Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Samuel as Darth Vader and Eva as a princess.

Samuel dressed up his pumpkin as Darth Vader also. The candle lights shone through the helmet. Very striking!

Eva's princess pumpkin and my spider pumpkin

Candy! Eva's bag became too heavy for her and I ended up carrying it for her half way through. She stopped trick-or-treating eventually and said she had enough candy and had me carry her the rest of the way. Samuel opted to try for a little more candy...And the funny part is that somewhere along the way someone gave Samuel a bag of Doritos and this bag, out of everything, became the coveted prize of the evening! Who knew?


Wow! we had a frost last night. Wasn't I just talking about fall? The kids got out their hammers and went out to break up what ice they could find. The swimming pool water didn't freeze but the water in the sand box did. Samuel wants to put out little containers tonight filled with water so he has a lot of ice to break up tomorrow morning. This is one of the really fun parts of cold weather and the kids get up each morning to check on the ice!

Monday, October 29, 2007


What I like about the change of seasons is that they come on slowly. You notice small changes. Like one week there is no longer any zucchini in the produce basket. It begins to rain in earnest. They send green tomatoes and some cabbage and carrots show up and potatoes every week. Suddenly you need to find out what to do with two heads of broccoli and not six zucchini. Both go well with parmesan. The basil is gone but the marjoram still thrives. Thyme will last through winter, as will rosemary. I wonder why I haven't used any thyme for months except in tea and remember the cilantro- gone. No more swallows. Juncos appear. Geese circle 'round our neighborhood again. A bush out front turns red and the blueberry bushes turn red and orange and the oak across the street is glorious. Eva asks why I froze all of the berries and I point out they aren't growing anymore. Where did they go? Remember when the bushes were heavy with berries and we grabbed handfuls every time we went out front, every time we went anywhere in the car.

And then all of sudden it is fall. Our oak is bright red. Our maple is bright yellow. Driving down the street is a symphony of color. The next season is here! You are in it, in the process of the season. No longer wondering when fall will be here, remembering what that feels like, what that smells like. How the trees turn red and yellow and orange. But what RED and YELLOW and ORANGE. Nothing is like seeing it now, again, for the first time. The colors dulled in memory. Wondering about whether the rainfall determines the trees' colors like Grandma Spangler said. Knowing you can't double check, ever, if it was yellow in the rain or red. That is the other thing I like about the change of seasons. All of a sudden you are not in between two seasons, hot and cold, green and red, tomatoes and cabbage. You are in one and not the other. And then it starts again. Just when you are in one and not the other, you're moving into the next. No more persimmons. No more pomegranates. Satsumas! But that is for another time. In another month or two. For now, it is fall.

change of flowers

The kids and I planted some pansies and violets in the front yard. We were doubly inspired because we are reading The Secret Garden and they are so enthusiastic in that book about things growing and fresh air! We took off all of the mulch from the flower bed and added fresh compost and soil and then turned it all into the soil. I can't bear to dig up flowers that are still thriving even if I know they won't be in a just a few weeks so I left the begonias and the two alyssums (although one of them has been there for over a year at least, so maybe those two will make it through the winter). The impatiens were already dead and we took them out. I have to say that they did not thrive in that space and I may think twice next year (if I remember) and not plant any impatiens there. Begonias yes! The begonias and I have a symbiotic relationship. They grow well for me and I enjoy their growing! And I keep planting them year after year. And the aphids and the slugs leave them alone!

Here is Samuel turning the soil.

Eva bringing back the mulch after the flowers have been planted.

Eva said it was a great day to make leaf collections. She sets up little scenes with her flowers and leaves and plants...

A leaf collection and one in progress with flowers as well.


