Tuesday, December 22, 2009


This afternoon, in a mad rush of trying to finish up a sewing project that wasn't working well, nursing the baby, tidying up the family room (and the epic mess of post-fort-deconstruction AND an entire box of party crackers and a block of cream cheese-don't ask), presents to wrap, and a shower still to take:

Me Miles, if you touch that drill (toy) one more time before the family room is tidied up I will take it away for the rest of the day.
Miles Okay, I'm sorry. I won't touch it.

Fine. Except that he quietly went upstairs and came back down with ziploc sandwich bags on his hands, and picked up the toy drill and started back to his "work".

Me Miles, I told you not to play with that drill.
Miles No you didn't Mama. You told me not to touch it. I'm not touching it, see? I'm being really careful. I'm really not touching it one bit.

Oh my. He's three. And my head hurts.

Friday, December 11, 2009

For Jennifer

Because I was reprimanded for not keeping up with my blogs over the last month or two, and told in no uncertain terms that people want to know everything, even what we eat breakfast:

pumpkin seed cranberry granola, whole milk yogurt(organic), fair trade french roast coffee, whole milk (organic), canned pears (remember our pear canning session?! They're being eaten up like you wouldn't believe!), Emergen-C tangerine.

Everyone happy now?

Seriously, though, everyone is well (knock on wood) and happy (again, the wood....) and I'm elbow deep in cleaning and cooking and baking and preparing and we've got a birthday party and a Swedish supper party, plus a tromp up the mountains to find two trees, a church play for Avery to prepare for, a million gifts to make, lots and lots of good stuff to get to work on. I feel like the whole last month was lost to our weeks of sickness and despair, and now we're all jolly elves on double time!

So no worries. No good stories yet, but that's just because we're too busy to get into trouble!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


My brother has a big boat that just happens to be in dry dock right now, in our very state, instead of Alaska. So we went to visit him a few weeks ago, before everyone got sick and everything in our house broke (Did I mention the stove broke on Thanksgiving? Did I?!). One of his crew members was there, working, when he arrived- a very sweet girl with tight black jeans, a striped shirt under a sweatshirt, severe black hair, some facial piercings and tattoos. She seemed quiet, nice, and smart, though she was mostly working hard most of the time we were there.
Yesterday Miles came running to me in the midst of the epic boat-fort building game he and Avery were engaged in, wanting, no NEEDING, to know the name of "Uncle Trevor's Pirate".
Uncle Trevor's Pirate?
Trevor's leg is broken, he was in a cast when we were there, but it didn't seem like a peg leg, did it? No one had lost an eye or a hand- no patches or hook-hands were seen. Finally I figured out he meant Shannon! Trevor's girl-crew member. His "Pirate". Of course.
Because ships have pirates. Duh.
And who else but a pirate would make gold look so fierce?
I wonder, should I take my kids out of this poky little town more often? Should they know that pirates aren't the only people with piercings and tattoos? How embarrassing will it be when they go off to college and think their dorm mate is a pirate?

Thursday, November 19, 2009


I've been so lucky to have my wonderful Mom and a talented physical therapist Aunt here helping our family out during this difficult time. I really don't know how we'd have managed without my Mom here, holding fussy sick babies and cleaning up puke, taking temperatures and making chicken soup, exuding confidence that everything would be okay, that Miles would pull through.
Miles, you know, is 3 years and 9 months old, full of fire burning bright, the one who jumps headfirst into every experience, and pulls all the rest of us along with him. He is so funny and sincere and beautiful that he gets by with a lot that a more serious, less antic-filled kid wouldn't be able to get away with. Of all my boys he's the one always in the center of the action, making everyone laugh, causing trouble, and smoothing things over with his incredible sweetness and generosity. He is healthy and strong, positively glowing with youthful health and rosy cheeks, sparkling blue eyes and cheerful laugh. Glowing, I tell you.
But Miles is the one I always secretly worry about. Always. I imagine it's because of the worry of my pregnancy with him (preterm labor and 4 solid months of bedrest) and how sick I was after he was born, at least that's what I tell myself. The other boys, though of course I worry, I feel more confident about, healthwise. Miles is the one I am sort of irrational about, the one I really have to talk myself down about. Every bruise might be a sign of some awful thing, leukemia or a clotting disorder. Every cough whispers pneumonia. I know it's crazy. I talk myself out of it all the time, or else we'd be in the emergency room more often than we already are (and Lord knows we're there for legitimate reasons often enough that it's a joke among our friends).
So you can imagine how I was feeling this week, with Miles trying to recuperate from an appendectomy and swine flu at the same time, lying in his hospital bed pale and feverish and still, not wanting to eat or drink, not wanting to talk or watch TV or even respond to us. I spent the whole time talking myself down, trying to trust that he would be well. And he is.
He is well. He is bouncing off the furniture, climbing the walls, shrieking and laughing and running around. You've never even know he'd been sick, except around the edges. That raggedy cough, a low grade fever that hasn't gone away just yet, the quickness to anger, the quickness to tears, the length and restlessness of sleep-times.
And so, last night, when my Mom and Aunt were talking about all the phone calls between the extended family, and how worried everyone was, when I asked "Why was Grandma crying?" they were shocked. As though I didn't understand how dangerous this all was, how close we'd been to Miles slipping away from us. And I couldn't correct them. I couldn't bear to just say that I have lived four years with the constant fear of him slipping away, and I am so used to constantly telling myself I am being silly, he is fine, HE IS FINE, that the knowledge that other people, rational, reasonable, intelligent people were as worried as I was more than I could deal with.
But he is fine. He is funny and sweet and energetic and you wouldn't know he'd been so sick. And I feel no choice but to keep on reminding myself of how fine he is.
He is not slipping away anywhere. He is jumping off the couch over a giant pile of cushions and onto the coffee table. He is running away and laughing, and I am so grateful. Running away laughing is as good as in my arms. He's definitely not slipping anywhere.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

