Monthly Archives: November 2014

Day 49: Day of Rest

I wasn’t up to much today after yesterday’s drive. So we really did need this Sunday to be a day of rest, relatively speaking. Boy had a Nutcracker run-through in the afternoon, and we were supposed to maybe pick up Nutty and release her today. But I spoke to the rehabilitator, and we were both concerned that even though she’s completely recovered from her injury, she’d be in trouble if she couldn’t find her mom. She’s too little to take care of herself, and Squirrel Lady is still feeding her formula. So she’s going to stay where she is, and spend the winter living in an outdoor enclosure to prepare her to come home in the spring.

Nutty isn’t alone. She’s living and sleeping with two other baby squirrels: Pumpkin and Nips. I offered to take all three into our yard in the spring. Evidently, Nutty knows her name, and likes to be petted (though of course that won’t last long). Squirrel Lady said we were welcome to come visit, and that I could feed her formula if I’d like, and we will bring the trio a gift of some nuts.

I was relieved not to have to worry about a little baby squirrel’s survival today.

Both kids were really happy to be home with their Papa, and each wanted to play with him alone for a while today. Girl had a lip-gloss ‘makeup party’ with him this morning, and then gave him a ‘manicure’ and hand massage with lotion.

Girl said that Papa's other fingers are boys, but his pinky is a girl, and it wanted to get dressed up.
Girl said that Papa’s other fingers are boys, but his pinky is a girl, and it wanted to get dressed up.

After that she got out the bin of beans and the bin of animals, and played with them with her dad for a while.

And since it was gorgeous today Boy took the dog out back and played for probably an hour. When he came back in, he wanted Papa to help him with Minecraft, so they did that for a while before Ballet. When they left, I went outside to rake the front yard. Papa came back and hung out with Girl while I was outside, and when he went back to pick Boy up, he said he’d left her watching female snowboarding on TV.

Girl really likes the idea of snowboarding, and has made sure to clarify with us that it is something little girls can do. Even five year old girls. She really wants to learn.

These poor mountain-loving kids, destined to grow up in the flatlands.

Days 46-48: Mountains/snow

Girl was excited for a mountain adventure, and that’s what she and Boy got.

We left our place (on the coastal flatlands) Thursday morning when it was still raining, and after a respite from precipitation midway, it started snowing again on the way over the mountains. I knew we would miss dinner where we were going, and since we were evidently spending our Thanksgiving on the road, I asked the kids to think about the things we had to be thankful for, and try to just look at the mountains as much as they could, because they were pretty lucky to see them in the snow like that. That drive was something else; miles of narrow curving mountain-hugging roads, snow covered trees from the day before. When it started snowing again things got a little dicey, but we got there.

There was even more adventure when my Dad came down to the bottom of the hill to transfer our stuff and drive us back up to the house on the dirt roads, leaving our car seats behind (no way our 2-wheel drive rental sedan could have made it), but even my Dad’s 4WD lost traction on one steep icy curve, and we started sliding back down. Both kids were a little scared. He left us with the car running and the emergency break on, walked up the hill with the snow coming down and dark deepening, and got another vehicle and four more men. I transferred the kids to the second vehicle, crossing the steep icy road holding their hands. While we waited, my Dad’s friends helped him get unstuck.

Suffice it to say the kids hadn’t ever experienced anything like that before. Just sitting in the backseat of a car with lap belts on was a little alarming for them. But we got up to the house, and had some dinner.

We were staying in a four bedroom cabin with my parents, my brother, two sisters who have been friends with my folks for forty years, and one of their sons. Three brothers of those sisters, and their families, were staying in other cabins in the resort. Renting these cabins for Thanksgiving has been their family tradition for probably twenty-five years, and my folks have been their guest on a good number of occasions. Boy had been with us once before, when he was two, but of course he didn’t remember. Since Papa had to stay home this time to work on Friday, it was just the three of us, so Girl shared a bed with me, and Boy got to sleep in the upper bunk in his uncle’s room. He’d never slept in a bunk before, and was pretty excited about it. When we went to sleep it was still snowing.

