Wednesday, April 18, 2012
One day, I stood up and walked away from the computer without even thinking about it – no planning where to put my feet, no thinking about shifting weight from one side to the other side. Before I knew it, I was up and away.
Another day, I discovered that I can shave my legs standing up in the shower! Funny what constitutes progress.
Those plants in the banner up there? They are now so big, that they no longer fit on the table and have had to be moved outside into a tiny greenhouse that I got last Christmas. It's like Attack of the Nasturtiums.
Thank goodness the boys and their Dad are digging a new garden, we're gonna need it soon!
Owen learned to read in such tiny increments that I didn't realize what was happening. Over a period of about six months he went from not reading, to decoding print, to almost effortless reading with inflection and emphasis. And giggling, lots of giggling – Owen prefers comics. The other day, I asked him to choose a book to bring to physical therapy in case he got bored while I was getting treatment. As he ran off to grab his favorite Garfield, he paused, looked up at me, and asked "Mom? Am I a reader?" I was so happy to be able to say to him with a big smile, "Yep!"
Slowly, slowly – it seems like everything has been moving at a snail's pace. And yet here we are in sunny April, walking and reading and growing. It feels incremental and at the same time all at once.
Thursday, March 15, 2012
A month ago, I wasn't walking; now, for very limited periods, I can. Also, the only thing my leg needs now is strength, so different from a month ago when every movement hurt. Big, big change!
In February, Owen had a lot more teeth than he does now:
As he's gotten more vampire-y looking, he's also developed a thirst (d'oh! cringe) for tales of that mysterious rabbit, Bunnicula. Coincidence?
In February, we had no new seedlings. And now:
Those nasturtiums, closest of the seedlings to the window and to the camera, have doubled in size since I took this picture yesterday.
And the Monster Spray has been repurposed, now hydrating our plants while keeping the house monster-free:
But some things never change. As ever, Luke loves paper airplanes, and this mild winter has presented lots of opportunities for flying them.
Here's to a spring with all positive changes. Fingers crossed!
Thursday, December 22, 2011
I've learned many lessons from these last months of illness; I think the two most important are 1) it's okay to depend on others sometimes and 2) patience really is a virtue. I want to thank everybody who contacted me here, or on Facebook, or via e-mail - your support really got me through this! I'm very lucky in my virtual friends as well as my real-world ones.
My kids have learned many lessons too, and have spent lots of their homeschooling time honing their life skills ( laundry, chicken care, dishes, cooking, etc. ) and their patience. In a way, these months have been extra-special because we've spent more time at home with each other, playing board games and talking about everything under the sun, and just laughing together. I wish I could've blogged about the time that Luke and Owen performed a shadow-puppet show, The Lord of The Rings Part One, with a theater and puppets they'd made from scratch to cheer me up during an especially low point. I could take no pictures, but oh boy, did this work. I'm tearing up thinking about it. It was awesome.
With health improving and Christmas coming, the month of December has been pretty exciting. The boys have been good to each other, have shared their time, energy, and even some of their hard-earned money to help less fortunate families in our area, they've been truly helpful around the house – so this week seemed like a good time to bust into the gingerbread. A few years ago, my dear friend Nicole, whose fantastic blog about unschooling you can check out here, somehow managed to get geometry concepts across while making gingerbread houses in the math class she taught; since then, Luke and Owen look forward to replicating that project every Christmas. Here are this year's results!
Instead of gingerbread, we use graham crackers because they are approximately the same size as index cards. ( And they're already made – gingerbread for houses is one thing I have yet to perfect.) So first, each boy uses index cards and tape to make a model for their gingerbread house. Here is Owen's, next door to his partially completed house:
Barn, actually. He declared his gingerbread house would be "the old barn where Jesus was born." "You mean manger?" I asked, enjoying his substitution for a word he did not know. "Yes!" came the answer.
It was fun to watch him design this. He spent his time painstakingly folding roof pieces and cutting small pieces for the upper walls. I wouldn't be surprised if he pulls out index cards just to build with them again sometime.
