Monday, February 28, 2011

For Posterity's Sake: Week in Review 110

With a little over two months before we meet our newest little man, it's safe to say that nesting has taken up residence in our home and my mind. It's taken root here, which may explain why I've promoted it from a verb to guest status. (Although, true be told, it's just that kind of a year - a reevaluation year, if you will. A new job for one family member, a growing girl with growing stuff and activities, a boy suddenly on the move, and another boy about to move in. It just seems smart to take a little time to make sure everything is working for us and not against us as we embark on all this newness). I find myself in the thick of it, spending each free moment sorting, making, redesigning, and reading all manner of how-to manuals and organization books. While I tend to enjoy the process (and get embarrassing huge thrills out of taking the smallest of measures to improve a room or system) I don't want to get too busy to record a few stories from the week past. Turns out, I'm not the only one with much on my mind. Here are a few of Audrey's thoughts from last week (and a small indication of just what we're up against daily with this one who is a little too smart for her mama's own good):

Wednesday night, Jason took Audrey up to bed. As he tucked her in, she asked him about monsters. Jason told her not to worry that he was bigger than monsters.

"Are you bigger than the Abominable Snowman?" she asked. (We had let her watch an old version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer last Christmas, which I forgot included the Abominable Snowman).

"You're bigger than the Abominable Snowman," he said.

"What!" she said, before asking about the elves and how big they were.

"The elves are tiny. They only come up past your ankles," he said.

"But they were bigger than the reindeer," she said.


"But the reindeer pull Santa's sleigh, Dad."

Thursday night was one of those evenings where, by morning, everyone was in the master bed. I woke up to a child nestled on each side. Audrey woke up first. I told her I was going to the bathroom and would be right back. I forgot to tell her not to wake up her brother. I came back to find him wide awake.

"Did you wake up your brother?" I asked.

"I did this (touching his face) and it didn't wake him up. I did this (poking another spot), but it didn't wake him up. Then, I did this (tickling his leg) and he woke up!"

Luckily, she was in the mood not only to poke and prod her brother (trial-and-error style), but also to play. As I got ready and cleaned the bathroom sink, she led him on a search through the master bedroom and bath for Emmy (who had already taken her leave downstairs). Not able to find Emmy, she led Nathan on a scavenger hunt for things that are soft like Emmy - stray pillow feathers, stuffed animals, and the like. I cleaned and listened to the PBS special unfolding in my bathroom.

Friday night, she was praying with Jason before bed.

"God, why do lions roar?" she asked. "God, why are wolves meat-eaters?"

"That's not how you pray," Jason said. "When you pray, you ask for help for something or say thank you for something."

"God, help me understand why lions roar. Help me understand why wolves are meat-eaters."

Nathan has his own thought processes fast at work, ones that involve motion and figuring out how to pull himself up onto the couch with (and sometimes without) assistance, thoughts that cause him to break into dashes around the kitchen island and into the family room in pursuit of his sister or the dog. His thoughts cause him to burst into laughter (the contagious belly kind that don't seem right coming out of one so small) at the smallest sights: blocks tumbling out of bags, a ball almost caught. These are the moments, those breaks in the nesting process, that bring me back to why I spend so much time preparing, clearing spaces for play, building tools and stocking cabinets in preparation for growth. Because, that's what we're doing - building little people, one big thought, one belly laugh at a time.

It's a Plesiosaur Wall Decoration, didn't you know (the plesiosaur, a sea creature who lived at the time of the dinosaurs laid its eggs on the beach and is suspended in tissue paper water, above, surrounded by red fish)? She's the latest dinosaur creation to leave our kitchen table - again from the book Crafts for Kids Who Are Wild About Dinosaurs.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

This week

Between a little man pulling long hours cutting teeth and fighting congestion, a trip home to begin the process of reading applications for an annual family event, and attempting to fit in those things that make our days feel like our own, the computer has been a bit idle this week. So here's a little recap of the week so far and the ways in which I've been spending my time:

Seeing :: (and cleaning up) a lot of mud. It may be in the mid-thirties, but a certain someone has convinced herself that these are the early days of summer, which means she wants to be in the garden, come what may. Turns out, "what may" is mud - lots of mud, on shoes, pants, door frames, and rugs. The late-afternoon bath has become a bit of a ritual this week as we take our mud parties to the bathtub, exchanging garden trowels for boats with water spouts and our dirt-showered hats for a dab of shampoo.

