Jokes by Levi


What did the ice cream say when the banana asked when it could come over?
Only on a sundae!

What does a drama king wear to bed?
Pa-dramas!

What do you call a swashbuckling rat?
A pi-rat!

What do you call a shoe that has a problem?
An is-shoe! (An issue)

What do you call a video game that you play with more than one person?
A "we!"

What do you call it when someone listens in on Christmas Eve?
Eves-dropping!

And one contributed by a friend:
What's brown and sticky?
A stick!

Levi called me into his room saying, "Oliver's a quarterback." Oliver was on the bed on his tummy with 4 quarters on his back.

What does a crocodile say when it wants to be a rooster?
CROC-a-doodle-do!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Levi's Doings


Levi's program celebrated a Fall Festival and All Soul's Day/Halloween. At the Fall Festival the kids did a play depicting part of the Legend of Hiawatha. If I read this story in my past, I have forgotten it. Again, I'll recommend reading it. It's a powerful story about forgiveness. Hiawatha and Degondaweda forged a peace and confederation of formerly warring tribes that our founding fathers turned to when they designed our government.

At the festival, we are also able to enjoy the fruits of the kids' labor. We left with a goody bag of elderberry syrup, calendula salve, essence of chicory, and honey and comb from the program's hives. They syrup was made from elderberries picked on the farm and then cooked along with other herbs and spices to make a healing syrup. For the salve, the kids soaked calendula and comfrey in olive oil, strained it for the essence of the flowers and then combined with beeswax to make a salve good for applying to cuts, burns and scrapes. The chicory essence is a general pick-me-up and said to give one a "glad heart."


Each of the kids also came home with a bowl they had made from a gourd. The outside was decorated by wood burning. On the inside, they glued vegetable-dyed gourd seeds and Indian corn kernels. The seeds were further held onto the bowl with melted beeswax that then hardened over the seeds. They also made rattles--carved the stick handles, soaked and stretched animal skin, sewed it with rawhide string and put corn kernels inside to make it rattle.

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

Okay, so we're missing the tigers. But not much else. This is the sign I found on our neighborhood bulletin board a few days ago:

RESIDENTS OF LOP
PLEASE BE AWARE--
A MOUNTAIN LION AND A BEAR HAVE
BEEN SEEN ON THE WEST SIDE OF THE LAKE
IN THE LAST 2 DAYS
Now, I have to be honest that I find this more intriguing than frightening. I would LOVE to see a mountain lion in the wild--provided I knew I would be safe which, of course, I can't be provided. Its exciting to me to live in a place where the wildlife is still there--right there!
We do not let the kids or dog go outside alone after dusk. And we've learned, thanks to a CD by a local musician who sings for kids, what to do if we encounter one:
Remain calm (right!)
Back away slowly and don't turn your back
DON'T run
Make yourself look as large as possible by spreading out your arms and waving
Yell
Throw rocks, sticks or anything available if the lion becomes aggressive
Fight back if attacked
They are actually elusive creatures who are not seen all that frequently except that the spring time seemed to bring several of them into town. They are most active dusk to dawn but they do hunt during the daytime too.
Study up so you'll know what to do when you come visit!

Michaelmas

One of the center points of Waldorf education is the natural world and our connection to it. Waldorf schools celebrate the passing of the season with seasonal festivals. Michaelmas is the fall festival. It gets its name from the story of St. George and the Dragon. If you don't know the story, it's worth reading because I cannot do it justice here. So . . . the really, really short and non-poetic version is that George, a knight, is called on to save a princess from a dragon that is terrorizing the village. The villagers have been feeding it sheep, then their own children to appease it. It seems that next, the king's daughter will be sacrificed. George fights the dragon. In some versions he calls on the angel Micheal to help him and he either slays or tames the dragon.

Metaphorically, the Michaelmas celebration is about the coming of the dark (less daylight) and about us entering and battling our own darkness and dragons. None of this is said the the children. They experience the story directly.
So . . . the little kids each went on a quest to mark Michaelmas. One at a time, the children were dressed in a golden cape and given a sword. They then crossed a river of flame (a shaking red play silk), crossed an icy raging river (blue play silk the ran down a wall into a bed around a tree), crossed the dragons spines (a set of low pilings on the playground), and rescued the princess. After the rescue, the were each knighted and had a star bestowed upon them. The stars ones the children had each "stitched" (as Oliver insisted, NOT sewed) out of yellow felt with beautiful blanket stitching around the edge. My child can sew? The blanket stitch? Cool.
They were all so proud of themselves. The celebration ended with an all-school picnic on the campus.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

They Weren't Looking Where I Was Going

Yesterday, Oliver came dashing into the house holding his hand out to me. He had a big scrape on the heel of his hand where he had torn the skin away. He had been riding back from the lake with Adam and Levi when he crashed.

"What happened?" I asked him.

"Well, two people were walking side by side like this (he uses his fingers to show people walking along) on the road. I came up to them and they weren't looking behind them and I ran into them. Then I fell."

Ah, the egocentric mind of the 5-year old.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Sorry, but . . .






















you're going to have to forgive my waxing poetic about living here for . . . well, the rest of my life. I fell in love with Colorado a long time ago when I moved here (the 1st time!) with my mom and stepdad in 1978 between my sophomore and junior years in high school. I left CO to go to school in the Northeast, chasing the quintessential New England college experience. I got it . . . and a husband. Our lives took us far and wide and I had put a return to CO in the back of my stack of wants. We both loved it here--and were married in 1986 in Aspen.

And now, many years later, we are back. Another apology--I tend to get really hokey so get out your hankies if you are susceptible to tears. I was driving back from Longmont, a small town about 10 miles east of Boulder, last Saturday on a long 2-lane country road. I watched people para-gliding, gliding, horses running through fields, all under bright blue skies and heading straight toward to mountains. Here's part of a song I heard, an old favorite of mine by Jimmy Buffett:

My old red bike
Gets me around
To the bars and the beaches of my town
There aren't many reasons I would leave
I have found me some peace . . .

I have found me a home
I have found me a home
I would give the rest of everything I own
'Cause I have found me a home
It's the small things that are big. I have my very own boulder in my back yard--several, in fact. I love to go out there in the morning, sit on my rock and drink a few sips of coffee. I love walking around the lake and seeing all of my neighbors and their dogs doing the same. I love leaving our neighborhood, turning out onto Hwy. 36 and seeing the Front Range looming. I love seeing hundreds of people on bikes--serious bikers on long-hauls and lots of people just getting around town.

The photos with this post were taken at the lake at our neighborhood. It makes me so happy to see the kids spending their time jumping off of the dock at a mountain lake, searching the beach for frogs, snakes and spiders. They also spend tons of time riding their bikes around the house on their "BMX" course. The beach at the lake is about 0.8 miles from the house. The kids love to ride their bikes down there while I walk with the dog. Then everybody (dog included) swims. I swim too, on days when I can brave the cold-mountain-lake temperatures!

We often see hot air balloons floating in the air in the early morning. Sometimes I don't notice them until I hear a loud whoosh of air, the sound of more hot air being put into the balloon. I look up to see one above me! We often see them now on our way to take Oliver to his kindergarten.

One of my goals, now that the kids are settling into their fall activities, is to start exploring some of the open space and hiking that is right our our back door. This weekend, Adam took his mountain bike to a large open space parcel just over the ridge from us called Heil Ranch. Now I'm anxious to explore there too.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

We're Still Here

Ah--long silence. When I traveled in Europe one summer, my mom fretted to a friend that she hadn't heard from me yet--not since I had left. Her friend answered, "Well, she's either having the time of her life or she's too sick and weak to write!" So, the long hiatus here has been the former.

We FINALLY sold our Columbia house and so were able to buy a home here. We bought a house we've had our eyes on since November, long before we even knew if this move would work out. Adam found it on the Multiple Listing Service and we just kept watching it. He started calling it "our house." I couldn't look because I didn't want to fall in love with something just to have it sell before we were able to buy. But . . . the price dropped again after we got here and we were afraid we would lose it. Columbia was under contract and close enough to closing that we felt like we could chance looking and falling in love. Which is exactly what happened. On Tuesday, we moved into the house, the only one we ever looked at here!

So once again, we wake up in the woods each day, this time in a forest of pinon pines. The house sits on an acre and is surrounded by all natural vegetation--goodbye yard tools! The neighborhood of about 80 houses surrounds Allen's Lake, a small 40-acre lake. There's a neighborhood beach with small dock, boat launch, swimming and picnic area and a play ground. The neighborhood has Lake of the Pines Movie Night monthly in the summer. Last night was a showing of "Star Wars." The neighborhood kids totally disregarded the movie but spent the evening running around with their light sabers and glow sticks, playing at their own version of Star Wars.

