Saturday, May 31, 2008

Mulberry bushes: Part 2

Well, we went out in the neighborhood to try to pick as many mulberries as we could, Lily and Beth picking all ours and hearing they were easy to grow, and hard to kill. When we started out, we could tell it was going to rain. When we got on the move, Thomas boosted ahead -- just to make a wrong turn and have us yell to him for about 20 seconds until he turned around. Then it started to rain -- make that pour. There was very little mulberry trees. The first tree had good, low branches and tons of good, ripe berries. But with the next trees, well we weren't so lucky. They either had lots of berries way up high, or had few berries. In one place Lily asked if we could eat 'those' berries. They were wild strawberries which we found out later that they were wood strawberries. We picked as many as we could without getting into poison ivy -- which was about 4 or5. At one point it was raining so hard that we would get drenched if we didn't find shelter -- quick. Luckily Tyra found a long skinny slide that hid us from the rain. The kids were interested when they saw a stream that on a regular day there was no water, but now water was fighting fiercely to get downstream. Thomas started saying "I want to go home -- no, I want to be at home already!" When the question of going to Pops Park or not these were the answers: Tyra "Lets go to the park!" Thomas "No! I want to go home!" Lily "I want to go to Pops Park!". We ended up going to the park to try to pick more mulberries. Half of the time Tyra, Lily and Beth were diving into the mulberry bush to pick berries, the other half they huddled underneath the three-way slide to show how many berries they picked. Once we got home we were thoroughly drenched and exhausted, but be had tons of berries. It filled up half a big ziplock bag!
~Tyra D.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Here we go round the mulberry bush

So, 10 years of living here and I'm finally eating the fruit off my trees! I guess because early on when our neighbor was walking through our backyard showing us poison ivy and other things she pointed to a tree and said "oh, those are terrible, they're so hard to kill and they make a mess." So I never paid them much attention until Tyra came home from her field trip (they walked over to Greenbelt National Park) where a ranger had them eat mulberries off the trees. As she was describing them I said hey! I've been looking at these berries every time I'm on the treadmill, come see if those are they. She said they were. I was still scared to eat them though, it's just not worth getting poisoned, if there's a look-alike or something. Luckily at baseball the same day (yesterday) Tyra was telling me she saw a mulberry tree and just as I was saying, are you sure? look at the leaves, are they the same, don't just look at the fruit, all worried to let her just start eating them one of the dads on the bleachers reached up and picked a handful and popped them in his mouth. Unfortunately I couldn't encourage my girls to pick them still because they were in dresses ready to take off to a baptism. Beth's jumper was ruined with the juices (well, we'll see what oxiclean can do.) Anyway, then today I finally started eating them at the playground when a mother said "I used to eat them all the time when I was little." I was surprised at how good they were. I have spent a pretty penny to get raspberries and blackberries at the store, and these were just as tasty IMO. They aren't sour, just sweet and good. So now I'm wondering, what other free-growing things are there out there I should be eating? I remember working with a girl from Idaho who said she used to sit in the back of her dad's truck and jump out to cut wild asparagus growing on the side of the road for their dinner. All I remember as a kid eating from wild plants were the desert weeds that grew in the cracks of the sidewalk and road and the little "fruits" were tiny round green things we called cheesies. Anyone know what those were? Anyone know of any other yummy wild things to look out for? And don't say mushrooms, I'd never dare try, though we get those often too!

How did we live without the internet? I've already found mulberry recipes, and satisfied myself that though there are many mulberry hybrids, there are no poisonous look-alikes. ALSO: here's a link to the cheesies I was talking about.
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AFA Action Alerts

Somewhere a long time ago I managed to get signed up for the American Family Association's Action Alerts. They only come into my yahoo account, which is mostly junk, but they usually manage to catch my attention as something I find important. What they do is email you when there is something that you can do to help to make a difference in preserving family values. For example they'll automatically set you up to email your representative or congressman or whoever is appropriate when bills are being voted on regarding religion, gay rights, pornography, and other things like that. So it's easy to email or call or whatever with your own voice saying "please don't take the words "under God" from this or that plaque, or whatever. My favorite part, besides it being so easy, it that they also email you to tell you the results. Sometimes they say "we're still boycotting proctor and gamble, they will not listen" but very often they include a letter from the corporation saying "thank you for your input, we will make a change for our customers"etc., or mention what happened with a bill that was being voted on. So you know how things went. I just went to their website for the link and it's a bit messy, but all you have to do is click on the part that is for the action alerts on the right hand side. Not every issue is one I feel the need to be a part of, but it's such an easy way to make a difference.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

