First day of school, September 2, 2014. Lucas is in seventh grade now. He is handsomer, and more grown up every day. (Alack! He is 5 feet 1.25 inches tall now!) He is bracing himself for more and harder schoolwork. I think he knows the stakes are higher and more will be expected of him. I’ve seen him mature a good deal over the summer. He is ready.
Asher is starting second grade. Asher really didn’t want to go (this is the only shot he let me take in the morning before we drove to school). Asher gets a little nervous. I choose to take this sad face as evidence that he really enjoys his family time.
But he jumped right in as soon as he saw his friends, playing tag, racing up the play structure, and then horsing around in line before shaking his teacher’s hand and going into the classroom.
Asher says recess is the best thing about school. He is excited about music class, with Ms. Greenberg. “It’s so fun!” Main lesson is boring, he says (they are beginning with Form Drawing). He likes German and Spanish, but German more. He hates Eurhythmy. So basically, he’s right where I’d expect him to be. My beautiful precocious boy is right on the cusp of learning to read. He cracks this joke all the time in a silly English accent: “I can’t read!” But soon, that won’t be true any more.
Seattle with my love—three glorious days away from home.
Grandmas who babysit my boys for free so I can meet my deadlines.
Dry Cucumber Soda.
Great summertime piano progress!
Giving away our handmade (and mama-made) treasures to younger children, who might just enjoy some of them.
Knowing my little niece is just down the street, attending a Waldorf in-home preschool that Lucas went to when he was little.
Watching my 12-year-old lace up his fancy new kicks and go running in preparation for the fall cross country season.
Joining in with a bunch of friendly, eager people from our Class of 2020 to do yard work for some beloved grandparents, who kindly bought the work day at our school fundraising auction—especially watching these rising seventh-graders hard at work pruning, shoveling gravel, and carrying heavy things.
Kayaking with my loves. (We need to build two skegs!)
Boys who wake up in the morning and play chess.
Beautiful, fresh-laid eggs, even if during the summer my boys don’t want to eat them.
Seeing old friends embrace change with camaraderie, grace, and style even while they are sad, and wishing them every happiness.
Handsome boys who spent the summer learning new skills, such as emptying and loading the dishwasher, and embracing (mostly) additional chores and household responsibilities to help Daddy and me.
Watching my boys come to understand money in a new way, realize that to have some of the things they want they must earn money and pay for these things themselves, and then actively seek jobs to earn this money (such as picking up liquidambar “spikey balls” and washing cars). They are negotiating when to spend hard-earned money and when to save. This is valuable stuff!
My new clothes dryer. Hallelujah for such inventions!
A boy who practices math during the summer with equanimity because his mama tells him to.
Trying to be patient with our drought, trying to use less water, trying not to cry because of dying plants, lawn, and shrubs.
Friends who say yes when I text them that I must get out of the house right now! Please meet me!
Friends who invite my children to play. You make the long summertime fun for them and I am so grateful!
Friends who work tirelessly to realize a shared dream. Thank you.
My dad’s friend George’s gorgeous, delicious tomatoes—but even better, the friendship that he and my dad share.
Making new friends online who do amazing things, capture spectacular moments, and share their talent with the world. I enjoy seeing their art very much.
Wondering what the future will bring, being patient in not knowing all answers, and trusting.
We did it! We finally took our two kayaks out for a spin (really) on Lake Natoma on Sunday. A number of years ago, we were given two kayaks by my parents’ friends, the Joneses. They are sit-inside whitewater river kayaks, the really nimble kind that can flip over and back up, the kind whose pilots wear helmets. The first obstacle to enjoying this generous gift was we didn’t know how to use them. The second was that our boys were still rather small. The third was that we had no way of transporting them to any body of water.
So they sat. And waited.
We have a truck now, though, (we call it Bruce) and on a whim Sunday, we decided to see what we could do with these kayaks.
We also rented a two-man sit-on-top kayak for Asher to ride on. He took to it like, well, a little boy on a boat! He loved jumping off and swimming in the lake too. “Wow, this life vest really makes it easy!”
The kayaks we own have rounded bottoms without a keel. Paddling them in a straight line is tough. When I was piloting mine, I could go straight for a handful of strokes, and then the kayak would spin toward my paddle in the water to point in the opposite direction. This repeated spinning was frustrating. Ian had better luck than I did, using a ton of core strength and the foot pegs to counteract the spinning force.
