Thursday, August 30, 2007

"As we have seen, there are other ways to see things."

From The Happiness Myth by Jennifer Michael Hecht. What a fun book. I am sad that I have to return it to the library today before I am really done with it but I am excited for the next person on the library list who gets to read it. There is alot of good stuff in this book- history of why we (in this Western culture) do what we do and why we worry about what we do.

These are great quotes from the book-
"It is worth paying attention." [Isn't it though!]
"Present-day convictions about what normal people do are much too is all tremendously dependent on time and place, and it is not all the same."

Did you know that if lab rats are forced to try new things, they experience stress. But if new cages and gadgets are just sort of put around they will go VOLUNTARILY and choose novelty! I love how this relates to kids, to unschooling, to learning, to allowing people to be who they are...

Hecht also suggests we think about what makes us happy, make a list of the things we love to do and things we would like to do. Make three lists- Good-day Happiness, Euphoria, A Happy Life and fill them up. Then do the things that are on your list. Try them and reflect and wonder if you want to do those things again or do you want to try something else...or a little of both.

"We seem obsessed with motivation, rallying ourselves to something beyond the life available to us right now, and we treat this motivation as if it were a major part of the history of wisdom, which it is not."

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Eva photos

Eva self portrait, age 4 (and almost a half)

Eva self portrait, age 4 (and almost a half)

Eva with roses. She lined up all of these petals for me and then went and picked a rose and set up the photo to show how much she loved me.

Eva and baby splashing in the puddles in their rain gear.

Eva painted her face with face paint we found at the art supply store. I thought it would be just the thing because she is enjoying lots of body art these days. Too bad the paint was itchy. She had me wash it all off shortly after we finished painting.

I painted Eva's toes and legs with the paint.

Eva painting.

Eva painted my feet. A masterpiece. And they looked good in sandals too!


-Yesterday we went to see the Oregon Ballet do their once a year practice in the park. The tent is set up in the south park blocks in Portland's Cultural District, just south of Downtown. Anyone can go and watch the dancers and it is all free! Eva really wanted to watch and also let me know she does not want to actually dance because she has some practice of her own to do. I was surprised actually how quickly she tired of watching the rehearsal. There were several breaks between action when the choreographer would talk with the dancers and show them moves, etc. We are going back on Friday morning to watch a free kids class, just to see what that is all about and I am hoping we can make it to one of the performances on Saturday, after the farmer's market. That may be more interesting to her. Samuel actually really enjoyed himself and was also surprised when Eva wanted to go.

-We just finished up Bedknobs and Broomsticks by Mary Norton. We enjoyed it but really wished there had been more exploring and as Samuel said, less about their lives. I ordered the movie from the library and am curious about it now that we have finished the book. Samuel is generally disappointed by movie adaptations of books (James and Giant Peach, for example). Not sure how this one will go over because if I have seen it, I do not remember it.

-Season 3, volumes 1 and 2 of Lost in Space finally came in through inter-library loan. That is currently playing in the background. Samuel and I did the math about how many episodes that makes and I have conveniently forgotten at this point. I would say many, several, a lot. And so far they are still trying to get off of that planet...

-Eva has been enjoying the Peep website and its games. This is a new series we found on DVD at the library and I believe is a partial inspiration for her own character Chicky, along with her own stuffed chick who she carries around in a small basket, like a portable nest.

-I am still reading the Happiness Myth and have added to that And the Skylark Sings with Me by David Albert, a book about one family's journey homeschooling their two musical daughters. It is an inspiration to parents whose children are following paths that the parents do not necessarily share. Neither Albert nor his partner were particularly musical and yet were able to help their daughters pursue their musical interests. I am really enjoying his thoughtful ideas about the public school system as well.

-I am also reading Spineless Wonders by Richard Conniff and I highly recommend it if you enjoy spending time with bugs. It is a perfect time of year to read it, what with all of the spider webs and ants and flies and bees...

-Oh and also Suze Orman's Women and Money. I have read her before and she can get pretty hepped up so I made sure I was in a relaxed state of mind when I picked up the book. It is geared toward empowering women and has some interesting commentary. I am skimming quite a bit of it because as I said before, she gets pretty hepped up and I was hoping to feel good reading it, not more hepped up myself. I like reading organizational books sometimes though and tend to enjoy them more if I let myself skip around and skim quite a bit, take some here and there and then move on.

