Monday, December 31, 2007

Mary from The Secret Garden

I'm not sure how I missed reading Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden when I was kid.

I stumbled upon it about a month ago and read it out loud (more for me and Rob, but Rachael seemed to like it) when we drove to North Carolina for Thanksgiving.

We didn't finish it, but liked what we read.Out of the blue, the other night Rachael decided to dress up like Mary.

Here she is, holding the book.

And then of course she needed to get her jump rope!
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Sunday, December 30, 2007

Our annual Scottish Rite visit

Many of you remember how we spent Christmas 2005: with Rachael in the ICU for about three weeks with a sudden and severe blood disorder.

Last year Rachael, Robert, and I brought a lunch platter to the the PICU waiting room and visited with both the staff and current families who were in the waiting room.

It looks like this will be turning into a yearly tradition for us, because yesterday my parents watched Baby Ben while the rest of us went. (Rebecca really wanted to join us this year.)

On the car ride over, Rachael said, "I'm special." [Because she came close to dying, but was saved.]

Rebecca immediately became indignant. "I'm special too!" she said. "Barney says everybody is special!"

Rachael replied, calmly and wisely, "Yes, everybody is special. But I'm more special than you."

Rebecca didn't like that much, either.

This is Rachael with one the PICU nurses who remembered us. Most of the staff from our stay are gone now.

Here's Rachael and Rebecca in front of the lunch we brought to the waiting room. One of the PICU staff let each girl pick a stuffed animal. Rachael named her bear Pinky, and Rebecca named hers Hannah.

This is Rachael in the PICU hallway. Some of you remember this well: the rooms are on the right, and the waiting room is on the left.

Rachael made cards, even using photos and scrapbooking tools, for two of her doctors, the Red Cross, her favorite nurse, and one card "to a girl" and one card "to a boy." She gave those last two cards to parents we met in the waiting room. Rebecca made some things as well.

Both last year and yesterday, I thought the parents we spoke with had a distinct way about them that was familiar yet hard to put into words. One possible way -- although this isn't quite right -- is "polite but distracted." Robert suggested "fuzzy."

It's hard to explain how it feels to go back. It's difficult, and strangely tiring, although a little fun and exciting at the same time, but it feels important somehow.
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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The second Christmas get-together

My parents joined us for Christmas dinner ... well, it was more like Christmas lunch. For once I did something smart, and we ate while Baby Ben napped.

I made my infamous kugel, and my mom brought a lamb, which was SOO good!

Here's Rebecca with her talking doll, who she named Sally, which was a gift from my mom (in the green chair).

After dinner we were joined by my brother and his family. This is his wife Chris in the middle, my niece Lauren, and my nephew Ryan.

Here's Lauren opening her present from us: perler bead creations by Rachael, and her own stash of Christmas cookies.

I got an e-mail from my mother this morning which said this:

What a dancer Rachael is ... quite the entertainer yesterday ... and she was so happy with the knitting machine ... good suggestion. Rebecca just loved Sally, I knew she would ... she will be a mommy some day ... I will bet on that ... she has soo much love in her to share ... And your choice for Benjamin [a toy rocket] blows me away. I could not have found such a wonderful toy. When we arrived yesterday, he had on only one shoe ... when I said this and asked where his other shoe was, he immediately ran to his room and brought the other shoe to me ... what a darling child ... and such a good hugger ... all your little ones are so amazing to me (and Dad) ... we love them so much.
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Christmas morning!

In the middle of the night Rebecca came into my room and said, "Mommy, I saw the Christmas tree, and there's a dollhouse in it!" Then she crawled in bed next to me and fell asleep.

At about 8:00 am the five of us headed into the living room. The girls had candy canes, little gingerbread houses, and sticker sets in their stockings. Santa brought Baby Ben a pack of animal crackers and his own toothbrush.

Becca got a fort she really wanted, and a Richard Scarry floor puzzle.

Rachael got a High School Musical DVD game and a weaving loom kit.

Here's Becca getting right to work on her new Tinkerbell watercolor paint kit.

And here's Rachael painting her Cinderella picture.

Here's Robert building his dinosaur kit I got for him.
(I don't understand; I just buy.)
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The pre-Christmas get-together

On Sunday Rob's family came down from North Carolina for a few h0urs so we could have a little Christmas celebration together.

I was grateful at how low-stress they made it for me. We ordered a Veggie Tray and Sandwich Wheel from Publix, they brought a homemade pie, and we used paper plates and cups.

This is Rob's sister Carol and her boyfriend John.

This is our neice Anna (Carol's oldest daughter) and her husband Thor. Thor is in the military and they are stationed in Jacksonville. They had been visiting everyone in North Carolina, so they drove down with them and then headed back home after the visit.

This is a cute picture of Rachael and Rebecca with little purses they got from their grandparents. Rachael had been wearing that outfit for several days (yes, I did manage to wash it while she was at dance class). It is her "Alice" costume.

This is Baby Ben's present from his grandparents, but I think all three kids liked it!

I don't have a picture of the Big Hit Gift: The Grotto! Well, actually it's an Ariel vanity, but the girls loaded the drawers with the jewelry and pretend make-up and cell phone that they got from Aunt Carol, and called it their grotto.

We barely saw them for the next 24 hours. They would come out of their room briefly to eat or something, they say, "You wanna go play grotto?" and run back into their room together. When I walked past their door, I would hear things like "You went to the surface? That makes me so mad!" or made-up songs about living in the sea.

