Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Mountains out of moles

I have had a big nasty mole on my ear for almost ten years now. When it first really started to grow, I was scared of melanoma and I went to a dermatologist, just as I thought I should. I was 22 years old, I think.

This particular doctor was an older man with a very Christian office atmosphere - Christian radio playing, Christian literature in the waiting room, even Christian inspirational posters in the exam room. He looked at my mole in a magnifying glass and then looked at the intake form I had filled out, and said "didn't they tell you this sort of thing would happen if you went on birth control pills?". His tone of voice seemed to say "didn't your other doctor warn you not to be a sinner?"

His next comment really shut me down. "You and I both know that you just want this off for cosmetic reasons" he said. "There is no reason to charge your health insurance for this".

I left that doctor feeling horrible. At the time I think I had an even bigger knee-jerk guilt-complex than I have today, and I felt really bad about myself. He said the mole was "nothing", but I couldn't get a second opinion - at the time he was the only dermatologist in town on my health insurance plan.

Fast forward to today, ten years later. The mole has been growing, it has been hurting, and it is irregular shaped and multi-colored. And another mole popped up nearby and it also has been hurting and looks weird. But I was more afraid to go see a dermatologist than I was to maybe have skin cancer. That bad experience with one doctor has made it very hard for me to practice proper preventative medicine. I did finally make an appointment with a different doctor (I looked for a female one, hoping a female doctor would be less judgmental).

Today's appointment was completely different. My new doctor was a pregnant woman who's exam room was full of pictures of her family. She came in, looked at it, said "that is one weird looking mole - how long has that been on there?", tsked when I told her how long and who had looked at it, and then just immediately pulled out the scalpel and cut that sucker off. I should have biopsy results within 14 days.

I'm pretty sure it's not a melanoma that has been sitting there for 10 years untreated. But I'm also pretty sure that I didn't need to have this painful growing thing on my face for 10 years either. I wish that the first doctor had been more Christ-like, and less Christian. Or maybe he was just a jerk. Let's not make mountains out of moles.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Family Hike

family on a log

family hike day

past the muddy patch

This is a nice easy 1.1 mile loop trail a short drive from home. We've hiked it a couple times this year, and it's nice to see the change of seasons, since it has a beaver pond and a creek, a meadow and forest.

Children need attachment to a place. They need time in a creek, on a trail, in a forest.

balancing effort with surrender

A kernel of wisdom from the DVD I was using for my morning yoga practice: at its heart, yoga is about balancing effort with surrender.

Which sent my mind down a path and distracted my focus from the rest of my yoga practice ...

Maybe ALL of my life is about balancing effort with surrender. After all, too much effort and I burn out and fail to enjoy what is all around me - fail to enjoy being alive. But too much surrender and I passively accept things that are not good for me or others and ultimately fail to exercise my aliveness.

This struggle to find the balance point has played out in all my major life challenges. In fact, the core seems to be how much do I accept myself and my life just the way they are and how much do I work to improve myself and my life? Some things should not be accepted just as they are, which is why I have worked hard on anger-management skills, on a healthy balanced diet, or keeping a clean bathroom. On the other hand, I do have to surrender to the fact that I will never be "perfect" emotionally, that sometimes I will err on the side of eating too much, and to the fact that my family likes to leave their toothbrushes balanced on the edge of the bathroom sink.

I am fond of comparing myself to Sisyphus, the figure from Greek mythology who was doomed to push a rock up a hill in Hades every day, only to see it roll back down again so he could do it again. This was his punishment for something or other that had offended the gods ...

As tragic as that may seem, it is sort of just life. Life, all life, is the struggle to create order out of chaos, and to fight off the inevitability of the pull of entropy. Matter is always moving toward greater chaos, unless energy is put into the system. It's my energy - my effort that creates this unnatural state of order, ever-so-temporarily. (Or, to be even more correct, as a consumer it is the energy that I take from the breakdown of what some other creature had organized as a physical body). And, someday, I will have no choice but to surrender to entropy, as I literally cease to exist as an organized being when I die.

Well, that was the little mind journey I took this morning. It's so good when the kids sleep in a bit and let me have this morning time to myself! Because now I am physically and mentally ready to go tackle all that entropy, and to roll that rock back up the hill for another day.

Monday, June 28, 2010

I need a subscription prescription

side by side comparison

I enjoy having a magazine subscription: something fun when you open the mailbox, something to flip through at the gym, and light reading material when I'm too tired to read something more serious.