Last night Samuel said he saw that there were candy canes for sale at Rite Aid! For several hours this morning he asked me repeatedly if a) I believed him that there were really candy canes for sale at Rite Aid already and b) if we could go get some. Finally I decided that going to buy some candy canes at Rite Aid was not the worst thing I could do today and we went right over to get them on the way to do another more tedious errand. I had the choice to be not only incredulous but also slightly disgusted, as is the usual response when they go about trying to market holiday goods earlier and earlier each year. It feels pretty good because then I can also feel righteous, you know, that sort of thing. This time, though, I saw something that might be more fun. I realized that this was the first time I had ever bought candy canes before Halloween. Right? Is that crazy? A for real FIRST! So I celebrated with the kids, with Samuel and really savored the experience with him. I didn't have a candy cane because, well, I don't really like candy canes that much. But Samuel does. And boy did the car smell like Christmas! And just two days until Halloween! What a celebration!

Tonight Samuel caught one of our cats, Maxwell, catching a bird on our patio. Lucky for the bird, but not for Maxwell, we put Maxwell inside and I got a shoe box and started to help the bird. The bird was lying on the ground on his side and there were lots of feathers all around. I called the Audubon Society and they had just closed. I listened to their handy recording on what to do if you find an injured bird. It was just enough information and just long enough for me to get myself back to basics and figure out how to help the bird. To my surprise, when I turned him right side up, he clasped onto my finger with his claws and just sat there on my finger for a good while. He would periodically look back at me and then look down at my hand but he felt safe and clearly needed a moment to collect himself, near death experience and all. I sat with him like this outside near the bird feeder for a while, fifteen minutes maybe. Then I was cold and needed a sweater and a hat and I brought him inside in a shoe box (with a towel on the bottom). While I was inside I showed him to Eva who wanted in on the action and took a good look at him and asked if we could keep him. We just finished reading a book called The True Story of Stellina by Mateo Pericoli in which a woman in New York finds a baby bird on the corner of a busy intersection and brings the bird home to live with her in her apartment in Manhattan. The bird lived with them for eight years! Eva was inspired and here we had our own little Stellina story to try out! I convinced her (slightly) that the bird would be happier outside and that having three cats kind of made having a bird more difficult. She said, "but momma, two of the cats won't try and catch the bird." This is true. Magoo can't really see well enough to pose much of a threat to a bird and Agnes is, well, a bit on the heavy side to run fast enough to catch a bird. Such is the life of domestication. But Maxwell, well he is another story. He likes to catch birds and mice and he is not well fed enough to do it. It's his whole continuum kicking in. Nothing is quite as satisfying for him as catching a little frightened bird trapped on our patio. I don't blame him, I just don't let it happen if I can.

So Eva and I took the little bird back outside, who by this time had attempted to fly inside the shoe box. When we got outside I went back over to the bird feeder and reached in to pick him up and this time he flew! All the way to the fence! I went over to check on him and he looked at me a little. Then he flew to the apple tree. We went inside and I went to check on him again in the apple tree about ten minutes later. When I got too close he disappeared. I knew he was safe when I couldn't fine him anymore. A very satisfying ending to an almost sad story. I was so tickled that he sat on my finger and for that long! I will look for him at my bird feeder- or at least in the apple tree!

Let's see, anything else? Oh, I had more fun today when I checked out the Saturday Night Live soundtrack from the library and listened to it while I cleaned the kitchen! There are some good songs on there and there is no way you won't enjoy yourself!

And we made pomegranate sorbet/granita. It is so worth it! Just so you know, it takes about two full pomegranates to make a cup of pomegranate juice. It is good stuff and it goes quick!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Halloween Fixin's

Ok, so we have two official Halloween costumes. Samuel is going to be Darth Vader and Eva is going as a fairy princess. We finished off the Vader costume today with a new light saber that pops out with a zoom and lights when you push a button. Just the thing for Lord Vader on Halloween night.

We went to the pumpkin patch today and I wish I could say that we had pictures of our friends Kate and Jack. And yet, the camera batteries died in mid-shot. No panoramic views of pumpkins in the field with Mt. Hood in the background, no pictures of the cute little train we rode on, through a haunted tunnel, to the pumpkins and no photos of the boat we rode back on, or the dragons that popped out of the water, for that matter. And of course, no pictures of Kate and Jack, and they posed so well for me. Next time! There were also kittens, a chicken, goats, and pigs. We had a blast and came home with a couple of pumpkins and food left over from our picnic.