The next morning the kids woke up before anyone else; I fed them a light breakfast of toast and yogurt from what I’d brought with me, since we were supposed to go for a big breakfast at 10 at one of the brothers’ cabins. Before then, though, I dressed the kids in their warm things and boots and let them go out with my Dad, who was shoveling the (very steep) drive so we could get out.  Boy lost one mitten in the snow, and said that his feet were cold (not very surprising given that he was wearing rainboots). One of the sisters drove us to breakfast, and Boy said his feet were so cold they hurt, and sounded like he was going to cry.

When we got to the house (after another adventurous driveway) I snuggled Boy and Girl on the couch, and warmed Boy’s feet in my sweater. I told him a story about myself when I was a kid, which I almost never do. I told him that when I was a kid, most moms just told their kids to go outside and play, and be back for dinner, and kids had a lot of freedom to roam.  We lived in house with a great big woods behind it, where there used to be a Boy Scout camp or something in the 30s, so there were lots of old trails and bridges over the little streams, even a log road (though who knows how old that was). In addition to the woods there was a pond, a rocky stream, and a field. That was my world. I told Boy that I named all of the paths and trails, and I knew where everything was. I told Boy that in the winter, when the pond froze, my friend and I would take our skates and go ice skating, being careful to avoid getting too close to the end where the stream flowed out. And sometimes, I told Boy, if we stayed too long and especially if my skates were getting too tight, I would lose feeling in my feet. And after I changed into my boots it would feel like walking on stuffed animals, and then on the walk home they would start to feel warm and tingly, and they’d hurt terribly. And I told him I could still remember so clearly walking home in the quiet, with snow on the trees all around, so happy but worried about my feet a little. I told Boy I loved those woods more than anything.

We all ate a breakfast of scrambled eggs, ham, grits, biscuits, chipped beef in gravy. The kids played with another little boy (a really sweet smart boy) of three years old.  Boy got to use the apple peeler and help make an apple pie. We watched deer off the back deck.

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Most of the family usually goes for outings on Friday, into town to shop, or for a hike at some nearby falls. We couldn’t leave the resort with the kids because of the car seats, but that was fine with us. I knew they wanted to play outside more. The plan was to drive us back to our cabin while the rest of the family went out for a while.

Boy and Girl got their warm things back on, and went out to play before we got back in the car. And this time, Boy just headed straight out into the woods, up the hill. I had to call after him to stay where we could see him, because he was already a tiny green coat against the snow.

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He said he was following the deer tracks, because he knew they had to stay where the snow wasn’t too deep, and where it was safe to step. He said, “nature is our guidance.” He came back down and helped his sister up a little ways; she couldn’t go that far because her little legs are just too short.

When we got back to our cabin the Boy headed right back into the woods, down the hill this time. I followed with Girl. He was our leader, telling us where the better paths were. The wood were filled with downed trees and rocks under the snow. Boy was in snow up to his waist sometimes, climbing, sliding on his butt, exploring all around the cabin. We stayed out for an hour.

We came inside, I got their wet things off and warmed them up, and Girl started helping one of the brothers make chocolate covered peanut butter balls. But Boy asked to go out again, and this time my parents and brother and their dog joined him. This time, they said, he was even more adventurous. My dad seemed really tickled. Finally he came back in of his own accord, long after his Grammy and uncle were already back in, and there was so much snow packed into his boots that my Dad and I had to pry them off.

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He didn’t complain about cold feet once.

Boy helped finish the peanut butter balls, they played ping-pong in the basement with their uncle, Boy did a puzzle, Girl went through a bag of jewelry her Grammy gave her, we had Thanksgiving leftover dinner with the whole family, Grampy read them a Sacagewea book, they went to bed.

This morning we got up, started another puzzle, ate a light breakfast, dressed and packed. We went back to the ‘breakfast’ cabin and ate french toast and bacon. Without even asking, Boy put his coat and shoes on and went outside. I told him that I didn’t have a change of clothes for him, and so if he got wet it might be a long day, but that I trusted him to make his own decisions. While I visited inside (and Girl played with her little friend) Boy was outside. Both times I poked my head out and called his name, he was right by the cabin, but he told me later that he’d been making his way down the long steep hill to the road, making sure to stay in the snow NEXT to the drive (since he had given me his word not to go in the road), and then standing next to the road, talking to walkers and joggers, and making his way back up. Several times. My funny kid. I’m so glad he got a little taste of that kind of freedom.

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We said our goodbyes and thank you’s, and drove back over the mountains and home.

Day 45: Rain

Today, it rained. And rained and rained and rained.

