Thursday, May 5, 2011

Mexican Marketplace

The first graders at R's school held a Mexican Marketplace today, in honor of Cinco de Mayo. All the parents were invited. R was so excited about it. He mentioned something beforehand about being a cashier and being worried about the stress that goes along with that. :-)

It was so cute. As I walked in, I was handed five paper pesos. There were three big tables - one "selling" God's eyes, one selling bark paintings, and one selling paper flowers - all of which the first graders had made.

R was manning the bark paintings table when I arrived (I heard him yell, "Hi, Mama!!!" and saw him waving and smiling at me). I bought one of his bark paintings for 3 pesos. Then, he told me to go buy a God's eye. So, I bought one from one of R's best friends. (Then, I had to go replenish my pesos.) I bought a paper flower from another of R's friends.

R's teacher then assembled the parents in one area and the kids all lined up to sing two songs in Spanish. (There are about 60 first graders - my camera only caught a few of them, obviously.)

Afterwards, I got a few more pesos, and R ran around to the different tables so that I could buy one of everything again from him. We found his other bark painting, so I bought that, too.

Everyone was so excited. The kids were thrilled to be in charge of the "money" and to sell their wares. They were all wearing colorful vests they had made in class.

A fun start to a happy Cinco de Mayo! And, R is going to teach me how to make a God's eye when he gets home today. I never learned that growing up - weird!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

I am not raising a procrastinator

Last night, R started making a pile of his belongings on the coffee table. This is nothing new -- he makes piles of his stuff all over our house on a regular basis. (No comment.) But, this time, he told me these are the things that he'll be bringing to college.

Um, the kid is just a few days shy of 7 years old.

So, what does a first-grader expect to bring to college with him? (Updated list 4/15 with the stuff I forgot!)
  • His wallet
  • A mechanical pencil
  • A calculator
  • His "scientist's journal"
  • Deck of cards
  • Rubik's cube
  • His address book (has 911, A's cell #, my cell # in it)
I was instructed not to move these things -- FOR 11 YEARS. Unfortunately, I did not leave a note on the pile, so when A came home while I was putting R to bed upstairs, he put everything away. R was not pleased the next morning.

Apparently, I am not raising a procrastinator. And, hey, he has a pretty good sense of what he'll need for his classes!

Also, I think he's planning to clean someone out at poker. ;-)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The play's the thing

Yesterday, R was in a play. His after-school program puts on a play every year, and the kids can all be in it if they want to. Last year, R wasn't interested at all. This year, he matter-of-factly announced to us over dinner one night that he was going to be in the play. And, that he had a speaking part.

I almost fell out of my chair, but I kept my reaction to myself. I've always thought that R would be wonderful on stage because he's incredibly expressive and has a flair for the dramatic. But as outgoing as he is normally, he HATES being the center of attention. He had some pretty disastrous performances at his old daycare/preschool, where he either fell apart on stage or ran into my arms sobbing. So, I've never pushed him into anything like that since. I even warned his kindergarten teacher last year that he might be hesitant to participate in the all-school music concert. He did okay, but he was extremely upset that A and I came to the performance. He didn't want us there AT ALL.

So, when R told us that he was going to be in the after-school play, I tried not to get too excited. I figured he would drop out after a few rehearsals or bail at the last second. I said a prayer for him yesterday that he wouldn't get upset with himself no matter what happened.

The play was sort of a re-telling of Toy Story, where the toys come alive in the after-school program classroom. It was clever and really funny! They even acted out commercials in between scenes. Probably 90% of the kids were girls, so there were many Barbies and princesses. But, R and the five other boys who participated were the Army guys, and it was perfect for them. The after-school teacher who directed the play is brilliant - she had the boys/Army guys come running into scenes like maniacs. They got to climb over things and jump and yell out, "Sir, yes, sir!"

In one scene, the Army men were searching for the missing Princess Fairy Barbie. Each one of the boys had his own line, where they came up to center stage and announced the results of their search. When it was R's turn, he walked up and delivered his line in a clear voice. Then he smiled.

When the Army men made their first appearance on stage, I saw R take a look at the crowd and freeze up. He turned his face away for a few seconds, and I could see him mentally psyching himself up. Then, he turned back, spotted A and me, gave us a little wave, and played his part.

He did it! And, the best part of all? He had fun doing it. He loved being in the cast and helping to make the scenery.

I found out later that none of his best friends in the after-school program wanted to be in the play. So, not only did R want to do it, but he stuck with it even though his friends weren't a part of it.

How cool is that? :-)

Monday, March 14, 2011

What would make you happy?

It's been a rough winter. And, I don't just mean weather-wise.

