Sunday, August 30, 2009

Letter Walk :: B

This morning was beautiful, and we all felt the urge to get outside immediately. Little b walked to the door and said "GO!" just moments after he woke up. So we decided to take a walk. News of our color walks has spread, and a neighbor suggested we take it to a new level with shape walks. This adaptation inspired a new idea, vocalized almost simultaneously by Big B and me: letter walks. And of course, the first letter he chose was B!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Yard Sale Score: Friendship

We headed a few blocks eastward yesterday for the yard sale of a good friend. She is moving to Hawaii in less than a month. It was bittersweet to watch her sell her worldly possessions to move across the country, but she is happy and excited for the journey to join her husband and bring her two sweet babies to a gorgeous oasis.

We felt fortunate to have our selection of toys from her daughter's stash. Our score du jour was a trampoline, which now sits in the center of the boys' room. We also came home with a dozen vintage kids' books in great condition.This one, commercial as it may be, was one of my favorites when I was a child.As soon as I saw this one I knew I'd scored. It was a great surprise for Big B upon his return from his first week at Kindergarten.
The yard sale was not without serendipity. Last week our little chair broke, and we found this absolutely perfect replacement.And it was only yesterday that I decided to seek out a Lite Brite at a consignment store, as it was my very favorite quiet time toy when I was Big B's age.
It is tricky to make a new friend, really really like her and her family, and then watch her move far away. But I am a better person for having known her, and isn't that a great feeling?

Safe Motherhood Quilt Update: Three Squares

Within the past week, I have received three squares for the Safe Motherhood Quilt project. Two of these squares are for the quilt panels already underway, and the third is for the special quilt devoted to women who died of Amniotic Fluid Embolism. I am privileged to share with you these compassionate, thoughtful, and beautifully crafted tributes to three mothers.

Judy Trunnell died on Tuesday May 5, 2009, in the first death associated with swine flu in the United States. Trunnell died after being hospitalized for two weeks. She slipped into a coma, and her baby, a healthy girl, was delivered by Cesarean section. Trunnell was a 33-year-old schoolteacher in the Mercedes Independent School District, about 15 miles west of her hometown of Harlingen near the U.S.-Mexico border. Health officials stopped short of saying that swine flu caused the woman's death, saying she had "chronic underlying health conditions" but wouldn't give any more details.

This quilt square was lovingly made by mother and crafter Sara Dronkers of Eureka, California. She blogged about her experience creating it here.

On December 21, 2001, Gwyneth Vives, 36, gave birth to a son. Her nurses at Los Alamos Medical Center, Santa Fe, New Mexico, reported that she and her baby were bonding well. Three hours later Gwyneth Vives was dead. The autopsy report put the cause to exsanguination following amniotic fluid embolism. Vives' labor was induced with Pitocin. She suffered a serious cervical laceration during delivery.

This quilt square was creatively made by Marcy Tracy, Labor and Postpartum Doula and seamstress in Avon, Colorado. It will be part of the Amniotic Fluid Embolism quilt.

Susan Ryan Finch Simpson, 30, a physical therapist, died unexpectedly Friday, May 22, 2009, at Mary Rutan Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, after giving birth to a healthy baby girl. Susan contracted bacterial meningitis after a routine anesthetic epidural. Her obituary reads, "a loving mother, wife, daughter, sister, granddaughter and aunt, she had an exuberant smile, loving eyes and was full of energy." She is survived by her husband, James Nathaniel Simpson, and their two daughters, Lilian Ryan Simpson, 14 months, and Olivia Sue Simpson, born May 21, 2009.

Diane Aquino Perez, a former student of Susan Goodrich, created this thoughtful tribute to Simpson: a springtime kite flying in the night sky.If you would like to create a special square for a mother who has died of pregnancy or childbirth related causes in America, please contact me or post a comment here.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Kindergarten 101

I realize that it is hard for me to write this post without a certain measure of emotion, a certain lump in my throat. This is it. This is the beginning of the fast forward button, those 13 years that fly faster than is humanly possible. This is his experience, his entrance into the rat race, his story. Since this is my creative forum, I do not feel embarrassed to say it: I am petrified.We dropped Big B off this morning, lickety split, a kiss and a have a great day, at his first day of Kindergarten. We are very happy with his school, his teacher, and the number of friends he knows in his class...but there is still a certain nostalgia for those days when he was just so little, so HOME. I am ready for this though, and goodness knows Big B is. He is smart, and I mean smart. He is ready to learn answers to questions I don't even know he has. Even his classroom--room 101--seems a fitting beginning for a lifetime of learning. This boy has a willing and open mind, and I am thrilled to see what fills it.

