Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Friday, December 19, 2008
"They went outside every day, rain or shine, and thought it was great to do things like give the kids cups at a water table and allow them to soak each other. Usually when Erika went to pick up Connor, he usually was in no rush to come home, and the layers of dirt and grime on his face and clothes was amazing. But his grin was huge, and that was all that mattered. Connor loved being able to roam around outside and jump in puddles."
Now, why doesn't NAEYC certification include a column on: gets children muddy and happy?
Here's my wish for 2009: May your days feature grass, mud, and grins, and may all your childcare providers play outside...
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
When I was a grad student in weed science, I craved the power of farm equipment. I rarely got to touch the tractor keys until I was pregnant with Emily, and the guys I worked with finally let me drive because they were too worried about my delicate condition to let me help pick the rocks out of the field. Normally I would have objected to any concessions given due to pregnancy, but control of the tractor key was an opportunity not to be missed. So instead, I drove the disk, or the bucket loader, or whatever it took to keep myself useful and busy in the research plots, lurching around the field with my awkward gear shifting and unpredictable hydraulic maneuvering. I didn't win any awards for driving, but I at least got to give it a shot.
But, here at Chatham 9.5 years later, Lynne and Kerri were not checking my credentials. They had 1 day with a dingo-rototiller, and they were glad even of my lurchy-driving help. We were three women alone with a piece of heavy gas-powered equipment and heady with the power of it. Lynne voiced what we were all thinking about the dingo eating the baby, but that was only the first laugh. Kerri and I got ourselves stuck, and then unstuck, and laughed. We shoveled out the compost and caked our boots with mud, and we laughed. We talked about the thrill of doing this ourselves, with no know-it-all male farm managers, and laughed. You can't quite see our faces in the picture, but when Lynne took this photo, Kerri and I were both restraining a laugh.
I can't speak for how the day ended, as I was only there for 2 hours, and I know it took Lynne and Kerri all day to finish. All of us have a very muddy pair of boots and a muscle or two which feels a bit different than it did before the weekend. The soil was too wet, really, and it still wasn't the best weather or timing for plowing. But I can state these facts: no men were present, the dingo still worked at the end, the garden got turned over for spring planting, and I loved every second of our time together with the dingo. I don't plan to clean off my boots, because I hope to get to do it all again. Maybe next time with a tractor.
Friday, December 12, 2008
The last couple of weeks I have been trying to incorporate exercise into my life. This is not the same as scheduling in a run, exactly, though sometimes it has involved that. It means that I am trying to figure out places I can walk and times I can take time to walk. On one occasion, I parked at the bank and then, after banking, walked to the video store and the office supplies store, neither very far away, but a distance I would sometimes consider driving. Last weekend I was feeling stir crazy and walked in snowy darkness around the school track while Brian got the girls ready for bed. Two nights ago, I took a detour around the soccer field before picking up the girls at afterschool. I took the teasel picture at right (weed of the month), though I was looking for foxtail. The detour doesn't count for much as exercise, but on the other hand it was better than playing scramble on Facecrack for the 200th time.
None of these little efforts have earned me a holiday cookie, and goodness knows I have a lot of those to work off already. But it's a start, and if I can figure out how to make my carbon footprint lower at the same time I reduce my personal waistprint, it could be a really productive winter.
Monday, December 8, 2008
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Saturday, November 1, 2008
Saturday, October 18, 2008
easy victory - was played under a grey, windy sky, but the sun has come out for the after soccer playdate. Emily and teammate Olivia are playing in the 20-foot-wide woodland next to the community center, which somehow is the perfect size for not being the least bit dark and scary, but still enabling kids to hide - at least mostly - from me.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Friday, October 3, 2008
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
I'm mourning the loss of food in the fridge, and though we cooked over our copper fire pit (spaghetti and beans) on Monday night, it was a big hassle. Now, worse, we would either have to hand wash a whole lot of dishes - in a dark kitchen - or not use dishes, because we're out of knives, and almost out of spoons. I'm fantasizing about solar panels a lot these days, because if we had them, at *least* our fridge would work, even if we had to forgo evenings on the computer and electric lighting.
But there is something freeing about this, too. Not that I'm thinking of that freedom when I want my morning tea, or when I just want my kitchen sink cleared of the overflow of dishes. But the girls and I have spent our evenings all outside, for the first time in weeks. No movies, no begging for movies, no mommy catching up on work emails in the evening. When I come inside, the only thing to do is read by flashlight or pet Tiggy (who woke Emily up this morning by nuzzling her upper lip; Emily was absolutely charmed). For dinner, we biked to the corner store and ate our junk food outside in the garden in front of the library. Tonight we will order pizza, and picnic when it arrives.
