Wednesday, September 30, 2009


My girl took a walk with me the other night; it's rare that we have time alone together, and it was interesting to hear her revert to what sounds like some "babyish" talking and behaving as though she were little(er!) again. She is wanting to have more autonomy, and yet is not willing to move far away from me, and in fact would love more cuddling, more babying, more time with just me. As we neared the secret garden before looping back to our home, she ran ahead, calling,

"Mama! We're almost to our destiny!"

Eliza operates in a dreamy space much of the time - telling stories, drawing dreams, singing long complicated operatic tales...Today in the car I was thinking about transformation and this time of year, and how all of the changes happening in the natural world are so closely mirrored in my own internal growth, and as usual I started talking about it to the girls, about how changes happen inside of us as well as in our bodies, and Eliza very politely told me, "Mom, I was actually having a very nice daydream..." " mean, I was interrupting?" "Yeah. Sorry." "Oh, uh, no that's ok, it can wait..." One of the nicest gifts being home gives this child is time. Time to dream, time to imagine, time to try on and discard and try again...time to figure out, time to process and absorb, time to reinvent, create, and envision her destiny...

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Painting Windows

There were window crayons...

and paint-making with a recipe from a book called Glues, Brews and Goos: liquid dish detergent, cornstarch and food coloring ("Mom, can you believe people eat this stuff?").
Eliza thought it was a lot like potion-making...
...and then she settled into making magic appear on her window.
We finished the afternoon with squash muffins smothered in apple butter. Yum.

I loved Eliza's window - she wanted to make an apple tree and a pumpkin, and somehow that pumpkin's vine wound its way around the frame of the window to wrap around (in a non-sinister way, really) the trunk of the apple tree. Ah, fall, we love you so.

Dan and I obsessed all morning over a new game from my sister's family, called Quiddler (he is showing great restraint right now, sitting across from me reading Marco De Marines' The Performance Text instead of trying to beat me...again...) while the girls played with a friend who had spent the night. Lots of negotiations and compromises...phew, are those ever exhausting. We listened to about three hours of the Bunnicula stories while painting, drawing, and making muffins, ran around for a bit climbing trees and chasing squirrels, and to bed! I spent a short time canning some hot peppers from our trip to the market and now I am wondering who in the heck is going to eat them, 'cause my fingers are burning, people. They are that hot.

Birthday Visit

We were joined this week by my dad - a.k.a. "Morfar" - and his wife, Liz, or Gramma Liz. I joked that this birthday was significant enough that they felt they needed to come and hold my hand to make sure I got through it in one piece! It was so nice to have them here; there was hiking...
and some walking...
Dan took Friday to be with us, which was so lovely...
Dan and I got to go have lunch together at the Village Bakery and then take, well, another hike, but this time we were all by ourselves...and while we were enjoying the light rain that accompanied us, the girls and Gramma made a very large very yummy chocolate cake. My family then proceeded to attempt to burn the house down by actually putting 40 candles on the cake (the girls were in charge, with a recount by Dan - there were really 40 candles on that cake).
It was really nice to share a few days with them, and to take advantage of them being here to have some time alone! That in and of itself is a perfect gift.

Friday, September 25, 2009


Go on....count 'em.
More Feasting

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

What swimming has to do with reading, dancing, playing soccer and listening to your gut

I was thinking today about the swimming post (which I called "When the Trusting is Hard") I wrote back in the late spring. I thought I would write an update, to boost my confidence and remind myself of a couple of essential things about my role as "mom". To recap, back in May, Eliza was taking swimming classes, and was tailoring them, as any sensible person might do, to her own comfort level and perceived ability. This meant that she performed each activity the way she felt comfortable doing it - never far from the side of the pool, never exactly as anyone else in the class did it, but she was clearly feeling successful and having a great time.

The update is that this summer, while swimming at the lake, and then at the pool, she not only continued to explore bobbing under water, but began actually holding her breath to swim several strokes under the surface, exploding from the water with a gasp and a triumphant, "did you see that?!" This kid now loves swimming, and what she does in the water now is actually swimming! I feel like it really paid off to not push her, to not ridicule her or bully her into approaching the lessons the way we expected her to - she swam when she was ready to swim. She is able to listen to herself and follow her instincts. How incredible is that.

The reason I have been thinking about this is that as fall classes have begun, she has been nervous to try each one, needing to sit and observe, sometimes tearfully in my lap, during the first hour. She happily joined her dance class the second time around, having been "allowed" the space to feel apprehensive and feel supported in her need to watch. This was repeated on Monday night when we went to her first soccer practice, and there was no way I or the coach could talk her into getting out on the field with the other children. As familiar as this should be to me by now, I still found myself giving way to huge anxiety about what it is I'm not providing for her, what it is I'm doing that is not allowing her to feel the confidence and lack of self-consciousness she had at six. I felt self-conscious myself, being the only homeschooling parent present at the field, certain that the other parents were wondering why my kid wasn't able to "socialize" with the other kids in a "normal" way.

