You are currently browsing the monthly archive for March 2013.

For our Spring Break this year Bill planned a road trip to the Bay Area—yes! We last went before Eric was born to visit friends and family who live in San Francisco and Berkeley. Whenever too much time goes by, I start longing for these places and my sense of wanderlust craves the open road and the Bay air. What a treat to take a trip there this year!

 

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Car-tivities! I love road-tripping with my kiddos. The car is the perfect place to learn and spend hours of focused and quality time together. It is the mobile classroom. After our 18-state excursion to Pennsylvania and back to California this past summer, the seven hour ride to the Bay Area was no sweat!

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First stop: STANFORD! Katie has seen my alma mater a couple of times, but Eric never has. The fresh tree scent in the air…feels like home away from home. I am like a child at a playground, running around and showing my kiddos all of the locations of my favorite classes, where I worked (the President’s Office), my dorms and houses, my favorite studying spots… There are layers upon layers of memories now at that campus, not only from when I was a student there but also from the first time I toured it with my mom, Admit Weekend, a week-long A.P. conference I attended with Connie and Meline after I started teaching at TVHS, and times when I have brought my family. The campus develops, but its core spirit stays the same. It is a place to reunite with parts of myself. I can show the kiddos places where, for example, I wrote a letter to Nana…or the route I used to take with my Earl Grey tea to Latin class…or the places where some friends and I once played Hide-N-Go-Seek at midnight.

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Introduction to Fountain Hopping 101… Katie has done this before, but this was Eric’s first time with fountain hopping! We only dipped our feet—there was a nip in the air!

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When I graduated my dad brought up a rock that once resided on our Valley Center family land. We placed it in a special location known only to all of us. Every time I have ever visited Stanford in the past ten years, I always visit our rock last. I used to keep a running letter to myself under the rock, but time or something has gotten to it and there are only remnants left. Seeing our rock was emotional this year, as it came from the land we no longer own as of January. This rock always endures. Every time I visit it, my life has changed so much from the time before. This time, I have two children. This time, it represents a piece of land for which I will always mourn. I thought so much about Grandpa Don this time. I always do, but he was so much on my heart this trip. When we placed the rock there, he was alive. I have been back to see it since his death…but the weight of that symbolism really got to me this time. When we rode the cable car in San Francisco on this trip, I went past the very spot where he had jumped onto the cable car when he and my dad came to visit me while I was still in college. I found the restaurant in Chinatown at which we ate. I found myself crying at various moments, for both him and for my Uncle Eric (who also lived in San Francisco for a time). So many layers of history and life threads up here, for me…

 

 

 

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With my Eric and Katie by The Claw… something so surreal about having my children here with me!

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Katie took this for us. I never did participate in Stanford’s annual tradition of Full Moon on the Quad (kissing strangers isn’t really for me), but I did start my own tradition: True Love on the Quad and kissed my husband.

Next stop: SAN FRANCISCO!

We got up early and made the most of our day in the city, parking under Union Square; eating breakfast at Lori’s; catching the cable car; exploring Fisherman’s Wharf, Ghiradelli Square, Chinatown, Lombard Street, and Golden Gate Park (Koret Children’s Park, Japanese Tea Garden); and visiting with my beloved Marguerite over dinner at Patxi’s on Irving Street and dessert in her Glen Park neighborhood at Rocket Swirl. We even managed to briefly re-visit The Haight. I adore the city, and I was telling my children all about the Stanford tradition of having a big scavenger hunt all over the city at the start of every new school year. Great memories!

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Trying the concrete slides at Koret while sitting on cardboard. The boy in the blue was telling me how to make the slide be even faster…

 

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Chinatown

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Babies on a cable car. San Francisco 2013.

 

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Marguerite in her neighborhood. Visiting Marguerite in San Francisco has been on my bucket list for awhile. We visited her back in Alameda, and she has visited here and we’ve seen each other at various get-togethers, but I really wanted to see her here, just living her vibrant life. As I have grown older, I just really cherish who my friends are, and I want to celebrate their unique lives with them. Marguerite and I go back to middle school…she is one of my treasures in this life.

