Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Getting (rather than smashing) their Christmas spirit

Yesterday, I had a challenging morning. The lights had to be hung from the front porch (our porch light is irreparably damaged and I am using Christmas lights as a way to make sure guests don't kill themselves as they make their way to our door) and other assorted things needed doing before the arrival of our honored guests, Jean Pierre and Marie-Helene. Things didn't exactly go according to plan. There are not enough strings of lights working (though they did when plugged in inside) to make it around the porch; I was having technical difficulties with our curtain rod; and when I moved the guest bed while putting on the sheets, I disturbed the FLOR, which then caused a chain reaction of FLOR buckling throughout the room! FLOR is great, just maybe not over carpeting.

In the midst of this, the kids decided to get some Christmas spirit. Gillen went out and cut down a Charlie Brown Christmas Tree (we weren't going to have a tree this year as we won't be here), and Jesse asked for some paper to write what may be the last letter that is ever written to Santa in our immediate family.

Looking back, this should have inspired me to get out the Johnny Mathis Christmas CD, make some hot cocoa and hug them both, while laughing, "ho ho ho." Instead, I responded like Scrooge to Gillen's constant need for help finding working lights and favorite ornaments. And I definitely didn't breathe first before commenting on Jesse's announcement that he was asking Santa for a Wii. I had FLOR to fix, and a shower to take, and a casserole to make and a toilet to give one last clean before their arrival, any minute... In the end, I killed my demon and stifled my need for the house and food to be ready (though I did clean the toilet:). Gillen succeeded in decorating his tree and I helped Jesse write his letter, making sure that he threw in some smaller requests to go with the big Wii one, in case Santa doesn't come through. In response to this last bit, I was forced into yet more of the spirit. It seems Gillen wants to give Jesse the Wii. He said he knows how much it will mean to him and he refuses to let me (or Santa) split the price with him. Well then.

Later that night, the tiny tree did collapse, but not before I saved the ornaments from breaking. We are going to get another tree - I am hoping we can talk Gillen into a potted live plant. We forgot to put those all important porch Christmas lights on the timer and they shone brightly, all night - me awake worrying that they were shining into the guest room and keeping the guests awake, but not willing to go under the house in the middle of the night to get a ladder in order to be able to turn them off! As it turned out, everyone(but me)slept beautifully. Nobody tripped on the FLOR or cared about the strange lighting or resented waiting a bit for the dinner to be ready. Scrooge has officially been put down for the rest of the season, though I am looking forward to a good night's sleep tonight. ;)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Paper Possibilities

We finished hanging our paper chains today and then had all of these extra strips of luscious, cut patterned paper all over the table. I quickly came up with more paper crafts. The guys weren't as excited as I was at the prospect of working with paper again, but as soon as I started they found themselves drawn to the table for hours, while they were taking a break from the trampoline and game cube. This paper is that persuasive. Here's a sample (though my picture doesn't do it justice.) I gave up on getting a great picture of the paper chains. You'll just have to visit and see them in person.

We had learned on Friday, at the High Museum, how to make paper beads. You tightly wind thin, triangular pieces of paper around a dowel and then glue the ends down. The coolest part is that you can take this one step further and make them look like glass beads by rolling them on an embossing ink pad, coating them in embossing powder and then heating them with a heat gun (all of which I happily happen to have)to create a "glass" coating. Gillen loved this project and made two sets of beads. Here, he is rolling a bead on the dowel.

We listened to more of "Little Town on the Prairie" and I made some Christmas cards. I was in bliss.

Later, my paper passion still ignited, I continued - with an old Christmas origami kit that I remembered my dad giving the kids many years ago and that I was able to find. I created many cranes (tried a reindeer but it turned out to be too advanced for me, yet) while we watched "March of the Penguins". The cranes kind of look like the penguins. They need to be flying from fishing wire, or at least higher up, on a mantle.

I still haven't cleaned the table. So tomorrow holds yet more paper possibility. Though, we do have my father in law and his wife coming the next day so maybe I need to switch gears.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Art at night; crafty days

Atlanta's High Museum has an annual event every Friday after Thanksgiving, when they stay open much of the night. This is the second time that we went with the kids. I hope we go every year. This museum is even more fun for our kids when they are in their pajamas, and it's night. Plus, those who wore PJs got prizes - so the kids won us some travel mugs.

