Saturday, April 19, 2014

Wisdom from our 3 year old

Hazel has a frequently used word which she made up to mean "the most something could ever possibly be, and it's MORE than infinity." The word is "kinsfinity" Kin to Infinity...

This morning, completely out of the blue, she told me "Mom, Nana is Kinsfinity."


How's that for deep?

I love my little (philosophical) Hazel.

Monday, March 31, 2014

The Thea-Tah!

When I heard that the Shakespeare Theatre Company, a well-renowned establishment here in DC, was holding a video contest, I was immediately excited.  The winner gets free tuition to its amazing Shakespeare camp this summer, and as Cadence has been practically begging to do more theater, I decided it was certainly worth a shot.

I presented it to the kids as a school assignment, which means that regardless of the outcome, they got a lot out of it.  We had great fun working with different bits of dialogue, but given the 15 SECOND time limit, we decided to keep it super simple...I am SO proud of the work they did here, and frankly the 15 second story they came up with to support the Bard's word is more elegant than anything I would have been able to conjure up on my own.

I operated the camera and did the actual editing work, but the rest was all them.  We discussed the meaning of the word "fierce", we discussed how stories can be told and what actions support it (or don't!) and they came up with a list of things that Calliope often does that fit the description of "fierce," and then figured out ways to stage each event in such a way as to capture the necessary moment without stress or tears.

Given that Cadence is the only one who will be old enough to qualify to attend the camp this year, we let her take the lead when it came to dialogue, but I would be remiss if I didn't give Hazel the credit she deserved...that kid just KILLED IT with a lot of the lines we played with, and we have actually been inspired by this experience to work on a longer scene where both big kids will get to have at this juicy text, so hopefully we will have that to share with you soon.  But; for now, I am PLEASED to present, our entry into the Shakespeare Theater Company's iShakespeare Camp Shakespeare Video Contest:

Chaos Ninja from Kat Stroot on Vimeo.

UPDATE: We got word just as we were leaving for our trip to NYC last week…this amazing little video is the WINNER!!!  I couldn't be more proud!!!

Monday, March 24, 2014


The last e-mail my mother sent me was a forwarded message about the impending publication of the book which included her essay. The last e-mail I sent to her was my response, a simple "Yaaaaaaay!!"  Had I thought about the finality of that message?  Did I know it would be the last?

There could be far worse conclusions.  It didn't end with an unanswered question, there were no harsh feelings; she was sharing something she was so incredibly proud of, and I shared my joy about it with her.  

I have found it hard to do much of late.  I can feel that, if I didn't have my own kids, this loss would be so much harsher, because to me, there is no option that involves letting my children down.  My need to encourage them and help them realize their own potential forces me to step out the door when I would rather hide; my desire to see them thrive pushes me to take care of myself in order to care for them.  I am pretty successful at the day to day, they are fed, they are clean, they seem happy, and we have even been pretty successful in our homeschooling efforts and have been making new friends.

But beyond that, it is admittedly pretty hard.  I haven't been able to write, even my attempts at documenting the amazing work these kids have been doing, or their progress in general, have proved way too daunting to tackle.

Instead I find myself hiding in social media, and searching through old posts to find tidbits from my mother. I hope to soon be able to pick up and carry on, and in her honor create something wonderful, but for now I must be kind to myself.

And so…

My mother's last Facebook post was "My nurses's name is Angel today and she is!!" 

Love you, Mama.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

My inspiration

Calliope, 14 month old wunderkind, has taken her already well established precocious climbing skills to the extreme this month when she discovered that she could relocate step stools for better access to things she would like to explore.  Pair that with her love of light switches…Her new favorite pastime is to wait until I am sitting on the toilet, and then climb up and flick the light on and off to her hearts' content.  Oh, and did I mention she can open doors?

Using the restroom has become a strobe experience.

Really, though, she is the most thoughtful, compassionate little kid…she goes out of her way to help wherever she can…she spreads jam on bread to make sandwiches, she puts things away, she DEMANDS to share whatever treat she has…she gives great loving nudges (and says "nuuuuuudge!") as she loves.  She just exudes love.  She LOVES!!! and it is wonderful.

