Friday, January 23, 2009

Slip Sliding Away

The winter is half over. The kids and I love winter, love snow and all the winter activities surrounding snow. We do not, however, love cold. And this winter it seems like every weekend has been too cold to enjoy the great, snowy outdoors. This weekend will be no exception. So, it's likely we'll miss the dog sledding demonstration at the Morton Arboretum.

We been enjoying skating with homeschool friends in the middle of the day, in the middle of the week. Likely, the people set it up for the adults to skate around on their lunch hours, or the smattering of preschool aged kids. Before Christmas, our homeschooling groups descended on the place, making it a happy family atmosphere. Being January, less people turned out this week - they are sick, the schedules got full, they are tired of winter. We still had a great time, my wall hugging children are getting more confident and are performing fewer Jim Carey like moves on the ice.

We just want a couple of above 20 degree weekends with snow before it's all over. We'd like to cross country ski, snowshoe, sled and hike. We're taking our snowshoes to the dunes today, hoping for a bit of fun.

Monday, January 19, 2009

House Presents

I like to give our house presents for Christmas each year. Sometimes, like this year, we get necessary things like a set of tires. This was our first cash only Christmas, so we're pretty pleased the house could receive gifts as well. Along with the tires, we got a device to stream Netflix movies in to our TV without needing a disc. It's made by Roku, specifically for Netflix, although it will be able to take Amazon movies once Amazon is ready. This has been a great gift. We do still get three movies from Netflix at a time, but often they are not what we want to watch before bed. Or, as in the case of the Mr. Magoo series, they are languishing, unwatched, but unwilling to be returned.

So, say it's a pledge drive on PBS - and when, really, isn't it a pledge drive on PBS? It's 8:30, everyone is ready to watch something, but there's nothing on. We really only watch PBS, we choose not to get cable for more channels of stuff we don't want to watch. We have three Netflix discs at home - a 2 1/2 hour ballet, an orchestral performance, and Mr. Magoo. We click on the Roku, see what's in the queue, pick one and watch it. If the Internet is wonky, as it has been recently, sometimes it pauses to retrieve it again. And sometimes, strangely, the picture is distorted or the soundtrack isn't coordinated with the pictures. We need to figure out these problems, but we've been able to watch alternate shows instead. And when the kids had the flu last week, they camped out with Nature programs. Great present for the house.

Our second house gift was a polymer clay oven. I wont bore everyone with the details of the combination of coupons that made this unnecessary item worthwhile, it was a spectacular deal. And the kids really love it. At least Medium and Small do. They make new creations every few days. Medium even has a box with many small compartments to store her creatures
in. Here's a picture of her teeny tiny horse collection:

None of these are more than an inch big. She also has more teensy weensy animals and food items (cupcakes and sandwiches with eyes, that sort of thing).

Large had thus far only had one foray into the kitchen to work with the polymer clay and cook something up. This is his creation, which has left me speechless:

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Allergic Change

We went to the allergist for skin testing yesterday. Large has been allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, legumes and peas for his 10 years. We gave him frozen peas as a teething baby, but in the past year or two he's been developing hives from peas.

Allergy testing is always just a snapshot in time. The good news is that his current snapshot indicates no allergies to tree nuts. This frees up a lot of foods "made in a facility" and some vegetarian options. He is also not allergic to soy, although he doesn't like it. And not allergic to pinto beans. There was no little vial with the essence of garbanzo, navy, black or kidney beans. I don't need a doctor's diagnosis to know he is allergic to garbanzo and/or fava beans, though. That sent him to the ER in anaphylactic shock a few years ago.

On a scale of zero to 4+, Large tested 0 for all the tree nuts. He tested 3+ for peas and 4+ for peanuts. So, it's a mixed bag. We could have gotten a blood test, not as reliable as the skin test but improving, for lentils, but it seemed silly to go for just one allergen. They didn't have the other beans either. We'll try them slowly, adding beans is important to the environmentalist in me.

We won't add nuts unless Medium's test on Monday comes back with the same tree nut free results. She's had some mild reactions to nuts, but has never been tested. We've just avoided everything with her.

Small, I believe, is too small to go through the testing. It is really barbaric. Pricking the skin with an allergen and then being unable to scratch it for 10 minutes. Nearly 24 hours later, Large's peanut spot still has an angry red bump. And Small is the perfect example of the problems with allergy testing in children. A year ago he couldn't eat wheat without breaking out in a rash, cranberries made his eyes water and itch, eggs made him vomit. Now he still can't have eggs, although his reaction is a face rash. And his milk reaction is a bit more severe in that his rash goes to other spots of his body along with his face. But he doesn't' have the almost instant full body rash reaction to milk anymore. Small has always had skin issues, not anaphylaxis issues. None of our children, however, have had peanuts.

I'm not quite holding my breath for more mixed good news on Monday. As the older two get more independent, it's more important that they understand what they are and are not allergic to. It's important that they let go of some of their fear of foods and try new things with confidence. And it's important for me to let go of policing their food intake, to transfer the monitoring to them.

Monday, January 12, 2009

I Get It

Only now do I understand. I've knitted 8 or 9 pairs of socks in the past year or two, happily giving them away to people who oohed and aahed over them. (Never knit something for someone who doesn't appreciate hand knits.) And then I read somewhere that a knitter really should knit every other project of so for themselves. What a concept! I decided to try it and these were the result.

