Monday, March 31, 2008

Toy Envy

It started a few weeks ago, at a friend's house where the kids are really into Pokemon keychains, of which Luke had exactly none. He hasn't loved Pokemon anything in several months, but for that afternoon, you would've thought he lost his dog, he was so sad about not having a handful of these keychains.



Then, at a birthday party yesterday, the newly-8-year-old boy got so many cool Star Wars presents that Luke actually turned green during present-opening. It doesn't matter that, at home, we have 3 lightsabers of our own, plus at least one floating around on loan from friends, or that we have so many Star Wars action figures, starships, books, playsets and Gameboy chips that we're swimming in them. Confronted with all this new, cool stuff, none of what we have at home really mattered.





And so, Ben and I look at each other and ask, what can we do about this extreme case of toy envy? I say extreme because for the last few weeks, Luke's been dedicated to the accumulation of more stuff. We hear things like, "I don't know what I'll do if I can't have Obi-Wan boots just like Sam's!" We are subject to tirades of whining, crying, begging to go to Target and buy... everything in the toy department.



We are considering removing quite a bit of the Star Wars stuff we've got - not permanently! we're not that mean - from Luke's room to help him appreciate what he already has.







Also, we'd like to find a way for Luke to see, up close with his own eyes, what true deprivation is by volunteering to help a poor family in some way (scant details as yet, but when we figure out how to do this, I'll be sure to document it in this space.)



Suggestions are appreciated...



And in the meantime, we'll re-watch The Story of Stuff (see the link, right over there ->) to help remind us that consumerism ain't everything.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Pictures of the Week




Fun with friends, at a playground, in the freezing cold.





French-toast making, in our cozy house.





And finally, our own young Einstein, growing crystals and wearing the requisite safety goggles... just not on his eyes!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Signs of Spring



The ground cover, which each year I become convinced is dead, returns - better than ever. As always, I am amazed.





The woodpile (chopped by Ben!) is ready for stacking.





Rain drains become, once again, a popular form of entertainment...





As does in-the-bushes adventure.





And finally, even on the coldest, rainiest day, the forsythia is coming into bloom - inside, anyway!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Pillow Talk

By about 9AM most mornings, I'm ready to send my 3 year-old to military school. He's going through a tough time right now, to say the least - thank goodness we have a few daily minutes to snuggle up in my bed and be happy together, before the pressures of the day (potty training? breakfast indecision? busted lightsaber?) come to bear.



In the early mornings, he's a cheerful, boisterous guy. This can be hard to take in a co-snuggler, especially for me, a decidedly non-morning person. But today, I try to relax and let him sing, and bounce, and chatter. First, I'm treated to a rousing rendition of "Woody's Roundup," the song from Toy Story, only with his own words:



Woody's Roundup... come on, to back, to back/


Woody's Roundup... come on, to back, to back!



Then, in a classic puppy kind of way, he jumps back and forth over my sleepy self about a dozen times. And finally comes my favorite morning snuggle bit, when Owen looks at the house quilt wall-hanging I made when his big brother was his age. It's 10 feet wide, and perfectly positioned for daydreaming while snuggled in our bed.





"Mom, that's my house. And that's yours, right next door, and Luke's is up there, and Daddy's right next to him, and that's Grandma's, and Uncle Dave's, and my cousins'..." and on and on, until everyone we know is safely installed in their own cozy houses on our quilt.



What I love best about this naming thing is, Luke used to do it too, back when he was the 3 year-old snuggling up in bed with his Mama and Daddy. When Owen began, spontaneously, to do the same thing this year, my heart just soared - my two boys are so different, but in some ways they're just the same.



Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Spring Fever

I don't know what it is about March, but I find myself driving down a little side road, kind of a "long-cut" to my house, drawn by the brown grasses and swirling eddies of a river that runs pretty high and fast this time of year.





I drive over the bridge and slow way down, looking out over the river.





If I'm not holding up traffic, I'll pull over and the kids and I will just look out the windows at the scenery.





I'm not sure what they are thinking, other than, "nice river." But what I'm thinking, this time of year anyway, is about how badly I want to... canoe on it. I'm not actually a canoer, but something about the way this river wends its way through the reeds and cattails gets my blood pumping.





I can almost hear the water lapping up along the side of the canoe, my paddle slicing through the water, peace and happiness right here in my own little suburban corner of the world.



