Monday, August 31, 2009

Good-bye August

The opposing
of peach and sugar
and the sun inside the afternoon
like the stone in the fruit.

The ear of corn keeps
its laughter intact, yellow and firm.

The little boys eat
brown bread and delicious moon.

Frederico Garcia Lorca

Friday, August 28, 2009

Water, water everywhere...

* last two photos courtesy of my sister

Belated Birthday

Can you hear my teeth squeaking? We're up late, and like little mice have gotten into the cheese curds...mmmm, garlic and herb, freshly made today, bought at the Mt. Horeb farmer's market...catching up a bit more on the days of our vacation...

We spent last sunday celebrating Dan's birthday with an afternoon at the lake. Sand, sun, snails - it was lovely fun with his mom and his brother's family:
(isn't he handsome? i'm a little biased, but come on...)

Cousins and Cake

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Still on the road...

We are still "on the road"...three weeks to the day, and almost a week left to go. This trip is long. Too long. Why didn't it seem like it would be this long from the other end of it? We were ready for an adventure, an experience to bring us closer as a family, a last chance to connect before Dan starts fall quarter...Except that we forgot that, oh yeah, when you're visiting people, you get a chance to connect with them, not with your own family...Sigh. So, we are having a good time seeing our families, and some friends who are still or again here in south central Wisconsin, and that is certainly a good thing. We are missing each other though, missing our rhythm and our peaceful and our nesting and our spaces...

"Away" is good for perspective though, and I feel like I'm gaining some of that for our homeschooling life. I always get prickly-excited in the fall; it always feels like new beginnings, a new year, new energy and life. We ended all of the classes and coop time in May feeling overwhelmed and spent, too stretched and busy and out of balance. Then there was Oliver!, which took over our rhythms and energy in a different sort of way. I want more space for us this fall, more time, more fun, less "have to" and more spontanaety. I think this means more energy on my part, more creativity and willingness to run with the choices we're making, more offerings and ideas and listening. I am looking for the things that will help nurture that capacity for "yes" in myself - exercise, beauty, an even keel.

I have been feeling off about continuing with our coop this fall. I feel like I have been putting a lot of energy into helping it run in a way I feel good about and maybe that is just more energy than I am willing to expend outside my family. I have been assuming that it was an essential part of our routine, that my eldest needed that kind of stimulation and community, so I have been agonizing about it, about finding a way to make it easier for my youngest, who has told me point blank that she does not want to go - and then I bothered to ask Eliza what she thought about coop, whether she would consider us not being a part of it, and guess what? Her answer was "it's too many kids, mom." Shock. We are going to sit with this idea for a bit before committing to not committing, but I am beginning to feel some more space in our lives, some opening that feels inviting...

There is a game of euchre waiting for me in the living room, so I'll end these ramblings for now, but I'd love to know what you are hoping for your life in this coming season?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


We spent a few days last week with my dad and his wife in their home blocks away from Lake Michigan, in the town of Sheboygan. It was beautiful - the lake, the woods, the beach, the Kohler Design Center (gotta love walls and walls of toilets)...

Morfar and Gramma Liz
Hiking at the Sheboygan Indian Mound Park
The Great Wall of Bathroom Fixtures
Trying out the toilets
Ani's favorite bathroom

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


*first two photos courtesy of my one in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, with my dad

Saturday, August 15, 2009


The setting: a car ride home from seeing our "boy cousins" for the first time in a year and a half.

E: Hey, Dad - Jonah and I were having a long talk today and we were wondering...I know that I can't marry you, cause you're my Papa, and that's not allowed, and boys can't marry their moms, but do you think cousins can marry each other? We were just talkin' about it...

(pause. stifled giggle between the parents in the front seat. deep breath and...launch into long conversation about genes...if people who share genes..."jeans?", genes...were to marry and then want to have a family, their babies would most likely not be very strong or healthy...[this is the very short version]...and so there are laws about cousins marrying too.)

