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!
Posted by Picasa

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.
Posted by Picasa

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.
Posted by Picasa

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.)
Posted by Picasa

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.

Posted by Picasa

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.
Posted by Picasa

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!

Posted by Picasa