Monday, December 29, 2008

LOST in vacation mode

WE seem to have a very twisted form of family bonding. We have spent almost 2 days watching the t.v. season 1 from LOST. We still have seasons 2 and 3 to go. It has turned into a sickness. We watch for hours and assure ourselves that it is okay to "lose" ourselves in lost because we are on vacation. I am sad to say it has become like an addiction. We stay up to wee hours of the night watching this show. It is insane. I am relieved that today we actually have to be somewhere/do something.
Austen is spending the morning flying an airplane. Mason is at soccer. Cody is sleeping (too many Lost episodes late at night) and then programming some computer games. Brian, Michael and I are finally returning to work.
We all agreed this morning that we will give ourselves the rest of the week to watch this insane series in the feed our addiction, so to speak, and then???? I think we will be shutting off the t.v. for awhile.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Christmas Crud

Don't get me wrong. I truly love this season. I enjoy this holiday. But with this time of year, always seems to come the Christmas crud. You know, that blend of allergies/cold/flu that you just can't shake.
Austen and I get sick last week. We come out of our fog just before Christmas Eve day..and I realize that we are surrounded by others in the same condition. I understand that Cody and Mason spent a fair amount of time sleeping these past few days also.
We enjoyed spending the day with family and friends..but I can't seem to notice that many are just worn-out and sick! Why do we do this to ourselves?!
On another note. We have had a very relaxing and lazy Chritmas day. Actually, the word 'gluttony' comes to mind. We are surrounded by tamales, chili, ribs, tacos, cakes and chocolate. We have more sodas and other junk-food in the house than we will probably have for the rest of the year.
The kids have spent the past week playing Scrabble. Today was not much different..only now they are (or rather were) spending the day playing Rock Band. At least that was until they ran out of batteries. Why do we NEVER have enough batteries on Christmas?
I try to watch It's a Wonderful Life. It is tradition. We do this every year. Nothing happening. The kids protest. Well fine, just any Christmas movie. Somehow we end up watching Tom and Huck instead. Still not sure how that happened.
The kids did break up their ongoing game-playing for a little more tree-house time, bike riding (Brian-Scott got a new bike!), downloading voices on a GPS and painting.
Now? The day finally winds down. Brian-Scott leaves with Angee and her brother Kevin. They are off to Colorado. Mason and Cody are comparing soccer gear. Austen is playing a video game.
It appears that it is Brian and Michael's turn to be sick. They are fighting fevers and trying to sleep.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Nature Trails, Soup and Tie-Dye

I realize a little over a week ago that the kids will never be full. I used to be able to throw some dinner in the crock pot. Well, now that only feeds half of us. We have turned one of our kitchen counters into a Soup Bar. I fill the crock-pot with soup each day and put a basket of dinner rolls beside it. This is not a meal, just an ongoing snack for whoever is in the house. You know, because hot-pockets, popcorn, apples/bananas/oranges, cookies and bowls of cereal don't cut it anymore.
When I leave for the Club, I take what is left with me for staff and kids. In this picture, Austen is dancing in the Club kitchen. He likes to claim it is his kitchen. We start the next batch of soup before I leave. So far we have had 15 bean soup, minestrone, tomato, brocolli and cheese, tomato and potato. I suspect it will not be long before everyone starts groaning, "please, no more soup!"

The boys (dad included) cleared out a nature trail over the weekend. It starts in our backyard and includes the backyards of a few neighbors. They cleared a path/maze just big enough for a golf-cart to fit through. It overlooks the river, winds through trees, brush, etc. We put up our "Trees for the San Antonio Region" poster and are trying to see how many trees we can identify.
The tie-dye continues. It has now taken over our morning room and deck.Now that the "business of Christmas" is settling down, we are starting to fall into old daily rhythms. This is always the time of year we just put down formal study for a month. It is too crazy and people are too stressed during the holidays to try. I really enjoy this..and then I always start thinking "what would happen if we did this f-o-r-e-v-e-r? "
We don't. I'll panic shortly after the new year. But for is really nice.
The boys are getting way too much leverage out of this break with their schooled peers.
Just the other day Austen was helping his friend Ricci with an essay on the Holocaust.
Austen was naming off the current genocides for him, when Ricci stops abruptly:It's not fair come he doesn't have to write.
Austen grins:Because I'm spoiled.
Me: That's not true! (yikes..he is going public with our huge vacation)He writes an essay a day.
(I don't mention that he writes about whatever he feels like.)
Ricci (big grin):Ha!
Austen: Of course, right now I'm not doing anything for a month..AND I get to sleep late, so HA back!.
Ricci:Is that true, miss?
Me:Yup..sure is.
Ricci :Aww..that's just not right!
Austen (again): Ha!

We have got to work a little on manners!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Keepers of the Magic

Santa has thrown up in my house.

Over the years, as the boys began to discover Santa's other identities, we often remind them that now they are officially, "Keepers of the Magic." As they have become older this Magic Keeping business has taken on a life of it's own.

We dedicate at least a week to magic making in this house...and we share this fun with my friend, Sandy and her son, Devin.