-Samuel spends quite a bit of time looking over the lego website, particularly the parts with the bionicles. He has the first of the newest Toa Mahri, the red guy (a.k.a. Toa Jaller). Today I noticed the two of them looking at pictures of the Toa together. Don't worry if you don't undestand this last paragraph. There are a lot of bionicles around my house these days, all set up and ready for something or other. I have been following this saga for years.

-Berenstain Bears

-Jay Jay the Jet Plane

-Geronimo Stilton

-Nana Upstairs, Nana Downstairs and other Tomie dePaola

-Stephen Kellogg

-Wildlife of Star Wars, A Field Guide by Terryl Whitlatch and Bob Carrau

-Oh and this is a pretty funny take off on Star Wars that is a lot of fun to watch

Saturday, August 25, 2007


The hamster came back! Not twenty minutes after I wrote the last post (which is mis-dated, by the way, because I wrote over a post titled Treasure Hunts... that I started on Thursday. The missing hamster just seemed more relevant. I'm not missing the irony that the missing hamster, Fluffy wanders off, is a sort of treasure hunt in and of itself, surely not to be outdone by the other treasure hunts I was going to write about a couple of days ago!). I was in the kitchen making food for Eva and she started pretending she was a character she just came up with, Chicky. Chicky was peep peeping at me to follow her, as she crawled into the next room, to put her into her *nest* which is a pillow inside the plastic climbing structure we have in the living room. I followed her and looked over and there!, Fluffy came out from behind the ONE-BOOKCASE-I-COULD-NOT-MOVE! He moved slowly and yawned a little (ok I am embellishing for effect here), he just moved a little slowly and stopped and I went over and scooped him up and gave him some banana which he took and nibbled and even stuck some in his pouch for later. Then I put him in his little cage and he went over and got into his bedding nest and started grooming himself. End of story! What a happy ending. Everyone had been so distraught they could barely get excited when I presented Fluffy to them and instead looked at him in wonder. But the relief is palpable in the house now that Fluffy is back and we have each taken turns to go and check on him, safe in his cage, asleep.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

missing hamster

Well, the hamster is missing- again. I am feeling very tired over missing hamsters. Weary. My sister and I were recounting just a couple of weeks ago the different hamsters that we had when we were growing up and which ones went missing or met untimely ends. My second hamster Inle (any Watership Down fans?), after my first very-long-lived hamster Garfield who died at age 4 of some sort of eye abscess, went off to live with the mice at one point. We trapped her and caught her. She just never adjusted to cage life. One of Ellen's hamster, Sunshine, escaped from her cage (truth be known, it was a styrofoam cooler I used to fly her? or did we drive? to Ohio from Wisconsin. She used her sharp little teeth to gnaw her way out.) and was caught by a large dog named Wimpy (dog to my Dad's second wife, Debbie). They told me that she must have died of a heart attack, although now that I think about it, I am not sure how they knew that at the time. I seem to remember-yes!- a third hamster, Ellen's again, that we found several months after she/ he had gone missing. We found said hamster, whose name I have forgotten (Ellen's third and I believe last hamster), in the heater vent in the basement when it was being cleaned out for the winter.

That brings us to now. Here I am, an adult now, still looking for lost hamsters. Our first hamster, Fluffy, escaped a couple of times and was found, once behind a bookcase in a nest of ripped up carpeting she had prepared for herself over night. She escaped several times and went behind the couch, etc until finally one night she stood on her little house in her cage and pushed UP. She pushed the lid off of the cage and climbed out. We had actually seen her practicing this move and thought it very optimistic of her. Cute. Wow, check out what the hamster is doing... I usually stored a large bag of hamster food on top so that she could not move the lid up far enough to escape. For some reason I did not have something weighing it down that night and she escaped.

It was so sad when she escaped because she found her way out to the garage and eventually into the crawl space below via the only little hole behind the heater, far back in the corner. I actually caught her once in a trap I set but the box was not strong enough to hold her (remember she had been lifting weights...) and she got out and ran off again. For a few days she would come out and get almonds I baited her with. I have to believe she got caught down in the hole and wasn't able to get out. We like to believe she found her way outside to freedom but I have to admit, the chances were slim. Several months later there was a severe smell coming from under the house where the heating vents (again!) had broken and filled with water. The fix-it-guy who came over surmised she might have gotten into the vents looking for water and died there. He didn't believe there was any way out of the crawl space but up. Unfortunately it was lined with plastic, not dirt and grasses like I imagined. If anyone WAS going to get out of a crawl space in another way, it would be a hamster. They are, as I have been told, masters of escape.

