Monday, June 28, 2010

Happy Campers

So we've completed our first great Sleepaway Camp Adventure, and all is well. The boys absolutely loved camp: they swam and rode horses every day, and did all kinds of other activities like laser tag, jumping on a huge, floating inflatable called "the blob", BB guns, archery - basically, if you can think of an outdoor activity liked by elementary school-aged boys, they did some of that at camp. The food was (reportedly) awesome, the counselers were fanatastic, and they were even spared the indignity of interacting with girls for an entire week, as the camp is very strictly segregated.

Two's counselor reported that he was precise, resourceful, and mature. Except for the last one I have to say: exactly. He cried Saturday night in a very overtired fashion, whispering to me that he "needed to go back to camp." My poor baby who loves an orderly schedule, and lives in a house without one! Camp was fun and at the same time it met his deep-seated need for always knowing what is happening next. I think this bodes well for the future, I have to say: if he can keep his grades high, he is definitely military academy material. And that means: no tuition payments for mom and dad! I like it; I like it a lot.

One's counselor wrote that he is expressive, compassionate, consistent, and analytical. Compassionate? I guess he is, as far as that character trait goes in a 10 year old boy. The rest of the evaluation was spot-on. He, predictably, had trouble getting along with a few cabin-mates. But, surprisingly, he handled himself exactly as he should have. He tried to respond when they picked on him with something that would diffuse the situation - or made a simple statement like "I guess we don't agree. Let's drop it." He tried this tack until Wednesday, when he finally lost it and yelled at the three troublemakers. He then realized that yelling wasn't going to fix it, and shot off to get his counselor involved. His counselor called a cabin meeting and put a very effective stop to all of the nonsense. The two particularly nasty boys didn't become One's friends afterwards, or anything that silly, but they did leave him alone entirely. Victory.

They are happy to be home, but very excited about going back again, and wishing that next year they could stay for more than one week. I love that this big experiment worked so well. Would that all milestones on the way to adulthood pass so smoothly!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

BAM Week 3/52

I'm titling this one "bliss" - the boys are home and we're snuggling together. One's Red Bed makes it look even more lovey, I think.

Oh, happy me! I'm so glad thad had their Big Camp Adventure, and I'm so glad they're home again.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Formal Living Room

Or, as Two likes to call it "the room where mom keeps all the clothes."


My friend Jenny posted a link to this excellent and funny article the other day; entitled 7 Reasons the 21st Century is Making You Miserable, it's about how we grow farther apart the more technology develops. The main reason this is so, the article opines, is that technology makes us less and less adept at dealing with difficult people, because we are able to structure our lives in such a way as to shut them out as much as possible. Technology allows us to spend time solely with those with whom we have much in common, it filters our news until we hear only our own viewpoint, and it keeps us physically isolated even in commercial transactions (don't like to shop? try it online!).

Many social scientists have made similar arguments, and I think they are all fairly valid. I also think this trend towards selective isolation makes it harder as Christians to live as God commanded us: in community with one another. We are meant to be together, rubbing shoulders with one another for better or worse. In so doing, we provide not just intentional encouragement; we also provide one another with a path to become more holy, mainly by being at one point or another the annoying thorn in another person's side. God commanded us to live together so that we might share each other's burdens, and might from time to time be the burden that another needs to seek God's grace in bearing. In so doing, this person may find patience, wisdom, self-control: all fruits of of the spirit that God wants us to exhibit. As Frederica Mathewes-Green points out in her fantastic book, The Illumined Heart, God has given each of us the people in our lives for a reason: we help in one another's theosis - the process in which God's life fills and transforms us.

As is commonly said in the Orthodox Church, we are saved together but damned alone. The Church is God's gift to us - a gift of togetherness and community in which we need to participate, to the benefit of others and ourselves as well.

