December 2009

Spending the day catching up from holidays, birthdays, time away, tidying, clearing out, errands, then midafternoon, we hit our stride, snow boarding gear for the big guy checked off the to do list, we can get down to business, more yeast dough, today’s adventure DONUTS:) Middle boy loves donuts, and each way to the country and back my treat to the kids was a stop and Dunkin Donuts, a rarity in our lives, and each time this boy indulged his fancy in a donut. When we get home last night, he wonders about making donuts. This morning he wonders again. I tell him I made them when I was a kid, remember 4-H and brown paper bags of cinnamon and sugar to shake the hot delicious things before eating, the stomach ache from eating too many. But my boy doesn’t need my 4-H recipe. He has the internet, and he chooses:

You can make them, too, if you have flour, sugar, yeast, milk, vegetable oil, salt. We have fun watching and smelling the yeast grow in the bowl of milk, we talk experience and feel and risk as we add flour, stir, knead the dough into a consistency that we can work with, roll, cut. The directions and photos on the internet are amazing, but they are not my grandmother or my mother, and there is still more trial and error than there was in the donut making of my youth.

Right now he says, Look, it’s a donut factory. And I look and he has filled the tray. How are we supposed to know if the oil is hot enough? he asks. I don’t know, but he remembers the internet teacher recommending testing the oil temperature with scrap of dough, which is now really sticky. Help!! he calls and I must stop typing and take a picture and test the oil and give a hand.

The good news is amongst our cookie cutters we find my grandmother’s donut cutter, silver gray metal loops and teal wooden handle the very same metal and wood she used all those years on the farm and in her little kitchen across the road. Part of her is here with us, even as we taste the potato in this internet recipe for yeast donuts, pretty sure she made fried cakes with baking soda or baking powder, forging new ground, too.

First donut ready for tasting. We split it. Delicious. Light and fluffy. That’s what they said, my boys confident retort. Next effort chocolate glaze….ahhhh..

Spent some days in Western, Ma, sledding, walking in the woods in snow, sitting by the fire, looking at the year on iphoto, playing new board games from Christmas, watching my kids, being with family in a quiet house away from it all, felt darn good, closed up shop and drove back to quiet, dark house in the city, with cats, who seem to have wondered if we were coming back, and to tofu and broccoli and rice, and Christmas tree needles on the floor, and appointments, and a party for the big boy, communicated via Facebook, and to e-mail, the blog, the internet, all those things not out in the woods, including cell phone, even itunes shut off for me for the time away, good break.

Returned to find Macky sorting through the regulations in her practical, good-humored way, funny letter to her families about the toothbrushing, reasonable, if annoying solution to the ID bracelets shared with neighborhood of providers, feel like I have my support group leader again, getting me through the latest round of regulation, this time internet big player in the research and communication, always something new.

Last things before leaving for the woods were a communication with a woman from Oregon/Florida who shares some of my views on alternative education, continued over the week, if sporadically, and a movie with Macky and Ferriss, The Young Victoria, both inspiring me to go a little deeper again, to think about how one person, one idea, one little thing can change the world, then to read and write and think some more, today’s Exchange Everyday on ways introverts can make a difference suggesting writing a blog, and today’s Facebook showing my old TC pal, Jackie, in a photo smiling a few feet from Obama, story she posts in response for my request to hear about it tells me she got the seat for her husband’s work in the Teacher’s Union, her outstretched hand, beaming smile, optimistic attitude bring me back to our grad school days and the energy we felt about our teaching lives ahead, her husband’s work and her place there near Obama making me smile at their continued hope, then my two best friends from high school are there on Facebook, too, still teaching, one in my elementary school, the other in a charter school attached to the Science Museum, an experiential learning program, spent my holiday with my sister and her husband, both public school teachers, whole thing gives me hope that the good folks are out there, plugging away, not giving up their hope or ideals, won’t allow me to give up mine either, must find my way back somehow…

Katie Curtis sings to me from the itunes, a song I collected after it made me feel hopeful one day on my drive across town from dropping off my kids at school to looking after my day care kids at home.

