschoolers, those are two of my favorite words: nonviolent and communication. And so, having missed a workshop this weekend on NVC, as it is abbreviated, I have been doing some research on Marshall Rosenberg and his "language of compassion." I'll keep you updated as I go along, but his 10 Steps for Peace would make a great parenting handbook:


10 Things We Can Do to Contribute to Internal, Interpersonal, and Organizational Peace
(1) Spend some time each day quietly reflecting on how we would like to relate to ourselves and others.
(2) Remember that all human beings have the same needs.
(3) Check our intention to see if we are as interested in others getting their needs met as our own.
(4) When asking someone to do something, check first to see if we are making a request or a demand.
(5) Instead of saying what we DON'T want someone to do, say what we DO want the person to do.
(6) Instead of saying what we want someone to BE, say what action we'd like the person to take that we hope will help the person be that way.
(7) Before agreeing or disagreeing with anyone's opinions, try to tune in to what the person is feeling and needing.
(8) Instead of saying "No," say what need of ours prevents us from saying "Yes."
(9) If we are feeling upset, think about what need of ours is not being met, and what we could do to meet it, instead of thinking about what's wrong with others or ourselves.
(10) Instead of praising someone who did something we like, express our gratitude by telling the person what need of ours that action met.

The Center for Nonviolent Communication (CNVC) would like there to be a critical mass of people using Nonviolent Communication language so all people will get their needs met and resolve their conflicts peacefully.
2001, revised 2004 Gary Baran & CNVC. The right to freely duplicate this document is hereby granted.

HUG

We loved Jez Alborough's Duck in a Truck and now enjoy his sweet Hug.

There aren't many words to it, just "hug" and two others, which means the kids find it easy to follow.

So, I wasn't even really listening tonight when Bud said, "Hug. H-U-G. Hug."

Huh.

And he got one, too!

The Great Pumpkin (with apologies to Coleridge)

Pumpkins, pumpkins everywhere
And not a pie to eat.

Though actually, I have the makings for Libby's basic pumpkin pie in my pantry. Sis loved pumpkin pie last year (though it was really a pseudo-pie, with no dairy, wheat, or eggs, basically pumpkin whipped into some non-dairy topping) and so we're going to make a test pie soon, in advance of Thanksgiving (yes, I am already working on that menu. Would you be surprised to know that I've been drafting my Christmas letter for over a month now? It's going to be better than last year's ABCs).

Twice in three days we have had a grand ol' pumpkin time: this weekend at a nearby pumpkin party with hayride and pumpkin-carving contest, and today at a local farm, with an even better hayride, some farm animals, and a maze. The kids now have 7 pumpkins!

Well, did have. See, we made pepitas last weekend, carving up one of the pumpkins to get the seeds. And so I made a face--my first experience carving a jack o'lantern. The kids were impressed. I realized how dull my knives are, as well as how easy it would be to end up in the emergency room. But within an hour or two of placing our new decoration outside, the squirrels had literally eaten its face off. Bud says, next time we carve a pumpkin we need to leave it inside.

So the cats can eat its face off, I guess.

Anyway, we have 6 other little pumpkins now, which we might decoupage or color with marker or even carve closer to the big day. If they survive. Which is questionable: there are already bite marks on them all.

But at least we'll still be able to have pie.

The Sighting

I just waved to my neighbor.

And she waved back!

You have to understand the history. She grew up in the house two doors down, when there were only three houses on our street (hers, ours, and the one in the middle) and this was a peach tree orchard dotted with foxholes. She raised her children in that house after her husband died and has lived there (with some hiatus, I think) off and on for 70+ years, fighting with the man in the middle since the mid-1950s.

And we were friends. Mama and I met her when we stopped to shovel snow off her sidewalk and came to be friends, visiting and going out to dinner. And then we had children. And she never wanted to speak to us again, believing it was awful that we would wilfully raise children without a father, as she had had to do. Mind you, she was fine with the whole lesbian thing, but our parenthood was another matter.

We heard about this through mutual friends, who came to explain our friend's sudden coldness to us. And they've kept us up to date on her for the last 3 1/2 years since we spoke to her last. Because, try as I might, I can't get mad at this woman, even though I understand she's said some things about us that I don't like.

And last week, for the second time recently, EMS and a firetruck showed up at her house. And I called our mutual friends so they could check in on her. And she told one of those friends that she might call to thank me. Call. To talk.

So just now, I was out getting the mail and she was getting in her niece's car. And I waved. And she waved back.

There might have been frost on the ground this morning, but things are thawing on our street this afternoon.

Llangollen

My friend Lambeth will be passing through Llangollen, in Wales, today on his way to Ireland. Llangollen was the home of "the Ladies," two women in late 18th-/early 19th-century Britain who eloped together to avoid unwanted marriage and forced confinement in a convent, abandonning their titled and wealthy families to build a life together for more than 50 years. Seen as an oddity and curiosity in Regency society, they were visited by many notables of the time (including the Duke of Wellington, Shelley, Byron, Wordsworth, Wedgwood) and were quite legendary. Their home is now a museum.

It's a very clear case of lesbianism in history, which is frequently hard to prove or document. I'm reading an entertaining novel about them, called The Ladies by Doris Grumbach, which is why my friend Lambeth offered to stop in their town. But the house, known as Plas Newyyd, in the pictures on Wikipedia is much more elaborate than I'd imagined. Mama and I will have to check it out if we get to Wales again (and maybe, if we'd known about it last time, we'd have skipped Tintern Abbey . . . maybe).

Worries and Ills

We've had a pretty good week since Gommie left (and not because she left, but because we tried to keep busy so we didn't think about her absence).

