Saturday, March 31, 2007

Signs of Spring

A quickie post, I'm up to my ears in 3 (!) editing projects (I must mention my favorite, a scholarly book about a fin-de-siecle Hamburg art historian. Makes me miss all those art books in the UCI library very much.)

Deer tracks in the mud in our yard. I know, hard to see, but the kids were very excited by this.

Duck city in our little brook. Once we counted seven wanna-be Papa mallards swimming oh-so-nonchalantly behind one soon-to-be Mama mallard. Now they seem to be pretty much paired off. We're waiting breathlessly for ducklings.

Winter aconite.

Crocus. We've got purple, yellow, and white right now.

Today we noticed the first tiny green leaves on a bush in the yard, skunk cabbage near the deer prints (I'll have to take a picture tomorrow, those are some freaky plants!), and a blooming red maple. We had the first chipmunk sighting in many weeks, one zooming along the bank of the brook desperate to get away from us enormous loud humans.

The songbirds are working overtime, waking us every morning. We put out some bird seed mix on a low table by the brook, and delighted in watching a mourning dove, grackle, mallard pair, assorted finches and sparrows, and a gray squirrel all dine there. They may eat us out of house and home. The kids decided that throwing the seeds into the brook was the best way to feed the ducks, but I prefer them to come on land so I can see their silly orange feet! The blue jays and mockingbirds have become incredibly squawky, and we regularly hear woodpeckers going to town on the trees.

Coming soon: green grass!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Would you like some cheese with that whine?

After my daycare triumph over the weekend, I anticipated two mornings completely clear of parenting tasks, wide open for me to complete lots of paying editing work. Umm....right.

Sunday night Napoleona came down with a little 24 hour earache/fever combo. She woke at 10:30 pm with an earache. I thought she might go back to sleep on her own, but no dice. I whipped out my Lilipoh Holistic Wellness Guide, and made a chopped onion poultice for her ear. I'd never tried it before, but it seemed to work quite well. She finally got to sleep at midnight, then woke up at 5 am with a fever of almost 102F. She didn't seem very uncomfortable, so I just massaged her legs with a cool wet cloth. I would have done a lemon calf wrap, but we were out of lemons.

(You may be getting the idea that I don't like giving medicines to the kids, and that I use old-fashioned and somewhat uncommon remedies. You are correct.)

She really wasn't terribly ill, just unhappy enough to "need you Mama!" all the time. I did sneak in two 15-minute increments of editing, but she just didn't want to read books on her own, she wanted me. So, I gave up any pretense of trying to get anything done.

By lunchtime Napoleona was feeling better, even hungry. All went well until naptime. Of course, she was pretty exhausted, but big brother totally refused to nap.

Now, I've been easing off the naps for SillyBilly over the last few months. So we have a routine where he sits on my bed reading books or "crafting," which is really just playing with felt, yarn, blunt needles, scissors......did I say scissors? I was doing something on the computer when I heard an ominous cutting sound. I turned around and asked him what he was cutting. He showed me a piece of felt that was a bit cut up. Then, I noticed the chunk taken out of the front of his hair. After I tried to straighten it out, he looks like this:

(He was just pretending to be grumpy--he was pretty amused by the whole thing. I told him I wasn't mad at him because I did the exact same thing at his age. Don't do it again and no more unsupervised scissors, however. Now we just have to wait for the high-forehead-Prince-Valiant look to grow out. Just in time for Easter. Sigh.)

The rest of the day was pretty purgatorial: the kids decided it was "silly" day, where they would pick really annoying phrases and words and repeat them over, and over, and over again. So while I was trying to remain calm and cook dinner, I was treated to the delight of "Are we there yet?" about 57 million times. WE WEREN'T EVEN ON A ROAD TRIP!!! Grrrrr.


Today was much better. Both kids went off to daycare, I did about 3 hours of work plus took the ever-coveted shower, and they both took a nap. At naptime Napoleona told me that if she could make a wish with a penny in a wishing well, she would wish for "you Mama, because I love you." It was about 70F outside so we even got to take a walk before dinner. I feel much less whiny today.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Day Care Triumph -or- How I Found Time to Work

Well, we seem to have found us some daycare for the Huntlings. A very nice lady has a LifeWays method daycare in her home, almost within walking distance. The kids liked her very much, she has a very charming indoor space, and the backyard comes complete with chickens!

