Sunday, May 31, 2009

Riding Bikes

Several things have prevented us from having a successful bike ride prior to last night. Our helmets were lost in the depths of the basement. Little Mister's legs were too short to reach the pedals. Curly Miss didn't know how to steer.

So we found the helmets. Cleaning out the basement has its advantages.

Curly Miss figured out how to steer. "Am I as fast as Lightning McQueen, Mommy?"

Little Mister's legs were still too short to reach the pedals but in the long run it turned out not to matter that much.

It's even possible to race Daddy and win, as long as Daddy runs in dramatic slow motion.

Riding bikes is such hard work, it makes kids thirsty. Soon, my son, you will master the art of the drinking fountain.

The pit stop also included throwing sticks in Paradise Creek, overloaded with skanky spring gook. For some reason my kids found the skanky spring gook fascinating rather than off-putting.

"I had a really, really, really fun time, Mommy. Can we do this again?"

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Took It For Granted

For dinner tonight I whipped up some grilled cheese sandwiches (which I like to eat with ketchup), opened a can of green beans and another of peaches. All in all it took maybe ten minutes to fix dinner.

As we ate, Hubby thanked me for cooking to which I sarcastically responded that it took so amazingly long with such a lot of trouble, he'd better thank me. After all, I'd had to grow the wheat for the bread and milk the cow to make the cheese.

He laughed but it got us talking about our food. As we looked at it, it suddenly occurred to us that someone somewhere really DID grow the wheat for that bread. Having grown up on a wheat farm, Hubby knows exactly what that looks like.

Living in an age where we're disconnected from the land, I rarely think about the food I eat. But someone somewhere picked the very peaches I ate tonight. Even stranger, someone grew the tomatoes, someone else produced the vinegar and a third person (or people) made the sugar. Yet another bunch of people cooked those together with spices from somewhere else, all to make the ketchup in the bottle by my plate. The amount of worldwide coordination it took for a condiment staggers me. The coffee in my cup came from Africa and South America. The milk may have come from just down the road. The cheese began production over a year ago and the bread may have been baked only a few days ago.

In my mind, I view our country from above, a tiny Google map, but swarming with activity, a ketchup factory in Illinois receiving tomatoes from a farm in Wisconsin and in turn passing the bottle on to a distributor in Oregon. Peaches pass from trees in California to a canning facility in Utah.

Since our meal wasn't very exotic, most of the items were probably grown domestically, but for some meals, that activity would occur on a worldwide scale. How far we have come from the days when the cheese was made at the dairy in town or even right there on your own farm. Yet the efficiency of the system amazes me since all the work for that bottle of ketchup, when coordinated with thousands of other bottles, reduces the price to a couple of dollars.

Friday, May 29, 2009

A Blue One and A Brown One

Little Mister's potty training is coming right along, in spite of my lack of enthusiasm. He asks to go potty when it suits him, like when he is supposed to be going to bed or when we are late going somewhere. When he's busy building a Lincoln Log house, though, he never needs to go for some reason, although his diaper fills up just as fast.

Whenever he goes potty, he gets M&M's and by extension, so does Curly Miss. For some reason the fact that she already is potty trained doesn't seem to matter; she too needs M&M's for going potty. They even have a system worked out based on how much potty he goes for getting extra M&M's. In spite of my hidden fear that I am somehow causing long-term psychological damage by rewarding urination with food, so far I have just laughed and gone along with it. So this exchange is typical in our house before nap time:

Curly: "Moooommmmmeeeeeeeee, he went potty!"

Mister: "I-I-I-I-I-I potty!"

Me: "Good job Mister!"

Curly: "He went lots!"

Mister: "I-I-I-I-I-I lots!"

Curly: "Can we have TWO M&M's?"

Me: "Ok"

Curly: "I want blue and green."

Mister: "I-I-I-I-I wan' brown and... uhm... brown."

Me: "Ok" (fishing appropriate colors out and giving to eager children)

Curly: "Is my tongue blue?"

Somehow, all of this is resulting in Little Mister using the potty more often than not, which is a good thing. The one time this week that I put big-boy pants on him, though, he messed in them and I have not been brave enough to use them since. It's slow going.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Pillowcase Dress

Pillowcase Dresses seem to be all the rage for little girls in my corner of the world. I see them selling at Wheatberry's and the Farmer's Market; I'm sure Etsy is full of them. Curly's friend M was wearing one at church the other day and that's what finally convinced me that Curly also needed one.

