Thursday, January 31, 2008

Thirteen things I've learned this month

1....Blogging is fun when I don't think of it as an obligation.

2....My husband needs a new sportcoat and he's not going to get one unless I buy one for him so that he has to return it and get the proper fit.

3....Electric eels are not really eels. I learned this from my youngest boy who decided to find out about these creepy creatures.

4....John McCain has a mother!!??

5....My oldest son has quite a decent stash of candy left from Christmas in his room. He said he just likes to save it. He is a packrat.

6....Ted Kennedy's opinion still matters to me. Warts and all, the guy is a living legend.

7....Mammograms aren't that bad. I just had my first one, and while it was mildly unpleasant(squish!), it didn't hurt.

8....I can change a light fixture and a wall switch by myself. I actually learned this last month, but I'm too proud of it to leave it out.

9....My youngest son had "no idea" what his father's middle name was until two days ago. I guess it hadn't come up? He knew mine, at least.

10..My middle son's interest in piano lessons is more than a passing interest, and he is soothed when he practices.

11..When you put a snowflake image on a blog post, and don't do it correctly because you really have no idea what you're doing, many people from all over the world will hit your site as "snowflake" is a very popular search word, and they wll be linked there beause of the image. Very cool.

12..Apparently, there was a guy named Fred running for President of the US. Who knew?

13..This TT green color does not go well with my blog at all, and I will never use it again. It makes me a little nauseous, but I'm too lazy to fix it.

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The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Bridge

This is a bridge in my hometown. It connects the mainland to a spit of a peninsula where I spent most of my free time as a young child and teen. If you are from the town, you get a resident sticker on your car and you can park on the peninsula. But I think it is better to walk over. It is a beautiful wooden bridge with wonderful views of the bay and some marsh. It's fun to walk by the people fishing off the side and see what they've caught. The winds on the protected bay are perfect for windsurfing, and the clam diggers are out at low tide. It's a wonderful place.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Damn Cat!

Last night, my brother and I spent a couple of hours at his house, poring over old and new photographs, creating a photo collage for my parents' 50th anniversary celebration. On the way home, maybe a mile from my house, a black cat safely crossed in front of me. Now...I am not a superstitious person AT ALL. In fact, I thought about how silly I was to even notice the cat was black or to even consider that the incident could matter. HAH!

So....this morning, a rapidly forming coastal storm was predicted to hit the exact location of our party at exactly the time we were to gather. Snow, high winds, power outages, hazardous driving conditions,...the works. This is the first I have heard anything about any questionable weather for today, and I had been keeping an eye on the forecast all week. Winter in New England is very changeable, but, "hey whoops, we'll be experiencing some blizzard conditions today" is over the top. The inn where we planned to gather is not far from where my parents live. They are going there anyway for a little getaway. The dinner party was a kick-off for their mini-vacation. Maybe the forecast is wrong. Just an antidote for a slow news day.

As we ponder, watch forecasts, discuss.....

The inn calls. They are closing the dining room and our lovely table in the conservatory will not be available. A pub menu would still be available if we choose to proceed. WHAT!!!??? My visions of prime rib, fresh fish, and roasted capon have suddenly changed to personal pizzas, burgers, and buffalo wings. Sigh.

Okay,okay. No party. My parents are beside themselves with worry that my brother and I will attempt to drive our familes anyway and they are wholeheartedly relieved when I tell them we have decided to cancel. I am dismally disappointed, however I feel we have made the right decision.

But then...

my other brother calls. He has flown in from the other side of the country to surprise us all and he is on his way to the inn. WHAT!!!??? I explained the situation. He quickly understands, apologizes for not letting one of us in on his plans, but decides to go have dinner with our parents anyway.

Now he is stuck at a McDonald's as the roads are impassable. My parents are upset.

Are you still reading this train wreck?? Are you shaking your head? Because I still can't believe this happened, and the blame has to go somewhere, and if I ever see that damn cat again I've got a gas pedal and I'm gonna use it.
Black cat @ Ann Siang Hill

Saturday, January 26, 2008

This happened...but then...

This happened:

I got a bad cold and I was miserable getting up yesterday morning. Poor sleep, stuffy nose, painful sinus headache....I wished I could just stay in bed and not have anyone need me.

But then...

my son gave me a hug and offered to make me tea. He climbed onto a chair to get the kind he thought I needed, and he poured it into my favorite mug. He went over to his brother on the couch and offered to read to him so that I could sit and sip. He asked if he could start a paper mache project he had been planning and I helped him find some space. He worked at it for an hour, and he thanked me several times for helping him get the supplies and for mixing the paste.

