Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Favorite Unplugged Activities

While my daughter is in the middle of a Scooby Doo marathon, I thought I would join in the discussion about Unplugged Activities. Rachel at Testosterhome and Sarah at Clover Lane are brainstorming ideas to keep kids active. Here are a few of our favorites:

 1. Puddle jumping -- We have a great puddle that forms at the top of our driveway. Okay, so I have to block out thoughts of anti-freeze and motor oil and other forms of automotive run-off, but, gosh, the little people have so much fun jumping in it. Kids and clothes are washable, totally washable.

2. Rip-sticks, scooters, or bikes - We have a beautiful green-way about five miles from here that is perfect for this. No traffic, no lumpy sidewalks, just miles of smooth sailing. I'd like to do this once per week. Reality: We do it once per month.

3. Water colors - We do quite a bit of painting. Our dining room table is washable. If yours isn't, get a card table or invest $15 in a vinyl tablecloth. Watercolors go on sale for about a buck when school supplies are everywhere. Fun, cheap, easy to clean up.

Finger painting is fun, but not so cheap and not quite as easy to clean up.

5. Legos - John spends hours and hours and hours at his work bench. Worth every time I've stepped on one of these in the dead of night.

6. Wooden Trains - My kids have logged hours incalculable sitting on the floor building elaborate tracks. Future Grandma toys that will never leave this house.

A few others: going to the library, hiking at the swamp, baking chocolate chip cookies, playing hide and seek with big brother Tim who is great fun, play doh, doing mazes printed off of Pinterest. (Pinterest has thousands of good kid ideas).

In the summer: swimming, swimming, and more swimming.

In  moments of desperation: Get in the car and drive. Anywhere. Through a drive-through. To the library that is twenty-five minutes away. Just getting out of the house can be therapeutic.

When grace is needed and your youngest is older than three: praying the rosary. Before age three, this will only raise your blood pressure. Trust me. Nothing like failed prayers to make your day.

Tim and Kolbe used to enjoy playing Store, Library, or Post Office (not to be confused with the teenage variety). If I suggest these, John looks at me with suspicion and says, "You're just trying to get me to do math or reading."


Great discussion. Check out Rachel's list at Testosterhome and Sarah's ideas at Clover Lane and then head over to Hallie's to add your Five Favorites.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Tardis Pinewood Derby Car

So Derby Season is upon us. Dave arrived home in the nick of time. I can surf the web for ideas. I can sand and paint. But I can't use powers tools (and I have no desire to learn).

Ergo, The Pinewood Derby is Dave's baby.

In the hours before Dave's return, John and I sat in front of my I-pad as I Googled variations on "Quick Pinewood Derby Cars." Problem was, Google thought that by Quick I meant Fast when, in reality, by Quick I meant: Easy, Requires Minimal Effort, Will Not Involve Spray Painting at 1:00 a.m. or Blow-Drying at dawn.

I tried "Pinewood Derby Cars You Can Make in an Hour."



Google does offer a naked car with a decal that reads "My Dad Wouldn't Help Me." You know, I think I'd be good with that. But where The Pinewood Derby is concerned, I am simply the Quartermaster, the purchasing agent, the suppliers of stickers and spray paint and possibly a cold beer.

In my four years of blogging, I've had a handful of posts that have gone fairly far into cyberspace. "Viral" would be a gross exaggeration, but some posts get shared and re-shared.  Funny enough, a frequently shared post is When Dr. Who Meets The Pinewood Derby.

Of the roughly twelve cars we've produced, this was by far the coolest and -- get this! -- it was incredibly easy!

Here's what makes this car easy:
  • It's a rectangle!
  • It's one color!
  • The writing and windows were printed off the Internet and glued in place!
  • The window frames, I think, were pre-fabbed balsa wood we picked up at Hobby Lobby for a song!
  • We didn't finish it in an hour, but compared to other cars, this baby was easy, easy, easy!
It is everything that this car isn't:

To the untrained eye, this probably doesn't look all that complicated, but, please, trust me when I say don't try this at home.

