Friday, August 29, 2014

Chickens and Golf

Summer came and went!  Here are a few highlights, with a short Q and A for each photo.

1. What do chickens and golf have in common?  
Not much, you would say.  Except that our neighbor is a backyard chicken farmer who also happens to coach golf.  Claudio casually mentioned to him one day this summer that Clara was interested in learning how to play. He insisted that both girls attend the golf camp he runs each summer, free of charge, since we are his go-to chicken care takers when he goes on vacation.  How cool is that?  The girls had a fabulous time.  Clara missed week two because she was in Chile with Claudio, the lucky duck.   Let's hear it for bartering, or being friendly neighbors.  You never know what adventures may be in store!

2. Who are these hotties?  
Melanie, my dear college friend, came to visit while Claudio and Clara were away in Chile.  We had some much needed girl time.  This brave woman recently completed a degree in interior design, many years after receiving her undergraduate degree in art history.  She likes this painting by Claudio's Spanish friend and former colleague. 

3.  How's that book?  
We took Melanie to Princeton for some ice cream and window shopping.  Eva was drawn to this sculpture on Palmer Square.  As she was trying to discern the print on our character's page, I lamented, out loud, that I did not have my camera with me.  A kind young man, who happens to be a photographer, offered to take a photo and send it to me.  We have a joke in our family that my father has a habit of inviting strangers over to dinner.  Well, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.  I invited him and his girlfriend over for dinner and they will be coming next month, after their trip to Turkey, where he plans on shooting lots of photos.  

4.  Did you clean out any closets or otherwise complete an item on your "summer home improvement list"?  
Oh yes I did, thank you.  I overhauled Clara's sewing area behind the couch.  No more scraps sticking out of wicker baskets.  She hasn't asked where they've gone so I won't tell. 

5.  Was it a sweet return?
Clara and Claudio were in Chile for nearly a month.  Her best friend went along with us to pick them up at the airport and the reunion was more than touching.

6.  Daddy's little girl. Need I say more?

7.  Who are these crazy ladies?
Old school friends.  I mean, we're not old, we just have known each other, well, since about 6th grade.

8.  And these princesses?
Our children.  They played together like they were old friends too.  This only strengthens the bond we moms share.  Special note: See how that tiara keeps changing heads?

9.  More of the princesses.

10. More of the princesses

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Living with Crafters

The multicolored, plastic beveled beads are my favorite.  At least the sparkles do you the favor of announcing their presence.  A low swipe and a lob in to the plastic recycling basket below the kitchen sink marks the beginning of their new life cycle.  I'm slowly dumping the junk, but at least it's getting recycled, I think.  And then in a few hours, I repeat the process, the relative size remains the same, colors are even similar - brilliant hues of pink, purple red - this time it's round and plastic, a mini-rubber band intended for another bracelet, but it got left behind.  

Have you ever tired of hearing yourself mutter the same complaints?  It's relentless, the treadmill.  He asks me why I'm not more interested in putting in just a few moments of the day on the treadmill.  Why would I want to do that?  I'm already on one.  It keeps going, I can put myself in sync with the rhythm, or I can hop off, but it'll keep on going, keep on going, wuap, wuap, wuap, wuap.  

I wrote the above a few months ago.  Things have improved since then regarding "the stuff".  Can't wait to post pictures of our new look in the school room!  Stay tuned!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Moving Furniture - Repurposing what you already have (with "before" and "after" photos)

I know, I'd better be careful about what I say here.  Don't let your imagination run wild; I moved furniture  yesterday, with little actual participation from outside parties, and I must say, I'm rather pleased with the results. 

My goal was to establish a more user-friendly kitchen "central command" for our family calendar and messages. Up to now, the calendar has been buried under a pile of papers on my desk in the family room and deadlines and appointments have been nearly missed because we lacked a "long view" of upcoming events.  Our kitchen phone cupboard only accommodated what you see pictured, with outdated phone books and other papers stuffed inside it. Here I present my


I began with my grandmother Nou-Nou's chest of drawers, thinking it would do the job, and might give me more storage space as well. But I didn't even need to finish putting the drawers back to realize that it was just too large for the space, see below:

So then I started mentally walking through each room in our house to see if there was anything a little daintier.  "Ah, yes!  Clara's bedside table!" Well, it's not a bedside table, really, but a small set of drawers. Perfect!  However, Clara, the artist that she is, required some diplomacy.  She wasn't going to let go of her cute chest of drawers for a shabby chic telephone table with a large paint stain on the front.  No way. So we had a teachable moment in which she learned about the art of negotiation (as opposed to pouts and sighs).  I managed to sell her on our handsome front hall table - "Very cute, nice drawer for your notebooks, and spindly legs so that dust won't accumulate and exacerbate your allergies!" Here it is, newly set up in her room:

And then, before she changed her mind, I went about setting up my new "command central" in the kitchen.