Don't get me wrong: when the power goes back on, I will rejoice. But we will also, once again, have choices about our evenings and how to spend them. And I know that often enough, we make the wrong choice, by enjoying our coal-derived electricity, instead of enjoying what is free and beautiful outdoors. If only I could arrange for shorter, more frequent and conveniently timed power outages. In the meanwhile, I will put the contents of our fridge into the compost pile, and try, try to keep perspective.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
I haven't given up on a menagerie in my future (chickens, horses, goats), I have given up that I have the time or land or facilities or energy to give in my present life. We're all honored that Tiggy is learning to trust us already, and looking forward to life with a companion to keep house for us and returning home each afternoon to a critter-friend.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
Sunday, August 24, 2008
We also never saw the baby cardinals again. The day after that post, an afternoon storm came which was so torrential that it is hard to imagine any above-ground creature the size of a lightbulb surviving it.
I'd love to make some sense of these sad events, just as I still try to make sense of my failure with the chickens. But this is what I can see: Emily keeps hoping, with each new creature, that she can "save" it, or at least influence its life for the good. Nature may be red in tooth, claw and feather, and Emily may still be an exuberant 8 year old, but she can also be gentle, and still. I suspect animals have a strong place in her future, and I look forward to watching her.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
We just got back from 2 weeks away. The first stage of our journeys took place in Chicago, visiting Marji's rooftop and Sara's house. Marji's garden, which she describes very modestly, is actually a colorful, fragrant, and delicious haven from the mean streets (to me, any streets are a bit mean, at least biologically). The girls sampled tomatoes and Sara and I marvelled at all of Marji's work.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Monday, July 28, 2008
Monday, July 21, 2008
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
She told me later that the other team's swimmer was trying to chat with her before the race, but that she just looked at her and put on her goggles. The competitive bug must have firmly bitten me, because I didn't even reprove her for being aloof. In any case, Emily said afterward she could see when she was passing the other swimmer - this is her, on the left, just as she pulls ahead - and though she didn't use the word "satisfying," I could see it on the curl of her smiling-cat lips. Both the coach and the timers congratulated her afterward, and she said she really liked that.
Sunday, July 6, 2008
Brian spent more time than he should have this weekend at home, finishing up a tree fort in the backyard. The camera insisted on focussing on a branch instead of the fort, but you get the idea. We'll see how much play it gets, but it was fun to make, at least. If it fails as a fort, we can always convert it to a fox-proof chicken house! I have a theory about houses/forts that children never really play in them unless they build them themselves, so this will be interesting to watch. Emily did help with this, a bit, but I wonder what will make it feel like a retreat? I suspect a blanket-roof would help; we're thinking we'll let the girls paint it, as well.
Monday, June 30, 2008
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Ours is a strongly left-leaning household. My dad, the leftist economist, used to excuse himself to the bathroom during Reagan's speeches. I knew from a young age the distinction between being pro-choice and pro-abortion. And yet, I am flummoxed with how to address Emily's latest proclamation of belief: the young maple seedlings in our yard should, she says, all be allowed a chance to live.
Maple seedlings are not the usual weed. Yes, they come up all over the yard, in countless numbers, and no, I didn't plant them. I don't want them all. Maple trees, of course, are wonderful, valuable shade trees, and we host two adult maples next to our back deck, which keep the house cool and provide shelter for birds. I'd be happy for a few more to grow to maturity in our yard.
And yet, it never occurs to me to start trees from seed, much less to select our yard trees among the host of volunteers. These pictured, growing in the compacted soil under Emily's rope swing, are our compromise for the moment, as I just mowed around them last night, at Emily's request. Will they grow up strong, to replace the black cherry which currently bears the rope swing? I don't know. Nor do I know if the politics of maple survival is simply an offspring of Emily's current sensitivity to death, because of the chickens, or if I am facing a long-term relationship with a daughter whose voting politics may make me flinch.
All I know this morning is this: Emily often states her strong support for Obama, with her mom, and we have compromised together to let a few maple seedlings live in the yard, in inconvenient places.
Sunday, June 22, 2008
This week we were down in Kentucky, visiting my parents and my in-laws. Emily learned to bike at their house, at age 4 years and 2 months, with a push across the driveway followed by her streaking across their lawn down the hill afterward. On Thursday evening in Bardstown, Ky, the neighbors were visiting with their daughters, and the dad was trying to teach his daughter, Maia, to bike on the gentle slope of my in-laws lawn. Whether due to the magic of Gram and Papa's house or the teaching skills of a parent who was not her own, Hazel, after a handfull of attempts ended by her stopping herself with a foot, finally started pedalling, and took off, biking toward Gram. Brian's parents have won the jackpot, getting to watch both girls learn to bike for the first time; we won, because now we can really start family bike rides.