Except that Sis keeps accidentally hurting herself. About three times a day, Sis has what I would call minor or medium accidents: falling off her kitchen chair, rolling off the couch, getting a paper cut in her finger, catching her toe and cutting it. And then there was the time about a week ago that she fell off the playset when our babysitter was here. Tear-producing accidents. Poor thing. But it's usually something a hug, a bandaid, and Amy the Bunny and Shirt can fix (and I am well-versed on signs of concussion and spinal injuries now. Note: vomiting is always a bad thing after an accident). I have two theories: a growith spurt which has left her feeling a little imbalanced and exhaustion from a week of being woken up in the night by Bud.

He is worrying a lot recently: are we driving safely? what are we talking about in our adult voices? will the horse 100 yards away at Sturbridge run over me? Flush toilets at stores are too loud. Crossing the street is too scary. The worst thing? My leaving, either to go to my workouts or when I tuck him in bed at night. Poor Bud. His fears and worries aren't paralyzing, and, oddly, he never shows any reluctance about going to preschool and RE class on Sundays. He's always been sensitive, more prone to separation anxiety, but this latest bout of worry seems to have been caused by Gommie's departure. He's just worried about things, especially change or abruptness. So, we reassure him, encourage him, try not to talk too seriously around him. We acknowledge the worries but don't dwell, nor do we make fun. Because, of course, I'm a worrier and Mama is a worrier too. So we know.

I just hope we can help.

I'm Back

It was about a year ago that I started physical therapy for my abdominal and back issues. After almost 8 months of twice-weekly therapy, I graduated to the wellness program where I work out and get advice from the PTs there. But I missed my workouts for most of the summer because of childcare issues. With school and my regular babysitting schedule, I'm back to going 3 times a week. I can "chop" 40 lbs, having started at 10. I can hold all the positions I couldn't a year ago. I'm faster and can go longer on the treadmill and the elliptical, without my usual limp. And even though I still wear my abdominal brace, I've removed the outer bands and am adjusting to not wearing it at all. Hopefully, by Christmas! A big thank you to my PTs (who don't read this blog, but deserve gratitude and some more cookies!), one of whom some of you met at Applepalooza.

But I am still very cautious about picking up the kids, who just keep getting bigger. They know I can't pick them up but still ask occasionally. And sometimes, depending on the starting point, I can, like if I'm picking them up out of the car. And I do seem to find the strength and balance when there is an emergency (adrenaline is a wonderful thing). I just can't do it if we're both standing on the floor. Which still makes us all sad, especially when Sis or Bud says, "But Mommy, you can pick me up, you did your excercises." It's true, I do, every morning before even going to get them and I am getting stronger, but it's not enough yet.

I just hope I catch up before they are too big to pick up.

One of the Saddest Things for a Child . . .

. . . is the loss of a balloon.

Yesterday, after several positive balloon experiences, we had a balloon tragedy.

We'd gone to the grocery store after church, the one that gives kids balloons. Sis asked for pink, Bud for blue, and they were excited when the two bells rang out signalling balloon time.

We got them tied on the kids, and the kids in the car, and the car all the way home. But at some point, Bud managed to untie his balloon. And when the car doors opened, the balloon floated up into the beautiful fall sky.

While I could appreciate the poignant beauty of the scene, I couldn't ignore the weeping three-year old begging for his balloon to come back. He was inconsolable, even when Sis let him hold her pink balloon once they got inside the porch.

Poor little man. He's still asking for it today, even though we tried to tell him all about the adventures the balloon might have, even going all the way to Texas.

And I imagine he'll remember it the rest of his life. I do: a balloon floating up into a beautiful sky over a forest of pine trees in Texas thirty-odd years ago, though it wasn't my balloon, but the balloon of my cousin, which we'd gotten from a trip to the zoo. He cried too. I wonder if he still remembers?

We'll be sure to double-tie that knot next time we get a balloon from the grocery store, even if it won't take away the sad memory.

(And poor Mama, who opened the car door, can't even talk about it. I won't be surprised if she comes home one of these nights with a whole bunch of blue balloons).

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Welcome Back

Rumor has it that Miss T is getting a laptop soon, soon.

Welcome back to the wider webby world, my friend. We've missed you!

You Must Try This

It was my night to host craft camp, which means bringing food.

I wimped out. With chips and salsa, I decided I also needed a sweet, so I got frozen cream puffs from the store.

And made a fudge sauce to dip them in.

They were, if I may say so myself, divine. And the sauce would be good with strawberries, ice cream, pound cake, a spoon . . . you name it.

Sis helped me make it, so I doubled the recipe and left some at home for her. Mmmm, it would be good over waffles tomorrow!

-=-=-=-=-

Fudge Sauce

MAKES ABOUT 1 1/2 CUPS
1 cup half and half
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

Bring half and half and butter to simmer in medium saucepan. Remove from heat. Add chocolate; whisk until melted and smooth. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; chill. Rewarm over low heat before serving.)

Note: it thickens as it cools, but this is not a thick, store-bought fudge sauce in a jar topping. But it's also not as sweet, either.

Bon Appetit

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Unschooling? Private School? Public School?

A recent article in the NYTimes on a Manhattan "unschooling" family--that being, families who opt out of the educational system and try to foster a life-long love of learning more informally, think of it as do-it-yourself Montessori or Waldorf or Reggio-Emilia--has brought back all of our discussions on education and the kiddos. I've been meaning to blog about this for about a year, since the discussion goes back at least 1 1/2 years, but haven't gotten my mind around it all. I'm still working on it. And we're still, as you might say, "in process." This, my friends, is a long one, and I'm already long in a normal post.

