Tuesday, March 30, 2010

holey week

Sorry 'bout the title.  I couldn't help myself.  These are pictures of Bug's knees.  (We'll see who finds that via Google.)

I remember worrying about Pook this time of year, thinking he didn't look presentable for school, but not wanting to buy new clothes when shorts season was less than a month away.  Then I visited the kindergarten and saw that he looked as good if not better than the rest.  I guess this is the definition of kindergarten in the spring.

Monday, March 29, 2010

poor choices

I try to be non-judgmental, but really.  Some parents make very poor decisions regarding their children.  Take this mom for instance:

On the other hand, maybe I should give her credit for trying to do better for her family.  This was her choice last year:

Or... was it her mom who chose that location for her?  It might explain her actions now.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

dinner-time math

Maybe we're just a really geeky family, but dinner-time math is something both boys love.  Tonight it was about Girl Scout cookies.  We opened a box of "Thank U Berry Munch" cookies and I was a bit off put by the small package inside.  I had Bug count them by two's.  There were 15 cookies.  I asked Pook to calculate how much we'd spent per cookie, the cookies having cost $3.50.  He needed pencil and paper for this, but came up with a $.23 1/3 price tag.  Then I remembered that one of the boxes in the pantry had been brought over by a friend who donated them to us.  They'd cost us nothing, but how much had the combined cookies cost each?  Pook is just learning this type of multiplication and division, but loved figuring it out.  (Although not as much as eating the cookies!)

Pook made brownies for us from a mix last week.  Bug grated cheese for our mac-n-cheese tonight and measured out two cups for me.  There is math everywhere at dinner-time.  The more they learn about it, the more they can follow recipes to cook.  Win-win!

babies in my garden

I am trying a new thing this year in my yard.  I keep reading garden blogs like this and this, and I've realized that buying two, or three or six new plants a year is not going to fill up my vast gardening space.  I need to learn to propagate!  Last summer I took all the coneflower, black eyed Susan and daisy seedheads and sprinkled them around my front sidewalk garden.  We shall see this summer if that helped.  I'm guessing it did.

Now I'm looking for more ideas.  I looked under my Lenten Roses, and sure enough, there are tiny plants all over.  I don't think there have been babies before, but there certainly are now, so maybe I didn't see them because I never looked.  Plus, they look like the sunflower seedlings which grow under my birdfeeders (and then die because it is too shady) so I may have pulled them out in past years.  But this year I am watching and waiting and hoping to transplant lots of hellebores.  I've already given some of the babies to my parents, although it may be premature.

A chrysanthemum lived through the winter, actually two did.  I believe they are feverfew, an herb/weed/lovely plant in the chrysanthemum family with small yellow daisy-like blooms.  It seeds itself, but I didn't know I could propagate it any other way.  But, apparently I can.  I took a look at the larger of the two plants today and saw that it was really six clusters of leaves with hardwood stalks between them.  I've taken a risk of losing the whole thing, but I just dug it up and divided it on the chopping block.  I sprinkled rooting hormone on each piece and stuck them in pots.  If I'd had any potting soil I would have used it, but I didn't, so I took scoops from the finished compost pile and put the starts in it (along with a few earthworms who may or may not be happy with their new homes).

If propagating plants works, I'll fill my yard with tried and true plants.  I need to take advantage of my spring gardening fever while I can!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

lucky to have choices

CD and I took a tour today of the middle school.  It was only yesterday that I was still breaking out in a cold sweat at the thought of elementary school.  (Although that had a lot to do with knowing I'd have to get up at 6:30am. for nine years.)  Pook won't be starting middle school for at least two years, but we need to make some decisions now that will affect his middle school years.

Despite many budget cuts, school closures, teacher pay cuts and all, we still have a thriving gifted education program.  Pook attends a pull-out model now, with two gifted teachers serving our school teaching science and social studies.  Our school has many more teachers at the school certified in Gifted Education and we love the school and feel like it is meeting his needs well.  That said, we have the option of trying to get him into a magnet school for bright kids.  (I'm using that term because the others are so confusing.)   Between two and four (?) kids from his grade (of 60?) who are eligible (20?) are chosen by lottery to attend.  Kids from all corners of the county are also applying, but we're fortunate that the school is nearby.  Clearly, the chances of getting in are slim.  A few more can get in each year all the way into high school, but once in, the kids can remain in the magnet program (unless their grades slip significantly) until they graduate.  The program he's in now also continues through graduation.  Then there seems to be a program at the middle school for "high achievers" and for the general population.  Confused yet?

