Sunday, April 26, 2009

Toad Prince

At Squaw Valley Park this morning, we found a number of toads, including this lovely one, who decided Emily was just his type. You will notice the way his arms are wrapped around Emily's hand. For those wishing to give their children a different version of the birds and the bees, this position is called amplexus, and precedes the male fertilization of the female toad eggs.
As you can see, I think it is as fun for Emily as it is for him.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Monkey bars in a skirt

Ser has written about how Henry has his own distinct taste in clothing, and Hazel is a lot like Henry in this respect. When Emily was little, she generally accepted my choices for her clothes, but further, I tended to view dressing her with the same practicality I use in dressing myself. Matching meant neutrals with bright colors; appropriate clothes for play were overalls and tshirts. Emily either tends to agree with me due to her own native instincts, or I have pushed her into it - I like to think we are just alike.
But Hazel is an Oursbourn, like her paternal grandmother, and clothes which match to her don't follow the rules I know. At first, when she was 2 and insisted on wearing dresses everywhere, I thought, mistakenly, that perhaps Emily was my outdoorsy child. But that was narrow minded of me; Hazel has taught me something different.
Girls who run and get muddy, girls who stomp in puddles at the bus stop, girls who climb and swing on rope swings and do monkey bars: these are not tomboys anymore, as I once happily considered myself. Hazel is a Girl, and she plays Outside. She has taught me something I didn't know about nature and nurture, and about self-expression and identity. Being a girl doesn't mean putting your dresses on the hanger before playing outside.
Dresses, too, are washable.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day

This morning and early afternoon featured classic Earth Day weather in Pittsburgh - cool and wet. But, as you can see from the sky in Emily's photo of her sister's south side, by sunset the skies were clear, and the late afternoon was beautiful for a trip to the playground. I am such a wimpy parent about homework on evenings like this, when it seems that being outside just can't get all the time it deserves. Tonight I have given up on Emily working on her book report - we are saving it for Sunday afternoon, apparently, given our schedule between now and then. I'm hoping for cold rain on Sunday, beginning about 4 pm., lasting until that book report is done. Even if it is on Shel Silverstein, and he does deserve better.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Turn off the TV week?

Today Emily brought home a flier from school, with fun facts (average 2-11 year old child watches 1000+ hours of TV a week?!) and a signup for Turn off the TV Week. I have so many thoughts about this, I hardly know where to begin.

First, last week might have been seen informally as Turn On the TV Week for my daughters, since they spent a week with grandparents, and therefore had access to TV. They watched all their favorite shows and several new ones, familiarizing themselves with the modern genre of talent shows. I see this as an important aspect of their education: cultural literacy. In addition, as you can see, this enables my dad, even when he is only home from his rehabilitation hospital for a couple of hours, to catch up on the world of Emily's thoughts. He does this with the same willing acceptance he showed when he listened and enjoyed music with me in my teenage years.

Second, the irony of the timing could hardly be greater, because on Monday I have an appointment with their principal for me to be a complainer. I have spent 4 years now hearing about indoor recess on any remotely wet or cold day, or "blacktop recess" if it was wet yesterday and the ground is still muddy. This is, to me, outrageous, especially on a safe, clean school campus of at least 20 acres, with lots of open, green space to play. I have spent the last year waiting for the new principal to change this problem, after making a very gentle comment at the year's beginning, but I've given up waiting and hoping and am now about to be demanding, with scientific papers and books and the power of persuasion which I may not have, but have to try out.

Tuesday Emily will take her turn off the TV week form to school, with my signed commitment to have our TV off for the week. Not too hard - we just got a TV at Christmas, but still have no stations, no cable. I can't claim screen-limit virtues - we watch plenty of movies at home, and the girls play computer games and watch pirated TV on YouTube. But I can say this: I am very happy that the TV on is still a celebration for the girls, while TV off is the state they take for granted.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Spring break in Kentucky

One of the only real bummers of all being in school - either teaching or learning - is that there
are at least 2 different times for spring break, ours and theirs. The bummer, though, is all for me and Brian, as the girls get to have something I always wished for in childhood, and rarely got: uninterrupted spoiling by grandparents. This past week the girls were down in my favorite yard on earth, with daffodils in bloom and spring in full swing, while their parents stayed here and worked.
It wasn't all bad for us, with dinners and evenings to ourselves. We made the best of it, all things considered. But these girls made out like bandits, with a midweek sleepover with neighbor friends, shopping, an early egg hunt, and a whole lot of playing outside, rain and shine both.
I went down to pick them up this weekend, and got to catch up with in-laws and with my parents. Dad is doing much better now - walking well, clear-headed, and with lots of physical therapy at a good rehab place. Even he got to come home and snuggle and play dollhouse with them. I got to go to the Arboretum, though not as much as I'd have liked. Pittsburgh is my present: exciting, beautiful, with good jobs for us and school for the girls. But Kentucky continues to tug at me, with nostalgia of my own childhood, and with the joy of watching the girls make a place for themselves there, too.

Friday, April 3, 2009

I've got sunshine...

One of my fondest spring memories of childhood was when I was about 8 or 9, and my BFF (before the term existed), Conley, invited me to her family cabin in April near Cumberland Lake. That trip was incredibly rainy, as April should be, and one of the outings of the weekend was to a place her grandmother, "Beans", called Daffodil Hill.

It was classic spring weather, just like today in Pittsburgh: rainy, blustery, cool. If I didn't know better, I'd call it dreary. I wouldn't say I was enthusiastic about the walk in the woods, but suddenly, the woods were lit from the ground by what seemed like millions of daffodils.

Since then, I have carried that image in my mind as a garden to aspire to. I'll probably never go back to Monticello, Kentucky in April and see that particular spot, but I have tried to recreate it. Before we had our own yard, I described the image to my in-laws, and they have planted probably a 1000 daffodils in their own little woodland - which unfortunately, I don't get to see at peak bloom nearly as often as I'd like. But in turn, they have helped us stock up our own daffodil population.

We're not quite "there" yet, with "there" being the image I still carry of that solid swath of buttery yellow under a wet, grey sky and dark tree trunks. But progress is being made. This year, colonies of bright daffodils peek out from the wet brown leaves, under the fertile, dripping spring rain, and I can see little bits of Daffodil Hill, to share with my own daughters. I've heard people calling this weather dreary, but I don't really see it that way. The sunshine is just in a different place today.