windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (heart family)
On Saturday, Graeme turned 7 years old. He doesn't have much in the way of friends in the area, so we decided to make a weekend trip out of his birthday in lieu of a party. We had a wonderful time together!

Saturday our trip was delayed while Graeme attended his ballet class and then rehearsals for his roles in The Nutcracker. (I can't remember if I mentioned here or only on Facebook, but he was cast as a Party Boy, as a Toy Soldier, and as a Gingerbread Boy which means pretty much all day, every Saturday from now until December, he'll be at the studio.) Each week's rehearsal schedule is different and this time, he was in class from 9-10am and then went back from 1:30-4:15pm. Daniel and I split up. While Daniel and Elena ran errands, wrapped presents, and finished packing the car for our trip, I manned a chair in the lobby of the studio, scrambling to get Graeme fed, watered, and properly dressed in the short (sometimes non-existent) breaks between rehearsals in various rooms. There was a lot of shoe fixing and tights hitching up. :D It felt like being a boxing trainer--quick pep talks, a stool to sit on, and a water bottle. And not that it's anything all that strenuous but for Graeme, at his age, it's pretty much the most committed, hard-work kinda thing he's ever done. I'm proud that he'd trade his Saturdays to tackle something so big. <3


Once he was done, he changed into street clothes and we loaded into the hybrid for the drive up to Orlando--about two and half hours northwest of us. Graeme wanted to go to Ripley's Believe it or Not Museum as he's obsessively interested in all those bizarre facts and "did you know" kinda books lately. We got the the museum around 7pm (it was open until Midnight, so no worries there). The building is constructed to look like it is sinking into a sinkhole. (Though impossible to get a decent photo of it unless you're dodging traffic on International Drive.) Graeme had a great time. It was a strange place. The galleries held a mixture of things from African fertility statues to shrunken heads to clothes worn by some of the world's tiniest (and biggest) people. There were iconic coin operated machines--like the Zoltan fortune teller--and there was weird art like a massive image of The Last Supper created entirely with dryer lint. There was a Mona Lisa mosaic made of carefully cut tiles of toasted bread in various shades of doneness and another mosaic of Frankenstein's monster made with computer keys. I don't know what to make of the combination of optical illusions and wax figures of people with unusual talents, the oversized wooden chair and the tiny starfish under glass. Weird. Sometimes interesting but weird. :D


More odd Ripley's stuff under the cut... )

After the museum, we checked into our nearby Homewood Suites (free thanks to all of Daniel's business travel!) and ordered Thai food from @Siam, a place we've tried before and liked. Graeme got to open his presents over pad thai and cupcakes, quite happily. (We'd bought him a few books filled with interesting facts and a giant Scooby Doo pillow pet sort of thing. My sister-in-law sent him some Scooby Doo chapter books and my Mom sent some of those toy spy gadgets including room alarms and eavesdropping headphones, etc. :) ) I ordered a mango yellow curry with tofu and mango sticky rice for dessert and it was so happy.



On Sunday, we got out the door and drove to Magic Kingdom around 9am. We have season passes through February (and Elena's free until she turns 3), so it was fun to take advantage of that to extend Graeme's birthday celebration with a couple low-cost days at Disney World. Everything was decorated autumnally for their Not-So-Spooky Halloween party later that night. The park attendance was surprisingly light for a weekend, so we were able to get on a lot of rides with minimal waiting. We'd reserved Fast Passes for Dumbo, Buzz Lightyear, and The Haunted Mansion--which we walked right on--and we also had time for It's A Small World, Peoplemover, Barnstormer, the Carousel, and lunch at Columbia Harbour House. By about 2pm, Elena had conked out from the heat and we were ready to call it a day. We got back to the hotel, doled out snacks and television shows to the kids in their room and then Daniel and I conked out for a two hour nap. (Divine.) That night Graeme opened the second half of his presents (including a rock painting kit and a book to help memorize state capitals and presidents from his other grandparents) and we ate leftover Thai food and watched HGTV together. (Beachfront Bargains).

On Monday, the Magic Kingdom was nutso-banana-pants. We'd packed all our gear up into the car in the morning and arrived about 9:30am to crowds two or three times what they'd been on Sunday. The UV index was an 8, high enough that we could actively feel our skin frying outside despite our thick coatings of heavy duty sunscreen, and the humidity had the 'feels like' temperature up to 96 degrees. It was pretty miserable. The lines were so long for the Monorail and the Ferry boat into the park that we were directed into the line for the *buses*. That sucked. More people than buses, standing room only, everyone cram on and try to keep your children from being trampled in the rush for the doors. :/

We reminded ourselves that we were there to do a couple things and to go home when we wanted. So, we had Fast Passes to meet Tinkerbell (Elena had spent two days carrying her talking Captain Hook doll around and Tinkerbell was adorably offended at her loyalties. Graeme just stared at her dress, kinda starstruck, and insisted he was not a pirate despite his blue and white striped shirt.) We also got to ride Winnie the Pooh's honeypot cars and then Peter Pan on Fast Passes. We opted for things with short lines as we found them--Pirates of the Caribbean first thing in the morning, two rounds of Barnstormer, a trip around Magic Kingdom on the train, Aladdin's flying carpets and pineapple Dole Whips for the overheated kids. We bought a few souvenirs in the Emporium and then headed home around 2pm when the heat was unbearable.

We got home early enough for the kids to work on their chalk art in the driveway while I caught up on dishes and laundry. And, once the kids were in bed, Daniel and I had dinner and watched the finale to The Quest together! :D

Late last night, Graeme developed a fever of 102 out of nowhere. He was miserable and it was climbing, so we did the parenting scramble of Tylenol, Motrin, and a cool bath to bring his temperature down. Today, after some sleep, he's back to normal and ready to resume his busy seven year-old life.

