Friday, February 28, 2014

our days: art, reading, being us...

Dude. Our winter fashion sense is mutating into something very spectacular. We are so ready for a replay of the springy days of last week; Ani is taking it personally and feels really let down by the weather these days! I am hoping that her expectations for March are not too grand...

There has been some duct-tape fashioning this week - shoes for a friend's birthday present, and a bag.

(no, it it not really this warm. do not be deceived.)

Yesterday dawned without a plan. Or rather, with many plans that just flowed and merged and...happened. It was a day that was messy and meandering (lunch? about apples and peanut butter? carrots and bean dip?) and we went to bed with a sink full of dishes, but the satisfaction of a day well spent.  Stamp carving, present making, a stop at the thrift store, "Scenic Routes Around the World: Sahara", and the first episode of "An Idiot Abroad" (The jury is out. I see the appeal, and we definitely saw things - like the inside of the men's bathroom in a village along the Great Wall of China and a woman slowly enjoying her snack of deep fried scorpion - that other travel shows don't show, but Ani found it upsetting that someone who didn't want to be in China in the first place had to stay, and while parts of it were funny the overall feel is really negative. Eliza loved it.).

But, ah the stamping. We got lost in it for a good long while. So lovely...

Yes, this is the kitchen counter.  It's under there, somewhere.

Some spontaneous letter-writing...

We listened to the end of Mr. and Mrs. Bunny: Detectives Extraordinaire! by Polly Horvath, and read our books (Mother-Daughter Book Club for Eliza, Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great for Ani, who is eating Judy Blume books this week - all of the Fudge books have been ingested, and I'm reading the YA book The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Ann Patchett's book of essays, This Is The Story of a Happy Marriage.).  Eliza explored the social media website (does saying that make me sound so old?) DIY, where kids can post tutorials and earn badges for their new skills, kind of like an online scouts forum.

Dan is deep in busy-town: teaching, rehearsing As You Like It, writing a presentation for a conference next week...He pops in when he can, for dinner, and we see him at Homeschool Marching Choir, but we are missing him.  I think I cope with this better than I used to, in part because the girls are older and offer help around the house and are such amazing company.  Yes, there have been several grilled-cheese dinners (with a glass of wine for me) and eating-while-watching-a-documentary, which always feels like getting away with something, but overall, we are doing pretty well.

Today was games with a friend all morning (Frog Juice, Wildcraft, Pente); listening to Jim Weiss talk about Egypt for a bit, then down some rabbit holes online with touring an Egyptian tomb, which lead to...making world music on the National Museum of Scotland website? Ani and I made applesauce, Eliza is making cookies for a friend's tea party tomorrow and is madly scribbling out a story that came to her while washing dishes after lunch...LIFE!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

street jenga

It was a beautiful day. 

Why not play some jenga? 

Some giant jenga.

Couldn't it become a Thing? Street jenga?

 We commented that we probably should have had some kids somewhere in sight, at least pretending they were playing with us, but no. No kids. Just us.

So courageous.

Oops. JENGA!!!

(This post written in honor of the OMG - the Original Mr. Golf, and the person who crafted this giant jenga - who celebrated his birthday yesterday somewhere in the lake district of Chile. Huzzah!!)

Monday, February 24, 2014

walking to learn about hunger and homelessness

On Saturday Eliza and I headed uptown with our friend Christiana (visiting from NY with her family) to participate in the Good Works Walk.  Good Works is a local non-profit that works to feed and shelter people who are experiencing homelessness. This walk is their biggest fundraiser, and this year it fell on a beautiful warmish day, just a week after our last snowstorm and days after its melting - we really lucked out! 

This event offered three different walks this year: a mini-walk, a walk across town to Timothy House, the shelter, to learn about how an individual or family might find themselves seeking services there, and a walk around campus that focused on food security and hunger issues.  We chose this last one, which also took us down along the swollen Hocking River.

Mary, Eliza and a whole lotta carrots
 Mary N. heads an organization called Community Food Initiatives (CFI) which addresses the problems of food security in our county.  They focus on access and education: school gardens, teen farming and marketing, cooking and nutrition classes, and the ubiquitous Donation Station, which is a food and money donation drop-off location at the farmer's market.  The food donated there reaches people at the Timothy House as well as other free-meal and food pantry locations.  Mary is funny and dynamic and livened up a serious topic with a couple of games.  Above, Eliza is participating in "How Dense Are You?" which looked at how many calories - often "empty" calories - are found in processed foods.  Eliza had to guess how many carrots you'd have to eat to equal the number of calories in a piece of carrot cake (see the pile? about 5 pounds!).

Another game illustrated how interconnected  and dependent on each other we all are in our community - farmers, consumers, students, the elderly, business owners.  

making a web
The founder of Good Works, who welcomed us with a huge smile and the confession that it was his 56th birthday, talked about being in the hallway of life, and looking at all of the doors that were before us as we walk down that hallway.  Some of them say "hungry, and you gave me food", or "naked, and you clothed me". He urged us to open doors, saying "The hallway is not a destination! You aren't meant to linger in the hall, go and start opening doors!" 

The morning was a call to action, a call to be learners, a call to open ourselves to more love!  We finished the morning with rice and beans, served by boy scouts, and in the company of volunteers, residents of Timothy House and community members.

I can't think of a better way to spend a morning out in the world.  I'm feeling grateful for the company I had on the walk and for the sponsorship of friends and family who were with us in spirit and through their donations!