Icon is Christ - Pantocrator, 'Ruler of all', Serbian monastery Hilandar, Mt.Athos, 13th century

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The End of the Beginning

The boys have been at sleep-away camp this week: a first for all of us. I was expecting (just like with turning 40) that I would be a basket case about it, but that has turned out not to be the case. I was also half expecting Two to come back home with us - too frightened to stay - but instead he swanned off without a glance in our direction. Going to bed Sunday night after dropping them off, I questioned whether he'd actually given me a kiss good-bye. They were both instantly comfortable at camp, loved their cabins (which were lovely and brand-new), and were excited to explore. We left them at the pool for their swim test, and I snuck up to the fence to grab a last picture or two. Neither of them turned to see me, even though I was but 10 feet away.

I am so glad that they've had this chance to take such a big step, and very excited to hear all the details of the week when we pick them up on Saturday. I think I needed this week as much as they did; we parents need practice in letting go a little bit at a time. Before we know it, the big day will come, and they will walk off towards their dorm while we sit in the car, staring at one another and crying tears of fear and relief. So here's to this one step of many: a mom's version of a 10 month old's cruise around the furniture, before the big let-go-and-launch into open space.

(In time-honored tradition - although new to us - you enter the camp gates with your head stuck out the sunroof. Here they are, trying it out).

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Four-O

Today is the day: I am finally 40.

I’ve been half dreading this day for months – hopeful that I could be positive about it but realizing that it would be likely I’d want to spend the day in bed eating chocolates and crying.

But guess what? I LOVE IT. I’m glad to be 40 – glad to be where I am in all things, even though I am quite aware at the same time that I am a miserable un-holy (quite literally) mess who needs a lot of work yet. I’m glad I’m finally old enough to have figured that out! And happier still that I’ve been blessed beyond all measure with a host of good things I could never earn on my own.

Thank you – all of you – who make this world a wonderful place to spend another 40 years. To my husband in particular, thank you for your healing, unchanging love and your limitless patience, both of which are gifts from God himself every day. You love me and cherish me like I never imagined any person could – or would want to – and that is the most unbelievable blessing. To my beautiful boys, thank you for thinking I’m a wonderful mother; I hope you never have a therapist convince you otherwise. I love you all the way to the moon and back; even on your worst days, your kisses make every day a birthday.

HELLO WORLD – I’M A GROWN-UP! Happy birthday to me … happy birthday to me …..

Monday, June 14, 2010

Pool Scenes

Evening swim practice:

Friday, June 11, 2010

Ole Man River

On the way home from dinner tonight Two was discussing what he knew about Egypt - sand, pyramids, the Nile, crocodiles, more sand - and so on and so forth, when Husband interrupts with (what else?):

"Denial - it's not just a river in Egypt."

And One chimes in, truly curious and needing to know: "Well, what else is it?"

Yes, the award for most pedantic 10 year old has been given, my friends, and the trophy is in my living room.

History and Science at Ten

One has continued to read history - and even some math and science books - at bedtime. So far since his birthday he's consumed:

Science and Math:

Five of the Simon Basher series: Physics, Biology, the Periodic Table, Astronomy, and Rocks and Minerals. This is a great series; even Two likes to browse through them and read bits as he goes along.

Kingfisher's Genes and DNA

Stars and Planets, by James Muirden

Why Pi? by Johnny Ball


Three books on the Ireland in the 'teens and 1920's: Easter Rising 1916: Birth of the Irish Republic, The Irish Civil War, 1922-23, and The Anglo-Irish War: The Troubles of 1913-1922. This is a new series for us: they are all military history books, from the Romans to the modern era. One has loved every one he's read, and has asked that one of his focuses next year - when we return to ancient history - be military history. The series is full of books on Greek, Roman, and other ancient battles and wars: he's very excited to sort through the titles and pick out a good selection for himself.

A number of Sterling books, which we always love: General George Patton: Old Blood & Guts, Invasion: The Story of D-Day, The Sinking of the Bismark: The Deadly Hunt, Pearl Harbor Attack, The Great Escape: Tunnel to Freedom, Thomas Edison: The Man Who Lit Up the World, and Marie Curie: Mother of Modern Physics.

