Sunday, August 31, 2008

farewell my pillow...

Yes, you may weep with me, agony and the ecstasy of church callings is upon me. Today I got asked to teach early morning seminary (for those of you unfamiliar with this it means I will be teaching the New Testament to high schoolers every morning at 6 am for my church). This is of course one of the most beloved, and most feared callings (especially for those of us who don't love jumping out of bed early in the morning, in fact I get sick to my stomach if I get up too early). Seriously, I think early morning seminary was the reason I skipped a grade in high school, anything to avoid one more year of 5:45 class!
It is beloved, because it really is a great experience. Feared, because it is intense and definitely cuts into the sleep factor (especially for a mom with 3 little kids who has a baby still getting up 3x a night!) So yes my love affair with the pillow will be ending. This will likely cramp my blogging style a bit, as I will be prepping lessons or trying to catch extra hours to make up for my morning loss, but do not leave me in my hour of need! I have to go tell my neighbors not be scared of the suspicious activity occurring at my house at this early hour.
My thankful 3
1. good people to cheer me on
2. wise friends to share ideas and tips
3. blessings (right?)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

"his brain is on the ceiling!"

Life with my boys, always amusing. While making a phone call the other day, I returned to find this "book shop" so thoughtfully set up for me by my 3 year old (who has always had this thing for building horizontally- it's cool and crazy at the same time) I was informed that I was welcome to purchase any of my "already owned" books from him (thankfully the store only contained the contents of 2 of the 18 shelves of books in our home). It goes around the entire 9 foot couch and many tall stack s are out of the picture. Lesson: Do not close the door to the office on an important phone call or you might get a store too!
Then I was informed that my 3 yo's brain was stuck to the ceiling- thanks to his 7 yo brothers over exuberant tossing. Thankfully not his real brain just this play one from the Cambridge science festival. Our ceilings in there are high- and I would not attempt to get it down with a ladder without a full safety harness. Despite many futile attempts with the nerf ball shooter, the plan was abandoned for the tossing of bean bag stuffed animals at it by mom- after about 30 attempts and knocking it a bit- it finally dropped spontaneously on its own 2 hrs later.
My thankful 3 for the day-
1. cool summer night
2. 9 o'clock peacefulness
3. clean kitchen

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

he inherited taste!

So lately I have been on a contemporary binge. I am tired of the boxey New England living. I want more light, more open spaces, cleaner lines. I have been stealing away in my bathtub reading Dwell magazine and dreaming of my next house being one of these. (check them out- click on one) The other day at Target I saw this little side table a rough cheap knock off an Eero Saarinen Tulip Table. So I bought it and brought it home, while it doesn't totally satisfy my table craving. I am settling for a $20 snack as opposed to a $2000 design feast.
My husband saw the table and asked in a stern tone "Where are you planning to put another table?" I am sure thinking I needed a little white metal side table about as much as I need a hole in the head. I had to remind him that I had been hankering for a tulip table and he should accept this cheap alternative and go quietly on his way. Although an engineer who designs things for a living, he has yet to acquire the same aesthetic sense as his artist wife. I am still known to frequently veto his clothing choices before parties, critique his arrangement of things, put my foot down and say absolutely not to some things, and retain firm control over design choices.
Fast Forward to sometime this morning when my 7 year old exclaims jubilantly, "Mom! Where did we get this table? Seriously, I think this is the best looking table we have ever had. (calls to his brother) Come look at this table. It is really the neatest design ever".
Sorry honey- even our 7 year old knows good design when he sees it. he inherited that from me.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

