Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Hippie Commie Preschool

Really, I can't say enough about how much I love the Hippie Commie Preschool* that my three youngest kids have been fortunate enough to attend over the years. I was visiting some dear friends in CA while they were going through some serious preschool ideological woes with their son's preschool and it just made me all the more grateful that I happened upon this gem of a school so quickly after moving here to Ohio lo, those many years ago.

Here are just a few pictures I took the other day as I was marveling at how much I love this school for letting our children just be children.

This was after school as a few of us were able to stay to let the kids play on the playground. Lilyanna decided she was still hungry, so invited her friends to join her in a picnic as they finished up their lunches they hadn't completed during lunchtime.

That is my daughter rolling a log across the playground (barefoot and in pink and purple bejeweled dress, thank you very much).  She wanted to climb up a tree, but needed a boost. I won't boost her because my rule is if you can't get up by yourself, then you shouldn't' be up there in the first place. This was her solution. (I did the same thing at her age with an empty rain barrel.)

My kid's school keeps a canoe on hand for climbing and exploring. As per usual, Lilyanna is off to discover the world.

My kids are all very different from one another, but one thing they have in common is how much they love this school and claim it as the best school experience so far. On Friday my older boys had off from school, but came to the hippie commie preschool with me while I was the parent helper, so they could participate, too.  It is a special place and I will be sad to leave it for the last time in a few short months.

Not the actual name of the school, merely an affectionate name we've given it.

Monday, October 13, 2014

A New Suburban Gardening Adventure!

Because we can never have too many suburban gardening adventures, right??

We Smiths now have a worm farm. Basically, it's a composting bin for inside the house and it currently has a pound of little baby worms in it as well as food scraps, dead leaves, and wet newspaper.

Todd wasn't really looped into the plans that Nathaniel and I had been making, but was characteristically good natured about another one of our schemes. 

Until he came home the other day and Lilyanna said, "Daddy! We have new pets! 500 of them! And I named them ALL Wormie!"
Bless the poor man.

The thought of 500 worms in the house rattled him a bit. 

Until I showed him how tiny they all were.  Or maybe because I showed him how contained they all were. Either way, he was okay after that and able to enjoy the idea of 500 new pets all named Wormie.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Lessons Learned from "my" First Cross Country Season

Well, we are nearly to the end of my high school Freshman son's first cross country season. Here are a few of the things I've learned this year that make next year seem way less scary:

1. Find a friend with an older child among the parents of other team members, so they can hold your hand and walk you through whatever you need when you have millions of questions because your son is a black hole of information. A certain Miss Katey has been my guardian angel throughout this season!

2. When ordering spirit wear/foot wear/ bags/ gear in JUNE, remember that while the kids will be competing in hazy, hot, and humid August, they will also be competing in October and November, which seem to now mean snow here in Ohio. 

3. Also, it's not cheap. You think, "Oh, great, running! You just need a pair of sneakers, right?" No. Two pairs of high quality running shoes, spikes, running socks. PLUS the pay to play fees and booster fees. It's still cheaper than football, but a pair of Nikes from the sale rack at Famous footwear kind of cheap it is not.

4. Accept that if your runner already had a high metabolism BEFORE the season began, their metabolism is now bordering on ridiculous. In fact, if your child is home, just expect his face to be either stuffed in the fridge or stuffed full of food. (Expect your grocery bill to reflect the difference.)

5. Just accept that you are going to see a lot of kids throwing up. And foaming at the mouth. This is apparently a thing with cross country runners. Who knew? The foaming thing is because it takes too long to turn and spit, so it all just hangs out on their faces until they're done racing. The puking? That's just how hard these kids are running. Not everyone does it, but I've seen more kids puking at cross country meets than I was prepared for.

6. All the races I personally have participated in, everyone on the sidelines cheers for every runner. This is not the case at cross country meets. The first time I realized this, I was surrounded by 40 other parents along the sidelines and since none of their school's runners were going by there was dead silence as all the other kids passed in front of us. I currently buck the system and clap and cheer for every runner, but am louder for our team. It's a compromise I can live with and only earns me minimal glares from other parents.

7. Watching a cross country race at the start line is like watching an old battle beginning! Check out these pictures, but imagine lots of yelling and feet thundering by!

All lined up and there goes the gun!

Distant yelling and thundering feet as they begin.

Wow! They're coming straight at me and fast, I better move! More yelling, clapping, and thundering!

And now, that huge long line starts to funnel into one narrow line. And they will run over you if you don't move.

Seriously, people, THUNDERING feet!

And there they go getting ready to shove each other out of the way as they round the first corner.

8. Attending a cross country meet is not like watching other sports. You do not get to go and sit on some bleachers. Well, sometimes they have some there, but rarely are they used for sitting. Instead you watch the start and then run yourself all over the course to be able to catch the runners and cheer for them at 3 or 4 different points on the course. Not a passive event at all.

9. The upside is that a race is over in less than 25 minutes! So, I can get there, scope out the course, watch the girls team, watch my son's team, talk to the rest of the kids post race and leave all in less than an hour! It's a thing of beauty!

10. I appreciate how hard my son is learning to work, but also how nice everyone on the team is. I heard some coach from another school giving his kids a "pep" talk and there was much yelling and sports cliches. Our coaches are excessively chill, which gives the whole team a very nice vibe. None of the boys feel less than or pressured. They just want to do their best, and if that's what they bring the coaches are happy. It's a nice bunch of kids, too. Slackers in any sense of the word are not generally drawn to cross country running it would seem.