... and holding... again

Yep. Holding my breath again, just waiting for this week to end.
Thursday Miles developed appendicitis, Friday was spent at the pediatrician's office (first thing in the morning) and the emergency room (the rest of the day). Who knew the health insurance companies require preapproval for CT scans, unless it's an emergency room doc? Yep. So, ER, then surgery. Is anything more heart rending than a three year old being rolled away to the operating room screaming and holding his arms out to you? (If there is, don't tell me, please!) My Mom arrived just after the surgery, and thank goodness- having three adults meant someone could stay with miles, another could stay with Avery and Ansel, and the third could do errands and travel back and forth.
Saturday started with Miles spiking a fever and developing a cough, and getting sicker and sicker. Guess what? Swine flu, that's what. And we all got it.
The pediatrician at the hospital prescribed Tamiflu for us all, which definitely seems to help shorten and lighten the impact. But it wasn't the nicest way to learn that we have an entirely separate $600 deductible for name brand prescriptions, and that for the four of us (plus the last three days dosage for Miles) would cost us $412. Cash.
Some dear friends turned their house over to us and the convenience of having a crash pad directly across the street from the hospital was a blessing. Especially since the hospital has a ban on visitors under 14, which meant that the nursing baby couldn't come in to the hospital, and I had to leave Miles' bedside to take care of the other boys.
Back at home Miles has asserted his anger at the pace of his recovery in many dramatic and awful ways, shouting and throwing and generally acting out. Including kicking the computer off the couch and killing it. We just got word from the shop. Dead. With the whole entire year's worth of school lesson plans painstakingly written out but not backed up. When will I remember to do that?
I won't even mention the pipe under the sink bursting and making a big mess everywhere.
Or the baby's ear infection.
Anyway, I'm glad I took that good long breath last week. I needed it more than I knew.
This week seems to be all about holding it again. Holding and hoping.... please, God, let nothing else go wrong, at least not this week....

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Good Deep Breath

Ah! Doesn't that feel nice?

I realized, in the midst of messy house, screaming children, unfinished school work, yet-again-still-at-work-way-too-late-husband, utter exhaustion and unbidden tears streaming down my face at a simple question ("How are you?") that I've been holding my breath through all the busy-ness, celebration, and even the simple routines of autumn. I've missed out on really being present for my favorite season, my grounding and hearth-warming season. I have been holding my breathe so long and tight that I've started floating away, my head in the clouds, busier imagining all the brighter futures we could have instead of doing my work, making THIS life, here and now, as bright and beautiful as possible. Unfortunately children and housework, school work and all of the day-to-day couldn't join me on my dream-tour, and had to make do here on earth without me.

I've been holding my breath for fear of crying out loud at the terrible prospect of MORE job losses, ones that could directly affect our little family, ones tied to the whim of voters. Holding my breath for fear of saying out loud all the ways I've been worried. One person in the family being stressed out is enough, and worry is my husband's job. My job is eternal optimism, unshakable confidence that it will all work out just right, no matter what IT is. Anxious weather watching, sunny-day umbrella carrying, that's his job. Silver lining shining, pot of gold finding, that's mine.

But election day is over, the voting is done, all those opinions have been counted. The sales tax that pays 1/3 of the office budget passed, overwhelmingly. Overwhelmingly! Jobs are a little safer, for awhile anyway. Mortgages can be paid, groceries bought, Christmas and oh! all those birthdays maybe not so bleak. I can breathe.

I can take a deep breath, let it go, take another, and come back down to earth. Back down to the house full of boys and chores and laundry. Landing on a mountain of laundry, it turns out, is a pretty soft landing after all, and is a great vantage point for scoping out rainbows' end. And silver linings are a lot easier to see when the storm clouds are just passing over, not dumping down on your head.

I can take another breath, an even deeper one, one full of gratitude and thanksgiving. Here I am, here we are, and it is wonderful, right here and now!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween 2009

Avery as "Teen Vampire". Scary was his top priority this year.

Miles as "Spider". Miles was adamant about his costume choice- every single time he decided!

Ansel as "Gnome". He wasn't very excited about his costume for some reason....
In any case we had a great time, some good friends and family came over for pizza and trick or treating and it was all just good, easy fun. big boys running from house to house, little kids trailing, everyone falling to a deep sugar-coma sleep and waking up WAY to early this morning. Yay for Halloween!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Sneak Peek

Yep. Ansel is going to be a gnome for Halloween. Ridiculous! You just have to wait for the rest of the pictures, though- and not just because I'm madly working at them while trying to pack for an out of state birthday party quick trip and clean the house for out trick-or-treating party scheduled to commence right bout the time we get home....
And it's been raining and the drier is still broken, and we haven't carved our pumpkins yet....
But, oh! my house is full of cute little gnomes, so I'm as happy as can be!

Pumpkin Patch

The Grandparents from Iowa usually visit at just the right time to go to our favorite pumpkin patch- Thompson's Farm in Naches, WA. The farmer is a funny guy, and he seems to spend his spare time fixing up old tractors, collecting farm implements, and building pumpkin cannons. Awesome! All our favorite things in one spot! It doesn't hurt that he always has someone making and selling pumpkin donuts right there. Grandpa ate 2 1/2 dozen before he tackled the 4 dozen he bought to go! The boys were in awe. And have stated their desire to be grownups so that I can't stop them from eating 30 donuts in one afternoon. Moms are so mean like that.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Did You Know?

