Thursday, June 15, 2017

Summer Progression

The first of the "summer birthdays" has come and been duly celebrated in our home. Crazy party photos below. It was a big one for him, and a bigger one for Mama; Gael, my youngest is ten. Dang.

Those are spears, made by Charles (leaning against the trampoline), that were thrown at the pinata, along with knive..."historical reencactment" according to his gracious uncle.

This week, Duncan will turn nineteen; again, eeek. He is the man he claims to be, not the boy he will always be in my heart. Later, in July, Charles will turn thirteen. Gosh.

I thought this would crush me under a sadness I could not imagine bearing, some day. But the desire to remain in the state of mom at home with young children, little ones I can read to and tuck into bed safely at night, though still very strong, has bloomed into something else. I LOVE that four of them are here with me, but I allow myself to enjoy times when they are off doing their own thing as well. We are all growing. That is a beautiful thing.

Gardening every morning for hours, for example, is not an option I had, even a year ago, when at least one or two munchkins would be up and hungry by 7. Now, sleeping in has become their favorite pastime, and my opportunity. My flowers are pretty happy about it too. There may even be some vegetables, they've sprouted at least.  I've been hand-picking pests off of the milkweed, hoping to save any monarch eggs that might be laid this year. I saw a butterfly last week...but no eggs or caterpillars yet. I can take my time in the garden, such a blessing.

The kids will be following some different directions this summer, and I think it will be wonderful. Gael is heading to day camp for a week, with the cub scouts. Charles will be in Boy Scout, away-camp another week, while Valentine is in Guatemala on a church youth trip at the same time. Cate has already been to Washington DC for a leadership conference for young women through AAUW. (American Academy of University Women). She and her friends did their own fundraising in order to go, They heard and met women who have changed the world in many ways. They came back inspired.

Charles and his father rode the "TOMRV" this past weekend. This stands for "Tour of the Mississippi River Valley," or hell on a bicycle. The weather was in the 90's, and the hills are incredible between Davenport, IA and Dubuque, IA, especially when you wander over to Galena Territory in Illinois on the way. My 12-year-old made it. His dad did too, as well as a couple of other friends and the Scout master extraordinaire, who turns 70 this year. Strangely enough, this one does not figure on my radar of "things I just gotta do."

Did you notice that week where there will only be one child at home? It just so happens that the plays I most wanted to see at the American Players Theatre Festival are on that week as well. One little boy is going to spend some time with his grandparents. His father and I will be enjoying what he would not appreciate at all; "A Midsummer Night's Dream," and "Cyrano." Educating the children is all very well, but the finer things in life need some experience to appreciate. I can't wait!

I think now, it might be time for a shower, some quick tidying up and watching out for waking children. But it's been lovely.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Thank you, Mom, and Blessings to All Mothers Everywhere

First, I want to wish my mom a happy day and tell you how much you mean to me!
And this to all of the mothers in my life, and all of the mothers reading this today

Gifts from my little ones and husband

I had time to take a bike ride in the gorgeous weather AND finish a knitting project today: Gael's monster

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Book Bird

Lucy, my daughter's cockatiel, has a taste for literature, liberty, and coffee. Note that the one she is nibbling on is "Frightful's Mountain," the story of a peregrine falcon.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Dear Dad

Dear Dad,

I am so glad you are alive! When you came out of surgery yesterday, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, impossible hospital gown and wheelchair notwithstanding, I could hardly believe it.

When I woke up this morning, I was appalled at how we had all treated you; admonishing you to follow the doctor's orders, change your lifestyle...only about a hundred percent or so, and telling you, straight from the doctor's lips, how very, very bad your heart had been.

Where do we get off? What right does anyone have to tell another person how to live? Then I realized; it all comes from you.

When you become a father, and you stay involved in your children's lives and are a big part of their hearts, you no longer only belong to yourself. Your life is not all the way your own, they belong to you and you to them. The same is true of your wife of 48 years, who would really rather have you around for awhile yet. Your life is intertwined with that of mom, your kids, your grandkids and, as I sit here, your granddog has not left my side, he never sits with me, so him too. It is too precious to us to simply let it be.

I know you are probably very grateful to have lived another day, that you beat the odds, and you feel so much better. You can have another donut, or piece of cherry pie or tell us one more time to drive safe on the way home. 

