Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Robert gets another birthday

Happy birthday Robert!

I think he's feeling pretty glad to be alive. Considering two weeks ago today he was close to death. Every day after must seem like a gift. He is incredibly cheerful and that benefits us all. Finally, I am able to keep his attention and discuss dreams and plans. We will take time away to vacation--to see some things. It's like it takes a heart attack to start living! If you're so lucky to make it through alive.


Allison is learning about nouns, common and proper. She memorized a poem, "The Caterpillar" and recited it to her aunts today when they came to visit. Our plans to take her dad to the planetarium were squashed when I discovered it was closed today. One of the aunts wants to take Allison and her cousin to see the White House in Miniature at the Truman Library on Sunday. Supposedly it is lit up with Christmas lights right now.

We went to the bookstore today where Robert picked up maps on Baja and I browsed the Native American section now that I am curious about the massacre at Wounded Knee. Remember we've been watching hours of "Into the West," which depicts the horrible way the Indian culture was annihilated. Last night's episode was so, so sad. You just feel like you want to do something about it, to scream out to someone, "Stop this!" It's a little bit the way I felt recently when watching the coverage of the "refugees" of the New Orleans Katrina disaster. Somebody help them! At bedtime we were still discussing the matter and I was still so worked up. I asked Robert if he knew any Indians since I don't and he teased me saying, "Why, do you want to apologize to one?" Well, yeah. I guess.

Robert did set up the telescope we got him. It looks so impressive. It's an Orion Dobsonian Reflector and it's huge. I ordered it online and unfortunately it was delivered while I was out of the house so Robert saw the box and the surprise was ruined. With him home all the time I can't get away with mischief as usual. Anyway, he seemed so pleased with it. We'll take it out on the fairway tonight. It sounds stupid, but I want to find Dog Star and offer an apology.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

I'd be lucky too

Yeah I'm a horse too. Here's my owner.


Gee, Robert's having a heart attack has been an excuse for all of us to have fun. Who would have thought? We are behaving like kids on a snow day, except we stay inside: Stay up late, sleep in late, play games read, talk, entertain a few visitors. I pulled out our big dry-erase board and taught Allison to play hangman. That was such a hit that she pesters us non-stop to play now. Good game for spelling, though. After hangman she found she could keep her dad's attention by using the board for math. He taught her to add numbers that have lots of zeroes behind them (his favorite) So I heard the word million a lot yesterday. Michelle and Rich brought a complete dinner over for us tonight. That was fun to sit and visit with them. I love it when there are friends in my living room!

With all the loafing we are still getting some reading and worksheets in. Allison wants to make sock puppets, (thank you very much Disney Channel) something I'm not too interested in doing mostly because it requires pulling out a lot of craft material and messing up. I have been knitting and she wants to learn. I tried, but it is frustrating for her little fingers. I may try to teach her to crochet instead if she still shows interest.

The last few nights the three of us have taken short walks up the fairway; just enough to give Robert a little exercise. The moon is full and it's perfect how it softly illuminates the surface of everything. I am struck with the idea for the perfect birthday gift to him--a telescope! We could put a blanket down in the middle of the fairway and set up the scope for viewing. We could look at that moon. It could be a new hobby.

Allison made up a game where she described herself as a horse and then asked her daddy to do the same. Of course, she is a beautiful cream-colored horse owned by royalty and so well cared for. Her owner braids her tail and puts jewels in her mane. She gallops up the fairway. "Okay, what kind of horse are you, Daddy?" Well, first of all, he's plain brown and he's missing a chunk of his right ear from a fight with a coyote. There's a scar beside his eye from an encounter with a grizzly bear. He limps, the result of a gunshot wound in a skirmish with cattle rustlers. His tail is broken. Allison is not too amused. She wants a daddy horse that matches her princess stature. He doesn't relent. "Yeah, and guess what my name is?," he says.
(I saw this coming.) "Lucky," he says.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Robert's heart

Everything came to a standstill this week when Robert had a heart attack Tuesday night.
His right coronary artery collapsed which was corrected with the insertion of 7 stents. Apparently, they are the biggest stents made, at 4.5 mil. He has extra large arteries it seems. The stents are from 3 different manufacturers which we thought odd, but suspect the surgeon had to search the drawers for all the big ones.

This attack came as no big surprise to us. Robert has been on a collision path with a health disaster: Smoking heavily, drinking too much, eating badly, too much stress at work.
He is lucky to be alive.

To everyone's amazement he appears to have suffered no significant heart damage and should recover fully. Soooo, we are all getting cozy at home while he heals. He will be the center of attention for awhile. This could end up being a nice opportunity for he and Allison to spend time together. I see a lot of changes ahead.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Between One o'clock and Forever

Lamar's for doughnuts, the bank to make the savings deposit, the jeweler to repair a bracelet, the auto service center to change the oil in the car, the grocery store for milk and fabric softener. That was our morning. Not too eventful.