Late yesterday afternoon we were sitting in the living room when a movement outside caught my eye. I took a closer look and it was a lynx! We watched it stalk (but never catch) a rabbit. such a beautiful, elegant animal. And, yes, we do have to be aware of the chance of encountering a mountain lion or bear. The neighborhood has lots of open space and natural habitat for animals and we abut a large parcel of open space to the west, right at the base of the foothills. The threats are a bit different than those found in Baltimore!

Other momentous changes: We've enrolled Oliver in The Shining Mountain Waldorf School (www.smwaldorf.org) for kindergarten. I've been feeling hard pressed to give him the level of physical activity and routing I feel like he needs. I think he'll thrive at Shining Mountain. The
kids start each and every day outside on the play ground and then go for a hike. They return to the classroom for a more quiet, inward activity. Then out again for more large movement. So goes the rhythm of the day. They will cook a grain every day for snack time and it will be combined with a fresh fruit or vegetable. And lots of time outside every day.

The Waldorf philosophy understands children to be busy inhabiting their bodies and learning through doing and imitation through age seven, when they move into a new developmental stage. Simply stated, Waldorf explains its hope to educate the hands, heart and head.

Levi is back in vision therapy. We continue to discover new things. He was recently diagnosed with Irlen Syndrome (www.irlen.com), a perceptual disorder in which the brain cannot accurately process certain wave lengths of light resulting in a variety of visual distortions. The treatment is to alter the the wave length to one the brain can process by using colored transparent overlays for print or colored lenses if the distortion extends to distance vision as well.

Diagnosticians for Irlen are still few and far between but we have been lucky enough to have one in Ft. Collins, just an hour north of here. We've had one appointment and will return on Sept. 3 to determine the best lens color for Levi. Once he gets his tinted lenses, he'll continue in vision therapy to address some problems with his eye movements and how smoothly his eyes move over print. We discovered the Irlen Syndrome by a strange route. Adam's stepmother, Barbara, read an article about it in The Cape Cod Times and sent it to us. It came at a point when I was feeling so frustrated and stymied. Levi seemed to have gone backward in his progress and I had a strong feeling we were missing a piece of the puzzle. Irlen has proved to be a major part of the picture.

All of this information has come so recently that we've decided to continue to home school Levi for this year. He'll attend a 1-day a week program called Options, a public school program that provides classes for home schoolers. He's excited. He chose his classes: Medieval History, Science, Math, Strings--violin, PE and Art. Two days a week he'll participate in a program run by a former Waldorf teacher on her one-acre farm in N. Boulder (www.sagehamilton.com). Below is a sampling from the fall schedule:

FALL - IROQUOIS
children 6 - 8 'How the Earth Got on Turtle’s Back'
Iroquois Totem Animals - Eagle, Bear, Turtle
Native American Crafting
Harvesting and Medicine making
WINTER - SPRING ANIMALS AND THE CELTS
Totem Animals continued - one or two blocks -
Horse for sure the rest to unfold
Celtic Legends, Folk, and Fairy Tales
children 6 - 8 strong focus on the fairy realm,
King of Ireland’s Son and more
children 9 and up - more mature legends
Practical Arts to compliment this curriculum for both age groups

Monday, July 14, 2008

Wild West

Our spring newspaper headlines have reminded us that were back in the wild west. In the 2 months we've been here, three mountain lions and one bear have been removed from South Boulder residential neighborhoods. A few Fridays ago, the front-page headline read, "Unruly Mule Deer." The deer are calving, sometimes in close proximity to people. When people inadvertently get near, the mother deer have been charging them. The deer are apparently very aggressive to protect their young. One woman said that a deer charged her each morning as she walked her dog. You've gotta wonder why she didn't just walk her dog somewhere else!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Wacky and Weird

I think "Wacky and Weird" will become a regular part of my blog posts because there seems to be so much of it here. I get my daily dose of entertainment just by reading Boulder's paper, The Daily Camera.

Okay, Boulder's 5th Annual Naked Bike Ride, happened a few Saturdays ago. No, I did not participate or spectate. This year the group was protesting against oil dependency. Exactly who "they" are and who organizes this, I don't know.

Here's an interview that I thought was hysterical: "I'm just gonna follow the glare of the glowing white asses," said Juanita Gable, 39, of Denver, who participated in the naked ride for the first time. "It seemed like a fun time," Gable said. "And I believe in the cause." . . . . Gable, who wore a bra and underwear, said she opted not to go fully nude because, " It's my first time. I'm nervous. What if I get a flat?" she said. "I might end up in the middle of nowhere looking for someone to help me fix my tire--naked." OOOOkkkkayy. Like it would be that much better to be in your bra and underwear in the middle of nowhere with a flat. But whatever. I get my daily dose of the wacky and weird just by reading my morning paper and it makes me happy! In case you are looking for one to participate in, Denver's version of the Naked Bike Ride is planned for July 12. And, on the same day as Boulder's, a massive Naked Bike Ride was planned to start in Hyde Park in London. So apparently it's a trend. There have been Naked Bike rides in as many as 70 cities and 20 countries. You can "see more photos and video of Saturday's Naked Bike Ride through Boulder at www.dailycamera.com."

Now, going nude in Boulder is not legal but the police tend to turn their heads the other way for this event. Seems kinda unfair if you are the priest who got arrested near here last August for indecent exposure. He apparently saw fit to leave his house at 4 am one morning, completely naked, walk to the local high school track, take a jog around it, and then walk home. When asked why he went jogging without any clothes, he told police something to the effect that jogging clothes made him too hot and sweaty.

Lost

Being new here, I find myself getting lost--a lot. It was only about a year ago that I stopped getting lost frequently in Maryland! So to be getting lost again on a regular basis is at times maddening, frustrating and tiresome. Especially when losing my way makes us late.

But, there's a funny thing about getting lost--I've learned it before and I'm being reminded again. I may not get where I am going quickly or efficiently but every time I get lost, I learn something. Connections get made in my brain--Oh, this is how those streets connect. Wow, I've never been here before. I get small glimpses of how it all fits together. Slowly it becomes a comprehensive mind map of where I live.

I get some general ideas from my printed road map but, really, I'm not all that great at reading a map. At least not until I have some real life experience to apply to what I'm seeing on paper. It all starts to come together for me once I've "been there."

Getting lost would seem to be a "mistake." But I think we need another word for these kinds of experiences that lead us to new connections and learning. The way I've learned it, a mistake is something bad. But it's these twists and turns of life that are our best teachers.

I see this so clearly with the kids. The way they go about things may sometimes look like they are "lost" or mistaken. But we miss the point when we interpret it this way. Kids are so much better at trial and error than most adults because, until a certain point, kids aren't afraid of doing the wrong thing. Their minds are still free from concepts like mistakes and the "wrong way to do things." They do, they try, they experiment and see what happens. Just like my wrong turns in driving ultimately give me a better mental map of where I'm going, so their "wrong" turns help them see how things in their world are connected.

We do our kids better if we, metaphorically, let them drive, get lost, and find their way. We are, of course, always available to give directions. But directions are only helpful when someone actually wants them. Every try to force a lost driver to ask for directions? How well does that work? It doesn't work any better with our kids and their learning!

So, let's go for a drive.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Learning All The Time

The past 6 months have been particulary interesting with Oliver. Levi went to kindergarten but Oliver is my non-schooled child. I have been in wonder and awe as he learns how to read and explores the beginnings of math. He seemed on the brink of "getting" reading a while back and I thought it would be a good time to try some phonics. Not. He HATED every second of it and had no hesitations in letting me know. After a bit of hand-wringing, I came to my senses, reminded myself that he was only 5, and backed off--totally. Since then he's gone thru the progression of pointing out "sight" words, asking what combinations of letters spelled, asking how to spell words, asking to have words written on his back at bedtime to see if he could figure them out. Slowly but surely, he's learning to read--in his own time, in his own way, by his own methods. He's also been going thru the same process with understanding adding. First, he asked nonsense questions--does 1 + 1 = 5? And even if I held up one finger on one hand and one on the other, he still didn't get it. Then some developmental switch flipped and the concept of addition made sense. Now he can add simple numbers and is curious about the addition of larger numbers. Now he says, 2 + 2 = 4, 4 + 4 = 8. That's as far as he can go alone but he then asks about 8 + 8, 16 + 16, . . . .

And so it goes, one thing leading to another to another.

Friday, June 13, 2008

We're Not In Kansas Anymore, Toto!

One of the things I missed about the west was being around people who were clearly living an alternative lifestyle. So . . . I needed a haircut and posted on my local Yahoo home schooling group asking for recommendations for a hairdresser. I got several and picked one--a stylist at a salon in Boulder called Urban Boulder. I made the appointment a few days ago and gleefully went off yesterday for the much needed haircut.