Hazel, 3 year old wunderkind, has already begun writing.  She will still ask for spelling help, but if you tell her which letter comes next, she can write it down, legibly.  It is incredible.  And WOW if she doesn't have some serious musical chops-the kid can sing exactly on pitch and belt with the best of 'em. (Seriously.  We took them to see Frozen and bought the soundtrack the next day.  It has been on repeat for the past couple weeks and she attacks Let It Go right along with Idina.) Sharp as a tack this kid, she doesn't miss much and makes fabulous deductions.  She has recently begun asking about slavery and jumps into discussion about why people do things-bad things, good things- the heart in this kid is epic, and her brain matches.

Cadence, 6 year old wunderkind, has burned through about 10 boxcar children books, a bunch of play scripts, at least two other independent chapter books and I don't know how many American Girl books in the last two and a half weeks. She ads and subtracts two and three digit numbers, and then asks for harder problems.  She can do basic multiplication and division, and even wandered into algebraic territory when she realized that it was possible to have negative numbers.  She can reason out problems and deduct things like it's just second nature, and LISTENS so well.  She genuinely tries everything we put to her, and flourishes with it.  And she does everything with enthusiasm!  Her energy and willingness is unbelievable.  She has quickly established herself as a serious student both in our homeschool adventures and in her jiujitsu classes…and oh yeah, she lost her first tooth yesterday! But she already had her gown up tooth there so it wasn't a big deal.  Silly and exciting, but whatevs. and she doesn't even have it - she figures she must have swallowed the baby tooth,  - but it doesn't seem to bother her much…oh well, she says, the tooth fairy will just have to wait for the next one. She is an amazingly considerate big sister and helper, and stuns me in her capacity and life every day!!

And James, while maybe not a wunderkind anymore, is pretty amazing, too.  He is working his dream job, handling mom's estate, being an awesome dad that the kids totally adore and learn so much from, and instead of being weighed down by all the responsibility is inspired by it.  He has kept up with his cycling even though we moved and he no longer has to-now we are close enough that he can ride his bike all the way to work if he so chooses - and he and his coworkers have started doing exercises together during the day to keep themselves accountable and healthy.  And there is talk of taking up the game Go during lunch breaks…he has been learning about and acting on things he has wanted to do  for himself - from hobbies to lifestyle choices to medical stuff- and it is wonderful to see him flourishing.

They inspire me so much, every day, in so many ways.  I love them all so much.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Know Your Drowning

I have lots of writing to catch up on, and I don't mean to ignore all the work we've been doing that I really want to recognize, but first I want to share something with you all.

This morning a friend of mine started a conversation online about the emotional roller coaster of happening upon a small child, seemingly alone and in distress, on the streets of NYC.  Others chimed in with their own stories of similar incidents, and it made me think about how you never know when this sort of thing is going to pop up, and it re-inspired me to share a tidbit of knowledge I picked up from social media which I recently had to put to very good use.

A long while back, there was a little article circulating on Facebook about what it looks like to actually drown.  As with many things, we are often shown dramatic images of someone splashing and shouting as they begin to drown - movies, TV, y'know, the usual need for big spectacle - which gives us an unfortunately inaccurate idea of what to look out for in terms of water safety.  I read it, shared it, and filed it away in the back of my brain under "very useful things that I will probably never actually need to use and hopefully won't forget if I do."  (I had a professor in college, Saskia Hegt, who used the phrase "put it in the computer" - you decide something, add it to the information your brain is processing, and then forget about it and let the program run in the background.  She was referring to character work-you make a choice for your character and build that choice into the way you approach it, so then it is just in there informing your work without you actively thinking about it in every moment.)

Last week I had an experience that made me so very glad to have that tidbit of info installed in my brain.

One of our homeschool groups took a field trip to a REC center for a swim one afternoon. It was a big, busy pool even in the middle of the day. There was a preschool swimming class going on in one corner, a senior aqua size class in another, lots of folks there for lunch break exercise and folks enjoying the many hot tubs on the side.  There were life guards, of course, but not really enough to effectively monitor everything.  While some of the older kids had gone to swim in the deeper part of the pool, I was hanging out with some of the younger ones in the shallow area.  They found a basket of pool toys and had been pretty engrossed for a while, when the preschool swimming class ended, and the teacher came to collect the toys.  While she was going about her task of recovering them, a mom who had been standing off to the side observing suddenly came over and started shouting for her attention.  I tapped her shoulder to call her attention to the mom, who screamed "She can't swim!" The teacher looked confused, and either didn't hear her or didn't understand or something, and the woman gave up and started yelling for a life guard.  "The little one! There!  She jumped in after the big kids and she can't swim!" None of the lifeguards seemed to hear her, though, and as she grew more frantic my gaze automatically turned to the deep end of the pool.  There, right in the middle of a bunch of happily splashing children, I saw her.  She was a tiny kid, probably around 4 or 5, not in the deepest part where the other parents from our group were engaged with their kids, but in the mid-range depth where the class had been moments before, and she was definitely in over her head.  She was vertical in the water, head upturned, arms outstretched, bobbing and gasping, no splashing, completely silent.  I instantly recognized the behavior from that long forgotten article.