Disney photos under the cut! )
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (treehugging graeme)

While a peer with his birthdate won't be eligible to enter public Kindergarten until Fall of 2013, Graeme wanted to go to school so badly we began his formal homeschooling last month. We are making a concerted effort to document the everyday work we do together and I thought it would be fun to share some snapshots of that here!

Graeme is being taught five general subjects, areas of focus for me to make sure he's getting a thorough education. They are: Reading and Writing, Math and Measures, Science and Nature, Arts and Activities, and Compassion and the Craft. Compassion and the Craft probably sounds like every pagan-fearing parent's worst nightmare--but it is mostly about ethics, values, compassion, good citizenship, and being mindful in the world.

This month, in addition to the work we did each day at home, Graeme also participated in some outside events. He's enrolled in a preschool skills class at Gymboree for two hours a week where he gets to glue googly eyes onto things and jump around a play gym in his socked feet. He took a course at the local nature preserve, "Little Pioneers", where they tromped around in the woods for two hours a week and learned about the lifeways, conservation, and habitat of some area wildlife like skunks, turtles, opossums, snakes, ants, and frogs. He also just finished up the course year in Preballet I (a 45 minute class each week) with his spring dance recital. As always, we met up with our homeschooling group for some social and learning time, too.

For the past month, we've been working on an animal unit. My main objective, from an animal perspective, was to teach him the difference between vertebrates and invertebrates (or reinforce the notion as we'd taught it last year) and to teach him the general characteristics of the five (main) categories of vertebrates: amphibian, bird, fish, mammal, and reptile. We read books about animals and did all sorts of assorted animal worksheets. Not everything was about animals--but I tried to tie the concept in to animals for fun. We learned about map-reading with animals, the concept of graphs (how many pets does Joe have? how many pets does Sally have?), even the majority of our addition and subtraction worksheets had some contrived animal hook. The idea of the focused unit, at this age, is really just to keep me entertained. :)

We have had a wonderful time with it, though. Over the month, Graeme fulfilled the requirements to have our yard certified as a National Wildlife Foundation "Backyard Habitat" and got the certificate in his name to proudly prove it. We've added strategic brush piles, feeders, and now our new bird bath to increase the value of our suburban plot to local wildlife. We've seeded a big bed in the back yard with a colorful mix of bird and butterfly-attractive wildflowers. He fashioned a 'butterfly bar' to feed fruit-loving butterflies, hornets, and other animals and then made the food to stock it. Graeme's learned a bit about animal tracking (black bear, raccoon, opossum, skunk, turkey, gray wolf, great blue heron, and whitetailed deer tracks, specifically). We've had animal art projects and he's watched some videos about animals from the arctic to the orient.

On a more general front, Graeme's been working on his handwriting, his spelling, and his abilities in single-digit addition and subtraction the most. Any chance I had to convince him to write more--I did. :) This usually took the shape of crossword puzzles, secret codes, competitive write-the-word-I-say spelling bees, and greeting cards and notes to each other.


Graeme's handmade metamorphosis poster--I helped him cut out some of the items since his scissor skills aren't great, but he drew and designed everything.

More images of his work under the cut... )

I've also made it a point to record the books that we're reading together every day. (Though who knows how many books Graeme is reading during his hours on the library floor with his feet up on the big comfy chair!) (I'm being massively unfair (and lazy) by only noting the authors, not the illustrators.) Some of our favorites this month have been:

Earth Mother (Ellen Jackson)
Earth Mother and Her Children (Sibylle von Olfers)
Elephant Prince: Story of Ganesh (Amy Noveski)
Forest Child (Marni McGee)
The Mother's Day Mice (Eve Bunting)
Our Family Tree (Lisa Westberg Peters)
Rabbit's Song (S.J. Tucker and Trudy Herring)
Room on the Broom (Julia Donaldson)
Something from Nothing (Phoebe Gilman)
Strega Nona Meets Her Match (Tomie dePaola)
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble (William Steig)
Too Many Fairies (Margaret Read MacDonald)
The Trouble with Dragons (Debi Gliori)
Ugly Vegetables (Grace Lin)
When the Earth Wakes (Ani Rucki)
Where the Wild Things Are (Maurice Sendak)

As of yesterday, we've moved on to a Money unit. I anticipate a lemonade stand in Graeme's future! :)

Graeme, reading over my shoulder, says: "In my future? Me, a lemonade stand?"

Guess the cat's out of the bag on that one, huh? :D
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (ocean mom)

Since long before he could ever articulate why, one of Graeme's favorite board books has been Peter Sis' Ballerina!. In the story, the imaginative Terry goes to her bedroom to dance, digging through her dress-up trunk for all the costume pieces she might need. She puts on her feather boa and dances a fire dance or her violet cape and does a floating dance. The brilliance of the book is that it is entirely black and white until she puts on one of these colorful accessories and then she is, literally, transformed into the very figure of a prima ballerina. The dancing brings the vibrancy, the stories the color.

About a year ago, when Graeme was two, he told me he wanted to grow up to be a ballerina. It was one of those out-of-the-blue announcements that toddlers sometimes make that feel, eerily, important. I said, "Well, boys don't grow up to be called ballerinas, but if you want to grow up to be a ballet dancer, you could. Would you want to take a class and learn ballet?" Without hesitation, Graeme said, "Yes!" and I went about finding an option for him as a little boy in diapers. As luck would have it, our local park service was offering a class for 3 and 4 year olds and potty training wasn't a requirement. So, early in January, Graeme was suited up in his ballet togs and introduced into his first class.