But what magazine is the one for me? In the past, I really enjoyed my subscription to Bust, but recently I'm finding myself, well, too old for that magazine. Dare I confess, I don't much care about indie music and film anymore? The fashion spreads all strike me as wildly impractical?

I'm currently getting National Geographic, but those just sit there unread, making me feel guilty. I don't have time or interest to read them, much as I wish I did.

Food and Wine is appealing to me, but it tends to give me rich-man envy, wishing I could go to all these swanky foodie resorts and fancy restaurants.

So - here are three options for me. Mary Jane's Farm has a nice attitude and look to it, while Mother Earth News has some serious content that I like. Natural Home seems more urban and has lots of "green design" ads in it. Is one of these the perfect magazine for me?

Any other favorite magazines I should check out? I welcome recommendations!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The hairy situation

oh my goodness!

new haircut

I am so tired of fussing with my daughter's hair! She has this thick but fine hair that easily gets all knotted up, and since she started taking swim lessons the chlorine-damage turned it into this wild bird's nest. Combing it out she yells and fusses so much you would think I was torturing her ... and then it's all ratty again within a couple hours of her active play lifestyle. And, yes, I know about swim-damage shampoos (using them), conditioners, and detanglers. I've been working on this hairy situation for a couple months now, and I have just lost patience with it.

So, Friday night after Hypatia had been rubbing the net goal across her head while she was goallie for her soccer game, I took that crazy rat's nest of hair home and did a less-than-skillful quick hack job on it.

It's short now. She looked in the mirror and said "I look like a different person", but overall I actually like the shape of her face with no hair framing it. Here's to hoping this helps our hairy situation!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

A Fairy Land

A fairy land

The other night, I was reading Hypatia a bedtime "story" of her favorite lift-the-flap book See Inside Fairy Land, and Carbon came to join us for a bit. He wistfully commented "I like fairies. I wish they were real", and then he wandered away.

By the time he went to bed an hour later, he had created this Fairy Land drawing and arranged it inside a box like this.

I do love their willful belief in fairies right now. They know that fairies don't exist, but they want to believe. I could make them one of those old X Files posters that said "I Want to Believe" and put a fairy on it instead of a UFO. Maybe because I come from the cynical Generation X that married skepticism with a longing for there to be something more, I smile when I see this blend in my children.

Friday, June 25, 2010

My Happiness Project - The home environment

My personal happiness is hugely impacted by the tidiness, organization, and general appearance of my home. When it is messy or chaotic, not only is it harder to function within the space but I also have a sense of shame and embarrassment that brings me down, down, down into unhappiness.

My home is old, and small. Too small for all the life that we try to cram into it, by most modern standards. But in this 1200 square feet of space, each child has their own bedroom and we have two toilets so there is no hopping up and down in the hallway. The kitchen is big, even if it needs some updating and I still don't have a dishwasher. The windows are all too small and we don't get enough natural light into the house, but someday (soon I hope!), I'm going to get those solar tubes put in to bring in the light. We have a damaged chimney that has a mold problem, and I would love to have it torn down and a new wall put in its place. And we need the flooring repaired in the bathroom and new flooring to replace nasty old carpet in the girl's bedroom.

So there is a long list of stuff I need to tackle, all of which will affect my happiness. Because not only do I live in this house, but I find that my ego and sense of identity is very tangled up in it. I know a lot of why this is ...

Long story short: my father left us when I was 17 years old. There were a lot of reasons for that, of course (such as the affair he was having with a family friend), but a big reason he gave was THAT MY MOTHER WAS A BAD HOUSEKEEPER AND A SLOB. And, since that had been a fight and a stress throughout my childhood, I've always wanted to prove that I was not a slob - that I was a good housekeeper and worthy of respect and love.

Now, I know I need to separate the two issues. I want a clean house, because it makes me feel good and I prefer to live that way. Issues of self-worth need to be worked out in other ways.

Long post, but the main point is that as part of my Happiness Project I am going to add focusing on the house to the efforts I was already making to focus on my health.

(Now I have a crazy urge to keep the whole Happiness Project in H's: Happiness through Health and Home and H?)