Luke went sort of in the other direction, making a cute, fairly unconventional house… complete with outhouse in back. Here he is, putting it together:
Their eyes widened so much when I brought out the candy:
It's rare that they see that much candy in one place, never mind in our house.
A happy boy.
Here's Owen putting the finishing touches on his manger:
This one gives you a good view of Luke's house, and outhouse:
He said at one point, "Hey Mom! I just put up a jellybean as an air freshener in the outhouse!" I haven't laughed that hard in weeks.
And here are the finished products:
Owen's manger, complete with candy gardens in front and back – and a stash of candy inside for the residents.
And Luke's, which he designed and built and decorated all on his own. Yes, it's an outhouse, but it's his outhouse, know what I mean?
When Owen developed the idea from the Rollo chimney, Luke soon followed suit. In fact, they traded ideas, as well as candy and extra frosting, very companionably. I kept thinking how great it is that they're such good friends, how even though they fight sometimes they're very quick to make up and care very much about each other.
And, not only can they rely on each other for help and support and fun and silliness, but Ben and I can rely on them for these things too.
It's been just one more positive lesson to come out of the trying year of 2011.
Thursday, November 17, 2011
I know that this blog is about homeschooling (well, and knitting) but for the last six months our lives have been as much about health, sickness, and insurance as anything else. And this is really a blog about our life, so this is what I'm blogging about.
In case the links stops working after today, here is the text from the letter:
Crying in pain, and in anguish over coverage woes
November 17, 2011
RE “AT best, Mass. health strategy offers halfway house to universal care’’ (Op-ed, Nov. 10): I really identified with Robert Kuttner’s op-ed. From my family’s standpoint, the health care glass sure looks half empty.
This year, I developed two fairly serious health issues, one chronic. In the midst of this crisis, my husband and I learned that our best health care option for next year, involving priced tiers, would make most of the doctors our family relies upon unaffordable for us as of Jan. 1.
Now I cry myself to sleep, not just from the pain of my physical ailments, but from the anguish of leaving the doctors we chose, including our primary care doctors, our sons’ pediatricians, and four excellent specialists. They’re among the best in their fields, and our relationship with some of them goes back more than a decade.
This experience has shaken my faith not just in our government but in our whole society. I wonder whether the soul-crushing mess that is health care in this country can ever be fixed?
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
The name of this plan is the Tufts Your Choice Plan.
Tryin' to get healthy, it continues to be a long road, so I thought it was time to check in for a mini-rant.
I guess what bothers me most about the name of this plan is that it seems intended to make people believe that they're getting more choices, while their choices are simultaneously being limited. Six out of seven doctors, people! It's so patronizing, calling it the Your Choice Plan.
In other news, the boys are good, the weather is lovely - I guess that's owed to us after a gigantic snowfall on the eve of Halloween - and hubby is now making better homemade pizza than I ever did. I continue to feel incredibly lucky, despite some stubborn obstacles to optimum health.
I hope you can say the same, or better!
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
On September 10, 2001:
I didn't intimately know the geography of Manhattan island, which I learned frantically in the hours of 9/11 because it was where my brother worked at the time.
I trusted air travel. Slightly.
I carried around 45 more pounds than I do now.
I suffered from asthma, frequent migraines, post-partum depression.
I didn't have my beautiful Owen yet. (I did have my beautiful Luke, and even through the post-partum depression, I knew what a treasure he was.)
I was mighty interested in keeping up with the Joneses.
I, along with my family, ate terribly.
Really, changing that last one has led to many of the other changes. The year Owen was born I read The Tightwad Gazette from cover to cover and we joined a CSA, events which precipitated the complete restructuring of our household. I even attribute homeschooling to those events, because although we didn't start that until years later, they are part of the same mindset. For me, at least.
