Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Sick Kiddo

Sis got off the bus mopey and moany.  "I have a headache and I'm so tired."

99.7F and rising.  Within 30 minutes, it was 99.9F.  She crawled in bed at 4 pm and tried to fall asleep; then we gave her ibuprofen.

Yep, she's sick.

The pediatrician suspects Flu B, the strain Sis didn't have, so we'll go in tomorrow.

I'm guessing she'll be out at least two to three days, as that seems to be her fever curve.

Seems like an odd time for flu, here on the cusp of May 1st, but who knows.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Thoughts and Prayers

I added it at the end of my post on plants in the Rockaways, sort of a throwaway about the difficulties my in-laws face in the upcoming weeks.

They deserve more than that.  On Tuesday, my mother-in-law undergoes a cornea transplant after a routine cataract correction became complicated.  She put off the surgery so she could visit her 95-year-old father who has been ill in Bangkok.  But the doctors have pressed that it won't wait til the end of the school term, so she is scheduled for next week.

Corneas are viable about a week after they are donated.  Which means her cornea donor is probably alive right now.  I can't help but think about what kind of week that person and his or her family will have between now and my MIL's surgery next week.  My thoughts and prayers are with them, as well as my deepest gratitude for being an organ donor.

At almost the same time, my father-in-law starts his treatment for prostate cancer.  His prognosis is good, but he still must face the radiation and all of its side effects.

Of course, we will help in what ways we can.  And our thoughts and prayers are with both my MIL and FIL as the difficult times continue.  When it rains, it pours.  And hopefully, then there will be a rainbow.

No Springtime in the Rockaways

My in-laws' front yard in the Rockaways.
We visited my in-laws this weekend, for the first time since the hurricane.  It was, for me, an unexpected consequence of Sandy:  all the vegetation in the Rockaways is dead, killed by saltwater and sand.  The typical suburban landscape with trees, bushes, flowers, and lawns looks strange--desolate and barren. I don't remember noticing that about post-hurricane New Orleans with its urban landscape or devastated beach communities with no lawns.  Or maybe it's because I didn't know those communities as well in the first place.  I wonder if this is what the tsunami-inundated places looked like a year or more later--brown where there had once been green?  People in the Rockaways, who have hurricane fatigue, are again cleaning--this time clearcutting gardens and lawns, piling dead wood on the curb for pick up, shoveling up inches of debris-filled soil.  My in-laws have lost all their greenery, front and back, their little bit of yard filled with glass and sand.  And, having only just completed repairs inside the house, I'm not sure they can even contemplate repairs outside.  Especially with Ma having a cornea transplant next Tuesday and Gong starting cancer treatment on Wednesday.  For all of these reasons, please keep them in your thoughts and prayers.

That Time of Year

Even though we have almost exactly two more months of school, most of our extracurriculars are winding down and wrapping up in the next month or so.  Yes, it is time for recitals!  Our first one was yesterday:  Bud's spring piano recital.  You may recall the tension of last fall's performance (ahh, tellingly I didn't relate that part in the post, I see!  We arrived early at the library where it was to take place--not our town's library--and were told by the librarians that we had the wrong spot, so we went running around to the spot they thought, only to find out they were wrong and we had to go back to the library, getting there right before Bud's turn. And the librarians were extremely rude about it all. Very stressful.  This time the piano teacher straightened out the librarians in advance.)  This time the only glitch was Bud not being able to hear all of Goo's "break-a-legs" during his encouraging phone call before the performance (ah, I remember the time I went to Goo's piano recital, when he was maybe 15 or so?  He played last, the best!)

Anyway, Bud played both of his pieces beautifully--"All I Ask of You" from Phantom of the Opera and "Cool Strut" from his workbook.  And his teacher handed him a ribbon afterwards, which he proudly had me pin on him.  He spent the rest of the recital listening and taking notes on what he wants to learn how to play:  "Fur Elise," "The Entertainer," and, odd one out, Taylor Swift's "Trouble."  I blame that last one on little Babysitter who makes music videos with the kids of Swift's songs.

Next up:  Sis's gymnastics exhibition, for which she is excited to wear a new pink leotard that matches the new hula hoops.  She's in the floor routine.  More about that in a couple of weeks.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Two Lovely Lunches

I went to a lovely luncheon for hospice volunteers yesterday as part of National Volunteer Week.  There was a lot of yummy homemade food--Florentine Lasagna Roll-Ups, white bean and squash soup, Ramen slaw, garden salad, fruit and yogurt parfait, cookies, and brownies, plus tasty punch.  There was poetry and praise for volunteers, plus goody bags of flower pots, seeds, gardening gloves, and chocolate.  I felt very appreciated.

Today I visited my church friend at the senior home and had lunch with her.  I stayed more for the friendship than the food, a pretty standard food service soup,pizza, salad, and poundcake with strawberries.  We had a good visit--about how she's adjusting (okay enough), how "nothing stays in her brain" and she forgets names a lot (and uses the word "thing" more than she used to), who has visited, and what she's done this week.  I told her about all the kiddos' activities, from piano recitals to gymnastics exhibition, and our upcoming weekend trips in the coming months.   I'll go back in a week or two.

Maybe even for lunch.
JC's Florentine Lasagna Rollups

12 fluted lasagna noodles
2 Tablespoons butter
¾ c. chopped onions
2 pkgs. (10 oz. each) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1 ½ c. (6 oz.) shredded mozzarella. cheese
½ c. dairy sour cream
1 egg, slightly beaten
¼ c. butter
¼ c. flour
1 ½ teaspoon instant bouillon (chicken or vegetable*) *which is what I used with you in mindJ
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 c. light cream
1 c. milk
Parmesan cheese
Cook lasagna.  Cool in large bowl of cold water; set aside. 
Sauté onions in 2 tablespoons butter until tender, about 5 minutes.
Combine spinach, onions, mozzarella. cheese, sour cream and egg, set aside.
Melt ¼ cup butter in sauce pan.
Stir in flour, instant bouillon and pepper, stir in milk and cream
Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Boil and stir 1 minute (it will thicken)
Remove noodles from water.  Pat dry with paper towels.
Spread ¼ cup spinach mixture over each noodle, and then roll up.
Spread a small amount of sauce on bottom of dish.
Spoon remaining sauce over rollups.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
Bake 30=35 minutes 350 degrees.
I usually cover with foil to keep sauce from getting too dry.
Have a wonderful weekend.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Whistle a Happy Tune

