Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Back on the zen train. Yesterday I read the story about the man running from the tiger who falls off a cliff and hangs by a vine over an abyss. When he looks up he sees the tiger. When he looks down he sees the abyss. Two mice come along (apparently unbeknownst to the tiger, but I digress...) and start gnawing at the vine. Just then the man sees a ripe strawberry growing nearby. He plucks off the strawberry and bites into it. Mmm...delicious.

Reading this story again got me thinking about feelings and I wondered if I knew this was the last time I was ever going to feel sadness would I be able to appreciate it as deeply as that man appreciated the strawberry? If joy can be found in each thing, each feeling, each circumstance, could I even bless sadness and grief and its part in this life?

So I love it when a train, in this case the zen train, gets caught up in a synchronicity. After all of these zen thoughts and an amazing meditation, I was driving with the kids in the car later on and really marveling at this life that is ours- this life that we are- and I went over to Powells to {gasp} buy a book. I didn't find the book I went in for- well, I found one of them but not the other- but I did pass by another book that caught my eye- a new release hardcover, The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. So far so good and right on track when I opened up and read this quote by Colette, "What a wonderful life I've had. I only wish I'd realized it sooner." It made me want to pluck whatever strawberry happened along right then and enjoy it for all it was worth. So, of course, I bought the book. {A bold, impulsive response to a beckoning synchronicity, no less.) It seems there is still time, always time, right now for noticing what life offers and going ahead and picking it up. Mmmm....delicious. And now for those strawberries Eva picked out at the store.

Monday, March 29, 2010


Terrence found the dandelions on the table...

Sunday, March 28, 2010

spring, take 1

We had a gloriously sunshiney most-of-the-day-outside sort of day yesterday and Eva spent a good bit of it out with the flowers. She brought in a few armfuls to put in water on the table- daffodils and pansies and quite a few dead nettle and dandelions. Then she spent some time arranging the flowers in water and setting up a flower display. She also set some aside to dry in the flower dryer she got for Christmas. (Oh, and onion tops. She brought in quite a few onion tops as well.) I am looking forward to the forget-me-nots which are just starting to bloom. We found some tiny vases last year which are going to be just perfect for forget-me-nots and wood violet bouquets...

Beauty where it finds you-

Friday, March 26, 2010

frogs and butterflies

I didn't post yesterday. I am posting today. I notice that I feel better when I do some sort of writing and this is definitely some sort of writing. The inspiration today is in the writing and not in the content, although goodness knows there is plenty to be inspired about when I remember to look around a bit.

We went out to Sauvie Island the other day and were lucky enough to find a few frogs down by the water. Eva caught one and held him for a while and then we took turns passing him back and forth until we decided {actually, it was after he peed on Samuel and Samuel said, "what IS that?" and I said, "it's pee," and he said, "you didn't have to tell me that."} he might be tired and Eva put him back in the water. When we went over to the other side of the lookout thingy which I can't seem to place with a name today, we looked for more frogs but found instead what Eva is calling a wild guinea pig. It did look quite a bit like what we think a wild guinea pig might look like and it also looked quite a bit like what we know a baby domesticated guinea pig does look like and also, to be honest, it also looked quite a bit like a vole or a small woodchuck who ran very fast and was not nearly as interested in being found by Eva as Eva was in finding him. He has been dubbed "the wild guinea pig" and probably shall remain so ever after.

We also saw several garter snakes, both down by the water and up in the leaves basking in the sunshine. And our first butterflies this year. I looked them up and one was {probably} definitely an orange tip. The other two were those little blueish-periwinkle butterflies. Are they blue copper butterflies? I'm not entirely sure. I know I have seen them before. We followed the first one around with our eyes and feet for several minutes revelling in the thrill of a butterfly in our midst. The second one came along when we were on our way back to the car just as we were telling Samuel about seeing the other butterfly and he was bemoaning how he would have liked to have seen that butterfly too and we all looked over and sure enough there was another one. Right there. And I pointed him out and said something very excitedly like, "hey look there is another butterfly just like the one we saw before!!" and he looked and Eva looked and I looked and we watched with our eyes and big smiles as the butterfly flew around us and across the path and out into the grass.

