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Alma: after her two-month-old visit to the pediatrician she clearly didn’t feel good for a few days. I realized how cheerful she typically is, quite in contrast!

Joan: she’s always making gifts for someone. Though, when the time comes to give it to them or send it to them, she’ll often change the story, the intended recipient, and hold on to it. 

Lux: Playing ingredient mixing with a pipette. She loves to do kitchen projects and frequently asks if we can bake together. A carrot cake is next on our list. 

This week was Joe’s first week back at work; it went very well. He managed to get home by 5:30pm on most of the days, which was enormously helpful. I was frustrated to find myself totally exhausted by 6pm every day, but I don’t think there’s much I can do about that.

a few reads

em_emberley crown of Ed Emberley creatures drawn by Lux. 

Start following a few homeschool people on facebook and you’ll be inundated with articles about homeschooling. Here are a few I’ve enjoyed recently…

Confessions of a Former Homeschooling Mom

I think of this one in the morning because she says…

We started every day by snuggling on the couch. There was no yelling at everyone to find their shoes. There was no scrambling to locate homework and lunch boxes. There was no rush. No fuss. No tears. In fact, at the risk of sounding like a homeschool hippie, we started our days in peace and love. What a bunch of weirdos.

Ha! Losing those moments, as it is the same at our house right now, is probably my #1 suspicion of beginning kindergarten next fall.

What changed this teacher’s mind about homeschooling

Having been the only person to be called on for 12 years, she did not use the group’s mass as camouflage, or a barrier, but accepted every question, suggestion, lesson and instruction as her own responsibility.

This one reminded me of myself and how I felt in the classroom, both in high school and college, having been homeschooled up until then.

Haute Home Schools (there seems to be pay block here if you try to read on your phone)

This was just a fun one to read, on the high end of things. You don’t have to build a custom home for it, of course, but Joe and I do talk about hiring tutors for specific subjects that we don’t feel capable of handling ourselves. Wouldn’t that be fun?

Learn Different, on Altschools

This isn’t about homeschooling, but it’s a great overview of where the tech-iest micro-schools are at these days by Rebecca Mead at the New Yorker. The benefits (retroactive omniscience for the teacher!) and pitfalls (tablet frustrations for kindergartners) are just as you might imagine them. Exciting nonetheless.

Reading any good articles lately?

Museum of Fine Arts

During Joe’s paternity leave he took the girls to the MFA and the Harvard Museum of Art frequently. Originally I suggested that he take them to one of my favorite programs–the homeschool Fridays at the MFA. He did that one time, and told me he didn’t like how programatic it was. Which is funny because that’s exactly what I like about it! We realized we each have preferred styles for outings with the kids. I like to plan ahead and have plenty of direction. Joe likes to decide that morning, and riff on the plan as he goes. A nice thing to discover.

On a grey day this week, a day guaranteed to rain all day, Alma and I got to tag along on one of their trips. Joe led the way, and asked the girls a good question to frame our time: what kind of thing do you want to see? They said a tapestry, and a painting of Mary. We never did find a tapestry, but we found plenty of Marys.

“I just love to see children in art museums,” someone commented to me as the girls twirled and semi-sprinted through a gallery. Which is exactly what someone should say when they see kids in public spaces!

And we managed to eat lunch in the lovely glass courtyard. With the new addition, completed in 2010, the restaurant was given an amazing space–centered in the atrium built between the old building and the new. The 63ft high ceilings and the equally high windows dull the acoustics and make you fee like you’re the only table in the place, while the green plants outside make for the most soothing view. We asked for a table along the edge so the girls could hop off their seats to wander while they waited for food.

Joan really really likes to hold onto whatever stroller I’m pushing Alma in. She’s like the guide dog trotting alongside beside me.

Please note the silverware that was used as a distraction before the food arrived.My lunch: steak and cheese. Favorite things!Alma life

Hallway bench, a classic breastfeeding oasis (though they do also offer a lovely enclosed nursing room, near the entrance). 

The Watermill, Puerto Rico

Permit a few photos that are by no means a tour guide to this beautiful island. Looking at these, I keep thinking of Frederick, the mouse who didn’t work at the harvest but instead stored up smells and the feeling of the sun so he could tell the other mice how it felt, come winter, and remind them summer would return.

This was definitely one of our best days in Puerto Rico. The Watermill is a water park designed to look like an old sugar mill. A bit of an odd theme, but after floating lazily around it several times, I was quite taken with the faux stucco plastering and craggy architecture. It was built by the Dorado Beach development and is available to people staying at the Plantation Village condos (which we were, having booked through inspirato--a condo timeshare service by American Express), people with membership at the Encanto Beach Club, and Ritz Carlton Reserve guests.

It wasn’t busy on the Sunday we were there, which made it feel like we had stumbled on an enchanted theme park, perhaps one that had just floated to the surface from Atlantis-like depths. The girls ran from one spot to another, but there were plenty of no-swimmer spaces that made it easy for us to relax while they played. Most of the pools were 3ft depth, the perfect depth to empower a four-year-old. Joe and I loved the lazy river that circled the property, tubes were provided. And the kid-powered pull-across boats–so easy and fun for them!

It was practically essential to have my mom there with us–one of us stayed/relaxed with the baby in the shade the whole time.