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Monday, December 24, 2007


So much for Blogthings being accurate. I cannot think of a better to describe what I am NOT LIKE:

You Should Be a Mechanic

You are logical, calm, and detail oriented.
You're rational when things are chaotic, and for you, reason always prevails.
And while you are guided by logic, you aren't a slave to it.
You're flexible when it counts. You are always open to being wrong.

You do best when you:

- Work with your hands
- Can use tools, machines, or equipment

You would also be a good architect or carpenter.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Sweet Rebecca

Rebecca (age 4) and Baby Ben and I were sitting together the other day.

Rebecca said, "When Ben grows up, I think he's going to be a daddy."

I said, "You're probably right."

Then Rebecca said, "When Rachael grows up, I think she's going to be a mommy."

I said, "Yes, I think she will too."

And then Rebecca said, "And when I grow up, I'm just going to be me."

And I gave her a hug.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Am I creative or not?

A few days ago I was chatting with a stranger in the park. She asked what curriculum we used for homeschooling, and when I said we didn't use one, and she called me "creative."

I've been called "creative" here and there over the years, and it always sort of amuses and fascinates me. I'm glad people see me as being creative, but I personally don't think I'm one bit creative. In fact, I almost see myself as the opposite, or the antithesis of creativity, if such a thing exists.

For example, I used to teach music and drama in the public schools, and once or twice someone I had "creative ideas."

The truth is, I had absolutely NO ideas, creative or otherwise.

I got improv games off Internet sites. I literally watched Whose Line is It Anyway, took notes, and used some of the exact games in class the next day. I got a couple assignment ideas out of books. We played variations of board games in music class. I got a lot of arrangements and things from Orff workshops I regularly attended.

And so on.

Nothing I do in my ife is original or creative, really. I'm a musician by profession; sounds real creative and artsy, but not the way I do it! I have no desire to compose; I improvise very very little, and most of my hired playing is accompanying, which is playing what's written, the way the director wants it played.

I love to cross-stitch. It follows a pattern! No thought or creativity whatsoever.

I guess the only thing creative about me is my writing. Yes, there is come creativity in that, I guess. But not terribly so. Even my children's fiction is so obviously reminiscent of others -- mostly Ellen Conford -- that it's almost laughable. If I was actually well-known, she might come and sue me, ha ha!

What I am, if anything, is resourceful.

So that sort of begs the question: Is resourcefulness a type of creativity? Does it just look like creativity, even though further observation proves it not to be?

Don't know.

I'm not creative enough to come up with an answer. :)

Joni Mitchell and Perler Beads

Perler Beads have taken over our kitchen!

Robert says we have a little sweat shop going. I'm constantly ironing these things. Some are gifts, some are tree ornaments, many I have no idea what we'll do with.

There are beads and boards everywhere, which is interesting when you have a 19-month old in the house. Rachael has been cranking these things out like crazy. Rebecca does them too, but she usually makes her own patterns, which are really unique. I'm too lazy to take pictures right now, but she made a few that are a letter (like "R") decorated with flowe

This weekend we were doing beads for a few hours and I dug out some Joni Mitchell albums I haven't heard in a long time.

I'm not sure why I thought of them, but I started off with Ladies of the Canyon and then played For the Roses, which I liked so much I played it about three times.

[In typical Jenny Style, I said to Robert later, "Should I be concerned that our kids spent hours listening to an album that has the words d***, f***, and h*roin on it?"]

That all prompted me to dig out my Joni Mitchell Anthology and play the piano after everyone else went to bed ... and to find interview clips of her through the decades. Gotta love that Internet!

It's interesting to hear how much Joni's speaking voice has changed over the years; don't know if that's an aging thing, or all the smoking, or what. She said she started smoking when she was nine! She almost died from Polio at that age too, which I already knew, but didn't know she spent Christmas in the hospital ... sound familiar? I need to tell Rachael.

It ocurred to me that I've always really liked biographies, but didn't know it until recently. To me, "biography" always means a book you had to read for school about George Washington or something. I never really thought, "Ooh, I'm enjoying this biography!" when I was eight and devoured everything I could find about Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Rachael, our drama queen

[Disclaimer: usually when people say things like a kid is a "drama queen" or "little actress," they mean it in a sort of condescending way, like the kid needs to start being so overly dramatic about silly things. That is not my meaning in the least, but I couldn't think of another term to use here.]

It's a good thing God made me Rachael's mom.

I think a different mother might be getting her into therapy. Or scolding her a lot.

This is a little hard to explain when you're not witnessing it, but it's so fascinating, I'll try my best.

A few months ago, Rachael often told me she needed to go take a nap. Coincidently, a few minutes after she went in her room, the doorbell would ring. It was a little girl dressed in red who looked a lot like Rachael and said her name was "Video." Sometimes she would even be wearing a name tag. She called me "Miss Jennifer" and said that she would be staying at our house a for a few days. She was five years old.

[BTW, see The Buggles' music video to understand this a little better.]

Apparently Video and Rachael are friends. Sometimes Video would join the family on outings. One time she and Rachael sat next to each other at IHOP. We were sometimes confused, since they look so similar, but Rachael sat on the right, and Video sat on the left.

