Monday, April 30, 2012

Another POV

I had clarity and insight today, in a flash, while at Pilates.

"You will get hurt again," my coach told me.

And she's right.

Really.  I was injured twice in the span of 8 months, after less debilitating episodes at varying intervals.  My back will hurt again.

All this time, my goal, our goal, was for me to avoid reinjury and repeat pain at almost any cost.  Even if that cost unwittingly led to decreased activity, mobility, sociability, and even, unknown to us, the greater risk of reinjury.

It was the wrong goal.

A better goal would be for me to get stronger so future injuries are less common and less limiting and recovery is quicker.  Even if in the meantime it means anxiety, discomfort, and even some increased risk.  And more exercise and movement and attention to the physical, which I've always avoided and seen as punishment (because it has been so hard my entire life; even something as simple as walking has always been an exhausting chore, the physical, structural, bio-mechanical from-birth/early childhood reasons for which I understand so much better now).

Amazing how and when inspiration (and rationality) strikes.  It puts everything in a whole new perspective.

Even if I'm pretty sure that doesn't make anything easier.

-=-=-=-=-

After an email from Lambeth, I should clarify:  it's not that I'm not doing my stretches and exercises, just that I stop when there is discomfort.  Now I understand that I need to keep going unless it's severe, sharp, or longlasting--actual pain--not just stopping at the first twinges.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Nine Lives of Thanks!

Many, many thanks to Mama Teacher who came over to help put away Easter boxes and then graciously agreed to help with three cat litter boxes.  Definitely above and beyond the call of friendship!  Thanks so much, Mama Teacher!!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Welcome Home!

If they made it on time this evening, Gommie and Pop's swazu came to an end today as they drove straight from Destin, FL (where they tell me they took us when I was about 6), all the way to Houston (skipping New Orleans??).  That's one whole month--March 28 to today--and approximately 16 states and who knows how many miles of swazu-ing across the country.

And if I understand correctly, Gommie is going to Austin tomorrow to help out Aunt Banana with some grandbabysitting.

Welcome home!  For awhile, anyway . . . .

Campin' Out

The kids are camping out under their bedsheet tents, which have adorned their room all week, hanging from their bunk beds to their dressers and bookshelves.  While I was away tonight, they bedded down early, colored, drew, read, played, and generally had a lot of fun staying up really late (for them, 9 pm).  I guess I needn't have worried quite yet about the last tents.

Old Home Night

I went to a gathering this evening that was something akin to a reunion, as we all came together to raise money for Miss M, who has cancer and will go through stem cell treatment this spring.  I saw people from my old church, who had left long ago, whom I hadn't seen in years and it was great to hug and ask "so, how are you?"  There were also the wonderful people from the old church whom I now see periodically at various things.  I sat with a few of them and chatted with a few more.  Just like old home week.

We were there to raise money, so there were raffles and auctions and vendors.  And I did pretty well:

  • I won the auction on two fabulous prints of pencil drawings of birds, including one pissy-looking owl!
  • I won the raffle on a set of children's books (from the great Barefoot Press) as well as an autographed copy of Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt (whose daughter announced it would be a Broadway musical soon!).  
  • I bought some wonderful scented lotion, with bergamot in it.
  • And I donated money to the event kitty in order for Miss D to make me a cheesecake in my favorite flavor!  I think we'll save it for June birthday season (and I'll take a poll about flavors, though I'd go with chocolate or plain).   Thanks, Miss D!
I was only very sorry to lose the quilt auction of my friend, another Miss M, with whom I was sitting.  It turned out that the auctioneer awarded it not realizing there were two of us with matching bids (don't ask me how that happened), me and someone else--who just happened to be the celebrant of the evening's expecting son and daughter-in-law with her first grandbaby.  Well, of course, I gave in (and was sorry I'd missed bidding on the quilt before it as I waited for the one I wanted).  But better they should have that cheerful token from this evening of love to wrap that baby in come late summer.  And I still have the two wonderful quilts Miss M helped put together of the squares decorated by many of these same friends at our own baby (babies?) shower seven years ago (almost exactly).  

So, even though it was a terrible reason to have to gather (i.e. helping her to cover medical bills--because a). I'm sorry she's sick and b). I believe in nationalized healthcare), it really was a wonderful night.

Friday, April 27, 2012

My Psychogeography

If I understand correctly, psychogeography is the psychological interaction of a person with her or his environment (though I also understand it can be urban radicalism or even inventive ways of exploring the environment, i.e. following a walking tour in NYC that recreates the Yankee symbol).

In that case, my psychogeography is in flux.  At first, I never really considered my movements through the landscape, except as I mapped the quickest way to school, playdates, or the grocery store.  Then, for about a year, my only explorations were within the confines of my house.

Recently, I've been able to drive again.  First around the block, then to the local store about a half mile away, then two miles.  And today I reached a milestone:  5 miles!  I drove to the kids' school and back!!  This is huge for me. Indeed, it makes my psychogeographic map comparatively gigantic.  With the school now inside my borders, I have pretty much everything I need--groceries, home goods, restaurants, friends, and school.  The only parts of my regular journeys that are outside my boundaries are church and kung fu.  But I can build up to that.

A mile at a time.

Right Now

Covering flowering plants and moving potted plants onto porch because of freeze warning.

Right Now

Celebrating my first historic house tour with a pasta feast!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Poetry Jam: Poem in My Pocket

The poem in my pocket, selected from the Academy of American Poets, to celebrate National Poem in Your Pocket Day:



 Afternoon on a Hill

I WILL be the gladdest thing
    Under the sun!
I will touch a hundred flowers
    And not pick one.

I will look at cliffs and clouds      
    With quiet eyes,
Watch the wind bow down the grass,
    And the grass rise.

And when lights begin to show
    Up from the town,      
I will mark which must be mine,
    And then start down!

--Edna St. Vincent Millay


And I also have on in my pocket for the kids to find when they come home:

If The World Was Crazy


If the world was crazy, you know what I'd eat?
A big slice of soup and a whole quart of meat,
A lemonade sandwich, and then I might try
Some roasted ice cream or a bicycle pie,
A nice notebook salad, an underwear roast,
An omelet of hats and some crisp cardboard toast,
A thick malted milk made from pencils and daisies,
And that's what I'd eat if the world was crazy.

If the world was crazy, you know what I'd wear?
A chocolate suit and a tie of eclair,
Some marshmallow earmuffs, some licorice shoes,
And I'd read a paper of peppermint news.
I'd call the boys "Suzy" and I'd call the girls "Harry,"
I'd talk through my ears, and I always would carry
A paper umbrella for when it grew hazy
To keep in the rain, if the world was crazy.

If the world was crazy, you know what I'd do?
I'd walk on the ocean and swim in my shoe,
I'd fly through the ground and I'd skip through the air,
I'd run down the bathtub and bathe on the stair.
When I met somebody I'd say "G'bye, Joe,"
And when I was leaving--then I'd say "Hello."
And the greatest of men would be silly and lazy
So I would be king...if the world was crazy.

--Shel Silverstein


At War Again

Gommie and Pop are back on the Civil War trail, this time in TN.  They're doing Chickamauga . . . and then they might swazu to Florida!  Or New Orleans.  Or both.  That's the beauty of the swazu.