Our dilemma is whether we care if he's in this exclusive magnet school group through middle and high school.  The up side is that the kids will be together from 4th grade - 12th.  They'll be in the magnet school nearby for their 6th grade year, instead of in the middle school that year like most kids here. They'll have gifted teachers teaching all of their subjects but electives like gym and music.  Down sides include the lack of proximity to classmates who live far away, and leaving current elementary school friends.  The gifted program that he's in will continue into middle school, but not every teacher he gets will be certified in Gifted Ed.  He would, however, be in ability groups for those classes anyway, and so would still be surrounded by bright kids, many of whom are there simply because their names were never chosen in the lottery.

So, do we take our chances and apply for this magnet school, or enjoy what we have and keep going on this path?  I fear that if we apply and don't get in, we'll be upset, but if we don't apply at all (and therefore don't get in) we could regret it. We learned a lot on our tour of the middle school (really liked the place) but haven't made up our minds yet.  We're grateful that we have the choices, but still feel confused about this. I think I'm planning more for his social life than academic life here.  I'm lucky that I think all our options will provide him with a good education.  I have so many friends who have had to give up on public schools to either go into private school poverty or to home school.  I wish I wan't having to worry about middle school (and high school!) already when the poor boy is only eight!

Monday, March 22, 2010


If I call these things falling from the sky "magical melting flower petals" then I won't be so depressed.  Reality is what I make it, right?

At Bug's baseball game on Saturday, we needed sunscreen!  Fabulous day, perfect day for baseball, perfect day to be outdoors and the sun was a wonderful little reminder of it later.  We all came home at the end of the long day outdoors with a pink glow around the neckline.  Bug had a row of freckles across his nose, I had a sunglasses line and red nose.

My yard is gearing up to be beautiful this spring.  The late start may encourage more to be in bloom at once. 

Right now there are daffodils everywhere, crocus still around, hyacinth open, hellebores spreading and making little hellebore babies,  vinca starting to show tiny purple faces, forsythia aglow, quince cheerfully pink and little green heads of everything else popping up!  It makes me so cheerful to see it all as I look around.

And then I noticed wetness on my windshield this morning.  I'd have closed my eyes and put my fingers in my ears and hummed "lalalala" if I hadn't been driving.  If you live up north, remember, they are little magical melting flower petals, got that?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

beating back time, or-- time beating me

This time change is beating my butt.  At 4pm this afternoon I could hardly hold my eyes open and now, at 8pm I know I do not have long left.  I'm aiming to go to bed after the kids- and Pook is still up, reading with CD.

When Pook was an infant he thought morning started at 5am.  We figured either he'd been born into the wrong family or he was simply wrong.  Wanting to keep him, we set out to change his behavior.  And, don't laugh, because we did.  When the time changed and suddenly one morning he was waking at 6am, we adjusted ourselves but not him.  We continued to put him to bed as if the time had not changed and he continued to wake up at a (slightly more) acceptable time, according to our clocks, internal and external.  When the clocks changed back in the fall we took a more scientific approach and adjusted him by fifteen minutes a day for four days or so.  And, yes, he was the kind of baby that a parent could do that with- a very predictable sleeper.  (Extra story:  I was on the phone with my mom and said I needed to go because Pook was about to wake.  She wondered how I could know.  My reply was that he usually napped between 59 and 61 minutes and it was 59 minutes since he'd gone to sleep.  And then I heard him wake.  On cue.)

As the kids have gotten older we have become more casual about adjusting them to the time and it has only mattered in the fall anyway.  Until the recent change in date, the Spring Forward has always happened during our spring break.  Vacation Time never really cares about clocks and we had a week to adjust slowly so we didn't consider how difficult it could be before a school week.