111 pounds of grapes dries down to 4 gallons of raisins?
It takes about 30 minutes to pick that many grapes, and almost 3 days to dry each batch.
Black Manukka grapes make the world's best raisins.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Not New Furniture

The Iowa Grandparents are visiting right now- here with time for punkin chunkin, costume making, fall decorating and Halloween preparations. And in the spirit of preparing the house for their visit we recovered the dining room bench (which was tweed plaid with a giant rip so the boys could easily stick spaghetti fingers in and pull off bits of foam, you know, for fun) and the chairs (which were blue and purple chevron from 1942, probably, and, well, at least 50 years of stains). It was time.
And Joann was having a sale- I got two yards of decorator fabric for $12, instead of the $60 they were marked. And as much as I don't like Joann (for their ads, mostly- there are those emails nearly every day, and then the fliers that come way before the sale starts so I think I'm going to get that thing I want for 40% off until I get all the way to the register, past the aisle of candy, with three crying, fussy, antsy children- it's lame. Costco does the same thing.) it is practically next door, and there are always cute fabrics. And good deals.
The bench.

The top of the bench. Take a good look- by the time you see it in person it will indubitably be covered in spaghetti smears.

The fabric for the chairs.

And one of the chairs, finished!

Not quite the new dining room furniture I really want- 52"diameter round Mission or Shaker style pedestal table with leaves, simple little smooth (no grooves for goo to get stuck in) wooden chairs- but way cheaper and less hassle.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Socks for Avery

Lengthened, fiddled with, unraveled and "knitted" by a certain three year old, finally done. Um, not that he ever actually wears socks, but, well, Moms are funny like that.

Here's Lookin' At You Baby

8 Months, 4 days! How did it happen so fast? But there he is- crawling and reaching, sticking every little thing in his mouth, reaching tiny fingers in places I never even think of, let alone clean. He loves his brothers, laughs and shakes and squeals when he sees them, works hard to be where they are, to eat what they eat, to be a part of the action. He seems in such a hurry to be big like them. Silly Ansel- don't you know Mama LIKES having a baby in the house?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sick. Fair. Rain.

Home, sick. Fevers, chills, sore throats, queasy stomachs, blood shot eyes. Poor Avery went three days without eating a single thing. Aaron was home before bedtime twice this whole week. There aren't any groceries, the house is a disaster zone, laundry is piled to the ceiling in the laundry room (where IS the maid, anyway? oh right, it's just me) and the huge box of peaches that I haven't gotten to yet is starting to smell a little... ripe.
I'm just hoping maybe it was swine flu and we're safe now?
Luckily he recovered just in time to go to the fair, though he didn't feel up to going on any rides that Miles wasn't also big enough to go on.
Well, there's always next year.
And, as usual, the last two days of the fair were rainy, grey, and cold. October is here and with it the first bites of winter coming on.
Oh well, we had fun, at the fair and all summer, and at least everything is getting watered really well for the end of the season, with no effort on my part. I always feel a little decadent and ridiculously suburban, turning on the underground sprinklers to water the LAWN. Seems like there's probably lots more important things in the world that water could be used for than grass. Maybe if my front yard was filled with vegetables....
Oh well, there's always next year!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Happy Birthday, Grandma Bopsie!

What kind of birthday dessert do you make for someone who has recently lost 87 pounds and is still in the losing stage? Of course, everyone knows the ideal birthday cake comes in two forms- a high, light carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and marzipan carrots in a layer or "dirt" made from crushed up Newman's Own Ginger-O's, and the Chocolatey-chocolate-chocolate kind. Period. But, you know, there's something about making a birthday cake that the birthday girl will actually eat that is rewarding, too. And so:
Grandma Bopsie's Peach and Raspberry Pavlova Birthday Cake:
Beat three egg whites, 1/4 t. cream of tartar til frothy, slowly add 1/2 c. sugar. (I thought this would be delicious with some ground pistachios, but I was at Grandma's house, and she didn't have any....) When it is stiff and glossy spread the sticky mixture out in a circle, or several little ones, or a heart shape, or bone shape for Halloween, or whatever takes your fancy, on parchment paper, bake in a 275 degree oven for 60 minutes, and then let cool in the oven.
Top with sliced fruit, sprinkle with powdered sugar, serve with whipped cream or ice cream. Or top with whipped cream (or ice cream) and put the fruit over that. That's what I would do, normally- we were just trying to keep calories and fat lower, and served the cream on the side.
It was a hit. Miles thought it was like eating a cloud. Grandma Bopsie was very happy with her pretty, light birthday dessert. Yay!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Capturing the Sun: Marigold Salve

In the spirit of using the harvest, enjoying the last summer sunshine, making do and making at home, Miles and I created a little homemade marigold salve.

He went out and picked marigolds himself, and washed them, took the petals off, and put the stems and heads in the compost, all by himself. I wanted to use beeswax, and almond oil, but we were out, so we raided the cupboards and came up with nearly a pint: unpetroleum, shea butter, coconut oil, Weleda baby oil, honey. Miles dumped all this stuff in a pan.
Next in the saucepan: all those lovely, sunshiney marigold petals. Miles picked, washed, and plucked petals himself. We brought our concoction to a boil, then simmered for half an hour. Marigold and honey scent filled the house. Then we strained the mixture into a jar, and let it cool. It is a lovely orangey-golden color, smelling flowery and a little bit sweet. The salve itself is soft-ish and melts right in to Miles' eczema-raw arms. Oh! How he hates having lotion rubbed into his skin! This is just perfect for after baths, and Miles is certain it is full of goodness, sunshine, "strongness" and bravery, perfect for Michaelmas coming up, the waning of the sun's season, and all of the things little boys need extra courage to face. "It's like a sunshine hug!"

