Friday, September 30, 2011

A Vanity Affair

Don't worry, I am not having an affair with my vanity. Nor with anybody else, for that matter. Definitely not with the gardener. Actually, Brad just came in and told me that we don't have a gardener. We have a homeless guy who comes to the door requesting money for pizza, and who occasionally offers to do yard work in exchange. Brad never gives him money, and doesn't believe he will do yard work because he never brings yard work tools with him. But if you think about it, that makes sense, because he's homeless, so where would he keep his tools? Even so, this explains a lot about the current state of our lawn.

The lawn of our 1920s house, with the original bathroom. The house may very well be our dream home, but for the bathroom. For one thing, it's tiny. The pedestal sink, though not original, is lovely and classic and offers exactly NO storage space (unless you count the gunk we are currently storing in the pipes).  The medicine cabinet is surely as old as the house. The three tiny shelves barely hold daily necessities.  And the mirror on the door? Total joke! It's so old it's cloudy--I kind of like that about it, actually, but it's not so good for applying makeup.

To make matters worse, the cabinet is off center above the sink. So if you were to stand centered in front of the sink (which means you've wedged your right hip between the sink and the radiator that is conveniently placed ten inches away), you'd still have to lean your head several inches to the right in order to see yourself in the blurry mirror.

So I decided I needed a vanity. And yes, I know what you must be thinking: "A vanity? Why does she need a vanity? For makeup? But she never wears any!" And it's true, I don't. But I've got a ton of it.

It's just too much work, standing in front of the mirror, leaning like the Tower of Pisa, putting it on, taking it off. Who has the time? I know where there's a will there's a way. But there's no will. I rarely leave the house these days, so who am I trying to impress?  The gardener?

But now I have this desk, another piece from my mother-in-law's basement that we could have had anyway. In fact, she'd offered it to me several times, but I wasn't interested. It's a nice piece of furniture, yes (made by Sligh, for those who like details). But it's a bit fancy for our house. Except I do think you can get a little fancy in the bedroom.

Now all I need is a mirror and a chair, and maybe next time I run into somebody I know at the store I won't look like a complete sloth. And maybe I'll remember to buy lightbulbs too.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Dolls We Made

We were going to make Star Babies to go with our Michaelmas story this week, but I didn't make it to the store. Instead, I hunted around the house to see what I had on hand (noticing a theme here?). I came up with 4 playsilks, some stuffing, some wool batting, a few bits of string, and a short while later we had these simple, no sew dolls.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Because They're Funnier in Europe, That's Why


Brad:  Why can't they make TV shows like this in America?
Me:  I don't know. We should obviously move to England.
Brad:  Perhaps.
Me:  Really?
Brad:  What?
Me:  You always say you could never live there because they have accents and eat strange food.
Brad:  Well I didn't know it was like that over there.
Me:  Seriously?  Let's move!
Brad:  Maybe.
Me:  Come on, you can work in pest control and let your hair grow; I'll become a slag and drink too much. It'll be just like the shows.
Brad:  Uh, that's not exactly what I had in mind.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Aaaaand We're Back!

To normal. Just as if all the fighting, hitting, hair chewing and screaming fits in the middle of the night never happened. I'm glad it stopped before they were done rebuilding our neighbor's porch, because I know the guys doing the work must think I spend my mornings torturing small children. Maybe now that things have settled down, they'll see that my kids are not tortured. Unless they think I've locked them in the basement... or worse.

We talked a little bit about the Autumn Equinox during circle time this morning, and our story this week was the story of Persephone and Demeter, so we read that too. We had guests on Monday, so we took that day off and started school on Tuesday, but it worked out well because otherwise we would not have done our story during circle time on a Thursday. Tuesday, we made pomegranates with our modeling wax. They were a nice step up from the moons we did last week, but still very simple. I planned to serve pomegranate seeds for snack today, but couldn't find any.

We skipped coloring today and took a field trip instead. It was a beautiful first day of fall and just the right temperature for walking around outside. We headed to the Meijer Gardens to check out the gorgeous fall colors. The ArtPrize exhibit opened a few days ago, so we were able to see that as well, although they don't allow pictures in the gallery.