Yesterday I sorted and tossed and tidied and got one corner - the "home office" better organized. A bit at a time and we'll get there.

cleaning jag - a new clean office space!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Inspired by Rube Goldberg

rube goldberg inspired play

a rube goldberg machine

After watching several Rube Goldberg clips on youtube, Carbon dragged out all sorts of toys and random bits from the garage and spent hours building set ups. I love watching him - the wheels are always turning in his brain, and in so many ways he reminds me of what my brother was like as a child. My brother is an engineer, following in a family tradition (my uncle, grandfather, and great-grandfather were all engineers). But, of course, Carbon could end up being anything he wants - it just makes me smile to see a bit of his uncle in him.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Notes from the Domestic Front

chore lists

I am desperately wanting my home to be neater, tidier, and more attractive. We were once again considering buying a house closer to the church, but I came to my senses about the reality of our finances and stopped that process at an emotionally graceful point (when the real estate agent canceled the showing, I just never rescheduled it). But, even though I didn't even see that house and I had no chance to fall in love with it, I'm still sad about what I have.

All that angst aside, here are a few things that are going well:

1. I have typed up chore lists and I am trying to enlist the whole family in getting them done. This works best on the weekends, and it's a sweet deal to have everyone work and be done in 1/2 hour when it would have taken me a couple hours by myself.

2. We are using the kitchen timer a couple times a week for bedroom cleaning time. I set it for 20 minutes, and everyone (including me) just goes in their own room and cleans it. The kids don't actually get that much done in there, but it's nice for me to spend the time cleaning my own room, and in theory they will get theirs clean also.

3. I'm realizing that the children will just keep pushing their chaos further out into the world if they are not stopped and pushed back. If their rooms become too messy, they don't clean them so that there is room to play. No - they just bring their toys out into the living room. And if the living room gets too messy, they will find another place to play, until that is also messy. It just goes on like that, so I have to draw a line in the sand. All toys back into bedrooms by the end of every day is my goal.

4. I have a 5 gallon plastic bucket, and I'm trying to pull enough weeds from the garden to fill that everyday. It doesn't keep the garden weed-free, but it's an amount of work that I can manage and it keeps things at least under control out there. I dump the weeds into the chicken coop, and they eat them.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

what is this thing burning in the sky?

a bit of summer

Oh, to bask in the sun for a little while. I have been sick in bed all day, but the kids had fun outside and have been pretty good about taking care of themselves.

The forcast isn't good for us, though. More cool grey weather coming before we get a real summer.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Summer Fruits

strawberry jam time

It's the first day of summer today, although you could have fooled us out here in the PNW. I'm still wearing sweaters almost every day!

But the strawberries still came in to season, and we still bought a flat of organic berries from a local farmer and set down to preserve them for the winter. This year, Hypatia was my new helper, and she was thrilled to be old enough to use a knife (even if it is just a table knife). She also bravely scooped jars out of the hot water bath - a fearless girl in the kitchen.

And this is just the beginning of a long canning season around here ... we keep going all the way until the pears are the only thing left.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Meditation Curriculum

Today I start a new curriculum as the summer Religious Education program gets under way. I thought I might re-post the column I wrote for last month's church newsletter.

I’ve just returned from a family vacation to Legoland in California, a vacation which involved my four and six year old, a week in a theme park, and a two-hour each way drive through L.A. traffic between the park and the friends we stayed with for most nights. This was not a peaceful vacation!
And yet this busy, fun, rollercoaster (literally) of a vacation held many moments of peaceful reflection and meditation. To their credit, the designers of Legoland have alternated busy areas full of rides and lots of “action” with zones holding the wonderful building blocks and a quiet place for children to create. As we moved through the park, we had the action, and then we had the reflection. This reminded me of the pace we held in the Evergreen Masters in Teaching program, where the professors alternated “cognitive” activity with “metacognitive” (thinking about your thinking) activities.
Taking the time to be reflective, to think about how you think, to talk to yourself, to journal, to pray, or to meditate – all of that can seem like “fluff” in our busy, busy lives full of noise, noise, noise. But, in the words of St. Francis de Sales: “Half an hour’s meditation each day is essential, except when you are busy. Then a full hour is needed.”
Personally, I try to begin each day with yoga and meditation. If I can get that done before the children are awake, it’s best for me, but if they are up I still try and we all just live with the mixed results. If it is too loud and busy for my yoga practice, I will substitute with a journaling time with headphones and my favorite music on. This has been my practice for the last year, as I’ve taken to heart the words of the Christian mystic Evelyn Underhill: “It is those who have a deep and real inner life who are best able to deal with the irritating details of outer life.”
Parents and adults need to have a real inner life, but so do children. Children today do so much more scheduled, organized, or externally controlled “stuff” than was the norm in past years, and all this doing cuts into the time and ability to just be. This is why the Family Ministry Team and I have chosen to focus on meditation for our summer curriculum this year.
In the midst of the summer fun that I hope you and your children will be experiencing, we are going to hold a Sunday meditation session for children, using the book teaching meditation to children by David Fontana and Ingrid Slack. These meditation sessions will incorporate a large variety of meditation techniques and mental exercises – even some games and active times – so all children should feel comfortable participating, even the very young or very energetic. As the authors of the book write: “meditation gives even very young children power over their thinking and their emotions, not by a repressive self-control, but by enhanced self-understanding and self-acceptance.”
May we all find the time to Be and not just to Do.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Schools Out for Summer