Now I find myself looking in the clean laundry baskets, digging for the socks. They could have been a row or two longer to make them absolutely perfect, but the fit of hand kit socks is a real treat. No seams, no tightness, just the right amount of hug on both ankles - despite one being significantly wider than the other. I want to fill my sock drawer with hand knits! Save the store boughts for the gym.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


I think one of my more important jobs as a parent is to help my children understand how to use their time. Not in the manner I learned, which was to create endless to-do lists of tasks that couldn't be accomplished in one day. The longer the list, the more important I felt. Until the end of the day, that is, when I felt like a complete failure. Keeping with my goal of finding the flow of balance in my life, I'm working to get the kids to take over their own schedules.

Each morning we have a family daily planning meeting. Sometimes it's short, sometimes long. Today we went over what needed to be done by when in order to take a trip to the Field Museum. Small woke everyone up in the night, so we didn't really get rolling until 10:30 or so. Working with the time schedule and priorities, we determined we needed to get our homeschooling and accountable kids tasks done by 12:30 to get to the museum by 1 to leave by 3 and not hit traffic on the way to the gym. That would leave time for playing with friends before dinner when we got home. It was an aggressive schedule and we didn't make it. That, in itself, was a lesson.

Yesterday I made up planner pages for Medium and Large, took them to Office Depot and had spiral bound books made. We've been working with a planner page for a while and came upon one we can life with. The first section is for homeschooling: reading, spelling, vocabulary, writing, math, science, history, art and music. Not very unschool-y, I know, but the kids choose their reading, math topics, science topics, history selection based on what we've read in The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child, Volume 2: The Middle Ages: From the Fall of Rome to the Rise of the Renaissance, Revised Edition ... the World: History for the Classical Child), art and music. They asked for spelling and vocabulary. The second section is for Accountable Kids, the program we use to keep our house and life in order. Next is a section for exercise - they chose what to do and write it in. Then comes activities and classes with the time we need to leave and an Extra section for things like play dates. We are pretty pleased with how it's working so far, and are keeping ourselves open to tweaking it in the future.

It's been a struggle for me to learn to manage my time as an adult. I've never had a good notion of how long something takes to accomplish. I think it should take half an hour to install a ceiling fan, when it takes the better part of a day. This past weekend I never imagined I would have my basement overhaul project 75% complete in just two days, it seemed it would take an overwhelming year of weekends.

I've been working through the The Life Organizer: A Woman's Guide to a Mindful Yearbook by Jennifer Louden. It isn't a planner in the traditional sense of filling out blocks of time, you still use a calendar for that. The book's purpose is to prompt you to focus on what is important to you. It poses questions for each month and week to guide you through to your goals. My favorite weekly circle to fill in is "Let Go Of." I'm not through to that point yet, but am looking forward to it!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


Maybe mine are just not big enough, or not as clearly articulated. This video shows a project beyond belief in it's scope and beauty. Get a cup of coffee and enjoy.

Monday, January 5, 2009


It took me forever to come up with a new year's resolution this year. I like to do just one or two, make it attainable. Yes, I could resolve to lose weight. I've been losing weight all my life and it's a bit old and boring after nearly 45 years. I could resolve to save more money, get a job, quit coffee, do something virtuous. Last year I resolved to do something creative each and every day, even for a few minutes. That worked and has helped me to be happy. There were just a few weeks this summer when my Dad was in the hospital that I couldn't do anything but tread water.

So, I've decided that my resolution this year is to achieve balance in my life. Balance my parents and my children, my husband, my house, my interests and my passions. It's a tall order, it's going to take a lot of baby steps, many false starts to find the right path.

Yes, my parents need me. They need me to be there once or twice a week, to check on them, make sure their medicines, appointments, house arrangements, etc. are all in order. But do they really need all of me? Do I need to spend a full 8 or 10 hours with them twice a week? How about shorter visits with and without the kids, hurricanes of activity surrounding my father's off times when he naps and my mother's daily hour and a half long trips to the grocery store.

Yes, my children need me, but not all of me. Yes, they need to learn, but they do better most of the time without me. With Medium and Large, at least, I need to set parameters and walk away. Small needs to become a strong reader, then he'll be fine on his own too. They are on their way to becoming life long learners, I don't want to mess that up with too much structure. I usually impose structure as a result of my own worry or panic over their progress. I need to let go.

Other people need me, too. But mostly, I need them. It's time to nurture my relationships - with Mark, with my friends and family. These past six months I've been more of a dead weight in the mix, I need to create space to live with them.

Today, we went out to my parents'. I arranged their calendar, actually hanging it on the wall. Made sure their appointments were on it, asked their aide to go over the calendar with my mother every day, called various doctors to get the appointment dates and times correct. When the dentist office called because Mom wasn't there, and asked her to come in at 3:30, I said we had to leave at 2. Instead of bagging my workout again, for the fifty third straight time, because someone else needed me, I made it a priority. And, unbelievably, the world did not fall apart. Mom was able to reschedule for a few mornings out when the aide could be with my father. It felt selfish to put myself first, but I'll get over that.

Probably these aren't baby steps for me. They are big steps. It's as if I worked long and hard to become my own self, achieved that for a good 20 years and then had it all swept away from me when my parents declined. A dear friend, who is caring for her mother heroically through many worse health problems, said once "My life is not my life anymore." I need my life to be mine as well as my parents' and my children's. I need it all to mesh just a little bit better than it has been.