Now, salons aren't the most mainstream of places usually. I find that stylists often do funky things with their hair and clothes. Fine. But . . . I was more than a little surprised at what I found when I walked into this salon. The first thing I noticed was the scarlet settee under the huge plate-glass window--with the largest great dane on it I have ever seen in my life. Otis was stretched out full length with his chin resting on the back of the settee, gazing lazily out of the window. It was clearly Otis' couch, not for clients! If you choose to sit on it, you choose to be covered with Otis.

After meeting Otis, I took my first real look around the salon itself. The owner and woman sitting at the reception desk had, predictably, a spiky peroxided hairdo. It took me a moment to notice her extensive tattoos. Slowly I noticed that having your body at least 1/4 covered with tattoos was a definite prerequisite to working there. Imagine, a room full of 10 women, all cutting hair, all hugely tattooed.

Oh, and did I mention the resident pit bull? Very friendly but she made me a little nervous.

So, I got my evidence of alternative lifestyles.

Friday, May 30, 2008

In The Past Few Days . . .

Oliver has insisted that he really has had a broken leg (not) and that the speed limit in Africa is 200 mph. He also woke me up this morning with the news that his guinea pig was under my bed. This despite his being expressly forbidden from getting his guinea pig out without adult supervision due to rough treatment and the fact that I am sick of retrieving Enrico from under and behind things. Ah, the mind of a 5 year-old.

Location Lag

It's similar to jet lag but instead of your brain being puzzled by time, it's puzzled by location and time zones. I keep doing things like seeing a CO license plate and thinking, "Boy, they're far from home." Duh. I also got really frustrated the other day when the east coast company I was calling wasn't answering. I kept getting an annoying voice mail telling me their business hours were 8 am-5 pm. So WHY, at 3:15 pm, weren't they answering the phone? Because I was no longer on eastern time like them.

My mom and stepdad's whereabouts haven't helped any. For the past 2 months, they've been in New Zealand so when we talked to them, it was always the next day--they were 16 or 17 hours ahead of us. Now they're back and in a matter of days have been in SF and now in Georgia. Given that I can't seem to remember what time zone I'm in, imagine my trying to figure out what time it is where they are.

Mom called the other day from SF and said, I wanted to call you and was trying to figure out what time it was in Baltimore--only you don't live there anymore. She called me this morning from Georgia. It was 9 am here and I thought. "Boy, they're up early." Well, yea, if they were on Mountain Time--but it was already 11 am there. So we're all kinda wacked out time-wise. Sorry if I call you at some strange hour--I cannot yet be held accountable for time or location related errors.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Toothless Wonder


Oliver lost his first tooth 2 days ago. It seems like it was loose just briefly. The kids came flying down the stairs shreiking and I braced myself for whatever conflict was brewing but it was just the falling out of the tooth, apparently aided by Levi's (requested) slapping Oliver in the face (!?).


We have a little silver container with a tiny gold fairy on the top that we put teeth in for the tooth fairy. Oliver was looking at it yesterday and exclaimed, "Oh, so that's what the tooth fairly looks like!" Our tooth fairy brings gold Pochantas dollars and, much to his delight, Oliver found one under his pillow this morning.

What We're Up To



Well first, I'm overdue in introducing you to the two new members of our family, Enrico and Caruso, the guinea pigs. (They're girls but that's what happens when you pick names and then find that there are only females at the pet store.) Their names come from a series of books we've just discovered about a golden hamster named Freddy and his companions, Enrico and Caruso, the guinea pigs. We're having a good time with them. Levi sits on the couch with Caruso on his chest and watches TV. Oliver's guinea pig is a bit less fortunate--we've discovered that O really isn't ready for pet ownership! He has to be closely supervised with Enrico to prevent rough treatment! He intends to be sweet to her but it just doesn't seem to turn out that way yet!

As is typical of springtime in Colorado, our weather has fluctuated wildly between hot and sunny and temps in the 80's to days like today when it's cloudy, rainy and 50 degrees. During the hot days, the kids have been obsessed with water fights in the backyard.


From a book called Howtoons, a present from Grandma M, Adam and the kids made marshmallow shooters from PVC pipe. You insert the marshmallow, give a good hard blow and the marshmallow comes flying out. Saturday was spent between water fights and shooting mini-marshmallows all over the yard. The dog was very happy about this. The kids experimented with shooting them onto the roof, at each other, seeing how far they could propel them and seeing how many they could blow out without stopping up the shooter.

Beware of an ambush by water or marshmallow when you come visit.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Live Music

We are continuing to delight in our little town here. Last night we were the lucky recepients of 2 tickets to a live taping of "etown," a weekly one hour radio show aired on public broadcasting stations. Etown is s non-profit with a "mission to educate, entertain and inspire a diverse audience, through music and conversation, to create a socially responsible and environmentall sustainable world." They are based here in Boulder.

We were lucky enough to see performances by Jakob Dylan (yes, son of Bob) and Joe Ely & Joel Guzman. If you haven't heard Joe Ely (as I hadn't), take a listen via Amazon or iTunes. He's from West Texas and his music is a wonderful combination of all sorts of genres--rock, country, blues, folk, zydeco and more. He's recently been playing with Joel Guzman who can jam on the accordion, something I didn't know was possible. They were a particular pleasure to watch because they took so much pleasure in playing.

If you are interested in hearing this etown recording or others, visit their website at www.etown.org to find a local PBS station that airs the show.

It was lovely to leave the Boulder Theater (an old movie theatre turned performing arts space with the original old-fashioned marquee outside) and stroll down the Pearl Street Mall past people eating at outside, playing music on the mall, and gathered to visit and talk.

Are we happy? Yes, we are!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Altitude

Well, I'm standing here making pancakes and they look distinctly anemic--they're sorta limp and they keep coming out really dark but if I turn the heat down, they don't cook through the middle. (They taste fine though!) Now, I don't really know what the issue with my batter was b/c it stayed pretty runny too. The high altitude instructions caught my eye after it was too late to amend my ingredients. And, frankly, I probably would have ignored them anyway in a kind of, pshaww, could it really make a difference way?

You'll wonder if I learn from the past when I tell you the story that these pancakes made me recall. When I was a teenager, I lived in Aspen, CO with my mom and step-dad, Jack. When he was a child, Jack's favorite birthday cake was a chocolate cake with caramel icing. His grandmother would always make this for him and it made him feel special. I decided to make one for him for his birthday. By this time, I was experience at baking--breads, muffins and cakes. So . . . I made the cake and it turned out fine.

Then on the to caramel icing. I followed all the directions in the sage book, The Joy of Cooking. The icing finished, I put it onto the cake. And it slllooowwwwlllyyyy ran off of the top and down the sides to end up puddled around the cake. Hmmm. Not to be beaten, I scooped it all back up, spread it and quickly stuck it into the fridge, thinking the cold might help it harden a bit. 5 minutes later a peek into the fridge revealed the same scene. Once again, I piled it all up again, spread it, and rushed it into the freezer--with the same result. I was stumped.The cake was good if not pretty. You had to cut your piece, put it onto it's side and spread your own icing.

This was 1979 and Aspen still had what I will always think of as a "real" bakery. You hardly see them anymore--one with the glass cases full of pastries and cakes and breads. And a real live baker, wearing a white baker's hat and covered with flour. In Aspen, this was Mr. Cliff Little, owner of Little Cliff's Bakery. Shortly after my icing failure, I was in town and went into Little Cliff's to ask Mr. Little what had gone wrong. I explained to him what had happened and he laughed and patted me on the back. "Honey, you can't make caramel at altitude. The boiling point is too low and you can never get the sugar to the candy stage!"

Well, it made me happy to know that the icing failure was nothing I had done wrong--expect for trying to cook it at 8000 feet!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

What's Wrong With This Picture?

We went to Target today and the kids each left with a new Nintendo DS cartridge. I left with a toilet plunger and a toilet brush. What did I do wrong?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Poop (Yes, You Read Correctly)

Parenting my 5 year-old isn't completely fun these days. He's hit the stage where bodily fluids, solids and noises are of constant and extreme fascination. Now, I know this is a normal developmental stage (why, oh why, did Mother Nature include this one?) but Oliver seems to be inhabiting an extreme end of the stage. Remember those nice bell curves someone taught you about long ago? It starts low on the left, rises up to the top, and then drops back down, down, down, showing the far, far outliers on the right. Well, go as far right as you can and you'd find O's point.