in the crick

water battle

For the end of the school year at Carbon's little Sudbury school, we went on the school field trip to a loca county park and beach. It was a sweet end to the school year, especially hearing Carbon begging to go back to school for just a little bit ... most of the kids are bummed that school is out for the summer. The staff said there have been a lot of requests for summer school - can you imagine kids begging for summer school?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Father's Day Project

fathers day

I'm counting on the fact that my husband never reads my blog, to show you all a preview of the project I did with the kids for him this year. They put their hands down on the fabric and I traced them, then I sewed them together and the kids stuffed them with some dried lavendar from our garden, we stitched the bottoms shut, and they used fabric markers to decorate them.
They are for his T shirt drawer, to keep his shirts smelling nice.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A goal accomplished!

I have a list of goals that I hope my children will get out of their "educations", although my goals hardly fit in a traditional educational box. So far, there are 36 goals, but it is an ever expanding list. :)

But the boy has accomplished one of the goals! We can check it off his list and move on to some others! Goal number 31 on the list: Swim well-enough.

Like most of the goals, it could be ambiguous. What is "well-enough"? Carbon and I have decided that, for now, well-enough is that he can swim, dive, do several different strokes, make it up and down the length of the pool, and is very comfortable in the water. He could continue taking lessons, and there is one more level that the YMCA offers that he hasn't reached, but he doesn't want to and I don't see the need. So he's done with goal #31! Tomorrow will be his last lesson.

A few other goals we are not done with:

#7 take personal responsibility well
#12 be able to make plans and goals and follow them
#16 know history
#36 possess good communication and interpersonal skills

These are goals that will take a lifetime!

My Happiness Project - The Health Resolutions

daily dose

Here is an update on my Happiness Project, inspired by but not exactly following the format of the book and blog of the same name.

Right now I am focused on my health. My last post was about water, and now I have to confess that I have not been able to make myself drink my goal amount of water (1 liter a day). I am only drinking about 2 tall glasses of water a day, but since that is about 2 more glasses than I was drinking before, it's still an improvement.

Now I am moving on to my second resolution: to actually take all the pills I am supposed to take each day. I have been historically awful at remembering to take my daily pills, and it would be much better for my health if I would do this.

This resolution is purely personal - I have no opinion as to the need for Everyone to take vitamins - in fact most people should be able to get all the nutrition they need from their diet. But I have a specific medical condition (hereditary elliptocytosis anemia) which is managed by taking folic acid and extra B vitamins. Basically, because of my anemia, I need to treat my body to the pregnancy regimen all the time. I also am taking calcium and vitamin D, and then I throw in Vitamin C when I feel like I might be getting sick and chlorophyl when the anemia feels especially bad.

But I haven't been taking my pills, so instead of having a managed condition, I have a rollercoaster ride of I'm fine - I'm not - I get a shot - I get better - now I feel fine - so I don't bother to take my pills. I don't want to do that to my body anymore.

Anyway, that is the next resolution. And it goes really well with the water, because I need to drink water to take pills!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


kapla blocks
(Sorry for this picture. She kept moving out of the shot, and this was the only one that was any good at all. She really was having fun, despite the apparent facial expression here.)

The simple Kapla block can be used in so many way, and I see children returning to it over and over again. All the blocks are identical, and yet they don't lose interest or grow bored with it.

Yet when I go shopping for supplies, I am always drawn to the complicated things, the fancy things, the things that have very specific uses. I forget the simplicity.

I need to remember to Keep It Simple, not just in early education supplies, but really in most areas of my life. Simple is Beautiful (and usually easier and less expensive in the long run).

