Saturday, June 28, 2008

Buggy Ride, Fried Dough, and Cotton Candy on Lake #3

We're on our vacation at Keuka Lake in Central New York. Elliot and Astrid are having a fabulous time with their grandma and three of their four uncles. Our house is great--which is a huge relief, as we learned 24 hours before flying to Buffalo that the house our family had rented on Lake Honeoye had sustained water damage (from a leaky pipe or a giant storm, we don't know). The rental company put us into another house, this one on Seneca Lake, and then a few hours later, we heard that the new reservation had also been changed. The third house wasn't all that pretty to look at, at least on the website. But it's great, with lots of room, and an absolutely beautiful view of Lake #3.

This is all very good, as Terry and I are relative newcomers to the world of vacationing. Our families took vacations when we were kids, but in our 12 years of marriage, this is our third time planning and carrying out a trip that is mostly about fun and being with family. I've often wondered why it's so hard for some people to take vacations, and so easy for others. (For the record, I've always wanted to be the second kind of person, if not for myself, then for our kids.)

This morning my brother-in-law and I took E and A to a produce and crafts market near the town of Penn Yan. There are lots of Amish people in the area, which wasn't especially meaningful to either kid (kind of surprising when it comes to Elliot--he's usually really interested in learning about different cultures living together in a common community). It's possible that the promise of fried dough loomed larger in his mind than the arcanities ofAmerican Anabaptism did....guess I can't blame him....

Since she turned five, Astrid has been insinuating that Terry and I plot to keep her away from horses---an odd accusation, given that we live in a big city and do not run with a crowd of wealthy horseriding folks. So when we got to the Amish market and saw that pony rides were available for a mere $5 per child, I felt confident that Terry would support my strong desire to prove our good faith as parents. The buggy ride lasted about five minutes, and, by all accounts, was quite satisfying, as it included the strong smell of horses ("whoo, that's stinky!), the "clicking" of the horses' hooves, and a bouncy feeling "just like a roller coaster." Elliot seemed to have a good time, too.

The cotton candy and fried dough, though, were by far the best part of the deal, as you can see.

End of the Season

Here are photos of Elliot's second-to-last baseball game--which they lost. They won the game after that....which was the first game of the playoffs....and they won it big. I didn't bring the camera that day, which was fine, in a way, because I enjoyed every minute and didn't worry about getting good shots.

Astrid enjoyed all of the games, win or lose, because she got to play with her baseball friend, Kai. Here you can see them in Astrid's tent, made from an old curtain, two chairs, and a bunch of clothespins (like all the best childhood tents, right?), and outside of the tent, making funny faces for the camera.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Porch Love

I spent about an hour on the front porch this evening, from dusk until dark, embroidering by the light of a little halogen lamp. At IKEA on Tuesday, we bought two little tealight lanterns for outside, and, while they give off a pretty glow, I can't exactly do anything complicated with the light they produce. Elliot and I listened to a Cubs game on the radio--but when the Cubs self-destructed in the 7th inning, Elliot got discouraged. He went down to the sidewalk and started "ghost pitching"--pitching imaginary balls to invisible hitters--and chatting with fireflies. (When he was younger, he also used to play "ghost Scrabble" and "ghost chess"--two games in which he'd play [very ineptly] for his invisible opponent, who would inevitably lose. We enjoyed watching his ghost games, though we could never tell how self-conscious he was about the uneven distribution of skills between himself and his ghost friend.)