Then we walked back to the car and I helped Jack climb in because he is a senior dog now and doesn't resist me giving him a hand. It felt so good to have him with us today while we walked in the woods. He didn't seem to mind being kept on the leash the whole time. It seemed a small price to pay for feeling well enough again to go walking in the woods with us and the butterflies and the frogs. When we all stood still in the sunshine we could still hear the frogs singing out in the water beyond.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

fairy houses

Yesterday we spent some time outside at the park with friends. While Samuel ran off with Ben to play with lightsabers in a secret fort, Eva and some of the other girls made fairy houses. I went over a few times to stop other kids from knocking down the houses and sent them all over to another area where some flower bushes were growing. By the end of the day, the houses had been such a hit that there was a large group of toddlers and preschoolers building other flower lined houses in the area I had sent them to. It was very sweet to see all of those little ones carrying flowers back and forth with little branches and rocks. Such sweet inspiration.

Monday, March 22, 2010

on again, off again

I had three self-imposed projects that I started hmmm over the last few months that I have dropped nearly completely. I am not reading Shakespeare in the way I had thought I would. I do still carry around my copy of Romeo and Juliet, though, just in case and last night after the kids went to sleep I started reading it again just enough to get me to go to sleep. Ahem. I have not started any more home projects and have certainly not finished up home project #4- couch! I know this because we still have no couch. Whenever I think about this I hear the song "Yes, we have no bananas," in my head which should say something about the lack of bitterness involved. And, I have not been knitting one new project and then finishing up one old project each month for about 2 months now. I mean, I suppose I could hurry up this month and fit something in {maybe} and let go of only February. It turns out there is a reason so many of my old projects are sitting around. They make for dull company and I have half a mind to rip them all out. In fact, I am still stuck on the most {possibly} boring knitting project ever- putting in a pocket- into the sweater that I have taken so many pains to modify before the weather got too warm to wear it. Again, ahem. I had such high hopes for putting a zipper on that sweater as well and darn it if I didn't buy the wrong sized zipper that last time I went to Joanne's in search of a zipper. How on Earth I bought one that was 5 inches too small I don't understand. Now I have it straight. All this of course means that I have to motivate myself to drive over to Joanne's again and get another zipper and until I do that, there the sweater shall sit. Nothing quite like almost-finished-knitting-sitting or even this-knitting-was-once-finished-and-is-now-sitting-again. Still, I have very little bitterness, more like complete non-interest. I mean, don't get me wrong, it will be a shame {sort of} if I don't wear this sweater again until next fall. Then again, I think my neglect has more to do with some of the details not working out in quite the way I had envisioned them. The whole point of modifying this sweater was to make it better than it was. It is better, I will give it that. But will I actually wear it {still}? That is the question. Have the modifications done enough so that I will put it on and wear it out there- even if only to the dog park? Or for a walk in the woods? Who can say until it is done. And what then, if I won't wear it? More modifications? To what end?

This, I must say, is the good and the bad of knitting. On the one hand, knitting does give you, as I have written before, an opportunity to fine tune the endless possibilities inherent in an unused skein of yarn. On the other hand, what about finally finishing something already? Surely, while the process is amazing, there is also something to be said for a product as well {at least eventually}? I don't know. I am torn. Obviously.

These questions, I can find them anywhere and everywhere I look. To what end? I think, as with everything else, it must be both. It must be the joy in the process and the thrill of the product. Without both we are left with a lot of lifeless stuff taking up space {too much focus on product} or naked and hungry in the snow {too much focus on process}. It's good to have both.

And what does that mean for my sweater-in-the-fixing? I've really no idea. At least not now. I can fix it up, put in the zipper and the little embroidered flowers I have planned, wear it to the park, marvel that I made it, bemoan the smaller pockets each time I put my hands inside- modify those? Or I can put it back on the shelf until next year, forestalling the product a little while longer in favor of a longer process. Wherever the sweater takes me. Or something like that.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


tail wagging with love
trusting in sausage for me
walking to the park


spring sightings today at the arboretum included wood violets, trillium, some type of wild geranium, banana slugs {yes, more than one! and I officially have slug slime on the leg of my jeans for the first time this year...) and a big ole raccoon who caught sight of us too before he lumbered off into the woods in the opposite direction...

we didn't take jack with us today because he is still recovering from our trip to the river a few days ago. poor guy hurt his front leg- and aggravated his arthritis in his hips and back- and it would have been too much for him to walk with us in the woods today. hopefully he will be healed up and ready to go when we go back in a few days. it just isn't the same going to the arboretum without him. i miss his dogginess and wild abandon. there is no one like a dog to remind you of just how good life is.