Friday, February 21, 2014


Playing a bit of catch up with a suddenly busy February...this lovely photo of the bespectacled friends was taken a few days after our little buddy's first birthday, and he was so pleased to be playing with Ani. He clearly shares her love of goggles. 

Aaaand it snowed again...which suited our still-queasy fluish selves just fine...though cabin fever won out most of the weekend and got us out in it for a walk and what may be (fingers crossed?) the last snowball fight of the year! (I vascillate between being obsessed with checking the weather for upcoming storms and being in total denial that such information is available to me at the touch of my fingertips)

Hi! I counted you! Several times!!

The Great Backyard Bird Count had us talking to the little guys who visited our kitchen window feeders.  We discovered that the Northern Mockingbird will come if we put out sweet clementines for him to eat,  that we have a pair of downy woodpeckers - a pair! -  who take turns at our suet, and that a flock of starlings can wipe out a block of suet in no time at all.  One day.  I also felt justified in leaving all of the weeds in our yard - the runner bean vines and the shiso, the comfrey and the stubs of horseradish leaves.  The birds not only ate the shiso seeds, they used all of it for perching, hiding, and jostling for the best angle at the suet.


The semi-frozen Hocking River

Ani and I rediscovered a game we love - Colorku (think Sudoku with colors instead of numbers).  You can play alone, of course, but there is so much to talk about when you figure it out together...We start every day with games: cribbage, kapaga, Pente...another one to add to the rotation.

This is where I often find Eliza, working on story.  She's been enjoying inventing characters and, of course, naming them is half the fun.  When I asked where she got her inspiration, she said that she'd been looking at the dedications in the fronts of books and had found some good ones:  Tyler and Taylor (twins), Shay, Amani, Ian, Dakota, Rufus, Tansy...

Sharing of poetry (Shel Silverstein, a favorite).

There was hiphop, homeschool coop, homeschool marching choir and Warrior Poets (aka writing class) - the regulars that punctuate our week - and Eliza and I attended a lecture at the local historical society museum about women's fashion during the Civil War.  It was really fun - the lecturer crafted her own degree for historical costuming and is passionate about the Civil War era.  She brought several gowns she had made and dressed a friend in period clothing, discussing all of it as she went (brave friend!).  Hoops, corsets, the whole bit. Eliza was in heaven.  It was also inspiring to hear that this young woman has fostered this love of history and fashion since she was fourteen and developed her skill as a seamstress to follow that passion.

Artistry in the kitchen
 And now it's nearing the end of the week.  We're anticipating a weekend visit from friends, and the weather is acting strangely like spring...we saw our first Mourning Dove, and rumour has it the temperature got close to 68 Thursday. Can that be true?!  Ani is making demands of the weather, coming down the stairs in a tank top and bare feet, looking like California Dreamin' on such a winter's might be a long March.

Not today!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Bird Love!

Yes, I know it's Valentine's Day, but Eliza called last night at 11 to be picked up from a sleepover that just wasn't meant to be, Ani started vomiting around 3 a.m., and Dan is fighting off the same stomach bug that started with me a week ago.  To say we are a bit tired would be a beginning.  The best news is that we are handling it all well, and even got in some delicious naps this afternoon when Dan came home for a break between classes and rehearsal (oh this guy is so busy).  The naps and the Papa company were the exact Valentines we needed today.

So, this is about birds!  We decided to join in the Great Backyard Bird Count this year, and it started today.

I often feel as though I should have lived in the 1800's, when so much of natural science was in the hands of the obsessed amateur observer (have you read The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert yet? Can you handle a lot of descriptions of moss? Then you might love it), so it is no surprise that I am a fan of Citizen Science.  This particular project looks at the numbers and distribution of different species during a four-day period in February every year.  I always have good intentions, but this year I also have a little help and interest from everyone else.  Maybe it's because it's been such a cold winter here, but the feeders have had a steady flow of regulars.

The process is very simple, and you can join in for one or all four days.  Today I took a break from holding Ani on the couch (she is so cuddly and attached when she is feeling sick), to sit and eat something while looking at our feeders and writing down who I saw there during my twenty minutes.

It was an awesome twenty minutes!  From 10:40 to 11:00 a.m. I saw:

male and female Cardinals
2 Song Sparrows
1 male European House Sparrow
1 Starling (how I managed to only see one when it is usually a flock, I don't know!)
Carolina Wren
Carolina Chickadee
male and female Downy Woodpeckers
White-breasted Nuthatch

I am still working on my identificaton for the LBBs (Little Brown Birds), but I use the field guides we have and the incredible resource that is the Cornell Ornithology Lab website  - they have "tricky bird ID" pages through their Project Feeder Watch - for more details.  I think I've figured out the black-capped versus the carolina chickadee, and the downy versus the hairy woodpeckers.

My favorite bird by far this year is the Carolina Wren.  I stop what I'm doing every time I catch this guy at the feeder, and he and his mate live in the backyard, so I see them a lot.  I was lucky to be walking from the car to the front door with my camera when he decided to come down for some food.  He is so sweet! His mate hung back for a while, but I have seen them both at the feeders, together, a couple of times.

I know that my need to name can get a little obsessive, but I don't think it has stood in the way of me feeling connected to the extended family that lives just on the other side of the kitchen window.  Our cat Charlie and I talk about the unbelievably friendly chickadee who stares right into our window and chats at us (well, I call it a "carolina chickadee" - he calls it "one bite", but we're tolerant of each others' limited views) and we both drool a little bit when the wrens come to call.

Great Backyard Bird Count (now! Feb 14 - Feb 17)
Project Feeder Watch (November - April)