Friday, October 25, 2013

New Love


I think I have a new love - a love of very small quilts. I have yet to make any really huge quilts - I think the biggest one I completed was twin sized. The fact that this one is SO tiny, about 18"x24" has made it go especially quickly. The prints were a pre-cut package from a Moda line... Happy Go Lucky, I think. They were 2.5" so are finishing up around 2". This is going to be a Christmas present for an old friend - wall hanging or table topper or something. I've got so much wind in my sails from the momentum of this project that I just might be able to churn out a few more handmade Christmas gifts this year - as long as I keep them small. 

Speaking of small - noticed this small message on the chalkboard after putting the kids to bed last night: 

Melts a Mommy's heart!!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Lopper

Yesterday I started clearing out the withering zinnias from our front garden. I meant to write a post about the zinnias in all their glory... I have some pictures somewhere... oh well. But it was a satisfying project and William helped by snipping the dried up brown flowers off the plants that were still growing and staying for now. He did a very good job of snipping only the spent blooms, and was proud of himself for helping. 

But then today we finished off the project with just some weeding, and hauling all the debris to the woods. Problem was, William wanted to do some more snipping.  So after a few perfectly decent flowers lost their heads, it was time to put the pruners away. You can be sure he'll be inspecting the garden every day now, checking for any more brown flowers. I love a guy who is so devoted to his job. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

First Quarter

Today was Amy's 45th day of school, meaning that she is exactly one-quarter done with kindergarten. What??

This school district doesn't take off for any miscellaneous holidays, so every week except Labor Day has been a full five days and as a result we are plowing through quickly. I thought I'd take a minute to capture a few of my thoughts on the whole experience so far.

First of all, I still think an elementary school day starting at 7:30 is ridiculous. Getting up at 6:30 has not gotten any easier for any of us, particularly as it continues to get darker in the morning. These days sunrise here is just about at 7:30, which means we are waking, dressing, eating breakfast, and driving in the dark. The time change can't get here fast enough - that will help, but I still think it is absurdly early for little kids.

Aside from some grumbling at wake-up, we have otherwise come enjoy our new routine. After dropping Amy off, William and I are back at the house by about 7:45. We typically restart our morning at that point. He usually will eat when Amy does, but often joins me for a second breakfast while I eat my first one. Somewhere in there I run upstairs to make the beds and start laundry. I tend to the cats, the dishes, and the general morning household upkeep that always ends up taking a bit of time. By 8:30, sometimes earlier, we usually sit down to a show or two on PBS. William chills out while I read the paper. Occasionally I use his downtime to get something else done, but lately I find it better to save my energy and enjoy the chance to sit for a bit. By mid-morning we are ready for any appointments or errands scheduled for the day, or we simply spend time outside or riding bikes or going to the park. Home days are my favorite - William is very agreeable, low-key company and we usually find plenty to do to pass the morning.

By the time lunch rolls around at noon our time without Amy is practically over - we eat our lunch and chat or play for a bit, then pop on a movie and both take a rest for about an hour before we hop in the car again shortly before 2 to pick Amy up. The other variation on the afternoon is if we've been out in the morning, William will often doze off in the car on the way back, and continue taking a nice nap once we get home - so he might sleep from about 11-1, give or take, and wakes up for a quick bite before we go for pick up. On those days I enjoy some blissful time "alone" in the middle of the day. About 2-3 "nap days" each week seem to be about right for keeping him caught up on sleep.

Our afternoons all back together are pleasant. Amy is always happy after school and full of things to tell me. It can be hard to give her my full attention, and to keep her acting civilly to William, who also wants her (and my) attention. We go over the papers she brings home and have a snack and chat a bit before my phone date with my mom at 3. After that it's generally outside to play until dinner on the earlier side (5:30 if I'm lucky), and some unwind time, then bath, books, and bed - lights out by 8. I always wish for an earlier bedtime but everyone gets such a huge second wind after dinner that it is hard to make that happen. Again, when it is dark at dinner I am hoping that will help push the whole evening routine a bit earlier still.

