Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Back to School

Today was his first day back to pre-school.  Today was the first day of his third year of pre-school.  He was excited and so ready to go, even if we lost his bag and had to get a new one.  The morning went as smoothly as possible and when we got to school, he was gone.  He let go of my hand and left us in the dust.  He hung up his bag, found his name, made a friend, found his seat, sat down and got to work.  The little brother and I were left there standing and staring, sort of begging for some recognition and a good bye.

Instead we got a quick, "Bye" a reluctant High 5 and the look.  The look that screamed, in a nice brave 4.5 year old sort of way, "Leave me be.   I am with my people.  We are going to learn,"

I love school.  I love that he loves school.

The Chick is struggling.  He's a little distraught.  He was upset and depressed for a good 15 minutes after our goodbye,  just sitting in his seat staring out the window of the car.  He didn't even crack a smile until I took him to the gas station to get a drink of his choosing.  And I let him eat chocolate chips out of a measuring cup when we got home.  He was so sad, he didn't even want to go to Target.

It's hard to have your best friend leave you behind to learn.

boys first day

first day of school Elliott

first day of school Wyatt

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

On being boys


Summer is officially over.  All our cousins are back in school, we've attended Elliott's preschool orientation and we've gone to the store to buy some new kicks.  There is no need for "back-to-school" clothes when school starts and the days are still in the 90's (and your kid is in preschool and there is no concept of fashion amongst the 4 year old boy set).  There is however a need for new shoes when the kicks of summer have holes in the sides and 4.5 year olds are way to cool for Velcro.

Our summer went by in a blur.  Summer sometimes feels like a sprint.  We wait all year longing for the lazy days to come.  We wait for the adventures, the warm, the swimming, the dirt, the sprinklers, the friends and then as soon as summer hits, it's like we're making a mad dash to win the race to fall and before we know it, those longed for three months have vanished.  We do our best to look into the stands and wave to our families as we cross the finish line, but summer is so fleeting.  It's never enough.  There is more to do than time to do it.

Especially I think, when you are a little boy.  We've been on so many adventures this summer.  The first week of June I typed up a list and posted it to the fridge of everything we could do this summer.  I'd say we did 75% of our list at least once, some stuff more than once.  These boys of mine cannot get enough grass and dirt and wind and animals and water fights.


In the last few weeks I've been reading a book titled, "Boys should be boys: 7 secrets to raising healthy sons" by Dr. Meg Meeker.  It's been a fascinating read for me, the mother of two such creatures.  Doctor Meeker says that boys need three things to grow into good men. 
1.  a healthy relationship with mom and dad
2.  faith in God.
3.  solid family life.

I've been thinking about these things in relation to my kids a lot as I reflect over the summer.  Dr. Meeker says boys need to be outside, without too many rules and play and imagine and adventure.  That they need time away from gadgets and gizmo's that alienate them from their families.  They need moms who dig in the dirt and dads who do laundry.  They need to spend more time with both parents than daughters do. 

There is a whole chapter devoted to how moms can mess up their sons and the pitfalls to avoid.  There is another chapter dedicated to helping dads understand how to let their sons know that they are proud of them, and give their blessings to their boys as children so that they grow up to be good adults.  I learned a lot from reading this book about my kids, their brains, and how to relax and let them be boys.

Dr. Meeker repeats over and over again that boys need time with their parents (both one on one and together) and with their families as much as possible.  As I reflect on this past summer, I have to admit that it's maybe going to go down on the records as one of the best.  We didn't go on any trips, do anything fancy or crazy, but we spent the summer as a family.
June was crazy with the move, an overworked dad and a stressed to the max mom.  When our dad left us for two weeks to go to Australia in July, saying that our lives were bordering on disaster is an understatement.  There was just too much!  You all know what I'm talking about right?

Well, the two weeks ended and for the next five, we had our dad.  We had our family.  Every single day felt like a Saturday because we were sleeping in, spending time together and having fun.  Our dad went on our weekly outings with the gang.  We worked on projects with the boys.  We went to the park, to shavy jones, swimming at great grandpas and so many other things together.  We spent more time together this summer as a family - in a five week period, than, honestly, we did in the previous 3 months.

Oh summer! This year, you truly blessed our family.