Some background: Mama and I are both academically oriented, having gotten where we are through different yet similar educational paths. She attended 12 years of Catholic girls' school; I went through a suburban public school system. She went to an Ivy League for undergraduate; I went to a small liberal arts university. We both have advanced degrees. She hated school until college. I loved school all the way through (with some exceptions for subject and teacher). Her parents both have advanced degrees and her mom is a professor. My parents have bachelor's degrees and have pursued a course of lifelong learning through reading and travel. Mama and I value education and want the best one for our kids.

But what is "best"? First, I should say, and not just because one of their teachers occasionally reads my blog, that we are extremely happy with the preschool they are attending. It is child-centered, play-based, with a relatively diverse student body, caring teachers, and no commute. But they didn't have to attend preschool at all, though we never actually considered homeschooling them for preschool. We wanted them both to enter formal education, if only to see how they reacted and what their needs were. And we considered several ways to do that--this being Connecticut, there are lots of private schools to consider (and no public preschool--don't get me started on that!). Believe it or not, at three, they were almost too old for Montessori, which, in this area, won't take children once they are three (which also means they can't go on in Montessori here because they must have been in an accredited Montessori preschool). We liked the quiet structure of the approach, the independence, though not quite the discipline, but weren't yet ready to swallow the cost (two preschoolers at once changes your perspective--the cost for both where they are now would only be the cost for one at most of these private schools). And having witnessed the disastrous experience of a little friend, we're glad we didn't go that route.

Waldorf has always intrigued me and many of my parenting choices have been Waldorf-inspired, from little television to my initial hope to avoid plastic toys (this is next to impossible on a normal budget). I love the ritual and tradition, the natural materials, the fairy tales and stories. I'm not crazy about it's almost anti-academic stance (Steiner, Waldorf's main theorist, didn't believe children should read until they were 7+). And I'm not keen on its predominantly white, Christian, upper-middle class, Eurocentric approach. Or it's righteous granola hipster superior vibe. Besides, the closest Waldorf is quite a commute, plus an outrageous price.

We try not to make the educational decision based on price, but in truth the expensive schools would require a major change in our family structure because we couldn't afford tuition on one income. I would have to go back to work. And my little non-profit salary would just cover tuition for two at these private schools. But we decided that it would be more valuable to the family and the children to have a stay-at-home mom there for daytime parental involvement at school and after-school activities then to have a private school education and another working mom, most likely with afternoon into evening childcare, yet another expense. I could pursue my alternative teacher certification to work hours similar to school, but the irony of teaching public school to send my kids to private school doesn't set well.

See, I'm actually a public school Democrat. Like one of the NYTimes bloggers, I believe in the social, civic contract of quality public education for all of our children and despair at the white and/or middle/upper class flight from public schools. Besides, I loved public school and did well by it and think it is an important social bonding experience. But then, the only homeschoolers or even private schoolers in my part of Texas were rabid fundamentalist Christians; everyone else went to public school. Not so Mama, who only heard horror stories, and probably true, well-founded ones, about the public schools in her part of Queens in the 1980s. But she sat in class, had homework, had lunch, had recess, and music and art and reading and math, just all with catechism on top, and values the experience (if not the dogma).

But do I want my kids to be sacrifices to a political ideal? We have heard, from our pediatrician and even from public school teachers in town, that schools here, especially after elementary school, are mediocre at best. Real mediocre. The average SAT scores at the high school are, well, fairly dismal (I think my score, which was not meteoric, beats the average by more than 400 points; Mama's more than that! Have they so significantly changed the ways those are scored?). We want our children to have an educational grounding that gives them options later in life. They don't need to be brilliant, but we want them to have a love of learning, a solid knowledge base, and a future. Can they have that, if they are unchallenged and bored for 12 years? I'm not saying that is what would necessarily happen, but I want to avoid it and spare them the frustration, disappointment, depression of a negative school experience (I'm not talking about one or two episodes, but a widespread problem from grade to grade, teacher to teacher, subject to subject).

And I'm not saying my kids are too bright for public schools. But as someone with a little background in education, I recognize the truths behind Howard Gardner's learning styles, that every person has different strengths with regards to receiving and processing information. I'm a visual learner. My mom is auditory. I think my dad may be visual. Mama is kinesthetic (no wonder she didn't like K-12). Bud is probably auditory. Sis is probably visual and kinesthetic. Schools can't be expected to teach to each child's strengths; there just aren't enough hours or teachers or funds, though awareness of styles and processes is increasing (Mama Teacher could tell me the word for teaching to each child--individuation? differentiation?). Some children adapt better or have multiple learning strengths. But other children can't or don't, for various reasons.

So, with our pediatrician's encouragment, we have considered other alternatives, with some trepidation. Academic private schools: expensive in our area, with no doubt extreme social competition and a long commute, but with intense academics and options. Alternative private schools: like Waldorf, again expensive and far away, without intense academics, instead with lots of creativity (one of the commenters on the anti-schoolers article said these kinds of approaches are best for "artsy-fartsy" kids; I know we might have one of those, but not two), but still lots of social competition (our kids would be the poor ones, but at least our family is diverse enough to match the most granola ones!). Would one or the other of these work best for our kids? And how does the being bi-racial twins of lesbian moms play into the whole thing?

And then there is homeschooling. Teaching our kids oursevles at home, either following curricula or as less-informal "unschoolers." Or, specifically, my teaching the kids at home. Everything I read--often in extremely sympathetic publications like Mothering makes it sound idyllic and ideal, but then they are preaching to the choir. I can picture us travelling to Boston to study the Revolution, or to Niagara to study geology, or to Mama's family in Thailand to study art. And being so close to New York, New Haven, even Boston, Phillie, and DC, we could do amazing things.

