Thursday, May 28, 2009

True Love, II

True Love

Act One

Setting: Our bathroom.
Subject: Disposable Dixie Cups (with only 3 remaining in the stack)

Duncan: You can have the flying dinosaur cup, Mama.

Mama: But that's your favorite.

Duncan: I know. You have it.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Jump, Jump, Jump, Jump Around

Every budding gymnast needs one of these, at least until he can have a full fledged trampoline.



With a Twist

All In

Again, Daddy!

And at the end, a gymnast needs a tall, cold, glass of milk.

Look at THIS Trick

We had already decided that we would enroll Duncan in some kind of class this summer. Combined with his one day a week at preschool, taking a class will keep him social but also help him move into the world of being a learner. We had thought we would try an art or music class. Lately, though, he has been particularly enthusiastic about climbing, jumping, twisting, and somersaulting. Every other sentence is "Look at THIS trick." Since he's already interested, and we'd like him to pursue his interests safely, we decided to try a gymnastics class.

On Saturday, we took Duncan for a trial class at The Little Gym in Fishkill. He spent the first 20 minutes or so being shy, standing off from the rest of the class, with his chin tucked into his shoulder. He missed the entire vault and floor rotation that way. No somersaults :-( No jumping on the springboard:-( When he got over to the bars, though, he was hooked. He hung from the bar willingly and then pulled his feet up. He wanted to do it again and again and again. He tried three different kinds of bars and even walked on the balance beam. By the time the class was over, we had to remove him almost forcibly from the mats.

I like the philosophy of The Little Gym. They work with each child at the level he or she is, encouraging effort and personal success with little competitiveness. If it turns out that Duncan is good enough to compete or interested in competing, we'll think about moving him. For now, though, I think he'll have fun and learn some good, solid skills. There were two instructors scheduled to work with a group of ten kids. There was one boy with obvious attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder who kept running away from the group to do his own thing. The lead teacher was worried they could monitor all the kids with him running rampant so they called in reinforcements. I think they had 3 teachers for the rest of the lesson. I was happy with that flexibility. Some kids ran in and out throughout the lesson, and although the instructors tried to keep them engaged with the group, they were willing to let the kids do what they needed to do, within reason. There was another boy who continued to misbehave. The teacher quietly picked him up, carried him out to his mother, gave him a little time out, and then welcomed him back to the class. I thought they did a nice job of understanding the developmental needs of 3 to 4 year olds. At the end of the lesson, the lead instructor came out to tell us the skills the kids worked on and what larger skills they are building up to incrementally.

So...Duncan will be taking one lesson a week at The Little Gym this summer, and then we'll reevaluate. He can't wait to go back so he can learn new tricks!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Read Stuff

One of my favorite parts of my job is putting together summer reading lists. At Kildonan, we ask each child's tutor to provide a list of books from which the student can choose. Most years, I prepare a separate list myself. I share the list with the tutors to help them find books for their students, but I also have it on hand (and post it on the website) so that when parents lose the summer reading lists, or the student doesn't like the suggestions, there are other options at the ready. If you haven't read a young adult novel lately, I highly recommend it. They're generally quick reads, and many of them are outstanding. The authors have to sell their stories very quickly to a discriminating audience that has no tolerance for hypocrisy, a bad story, unbelievable characters, or clunky language. Somehow, I think those constraints often encourage them to produce outstanding writing. So pick up a young adult novel today; you'll be glad you did.

(If you'd like a copy of my list, let me know. I'm happy to share.)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


This is a little video I like to call "Power Tools." Be sure you turn up your volume. It's actually a pretty boring video of me panning around my office, but i wanted to share with you the exceptional work environment I'm enjoying lately. I shouldn't complain because it is a rare, rare thing for us to have the school building painted at Kildonan. It's fantastic that it's getting done. It's been going on for some time and is nearly finished. Unfortunately, much of the exterior of the building on my side needs to be replaced; that seems to involve many power tools. Last week, the painters replaced the framing around my office window. This week, they're working on the eaves (or something? I'm not an architect) right next to my desk. They're trying to do the loud work after school, but it's still difficult to concentrate. Last week, when we did diagnostic testing, I had to move to the other side of the building. So anyway, without further ado, my premier of "Power Tools."

