Friday, May 30, 2008

Small Kindnesses

In our backyard, we have eight raised garden beds. Over the winter, we planted clover as a cover crop. But when it was time to pull the clover out, Asa didn't want to because the bees love the flowers so much. So while the other seven beds are now full of tiny plants, hers is a riot of red clover flowers and buzzing bees. I love how thoughtful these kids are, of even the tiny beings here on earth. I love how they take to heart the stories of struggling honeybee colonies and translate that to an action that helps out a fellow creature.

We spent the morning clearing a patch of ground next to our new fenced plot in the front yard. I've bought a mix of flowers designed to attract bees, so we'll plant those there and when the clover flowers have faded, our little friends will still have a welcoming place in our garden.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Untie the Apron Strings, the HMS Freedom is Sailing

I appear to have reached some critical juncture in my parenting life. I didn't see it coming, there was no signpost reading Imminent Demands for Freedom, 10 miles ahead. No warnings. Just out of the blue, my kids want more freedom to do more things. The requests come fast and furious and apparently I wasn't prepared enough to think out the answers ahead of time. This leaves me standing there in the moment thinking "Is it okay if he goes over to a friend's house when I'm not at home?", "Can she really cross the street safely by herself without me to jerk her back by the arm if a car comes speeding around the corner?", and worst of all the recent "Will this kayak turn over and drown both of my kids if I let them paddle out into the lake by themselves?" Of course, in that moment in which a child has asked to do something daring and exciting, the last thing they want is parental him-hawing.

To add complexity to my decision-making task, one of my kids is extremely cautious and one is a risk-taker extraordinaire. Which means that by the time the first one has come to the conclusion that he is ready and responsible enough for a certain freedom, I can usually just rubber-stamp his decision. The second one is just as likely to ask "Can I fly to the moon tomorrow?" as "Can I cross the street by myself?" And I'm not the kind of parent who likes to put unreasonable No's in my kids' path. I want them to have the kind of childhood I experienced: building forts in the forest and riding my bike around town and basically feeling like the world was wide open to me. Unfortunately, I also don't want Miss Risk Taker doing some of the crazy and, I should point out, unsupervised things that I did as a kid. There was a well on our property and we liked to take off the old rotting boards covering it and throw things down it to listen to how long it took before they hit bottom. I grew up in an old gold-mining area and one of our favorite places to play was the "Chinese Diggins", an area of old tunnels with rusted out mining cars and dangerous shafts going straight down into the ground that had been mined by Chinese workers in the late 1800s. As much as I love my folks, sometimes my childhood reminiscences end in my head with the phrase "What the hell were they thinking???"

So it was with great trepidation that I watched my kids paddle off into the lake last weekend. But what can you do when your oldest, who up until recently wouldn't set foot in a boat (I think he might be the only child in Disneyland history to refuse to get into the Storybook Boats because they were "too dangerous") suddenly asks to paddle around in the kayak by himself, and then after an hour of that asks to take his little sister for a ride??

You can unti the apron strings, throw some confetti, wipe a tear from your eye, and watch the HMS Freedom sail away.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Hear This, Horton

So the movie adaptation of Horton Hears a Who finally hit the cheap seats, which is what we call our local $1 theatre, and we had a rainy afternoon to kill so we took the kids over to see it. In all honesty, I had just done a triathlon that morning, and I figured from the reviews that the movie would be a yawner (it was, though I am a big Dr. Seuss fan, it in no way did the book justice) so I was secretly hoping I might get a little shut-eye in without the kids noticing. No such luck, I forgot to bring my earplugs and movie theatres these days are way too loud to sleep through. But that's not what pissed me off most about this movie.

It also wasn't the terrible dialogue, the ridiculous instead of endearing portrayal of Horton, the meaningless supporting characters (including that really strange floating guinea-pig-like thing that even creeped my kids out, and hey my kids watch Pokemon so take that as you will), or the fact that the only one of the Mayor's children who he wanted to succeed him as mayor was his sole son - apparently none of his ninety-six daughters was worthwhile enough for the job (okay, that did piss me off, more than a little). No, what initially got me was the fact that they set up the kangaroo as the villain of the movie by showing her as an overbearing, underimaginative mom who "pouch-schools" her browbeaten joey because the other kids (shown having loads of fun) are learning to use their imaginations. She repeatedly tells her joey to "go to your room" while she shoves him down in her pouch. And repeatedly berates Horton for leading the other kids astray.

{Sigh}, once again as the media's imagination can't come up with anything truly funny, they reach again for tired stereotypes that they can make fun of. Yes, the secret is out. I homeschool my kids so I can keep them from using their imaginations! That's right, instead of them sitting for 6 hours a day being terribly imaginative studying standardized curriculum that teaches to the fill-in-the-bubble mandatory tests, they're home making sunflower houses in the garden, building boats out of milk crates, dreaming up new robotics designs, dancing to their own music compositions and other unimaginative things like that. Yep, that's why I homeschool them, to crush that imaginative spark.

