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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Outside on a day like today...

I just finished up a couple of exhausting and, as usual, humbling migraine-y days that began with a lot of pre-migraine symptoms, which were then followed by the actual migraine and then more actual migraine and then some crazy post-migraine, which was mainly just more exhaustion and not nearly enough a-ha-ing, for my taste. (A-ha-ing being one of the better side-effects of the migraine state of mind.) The pre-migraine this time had a lot to do with not being able to focus and feeling just very generally overwhelmed and done, and coming after Christmas- what turned out to be a very hectic-feeling Christmas for me, at that- it was a bit much. And part of that day was spent at Toys R Us. Right.

So, today was a huge relief and I spent a good bit of it outside doing yard work, cleaning up the patio, and raking leaves in the back on the patio and in the front in the foyer, which feels so clean and open now. All of that raking I put off back in October and November to either spend time with Maxwell or mourn Maxwell's passing has been- at least in part- taken care of and well worth putting off.

It was exhilarating being outside in the December sunshine with the geese flying overhead, particularly after the migraine was over. There tends to be, for me, a lovely sense of calm and clarity after a migraine that I wholeheartedly appreciate. A bit of silver-lining after the storm, if you will. Being outside really accentuates this feeling, what with the other creatures around me continuing on with it all and the enduring beauty of the world, punctuated {today} by circling seagulls and my rescuing of any number of stranded worms after I had raked up their adopted habitats. These are the sorts of things that will keep my eyes misty and searching on a day like today.

In between bits of sunshine, we had some *very* wintry weather, complete with the longest hail storm I have ever witnessed, or so it seemed at the time. This was followed by several variations on the theme of frozen-water-falling-from-the-sky, including {what I would label as} sleet, a little freezing rain, some slush and then a bit of regular rain. We are supposed to get some actual snow tonight, which would be fun, but I would enjoy an ice storm as well. If it's going to be impossible to drive around here, it might as well be as lovely as it can be. (Winter! Go ahead and pull out all of the stops. I know you are nearly done here in Oregon, as far as any freezing temperatures go {really} and ready to return to rain at any moment.)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Two more pictures from our holiday walkabout in downtown Portland-



Samuel and I near Pioneer Square.



Eva and Samuel with the reindeer at Santa Land.

Friday, December 24, 2010

portland christmas

I forgot to post about our Christmas-y holiday day downtown. The day was clear and sunshine-y. I think. At least I remember it that way. It must have been a little bit like that to get us out there walking around. It was also warmish, as in there would be no snow anytime soon, but coldish {enough} to warrant a stop at Stumptown for coffee and hot chocolate {for Eva, who, by the way, thought the hot chocolate was better than Starbucks, but not as good as the hot chocolate she drank a week later at the Elephant deli we discovered after Shoemaker and the Elves.} Then we walked up to the Benson Hotel to look at the Gingerbread exhibit, which was fun, but smaller than I had envisioned it. Although, after thinking about it a bit and reading the little info-flier the concierge gave me, I had to admit it was something else. The chef made a small part of the city of Venice and hid three or four holiday figure made of mascarpone among the buildings and streets. The kids found those and we walked around the hotel a bit and looked at their decorations. We also took in the decorations of the National Bank across the street.

And then it was off to Santa Land at Macy's and over to Pioneer Square to see the big tree. We ate tacos at a restaurant nearby and ended our walk about with some pomegranate-raspberry frozen yogurt from one of the food carts nearby, which I had been dreaming about since the last time Eva and I tried it.





The kids had a lot of fun looking at the ornaments outside of Santa Land.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

All of that shopping going on indoors, here's what's going on outdoors.



A little sandbox optimism. Life continuing on wherever it finds itself, even {or is it especially?} in the wintry muck that is our sandbox this time or year.



And underneath, it's a mossy wonderland.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

holiday zen

We went out today to do some last minute Christmas shopping, which I am usually completely opposed to doing. I do not like to venture out into crowds during normal life, much less during the holidays. Still, it had to be done, and I went out into it with my eyes wide open, aware that there would be crowds and traffic and other things I normally keep at bay by choosing to go to the woods instead of the mall whenever possible.

Need I even say that we ran into crowds? So many people. Lots of shopping. Spending. Traffic. {The traffic was un-be-liev-able. Memorable, even. Making a left hand turn proved to be next to impossible and I decided that my good deed for the day was to let anyone who was trying to make a left hand turn in front of me, be allowed to do so. Those people needed all the help they could get.} The kids and I fared pretty well, I think. I am feeling the effects of it all now with the customary thick-headed feeling I get when I am overloaded, but I managed to get through it with a mostly upbeat feeling- maybe because I knew what I was getting myself into before I started? Not sure. What I do know is that I appreciated {when I noticed} each and every bit of holiday cheer, smile, each look of recognition at this state of affairs we all found ourselves in. Each bit of consideration helped to offset the push and rush that *is* the holiday season.

Not to say that this is the meaning of the holiday season. Far from it. And yet, we continue to do it, at least in part, to prepare for the meaning. Our meaning. Whatever that may be. At some point, each of us {mostly} finds ourselves out-in-it, to a greater or lesser degree, depending. Being able to notice the humanity in this shared experience- to notice each other!- I have found, can make all the difference. Being able to create meaning and bring awareness where traditionally we have been taught there is none is a gift each of can give to one another, if not all the time- let's be realistic!- at least once. Then again. And again. The baby you smile at. The woman who says excuse me. The check out woman who winked at my son while we waited in line. The man who waited until Eva got into the car before pulling out and then waved to all of us with a smile. The woman, so grateful, who was able to finally! make her left-hand turn. These things change the face of our day. These things make a difference. And while we bemoan the consumerism and traffic and spending and crowds as most definitely not the meaning of this season, these acts of kindness and grace we can each be a part of during this time of overwhelm, most definitely are the meaning- at least some of the meaning- of this season. Of every season we find ourselves apart of.

At least these thoughts helped me through most of the day- the bulk of a potentially trying situation. Now I am going to take a hot bath and hope that this will pick up where my good intentions left off. At least I don't have to go out into that mess again tomorrow. I probably- to be honest- don't have to go shopping like that until next Christmas. If at all. If only I could get my planning just right, I might never have to go shopping again...

Monday, December 20, 2010

solstice cookies

It's looking like it might be possible for us to see at least some of the lunar eclipse tonight. (I love that the last time this happened- a lunar eclipse of a full moon on the winter solstice- was in 1638!) The kids and I just went and checked on the moon and it was still there. We could see it, that's for sure, which bodes well for us being able to see it again at another point in the next few hours. It is fairly overcast but a glimpse is all we need.

Eva and I had an impromptu mini-solstice celebration tonight. We rolled out some gingerbread dough, made lots of gingerbread men and families, hearts, snowmen and the the like, and even hung some on the tree. This is something we did when I was a kid and I love the tradition. It is also an easier tradition (and one that others are willing to undertake with me) than the other one I love, hanging stringing popcorn and cranberries. When I was a kid, we used to string several strands of popcorn and cranberries in anticipation of the tree. They would be hanging across all of the tables in the kitchen and dining room, and even off of some chairs, before we were done. Alas, no one, not even myself, can be urged to string them these days. It seems like we've done them a few times over the years, but nothing like hanging cookies on the tree.