They look like such country mice, in this picture I took in the elevator. I guess it had been several weeks since they went in to the city for anything but soccer games.

Freezing (or choking?) outside of the entrance.

There was an area set up with a live model dressed as an Ancient Egyptian and Gillen wanted to sit and sketch him through three fifteen-minute sets. In the third pose, he got to see his face - much more challenging to draw;) Jesse, in the red footed pj's, is actually drawing his own "series of shapes". He says he prefers his own modern art style to drawing real people.

After taking an audio headphone guided tour of the ancient art Louvre exhibit (lots of Ancient Egyptian and Greek sculpture that was amazing), Gillen said that he wanted to "see those paintings that are painted with lots of small dots". So we looked for some pointillism and found a special Impressionist exhibit where Cezanne and Degas and other greats made us all forget about the pointillism. All but Jesse. Jesse's legs had given out by then. Footed pajamas don't give much support. But they sure were great, earlier in the night, for sliiiding through those rooms that were free of people, but filled with his favorite modern art (later clarifying note - he did slide slowly, briefly and with full awareness of being appropriate - I'm not in support of free reign in that environment.)

A museum guide wagged his very long finger up at Nicolas when he tried to carry the tired boy on his shoulders - so at the end of our visit, Jesse mostly lounged (old Roman in a toga, being fed grapes, style) on the benches. I talked to him about the paintings I liked. He glanced at a few while he yawned.

This is a very scrap-booky post, isn't it? I have a need to document our life once in a while. A need which I used to fulfill, for a very brief time, by scrapbooking. Now that I blog, all of that luscious paper (yes, I used to have a paper habit, and it wasn't always recycled either) is freed up for other things. So today, we turned scraps of that beautiful paper into more paper chains, to go with the one that we have had hanging in our dining room since last Christmas. It worked there. All year. Really, it did. It was there for all holidays and birthdays and for the day that I received the hair ornaments and had a party in my hair. It isn't just green and red. It is so much more than that! I'll have to take pictures of it, tomorrow.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving Day 2007- grateful for the farmers

I love this holiday - sitting around a big table with family and/or friends, sharing good food, wine and conversation. I am grateful for the food that comes from the hard work of two of those at the table - Nicolas and his mother, Helen. Here are some pictures of the farmers, getting to relax.

It was such a relaxed, fun preparation this year because all three guys helped me. I hadn't even asked; they just found things they wanted to do. Gillen went out in the rain (yes, finally rain!) and collected holly, yellow mums, and evergreen branches to decorate the table, adding turkey place cards from construction paper. I think it's been five years since we last made those together. It was a sweet addition. Jesse helped to make Apple Pie. And Nicolas - well, he ended up cooking a duck. I had asked him to pick up a rotisserie duck from a market in Atlanta that cooks them, as an alternative to my usual two day brined turkey tradition. Somehow, he missed the "rotisserie" part and I didn't realize until a few hours before we were going to eat. We had a little ham nugget too, and lots of sides so I thought we should just put the duck on hold but Nicolas rallied, looking up a recipe and then running to the farm to get turnips, thyme and parsley with which to braise the duck. So his duck was braised (pretty well actually) instead of cooked ;)

I hope you had a wonderful, stress-free day as well.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Gratitude, Day Four - This Moment

Because I am as contradictory as the next woman, I am as grateful for the here and now - this moment - as I am for the changing of the seasons. If only I could always really be there for the moment while it is happening.

In this moment, Jesse is jumping on the trampoline with his friend Logan, who spent the night last night. I can hear them squealing in delight, filled with joy to be with one another, and without their brothers - for the moment.

While drinking this sip of strong, locally roasted organic coffee, with cream, I take in the very wide, walnut(?) antique desk that is holding this mac laptop. The ivory terrycloth robe I'm wearing is warm, and newly washed. There are too many other things on this desk. This desk was my mom's. oops, could be going back to other moments..