E: Well, I'm not planning on having a big family with lots of kids, I mean, I guess if I were surprised and had a baby that would be ok, but...


E: Well, we were just wondering...


Papa Marzo, 91
(Eliza is named after my gramma, Marzo's wife Eliza)
Meeting Mormor at work
Reading with Uncle Spoons and cousin Cole
"Uncle Dan" counting trucks with our nephews
Sleep-over at Mormor's

Friday, August 14, 2009

Puppets for the road

This is an idea I saw posted on a really sweet blog called Red Bird Crafts, and it was easy and fun to put together...
I had prepped two pieces of cardboard (from cereal-type boxes) for the scenery by drawing a horizon line and cutting it out with an exacto knife, leaving an inch or so on either side. I left them blank for the girls to decorate with a landscape - Ani did water and clouds, Eliza did a very colorful sunset...
The puppets I made from cutting interesting images out of a couple of art book catalogues I had, and decoupaging them onto cardboard and glueing them to popsicle sticks.
Perfect activity for a long road trip, these will also be fun to make again when we get home and the girls can create their own images!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

On the Road, Part 1

Five days into our vacation, I thought I'd jot down some words and post some photos before the early days of our trip are more of a blur! We packed up and headed to Indiana, just outside of Terre Haute, camping our first night away from home at the Monroe Reservoir. It was gorgeous, but with all the motors allowed on the water, not very inviting. Well, not to the grownups anyway - to a kid, water is water...

I thought I'd try on Eliza's favored 'do - a ponytail with lots of sass hanging out in front...what do you think?!
After a blissful night of camping under a just-past-full-moon, happy with campfire, s'mores, fireflies and cool air, we packed up again and spent another long day in the car heading to Iowa City to see old Seattle friends who are there for grad school...

Eliza borrowed glasses from the dress-up bag and wore them all weekend; it is unsettling (and lovely in its own way!) to see her looking so much like I did when I was just a little older than she is now - large heavy frames and all.
we waited all day long for ice cream...
Making new friends with Rumpus
Eliza wasn't the only one diving into the dress-ups
This little family is so dear to us - Booch we've known for about 15 years and have had all kinds of fun with, making theater, sharing good food, travelling, and it was so lovely to spend time getting to know Brynn better, having our girls take to them like family, wishing our lives would find a way to weave us a little closer, but realizing again that friends are friends wherever they may live...
After a day of making ice cream, playing at the pool, tandem bike riding, ping ponging, ball throwing, dog walking, book reading, amazing waffle eating, and snips of precious adult conversation and life planning, we made the surprisingly short drive to Madison, Wisconsin, to my sister's house. We are spending our days and nights immersed in cousin love and pool water and such indulgences as Movies! Massage! Conversation! Enjoying being On Vacation...

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Gettin the heck outa Dodge...

Oliver! is over! For the last performance, Dan and Eliza got to share the stage when Dan filled in for an absent cast member...(doesn't she look tired?? poor little pickpocket...) Thirteen performances - we got some great pictures of the production which I promise will get posted before too long...
We had a lovely visit with our forever friend Teo (Disclaimer on his behalf - he does not own that hat. That is my hat.), who came all the way here from Wisconsin for Eliza's debut on stage. (check out Ani - granted, she is two days out from feeling punk with a fever, but what's really happening is she's figured out that if she focuses on the bridge of her sunglasses, she's crossing her eyes, and it doesn't get much cooler than that.)
Had our homeschool portfolio evaluation today - a big load of my mind, and a pleasant surprise of a morning for Eliza, who was quite worked up about it (more on that later!)...
We are packed (ahem - it's 12:30 and I'm waiting for laundry to dry so I can pack) and ready for our three week trip to Wisconsin!! Got the box of surprise goodies packed, snacks packed, house is a mess...we're ready to go.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Art with Pressed Flowers and Plants

We've been thinking of things to do with some of our recently pressed flowers and leaves. I tend to be the sort of person who saves things...for a long long time...but Ani has been excited about what she's collected and I wanted to find something for us to do with them. I've read about pressing plants between wax paper and ironing the piece to create a picture to hang in the window or to use for cards or bookmarks, or homemade field guides or really anything you want! We made a window hanger with plantain leaves...
...and flowers from the garden...
...and we don't own an iron, which didn't stop us - we used the hot kettle after heating water for our morning coffee and tea...