I needed to stick close to home because the furnace repairman was coming between 1 oclock and forever. They never give you a definite time! So at 3 0clock "Rex" shows up. He's a throwback to the 50's with his crew cut and the hyper-proper way he keeps addressing me as "Mrs." The mechanism that turns the pilot light has broken from within and must be replaced he tells me. Okay that's all I need to know so do it.

But like many repairmen he is overexplaining to show he's a good repairman. He wants to tell me all about the inner workings of the damaged piece and how it has five something-or-others like you find in an automobile and says "you know" like I might know that part, and tells me the government won't allow him to disassemble the part because a couple of incompetents blew themselves up and there were lawsuits and now the part must be replaced completely and can't be until tomorrow and I'm thinking that's very interesting but can I get back to the harmony of my afternoon and the oreo cookie I had to set aside when he tapped the garage door uttering, "Mrs?"

Peace again. The phone hasn't even rung all afternoon. The rest of the world doesn't know about us or seem to care. Sometimes I relish that remoteness, sometimes I feel forgotten. Overall, it's up to me how engaged I want to be with the world. I think often about a woman my husband knew growing up. She was the mother of one of his friends. Her name was Thelma and she never left her house or changed out of her housecoat. She lived on coffee, cigarettes and Valium. My husband of course had no explanation for her odd behavior, but I suspect every mother in the world can fill in the blanks.

Thelma had obviously given up. She was that one mother that got sucked up into the vortex called Oblivion. Who knows who of us will fall into it next? Throughout my years raising children I have reflected on this woman I never met and wondered at what point did she make the decision to cross over to Oblivion? And then, why stay there appearing content to blow cigarette smoke through the screen door forevermore? When I was a young mother imagining her frightened and threatened me, but after I'd logged a few years I began to imagine her in a different way--kind of the same way a nine-to-fiver might envy a street bum his freedom. Maybe there was some pleasure in Oblivion I hadn't considered. It certainly couldn't be very taxing and then there's that cozy,"It's four o'clock and I'm still wearing my pajamas" feeling. Still, Thelma remains to me the woman I never want to become.

Monday, October 10, 2005

From apes to teacups

We made it to the zoo in Omaha. It was worth the trip. I was especially impressed with the "Kingdoms of the Night" in the lower level of the desert dome. It was all about creatures that live in the night and it was downright spooky from the bat caves to the dimly-lit swamp full of God-knows-what. The fabricated swamp was the animal version of the Truman Show. In near complete darkness spectators move above the swamp along a winding plank walkway and spy on the animals going about their typical nocturnal activities in a world make to look authentic.

We were mesmerized by the escape antics of a beaver who repeatedly swam under the plank bridge and gnawed the wooden barrier beneath. He'd reappear with a mouthful of soggy wood shavings. He must have thought there was freedom on the other side when we could see it was more manufactured swamp, the side that the bullfrogs inhabited. We tried to tell him, to save him the trouble, but alas. So, we shuffled along to the exit startling something that startled us by jumping into the water. In retrospect, the whole experience of a day's worth of animal viewing was educational and very interesting, but the overall impression I formed was this: I am so glad I am not an animal.

About once a month I empty all our saved change into a glass jar and take it to the bank for saving. I've always had the bank run it through their automatic counter at 7 cents on the dollar, but recently I decided that counting and wrapping it ourselves would be a good learning opportunity. So, that's what we did this morning. Afterwards, we worked on counting from a math workbook.

We were anxious to go to the bank with our stash, but in the car I remembered the banks were closed for the Columbus Day holiday. This is a dangerous situation for your little pile of money. It could easily find its way into your wallet. I was determined that it should reach it's intended destination and I spent not a penny of it which made me feel wise and prudent. Nevermind the fact that today I probably spent more at Osco on toiletries and at the deli for imported cheeses and jams than all the rolled coins in the jar on the floorboard. It's just an exercise in misguided thrift.

Late in the afternoon we sat on the sofa to read. That's when I get sleepy. I said, "please let me rest just a few minutes." And, "No, you can't watch tv, just play or read for a little bit," to which Allison complained heavily. But I closed my eyes anyway and drifted off for not maybe 10 minutes until I stirred back awake. I opened my eyes to see that Allison had surrounded me with her stuffed animals all positioned like sentinels. On the coffee table before me was a chocolate Zinger (with a bite taken out) and a glass of water. She was soft-stepping in with cup of coffee. Did she make that, I exclaimed. No, not really, it was coffee from before but she put "two sugar cubes and cream in it," she said proudly. Naturally, it was cold, but I appreciated the gesture.