So, one time when Robert looked at Video and called her Rachael, Rachael said, from her seat, "No, dad! I'm right here!"

There have been other visitors, too. Yesterday we had "Chessie," the Cheshire Cat, stay with us. [We saw a play at the Civic Center a couple weeks ago where Chessie was one of the main characters.]

Imagine Robert's surprise when he came home from work to find a cat slinking around our house (on her back legs) and speaking in a sort of purring British accent.

Often when Rachael when Rachael seems noticeably sad, or scared, or something, we'll say, "Wait a minute ... are you Rachael, or are you somebody else?"

It usually isn't Rachael.

For example, the other day a little girl was very sad and didn't speak at all for a while. When we asked who she was, she sadly held up her fingers in the shape of the letter "A." She wouldn't tell us why she was sad, but then later wrote on a piece of paper, "I wunt chessie."

Soon after that, Chessie, the slinking, purring, British Cheshire Cat, showed up. I think Alice was still in the house too, but I didn't see her quite as much.

See why it gets confusing living here?

Rachael says she wants to be a drama teacher when she gets older. That's really striking to me, because I almost guarantee she will do something like that in some capacity.

What's also striking is how intense she is about this. I would expect many six year olds pretend to be somone, or act out stories: "Hey, look, I'm a cat, meow!" This is almost on a different level.

For instance, Rachael is often away when one of these visitors stays for a few days. One time she went to the beach with her Aunt Carol. She even called us and told us how she was doing.

Never a dull moment around here.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Weekend dinners at our house

Six year old Rachael came in the kitchen a couple hours ago and said, "Mom, are we having dinner, or are we just snacking around?"

She knows us too well! :)

I never know what's going on

There's a Baby Blues cartoon where one of the kids runs into the room and says something to the dad like, "I'm hiding from Zoe! Pretend you don't know what's going on!"

And the Dad says, "Okay ... I haven't known what's going on around here for years."

I feel that way often.

Yesterday afternoon, Rebecca (age 4) called, "Bye, Mom!" I turned and saw her wearing her purple Princess backpack and pulling her matching purple Princess suitcase behind her and heading out the front porch.

"Umm ... bye!" I said. "Have a good trip!"

About five minutes later, Rebecca was back inside and ran into my room. "Hi, Grandma!" she said, and started pulling stuff out of her backpack and suitcase: toothpaste and toothbrush, hairbrush, clothes. "Where do I put all my stuff, Grandma?" she asked.

A couple hours later I saw both girls head out the back door. Rachael had an armload of stuff, and Rebecca was wearing their fold-up tent over her head like the tent was walking. They asked me if they could bring blackberries and apples outside.

I was informed later that they were having a "Nature Adventure." On a Nature Adventure, you can only eat fruit, cheese, and milk. Rachael also found a walking stick outside that they were using for nature walks.

Right now the girls are sitting on the couch watching Blues Clues. You'd think that'd be easy enough to understand. But now Rachael is telling me that when she sits in the middle of the couch, she is "Chessie," the Cheshire Cat, and when she sits on the end of the couch, she is Alice.

I didn't think to ask who Rebecca is, although she is wearing a Princess costume.

There's a lot to keep track of when you're a parent.

Thursday, December 6, 2007


Okay, should I be concerned about myself?

The girls went over a friend's house, Baby is napping ... and I'm semi-tempted to start playing the video game we were all playing together before the girls left.

It's Zoombinis!

We got this yesterday after several people on homeschool lists were talking about how great it was.

It's math games, but you won't see a single number or plus or minus sign.


Any computer programmer types out there? If so, you would love this. All the games are logic/deductive reasoning/elimination/sorting kind of stuff. It is very cool.

And it's really cool to see my two girls (ages 4 and 6) talking it through together: "Okay, this one has to be ... a blue ... triangle!" or, "Well, that one has to go through that path!"

Okay, okay ... I'll wait til they get back home before I play it some more ... :)

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Breakfast with Santa!

On Saturday we went to Breakfast with Santa at a local church.
For $16 all five of us got in, and the girls were able to make several crafts, as well as get their faces painted.
We waited til the very end to get on the Santa Line, and only had to wait for about 15-20 minutes.

Here's Rachael and Rebecca in their Christmas outfits they each picked out themselves the night before. Rachael is holding the star ornament she colored and the reindeer bag the kids make to put their other crafts in.

Baby Ben didn't sit on Santa's lap or make any crafts ...
mostly he just wanted to run around and open and close all the doors.

Rachael was pleased with herself that she took this picture of the rest of us.

Here's Rachael rattling off to Santa all the things she wants.
I believe she said a gumball machine, a knitting machine, a weaving kit,
and some surprises. Santa told her that surprises are what he does best!

Then Rebecca joined the two of them, but our camera started being mean to us and kept shutting off. Don't know if thebatteries were dead or what.

I think Rebecca was overwhelmed. When we were driving home, she said she didn't get to tell Santa what she wanted "because there wasn't enough time!"

Rachael quickly said, "I'll share some of my surprises with you, Rebecca!"

To which Rebecca said, "But I don't like any of those things!"

We assured her that Santa would have some idea what she would like even if she didn't get to tell him anything.
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Chapter Two of Friends and Fun Times

Six year old Rachael has been busy continuing her story.

And I used to be impressed with myself because I wrote "chapter books" when I was only nine!

In case you're wondering, there is no Clara in real life.