After we’d played in the water most of the day (and applied, and reapplied sunscreen) the girls started climbing the rope bridges and ladders that wove into the pools and through the trees. They were challenging just enough to thrill the girls with their successes each time.

I took most of these photos as the golden hours began in the late afternoon–we finally pulled ourselves away from the place at 5pm, sunburned and joyfully exhausted.

8 / 52

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Naturally everyone wants to know how Joan and Lux are with Alma. The truth is, they’re barely with her! They probably notice and say hi to her once every couple hours. They are so busy with their imaginative games that I barely keep up with. They tell me if they hear her crying when I’m out of earshot, in the kitchen. “Ooo Alma,” they say in sympathy. “What?” “She’s crying.” Then we both frown at each other for a moment before I exit right to scoop her up.

If they’re in the room, Alma tracks their voices with her eyes, and I always point that fact out to them as it happens with exaggerated celebration. Mimicking my habit of pointing her interactions out to them (though unknowingly, I assume) Joan has said, “Mama, I’m smiling at Alma.” Then she smiles with the look of someone who has never practiced a conscious smile.

I feel like I have a secret they don’t know, that in a year or two she’ll be such a big part of their lives, just as vital and wonderful to them as they are to each other.

Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary

For the record there is no nailing an adventure with kids. There is no perfectly packed backpack, no perfect interlude before naps, no perfect weather that will soothe all concerns. You will always find out at the end that one of them has been acting strangely because it turns their feet have been soaking wet from the beginning. They will always be suddenly starving as soon as you buckle their seat belts. They will always ask to be carried at regular intervals and refuse to go down the path you’ve pointed to.

But anyway we still say, “Woah that was a good adventure wasn’t it?” when we get home and they always say, “Yes!”

About forty minutes outside Boston, the Sanctuary is a wonderful place year-round.Free for Mass Audubon members (like Drumlin Farm) about $3 each otherwise. Twelve miles of trails. But you can follow the .6 mile trail to the Rockery, a magic cave made of enormous rocks constructed around 1910.

Joe just finished reading The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe to the girls (“That witch is not very nice!” -Joan Bea). The woods felt just as you might imagine them when Lucy steps through the back of the wardrobe.

You can bring birdseed, or you can just hold out your hand, and the birds will land lightly with their spindle feet that feel like gentle paper clips on your fingers.

7 / 52…in puerto rico

7 lux 7 alma7 joan Lux: spent the whole week either anxiously ready for the pool, or in it. 

Alma: sleeping in my mom’s arms. Takes a pacifier–my first baby to do so.

Joan: wild and sweet, wild and sweet, wild and sweet. What a dichotomy! 

Interview on Reading My Tea Leaves

simple_matters_interview

Somehow in the hubbub of last days of pregnancy, I forgot to post the interview I typed up for Erin Boyle’s blog Reading My Tea Leaves. Here it is! In preparation for the publication of her book Simple Matters she interviewed several small-space livers. I found the other interviews fascinating! And by golly I really tried my best to keep mine candid and helpful.

Living in a small space with children who love paper found on the street, admission bracelets given to them at museums, stacks of old artwork…I promise it’s a constant project. But when it’s working, it’s working so well.

 

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Lux: she’s very sensitive about being sensitive. If she gets hurt, she doesn’t like sympathy and she doesn’t want to talk about it. It was soothing to all three of us to get her into the tub to clean up, then some ointment, then two bandaids. Phew. 

Alma: smiling mysteriously this week. It passes over her face and her eye’s register just a flicker of smile-momentum. 

Joan: got a bang trim so this is the last week of those wispy, omnipresent locks in her eyes. The hair stylist asked me if I was sentimental about hair since I waited so long to trim it–“no, just absent minded.”

So much pale winter skin in these!

This week I googled news of zika nearly every morning. In December I thought about pregnant women every time I saw a naivety scene or read The Legend of the Poinsettia to the girls. I thought of pregnant woman as strong, brave visions for the future. Now in February, I think about all the countries where they might be feeling fragile and vulnerable instead. What a horrible plague to pray over.

 

retelling

bangs

None of my clothes quite fit in a way I like, so I got bangs instead. I need a little high self-maintenance in my life.

The girls love to have their nails painted. Joan manages to stay at the table and let them dry for fifteen minutes after I paint them. Later she comes back with three of them completely rubbed off from activity. “You forgot to paint these,” she says.

I’m reading The Magician’s Assistant. The main characters names are Sabine and Parsifal. So pretty. I think Ann Patchett might be my favorite light fiction. It’s still beautifully and carefully written, but the stories are fast and the relationships are so engaging. This title was briefly $2 for kindle edition, a fact I found out from this lovely list.

The girls have started retelling stories of good and bad things. “Remember that silly guy?” “Oh yeah the one with the hat?” “Yeah.” <laughs, giggles>  But also, “Remember at the playground, that mean boy who said ‘I’ll push you if you don’t get out of here?'” <solemn faces> Again and again. Until playground = mean kid. Who was there but once, who at the time they simply shrugged at, but now he has managed to sweep all other memories aside. It frustrates me. After the twentieth retelling “Ok,” I say, “We’re not telling that story anymore. Lots of other nice things happened at the playground. We’ve met so many other friends there.” I’m not sure what else to say–ideas?