New Blog

Hello all!

I hope that this post finds all of you doing well and enjoying the holiday season.

Since, going back to work full time, the concept of this blog has become too limited for the multitude of issues and thoughts on my mind. Therefore, I have started a new blog, which I invite you all to check out.

http://www.anewpaige.wordpress.com

I will be covering everything from parenting to education to vegetarian cooking to exercise to relationships to any other topics that strike my overactive mind.  As always, I will be blending a little humor, philosophy, and emotion with social commentary. Also, you can still expect some great photos of the kids.

Thank you all for your support of ucanpreschool, and who knows one day I may return to homeschooling again.

Happy Holidays from our family to yours.

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True Colors of the Wacky Variety

I have a habit of picking out clothes in the same color scheme or style for all three boys. I suppose it could come off as put together or stylish, but really it is just the haze of morning after not nearly enough sleep.

So, today I picked out all stripes, and thought it would make a cute photo-op. Clark was busy dancing half-naked and taking too long to get dressed. So, I snapped a shot of the little ones playing on the bottom step.

That’s all it took to light a fire under Mr. Attention Seeker’s bum. He came flying over, and I had to explain to him why I didn’t want to take pictures of him until he put his pants on. So, he did, but not without a pout.

I told a few jokes to get him smiling, and managed a cute photo, before the excitement brewed again and spilled all over the house.

(Don’t ask me why Simon has his hands in the air.)

Too much energy to be contained.

Simon had enough of the shenanigans and retired to the couch with a book.  I wish I could have joined him, but our day was only just beginning.

Spring Fever…Take Two and Don’t Call

So, I have been lax with my blogging.

I could give a million reasons, but really I am just trying to slow down a bit and enjoy my time with the boys. Enjoying my days means taking more time to relax at night instead of pursuing 100 ambitions that run like hamsters on the wheel all night, if I let them.

On the other hand, I have grand goals set to accomplish before returning to work in 4 months from planning my whole year of teaching 7th grade English in advance to finishing my novel to organizing my whole house. If only a fraction of this gets done I will be disappointed, but I guess it will be better than not setting out to accomplish anything (then again maybe there are merits to that too).

Therefore, balancing relaxing with my crazed mind has taken up a lot of my time and energy these days.

I am posting tonight and trying to post more for my #1 fan, my mom. She has been working hard fighting “the man” lately, and deserves to have a little chuckle and smile by seeing what her daughter and grandchildren are up to these days.

We are still hiking, and it is by far my favorite activity, even on days like today when no one seems to want to cooperate and spring fever has becomes some form of diagnosable mania. Being outdoors with my boys has an air of solitude, peace, and natural joy wrapped up in it, even though the pastoral image is punctuated by, “Use your walking feet,” “Please stop running,” “Walk!” and, “If you run one more time, you are going in time out.”  Truly, I love it. Even when I look more like I want to throw one of my three adorable, woods-loving children into the pond and go eat a slice of greasy pizza at the mall.

So, ever so appropriately,  here are some lovely photos of Peter trying desperately, and rather strongly to fall into the pond with the carp.

The other boys loved the fish too.

I couldn’t believe the fish were coming close enough for the boys to touch them, but I must admit I let out a sigh of relief when we moved on.  Our fearless leader, Miss Elaine, stated that she never once had a child fall in, and I decided I didn’t want to be the mother of the first one who did.

But Peter had other ideas of how to drive me nuts.

It’s hard to tell from the photo that we are with a group, because Peter went his own way and squealed when I tried to persuade him otherwise.  Clark seemed amused by the whole thing, while Simon ran ahead in the exact opposite direction of Peter.

Clark’s devilish grin.

Despite my wrestling to contain the boys, I was able to take in some of the sheer beauty of Deep Cut Gardens.

Peter found peace by noshing on some baby carrots, before taking off again full throttle.

However, he faded a fast and took some much-needed breaks.

Like I said though, even when hiking goes wrong…it feels so right.

Look! It’s Moss!

After getting a taste of hiking up a real mountain (though admittedly not one of the highest), I have been eager to it again. I even signed my husband and I up for a hike this Sunday, though he changed his mind and we won’t be going. I am disappointed, but he is right that two weekends in a row is a bit much. I guess the pressure of going back to work has made me a bit frantic about squeezing everything in now.

This means that I will just have to make the most out of our toddler hikes. Today we went to Turkey Swamp Park out in Freehold. It was a bit of a drive, yet it was fun to just relax and sing along with the radio. I jokingly asked Clark if he thought we would see any turkeys at Turkey Swamp Park, when suddenly hit the brakes, because right there, walking on someone’s front lawn, were 8 of the biggest turkeys I have seen in my life!