Of course, when we hang the cookies on the tree, we have to make sure we hang them high enough so that Jack won't eat them all. One year he nibbled most of several cookies that a toddler Eva had hung on the lower half of the tree. That year had to have been a boon for him, one I am sure he looks back on with fond memories, or a belly ache, because he ate A LOT of cookies. It is a hoot to watch him try and eat the hanging cookies without falling into the tree, which is a liability of the project for him and one that will happen if he leans too far in and tries to eat the whole cookie. He must leave just enough cookie so that he doesn't have to lean too far, but not too much that he feels he isn't getting enough cookie. And then he juts his lips out, and his teeth out, and gingerly grabs hold of said cookie, gently pulling it toward him, nibbling off as much as he is able. Then it's on to the next one. And the next. This year I've already found one Jack-eaten-cookie on the tree. Eva hung most of them up higher than he can reach and he's having to do some detective work to find a few that he can stretch up to. I almost want to make it a little easier for him, if only to catch a video of the scene.



Incidentally, the kids and I only got to see the very beginnings of the eclipse last night, which actually was really nice and a good visual to help them imagine what was to come. We even stayed awake- mostly- to see if we could see more later. It began to rain, though, and stayed overcast for the next several hours and is still overcast this morning. I was wondering about the people who lived here back when the last eclipse on the solstice full moon happened. I wondered if they had a clear night to view the eclipse. What kind of celebration they had. And if they knew that we would be here so many years later, hoping to catch a glimpse of the eclipse and wondering about them. When I told Samuel how long ago the last eclipse like this had been, he became very excited and wanted us to keep going out to check. He even went out himself once, sometime very close to 11:30, "We have to do this," he said. "I didn't realize we were making history!"

Sunday, December 19, 2010

shoemaker and the elves

We went and saw the Shoemaker and the Elves today with the Tears of Joy Theater in downtown Portland. The kids and I see quite a few plays and musicals and such during school performances during the week. Seeing one on a Sunday afternoon was fun. Next door, the Oregon Symphony was playing Handel's Messiah and the streets around the Oregon Performing Arts buildings were packed with people dressed up for the holidays. There was a festive air and I was in one of my moods where I really enjoy seeing what people have chosen, who they are out in the world. The man who chose the yellow running shoes, for instance, and the woman who chose the long purple coat. Who is going to the symphony? Who has chosen the puppet show? Many of the people at the puppet show were families with children, often small children, but there were quite a few people there without children as well.

So I'll be honest, one of the reasons I chose to take the kids to the this show on a Sunday was because it has become increasingly difficult to work with the Tears of Joy Theater people as far as getting tickets to their school performances for homeschoolers. There are a few organizations like the Northwest Children's Theater and the Oregon Ballet Theater who make it very easy. I can call them up and order three tickets to see any of their shows during the day when they have a school performance. Other venues, like Do Jump and the Oregon Children's Theater, are willing to sell tickets to homeschoolers for their school performances, but there is a minimum number of tickets we have to buy, usually ten. And others, like the Tears of Joy Theater, used to let us buy tickets in groups of ten but have become increasingly rigid on this point and will now {mostly} only sell to the very largest homeschool organizations like Village Home.

I buy a lot of my tickets to different shows from a fellow homeschooling mom, but even she, who often buys in large quantities, was not able to buy tickets from Tears of Joy this time around. (I know, because I specifically asked about Shoemaker...) So she stopped trying. And I wonder if the people at Tears of Joy understand that there is a whole section of the population out here who has basically given up on seeing productions from them, whose kids are not going to see their puppet shows? I chose to spend the extra money to see the Shoemaker and the Elves this time because it's the holidays and because I really love that story and {I'll be honest again} because Tears of Joy has a tendency toward moralizing in the stories they choose, in my opinion, and I didn't think there would be very much room for that in Shoemaker.

And I was right. In fact, it was one of the first things that Samuel mentioned when we left the theater. He had, apparently, been trying to figure out which moral angle they would take with this story and was relieved that they had decided to just stick with the good deed and the thrilling gratitude. So the kids and I talked about the show and morals and the characters. Samuel, I would say, enjoyed the show and the characters the most of the three of us. Eva and I were not quite as taken with the elves as Samuel was (mischief making elves who even Santa had to let go...). And I have to say, after hearing Samuel go on and on about how much he enjoyed them and remembering how much he had laughed aloud at their antics during the show, I was doubly happy I had gotten the tickets for us. We ended our afternoon out with hot chocolate, coffee and snowman sugar cookies.

Monday, December 13, 2010

guinea pig love



Albert playing hospital/vet, no doubt.



Albert and Terrence and a pink plastic turtle, in the sink waiting for their bath.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

hat knitting

I finished my hat! Here's a link to the pattern at Purl Bee. I modified it slightly by casting on 108 stitches and knitting at a gauge of 6 stitches/ inch (stocking stitch) rather than 4.75, with #3 needles for the ribbing (I did knit 1, purl 1 rib rather than knit 2, purl 2.) and #4 for the stockinette stitch part. I used roughly 1 1/4 skeins of Jojoland's sport weight cashmere, which, can I just say, has been fabulous to knit with. I think I might even have enough in the second skein to make a pair of matching fingerless gloves!



Here I am in the hat and here is the hat all laid out. It is *much* longer with the ribbing being 6 inches and the height of the rest of the hat being 7 inches.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

summer upick chronicle

While moving around some papers near the phone today, I found the upick list that I kept from this past summer. It has on it the number of times I went to the upick and what I picked each time. Amounts picked can usually be assumed to be in flats (or 12 pints). I stopped keeping track of exactly when I went to each upick around about the time that I lost the list for the third time. There are a few dates written down to give a sense of what was in season when, but no more than that. I also kept track of how many pints I picked from our own blueberry bushes out front. This year we got 38 pints or roughly 40 pounds, which definitely cut down on the amount of times I picked blueberries at the upick.

So- all in all it looks like my kids and I went to a upick of some sort or other 21 times, mainly assorted berries, depending on the season, with some peaches thrown in at at the end. We skipped major apple picking this year and didn't end up picking any cherries, either, though I heard it was a good year for them out in the gorge for sure. We also went back to GM Farms to pick up pears and some apples that I used for canning.