Blessed us with sun, and play, and family time.  Blessed us with cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents.  Blessed us with hamburgers and parties, and swimming in the dark.  Blessed us with bug hunts, train adventures, weekly excursions, lazy mornings, learning to cross our eyes and lots of laughter.


I know my boys are little and that memories for them are pretty fleeting.  Things blur together and they probably won't remember the summer their dad was home too much once they get bigger.  But for me, being the goofy mom walking a few steps behind with her camera, this will go down as one of the best summers we'll ever have.




Monday, August 22, 2011

Borrowing the idea

First, I love Pinterest.  If you don't have a pinterest account, sign-up for one.  It is the most lovely, refreshing way to get lost on the internet.  It is full of pretty and powerful and crafty and clever.  I have yet to find anything icky on Pinterest.

Second, I created my pinterest account when we moved into the new house.  This house was (and is) a blank slate with more wall space than I know what to do with.  I've spent most of my summer, when I get a few minutes to browse online when the boys are commatose in front of Phinneus and Ferb, looking at beautiful things I can do to decorate my home.

The problem with a site like pinterest is that a lot of what I see and think is lovely isn't something I have the time, know how, money or tools to do.  That however hasn't stopped me and I've taken matters into my own hands for a couple of projects.

A few weeks ago I found on pinterest a beautiful piece of art.  It was a blank canvas, with a quote on it in raised wooden letters, all painted white.  I followed the pins through the links and found that it was a custom art shop in the UK that would make such art for you for about $250 dollars.  I don't have that kind of money, but I have a hobby lobby close by so the boys and I ventured out.

I bought some blank canvas' (they were 2 in a pack for five bucks), and some wooden letters and set out to create my project.  I knew that this project would go in my room, that I wanted some song lyrics to be my text and I wanted it moderately mushy.  I settled on a section of the chorus to a Death Cab for Cutie song, "I will follow you into the dark."  This is one of my favorite songs, and back when I was pregnant with Wyatt and a hormonal mess, it brought me to tears driving in my car on several ocassions when I'd hear it on the radio.

Enough said.  My text took three canvas' and I had one left over.  I also had some gold metallic craft paint left over from painting treasure boxes the week before so I settled on a really bad ombre effect on the final canvas to even out the installation.  (I call it that, like it's real art, not a craft project in my garage.)

Anyway, the final product was hung today and I must say that I think it looks really great up on my wall.

Here's to decorating the blank slate house (and to my continuing love affair with pinterest.)


Stage One: Glue wooden letters onto canvas.
Stage Two: Spray paint each canvas/letter combination white.
Stage Three: Let dry, paint fourth canvas gold.
Stage Four: Hang on wall.
Stage Five: Admire handiwork.



Tuesday, August 16, 2011

In a nutshell...

We've been up to our eyeballs in cousins for the last week.

Boy cousins.  Lots of them in various shapes and sizes.  We've had trips to the farm, family pictures, crafty days, water fights and lots of playing with cars and trucks and wrestling and vrooming around the house.  We've also seen our fair share of bumps, bruises, the chick has a black eye...that sweet squirt always gets the bum end of the deal.  And, I've had two baby heads to sniff until my heart is content.  Oh, the sweet smell of a squishy baby boy.  There isn't anything better.

We've had so much fun that the boys are all sleeping in, slowing down, and having some good chill time on the couch in the afternoons.

There is more to come, but right now dear Internet, I'm just too tired to tell you.





Thursday, August 11, 2011

Night Swimming...

On Wednesday nights, the boys and I (and Ross if he isn't working) head out to my Grandpa's house to eat dinner with him, and my parents, and sometimes my sister.  We're trying to make it a regular part of our lives because spending time with my Grandpa is important.  I'm taking the opportunity to get to know him better and am loving it.  My Grandma always dominated conversations  - it was her nature and I love her for it.  But now that he's alone, Grandpa has to talk and listening to the things he has to say is super cool.

I've always thought he was the smartest person in the world.  Now, I'm learning that it's really true.  He knows everything!

The other great part about Wednesday night dinners is, at least for a little bit longer, the night swimming.  As a child one of my most favorite things was to head to the backyard pool, turn on the flood lights, and swim in the dark.  There is something magical about swimming at night - the air is cooler, the games more fun and exciting, and the ice cream treat at the end sweeter.  Seeing "stars" (satellites) in the sky, in a darkened backyard is always pretty cool.

