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Sunday, January 31, 2010

A New Era

I think we've entered a new era. I haven't figured out the mystery of how Time can pass so quickly and leave you feeling like you fell into a back hole...dazed and confused, spinning wildly out of control, and strung out like spaghetti noodles.

I have a love-hate relationship with FaceBook. I'm not going to go too far down that path, but just far enough to say that as I've reconnected with high school classmates that I haven't seen for 20 years, I'm struck by how...middle aged...they generally look. And you know what that means.... I obviously look middle aged as well.

As all of you already know, I have two children. Two. I clearly can't handle more than two; they kick my butt everyday. My girl-child is 6 1/2 years old. I frequently notice lately that she teeters between two worlds. In one, she is still a little girl, crying way too easily when she cannot get her winter coat to zip or when she bangs her head or stubs her toe. In this world, she still wants me to do so many things for her...tie her shoes (even though she knows how to do it herself now), hug her and kiss her when she falls down, read her bedtime stories (even though these "stories" are chapter books--currently the fifth in the Little House on the Prairie series). In the other world, she thinks she's already 13. She inquires when she will be old enough to have her own cell phone (when you are 30, Dear Child!), wants to dress fashionably, hang with her "friends," and skip off to class without giving me a hug and kiss good-bye when I take her to her homeschool c0-op.

I know that little-girl-world is going to continue to fade at breakneck speed and give way to a big-girl-world. Today, as I watched her silently from a distance, I saw the last 6 1/2 years pass in my mind's eye, and I dared not let myself consider how fast the next 6 1/2 will also go.

My boy-child is four years old now. We hold him and cuddle him sometimes like he is still a baby. I don't know how much longer we will get away with this; we know this is the last baby we will have, so I guess we are making it last. Yet I can't deny the fact that my "baby," who just turned four years old, is now writing the entire alphabet and numbers to 10. He still wants to be held sometimes even though he is nearly as big as a five year old, but his pleas to "hold ya!" are fading and becoming less and less frequent.

Watching my babies grow up so fast creates a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. Yet, in all my "middle aged" glory, I am growing tired. As much as I grieve the loss of Time to that black hole, I have moments now when I feel ready for my little ones to grow more independent. Guilt crowds my conscious as I admit that I'm ready for them to both be able to put on their own shoes and zip their own coats, dress themselves, brush their own teeth. And yet, even as I say the words, my heart aches with the knowledge that once we finally pass all those milestones (daughter has passed all of these particular ones already) they will be gone forever...like Time sucked into that block hole. Gone.

I'm ready for my kids to handle more complex chores around the house, loading and unloading the dishwasher, vacuuming the floor, heck...I'd settle for them picking up after themselves without me reminding them to! The other day I actually looked at my precious little boy child and told him how glad I am that he is my baby, and how exciting it is that one day he will be big enough to mow the lawn by himself.

I guess my girl child is not the only one with a foot in two different worlds.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Is Mommy "Special"?


"Daddy," said Dear Son last night, "is Mommy 'special'?"

Dear Husband snickered a good bit before he replied that yes indeed, Mommy is 'special.'

Last night we went with the kids and my parents to a Japanese steakhouse to celebrate my birthday. Dear Daughter likes to go "order a volcano." There's really no ordering involved; it's just part of the hibachi grilling show at your table. But let her think what she wants. She refused to use the chopsticks with the rubber band and had to hold them the "real" way. She did a better job than I did with them. Dear Son mainly just liked the noodles! He actually did pretty well eating them with chopsticks. It was nice to get my dad out of the house as he's been ill since before Christmas.

This is always a fun and busy time of year right after the holidays. My birthday comes, followed not quite a week later by our anniversary (it's going to be Lucky 13 this year!), followed less than two weeks later by Dear Husband's birthday. After all that neither one of us cares too much about Valentine's Day a few days later. Not that I remember ever caring about Valentine's Day that much before we met or got married. You may remember that I've posted my opinion on that one before: It's a "stoopid" holiday. But as "stoopid" holidays go (Halloween comes to mind), Dear Daughter loves it. That means we have to recognize it at our house.

My creative juices are rather dry lately by the time I pour all I've got in to managing the kids' schooling and my career. We are currently reading the biographies of Louis Braille and Beethoven, and we are halfway through The Long Winter. It's the fourth or fifth book of the Little House on the Prairie series. We began the series last fall, and Daughter will be sad when we complete it.