I learned about LifeWays back in California, by taking an introductory seminar with Cynthia Aldinger, the founder. She is such a joyful person, and has worked in the early childhood world for many years. Years ago she and a colleague found that while the need for daycare for very small children (even infants) was increasing, the Waldorf movement had not been willing or able to provide such care. Waldorf kindergarten teachers thought that ideally a child under kindergarten age (in Waldorf this can be as old as 6) should be home with a parent.

Of course, that's not always possible, or even common, any more. So Cynthia developed the idea of a Waldorf-inspired daycare, with mixed ages and a structure like a home environment: domestic tasks like cleaning and cooking, real furniture like couches and dressers for clothes, and consistent caregivers. Children would be in a nurturing environment much like their own homes, surrounded by the practical tasks of life, and developing their own capacities for nurturing through interactions with children of varying ages. Infants would be cared for by the same person over many years so that healthy bonds can form.

We're all very excited by the prospect of the kids having this kind of environment when away from home. They'll be playing outside, helping with the chickens, eating snacks and lunches they helped prepare, and meeting new children with whom they can practice being kind and gentle!

Update: SillyBilly LOVED his first day at daycare. He got to hammer things, help make soup, and he even made a friend (though he can't remember her name and evidently spent most of the morning being "mean" to her until they made nice.) On the other hand, Napoleona woke up at 10:30 last night with a mysterious earache, then again at 5 am with a 101.8 fever. She stayed home today, I got 1/2 hour of work done out of the 4 hours I hoped for, and now she's taking a humungous nap. Oh well, we'll try again tomorrow.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Binging on Pop Culture

I really need to get out more. The highlights of my literary and film experiences lately have generally been, well, not mentally challenging.

But they have been highlights, given that I live in a community where the social extravaganza of the month will be a Palm Sunday family get-together that will include a puppet show, seed-planting, nature walk, and potluck lunch. I'm totally looking forward to it,'s not connected much to the world at large.

So I'd like to share the few cultural gems I've consumed lately that have nothing whatsoever to do with parenting or Waldorf education. Yes, most of the following items are several years old: like I said, I don't get out much.

Lovely Charlotte shipped me her copy of Julie & Julia recently (along with some yum Lindt chocolate!) and I'm ashamed to say I've already finished it.

Ashamed because this was one of those books that was a cheap thrill: almost completely free of deeper meaning, full of naughty words, rich French food, and that staple of the literary industry, the neurotic protagonist from New York City.

But, I really enjoyed it. I had heard long ago about the blog and the book, but never thought to look further. Then I got my own copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking (known in J&J as MtAoFC). I started making sauces; I happen to love liver and sweetbreads (drawing the line at brains however). And so I can on some level relate to Julie Powell's experiences.

I thought the parts about her personal life and her friends' personal lives and her housekeeping travails and her work frustrations were all part of the package...the book was more about her than about the food itself. Sometimes I did get tired of the "I live in a crappy little apartment in Queens that shocks and appalls my mother and the subways are atrocious, but I love NYC too much to leave" thing, but it's a tried-and-true spiel I guess.

Last night we watched The Illusionist, with Paul Giamatti, Edward Norton, and Jessica Biel (never thought I'd write a sentence with those names together). I really, really liked this film. I'm a sucker for early 20th century clothes, Viennese culture, and films that try to actually look beautiful instead of simply overwhelmingly action-packed and loud.

Great soundtrack by Philip Glass, stunning cinematography including a lovely sepia-tone effect in the lengthy flashback section, and gorgeous locations in the Czech Republic. Ed Norton was very, very good, intense as usual but more sympathetic than in, say, Fight Club. And I'm a Paul Giamatti fan: if I were going to be a balding, paunchy, self-effacing character actor, I would be him.

I had my doubts going in about Jessica Biel, knowing her only from the TV show 7th Heaven (as a commenter on IMDB said, it's oddly mesmerizing in a campy, syrupy sweet kind of way) and glamour shots in Vanity Fair magazine. I was afraid her mighty biceps would seem out of place, but they managed to hide under her leg-o-mutton sleeves. And her acting was suprisingly decent, though there was nothing 1900's-ish about those huge white teeth.