Pretty cool way to start the day. Thankfully no one was driving behind me!

When we arrived, our leader immediately asked about the Appalachian Trail trip. I was thrilled to relate the details to someone I know appreciates my sense of wonder and excitement about it all. She was the one who inspired me to start hiking in the first place. I felt like a proud teacher’s pet.

Well, we set off into the woods. The weather was perfect, cool and overcast with breaks of sun. We were greeted by some geese next to the beautiful lake.

The water looked like a painting. Peter was sleepy from the car ride and nestled into my side in the carrier. Clark was walking a bit ahead with the park volunteer, chatting his ear off, and Simon happy to have his trail map. I thought, “Wow this is going to be a nice easy day.” Then, out of the blue, Clark’s usual obsession with moss turned into a manic hysteria. The nutty boy started bending down to pet every patch of moss, and believe me there were thousands of patches of moss. He kept calling, “Miss Elaine, Miss Elaine…look moss.” At first it was cute. I even snapped a few photos.

But then, Simon started petting the moss too and yelling for Miss Elaine. Then, Peter wanted to get down and check out the moss. I tried to quietly encourage Clark to calm down about the moss, but he would just spot another patch and start yelling, “It’s more moss.” Peter wouldn’t walk ahead with the group because it took him longer to feel each patch of moss and was getting left behind. It was like some comedy skit, except I, the laid back mom, was starting to lose my patience. I wanted to just yell, “Okay we see the moss now shut up.” But I couldn’t. I kept politely smiling when the other parents commented, “He really likes moss, huh,” in sarcastic tones.

Then I caught my friend Karen’s eye, and her smile snapped me back to the reality that this is hardly something to get so frazzled by. It was actually quite amusing. So, I took a loud, long deep breath and asked Clark to pose by some of his beloved moss.

The rest of the hike was full of sweet surprises.

The volunteer, Rocky, picked up a frog that one child found, and everyone got to take a close look. (Not sure why it didn’t pee on him like the frogs did when I picked them up as a kid.)

Peter did a great job walking on his own for a good portion of the 1.5 mile hike. But, when he fell behind, his big bro Simon was there to help him out.

The forest was popping with springtime beauty.

I hope you get a chance to go out and spend some time with nature too. We are heading out for an evening hike in a couple of hours.

 

Reaching for More

Life is easy when you stick to what you know.

Do what you do best.

But, there is more to life than easy. It is the struggles that make us strong. The obstacles that make us try. The disagreements that make us think. The sorrow that makes us appreciate our smiles. The anger that drives us to action.

Life is lived in between the lines marking off the path we think we ought to take.  When you stick to what you know, you grow like a plant towards a light source. Always leaning….always missing the other side.

For my birthday, I wanted to push myself. Try something new.

I have done a lot of hiking with the boys, and I credit that time in the woods for helping my heart heal this year. Stepping away from the politics of education, and into the quiet of the woods has given me the space and time to look inward (in between keeping Peter from the poison ivy and doling out endless snacks). Homeschooling gave not only my children the freedom to learn without restriction or predetermined course, but me too.

So, to honor this, I wanted to go on a hike on my own without the kids. To pursue this door that has opened just a crack in my life. So I signed up for a hike on the Appalachian Trail in NJ and convinced my friend and mother-in-law to come too. I had no idea how hard it would be, nor (thankfully) how many bears and snakes were out there. But, it was every bit as incredible as I thought it could be.

The physical challenge, the quiet and solitude of a mountaintop glacial lake, the beauty of the woods, the camaraderie of friends and strangers, the letting go of being “mom” for a day, heck even the peeing in a privy that had been gnawed on by bears was priceless.

I did something I never thought I would do. And I loved it.

I don’t know if I will ever be a hardcore through hiker traversing the trail in its entirety from Georgia to Maine, or if I will ever spend even one night in the back woods braving the bears in the darkness of night. But, I do know that my feet walked some of the same dirt and rocks (oh the rocks) that many a hardcore hiker has stepped upon over the past 70+ years.

It pains me to think that the world is our oyster, and we let so much of it pass us by because it seems like it’s not for us. Or doesn’t fit our personality. So, I vow to try something new or stretch a bit farther in something old every year from now on.

Then when I blow out my ever-multiplying candles, I won’t have to wish… for I will have lived.

Appalachian Trail Official Marker

NJ State Flower

Evidence of bears trying to get into the bear box (where campers store thing that might attract bears).

I came home to a wonderful homemade dinner and birthday cake. Thanks to my hubby who watched the boys all day.

 

Y,Y, Why?