I'm also busy teaching Daughter piano and guitar. Since I never learned how to play guitar myself, we are learning together. Of course, the piano part is a no-brainer. I'm sure if we continue on the homeschooling path, Daughter will be enrolling in the local homeschool orchestra in another year and a half when she reaches the minimum age of eight. She wants to play the harp. LOL! Whatevah! We actually saw someone downtown the other day wheeling their harp, in a black case on some sort of dolly, across the street. I pointed out to Dear Duaghter that this would be her fate if she chooses the harp. As a pianist all my life, I often asked myself why didn't I learn the piccolo? Especially after moving my heavy acoustic piano across the country and back and more times between than I can count!

We are pretty well on track with our homeschool goals for the year, but it has taken discipline and creativy and, of course, time--lots of time. In addition to piano and guitar lessons, Daughter is reading Amelia Bedelia books easily now and doing triple digit addition. She can tell you about the Declaration of Independence and the Revolutionary War and the journey of Christopher Columbus. She's learning to recognize the works of Beethoven and develop respect for a musician who was deaf when he wrote some of his symphonies. She can label the instruments in an orchestra and where they are seated in a typical orchestral seating arrangement. She can explain how sound waves work and what happens between the time they enter our ears and get processed by the brain. She has learned how to draw with chalk and blend colors and become a part in a dramatic play or interpretation. She's learning how to look up scriptures in her own Bible and can even read them herself in the new Bible she got for Christmas.

And Dear Son is writing letters and numbers now. While he doesn't spell yet, he places letters together and asks me or his big sister what they spell. He loves to "do school" and play games on the computer and draw robots and Iron Man.

While I've had trouble lately finding much time to blog, or read blogs that I used to follow more regularly, I most certainly can see the evidence of what I've been doing instead, and I believe it's been time well spent.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Blissfully...Fallen...In...!

Where have I been? I think I've come as close as blissfully possible to "falling in." The holidays seem to have come and gone even faster than any previous year, and they wrapped up with a blast of arctic air and snow that has continued to trickle down for at least a week. I think we reached below -5 once or twice for overall temps and we've had days with highs in the single digits. I know Dear Aunt Pat won't have any sympathy because it's much colder and snowier where she's at, but for us it's cold. The subzero temps combined with 35 mph wind gusts last week took me down memory lane to a time about 30 years ago and a place in rural Iowa where I grew up. I remember the wind blowing so hard and so cold one particular day that I literally got stuck in the gate my dad built between the house and the garage. I was pinned tightly and could not go in or out, and someone else had to free me. The wind blasted like icy knives that day. I was going to check on our pregnant Spaniel who was nested in a bale of hay in the backyard in her dog house. She was to give birth any day. In farm country we didn't keep pets in the house, but that day my parents took pity on Sparky when she came out of her house with the arctic wind whipping snow around in the air, and a puppy fell out of her into a snow bank. Sparky was moved the basement to finish her delivery with a heat lamp. It was a real farm house style basement--more like a cellar, and not at all like the nice walkout basement we have in our house today. It was still very cold down there, but with the heat lamp on her, she and the puppy born in the snow drift were fine along with the other six puppies that came later.

As cold as it's been here for the past week, it's hard to remember (or believe) that on Thanksgiving we were having spring-like temps near 70 degrees and we spent the day cleaning the garage and doing yard work. We got the Christmas tree that weekend, and Dear Son enjoyed helping decorate it this year more than any other year before. He especially liked the glass ball ornaments. Both the kids love the glass ball ornaments. I never have understood what they find so neat about them. We never even owned any until a couple years ago when Dear Daughter insisted we get some because we just couldn't decorate a Christmas tree without them!

Dear Daughter was playing dress up before decorating the tree, and that's why she is dressed in a strappy sun dress. If it was as cold then as it has been lately, she wouldn't have lasted a minute in the downstairs family room in that dress before freezing her buns off.

I wanted a candid shot of the both kids decorating the tree, but they saw me with the camera and would not let up until I took a picture of their cheesy grin contest.

A few days later the weather turned cold. Not as cold as it's been lately, but nonetheless cold. I can't remember if we had highs in the teens or low twenties the day we decided to stay inside all day and bake Christmas cookies. The kids decided they wanted to stay in their fleece pj's all day long, so that's what they did. This is just one of many examples of why I love homeschooling so much. We can have days where we stay in our pj's all day and turn fun things like baking cookies into a learning experience. This activity counted as Math because we practiced measuring ingredients, Home Ec. because I taught Daughter how to read a recipe, Social Skills because I required the kids to take turns and share as they cut and decorated, and Art because we played with food coloring and mixed primary colors to make new colors.