Dog, watching the rain.
Dog, watching the rain.

We did very little, and I was very glad that we weren’t driving. Girl packed a bag of things to bring on our ‘mountain adventure’ tomorrow, and I did laundry.

What does Girl need for a mountain adventure? These things.
What does Girl need for a mountain adventure? These things.

The kids played Minecraft for a while, working on both Girl’s world and Boy’s world. The little I saw of Boy’s world was pretty cool. Rooftop gardens, sugar cane and wheat fields, a cool house. The also did some drawings.

Girl made a drawing of a bad dream, in which the family was caught in a terrible thunder and lightening storm, and a giant spider tried to attack us, but Dog jumped on it’s back and bit it.

Storm, family, giant spider, heroic Dog.
Storm, family, giant spider, heroic Dog.

Girl has been thinking and talking, even singing, a lot about how much Dog wants to protect us. (The other day I heard her singing to Dog in the bathroom about what a good protector she is.)

Boy’s drawings these days are occupied with shapes, lines, contrasts, perspective. It’s such a contrast to Girl’s, which are full of swirls and movement.

Boy drew this today.
Boy drew this today.

He’s also been talking about baking again, and I found this recipe (copied from the flour bag) on the counter the other day. I expect we’ll be doing some of that next week.

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Papa picked up a baguette and hummus from Harris Teeter tonight so I didn’t have to make dinner. Tomorrow we’ll get up early, throw some things together, put the car seats in the rental, and hit the road. I doubt we’ll have internet access where we’re staying, and in that case I’ll post our days when we get home.

Until then: Happy, Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Day 44: My birthday

Well, it was my birthday, and it was a co-op day.

For my birthday, Girl drew me a picture of the family.
For my birthday, Girl drew me a picture of the family.

Both kids remembered on their own, and said Happy Birthday! the first thing when they saw me. That in and of itself might have been the best present I could have gotten. The kids were SO happy to see their friends at co-op today. And they learned some things, too.

Boy made these gumdrop/toothpick domes at co-op today.
Boy made these gumdrop/toothpick domes at co-op today.

The temperature dropped while we were there and it started raining, so by the time we left things were pretty miserable. When we got home I turned up the heat, made some snacks, and let them watch TV. (They are currently watching episodes of ‘Ghostwriter’ on YouTube; it’s a PBS mystery show for kids from the 90’s that their dad used to watch.) I started dinner, took a break when Papa got home to open my gifts and cards (the drawings/cards from the kids, a ‘coupon book’ from Papa, and cards from two dear friends).

My birthday card from Boy and Girl, which Boy made. It features karate guys facing off in a room. Why? I don't know.
My birthday card from Boy and Girl, which Boy made. It features karate guys facing off in a room. Why? I don’t know.

After a simple, quick dinner (white rice and spiced ground turkey and onion) we all drove to the airport (only 15 minutes away) so I could pick up a rental car. The roads were madness, and we passed two accidents between us and the airport. One on the other side of the highway was serious, with four firetrucks and a huge backup. We should be driving over the mountains tomorrow for Thanksgiving with my family and friends of theirs, but the storm will probably prohibit travel. So long as the road are cleared, then, we’ll just leave early Thursday and try to make it for dinner. Girl and Boy would really like to see the mountains. Especially with snow.

I would really like them to see a sky full of stars. I can’t imagine a better birthday gift than that.

Day 43: Brick fairy house

It was nearly 70 degrees today, so we pared down our obligations to the bare minimum (driving to the ballet store for Boy’s new shoes, ballet class for both kids at 4:30) and spent as much time as possible outside.

First thing this morning the kids made me a birthday present and a card, put it in a box, wrapped the box with ribbon and a bow, and put the whole thing in a gift bag. My birthday is tomorrow. (Evidently, though, Girl put some of her own things in the box, and at bedtime started weeping and asking if she could take them out. I guess she overreached her own generosity a little. So we unwrapped, removed the items in secret, and wrapped again.)

After they were done preparing for my birthday, though, the kids headed outside. They wanted to build fairy houses in the back corner of the yard, where we say the fairies live. They started building something with sticks, using my weed prong as a post hole digger, but then Boy got it in his head to use bricks, making a roof of sticks and magnolia leaves. I’ll grant that it’s a little less ethereal than your average fairy house, but neither shall it blow away in the storms we are expecting.

