August 2011


I’m one of those moms who dreaded the teenage years. I’ve never been cool. The teen years were probably the worst for me in terms of getting along at home. I changed friends and groups of friends several times until I found some that made me feel at home.

Meanwhile, I’m loving my kids’ teen years. Who knew? Downstairs right now are four teens and my girl, a preteen for now, kid at other times. They’re hoping to watch all six episodes of Star Wars while playing Candyland, the original version, from 10 pm til noon, fourteen hours straight. I bought Blazin’ Buffalo and Ranch Doritos and Coke, ice cream, Whole Foods’ version of oreos, hoping to make someone happy. I wonder if it will. For now, the kids seem content to sit and talk and laugh and watch, three boys and two girls, ten to eighteen, very much at ease with one another, school mates at SVS, where kids of all ages hang out every day. It’s no big deal, I suppose, to hang out at someone’s house, when life at school is hanging out. I wonder if it brings it down a notch when the social happens all the time, not just outside of school.

As my oldest teen would say, “Mom, how obsessed are you with alternative education? What percentage of time do you think about that stuff?” He has a point.

As my mom told me once a long time ago, “Don’t worry about your kids growing up. Every age is fun.” I think she might be right. So far, so good. I may not be cool, but my kids are, at least in my opinion.

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Yesterday was all about preparations. I cleared out the basement so my friend Dave could put the sump pump hose through a newly drilled hole in the side of the house, rather than having it stick out an open window. The kids and I cleared the porches and the yard of furniture, trash cans, toys, art and woodworking projects and materials, cushions. We raised the roof on the tree house, hoping that position was better than the lowered one for weathering a storm. I cleared the french drains, squatting beside the trough and drain in the drenching rain, while Ben wondered if I’d like to use a shovel, scooping up the muck, sticks, and eggshells, from the compost and the trees with my hands, to let the water run free.

This morning, I woke early to rain, rain, lots of rain. The basement is dry. The laundry is caught up. We had a fine dinner of chicken stew and mashed potatoes and carrots for dinner, first stew in awhile, cooked in AC, in anticipation of fall. I hang out downstairs on the couch, watching the trees all around me dance, grateful to live in a city neighborhood with trees all around, and a little scared, reading about the few deaths from the storm so far, several from falling trees. I look online for more shoji blinds, to replace the makeshift curtains, which were to replace the tattered blinds before them, wanting to keep the leaf shadows dancing and the light shining in our bedrooms upstairs, a tree house of sorts, above the street and the world outside, our space for dreaming, which I do a bit more, going back upstairs to rest beside my girl, home at last after a week away.

I’m downstairs now, washing the pots from last night, walking past piles of clean clothes on the couches and in the corners of the tv room,  in need of sorting by the kids, some for dad’s house, some for mom’s, to start the school year right.

We’re making use of all kinds of electricity for the moment, Nina Simone on the speakers, hot water in the sink, AC and fans keeping us cool and dry, computer here for blogging and listening and reading, chargers making sure the cell phones and computers are ready if the power goes out, save mine, as Jonah is borrowing my cable for his new hand me down laptop. I’m sort of hoping, in some way, that the power will go out, if just for a few hours, so we can sit with our books and be together in the darkish day, all alone here with no place to go and no visitors on the way.

This morning Liana again forwards an interesting article from the NY Times about schools. This one is about public schools around the country charging fees to students, not only for things like sports and clubs, but also for things like workbooks and lab equipment. It is also about the cutting of funds to public schools and the disproportionate effects these cuts are having on poorer districts. And, it starts off with what many of us might think is a good thing, a charitable contribution from New York Mayor Bloomberg and other wealthy patrons, to cover the cost of the New York State Regents Exam, which was going to be cut due to lack of funds.

The article goes on to talk about the constitutionality of these things, about whether we are really meeting the requirements of our Constitution to provide free public education for all, if only those whose families can pay can have access to things like AP courses and activities like sports and music.

My own kids go to a private school, a privilege right there for which we pay, and for which many others cannot. At their school, the students raise money for their own activities. I imagine that some families pay much more than others for things like private music lessons or dance classes or ski trips outside of school. Payment for tuition and transportation and expensive activities and trips associated with the school are things for which my kids and I have to negotiate, work, and budget. In order for us to have a stable home, health insurance, healthy food, decent clothing, and even a shared second home with friends, as well as to put away something for retirement, I have to work more than forty hours a week. I don’t work two jobs. I have paid vacation and holiday time off. I’m not living at the poverty line, though I come close to qualifying for things like subsidized health care. I can’t imagine how families making minimum wage are coping. Too many are doing so by going without health care, going without plans to retire, going without food and homes, when we are talking about those at the most challenging places on the economic ladder. Let’s not make accessing adequate schooling even harder . Charging for workbooks? I wish we weren’t even using workbooks, but if we’re going to use them, let’s include them in the public plan, not put that cost on families, especially poor families.