Friends and Fun Times

Chapter Two -- Rebecca Meets Clara

The next day, Rebecca woke up early, and me and Daddy had crock-pot oatmeal like we always do. Then we went outside to play.

Clara, which lives around the corner close to the park, come close to our yard. She came up to Rebecca and said, "What's your name?"

"Rebecca," Rebecca said.

"Wanna play with me and Rachael?" Clara asked.

"Yes," Rebecca said.

"Rachael!" Rebecca said. "I saw the girl that you were talking about last night."

"Let's play now," I said.

"Hide and Seek," said Clara and me.

Rebecca said, "Okay. I'll be it!"

Clara was the hardest to find, so she winned.

"Hey Rebecca, do you have a set of Hi-Ho-Cherry-O? I love that game."

"Sure. But I want to play outside some more," Rebecca said.

So Rebecca, me, and Clara did. We played Ring Around the Rosie. First Rebecca cheated, but then she played fair.

Then it was time for Clara to leave. "Bye Clara!" me and Rebecca said.

We walked back into the house.

"Rebecca met Clara!" We played hide and seek and ring around the rosie!"

"How nice," said my mother.

Fun with Perler Beads!

If you're over the age of about four -- or know anybody else who is -- you should check out Perler Beads.

You can buy them at Michael's, and the website has all kinds of pattern ideas, even 3-D projects.

You arrange different colored beads any way you want onto a pegboard, iron it, wait for it to cool, and then pop it off the board. The beads are all fused together and it's becomes a single piece of plastic!

I think Robert is the one who's into this the most!

I think Rebecca and I made this heart together.

Rachael did this pony all by herself.

I think Robert did these with Rachael.

There is a ton of Christmas ornament ideas on the website.
There's also patterns for other holidays, seasons, animals, whatever!

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Friday, November 30, 2007

Rachael's latest story - Fun at the Park

Rachael asked me to pick a title for her to write a story, so I said, "Fun at the park," and here it is.

I'm curious if there will be a Chapter Two.

She drew several interesting little stick figure drawings to illustrate the different scenes as well.

by Rachael

Chapter One - FUN AT THE PARK

Around the corner of my house there is a new playground. It seems like every day people are swarmed over it, having so much fun.

One day I went there. There was a big slide, two swings, and a rocking horse, and around the corner from the big slide, two baby swings. I went down the slide. I was new to this park.

I went up to a person. The person was a girl. She said her name was Clara. We shook hands and we were friends.

Then Clara said, "Let's go on the swing." She hopped on the big kid swing. I hopped on the big kid swing, and we swung for an hour.

After an hour, I got tired. I said, "Let's go down the slide." Only once, because my mother was packing up to leave.

After we went down the slide, I was sad. I knew I would have to leave Clara. I said bye to Clara and went to my mother, and we went home.

My mother asked, "Do you want to bake some cookies for Clara? I know where her house is."

"Sure," I said. So I washed my hands and I made the cookies with my mother. They were snickerdoodles.

Then when they were ready, my mom let me eat one. I knew I had a playdate today. I went to my mother and said, "Time to go." My mother said, "Buckle up," and we drove off.

When we got there, I rang the doorbell. Clara answered it. "How nice to see you," said Clara.

Then I said, "Where's your room? Does it have toys?"

"Yes, it does. I'll show you where it is."

So me and Clara went upstairs and into her room. There were toys all over, toys on the shelf, toys in the cabinet, toys even scattered around the floor.

"Can you help me clean up?" said Clara.

I said yes. So we sang, "Clean up, clean up" while we cleared her room.

Finally, the last toy was picked up. "Cookie time!" said my mother. And we ran downstairs and took a cookie.

Then Clara said, "Do you want to go to the park again?" "Sure," I said. So my mother drove us there.

When we got there, I went down the slide. Then my mother said, "Time to leave."

"Why so soon?" I said.

"Because rain clouds," said Clara.

I looked up. There were some dark clouds. So we got in and drove home.

By the time we got home, it was my bedtime, 8:00. Clara said, "Hurray, I get to play some more!" Because it wasn't 12:00 yet.

I said, "Bye, Clara!"

On the way home, I made up a bedtime song. It goes something like this:

It's 8:00, time for bed,
That's my bedtime, so I'm ready [repeat]

When we got home, it was 12:00. I was yawning a lot. I said, with a big yawn, "Maybe Clara will come over tomorrow." while I got tucked in for bed.

Then I said to my sister, Rebecca, "I have a new friend. Her name is Clara." And then before you know it, I was asleep.

The Twelve Questions of Christmas

I saw this at Zenmomma's blog and thought it'd be fun:

The Twelve Questions of Christmas

1. Christmas is a lot of fun, especially now that I have kids. A lot of people complain about all the stuff in the stores, and the music, and the hassle. I love all that stuff.

2. In memories, what was the best part of your Christmases past? I don't particularly remember my family doing much for Christmas. I do remember being about five and waking up Christmas morning and finding one of those Big Barbie Heads where you do her hair and makup, and thinking that was pretty cool. I remember making some cookies with my mom when I was about ten. Oh yeah, and one year we made a popcorn tree with gumdrops as decorations. That was fun.

3. Was Santa ever good to you? I'm not sure I understand this question.

4. Do you open gifts on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, or both? I like the idea of opening one gift each on Christmas Eve, and the rest on Christmas Day.