Without even thinking, (it was in the computer, just like Saskia said!) I took off in her direction, Calliope still on my hip.  There was no stranger danger in her eyes when I approached her, just an empty, glassy terror that gave way to relief as scooped her up and held her securely on my other hip. She hugged me tightly and sputtered to fill her lungs with air.  I talked to her lightly and soothingly as I carried her over to the frantic woman who I assumed was her mother.  It wasn't.

Her mom must have seen us from her spot on the bleachers, because she came running over just moments later, looking utterly heartsick.  She gave me the most genuine "thank you" I have ever received as she took her daughter from my arms, and turned to the teacher to demand to know what happened.  I turned back to my own kids after thanking the woman who had alerted me to the child's distress - this had all gone down in a matter of seconds, and no one else noticed.  Imagine if she hadn't been paying attention…But anyway, that was it.  For all the drama I've imbued in this writing, it was actually rather spectacularly mundane, or something.  I just did what needed to be done in the moment, more or less calmly, and I left feeling more on edge from hearing the teacher snap to the child's mom "you really should be watching her" than anything else.

Anyway, the classic "if it can save one life, it's worth it"mentality comes into play here, and while I sincerely hope that someone - one of the lifeguards or teachers - would have noticed and intervened if I hadn't, there is no way to know that for sure…and since I have now come so close to it myself, I feel a strong desire to 'pay it forward' so to speak, and make sure that you all have the information in the backs of your brains, should you ever be faced with a similar situation.

So, with the hope that it will never become practically useful to you, do me a favor and take a moment to read (or re-read) the article here: Rescuing Drowning Children: How to know when someone is in trouble in the water.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Birthday gift.

I can't get a picture of what is happening right now, but I know I have found home.

We set up our brand new living room this evening, in our amazing new home that is about as perfect for our little family as we could ever hope for. Poor Hazel isn't feeling well tonight, so we created a cozy nook to curl up in all together. Eventually everyone (except me) dropped off to sleep, and the night is still and calm. I am lounging on our couch, Calliope sleeping in my arms. Cadence is dozing beside me, Lily and Carmen both spilling off of her tiny lap. Puy is curled in the fuzzy grey recliner that our new landlords gave us-it's just her color, and her delight in camouflage dictates that it is now hers. She is contentedly watching the fire while I soak in this scene; James and Hazel using my feet as pillows and the Christmas tree, which our landlords reported showed up with a bunch of elves, rounding out this little circle of coziness.

This is worth it. The relief, as one friend put it, is palpable. James' commute was halved. The kids and I were able to go out and about without the car, and the old routine of walking to our destinations made everyone giddy. They exchanged thoughts on how this was different-you can see more, so much happens when you walk, you can hear things when you walk that you'd never catch in a car. You get exercise and can breathe fresh air that doesn't smell like vents. In bad weather it can be unpleasant but even then you are at least experiencing something. 

They are amazingly smart kids. And they thrive in whole body experiences. Not being strapped into car seats for every little thing. Not being strapped to a desk for every little lesson.

This is a home. A place of comfort where we can all thrive. Not a polished cage where humanity is frowned upon. Here we can heal. We can grow. We can feel safe. 

And with that, the clock strikes midnight and it is my birthday. Here's to 29. Bet it'll be a helluva year.

Pat, Scott-You gave us the key to get out of the cage well before we would otherwise have been able to. We are so lucky to have you in our lives. I love you, and hope you'll be able to visit this place next time you can come out east. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Kelly Update

I want to offer a huge, heartfelt thank you to everyone who has reached out to me and my family over the past couple of days.  The scope of suggestions and offers and the way everyone rallied to try to make sure Kelly was safe and cared for was wonderfully stunning.

The important thing:  Kelly is coming home.  Her specific journey and choices are hers to share or not as she pleases, so I won't go into detail here, but we owe it to all of you who stepped up to let you know that she will be home with Dad very soon.

Thank you all SOOO much for your support and assistance. 

Much love!!!