These moments of indecision and uncertainty are so painful to witness, and I doubt my ability to guide her through them. I want her to feel totally in control of her choices, of her participation in life and yet I have this sense that there is something I am supposed to say or a line I'm supposed to draw.

Ok - change scenes to this past Saturday evening, where we were enjoying the music of the Rattletrap String Band at the local Pawpaw Festival, and kicking up our heels through dance after dance. Eliza jumped right in - granted, she had Dan or I as a partner, but as usually happens with contra dance, there was much switching of partners and though Ani was reluctant to go along with that, Eliza showed no hesitation, often leading the way for an adult into the next move. She is "socialized" just fine, quite able to talk to just about anyone, confident that what she has to say is valuable and worth your while.

In writing about this I turned back to the post I wrote and once again found this quote from Positive Discipline so helpful, so I'll use it again: "Self-esteem is, quite simply, the confidence and self-satisfaction each one of us has in him- or herself. Self-esteem comes from having a sense of belonging, believing that we're capable and worthwhile...And it is self-esteem that gives children the courage to take risks in life and the willingness to try new experiences..."

I can't make the decisions for her. I can't make her ready to do something she's not feeling ready for, whether it's swimming, reading, dancing, or playing soccer. I can sit with her so she doesn't feel so alone and conspicuous. I can help her by staying connected and present. I can try to let her know she isn't "bad" for feeling the way she does. I can focus on nurturing her belief that she's "capable and worthwhile". How many times have I wished that I followed my "gut" about something - when did I lose that ability to Just Know? How grateful I am that becoming a mother reawakened that in me. Ultimately nurturing that "knowing" is so much more important than whether or not she plays soccer. Something does not feel right about it to her, and maybe she'll be able to articulate it to me someday. Or not. Maybe she'll surprise us and join in at the next practice. And maybe she won't.

Autumnal Equinox

"Mama, when will fall be here?" We drive through the beautiful countryside, alight with sumac, goldenrod, the hint of maple here and there...and finally today I could say, "well, around here we call this the first day of fall"...happy equinox! We celebrated by taking a drive this morning to see friends in the country...spending the afternoon making more corn husk maidens while listening to The Firework-Maker's Daughter on tape...

eating apples and more apples and some simple grilled cheese for supper while Papa works late...some serious cleaning in anticipation of Morfar and Gramma Liz' visit - even the stick house got a work-over...
I had gathered all the bits of last year's fall that didn't make it back outside during the spring cleaning (ahem!) and sent it outside in a basket for the fairies to enjoy - making room, of course, for this year's inevitable collection...

Busy we were, with a bath to end the day and some reading by candlelight - beginning with What Makes Day and Night, which left us marveling about our spinning earth, and ending with our favorite fall book, Wild Child, by Lynne Plourde and Greg Couch - beautiful poetic language and the drawings are gorgeous, whimsical, swirly whirly with the lusciousness of fall...

Autumn Day - by Rainer Maria Rilke, trans. by Stephen Mitchell

Lord: it is time. The huge summer has gone by.
Now overlap the sundials with your shadows,
and on the meadows let the wind go free.

Command the fruits to swell on tree and vine;
grant them a few more warm transparent days,
urge them on to fulfillment then, and press
the final sweetness into the heavy wine.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Corn Husk Goddess

Oh, who am I kidding. This is not a post about a corn husk goddess, though she will make an appearance shortly. Today was about finding my way to a small pond of peace through some unexpectedly large waves. But first, the vampires...they followed me home from the grocery store and seemed to have some major tooth pain going on, but they were friendly enough and only leered at me and those hapless folk silly enough to drive down our street on a quiet Sunday morning...
Then they hunkered down under some shelter from the rain and drank apple juice and shared a chocolate bread our neighbor gave to them. "Are you two happy as two bugs in a rug?" I asked. Eliza replied, "Oh mom, much MUCH happier." Good. Their kindliness towards each other is a balm for the day, and they've traveled happily from one thing to another, making crowns, helping each other get dressed, helping me with the groceries...I had a self-indulgent little melt-down this morning because what I wanted to post about today was the beautiful evening we spent at the Pawpaw Festival last night, but my camera seems to have died in the midst of clicking photos of my family contra-dancing and though I did some "ocean breathing " to calm the panic, I lost it this morning. It's amazing what a small thing like having a cheap-ish camera find its way to a predictable end after a couple years of good service will bring up for a person: I'm not good enough to have a nice camera. I don't deserve nice things. It mounted as I sat folding laundry, thinking, I don't deserve to have nice clothes, look at how long they sit there in the laundry basket instead of lying neatly folded in their proper place, see, this is why your camera is broken - you don't take care of things and so the things you have DIE! Oooooh, it was bad and so very self-absorbed!!! The reason I am able to sit and write about it without feeling so very embarrassed is that first of all, I believe we all go through those moments of tunnel-vision, of self-pity and self-berating, and it was helpful for me to acknowledge it and be gentle enough with myself to see that I don't have to stay in that place. And there were a few gifts that saved husband gave me a well-timed quiet hug, not a fix-it hug or a get-over-it hug, but just an I'm-here hug...I gave myself time to create something, leaving another load of laundry to be folded later, the floors to be washed later...I found Lucinda Williams' "Are You Alright?" online and played it over and over while I sat here...and my daughter's response when I asked her if I may borrow her camera once in a while was, "Of course, mom. Everyone has used your camera, and I would be happy to share mine that same way." Oh, thank you.