Walk on: Tim Heaton

Monday, May 18, 2009

Someone's In the Kitchen with Dinah

I miss cooking. Well, to be more truthful, I miss cooking with Jamie. I love cooking, and we used to have a good time preparing meals together. When we had guests, or sometimes just when we cooked for ourselves, we experimented with new recipes, ingredients, and menus. As in many aspects of our life together, he is simply unafraid to try anything. If he decides he wants to make sushi, we do it. If he wants to make fussy cookies, we give it a try. King cake? No problem. Gnocchi? Why not. When I am the chief cook and menu planner, I often turn my nose up at recipes that contain unfamiliar ingredients or techniques. I have yet to touch fennel. Jamie and I had a nice rhythm in the kitchen too. I think cooking is a lot like dancing; there are few people I can work with in the kitchen. That partnerships demands a degree of subconscious communication and the willingness to lead or follow, as needed. These days, we cook to get a job done. Jamie puts together meals during the week because he usually beats me home. I try to do all the cooking on the weekends, both to offset his efforts and because I do actually enjoy it. I'm trying to branch out again and experiment a little more; it's trickier with a three year old at the table who doesn't like anything unfamiliar or mixed together. It's a lot more work to find the recipes, and it's risky to chance a dinner meltdown with Duncan. Nevertheless, it's one step toward inviting the people we used to be (before Duncan was born) to the table.

On that note, here's my kitchen queue. These are the things I've been dying to make but haven't had time to lately.

1. King Cake - Yes, I know Mardi Gras was months ago. I've craved the King Cake since then.
2. Brownies - I'll even make them whole wheat for extra nutritional punch.
3. Granola bars for Duncan - He's almost out. I still can't buy any that aren't manufactured on a line with peanuts.
4. Apple sauce - I simply cannot eat the stuff out of a jar any more. I don't know if Duncan cares, but I do.
5. Bread - I'll settle for the machine.
6. Cupcakes - It's been a while.
7. Texas Chocolate Cake - It keeps coming up as a favorite at Cooking Light. It comes with chocolate frosting.
8. Good Ol' Chocolate Chip Cookies - Just because.
9. A Fruit Pie - Do you know I have still not conquered a traditional pie crust? It's time.
10. Muffins - Any kind, any where. Duncan likes them, and they're a good school snack for him.
11. Scones - Again, I've never made them from scratch. It's time to start somewhere.
12. Cream Puffs - Yes, I know it's insane. But here's the thing. I used to make them when I was in high school. I was unafraid of the puff pastry. I still want to be that girl.
13. Carrot Cake - It's a vegetable!
14. Banana Bread - It's a fruit! It's easy to pretend it's healthy.
15. Shortbread - It's ambrosia. Enough said.

Someone's in the kitchen with Dinah. Someone's in the kitchen, I know...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Baaa Baaa (Black Sheep?)

Here are a few photos of the sheep and their mommies. They're not great quality photos because I really pushed the digital zoom farther than it should go, but they're still fun.


About half a mile down the road from us is a farm. For as long as I have known, it has been some sort of bovine operation; I don't dare wonder exactly what was being done to the cows and choose to think they were merely bred for the purposes of breeding more cows. Ignorance is bliss. In the last couple of weeks, however, we've discovered the cows have been replaced by sheep; even more exciting, it is a fertile breeding ground for sheep. Jamie said "I think those people just went out and bought a whole lot of pregnant sheep." It is a likely hypothesis. Anyway, they were grazing down by the road on Saturday when we went for a walk, and they were a lot of fun to watch and listen to (they sound vaguely similar to the sea lions of Pier 39). I am certain there are even more sheep today than there were Saturday because there were some pretty big mamas in the bunch. There are brown fuzzy sheep, black sheep with white spots that look like Holsteins, sheep with umbilical cords, sheep climbing on their mamas...a veritable panoply of sheep.

I apologize in advance for my poor panning skills and hope my video doesn't make you motion sick! Hopefully, Duncan's narration will make up for it!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Happy Mother's Day!

I love Mother's Day! I love it a little more because I stayed in bed until nearly 8 a.m. without feeling guilty. We had a lovely day. Duncan and Jamie took me to the Clermont State Historic Site for a garden tour and tea. The weather wasn't ideal for garden photos, but it didn't rain, and it wasn't unpleasantly cold. Duncan got a little antsy during the tour, and he and Jamie had to go off on their own to run around, but he was honestly the best behaved kid on the tour. We all loved the tea, which included such tasty morsels as lemon pound cake, cheese and crackers, cucumber sandwiches, and Linzer tortes. We came home for a nice dinner that I didn't have to cook, and then, on the turn of a dime, we were back into Sunday chores and the real world of domestic life. I'll post photos later, but I wanted to get in a post before I get lazy again.

Happy Mother's Day to my mom, who taught me most of what I know about being a Mom, Happy Mother's Day to Kathy who taught Jamie much of what he knows about being a good husband, Happy Mother's Day to my mommy friends who have taught (and continue to teach) me what they know, and Happy Mother's Day to Duncan, who is probably the best teacher of all.