Monday, June 14, 2010

A weekend of Firsts

baseball trophy

first game of chess

This Saturday the boy got his first Trophy, when the baseball coach went above and beyond his volunteer duties to the YMCA and he got all the kids on the team trophies. After their last game of the season, he had us all gather round and he handed out the trophies one at a time, saying something about each kid as he handed them the trophy. What made this especially wonderful was that he wasn't handing out empty praise - what he said about each was true and highlighted the real accomplishments they had made during the baseball season.

And then another first - a first ever game of chess. Carbon has been asking to play chess for awhile, and he really enjoys checkers. I thought he wasn't ready for chess, but his first game with his dad he was catching on pretty quick. We don't know all that much about chess, but my husband was very impressed by the boy's quickness (which of course pleased Carbon - it's always nice to impress your dad).

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sunday - a real Sun day

church badminton

Even for the wet and grey Northwest, we've had what felt like a very long Fall in the last few months. It has been cold and wet, and the kids have been saying "when will it be summer?"

And then this weekend came, and it was as if a switch had been thrown and someone actually turned on the Sun! I had very low attendance at church today, but who could blame them? Some days it feels like worshiping the Sun is exactly what we need to do.

And on those Sundays, I understand my role as a religious educator may look a lot more like this.

play yard cart

Saturday, June 12, 2010

My Happiness Project - the health resolutions

trying to drink more water

After reading The Happiness Project, I've been motivated to think more about what makes me happy and take action on that. The first thing that came to my mind was Health. If I'm not healthy, I am not at my best, and not as happy. It's easy to take health for granted, but if you don't have it you don't have anything.

So I'm working on resolutions for the benefit of my health, and a big one for me is that I don't drink enough water. I don't like the way it tastes, and I don't like the feeling of fullness of a stomach full of water. But, water is very important so I know I need to drink plenty.

To try and encourage myself to drink more water, I purchased a fruit infusion pitcher. A friend had one and let me taste the water she had made with sliced cucumbers, so I knew I would like it. It's both tasty and pretty when it sits in my frige. So far I've made cucumber water, which I liked but my husband didn't and which went bad after a few days and tasted like metal, and I've made this strawberry water. The strawberries took several days to really infuse, but after that the water is a very pale pink and super refreshing.

What else should I try putting in the pitcher? And how do you make sure you drink enough water?

Friday, June 11, 2010

Teacher Gifts

It's that time of the year again, when teachers get thank you gifts for all they have done. I got a sweet gift certificate this year, and flowers, and public appreciation, so I feel like I have been thanked as well. :)

But, between volunteer teachers at work, and extracurricular teachers for both kids, and the staff at Carbon's school, I feel like I have a lot of teacher's gifts to pick out! I've developed a criteria for choosing these gifts:

1. Support Local Businesses. Buy it local or get a gift card for a local place.

2. Make it meaningful and as personal as possible. For church, I try to make it symbolize something or be appropriate for that teacher. For instance, everyone got candles because we call teachers forward in the worship service "to light a candle that they may carry the light of our heritage into their classrooms".

3. Support local producers and artists if possible.

4. Make it useful. No chotchkies or things people will want to give to a white elephant party.

5. If there is no perfect thing, go with a gift card. Especially gift cards for experiences rather than stuff, or for local coffee shops or restaurants.

6. Support organic and fair trade enterprises.

7. Hand write a lovely note, and tell them how much they are appreciated. Emphasize the gift they give when they share their time, talents, and hearts with your children.

We love our teachers.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

good fences make good neighbors

I have a serious neighbor dilemma. We live in a row of four houses which are home to a total of 10 children ages 3-13. There are no fences between our front yards, although ours does have boundary demarcations and gardens that are not supposed to be walked through. There is also no sidewalk on our side of the street.

The kids all like each other, and they play together in the front yards a lot. Because there is no sidewalk, I've been allowing them to walk through my yard to get to each others' houses.

But there are some serious problems with having this mass of kids running free out front. It has been very hard to keep them from walking through our gardens, especially the native plant garden, which I guess doesn't look like a garden to them. They also like to pick things, and they will just pick the gardens bare - and I especially get heartbroken when they pick my favorite flowers off so all I have are stems in my flower bed.

Then there is the fact that our neighbors on both sides have overflowing trash cans, and their trash blows into our front yard.

And the fact that the other children are constantly coming over here and ringing the doorbell, to ask if my kids can play, or to ask for other things. I am giving out bandaids, eggs, sugar, markers so they can get their homework done, and soap. You name it, it feels like they have come over here and asked for it. I don't mind helping a neighbor out, but at some point I wonder why their parents don't stock things like band aids or markers or help the kids get their homework done themselves. And then I'll have to let the kids use my phone when they come home from school and find themselves locked out of the house, too.