5. Is there something you make each and every year? [craft or recipe] I usually make my Favorite Cookies in the World, Babe Ruth Bar Cookies. I make them intended for gifts, but I usually end up eating half of them myself. They are soooo good!

6. What are your favorite five[5] Christmas songs/hymns?

Do You Hear What I Hear?

The Little Drummer Boy

Everything from Charlie Brown Christmas

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

Father Christmas -- by The Kinks!

7. Is there a new tradition for Christmas since your childhood days? We always play the soundtrack from Charlie Brown Christmas when we put up the tree.

A few nights before Christmas, we drive around in our pajamas looking at neighborhood lights, eating Christmas cookies, and listening to Christmas music.

We leave out cookies and milk for Santa, and reindeer food.

For a few years we would bring cookies to the local firemen on Christmas Day.

Since Rachael spent Christmas 2005 in ICU, last year we went to visit the nurses and brought lunch to the families who were currently in the ICU. I'd like to continue doing that as long as the kids are interested in doing so.

8. Describe one of your Christmas trips. Until I was nine, every year we drove to my cousin's house a Saturday or two before Christmas. They always had what seemed like a huge get-together and dinner, with other relatives and friends and neighbors, and that's when we'd exchange gifts with aunts and uncles and grandparents.

I remember when I was seven I got a bracelet from my aunt, and that week brought it to school for Show and Tell. "I got this bracelet for Christmas," I announced to the class. But ... it wasn't Christmas yet! The kids were mystified: How was this possible?? Several kids came up to me later and asked me if I was Jewish. I always thought that was pretty funny.

9. Do you have a special Christmas outfit to wear for the day? Um, no. Was I supposed to have one??

10. Have YOU or any of your family members sat on Santa's lap?

See the blog post about Breakfast with Santa ...

11. What is/or will be on your Christmas tree this year? Rebecca has made it clear that her job every year is to put the star on top. Mostly "the usual" -- some ornaments from past students, lights, garland, that kind of thing.

12. Do you/or have you decorated your yard for Christmas? When Rachael spent Christmas in the ICU, several ladies from our local chapter of MOMS Club brought her a tree and some decorations. We weren't allowed to keep a live plant in her room, but brought it home and planted it in our back yard. Last year we decorated it again and sat outside by it and read The Little Fir Tree by Margaret Wise Brown. Hopefully we'll continue to do that.

Short Funny From my Childhood

Something today suddenly made me remember this:

When I was about ... nine, ten, eleven ... I showed my mother something I had done. A drawing or painting or something like that.

She said she thought it was great. Then she smiled and said, "But then of course, I'm prejudiced!"

I remember distinctly thinking to myself, mystified, "What does my picture being great have to do with not liking black people?"

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A Deep Analysis of Cartoons, Past and Present

I came across a couple episodes of The Pink Panther and The Ant and the Aardvark today.

I remember both of them being among my Cartoons of Choice (although we didn't have much choice on Saturday mornings in 1975), but I remembered almost nothing about them. (I did remember "Instant Hole," but that wasn't the episode I had.)

I watched them with the girls (ages 4 and 6) today. They did not like either one.

The Pink Panther had a laugh track -- did it always? And The Ant and the Aardvark just seemed weird. It felt more like Jackie Mason making various quips than like a kids' show.

All of us had watched some Looney Toons together a couple months ago. Those I remembered more vividly and enjoyed more. (Although even as a kid, I had split feelings toward Looney Toons: I really liked Bugs Bunny, the roadrunner, and Daffy Duck. I did not care for Pepe LePew or Tweety Bird, and I despised the whole Sylvester and the Giant Mouse thing.)

The girls liked Bugs Bunny, particularly the one with the Bullfight and the one with Barber of Seville.

I couldn't help but notice some obvious differences in the basic genre, then and now:

1) Robert pointed this one out: The older cartoons weren't "about" anything. They didn't try to teach something. They didn't have a lesson or a moral or a goal -- or, really, even a plot. For example, in the Pink Panther episode today, he tries making breakfast and A Bunch of Stuff Happens - the toast burns, he drops the eggs, the pancake sticks to the ceiling. And that's it.

I never would have thought to compare The Pink Panther with Seinfeld before.

2) The cartoons I grew up with seem startling violent to me now. I don't mind the kids watching them or anything, but it makes me wince a little myself.

3) The humor is more slapstick and visual, and less wordy. The Pink Panther doesn't speak at all. Neither did the Road Runner. Quite different from, say, Caillou (who many adults wish would not speak at all).

4) I'm not sure how best to word this, but the older cartoons used "real" music more.
The Henry Mancini music stands on its own; people would like it even if they had no idea what The pink Panther was. And it's not cute or silly or "kid music."
Everybody knows Bugs Bunny used opera music and Liszt and probably some other things I didn't realize. Nobody is singing about self-esteem or families or anything like that. For that matter, for the most part, nobody is singing, period.

For the record, I don't particularly think one is better than the other. I just think they're different.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Thanksgiving Photos - Part Two

Okay, now these pictures were taken on Friday and Saturday
during our trip to North Carolina:

The girls loved coming down this slide at the Fun Factory,
which was really neat because a few years ago they were afraid to go down it.

On the merry-go-round at the Fun Factory!
Cousin Will is in the red shirt, and the blurry boy is his brother Ben.