Friday, March 21, 2014

And I Guess That's Why I Call It the Blue

1. Dave is heading home, and there is great rejoicing! Ainsley may be miffed that she at least has to start the evening in her own bed. For two weeks it's been me, Ainsley, and Madeline bunking together. We have arrived at what Ainsley deems an equitable distribution of space: Ainsley gets two-thirds of the bed; Madeline and I share the remaining third. And if this arrangement seems a bit dodgy, I get the sweet bonus of waking up in the dead of night to find a little arm wrapped around my shoulder or feeling a gentle kiss on my cheek or hearing Ainsley wake up singing, "This is a song about moms! Moms are great!"

Worth the kink in my neck.

Current location of Alaska.
2. Dave's intermittent trips give us a good reason to pull out the atlas and laugh about the original size and location of Alaska (huge, northwest of Washington) which is not to be confused with the current size and location of Alaska (slightly larger than Hawaii, south of California).

HT: Dave Barry, my bud.

3. Tim, who has been burning the midnight oil, to Kolbe: I remember when I was young and carefree like you.

4. Kolbe, quoting Rhett and Link on how to vet a wife: Ask about her favorite movie. If she says 2001: A Space Odyssey, Spaceballs, or any other film with the word "space" in the title, marry her immediately.

5. In an effort to put into practice some of the pointers in Putting Your Best Foot Forward, I did a chemical peel the other day. If you are interested in smoothing out your complexion and embarking on a chemical  peel, please keep in mind two words: chemical and peel. I'm fairly certain the pesky problem I was attempting to fix is gone, but so are patches of my face.

6. Various technological devices under my roof can predict with uncanny precision just how much of a hurry I am in. Anticipating a dramatic and highly entertaining whine-fest, they act up accordingly. The night before last, when Tim was in the final stretch of a chemistry power point presentation, the printer, known hereafter as Printer, pumped out slide after slide until all came to a grinding halt, and Tim muttered something about ink cartridges and shuffled off to bed.

Today I had five pages I needed for my class. A mere five pages. Hoping against hope, I pulled up the document, hit print, and . . .  nothing. Here's the thing about Printer: Printer is old. The error message screen is not as sharp as it used to be, meaning that I can read it only with the aid of my reading glasses and a flashlight. So, glasses and flashlight at the ready, I peered at the error message screen which read Out of Cyan. And all I can think is why, why, why, in the name of all that is holy, must we call this ink Cyan. Now Black is Black. We don't muddy the waters by calling it Midnight or Onyx. No, we call it Black because it's Black. Red, I now know, is Magenta. Why it's not Red, I can not tell you. No one asked for my input. It's Magenta, and I accept this. But Cyan, see, I'm not exactly sure what Cyan is. Is it Yellow or is Yellow Jaune (or is it Jeune? No, Jeune is Young, so Yellow must be Jaune as in Jaundice which mean Yellow, all of which begs the obvious question: Why can't we just call it Yellow?)

I go to the next room where we store computer supplies and dig through a tub full of ink cartridges. And the tub is in a dark, poorly lighted closet, and so I go in search of the handy glasses and flashlight only to find that not one of the packages bears the word Cyan. And so back to the computer I go to Google Cyan so that I can figure out if Yellow is Cyan or if Blue is Cyan. I'm sure everyone reading this is scratching their heads wondering how someone can get this far in life and not understand that Cyan is, in fact, Blue (as Google so helpfully informed me). Why Blue is not called, hmmm, Blue, I do not know. No one asked for my input. I slap Cyan into the slot marked Cyan, close the printer, grab my specs and my flashlight once again, and peer into the error message screen. Did you change a cartridge, Printer asks and helpfully offers three responses:
Press 1 for Yes
Press 2 for Yes,  #$@&%   it!
Press 3 for Cancel 
Kidding, kidding. Printer never swears. Printer leaves that to me.
I press 1, and Printer purrs to life . . . and starts printing page one of Tim's thirty-three page power point presentation.