And Hazel isn't even 10 yet, after all. She is, appropriately, very proud of herself. This summer she has learned to swim, and learned to bike, and now can enjoy the fruits of both labors.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Someone asked me if we were getting more chickens, and Emily, listening in said "Oh no, we're getting hermit crabs!" The choice of species was news to me, but I think getting a critter which can defend itself, even by hiding in a shell, is a great idea. I love chickens and do hope to have them again someday, but perhaps not just yet. If I win the lottery, I'll get more chickens again - along with one of those $1000 coops which I was scoffing at just a couple of months ago.
In the meanwhile, we'll be making the best of our resident bunnies and chipmunks - which are furry, cute *and* seem to be able to survive the resident foxes.
Sunday, June 8, 2008
This photo, from the Ohiopyle State Park website, looks like a lovely scenic waterfall. Incredibly, though, it is from an area labelled as a "natural waterslide", and yesterday the girls and Brian and I witnessed at least 10 young men sit and get whooshed through this into a pool below. All survived, and some actually did it twice.
Obviously, the girls and we parents did not try this, though Emily tried some more sedate waterslides below this one. But we all cooled off and had a really lovely time. It is steaming hot here this weekend, and this water was just the ticket.
When we lived in the Finger Lakes region of New York, we saw many parks with sections like this, but the topography must have been just a bit different. We and others swam there often, but I don't remember any waterslides, official or unofficial. I think in New York this wouldn't have been labelled, because they tended to say "No swimming" at all the areas that looked like they'd be perfect for just that. Perhaps the lawyers in New York are more bloodthirsty?
We got home at 10:00, and the chickens were easy to catch from their outside pen - they were roosting. We brought them indoors, and then went to bed, to sleep and sweat, and dream of waterslides.
Thursday, June 5, 2008
Sunday, June 1, 2008
The girls have done well, responding well to the remaining two and not at all wanting to give up on chickens. I realized later that this was my fear - that they would disengage from the process, not wanting to love the remaining two. In fact, we have one survivor I wasn't counting because he seemed so much beyond hope. Last night, Brian brought in one, with wing broken (and perhaps a leg?), neck at an angle, who was alive. He set it on an old pair of soft cut-off sweats in the cage in the garage, and with a lot of love and water/food delivery from Emily, he seems a bit more perky than he did this morning, and looks at us, and tries to get up every so often. I told Emily that if he survives the night I'll call the vet - I really thought the chicken would give up and die. This is a black one - I *think* the one Hazel called Stripey, though the stripe is gone and only a few white feathers remain among his mostly black ones.
So we have three chickens - 2 are roosters - but now, these are staying with us, unless the neighbors have us arrested for crowing.
I am so sad, and so not looking forward to telling the girls when they wake up.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
On the left, we see Emily with her favorite chicken. When I see this one, I think of Foghorn Leghorn listening to that other cartoon bird, who says "I'm a chicken hawk, and you're a chicken. You're coming with me." (doesn't this one look a bit hawk-like?)
Monday, May 26, 2008
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Friday, May 16, 2008
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
We took a long hike yesterday, at McConnell's Mill State Park, on the Slippery Rock Gorge Trail, 6.2 miles of variable terrain. The girls went with me, and I was a bit nervous about this. However, one thing I love about my children is that they are game for a trail, especially with food along. Emily hiked the whole thing, and I carried Hazel for perhaps half of it - but 3 miles is a long way for a five year old, and I was really impressed with both of them. Moreover, they kept up a good pace - which was a good thing given that the hike started at 5 pm. I told Emily afterward that I was particularly impressed that she can hike almost as many miles as her age (8), which I think is actually an impressive feat for almost any age.
I love nature walks, and though this was in nature, it wasn't quite a nature hike. My cousin Brigid takes her grandsons on "adventure walks" - low mileage, slow pace, but noticing everything on the way and probably picking up quite a lot of rocks and bugs en route. Her adventure hikes sound like my idea of a good nature walk. I'd rather have had this be a long nature hike, but given the late start, I was afraid it would be a forced march instead, especially because once we got in the car together we really did have to go the whole way, no turning back. The situation made me a bit nervous. We stepped in a number of streams but couldn't play for long; we saw a number of flowers and couldn't stop to admire much; I knew if Hazel got too tired I could carry her a lot, but not the whole way. We passed a lot of rocks and logs and couldn't spend energy climbing on any of them. We ate dinner on the trail, but it was fruit leathers, peanut butter or nutella and bread.
