Saturday, May 31, 2008

Not enough hours

Ah, the weekend! On our schedule: a soccer practice, a soccer game, a haircut for Dean, grocery shopping, an appointment with the driveway guys who need to re-do the "job" they did for us last fall (a long, sad, story summed up by a staggering amount of money spent for a driveway that now floods our garage all winter), Dean's piano recital, and a retirement party for our Head of School. We also plan to pick up a few more plants to replace a portion of the garden destroyed by deer last winter and, theoretically, plant them. Figure in the hour+ of dog walking each day, meals, and whatever I'm forgetting (because I'm always forgetting something) and there you have it. And we only have one child! I cannot begin to fathom how families with more children manage.

But things will slow down. Soccer ends after next weekend. School gets out in two weeks. There will be a short break before summer piano lessons start. We sometimes wonder why we don't have people over more often -- we would like to entertain more. But then when we look at our lives in terms of the to-do list, it's clear that there isn't space to work in more. Ken's parents get frustrated with us because they have a hard time believing when we say, in response to their demands for family get-togethers, that we don't have a free weekend until the end of June. But it's true. And so for us that now means that we don't have a free weekend until July. But then, oh baby, we'll do our best to do as little as we can.

My projects are on hold at the moment. Friends from Ireland arrive the day after school gets out and we all head up to Maine for a week of salt air, sunshine, and lobster. This is an excellent use of our time. But in the meantime I'm cleaning the house and getting ready so the sewing and crafts things gather dust for a while.

Meanwhile, can you think of anything in nature (in New England) that begins with a 'k'? I've got my 'k' letter form photo done but am stumped by finding something that begins with 'k.' My brain is stuck on 'kangaroo' and they are rare in these parts.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

And then some

Dean and I were showered with unexpected, utter goodness when a package arrived from Natalie and her family; this never-before-seen-by-Dean Mars Mission Lego set, a precious, collectible brick from LegoLand, and a custom cd of tunes for me that I play constantly, happily. It would be amazing to have received such goodness from family, or from close friends we'd known for years. But I don't know if the word has been invented yet to describe how miraculous it feels to receive these things from friends unmet, from people who have really no reason to be so good to us other than that they simply are so good. Makes faith in humanity such a simple, clear, easy thing.
The -- what? -- twenty or so posts I've composed in my head since last week's post are now scattered amongst all the other things floating through my brain -- thought about but untethered, undone. I'm anxious about my full plate at work; there are two weeks left of school and I can't fathom how I'm going to get everything done. I'm trying to stay calm and take it a day at a time and all that good stuff, but it's keeping me up at night still. And then I'm wondering about appropriate jean length these days -- mine seem too short all of a sudden although when I bought them (whenever that was) I'm sure showing this much ankle was the look. So what's the look now? How long is a pant leg supposed to be? I feel a little hopeless, and highly amused, that I have absolutely no. idea. I don't even know how to find out. We have one niece who's 25 and who is always dressed to the nines and I fleeting thought about checking in with her, although then I thought about the total sign of hopelessness and ridiculousness that is; do you remember being 25 and having "old people" who were trying to be hip ask you totally stupid questions about how long their jean legs are supposed to be? It's the kind of eye-rolling that practically turns your eyes right around in your head.
Biscuit wanted to help, or wanted to bite my pant legs, or wanted me to walk him, or thought I was trying to take his picture and so wanted to be helpful. Hmmm. Maybe I need new shoes?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Heaven on a stick

Spring in New England is a fleeting, fragile thing. Some years, we really don't even get a spring to speak of; the last frost date is followed almost immediately by big heat. But this year we are wallowing in a real, live spring.

I was thinking the other day that I'd be happy forever if it could always be like this. Barely hitting 70 f., a light breeze, big fat clouds lolling around a brilliant sky. Heaven. And I laughed at myself and wondered: how long would it take before heaven became monotonous? How long would it take me to be wishing for a rainy day, for snow, for real heat, for change? How long would perfect really seem perfect? A month? Six months? A year, maybe? And would that rush of happiness, of just pure joy to be alive on a beautiful day, would that last?

Well, I don't know. I'll never know. So instead, fruit salad. To hell with local -- well, what I really mean is, here's to farmer's markets and supporting local businesses and to the realities of a global economy. Our world population is distributed such that locavorious is just ridiculous if it's taken to an extreme -- that's where all my puzzling has led me. The genie is already out of the bottle. Blame the railroads. And see? Mango!