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Dylan and the kiddos at Rocket Swirl

 

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Japanese Tea Garden

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Daddy and Katie hand-in-hand strolling in the city

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The very spot in Ghiradelli Square where Bill and I talked about Pigeon-Hat and having our children…and now here they are, sitting in that spot. Full circle.

 

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Hyde Park, with the Golden Gate Bridge way in the background

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Waiting on line for the Powell cable car. The cable cars and the city really made a tremendous impression on Eric. I have been asked at times about traveling with such young children, and my experience is always that their little minds and hearts just soak it up.Traveling with young kiddos has truly been my favorite kind of traveling ever in my life, because everything is so magical and big and novel and good for them. Eric exclaimed as he looked around, “Me like city!!” and both of the kiddos have been incorporating parts of the city in their play ever since. Plus, we made many new storylines for our nightly oral tradition of The Grand Adventures of Katie and Eric (which we like to tell after reading stories). Their current new favorite installment is how Katie and Eric find the source of the best chocolate in California and how they have to ride the cable car to get there…

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Ghiradelli Square. I had a salted caramel hot chocolate and it was gooooooood.

Final stop: BERKELEY

I adore Berkeley and almost went there myself. As it was, I used to visit Shil and Steve during our undergrad years and watched Shil perform in a couple of his Indian dance cultural events there. Years later, I got to live vicariously through my brother who did attend and who would spend most summers pursuing multiple majors. After his freshman year, he stumbled through excellent fortune into an amazing apartment that overlooked a Buddhist retreat and a preserve (which featured grazing deer) at the base of the foothills. Only my brother is ever that lucky, I swear! And we were lucky, too, because my mom and I (and sometimes Dad) would visit him every summer for many days around his birthday. Bill and I also got to stay with him when Marguerite got married to Dylan at Tilden Park. Eventually Aunt Jen and Aunt Anna moved to Berkeley, too, and we had a whole bunch of family to visit and to show us local places. I feel in some ways that I know the surrounding areas of Berkeley in a more intimate way than I even know Stanford. The campus also became a link to my motherhood life, as I remember walking around while pregnant with Katie and journaling around campus on one of our extended visits. It was during those summer visits that my mom and I hiked Muir Woods and discovered Point Reyes…that lighthouse is so much a part of my soul that it is one of the places I would imagine and visualize while having labor au naturale with both my babies.

 

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My Aunt Jen took us to Little Farm at Tilden Park to feed the goats and cows. Katie made a goat friend and has talked about her every day since.

 

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Eric walks with Aunt Anna at a park nearby their house

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Walking from Telegraph onto campus… Katie’s world was rocked in a good way seeing a lifestyle so much different from hers as we passed People’s Park.

 

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Seeing the Campanile…Katie also really loved the library and the pretty ceiling in the Heyns’ reading room. We also lingered at Sproul Hall and Sather Gate…so much history on that campus! Now that she has met all of my good friends and spent time with them, it was so much fun to tell her about Steve and Carol meeting at school and getting engaged here…and about where Shil danced and lived…and how Marguerite and Dylan got married at Tilden Park. We also showed her Uncle David’s apartment complex and where his graduation ceremony was (which she attended when she was under a year old). She can picture everyone now. All our histories become woven. I have former students who are Berkeley alums and current students. I loved picturing them here, too.

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Katie and Aunt Jen at Little Farm

We also visited Mr. Mopps’ toy store and had Indian food for dinner. Shil first introduced me to Indian cuisine while I was visiting one weekend many years ago, and we went to Vik’s Chaat. I have had an abiding love for this delicious food ever since and can’t come to Berkeley without craving it at least once!

Such a fun trip! Thanks, Bill, for planning it!

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Make new friends,

But keep the old:

One is silver

And the other, gold. 

This little song from my Girl Scout days seems relevant to this season of life in which my kidlets and I now find ourselves. We are talking much these days about the process of friend-making and nourishing friendships. As the kidlets embark on developing new relationships with their peers, I find myself often wondering how best to care for my lifelong friendships while also feeling grateful for the new camaraderie that has been growing this year with several ladies I admire in our homeschool group.