My New Motto

From England in WWII:


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Veg Pledge: Day 4

We're still vegetarians!

Or, cheesetarians.

I'll have to do a vegan purge to get all of the cheddar out of my system!  But oh, it tastes good.

Last night:  corn soup without the curry powder and still Sis objected and had broccoli noodle leftovers.  Mama and I agreed that the corn soup would be good with cheese!  Or green chilies or even potatoes.  Bud had his "purple slaw" which he really likes.  It's good on a baked potato, too, as we discovered Monday night.

Today, after yogurt and homemade granola for breakfast, there are leftovers for lunch along with cookie bars we made after school (chocolate chip for her, raspberry for him).  Dinner . . . I don't know.  Dutch babies?  We need to eat salad because lettuce is taking over my fridge.  But salad and pancakes don't really go . . . . hmmm, quesadillas and/or omelets?  Perhaps with baby spinach a la Mark Bittman?

With cheese, of course.

Right Now

The heaters came on overnight!  But at least we didn't get snow . . .

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Right Now

Beautiful crescent moon with bright Venus glowing nearby.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Poetry Jam: Planning a Poetry Party

We're having a poetry party this weekend to wrap up National Poetry Month.  So far I have several (too many) options for activities:

  • Recite memorized poems.  Sis has "Pelicans" down.  Bud might do that one, too.  I'm still choosing mine.
  • Read selected verses (should there be a theme like Shel Silverstein Saturday?  Or Ogden Nash Night?). I'm still working on a focus.  I toyed with food in verse with attendant morsels, but all the poems seem to be about spaghetti!  Somewhere I read suggested doing a cafe theme.  Not sure Sis and Bud are up for espressos and black turtlenecks (and cigarettes!)
  • Create poetry together:
    • Exquisite Corpse (people write verses separately and then you put them altogether, I believe)
    • bring lots of words (cut from magazines or written on sheets of paper) to put in center of table and everyone chooses ten from the pile (peeking or not) to use (plus 5 additional "freebies")
    • write a line at a time going around the room to add to it
    • choose a topic and everyone write for five minutes
    • fill-in-the-blank/Mad-Lib like verse
    • complete-an-acrostic poem based on everyone's name
  • Create poetry alone and share--haiku, acrostic, cinquain, diamante, concrete/shape, free verse etc etc etc (the list could go on forever)
  • Illustrate favorite verses and frame pictures on the wall
  • Make our own commonplace book to collect our favorite verses

Love to hear your poetry ideas . . . or poetic food ideas, as long as it's not pasta!

Poetry Jam: A Gas

Check out Shelley's son's favorite poem here.

It's a toot!

Taking My Hat Off

After Bud's hilarious comment about my eye wearing a hat, I saw my eye doctor this afternoon . . . and he removed a precocious eyelash that had decided not only to curl back in on itself  but work its way into a neighboring follicle!   Might have irritated or even scratched my cornea a bit, in addition to all the swelling, and I've got drops to prevent infection.

Much to the kiddos' delight, the puffy hat was still visible tonight!

Snow Call

Gommie and Pop called this evening from near Gatlinburg, TN, where it was snowing!  Not often they call us to mention snow; usually we call them . . . but we've only had rain.  Other than the snow, I'm not sure they like the touristy town, though they think the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is beautiful.

It's Pouring


Mama Hungry has to go on short-term disability today, because it's been a week since she's been at work.  She tried to drive there this morning but had to turn back when her back began to hurt and her legs went numb . . . We're lining up tests and doctors.

Insult to injury?  I've developed a painful stye.  Bud said that I look like I have a hat on my eye!  Sis said it was a fedora like Agent P in "Phineas and Ferb."  "You're Agent E--Eyeypus!" She declared.  When it rains, it pours.  

But at least it's good for the garden of the soul.

Veg Pledge: The First 1 1/2 Days

Yesterday, we started our whole family pledge to be vegetarians for a week.

So far, so good.

We had homemade biscuits for breakfast, with jam or honey.

We snacked on nachos--corn chips and shredded cheese.

For lunch, we actually had corn dogs.  Vegetarian corn dogs, Mama Hungry's choice.  Sure, fake meat isn't exactly the point of the week, but the kids learned they could like it.  In fact, Bud didn't believe it wasn't meat.  Which I guess means he hasn't had too many corn dogs!  We balanced it by polishing off half a watermelon and a quart of strawberries.   Neither organic.  We're suspending our organic standards a bit to encourage fruit and vegetable eating this week.  And there just aren't a lot of organic choices in the stores right now (at least the stores we can get to).  Besides, as Mark Bittman notes, if you don't make whole food choices, then organic really isn't your most important food issue (I'm not always good at that, foregoing non-organic grapes for processed organic snacks.  Bassackwards sometimes.  But I'm trying.)

For a snack, while we played Junior Scrabble we had crudites with dill dip.  Bud even tried sugar snap peas, though he only liked 2/3 of one.  But he likes celery and Sis likes carrots, without dip, so fine.

Dinner was broccoli noodle soup.  With more cheese!  And my  kids don't even really like cheese.  But I can see that, even so, our dairy intake is increasing somewhat.

No complaints, no concerns.  In fact, they hardly seemed to register that they didn't have meat.

This morning, they had yogurt and took macaroni and cheese, with corn, for lunch, along with dried mangoes and fresh grapes.

We'll probably have peach smoothies or popcorn after school.  Dinner will be baked potato bar, including roasted broccoli, probably more cheese, and a cabbage slaw on the side, perhaps something else for Bud who doesn't like potatoes.

I have a few observations so far:

  • Meat is easy.  And even as a vegetarian, I used meat when I was lazy in cooking them dinner.  Just like I use beans for myself.  But that's not an option for them.  I'm definitely having to work harder both to plan and to cook.
  • Taking this pledge makes me bring my best game.   I can tell that I'm trying really hard to have variety, old favorites and new tastes, and choice.  I'll be shopping and chopping and cooking more.
  • I don't know what I'm going to feed them for lunch.  Today, macaroni and cheese; tomorrow, grilled cheese.  Wednesday, quesadillas?  Ugh.  What else?  They don't eat nuts or seeds.  Protein is going to be a problem.  It can't be cheese all the time. 

Looking forward to the rest of the week.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Right Now

Woke up to chilly weather...and both kiddos curled up under blankets downstairs reading.

We're making biscuits.

Happy Earth Day!

It's Earth Day . . . and our plan to have a picnic has been washed out, according to the forecast.

But we have decided on another way to honor the day:  we're all going vegetarian for a week!

Yep, we discussed it at dinner on Friday and agreed it would be a good thing to try--to increase awareness of how much meat our family consumes, experience new foods, focus on health, reduce our carbon footprint some for the week.  Sis only agreed after consulting the school menu for the week to make sure her beloved chicken nuggets weren't listed!

We  made a long list of our usual family favorites--grilled cheese, Dutch baby pancakes, omelets, cauliflower bow tie pasta, broccoli noodle soup, vegetable fried rice, vegetable noodles, corn soup, fettuccine, among others--and agreed to try a few new things. Of course, I have several veg or nearly veg cookbooks.  But one thing about those recipes doesn't fit for us:  the overabundance of cheese or faux cheese (we're not doing vegan, just vegetarian).  My kids just aren't into dairy.  So we'll have think outside the box.