The teacher, thank the Gods, swooped him up from the start. "My little Baryshnikov! Oh, we have a prince! Boys are always the stars of the show--you'll get to be right in the middle." The reaction of his fellow students, however, was more dumb shock. "Is that a boy? Are you a boy?" Over time, though, the ten of them have bonded over post-class trips to the park, paper towel plates heaped with pretzel sticks, and Graeme's abominable abilities at hide-and-seek.

Saturday, all of the students of the district's dance program, ages 3-17, were brought in for professional photographs. It was the first time that Graeme has seen any of the other dancers who will all be performing together in the spring recital *this* upcoming Saturday and the first time that anyone outside of his little group has seen him. The school hallway outside the photography studio was sheer pandemonium. Employees are scrambling around with clipboards trying to herd each age group, on time, into the studio for a class and then individual photographs. Outside, parents are trying to work some last minute miracles on messy hair, torn tights, and smushed tutus. It was crazy. So walking through this scene of dance bags and pink (pink everwhere!) comes Graeme in his little boy's dance costume. He's calm. He's collected. He's holding my hand. We pass a girl from one of the older classes, a four or five year old at the most, and she literally points her finger at Graeme (who is passing two feet away from her) and positively shrieks with laughter. "Look! Look! It is a *boy* in ballet class! A *boy* wearing ballet slippers! HAHAHAHAHA!" It was, to her, the funniest thing on the earth. She was literally rolling on the floor and holding her stomach at one point. Her mother, who had been tucking her little slipper ties out of the way, said not one word. Two more classmates of the jokester joined her and she renewed her shouts, "Look over there! Oh my god, look!! Isn't that funny?! It is a BOY! A BOY IN BALLET!! HAHAHAHAHA!" I mean, she was cackling and sneering and the finger-pointing never stopped and the fifty of us crammed into the hallway together all heard her even over the hubbub and craziness of the moment. I was gut shot. Graeme grew still and white as a sheet. His grip on my hand tightened but he didn't turn around.

I accept, because I'm a realist, that there will be people who make fun of Graeme because he loves ballet. I expected these mythical bullies to become an issue around age 8 and that they'd be in soccer or football or something. What I couldn't have expected, in a million years, is that I'd hear some poisonous, thoughtless, hurtful things from a preschooler who, herself, takes ballet. Shouldn't she be one of his allies?

I said, brightly, something like, "I know! A boy, isn't it wonderful! You girls need a lot more boys in ballet. Have you ever watched a ballet? It is the boys who pick up the girls. The boys are the princes! It'd be a very sad ballet without any boys." The mother, who could have run with it, remained silent and her daughter gave me the sort of withering look that I thought only teens were capable of. I wasn't going to change her mind and, in fact, there was a lot more pointing and whispering and giggling when her other pink tutu'd cronies joined her. God. I'm talking about someone not even old enough for kindergarten, most likely, and already she's bigoted. Children aren't born with prejudice. They aren't born to classify some things as 'girly'. They learn it and saints alive--someone taught this girl to hate and she's, at most, FIVE.

Saturday, my son Graeme will be in his first public ballet performance. In a school of hundreds of dancers, he is the only male dancer, with the exception of a boys-only teenage hip-hop class. It's impossible to miss him. He'll be in all black in the middle of a sea of jewel-bright tutus. He might not turn the right way or quite remember his place but he'll be up there dancing his heart out. He loves the ballet, you see, and gods bless him nobody has convinced him yet to be ashamed of it.

windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (baby fozzie)
Daniel: Hey Graeme, how's your diaper? Do you need a new diaper?

Graeme: *sly singsong voice* I'm not going to tell you!

Daniel: Is your diaper poopy?

Graeme: I'm not going to tell you! Smell it!

Daniel: Tell me what's in your diaper.

Graeme: No. It is a guessing game!

Daniel: Okay. Are there zebras in your diaper?

Graeme: Nooooooo! *smiling* That's silly! There's no room in my diaper for zebras. There'd be poop on them!
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (baby fozzie)
I'm still hoping, selfishly, that this will catch on with my other thrifting friends. :D


Thrift Find: 2 Holztiger Panda Bear Toys
Found At: Goodwill in Lake Zurich, Illinois
Price Paid: $1.75
Why I'm So Excited: This pair was mistakenly shelved with the decorative wooden plaques and knicknacks when, in fact, they are two beautiful wooden toys from the (amazing) Holztiger company. They retail, together, about $22-$25. I love wooden toys and wish that all of Graeme's toys were wooden. He already had a Holztiger Chicken and Rabbit that I bought him at Farm Sanctuary and now these. They are satin smooth and will last forever. I can't believe something this heirloom-quality and never-played-with and pricey ever made it to a thrift store. See more Holztiger toys here.



Thrift Find: Vintage Toy Stable
Found At: Goodwill in Mundelein, Illinois
Price Paid: $1.90
Why I'm So Excited: It is a giant, sturdily made stable with a central aisle and four stalls that would fit big traditional Breyer model horses. It's in beautiful shape, just missing one screw on the roof. I'm assuming it is vintage though there are no marks or company info on it. But still--it is so perfect and so charming and how-did-that-end-up-priced-for-under-2-dollars?! Graeme spent a lot of time hugging it at home, he was so happy to have a big warm refuge for his animal toys to play in during the winter. ;)
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (silver cloak)

The December snows are gone. We had a couple of days in the 40s and 50s, along with heavy rain, that obliterated most of the snow that had fallen throughout our cold December. Yesterday, I ventured down to the beach to get one look at the place before the temperatures dropped back to freezing again overnight. The creek was running high and all along the beach great curtains of mist were rising. Underfoot, the build up of ice and snow was still holding on, except for the band closest to the water where it had broken up into six and eight foot tall boulders of dirty brown ice with crevasses and undercut caves and bare spots, closest to the water, where the stony beach shone through. I clambered down to the water's edge and looked for sea glass and pottery shards among the wave-polished rocks. The mists rose until all I could see was the little strip of beach around me and the walls of ice at my back that I'd have to climb back up to get home. It was an astounding sight.

