Saturday, January 27, 2007


Sometimes when I look at one of the kids, I get a preview of things to come, a glimpse of what they'll look like when they're older. Miss Diva often shocks me by looking scarily just like me. It could be a look, a laugh, something she says, a gesture, but the mini-me is there. Today, she's playing the DS and talking on the Bluetooth to my husband: seven going on seventeen and wired to the hilt, an eerie echo of me with my PDA and phone.

More Overheard

M (10 year old son, to 7 year old daughter): Why are you so concerned with fashion anyways? We're just going to the store
A: Because I'm a fashion kind of gal
M: I just have 4 pairs of pants and some t-shirts, that's all you need
A: Not if you really want to express yourself!

And man, is she ever good at expressing herself! See for yourself....

Friday, January 26, 2007


My son to his friend, talking about robotics:

"And my mom said she would coach the team. Isn't that cool!"

Wow, if that doesn't warm a mom's heart. I love how close we are to our kids. I love that they get really enthusiastic to do things with us. I love how my 10 year old son is not shy about expressing that enthusiasm about doing something with his mom to his friend. And when his friend said "Yeah! Then I might be interested in joining!" Well, that's icing on the cake friends.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Hidden Milestones

When I was a new mother, a wise mom once told me to pay attention to the Invisible Milestones. Of course, we all wait excitedly for the regular milestones - baby's first words and first steps, the first book they read, the first time they take the car keys. But the Invisible Milestones are not the "firsts" but the "lasts". The last time they crawl, nurse, sit on your lap without squashing you flat.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately because my daughter still uses those cute turns of phrase that only a child's creative mind will come up with. She was telling a friend about horseback riding the other day, and mentioned that Annie, the first horse she rode, was her "starter horse". The pancake at the bottom of the stack is the "under pancake", and when she turned her ankle for the umpteenth time recently, she wailed "I have flimsy feet!".

I guess as children grow, their brains naturally mimic the speech patterns around them instead of inventing them from scratch. But a seven year old is still in the zone of the fresh observation, a seven year old doesn't know a cliche. Just a few short years older, my son at ten rarely does this anymore, and when he does, I treasure it. So I saved a message from him on my cell phone where he called and told me there was a "jumpy surprise" waiting at home (he and my husband had put up our trampoline while A. and I were out) and I remember with fondness how he used to ask me to "unpeel" a banana, and the opposite of "upside down" was of course "upside up".

Just knowing that the hidden milestones, the "lasts" exist is enough to pay conscious attention to the children that I have here, today. They won't be here tomorrow, tomorrow they will be slightly older, different. Tomorrow they might peel a banana, instead of unpeeling it.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

There's No Place Like Home

Once upon a time, I had a lovely little house on a cul-de-sac. It had flowers out front, and I lived there peacefully. I could decorate my home in any kind of way I wanted, and change the decor as often as I liked. The bottom floor of my house was a garden room, with plants, indoor tiki torches, and a hammock to sleep in. The upstairs was a more oriental theme with dark wooden screens and plush carpets. The basement, well that was a bit of a mess, but we won't talk about that.

Then something terrible happened. I lost my home. I was destitute and depressed. I had to move in with my son, in a tiny place with hardly any room for me. I could no longer decorate as I pleased, and I was dependent on him for charity. I didn't think this kind of thing would happen until I was in my 80's, maybe 90's, but here I am at 40 asking for a mere bed to sleep in.

What's that? Oh, this isn't my real home. It was on Animal Crossing, a Gamecube game that I used to play with my kids a lot. Then the new Animal Crossing for the DS came out, and don't get me wrong, it's got some really great features. But one thing stands in the way of perfection: you have to share one house. And since the DS belongs to my son, that means we all have to live in his house. Yes, a house outfitted by a 10 year old boy. Let's just say that we don't exactly share the same tastes in home decor. Some days it's full of UFOs, and on others there are strange bobbing dolls around. It's very disconcerting.

But, all that could change. I could, in fact, not only have my own home on Animal Crossing once more, it could exist on a lovely pink DS, courtesy of Crazy Hip Blog Mama's contest.. And I can tell you that nothing would make me more hip than having my own DS so that I wouldn't have to live in charity with my son. At least until I'm 90 or so.

Friday, January 12, 2007

The World is Shrinking

So I had a computer problem today, needed a BIOS update that wasn't the right one on the Dell disk, and ended up on the phone to a support person. In India, it was 5:00 am, while it is afternoon here. It was warm and humid there, snowing here. My daughter stood by my shoulder while I chatted with the support person, and when he took control of the computer remotely like they can do these days, she was overcome with amazement as my pointer moved like a spirit was controlling it, clicking on menu items with ghostly typing in the boxes appearing like magic on the screen. When I told her that the man who was controlling it was halfway around the world, she was even more astounded.

Later, we found India on the globe, looked at how far away it is, talked about how the technology we have today can connect us in incredible ways, letting people we've never seen and will never meet help us. We talked about the earth's rotation, how it is light here, but the sun isn't shining there yet. And about lattitude and longitude, climate differences, how the man I was speaking with never sees snow, while it is 26 degrees outside here.