1. strawberries at krugers (06/16/10)
2. strawberries at krugers with ellen
3. raspberries at the pumpkin patch on sauvie island with ellen
4. strawberries at baggenstos
5. strawberries at baggenstos with ellen, evan and gemma
6. sylvan blackberries, tayberries, red raspberries at west union gardens (07/02/10)
7. red raspberries at west union gardens
8. red raspberries at west union gardens (07/17/10)
9. blue berries at bonny slope
10. blue berries at bonny slope with esme and nicole
11. marion berries, boysenberries, red rapsberries at west union gardens
12. marion berries, red raspberries, black caps at west union gardens (07/21/10)
13. red raspberries, black caps, currants at west union gardens
14. red raspberries and peaches at sauvie island farms with ellen
15. peaches at gm farm with ellen
16. blackberries at west union gardens
17. fall red raspberries at west union gardens
18. yellow raspberries, black berries at west union gardens
19. yellow raspberries, black berries at west union gardens with ellen
20. yellow raspberries, black berries at west union gardens with my dad
21. apples, peaches? and maybe pears at josey farms, although my memory is mixing years for this one

I obviously love to go to the upick. It is one thing I miss during the cooler weather months and am happy to have some greens, carrots and onions still growing in my garden, in addition to various herbs that I can use here year round. I grew up in Wisconsin and the weather here is very mild to my Midwestern sensibilities. I also lived in California for nine years, which turned out to be way too warm for my taste. Portland weather is amazing to me and most of the time I'm happy with what's going on here. There is a small window in December and part of January when I dream of moving back to the snow, somewhere or other, but all of that dreaming stops when the flowers start to bloom here at the end of January and early February. Spring here is long and amazing. I start dreaming of the Midwest again during the summer when I sorely miss thunderstorms and the like. But you can see that the upick and the abundance of berries helps to balance things out a great deal. And on a night like tonight, when it is 60 degrees, misty with a touch of fog, my neighbor's holiday lights glowing in the darkness, it seems just about perfect, whatever the month or season.

Friday, December 10, 2010

match point

I've been on a bit of a Woody Allen kick for the last couple of months. Tonight I watched Match Point, after reading something about it being one of his top ten best movies and a big comeback for him after several let-downs in a row. I really enjoyed it. For a while I thought the subject matter was quite a bit different from some of the other movies of his that I have liked so much.

(It was even a little too much of a thriller for me at one point and I went and looked for a spoiler. I have no problem watching a movie like that after I know what is going to happen. Even then, it usually still turns out to be a bit on the intense side for me. It's been a while, too, since I decided it was fine if I looked ahead in books, movies, what have you. Gave myself permission, at it were. It is supposed to be fun, after all. I feel like I have enough not-knowing in regular life without it taking over in the fiction I read and watch. Unless I want it to, that is.)

...but then, the ending {in particular} really brought home some of the meaning-of-life (and is there meaning to life?) questions that had been posed during the movie- if seemingly briefly- and included some extra introspection about luck that I especially enjoyed. It got me thinking again about the Luck Factor that I read earlier this year.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

card making project {3}

Eva and I made 20 holiday cards together and here they are at last!











We aren't going to send out any of these this time around, so if you know me and would like a holiday card, pick out your favorite from those pictured here and imagine me sending it to you in the mail. Then imagine you pulling your chosen card out of your mailbox in about a week or so and how much fun that would be!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

early december

yesterday was an incredibly stressful day. today was *much* better. i took samuel and eva to the last art class in a series they have been attending wednesday mornings for the past several weeks. last week they did miniature natural worlds with plants, each building tiny houses and putting in fairy-sized pathways among the plants. this week they each made a geoboard. the project was complete with sawing, sanding, designing, hammering and finally rubber-banding. i was worried about it when we arrived late to the class and everyone who was already there had been sawing for a half hour already, but eventually everyone had their wooden square and the rest of the project proceeded well.

then we went out for lunch with good friends from the class and met another friend at the park for some lovely december sunshine. tonight eva and i made both {our annual} pomegranate granita (technically, a sorbet this year {again}) and meringue puff {cookies} for the tween holiday party we are attending tomorrow. the tween group is a new group for us and is specifically for the westside of portland. we went to a book club last month sponsored by another woman in the group. it's funny to me calling samuel a tween. not since my kids were preschoolers-although i don't remember using that term often, so maybe it goes back all the way to when i had toddlers?- did we have a specific label for one of my kid's age range. so tween it is. at least in this group.

incidentally, i doubled the granita recipe this year and used 4 pomegranates (for 2 cups pomegranate juice) and added that to 1 cup water combined with 1/2 cup sugar (cooked until dissolved) and put in the ice cream maker until done. you can make a true granita by pouring it into a bowl and setting it in the freezer. periodically go in and break up the forming chunks so that it doesn't freeze solid.

the meringue cookies are 4 egg whites with 1 cup sugar added 1/4 cup at a time after the egg whites have been beat to stiff peaks (but not dry- because they always say that, although to be honest, i have never actually seen dry peaks, that i know of...). when you have stiff peaks with the sugar, spoon onto parchment paper lined cookie sheets and cook- watch carefully- at 200 for an hour or so. remove before they darken, although it's not the end of the world if they darken. i'm going to experiment with drizzling chocolate onto them tomorrow after they have cooled. should be a fun experiment.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

resolutions

No card-making-photos today. No time. Instead, here's a 2011 New Year's Resolution link, with some very interesting resolutions. I've actually made some of those resolutions myself at different times of my life, during different times of the year. I'm not even sure at this point how I feel about New Year's resolutions. Still, it's something to think about, with the New Year fast approaching...

Monday, December 6, 2010

card making project {2}

Eva and I finally did our holiday card project. Tonight.



Here she is getting all set up for it.

I'll post a picture of the finished cards tomorrow after they have dried. There is an awful lot of glue and glitter and such that needs to sit still awhile before we photograph. And- while I swept up as much glitter as I could, I'm sure there will be quite a bit of glitter around the house for a while, such is the way of glitter. But that doesn't bother me. It's the tension of the actual project that bothers me.

I wish I could say that making the cards was fun. At least Eva said she had fun afterward. And during, I think. She said she loves doing projects like this with me. So that's something, at least. And I did calm down after a while. I relaxed. But I have to say this type of project triggers all that is stressful and tense in me and suddenly nothing that I can do looks quite right. Or turns out. I talked myself down, though, and managed to pull it together to play a bit with Eva and by the end I was mostly fine with the project and even managed to enjoy myself for some of it. Good grief. At least it seems like that now, in retrospect. And when I look at some of the cards, I definitely have a positive memory associated with them, so that's another something.

Still, I had to take so many deep breaths during and after and I feel like I am still recovering from the project a full 1/2 to an hour later, even after clean up. I'm not exactly sure what this is all about but I have a feeling that throwing myself into a few more projects like this- with Eva- just for the project's sake {and the connection time} could help quite a bit.

As it turns out, we may not even send out any of the cards. Eva hadn't wanted to send out any of the cards that only she worked on and I was fine with that. Now she wants to keep my cards as well, which I guess I shouldn't be surprised by. I don't know what I thought was going to happen. Did I think I would smuggle the cards out of the house without her noticing? Still, I think we can come up with a nice way to set them up so we can enjoy them over the next couple of weeks, whether we end up sending any of them or not.

And, as tense as the project was, I am glad I did the project. I'm glad I got the idea and shared it with Eva and made up the list. I'm glad we bought crafty goodness and put it all together, together. I'm glad Eva enjoyed herself and I'm glad I made the time for that type of connection with her. And I'm glad it's all over. Until next time, when I hope it's not quite as bad. Practice makes perfect, as they say. Or how about practice relaxes. Practice makes deep breathing second nature. Practice makes comfortable. And the like...