The letter Y week, ended with some messy fun as a result of my crazy, creative mind. I was thinking yarn would make a fun, squiggly paintbrush. We started with yellow for the letter y and them added some blue for color mixing fun.

I wasn’t thinking though, when I added more water to the tempera paint (thankfully washable) to make it easier to splatter. Yes, I admit to knowingly making it more splatterable.

So, it started harmlessly and ended like and 80/s splatter paint party. Clark figured out how to swing the yard wildly. Then when I pointed out that the paint was all around the room, the boys dissolved into giggles and twirled even more vigorously.

Well, of course, once Peter heard the giggles, he just had to see what was going on up on the table. I was trying to sponge some paint off of the blinds, when I turned to find him on the table. He was so intrigued, and we already had a mess. So, I handed him a piece of yarn and let him go for it.

Once we got cleaned up, we had circle time and discussed some Y themes.

Then we read an incredibly subtle, yet moving book called “Extra Yarn” by, Mac Barnett. It’s about a little girl with a little box that oddly never runs out of yarn. So, she knits hats and sweaters for everyone then everything, until some bad guy comes to steal the box. Clark picked the book out, and it was a true winner. The book led to a discussion of knitting. Though I am not a knitter, we happen to know a few women quite talented in the craft.

I pulled out the baby blankets, and the boys looked at them with a new respect and curiosity.

Y week was definitely a fun one!

Ahh…Park Day

So, I had every intention of doing circle time this morning. I had my letter Y book ready to go.  Even  my craft idea was solidified in my head. The kids were happy, tummies full of homemade waffles from the batter that my dear hubby had stayed up to prepare the night before.

Then suddenly it was 10am.  I have a rule, based on many failed attempts, that circle time must happen no later than 9:30am or it will be a disaster. I tried to round them up for circle time anyway, but Clark looked me dead in the eye and said, “I don’t want to go to circle time today.” Then Simon chimed in, “I don’t either.” I stood there hesitating, debating on how severe a crime it was to ditch circle time again even though we hadn’t done it since Monday. We were up early….we really should. But, Clark is too quick. He saw my hesitation and went in for the kill, “Mom, not even Baby Peter wants to go.”

How could I argue?

I packed a lunch, filled the water cups, and we were out the door by 10:15.

These pictures are more beautiful than my words, so I will let them stand alone tonight. I truly was a gift of a day with my boys. My only wish was that my husband could have been there too.

Ahh…to stop and smell the roses. Well, the cherry blossoms anyway.

Y is a Crooked Letter

Y, y, y, y…

I am dragging my feet. Can we really be this  close to the end? Have we really been at this preschool thing for 26 weeks? No wonder it’s time to start cutting holes in the bottom of the footie pajamas.

So, the end of the alphabet makes ,e want to go back to the A’s and B’s and really knock them out of the park.

But, no I woke up this morning from a sugar coma and the best I could think of was a yarn yak. (Don’t ask me how that would work.) However, once the coffee kicked in the rusty gears got to turning out a couple of ideas.

First, I started thinking about the color yellow. Ducks, buses, the sun…ah, flowers. I have always loved the big heavy heads of sunflowers and their imposing stature way above any other.  So I pulled up some images online of sunflowers and showed them to the boys before getting to work recreating them.

I traced a circle in the center of a paper plate and cut petals. Then, the boys painted the center with tacky glue and sprinkled sunflower seeds on top. (Peter was the only one who would taste them, and he loved them!)

Next, it was time to paint the petals yellow. I used washable tempera paint thinned with a little water.

Finally, they mixed yellow and blue paint to make the green for the stem.

Ta-da!

Just as we set the projects down to dry, a memory shot through my mind of the paper cup telephones my big brother Matt and me used to play with as kids. I figured, why not ive it a try with yarn instead of string. Well, it didn’t work, but it didn’t matter. The boys had lots of fun with it, anyway.

Last Minute Easter Treat

I have been on a kick for the past year of trying to make more and more things from scratch. From finger paint and play dough to soup, stir fry sauce, muffins, cakes, and icing…I have been doing more and more of it on my own and feeling pretty proud.

However, life isn’t always willing to slow down, let alone pause for the time necessary to allow some ambitious undertakings. So tonight I took a little help from my old friend, a yellow boxed cake mix. Added my mother’s secret ingredients (orange juice and pudding mix…sorry mom), and had fun with the details to make these Easter cupcakes a little personal.

I dyed the cupcakes pink for fun, and while they were baking whipped up some homemade icing, which literally takes 2 minutes to make (http://www.food.com/recipe/basic-vanilla-frosting-140486). Then I divided the frosting into four bowls, dyeing each a different shade.