I know I would be an interesting, challenging, creative, resourceful educator, as it is after all, what I did in the museums . . . but for my own children? I feel like they need interactions with other adults, other kids, other ways of doing things. Not just other well-off, liberal, granola homeschoolers and their parents, but people with different backgrounds, experiences, opinions, and approaches. The true democratic education. With a childhood educational experience that they can take with them and share with almost anyone else--swapping lunches, the dreaded pop quiz, picture day, frog dissections, homecoming dance, science fair, book reports, "the" talk in 5th grade (do they even do that anymore??). I learned a lot more in school than the three Rs.

There is a lot of discussion of the socialization of homeschoolers, how they only relate to adults, how they are viewed as weird by their peers (and even my parents think we're weird for considering it and would be doing the kids a grave disservice), how they are self-centered, egotistical, precocious. Now, the homeschoolers I've met don't seem to be, and, really, is junior high and high school really a positive socialization? Getting along well with all types of "other" is really a key component to adulthood, from holding a job to building a career, even to checking out at the grocery or talking to the person in the elevator. What kind of schooling helps with that? I also don't want to be a so-called "helicopter" parent hovering over my children so that they never experience independence, even failure, probably one of the hardest lessons of public school for me, both academic and social. The kids are the center of our world, but they aren't the center of the world. I'm afraid homeschooling would convince them otherwise, leaving them unprepared for life beyond school.

In the end, that's what it's all about: life after school. What you are equipped to do, what you want to do, and having those two paths align. Schooling is just a part of it, and just the first part. There are other factors in happiness and success after school--some of the people I know with the least formal education are the smartest, funniest, kindest, best people, irregardless of their schooling. And, with all due respect to the Ivy League, some of the worst people I've ever met were in its hallowed halls, Mama exluded. So, clearly, book learning isn't everything. And if the kids didn't even finish school, or never go formally and are the aforementioned unschooled, but are still kind, generous, reflective, engaged, independent, contributing, active people--all those wonderful adjectives that have little to do with the three Rs--I will be proud.

And so, for now, preschool is an experiment. To see if Bud and Sis work well in a school setting. To find out who they are as students. To see where their strengths and challenges are. It's "progress report" time, so we get to discuss them with their teachers to make sure they are thriving, not just surviving. And we'll continue to reevaluate it along the way, through elementary school, which will be public until proven otherewise. Because, in the end, the local public school system is our first, preferred choice. But, the other schools, the other approaches, will always be an option if things somehow don't work out well in public school. In the end, we really believe school experience is very individual (here come those learning styles again) and much of the success and difficulty is child-based, regardless of all else, that whole lily-in-mud-pond metaphor. What did my dad's friend say about college, "any college can teach you more than you can learn"? Most schools will provide an adequate or even good learning environment; all, as I've mentioned, have negatives and positives, even the expensive private ones. We just want to give them the environment that will most likely foster success and happiness, in their present and future. We just don't know what that will be for them yet.

My Favorite Child

I have a favorite child.

A favorite daughter and a favorite son.

But do I love one of them more than the other?

Funny, how topics collide. I had just bought I Love You the Purplest, a children's book about sibling rivalry and mother love by the author of our favorite Mama, Do You Love Me?. And then, I read a blog on the NYTimes about the topic, recently re-addressed by netmums in England. And the woman ends her post by mentioning the same children's book on her shelf.

Like the aforementioned blogger, I love both of my children equally and infinitely, but for different reasons at different times. And sometimes, I don't like their behavior very much, even if I still love them (and aren't we, as moms, required to always add that "I love them" part at the end? I once read a great essay about that, how ridiculous it is that we feel like we have to add that, but I can't remember now where I saw it). I wouldn't want them to misunderstand that dislike of behavior for lack of love. But at 3, I think that is a difficult concept, which is probably why there are several books out there that touch upon it, including Runaway Rabbit; I Love You, Stinky Face; and, of course, Mama, Do You Love Me? I think that is why, when the kids are in timeout, we always end with a hug and a simple re-integration into activity, no grudges, no cold shoulder, and never "I'm disappointed."

Of course, regardless, children will always think you like or love the other one more. Older siblings feel like the younger one is coddled by lenient (tired? experienced?) parents, younger children feel like . . .well, I'm not a younger child, so I'm not sure what the beef is there--more freedom/independence/responsibility, or just the grating knowledge that we got there first? (For the record, I actually don't believe Aunt Banana had childhood "easier.") Sibling rivalry has been (is it still?) pretty thick in my family, though my mom has made it clear that she loves us both. Does she like one or the other of us better? Sure, at different points, for different reasons. And no doubt not the ways that we suspect or believe. I contemplated making a list here of ways I think my mom enjoys my sister more but everything I started to write sounded hollow. And I also thought of listing all the ways and reasons I love Bud and Sis, so later on they would read it and see, but then I didn't want them to compare and judge their respective lists . . .

That's the trick, isn't it? There is no truth or reality about "like" or "favorite," just a lot of perception and assumption. And that's dangerous for any relationship. Look at the trouble sibling rivalry has caused in history; it's a very powerful concept. That's just like children, really, that they don't realize a mom's love is infinite and grows to embrace them all, until long past the damage is done when they are grown up and parents themselves. But still, my kids will wonder, will feel, will firmly believe that I love them or the other one best at any given time. Even if I read and memorize every line of Siblings Without Rivalry and practice its approaches. I think it comes with the territory of having a sibling. As long as my kids really understand (especially after childhood, because they won't believe it during, for sure) that there is no preference overall. That I love them both the same amount, if not for the same reasons.

