Thursday, December 1, 2011

FlyLady Report - almost Winter edition

FlyLady likes to call Wednesday "Anti-Procrastination Day," and so this week I was pushing myself to take care of a few things.

I cleaned out the fridge to some degree, especially the drawers. Wiped down the areas that I cleared out.

I threw out a bunch of things I've been meaning to ditch. The exact items escape me!

I called an estranged relative to wish them a happy birthday (they weren't in so I left a message).

I also sent a package and then went to the mall to catch a visit to Santa if we could (more about that later).

I replaced the furnace filter and vacuumed the old one. It's one of those filter you can clean, so we alternate between two of them.

I swept the floor.

Oo, and today I washed a bunch of random items that hang around my sink. AND I scrubbed down both sides of my kitchen sink. Mm, shiny!

I mixed up two kinds of cookie dough in preparation for Christmas cookie baking.

I called one of my friends I hadn't talked to in a long while and set up a playdate at a local children's museum.

I took at loooooong nap. I've been needing one of those!

I've been working away at clearing the living room, sorting which toys to store away during the Christmas season. Need to make room for the tree, ya know.

What things do you need to do that you've been putting off? Or just needing to fit into your schedule?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Ten Good Things - NaBloPoMo Edition

Ten Good Things - Because I don't always have something elaborate to say.

1. My daughter putting herself to sleep.

2. The little crock pot with removable crock that gives me incentive to work ahead.

3. "Go Green" postal stamp designs.

4. Large copper frog sculptures - playing a fiddle on a bench, flashing a peace sign, hanging out. Made by multi-media artist Beau Smith, and featured on his Beautiful Frog Blog and on random sidewalks near you.

Green Frog group

5. Extra garlic in winter soups.

6. Public libraries. Also: accessing my account online.

7. Book Mind Set: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck. See also. Another reason we are avoiding praising our daughter (too much).

8. Shaggy dog stories ending in terrible puns. I caught my FIL on tape enacting one just last week.

9. Jazzy or offbeat Christmas songs popping up on the radio.

10. Kale! Steamed with olive oil, sautéed in stirfrys, added to stews or lentils or...

Vegetable Saute for T-day

Monday, November 21, 2011

Sunday at the Park With(out) Mittens

So we are in the middle of visiting, as usually happens in late November, and I'm catching up on my writing. Some of it may post a little out of order.

We went to find a park this afternoon. The little girl is always happier when she can burn off some of her energy with active play, so we find parks and playgrounds along our route, and drop in for an hour or so. We make sandwiches or fire up the camp stove for mac and cheese or hot chocolate. We nosh and lunch and relax our bodies free of traveling vibration. Sometimes the weather is too raw to linger long, or too hot, perhaps. But we always run around on the grass, run up and down any available hills, and climb any available playground apparatus.

Today, the first park looked promising. Merry-go-rounds and swings and slides, oh my! But it was still wet from the rains and cold and oh, the wind was picking up. The little girl gleefully climbed all the way up to the to top of the double decker platform, but all of the slides (and there were several) were wet. And then she slipped on a wet incline and fell unpleasantly and that was the end of that. She did swing for a while, but it was cold in the wind, and we'd forgotten to pack her gloves.

We wound our way through town and back and forth across the river, trying to find the other park, my husband half-remembering old cut-throughs. It was partly under renovations, but there were better swings, and there was much rejoicing.

And then we went to the large discount store to find toddler gloves, because it was clear we wouldn't survive the trip without them, what with the little girl needing to go out in this weather. The other option would be climbing all over Grammie's furniture, and there is only so much the interior can take before things start getting broken or knocked over.

Toddler mittens, ho! Tomorrow, there'll be another park and another playground, and maybe the rain will have dried up.

Muzzling the Truffles of Winter

The Christmas merchandise is already out in the shops. Perhaps you've noticed. This time of year, I always feel the urge to stock up on Christmas candy.

Every year at my parent's house, we fill each others stockings. My speciality is usually chocolate truffles or other special candy. And of course, it's pricey candy, or becoming pricier. I remember when Lindt truffles ran about 25 cents each. I remember when they went up to 30, then 35 cents. Somewhere in there, they got up to nearly 50 cents, then over. So now they are reeeeally pricey, considering I buy several per person, often tracking down rare or seasonal flavors. Spending thirty or forty dollars on truffles alone is not uncommon. And that's not even including other specialty chocolates.

I've had to cut back a little. There are some delicious imported "Mozart" chocolates I had to stop buying because they were getting upwards of eighty cents each. If I'm going to spend about a dollar per piece, I want to actually wrap it up for under the tree, not stuff it into a stocking! Or such is my thought. These are special treats that everyone loves to find in their stocking, not gold. I don't have to break the bank.

However, I'm having to moderate my truffle spending for other reasons as well.

I noticed my usual urge to stock up on truffles. Yes, maybe I can get some of them on sale. Maybe I can buy them before the season really heats up, and so avoid going to that crazy retailer after Thanksgiving. Maybe I can stash them in the back of the cabinet or in the closet. You know, to save them. So I don't have to inconveniently buy more later. Uh-huh.

I found myself feeling reluctant to stock up. I was remembering what really happened to that stash of chocolate the last couple of years. I had a pile of chocolate in the house, and no matter how well it's "hidden" or wedged into inconvenient corners, I always know it's there. And of course, we have to sample some every so often. The longer the stash is in the house, the more we eat. And the more we eat, the more stressed our bodies and minds are from the extra sugar and fat. And of course, that does nothing good for our overall diet. Yuk.

There is such a thing as overload, and we have hit it.

It seems clear that the more we have in the house, and the earlier it comes into the house, the more we eat. And if it's in the house, it'll get eaten. You can see where this is going. We're going to have to stop bringing candy into the house.

Horrors!!! Is that even possible? I do enjoy seasonal candy - in moderation. I only eat good chocolate, but that does not matter when I am faced with a large quantity of good chocolate. How many calories, I mean, bars of peppermint bark do I really want to find myself eating this year? Not that many.

So I am resisting the truffles' siren call. When I see the aisles of seasonal candy, I avert my eyes. If I pick it up, I put it back. When I see the tubs of specialty chocolates at the bulk buying store, I tell myself, "You don't want to eat that all by yourself, do you? No!" I will wait to buy exactly what I need for stocking candy when I need it. Like the week before the holiday. Or a couple days previously. Or maybe less of it overall.

A part of me is whining about not eating as much peppermint bark as I want. I'm telling myself gently but firmly that it's more fun to anticipate eating than have had eaten it.

So this year, I'll make my own peppermint bark again, and eat that instead. And bake fewer cookies but more varieties. Fewer cookies, fewer temptations. People might get fewer truffles, but I will too. It's a win-win! I keep telling myself that and eating more greens. Yum!

Not only do I not have to do it all, but I don't have to eat it all, either. Ha.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Flickr Friends part 1

I miss my Flickr friends. I used to spend a lot more time both posting and perusing. Life intervenes, of course. But I miss checking out what people are doing and commenting and observing. I miss the interchange of ideas and images.

I was just doing a quick scan through my contacts, just some highlights. I've seen beautiful trees and new babies, Christmas applique and freaky scenes aboard ferries. I've seen kitties in shadow patterns, surprise crickets scaling the soap dish, and whales splashing amidst blues. I've seen fantastic old Pyrex and new birthday hula hoops and jars of honey and beeswax endearingly tied with wavy white yarn. New designs from favorite online comic artists, old portraits from The Library of Congress.

And the stories! I love the stories that accompany these images. The son that got his first white belt, the bowl her grandma was going to throw away! The yearning for ravens as if they were old friends or wishing for better health. I see them capturing ones friend, or ones grandchild or ones own face.

And these are just the highlights! No time to really delve into their photo streams, which pains me because I know there is so much more to see and read and contemplate.