We're expanding the kiddos' repertoire of classic Broadway musicals.  We watched My Fair Lady when Gommie was here and then King and I last weekend.  Added to that, Mama often plays internet radio in the car, choosing a Broadway mix.  On it, they've heard songs from South Pacific, Chicago, Mame, Carousel, Jesus Christ Superstar, and others, which is in addition to all the shows we're played and/or watched with them (Sound of Music, Annie, Mary Poppins, Cats, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Phantom of the Opera, Secret Garden, Into the Woods, etc.)   They're even beginning to identify the album covers of original cast recordings!   All of this has led to much piano playing, singing along, and repeats on the iPod.  (Plus starting to read the original Secret Garden.)  And much begging to go to NYC to see Phantom of the Opera.  We'd like to take them to Lion King first, though, just our idea of the quintessential first Broadway experience.  Before that, the local schools are doing a few musicals this spring that we'll try to go to.  I hope it'll bring years of enjoyment, as it has for Mama and I as well as our own parents who took us to and played shows for us.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

One Down

Our first week of tours at the historic house are over.  I did two of the tours--one was great, the other was good enough.  I've added some new bits to this year's tour--some more Revolutionary War facts and a section about colonial music.  We even play a recording of "Yankee Doodle" with different lyrics, first the British ones and then some American ones making fun of George Washington.    To go with the music, I added a lap harp the students can play to our activity centers; there's even sheet music for "Yankee Doodle."    I also changed the weaving activity--instead of a small inkle loom, we now have a more historically-accurate paddle loom on which women and girls would make tape, or ribbons.  And today, with beautiful weather (and because the class arrived 45 minutes early and we were stretching things quite a bit), the students played outside.  First, it was boy vs. girl in a race of wooden hoops.  Then they lined up to play snap the whip, tumbling all over the ground.  All in all, a good week.  I look forward to four more.

Table for Two

While Mama and I lazily delayed getting out of bed Sunday, discussing the big breakfast we would make, the kids surprised us by setting up a restaurant downstairs.  There were even menus!  So I ordered trail mix and cheese and crackers, with iced tea, while Mama had peanut and crackers with water.  (Not exactly the pancakes, sausage, bacon, eggs that we had dreamed of!)  We received prizes with our meal, little toys.  There was piano accompaniment.  And even a restaurant cat!  All for $2.  Plus tip. And we bought the discount membership.

They've been playing restaurant for years.  They have a huge assortment of plastic food and dishes and have many times converted the sofa table to a restaurant table.  On Sunday, there were cloth napkins and a tablecloth!  Sis even has an order pad she got from the nice man at the local gyro place; she uses it lovingly and sparingly.  One of my favorite versions is hibachi, where they chop lots of food and even bang the seasoning shaker cup over the meal.  I love that now they are using real food!

Of course, sometimes I wonder (or worry) that perhaps real restaurants play too big a role in our lives--we do so like to eat out.  But it's too late to change that and I'm not sure I want to that much.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

My Hands are Tied

Quite literally, my hands were tied.

Bud was experimenting with his own string game.

String games are the new interest around here:  Eiffel Tower.  Cup and Saucer.  Cat's Cradle.  Jacob's Ladder.  Truthfully, I didn't even know they had names.  Or that there were so many of them.  I only really knew the trap-and-release one.  Apparently, Mama played these games for hours with her grandparents and remembers most of them, pinching and pulling up and down--funny how you can learn knew things about your spouse so many years on.

Both kids are interested, though Sis--and this should be no surprise--follows the directions, while Bud learns a figure and then makes up his own variations.  Hence my tied hands.

In fact, it's given me an idea to add string games to our historic house activity centers.  Yes, I have tours on the brain--they started yesterday.  Maybe Sis and Bud can teach string games this summer at some of our programs!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Poetry Jam: Two Art/Love Poems

I've run across these in the last few days and like them both:

"In the Sistine Chapel"

  • By Scott Brennan
  • Smithsonian magazine, April 2013

The angels, please! It's Michelangelo showing off again,
mixing what's believable with what's not, work at heart
exaggerated, with those Schwarzeneggar biceps
and superhero legs that, because of the fresco's illusion,
seem to drop from the ceiling, more entertaining
than strictly religious, as if the crowd crammed
into the chapel were to be cloaked in an enormous page
not out of Genesis but of Marvel, enfolded in the powers
of red and blue pastel. When one has seen too much,
how can one then accept too little? The stars herald
the tour de force we're supposed to ooh and ahh at—
The Creation of Adam, now so ho-hum and cliché
(I can barely admit it, it's so perfect) after countless
coffee-table book appearances. Check it off, though,
as a birder checks off a pileated woodpecker, say, on his
or her "have seen" list. The person with the most wins,
though we're never sure what, except, one supposes,
bragging rights. Then: museum corridors, rooms, halls,
chambers, nooks, crannies—even more detail, more wonders:
goblets, urns, illuminated manuscripts, sculptures, vases,
globes, amulets, divans, thrones, hand-copied Bibles, putti,
Medieval tapestries, time-crazed maps, figurines, portraits
of pontiffs—the detail like too much icing on too much cake.
But, hey, what does a drop of water know of the depths
of the sea? Observe God's hand and Adam's bemused face,
the museum and the gift shop. Chronicle another chapter
of one's life in a notebook (and what a fabulous life it's been,
full of so many amazing experiences they have to be translated
into poetry)—and afterward the moment with Vanessa
in the old-fashioned trattoria when I tasted for the first time
saltimbocca alla Romana, leap into the mouth of Rome,
veal with garlic and wine sauce, and the putty-faced waiter
poured Chianti into my slightly speckled glass. The veal
 . . . The Chapel was so . . . What did you think of . . .
And the thousands around us (they moved me and I did
my best to move them)—all began to drift away,
leaving us with what we had almost forgotten
to appreciate: our two nearly touching fingertips.