This is normally a flat and stony beach. Every bit of that looks brown and rocky is, in fact, part of a giant 8 foot tall sheet of ice and snow that'd developed over the past month.

More photos of beach stones, sea pottery, and sea glass finds. )

Yesterday, for New Year's Eve, we went to a party with a friend of mine at a play cafe where parents can eat (or drink good coffee) while the children are free to play in one of several adjacent toy-filled rooms. The play cafe was offering a breakfast buffet (including oatmeal and fruit salad and plenty of animal crackers) and we all celebrated the countdown with Elmo and Big Bird as it neared 12:00 (noon). There was a balloon drop and music and everything. It was a lot of fun for all of us.


Last night, we made salads and watched the first episode of Regency House Party together and went to Target to spend a gift card that my grandfather had given us for the holidays. (We bought Graeme a pair of dance pants for his ballet class, Daniel got a cover for his iPad, and I bought a 2011 calendar on clearance and the priced-crazy-cheap Bell, Book, and Candle, Persuasion, and The Princess Bride on DVD. It was great fun. I couldn't afford a witchy calendar this year but the one I found for so little is "Forces of Nature" photography and that's pretty inspiring all on its own. :)

Daniel and I have started back on our diets. They were interrupted back in July when I had my surgery and I've since gained back 6 pounds. Too many holiday meals and too much rampant junk-food eating. We're both still well below the starting weights we had in May, so we're making good progress.

We track our meals, down to the last calorie, on an iPhone app called Lose It! I'm looking to lose about two pounds a week, so it calculates the calories I'm allowed to eat each day based on my weigh-ins. So yesterday, I was allowed 1135 calories. Dropping from probably 3000-4000 calories a week, cold turkey, to 1100 is a bit painful. Every emotional, hormonal part of me starts to get snappy and defensive and angry. How dare I be restricted in what I eat? How dare I answer to anyone, even if that 'anyone' is me, about the cookies I'm wanting to have for dinner every night? I want bread with butter and an entire avocado and about four or five vegan cupcakes. I want to eat until I feel sick, overstuffed, distressingly over fed. I want to snack on something salty and then something sweet and then something salty and then something sweet until bedtime. Also, I'd like to drink something other than water. (Rachel, that makes us fat and sick and uncomfortable!) There are warring parts within me. And yet, that voice only lasts a week or two, in my experience, before I start to feel unified and peaceful and full and healthy. Shaking that voice of addiction is hard for me, though. Food *is* my vice and my crutch and my poison.

So yesterday, for example, I ate:

Breakfast (237 calories)
1/2 raw carrot
1 cup oatmeal (made with water) sprinkled with cinnamon
1/8 cup golden raisins

Lunch (195 calories)
1/2 cup cooked spaghetti
1/2 cup cooked spaghetti squash
1/4 cup green peas
1 spoonful Ciao Bella Blood Orange Sorbet

Dinner (203 calories)
2 cups raw spinach
1/4 of an avocado
1/4 cup raw broccoli slaw
2 Tablespoons fat-free low-calorie dressing
1.5 cups steamed broccoli w/ spices

Snacks (570 calories) <---these should be fruits and vegetables. Within a few days, I'll probably be choosing more filling snacks and fewer 'oh, please! just a little!' junk foods. Once the monster is quieter about my choices. ;)
1 cup of McDougall's vegan pilaf
1 ice cream bar
3 cookies <--this was my midnight snack that pushed me 60 calories over my target for the day.

So yes, that ought to keep me busy for the next six weeks or so. :) Then, I can figure out a middle ground of healthful maintenance.

So what has your New Year brought? :) Any fun events happening in your life?
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (baby fozzie)

Graeme was working on some sun-inspired paintings for Yule. I had to cut our conversation off short, as the video was getting too long for Flickr, but I wanted everyone to be able to see him in his natural environs--elbow-deep in paint. :)
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (Default)
Once upon a time, there was a baby yak who wanted to play with a yoyo by throwing it. His mommy said, "Don't throw the yoyo!". So he got into a boat, his mother came too, and there they met a seahorse who only the baby could hear. Everyone in town heard the seahorse and the mother said, "I think I hear something!"

They all go into the house they were living in, only the baby yak couldn't so he went back to the boat. Then the Daddy yak came and said, "Let's get in a truck!" only they didn't have one so he started to make a truck out in the backyard. When it was done, the three of them got into the truck and drove to the house [where] Grandma and Grandpa was. Inside. That the end.
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (underworld fae)
Halloween 2007 (0 years old)

Halloween 2008 (1 year old)

Halloween 2009 (2 years old)

Trick or Treat!

Halloween 2010 (3 years old)
So now this year, the elephant costume is sadly outgrown and Graeme had to pick a new outfit. I took him to eBay, brought up every costume for auction in his size, and he got to pick. He chose a green and brown Peter Pan costume from the Disney Store that, in his mind, would be an elf costume. It's pretty fantastic. So that was all set until he saw a pair of bright green fairy wings in the store that he wanted *desperately* for his costume. I said, "Well, I thought you wanted to be an elf?" and he said, "I can be an elf and I can wear wings and I'll be a cricket fairy!"