That was the most recent Netflix item; its predecessor was a disturbing little film called Secretary. I'm not going to go into detail here...this is a family-oriented blog after all. But I did somehow like this film despite its disturbing parts. James Spader was his normal affectless self, but in the context of a control freak/sadist that worked just fine. Maggie Gyllenhaal somehow moved from freakishly frumpy and self-destructive to beautiful and self-confident, and only partly thanks to the gifts of makeup and wardrobe. While the specific structure of their relationship was...hmmm...odd, I felt that the overall theme of the film was uplifting: everyone can find love, and through love deep pain can be healed.

And last but not least, Crash. I had serious doubts about this one going in. After having kids, I have close to zero tolerance for suspense and physical violence in films. And I have some kind of unresolved trauma relating to car accidents, so the big scene with Matt Dillon and Thandie Newton was extremely stressful. So was the scene with the Persian shopkeeper going to find the man he thinks destroyed his shop, gun in hand (I actually went to read Jane Austen in the bathroom during this scene, but hubby said it turned out OK).

Though I would not say I liked this film, in that it was certainly unpleasant in many ways, I appreciated its candor and attempt to treat a very touchy subject with dignity. The film never let anyone off the hook, and never turned anyone into a cardboard cut-out villain. Like in Magnolia, the characters intertwined in a slightly improbable way, but for the purpose of showing the interdependence of society and the interpenetration of human relations, it worked for me.

It's hard for me to believe that racism is as prevalent and ingrained in society as depicted in the film. Maybe I'm just naive, or blind, or trying hard to stay that way. I know that there is a vast "underclass" in L.A. of Latino laborers, Persian shopkeepers, and unemployed and undereducated black men, who all deserve to be treated better by society and each other. And certainly the LAPD and US legal system have major problems with racism. One thing I do know that this film was finely crafted and unflinching in its attempt to explore our preconceptions.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Spring Fever?

Seems like many of my blog friends are taking a bit of a hiatus lately. Whether it's gardening, writing, a vacation, or just being busy taking care of little people, many of us are slowing down a bit on the old blogosphere.

Here at Chez Anthromama we've been dealing with sinus infections and lots of work piling up.

Did I say lots? I have at least 5 more chapters to edit for my current client, then revisions. And a 500 page manuscript appeared on my doorstep the other day, with a due date of April 6. And I'm editing magazine articles for a local Waldorf early childhood group. AND I have no childcare lined up yet!!

Wish me luck.

Monday, March 12, 2007

So nature incites them in their hearts...

Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;

Whan Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his half cours yronne,
And smale foweles maken melodye...

When April with its sweet-smelling showers
Has pierced the drought of March to the root,
And bathed every vein in such liquid
By which power the flower is created;

When the West Wind also with its sweet breath,
In every wood and field has breathed life into
The tender new leaves, and the young sun
Has run half its course in Aries,
And small birds make melody...

-General Prologue, Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer

It might not be April yet, but yesterday we saw the first bees of the season, coming over to our little crop of winter aconite. Today we saw the first shoots of bulbs coming up (other than the one sad clump of snowdrops that tried to bloom a few months ago when it was crazy warm). And there are an awful lot of little birds maken melodye around here!

Though there are still icy patches here and there, the kids still got muddy and wet today digging in the yard. They may have still been wearing wool underwear and sweaters, but I didn't have the heart to say no to their first mud in months.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Most amps only go up to ten

While snuggling with my little girl today, the following completely true conversation happened:

Me: I love you so much! How much do I love you?
Napoleona, grabbing my face gently between her hands: Eleven.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Friday Freezing Fun

Anthropapa had the day off today, so he and SillyBilly took the bus into the city for a big boy adventure. Plans included possibly taking the subway, going to the Met to see the Egyptian stuff, and playing at the adjacent Ancient Playground.

So I decided to take the rare chance and go to the nearby Waldorf toy store, Meadowlark. It's in a tiny red barn, far too small and full of nicely displayed toys to risk taking two kids single-handedly. Napoleona had a fine time checking things out, and ended up sitting in one spot playing with puzzles while I puttered around. Bless you, my little phlegmatic one! I was even able to sneak out a birthday present for her.