It's also very cool to be able to pass this tradition down to my kids - at first "Captain Analytical" didn't understand, "You mean we're swimming in the dark?  How will we see what we're doing?  What if we drown?"  Only from my 4 year old, right?  Well, after one night swim, the kid is hooked.  He gets braver and braver every week (and his brother more and more chicken) and is turning into the little fish I always wanted him to be.

Pool feet 

 And, the other great part about night swimming? Hero worship. Not only do Auntie Haley and Miss Molly participate, but Parkie and MK and Will the Thrill (when not at football) do to. There is nothing more wonderful as seeing your little squirts fall in love with their older cousins and family members. My boys love these kids and the big kids love them back. Even if all the big kids are constantly on the lookout for Sasquatch....because you know, my Grandpa's back yard is the perfect place for him to make an appearance and go for a swim.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

new toy

The other day I downloaded an 8 mm camera app to the old iphone.

It's fun.  The videos are cool.

Watching these reminds me of when I was a little girl and my parents got me and my sister dancing and strutting our stuff on video - only to embarrass us with it later at small family gatherings.


Monday, August 08, 2011

while "reading" the IKEA catalog


Me:  I'm trying to not eat any sugar today.  You know, like chocolate.

Him:  Good.  I don't eat any.

Me:  So.  I like chocolate.  You have a ham addiction.

Him:  Yes, a life threatening ham addiction!

Five Hundred Dollars

About a week before Ross left for Australia, I started making a list of things that I wanted to do while he was out of town.  You know the list - one of those massive and overly ambitious "Ill show you how capable I am doing everything on my own" sort of lists.  Well, after about 4 days the list got whittled down to the manageable stuff, but I still got quite a few things down.

I decided to pull some money out of my savings account for the "home improvement" project fund.  And, with the help of my sister, my dad, and some babysitting from my mom, here's the short list of everything that I got done in two short weeks.

  • Hang blinds in all the house (10 windows to be exact).  The blinds were of course, all the wrong size so my dad and I had to hacksaw our way through this project, and I had to return a couple that just weren't going to work.
  • Paint and create a map wall.
  • Print and display cute cell phone pictures on cork boards.
  • Make and hang a head board for my bed.
  • Dig a distinct flower bed all around the house, pull out the grass, plant flowers and tall grasses - i.e. make the house look a little more civilized.
  • Hem living room curtains.
These were the 5 major projects and I came in $6 under budget. There were lots of other little things I had to do like yard work, and house work, and laundry, and shavy jones work, and taking care of the kids, but finishing these projects on my own (with my family's help) felt like a major accomplishment.



Saturday, August 06, 2011

Reinvention on the fringes

As an American history teacher, I always felt it was my job to teach my kids the history that they wouldn't get the chance to learn elsewhere.  I never used a text book (except a few times as punishment or an example of bad historical story telling) and my classroom revolved around primary sources, music, video, discussion and thinking.  Oh, to teach a 16 year old to think for him/herself.  That was the goal and history was my medium.

As a person who likes history, I've always been drawn to the fringe characters.  The cooky and eccentric presidents (Andrew Jackson and Teddy Roosevelt).  The historical figures who changed history with their stubborn will (Joan of Arc, Ann Boleyn).  Those that shook society at it's roots and scared people like Malcolm X.

I've read the "Autobiography of Malcolm X" several times.  The first when I was in high school, probably a sophomore.  I borrowed it from the library, had to renew it several times to finish it and then lost the tome only to buy it - then find it later in my room.  I've read that library copy at least half a dozen times and it proudly sits on my bookshelf, library identification in tact.

Even though I'm no longer in a classroom setting, I still love history - maybe even more than I used to.  My retention isn't what it used to be (it's true...if you don't use it you lose it!) but lately it seems, the books I read are full of essays and biographies (founding fathers, Malcolm, Tina Fey....).  Knowing that I'm a sucker for a book about a radical, my sister gave me the newest biography of Malcolm X for my birthday.  "Malcolm X:A life of reinvention" by Manning Marable.  I just finished it about a week ago and it was excellent.  I found out that Mr. Marable, a well known African American Scholar spent 20 years of his life researching the 500+ pages and unfortunately died of pneumonia the week before the book was released.  After reading the text, it definitely was the life work and passion of a dedicated scholar, and a Malcolm hero-worshipper.  It was an eye-opening read.