This past weekend was a fun one.  We have a friend who, basically, is the astronomy department at a local college.  (Another aside: before Pook was born she came over and laid down on the nursery floor with a compass, a map of the May sky, and a pile of glow-in-the-dark stars.  The ceiling, which is now our playroom, is astronomically correct for his birth month.)  This past Saturday night she invited us, and two other families, to a private showing of the planetarium and observatory.  We sat in the dark, in comfy recliners, and got a tour of the sky.  Anyone, aged 3+ who had a question got the question answered and demonstrated.  "Why does it look like planets reverse their direction in the sky?"  "Well, let me show you!"  Did you know that the earth has shifted on its poles since the astronomical signs were assigned?  I'm really not a Capricorn at all; I'm a Sagittarius.  And, more interestingly, part of December has no astronomical sign at all!  Captivating stuff!  We went upstairs to the telescope, but the cloudy skies prevented us from seeing anything.  The kids enjoyed rotating the scope, opening the ceiling and rotating the ceiling with her key chain remote.  And climbing on ladders.

I knew it would probably be a late evening, and when we finished dinner at 7:30 and hadn't yet even gone to the planetarium, I realized I needed to stop checking the time and just go with it.  And we did.  It was a great evening and it was worth the loss of sleep.  Hopefully I can catch up tonight and spring forward with the rest of the country tomorrow.

Friday, March 12, 2010

water in my eyes

I believe we were watching a movie like Finding Nemo.  It was probably a year ago or even more.  As Bug snuggled close I turned to him to see if he was ok.  He replied, "Sometimes I get water in my eyes during that movie."

For the last week I've been reading Bambi to the boys.  If I ever read it myself I don't remember.  I know I never saw the movie, but I certainly know parts of the story.  I knew Bambi's mother (spoiler alert!) died in the book and I knew that reading it at bedtime might be difficult when we got to that part.  I thought we were there a few nights ago, based on the illustration of a hunter at the first page of the chapter, but it wasn't as bad as I'd worried.  Last night was.  I was torn between wanting to change the language to soften the blow, wanting to stop reading before finishing the chapter, and soldiering on.  I finished reading it.  "And Bambi never saw his mother again."  (Love ya, goodnight guys!)

Bug grabbed me and stuffed his head into my armpit.  I don't think he was crying but I couldn't see his face.  Pook had actual tears.  If it hadn't been well past Bug's bedtime, I would have discussed the story and their feelings.  As it was, we quickly talked about how hard it would be to write a story that made readers feel so strongly.  We kept away from the dead mom issue as we finished tucking them into bed.

It came up again in the morning, and Pook got teary eyed again.  "I just think it isn't fair that the animals didn't understand what was happening to them."  Earlier in the story, when winter had become harsh, many animals were killing each other.  The boys had cringed, but seemed to accept it.  They've learned before that animals that don't eat other animals will die themselves, or not have food to feed their babies.  The phrase "survival of the fittest" came into use.  Mother Nature is harsh.

Bug added, "They shouldn't hunt if they don't use the animals."  Most of the animals killed by the group of hunters in the most recent chapter were pheasants, plus one hare and a few deer, (at least two with names). We talked about hunters and the meaning of 'venison'.  We bought a portion of beef from a farmer friend this year and so, for the first time, have been eating meat from a cow we have met.  I want the kids to be grateful for it, and not to be turned off by a carnivorous world.  I've tried to share a Native American view on meat eating with the kids.  I explained that current hunting laws don't let fawns get shot, but that there is a hunting season each fall for the adults. There are more deer in North America now than there were when Columbus arrived, so unless we've named them and gotten attached, killing deer isn't such a terrible activity.

We'll try to start reading time earlier tonight so we have plenty of time to deal with the conversations that follow.  Maybe I need to keep a box of tissues next to the bed until Bambi is finished.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

take a deep breath

I know things are not good when I'm racing to make it to yoga on time.  Too stressed, too busy.  My brain has not completely engaged, causing widespread confusion in my life.

