Saturday, December 24, 2016

How-to-have-a-happy-holiday Guide

First of all; cut out all normal activities, like homeschooling, work, etc., and just go with the holiday flow. What? You need to eat, so you have to work...darn, us too! So, where to start?

Go cut down a tree, pick the day it starts to snow and no one really wants to go except Mama, because you will HAVE A BLAST! :

 Attend the Christmas program at church; Valentine narrator

 Gael, in the choir:

Gather with Waldorf homeschoolers in a friend's barn for a Solstice Spiral. The photos are on my husband's phone, but imagine, if you will:

It's quiet and dark. a hundred feet of pine boughs form a spiral on the floor of the barn, stars scattered here and there, awaiting their flame. The children go one by one, through the maze to light their candle, held in an apple from the one at the center of the spiral.

Here is the view of the falling snow from the window of the passvie house of simplify, live, love: where we held the event:

Trim the tree:

Celebrate the birthdays...Thierry, age undisclosed:

Cate, twenty years old: we went to visit her, between finals, to bring cake and take her out for lunch.

Travel through another wintery storm, across the bridge to a friend's birthday at the pizza parlor and roller-skate rink; go ahead; skate!, then park and take a midnight walk to see how the Mississippi likes to crunch itself up into laugh lines:

Homeschooling looked a lot like a nice, long break where "child-centered education" was every single day. And making our hearts and homes ready for Christmas, in the spirit of Advent, became my priority.

When asked, early December, what he would like to do today, Gael's immediate response? Make elephant toothpaste again, with even more food coloring involved this time:

Attend a family work party for Daddy, kids invited to test the merchandise:

       Get together with friends to welcome in the light again after the longest night of the year:

       Breathe in the peace of the season and bask in the joy in your own favorite spots in your home:

Happy Christmas and a wonderful New Year to you!!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

No Shave November? Who's Got Time?!!!

Instead of writing a novel or growing a beard, our month of November into December is full of happenings and joy. Here is a how-to guide: start off the season with a great Thanksgiving meal, with as much as your family (and their dogs) and as many friends as you can gather. Normally, we would also have had my sister and her family (evil Black Friday takes her away from us now by beginning on Thursday) and some neighbors and stray people far from home; China, Africa, India, Ohio...

 Next, let your little brother do the dishes:
 And watch (or don't watch) him take pictures when NO ONE is looking:

Then continue by celebrating all of the birthdays, friends and family alike, in November:
(Elizabeth, godmother of Charles, at a surprise party chez us):

 There were kids everywhere, here in the school/playroom:

Valentine turns 15:

Attend the parade, of course! Bring your own thermoses of hot cocoa and coffee, and end up in the local newspaper because you were brave enough to venture out in the cold and wind for it:

One week later, host family and friends for a post-run-meal after a freezing cold run in December for a good cause; the Jingle Run for the Arthritis Foundation:

Don't forget to hang your stockings for St.Nicholas!

Make a gingerbread house, and an old-fashioned wreath:

Next up: Go find the perfect tree, in the SNOW!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

San Francisco and ATA 57

I left home alone for almost a week. I did. I had a hard time believing it all came together, and no one came down with a fever, the flu or a broken limb in the minutes before my departure, but they didn't and I did. I attended the 57th Annual American Translators' Association Conference in San Francisco a couple of weeks ago.The conference is for interpreters and translators; from all over the world. Taken altogether with the venue, the course offerings and the attendees, it was truly a feast for a language-lover's mind and soul!

My first trip to California; the ferry back across the bay after a bikeride over the Golden Gate
Here are a few highlights; advocacy; or why I am an interpreter. My every day work does not allow for advocacy in any form, but just by being present and remaining true to the message I convey from one party to another, I am a part of the right side. 
Making sure the people who need the services have access to them is the first step. Presentations by James Dickens of the Office of Minority Health in the US Dept. of Health and Human Services on C.L.A.S., and by the folks at The Community Interpreter addressed both healthcare disparities and the need for culturally sensitive treatment and ethical behavior on the part of an interpreter. 
French translation, visit with my Auntie and Godmother and the whole family, traveling by bicycle in a city and more below...

The Bridge

Lunch with my auntie, my uncle and (above) my cousin and her three smart, beautiful, charming children. Sausalito. 

Golden Gate Park: Botanical Gardens

Saying farewell to Auntie Margie and tiny Keewi
Golden Gate Park: Japanese Tea Garden

Not yarn; but oh my; the colors of embroidery floss!

A favorite San Francisco moment: reading poetry upstairs at City Lights

The "had to do before leaving" lunch with my adorable roommate; fish n' chips at Fisherman's Wharf

Half of my mother's family lives in the Bay Area, or the other side of the bridge, so getting together was, naturally, a priority, while I was there. The last time they visited Iowa was about fourteen years ago. It was like old times, with new characters thrown in. It was the best! I met first with my aunt and we strolled around Sausalito, after we found a spot to stash my bike for the day. We met my cousin next; outside the restaurant, holding my brand new second cousin! She is so sweet, and adorable, it was heaven. Then we joined my uncle and the two brothers of baby; all perfect charmers. The boys wanted to talk politics, it was the eve of the presidential election, but my aunt had forbidden the topic. They found ingenious ways of bringing it up was cute. Thank you for a fantastic time, all of you!
Later, I took the ferry back to San Francisco. I had to almost dare myself to do it, but I was determined to bike across the bridge and find my way to a cafe in Sausalito...and I did.  I  practiced first by biking around SFC on Wednesday. I got lost for three hours, in the neighborhoods they don't show you in Disney movies, then found Golden Gate Park, the Presidio (or the Royal Fortress of St.Francis) and the whole beautiful way back along the bay. What a day! I ended up having my first shoe shine too; my boots needed some serious work after the dust and dirt of the day. I don't think I will ever have a public shoe shine again; too high up, too public, but my boots still look great, two weeks later. 

