Archive | November, 2010

the reason for the season

30 Nov

In an effort to instill some values in my progeny, I started talking to them tonight about Advent.  I wanted them to know that long lay the world in sin and error pining til He appeared and the soul felt its worth.  But all that sin and error is a little bit heavy for a three year-old and an eight year-old, who were all I had with me tonight.  Wade was at Boy Scouts picking up enough popcorn to ensure that he is busy delivering from now until Christmas Day.

I started with Christmas.

“What is Christmas really all about?” I asked the crew in the back seat.

“PRESENTS!” Anna shouted gleefully.  My worst nightmare.  A spoiled, ungrateful, materialistic child.

I decided to try another approach.  “Whose birthday do we celebrate on Christmas?”

“MINE!” Henry exclaimed. “It’s MY birthday!”

You would think they had never set foot in a Sunday school class.  And yet, they have starred in 5 Epiphany pageants, playing angels and lambs and shepherds.  They are all baptized Episcopalians.  We have read all the Christmas books and attended church on Christmas Eve as well as all through Advent.  We have nativity scenes set up in our house this time of year.  Did I mention that Ambleside is all about teaching an enduring love for Our Savior, Jesus Christ?  And Henry attends St. Luke Methodist Church Christian Child Development Center.  He goes to school at a church.

I think I am going to ask for a refund on all that tuition.

Thanksgiving B to Z

29 Nov

B is for bedtime.  We are all so tired.  It’s been a picture-perfect fall weekend, and each child has been outside for at least 6 or 8 hours every day.  That makes for great sleeping at night.

Cranberry relish.  And of course, the children.  (If I don’t list them individually, it’s because I have already been grateful collectively here – under C).

Downtime.  I was able to take a nap.  What a blessed day.

Eclairs.  I haven’t had one lately, but I am always thankful for them and I wish I had one now.

Facebook – which allowed me to grant my dad’s one wish of the entire weekend: to watch the Ole Miss – Mississippi State football game.  It seems like such a small request until you consider that I don’t have cable and my mom doesn’t have a TV in their condo.

Guy, Houston.  His Wall High School Hawks football team won their playoff game and will now be contenders in the state semi-finals.  Go Wall Hawks.  It must be difficult to have your entire life and career riding on the performance of a group of teen-aged boys, but at least these are a stellar group.  You should be very proud of yourself and your team (for making me care at all about football.)

Haircuts.  My dad could stand Henry’s crazy, flyaway hair no longer and loaded him up and took him out for a big-boy haircut.  He looks pretty adorable.  And we can actually see his face without all that wild hair.

Ice Cream.  They all let me nap while my parents took the big kids (all 3 of mine, including Joseph) out to Dairy Queen.  That was a great sacrifice on their part and I do appreciate it.

Joseph.  I heart him.  I don’t know what else to say about Wade’s best friend.  He just folds right into our family chaos and never presents so much as a tiny challenge. 

Kitty-cats.  have I mentioned that we have two?  Sushi and Gus.  We don’t see them often as they seem to have adopted themselves out to other families, but technically, they are part of our menagerie.

Love, a

Many Splendored Thing. (sorry, that was a stream of consciousness breaking through).

Nightmares about hunting season.  That’s all they are now – just bad dreams.  I am so thankful.

Odyssey minivans that never break down or fail to start.  Honda has made a true believer out of me.

Pansies and Snapdragons that now line the beds in front of our house.  They are so beautiful and add such flair to our little white and green cape cod-style house.  We are so happy here.

Quality of Life.  We have it in spades.

Readers of this blog.  So far only Mary Carol and Tifani have responded, and yet I know for a FACT that there are several of you out there reading.  

Shoes.  High heels, ballet flats, professional pumps, boots for all occasions.  I couldn’t pick a favorite.  That’s why it’s so good to have two closets.

Thanksgiving.  That’s right.  I am thankful for Thanksgiving.  My devoted parents braved the potential pat-downs and the full-body scans to travel on the two busiest travel days of the year, and said that if they if were bumped, they would give the vouchers to me.  How sweet was that?  If I hadn’t used “P” for pansies, I would have to say Parents.