On Monday I saw the reminders about class photo day in the kids bags and I registered that it was good that my notes had gotten out to all the parents.  I even asked the kids to pull out the clothes they wanted to wear Wednesday so I could get anything washed if necessary.  Then, after they went to bed I realized that, uh whoops, I'm in charge of those pictures.  Those pictures aren't "later in the month", they are Now.  I spent Tuesday sending emails to change the plans I'd made Wednesday and Thursday since I'd be at the school most of both days instead. I had to finish up plans and send information to the other volunteer parents helping out. This was interrupted when I was contacted by a church friend to let me know that the cabins we wanted to rent were going fast and if we wanted to do the retreat she and I were planning, we'd have to jump on them quickly.  That issue was dealt with via email, but still took more brain power than I had available.  Fortunately the rest of the planning for it will wait.  Later that day I had to run to the store for combs, wet wipes and rubbing alcohol for school pictures (because I can't see throwing out combs after one kid which is the usual procedure).  By evening I was emailing the photographer and the school secretary multiple times while we designed Plan B to accommodate the rain.

Other than having one of my volunteers contract pink eye while helping kids get prepped for pictures, I'd say the first day went smoothly.  We all wish photos had been outdoors instead of in, but life goes on.  And on.  I was replaced by a new volunteer and I squeezed in a run to the grocery before returning to the school to pick kids up.  Some days I really wish we had a school bus. (We live within 1.25 miles, therefore "too close" for a bus.)  Then I thanked CD profusely for putting some dinner in the crock pot. 

Day two of pictures on Thursday.  I took the kids to school and stayed for the first hour to get the routine settled with new volunteers.  I got two hours of laundry (partly) done before heading back.  (I just discovered one wet load to finish, and folding will happen some other day.)  When I had all the photo things done and cleaned up it was so close to dismissal that I sat in the library until I could get Bug.  Then I collapsed on the rug in the den for an hour before he and I drove back up to the school to get Pook from his science club.  I was stopped by a teacher who asked if I was the "Fish Mom" because the tank apparently looks very cloudy and they think something may be wrong.  I didn't even look.  The fish will either live until I have time or they will die and get scooped out when I have time.  Right now I don't have time.  I'm planning to exhale.

Forgot to mention that during my time in the school, I was asked if I would help at the Scholastic Book Fair, and if I would volunteer to help on Field Day.  Is "Sucker" written on my forehead?!

Monday, March 1, 2010


I've become very dependent on Google.  You really can Google anything.  In the past few days I have typed, "What is a snack that begins with x, y or z?" and come up with a plan to take yogurt and (zoo) animal crackers to the kindergarten this week.  Then I tried, "How to remove silly putty from clothing" and, in addition to the idea of banning silly putty from my house, I got two suggestions. The first treated it like gum, suggesting ice and a scrapping knife.  I got the chunks this way but pressed the color deeper into the fibers.  And cut a small hole in the pants.  Then I went the rubbing alcohol method and I think I got most of it, except I seem to have run out of cotton balls and the tissue was making a mess.  Now that the new pants have a small hole in the leg, I'm less concerned about the red stain anyway.  Maybe that was part of the solution.

Many, many of my menus start online.  "What to make with pumpkin and cranberries?"  Duh, pumpkin cranberry bread!  What are the ingredients in that broccoli salad I always love when people take it to potlucks, the one that has bacon?  "Broccoli salad bacon" made for a fabulous side dish.  Naturally I also had to Google for ingredient substitutions since I seldom have the right stuff on hand and always need to improvise. Once I first Googled "fennel" and then "what to make with fennel", a side effect of joining a CSA, and an ingredient I don't much like.  Generally I find recipes best if I include the word "recipe" in the search.

Gardening is full of Google searches.  "Propagate chrysanthemums -purple heart -winter daphne"  I search for plants mentioned in gardening blogs all the time.  (I plan to buy heuchera as soon as possible.)  I've been considering terracing our yard, but even though Google has helped me find a useful how-to video, I'm still intimidated.  Unless Google is willing to do the work on that one, it might have to wait.

Today I had other needs.  I Googled, "AAA road service phone number" and "VW repair Atlanta".  I'd like to Google "What will a new oil pump cost us?" but I'm afraid to find out the answer and so far, Google has found me pretty reliable answers.