You know, killing a print job should be easy. Oh, yes, it should. But then again, Red should be Red, and Blue should be Blue. Sadly, we don't live in a just, equitable, or logical world. I figure out how to halt the process somewhere around page twenty-two or twenty-five. Ainsley and John will have months of scrap paper for water colors and pirate maps! Producers of pulp paper and ink cartridges -- those would be the fine folks who dreamed up Cyan and Magenta -- are looking forward to a good quarter. Oh, how they love Science Fairs, 10th grade power point presentations, and challenged individuals like me who don't know their Cyan from their Jaune and can't manage to kill a print job without a loaded firearm.

7. Head over to Jen's to add your Quick Takes.

Thursday, March 20, 2014


It's Theme Thursday over at Clan Donaldson, and this week's theme is Rich. It doesn't get richer than this, I think:

I love my mom; I love my dad; I love my brother, Tim -- and twelve cents to boot. Jackpot!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

My Name in Leprechaun

Adorable O'Wacky. The name fits, I think.
So my name in leprechaun turns out to be Kind McNoodles. I'm wife to Dreamy McCheesy, mother to Timid  McWobbles, Kind McBlarney, Jolly McNoodles, and Adorable O'Wacky.

We stumbled upon a slightly edgier Leprechaun Name Generator and found that Tim's alternate alias is Barfy Elmer O'something I should probably omit from my blog. (But let's just say I laughed until. I. cried.)

Love that Barfy.

Too fun.

We all know that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. Saint Patrick's Day, falling mid-month, doesn't know which way to turn. For the last two or three years, the kids have donned shorts while I've scrounged for sunscreen. We have been sunburned attending the parade. Not so this year. We bundled up, and I threw in a few extra coats all of which we needed. The rain held back until the last few minutes. When we arrived home, the temperature was 42 degrees, and the drizzle was steady. Brrrr!

It's a fun, small town parade. "Look cute and wave," I always tell Ainsley. Everyone hauls in a bagful of  loot that would make our dentist either cringe or say, "cha-ching!" But, I should note, there wasn't a box of Nerds or a package of Fun Dip in the mix.

The cold weather must have led a few acts to opt to stay home. We missed the Shriners in their miniature cars, but we didn't miss the high school dance teams in their skimpy spandex and white, vinyl go-go boots. These little number are about my undoing every year.

From a girl who is -- as my late, beloved friend Mary Lou used to say -- "as Irish as Paddy's pig," a belated happy Saint Patrick's Day!


Kind McNoodles

Monday, March 17, 2014

Putting Your Best Foot Forward: Thoughts and Strategies on Beauty and Balance

About twice a year I get a case of the uglies. You know, I have nothing to wear, What's up with this hair of mine, Maybe Botox isn't such a bad idea, I need a need skin regimen, E-x-e-r-c--i-s-e!

Etcetera, etcetera.

So it was when I happened upon a discussion about Lenten sacrifices related to fashion. In a combox over on Cari Donaldson's blog, I mentioned that I'd love to take part in a discussion about how to balance life and fitness and beauty, how to step it all up a notch appearance-wise, how to put your best foot forward without breaking the bank or becoming self-absorbed. Cari suggested I do a link-up.

So here it is -- Putting Your Best Foot Forward: Thoughts and Strategies on Beauty and Balance.

My friend Amy writes at She's a wife and mother to five, including a sweet newborn redhead named Felicity. She writes:
When I was in college, I had a roommate who was into fitness. I asked her one day why she exercised so much. Her response was that she thought of her body as a temple of the Holy Spirit on loan to her from God . . . From that day forward I wanted to approach outward beauty the same way -- not as an act of vanity, but as a good steward.
Amy goes on to talk about how her approach to exercise and beauty has evolved over the years. Read the rest of her thoughts here.

I was chatting with a friend who mentioned she knows women who give up make-up for Lent and other women who would consider it a Lenten sacrifice to put on the stuff everyday. So true that. We are so different.