And that brings us to the cats. Generally, one of our cats leads us to the escaped hamster. You know, you walk into a room and a cat is sitting staring intently but sort of relaxed too, at an undetermined spot. Magoo is the best at this and you know something is up with the hamster. Ah ha! You have found the spot. All you need to do now is move whichever piece of furniture is under or around the cat and usually cat-marks-the-spot, you have a hamster, usually dozing away or grooming or just relaxing. So on the one hand, you want the cat to help you find the hamster and then again on the other hand, you don't. Because remember, cats generally eat hamsters. So they can be helpful in some ways and not so helpful in others.

This hamster, Fluffy (Yes, it is the same name but not the same hamster. This hamster is a male teddy bear hamster and was named Nibbles at the humane society. I did pause at that but the kids really took to him. The other hamster was a regular female hamster whose name was Marshmallow at the humane society. Completely different except that they both like to escape.) has escaped a few times but it has generally been to very controlled spaces, like inside the couch or just over by the futon. Today was different. He was sitting with Eva and had been out with her for a while and then she set him down to sit in front of the fan and a couple of seconds later he had wandered off and quickly at that. We turned the room upside down, closed all doors to places like OUTDOORS and the GARAGE and then picked up furniture, toys, cleared a space and finally brought out his cage, baited it with a banana and set it in the middle of the living room floor in the hopes that he will get hungry and come out for food. Again, we are hoping for some help from the cats, but not too much help, if you know what I mean. I will do my best to keep them very well fed tonight (as if they aren't already!).

What I told the kids earlier is that when a hamster escapes during the day time, the most likely scenario is that he has gone to find some place to sleep. We hope he is right around here this very minute, behind a bookcase or in a little crevice that looks too small from our eyes to fit him, just sleeping away. We hope that when he gets hungry he will come out to find the banana. We hope that Magoo will point the way. We hope he is old and loves us enough to not take off on his own. I have to admit, it is a bit galling to think of him sleeping nearby while all of us are quite disturbed by his escape. Eva is just beside herself and has gone to "imagine what life will be like without Fluffy ". Samuel, of course, is "never going to let Eva forget that she lost Fluffy". As for myself, I am feeling very weary and tired, tired and weary, about lost hamsters right now and really just hope this one comes back.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

art class

This is the art class the kids are taking at the Multnomah Art Center. The class has four different stations set up each time to do different projects and the kids can move around to any of the areas depending on what they enjoy and what they are up for. It is very loose and the teacher is there to set it all up and take care of finished projects and be really enthusiastic! Today was the last day of this class and we are going to sign up for another of the same kind in the fall. We are hoping that the next teacher is as open and enthusiastic as the one we had this time. She is on her way to work at the Portland Art Museum.

Samuel is working on a collage with glue and tissue paper on aluminum foil.

Samuel and Eva working on collages with colored glue and feathers and pasta and different types of paper, all on coffee filters with paint or origami paper. The number of different supplies is really exciting for the kids.

Eva pointed out this photo is her in purple but with the red paint and Samuel in red but with the purple paint. She wished I had taken one with her with the purple paint and Samuel with the red paint. Ah, if only I had thought of it!

And here is a big pile of art projects from the different classes. There was clay and different painting with spray bottles and salad spinner paintings where you put the painting in the salad spinner and added glitter. Lots and lots of glitter! And lots of collages and colored glues and eye dropper painting on coffee filters and shiny paper and feathers and lots of colored pasta. Today they had oil pastels on black paper and different types of chalks. I liked too how she mixed up the projects each time because the kids moved around and did all of the different projects and then did others they didn't think they would like if some of their "favorites" ended up not being there that day. And they enjoyed those as well. A real discovery class.

And on that note of discovery, I found another unschooling blog today that I am thoroughly enjoying. I agree whole heartedly with her sentiments that, "we are trying to be a buffer for our children, so they can lay claim to their own gifts without the weight of second guessing themselves." Very aptly put. She had a link to this ode-to-creativity article that is well worth reading. I get shivers reading the last lines. It can be an effort to find what we truly love and what inspires us, but surely that is what this life is about.