As the kidlets explore this new territory, I have often sang this song with them on the way to and from park days and events with their friends. It is a reminder to value everyone, to include old and new friends in our lives because both are so precious.

Today we were all buckled in and ready to catch part of the Wednesday park day with friends. Katie was of course excited to see Bella and Chloe and other girls she has been meeting through choir. She said, “I love my friends.”

Eric piped up, “Me love my friends, too.”

Katie offered a more literal gloss of the situation, “Eric, you don’t have friends at the park.” She didn’t say it to be cruel, just matter-of-fact. One of those “let-me-tell-it-to-you-straight” moments, I guess. She is all bound up in her vivid and often mysterious imagination, except those moments when she decides to lay out the bare facts.

It’s true. At 2.5 years old, Eric mostly plays alongside other children. Ages and stages, right?

Still, the mother in me immediately rang in, “Oh, of course he has friends! Don’t you, Eric? Mommy and Katie are your friends at the park. And Jack is your age!” Mommy was by that time using an inordinately cheerful voice, by the way.

Katie then began to explain to me the finer nuances of “family” versus “friends”…at which point I told her that we needed to talk about it later and not right then in the car.

At the park, Katie immediately ran over to her friends and played for two solid hours. Freeze tag, races, all kinds of things. Eric played in the sand pit mostly and climbed around, using the bridges and slides. I was able to socialize quite to my heart’s content today with several moms, and I relished it. I did notice that Eric did not come to get me very much this time, although I did keep checking on him and was able to talk with someone I’ve been wanting to get to know right by the sandy area.

All too soon it was time to wrap up and get going, and I started to corral the kidlets. By this time Eric was over by the tunnel slide and its nearby ladder. I watched him climb up and slide down and then I went over to him. “Okay, buddy, time to get going,” I gave the first cue.

He ran back over to the ladder (a bit of a steep curvy thing) to climb up again. He was several rungs up already and I went over to spot him and put my hand out near his back.

And that’s when he looked right at me, put his hand out in a “no” sign and said, “No, Mama. Me make new friend.”

In that single moment—when he claimed his independence and I could see how he was trying with all his heart to respond proactively to his sister’s critique—my own heart felt just about a million emotions all at once and I felt as though I would burst from it. Did I feel joy at his strength? Poignancy at knowing he had taken Katie’s observation to heart? Melancholy? Triumph? What was it? I still don’t know, and I am the kind of person who can pin my emotions down to a tee, usually. I had watched him all through the afternoon, running on the bridge, shoveling the sand—to think about what his thought-life must have been that whole time! Did he feel brave? Did he feel alone? Did he believe he was succeeding in making friends? Was he happy? Was there anything I should do? Could do?

I think I will be asking these questions, when it comes to my children, for the rest of my life.

As he looked at me (“No, Mama. Me make new friend.”) and told me he did not need me right then— told me that he needed me to step away so that he could make a friend other than me—I fought every urge just to scoop him right up and kiss him for his courage and promise him that the world will always be okay. At 2.5, to look life in the eye like that…to hear a critique and then go full force for the remedy with a smile on his face… His glorious spirit took my breath away.

My inner chords didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

In the end, I leaked for only a second.

Then I stood back, and I watched him go.

“Your feet will bring you where your heart is.” 

– Irish Proverb

And my feet have brought me home. The Wizard of Oz has been one of my favorite films since childhood, and it is wrapped up forever with my aunts Jenny and Debbie and my Uncle Eric in my heart. I watch it every St. Patrick’s Day weekend now with Katie and Eric. I often ponder: If I could live anywhere, where would I choose? And my answer is always: right here. In this growing city with a small town feel, within seconds of my parents’ house (down the street), within minutes of dear friends, within an hour or two to the rest of my family and friends… Sometimes I do feel my wanderlust kick in. I yearn for road trips and travel and exploration. I think about returning to New York and walking around Rhodes. I have dreams of the canals of Venice. I crave the spontaneous and old roads of the U.S.A., the campy motels and hole-in-the-wall eateries and oh my goodness the beauty of the mountains and the flatness of the prairie. Yet somehow my feet and heart and mind always take me home.