My gratitude for the present is deep because I know how much it can change, in the next moment and way before the end of the season.

Almost two years ago (well, Philomena and Chris' daughter passed on two years ago this week), two friends of mine lost their daughters. They got me to get the gratitude even more.

Diana, one of the friends, created this card about gratitude that I have sitting on my hallway table for all to see as they enter the house. I love the reminding factor of this beautiful picture and the moment it will forever be:

They may be thinking about a former moment when they lost their father/husband. They could be looking ahead to other loss. It sure doesn't look like it. I feel pretty convinced that they are just fully tasting, breathing and feeling the falling snow, together - in that moment. Thanks, Diana, for letting me share this here.

Many, many moments (720 to be exact, so far) have occurred between the writing of this post and the publishing. I got so wrapped up in this moment that I found myself almost late to pick up my father, at a garage twenty minutes away, which meant I had to get out of that robe and into a car with the boys, in a "NY minute"; and before I knew it, many good moments had taken me away from the one I wanted to be continuing here. I loved that timeless moment this morning. May I notice them all more.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Gratitude, Day Three - Reframing

Today's gratitude came as a result of further de-cluttering. I took out all of the many board games on the living room shelves and we figured out which games could be passed along to younger friends and which should remain in our lives - rotated out, so they'll be noticed. The greatest part about this process is the rediscovery that happens. I love it when something old becomes new and exciting again, and when an old thrift store find becomes an absolute favorite.

Last month, I had been complaining to a friend that the once passionately loved board games, like our homemade Dino-bird-opoly, Clue and Life, had been completely usurped by game cube and computer games. But the other night, we sent the boys on a hunt for a full deck of playing cards and reintroduced them to Hearts and today, Jesse was once again excited about the old games and puzzles. They just needed to be seen newly framed, surrounded by some empty space. I think Jesse may have been trying to tell us this through his art. Jesse's creations always have lots of negative space. ;) Here's today's creation with rediscovered pattern blocks. That's it - finished.

Connecting through "Connect Four", with cookies and milk.

Jesse and the sun, both shining through.

A former favorite that has been re-framed this year for me - Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House series. We've listened to it on CDs from the library while we drive on and off all year. Through long drives, in traffic, seated in our comfortable car, we have experienced life on the prairie, in wagons, with loong day of endless chores, through the looong winter. Remember when Laura and Mary got an orange, a coin and a bit of Christmas candy in their stockings? Their tears and excitement were the definition of gratitude. It is so unexpected and wonderful that my boys love these books too.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Gratitude, Day Two - Unschooling

I am so grateful to John Holt (who planted the seed with his books when I was pregnant) and even more so to Sandra Dodd, Pam Sarooshian and the others who wrote on the Unschooling yahoo group list back in the years 2002-05. Their directness, and their commitment to hang in there while we new people resisted letting go of our beliefs about controls, helped to shift my views about parenting. My realizations continued through lurking on the AlwaysUnschooled list for a while, gleaning wisdom from other moms of young unschoolers - in particular from Danielle, who has great intuition about how to embody this type of learning. I'm grateful to have found this path. It was the right fit for our family.

This morning, as well as so many others, could have been so ugly without the learning I did on those lists (and through Rue Kream's book, Kelly Lovejoy's Live and Learn conferences, not to mention a recent visit from unschoolers :)

In a week, Nicolas' father and his father's wife are visiting us for five days. They are French and Belgian and have recently moved to Holland from Aix en Provence. They are worldly, elegant and used to a very full life that includes biking every day, yoga, fabulous food and coffee houses. We are so looking forward to seeing them, but are both thinking ahead - me to where the nearest, good coffee house might be and Nicolas to how the kids are going to behave at the table. Table manners always become a priority of his as their visits approach; as does a heightened awareness of our strewed learning materials, or what some would call clutter.

