Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween Lantern Walk

Another autumn, another Waldorf Lantern Walk.

To elaborate for those of my 6-7 loyal readers who aren't familiar with the Waldorf world -- Halloween is no exception to our general avoidance of commercialized holiday celebrations.

There is no trick-or-treating. There is no candy.

There are costumes, and darkness and light, and a small treat at the end. (Biodynamic raisins, this year.) It's a bit of Halloween, a bit of Martinmas, all rolled into one.

At Rudolf Steiner College and Sunbridge College (the two largest Waldorf teacher training colleges in the US), the students, faculty, and staff create a beautiful Halloween experience for the children of the community. On campus grounds they create scenes from fairy tales, pirate adventures, undersea realms, water fairies, and other imaginative pictures for the children. Years ago, RSC also had a "Perilous Path" for older children, complete with goblins jumping out at those brave enough to walk the path (the children only need say "I am the light!" for the goblins to be dispelled).

Many of the scenes are enacted in silence; some are stories abridged to a few scenes, while others are simply tableaux. In this way, the children's imaginations are inspired. For the youngest ones, just being out after dark, walking along a dimly lit path, is magical!

The college students also get a taste of the work and joy of creating a community festival, similar to what many of them will do once they are teachers at Waldorf schools.

For several years Anthropapa and I participated in Lantern Walks. One year we were the King and Queen of the Undersea Realm, complete with a quite fishy song Anthropapa wrote for us to sing! "Come dance with us, come swim with us, under the sea so blue..." With our fellow students, we swathed a small classroom in blue and green cloth, draped a stack of folding tables for our royal dais, and strewed the room with ocean creatures made of paper and cloth. One student with metalworking skills made us crowns and a trident!

For the last two years, the Lantern Walk has gone right through our our jack-o'lanterns are part of the overall decor, and the kids had the thrill of watching some friends put up an enormous (full-size) tepee next door! Our yard is also graced with a small fire ring as a result of the Rumpelstiltskin story taking up residence there last year. But the best part is that tonight from 5:45-8 pm, we had to turn all the lights out in our house. That meant candles, and lots of them. Even pooping before bedtime in the dark!

This year's favorites, according to SillyBilly and Napoleona: Snow White & Rose Red (complete with Bear!); the Witch and Wizard Stirring Their Potions; and the Pirates Digging Up Treasure, Fighting Over Treasure, And Then Making Up And Sharing The Treasure.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

I couldn't resist...

funny cat pictures & lolcats - imvisible corn on da cob

You can all thank Charlotte for this. I haven't laughed that hard in....well, I don't know. Maybe never.

Impromptu Parenting Tricks

This morning got off on the wrong foot. Or, for a slightly less wacky metaphor, the tall people in the house woke up on the wrong side of the bed.

Normally, the Huntlings like to get up early on the weekends. Yes, on the days when we could all sleep in...they don't. This weekend, however, they slept until 8 am both days. Woo hoo!

Because they're little and not so coordinated, when they open their door they make an amazing amount of noise just turning the doorknob. So I always wake up before they make it to our room (Did I mention this is a small house? Hmmm...I'd say it's 700 square feet, tops. So everything is audible pretty much everywhere else in chez Anthro.)

Anthropapa is a deeper sleeper than I, and seems to need more sleep. So, when Napoleona came in this morning and said "Good morning, Papa!" in her chirpy little voice, and pounced on him, she scared the bejeezus out of him.

This made Papa a little cranky. For the entire day.

At lunchtime we were discussing the annual pumpkin carving extravaganza. We have three little pumpkins and one big one. The big one's mine, the two kids each have one, and the other's up for grabs. I told the kids that I thought it would be better to do one each day so that we don't get overwhelmed.

Calling on all of my NVC powers, I asked them if they agreed to this plan. Napoleona, her usual agreeable self, said yes right away. SillyBilly, his usual too clever self, said yes but only if he got to go first. Napoleona then no longer agreed with the plan.