So, I made a corn husk goddess today to preside over all things autumnal and transformational going on in this family. The girls were intrigued but so happy to be doing their own thing that I proceeded with these instructions and made one for myself. Here she is without clothing:
And here she is in the rain, hanging out in the fern, and yes, that is our garbage on the curb. Nice photo, huh? But there it is, right? The beauty and the garbage, it's all there in a day.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Corn Cob Dollies

We are really excited about autumn around here...Eliza mentions Hallowe'en several times a day, and we have begun noticing the changing colors, the smell in the air, the little things that tell us Fall is on its we delved into magical Fall merry-making today.
We spent time removing the colorful kernels of corn from the cob (black cat optional, but quite fun), in preparation for stringing necklaces, garlands, running our hands through the beautiful gems...but we didn't quite get that far. We've been listening to Little House in the Big Woods and thought we remembered that before Laura got her rag doll (whose cheeks and lips were painted with pokeberry juice!), she had a cob dollie. The girls weren't quite sure what this meant, so we looked at the bare cobs once we were done removing the kernels and talked about how one could make them look like little and one suitcase full of scraps later we were finished with four!

Alice, Gloria, Rose, and Margaret

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Joining In

Papa called from his office at school..."sure looks nice out there again today...think we could go on another picnic?" Um, yeah, I think so, she says, looking at the spring roll fixings assembling themselves under her direction...
This could get to be quite the habit...

Monday, September 14, 2009

Flour and Counting Fleas - I mean Blessings

During my day's meditation (sitting on the toilet, holding one cat firmly in my lap, raking a fine-tooth comb through said cat's glossy fir, depositing squirming flea in sink full of soapy water by my side) - my thoughts drifted away from the life-cycle of the flea and towards more sobering news I had heard on the radio this morning. Apparently there was a stampede in a crowd of women and children in Karachi, Pakistan, who had gathered to receive a donation of free flour, and nearly twenty of those women and children were killed. This news would normally leave me with the weight of knowing there are people all over the world who must wait in line for food, for whom free flour is worth competing for with hundreds of others. This morning I had just opened a "cheap" bag of flour that I intended to use not for baking bread to feed my family, but to turn into a play-toy for my creative children, and the guilty pang of our privilege ran through me and then stayed in the corner for the morning.

We often wonder what choices we could have made earlier in our lives to put ourselves and our family in a better financial state, but the truth is we have rarely wanted for anything - when in need, help has come, and has usually been from the hands of another blessed family member, not in the midst of a throng of the desperate hungry. And so my message for myself today...we are blessed, we are blessed, we are blessed - just a small reminder that we have so much and want for so little.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Onion Goggles

You've wondered what to do with that pair of safety goggles that sit in the junk drawer, waiting for that project you've been wanting to do but can't seem to find all the parts for? Well, wait no longer - put those babies to good use the next time you're cooking with onions!! These goggles are Ani's and as she desperately wanted to cook the veggie soup with me tonight but was shedding huge tears from the onions, she dug them out and voila! they did the trick.
(I had to post both pictures - this girl has a dry side, I tell you - dead-pan and fu-unny)
The soup turned out to be delicious, and included most colors of the rainbow, which she has been learning is a good thing when you're trying to eat in a healthy way! Actually we were missing purple, but we are rarely without red cabbage which fit the purple bill quite nicely.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Makin' the most of the "flea day"

We had to be out of the house for the day, and so the girls and I decided to drive east to Parkersburg, WV. It was a lovely drive - Ohio is just beautiful, why is that such a surprise to me still? - and when we had crossed the Ohio River we found a small park at one of the town's highest points and ate our lunch with a view...
...and then did our best with the ancient playground equipment that furnished the park...

...then on to a large discount store that was recommended to me. I hate hate hate shopping, but we made the most of it, trying on the Halloween costumes...

...and then to The Mall (did I mention that I hate shopping? I get so depressed with the over-abundance of awful, cheaply made junk out there. A store that solely sells baseball hats? What???) with its promise of ice cream....

...and then home, to linger in the late afternoon sun, finding our greatest joy in the shadows...