Monday, August 20, 2007

kimchi revisited

Oh I forgot to mention that I finally tasted the kimchi. I have to say I didn't really like it. It is awfully salty. It has been in the refrigerator for a couple of days now and today I finally decided to give it a try. I have to say that the Chinese cabbage does not look appetizing but the turnips and whatever else I put in there (I should check out my previous post) were more appetizing and crunchy. It doesn't, you'll be glad to know, smell bad and that is a good thing! I actually have nothing to compare it to and am looking forward to Ellen returning to Portland so that she can taste it and tell me if it tastes like kimchi. If not, maybe I can try again!

more walks in the woods

We went to the Arboretum today. We have been trying for three times a week and are managing about twice, which is great. Today it was raining a bit and the trees are just amazing with moss and lichen.

Here they are all set for a walk. Samuel is dressed up at his character Tech 4 and Eva has one of her favorite babies, Water Baby (because you fill her up with water). I am actually happy they ended up not taking all of this gear on the walk because it can get a little loaded down sometimes. I am also glad I got a picture of this before we went to the woods because if I had waited I wouldn't have gotten it! The Tech 4 outfit inspired a discussion on "How is it that Jango Fett can walk around with all of the gear without getting tired and all of this gear is wearing ME out?" You can see how many ways this conversation could go. We decided that Jango probably has had a lot of time to figure out which gear is light and usable and a lot of it is a part of his clothing, like the rocket launchers and aren't just hanging down, etc. You get the idea.

And here is a lovely banana slug. The photo doesn't do its yellow color justice. This guy is about two inches long and you can see he did not want his picture taken, nor did he like the flash, because he is all scrunched up and hiding his antennae. I'll bet he was relieved when we left.

Here are Samuel (red), Eva (purple) and Jack (black) on our walk today.

Eva, Samuel and Jack climbing around. They like to use Jack's leash as a mountain climbing rope and sort of propel themselves down into ravines and such. Then they use it to haul one another (or I use it to haul them) up the hills. Sometimes it would be easier just to climb up but using the leash lends a certain feel that is missing without it.

And here I took a picture outside on our patio. Eva wrote her name! Can you see the E and the V (upside down) and the A? How exciting! She has been very big on letters lately, picking out E's everywhere we go. There's an E and there's an E... I found the letters E, V and A in the car where she left them yesterday. EVA is everywhere! She has been working on E's for a while and today was the first time she put them all together like that.

Friday, August 17, 2007

books and minigolf

We went to play miniature golf (a.k.a. putt putt) the other day and the kids had a blast. I loved to see their different personalities play through the golf course in their own styles. Eva ran through the course at least twice as fast as me and Samuel. Each time she got the ball in the hole she shouted, "Hooray!" and then she ran on to the next hole, never daunted and thoroughly excited by the whole experience. Samuel went through the different holes one at a time and played each of the holes several times. He was out for a hole in one experience and he got six. Yes! Samuel got six holes in one. I am sure that my eyes popped and my mouth dropped open for the first, second and then third holes in one. Then I got used to it. It was pretty amazing to see him stand at one end and then see the ball just POP right into the hole. Afterward Samuel said that he liked the hole in one but that it also kind of ruined it for him because then he wanted to get one for every hole. By the end he was using his golf club like a pool cue (I had to look that one up) and shooting it into the hole. We were able to sneak out both golf balls this time in part because Samuel hit his so hard it flew out into the parking lot. As he said, he has a really good shot.

Eva has been enjoying a book on skeletons lately. We sat down last night and looked through every page of the book in depth. I think we will get the body book next. Samuel and I are reading The Last of the Jedi series by Jude Watson. It is all about the Jedi and those who support them after the Empire takes over in the Star Wars world. It is the third series we have read by this author and I am sorry to say her last so far. We also recently read The Mouse and the Motorcycle between Jedi books. I have been tossing around the idea of Harry Potter next but I am still concerned it might be a bit much for us still. I am currently reading The Happiness Myth. It is interesting but not for the feint of heart. It examines some or the things that are taken pretty seriously in our culture and explains where they come from and why thinking they will make us happy is basically delusional and a misplaced use of our energy. A real page turner. Also an enjoyable book by Stuart Wilde, The Force. This one is more about the real meaning of life. A good mix.

blueberries and raspberry sorbet and...