Someday, I hope to do it.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Blood Glucose

When I was pregnant with Owen, I was tested for gestational diabetes. Fortunately, I didn't have it and avoided the strict diet regimen that goes along with it - but the baby doc told me that, having come so close during pregnancy, there's a good chance that I would develop type 2 diabetes later in life. Which there was already a good chance of because my dad is a type 2 diabetic.



Well, tonight is the night that I find out if "later in life" is now - when, as my mom so kindly pointed out, I'm "pushing 40." (Thanks, Mom.) My primary care doctor loaned me a glucose test kit and told me to test myself, eat a chocolate donut, test myself again after eating it and then again after another hour. (This came about, incidentally, because a few weeks ago I ate a chocolate donut and afterwards felt, apparently, the symptoms of a precipitous drop in blood sugar which would come after an extreme surge of blood sugar, so my doc thought a repeat was warranted.)



So far, I've done the first test, eaten the donut, and tested once again; my blood sugar rose by about 25 points between the tests, but I have no idea what that means.



It's weird, parked in the middle of a test like this, waiting to see if my life will change significantly or go on the way it is; certainly there are worse things than type 2 diabetes, but I sure would like to avoid the daily meds and finger pricking if possible.



I'll talk to the doc tomorrow, and find out what my numbers mean. Wish me luck!



3/25/08 I tested okay! My numbers are all within normal range, thank goodness. So, for now anyway, life will go on as it is... phew.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Gunplay

Actually, I should say "lightsaber play" - this is what my boys do, endlessly (well, it seems that way sometimes anyhow). They make all those zooming lightsaber sounds, swing their arms in that lighsaber way, and somehow they manage to rarely actually hit each other, others, furniture, etc.



They've also gotten really good at being dead, and cutting off each other's arms, heads, etc. I'll hear, "Ohh, I'm dead!" or "I cut off your arm!" as often as I imagine young girls' mothers might hear, "Here's some more tea for you, Mrs. Tiddly-Wink!"



And while I am ambivalent about my 3 year-old playing at this kind of thing - so young and cute, he's practically a toddler! - I still allow it. I try to think of President Jimmy Carter, who as a boy played cowboys and indians - and ended up one of the world's greatest humanitarians. I think boys just need to do this, and to squash the impulse may mean denying them a whole part of their boyness.





It also may prevent opportunities for pro-social growth; today, while playing with some buddies in a particularly rough-and-tumble lightsaber battle, a pal got knocked down, and stayed down. Owen was one of the first in there asking, "hey, you okay?" (He was, he stayed down as part of the game.) I wonder, if we Moms had stopped the battling, if that moment and others like it may not have happened; I'm glad we were able to just let "boys be boys."

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

B-Minor

I've been learning the guitar now for, maybe, 2 months or so, getting better and better all the time, but certainly not playing at all well.



No, I think that will take many, many months - I never knew there was so much to coordinate! If I have my left hand doing the correct things for the chords, then my right can't strum properly. If I manage to get both of these hands working together, you can bet that I'm not singing, because when I open my mouth, my hands pretty well forget what they're doing.



My favorite songs to massacre - I mean play - are an eclectic mix: Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man," Monty Python's "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life," Van Morrisson's "The Star of the County Down."



One of the first I tried, "Worst Day Since Yesterday" by Flogging Molly, I hadn't attempted in a few weeks because of the dreaded B-minor which, if you've never played guitar before, is what we professionals would describe as really, really hard to do. (If you want to hear it, go to my "favorites" sidebar and click the Flogging Molly link.)



But today I was fooling around on the guitar, and I decided to have a go just for the heck of it. Previously, the damn B-minor always sounded like the opposite of music - sort of like a scary, blunted hissing sound that might have come from someone rubbing the soles of two dirty shoes together.



But today, it sounded like it was supposed to! It took me a long time to line my fingers up to play the chord, but my they've finally strenghtened up enough to hold a B-minor. I'm proud of myself, I can tell you!



And so it seems that I have made some progress on the guitar. I'll report back when Luke no longer assures me in his most patient voice, "Mom, you can take the pauses out of this song."

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Tantrums



See this little child?





Cute, isn't he?





Happy as a pig in poop.





Here, he is doing the little-brother version of a "climbing wall."



All these adorable pictures of our Owen have two things in common: one, they were all taken in the Rocky Mountains, and two, he is not having a fit in any of them.