Friday, May 8, 2009


We're celebrating Duncan's first fell week at preschool with NO ACCIDENTS! Apparently, for several days now, he has just been going when he needs to, with no fanfare and no nagging. We had a nice impromptu meeting with his new teacher (who is well meaning if a mite bit overly enthusiastic). In the last three weeks, Duncan has really settled into the preschool routine. He's more attentive, follows rules better, and eats better. They divided the kids into two smaller groups, and Charles told us that it has really benefited everyone. Duncan has also, apparently, been separated from Ryan, his friend but also frequent partner in crime. Nevertheless, he and Ryan have continued to be supportive of each other, which is really sweet. This afternoon, they held a tea for mommies, and I was sad that I couldn't attend, but it was is nice to pick him up, watch him play on the playground with his friends, and bring home a beautiful painting as well as a Mother's Day gift.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


Down at Pier 39 in San Francisco, sea lions lounge on rafts in the bay. They bark, play fight (to teach the young 'uns how to behave during mating season), cuddle, and generally "hang out." It is one of the most literally "awesome" sights I have ever seen, probably in my top 10 but definitely in my top 20. I could have watched them for hours. Young and old, they show up to address the serious business of entertaining curious tourists.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A Show of Words

These are a few of the amusing signs I saw while we were in San Francisco. Unfortunately, I didn't think to photograph them until I watched Bob photograph the chocolate sign and a piece of street art stuck onto a dumpster. I'll be more vigilant in the future. After our trip to the Chinese restaurant, he teased me for the remainder of the trip about taking my camera into the bathroom. The best one, which I missed because my camera was eating through batteries, was the word believe spray painted in green on the steps of a Catholic church in Chinatown.

Monday, May 4, 2009


Eegads. I missed a day of blogging. I wrote an entry on Saturday, the day Bob and I returned from San Francisco but didn't get to post it until Sunday. It was a good run (32 days), and I don't think that one day off will do me any serious damage. It is nice to be home even though Duncan has seen fit to test us at every turn. I think between the time I picked him up today and the time he went to bed, he earned 5 time-outs. And when I picked him up at preschool, he could not stop hugging me. Even though he was an angel for Jamie while I was away, I think he is working through some residual concern/doubt about whether it's okay for me to leave and then return again. I hope he gets over it soon because it's like the terrible two's all over again.

On a positive note, I am crowing like a rooster. Dawn sent me an e-mail a few days ago to tell me that as a result of reading my blog, she has stopped buying bottled water for home and has replaced paper napkins with the nice cloth napkins she already owned! Yay! And Marcie started cleaning her house with vinegar! The only thing better than feeling like you're making a difference is the recognition that you're paying it forward!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Homeward Bound

I was sad to leave San Francisco, but I miss Jamie and Duncan, and I’m ready to get back to work for what remains of the term. Unfortunately, it’s overcast today (at least so far). On our trip out, I was literally awestruck by the topography of the United States; meandering rivers, snow-topped, rocky mountain ranges, and acres upon acres of agricultural land are a sight I don’t see often. Maybe the air will clear so I’ll be able to see a little of the middle of the country.

In the times I have flown since 9/11, I have not felt particularly stripped of my civil rights. Sure, it feels a little strange to talk off my shoes to go through security, and it’s a slight inconvenience to remove my laptop from my bag, but I have felt that those actions were necessary precautions. Today, the whole experience made me cranky. The security staff at San Francisco International were cranky. I forgot I was wearing my wallet, I had to surrender my Diet Coke, and Bob got wanded and patted down for no apparent reason except, perhaps, that something about his height set off the detector. On the other hand, the Delta staff did eventually manage to get Bob a bulk head seat so he is flying in relative comfort after being crammed in the middle seat on our way to San Francisco. We will be happy to see JFK and begin making our way back to home sweet home.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Green on the West Coast

In my (very) limited experience, it is easier to make greener choices in San Francisco.

Many garbage cans are also equipped to collect recyclables.  I haven't seen one of these before, and it's such a simple concept that I don't understand why they're not everywhere.

The hotel has recycling bins outside the elevator on each floor.  Also, rather than distributing free newspapers to all guests, they set up a stand so people who want them can take them.  

This is the first public compost bin I have ever seen.  It was at the Ferry Building Marketplace, which hosts a number of gourmet stores, restaurants and coffee shops, and the farmers' market. I composted my coffee cup at breakfast as well as my Walgreen's bag.

When you get right down to it, there are only really three things at the marketplace that have to go in the trash!

Bravo, San Francisco!  I hope more of these simple ideas can make their way to the East Coast.  (Actually, to be fair, there was very little you could put in the trash at the Eric Carle museum, and that was in Massachusetts, but you get my point, I hope.)