That sounds so wishy-washy, but don't we often love others in relation to how similiar to or different from us they are, either for positive or negative (i.e. I can love Mama because we have the same political views about equality and justice but also love Mama because we approach challenges totally differently and thus learn from one another? And she can drive me nuts when she does things I do that I don't like about myself, or does things I would never do . . . ) And so, depending on which characteristics are most dominant at a given time, we like people or . . . not so much, even if we still love them. Which means two people cannot be liked for all the same reasons because no two people are exactly alike, even twins, even if they are loved as much?

I think I'm confusing myself.

Now, do I love my kids more than Mama? For the most famous, recent, troublemaking discussion of that topic, see Ayelet Waldman.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

No-Restaurant Week

And it begins.

Starting today, we are not eating out.

But there is a small alteration to our originally-declared plans: Starbucks is exempt. I just can't give it up right now, if only because I love sipping a latte after my physical therapy workout while reading my latest book (still The Ladies by Doris Grumbach, about the two ladies of Llangollen) during preschool hours.

Otherwise, we are not eating out. No stops at restaurants after preschool, no take-out on week nights, no dining after church on Sunday. We're cooking at home.

Which means I need to go to the grocery store.

And buy a few more cookbooks! Which I can read at Starbucks . . .

To Scrap Scrapping

I am not a scrapbooker.

I have two big boxes of things to scrap--ticket stubs, flyers, maps, pamphlets, mostly from the last three years with children-- but I have not done it. I can't get excited about it.

Sure, I go to "craft camp" and buy lots of neat rubber stamps, but not for scrapbooking. I buy stamps to make cards for people who need cheering up or celebrating or consoling or inspiration.

And we take lots of pictures to record all the fun things we do. But I never think scrapbookers put enough pictures on those fancy pages. And I would want lots of pictures.

Which is a photo album, not a scrapbook.

But why have two memory books? Why split your visual memory in twain? That seems strange to me.

But I've felt guilty. Most of my friends scrap. They are marathon 8-hour a weekend scrappers. They buy craft supplies, shop at special stores, attend workshops, share ideas. And create amazingly intricate pages with borders and frames and decorative brads. I'm just not that detailed, patient, organized. I think if I were into it, like my friends, I would have done the last three years by now, instead of treating it like a required OB/GYN visit (btw, it is breast cancer month--get that mammogram now. I'm making my annual appt tomorrow). I did make a few scrapbooks in high school, traditional marker and glue and construction paper affairs, not the fancy things they make today. But I was capturing a very specific era. And besides, I didn't have my own photo album then; my mom kept the family pictures (not complaining, just noting that I wanted my own thing).

Of course, I'll do the baby books, which are in desperate need of attention. And I have birthday books for each one. And they'll each get an All About Me book by Dr. Seuss to fill out, a most treasured possession from my childhood that I frequently give as a gift. And then there are our photo albums, which we are behind in as well; there is not a single album since the kids were born, with literally tens of thousands of pictures saved, organized, and backed up on various computers (thank heavens Mama is in IT). That's actually how I started thinking about it--scrapbook vs. photo albums--which would I rather do?

Are my kids missing out? Will they feel deprived if I don't have yearly scrapbooks for them to peruse? And it hit me today in the store--another epiphany--my mom didn't scrapbook. There are no ticket stubs, flyers, maps, pamphlets, that survive from my childhood. And I don't care. And there are not scrapbooks from Mama's childhood. And she doesn't care. I still have great memories, and lots of pictures, from all the important and mundane events of my life.

I had plans for us all to scrapbook together, once the kids were old enough. I think we can still scrapbook important family vacations; we might even do the wedding trip to Texas in its own album. But I just don't need to save the map and schedule for every single visit to Sturbridge and Mystic (of which, in the last three years, there have probably been at least a dozen each--that's 24 scrapbook pages on the exact same location!).

Which means I can clean out a few boxes, save not-yet-spent money on scrapbooks and supplies, use that time for something else I'm more interested in, and alleviate the guilt I have not being like the other moms.

Just one more way to simplify.

School Days

I had another epiphany today while talking to a teacher at the kiddos' school, who is in school herself (hi! since you said you sometimes read my blog . . . ):

School.

I should think about taking a class. Not for a degree, heaven knows I don't want another one of those. But for personal edification and enrichment. I've been wanting something to challenge my mind, something beyond reading the NYTimes everyday (not all of it, but lots of it). Something interesting, broad and/or deep, with other like-minded people (or even just bored undergraduates). Maybe intermediate ASL. Or an art history class way outside my specialty (Asian, anyone? African? Byzantine?). Or maybe a visual art like weaving or pottery.

I'm not talking about 10 week continuing ed classes at the local rec center, but a real class at a local community or 4-year college. Not the big one, though. It's fees for a language class are apparently $4K a semester. Perhaps 2-3x a week during preschool, starting in the spring or next fall.

I really should have thought of it earlier. I loved school all the way through (well, there were some trying semesters there at the very end). Spent some 30+ years in class, was 3 hours short of two bachelor's degrees, have 4 graduate degrees (okay, that's bragging, because, I mean, can you really count an M.Phil?). And for me, I definitely think it is better than a part-time/freelance job (like those exist for me right now), even if it costs us a bit in fees and books.

Stayed tuned, I might have a whole new subject to talk about soon! (And then, Mrs. Teacher, we can wave at each other at Starbucks!)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Fall Foods

We had a fall food festival yesterday after our Monday trip to the pumpkin farm and farmer's market. Everything was delicious, though the kids didn't try any of it (no surprise). But at least they had the opportunity.