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I made lunch for the kids and served them outside on their little table. And after a brief trip inside for more snacks and potty, the kids went back out to mulch their garden. I cleaned off the paving stones that make up their walkway, emptied the bags of mulch into a pile and kind of showed them what they needed to do, and then left them to it. They did a great job, and now we can just leave the garden alone until spring.

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Afterwards, we went in for baths. I got the kids ready for ballet; mercifully, I am getting better at Girl’s ballet buns. While they were both in class, I walked to a coffee shop, read a book for a bit, then walked back to the school in the (unseasonably warm) almost-dark. When I got back to the school, Girl came running out to find me, acting kind of goofy.

So I knew something was wrong. While I was getting her street clothes on over her leotard and tights, she looked at me solemnly and whispered, Mumma. I did something bad in ballet class. When I asked her what happened, quietly, she asked if she could just tell me when we got home. Of course, I said.

Waiting for Boy to come out of his class, we saw Girl’s teacher, who just said that Girl needed to listen a little better, looking at Girl significantly. Now, I should mention here that to my knowledge, Girl has only been ‘spoken to’ in a class setting ONCE in all her years of Preschool, Sunday school, and co-op. (That single incident involved running around a table with two friends when she had been asked to sit, in her PreK-3 class. She told me about it immediately after getting in the van at carpool line, and insisted we ‘text’ her teacher to say sorry.)

In general, Girl admires adult women greatly (‘ladies’ we call them), and her teachers especially. She wants them to think nothing but good of her, desires to be seen as also a lady, and I exaggerate only a little when I say that she would rather die than suffer the shame of being ‘bad.’ She often behaves so badly when she comes home that we joke she used up all her good at school. It’s one of the reasons I was reluctant to send her to 5-day preschool this year. How could she possibly keep up that level of total compliance? In any case, when I saw how her teacher looked at her, one eyebrow slightly raised, I thought Uh oh. This is bad.  She answered her teacher politely, then buried her face in my shoulder, whispering in my ear: That’s not it. Not listening is not what I wanted to tell you.

A minute later, Boy came out from the back, already dressed and ready to go. The kids gave each other a big hug (as they often do now when they are separated for any length of time). We walked back to the van, and as I was leaning over Girl to strap her into her seat she said: I can tell you, now that we’re in the car. 

We just looked at each other for a long moment. Her face crumpled. I was swinging on the bar. She buried her face in my sweater in shame and embarrassment. And she barely got out the words before she started weeping: And my teacher…YELLED AT ME. I…I held my crying the whole time until now…(Copious and noisy crying.)

Oh, you brave girl…Oh, honey, I know it’s no fun when someone yells at you, no matter if it’s a teacher or your mumma. I’m so sorry. And next week I know you’ll be so good.

But what if I’m not? she asked, her eyes enormous, and deeply worried.

Then I’ll still love you. So much. I couldn’t love you more.

Day 42: A quiet Sunday

The first thing the kids did this morning was make construction paper burritos in honor of our super fun dinner at Moe’s last night.

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Construction paper burritos, wrapped in tin foil.

And we woke up to good news about Nutty II; as of this morning she was moving around a little and so it seems like her back is not broken. That set a nice mood. Boy helped me make pancakes for ‘second breakfast’ and we talked a lot about liquids and viscosity (syrup and batter are both highly viscous liquids) and the differences between liquids, solids, and gases. You can’t cut a liquid (batter). You can cut a solid (pancake). You can’t cut or pour a gas. And so on.

I spent the day doing laundry, folding laundry, cleaning up a little. (Finally caught up! Everyone has pants!)  Girl finished her Lego Friends beach house. It even has a potty! And bunkbeds! And a flatscreen TV over the bunkbeds!

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Boy finished putting together his screw-together garbage truck, and while we were putting the wheels on he made his first ever self-conscious pun (to my knowledge). He said Don’t put away the screwdriver yet, Mumma, because ‘wheel’ need it in a minute! (Hahahahaha) My Dad would love that.

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After that Boy took the dog out back and played with her for a good long time, also just exploring and breaking sticks and pulling on vines and doing whatever else Boy does by himself outside. The weather was gorgeous, warm cloudy and windy. Girl could not be coerced outside, however, and spent that time making ‘costumes’ for her animals from some material her Aunt S gave her over the summer.  She cut the material with her scissors, and attached things using her own bracelets, which she long ago learned make fabulous animal necklaces and collars.