I guess, as my husband points out, that this is a bit of reverse flattery. If homeschoolers weren't winning all those spelling and geography bees, being courted by Ivy League Schools, and without spending a fraction of the time studying, tromping all over the public school's standardized testing stats, then there wouldn't be any reaction at all to it. When homeschooling was done on the QT by a few brave families trying to squeak quietly by the big wheels of government then nobody cared enough to lampoon it.

Well, I better wrap this post up, I can hear my kids getting creative again in the background and I better go put the kibosh on that, pronto.

Friday, May 23, 2008

So, the Inevitable Has Finally Happened

Mackenzie beat me in chess. He got me on a move I never saw coming. Wow. I still remember the day I finally beat my dad in Othello. I think Mackenzie will remember this day for a long time too. Damn, the kid is good. Of course, the little stinker used his allowance for an online chess tutor, and he's been checking chess books out of the library. He got a fun one called The Chess Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes: Fifty Tantalizing Problems of Chess Detection. He loved the chess problems in there and deducing the solutions, but was pretty distressed over the non-authenticity of the book. Imagine, Dr. Watson calls Holmes "Sherlock"!!! That would never happen in the Sir Conan Doyle books, for sure.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Of Mr. Bean and The French Revolution

Lately, we've been delving into the history of the French Revolution. How did we become interested in that you might ask? Well, it's a bit of a strange journey. It all started with Mr. Bean , a comedic character played by Rowan Atkinson. Our whole family just loves physical comedians: Kramer from Seinfeld, John Lithgow, Jane Curtin, and Kristen Johnston in 3rd Rock from the Sun, old silent movie stars like Harold Lloyd, John Cleese in Fawlty Towers, and of course the imcomparable Rowan Atkinson. From Mr. Bean, we graduated to BlackAdder (I can't believe how many House fans do not know Hugh Laurie from his comedic genius in this series!), and one of our favorite episodes has to be where Edmund is consumed with jealousy over the Scarlet Pimpernel and all kinds of silliness ensue.

So typically, that evolved into discussions of who the heck the Scarlet Pimpernel is, and we checked out the relatively recent A&E/BBC version of the story starring Richard Grant & Elizabeth McGovern, which we've been enjoying in the evenings. That in turn has spawned many discussions about the French Revolution, revolutions in general, disaparity between the rich and the poor, mob justice,

It's always fascinating to me to see what we end up studying, reading up on, talking about, and thinking about, and how we got there in the first place. Often, it can be traced back to something seemingly small or inconsequential. When you keep a curious mind though, you end up in all kinds of fascinating places.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Title To My Life: A Blog Tag

This is a toughie! Stella tagged me with the following:

1. Write the title to your own memoir using 6 words.
2. Post it on your blog.
3. Link to the person that tagged you.
4. Tag five more blogs.

So after much thoughtful almost-midnight deliberation, here's mine:

21530880 Perfect Minutes On Planet Earth

though my hubby thinks my autobiography would be titled Stop and Hug the Trees (that's okay, his should be I Just Got to Talking, LOL.)

I picked this title because that's how life feels to me. Even the moments that suck, even the ones that are sad or frustrated or overwhelming. Every moment here is a blessing, and I know full well how lucky I am in this life.

I'm tagging Jody, Deanna, Dorcas, Seppie, and Jenny

Monday, May 05, 2008

Of Prudes and Pliés

It's Dance Recital Season again, otherwise known as out of the (robotics) frying pan and into the (dancing) fire! As you can see from this first photo, Asa gets to perform in a ballet dance this year, which she is very excited about.

Every little girl should get to don at least one sugar plum fairy outfit and dance around a stage while the parents ooh and aah, and this has been her dream for lo these many years - ever since this first dance recital of hers at the Parks-n-Rec ballet class for toddlers (she's curtsying on the right):

We went up to Portland for the "Dance Magic" dance team competition this week as well. Boy did that event make me appreciate the woman who runs her studio even more than I already do! For one thing, I really appreciate her "no tummies showing" rule. All of our studio's dancers wear a leotard under their costumes, and in general their costumes are cute, cool, and not revealing of an undue amount of body parts. I've never really considered myself to be the prudish type, but there's something distinctly unnerving about tiny Jon-Benet Ramsey-lookalikes in leopard-skin bikini-top costumes shaking their booties at the audience. I have to admit I did get a little creeped out by some of the costumes and moves - things that look appropriate on an older teen just look so WRONG on an eight year old.

But the girls from our studio had a terrific routine and they did simply great! Asa came off the stage beaming from ear to ear and saying that she has never felt so intense on stage, like she poured every little bit of her into her dancing (her words). She truly loved it, and it was great to watch her perform with her wonderful dance team. Now we've only got four more recitals to go before we hit the summer!