Friday, June 27, 2008

Thanks A Lot

I would like to thank the citizens of Whitefield for voting against the proposed school budget last Monday. Your action opens the door for turning the school to a more useful purpose, like a factory. Why should our cheap plastic crap be made in China when it can be manufactured here in our town by our own children?

I especially want to thank the parents who did not turn out to vote. Your children will make excellent workers in our sweat shop. There they will no longer waste time on nonsense like reading, math, art and music, but instead learn useful life skills like pushing the buttons on the injection-molded plastic machine. For their labor they will be rewarded commensurate with their colleagues in Viet Nam, Cambodia and El Salvador--how does 40 cents a week sound? With all that extra income in addition to the taxes you’re saving by not funding the school, you will be able to buy all the inflatable snow globes and other useful commodities the school/sweatshop can produce.

With this far-sighted vote, Whitefield has demonstrated its commitment to positioning itself as a leader among third-world countries. Our children will thank us.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A Great Kid

I have never been able to take a compliment. Usually I shrug it off with an "aw, shucks," or point out someone else who I think deserves the compliment more than me, or I counter it with some self-deprecating remark. Yes, humility is a good thing, but a little grace wouldn't hurt either.

This disinclination for praise carried over to compliments on my kids. I was always annoyed when someone would tell my mom how cute one of my younger siblings was and she would say, "thank you." It's not like they were complimenting her--or were they? I haven't come up with a better response, and often follow with a lame joke like, "Yeah, that's why they're still alive." Why can't I just say, "Yes! I have beautiful children. Thank you for noticing." Would that be rude or haughty or, worst of all, braggy?

When M started daycare and then preschool and school, his teachers would always exclaim about how good he was and I would find myself saying, "Yeah, he saves all his rottenness for home." Because he was (and still is) good as gold around other people, but at home I find myself tearing my hair out because he Just. Doesn't. Listen. And though I can understand that he needs that down time, after being so good all day, to just run wild and ignore me and do the opposite of what I ask, it still drives me Stark. Raving. Mad.

Today was awards day at M's school...I continue to have mixed feelings about things like grades and other "rewards," yet I couldn't help feeling a little giddy sitting there on the metal folding chair, watching each kindergartner go up to get his or her certificate, then the first graders, including M who got "Outstanding Achievement in Reading." Then I felt anxious as they went through the second graders--would M get recognized for second grade math?--the teacher called him up last and called him a "shining star." Then he got the one first grade award for outstanding achievement in music, and PE and art. At this point M held up his hand to me, fingers splayed, to let me know he'd gotten five awards.

As they began announcing the Wild Cat Award for all-around great kid, I almost hoped he wouldn't get it--worrying about how he might be perceived by the other kids (and yes, I admit it, the other parents) as the goody-goody or the teacher's pet, although the idea of the award is to single out the child who is helpful and welcoming and friendly with the other children. After he went up and got his red T-shirt and gold medal and the kids started to file out of the gym, he came over to show me all of his awards. "I got more than anyone else," he said and I said, "You did great," trying to de-emphasise the comparison to others.

As I walked out of the gym I passed the music teacher, who said, "It looks like M had a good year. He cleaned up. But he deserves it."

"Yeah, he's a good kid," I replied. And he is.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Birthday Month Wind-Down

We're finally done with birthday season--OK we've been done for a couple of weeks, but it's taken me this long to recover--with the exception of writing thank-you notes. I thought I'd take this opportunity to de-brief on the buy-nothing birthdays x three.

For M, who turned 7:

A book and a DVD that I had ordered for Christmas but that didn't arrive until January.

A nature backpack and colored pencil roll (I had planned on making it for Christmas, but ran out of time--I had already bought the sketchbook and field guide last year and the cute little colored pencils were something I bought a long time ago and had used maybe once; the fabric, thread and ribbon all came from my bins).