Then Anthropapa piped up with this brilliant plan: Whoever falls asleep the most quietly and sleeps the longest at naptime can go first!

That Anthropapa, he's a sneaky one. Resolve our conflict and get some quiet time too.

Did the kids take a long nap?

No. No nap AT ALL.

I foolishly deviated from our normal nap routine, thinking that Papa's challenge would encourage them. Not.

So nobody carved any pumpkins today. After "naptime," the kids were being particularly wacky, so to avoid Papa's head from exploding with annoyance, the kids and I did some other crafts. Which I'll have to show off to you later, since Blogger is evidently still having problems with image uploading.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Calamities All Around

SillyBilly and Napoleona have gunky colds. Which for SillyBilly means another round of nebulized albuterol and, this time, several doses of oral prednisone. He's seeming to be over the hump and is now just producing epic amounts of mucus from all quarters.

To add to that, since yesterday afternoon he's been going around with fingers in his mouth, complaining about his tooth hurting. At first I just thought it was referred pain from his sinus congestion, but he kept indicating a specific tooth, and then last night he woke up twice crying and he ate very little dinner or breakfast this morning.

This morning it was no better, so SillyBilly had his first dentist appointment! (I know, he probably should have had one a few years ago.) Everything is fine with the tooth in question, and all the other teeth -- including the big back molars that are coming in and causing the pain. He's teething!

We got a recommendation from our pediatrician for a children's dentist who uses alternative therapies and doesn't push fluoride. He recommended clove oil (my mom's recommendation too!) and homeopathic chamomile to ease the pain.

I talked to SillyBilly on the phone just now, while he was on the way to get a snack with Papa. He informed me that he was brave, and that the dentist's office has some sort of treasure box. I can't wait to hear all about that!

* * *

I've been following the news of the huge wildfires in California, as they are occurring in areas where I have family and friends.

(NASA's Earth Observatory Satellite imagery)

Most of my immediate family lives underneath that smoke cloud to the top, below the Ranch Fire. The big problem with the San Diego-area fires is that the winds are pushing the fires west, which is to say, toward all the populated areas.

Southern California typically only gets rain during the winter months, with the rest of the year being completely dry. The natural terrain is all resinous brush and dry grasses. Added to that, the Santa Ana winds are fierce this time of year. The area around Lake Arrowhead has an added problem of huge areas of dead pine trees, which were killed by a beetle infestation.

This terrain is thought to be naturally rejuvenated by periodic fires. Some plants in fact do not reproduce except after fires! But with fire-suppression policies, manmade fires (arson as well as downed power lines and overturned vehicles) and increasing human encroachment into canyons and other remote areas, what was once a periodic, healthy occurence is now a major disaster.

Last I read, 500,000 people have been evacuated. This time, having learned something from Hurricane Katrina, President Bush has responded quickly with federal aid. Now we just need the wind to die down.

Update: For a good overall picture of the fire/climate/people interaction in So Cal, read this.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Twittery post

Seems like short-attention-span land around here. Or maybe I'm just saving up all the thoughtful, meaningful posts for NaBloPoMo. Bwahahahaha...I'll never tell!

* * *

It's raining here right now....we needed that. Though I'm sure the mold levels will now officially go through the roof, it's getting cooler and the leaves are really turning beautifully now.

Earlier today I was working by an open window when I heard a bunch of kids walking back to the Waldorf school from the playing field nearby...they were lustily singing "Doe, a Deer." Sweet.

SillyBilly evidently knows how to open his bedroom window. The one that looks out over the one-story drop down to the concrete outside the basement door. After some nausea- and tears-inducing freakouts (on my part), I think we've imparted to him that it's not OK to open the window. And I think he doesn't understand how to work the little tabs that pop out to stop the window from raising more than 3 inches. But I'm sure he'll get that one of these days...

We got out the down comforter from storage and put it on the bed last night. Mmmmm, snuggly. Now if it would only cool down again to merit it!