I've been battling a lot of things, and I'll spare you the details, but now I'm faced with a very interesting and intriguing "assignment." I'm supposed to figure out what would make me happy -- and I'm finding it the most difficult question I've ever had to answer. Exciting, yes, but also really, really hard.

Because for the first time in my life, I want to do something big. I want to take a huge risk, even if it's a complete disaster. I want to do the irresponsible thing, the thing that doesn't make sense. I want to have fun again - and not "Mom fun" like painting pottery or redecorating my house or taking yoga with a friend. I want to do something for me instead of taking care of everyone else around me first. I've put others first for so long that when someone asks me what I want to do (even if it's where to go for dinner), I honestly can't answer. It's always been in my nature to just do whatever everyone else wants to do.

So, now that I'm forcing myself to think about what I want, I'm tossing around crazy ideas like moving to California or changing careers. Maybe if I can articulate the wildest ideas, something concrete will come out of it, some small first steps will become apparent. I feel very optimistic that, by this time next year, something big will have changed in my life - whether good or bad. To me, the worst thing would be if nothing changed -- if I just stifled these feelings, accepted things as they are, and went along with life as it is.

I'm not looking for sympathy or encouragement or reproach here (although I realize I may still get it). I am curious, though: How would you answer the question, "What would make you happy?"

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

One Benefit of Being Stuck Inside This Winter

R asked if he could "clean something" one day. So, I grabbed an empty spray bottle, filled it with part water and part vinegar, gave him a roll of paper towels, and let him go to town.

He was a cleaning machine. He washed every window in the house, every mirror, the sinks, the tub, the toilet, the top of the fridge, and the cabinets. THEN, he dusted, Swiffered, vacuumed, and mopped the floors! He cleaned for 2 hours and kept asking for more things to clean.

Dreams do come true, people.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Snow Day in Pictures

We're in the middle of a blizzard up here in Massachusetts. I'm home from work, R is home from school, and we're not going anywhere today. It's a day for cocoa, making cookies, and maybe throwing something in the crockpot for dinner. In between shoveling sessions, of course. I think we're going to look at snowflakes under the microscope, too. It's a day for snuggling together and being in awe of the power of nature.

I'm going to take pictures throughout the day just for fun.

We are exhausted! I have a feeling the shoveling is going to catch up with us in the morning. School is closed again tomorrow, so we have another day to have fun in the snow. Yay! [10:00 pm]

After two hours of shoveling and playing in the snow, we made popcorn and got comfy watching "Despicable Me." [2:00 pm]

A and I shoveled and shoveled and shoveled. We have a short driveway, but we live on a corner lot, so we have A LOT of sidewalk. R played happily in the backyard the whole time, building himself a fort around our play structure.[11:00 am - 1:00 pm]

I can't believe the juncos are coming out to feed! The wind is unbelievable, and it's still snowing hard and sideways. These poor little things must be so hungry. I'm glad we can share a few seeds with them. [10:30 am]

A is making pancakes and bacon! I love him. We'll definitely work off the calories today with all the shoveling. [10:00 am]

Warm, funky slipper socks are keeping my toes warm. [9:30 am]

Here's the view from my back door at 9 am. I accidentally chased away a chickadee from the feeder when I opened the door. Sorry, little guy!

How are you spending your day? Are you snowed in?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Confessions of a Hobby Blogger

Recently, some blogging experts have written about things you shouldn't do on your blog. One of the no-nos is not having a focus, being all over the place with your posts.

Um, that would be me. I think I'm what is termed a "hobby" blogger.

So, I've been thinking about what focus I could have in this blog. I'm a mom, I work full-time, I love food and the beach and the natural world and music, I like thinking about how to make my house more comfortable and more reflective of me and my family. I like to go antique and thrift shopping.

But it's hard for me to see how I would focus on any of those facets exclusively. I joked with A that maybe I should start a blog called "The Timid Gardener." Because I realized that part of the problem may be that I love to think about stuff I'd like to do and projects I'd like to tackle (like planting a vegetable and herb garden), but I rarely get much beyond the thinking stage.

I need to work on that.

I remembered, though, that some of my favorite bloggers are women who write about their everyday lives. They don't have giveaways or point to daily coupons and deals. They write about their kids and their jobs and their marriage and their families and how they spent their date nights and holidays and vacations. They share recipes and movie and book reviews and they ask for advice.

Now, I love the focused bloggers, too. Their posts are full of amazing photos and insights and beauty. They post nearly every day (how do they do that?!?). They have thousands of readers. They have sponsors and go to blogging conferences. I'd love to join them someday. I'd love to be that knowledgeable and passionate about one thing (besides my son) that I could write about it every day and have it be helpful and interesting and compelling to others.