To try out my new sewing room the other night, I went ahead and made a pillowcase dress for her. Since I didn't have any old pillowcases I wanted to sacrifice, I dug through my fabric stash and first made a cute pillowcase out of some leftover fabric, then made the dress out of that! I was able to make the shoulder bows to match, whereas a real pillowcase dress usually uses wide grosgrain ribbon.

The fun thing about a pillowcase dress is that they are so ridiculously easy to make. You simply cut open the closed end of a decorative pillowcase, and slit the sides down a few inches. Then you fold over the seam an inch or so to make a place to thread the ribbon through. Fold over and finish the bit under the arms and there you go! A soft little summer sundress with cute bows on the shoulders!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

You're Not My Friend Anymore

An interesting phenomenon has developed from Piper's recent haircut. Cinnamon, the intrepid Siamese, doesn't recognize her any more and treats the poor dog as if she is a total stranger when she comes in the house. By this I mean growling, hissing, spitting, swearing and generally being really unfriendly. The cat's tail swells into a bottle brush and her fur stands up along the ridge of her back.

Last night in the middle of the night, my daughter got up to use the potty. She accidentally let the dog out into the room where the cats were. The quiet house suddenly filled with snarls and shrieks. Hubby leapt out of bed to go rescue the poor dog and to prevent the baby from being woken by the noise. This morning when I let the dog out to put her in the back yard, the same thing happened.

Before the new hairstyle, the dog and cat were fairly good friends, on speaking terms at least. Now the cat is a ball of hissing fur and the dog a mass of quivering, cowering jelly. This is the same dog that will take a swipe at a Great Dane if she meets one at the park. Not exactly a coward. But the cat has her completely intimidated.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Building Project

Those who know me know how much I love to build things. As a child Legos were my favorite toy for years. In seventh grade I took wood shop, one of only six girls in the class. If I were given ten thousand dollars to spend only on myself, I wouldn't buy a diamond, I get a fully stocked wood shop, complete with a table saw, band saw, drill press and any other power tool my heart desires. Every Saturday, my dad and I would watch the New Yankee Workshop and drool over all the new tool that "Normie" used.

Today's project, driven by necessity, involved making some storage shelves for the basement. Until now, the kids' toys have been stored in baskets along the wall or scattered around the room, underfoot everywhere. One corner behind the back door seemed like a good spot, so I measured and sketched out a workable plan.

Taking two kids to the lumberyard is something like herding cats, but we managed it. The kids were fascinated by the big, round bins of bulk screws and the scale on which to weigh them. I had the guys at the yard cut my lumber down to the correct sizes since I don't have the tools at home to do it.

On his lunch break, Hubby helped me hold the pieces while I screwed on brackets and set them together. Then when he had to go back to work, I finished the shelves and anchored them to the wall, setting the toys in their places.

Lumber seems cheap right now. I was surprised that the materials for this shelving unit only cost $30. I suppose I could take the time to paint it, but I happen to like the color and smell of fresh wood.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Springy Things

I can't get enough of the springtime. It's by far my favorite time of year.

The lilacs with their heavenly-sweet smell are blooming right outside my dining room window. If I open it, they scatter perfume into my dining room. Lilacs are my favorite flower; I just can't seem to get enough of the scent.

In other flower news, these tulips of such an unusual salmon color grace my front lawn. I'm not entirely sure why someone planted them smack in the middle of the grassy lawn, but there they are.

Today I put up my hammock. The ritual, as much as the sunshine and flowers, means spring has finally come. Every year I have to find a new place to put it, usually because we move. This year, thank God, we haven't moved, but the tire swing usurped the place where I hung the hammock last year so I had to improvise a new set-up.

Once it was up, I took a long while during nap-time to lay out there reading a book and drinking in the fresh air, the bird songs, the warm, sleepy sunshine and the shouts and saws of the construction workers building an addition across the alley.

Shearing Time

All winter, Piper's hair grows longer, thicker and more matted. If I had unlimited time and energy, I'd brush her, I swear I would, but since I don't possess those things, she never gets brushed. By the spring she looks like a duster (as evidenced by this picture from a month ago).

As our willow tree drops its little caterpillar-like seed pods, Piper's long, trailing curtain of hair captures them and pretty soon she is covered in them, along with the twigs and other yard waste she manages to pick up. From time to time I pull some of the junk out of her fur, hoping she'll keep it clean for a while.

