Monday, June 11, 2012

Signs of Summer


Ringing of the Bells to mark the end of the school year.  There are times when I think I've seen it all at Emerson's school, and there is nothing more that can surprise me or exceed my expectations.  And then a door opens, and I find something amazing.

Watching all the classes (1st grade through high school) perform during the last assembly (under a tent, on a gorgeous sunny day) I felt nothing short of astounded at the talent, charisma and apparent community of each grade and the school as a whole.  As the grades took the stage, one by one, their growing confidence and presence was palpable.  Watching the progression, I could almost see my little girl grow up before my eyes.  As we said goodbye to the year just past, I found myself growing excited for the future. 

The assembly ended with the first-graders giving their eighth-grade "buddies" a rose and their twelfth-grade "buddies" a lily.  Again, I accelerated time for just a moment, picturing Emerson--looking so tiny next to these budding women--as an eighth-grader, standing with her first-grader, and me reminiscing about this very moment...and then my excitement for the future was coupled by a voice saying enjoy this moment; enjoy this time...

The assembly was great, but really nothing could top a bunch of emlementary kids walking around the yard asking each other to sign their yearbooks afterward, as parents picnicked.  Because many of the kids are so young, there was no rhyme nor reason to it.  Just, will you sign my yearbook?  Or in the case of two first-graders, just sign all the names you can think of yourself. 

The last thing Emerson yelled to her friend as we left was "I have to go...but you keep walking around and asking people to sign!"  What a plan...

and when we got home I found this:

For clarity sake, this is Emerson's note to herself in her own yearbook.  Emerson, I love first grade.  I hope I love second grade too.  Emerson. Classic.  (Underneath is my note! Even moms get to sign yearbooks in the first grade!)

enjoy this moment; enjoy this time...

Licking ice-cream cones to celebrate our second-grader.  (Sure we've had plenty of ice-cream so far this year, but this one tasted like freedom...)

Climbing trees, revisiting old friends, and riding through the river in a horse drawn wagon, down to the lower fields to see the farmers cutting hay.  Fresh cut hay, fresh vegetables growing, the delighted squels of children, a huge white dog following close behind.  There is nothing like the early days on the farm.  (Except maybe the later days...)

These photos were taken at the farm last year (from a blog never written), yet they invoke the anticipation welling up inside me on the eve of summer.

Grilling fresh fish and vegetables. 

Picking the first radishes from our garden, brushing the dirt off, and eating them, right then.  Right there.

Staying up late looking at my eighth-grade yearbook--laughing at the thirteen-year-old versions of the people we still know, at my hair, and at my math teacher who used to spit on people in the front row.  Sharing old stories and loving how they became alive again in the eyes of my girls.  Remebering how much I loved eighth grade.

enjoy this moment; enjoy this time...


Baseball. (Or in our case, softball)

Splitting wood.

Staying up late to go to a party I wasn't able to attend (work), but I hear from my family it had everything summer has to offer: bbq, wiffle-ball, croquet, kids running in packs through fields...


Strawberries.  Enough said.

Planting the rest of our garden.

Meeting friends in the park for some refreshments, Hide and Seek, Tag, and a little froggin' thrown in for good measure.

Grilling fresh pork and asparagus from the farm.

Staying up late reading, because the days are long and we have nowhere to be tomorrow...

enjoy this moment; enjoy this time...

Ahhh, summer...I will.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Goodbye Ben Smith

Ophelia had her last day of "school" Friday--another moment in a long list of moments that marks the bittersweet taste of my children growing older and of saying goodbye to wonderful phases and places I will never visit again as a parent.  This most recent parting was especially poignant due to the fact that we truly were leaving the building, never again to return. 

The Ben Smith Campus, as it is known today (it is, in fact, one building--albeit a very special one--and its yard) used to house the entire school in it's nascent stage, and, over time, many, many people have played here, taught here, smelled the aromas of oatmeal, applesauce, and homemade bread coming from the kitchen, held a child up high to look at a bird's nest in the eaves of the roof, climbed trees, swung, sledded, rolled hoops down the grassy hill... 

In it's later stages, Ben Smith became home to the Early Childhood programs (although the first and second graders could be heard jumping and singing upstairs until just two years ago) and it was then that our family entered the scene--first in the parent-toddler program Ophelia is just finishing, then in the nursery (for Emerson) and as a teacher's assistant (for me).  It was Emerson's first leap into the world without me, even though I was just one classroom over. It was where Ophelia sat on the kitchen floor and later practiced walking up and down the ramps that led to the two abutting classrooms, while I washed dishes and looked out the window into a yard of playing children.  It was where my passion for Waldorf Education and Anthroposophy took root and was nourished.  It was a place where all of us formed friendships and community that will carry us far into the future.