So this morning, we talked about all of this for a while and then Jesse agreed to help tackle the lego/playmobil area upstairs, just rearranging them a bit so that we could make a path and then even vacuum the rug. Gillen wanted nothing to do with this endeavor. This was a big role reversal on their part. But he did follow Jesse and I upstairs, glowering from beneath his nose-length bangs, where he rediscovered his farm playmobil and mechanical legos and decided he wanted to play. Without unschooling, there would have been a major power struggle. Not that we never have power struggles. But when I keep the learning I have done in the foreground, as I did this morning, chances are better to have a scene like the one below, rather than an unphotogenic one with yelling and/or legos being thrown at me, at Jesse or down the stairs.

While free to play, Gillen created a fun way to carry the legos and playmobil to baskets and to the sides of the space - with quickly assembled lego moving vans and his battery operated mechanical lego crane. It was very cool to watch and he felt huge satisfaction from the new space that he got to organize. Even if the space had remained a lego mosh pit I would have been so glad that he had gotten the chance to play with his crane's pulley and see just how much weight it could hold. More importantly, to me, I didn't make the state of the space more important than our relationship.

We went on to have a great afternoon at the park with friends. Gillen played equally well and enthusiastically with Aaron (his friend who goes to school and is out for Thanksgiving) as he did with his three-year-old good friend Jared. Earlier today, he brought a book on CD from the library to our 90-year-old neighbor and then talked about birds with her for a while. That's one of my favorite things about homeschooling - the lack of age segregation.

I'm grateful to you, if you have made it this far. Gratitude seems to make me go on a bit... I hope a more visual, less talkative moment of gratitude will hit me tomorrow.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Gratitude. Day One - "to every thing, there is a season"

Stephanie, my often inspiring friend, gave me this idea. Read her week of gratitude posts. They are wonderful. With her, I am going to emphasize the joy of Thanksgiving, before the commercial onslaught of Christmas (which it seems has already begun) by writing here, for several days, about a few of the many things for which I feel grateful.

Today, I feel grateful for seasons that, as the song says, "turn,turn,turn" - that everything changes and moves into a new stage or season. I love the season of the year that we are in right now - autumn, with its' reds and yellows appearing more boldly than they ever have since I moved to Georgia. I had been complaining about missing the leaves of the Northeast and then, the color happened, down here! This probably has something to do with the drought, doesn't it? But it sure is magnificent.

I am also grateful for those seasons of life that are not determined by moving closer or further from the sun, but by the revolution of our planet - by time moving forward. I have spent most moments of my 43 years in this life wishing to stop time, to seize this day, and keep the night and the unknown from changing what I know, and/or taking what I love.

But as I get older, I feel less grasping about time. I am starting to appreciate the impermanence - probably not enough, but more.

Sometimes it is extremely easy to embrace the end of a season. Today marks the last game of Gillen's Galaxy Soccer Team's season. It has been a long one. We have been getting together three to four times a week, since the beginning of August, for long practices and games, sometimes driving over two hours to get to a game. They played through summer's heat waves and then yesterday, at 8am, in frost. As I approached the field yesterday morning, the white grass and the breath stealing quality of the frozen air reminded me of the frozen ponds of Mass., where we used to play hockey.

So I welcome the end of this season, while being thankful for what it brought. Gillen experienced being teased for the first time and then got to experience the satisfaction of those who had been teasing him running to his side to support him when he was kicked by the worst offender. Watching him relate that story, with tears of pride and completion in his eyes, was powerful. He knows how much they respect him for the unusual way he responded to their meanness.

And yes, he learned a lot about soccer. He improved a lot and showed himself to be a talented, passionate player. But he may be ready to move on to another sport next season - gymnastics - for which my temperature-sensitive feet are enormously grateful.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Strong women; a few vegetables

My friend Graciela, who just visited us for a few days, is more than ten years older and wiser than I am and yet looks amazingly young and is so vital. Kind of like my mother in law, Helen, who has two businesses at the farm - the flowers and her many egg-laying chickens, while being a naturopath as well. They are a few of the many women I know who have seemingly limitless energy when it comes to hard work. Pioneer women. Me - I am either all-out, hyper as my young boys, steam coming out of my ears, blazing with power; or I am NOT. I really respect the powerful, yet graceful, ageless women that I know. Here are two:



One way to maintain strength (and joy) - eat baby turnips. My kids love them raw. But I think they are especially good when roasted (with beets, potatoes, peppers, garlic, olive oil and rosemary) at about 375 degrees for an hour. Mmmmm.