Having a Coke with You
by Frank O'Hara
is even more fun than going to San Sebastian, Irún, Hendaye, Biarritz, Bayonne
or being sick to my stomach on the Travesera de Gracia in Barcelona
partly because in your orange shirt you look like a better happier St. Sebastian
partly because of my love for you, partly because of your love for yoghurt
partly because of the fluorescent orange tulips around the birches
partly because of the secrecy our smiles take on before people and statuary
it is hard to believe when I’m with you that there can be anything as still
as solemn as unpleasantly definitive as statuary when right in front of it
in the warm New York 4 o’clock light we are drifting back and forth
between each other like a tree breathing through its spectacles
and the portrait show seems to have no faces in it at all, just paint
you suddenly wonder why in the world anyone ever did them
I look
at you and I would rather look at you than all the portraits in the world
except possibly for the Polish Rider occasionally and anyway it’s in the Frick
which thank heavens you haven’t gone to yet so we can go together the first time
and the fact that you move so beautifully more or less takes care of Futurism
just as at home I never think of the Nude Descending a Staircase or
at a rehearsal a single drawing of Leonardo or Michelangelo that used to wow me
and what good does all the research of the Impressionists do them
when they never got the right person to stand near the tree when the sun sank
or for that matter Marino Marini when he didn’t pick the rider as carefully
as the horse
it seems they were all cheated of some marvelous experience
which is not going to go wasted on me which is why I am telling you about it


My hospice patient has died.

May she be at ease.
May her family be comforted.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Poetry Jam: For My Hospice Patient

My hospice patient is declining, not exactly rapidly but definitely noticeably.  Today she was barely responsive, though she opened her eyes some and managed a slight smile, I like to think.

This is for her:

Let Evening Come
By Jane Kenyon
Let the light of late afternoon
shine through chinks in the barn, moving
up the bales as the sun moves down.

Let the cricket take up chafing
as a woman takes up her needles
and her yarn. Let evening come.

Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned
in long grass. Let the stars appear
and the moon disclose her silver horn.

Let the fox go back to its sandy den.
Let the wind die down. Let the shed
go black inside. Let evening come.

To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop
in the oats, to air in the lung
let evening come.

Let it come, as it will, and don't
be afraid. God does not leave us
comfortless, so let evening come. 

Eyes On and Hearts for Boston

I never watch the news, but the NYTimes isn't keeping up this morning so I'm watching tv (but not NBC, my usual choice; I'm sick of Matt Lauer, even though I have never watched the Today Show.)

My thoughts are with the people of Boston.
My thoughts are with the families of those injured and killed both last night and also on Monday.
My thoughts also turn to the mother of those two young men.
My thoughts are also with the Muslim communities of the US as news comes out about the Chechen origins of the men and their social-media postings identifying them as Muslims.

I hope Americans stay calm and that hate crimes spurred by Islamophobia don't increase, as they always have after terrorist activities.  No one judged all white Southern men after the Ricin-letter incident; no one hated people of Connecticut after Adam Lanza attacked Sandy Hook.

But I do wonder, with compassion, what has to have happened in someone's life, community, and/or culture to drive them to such violence and hatred?   Whether it's Lanza, Brevik, or now the Tsarnaevs.  Because nothing in my life, thankfully, has led me to understand how you put a backpack filled with maiming explosions at the feet of an eight-year old and stand back calmly, as the photographs show.  But we live in the world together, however different it is for us, and we are all connected and I feel the culpability of my white, American upper-middle class privilege in all of these incidents.

May we all live with peace.

UPDATE:  And now they think a car with a suspect in it might be headed to Connecticut.  Or he could be on the trains, some of which they've searched.  Amazing how the panic can rise in me so quickly.  Fighting the urge to fetch the children home; delaying go out to hospice because I don't want to be on the highway.  I shouldn't watch the news.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Thoughts for West, Texas

Thinking of the victims and families of the factory explosion in Texas.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Busy Season

I'm getting ready for our historic house tour season, which is complicated this year by the decrease in our docent corps (understandably, due to work changes, illness, injury, and widowhood)--so that I'm doing all but 3 of the 18 tours!  Add to that, I offered to do an in-class visit for a teacher friend, who offered it to the other teachers, and so now I'm doing 4 in-class visits, not at the end of next week, but tomorrow!  So I'm busy writing and preparing that brand new program.

And that doesn't include the wrapping up of the Brownie year with final plans and activities squeezed into the remaining month or so as well as my usual twice-a-week hospice visits.

All of which is to say, I won't be blogging much for a bit.

Good thing I love it.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Games We Play

For weeks, I've been working with another Brownie troop leader to organize a Fair Play Field Day as part of the requirements for their Fair Play badge.  We planned games, debated SWAPS and snacks, added songs, and finally got our girls together on Saturday.  

It went beautifully, which was a relief because Thursday's meeting in preparation for today was a behavioral nightmare of gigantic proportions such that we had to send a letter home to all of the parents about expectations, respect, and acceptable behavior. 

Of course, we didn't play all of the games we'd practiced, but we had a lot of fun.  And the girls demonstrated great sportsmanship (is there a gender-neutral version of that word?) and cooperation, thankfully!  

We played Birthday Order, Hula Hoop, special-rules Tag, Word Wide Web, Sharks and Minnows, and had an obstacle course.  Below are some of the games we practiced, as well as some of the others I'm keeping in my back pocket for next time (divided into Icebreakers, Cooperative, and "Wide"/outdoor games).  You'll know some of them, perhaps not all, and no doubt rules vary.


  • Birthday Order:  Have students figure out how to line up in birth order, either by date or just by month, from oldest to youngest.
  • Susie Spaghetti:  Students sit in a circle.  First student introduces herself, "My name is Jamie and I bought jam."  They go around the circle recalling the students before them and then introducing themselves and what they bought (which must start with the first letter  of their name.)
  • Gestures:  Everyone sits in a circle. The first person says her name and does a hand-motion. The next person has to repeat that person's name and gesture and then introduces herself and does an action.   Continue around the whole circle.
  • What You Don't Know About Me:  Every person writes a fact about herself that is unusual or interesting and not well known.  These are all put in a bowl.  They are then pulled out one at a time and everyone writes down on a piece of paper who they think it is.  (Someone needs to keep a master list or number the papers as they're pulled out.)  Then they compare answers and each person reveals herself.  The person with the most right answers wins.
  • Post-It on My Back:  Every person gets a post-it (or taped index card) with a name written on it (famous American, Disney character, etc.).  Then they walk around the room asking each other yes-or-no questions until they figure out who they are. 