Gandhi: The Young Protester Who Founded a Nation, by Philip Wilkinson

Children of the Dust Bowl:The True Story of the School at Weedpatch Camp by Jerry Stanley

Commodore Perry in the Land of the Shogun, by Rhoda Blumberg

The Usborne World War I History pictured above

Winston Churchill: Soldier and Politician, by Tristan Boyer Binns

A Young Person's History of Israel by David Bamberger

Orthodox Christians in America, by John Erickson

Keeper of the Light: Saint Macrina the Elder, Grandmother of Saints, by Bev Cook

The Road from Home, by David Kherdian - a history of the Armenian genocide at the hands of the Turks.

The Great Depression, by Elaine Landau

The Arab Revolt 1916-18: Lawrence sets Arabia ablaze, by David Murphy - from the military history series I mentioned above. He's in the middle of The Boer War 1899-1902 volume right now - one of those events that sort of slipped my mind when I was choosing books earlier in the year. Sorry, Boers.

As I said, he continues to love history more than any other subject. We've followed a four-year path set down by The Well-Trained Mind, and this year has been focused mostly on the Victorians through the modern era. Next year we'll go back in time and start again with the ancient world; this time around he'll have a lot more say in the books I select. We're hopeful he'll be able to continue this cycle around two more times, and that by high school he'll be reading mostly primary (albeit translated) sources. Fortunately, he is as excited by that plan as I am. With his brother - well, we'll see if the same method works quite as well. But for One, History is as essential as oxygen.



And legs:

Thursday, June 10, 2010

New Haircuts and Scary Faces

Seven is Magic

That was the title of my 2nd grade math book, and it comes to mind a lot when I think of Two. His reading skills have grown so much in the past few months, and he is finding more enjoyment in reading on his own and aloud to me as the weeks pass. Some examples of how he's grown:

He used to read Magic Treehouse books to me aloud; now he reads them alone in bed and narrates them back to me the next day.

He has dived into The Boxcar Children series with enthusiasm; he has read the first four to me and we started on number five last night. Other read-alouds on deck are Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things by Lenore Look and How to Save Your Tail by Mary Hanson.

Together we've read:

Tales of Greek Heroes, by Roger Lancelyn Green

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl

The Bears' Famous Invasion of Sicily, by Dino Buzzati, and

Alice and Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass

Right now we're in the middle of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz; I've never read it, and I'm enjoying the differences from the film quite a bit.

I love watching him discover the magic of reading! It's so pleasant to snuggle down with him in the big bed at night and read and read and read. I close my eyes as he reads to me - it's my relaxation version of a glass of wine each night. His high, sweet voice speaks the words so clearly, and I fall more in love with my magic little seven year old with every chapter. Could there be anything better?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

52 Weeks of Me

Tiffani at Child's Play has started a 52 weeks of self-portraits theme on her blog and on Flickr (where she's calling it 52 Weeks of BAM!), and I'm joining in. Why? Simple. Because as comfortable as I am on the business side of the camera, I absolutely panic when the lens is facing me. I hate pictures with me in them: that's the simplest truth on the subject. And I don't like that I hate them; I don't want to love my own image, but getting comfortable with it? That would be a big step in the right direction. Why can't I get to the point where I see a picture of myself and say "oh, cool: no lettuce stuck in my teeth. we'll keep it."? I don't think that's too much to ask, especially one as old and wise as I will be in six. short. days.

So here goes. 52 weeks from now y'all will be so tired of seeing my ugly mug, you won't know what to do with yourselves!

I Tried to be Good

I realized a month or so ago that my favorite bathing suit was the same age as One. I thought I might need to do something about that, but hating bathing suit shopping as much as I do, I sat on it a bit. I was therefore so delighted when I read Meg’s ringing endorsement of Lime Ricki bathing suits, and I resolved that this was of course the solution I was searching for. I ordered two suits, and impatiently awaited their arrival. When they did, however, something became painfully obvious:

I am not made to wear a modesty swim suit. While I laud the goals of Lime Ricki – to provide modest yet cute swimwear that won’t get all out of place and require embarrassing adjusting – I think I have spent too many years falling out of various forms of not-so-modest suits to be comfortable in a lovely but exceedingly [ahem] controlling Lime Ricki model. Can I be more clear, girls? Spanx and their ilk are more comfortable – and leave you more room to breathe – than that suit!

