30 June 2008

Getting Back To Nature - Parent Edition

Every June, our school sends home a barrage of suggestions for activities we might do to encourage continued development in literacy and creativity over the summer holiday. This year, there seems to be a get-back-to-nature theme and we are urged to inspire our children to keep a journal of prose or poetry - perhaps haiku - and drawings of natural things around them. Parents are instructed to also keep a summer journal, as an example and so discussions about summer journaling will not be one-sided.

My hackles are up about being assigned summer homework. I don't even like the kids having homework during the school year. I know the justification is that starting earlier forms a better habit but, frankly, the boys are still working on much more basic habit forming, like remembering to brush their teeth each day. Also, our school pretty clearly places the homework burden on the parent. It is, of course, the student's assignment but when the homework isn't done it is the parent who gets a series of stern notes and then calls for meetings where lectures on the importance of homework and maintaining a unified link between school and home are given. That punishment for failing to do homework falls to the parents is absurd. It's my job to punish my children for not doing things they are responsible for at home, like their chores. The school should assign consequences for failure to meet expectations at school.

Sadly, the school seems unlikely to assign its' own consequences. They fancy themselves a nurturing place where students learn and grow through encouragement...but I think the lack of punishment-type activities keeps them away from lawsuits. So, they don't get sued and I'm supposed to be a thug and force my children through their homework each day (and now, delightfully, over the summer break). Some parents we know actually do the homework for their children, which rubs us wrong. Even though we don't agree with the kids having the homework, we feel it gets done or it doesn't but BY THE CHILD.

While I didn't even consider for a minute making the boys (or us) do summer homework, I did think about what the consequences might be. What will happen when I don't turn in my summer journal? Will it cause trouble or embarrassment for my children? Will the school send home a make-up assignment? Can I just point them to my blogs? Tune in mid-September for the answers to these pressing questions.

29 June 2008

Rafting with Rob

In summers before we had the kids, I went rafting in the Delaware Water Gap at least once each summer with friends and Chris has been going since he moved down here, too. After the kids came along, we stopped going. Rafting on the Delaware, at least the section we go on, is not exactly high-risk but it's also not something that would be fun to do with babies or toddlers so we skipped seven years, until Lars (our youngest) was five. Last year, we missed rafting due to my broken leg so it was with great anticipation that we got on the river yesterday to enjoy a perfect afternoon with Rob.

We spent six hours floating lazily down the Gap, leaping off to swim as desired, stopping to explore the shore now and then, paddling a few times when the upriver wind was stronger than the current (Chris wished for a sail). The kids are not ready to make the big jump off the cliff at the end of the trail but they love watching others make the leap. On the way home, we stopped for dinner and cones in a Dairy Queen, topping a great day with a once-per-year treat.

Everyone slept well last night!

28 June 2008

Nerd Camp

Lars has been interested in 4H activities this year. Our local chapter advertises by distributing fliers in the schools and Lars asked to go for events about science and puppets. The last 4H flier that came home was a week-long day camp that would run right after school let out for summer. Lars was predictably excited when he found out we'd signed him up. Ross was not. Ross went into a pouty funk that lasted - in bursts - for weeks, right up to and including the ride to drop them off for the first time. He did not want to go to a camp where there would be LEARNING. It would be SUMMER VACATION. Only NERDS would go to a camp with LEARNING. Ross is NOT an NERD. He did not want to go to NERD CAMP.

Nevertheless, Ross was deposited at Nerd Camp as scheduled. At dinner that night, we got an earful from him! There were snakes! A lizard you could touch! He demonstrated how lizards smell with their tongues. He said there was a goat! And snack! They made knapsacks to carry their camp things! And got water bottles! He really liked one of the counselors and a friend from school and hockey was in his group. Chris and I listened with smiles and during a break toward the end of his enthusiastic diatribe, I couldn't resist sticking in, "So Nerd Camp was ok?" Ross tried to glower at me but he couldn't pull it off.

Lars added that his group had done Educal outside. Educal? We looked at him quizzically. "You know," he said, "Educal Physication. It's like gym at school only outside and with games. E-P?" Ahhhh, we sighed with comprehension. EP.

The boys spilled out of the car after Day 2, each sporting a large, decorated cardboard box. They ran into playroom, dropped the boxes, and then ran outside shouting they were going to get everyone on the street for the Magic Show! Sure enough, the neighborhood attended in force and the kids each demonstrated five or six magic tricks they'd learned that day. "Nerd Camp has a magician who shows you how to do tricks? Cool!" I exclaimed (I have no restraint).

"Mama!" Admonished Ross, "Stop calling it NERD CAMP. It is FOUR-H."

On Day 3, Ross began his dinnertime recap with an impish grin and, "It was Water Festival Day at Nerd Camp!"

Day 4 was all about plants. They made flowered pens that sit in little pots of beans. They planted herbs that they brought home for me. They went on a Nature Walk. Lars learned that the four H's stand for Head, Heart, Health and - he thinks, Fingers.