Sunday, December 5, 2010

knitting woes

I'm about 3/4 of the way done with a hat I have been working on (more hats = more head warmth = more health. or something like that.) and I ran out of yarn. Yikes. It definitely happens. I was surprised this time, though, because I thought I had enough. {grin} To be fair, I *did* change the gauge from the one in the pattern and that is most likely what did it. So- I was upset and in yarn-crisis-mode, calling around to yarn shops in the area because, of course, the Knitting Bee, where I had bought the original skein (and which is one of my two main yarn shops), was out. {It was gorgeous yarn, after all. And the holidays. Etcetera.}

I wasn't really freaking out, just, you know, a little louder than usual. Definitely dismayed. And that was clearly conveyed in both my phone conversations and in my self-talk as I mumbled around the kitchen about my hat.

While all of this was going on, Eva wandered into the kitchen and said in an incredibly nonchalant voice, "What's going on? Out of yarn?"

And then me, sadly, looking up, "Yes. For the hat I'm working on."

And then her, "Sorry." Sad face. She understands.

Then she wandered out of the kitchen and into the living room where Samuel was sitting and she said to him something like, "All of that over some yarn."

And Samuel chuckled and said, "Yeah, I know. Crazy, huh?"

And then Eva, "Yeah. Crazy."

And then me, chuckling in the kitchen. It was one of the few good moments between them this whole week and hey, if they can bond and feel good over my yarn woes, so much the better. I knew there had to be a fortunately in there somewhere. (Oh- and I found a place that had two more skeins in stock. And all I need is one. So we'll be going there tomorrow. And I'll get to check out a new yarn shop.)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

We are well into Tom Sawyer but I wanted to post a quote from the last book we finished, the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg. We enjoyed the book although neither kids were thrilled with the Claudia character. Let's just say that if she homeschooled in Portland, we would most likely not be seeing her on a regular basis, but she might show up at a museum day or a play we were going to and the like. We'd definitely recognize her, that's for sure.

I really enjoyed the way Konigsburg wrapped up the story and sent the kids home, making their time away seem so much longer than it actually was, and giving us a better understanding of why Claudia had wanted to run away in the first place.

During their time at the museum, the two kids spent time each day learning about different exhibits, a very unschooly thing to do in some ways, in other ways not so much. I love this quote at the end that gives a nod to the time in-between learning, the down time, the transition, the rest. (See yesterday's post winter expansion to follow my flow here about growth and rest...)

"Claudia said, 'But, Mrs. Frankweiler, you should want to learn one new thing every day. We did even at the museum.'

'No,' I answered, 'I don't agree with that. I think you should learn, of course, and some days you must learn a great deal. But you should also have days when you allow what is already in you to swell up inside of you until it touches everything. And you can feel it inside you. If you never take time out to let that happen, then you just accumulate facts, and they begin to rattle around inside of you. You can make noise with them, but never really feel anything with them. It's hollow.'"

Friday, December 3, 2010

winter expansion

When I took the compost out to the compost bin this afternoon, I noticed the buds beginning to form on the maple tree. Buds that will become flowers and bloom sometime at the end of January or into February, if I am remembering correctly. Maybe a little later? I don't think it's all the way into March but right now I can't be completely sure and I don't want to take the time to look it up. (OK- I looked it up. Looks like our maple is one of the first maples to bloom, which could mean as early as mid-February {or early March} here, what with our mild climate...)

I was reminded again of how much growth actually occurs- is often prepared for- during times of rest. Think of it. Our maple has just barely lost all of her leaves and is already replacing them with small buds. Readying for expansion even in the midst of winter (well, autumn. but nearly winter. that whole transition thing, and all.). This came as an even more poignant thought to me today {than it otherwise might have, although let's be honest here, i am fairly prone to poignancy most of the time.} because I am currently sick- sick enough to need quite a bit more rest than I had initially planned for this week. And I was surprised by it. The illness surprised me. I didn't think I was getting sick until I was already sick. No amount of hat-wearing and kombucha drinking were able to ward off this illness. Not this time.

But that's OK. For the most part. That's what I'm trying to say. And- that- while being sick is certainly not my preference, there is a particular quality of epiphany and understanding that can come from this state, that seems to be born from it. That I am privy to *only* when I am this sick. If I allow it.

And I'm not saying I want to stay ill. Or that we can't understand things {other things} when we feel healthier. I wouldn't want to quantify it in that way. Or compare. Just that this morning I recognized this certain bit of illness wisdom and was happy for it. And decided again- always again- to not push against the virus or my body, but to do what they both asked for. To take care. To rest. To be sick. And to listen to the wisdom that can only be found therein.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

boxes

So the Christmas gifts are arriving and I have been doing my best to wrap them and put them up on a high shelf inside a box that no one can see into and mostly don't care about because it looks so normal. But then today two very large boxes showed up and I need to do some camouflage or some such on those two boxes because some people in the house (not me, I already know) are interested in them and their contents. My stance on this- because *I* was told when I was a kid that if I looked at anything, everything would be sent back- is to tell the kids that if they look, they simply won't be surprised on Christmas. Still, I like to help out with that in any way that I can and not leave things lying around to test or trap or teach lessons about. It's supposed to be fun, after all.

These boxes are particularly disturbing because there are things- toys- found therein that certain children in my house have said they no longer want. They changed their list. After some things were already ordered. Only they don't know. And I intend to return those unwanted things before anyone is the wiser. But first, I have to open the boxes, wrap and hide what I am going to keep. Then, I have to box up what I am sending back and get rid of it- soon. But those are extra steps and I am sure will invite extra questions. Plus, one of the boxes will rattle if shaken, which will give away the contents. Possibly. And on and on. So now, while the oldest child has been talked into taking a bath! I am going to go and figure out what to keep and what to send back and what to order in its place. Which seems like a pretty straightforward plan, at least in theory. Wish me luck. I thought I was done.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

December

I spent some of the morning before my kids woke up reading quotes about the month of December. I expected some of the drearier quotes- the ones that focused on the lack of flowers and sunshine {and truly this *is* one aspect, I don't deny it. but only one aspect, not all aspects...}- but was thoroughly delighted? (an underused word that brings to mind other underused words, poetry, maidens dancing and the like...) to find so much poetry and many thoughts reflecting on the beauty to be found in this seemingly quiet month. Many of the quotes focused on the holidays at the end of the month {true}, but many others spoke of the cold still winter season and the grace found within. This one by Wallace Stevens was one of my favorites. I didn't think I usually liked him. Either way, I may have to revise my opinion of him after this poem-

"One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is."
- Wallace Stevens, Snow Man

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

this and that

Today I have nothing cohesive to write about. Lots of this and that going around. Chilled heads, wearing hats, drinking hot chocolate. We also went to see Tangled today which was very very cute. Very well done. Even if the mother issue was so familiar, so in line with one of our culture's biggest mother-fears. You know, that mothers mainly hold people back? That we are all frightened and un-trusting that our children will be able to handle themselves and so we step in and prevent them from living out their dreams? Yeah, that one. Anyway, they did a good job of making this mother-issue so over-the-top-enough that I think almost anyone would be hard pressed to think she had Rapunzel's best interests at heart.