This is what you get when you ask Lissie to smile. We had to get a picture in front of the hydrangeas, because the first time she saw white ones she asked if they were wild cauliflower. Hah! Now I guess they look more like wild broccoflower, but Lissie doesn't even know what that is.

No idea what they were thinking with the hats, seriously. Too big, too small, we had it covered.

Max, despite not napping, was cheerful until the very end.

The very end when we were trying to leave and Lissie was all "mom, you know those giant pumpkins?  You should take a picture of us sitting in front of them before we go! You know, the really big ones by the door? Just ONE picture, it'll be really fast, I promise.  Pleeeaaaase?" You saw that picture and thought it was the only one, didn't you? Come on, you know me better than that. I took many. It was not the only one, but I am sorry to say it was the best one.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Christmas Comes but Once Twice a Year

My mother-in-law, who has spent most of her life in Michigan, is moving to Atlanta this month. We are sad to see her go, but since she loves to travel, we're not worried that we won't see her after she goes.  Did I mention that I adore my mother-in-law? Seriously! We talk at least a few times a week, and she is my go-to person for parenting advice. Crazy, isn't it? Not if you know her.

Although we're a little sad that she's moving so far away, we're mostly excited that she's taking the initiative and moving on. So many people grow old and resist change, but here she is packing up and heading south. Not only that, but she is renting a furnished condo there and majorly downsizing furniture and other possessions, so if there were any reservations on our part (there weren't), they might have been helped by this conversation:

Jan: Since I'm leaving most of my stuff, let me know if there is anything you want.
Me: Anything?
Jan: Anything. Except my KitchenAid stand mixer.

This is my favorite piece that I got from her, and it's one I would have gotten anyway, because it was sitting in her basement! It's the dresser from my in-laws' first bedroom set back in the 70s. I love the flower details on two of the drawers. This is actually a "before" picture of it in my dining room, waiting to be painted.  've been looking for a buffet since we moved in, and I think this will look amazing once I am done with it. The color I will use is Farrow and Ball's Orangery. See the quart over by the window? I am kind of scared to use it, in case I can't go back to using regular paint after. At least there is a F&B retailer in Atlanta, so I can save on shipping by having my mother-in-law bring it back to me when she visits!

She also had a friend who was updating her dining room and getting rid of a china cabinet, table and chairs. Jan grabbed them for us, since she was getting a truck anyway to bring us her stuff. Did I mention they were free? Total score! They are 80's oak, and I know oak gets no love these days, but I really don't mind it. We live in a 1920's house, so we're surrounded by oak as it is. The cabinet is in the dining room, but I put the table and chairs in the kitchen. Jan was kind of appalled, but the day I have a matched dining room set, well, that will be the day.

I've got plans for this, too:

In addition to our furniture and various household goods, we got boxes and boxes of Christmas supplies.  The biggest change with Jan moving away is that she won't be hosting Christmas anymore. We've spent every Christmas at her house since Brad and I started dating. There was never any question about whose family we'd spend Christmas with, because Jan and Sam were such generous and welcoming people that they invited my dad to come spend Christmas with us at their house--and he did, every year. It will be nice not to have to travel over the holidays, and I know we'll enjoy making our own Christmas traditions.  It's kind of bittersweet though, because Jan will be here this year, but Brad's sister and her family will not.

At least the girls had a lot of fun going through the Christmas decorations, although I think they may be a bit early this year. I think it's fitting that they decorated the mantle with Jan's portrait--not that the rest of the house escaped unscathed, it just wasn't quite so elaborate.

So here's to Jan and this new phase of her life. I know it's going to be wonderful for her, because that's the kind of person she is. And here's hoping she will celebrate many happy Christmases in our house with us. Although we'll be missing quite a few people, if we can manage even a fraction of the grace, kindness and generosity she and Sam always exhibited, I will feel we've done our part in carrying on family traditions.



Today was craft day.

