Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Trying to explain where we're going and who we will see...

"..and your cousin, Evie... Remember her?"

"No... I don 'member her. Can you membery her to me?"

"Well, let's see. You haven't seen her in a really long time. I think the last time you saw her was when we went to go pick up Aunt Susi and Violet, remember that? So they could live near us in Virginia? And then we drove a longlong time in the car... Remember?"

"No... why did we pick up Aunt Susi? Why did she come to our house?"

"Well, Uncle Ben was going farfar away to fight in a war, so we brought her and Violet here so we could keep them company and they wouldn't be lonely for him."


"Uncle Ben is a WORRIOR??"

"Well, yes, he's a soldier."

"Ooooooh... But..but... but why do they be lonely for him?"

"Wouldn't you be lonely if Daddy went farfar away for a longlong time?"

*long conversation about all the things he would miss Daddy for*

"But I don't be lonely for Daddy when he goes to work for a longlong time... *contemplative pause* But going away to a war is differnt."

"Yes, it is."

"Why is it differnt, Mama? Because he might not come back?"

"Yes. He might not come back."

Why, Mama?"

"Well, in a war he might get hurt... or killed."


"Not DADDY. He's da shtrongest worrior! He can cut off, like... three guys heads at da same time! He has sich a looong sword!"

If only I could remember more of the conversation. I wish I could just follow him around all day with a recorder...

Sunday, August 28, 2011

When I was very very young, I don't know how old exactly, Grandmom took us to some kind of Fair, or Festival, or some such thing and I got my first taste of the violin. There was a troupe there of singer/dancer/violinists who sang and danced and played all together, all at the same time and it blew. my. mind. I have never forgotten that concert and at that moment I decided I HAD to play that instrument.

Grandmom promised me that one day she would give me one of her violins. One day, when I was old enough, and good enough, she'd let me choose one. She caught me leaving my case upside down a few times and would shake her head and predict that I'd never earn that violin. But one day, one Christmas, I believe, I had finally done it-- earned that violin-- despite my careless ways. She took me up to the spare room and pulled out three cases. They were in pretty bad disrepair, but the one that caught my eye had a story that would have intrigued anyone.

According to her, she caught the eye of an old German dude when she was in her teens. He had a luthier's workshop in a cave somewhere in the hills. He made her a violin as a gift.


I have no idea if that story is really accurate, or not. Embellishment in the name of a good story is a family trait. But who cares? As far as I'm concerned, my violin was made in a cave in the PA hills by an old German dude who had a crush on my grandmother.

What more could you want?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

One time...

... my sister and I, outraged over some perceived injustice from our parents, decided to run away from home. We drew a map of the route to our cousins' house, convinced they would hide us from the grownups and we'd conspire together to get "Out West". We stuffed the map and various and sundry necessary items (probably some pilfered snacks) into the denim knapsacks Mom had made us. The ones with the metal snaps Pop-pop installed at his Shop. Then we set off down the road.

Our house was situated across the street from my grandparents' house. You could look out our front door and into theirs-- although it was a decent distance away. Across a very busy road. A major highway, actually. Loud, fast and busy. Very loud.

And yet, we were still able to clearly hear...


Grandmom, standing on her porch, phone in hand already calling Mom, the long curly, old-fashioned cord wrapped around her legs and trailing into the house behind her,


And we skedaddled, hightailed it, skat-skit-lickety-splitfastasyoucan into the back yard and hid in the pine trees by the chicken house.

I will draw a veil over the rest of the afternoon for the sake of my adult dignity.

In retrospect, Grandmom probably saved our lives that day. If that's not to dramatic to say out loud....

Friday, August 26, 2011

In Memoriam

From the time I was about five till I was about eleven we lived across the street from my maternal grandparents. We were also within 45 min (I believe) of my mother's entire family-- about ten cousins, or so, and counting... It was an idyllic period of my childhood.

Grandmom taught us how to make a snow fort and the excitement of getting to actually throw stuff at grownups was only slightly dimmed by what lousy shots we were. Grandmom would laugh when she'd catch us off guard and nip a handful of snow right down the back of our snowsuits...

"Grandmooo--ooom, ooowwww!! That hurts, it's SO cold!"