Here are the pigs at the pumpkin patch!

And a lovely shot of Samuel (being a very serious knight) and Eva in her new hat I just finished for her!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

"Dr. Smith, don't worry, everything will be alright if you just keep your spirits up."
-Will Robinson to Dr. Smith on the last episode of Lost in Space

I couldn't have said it better myself!

Monday, October 22, 2007


We are feeling sad today because Fluffy died last night. He had become quite sick over the last couple of days, probably from illness related to old age in hamsters. Fluffy was probably a little over 3 years old. He lived with us for the last two years. He was a good friend and companion for all of us and we are happy to have shared our lives with him.

I think Fluffy enjoyed his time with us as well. When we first adopted him from the Humane Society, his name was Nibbles because he bit everyone who tried to pick him up. He did not bite us and let the kids hold him constantly. He slid down slides and learned to ride in slings and in pockets and purses and on skateboards and in roller skates. It was a pretty active life for an older bachelor hamster.

Here are some of our favorite memories of Fluffy-

*when he sat quietly on the couch to watch a show and didn't try to go anywhere

*when he got "frisky" and tried to get away (where was he going?)

*when he nibbled on snacks like apples and pasta and almonds

*when he ran in his ball all over the house

*how he didn't like carrots

*how he loved watermelon

*when he sat very still when Jack would come and sit close by

*when he rode in the roller skate

*when he slept on Eva's lap

*when he was just such a cute little guy

*when he kept a little cache of food near his nest so that he could eat while sleeping

*when he put lots of snacks in his pouches to save for later

*when he liked to run around in his ball with his pouches full because that is how it would have been in the wild

*when he escaped inside the couch or behind the couch or under the couch

*when he made that little tttttt sound to say hello or while he was just rummaging around his cage for food

*when Magoo would sit next to his cage for company

To help him stay comfortable during his last hours we kept apples and lettuce in his nest for him to nibble on when he felt up to it. We put the space heater on to help keep him warm. He sat with Eva for one last time yesterday. Today the kids and I buried Fluffy surrounded by some Mum's we planted. We put rocks on his grave and a marker so we wouldn't forget. We will miss Fluffy. We love him so.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

busy creating

Eva helping to make pita bread; Eva and her lego creation; we also made an apple lady bug after being inspired by an issue of Your Big Backyard. That same day we painted rocks and transformed them into beetles. That was a lot of fun. They are now sitting in between the nature table and the art table, being a little bit of both as painted beetle rocks.

A study in blue and red knights and monsters. Samuel has been painting quite a few of these red and blue knights fighting various monsters and mythical creatures. This week he painted his largest painting yet (his words). There he is before painting and there the painting is after. I hung it in the hallway where there is plenty of room to see it clearly in all of its knight and fire-breathing monsterness.

And of course the great spider lady in our front yard is just grand now. What a creation her web is, eh?

I made some pita bread today which I have not made for many years. The last time I made it we had just one cat! (not three cats, a dog, a hamster and two kids) and we were living in Brooklyn. It turned out pretty well this time. Some of them did not puff up but a couple did and that is always a thrill to see! Eva enjoyed helping to roll out the dough before we put them in the oven. Hers puffed up the most I think because she rolled hers out so thoroughly. They were very thin. I think some of her train cars helped to roll them out, something I will try and remember for next time! I did have to make sure none of the plastic horses were left in the dough before putting them in the oven.

And some great tea-
lemon balm
Infuse for a couple of hours or longer. It is a great immune boost and really flavorful. The thyme really complements the chamomile. I highly recommend it!