Yesterday as Brian and I drink our morning coffee, I remind him this is the week that we make magic. "Oh jeez!. Can't we just do this..and then have it all cleaned up before I get home?" "Yeah, right..whatever." He grins. "Well, can we at least remember to have some dinner? or do I need to bring home something." He leaves for work threatening to live at the garage until this nonsense is done."...oh, and don't forget x, y and z family",he adds. "I think they're hungry."

So we begin. I do remember to throw some dinner (Beef strognaoff) in the crock-pot. We take over the living room with various food boxes. It will take the next several days to sort and deliver these anonymous gifts of food. Hopefully, we will have the food delivered in time to sort and package the toys/stockings, etc. collected by SAHERO for the kids at the Club.

We set up a table in the living room to make our Christmas gifts. Have you ever tried to tie-dye a towel? It's like trying to tie-dye a sponge. We set up another table in the kitchen for baking. The cookie baking begins. Yesterday? 28 dozen Cracker Jack Cookies. Today's plan? Sandy informs me it is Pumpkin Bread. My she is brave.

We leave the dining room table clear, because yes, we do still have co-op.

We need the table for looking at fungus slides through a microscope. We thought it might be nice to keep the fungus samples away from all the food. Lovely, eh?

Here the kids are making some sort-of Octa-Hedral hubs,
split octas and vertex. (Did I get that right?) We discuss
the Epic of Gilgamesh and yes, fungus as they eat cookies. Today's musical selection? The kids move from Belafonte to Elvis.

Finally, Austen and Devin deliver the food in our immediate area. Elf Austen is not very wise. It is 28 degrees and he makes deliveries in pajama bottoms, flip flops and a jacket. It takes him awhile to recover.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Tree House Wars

Well, the weather is warm (again) and the tree house wars are waging in my neighborhood. When the boys were younger they spent 10 months out of the year building tree houses, club-houses, you name it. There are 180 acres in this dirt-road subdivision of mine. Building forts, treehouses and clubhouses is a favorite pastime for all the neighborhood kids. You think you see deer in the, boys moving a couch into the brush. Oh look, a fallen log. No, that is the bridge to the "boat-house". Is that a cave in the side of the hill? It wasn't there last year. Of course, it is furnished with car seats and road signs. Aren't all artificial holes in the side of a hill furnished this way?
But the building isn't the fun part. The fun part was sneaking into the "other" tree-houses and finding treasures. Arguments break-out..and then the neighborhood boys decide to start over with combined efforts to "outdo" the children in the neighboring R.V. park.
This is a favorite past-time in my neighborhood. Kids as young as 4 and as old as 17 can be found building these shanties. The only other past-time that can come close is summer flashlight tag and playing in the river...but most of the year it is too cold or too dry for the river.
Then it happened. Dadsgot involved. A few years ago they (the dads) built the ultimate tree house in my back yard. It was complete with sliding fire pole, deck, patio lights and a smoke detector. The rest of the neighborhood contracting seemed to stop. We had now crossed into ridiculous..or so I thought.
Now when I can't find my husband I simply ask, "Where's dad?" The kids sigh.."oh, he's in the tree house again." When I climb up to see if he is there Brian inevitably says, "sh..I'm hiding. I don't want anyone to find me." This nonsense has gone on for years.
Austen and his friends reclaim the treehouse in the summer months, but they add a t.v. and d.v.d. player. Last year, when we had 7 (yes 7) children in our house, they all begged to move into the tree house. We told them no. They whined that it was the best place around. We said,"too bad. You must suffer in the real house with the rest of us."
This fall, Brian decided to renovate the tree-house. "Do we have to help?" the boys would ask. "Go help your dad. It's important to him." I respond. So..they rebuild a floor with no trap. They put in sheet rock, carpet, a fridge and a couch. Once again, the boys enthusiasm has returned to hang out in "the condo". Brian shows off the tree-house to any unsuspecting soul that enters our home. Older ladies from our church he leads to the ladder saying, "Just peek, isn't it great?" Everyone oohs and ahhs for him. He is so proud.
Last week, Austen grabbed a hammer, board and nails. "Where are you going?" I ask. "To build a tree-house." "What about the condo?" "'s okay I guess." I know what he means. It is not so rustic anymore. The fun of building and stealing is gone. The next thing I know there are 4 teenage boys pounding rotting boards into a tree in a field across the street from us. Now some of the other neighbors are starting to scout their perfect tree-house spots. Boys are starting to rob parts off of eachothers trees. Any piece of wood, roofing or old furniture that can be scrounged is fair game. Is Dad Brian upset?
No. "Finally", he states, eyes gleaming as he looks teary eyed at the tree condo in our yard. "It's all mine."
Hmm..I think I might add a ripline to it for Chrismas:)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Swing of the Holidays

The story-telling has begun. This seems to be the time of year that we put aside all our normal routine...whatever that is. We start with Thanksgiving..and then through the Holiday season..which in our family consists of Thanksgiving, Hanukah, Christmas and New Years..we spend most of our time in the midst of various traditions and LOTS of storytelling. We started this season with Thanksgiving at my mother's house.