  • Story in a bag:  Before meeting, leader collects a variety of household objects in a paper bag.  At the meeting, the leader starts by removing an object and beginning a story.  The bag is passed around the circle and each girl adds to the story based on the object she pulled out.  Beware of some unusual twists--and be prepared to amend (one leader spoke of GS adding "and I stabbed her with the pencil.")
  • Group Symphony:  Sit in circle.  One person starts making sound, next person adds to it.  Everyone adds a sound--and must maintain it until everyone has added a sound.  (This is loud!)
  • Word Wide Web:  Stand in a large circle with one person holding a ball of string.  She tosses it, while holding on to one end, to another while calling out a single word.  The catcher adds a connected word and throws it to the next person, also keeping hold of part of the string so as to make a web.  (Think:  red--apple--pie--crust--bread.)  At the end, talk about interconnectivity of words, actions, and people.
  • Funny bone:  Twister with body parts.  Before meeting, leader writes up several clues such as--touch elbows together, girl A puts hand on girl B's head etc.  Divide group into pairs and have leader call out directions.  See who can keep body contact the longest!  Some suggest putting a pool noodle between them to avoid awkwardness--challenge is to keep pool noodle off the ground.
  • I am Your Friend.  One student sits in a chair with her eyes closed, with her classmates around her.  One student from the group stands up in front and says, "I am your friend," and then sits back down.  The student in the chair opens her eyes and has three guesses to figure out the speaker.  If she guesses correctly, the speaker sits in the chair; if she can't figure it out, it is revealed, and she stays in the chair for another turn.
  • I Can Do That With One Hand Tied Behind My Back:  Students work in pairs, standing next to one another with inner hands tied together.  They are then given a task--make a sandwich, tie their shoes, etc.--that they must complete using one untied hand only from each person.  The team to finish first, having most accurately completed the task, wins.
  • Marbles and Toes race:  Gather marbles, a very large platter, and two smaller bowls.  Students divide into two teams and remove their shoes and socks.  Each team sends a representative to the bowl who, at the signal, will try to move as many marbles from the platter to their team bowl with their toes only.  At the troop leader's signal, representatives tag off with another teammate until all students get a chance.  Whichever team has the most marbles when the game is over wins.
  • Chopsticks:  Gather jelly beans and two medium-sized bowls for each team (3-4 students per team).  Students divide into several teams. On the teacher's signal, everyone on each team tries to move as many jelly beans as possible from one bowl to the next.  Whichever team has the most jelly beans when the game is over wins.
  • Spot the Leader:  Students gather in a cirlce; one person, who is it, leaves the area.  A leader from within the circle is chosen; this leader will make motions that the rest of the circle is to follow.  The "it" person returns and watches as the students in the circle make motions and tries to figure out who the leader is.  The leader must change motions every few moments.  When the "it" person finds the leader, the leader becomes "it" and a new leader is named.
  • Popcorn:  one person is caller who yells out an object and number.  That number of people run together and pretend to be that object.  For example "4 popcorn"--4 people must pair up quickly and pretend to be popcorn.  Girls take turns as caller.
  • Thumbs Up, 7 Up:  This requires a large number of players.  Seven students are chose as "it."  When the teacher calls "heads down, thumbs up," the other students, preferably at desks, lay their heads down and raise their thumbs.  The "its" walk around and press down one thumb.  When all "its" have pressed a thumb, the teacher calls, "heads up, seven up" and the seven whose thumbs were pressed stand up.  They each try to identify who pressed their thumbs.  If they are right, they take that person's place.  If not, they sit back down.
  • Hot Potato:  Students sit in a circle and pass an object around while music plays or until teacher signals stop.  The person with the potato is out.  Students play until one person is left.
  • Islands  Large sheets of paper/mats are distributed around an area.  Music is played and students walk around until music stops (or adult signals end).  All students find a piece of paper.  For each successive round, a paper is removed so that all students have to try to fit on fewer sheets of paper.  Students who fall off are out.  Last person on paper wins. 
  • Musical Chairs:  One fewer chairs than there are players are placed in a circle.  Students walk around while music plays. When music stops, students sit.  Whoever doesn't get a chair is out.  Last person in chair wins.
  • Statue, Come Alive!:  Divide students into pairs.  One person is the sculptor; the other is the sculpture.  Sculptor gently positions limbs of sculpture.  Then the statue comes alive and moves in accordance with position.  Switch roles.
  • Wave Stretching:  Have students stand in a circle.  One student strikes a pose or stretch and each student around the circle copies it in turn; when the stretch/pose gets all the way around the circle, the second person changes to a new pose or stretch.  Continue until everyone has a turn.
  • Giant Stick Figures:  This works well with a big group. The group makes a stick figure, with a few girls for the head, a line of girls for the neck and body, with more for arms and legs. Then the leader asks them to perform an action, for example "scratch your head," "kick a ball," etc. and they must act as a group and performs it.

