Sunday, September 28, 2008

First Week of Autumn

ARR. I'm feeling a bit tuckered, so I thought I'd go easy on myself and just give a week's overview here. So, to begin, Eliza had her first soccer game, and it was awesome to watch apprehension ("um...i don't think i want to go to soccer today..." as we are in the car on the way to the field, which sparked a conversation on what it means to be a part of a team and to have people counting on you showing up) turn to glee, as she jumped in, got some great coaching from Coach Shy (really, his name) and decided she LOVED soccer.  She went from not having a clue where she should be on the field to knowing which direction the ball was moving and what she should probably do with it should she get her foot on it. RIGHT ON. She also lost her second tooth just before the game...
 It was also my birthday this week,
and this is a picture of Anika and Olivia making an apple spice cake for me out at the Linscott farm. It was fabulous. The actual turning of 29 was not all that fantastic (our phone and internet were out, I wounded myself on a hike - like BLOODY wounded myself. It was very impressive - and Thursdays are Dan's longest days, so we didn't see much of each other.), but being 29 is all right so far. No major new aches and pains or significant loss of faculties (aside from my obvious challenges in counting years).  
This weekend was homecoming. WOW. Now, the best part was us finding the OU Marching 110 rehearsing in the stadium on Friday night, and sneaking in to watch. The most incredible part was seeing scads of bright-eyed young folk crowding the front porches of of the houses uptown at 8:50 on Saturday morning, beers in hand.  Oh, I have forgotten how resilient the youthful body is.  I mean, that was gonna be a looooong day! The girls and Dan went to the parade while I went grocery shopping and to the farmer's market ALONE (my big treat of the week). Here is a shot of the brass section and Eliza that Elvis?
We hiked a lot this week, which I've decided is the only thing that keeps me gripping that loose thread of sanity these days.  Today found us back at Stroud's Run, along the lake, where we sought out and found loads of full-to-bursting Jewelweed pods, which we gleefully exploded along the way.  Better than fireworks! says E.  And lastly, we've been putting on puppet shows. Below you can see the Owl and the Pussycat and their beautiful pea-green boat... 
I wish I were qualified to speak about what Dan is doing these days. I'll tell you in MY language and he can have a good chuckle and fill up the comments sections with rewrites.  ahem. He is blah blah blah blah Plato blah blah Hegel blah blah Hegel Plato Hegel blah blah Vietnamese Water Puppets blah blah Javits Scholarship Deadline blah blah "preparing my lecture for wednesday" (this is a direct quote)...

Sunday, September 21, 2008

day of learning #1

I feel like I've been fielding a lot of "what do you dern homeschoolers DO all day, anyway?" questions lately, which is understandable, considering school has just begun and strangers and friends alike are tucking away their how-was-your-summer-s and polishing off their now, what-grade-are-YOU-in-s - but it starts to make a person a little self-conscious! So, to bolster my confidence that this is a healthy way to be spending our time, I will occasionally write a bit about our days...and here is What We Did Today:
Ani and Mama got up early and read together on the couch.
After breakfast, Mama made chili while the girls decorated themselves (see photo below) and played a game where Ani was a fox and Eliza was an "apprentice" and Mama was (of course) a witch. cackle cackle. (at this point Dan has retreated to the study to begin work for the day...)
Everyone got dressed (again) and Anika worked on play-dough cookies while Mama  finished the chili and Eliza helped our neighbor Tara clean out her car.
Mama packed a lunch, gathered the stuff, and the girls all went to the lake for some water and sand therapy.  Swimming, building, socializing, eating...It is here that Eliza suggests we choose our "nature names" - she is Reed (lots of cattails and reeds lining the lake), Ani is Little Thistle (she kind of lucked out) and Mama somewhat settles on Mama Crow.
Three hours later, they came home, girls took a bath and then began to help with the peeling and slicing of apples for apple crisp, the highlight of our autumn feast, today being the equinox.
We discussed what else we thought might be tasty in a crisp, as we were making this recipe up as we went. Out came the spices, which turned into girls-sitting-on-floor, opening all of the spices for a sniff.  Crisp got made, girls decided saffron smells yucky and cinnamon is the best.  Somewhere in here was also a discussion on what we think the worms are enjoying the most in our compost. coffee grounds? lemon rinds? egg shells? slimy basil? We really hope they like apple peels.
The girls abandoned Mama for a little movie time. This afternoon they watched a documentary on Busby Berkeley - think lots of 42nd street, tapping, synchronized swimming. Lots of WOW along with a little history (your great-grandparents were teenagers when these movies were made!).
Then it's dinner time - chili, cornbread, apple crisp, and some more talk about what the equinox means.
After a quick run to the playground for Papa and the girls and a quick walk down the bikepath for Mama (who collected leaves for this week's co-op class and gleefully exploded dozens of "touch-me-not" pods -wheeeeeeeeeee!), it's time for Dan and Eliza to walk up the hill for a performance with Bread and Puppet theater (visiting from Vermont), and time for Mama and Ani to read books and hit the hay.
Somewhere in here Mama played the piano, Eliza started a letter to Cirrus, and Ani dumped the basket of musical instruments out for some serious jamming. 
Not bad for a Sunday, eh?!