Friday, October 19, 2007

The kids and I went to see the Oregon Ballet perform A Midsummer Night's Dream yesterday. The costumes were beautiful and I really enjoyed the dancing. Samuel enjoyed the story and dancing quite a bit and was able to follow it while I narrated some. He said he was up for trying out the Nutcracker again this year. Maybe we can make it to Act II this year!

We tried reading the original Mary Poppins recently and finally stopped and sent it back to the library. I have to admit that we all prefer Disney's Mary Poppins to the original, much to my surprise. The nanny in the book is very gruff, sniffing at everyone and quite sarcastic. It is interesting because the little girl Jane in the book is quite a bit more like the character of Mary Poppins in the movie. It is like they took a bit of some of the characters to make her more extraordinary. Mary Poppins in the book does have access to quite a bit of magic and magic adventures but she is also very coercive and even rude! We trudged on a bit and finally Samuel opted one night to skip it and move onto our old standby, Paddington, who I believe is a good example of unschooling. (Of course we read quite a bit before I made the connection!) Sure, the Browns' children are off at boarding school, but Paddington gets to do his bear-led learning at home with much support and freedom for his adventures. We are really enjoying the books, made even more fun because they were mine when I was a little older than Samuel. I remember getting my first Paddington Bear when I was 8, almost 9, from Santa Claus!

Now we are reading The Secret Garden and enjoying it very much.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Well, I brought in some laundry that had finally dried out on our patio this evening (it can take a couple days when it is really raining a lot here). I began folding the shirts and then out popped a pretty big spider. She was over an inch with her legs and she held onto my pants and would not budge when we tried to put her in a cup (maybe she had been in a cup before?) and finally I walked with her still on my pants outside and coaxed her off near some leaves and she ran away. When I went back inside and finished folding the laundry, I found a large pillow shaped egg sac! on my sweatpants that had been outside drying. Ack. I hate this kind of thing. Obviously, she knew where her egg sac was and didn't want to leave it. Silly human, always up to knowing better. So I went back outside! and looked around for her but it is dark and even with a flashlight it is pretty hard to find a spider on a patio with a bunch of fallen leaves about, even if she was large and bulbous and brown.

Ugh. So I put the egg sac back outside and am wishing hard that it is a type of spider (because I couldn't figure out which kind she was) that doesn't guard its young or stick around with them after they have hatched AND that she might still be able to lay another egg sac.

I hate the idea of getting in the way of someone's creation like that. I know it was an accident and my intentions were so obviously not to separate her from her egg sac- I have never intentionally done any harm to a spider. Ever. Still, I don't feel great about it and feel like my queasiness of having her sitting on my leg hampered my own um connection. So that is that. I really need to check the laundry a little more closely!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

birds,teeth,books- what more?

The kids and I just got back from the Ridgefield Bird Festival in Ridgefield, WA. I thought it was going to be sort of all in one place, with music and activities and bird activities kind of all together. It turned out to be spread out all through Ridgefield, WA, which is a smallish town about 14 miles from Portland. There is a Wildlife Refuge there and this is the area that we ended up in and it turned out to be a lot of fun and totally unexpected. We drove through a four mile loop over the course of about 45 minutes and saw some amazing birds. People are not allowed out of their cars during this time of year except at a few designated blinds where the Audubon had scopes out for viewing. They also handed out bird bingo sheets to the kids which made it a lot of fun for them and really got them excited about finding the birds. We saw Great Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Harriers, Red Tailed Hawks, several kinds of ducks, coots and maybe a Crane, although I feel a little unsure about the crane sighting. My favorite was a giant Red Tailed Hawk sitting out in the middle of a field. I see Red Tailed Hawks up high in trees around here quite frequently (and am excited every time!) but have never seen one sitting so contentedly in the middle of a field, surrounded by grasses. I was glad to have my binoculars!

Samuel lost another tooth today! That is two in the last couple of weeks, with a couple more loose ones to go. His mouth is really changing and there are large spaces around the teeth that haven't fallen out yet, to make way for the bigger teeth that will eventually come in. Eva is desperate for her teeth to fall out and seems discontent when I tell her they will when they are ready. It looks like such fun and we do seem to talk about it a lot. That front tooth of Samuel's was commanding quite a bit of attention because it was hanging in there kind of lopsided for several days.

