Monday, March 29, 2010

As we get more mature

This evening my husband is working late in preparation of taking a little time off to visit family for Easter.

The dinner table degenerated into some seriously girly silliness. (Oxymorons notwithstanding.)

In the absence of Daddy, and in hopeful anticipation of a peaceful bedtime, I was in the Zone. The peace-be-with-me Zone. The you-can't-phase-Mommy Zone.

Approximately 15 toddler bathroom "emergencies" during dinner? The Zone. Dropped garlic bread? The Zone. Spaghetti slurping contest? The Zone.


Laura, 2, and I returned from potty training trip number 15 to hear Sarah,9, trumpeting that she would always be the faster slurper. Some deep inner calm borne of Calgon dreams and International Coffee hopes caused me to reassure Grace, 6, that she'd be a faster slurper by the time she turns 9.

Sarah, who fully owns the serenity I only sometimes borrow from overpriced products and deep-breathing techniques, countered: "Oh, no, I'll be 12 by then and even faster."

Grace, quick thinking: "But when I'm 60 I'll surely beat you!"

I'm going to need a lot of Calgon.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

But ... Daddy can buy them back, right?

I baked some bread for a fundraising auction.
Gracie didn't want to see them leave.
She knows how to make her mommy feel appreciated.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I dunno, a flashback for some reason sounded good

You know when people tell you to enjoy the baby years because they go too quickly?

Those people are right.

As I was reflecting on our recent coast weekend I came across pictures from a similar trip of a few years ago.
Madeleine and Sarah were still tiny enough to ride the individual ferris wheel at our favorite kitschy stop in Florence, Oregon. Sarah was finally big enough to climb the lighthouse stairs. (This is actually what got me started reminiscing about that trip: this year it was Grace who celebrated her graduation to stair climber.) Grace was a toddler not to be trusted on the shore. As a highlight in our waterfront cabin stay that year we flattened pennies on the railroad track. I think this is against the law. Don't tell anyone about our flagrant flaunting, pretty please.
At that time we didn't yet know that Sarah is practically sightless without glasses. She would cry when Madeleine would point out whales spouting and she always missed them. At that time we didn't know how many more seats we'll eventually fill in a Suburban.
And at that time we really didn't know what I hope we know now. It's fleeting. Before you know it those babies are reading A Swiftly Tilting Planet (with no sense of irony whatsoever for how swiftly my planet is tilting with their growth) and discussing it amongst themselves. They're campaigning for the rights to pierce ears, take a Red Cross class in babysitting and wear contacts.
And I want to say: Just let me focus on these moments. I always miss them.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Oh, the humanity

We went "roughing it" over the weekend. It started out 76 degrees and sunny and ended up in the 40s with heavy rain and wind. Luckily the pregnant me's version of roughing it includes a rustic yurt. I might have tripped over tree roots on the way to the restroom, but we did enjoy hot running water.

In other good news: We didn't lose any children in the great avalanche of backpacks and sleeping bags.

In between storms we hiked. Mr. Suite had a plan that included overly ambitious miles of hiking. I valiantly kept up. Sort of. Leftover broken hip gimpiness and the general state of the third trimester were my excuses when I sat out some of the steeper inclines. (Also I had my new copy of Alabama Stitch with me. Go figure.)

I'm pretty sure one doesn't need to be gimpy nor pregnant to experience localized chest pain and generalized anxiety disorder over the sight of one's entire family on the precipice.

... of that inlet, also known as Devil's Churn.

We experienced some unbelievably warm, windless weather for tidepooling and the reading of Patrick McManus stories around the campfire. The girls are all now too familiar with the psuedoscience experiments that can be conducted by preteen children given cases of canning jars, bear grease and a heavy dose of teacher mockery. (Did I mention we homeschool?)

And then there was some more seasonable Oregon weather that alternately drenched and threatened to blow away the lighter leaves of the family tree.