Which, really, I can't argue with. So cricket fairy it is. Can't wait to take pictures. :D Like last year, he wants to hand out treats to other people--not interested in going trick or treating much himself. Sweet boy.
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (Default)
Birthday Balloons
Does anyone have any leftover (deflated) birthday balloons in their junk drawer somewhere? Graeme has made a request to have balloons for his birthday. Any color will do, I'll just blow them up, tape them to chopsticks, dump them into a vase and call it a centerpiece. :D

If you have any to spare that you'd like to drop in an envelope and send our way, let me know! :) We'd be very grateful. :)

Black(ish) Seed Beads (Sent by [ profile] lilith42: THANKS! :D :D :D)
In that same vein, if you have black (or blackish) seed beads, Graeme would sure like a few. He's making salt dough snowmen as Yule gifts and we're having to replace "coal" eyes with toothpick-poked holes-for-eyes. Ten to twenty beads would be more than plenty. :)
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (Default)
One of Graeme's favorite games is to read pretend books. He'll snatch a pretend book out of thin air, open his palms out to examine it, and begin telling the story he finds inside. He likes us to do the same and it makes for an excellent game in the car, during diaper changes, anytime when a quiet storytelling exchange is in order.

Yesterday, it evolved into playacting.

We were laying in bed together, talking, when he discovered an invisible book on the coverlet. His story went like this:

Once upon a time, far away, there was a butterfly named Fairy. She was looking for nectar to eat and flew into a dark bear's cave. Fairy was afraid of bears! The bear was afraid of butterflies! The bear roared and fell, hurting his back. The butterfly poured cold water onto his back where it was hurt and then kissed it to make it better. "Do you want to be friends?", she asked the bear. The bear said, "Sure!". The two of them left the cave and found a big, big flower tree that was green and brown with lots of pink flowers for Fairy to drink from. The End.

Then it was my turn to read a pretend book. Graeme handed one over that, he said, was about a bear. I began to retell a familiar story about a butterfly and a bear, only from the point of view of the bear. Graeme was spellbound and by the time the two had retired to the sunny meadow with the giant flowering tree together, was determined to playact the story with me.

"I need to get my bear costume", Graeme said.

"Your pretend bear costume?"

"No! I need a real one!"

I rummaged in his old things until I found his fuzzy teddy bear coat with the ears on the hood. He was content wearing it as a cape draped over his head. I dug out a pair of my fairy wings so that I could play the butterfly and we spent maybe half an hour acting out the story and them improvising further scenes in their unlikely friendship. It was pure magic. At one point, I went and got my "fairy camera" and we took pictures of each other while eating imaginary berries.

The Bear and the Butterfly photo(11) Sleeping Bear

Later in the afternoon, he wanted to dress up as a "cowboy butterfly" and then run around with a musical chant of "flutter flutter flutter flutter--Howdy!". I live a charmed life.

Butterfly Cowboy Butterfly Cowboy Butterfly Cowboy
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (Default)
This morning, Graeme wanted to look through a package of phonics flashcards he has with me. He randomly picked the "gl" card from the pile, which had a list of words that start with "gl" like glue, glad, glove, glom. He asked me what glue was and I was sorta shocked to think that in all the ambitious paint and crafty projects where I've had to tarp off entire rooms, he'd never used glue. I rummaged around for my bottle of Mod Podge, unscrewed the top and showed him the glue sloshing around inside. I explained what it was and how it worked and he said, "Where is a paintbrush? Let's glue something!"

Well, he used his amazing toddler radar to find a couple paintbrushes for us while I rummaged for magazines and catalogs we could cut up.

He was so careful and controlled brushing the glue onto each piece and very decisive about what he wanted me to cut out for him. When he was done with his (and had signed it with a giant M and an upside down G) he helped me make a collage, too.


I hope I never forget the sight of him on his little bathroom step stool, rinsing his blue paintbrush under the tap.
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (Default)
I haven't posted much of substance about Graeme in quite some time! In September, he'll turn three years old. I can't wrap my mind around that. Three! While I'll have keenly felt the exhaustion of those thousand plus days of parenting, it still is an amazing feat. Three! Certainly no longer a baby and well on his way to becoming a little boy. Pardon the ramble, but I don't want to forget!

He has become a complete nightowl here in Florida. Back in the old days, when I was nursing him to sleep, I'd often miss out on everything because I'd be going to sleep at 6pm and getting up, alone in the world, with him at 3 or 4am. Now, Daniel and I are hoping he'll go to sleep so we can follow suit! He's suddenly shown a complete aversion for his bed. Like, it is extremely fun to jump on but a fate worse than death at night! Instead, he'll stay up until midnight and then curl up to sleep on the living room floor. We wait until he's good and asleep and carry him to bed. Some nights, he'll wake up frantically calling our names (he sleeps three feet away from us) and we haul him up into bed between us for the rest of the night. It's weird. I'm sure there's logic there for him. :)

We are transitioning, about two and a half years too late, to cloth diapers. He loves them, but there is no doubt that they need to be changed more frequently than disposable. I'm not quite with the program yet, so there are still times I turn around to find that he's exceeded max capacity and is standing in a pair of wet shorts. I thought the laundry would be disgusting and never-ending, but really that aspect of it has been easy-peasy. I still put him in a disposable overnight, but I imagine that'll stop once I figure out the timing of everything. Really, though, I'm super happy with the cloth. I can imagine how fuzzy and nice it must feel to wear them! Last month, when I put the first trial FuzziBunz diaper on, he cooed to himself, "Oh! These are very comfy diapers, Mommy!" :D Out of curiosity, I've let him pick whether he wanted to wear a cloth or disposable diaper at every change and he has *always* picked cloth. So that's going swimmingly.