My friend Vickie has lovely, chin length gray hair. Her sense of fashion is put together, but simple and sporty. She always, always looks nice. She's a few years older than I am and aging exactly the way I hope to age.

She's a beautiful woman.

My neighbor Sherry loves color and sparkle. Everything from her clothes to her home decor, from her purse to the wreath on her door is lively and bold. She wouldn't step out the door without her face on. She's always, always put together.

She, too, is a beautiful woman.

We're all so different, so very different.
Ainlsey's first attempt at eye make-up.

There's no single correct approach to the complicated topics of beauty, fashion, fitness, make-up. I chaff when I stumble upon posts that seem to have heard from on high how Real Christians should dress or what Good Catholics should think about make-up.

(In fact, I don't just chaff; I positively recoil.)

For one thing, this sort of one-size-fits-all thinking ignores that we are much like my freinds Vickie and Sherry -- that is uniquely made, fashioned one-of-a-kind by God who obviously prefers variety.

Second, there's a world out there desperate to hear the good news that God loves them, but we're preoccupied drafting commandments eleven through seventy-two and quibbling over hemlines.

Chaff, recoil.

But I digress . . .

Many of the women I talk to are much like me and see no contradiction between loving God and looking nice. It's the logistics that trip many of us up. How do you pull it off? How do you fit in exercise when your To Do List is daunting? How do you put on make-up when your forty-something eyes don't cooperate? How do you develop a personal style without over-spending? When your shape seems to be ever-shifting? When you have a newborn? When you've just started a new job?

Obviously, I don't think we should make idols out of our personal appearance. Our culture certainly glorifies the young and supple, encouraging us all to chase after some elusive Fountain of Youth to make us look perpetually nineteen.

No, I don't want to look nineteen. But I do want to look nice. And it's not always easy.

I welcome your thoughts on the matter. If you have a blog, email the link and I'll add it above. Include a two sentence bio as well. For everyone else, join the discussion through the comments.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

A steady rain is falling, and I for one am glad.

I looked at show times at the cheap theater. Neither Frozen nor The Lego Movie nor any other film we'd like to see is playing, and I for one am glad.

After Mass, I plan to plant myself firmly on the couch and read to Ainsley and oohh and ahhh over John's Lego creations and listen to Tim play the piano and do very little else. I look forward to a tremendously boring week. Yes, a week free of events, bereft of diversions, no thrills, no frills, dull, monotonous, slow.

We have had an exciting month.  Good, good stuff, vacation and academic competitions and sports. But I am now worn slap out with Dave out of town quite a bit and kids needing to go hither and yon with this gear or that project and logistics that would boggle the mind of a city planner and phone calls and more phone calls and a few zillion texts.

This week we're staying put, and when we leave the house, we're all going together to the very same place without a single thought as to who needs a house key and who's taking the spare cell phone and how will we manage to eat at three different times, in three different places.

I plan to pass a week in Dullsville, with the most exciting event being Tim getting braces on Tuesday and, perhaps, John scoring another two points in pee wee basketball. (We're up to a career total of four points now, and I'm pretty much feeling like Michael Jordan's mother. Yes, I am.)

Faced with a staggering To Do List of late, I have pondered shutting down Ye Olde Blog. It takes a surprising amount of time that I clearly do not have at present. Then I had a conversation with a friend, and she reminded me of why I had started blogging the first place. It wasn't to make money. It wasn't to build a platform. It was to capture memories. It was to have a creative outlet.

But then I started to write and eventually some people outside my family and close friends started to read. And the thing is, this changes what you write about. If this were a family-only blog, I would have come home Friday from an exhausting day in Atlanta and shouted in 72 point type, "Tim won first place in his piano competition!" And I would have come home Saturday from a slightly less exhausting day in Aiken and shouted, "Kolbe and his partner came in third place in the regional science fair!"

But when you're writing for a larger audience (be sure to check out the number of subscribers I have to see just how large), I don't know, such pronouncements seem to scream vanity, vanity.

But I am so proud of Tim, so happy for Kolbe.