Lucas was a natural, really. He has way more experience with this sort of thing than the rest of us do, thanks to summer camps and stuff. He piloted one of our kayaks with good success, despite the spinning tendency. I regret not getting a shot of him in the kayak, but I was justifiably worried about dropping my phone in the drink.
We learned a lot and had fun. We learned that this little lake is a wonderful local resource that we should use more often. We learned that mama shouldn’t leave the sunscreen in the truck with the snacks. We learned that renting a kayak is a little pricey, but very nice (and easier to pilot than ours). We learned that Asher loves the water (we kind of knew he would). We learned, again, that Lucas is a competent young man who loves a challenge.
So thank you, Joneses, for this amazing gift! We hope to enjoy these kayaks more often in the future.
We have been spending our summer evenings reading. Daddy has been reading Harry Potter books to us for hours almost every night. We’re into the middle of book 4 now, and the children’s enthusiasm for this nightly ritual has not waned. They even prefer this over a movie night.
You might say it has ignited their imagination.
This one loves to shout spells and play wizard.
Sometimes we read outside together, if its not too hot. Sometimes we’re inside, enjoying the AC. Ian got the ebooks too, so if we’re out at a restaurant he can read to us while we’re waiting for a table, or when we’re waiting for the play to begin.
Ian is a master of funny voices and accents. It’s amazing to hear him read a conversation in a scene with eight wizards in the room, some sounding Scottish, Irish, Russian, English, American, powerful, weak, evil, or snobby. He switches between these various voices with such facility. I applaud at the end of certain scenes because they sound damned difficult to read aloud!
I’m loving this summer’s evening entertainment. I love how we’re all enjoying it, how the Harry Potter books have wide enough appeal that all four of us are engaged. It’s simple, and sweet, and bonding.
It’s a celebration around here. There was a big class party for the sixth grade. The first graders had a swim party yesterday. They are done for the year, and are dreaming of lazy days of pure fun. In honor of this special day, the last day of school, I present this evocative poem by Whittier.
Blessings on thee, little man,
Barefoot boy, with cheek of tan!
With thy turned-up pantaloons,
And thy merry whistled tunes;
With thy red lip, redder still
Kissed by strawberries on the hill;
With the sunshine on thy face,
Through thy torn brim’s jaunty grace;
From my heart I give thee joy,—
I was once a barefoot boy!
Prince thou art,—the grown-up man
Only is republican.
Let the million-dollared ride!
Barefoot, trudging at his side,
Thou hast more than he can buy
In the reach of ear and eye,—
Outward sunshine, inward joy:
Blessings on thee, barefoot boy!
Oh for boyhood’s painless play,
Sleep that wakes in laughing day,
Health that mocks the doctor’s rules,
Knowledge never learned of schools,
Of the wild bee’s morning chase,
Of the wild-flower’s time and place,
Flight of fowl and habitude
Of the tenants of the wood;
How the tortoise bears his shell,
How the woodchuck digs his cell,
And the ground-mole sinks his well;
How the robin feeds her young,
How the oriole’s nest is hung;
Where the whitest lilies blow,
Where the freshest berries grow,
Where the ground-nut trails its vine,
Where the wood-grape’s clusters shine;
Of the black wasp’s cunning way,
Mason of his walls of clay,
And the architectural plans
Of gray hornet artisans!
For, eschewing books and tasks,
Nature answers all he asks;
Hand in hand with her he walks,
Face to face with her he talks,
Part and parcel of her joy,—
Blessings on the barefoot boy!
Oh for boyhood’s time of June,
Crowding years in one brief moon,
When all things I heard or saw,
Me, their master, waited for.
I was rich in flowers and trees,
Humming-birds and honey-bees;
For my sport the squirrel played,
Plied the snouted mole his spade;
For my taste the blackberry cone
Purpled over hedge and stone;
Laughed the brook for my delight
Through the day and through the night,
Whispering at the garden wall,
Talked with me from fall to fall;
Mine the sand-rimmed pickerel pond,
Mine the walnut slopes beyond,
Mine, on bending orchard trees,
Apples of Hesperides!
Still as my horizon grew,
Larger grew my riches too;
All the world I saw or knew
Seemed a complex Chinese toy,
Fashioned for a barefoot boy!
Oh for festal dainties spread,
Like my bowl of milk and bread;
Pewter spoon and bowl of wood,
On the door-stone, gray and rude!
