Thursday, December 31, 2009

Four down...

three of us - knock on wood - unscathed, so far. The girls had a lovely Tuesday...

Wednesday was Eliza and Ani's turn to be o-u-t with the flu (oof. a long day.). Now my sister...this is about what we're all up for today:
Ice Age, The Meltdown, courtesy of Mormor (my mom), who has kept the household going, making sure everyone has the food they need or want, washing dishes, reading and reading and reading...we're ushering out the old year with movies, soup, and the lights of the Christmas tree...

*editorial note: I spoke too soon. Dan is also down for the count. Sigh.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Family photo ornaments

Most of our gifts have been given and received by now, so I am feeling more free to share in this space some of what we have made this year. The idea behind these ornaments is simple, and it has brought family stories to the center of our celebration. I made a set of these for my sister's tree - my mom's family all gather around her tree, festooned with real lit candles for Christmas eve, so I knew many of the people in the photos would be there to see them - and a slightly different set for my dad, as I have become keeper of many of the old family photos; and of course there are many of these hanging on our tree.
My uncle as a baby, my Grandma Jane, and my dad

My dad wearing the Santa beard, seated between his Grandma Travis and Aunt Millie

My sister and I, confronting a scary looking Santa. This photo is ridiculous and frightening to me - my girls glossed right over the Santa part (neither has ever "visited" Santa) and zeroed right in on the outfits, of course.
My sister thinks we should submit this photo to Sketchy Santas...

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

More to celebrate

My mom, sister and niece traveled through snow and wind to spend this week with us, and I am so grateful to have them here! As if driving 40 mph from Wisconsin, passing dozens of cars and trucks in the ditches, wasn't trial enough, my niece commenced to vomit during day two of their drive and didn't stop until last night. The girls haven't let that slow down the reunion a bit, however, and today we made up for the lost hours...
...and getting out to enjoy the brilliant sunshine before more snow (we cross our fingers, they hold their breath...).

A dormant Plot 55

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Wons A Pon A Tim

We moved from our home in Seattle, where both girls were born, when Eliza was four. She was old enough to have made some "lifelong" friends, and that is when her letter-writing began. She has never shied away from writing, but she has always been reluctant to strike out on her own and try more inventive spelling. This has meant that one letter, thank-you card, Valentine or story (they were rare and short!) were painstakingly written, checking letter for letter with me to make sure each word is spelled correctly. This has meant that every note I have ever received from Eliza consists of one sentence: Mama, I love you. Love, Eliza. She has always had clear handwriting, from a very young age, and an interest in cursive, so I have been hopeful that once she was interested in reading it would influence how she was writing.

One of the presents tucked in her stocking this year was a little $2 notebook. Another was a pen. This girl has pens and notebooks tucked in every corner and bag, but for some reason, this book immediately became her journal, as she wrote, without stopping for any input from us at all, two full pages of thoughts about the Christmas she was having. This has continued in the days following Christmas, and, as she shared from one entry, "it is vare fon to rit in it somtims i cant stop i love it so moch".

It is so exciting to watch her get her thoughts out by herself, quickly enough that she doesn't lose interest, and the pride, oh, my...she is so happy about this. I am so happy about this. It is like the reading, having her discover something on her own that she is excited about.

It is interesting for me to see what she has picked up from her reading, what her understanding is of how different sounds are spelled, and gives me some ideas about a place to start with some more directed writing down the road a ways. She has that desire to communicate and here is one more door opened wide for her...

(Accompanying this post should be sounds of internal squealing from the mama!)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

spies like us

Well, there won't be pictures of Christmas, but luckily (!) the girls seem determined to wear the same outfits for many days to I get to share these photos from the Farmer's Market today. They are always welcome in the back of the apple and wool lady's truck...seemed like a good base for these girls in their "spy outfits". New hats, jackets, the jumpers underneath...
You can also see one of the homemade projects from Christmas in these photos: field bags - er, I mean spy bags...made from old pants of mine, sewed by Dan and myself...more photos of those to come.

Jay O'Callahan on the radio!

We are huge fans of storyteller Jay O'Callahan. PRI's Living on Earth this week features his story "Forged in the Stars" - it comes on soon in our area, and I believe you can listen to the podcast at your should be a treat!

the day of the eve

After days of not feeling well, we determined to get outside during these days of was a great idea, though the noses were running and bodies were tired when we returned. The change of scenery, the fresh air and freedom has always worked wonders for us, since Eliza was a baby in a sling. The relationship between the girls transforms, inevitably improves.

For the second year in a row - a tradition? - we took ourselves out for Chinese food, which feels so fancy to the girls, sitting *alone* in restaurant, eating a smorgasbord of interesting new foods. Then the drive around the town, looking for festive lights, and coming home to read in the light of the tree and get some squirrely girls to bed...