And for the future me who looks back on this blog to remember those memories that are so sharp now, but will be so hazy someday soon, let me just add the details about Mr. T. Last week, Tim played a piano piece at our community Lord's Day Meal. You know, there's nothing tougher than the home crowd. Nothing tougher. He was terribly nervous. But he did it. A week later we took part in a Literary and Music Competition, and he played so well. I looked up at him seated at the grand piano in front of all our friends and quickly flashed back to his very first recital when Timmy, age 6, plunked out Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee and didn't use the pedals because his feet dangled a foot above them.

About two years ago something shifted with Tim. He developed a love for playing piano. Not always a love for practicing, mind you, but a love for playing. If he was stressed or tired or worried, he'd sit down at the piano and play fast and furiously. Scott Joplin seemed to be the Muse best able to conquer his angst. At his last recital, I wanted Tim to play Chopin; he chose Let It Be by The Beatles. I swear I still hear it in my sleep. Last fall Tim thanked me for the years and years of sending him off to piano; for the endless reminders to practice, practice, practice; for the money we've poured into this venture. The other night we shared dinner with friends of ours. The dad, a former student of mine, is a gifted pianist. After dinner, Nick and Tim sat at the piano for nearly an hour playing different bits, discussing various composers, picking out chords. Nick handed Tim sheet music by Rachmaninoff and challenged Tim to learn it. He's been picking it apart measure by measure since then.

Kids change. Some changes seem to happen overnight. The baby-faced twelve-year-old breaks out. The voice goes from soprano to bass in a flash. Other changes seem positively glacial. I remember a line from Alice in Wonderland: The thing about a magic door is that you can't see it until you've gone through it. Tim has crossed through some magical doors of late, and Tim and I have crossed through some magical doors together.

All of this leaves me tremendously hopeful for the remaining glaciers in my life, tremendously grateful for the place in which we live, tremendously mindful of a providential God who has numbered the hairs on our heads, who has counted all our tears, who has gone to prepare a place for us.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Hands On Education

The late Barbara Curtis wrote this:

Think I'll explore this rock.
Look closely at children's activities and you will see a sense of purposefulness, working toward understanding and mastering their small worlds . . .
God gives the child this drive to explore and learn. You see it clearly in the toddler years: learning is what we are made for. It is our drive to learn that causes us to seek to know more about God and the world he created for us. Watch any preschooler learning to peel carrots, write his name, or count his pennies -- you will see a child completely engrossed, a child who isn't learning because he has to, but because he wants to, a child who loves to learn.

A friend and I were folding laundry this morning and saw this sense of purposefulness in action. How cute it was to watch her fourteen-month-old daughter squat next to a laundry basket, grab an item or two, and toss it all into another basket. Ainsley enjoys the four-year-old version of this -- standing on top of a laundry basket tossing clothes into the washing machine for me.

Young children like to transfer things, a fact I learned when I began my Montessori training. My friend and I talked a little about Montessori works I've seen and used in our Atrium -- spooning beans, pouring rice, pouring water, transfer works using tweezers and tongs.

As we were talking, I thought of a few of my favorite hands on learning tools:

1. Lacing Cards

 As you can see, Ainsley's mastered this skill.

2. Stringing Beads

Great for fine motor skills and patterning.

3. Japanese Water Painting

A huge hit for kids of all ages. Adults love it, too. Buy one and put it in a public area like a kitchen island or the break room in the office. Everyone will enjoy it. And no clean up required!

Children can use the wide brush that comes with the set or use a finger dipped in water. For help learning to write letters, children can trace their names in white rice poured on a colored tray. For the more adventurous mothers, there's shaving cream or flour spread on a cookie sheet. (Can't say I've tried either one of these.)

4. Spooning and Pouring

I can't fully explain it, but young children love to spoon dry beans or rice from one container to another. From spooning they advance to dry pouring, transferring, again, rice or beans from one container to another. Finally, there is wet pouring. 

Sophisticated transfer work courtesy of Ainsley.