I love how learning springs from seemingly inconsequential events, how children are still capable of so much wonder, surprise, amazement. When I was a kid, the other side of the world was something remote and academic. When I got my ham radio license and actually spoke to someone in Japan once, it was an incredible thing, almost unimaginable. To today's kids, they might be chatting with someone in Delhi soon when they have a computer issue of their own. Or they might meet French teenager or a women from Japan in a chatroom or on a list. Our own family has stayed with two wonderful families, one in England and one in Spain that I met online. The world has become smaller, and our ability to meet and interact with people of very different cultures has increased dramatically.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Phrase Every Mom Loves To Say

This phrase is best uttered from an open doorway, as the dusk gathers around you and the lights of the town start twinkling on. In the spring and summer, it can be accompanied by the sound of crickets or frogs.

"Kids, it's getting dark. Time to come in!"

I think I'm going to love this trampoline thing. Despite a few House Rules that need to be ironed out (how many can be on at one time, that sort of thing), and a couple of bumps and bruises, the kids were out there with their friends all afternoon until it was literally so dark I almost couldn't see them.

A Backyard Full of Trampoline

Our backyard is not very large and it has a heck of a slope, but we still managed to squeeze in this wonderful device! Already the kids are loving it, even in the middle of winter they're out there playing. Some friends came over who had a whole arsenal of trampoline games to play, including "popcorn" and the one in the picture which included trying to leap over the kids who are rolling around (I'm not sure what that one is called).

We've been wanting to get a trampoline for awhile now, but a local sporting goods store that went out of business provided the final impetus by marking everything down by 50%. We got the last 14 foot trampoline in the store, and I couldn't be happier! Now if I didn't get so dizzy when I jumped (notoriously sensitive inner ears), I'd be out there more myself. As it is, I try to get out with the kids, but I can't do it for very long.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Living the Life We Have Imagined

January is often a time of reflection in our culture, and looking back on the past year I can see how much our kids have grown and changed, kept old interests and found new ones, explored new avenues in areas of their passions, and branched out in exciting ways. We've had many incredibly busy days (who can forget the two dance performances, midnight drive to another city, and 8:00 am robotics competition?), but also many days of quiet reflection, fun family times of board games or snuggling up and watching a movie, family bike rides and swimming nights, and tons of time in the outdoors camping and in the forests, mountains, and beaches of our lovely state.

This year was a year of dreaming big, and seeing those dreams almost magically spring to life. My husband reached a goal that he has held since his teenage years: becoming a certified captain of a jet aircraft (he studied for, tested, and received his type rating this year in a corporate jet). The kids followed their passions to new and exciting places: M. to robotics tournaments and chess matches, karate practice and lengthy Dungeons & Dragons games with friends; A. to performances on the stage in theatre, music, and dance, evening jam sessions with other Celtic-playing musicians, and new activities like volleyball and robotics. And this was the year I achieved my dream of 15 years, completing the Ironman triathlon. We worked hard on our dreams, but we loved every step of the way, as people do when they are living the lives that they have hoped, dreamed, and imagined. There's not a day goes by that I am not grateful for all the opportunities we have had to live the full and joyful lives that we do, and through unschooling to allow our children to do the same.

For Christmas, I bought my husband a silver bookmark (he has this dreadful habit of turning down pages in books as a substitute). On it is a quote that also graced the cover of my Ironman journal, a quote that sums up our year, our lives:

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.
--Henry David Thoreau

So as we go forward into 2007, here's hoping it's another year of living the lives we are imagining, every day.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

History, Poetry and BlackAdder

History as I remember it in school was a dull parade of facts, dates and names to be memorized and regurgitated onto a piece of test paper at the appropriate moment. Anyone remember the slogan "Tippecanoe and Tyler too?", "What was the signifigance of the Teapot Dome scandal and when did it occur?", or "Who fought whom at the Battle of Hastings?"

Not so in our house. We apparently learn history through much more entertaining sources. Like, say, Blackadder.

For those of you Philistines who don't know what Blackadder is, you can start with the Wikipedia entry and proceed directly to your Netflix queue, where you should bump it immediately to the top. One of the funniest TV shows of all time, it tells the story of Edmund Blackadder and all of his descendents through various stages in English history. The characters encounter medieval battles, Richard III, Queen Elizabeth I (played by the incomparable Miranda Richardson), the French Revolution and the Scarlet Pimpernel, and WWI, including Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig, the battle of the Somme, and the famous poppies of Flanders field. Along the way, we've had lots of great discussions about the topics at hand, the historical figures, and related subjects. After we watched the final episode of the WWI series, I read them In Flanders Field and a short bio of its author, Lieutenant Colonel John McRae.

Over Christmas, we also watched The Reduced Shakespeare Company's DVD in which they manage to squeeze all 37 of Shakespeare's plays into 90 minutes of sheer lunacy and comedy (including the "60 second Hamlet", Titus Andronicus as a cooking show, Othello as a rap song, and Monarch football in which all of Shakespeare's Historical kings pass the ball around the field - and King Lear gets flagged on a penalty for being a fictional character). The kids thought it was a hoot, and on the way back from our snowy cabin Christmas, we discussed a lot of the plays.

We also watched The General and some more of Buster Keaton's silent movies last week. It's amazing how well truly good theatre (in particular, comedy) can stand the test of time and entertain kids who have all the latest in special effects and video games at their fingertips. The cover of the DVD almost put them off, but I told them I thought they would love it and they did, begging to watch all of it in one sitting. Since The General was filmed near here, and one scene occurs at a place that we go to frequently, it was fun to watch from that angle as well. We talked about the Civil War and why the South would not let the movie be filmed there, even forty years after the end of the war.

The cool thing for me is that just through basically entertaining ourselves - having a good laugh and a bowl of popcorn, the kids have learned more about history than I remember in many a dull and dreary schoolroom hour.