  • Back to Back:  Two people stand back to back with their elbows interlocked. Using each other for support, they must try to sit on the floor and stretch out their legs. Then, while keeping their elbows locked, the partners must now try to stand up without falling.
  • Collective Sheet Ball:  This works best with a big group.  Gather two sheets and two balls. Divide the group in half, with each taking a sheet and spreading it out with the ball in the middle.  Students can practice by tossing the ball up and down. Then, the groups pass the one ball back and forth.  With practice, they can add the second ball.
  • Group Art:  Gather blank paper and markers.  Divide students into several teams, who then sit in parallel lines to each other.  Have the person in back draw a simple picture on a piece of paper without anyone seeing.  Give more paper and a marker to the person in front.  The person in back starts by tracing her picture with her hand on the back of the person in front of her.  This person then recreates the picture on the person in front of her and so forth.  When the picture reaches the back of the first person in  line, she draws it on the paper.  Now, compare the picture back to front.  Whose is closest?
  • Group Clap:  The group stands in a circle with their arms outstretched to the side with their palms not quite touching. The goal is for the entire group to clap their hands all at the same time but without giving a verbal signal to start!
  • Group Walk:  Students line up side by side, with feet and shoulders touching.  The line must "walk forward" one step at a time while keeping their feet touching!
  • Hula Hoops:  Gather hula hoops and form a circle.  Break the handclasp of one pair and thread their hands through hula hoop, so that it rests on their handshake.  .All participants join hands and form a circle. Two participants drop hands and put they arms through the hula hoops. Send the hula hoop around the circle without touching it with your hands or thumbs--yes, you climb through it!  Start with one hula hoop and then use two going in opposite directions until they meet.
  • Human Alphabet Soup:   Best with a large group.  Have girls quickly and cooperatively form letters of the alphabet by lying down on the ground and making the form with their bodies.  Challenge:  try it without talking!
  • Turn the Circle Inside Out: Students form a circle and hold hands. Now, try to turn the circle inside out without letting go--or talking!  (Hint: two players hold up their hands like London Bridge and everyone goes underneath.)
  •  Human Knot—divide into 2 groups of at least 4 people.  Stand in a circle.  Put all hands in middle and grab hands with two other people.  Now untangle without letting go.
  • 2-3-4:  students dance around to music or just run around until teacher yells a small number, then they grab each other in groups of that number.  Whoever does not join a group is out; continue until there are just two winners.
  • Coke and Pepsi:  one line is "Coke" and one is "Pepsi."  Students dance around until the leader yells either "Coke" or "Pepsi," then that line runs to the other.  Last one there eliminates that pair; anyone who jumps the gun or is on the wrong side, is also out.  Last pair remaining wins.
  • Freeze Dance:  with music, students pause when music stops.  Any movement eliminates that person until only one remains.  

  • Walking tag:  no running.  Walk.  Apparently, it's quite exciting.
  • Barnyard Bedlam:  One person is the farmer )usually the leader) and all the rest are pairs of farm animals.  In each pair of animals, one gets the paper bag.  Farmer throws "feed" (like tootsie rolls or something) around the grass  (best played outside) and the pair of animals run around the yard looking for it and make their animal noise when they find one so person with bag can pick it up.  Pair with most feed in bag wins.
  • Catch the Brownie:  Girls line up front to back, with hands on each other's hips/around waist.  The girl in the front of the line tries to maneuver so as to catch the girl at the end of the line, who tries to get away--without breaking the line or falling over!  Change front and back to continue.
  • Sharks and Minnows: Designate boundaries--the starting line and the finish line.  Line all students, a.k.a. the minnows, except one "shark," on the starting line.  The shark calls out a category, for example "all people with brown hair," and those people have to run across to the finish line without being tagged.  Tagged minnows become sharks until only one person is left the winner.
  •  Octopus tag—two people start as octopus; they hold hands and tag people.  Tagged people become part of octopus and help tag until everyone is tagged.
  • Freeze Tag:  One person is "it" and everyone runs.  If a person is tagged, she freezes on the spot.  Others can unfreeze the frozen people by crawling through their legs.  When all people are frozen save one, that person becomes "it."
  • Simon Says:  One person is chosen to be "Simon" the others stand in a straight line. Simon then calls out an action for the others to follow.  If Simon starts the action with "Simon Says," the others should do the action; however, if he does not say "Simon says," whoever does it is out. The last person becomes "Simon!"
  • Mother, May I?:  The "mother" faces a line of students.  She addresses one child and gives an instruction, such as "Take 3 steps" or "Do 5 jumping jacks." Before doing the action, the student must ask "Mother, may I?"  Then, mother tells each child whether they can or can't.  First one to reach "mother" wins.
  • Red Light, Green Light:  The caller stands facing a line of students as far away as there is space.  With her back to the line, she calls out "red light" or "green light." The goal is for the students to touch the caller.  At "red light," the caller turns around and whoever is moving has to go back to the beginning.  At "green light," the caller keeps her back to the line.  "Lights" can be changed quickly or slowly.  Whoever touches the caller first, becomes the caller.
  • Red Rover:  Students form two opposing lines of equal length by holding hands and attempt to "break through" the opposing team's line.
    One side starts by picking a person on the opposing team and shouting, "Red Rover, Red Rover, send Jamie on over."  Jamie then tries to break through the handhold of the opposing team. If Jamie breaks through, she chooses one person from the opposing team to join her team. If she doesn't break through, she becomes part of the other team.
    Each team alternates calling people over until one team has all the people and is declared the winner.
  • Television Tag:  The is like regular tag, except at the beginning the "it" person calls out a category--tv shows, songs, movies, books--and a person almost tagged can only be safe if she can call out a title in that category without repeating previous titles.  Tagged person becomes it.
  • Duck Duck Goose:  Students sit in a circle with one person "it."  "It" walks around outside the circle patting people on the head and designating them duck or goose.  Ducks stay still but the goose has to run around the circle chasing the "it."  If the "it" gets back to the empty spot, she is safe and the goose is "it"; if the goose tags the "it" then the "it" person continues.  Ad infinitum.
  • Hide and Seek:  One "it" and everyone else hides while she counts to ten or twenty--"ready or not, here I come."  She then seeks those hidden.  Some variants say first person found is it; other rules have found people have to run to a safe base--tagged people become it--and the game continues.  "Olly, olly oxen free" tells the hidden to come out.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Poetry Jam: Spring

I went to school today to read poetry--verse about cats and dogs, bugs and spring--and to write our own diamante and cinquain, about dogs and spring.

Barking at the mail carrier
Loud like a fire truck.

flowers, beautiful
blooming, swinging, singing
those flowers are cool.

And when we named flowers--daffodils, daisies, tulips, hyacinths--and one kid asked about bushes with yellow flowers, I knew because I'd asked on FB for Gommie the day before:  Forsythia.

There was also an acrostic using "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" . . . it's too long to put here (and I'm not sure I spelled it all correctly!)