And she would laugh and laugh. She helped us make a snowman and we filled both our yards with snow angels.

She and Pop-pop taught us how to hold a bat and throw a ball. They played soccer with us and babysat us. Grandmom put the fear of God into us about tearing leaves off her plants to use for our mud soup, but we did it any way. The thrill of evasion was irresistible.

She taught us awesome words that our parents vaguely disaproved of. Words like "nincompoop" and "dipstick" and "darnit." She said "darnit" a lot. Especially when she'd catch us climbing up her Japanese Cherry Tree, which, I was personally convinced, came straight from Japan and was therefore irreplaceable.

"Darnit! You kids get down outta that Japanese Cherry Tree!! You're gonna kill it! Git. Outta. There. NOW."

Grandmom played the fiddle and yodeled for a cowboy band called "Jeannie and the Sundance Prairie Rider Boys". (or something like that... I was pretty little and my memory isn't what it used to be). I have actually heard her yodel in person, so I know this is true. Somewhere there exists an actual recording-- an LP, perhaps? of the band, complete with Grandmom yodeling and fiddling. I have this picture of her in her cowgirl get-up, hat and all, perched on a white fence, grinning into the camera. She was beautiful.

My mother looks just like her.

I look a lot like my mother.

And I play Grandmom's violin.

My grandmother passed away yesterday, after several long years of struggling with Alzheimers. I am sharing my memories of her here as they come to mind...

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

David and Goliath FAIL

Judah walks into the kitchen this morning, accompanied by distant wails from Jamie.

"Mama, Jamie doesn't like to play Slingshot..." he says, shaking his head mournfully.

"Oh really? Judah, did you shoot a rubber band at your baby brother?"

"Oh no! No, no, no. Tha's not how you play slingshot."

"Well, how do you play slingshot?" I walk into Jamie's room. He's sitting up in bed with a bright red welt on his forehead.

"You...you.... you jis frow stuff direckly at duh other person's forehead. Direckly." He pats his fist on his own forehead for emphasis.

"Judah! How many times did you throw toys at Jamie's head??"

"Oh... free... maybe four times?"


"Judah, you may not play Slingshot with Jamie."

"Ok, den. I'll jis play wif Daddy instead."


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Look what we did today!

The other night, Sofi and I watched this. Then we got inspired to make these. And today....


They were awesomely delicious!

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Real School; Day Two

Today was Sofi's second day of Real School. This means we were off the "first day high" and down to the nitty-gritty of what Real School actually is and how it compares to the first three grades at home, where (according to her nostalgic re-writing of history) any time we feel like it, we just take the day off school and watch movies and eat cookies. Or something like that.

Let's just say that at TGS they never take the day off to watch movies and therefore they suffer by comparison. She was bawling her head off within fifteen minutes of walking in the door. She hates school, she never wants to go back, she wants to homeschool again, she doesn't know any of the other girl's and she'll never learn all the different ways they do stuff.

At that point, being Me, a piece of me died inside and I vowed to myself never to make her go back. She's my little girl, my sidekick, my buddy for the last eight years and no one can take that away from me.

The more Adult side of me managed to keep all this from pouring out of my mouth, as I patted/kissed/cuddled. Judah joined in with the patting/kissing/cuddling and also with the crying-- he's such a tender-hearted little thing and hates to see Sofi or Jamie cry. Then Jamie, not to be outdone, began to protest in his highchair (I discovered later that although I had fixed his food, and actually brought it to the table, I had neglected to put it on his tray. So he was stuck there, starving to death, with food literally inches from his face.)

Count it out. That's three out of three crying within fifteen minutes of walking in the door this evening.

I sent J an SOS chat:

Come home now. Three simultaneous meltdowns in progress. I need you.

I gave Jamie his food. I gave Sofi a cookie. I held Judah on my lap. What else could I do?

This is really hard for me. I miss her. I miss having that spark of almost-adult conversation in my day. I miss watching her relationship with Judah-- that most precious gift that so long eluded us. I miss her sweet interactions with Jamie. I miss her helpful hands.

But I know at some point I have to stop depending on her so much. She has to grow more and more independent of me. She has to be 'Sofi', not 'Mommy's little girl'. She needs to make friends with her peers, and with other adults, too. She needs other influences in her life, other manifestations of authority, other opinions, other standards. She needs to gradually learn to stand on her own two feet.