Some of these friends I've known for years, others I've discovered within the last year. Some friends let an image stand on its own, others comment on how the moment came to be captured. Others, like McNeney, write fantastic little stories to accompany their images. Others use Flickr as a supplement to more extensive writings. It's all part of a stream of sensory enjoyment.

I dip my toe in, peek at what's going on, stop in and say Hi! I love the contrasts and composition! Wow! Love the tones here. Wow, he has grown! Oh, this story really grabs me.

And then I duck back out wishing I could visit longer. It's been lovely. I'll seen you again, soon, I promise. And I'll post some more images, too.

Friday, November 18, 2011

FlyLady Report - mid Nov edition

I've been cooking, doing the daily jobs like laundry and dishes, doing my swish-n-swipe in the bathroom (well mostly), or at least cleaning up after the cats.

I mopped the kitchen floor. I swept. I threw out an old chair I had hoped to renovate but has been rotting on my porch instead. Chair, begone! I recycled the box my cherry tree came in... last Spring. I raked leaves and mulched a little. I threw out random bits of detritus like a plastic water bottle next to my bed and clothing tags.

I finally packed up clothes I've been meaning to get out of the house.

First my old over-sized jeans and my hub's oversized shirt he'll never wear, then that blouse/skirt combo that has nice colors, but that I'll never wear again because it's not the style I want to be. Into the trunk it went to join the big bag of children's clothes I had decluttered earlier. And the box of shoes I haven't been able to donate.

Oh! And I bagged up the three pot lids that mysteriously do not have matching pots, AND the little pressure cooker my husband used to cook rice in as a bachelor. It was well-used, but it hasn't been used for more than ten years.

It was time to let all of it go, so on my way around town, I went by the Goodwill donation door and threw the whole mess into the cart without a backward glance. Go, me!

Special mention for my ability to let go of that box of nice shoes I can never wear again since my daughter expanded my feet. Dress shoes, really nice leather shoes, hiking boots - le sigh. NO, I will never take the time or effort to sell them, sorry, so into the cart it goes, too.

And that was that. No regrets, no backward glance. Just a big sigh of relief. Out of sight, off my mind.

A big
Thanks! to Flylady for her constant inspiration and encouragement.

Wooo! Go, me!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

NaBloPoMo Up All Night

There are times I cannot go to sleep. It's late, but yet there are one or two more things I just have to do. Read a book, read a blog, write a blog, fold the laundry, sort the dishes, have a snack, write that email, write that book, think that thought, make a list. One more thing, one more thing.

But it all comes back to me in the end. All those hours stolen from late at night must be repaid in the morning and throughout the day. A promise or a threat? And when will it ever get paid back? Sometimes I cannot allow myself to lie down and rest until I am swaying on my feet, exhausted. When I can fall into bed and be engulfed in sleep almost immediately, it's less painful to let the day go. All the things left undone. All the dreams left unsung. All the tasks piled up for another day.

Daily I chip away at my list. Daily, I fail to do it all. I know this is impossible, but still I try.

Before bed, I sit down with a cup of tea, and I make another list. It's soothing to make a fresh list, to see the possibility of a few more things checked off.

To sleep with things undone is a hazard of parenthood. Oh, yes, of adulthood, of life! Where do I snatch a few moments her, a half an hour there? It's stitching together a meaningful life, a full life.

No need to fret about tasks undone just now. It'll be a new day soon, a fresh list, fresh light, a new start.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Carpe Camera!

"Let's go take pictures of the trees," my daughter says. I know it's an excuse to extend our outside time before lunch, but I let her pull me back outside. I want to take pictures too.


The brilliant glowing reds of the Japanese Maples are giving way to crumpled dull reds and wet leaves on the grass. Last year, I admired them, but failed to capture anything before the leaves were gone for the year. It's a fleeting pleasure, so why not take the time to savor it? Not unlike my daughter's childhood and my own fleeting existence. No need to wait - Seize the Camera!

Nov11-leaf fall_600


Even the camera is a means of capturing the moment, yet insufficient to the passing of every moment. How many moments pass us by unnoticed, unremarked? I take notes, I write, I photograph, I capture so I can savor once and then savor again in memory. Those leaves! Glowing! Heart-lifting! My daughter's face as she wallows through the piles of leaves. A gleeful moment not to be missed.


No, I don't care if she messes up the raked pile. What else are piles of leaves but to play in right this very moment? The red leaves add their sparks to the browns and yellows that have come before. The leaves glow, my daughter's face glows. Carpe Camera!


Monday, November 14, 2011


Ruh-Roh. I'm running behind on NaBloPoMo posts. I've been evoking my little blogger strategy of starting and saving a post on the appropriate day, then filling in later. Ooo, so I am catching up a little.

Well, let's talk about the annoyance that is the G00gle world right now. what with geemail accounts and the super duper G+ thing, you'd think it would be even more fun to use. But noooo. Having even one additional account adds to the complications.

My husband is now trying to catch up with far-flung colleagues for a meeting. As always. But there's a confusion about which account is actually the default and which account has most of those other docs, and which persona goes with which app. And then G00gle itself is being unhelpful.

For myself, the G+ account is pretty good, other than not getting too many other friends to sign up for it, so I still hang out on teh eeevil FB for social contact most of the time. I want to link this blog (and account) to the main account, but first I have yet to figure out how to have multiple account functioning properly. No, G+ does not really let me switch back and forth between accounts. I have to sign in and out depending on the app I want to use or I can't get much done. F'instance, to "+" something on the G+, it asks me to sign in. So I tell it to switch identities. So I do that, and it tells me to log in yet again. Can't it tell which account I'm on? Varra annoying.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

NaBloPoMo Autumn Leaf Edition

There is so much to be done before the chaotic crush of Thanksgiving holiday week. Now is the perfect time to continue whipping the yard into shape so I'm not cursing myself in March. So I'm ripping up old vines and shrubs, discretely zapping certain persistent offenders, planting bulbs and digging vines and clearing and mulching and .... Yes, all of that. Haven't gotten to any reseeding or raking yet.

I had a neighbor ask around for extra materials for their composter. I offered a bag or two of our lovely willow oak leaves with some maple and holly mixed in. Funny how she has not lept at the chance. Those oak leaves make such lovely mulch... when I can get the composter open.

The leaves are coming down in earnest now, making a soft crinkly blanket covering everything. I should remember to make a big pile of them for the little girl to play in before I have to bag them up and have them hauled away. The slender willow oak leaves slide together sighingly rather than crunching like a maple or sycamore leaf. The main hazard you'd encounter might be the random holly leaf or sweet gum ball surprising you with a prickle.

I did tell my neighbor that I had too many leaves to mulch and enough to share, but maybe she suspects me of trying to pull a fast one on her. As if I'm not the one doing the work, here. No, no, really! We have too many leaves to mulch! They sit under the Japanese maples and drift over decorative rocks. They block light to what's left of my lawn, is what they do. So I will mulch and haul.

Driving down our street, I point out the changing leaf colors to the little girl. "Do you see the colors? Do you see the leaves? Red and yellow and orange and brown. 'It must be Fall.'" "Yes! I see dem!" she tells me. At home she'll shuff her feet through any drifts in her path. As she should. Is it not the province of children to revel in the senses? The leaves even smell like Fall, the slow rot and disintegration making a new layer of mulch to feed future new growth. I told my neighbor leaves are the perfect recyclable material, but I don't think she believed me.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Silly Songwriting

A Song in My Heart, Silly Lyrics on My Lips

Have I told you about my silly songwriting? While jollying my daughter along in the world, I frequently find myself coming up with songs about anything and everything in my path.

It all started with:
Oh, I like to change my diaper
Moo moo moo the cow says.
and has progressed through any number of songs about a variety of foods, things, and places to visit.

Yes, I have songs about going to the library, bare feet, and tortellini. I even have a song about not having a song. Sample lyric: "I'm eating my banana, but I don't have a song."

My daughter loves these songs. Sometimes I hear her singing the waffle song in her crib, which really tickles me. Not only is she reciting with precise rhythm and stress, she's approximating the tune. It makes a mamma proud.