You can find child-sized materials for these activities on any Montessori website. I'll say two things about Montessori materials: they are well made, and they are pricey. The tightwads among us peruse the Montessori websites and then head to Goodwill or Walmart to buy our supplies.

5. Perfection

Fine motor skills and the added fun of the whole board exploding when time runs out.

If you're looking for pre-writing skills or other tools to hone fine motor skills, Pinterest is an amazing resource. In fact, it has loads of enrichment activities for every age and grade-level. To help John, a first grader, learn to count by fives, I hopped over to Pinterest and searched for connect the dot sheets that were in increments of five. Score!

As John has struggled with fractions, I found activities that explain fractions using Hershey's bars and Legos. Needless to say, these are far more motivating than worksheets.

I love this stuff, love it all. Some people spend hours on Pinterest looking at gardens or clothes. I look at little girls' bedrooms and early education materials. (And hair braiding, but I never quite get around to actually doing that).

I'm adding this to Hallie's collection of Five Favorites. Head over to Moxie Wife to add yours.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Random Thoughts

- On Friday, I thought that prayer plus sleep plus husband home from Alaska = Life is so much better than it was a week ago.

-  John had a field trip last year. The permission slip spelled out the standard field trip dress code: school polo shirt and jeans with no holes. At the time, John owned four pairs of jeans. One pair had one hole, and the others each sported two holes. I organized his dresser yesterday and decided it was time to deep six this well-worn pair.

This made me sad.

- Last Tuesday was 35 and overcast. Thursday was rainy and 44. One weatherman actually uttered the word "ice" and then quickly backed off, insisting that the chances were "low, very low."  As I drive through Augusta, I mull over the adjective "devastating" that was used to describe our recent ice storm. It's an over-used descriptor but apt in this case. We have tree and brush removal crews all over the city, but, wow, there is still a huge (huge, huge) mess left.

Today we hit the low 70s.

- As John rode off on his bike the other afternoon, I looked up at him zooming through the backyard and wondered if I would ever, ever, ever grow tired of the sight. Silly question, easy answer.

No, I won't.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

This One's for Kris

So it's Theme Thursday over at Cari Donaldson's, and though my house is surprisingly tidy at the moment, I'm sure I have my fair share of dirt to record for all the Internets to see. 

A friend and I have decided to dedicate a few Lenten hours each week tackling a household eyesore together. One week her house, one week mine. She mentioned she has a room that overwhelms her. I have stalled projects of my own. We decided to work on these areas together. Tuesday she popped by, and we rearranged Kolbe and John's room which was crowded, messy, and disorganized. Now it's just crowded. I could have provided plenty of photographic evidence of dirt. In addition to getting a few jobs done with the encouragement of a friend, I am convinced I'll grow in humility as I expose a few hidden messes to the outside world (or at least to Sarah).

Anyway . . . Fun Dip isn't exactly dirt (far worse, in my opinion) but here's my contribution to the line-up:

Back in my Valentine' Day post, I highlighted an  ongoing debate -- Nerds versus Fun Dip: Which one is merely diabolical and which one is the veritable spawn of satan. At the time, I was voting for Nerds, but we are now 19 days past Valentine's Day and what do I see? Bright blue Fun Dip all over my son's clothing and floor. And I've just found more Fun Dip residue in the hamper. Now, I may have spotted a single grain of Nerds lodged in the space between two floorboards, but that remains as yet unconfirmed.

In the great debate as to whether Nerds or Fun Dip constitutes the Worst Substance Ever, it would appear that Fun Dip is pulling ahead.

Head over to Cari's to join the link-up.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Middle School Science Fair: Do All Things Without Grumbling or Complaining Or Faultfinding

So begins Philippians 2:14 . . .

Here's a confession that will startle no one: I grumble.

I grouse about The Pinewood Derby and the state of my bathrooms. I whine about Boy Scout packing lists and lost PE clothes. I lament most events that require a costume and any school project that involves a trip to a craft store.

Let's just say Philippians 2 gives me pause. Pause to squirm and gulp and repent. Maybe I can start by doing some things  -- perhaps just one thing? -- without grumbling or complaining or faultfinding?