In the intervening decade, I've looked at the clock at exactly 9:11 stupidly often. It still gives me goosebumps, as does thinking about how close my brother came to being a victim that day. He tells of coming through the under-the-towers subway station just after the first plane struck, and getting off to change trains one stop north. While waiting he heard sirens, screams, and a bland message over the intercom about "an incident interrupting train service," and along with everyone else he just waited in that seen-it-all New Yorker way until eventually a train came and he got on. He didn't find out what was happening until he arrived forty-five minutes later at his job in northern Manhattan, all his co-workers gathered around the television weeping.
And now, it is September of 2011. We've been adhering to our new normal as much as possible, given some health problems of mine; the boys hang with the chickens each day and have taken on the largest part of chicken-care, while Ben has had to do far more in the garden than I would like. (Just a little aside, the 2001 me would have laughed really hard at the idea of ever keeping chickens.) I've managed to put up quite a bit of salsa, tomatoes, jams, and have dehydrated several quarts of our favorite fruits.
You may know the golden rule about food preservation: always label and date the food, lest you forget what it is or come across it later and can only wonder if it is safe to eat. Hence, the relish I made in July of last year states "Relish, 7/10." I've labeled stuff that way since 2004, when I started canning, and now that we are in September of 2011 the labels read "9/11." Goosebumps, every time.
I've been giving serious thought to lying, to deliberately labeling everything canned, dried, or frozen during this month with the date 8/11, or 10/11.
But I think I won't. Our country changed that day in ways that are still being realized ten years on. Our laws, politics, world view, the way that we treat neighbors and strangers alike, everything is different because of 9/11. The very fact that we in our home have learned to put by so much of our own food, to be so invested in the local economy, so embedded in our community, began with 9/11. It would feel like a denial of history to lie on those jam jars or pickle jars.
Boy, that last sentence sounds bizarre. How can I possibly link up denial of history to canning jars? And yet it's true. Because every time I label preserved food this month, I'm going to have goosebumps. And then this winter, every time I grab some dehydrated peaches, or apples to make pie, those goosebumps will shiver their way up my spine again.
I'll think about how lucky I am to still have my brother, and I know that in the same moment I'll also be sad for those who did lose loved ones. I'll think about changes, especially of the wrenching negative kind, but I'll also think about the positive ones. I'll think about the kind of hope that causes a family to plant a garden and put up some produce.
It's a tiny way of remembering, a different kind of memorial.
Monday, July 25, 2011
They aren't newlyweds anymore, but I still hope that when my baby brother and his excellent wife pull out this blanky and snuggle under it, they will remember it as made for them on the occasion of their marriage. Even though that was almost two years ago.
Here's another picture of the blanky, because I do love pics without flash:
You can see the vertical stripes in it, one of the reasons I chose this pattern.
Anyway, just a quick check-in here at Stone Age Techie, where we are having a summer filled with health problems and have recently adopted the motto, 'if you can't laugh, you'll only cry, so better laugh.'
Yep, it's been that kind of summer.
We have also had some fun, though, and some personal triumphs - the Newlywed Blanky for me, canoeing on the Saco River in Maine, where Luke did nearly all the paddling for he and I (also where the banner pic comes from), and Owen's big thrill: jumping in the shallow end of the pool from the edge (and not from the steps in the water).
Lots of great stuff! Hope your summer is full of reasons to laugh, and none to cry.
Thursday, June 16, 2011
In my defense, I can only say that it's been a pretty busy few weeks, and culminated in my getting sick, like hospital sick. (Not wisdom teeth sick, though, that's still on the back burner.) For dignity's sake I will not go into what put me in the hospital; when I tell you that it involved more pain than labor and that I will continue to recover for the next probably eight weeks, that should be enough.
In the time leading up to my getting sick, I was making plans to go and be an angel of mercy for my parents while my mom recovered from knee surgery. I was looking forward to the trip, but not the airplane flight – flying is not my favorite mode of transportation. A week or so before I was due to go, Luke and I did a get-ready-for-bed exercise, and ever since then I've been planning to blog about the exercise.