Sometimes she requests a song. "Sing the Grandma Song!" She'll tell me. "Sing 'Barefeet.'" "Sing the banana song!" I didn't have a banana song, which is how I came to have a song about not having a song.

I don't know what exactly posses me when I come up with these riffs of silly words set to music, but when they appear, I sing them over and over to help fix them in place. I once lost a song for a week, and I was heartbroken. And then one day I fumbled for the chorus lyric and managed to recreate the whole thing. When I'm wise, I grab my voice recorder or our little Flip camera and film myself singing a snippet.

Sometimes it's just a simple repetitive refrain. Sometimes it has several verses. Sometimes the song flows straight out of my mouth in one piece. Sometimes I add on and rewrite verses for months. But in most cases, I have something I want to say, and I open up my mouth, and it comes out sung.

I've been told that they are good. Really good. Good as in Stuck in My Head And I Can't Stop Singing It good. Which I guess is good. It's an odd feeling to be internally assailed by a tune I wrote myself.

My latest was inspired about my daughter always wanting a book to read whenever she has to lie down on the changing table or sit on the potty. But not just any book, but a small book. Just a small book. Hence this song:
Give me a small book.
I want just a small book.
So give me a small book
So I don't have to wait.
I sit and sit and
when I sit I sit and read
I read and read so
I don't have to wait.

I find myself running it through my head repeatedly this week, an ongoing refrain. This one is pretty insidious, but no worse or less catchy than the rest of them.

I write earworms, I realize with amazement. I never suspected I'd ever have such a talent.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Day of Properly Fitted Jeans

I finally had had enough of my jeans sliding down my butt.

I'm gradually slimming down again (post-nursing, post-workout), but I often find myself in an awkward in-between phase: either too plump for some pants or two slim for others.

Every few months I try on my old jeans, or attempt to. Every so often I can fit into another one the next size down. Oo, a 14 now. But my belly pooch still gets in the way. A 12 is not always a 12. Sometimes it's a 10 with an 8 waist, oh, haha.

On one hand, it's nice to be losing weight. On the other hand, I keep growing out of great pairs of jeans! I could wear my two current favs for months. But when I found myself constantly hitching them up to avoid looking like a punk, I admitted defeat. No belt was going to make those look good. "That's it for those," and I folded them for the pile to Goodwill.

Last week I realized I didn't have many pants left. Oh, I had one, maybe two pairs of dressy trousers good enough for church, thank goodness, but my jeans situation was dire. All that were left were one pair constantly hidden somewhere in the laundry and this last pair of colorful jeans. When I found those sliding off of me, oh, I was delighted but chagrined. What?! No more pants!? Impossible.

Sears was having a jeans sale, so off I went one evening. Tried on five pairs, bought two pairs. Low rise waist, slightly boot cut, stretch denim. They fit happily. No more saggy butt. Til next time.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sun-Warmed Studio Welcome

We climb up the long flight of wooden creaky stairs to the upstairs studio. Why are so many dance studios up flights of wooden stairs?

Three women and their children are clustered in the small lobby, wrestling small ballet slippers and and tights onto pint-sized feet and legs. They hail me cheerily, and I greet them back. When I notice the preponderance of white leotards and pink tights, skirts and slippers, I exclaim, "Oh! I didn't realize there was a dress code!" My remark serves as part question and part apology. It tells them "It's my first time - don't judge me!" In fact, I know that lots of dance studios have a dress code for their students, but I can't remember if this one does or not.

"Oh, there's no dress code," a woman laughingly informs me. "Some of us are just a little overly-excited about little girls dancing!" I giggle too, because really there is a lot of pink in the air. My little girl is dressed in various shades of purple. Today she has a colorful tree with a perched owl embroidered and appliqued onto her purple shirt. The pants are new purple leggings with a flower scatter print, (they of the purple pants song fame).

I peek in the door and see a small gaggle of little girls playing with shiny striped hula hoops. The teacher, a dark haired woman with a big smile catches me peeking in and tells me "I usually put something in the center of the room to start so the children can play while we wait for everyone to arrive." She herself is wearing a green knit top and loose black gauchos, and bare feet. Her small daughter is running around in everyday little girl clothes. Socks or bare feet are fine, I'm told. It seems to be a laid back atmosphere.

The little girl seems excited by the new scene. A floor-to-ceiling mirror along one long wall reflects everything back to us while wooden barres line the rest of the brick walls. Sunlight streams in the windows and makes pools of warmth on the cool floor. We step in and out and move the hoops around our waists and over our heads.

Another woman introduces herself and says, "Make yourself at home - don't mind us - these girls have known each other forever." One little girl comes over and says "What's your name?" Another little girl comes up and waves at TLG. The little girl doesn't know what to make of it, but she seems okay with the attention. Nothing like her run-and-hide shyness last year.

After a while, a few more children come in, and we begin. Make yourselves really really tall, then make yourselves very very small, now really tall again. We stretch and curl and smile. We end on the floor pretending to be seals stretching our backs and barking. We rest for a moment on the dusty floor, half blinded by sunshine. The little girl smiles at me. She likes it.

We take hands in a circle. I'm grateful and impressed that the little girl takes hands with the others. We make the circle stretched out and big, then bring it in to make it very small. The teacher's smiling eyes flit around the room observing and encouraging. The little girl follows along. I'm thinking this dance class thing might work out.

Then we progress to dancing around the room with the music, first "ice skating" then tip-toeing, then marching, and galloping and more. The little girl is grinning and dancing. The teacher reminds us to play "freeze" every time she shimmers the tambourine to transition to a new dance. I notice that I'm the only one in jeans instead of yoga pants. Next week I'll wear something more casual suitable for rolling around on the floor!

Later we play with scarves, read a book about moving different parts of our bodies, and play with a parachute. TLG is eager to get underneath, but we move on after a brief play. We finish with a few ballet arm moves, which most of the little girls quickly lose interest in. I'm surprised that my little girl isn't the only one uninterested in more formally structured activity, but relieved as well. This class is about right for her. She's still the tallest, but maybe not the oldest. My tall little girl fits right in.

Next week we'll bring the pink net skirt and leather-soled slippers.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Few Artists I Admire

A Few Artists I Admire

Roz Chast Acid Logic has something interesting to say about Roz.
K Beaton - artist of comic "Hark, a vagrant"
Guy who sketched/live blogged the NYC marathon
Kathryn Demarco
Marjane Satrapi graphic novel artist
Meredith Gran - artist of comic Octopus Pie
Andy Goldsworthy
[image of the day] photographer

Some of the characteristics they have in common is being wholey themselves, a particular sense of story telling in their art, and a sense of delight, thoughtfulness, and wonder in their work. Some of them also have a particular wry or quirky humor. At times I wish I could be more like each of them!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

8 Auspicious Symbols

I am a new fan of Gretchen Rubin and her Happiness Project. Check it out - it's quite interesting and inspiring.

She recently blogged about compiling a list of ones own personal 8 Auspicious Symbols, as in Buddhist philosophy. (Side note: Buddhism is filled with numbered lists, which I've always found reassuring and intriguing to my scattered head.) Gretchen invites us to create our own list of personal symbols.

Symbols + personal reflection + lists = how could I pass this up?! :)

Wedding Ring - "Love freely given has no beginning and no end."

SP-All Hands

Spiral - The mysterious π or Pi. The way the world repeats and expands or concentrates patterns inherent in our natures. The closest to "radiate the dance." One variation is the Celtic tri-spiral that feeds itself.
Fibonacci Shell Spiral

Lotus-heart Hands - A symbol of gratitude and mutual regard. Our best selves. "The Buddha in me greets the Buddha in you."

Bare Tree Branches - Grace and inherent knowledge. The patterns in life that grow randomly yet in a contained pattern.

Tall Tree-Reflection

The Flaming Chalice - UU symbol of the light of knowledge lit within each of us.

Baby Hand Print - My daughter's amazing existence.