During the day, all three boys asked how I was feeling, hugged me warmly, and told me that they hoped I would feel better soon.

I was warmed and soothed and cared for by my kids.

Such medicine cannot be bottled, but if it could it would cure so much more than a silly cold.

Friday, January 25, 2008

50 years together

Today is my parents' 50th wedding anniversary. Being their daughter, I have had the privilege to bear witness to their relationship for most of those 50 years. It has not always been blissful and perfect. In fact, I view the longevity of their relationship as a testament to their high levels of tolerance for periods of unhappiness. My mother was a school teacher for over 30 years, and my father was a veteran social worker. They retired from their jobs within a couple of years of each other about 8 years ago. They both worked hard at helping children their whole adult lives, and I think they were aware of how important it was to keep our family intact even when the going got tough. I also know that as stubborn New Englanders, divorce was just not considered practical.

They met while students at UMASS in the '50s. The story is that he was looking for a date, so he picked her name out of the college phone book. Back then, when you called a dorm, there was a dorm switchboard or a common phone and you had to be paged for your call. My mom was on duty that night when he called and asked for her. She agreed to meet him, they fell in love, and have been together ever since.

In the early days of their marriage, they remember celebrating payday by going out to buy a steak and cooking it in their tiny apartment. In more recent years they have been enjoying the fruits of their careful saving and savvy investments and they have been travelling together to different parts of the world. This thrills me. That they are still together. That they still enjoy each other's company. That they make each other laugh, and they argue, and they still love each other so very much.

My brothers and I and our families are throwing a dinner for them at their favorite inn on Cape Cod this weekend. I will bring my camera and take lots of pictures and be present in feeling the joy of the celebration.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Sorry Fred!!!

83% Barack Obama
82% Chris Dodd
82% Joe Biden
79% Dennis Kucinich
79% John Edwards
78% Hillary Clinton
76% Mike Gravel
76% Bill Richardson
39% Rudy Giuliani
35% John McCain
27% Mitt Romney
25% Mike Huckabee
23% Ron Paul
19% Tom Tancredo
15% Fred Thompson

2008 Presidential Candidate Matching Quiz

This was an interesting quiz. I was a little suprised by how strongly my answers aligned with Obama, and I expected Kucinich to be higher. Some of the questions did not include my answer as an option. Go Blue!! It's the best we've got. I'm all for hope, but our present governor has shown that idealistic hope can get you nowhere fast if there's no plan to make it happen. But...I'm all for hope.

Why We Unschool (Part I)

Very often, I am asked about why we home school our three boys. We live in a lovely town with top-rated schools, and the idea that I wouldn't want my kids to attend is very puzzling to people. I am not a religious zealot, and I have never been referred to as radical.
I guess the idea to keep my kids home was borne of my experience in La Leche league some years ago. I breastfed all three kids for two years or more. At that point, that was the most radical thing I had ever done in my life. If someone had told me when my oldest was born that he would still be breastfeeding at age two, I would have laughed....and blushed. LaLeche League helped me to "be the mom;" to make my own decisions about how I chose to care for my kids, rather than blindly conform to what was considered "normal." I grew up. Then I found out that school is the "formula" of early childhood.

Several years later when it was time for my oldest son to start kindergarten, I was thinking about home schooling, but not seriously. My second was just two, and we planned more. Kindergarten was not every day, and I thought he'd enjoy it. He did. He also went to first grade where he continued to make friends while I continued to ponder keeping him home. I missed him, and while he didn't seem unhappy at school, his spark for learning new things was being extinguished. He was an avid reader and writer so he was often sent to work independently while the teacher worked with other kids. Her mandate to bring the students up to a certain level for standardized testing left my kid sitting alone at a table doing worksheets. She was a wonderful, talented teacher who was not allowed to honor each child's progress. She had to toss aside her creativity and some of her compassion so that she could get the 6 year-olds up to snuff. Our real estate market depended on her. I also realized that no matter how good our school system was, they were never going to be able to provide my son with what I felt was the best learning environment; a place where he could explore his interests at will. He was already buying into the gold star mentality, sipping the Kool-Aid of test performance and reading rewards. And I was starting to hold the pitcher. EEK! I had to get him out of there.