So first it was an fascination with diapers, what babies do in diapers, did he once wear a diaper?, and what are those things attached to the public bathroom walls (changing tables). He'll still stop me as I'm looking at a magazine and pass a photo of a baby with a diaper obviously showing. What's that?, he'll ask, though he clearly knows. And then we go through all the questions above.

He's discovered all the words for burping and passing gas and throwing up. He burps VERY loudly, VERY frequently, and then sings a little excuse-me song that, rather than begging pardon, highlights the act even more.

Sorry folks but here it comes--he also farts. LOUDLY and proudly. He turns to you and sticks his bottom out to do it. He sings the excuse-me song. He and his brother laugh uproariously. He comments when he does it, Levi does it, the dog does it.

Today in the car, he even proclaimed to have "barfed" twice although actually he's never thrown up in his life. He's so proud of it now. I'm sure he won't be so happy about it once it finally happens but right now he's insistent that he's part of the those-who-have-barfed club.

I can't figure out whether to ignore it (hard to do because it's really unpleasant to downright disgusting) or to add fuel to the fire in hopes that it'll flare and then burn down. Though I know that with boys this type of humor never dies, is it too much to hope for a lessening of the obsession?

At this point, I've gone for adding fuel to the fire and we are reading "The Truth About Poop," a kid's book, courtesy of our local library. He LOVES it. That's about as far as I can go in the if-you-can't-beat-them-join-them department.

Please, someone help!

An Another Thing . . .

about moving. I have this notion that if I could only get everything put away once then I could get it back that way again. So I'm in a constant state of frustration and catch-up. I think that someone needs to disabuse me of the notion of a non-cluttered June Cleaver house. After all, we're not a family who is out of the house from 8am-5pm. We're here, day in and day out, playing games, coloring, playing with play dough, doing projects (and therefore creating more clutter), playing with the guinea pigs, playing with the dog, hauling books and DVDs and books on CD home from the library. And if we're not here, we're at museums and parks and wading in the creek. We're swimming or hiking. We're walking the Pearl Street Mall discovering our new town. Which also means we're NOT here to clean up the mess.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

There's A Problem With Moving

Okay, well, there are LOTS of problems with moving but here's the one I'm facing down the hardest right now. The first few days after the boxes arrive, you put your head down, ignore the kids and let them watch lots of TV, eat pizza or go out, and make lots of progress. But that can't go on forever, especially when the kids actually start complaining that all you're doing is working and you aren't playing with them.

Daily life starts to happen. Despite the unpacked boxes and the general clutter of unpacked items yet to find a home, the dog needs to go on a walk, meals need to be made, grocery shopping needs to be done, the kids need books from the library, laundry needs to be done, bills paid, addresses need to be changed, driver's licenses need to be obtained (THAT'S a whole other story), blah, blah, blah. Oh yes, and I need to get some sleep. So . . . the unpacking grinds down to a glacial pace.

A grueling work week for Adam makes a grueling week for me at home with no relief. Last week he was gone 7am-11pm most days and then left yesterday for a week-long trip to Europe. Upon leaving he said, "Maybe you can make some more progress on this while I'm gone," indicating the "stuff." Yea, right. The only way I'll make progress is if someone takes the kids for an entire day and leaves me home alone and I don't see that happening in the near future.

In vast display of anal behavior, we decided to save the packing paper and boxes since we'll have to move out of this house once we buy one. So we've both been on our hands and knees spreading packing paper flat, rolling up the stacks and rubber-banding them together. I believe this has taken as much time as unpacking.

When we moved to our Fulton house from Columbia, we did a VAST weeding out. And once again, 6 months later, did the same upon our move here. NOW, we are here with just a small shipment of personal household goods and still I wonder, WHERE DID ALL THIS SHIT COME FROM!!!!????? When things come out of storage, anyone who looks at something and says, "Oh, I forgot about that!" has to immediately throw it in the trash.

Okay, so that's the problem with moving.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Welcome home to me!

How do you know when you're "home?" I knew it when I first moved to Colorado in 1978 while still in high school. There was something about the vastness of the sky and the afternoon shadows on the mountains that made my heart sing. I felt like my heart and soul had been born there. I think it takes a mountain for me to be "there" because the sight of Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainier gave me the same tickly feeling when we lived in the Pacific Northwest.

I've always wanted to come back to Colorado but I didn't really think it would happen--so imagine my continuing surprize to find myself here. Boulder sits right up next to the "front range," the first range of mountains in the Rockies. Look west and there they are. The taller peaks just behind the first are still snow covered. What a beautiful sight every day.

Boulder if the perfect combination to me--a small town with all the offerings of a larger city at hand. And Denver is just down the road. Boulder is loaded with parks, open space and trails for walking and biking. It seems like everyone has a dog and a bike. I'd like to know the number of dogs and bikes per capita. Today we were out for about 2 hours. We drove about 30 miles total and I counted 55 bikers out on the roads. I'm told I haven't seen anything yet.

Bikers and pedestrians reign supreme and the car is the second class citizen. Boulder makes it clear with huge day-glow green and red signs with flashing lights at cross walks that pedestrians have the right of way.

Today we ventured up into Boulder Canyon in search of Boulder Falls. We didn't find the falls b/c our directions were not at all specific but we did have fun playing along Boulder Creek which runs down the canyon and then into the city of Boulder. The Boulder Creek Path is a greenway with a paved path that runs from the canyon down through town for 15 miles.

We are living in a house we've rented in an area of Boulder called Gunbarrel. It's a community a few miles northwest of Boulder. We have wonderful neighbors who have taken us in whole heartedly. We've already been to 2 parties and a cookout!

Everything has fallen into place for us since we got here--great neighbors, great colleagues at Crocs, people offering us their baby sitter lists (!), and just being tickled to see the mountains every day.

So . . . welcome home to me!

Monday, April 21, 2008

We Made It

The past few weeks have been a bit of a frenzy--setting aside things for our temporary shipment of household goods, remodeling two bathrooms, canceling services in Baltimore and arranging the same in Boulder and, of course, saying goodbye to friends. But I must say that in some ways the frenzy actually kept me distracted from the reality of leaving. I feel like the absolute true reality of getting on a plane with a one-way ticket didn't start sinking in until yesterday. Our drive to the airport today was surreal.

And now here we are in Boulder, CO! Our travels were uneventful--planes left on time, kids were happy, the baggage all arrived and our rental car was ready. The day was cool and cloudy so the mountains were hidden until we got closer to Boulder. And then there they were, even snow-capped ones in the background. It really feels like the west, expansive landscapes, even a few tumbleweeds blowing across the highway!

We spent this afternoon getting settled into our suite at Boulder's Residence Inn where we'll stay until our rental house is ready at the end of the week. They have a compimentary appetizer and cocktail hour from 5 to 7. We made dinner of appetizers then played tennis on a small sports court in the middle of the complex.

Tomorrow we'll explore. The weatherman has promised sunny skies. Top on our agenda is a park day with the NICHE, a local homeschooling group at a park adjacent to the Boulder Public Library. So far, so good!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Okay, So Maybe I'm A Little Stressed

Our move approaches rapidly--a bit too rapidly. There is suddenly so much to do and so many people to see before we go.

The photo here shows the fragmented state of my mind. Earlier in the day yesterday, I did some errands with the kids and also picked up some dinner for Adam and I. Later in the evening when I went to the fridge to get our food out, I discovered not only our food but also the 4 DVDs I'd rented at Blockbuster and Levi's new swim goggles. I guess this is like Mother Brain (see earlier posts) but is Mother Brain combined with Moving Brain. Rough!

My current task (besides paying attention to my children and generally keeping the household running) is to set aside everything I think we'll need for the next 6 months while we're in temporary housing--the bare essentials. I have exactly one week to accomplish this. I get bogged down in questions like whether we should put the snap circuits in the first shipment or not. What about Candyland? Play dough? (The kids have recently had a resurgence in their interest in Candyland, one of the most boring games on earth for an adult once you've played it a few times. This could be reason enough for it to go into storage.) Also, how many crayons and markers does one family need?

This could be another opportunity for weeding out--except I don't have time! I actually fantasize about getting a huge dumpster and just shoveling things into it. We gave the kids shoe-box sized bins and offered an amount of money for each bin they filled with things to get rid of. We had high hopes. But each of them filled ONE bin. Sigh.

Well, it does provide a good chance on the other end to unpack things and realize you never missed them providing greater "permission" to get rid of them.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

For Those of You Following the Chocolate Obession

Well, I sent my dear friend, Lisa, some Chili Chocolate for her birthday. Here's an excerpt for the thank you note I got from her:

"You are evil. You are no better than the drug dealers and corner boys on the westside of Baltimore who sell their product to the dope fiends and scammers--not to mention all the upscale drug users who drive in from the 'burbs to buy a fix through the rolled down windows of the SUVs and Lexuses. Geez--I've got to stop watching The Wire. But that won't fix the real problem--my addiction to Lindt Dark Chili Chocolate. And it won't get you off the hook for having supplied me with my very first hit. . . .