Hearts - Love in all its many manifestations, also the enjoyment of finding and noticing.

Red and Green Cutwork Heart

The Moon - Full to crescent, though I am especially attached to crescent moons. The cycles of our lives, always in transition.

Gibbous Moon Over Blue Ocean

Of course, I have more than eight symbols, but not all of them translate into words very well. What's mysterious and compelling to me is that we each develop our own list of meaningful symbols. We may hold them in our hearts, seek them out, create them, and/or flaunt them in public. And/or share them with others. :)

I notice these symbols and collect them to some degree.

I have only one wedding ring, but I have a number of seashells that show off the perfect spiral. I collect hearts in different forms. I have numerous drawings, paintings, postcards or photographs of the moon and of tree silhouettes.

Other things I notice repeatedly, such as a sliver of moon, or a full moon hovering or lifting over the horizon, shifting tone against the changing sky.

What I think of as Lotus-heart hands is an familiar gesture of appreciation greater than words. I don't personally possess a flaming chalice, but it's dear to me and representative of my whole life experience in the Unitarian Universalist church. I have only one plaster hand-print from my daughter's first Christmas. One fleeting moment in her young life thus far.

And thus the symbols fall. I find them (or they find me), and I come to realize what they mean.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Now I'll Say "Yes!"

A couple days ago, I wrote a lot about saying "no" and feeling there were too many things crowding in. But what about saying yes? What do I say "yes" to?

Writing - yes! I have a few projects that are grabbing me like nothing else. Write, write and write some more.

Cooking - yes! I love cooking for my family and eating together. Healthy stuff, fun food, yummy and delicious food. I cook because I dislike most processed food, and I enjoy it. I enjoy the challenge of making something new and delicious or familiar and nourishing. I also enjoy eating it - that's a side benefit.

Reading - yes! Time to think and and learn and muse and lose myself in a story, then discuss it with my husband later.

Dancing - yes! And the community that surrounds it - yesyesyes!

Conversations and community - yes! Especially getting together with friends for lunch and conversation.

Creating - yes! Making stuff, even if it's totally new. Like that time I knitted mittens for the first time ever as a present simply because it sounded like a great idea. Or making an Advent calendar like the one I grew up with - yes, I am really finishing it this year! Or making up silly sings for my daughter. Or making that Italian-style white-bean soup. Yum!

Being with my child and husband - yes! My two favorite people to hang out with.

Keeping up with my house - yes! Picking up after myself is always an act of self-love, even if I grumble about it sometimes. I am one with the sweeping.

Growing things - yes! I just put some pansies into the ground for Winter color, and neatened up the herbs. The lavender did well this year, and that oregano is getting out of control. The marigolds are still blooming, and the lemon verbena looks insanely happy. The mint is still hanging on. Time to plant new flower bulbs in the side yard soon.

Keeping up with my health - yes! Good food and good mental habits and great exercise and all. Getting good sleep... well, I'm still working on that one!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Climbing and Tumbling

My daughter has outgrown her tumbling class. Not that they do anything extraordinarily difficult there, much less real tumbling. Mostly, the children run circuits around the blocks and mats, and practice clambering over, around and under things. But there is an incline to practice rolling or somersaulting, a short wooden bar to hang or swing from, bridges to cross, arches to crawl under. The course is different every time.

In the beginning, her greatest challenge was being around the energetic tumble of other children. She'd startle and cry any time a child pushed past her. She'd spend a long time watching what everyone was doing and where they were. Sometimes she'd watch so long that she'd hardly have time to play before the session was up.

Slowly, slowly, she learned to tolerate being around rambunctious personalities or overly friendly toddlers, and to enjoy the physical challenges and accomplishments that could be had.

She learned to climb up large blocks, step from one to another and leap off onto mat or trampoline. She'd jump on the mini trampolines and hang from the monkey bar, kicking her legs out in front of her. She learned to climb under an arch, or better yet, to scale the side of one, grasping with fingers and digging in toes as if she were a rock climber. And she would heave herself to the curved top, and then stand there balancing with a huge grin, delighted at gaining her perch. I once saw her rock standing on an upside down arch as if it were a surf board!

She's learned to love playing with large balls and parachutes. She's learned that we have to put on socks and shoes before we can pick out a sticker, and how to wash her hands after class. Her successfully stepping backwards off the handwashing stool (instead of falling off sideways trusting me to catch her), was among my proudest satisfactions. She certainly has gained more knowledge and confidence in her physical capabilities.

It's been so fun to see her progress over the last year and a half. In the last month, however, I've seen a shift in her focus.

She used to run up and down "the mountain" or roll down it when she was feeling inspired. But will she try a somersault? Noo. Well, she did once or twice for Daddy. Now she plays she is going to "the beach" and tells me we need to put on sunscreen so she can sit on the sand. She has no further interest in the monkey bar, but she'll steal the pillows from around the base, drag them underneath an arch, and pretend she's sleeping in her "house."

She used to climb into "the doughnut" (two arched mats arranged to make a circle) for the fun of it, to enjoy flopping onto the wall, about chest high, and pushing herself forward and sideways to drop into the hole. Now she imagines the doughnut is the swimming pool, and she wants to "swim" in it or go fishing.

Sometimes a parent or instructor will make discrete pitying noises. "She'll get there," they say. Many other kids her age, after all, have either moved on to the big kids tumbling class or are off to preschool. But where is it exactly she needs to get? As with any other development, she'll do something when she's darn good and ready, and no pressure, er, "helpful encouragement" will sway her if she doesn't want to do something.

We seem to have hit an impasse. Apparently she has mastered the parts that interest her, and has no interest in further complicated maneuvers.

It's not as if she's not capable of being active. In fact, after a tumbling class, she seems eager for more activity, and will literally run laps around the large bathroom before I can persuade her (tackle her) to settle down enough to wash her hands.

And when she goes to the park, she'll clamber up planks and ladders, sliding headfirst down slides, throwing herself across nets and onto complicated courses.

Not to mention the irrepressible running that bursts out any time she gets to any space large enough to jog a stretch. She runs as if she has so much energy, she simply must put it somewhere. But that 'somewhere' doesn't seem to include structured tumbling.

No, right now it's the imagination that is calling her, and she's so fully engrossed in imaginative play that all that lovely apparatus merely stands in as a landscape of possibility.

So I'm thinking we should give tumbling a rest for now, or least after my punch card runs out next month. Maybe a local toddler dance class will be more to her liking. I already have found a possibility nearby. I'm crossing my fingers that it'll be the next fun challenge.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Busyness and Disorder

As soon as we cleared Halloween, the busyness descended. A party here, a dance there, an appointment, two, three. A workshop, a potluck, a cookout, an obligation and responsibility, two, three, more. And then we'll travel. How much time is there left to breathe?

So I whittle a few things away. I go late to the dance so that I can cook dinner. I skip a party to I can put the long-neglected house to rights and still have enough energy left over to support a friend. I hang the new curtains and fix the chair and throw out old shoes that are cluttering up the place.

The little girl goes to the park with her father, and I take an hour to rip through her room, thinning out Summer or outgrown clothing, and sorting the discards for donation or sale. The piles of unused junk recede considerably - yes! I wash the dishes, start another load of laundry, pick up windblown branches in the yard, take out another load of trash/recycling/donations. I can't think with the household lying about disordered.

I need my social time, of course, but an embarrassment of riches is sometimes overwhelming. I need time to breathe and pick up the inevitable debris left from our passing. Recycle that box, wash that crock, plant that flat of pansies, write that bill, write that post. Sleep.

I frequently remind myself to not let busyness get in the way of taking care of business. Meet a friend for lunch, yes, then don't forget to prep for dinner. Chat with friends on Fac3b00k, and don't forget to talk to your spouse!

Perhaps I am still an introvert at heart. Or perhaps I still allow myself to get caught up in social (or antisocial) distractions to the detriment of my everyday life. Or perhaps I need to reaffirm my "vows" to Flylady to do my daily and weekly tasks despite my distractability.

