Monday, October 20, 2008

super heroes

I was writing with my students today - a lesson called "The Fantastical Binominal" - and we were writing about super heroes. It's one of my favorite lessons! As a large group, the students generate a list of nouns, a list of prepositions, and a list of nouns. They choose one word from each list - in that order (ie, Spiderman Into Cheese Grater) - and then, they write the story as a 2 minute quick write.

The results are usually fabulous because there is no time to censor their ideas. No one gets to say, "that wasn't funny enough" or "I don't know how to spell..." or "that doesn't make any sense." The students just write!

It made me think about how much we censor ourselves in our everyday lives. Granted, some of it is totally necessary. True, I'd like to punch the bill collector in the wiener, but I don't. I censor myself.

However, sometimes we censor ourselves from the necessary, the good, the indulgent...

I wish that I had told my husband how much I appreciated that he changed the lines on ALL of the beds, especially because I know that he doesn't feel very well. Instead, I grilled him about what time he thought he'd be home and prattled on about how tired I was and how I just couldn't put the girls to bed one more time...

I wish that I had told the mom who was behind me in line at Target that I was impressed with how calm she was while her children were squabbling next to her about some kid thing, instead of just sheepishly smiling and ignoring the conversation...

I wish that I had told the crabby lady that not everything is bad and evil, instead of rolling my eyes - again - because I just didn't have the energy to get into it...

So now, I challenge myself - and you - to do a "2 minute quick write" with your life! Don't censor. Trust your instincts! Be kind. Be honest. Be available!

Be a super hero in your own life!

Monday, October 13, 2008

curious minds

This little Montessori mind is working every minute! This particular photo was snapped yesterday afternoon when Noni convinced her sister that they could suck the apple juice out of the apple. They tried for a long time. Puncturing the apple with hard curly straws was more than half of the appeal, I'm sure. They did not get much juice out of the apple, and then refused to eat the apples because they were wounded and used.

On another interesting Noni note:

When I asked her what she wanted to do to celebrate her 7th birthday, she said she'd like to have a theme party.

"What kind of theme would you like?"

long pause.

"I'd like to have an 'Art Party.' You know, come dressed up as your favorite artist."

"What artist would you choose, Noni?"

long pause.

"I'd have to pick between these three: Frida Kahlo, Miss Betsy - my art teacher, or me. I think all of these people are my favorite artists. And we're all girls. I might have a hard time finding a Miss Betsy costume, and I'm kinda used to pretending to be me, so I think I'll have to go with Frida Kahlo. Do you think that we could go to Target after dinner to get my Frida Kahlo costume for my birthday?"


Sunday, October 12, 2008

in search of the great pumpkin

Fall in Minnesota can be glorious! The colors of the trees are so warm and beautiful - reds, yellows, oranges - like a postcard or LLBean catalogue ad. The weather is often crisp, yet sunny - sweater weather. Yesterday was one of those glorious days - it was a day when people smiled at strangers knowingly, as if to say, "This is why we live in Minnesota."

Daddyman, the Littles and I decided early in the day to spend the whole day together as a family - as much time as we could squeeze in between sun up and bedtime! We simply had no other choice. These sunny, happy Saturday's in Minnesota don't last long and this day was glorious!

It was a 'pumpkining' day.

So, we filled water bottles and topped of the gas tank in the Odyssey, and set off on a voyage of epic proportions: to locate, secure and return home with the biggest, best pumpkin in the patch.

Apparently, we were not the only people in Minnesota that realized that these sunny, happy days are few and far between, and therefore, we should spend every single minute of them outside, enjoying the photo opportunities that present themselves on days like this.

It was an EPIC day at the apple orchard/pumpkin patch. There was a 10 minute line to get into the parking lot!

Upon securing an adequate parking spot in the vast field of similar suburban gold minivans, Daddyman and I smiled at each other warily, and trudged forward. We reminded each other that we had all day. It's about being together, not about getting somewhere... blah blah blah.

We paid our entrance fee, and followed the vast stream of Minnesotan 'stay-cationers' into the picture perfect orchard. Of course, we sampled apples and self-pick raspberries. We devoured hand-dipped caramel apples. We fed the sheep, the goats, the llamas, the goats, the llamas and the sheep, each time sanitizing our hands with 'magic soap' so we didn't spread colds between our furry, four-legged friends (according to Yaya, llamas don't do so well with colds. I mean, c'mon. They already have a problem with spitting. And a sore throat in that neck would be a bum-mer!)

Then, we hopped onto the hay wagon and bumped our way through the orchard. Every couple of rows, the seed-capped tractor driver would shout out the name of the closest variety of apples: "Harralson! Honey Gold." And then, he'd wait for someone to stir from their straw perch to indicate that THESE were the apples they were going to stuff into the plastic bag that had been so thoughtfully provided to every patron upon entrance at the orchard gate!

We were not tempted by the siren's call of fresh, crisp apples. We held firm, and waited. Then, after the third turn around the orchard, we saw them. The pumpkins, beautiful orange amidst the dark earth and the drying vines. Our pumpkins were in that field. Somewhere.