We reminisce, we tell ouigi board adventures, ghost stories, the older generation discuss the pros and cons of large family life (many of my aunts and uncles come from families of 7 or more) and politics seem to be fair game to all. Cody says our story-telling is more like flat-out lying. We like to call them "fish-tales". I remind him we all like to out-do eachother in our ability to tell a good story...and that when topics become serious, the "stories" stop...and everyone feels free to give you an honest opinion. Opinions are free, wanted or not.

We jump into the traditions of our small Lutheran congregation.. We prepare for advent service homilies, sermons, cantoring, acolyting, Christmas programs, and fellowship.

Food drives, time to listen to those who are grieving, helping relieve the stress of underworking families. This becomes the priority in our lives for the next month. It is a reminder that we should live this way more often.

Finally, our traditions at home. Austen insisted we could not decorate our tree this year until Brian came home. Brian made a trip to help us decorate the tree. I believe he decorated most of it himself while the other boys ate dinner and played Fantastic Contraption. Somehow I don't think that was the original plan. We ate quesadillas, rice and chicken, cookies and listened to Pancho Sanchez Latin Jazz.

We buy a small tree for Brian. Let's face it, most trees are bigger than his entire apartment. We enjoy decorating his first Christmas tree with (gasp) matching colors and everything. I'm a little jealous:)

Our tree is old, our ornaments older. Many were made by the kids when they were younger. Our star is a paper-plate cut-out that Cody decorated when he was 4. It has water-damage from a flood in our neighborhood a few years ago. We clothes-pin it to our tree.

The stories, once again, abound. Brian has a great time imitating the boys behavior when they were younger. The boys start doing there imitations of dad. The story-telling has now become animated. Cody, our story-telling cynic, is right in the thick of it.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008


I really love our co-op! Yesterday the kids finished their 6 octa tetra-hedral while discussing Perelandra and singing Belafonte songs.

This past summer, four families got together and decided that we were tired of driving to San Antonio for our children to participate in larger co-ops.

When the boys were younger, we ran a small Waldorf-co-op out our home. We called it the Riverside co-op..since much time was spent playing in the river, climbing trees, acting, painting, playing instruments, learning to sew and Spanish(like I said..they boys were much younger)It lasted for a couple years. We remember this time fondly.

The families went different directions when the children grew older. With this past summers inflated gas-prices, we decided to reconvene. The children and parents got together and discussed what they wanted out of this time together. What goals were they trying to achieve?

Moms wanted time together to feel less isolated. Teens wanted to be able to go to specific colleges or open certain businesses. Food, games and play were also high on the list.

So every Monday from 1-4:30 we meet. We start with board games and snacks...Boggle, Apples to Apples and Cranium being the favorites.

Judy (Zalen's mom) begins study with bio-lab. The teens have been expriementing with pond life and identifying protozoa. We are now moving onto algae! the way, is missing from these pics.
From Bio-Lab we move to Octa-tetra designs. Sandy (Devin's mom) alternates between reading about the geometry involved to simply letting the kids build. The kids often work on the octa-tetra designs while discussing biology or their lit.
We usually move to the back deck (unless it is cold and we are octa-tetraing) for Socratic Discussion. We have chosen to start with Ancient Lit from the WorldView Academy's great books program.
Some weeks we have very interesting discussions..."what is suffering?" "Is flying spaghetti monsters a religion?" "What is the difference between religion and faith?" "What is value?" Other times..we have more the.."huh? oh, there's a bee in my tea." non-discussions.
Finally movie-making. We pull a lot of stuff from the Boys and Girls Club movie tech and drama matters programs. Currently they are experimenting with claymation.
The fact is, this is just a fun group of kids. They all have such varying views and personalities, yet maintain strong respect for one another. A lot of adults could learn from them..I know I do.

Monday, December 01, 2008


We have a visting parakeet. We have named him/her Ta'ayush...Arabic for "life in common". We named our parakeet Ta'ayush in honor of the Jewish/Arabic group that is established in and around Jerusalem to help bring down the barriers (physical, emotional, mental) that surround them...and as a reminder that many of the conflicts in all of our lives can be avoided and resolved through one on one respect and interaction with eachother. Compassion can be a powerful force.

Yesterday as we celebrated our annual "Thanksgiving After Thanksgiving" celebration we had the opportunity to spend the day with over 50 people..of various faiths or non-faiths..and then our parakeet came to visit. When I was a child (in Japan) I was told that if a bird appears to you, you must keep it and care for it.

Ta'ayush (the bird) appeared as the boys and friends were playing soccer. After more drama then the boys climbing a tree to "catch" the bird that sat on the ground and watched them climb..16 year old, Galen, proudly holds Ta'ayush and says..."I think he's hungry..he/she/it is eating my hand..hey, ow that hurts". Brian took the boys to the Antique Mall and they found a small cage for the bird. We decided to place the bird on our dresser, however Shadow (our dog) seemed to think that maybe she should eat Ta'ayush. We have placed the cage on top of our antique coke machine in the living room. Ta'ayush is happy now. He/she has spent the day chirping away as we read Perelandra.