Fruit Salad with Vanilla Dressing (with thanks to Alton Brown and Food Network)
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 teasp. lemon juice
1 teasp. honey
1 teasp. vanilla
1/4 teasp. kosher salt (optional)
black pepper (optional)
1 granny smith apple, peeled, cored, and diced
1 cup seedless grapes, halved
1 pear, peeled, cored, and diced (or substitute extra apple)
10 to 12 medium strawberries, halved
1 mango, peeled and diced (or just add more strawberries and grapes)
1 banana, sliced
1/3 cup chopped walnuts, toasted (I tossed them with a little butter, brown sugar, and salt after toasting -- I made extra and ate them all week long)

In a small mixing bowl, whisk all the wet and spice ingredients. Place all fruit in a bowl and gently toss after pouring sauce over. Sprinkle with nuts.

I'm not one to make fruit salads usually, but a neighbor asked me to bring one to a luncheon recently and this one was loved by all.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


As it's a circular story, I'm not exactly sure where it begins. But I'll try to tell it sensibly.

Dean came home last week from school very excited about the lettuce he'd eaten in the school's garden. We've got an ambitious and so far very successful edible schoolyard kind of project going, with children spending time in all aspects of gardening -- including the pleasurable experience of plucking a taste of something from right in front of you that you helped to grow. "I'd like to eat more lettuce like that!" YES! A win for the edible schoolyard!

So I take a look out in the gardens to see exactly what kind of lettuce it was that he loved, and promised to get the closest thing on my next trip to the store. A nice, soft, buttery, open-headed green lettuce. It's too early here to find (at the local supermarket, anyway) the open bins of mache so this overly packaged head had to do. Wasn't until I got home and looked more closely that I saw this lovely thing came all the way from Canada, where I imagine all the energy it took to grow this precious, hydroponic head, given that they are farther from their last frost date than we are. I'd been seduced, as I was meant to be, by all that "no herbicides nor fungicides" business, and by the desire to bring home what my boy wanted.

The irony here (circular) is that before Dean was born, I would have been able to go out to our own garden yesterday and harvest a small salad of tender new leaves. Ken and I were avid vegetable gardeners and used our fenced-in garden to grow all kinds of wonderful fresh vegetables. But we quickly found that gardening like that was one of the things that had to go in order to have time to be parents. That garden is now Dean's own flower garden, although maybe someday he'll change his "no vegetables need apply" stance to what he grows there. Anyway. If Dean weren't here I'd easily be able to give him what he was asking for, but he is here so I can't. And yes, we'd much rather have Dean than the garden.

OK, so I served up this precious Canadian lettuce and starting thinking about the whole 'eat local' thing again. We saw a snip of a report recently that said a recent study of tomatoes in London revealed that it took significantly LESS energy for Londoners to get tomatoes from Spain than from England because of all the energy it takes to grow tomatoes in the colder, rainy-er climate. Spain's the right place for the job, and shipping takes less energy. Take that, locavores! And I'm plugging away at Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (on page 75 after having started in February, which I find both funny and tragic) and I'm getting a little irritated at the author's inability to accept or embrace the ironies in all this. She kinda just lost my support, actually, in the current section where she defends tobacco farming (she says the plant is cancerous because of how it is altered and abused postfarmer -- is that true? -- is it benign as grown?) because she grew up in the tobacco belt and likes small tobacco farms for a host of reasons. I'd rather hear her struggles with the reality of knowing, loving tobacco farmers and understanding the local economics of the crop against the reality of the final product, and I'd rather not hear her question the morality of someone who serves a raspberry out of season. There are a lot of questions and I believe that right now the point is the struggle to answer them and not draw a hard line between who is good and who is evil.

We're back to the local season, or the start of it. I'm looking forward to the opening of the farmers' markets. I'm delighted to have a boy who likes lettuce. So maybe we'll try a porch pot approach and see where that gets us....

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Catching up

Thank you
Dean raised $230 for Dog Orphans (a local no-kill shelter); thank-you notes are still in process but meanwhile I'll say thanks here for your support. He has a genuine sense of his own ability to make a difference in the world, and of the satisfaction that comes from putting effort into something that's important to you.