Fast forward...By the end of first grade my husband had come to see the light and we decided our oldest child would not go back to school. We had also been sending the middle one off to preschool a couple of mornings each week, and I stopped that too. The school had a strong artistic slant, which I thought would be wonderful, but my middle one struggled with his motor skills and the sensory environment overwhelmed him. It was not a good fit. On his last day as the door was closing behind him he declared "Well, thank God that's over!" The issue for me was how to tell the other people in my world that I was seceding from normal society and becoming a freaky homeschooler.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Thirteen favorite board games

These games get the most attention at our house these days

1....Attack! Strategy game similar to..
2....Risk- perpetually taking up valuable coffee table space.
3....Red Sox Monopoly- Gotta get Big Papi and Vtek
4....Zooreeka- all ages love this one from the makers of Cranium
5....Connect Four- tabletop and hand-held versions
6....Mastermind- probably the most worn out box in the list
7....Boggle- love playing this with the oldest one.
8....Labyrinth- always fun twists and changes
9....Caves and Claws- cooperative game my littlest one enjoys
10...A Walk in the Woods- another cooperative game
11...Chess- "are you sure you want to move there?"
12...Dino Monopoly- fun beginner monopoly
13...Khet- laser maze game. "Are you sure you want to move there?"

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The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Wordless Wednesday

Sunday, January 20, 2008

A Friend Fix

I was just out of college and working at my first job as a counselor for teens when I met my friend, Kathie. She had just moved to New England from her home in Iowa to be with her future husband, and I shared an office with him. Kathie had left behind her beloved midwestern hometown and her large family. She was a little lonely for friends, so her boyfriend asked if I might call her to go out. Please! So I did. The truth was that I had recently moved to a new part of the state to start my post-college life. I had a new small apartment and while I adored my two cats (such listeners!), they didn't hold their liquor too well and they never had any good gossip. Kathie was the warmest, funniest, most even-keeled woman I had ever met and I told her guy the next day that if he didn't marry her I was going to steal her away. He was smart enough to marry her, and ever since then...twenty-two years ago...we have been friends.

Kathie was home raising children long before I was and I stopped by regularly to blather on about my personal dramas and wash her dishes. I remember when her oldest son, now a towering, handsome twenty year-old man, was a fragile premie, weighing only several pounds and strapped to a heart monitor. Her life was full of responsibilities and full-fledged adulthood, and I was somewhat in awe of her. By contrast, I think I offered an alternative to mommy talk and acted as an interpreter of all things Massachusetts(you'd be surprised!) to her warm, easy-going, midwestern personality. She was there when I met my husband, and she stood next to me at my wedding. Her youngest and my oldest are a month apart, and her company and support during my early motherhood helped me grow up. She knows just about all there is to know about me, and she still accepts my calls.

We got to hang out together this past weekend after several months of busy schedules, and after talking, eating, laughing, and talking....and eating, I am reminded of how wonderful it feels to share time with a true-blue old friend.

Unschooling Meme Challenge

This is for the Unschooling Voices Blog Carnival #12 which is being hosted by Kim over at relaxed homeschool. The challenge is to answer each question using photos. Here goes:

1. Favorite Resource....

2. A field trip they loved and learned from. King Arthur festival
3.A game they love so much and don't realize it's educational. "I'm thinking of a number between..."

4.What you've strewn lately. .....
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5.Everyday task where they pick up lots of info. Riding in the car

6.A resource you have always wanted to purchase for the children, but keep putting off. More travel experiences.
7.What your kids think school is really like. ............................The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

Best Place to Unschool:

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Friday, January 18, 2008

Friday Scones
I am making a batch of these this morning to bring to my boys when they wake up. They won't look as pretty as these, but the boys don't spend much time looking at them. We have been having some..ahem..disequilibrium in the house lately. I'm hoping to start the day off better with something sweet, crumbly, and warm. They are easy, so if you feel so inspired, here is the recipe, adapted from my Pillsbury cookbook:
2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
3 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup butter
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 egg
2/3 cup favorite dried fruit

Heat oven to 400. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Blend well. Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly. Stir in your currants, raisins, dried cherries...what have you. Beat the egg and buttermilk together and add all at once. Stir until just moist. Knead 5 or 6 times on floured surface. Sometimes I just put some flour in the bottom of a big bowl and knead it that way. Place on ungreased cookie sheet and press into an 8-inch circle about 1 inch thick. Cut into 8 wedges; don't separate. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 400 for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm.

