Thursday, May 31, 2012

showtime!

It’s May 31. Tomorrow night, June 1, the play opens.


my "nephew" and "niece"

What a whirlwind month it’s been!


time warp! 

I have learned so incredibly much that I still have trouble finding the words to describe it all. One thing I do know: the green room (ours, at least) is actually green. I was clearly not paying attention when I told you it wasn’t green.


green, green, green

Tonight is an “invited dress.” (Ooo, look at me do the theater lingo!) This means that the show’s sponsors get bunches of tickets to hand out to their friends and family and then they all get together in one of the studio rooms for a private reception before watching the show. The director said it could be a full house. I’m ready to start performing for someone other than the directors, managers, and crew.  (Is it bad luck to admit that I think we’re ready? I hope I didn't just jinx the play.)



Last night we added make-up to our get-ready routine. (We had already added hair—which keeps getting tweaked—and clothing.) I get to have eyebrows! (I'm much less excited about flaunting my super-high forehead to the masses.)


I tried to sleep in this morning (my parents have the younger two children, which has been A Saving Grace, so it was actually feasible), but the neighbor decided to bang in some fence posts at 7:15. I don’t think he was aware that he was pounding them straight through my head.

After lunch, I tried again to get some sleep. I had just drifted off when the neighbor decided a few more fence posts were in order, youhavegottobekiddingme. I abandoned the sleep idea and turned to chocolate, caffeine, and Ibuprofen, instead.

Though it just occurred to me, I'm in bed for much of the second act. Maybe I'll doze off between nightmares. (Yeah, right.)

PS. Blood and burn pix coming soon!

PPS. For showtimes and ticket information, click the picture on the sidebar.

This same time, years previous: down to the river to chill, barbecued pork ribs, fresh strawberry cream pie

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

on the subject of grade level



“Is she at grade level?”

I looked at the nurse blankly. She was running through a list of entrance level assessment questions—a routine part of the new patient process—and I had no idea how to answer her.

At previous appointments, I had answered the same questions for the older children. For the oldest I probably said something like “more or less” and for the next to oldest I said, “In some things, yes. In others, no.”

But for the eight-year-old, I was stymied. We have yet to begin any (or much) formal education, so of course she’s not at grade level. She’s not even in a grade, really.

“No,” I finally said, and the nurse moved on to the next question without batting an eye.

That evening I told my friend, another homeschooling mom, about the grade level question. “How would you have answered that?” I asked.

“What exactly does ‘grade level’ mean?” she countered. “And how many kids in the schools are at grade level anyway? I suppose you could just say, ‘I don’t know,’ but then you run the risk of looking like a clueless homeschooling mom.”

And that’s the problem. I do know enough about the school system (I’m a product of it, after all) to know that my daughter is not at grade level. But how do I explain that’s not important to us without sounding like an irresponsible mother? How can I communicate that our choices—choices which are so different from the mainstream—are actually thoughtful, rational, and viable?  Not being in school, let alone shunning grades, is so far out of people’s paradigms that bridging the gap feels almost impossible.

But then the other week when I filled out our bios for the play’s program, I realized that grade level is more important to me than I let on. In my son’s bio, I wrote that he’s “homeschooled.” I intentionally kept it vague because it doesn’t really matter and I didn’t want to pin him into that box, but I felt like I should say he’s a “homeschooled sixth grader.” Though I’m not sure why. Maybe to soften the blow? He’s a homeschooler. BUT DON’T FREAK OUT! He’s in sixth grade, so see? HE’S NORMAL.

That I had the urge to label him a 6th grader, as though that were an important distinction, surprised me. And then when I successfully resisted the urge (it was astonishingly strong), I felt liberated and victorious and that surprised me even more. I didn’t realize that purposefully avoiding the grade level box was something I hadn’t done before.

A couple days ago my friend sent me a link to another blog post: grade level ain't nothin' but a number. In it, the author points out that as homeschooling parents we are quite comfortable talking about the areas that are kids are excelling at, but we don’t like to talk about the areas they are behind in. She’s right on. Why is it so hard to talk about our kids as people, not pupils?

The urge to label and compare, rank and box is strong. Far too often, I see my children through the evaluator’s eye. I continually have to refocus and see my children for who they are—themselves. It’s a process, but I’m learning. I hope I get an A.

This same time, years previous: the saturation point, the ways we play, rhubarb tart and rhubarb tea

Monday, May 28, 2012

the quotidian (5.28.12)

Quotidian: daily, usual or customary; 
everyday; ordinary; commonplace 


The kids constantly fight over who gets to hold her. And then when she falls asleep they cry because they can't hold her anymore...except for the one who put her to sleep, lucky bum.


He tilled for an hour while his papa followed along, picking up rocks. 



Carving branches into sharp pointy sticks is all the rage these days.