It's not quite the dramatic event of my Bread Pledge a few years ago, but it's an adventure we can share together for a little while.


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Sis's Secret Garden

No More Room in the Trunk
While Bud was at kung fu with Mama this morning (Sis is taking a break from kung fu right now), Sis and I decided to do some gardening.  But the day lilies we'd been saving had rotted in their box (the bulbs must have grown and then rotted), very disappointing.

So we headed to a local store with plants and . . . well, do all gardeners buy more than they can or should plant?  Sis's eyes were so big--I think we looked at every pink blossom in the whole place.  And came home with half of them, plus some yellow day lilies and a pot of parsley.

She carefully cleared debris and dug holes, broke up the root ball and patted out air pockets, and watered it all.  And I just stood by and advised, or commented, since I don't think I know enough about gardening to advise.  I mean, like how much should you water a newly planted plant?  What is soaked?  How can you tell?  I just guess.

It's supposed to rain all day tomorrow and Monday so the water question isn't pressing . . . and the flowers will look beautiful.

Friday, April 20, 2012

In the Trenches

I'm in the trenches of the Mommy Wars.

SAHM vs. working moms.

Ann Romney vs. Hilary Rosen.

Mother vs. child, sister vs. sister, neighbor vs. neighbor.

But are we actually fighting?

I've written before about my choice to be a SAHM (here and here):  how it wasn't a path I would have ever chosen for myself until I was already on it and didn't want off, how I've been repeatedly told that I am too smart to stay at home, how I realize that my ability to stay home is as much a result of white, educated, upper-class culture and privilege as personal choice (though I'm learning that now the majority of SAHMs are working-class Hispanic women.  Also here.), and the like.  And I've read so much about the Mommy Wars--how working hurts kids and how working encourages kids; how staying home encourages kids and how staying home hurts kids.  Pick a side and find a study.

Is it cliche to say that some of my best friends are working moms?  It is equally true that the majority of my friends by virtue of having the same schedule I have are SAHMs.  I don't choose SAHM friends because I value them more or believe we are "right."  They're who is around when I want to play.  And because our lives are similar, we can discuss and debate choices.  But the friend I speak to the most works full-time and has a life-structure totally different from mine.  Yet we still find mutual support, value, respect, inspiration, and enthusiasm.  We just have to work harder to schedule talking about it!  And any bittersweet cravings for the other way of life are met with knowing nods.  It does not, however, make us enemies.

But I'd be naive not to admit that the groups are different--not so much from the outside or in any tangible child-rearing way, but in what we worry about when we discuss some of our fears.  And mind you, these worries about ourselves come behind our worries about our children and school, behavior, development, friends, etc.  Then it's our marriages/relationships. Or maybe our houses/housework.  And finally, only after we get all that out, stereotypically, do we talk about ourselves.  And even then it's about our work/not work as it affects our children.

My working friends, if I may speak for them, feel disconnected from the community of the playground, mourn their inability to attend all of the school-day functions or volunteer their time regularly, stress about the double workload of home and profession squeezed into the same 24-hour day, and envy the more relaxed days of the SAHMs.  At the same time, they also feel great pride in their professional accomplishments, are happy to model their work ethics and feminism, and not-so-secretly glad to escape the tyranny of the home at least part of the time.

Similarly, my SAHM friends, if I may speak for them, worry about their languishing professional skills and declining ability to re-enter the workforce anywhere near where they were, wish they contributed in a tangible economic way to the family especially in these challenging financial times, wonder if their children will understand or respect their "opting out," and miss intellectual and professional stimulation. However, they also generally love their time with their kids, at their kids' schools, and in their homes, creating enriching activities and environments, and in many ways are grateful to have escaped the less-glamorous aspects of working (office politics, long hours, bureaucracy, whatever your bugbear was).  But neither group seems hostile to the other, even if at times the grass sometimes seems greener in our neighbor's yard (especially if the neighbor is child-free!).

Actually, the majority of my SAHM friends work part-time, either because they want to or can't find full-time to compensate for childcare (or even at all).  They squeeze in work in their fields off-hours--library work at night, social work during school hours, substitute teaching, real estate.  And a few are direct marketers for products like WildTree and Tupperware, those uniquely mom jobs.  And I think, perhaps, these part-timers embrace many of the positives and few of the negatives in my list above.  Some of us--mainly me--are volunteering in our field, which provides the intellectual stimulation without the economic benefits while still affording flexibility.

All of us roll our eyes at specifying "works outside the home," recognizing as few of the pols or pundits did in the recent skirmish, that the accepted cultural definition of work implies for pay (now, we can get into value and free-market economics some other time), even if what SAHMs do is work of a different kind.  We don't get hung up on those semantics when we're hanging out.  If I say, "Mama Teacher works," I don't have to say "for money."   I've noticed that the only times my SAHM friends protest that they work is when they're talking about tasks they don't like; curious, no?

I think, however, speaking for myself, what I see in these Mommy Wars is the fight for respect, support, and choice for all women.  Neither side feels helped, valued, or even heard.  Working moms don't want to be demonized by the "if you wanted to work, why did you have kids?" brigade.  They want equal pay.  And, most likely, affordable childcare and maternity leave, maybe even public preschool.  And co-parenting and co-houseworking, which is still not the national norm, even if it is increasing.  Similarly,  SAHMs do not want to be judged as lazy or stupid just because they made the choice to stay home.  They want tax breaks for caregivers.  They would like affordable child care and preschool, too.  In fact, if there was more governmental support, more SAHMs might work and more working moms might stay home, because their decisions to do either are not always free but determined by economic factors often outside their control.

And when women, both SAHM and working, don't get to choose at all, they want the power to do so.

So maybe we've misunderstood the meaning of "Mommy Wars."  Maybe it's the battle women with children wage against the forces that demean, denigrate, and deny them choice, power, and respect.  Maybe if we all had those, we wouldn't be fighting.


What Have You Built with Pillows Lately?

“You never know when you’re going to build your last fort.”  I wonder if I've seen Sis and Bud's last?  Oh, I hope not.

Catching up on some light reading today and appreciated this article on pillow forts.

And I knew from experience that sheets make better roofs than blankets.


What Are Your Kids Going to Do This Summer?

Before sending in those camp registration forms, check out this article (and this one) and the YouTube video, all on Caine's Arcade:


Earth Day Idea

Looking for a way to celebrate Earth Day this year?

How about having a Picnic for the Planet, supported by the Nature Conservancy?

Even though it's supposed to rain, I think that's what we're going to do.  

How do you observe April 22?

Still on a Swazu

An email from Gommie reports that they have hiked parts of the Appalachian Trail, explored some of the Shenandoah, and enjoyed the Skyline Drive.  They were glad to conclude their Civil War tour at Appomattox, realizing how lucky they were just to be sightseeing, driving, eating in restaurants, and sleeping in hotels so unlike the soldiers' experiences.  They're near Roanoke and will eventually cut back towards Texas, eventually. 'Cos there's no rushing a swazu.