These can easily be adapted to a savory side for a soup night. Rather than fruit, add herbs and/or cheese. Perfect for dipping.
Here's hoping there are some smiles in your Friday.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

13 for MLK

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. - he would have been 79 last Tuesday- and further inspired by a Buddhist lecture that I attended last night, here are thirteen things that I can do to bring more peace and fairness to my corner of the world.

1.... Take a few minutes each morning to clear my mind so that I can start the day feeling a little more relaxed and purposeful. Sometimes my brain sounds like a cassette tape that is running too fast. I usually wake up bfore the boys, so this shouldn't be too hard.

2.... Sometimes my Yankee New Englander reservedness gets in the way of my warmth. I'm going to try and not be so fearful of expressing my warmth to others.

3...Give more time and money to our local food bank.

4....Fill out comment cards when I go places expressing my appreciation for friendliness and helpfulness. Too often people only fill them out when they're angry. I am particularly thinking of our library and the Y, but they are everywhere.

5....Offer more support and comfort to my friend who is trying to affect positive change for racial minorities where she teaches school.

6....Let my husband know, more often, how much I appreciate his hard work so that I can stay home with our kids.

7....Bring a meal and some flowers to my neighbor who is tending to her 97 yo mother and her ailing husband.

8....Be more patient.

9....When thigs go awry, remember that This too will pass. Or as Sandra Dodd puts it, there are no bad days, just bad moments. Or something like that.

10...Expose my boys to peaceful messages more often. I love and appreciate their fascination with weapons and conflict, and I can converse with them more about "the force" and "the dark side." Maybe strew some quotes about peace.

11...Keep hugging my boys every morning. Start the day with loving gestures and words as they wake up.

12...When people irritate me, try to shake it off and remember #9.

13....Remember the power and reverberation of "The Dream." If you want to see a video and hear the "I Have A Dream" speech, click here.

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The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others' comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


I could not shed a pound to save my life. I jogged and walked and went to kickboxing, step classes, yoga...I did not lose one pound.

Okay, so I'm just another mom in her forties struggling with weight. Yawn. BUT, I have lost 15 lbs. over the past 5 months because I did a little research and discovered what I was doing wrong. For so long I thought I could lose weight if I just had the right groove going. Eat a little less, lay off the ice cream, get to STEP class on Saturdays...nothing major. Yet, I continued to gain....and gain, and gain. I thought, perhaps, that my body was somehow different from others of my species. I was the one who broke all the rules...a medical anomaly!!

Then, I found out my Body Mass Index (BMI). Well, I didn't, the computer did. Then I found out about my target heart rate and my calorie needs. Due to my mid-forties metabolism, my body needs way less food than I had been enjoying..And, I had not been exercising vigorously enough or often enough. It was a sad, sad day.

A healthy BMI is 25. Mine was.....higher.

And the cardio machines were consistently showing a heart rate of between 120 - 130 beats per minute. I needed to get up to 141 and maintain it for 30 minutes!! That meant breathing hard and sweating. Yikes.

So, I started eating even less, but still leaving room for occassional favorites, and I am now on a first-name basis with the fitness staff at the Y. AND...I started going to Spinning classes. The last time I had exerted myself that much, physically? Maybe giving birth. Maybe.

I have yet to reach my goal, but I've got a plan and except for a brief holiday eating/drinking frenzy (can you say pomegranate martini three times fast??), and unsurprising setback, I have been making slow steady progress. Like my friend here.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

More Winter Wonderland

Just a few more pictures of the day after the storm. Beautiful trees laden with snow, blue skies, and kids to share it with.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Snow Day

One thing I like about reading blogs is "visiting" other places. Here is a glimpse of a New England snow day. We got almost a foot of snow today, and becasue it was blowing in on a strong storm, everything is covered in white. Very winter wonderland effect. I like how it makes the trees look like cartoon drawings. The snow was too fluffy for making snowmen, but probably a mile or two closer to the ocean and that would be a different story. I like how the streets are deserted for a short time and you see your neighbors out shoveling and playing in the snow.

Here, on the left, is what our yard looked like a couple of days ago. Plenty of mud and warm enough to play outside with just a sweater on.

And here on the right is a photo of the sand box today. Here are more pictures of fun and scenes from the storm.

Snow surfingNeighbor's Car

Chasing Brothers

Snowy Tree

Monday Top Ten + 2

I like to keep the energy up in January so we don't get too bogged down in winter doldrums. The boys are better than I am about slowing down and enjoying the indoors. I get antsy to get out, so sometimes we get out of sync with each other. This list is a reminder that there is a way to savor the coziness of indoors as well as shake out the cobwebs from time to time. Since we all need extra motivation in the winter, I added two extras.