We started reading Tom Sawyer. So far so good. Some of the language is archaic and some of it is just plain not said anymore, which makes for interesting discussions.

And it's that time of year when keeping well and keep warm seem to be synonymous. I take vitamin D religiously now and that seems to help quite a bit. I drink warm beverages and take warm baths. One of my migraine triggers this time of year is a cold head, so I wear a hat indoors much of the time.

Which also means I am knitting a new hat. Even though I also bought yarn for mittens. For myself. Eva wants new hand warmers too but she wants a different pattern, which makes it slightly more tedious than it would have been because I already know the gauge and size and pattern, etc of the other hand warmers really well. Oh well. I will learn the new ones soon enough and they will be purple with hearts, lots and lots of hearts.

I was also perusing this blog for holiday things to do around Portland in December and that got me thinking about the little walk around downtown Portland we didn't make last year because we were all sick- the gingerbread houses and the big tree in Pioneer Square. Hot chocolate. The new Santa village thingy in Macys. Although I'm told it's not the same as the old one. {What ever is?} That whole tour I had planned. And I was thinking of doing it this week and caught myself and thought is it too soon? But you know- as I go back and forth with myself right now as I am writing, real time self-introspection, if you will- this whole month has the potential to just fly by. Why not this week? And get in the holiday spirit.

And one more thing. I am actually considering putting up holiday lights this year, which is something I have never done. Something I never thought I would do. Would want to do. But I saw these lovely periwinkle colored lights on a few houses as I drove home tonight and I think I may have been sold. I also may want one of those reindeer whose head move. Or something. Although I don't know yet. I'll have to see how much they cost and then decide.

And on that note- it's time to go to bed. Time to read. Time to drink another Emergen-C and some more Kombucha, gear myself up for taking care and keeping warm. Extra vitamin C. Hot tea. Astragalus. That sort of thing. And try and finish my hat, for winter's sake. It seems like it goes by so quickly, but really, it's winter here until June. Or at least that's when I stopped wearing my winter hat last year. So as usual, I really do have all the time in the world.

Monday, November 29, 2010

card making project

So I've decided to make holiday cards with Eva this year. I got the idea after being totally inspired by Martha Stewart and her pumpkin dessert recipes for Thanksgiving. And Eva had a lot of fun making Halloween decorations this year, some of which were inspired by ideas we also saw on Martha Steward online. After Thanksgiving- or during?- I started looking at Holiday decorations, particularly the card making section, and I was hooked. Today we went out and bought a few bits of craftiness for the cards. It's hard to go into Joanne's for long stretches because all of the smells- I'm thinking the glues and perfumes and other odd bits- tend to make Samuel feel sick. So I try to be as thoughtful as I can while rushing most of the time. It worked fairly well this time, although I may need to go back. Maybe I can go somewhere else.

Here's what we got-
card stock in various colors
smallish plain cards
glue
glitter
snowflakey decorations
small glittery snowflakey decorations in two sizes
red poinsettia decorations

I am still thinking about stamps. And buttons. I have a list across the room with other things written in it that I am also thinking about but I am going to leave it there for now as Agnes is currently sleeping in my lap and I don't want to disturb her. I'm sure there will be plenty of time for list reading later on, but I never know when Agnes is going to get up and move into the other room...

Sunday, November 28, 2010

guinea pig nail trimming

One of the challenging parts of taking care of guinea pigs for me is trimming their nails. When they do need to be trimmed, the guinea pigs and I can usually handle one paw a night. This obviously is not a hard and fast rule. And they make such a fuss, particularly Albert, who starts squeaking when he sees the nail clippers, that I am almost always behind. Their nails are consequently quite long most of the time. It's most often Eva's idea to do the clipping. She holds each guinea pig while I clip their nails. They struggle and then are given treats afterward.

I want to stress that while Albert is very upset in the following video, I swear I am not hurting him. Nail trimming can be a harrowing experience, even without physical pain, which is another good reason to do it as infrequently as possible. And you'll notice I only really got three nails trimmed and not even one full paw done. It's just too nerve wracking for me and the pigs.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

tut tut...

I was a huge Facts of Life fan at one point in my life. And while there are a few scenes that I remember fondly from that show, there is one scene in particular that has stuck in my head all these years and that continues to come up over and over for me still, particularly when I am reminding myself not to worry.

The scene I am remembering was with Tootie, during a time when she was being punished for something or other. (It seems like this was a common occurrence for Tootie on the show.) On this particular occasion, she was required to write something 100 times or more, something along those lines, on the blackboards in a classroom. At some point during the punishment, the camera came into the room- I can't remember if it was followed by a teacher or not. Eventually, a teacher did come into the room, though, and told her that what she was writing on the board wouldn't work as her punishment. Tootie had decided to write double quotation marks (as in " ") over and over again underneath *each word* in the first sentence rather than writing out the sentence word for word, over and over, line after line. And she thought she was being quite clever, too, because while she wrote, she sang the song, "Tut tut Tootie, don't cry. Tut tut Tootie, goodbye."

I love that. Tootie, in her roller skates, skating back and forth across the classroom, writing double quotation marks and singing that song "Tut tut, Tootie...". (To be honest, the last word isn't necessarily goodbye. I sing it alternately with my my at the end, depending, and have been doing so for years. Just now I tried to verify it on Google but sadly it did not show up. Nor on YouTube, as it were.)

I was reminded of this song again this evening when I told Eva I was going to take a break from cutting out Christmas trees because my finger was getting sore and she rolled her eyes at me and said, "Tut tut." I chuckled. Oh Tootie, you have made your mark on this world and it has stuck. I have no doubt that Eva's "Tut tut" came from my singing Tootie's song around my kids for all these years. Of course, the meaning has altered slightly, over the years, morphing to suit our family's needs, depending on the situation and nuance required, but that is, after all, what all language does anyway.

Just for fun, I decided to go over to Netflix to see if they have the Facts of Life {on instant watch or otherwise} and put it in my queue. It seems like it might be a fun thing to watch with my kids. They can finally see Tootie in her roller skating glory singing the "Tut tut" song they have come to associate with me. I'm fairly certain of what their response will be. A little eye rolling, a groan and a definite, "Tut tut..."

Friday, November 26, 2010

which day?

Today, as well as being Black Friday, aka the busiest shopping day of the year, is also known, in other circles, as Buy Nothing Day. Buy Nothing Day, as it turns out, works better for me simply because I don't relish shopping or large crowds, so basically a very-crowded-shopping-day experience is not something I {usually} consciously choose. Although, truth be known, I did check out some deals in various stores to see if it would be worth it for me to go out in the crowds. It wasn't. I found one deal but honestly I knew that wasn't going to make it worth while for me and I felt rushed and unprepared, what with our no-power-day on Wednesday and Thanksgiving yesterday. It there had been one more deal on one big ticket item in particular, I might have considered it. Emphasis on might. But no luck.