Speed Racer. Tell me YOU remember Speed Racer. Maybe you can't join me in singing the theme song (what can I say? it's a gift), but tell me you remember watching this show. When I took Dean to a birthday party last Friday that included seeing the new movie, I was shocked at how few of the other parents even knew about the cartoon. Well, I guess I have to try to let it go. But you should think about seeing the movie. I recommend it because the Wachowskis have, once again, totally up-ended movie making and story telling -- it is unlike any other movie I have ever seen. Like The Matrix, it will have a profound effect on what comes after it. In some ways, it draws upon another amazing transformation from animation to live action -- and the casting is utterly inspired (John Goodman IS Pops!). It does have serious flaws (hey, guys? -- it is possible to make a kids' movie that entirely appeals to adults without dropping the s-bomb or resorting to real violence; check out, oh, anything by Pixar) but I think you should give it a try anyway. And while back in the day it was all about Speed, now all I can say is: Racer X. Totally. Racer X.

Sunday, May 18, 2008


It's ABC-Along time again! 'J' is for 'jonquil,' or so I say (having done the 'jonquil,' 'narcissus,' 'daffodil' research I still can't say with certainty that 'jonquil' is appropriate here but that's not stopping me), and
my 'j' letter form. I'm not considering it cheating that the original photo has been turned upside down and flopped to get the 'J' to show the right way; I could have taken the original photo that way had I myself been able to hang upside down and take the photo from the opposite direction -- well, in theory, anyway. Doesn't seem like unreasonable manipulation. Haven't conquered 'k' yet though, and I'm on the hunt.
This photo of Dean, winning the race to the ball, was from last week's soccer game. I wish I could show you the team photo I took from this week's game (I take one every week), but I don't feel right showing all those children's faces without their parents' permission. But the point isn't the photo itself but the fact that our team this week included 2 boys from the opposing team. See, our team itself has 8 boys, which means that when everyone shows up for a game we have the required 6 boys to play the game and 2 substitutes. That's a very small roster, and given that a game normally lasts for an hour, that's pretty hard on the kids (when you get a break it's only for a few minutes since there's always someone who's in need of water and a quick breather). Anyway, yesterday was a gorgeous day and our game was an hour away -- which meant that 3 of our kids for various reasons did not show up to play. The other team could have called a forfeit on us, but instead their terrific coach loaned us 2 players. This is as it should be -- we play Division 3 in a recreation league, which means (1) yes we keep and record the score and (2) the refs run the games by all the rules but also that (3) we are NOT making our way toward play-offs and (4) the entire point is to have fun and teach kids the fundamentals of the game so that they may decide if they want to go on and play more competitively in the future. Unfortunately, there are always coaches at this level who don't comply -- they drive their kids hard with a 'winning is everything' attitude. Had we faced this kind of coach yesterday, we would have all driven an hour for nothing. But he coaches just like we do and said -- hey, we're all here to play and have fun so let's do it! And the two boys he loaned us were great, great kids -- one even played goalie for us -- and they gave it their all. We thanked the boys profusely after the game, and the coach, but I wish I'd had a moment to thank their parents, too. It was the only game we've won this season (we've tied once); it may remain our only win. While indeed winning is NOT the point, it's also a little tough for the boys not to ever win a game. So here we had this mixed team and these 2 other boys helped us beat their own team. It was a close game, and everyone played well and was happy and smiling at the end, and it just felt like a slice of what's right in the world. Losing under these circumstances would have been just as sweet.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Birds singing in the sycamore tree

Still working the whole self-portrait thing. This is the at-home me (as opposed to the last one, which was the at-work me). I realize looking at this that when I think I have a neutral expression of calm repose it actually looks like a frown. Have to work on that, although I know when I'm nervous or uncomfortable I tend to smile too much and so there's a happy medium out there somewhere. I so hated as a child being told to smile all the time, but that sounds like a post for another day.

Lesley asked about the maple seed pods and if there was any relation to the sycamore trees she remembered growing up in England. For a week, there hovered
just outside my ability to pull it in the memory of some old song with the words "sycamore tree;" I kept trying to let it come to me, to get more than those two words to float in and it finally came. Dream a Little Dream of Me:

Stars shining bright above you, night breezes seem to whisper, "I love you"
Birds singing in the sycamore tree, "Dream a little dream of me."
Say "nighty-night" and kiss me, just hold me tight and tell me you'll miss me.
While I'm alone and blue as can be, dream a little dream of me.