We have such bountiful blueberry bushes. The neighbor told me they were at least 30 years old. I just picked another two pints easily out there among the chickadees and finches and scrub jays. There are several more to go, even after several chickadee meals. So sweet to hear the little babies almost grown calling back and forth. Chickadees take little nibbles of the blueberries and sometimes bite them off whole and nibble that way. This explains all of the blueberries on the ground. Scrub jays take them off whole and fly away to eat them on the roof. When I went out to pick I was reluctant to scare them away. Lucky for me they came back after I was there for a while.

We have so many birds in our yard thanks to the many different types of berries and seeds and the garden and trees and of course the bird feeder. The most abundant right now are the chickadees. There is a whole passel of them living nearby and they call back and forth in kind of a raspy dee dee dee. There are almost as many of them as the bushtits, who have recently shown up again for suet. We have some finches but not as many as at our last place. There are scrub jays and towhees (who I even saw doing an elaborate mating ritual in the spring!) and ravens. The raven babies have been a lot of fun to watch and listen to. They make such a fuss and are so loud that many is the time I walk out to the yard to see if they are ok. I want to offer them something to tide them over until mom or dad gets back. The cawing and clucking stops momentarily as food is literally shoved down their throats. Oh and of course the Northern Flickers are around. I have seen hawks circling over our yard but not actually in it, although at the last place there was an American Kestral who came and sat on the fence to watch the bird feeder. This gave me pause for thought.

Jack is not always keen on the different birds visiting the yard. He has a reputation to uphold and the ravens in particular are not to be trusted. He charges past me to clear the yard of squirrels, ravens, scrub jays... Yesterday he and I heard a call that I can't quite identify. I saw the little guy and know he is a wren but whether he is a Bewicks wren or another type I couldn't say today. At the time it seems like I could never forget that musical trill but after listening to eight different wren calls on e-nature, I am not quite sure. The wren made such a fuss in the bushes that Jack charged out to see what was up. We never did find out what it was all about. Funny to see Jack all puffed up over the little wren call. He was probably scolding Maxwell or Magoo. I wish we could tell the little guy that Magoo can barely see him, much less catch him.

Aunt Ellen went on vacation to the wilds of Wisconsin and left us her wonderful ice cream/ sorbet maker to borrow. We made some raspberry sorbet with some of our delectable u-pick raspberries and it was amazing! Eva said she wanted to eat more of the sorbet so her tongue could say YUM. I liked it so much I dreamed of different kinds of sorbet all night. I woke up excited to try peach sorbet, cherry sorbet, blackberry sorbet... And it was easy. For the skeptics out there, clean up was easy too! Almost effortless! Can't you just hear my enthusiasm! Just don't touch the cold part with wet hands because your hand can get stuck on it! It looks like I may be asking Santa for an ice cream/ sorbet maker for Christmas. What I loved about it too was that it was one more fun thing to do with fruit and sugar. If you cook it, you get jam. If you freeze it, you get sorbet! Thank you Aunt Ellen!

Autumn is definitely on the way. The geese have been flying since the end of July. Leaves are starting to change. The blueberry bushes have blueberries and also have little red leaves starting up. The birds are flocking more often. The sun here has a different angle characteristic of autumn and is already setting earlier. Longer shadows. I love autumn. I love its action and changes and movement. The swallows and gold finches will leave and the juncos will arrive. We will pick apples and pears instead of raspberries. Although we still have to pick some fall raspberries! And tomatoes! I am busy now knitting in an attempt to have at least one of the sweaters I have started ready to wear in the fall. I would like another hat and a sweater for Eva and now Samuel wants one and some gloves and...

We registered for a couple of classes at Village Home, a homeschooling resource here in Beaverton. Samuel is going to take a drama class and an invention class. Eva is excited to go to Little Villagers, a playtime/art time with other four-ish year olds. She says she will only talk to people that she knows but I see she is excited to make new friends as well. The classes don't start until the second week in September and we are excited. We are finishing up our art class next week as well.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Something I never thought I would say as a momma...

"Hey Eva! There goes an earwig! And there goes another! Do you want to put them in a jar?" Eva ran to catch the earwigs and we put two of them in a little jar I have all ready for this very occasion. Then we added some petunia petals and some geranium petals and a few oregano blossoms and a little lemon balm. When I set them free in a few hours I am confident that I will see little munch marks in the flower petals. Earwigs and slugs rarely pass up a good meal, even if it is in a jar.