We tried doing roasted beets but left them in the oven too long, then forgot about them (with the oven off, mind you), and found them again this morning. I don't include that recipe here!

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Baked Yellow Squash

2-3 yellow squash
olive oil or butter
salt, pepper

Preheat oven to 350. Cut squash in half or in even thinner slices, depending on thickness of squash (but not too thin). Spread evenly in pan. Drizzle with oil or dot with pats of butter. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 30+ minutes until tender.

Mom

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Pepitas

1 pumpkin
oil
salt
pepper

Gut one pumpkin, saving the seeds. Save the pumpkin for jack o'lantern carving. Wash and dry the seeds.

Heat oil in skillet. Pan roast the seeds until brown. Spread on paper towel. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

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Spaghetti Squash


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place spaghetti squash cut sides down on the prepared baking sheet. Pour approximately 1 cup water around squash and bake 30-60 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a sharp knife can be inserted with only a little resistance. Remove squash from oven, and set aside to cool enough to be easily handled.

Scrape squash and mix with butter/salt/pepper, herbs, or butter/cinnamon/spices, as desired.



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Butternut Cider Bisque

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 large onion, diced
1/2 large carrot, diced (I left this out)
1 stalk celery, diced
1 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced
5 cups chicken stock or canned chicken broth
2 cups apple cider
2 cups heavy cream (MUST be heavy cream; anything else curdles in the acidic cider!)
pinch of nutmeg
1 tablespoon brown sugar

Heat the oil in a large pot and saute the onion, carrot, and celery until the carrot and celery are soft and the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the squash and saute until all of the vegetables are coated with oil, about 2 minutes. Add the stock and the 2 cups of cider and simmer until the squash is very soft, about 30 minutes.

Remove from heat. Puree the mixture, in small batches, in a blender on medium speed until smooth and well blended. Place the pureed mixture into another pot and stir in cream to achieve the desired consistency. Add the nutmeg and brown sugar. Heat gently and serve.

Red Lion Inn Cookbook plus my changes

Gommie has Left the Building

Gommie left this morning. We're going to try to get through the day without being too upset. It seems that Sis is as upset that I become sad as anything else. She's mentioned is several times when we told her Gommie would be leaving.

"And you'll be sad," she said.

"Yes."

"And Gommie will come back for Christmas and then you'll be happy."

Yes, sweetie, but before then, too. Even right now, as you and your brother make cards for everyone you know with your foamie letters, numbers, stars, flowers, and hearts.

Gommie, you might even get one, if I remember to get envelopes. But know that, even if the cards don't get in the mail, we love you and had a wonderful visit. Thank you.

Differences

Yesterday, the kiddos started making paper jack o'lanterns at school. The teachers explained to them that they would paint a paper plate one day and then paint a face on it the next time. Sis, I am told, meticulously painted every crevice of her paper plate orange, making sure there was not a sliver of white left. Bud, on the other hand, apparently walked in, decided the two-step process was not necessary, and immediately painted a face in orange on his paper plate. Done. You can raise them the same, but they just aren't!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Winging It and a Prayer

Sis wanted to buy a book at our little store today. It had cutesy pictures of animals all over and sweet illustrations inside. Of course our animal-loving child would want it. It was a book of nighttime prayers.

And why was I bothered? We buy books about people with a mommy and a daddy, which isn't our situation; we buy books featuring African Americans and Native Americans, neither of which is our cultural heritage; why did I feel weird buying a book that mentions God, who is not a part of our spiritual belief system?

And I'm not even sure it was primarily the God part that bothered me. I would just change that to spirit or universe. But how do I explain away "in Jesus's name I pray?" Sis is three and wouldn't get my academic differentiation of Jesus as prophet/messiah and Jesus as human teacher. Especially if we're praying--something we don't do--to him. But we do happy thoughts at night, which is like praying, and we are grateful for the world and the animals and our family. And we like to expose the kids to the "other."

It's just that the "other" isn't usually Jesus.

I bought the book, not wanting to be close-minded about the whole God/Jesus thing and especially because she was so enamored of the pictures. But it's a good thing that Sis can't read yet, because I made up most of it as I went along, though I kept to the themes of gratitude and love.

I can explain Christianity later.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Applepalooza Recipes

Here they are (except the sour cream apple pie, forthcoming):


Apple Enchilada Dessert


1-21 oz can apple pie filling
6-8" flour tortillas
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup margarine or butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup water (some suggest reducing to 1/3 cup)

Preheat oven to 350. Spoon fruit evenly onto all tortillas, sprinkle with cinnamon. Rollup tortillas and place seam-side down on lightly greased 8x8 pan. Bring margarine, sugars, and water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring constantly for 3 minutes. Pour sauce evenly over tortillas; sprinkle with extra cinnamon on top, if desired. Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes (some suggest adding an extra 10 minutes baking time or broiling for 5 minutes at the end).

Makes 6 large enchiladas. May be cut in half to serve 12.

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SOUR CREAM AND CINNAMON FRUIT DIP

8 oz. carton (1 c.) dairy sour cream2 tbsp. brown sugar1 tsp. cinnamon
Combine in a small bowl. Cover. Refrigerate 1 to 2 hours to blend flavors. Serve with fresh fruit (1 cup).

cooks.com

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Apple Muffins

1 large egg
1/4 cup vegetable shortening, melted
1/2 cup sugar
2 1/2 cups apples, chopped
2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

In a bowl, combine egg, melted shortening, and 1/2 cup sugar, stirring well. Add apples and mix well. In smaller bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Add to the egg mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Combine 1 tablespoon sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and sprinkle over muffins. Bake at 375F for 20-25 minutes. Makes 1 dozen muffins.