Imagining :: this one sailing down Niagara Falls in her newfangled, ahem, costume.

Reading :: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot and finding myself amazed, yet again, at the stranger-than-fiction life of an "ordinary" woman and the value of a mother.

Trying :: a new pencil grip to hopefully improve Audrey's writing grip, which is typically a fist. (And, grateful for the free tracing pages here - thanks for the link, Jenny!)

Sharing :: my snack space with elephant and our latest creation, The Giant Apatosaurus Model, found in Crafts for Kids Who Are Wild About Dinosaurs by Kathy Ross. The dinosaur (christened Miss Ruby and carried everywhere by her doting owner) is supposed to be covered by an old t-shirt decoupaged to the cardboard using a glue solution, but that's a step I think can wait for a warm day and tablecloth outside.

In awe :: of all the dinosaur teaching aids used by this resourceful mama.

Ready (or not so ready) :: to attempt a new, to me, knitting technique that will bring a project to completion.

Hoping :: for a few more hours of sleep, and many more of the smiles, laughs, and hugs that make these sleep-deprived hours so worth staying up for.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

For Posterity's Sake: Week in Review 109

On The Name Game and Making Your Opinions Known:

I should not leave the house without my camera. There's too much to capture when I least expect it. Last night, we took Nate on his first family walk sans stroller. I thought we'd be carrying him most of the way. I seem to consistently underestimate the stamina of my children. His grin was wide, his expression proud. He walked two streets, mastering his big boy tennis shoes, until the adults led the children back to the driveway, our ears burning with cold. Audrey complained while parking her bike, asking if she could stay out and play. Nathan cried as soon as Jason set his feet onto the wooden planks of the kitchen floor. I could hear him wailing through the closed garage door.

We've had a couple similar episodes in the past two weeks. A week ago, while strolling through the grocery store, Jason pushed the cart with Nathan in tow past the milk cases. Nathan waved to the rows of cartons and screamed out as they passed.

Thursday, I took Nate with me to drop Emmy off for a grooming appointment. He laughed as I grabbed Emmy with my one free arm to get her out of the car. He watched as she walked into the building. He smiled at the girl behind the counter. The groomer came out, spoke with us a few minutes and carried Emmy through a door. I carried Nate out the other door toward our car. He became hysterical, trying to fight me and get down. I'm guessing he thought I had just given our dog away.

Nate is a man of few words: uh-oh, da-da, mama, and grunts that seem to come at the appropriate times for "thank you" and in response to "love you." But as far as getting his point across? He seems to be doing just fine.

Audrey has been letting her voice be heard in other ways this week:

Tuesday, at dinner, she told Jason, "I like when you're gone because I can talk to Mom without you interrupting." Ahem.

The following night, we were having macaroni and cheese with dinner. "We should make this sometime," she said. "Take these (pointing to the mac 'n cheese) and that (pointing to salt and pepper) and put them in water. Pour big noodles that stay big in and add cereal. Wait for a long time - two minutes." Then, she paused, looked at us and said, "This is a recipe."

But, the real topic on her mind this week is names. Tuesday she said, "the new baby, can we name her Ellie?"

I told her no, that we were having a boy and Ellie is a girl's name. I assumed she was just in denial and still hoping to exchange her coming brother for a sister until it dawned on me that she might think she's won the argument for us having a fourth child that she assumes will be a girl. I didn't ask.

Thursday, she told me she wanted to name the baby Dwight. (Perhaps they are covering Eisenhower in preschool).

Thursday afternoon as we drove home from school she said, "So, Mamaw's mother named her Mamaw?"

"No. Mamaw is just what we call her."

"Like a nickname?"

"Yes. Her mom named her Vicki."

"So she's a Mamaw whose name is Vicki?"


Luckily, she hasn't assigned names to the worms inhabiting our backyard garden. Friday she ran outside in her rain boots to play in the sunshine. She came up to the screen door a few minutes later to tell me she had caught a worm, which she planned on drowning in a cup so she could make a meal out of it for the birds. After the fourth worm, I asked her to please leave some in our garden to help with our soil this year (all the while thinking I must be the only mother making such a request). Moments later, she ran back to the screen door. Apparently, she had changed teams. Now, she was building a home for the worms (those not already in her water cup, they were still bird food) to protect them from the birds. Then, as if she was a veteran of watching R-rated movies, she said, "I told them when I picked them up, 'don't worry, I'm not going to kill you.'"

