Saturday, March 28, 2009


Feeling sad and missing our rat Charlie. He passed away this afternoon. The kids and I spent the morning and some of the afternoon holding him and keeping him warm and snuggled in a towel and blanket, comfort and companionship during his transition from this way of being. We talked about how much we enjoyed our time with him and how much we will miss him. I hope to bury him this evening during a break in the rain.

So many things to remember- when we brought him home from the rat rescue place, how he ran under the car before we could get in the car, how we didn't know how much rats really liked to sit on your shoulder, Eva dressing up in her "Charlie outfit" to protect her skin from scratches and tickles, nearly losing him when Eva took him outside and recovering him when he heard me calling him from the other side of the fence!, how much he liked to share eggs in the morning and how our dog Jack begged for food from him, how he turned away from us when he was eating something particularly yummy, how he was out running around once and found Eva's malted milk balls and opened up the container and started taking the pieces of candy one after the other and hiding them behind the bookcase, how he squeaked and wouldn't let me pick him up when he had food to eat in his mouth, how he bumbled along, how high he could jump, how he gnawed at his cage bars to get our attention and let us know he wanted snackies, how he liked anything and everything to eat and how I could always share a snack with Charlie, particularly chocolate chips, how he could smell you opening a bag of potato chips from across the room.

As always I have appreciated spending time with another species, learning about the world from his perspective, as much as that is possible. I am grateful for his friendship and ratty ways and appreciate his ways of letting me know that he enjoyed my company as well. I remember when I knew that he had connected to us all as his family. I will miss his company and his love. No one but no one enjoys fine food like a rat! And who else can snuggle and fall asleep on the back of your neck while you knit...

Eva day before yesterday holding Charlie

Eva's recent photos of Charlie

Eva's yesterday photo of Charlie with Chicky; Charlie today snuggled in a blanket before he passed on.
talking about frontal lobe development on a parenting list i am on, one of the list founders posted this visual of the brain to illustrate that what we sometimes think of as *misbehaviors* in children are in reality the result of undeveloped frontal lobes. the frontal lobe regulates self-motivation, appropriateness of behavior, impulse control.

i am currently reading my stroke of insight by jill bolte taylor and am finding the chapters on brain science fascinating and really applicable to thinking about children's behavior, particularly those behaviors deemed socially unacceptable behaviors. i added this to a parenting list today and wanted to share it here-

In the book Taylor talks about the limbic system, the part of the cerebral cortex that has to
do with emotions. When we have sensory input, we have a an emotional response
to that input in the limbic system first and we have a thought about it after.
Our limbic system is active throughout our lives but it does not mature, making
it possible for us to have an emotional response like a two year old as an adult
(or as a nine year old or fifteen year old...). As the outer layer of our
cerebral cortex matures, we are capable of having different ideas, images about
the present moment and can then think of things differently and have a different
response (than a tantrum, for instance).

And this is great- if our surroundings are such that we feel safe, we are open
to learning and to our memory found in the hippocampus (oh if I get angry, I can
use my words) but if we do not feel safe then our amygdala, which is the part
that has to do with fear, rage, preserving us, kicks in to keep us safe and
there goes the memory, there goes the learning!

So fascinating to keep in mind- even for us as adults, when we feel threatened,
our amygdala kicks in. No wonder it is harder to keep our cool when our kids
are losing it around others and we feel judged! And particularly for kids whose
outer cerebral cortex has not matured, even kids who we think have learned to
respond in more socially acceptable ways, if they are feeling frightened,
judged, unsafe in any way, they are more likely to respond from that place of
fear, rage, self-preservation (from the amygdala). And if you have a highly
sensitive child whose nervous system is picking up MORE, well no wonder is all I
have to say there!

I love how this brain science is so in sync with what we know about attachment
and connection. It stands to reason that if our kids feel connected and safe
they will be able to respond from a different part of their brain than if they
are feeling disconnected and fearful.

looking forward t reading more about her experience. if you haven't already seen it, her TED talk is worth watching (it is actually worth watching more than once, so if you have seen it once, check it out again!)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Watching my kids look at Samuel's Nintendo DS together. Today Samuel told me I was the best mom ever and Eva gave me a medal she drew with a heart in the center for the soup I made for dinner. Such goodness all around.

A quiet day starting with rain and ending with sunshine. Tomorrow there will be time in the garden and I am hoping for a walk in the woods somewhere on Friday.