One Week Ago

We drove our 6 hours down to Winston-Salem to visit with Janine and Brian (okay, mostly Cora, but them too.) This time we got to visit with Rob and Angela (okay, mostly Ellie and our first visit with Elijah), and even Mike came out early so he could be in on the sibling reunion. It was so fun and crazy. I didn't take many pictures, and I'll have to get a copy of this picture that has everyone together at the pretty more-like-a-campground-than-a-park park where we had a picnic. One of my favorite things (besides holding my darling neice and nephew) were watching my girls play so much and so well with Ellie. Last summer it seemed to be a little harder for them to interact, being younger. This time they were all up on the social skills, and another thing I liked, Ellie was not going to get pushed around by my sweet little Beth. So often I have to feel bad for, and stick up for other little kids Beth's playing with because she's a little tough. But Ellie is faster and could run away with a toy that was being "discussed" when necessary. So the main thing I had to feel bad about was Saturday morning when Beth woke up at her usual 6:50 am and I said "Do you want to come into our bed?" She said no and quietly went out the door, closing it behind herself. I assumed she'd go down to the toyroom and play since that's what she'd usually do other times we visited. About an hour later I heard her open the door and announce "That's my family" to Ellie who was standing behind her. "How cute" I thought, they're already playing together. Little did I suspect that Beth had made a beeline to Rob and Angela's room, opening the door and announcing "It's wake up time!" and refusing to leave until Rob got up and put a show on for her. Ellie woke up soon afterwards and then I believe it was the two of them kept going in and out of Janine and Brian's room to check on Cora. So, while I enjoyed my extra hour of sleep, the pleasure was short lived when I realized what it had cost the rest of the adults in the house, especially those with nursing babies!
So this picture of Janine was just to show the ever-amazing sister-in-law. I used to always be amazed at how well she could take care of all my kids, but somehow thought "maybe it'll be different when she has her own." Here's proof to the contrary, she's holding Cora while helping all her other neices and nephews with the marble racing set. She has the best teaching tone of anyone I know besides my husband, and my dad. Strong similarity there around kids.

And this picture on the awesome couch that can always fit one more, includes cousin Molly who always takes a little time out from her own crazy schedule to come visit when we come down. She's great and great fun. By the way Molly thanks so much for lending us the digital piano, it is PERFECT, I absolutely LOVE the peace and quiet, and the kids love not being told to get off the piano all the time. Tom's got it set up with 2 headphones so they can still play together, or Tom can come and listen while I'm practicing at 10pm and still not bothering the kids. So thanks again!

Anyway, that was last week, but a million years ago! Rob and Ang are in Georgia, Mikey is off on a YA trip and J & B are in Mexico for the summer. We're just having a fun weekend which I'll post about later.
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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Last Concert of the School Year

What a difference we noticed between the winter concert and this spring concert! Tyra did play first, and we were all there in time to see her. Then Tom raced out while the next group was coming up so that we didn't have to feel bad about Lily, Beth, and Thomas all making whiny noises while the other parents were trying to listen to their own kids. It sure made it enjoyable for me to just sit and watch! It seems the titles don't come through anywhere, though I label them, so here are the names of the songs: Rumble in the Jungle, Old MacDonald had a Band, and Let's Go Band. Very fun to have Tyra playing Let's Go Band already, and it sounds more melodic like the way I remember it from all the school games when she's just practicing at home.
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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

You Know Those People Who...

Are always doing cool things you think you should be doing but are afraid to try? Well, sometimes those people are failing in just the ways you're afraid you might, but at least they tried!

About a month ago Tyra came home and told me that Ms. Bastio was going to get some shad eggs for the kids to help hatch in their classroom, and then to be released into the Anacostia River. When I heard this I thought, "What a great teacher [and she is], I would never tackle such a project as a teacher! It sounds intimidating and possibly complicated to set up and do." Well, Tyra was very excited about it, and told me about them each day. Apparently the eggs were clear while alive, but if they died they became cloudy-white. The students used pipettes to remove the dead eggs from the large tank. One morning while I was in the classroom I asked her if I could look into the huge barrel and running water hose contraption in the back of the room. Ms Bastio came over with me and said under her breath "I'm so afraid they're all dead or dying, we can't see anything hatching yet!" Then that afternoon Tyra came home and told me all about how she was the first one to see the tiny fish swimming that had been there all along. She said she had to look through the water to see them, not just on top as everyone else had been. After that Ms. Bastio used a flashlight and everyone was able to see them. I'm sure Tyra's discovery eased Ms. Bastio's mind, and it made Tyra happy too.