And what is the point to this post, eh? Well, I'm writing daily this month, and I'm getting my writing done between ripping through my daughter's outworn gear and putting in another load of laundry before makingdinnerchangingclothesleavingforevent before I teachSundayschoolmakelunchbeforetheconcert. Somewhere in there I'll start working on the projects that are due before I leave for family visits. Cue off-screen scream.

* * * * * *

My spouse tells me one should not feel bad about not doing everything. "Own the decision!" he tells me. If you are confident it's the right decision for you (to not undertake xy and z so that you can take care of other things), you will be less likely to waste energy bemoaning the reality of what you really need or want to do. Drop the self-imposed guilt! You deserve to take care of yourself.

Then there is the other-imposed guilt from various insistent requests and demands. Which often leads to another thing I am bad at: saying "no" to other people's expectations. Yes, I did make the decision to pass on that social event. No, I can't help you with that project. I'm sorry to not see you, but I need to take care of some other things. No, that really won't work for me.

The least I can do for myself is to drop the imagined list of demands from other people that augment the actual obligations I've signed on for. One way or another, I know I can't do it all, nor do I want to. Repeat after me please: No, I can't do that. Sorry, no. Uh-uh. No. Or to quote one of my cousins, Don't equivocate. Just say "I don't want that." I say "no" to that so I can say "yes" to this. Yes to family dinners with home-cooked food. Yes to dancing and writing. Yes to real letters and conversation. Yes to exercise and good food. Yes to recharging my energy. Yes to taking time to think and sleep.

Is this going to be one of those posts where I worry about offending people? Repeat after me again: I can't do it all. Sorry, that's not going to work for me right now. Nuh-uh. No.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Grey Day, Inside Light

Inside it's cool but warm enough, well-lit, cheerful. Outside it is cold and rainy, grey, windy, dreary.

A sudden whump on the window alerts our attention. I'm quick enough to see a large winged body bouncing off the window. Was that a blinded owl? A hawk plucking a small bird off the eves? I peer outside, but I don't see anything on the ground. A hawk, I decide. Now only if the hawk would take out the groundhog making underground condos in our backyard.

The rain brings down even more loose leaves and plaster them them to the grass.

The cool air brings a distant wind-tunnel hiss of highway traffic.

Inside, the cats snore softly as the curl up on the fleece bed blanket. Cozy, cozy, they have no inclination to move.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

This Movement and Sweat

I slap my alarm off and sit up with a sigh. It's not even a matter of debate. I pull on my workout clothes and flex my neck and spine in an attempt to limber up my creaking body. The cats try to sit near and underneath me in hopes of morning snuggles. I give them quick strokes, but I won't linger. I grab my water bottle and go.

I rouse the little girl, hand her a cup of milk, diaper and dress her. I coax tangles out of her hair and hair clips, in, stuff some breakfast into her and myself, and off we go into the admittedly late morning.

I walk into the fitness center just a little late. I have little more than an hour before the nursery closes for break. I wave my membership card at the scanner and wait for the beep before crossing the rest of the lobby with the little girl running along side. She runs as lightly and smoothly as I would wish to. But she is merely two and has loads of energy, while I am *mumble-mumble* and need to heave myself forward in the mornings.

The little girl scampers into the nursery and smiles at a young woman with long dark curly hair, her favorite caretaker. She warily notes other children, then starts forward again to investigate a new toy. I sign her in, plop down her bag, and slide back out the door. "Bye, Sweetie! I'll see you later! Have fun!" On a good day, she doesn't even notice I am leaving.

I pause in the hallway to shed outer layers, clip on my ipod with music cued up, and apply a generous layer of lip balm (to my lips) before heading up to the mezzanine, taking the stairs two at a time.

A wave of white noise hits me as I heft open the heavy door. It's the rattle and hiss of piped-in dance music, the thump of feet on treadmills, and the squeal, beep and clank of machines in action, with the occasional ringing of loose weights being dropped at the far end of the hall. I pause to top off my water bottle, scan the rows of exercise machines and quickly locate one of my two favorite machines. I hop on, place water bottle and towel conveniently, and press a few pad keys to select the preprogrammed workout and time for the day. Sometimes it asks for my age or weight. I don't bother too closely with specifics. I key in the basics with good humor, and I am off and running. Or at least moving, since I don't really run.

Some days I like to do a long program on the treadmill, much of it uphill as if I were carrying a backpack up a steep grade. Lots of good sweat trance there. My mind drifts to epic hikes I've done. Some days I do twenty minutes working up a sweat on the treadmill, then shift to an elliptical machine for some "sport intervals" for a while. Figure skaters practice leaps and glides below, or it's hockey time and young men (or little boys) race and putter around the ice. Some days all I stare at is the advertising on the opposite wall - Even the refs can see this is a good meal deal! - or the lights of the readout telling me beep! It's the next ninety seconds at incline 7.5 !

Recently, I've been doing faux runs on the elliptical. I key in ten minutes of rolling hills at a medium-high resistance and start moving. My heart rate gradually climbs to the target zone and stays there. I love the hand grips that gives me a HR reading in progress. A cool 135 is nice, something in the mid-140s feels good too. Then I switch to twenty minutes of running up and down a tall mountain. My HR climbs and my pace gradually slows, but I'm grooving steadily with another song in my ears. Every so often, I squat as I run for 15 seconds of quad killers. Straightening my legs after a quad killer is a sweet relief to the muscles. Other times, I'll lift my whole foot on the uphills to give my toes a break. I check in with my heart rate every few minutes, sometimes dropping or adding resistance to keep me within sight of an efficient range. Then without pause, I'll add another ten minutes of rolling hills at whatever level of resistance I'm in the mood for, then cool down for a couple, letting my heart rate slow as sweat drips off my hair.

It feels good to get my body moving, to go into an endorphin trance. I'm glad for the tunes in my ears that keep me awake and on pace, although if I haven't gotten much sleep, it's more of a sleep-jog.

I used to feel a little self conscious about going to work out, until my husband reminded me that most people are caught up in their own world and can't be bothered to observe me. I choose to believe that's true, but still, I often go to the front row of machines so I can see the ice skaters instead of being distracted by other people or the silent bank of TVs overhead.

I let the workout summary run as I mop off and pull on the water bottle. I get a kick out of racking up the numbers. 1.6 miles and approximately 192 calories burned. x minutes in my target heart range, and a maximum HR of 210. What?! Well, sometimes the monitor gives me unreasonably high or low readings. I know those are outliers.

I step off, stretch briefly, and retrieve a sani-wipe to wipe down the machine. I could have kept going, but time is a-wasting and the weight machines are calling me.

I was doing long sets of low weight for several months, then I got bored of that, and moved toward shorter sets of higher weights to maximize my time before I'm due to pick up my daughter.

"3" for seat length, "3" for shin cushion angle, and something near "1" for the starting angle. I clank into gear. Two sets of 8 reps at twenty pounds for the quads! Okay! Then the hamstrings! Then go for the squats - better throw in an extra set, there, then my new fav, the abductors and inductors. When I get a chance, I'll hop over to the abdominals and upper body weights. Some guy is tearing through his sets with great grunting and wheezing. A couple of elderly women are being given coaching by a personal trainer, and another couple of people are trading the machines back and forth with me.

I've got a little more time, so now over for some chest presses and killer flys. I throw in a couple sets of incline/decline presses which gets my core muscles involved. Wheee! I rarely have time to do chin ups or the leg press, but it's a nice variation. A small pack of men are making much ado about their workout. But today I am running short, so I skip the lats and go to the upright rower. The seat is still slightly damp from the previous users wipe-down. I take over a mat for a couple of sun salutations, enjoying the feeling of my body doing its thing.

Annnd now it's five til, and I grab my bag and walk the length of the hall in a pleasantly weary forward-motion, past the people still running, walking or cycling. The retired gentleman who I often see there waves as I pass him on the treadmill.