The time finally arrived for her annual shave. I like to wait until the weather is warm enough that she can stay outside without her coat. Of course the first shave of the summer is like shearing the wool off a sheep. A very small, wiggly sheep who tries to bite my hand if I so much as touch her feet.

With the dog there for comparison, you can see the immense pile of fur we took off her. If it was cleaner, I might be tempted to see if it could be spun into some kind of wool yarn. It has several textures: the long outer fur is straight and coarser while the soft, woolly undercoat is much lighter.

I'm sure she feels so much lighter and cooler. I'd be willing to bet she weighs almost a pound less than she did. Hopefully she won't be able to squeeze through any holes in the fence.

Sunday, May 24, 2009


Out in the country lives my quilter friend and her husband, parents of our Small Group leader. Tonight they invited our entire group out to their place for a bonfire, roast hot dogs, a potluck and all the frogs the kids could catch in the ponds (strictly catch and release). Hubby and I played guitar and flute and we sang songs around the fire. We came home feeling like we'd been at summer camp, with tired, muddy, happy children.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Basement Reorganization

You may remember our Basement Tower, Play room, guest room and my sewing area. Our basement has been a difficult area to make into a functional space. Generally it looks about like this:

piles of boxes and junk

At least it has lately. It's one big room with a cement floor, cool in summer and freezing in winter. We've tried to use it as a family space but so far it really has not seemed to work very well and always seems cluttered, cold and uncomfortable.

So we're trying again. We moved my sewing stuff out of the main, large room and moved the guest bed into the corner. Instead of the tiny, cramped, downstairs room, our guests will have more space, while the bed can be used in the playspace/den area when we don't have guests. We also put one of our tiny TVs down here.

The toys and rugs are still everywhere since the work's in progress, but eventually we'd like things to be set up as a comfy den. I even have dreams of a used couch and hanging out here staying cool during the hot summer months.

Hubby is still trucking away at revamping his music area to be more functional. The long kid-fence divides the room in half, guarding our fragile instruments from both our kids and their visiting friends.

But this! This is my favorite part of our shuffling things around. I stole the little separate room in which to put my sewing and crafting things. The built-in desk makes a great sewing table.

A chest-high cutting table should enable me to do more projects with less back pain.

The second-hand red bookshelf makes a lovely home for extra fabric and drawers full of craft supplies.

Best of all, I can shut the door when I'm in the middle of the project. I hate the clutter and mess of a project, but it's often inevitable. Creativity is seldom tidy.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Field Trip

As usual, the first thing Curly said to me today was, "Mommy, can we go somewhere?" Outside the sun shone and soft, spring breezes blew. I agreed with her that we needed something to fill the long hours of the day until Daddy came home and the weekend began. Spontaneously I decided to create a homeschool field trip.

Our first stop was the bookstore. While I browsed in the Regional section, the kids chose a Thomas the Train book that sang songs when you pushed a button on the side.

Since we decided to take our field trip up to the woods, I bought a couple of field guides. I didn't know whether the kids would be interested in identifying wild flowers but I certainly was so I wanted to opportunity to expand my own knowledge.

We drove out to our favorite piece of "woods" not too far north of town. The kids enjoyed their new book on the trip and I enjoyed the gorgeous Idaho scenery.

We picked a campsite in the "forest" to have our picnic lunch. Unfortunately, rude weekend campers had already swiped all of the picnic tables in the area and told us bluntly that we would have to move our car or we would shortly be blocked in by their relatives' numerous RVs. I assured them we weren't planning to stay long; at the same time I tried to keep their four big Labradors from intimidating Little Mister to the point of tears. Some people never learned to share.

We built a small fire in the designated pit and ate our picnic lunch sitting on the carpet of pine needles. The kids brought piles of sticks to feed the fire.

Since the Weekend Warriors were riding their noisy motorcycles up and down the road spoiling the tranquility of the forest, we soon left our campsite and began our hunt for wildflowers. Catching my enthusiasm, the kids excitedly helped me find new species of flower, photograph and name them from our new book. Some we found along the side of the road as we drove back down the mountain.

At last we were free from the noise of the motorcycles and what did we see but a mule deer right in the road, tranquilly watching us and waving his long, rabbit-like ears. Curly was beside herself with excitement as I snapped picture after picture from the window of the van. He (She?) eventually ambled off into the thick brush at the side of the road and we continued on our way.