One Day at a Time



See demons as demons: that is the danger.
Know that they are powerless: that is the way.
Understand them for what they are: that is deliverance.
Recognize them as your father and mother: that is their end.
Realize that they are creations of the mind: they become its glory.
When you know these truths, all is liberation.
--Milarepa, 12th-century Tibetan poet and Buddhist figure

This week has been stressful.  Mama Hungry's back has bothered her all week, even with meds and PT.  She has been mostly house-bound and hasn't been comfortable driving.  She feels better and we hope she is improving.  However, we also know from repeated experience that recovery from back pain is a tricky business, so we're taking one day at a time.  
I've been thankful that I'm mobile and strong enough to pick up some of the more necessary things that Mama does, like local driving and grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning.  I can't easily do the laundry, but we're recruiting the kids for more chores as their contribution to the family.  
But I've also been scared:  it's hard to see someone I love in pain.  It's hard not to be able to help more.  I know how dependent we as a family are on her, not only for her paycheck (thank heavens her company is generous with days off, medical insurance, short-term disability, and the like), but also her strength, determination, and caretaking.  I'm trying to fill some of her shoes, but don't quite fit.
And it's hard because I'm reliving the many times when I've felt exactly the way she feels now (literally, she has many of the same issues, we've discovered).  I see her wince when she moves, hold and rub her back, wonder aloud why the pain changes, take tentative steps, curl up in a ball looking for relief, try different meds and rubs and positions and heat and ice and rest and mild activity.  
And the stress and the additional work makes my back hurt.
So we reassure one another.   Make adjustments to our plans and activities.  Meditate.  Focus on the mind-body connection.  Stay in the moment.  Be grateful.
One day at a time.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Coffee Clatch

Today I hosted one of my semi-regular moms' morning coffee gatherings, which started in the fall when I couldn't get out to see anyone.  Sometimes, only one or two people come--which is fine because I like those people--and other times there's almost a crowd.

This morning was the latter:  my two regulars, my local working-mom friend who can never come, another local mom whom I hadn't seen in a few months, and then a non-local working mom whom we haven't seen in years and who surprised everyone with her "new" one-year-old daughter!  It was great to see Miss T this morning and to catch up, didn't feel like any time had passed and we all settled back into our usual playgroup rhythms.  I hope we'll see her--and more of the group--this summer.

Amazing to think that the group, in various forms, has now been gathering for 6 1/2 years!

And we didn't come armed for the so-called Mommy Wars at all . . . .(I'll post on that controversy some other time.)


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Poetry Jam: Down the Rabbit Hole

We are reading Alice in Wonderland these days, a story I know but have actually never read.  And in it we are finding a variety of verse, beginning with:

How doth the little crocodile
Improve his shining tail,
And pour the waters of the Nile
On every golden scale!
How cheerfully he seems to grin,
How neatly spread his claws,
And welcome little fishes in
With gently smiling jaws!


Of course, being a child of the end of the 20th century and my children firmly ensconced in the 21st, I could not comprehend the parody of the crocodile poem until Mama told us the original:
Against Idleness And Mischief
Isaac Watts
How doth the little busy bee
Improve each shining hour,
And gather honey all the day
From every opening flower!
How skillfully she builds her cell!
How neat she spreads the wax!
And labours hard to store it well
With the sweet food she makes.
In works of labour or of skill,
I would be busy too;
For Satan finds some mischief still
For idle hands to do.
In books, or work, or healthy play,
Let my first years be passed
That I may give for every day
Some good account at last.
For more of Lewis Carroll's verses in Alice contrasted with their original bases, visit here.

Connections

Lest you think the Cub Scouts' homophobia is only a problem for Cub Scouts and my rants are merely sour grapes, I contend their prejudiced yet legal policies, accepted by both the Supreme Court and people who support the Boy Scouts of America, create a climate that leads to tragedies like this:

DETAILS IN GAY IOWA TEEN'S DEATH AFTER ALLEGEDLY ENDURING THREATS EMERGE

He was 14.

My thoughts and prayers go out to Kenneth Weishuhn's family and friends, as well as all LGBTQ youth.

I send my deepest thanks to those of you who have commented and emailed me privately with your support and agreement that the BSA and such attitudes are unacceptable.

Right Now

At the ortho....for Mama!  Who hurt/sprained her back on Sunday and is still very uncomfortable (and home from work).   Drugs from clinic yesterday aren't helping.

At least I can drive her around for a change.

Mommy Bear and Her Own Cub


I often get asked why Bud isn't in Cub Scouts, when we so actively encourage Sis to be a Girl Scout.  This is why:

I'd like to think that Connecticut isn't like that, but it can happen anywhere legally even against the wishes of the local members, as the article describes. I can't support with our money, time, or membership an organization that repeatedly asserts that I am flawed and my son's family is wrong.  How could I?  Why do you? 

The Boy Scouts are flawed and they are wrong.  


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Poetry Jam: Ways to Celebrate

I've been checking out poetry resources and like this list of 30 ways to celebrate from the Academy of American Poets.  At the kids' request, I'm going to include poems in their lunches instead of jokes this month (which is good because I'm running out of riddles), both published ones and homemade ones.  They particularly like the acrostics based on their names.

I also want to try:

  • Poem in Your Pocket Day on April 26, which gives me time to choose a good one
  • Read a book of poetry--I'm reading Garrison Keillor's Good Poems
  • Memorize a poem--I know very few (Silverstein's "Sister for Sale," Burns's "Red, Red Rose," and I used to know Shakespeare's Sonnet 18 and EBB's "How Do I Love Thee?"  My dad knows three--"Luck" by W.W. Gibson, a rhyme about pelicans, and the into to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales) and would like to add another, but which one?
  • Play "Exquisite Corpse," which is a group poetry-writing effort with an established sentence structure.  Or the kids and I will just write poetry together using some other structures.
  • Take a poem to lunch (I'll be putting one in the kids' lunchboxes and read some during my own lunch)
  • Put a poem in a letter.
  • Start a commonplace book, a personal anthology of favorite poems or quotes--my blog is a digital version of this, at least for this month.
  • Integrate poetry and technology--I downloaded the app for Android from the Poetry Foundation.
What are you doing to celebrate poetry month?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Spring Break: Theologically Speaking

On Saturday, we attended a new members' class at church.  As UUs already, we didn't so much need the history of the denomination, but we did greatly appreciate information about the history of our new church and its current activities.  We also enjoyed spending time with our outgoing minister.

After brief introductions all around outlining our spiritual biographies, the minister led us in a fascinating activity on the theological spectrum.  She set up three chairs spaced widely and said we could choose any spot on the continuum except the middle.  And then she asked labeled the points, one after another, as we reshuffled ourselves as we saw fit:


  1. On one end, you believe in God, as you define it, and feel it as a force in your life; on the other, you believe there is no overriding force in the universe.
  2. On one end, you find prayer a waste of time, particularly because there is no way to pray to; on the other, you find prayer, however you define it, a useful, reflective, meditative practice.
  3. On one end, you believe that some aspect of yourself exists after the death of your physical body; on the other,  you believe that when you die, the only thing left of you is others' memories and the effects of your actions.
  4. On one end, you believe there is not outside calling and that any such belief is psychological in origin; on the other, you believe in a calling above and beyond your own mind.
  5. On one end, evil exists in the world as a separate entity; on the other, any evil in the world is the result of human action and choice.
 I was surprised to find myself on either side of the middle for every question but the one about evil, for which I was way over on the human basis for evil (i.e. not the devil).  I am increasingly  comfortable with concepts of the divine as an force in the world, the importance of prayer, and the existence of our energies after our physical deaths.  I wasn't so sure about a divine calling, hearing that as closer to predestination than I usually believe, but believe that people do have passions that drive them.