I'm grateful that I am able to enjoy this movement and sweat. And then I go down to hear Mommy! Mommy! I had fun! I had fun too. And now it's time for hand washing. The little girl runs lap after lap around the broad changing room bench, and then dances through the lobby and out through the doors into the day.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Imagine what you could do with it!

I witness the power and elasticity of imagination daily.

The spent glow stick has been part of a necklace, a fishing pole, a fiddle bow sawing at her arm, a drumstick, a straw for her doll's juice, and more.

The magnetic letters that I spent months tracking down are mostly played as "sandwiches" that the little girl stacks and leaves as offerings around the table. Sometimes she serves her animals at the small table. Mister Fish the bath toy and the tiny glow-in-the-dark ducks become "trout pasta" and "spaghetti" when carried in small cups, and she serves them as well.

Her pile of animals and dolls take on new personalities to act out favorite scenarios from familiar stories. Monkey is now called "Moose" and eats food or visits Beaver in his house. At the playground, one area is always "Beaver's house," and another area is always "Mommy's house." Moose, rabbit and squirrel always visit.

Her doll "Dee" frequently falls to the ground like Little Bear's friend's doll, "breaking her arm," Oh! oh! , necessitating "taping" and snuggles. The "tape" may be an empty spool of thread or a hair clip. Whatever can be made to stand in the dramatization of the moment. And the little girl's toys are all actors on that stage, as beloved as any highly-designed-and-crafted plaything.

Following that thought, I'm realizing that highly realistic toys can be quite cleverly done, but they can end up jumping ahead in the creative process by filling in what could be, would be the child's part in the play. You could make an analogous parallel between reading a story in a book and seeing a story in a movie. The brain is not required to fill in the extra sensory details, so it just ... doesn't. Thus those neural pathways don't get as much of a workout.

So why short-circuit the leap of imagination by filling in all the details? Don't we need to leave something creative for her to, well, create? What's the fun in merely filling in the blanks?

My husband thinks that the more abstract the toy the better. He's disappointed that I found a toy camera at the consignment shop. He's afraid that it will push out the hinged-triangle-shape baby teether that has been her "camera" for years. But I'm not sure we could keep her from leaping ahead of the mere reality in front of her. Even the most mundane and boring/exciting objects are pressed into service of the story at hand. This evening she was "serving" chalk sticks to "Moose." It might have been "Birthday soup."

Meanwhile, back amongst the random bits of junk, I mean, toys on my kitchen floor, I realize, yes, those are not really useless items but the raw materials for all sorts of crazy and amazing toddler stories.

I bought her a children's large magnifying glass in the guise of a snake. It's a cool toy, no doubt, but you know what the little girl calls it? A banjo. That's right - my daughter plays at being a musician. The play kitchen spatula is a trumpet - you knew that, right? But the harmonica? That's just a harmonka. Just call her Short Girl Jones. I'll let you know when she goes on tour.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Pulling Back & Rushing Forward - NaBloPoMo 2011

Life has been pulling me away from the digital world these last few months.

An artist I know once ended a post on Facebook by exclaiming impatiently: "I'm wasting time here. I should be working on my art." She's too busy with doing to spend much time on observing or being entertained.

These last few months, I've been focusing on the "doing" of my life and letting the swirl of the digital world sink back out of focus. I've been wanting to focus on the doing without bothering to document it.

Adding to the complexity of digital balance is the new presence of Google+ and learning to negotiate the tangle of my online identities and projects. I still haven't figured out how to log into this blog without logging out from the other account.

But this being NaBloPoMo month, I'm drawn back. Of course, I have to post! At least as long as I have internet access.

Some goals and ideas:

Steady work on a separate writing project.

Documenting more of the things my daughter says and does. It's an endless stream of real life entertainment.

Finishing overhauling my masthead.

Any questions? I'll take any questions as blog fodder, so now's your chance.

Onward to November and daily writing!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

ten good things - MidSummer edition

1. Tailored polo shirts in great colors.

2. Building another kick-ass dance program, riding that wave of performance, and getting appreciated for it.

3. Young friend learning German and inspiring me to revive my own knowledge. Die desutche Sprache habe ich sehr gern. Die italianisch, auch... :)

4. Hanging out with new young friends who I've finally gotten to know.

5. Deviously creative associations to help me remember names.

6. Colleagues who are friendly and persistent at interacting with my small child.

7. Getting myself a gym membership. Oo, interval programs!

8. Miniature sunflower varieties cheerfully blooming despite the drought.

9. Another awesome haircut by my talented hairstylist. It looks great even when it's still damp.

10. Patriotic music at Fourth of July parades. *sniffle sniffle*

Bonus: The little girl talk, talk, talking.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Reclaiming It Inch By Inch

I've been very engrossed in my yard and garden since Winter/early Spring when we've had some areas cleared out. I finally feel I can make a difference in the jungle that tries to creep up and swallow everything.

I've been using my FlyLady techniques of working in small increments of time, and it's made a huge difference. Every week, I spend, say, five minutes weeding around the edge of the driveway, ten minutes weeding and picking up branches, another 15 cutting up old brush or pruning the next shrub in line or reviving the plantings around the patio, or whatever area I'm focusing on.

I and my husband both have been astounded/delighted at the the changes. Those little bits here and there are piling up into significant change, and my vision for the space is taking shape. So it's no wonder that every day and every week, I'm eager to go out and make more progress.

Yesterday I:
Spent about four hours working.
Filled our yard waster container plus three extra bags with vines and debris.
Weeded more ivy back beside the driveway.
Weeded more ivy back near the fence.
Took down some dried vines from a tree.
Weeded around an old fence fragment in prep for it being dismantled.
Cut large vine roots and yanked up as much as I could.
Weed-whacked around the fig trees and the back fence.
Yanked more vines and ivy from around some existing daffodils and day lilies.
Inspected the volunteer plum that has real green fruit starting.
Threw out random pieces of archeological trash.
And cleared space to dig a hole in prep for one of the new hydrangeas.

Among other things.

In the front yard, I've enacted numerous small jobs over several weeks, such as:
Transplanted the daffodils that are in the wrong place, and replanted them with the others, and dividing them while I was at it.
Planted some small bulb iris out near the street where they'll look pretty for passer-byers.
Planted bulb iris in some of the front gardens to fill in gaps.
Raked and reseeded swaths of the front yard.
Added mulch around the sugarberry/hackberry tree.
Yanked out small springs of poison ivy.
Planted a couple bunches of Purple Tongue plant.
Weeded around the front gardens.
Added more compost to the front vegetable gardens, and planted various tomatoes (heirloom, plum, cherry) and herbs (lemon verbena, thyme, basil, lavender) and some marigolds near the tomatoes.
Planted more lavender in the porch garden.
Planted snapdragons for annual color.
Started to prune the Japanese maple that are started to gangle all over the front beds like lanky adolescents.
Mulch, mulch, mulched.

And that's not even considering the side yard!

But in the backyard, I'm really getting going.

I've been plotting out the space for new fruit trees (slowly replenishing the yard from its early years), ripping up ivy or other vines from its forays into relatively pristine lawn, and getting ready to put in some raised beds for new vegetable gardens.

The raised beds will run parallel to but five feet away from the side fence that we share with our neighbors. It's in one of the few still sunny areas on our property, so I'm excited about making attractive use of it with both vegetables and flower plantings.

In a related area, I'll add on to existing flower plantings to create a more substantial visual point. In another area of the side yard, I'm going to add some attractive flowering shrubbery to make visual peace with our neighbors - I know they are tired of looking at our junky side yard, and we could use more pretty screening greenery. I might mulch along the fence line or not. I certainly want to reseed the lawn in the areas previously covered by the huge bales of honeysuckle, grapevine, and other vines.

Our neighbors have been undertaking their own progression. They've started a terraced patio behind their house, had a beautiful fence put up along the back of the property, killed off their entire backyard lawn with R0undup and just this week, reseeded. Makes my wincing use of herbicide look rather puny, huh?