But the highlight of our morning, and the reason for this post, was our walk to the store. We are very lucky to live in an area that while fairly densely populated, also supports a healthy variety of wildlife and opportunities for nature experiences. Though our walk was about 1/2 mile, we experienced all this:

  • slipping on the slidy ice
  • prickly holly leaves
  • a small flock of cedar waxwings
  • ice rimming the brook
  • the first robin sighting of the spring!
  • some of the first green leaves of the season--how do they push through the still frozen soil?
  • the stump where an enormous mulberry tree fell down last autumn
  • huge rhododendron buds just waiting to open
  • gray squirrels busily trying to find the last of their winter caches
  • handfuls of sticks
  • an enormous crow squawking from the top of a tall tree, silhouetted against the bright blue sky
In the anthroposophical view of human development, the young child under age seven learns primarily through physical activity and imitation. Though it's been a difficult winter for outside play (little snow but lots of cold windy days), we've been taking little walks to see what can be seen in the forest around us. In this way the kids are still able to be outside even if they can't do their favorite things like digging or water play. The other day they had a blast trying to use their toy hammers to break a huge mound of icy snow piled up by a snow plow, finding the one patch of mud to get themselves filthy (!) and climbing on boulders.

Today's moment of imitation came after our walk. I got out the bird book to make sure those were indeed cedar waxwings we saw. A few moments later, Napoleona was sitting by me with 3 or 4 stuffed animals, paging through the book and teaching her little friends all about the birds. Nothing nicer than hearing her say "Look little puppy, a bald eagle!!"

Recently I've been mulling over the idea of homeschooling the kids using Waldorf methods. Since they're both at home anyway I'm already de facto homeschooling them, and it couldn't be easier using Waldorf ideas. Early childhood is about will forces and imitation: last night before bed I got the kids to help me clean their room by saying that we would be birds making our nests. I started picking things up and before I knew it they were both grabbing baskets to fill with all the toys on the floor, making wooden block nests, toy car nests, etc. Napoleona even went so far as to take a wooden bowl, fill it with bits of ribbon and cloth for softness (I had been telling them about how birds will use things like string, snakeskins, or even plastic to line their nests), and then proceed to sit on the bowl until her stuffed animal "hatched"!

To me, that was a beautiful moment of imitation and creative play. I hope to follow that up with finding a real birds' nest for them to see.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The spirituality behind Waldorf

A few months back, Papa Bradstein and I were chatting and he inadvertently dropped a bomb in my mind: he asked, what is the spiritual background of Waldorf education?

I say it was a bomb because at the time I stammered out a few lame sentences, and then we went on to some other topic. And I've been thinking about me stammering ever since. Why can I not explain the background of something that I've been working with for almost 10 years? Is it just too complex, or have I not tried to make enough sense of it?

In either case, I decided to give it a try. Now, in discussing this with Anthropapa, he pointed out that to reduce something like spirituality or child development to a few bullet points is automatically ridiculous: you can't take something organic and interconnected and break it down in a materialistic, reductionist way. But anyway, I'm still doing it! OK now, deep breath as I dive into the pool of decidedly woo-woo stuff that may lose me most of my loyal 5-6 readers...

  1. Human beings reincarnate. Therefore a child is not a tabula rasa to be filled with knowledge; on the contrary it is our task to lead them to their own inherent wisdom. Viewing children in this way leads to a profound respect for them as individuals, and acknowledges that intellectual development alone is not the sole reason for education.

  2. The human being is comprised of a physical body, an etheric body, an astral body, and an immortal spirit. Waldorf education attempts to bring these bodies into balance through healthy development; mainstream education (and indeed mainstream culture in general) is seen as overly materialistic and intellectualized.

  3. Humans develop in seven-year phases starting at birth. The first, birth-7, is linked with the will and learning via imitation and physical activity. The second, 7-14, is linked with the feelings and learning via imagination and the arts. The third, 14-21, is linked with the thinking and learning via abstract concepts. Waldorf curricula seek to educate the child in accordance with these developmental stages: for example, there is no "intellectual" teaching in Waldorf kindergartens because the child needs to learn about the world through the senses and in movement.