Top Ten+2 things to do on a January Monday in New England

1.Sleep late
2.Make a really good cup of coffee.The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.
3.Get out all of those thick socks, boots and other assorted winter wear and USE IT!!
4.Go letterboxing
5.Dump all the Legos out onto the floor and have at it.The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.
6. Bake
7.Leave paper cups filled with different things outside and see how long they take to freeze.
8.Go to the beach and find some cool driftwood. (see #3)The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

9.Cuddle up in the biggest bed with a pile of stuff from the library.

10.Take a moment to be grateful for warmth, food, and family.
11.Make paper snowflakes and put them on the windows.

12.Go to a coffee shop and order warm drinks and muffins.

There...I feel better already.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Playing Games

My kids do not have a gaming system, so they go on-line and play free games that they find. Most recently, they are back on Dragon Fable. It is an RPG site where they can create characters and put them through their paces with various fantasy creatures. While I know that many parents are uncomfortable with video games and "screen time," I cannot tell you how many more hours my kids spend inventing their own games and using the computer games as springboards for their imaginations.
We have an arsenal of light sabers, swords, knives, and various other homemade weapons made from Legos, Zoobs, gift-wrap name it. They frequently dismember and destroy each other and then bounce back for more.
A common refrain is "You can't have invincible magic, that's not fair!" or my favorite "Mommmmm!!! He won't die and I've killed him like a hundred times!"
Then, out comes my own personal purple light saber to slay the stubborn foe and the deed is done...problem solved.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Super quick supper

Winter Saturday Supper

Much to my chagrin, my three growing boys need meals every day. Even Saturday. So here is a quick and easy supper for a rare night when the babysitter is coming, or when I feel like taking it easy without take-out.

Twenty Minute chili

1+ lbs. ground beef and/or gound turkey

1T cumin

1tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

1-2 cloves garlic, crushed

3 16oz. jars good quality prepared salsa

1 cup water or stock

1-2 cans chili beans

shredded cheddar

tortilla chips

Brown the meat in a large saute pan. Add garlic, cumin, salt, and pepper. Put the seasoned cooked meat in a large saucepan over medium heat and add the salsa, water or stock, and beans. Stir and heat through. Serve in bowls with cheddar and chips.

Voila!!! Cue up the movie and call it a night.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Morning Light

My youngest boy. Chillin' on the couch with a comic book, er...graphic novel. If he went to kindergarten, he would probably be considered a non-reader. They wouldn't know what a book-lover he is. This is his favorite downstairs spot, with a blanket and a pile of books. He also carries lots of things over to that table and leaves them there; the extension cord, stuffed toys, and I believe there's glue as well. You never know what you're going to need and when. Best to keep it all close at hand.

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Family Facts

Thirteen Things about my family

1.We are a family of five. Me, my husband, and our three boys.

2.My kids don't go to school. They learn from our life at home and out in the world.

3.We live in Massachusetts. I was born here. Traced back on my dad's side I am a 5th or 6th generation Massachusetts....ite??

4.We love,love,love baseball and the Red Sox. (See above).

5.We camp. Car camping with a tent. As the boys get older it's getting more fun, and I'm hoping that backpacking is in our future.

6.We live in a relatively small home. When we got our minivan, I felt like we had built a addition on our house.

7.We like to stay up late and sleep in. Not very NewEngland-y.

8.We have an awesome extended family. I feel lucky every day for them.

9.We drink raw milk.

10.We all have our own light sabers.

11.We like to watch Mythbusters together. And Star Wars movies. And other movies.

12.The only thing that motivates us to get up early, is if we plan to go out for breakfast. It is probably our favorite restaurant meal.

13.We celebrate half birthdays.

**Disclaimer: My husband is typically an early riser, and only joins in our slothful schedule on occasion.

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The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others' comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!


Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Beach days

Unlike this photo, the beach was windy and ominous today. We rushed there this morning to collect some purple sand that we saw a couple of days ago. I guess it is caused by garnet that gets washed up now and then. Pretty. Anyway, the forecast was for a rainy, windy afternoon so we went first thing. The beach is a special place to me. Any beach. I love to share it with the kids and see it with them. They see all the sticks and the debris as weapons and invention parts. I look at the birds and I enjoy the sounds.

Today we watched the winds blowing against the beach grass. It was moving in waves
Very cool. And we saw the clouds blowing in from afar. And I got my jar of purple sand to take home.