In my classroom when we studied Civil Rights I would always have a "Malcolm vs. Martin" day.  It was one of my favorite days to teach, especially the year I had a students whose father was a white racist from North Carolina - I made sure to send his kid home everyday whith all kinds of information.  I had a giant poster of each civil rights leader and next to the poster wrote down basic facts about their lives and philosophies.  We talked about the men and their upbringings.  Then we read speech excerpts and watch videos of the men speaking.  Oh, if only I'd had YouTube back then - I would have totally rocked my students historical world.

People are drawn to Malcolm X, in general, because he was radical and militant and often considered a hatemonger and a racist and because "black power" was scary in the 1950's and 1960's for one group of people and absolutely engaging for another.  The Nation of Islam was (and is) an "interesting" organization.  There aren't many groups in the world who can take criminals from prison, convert them to a strict religion and turn them into upstanding men.  When Malcolm X decided however to split from the Nation and it's hate speech (and infidelities of Elijah Muhammad and interior violence) they hounded him until they were able to eradicate him - infront of his wife, children, and supporters.

The thing is - in my opinion of course - Malcolm X was turning into one of the most powerful forces in America - he was a voice to be heard, to be reckoned with, and it would have been amazing if he wouldn't have been killed, to see where he was headed.  In the two years before he died, as heavily detailed in the Marable book, he took a hajj to Mecca and converted completely ot Orthodoz Islam, thus seeing the world through a different light.  He was still (and rightfully so) an angry African American, but he came back from that pilgrimage and subsequent months long tours of Africa and Europe ready to radicalize politics and get people moving towards equality and human rights.

I cannot say that I agree with much of what Minister Malcolm said in his life (I can't, really.  How could I - a middle class new century white girl really understand "ballots for bullets" for example or how could I relate to having my home fire bombed with my wife and children sleeping inside?) - his speeches as a spokesperson and #2 for the Nation of Islam were scary - he was powerful and intimidating and no wonder the FBI wiretapped every phone he ever used.  But I wold loved to have heard him speak in person.  To see his charisma and humor.  I can watch videos online, but that doesn't do him justice.

After reading this book (Thanks, Haley!) and spending countless hours over the last few weeks looking at pictures and listening to speeches, and learning more on my own about Betty Shabazz and their 6 daughters, and the modern interpretations of Malcolm's advancing political and social ideas - I can saw that I have a new respect for Malcolm X and all that he was trying to do.

And THAT is your history lesson for the day.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Salting snails, just a typical Sunday, really

After a delicious dinner at my mom's house on Sunday night we headed out to my grandpa's for a quick visit bearing sugary treats.  When we go there my Grandpa informed us that there was a snail hunt going on in the backyard.

Side note:  My grandparents yard is full of snails.  You have no idea how many snails.  In the summer time, especially after a rain storm (like we had yesterday), it's like a plague of snails only it's not like crickets, and there aren't any seagulls to come and eat them all up.

Side note deux:  My grandmother was fearless.  She would capture snakes, pull legs off off of spiders, pick up dead mice and birds, and she killed snails.

Okay, so we headed outside to see how the snail hunt was going.  Once in the backyard we saw one of my Aunties bent over a flowerbed with the container of salt.  You see in our family, there is nothing humane about a snail therefore it must be dealt with in an inhumane way.

Sorry, PETA.  Do you protect snails?

My son declared, "This is a snail invasion!"

My brother grabbed the salt and took it upon himself to annihilate the small snail army gathering in the backyard.

Once all the little suckers seemed to be taken care of we headed to the front.  There were dozens more: on the porch, in the flower beds, on the sidewalk and sliming their way through the grass.  My brave brother stepped on a couple and the crunch echoed back into the house.  They also found a herd of babies who, unfortunately were defeated before they had a chance to eat the garden.  Or whatever snails eat.

I once knew a girl from my grandma's neighborhood who lived in France.  When visiting her family for the summer, she'd come over to swim.  She and my grandma collected snails and she took them home, presumably for dinner. In our family, we don't eat snails. We destory them.




And sometimes, after a good snail hunt, you need a little bit of yoga, just to get centered again.


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