We were quite pleased with how they turned out and will definitely do this again!! We also used some of the petals, flowers and leaves to decorate Eliza's flower press, which we made one evening while she was at Oliver rehearsal.
I find Ani looking more closely at the flowers we find on our walks, making this celebration of the beauty growing around us that much better...

Little Things I've forgotten to share

First - there are hummingbirds at our feeder daily. Many times a day we get these amazing little visitors! The feeder hangs just outside the window where our kitchen table sits, and our meals are filled with "oh! oh! oh!" as we hush our conversation and stare out the window...

We have a sky filled with chimney swifts - we have yet to watch to see which chimney they make their home in, but the evenings are filled with their chatter. One day while my mom and sister were visiting there was a knock on the door. It was a woman holding one of the swifts in her hand - she had seen it knocked to the ground by a passing biker and it was stunned. She happened to be a vet tech and wondered if she could put it behind one of our bushes? I asked what else I could do for it; she told me her advice for any bird that is stunned by running into something (like a window): put it in a paper bag, in the shade. This gives it a quiet, safe place to rest and recuperate. When it starts to move around and flutter, open the bag and when it's ready, it will fly out. It took quite a while for our little swift to revive, and finally my mom suggested that maybe it was waiting for dusk? We put the open back behind a bush for protection and left it there until dark. When we checked in the morning, it was gone!

We went for a hike in Zaleski forest while my family was here, and as the girls were running ahead on the trail, Eliza shrieked for us to hurry up, there was a mole!!! I think it was a mole, quite dead, so we had a good look at it (and yes, I have a photo, but no, I won't post it!!). I decided to move it off the trail and lifted it gently with a couple of small sticks, and there was another shriek from Eliza - she spotted a burying beetle crawling under it!!! This was so exciting for us, and though it was moving so quickly that I couldn't tell if it was the same species we worked with (there are many), it was neat to see it in the wild, doing what we had been told it would do! Lucky beetle, to have found such a good source of food...

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Ice Axes and Other Tools of Parenting

Years ago, before kids, Dan and I went to Alaska. Sigh. I think about that trip all the time - two weeks that were unlike any others I'd had before. I am adventurous, but more in the cultural meet-new-people-eat-spicy-foods way, not so much the adrenaline-pumping mountain climbing way, so the 8 day hike we took into the backcountry with our dear friends Keira and Nancy was stimulating and possibly the most challenging thing I have ever done. Yes, including two natural home births - I have a lot more trust in my body and the process of birth than I do in Mother Nature's fickle and forceful ways. There is a moment from this trip that served as a spontaneous visualization during the last stages of Eliza's birth: we were halfway through our hike and since long before we had embarked I had been hearing stories of The Black & Tan (please shed your inhibitions and say this loudly, with a lasting echo effect, would you?). My three companions had traversed this area years before and unwittingly spouted tale after tale of the challenges, while I gulped quietly to myself. This thin spine of ground connected where we were - an idyllic high bowl of greenness - to where we needed to be, looping us up and over and back down into Hidden Valley, next to the glacier we crossed to begin the trip. The Black & Tan inspired tremors in the voice of the speaker, and the tales were of single-file, slow-moving, careful steps, even crawling to keep your "footing" upon this precarious ridge. So, halfway through our backcountry trip we packed up the tents, laced up our boots and began. The day started with an ascent over a rock field to a low ridge. It continued from there to a scree slope (imagine a steep mountainside covered in small flat pieces of slippery rock.). It took us a bit to see the precise, narrow goat path that crossed its midsection - I can't quite express the relief I felt seeing that there was a path, even though it was barely wide enough for my boot. Then the Black & Tan. It was true, the stories - from this narrow ascent you looked down ("don't look down!") on either side to...well, nothing. I mean, not nothing, but nothing you'd ever want to imagine - holes you'd never emerge from, slopes that would carry you far far away. Shudder. I seem to recall that Nancy went first, and I followed. It was a true test of courage for me, though really, what was the alternative? Afraid of heights, I had to talk myself through each step, one by one, breathing slowly, grateful for 4 days of meditative walking behind me, helping me to focus. And just when I thought I might lose my mind in fright, there was Nancy before me, with a huge grin and a whooping holler - I'd made it!!