We've been eating an awful lot of store-bought bread and lunch meat these days. These particular sandwiches were for a picnic lunch at the park after a morning of running errands: library, barber shop (for shaggy boy—see top picture), a visit to the cat shelter (for petting purposes only), the pharmacy, etc. We topped it all off with DQ cones. The kids couldn't believe their good fortune.


I took my afternoon coffee on the deck so I could keep my eye on the weather—it was threatening to rain and there was laundry on the line.


I'm not sure what to say about this picture. It appeared on my camera. (And yes, the kids aren't allowed to use my camera without permission, but when stuff like this shows up, I have a hard time being mad.)


Sparkle: a new (for us) kind of strawberry. I'm conflicted about them. The flavor is excellent, but they go all squishy mushy super easy and don't keep well at all. I doubt I'll plant them again. (We're getting ready to plant a huge, new patch. Any suggestions on what kind of berries to choose?)


Grape arbor monkey.
He's not allowed up there—the whole time I was taking pictures, 
I was telling him to get down.
Which wasn't effective at all.



Grape arbor house. 



Chillin' with G-daddy.



Grandmommy came, and she brought squash pie. Two of them. (And the fans went wild.) 

This same time, years previous: making art, Aunt Valerie's blueberry bars, asparagus, goat cheese, and lemon pasta, questions and carrots, chicken butchering, a cake for Wayne, one dead mouse, strawberry ideas, the ways we play

Thursday, May 24, 2012

the reason why

This play has sucked up all my creative juices. It’s also sucked up lots of my waking hours and a bunch of my sleeping ones, too. I am no longer writing or cooking or even thinking about those things.


It’s not that I don’t have time to write, because I do, but my energy levels are low. It’s like I’m in hibernation, just drifting through the day, half-heartedly maintaining the household, hoarding all my energy so I’ll have enough to make it through the practices.


Also, I never realized how much of the writing process happens before I ever type out a single word. All those hours that I’m flitting about doing my predictable stuff, I’m pondering, musing, thinking. Then when I have a free hour to write, I can put out, bam.

I never even knew that’s what was going on with my head.


But now with five hours of my day spent in rehearsals, I’ve lost all that routine thinking time. My mind is fully absorbed. In fact, I have trouble carrying on a regular conversation and slip into running my lines at the drop of the hat. Example: when Nickel asked me a question during Sunday’s church service, I stared at him blankly, busily lost in working out a scene in my head, until my husband elbow-jabbed me and hissed, “Answer him!”


The other reason I’m not writing is because being in a play is too new. I need time to process my experiences into a shareable format. If I were to write about it now, there would be far too much angst.


I’m taking notes, though. You will (eventually) get the behind-the-scenes rundown. Promise.

P.S. I talked a little about the play (and biscuits) in the latest Kitchen Chronicles.

This same time, years previous: savoring Saturday's sun, through my daughter's eyes, Ranch dressing

Monday, May 21, 2012

the quotidian (5.21.12)

Quotidian: daily, usual or customary; 
 everyday; ordinary; commonplace



bedhead



lettuce, o beautiful lettuce



basking



the face of luuuv
(and the reason I flinch when anyone puckers up in my general direction)



fork-feeding the chickens



I had high hopes for this pineapple mango salsa, 
but my husband and I both thought it a little flat. 
I probably did it wrong.


My husband looked out the window and this is what he saw: the kids had turned the porch swing around so it faced out into the front yard and were happily sailing over the forsythia.
Yee-haw.



white shirts for kids = the stupidest idea ever



I set my script on the roof of the car while I dug in my bag for my keys with one hand 
and shoved a cupcake into my mouth with the other. 
"You are going to forget you put it there," I warned myself. 
And then I proceeded to do just that. 
Not until I was pulling out of the parking lot did it come crashing down 
and completely burst apart on the pavement. 
I was laughing so hard I could hardly pick up the papers. 
The end.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

up at the property

A little while back, my parents purchased thirteen acres of land about two-and-a-half miles from our house. After months of house plan creating and all kinds of official meetings with house-building people, the building process is finally underway.


This month the foundation is being laid. Next month the house gets framed up. Also next month, my parents move in with us so they can help out with some of the work and supervise. (That’s also the month that we have three full weekends of play performances, our family travels to upstate NY once and my husband and I fly to NYC once. June is going to be a blurrrrrr.)


The wonderful thing about this whole arrangement is that:

1. My husband is working close to home.
2. My husband can go to work as early as he wants (because he doesn’t have to wait for any house residents to wake up and clear out) which means he can come home sooner.
3. The 13 acres are wooded and my kids love to play there.
4. The kids can play on the aforementioned 13 wooded acres while my husband works and I run errands (or sleep).
5. The older kids are old enough to actually go over there and work.
6. The older kids can bike to the property all by themselves.


This week Ted came with his backhoe and moved lots of dirt. The kids thought it was awesome. (And when a hydraulic hose broke and started spraying oil all over the place, the kids thought it was even more awesome.)


Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel, yes?

Also, you can’t tell by the pictures, but it is LOUD up in them there woods. And not because of the heavy equipment, either. It’s loud because of the cicadas. The whole woods is a-buzz with their whiny whirring. It’s enough to give a person a headache. (My husband thought there was a car alarm going off for the first two hours he was there.)
 

Seven years ago when the cicadas last made their appearance, my little brother—the one who likes to pretend he’s a groundhog-eating caveman—harvested (collected? caught?) a bunch of the cicadas and fried them in a skillet with some butter. He served them with a choice of sauces: Ranch dressing, ketchup, and honey. My then three-year-old daughter was intrigued. My brother offered her one. She popped it in her mouth and ate it. We have it on video.


The older kids are doing actual work up there: helping to take measurements, bending and setting and cutting rebar, reinforcing the forms, and moving dirt. They get cuts and blisters, and, like a real construction workers, they bandage their wounds with electrical tape. They come home from the property filthy beyond measure.


This same time, years previous: baked brown rice, strawberry spinach saladmy favorite thingscinnamon tea biscuits, rhubarb streusel muffins, caramel cake, pinterest, the boring blues, fowl-ness (a butchering tale)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

a burger, a play, and some bagels

My husband and I had a date night this past weekend. At first we just made plans to usher at the Blackfriars. But then we found overnight care for the kids at two different houses and decided to leave a little early so we could get a hamburger at Five Guys, yum.

‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore was the name of the play we were ushering. I had been warned it was a dark play (and that under no circumstances whatsoever should I take the kids to it). In fact, I had long ago decided I didn’t want to see it at all.

But then I got curious. It might be interesting to see how the actors pulled it off. I’d seen them do dramas and comedies, but a dark and bloody tragedy would be something new. Still, I was worried. Would it mess with my mind? Would our sweet date night be ruined?

I was surprised by my reaction. I liked the play! It wasn’t exactly fun to watch, but it was extremely well executed (no pun intended), and the sex and violence weren’t gratuitous. The play was ugly and raw, yes. But not raunchy. It probably helped that I was so caught up in the acting details—how the blood got on stage, how they comported themselves while being nearly naked, how they acted those hard scenes and still remained emotionally stable individuals (though I guess they could all be wacko and I’d be none the wiser).

The next morning, we slept in (to 6:30) (I am constitutionally unable to sleep in—it's a curse). My husband told me the following story while I was still half-asleep. It made me laugh.

The previous day, he was at home with the kids while I was at rehearsals. He was tilling the garden and the kids were playing on the front porch. He went into the house to check on them and they weren’t anywhere around. He thought they had maybe taken the TV and were watching a movie upstairs (wouldn’t be the first time), so he went to check.

They were on the front porch roof. They had hauled out blankets, toys, books, and a radio, lathered up with sun screen, and were hanging out like a pack of college kids (minus the beer).

My husband went back downstairs and used his cell to call them on the house phone. Nickel came running down to answer it. He never saw his papa crouched down between the plants and the fridge. 

Papa: Hi. Where are you?

Nickel (walking around, looking for his papa): Playing downstairs.

Papa: Let me talk to your sister.

Nickel (running the phone upstairs) (loud whisper): It’s Dad. Tell him we’re downstairs. Trick Dad!

Daughter: Hi, Papa.

Papa: Where are you guys?

(Pause.)

I want you to think very, very carefully about what you say.

Daughter: (Pause.) On the roof?


We got dressed for church (no yelling at kids required) and readied the house for the noon meal. My husband suggested we hit the bagel shop for breakfast, so we did.

Two meals out and a play equaled one much-enjoyed date night. And, considering that I’ll be gone most evenings from 6 until 11 (give or take some minutes) for the next month, it was a smart, preemptive move, too.

This same time, years previous: garden tales, part one, garden tales, part two, talking points rained out

Monday, May 14, 2012

the quotidian (5.7.12 and 5.14.12)

Quotidian: daily, usual or customary; 
 everyday; ordinary; commonplace



iris in my window



a mousy graveyard: the day after the babies died (for the story of that dreadful day, go here), the kids picked them out of the compost pile and put them to rest all proper-like



making the headstone



living on lettuce and loving it



after a trip to the greenhouse



my son as Alfred the Baker in a community children's theater



my daughter was a courtier: her dress's skirt had six layers which made her inordinately happy



a picture that appeared on my camera



afternoon coffee break



one final cuddle before everyone drove off



a love/bargain letter to their papa: before I left for an evening of rehearsals, they presented him with this letter in which they promised to clean up the house if he'd let them watch some Tom and Jerry episodes before bed (he did)


under-baked oatmeal bread (my fault): we ate the non-doughy parts and fed the rest to the chickens 



playing dress-up 
 
This same time, years previous: lemon rhubarb chicken, bald-headed baby and raspberry-mint tea