Then, the call came from the tractor driver: "Red Delicious. Pumpkins."

We unfolded ourselves from the bales of hay, and headed into the gloriousness that is pumpkinville!

We have only one rule for pumpkining: you may pick any pumpkin that you heart desires, but you have to be able to carry it back to the car ALL BY YOURSELF. No rolling of pumpkins is allowed, they must be carried in your hands!

This seems like a remarkably simple rule, but it is one that promotes great care and study of each and every pumpkin in the pumpkin patch. Each pumpkin is turned and touched and examined and evaluated for shape and texture ("I might want to paint it instead of carving it, you know!"). Finally, if the pumpkin in question has passed these grueling tests, it is picked up and the weight is judged by each child. "Can I carry this ALL the way back to the car?"

After almost 45 minutes in the pumpkin patch, each child and each adult carefully choosing their very own pumpkin, we were ready to return to the main gate where we would weigh our pumpkins, pay for our pumpkins, beg & whine for a homemade apple doughnut, and take our bounty home, safely secured in our laps.

Dirty and tired, we waited at the 'hay wagon transit' spot with all of the other tired 'stay-cationers,' carefully protecting our orange orbs from the swinging feet of nearby toddlers and frisky dogs.

Finally, the hay wagon came. It was full. Really full. Lots and lots of people heading back to the main gate. The tractor driver sighed and waited. No sounds, no apple announcements, he just waited. Like a parent waiting for a toddler to choose their candy at the end of a shopping trip, he waited until the riders figured out that they would have to move over so the rest of the weary pumpkin-eers could shove onto the hay wagon. And they did. And we did.

And then, as we rounded the last corner back to the main gate, it started to rain. Really, really hard. Big, juicy raindrops!

The Littles looked frantically from me to Daddyman and back to me. Daddyman and I looked at each other. We shrugged... What could we do? We had searched and we had found THE pumpkins that were obviously grown just for us! We smiled tentative, reassuring smiles at the Littles, and they sighed a little.

It was at that moment, the moment that we were getting soaked on the hay ride that we saw the line of other pumpkin hunters waiting to weigh their bounty. These people had a lot of pumpkins. I mean, really. Infants had been displaced from their comfortable rides by strollers full of pumpkins! Wailing toddlers had given up their radio flyers to wagons full of big, fat pumpkins! Dads and uncles and grandparents stood in this ridiculously long line with towering stacks of pumpkins to appease the women and children who were crammed into the store, searching for apple butter and pumpkin cookies.

And it was still raining. Really hard.

And the line was still waiting. Barely moving. Waiting to weigh their chosen bounty.

Daddyman and I took one long look at the line - easily 45 minutes to reach the front of the line - and shook our heads. No pumpkin was worth standing in the pouring rain. Oh, fickle Minnesota fall weather!

We set our pumpkins down under the nearest tree and turned to urge our girls to do the same.

Yep. That went over as well as you just imagined.

After we talked Noni down off the ledge, we headed through the mud-strangled parking lot in search of our ark that would float us out of the apple orchard. Noni's face painting (kitty nose and whiskers) was running down her cheeks in muddy rivers as a result of the hot, angry tears she cried all of the way to the car and the cold, pouring rain. Via and Yaya protecting their black cheek spiders with cupped hands and bent heads - following their family by sound and touch alone - never looking up once for fear that this artifact would be stolen from them, too.

Luckily, we found our car in little or no time, and we joined the exodus from the orchard and headed home.

It was a joyful, family-time car ride back into the city.

Noni was sobbing hysterically.
Yaya was whimpering with tired confusion.
Via was just plain pissed off.

And I understood all of it.

What kind of rotten parent would spend all day for NOTHING!?

Luckily, we found a little, tiny pumpkin stand on the side of the road on our way home. We thrust 8 dollars into the honor box, and came home with pumpkins.

Tiny, tiny pumpkins.

Our pumpkins.

And the girls were happy as little clams! They are already making plans for the next sunny fall day in Minnesota - a circus on the lawn or kayaking on the Mississippi!

Monday, October 6, 2008

what do YOU make?

Thanks, Rose!
After a perfectly awful day teaching in an inner-city public school, I felt sort-of better after I saw this!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

old: favorites

This photo was taken when my sister-in-law was visiting with her family from sunny CA. I love the gentle feeling of this photo. I love the little Scandinavian heads. I love all of the girls gathered together on our big green sofa reading together.

I bought myself a "new" car. It's a 1987 Volvo wagon! I lovelovelove it. It runs really well, is in great shape (what's a few wrinkles and age spots when you are THIS old?), and it has really low mileage. I paid almost nothing for it, and I suspect that I will have to put a little more into it - new tires, new fluids and filters - but I love it. The Littles are already calling it "Mom's car." Daddyman calls it the Battlestar Galactica

Daddyman says that I am seriously channeling the '70's thing. He may be right...