I am reading In Defense of Childhood by Chris Mercogliano. It is wonderfully supportive of really honoring self-direction in children and assuming that children will internalize what they learn, that they don't need to be bribed or punished or coerced or tricked or graded or even praised into learning and growing and thriving. That these tactics actually get in the way of natural learning and that much of the stress surrounding learning found in schools today is counterproductive to real learning. Great fun to read and thoroughly eye opening, with much literature and science behind the words.


Samuel and Eva, bunny and care bears

Samuel and Eva, check out Samuel's teeth with all the spaces

Thursday, October 11, 2007

More about unschooling...

I found this link on a list I am, a local unschooling list, actually. There is a lot of information and inspiration here about unschooling, if you are interested.

Here's a quote from Unschooling America
The basic principle of Unschooling is that humans are born to learn. Just like breathing, we learn throughout our entire lives without anyone making us do so. Learning is pleasurable if it is not forced on us. The goals of Unschooling have much to do with freedom, respect and trust. The true freedom, respect and trust that all humans deserve, including children. Without freedom of choice, real learning can not happen easily or authentically. Unschooling gives your family the gifts of a free, joyous life together where real learning happens all day, everyday!
Her article Why Unschooling Doesn't Come Naturally is worth reading.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

We had such a lovely time last weekend visiting friends up in Olympia, WA. We have been missing them this past year as they spent some time living in the Czech Republic. It was great fun to see them.

Samuel and his good friend Bob!

We went to a salmon festival and got to get up close to the salmon and touch them!

A Chinook salmon

These are the ladders they have built to help the salmon swim up stream easier

Samuel and Bob at the festival in front of a giant salmon! See the people dressed up as salmon in the background!

Our Lovely Park

This is Commonwealth Park, the park we live close enough to walk to in just 10 minutes! It is gorgeous, with a lake, trout, nutria, ducks, geese, hawks and great blue herons. We went there today for a play date.

Here is Eva on the slide...

Ta da! Eva with one of her favorite animals, Chicky.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The kids have been enjoying wood fires to roast marshmallows outside. Eva discovered the charcoaled remains of some of the sticks and drew some designs on our patio area and then both of them decided to decorate some large pieces of wood that have been lying around. One thing led to another and they set up a balance beam with the decorated posts. While one walked across the other tooted on the horn.

Samuel walks, Eva toots

Eva walks, Samuel waits to toot

Funky fire shot. The heat changed the lighting. Samuel has learned how to set up a fire and is lighting it here.

Every picture has a story and this one is no different. This is our dog Jack and he is sitting in the front seat of the car because there is nowhere else to sit. He is determined, however, to go with us on our errands this day. Frequently Jack will run out of the house and jump in the car whether we plan to take him with us or not. He loves to go with us and to his credit, we do go fun places like the Arboretum often and we usually take him when we go. This day, however, was more about errands than trees, although one of the errands was to the recycling center, which is about trees if you take the longer view of things. Once Jack has jumped into the car and decided he wants to go with us it is a real challenge to convince him to come out of the car. He is quite dogged that way. And so this picture is taken with me and the kids laughing hysterically as we try and get him out of the car and you can see that he has hunkered down into the front seat and does not intend to budge. We got him out eventually- this time!- but he was not happy about it! It has happened in the past where I have not been able to get him out of the car and have just taken him on our errands with us. On this day, however, there was a not a free seat in the car. And Jack does not drive, although I am sure if he did he would take us to the Arboretum daily.

Here is Eva in the left over pieces of yarn from the sweater I have been working on. She said, momma isn't is lovely?

to market to market

Eva and Samuel

Eva and Tomatoes

Just Tomatoes

Wow! Have you ever seen so many tomatoes!

And Peppers!

And Flowers!