How far has that moved on the continuum of belief for me!  Mama was more spiritual, more believing than I was for every question, except evil, which she agreed was human.  But that doesn't surprise me or her, as she has always been more spiritual than I was (though the minister, good UU/Buddhist that she is, still balked when Mama explained that she believed that the Christian God existed but that she chose not to pay any attention to him, preferring others like Gupathai, her ancestral spirit, good polytheist that she is!  The minister was also interested in the good karma of moving bugs along the wheel of reincarnation and how parents are beholden to their children from previous lives.  Though, the minister did talk about reincarnation not as memorable lives such as "I was Napoleon," but as the transference of energy). 

Where do you stand?

-=-=-=-=-=-=

We ate this at brunch during class, a wonderful rich food for discussing theology and the like:


1 loaf French bread (13 to 16 ounces)
8 large eggs
2 cups half-and-half
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Dash salt
Praline Topping, recipe follows
Maple syrup

Slice French bread into 20 slices, 1-inch each. (Use any extra bread for garlic toast or bread crumbs). Arrange slices in a generously buttered 9 by 13-inch flat baking dish in 2 rows, overlapping the slices. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, half-and-half, milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt and beat with a rotary beater or whisk until blended but not too bubbly. Pour mixture over the bread slices, making sure all are covered evenly with the milk-egg mixture. Spoon some of the mixture in between the slices. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Spread Praline Topping evenly over the bread and bake for 40 minutes, until puffed and lightly golden. Serve with maple syrup.

Praline Topping:
1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup chopped pecans
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and blend well. Makes enough for Baked French Toast Casserole.

Poetry Jam: Gateway Drug

Our minister called poetry a gateway drug to mindfulness, gratitude, and even prayer during our membership class on Saturday.  True, in its way, I think:  I took both a poetry and a prayer online class last year!

So, here's another "ordinary day miracle" poem I've read recently, in the wonderful collection Good Poems (ed. Garrison Keillor):

Welcome Morning
 
There is joy 
in all: 
in the hair I brush each morning, 
in the Cannon towel, newly washed, 
that I rub my body with each morning, 
in the chapel of eggs I cook 
each morning, 
in the outcry from the kettle 
that heats my coffee 
each morning, 
in the spoon and the chair 
that cry "hello there, Anne" 
each morning, 
in the godhead of the table 
that I set my silver, plate, cup upon 
each morning.
 
All this is God, 
right here in my pea-green house 
each morning 
and I mean, 
though often forget, 
to give thanks, 
to faint down by the kitchen table 
in a prayer of rejoicing 
as the holy birds at the kitchen window 
peck into their marriage of seeds.
 
So while I think of it, 
let me paint a thank-you on my palm 
for this God, this laughter of the morning, 
lest it go unspoken.
 
The Joy that isn't shared, I've heard, 
dies young.
 
~ Anne Sexton ~

Welcome, Little Ones!

There are two new baby red-tail hawks at NYU!!   I liked watching Pip some last year and was sad when his mother died this fall.  But now his father, Pale Male, has a new mate, Rosie, and there are new eyases.  Check them out at the NYTimes's Hawk Cam.

Spring Break: All But Forgotten

With a post still in the works regarding our church membership class on Saturday and nothing much to tell from Sunday, I include some tidbits from the week that I forgot to include in my other posts:

  • Gommie and Pop arrived with cascarones, or confetti eggs, in hand.  Sis and Bud loved cracking these over everyone's head, showering people and the driveway with brilliant confetti and egg shell bits.  
  • On Easter, as Bud lay asleep upstairs, Sis, Pop, Gommie, and I re-hid Easter eggs for each other.  Sis "kicked it up a notch," to borrow the phrase I used that morning, and hid them in bushes and batches of pachysandra.  When it was my turn, I was tricky:  I hid one under Pop's hat, on his head!  They were confused at my hot-cold warnings and then laughed at the joke.
  • Besides basketball, Pop also played baseball with the kiddos, who will only hit pitched balls not those on a tee.  Which makes playing baseball that much more of a challenge.  Still they hit it more than you'd think and then run around the yard while we all chase the ball.
  • When Gommie had to entertain the kids while Pop took me to PT, she came up with dozens of things to do with just paper and pencil:  hangman, tic tac toe, Memory, basketball and golf (using the pool noodles) with the trash can, and I forget what else.  I suggested origami and paper airplanes, too.  Way to go, Gommie!  
  • Gommie and the kids spent some time singing this visit, namely the 19 or so verses of "There's a Hole in the Bucket."  Kinda like "99 Bottles of Beer!"
  • The Cat and the Garter Snake:  walking up to Bloodroot with the kids on Friday, we saw that two of the resident fluffy cats were playing with a harmless garter snake, lazing next to it, watching it, batting it occasionally.  The kids and even Mama were fascinated--what was going to happen?  did cats eat snakes?  I've seen cats kill and sometimes eat all manner of things (bird, baby squirrel, fish, lizards, mice, vole) . . . and don't really like snakes, even little friendly ones.  But that snake wouldn't be long for this world as it slithered hurriedly away.  The cat took two steps and just sat down in front of it.  I guess we were all getting ready to have our lunch.
  • Ma and Gong brought a baseball thingamajiggy over on Saturday--it pitches balls to young players.  And Bud managed on several occasions to knock a pitch over the garage roof!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Poetry Jam: Joetry Pam

For SQUIRT (sustained quiet uninterrupted reading time--they liked the acronym of the otherwise unwieldly phrase), Bud started Shel Silverstein's mixed up poetry in Runny Babbit.  While he and Sis had been perplexed by many of the poems of Where the Sidewalk Ends because they took Silverstein took literally--was Sylvia Stout really covered by garbage?  How did Peggy Ann Mackay break her leg and have chicken pox and still go out to play?  How can you sell your crying, spying sister?--Bud loved the wordplay of Runny Babbit, just as he loves Pig Latin and Ferb Latin and such.  We heard him gigging way after lights out.

Civil War Swazu

Gommie and Pop called this morning from the road (or, more specifically, their hotel).  They are having quite the road trip and have seen, not in order, many historic battlefields and sites:


  • Gettysburg (they liked a Parisian Bistro there!)
  • Harrisburg, specifically the Museum of Civil War (Gommie's favorite, I think)
  • Spotsylvania
  • Antietam
  • Wilderness Campaign
  • Chancellorsville
  • Fredericksburg
  • Harper's Ferry
  • Richmond, specifically the Museum of Confederacy


It sounds like they're having a wonderful time, soaking in the atmosphere and random historic tidbits more than actual specific infantry maneuvers and battle timelines.  They also stopped by the Appalachian Trails headquarters and met people hiking the entire thing.

Maybe that will be their next trip!


Flu, Two

Sis officially has the flu.

And I feel increasingly under the weather. 

Cancelling activities left and right.