There's a reason for that - while visiting the grandparents, Owen had exactly one tantrum. One, over 16 days! Since we arrived home, he's averaged about 16 each day; we are all somewhat tired of this.



Next time I feel like screaming back at him, I'm going to calmly glide over to our handy-dandy computer and look at these pictures, because surely if he could go 16 days with only one tantrum at some point in the recent past, we can look forward to this miracle again in the future. Right?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Headlines

I wish, oh I so sincerely wish, that we could get a newspaper every day!



One very nice thing about visiting my parents (or Mom-in-law, for that matter) is the paper, dropped off at the edge of the driveway each morning. Which, despite its' bright orange plastic covering, has been known to get caught up in my Dad's snowblower... but not for a long time. Really.



While visiting my folks, I read two articles about homeschooling. One, closest to my heart, was about unschooling and the benefits it brings. I enjoyed the other as well; written by an in-house opinion columnist, it reviewed the California homeschooling crisis, playing out right now in the state courts, and ended with: "Allowing parents the freedom to teach their own children? Now, that's what I call "good citizenship."



For a fairly conservative paper, I found much to agree with in it during this visit -always a bleeding-heart liberal, I think I'm becoming distinctly more libertarian, at least where schooling and food are concerned. (More on both of these subjects, I feel sure, in future posts...) Anyway, this visit was a far cry from those in the past, where I swore and/or shook my fist at the paper at least once per section.



Here's one thing that cracked me up, though. During my visit, the paper had a 3-part article on dangerous pharmaceuticals found in water supplies all over the country, complete with analysis of the harmful impacts on people and wildlife. The picture painted was downright scary, but I had to smile at the juxtaposition of these with an article entitled "Backlash squeezing dairy hormone." This article detailed the formation of AFACT, or "American Farmers for the Advancement and Conservation of Technology," a "new advocacy group closely tied to the agriculture company Monsanto."



What, I'm sure you're wondering, is this group advocating for? The "right to use" Posilac, a bovine growth hormone, to stimulate cows to give more milk. Evidently, these poor farmers are getting slammed by all us anti-technology people who don't want to drink recombinant bovine somatotropin in our daily dose of milk.



Or have it end up in our water.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

14th Post

When I was 9 years old, my family took our annual December holiday trip up into Canada, to spend Christmas and New Year's with our relatives. Due to black ice, and then car trouble, this particular drive up spread out over 3 days, rather than taking the usual 8 hours. We only ever made it to my grandparents' house because some good Samaritans loaned us their car - after picking us up once ours finally died, in the frigid wasteland my brother called "silo country" - and brought us to their house about an hour from the city. Can you imagine, they loaned us their car!



Anyway, we had a nice visit for the first several days, and then my Dad got a major flu, he was so sick that we stayed on longer than expected. So then we tried to leave, got an hour or so outside the city, and... the car died. Another few days to fix it, and finally we made the drive home.



For the whole trip, I kept saying to myself, "we'll get to Grandma's and then everything will be okay... Daddy will feel better, and then everything will be okay... we're on the road now, everything will be okay..." Eventually I gave up thinking like this, just went along for the ride. On the final drive home, I waited until we turned up our street - 30 seconds from our house - before saying, "okay, we're finally home, nothing can go wrong now!"



And do you know, we walked into our house to find the first floor and basement flooded because the heating pipes had frozen in our absence.



The lesson I learned from that trip and its' final insult was this: never tempt the fates.



So, imagine my concern yesterday when I finished up my post - and discovered that I've posted exactly 13 times! I simply could not let that stand, because I don't tempt the fates.



In my head, I know how stupid this must sound; how could my posting 13 times instead of 14 possibly have any influence on flying conditions, pilot competence, or weather? And yet, my heart knows that I have done all I could to ensure that tomorrow's flight goes smoothly, simply by writing this here 14th essay.



And so, knock on wood, I will get off the plane tomorrow night with my two awesome boys, give my husband a long, long hug, and head home. It's been a great trip, but it definitely feels like it has been too long since we've seen Daddy!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Hair Dryer

I don't remember exactly when I dropped the hair dryer habit, but certainly it was years ago, possibly before I was married. Like lots of American women, I used to get the blow dryer out every time I washed my hair, pretty well every day. But for the last many years, I haven't touched a hair dryer; I think we have one in our home, mostly in case any relatives or friends stay with us who might need one.