An embroidered pirate picture, inspired by Soulemama. I found the pictures that M drew in the recycling bin, traced them on muslin and embroidered. This was such a fun project to do--I loved tracing over and then sewing over the lines M drew; it was so amazing to see what kind of detail he had included in this drawing (which was originally on notebook paper). I did buy the pirate material for the framing (but the muslin, ribbon, batting and dowel were all in the scrap bin).

A ribbon bulletin board for M's "office." I made it with a flattened cardboard box rather than cork or homasote (recycling!), but I bought the cool space material. I got the ribbons at Margaret Smith--a business that made handbags locally but just went out of business, due to overseas competition. They sold out a lot of notions and I came home with a huge bag of ribbon, rick-rack, buttons, elastic and zippers (does that count as new or used? I'm not sure).

C bought him a tackle box and some fishing accessories (C does not have to abide by the buy-nothing rules; it's just me) and I got him a fishing vest at a consignment store.

For birthday party favors, I made little drawstring bags and the kids went on a quest in our woods and loaded up with wooden acorns, apples and eggs and chocolate Earth balls and yummy pops...Oh and I also made brownies (using No-Pudge Fudge mix!) for the party because I was sick of baking cakes. I think it has to have been my most brilliant idea ever--you don't need plates or forks or cupcake cups and they are fast and easy to make and almost every kids ate his/hers!

For E and Z, who turned 3:

Magic Cabin babies. This is another project I had planned for Christmas but never got around to, so I already had the materials. My friend AA and I spent about four or five weekend afternoons just putting together the bodies (she made one for her daughter), and then we still had to make clothes and hair. At the last minute I decided to make sleeping bags for our camping trip, inspired by Emma Bradshaw. E and Z mostly like to strip off their clothes. E will sleep with his, but Z launches his across the room. He said he was going to "put it outside animals eat it," which is surprisingly similar to the sentiment M had about the prospect of a younger sibling (or two).

Superhero capes. I got this idea, which I thought was great, from Sara and I found a pattern, which is so clever, at Puking Pastilles, and whipped out five of them (one each for E and Z and three more for little friends) in one night. They turned out so cute...but E and Z refuse to wear them! So much for so much.

For all three of them, plus a little friend, who also celebrated her birthday on our camping trip: Birthday crowns, inspired by Soulemama. I also made two more (not pictured) for the other set of twins who joined us on the trip and I have been delighted to learn that they wear them all the time.

In the end, it was not completely "buy nothing"--I bought materials and I'm not sure how to count those items I had alread purchased last year--but it was "buy a whole lot less," which I feel much better about. Of course they all three got tons and tons of other presents from friends and family so none of them seemed to feel deprived (even though I had the in-laws get them rain coats instead of toys). I had fun making stuff, but it was a little exhausting--I stayed up late nearly every night last month cutting or sewing or gluing--and I never took the time to reflect on the fact that my babies are THREE and SEVEN already. Now I know the answer to "how does she do it all?" when I read a craft-blog: she doesn't sleep, she neglects her kids, her mind wanders at work to what she needs to get done at home, her house is a disaster and she might just be a ticking time bomb.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Frolic and Scrub

I took E and Z to the Fiber Frolic this weekend to look at wooly mammals. They fell in love with the bunnies and an adorable baby goat. I fell in love with the border collies—I need a sheep dog to keep all these kids in line (unfortunately I don’t think the kids have the right herd mentality). We learned how to make felt balls and dyed wool with Kool-Aid (if you try this at home, use the unsweetened kind—we had some very happy ants frolicking in bright orange wool Sunday night).

