Monthly Archives: March 2015

Day 166: Ballet pictures

Today is a Saturday at the end of March, and it was cold and raw, and we had to go to ballet school for a photo shoot. Pictures to update the website and brochures, presumably. I struggled to make a ‘professional’ ballet bun for Girl (how can I be so bad at it??) and get their dance clothes smooth looking (‘refresh’ cycle on dryer useless, could not find iron for quite some time, found at last minute, burned finger), and then left them there for two hours, hoping that they did not make otherwise good photos unusable with the dour/weird/anxious/extreme faces they tend to make for photos these days. Both Boy and Girl are attractive and likable children, so no one would suspect a priori what weirdness will unfold when one points a camera in their direction. Girl takes lovely smiley pictures just so long as one does not tell her to smile. If one does…I cannot really do her picture smile justice, but it is the kind of face that will make a photographer say something along the lines of: “Oh. Okay. Wow…can you…how about let’s relax a little bit?”  The photo shoot was invite only, and, when I came to get them and got to witness a final group shot taken on the sweeping curved staircase in the lobby, I wondered idly to myself if we would get invited back next year.

After that, though, we got to go to a birthday party, and that was great.

Day 165: Books, more books, rain

Friday morning the kids had their semi-annual dentist checkup and cleaning (all good). It was a very cold and rainy day, and I had errands, so I left the kids at home with their (sick) Papa, and went to our local kids’ store for birthday presents and Easter stuff, to the grocery store, to the library. When I got home Papa told me the kids had been really good, playing make-believe almost the whole time I was gone. I showed the kids the snacks I’d gotten them from the store (coconut date rolls, dried prunes, snap pea crisps), took care of Papa, then made them some dinner. Then bed time. Today Boy read all the books about WWI and II he’d gotten from the library, plus most of a Magic Tree House book and a book about the Bahamas. He’s been reading books to beat the band, two or three a day.

Day 164: Early spring garden

This morning Papa made french toast from baguette, and then everyone got dressed and went outside to play, and the kids rode their bikes around the back yard. Girl put shin guards over her leggings, wore her bike helmet and some mittens, for extra exciting action appeal. Papa and Boy also shot some hoops.

Then we went out front to look at the garden the kids started in the fall–the early spring bulbs they planted are coming up.

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After that it was time for my dentist appointment, but I brought Boy with me so he could read in the waiting room while I got my teeth cleaned. He likes doing that. And I didn’t want to leave Papa with both kids, because they’d been kind of fighting, and Papa isn’t feeling very well.

When we got home we had lunch, and then Papa took the kids to our brand new very fancy main library. They explored the building, chose books, and played video games. Girl got to be Hulk as an avatar, and I don’t know what the goal of the game was supposed to be, but she told me with bright eyes that she smashed everything. Boy wanted a book about WWI, so he approached a children’s librarian with a very respectful, “Excuse me, ma’am…” and she helped him choose three books. Papa said they were talking for a while. While Boy read, Girl played in the play area, setting up her own store.

When they got home, after dinner, Papa spotted a hawk in the live oak out front. Boy could also see it, and described it to Girl, both plastered against the glass in the big front window, but Girl never could spot it. She even missed it as it flew away, prompting her to start weeping in fine Girl fashion.

Boy drew a picture of the hawk for her, flying away as the sun set in the west, and coloring the sky a beautiful orange-pink, per her request. It made her feel better.

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Day 163: Olives

Today Boy had violin and ballet, and Girl could stay home with Papa.

In between those things we went to Boy’s second counseling appointment, and to the library to pick up books about Cuba, Jamaica, and The Bahamas (for Geography Club).

Before we went into the counselor’s office, we had about 15 minutes to spare. I knew Boy was hungry, and we were right by a very nice market. We went in and picked out some fancy snacks (something we don’t get very often). We picked out a box of cookies from their bakery, then went to the olive bar for me. Boy asked if he could try some olives, so we looked for a couple of kinds without pits. He picked out some big green olives stuffed with feta cheese to try. Then we got dehydrated veggie chips, and a honey bear filled with blue M&M type candies from the wall of old-fashioned candies. Then we walked across the street with our bag, and boy ate his olive outside before we went in.

Boy and I both talked to the counselor for a bit, then I went back out into the waiting room so they could have time alone. It’s hard for them to get to know each other when I’m in the room, since I tend to do most of the talking. When we left, I asked him how it was and he said fine, that he liked the counselor. He told me that she asked him why he thought his mom was taking him to see her. He told me that he answered: “Because she doesn’t want me to be unhappy and not be able to do things that should be fun.” I’m glad that’s how he feels about it, and not that we think he’s been ‘bad.’