At last check, Graeme is about 33 lbs and stands 3'2". He's getting away with clothes in the 3T/4T range and has giant size 10 feet. :) Our get-him-in-the-NBA retirement plans are really proceeding nicely. ;)

He is still watching more television than he should, though it buys me some delightful showering, reading, and internet time each week. His favorite shows, if he could craft his dream line-up, would be Blue's Clues, Super Why!, Team Umizoomi, Special Agent Oso, Sesame Street, and Dora the Explorer.

Graeme is learning to read. He loves playing games with some "flashing" cards we have that have letters and phonics. Some words, like "cat", he can read on sight. Others, with some prompting like "That word is a color. What color starts with the letter "R"? or "Do you know what animal's name this is?" he can get. He knows all the letters, upper and lower case, and knows what sounds they make. One of his favorite games currently goes like this:

1. He drives his open-bed toy truck around the toy room, looking for any animals that are waiting for a ride. They call out to him in some hilarious toddler impersonations of animals speaking, and hop in. He drives the truck with one big push across the room to the white board where I'm waiting.
More of the game... )

Graeme is such a good-hearted little boy. He says when he grows up, he wants to be a superhero to help and/or save people. The other day, at an indoor playspace, he saw one of the adults cleaning up drop a toy, unbeknownst to her, and walk away. He picked up what she'd dropped and raced after her, unbidden, to return it. "Here, you dropped your toy!" All of his games involve, in some way or another, helping. At the park, he likes to help clean up litter to help the squirrels have a nice place to live. His toy animals are always asking for and receiving help to do things. When one lion cub is scared to go down a slide, a mommy zebra is there to help encourage him. He astounds me with how purehearted, kind, empathetic, and willing-to-serve he can be. The other day, he had this kinda sad experience at a park behind the library. I think it sorta illustrates his personality and the sort of things I want to insulate him from.

The park was empty as it was the hottest part of the day. He played by himself, climbing up and sliding down slides and collecting and counting pinecones with me. Then, a mom arrived with her three children. One, a little girl, was Graeme's age. She came up to him and just stared. He smiled and said, "Hi! What's your name?" She ran away. He turned to her retreating back and called out, "Wait! Wait for me!" but she was soon across the park. He asked me what her name was. "I don't know", I said, "but you could go ask her Mommy." The mom was standing only ten or so feet away from us while her daughter was maybe 50 feet away. So Graeme trots up to the mother, stands at her knee, looks up and says, "Hi! My name is Baby Graeme. What is your baby's name?" She looks down at him and walks away without replying.

So then he comes back to me, deflated, and says, "I am very sad." "Why are you sad?" "I'm sad because nobody wants to play with me."

Knife through heart.

A few minutes later, Graeme gave it a game try again. He followed the three kids up onto a bit playground structure and was going to follow them down a big slide. He sat down and said, "I'm scared", which was really just an invitation to play with (and encourage) him. The six year-old boy in the group called him a scaredy-weiner. The mother says, "Tyler! You can say that to your little sister but you canNOT say things like that to children you don't know." (OMGWTFBBQ)

So Graeme kinda glumly scooted back from the top of the slide and climbed down the stairs back to me. The mom was rummaging in her purse and looking irritated. Graeme walked back up to her and said, "Do you need help? I can help you!"

Again, she just looked down at him and then went back to whatever she was doing.

I smiled, sweet as pie, and repeated what he'd said to her. "Oh, yes I thought that's what he said. What does he think he's going to help me with?"

"Oh, I don't know. Maybe he'll get us a sunshade and some grapes, maybe fan us with a palm frond. *chuckles* It can be sad for my son to go to the park because he's so much more socially mature than other children. He strikes up conversations, introduces himself, invites others to play with him and people don't bother to respond. He doesn't know what to make of it."

I said it all with a friendly smile, but really I think my point was pointy enough. I was pissed. She got flustered and started pretending an interest in him. Luckily, though, the third child, maybe a seven year old girl, noticed his sadness and came over to adopt him. She held his hand and slid down the slide with him a few times and waited for him to catch up as they roamed over the park together. The little boy turned his terrorizing back to his two year-old sister, who he pushed down, sat on, and made fun of some more. :/ :/

I'd thought, for a long time, that he was the socially awkward one because he isn't in daycare with all his peers. What we've recently discovered, watching him interact with kids his age, is that he's actually the one way ahead of the pack. He's so polite and interested and eager to please and the random kids he's running into just--aren't. A quiet, well-behaved 5-7 year old is about his speed. They so rarely realize it, though, and so there are so many missed opportunities.

Graeme is in love with board games. He's very good, learns the rules and patiently waits for his turn. I've challenged him with games for much older children and he still holds his own. The favorites though are Candy Land and the Cranium game Caraboo Island which he mastered pretty much immediately and is playing on the "Advanced" mode. He's brilliant. He's also damned lucky. I've honestly *never* beat him in a game. Ever. That's all luck of the draw/dice and I'm not letting him win. He does it all by himself. :)

Graeme's favorite toys and activities haven't changed a lot. He loves his Viewmaster, since I have a couple reels with animal pictures on it. (Wish I could find more.) He also adores flashcards, of any sort, and the opportunity to show off how much he knows. The dry erase board, with colored markers, is a big hit as is his box of Schleich animal figures. He's starting to really appreciate playing ball and isn't coloring/drawing/painting quite as much as he used to, though he still enjoys it. The library is one of his favorite places on the entire planet, where we read books together at a little wooden table and chairs. I'm trying to think what else. One of his best friends, of the inanimate variety, is a stuffed Magenta beanie plush from Blue's Clues. He loves to talk to her and for her or have me talk for her. ;) He's also carting around one of those Cabbage Patch werewolf-hybrid-crazy animal dolls that he spied across the room at a thrift store and cried frantically, "THAT'S FRANKIE!! THAT'S FRANKIE! FRANKIE!!". (Frankie had to come home with us. Being a twenty or thirty year old toy, I wonder if it was a past life thing? Either way, it was a bizarre, sweet encounter.)