Earlier today, in an attempt to give my husband the quiet house that is enabling him to write an article due in less than two weeks, the kids and I went shopping for tap shoes (Astrid starts a new jazz, tap, and hip hop dance class next week). After that we went (on Elliot's recommendation) to a paleteria/neveria in Berwyn called "Flamingo's". Oh, my goodness....the place has about 120 different flavors of Mexican ice cream (actually, kind of a cross between Mexican and Italian ice cream, according to this article from one of Chicago's Spanish-language dailies). The proprietor makes everything herself....flavors like horchata [based on the Mexican rice drink], mango diablo [mango with hot chiles], and even parmesan cheese [!!!]. Astrid stuck with the familiar--bubble gum and chocolate--though I suppose the combination isn't exactly traditional. Elliot had a scoop of caramel and one of Mexican hot chocolate (which the owner calls "Chocolate Mis Recuerdos" [My Memories Chocolate] because of the tearful memories it elicited from a man who associated the taste with his late mother). I had camote [sweet potato pie] and Kahlua. Both were out of this world. By the time Astrid was done, both hands, her face, and her dress were completely sticky. I got her into the car, where she fell asleep....that was five o'clock, and it's now 10:30, and she is still asleep and completely sticky.

Yesterday I had one of those startling mothering moments, akin to the "eve of kindergarten" sensation I experienced on graduation day last week. At the public library, we were checking out a tall stack of novels for Elliot, when the librarian asked if E. was signed up for the summer reading program. We said no, because we have our own incentive system at home (OK...yes...we started *paying* Elliot to read last summer, using the point system from those icky Accelerated Reading lists on the web...once he reached 100 points, he got $10 dollars. No, we're not proud--but we now have a kid who happily devours novels). The librarian then asked what grade Elliot was going into. When he told the librarian he would soon be in sixth grade, the librarian pulled out a sheet of paper describing the TEEN Summer Reading Program--which has much better prizes than the elementary one. Elliot stood a bit taller when he found out that, as far as the library is concerned, he's now a teenager. I must have looked concerned as I told the librarian that Elliot is still 10. He shrugged his shoulders and said, "if he's going into sixth grade, and he's planning to read 1000 or so pages over the next week [which, we found out, is all a, teen....needs to read *for the whole summer* to be eligible for the IPhone drawing], he might as well be in the running for the good loot....."

Look's like Astrid's trying to wake up, so I'm going to post this now.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The eve of kindergarten, and other boundary moments

Tomorrow afternoon is kindergarten and sixth grade graduation at Elliot and Astrid's school. The kids have been preparing songs and dances for the last month or so. Astrid was so excited tonight that she couldn't get to sleep; around 9:15 (more than an hour after Terry started trying to get her to zonk out), her eyes got very big when I told her that she *had* to get to sleep very quickly if she wanted to go to graduation. Happily for all of us, this ultimatum (plus a lot more cuddling from Terry) worked within another few minutes.

The kids go to a Montessori language immersion school, so much of the graduation ceremony will be in Spanish (which Elliot and Astrid speak), Japanese, and Mandarin Chinese. At last year's ceremony, when Elliot was a rising fifth grader, he got to translate his teacher's very beautiful speech to the graduating sixth graders. Parents who were native Spanish speakers congratulated Terry and me so much that anyone would have thought it was Elliot who was graduating. I don't know what role he'll be playing at tomorrow's gathering--have I mentioned that he's a bit circumspect about what he does at school?--but I do know that the ceremony will be pretty weighty for him, as he will officially be a sixth grader at the end of it.

And Astrid will be a kindergartner tomorrow, as she reminded me in the bathroom this evening. This fact makes me giddy with an unnameable emotion. I really can't put my finger on it--it's not the usual "gee, they grow up so fast" kind of feeling, but more like my zillionth realization that she is her own person, simultaneously transparent and inscrutable. She is one of the most solid-cored people I've ever met--always resolutely Astrid, even when being Astrid is very, very difficult for her. She knows she tires us out (yeah, like Olivia the pig, but much stormier), and we know she sometimes exhausts herself in the process. With her, from the day she was born, the dynamic has been about asserting needs, wanting closeness, resisting boundaries and authority, identifying with and confiding in me, pushing back, reasserting needs--an amazing kind of upward spiral that always proves her a tiny bit more confident, accomplished, wily, creative, funny, beautiful than she was during the last go-round.