So I was getting all excited for Tyra's fieldtrip where they would release the shads into the river and thinking what a great thing that she's in school and doing these kinds of things. As soon as she came home from school I expected her to be bursting with the news. I was very surprised and somewhat confused when she said "It was okay, only a few kids got to help dump them into the river. We couldn't really see anything." Then I remembered what is NOT so great about doing things in school: you have such a large group that even fun things are filled with long lines and long waiting times, and it's impossible for everyone to have a front-seat view. That's what I chalked her lack of enthusiasm up to. But a few days later when I was talking to Ms. Bastio she confided in me that the Science teacher had put the fish into some container and put it in the back of her minivan to drive down to the river and a short way from the school the container spilled all over her minivan floor! So she drove back to the school and filled up the container with water and continued on to meet with the class at the riverbank! No wonder Tyra couldn't see anything! There was nothing to see! I like to think there were a few fish saved, as per the article in the Gazette, but even if not, they've done the project once now, and like all the programs at BHES, it'll get better every year as they learn from past mistakes!

As for me, I'm just thinking how I need to stop thinking like a perfectionist, i.e. "I won't do it if I can't do it perfectly." The fun is in the learning and the perfection comes from try, try, trying again!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Tyra's Chorus Concert

The concert started at 7pm. So I left tee ball and Thomas' baseball practices early with the kids to make it on time. Unfortunately potty training kids can't time everything perfectly, and we ended up walking into the multi-purpose room at 7:04pm, just in time to hear the last 30 seconds of Tyra's German song. Apparently the fourth grade did their individual song very first. You better bet I'll be at the flute concert tomorrow night before 7:00! Luckily she still had 3 songs to sing with all 3 grades at the end and she did a great job. I have such fond memories of singing parts in Chorus in Jr. High, I'm really glad she gets to do it already.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Tres Cosas

I am finally starting to feel the fruit of my efforts in trying to wrangle information from the kids about their day at school. Somewhere in autumn I started demanding that they tell me 3 Things about their day before they could go on to eating a snack or playing. For a LONG time it was pretty much like pulling 3 teeth each, each afternoon. There were definitely days when I thought that whatever I was trying to accomplish was actually happening in reverse: the kids seemed more irritated with me than before. But today I was tired and sick and about to take a nap as Tom had just come home early for that purpose, so when the kids walked in the door and I said "Do you want to tell me your tres cosas first, Thomas?" If he'd balked even a little I would've left it to Tom and hit the hay. (We don't really have hay mattresses, for the record.) But Thomas looked up with those bright brown eyes and came really close to me and whispered "Christian wrote a note that said 'I love Jasmin. I love Jasmin' over and over. Everyone loves Jasmin except me and the other girls." Now THAT would never have come out before the instigation of the 3 Things! Next he told me that he'd had lunch with Ms. Lewis (the special ed teacher) and that she really liked the blondie he gave her. At this point my little devious boy said "Does that count for one?" He does this because sometimes he'll say just "I had P.E." and I'll ask him what he did. Originally he'd be silent or say he didn't know so I'd tell him it didn't count for one unless he told me more. But now he's gotten it down that he can get one thing in by making sure that the first part "counts". See his last one was that he and the other boy eating lunch with Ms. Lewis too were wondering about how to make peanut butter and they got the recipe off the internet, at which point he pulled out his copy from his backpack.
These 3 Cosas were not any different than any other day (sometimes they are much more exciting or funny) but I had a real sweet moment standing there, feeling so tired yet here was my un-talkative son sharing anecdotes about his day, with a smile on his face. Ah.
Then Tom said protectively, "To bed! Put in the earplugs! Get some sleep!" but I wanted to ask Tyra. She was in the bathroom, and is now old enough to need her privacy. But I asked her through the door and she cracked it enough to talk to me, like she couldn't wait to tell me her 3 Cosas too. First of all she said that in PE they learned that when it was time to serve then everyone moves down the line "Oh, you know how to rotate now?" After a nod she continued. And Ms. Carty kept telling us all the last few weeks to NOT GO UNDER THE NET, NEVER GO UNDER THE NET. Then today she told us to GO UNDER THE NET! After we got 6 points she told us to switch sides! (Tyra often tells of what the teachers do/say that surprise her. Thomas, not so much. Many times she'll say "Ms. Bastio was so crazy today...[she got up on the desks acting like a tornado, etc]) I love the school system. I think it would be hard to teach Tyra all the correct skills for volleyball without the other kids to play with her to enjoy her skills at the end!
Ok, and Tyra's other things were that they sang all their songs but the German one twice in chorus in preparation for their concert tomorrow night. and that Ms. Bastio said she's going to get fat from all the blondies Tyra brought her today with her card. See last week was teacher appreciation week and the teachers wrote up their favorites to help kids decide what to give her for a gift. For treats she said butterscotch and coconut, and since our new favorite family treat is blondies with butterscotch chips and coconut I decided to make her up a plate to go with a card from Tyra, and thought that this week would be better than last week, since maybe she'd feel all overwhelmed by too many gifts at once during teacher appreciation week. Same reason that if I send ANY birthday cards at all, they are always belated. Thoughtful me :)

