August 31, 2010

Russian Class

We recently started Russian lessons for our two youngest daughters. We have the good fortune of having my former Russian teacher, Tatyana, from the local university, to tutor them privately. All is going extremely well. The girls are already reading in Cyrillic -- a feat that took yours truly at least six months.

The books Tatyana had us get for the girls are very Russian. I love how true to the culture they are.

One of the first things I had to explain to my older daughter was


That's Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space. OK. Yeah, she should know about him.

Then we happen upon


This is a car, the Moskvich, that was produced in Russia from 1945 until 1991. OK. I guess it doesn't hurt for her to know about this common item of Russian life for over half a century.

But, I had to laugh when she sounded out


Especially when she perfectly pronounced "Ka-lash-ni-kov"!

What a proud Mama I was!

August 17, 2010

A Meeting of Minds

Meet Joyce.

Joyce is the Food Service Director for the Clarinda school system. And she is a maverick in that she is committed to giving the children good, pure, local, organic food to eat.

Like myself, she was impressed by Jamie Oliver and his Food Revolution.

She has already transitioned into homemade chicken nuggets from real chicken breasts in the school kitchens.

She is planning to take on beef next year.

She is even plotting to improve the sacred pizza that the kids love. (She knows that this is the last bastion, though.)

I'm so glad we found each other!

Last weekend, we began our working relationship. She came to the farm and bought all that I had harvested on Saturday morning -- summer and winter squashes, seven kinds of cucumbers, sweet and hot peppers, and a few tomatoes.

We finish each other's sentences about the quality of good food.

We both remember times when our mothers and grandmothers made meals from scratch, and in season.

We are both excited about the addition of organic produce to the school lunch menu.

She is going to have a few of the unique squashes on display for the kids to touch and learn about.

She has obtained a farm-to-school grant to promote local and organic food in the schools.

She is even going toe-to-toe with the USDA!

We represent the baby steps on the road to healthy, flavorful, wonderful eating.

August 3, 2010

Summer Camp

"Aim for the Stars" is the name of the Lego Robotics camp at the local university that Maya (aged 9, our fourth daughter) was excited to attend when she got the paperwork at school last May. Sunday night, before the start of the week-long camp, she was filled with dread at the prospect of actually attending it.

I hate this part of parenthood.

Do you make her go? Do you let her off the hook because she's scared? (And forfeit the non-refundable $160-payment you've made.)

It's not like I haven't had experience at this. You would think that I should be pretty well equipped to handle this stuff.

Let us review...

I spent almost a year with my eldest (now 21) when she was three years old and dying to be a ballerina, deciding whether to make her go to dance lessons. I did make her go (well, half of the time). Twenty years later, a quite accomplished ballerina, in a heartfelt moment, summing up all of her life to that point, she thanked me for making her go to dance class early on and couldn't even really imagine not having danced all her life.

I let my second daughter skip out of soccer. Not only did she not take to it, but also the other parents had the worst potty mouths! I couldn't believe my ears at most of the games. Anyway, this one ended up a ballerina, too. And a beautiful one she was.

Next we have our third daughter. She doesn't do anything she doesn't want to do. If you can make her do anything, I tip my hat to you. I've known her since she was born, and I defy anyone to cajole, bribe, threaten, or blackmail her to do anything. So, in a sense, she was easy. I don't make her do anything. It seems to work for all of us.

Then there's Maya. She's the baby. She still needs to explore things, try things, find what she likes. Hence, the camp. It promised to wed playing with toys and programming the computer. Here she is coming out on the first day:

I wished I had been the parent of the boy in front of her. (Not really.)

She hated it. It was boring. It was hard. No one helped her. There were no potential friends. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. (What movie was that from?)

So, Monday night, I called the director of the program and told her Maya's findings at the robotics camp. The director assured me that she would contact Maya's teacher and get her some extra attention and even move her to another subject, more to her liking, after trying a second day at the camp.

Ok, Maya, here's the plan. You go one more day and see how it goes.

Kicking and screaming, she goes.

I cross my fingers on Tuesday when I go to pick her up.

Same deal.

She hates it. She is bored.

So, daunted by the thought of half an hour in the car on Wednesday morning with a sobbing child, I relented and told her she didn't have to go anymore.

What stuck in my craw was that she had left a rather nice lunchbox on Tuesday. Since I was in the area on Thursday, I stopped in to pick it up. I ran into her teacher.

"Oh, is Maya alright? Is she sick?"

No, she's throwing fits so I didn't make her come.

"We miss her! She had a bit of a frustrating day on Monday, but, by Tuesday, she was helping the other girls and showed a predisposition for programming."

What a stinker. I had no idea of any of this.

The gig was up.

I made her attend Friday, the last day of the camp, and she had a really good time. Here she is with Dad, both wearing their badges.

Thank goodness she's the last one. I'm really tired of figuring this stuff out.