It was a gentle morning, an innocent counterpoint to this afternoon.

Gommie took the picture on one of her walks so I could post it on FB and ask the name!


For Boston

How could I not love a place called Beantown?

My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Boston and those runners and tourists at the Marathon, where two explosions took place this afternoon.

UPDATE:  My prayers are directed to my fellow blogger, Karen, whose daughter and a few of her students were at the marathon today.  They are safe and trying to get home.  I will be thinking of them all and sending courage and strength.  I remember how hard it was to wait for loved ones whom I knew were safe to get home from Lower Manhattan on September 11.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Waiting for the Show

A solar flare on Thursday morning may produce Aurora Borealis over the northeastern U.S. (among other places) tonight.  So we are watching NOAA and Accuweather Astronomy to figure out when the lights might be visible here.  Something about particles from the flare spreading out from the poles and our Kp number, which needs to be near 7-8 to be visible.  Chances are probably slight, but I'm learning a lot nonetheless.

I've never seen the lights but would love to--nothing like a dancing night rainbow!  We've told the kids and promised them we'd wake them if the lights appeared.  We watched for a little bit around 8 p.m., seeing the moon sliver and the evening star, but nothing more.

I'll be up for a bit watching our numbers and then go to bed . . . with my alarm set for later to check.  Because this is a not-quite-just-once-in-a-lifetime event here in CT and pretty special.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Something Windy This Way Comes

I woke up to the sound of our trashcans blowing down the street--and those of several of our neighbors!  We are having quite a blustery day; it's cold to boot.  Our Scottish flag was flying upwards and the swings were rocking on their own.  And there's a light rain piercing everything.  Not pleasant at all.  Even Gommie was impressed with the wind--and she's used to storms in Texas.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Gommie is Here!

Perhaps in payback for their April Fool's Day snowing trick, Gommie got both kids, separately this afternoon.  She surprised Bud as we pulled into the station parking lot--she got right up to his open window before he even noticed!  He then talked her ear off.  A little bit later, she greeted wide-eyed Sis at the end of gymnastics lessons!  And now they are outside with Sis showing off her gym routine and also bike riding.  Gommie always  hits the ground running . . . and this will be a whirlwind trip!


On Monday night, Gommie called--she's coming today for a visit!

And I didn't tell the kids because I wanted them to be surprised (and being kids, they didn't notice the bit of extra cleaning I did yesterday, you know, special litter box clean, fridge purge, piles-of-stuff redistribution.)  Should be fun to see their faces this afternoon!

So, it's going to be a busy and exciting next several days.

Spring is Bustin' Out All Over

First day without jackets.
First day in shorts.
First pitcher of homemade iced tea.
First picnic outside after school.
First hyacinth and daffodil blooms.
First night sleeping with windows open.

It has been so warm in the last day or so compared to recent weeks.  And we have been reveling in it.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Meet Me at the Met and Other Fun This Weekend

Saturday found us in the glorious halls of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, primarily to see "Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity."  We loved the combination of paintings by Monet, Degas, Tissot, Caillebotte (okay, so they weren't all Impressionists, but the word sells tickets!) and the crinolined and bustled fashions of the second half of the 19th century.  Bud, who recently read a biography of Monet, was glad to tell us all about Monet's wife Camille as well as the exhibition of 1871 and plein-air painting.  Sis especially liked Monet's "cotton candy" painting of a woman in white with a parasol on a hill.

We also walked the 19th-century galleries, where Sis wanted to see Degas's statue of a dancer.  She stood mesmerized for awhile, liking the cloth skirt and ribbon of the otherwise bronze figure.  Bud kept asking us to describe the subjects of painting so we finally would send him to read the labels.  For the painting in the above photo, of the massacre of the Innocents, the label really didn't help him understand the dead children or bereft mothers.  Interesting to note that the Met situates its labels at the height of an 8-year old, also probably that of a person in a wheelchair.

We had lunch on the (somewhat chilly) steps, though many of the fancy gourmet food carts have left--no cupcakes, no shakes, just New York hot dogs, which were good enough for Sis, Bud, and Mama!

Back inside, led by a banner on the facade of the building, we tracked down the newly-opened "Photography and the American Civil War," with his collection of carte-de-visite portraits in lockets and frames, battlefield images of casualties both dead and injured, and equipment such as cameras, braces to hold subjects' necks still, and stereoscopes, which were the kiddos' favorite.

We headed home soon after, with a swazu over to Columbia.  We picked up some huge slices of Koronet pizza and ate them in front of Butler Library, where Mama and I met way back when.  The kids love hearing that story over again and marveled that we could point to the exact stone bench (really more of a wall) where I was sitting eating breakfast when we were introduced by a co-worker.  We'll have to go back for a longer visit next time, to hit some of our other favorite spots again (we took them once before, but they were probably too young to remember the library stacks, the Hungarian Cafe, and St. John the Divine.)

Saturday night, our babysitter came so that Mama and I could go to see Audra McDonald in concert with last-minute, half-price tickets.  I'd seen her before, both in Carousel and Ragtime, and was looking forward to it.  And we loved it!  We had great seats, front row center mezzanine.  Most of the songs dealt with the meaning of life, such as "Make Someone Happy" and "First You Dream."  But, including those, I didn't know most of the songs, several being 1930s musical standards which isn't my forte.  She "got over herself" to sing "I Could've Danced All Night," but she encouraged us to sing along.  She sang about flying--and played the piano--in honor of her father who died five years ago in a plane crash.  She was inspired to add "My Buddy" by an 86-year old veteran singing the song in Harvard Square; she sang some lullabies because her daughter wouldn't listen to them, saying her mother's singing "made my ears cry."   The song about the effects of September 11th on one person, "I'll Be There," made us both cry.  And we laughed hysterically, truly to the point of tears, when she sang her German art songs with lyrics from, of all places, Craigslist!  There she was operatically singing about finding a particular type of Hudson Valley pickle because "some dipschitz though out my bottle!"  I wasn't as affected by her song "Go Back Home" about the Scottsboro Boys or "Some Days" from a James Baldwin poem, but I really liked the poignant chorus and story of "Stars and the Moon," about being promised true love yet wanting a yacht and champagne.  And her version of "Moment in the Woods."  She closed with a song first sung by the person she considered the best singer ever--Judy Garland's "Over the Rainbow."  No Porgy and Bess, no Carousel, no Ragtime.  And it was all wonderful nonetheless.  Mama and I glowed the rest of the weekend from having done something so adult, so enjoyable, so much like we used to, so memorable.  We picked up Indian food on the way home and chatted late into the night.