Some of us with aforementioned gimpiness and/or height-related issues didn't measure up for climbing the lighthouse stairs.

Laura stood on tiptoes to no avail. Then she threw a fairly impressive screaming mimi in the lighthouse keeper's oil room while everyone else climbed the stairs. Strangers who were waiting in line were impressed with her tenacity. Also my creativity in distraction. (Okay, I made that part up. But they were impressed.)

Some of us did measure up for the stairs. And weren't afraid to gloat about it.

Some of us found a lot of seashells and agates.

One of us slept on the top bunk for the first and much-anticipated time.

Others of us were carried when we couldn't walk anymore.

I highly recommend yurt "camping" if your family for whatever reason can't take the dirt and bugs route. (Sometimes we take our little canned ham 1950s travel trailer but alas we are outgrowing it.) My husband grew up with truly rustic camping but this way the 2-year-old's toilet training was hardly derailed, the beach was steps away but so was the foot wash station. The only thing I'd change is next time we'll probably use our hitch rack thingamajig so the dog can ride in the "way" back instead of in the middle row with Madeleine and Sarah and so the bedding and backpacks don't teeter overhead that way.
I took a little more than 400 pictures and hope to impose on y'all with a few more of them as days go by.
In the meantime, I have a little unpacking to do.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

For the love of books ... and marshmallows

Sarah sewed her own bookbag with scraps from my fabric stash. Here's her pattern: Two squarish pieces measured about one inch bigger than her sketchbook. One long rectangle for the bottom and sides, double strength on the bottom. Two tripled skinny rectangles as loop handles that can go over her shoulder. She measured.

And then she got a little more confident and made an MP-3 pouch to coordinate with polka dotted grosgrain ribbon for the strap. (My favorite part of that is the big vintage button closure.) Reading and drawing and music and funky fabric combos. She must be my daughter.
Right now Madeleine and Sarah are both reading The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. We're late to this party but it's so much fun. The book incorporates a lot of Greek mythology and we're just now entering the rise of the Roman empire in history class so there's some serendipitous school overlap. Plus I just love Greek mythology. See how easy it is to make me happy?
And on that subject, I was in line at the grocery store this afternoon right behind a farmgirl I know from our rural village. While Madeleine and her oldest son talked about that very book my friend and I had a chance to catch up as well. Both of us, she with her four boys and me with my four girls, took guilty glances at our carts.
The quick draw was on.
(Now I know this woman to be a great mother. An accomplished vegetable gardener. Raises much of her own meat. Super involved with their boys' school and Scouting. In short, I admire her a lot.)
I took inventory of my cart. She waved a hand over the conveyor belt of goodies from her own cart.
"The boys have had sore throats," she explained hurriedly over her (clearly not everyday purchase of) pudding cups and single-serve yogurts.
"And we're going camping," I countered breathlessly about my (uncharacteristic haul of) cheddar dogs and marshmallows.
What a funny world. As if I would ever judge her, or any other mom, based on the contents of her grocery cart. At least not until I took the Nutter Butters out of my own eye.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A lot of Grace

I know you stop here for my mad cake decorating skills.
And, usually, a healthy dose of catching up on my kids.

But seriously. Did you ever know a bride who could pull off such an unusual peanut-butter-cracker-and-soccer-shirt ensemble?

Or a ballerina who could engineer a train... in her ever-present faux pearls no less?

When we lived in Portland and never, ever, in a million years thought we'd have a little farm and a big family, I had a (well, more than one, but this one was THE ONE) photo project going. Seemed like some gang had found a sense of humor or a case of enchanted spray paint cans and was blessing the city's trash receptacles and brick walls with the word: Grace.

Several years and three children later I got myself one of those magical gifts of Grace.

She's a reader. She adores homemade mac-n-cheese, applesauce and green beans. She's a love. She's our blue-eyed, long-legged Grace, determined to be a librarian and a doctor when she grows up. Happy birthday, Gracie. We love you ever so much.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Just add gluten

Did anyone else notice the linguistic commonalities between "gluten" and that particular anatomical area that yeasty bready treats, um, enhance?