It is earwig season and earwigs love to hide inside little crevices. Be careful if you use straws during earwig season, for instance, because they like to hide inside them. I have actually sucked up two earwigs since living here in the mighty Pacific Northwest. Lucky for me and the earwig! I was able to spit both of them out in time. Still, I tend to check out straws now before I use them.

Contrary to popular belief, earwigs do not try and get inside your ears (at least not any more than other insects who like little spaces) and they don't hang onto your ears with their pincers. The article that I linked above is the first place I have ever read that earwigs might actually go into your ear. Actually it says they "probably" go into your ear, so I am still not convinced.

Earwigs eat flowers and fruit and can be found hiding on peaches near the stem at the u-pick and on flower petals. They also like to climb into the blankets I hang on the clothesline and hide in the little crevice between the rope and the blanket. When we take down the blankets they run like crazy. Why do they run? Because they know that Eva is going to catch them and put them in a jar.

Friday, August 10, 2007


Well it is blackberry season for sure. But then I guess the whole summer is blackberry season for one variety or another. I picked four different kinds of blackberries today at the u-pick. Can you tell the difference? You can when you pick them and when you taste them too. We are going to have a taste test later today to see if the kids can tell the difference between them. The top row in the picture are Triple Crown blackberries. Samuel asked why they called them Triple Crown and I just found a quote from the Agricultural Research Service's Fruit Laboratory in Maryland. "The berry gets its name from three crowing attributes- flavor, productivity and vigor. So much for that name. Anyway, they are one of three thornless blackberries I picked today. Another is the Waldo blackberry (right basket, center row). I prefer the Triple Crown to the Waldo. The best of the three thornless blackberries is the Chester (left backet, center row). I love the thorn-free picking but I prefer the thorned blackberries' flavor over the thornless, hands down. The Silvan blackberries on the bottom row have thorns for sure but their flavor is the best of the four, in my opinion. They are much sweeter and juicier, softer. I actually like the Himalayan blackberries that grow wild all over the place around here, even if they are considered invasive weeds. They taste great. I let some grow in our yard each year to pick at the end of summer and then cut them back.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Samuel and Eva and Jack

kimchi and fluffy

I made the kimchi yesterday and today. Yesterday I started soaking the vegetables in the saltwater brine. Today I mixed up the ginger, garlic, pepper and onions into a paste of sorts and mixed it with the drained vegetables, added a little brine and weighted it all down in a glass jar so that everything is submerged. It will now ferment there for about a week. I am very excited. I haven't done any fermenting experiments in a while. The vegetables I chose were Chinese cabbage, green beans, turnips and carrots. Oddly I am all out of radishes.

The kids have been having a lot of fun with our hamster Fluffy the last couple of days. We have fashioned a sort of leash for him and Eva has been taking him outside a little with the leash. This all started when they tried out the cat leashes on all three of our cats. The cats did not like the leashes, to say the least. We thought maybe we might have more luck with Fluffy and we have. There are a couple of things about a hamster leash to keep in mind. The first is that it needs to be very loose so that is doesn't smoosh the hamster, who is very delicate. The second is that it needs to be just tight enough to actually stay on the hamster, which is a challenge. The third thing to remember is that eventually the hamster will get out of the leash. Hamsters are sort of *made* to get out of things and will go from having the leash on to treating the leash as something to get through. Once the hamster begins treating the leash as something to get through rather than as something he is wearing, it is only a matter of time before he wriggles through the leash. This is another reason to keep it pretty loose. And as Eva said, with a Fluffy leash, you kind of have to follow Fluffy...

The garden is going along beautifully right now. It has been an amazing summer with lots of cool days and rain. My tomatoes still aren't red but I don't think there is quite as much sun for them as I have had in the past. I don't hear much from some plants like the eggplant and cantaloupe and the watermelon is really trying this year for me. The chamomile, calendula, shell beans and kale are really satisfying. And if I left everything alone the borage and fennel would just fill it all in with really happy volunteers. I have hummingbirds in my garden this year and that is a lot of fun. I was out there yesterday and one sat down just a foot away from me on one of the tomato cages. I didn't know they would like borage flowers and they even checked out the cardoon. I planted a salvia yesterday and was excited to see the little guy out there today!

We've been having lots of fun at the library lately. Yesterday we saw a magician who talked about different books and Samuel was inspired and checked out some books about spies today. He said he is going to set up a spy business, you know, put up a sign and charge for his services. He is always thinking about ways to earn money for Cloud City.