Day 5 was full of games and making ice cream and getting ready for the Farewell Ceremony, which featured a video montage made by the oldest campers (5th-6th graders) during the week. Lars was proud of his starring role jumping rope and his several cameo appearances.

The Camp Director (also head of 4H here) and I were chatting when I picked Ross up on the last day. I told her about "Nerd Camp" and she burst out laughing - her own son calls it Nerd Camp too! There's no question that the boys want to go back next year and I think they will be sad on Monday when it is not time to get in the car and go down to 4H.

27 June 2008

When The Knobs Fall Off They Are Staying Off

5pm Friday finds us in the kitchen enjoying a champagne toast to the old kitchen, which will soon be a memory! Now that I can taste the new kitchen (mmm...bubbly!), I realize there are actually things I will miss about the disaster in which we currently house our food:

1. Ease of access. At least half the cupboard doors do not stay shut, so most of the time, you can just reach in and get what you need. Some of the cupboards that have working doors are missing side walls, so you can still just reach in and get what you need.

2. Ready Communication. Several gaps in the floor open to the basement, so I can speak in a normal voice and be heard by anyone down there. It's also very easy to check if the kids have left the lights on.

3. Flexibility. Since nothing in the kitchen is currently attached to anything else, I have ultimate flexibility to change the shape of the room at any time. Don't like the butcher block there? Trade it with the Formica piece over there! Sick of the corner cupboard (which is not in a corner) (and is an upper cabinet sitting on the floor) next to the refrigerator? Why not just move it over by the silverware drawer! really, the possible combinations are endless.

In spite of these, I am sure I will grow to love the new kitchen in time (approximately .3258µs) but I will forever treasure certain memories of the old.

25 June 2008

Good To Know

In a Google search for "leprechaun named steve", my blog comes up first (thank you, Ross). While I can't begin to explain why, I feel this is good to know and I'm excited to see if my traffic goes up due to my strong listing postion. Just think! Twos of people must search "leprechaun named steve" every day! And I am first! The potential? HUGE.

24 June 2008

We're Going To Pretend I've Been Posting All Along

In order for you to keep up pretense on your end, here are a few things you should know:
Our heirloom peonys (from Chris' Great-Grandfather Browning's garden) bloomed this year, the first time in this house! They are the size of a nine-year-old's head and smell wonderful.

Pixie will tolerate Kippah at close range (even without support of wooden hippos) but she remains unamused.

Lars didn't seem to notice he was smaller than the his Spring League 3-on-3 opponents and they had a heck of a time keeping up with him.

A friend of thirty-two years (or so) was ordained as a Minister in the Unitarian Universalist Church at the Fourth Universalist Society in New York City. My family and hers are spread to the winds but this is the second year in a row we've all been together for a celebration! Last year was my sister's graduation from nursing school.

The daughter of a blogging friend broke her leg (we know how that feels around here...) and Lars stepped in with some cheering-up.

We now return to our normally scheduled posting.

09 June 2008

Today is SO Hot That...

...Pixie did not even lift her head or comment when Kippah shared the favorite chair.

...the light in our freezer is frozen off.

...a popsicle melts to a puddle in under four minutes.

...school closed early due to excessive heat.

...the boys are laying on the floor near each other, calmly taking turns asking & answering BrainQuest questions.

...I am seriously considering serving ice cream for dinner.

07 June 2008

Some Days Are Waaaaaay Better Than Others

Today, Grandmoo, Sister K and I:

1. Saw Jersey Boys matinée - great!

2. Had burgers with a friend of mine in Galaxy

3. Tourist shopped.

4. Witnessed a fine example of Jersey Driving. Just how special do you need to be to plow your nice car through a wall of traffic cones into a huge hole full of wet concrete?

5. Ran into an old friend of mine on 9th Avenue.

4. Got walk up seats in center orchestra for the evening performance of A Chorus Line - fun!

Tomorrow will find us cheering for the boys at hockey and then in the City again for the Ordination of one of my childhood friends. Life could be worse.

05 June 2008

What Ross Did At School: Architecture Edition

"What did you do at school today, Ross?"


*pause* "...Architecture?"

"Yes. I planned a building that looked like a tree branch with seven floors in the shape of leaves."

Talk about green design!

Fear In The Hearts At Our House

Oh, the terror felt when an envelope such as this arrives in June!

Thankfully, ours helpfully began with, "This is not a bill" (no doubt an effort to stall heart attacks) and merely contained information regarding our economic stimulus payment (which we've already received, thankyouverymuch). Tune in next time for an update on just how long it takes my heart to stop pounding...

Pie From Awa's Rhubarb - Total Yum

This picture also posted at Worst.Mama.Ever, along with the tale of the boys not having any today. If Grandmoo shows up soon enough, there might still be some left. I say 'might' because it's so good I had two pieces tonight and there's breakfast to deal with in the morning. Yes, I am the sort of person who would eat pie for breakfast. No, I won't feel any guilt about it because rhubarb is healthy! A vegetable! Vitamin C! Calcium! Dietary fiber! Oh, leave me alone. You can come back and be snarky when I have popsicles for breakfast.


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