(ps - My husband, kids, and in-laws got me a new camera for Christmas... Dan rightly predicted I would be lost in the manual once I opened it, and saved it for last. I am still figuring it out, specifically trying to make the photos small enough to load into Blogger - any ideas? I am a newbie at having a "fancy" camera. I LOVE it! When I figure it out, I'll try to post some photos of Christmas day, if only to share the girls in their "spy outfits".)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Ah, this week is about secrets and making and snot. A lot of snot came through this week, a few pounds or so, and we are bound and determined to be moving it along quickly. So this week is also about elderberries, echinacea, and my dear neti pot. Last night was about sewing, for Dan, and working on letters for me, as we listened to a couple of episodes of This American Life and he drank wine, I peppermint tea. Sigh. I am looking forward to more evenings just like this one...
It has also been about more decorating - snowflakes and crazy popsicle stick stars (and cats and rabbits, funny enough), and paper wreaths - and listening to stories, stories and more stories. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh, Jim Weiss' entertaining animal tales on tape, Pippi Longstocking, Roald Dahl's The Fantastic Mr. Fox, as well as all the Christmas and Winter books that came home from the library with us.
There has also been chicken tortellini soup - twice - because we think it might make us all feel better, and it is so delicious and simple. Squash muffins, rosemary bread with avocado, and clementines. I think Sugar invited Snot to join us this week, so we've banished her to the middle of next week (the peppermint bark will keep, right? and the chocolate-covered apricots need not be a solely Christmasy treat...).
I snuck outside when I saw the sun breaking through the clouds and hitting the neighbor's house, out my kitchen window, with such golden fury that I just couldn't miss it. Put the soup on simmer, called to Dan, left the girls with Alice in Wonderland, and followed the pink strip just visible beneath the descending dark. It was worth it. My head and its extra pounds slowed me down, but that was fine, 'cause when the shuffle of my boots stilled, I heard an owl. I long for moments like these and haven't heard an owl since we moved here, and there it was, the reward for getting out in spite of impending dinner and a sloshy head. Pink sky and a hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo.

Monday, December 21, 2009


These two bearers-of-the-sun were waiting for the girls when we got home last night from our lantern walk...yes, the photo is fuzzy, but then again, so are they...made from a second-hand angora sweater and a wool sweater from Goodwill. Definitely inspired by The Yeti Club and these.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

happy solstice

We got an early start on the solstice...there was sledding...

...and snowball fights (can you see them? kids against, Dan.)...
...and painting (in the "paint shirt")...
...and lantern-making...

...and at last darkness again and a walk to the bike path, and over the river into true darkness, with our lanterns swinging by our sides. We talked about what we are grateful that the sun does for us in our lives: Ani is glad it has a home, way way up in the sky where it is safe; Eliza is grateful that it feeds the plants in our garden and gives us food; Dan is grateful for its nearly constant company on his walks to and from school; I am grateful for the energy it provides our bodies in so many ways...We were also munching on peppermint bark we'd made earlier in the day and Anika shared that what she is reeeeeeally grateful for is actually chocolate, so we talked about how we need the sun even for chocolate. Then a few good sun songs for good measure and the slow lovely walk home in the dark. Happy Solstice.

May the long time sun shine upon you
All love surround you
And the pure light within you
Guide your way home

Saturday, December 19, 2009


If a "dusting" can be slushy, that's what we got. We were still pretty excited...enough to throw on clothes and get out there to shovel! "Mama, I've been waiting and waiting for this, of course I'm gonna shovel!"

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Busy Days

We're finally in the holiday swing of things, and things are swingin'...the girls and I visited the homeschool coop we belonged to last year for their holiday performances (think "Deck the Halls" on piano, one-finger style, and "Jingle Bell Rock" on was very cute) and to share in the making of gingerbread houses. Or in Ani's case, to get totally lost in a game with her little friend Sawyer that involved mice and dogs and rivers and lots of running. It was nice to see folks, and also nice to not feel like we missed going on a regular basis.
We picked Papa up in the afternoon and headed out to a tree farm to cut down our own Christmas tree. I have such mixed feelings about this, but the idea of cutting our own was so exciting for the girls, and it seemed like one of those things a person should do once in their childhood...I have to say that the little voice running through my head sounded a lot like the duck from Babe who runs around the barnyard shouting "Christmas is carnage!" Ah, well. Our little pine is quite lovely and is still standing after 24 hours with cats.
Ani loved the trees that were just her size

Today was about secret errands and trying to get things wrapped and ready for mailing (not all done yet...). While Dan and Eliza were out for a while this afternoon, Ani and I made wrapping paper, inspired by this post on this beautiful blog called Red Bird Crafts. She LOVED this project.
We didn't have a snowflake stamp, so we cut one out of a potato, and used an old parsnip from the bottom of the "rotter" in the fridge to make little polka-dots as well.
And of course, the thumbs got involved...

And soon after, the feet, but I was too busy holding a giggling girl while she pranced across the paper, and plopping said girl into a bath to take photos...
My favorite things adorning the tree just now are the snowflakes Dan and the girls made last year and again this year, and the little origami balloons that you can just pop over the stringed lights. We did this years ago in Seattle, and it is just magical, that glow. My sister-in-law asked if I could post a how-to on this, and I made an attempt to photograph every stage and got terribly frustrated (the camera of course cooperated on photographs of some of the gifts we're making, but I can't post those, as they haven't yet been given!). I did a quick search online, and there are many tutorials for "origami balloon" that should do. (Here is the first one that pops up on google; it looks accurate and easy to follow) Here are a few shots that seem to have worked out.
I was struck, as I looked through the pictures, by how much my hands look like my grandmother's. Same shape, same short fingers...I've been looking at these hands all my life, and they are suddenly a big woman's hands. A little dry, not very fancy, but strong and ready to work, massage, streeeeeetch to make the octave on the piano, or fold some little delicate pieces of paper into little balls of light.

We ended the day stringing popcorn and cranberries - it is the first year the girls have each been able to handle doing their own. The kids are in bed, it is time to keep on keepin' on with the making...