Our friend Kimmy describes her family's homeschooling life by saying that they have a "culture of learning" in their home, which I really like. Sometimes we're more "schooly" than not, but more often we try to spend our days engaged and happy, for that is when we all learn the best...

Happy Fall!

Mother Nature

Once again Mother Nature has saved our day. Friday we were having "one of those days", full of drama and frustration for everyone, raised voices and hurt feelings, all of us reluctant to let go of our positions and our anger. So, I packed the girls and I some lunch and we headed out to the woods at Stroud's Run, about 6 miles away from our house.  The girls dragged their feet, but I insisted, having spent the previous day in a similar frustrated state and not wanting to continue in the direction we were going. We found a trail down at the end of the campground that begins with a tromp across a little bridge above a few puddles of a creek (pronounced "crick", dontcha know) and then winds up and up and up, gently swaying back and forth through the trees. The girls RAN. For an hour. Up and up and up. Then they paused to collect a LOT of acorns, pick some boneset flowers, and check out a few decaying logs, large rocks, and mysterious holes. Finally we decided to turn around and head down for some lunch. we changed our minds halfway down and plopped down in the middle of the path to start our sandwiches.  We were peaceful, happy, enjoying each other's company. BIG SIGH. The photo above is what I stood gazing at for long minutes while they collected acorns, and the photo below is what my little chipmunks collected (well, actually there was more. a lot more.).  We then spent another 2 hours on the bridge and in the creek (until Eliza spotted a crawdad! then it was happy play next to the creek). Four hours of lovely, rejuvenating green time...
             It is always entertaining to see what form the play takes. On the trail it was Mei and Saske, from My Neighbor Totoro by Miyasaki - some of our favorite sisters on an adventure.  The creek brought out another story we love - that of Omakayas, an Ojibwa girl living on an island in Lake Superior, told in The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich.  The girls gathered and pounded and piled and climbed and sang and I participated when needed (I spent most of the day as "granny". hm...) and otherwise sat happily against a tree, listening to a woodpecker's tapping ringing through the woods...

Monday, September 15, 2008

Trying something new

Here are the girls a week ago, on one of our frequent walks along the bikepath near our home. I'm sure there is much to notice about their garments (!!), but what I want to point out are the new-to-her shin-guards and cleats that Eliza is wearing.  It was a long week, from Soccer Parent meeting and equipment swap to first practice, and she wore those cleats almost every day. I kept waiting for the excitement to wane, for the nervousness and anxiety to move in and shove aside this desire to do something she'd never done before.  She had the choice this fall between dance class, soccer, piano, or something I hadn't yet thought of, and she told us she wanted to join a soccer team and learn japanese.  OooooK! (We're still working out the japanese part...) So here she is following through on wanting to learn something her body didn't know before. She ran and ran and kicked and ran and listened and ran some more.  She is still a little confused about the bigger picture of the game (can you tell we aren't exactly sports nuts?? gotta work on that.), and thinks it's REALLY HARD, but she stuck through the whole practice...

...and ended with this look on her face:

I love watching her grow.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me!!

No, no, you didn't miss it, but I got an early present from my family who must really really really love me!!! Eliza and Dan came running up to me at the farmer's market on saturday, flushed and saying things to each other like "is it ok to tell?" "yeah, i think we've got to, do you want to?" and finally Dan said, "we think we've found your birthday present, but we want to make sure you want it..." Umm...ok!  So they pulled me over to...the worm man. OH yes, there is a worm man at the Athens farmer's market. and he sells worms! and worm castings. and specialized daffodil bulbs, but we didn't much look at those, because he was also selling worm BINS, all put together, with 1,000 beautiful, wriggly, red hungry worms, just wanting to eat our garbage. ya HOOOOOOO!