Our rat Charlie is really slowing down and enjoys sleeping in my hand with his head propped against my fingers and his body nestled against my sweater. He really seems to enjoy snuggling with all of us and asks to be taken out of his cage each time he sees me. He isn't eating as many treats now and actually left his morning eggs untouched. The kids are taking turns letting him sit on their laps and he sat between us last night when we were reading. We have talked about him passing on at some point soon. I have watched enough of these little rodent guys slow down now to know that he is close and I am happy I am able to spend this quiet time with him and thank him for his time here with us, appreciating his ratness.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

and suddenly

it's spring! amazing to drive around, walk around the neighborhood and see the clusters of pink and red flowering trees, yellow spice bushes, rhododendrons starting, daffodils breezing, everywhere you look flowers, signs of spring. i was lucky to spend part of my day at my friend lisa's house helping out in her garden, surrounded by glorious daffodils big and small i just can't get enough of their yellow scent looking out at me.

walking our dog, putting together even more and more lego sets, every day more drawings, more time sitting with our senior cuddly warming up rat charlie, still chilly even with that spring time shift, birds nesting in the barn once more, swallow babies cheeping, horses playing with exercise balls have you ever seen anything as fun as that?

and would you believe i finished the sweater and am adding a hood. what else?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Eva's pink and purple balloons

*Eva's birthday checklist*

cake with sprinkles and unicorn decorations
orange sorbet
pink AND purple balloons
unicorn balloon
unicorn party hats!
unicorn drawings on wall (Eva is taking care of that one right now- drawing and cutting out unicorns to hang on wall!)
do you see a theme?

The presents are wrapped! I need to buy butter at the store, which really must have been on my mind because I even dreamed of going to the store and buying A LOT of butter! Then to cake baking. I leave the unicorn decorating to Eva and she has worked out the design. Oh right- then to Party City for the balloons.

Eva has also requested a treasure hunt for her presents but said we will do it a little later in the morning because she needs a little bit more sleep...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Of Shoelaces and Fossil Fuel

Today the kids and I spent some time at my friend Lisa's house doing some yard work for her- pruning roses, digging up feral dandelions, trimming back clematis...

Here's that daffodil picture I promised-

Monday, March 16, 2009

here's one or two

Eva took these-
Maxwell on my lap with knitting; Samuel inquiring for the camera or at the camera?

and so

The way this day went was rain and sun and hail and rain and sun and hail and rain and sun and wind and wind and wind. And I was inside and outside and inside and outside and patioside and outside and inside and inside and outside. A changeable day in which I raked out more leaves and uncovered more wood violets and more bleeding hearts popping up and more columbine. The first daffodil! Some hyacinths in the near future. And for the indoor time? Garage cleaning and organizing and toy moving and appreciating and cursing and storing and smiling and frowning and recycling and finishing with a jumbo jar of beads all over the floor (must have been the cursing) which I left there until the next time. And laundry and trash and dishes.

With the evening being spent in a cleared out mood with Eva on the computer and watching a puppet show with a lantern and shadows and putting on tattoos and gentle talk about her life and small cuts on her fingers and watching her design more tattoos on her little feet and proclaim that she will sell body art at the upcoming homeschooling market.

I wish I had a picture of our first daffodil out in the yard. I would put it right here. Tomorrow.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Today the rain interrupted our plans and we spent the day indoors. I am nearly finished with my sweater- or at least with the raglan shaping. I am still undecided about how exactly the sweater will be finished and am contemplating both a hood and a zipper. We shall see. I am staying very open with this sweater.

The kids are just now finding their flow. There is a tent in the living room and the stuffed animals have been brought out. I hear the definite sounds of a game in the background...Chicky and the new stuffed robot and ratty and rabbit and Chicky's Momma Chick or Momma Quack? all going in the tent, bringing lettuce and radishes and carrots to someone inside. Ahhh... now the birthday cake has been brought out. There is sure to be a party!

Nice to find a flow. Good way to end the day. No time in the garden but plenty of time to knit!

Eva's flower petal art (with a little apple for the head)- crocus and dandelion petals and stems.

Friday, March 13, 2009


This is great. Today Samuel and Eva were arguing about who could watch what on the TV. Samuel had chosen one thing and Eva had chosen another. They were arguing about what to watch as the third thing. Neither one of them would use the computer's DVD player (so that both of them could watch something different at the same time!) and both of them were refusing to watch shows that they themselves had picked out at the library earlier in the day. After about 15 minutes of negotiating and listening and getting nowhere I decided to try something a little different. During the negotiations I had been trying to lead both kids to a place that would benefit both of them, something that would benefit their partnership. At different points one or the other would move in that direction but then the stakes would be remembered- "Hey it is my turn!" or "But I don't like watching a show on the computer, remember?!

What I decided to do was get clear in my own mind that something would come up that would benefit both of them. My exact thoughts were- "What does the partnership want?" I was quiet with that for a second or two- things move quickly in mind-time. Once I was comfortable, I found exactly what to say to them- they could choose a show together or one of them could watch a show on the computer or one of them could come back outside with me (where I had been gardening before they brought me in for negotiations). As soon as I said it I realized they had been wanting me to choose who could have the TV and I didn't want to. I think this was one of the main reasons they weren't able to resolve the issue.