Imaginative play triumph #4,239: yesterday the kids were making "second breakfast" with their wooden play kitchen after we finished real breakfast. My dear little hobbits! And today, Napoleona was going around the house putting small, colored wooden blocks here and there, saying that they were candles..."cool ones, Mama, the ones that only burn you a little bit, for one day. The burning hot ones are for Christmas time. These are for Halloween night."

We splurged on going out to dinner tonight. Turkish food, yum. I am constantly amazed and grateful at the kids' ability to eat just about anything. We had baba ganoush, tomato/cucumber salad (Çoban Salatası) with shredded feta cheese, lamb kebab, and tiny dumplings (Mantı) in yogurt and tomato sauce, with rice pudding and caramelized milk pudding (Kazandibi) for dessert!

Still trying to figure out why the kids have been kinda whacked out the last few days. Perhaps it's just tiredness from the vacation...evidently they have been taking big naps at daycare. Or maybe it's their souls that are tired, from being driven all over creation and being away from home for so long, as Anthropapa suggested to me tonight. We'll have to spend some time outside in the fresh air tomorrow.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Vacationzilla, part 1

Where to start? A 2,000-mile car trip with Grammy and two little kids has got to have some stories, right?

Oh, yes.

First, a few things I learned on this trip:

  1. Do not attempt to drive in Washington, DC. Just find Union Station, park your car, and catch a cab. As the epicenter of American bureaucracy, it's no surprise that roads only appear to go the direction you want to go, until they turn somewhere else, depending on what time of day it is.
  2. Snacks are the key to happy kids while driving. Especially tiny snacks that take some time to eat, like raisins or pretzels. Guaranteed quiet in the back seat for minutes at a time!
  3. Don't think that you can work during a vacation like this. You just can't, even with internet access.
  4. In the South, the four food groups are Fried, White Flour, Sugar, and Meat. Sometimes all in the same dish. "Sweetened" iced tea involves a whole lot of sweet with a bit of tea. Hushpuppies are quite yummy, as are collards cooked with ham hocks, fried catfish, and deep-fried okra.
Our first day we drove 400 miles to lovely Emporia, VA, home of many hotels and restaurants and not much else. On the way we stopped in DC to try to see the Jefferson Memorial. This is when I first got an inkling of point #1 above. You can drive around and around the Jefferson Memorial, but it's really just a mirage. Actually, it's a taxicab company conspiracy: the roads circle it, sometimes one way, mostly without signage, so that the beautiful building, reflecting in its lovely way into the Potomac tidal basin, is completely inaccessible to mere mortals. Only cab drivers know the magic spell.

After leaving Emporia we zipped through North Carolina, where we started to see many, many billboards with rather un-PC drawings of a Mexican man saying things like "You Never Sausage a Place! You're Always a Wiener at Pedro's!" and "Sometheeng Deeferent." Eventually these billboards led us to a place often mentioned on lists of tacky US roadside destinations: Pedroland. (Check out the link for more wince-inducing "Spanish.")

After surviving the billboard onslaught and the climactic "Oh My God" experience of seeing the complete tackiness of the amusement park/hotel/restaurant/trinket shop/enormous sombrero tower extravaganza, we made our way down to Georgia.

What can I say about Georgia? Most of it is quite lovely farmland:

Yes, that's cotton. I was very excited to see actual Southern cotton growing (we had seen it growing in California's Central Valley, but that just wasn't the same). I kept trying to get pictures of it, not realizing that it would be quite difficult to get a good picture of a small plant while driving 80 mph. And when the perfect field would come into view, I was never ready. That one's the best I could do.

Unfortunately Augusta wasn't so lovely, at least the part we were in. Mostly looked like L.A. really, all strip malls and billboards. Maybe next time we'll try to go down to the historic part of town, or check out the Savannah River. The other thing I noticed about Georgia was the great number of churches. Literally one on every block. And they don't pull many punches down there: we saw names like True Church of God in Christ and Church of the Most Holy. Our church will get you into heaven; if you don't attend here, you're going straight to hell.