As we neared the highway, I was surprised to find an old log cabin, fenced off from marauding animals. As I moved closer to take a picture I noticed that the gate didn't have a lock, apparently welcoming visitors to take a closer look.

A sign proclaimed the old cabin had been rescued from a highway improvement project in 2004.

It had to be well into its second century of life and wasn't in stellar condition; still, this tangible piece of American history thrilled me to the core.

The kids, too, we eager to explore the old structure. I swallowed my mother-fear of rusty nails and rotten boards and let them go right in, chattering away about the "real Lincoln Log House" that looked just like Laura's house must have looked.

Curly didn't think much of the missing floor, but I was fascinated by the two-room partition, the old wall-board and the stove-pipe hole. In my imagination the house was new and whole, built by Pa's own hands and we were living in it, setting up the beds in one corner and spreading a checked tablecloth on the hand-made table.

Mister and Curly poked around for a while, looking for ants, of which there were many. The looked at the old, glassless windows and the rickety log walls. Mister in particular could not seem to get enough of the "weel winky-wog house!"

Finally it was time to climb back into the van and head home for nap time. Our trip had yielded much more than I ever had dared hope, both in education and entertainment. I love letting real life lead and teach us; learning science and history in this manner never leads to dry, boring lessons but rather memorable, exciting, delightful fun.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


kids peeking around the tree

It's not a real violin, though, Mommy.

Giving it all

My husband wrote a thought-provoking post in his blog today. I did comment there, but I've been thinking all morning about it. He talks about all of the methods of evangelism to which we have been exposed in our years of Christianity. Most of them smack of selling encyclopedias, which leaves a bad taste in both of our mouths.

It seems any more with Christianity declining in popularity in this country that evangelism is more needed and less wanted than ever before. The method is the problem. The thing I don't want to sell is religiosity or church for church's sake. The "real thing" is much harder to sell but paradoxically much easier to give. The most successful missionaries lived a life devoted to Christ and helping others. The least successful ones preached too much and pushed their own culture where it wasn't needed or wanted.

Christianity in its purest form transcends cultural boundaries and doesn't need to be sold with flashy commercials or in-church espresso bars. Instead it needs to be lived with humility, in such complete surrender that those who observe notice its reality.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Hat and Jewelry Club Luncheon

As a child I don't remember ever playing tea party. I played Legos and cars and horses but never tea party. Nor have I ever been invited to one, until today. The closest I have come to high tea was reading about Anne of Green Gables and her disastrous tea party with Diana where the girls got into the currant wine.

My friend's mom is in town from California. Apparently every year she hosts a grand tea party and luncheon when she is in town, mostly for her granddaughter, M, who is one of Curly's best friends. When she had a friend cancel, my friend called us as last-minute substitutes.

At first I didn't know how I felt about that. I sort of felt like a second-stringer, not sure if I wanted to go or not. Then, too, we have moved about 64 times since I last wore my cute straw hat and I had no idea where in our basement it currently lived. But my sense of adventure said yes to my friend before the rest of me could object and there it was. I had one morning to obtain a hat and as much costume jewelry as I could get my hands on before Curly and I went to tea at eleven.

Because I know my lack of success in digging through our storage room, I planned to take the kids to the thrift store and buy a hat. But Mister did not get up until nearly nine o'clock. Then once he was up and I had gotten him dressed, he and Curly wanted bowls of cereal for breakfast and my heart sank. Lately he takes forever to eat a meal. I have no idea why he sits there averaging one bite per ten minutes, but I saw my trip to the store vanishing into the mists of time and a half-eaten bowl of Cinnamon Total.

Since I was trapped at home with a small son who refused to eat, I began hunting for the hat I already owned. I have two, actually. One is cloth, a floppy, flowered sun hat that I wore to the beach in Texas and the other a cute straw garden hat.

After an hour of pawing through bins and boxes and drawers I felt exhausted and close to tears. Neither hat had surfaced. I'd looked absolutely everywhere I could think of and had come up empty.

Curly, meanwhile, dressed herself in her Lightning McQueen dress and matching Cars hat. Not exactly your roses and lace. She was thrilled with herself and ecstatic to get the hat back from exile. She had gotten it taken away for some offense several weeks ago and did not think she would ever see it again.