Graeme has a new pair of shoes, since his feet have grown right out of the last pair. They're white with purple and silver highlights, he picked them himself, and he's so proud and in love with them. He calls them his "purple shoes" and spent at least two weeks approaching every person he could find to ask, "Do you like my new purple shoes?". ;)

"Snake" still sounds like "Cake".
"That's a goob idea, isn't it, Mommy?"
*looking down at his diaper* "Who is pouring water in there?"
"I don't want to lay down! I want to lay up!"
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (Default)
Graeme: Mommy! Mommy!
Me (entering the bedroom): Good morning!
Graeme: I had a good nap.
Me: Oh, you did? Good!
Graeme: I made a big pig.
Me: You made a big pig?
Graeme: I dreamed I was a big pig.
Me: Oh, neat. Was it fun? What did you do as a pig in your dream?
Graeme (pantomiming as he goes): I had ears, a tail, and a back. Oh, and toes!
Me: Pig toes?
Graeme: Yes! What did you dream?
Me: Well, I dreamed I was on a boat in the ocean. A very little boat.
Graeme (looking around): Where is your boat now?
Me: Where are your pig toes now?
Graeme(laughing): That is so funny.


Another thing I hope to never forget--Graeme has been introducing himself to parents and children at the parks and libraries we're frequenting. Lately, he's taken to introducing me, too.

Graeme: Hi, I'm baby Graeme and this is my friend, Mommy. What is your name?

Sometimes I get upgraded to "my best friend, Mama". Ha! :D
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (Default)
1. Despite being hooked up with an Animal Hospital playset for Yule, Graeme is no longer particularly interested in the animal rescue game. His new favorite pastimes are still mostly animal-focused, though. He loves to play, "The Animal Sound Game" where we each take turns making animal sounds and having the other guess what it is. (Only fun if you guess spectacularly wrong a couple times, first, bringing many giggles.) "The Animal Running Game" requires players to pick an animal model from his toy collection and to then run laps around the house with it making appropriate animal sounds and/or motions. I, for one, do not actually know what a giraffe sounds like and my zebras sound suspiciously like donkeys. Also, I've given meerkats a call similar to a ferret dook. *shrugs* Graeme doesn't seem to mind, so long as I have something for each animal he might choose for me to impersonate. The most fun recently was when Graeme insisted I run like a tree which, of course, I did.

2. Graeme's vocabulary is impressive but his pronunciation a little less so. "Snake" sounds like "cake", "square" sounds like "care", and most unfortunately "a fork" sounds like "oh f--k!". He's becoming quite a romantic, though, with comments about things like the "beautiful ocean" and the "blue, blue sky".

3. He's exactly three feet tall and weighs a slim 30 lbs.

4. His favorite food in the world is probably the Z Bars for Children that Clif Bar makes. Behind that, it is much the same foods he was enamored with earlier in life: black beans, corn, peas, rice, pasta, chickpeas, avocado, apple, carrots, bread, grapes, and strawberries.

5. His favorite television shows, at present, are Dora the Explorer and Diego, Blue's Clues and Blue's Room, Sesame Street and Wow Wow Wubbzy. This is unfortunate as *my* favorite children's shows are Jack's Big Music Show and Hip Hop Harry. ;)

6. Graeme is still showing almost no readiness signs for toilet training. For one, he seems to not care one bit if he is in a dirty diaper and still won't admit (or doesn't know?) when his diaper needs changing. If it was up to him, it would never happen.

7. His memory has become pretty impressive. With some prompting, he's able to remember events from past days (and to anticipate future events that I've mentioned). He can tell me what he ate in the past and what he did days ago. (For example, he is still able to relate stories of his visit a few days ago to his Uncle Shaun's house and can recall that he ate crackers and played with Maxx the dog. Pretty impressive.)

8. He can identify all the letters, numbers 1-10 (with some, more limited, ability to count to 20), colors and shapes.

9. I never drilled him on this, but he's taken to saying "Thank you" to everything. If I give him something, he'll say "Thank You". If I offer something that he doesn't want (like food, a diaper change, an early bedtime) he'll say, "No thank you!". Pretty cute.
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (ocean mom)

We arrived at the beach, barefoot, after a late afternoon nap in the car. It was the first mild day we've had in a week--the wind had subsided to a pleasant, stirring breeze and the sun warmed the air to a comfortable sixty-something degrees. Still too cold for sunbathers and swimmers, but perfect for us in sweatshirts to spend a few hours playing on the beach as the setting sun painted everything pastel shades of pink and purple and magical blue.

Curious seagulls and sandpipers skipped closer to inspect Graeme's excavations with shovel and pail. He collected shells and sand and bleached pieces of feather-light driftwood and we spent hours ranging up and down the beach, climbing towards the sea grape and the dunes, running back to the hard-packed low-tide sand. Graeme toddled along and would turn around, always excited to recognize the shape of his own feet pressed into the smooth sand. He picked up grubby fistfuls of sand and cycloned them into the air around him, raining sand on his shoulders and hair. He listened to the sound of the waves and claimed, more than once, that he heard a whale in its depths. He borrowed my camera and took photos of the sand, the sea, and the "nice blue sky".

As the sun set, I carried him and his bucket back to our car, making a stop at his request to say goodnight to the sea turtles bedding down in hospital tanks across the way at the Marinelife Center. We blew them kisses through the chain link fence.

Every moment of it--perfect.

God let me never forget the hours spent together, the genius and gentleness of my son at this age, and the way I felt--complete, fulfilled, humbled to be so blessed.