the graff-n-shop

My friend Becky, challenged her blog friends to a food storage reveal. So here is mine. It is affectionately deemed the graff-n-shop by our neighbors who know they can always call at any hour for a bottle of apple juice, box of lasagna noodles, bag of powdered sugar and many other various and sundry items. The mere sight of the shelves has stopped many a visiting neighbor child in their tracks!
I keep everything that isn't open or currently in use on these shelves. (In addition I have a separate freezer, a full pantry and fridge). It works out great though. I buy when things are on sale and then I buy alot- it does stretch the budget and save many trips to the store. When I bring in my groceries home, the only things that make it upstairs are perishables. The rest stops here and awaits labelling. I label things with dated stickers (my kids job is to help unload bags and stick the stickers on, then they are stocked on the shelves).
It looks overwhelming to people but it really is the easiest thing! I love it because I can cook whatever strikes my fancy that day and about 100 other things. I like to have a lot of food. As roommates in college can attest I NEVER have bare shelves. I keep alot of pantry storage (15 boxes of cereal, 25 cake mixes, snacks, crackers or so) basically 3-10 or more of whatever we eat/use like (bbq sauce, spices, syrups), then more meal stuff like canned tomatoes, pasta, fruits and veggies, as well as long term stuff like rice and wheat (which I use for my tasty homemade bread). We store most of the food on 3 gorilla shelves. The bulk stuff (like rice, wheat, etc) in poly buckets (sugar and flour in ones with gamma lids) and boxes of #10 cans (for things like cornmeal, hot cocoa mix, etc) behind the shelves. We have just added the new wooden shelves on the left which now house canning equipment, grinders, emergency supplies, and some of my frequently accessed buckets. I keep a full compliment of baking stuff as well. As you can see in a time of crisis not only could I survive but I could open a bakery serving up 30 varieties of cookies.
It gives me alot of peace to know I can feed my family for along time if times got tight. Finding a good organizational system and storing what you eat, makes all the difference. I tell people just keep shopping and storing but just think you're doing in a few months before you'll eat it! It's really not that hard- as the phrase goes- Just do it!
superlatives for my food storage...
most likely to surprise you?- probably hominy but it makes this awesome soup
most loved by my kids? a case of cox's honey from idaho
most likely to never reach the full measure of it's creation? beans
best time savers? gamma lids, label stickers
most rotated? must I admit chocolate chips!
My thankful 3 for today
1. school supplies done
2. reading to my boys
3. my food storage

Monday, August 25, 2008

the verdict is in

Well for those of you following our schooling saga and waiting to hear what ss#1 will be doing for school next year (homeschool, public school, 1/2 and 1/2)... drum roll please...the answer is...he will be in public school, all day.
He will be going to 3rd grade instead of 2nd, (there is still no gifted program but they are working towards one more-so we're hoping the acceleration will help). It's a big decision, I hope its the right one. I think it is, everyone involved in the decision making thought it was the best thing for him now (prinicpals, superintendent, etc). It's hard- it feels like you a losing a year of their childhood knowing you this decision will send them off to college a year sooner? I guess I am writing this so he can look back and read and know we tried hard to do the right thing for him to weigh things out carefully. It is tough to make these kind of decisions for your child knowing this timeline decision will ultimately impact their life. I look back on my own experience skipping (it was in HS) my life would be drastically different if I hadn't done that one thing. (I wouldn't have had shelah as my freshman roommate, I wouldn't have met my husband my freshman year - although we didn't get married until 6 yrs later, I don't know if I would have majored in the same things, had the same jobs, lived where I lived- my whole life would be different) it's such a ripple effect. For me it was the right decision and I have never regretted it- I hope it will be the same for you!
I love you son- I know you'll do great! But I will miss you getting to spend more of the day with you! And years from now if things don't go just the way you wanted well hey you can look back and blame your mom for messing it all up!
1. having a plan
2. feeling peace
3. good boys

Friday, August 22, 2008

my signature drink

Do you have a signature drink? I do...fresh limeade (sparkly) not just the juice like lemonade. It's what I always order when going out, or whenever I am at a party and people are drinking cocktails because I don't drink. It's perfect--clean and fresh but with a little zip! Sonic makes a mean one, so does Bills Barbeque in VA, but no such luck here in New England. Usually I have to make my own with a combo of Sprite and a fresh lime (its best if the Sprite comes from a fountain dispenser rather than a can or bottle) and the lime wedges have to be squeezed well. It's best with 2-3 wedges to 8-10 oz of ice cold sprite. My kids like to sneak in and drink it all up.
So if you're ever serving up drinks-- you know what I'll be having!

crabbing on the outer banks

One of my favorite things about vacationing in the outer banks is going crabbing. Its a simple process, you only need a few things and you always catch something. Some string, some chicken legs, a net, and a bucket. It is always a good time.

have a slice of the "celebration of kindness" cake

When I returned home from the grocery store last night it was as though Samantha from Bewitched had twitched her nose and cast a helpful, cheerful, do no wrong, spell on my boys. They greeted me and asked to carry the groceries up. Then they proceeded to put them away, the effusively thanked me for purchasing foods they liked (like Colby jack cheese). They offered each other things, and complimented each other. This was all done proactively, with jovial spirits and no encouragement. Seriously I have never seen them so good. I was stunned.

