September 30, 2008

Paying Attention

Our afternoons have slowed down considerably. I feel like I am breathing again. It might be the cool and crisp air of Autumn. And it might have a bit to do with my more relaxed schedule. To the delight of Bella's heart, we have taken to wide-open afternoons, where Bella decides the course. It has been a royal treat to see what she thinks up, and quite freeing for my regulated and sometimes rigid personality. Some how, post-kids, I have had a much harder time being spontaneous and fun. I seemed to no longer relax into freedom, I was always censoring, and being way too serious. It's like I let the fun part of myself die.  As Fall marches in with cooler temperatures, magnificent colors and all sorts of yummy homemade comfort foods, Bella and Nate are ardently helping to bring that adventurous and whimsical side of my personality back to life. And for it, I am so glad.
 

We have been exploring every nook and cranny of our small world. In our afternoon adventures, we have encountered and answered many a preschooler's questions:

What trees do buckeye's even come from? 
How many black walnuts fit in a bucket?
How do squirrels even know there is a nut inside of there?
Is there a whole family of praying mantis living in here?
       And upon encountering one close-up:
       Why can't I touch it, and take off one of his sticks?
How do the birdies eat all of that food?
When will more berries grow back on our bushes?

And as I struggle to answer all of these big huge questions on our grand explorations, I find myself paying a lot more attention, always carrying the camera, and asking myself:

Who knew the back, front and side yard were chock full of such wild adventure? 

September 29, 2008

Lucky

I taught five classes of Kindergarten and First Grade today in the Central neighborhood of Cleveland. And I am again reminded how unknowingly lucky my children are. I met five and six year olds that couldn't identify their basic shapes. Boys and girls that could not draw a building beyond a mess of scribble. Children that have never held scissors. Kids hungry for praise and encouragement. I LOVE my job. I love getting to know some 120 little people, and speaking love into their lives. I love watching them get good at something, and helping them to both see and be proud of their new accomplishments. 



Team Craun played outside a lot this weekend. We planted grass seed in the back yard, at long last. We packed up and donated bags of outgrown toys and clothes.  We went to the Zoo, and rode the train. And following Bella's suggestion, we had a picnic at the park, and cooked our dinner on the grill. We enjoyed a tasty Acorn squash, filled to the brim and oozing over with a yummy mix of brown sugar, molasses, maple syrup, butter, flour, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice. This feast was further garnished with sunflower seeds. We drank Apple Cider, and finished our picnic with some Pumpkin Roll.

Hello Fall, we dearly love you.
See more of our Fall fun, here.

September 28, 2008

Week[end] in Review

This week marked the end of many things. Jobs mostly. I went on a small resignation spree. I attempted to allude to all of my major life shifts in the most recent post[s], but being in the thick of it all, I failed at delivering with coherency. However, for the record, the post below, Conceptual Circles, still makes perfect sense to me every time I read it. Though I am told most of my readers draw very little comprehension from the read.  

So, what was this week all about?? It's like I got really stir crazy on a chilly afternoon, and decided to rearrange every room in the house.  With no master plan, initially, I knew everything had to change.  Again, an analogy, to avoid talking about it all, I apologize, let me just cut to the quick. Basically, I quit. And then I quit again, and then I threatened to quit something else. And then I quit one more time. And I felt like Michelangelo's Young Slave, finally beginning to break away from the great weight of potential.

I am not entirely sure what to think about all of this resignation, and I am still a little stunned that it all happened so quickly and comfortably.  I certainly  know that I had [and maybe still have] way too many jobs. But mostly, I think this week was more about carving out a schedule that fits into my life.  And I guess I am no longer willing to re-fit my life into a work schedule.

I feel like I have been out with the chisel and hammer. Making the rough cuts; removing the large and unnecessary pieces from a huge block of marble, to make way for the coming sculpture. A sort of honing in. Refining. And all of that has brought me such freedom and clarity. Because I know what I live for, and it's about time all of my jobs fully line up with that. 

September 24, 2008

Conceptual Circles

Circles are very round.

Relentless.

Around and around and around.


I try to envision my life as several, and often too many, concentric circles. Somehow the logical compartments then all relate to and fit nicely into one another, but maintain delineated margins and borders.  There is a tidy and clear hierarchy, and all fits together just so.  And there is comfort in that perceived/constructed order.  Compartmentalized chaos, if you will. And since it is a beautiful visual diagram, I am soothed and surely convinced that all is well and good in the world. For it certainly keeps turning around and around and around.