This was my first attempt at making salve, and it was super easy. I'm thinking, of course, of all the variations to try: maybe something with all that mint outside, what about the lemonbalm, the echinacea? I have comfrey, too! Rosemary? Lavender?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Where Did We Go?

Can you guess where we were? Here area few clues:
1) We camped out, with COLD nights and warm days.
2) We met a lot of people from all over the world.
3)We hiked around lots of clear, cold lakes, with colors ranging from milky white, all the blues, even jade green.
4)Everywhere you look are rocks in red, green, and white, exactly matching all the mountainsides around.
5)Alpen-like vistas and Swiss-themed lodges kept us thinking "Heidi", chasing mountain goats and singing "The Sound of Music" tunes all day long. (Yes, I know The Sound of Music was set in Austria, but still, who can argue with "The Hills Are Alive With the Sound of Music" as a mental soundtrack to this adventure? Who?)

6)"U" shaped valleys, anyone? Anyone guess where we were yet?

7)Of the 25 glaciers left in the park, all are expected to be gone by 2020. 2020!
8)Water from those glaciers flows to three different oceans- the Pacific, the Atlantic and the Arctic. I think it's amazing to stand on the ridge of the continent and think of all the directions available, and that with just a step one way or another, the path is determined.
Hooray! You got it! Yes!
We were camping in Glacier National Park in Montana.
We had other adventures too, I'll tell you later! For now, just know we're home, we're safe, the old Volvo has mysteriously expelled a semi-truck's worth of clothes and books, boots, swimsuits, snowsuits, rainsuits, camping supplies, dirt, cocoa packets, and sleeping boys all over the driveway and house.
Tomorrow we wash and organize, re-enter the world of work and school, chores and schedules. Tonight we'll leave the windows open, though, and sleep one more night with our dreams in the mountains, trailing off in every direction, to all the corners of the globe.
Good night.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Rhythm of Our Days is Over There...

I made this neat table, our rhythm/schedule thingy, and tried to post it here, but it didn't work, so here it is, on the homeschool site, even though it's not strictly homeschool....

We're off on a grand adventure this afternoon. I'll tell you all about it later!
Hopefully I won't forget the camera, OR batteries!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

New Friends and Old

Miles describing his new friend "She's nice. She's a good burper. A REALLY good burper!" and his old friend "She's my best girl. Best in the world!".
Just take a moment of grace for you friends, old and new, and appreciate their many talents, would you? Even burping.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Oh Darn It!

I was showing Avery some dumb-but-funny you tube video a friend sent me, which I'd seen and thought would add a moment of lighthearted fun to our day, and he started reading a link title somewhere on the web page. A title that included the "F" word. The real one, not what had passed for the real and still forbidden word in our house until just that moment. I hadn't even noticed it!
I sort of jumped and yelped, "Don't read that!" and tried to exit as fast as possible. Although, I suppose, the damage was already done. And shouting didn't help the situation.
His big eyes filled with water, threatening, just threatening to spill. He didn't know it was a bad word. I reassured him I wasn't angry at him, I wasn't angry at all. Just shocked to hear it from his mouth, surprised it was there in the first place for him to see. He still felt bad, all afternoon, from the unexpected encounter with ugliness, the bad taste in his mouth. The loss of innocence, I suppose. He couldn't quite articulate, except to wonder why people would say something that makes them feel so bad.
Remember being a kid? Being curious about all things grown up and forbidden, but also how raw and terrible those nibbles can be, when we're nowhere near ready for the taste of them? 'Cause, darn it, I do, and it's just as painful on the grown up side, watching the little injuries, watching childhood tear away, bit by bit.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Easiest Summer Landscape Fix

The sunflower! Who doeasn't love sunflowers? Cheap, easy, fast growing, drought-hearty, invincible, cheerful, and self-sowing.
The first spring after we bought this house there were some sunflower self-sown starts in the garden, and a little problem of the big low deck needing something around it to keep a new toddler from thinking he could walk off the edge. Perfect! Our deck is surrounded now by sunflowers, self-sown, and they grow around the sand pit, too, making it a shady little hidden place all summer. Along side the driveway, where nothing was growing and I never water? Sunflowers, cheerful sunshine faces bobbing along in the breeze, peeking over the fence, saying hello to all who pass. There's always one or two who make it through in the veggie patch, and they are always mammoths, with stems I can't get a hand around, and huge flowers, bobbing over everything like massive, benevolent scarecrows (and at least as effective as the straw and overalls variety!).
Their charm doesn't end with summer, either. As the seeds ripen they become a forest of standing, waving, living bird feeders. Even after we pull them from the ground the fallen seeds attract birds, all winter long. And somehow, beyond amazement, there are always still way too many popping up again in the spring, pushing eager heads up and out, searching out the sun with us winter weary citizens. Because of sunflowers we've been able to delay rebuilding the deck, installing irrigation, rebuilding the fence, doing all kinds of more expensive landscape fixes!
Unfortunately my efforts to harvest the seeds have ended poorly, but still there is hope, and my own nest full of hungry birdie-mouths eager for "homemade" sunflower seeds. Maybe this year!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

No more diapers?

As the mother of an infant, diapers are always on my mind. Or in my hand. We've gone through different systems over the years, bouncing back and forth between cloth and disposable, wraps and pull on pants, all in ones and homemade felted wool covers.