(YouTube is taking forever and ever to load for me this morning, so I haven't seen this clip but it promises to be Louis Armstrong's version of the song if you're not familiar with the tune.)

But from what I can tell, there must be some other tree than the American Sycamore that goes by that name, since the American Sycamore has a very different seed pod. Although I'm sorry to have left Lesley's question unanswered, I love little journeys like this, and am so relieved to have finally come up with the song.

[Blogger is giving me font trouble -- I'll try to fix it but if this looks all weird and a jumble of sizes, it is not my fault...]

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Scents, cents, sense

For several years in a row, I bought the daffodil mixture bags from White Flower Farm. I now have a spring garden filled with all kinds of varieties and of course no idea what any of them are. At the time it didn't seem important to know, but as with so many things my reasons and interests change and I'd like to be able to know what I've got. The ruffled, white ones with the golden centers have a very rich perfume....
Dean's been feeling all pirate-y lately, and picked out this treasure map fabric for a pair of comfy pants ('lounge pants,' or 'pj bottoms' at your house, perhaps -- 'comfy pants' at ours). I've been seeing a lot of great comfy pants made from old bedsheets around blogville lately and may give that a go. Pocket-less, pull-on pants are a great way to practice garment-sewing skills -- just be sure to use the right needle in your machine if you buy this kind of jersey/knit/stretch fabric. It's really not a money-saving venture to sew like this; even with my 40% off coupon, the fabric was $10, and $2 for the elastic, and a few dollars for the pattern (although I used one that came as part of a pattern that I'd bought for the pullover it included). Two hours all-in to make them, and I'm sure Target would have had some manner of lightweight comfy pants for under $10. BUT they wouldn't have been pirate-y and wouldn't have been specially made. Hmmm -- I should forget the bedsheet thing and use up some of the quilting cottons spilling out of everywhere here....

Saturday, May 10, 2008

How we manage

More of my favorite red and green combination of spring; seedpods on yet another type of maple tree. Don't these look like jewels?

A very full Saturday ahead for us today: lunch at a neighbor's, a soccer game to coach/play, and a birthday party for Dean to attend. Then home home home for some simple dinner and down time.

There were things on our winter to-do list that we did not do -- no tobogganing, no hike in the winter woods. I struggle with wanting to try to do it all and appreciating NOT doing things; we pick and choose as we go. I realize that the impact of days any season like today when we happen to have lots to do -- even when we enjoy each individual thing -- overwhelm us and make us eager to drop the things we do have control over in favor of staying home and relaxing. Sometimes I forget that childhood and the process of building memories doesn't require that everything be done today, this month, or even this year. My adult sense of time says "now or never!" while Dean's much more sagely says "there'll be another time, and this right now is important, too -- this not doing of things."

As we approach summer we start to make our list. Mini-golfing, water slides, the zoo, the state forest, ice cream, cook-outs, camping, canoeing, the beach. We won't do it all. We'll make choices and we'll put on the brakes if it feels that we're moving too fast and trying to do too much. I'll aim to pick one project to finish, a couple of books to read, and will try to let go of the list of what's left undone.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Not wordless because I forgot it was Wednesday

A little detail to show you the red of spring on one of the maples in our yard. While we also have red maples on which the leaves will darken to a deep maroon, these maples will ultimately turn green -- then back to red again in the fall. This particular tree is taller than our house, but when we planted it, it was barely the size of a pencil; in fact, it arrived to us in a standard business envelope in the mail! It was one of the ten free trees we received for joining the National Arbor Day Foundation. They still give away ten trees (you'll see the link right on the home page) and I imagine that they all still arrive at your house in an envelope. I look out my window now and count five trees standing that I know came from that group which seems nothing less than miraculous to me.

Dean has piano lessons on Tuesdays after school, and the lessons take place in the library at our school. He loves to grab a book or two at the end of each lesson, and yesterday chose One Small Square: Backyard. This is part of a wonderful series of nature guides for children that are about choosing a square in a particular environment and observing it over time. He was inspired to collect a supply kit (journal, pencil, magnifying glass, trowel) and head right out to begin his project. He needed a little help and wanted some company so we went out together to enjoy a little time before dinner. My parents were great at giving me books like this one, but just did not have the time to help me follow through on the projects. I remember that "I've got to do this now!" urge -- children really want to act immediately when something interests them -- and felt gratified to be able to be the parent I want to be and help him make it happen. Reminded me to do that more often -- be the parent I want to be.