I asked my husband if something really "bad" had gone down in my absence and they were scared or threatened into such obedience? Had they been bribed? Alterior motive? Maybe there was something in the water? Were they trying out customer service skills? Had I died without knowing it and was now in Heaven? Was I dreaming? Just like those polite well mannered kids in black and white TV shows. Alas there was no explanantion... totally spontaneous pure acts of love and service. Still reeling with shock and elation of this motherhood nirvana I decided a celebration of kindness was in order and proclaimed Friday "Celebration of Kindness" Night. The boys helped me make this cake to celebrate the momentous day of kindness and perfection which will forever live in our family history.

This also shows if you shock me with extreme kindness you may be rewarded with a cake!

My thankful 3- 1. return of my camera cord 2. dressers sorted 3. reading "the loveables" to #2

Thursday, August 21, 2008

toiling by the faint glow of an IPod

I made it! Home from vacation that is. Yes, in one day, myself, smart daddy-o and our three smart boys travelled from Richmond, VA. to home. We broke it up with a stop off at the Air and Space Museum at Dulles (where my boys decided the IMAX theater was way to loud- and we saw the enola gay, the Concorde, the space shuttle, and tons of other cool flying things!) Then we headed to Germantown, MD to see my smart daddy-o's sister and family. The boys loved going on a walk to feed the ducks with their cousins, making their own pizzas for dinner, and just getting to hang out and be silly cousins. After dinner we hit the road and we drove from MD all the way to our home in fair New England. It was a long journey about 13 hrs total driving time with traffic stops, and detours. The trick was staying awake until 3 am and keeping my driver, smart daddy-o awake. We exhausted audio books, dvds, almost every song on the ipod, every piece of candy we had, and a variety of other distractions. The greatest trial of our journey was silencing a wailing baby who cried through part of maryland, all of delaware and a nibble of new Jersey (this included breather stops, feedings, changes, etc. ) He was just plain tired of being in a seat, despite our stops. I offered drinks of various liquids, baby food, club crackers, fingerfuls of grape bits, cool cloths, toys in all their varieties, puppet shows, smart mama dance party usa, glowing wands, flash lights, peek a boo, soft blankies- you name it. Finally the combo of food, vigorous plastic rain stick shaking, repeated blaring of Saint- saens Aquarium (from carnival of the animals) silence and slumber was achieved. He awoke and repeated this in a NJ turnpike traffic jam just before the George Washington Bridge (where of course there is no place to exit), but due to exhaustion and energy expenditure from his previous bout it was shorter in duration. By this time both the other boys had also crashed. I was left to clean up the mess from my frantic endeavors, and not wanting to chance waking anyone by turning on one of the overhead cabin lights I employed the light of my ipod as a sort of makeshift headlamp. There by the meager glow of my ipod screen I attempted to recreate van order, searching for lids, disposing of trash and half eaten materials, tucking blankets around sleeping boys, wiping up spills, and retrieving fallen crackers and finger puppets. Oh the tireless toiling of motherhood!

sorry no pictures- smart daddy-o has my camera cord hostage at work in his computer bag! Tomorrow I promise.
1. a safe trip
2. boys who were so helpful and kind tonight we decided to have a kindess party tomorrow night
3. a fridge that is no longer empty

Sunday, August 17, 2008

the curtain is falling

I have been absent...I have been trying to soak up every last bit of summer family vacation goodness this past week at the beach. (I can't wait to get home and give you a full picturelogue of my trip!) I am already feeling that pang of emptiness as the curtain is falling on yet another summer. At the same time that rumbly butterflies- in- my- stomach- excitement, that comes with fall and a new school year is pushing its way in. Vacation will wind away as all the rigors and routines of life begin whittling away our previously sublime days. This season always makes me pensive. It is a reminder of growing up and letting go. A time when the usually imperceptible passing away of the magic of childhood can be felt so tangibly. We try to bury it under freshly sharpened pencils, crisp clothes, and new backpacks. Somehow those wistful feelings creep in, those teary eyed reminders of the brief moments you live in and few you have yet before you as a mother of young children.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Athlete envy? Olympics for smart daddy-o?