Driving home from an interesting hour and a half of a conceptually circular meeting, I suddenly saw my compartments dissolve. And I felt as if a new grid fell over my understanding, and all of my processing facilities.  Like a new life lens, if you will.


And today, I am strangely comforted, and I am quite certain I tread rather along a quite lengthy mobius strip of eternity, not compartmentally concentric, but continuous. And one journey, not so many. But still, around and around and around.

September 23, 2008

Yesterday and Today

Yesterday I experienced the euphoric relief of clicking send.


Monday was littered with many long-procrastinated e-mails.Tidying up the neglected inboxes on all fronts, first. Dealing with multiple teaching obligations and various work commitments and necessary follow-up’s, second. And thirdly: resignation.


And what followed, was a great surprise; foreign, refreshing and immediate relief.


---


Today was our first Women’s Bible Study morning. Let me repeat from above:


And what followed, was a great surprise; foreign, refreshing and immediate relief.


I am enrolled at a local church to spend nearly an hour in worship, where people actually move and clap, and following that, I get to spend another solid hour in class. We are reading Revolutionary Parenting -- which is hands-down my favorite [but most challenging] book I have ever read on Parenting, and we have half a bookshelf of them to compare.


The little brother, went to the toddler room, and played his heart out with nearly 20 other little cave people like himself. Bella, exclaimed with sheer excitement, that since she was a bigger kid, she would be going to school.  


After coffee and banana nut bread,which I didn’t have to share or worry about spilling, and worship, and a great message, where I didn’t need to round up and keep an eye on two ankle-biters, I enjoyed a great lecture and discussion, uncluttered by distracted attention, and then I picked up two equally refreshed kids.


And of course, after writing the toddler realities of Nate to the whole world yesterday, he has been on Saint's behavior today.  I picked him up first, and it was his urgent business to go “git Bewllya, git Bewllya”. More urgent than his mommy, his blue hat, and even his puppy.  He is in love with his big sister. I hadn’t even considered that this would be the hardest thing for him, when I left him there crying.


When we went to “git Bewllya” she was far too busy at school playing with her new friends, and engaged in an intense round of ring-around-the-rosie, that she could hardly believe we were actually going to leave this amazing place, so soon.


And the best part, is that we get to go there every Tuesday, for a whole semester.

September 22, 2008

The Spit Fit

Our little guy, who gets proportionately less space here, is up to new tricks of mischief.  I usually like to blame his antics on his big sister, the frequent bad-example-setter, but his new one...is strangely all his own creation.                           
Give the little man an undesired response to a request, a NO, per se, and he not only goes into instant fits of wailing and panic, but he accompanies those two good friends with spit. In a toddler-rage, he spits on his hand, and holds it up to your face annoyed and showing the mean parent up-close how disgusted he is with his own spit, which he spat, on his own hand. Seriously. And he is ticked, and is most impatient, pleading: Get this spit off of my hand, like he didn't just put it there. This delirious fit of anger is now fully expected following a declined second feast on chocolate chip cookies and candy, or being denied to play with scissors, or worst, having to be dried off on a cuddly warm towel after a bath.

September 18, 2008

What I am Not

I do love ritual and comfort, I must admit. And I also love reward, especially if it marks a challenge overcome -- be it large or small.  I suppose this is why the almost-four-year-old still gets chocolates for using the potty. It's these life indulgences, these tiny celebration monuments littered all over the house, like little tokens of time, that help me to stay focussed and committed to the right now and the what's ahead. The constant realignment of my today to the direction of tomorrow.

So, we are at Day...hmmmm, I am actually having to look it up. [Nearly another cause for celebration] It is day 49 of giving up a quite costly coffee comfort ritual.  And as a reward, I decided to get this for myself:

It is the I am Not a Paper Cup insulated porcelain cup with a silicone lid -- and I am in LOVE. The soft silicone seals the cup wonderfully and is so smooth on the lips whilst sipping a chai latte. And to further pimp out this great treat, I got this snappy coffee cup cozy too.  I snagged that one on Etsy, right here.  Today my cup contained some cinnamon-laced coffee. And it reminded me, that I have come a long way, baby. And now, I even have this lovely cup to prove it...and I welcome with anticipation all the warm drinks of a quickly approaching Autumn.

September 17, 2008

Make your bed, and Sleep in it too.

I like to be ready for the what next? I dream about the year ahead, and try to figure out all of the nuances well in advance. I love the details. Over-doer is constantly pulsing through my blood stream.