Happy Easter!

May it be a beautiful one for my orthodox Christian friends!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Right Now

Sis has fever.  We think it's probably the flu, though a week after Bud seems delayed.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Spring Vacation: Staycation

Thursday and Friday were specifically dedicated to our family's spring break "staycation" since we couldn't, in good conscience, drag a recovering-from-the-flu child out of town.  So, instead we have
  • indulged in a huge pancake breakfast at our favorite breakfast place, which I delighted in after my own almost two-year hiatus
  • built new and old Lego sets (Sis has the Friends beauty parlor and Bud and Mama are putting the medieval castle back together again)
  • danced in a brief rain shower, while trying to spot a rainbow
  • watched a red-tail hawk in a nearby tree ("hawkspotting")
  • watched lots of new-to-us "Phineas and Ferb" episodes, including the three-part rollercoaster arc (the original first episode, the time traveling Quantum Bugaloo, and the "Rollercoaster, The Musical.")
  • visited the Discovery Museum in Bridgeport (the kids had fun but, frankly, it was awful--very poor didactics when they existed at all because they didn't give kids the info they needed to appreciate the topic at hand or answer their poorly-worded, not-open-ended questions; dirty and broken exhibits (piles of used paper, broken pens, missing stars for constellations, and numerous broken electronics); mediocre aesthetics--poorly designed and hung didactic panels in various fonts on small sheets of paper, chipped paint, dirt; lack of basic instructions or clearly intuitive procedures for hands-on activities.  All around CRAP.  The only good parts were the hands-on activities in the "My House, Your House" exhibition, with the build-your-own cabin, walk-in Mongolian ger, and the Fiji fire pit.)
  • eaten lunch at Bloodroot--peanut and mustard greens soup, tofu salad with sesame oil dressing, grilled Swiss cheese, Bloodroot "burger," cheese omelet, oatmeal bread, chocolate devastation cake, brown rice pudding, and lemon-lavender posset in a china cup.  MMMMMMmmmm!  The posset might be the best dessert I've ever had there, better than the pumpkin or blueberry tofu mousses or the cranberry kissel (tied, perhaps, with brandied fruit over ice cream!).  Sis thought so, too.  But, otherwise, the kids didn't like it at all.  Which has me considering a vegetarian month here at home to break the must-have-meat/not natural foods habit.
  • gardened, after a trip to the garden store--Sis got red, orange, yellow, and purple pansies plus some trailing verbena with red flowers.  We also have some sweet basil and new pink phlox for the rock wall (since the old phlox is creeping into crevices beautifully).  We spent time outside planting and watering all of these.
  • played a new game called Yoome, which requires not only the game but also an iPad app.  It's hard to explain but it's basically a get-to-know-you game with dualistic (is that a word?) questions (ketchup or mustard?  winter or summer?) that one player answers secretly and the others try to guess; best guesser wins.
  • read more poetry before bed, including the perfect spring poem for today:
"Maytime Magic" by Mabel Watts 
A little seed
For me to sow...
A little earth
To make it grow...
A little hole, 
A little pat...
A little wish, 
And that's that.
A little sun,
A little shower...
A little while,
And then--a flower!

                            Poetry Jam: Sources

                            Not being very poetry literate, I'm following my verse-loving minister's advice to read widely so I can learn whom and what I like.  I've been perusing Garrison Keillor's wonderfully diverse Good Poems (there are two other collections in that series--on hard times and American places) and have found two new online sources for poems:


                            • Garrison Keillor's Writer's Almanac, which I believe is heard every morning on NPR and from which were drawn the selections for his Good Poems collection.  There is a poem and other literary notes everyday, with today and years previous archived here.
                            •  Poetry 180:  a poem a day for American high school students, selected by former Poet Laureate Billy Collins in conjunction with the Library of Congress.

                            Poetry Jam: A Common Thread

                            I've come across these today, finding a message of daily, ordinary miracles:



                            "Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are.  Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart.  Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow.  Let me hold you while I may, for it may not always be so. One day I shall dig my nails into the earth, or bury my face in the pillow, or stretch myself taut, or raise my hands to the sky and want, more than all the world, your return."


                            --Mary Jean Iron, quoted from A Grateful Heart


                            -=-=-=-=-=-



                            "Otherwise"


                            I got out of bed
                            on two strong legs.
                            It might have been
                            otherwise. I ate
                            cereal, sweet
                            milk, ripe, flawless
                            peach. It might
                            have been otherwise.
                            I took the dog uphill
                            to the birch wood.
                            All morning I did
                            the work I love.
                            At noon I lay down
                            with my mate. It might
                            have been otherwise.
                            We ate dinner together
                            at a table with silver
                            candlesticks. It might
                            have been otherwise.
                            I slept in a bed
                            in a room with paintings
                            on the walls, and
                            planned another day
                            just like this day.
                            But one day, I know,
                            it will be otherwise.

                            --Jane Kenyon
                            from Otherwise, 1996
                            Graywolf Press, St. Paul, Minn.
                            Copyright 1996 by the Estate of Jane Kenyon.
                            All rights reserved.


                            -=-=-=-=-=-

                            “The Orange"


                            At lunchtime I bought a huge orange—
                            The size of it made us all laugh.
                            I peeled it and shared it with Robert and Dave—
                            They got quarters and I got a half.
                            And that orange, it made me so happy,
                            As ordinary things often do
                            Just lately. The shopping. A walk in the park.
                            This is peace and contentment. It's new.
                            The rest of the day was quite easy.
                            I did all the jobs on my list
                            And enjoyed them and had some time over. 
                            I love you. I'm glad I exist.



                            by Wendy Cope, from Serious Concerns (Faber & Faber).


                            (N.B.  Funny how being a mom of twins effects things.  I read this last poem as about motherhood, with Robert and Dave young twins--eating a quarter of an orange--and the mom thrilled to have time to shop or walk in the park--"new" after those hard early days.  She finished her to do list and likes her spouse (which you don't always when you're sleep deprived) and is glad to be alive!  I made it all up but it works for me.)


                            Wednesday, April 11, 2012

                            Poetry Jam: Recommendations

                            Corresponding with our minister today, I got a recommendation to peruse Garrison Keillor's Good Poems, which apparently contains numerous poems by a variety of poets, including some of her favorites.  Two of these--Jane Hirshfeld and W.S. Merwin--were also included in PBS's documentary, "Buddha."  I look forward to reading through the book.  


                            She also suggested some Billy Collins for the kids and sent along this from 18th-century poet/author Christopher Smart, on his cat Jeoffry:

                            For he is the servant of the Living God, duly and daily serving him.For at the first glance of the glory of God in the East he worships inhis way.For is this done by wreathing his body seven times round with elegantquickness.For he keeps the Lord's watch in the night against the adversary.  For he is of the tribe of Tiger.For he purrs in thankfulness when God tells him he's a good Cat.For he is an instrument for the children to learn benevolence upon.For every house is incomplete without him, and a blessing is lacking inthe spirit.For he is the cleanest in the use of his forepaws of any quadruped.For he is the quickest to his mark of any creature.For there is nothing sweeter than his peace when at rest.  For there is nothing brisker than his life when in motion.For by stroking of him I have found out electricity.
                            Lines from "Jubilate Agno, Fragment B [For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry]" by Christopher Smart.  (See whole 74 lines on his cat  here.)