On this trip out to ski country, though, I've started using one again. The first time was because I really, really needed clean hair on a day that I also wanted to get outside into sub-freezing temperatures - without waiting for my hair to dry. I found that about 4 minutes of blow-drying did the trick, and made my hair look super nice!



Now, I am not a vain person. I wear no makeup whatsoever, except maybe to a wedding, and my style of dress can best be summed up as: "Stevie Nicks goes to Yoga Class in Her Pajamas," a line from my new favorite book, Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert. And, I like my hair even when it's not blow-dried - it's very thick, kind of a nice color, behaves decently most days.



But every shower since that first one here, I've been blow-drying my hair! With no excuse except that I want it to keep looking like it does now, thicker and more stylish than usual. I guess this would be fine, except that I feel guilty about it: will I still be my treehugger self if I consistenly use a blow-dryer? What kind of energy usage does it take, anyway? Am I, by blow-drying my hair, sending the message to my boys that appearance counts more than what's on the inside?



Well, I hope not, because for the time being I'm going to keep doing it. At least, if I can find the blow-dryer we have at home!



P.S. We're traveling Thursday, wish us luck! I'll post from home as soon as I can, knock on wood.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Hidden Depths

At age 5, Luke needed leg surgery to fix a congenital problem that plagued him from when he first started moving around on his own. In the months before the surgery, I spent nights awake fretting about what might go wrong, and also how he'd react to the whole operation/months in a cast/pain at the surgery site thing. I just couldn't imagine my sensitive, fragile boy handling all that surgery brings.



He proved my worrying to be baseless - in addition to sailing through the surgery itself, Luke bounced back incredibly fast. He dropped the walker within a week, just forgot to bring it to brush his teeth one night. He understood and used the pain scale, so that when he needed pain meds, he got 'em. He really worked in PT, and gave his therapist a few iTunes tips as well; in short, our Luke was a real trooper.



Fast-forward to now; the leg still gives him trouble, he hasn't found a sport he is passionate about, he enjoys reading more than playing outside. All of which might make a parent forget what a trooper he can be - at times, I worry about Luke's physical fitness, and mental fitness, too.



I worry that maybe he won't be strong enough to make it in the world, someday.



Well, whenever I feel fretful for my Luke, I'm going to remember today - the day he overcame a huge fear and went down a giant indoor waterslide here in the Rocky Mountains. He stood for 20 minutes at the top of the slide, even got on and then off again more than once - but eventually, he did it. And, of course, he LOVED it!



(So, stupid Mama says after that first slide, "Well, you can do it one or two more times, and then we've got to get going..." Tears, oh the flood of tears! Thankfully, Grandpa steps in, with a big bear hug, and says, "Luke, you can go down that slide as many times as you want!" Stupid, stupid Mama.)



And then, to top off his big day, he climbed up a 25-foot climbing wall, with ease, and rang the bell at the top! The thing is, Luke took on this climb with grace and coordination more often seen in his little brother Owen - born with an instinctive knowledge of how to move his body that Luke doesn't seem to have.



At least, that's what I thought until I watched my Luke climb the wall! He was not the least bit scared. He rested every few steps - on his feet, not on the rope - and then kept on going; by the time he made it up, 4 or 5 people had stopped to watch this small boy up at the top of the wall.








I, of course, watched him through tears - of pride, relief, and joy that my boy is what he is: sensitive, fragile, and a trooper.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Moody Blues

My parents have an iPod, something I don't really aspire to because we make excellent use of technology from the Jurassic era, back about 5 years ago. But still, the iPod is really sweet; my folks have 1100 songs in theirs, and a Bose sound dock which makes the whole thing sound great.



I bring up the iPod because, while checking it out on this beautiful, sunny morning up here in the Rockies, I found a Moody Blues album that transported me to another place and time.



Suddenly I was 14 again, with my life as-yet unwritten, hanging out with a dear friend and parsing lyrics for the Meaning of Life. And, the Moody Blues often hit the mark in terms of meaning-of-life lyrics:



And how many words have I got to say


And how many times will it be this way


With your arms around the future


And your back up against the past/




You're already falling


It's calling you on to face the music


And the song that is coming through/




You're already falling


The one that it's calling is you/



I can see my 14 year-old self, walking in the sunshine with my buddy, past a horse farm and a crumbling old cemetery, looking at the future with the wonderful sense of potential and excitement that only really happens in teenagerhood. I think our conversation was mostly (of course) about boys, but it was supercharged with excitement and mystery, in a way that rarely happened after the early teenage years.