So, knowing that eventually Bella is going to need to give up her toddler bed to her now-toddler baby brother, [who is probably only a day shy of figuring out how to climb out of his crib] I began to research twin beds.  I found this:


Only one GIGANTIC problem, the price tag. All of our furniture fits neatly into one of three categories: 1. Used, handed down from friends or family; 2. Very Used, purchased from a re-sale shop or free and snagged from a curb; 3. Cheap New, purchased from IKEA.  So this was exciting but daunting territory.  Much like Bella's toddler bedding I found for half a grand, for one set, [no joke] that I was certain was just the perfect next step for her and absolutely lovely to look at as well. I mulled it over for weeks. I bookmarked it online, and visited it nearly every day.  So in passing, to alleviate my obsession, I mentioned it to my skillful sewing mom. The Grand Dubs. I made some design modifications, we generated drawings together at my kitchen table, bought yards and yards of lovely Moda Fabric, and voila -- hours and days of sewing later, we receive a delightful package in the mail: Two complete sets of the dreamiest toddler bedding. Made perfectly with love. Fitted sheets that cover both sides of the mattress snugly, and velcro fully closed. The flat sheets and fitted sheets finished with ties on the bottom to help them stay put, and make for an easier time of a two year old making her bed.  Diminutive pillow covers, that also tie shut. And yes, two duvet covers, with options for a warm or an extremely warm insert. WHOA. And all that was followed by two poncho/blankets that coordinate. And even later, curtains. Yes, Overboard.

Bella is lucky to have a Grandpa [also Grand Dubs] that can build. Its a lost art these days, the ability to skillfully work with your hands. So after hours and days and weeks of Dave designing and drawing the bed plans on the computer, we have a working set of construction documents. Ones for the Grand Dubs Workshop.  Just today, I received a complicated construction-specific e-mail over lunch, and learned that the bed construction begins this weekend. I CAN HARDLY WAIT. Err, correction. Bella can hardly wait. Yes. This is all for her, I must remind myself. The very lucky first. The big Sister. 

And now, I just want to figure out every detail of the new bedding. And dream of my big girl as a reader, sitting on her little bench at the foot of her bed, turning the pages and taking in a good story. Perhaps she is reading aloud to Nate his goodnight story before he shuffles into his once-sister's handed-down re-sale shop toddler bed.

September 16, 2008

Siblings

Friendly competition, rivalry, and unprovoked meanness. Someone is always saying I'm sorry.

See More of our fun times here.

Forgiven

I received the following e-mail from my sister Anna the other day, and I slept like a baby that evening:


I forgive you for your wrongdoings when we were kids. 


I would never question her math, or even attempt at creating the equation from which her solution derives, but apparently, It took me 8,463 days to ask for her forgiveness. It only took her 45 days to formally respond, and give me a good night’s sleep.  I am glad I didn’t have to wait as long as she has.

September 15, 2008

Silly Girl

Laughs, last night

Enjoying some play time upstairs as a family, we were remarking about how silly Bella and Nate were.  And there were rounds and rounds of giggles, and the conversation that follows:

Mommy: How did we get such silly babies?
Bella, looking at mommy and daddy, very serious-like:
         Maybe from you guys?
Daddy: Well put.

September 11, 2008

Today

7 years ago, I would have never imagined where I would be today, and what I would be doing last weekend.  I have never been so politically concerned.  I don’t even know exactly what I should attribute it to. Maybe when I shed my twenties I felt the increased seriousness my thirties would require.  Maybe I had two children and have both hope and responsibility for their futures. Maybe I have a larger worldview and have left the USA enough times to see what life looks like outside of Ohio. Maybe it’s to do with teaching 100s of elementary school kids in the roughest neighborhoods of Cleveland, and driving past entire blocks of boarded up houses. Maybe it’s the thousands of tears shed over heartache with friends, and family, and the church. 


Dave and I were in Italy this day, seven years ago. We learned the news, and almost in disbelief tried to digest the stories. And for quite a while, being so disconnected from our country, they were just stories.  The reality started to sink in as more news was available. More personal stories surfaced, and we learned of the physical connections that we had with people, place and time, ones that reached across geography, like little threads to our hearts. And then, we came home to a country that had somehow bonded, and suddenly grown more patriotic, like a chia pet. And we were some how outside of that. Like we missed the parade, and it just isn’t the same seeing it on the tv months later. And I kept hearing 9-1-1. And I just wanted the ringing of those numbers to go away.  One would think that 911 would resonate loudly to me, being prone to panic.  But somehow, I kept feeling that those numbers would be propped up and used to campaign fears and war.  Souvenirs and bumper stickers.