We saw lots of fields of cotton, peanuts, and collard greens, and vast pine tree plantations. The kids kept yelling out when they noticed the trees were planted in lines instead of higgledy-piggledy like in a forest. We also saw lots of ginormous piles of waste wood and debris left to be burned after the plantations were logged.

After celebrating Great-grandpa Fred's 80th birthday, we drove down to Florida to visit Mimi and Grandpa Paul...another stop on the grandparent parade! We didn't see a lot of Florida since they live right near the Georgia border, but we were treated to two things that are distinctive of that state:

and jai alai gambling!

Grandpa Paul entertained the kids with stories of the cougar living in the forest out back, and Poo the chihuahua became our new best doggy friend.

On the way back to Augusta, we stopped for lunch in Homerville, GA (population 2,800, county seat of Clinch County), at Mama's Kountry Table. (There seems to be an endemic spelling disease in the South; witness the fast food chain Chick-fil-A. On a related note, there is also the tendency for down-home humor, as in the Wife Saver "Put a Little South in Your Mouth" restaurants.) Though the food was decent and the people were friendly, I couldn't help a little Northeastern Big-City smirk on my face when the cashier commented that she has two kids too, though unlike my preschoolers her daughter was "fixin' to be 13" and her son was "fixin' to be 15."

After returning to Augusta, the next highlight of the trip was a fishing expedition to the small lake in the community where Grampa Fred and Gramma Betty live. The kids both caught small brim using cane poles and Napoleona even reeled in one all by herself! Here's Napoleona showing off the brim she just helped clean:

The kids proudly scraped off the scales, helped pan-fry the fish, and ate them for dinner! They were yummy, but full of tiny bones. Evidently in the South you eat fish like that with your hands.

Coming soon, Vacationzilla, part deux: further adventures in DC traffic, a kids'-eye view of the Washington Mall, and why you should never, ever stay at the Alexandria South Days Inn if you can at all help it.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Stops and Starts

Tomorrow morning we're going on our insanely long road trip from NYC to Augusta, GA, with a "side trip" to Florida -- that's about 2200 miles (3500 km for my overseas readership). With two kids.

The last two days have been composed of not enough sleep and way too many errands. Grammy's here to play with and take care of the kids, who are totally amped up by her arrival and who haven't been sleeping as much as usual.

The last two days have also been peppered with odd experiences while running said errands. I thought I'd share them with my loyal 8-9 readers, just to give you all a taste of a day in the life of a suburban American mom.

The Department of Motor Vehicles

I realized on Thursday that it would probably be wise to re-register the car before our trip, since I had let the registration lapse. The first challenge was finding the DMV, which for some reason in this county is not in the most populous area. In fact it's in an area with many winding streets, and road construction that forced me off my Google-mapped route into unknown territory. After driving around fairly cluelessly for 5 minutes I got directions at a gas station.

This DMV functions differently than the ones I remember from California. Here, you have to first stand in the "Information" line (nowhere is that posted on any signs, just like many other things here, they just expect you to know these things), from whence you will be given your alphanumeric receipt. Multiple screens flash these codes to let people know when their turn will come, as well as being announced over an intercom. Very efficient, I guess.

I was glad of it however, when I suddenly realized that the title to the car only had Anthropapa's name on it, and I couldn't remember if the registration had only his name or mine as well. I did not relish the thought of filling out a long form, waiting God knows how long, and then being told to go away and try again another time.

The Information Line

The harried woman behind the counter listened to my question about the title, and told me she could look up the registration for me. I handed her the title and she tapped the numbers into her computer.

Then she sat and gazed at the screen for the longest time.

Then she typed in some more numbers, or possibly some letters. More gazing ensued.

Then she finally said that my name was there too, so she thought I could update the registration without Anthropapa's drivers license. She handed me my receipt.