So that's how our days are working out. As to school itself, I remain very pleased with Amy's academic experience. Her handwriting has improved tremendously and her pencil grip was quickly corrected (something I could never get her to fix). She reads easily and her teacher has made a lot of effort to keep her challenged in that department. Amy describes her day in great detail, and it sounds like they have a nice assortment of activities that they rotate through in the classroom that are both appealing and interesting and allow each student a lot of individual attention. She gets all the usual "specials" and enjoys music, art, library, computer lab, and P.E. The highlights of the day according to Amy are lunch and recess. She loves the company of her classmates and seems to have had no trouble fitting in or making friends. I am also proud of how she handles herself when childish antics are directed at her: today, for instance, she reported that one of the boys called her and another girl "cockroaches" (though Amy said it "clockroaches") - rather than getting her feelings hurt she just thought this was funny and took plenty of delight in the fact that her teacher heard and her classmate got in big trouble for such a remark. She doesn't seem bothered by too much. And I love the chance for so many new teachable moments, now that she has so much time apart from me. She'll share a passing anecdote from the day, good or bad, and it either reminds me of something from my own school days to share with her or simply a chance to talk with her about a subject I might not have thought about on my own. Nothing too serious, just general chit-chat with my almost six-year-old girl.

As a side note, I continue to be thankful that Amy has the good fortune of being in such a good school, particularly in a district that is not universally good. Her teachers and staff are completely devoted to their kids, the school is safe and kind and the kids are generally good and respectful. I've volunteered a couple of days to help with lunchtime, and I'm impressed with how the school runs and the mostly smooth behavior of the kids. I just recently learned that 92% of the kids at her school have one or both parents on active duty, and so they share the common bond of being military kids. Amy gets to use ipads in her classroom every day (I have, to this day, never used an ipad). She is in a good place.

I still think a lot about homeschooling. For the first few weeks Amy was so completely enamored with school that she could hardly wait to get back to school after a weekend.  Then she missed two days week before last, home with a little fever. That seemed to break the spell a bit, and since then she's been a bit more normal about not wanting to go back to school on a Monday morning, wishing to stay home another day, etc. I do still think the school day is long, and certainly filled with, well, filler, if looking at it from a strictly instructional standpoint. I would love to cover material with her at a better pace, but frankly, she seems more receptive to instruction from her teachers for now. I still do a lot of work with her in the afternoons since she is always wanting to write and spell things and show me the math she's learning, etc. Next year we will be in a new place and I would say that homeschooling is certainly still on the table. It's a fine line between the enjoyment Amy clearly takes in the experience of school - the high level of stimulation, her interest in her classmates, and the diversity of activities that I couldn't necessarily replicate at home, and yet avoiding the pressure of too much too soon - homework, academic expectations, long days, loss of freedom for family trips or outside school experiences. One year at a time.

And that's where we are in a novel, I mean a nutshell. There is probably something I'm forgetting to mention but I'm sure I'll squeak it in another time. Thanks for reading and I always look forward to continuing the education conversation. How is the school year treating everyone?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

New Do

Honestly, I'm a pretty self-conscious person, and this is my favorite kind of picture of myself. But without further ado, here is my All About Me post. 

I have not had my hair cut in almost two years. 

Before Don graduated from OCS, in fact. 

A ponytail is awfully convenient, and finding a salon in a new area has never made it high on my priority list. 

So I've just let it grow. And I more or less have been looking like this these days: 

The clothes change of course. And the belly gets a little bigger, but from the neck up, I just have one look. I have been okay with that. 

But I didn't think I could take another week of brushing out that beast every night. Or picking huge long curly hairs off my floor and my shoulders. All the time. I had reached my haircut breaking point. 

I found a salon in downtown Charleston that did free haircuts with a Locks of Love donation. I had the length, and Don had today off, so It Was Time. 

Drove myself downtown, did several laps trying to find the right entrance to the parking garage, walked back up two blocks amid throngs of tourists, and was reminded that, really, I don't like cities, no matter how southern and charming they may be. 

Found salon and enjoyed very nice haircut by a very nice lady, and said goodbye to four ponytails worth of 10" long hair. Wow. 

Didn't take a picture of the hair, but here's the after: 

I think I may have reached the age where I need better make up... but that's another story. Hair-wise I feel a good deal lighter and very much refreshed. It was time for a change and I'm pretty pleased. 