As I write, Jason is teaching Nathan to play catch with the knit balls I made him for Christmas. Audrey wings the ball underhand, her balls sailing high and deep past her brother who claps. Daily, they grow, the ways they express themselves (and the expressions, oh my the expressions) expanding. The stamina of our little ones' legs, their minds, their hearts grow faster than the adults can keep up, leaving us hoping we remember all that we can, especially to bring the camera.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


So what does one do on the first warm day of February? Go outside and play in the snow (or what's left of it), after traipsing through the freshly uncovered garden, of course. It's beginning to feel a lot like least for now.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Rhythm and Canoes

Earlier this week we set out on a little adventure to meet up with some friends at the Eiteljorg. We went straight to the interactive section of the museum to play store and stagecoach.

We also found something new that struck my little ones' fancies this time. Instruments. Each took their turn striking a chord on their instrument of choice. After a lunch break, our friends left and Audrey asked to stay. We had a little time, so I asked if she wanted to head back downstairs to play. "No. I want to see the exhibits," she said.

Since we had to pass a totem pole on our way to the exhibits, we began there. I explained that every totem pole tells a story and read her the story of this one about a young man who saves his starving village by killing a sea monster and wearing the monster's magical skin to catch fish. Then, to my surprise, when I asked which section of the museum she wanted to walk through she chose the contemporary art.

We began with this installation, Wach-Nee (Canoe Form) by Truman Lowe. The piece is supposed to create the feeling of being underwater as a canoe passes overhead. As Audrey led me from exhibit to exhibit, we wove our own story of walking underwater and the things we would see and feel beneath our toes.

She stopped at each exhibit, asking me to read about each one until I told her we had to go, and promised to bring her back. Once home, I handed her a piece of paper and asked her to draw her story. Like all stories, it changed from the original telling, and the retelling in the car, and by the time it found its way to paper and crayon, it had been reborn into something new - the only detail that remained being that the bottom of the body of water was a layer of rocks rather than sand or mud. Story recorded, we moved on to the adventures that lay in wait, as all of us with a story do.

(Audrey and I are the two figures with the crazy hair standing at the side of the water. Yes, in this version of the story we are no longer in the water. Why? Well, that little figure outlined in blue on the right-hand side of the paper would be a shark. I'm not really sure how we transitioned from walking barefoot in a freshwater creek with minnows to standing at the side of some water scared of a shark, but there you have it. As for all the blue ovals? Those would be the rocks. Stories change. Rocks are forever.)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Valentine's Day: A Recap

If Halloween weren't such a perfect fit for our little girl, between the costumes, candy, and birthday on its heels, I think Valentine's Day would be her holiday. She has a thing for telling others that she loves them, for wanting to make things for others to show them she loves them. She digs wearing pink and red and eating anything sweet (let alone heart-shaped). And, even though I don't remember ever being a Valentine's kind of girl (but who knows, maybe I was at four, ask my mom), it's hard not to catch some of that cupid's spirit watching her in action. A recap of how we spent our Valentine's Day:

Before the holiday, I made Audrey a couple heart-shaped barrettes based off of a design found here at Purl Bee. I didn't have the correct-sized barrettes on hand for their pattern, so I improvised. A little felt + a little embroidery floss + a couple of barrettes = some pint-sized holiday cheer. I have a feeling more of these little barrettes are in our future, maybe some stars or flowers.

Apparently, Valentine's Day at our house also means crust. Lots and lots of crust.

We began the evening with made-to-order calzones using the pizza dough recipe from Jamie Oliver's Jamie at Home.

After dinner, we busied our hands with a little more dough (some store-bought pie crust) and made these super simple heart-shaped cherry turnovers of sorts. We found the four-ingredient recipe here. We used the cookie cutters that we already owned but might have to get some bigger ones before we try this again.