Lissie seems to be reacting to something (Maxine too), but we aren't sure what. The only thing different is the new art supplies, and since we had some issues last week too, we're thinking one (or more) of them is the culprit. If you're not sure why that is a big deal, you may want to read this post: The Feingold Diet: One Year Later, part 1

Despite that, we managed to stick to routine and do a craft.

We started with these:

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Fairies in the Ring

(a spontaneous poem, as spoken by Lissie)

The fairies dance in the moonlight
They give you wishes in the shine of the moon
Their silver cloaks show in the moonlight
The moon is guided into the fairy ring
The children sleep inside their beds, safe from harm
and giants, and monsters
The fairies dance until it's dawn
The day starts up, the fairies disappear
The fairies are in Fairy Land
Safe from harm in their fairy beds.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Rabbit vs. Turtle

This week we added something new to our school routine. I found this great curriculum by Stress Free Kids which helps kids learn how to reduce stress, anxiety and anger by using visualization and relaxation techniques.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

On a Good Day

There is dancing:


And everything is put away when we are finished:

So we can craft:

Tiny golden cloaked fairies sleeping in peanut shell beds:

(after a long night of bringing in the harvest):

And smiles:

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Feingold Diet: One Year Later, part 1

Two years ago, Lissie started preschool at age four. A month later, I gave birth to my third child, Maxine. Four months after that, we moved to our new house. It was a joyful time, but also an incredibly stressful time.

It was no surprise when Lissie started acting out. That was a lot for any four year old to handle, let alone one as excitable as Lissie. Lissie has always been a spirited child. When she was born, she came out screaming. Not the sweet mewling cry of a newborn, but screaming. She was incredibly sensitive to everything. She barely slept, even the first few days in the hospital. For the first year of her life she took 20 minute naps. I can't say exactly when she first started sleeping through the night regularly, but it was around the time she turned four. Now, at six, she still wakes up more nights than not.

As an infant, she'd wet her diaper, and immediately cry. She was easily overstimulated and would scream in stores and other unfamiliar places. I got a sling when she was a few months old, and that helped. A little bit. Sometimes. I held her constantly, we co-slept, I nursed on demand. I was exhausted.

As she got older, things got a little better, but she was still very excitable. We used to compare her to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, except that we never knew what would set her off. She was incredibly sweet and funny. She'd charm everybody at family functions, but by the time we were at the car she'd be wild and disobedient, we'd be picking her up screaming and fighting off the ground and forcing her into her car seat.

It wasn't a discipline issue. She has always listened very well sometimes, and other times, not at all. It was very confusing. It was also stressful and isolating, because nobody understood. We tried everything we could think of, everything people suggested, but nothing helped. It was heartbreaking.

Two years ago, I dropped her off for her first day of preschool. Sweet, excited, happy. Normal. I have a video of it. Three hours later, I picked her up and she was different. I braced myself, because I knew what was coming. You could always tell. I was actually hoping to make it home before before it hit, but I opened the banana I'd brought for snack before handing it to her. She screamed that she had wanted to open it herself, and then she continued screaming the entire rest of the 30 minute drive home. We chalked it up to overstimulation, first day of school jitters, and not sleeping well the night before.

The meltdowns started coming more frequently, and the spring after we moved to our new house, they were really bad--almost constant. I knew this was not normal stressed out kid behavior, but I wasn't sure what it was. Then one day, while scanning a homeschooling blog, I serendipitously stumbled across a post titled "Our Year Without Artificial Colors." Can you believe that I almost skipped it? I almost didn't read it, because we generally eat pretty well. I knew all about those kids whose parents let them eat junk food all day, and soda for lunch, and we're not like that.

But I did read it. And it was eye-opening. Life changing, even. The way the woman described her daughter's behavior, going from sweet to animalistic in minutes sounded exactly like Lissie. The anger, the biting, the hitting, the violence, but not all the time, everything she wrote could have been written by me. I wish I could remember the name of the blog, but I have looked for it since and have not been able to find it again.

To be continued...