Thanks for indulging me!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Fall Blooms

This year I sewed some sort of package of "cutting mix" flowers in the skinny little bed at the edge of our back patio. I knew going into it that those mixed seed packs are a gamble, and predictably we had a lot of weedy looking things, a monster zinnia, lots of four o'clocks, and this one GIANT, mutant cosmo of some variety. This plant was six feet tall (actually you can see the edge of it at the far right of the picture of the turkeys in my last post) and had only just started to show some buds. 

Then a couple of weekends ago we had a ton of wind and timber! down went the flower and its inch-thick stalk. Amy and I hauled it and some other garden debris off to the "woods" after cutting a few of the unopened blooms to take inside.

A day or two later some pumpkin-orange dots catch my eye and lo and behold, the whole plant has opened up in the most beautiful spray of fall-colored flowers at the edge of the woods. Our leaves haven't started to change yet, and with mostly pines and live oaks around here we don't get much autumn color, so this little bunch of orange among the fading grass is a very welcome sight. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Quick Bits

The kids and I got out the watercolors over the weekend. They were practically done by the time I sat down to it but I found myself on a roll, and channeling my very acute homesickness for New England with the little picture above. I'm surprisingly happy with how it turned out. What might I be able to do if I actually painted every day? Oh, such indulgence. 

Earlier that morning we caught sight of a whole flock (wait, I just looked it up-) a rafter of wild turkeys marching around our backyard. There were ten of them and they stuck around for a little while. Ollie was outside at the time and couldn't quite make up his mind whether these were birds for chasing or being afraid of. They were awfully cool. 

Somewhere in the middle of last week Amy was in one of her uber-helpful moods. The kind of helpfulness that usually pops out when I want nothing more than to get the job done as quickly as I can and if possible, in total silence. But on this night I was in good humor and decided to let her have a go at washing the dishes. She surprised me by being a) plenty tall, with just the small stool and b) fairly competent. The competence part shouldn't surprise me... but I'm kinda particular about dishes. 

I believe it was the day after that when everyone came home from school pick up time in a real funk. The pushing and shoving between Amy and William started before we were even out of the building and I was terribly tired and not quite sure how we'd all make it to bedtime in one piece. And then I asked if anyone would like to join me in a cup of tea. Bless their little hearts, they thought that was the greatest idea and asked if we could get out the "real" tea set. So we had a proper tea with sugar cubes and little cookies and the three of us left the table perked up and in much better spirits. 

My little munchkins have been such good company these days; I can easily overlook the tired moods and the squabbling because truly, we've been having quite a lot of fun. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

My William

For weeks I have been wanting to write a post about my sweet William. Amy got all sorts of blog attention as school was getting underway, and I could continue to gush plenty about her. But today I just want to focus on my boy, my little buddy. 

William is just over three years and four months old... and it occurred to me that as of today he is the exact age, to the day, that I was when my little brother was born. William gets a couple more months before he gets a little sister. He is a whole year closer in age to Amy than he will be to this little one. 

I am glad of that. I am glad William has at least a little time to himself before he is caught in the middle. I am treasuring these few months of kindergarten, when he and I are getting so much one-on-one time. It has been one of my biggest fears, going into this whole third-child thing... fear of putting William in the middle. 

But with girls on either side he will still hold the place as my only and dearest little boy.

He is such a boy. Just don't call him little. He rode his glider bike over to the park this morning, still with his helmet on backwards. Usually he rides with his gardening gloves and knee pads on, too, as part of his serious biker gear. The whole ensemble has served him well, actually, and he's walked away from several wipe-outs without a scratch. 

We spent a long time at the park. He is very chatty, but not quite as intense as his big sister, and time with him passes easily, and slightly more quietly. We spent a long time digging a Very Big Hole, and simultaneously creating a Very Big Mountain. Then he fell in it, several times, on purpose. After a good long while he told me that Big Diggers get very hungry and thirsty, so we went home for lunch. 

He is just three, and has his moments that are not exactly models of excellent behavior, but for the most part he has a quiet earnestness about him that I find completely endearing. He is excellent at building block towers, painting at the easel, and loves his assorted animal friends - both real and plush. He's a bundle of manly-boyish energy with a tender heart. 

I was just scrolling through my pictures, realizing how many William moments I've captured in the last month alone - and it is too many to post. I'll close with just one more from this evening. He worked very hard to get the entire lawn mowed before dinner. 

I knew if anybody could get the job done, it would be him. I love you, Buddy.