O’er me, like a regal tent,
Cloudy-ribbed, the sunset bent,
Purple-curtained, fringed with gold,
Looped in many a wind-swung fold;
While for music came the play
Of the pied frogs’ orchestra;
And, to light the noisy choir,
Lit the fly his lamp of fire.
I was monarch: pomp and joy
Waited on the barefoot boy!
Cheerily, then, my little man,
Live and laugh, as boyhood can!
Though the flinty slopes be hard,
Stubble-speared the new-mown sward,
Every morn shall lead thee through
Fresh baptisms of the dew;
Every evening from thy feet
Shall the cool wind kiss the heat:
All too soon these feet must hide
In the prison cells of pride,
Lose the freedom of the sod,
Like a colt’s for work be shod,
Made to tread the mills of toil,
Up and down in ceaseless moil:
Happy if their track be found
Never on forbidden ground;
Happy if they sink not in
Quick and treacherous sands of sin.
Ah! that thou couldst know thy joy,
Ere it passes, barefoot boy!
It’s been more than three months since we returned from our week in Los Angeles in February. It was magical in all kinds of ways. I wish I’d written about it sooner, but life has been so complex and full.
We started with a trip to the ScienCenter in L.A.
It’s a beautiful museum.
We got to see the Space Shuttle Endeavour in person! We knew it would be cool, but we didn’t realize how moving it would be to be in the presence of a real spaceship! It completed 25 missions into space, including the first service mission to the Hubble Space Telescope and the first mission to add a U.S.-built component to the International Space Station.
I cried when I saw the photo of the Challenger crew. I remember exactly where I was when I learned of the disaster as a child.
We also saw an IMAX movie about the International Space Station. Such an enormous achievement! It gives me some hope for humanity. We learned a lot about how the astronaut/scientists live aboard the station, and the work they’re doing there. We learned that the Russians have a very sweet and simple tradition. They honor each cosmonaut with the planting of a tree. (Google “cosmonaut grove” or “cosmonaut trees” to see some cool photos.)
We also got to visit the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, just across the campus, which has a great dinosaur exhibit. And we caught a gem and mineral exhibit too.
There’s a hallway where you can walk past the paleontologists in a lab, working on fossils. Very cool!
The Natural History Museum also has those weird taxidermied animal dioramas, with full-scale animals set in scenes depicting their natural habitats. They are fascinating and strange at the same time.
And we caught a gem and mineral exhibit there, too. Asher really loves the crystals.
This was just our first full day in LA. The next three days we spent at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure park.
Asher has been having a fair (or unfair) number of nightmares lately. I feel for the kid, honestly. I still remember the vivid, horrifying nightmares of my own childhood. These bad dreams are freaky and they result in sweats and many tears. And, of course, they result in requests to sleep with us, or requests for one of us to sleep with him.
Tonight my little love is having a hard time going to sleep. It could be the temperature warming. It could be that he’s overtired—the boy runs solidly without rest from morning to night. It could be that Daddy’s not yet home. I suppose he could also be getting sick.
Whatever it is, I’ve put him to bed now four times.
As I was lying there with him in his bed, wishing that he would sleep, he sobbed: “Mama, I’m sooo tired! And I’m sooo sorry I keep making you come back and forth! I just don’t want to be without you.”
There’s nothing quite like when my child in need notices I am short on patience to make me feel chagrined. I took a deep breath and settled into my role.
“I am always here for you, my love. You are safe and I am here.”
He whimpered a while longer. I held him close and he wrapped my arms even tighter around himself. Gradually his breathing slowed. I shifted and then he said, “Mama, it’s just like always when you are underwater and …”
… and he finally slept. For now. And I’m free to read my book or get ready for bed. But what I said before is true: I am always here for him. He is safe and I am here.
My Mothers Day began with coffee and reading in bed (heaven). Asher proudly presented me with a painted card he made at school and a gift box containing his own precious glass jewels and marbles. This boy loves to give gifts. Lucas gave me a lovely watercolor painting he made.
Then I brunched with all my guys at dog-friendly Lido in Carmichael. Strawberry french toast, eggs, sausage, and mimosas hit the spot. Afterward, we visited the best local nursery, Green Acres, in Folsom. (Oh, how I miss Capital Nursery in Citrus Heights, but spectacular Green Acres soothes the ache.) Because it’s a bit of a drive to get there, we just have to browse longer. Every time I stopped to admire a plant, Lucas suggested I get it. I love that my boys support my habit.