I'll admit it I am a sap, I am a sucker for the theatrical, parade of nations at the Olympics. Seriously, I always start crying just thinking of the dedication and achievement of all the athletes, especially those who train under primitive conditions. All the costumes, the cheering, the sense of unity and support, I just can't get enough of it. It's such an inspiring celebration of countries and cultures. It gives me pauses to respect the struggles of people all around the world and our common humanity.
Along with all this I also get a good dose of Olympic athlete envy, I mean after all who isn't secretl covetous of the cool outfits, the sponsors, and a super fun party in an exciting international venue (forget the grueling tests of extreme physical performance). Along with all of that come the perks of being disciplined, pushing your body to its ultimate level of performance, and being famous and admired by small children. So really I think I'd dig the life of an olympic athlete.
Just as i was musing on my desire to be in the Olympics, a true pipe dream, I saw the delegation from Guam enter. Wait Guam get's a spot in the Olympics! How did i miss this? My husband was born on Guam (as was another guy i dated- really i started wondering if i had a sign on me that flashed-"dates Guamanians!") An American citizen but technically, also a Guamanian! Here is my in~sure he's 36, engineer father of 3, but he's 6'2" and can hold his own in a sport. Surely he could find himself something. I began peppering him with questions on his best sports. I suggested some of the more obscure sports- maybe table tennis, archery, trampoline? One that required less physical stamina and more mental acuity? I assured him I'd be OK with summer or winter games.
He assured me that becoming a world class athlete wouldn't really fit in the family schedule, already over packed with work, mowing the lawn, high council speaking assignments, and taking ss#1 to music lessons. I don't give up that easily. So I am pushing-feel free to join me in my campaign. Smart daddy-o in London 2012 for Guam! He's got 4 yrs to qualify?? I don't see what the problem is.

my thankful 3
1. my cute guamanian husband!
2. choose your own topping donuts
3. olympic fun

Sunday, August 10, 2008

sincerity meets efficiency: the prayer of a 3 year old

"bless mom,
bless dad
bless brothers--

bless all this"
(as arms make a circular motion encompassing the food and everything else in the room)

Yes I saw this because I was peeking, due to the fact that he often utters prayers in a barely audible tone and someone has to be on duty to lip read in order to cue the rest of the members for the appropriate "amen" moment.

1.vacation togetherness
2. my new camera (prepare to be dazzled by the improved quality of my photos- well when i learn to use it in a few years maybe)
3. comforting words of a prophet

Saturday, August 09, 2008

piece of the week- PR Shoreline

A new landscape on 16x20 masonite from our trip to Puerto Rico last year. Painted in all true primaries (4 tubes of paint). I love the ocean and love the rocks and the interplay of shadows, lights and darks.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

hoodwinked by maria montessori

One day at Ikea I became enamoured with this fabulous stool! I had other step stools, but they were always to small to do any good. I philosophically believe in creating an child friendly environment and involving children in lots of daily tasks to create a sense of joy in mastery and achievement. Self help skills are critical life skills. Maria Montessori would be proud and defintiely would have given my ikea purchase 2 thumbs up.
I have, however, in my pursuit of developmental progress and Eriksonian toddler conflict mastery (autonomy vs shame and doubt) caused myself some trouble.
I had great visions of the stool enabling great handwashing in the bathroom, and also getting my sons up to the perfect height to help wash dishes and prepare dinners.
This stool is an enabler all right, only for all the wrong things. Brazen autonomy is what it inspires! It is an accomplice to cookie thievery, an accessory to cleaning out the candy stash in the name of a "potty treat", and a cohort in crime for getting down the golf club you used to whack your brother earlier in the day which got stashed on top of the fridge to prevent further violence. So Maria, I think you led me astray.

Todays 3: 1.a good step stool 2. ingenuity 3. vacation as a family

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

click on me- play in the digital age

I had to laugh today when my 3 year old lined up 4 of his paintings face down and then said, "Mom, click on me!" Yes in this sequence I was to play the role of a computer mouse When I "clicked" on him (which meant tapping the spot where his hands where) he would then flip over the piece and reveal the painting. Oh how technology changes the generations.