(intrepid worm handlers, feeding the wormlings egg shells, coffee grounds, and onion skins.)

they are now happily living in my new favorite spot in the house, the kitchen closet (which doubles as a secret "alone" spot for both girls. i've found them in there eating popcorn, reading books to each other or just hanging out. and NOW they'll have worms to keep them company!!).
We are waiting for our library to find its copy of Mary Appelhof's Worms Eat My Garbage , which promises to tell us all we ever wanted to know about worms, and more...


Yes, that's in "way down yonder in the Pawpaw patch"...we've got pawpaws here in Athens county, and word has it we're sitting on a goldmine! I don't know that any of us particularly care for the taste of pawpaw, though we did have some amazing ice cream made by the wonderful and local Snowville Creamery today (see photo above - isn't this an ingenious way to make home-made ice cream?!), at the 10th Annual Pawpawfest, in nearby Lake Snowden. We started our festivities last night with a contra dance set played by the 
Hot Point Contra Dance Band, and E danced every dance, alternating between ma and pa for partners.  Before the band struck up, she and Pa tried their hand at the Atlatl, an ancient hunting tool (from the Upper Paleolithic, says wikipedia) that I remember from my anthropology days. COOL!  
Dancing with Mary, the Nelsonville librarian (behind E)
Dancing with her Paw Paw

Today I got to have my own adventure. I joined Rebecca Wood and Paul Strauss, local plant savers and herbalists, for a "medicinal plant walk" through the nearby woods. Well, truth be told, we barely made it into the woods, there was so much to see in the meadow along the way (broadleaf and lance plantain, dandelions, violet leaves, sorrel, cardinal flower (a kind of lobelia), asters, dogwood tree, red or slippery elm, tulip poplar, poison ivy, jewelweed, black raspberry, grape, boneset, white pine), but we did explore a bit, finding walnut, sassafrass, basswood, white oak, ginseng, goldenseal, and of course pawpaw. There are quite a few I'm forgetting, I'm sure, but it was a truly spiritual experience for me, to be introduced again to so many plants I've seen for years, and by folks so knowledgeable about them and what they do for us.  Paul Strauss is a total eco-hound. He is the guardian of a botanical sanctuary and founder of Equinox Botanicals, and he kept stressing that the only way we breathe is because we have trees!! Our air would be so polluted without the trees, we would just not last.  They also emphasized that we are lucky to be living in an herbal gloryland here in the Ohio River Valley, a concentration of  medicinal and edible plants unlike anywhere else.

The rest of the day kind of paled for me, as I wilted in the sun, but the girls had a blast, jumping in the jumpy castle and riding in a wagon pulled by two large and beautiful black horses. We had to go twice we liked it so much...

Ani mugging with kindred spirit, Olivia

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

diggin the new look


There's been a case of the doldrums around here - we're all adjusting to a new place, new routines, new people, and of course there is the ever-changing relationship we have with our kids.  So, I've been trying to focus on the abundance in our lives to pull myself up and out of that hole.  Fortunately, a garden came into our lives in time to coincide with  this change of attitude, and already, even in the "wrong" season to begin this venture, it has yielded great abundance.  We are now the proud farmers of Plot 55 in the Westside Community Gardens, just a 10-minute walk down the bike-path from our house.  It took a bit of convincing to get the girls involved - they love the idea of a garden full of veggies and flowers, but weeds and dirt? not so much.  and since this plot was abandoned mid-season, there were plenty of weeds to pull, bugs to chase, spiders to dodge...luckily there are some wonderful gardens in full swing surrounding our plot, and the girls ran and ran and played and "volunteered" their harvesting skills to some friendly folk in Plot 1, which has a fence dripping in deep purple hyacinth beans.  E pulled some leeks with them, trimming the roots and peeling the outer skins off.  In return for her help, the leek man gave her a few leeks to take home.  Well, guess what got left off of our grocery list this week because they cost SIX DOLLARS AND NINETY-NINE CENTS for TWO? Yup, leeks.  And guess what ingredient we needed for our Hungarian Bean Soup that night? Leeks. Abundance? Yup.

(yes, E is using a machete. it worked great on those roots!)