So I don't know what the kids got out of it, but I know this: we all slept well, we stopped for doughnuts on the way home, the girls showed a lot of courage and stamina and fortitude and even, often enough, playfulness. When the footing got rough, Hazel delighted in being able to nimble over it much better than I; when the hills got steep, Emily complained gently and good-naturedly, and kept up a good pace right on up the slope (I like to think that having an 8 year old do the hike so well makes the students realize they can do it, but in truth this class has a bunch of good hikers in it already). The girls did a great job, and I am really, really proud of them. I will try to make sure we don't have too many hikes like this, but I know that when we need to, they can do it, beautifully.
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Sunday night, the girls were in bed at 8:30, the light was out at 9:00 sharp. This is our goal time, and when I achieve this they generally wake up on their own for school without too much prodding. It was not dark out when they climbed in bed, and Emily noticed this and asked why she was going to bed so early...
Monday night I also tried to be good. They were probably in bed at 8:45, light out by 9:15. They woke up fine this morning, but it was definitely a creep into the direction of summer nights and out late.
Tonight, I mowed again - darn this nice grass growing weather! It was exhausting. I cooked a bit of chicken (from the fridge - still 22 in the cage!) and my husband sauteed the latest mushroom we grew in a kit under the sink (this kit was my birthday present; when I get the first portobello I'll post a photo). At 8:30, he notes that we should make the girls come in, as they were still out playing in our new hammock. Perhaps they were in bed by 9:00. Perhaps the light was out at 9:30.
Sometimes I think we have this regular bedtime for children thing all wrong. In winter, we should all sleep late and go to bed early - some sort of semi-hibernation. In late spring, when the days are long like this, we should wake up early and play outside all we can stand, and drag ourselves to bed only when the stars come out.
But in any case, tomorrow morning Emily will have PSSA testing. I hope the school, the teachers, and Emily all come out looking rosy. But I promised them that at the end of this week, we can stay outside late, and I have to say, I think they'll get more out of that experience than anything with a pencil and a bubble sheet.
Saturday, May 3, 2008
Reel mowing isn't normally as easy as the lovely student makes it seem. First, I set the height a bit high, so that her mowed swaths don't actually show any differently from the uncut lawn, but more importantly so she could move the thing in her outfit. My lawn was overgrown this evening, so many sections required backing up and mowing again over the same spot.
But it is every bit as pleasant as she makes it look. It is quiet, and while she was demonstrating she was walking with friends and telling them about it while they mowed. Try that with a gas, or even electric, mower! When the girls yell to tell on each other or to tell me what their chickens are doing, I can hear them, and the moment I stop moving, the small amount of noise I am making (a rhythmic spinny clicking noise) stops instantly. The world smells pleasant while I use it (don't ask how I smell when I'm done). Since I don't normally wear heels for mowing, I don't do double duty by aerating the lawn, as our lovely model is doing. However, I find it easy to mow around my favorite patches of bluets, hawkweed, or yarrow. The mower won't even cut twigs, so I never worry about it cutting off little or big people's fingers or toes. I can hear the birds sing on summer evenings, while mowing.
And once a week, my workout doesn't require that I go running on streets with no sidewalks, nor does it require biking miles from home without the children. I get a great workout, upper and lower body both, mowing my yard. There is a local auto shop, called Fossil Free Fuels, which will convert your diesel vehicle to run gracefully on straight veggie oil. I'm not mechanical, so this is my Fossil Free venture. The neighbors comment at times on me doing this the hard way, and I know this mower isn't for everyone. But it is, unquestionably, the mower for me.
Even if I don't look quite this lovely using it.
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
2) Fed them noodles (again)
3) Went outside and put chickens in the outdoor coop
4) Dug up grubs from our backyard (http://www.urbanext.uiuc.edu/lawnfaqs/grubs.html)
5) Fed grubs to very excited chickens.
You would not think this could be so engaging, but it was.
Now I just need to get some new topsoil and seed to spread on the bare patches. It looks like a raccoon attacked our yard, but it was just me, crazy suburban woman.
Sunday, April 27, 2008
Hazel and I got back from a conference to find all was well back in chickenland. We also, thanks to a neat-handed friend, have added two Waldorf chickens to the flock, named Cinnamon and Nutmeg. I am confident that the latest two will not give me any moral dilemmas nor require a bidet. You can see our outdoor coop with parts from Construction Junction, which isn't ready for sleepovers yet, but is great for backyard bug barbeques while I clean the heated coop in the garage. You can see Hazel is serious about her favorite chicken, cleverly named Stripey. I'm really hoping Stripey is a hen, but the emerging comb is an ominous sign.