To my utter shock, my number came up and was announced immediately. And I mean that I had only walked about 20 feet before I saw my number flash up there. I actually gasped, right there in the DMV. I had never before made it up to the counter at the DMV in under 30 minutes.

Window Number 8

I explained my predicament again to a slightly less harried woman. I feel that I have to describe this woman in some detail due to her interesting distinguishing features.

She was wearing sunglasses, evidently to shield her from the harsh glare of the fluorescent lighting. She appeared to have had a skin graft over the end of her nose and her upper lip. She had a delightful Jamaican accent, which made me think that at any moment she would tell me that my car was in fact registered to John Smallberries.

After taking the title and pecking around on her computer, the nice Jamaican lady then laid this one on me:

"I can't find your car. What's the licence plate number?"

I stammered something about having to go check but that I could remember the first three letters. Luckily, she found the car, told me the license plate number, and said that I could register the car all by my bitty self. Which I did, after filling out the form and paying the nice Jamaican lady $55. (Not a bribe, the actual registration fee for the next 2 years.)

Total time in the DMV? A mind-boggling 30 minutes. That's got to be some kind of record.

It's the Thought That Counts

When I went back out to the car, I thought to myself, why assume that Anthropapa will handle putting the registration sticker on the window (the logic being that all things car-ish are his domain)? I'll take care of it myself, and won't he think I'm so kind for thinking of it?

Now's the time to 'fess up that we do not in fact have a car per se, we have a good old fashioned gas-guzzing minivan. And this particular minivan has one of those protruding snouts that creates a very acute angle between the windshield and the dashboard. I was able to wedge a few fingers in there where -- somehow -- Anthropapa had put the last registration sticker. The sun was beating down on me through the glass, and I was feeling very thirsty, cranky, and tired.

Let's just say that I was able to pick off a 1x2 mm square piece of the old sticker, and shoved the new registration sticker into the glove compartment.

Expect light posting next week (as if there's been heavy posting lately), depending on whether Great-grandpa Fred's got Internet access and whether anything interesting happens. There have been rumors of fishing rods for the kids and way too many relatives in attendance, so who knows what might happen!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Mixed Blessings

Unfortunately, SillyBilly woke me up at 6 am this morning saying he had had a bad dream.
Fortunately, after some reassuring words and a hug from me, he went right back to bed.

Fortunately, the kids were completely quiet and didn't come to say good morning to us until 7 am.
Unfortunately, they were being too quiet*: when I went into their room to open the curtains, SillyBilly quickly hid in the closet, carrying something in his hands.

Fortunately, he came right out of the closet when I asked him to.
Unfortunately, he refused to tell me what he had left in there.

Fortunately, he finally decided to do as I asked, and brought out the hidden object.
Unfortunately, it was revealed to be one of Napoleona's summer dresses that her Grammy had sewn for her.

Fortunately, SillyBilly also immediately handed over the contraband scissors he had somehow obtained from the top of an armoire (he dragged over the cats' scratching post and climbed up, I'm guessing).
Unfortunately, the dress was ruined.

Poor little guy. We talked about how cutting up the dress (he said he wanted to make new clothes from it) was just a simple mistake kids make**, but the worst part was that he had gotten the scissors down when he knows that high shelves are off-limits.

He burst into remorseful tears several times before breakfast. I assured him that all was forgiven, but that he definitely should never do that again, and should ask me prior to embarking on any future craft projects. (All said in 5-year-old-appropriate language, of course.)

On the one hand, I'm kind of proud of him for figuring out how to get the things he wants, and I'm glad he showed natural remorse. (Today after saying a verboten word, he came up to me and said sorry because "I want to be good, Mama.")

But then I'm a little peeved that his creativity is showing in such sneaky ways. I suppose this is classic little boy stuff, of which I have no experience.

*You know, when the kids are playing nicely together, but then you notice just how silent it all is in there, which invariably means mischief is afoot.

**Like the other time he snuck the scissors, and cut the front of his hair. I really don't give them access to scissors that freely, he just tests boundaries occasionally.