As turbulent as those years can be, I think they are full of a beauty which isn't recognized or appreciated until long after... like, when you hear a song at 36 which held so much meaning for you way back when.



Don't get me wrong, I love my life now - it is often said that the teenage years are supposedly the "best years of your life," a sentiment with which I heartily disagree. But certainly my life as a wife and mother carries with it more responsibility than that 14 year-old could have imagined.



Thankfully, it also carries much joy and contentment as the answer to the mystery and potential that the 14 year-old me thrilled to.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Refrigerator Poetry

Months ago, I bought a little kit with this trip in mind, basically a "things to do when you're bored kit." Yesterday afternoon, snowed in, we pulled the kit out and found some magnetic tape and the idea to make your own magnetic poetry kit. Luke and I went around asking for random words, came up with our own (Luke's were names of Star Wars characters, mine were mostly verbs and words from the thesaurus, like "dolt"). We got out scissors and Scotch tape and, when we ran out of the kit's magnetic tape, we got permission to cut up some of the magnets on the fridge that everyone seems to have these days (Drain problems? Call 1-800-I-Drain...).



It was such a fun project to do, because it involved everyone on some level - Owen put the finished words on the fridge, even - and is ongoing: when Luke needs a new word, he gets out paper, tape and a piece of magnet and goes to town.



Here are some favorites:



Jedi Incarnate, zoom!



Rhyme, Padme, Notable Articulate Dolt!



Padme escapes love with evil Sith Anakin



Silly fun, for sure - and extremely easy to get started. I wish I'd thought of a homemade magnetic poetry kit long before!


Sunday, March 2, 2008

Comics

I can't believe it's already Sunday - on vacation as I am, forgive me for not posting as often as I'd planned... we are settled in, adjusted to the new time zone and, for the most part, the altitude. I'll do better this week!



Anyway, on to the subject at hand. At the library here the other day, young Owen pulled a Garfield comic book out of the "to be shelved" stack, plunked himself down on the floor, and read that book cover-to-cover. He hadn't even taken his coat off yet; needless to say, we checked it out and brought it back to the grandparents'.



Fortunately, the grandparents own quite a few comic books already, including a beautiful, hardbound, annotated edition of the Peanuts, with strips from the 50s on into the 90s. Pretty much nonstop, the boys read from the Garfield, Calvin and Hobbes, and Peanuts books available; enter the room in which Luke is reading and he'll corner you to read "a few of my favorites from this book."



We're on vacation, so I decided that 24/7 comics were okay with me; originally, I thought they'd be fluff, with strips to make him laugh but not much else. Now that this has been Luke's habit for the last few days, I feel differently - the concepts and lessons that come up while reading the funnies are surprising!



Several times it has happened that Luke reads a strip, laughs uproariously, pauses and says, "I don't get that one..." And one of us will explain why it's funny, usually because a word has two meanings, or the strip refers to some cultural touchstone that, at 7, Luke doesn't know about yet. Also, a few strips have been downright educational.



In one Calvin and Hobbes, for instance, Calvin finds some cigarettes and is amazed that his mom gives him permission to try one; later, as he's coughing his head off, he tries to figure out how something so awful could be habit-forming. This strip left Luke puzzling for days, asking questions about not just cigarettes, but other addictions too (the grandparents have an extensive shot glass collection, and Luke's trying to figure out the line between a glass of wine with dinner and alcoholism.)



In what has become my favorite Peants strip, Snoopy imagines himself a soldier at the infamous Revolutionary War winter camp for soldiers, Valley Forge. In the strip, Snoopy, dressed in rags and wearing no shoes, asks General Washington for an indoor hockey rink. To boost morale for the soldiers, he suggests weekly hockey and figure skating clubs, and thinks to himself as the General has him thrown out of the tent, "I didn't even get to ask him about the Zamboni!" This strip sparked so many questions: starting with why it's funny and moving onto history about Valley Forge and the awful conditions everyone lived under there, and coming back to the absurdity of a hockey rink in such a time/place.



It turns out that reading the funnies has been a boon, not just because we all like to curl up with them (especially on a snowy, wintery day like this one) but because they convey important information - to readers of all ages.