This weekend truly celebrated everything I love about home. My husband, parents, children. Two of my dear friends, tried and true. The burgeoning art and music scene in Old Town Temecula. I am an unapologetic enthusiast when it comes to my hometown—having a hometown and loving that hometown. I love how the familiar places in my hometown become symbols of my past self, how there can be so many layers of meaning to just a single street on the way to Target. How, for example, I can remember exactly a song that was playing in my high school vehicle when I was on a certain street on a certain day. My hometown is a map to my past and a way to connect who I was with who I am right now.

We had one of our busiest weekends in awhile, I must say!

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We started preparing for festivities on Thursday afternoon. I dyed some pasta the colors of the rainbow. Having never tried this before, I discovered how super simple it is. A handful of drops of food coloring (or a combination of colors to make the secondary colors), combined with a slosh or two of vinegar and about a cup of pasta in a baggie. Let it sit for a few minutes, maybe the time it takes to make lunch. Then take it out and dry it for a couple of hours. Why have I never tried this before?

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Katie has been studying the history of St. Patrick’s Day this week (among other things!) and we differentiated Eric’s portion of the science curriculum and had him study rainbows as an easy thematic connection. My mom came over, and we all made rainbow pasta necklaces for St. Patty’s!

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Necklaces!

On Friday after music class, my sister-friend Lauren came over for lunch, playdate, and craft time!

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We made quick Irish soda bread (Joy of Cooking has a decent quick recipe), rainbow fruit, and Dubliner cheese.

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Our crew (plus newborn Lukey napping in the family room)! Love this family…

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We then went outside for a bit and did some reading to the kiddos. Lauren brought a Gail Gibbons (LOVE. HER.) book on the history of St. Patrick’s Day as well as a St. Patrick’s poem. The non-fiction and poetry complemented each other very well. Then we came back inside and made “I am lucky because…” (thank you, Pinterest) collages on construction paper shamrocks using pictures of family, ribbon, glitter, stickers, and hand drawing. Katie had written a journal entry the day before addressing the same “I am lucky because…” prompt.

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Gracie’s and Mads’ shamrocks became a festive part of the decoration at Lauren’s party tonight!

On Friday night, the kiddos and I made broccoli soup (green!) and watched The Wizard of Oz (rainbow! Emerald City!) with Bill as part of our family tradition.

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On Saturday morning after my run, it was off to the bluegrass festival happening in Temecula’s Old Town this weekend. All events were free, and Old Town was hoppin’ with artists, musicians, farmer’s market wares, and people eager to soak up the culture and the vibe. So refreshing and invigorating! We arrived shortly before the first set of concerts at 11 AM and caught the first act in the Community Theater. I love how many memories the kiddos and I are making together there. We wandered around a bit after, saw a couple Old Town landmarks (Eric and Katie find the jail fascinating), watched some musicians on the corner, and stopped for the kiddos to have lunch at Rosa’s Cantina. From there we went to the main stage up by City Hall and sprawled out on the grass with many others to catch the Sligo Rags.

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The Sligo Rags are an Irish-bluegrass band, and Katie danced to one of their jigs under the bright blue Temecula sky.

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Watching a group on the street—we saw the same group when Katie was about two years old. They invited anyone else who had brought an instrument to come jam with them.

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As we listened to the Sligo Rags, Eric managed to fall asleep on my lap while we sat on the grass. Sweet boy.

After the Sligo Rags, it was back home for a pit stop to change and get ready for my friend Shil’s 33rd birthday party in Rancho Cucamonga on Saturday night!

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Shil and I have been friends since the 6th grade!