Uniforms, school.  I love them.  I always have.  Back when I wore them at St. Timothy’s and now that my children do.  They are the best invention ever.

Violin-playing children.  I love that they are learning an instrument at school and i don’t have to drive them anywhere.  Besides, the violin is just such an elegant instrument.

Weather.  It has been the perfect fall weekend in San Angelo.  Last week it was summer, next week it will be winter.  I am so glad that autumn chose such a perfect weekend to show herself and her splendid colors.  I love her more since she only lasts a week or so.

Xenophobia.  It’s such a cool word.  It means a fear of outsiders and is most commonly used now in the context of immigration, but I think it would be great in a discussion of alienation and isolation.  We should have one.

Y’all.  For caring what I think.  Or just for reading because you don’t know what nutty thoughts I will have the audacity to broadcast next.

Zen.  To the extent that it means peaceful.

And to all a good night.

Thanksgiving A to Z

24 Nov

An interactive blog.
 
I am going through the alphabet and naming what I am thankful for.  I will probably write something effusive and gushing and elaborate and wordy. (Just a guess as the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior).  Then, in the comment section, you will name what you are thankful for starting with that day’s letter.  You don’t have to be descriptive or write anything more than the title.  But I will, because that’s just how I am.  You can take it or leave it. (Someone I once knew said that to me.  Ultimately I decided to leave it, but that’s another story.)
 
A is for Anna.  She is the breath of fresh air in this house.  We never know what she is going to say.  Ultra-observant with a decidedly offbeat way of viewing the world.  She has a heart as big as her personality, and life with her is always an Adventure (please note the A).
 
Additionally, I swoon with gratitude for the Ambleside School of San Angelo.
 
Ambleside is a tiny, but growing, private school that two of my three children attend.  Its educational philosophy derives from the teachings of Charlotte Mason, a nineteenth-century British educator.  The school emphasizes the formation of habits: the habits of kindness, of perfect execution, of neatness, of attention. 
 
The children start every day with chapel — prayers and hymns.  The texts used are rich in language and imagery and require the children to use their imaginations.  Nature study, composer study, artist study, and skills with sketching and watercolor are taught to every child.  Also music, Spanish, and violin are part of the curriculum.  The high-school and junior-high classes fund their field studies by planning and preparing Friday lunch for the school.  This means that 7th and 8th graders are writing letters to send home, counting responses, shopping for supplies, preparing the meal and serving it.  Then they have to subtract the cost of the meal from the monies collected to determine their profit.  They are learning to work as a team and to plan and execute a project from beginning to end.  They are also learning to work toward a goal.
 
The junior high class is making a quilt.  They are not even Amish, but they chose a pattern, chose the fabrics, and are now cutting and piecing and stitching.  Even the boys are working on the project.  The quilt will be sold at auction and the proceeds donated to the school.   Ambleside emphasizes building relationships, and the teachers excel at figuring out how to facilitate this end.  As the relationships in our home were strained in the last few years, I am grateful that my children are spending so many hours in a school where in addition to learning their letters and sums (and science and art and Bible and music), they are also expected to treat each other well, to be inclusive of those who are new or uncomfortable, to be helpful to those who struggle.
 
Because of Ambleside and Charlotte Mason’s philosophies, I am learning to be a better mother and I am becoming more adept at seeing where the popular culture goes awry and in what ways I need to shield my children, but not shelter them to the extent that they don’t know how to navigate the big world.
 
There are my A’s.  Now you have to tell me yours.

Rancho

24 Nov

When Wade was three, we sent him out into the big, wide world of St. Luke’s pre-Kindergarten.  5 days a week.  9 to 1:30.  I was so concerned that 5 days a week would be too much for my older child, but as his sister was 19 months old and the two little ones kept me from accomplishing ANYthing at home, someone had to go somewhere for a few hours to preserve my sanity.

Luckily Wade met his best friend and twin-separated-at-birth, Joseph, in that class.  And as luck would have it, Joseph also lived just two houses down – the youngest of four children.  Their youngest and my oldest have been inseparable ever since, and it is because of their friendship that the rest of Wade’s family has been invited out to their lovely ranch home on several occasions.