Passing Through, good as Sunday morning church for lifting my spirit, putting things in perspective. Enjoy it where you can find it, you technologically savvy ones:) Here is the youtube version I googled just now, one amongst many (have a little concert in your kitchen like I did. No idea the whole youtube would be played under my words in the blog format, Catie in concert beneath the picture of my boys climbing a tree in my mom’s woods…life is amazing, huh?!):

Sunday morning middle of vacation shouldn’t be thinking bout regulation. But I am. On January 16th, 2010, the new family child care regulations for MA family child care programs go into effect. Many providers and I attended an information session about the changes which was held at Wheelock College on the evening of December 16th. After a full work day, we arrived at 6:30 to a large lecture hall with a presenter and a powerpoint and a pile of packets to learn about all the ways we are meant to comply with the new regulations. It was not pleasant, except in the sharing of horror and doubt and humor amongst the providers. I felt fearful, mistrusted, powerless, insulted, outraged, angry, put down, disrespected, overwhelmed, disappointed, forced again to do things which I don’t believe are in the best in interest of children, families, or providers, many of which are logistically difficult or impossible, some which seem unnecessary, some which seem hurtful, others which seem to impinge upon essential freedoms and ways of being in the world.

Sadly, I wake up now each day since Christmas with small worries about work, filling out the audit forms from the Workers Compensation Insurer, sifting through the toys, books, equipment, and supplies that have accumulated in the day care, house, and basement, repairing and maintaining the house and day care, updating Food Program records, completing Food Program training, communicating with current and prospective families about plans for next year, and now, figuring out how to comply with all the new regulations requiring new training, procedures, documentation, supervision, record keeping. Today would be a fine day for attending to these things. Yesterday I had hoped to get going, but never did, son’s birthday, holiday recovery, rest, a bit of reading and writing took over my first day of vacation after Christmas agenda. Today, wish me luck, or next weekend. Hate the thought of it, but for this year at least, must bite the bullet and face the reality of my vacation/regulation duality. What a Sunday morning musing. Sorry.

Quiet, quiet day in the house, room for Arrested Development, dancing, Billy Bragg, rolicking, omelettes and homemade bread toast with the boy in a quiet house on his quiet birthday, talk about this and that, mind wanders as we cook and talk and tidy, think to my blog here, the one year mark passed, New Year on it’s way, what does it all mean, where am I headed with all this, writing, school, advocacy, teaching, caring, learning, living, all that? Thought to update the Next Steps 2009, which I realize just now as I type, will soon be Next Steps 2010, if there are any, purpose of this blog, making a new and ideal place for children, hard to imagine just now, whether warehouse, big old house, abandoned office building, taking charge of this recession to make my dreams come true, taken a different turn, inside/outside all mixed up in internet world, mind opening and closing and opening again, each day brand new thoughts, new hopes, new dreams, each day grounded in the same old, same old, made new, pictures and words of happy kids the core, the absolute core, biggest compliment in a long while the visitors that came back to the cay care this week, and the friends who celebrated Solstice and the family who celebrated Christmas and birthday with us, the folks on Facebook who are no longer lost, all those connections, and the quote that sticks is from a young teacher who worked with us out of school, come back for Solstice and then to visit the day care, she said, “When are you going to open your school? I want to do that with you.” or something like that, and when she visited the next day in day care, she said when she walked in the door with us all snowy and hungry and a little wild and cranky at the end of our park walk and the beginning of our changing a million toddlers out of snow suits and messy diapers, “I love it here. Everybody is so happy.” And I was so busy in the kitchen making quesadillas and tomato soup and cutting apples and pouring milk and laying out bowls and spoons and cups and napkins and tending to the little monkeys at my feet that I wasn’t there to hear the words, but my ever present teaching partner was there and told me later, knowing I needed to hear, and I did. No compliment to me greater than happy kids and adults in my house and day care living life and enjoying themselves and one another, ideally fully present to the moment.