Day 162: Fragile Glass the Boxtroll

Girl has been dressing as a box troll and going about her business for a couple of days now. Maybe you’ve seen the movie? These trolls wear boxes that are their only clothes, their shelter, their bed. They are named by what is written on their box. Girl’s says Fragile, and she asked me to write ‘Glass’ underneath. Hence: Fragile Glass the Boxtroll. Today she asked to wear her box to co-op, and how could I say no? Oh, another detail: boxtrolls are terrified and humiliated to leave their boxes. So every time Girl took her box off today, she also huddled down and yelled, “Ahhhh! I’m naked!”

She stayed in character most of the day. Since today was class picture day for Play and Learn, Fragile Glass will be featured in the yearbook.

What did people think when they saw us walking to the church in the morning, my little girl wearing a box? It’s hard to say. But Fragile studied the letter R today, painted a rocket ship, practiced counting down from 10 (in order to launch a rocket), and studied the water cycle.

Boy made an Abraham Lincoln hat, acted out the fable The Crow and the Pitcher, “ran” a mummy race (in which all participants were wrapped in toilet paper), and carefully dissected an owl pellet, brushing off innumerable rodent bones, including perfect little jawbones lined with tiny teeth, perfect little skull domes, perfect little claws. And as always, he ran and played with his friends.

Tonight Boy and I made a worry doll for Boy. Here he is, posed heroically at Boy’s request.

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Boy asked for privacy in his room before bed to tell this guy his worries, then put him under his pillow.

Day 161: Costa Rica/Panama

Geography Club was today. We studied Costa Rica and Panama.

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We looked at various maps, talked about the Panama Canal, read a story about cloud forest animals, listened to the sounds of howler monkeys and three-wattled bellbirds, tried a Costa Rican folkdance that involved twirling a scarf (harder than you’d think for little kids).  The kids took books and marked pages with pictures of animals or other things of interest to them, and then took turns showing everyone. We call this ‘research’ time. We looked at pictures of Costa Rican carretas (painted oxcarts) and decorated paper versions of them.

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We brought our old canal water table, that has ‘locks’ and a pump, to let everyone try moving a toy ship through the locks. (That was a pretty big hit, of course.)

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I brought a ball of masa dough and made tortillas, and let the younger kids try to shape their own.

Then we went home for a bit before Papa took the kids to ballet. Girl started learning the routine for the end of the year recital today, and you can tell she is proud, nervous, excited.

Day 160: Box Aquarium

Last night while I was at a meeting, Boy and Girl started working on a box aquarium, and they started this morning as soon as they’d gotten a quick bite to eat. They worked on the box aquarium on and off throughout the day. I have to say their teamwork was exceptional.

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Girl was feeling completely better, and made a drawing about that.

Girl drew this to celebrate her recovery, and as a PSA of sorts.
Girl drew this to celebrate her recovery, and as a PSA of sorts. “Things to do when you’re sick.”

Next, Girl found a box that said FRAGILE on the front of it and said she wanted to be a box troll. (Whose name, by the law of box trolls, would then be ‘Fragile.’) I cut out arm holes for her, and she put on her box and went out back to play with her brother, dad, and dog. I went out back to play with them a little, too.

Fragile swinging.
Fragile swinging.
Fragile playing basketball with Boy and Papa.
Fragile playing basketball with Boy and Papa.
Fragile hiding in her box.
Fragile hiding in her box.

When we came back in Papa made the kids some lunch while I got ready for my meeting with Miss P down the street, to make a plan for tomorrow’s Geography Club meeting (Tomorrow: Costa Rica and Panama). Before I left, I also made a worry doll, since I hadn’t gotten to finish the one I started during last week’s Geography Club meeting (wherein we studied Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua). All three age groups made worry dolls for a craft, but we all used a different method. I liked the way the oldest kids had done it, and tried that myself. Here she is.

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I’m hoping to do more with the kids. In fact, while I was gone, Girl made one of her own, and made her a little bed and a blanket. (Pictures to follow tomorrow; there’s not enough light now.)

When I got home, Papa made dinner so I could finish getting ready for our Costa Rica and Panama activities. I needed to find all of the pieces of our water table necessary to set up a lock and canal system (to illustrate the Panama Canal).

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I put it together, cleaned it, and made sure that everything still worked. Then I let the kids play with it while I cut out pieces for paper ox-carts, so the kids can make a Costa Rican carretas craft tomorrow. We didn’t really get a chance to practice our Costa Rican dance (featuring some fancy scarf twirling) and I didn’t get fish for ceviche. So we will wing the one, postpone the other (Colombians also love ceviche!), and I did manage to find video of howler monkeys and wattled bellbirds, two animals we’d been wondering about last week. I’ll be cooking corn tortillas for lunch tomorrow.