While Terry was gentling her to sleep (I've always loved Dr. Sears' phrase for a father's special kind of nighttime parenting), I got to watch the Celtics come from 24 points behind to beat the Lakers---and I got to do some summer sewing for Astrid, which really made me think about how she's growing. I made two pairs of shorts and finished up an unbleached muslin pinafore-ish top with black rick rack and a fabulous black-and-white flapper button. Then I went online and saw my sister-in-law Carrie's new painting--one marking the fact that her daughter is almost weaned. It's such a lovely image, especially for our family's eve of kindergarten.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Nuclear BAAAA

Today my husband and I had the great pleasure of seeing Elliot's class perform an environmentally-themed play, all in Spanish. The play was called La Oveja Verde (The Green Sheep), and it lasted about 20 minutes. Elliot played "Juan," the younger brother of a boy exposed to nuclear toxins. The production included several sleazy businessmen, two vendors guilty of selling tainted meat to a village, four innocent children, two poisoned sheep (one which became the toxic meat), and a dog who began speaking in Portuguese after his exposure to radiation. My favorite line (besides all of those spoken by Elliot) came from one of the sleazy capitalists, just before he dies and is dragged by an angel to the afterlife his villainy has earned him: "AY! Es el fin!" ("AY! It's the end!") Once the play was over, there were two hip hop dance performances, one by the boys, and one by the girls (both to the same song). Then we got to look closely at each student's environmental poster display (some of which included demonstrations of issues such as the chemistry of flame retardants and the evaporation of Lake Chad in Africa). Elliot's poster was about the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park. All of the children had worked hard on their presentations and were eager to share what they knew with the parents of their classmates.

Elliot is often tight-lipped about what he's working on in school; we didn't really know just how much research and rehearsing he and his friends had been doing. Needless to say, we were incredibly proud of him, and just plain impressed by the whole group.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Elliot Irons

We got back at 7:45 from a very chilly, sort of disappointing baseball game last night, and though I have a yucky cold and wanted to go to bed, I decided to help Elliot with the quilt block he's sewing. I wouldn't let him use the rotary cutter over the weekend because I couldn't supervise him (and I really value each and every one of his fingers), so he traced triangles onto the back of his fabric scraps and cut each one out with scissors. He was a little disgruntled about the labor; he thinks that everything goes very quickly for me just because I have the right tools at my disposal....

The big development is that Elliot got to use my heavy iron for the first time. *Everything* about the experience was new for him, so I couldn't take anything for granted---for example, he didn't realize that the iron couldn't rest face down on the ironing board. He was also frustrated because he sewed about half of his triangles together on the wrong side (i.e., along the long bias edge, rather than the shorter leg), so he'll have to cut more triangles to get the block he wants. (He, too, has been reading Davina Thomas's 200 Quilt Blocks.)

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Summer Weekend (for real)

We're closing out one of those "now it's really summer" weekends--too much to do, in a way, but most of it was fun, and now we're very tired. Elliot had an early baseball game on Saturday, then the kids had their school picnic, and today Astrid had a completely exhausting birthday party to attend. (In the car on the way home, she requested that I not talk at all, because she was too sleepy to listen.)

Yesterday I finished a small quilt for one of Astrid's English teachers; she's having a baby in August (I think), and Astrid requested that I make a quilt for her. It includes one of my old dresses, from the days when I lived in straight jumpers with deep pockets. (Eventually I decided that, as comfortable as they were, they weren't all that flattering to my multiparous belly, so I've moved on to other, equally utilitarian fashion statements.)

Now that I'm done with Miss Kate's quilt, I'm working in earnest on another pieced quilt. I'm getting lots of inspiration from Davina Thomas's 200 Quilt Blocks to Mix and Match. Her fabric choices are too ice-creamy for me, and the blocks she makes aren't scrappy at all, but the book seems pretty exhaustive, and Astrid and I enjoy looking at it together, especially at bedtime.

I'm also continuing to work (mostly during baseball games) on embroidered flour sack towels, with designs from Floresita's vintage collection. At this weekend's game, I didn't have Astrid with me, so I could embroider to my heart's content, or until my fingers cramped up (this time around, it was the latter).