Sunday was spent mainly at church--we were in charge of snacks, bringing homemade brownies, cheese and crackers, veggies and dip--as we had both morning service and I had a small group ministry meeting of parents of young children in the afternoon.  There we discussed, passionately yet sensitively (also rather liberally), the shooting tragedy in Newtown through the lens of parenthood.  I just joined the group but felt really comfortable with everyone and am very glad to have found a niche at church.  Meanwhile, Mama and the kids made wooden pinball machines at a local museum and went for a short hike.

We ended the outing with some frozen yogurt--tart or lychee or strawberry yogurt with fruit toppings, caramel sauce, raspberry sauce, coconut, almonds, mochi, gummies, maraschino cherries--we had more toppings than yogurt!  A sweet end to a great weekend.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Safe Travels

Safe travels for my in-laws over the next 24 hours as they head to Bangkok to see Mama's grandfather (Lao Gong, Sis and Bud's great-grandfather), who has been ill of late.  It will be an emotionally-wrenching visit, I know, as they say goodbye for possibly the last time.  My thoughts and prayers are with them and Lao Gong.

Colonial on the Brain

I've spent most of the day preparing for next week's docent training on colonial life in our town for our 5th-grade tours.  We're adding music to the tour and so I've been listening to various 18th-century songs:  fife and drum, church music, ballads sung in taverns, early sea chanteys (though there is some debate about whether they're in the same category as 19th-century sailors' work songs), dance music (contradances, cotillon, jigs, reels, etc), and the music of West African captives (including spirituals).  Definitely an eye-opening morning.  Or should I say ear-opening.  (For info, see here and here.  For music samples, listen here.)

Then I went to make copies for training and stopped at a friend's house, which just happens to be a colonial and one of the oldest houses in town.  It's marvelous and I loved getting a tour through all of its nooks and crannies, architectural phases (including probably late 18th-century addition), and beautiful details--Delft tiles around the fireplace, square nails in the door hinges, ceramic chandelier never wired for electricity, and even kitchen table made out of an old door!  Yes, I had a little house envy.  But if I lived there, I'd want to wear colonial clothes all the time, cook in the fireplace, and forego electricity!  I'm not sure my family would put up with that for long.

Which is why I love being a costumed interpreter.

(And why I just bought new stays and a straw hat!)

The Wimpy Kid Appreciation Society

There is a new obsession in Sis and Bud's second-grade class:  The Diary of a Wimpy Kid.  At the book fair last week, many of the kids flocked to the Wimpy Kid section and pondered which book to buy.  Sis and Bud came home with two each, one of which was an activity book.  The kids have created a club, The Wimpy Kid Appreciation Society, through which they exchange books with each other (which is much more sensible than always buying them--Sis and Bud can finish one in a day or so.  And there are several of them.)    And now Sis has loaned me The Diary of a Wimpy Kid:  Third Wheel to read so that I can understand it all.

For the uninitiated, which was me until a few days ago, this series by Jeff Kinney tells the experiences of a middle-school kid, Greg Heffley, through his own words and pictures as written in a diary his mom gave him.    But as he notes in the first book, this isn't "Dear Diary" stuff.  I'm trying not to worry that the protagonist is more than a couple of years older than Sis and Bud and that his experiences are not the carefully-curated stories that Sis and Bud have read elsewhere.  So I'm reading it.  It's like a grown-up Junie B. Jones--not perfect childhood, but real childhood with real language, events, and feelings.  Like when Greg's older brother Rodrick sees porn (well, a bikini-clad woman on a motorcycle) and his mother freaks out.  It hasn't happened here.  Yet.  But it will.   (Right, Shelley?!)  And I imagine I'll be a lot like his mom, making him apologize to all women.

And so, I'm reading it in bits.  And maybe I'll even become an adjunct member of the Society.  Frankly, I'm glad the kids still want to include me.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Poetry Jam: Something New

In past years of celebrating National Poetry Month, I have read poetry to the kids at bedtime most nights.

Well, this year, it's a little different.

We sit on my bed with our pile of poetry books scattered around--Shel Silverstein, Jack Prelutsky, random (and Random House) collections--and they choose poems to read to me!

It's such a treat to hear them read about Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout not taking the garbage out or one sister for sale, poems I read and recited as a kid.

And then I read something--"Jabberwocky," "The Owl and the Pussycat," "The Gingham Dog and the Calico Cat," or "Casey at the Bat"--and we go back and forth.

Though, last night we noticed that we're so busy looking for our next poem that we don't always hear the one being read.  Tonight, we're going to take some time to choose first and then read aloud to each other.

It's better than I ever could've hoped.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

World Autism Awareness Day 2013

Yoko Ono flipped the switch turning the Empire State Building blue today for World Autism Awareness Day.  And article on CBS news mentions that 7,000 other world landmarks, including the Pyramids and Sydney Opera House were being lit blue tonight.  I'd love to see some of those pictures!  And if the sponsoring organization, Autism Speaks, put out a book as a fundraiser, I'd buy it.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Poetry Jam: Celebrate Poetry Month!

It's National Poetry Month again and I'm ready to celebrate by reading poetry with the kids every night, perhaps even writing some with them, sharing poetry with their class at school, and reading poetry on my own, especially from the collection by Caroline Kennedy, She Walks in Beauty, which the Easter Bunny brought me along with tea, chocolates, and flowers.  I will also continue to explore the poets Mary Oliver, Jane Hirshfield, and David Budbill, some of whose slim volumes I have, and the poem-a-day from Poets.org that appear in my inbox every morning.

If you're looking for ways to celebrate, check out the Academy of American Poets' ideas here or perhaps some of my old posts (here and here), just search "Poetry Jam."