Toddlers and The Science Fair -- a dicey combination.

In the past week I have been privy to a few conversations about grumbling. And I think that I not only participated, but I aided and abetted the whole affair. I fear I have hurt feelings and caused a person or two to stumble.

It all began with The Science Fair.

I have dedicated a surprisingly large amount of virtual ink to The Science Fair. Let me state my official position for the record: We love The Science Fair. We are glad our school has The Science Fair. I am especially grateful to Mr. Swenson, science teacher extraordinaire, for initiating the project, modelling an in-class experiment for the sixth graders, arranging judges, buying awards, handling the regional fair, etc, etc, etc.

See, I've been a teacher. I've done the projects, arranged the field trips, scheduled a guest speaker or two. All this is a whole lot more complicated and time consuming than saying, "Open your books to chapter seven. Test is Monday."

Took five years off my life.
At least as whining goes, I'm an equal opportunity lender. The Science Fair gets no more of my kvetching than does the research paper, and if I were to plot totals complaints neatly on a multi-colored Excel spreadsheet, The Science Fair would rate somewhere between the diorama of the Gobi Dessert and the scale model of Pickett's Charge and well behind the clear and obvious winner, The Pinewood Derby. Now, I love the Pinewood Derby. I plan to check into a hotel room the night before this year's Derby, but let the record reflect that I love it still. The Pinewood Derby costs more in terms of supplies, time, stomach lining, and lingering issues related to blood pressure and inhalation of spray paint.

So from a random sampling of school and Scout projects, the data shows that The Science Fair comes in a distant third where over-all stress is concerned. I have yet to purchase a new Dremmel the night before The Science Fair, and for this I am grateful.

I should also add that I do not blame teachers for my child's procrastination nor for any disorganization on the part of the family. I never, never, never, ever, ever, ever bash a teacher, principal, Scout leader, coach, crossing guard, etc. to my kids. I may ask clarifying questions. I may encourage a child to speak to an adult privately. I make phone calls and write notes.

I don't bash.

Our kids need to know that we're listening and that we're their advocates. But here's a corollary to that principle: Our teachers and coaches need to know the same thing. We're all on the same team, people!

But back to my original premise: I grouse.

And I'm of two minds on the whole issue of grousing.

Mothers have always sought out like-minded mothers for companionship and advice, to exchange ideas and and to vent. Back in the day, we groused over coffee in the backyard or a long phone call while the babies slept. We talked about sleepless nights and first steps, teething and potty training, school projects and worrisome behaviors, joys and trials, ups and downs.

Today the topics haven't changed, but the media has. We're no longer sitting in the backyard or the corner park; we're in front of a computer screen. And our venting and bragging are less likely to be confined to tight-knit and trusted soul mates. We start with our friends and move to their friends and their friends and so on and so on, ratcheting up Likes and Shares along the way.

We put it out there. Sometimes it travels a shade farther than we'd like. Sometimes we regret what we've shared. So it was with the something I shared on Facebook the other night. It was negative, and it generated more negativity. If I can figure out how to pull it down, I will.

But here's another take on grousing: I don't want to morph into a humorless person who can't laugh at her own foibles or challenges.

Early in married life, Dave and I had two weekend rituals. On Saturday we would read James Kilpatrick's column The Writer's Art out loud, and on Sundays we would do the same with Dave Barry. Jimbo, God rest his soul, died, and Dave Barry retired. We miss them both. One Sunday, we read Science: It's Just Not Fair, Dave Barry's take on The Science Fair. We howled with laughter and promptly called our friend Kathleen who was in charge of The Science Fair back in the day. For the record, she laughed, too.

I laugh about the absurdities of life because it makes it all a touch lighter.

I need to try harder to do all things without grumbling or complaining or faultfinding. But I need to retain my sense of humor, too.