And I wondered today if it counted that I didn't buy anything today- does lunch count?- but bought A LOT the other day so that I would be done before today? My impetus for shopping Tuesday and Wednesday {online} was to safeguard against the-things-I-needed-to-buy being sold out (not so that I could not buy anything today) by the time I got around to buying them, which I had hoped would be more along the line of December 3rd or 4th, not the day before Thanksgiving. Still, it worked out that way and as it turns out {again} it's always nice to have a break. From almost anything. Even if I didn't plan on it. Sometimes especially if I didn't plan on it. One of my very favorite things is when things just work out.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

cats like thanksgiving too



Miss Magoo right before we sat down to eat. (Those are Eva's turkey decorations in the background and her place settings on the table.)

pumpkin thoughts revisited

I went with the pumpkin cheesecake. It was delish. (I'm happy to say it also turned out.) And- I'm also happy to say, I'm happy I made it. It was definitely the right decision {even if I did break my mixer while trying to whip up the cream cheese}.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

thankfully warm

Today was one of those days. Although, to be fair, my feelings and thoughts about it have changed so frequently that now I just feel grateful to be home, washing my dishes and making french fries, all preparations for Thanksgiving put on hold a bit longer. As Samuel put it earlier, it was a fun adventure. But now it's not.

Our power went out this morning around 4 or 5 am and by the time I finally got out of bed at 8:00 am, all of the things I normally enjoy in the morning- heat, light, Internet, food, hot water- were long gone. It was so cold that my guinea pigs, usually morning larks like myself, stayed huddled in their igloos, concerned eyes looking toward me, barely coming out for their greens.

I took Samuel and Eva first to the pancake house for breakfast and coffee. Then we did a few errands, making light of the matter, taking advantage of the holiday feel of the day to peruse shops. When I checked in with the electric company, though, the estimated time for the power to be reinstated had been moved back a few hours. And that was the way of the day. We found another warm spot, drank more warm beverages, perused more warm stores. And the time was pushed back again. And again. Until finally it was late afternoon when we reached another warm, well lit place, packed with happy consumers, flush with the glow of the holidays approaching.

And then a call- one call from the electric company- and we packed our things immediately, without a backward glance, without buying more coffee, without perusing more objects. And we skipped and ran, giggling, back to the car. Never happier to be going home. Never happier to be immersing my hands into warm soapy water, finishing off a sink full of dishes. First delighted, then grumpy at the turn of events, turning a day that should have been filled with baking and good smells in preparation for tomorrow's feast, to one filled with cold hands and fussy children, tired of seeing shops, tired of smelling coffee. Hungry. Cold.

And my thoughts turned to things like generators and chargers and self reliance and irritation. For a brief time, I wondered at the gratitude that comes from deprivation, at the exercise that gratitude can become when we are taken out of our element and we must make do, even if just for a day, and it seemed fitting to have such gratitude the day before Thanksgiving, even if the other part of me sneered at the perfect poetry in this lesson and mocked the simplicity found there.

Still, I enjoyed washing the dishes. Am looking forward to a hot bath. Can't wait to continue to stay warm. And while it has been a day of looking at what I am grateful for in that deprivation-sort-of-way, it is also a reminder to me of the time I make each day to be grateful. And how what comes up for me each day is different than the next. And that today I am particularly thankful for heat and light and home.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

grocery store {ped}antics

There are various checkers at the grocery store we frequent that I generally avoid if I can help it. Today I added one more to the list. Although- when I think about it- it seems like I was already avoiding this checker for a reason I can no longer remember. Whatever the reason was before, he's definitely back on my list now. And closer to the top. As in the first or second slots. Although to be fair, the first slot is very solidly held by a woman who I avoid as close to always as possible, even though Samuel sometimes eggs me on and asks me to go through one of my banned checkers' aisles. Just for fun. He likes the thrill that annoying people can sometimes bring. Plus I think he learns a lot about social acceptability and how to handle difficult people. Plus he likes to laugh afterward. Or practice his scowl. Who can say really. I rarely, let it be known, take him up on it and mostly choose to stick to the checkers I prefer. The tried and the true, if you will.

But things happen and today, the teen who helped me carry my turkey to the checkout line picked this particular checker's line and I didn't feel like quibbling, saying something like, "Um. He's on my banned checkers list, could we move a row over?" So I stayed and thought I was feeling magnanimous enough to get through whatever encounter presented itself, irritating or not. I'm usually able to rise to the occasion, I just don't always feel like using my energy in that way, if you know what I mean.

So it's our turn and he starts checking out the couple of things I couldn't get when I ordered the bulk of my groceries online last night. He asks the kids if they want a sticker- a common occurrence at this grocery store. When they say yes, he then says to them very seriously, "What's the magic word." Good grief I am so tired of the magic word patrol and all of it's promptings. My kids are polite kids. They say please and thank you. And not because I prodded them and poked them with talk of magic words their whole life.

So they stared at him and made no move to answer or to take a sticker. I laughed and said, "Abracadabra?" He did not look amused at my attempt to divert attention from his magic word trick and said very seriously to me, "Please. That's the magic word to me, please." As though we really didn't know what the magic word was. My children- ruffians- running about in the world, not knowing what the magic word was. I laughed some more.

There are a couple of things here that bug me. The first is offering someone something and then demanding them to say please before you give it to them and accusing them of being the impolite one. Did I mention you'd already offered it to them? Also- can you imagine saying that to an adult? And then- why is the checkout person at the grocery store deciding to become a member of the etiquette police with my kids? While I'm spending money at the store he works at. For Thanksgiving. Over a sticker he has already offered to them. This constant desire for people to turn into the etiquette police around children, faultless users of the magic word themselves, I'm sure, is sometimes humorous. But more often nosy. Meddlesome. And pedantic.

Thankfully, our transaction with him was nearly finished. Before we could leave, though, he asked me one more question, which led to another, while I was punching in my pin to pay for a donation to the food bank. He asked if the schools had been closed today because of the snow. (We got a little snow last night and it's not unheard of for Portland schools to close over less.) I should have lied and said yes. Or lied and said no. Because I didn't know the answer and instead I said, "I'm not sure. We homeschool." So we're nearly done, right? Almost out of there. When he asks, "Oh? And what have they learned today?" But not curious. Serious. With a hint of the pedant still lurking about. And now he's quizzing me.

On another sort of day I might have felt irritated or I might have simply laughed at his question and then left the store, but today I said with a smile, "The magic word?" Yep. And he blushed. And I still don't know if he thought he really had taught my kids the magic word or if he knew I was calling him on all of it. And I wished him a happy Thanksgiving and we left the store.

I don't know. Normally I don't say anything. I don't like to match the pedant's pedantism with my own lesson-teaching. Some days, though, the fussiness and meddling and nosiness become tiresome and I just wish someone would ask {simply} if we are enjoying our day. And I would ask them the same. And then we could smile and recognize that we are sharing this human experience, this day. And that would be enough. Plenty, even.

