Sunday, September 14, 2008

Attitude is Everything!

Darby teaches me everyday. With her quirky, positive, happy-go-lucky, beautiful smiling attitude she always greets each new day with sunshine beaming through. I, on the other hand, meet the day at typically seven in the morning awakened by a phone call from the dentist as he arrives to his office bright and early. He already greeted the dimly lit fall morning without complaint and left us sleeping to await his forthcoming call as I do not wake to any other noise. I enjoy his call in the morning despite the fact that it means that I must GET OUT OF BED! This being my least favorite part of the day. I am much better suited to being a night owl, taking after my grandmother who also would stay up late into the late hours of the night with more energy than early morning. I will say, however, that this tendency to be grumpy in the morning has become much improved since I began running/walking for an hour everyday after taking the kids to school. I think my poodles agree...but that's another blog post!

This past weekend Darby had another gymnastics meet and she encountered the challenging day with joy.
She was happy to have traveled the Friday evening before with us. We went to dinner at the Texas Roadhouse and she enjoyed the time the three of us were able to spend together. At one point she inquired if it was a date and I told her that indeed this was my favorite way to spend an evening with dad. We spent the evening at a hotel where she was in anticipation of the meet Saturday morning and began to practice by turning the bed into her very own trampoline. We settled in for the evening after she passed out from sheer exhaustion from the very long day. Despite the lateness of the night before, Darby awoke quickly the next day and was happy and ready to go.

During the meet, which began around 7:30am she was continually smiling. Beaming smiles from one end of the gymnasium to the other and although other girls showed boredom and worry Darby never followed suit. Instead, she was the child who was break-dancing in her warm ups on the slippery wooden floor turning in circles on her knees and rump, then playing silly as she tried to put her jacket on following the sleeve in circles like a dog might chase it's tail.

She performed her floor routine first happy with herself she got seated on the mat around the floor after the last child her rotation went she stood up and was ready to go again. (That's typically how they practice during the week).

Coach loved it, as he announced to the parent's in the stand, "Darby's ready to do it again!" She was enthusiastic until the very end and I'm so proud of her efforts! Her attitude throughout rubbed off on many of the girls and they in turn take good care of my little one as she is one of the two youngest on the team. Thanks for teaching me that attitude is indeed, everything!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Moms Just Wanna Have Fun!

What to do on an extremely hot day in St. George.

During an obviously important photo shoot of your brother's wedding.

Act crazy and have your husband take silly pictures of you.

Is there anything more to be said here? I don't think was clearly the heat that affected my mental state.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

State of Destitution

I regularly volunteer at my children's school once a week. I look forward to this time as I am able to speak to the teachers on a regular basis. I enjoy getting to know them and learn how they are teaching my children so that I can reinforce what they are learning in the classrooms and apply the teachers preferences in their home instruction.This year both of my kids have phenomenal teachers. I have been much impressed at their level of commitment and enthusiasm to teaching and becoming more acquainted with each of my kiddoes.

The other day as I walked to Darby's class I bumped into, Mrs. So and So, Austin's teacher. She was happy to see me and commented specifically that day she didn't require any additional help in class but inquired whether or not Austin could purchase a pencil box. Curious, I inquired more, "Well," she said grinning from ear toear, "Austin told me yesterday that he wasn't allowed to ask to buy anything for the next few months because your family was saving to go on a trip." She continued her account of the conversation. "I said that perhaps, Austin, your mom could go to the 99 cent store and purchase one for very little money. In fact, Austin you could probably find that change in the couch cushions." Completely amused by the story, in truth, at this point I'm almost ready to fall to the ground in hysterical laughter.

I replied "...of course we can, in fact, I believe he already has one in his desk drawer at home. I'll just have him bring that tomorrow." But upon hearing her version of his version of events I needed to divulge the actual story. I began, "a few days ago I was tired of his constant begging and nagging to buy games for the Nintendo, Computer and things of this nature.
So I explained to Austin that in order for us all to travel to Hawaii this Christmas time we might need to save more money and to please not ask for those types of items again. I have no problem at all purchasing the various items that are required for school, so I will be happy to send him tomorrow with pencil box in tow." We exchanged a few more words about being so destitute that I couldn't afford a silly little pencil box and Austin's exaggerated attempt at following my request to not ask for me to buy ANYTHING.

