time to refocus, time to come to center

I am done, and I am close to my rope's end this week. I have a very simple formula I need to follow to keep my sanity, comfort level and my perspective, and I haven't followed it this week. Essentially, I need lots of one on one time with Jeff and my girls, and I need to be close to my home, so I can have contact with my cats (as much as I say I don't like to bother with them, I do love them) and I need to see my plants, see my own walls, see my stuff.

Oh, and I need to not eat the boiled vegetables with butter that I get at mom's house, and instead stick to the raw leafy green diet that we try to follow at home.

Last Saturday night my mom and I went to the symphony together to hear the 3 women who all played Christine Daae on Broadway sing (Phantom of the Opera). What a treat! She and Dick were supposed to go together but for some reason he gave his ticket to me and volunteered to put the girls to bed while I went out with mom. I think it has something to do with the fact that she likes to go and listen to the music and appreciate the whole evening and he tends to get grouchy in a crowded venue. I'm not sure whose idea is really was to give me the ticket, but I loved every second of it!

I left the Cape on Tuesday morning and headed to my dad's house in Rhode Island. Neither of the girls napped in the car, which left me disappointed but not surprised. When we got to dad's house, we loaded him into the car and all went to the beach to scoop up some stones for Emily's wedding centerpieces. Gosh, those stones are heavy!

OK, I did take those photos but I'm still wading through so many photos of last week that the RI ones will appear later on, I'm sure.

On a side note, things I did not take photos of today but should have include Julie's enormous cupcake made out of snow, built in her front yard in honor of Cade's birthday, I'm assuming... (my nickname for her is going to have to be "Cupcake") and the photo op 'H' did for us tonight while wearing her high heeled pink shoes (plastic dress-up shoes). She is so cute!

Back to last week, I spent Tuesday night at dad's house and then packed the show up Wednesday morning to head back home to NY. It took me a long time to pack up! Marilyn was home that day and dad was waiting until we left so he could go to his twice-weekly volunteer gig at the local food pantry/thrift store. Just before we left, he got a call from the manager saying that the place had been robbed the night before and they were closing for the day, so he shouldn't bother coming in. Robbed! This is a place that serves the people who don't have anything, and they got robbed. These are bad times we are entering, bad times.

The girls and I stopped to see Grandma Millicent on our way out. She lives in the same town as my dad, in a place that is not quite assisted living, but not quite a nursing home. It's a group home for seniors who are ambulatory but need a lot of physical care. They all have serious dementia, but none are in wheelchairs or carry around a catheter bag or an IV. Ever since I had my girls, I have realized what a hit the kids are at these places! Way back when, no one used to care when I came and went -- now half of the ladies and the few men will light up when they see us coming. A woman was there with her guitar and she sang a number of songs that they all knew and loved... God bless America, Over the rainbow, It had to be you.... you get the gist. It was great, and my girls danced and ran all around.

Part of the reason I'm at ends is because I haven't had time to reconnect with either Jeff or my home since I got back. I have just been on the go for the past few days. Hopefully things will turn around tomorrow.

Last night I went to the class I'm taking at the church - it's a Northwest Earth Institute course called Healthy Children - Healthy Planet. Awesome, awesome, awesome. The idea is to come together and discuss how we can raise children who are not only healthy but respect our planet. Last night's theme was "Cultural Pressures" and we talked about how the American family had changed so much over the past several decades, and asked if the current family structure and the issues families face are positive or negative... or what?

One of the things that is so striking is that we (when I say "we", I mean the average American parent - if you're in that group, you'll know, and if you aren't, you will know that too) try to make sure our children are "taken care of" and often, by taking care of them, we disregard the health of our family and the planet Earth. For example, say you think that feeding your child certain foods or giving them a certain type of toy is going to make them physically or mentally healthier, so you get it for them. But what happens if you step back and see that the health of the planet might not be helped by this plastic toy, or by overfishing, or what have you? Now multiply your one example by ... oh, I don't know, say a few million. What happens then? Can you really say that you're taking care of your children when you know that the one thing that will sustain and nurture them - our planet - is put in peril in part because of your actions? I am certainly not exempt from this kind of behavior, and often it doesn't even have to do with "helping" my children. Today I wrapped a gift in clear cellophane and thought, "This wrapping will never break down in the landfill, but boy do I love how it looks, and this roll was on sale!" Ever have thoughts like that?