It's going to be hard for both of us.

PS. By bedtime she was feeling much more positive about school and I think we managed to (with J's ever-practical assistance) iron out some of the difficulties and solve some problems. We'll see it goes tomorrow.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Jamie, Ten Months Old (late again)

Now that Jamie is getting mobile, he has all sorts of fun games to play with Sofi and Judah!

He loves bouncing on the exercise ball with Sofi, and comes "running" every time she sits down on it:

Judah is teaching him to ride a bike! Normal Rockwell, eat your heart out!

Do we not have the cutest kids EVER???

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A little reputation repair

Poor Jamie. I realized that all my griping about his nighttime wakings has given everyone a wrong impression of him. I realized this yesterday morning when he had a hard time settling down for his morning nap and I started having flashbacks to Judah's and Sofi's babyhood. Judah had chronic nap issues for at least the first year. So did Sofi. Oh my goodness, the hours I spent tiptoeing around, afraid to breathe too loudly lest I wake the monster. The grey hairs that sprouted as I stressed over arranging my day to protect the Perfect Moment-- the moment during which Jude would actually fall asleep. Any earlier, any later and our nap was toast. The standing riiiight outside Sofi's cracked-open door so I could swoop in-- the disciplining angel-- the moment her tiny feet hit the floor. The over-whelming despair at the sound of a train whistle going off, just in the moment I opened the bedroom door to walk out. The chasing them around the park or yard to ensure an properly tired child by naptime.

Oh my. Yes.

Jamie, on the other hand. The number of naps he's skipped of his own volition, I could probably count on my two hands. In his whole life. There was one bad-ish patch in there when he was about six months old. We had some nap troubles for about one? maybe two? weeks, and then we were right back to our normal, peaceful routine.

In addition to pretty much napping by the clock, Jamie is also one of those few-and-far-between children who doesn't seem very much affected by the loss of a nap. Sofi and Jude were unbearably grouchy if a nap was even shortened, say, to get to church on time, or extend a shopping trip, or a playdate. Jamie, however, is pretty much just his normal cheerful self, despite only 20 minutes (or none!) of sleep.

Also! He doesn't take days (literally, days) to return to a normal schedule after a disruption, like the other two did. He might completely miss his morning nap one day, and the next day he'll go down without a whimper and sleep his normal 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

We have tested this pretty much to the max. For example, three day-long beach trips, where Jamie takes a "nap" in the van (45 min, max) on the way there, and then sleeps another hour in the van on the way back after dinner. And the whole day long, he was pretty much his normal self. Not kidding. We've also wakened him every Sunday, a full half hour to 45 min before his normal wake time, to get to church "on time." And on Monday morning, he's right back to his usual 2 hour nap. No sweat.

This may not seem all that significant to you, but in our family of not-great-sleepers, it certainly is. Let me tell you, I would have rather poked my eyes out with a blunt fork than ever take Sofi or Judah on a no-nap day trip.

And even with all his night-wakings, he very rarely does anything more than ten minutes of nursing and passes right out again. A handful of times, we've done some pacing and rocking and tearing our hair out-- but not much.

So, all in all, ten months old and still nursing at night notwithstanding, Jamie really is our best sleeper so far.

Let the record stand corrected.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Things I love

As I nursed Jamie this morning before his morning nap, his usual frantic gasping, "aheh, eheh, ehummm" and grabbing fistfuls of flesh with both hands to shove the breast into his mouth ASAP! followed by that unmistakeable grooooansiiiigh of contentment, struck me as more comical than usual. I started to giggle and then laugh outright.

He looked up quizzically, sideways, cutting his eyes toward my face, "Whaaaa..?"

And then, catching the humor, a little grin tugs at the corners of his mouth, bulging the chubby cheeks outwards, milk begins to dribble.

I laugh again, he starts to chuckle, the milk dribbles. His bright eyes, full of fun, sparkle up at me and we laugh and laugh and laugh...

Moments like those make up for it all.

Monday, August 8, 2011

How clean is YOUR house?