Photos--Both Mine and Graeme's )


Dec. 21st, 2009 04:59 pm
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (Default)
A conversation over dinner:
Me: Graeme, if you could have any animal as a best friend, who would you pick?
Graeme: Elephant! Elephant's my best friend.
Me: What animal do you think is Mama's best friend?
Graeme: A tree!
Me: Well, that's sweet. Mama does like trees, you're right.
Graeme: Trees are nice friends. Windows are nice friends, too. An owl! An owl! Owls are nice friends, best friend.

Here's a couple shots from the first 300+ digital photos that Graeme took yesterday/today on his little toddler cam. :D The resolution is crap but the thing can take a beating. Eventually I'll teach him to use my camera.

Graeme's Cam:  Self-Portrait

Graeme's Cam:  Falling Stars in the Yule Tree
Falling Stars in the Yule Tree


Dec. 10th, 2009 12:53 pm
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (Default)
Graeme climbs up onto the windowsill by our guest bed, peeks around the curtain there and says:

"A kiss, Mama!"

I run in, scoop him up, kiss him, and then drop him onto the guest bed.

"Tickle me, Mama! Kickle me!"

I tickle him mercilessly. Until he says,

"Now baby kickle Mama! Kickle Mama's shirt! Kickle Mama's socks! Kickle Mama's head!"

Finally, worn out, he lays on the bed and laughs.

"Pull me, Mama!

I pull him up, give him a big hug, giggle maniacally and then dump him on the bed. Repeat twenty times.

Cute boy. :D


Dec. 7th, 2009 11:25 am
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (graeme zabian)
Graeme, when asked on Thanksgiving what he was thankful for, said "Aminals!" without hesitation. Upon thinking a bit more about the question, he added "Mama", "Daddy", and himself to the list. He has a box of Schleich animal figures that are played with pretty much constantly. Those things aren't cheap, either! The local stores have them for about $3-$8 per animal! So, I would like to send out my general gratitude to the Universe and thrift store donors specifically, for all the Schleichs I find tumbled in with the tubs of junky fast food toys. Because of you, a camel, a draft horse, a wooly sheep, and as of this weekend, a baby giraffe and an adorably home-spruced silver-glittery T Rex have now found a new home where, hourly, they're called upon to rescue fellow animals from the dangers of the couch, the bookshelf, and the dreaded dark blanket tunnel.

I'd normally post a Thrift Finds photo, but I'm a bit busy today. In those fast food toy tubs, I also found five of the Gummi Bears, circa 1985. :D The figures are still in great shape and will try to vy with the animals for Graeme's attention. :)
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (Default)
Enough with the bad things, on to the good!

1. My aunt checked in at the hospital this morning and found he'd been released yesterday. I still haven't heard from him, but my brother did and the news was that his blood work showed an extremely high potassium level, potentially related to one of his heart medications, so they've adjusted that accordingly and are going to monitor to make sure it takes.

2. Graeme is the cutest boy on earth. He's talking up a storm now, working his way through the logic of sentences and complex thoughts, making every day interesting. Some of my favorite sayings of his:

"Hey, you guys!" (Addressing more than one person.)
"No, please." (His version of "No, thank you" when turning down something he doesn't want.)
"Book me!" (When wanting someone to read to him.)
"No, self!" (Along with an emphatic chest thump, this is his way of saying he is going to do something, like climb stairs or brush his teeth, by himself.)

His favorite new game is playing Animal Rescue. We have a box of Schleich animals and he'll take one and hide it under a blanket, balance it in fear at the top of a toy slide, or lay it down on the floor.

"Oh no! Baby cow need help!" he'll say, running up to us wide-eyed.

Daniel or I then sing a bastardized version of the Wonder Pets rescue song.

There's an animal in trouble!
There's an animal in trouble!
There's an animal in trouble somewhere.

Oh no! The baby cow is in trouble! Who will save her? Who can help her?
She's stuck! Under the blanket! She can't find her way out! It is tooooo dark! Who can help?

Graeme chooses a rescuing animal and then sends the animal to help. There is helping/taking to the doctor/waking up/encouraging to try something scary (like the slide) and then the two animals become friends, kiss, and do a happy dance together. This past week, Graeme has gotten the hang of putting voice to animal and some, like the lion or the ever-helpful crocodile, he lowers his voice dramatically for. ;) So cute. The animals he chooses to help are freaking-hilarious. Baby lamb pulled a full grown elephant out from under a chair. The sea turtle "swim-swim-swim-swim"'d around to teach the giraffe how to go down a slide. The crocodile and the great white shark help more often than anyone else and make great friends with all the little fuzzy woodland creatures they save. Slay me! :D

3. Being in Outer Temple has given me the boost I needed to go back and revamp my altar setup and tools. I've had a few tools over the years that weren't quite right or were easily replaceable and they're, slowly, changing for me. I found a new athame and pentacle in Salem this past month that resonate strongly with me as well as an antique bell at the thrift store that has three brass clappers and sounds perfect. I bought a pentacle pottery chalice from [ profile] thoughtskill a few months ago that sung to me and slowly, surely, things are resettling into another energy pattern entirely. I have a few more needs to meet but feel really good about my toolkit now. In a lot of ways, it is my Mother kit--the Maiden stuff doesn't all fit me anymore...if that makes sense.

4. I'm slowly gearing up to create a pagan parenting website. I want it to have a lot of features like book reviews and recommendations, holiday sections, and crafty Craft ideas. I'll have to hire the design work and I'd like to hire some writers for things like childbirth articles/etc but I'm really cool with that. (Just have to start tucking pennies away for this little project.) I want to build something really approachable, helpful, bright, cheerful.


windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (Default)

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