Days 151-159: Catch up

Apologies for my unplanned blog stoppage! Life got a little crazy, and even on nights when I could have written, I was just too tired to do it. On several occasions I basically went to bed with the kids.

Let’s see. The particulars:

Last Friday we read books about the Garifuna for Geography Club on Monday. Papa had a going-away party for work, and I was so tired from staying up very late a couple of nights that I fell asleep with the kids.

The next morning, Saturday, we packed some things and headed up to a timeshare condo an hour away that my parents were renting for a week. (Because of our other obligations, Papa’s work, and the dog, we couldn’t spend every night there, and one of us always needed to sleep at home. So for the rest of the week, we shuttled back and forth.) Once we got there, Papa went to go pick up Uncle B from the airport, and then he had to head back home for a second going-away party. (This was Papa’s last week of work at the hospital. At the beginning of April he’ll be going away for four months for additional school and training, and then begin working at the brig nearby for the next three years. Papa is sad to leave his friends at this job, and they are sad to see him go.)

The kids and I spent Saturday evening with Uncle Ben and Grammy and Grampy, and slept at the condo. Papa came up the next morning, and then after an outing we all drove home Sunday evening. I got us ready for Geography Club the next morning.

Monday: Geography Club, library, ballet. Early to bed. Tuesday: co-op, then drove back up to the condo. Papa stayed home. Wednesday, Papa drove up to the condo, and I drove back home with Boy, leaving Girl with Papa. Boy and I went to violin, the library, and ballet. Afterwards I took him out to eat at a fancy Bolivian restaurant to try tamales. He absolutely loved them. When we got home, we went on a night walk. Then we cuddled up and went to bed at the same time.

Meanwhile, Girl had a fabulous day of adventure with her Dad, her beloved uncle, and her grandparents. They played mini-golf. They took her out to eat. Then for the first time in her life, she spent the night without me. She called me a couple of times, and woke up during the night a couple of times, but she did great.

The next morning, now Thursday, I drove back up with Boy so we could visit with Grammy and Grampy before saying goodbye. Uncle B flew home that morning. We visited, ate, said goodbye, drove home. That night I went to bed with the kids, but Girl got sick, we thought maybe from a bad hotdog.

Friday I made appointments for the next couple of weeks (trying to take advantage of Papa’s leave), cleaned, tried to regroup a little. Girl got a fever. She slept for most of the day.

Friday night in bed, Girl started to complain of tummy pain. By early early Saturday morning, it was severe enough that Papa drove her to the ER to make sure it wasn’t appendicitis. It wasn’t. Probably just stomach cramps on her right side. Papa brought her home with some anti-nausea medication. She was very upset with us because she couldn’t go to a birthday party that was going to be a lot of fun, for one of her best friends. She was also very upset with us because we made french toast and wouldn’t give her any. Then she was mad because we wouldn’t let her play outside. Eventually she just gave up on us completely and went to sleep.

She slept for several hours.

In the late afternoon I needed to go to a meeting with the other directors of our co-op, and that lasted several hours. When I got home, I got the kids in bed, and then spent the rest of the evening going through the many small items on my to-do list for the co-op, fearing that if I delayed, I would forget to do something.

And that, my friends, brings us to Sunday. Which gets its own post. It’s nice to be back!

Day 150: Button Jar Challenge Club

What’s that? You ask. It’s our brand new math and science club, and today was the first day. We met at a friend’s house this morning.

Nine children ages 5-8, divided into three teams. Three five-year-old girls (Girl included), two seven-year-old boys and one girl, and three eight-year-old boys (Boy included). Six moms. Three challenges. (Three moms have an activity table, and three accompany the teams to the different tables. We meet every other week, so that means each mom has to provide a challenge once a month.) The teams get a half hour at each challenge table, during which time they earn buttons to put in their jar. When the jars are full, in some number of weeks, we celebrate.

At my table today we did tangrams. For the two younger groups I showed them the solution to the puzzle, and they had to arrange the pieces like they were in the picture. (It’s more challenging than you’d think!)  For the older boys, they actually worked on solving the puzzles. Every solved puzzle earned them a button in the jar. The tangrams themselves are hard, but what they are learning is also how to work together as a team, to talk to each other, not to grab. Collaboration.

At the second table, the kids made clocks powered by vegetables.

At the third table, two kids sat on opposite sides of a partition. One kid laid out a design using pattern blocks, and then directed the kid on the other side to make the same pattern. No looking. Then at the end, they check to make sure the designs are the same. So again, math-y spatial skills, but also: communication, articulation, patience.