This bodacious Bok Choi was begging to be on my blog -

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

FLOR in the dining room

Before FLOR (not showing the close-ups of the stains, but imagine an assortment of scary, unappetizing brown ink blots, everywhere)


I like the FLOR. It was really easy to install and it looks great. I do have to say that the style that I picked as trim, the dark brown "bittersweet" one (more about the FLOR and styles here) is a hair magnet. After cutting it to fit, I read someone else's review online and they too had issues with this one. We have a great Miele vacuum cleaner (our only expensive appliance and it has been so worth it) that easily cleans it. But the other reviewer couldn't easily take up the lint with his vacuum. A giant lint brush would be key.

Also, we are laying other FLOR over a wall to wall carpet in the guest room and we are going to have to pull it up once again (we've laid it twice) due to buckling. I don't know if this is because of the rug, which is very flat, or due to our placement. I'm thinking it's the placement. We can't experiment with it any more as we have another guest coming for a few days, landing at the airport very soon. Graciela, an old friend who may just want to rearrange rug tiles, for fun. She is much better at this stuff than us! I am looking forward to seeing her, and not just because of her interior decorating talents.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

In the kitchen, at the fire ring, on the fields, ain't we got fun...

What a weekend. Mindy, who taught the belly dancing funshop at the unschooling conference (I posted about that here), came to visit us with her fabulous family this weekend. There was so much activity and laughter, and a seriously righteous amount of talking. Nicolas won't be asked to engage in conversation with me for a long time. I am feeling wonderfully conversation-satiated. The kids were all wishing that we were neighbors. It would be great. At least we live in the same state.

Lots of time was spent together cooking.
Sophie and Gillen made pancakes together this morning and then chocolate cake this afternoon. Alex made a soup with things he gathered at the farm yesterday. It was delicious. Turns out that jalapeƱos, cumin, bok choi, kale, cabbage, stock, tomatoes, potatoes, turnips and a bay leaf are an amazing combination. Nicolas and John, who came with his own head-lamp (and lots of good, British humor), grilled burgers made with local meat. And Max got inspired to make pickles out of our cucumbers. I found a recipe for him that only took an hour. I'll be using that one again. It was really good.

Gillen and Sophie following the directions to "hand mix" the cake batter. : )

The kids made a fire ring last night for s'mores and then played flashlight tag for hours.

We collected quartz crystals from the back fields at the farm yesterday, checked out the beaver pond there and played baseball today at a local field. The "Old Geezers" (we adults) couldn't quite beat our offspring, the "Flaming Birds". But we held our own.

Treasure hunting, under a crystal blue sky:

May we have many more weekends with these new friends.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Full House

My house is full of FLOR (well, two rooms). My fingers are filled with band-aids from cutting rugs for trim.

Many surfaces are filled with fall leaf bouquets from Gillen. There are heirloom tomatoes, squash, greens and roasting vegetables, fresh from the farm, in the kitchen.

I have pictures of all of this but my card reader won't work so they are stuck on the camera.

The most exciting part of this small house makeover has been the change in lighting. Just two new lamps and suddenly my old house is feeling so much more like my home. For a short time I studied lighting and thought about being a lighting designer. Light is so important. How did I stay so long in the dark? It feels warmer already and we don't even have the insulated curtains.

Soon, our home will be filled with visiting friends.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

What I can do, part two

Well, since not accomplishing sewing a few days ago, I have made up for it by doing the following:

1) Spending money on home improvement. Granted, it wasn't spent on materials to do the DIY thing. But it is for the well-being of all family members and guests. The just-opened boxes of "home movie/salsa", "morning coffee/organic blend" and "solid ground/bittersweet" (as trim for the last one) rug tiles from FLOR are making me swoon with joy and pace with impatience to have someone big around who can help me move furniture. Aren't those names enticing?

There are also new lamps to assemble tonight, new cushions, new place mats (Ikea was amazing!) and curtains coming in the mail.