We just got back from a lovely, sun-soaked trip to the wild west.  I took my three children out on Sunday to meet Joseph and his dear family, who offered us our choice of accommodations.  Because of my children’s ages, I needed to sleep in proximity to them, so we chose the bunkhouse.  I shared a bed with Henry and the room with Anna.  Wade and Joseph took the other bedroom so that they could play video games all night long, uninterrupted.

No detail has been overlooked at the ranch.  We lounged around, Henry swam in the hot tub, we watched deer and javelina at the feeder by the house, Joseph went out with his dad and Wade and shot a beautiful mule deer buck.  We ate nice meals and had lots of good conversation.  Henry ran around completely unsupervised and relished the freedom.

It takes a long time to get there, including many miles on a dirt road.  So many miles that I nearly turned back several times as I was convinced that the ranch couldn’t really be that remote.  But it is.  And its remoteness is part of what makes it so relaxing.  You can’t call anyone or check your email, so you might as well just relax and enjoy the mountains and the sunset and the high desert air.

So here’s to Wade and his excellent taste in best friends.  To have friends like Joseph and his family is something my family can be very thankful for this year.

Writing about Running

22 Nov

is infinitely more my speed than actually running.  Sometimes I even prefer reading about running to either.  Here is something Runner’s World sent to my email the other day.

Where else might this apply?

“Running well is a matter of having the patience to persevere when we are tired and not expecting instant results.”

Cooking with Claire: Thanksgiving Edition

21 Nov

There will be dessert. 

If all else fails, if I have a flat tire and don’t make it back from Rancho Escondido, if the javelinas get us, if we just decide to stay out there in paradise, if we defect to Mexico, (more likely: if we take a wrong turn and end up in Mexico), there will be dessert served at my house on Thanksgiving.  So far a chess pie and a fudge pie.  On Wednesday, if I come back, I will whip up a pecan pie.  Papel sells a fancy concoction called “Pecan Pie in a Jar” for those of us who would rather buy our Karo syrup at a gift store, wrapped in tissue paper in a fancy bag.  I am going to give it a whirl.  Just add butter et voila!  Just like the turkey: how hard can it be?  But they didn’t have chess pie or fudge pie in a jar, so I was on my own tonight.  Just me and every southern cookbook ever written.  We do love our desserts.

And I did purchase a turkey today, so don’t fear the vegetarian Thanksgiving.  It is pre-cooked.  That seemed like a prudent choice for a first-time turkey-preparer and Thanksgiving-hostess.  My dad will be here, so I have a turkey-carver.  I am sure that my knives won’t be sharp enough for him.  he will say “do you have a sharpener?  I meant to send you one.” and then for Christmas I will receive some Sabatier carbon-steel knives and a sharpener.  I can hardly wait!  A little taste of home in my Texas kitchen.  I might even get a new apron out of the deal.

The side dishes (yet to be prepared!) are sweet potatoes with marshmallows, roasted green beans, and a super-promising potato and califlower gratin.  Doesn’t that sound delish?  the gratin calls for creme fraiche.  I have never cooked with it before, but it’s French, so my dad and I will surely love it.

It feels so decadent to leave town in the days before Thanksgiving.  Who do I think I am?  Someone well-organized and skilled in planning ahead?  Y’all are too smart to believe that.  I am really just a girl who could use a good road trip.  I am going to load the children up in the third row, stack our luggage in the row between them and me, and put my earbuds in my ears and crank up my ipod.  It will be just like being alone. 

Oh, I am just kidding.  I’m actually looking forward to getting the little tikes back early tomorrow and traveling with them.  We always have a good time.  Maybe I should re-phrase: It’s always an adventure.

Shouldn’t Thanksgiving week be harder than this?  Isn’t there supposed to be some turkey-cooking drama like in all the movies?  Am I forgetting something?  It can’t possibly be this sane and manageable.  There’s only one answer that makes any sense to me:  I have waked up in somebody else’s life.  Either that, or it’s that old black magic of denial.  Stay tuned.

Anna wrote me a letter

20 Nov

Dear Mom

you are the

Best.  I ♥ U

thank you

for the dogs

and the cats

and this

home.

you are

the Best

mom in the

world.