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And not to be outdone by Boy’s house-labeling project, Girl has been adding her own pictograph labels for different rooms and areas in the house. I include some below.

Bathroom, depicting a bath, brushing teeth while standing on a stool, and (modestly) standing next to the potty.
Bathroom, depicting a bath, brushing teeth while standing on a stool, and (modestly) standing next to the potty.
The entry way, where we keep stuff to go outdoors. Here we see Papa and Boy engaged in outdoor activities: soccer, playing with weapons, what have you.
The entry way, where we keep stuff to go outdoors. Here we see Papa and Boy engaged in outdoor activities: soccer, playing with weapons, what have you.
The dining room.
The dining room.

I finished cooking the pinto beans I put on to soak yesterday, and served them for dinner with various things from our CSA. Collard greens, roasted kohlrabi, beets, onion, and garlic, with a fried egg on top of it all. We ate dinner in the living room and watched a PBS special about Philae landing on the comet last week. Boy was extremely interested, Girl not so much.

Nevertheless we got them ready for bed, read a story, and got them to sleep. Back to business tomorrow morning, but I am very grateful for a quiet Sunday at home today.

Day 41: Scoundrels/squirrel

Boy had Nutcracker practice today, a Saturday: a party scene rehearsal followed by the first full run through. Four hours. It’s cold again, so we thought that Girl would just stay home with Papa while I dropped Boy off and did some errands. Picking up a library book, buying Advent chocolates, getting our food order. Then Papa could go retrieve him at 3. But the day ended up much stranger than we envisaged.

First, I discovered that all (ALL!) of my pants were in the wash, literally, wet, together, in the washing machine. I have mentioned how long it takes to dry things in our dryer. All I had were summer pants and it was cold. (That would soon come to matter so little that I ended up wearing cropped length black summer pants with socks and clogs all day. In front of God and everyone.) So Papa volunteered to bring Boy to ballet.  But then, Papa called me from the ballet school and said they couldn’t find his ballet shoes. We never, never, take the bags with the kids’ shoes out of the car, to avoid ever forgetting them. They searched all over the car, asked if the bag was in the school’s lost and found, and as a last resort chose a pair out of the used shoe bin for Boy to wear. They were a little small, but to our mind better than no shoes. But Boy, who doesn’t like curve balls, first refused to wear any shoes but his own, and then did so only after crying.

Only when Papa got home and we talked about things did we realize that I hadn’t locked the van last night, and we’d been robbed. Our GPS was gone. And the bags with the kids’ ballet shoes. And I’m sure some other things that we’ll figure out later. Papa walked around the neighborhood and found Girl’s shoes on the sidewalk down the street. Her bag later turned up in the playground. But Boy’s things are nowhere to be found.

When I brought him his lunch I had to tell him what had happened. His eyes teared up, and he seemed confused. Who would want to steal his shoes? Why? Were they going to sell them? Telling him that the people who’d done this, who were probably kids, were just grabbing bags to look for valuables later and didn’t care about his shoes or bag, and would probably just throw them away, wasn’t going to make sense. Because both things are very valuable to Boy. Another mom was very nice and helped me talk to him about this new notion of theft; I said to try not to be angry, because whoever did this probably doesn’t have much, and their life probably isn’t going all that well. We have so much, and no one was hurt.

While Boy was in the run through, I came home and tried to clean up a little, then went to the library and the food store for our order. (Advent chocolates will just have to wait.)

On the ride home Boy said that he really just wanted his bag back. I said I understood, and I do. It was only a bag from the dollar store, green with a blue star, but we’d bought it before his first class when he was four, and he’d been carrying his ballet shoes in it ever since. I told him it was okay to cry.  He said was still kind of mad, and when I said that was okay, too, he replied, But you told me not to be angry.

No, I said, I said to try not to be angry, but it’s okay if you still are. Oh, he said. Those scoundrels! he said.


When we got back I checked my messages, and saw that a neighbor had seen a red bag at the park matching the description of Girl’s. (This bag is one that my parents bought for Girl while aboard the QEII, in its gift shop, on a cruise to England. You might say that it is the official small bag of the QEII, and very jazzy.) I hustled down to the park with the dog and Boy in tow (he refused to stay home), retrieving the bag from where it hung on a fence post. On the way back home, our next-door neighbor said there was a hurt baby squirrel on the sidewalk. Alive but unable to move.