(cupcake photo - Kat Johnston)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Harvest Moon Magic

Last night was the Harvest Moon. The Harvest Moon is the name of the full moon that occurs closest to the Autumnal Equinox. Most years, the Harvest Moon comes in September, but every third year it comes in October. It is called the Harvest Moon, because on these nights it is bright enough that the farmers can work late to bring in the harvest.

This week, to celebrate the Harvest Moon, we are using a story from Suzanne Down's wonderful book Autumn TalesAutumn Tales is a collection of short autumn themed stories and poems for young children. Since I didn't have any moon related stories in mind for this week, I was excited to see that this book contained the perfect story: "Harvest Moon Magic". While flipping through the book, I noticed a cute story called "Harvest Moon Magic". I had no idea what the Harvest Moon was, so I googled it.  Apparently God loves fools and unprepared mothers, because the Harvest Moon was that very night. Ooh, did you totally feel a shiver when you read that? 

Today while we read our story during circle time, we used beeswax modelling clay to make moons. Aside from complimenting the theme of the story, I thought that a simple round ball would be an ideal first sculpture, because what could be easier than making a ball? Except you can't just say you're making a ball, because that would be so "mo-om, I've already done that a million times before" boring. Not moons though. Moons are fun to make.

Tonight we'll stay up late and look at the real moon. I know, yes, the Harvest Moon was technically last night, but this is close enough. It's not like we're bringing in the harvest. And even if we were, we'd have plenty of light from the streetlamps in front of our house.

(moon photo - jason.kaechler)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Hipster Dialogues


Brad: Look at how it's foaming out of the top, like champagne, and it's the champagne of beers. Isn't that hilarious?
Me: I don't think it's funny at all. It's embarrassing. Why can't you drink micro brews like everybody else we know?
Brad: I like High Life.
Me: No you don't. You just think it's cool and ironic to drink it.
Brad: It's not cool.
Me: It's a total hipster beer.
Brad: No!
Me: Yes it is.
Brad: No way. It's not like I'm drinking PBR.
Me: Hipsters don't drink PBR.
Brad: Then how come every time I go to a bar if they have a cheap beer on tap it's always PBR?
Me: Exactly. It's too mainstream now.
Brad: But I've been drinking High Life for years.
Me: No you haven't. And besides, that's what a hipster would say.
Brad: I'm not a hipster.
Me: Okaaaaay.
Brad: What? I'm not.
Me: Well, it's just that you also wear ironic t-shirts and retro sneakers.
Brad: No I don't!
Me: Are you serious? Because you have a pair of Chuck Taylors, a pair of Nike Cortez and a pair of Tiger athletic shoes.
Brad: That's different! I have always worn those.
Me: That is exactly what a hipster would say.
Brad: Anyway, I don't even like the Tiger pair.
Me: You only listen to music that nobody has heard of.
Brad: I can't help it if I like that music.
Me: Neither can hipsters.
Brad: I'm not a hipster.
Me: We don't have cable.
Brad: We've never had cable!
Me: Exactly.
Brad:  I. Am. Not. A. Hipster.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Strawberry Pants Forever

What is that saying about the shoemaker's children having no shoes? Well, that's what it's like at our house. Aside from our kids having too many shoes, and neither of us knowing a thing about making them, I mean. But I do make clothes, so how is it that Lissie doesn't have a single pair of pants that covers her ankles? Oops!

In an attempt to remedy the situation, I let her go through my fabric stash last week and pick out her favorites. I have a pattern I'd been wanting to try and it was a great opportunity to get in some more practice with my new serger. Problem solved?

Not exactly.

Maxine saw them hanging over the back of my chair and announced "Apple. Wear that." Which she did.  Completely unfinished. Unironed, unhemmed, unelasticized, all through the house, over her pajamas, all the way until bedtime. And then they sat in my sewing room, completely forgotten, for a week.