I attended Darby's class inwardly laughing the rest of the day being reminded at every pencil or pen I saw of our state of destitution in not being able to afford the box to keep the implements in.

Early the next morning I reminded him to pick out his pencil box from the drawer of his desk and take it to school. As he got in the car on the way home, I inquired whether he remembered to remove said pencil box from his backpack and deposit it into his school desk. Smirking, he then reached for his backpack and pulled out an enormous black box with chrome lock and opened it for me to see, "I grabbed the wrong box," he said showing me the Cd's enclosed within. How he could confuse the two is beyond me...the pencil box is one third the size of the monstrous CD case their only similarity being color and design. So the following morning Austin indeed found the correct box and traveled to school ready to organize his chaos.

I can understand why his mind might be focused on vacation!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Do You Prefer Almonds...or Amonds?

Finding myself in the midst of orchard heaven, there is an abundance of healthy farm fresh produce on practically every country corner. Agriculture is really the heart of our communities here in the central valley and harvesting is in overdrive. During the winter months it can get very foggy but during harvest the dust that is thrown up by all the equipment lingers in the air until it settles. While the topsoil is airborne it creates a cloud that resembles fog on a chilly morning awaiting the sun to break through. It is especially created when the almond and walnut orchards are harvested.
One of my favorite memories includes the reason why people here call almonds, "amonds." Before living here I thought farmers simply picked each and every nut from the tree until the crop was barren of any lingering produce. I was awakened one morning during our first year of marriage by a thunderous shaking of the entire house and a low groaning sound coming from outside. I knew that our home was surrounded by almond orchards, although the almond ranchers call them amonds, I hadn't the faintest idea what was causing such a ruckus. I went outside to find each tree being shaken by the base of it's trunk by some machine that resembled a robotic Tonka truck, a cross between the Back to the Future Delorian and Batman Begin's mobile with additional arms in front to grab and agitate the tree until it yielded all it's fruit.
Once this was accomplished a separate machine more along the lines of a street sweeper would come along and sweep the floor of the orchard and cause all of the nuts to gather in the center between each row of trees

In addition this would throw all the dry top soil to be tossed in the sweltering hot air. These machines would then be followed by yet another mechanized, foreign looking, dust covered tractor that would pick up the rows of now "amonds" and deposit them into a hopper. Once this process is finished the one time almonds, after being shaken and falling from their fruit bearing limbs, ranchers now call amonds due to having the "l" knocked out of them.

In the end I guess the "l" must linger on the tree for next year's crop to hold on till the next harvest!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Just Peachy

There are acres upon acres of fruit bearing orchards of all varieties and during the spring through fall seasons you can purchase the most ripe, fresh off the tree, delicious produce than anywhere else. My kids love to travel the short distance to one of these small farmer's produce corner sheds where they peddle their tasty treats for a fraction of the cost sold in a typical grocery store. Some of Darby's favorites include peaches, white peaches, cherries, strawberries, apricots, blueberries, pears, apples,

come to think of it, I don't think we've discovered a fruit she dislikes.
In fact, I think Austin enjoys all the bounties the orchards have to give as well. Today Austin asked for Gouda cheese (a recent new addition to tickle his taste buds) and fruit and crackers. I opted for the bowl full of fresh and very ripe yellow and white peaches. I sliced through the first one and finding it to be on the verge of turning from tasty and sweet to squishy and moldy, I told everyone that we would need to consume the majority of the peaches soon before they went completely bad.

I cut up two more and passed them to Darby and the Dentist and I had some myself. I left the children to entertain themselves for the next few hours after lunch and upon my return found peach pits on the fireplace hearth, the counter, the floor, and a half eaten yellow peach in Darby's little pink palms. I smiled and asked how many had she eaten. With her twinkling blue eyes grinning back at me she stated, "um...two?"
Sure, kiddo!!!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Home on the Range