I love it. My fantasy/nightmare is that one day I'll find the Lindt at Costco in a ridiculously low priced package of 24 bars. If so, I'll buy. Eat it. And then check myself into rehab."

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Maryland Zoo






We went to the Maryland Zoo on Sunday along with a friend of Levi's to celebrate her birthday. We were fortunate to have a sunny and warmish day among the cold, rainy days we've had recently.

We actually only saw a few animals! By the time we got there, took everyone to the bathroom, had lunch and let the kids each ride one of the rides they have there, we were running out of time! But all's well that ends well. The kids had a great time and the adults enjoyed the conversation together.

While eating his hot dog, Oliver said, "This is the BEST meal I've ever had!" Wow-- a hot dog at the zoo!

Westward, ho!

Well, it's official. We're moving to Boulder, CO--soon! It's bittersweet--I've made such wonderful friends here especially among home schoolers. So I'll be sad to say goodbye to you all. It's also sure that friends await us in Boulder. Some old friends await us too. Our friendship with Brad Fitch goes back 20+ years. He's in Estes Park, CO and along with his wife, Kathy, plays folk music around the area. Look him up at www.cowboybrad.com and hear some samples of his music.

We are very excited to return to CO where I went to high school and where my mom and step-dad still live when they are not traveling. There will be lots of things to explore in the Rocky Mountain State--with 300 days of sunshine a year!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Laurie Berkner


On Sunday we went to see Laurie Berkner, a singer of kid's silly kid's songs. One of my favorites goes, "Laurie has a pig on her head, a pig on her head, a pig on her head, a pig on her head. Laurie has a pig on her head and she keeps it there all day!" On and on you go with whoever you know wearing whatever animal on their head.

After the performance, Adam said once you heard one of her songs, you knew what the others would be like (sorry, Laurie) but personally, I like them and the kids do too.

Anyway, Levi loved the concert. Oliver found it engaging for about the first 15 minutes and then spent the next 45 obsessing about the pastry in the lobby. He and Adam finally left to get food while Levi and I finished out the concert!

Oliver is a great lover of food but it seems to be especially alluring to him if it's food not-at-home--McDonald's, the snack machine at the library or gym, my food, or any restaurant. Maybe he'll be some sort of foodie someday--a cook, food critic or ice cream taster! Meanwhile he'll keep begging for snacks wherever we go!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Weather

Levi has recently announced his latest profession: meteorology. We've spent some time recently exploring "extreme" conditions including volcanoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, and tidal waves. Levi and Dad recently watched "Storm Chasers," a show about people who "chase" tornadoes in order to film them, measure various aspects of them and, I suspect, because they love the adrenaline rush. So, we're on a weather kick.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Doctor's Office!

One of the advantages of having a blog is that there's a place I can rant. So here's one now.

Yesterday I was in the doctor's office for my yearly exam. As I was leaving, I noticed that the receptionists were answering the phone saying, "Doctor's office." I've received this greeting before at other physician's offices and I find it strange. Why don't they just say, Dr. Smith's office?

Can you imagine other generic greetings like this? Hello, grocery store. Hi, movie theatre. Hardware store, can I help you? Bookstore!

Is that weird, or what?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Booooring!

Today we attended a homeschool day at a local museum. I was looking forward to learning about Baltimore's past in the garment and paint industries. The kids really wanted a "stay-at-home" day but I convinced them to try it out, plus, friends were going to be there.

I did learn a few interesting things about Baltimore's history but I have to say that by and large, the presentation was boooooring. Far too much talking for the presentation to be engaging to young kids (or adults like my friend and me). Very schooly--lecture, questions, raise your hand before you speak. Ack! Plus a film on the paint industry using words for these young kids like "anachronism."

The kids were taking it well but I could see the eye-glaze and the general b0dy-slump coming on. It would only be moments before whining or wildness ensued. Happily for us, we aren't in school and we didn't have to stay. We slipped out, ate our snacks, and talked with our friends who initiated the leave-taking.

As sometimes happens, the best laid plans for learning derail. But the great thing is that as often, learning comes when you least expect it. Sitting in bed last night at a very late hour, I was trying to get Levi to stop talking and to settle down into our bedtime reading. He suddenly sat up and announced, "Mama, math is very important! You need it for a lot of things like shopping to see if you have enough money to buy the things you need." He went on to give me his own examples of his understanding of this and I gave him some of my own. Being the joker he is, he suggested that I give him and Oliver some money and let them go shopping for "school." Nice try. We did make plans to get our toy cash register out, make a pretend store at home, and use our play money to shop.

So besides the freedom to leave boring presentations, home schooling gives us the freedom to facilitate our children's learning about ideas as they become important to them. Because of Levi's connection of math to everyday activities, he's motivated to learn about math. Math is not just a theoretical thing that someone is telling him he must learn and telling him when he must learn it.

One of the ways that Levi has started to learn about the importance of math is through budgeting his allowance. As parents, we've gone back and forth and around the block regarding allowance. And if you seek advice from the "experts" you'll find a variety of opinions. We have finally arrived at this: an amount for each child weekly, not tied to chores. At this point, it is their share of the family money to spend as they wish. I wanted allowance to be a tool for the kids to start learning about money, spending and budgeting. And I believe that for them to learn, we as parents, must keep our opinions about their purchases to ourselves. And that we must offer them enough at any given age that it can be used as a tool. Give too little and they're hopeless to buy anything now let alone save for the future. Give too much and their desires meet little resistance compared to their wants leading to no need to save.

It is HARD to watch them buy things that I consider junk or things I know are poorly made and will fall apart and disappoint them soon. I do sometimes offer things for them to think about--the construction of the toy, is it something they really want or are they just wanting to spend their money, etc. But once those things are voiced, I let them choose--and let them learn. Sometimes they are happy and sometimes they are disappointed. I cringe at the "stuff" flowing into the house sometimes--but I also think that I would rather them have experiences with disappointing purchases or what happens when money "burns a hole in their pockets" with five dollars and regarding a Pokemon card instead of now instead of a thousand dollars later.

Maybe we will go shopping for school!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Is it only me . . .

Or does anybody else find earbuds (vs. headphones) to be totally annoying? First of all, mine fall out of my ears no matter how hard I stuff them in there. I already have the smallest set I can find. Then, as a result of stuffing them in there, my ears start to hurt. The cords get tangled so that I spend at least 5 minutes trying the wrest them apart each time I use them. What, I ask, is so great about these things?

Please people, am I the only one with ear-bud use deficiency or do I have company out there?

Friday, March 14, 2008

Jr. Palentologist and Signs of Spring




Spring is promising to come though there'll be lots of back and forth of weather before it's here to stay. But . . . this spring day invited use outside. We took a little hike on our property looking for signs of spring and founds daffodils poking their stems up from the brown leaves, small buds on some of the trees, and cardinals.

Our explorations led the kids to some rocks which they collected and then smashed with a hammer in the hopes of finding crystals inside. On a walk a few weeks ago, the kids found "crystals" and developed a plan to sell them to the Maryland Science Center to fund a trip to Fiji. Parents will be left behind on this trip but they assured me they'll call and write. Now we have an even larger rock collection. Hopefully they will fund even more exotic trips.


We've also been up to:

--an experiment inspired by The Magic Schoolbus Catches a Wave DVD which has 3 episodes on it about water. We put water in a jar, right up to the top, put the lid on, put it in a plastic bag for safety and then put it in the freezer. We expected the jar to crack but the expansion of the ice managed to pop the lid off. We'll probably try again with a jar with a tighter lid.

--We tried to make a Chinese water clock by putting a plastic plate with a small hole in it into a bucket of water. The instructions we had said that the amount of time it took for the plate to sink would be considered an amount of time like an hour and we could ring a gong or bell to mark the passing of the time. Alas, our plate did not sink even after several adjustments to the plate.

--Reading about the spring equinox. Here's a good one that explains what the equinox is, why it happens, and the customs of different countries and time periods to celebrate the coming of spring. The equinox is one of the 2 days of the year when there is an equal amount of daylight and dark. The fall equinox is the other.
We're trying to decide on what to do for our own equinox celebration. What will you do?


WORLD HEAR THIS!


Levi is DONE with vision therapy. Right now he and I are the happiest people on earth. I wasn't sure who it would be more traumatic for, him or me, if he need to go another round of therapy.

I'm going to tell this story for those of you who don't know about this because I wish so many more families knew about this.