                            We also emailed about the Bible, which I have never really read.  The kids, specifically Sis, have been asking about Moses, Joseph, and Jesus and I know what I've seen in Cecil B. Demille, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and medieval and renaissance art.  I think it might be time for me to read through some of it.  And since it's poetry month, I think I'll start with the Pslams.  Or since Passover just took place, and it is the custom of Ashkenazi Jews to read the Song of Solomon (text) in the middle of Passover, perhaps I'll read that (Sephardic Jews apparently read it every Friday.)

                            Spring Break: All Good

                            Despite the fact that it was Gommie and Pop's departure day today, we are doing pretty well.

                            Bud is doing much better.  He hasn't had a fever in more than 36 hours and he is only somewhat congested; thankfully, the severe headache is gone.  But he is still tiring easily.

                            Still, we managed to have a full day.  Sis and Bud played Ninjago Legos until Gommie and Pop arrived around 9.  They had kindly offered to help us get new clip-on reading lamps for the kids' beds and brought them this morning, heading back to the store for zip ties and a power strip.  I'm not sure what Gommie was doing with the kids while I helped Pop out (or, really, just watched and kept the cats out of trouble, no small feat that.)

                            Later in the morning, they played Angry Birds and some kind of kids' picture sudoku.  Then we went outside to shoot hoops and paint "splatter pictures" (yes, it's as messy and fun as it sounds, a little Jackson Pollock in the front yard).  We also got distracted with some yard work--moving some dead plants, cleaning around and pruning the butterfly bush, and removing a big, wild heather plant from its place near the front step and putting some pots for herbs or flowers there.  Sis especially loved helping out with the gardening, waving her shears around, "What can I trim?"

                            Soon, though, we hugged goodbye.  Pop and Gommie are headed to various historical sites, while we ate a deli lunch and watched almost the entire first season of "Phineas and Ferb," focusing on the episodes we hadn't seen.  I even managed to fold the much-neglected loads of clothes.

                            Now, with a ham in the oven for dinner (along with cornbread and probably greens and mac and cheese and black eyed peas for me), I am holing up for a bit upstairs while the kids play Angry Birds and air hockey on the iPad.  Mama will work late--last night she was home around 10:30--and so we're pacing ourselves here on what is always the hardest part of these otherwise wonderful visits.

                            Right Now

                            And they're off....Gommie and Pop have left on the second leg of their swazu.

                            We'be wiped our tears and are going to have a deli picnic with Phineas and Ferb.

                            Tuesday, April 10, 2012

                            Spring Break: Getting Better

                            With Bud fever free and feeling better, we did a bit more today.  He built Legos with Sis til Gommie and Pop showed up around 10.  Then we had fun Skyping with Aunt Banana, Uncle Soccer, and Cousin Hungry--seeing her toys, hearing her call Gommie "Gaga" (Pop calls Gommie "Lady Gaga"), singing the little duck song (though she never said "cack, cack" for us), and then telling them about our Easter, horseback riding, and swimming.

                            We had "herbachi" for lunch (Pop even shared sushi with Bud) and later the kids went swimming, thereby crossing two more items off their G&P to-do list.  We actually did quite a few of them, amazing all things-considered--swimming, basketball, "Goose Poop" park, bird sanctuary, dyeing Easter eggs, kung fu, chalk/driveway paint, and meals at the hamburger place, chicken and dumplings, brunch, and "herbachi."  Only the sleepover really remained at the top of the list.  Next time.

                            We came home and bummed around until a dinner of Gommie's chicken and dumplings.

                            They're asleep now, Gommie and Pop headed back to the hotel to pack to leave tomorrow, Mama Hungry is working late, and I'm catching up on Monday's "Smash" and then tonight's "Glee."


                            Poetry Jam: Jammin' Again

                            While this post is belated, we have been celebrating National Poetry month again this year.  We are back to reading our favorite poet, Jack Prelutsky, he of Awful Ogre.  This time we started with his collection, My Parents Think I'm Sleeping, a book recommended by their teacher.

                            We have all the poetry collections we used last year--The Random House Book of Poetry for Children (Arnold Lobel), A Child's Book of Poems (Gyo Fujikawa), The 20th-Century Children's Poetry Treasury (edited by Jack Prelutsky), Classic Poems to Read Aloud, The Kingfisher Book of Children's Poetry, Robert Louis Stevenson's A Children's Garden of Verses,  lots of Shel Silverstein, and others.  Mama also found a copy of a book of folk poems, or lyrics to songs, mostly new to us.  And I look forward to finding some new poets for them.

                            And for me.  I'm going to read some poetry for myself as well.  I might find a book by Jane Hirshfeld, who was featured in my favorite PBS documentary "Buddha" or read more Adrienne Rich.  I might also ask our current minister, who loves poetry.


                            Monday, April 9, 2012

                            Spring Break: Not All Bad

                            Sure, influenza isn't great and it is greatly affecting the week, but the news from today isn't all dire.  First, Gommie and Pop had their flu shots (and the doc thinks Bud's strain was probably covered in the vaccine) and also probably have some natural immunities because of their ages (the ped said that people born before 1950 even have some swine flu resistance!).  I had my flu shot, too.  Not sure about Mama, though I'm afraid she didn't.  Sis didn't and so we will be watching her for up to 72 hours after Bud is fever-free, which is awhile yet. So, yeah, we cancelled our overnight trip and other things, but we got some Legos and an art kit to distract us all.

                            But before all that, we were doing pretty well.  Bud woke up happy and low fever, after 12 hours asleep.  He and Sis played SW figures, Legos, and Squinkies, specifically building Lego houses for the little critters.

                            Then Sis and I made delicious sourdough biscuits (coincidentally, on the day that KAF posted their new sourdough post.)  She mixed, rolled out dough, and cut biscuits, which she likes best warm with honey.

                            Midday, while Pop played with a seemingly improving Bud (at the pool--hope the chlorine is strong!  And I think at the beach.  Then for ice cream.  He seemed better earlier today.  And was definitely better today than yesterday), Gommie drove Sis and I to our Daisy horseback riding field trip.  Horseback riding is a common, casual hobby up here, like soccer and ballet are elsewhere.  There are lots of stables in the state and many people ride occasionally or even more regularly; girls down the street took lessons for a few years. (It's not rodeo but equestrian-type events and riding, I think.)  In fact, my co-leaders had both taken lessons and ridden competitively for this very stable 25-ish years ago!  People always think I know horses--that Texas stereotype (and I do have cousins who are experienced horsewomen who have been in rodeos)--but it's just not true.  I sat on my cousin Wendy's horse (without a saddle, with a few others, with me on the very back, as I recall) for a minute or so one Family Christmas and immediately begged to get down.  That's been it. No Black Beauty/horse-crazy phase for me.