Our March birthdays have come and gone leaving me with a 10 year old and a 7 year old. Amazing the changes in my babies over the last several years. How similar. How different. Eva spent a good bit of her birthday yesterday putting on different lip gloss, playing with fairies and painting and repainting her nails in different shades of purple and red. Samuel is on a money kick, counting money, imagining monopoly games, recounting money, adding, talking about checking accounts and debit cards, playing monopoly games. We had a nice discussion about home mortgages in the grocery store yesterday...With unschooling math, what better thing to use than money. So very many practical applications to think over and over and over. So many places to try it out. Last week when we went to Toys R Us he took a calculator and notebook to keep track of what he wanted and, more importantly, how much money he would have left if he bought it. On the second trip, after making a full tour of the store he left without buying anything. He said the thrill of knowing he could buy anything he wanted was amazing and apparently took the edge off of actually having to buy something. Ah freedom. If only we all felt so free...

Saturday, March 13, 2010


Birthday plans went off without a hitch and the birthday boy was thrilled to bursting with his big day. And then another mellow but still burstingly big day to follow with a second trip to toys r us to return what had been bought the day before (well, one thing was returned, but the clone trooper blaster was definitelly a keeper). {Did the parentheses break the flow? It needed to be said. We can't very well go on and on without understanding holding everything up. Not unless you want to dive right into mis-understanding...and where will that lead you?}

But of course you can. Go on and on {and on} without understanding holding everything up. In fact that's how it often works, with understanding waltzing in a little later, after all the drama and stories have already been told. And everyone looks up at understanding, sauntering in {late!}, surprised he has come at all. Each time, mystified- or irksome, as in "Where have you been! We have been waiting for you?" And he asks- "Did you stop the story telling and wait until I arrived to continue?" {Matter-of-factly.} And we sheepishly answer- "No." and think, we forgot. Again. Things really took off. We didn't think you were really coming this time. You were late.

Late? Right on time? We are glad to see him when he does show up. There's nothing left- no snacks, no drinks- the party's nearly over, everyone worn out from the drama, piecing together what they heard in the stories. Searching for understanding. Or not. Some never search for understanding and are happy for the diversion the drama gives. Some begin searching before the story begins.

If we are surprised, it is because we had begun to believe the stories. We thought understanding was to be found inside them. And he may be- sometimes- helping us tease out what will help us, what truths are lingering there. But sometimes he is not and the stories become a dead end that we wrestle with- holding tightly to them with clenched fists certain we will fall apart if we give them up in favor of understanding. Who would we be without our stories holding us up?

Understanding comes in his own time, when he is ready, when we can hear {and understand} him. He speaks in poetry, in bursts of lightening, with clarity, pulling together loose threads streaming out here and there, bringing them together, bundling them up into bits of peace and love. Setting us free. Or not. Sometimes there is nothing to understand. Things are just as they are, nothing more or less. And continuing to search for understanding at these times can bring the same kind of madness that not searching can bring at other times. But wait, did understanding sneak in here while I was busy telling stories about him? {Of course if he had come in sooner, there would have been nothing to write about today, and for that I am grateful. What would I do without writing to hold me up?}

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Imagine me saying it out loud. I am in the process of making Samuel's birthday cake(s) for his 10th! birthday tomorrow. The cake that I have been making for the past- 4 years? is that right? (and as always, thanks to Kerry for the inspiration and introduction to this particular cake...)- is an angel food roll cake with raspberry jam (homemade, upicked, but of course...) inside. Last year or the year before? Samuel started requesting two cakes because one cake was eaten up so quickly. I agreed and to be honest I don't have the heart to go back to one. How many years, after all, will there be with me making angel food roll cakes with raspberry jam inside? So here I am on the eve of his 10th birthday making cakes and researching, you got it, how to get the roll to actually roll this year. Last year's roll was more of a smoosh. Delicious, I agree. Delicious, I was told. A smoosh, nonetheless.

So I found a site with instructions on how to roll the roll. The recipe is different than the one I used but I am definitely trying out their roll technique.

Don't run. The cake will fall...she said as she questioned whether this were really true. Looks like it isn't true. At least so far. I will try to stop cringing when people run by the cake baking in the oven. Even if it is an angel food cake. Even if it is the day before Samuel's 10th birthday. Wisegeek knows...

OK- so far so good. The instructions for rolling the cake are as follows-
Turn cake onto a kitchen towel dusted with confectioners' sugar. Gently peel off waxed paper. Roll up jelly-roll style in the towel, starting with a short side. Cool on a wire rack.
That worked well. Now for the cooling and the second cake...