This time around Avery is in on the action, too. He's a champion diaper changer (and fetcher from the laundry liner, too!). But here's his idea, better than disposables or washable cloth diapers:
A Baby Bidet! Perfect, right? Oh, wait, you can't quite picture it?
Imagine a softish vinyl or plastic "diaper" (maybe Crocs material?) with two hose attachments. When the baby messes, or just needs a clean-up, you attach the "in" hose to the sink faucet (or a water bottle if you're out) and the diaper, and you attach the "out" hose and hold it over the toilet. Picture it now?
Brilliant, eh?
You may say it's not practical. Call it the wishful dreaming of a 9 year old boy, but I say he's not the only one dreaming of a day without diapers going to the landfill OR the washing machine. And, you know, I think it's pretty cool that I even have a 9 year old boy who THINKS about diapers, you know?
And if I see this in the One Step Ahead catalog alongside the silly changing table pee-guard, at least I hope the credit goes to the right kid, okay? (And if anyone buys it, well... all parents start out as silly first timers....)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Brown Boxes

A goodly stack of them were waiting for us when we came home from a long weird weekend in the mountains. It's our favorite time of the school year- the end of summer, with last minute desperate dashes for fun all intertwined with school year plans getting more and more detailed, flushed out, projects and field trips in the works, book lists for the library getting compiled. Shelves being organized and reorganized. And boxes. Lovely brown boxes arriving in the mail, full of the things that mean school to us- some math workbooks, sometimes, sure, but a big stack of blank lesson books to fill with beautiful pictures and examples of our learning, new packages of colored pencils and beeswax crayons, lots of books to read and absorb, some games to play, a year's worth of "work".
I just realized about five minutes ago that I have a whole order, those math workbooks, three science kits, and a writing program, that I didn't put through yet! Wow! I tried, there was some problem, it slipped my mind. Oh well, I'll do it now and they'll be here eventually. It's not as if we're lacking school materials to get started with!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Free Museum Day!

Do you know about Museum Day 2009, when you can get free admission to museums just by printing off an admission ticket from the Smithsonian magazine's websitesite, right here? No, not just the Smithsonian museums- yeah, I know those are always free. If I lived in the DC kind of Washington we'd be there all the time. But we don't. We live in the other kind of Washington. Where Seattle is. Hey! Speaking of Seattle, the Experience Music Project is there, and guess what? They're participating in Museum Day! Uh, not that I'm going with the little ones, but it's a perfect kind of big kid and Papa rock and roll thing to do. For free, instead of the usual $15 for each ticket. Check it out- even if the EMP isn't your thing, there's lots of other Museums around the US participating.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


One of the things that lately makes me tear at my hair and moan "O! what is the world coming to?" is the absolute abundance of "semi-homemade" or even "not-a-bit-homemade" recipes out there. There was one in the paper this morning- a store bought graham cracker crust, cream cheese from a package, sweetened and mixed with cream, topped with sliced fruit. Seriously?
I'm sure it tastes good, but REALLY? this needs to be documented as a RECIPE?! Really?
It's like cookbooks with a "salad" section full of dishes that start with a package of JELLO. Please. Aren't we smarter than that? Can't we do better?
Don't get me wrong- I'm all for quick recipes, things that are yummy and healthy and easy for those times when we're busy and tired and still have to feed our families. Fine. I have a recipe for a gluten free 15 minute pizza crust that we all really like. But it doesn't start with opening a box of anything. Dishes like that are TECHNIQUES, not recipes, I think.
I have a bunch of ways to turn a box of Annie's mac and cheese into a meal, but, you know, Annie has the recipe, I just have some techniques to add to it. Like grating summer squash, carrots, and onions, or adding black beans, salsa, sour cream, avocado, cilantro.
For the record I also make a delicious home made mac and cheese, and I may share the recipe sometime. Rest assured it doesn't start with "open a box of mac and cheese...."

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Yogurt, Take Two

I've said before that we eat a lot of yogurt. About a gallon a week. I did a whole post some time back about making yogurt in the crockpot, which is so ridiculously easy, and so much cheaper than buying it, even in the big Nancy's yogurt containers I used to buy every week.

But then I melted the electrical cord to my crockpot, so it was out of commission for a couple weeks. Avery and Grandpa Randy fixed it, but it seemed like it was working better than it had been before- well, hotter, or faster, or something. The milk was getting cooked to the bottom of the crock. And let me tell you- yogurt with little chunks of burned milk in it is not a taste sensation you'd want to repeat! And pouring $5.49 in organic milk down the drain makes me sad. Very, very sad. Heating the milk on low worked better, but oh! so slow. So unbearably slow. So I started buying yogurt again. Ugh. I hate buying things I can make better and cheaper at home. Which is one reason why we hardly ever eat out unless we go to the city. Don't even get me started!

Then I remembered my friend Jennifer- she makes it in the cooler. So easy! Not quite as easy as the crockpot method, but more predictable, at least with my hyper-functioning crockpot. Just heat up the milk to 170, place the pot and all in the sink (or my big blue basin) and dump some ice around to cool it quickly, skimming off any skin that might form. Stir in the yogurt starter (and honey and vanilla if wanted), pour into containers, place in a cooler with jars of hot tap water. In the morning- lovely thick, creamy, smooth, burned-milk-bitless yogurt. Hooray!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Walk and Talk, Mama

I always forget to post all the silly, sweet things my kids say. The things I really do want to remember. Well, no more!
Today at the Y, waiting for Avery's swimming lesson to finish, Miles asked for a carrot, took a bite, looked up at me and said "Let's walk and talk, Mama." So, of course we did, back and forth in the hall, munching carrots. "So how are you feeling? How was your day today?" He asked me.
Little man!