I'd been really worrying about flying. I couldn't sleep for worrying, couldn't keep my mind on a book, didn't enjoy stuff I usually enjoy like playing Legos with the kids or knitting.
And then came the night of this exercise; I was so worried, I wasn't even looking forward to that. Luke chose the Cup Exercise, the one where we design a cup, fill it with our favorite liquid, drink it down, and place the cup in a box of our own design. When we got started, all I could think was that I wanted something comforting, but I couldn't think what.
Then my imagination took over; suddenly the plain drinking glass I started with had turned into one of those thick, white mugs that you get in an old-fashioned diner. And something more: the words 'Don't Panic!'appeared on the mug, along with several suggestions for hitchhiking around the galaxy – things like 'always remember your towel.' When we got to the part where you fill the cup with liquid, mine miraculously filled with a perfect cup of tea, just the right sweetness and just the right amount of milk. Somehow, when on the verge of a big trip, my mind channeled The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy as just exactly what I needed; it was so right.
At the time, I thought the only thing I was going to have to worry about was a plane flight. My Don't Panic mug has seen me through a lot more than that, however.
Now, it will have to see us all through this summer; as I recover and get into the swing of summer harvesting and putting up food for the winter, I'm placing The Stone Age Techie on hold. I might be back to check in once or twice, but only plan to get back to regular blogging in September or October, when things settle down around here.
I hope you have a great summer, filled with all the sunshine and joy that your heart could possibly desire. See you in the fall!
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
I came upon these guys hanging out near our seedlings recently, and was struck by the difference in scale between the powerful, but teeny, warriors, and the giant baby herbs and tomato plants right next door.
It made me think about how big the warriors must seem to Owen, creator of their spaceship. And how just at that moment the baby plants might not have been babies at all, but part of a forest of giants.
Perhaps they are as big as his imagination; perhaps as big as childhood.
Thursday, May 5, 2011
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Our state homeschooling organization, Advocates for Home Education in Massachusetts, planned a day for homeschoolers to visit the State House. The visit included a well-set-up scavenger hunt which took us all over the building, a State House tour, and the chance to meet with our State Representative.
Here are some pictures:
Up there, that's the statue of General Hooker. One of the many well-dressed workers at the State House took time out of his busy day to tell us all about Gen. Hooker, a Civil war hero. He also discussed how, in a sculpture of a person on a horse, you can tell if the subject is alive or dead by the number of hooves on the ground or in the air. Gen. Hooker, it turns out,lived through the Civil War; had he died the horse would be rearing with both front legs off the ground.
These next two pictures are of the Great Hall of Flags, which houses each Massachusetts town's official flag.
For much of our visit, the Great Hall of Flags was full of people and TV cameras and officials all gathered to discuss autism. It wasn't the only area of the state house bustling with senators, representatives, aides, journalists, photographers, and visitors. In most hallways and gathering spaces, people were everywhere! Another beautiful gallery, the Hall of Nurses, hosted a meeting the morning we were there attended by police officers from across the state. Just add in the flying paper airplanes that count as interoffice mail in the Ministry of Magic, and we could've been in the wizarding world.
It seemed like everywhere we went, there was somebody to help us. On our scavenger hunt, we needed to get into a large reception hall to find a painting of Horace Mann. A guard informed us that there was a meeting going on, we wouldn't be able to get into the reception room; as he was finishing his sentence, a senator rushed up, overruled the guard, and took us in to the room by a door further down the hallway, telling us many facts about the hall and the building as we went. When he opened the door to show us the picture, we saw officials, journalists, and photographers way over on the other side of reception hall – and the picture we were seeking was just above our heads.
Here is a lovely window that I enjoyed as we walked through the State House.
We were lucky enough to meet with the representative from our area, at a moment when he had the time to give us a tour of the House Debating Chamber. This picture hangs in the chamber:
Also, our representative told us about the Sacred Cod, which you can see in the gallery below. The cod's head points toward the side of the party in power; here in Massachusetts, the cod has pointed toward the Democrat's side since 1948 – a fact which our Republican representative told us with no irony or bitterness whatsoever; I liked him for that. When you are attempting to rear children with respect for their civil government, it's nice to have your elected representatives treat the other side with civility.