Today I decided to write a little bit more about where I live. Our family resides in a town at the base of the foothills to the Sierra Nevada Range. Although I grew up in Texas, where I'm positive they have more cowboys per square foot, my little town of just under twenty thousand com padres claims to be the "Cowboy Capital of the World." In fact the picture of the rodeo sign within the last few days has painted that exact phrase in bold lettering across the top. Just in case passers by were curious or misled by some other town that might declare the same statement.
Our home is a stone's throw away from the famed Oakdale Rodeo and upon further education about our community I have learned that Oakdale houses champion roping cow folk. It's amusing to be so celebrated.
I must admit though, this place has always felt more like home than any other place we have lived. I think the cowboys must bring contentment into the territory. Everyone I've had the pleasure of meeting has been very agreeable and I've quickly made friends of strangers.
Thinking back about a year ago when we moved here a recent acquaintance of mine asked me how I liked Oakdale. I replied that I was happy with our new surroundings and found it to be much more serene compared to where our other home was located. She replied that although she has now lived here for many years it "took a lot of getting used to all the cowboys." I smiled and replied that since I'm originally from Texas I never considered cowboys to be a drawback to relocating.
I'm just a southern gal trying to make a life for my family in a little town in the middle of the vast California Central Valley. It's home sweet home to me.

A Vacation Day?

Today was void of any earth shattering excitement at home. Because of this I even accomplished at least three of the items on the "to do 'cause I didn't do it yesterday" list. Well, no, maybe I didn't. But what I did do would include, to start, walking my dogs and even though I didn't walk for an hour, I walked both of them for a half hour, so that counts double. Right? Oh, and I did take a shower after walking! I have told my dentist I love him (it helps when he has the entire day off).

I even picked up the kids from school and helped Austin get started on the Powerpoint presentation part of his research project. So I guess I did accomplish more than I thought.

When I look at that short and somewhat random list, mentally I continually add other items that require further attention. But, I was simply to lazy to do most of it today. I didn't finish the's starting to pile up again. I didn't clean the bathrooms but don't panic they're not that bad. My kitchen has been dirty with a sink full of dishes for a couple of days can panic about's starting to smell. I haven't stepped foot into my studio since making the announcements seen in the post below. So art is on hold even though I don't want it to be. Currently I'm blaming it on looking and waiting for inspiration to strike. So far there haven't been any lightning storms. I haven't made dinner for the last few days, which means I haven't made a pit-stop at Raley's to grab any necessary ingredients. And no, I haven't even made the beds.

I didn't take the kids to school, but I sent them across the street to carpool with a great neighbor. Later she e-mailed me how the first carpool ride went and she described Austin as being quite comical and fun.

She then informed me of Austin's request for some Nintendo DS game. I was appalled, humiliated and somewhat embarrassed that he would have the gumption to ask a new friend and neighbor to purchase something. Fortunately she found it especially entertaining to talk with my character of a son. I'll have to remind him that just because I tell him not to ask me to buy silly games and he has plenty that doesn't mean for him to go and ask, beg, plead, or implore anyone else who will listen!

What does this mean, you ask? It means that Mom took a vacation day! I get them from time to time and I don't even have to ask permission or put in a request with the boss. I am the boss!
I spent the day in sheer laziness (except for the walking of the k-9 companions that was a chore!) How long will I be on vacation? Not long enough. Tomorrow is a new day and I better clean up my act!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Big Scold

After picking up Austin from school today I was half inclined to escort him back to his classroom because he inevitably forgets to write some aspect of his homework down on his daily planner. I reminded myself that no, he is in fifth grade now and needs to learn to be more accountable for both his actions and the responsibilities that accompany such things. Upon our arrival home I immediately set about to help him sort through the list of items required before he attended school the next day. Circumstances being usual, Austin had neglected to supply a vital part of information in order to complete a specific task.

I'll admit this time I lost it. I rarely, mostly rarely, yell or raise my voice to the little darlings. I hated it when I was young (not that it happened often) but no one likes to be scolded and told in very forceful terms disappointment and disapproval. I offered the solid advice that life must revolve around some type of priority and plan. I explained the plans I must make as an adult and mother everyday in order to make the family function. That my taking them to school everyday wasn't just happenstance and my return at exactly 2:21 pm wasn't just a random coincidence everyday. It's not chaos that rules the action and course our lives take. I implored that it was in fact by choice that I was there to get him up, breakfast, shoes, to school, volunteer in his class, make appointments to shuffle around getting him to and from haircuts, swimming practice, and yes I even plan to pick him up. (Maybe I should forget...will that prove my point???)