So I reclined on my sofa sipping my cold coffee and sharing the Zinger with my daughter and her animals. And I thought about the zooed gorillas, which I despise for some reason. Well, I know the reason--they are too much like us but more crude and nasty. Apes only strengthen my argument for why we should run from our native tendencies. Natural is not good. I don't look to a monkey with any Jane Goodall sentimentality. They are plain gross and I denounce any possibility of kinship, no thank you very much. I say we should do whatever it takes to distinguish ourselves from apes. I'm with the Victorians on this, stiff collars and corsets and all. Thank you God for my superior opposable thumb that I might drink my cold coffee from this porcelain teacup.

Friday, October 07, 2005

"But, does it please you?"

We're back to ice skating lessons. Problem is, the rink is 40 minutes away from home. I think about the gasoline to get there and feel guilty, but then I wave it off. I want her to skate and there's nothing closer. We took lessons last fall and I knew then it was the perfect activity for her. It has all the elements she likes: theatrics and costumes, it's pretty to watch and you don't get dirty, and it's a solo sport. I'd like to see her learn to twirl and jump because it would make her proud. She needs an opportunity for performing. I have recognized this for quite awhile.
So it's lessons once a week for now.

We changed our minds about baking that cake and decided to make a extra nice dinner for her daddy. Menu:
Chicken Marsala
French herbed quinoa and rice (from a box)
Steamed broccoli

I let her help. She pounded the chicken under wax paper. She dredged it in seasoned flour. She stirred the quinoa and set the table. She knows where all my stuff is. She brings out the linen napkins and pokes her finger into the centers pulling them through napkin rings, a skill she mastered "when I was little!" Out come the woven chargers, the silk coasters, the white plates, the water goblets, the pretty salt and pepper shakers, and the "centerpiece." This she created by snatching three jack-o-lantern candles away from their spot on the Halloween table: Behind them another tall candle which I had to light. That and telling her which way the knives go was my only contribution.

I'm kind of proud of her meticulousness in what I call the art of "staging." She learns from the master! I remember loving the discovery of dimmer lights as a child. And background music! Early on I was a closet
critic of other people's domestic environs. There is so much ick out there. Why not make things lovely? I long ago accepted my need to luxurize my surroundings.

"But does, it please you?" Meryl Streep (as Karin Blixen) counters back to her lover (Robert Redford) when he criticizes her lugging her lovely accoutrements to the African plains; her fine china and sterling silverware, her club chairs and mahogony high-boy, her irish linens and her victrola. Obviously it pleased him much because he was always hanging out there on her cushy sofa drinking from her wine cache and thumbing through her l
eather-bound books.

The desire for controlling a little piece of our environment combined with a natural artistic flair lures many of us into the decorative arts. I don't apologize for liking it more than say, accounting, or medicine. Now, finally with a daughter after years of raising sons, I have my ally. My little comrade in gracious living.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Guess what's for dinner

I am new to blogging so I'll probably post everyday until the novelty wears off. I hope not because discovering blogging and reading others blogs has totally absorbed me. What a huge world of personal thoughts riding on this magical cyber-carpet. It is a fascinating time to be alive.

My daughter slept in till around eleven. I think it helped because yesterday's fever seems to have disappeared. We both had our hair trimmed at Ginger's Hair Shanty. Seriously, that's the name! Mary Kay is our hairdresser. We then ran to our office (our family business) to do a few things. As usual, I had her run things to her dad to sign and she sweetly requested 75 cents from our manager, Alan, for a bottled water from the vending machine. She's getting familiar with vending machines as she and I have plans to purchase our own snack machine as a business venture. We will stock and maintain it and save all our profits for....hmmm....whatever we want!

The book purchases yesterday were a good thing. She could not wait to get home and read the true story of Pocahontas. Afterwards, she pretended to be an Indian learning to shoot a bow and arrow. Then she replicated a table-setting on the floor for eight. At each setting was placed a stuffed animal. Not as guests, but as dinner! This reality of animals eating people has gotten under her skin. I take tonight's exhibition as proof of a break-through in her thinking. Instead of being afraid of being eaten she has chosen to be the eater! Interesting, watching her process her particular fear. She invented a little ritual to help herself cope. It makes me think that the power of the ritual is indeed primal. So today, she taught me.

As I was writing this I needed to take a quick break. I walked through the living room to be startled by my daughter laying like a corpse on the floor. She often asks to be near me at night when I'm usually on the computer. Sometimes I let her camp out on the sofa near my study, but lately I've tried to be more hard-core and insist she stay in bed. When I saw her on the floor I scolded her and she dissolved into tears. Something is troubling this little girl and I recognize it clearly because I remember the feeling. She is trying to understand death. I don't like this at all as I have no happy answers for her.