And, here is our group posing for a picture with the representative in the debating chamber. We are standing where the Speaker of the House stands; it was quite a feeling!
One of the most memorable parts of the day for me will always be when our representative was showing Luke, Owen, and I some of the quieter chambers off to the side of the big chamber. Luke asked a really interesting question: "Representative, why is everything oval-shaped in here? I mean, the curtains, the tables, the plaster above the lights…"
A conversation ensued about how the architecture in this building reflects the builders' belief in equality for everyone. Our representative told us further that the chairs in the Senate Chamber are carefully set so that everyone's head is at the same height while they debate. He then asked if the boys knew about the legend of King Arthur; when they responded enthusiastically, the three of them shared in a conversation about why the Round Table was round.
Owen: "Representative, our mom lets us watch clips of a movie about King Arthur on YouTube. Have you ever heard of Monty Python?"
Representative: (smiling)"Yes, I have."
Owen:"Oh, that is one of our favorite movies to watch clips from! Have you ever seen the part with the Killer Rabbit?"
Representative:(smiling even wider)"Sure, I remember him!"
Owen:"Do you remember this part? What's he gonna do, nibble my bum?" Seriously, my six-year-old said that to our State Representative. I was a bit embarrassed, but I have to admit I also thought it was very cute – and, I think the Representative will remember our meeting with fondness. He laughed heartily at Owen's imitation.
As for us, we remember this visit with fondness too. Really, all that were missing were the flying interoffice memos; the State House is quite a magical place.
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
But we thought, hey, we'll get covers for them, the sunflowers will be gone in a month, tops.
Fast-forward to two weekends ago, when I happened to look into the Last Chance bin at Ikea - and got $500 worth of couch covers for $30! Sure, they were meant to fit different-sized cushions, but I thought I could make them fit ours. So, one panic attack (at the thought of using scissors on such gorgeous fabric - I made the first cuts while on the phone with my Mom, I'm so glad she was home or I might not have had the guts) and a whole lot of thread later:
Bliss. One tiny corner of our tiny home has been tamed.
Thursday, April 14, 2011
I think I only want to visit Cape Cod in the off-season ever again! No crowds, just friendly year-round residents and blissfully empty open spaces.
This is just a few steps from the inn we stayed at.
Nobksa Light, one of two lighthouses we checked out - I have a thing for lighthouses like Topsy has a thing for waterfalls, so this was my kind of trip.
The view from Nobska Light.
Any thoughts on what this bird might be? He was hunting for lunch in Nauset Marsh.
Here's the second lighthouse, Nauset Light. It overlooks Nauset Beach:
And there's Ben, way up the beach.
Notice that we are in full winter gear! It was beautiful, but very cold and windy.
My Ben, I am so glad that you're the one I get to turn forty with! But, will you still need me when I'm sixty-four?
Monday, April 11, 2011
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
This is from a huge room of mini-dioramas explaining mining, starting with the Gold Rush; I loved this depiction of sluice-mining.
A canary in a coal mine, just one tiny part of just one of the amazing 'mines' you can walk through here. They really give you an idea of what miners' days were (and are) like!
A huge sculpture of a miner, mining. I also loved the elaborate stained glass windows, depicting everything from jackhammers to those huge dump trucks, one of which you can see behind the sculpture.
The pictures simply do not do this place justice. We walked in thinking, 'okay, we'll spend an hour, how exciting can a museum about mining be?' And left thinking, 'whoa.'
If you're ever in Leadville, Colorado, it is worth a stop!
Friday, March 25, 2011
There they are: from left to right, Destroy, Sting, and Anduril, Flame of the West. Owen did the writing, and was very happy with the results:
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
We're home from the Rockies, jet lag is all taken care of and the boys aren't quite as grumpy now, having decided that life goes on even when Grandma isn't around to spray whipped cream straight from the can into their mouths ('because I can DO that as the grandmother!' I hear her shouting happily).