Here's Cousin Ben (not to be confused with our child, Baby Ben)
with his father, Todd, at a toy store in Highlands.

Todd is Baby Ben's Godfather.

Here's Baby Ben (and his daddy!) keeping warm at Jackson Hole,
a gem and mineral shop we went to.

Rachael told me yesterday that she wants us to do the same thing every year for Thanksgiving. I told her that would be easy for us -- we weren't the ones who had to drive 14 miles! :)
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Thanksgiving Photos - Part One

If I counted correctly, we had 28 people at our Thanksgiving get-together in North Carolina last week.

I don't why, but I've tried and tried to post the photos and can't get Blogger to post more than four. So ... I'll make two posts. This first section is from Thanksgiving Day at Grandma Glo's house:

This is Cousin Camille, age 11, with Baby Ben

Sisters Anna and Diane holding their little cousins,
sisters Rachael and Rebecca

Cousins Megan, Garrett, Ben, Schuyler, and Rachael waiting their turn for the hayride

Cousin Steve taking the kids on a hayride!

Rachael actually fractured the tip of her finger Thanksgiving day when somehow a pool ball smashed it. A holiday with tons of relatives isn't complete without a trip to the Emergency Room, I guess! :)

Fortunately we went to the Orthopedic today and they said it should heal on its own in three weeks. They put it in a splint and wrapped it in a pink bandage, so Rachael was happy.
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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The latest Mean Parent sighting

The other day we were at McDonald's. Two women and their respective kids were at the next table.

I'm not sure what was going on, but at point one of the women said to her little girl, "Yes, you asked to eat it and he said yes and gave it to you, now either chew it right now or spit it out, or else you get a spanking!"

The poor girl (who looked to be about two and a half) looked very distraught.

I couldn't tell what the actual problem was supposed to be ... it looked like maybe she had a piece of a tomato from her brother's salad, and I guess the girl asked for it but then didn't like it ...? I have no idea. From all outside appearances the girl wasn't doing a thing wrong or weird or rude or even noticeable.

Anyway, the woman said this at least three times. The third time, she said, "Either chew it right now or spit it out, or else you will get a spanking and have to sit in the high chair for the rest of the time here!"

I guess the girl finally complied, because there was no spanking and no high chair.

Whenever I see something like that, I literally get a stomach ache.

Later the two women came left the PlayPlace for a moment and then came back in, each with a chocolate-covered ice cream cone. A few minutes later their kids came over to the table. One of the women said to the boy, "No, we're not getting you ice cream here, but you can have mine when I'm done with it, if you eat your apples."

Then I didn't even hear the kid say anything, but the other woman snapped at him, "Hey! Any of that, and you get nothing!"

Then a few minutes later both women handed their mostly-eaten ice cream cones to the two kids, who, admittedly, seemed to enjoy eating them.

Yeah, I know most of you reading are thinking, "So what? Is that the end of the world? They got to eat ice cream!" but it just seemed so Yucky:

Here, yum, let me and my friend eat these treats right in front of you, but you don't get one, but if you do what I say, you can eat my slurped-over leftovers and feel grateful for them.

It occured to me that maybe I should give these women the benefit of a doubt. Maybe they were having a rough day, or maybe they're still struggling with the best way to handle certain situations.

Possibly. But that didn't appear to be the case. It looked more like it was their usual MO to bully their kids around and think nothing of it.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Rebecca the Theologian

A few mornings ago, Rebecca woke up, came into my bedroom in her pajamas, holding her Doggie, and said, "Mom ... how can we do what God tells us to when we can't hear him?"


Tonight when she was going to bed, she said, "Mom ... was God alive when the dinosaurs were alive?"

I said, "Oh, sure, because God created the dinosaurs."

Rebecca said thoughtfully, "Maybe God killed the dinosaurs so that he could make people!"

Then Rachael said, "You mean that God sent the asteroid?"

Rebecca said, "Well, we don't know that there was an asteroid."

Benjamin's first haircut!


DURING - we gave him some crackers because he was bawling. They only helped for a second, then he needed Mommy's arm around him for the whole haircut. Well, it's good to know that I am loved more than a cracker! :)

DURING - Here's Big Sister Rachael looking like such a big girl, flipping through the magazines of hair photos. Meanwhile, Rebecca was playing with the train table, but I didn't get a good picture of that.

AFTER - Isn't he a cutie?

Then we all went to McDonald's for lunch!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Yucky home ec assignment

Apparently there is a popular middle school home ec assignment (wait, it's not called home ec anymore ... Family and Consumer Science?) where students have to carry special baby dolls with them wherever they go for 24 hours.

These baby dolls will "go off" screaming at any time without warning and may or may not stop if you hold them, rock them, feed them, whatever. The idea is for the eleven year old child to learn what having a baby is "really like."

I think this whole assignment is offensive on many levels.

1) In the first place, if this is supposed to be a learning experience, it is a very pale and shallow one, at best.

It would be ten times more useful and interesting to arrange for the students to spend a few afternoons at my house and just kind of go through some of our daily activities while chatting together and getting a chance to do a few things like feeding a baby, changing a diaper, playing with a three year old, whatever.

I wish I could have done something like that when I was younger, and I would be the first in line to volunteer if anyone nearby has a kid this age they want to send to me!