Our planet isn't the only thing in peril. Our family unit is, too. When families are busy, busy, all day, every day, without having a significant time to come together and relax, wander and connect, it hurts the family. "Rushing" and "hurrying" are two words used to describe what happens to children in a heavily-scheduled environment, and "stressed out" and "overloaded" describe adults in the same situation. It makes me ask, "What are our specific family values and goals, and how do our activities and our use of time support or undermine them?"

There is a lot to think about and talking about it is a good first step. I think even more about these issues after visiting my parents because they are so earth-friendly in their everyday lives. I grew up watching them talk the talk, and walk the walk, and part of what I need to sort out as I get older is how to reconcile my current reality with my upbringing and values, and how to live a life that is truly authentic for me and my family.

I'm taking small steps that feel "right". Keeping 'A' out of a formal schooling setting feels "right". Eating more locally and reducing my consumption in managable ways feels "right". Spending more time looking at the clouds and less time scooting around in the car, talking on the phone and typing on computer feels "right".

Speaking of "right", I am going to go and wake up my sleeping, exhausted husband (he spent the day driving and skiing and connecting with old friends, and chasing around a 2 and 6 year old in Vermont) and give him a big hug! Or... maybe I'll just let him sleep instead...


It's naptime. No fever, no science experiment, no infection for 'H' today, so life is good! I guess when you drink a million cups of orange juice in 12 hours, you might actually see some results.

This library photo is from yesterday. Today we played outside ('H' had a hard time pulling away from the sand and her shovel. I even put her to bed at naptime with her shovel!) and went stopped by the Audubon Sanctuary where my mom works 4 days a week. Then we came home and 'H' played outside a while longer. She could dig all day, I swear.

This little person was made by 'A'.

I've been trying to think about centerpieces for Emily's wedding and I am having fun doing it! There are a lot of centerpiece ideas that incorporate recycled materials or objects from nature, which is right up her alley. My mom wants me to finish the wedding scrapbook now but *yawn* I am just so-o-o tired and cannot seem to do it.

I'm at the Cape

I'm at the Cape for a few days visiting my mom and Dick, and then I head to my dad's house in Rhode Island to see him and Marilyn and Grandma Millicent.

I've taken so many photos since I got here, and I actually ran out of hard drive space as I was taking them off of my camera card (Don't tell Jeff, he will not approve. I need to spend more time backing up my hard drive!). I have been so busy wiping off little noses. 'H' has had the most interesting green stuff running down for a few days now. Honestly, it's almost like a science experiment erupted in her head.

I'm always hyper-vigilant about ear infections because I have always gotten them and also, although it makes no sense at all, my mother's deafness makes me overly concerned about matters of the ear. In the winter I hydrate, hydrate, hydrate the girls and I put 'H' to bed every night with a cup of water so that she'll get hydrated and flush out all of her germs. I'm crossing my fingers that she'll be okay when she wakes up tomorrow morning. This afternoon, her green science experiment stopped and a fever took its place. If she does get one, it will be infection #2 for her in almost 2 years, (I think) so I guess that's not a bad track record.

Here is Grandpa Dick with the road grader. He keeps the road all nice-nice. You should have seen how bumpy it used to be (years ago) before he started smoothing it all out. He puts a lot of work into keeping the neighborhood looking good.

It's not very warm here, considering there isn't any snow left on the ground. We get out to play every day, but oh boy, the wind goes right through you.

One of my assigned projects this weekend is putting together the scrapbook of our wedding. My mother saved all this stuff and says she can't move on and enjoy Emily's wedding if my scrapbook isn't finished, so she handed it all over and told me to have fun. I hate scrapbooking! I did a few pages and got "too tired" to finish.

Speaking of "too tired" to finish things, I am happy to report that 'A' did indeed finish writing her name on all of her class valentine cards, and just as impressive was my work at writing "Roses are red, violets are blue, candy is sweet, but not as sweet as you" on each one. Try writing that 14 times in a row! As Jeff says, at least next year we won't have to write it so many times.