All of the kids did great. The three teams ended up being very well suited to each other in ability and temperament. I was impressed with how well the kids did with the tangrams, and I think I’ll do that again next month when it’s my turn again.

After the challenges were completed the kids got to play outside and eat lunch together. There was a lot of running and sword fighting.

Later when most people had gone home there was quiet, earnest Lego building.

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Tonight at bedtime we read a long picture book about a family in rural Honduras learning some new farming methods from a progressive school teacher (composting, terraces, marigolds, cash crops for the farmer’s market) and how it made their life better. Boy and Girl were TOTALLY into it. I could imagine that book might not hold a lot of kids’ interest, even though it was beautifully illustrated. I felt really appreciative of what empathetic, interested kids we have.

There are some genuinely difficult things about homeschooling, or just having a family. Well, about being alive, if we’re being honest. We all need moments where can see and feel the evidence of being on a good path. Not the only path. But a good one.


Additional note:

Late this afternoon, while the kids were playing in our back yard with a jump rope, Girl fell hard on her hands and knees on the cement, tearing a hole in the knee of her favorite beautiful, flowered cargo pants with very good pockets. Even when we got her calmed down, she wouldn’t let us see her scraped knees. She insisted on going into Boy’s room and closing the door to inspect the damage in private. We could hear her weeping to herself Why, why, why did I do this? Why did this happen? 

She would not let us in, she would not let us see, or help. But she did come out for a popsicle, a cookie, and some hugs and kisses. Later, though, when Boy came inside, she asked if he would come look at her scrapes. She said only he could see them. So back they went into his room, closed the door, and I guess either pulled her pants down or pulled them up over her knees so they could look. They were back there for a while, talking quietly. When they came out, Boy reported that Girl had one ‘medium sized scrape’ and the he recommended ‘the SP-word.’ (That would be: spray.)

Girl wished she had an arnica tablet to put under her tongue like Miss S gave her when she fell on her way in to the American Girl party a couple of weeks ago. She said under no circumstances would she let me see the scrape, so there was no way I could put spray on it. What if she put it on herself? I suggested. Okay! she agreed brightly. Back into Boy’s room she went with the bottle of antiseptic spray. When she needed a paper towel to wipe the excess, I was required to close my eyes and back into the room, holding the paper towel out until she scootched over and grabbed it from my hand. She protested that it stung more than both I and the bottle claimed that it would, but was pleased with herself for taking care of herself.

Me too, little Girl.

Day 149: Mesoamerica

The kids and I woke up at the same time this morning, and the kids worked together to make their own breakfast: toast with butter, honey, and cinnamon, and yogurt with frozen blueberries and raisins. The new kitchen arrangement is really making things a bit easier for them.

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It was warm today, so immediately after eating they got dressed and went outside. They stayed out there until 11:30, when it was time to come inside and get ready for violin and the library.

Violin lesson was good, and afterwards we went to the library to return a couple of books and pick up the rest of our holds for next week’s Geography Club meeting, covering Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua. We’ve got some books about each of the individual countries, some story books set in each of the countries, both rural and urban, one about the Garifuna, and some books about the ancient Maya. Boy has read all of the Roald Dahl books we got out of the library a couple of weeks ago (Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, James and the Giant Peach, Fantastic Mr. Fox) in addition to five or so Magic Tree House books. Today he picked out a couple more, and Girl picked out just one picture book (I heard Boy reading it to her in a spare moment tonight.)

It had started raining while we were out, so when we got home I made popcorn and hot chocolate, and we sat on the couch and read a book about the Ancient Maya together. Then I put together this week’s discovery table.

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Then Boy got ready for ballet, and Papa came home and took him. While they were gone, Girl and I made masa dough for corn tortillas, and I folded laundry and washed dishes while Girl worked on a paper project. Girl helped me put laundry away, and then she started making the tortillas out of the dough while I cooked them in a dry cast iron skillet.

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Boy and Papa got home, and Boy asked if he could make some of the tortillas from Girl’s dough. Girl said okay, and I let Papa manage helping them use the hot skillet themselves while I folded more laundry. We ate tortillas and pasta with parmesan cheese and nuts and seeds and capers and black pepper, and then the kids took baths. Boy is bathing himself now, and Girl is trying to, though she can’t manage her hair alone. While Girl was in the bath, Boy sat in the big chair in his towel, looking at a book about El Salvador.

At bed time we read a story about a boy going home to El Salvador from San Francisco for the first time since he’d had to flee with his family years earlier. The kids were mesmerized, but asleep almost before I was finished reading.

Tomorrow: first meeting of Color Wars (our new math and science club).