We hope you had a wonderful Valentine's Day and were able to spread a little love, or eat a little crust. ;)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

For Posterity's Sake: Week in Review 108

The yard and I are in a thaw. As good as the week has been (any week in which you are recovering rather than getting worse is a good week, right?), it's felt like a long time coming. It's been a salt-and-pepper sort of week as I tried to regain strength and catch up on the things we let slide during the days I didn't feel so well. For each day of progress, there seemed to be a setback day: adjusting-to-having-no-food-in-my-stomach day, up-late-with-a-teething-baby night, or the glucose test-induced afternoon slump once I had finally regained (or thought I regained) my strength. But today, the sun came out and Audrey and Jason went out to meet it, clad in snow pants with sled, shovel, and, ahem, butterfly net. (I did look out to see Audrey use the net to gather snow.) They spent hours out there, culminating in the building of the snowman above, named Bob. I have to laugh at the sight of Bob, constructed with plastic parts, a snowman-making kit gifted to Audrey by her grandparents. I remember having to search for our own sticks and rocks as kids (no, I didn't walk to school uphill both ways, I braved the bus and Mr. Sandy's driving skills, which occasionally found you bumping into a parked car or chipping a front tooth on the windowpane in the seat across from you). But some weeks, especially those salt-and-pepper, fumbling for balance ones, you take convenience where you can find it. This afternoon, with the sun casting bright color blocks across the floorboards, I began to tackle the remnants of a week off-kilter and took a little time to reflect on the convenience and laughter the kids helped provide this week:

Tuesday, Audrey was unloading the silverware drawer for me. She called Nathan over, fists full of spoons and forks, which she began to hand to him. I intervened, telling her he was too little to hold so much silverware. But she insisted, handing him one piece at a time. "I'm teaching him how to do service," she said, as she trained him to carry each piece over to her at the silverware drawer. "He needs to learn." Once I got over the possibility of rewashing every piece of just-cleaned silverware (after barely mustering the energy to load it the first time), I had to admit that her logic was more sound than mine. I let her continue, and watched him smile as he tried to dump spoons into the silverware drawer, which she took and put in their proper place. Once finished, she let him choose the sticker for her "completed acts of service" chart and praised his efforts.

Acting like the salt of the earth took a backseat toward the end of the week, as Audrey took a little (albeit, funny) peppery turn. Thursday morning, as we got ready for the day, Audrey said, "My stomach hurts, but I don't want it to look like yours."

And, just in case I didn't get the hint the day before, she reminded me why a pregnant woman shouldn't dress for the day in front of a four-year-old, when she walked in on me in my closet Friday morning. "Your bottom is getting big!" she said, laughing and trying to pat it.

Not one to leave a person out, Audrey showed her equal-opportunity ways Friday afternoon as she watched Jason clean out his wallet. She picked up a decade-old photo of Jason and me, one in which he had hair - lots of hair. "You look silly," she said.

"Thanks," he said, sarcastically.

"You're welcome."

Apparently, karma is never far behind. Today, while coloring a picture, the pen Audrey was using got caught in her hair. "Crap!" she said. Jason and I froze. We'd never heard her use the term, let alone appropriately or with such gusto. I tried to act nonchalant, until I saw Jason's face, at which point I started laughing uncontrollably. I would love to say I regained my composure and feel that my, "Audrey, you're okay, next time just say something else like 'oh no, Mom, I need help,'" was effective. What can I say? You win some, and some make you laugh, whether you should or not.

Nathan has helped in his own little ways this week, taking a few long naps and making me laugh at his dramatic throws of his pacifier each time he sees a full sippy cup, his newly acquired peek-a-boo skills, and his penchant to randomly take off running.

Of course, not to be outdone by his big sister, he found one way to get over on his mama this week. Tonight, while playing with the kids, I quickly ran out of the room when it dawned on me that I needed to defrost something for dinner (right that instant) so that we could eat on time. I left my phone in the playroom with the kids. When I returned, I found that Nate had managed to crawl up into the chair in which I'd been sitting. I picked him up. Audrey brought over a piece of pizza she had "baked" in her kitchen. I was just telling her how yummy it was when I heard an automated voice say, "if you would like to replay your message press one." I realized that the phone had been recording for several minutes. I assumed Nate had managed to fumble with the phone's settings and reset my voicemail message. I quickly pressed the button to record a new message, made up a new brief one, and got back to playing. Later, while making dinner, I relayed the story to Jason. He said he was going to check my new message. He called my phone. My old voicemail message played back. A second scenario entered my mind. I checked my recent calls. Sure enough, Nate had managed to call someone with my phone and I had left my "newly recorded voicemail message" on their machine.