One of the neat things about coming here with my kids is watching them play with my old toys. We had very few toys growing up, but we had a ton of imagination and that kept us very entertained. Remember these Fisher Price little people?

They don't make this kind anymore. The green man on the left is actually made of wood, as are several others in our collection.

Enjoy your night - I'll tell you about my night at the symphony tomorrow! Yes, I went out and had a Grown-up good time!

I'm a little distracted as I put these photos up because we're catching up on "Lost" episodes and if I don't pay attention to the show, I miss everything. I like and dislike the show at the same time. There's a lot of drama, and it moves along quickly, which is great... and there's a lot of drama - sometimes it's a bit over the top, and it makes me lose interest.

Today it was nice and warm - almost spring-like. It never got above 50 at our house, which is my starting point for spring fever. We played at home in the morning and 'A' and I cut a puzzle out of a Cheerios box - her idea. She got the idea from one of the magazines she gets from her grandparents - I can't remember if it's from National Geographic or Ladybug.

We also kissed 'H' a million times just because...

...and then wrapped up Valentine cookie treats to give away.

We went outside to play for what seemed an eternity today. It was so nice outside! We sat and listened to the birds talk about coming home, we rolled around in the yard a bit, and we threw snowballs at our big oak tree in the front yard. I love throwing at that tree because it's hard for me to miss it, and I've got a pretty crooked throwing arm. We even got to play animal detective when we discovered several sets of deer tracks in both the front and back yards.

The tracks weren't the only evidence of the deer. You should see what they did to our rhododendron! ALL of the leaves are gone. ALL of them. Okay, I'll say it one more time, just because I am amazed by it. ALL are gone. And a pile of deer poop was left right beside it. No worries, I'm not posting that photo. I can't even believe I'm telling you about it. My sensibilities in that department are very easily offended! I have a blanket rule about toilet humor and toilet talk around me: it's not allowed. It's an inherited trait. Okay, enough of that topic!

Our Wednesday morning music class is over! And gymnastics ends soon. I didn't sign 'A' up for another session because we need a break. I might start again in the fall. I like the program because each child does what they can, and there isn't a final performance. They just go to each class and the teacher helps them do new things like roll over, walk a balance beam, jump, or hop, and that's it. Who knows what she gets out of it. Sometimes she likes it, sometimes she doesn't.

For now I am really looking forward to having a few unstructured weekday mornings with 'A' and 'H'. Tuesdays and Thursdays are preschool days and Friday mornings I have classes at the gym. That now leaves Mondays and Wednesdays for us. As the weather starts to warm up, I think about all of the things I want to do with them, like visit the pine bush and other outdoor places, or stay indoors at the state museum or the Hyde Collection, or stay home and work in the yard or in the kitchen. It is so nice to have a big block of time so we can go about our day in a leisurely way, rather than to try to rush around to show up at scheduled activities. It makes me crazy. I know, I find myself saying that phrase a lot, sorry to repeat myself so much.

I have to go now and finish making the Valentine cards for 'A's class tomorrow. She has to bring in 14 of them and Miss Katy asked that the kids try to write their own name on each one... you can guess how many I have left to finish. They have a party tomorrow too, and I tried to sign up to bring napkins, but Miss Katy saw my name there and said, "I was really hoping you would sign up for the sweet treat instead...!" As Jeff says, "this is what you get for having the allergy kid, you know." So I'll be bringing in a bunch of homemade frosted heart cookies instead of napkins. So much for simplifying.

Have a great night.

oh my goodness, it has a name. And other people see it too.

For our whole lives, my younger sister Emily and I have seen and thought in color. Words, letters and numbers all have a color associated with them. If you could take a photo of my thoughts, they would show up as an enormous color palette.

I thought everyone thought in color, but just never realized it or talked about it.

Emily and I don't have the same colors for the same words, letters or numbers. But we both share this trait.

On CNN's website today, an article is running about this condition - apparently, it's not something that everyone can see, and those who do see it are often genetically linked.