This was the image that found me during those last moments before Eliza was born: as I laying in a most unlikely position on the bed, I was again climbing, with Eliza, one foot after the other, hearing the encouragement of those I love and trust, and the feeling was triumphant.

I was recently on a walk, processing some of the things I've been reading in the stack of parenting books on my shelf (see the side-bar for some titles), when another image from this trip occurred to me. Along with our backpacks, water bottles, boots and crampons, we carried ice axes. These came in handy as walking sticks and hole diggers, but the instruction I was given about their highest purpose was this: if you should fall and begin to slide down a steep slope (and they were all steep slopes), roll towards the hill and thrust your axe in as hard as you can to slow your descent and keep you from falling into the glacial stream, deep hole, or other mountainside hazard. Pretty dramatic, huh? I luckily only had the opportunity to mull this over in my mind (over and over and over), and never in reality.

So I'm certain you are wondering how the ice axe fits in with parenting...hmmmm. Well, we are in one of the rough patches of parenting our four year old, and I've been searching and searching for wisdom that can apply to us in our reality, thus the reading reading reading, walking and thinking, dreaming and more reading. I sometimes feel inadequate that I cannot always intuit my parenting, that I do not have the innate skills required to guide a small person through this life, and I was doing some self-talk about how it is totally appropriate to gather tools for this part of our trip. This is where the ice axe came in, because it feels like I need the equivalent to this visually arresting tool for this journey. Something to hang on the wall, or the side of my pack, to remind me that there is something that I can use in a moment of great danger or distress or desperation, there is help for me if I start to slide...

All this drama, to share with you a few things I've found just a few steps further into this journey. First and foremost, I would encourage you to read this post, from Mama Om. She has found a way to write about some of the most fragile moments of being a parent, which not only resonated deeply with me, but left me feeling connected and hopeful instead of the despair I commonly feel after reading "parenting advice". My second recommendation is a bit premature, as I am making my way s-l-o-w-l-y through the chapters, but I do remember reading this book when my first child was 2 and knowing that I would come back to it again and again. Hold On To Your Kids, by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Mate talks about the importance of maintaining that attachment with your children, helping them stay connected to the family for all the times they (and you) will need it. I opened the book and dove headfirst into the chapter entitled, "Discipline That Does Not Divide". How I needed to hear someone talk about that! As I absorb more of the author's thoughts, I will try and share what I am gleaning from them.

The reading, the conversations, the listening are all reminding me that my relationship with my kids, my ability to condense all of the wisdom into a path for me, are all dependent on understanding myself first. There are little tricks to help me be a little more patient, more creative, more understanding of my children, but really, the changes I am wanting to see for our family have to start so much deeper. I've known this before, and I'll have to learn it again, but I'm in the zone right now, I'm on the path, one foot after another, collecting the tools I need to continue on my courageous journey of being a mom.

note: these photos are pre-digital, taken on our 1998 trip to Alaska, so please excuse the poor quality - I simply took a photo of my photos! and yes, I am aware that the dork factor is HIGH...long underwear, homemade hat, glacial-quality sunglasses and's all me, folks, all me...