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Eric and Katie at the party

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Loop-de-doooooooo! Shil and Nipa held his party at Red Hill Park and all of the kiddos had a great time running around in the afternoon air and playing. Some of Shil’s family played cricket nearby, and Nipa made an enormous and delicious vegetarian Indian dinner for all of us. I seriously wish I could eat her cooking every day! I may have to experiment with some more recipes. The trick for me is to find all of the ingredients, though there is a great Indian market in Temecula. I may have to visit it this week…

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We love Shil and Nipa and it was so good seeing them again! We actually haven’t seen them since their wedding in July (our road trip to PA was to see them married)! So great to celebrate Shil’s birthday with them…

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And of course today, Sunday, was St. Patrick’s Day! We dressed in our green, made some more Irish soda bread for Lauren’s St. Patty’s party, played with Legos as we listened to our St. Patty’s playlist, and Katie drew pictures of leprechauns and fairies.

In the evening, it was off to the Bergons’ house for festivities!

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Lauren cooking before the big crowd arrives

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DELICIOUS! Cornbeef, cabbage, cornbeef hash, mustard, Irish soda bread, salad… and there was bunches more, but this was all I could have as a dinner portion!

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Lauren’s Irish car bomb cake

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Lauren and Sarah

Hope everyone had a festive and happy St. Patrick’s Day and that your feet truly took you where you love to be. I am so grateful for the time with my family and my beautiful friends, and for music, old films, rainbows, and crafty time.

Now to transition into Easter? 😉

“May you have warm words on a cold evening,
A full moon on a dark night,
And the road downhill all the way to your door.”

-Irish Blessing

 

Although we have still been dealing with sniffles and a soap allergy (Katie had a bad rash, but it was fixed within in 24 hours), we like to focus on what is going right over here in the McGaugh household.

For the most part this has been a productive week. Katie had to miss choir on Monday due to sniffles, but we were able to make it to gymnastics this morning. We’ve had two outings to the Old Town Community Theater, created art, kept up with our core studies, have been dedicating our history this week to studies of St. Patrick, found treasures at the library, and spent warm afternoons in the sprinklers.

It’s been good.

 

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Attempting a new technique: transferring color from tissue paper onto watercolor paper

 

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“Shamrock juice”: spinach, green apple, celery, and Bartlett pear

 

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March afternoon

 

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Family date night: enjoying the CYT production of The Wizard of Oz

 

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Eric’s new ‘do: his first crew cut

 

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After a week of studying Monet and the Impressionist movement, Katie and Eric used tempura and textured brushes to make a “Japanese Bridge” project

 

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The final “Japanese Bridge” projects… The bridges were taped with masking tape, which we pulled off after the paint dried

 

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My two snuggling babies with their books…our nightly reading, cuddling, singing routine is my favorite.

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On Sunday afternoon, Katie and I went on a mother-daughter date to see one of my brother’s friends and former orchestra-mates Katherine Ortega play the bassoon. She was accompanied by piano, and it was lovely. Old Town was bustling, the weather was perfect, and we ran into many people we knew—including the sweet and generous couple who own the property that was our wedding venue so long ago! Even after all of these years, MaryAnne still remembered so many of the most significant details of our wedding!

 

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And from a couple weeks ago: working on Kandinsky circles and color wheel theory

 

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Finished Kandinsky circles

 

In other exciting news, we have our flights and room booked for our summer trip to the huge Reuben Yoder reunion in Indiana. Can’t wait to celebrate my Amish ancestors and ancestry for a whole week. My aunt and cousins are coming also, and I found out they have the same flight and a room next door to the suite we’re sharing with my parents. So much fun!

There’s something so comforting about Carol Burnett.

She’s familiar somehow, even though it was my mom and dad who grew up with her. I think what I love most about watching her is that she is not ever afraid to laugh at herself. She balances her professionalism with the ability to enjoy the moment, even if that moment is Tim Conway derailing a Mama’s family skit.

Every once in awhile, as right now, I watch one of The Carol Burnett Show episodes on DVD (a Christmas gift from my parents). Classic television. I love it.