I attended a couple of translation sessions, just to delve more into other topics. The one I particularly enjoyed was by Luc Labelle on elegant English>French translation. It made me think, stretch the brain a bit, hmmm, a lot, I guess, like when I was still in school. 

I shared a hotel room for the first time since college, with incredible roomies; three the first night; from Mexico, Boston and Germany, and two the rest of the week from Argentina and Mexico. We CELEBRATED the Cubs winning the World Series together, commiserated over the downside of our diverse professions and tried out new dining experiences all over the city.

Thank you to my family; for the extra work this caused, the sacrifice of a normal week in your life, and to the attendees who made this an experience to remember. It was!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

A Mother's Influence

That title is a big, scary one. I used to think I really should not have children, since I would surely botch it up in a large, crazy way. Now I can say with confidence...that I can only hope I minimized the potential damage I may have caused by how fiercely I love them.

More or less a third of my five children have been raised to adulthood now; math is not the best at this hour of the morning...or is it still night? I am home from a call to interpret in the ER and it is an odd hour to be contemplating all of this. Originally, I was thinking about working mother vs. stay-at-home mother. I remember being slightly scandalized and a little confused by an article when I was still in high school; the gist of it was that children of working mothers have more confidence in themselves because they see their mothers as empowered.

I grew up in a latch-key era, and I would have thought that a child in that situation would feel a certain part of neglect and loneliness, and therefore less confidence. No one is there to greet them, no one to make sure they are well, are fed, to know where they are?

The me that decided, along with my husband, that I could not ever conceivably leave my baby, ever, was more reassured by the second scenario than the first. Yet, the second lingered in my mind.

Now that I have been both mothers,  I can take a look at it from both sides. Of course, I never did get to be that kid with complete freedom when I came home from school, because my own mother was always there. Other 7th graders were sneaking alcohol out of their parents' liquor cupboards and dancing in the living room. I came home, ate my allotted 3 cookies, that my mother had baked herself, and left to take care of my paper route. If I wanted clothes that were not hand-me-downs, I could either earn some money or wait until Christmas. It built character and independence. As for confidence; I always knew my mom could do anything she put her mind too, long before she re-entered the workforce once the kids had grown.

I am so glad that I was able to be home with my babies and small children! I am still glad of a week when I work hardly a day or a day and a half. The time we have together could not be replaced by a great caregiver or even a grandparent, it just would not have existed, poof; hours and days and months of our lives lived apart. The play, "Ondine" comes to mind; Jean Giradoux. In it, a fish girl, who makes her way up from a neighboring lake one night, falls in love with a prince. When he goes off to take care of some princely business or other, she is aghast; time apart? Why? Why ever? Either you are together or you are not, in her watery world. I think children have that same mentality. Mama is here, or not here, and it is the end of everything. 

This is far from a judgement or condemnation. I well know that many families from Africa, from Asia, by necessity, leave their child to relatives back home for years on end. This does not mean those babies are any less loved or missed than my own. And...there is still that nagging doubt in the back of my mind that maybe they would have been better off  with a wonderful nanny, who could leave at the end of the day, thus convey less stress, less dismay when things got all topsy-turvy.  Spilled milk and sibling fights might not have put her in a tizzy. They might have experienced more calm and less chaos, it might have been better, who can say? But in the end, I would have missed them way too much.

Camping: Version October

This was a welcome little getaway, sandwiched in between work, activities and endless chores. And in what I qualify as "balmy weather." A nice bonfire, with the addition of pants and sweater is just right. Sorry, heat-lovers...autumn has arrived.

Bacon-toast and hot cocoa for the chilly morning time:

And the campfire for the only light to tell scary stories by at night:

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

You Can Get Used to Anything

...which is what allows human beings to persevere in the face of misery, atrocity and unjust treatment...but what if you chose what it is you get used to? 

This was my thought this morning, as I flew down the hill I once feared biking down, because it invariably meant I had to bike back up it at some point. 

Now I enjoy that ride. I have become accustomed to going back up the hill; so the ride down is A BLAST. I am happy to have a few precious moments to meditate because I am up before anyone else in the morning. When the alarm goes off, I change my thoughts from, "already?" to gratitude, right away. 

What are you willing to change to be happier, more at peace, fulfilled by life each day?

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Real Backyard Nature Study

Crash! "A squirrels' nest fell, mama!" And our lesson on whatever it was, morphed into two hours of watching out our back window as:

The boys were so quiet it was almost unbelievable. Charles ran for the camera, and he carefully and silently slid the screen up and moved it out the window...I admit to taking over and saving my camera from certain doom as he zoomed in to see what was happening.

The mother squirrel spent hours returning to the nest, searching, and attempting to lead each baby back up the trees. She did not always go back up the same tree, and it looked like she was distributing them to neighbors' nests around the yard as she went. It was pretty fascinating. Just last week, a baby fell out of the nest and landed on the fence, wet, clinging and petrified out of moving until the mama squirrel came to get it. This week, they were mobile and first played tag with mom, scrambling around the whole yard until the right path was painstakingly communicated. Mother squirrels can be as loud as a harpy when their babies are in danger. Shrieking, scolding, running up and down trees; it was not a show to miss! 

Our anxiety practically matched hers as we worried and wondered if all of the babies made it. We witnessed the extraction of four little squirrels. There may have been more, but I was dragged back to my cooking duties when everyone got hungry.

Baby squirrels may be trouble, but little humans are ornery creatures when they get hungry. Lunch: the harvest made into soup: but only the ones the squirrels have not yet stolen or nibbled.