Before we started homeschooling, there was some suggestion from Levi's teachers that he had trouble focusing in the classroom and was often distractible. Before any in depth look at his symptoms, educators were hinting at attention disorders. We finally felt uncomfortable enough with what we were hearing and then what I observed at home that we decided to pursue some testing to tease it out. Our purpose was to get more information so we could help address whatever problems might exist.

Long story short, a highly recommended clinical psychologist that I felt very confident in (my psychology background gave me some good measures) gave him a diagnosis of Attention Deficit Disorder without Hyperactivity. Also due to my background in pyschology and some work I had done with young kids with ADD and ADHD, something did not ring true to me about the diagnosis. It wasn't a "not my kid" reaction--I just felt something wasn't right with the diagnosis.

Before we pursued the ADD any further, I decided to take Levi's test results and consult with 2 people in 2 very different areas. One was an educator and another is a local occupational therapist. It was striking that both advised me, totally separate from one another, that before we accepted an ADD diagnosis, Levi should have a developmental eye exam. I had never heard of this--Levi had had the usual eye exam for acuity (do your lens work to focus?) but these exams do not include an evaluation of things like the accuracy of binocular vision, how well your eyes look at the same spot on the page at the same time, and how well your eyes scan a line of print. When these things don't work, the result can be a variety of things like double vision, eye fatigue, print fading and receding, nausea when reading, and more.

So . . . we are lucky to have several developmental optometrists in our area and we arranged an exam. And, lo and behold, Levi did exhibit pronounced problems with his neuromuscular eye development--even though his visual acuity was 20/20. So . . . these problems can be addressed with "vision therapy", sort of like physical therapy for the eyes. Session are twice a week for an hour. After 16 sessions, there's a progress exam. The therapy works but can take a while. It took Levi 5 "rounds" of therapy--almost a year, to reach this point.

Levi had a progress exam just after Christmas with his own high hopes that he'd be done and was truly devastated when the doctor recommended continuing. He was so upset and sad that his crying was heard down the hallway and into the waiting room. So it was with great nervousness that we went for his progress exam today.

I had a feeling it would go well b/c lately he's been picking up books on his own instead of always asking to be read to. And his out loud reading has gotten very fluid. And we got good news. He's to be congratulated (me too!) for sticking it out and working hard.

Largely, I write this to get the information out. I feel like we had a near miss and could have been following a mistaken diagnosis for who knows how long and probably with great frustration. If one family can be spared that by reading this, I'd be pleased.

Here's a bit from College of Optometrists in Vision Development (http://www.covd.org/):

Physical signs or symptoms

Frequent headaches or eye strain
Blurring of distance or near vision, particularly after reading or other close work
Avoidance of close work or other visually demanding tasks
Poor judgment of depth
Turning of an eye in or out, up or down
Tendency to cover or close one eye, or favor the vision in one eye
Double vision
Poor hand-eye coordination
Difficulty following a moving target
Dizziness or motion sickness

Performance problems

Poor reading comprehension
Difficulty copying from one place to another
Loss of place, repetition, and/or omission of words while reading
Difficulty changing focus from distance to near and back
Poor posture when reading or writing
Poor handwriting
Can respond orally but can't get the same information down on paper
Letter and word reversals
Difficulty judging sizes and shapes

Children with these neuromuscular vision problems are often misdiagnosed with learning disabilities, ADD or ADHD, and dyslexia.

So this is my plea to you: if your child or your friend's child or your neighbor's child is having learning problems, pass this information on to them along with the above website!

And please send Levi your congratulations!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Honestly, Some of You Wanted to Know

Okay kids. I truly had a few of you waiting with baited breath for the result of my research on lay vs. lie. Welcome, grammar lovers! Here goes:

Again, this is from Grammar Girl and can be found in its entirety at http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/lay-versus-lie.aspx. Believe me, you'll probably need to reference this one again.

So . . . according to Grammar Girl, lay requires a direct object. (Stay with me here.) As in, Lay the book on the table (the book being the direct object.) Lie does not require a direct object as in I am going to lie down on the sofa.

Says GG, "you lay something down. People lie down by themselves."

Okay, now if that didn't confuse you, here's where the going really gets tough because lay is the past tense of lie:


"So, anyway, here's how to conjugate these two verbs: The past tense of lie is lay, so

Last week, Steve lay down on the floor.
The cat lay in the mud after it rained yesterday.

The past tense of lay is laid, so

Last week, I laid the TPS report on your desk.
Mary forcefully laid her ring on the table.

The past participle of lie is lain, so

Steve has lain on the floor for days.
The cat has lain in the mud for hours.

The past participle of lay is laid, so

I have laid the TPS report on your desk.
Mary has forcefully laid her ring on the table.

Don't feel bad if you can't remember these right away. Practice will help, and truthfully, I still have to look them up every time I use them. It's just important to know what you know, and what you don't know, and to go to the trouble to look it up and get it right because these are hard-and-fast rules.That's all. "

Aren't you glad you asked?

Goodbye Mom Jeans, . . .

hello low-er rise. Yes, I did get to go shopping. Yee ha! The result was new jeans and few other pair of pants, a few catalogue items I'm still considering, and new glasses. New glasses not here yet so you'll have to wait a few days to see me in them.

As for the underwear, (I swear, this won't be more than you want to know), I bought some only to come home and find out that the bottom coverage was not generous so I wasted $25 on that venture but now I know.

Oh, yes. And some cute sandals that will take me into my hip spring!

Monday, March 10, 2008

On and on and on . . .

Oliver has been hooked on the idea of infinity for a while. A big concept for a 5 year-old mind, let alone an adult one! He asks me things like, "How long until we get there? Infinity minutes?" He thinks this is REALLY funny.

He also tells me he can count to infinity then says, "One, two, . . . infinity!" He tries out things like adding numbers to infinity. I can't seem to explain to him why this really isn't possible just like I can't seem to explain to him why you really can't count to infinity. The ideas they wrap their heads around amaze me.

He's also beginning to "get" addition. As I was putting him to bed tonight, he was saying, "Two plus one is three, right?" "Ten plus one is eleven, right?" He's been playing with these concepts for a while, especially when we play games that require addition. Usually he has to count to add things but but tonight, poof, he was doing them in his head.

He just turned 5 which has been useful for encouraging himself to try things new and old that he hasn't liked before, hasn't been able to do or has thought he couldn't do. Now he frequently protests initially--I don't like it, I can't, etc., --but then says, "But I haven't tried it since I was five, have I?"

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Electricity--Yikes!


Today we played with snap circuits to make a water alarm, sound controlled by a light receptor, and a few other sound circuits. I must say that playing with snap circuits with very curious children and one who's impulsive definitely quickens one's pulse. Despite my attempted explanations about short circuits and requests that, until we understand circuits and electricity better, its would be best not to experiment, I often felt that one of the kids was in immediate danger of getting zapped and our equipment getting fried. Hopefully our snap circuits will actually teach us (me included!) about electricity. For today, it was just fun to make a lot of noises, make them louder and softer, and try not to get electrocuted.

Just In Case You Were Wondering

Did you know that yesterday, March 4, was National Grammar Day? Neither did I until I went to www.grammargirl.com to look up a grammar question that had been plaguing me. (Who makes up these holidays, anyway? My guess is that Grammar Girl made this one up.)

Anyway, I have been wondering over the difference of usage between "further" and "farther." So here's the answer for those of you who've been dying to know.

Says Grammar Girl: "The quick and dirty rule is that farther relates to physical distance and further relates to figurative distance. If you can't decide which one to use, you're safer using further because farther has some restrictions, and if you tend to get confused, try using furthermore instead of further.

Now you know.

Next, laying and lying, which I have never figured out.

The Fashion Police . . .

visited my house. I was convicted of 2 major offences: wearing "Mom" jeans, you know, the ones that come way up around your waist, and; wearing "granny panties," which I will just say can best be described as uninspired cotton underwear with sagging elastic. My 2 minor offenses were: glasses frames that, while not dorky, are not deemed to be really hip, and; 2 garment died L.L. Bean pullover 1/4 zip shirts.

I do like fun clothes but due to a combination of lack of time to shop, total annoyance at the act of trying to find jeans that fit, and generally ignoring changing fashion, I've found myself in a fashion rut. BUT, help is on the way! My husband is taking me shopping--yes, my husband, household fashionista and my best clothing advisor. Sort of my own personal shopper. I go into the dressing room and he comes and say, "Here, try this on."

It's funny b/c our positions is this respect have totally changed over the years. I used to enjoy the occasional clothes shopping trip to the mall and he was the one tapping his foot wondering if we could leave now. In the ensuing years, he started working in the sports apparel industry and his awareness of general and personal fashion changed. Meanwhile, I left the workplace and didn't need to be as inspired about what to wear. Now he's the one checking my t-shirt for the "hand feel" of the fabric, examining my seams, and talking about color trends. I am the one tapping my foot at yet another store and saying, Can we go home yet.