There is a class difference - we are the only family that owns the house and there is an obvious socio-economic difference. So I try to ignore things like the broken down minivan parked in my neighbors driveway that she lets the kids use as a playhouse. But at the same time, I don't really want my kids playing in that van - it doesn't feel right to me. And it bothers me that the kids are out past what I consider a normal bedtime, come over here bothering us during the dinner hour, and that the neighbors don't mow or weed or police their own trash.

I can't help it, these things bother me.

I am seriously considering putting up fences on both sides, so they can't walk through. Does that make me a mean person? How much am I supposed to put up with for the sake of a friendly neighborhood? When does "being friendly" and "being a good neighbor" turn into being taken advantage of?

This rant is mostly motivated by the fact that when I came home today, there were two girls pulling down the fragile branches of the cherry tree we planted out front, and picking all the green cherries off it. When they saw me pulling into the driveway, they ran away and wouldn't come back to talk to me when I called them. I went over to their houses, but - of course - their parents weren't home. It just made me so mad.

It's hard to fence a front yard with a driveway in it, but I could fence the sides. But should I?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Passing the dolls along

passing on the dolls

I used to have a huge doll collection. China dolls, Barbie dolls, and American Girl Dolls. When I felt like I was too old for the dolls anymore (which wasn't until I was 18 years old), I gave them to my sister, my two step-sisters, and my half-sister. I kept only a very few dolls, mostly the ones that had been handmade for me or had been my mother's when she was a girl. They are on a shelf in my room to this day.

Now my own daughter is old enough that she is interested in playing with more dolls, but what I have left are too fragile. It took some heavy requesting, but my 16 year old sister was finally ready to let go of some of her American Girl Dolls. This pile is only a part of her collection, and she pulled it out to let Hypatia choose.

We let Hypatia take two of the dolls, so there are still many years to go where she could get another one from her Aunt. Dolls are like old friends, and I like that we are keeping them in the family. :)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

When she has to go to work with me

Hypatia is now my little Tag-Along-Child, as we no longer have our nanny and Carbon is off at school. She wasn't thrilled at first, and the first two days that she had to be at work with me for 6 hour stretches we were both pretty frustrated by it.

Now I feel like we are hitting a stride. This is what her day at work with me looks like:

playing in my office

Playing with the toys I keep in my office right next to my desk.

in the nursery
In the church nursery, but what is she looking at?

deer in the parking lot
Now that the construction noise is gone, we see things like this again - a deer calmly grazing the edge of the parking lot.

playing outside

Playing in the new children's play yard. It will be even better when the treehouse gets built back there!

There is also a TV at church, so she can watch a movie every now and then. And today she didn't touch the preschool room with the art supplies, but that is available to her also. It's actually not a bad deal, I think.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Recognizing Religious Education this Sunday

Today was a very big day for me at church, and one part of that was our Religious Education Recognition Sunday, honoring our children, youth, and volunteer teachers. And they also stepped forward and honored me right back, so that felt very sweet and loving.

I read this quote as part of the service today:

I would like to share with you the words of William Ellery Channing:
The great end in religious education is not to stamp our minds irresistibly on the young, but to stir up their own; not to make them see with our eyes but to look inquiringly and steadily with their own; not to give them a definite amount of knowledge but to inspire a fervent love of truth; not to form an outward regularity but to touch inward springs …

That is the work I do, and a large part of why I love this job.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

a few thoughts on sports


batter up

I am requiring both children to pick a sport from the YMCA offerings and follow through with it. It's a requirement because "be comfortable playing pick-up games" and "have lifelong fitness habits" are two items on my Goals List for the kids.

Following through is more of a challenge, because I myself am not comfortable with sports, especially anything involving a ball. I've never played any sport, but the kids need me to participate at games and practices and to go out and practice with them.

My husband didn't really do any sports either, having dropped out of baseball "when they took the T away", and he's not around enough to work with the kids anyway. So I have found myself the only Mom in a gym full of dad's trying to throw and catch a football with Hypatia. (A horrible experience, but it showed me I just need to play around with balls at home more)

I went out and bought a baseball mitt so I can try and play catch with Carbon. It's a bit frustrating, but Carbon's comment is "Mommy is really bad at baseball, but it's good that she's trying".