And I think this am, what do I do with that? So many phone calls and e-mails from so many good people wishing for this good life for their little babies and children, only one space for day care next fall, not sure how many after school spots, wish to take more kids and families, siblings, friends, friends of friends, newcomers, want to encourage this kind of culture for kids and families, want it to grow and spread and for now all I can do is take pictures and write about it and make it happen every single day, no way for me to see forward to making it bigger and just as good, just plain and simple don’t know how to do that, don’t know how the pictures and words will help, only going on blind faith, hope for now, hope lost and found in the words and pictures carrying me to the next stage of life, work, living, learning, no blessed idea what next, other than more of the same and something new.

Odd to me to combine intense holiday time in real life with time in the online world of Facebook and blogging, wondering in my free minutes how this is all going to work, in person relationships, online “social networking”, where is it all headed, who is involved, how much, what does it mean for children’s play, teens’ burgeoning sense of self, adults’ connections to past and present and future? Strange, strange combination of connecting with old friends, opening up your world to strangers, learning private things about people in a space that is both intensely public (anyone, anywhere can read/see) and intensely private (each individual can read/write anything whenever, wherever, with very little effort), putting stuff out there and never taking it back, wondering how long it will all live, what next, what next, what next? How on earth does this all play out, compete, intersect with the offline lives we all live, real school, house chores, work, play? Does it make us better or worse, at life, at love, at communication, at trust, at knowing ourselves and others? How do we get hooked in, which of us is vulnerable, which enriched, which debased, which broadened, which narrowed? Fascinating. I spent too much time last night and this morning online, made me wonder why I wasted so much time, then realized I was learning all the while, and this kind of learning takes time, still following this year’s mantra on some level, follow your heart, do what feels right, hard to trust that instinct, but it does feel like the online world is one worth understanding, very new to me, fascinating to me as to my kids, who I wish to understand, and to the future, where I will live, to my ideas about how we all live and learn together.

And then on the other end I am missing my daughter, at nine last night too young for Facebook, blogging, e-mailing just barely beginning, still living in her world of books and toys and imagination, would like to have her here talking with me on Saturday morning, showing me her doll’s new hair do, changing the doll’s clothes, telling me about her favorite things, bugging me while I try to type. She is off for a few days with her grandma and aunt and uncle and cousins, by surprise, and the house is terribly quiet, boys and I likely to do as much online connecting with people outside the house as talking and playing together, unless we discipline ourselves, which we may do, but that online world is fascinating, and we are each compelled to learn and try it out, sometimes leading to real life connections, other times deepening our thoughts and feelings, other times blowing hours, hard to know for me right now what it is all about, jumped in the pool, no hopping out right now, not expecting to drown, not quite sure how well I/we can swim, how deep the water, what else we are foregoing for time in the water…always learning, trying to see the online world as one more way, another challenge/fascination of the last year.

Reindeer ate their carrots, drank their water. Santa wrote back, ate all three cookies, left goods. Lots of chocolate before and during breakfast, plus yogurt and syrup from Ashfield. Paper recycled, packaging collected, gifts pleased. Dinner later, roast beast, roast veg, potato, green salad, homemade applesauce and rolls, vino, cousins, aunt, uncle, grandma, noise, more paper, packaging, gifts, sweets, snow if there is time for sledding or snowballs.

Merry, Merry, Peace, Joy, then Birthday for Girl this evening, Birthday for Boy manana, then vacation, vacation, vacation, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, country, sledding, x-country skiing, wiiing, friends, family, outdoors, indoors, catch-up on lots of levels, reading, movies, walks, shops, peace?

No Christmas or Holiday cards sent yet, still working on that. To all of you, Happy Holidays, Peace in the New Year, Love All Year Round.

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