My family bought me several new goodies for my garden: a pretty yellow grandiflora rose, a six-pack of California poppies, salvias (the hummingbirds love these, and therefore I love them), red-orange impatiens (which I’ve never tried before), and some vibrant coleus for my shade garden.
Aren’t these gnomes at Green Acres funny?
We also visited Ian’s mom and my mama, to make Mothers Day complete.
Back at home, I did my first real check of our drip watering system and found many leaky problems. I repaired some of them, but there’s more work to do before I can confidently set it and forget it during our drought. I didn’t get anything planted, but that’s going to be fun to do this week as time allows. Ian made a gorgeous dinner of steak, artichokes, salad, and potatoes.
I felt pampered indeed. I hope you enjoyed a happy Mothers Day too!
We took these fellas to the theater to see Rapunzel at the Chautauqua Playhouse. I wanted a date with Asher, and I want us to see more live theater, but I didn’t want to hear him moan and groan about not wanting to go without Lucas and Dad. So I contacted some of our friends from school and got two buddies and their mamas to agree to meet us there.
The play was cute and I think the boys enjoyed it. Asher told me that Rapunzel does NOT have red mylar hair—everyone knows Rapunzel has yellow hair. “Who says?” I asked. “Everyone.”
This year, these first graders have seen Beauty and the Beast, which was a little too intense for them, and The Little Mermaid, performed by the high school, which was just fine for Asher but not so fine for some. Rapunzel was a nice example of children’s theatre without any scary bits.
Back in December, we saw a British pantomime, and my kids LOVED it. (The actors threw candy at the audience.) I recently bought tix to The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes for the four of us. Should be fun! We’re lucky to live in a city that has lots of good theater for children.
My son has gone away. He is with his Waldorf class and two teachers at Steiner College for the week, working with and for the master biodynamic farmer (who probably has an official and better title than the one I’ve just used). The sixth grade kids are farming, fulfilling CSA orders, feeding and caring for animals, and camping out—four nights and five days.
Aren’t they beamish? Aren’t they mighty?
The rain came down in buckets yesterday, day 3. Then it hailed. A little tornado touched down a few miles northeast of here. Let me assure you, we do not get tornadoes here, except for yesterday.
I am amused by my own mixed feelings of worry and delight that this special camping/farming adventure became an honest-to-goodness adventure in weather, a test of endurance in the wet. I worry a little that my son is/was cold and miserable. But I don’t really think that’s what is happening. I believe my son is having a fantastic time. I believe Lucas is out there having the time of his life, actually, being tough, learning how competent and capable he is, working hard, and being silly among all of his friends. I believe they are bonding. Even if the kids have moments of misery or homesickness, I believe this trip will be a highlight of Waldorf primary school, among a whole galaxy of sparkling, magical Waldorf school experiences.
I believe that. I won’t get to know until Friday afternoon, when I pick him up. Until then, I hope, while the rain continues to fall.
I also believe that this is more a test for us parents than a test for our 11- and 12-year-olds. I believe it is meant to prove to us that they are growing up, and can handle more (far more) than we give them credit for. They can handle themselves. They have a solid foundation that we have painstakingly built for them, and from this they are launching themselves. (Whether we’re ready or not.)
What a wonderful thing! What a beautiful, odd thing!
So, this little fellow, who only rarely is without his brother, is having a week of only-child status.
He doesn’t mind too much. He’s had extra attention from mama, and visited with grandparents. Papa even took him to the ice-cream parlor, just the two of them. He can play with all the LEGOs. Plus, the crazy weather gave us the opportunity to collect hailstones in a big bowl and then do color science with food dyes—my little potion-maker!
Having only one child to care for this week has felt odd. And being with this little guy, without big brother around to influence or direct him or make him feel like he has to act older than he is, is beautiful thing, too.
Thanks for visiting! I'm Sara, editor and writer, wife to Ian, and mother of two precious boys. I am living each day to the fullest and with as much grace, creativity, and patience as I can muster. This is where I write about living, loving, and engaging fully in family life and the world around me. I let my hair down here. I learn new skills here. I strive to be a better human being here. And I tell the truth.
Our children attend Waldorf school and we are enriching our home and family life with plenty of Waldorf-inspired festivals, crafts, and stories.