2) Making Danielle smile. She passed along a "You Make Me Smile" award. That is so big. Not that she doesn't smile easily. ; ) Just that she started me blogging a few years ago in a funshop at the St. Louis unschooling conference and it feels like my teacher gave a nod of approval. Her blog makes me smile plenty. I will now pass it on to two new-to-me bloggers who have definitely both made me laugh. They are also both participating in the nanowrimo November novel-writing challenge and I want to encourage them. One is Alecto at Alecto's Ophelia and the other is Jessica, at Joyfully Learning.

3) I made Indian food for the first time and my kids loved it. Smelling turmeric, cloves, caraway seeds and an unfurling cinnamon stick together, and then seeing the lentils turn bright pink in my cast iron skillet was so colorful and warming. I plan to cook a lot more Indian this winter.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Cool Cats

Here is the most productive cool cat in our house at the moment. Gillen made that cool bright hat on his knitting loom over the past few days. I love it. I can see his face again when he wears it. He plans on making one in black now too.

He also made the chocolate cake he is holding.

Here is our wild cat Fracas, inhabiting the Backgammon board while Jesse and I took too long a break from our game today.

She has an aversion to cameras. Unfortunately she also has an aversion to her expensive organic cat food - well, she prefers the dog's food; and she has an aversion to litter boxes, so will continue to be our outdoor cat for now.

I did plan on posting about all that I can do, as a follow up to yesterday's post, but these two easily upstaged me.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

What I CAN do

Inspired by the arrival, starting next weekend, of five separate groups of friends and family over the next month or so, I started seeing my home this week, as I hadn't seen it since my sister's wedding two years ago (last time we had many people here). I noticed how cold our old drafty house is and realized that it may be a bit much to ask our friends and family to bring longunderwear in order to gather together in the living room. We are in Georgia after all. I noticed how I start to feel eye-strain after talking and looking at anyone for more than ten minutes in the living room at night - not much light in there. And I recognized our rugs, once again, for what they are. They may once have been a great deal at the Pottery Barn outlet but now there is no denying it anymore. They are dingy scrapbooks of what we have crafted and eaten for the past several years. So for the past week, I have done a lot of research. We ended up ordering rug tiles from FLOR; I'm getting lamps at IKEA this week; and I carried the borrowed Singer machine to the dining room table, along with its manual, in order to face down my sewing phobia once and for all and make curtains.

"If I can learn how to work this thing, I can do anything!" I boldly announced for all to hear, hoping to model getting over the fear of learning something new to my boys. In hindsight, I believe I should have taken a more quiet approach. After reading the manual four times, in order to learn how to get the right colored thread on the bobbin and then set the tension, I started to sweat. I decided that I couldn't go any further without a new empty bobbin so realized that this task needed to be put on hold, again, until I could get to a store. An hour later, another brilliant avoidance realization hit me. Insulated curtains mean sewing through lots of material. Looking up different needle and cloth possibilities on this machine, I was relieved to note that it can only handle medium-weight material.

YES! I will face down my sewing phobia, and thus be able to conquer anything... just with the help of a live person, and not today.

I researched insulated curtain options on the internet and may even be commissioning my sewing genius friend to make them for us.

So, for the rest of the sew-free day, I concentrated on what I can do well - make lists of things I need to do and take pictures of others doing things well.

Here is Gillen, dressed in his OLD, very small little league baseball pants and socks with his organic farmer shirt. He is compelled to put this outfit on before playing baseball in the back yard with Jesse. Every time. Even if they only have ten minutes or so to play before we have to go to soccer practice (for which he has to change). I so love this boy.

Here is Nicolas putting up a clothesline for me - something I have had on my list to do since the sticky notes list back in August.

I kind of like this dark picture of terra-cotta colors that I captured from the side porch. Squash are photogenic.