You can see in the backyard that we didn't have snow yet. Nonetheless it was one of our coldest days of the season until recently.

The dogs were thankful for their parkas that day when they were forced to go outside to do their business. Well, to be honest, I'm not sure that Baby appreciated her parka so much, but at least it helped her control her shivering enough that she could pee.

Our dogs have it much better than my dogs did growing up. Not only do they not have to sleep outside in their own straw filled dog house in the bitter cold, but they actually get to share our bed. Baby likes to sleep UNDER the blankets at my feet (helps keep my feet warm, so I'm not complaining) and Cooper likes to share my pillow. When they are not in our bed with us, they are beached in front of the wood stove. Yeah, they've got it good. So good that when temps don't go any higher than 20 degrees and we still push them out the door to go potty, Baby stops on the step and begins shivering violently (I think she just does it for dramatic effect) and looks back at me with an expression on her face that most certainly says, "Oh HELL, no! You gotta be kidding me!"

Dear Son's birthday snuck up on us quickly. Great Uncle Ron and Great Aunt Pat made it out between their own Iowa blizzards to help us celebrate Son turning four years old. You'll notice the Transformers theme going on. Son loves him some "robots." Bumblebee is his favorite, and he has been coveting a "Bumblebee blaster" for the past six months. He waited for his birthday with high hopes that he would receive this for a gift. When he got it, I don't think he let it out of his sight for over a week. He slept with it and ate with it by his side constantly. We couldn't even drive anywhere in the family mobile without him bringing it along.

We took a trip to Silver Dollar City with Great Aunt Pat and Great Uncle Ron to see the Christmas lights for Son's birthday. We thought it was cold that evening, but I think it would actually feel balmy to us right now. Unfortunately, Grandpa and Grandma didn't get to come with us. Grandpa got to come to Son's party, but not the Silver Dollar City trip the next day. He became so ill by Christmas that he wound up in the hospital for three nights. A month later he is still trying to recover from what originally was Shingles and then turned into pneumonia in both lungs and blood clots in both lungs and in one leg. This was a real bummer for all of us on Christmas as our tradition is for Grandpa and Grandma to spend the day at our house enjoying the kids opening their presents and playing with their new toys with them and playing games and doing puzzles together the whole day.

After Christmas, the arctic blast and snow moved in, and we've lived in a deep freeze for more than a week straight.
























Right before the snow came, Daughter and I went ice skating. It was her first time, and for me it was the first time in 20 years--so it may as well have been my first time as well. We had lots of fun. Daughter fell a lot. I made it without falling a single time, which is good, because if I had fallen I don't think I would have ever been able to get back up. After an hour and half on the ice it began coming back to me and Daughter was able to let go of the wall almost completely. While I never spent a lot of time on ice skates, I used to be an avid inline skater, skating all over town in a certain small college town in Idaho. I would skate from one end of town to the other, across roads and traffic and all. You probably would not have known it the other day if you were watching me on the ice, though.

Then the snow came, along with the super cold temps. Work slowed down for me, and I appreciated this because I blissfully enjoyed several days of not even leaving the house. We just kept piling the wood in the stove and snuggling up in our warm pj's and blankets. We have enjoyed playing games with the kids and building with the Zoobs that Uncle Jowell and Aunt Lisa sent Dear Son for Christmas. So far I've built a Zoob-a-saur and a bicycle (with real moving wheels!).

I didn't make a gingerbread house with the kids for Christmas this year, so we made one after the New Year while it snowed outside. It was a great indoor activity, and of course the kids loved it.
And so, as I said at the beginning of this post, I have blissfully fallen in. I love winter and cold and snow so long as I don't have to go anywhere. I don't even mind shoveling snow; one day I shoveled the entire 250 foot driveway so we could see to get the cars out. I could stay holed up for months, I think, on the side of some snowy mountain with a fire roaring and fuzzy pjs and blankets, and it would be as good as Heaven.

After several days of indoor cozy activities however, I did have to go back to work. That particular day that I went back, the roads were covered with snow and the wind was howling, and it was about 5 degrees outside. As I drove the kids to Grandma's house for the day, Dear Daughter exclaimed from the middle row of the family-mobile, "Mommy! Zachy and I just saw a Puffin!" She was so excited that I almost didn't have the heart to tell her that since Puffins are Arctic birds, they don't live here in the Midwest. However, before I said anything, I considered how cold it's been, and I decided that we just might have some Puffins living among us after all.

If it's cold and snowy where you are, cozy up to the fire, pour yourself another mug of hot chocolate, and enjoy!