We sat on the sofa and I listened to her weep and express her fear that something might happen to me. How heartbreaking. I assured her with the usual, "we are safe, I am smart, Daddy is strong, God and your big brother Ian are looking over us", but she debates me and it blows me away the hidden philosophies she's developing. In the end all I can do is promise I will never leave her and distract her with the fun little things we will do tomorrow. We shall bake a cake we decide. Not cookies, she doesn't like the crispy corners. Tomorrow we'll shop for pumpkins. Tomorrow we'll read about dolphins. Tomorrow is the best word in the dictionary. Everything is always better tomorrow.

useful information

What did we learn today? That Pepto-Bismol helps sour tummies. "Mom, why does a spoonful of sugar make the medicine go down? It's already sweet." I read her temperature with a digital thermometer. When I returned with a glass of water I was surprised to find she'd figured out how to use it herself and announced, "It's a hundred dot four, Mom."

After a few workbook pages (sequencing, comprehension) we decided we just had to have more Halloween decorations so we headed out. Dropped by the book store and returned with a handful of Step into Reading books. Level 3 seemed the most appropriate for her reading level. I had a hit with my choice, "The True Story of Pocahontas." She was reading it before we got out the door and obviously intrigued with revealing new information on one of her favorite Disney princesses. "Mom", she exclaimed with tabloid fever, "Mom! Pocahontas had a baby and she went to live in England forever!"

I picked up First Language Lessons for the well- trained mind. But the more I learn about that method, the less it interests me. Maybe I'm lazy, but as a whole it seems too demanding. This will take more thought. For now it makes sense to me to give her this year for pure pleasure in exploring.

We may try to drive to the zoo in Omaha this weekend. Animals are a daily topic of interest for her. She's been to the wonderful Audubon Zoo in New Orleans, and this summer to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. She still talks about the penguins there. We're watching a lot of Animal Planet these days. She expresses the exact alarm I had as a kid, and still do, for why animals have to kill and eat other animals ( a major flaw in the our creator's planned community, in my opinion.) She's questioned us a lot recently about what options one would have while being chased by either a bear, a tiger, a lion, an alligator. We have lengthy discussions about whether it's best to run, climb, back away slowly, etc. She is very attentive to our answers as if she is truly cataloging this information as "extremely good things to know and remember."

The other night she ended her dinner grace with, "....and thank you for the animals, even the ones that eat us." which I thought was extremely generous of her.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

the power of the question

It's rare that decisions as important as deciding not to send your kid to school are made with such instant clarity. It's not like I hadn't been entertaining the idea of homeschooling all along. But when the moment came to make the commitment, the answer crystallized seemingly instantly. And the things I told myself ( and later my husband) sounded like this:

Why should she go to school when we are perfectly happy with the learning going on now. Isn't she reading and counting and exploring everyday?

Why would we want to hand her over to others to teach her?

If she's happy to hang out with us why not extend that for as long as possible? How can that be a bad thing?

All revolutions begin with a question. Did I just say that? But that's kind of what it feels like: a revolt against the norm. I feel the unease of rejecting the norm. I'm not trying to be a revolutionary. A long process of questioning brought me here. A long, slow process as I am not gifted with great intelligence and many old ideas come as new revelations to me. And as for my daughter's process....well, it's evident she's a bit quicker than I.

Monday, October 03, 2005

The decision is made

We were driving home from Colorado with just days to prepare for the start of school. I asked her, "Are you ready for kindergarten? Do you want to go?" I peered at her through the rear-view mirror and waited. This wasn't like asking what flavor ice cream did she want. I knew this was bigger, but did she? We'd been discussing the impending entrance to school-life all summer long; me promoting the upside to leaving home every morning on the yellow bus. I stressed the usual benefits: new friends, new things to learn, lunch, recess, the perfect backpack.

And I felt like some kind of traitor.

Which is why I was suddenly shifting the burden to her. Did she recognize the significance of this seemingly innocent question? Would she see the door I was o
pening at this very moment?

Her answer came slowly. She had thought the thing through and was now delivering her response with the weighted attitude of resignation. I recognized that attitude because I'd seen it years before in her oldest brother when his time came to hop aboard the yellow bus. I will always remember the unease I felt, the sense that I was banishing him from his happy habitat and days spent with his little brother exploring the world around our house. Plus, a new little brother was on the way. He was not ready to go. But what did I know then?

What a surprise it must have been to my young daughter when I caught her gaze in the mirror and said aloud, "Well, okay then. We're not going to school this year." I think she fell more in love with me that day, a gratifying dividend (I will openly admit). But I am due a few.