Pretty quickly everything shifted. Eva got up from the couch and said she wanted to go outside with me. Samuel sat down to watch the show he had wanted. Once outside, Eva started playing a game with trucks and rocks and pieces of wood. Within ten minutes Samuel was outside asking to play with her. We all stayed outside together, me gardening, Samuel and Eva playing with the trucks for over an hour and when I was ready to come in for something to eat they asked me to stay outside longer- to play- together! Hooray for partnership! I am happy to say that it has been smooth sailing for the rest of the evening as well. Imagine that?!

I have learned a great deal about partnership from my parenting coach Scott Noelle and from reading Riane Eisler and while I feel like I still have a long way to go in implementing partnership strategies in my life, it is to me one of the most important shifts to work on.

First spring Nettle on Sauvie Island today.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Happy Birthday Samuel!

early morning treasure hunt
happy happy ds time
Indiana whip
playing with Jack
outdoor treasure hunt
Indiana Jones
angel food roll cake with jam
orange sorbet
Ellen and Evan
sharing fun
chicken satay
full belly laughs
lots of love
big smiles, wide grins
happy happy the best birthday ever

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

the day before the day

Senior friends Agnes and Charlie hanging out on my lap together. Charlie was a little nervous at first but soon both were so comfortable in the sunshine on my lap it didn't matter anymore.

Today is the big day before the big day. Today is the day before Samuel's 9th birthday! Today we will buy balloons and put up a giant Indiana Jones banner that says Happy Birthday. Today we will make sure we have candles. We will try and find an Indiana Jones balloon (a trip to Party City is not to be missed!). Today we will make not one but two angel food roll cakes with jam spread inside. Today we will make homemade orange sorbet "just because it is a fun thing to have on your birthday". Today I will put together two treasure hunts- one for Samuel's gifts and one for when his friend Jack comes over later. This year's treasure? Paddle balls!

Last night Eva wanted to watch Spot. You remember Spot, don't you? Sometimes she feels nostalgic for her youth, her babyhood and reaches out for all the little things she remembers from that time. The funny thing about Spot for Eva is that she didn't really ever watch Spot. It is something about the time though, a way of being that she is searching for- like if I were nostalgic for the early 80's and watched The Dukes of Hazard even though I never really watched that show at the time. That sort of thing.

Samuel, however, is so over Spot. In fact he was my child who liked to watch Spot, over and over and over. Apparently he had his fill. Whenever Eva brings a Spot book home from the library or wants to put on the old Spot video he resists. Last night he said, "The thing I don't like about Spot is that he is always learning something. I like the characters I watch to be educated." I could not stop laughing over this. That is Samuel through and through. He really wants people to have it together and doesn't tolerate any waffling around about it. Fascinating quote in light of our unschooling lives. Aren't unschoolers always saying things like "Learning all the time!" Well not around here. Here we have it together :)

But seriously though, it got me thinking about how some characters are portrayed when they are learning and I thought that might be what Samuel was referring to, not the learning per se but the portrayal of learning. Frequently these characters are seen as not knowing things rather than simply learning in their own time. There is an end result to the learning process, those in the know and those out of the loop. It might even be shameful in some stories to not know something, to have to learn. This I feel is what Samuel is responding to when he feels frustrated with different characters and them "always learning something".

He is responding to the idea that you aren't powerful if you need to ask a question, if you aren't an expert. This is something I hope I am helping to shake up a bit around here- for myself as well. Learning is inherent to the process of living. Learning is living. Or living is learning? Either way, each of us is where we are. How could we be anywhere else? Making assumptions, not asking questions, not reaching out for help and even not speaking up when I do know...these are all things I do when I believe I should already know something, or know it better than I do... I guess the word should is a tip off that something is amiss. But hey, I am still learning...

Sunday, March 8, 2009

letting go

Magnificent. Geese. Lots and lots of geese. Hail. Sunshine and clouds. Geese calling. Spark of spring, winter chill. Violets scenting. I was thinking today about letting go and when do you know when to let go- of anything? A favorite color? A favorite book? And how it really is such a process, not a one-time-get-it-out-of-your-system thing. More practice there. Try saying yellow. Or taking it day by day. Today it is orange. For those tiger lilies over there. For that ladybug. Pink for that party dress. Catcher in the Rye for when I was in 9th grade and Dead Souls for College and Anais Nin for right now, on this day. But usually not green. Or mysteries.