Also, I have finally uploaded many pictures from the trip and the last month or so.
And I thought, since my arms are still healing from the chronic knitting injury I have dealt them, that I would spend at least the early spring, if not the whole thing, blogging more in images than in words.
So, here are a few pics from the recent trip; we were spoiled with more than just whipped cream! We went dog-sledding, as in we got to mush the dogs. Who were awesome, btw. In fact, Luke wants to someday start a company doing dog-sledding here in the east. Here are the boys mushing:
Yes, at ages six and ten they got to drive a team of dogs, kind of a life highlight for them both. And me too, come to think of it.
We are so grateful to Grandma and Grandpa for making the whole trip possible, thanks Mom and Dad!
Friday, March 4, 2011
Growing up, skiing in my family was more than just a pastime - it was an instition. My parents' first date was skiing in rural Quebec, my brothers and I were skiiers before we were five, and we skiied every winter, often getting up before dawn and driving five hours to our favorite ski hills in Vermont and New Hampshire. It was the only thing that I would willingly get up before noon for on a weekend, and a big reason why winter is still my favorite season.
Naturally, when my folks retired from the rat race, they didn't head to Florida; they took a hard right turn, and have spent the last dozen years poo-pooing our Eastern icy skiing conditions and grabbing fresh powder by the fistful out here in the West. It really is a most remarkable place.
So, 4 Non Blondes! Maybe What's Up? gets a lot of play at ski hills, because I already associated it with skiing before yesterday, when I heard it twice, first sitting in a base lodge and feeling absolutely high on the best day of skiing I've had since before Luke and Owen came along. For the first time ever, I got above the timberline without being dragged and/or nervous, and just was loving everything about it: the steeps, the bumps, the view, the sun on my face, the wide-open feeling of being at the top of the world.
I almost got an all is right with the world feeling (want to know what that is? Click here), sitting in the base lodge and thinking back on an incredible day of skiing with my father. Almost, but not quite - that feeling came about half an hour later when, on the three-minute drive back up to my parents' home, What's Up? started in the parking lot and finished in their driveway.
It turns out, that's like my Dad's favorite song! So he cranked up the sound and we had all the windows down, singing our heads off heading up the mountain.
To me, just at that moment, all really was right with the world.
Monday, February 21, 2011
We are such winter people, and so visiting my parents, in the hip resort town they call home, where the snow base is 300-plus inches and all the fun stuff happens outside, is such a treat!
Hubby can't go, because of work, so going out there for sun and fun is always tempered by leaving half of my heart back in New England.
And, that's mostly what I am thinking about right now; I hope to post once or twice while we're out there, but tonight is for Ben, whom I love so much.
Thursday, February 10, 2011
While other families talk of love, and chocolate, and exchanging valentines, all our discourse has been about orcs, and hobbits, and Gollum, and who's tougher - Legolas or Gimli?
Activities surrounding LOTR have run the gamut, from endless drawings by 6-year-old Owen of the siege at Helm's Deep, to discussions of how to make a One Ring birthday cake (next summer, not any time soon.) We've even rediscovered this Flight of the Conchords classic:
There are a few swears in the middle, which I talk over when Owen watches; yes, glad you asked - I know where the swears are because I've had this video memorized long before Owen had ever heard of Aragorn, Son of Arathorn.
Because I loved the tale as a child, it's been very moving to see the wonder on Luke and Owen's faces as they enjoy the movies, and the endless family discussions on everything related to the story.
Which I guess brings us back around to Valentine's Day, in a peculiar way; this is a story about love and loyalty, even if there are no candy hearts or chocolates.
I wouldn't have it any other way.
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
Our garden, one recent May. Note the fence made of sticks, and the shepherd's crook, lush with gorgeous flowers.
And, today - isn't that insane? No fence at all, you can see just a few feet of the shepherd's crook, and the spiny remains of plant life almost totally buried by snow.
What a winter we're having!