Last year, unexercised, full of coffee and sugar, and generally not tending to my body-mind relationship, I would have found this past week extremely stressful.  It’s been one of those weeks—a recalled part for my RAV 4 which required going to the shop, an OB appointment, a broken dryer, a trio of illnesses (Eric with sniffles, a cold/flu for me, and now a cold/flu for Katie), finishing taxes, etc. We came up for air a couple of times, but mostly we’ve had to deal with all the little things that sometimes pile up and make life feel a bit like a hurdle course. At least a couple of these items probably would have cost me a bit of sleep and worry last year.

It is humbling and eye-opening to realize how much exercise and a healthier diet can help me to keep a more balanced and light perspective.

I found myself actually laughing about the dryer and being so grateful it wasn’t the washing machine again.

The recalled part for the RAV 4 led me to take my car in, which gave me the chance to get a routine maintenance service I needed and just in time for our spring road trip. Now I know we’ll be safer on the road.

And we’re getting a tax refund…

Nothing is wonderful about being sick, except we are thankful that a cold/flu is all it is. I actually had a chance to rest in the afternoon on both days this past weekend (thanks to my mom and Bill), and a little time to nap and read magazines on the weekend in the middle of the day (which I rarely do!) was a bit of a treat even if I was stuffy and coughing.

Always a silver lining…

And I am so grateful for all the goodness this last week:

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My tree climbing children

 

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Disneyland with my aunt and cousin and his babies (whom I also call cousins)

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Snow White’s bridge

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Cinderella!

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Our finished Kandinsky circles from last week

 

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On Friday, we missed music class and our afternoon art. It was largely a couch and movie day. But on Sunday we were able to do a little project exploring warm and cool colors. I follow an art teacher on Pinterest: Kathy Barbaro pinned the inspiration for this project originally. I had to modify it a bit in order to make it accessible especially for Eric. The kiddos had fun with it. Right after we got done, I felt tired again and took a doze on the couch…but we were glad to get a piece done this week!

 

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Sponging on the cool color layer over their stencils

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The basic idea was to paint a layer of warm colors, let it dry, cover part of it with a stencil/solid shape (which I helped to cut out), and sponge cool colors over the whole canvas. Eric’s apple and Katie’s fairy were revealed.

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And Katie is loving Miss Regina’s Homeschool Choir! I am so thankful for the time and passion Regina gives to this beautiful group of kiddos. When Bill and I first talked about homeschooling, we had this dream of finding people in our lives who could share their deepest talents and passions with our Katie and Eric. It is amazing to see this wish and ideal coming to fruition now. When Regina talks about music and teaches the children, there is such love and knowledge in her voice. Katie has been talking all week about how much she loves choir and learning with Regina. I am so grateful for the time Regina puts into this—her volunteered time—and the excitement she gives to the kiddos. Nothing is more powerful than hearing someone share something that person is truly passionate about. I am thankful that Katie is absorbing that kind of vitality from this fellow homeschooling mom, and I am equally grateful that Regina has welcomed us all so lovingly into her life and home.

Oh my goodness! As I am writing this—still watching Carol Burnett—a guest just came on her show. MAGGIE SMITH!! A young 1970s Maggie Smith. My Dowager Countess from Downton Abbey! What?!?!? This is surreal!

But back to the blog…

For whatever stressors this week may have had, it also had its joys and rediscoveries: cups and cups of homemade iced green tea, Simon & Garfunkel, Joni Mitchell, The Beatles, and Carole King. Listening to music and watching old historical footage (old concerts as well as things like the Wright Brothers) with Bill and the kiddos after dinner, late nights of laughter and cuddles, reaching 128.9 pounds this week (started in my low to mid 160s back in June 2012), some exciting new art supplies, juicing, vegetarian meals full of beautiful vegetables, an afternoon run (I usually go in the morning, so this was a revelation) after finally feelings my lungs were clear, my dad who came over to help today so that Katie could rest and I could get Eric to gymnastics, burning candles, filled bird feeders, some smooth homeschool days despite other life responsibilities and needs, and connections with so many others this week…

Now to get Katie on the mend! We’ve got a fun family date planned for this week, and I want her to feel able to enjoy herself. I think we’ll have a quiet (hopefully rainy) day tomorrow to get our school work done and rest and putz around a bit!