Monday, August 10, 2009

First Block Done!

Well, prepared. I've been struggling all summer with this Man and Animals lesson, one of the important ones of the fourth grade , and I've finally finished up my planning, got my head wrapped around the ideas, at least to apoint that I'm happy enough with. Here it is! Hooray!
And now, on with the rest of it- Vikings, poetry, zoology, here I come!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

My Summer Boys

You probably wouldn't believe me if I told you how many hours we spend "driving" old tractors and trucks and forklifts and excavators. With permission, of course. For some reason that eludes me, this is an endlessly fascinating activity. Well, it's free, and plentiful, around here, what with all the farms and such.

Avery doing the concrete work for his play structure, at the beginning of the summer.

Amazing how gorgeous babies are, huh? It's a good talent, they have!

Miles, in a petulant pose. Or maybe it's more like a Save the Children pose or something.

Miles loves holding his baby. He is torn, always going back and forth between wanting to be a big boy like Avery and a baby like Ansel. It's a hard decision- Avery gets to use electric tools, and ride his bike in the street alone, Ansel gets to nurse and be held whenever he wants.

Miles at the Sprinkler Park- a favorite place this summer.

Baby cuteness!

A pretty typical sort of pose lately- Avery playing it cool, Miles hamming it up, front and center.

More ham!

Miles found a tree he could climb on by himself. A great day!

Next summer he'll be running around, following his brothers, getting into trouble. This summer he's still mine, and he still stays pretty much where I put him. And he's still entertained by looking up and talking to the leaves and clouds and breeze.

Beaver masks. They wear them all the time. Thank you Artsvan!

Miles at swimming lessons.

Avery's play structure, almost, almost, this close to done! Good work, eh?

Saturday, August 1, 2009


It is hot outside, still. 106 today, maybe? That was the forecast.
But all thoughts of the miserable out-of-doors are gone by the wayside, pushed out by this burning hot little one in my arms, whose own temperature is competing with the sun's work out there. He is so miserable he only wants to be held, and so hot his little curled up body leaves a heat imprint even when he's not in my arms. My chest and neck and cheek and arms feel sunburned, even though we've not been outside today.
Sometimes he tries to smile, at his silly brothers, maybe, but the weak little wobbly smile dissolves in moans. Is there anything in the entire world more heartbreaking than a baby moaning?
Well, we're home, staying away from the picnics and swimming party of our weekend plans. It is so hot out there I would be glad to stay home, in the air conditioned, drawn shade cool of my house. I would be glad, if only it weren't so hot, here in my arms.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Snow Cones!

We capped off a great weekend in Seattle with a visit to Greenlake, a good hour at the playground and snow cones- the boys' first!

Ansel did not get one, however he is very interested in food, and watches with eagle eyes whenever there is eating or drinking happening. Snow cones involve both!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Thank you Friends!

I am feeling much better.
The weather is not any cooler, but I am. Papa's project at work is over, so there's a little breathing room coming. We've got a fun weekend planned, and today I got filled up with a chance to talk with friends, while the boys ran and ran and played and got their energy out, despite bloody noses and the heat. (Will there ever be a day Miles has a bloody nose and I don't immediately worry that he has leukemia? Why does my heart stop sometimes, watching him? He is so healthy, so VITAL, so full of life.) Then, to top it all off, my smart, funny, lovely friend Tracy made supper for us, and all we had to do was show up and eat and it was wonderful. Almost as good as a heavy summer rain. How nice to have a friend who knows just what I need, and welcomes us at our worst- cranky, sweaty, and tired, then sends us home happy and full, even with a plate of food for my husband? Tomorrow I'm making supper for all of us, and I'm thinking this is a nice thing- a night off, a night on.
Another friend and I were talking about how nice aspects of living in a kibbutz would be. Hard and monotonous work are always easier shared. Why are barn raisings such fun, or shelling peas and pitting cherries with company nicer than doing it alone?
I've been thinking I would love to have a place to spend the summer- the shore or a lake, little cottages and all the Moms and kids, Dads on the weekends, big packs of kids running around and keeping each other busy. I guess I want to live in a tender coming of age movie or something!
In the meantime I will keep living here in the desert, and I will keep counting my blessings, my friends.

Eating The Rainbow (Miles style)

Miles, our candy-crazed sugar-fiend, made a picnic for us, following all of the advice about food groups and "eating the rainbow". Perhaps not quite what the people at Today I Ate A Rainbow had in mind, but hey, color sorting is educational, right? Doesn't that make up for the complete lack of nutritional value and toxic levels of artificial colors and flavors represented by this rainbow? No, you say? Really?
Well... don't you at least like my metal TV-tray plates as much as I do?

Over the Wall

I hit "the wall" this week. Smashed full force, face first, knocked flat. I work really hard at maintaining balance, rhythm, keeping the house clean enough, the kids educated enough, fed enough, clothed and bathed and entertained enough. And I guess I do a pretty good job, most of the time. But there comes the summer, and day after day after day temperatures too hot to bear gracefully.
"I need something to cool me down!" Miles cried the other day, after riding his bike around the deck a few times, "The outside has a fever, I think." In deed. The whole darn world has a fever right now, it feels like.
And I am from the land of sea and spray, foggy green and gray, rain and moss and shade. Of course it's not the weather's fault, or even this place's fault- for goodness sake, I know that!- it is my fault, I know. I should plan better, or at least not let summer take me by surprise every single year, but still, knowing it doesn't fix it, does it? For somehow I always think I'll be the winner- I'll be able to be creative enough and productive enough that summer heat won't slow me down, not this year. And then I crash right into that wall.
There was even a story recently about how temperature affects GDP- no surprise that higher temperatures mean less productivity, less money. If it happens for whole regions of the world, whole countries, I guess I shouldn't be shocked when it happens in my family, huh?
So...I'm maybe not quite over the wall yet, but almost. In the most resigned and beaten way. Today we get up, wearily, maybe, but UP, and tidy house, work on our projects, meet our friends, play, eat, relax. Try to enjoy the summer, help each other over the wall, carry on.