Earlier this year, in the spirit of integrating the entire school community on one campus, The Ben Smith Campus was sold.  Next year, as the youngest nursery students play in their temporary play-yard, they will be able to watch high-school students move between classes.  It is a wonderful step towards the future, but sad at the same time. 

There are many people--some who have spent entire careers or childhoods at Ben Smith--whose memories out date and outnumber mine.  But I feel I speak for every person, everywhere, who has ever--even for a moment--stepped foot in this magical space when I say, Thank You Ben Smith.  You will be missed.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Bookshelf: Spring!

The air is getting hotter here, the days longer, and before I pack away our spring books, I thought I would share these three--all singles in four-season sets--that have been loved by our family for years.

(I am also excited to try out my new scanner! I realize I am behind the times in getting excited about this "new" device--it's new to me!--and it's going to take me a little while to figure out how to use it properly, but {yes, I am a dork} it's so, so much fun!)

I want to preface this blog by stating that I generally don't like board books.  Most board books are just abridged versions of books meant for older children (who are old enough to know not to eat them and can follow a story line), and others are just smaller versions of said books.  Why can't we wait until our children are old enough to read the full length book?  Or if the book is age-appropriate, why can't we get the larger version and let our kids enjoy the full-sized pictures while simultaneously teaching them books are for reading, not ripping? Is it a question of too much, too fast?  Or are we unwilling to spend the time sharing books together?  I understand the draw of sturdy books, but as is the case with many modern parenting conveniences, quality (both book quality and quality time together) gets lost somewhere along the way.

All in all, I agree with the notion that toddlers (those under age two) could be doing much more interesting things than reading--like emptying drawers, climbing into laundry baskets, or eating flowers--but there are some good board books out there too.  And the good thing about toddlers is they don't need a hundred books (or even ten), because if you are a good story-teller (and even if you aren't), they'll enjoy hearing the same two or three over and over (and over and over and over and over...) again... this spring book by Kit Allen:

Like I said before, this is one book in a set of four (one for each season).  I appreciate these books because they were designed with toddlers in mind.  The art is simple and sweet, and the story line is one that is recognizable to toddlers---each story has a child getting dressed,

(you get the idea...), then going outside and doing seasonally appropriate activities,

then having some sort of seasonally appropriate snack,

then having a nap somewhere...

These books are perfect.  They are simple--both in art and idea-- and consistent (another thing toddlers love).  Each book has six pages of getting dressed, four activities, one page for the meal, and one page for the nap.  All the words that accompany the activities, snack, and sleep (in all four books) begin with the letter "S".  And most important, they were designed to be board books.  You won't find any larger or more complex versions out there (in fact, two of these books are out of print, so you won't find them at all).  They are what they are.  And they're great.  (Also, although both of my kids have "outgrown" these books, they still enjoy looking at them once in a while.)

The next two spring books are very similar, one set illustrated by Gerda Muller from Holland, and the other by Eva-Maria Ott-Heidmann of Germany.  They both titled "Spring"  ("Fruhling" in the German book, and if I were a little more tech-savvy I could add the two dots above the "u"...)

Like Allen's books, these were also designed only as board books, but they speak to a broader age range than Allen's toddler books.  These books have no words, so the stories are left to the tellers.  In my experience, my children have marginally enjoyed looking a the pictures by themselves but become completely entranced when a story is added.  When my girls were very young, we would sometimes just sit together and point out things we could see in the pictures, but as they grow older the stories grew more and more complex.  The tricky thing for adults is remembering it all the second time around...

For whatever reason, my girls always preferred Muller's books over Ott-Heidmann's.  I'm not sure if it was because Muller's books speak more to their experience (Ott-Heidmann's deal with German traditions, some of which are foreign to us), or because each book deals with the same characters throughout (Ott-Heidmann's are a bit more random).  Muller also alternates between full-page pictures and smaller scenes, whereas all of Ott-Heidmann's books have only full-page drawings.  Regardless, they are both beautiful books full of seasonal nature and pictures begging to have stories made up about them.  Ophelia is loving these books now (at age three) and Emerson still listens from the side-lines.  I wonder if there will be a day when Emerson becomes the story-teller?  We'll see...