 

I must advise you to frost the majority of the cupcakes before letting the kids have a go. Simply because it is really difficult for them to resist licking the magical sweet colors from their fingers and butter knives. And really, how could anyone with a heart stop them!

 

Sprinkle with sprinkles of course, and you have an easy, fun Easter treat.

I even made a special rainbow one for my hubby!

Yummy for the eyes and tummy!

But,with that kind of icing….who needs the cupcake!

Happy Easter!

 

The Holes in My Heart

A figure of speech is just a figure of speech until you live it.

I must have heard the phrase, “hole in my heart,” a hundred times before tragedies bore them into me, one deeper than the next.

Hole #1: My friend Tim

An innocent ninth grade boy lost his life, when the teenager driving the car he was in ran a red light. When he sailed through the windshield, he didn’t need to turn into an angel, for had been born one. I wondered so many times, how could someone so funny, so honest, so shy, so pure…be killed at such a young age. I saw him fly above us in the church as his siblings gave moving eulogies about the child that bridged a blended family. I thought of him at high school graduation and when I packed for college, thinking of his goal to be a dentist one day (a goal I told him was weird). When my first child was born, I said a silent thank you for being able to have lived long enough to have children. Tim made me realize how lucky I am to be “getting old” making every birthday’s blessing overshadow the cellulite, wrinkles, veins, and gray hairs. Tim led me to have a faith that religion had never taught me, a faith that there must be a bigger plan, for how else could such an incredible boy die so young.

Hole #2: My Grandfather

My grandfather was a funny man. He told jokes like most of us breathe. They flowed from him to the point where my grandmother would interrupt and say, “Alright Milty that’s enough.” But for me, it never was enough. I loved his corny jokes, and to this day I smile when my 7th grade students say my jokes are corny. Being corny is like part of my heritage, I cherish it like I do the few Yiddish words I picked up during our endless card games. My grandfather fell in our house, on the same steps I grew up running up and down my entire life. Unable to grasp the very railing where we hung our Christmas stockings, on our way upstairs to light the menorah. My grandfather sat me down on the couch and told me how he judged my father based on his race, and that it was a mistake that he would always be ashamed of. He said he was sorry for ever thinking of my father as anything but his son. He told me I was special, because of my mixed race. He said I was born to change the world. Then he told me to call the ambulance. (He never did make it out of the hospital.)

Hole #3: My Grandmother

My grandmother…what can I say. She was a tough cookie. She told it like it was and had no patience to hear the extras. She woke up before the roosters and was never to be seen without a full face of makeup. I thought she looked like classic Hollywood movie star. Her house became known as the “Fat House” for there was always something (many things) to nosh on. As kids we would hide under the kitchen table while the adults played cards and wait for her to schmear cream cheese over the hole of her bagel. When the time was right, she would beckon us to poke our finger through the hole and giggle with glee.  I wear her engagement ring on my finger and I can still remember how it looked sparkling on her hand. I remember her twirling it as she studied her hand of cards that held another gin rummy. I remember how it felt when she would hold my hand and aimlessly stroke the nails on my fingers. I will never forget the summer I spent in the nursing home, watching her slip away.

Hole #4: My Daddy

This hole feels like a canyon, alive with echoes of the past that sound real enough to be the present. This hole stops me mid run and breaks me down into the kind of sobs that hurt for hours after your cheeks have dried. This hole still smells like a freshly dug grave, I am too deep to see the flowers up above. When I go home to visit my mom and brother, my mind plays tricks on me. I think he will walk in the door any second, light up the room with his laughter…turn the game on. I know the sound of his footsteps on the stairs, the rustle of the Newsday on the table, even the cadence of the way he called, “Paula” when he needed my mom for something.

This hole is as alive as my father is dead.

It gets a bit deeper when I see his face in photos all over the house. I want to scream at him to talk to me. Tell those photos to give me those moments back, because I need them. I need him. I miss him. I wouldn’t want him to suffer like he was, only to go back and have all of our efforts work. He was supposed to get better.

Instead, I have to settle for watching my mom get better. She is growing stronger. He would be proud.

And I guess that’s why we have these holes. They live within us, making us who we are. I have more holes. My other grandparents, uncles, my aunts, my prom date, and probably my former students (statistically speaking). But these holes in out hearts are only as empty as we allow them to be. I try to replace a little bit of what was taken every day. Every time I push myself to be better, to do more, to help others.

Starting soon I will be launching a new blog and it will be based on one simple principle…you can be better. Take what the past has given you and take the present as an opportunity to make  a better future. Each time life makes a hole, I am determined that it will be in a richer, fuller heart.