I'm glad my kids are challenged to do hard things. School is lots of things and one of them is preparation for Real Life which demands performance, stamina, fortitude, and any number of other character traits strengthened by giving that speech you'd rather not give, finishing that project you'd rather torch in the backyard fire pit, tightening that faltering argument, staying up late to put the finishing touches on your diorama.

(Life also demands a sense of humor, so laugh about it when it's all over.)

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Seven Quick Takes

1. Our best Disney picture:

From the left: Auntie Kate, Ainsley, Mama after Space Mountain, Cousin Hannah. What can I say? There's a strong family resemblance.

2. After a full day of subbing on Wednesday and a half day of subbing on Friday, I have gleaned four pearls of wisdom regarding the care and feeding of first graders:

- Do not think you're Mrs. Jackson, full-time teacher, rock star educator. You are not. You are a humble substitute. Full stop.
- Ban all sharpening. A full and total ban, no exceptions, no loopholes. No. Just no.
- Ban tattling. All of it. Okay, maybe add a narrow exception if bloodshed or broken bones are involved. 
- Ban tattling on the substitute teacher. 
And once I kept these things in mind, I enjoyed everything that makes first-grade boys delightful  -- the big brown eyes, the big blue eyes; their sweet lisps, waning quickly; their reading; their creativity; even their energy.

3. And if you think I'm being a touch OCD about the sharpening thing, I offer you Exhibits A and B:

John attempted to further sharpen this beauty.

4. I have a half-written post extolling the merits of The Science Fair, and, for the record, it was half-written before my kid and his partner took second place. I have strong, strong opinions about academic excellence. I may be forced to pontificate in a future post about the non-stop recognition we send the way of athletes and the paucity of recognition for academic achievement. Science Fair, spelling bees, essay competitions, literary magazines -- I am in favor of all these. I wish our Math Club hadn't folded; I have grand illusions about starting a Chess Club.

Of course, none of this negates the huge amount of work kids and parents put into events like The Science Fair. This year went so smoothly. The boys worked consistently with little parental involvement save for a trip or two to Lowe's and the County Extension Agency. But then came the write up. Don't ask me why it's so time-consuming. Kolbe's partner arrived  at 3:30, and I actually thought, "Why, we should have this whole thing wrapped up by dinner time!"

I am optimistic or simply delusional?

Eight hours to write it up. Eight hours.

And even then the tri-fold board got a tad mangled when carted into school during a rainstorm.

5. So the regular basketball season has come to an end, and now we move into Developmental Basketball for the little people. If you want a good time, come watch a bunch of five and six-year-olds playing basketball. These pint-sized players run down the court -- typically carrying the ball instead of bothering with all that pesky dribbling -- they pause under the net and either take a wild shot or panic and pass the ball to one of the on-court coaches.

This is about the most entertaining event I've enjoyed in a long time.

John scored two points. Let me highlight this event once more: John scored two points. I believe these may be the first two points the Dolins have put on a basketball scoreboard ever. Ever. John totally didn't get my excitement. He was just miffed they lost 5-2.

6. I can't seem to locate John's make-up work. Why do I think he may have hidden it? Meanwhile, Ainsley came up to me and asked, "Is there some schoolwork I can do?" #lovemybrownnosinggirl!

7.  As I mentioned before, I hit a wall or two (or three) this week. I really, truly did look at the mirror and gawk at my own appearance. I didn't have mere shadows under my eyes; no, I sighted The Tallulah Gorge. Times two. It would appear that this isn't solely due to fatigue. If this itching and redness is any indication, I just may have double conjunctivitis lending a hand as well.

Bob Costas, I feel your pain.

Anyway . . . I went to our Thursday night prayer meeting -- late and reluctantly, I should add -- and left so strengthened, so comforted, so refreshed. As we enjoyed beautiful praise and worship music, the Alleluia Healing Team spread around the room, offering prayer to anyone who needed it.

I needed it.

And I got it.

I spent a few moments soaking in God's grace. And in a manner that's hard to articulate clearly, everything is now lighter. And that, in a nutshell, is why we do what we do. And I am so grateful.

And on that positive note, head over to Jen's to add your Quick Takes.