And of course, all this fervent activity is not without its side results. Every other workday, I pull a tick or two off of myself. I get bitten, scratched, sprayed with dirt from recaltrient roots, and end up with twigs and inchwords in my hair if I'm ducking under branches. Various chiggers take up residence under my clothes, and I come in with too much sun, or itchy reactions on my face or arms. Oo, and I have an allergic reaction to poison ivy. Yes, it's official now. I have prescriptions, yo.

But I'm also getting a terrific workout! I pull, I sweat, I drag and hack. My upper body especially enjoys this, but my legs get into the act too. Today, I'm stiff all over from my four hours of sustained work. Oh, and I am able to fit into some of my pre-pregnancy jeans now. Also, my bicepts have apparently been replaced by painful rocks. That's all thanks to all my ivy-pulling.

It reminds me of backpacking; even when one is tired, one keeps going and going and going at a slow but manageable yet steady pace. And at the end of this sweatiness, I've cleared more space, or neatened another patch of ground, or spruced up another overgrown shrub. You know that song "inch by inch"? I'm living it. Another few inches, another section of ground looking happier.

Can't wait to build those beds and put in some Summer vegetables. Can't wait for it to start looking like a proper happy yard again.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

ten good things - May edition

Yes, it's May! Yippee! And I have at least ten good things to share, I'm sure of it.

1. strawberry season Freshly picked, nom nom, piled with angle food cake, ice cream and whipped cream for dinner - need I say more?

2. the little girl sleeping through the cats' nightly rackets

3. friendly neighbors and their children

4. snapdragons in rosy and pale colors

5. regular rain! Drought, drought, go away.

6. fresh rhubarb to go with the strawberries

7. the 50% coupon my sister gave me to buy fruit trees

8. organizers, callers and dancers who feed my interest in calling squares

9. rereading the Clan of the Cave Bear series Only twenty or thirty years or so after the first time.

10. playing with new accessory combinations whee!

Bonus: Little girl trying to sing along with Beatles songs. She loves you, yeahyeahyeah, we all live in a yellow submarine.


Friday, May 6, 2011

Fighting the Equivalent Evil

So I've been throwing myself at the yard this Winter and Spring. We had some people come and hack back limbs and brush on more than one occasion, and those portions are looking amazingly better. And as often happens, I'm inspired to tweak the upkeep.

Most recently, we had the side yard and fence line hacked back. Wow! We actually have a back yard! And now we have space to plant more fruit trees - hehe. This is part of my long-term yard revitalization, bringing it back from years of tangled neglect into a more usable space.

And although we've already dropped gobs of money on house renovations and yard reworkings this year, we are excited about the space. I've even gotten my husband excited about planting some raised garden beds for vegetables in back. That's in addition to the fruit trees I'm putting in shortly.

Anyhoo, it's been lovely and invigorating going out to rip up vines and clear brush every other evening, and watching old plantings gain more space. But in the process, I've been seeing other things start to grow. Things like... poison ivy. Ugh. It sends out its little rootlings everywhere and anytime it sees an opening, zammo - it pops out a few leaves and starts growing like heck. Urk. Like, growing all over the back! Ack! Ack!

Now, plain old ivy does not bother me. I can rip it up along with the other five or six named and unnamed vines infesting my lawn and trees and shrubbery and anything not moving fast enough. But poison ivy? Nonono. That stuff is eeeeviiiilllll.

I had been keeping ahead of most of it with daily weedings (bag over the hand technique), but the recent rains have given the stuff real legs. And it was popping up in swaths. Swaths! Sadly, that is not an exaggeration. All over the middle of the back yard, mind you!

I thought to myself that if we didn't get ahead of it, it was going to literally take over the back yard to the point to not being able to walk to the fig trees, and I couldn't bear it.

So then I was thinking to myself - I hate the heavy duty herbicides, but that's exactly what we need to knock the stuff back. I refuse to acquiesce to this horrible stuff just as we are regaining our yard.

I finally found some kind of lawn herbicide was wasn't going to immediately kill me, and said, okayokay, I can do this. I've got the long pants and the long-sleeved shirt and the gloves and all.

This evening I went out while the light was still good and zapped every sprig I could lay my eyes on. Which was a lot. In fact, I was finding large leaves of it in places I hadn't even seen it before. Ugh! So I kept going and kept going, and the bottle started running a little low. I thought, well, I'll use up as much of it as I can tonight! And I was trying to not step on the evil stuff as I was spraying, and trying to not step in the evil stuff I'd already sprayed and trying to not think too hard about the drips soaking into my gloves, and the exposure I might be getting. At least it did not stink.

I got about three-quarters of the way around, and I said Okay That is Enough! And I wrapped up the bottle and threw it out and went in to wash the darn gloves and then strip and stuff my clothing into the washer. And tell my husband that the little girl is not allowed in the back yard for a week, at least, although the spray is supposed to dry to rain-proof within hours. I just can't stand the idea of the wee one tromping through it. In fact, maybe she can stay out of the back yard until this whole mess is over. Like, maybe, June.

I thought I felt a little lump in my throat, and I guzzled lots of water to help flush out random toxins. It's ugly stuff, but I think the poison ivy is worse. And if anybody wants to argue with me about how horrible the toxins are that are capable of killing the stuff, why yes, I do agree, and I'd like to invite you to come over every other day and pull it up for me by hand instead!

I can't wait to see that nasty stuff shrivel up and die. And then I'll really get my yard back. I just may have to get some new gloves so I can get back to work.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

ten good things

Hello, it's been too long. I've been engaging with the life in front of me. And I have ten good things to list. At least ten.

1. The little girl dancing and dancing and dancing to live, lively, exciting music, with the occasional little hop. "Oh! That's some good dancing!" she says.

2. Sitting in the sunshine for an hour, talking to one of my original mentors and teachers.

3. The little girl petting the cat every so gracefully, head to tail. And the cat does not object.

4. Dinner inspirations: Mahi mahi braised with roasted potatoes, red peppers and mushrooms, with plenty of garlic, curry paste, basil, thyme, marjoram, turmeric, chili powder and paprika.

5. My dear husband taking child bedtime duty yet again.

6. Peonies getting ready to burst into profuse blooms.

7. Unearthing my wildly overgrown half acre and creating new outdoors spaces.

8. Dancing with friends, immersed in irrepressible music and happy faces.

9. Personal stories of birth and death and amazing grace and heartbreaking tragedy, pulling us all into what it means to be human.

10. Community smiles and delight in the latest small person to practice being a part of the community.

Bonus: The little girl learning to interact with other people: playing ball with neighboring boys, handing a balsa wood airplane to a friend again and again for one more glide, and daring to chat with big people.

beach - toes in sand 200


Saturday, February 26, 2011

Slowly, I Get A Lot Done

Whoa, I have been too busy to keep up with the internet much. Sorry! But I have been throwing myself at numerous practical/fun projects, fed my numerous inspirations.

I've been reading and enjoying all the breath-of-fresh-air inspirations on SouleMama's blog. I don't live on a homey homestead in Maine with a gaggle of kids, but I create my own version of that in urban/suburban North Carolina.
Baking homemade pans of vegetarian lasagna (nearly every week) with squash and zucchini and carrots and sometimes other green things.

Writing out a weekly menu on a little white board. There is the lasagna, of course, and vegetable stir fries with fish, or a stew or soup or simply a pot of brown rice to eat with sauteed veggies or stew or baked into a casserole or eaten plain with a little salt or cheese.

Fine tuning my thrify-deal-seeking strategies. Sometimes I stock up, sometimes I say -Oh heck, not this month- but I'm always monitoring and adjusting and learning to be wiser.

Slowly moving salvaged/scavaged field rock for my new garden wall. This has been on hold for several years. Every week, I try to move a few more sets of stone over to my launching pad for the assembly.