I'm sincerely glad he decided to run this year, and I hope he keeps up with it throughout high school. That being said, I'm looking forward to the relatively calm schedule of play and musical season. ;)

Look at those ENORMOUS feet! Size 13.5, people. Yikes!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Birthday Flowers Then and Now

 I received this lovely bouquet of flowers for my birthday a few weeks ago. The card indicated that it was from my parents, and I fully enjoyed their happy spring colors as it snowed more outside.

Whenever Todd comes home from work and sees flowers he says something to the effect, "Are those from your secret lover?" Which is funny, because I'm terrible at keeping secrets. Anyway, he and I agreed years ago that if I wanted flowers I should by them for myself and not wait around for him to think of it. It's not that he's never done it, but the event is so rare that after 15 years of marriage I can still count the number with one hand.

But with this bouquet I suddenly remembered a bouquet that was delivered to me on the first birthday I had right after our wedding all those years ago. My birthday was 3 months after our wedding, so we were still in full on newlywed mode.  When I arrived home from work the afternoon of my birthday to find a bouquet of flowers on the doorstep, I immediately was sure my sweet husband had sent them. Until he said, "Who are those from?"

And then I read the card. Only to discover they were from one of my old flames. Barely even flames. We had been friends all through our college years even though we attended different colleges in different states, but on Spring Break my senior year I went to his college to spend a couple of days and he decided we should try more than friends. I didn't have a good reason to not, but we sort of continued in an awkward more than friends, but not really and only when we happened to be in the same place at the same time pattern for a few months. And all while I was dating other people until finally the week before I convinced Todd to fall in love with me, I said terrible things to this slightly more than friend and we parted badly. We definitely needed to part, but I didn't need to be quite so harsh.

I hadn't contacted him after that. Even to let him know I was getting married. So these flowers were his way of 6 months later, reaching back out. Todd snickered and told me I should probably go call the poor guy.

So, I went into the computer desk where the phone was and placed a very awkward call. "Hey, thanks for the flowers, they're lovely, btw I'm married now!"

Happily, the birthday bouquet of 2014 wasn't nearly as complicated as the bouquet of 1999. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

"Nothing but blue skies!"

There are many wonderful things about living in Columbus, Ohio.  It is a fantastic place to raise a family.  Housing is affordable, our town is delightful, we have great infrastructure, nearly everything is family friendly, and the ice cream is amazing.  That being said, there is a major draw back.  I've mentioned it before.  For roughly 5 months out of the year, we barely see the sun.  It's there, trying so hard shine a little feeble light on us through the clouds.  But generally, our skies look like the above picture.  A cement gray for the entire winter.  It wears on the soul after awhile.

My daughter, who was born here and has never lived anywhere else, accepts that this is as it should be.  Of COURSE you're not supposed to see the sun in the winter!  Silly Mom for thinking otherwise!  I didn't realize how much this was a part of her life until she started crying in the car today when we were driving home, "Mom!  Where are the clouds?? Why are all the clouds gone?? Why is the sky only blue??"

I wanted to cry, too, that my girl thinks of a bright blue sky in the winter as "wrong".   

For me it is a gift.  A reminder that spring will come again.  The cement gray skies will be mostly banished until next November and I'll need to drink up all the vitamin D I possibly can.  I know Lilyanna will be happy when it comes, too, but for right now it's freaking the poor girl out.

Pre-crying over the blue sky.
Proof that it's possible, though not likely, to see a blue sky in Columbus in February.

Friday, January 31, 2014

A Month of Books (January)

This month my kids had 5 snow/cold days off from school, 3 previously scheduled days off, a scheduled late start and a delayed opening.  We had a lot of together time.  And while we were able to have fun together, the fun was predicated on chores.  If they had a day off from school, I handed them a list of chores to do before they could really have a day off.  I'm mean like that.  But frankly, all the together time after winter break was A LOT of together time.

Because of this, I read both more and less.  More at one sitting, but it felt like fewer books overall.  When I did sit and read, I devoured.  For the first time in a long time, I was reading entire books in a day.  Escapism, anyone?


It took me 13 months, not 12, but I finished reading the Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price in a year-ish!!  (Or a baker's dozen of months...)

What did I get from speed reading my way through?  It's a good question, because I certainly wasn't studying the scriptures.

 Because of how fast I was going, I was much better able to see and track the pride cycle, and also the linear story line in the Old Testament. The rises and falls of the Israelites were much more tragic because of how quickly I was seeing them go by.

I will confess that speed reading through the New Testament almost killed me.  Because I didn't have time to savor and ponder the words, I realized how much of the New Testament is the same thing repeated over and over and over again.  Although, rushing through Paul's writings made me dislike him less, so that's something.

When I was in college I took 2 years to read the Doctrine and Covenants.  I took 2 months this time.  I believe there is a happy medium somewhere in between. Although, because we visited Nauvoo, IL and Carthage Jail this summer I had a much easier time visualizing some of the sections that were written during that portion of church history.

I've read all of these books before, but while doing this challenge, I also came to realize that not as many people as I would have thought have.  That's bizarre to me.  If you claim to believe or not believe in something, you've got to know what you're talking about.  I don't think you need to be able to quote chapter and verse, but at least know generally the wheres and whys.  Or know the scriptures well enough to have a book that speaks to you most or one that you would rather stab yourself with a fork than have to read again.  (Todd says Leviticus. I say Numbers.)

Anyway, I'm glad I did it. But now I'm ready to slow down and study.  I think I'm going to use this book:

It's set up a bit like a text book and there are lots of opportunities to stop and read the scriptures where the specific stories are coming from or where the author draws her conclusions from.  I'm looking forward to a less frantic pace.

One thing I learned all over again, though, was how for me taking time out of my day to spend with scriptures helps the rest of my day feel more focused.