But this is how I see it: I have a vision of you as white-haired, (see? in many, many years!) dapper, gentleman who still sits through all of the grandkids' dance recitals, plays, kung-fu meets and graduations, who teaches them how to beat the pants off their opponent in checkers, like you used to when I was little. I see you, as ever, fussing over us all, and making sure our tires are safe, and the kids are doing well in school. You take your dog out for a walk; (he looks just like Tuxy,) and come home to a cup of tea, that you decided you would learn to love. Then you text your sons the latest dirty joke and Skype your grandkids to make sure they're OK, and go to lunch with your buddies on Friday. You and mom drive down for a visit and head to the park for a picnic with my kids, or to the lake with Sam, effortlessly, with fresh air pouring into your lungs and blood flowing freely through healthy veins, because you want it enough. We certainly do. 

Monday, April 3, 2017

Hamilton (it DOES deserve its own post title)

Valentine, 15, wanted just one thing with all her heart, for her birthday and for Christmas for the next 36 years, to see..."Hamilton" in Chicago. Her birthday is in November. The build-up has been long, the hype unbearable, the wait almost eternal, but really, I almost think she was right. Guess who was obliged to accompany her daughter to the performance? Yes, it was I! Ouiiii!

Valentine, pre-show
I dutifully listened to the soundtrack, even though rap is not my thing. I mean, I had happened to have read the book last summer for my lit group, with no idea there was any connection to a new show. There is always some new show, right? What's a musical compared to history?

Then I started listening to the soundtrack, and all the tracks, and trying to keep up with the lyrics.  Then I learned how to download music onto my phone (don't laugh, this was a big thing in my life), and, like the rest of the English-speaking world and beyond, I was hooked.

 Both of us, before the show; almost too excited to eat.

We had a spring break with the children, or the Three-who-still-go-anywhere-with-us, for a couple of days.

 The Field Museum of Natural Science
 Same museum, 3 hours later.
 Our pal, Sue
We did the usual; walk by the lake, try new food, visit Sue (this is how they refer to the Field Museum), and freeze our noses off half the time. Chicago in March; love it! good was "Hamilton"? It was THAT good; all I expected and so much more. There was so much going on; in beautiful dancing and scenes all over the stage, more in nuance and intonation given by individual actors, more humor and depth, more beautiful voices raised in song, that I would need to see it every night until the end of the Chicago run to take it all in, and still, l might not be satisfied. 

Detail of totem pole statue thing (I forget what the sign said, but it is definitely a reproduction of something from South America, or Central America much for my homeschooling expertise.) I really like it. So there.

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Magic of Nighttime Snow/Cub Scout Outing

This was a guys' night only; Charles was skiing with his Boy Scout troop, and Thierry kept an eye on Gael and the Cub Scouts who were sledding like madmen (it was probably a good thing Mama was not there stressing). Thank you for the photos, mon cheri, they are a treasure!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Knitting and Books: An EZ Jacket and the Law

What a week, and it's only Wednesday. Monday night, after clearing a FOOT of snow off my car, there was still parts I could not reach, way in the middle. I had to drive to work Tuesday, with a mohawk on my car. I was not in San Francisco this was Wisconsin.  Trial cancelled and I turned around and drove back home. No cozy nights knitting in my hotel room, no adult dinners with colleagues, hearing about their far away travels and homey projects. But I have the great, big fat joy of being home again with my family, and there is nothing quite as nice in the whole wide world!

Joining Ginny's Yarn Along at

I love the concept of sharing what one is reading and what is on your needles; especially when it is clear that the sorts of people who knit and read seldom have just one of either going at the same time. A choice then, what to share this week? And a chance to be curious, what is everyone else knitting? Here, then, are this week's two obsessions; the EZ Tomten Jacket I really, really want to complete...yesterday, and the dictionary. I kid you not. The more I learn about law, the more I discover I need to learn, and this has been my constant companion day and night while I prepped for a trial earlier this week. So here is an ode to  Elizabeth Zimmerman, and to Jean-Daniel Katz, two maestros.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Ze Moustache

Knit-Along with Ginny at Small Things

Here is my read of the week, and one of the itsy-bitsy parts of a project that has been ongoing; a mustache for a monster. Completed monster coming soon.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Chicken Soup and Honey

"I'll have my tea now," from the apparently sound asleep little boy I was checking up on. He'd gone to bed with a fever and conked out before finishing his mug of tea. None of this was going through my mind just now, tea? Huh? "Child, it's three in the morning, how about water?"