And that's all that I expect of the kids, so at least I'm modeling the idea. Carbon is not "sporty" so far, but that doesn't mean he can't get out and have fun and stay fit. It remains to be seen with Hypatia - she's actually pretty good and she's a fast little runner.

But we aren't looking to be "good at" sports, and I want to avoid unhealthy competition. This is about community, health, and fun, and that's the place that sports have in my priority list.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Lego Corporation at school

giant Einstein Head

At Carbon's school, which is a Sudbury school, there are "corporations" that "own" and care for different areas of the school. For instance, there is an "Art Corporation", a "Music Corporation", a "Kitchen Corporation", etc. The corporation sets rules for who can use the materials and what they have to do to show capability, through a process called "getting certified". In this system, Carbon still hasn't managed to get certified to use the microwave at school, because he gets mixed up about what button does what.

After our trip to Legoland, Carbon was very excited by the idea of starting a Lego Corporation at school. He proposed it, and had a staff person help him write up a sort of charter. The school meeting voted and approved it. He was joined by two adults and a handful of other kids who also like legos a lot. He took more rubbermaid tubs to school and has been leading the charge to ask for donations of legos and funding from the school coffers to buy legos that the corporation will agree they want the most.

They set a date for a field trip to Toys R Us to look at legos and make a list of what they want to buy. But, unfortunately, Carbon ended up being the only kid who went on the field trip, which bummed him out a bit. Hopefully the lego corporation will regain a bit of its enthusiasm, but if not, it's already been a good process for Carbon.

What impresses me about this system is that it takes an interest - in Carbon's case his main interest is legos - and it gives it a real-world setting that is great practice and education for later life.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Sweetness from my children

I love that my children are starting to turn around and be sweet and caring toward me. A baby can feel empathy, and may look at you with big googly eyes of love, but an older child can express their love in many ways.

On the crazy day, that I described in my last post, we stopped at the coffee shop for breakfast. The options for gluten free were cupcakes with lots of frosting or muffins. Of course, the kids wanted cupcakes, but I told them they had too much sugar for breakfast. The barrista, very sweetly and trying to be helpful, offered that they carry a breakfast cookie (she thought the name "cookie" would appeal more to my kids). She even got out their book to read off all the ingredients in the cookie to me to make sure the kids could eat it. So I bought two of those cookies.

Well, neither child liked the cookie. Hypatia was very upset and threw hers down in the car and refused to eat it. Carbon took a couple bites, said "it's not so bad, I like it" and then tucked it into his lunch box.

That night, when I was washing out his lunch box, the cookie was still in it. I said "Carbon, you didn't eat your cookie", and he answered "I didn't want to hurt your feelings any more right then, but I really didn't like that cookie".

He didn't want to hurt my feelings anymore.

Another example:

Last night Hypatia woke up in the middle of the night with a nightmare. Her dad was up, working, but I got up also to go put her back to bed. As I was lying in bed with her, rubbing her back, she calmed down and said "you should go back to bed, Mommy. Tomorrow we have to go to work and you need energy".

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

And here is how a person drowns under a pile of laundry ...

You know how you can drown under four inches of water? And you think, how did that person not just get up?

And then there is the person who can swim, who knows themself and what they are doing, and who does this all the time. But if they swim out too far, if they overestimate their strength, or if there is a freak wave or a storm, the experienced and the strong will still drown.

Enough with the metaphors.

Coming off our "three-day weekend" (never a reality for a person who works at a church but the rest of my family had a 3 day weekend), I had spent my normal Day Off (mondays) engaged in family activities and then taking advantage of a few sunny hours at home to work in my garden. The garden and yard work windows between heavy rain are so brief right now, that I have to go out and take advantage of any of them I can.

So we get to Tuesday, and I think I did enough on the holiday because I managed to do the weekly bathroom cleaning and take out the trash. And I have a plan for Tuesday, a plan that doesn't work.

We have no food in the house right now (should have gone shopping during the weekend instead of driving out of town to see my extended family), so I stop at a coffee shop to get the kids and me breakfast, then I drop Carbon off at school with a lunch packed of just green salad. Hypatia and I head off to Costco, but I forgot they don't open until 10am. So we head over to work (because I don't have any childcare for her anymore, so she has to go everywhere with me), and we get some good work done. I think I will leave in the afternoon and go do that shopping ... but then I get an email from the minister saying "I should have asked you earlier, but" ... and I need to be at a 1:45pm meeting with the minister and the music director. OK - lunch break and then go back.