It's called synesthesia, and it's "a neurological condition in which people experience a mixing of their senses. People with the condition may see colors and movement in numbers, words or sounds."

My colors don't affect my daily life. If anything, they make thinking a fun thing to do sometimes. It probably does slow me down sometimes because I do stop to look at the colors rather than absorb the content of the material, but overall it's not a huge deal. It's just nice to know that one of my little personal mysteries is not such a mystery anymore.

Wait until I tell Emily!

This was our Saturday.

Jeff went to make a deal on a new car, and I spent the morning playing with the girls. They played with some buckets for a while, then we went to Congress Park to see what there was to see.

I brought along some food for the ducks. It's not okay to feed them, according to the city officials, but if you ask me, it's not okay to let them starve and get run over in the parking lots around town as they go out looking for food.

We didn't see any ducks in the park, so we didn't feed any. 'H' however spilled her entire container of Cheerios on the ground, so I guess that counts.

At the end of our journey, we went to McDonald's to buy some hearts to support the Ronald McDonald House. Kathy and Jillian were selling them. Jillian did a great job of asking the customers if they would like to buy a heart. It's good for children to grow up with the expectation that everyone will donate time, money or other resources to support a cause. That's what life is all about.

'A' and 'H' really liked the french fries I bought for them. We never go there because most of the meals have dairy in them, so it's hard to find anything on the menu for 'A'. Except french fries, of course!

We rounded out the day with a birthday party for a little boy who just turned 4, and then came home for our weekly movie night with popcorn.

Check out the bird nests in these trees. Pretty big nests. Pretty cool.

I've been really proud of Jeff during his car buying process. He really gave some thought to what he wanted in a car and what he could live without, salted it with a heavy dose of reality (meaning that he stuck to our agreed upon budget figures) and he was able to make a decision and work through the process in a way that made him comfortable. He bought a 2009 Ford Fusion. He likes the way it works with all of his techie gadgets, and he also likes knowing that he's doing his part to stimulate our American economy. As much as we throw around the possibility of moving to Canada because we sometimes can't bear the way Americans think and act, we are very pro-American at heart.

The girls are delicious now! Jeff reminds me that they are just about at my favorite ages - 2 and 4 years old. I remember how our days would flow just before 'H' was born. 'A' was a month shy of 2, and we had the greatest time together. Everything was so easy, effortless, and enjoyable. And now that 'H' is having her turn at a month shy of 2, I'm back in that groove. 2 year olds are worker bees. Finally, they can do things with purpose, and out of that comes an awesome sense of pride. 'H' loves that she can take her shoes off by herself and put them by the door. She hangs up her purse and takes it down, over and over again, just because she can. She goes to the bookshelf to pick out a story and she loves that she can do it by herself. She is unbelievably yummy!

And 'A'.... goodness, she is fast approaching that magical age. I love 4 year olds. Suddenly all of those connections in their brains start working, and they really understand things in a way that they never did before. And they know that it's all new and exciting for them. For me, a 4 year old holds all the optimism and creativity in the world, and none of the selfishness, doubt, shame or anger. It's a beautiful age. Being with a 4 year old makes you want to live life to the fullest, because they won't have it any other way.

'A's favorite game right now is "Where is...?" We play it over and over again, all day, every day. There are two versions. One is where she hides and everyone has to find her (or she asks one of us to hide, but usually she is the one who hides). Version 2 is where she hides an object and will ask, "Where could it be?" (and she encourages me to ask, too...). I'm sure there is some sort of logical psychological explanation for these games that ties them to her development, but I have absolutely no idea what it is, and I am just happy knowing that she really seems to enjoy this activity!

Life here is Good, with a capital "G".

Enjoy your day. As you're reading this, I am most likely searching for a hidden toy. Where could it be?

About Me

My name is Jillian. I started this blog as a way to experiment with my camera and it's a become a nice little spot where I enjoy spending time. I'm a mother to 6 and 4 year old daughters, wife to a cool computer guy, and mama to a cuddly cat. We enjoy eating local, organic food; managing several food allergies; homeschooling with love; spending time in nature; and we love to take time each day to be creative. You can also find me over at From Scratch Club from time to time. Welcome!