2) The impliation that having a child, raising a child, being a parent, and caring for a baby basically amounts to having something inanimate annoying the hell out of you at inopportune moments is ridiculous as well as insulting.

3) Even though no one actually says this (although who knows, maybe they do), it's obvious to me that the main point of this assignment is to teach pre-teens that babies are a big pain in the ass, and since sex causes babies, well sex doesn't seem too appealing anymore, now does it?


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Rachael's Vocabulary Homework

To make a long story a little shorter ...

Six year old Rachael had been talking a lot about wanting to go to school. She was with a dear family we are friends with from church, and she told them that she really wanted to go to school. When they asked her what she wanted from school that she couldn't get at home, her answer was:


[Which is really funny if you know me personally, because you probably know I am very anti-homework.]

So the members of this family suggested they make their own school and give her homework. Rachael was so excited! They named the school The ___ Institute of Higher Learning.

That was over a week ago, and Rachael no longer says she wants to go to school.

Here is one of her first homework assignments:

Write Seven Words With Five Letters and What They Mean
(we looked through the Pippi book together to find the words)

1. Girls - A person that wears pretty dresses

2. Stood - When you are walking, you are standing too

3. Their - If you had a book that you got for your birthday, it would be your book, another way of saying their

4. Asked - If you ask somebody "Where is your friend?" or something like that

5. Horse - Something that is in a barn

6. Money - Something that you buy stuff with

7. Fight - If somebody wants a toy and you want it, that's fighting

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

How many toys?

A parenting author I liked years ago, but am starting to disagree with more and more over the years, is John Rosemond:

He claims that when he was five years old, he had exactly five toys (which he wasn't even allowed to play with unless it was raining or dark outside.)

I believe he recommends that kids have less than five toys -- or perhaps it's less than ten, but you get the idea.

A few years ago, I actually thought this sounded like a good idea. For one thing, I'm not a fan of clutter. And also, I bought into the idea that "too many" toys kills creativity and resourcesfulness. (By the way, is there any evidence of this, or is it just a convenient excuse?)

He also says that children should watch no television and not play any computer games.

Which leads me to wonder ... what in the world did he (and children in families that follow his advice) spend their days doing???

I kept track of what toys my girls (ages 4 and 6) played with in a 48-hour period, and it included the following:

- toy farm with animals
- wooden xylophone
- big indoor slide
- Playful Patterns (from Discovery Toys)
- Play-do
- Tea Set
- Aqua Doodle
- Blocks
- Hi-Ho-Cherrio
- Barney floor puzzle
- Air hockey table
- Toy jewelry
- Various stuffed animals
- Ball and bat
- Scooters and bikes
- Swing set

And yes, they were also read to, and they watched TV and they played on the computer. And no, they were not even home all this time.

Five toys??

Playing outside is great -- in fact, we're all outside as I type this -- but for eight or nine hours a day?? Every day?? And not by choice, but because they're "not allowed" to play with toys until after dark?

And why would I want that for my kids anyway?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Pippi Wisdom

The girls just discovered Pippi Longstocking today.

I got two books from the library today; one is the original PL (which Rachael likes) and the other is a picture-book version called Do You Know Pippi Longstocking written by the same author (which Rebecca likes).

Since my kids don't go to school, and since I'm beginning increasingly cynical toward school in general over recent years, I was amused by this excerpt from Chapter Three, when word gets out that Pippi lives without any adults and two policemen come to her house:


"But don't you understand that you must go to school?"


"To learn things, of course."

"What sort of things?" asked Pippi.

"All sorts," said the policemen. "Lots of useful thing -- the multiplication tables, for instance."

"I have gotten along fine without any pluttifikation tables for nine years," said Pippi, "and I guess I'll get along without it from now on, too."

"Yes, but just think how embarrassing it will be for you to be so ignorant. Imagine when you grow up and somebody asks you what the capital of Portugal is and you can't answer!"

"Oh, I can answer all right," said Pippi. "I'll answer like this: If you are so bound and determined to find out what the capital of Portugal is, then, for goodness' sakes, write directly to Portugal and ask."

"Yes, but don't you think that you would be sorry not to know it yourself?"

"Oh. probably," said Pippi. "No doubt I should lie awake nights and wonder and wonder, 'What in the world is the capital of Portugal?' But one can't be having fun all the time," she continued, bending over and standing on her hands for a change. "For that matter, I've been in Lisbon with my papa," she added, still standing upside down, for she could talk that way too.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Rebecca, the four year old novelist!

November is National Novel Writing Month!

Rebecca did some of the activities with Rachael. She only created a hero for the story, and here it is:


Ay-thee the elephant lives in the jungle. She loves it. She looks like a normal elephant and she has hair that's straight and brown and lipstick on her lips. Her clothes are kind of jungle clothes. A pretty dress and a crown hat.

She doesn't like dreaming.

Her favorite food is lettuce, and her favorite dessert is candy!

Rebecca's elephant does ballet and now she's in a recital. She's very good at picking up stuff. She can even pick up persons, Rebecca bets.

After she's had a bad day, Rebecca's elephant would do anything to cheer up. Of course making somebody say Wow.

She gets angry whenever somebody says, "I can do that better than you!"

She loves to play, loves treats, and loves to do games with her father. Her favorite princess is Ariel, and her second favorite princess is Cinderella.

She has an elephant mother and elephant dad and they have a little baby sister with a necklace over her.