We have a babysitter for a several hours this weekend--first stop, Lenscrafters. Second stop, hip jeans.

See if you recognize me in the coming weeks!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Chocolate

A few weekends ago, a homeschooling friend introduced me to chili chocolate--that's right, dark chocolate with chilis in it. It's hard to describe. The first few bites taste just like dark chocolate but then you become aware of this lovely spicy hotness in the background. It's DELICIOUS and I have become obsessed with it. The brand I had is by Lindt and part of their "Excellence" collection.

I've been told that local Target stores carry it--unhappily, I haven't made it to Target. (If you go to Target to buy it and find they are out, I did it.) I did find a cherry and chili chocolate at my local health food store, a different brand. Though good, it wasn't good enough. I've been into several grocery stores and found other Lindt flavors but no chili. So then I started looking for it on the internet. I wasn't even successful at finding it on the Lindt website. But I can now report success at www.worldwidechocolate.com. Am I going to order it? You bet your boots! Not just one either but their 6 bar package.

The sickest thing about all of this is that we are now the proud owners of 2 lb. 10 oz. of Godiva chocolate that arrived yesterday as a thank you gift. But do I care? No. I need chili chocolate and I intend to get some.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Playing with Fire

Yesterday while Adam and Levi were out together, Oliver and I stayed home. We played on the tree swing, jumped on the trampoline and then built a small fire in our outdoor firepit. Much to Oliver's disappointment, we didn't have anything to roast. He tried to roast a peppermint stick (!?) but found that he couldn't keep it on a stick for roasting. We did stir the fire and have fun throwing small sticks on it to keep it going. Oliver enjoyed experimenting with throwing water on the fire to put it out--a cupful at a time. At one point he blew on it to put it out and, whoa, it flamed again! He discovered something about air and fire. Finally we got a bucket and doused it well.

At about 11:15 pm, I was reading in bed when I noticed a smell like burning rubber or what I can only describe as the smell of an electrical fire. The smell was strongest in the master bedroom and bathroom. I searched around the house and found nothing amiss--no smoke or fire inside or out. Adam came up and looked too but we couldn't find anything. But the smell persisted and seemed to get stronger--and it made me feel sick at my stomach. I have to say that I had a fleeting moment of panic when I wondered if we had put our campfire out well enough and if I had set the house on fire.

Afraid that we might have a fire in our walls that wasn't yet apparent, we finally decided to call 911. The advised us to go ahead and evacuate the house and wait for the fire department. Two large firetrucks, sirens screaming and lights flashing, arrived at about 11:30. The whole scenario was frightening to Oliver who has been scared of fire alarms and fire trucks recently. Levi was able to understand that we were safe and that "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

The firemen DID smell the odor--so I know we weren't imagining it! They checked all of the outlets and used a thermographer to check the heat in the walls. All was determined to be safe and the source of the smell remains a mystery. As of this morning the smell was gone.

The crew had fought a fire earlier in the day and their gear still smelled like smoke. After they spent 45 minutes tromping around in our house, the inside smelled more like smoke than anything else!

We're sleepy today since the crew didn't leave until about 12:15 am. It took us all a while to settle down and sleep.

Thank you, fire fighters.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Soap Making






Inspired by a home schooling friend, I got all the supplies for making soap. We tried clear glycerin soap and opaque shea butter. The kids have the most fun with the clear soap because I bought small plastic marine animals to put into the bars. Levi made a bar with a blue star fish in it and one with an orange octopus. Oliver made one with a yellow seahorse.

We added coloring to the bars, soap glitter to some, and cucumber melon scent. I also tried some bars with the shea butter and a few other additions like oatmeal and clove. This turned okay but, not surprisingly not nearly as nice as the bars I buy from Molly at Good Scents Company! I discovered Molly's Soap many years ago when Adam climbed some mountain in the Pacific-Northwest and she was part of the group. I've been a loyal customer since! My favorite is her oatmeal-clove but she has many other nice ones.

The only failure was the hand-milled ginger soap I tried to make. The bottom of my bar was nice, smooth and hard but the top 2/3 was soft and frothy. Back to the drawing board!



Our experimentation has left us with a plentiful supply of soap so if you find a bar in your mailbox, you'll know why!

Friday, February 29, 2008

Leap Year Baby

We just welcomed our newest family member today, Baby Will, born in Savannah, GA. He weighed in at 8 lbs., 7 oz. My petite cousin is more than happy to have him out in the world--both for the meeting of him but and for the relief to her seriously stretched abdomen.

Welcome to the world, Will!

Girls Like to Shop--Huh?

Well, you really do learn a lot by sitting in the front seat and driving. You become semi-invisible to your kids. I've definitely heard some funny stuff from the back seat but yesterday was the first one that took me aback a bit.

Levi: "Girls like to shop."

Oliver: "Really?"

Levi: "YEA, Girls LIKE to shop!"

Wow. So I said to him, Levi, that's interesting. How do you know that? He replied that he just knew that it was true. It gave me pause to wonder where this idea had come from. I can only guess from TV. I don't shop a lot and I don't know other women/girls in his life that are "shoppers." My husband, working in the sports apparel industry, is a far more enthusiastic shopper than I am, for clothes and shoes, that is.

Anyway, it lead to the discussion of what a stereotype is, why we rely on them and ways in which they aren't helpful. I'm not sure how much of an impression I made.

Our conversation ended with, "Yea, I know, Mama, but girls like to shop."

Oy.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Times, They Are A Changin'

I've planned to attend a few events--field trips or get-togethers with friends--and have run into a new snag. I'm used to the days (as they've been for the past 8 years) when I could make a plan and the kids were happy to go along. Recently Levi has started to protest when I don't consult him/them before making plans. Reasonable but I'm having a hard time getting used to it and remembering to consult him so we've had to bail on a few things this week. Sorry friends!

It's tricky sometimes, making a plan that suits us all. Since we spent most of our time together, there are usually 3 people's needs to meet! Mostly we do well in coming up with a plan we can all live with but there are definitely frustrations, disappointments and surprises. Levi's homebody genes are expressing themselves strongly these days. And none of us likes to get over-scheduled, something that can happen easily if I don't keep a careful eye on our calendar. It's hard to say no sometimes--there are so many wonderful things to do--see friends, go to parks and playdates, go on field trips and to all the great local museums. A good problem to have, I guess!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Best Laid Plans

Today I took the kids to a homeschool workshop at the Walter's Art Museum in Baltimore (www.thewalters.org). The programs always look so interesting (to me, at least!). Oliver turned 5 recently and so both the kids were old enough to go. We had plans to go a few weeks ago and got snowed out, much to our disappointment. Finally, the next one came around today and off we ventured into Baltimore.

Here's what they were headed for: "What can art tell us about the climate and the geography of the area in which it was made? Discover how geography influences art before and after it’s created. Be inspired by the plants, animals, and colors of Maryland as you create a work of art influenced by your own geography." Sounded fun to me!

The kids were excited--right until the time they got divided into age groups that ended up separating them . . . . Oliver marched off with his group--unhappily but he went. Levi, however, refused to go with his. I finally convinced Levi to just give it a try with the promise I'd check on him in 10 minutes. When I went to check on him, he was hanging back from the group looking very tentative, was clearly relieved to see me, and wanted to know what took me so long! It was clear that he wasn't going to stay. They were in the Egypt gallery--his distress was so great that he even claimed to hate Egypt!

So, with one child collected, I wanted to go check on Oliver but 45 minutes of wandering around the museum didn't turn up his group so Levi and I looked around a bit (he was impressed with the Roman and Greek art, unlike the Egyptian!) and then took a break in the museum cafe. Oliver appeared, all smiles, just as we were going to meet him. He said he had fun making his project but the rest was "boring."

Sometimes you just never know what's going to interesting and what's not.

New Hampshire



We just returned from 5 days in New Hampshire with Grandma M. New Hampshire has had lots of snow and a recent ice storm, turning the trees into a crystal forest. The snow provided sledding fun for the kids plus a half day of skiing at Crotched Mountain, a small ski area nearby.

One day we ventured to Worchester, MA to go to the Higgins Armory (http://www.higgings.org/):

"The Higgins Armory Museum enjoys the distinction of being the only museum in the Western Hemisphere entirely devoted to the study and display of arms and armor, but this is just one of many ways in which the Higgins is unique. Our founder, John Woodman Higgins, chose to house his fascinating and eclectic collection in a building of surprising contrasts, from its steel and glass Art Deco exterior to the vaulted Medieval Great Hall. Visitors will be amazed at the scope and breadth of historical, cultural and technological periods represented by the objects, amassed by a passionate collector over the course of a lifetime. Artifacts ranging from Corinthian helmets of ancient Greece to ornate suits of armor from the height of the Renaissance give our visitors an exciting glimpse into the past, while our many informative and entertaining programs help to interpret the collection in a broad cultural context." The kids were quite impressed with the lances, battle axes, and mauls we saw--very popular items with the boys!