Now I am off to eat the gluten-free (so I can eat it without a rash!) cake that Gillen made for us and the squash soup that Nicolas made. Yes, I am that lucky. I will redeem myself, with better examples of what I can do, starting tomorrow. ;)

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Creativity in education

If anyone hasn't watched this TED video of Sir Ken Robinson, on education please take a few minutes and treat yourself to this guy. He is talking about how important creativity is in education and about how seriously we have missed the boat on this so far; that our educational system is good for creating university professors who live in their heads, and for teaching people to fear failure, and that's about it. I loved what he had to say. Plus, he is hilarious.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Singled Out

Gillen has never had trouble making friends. He attracts kids to him like bees to honey, is fair and kind (most of the time) and a natural leader. So being singled out at soccer practice, as the one that the other boys tease (a group of them, not all of them) has been a new experience for him. He told me about it last night, while we were driving home from practice. It was dark and he was behind me - perfect conditions for this boy to open up.

"They don't like me and it isn't about anything I did. I allowed the kids who asked to go in front of me [in the line-up to do soccer drills] to go ahead and then they called me a scaredy cat." There was also one more small incident.

My skin bristling, forgotten talons trying to push their way out of my fingers onto the steering wheel, I just said, "So what did you do?"

"I felt like that meant they didn't like me. But I didn't do anything."

I told him how wise I thought he was to realize that this was his feeling but that this might not really be what was happening. I tried to explain school yard politics - the need of a group to feel safe by being sheep and following their leader. I tried to convince him that the person they choose to tease is often just in the wrong place, that it is totally random. We talked about what it would be like for Gillen if he were in the school yard so often, how he might respond. And I brought up the one example that I have seen of Gillen singling out a kid in a hurtful way. It was just last night while trick or treating. A kid we didn't know who was dressed as a bull said to our group, "Don't call me a cow, I'm a bull." Kind of asking for it, but still.

Gillen waited for a few minutes and then said - quietly and with a tentative smile - "Cow."

Every time we saw this kid on our route, he amiably but loudly called him "cow", and soon others in out group were joining him.

I believe that he didn't get that he could be hurting the kid's feelings. But I told him that it was a possibility and that he needed to stop. And then, the next day, he got to see how it feels. Instant karma. ; )

We can't experience the sweetness of life without the dark side.

He may have learned something.

But I'm still going to have trouble cheering on those soccer boys (golden-haired, baby-faced facades hiding lots of need) with as much enthusiasm. Small talk with their parents will be even more challenging than it already was. And skipping two games next weekend so that we can have a whole weekend with visiting unschooling friends will be even easier.

I wish that I could protect my kids from the inevitable meanness in the world. But all I can do is hopefully not mess up their creation of enough self-worth that they can rise above the black rain when it falls.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Halloween recap and the decline of candy

Helen, Scott and their Mario/Luigi clad twins and daughter hosted a good old-fashioned Halloween party, just the way we like it. The highlights (for me) were the decorations (check out her handmade Halloween quilt and her cats and owls and other cool stuff on her blog), the company, and watching Mario, Luigi, Link, Harry Potter, a mummy and other cool characters jumping on the trampoline, riding the zip-line (especially fun after dark, once we returned from trick-or-treating) and swinging in the tree swings. Jesse went as Harry Potter and the costume suited him so well (he read all the books with me and then again on his own) that he is now living in the glasses. Gillen went as a skateboard dude, getting to ride the pavement between houses with surprising ease (not many good practice surfaces in our neighborhood).

The highlight for the kids - of course. : )

Gillen neatly organized his this morning - what was left of it. So many pretty colors. But I don't know how they can stand the taste. Give me boring brown chocolate any day. I'm not saying it has to be Belgian or Swiss (though they are mighty fine), just keep it chocolate brown. I love the Hundred Grand bars, Reeses cups, even black licorice. Our kids gave most of theirs' to Nicolas and I, but there are less of the chocolates to be had every year. Too many blue candies with names like "Nerd" spell the downfall of civilization, if you ask me(Gillen and Jesse, and I'm guessing their friends, would not agree:) Were the candy versions of nerds and airheads always here and I just didn't notice?

One more picture, to show that there was a frightening side to the night as well. Creative Claudia (mom to the well costumed, by her, "Link", the GA football fan/mummy and the little Pokemom character), as a baby slung on the back of a monster.