He said he was going to just move it to the bushes, but I knew it would die.

I asked him to just hold on. I’d get a box and bring it to a wildlife rehabilitator that I know who specializes in squirrels. (We visited the squirrel lady with a tiny baby squirrel last summer, but it had very bad internal injuries, and didn’t last the day.) My neighbor carried the squirrel (by the base of the tail, which may not have helped matters much) to my yard, and I laid her in a box, then transferred her to a bigger box with a top, snuggling her into an old flannel bathrobe from the rag pile.

There’s a whole long story of that bathrobe. I think about that sometimes, the life of things, the places and people they go between before they end up, as most things eventually do, in the trash. Carrying a very injured baby squirrel to the Squirrel Lady was the last act of this particular extremely tattered bathrobe. I guess it’s a pretty good way to go out.

In any case I called the Squirrel Lady and scribbled directions to her house on an envelope. Because did I mention that our GPS was stolen?

I meant to go alone, but the whole family somehow ended up in the van, my husband driving, the squirrel in the box on my lap, Girl demanding in the back seat that I stop talking to that squirrel, because it was making her feel like I loved the squirrel more than her.

I thought, You poor squirrel. You must be terrified, though you don’t look terrified. Though you are way too still and you’re looking at me with one eye. In a box, on the highway, and that incredibly loud screechy child somewhere (way too) close. But she named you ‘Nutty’ if that makes you feel any better. Well, ‘Nutty II’ actually. Nutty I was the first squirrel we tried to rescue. That went really badly. I’m sorry, Nutty II, we’re doing our best.  We don’t always act the way we’d like, even when we are trying to save baby animals. 

But we found Squirrel Lady’s house, and she ushered me inside and lifted Nutty II out of the box. Squirrels really like this lady. I don’t know how she does it, how they know she’s cool. Nutty II just kind of lay on her arm. But Squirrel Lady said she thinks her back might be broken. She says she’ll warm her up and see what she can do. But she might need to euthanize her. I think, better that than freezing to death in the bushes. She’ll be warm, she’ll be fed and snuggled into one of the squirrel sacks that other ladies sew for Squirrel Lady.

I get back in the van and deliver the bad news. Well, equivocal news. Squirrel Lady will keep us posted.


We don’t eat out at restaurants, as a rule, even on busy days.  To have enough money to make it to the end of the month, I really have to make dinner every night. From scratch, because convenience foods are also too expensive. We buy local foods, we buy organic foods, we buy meat from local farms, we have a CSA, we have milk delivered in glass bottles. We take our food ethics seriously, and it comes at a price. We split portions of meat four ways. We don’t buy frozen enchiladas to throw in the microwave. (We also don’t have a microwave.)  We rarely have snack foods like chips or crackers (but I do make a LOT of popcorn). We don’t get to eat out. But except in really tight periods, Papa picks up fast food once a month and we eat at home, usually in front of a movie. Fries, burgers, chicken fingers, shakes, sometimes a pizza. It usually costs $20.

Driving home in the dark, we thought maybe tonight should be that night. The beans I had put on the stove to soak were still sitting there, uncooked. No meat was thawed. Nobody was excited about fried eggs on rice and greens. It was getting late. And then we remembered that a Moe’s (a smallish Mexican food chain) had opened in our neighborhood shopping plaza, the one we walk to sometimes. We thought, what the hell? Let’s eat there. And we did. It was great. It turns out that Moe’s has a 20% military discount on Saturdays.  The food is cheap and good. Boy got to tell the guy what to put on his (tiny) burrito just like his Dad did. They got to pick out juice boxes and cookies. They picked a booth. I showed Boy how to make a tin foil nest for his burrito, just like Papa. We had chips and salsa and sweet tea and we laughed and chatted.

Papa and I told Boy stories of something special that got stolen from each of us when we were kids. Not with any particular message in mind, just to tell him. Love Will Tear Us Apart played on the Moe’s sound system and I told them that had been my favorite song for years when I was a kid. Joy Division. Boy said it was his favorite song, too. I said, I can play it for you at home. Boy said, I’d really like that. Girl said, this is my first favorite song, but my second favorite song is still I’m So Fancy.

Dinner cost $20.