I cannot exactly put the importance of this day into words, so I have excerpted some from Robert Fulghum.

A guide for Global Leadership

All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sand pile at school.
These are the things I learned:

- Share everything.
- Play fair.
- Don't hit people.
- Put things back where you found them.
- Clean up your own mess.
- Don't take things that aren't yours.
- Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody.
- Wash your hands before you eat.
- Flush.
- Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
- Live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
- Take a nap every afternoon.
- When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.
- Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: the roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
- Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup - they all die. So do we.
- And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned - the biggest word of all - LOOK.

Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation. Ecology and politics and equality and sane living.

And it is still true, no matter how old you are, when you go out in the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.Big B: You have strong roots. Stick to them. They will serve you well. I'll have a snack for you when you get home.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Camp B, Day Ten: School Day

Today was the last day of Camp B, and the biggest thing on all of our minds is Big B's first day of kindergarten, only three days from now (GULP). It seemed fitting to end a great two weeks with Camp B, Day Ten: School Day.

The tone for today was set yesterday afternoon, when we went to meet Big B's kindergarten teacher. We walked quietly, looking for his classroom, each of us processing this moment in our own way. Overwhelmingly, we were...excited.When we got there, Big B immediately began to play with new friends. As we oriented ourselves with Big B's classroom, his new friends, and his new teacher (appropriately, Mrs. B.,), we were given a list of school supplies to stock up on before Monday. Thus began our first activity of our last camp day, our last weekday without school. This was always a treasured and favorite time for me as a child. Filling my various organizational containers with brand new, never used creative implements was a rite of passage I looked forward to at the end of every summer. For this rite of passage, Big B was the list-keeper.
Aisles and aisles and parents and parents awaited us at the 'school supply' section of our local big box store. I LOVED it. I think Big B did too.
With our supplies in tow, we headed to our family office so that Grammy could give Big B a special pre-kindergarten haircut. Thank you, Grammy, for cutting Big B's hair for five years. Thank you for being patient during his wiggles. Thank you for being understanding of his impatience. He will one day remember that this is one of the many things you two shared.
When we got home, we unpacked Big B's school supplies and filled out his chore chart, to begin on Sunday. If I am really expected to get him to school at 8:15 every morning, we are ALL going to have to be held accountable to a certain measure of daily discipline!
Before bedtime, I hung his new backpack on the front door, full of his new supplies. Here's looking at one last summer weekend. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: these have been the best five years of my life.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Camp B, Day Nine: Magic Day

Camp B has been so good for us, in a way I had never anticipated. Sickness has caused us to set aside our expectations. We had a full 'camp' schedule that got thrown out the window sometime earlier this week, yet we are all still having a great time noticing the common thread that presents itself on any given day. It is a great exercise in theme learning.

Today, both boys were sick. I suggested 'Reading and Writing Day,' because I had found some unused workbooks in my attempt to organize the boys' room in preparation for Big B's journey into kindergarten. Big B had a different idea: "Can we do Magician's Day instead?" It is, after all, the New Moon; a magical day to be sure. So today, without expectation or agenda, we experienced Camp B, Day Nine: Magic Day.

We looked up simple magic tricks on the internet, and this one caught our attention. We took a sponge and put it in the bottom of an opaque cup. We then put an ice cube on top of the sponge, and filled a clear glass pitcher with about half a cup of water.
I told Big B that a huge part of pulling off a magic trick is believability--not to be confused with lying, as this is for entertainment--and we rehearsed his 'shtick:' "My breath is soooo cold, I can freeze water just by breathing on it!" He poured the water into the pre-sponged opaque cup.
He then breathed over the cup, with great gusto, 'freezing' the water as the sponge absorbed it.Of course, when he poured out the water, it was an ice cube--proving to his captive audience that his breath was, indeed, cold enough to freeze water.