So maybe there are lots of factors I am not even aware of yet, but I find myself surprised to see where I am seven years later. I care. More deeply. I want to see this country change, and I want to be a part of it. I am stunned by my last several weeks. I have been to my first political rally, and subsequently gotten to know and talk to the diverse residents of my neighborhood. I spent two afternoons with a couple of neighbors, registering people to vote. We registered 51 voters in our combined efforts. That is 66% of our neighborhood goal for the OCT 6 voter registration deadline. WOW. I have given my first ever donation, be it very small, to a political campaign. 


I have a mug on my desk, that I received nearly two years ago from a dear friend as a turning thirty present. A Gandhi quote is printed in colors of hope over the matte black glaze, that reads: Be the change you wish to see in the world. And I have been shocked in the last couple weeks at how small one person can be, and yet how large of an impact one can have.

September 10, 2008

Yesterday

Thank God each day comes with new grace.  I visit this site occasionally, and usually on a day that I know that I am overdue for a laugh.  Days like yesterday.

September 9, 2008

God bless you, Tuesday take 2

Today in the car, on a semi-tranquil drive through our local wooded Metroparks, Nate sneezed. A big-mess sneeze, indicating the arrival of his change-of-seasons cold. Welcome, dear friend. May we all get to know you this week, I thought pessimistically. But, I quipped the standard: God bless you. And next, we enjoyed our final moments of peace and silence.

It started out as happy chatter, and quickly turned to frantic begging and pleading, climaxing with tears and sniveling, and concluding with a sad defeat, and the picking up of all the bits and shards of her broken heart now splattered all over the back seat.

What was the request that befell me? The question that I initially avoided, but finally submitted to being completely stumped and confused by? 

Mommy, Can we go to see Bless you? I want to go to Bless You's house and visit her.  She lives right down the road. Bless you, I WAAANT TO GO SEEEEE HER!!!!

How quickly a concept of play and imagination became overwhelmingly real to her. How to explain all of this to a weary but persistent and hopeful preschooler, who simply wants to visit her new best friend Bless You? Lovey, you have made her up. And you have now lost your mind fighting for something so surreal, and gone are any windows of pause for a rational explanation, that the answer is simply no, not right now.

So. It is nap time. And we are all napping now. The whole family. And when we wake up, it is Tuesday, take 2. And I see the sun is already shining. 

Intermission, an afternoon update. Half way into said nap time, we have the little bear cry announcing an interrupted hibernation attempt.  The aforementioned cold is making his sleep efforts quite difficult. Consoled back to sleep in mommies bed, with Bella's quacker, let's hope we get a little more of the afternoon nap.

September 8, 2008

Without a Word

I don't know about your household, but in this one, getting dinner ready can be the grumpiest murkiest time of the day -- If either the toddler or the preschooler are the mildest bit hungry, tired or impatient.  Saturday, they were all three. So, I climbed up and onto the countertop, and brought down the big plastic bin of saved wine corks.  We intend someday to make a lovely rug with them for in the kitchen.  The distraction worked like a charm.  I had two very interested little people -- fully diverted and playing nicely. 

Here is a shot of Bella posing by the curmudgeon wall after dinner, and a snippet of the conversation that ensued as we mulled over what to do with the now mountain of corks on the kitchen floor:

Dave: What should we do with all of these corks? [intending to pick them up]
Bella: Maybe give them to some other kids, to keep them from screaming. 


This is the sort of stuff that doubles me over in laughter at first, but keeps me scheming into the evening hours, that she will never say something like this in the wrong company, or anywhere out in public for that matter.  And I start to fret over the next time she will see a cork, and where we might be, and what she might do. But, funny now. And we are all still laughing. How brilliant the preschooler is, we never told her to put the cork into her mouth, or to stop screaming. But I did bring them down to quiet their stir crazy whine session, and she knew that, without a word.

September 5, 2008

Fixer Upper, Best Offer


I really do love this city. Laughing and crying, I love Cleveland. 

[Do any of my fellow Clevelanders know this bridge??]

September 4, 2008

The Whole Entire Huge World

Bella has my same passionate + intense personality and racing exaggeratory mind. She will likely grow up and end world hunger or some other seemingly insurmountable great cause. Regarding my last post about the world: Bella completely agrees with me, it's a big place out there.

Dave took the train home from work the other day, and we intercepted him close by home. Bella remarked, fully capitulating all of the East/West tension of Cleveland:

Daddy took the train all the way across the whole entire huge world today to come back home?