Sometimes there is a concerted effort and processing afterward for days and days and weeks as we practice remembering that we have let that go. I think- I do not want that any more. It is a matter of remembering over and over again even when it looks good. I forget what I don't want. Even when we think back to how much we wanted it before. I always wanted a coat like that. It never worked out. Do I still want a coat like that? I let that one go. Can I pick it up again? Do I even want to?

We remember something we wanted to do. It marks us. How hard it is to be who we are in this moment and not who we thought we were then. Or even who we were then. Or who we wanted to be. Wistfulness. I wanted to be her and was not. Now I am me. Do I want to be a person who always says purple? So sure. Such a color. Such history. The color of royalty. It is with regret that we let go of these things that have shaped who we are, who we think of ourselves as, who we believe ourselves to have become. It is when we take these things to be permanent, ourselves to be permanent, that our regret catches up with us. Who will I be if I let that go?

Friday, March 6, 2009

wood violets expanding

we painted our nails- Eva picked her colors and you can see the other designs on her feet as well

Thursday, March 5, 2009

having a little coconut bliss

Today seems to be one of those days when my mind wants to take a break from abundant happy thoughts and go on a detour of entertaining every sad story it can whip up. I am doing my best to stay present with it all. Spending time with plants is helpful for me so I pruned some roses and while out there I noticed so many baby spiders spinning their webs among the buds. I started thinking about the spiders I have been seeing around the house over the last couple of days. We have a few ants coming and going here and there (it's that time of year after all) and the spiders have finally arrived to help out with that (their perspective, not the ants' obviously and maybe partially mine but only loosely. I don't mind a few ant scouts here and there. I don't even mind a lot of ant scouts but I know others do and I love that the spiders help resolve that for us or in spite of us or really probably more accurately not-anything-to-do-with-us. I use help for lack of a better word currently and I realize it gives the wrong impression.) So I was thinking about the spiders, a fun topic for me, and I was wondering how on earth the spiders seem to come around right when the ants are scouting further out. Amazing how it all works itself out. But wait, is that a glimmer of hope, a ray of understanding that my mind is allowing to trickle in. Mixing my metaphors but I hope so!

The rain on one side of the house and not the other has switched to neither side of the house and I am off to take a look at the emerging columbine and wood violets on the other side of the house. Don't knock whatever therapy helps.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

the frog watch continues

Well, we saw one frog (which is one frog more than the last time we went...) and as we were leaving we heard many more. It is still a little cold and I am tempted to go back in a few days but wonder if I am pushing my luck (with my kids, that is). Put it this way, if there is a time in the next two to five days or so that looks promising and I am in the frog mood, I will definitely go back to Sauvie Island. I was feeling very disappointed today because when we arrived there was a frog scare-er- as Eva aptly put it- driving around in the water doing only-they-know-what. There was not a duck or frog to be seen. There was a nutria, but only when the frog scare-er was far far away.

After they finished their project, they drove away and the water slowly began to repopulate with song birds and water birds and then we started to hear the frogs. By the time we could really hear them the kids were tired out and it was time to go. Another lovely day on Sauvie Island, with or without frogs, to be sure. As we were leaving we saw a bald eagle flying overhead. Lovely end.

spring crocuses!

frog watching and check out the frog scare-er...

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

We have had such a lovely jam packed couple of days and now I am so tired I am willing the cats and everyone else to sleep deep and long tonight so that I may get caught up on my own sleep. I really want to go look for frogs again tomorrow! I heard them singing last night when we got home from Seattle and I just know that means they have started their spring fling. This is almost exactly the time I went that magical year we heard them all singing along together. Last year I waited too long and while there were still so-many-frogs, it was not quite the exact singing time I remembered from the previous year. Whatever happens it will be nice to be outside again. I spent a few hours outside in the garden today planting mesclun mix, spinach and sugar snap peas. I also spent a good bit of time digging up feral sweet peas who had reseeded themselves from last year. What a sweet pea sensation there will be in just a few months. Our patio will be so fragrant with the blossoms of sweet peas...

Eva said the wood violets smelled so lovely, like some sort of candy and picked a bouquet to put in water. She spent some time planting with me and then visited the various flowers blooming around the yard. Three colors of crocuses greeted us today! Yesterday we were still in Seattle until late afternoon. We went to the aquarium and saw the Pacific Octopus. Eva made friends with a special fish in the Puget Sound area and we touched sea stars and sea anemone and I braved a spider crab. Did you know that spider crabs decorate themselves with whatever is around them for camouflage AND they also keep little bits on themselves to eat?

Samuel's favorite part of our trip to Seattle was going to the top of the Space Needle. He was so taken with the view he wanted to go up a second time the next day. My favorite part of the science museum was the butterfly exhibit. Eva was so sad the butterflies didn't land on her when she was pretending to be a flower. She is now very excited to send away for a butterfly cocoon this summer...