Finally I called Hubby in tears and explained my fruitless search and the late hour. My knight in shining armor rescued me by coming home early for his lunch break and watching Little Mister, who by this time had spent over an hour with his cereal and banana. While I threw on a skirt, Hubby poked around downstairs looking for the hat but also came up empty, so Curly and I rushed off with barely ten minutes to spare.

I pulled into the parking lot at the downtown thrift store. Discouraged by the sales clerk who regretfully told me she had sold all of her hats recently to an art teacher, I poked around the store and happily discovered a straw hat on a mannequin display near the handbags. Fifty cents later, I tossed my hat and my daughter into the van and hurried to follow directions to the house where the tea party was being held.

Taking a few deep breaths to steady my jangled nerves, I arranged my face in the happy, friendly smile of someone who knows exactly where her straw hat was and did not just spend two hours in a panicked search for it. I greeted my hostess and was ushered into the spotless house where the table was laid with a lovely green cloth and matching green and gold china. There was tea, both hot and iced, and chicken salad sandwiches on croissants. She served tomato slices and olives and wedges of seedless watermelon. Even before these dainties, she had concocted a spinach salad with pecans and banana chips and mandarin orange slices. For dessert she brought forth a layered trifle topped with chocolate covered strawberries and I thought I might faint.

So we sat in our hats and our clinking necklaces and bangles and chatted about her chickens back home in California and my friend's delicious new baby who was there and made the rounds of eager arms. We drank tea and ate the feminine food with gusto. The two little girls sat primly at table, sipping their iced apple juice and chatting solemnly as if they were quite grown-up. We mothers watched them with fond smiles and talked babies, while the three grandmothers present discussed travel and gardens and quilts.

I never played tea party as a child and if I had, it would not have included friends of every age, from 4 years to 71. We might not have had such delicious food nor the comfortable warmth of hospitality that only a grandmother can give. I doubt I would have thought to bring a cuddly baby or the enthusiasm of two little girls who delighted in being included with the grown-ups. If I had known how nice a tea party really is, I might just have had one sooner. I would for sure have kept a hat on hand.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Gardens in Barrels

My whiskey barrel gardens worked so well last year that I was eager to use them again. They provided just a little fresh produce, not enough to need to try and give it away or preserve it, but enough to enjoy all summer. The potting soil didn't grow any weeds so my tired back was saved. Now that the weather is warm enough for things to grow, I took a tip to the store to buy seeds and starts yesterday.

Alongside the lovely purple money-plants, my barrels now have seeds and marigolds in them. Last year's produce was nearly ruined by bugs, so this year each barrel got two marigolds in addition to the vegetables and herbs.

One barrel will have lettuce and chard again. Last year we loved picking just enough leafy stuff for a fresh salad every night with dinner. The other barrel holds three sorry-looking tomato starts and a pepper. I hope they perk up now that they have nice new homes. The rain all day today will do nothing but good too. With the cilantro from the third barrel, I hope to concoct my own fresh salsa this year. Last year I'd had the same ambition and though we harvested quantities of cilantro, the onions and tomatoes didn't produce much. This year I didn't bother with onions and put in more tomato plants. I plan to add a fourth of a different variety at some point.

No garden is complete without a little gnome taking care of things, of course!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Downtown Seattle

Since we were there to visit the aquarium, we decided to splurge on feeding the parking meter and walk around downtown a bit.

You cannot visit downtown Seattle and not go to Pike Street Market. I think it's actually illegal not to go there if you're somewhere nearby.

Little Mister, beginning to get tired and hungry, didn't enjoy Pike Street as much as I did.

The famous fish-sellers hawking their wares.

The rows and rows of fresh veggies made my mouth water. I want to move to downtown Seattle right across the street from these veggies so I can shop there every day.

Unusual pastas and oils. Hubby would shop here every day.

I didn't buy an apron. Good girl.

The place was so packed we could hardly move and Curly got stepped on several times. We finally decided to forgo the mayhem and go have lunch.

Street entertainers pop up everywhere. In the hallway next to some shops, a busker played her guitar and sang peace songs. This man had a live bird (pigeon?) that was trained to do tricks for the appreciative crowd. Musicians and magicians performed just as they have for centuries for anyone who would watch.

This is my favorite picture from the whole trip. It captures perfectly Curly's absolutely ecstatic face whenever she saw something that interested her. What do you suppose she saw here?

A Taxi.

Yep, downtown Seattle has it all.