And shout out to my 7 year old who worked for hours on a new painting, while professing his love of creating abstract art. It's neat to see your child develop their creative instincts. Every color was blended with subtle variations and transitions- nothing straight from the tube. It is amazing to see him developing a sense of composition knowing where put color naturally to balance a painting and create harmony. Things I couldn't teach him, things you learn by doing. I was really impressed with his work today. It just reminds me how much this generation needs good creative activities! So my challenge of the day- stop and do an art project! Go ART! Creativity Rocks!
My Thankful 3:
1. entertaining boys
2. one suitcase fully packed
3. baths all around

Monday, August 04, 2008

of entropy and exponents

oh where or where has my clean house gone?

oh where or where can it be?
with its vacuumed carpets and dusted shelves
oh where oh where can it be?

I often muse upon the days of my first married life when dinner was superb, the table was neatly set with placements. I spent my evenings reading short stories and watching good foreign films with my husband, prepping lectures or preparing to head off to some exotic locale on a medical mission. Somehow I thought it would always be like that peaceful evenings with with enjoyable activities. Everything was clean and in it's place and although there was a stack of papers to be filed on top of my filing cabinet it was less than 2 inches tall. And I wonder what happened to that?

Then I remind myself that our New England home is more than 3x the size of our bay area apartment and we have accumulated more than 3x the "stuff". Hence 3 x the surfaces to clean. We have 3/4 of an acre to keep mowed and weeded and landscaped as opposed to maintenance free living. We have three boys. Which means more than 3x times the mess and frequent interruptions for every task. Truly children have an exponential relationship here in their ability to create mess. The errands and phone calls and bills are endless.

I used to breeze through Safeway with nary a care, now getting through the aisles of Walmart with one of the monster "family carts" requires much self talk ("I am good, I am patient, I will survive"). My life is punctuated by drawings on the walls, a stuffed animals being given tastes of grape soda!

I have respect for the law of entropy but I never realized how it plays out over the life cycle-- order to chaos- please tell me it will not continue on this trajectory of chaos until I die because man I am already tired!
1. a house to live in
2. reading a good book to my boys
3. playing on the floor

Sunday, August 03, 2008

curse those developmental milestones!

I love child development, after all I spent quite a few years and thousands of hours studying it. However sometimes it can be a thorn in the side. This week my 8 mo old became a fast mover, yep no more sitting and looking around punctuated by slow little scoots no we have progressed to full tail haul across the room. I see it, I want it, I get it! Is the mantra of the day.
We are now on the look out for all things choking hazard. He did almost kill himself this week trying to ingest an entire Kleenex (he snagged on the fly unbeknownst to me and chewed into a matted ball) think giant spit wad- perfect for windpipe clogging-- don't scare me so son. Now I must be lego and playmobil and marble clean up nazi!
This brings to a hasty end my days of a carefree studio with sheets and brushes and palettes and canvases strewn about. (as you can see above he loves to crawl in and out of them, pull them down and rub his hands all over them).
I have tried to convince him to shrink back to a 8 pound size and be content be held and sleep but he's not buying it... alas farewell my baby--welcome my little boy.
My thankful 3
1. a boy growing up right on schedule
2. the joy of discovery
3. agency in its smallest forms

Friday, August 01, 2008

pieces of the week & the unmidas touch

Okay lately I have had the unmidas touch when it comes to painting- seriously everything I touch turns ugly and makes me grouchy. I haven't been able to put my finger on the source of my dearth of creativity and aesthetic plague, but as an artist it is most distressing. The other night I was painting trying one thing after the next only to leave in my wake all the pieces worse than when I started. Finally i gave up, freeing myself to play with the paint and no expectation of a good outcome, because well they couldn't get uglier than they were- my final yields were some passable small playful studies... Then today I was about to ship off the cherry painting to this month's winner, Holly, and I felt pangs of sadness. I always liked those cherries, they used to hang in my kitchen so I decided to make the parting easier I would paint a quick "cousin" painting to keep to remember it by. I did one but, I couldn't stop, so I am now the proud owner of three variations of cherries in a green bowl. Let's just say when time is of the essence it is amazing what you can crank out! This magic moment occurred when my 7 yr was reading, 3 yo was taking quiet time and then later served as my self proclaimed studio helper) and my baby was sleeping for 1 1/2 hrs! Hopefully this has ended my curse. moral of the story- give and ye shall receive
1. breaking a bad streak
2. thinking about vacation
3. weekends