Their children's area holds at least a dozen real armour helmets of all different styles that can be tried on. A dress up area held capes, tunics and, unfortunately for the boys, an extremely large collection of gowns and other girls attire. Also in the children's area was a huge dragon by local artist Hillary Scott. There were supplies available for making and applying scales to the dragon. The museums special exhibit was a display of sculpted dragon heads of varying sorts by Scott.

The Mystical Menagerie of Hilary Scott, displayed "a group of fanciful 'trophy head' sculptures of dragons, dinosaurs, and other mystical beasts" created by the Somerville, MA artist (visit http://www.eclecticsculpture.com/ to see more of his work).

Our trip also held a trip to Mariposa Museum and World Culture Center in Peterborough, NH (http://www.mariposamuseum.org/). Their collection holds folkart, textiles, costumes, art, puppets, toys and instruments from six continents. The kids went on a "scavenger hunt" for animalitos (Mexican painted animals) in the museum. In the dress up area, the kids tried clothes from China, Japan and Vietnam as part of the current exhibit on those countries. Around the corner, we found dozens of puppets from around the world. The kids put on a puppet show that only other puppets were allowed to watch.

A real favorite was found on the 3rd floor where there were musical instruments from around the world. Large, medium and small drums, rain sticks, a small harp, a child-sized guitar, a variety of marimbas, and other instruments I can't even name. All the instruments were available to be played. Drums were the most popular with us!

Besides all that, there was lots of relaxation. Grandma has a bin of toys leftover from Daddy's day--real metal transformers, Matchbox cars, and other random things. A bin of "new" toys has great appeal. We read books, watched movies, slept late (and sent the early risers up to Grandma!).

Monday, February 11, 2008

Earth Sciences



We've been taking a bit of a tour of earth sciences lately. We've done some reading about the layers of the earth, talked about earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes, and tornadoes, and more about weather. Our Usborne Internet-Linked Planet Earth Encyclopedia (and no, I don't sell Usborne but I love it!) put us onto a neat site from National Geographic where you can make your own simulation of a tornado, earthquake, and volcano. You choose certain conditions and get to see how it affects your natural disaster. (www.nationalgeographic.com/forcesofnature/interactive/index.html?section=v)

We did a fun and simple experiment this morning that demonstrates what happens when air heats up. We took a large soda bottle and put a balloon over the opening. When you put the bottom of the bottle into hot water, the air inside the bottle warms and rises as demostrated by the balloon filling with air. Take the bottle out, the air cools and the balloon deflates. We had fun seeing how fast we could make the balloon fill or deflate by changing the water temperature or taking the bottle outside so the air cooled faster.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Port Discovery



Yesterday we went to Baltimore's children's museum, Port Discovery. There's a 3 story climing maze that goes up through the center of the museum. It's made from rope so it looks like the kids are climbing through the rigging of a huge ship. You can climb up and come down a black slide back to the first floor--or you can exit on the 2nd or 3rd floors of the museum. The maze seemed to be Levi's favorite thing, something he wanted to go back to again and again.
A new exhibit in the museum is called The Wonder of Water full of all sorts of water play. There's a huge "sink" that water runs through and squirts out of. There are toys to float along the stream, small fountains and square pieces that can be inserted to change or stop the flow of water.

You can stand inside a large metal ring, pull the ropes hanging inside, make the ring rise from the bubble solution it's resting in, and find yourself inside a huge bubble.

Oliver's favorite was the water play, especially an area where there are 2 presssurized water guns that allow the kids to shoot water at various musical instruments hung on the wall--a cymbal, 2 drums, large wind chime-like tubes--to make noise with them.

As you see from the pictures, a favorite activity for L & O and our friends was to use the water guns to shoot water at one another! I even got a blast of water from Levi--he says it was an accident! Luckily we were prepared with dry clothes!

In the art room, we got to try Suminagashi, the art of Japanese paper marbling. Levi and I each made a piece, shown below. Unfortunately we missed out on the karaoke (!?). Maybe next time!




One Man's Trash (or Recycling) . . .


A few days ago, I took a paper sack of recyclables I had been saving and dumped them in the middle of our playroom floor with some glue and tape. For 2 days, the kids walked around and over the pile without seeming to notice any of it. Finally, one of them said,"What's this here for?"

"I don't know--what do you think you could do with it?"

What resulted was a great building project by both kids, though Oliver ultimately decided not to glue his together. Levi built a Pokemon computer, pictured above.

Mother Brain

I could blame all of this on the fog of my head cold but, honestly, the cold accounts for less than 5% of this—I don’t know—thing that happens to my brain. It’s been happening since I had children and its official name is Mother Brain. A friend of mine has the best description of this state of mind (or non-mind, as the case may be): It’s as if your brain is in a remote fishing village—and they don’t have a phone. My village has a phone but the connection and reception is periodic, unpredictable and unreliable. There may be extreme static even when they do get through with messages from my brain.


Once you become a Mother, your brain never feels the same again. At times it’s foggy, forgetful, in the clouds, fragmented. At first, it’s purely from newborn-exhaustion that, time of life with a baby when you are awake and asleep at all times of the day and night and the distinction between the two blurs.

When Levi was 11 days old, I went into a paper store to buy paper for our birth announcements. I was familiar with the clerk there. When I checked out with my supplies, she asked, “Aren’t you glad it’s Friday?” I realized that I had absolutely no idea what day it was or what time of day it was. It could have been midnight on Saturday for all I knew.
The newborn days pass and you start getting more sleep but your child’s needs change and grow and perhaps you have another child. You then start living in a constant state of multi-tasking. Sometimes my life feels like one of those “If You Give a Pig a Pancake” books where one things leads to another and another and another. The difference between those books and my life is that those stories ultimately lead in a full circle back to the circumstance that started the chain of events. Often, I never remember exactly what started it all.


So, yesterday I had a severe case of Mother Brain and I fear that I should not be left home alone with small children (not really but you know how this goes). So first, I left a burner on when I put the oatmeal into the bowls and discovered it a half-hour later. Thank goodness for those lights on my stovetop that tell me something is still hot. Oliver asked me to unwrap a cheese stick for him. I peeled the wrapper, threw it in the trash and handed him the cheese stick. A moment later, he gave me a puzzled look and asked, “Where’s my cheese stick?” I looked at him to see that he was holding the wrapper and that I had thrown the cheese stick into the trash.
Trying to get stuff done around the house, I put some clothes into the washer. That reminded me that there was a basket of laundry upstairs that still needed to be put away. I put these away and saw that there were some books in Levi’s room that needed to go back to the library so I stacked those at the top of the stairs. Then the kids needed help with something downstairs. Down I go, solve that problem . . . Now, what was I doing? Oh yea, getting stuff together for errands this afternoon.


We leave for errands with my list (almost left behind), the library books to be returned, and the video that is only a 2-day rental and must be returned today. We do our first errand, no problem. Now to the video store. I manage to drive right by it. I turn around, look for the DVD and can’t find it anywhere (and, yes, I am SURE it was in the car)—not in the bags holding the errand “stuff,” not in the pockets on the door, not under the seat, not anywhere on the floor board. Now I am totally stymied. Where is it? It’s now the next day and I still haven’t found it. I’m guessing it fell out of the car when I opened the door on a previous errand(?)! I’m feeling very crazy.


We get home from doing our errands and I realize I still haven’t called our mortgage company for the missing interest statement (it’s tax time), Levi needs his fingernails cut, the kitchen is a mess and the dishwasher needs to be unloaded. The dog and kids want to be fed. I do manage to call the library to sign up for a kids program later in the week, only to find out I waited too long and it’s full. The things that remain to be done are folding the laundry, responding to some not-optional-to-not-reply emails, pay some bills, clean up the materials from the craft we made from recycled materials, more tax stuff, wrap a book for mailing, make a list of things to be done for the kids’ birthday party this weekend, figure out some activities to feed Levi’s new interest in Earth Sciences , . . . . Shall I go on or are you sufficiently exhausted by now? Did I mention that the trash needs to be taken to the end of our very long driveway? (And that I forgot and now we have a week’s worth of trash in our trash can and no where to put this week’s trash?) Or that my husband will be out of town for the week?


Happily, my mother brain is getting a rest as I write this while sitting ALONE in Starbuck’s.