But, in the meantime, my everyday random life is my focus. It may only be interesting to my family and friends, and that's okay. That was all I hoped for when I started this blog. But if you're not a blood relative or real-life friend and you still like my posts, welcome to the Fieryboots family! I'm so glad you're here.

Now, I have a confession to make ...

My name is Kristen, and I'm a hobby blogger.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Maybe video games aren't pure evil after all

I'm not a fan of video games. I know it's inevitable that we'll someday have a Wii or Playstation or something, but there's no need to rush it.

Recently, A let R play Club Penguin (run by Disney) because one of R's friends plays it all the time. It's an online game where kids create little penguins, play games, earn coins, adopt pets, change outfits, and interact with each other somewhat. I have to admit the whole thing is pretty cute and fun.

This week, I discovered a few benefits from R playing the game:
  • He's reading more. We told him that he has to read all the text without help from us, and he's doing it.
  • He hardly ever asks to watch TV now. Overall, he's getting a lot less screen time because he usually only plays the game for about a half-hour or less per day.
  • He's learning to save his "money." At first, he spent all the coins he earned in the game right away. Now, he saves his coins and really thinks about any "purchases" he makes.
  • He's learning generosity. Over the holidays, Club Penguin had a program where the kids could donate their coins to help others. R was surprisingly generous, and he was very excited to see the total actual dollar amounts that Disney ended up donating to organizations that provide food, shelter, and medical care.
  • He learned to use the phone. He wanted to play simultaneously with his friend who lives a block away, so A showed him first how to call me at work (to find out where the school directory was) and then to call his friend so they could coordinate.
Of course, we limit R's game time, and he has to finish his homework and spend some time reading a book to us before getting online.

I'm still not thrilled about video games, but this week my heart softened a little, especially when R and his friend camped out in our kitchen and played together like this:

I can't decide if this is incredibly cute or incredibly geeky. Maybe it's both. :-)

How do you feel about kids and video games?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A Christmas Miracle: 17 People Ate Brunch at My House

I've been working on a new post for about two weeks now to talk about an epiphany I had about entertaining. But it has turned into a novel, and since I know no one is going to read it, I'm going to do the Cliff notes version here.
  • We haven't really entertained a large group of people at our house since just after we moved in almost 8 years ago. And by large, I mean more than 3 people (plus us).
  • I thought the house was too small, too cluttered, too ugly, etc.
  • Last year, I learned about the wonderful Sandy Coughlin and her blog and book, The Reluctant Entertainer.
  • Because of Sandy, I decided that giving back to our friends was more important than having a perfect house.
  • Plus, we will never have a perfect house.
So, we decided to host a post-Christmas brunch for a bunch of our friends. And, I'm so glad we did!

It was a lot of work - totally worth it, but a lot of work just the same. I was way too ambitious with food and made the mistake of leaving it open if people wanted to bring something. Result? We had so much food, it was ridiculous. Two weeks later, we are still working on the desserts!

We cleared off every surface in the kitchen to make room for the food and beverages. We cleared out the living room, leaving only places to sit and to rest plates, plus our bookshelves and entertainment center and the Christmas tree. All the Legos were banished to R's room. (We also put a little coffee table in his room for Lego-building, which has worked out great!) I bought two storage ottomans from IKEA, which provided extra seating and were the favored spot because they were right next to the radiator (so your buns get nice and toasty). We cleared out half of A's office, made the futon a couch again, and let the tweens hang out in there, playing video games.

My living room has never looked so good! I forgot to take pictures during the brunch, but here's the before brunch picture:

I can't tell you how happy this picture makes me. I keep looking at it over and over again. Of course I see the flaws (like the picture above the sofa hanging too high), but I think it looks homey and welcoming and comfortable - just like I wanted. One of my friends walked in, her eyes bugged out, and she whispered to me, "What did you do?!?!" It's that much of a transformation. The fire in the fireplace and my rustic candelabra on the mantle all lit up helped with the coziness, too.

We had a lot of fun with everyone, and we're planning to host more friends more often - just with less food. We're thinking a soup night - cook up one or two big pots of soup, invite the gang over, and people can bring bread and wine if they want. Something a lot more simple.

The biggest transformation for me, though, was in my head. Not only did I learn that I don't need to have a perfect home to host a gathering, but I also learned (thanks to Sandy) that the important thing about entertaining is making your guests welcome and comfortable. I really tried not to think so much about the house once it was ready (which was essentially focusing on myself - and I worked hard NOT to worry about the house too much ahead of time), but to focus on our friends and spending time with them instead of frittering about every little thing and busying myself in the kitchen. And, guess what? I think my being able to enjoy the event more made it more comfortable for everyone. When people arrived, the food was ready, and we could all just eat and relax. Who could ask for more on the day after Christmas? :-)

(And, yes, this was the SHORT version of this story!)