Before the big (and I do mean big) pregnancy I was limiting gluten and its kissing cousins simple carbohydrates. That minor struggle led to a 23-pound weight loss (and indirectly to the blessed cause of my regain?). Weight loss-schmeight loss. Not so much anymore.

However. An apricot muffin with homemade marmalade sure is delicious. And I really can't see myself from the back view anyway.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

When good dolls go to the spa

You know those days... those days when your husband comes home, looks around, and says (without words), "What did they do all day?"

Well... yesterday might have been one of those days. Sure, we had drop-off and pick-up and a storm warning and its accompanying grocery store run and feed store stop. I hadn't been to the grocery store in a month, friends! Then we took a stab at chores and school.

But what we really wanted to do was to untangle those dolls' hair.

Don't you just love/hate the internet? You truly can learn anything on there.

A little Downy (another love, even in this time of homemade laundry soap and homemade cleaning solutions), a little near-boiling water, and an hour or so later Sophie and Stacy have beautiful flowing tresses again. Ready for braids and adventures.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


When you're watching your 5-year-old learn to skate, the flash doesn't reach far enough and...

you may suddenly realize... there's not enough hand sanitizer in the world.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Caught being good

Around our schoolhouse the students, ages 11, 9 and 5 (and the auditing 2-year-old) get along. Every once in a while the two youngest are involved in a property dispute ("It's the only red crayon and you're hogging it all day!") or the other two have a brief tiff over math methods or, more often, bossiness. Power struggles.

Last night Madeleine (11), my husband and I attended a community meeting the goal of which was to strategize on keeping the schoolhouse open. The "big" school, not our dining table school. It's experiencing enrollment and budget problems and lives under constant threat of death by lack of funds.

And it just occurred to me that some of those well-meaning grown-ups in attendance might never have experienced positive reinforcement. The fear, anger and mistrust in the room were counterproductive. A near-complete lack of teamwork existed depite the wonderful, creative and energetic superintendent's announcement that even in the face of a tens-of-thousands operating loss the school will remain open for at least one more year. A few brave parents volunteered ideas. A couple of hard-working staff members explained their perspective. Glimmers of sunny collaboration broke through the stormy atmosphere.

What was billed as a brainstorming meeting for increasing enrollment seemed doomed: staff-vs.-parents, them-vs.-us.

I guess I might live in a bubble because I was taken aback by the tension and, frankly, by the bad behavior at that meeting.

My child was the only one in attendance. She took earnest notes (very Lois Lane). "Fix up playground." "Teachers do PE." "Only speak positive about school."

Fear is rarely a good motivator, I've learned. In the case of our rural village, the residents have lived in fear of school closure and its attendant losses of community pride, property value and livability. This fear is compounded by the fact that we are at the mercy of a slightly larger and slightly less remote district that's geographically 25 miles away but philosophically in a different world.

So the parents and community members are scared and furious by turns, a smaller sibling left out of the game. The staff, for some part, is angry, feeling unappreciated. It is difficult to accomplish a common goal with this much negativity bursting through the thin veneer of cooperation.

At home we use a system I must have ripped off from a teacher whom I can't remember. Oftentimes I will notice someone of the under-five-foot variety studying particularly quietly in the middle of utter chaos created by a 2-year-old, or helping her neighbor with long division without doing it for her. If I am with it at all that day I hand out a little slip of paper that has currency only in our household.

My favorite thing is when one of my children nominates the other for a "ticket." Warm fuzzies all around. And if it's cliche, I just don't care, because it works. After accumulating a certain number of tickets in her mailbox, the recipient can cash them in at the little hatbox for a sheet of stickers or a pair of socks or a book.

Some of my children are saving their tickets for larger rewards. If it would keep her friends in their cute country schoolhouse in this economy, Madeleine would turn hers in for that.

Caught being good, anyone?