Our next bit of magic came from a good friend and neighbor who is an acupuncturist and Oriental medicine practitioner. She mixed up a magic potion of herbs specifically for little b, after asking careful questions and listening to me describe his symptoms over the past few days.
Big B is a compassionate and caring big brother, as well as a curious and creative scientist. Mixing the tincture with juice and preparing a dosage of 'magic potion' for little b was a perfect job for him.
We went out in our backyard to explore our own everyday magic. Big B spied this mushroom hiding under our ginger, and he thought it must be a magical little thing, as it just appeared out of nowhere!
Another special delivery of magic came from our dear friend and midwife, who brought us copal, a Mayan incense burnt during the highest of rituals. As I had every intention of attending our monthly New Moon Circle, this was a perfectly magical and timely gift.
However, by day's end, everyone in my little house was sick but me, so I nestled in to take care of my sweet family. Sickness can bring some bad funk into a home, so we cleared the energy with a nod to some good magic from the New Moon Circle, sage smudging.I am hopeful that tomorrow, the last day of Camp B, will bring us the same lack of expectation that today brought. Without expectations, we can simply enjoy each other, in the moment we're experiencing. When we are able to see the beauty in the ordinary, in the mushroom outside after the rain, in thoughtful gifts from good friends, in snuggling sick ones on the couch...these are the moments when the real magic happens.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Camp B, Day Eight: Color Day

This morning was Big B and little b's morning out with Nee-nee. Little b was still under the weather when I retrieved him, so we shelved our plans once again and nestled in for the afternoon. Nee-nee noticed that Big B was wearing a yellow shirt, had seen a yellow butterfly, and was about to make banana bread with yellow bananas. Voila, Camp B, Day Eight: Color Day was born.

To celebrate Big B's transition into Kindergarten, we bought him a box of 64 Crayola crayons a week or two ago. He has taken very good care of them, and loves to hear the names of the colors as he's drawing. Color Day inspired a closer look, and Big B carefully pulled out every single crayon today.
I asked him, "If you were a Crayola crayon, which one would you be?" After much deliberation, his choice was solid: sepia. We looked at each other and almost simultaneously said: "Color Walk!" And so we did.After we returned from our walk, we grabbed the food coloring we had just bought for our ocean-in-a-bottle project, and created a little color mixing station. We filled three glass containers with water, and I asked Big B to start by putting a few drops of each primary color into each glass. After explaining that primary colors could mix to make any other colors in the rainbow, Big B was set free to play color scientist, and he kept busy for a very long time, mixing and even matching his creations.
To end our evening, we played in the boys' room while I finished organizing the books by color. I wanted to create a system that Big B would enjoy, as he sets out to explore the limitless world of independent reading, sometime in the very near future.
“The purest and most thoughtful minds
are those which love color the most.”
--John Ruskin

Color Walk :: Sepia

Camp B, Day Eight: Color Day took us on a walk matching Big B's favorite crayon color: SEPIA! What an beautifully rustic palette this creates!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Camp B, Day Seven: House and Home Day

Camp B was thrown a curveball this morning by two leaky nostrils and a fever-y little b. Not to let this put a damper on the day, we decided to lay low and celebrate our home life with Camp B, Day Seven: House and Home Day.

While I was tending to little b this morning, I found a website for Big B that showcases houses around the world. We explored that for a little while, then I stumbled upon images from the 1937 edition of Shelter. WOW. A bit over Big B's head, but I'll be sure to remember this in a few years.

Little b would not cooperate with naptime, so we loaded up in the car in our pajamas and took a tour of our community's funkiest houses. I asked Big B who he thought built our house, and he answered, '"God?" which just cracked me up. We talked about how houses are built, and marveled at some of the unique details of these domiciles.For a quiet afternoon activity, I laid out simple building blocks and toy houses and left the rest to the imaginations of my boys.This evening, after little b was tucked in, Big B and I tried our hands at building a house of cards. We didn't get very far, but I was very proud of our patience and teamwork!
I have been cleaning and purging the boys' room in preparation for kindergarten, and serendipitously came across this book this morning. Building a House by Byron Barton is a simple, easy to understand, sweetly illustrated tutorial on how most American houses are built. Big B found it very interesting, and it was a great story to include in our bedtime trio.
“A house is a home when it
shelters the body and comforts the soul.”

--Phillip Moffitt