So I’ve filled out the return form and packed up the box. This weekend I’ll nose around and find something that better suits my (apparently) slightly trashy nature. Or at least something that doesn’t squeeze me like a boa constrictor, anyway. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Book Review I Can't Write

I would love to tell you that I am about to write a fabulous, insightful review of Tony Woodlief's first book, Somewhere More Holy. I would love to think that I had pithy and important things to say about it - things that would even rival Tony's honesty and humor.

But I don't. I can only say this: if you don't read this book, you will miss something wonderful.

By "wonderful" I don't mean pie in the sky. I don't mean cheerful, riotously amusing, fa-la-la fun - I don't mean lots of things. By wonderful I instead mean real, hopeful, heart-wrenching, beautiful, mercy-filled, funny - all at the same time and sometimes in the same sentence.

Read. And know as you do: this is not a book by Beth Moore-with-a-beard. It's by a real person, who has experienced real pain, real grace, and (sometimes) our real God. So it's a real book. And real books should be read, just as real people should be befriended and loved and forgiven.

Read. And thank God for mercy and hope and pain and love and all that it means to be here, now, in this place.

That's all I have to say. Blessings, y'all.

Sarcastic Much?

The sarcasm-meter rarely stops going off in this house some days, and although I know it's (mostly) my fault, I can't help but laugh at some of the stuff the boys come out with.

Take this weekend. Husband's mother has been diagnosed with cancer, and she is getting ready for surgery and treatment with a very good attitude and even better chances of recovery. I sat the boys down to let them know what Gaga was gearing up for, and seeing that they were quite worried I hurried to reassure them that, while this was serious business, Gaga was not only more than likely to make a full recovery, she was, in fact, much more likely to die in a car wreck in the next year than from this cancer.

"Yeah, especially the way she drives!" laughed One. And their worry evaporated and they both ran off, happy again.

Sarcasm as a form of comfort? Only in this house.

How to Start the Summer off like an Egyptian

Part of the reason the Grass Widow has been on a little “blog hiatus” are all the fun activities I’ve been enjoying, such as our annual family trip to Schlitterbahn last Friday and the boys’ end of school water gun extravaganza. But the rest of the reason? We were visited by several of the Biblical Plagues, and it has taken me a while to recover from them.

Plagues? Oh yes, certainly: these qualified as plagues. What were they, you ask? Well…

First, my mother visited; it was one of her worst visits in years. My panic attacks continued for almost a week after she left, as this time she left no stone unturned in her quest to communicate to me the central message of our 40 year relationship: NOT GOOD ENOUGH, TARI. Oh my, being told 16 ways to Sunday you just don’t cut it by one of the people you should be able to trust the most is certainly plague-like. At the very least, like a very bad rash.

Next, Two had an attack of tonsillitis. This is his favorite illness: his tonsils take turns swelling full of foul bacteria, bacteria that makes him sick enough to vomit (and vomit and vomit and vomit). His fever soars, his head aches, and he is even too tired to play. He has had three cases of this since Christmas, and it is always plague-like and miserable. Poor Two: most of the time being small is a blessing, but when it comes to one’s immune system, more like a curse.

Finally, we come to the best plague of all: lice. Yes: vermin. Vermin that infested my two children like nothing I ever imagined. In fact, it was so bad I found out about it by looking down at Two’s pretty little golden head and seeing two large, scary lice look back at me and wave. I kid you not. That is how those two lice will always appear in my memory: three inches long at least, with big eyes and waving hands – cartoon lice having a picnic on my seven year old’s head. And so we washed, we scrubbed, we laundered everything in the house that could possibly fit in the washer. And I combed. And combed. And combed. Dead lice by the dozens came out of Two’s hair. It was sick – every wipe of the itty bitty lice comb brought out a dark, smushy smear of bodies. Finally after two lice treatments and two hundred loads of laundry, we were lice-free. But oh, my head will itch for months at just the thought of those creepy, crawly little buggers! A plague, indeed – one almost worthy of the Book of Exodus.

And so, an inauspicious start to the summer. But as I said, mixed in with the bad there has been much good, and I promise to write about it, too. Soon. But right now – excuse me – I need to go scratch my head again.