As we prepare for the sun's (and heat's) return tomorrow, it is hard to not feel gratitude for this simple weekend. For warmth. For health. For a husband sore from shoveling a backyard snow playground of hills and tunnels. For helping hands, big and small. For the youngest who reside here, grow into their own here, and unselfishly share the ride. It's going to be a good thaw.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Catching Up

As long as my newly regained strength held up, today was going to be a catch-up day: groceries and a trip to the bank after Audrey's last winter library class. Nathan had other plans. Exhausted after the library class, he suggested (not so subtly) that we just head home. So we did, and did a different kind of catching up. As Nate napped, Audrey and I got caught up on our reading, reading our new library finds and new (to us) textbooks that I found for a couple dollars a piece on the Friends of the Library Sale shelves. Audrey was ecstatic at the thought of being allowed to keep some library books as her own (and tried to barter to keep some of the others we had checked out). She quickly rifled through the textbooks and chose Mercer Mayer's There's An Alligator Under My Bed as our first read. We followed it up with a little coloring session, a handmade sign, which she hung from the garage door to warn her father that there just might be an alligator out there waiting for him when he arrived home. The pictures shows her alligator before she added a tail (during a peanut butter break).

The library book pile successfully replenished and examined, we got to work on the next phase of our valentines. Audrey had already traced some large hearts out of old shopping bags (in convenient colors of the season) that I cut out. She drew a face on each heart and I punched small holes through which she laced small pieces of ribbon (knotted on one end to hold them in place). Today, we glued on red card stock hearts in the place of hands and feet and stamped some Valentine's Day messages on white card stock. I'll cut those out and we'll glue them on later. We found our idea for the valentines here (based on the "eye love you" valentine. I love that they've come together using scraps of things we had around the house, and that each one has a unique look due to the hand drawn face.

Sometimes, catching up is so good.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

When Mama Takes a Sick Day

We've all had those days. You've had a great time hanging out with friends. You get home and get the kids tucked into bed. You feel fantastic - until, suddenly, you don't. Of course, when they wake up in the morning, the children who went to bed with a completely healthy mama, are a bit confused. But soon, they see an opportunity.

When mama takes a sick day, Audrey takes over. She begins the day creating a tablecloth and place mat-lined pathway through the kitchen on which to host a dance party for herself and her brother.

She makes her own breakfast: a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, heavy on the blueberry preserves, with an extra layer on the top slice of bread. "You've never seen a sandwich like this," she says taking a big bite. She's right.

She gets her story time in with Scholastic's Video Collection and a little side-by-side coloring in mama's bed, in which she directs which colors should go where on the pages of her new Disney coloring book (thanks, Boo & Beth!) while Nate naps. I hear her in the kitchen with Daddy once he gets home, helping him make me some noodles in chicken stock. Nate toddles over to couch and rubs his forehead into my side trying to snuggle. And, we get by, the kitchen a bit messier than normal, the had-been plans for the day put on hold for a little while. As for me, I think I turned a corner last night. I'm braving toast this morning, hoping for the best. I have kids to get back to chasing and dancing parties to join.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

For Posterity's Sake: Week in Review 107

The snow has covered our surroundings again - that beautiful fluffy anything-could-be-hiding-under-here snow. As it turns out, ours is hiding inches of ice, and the planks of our raised bed, which Audrey noticed had gone missing yesterday with a gasp of "where's the garden!" It's the type of scene that, I imagine, stirs a different response in each of us, as to what that scene outdoors and the hidden landscape beneath means. I see a snowy reminder that nothing is quite as it seems and no two snowflakes (or interpretations) are the same. (And, goodness, a fresh layer of paint - or snow - can do wonders for an environment, but that's besides the point.)