Moving towards sweater inspirations from SouleMama. I've never knit a sweater, but I knitted mittens for a gift recently (first time for that also), so this can't be that much harder, just different. I can follow directions. I just need to assemble my materials and attention.

Slowly cleaning up the last tree to come down during the arborist crew's visit. Most of the major tree debris was chipped into an impressive pile of mulch. Mulch slowly being moved about in the yard. The last tree did not make it into that pile, so I am chipping and clipping away at the pile of branches and filling up yard waste bins every week. And then there are always stray branches and leaves et al to clean up.

Walking to the park with my little girl when the weather allows it. Some days she wears snow pants for the cold, others, a hat for the sun. She gets playground time, and I get a workout from pushing baby+stroller up and down swoopy hills in the neighborhood.

Visiting the library regularly. I end up reading a variety of books in the evening. I have my stack, and the little girl has her stack. Every so often I return things on time. Some times we make it there for story time or craft time. In between, we read, read, read.

Finishing the hand quilting on a coverlet comforter for the little girl. The project is thrown together and not very precise, except for my vision of what it will be: a fluffy-soft-cozy-colorful comforter with double layers of insulating batting for keeping warm on cold nights. Only the edging left to sew. I've been working on this since before Christmas. Hopefully completed before Spring! Other quilting/sewing projects are lingering around.

Sewing up a set of "door snakes" or draft stoppers. Another SouleMama inspiration, I think. Looking for some basic muslin to make these, I came across an old (stained but sturdy) set of pillow cases. I cut them up and sewed them up. Now I just have to fill them up! In the same vein, I'm starting to tackle weather stripping on the doors, which we suddenly realize need it, badly.

Finding a filter to fit our new furnace vent. Oddly enough, given the location of it, we need something other than the high-end pleated filters. Even more oddly, the cheaper version is hard to come by.

Started amassing a pile of microfiber and other cleaning cloths in an attempt to reduce our paper towel usage.

Calling up friends or relatives to chat or visit at opportune slices of time. Snagging conversation and sharing or sharing food. It's not that I have lots of time to visit, but I try to catch those moments.

Keeping up with the little girl on a daily, hourly basis. I try to throw in a little art, a little number play, a little music, a little directed imaginative playtime in small bites. She herself pursues lots of activities and talks about them all the while. I am continually amazed and entertained by the breadth and creativity of her verbal expressiveness. I think she might take after her gregarious mother. :) She's reciting books and singing songs and pretending to give shots to the cats. She's survived her first ear infection and learned to take her medicine happily. She's also warming up for her terrible twos. Whee! Being present to her as she explores the world and develops into her own understanding is a worthy endeavor, always.

Yes, I'm still trying to eat less, declutter more (I didn't even mention the on-going office project!), be present, be appreciative of the life in front of me. If all my projects are progressing slowly or imperfectly, they are still progressing. Progress over perfection, I say. And it's so nice to be present to what I have.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Ten Minute Toddler Crafting

I've been trying to do more crafting with the little girl these days. Not only has she been missing out on the wild and messy fun side of creativity, but she hasn't had as many opportunities to practice her important fine motor skills as I'd like.

I'm finding it a little challenging. One is not born knowing how to swipe a glue stick, and I find myself being absurdly anxious about it. To which I tell myself: Oh just stop! Perfect is not the point!

My number one task: Relaxing enough to let my natural neat-freakness go while the little girl makes creative messes without my visible or audible complaint.

Her number one task: Figuring out how things fit together. You mean this goes on there? And then what? Oh, it looks pretty, yes. And then something else will stick to it? Get out!

Some of our artsy projects:

Crayons on Table or Easel
We've tried regular crayolas, washable crayons, and large, triangular washable crayolas. I like the washable aspect, but even the regular ones have been fun. We have taped pieces of paper to her little table, but now that she has an easel, that's even easier to scribble daily. And she's been wanting to learn a writing grip. She calls the triangular crayons "pens" and asks us to "help hold it." She then tells us, "Ah signing my name," which I think is a take-away concept from the book, Little Bear's Friend. (After his friend, Emily, gives Little Bear a pen, his mother teaches him how to hold it so he can learn to write his name.) We've also been practicing making "M" lines up and down and circles. (That's had minimal progress so far, but you know... baby steps.)
Pros: Immediate feedback, immediate color, immediate gratification. It does not matter how you hold it.
Bonus: Results can be used for thank you notes.
Cons: Non-washable waxy color may end up under fingernails or in odd places like books or walls or car seat straps.

Round Ink-Paints
These are water soluble inks contained in a colorful ball shape with a little brush sticking out. The ball shape is supposed to be easier for little hands to hold, but she's been finding them hard to direct. The little brushes end scraping the paper sideways rather than head on because of the way she's holding them. She was also mightily interested in the brushes themselves (a stiff acrylic), and would finger the bristles repeatedly, getting inks all over her fingers. But we tried pressing her ink-stained fingers onto the paper to make finger prints, and making blobs of ink on paper folded in two for Rorschach-like designs.
Pros: Bright, no-spill colors, very easy clean up with NO color residue.
Cons: Sometimes hard to get the ink started and not as easily directed as a pencil shape.

Draw the Face
I drew largish circles on a piece of paper and talked her through the parts of the face, drawing as I went. She knows all the parts and enjoyed the naming parts. Then I had her try to approximate the locations on a fresh blank circle herself. Scribble, scribble. Well, maybe I need larger circles or she needs more practice. Oh, well. It was good for a few minutes at the car mechanics'.
Pros: Quick and easily adapted to the materials on hand.
Cons: She may not be up to the task. (Yet!)

Stickers in Shapes
This was another project I just winged after reading about it. I drew a heart shape on a piece of paper and had her place numerous small stickers inside the shape. She did not quite understand the concept of placing them inside the lines, but she had the concept of placing them, if not placing them in a particular place.
Pros: It's easy to press stickers to stay, and it's good practice placing within a shape. Not much prep work required other than having stickers available.
Cons: One could go through a lot of stickers.

Glue Sticks and Tissue Paper Collage
I finally found the new glue sticks I'd bought, and pulled out the box of colorful tissue paper scraps I'd prepared earlier, and a piece of paper upon which to stick them. Then we had a short tutorial on how to apply the glue via stick, how to pick a piece of tissue, place it where there was some glue, and press it down. It was harder for her than you'd think. She wanted to hold the glue stick and draw with it. The glue made a pretty purple streak which faded as it dried. I had her stick her finger on it. Oh! You mean it's sticky? She did chose her own tissue pieces and where to place them, but the matching of location and sticky spot was a point of confusion, not to mention why we were doing this at all. Although the activity was mostly a mystery to her, it was a start!
Pros: Practice making creative decisions and applying the glue. Easy to prep ahead. No end result expected other than sticking things on paper.
Cons: Glue can end up in hair, on table, etc. Selection constrained by what materials one can find.

Gingerbread Cookies
This was mostly an exercise in handling dough. At that time, it was mostly about squashing balls flat and rolling "snakes," and pressing currents into cookie shapes before baking.
Pros: Edible modeling medium. Lesson in dough > cookie transformation. Did I mention it was edible?
Cons: May want to eat raw dough.

I'm finding that when working with toddlers, it helps to not only tolerate a mess, but to prepare ahead, and to plan for a short activity. At least with us, it give the little girl maximum time to to play and explore the activity without too much frustration, and before she loses interest or gets overwhelmed. Sometimes one can move only in babysteps. At least by taking small steps, I tell myself, you eventually get somewhere different! So it's still good. And hopefully, fun!

The website Kids Craft Weekly has been a recent source of inspiration. I am wanting to make sparkly glitter bugs next, maybe in a heart shape for Valentine's Day.

Other ambitions: fingerpainting, painting with real brushes and real paint, stamping with paint, making valentines-theme crafts (colored cellophane to sticky clear paper, etc), using real glue (gasp!), and somebody was making making soft pretzels recently, so we want to, too (yum!). I have some good inspirations these days.

Now must find or make craft smock!