                            At first, I thought Sis was similarly hesitant when she refused to help groom the horses beforehand.  But she got right up on a tall bay (that's dark brown for us non-horse people) named "Cow" (or something like that), helmet firmly in place, and rode him around the ring a dozen or so times, holding the reins in her left hand, kicking him to speed up, shouting "ho" and pulling to stop, pulling left or right to turn, and even trotting quickly.  Of course, there was a stable hand nearby the whole time, one for each mounted girl (a few at a time), but a few times she was ostensibly all on her own.  Except these retired racehorses were so docile and used to lessons that they pretty much went where they were supposed to go.  I think she's caught the horse fever now and was begging to have her birthday party at the stables, to take lessons, to ride again soon.

                            It was definitely a high point of the day, especially in contrast to the low points.  That, and pizza for dinner!

                            Right Now

                            Bud has flu, officially (they even filled out a state report!). We are in self-imposed quarantine, canceling activities through Friday. Lots of disappointment. And hope that the rest of us don't get it.

                            Sunday, April 8, 2012

                            Spring Break: Easter Surprises

                            Our first Easter surprise was Sis's complete inability to sleep for sheer excitement that the Easter Bunny was coming.  Though she was in bed as usual, she was awake by 11 and then didn't fall back asleep until after 2 a.m.  At some point, she and Bud were talking so loudly about the bunny that they woke us up!


                            And then at 5 a.m., Bud came into our room with 103F temperature.  "I don't want to be sick on the holiday," he lamented tearfully.  He never really went back to sleep, joining an awake Sis at 6 to talk about the bunny again.


                            We started the holiday a little before 7, with Gommie and Pop who had arrived early.  Bud felt well enough to search for eggs.  He and Sis tore through the house finding dozens of plastic eggs filled with coins, chocolate, and Squinkies (these tiny plastic creatures).  They then headed to the porch, where their previously-empty baskets were now filled with chocolate, books, pajamas, t-shirts from G&P's trip, some personalized journals and sticker, and a few toys (SW, Bakugan, Ninjago).  On to outside Easter nests!  Candy, candy, candy.  And a missing egg.  I spotted the missing egg down the street, in pieces.  A critter, most likely a raccoon, had clawed the metallic plastic egg open and pulled out the chocolates, leaving the egg but eating the candy, wrapping and all!


                            It took the kids awhile to find all of the dyed eggs.  The Easter Bunny took it up a notch, hiding them in new and more difficult places.  Up high in trees, under bushes and buckets, in sandbox and fort, on coiled hose and rearview mirror, in addition to the usual flower pots, mailbox, gutters, and in front of yard art. Interestingly, the natural dyes quickly faded in the sunlight, reverting almost to white.


                            We snacked on Bacon Cheese Bites, Spinach Bites, and Deviled Eggs until we eventually had brunch:  scrambled eggs, two kinds of bacon, White Gull Inn Cherry-Stuffed French Toast, punch, orange juice, and coffee.


                            Since then, there have been naps, a new Yoga Game we got for Gommie, building Lego houses for the Squinkies, watching a little tv, and a few short wanderings outside (down the street and to the park).


                            No church and no evening sleepover (with swimming, "herbachi," and sleeping bags at the hotel), so not the day we had planned, but, all things considered, a happy Easter.


                            And there will be time for those things before Gommie and Pop leave.


                            Happy Easter!


                            -=-=-=-=-=-


                            Bacon Cheese Bites



                            1/2 stick melted butter
                            1-5 oz. jar Kraft Old English Cheese Spread or any potted cheddar cheese (like Wis Pride)
                            1 can real bacon bits
                            1 tablespoon mayonnaise
                            1 package 6 English Muffins

                            Mix together first four ingredients. Split muffin and spread on mixture. Quarter each half. Freeze. When ready to serve broil 5 minutes.

                            Gommie Hungry

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                            Mommy Goose's Spinach Bites

                            2 10-oz. packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed
                            4 eggs
                            1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese
                            1 large onion, finely chopped
                            2 c. Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Stuffing mix
                            1/2 t. garlic powder
                            1/2 t. dried thyme
                            1/4 t. black pepper
                            10 T melted butter (1 stick + 2 T)

                            Squeeze water out of spinach through a colander until just about dry. Beat the eggs in a bowl, then dump rest of ingredients in and mix. Cover bowl and refrigerate for an hour.

                            Heat oven to 350. Shape mixture into 1-inch balls and bake on lightly greased cookie sheet until browned and cripsy, 30-35 minutes.
                            YUM!

                            Mommy Goose

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                            Gommie's Deviled Eggs

                            4 hard-boiled eggs
                            2 tablespoons mayonnaise
                            1/8 teaspoon powdered dry mustard
                            ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
                            3 to 4 drops bottled liquid hot pepper sauce or 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
                            1/8 teaspoon paprika
                            salt and white pepper to taste
                            pickles, onions (optional)

                            Cut eggs lengthwise and gently remove yolks. Mash yolks with a fork, but do not pack. Add mayonnaise, dry mustard, Worcestershire, pepper sauce, paprika, salt, and white pepper. Also, add finely chopped pickles and onions, if desirable. Garnish with paprika, pimiento strips, or sliced olives.

                            Gommie Hungry

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                            Christmas Punch

                            1 (48-ounce) bottle cranberry juice drink
                            1 (48-ounce) can pineapple juice
                            1/2 cup granulated sugar
                            2 teaspoons almond extract
                            1 (2-liter) bottle ginger ale, chilled
                            1. Stir together first 4 ingredients until sugar dissolves. Cover and chill 8 hours.
                            2. Stir in ginger ale just before serving.
                            Makes 6 1/2 quarts.


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                            White Gull Inn Cherry-Stuffed French Toast



                            1 loaf egg bread, unsliced
                            1 8-ounce packages cheese cream, room temperature
                            2 cups tart Montmorency cherries, drained, divided (NOT pie filling)
                            3 eggs
                            2 cups milk
                            cinnamon, for garnish
                            powdered sugar, for garnish
                            maple syrup, for garnish
                            Trim ends from loaf and cut bread into six 1 1/2 inch thick slices. Make a cut three-quarters down the middle of each slice. Bread will appear to have to separate slices, but will be joined together at the bottom. Set aside.
                            In a small bowl, mix together cream cheese and one cup of the cherries. Spread approximately 1/6 cup of the mixture into the pocket of each slice of bread. Gently press slices together, evenly distributing filling.
                            In a separate bowl, beat eggs and milk together. Dip stuffed slices into egg mixture and coat all sides. Place immediately on a lightly oiled, heated griddle and sprinkle with cinnamon. Cook over medium heat until golden brown, turning to cook second side.
                            Remove cooked slices from griddle and place on a cutting board. Gently make a diagonal cut through each slice, forming two triangles. Arrange two triangles on individual plates. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and remaining cherries. Serve with maple syrup and butter.
                            White Gull Inn

                            Spring Break: A Colorful Day

                            Saturday started early, with a surprise visit from the Easter Penguin:


                            The Easter Penguin visits the night before Easter eve, bringing small treats.  And also wet footprints!

                            Then we got ready:


                            Making "Easter-bread" houses,


                            making natural dyes with turmeric, blueberries, and beets,


                            dyeing eggs,



                            mixing the dyes to create new colors,


                            and building Easter Nests, which is a tradition from Gommie's side of the family and my childhood.  There are rarely enough flowers and grasses in CT at Easter but we managed.  And it was wonderful to share this tradition with the kiddos.  We filled the nests with some of our dyed eggs, as well as carrots for the bunny.