AFTER PICTURE (version a):

I like the drawers.  They're already filled with pads of paper, pushpins, tape, sandwich bags and cloth food bags. However, a calendar just push pinned in to the wall is a recipe for frustration for small hands.  So I decided to add a bulletin board (which was gathering dust in our school room/exercise room), even if it is a little "busy".  All charm with no practical benefits is no charm, in the end. 

AFTER PICTURE (final version):

The flower painting is by a Chilean artist.
The bulletin board provides that firm surface for the calendar, and there's even space for the girls' artwork and a recipe print-out. Claudio said that the space invites you to write something.  In fact, Eva left me a note after I finished with the new look (sorry it's sideways, I'll have to fix it later).  I'm glad she approved:

I then got to work on the front hall.  My sleek and slender table was no longer; I would have to make do with the telephone cupboard.  I tried it out with an unusual sculpture we had in our bedroom. Claudio's opinion was that we could be featured in the book "Weird New Jersey" and the girls thought it looked medieval:

Back to the drawing board, keeping in mind Claudio's fondness for color and good cheer, as well as the problem of size.  I needed a small to mid-sized picture above it.  And then I thought of Eva's painting.  It still needs framing, it's on the large side, but it satisfies hubby's requirements and is welcoming. A Chilean ceramic plate featuring the hills of Claudio's beloved Valparaiso completes the look. And I present, shabby chic telephone cupboard cum front entrance cupboard:

Do you have a household project you've been putting off because you're not prepared to invest in new materials?  Start by looking at what you have with new eyes.  You might come up with something you really like both for its beauty and its functionality.  I would love to see your before and after photos!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Summer Fun?

Summertime.  At least in the northern hemisphere, it's supposed to mean warm weather, vacation, no school, fun times!

For the homeschool Mom, it's not a huge transition, cause we're with our kids 24/7 anyway. But right now, I'm beginning to think the grass is greener somewhere way far away. Heck, I'd even settle for around the corner. Summer camp could be the answer, except that it's not part of the family budget. 

Math was just painful with Eva this morning.  I decided that I wouldn't let all of the other seemingly pressing projects (piles of laundry, the dairy free pot de creme recipe I promised I'd make Clara for a dinner we're attending this evening, the phone calls and paperwork for Lucia's new school...) take precedence. Having let her do a lot of the work independently over the last week, I've found that she does a few problems per page, gets bored, and turns to the next.  For a math wiz, this would be an indication that she's mastered the material and is moving along at her own, very quick pace.  

But as you have probably surmised by the looks of this blog, we're artsy folk.  With the exception of Clara, math is just not our bag.  And so, in my overcompensation, we probably do more math than anything else. And I guess I frustrate my kids in the process. 

Then there's Lucia who takes two hours from wake up to homeschool sit down.  She's a teenager, after all, and I guess she'll figure it out in the Fall when classes start at 8 am.  In the meantime, I'm beginning to think that nagging/lecturing isn't the answer.  I just let her know that if she wants to progress this summer (math will be taken care of by summer school), she should let me know. Otherwise I'm just going to proceed without her.  Maybe this is the beginning of the process of letting go and allowing not just some other person, but an institution take over her education.  It's going to be an education for her and a learning process for me, I have no doubt. 

Some homeschool families take the summer off.  We don't.  Is that cruel?  Well, I think some structure to the day is useful.  Pure entertainment isn't good for anyone.  Claudio and I broke down and joined a pool, something we would never have done in the past.  But three months of fatigue and nausea producing humidity require some relief, and so we gave in.  The thought is that we will continue with math and history in the mornings, have our usual Chilean style dinner at lunch time, siesta, and then pool time after that. We'll see.  