Back to 3 Cosas. I hit the hay feeling rotten sick and tired in my head, but happy healthy in my heart :) My kids can tell me about their day. I understand that many kids do this voluntarily from their first day home from kindergarten, but for me, I am thrilled with the success finally. And I've even noticed a few times lately that when I say "How was your day?" instead of "Are you ready to tell me your 3 things?" that both Tyra and Thomas can actually answer, without prompting, beyond saying "Good"!

p.s. isn't Tom the best for coming home early for me to sleep? I never did that often before, but I really don't want to be sick when we go visit all his siblings in NC this weekend!

International Night





I keep wanting to blog about the things Thomas does that surprise and impress me. But as I started thinking about this blog I realized that sometime I need to take the time to talk about the things Thomas does that don't surprise, though they still impress, me. Things like how quick he is to show his dimples in a smile. How much he loves a joke. How he immediately helps someone he sees in need. How reliable he is in completing any task he's given. And how very sweetly he plays with and helps his little sisters. So there's a bit of it. But as we know, any of these things (the smile, the help, the completing a task) are held in check until one very important matter is cleared up for him: WHAT EXACTLY HE SHOULD DO. It is very difficult for him to just figure out by watching others or by "faking it" for the first little while until he gets the hang of something.

So tonight was International Night where Ms. Anwar's 2nd grade class sang a long song in Bangladeshi. I had heard from Thomas and Ms. Anwar a couple of times how he wasn't practicing the song with the rest of the class. When I noticed the words at home I tried to find the music online to practice with him, to no avail. But when I finally told him he had to sing through the whole song for me, even if he made mistakes, before he could play on his computer he finally did it for me. After that he began practicing with the kids. Ms. Anwar, who has been so VERY good for Thomas, never told him he had to sing but gave him a maraca to play to still be part of the group. Apparently other kids wanted to try to and it shaped the whole song, but Tyra was proud of Thomas because he got to do the final 3 drum beats at the end. So, why was I so proud of Thomas? Well, he was up in front of a huge audience staying very focused in a boiling, noisy room, doing his best. He even sang a little.

If I ever figure out what to do with the 115meg video clip I'll add it!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Eleanor Roosevelt High School Preschool Program




This year I hemmed and hawed forever undecided (me, wishy, washy?) about what to do for preschool for Lily. My thoughts are that she learns structure enough at Primary to serve her for Kindergarten, and she learns her basics at home enough to prepare her. What preschool has that Lily lacks is a largish group of children close to her age that meet regularly enough to learn important social skills. So though I wasn't wishy washy about wanting to do Joyschool with her, I only had one other mom-friend willing to do it with me so we both decided not to bother. Then a seasoned mom of 5 told me how much she liked the preschool program at the HS because the students just love the preschool age kids. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that paying over $1000 to give Lily a regular meeting time to get the right socialization seems wrong to me when I'm staying home! So the $40 for the whole year to cover snacks was certainly a bonus. But my favorite part was that it was from 12-3pm, the perfect time when we'd be done with morning activities (playgroup, farm, park, etc) and Beth had to take a nap anyway. It was PERFECT. And it was a big plus that the teacher's teacher, Ms. Bret is a very warm mother herself, very understanding and capable, though she didn't teach the kids herself. She also didn't seem very upset if we needed to be gone for family outings, and I didn't have to feel like I wasting a lot of money when we missed. So now that Beth is no longer taking naps and is 3 I told Ms. Bret to look for Lily AND Beth for next year. (But I'm still in search of mothers who want to do Joyschool also.)
Here are a few shots of Lily the one day I remembered my camera. For the first half of the year she would sling to my hand and arm at drop off time, but there was always a high school student to help her to her station to start off. As a matter of fact, those students gave Lily much more enthusiastic welcomes than Thomas ever got at his regular preschool. They all knew her name so quickly, I was impressed. Anyway, often her papers and drawings she brought home would have "I miss you Mommy" written in by a student/teacher for her because she said she was missing me. But whenever I showed up to pick her up she looked quite happy, often riding a ticycle or scooter around the room with a smile. She also loved wheeling her little back pack Grandma Linda gave her. She was so proud of the fact that this year she too had to tell me three things about her day, just like Tyra and Thomas do. And she loved making me wait to see her papers until we got home so she could surprise me and tell me about them. Now we'll have to finish up the book of her first year of preschool papers.