Age-Old Question

Body and mind.

Body vs. mind?

The Western paradigm of mind-body separation.

My church friend is slowly losing her memory and my hospice friend's body is slowly deteriorating.

And though I know we don't (usually) get a choice as to the time and method of our demise, I am intrigued by both the challenges and benefits of both states.  Who are we as people if we forget everything?  In Still Alice, a portrait of early-onset Alzheimer's, the author Lisa Genova poses questions about identity--if you forget, for instance, that you are a mother, does your love for your children exist even if you don't know you have them?  And so my question:  can love then transcend death if it can't transcend memory loss?  And, once you've forgotten, do you suffer at all?

And why does a body, deteriorating and old, immobile and in pain, still fight so hard to nourish itself, creating appetites and cravings?  I know, rationally, that I would say I wouldn't want to live in such a state, but I can see that the body might not give up so easily, keeping alive even while such suffering seems so unnecessary.  And there is still joy in company, in family, perhaps even just in breathing, sleeping, and dreaming.

I'm not sure I could choose, having now seen a little bit of both (plus the end-stage dementia of my first hospice patient).  And I hope I would approach either, and whatever else, with grace and good humor.

Our Easter Weekend

Sis's dyed eggs in her ivy nest among the crocuses.

Easter has come and gone, with lots of food, fun, eggs and bunnies, and not a little chaos.

Ma and Gong came on Saturday, bringing with them all manner of food.  My Easter offering of deviled eggs and pimiento cheese couldn't compare to mango sticky rice and various buns.

Our favorite part was coloring eggs, both by traditional dip-n-dye method and then using our new spin machines (rather like a salad spinner, but for eggs; I think you could use a salad spinner, if you had the right dyes.)  I had such a good time pushing the button to spin the egg.  And the eggs were beautiful!  Bud liked the spinner; Sis experimented with the dipped dyes, trying to get the riches color possible.  This year, we didn't bother with natural dyes; maybe again next year.

Lunch itself was rather a challenge and somewhat stressful.  I had hoped to make rolls snipped into bunny shapes for Sis, but something went wrong.  The dough came out of the bread machine with little specks--the paddle had dropped some of its coating.  And then fuzz from the towel I'd dried my hands on transferred to the dough and, well, it was a lost cause.  Then we made a mistake with the potatoes--Mama used the Celsius temperature instead of Fahrenheit and we never could get the potatoes right after that, too dried out but not totally cooked.  So we ran to the store and got macaroni and cheese in a box, green beans in a bag, and refrigerated pizza dough to finagle some rolls.  So lunch was late.  The ham--from Harrington's in Vermont--was very good and we liked the rolls and Sumi salad and macaroni and cheese.  Still, it was a stressful effort and not exactly what we had in mind.

That evening, after Ma and Gong had returned to the city, Sis and Bud played outside and even decided to make Easter nests.  But unlike last year, we have no grass growing and not much in the way of greenery to form the base of the nest.  So they cut some ivy off a nearby tree and used that.  We didn't want to pull up our crocuses or snowdrops, so they built the nest amidst them.  And placed one egg inside it for the Bunny to hide.   The rest of the eggs, along with some celery, were left on the porch with our empty baskets.

Sunday was much more relaxed . . . even though it started way too early.  The kids woke up excited around 3 a.m. and chatted with each other for hours.  At 6 a.m., we finally let them look for the eggs inside.  But first, Sis checked the letter she'd written to the Easter Bunny, asking for an autograph and/or a picture; she got both!  The Easter Bunny drew a picture of her tail--Sis called it an 8 x 10 butt glossy--and signed her name, complete with ears, decorated egg, and carrot!  Besides having a sense of humor, the Bunny was clever (or tricky) this year--she's definitely upped the difficulty level--hiding eggs up high and under things.  The kids had a challenge finding the candy- and coin-filled plastic eggs.

On the porch, having eaten the celery Sis left for her, the Bunny had filled our baskets with chocolate bunnies, books, puzzles, musical scores, tea, flowers, and pajamas.  Then Mama and I took a nap while they played and ate their treats.

At 8 a.m., we finally allowed them outside for the next egg hunt (waiting til then so we wouldn't wake up the neighbors).  Sis was way ahead of Bud in the egg-finding business; she gets that from me!  I am an excellent egg hunter.  So much so that my mom and Aunt Banana accuse me of cheating.  I didn't have to cheat, though; I had five years of experience and several inches on Aunt Banana--who needed to cheat?  Sis didn't have a size or experience advantage, but she is still just better.  And Bud was getting sad and frustrated.  So, halfway through, we talked to her quietly about her superior skills and generosity and sensitivity, not to make sure they got equal numbers of eggs but so that she knew she had the chance to help him have a better day.  And that egg totals didn't matter.  They found the last egg together, after circling the house three times (we knew we had given the Bunny 36 dyed eggs), which was hidden in the middle of the yard, just in the grass!  We almost stepped on it.  It was hilarious!

Then we had a great big breakfast of eggs, biscuits, bacon, sausage, and sausage gravy!   Mmmm.  The rest of the day was slow-paced,with naps, The Music Man, and more food.  Bedtime came very early--the kids were sound asleep before 8 p.m. and I was in bed by 8:30 p.m.!

Tangy Green Beans

4 slices bacon
1/2 cup chopped onion
2-16 oz. cans whole green beans, drained (or 16 oz. fresh)
3 tablespoons white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon beef bouillon (or 1/2 teaspoon nutritional yeast)
3/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon pepper

            Microwave bacon until brown, removed and crumble (or just boil in green beans!)  Combine other ingredients (add extra water if necessary); cook until thoroughly heated.
Gommie Hungry

Sausage Gravy
Cook sausage in skillet, removing sausage when cooked and reserving oil.  Brown flour (2-4 tablespoons) in grease; add grapeseed or vegetable oil if necessary.  Add milk (1 cup for each tablespoon of flour) and cook gently until thickened, without boiling.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve over biscuits.

Mommy Hungry


Thanks for being such good sports, Pop and Gommie, when we called at 6:50 a.m. your time with our April Fools' trick about the snow!  The kids were so jazzed!