You don’t know at the beginning of the day where you’re going to be at the end of it.


We got home to an update from Squirrel Lady. Nutty ll had eaten a little, and moved a little. She was hopeful.

We all know that baby squirrel is probably going to die, and we understand how little it matters. But then again maybe it won’t, and maybe it does, a little.

Day 40: Baseball in the house, Disney Princess lip gloss

Yesterday was exhausting (with worry, mostly) as were the days leading up to it, and today I felt relieved but also very tired.

Poor Boy, in fact, spent the day in jammies because I hadn’t gotten any laundry done this week, and since he only has four pairs of pants, they were all dirty. Our poor tired dryer takes about three hours to dry a load of laundry (we can’t replace it until at least spring), so by the time the pants were dry, there wasn’t much point. It’s very unlike me to run out of things. The way our lives are, I always have to plan ahead.

But I did manage to get Girl bathed and dressed and her hair braided so she could have an outing with one of her favorite friends, who also happens to belong to one of her favorite moms. She was so excited that she packed a backpack full of things she ‘might’ need: a flashlight, some story books, who knows what else. They went to the fancy downtown mall and played in the expansive harbor-themed play area, they had ice cream, and she even got to pick out a “late birthday present” at Claire’s. The kind of store that little girls like WAY better than their moms do. She picked out a set of glitter Disney Princess lip gloss in a small metal Disney Princess carrying case. “Makeup!” she declared, victorious, climbing out of my friend’s car.

Before that, it wasn’t a bad day. Girl made up a crazy baseball game which we tried to play with her. It was hair raising for me, what with the batting of balls inside the house, and frustrating for Boy who cannot hit balls nearly as well as he’d like to, but still fun, hitting a small plastic ball with a small wooden piece of Girl’s doll chair that fell off. Her crazy bases. Declaring that in her game, every batter should make up their own rules, whatever suited them best. We took some breaks for Boy to cry and run to his room, but he always came back, eventually hitting a ‘home run’ into the hall. Girl was just happy that we were doing what she wanted.

And in prepping for the game, Girl spent a lot of time writing numbers and letters on a piece of paper, and counting the letters that she was writing. That sort of thing always makes Mumma happy.

Boy was mostly obsessed today with how he might design a bot to defeat ‘Ziggo’ in Battlebots. But he also tried to draw our living room and everything in it, much like the waiting room yesterday.  He did a really nice job, I thought.

Our living room.
Our living room.

Boy did some writing, too, making up names for all of the inventors that he drew sitting around a table in a “great meeting of inventors” that he imagined himself being at when he is ‘in his twenties.’ He also typed his first text today (“Hold it with your fingers and type with your thumbs!” I called to him.)  Let it be known that Boy’s first text was written to my friend, politely but firmly requesting that she return his sister in a hurry for dinner. (I think he missed her).  He made very sure to spell everything correctly, capitalize and punctuate.

Evidently hasn’t heard those terrible rumors about what texts look like.

Day 39: Time to think

Today we took the dog to the breeder for grooming (an hour round trip), and then spent three hours in the afternoon at the local children’s hospital at an appointment for Girl. (And Papa brought Dog home after work, so she got to spend an entire day playing with her mom and sister, in addition to her bath and haircut.)

After the groomer.
After the groomer.

But even on a day like today, unschooling happens. Boy read his books in the car, and at the hospital. Both spent some time drawing in the waiting room. (Boy’s really working on perspective and shapes; he did his best to draw the waiting room and everything in it.)

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Hospital waiting room

And they did some things in the time that they had at home: Boy worked on his garbage truck kit, we practiced violin (which went great, and Girl watched and listened intently), Girl played with her toys.

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“Baby restaurant”

And since Boy has discovered both Battlebots and Internet searching in the last week, he looked up a couple of Battlebots episodes on YouTube. He also looked up ‘chipmunk predators,’ ‘rabbit predators,’ ‘lynx,’ ‘bobcat,’ and ‘ocelot.’ After being reassured that rabbits are not in any way endangered in spite of the fact that just about everybody eats them, there was some fun lynx/rabbit make-believe, and we all together looked up videos to discover what sounds lynxes make, which is…not what you would expect. So, you know, they learned some stuff.