I bought some wool roving and felting needles to try felting at home (this falls under the "supplies for making stuff" exemption) and this:

A broom corn pot scrubber. I noticed it after we watched the Shaker broom guy making brooms for a while. I’ve been wondering what I’d do after we ran out of plastic scrubbies—C washes dishes with a rag, but I prefer something more abrasive (now that we have a dishwasher, this is less of an issue). I did buy a package of Chore Boys after I used our last bit of steel wool to scrub melted plastic off the wood stove, but I didn’t feel good about it. So yes, this is a new purchase, but it is handmade (somewhat locally, when compared to China) and totally bio-degradable. It also gives of a pleasant hay-ey smell while you scrub a pot, which certainly beats that smoldery metallic S.O.S. Pad smell I remember from when I was a kid.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Sweet Dreams

I have a dream and this is it. You have to go look at the picture, because it’s perfect for our house, and the plans say I can build it with little or no woodworking experience and just a few simple tools. What’s that you say? Isn’t my husband a carpenter? Why yes he is, but he says, and I quote, “It’s so friggin’ ugly.” I should note that what we have going now—a queen-size mattress on the floor—is really a marvel of stylish d├ęcor and I’m truly amazed House Beautiful isn’t beating down my door just begging to photograph it.

I didn’t set out to thrust three children in one bed—it was a solution that just sort of found itself. When E and Z were barely one-and-a-half, they learned to climb out of (and into) the crib and would go in and out, in and out, until one day Z nose-dived onto the wood floor. I immediately dismantled the crib and replaced it with our “spare bed”—the queen-sized mattress—on the floor next to our bed. When M started asking if he could sleep in our room with his brothers, I figured, why not move them ALL to M’s room. So C carted M’s mattress—an old, nasty, mushy, springy thing—and box-spring—an even older and nastier thing that was about two inches smaller than the mattress all the way around—off to the dump and the boys have been sleeping three in a row ever since (except when they sleep three-, four-, or five-in-a-row in my room).

I figure, if it was good enough for the Ingalls, it’s good enough for us. Besides, I think it’s somewhat outrageous that the average house size has grown more than twofold in my lifetime, just because we are horrified by the idea of our children actually having to share space. However, a year-and-a-half down the road, I think it’s about time M had his own bed—somewhere he can spread out his Pokemon cards and read his comic books and not be clobbered by his two brothers. I asked him a few days ago if he was ready for his own bed and he said yes, he was. I know from experience of having slept on both the top and bottom of a bunk bed that they are a pain in the patootie to make, but with three boys in a 12x16 foot bedroom it seems the only logical option. I thought I could enlist him in the effort to sway C in favor of the triple-decker-bunkbed, but when I showed him the picture, he said he’d be afraid he’d fall off the top (I’m actually afraid his brothers would leap off the top). So I guess it’s be just me and my skill saw and my 7th grade shop experience. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

P.S. A new Capital Walks post is up.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Wouldn't it be great

to have a nursemaid? You know, one of those spinster types who sleeps in the nursery with the children, so that they can crawl in bed with her if they have trouble sleeping, and who gets them up in the morning and dressed and shuttles them off to their lessons (maybe we need a governess as well) and feeds them tea and bathes them and puts them in their dressing gowns and takes them down to the drawing room for a peck on the cheek from Mummy and Pupah before retiring to the nursery for the night. She'd have to be a Mary Poppins sort of nursemaid, all spoonfuls of sugar and ship-shape, so I wouldn't feel guilty letting her take care of them 99.99999% of their childhoods, but she wouldn't be allowed to fly away under her umbrella whenever the wind changed or the drunken chimney sweeps got too much for her. I think, to round out the image, we'd also need a cook and a housekeeper, just to keep the household running proper. I don't want to be greedy...I'm not asking for footmen or butlers or chamber maids. Just someone else to prepare meals and dispense bandaids and hover while firstborn dilly-dallies over his morning and evening ablutions and read stories and snap her fingers to clean up the toys. That's all, really, I don't ask much.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

No Coat Hangers

So I've been a neglectful blogger lately...but will hopefully connect having an idea and having time to post it the meantime read this short opinion piece in today's NYTimes about illegal abortions before Roe v's harrowing and painful to read but should be plastered over every so-called pro-lifer's desktop.
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