Until I found time to finish them. And then Lissie tried them on. Max was devastated. I think she thought they were for her. Silly girl. Someone should tell her the third child never gets anything new.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Yellow (sort of)

I think I mixed the paint too thin. Way too thin. I was trying to make three different shades of yellow, but it was more like one different shade of urine. Of course it was better smelling, but still, there was very little color left behind on the wet paper. Oh well, live and learn! The girls had fun anyway.

I don't think they fought over their painting supplies, which were as close to identical as I could get them, even one time. Amazing. Did I mention that in addition to excessively diluting the paint, I forgot all about the story to introduce the color and the contemplative music? So we skipped the story and listened to the Beatles sing about sun and submarines.

See what I mean about the color barely showing up? This was before Max poured half her rinse water out while trying to remove the sponge she stuck in the jar.

Ah yes, the sponges. Definitely the star accessory today. And the snowman dress. Because nothing says "back to school" like snowmen. Nothing.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Art Supplies!

We got our lovely, lovely art supplies from Mercurius today. The girls were so excited. I am glad they got here today so I have some time to read up on the wet-on-wet watercolor technique we'll be using tomorrow. It's probably one of those things that will be really simple once I do it, but seems overwhelming from the descriptions. You know, like, when you are dreading something and so you keep putting it off and putting it off and then you finally have to do it and it takes two seconds and leaves you wondering why you put it off and stressed about it for such a long time? Unless it's something I think will be a breeze, because those things never are. I always say there must be some sort of cosmic inverse ratio to how difficult or easy you think something will be to how easy or difficult it actually is.

The crayons and main lesson books are very nice. I knew the crayons would be, because we've had them before. The crayons are by Stockmar and are on the expensive side, but it's a case of getting what you pay for. The colors are vivid, but translucent, and the wax is blendable. Another nice thing is that they are made with beeswax instead of the petroleum that is used in most crayons. I got the largest size of main lesson books, in purple (as requested!) and they are quite substantial. For some reason I was expecting something flimsier. They are very large, too. I can't remember the exact dimensions (in fact, it's possible that I may not have even been aware of the actual dimensions when I ordered, due to them being listed on the site in cm. though if asked would swear that I do know the difference between inches and centimeters).

For the modeling wax and the watercolor paints, I chose the Artemis plant colors over Stockmar. The Stockmar wax and paints are non-toxic, but I was unable to find any information on the specific colorants used. I suspect they are FD&C colors, which may be non-toxic to most people, but are a big problem for my sensitive kids--whether ingested or absorbed through the skin. The plant colors were about twice as much as Stockmar, unfortunately, but worth it to not have to make Lissie paint in gloves and be constantly monitoring her. She loves making art and we're really hoping these will be a good solution for her.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Good and Bad Children

This marks our first week of officially home schooling, and so far things are going smoothly--yes, for the ENTIRE THREE DAYS we've been doing it now. We started a week earlier than I originally planned, because Lissie was impatient and I thought it would be fine to do a light week to get ourselves started with our new rhythms. Our "story" this week is a poem, "Good and Bad Children" by Robert Louis Stevenson. I am not sure where the Waldorf community stands on his works, but I love them and so I am using them. I have always said we are only Waldorf inspired anyway.

Circle time is something new to us, and with a just-turned-6-year-old and a not-quite-2-year-old, I like to keep it short and simple. We start with a poem from the excellent book Seven Times the Sun by Shea Darian, then move on to our story. After the story, if I still have the girls' attention, we do a finger play. This week we are doing Open, Shut Them.

Today seemed like a good day for a craft, so I think we'll make Wednesday our craft day and we'll start a new craft each week. This week, Lissie "sewed" together a cardstock picture of a house. I am not sure how this ties into the Waldorf philosophy of doing real work (although it's certainly not a fake picture!), but as she used a real needle and real thread and it was her first sewing project, I am fine with it.  I thought it would be a cute picture to hang in her bedroom too, but she was, for some reason, emphatically against the idea.

Tomorrow would be our coloring day, but we are still waiting for our beeswax crayons to arrive. I do have an old set, but it's the original Stockmar color assortment. I wanted to get the Waldorf assortment for school, and it's always nice to have fresh, new supplies at the beginning of the school year.