Monday, July 20, 2009

lower case learning

I have a new blog, just for school stuff. That's why I started this one, of course, to keep all the homeschool ideas and curriculum plans organized, but it hasn't worked out that way. This is more about our lives and how we're figuring it all out than just about school- although when you homeschool I'm not sure you ever really aren't "doing school". Anyway- the new blog is called lower case learning and it is just school stuff. Really.
If you want to know the minutiae of our lives, you're in the right place. If you don't really care about that, or you're just dying to know exactly how our school days are structured, how many chapters of which book he read, how many science projects we did, or how our nature study is progressing- well, go there!
In either case, Welcome, and I'm happy to meet you and share these conversations about life, kids, and learning (theirs, and ours)!

The Nicest Weekend (given the circumstances)

Just to set the scene- Papa's been at work A LOT this week- we haven't had dinner with him excpet once, and that was the only night he was home before the boys went to bed. Plus, it's been boiling hot and awful lately- too hot to play outside without water going, and with two little ones we can't very easily go to the pool or the river to play. So.
The boys and I went to see the 3-D movie "Up". So fun! Miles had never been to a movie before, and he was amazed! Everything is so... larger than life on the big screen! He did not care for the 3-D glasses, but he did great, and had a lot to talk about after. I splurged and got a big popcorn and soda and actually bought candy instead of trying to sneak it in, and we had a respite from hot, hot glaring sunlight, for awhile. Cool, dark, sweet. The baby slept, nursed, and looked around and laughed a bunch. It was nearly $40- a huge splurge (and somehow shocking to me- has it really been THAT long since I've been to the movies?!) but it was a fine treat after another long, hot week.
You know how nice it feels, when you're out in public and a stranger compliments you on your children's behaviour and manners? It's nice, of course, for them to get acknowledgement from people outside the family that they're doing the right thing, and it feels nice, as the parent, to have your parenting choices affirmed like that. It can totally make your day.
Well, at the fruit stand near our house we received just such a compliment, followed by the gift from a stranger of box seat tickets to the Bears (our minor league baseball team)! A compliment followed by baseball tickets pretty much had us grinning ear to ear the rest of the day! what a delicious surprise! What fun! Which game to choose? The boys are already talking about nachos and ice cream sandwiches, Boomer the Bear, and ice cold sodas.
We had plans to catch up on chores, which didn't really happen, though we did get our grocery shopping done. And I used some chicken I had already cooked to make a sort of yummy sweet and sour apricot chicken with brown rice and cucumber salad on the side. We brought some in my cute metal tiffin container to Papa at the office.
Then we headed to the park, for the first night of this summer's Outdoor Cinema Series. What could be better than sitting on a blanket in the dark, in the park, eating carrots and popcorn and milk duds with your three boys, watching The Muppet Movie on a giant inflatable screen? For free? So, so fun! We got home at 11:05 pm, and were all in bed by 11:15, teeth brushed and sticky faces washed. Sweet dreams for Rainbow Believers.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Oops... It's Gone (Broccoli Slaw)

I got inspired by the Broccoli Slaw at Smitten Kitchen and made it for supper last night. It was going to be a side, for a picnic supper, but I never quite made the rest of the supper, so I just gave it to the boys as a side, with some slices of chicken I had already cooked and in the fridge.
Of course I didn't have all the ingredients she calls for (well, I pretty much only had broccoli, but that's the way it is when you have a meal plan and don't stick to it) so I winged it. Anyway, it was so delicious I ate a ton last night and all the leftovers for lunch today, and I want more for supper. Also, I ate it faster than I could take a picture, so you'll just have to make it yourself to see it. But it looks nice, all green and red and orange and creamy.
2 heads of broccoli, shredded or sliced in the food processor, 2 carrots, shredded, 1 sweet onion, diced, 3 stalks celery, sliced thin, a bunch of grapes, chopped, tossed all together with a dressing made of 1/2c milk, 2T. lemon juice, 2T. apple cider vinegar, 1/3c. mayo, 1t. mustard, 2T. sugar, salt, pepper, shaken or whisked smooth before being poured over. Then I topped my salad with some of that sliced cold chicken. Yum. Just how I like to eat when Papa isn't home- easy, cold, and just one dirty plate each.
Hey! Do you think it's bad to eat ice cream for supper when it's 100 degrees out? What if you eat ice cream for supper while watching Leave It To Beaver reruns with your kids AND you all just pass the carton and a spoon back and forth, instead of making dirty dishes? I'm not saying that's what supper looks like tonight... I'm just wondering... you know... for a friend....

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Summer By The Numbers

Apricot syrup, blueberry jam. Jars full of summer- they even LOOK like sunshine, don't they?

This past week by the numbers:

320 books removed hastily from shelves as water seeped up through the carpet underneath. And then neatly put back, in tidy groupings which lasted about 1/2 an hour. 320 sighs from Mama.

180 pounds of cherries: picked, washed, stemmed, pitted, frozen, dried, fruit leathered, and soon to be jammed. I am SO done with cherries this year! Well, as soon as I make that jam, and some more fruit leather-it is delish, even if we are weary of cherries.