Here’s the article. I’m out of time, as I organize my kids for the day and communicate with my co-worker. Read it and weep.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/26/opinion/when-schools-depend-on-handouts.html?_r=1&emc=eta1

As I often am when I return from vacation, I’m falling in love with the kids and my job and the day care all over again. Here are a few sweet photos I took on Monday, our first day back. I do feel lucky.

This morning my friend Al posts this song on Facebook and I have a few minutes to listen to it on youtube. It makes my eyes water and my throat clench up. John Prine is one of my favorite guys. This song, Hello in There has been in my ears for years. Seeing and hearing him play it live makes it even better. Waking up in a house where my children haven’t been for a whole week makes it hit home. I haven’t posted a song here in awhile. Enjoy it with your morning coffee, or your tea, or your jam and biscuit or your cheerios and banana, whatever old person meal feels right to start your day.

Ben and I are off to another college visit this morning. Today it’s MIT, a place he’s been over the years for a few events, with school, with family and friends. Now it’s time to wonder if he can go there on his own. We’ve got a beautiful day for a tour. Now all I need is breakfast and a shower and a drive across town to Cambridge to meet my boy at his new house, a short walk from the campus, and lots of other places becoming his new world.

This summer we had a couple of good long visits with our housemates in Ashfield. During the Fourth of July weekend, we watched Rivers and Tides for the first time in a long time, which had been a favorite on long ago summer vacations in Vermont. Then Dave got the kids inspired to make some art in nature, and a very silly video of the day.

This August vacation there was a dead tree to chop down and my friend James, former  sawyer, gave Dave chainsaw lessons. Dave made a video of that, too. I got to use the chainsaw for the first time, which isn’t on video, but which was surprisingly fun. We made the tree trunk into stepping stone discs and the smaller branches into wood sculpture pieces, then collected the sawdust for the sensory table, all for the day care kids.

In the interest of celebrating living and learning together in all its dimensions, I thought I’d share our summer in the country, as it’s on youtube and it might make you smile. Here’s a bonus video the kids and their dads made, a trailer for the new smash hit, Indiana Jonah. I laughed so loud at the screening in the studio (finished garage) I think it made the kids squirm.

Great two week vacation. Back to work tomorrow. Both are good.

Natural Art Contest 2011 youtube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4P_aqieZMN8&feature=related

The chainsaw youtube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tv5n9avXpwE&feature=email

Bonus Indiana Jonah Trailer

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YUSMasoqDA8&feature=related

Just returned from the Union Square Farmers’ Market, after waking this morning wishing I was in Ashfield to go to the market there, to stop at my favorite farm stand beside the road for fifty cent cucumbers and fresh sweet corn, to visit the Peach Lady and gather a big brown bag of seconds peaches for a dollar a pound to get me through August.

Instead it’s a Somerville weekend and my first trip to the Union Square market, where I run into my kids’ former teacher, catch up on her news, buy some delicious, three dollar a pound, and no more when we go back for more after running several errands and discovering how delicious they are, peaches.

My friends have requested a a recipe for Ratatouille. This reminds me to buy eggplant, peppers, and to use the fine tomotos I bought last weekend in Ashfield, nestled on the shelf of my end of August, freshly cleaned fridge.

Here is the recipe, in case you, too, have been to the Farmers Market and have a load of vegetables to cook. It’s from Cabbagetown Cookbook, which I believe is out of print. Mine has been with me since college, where the Cabbagetown Cafe was one of my favorite treats, my first exposure to vegetarian cooking, delicious homemade whole grain bread, salad dressings with lots of fresh garlic, soups and chili to die for, and friendly Ithaca hippies running the place.

Cabbagetown recommends using this ratatouille for filling an omelette. I love it with brown rice and a grating of parmesan, or as a side dish, warm or cold. YUM.

Happy End of Summer Cabbagetown Ratatouille:

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 eggplant, cut in bite-size cubes (6 cups)

1 zucchini, cut in bite-size pieces (3-4 cups)

Freshly ground black pepper

4 cloves of garlic

1 bay leaf

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 onions, chopped

2 green peppers, cut in fairly large pieces

1 quart canned tomatoes or 6 fresh ripe tomotoes, chopped

1 teaspoon dried basil or 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil

1/2 teaspoon dried or finely chopped fresh thyme

1. In a large frying pan, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil.  Add the eggplant and zucchine, and saute for about 5 minutes, until tender. Grind in a little black pepper. Remove to a bowl.

2.  Chop together the garlic and bay leaf to make a paste.

3.  In the same frying pan, heat another 2 tablespoons olive oil.  Add the onions and peppers and saute for 2-3 minute, until they just begin to become tender. Add the garlic-bay leaf paste, then the tomatoes, then the basil and thyme.  Simmer for 10 minutes.

4. Return the eggplant and zucchini to the vegetable mixture in the frying pan.  Simmer for about 20 minutes to blend the flavors.

5.  Keep simmering over low heat.

Yeild: 8 cups. Filling for 12 omelettes, or serves 6 as a vegetable dish.

I also make smaller batches, though the Cabbagetown folks say it’s not worth your while, that you should always make a huge batch of ratatouille, and either freeze it or eat it leftover. Do as you wish. Either way, enjoy!

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