Easter Eggs

Last year there was much hiding and finding of plastic eggs filled with candy for Easter, which was fun except that I was always the filler and hider, and after a while that felt like a lot of eggs. I remember thinking that I needed a way to make this holiday a little simpler for myself. Which is why it is so inexplicable that this year I made large paper mache eggs filled with treats.

This project was an excellent learning experience — in particular, I learned to do at least a couple solid layers before popping the balloon. so that the thing wouldn’t collapse under its own moistened weight. Also I learned never to do paper mache while the baby is awake. And probably I should have stopped at three layers total, because those things had some real strength to them. Belatedly googling for paper mache eggs ideas, I discovered someone doing smaller, more delicate eggs along a similar vein. Tissue paper sounds much easier to manipulate than newspaper. Maybe next year…

But I have to admit that hiding the eggs was easier this year — all I had to do was find one spot big enough for an ostrich egg, and done! We did one at a time, I let each of the boys help me with the other one’s egg, and the whole hiding and finding process took only about fifteen minutes. Then came the real challenge: getting the eggs open. Stomping them was eventually determined to yield the best results.

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Happy Easter!

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A Little Change

Nathan has been talking for a while about wanting to dye his hair. Yesterday, for no particular reason except that we were home, had nothing really planned, and he floated the idea again, we did it.

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It is not a totally expert job, being my first time and all, but I think the overall effect is great, and he loves it. Ryan, although initially tempted to go green at the same time, is holding off for the moment.

Baby Spiders

We recently acquired a swing from a friend, in the hope that when the weather warms I’ll find somewhere to hang it. Mica adores swinging, and if I can only find the right place for it, I can picture snatching ten-minute reading breaks while I push the swing with my other hand.

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Meantime it sat near our back door until just recently, when I noticed that it must have come with an unnoticed bonus prize: a spider egg sac, which manifested itself as dozens of tiny yellow spiders clustered on a delicate tangle of web. Naturally I called the kids over. We relocated our new friends outside and spent some time talking about how tiny they were and reminiscing about Charlotte’s Web. Also we tried to keep Mica, with that natural baby exploration instinct, from killing them all.

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I warned the kids that it may still be too cold for spider babies to survive outdoors, but so far they’ve huddled together at night and seemed at least alive, if not delighted, during the day.

Beyond Measure

The Village Free School hosted a showing of Beyond Measure, a documentary about some of the schools, both public and private, attempting to move away from the 19th-century model of education used predominantly in our public schools and explore some of the alternatives. I expected it to be inspiring, and it was. I didn’t entirely expect the visceral reaction I had to some of the individual stories of disengagement it explored, although in retrospect I probably should have. There were moments that were difficult to watch, not just at the beginning, but even toward the end — the film didn’t shy away from showing how difficult it can be for teachers, parents and students to move to a different model from the one in which they’ve spent most of their lives. It’s one thing to boycott a test (way to go, Garfield High!) but quite another to actually shift the focus of schooling.

Overall it was well made and I came away with mixed emotions. As far as our little family is concerned, I see enough opportunities that I have no fear for our own children — we have the means and the motivation to make sure they’re in environments consistent with our goals and values. But for the leviathan that is the American public school system, the possibility of change seems… daunting.

Dave and I have been debating since then the avenues that change might take. Systemic change of the current system from a grass-roots movement seems possible but slow, potentially taking multiple generations and by no means inevitable. Online collaborations offer another possibility in that people are no longer quite so bound by their geography, but I think for most people face-to-face interaction is still important. Private schools offer alternatives, but only for those who can afford them. Charter schools seem like a way to create options less dependent on the individual family’s wealth, and I’ve only begun to look into that option. Another idea is the “school within a school” concept — one of the programs in Beyond Measure was a small project-based group which functioned within the school in which it was created.

And of course this is what a good documentary should do — not give a simple answer to a problem which manifestly doesn’t have one, but just get its viewers thinking.

Breakfast

I have this idea about my role as a cook, that once I really *nail* the cooking, I’ll be able to plan out breakfasts, lunches, and dinners for a week, all healthy meals that people love, with a modicum of new and exciting recipes to refresh the repertoire. I think this is like the elusive quest for happiness, where one imagines that one some point one will reach happiness and just stay there — i.e., totally the wrong model. I’ve gradually accepted that happiness doesn’t work that way, but for some reason I still cling to my illusions about meal planning.

Part of my current attempt to reach this nirvana is that I’ve scheduled one breakfast a week as a “special” breakfast, where I can try something new. Breakfast is arguably my favorite meal of the day, so much so that if I get up early enough I do it twice. This week I made these beautiful double-layer smoothies.

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These were lovely and extremely tasty, and although next time I would de-seed the raspberries, overall I thought the recipe a real win. And if my model of food preparation were true, I would be able to report that my kids gobbled them up with delight. Alas, only the baby seemed very interested (she liked dipping the mint garnish in and sucking off the smoothie). The boys both said it was good but ate only a fraction of theirs.

Snow Tubing

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Village Free School field trips rock. Our latest adventure was up to Mt. Hood, where we joined the rest of the school for tubing and playing.

It’s been so long since I’ve been skiing that I’d nearly forgotten the simple delight of being up in the snow on a beautiful day — the intense blue sky, tree trunks feathered with snow, the soft curve of a snowy hill. A tiny stream cut a startlingly dark path next to the snow tubing area, the water chuckling over a foot-tall waterfall. (Mica desperately wanted to play in it.)

I was a bit dubious about going down the hill on a tube — I may consider myself a skier, but thrills in general are not something I habitually seek out. But I needed to set a good example for the boys, who were themselves very dubious. So down I went with a baby in my lap, and it was only mildly harrowing. I’d rather expected Mica to love it, but although she didn’t seem to mind, and indicated with her noncommittal little grunts that she’d do it again, neither did she show any particular sign of delight. This was a far cry from the other baby in our group, who shouted “Wheee!” and laughed all the way down the hill. But then, who knows what’s going on in the mind of a baby?

The kids and I made a couple “Allen Family runs” together, and Nathan also did several slides by himself. Mica and I went in and out of the lodge quite a bit, to warm up her little baby hands and get frequent snacks. The boys spent the last couple of hours playing with a friend in the snow on top of the hill. All in all it was a highly successful day.