The week past (including a dinosaur lesson in which we learned that the T. Rex is, in fact, a relative of turkeys and chickens - see the little wishbone-shaped bone toward the bottom of the ribcage pictured above - and might have gobbled just as easily as roared, no one really knows) was a lesson in perspectives. Four often different perspectives that kept us laughing (and one crying every now and then, poor teething little man) and made our house a nice one in which to spend a snowed-in week. Here's our sampling of the moments (and many ways in which the little ones among us viewed their experiences) last week:

Sunday morning, Audrey pulled herself into our bed and under the sheets to snuggle. She rested quietly a few minutes looking up at the ceiling. "I don't want to die," she said. "I like this house."

Monday morning, we stopped by a local elementary school, the back of the car loaded with our recyclables. I pulled up to the designated dumpsters and jumped out, only to find them full. As I climbed back into the car, I told Audrey we'd try another recycling spot.

"But God might have performed a miracle," she said.

"I didn't think of that."

"How could you not think of that?" she said.

Recycling taken care of, we stopped by the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art for a little adventure. We walked past an exhibit of looms and utilitarian art such as rugs and baskets. "Isn't it neat, they made all this stuff with their hands or looms." I said.

Apparently, I didn't speak clearly. "They bought it at Lowes?"

As we left the museum, we could see a new hotel, the JW Marriott, its blue glass-covered walls rising high in the distance. "Mom, look at that tower!" Audrey said. "Is that London?"

Thursday, I snuck in a little prenatal yoga video as the kids played next to me. During a butterfly pose, the instructor said, "Bounce your legs up and down, really let them fly." Nathan, listening to the video as he walked around, began bouncing up and down.

Friday, Nathan (who has been teething all week) was miserable. I took him upstairs to try to calm him down for a nap. I was singing to him (most likely "The Way You Look Tonight," "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," or "The Nearness of You" - my three go-to "lullabies" for him). Nathan had finally closed his eyes after two hours of fussing. Audrey must have heard me. She came upstairs, burst through the bedroom door, and began belting out a rather high-pitched version of Josh Groban's "You Raise Me Up." I'm not gonna lie. I laughed. Nate did not. His eyes flashed open and he cried. For thirty minutes.

Friday afternoon, Audrey cut out what looked like a stop sign to me. When she asked what I thought it was, I said a "stop sign." She then surprised me by sounding out "STOP" (with my help) and writing the word herself (the "ST" is written in a dark pink, which makes it a bit hard to see). This is her first intentionally spelled word, as far as I know.

Saturday morning, we decided to brave the snow and crowds and drive to the Children's Museum for the opening of a Dora the Explorer exhibit. I had not told Audrey where we were going yet. Once in the car, she requested I make up a story, as she often does. She wanted it to be about Dora and Boots. Jason and I decided to use the story as our way of telling Audrey where we were going, so Jason said, "maybe they have to travel through snow and maybe there should be dinosaurs."

"Yeah, snow dinosaurs," Audrey said. "That's excellent, Dad."

We got to the museum to spend an ill-timed couple hours in line waiting to meet Dora and Diego (forty-five minutes of which, the characters were on break while the line stood still). We had been in line thirty minutes when the first 15 minute break was announced. The characters came back and took pictures for thirty more minutes before they announced that they were once again going on break, this time for thirty minutes. We were third in line. Jason and I might have exchanged a look that read "we've officially reached our lifetime quota of waiting in line for fake people." Jason told me he would wait with Nathan in line while I took Audrey to the bathroom and to go see the actual museum exhibit. Audrey and I went to play in the exhibit while Jason supervised a dancing Nathan in line. That evening, at dinner, we were talking about our favorite parts of the day (luckily, Audrey mentioned meeting Dora and Diego), but then she said her favorite part was "when Daddy had to stay while the characters took a tea break." I asked why, feeling a bit bad for Jason. "Because I got to go to the exhibit," she said.

Saturday night, Jason tucked Audrey into bed. While they prayed together, Jason gave thanks for our family. Audrey said she needed to start her part of the prayer over. Then, she began to pray for her new baby brother. "Please make the baby's face black," she said, "because sometimes babies are black and I like that color on my friends." Jason (who, like me, is not black) kindly opted for a "well, I guess we'll see" response instead of, your mother would have a lot of explaining to do.