PS - Eva just asked me if I'd like her to scrub the kitchen floor.  She brandished one of those scary tooth like bathtub scrub brushes.  I suggested the mop.  No, she wanted the scrub brush, and then the mop for round two.  Who cares if she uses a bathtub scrub brush, right?  If she's happy, I'm happy. What a sweet, perceptive child.  When all else fails, SCRUB I tell ya!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Eva's To-Do List

I just came across Eva's "to-do list", at the top of the pile of papers on her clipboard, perched on a mound of junk mail waiting to be shredded.  It has checked boxes to the left of each line. Looks like she had some success in completing her objectives:

X Play with L and E and C. 
X Pick out something for Mamorell Day!!
X Get New Rainbow loom bands!!
X Set out batheing soot
X Water The Plants!  Now!!
X Say Thank to L avry  Time I go there
X Get dresst
X Eat Brecfist

Tell me about your to-do list.  Do you keep it on a clipboard?  On random scraps of paper? Or perhaps you have a purse-sized "little black book" where you jot down useful info like the name of an author you heard being interviewed on public radio, followed by a temporary to-do list? If you're super plugged in, you may have your core objectives filed away on your android. And if you're fortunate enough to still possess all of your marbles, you may not need a physical or virtual reminder; it's  all in your head and you simply cross off items with a long blink and a smile. 

Do you ever feel that your list is kind of like laundry?  I mean, while you're topping off someone's pile with that last pair of striped socks, another pair are being sullied.  That moment you've been waiting for, when you can make yourself a cool iced tea, pull out a magazine, and slowly page through to your heart's content? Not going to happen. 

Jesus Christ himself told us to become like little children in the below passage from Matthew:

He called a little child and had him stand among them.  And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  

                                                                                       Matthew 18:2

Maybe emulating children even applies to our adult to-do lists, whatever form they happen to come in.   Start with the right NOW!! item and go from there.  Play with family and friends, plan your outfits (even for recreation), enjoy a hobby, nurture a plant, express your appreciation to your friends when they invite you over, and don't forget to eat your breakfast.  Best make it a hearty one. You may need it so that you can put a capital X by each item on your list.   

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Polygamy? - When your kid's creativity isn't what you expect

Occasionally I'm struck down by a three day headache/migraine.  Of course "school" as we know it goes by the wayside, but to keep my conscience clean, I bark orders from my sick bed.  My hope is that in stark contrast to the way I feel, the girls' creativity will somehow shine through, without me. 

"Girls, it's Friday.  Time for a Friday Freewrite!  Write about anything you like.  It could be about the new chicks, the latest book you read...anything."  

Eva returned to my bedside to share her story with me.   I sunk my head a little deeper into my pillow and prepared for lift-off to Fairyland.  Here is where I ended up:

Wons upun a time there was 100 Poor outsiders and the leader of the outsiders was named Lucy-Ann but they calld her Boss. And there lived some famaly not far from the outsiders and in that famaly lived two wives and one guy and two teenagers girls.  One was Rose-Red and so nise to the Poor and the other was Spooky.  She was named That becous she was born on Halloween.  But one day Rose Red was walking. She notest the 100 Outsiders who were comPlaining! And then she said they Must be poor!  But she said it so loud thay thay coud here it.  And they were Quite SuPrist.  Woud you like someThing to eat she said. Yes!!!! becous whenever she was on a walk she had Food in her bag for the Poor and soon every one of them was her friend.  even Lucy-Ann.  But soon Spooky notest and skard them away.  Soon Rose-Red had to make a kamaflash House for them and she did so every time she plays with them outside!

Not sure if I had interpreted the "two wives and one guy" as the author intended, I asked Eva for some clarification.  Each Mom had a teenager, she explained.  And the guy had two wives.  I probed further. 

"Where did you get the idea about the two wives?"
"I didn't get it from anywhere, I just thought of it, " she said.

Hmm.  Well then.  I consider our benevolent heroine, co-wife with Spooky, builder of camouflage houses so she can play with the Poor without disturbing the social order.

Ideas germinate with the help of rich soil, fresh water and plenty of sun, right?  While I'm not a child psychologist and don't care to read too much into this, I think I'm going to reevaluate my addiction to true crime dramas that often feature love triangles.  Time to camouflage my Kindle!  For educational purposes only!