Proud to death of her, I considered my response, but kept it all to myself instead:

That's right, hunny. All the way from Shaker Square to Brooklyn.  Both neighborhoods of the sometimes-too-big-Cleveland, this very teeny tiny bit of the world we live in. 

September 3, 2008

Hungry for a Hero

Right now, if I could suck up the entirety of my day into a giant vacuum -- I surely would. 

I have never felt so restless and tumultuous [maybe that is too over dramatic, huge surprise] but I am feeling totally swallowed up.  Like this big messy world is too much some times, and its problems are too big.  

I heard an interesting blip on NPR this afternoon while trying to navigate home on a freeway that looked more like the mall parking lot on Christmas Eve than a roadway. The program remarked that as a nation, we are hungry for a hero. I know I am. And my appetite for change right now is insatiable. and the list just continues to grow. A good yearning, but an exhausting one. Change for the Cleveland Public School system, and the Families of our Neighborhood. Change in our Relationships, Family + Friends.  Changes in Politics and International affairs. Changes in Health Care and changes in Housing, and the Economy. Fuel prices and Hunger. Sustainable living and Alternative Energy. Earthquakes, Hurricanes, and how we respond to crisis. Our impact on the world. Changes in lifestyle and mindset and diet. The workplace, and lay-offs. Recession. Needs. Problems. The Church, the Poor, Homelessness.

Wow. and all that is right off the top of my head. Aaaah. I already feel so much better, just dumping it all out here. I started this post, and thought about only writing blah for today. And now, at least I know what my heart is breaking for. So I can sleep, and wake up again tomorrow, and be the change I want to see [Ghandi] even if the impact seems small in this big messy place.

September 2, 2008

It mostly looks like Play

Having an art and education background, we are diving head first into preschool activities [as Bella loves to call them] around here. Being a chronic over-doer by nature, I know it is entirely unlikely for me to select and be faithful to a single curriculum, and therefor have decided to go willy-nilly piece-mail in putting a small program together.  I have visions of a school room for our once spare room that wake me up in the dark. I am fairly certain I am not made of what it takes to homeschool, and for a variety of reasons, am also pretty sure that when Kindergarten rolls around, Bella will be driven there and dropped off.

But, I am learning, pre-school is mostly play-school...and we are loving it!!  To watch her brain fire and be dazzled by all of this activity is truly a treat. To see her applying what she is learning in our daily conversations + experieces makes my heart swell. She is becoming so bright, and I love her hunger to learn.

So, what are feeding her, anyway??

Mostly, this.  These Kumon workbooks are stunning, and their learning philosophy is great! they are gorgeous -- frameable, even -- and will probably end up on the walls of the former spare room, when I find a good deal on vintage school desks, and other lovely school furniture and accessories. But, I digress. These books tackle all sorts of manipulation and fine motor skills, cutting, tracing, sorting, matching, pasting. They also have entire lines for reading and math. 

We rely on many other workbooks, a hodgepodge variety from Holcomb's to Hollo's and even Target, but our use of them is sporadic, so I will edit those out to spare this post's length. The stuff that a friend Emily started using with her pre-schooler also looks great -- needless to say, I am eager to re-visit Holcomb's this week!

We also like to work school into our everyday reading rituals. Bella devours books, and now has the attention span and interest for longer stories.  We love love love the Barefoot Books. So many gorgeous stories, and an amazingly inclusive world view. We enjoy their CD compilations as well. I suppose we could categorize our raucous fun afternoon dance parties as gym. We also do puppet shows in Bella's little table top theater, and have found that a few essential Folkmanis puppets pair nicely with the books [most notably the princess, the prince and the dragon...]

We don't do t.v. here, as most of you know.  So -- when Bella got hooked on WordWorld at the Grand Dubs, I was mildly worried.  Wow, the combination of sight-reading and phonics comes together in beautifully drawn animated cartoon. They knock me down.  I never thought I would so willingly turn on the screen for Bella and let her devour its content so readily. Immediately, we have downloaded the free episode online, and watched it on the Mac multiple times a week. The library near us is purchasing the entire collection -- just released -- due to my lengthy conversation with the Children's librarian two weeks ago.  Two have already arrived, and are on hold for us. Hello, afternoon and a little WordWorld time. 

That's mostly it.  I consider myself a lifetime learner, so to embark on this season with Bella has so far been fun + engaging, and has mostly looked a lot like play. That, and Bella traipsing around the house wearing her backpack saying she's going to school. 

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