Mama Teacher

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Apple-Cranberry Pie

premade crust

For the filling, combine the following:
6-8 medium apples
1/2 cup cranberries
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
pinch ground ginger
Dot with 2 tablespoons butter

For the topping, combine:
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Spread egg, butter, or water wash on top crust. Sprinkle with topping.

Bake 350F for 1 hour or until you see filling bubbling through the vents.

Cool and sprinkle with confectioner's sugar (optional).

Church Miss L

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Here's the Apple Gingerbread recipe:

1/4 cup butter, melted
2 large apples, sliced
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 egg
2 cups white flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 cup hot tea


Melt 1/4 cup butter in 9" square pan (in oven as it heats up). Slice apples over the butter and sprinkle with 1/4 cup brown sugar. Combine butter, sugars, molasses and egg in large bowl. Sift dry ingredients and add alternately with tea. Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes and turn out onto platter. Excellent served warm.

Miss M from Church

Quips and Quotes

Under the heading of "we must be geeks," the kids screamed with delight when we told them where we were going to Old Sturbridge Village. And when we said they'd get to hear the pipe organ, they danced around singing "We're get to see the pipe organ! We get to see the pipe organ!" Brainiacs, geeks, whatever you want to call us, it's true.

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At OSV, we spent a long time in the children's section. At one point, Sis walked towards Gommie and I just beaming. She was carrying a single cup of tea. Ah, whom would she pick? Grandma or mother? Neither. She passed us and headed straight for the giant pig near the pretend barn!

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Gommie bought Sis some makeup, the girlie glamous stuff with lots of glitter. Bud wanted to play too and painted his nails and dusted his body with glitter, until he decided he wanted to help me with the apple games for Applepalooza. Quoth he "Let's take off this lipstick and think!" Note to Governor Palin: even children get it.
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"Bud likes to share," she said when Gommie asked her for a bite of her cookie/muffin/candy/cake/who remembers because they've had so much since Gommie came. But Bud didn't have a cookie. And Gommie wanted some of Sis's. Finally Sis pointed to her napkin, "You can have the crumbs."

That's all she wrote, folks.

Fall Fun

We have been packing in the fall activities while Gommie is in town to give the Texan a little taste of New England. First, we hosted our first annual Applepalooza Apple Festival on Saturday, inviting friends over for apple food, crafts, games, and fun. It was a beautiful day, which is good because the party was outside. We had painted an apple tree and jack o'lantern on our patio doors as well as made an apple-shaped welcome sign. There were pictures to color and connect-the-dots, paper worms to play "pin the worm on the apple", little apple nametags for people to put their names on our tree (next year, it's going to be "pin your nametag apple on the apple tree!"). Plus food, glorious apple food: apple enchiladas, apple sour cream dip, apple muffins, apple spice cake, apple sour cream pie, apple cranberry pie, apple doughnuts, apple sundaes with caramel and toppings, apple cider (served with cream and rum, too). And lots of our friends from playgroup, church, and around, including one who came in all the way from the city! Everybody needs a little taste of fall in New England. We'll be doing it again next year, perhaps with apple-bobbing this time! I just couldn't face the moms of a bunch of wet three-year olds this year!

On Sunday, we headed to Sturbridge Village for a day of old-time fun. We loved the guest musician Jeff Warner, who played on the banjo, concertina, guitar, bones, spoons, and Jew's harp, while telling stories of the development of folk music ("we think of all the old songs as Appalachian, but that's just where they hung on the longest" and "I think all folk music probably started out as a dance tune until someone put words to it.") And he played the limberjack, or dancing wooden doll, which was the most amazing feat. He was rather like the Garrison Keillor of New England folk music. Bud and Gommie were fascinated, and at least Sis stood still. And then we listened to the pipe organ in the meetinghouse. Sis liked it more, I think, if only because it was big and novel. While the musician played the 1810s organ, Bud danced his fingers in the air as if he were playing too. And we talked about how our church once had an organ and that the pipes are in a sculpture outside. Of course, the Count on Sesame Street plays an organ, too. Sis liked the stage coach best, of course, horses being at the top of her nightly happy thoughts list. She declared the bumpity-bump of the stagecoach to be much better than that of her stroller. Bud's head met the door frame on one of those bumps so he was less enamored of the ride, but still had a good time. Gommie, of course, was interested in how fast it travelled, how long it would take to get places, how it must have been to be a passenger. Typical history-loving Gommie questions. Which returned when we visited the cider press and heard all about making apple pumice, pressing the apples, and letting them ferment. All the while wasps circled our heads. We had lunch, pretended to weave and spin, played in the children's section--Bud loved drawing water from the well--and napped on the way home.

Today we hit two fall highlights: pumpkin picking and farmer's markets. We took a hayride to the pumpkin patch, where Sis and Bud each chose a small one for decorating (either with decoupage or markers). Then we played around the farm, chose some squash for eating, and bought a decorative bale of hay. We snacked on cookies and cider, too. Then we headed to the farmer's market for some beets--we'd seen them roasting some at OSV and wanted to try it--more squash, and the last of the late summer raspberries for Bud.

And then we rested. There's a lot of cooking to be done, including all those squashes, the beets, some roasted pumpkin seeds, and a batch of Amish Friendship Bread. Then there is school, cards to make for family back home, and just lots of fun with Gommie before she leaves on Wednesday. It's been a great trip . . . and it's not quite over yet.

Gravy

I have found my weakness as a vegetarian: gravy.

My mom is in town and so we've been cooking meat and lots of it, mainly because there was a third person in the house to help us finish it. Last Thursday, she made a baked chicken. With gravy. Today we made her rump roast. With gravy.