Hence the banned checker list. And the tried and the true.

Monday, November 22, 2010

immunity tea

I was checking out an immune boosting herbal tea mix at New Seasons the other day and was disappointed to see there was echinacea in it. Ah well, echinacea is a wonderful herb for immunity but I am unfortunately allergic to it. So, I checked out the other ingredients and decided to try and recreate it as best I could at home. This is what I came up with-

2 bags rose hips
1 bag peppermint tea
1 bag tulsi tea with green tea
something like 3 Tbsp dried red clover
2-3 Tbsp dried nettles
fresh grated ginger
orange peel

I realize that in this mix echinacea looks like it would be the immunity power horse and that without it, the tea doesn't look like much of an immune booster. I really think, though, that with all of the different herbs together, particularly the red clover, it still makes for a good mix. Next time I will probably add fewer rose hips and more peppermint and ginger. Fennel seed and cayenne were also suggested to me, but I'm not sure how I feel about those flavors in this mix right now. I think calendula would make a nice addition as well and was in the original mix I saw at New Seasons. But- it was raining torrents outside that night and I knew if I went outside to pick calendula in the back garden I would melt. I actually didn't dry any calendula flowers this year either. I thought about adding chamomile as well but I don't always like how that flavor takes over. Oh- and someone also suggested thyme, which I have definitely enjoyed in tea in the past and which I have in large quantities on my patio. Next time.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

more pumpkin

I just read through my pumpkin post discussing what type of desserts there will be on Thanksgiving. And while I like my practical side because it is so much a part of who I am. I like where it gets me. How thoughtful it can be. How it can take care of everything. Sometimes- sometimes- it leaves just a little bit to be desired in the choose-what-you-really-want category. I don't want to say it's lackluster. That seems a bit harsh. Let's put it this way. It's not exactly the part of me that chose to go ahead and buy the cashmere yarn today. But! it is the part of me that chose the neutral color. So- the idea is that when I put the two sides together, something lovely can come out of their agreement. When one side or the other goes crazy alone, it can feel more than slightly off balance. Not exactly what I want.

After thinking about it a bit more (Thankfully, both sides like to over-think things. {Ahem.} Or is it think-things-through?) I feel like I'm actually leaning more toward the pumpkin chocolate tart or the spicy pumpkin bundt cake. Or cheesecake. I've been thinking about cheesecake a lot lately but am still not {quite} convinced about pumpkin cheesecake. Plus, I need to buy a springform pan for that recipe. Although, the bundt cake needs a pan, too... Ah. So many recipes. This could be another reason my practical side sometimes steps in. It can be oh-so-much-easier to make choices from my practical side. And then? Then it's all taken care of. Decision made.

Right now, though, I'm going to think a little bit more about pumpkin recipes and if I still can't find one I am absolutely thrilled with (and choose from that place), I will go ahead and make the squares. Which, by the way, I am sure will be tasty in their own right. Not really lackluster, as I said, just not as exciting as I would like either. So there you go.

pumpkins

I've been thinking quite a bit about Thanksgiving dinner lately. Or should I say, Thanksgiving dessert. Even going so far as to peruse Martha Stewart for pumpkin recipe ideas today. The problem for me is not whether I can make a particular recipe, but rather whether anyone else will actually eat said recipe. I mean, I will eat some. On Thanksgiving Day, Ellen and Evan will eat some. Then I will send some more home with Ellen and Evan. But if I make a pumpkin cheesecake, for instance, that will still leave quite a bit of cheesecake sitting around. Because you know there will be other desserts as well. Ellen might make a pie. And there will also be pomegranate granita. Maybe some of those Pepperidge Farm cookies of the Milano variety because the kids like to keep that tradition going. Samuel will want fizzy apple cider as he so lovingly calls it. And, you know, it's just a huge influx of food all at once to keep track of.

So- while the ginger pumpkin bundt cake looks amazing- or the pumpkin cheesecake- or the refrigerator pumpkin pie- or or or- I am going to go with the pumpkin-chocolate-chip squares (so far) and hope that the chocolate chips do enough talking to persuade everyone that the pumpkin really is alright after all. Otherwise, if that doesn't work, I can always freeze those really easily and eat them one-at-a-time until the other Holiday cookies start kicking in.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Holiday Blooms



Christmas cactus in full bloom. Should I rename her Holiday cactus? She will most likely bloom like this through December. Then- if I'm lucky- she will take a break and bloom again in February/March when the sun changes it's slant again.

Friday, November 19, 2010

gyroscope

So I caved and bought a gyroscope today. (For one dollar more than I could have bought it yesterday at OMSI, I might add. But who's counting. I am open to irony these days.) It seemed like a good omen, too, having seen it twice in two days {after learning about them yesterday}. Plus! I was seduced by visions of gyroscopic? tricks and hours (minutes?) of thrilling science fun. And- Samuel can be very persuasive.

On the instructions that came with the gyroscope, there are pictures on the back (the advanced tricks...) of the gyroscope resting on a pencil tip or spinning on a piece of string like a tight rope spinner. I knew those tricks would take a little time and expected a bit of a learning curve for us to get to that point. I didn't, however, expect us to not be able to get it to spin on the little stand it came with- a little black stand made just for gyroscope spinning. Who knew? But- after getting it to spin several times, we still have yet to be able to keep it standing on it's little stand, much less our finger tips. I am planning on leaving it on the table for a few days so everyone can have a chance to fiddle around with it a little more and {possibly} master the art of getting our gyroscope to stand upright. We shall see.

Here is a five minute video about the gyroscope. Our gyroscope does not yet do any of the tricks in this video. It does, however, do the part about dropping and falling over {so far}.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

segway segue

so this morning after i woke up i came into the kitchen and realized- after i hastily went through my email- that we had to get going early today because i was taking the kids to a class at omsi where they would learn about and then ride on a segway. i'm glad we went. samuel was glad he woke up. and all three of us, at it turns out, got to ride the segway. first the kids and then the adults. i never expect to participate in these types of classes and am always tickled when we get to try too. it was smoother than i had anticipated and much easier to turn and maneuver. and yes, i giggled when i first stepped onto it, leaned forward and got it to move.

but before riding on the segway, we learned a little about how it works. turns out there are 5? or was it 3? gyroscopes inside it helping to keep it oriented and balanced. and- to demonstrate this point, we each got to hold and try to move a gyroscope that was already rotating. and that was a fascinating sensation and i thought immediately about going to the omsi store after the class had finished to buy us our very own gyroscope to look at more at home. of course, when we got there, they had a different kind of gyroscope, not one you could hold in quite the same way as the one in the demonstration and i decided against buying it and was thus not out the $7.99 or so it would have been to bring it home and make it our own. i did, however, buy the kids rock candy because, as i was reminded by samuel, they so rarely get to eat rock candy. true. and i remembered that there comes a time, or at least there did for me, when i no longer wanted to eat rock candy. so- no rock candy and no gyroscope. for me.