And a couple more delights of this week! Ken has a colleague who is married to a woman from Japan and who was kind enough to ask Ken if there was anything they could bring back from their recent month-long visit to her family. Um, well, yeah -- I can think of something.... I'll show you more soon of this gorgeous embroidery book and the sewn project book. Heavenly.

Thank you for all the support on the self-portrait project (and you play along too, now) and the blogging. I think the "self" part of the portrait-taking is key -- I know I make a different face when someone else is holding the camera. I think everyone does. Makes me think about painters and self-portraits and the importance of your own vision of you and not you as seen through someone else's lens (literal or figural). I failed to say that yesterday's picture was the "me at work" view. I'll post as I come up with portraits of the other me's.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Time and again

Okay, so I was struggling with it before, but now that we have the dog I'm finding it even more difficult to give this the time and effort I would like to give it. I feel that the vast majority of my posts are but wisps -- wisps! -- of what I intended them to be and have more to do with getting it done than doing it well. I'm trying to figure out how to carve out a bit more time for this, particularly because I realized that what I enjoy so much about other people's blogs I read is that the writers' insights, reflections, and revelations (as well as their photography and story telling) broaden my own perspective. That is, they give genuinely and generously in what they share and I learn from it, think about it, enjoy it. I'm not returning the favor with short, just-get-it-done posts and that make the experience unsatisfying even for me.

So, I'm trying.

Hope Revolution rocks on:

I noticed that another of the participants in the Flickr group added "Pass it on!" as well as the full Hope Revolution title and URL. I'm going to do that on my new batch of cards so that the project is a little more clear for any recipients who are curious about the card they've ended up with in their hands. My favorite drop-off point these days is inside books in the children's book sections we frequent, and I have to storm the library with these as well. I figure that making the card useful as a bookmark may mean it hangs around longer.
Spring is making inroads in New England! These tiny bits of color that start to come up in the trees -- lots of colors, not just greens -- are an endless delight to me. Red is as much a spring color here at green, thanks to the maples and maybe even the oaks coming out. I love the soft haze of color, like smoke.

And I am working this month on self portraits. There are a lot of reasons why I don't feel I have many (any?) recent photos that capture how I think I look, or how I want to look. Like most moms, I have eleventy million pictures of Dean and almost as many of Ken (and of Dean and Ken) but barely a handful of me and I don't like most of those. Yes, it does feel strange and self-indulgent to take pictures of myself, but I realized that I have very few photos of my mom at the various stages of her life and would like at least to give Dean the ability to remember me along the journey we've taken. I wonder if he'll think a picture like this really looks like me; such a hard thing to grapple with -- how do we see ourselves, how do others see us? And unlike those teen years when you have (and take) all the time in the world to stare in the bathroom mirror to contemplate who you are and how you look, it turns out for me anyway that I barely really even know what I look like anymore because I don't think about it. So I invite you, too, to put some effort into getting pictures of yourself that you like and I highly recommend taking them yourself.

Were we the last family in America to finally see Pirates of the Caribbean: The Black Pearl? I remember we saw a preview when it first came out (2003) and Dean was totally freaked out by the marching skeleton feet and it went firmly on his "no way" list. But times change, boys grow up, and Netflicks delivers. We loved it. LOVED it. I think we especially loved it more for seeing the WDW ride come to life, but maybe that was icing on the cake of a story we loved as well. I understand the third one isn't worth bothering but we've got the next one (Dead Man's Chest) on our list. Yes, it is good to have the weekly family movie nights back.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Breaking radio silence...

...although really it was television we turned off, and computers for leisure use. This was our 5th year giving up electronic entertainment for a week and while we did slip a little (sigh -- the new Mario Kart release timing meant that I caved to pressure and we all spent 30 minutes trying it out and then wished afterwards we'd held tougher) we still found it worthwhile to take a week (mostly) off. I gave Dean and Ken the option this year of doing it or not; I don't like always feeling like the heavy on stuff like this but they surprised me by being enthusiastic and adamant that we do this every year.

We played a new card game, enjoyed quiet reading time (that's when we're all together in the same room but reading different things), got outside more, and listened to music. The exercise makes us more mindful of our choices (and after a year passes we need the reminder) and does make us feel as though we've done something good. Highly recommended.