160 minutes we lasted at the Folklife Festival before we were too wilted and cranky and tired and in need of air conditioning and dim rooms and icy, slippery glasses of lemonade.

102 degrees Miles was for no apparent reason.

101 times I thought he might have West Nile Virus- all those mosquito bites on the 4th of July?

100 times I convinced myself not to freak out about it.

99 degrees when we went to Folklife this weekend. Cooler than past years, but really awful heat to bear just the same. Even with ice cream cones and a giant slip and slide powered by a fire hose and a big hill.

80 pounds of blueberries: picked, washed and sorted, frozen, jammed.

75 times I've thought about weeding the garden.

40 pounds of apricots: washed, pitted, canned, turned into syrup. More to be found, picked, dried, and made into fruit leather. Do you know anyone with an under appreciated apricot tree?

18 trips down said slip and slide.

12 pounds of raspberries: picked, washed, frozen. More to pick from our own bushes and made into jam. And dried whole, for granola. Maybe more to pick, over the mountains?

10 pm- average bedtime for boys this week of late nights, weird schedules, and innumerable chances to help Mama out!

7 tomatoes picked from our plants and eaten with silly happy grins on our faces. It's summer!

5 minutes spent weeding, er... making a completely unnoticeable dent in the overgrowth of weeds in my poor garden. Oh, it's sad. At least I had the foresight to plant the tomatoes on the edge, so they're first weeded! If that counts for anything, I don't know.

3 times our basement has flooded now, for 3 entirely different reasons. Still, it's three times pulling up carpets, getting out shopvacs and renting giant dryer-fans, pouring baking soda and vacuuming it up, tacking carpet down and putting everything away again. 3 can be a pretty big number, sometimes.

3 jars of strawberry jam eaten already. Guess I need to make more if we're to have any this winter!

3 lunches made entirely of ice cream. Shhh! Don't tell Papa!

2 plastic safari hats overflowing with candy brought home from a birthday party.

1 tired Mama.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Nature Study 1B Wasps

Following up on our first Handbook of Nature Study lesson, we learned a little bit about wasps this week. Wasps are related to bees, but are not hairy like bees are. Wasps are solitary or social- those are the ones that build those paper pulp nests, like the one we saw on the slide the other day. Only the females have stingers. Some live on nectar, but others are omnivores, and eat carrion along with their sweets. Some wasps are parasitic, and they lay their eggs inside caterpillars, then when the eggs hatch, they eat the caterpillar from the inside out. Totally awesome, apparently. We did all agree that using parasitic wasps for pest control was way cooler than using toxic pesticides. Though I guess we don't want close encounters with either form of insect control!

Nature Study 1A Cottonwood

Cottonwood Seeds. Photo from Land Arts in an Electronic Age.

We learned a little bit about Cottonwood Trees this week, after seeing a little farm COVERED in the fluffy cottony spiderwebby seeds, and seeing them at the Ahtanum Mission. Avery was interested to find out that Cottonwoods have light, flexible wood, often used to make those round cheese boxes, matches, paper, cheap plywood, snowboard cores, and perhaps most excitingly, the "bones" of Buster, the crash test dummy on the TV show Mythbusters! Apparently cottonwood breaks under the same pressure as human bones. Good to know, good to know. Another interesting thing about cottonwoods is that they can sprout roots from buried limbs and trunk (and vice versa) making them good at holding sand dunes, and one of the few trees able to survive a sand dune existence.
Also, cottonwoods are Poplar type trees, and like to grow in wet areas. Around here they are found down in the little valleys and canyons along stream banks.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Righteous Indignation

is what I miss most, not being a renter. The indignation about any interruption or broken thing was definitely easier than actually having to deal with and fix all those problems!
And I'm not really complaining- I love my little house and my beautiful little street and neighborhood. I love building equity, and not dealing with landlords with alcohol problems. For sure!
But still, when we're staying up all night sucking water out of the carpet in the basement and renting those giant air blowers AGAIN it's hard not to be a little nostalgic for the days when we could deal with any house problem by building up some good old righteous indignation and firmly demanding our right to live without technical difficulties. And to leave and come back and voila! everything is fixed. Just exactly the way we said it should be.

I'm Just Sayin'

In honor of the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain, which is happening this week, a little unspiration from the hopeless, demotivatating folks at despair, inc. But I'm warning you now- you shouldn't be sitting in your nicest chair, 'cause you're gonna pee your pants laughing. I'm just sayin'.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Nature Study 1

We started our new Nature Study program today. We're using Anna Botsford Comstock's The Handbook of Nature Study, and the guidance and some of the ideas from The One Hour Challenges at this website, plus our regular nature science stories, like these, and these, as well as made up ones and Native American stories.
Avery's drawing of a Clover flower. It doesn't show up well in the picture, but in his book it is sweet. Diminutive, but isn't clover, really?

We had a picnic under this tree. What a great way to start a nature study outing!

One of the original old apple trees still growing and producing on the Mission grounds.

I think this is the seedpod of an American Sycamore tree. There are several at the Mission, providing beauty and shade to the park grounds.

Wasp nest under the slide ramp. The boys watched closely for some time.

Miles' nature book drawing. He finished pretty quickly then spent some time moving piles of dirt around and poking them with his apple wood stick.

My page. We were sitting directly under one of those ancient apple trees, so it seemed natural to draw that. Ummm... not that I'm a fabulous artist or anything, but it's fun to all sit and draw together. And we were using these cool Lyra Aquacolor crayons, which draw nicely like rich, soft crayons, then magically turn into a watercolor painting when you brush with water!
Our two topics for further study are wasps and cottonwoods. We'll spend a bit of time this week finding out about those things.