Everyone present in his life at this point is trying to exemplify this behavior that, in my opinion, he simply chooses to ignore. So today I had had enough and could find no other recourse than to give him a solid piece of my mind. Not to mention the removal of specific privileges that are allowed when all is well at the home front. After my stern discourse I offered solace that indeed I still loved him despite his shortcomings that we, together, are trying to remedy.
We then set out to continue his Respiratory System project and after five and a half hours completed the majority. I then sent him upstairs to do nothing more than read (not such a harsh punishment for a kid who asks for research books for Christmas and birthdays).

I, however, needed to time to decompress and reflect. To which I have the following to offer. Sometimes being a mother takes a high degree of patience and humility of which our children never tire of the occasional reminder. I was going through a few of my old blog posts that I had previously on another account for a short amount of time and came across this gem. It made me smile after everything else previous to this point.

I was driving my kids to school this morning and Austin asked a question to which I knew the answer. Unfortunately he did not agree with my response and stated simply, "Let's ask dad, he's smarter."

"Grown-ups never understand anything for themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them. "
Antoine de Saint-Exupery, "The Little Prince", 1943
French writer (1900 - 1944)

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Moms Were Made for Interrupting

You never know what will disrupt a seemingly quiet afternoon. As I was sitting down to compose yesterday's somewhat lengthy memoir I kept hearing a thud now and again at the window just next to my computer. Questioning whether or not my dentist was swooping by throwing mud chunks at the window to capture my attention and sing me sweet nothings with the tuba he played in high school, I opened the shutters. Unfortunately my imagination was getting the best of me. For the life of me I couldn't figure out what was going on. A few minutes passed and again a thud against the pane hampered my concentration on writing so I did what any detective savvy mother of two (who were both at school) thinking the dogs were playing tricks on me now would do. I grabbed my camera anxious to catch the disorderly culprit(s). I moved the shutters slightly and peered out into the garden supposing to observe my dogs jumping nearly fifteen feet to beg for my attention. But I later found them under the deck sleeping the afternoon away.

Suddenly a small brownish blot came flying at the window at full speed. A bird about the size of a small finch kept slamming into my window. After the first couple of blows you would think it would catch on that it wasn't a pass through. I had my camera ready and caught the silly thing landing afterwards in the tree just outside the window. I wonder if it was aiming for the tree the whole time? Maybe it was blind as a bat. Who knows but I have decided one thing...
My super sleuthing conclusion to this silly tale: When you're a mom, anything can and will interrupt whatever it is you are in the process of doing.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

I'm One in A-Millions!

A favorite aspect of motherhood is my observations of children learning to speak, read, and write. It is particularly fascinating when kids use words incorrectly or when they substitute a word known to them in place of one that is not familiar. I especially love to hear a word spoken with such decisiveness that leaves little doubt in your mind that a child is positive they have utilized the word correctly. For example, the other day grandma promised to treat the kids to ice cream. After picking them up from school I asked the children whether they wanted to eat at Cold Stone Creamery or Baskin Robbin's to which Darby succinctly replied "I'd like to go to Baskin Robbers!" I had already pulled into the former so I said that we'd "hit Baskin Robbers another time."

Although new readers find much excitement at the freedom that reading provides, children often feel they immediately become an authority on what they are reading. If a word is pronounced incorrectly my children especially remind me of rules they learned in school regarding phonics and what particular letters are supposed to say. Because of their confidence they are easily convinced of what they just saw and read they don't question that they could be mistaken. Eventually this often leads to much persuasion to redirect their thoughts on phonics and what letters can also say.
On this note, for example, there have been a few times we'd drive down the main thoroughfare through town undecided about what we might like to eat for dinner and Darby kept saying "Let's try Grand Beef! Lets try Grand Beef!" For the life of me I never spotted a sign, or have never heard of a place called, Grand Beef. And I couldn't believe there might indeed be a venue with the name "Grand Beef." Since my little first grader is reading pretty well she was confident that beef was spelt b-u-f-f-e-t, hence "Grand Buffet" became "Grand Beef," and no, we've never eaten there. I just can't bring myself to accommodate that request. (Next time I drive by I will insert a picture here.)