I tried to make the most of a short lunch break and check something off my To Do List. My husband has been in real need of new clothing, but he can't/won't shop for himself. So he heads off to work in pants with a ripped knee and just points that out to me ... There was a sale in many of the stores at the mall, so on my short lunch break I bought mall food and picked up 6 pairs of boxer shorts, three button-up shirts and two pairs of pants (all for only $114, which I thought was great) for the husband.

Back at work, Hypatia is getting bored and it is a lot harder to properly work and make sure she doesn't bother anyone else or get in trouble ... but I finish out the day until 3pm when it is time to go pick Carbon up from school.

I pick him up, and I have an errand for work that is geographically between his school and the YMCA where the kids have swim class 1/2 hour after school. So I squeeze that work errand in, but with the two kids "helping" it takes long enough that we are just a bit late to swim class ...

I made a resolution to exercise more, so I am "supposed" to put the kids in playcare at the YMCA after their swim class (they want me to watch, and are not ready for me to just leave them swimming while I exercise at the same time). But last night there was a school potluck and annual meeting at Carbon's school, starting at 6pm. They got out of the showers at 5pm, but I still tried to squeeze a workout in ... 20 minutes on the treadmill and then I needed to change again and grab the kids ...

Oh dear, the dog has been in the garage all day and we really need to go home and let her out to pee ...

Oh dear, I don't have food to take to the potluck ... Yay - it's "produce Happy Hour" (50%off ) at the neighborhood grocery store, I'll just take fruit ...

Arriving 20 minutes late to the school potluck, we find hardly anyone there and no real food. Fruit for dinner. More parents arrive at 7pm, having been confused about the potluck versus the meeting start times ... my husband also arrives at 7:30 having come straight from work. There were 13 items on the agenda, and this was supposed to take One Hour. Nope. Shortly after 9pm, I cannot keep the kids up any later. We leave, but my husband stays to provide quorum for voting on the annual budget and all that.

The kids are wired, so I stick a science video from the library in the machine and I go in to wash the dishes. It's amazing to me that in a day where we ate No Meals at home there are still a pile of dirty dishes to wash. I get the kids in their jammies and teeth brushed and read a bedtime story, and off to bed. My husband gets home, and we do a little dance about we are each starving, but there's no food in the house, and it's after 10pm, and we should just go to bed hungry. He ends up making me toast and eating nothing himself.

We start talking about the school meeting, but it degenerates into an argument about whether to do preschool for the girl next year, the differences between preschool and daycare, whether it is worth it for me to work at all, why he just defers to me as the "subject matter expert", whether he should, and how p**s*d I get when he says stuff like "do whatever you want to do, I don't have the time for all this minutia". We talked it through, but now it's 11pm.

He needed to get up at 5am. At 6am this morning he woke me up as he was dressing. The shirts I got him were too tight. They were his old size, but he's gained a lot of weight. Great - a boomerang errand because now I'll have to take those in to return them. But now he's in a nasty mood, and he swears a lot about not having anything to wear, he can't untangle some cord he needs off his desk so he just throws it down and says "F*** it".

I thought about going back to sleep, but can't after that. As I get up, he comes back to ask me where something else is. I don't know ... it turns out he had it still packed in his bag from our vacation ... he is mad it's raining hard and he'll be soaked by the time he gets to work because his motorcycle gear hasn't been rainproofed or repaired. I start looking for solutions and trying to help him, but he's just mad and depressed and Nothing Is Going To Make It Better. Life just sucks and he wants to stomp around and complain about it.

I'm emotionally charged after he leaves, but right as I go to do my morning yoga Hypatia wakes up crying from a nightmare. Then my alarm clock goes off ... Oh look, it's time for me to be awake.

So here I am, and I am very much in danger of drowning, because I have swum out too far. Today I need to go in to work - there is a lot for me to get done before Sunday. I want and intend to exercise (because I am trying to take better care of myself and Be Happy) but squeezing the time out seems like such an indulgence when I also need to go shopping for food and cook dinner. Oh, and I want/need to go to a memorial service for a congregant tonight, but I'm still playing message-tag with my sister-in-law about watching the kids for me ...

And I clearly need to iron some of his old shirts for him and do something to deal with clothing for my husband to wear to work for the rest of the week.

A person can drown under all this, with 3 mostly helpless humans relying on me to cloth and feed and clean up after them, a full-time job to do, and all the rest.