but-before we left the house this morning, before i even woke up the kids, i stood next to the stove getting ready to make scrambled eggs and i saw out of the corner of my eye what looked like a bird flying across the living room. so- i went and stood in the middle of the room and as it turns out, it was a bird- a wren- who had flown across the living room, from one closed window to the next. and i wondered, how on earth did he get inside the house in the first place? and how long had he been there, perching briefly on my now blooming christmas cactus? for a moment i thought about how my one cat who would have possibly brought a bird into the house had recently passed away and how neither of my other two cats would catch a bird much less bring it into the house. and how- also- there seemed to be no open windows or doors.

i followed the little bird as he hopped along the window sill, hiding behind the curtains. he finally flew behind eva's table and perched on a cardboard box filled with animals or legos or ugly dolls or somesuch and peeked out at me when i peeked in at him. i expected him to fly pell mell through the living room when i finally found him. instead, i opened up the window for him and he flew, as though attached by a string, straight out the window and into the freedom and fresh air beyond.

and today was also the day that i picked up maxwell's ashes and paw print and fur clipping from the vet. and i wonder a little bit if the bird and his inexplicable presence in my living room this morning was a good luck wish from maxwell, a sweet hello from beyond. maybe.

later, as i walked out of the vet's office with my kids into the pouring portland rain, carrying my cat's ashes and wearing maryjanes and a sweater, thinking fondly of my new rain coat and boots warm and dry at home in the closet, i laughed and cried at the absurdity of it all. of missing maxwell. of trying to be prepared. trying to understand. of the whole day with the bird and the segways and the other moms in the class and all of us- all of us- really just trying to live our lives the best we can. the best we know how. which is all maxwell ever did in the first place. and which is probably one of the many reasons why i still miss him so much.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

body art

Eva loves to do body art on herself in the form of tattoos and drawings that she does herself. Today she literally covered herself in body art. I got some pictures of my favorites. One of the owls is on my hand. She also did a lovely bird on my forearm that was too difficult to photograph.





Tuesday, November 16, 2010

indoor sliding

Two videos of Eva's indoor slide she made yesterday from various supplies she cobbled together from around the house-


Monday, November 15, 2010

mushroom madness



The sun came out today and I went outside to take a few pictures of the amazing mushroom madness happening out in our front yard.









Eva and I talked a little about who might be eating the mushrooms. We decided it could be squirrels and/ or slugs. Then we found this little guy munching on one of the larger red mushrooms. Clearly slugs have an appetite for mushrooms!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

leap of faith

Caught myself falling back down into the {to be dramatic but truthful} abyss recently and was shocked {again} at how quickly it can happen. *It* being one of those slowly then all at once processes, much like the seasons turning or meringue whipping. Or birth. Or death. Two of the transition biggies in life. Some might say Life. I'm not sure if I would. Sometimes. Maybe. But not now. If there is a Life then there is a life and that has a grass-is-greener effect whereby you {or You?} waffle back and forth between the particular sorts of wisdom {or Wisdom? Hey, now that's going too far, don't you think?} and love to be found in each. When really it's just life. {Italics.}

I saw this morning that it is still too soon to read inspiring articles with titles like Ten Ways to Find Contentment in Your Life. I push it away with my hands, swatting at it. No. Because that, to be honest, is one of the problems. My mind gets busy with that sort of list and will certainly, at some point during the day, after having had fun trying out each of the ways, point out to me that I don't know how to be content enough. Or that I'm being content wrong. And I'll actually believe it {nine times out of ten. Seven on a good day.}. Such is the abyss.

But I did start doing some reading. Ummmmm. Existentialism. Absurdism. Postmodernism. You get the idea. And that has been good. I have actually found it to be reassuring. All of those thinkers, thinking these same thoughts, wondering these same ideas. The meaning of life and all that. I went so far as to read through several quick synopses of different philosophies {about life} and was relieved {again} to see there really is no consensus. Just thoughts. Some I agree with, some I don't. There are quite a few common themes out there among them. Some common conclusions. Still, as far as we know, we don't {really} know. And that's the truth of it. The biggest truth of it. And it comes down to this, as far as I am concerned- Which leap of faith are you willing to take? It was Soren Kierkegaard who coined the term leap of faith and while good old Soren and I have come to a few different conclusions, I thank him for his leap of faith concept. And I thank Albert Camus too, for looking so closely at the world and putting down his thoughts for others to relate to, so many years later.

And on that note, on that not-knowing note, here's a slice of our today-



Eva's ring collection. Ten rings, two for every finger.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

birds *with* trees

This evening {starts so soon these days. I can't decide when to start calling it evening and when it is still afternoon...} Eva and I hung a few more of her drawings up. I wanted to get some of her fairies and well-dressed-ladies up on the wall. Afterward she was inspired to have me trace her on some of the rolled up paper we bought at the art supply store last month. The tracing turned out great and she is now working on decorating her paper-self. Photos to follow after she has finished. Turns out it is a pretty large project and the light in here is very dim.

Like I said, the lighting is rather dim. I can't help it. The blog must go on. And this {lighting issue} is what I'm dealing with {currently, in this life}.



This fancy fairy is one of my all time favorites and here is a lady in red. High heels for everyone.



These birds were done today and were a part of a larger photo story about how the birds are sad when we cut down all the trees. These birds are still happy and are shown in the larger drawing with trees. I know I feel better with trees too.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Dinner tonight

was ground mild Italian chicken sausage with a few potatoes from this week's CSA basket and sauteed greens (from last weeks basket)- what looked a bit like collards, but smaller than you usually see them. Plus apple crisp with three different local apples- Pink Ladies, Gala and Braeburn. I really must get to the farmers market this week for more apples because as local and seasonal as the ones I bought from New Seasons were, they were nothing like the ones we bought a few weeks ago at the market. I missed the apple upick this year and am definitely feeling it now. Still, three kinds of apples will make a very good crisp. Plus- and here's the best part, in my opinion- this amazing salad with cabbage, mesclun mix, arugula and carrots, all fresh from my own garden tonight! I added pomegranate and slivered almonds, our first pomegranates of the season. We have all been nibbling on those and the first satsumas of the year all evening with visions of pomegranate granita dancing in our heads. I had all but forgotten about satsumas (how does that even happen?) until a woman at the grocery had some in line ahead of me and I rushed back to pick out a few of my own. It is still a little early so they are on the expensive side, but so worth it for the boost in spirit alone. {Not to mention the taste.} {Not to mention how excited Eva is.}

The day started out slow as they have been of late and I bought two blues buster light bulbs at the store this afternoon AND took a walk in the middle of the day in the sunshine AND went out to the garden to find vegetables for a fresh salad. All of this contributes to a better mind-set. The salad was the icing on the cake, to make it stick a little longer. Plus, I found a few baby sunflowers just now blooming on thick stems bending down toward the ground and still so many flowers outside for November. My Wisconsin-trained-mind never can remember how warm it stays here for so long.



Carrots planted a few months ago picked tonight. Petunias still blooming...



Baby sunflowers blooming, several on an already bent stalk. Salad!