Austin too has special phrases that have developed over the years. What was once coffee cake is now Fafe cake after Great Grandfather Fafe. San Francisco came out San Fransicko when we were living there and he was two. Austins nickname is Darby's creation of the inability to pronounce Austin when she was just learning to speak so "Hottie" is the name of choice which she has now shortened to Hot.
"Darbydoll" was Austin's creation for Darby when she was about one month old. There was an instance where a friend of his brought Barbie dolls to church and he politely asked her about which "Darbydoll" was her favorite. Then and there Darbydoll's nickname was born.

I love it when little kids strike up a conversation with you while you are awaiting your own children. Depending on their age, especially the younger ones, you can't really decipher the language they employ but they are so happy to share their stories with you, you can't help but smile and nod and agree and respond back to the little buggers.

Another delightful example, and perhaps my favorite, is a new friend of Darby's who lives across the street. She came over to play at our home last week. I've asked all of my children's friends to address me as Miss Amelia and since living in the south for most of my life I am accustomed to the semi-formal title. I prefer that title rather than the more formal Mrs. So and So (plus it's typically easier to say than my actual last name which is void of any vowels save one). Anyway, she heard "A-millions." Obviously a phrase that was more familiar to her so I am now Miss A-millions! LOVE IT!!!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Billy Madison Has Nothing on Me

In the Adam Sandler comedy his character, Billy Madison, has to go back through each year of school and has about two weeks to accomplish each year. Well I have it somewhat easier. I am retaking each grade in stride with each of my children. So currently I have attended kindergarten three times, first grade twice, although I am currently attending it for the third time with Darby, second through fourth grade twice with Austin at the helm and I am now proceeding through fifth grade with him.

When I first had kids the realization that I would actually be working so closely with them through schooling never dawned on me. They were just adorable bundles of love that ate, laughed, cried, played, and from time to time left me presents of the not so desirable nature. Now that they are both in elementary school, I find myself wondering and not really remembering what these grades were like for me. Perhaps it was because my family moved so often during this time of my life I remember moving more than I do schooling. Or maybe being the second oldest of seven children has something to do with it? I don't really know all I can say for sure is that it seems that this new generation are being challenged with exceedingly high expectations.

Personally I feel that this is in their best interest and I wholeheartedly want my children to achieve their very lofty potential. (I don't particularly enjoy having to relive it myself). These last couple of weeks Austin has been excitedly researching the world of microbiology. Yep, "MICROBIOLOGY!" I think the first time I heard that word myself wasn't until junior high school. Anyway he found huge interest in viruses and how they are transferred, their affect on the body and how they can mutate. He was assigned to create a project that involved anything microbiology had to offer and although there were two or three projects that were already outlined he chose the "design your own project."

Normally this wouldn't be a problem, well let me reconsider, yep normally this will be a problem. Austin's mind is so full of knowledge and random factoids that it is difficult to reign in his broad perspective on everything in order to focus on something manageable for a small project like this. He had listed on a few disorganized papers in his thrown together backpack that I help empty out everyday (trying to show him the error of his chaotic mess) three different viruses that interested him; the influenza virus, the West Nile virus and the pneumonia virus. Along with his list of viruses he had researched and written facts to accompany each. So as we discussed his options of how to accomplish this project the direction we came to, after two or three days of debate and persuasion on my part, was to compare and contrast two of the three. Then we would build 3-D renderings to accompany the poster he would display. So, today, we set about to finish the project completely because his anxious mind is already involved in working on the next essay project involving the respiratory system of the human body.

Dennis helped him build and paint the model of the influenza virus (green blob) and we all made snakes out of red polymer clay to create the model of the West Nile virus. I think we will have pink hands for the next week. Darby was a great help to her brother with this part of the project and she was proud of her efforts. We all helped place them like sausages all around a ball of aluminum foil and baked it in the oven to harden the clay.
Austin finished putting all of his thoughts in better organization then typed everything on the computer and printed and pasted it all on his board to display. We just finished gluing on the assembled models and he will be ready to show and tell tomorrow.

Although it was his project, it became a laborious day for the entire family. I go back to school with them both to help in the classrooms on Wednesday and I always direct homework and reading time when they come home everyday.
Billy Madison eat your heart out!