Ready? And now for the unrolling-
Unroll cake; spread filling evenly over cake.
Tried that. Sorry to say it did not work quite as well as I would have liked. The warm cake cooled into the shape of a roll and when I tried to unroll it, it broke. It's not quite a smoosh, more like a flop. It broke at the hinge where it should have rolled. (Where I wanted it to roll.) So it is basically a roll cake with a lid. I spread the jam and put the lid back on. (Boysenberry for this one, raspberry for the other. If I can find a jar of raspberry jam! I'm still searching the jam shelf...) It should be yummy regardless. Samuel came in and tasted it and looked at it and said, "Mmmm there's that same flavor of the raspberry roll cake." He asked for a slice. And then he said, "Does it always do that?" Ha. I wish I had the answer to that one. I have one more cake to try this year. We shall see.

While you are waiting to see about the roll, here's a little reading about the history of meringue and angel food cakes.

Ah ha! Success! I am excited to say that I tried rolling up the second cake while it was still warm after spreading the raspberry jam (Yep. I found a jar!) on the warm cake and it worked! So that makes one rolled cake and one cake with a lid for this year's birthday celebration. A pretty satisfying outcome, if I do say so myself. Here's to cake. Cake for all.

home project 2- battery charger

At long last I have a new battery charger! That's three home projects down in just over two months. I'm looking around my house right now and the obvious choice for home project 4 is of course a couch. Let the project begin!

Of course just because I have the charger does not mean I have charged any batteries. Imagine my surprise when I saw the kids had found another use for the charger!

Friday, March 5, 2010

sweet pea delight

spent some time in the garden today. the woman at the nursery told me it was almost too late to plant sweet peas and i wanted to get the seeds in the ground lickety split. eva and i planted three packets of sweet peas {nearly} between the two of us. when they are ready to bloom it will be an amazing sweet pea delight out there.

we also planted snap peas and sugar snap peas and chard. i cleaned up the kale areas {yes there are multiple kale plantings!} and was amazed at just how prolific the california poppies have been. wow. there will be so many poppies this year even with me pulling them out left and right to make room for the mesclun and radicchio. i have made great progress here- the freedom to pull plants and the freedom to leave them to grow. there was a time not too long ago when i experimented with leaving every plant there, never pulling anyone up, never thinning, never culling. there was a time before that when i pulled up so many plants just because that is how you garden. and now. freedom. freedom to pull the plants and freedom to let them grow wherever they find themselves. a nice way to be. a nice way to enjoy my time in the garden. with the plants.

this translates well when i am working with the kids in the garden. there was a time when i would have let my kids plant anything anywhere they chose and i worried and fretted and was nervous about the whole set up. and another period of time when i lectured about the right place to plant a plant, the best way to do a thing. and now? a little of both but hopefully a whole lot more of seeing the big picture and letting go of the outcome. a few pea plants feeling crowded is small price to pay for spending the whole afternoon in the spring sunshine with eva chatting away to me about how different we are from the worms. momma, you are right, we are surely not worms. look at them move through the earth. if i buried myself down there like they do, i would never breathe again. and a little information about pea plants liking their space doesn't hurt either. particularly when we are both smiling at the prospect of planting more sweet peas when we finish with the chard...

Thursday, March 4, 2010


I've been thoroughly enjoying the spring weather and all that it brings. Pink tree blossoms, daffodils, the azaleas are starting, witch hazel bushes, even a few rhododendron bushes are bursting with color. I would normally be filling these blog pages with photo after photo of the flowers surrounding me. Eva's hair in pigtails! Guinea pigs feasting on dandelion greens. Jack laying in the sunshine while I finally get to meditate outside again.

Unfortunately, we are still having battery issues and this means there are fewer than usual pictures to upload. Fortunately, I have been spending just as much time enjoying spring's bounty without the camera. Unfortunately, I have not fixed the battery issue with home improvement project #2. Fortunately, there really is no deadline and I have plenty of time to deal with batteries. Unfortunately, my kids remind me nearly every day to fix the battery situation. Fortunately, my kids remind me nearly every day to fix the battery situation. Get the idea? Thanks to my friend Erik for the fortunately game. I just can't get enough of things just being these days.

It seems one thing I continue to struggle with- unfortunately? fortunately?- is being with not-knowing. Or not-knowing just being? Not-knowing, in particular, seems to feel more on the unfortunately side than not. After thinking things through just now, it seems like it might have to do at least a little bit with logistics- if I can just move through some part of a not-knowing, then I will be done with it and on to what I want to be doing instead. Being in the moment and not-knowing feels more than a little bit like chaos to me {sometimes} and flowing chaos takes presence. Maybe that is it. Is it easier to be unconscious and pushing to know than to be conscious and present and not-knowing? Fortunately, I know that isn't so. It's all in the remembering. And the trusting. There's that trust thing again...