"O.K., but I'm hungry and I'm going to throw up."

"I'll get the tea." Resigned and more than half groggy, I leave my little guy IN HIS BED and go down to fetch a cup of chamomile, because chamomile is good for upset tummies. When I return, child is in the same position, and he matter-of-factly lets me know he has barfed, his term, not mine.

It has been a hard week; norovirus, better known as "stomach flu", influenza, three kids down, and they have been taking turns being ill with one or another, or both at the same time. Yesterday, it was at the point where the decision was made not to make lunch, on a Sunday...radical around here. There was not an able-body among the three kids who were home. Their positions ranged from curled on a sofa under a bathrobe to face down on a bean bag with another bean bag on top for warmth. My husband, after making pancakes for all of these unhungry little beasties, decided a bike ride was in order.

I sat and ate something, still in my sweats, because I had begun working on taxes early in the morning in bed, and had simply not transitioned to full wakefulness, while Gael had a bowl of chicken soup, then Valentine decided she would have a bowl of soup too. Charles was still sprawled over the love seat in the sun. They ate slowly, but I could see that the heat of the soup was bringing back a little color in their cheeks. "Charles; a mug of soup, sweetie?" "Hmm, what, huh? Yes, please, I think. If it's already warm." "It is no problem to warm it up again." "No, never mind, don't trouble yourself." "It is already done, come over!" And there we were, a family. We were rather a motley crew, but beginning to talk, and argue and tease...and heal again. 

Checking in: one week later. I did not even have a minute to hit "publish," when Duncan was also hit with the flu, and then my husband. Goodness. One of the first things I did was buy a giant jug; three or four lbs. of local honey, to put in their tea day and night. Two days ago, I returned to the whole foods store for another jug; we were out. Whether it is from my licking the spoon after stirring in honey for everyone else, or, as Thierry claims, out of sheer stubbornness, I have not been as ill as everyone else.  There is fresh bread baking and soup's on for lunch, with honey for dessert.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Valentine's Day and Tasha Tudor

Countdown to Valentine's Day? February does tend to get long and boring. I have found a calendar to bring us to the next holiday. And by Tasha Tudor, who had a great fondness for Valentine's Day. 
Valentine's Day in France was not so much meant to be shared among family or friends, it was strictly for sweethearts. I love our traditions here, especially the ones involving chocolate and champagne, and preparing little gifts  for the kids.
This is the lovely wrapping that brought this treasure to our door:

And here is the calendar, super cute to gaze at and discover, even with all the windows and doors shuttered up. Each time I look, I find a new element tucked away in a corner or behind flowers.

I am sure there will be a mad dash to be the first to open a window, even at the ages of 9, 12, 15 and 18. Happy February!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Museum Homeschooling Series #2: The Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium

Dubuque, Iowa is my hometown, and it is also host to the largest, truly incredible museum on the Mississippi River and the history of the peoples who have inhabited the area. In a single visit, you can do everything from petting a freshwater sting ray, to trying your hand at shaving roof shingles, to dreamily meandering through the aquarium section.

Our first study unit (main lesson block) of the year was local and U.S. history. I planned the museum visit as a part of this block. Native peoples, the land, the water and pioneers were all on the agenda, and I knew we would encounter them here, as well as the children's favorite alligator tank. What I did not know, was that the museum I had last visited a few years ago, was also constantly expanding and changing, adding ever new places to explore and chapters in the earth's history. This museum, in particular, makes it very easy to keep curiosity alive while exploring and having fun. The boys could be looking at arrow heads while I read aloud to them about Native American's respect for animals and all of life. They could stick their head in a turtle while I read the quotes about the mighty river and its connection to all. We had quite a visit.

Resources of the Mississippi (much depleted): Button-making clam shells:
Early European settlers' cabin:
The walkway between the cabin and a main building; there used to be a wigwam here...
Soil erosion lesson;
This goes nicely with Native American stories in a 3rd grade Waldorf curriculum, and animal stories in 4th grade.