But one of the things that I’m realizing that I like about unschooling, is that it isn’t just about what the kids do. It’s about the time that we have to talk, and the time they have to just…think

Before we drove down to the hospital, I gave the kids some lunch and got in the shower. Boy burst into the bathroom seeking refuge from Girl, who was tormenting him somehow, I never got the full story on that. (And I would like to note that I rarely get to take a shower entirely in peace, even now.) I told Boy to just close the door and stay with me away from Girl and her wrath, and we’d just talk while I finished. Somehow we got on the topic of how things fall ‘at an angle.’ And then we started talking about the notions of inertia, trajectories, forces, friction, gravity. How things traveling in space, away from the effects of gravity and friction, just keep going in the same direction at the same speed. Boy asked how spaceships could come back to earth, then, and I said they would have to have some way to produce enough energy to counteract inertia.

And he pointed out that when you throw something, the way to get it to go the farthest is to throw it not up (because it just goes a little ways and comes back down), and not straight ahead (because then it just goes down to the ground), but to throw it kind of up at an angle, so that it comes down “in an arc.” (Throwing the yellow squeaky a gazillion times for Dog in the back yard every morning has proved highly educational. Who knew?) And I said, yes, exactly, and that arc is made by the force of inertia going one direction, friction pushing back against the object, and gravity pulling it down. And let me tell you, I don’t take very long showers, so all of this transpired in less than ten minutes.

(One very important note: When the kids ask me something, I try not to worry too much about getting everything exactly right, especially given their tendency to ask me things in the shower, or, say, merging into traffic.  It’s not like I have time to prepare notes. I say, “I think it’s like this,” a lot.  The most important thing, I think, is that we’re thinking and talking. We revise later as needed.)

In the car, Boy was thinking about an episode of Cosmos, and it came up that glass doesn’t conduct electricity. Then he asked me what ‘conducts electricity’ means. So he and I and Girl talked about that for a bit.

And tonight Boy walked up to me and started talking, and it took me a minute to understand what he was saying. It was this:

Outside of our cosmos, there is nothing. Nothing isn’t blackness. Outside of our cosmos, blackness doesn’t exist. Outside of our cosmos, existence doesn’t exist…. Is that right, Mumma?

Yeah, kiddo, I said. I think that’s the idea.

He understood something important. And who knows how he got there, but I know he needed time and space to do it.

Day 38: Violin, ballet

Wednesday is violin and ballet day.

On some Wednesdays, we manage to do a good deal more than that, but not today. When I woke up, Boy was dressed and reading in the big chair, as usual. He was so engaged in his story that he didn’t even hear me say good morning, and hadn’t even opened the curtains on the big window. (Boy gets up when it’s still dark, usually, so he turns all the lights on and gets in his chair to read. Some mornings, when it gets light, he opens the curtains and turns off the porch light.)  It was cold today, and though the air felt pretty good to me, the kids just didn’t want to go outside. I didn’t make them, and I even took the dog out to exercise her in the morning, which is usually something Boy does.

But we had pancakes, the kids asked for something out of the closet to play with, and then Boy and I did some violin practice before lesson. He sounded good. We still haven’t been practicing as much as we should. At lesson, his teacher asked us to get a music stand, and not that we’ve never looked at written music before, but we got the book out and did some exercises, and my impression is that we will be starting to learn to read music now in earnest.

We’ve been listening to the Suzuki Book 1 CD in the car. I hear Boy singing the songs to himself, and he’ll ask me how things are played that are beyond what he can do now. I feel like his playing is going to be developing a lot this year. Time will tell.

We have a couple of hours between violin and ballet; in that time the kids played with toys in some tubs of water, had a snack, and spent a good while picking up the house.

It was parent observation week at ballet school (we missed classes on Monday, so I won’t get to see Girl dance until Spring). Girl and I sat in on Boy’s class today, which was lovely. He’s working very hard, the only boy in a class of girls. It’s a strict school (dance is a serious business) but very supportive and calm. He likes being there. He’s way, way less flexible than the girls, though, and I know we should start stretching at home every day. We were doing sun and moon salutations over the summer, but that’s sort of dropped off since we got busy in September.

After ballet we drove home in the dark, had a quick dinner/snack, and off to bed. I started reading the kids an illustrated book about Lewis and Clark, in which the text is all taken directly from documents written by one or the other. Boy liked it a lot, Girl less so.

And after that, they were asleep within ten minutes. Poor tired little bugs.