I could pass up the meat, no problem. But chicken gravy on rice? Roast gravy on mashed potatoes? No way.

My mom's gravy is superb and, while I've become a good gravy maker, nothing beats Mom's. Even if I'm a vegetarian.

So, do I have to turn in my membership card? I'm sure some would say so. But I don't care, I'm eating gravy while she's here.

And maybe even after she's gone, like on Thanksgiving. Real gravy on tofurkey. I couldn't be happier.

-=-=-=-=-

Gravy

Heat 3 tablespoons grease from meat or cooking oil in pot. Add 3 tablespoons of flour. Brown til copper-colored. Stir in 3 cups drippings and/or water. Add chicken/beef bouillon and salt and pepper to taste.

You can also microwave the grease/oil and flour mixture. Start at 3 minutes, then stir. Then two minutes, and stir. Then 1 minute, and stir. Should be approximately the right color. Continue as described.

Mom

Monday Morning

It's almost 8 a.m. and I'm not quite up yet. Gommie is downstairs with the kids, having made them pancakes and now playing with them. Yippee! I won't post long but I wanted to say hi. We're having a great visit, very busy, lots of fun. We had our apple party on Saturday which was a fantastic fall festival (I hope!)--lots of friends, food, more food, fun. And then yesterday we headed to Sturbridge, where we heard some traditional folk music, rode the stagecoach, watched them press cider, and heard the church pipe organ.

Oops, my battery is going and I don't want to go downstairs to get the adapter.

More later!!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Am I Getting Married in the Morning?

Today, the CT Supreme Court rules on civil marriage for same-sex couples. The decision is expected around 11:30 a.m.

Which means, our three-year old civil union might become grandfathered (grandmothered?) in as a marriage today. Or not.

It's rather a strange feeling being so disconnected from an event that so many people call "the happiest day of my life."

But then, my real happiest day was 11 years ago, not three.

And the government had absolutely nothing to do with it.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Quickie

We've had our first Chinese class.

Gommie is here.

Today Mama and I celebrate our third anniversary of legal union.

The weather is warmer and should be good for our Applepalooza on Saturday.

More eventually.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Our New Faith

It was something our minister said recently, that she has to have faith that throwing away something will not ruin her happiness.

Mama and I are very sentimental (read "pack rats"), instant gratification-seeking (read "I want it now") kind of people. We find throwing things away very, very difficult. Just ask my mom, who will tell you that I kept plates and napkins from birthday parties (and ask me how she must have stealthily snuck in to cull my collection often!). Our approach has been not to bring stuff into the house, so we don't have to decide to throw it out. But, with kids and Christmas, and our own natural tendencies, this approach isn't working.

We've been cleaning out our basement and throwing out a lot of things, giving away a lot of things. And each item is hard, some harder than others. Recently, we got rid of several side tables and two stuffed animals. This was gut-wrenching. One of the little tables, Mama had had before me, and I had taken a fancy to it and we'd used it for years, pre-kids. But it had gotten relegated to the basement because it wasn't practical or sturdy and, for awhile, I've known it wasn't the kind of table we'd ever put back upstairs. And we'd even found, at some point, side tables that matched it. A whole set (for those of you who haven't seen our house, nothing matches so to have matching furniture was a big deal). But just not us anymore, I thought. And so we decided to give it away. And then decided to wait. And then to take it. They finally all went on Sunday.

Along with a gigantic stuffed purple teddy bear named "Astro Grape Jelly the Purple Cosmic Bear" that I had won at Astroworld in 1988, when I was in high school on a visit with friends. I won it in one of those bean bag tic tac toe games and was so proud. It went everywhere with us that day, and has travelled around the country to my various abodes since. But it was showing its age and was, no doubt, made of materials that are no longer considered kid-friendly. Several times in the last several years, I'd gotten it as far as the car to take it away, but it always came back. Sis had considered getting attached to it when Bud claimed our giant "Mr Big Pengy" for himself, and this made us both nervous. We really didn't want her playing with this big, dirty, old bear, however much it held a sentimental place in both of our hearts (Mama has lugged this bear around the country with me). And so, taking one last picture of it, it went on Sunday, too. And no doubt, in 30 years, Sis will blog about how I got rid of her bear. And I did, I gave it away, but, honey, it was for your own good. And mine.

Our kids, of course, are quite an impetus in de-cluttering our house, but in their own way they have created so much of the clutter. There are boxes and boxes of their sweet little clothes and shoes in the basement, plus boxes and boxes of their baby toys. If we cleaned those up, pared it down even by half, we'd have so much more room. And we've told ourselves that our reward for doing so will be to finish half the basement, which we both desperately want. We're a long way from that reward, which is good because we have a roof to pay off first.

Why this attachment to stuff, we mused while moving it around the basement this weekend. Misplaced love? Overdeveloped sentimentality? Fear? And so we keep going back to what our minister, who is also a pack rat, said: we need to have faith that giving away the tables and the teddy bear and all the other things, even if they aren't broken and just because we don't use them and probably won't and especially if we don't even like them anymore, won't in the end dramatically affect our happiness. We won't miss them or decide down the road that we should have kept them. Even if we do decide that we made a mistake and should have kept something, it's just a thing, in the end. Our worlds won't collapse, nothing will end. It helps that we know, in many cases, that other people can use these things. And it keeps us from acquiring more. Because we've learned that keeping these things does affect us--we worry about space, we fret about clutter, we are concerned about being neurotic, we're tired of moving it all around and cleaning it all up. We have better things to do. Though, we both know, this is a lifelong challenge for us and we'll have to keep fighting the urge to keep.

So, we have a sleeper sofa in good condition--you can have it for free if you come and get it.