When she first met her grandmother she was shy so she didn't do anything with her. She didn't even ask for stuff; she just did it all by herself. She did stuff like getting drinks herself, and getting food herself, and anything.

She can do lots of stuff, and she's not afraid of anything.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Rachael, the six year old novelist!

November is National Novel Writing Month!

I downloaded the Young Author workbook and did some of the activities with Rachael (and Rebecca joined us for some of it.)

We haven't gotten to the actual plot yet, but we came up with two characters, a hero and a villain, and here's a composite of the questions Rachael answered about hers:


Vera lives on a island, like Sal. (From a Robert McCloskey book). She likes it. She sometimes even visits the birds.
She is the same height as Rachael, with reddish-dark hair, straight and long.
She is scared of centipedes.
Her favorite foods are rice and potatoes. Her favorite dessert is ice cream with sprinkles.
He hobby is being a helper at an ice cream shop.
She's really good at swimming.

After Vera has had a bad day, what makes her happy is just knowing that she survived through that day.

What makes Vera angry? Sometimes she goes to school and there's usually somebody she doesn't like. Vera doesn't get angry, she gets worried when the person walks in, looking a little vain.

Sometimes Vera's parents are mean, and sometimes they're up for anything.

Vera has one secret. If she ever tells somebody that her parents think she's moving to another house, they would feel really sad, and she doesn't want to make her friends sad.

Vera is kind of pretty and pretty smart. She always likes playing with her Grandma. Her favorite princess is Ariel, and her next favorite is Jasmine.

Sometimes she's a tattletale.

She's afraid of spooky forests and spooky trees and stuff like that.

More than anything else in the world, she wants puzzle games. She really loves puzzle games like tic-tac-toe. Something you write on a board or piece of paper.

Sometimes, for vacation, her family goes down to the beach on the island they live on and set up beach things and pretend that it's a far-away vacation.

The best thing that's ever happened to Vera was being picked by the teacher to be the leader during music time at school. She thinks that's the best!

The worst thing that's ever happened to Vera was one time she got lost and couldn't find her mother til lunchtime.

Hanging on her bedroom walls are a few pictures of ballerinas and a few cross-stitches she made.


Emma is a kid from Vera's school. She lives close by Vera, on the edge of the same island.
Emma has frizzy, red hair and is a little vain. She has olive-green eyes.
She hates it when she makes fun of Vera and Vera makes fun of Emma back.

Emma loves to make forts with her dad.
Her favorite foods are rice, potatoes, and lettuce. (They don't have grocery stores on the island.)

Emma has a secret: She wants to move closer to Vera's house so she can make fun of her more.
The only likeable thing about her is that she's nice to Vera's best friend, Day-shee.

More than anything, Emma wants to be the best at everything, like Sharpay from High School Musical.

She's not very good at painting. Whenever she tries to paint her dollhouse, it just makes more blobs.

The best thing that ever happened to Emma is that she was picked at the queen in the Christmas play that is coming up.

Productive Day or not?

It helps to think of each day as having its own personality.

I'm constantly going back and forth between trying to be ultra-efficient and get plenty done, and letting myself relax a bit and just do whatever comes up. And I tend to judge my worth as a person by how much I accomplished or whether I'm doing enough.

I ALWAYS feel like I'm not doing enough.

My husband is an ultra-doer. He is never without his clipboard with his to-do list. His idea of a good weekend is cleaning out the garage or spending 3 hours doing yardwork, so I feel like next to him, I seem really lazy!

Anyway, it occured to me this morning that it helps me to accept that the days are different and both are good in different ways.

Monday felt like a productive day. By 9:00 am I was pleased to see that I was showered and dressed, bed made, everyone fed (except me, oops!), dishwasher unloaded, had actually cleaned out and scrubbed the shelves inside the fridge (!), and I had just put in a load of laundry.

Yes, 9:00 am is hardly early, but I do have three young children, and for me this was doing well.

At 9:40 am all three of us were the out the door for the girls' dentist appointments, after that we hit the library and Chik-fil-A for lunch. (I had a coupon, so lunch for the four of us was less than five dollars, yay.)

Now today, on the other hand...

At 9:20 am I was still unshowered, in my pajamas and glasses, and finally sitting down to have a cup of tea and Eggos while Baby Ben rummaged around in the cabinets and the girls watched "Waiting for Guffman." [Um, you let your four year old and six year old watch R-rated movies?? Well, they only watch the ending, and anyway that movie is extremely tame for being rated R.]

It's 9:45 as I type this, and I'm not sure when I'll get around to showering and getting dressed. I don't think today will be a laundry day. The only tangible things I've accomplished so far are making the bed, unloading the dishwasher, and bringing the trash to the curb (with Rebecca's company). So hey, I guess that's not too bad either.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Girls' Crafts

Here's another cool use of Aunt Donna's digital camera: taking pictures of things the kids make!
This is a picture of a butterfly cross-stitch that six year old Rachael made.

These are fuse bead patterns that the girls did together. I haven't gotten around to "fusing" them yet. The lighter ones are supposed to glow in the dark.

The girls got "Halloween money" from Grandma and Grandpa Blaske and bought these mosaic kits. Rachael made this mermaid.

Rebecca, age four, wanted to be in this picture with her mosaic princess. Whoops, the princess has no depth perception here! We've since given her a second eye ...
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