I've often wondered over the years how other women keep house. I only have my mother's habits as a guide (at least, the only one I'm conscious of) and apparently my memories are very vague and colored with teenaged inattention to detail. I've concluded this because what I remember is mostly that our house was almost always perfectly spotless and that we (children) were required to do a ridiculous amount of slave labor on a DAILY basis to maintain this impossible and unnecessary standard of cleanliness.

Now that my children are getting older and participating more in the slave labor work of keeping house, I have realized that most likely this memory of mine is... let's say... biased, and mercifully draw the veil on my 14-year-old immaturity.

My routine (based loosely on the way my mom always did it) is:

Daily-- the house and decks are tidied at the end of the day before J gets home from work, the dining and kitchen floors are vacuumed and the dishes are washed before I go to bed.

Every-Other Day-- The kitchen and dining floors are mopped and the bathroom is "wiped down" (ei; counter-tops, toilet, mirrors)

Weekly-- Every Saturday, in preparation for the Sabbath, we do major yard work (mowing, weeding, raking, whatever is needed) and clean the whole house-- dusting, mopping (we have laminate floors, so everything gets mopped), bathrooms, garage. My goal is to spend all day Sunday sitting around in a clean house, enjoying the smell of lemon oil and not making anyone do anything.

Now, the real reason I'm asking is to reassure myself that this is an adequate schedule and that the fact that my house rarely (if ever) actually looks as if it receives this kind of regular care is due to the "time of life" in which we currently find ourselves. That is, can I blame the perpetually untidy and crumb-laden state of my house on the kids, and not on my own inadequacies as a housewife?

In addition, I'm wondering if this clean-the-whole-house thing that eats up our entire Saturday is really the most efficient way to do things. The thing is, I can't think of any other way to actually have a Clean House (all at once), since the kids... well... live here. If I didn't do it all in one day, it would never feel like a Clean House.

I'd like to hear y'all's routines and/or suggestions and (obviously) reassurances that you've seen my house (or know me well) and I am, indeed, a more than adequate housewife.

And please, don't anyone mention Fly Lady. I might scream.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Jamie versus Judah: Or, Why My Hair is Turning White Even Though I'm Only 32

Jamie is very different from Judah. Very different. I think I may have mentioned this before? In addition to walking four months earlier, refusing to learn the signs we taught Judah at eight months, trying to eat thumbtacks, paint and bugs, and all around giving us a run for our money, this is a perfect example of the most recent development in strength and determination to get his own way.

Remember this cute elephant towel? Someone gave it Judah when he was born. I think it's adorable and I love it-- the babies who've worn it? Not so much. Every time we put it on Jude, he made pretty much that same face.

I've been wanting to get a similar picture of Jamie wearing the same towel, with the same expression on his face.

But. The problem is...

When we put the towel on Jamie, he doesn't simply make a disgusted face, vocalize his disapproval and wait for us to take it off. Ah, no. Jamie rips it off his head with both hands (despite my attempts to restrain him), screams a battle cry of rage, lights it on fire and stomps it into ashes.

For realz.

Monday, August 1, 2011


1) There is still an entire room in our house with no furniture in it. None. Nada. Nothing. It's completely empty. Except for a laundry basket full of dirty laundry and Judah's dress shirt, which he keeps forgetting to put away.

2) Jamie only walks when a) he feels like it, and b) no one is watching, or c) he's not supposed to touch whatever it is he's walking towards. So-- no video. Yet. I've been practicing sneaking up on him. We'll see what transpires.

3) I have admitted to myself that I do not have the money to buy nice furniture, so bullet 1 is the status quo until I get around to re-upholstering the chairs I bought for a song today at Goodwill.

4) It's supposed to be a "no media" summer-- no movies or computer games for the kids till Sept. Ask me how well we're enforcing that. On second thought, don't ask.

5) We desperately need rain.

6) J went back to school today-- two weeks of teacher training before class starts. All I can think about is how much work on the house and yards we didn't get finished and now we won't be able to get to it till Christmas break.

7) Every time I try to write a blog post, someone needs me about halfway through. Today, for example, I wrote 1-6 above, in the morning. It's now nearly 10:00 pm as I finish and post a totally random collection of bullet points, that at some point had some sort of connection to one another that I've now forgotten...