While I know this week of ice and snow has come with challenges for many, this mama can't help but see that buried garden out back and feel a bit of gratitude for a week out of the ordinary, for stolen days with Daddy at home, for no place to go and the freedom to spend long hours piddling in the kitchen, curled up with books, and witnessing the magnitude of nature's reach and power and the generosity of neighbors looking out for one another. Of course, as quickly as the weather, we change course, out to seek adventure and journey forth, even if that journey finds us at the back of a very long line. In those moments, I'm just glad for the perspective of my two little snowflakes, cut different from every other, who show us that as the adults roll their eyes in discontent there might still be a reason to dance.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Summer Learning on a Winter Day

I was one of those kids who loved school. Luckily, I was blessed with a handful of dedicated teachers, one whose address I mean to track down so I can write him a thank you note. He gave up his lunches to teach me one-on-one. Each afternoon, we sat next to each other, our brown bags open and sandwiches out as he went over the formulas and concepts we were learning in class. I'm convinced that without the time he graciously gave, algebra would just be a word I know and not a tool I can manipulate. But regardless of my teachers and their skill sets, some lessons were just better learned in the summer. After all, no matter how much you like your biology teacher, there's reading about an ecosystem in a textbook and there's hiking out into the woods in your backyard, taking your shoes off, and stepping into an ecosystem while watching the water beetles swim by your ankles.

Summer contains one more key component to learning: boredom. Nothing spurs creativity faster than boredom. As it turns out, snow days contain their fair share of boredom, too - boredom that leads to exploration, especially when mama is busy trying to get a certain little brother to sleep. And so, yesterday with mama preoccupied Audrey went exploring. By the time I returned to the kitchen, she had collected a piece of Tupperware, a toy fish, and some ice from the back porch step. She was creating a pond (a frozen one at that) for the fish. She tossed the ice and fish into the Tupperware and added some water. She watched the ice melt in the water as the fish "swam".

Then she gathered a large aluminum mixing bowl, a plastic colander, measuring cups, a spatula, potato masher, more ice (of course), and hand soap. She commenced with giving the fish a bubble bath, dunking him in and out of measuring cups and moving him with the aid of the spatula and potato masher. That's when something magical happened. She realized that the fish (that has a magnet inside of it) stuck to some surfaces but not others. A little science lesson ensued - the most basis of lessons about magnets. Magnets stick to metal. Magnets do not stick to plastic, glass, wood, silicone, or little brothers. The fish swam and Audrey passed an icy afternoon learning by touch at the kitchen table.

Apparently, the lesson, ahem, stuck. This morning Audrey figured out how to get a magnet to stick to her, so she could become a magnet, too. You just have to smile at boredom and the lessons she brings on dreary days.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


As the ice stays solid outside, we're holding solid inside, with a few trusty tools:

:: A good stock of snacks (a large batch of granola and granola bars, pulled fresh from the oven last night) and hearty meals that speak warmth regardless of what the view from the window says.

:: Creative projects to keep our hands (especially the little hands) busy (and the house quiet during Jason's conference calls). We began our homemade Valentines this afternoon by cutting hearts from old shopping bags colored perfectly for the occasion.

:: And a little celebration, no matter how silly or small it may be. Tonight, we wore hats to dinner. I found the hat template here. Technically, it's a hedgehog, not a groundhog. Yes, there is a difference. Next year, we might worry a bit more about authenticity. This year, we just worried about smiles. Perhaps, next year we should also worry about the poor dears losing a limb once their excited recipient gets his tiny - and so quick - hands on them. Ah, details - how would we build a warm day without them?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Snow, I Mean, Ice Day

We spent most of our day tucked away warmly inside, living in gratitude of a solid roof, a stocked pantry, the coziness that comes with heat, and the thankful calm of having all our family members safe, right here. But for a little while, two of us ventured out, cup of birdseed and camera in hand, to share some of our good fortune with those that share our little yard and to take in the splendor of mother nature - her power, her magnitude, her ever-changing face. These short forays out are so necessary sometimes to remind me, who tends to whine when I get cold, of the everyday miracles we get to witness - of the gifts of our hands and our eyes, those tangible moments that become our memories. (And just why is my daughter wearing a bicycle helmet, you ask? I told her she could "skate" across the ice if she put it on, and I pulled her in the sled across the smooth plane of our yard that was once grass. She begged me to go faster, and the two of us laughed until our cheeks burned red and another round of sleet drew us in to the coziness we're blessed to call home). Wishing you warmth and the splendor of winter.