Samuel has been playing quite a bit with his bionicles. Here they are all ready to go.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Today we

went to an art class
caught a slug and put him in a jar
pounded open an old light timer to see how it worked
felt very frustrated
felt very excited
felt bored
felt rushed
enjoyed playing
dressed up as a witch
planted several flowers in the garden
pulled up chamomile and snow pea flowers that have had their day
watched part of Snow White
whistled and hummed part of Snow White's Whistle While You Work
made flubber
ate Annie's cheddar and shells (a.k.a. macaroni and cheese)
clipped Agnes' nails with new nail clippers, yeah!
planted more shell beans (second spring in the Northwest!)
pretended to be a ninja
used several band aids on various wounds
carried bugs around in a bucket
carried baby dolls around in a bucket
looked through the compost pile
looked at the human anatomy book
contemplated and arranged the magnetic letters and dinosaurs on the refrigerator
went barefoot
wore boots
cut up watermelon into thin strips
are off to go for a walk in the park...

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Waterfalls and dragonflies

Yesterday we drove out to the Columbia Gorge and saw Multnomah Falls, which is the second highest year-round waterfall in the United States. But when I read up on it I skipped the next sentence on the website, "Nearly two million visitors a year come to see this ancient waterfall." We saw Multnomah Falls but we did not walk all the way to the top. It was pretty crowded and this for some reason really took me by surprise. I guess because I skipped that sentence. I was sort of envisioning a nice quiet hike around the spectacular falls and this is actually what I billed to Samuel and Eva and they had their adventurer gear to study with as we walked and Jack was all decked out in this dogpack, carrying our water and some snacks. Jack turned out to be the hit of the whole Falls, I think. We had many interested dog lovers approach us about his pack and how it works and chuckled with us about our dog carrying water and feeling good about it, etc. One couple with a elderly dachshund thought it was a particularly fun idea!

So after a little frustration and after we checked out doughnuts at the espresso and pastry stand! near the Falls, we got back into the car with the intent to drive over to Rooster Rock State Park for another adventure. But then we passed another Falls, this one was Wahkeena Falls and it was much less crowded, just 1/4 mile from Multnomah Falls. We walked up up up to the top of the Falls and stood in front of it. It was spectacular to stand in front of the water. We could feel the cool water splashing on our faces, Eva called it water sparks. Then we walked down and had a sort of picnic in a shady picnic area. Well worth the drive. I wish I had pictures but you will have to look at the photos in the link. I must get more memory for my camera.

I noticed some little guys living out in the water of our kiddie pool and hoped and hoped that they were dragonfly larvae. I really love the dragonflies who live out in our yard. They seem friendly and curious and come right up to my finger to check it out when I hold it out for them. They also seem to be able to get themselves out of the screened porch area without much difficulty. After some research, though, I discovered they were not dragonfly larvae or dragonfly nymphs. They were, in fact, red midge larvae and mosquito larvae. Midges can be biting or non-biting insects and I was ok with them. According to one article, they could even have been crane fly larvae, who are harmless, albeit frustrating because they seem to be forever having a hard time flying or getting caught in spider webs and when I try to help them they seem much worse off than before, which is not saying much. But I don't think they were crane fly larvae because I think I have found them in the garden. Anyway, the mosquito larvae kind of sealed the deal and I thought about it and then dumped the pool because there were sooooo many of them. And more and more kept showing up. At the time that I dumped the pool there were several different sizes of the larvae. It was fun watching them for a couple of days. They hang upside down because their breathing apparatus is on their tail and they kind of swirl around in the water to move. The midges were neat too because they ate the strange plant life that had grown up in the water. With both larvae you could see their jaws and what seemed to be teeth. They took large lunging bites out of the algae. Fascinating.

One thing that I learned was that mosquitoes can smell the carbon dioxide and they won't lay their eggs in moving water, only stagnant water with a high carbon dioxide content. Good to know. And did you know that male mosquitoes are pollinators? And (in case you don't read the above link!) "For the most part, mosquitoes feed on nectar or rotting fruit. The females drink blood only when they're ready to lay eggs." So it's nothing personal, she's just making her way in the world, trying to do the best for her babies just like the rest of us.

And if all of that weren't enough, Eva decided to cut her hair today! Here she is with her new hair cut and her adventure gear.