  4. To be continued...

Monday, March 05, 2007

Miscellaneous items for your amusement

As requested by Helen, the December 1975 ad that features yours truly:

Since this ad appeared in National Geographic, I can safely say millions of Americans might have a little bit of me in their basements. Kinda weird!

Parenting blunder of the day: I yelled at my kids for yelling at each other. Great role model, eh?

Parenting triumph of the day: I made homemade corn chowder and green salads for lunch, and they ate every last bit. Also, once or twice during the morning yell-a-thon, I got the kids to actually calm down and talk to each other. SillyBilly is finally getting old enough to start working with NVC and remember to use his words to seek what he needs. Woo hoo!!

Time-waster of the week: come see my fledgling nation of Oakgall, "A Snack and a Nap, That's All We Ask." Current legislative issues in parliament include:

  • Uranium Deposit Promises To Enrich Oakgall
  • Military Demands Increased Spending
  • Where's The Love Gone?
  • Woodchucks On The Dinner Table?

Saturday, March 03, 2007

A Tale of Mama Woe

Inspired by Papa Bradstein's tale of childhood trauma, I thought I would share what was possibly the worst 20 minutes of my parenting life so far (not counting the days when we thought SillyBilly was going to die, that's another post I might suck it up and write someday).

Last winter SillyBilly and Napoleona and I were out in the yard playing, when I announced it was time to go inside. SillyBilly immediately pitched a fit and refused to leave the yard.

Now, I can still carry the kids if I need to, but not both of them at the same time. Last year Napoleona still could not be relied upon to follow me, because she would get distracted by some tiny bug or something and head off God knows where. I knew I had to get her inside first so that she would be safely corralled in the house.

So I tried the old mama trick: "OK fine bye-bye," where you act like you're leaving and the kid comes running after you. I expected SillyBilly to come in right behind me. Bad Mama, no biscuit.

He took off running into the woods, unbeknownst to me. So when I went back outside after taking off Napoleona's snow clothes, he was nowhere to be found. I went into the woods calling his name, and thought I heard distant crying but wasn't sure. I was wearing completely wrong shoes for snow (Birkenstocks) and was starting to freak out. Which way did he run? Did he go down the hill toward the slippery, icy brook? Was he wandering randomly through the forest? Did he go out to the road?

I went back to the house to change my shoes and was just thinking about which neighbor to drop Napoleona with, when the cell phone rang. Something told me to answer it, and I'm glad I did.

It was Anthropapa, calling to say that SillyBilly had run all the way to his office, crying the whole way evidently. They were now walking home together.

I sat down on the bench on the porch with Napoleona and had a good, gut-wrenching cry to calm myself down. You see, to get to his papa's office, SillyBilly had to run all the way down the forest path to the two-lane road, cross it, and run down the hill and up the driveway of papa's office. The road is a bit twisty and bumpy, and at the spot where the forest path meets it drivers are usually far exceeding the local speed limit. SillyBilly's guardian angel gets my undying devotion for shepherding him across that street unharmed.

When they arrived, Anthropapa told me that several local people saw or heard SillyBilly running down the street wailing, one of whom even followed him to the office to make sure everything was OK. And he explained that SillyBilly got disoriented when he went into the woods and couldn't see the little path back to our yard. Although in winter you can see for a really long way through the woods and our building would have been clearly visible, he couldn't tell which house was ours.

I felt like an uncaring mama worm at that point. I gave SillyBilly many tearful, shaky kisses and hugs when he got home, and he wasn't too traumatized in the end. And on some level I was proud of him for figuring out how to find his papa. Now if I can just teach him to look both ways before crossing the street....

This One Goes Out to the One I Love

Just a quick post to acknowledge how much I love and appreciate Anthropapa. He works hard every day, and then comes home to work hard some more with the kids. He shares equally in the housework and caring for the children, since before they were born (he came to every prenatal appointment I think). And who could not love a man who brings me bowls of chocolate ice cream at night after the kids are in bed?

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Kid Art

Some recent drawings by SillyBilly, the last by Napolena:

A house with a tree and sky.

A green snake on a leafy branch.

A lion with sharp claws.

An abstract form (reminds me of lungs).