Saturday, October 31, 2009

October Selection for Children's BOTM

This month's book is called "Just Like Floss" by Kim Lewis. This is a charming story about a new litter of Border Collie pups born on a farm, and how the children decide which one to keep to help out with the sheep. I love Lewis's beautiful, detailed illustrations of farm life in England. She actually lives on a farm in Northumberland and draws her inspiration from her everyday life. I also love the stories about Border Collies because my family has had two Border Collies, Chessie (no longer with us, but who looked just like Floss) and Nip, who still lives with my parents in Florida.
I just found this one on Kim Lewis's website, and I had to share it because it goes so well with my last post!
This is one we own- it is a wonderful story of a lamb that gets lost from its Ma, but reunited thanks to the help of Floss. I also love the shepherd in this book, he is gentle and wise, and leads Floss with great care as he helps Ma and Baa reunite.

Stay tuned for some great Thanksgiving books in November, both of which have recipes that you can make with your children. I promise I will post them before Thanksgiving!

Snow Boots and Memories

As the leaves fall, the geese wheel overhead in their southward flight, and the jackets come out of storage I am looking forward to snow and fondly revisiting the snows of my life. Most of them occurred many years ago when I was young and suffered no inconvenience from a day spent in the snow, besides chapped skin and numb fingers and nose. As one grows older I imagine the snow turns into a mere annoyance, nasty gray piled up stuff on the sidewalk, a driving hazard and the reason for delays and postponements. I hope, now that I live in a place where it snows that I will throw off my boring adult responsibility and go flying down a convenient hill with a whoop of joy as the snow sprays out behind me, with my own children piled on the sled in front of me.

My first recollections of snow are from my time in Michigan when I was in elementary school. My dad was stationed outside of Battle Creek, and we enjoyed many good snows- I mean lots and lots of snow. I remember it piled high on either side of our driveway. I remember my dad shoveling and shoveling and then having to do it again the next day. I had my own pair of cross-country skis, and I remember how hard it was as a little child to keep up with the rest of my long-legged family on the trails. My brother and I and the neighborhood kids spent hours and hours building snow forts and snow men and snow angels- there are really so many possibilities with some good packing snow. One fort we built was so solid we actually had a candle burning inside. I don’t remember much sledding in Michigan, and I’m assuming it’s because it was pretty flat in those parts. White Christmases were commonplace there, and it was so lovely-snow frosting the wreath on the front door and tucked snugly in the corners of our windows.

The clothes I used to wear for the snow are fun to remember too. Moon boots were my favorite- big clunky, and soft, they were lightweight and pretty stylish for kids back then. Then I had the ski-pants overalls that would go “whisk, whisk, whisk” when I walked. They were poofy and cozy, and I didn’t have to worry about my pants falling down when they became soaked from the wet snow. Top that with a poofy coat and all that was left was my choice of mittens or gloves and a hat. I remember a pair of mittens I had that had a string holding them together that was made to run behind my back and down my sleeves, so I never lost a mitten. As I got older, I guess that was less necessary, and it was also slightly uncomfortable. I always liked fun hats with pom-poms on them. The struggle with hats was itchiness. I remember getting so sweaty and itchy from those hats, but they really were necessary if you wanted to keep your ears.

My most favorite snow memories are from the years we spent in Jefferson, Maryland, a small town about an hour from DC. We lived in a wonderful house that backed up to a dairy farm in the rolling hills that were largely undeveloped back then. It really was a dreamy place to live all year round, but for now I will focus on snow days. It snowed quite a bit in Maryland, not as much as Michigan of course, but enough to really have good times. We lived so far out in the country that sometimes we couldn’t get out of our driveway and, darn it, we had to miss school when it snowed. Our neighbor had a large truck with a snow-plow attachment, and he would plow our cul-de-sac when the big trucks couldn’t get out to us.

We had the old wooden and red metal Yankee Clipper Sleds that you could steer with the front handles, and since our yard was a hill, we would sail down again and again. At some point we acquired the inner tube from a tractor tire, and we would walk over to the farm that had steeper, longer hills, and climb on this massive, bouncy inner tube and fly down. My brother and his friends built a snow ramp that we would aim for, and it was incredible fun launching off the ramp, landing helter-skelter. The hard part was tramping back up the hill for another ride. We always wished for a ski-lift, but we were kids with boundless energy and we didn’t really care. I remember going inside after a day of sledding- exhausted, rosy cold cheeks, wet and chafing, but so happy. Hot chocolate awaited. It really makes me smile to remember.

I loved waking up at night to see it snowing outside my window. It was so magical, peaceful, to see the flakes dancing their flighty downward dance. We had one street light in the cul-de-sac and it would create a spotlight, an outward reaching glow that allowed me to see the falling snow. I would get back in bed with the delicious hope of a snow day in the morning.

I loved lying in the snow ever so quietly beside one of our Christmas trees that we had planted. (We bought live trees and planted them each year after Christmas.) Little birds would hop about in the tree and send down little avalanches of snow. They would hop near me, and I had to be very still so they wouldn’t fly away. I loved the feeling of being part of this wild outdoor world that I treasured.

When the flakes start falling this year, my heart will leap up and I will bundle up the kids in the snow boots that I have already purchased, and their whispery snow pants and poofy jackets, wooly hats and gloves, and we will play in the snow, roll in it, eat it and have a wonderful romp. Then we will go back inside to the enveloping warmth of the the kitchen, sip hot cocoa - spinning a whole new web of memories for me and, I hope, wonderful first-snow memories for my children.

Ruthie's New Haircut

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Life in the not so Fast Lane

Sure to make you lose your mind... Ruthie practicing her "mean" face. Go away mean ole traffic.

Gridlock and the Three Bears, hmmmm. Well two of the bears were asleep.

This is us, stuck in traffic on the way home from the Pumpkin Patch.
Insane in the membrane.
But despite the pain
We decided to refrain
From starting to complain
We crossed to the fun lane
And began to feign
Our disdain
For this bane
Of our life in Alexain'
Yo Yo Yo
Did you like my refrain? I should totally quit my day job and become a rapper. What would a good rapper name be for me? Hmmmmm.....

Friday, October 23, 2009

Pumpkin Patch

It was a beautiful fall day in Northern Virginia so we went with my new friend Laurie and her kids Mella (3) and Dante (16 months or so) to a church nearby that does a pumpkin patch. Note the changing leaves! (It brings me such joy.) We all had fun, even Harris who attempted to eat some grass and leaves during his photo shoot. Mac was very agreeable as you can see, cheesed it up- maybe showing off his new very short buzz. Doesn't Ruthie look so grown up in that top picture? I was telling a friend just this week how it seems to me that all the baby girl is gone and she is just total young lady now. Sigh.

So the pumpkins came home, and I put them outside in the yard/patio, but the stinking squirrels, apparently cash strapped due to the state of the economy, have started eating our pumpkins. I moved the pumpkins inside, perhaps rather uncharitably, but really, squirrels need to stick to acorns. I hope they got squirrel diarrhea. Serves them right.

6 months old

Harris is now 6 months and just a joy- full of smiles, even with his thumb in his mouth. He is sitting up strongly, but still needs the boppy behind him just in case. Harris is very active, constantly kicking and moving and wiggling when I hold him or when he's in his saucer or just playing on the floor. Today I promise you, he said ma-ma-ma-ma, very clearly, several times during the day. It is precious, of course, and precocious too. I don't remember my other two talking quite this early. He chose the right word for his first, let me tell you.
We are past the feeding issues we were having around 3 or 4 months, he is nursing well and also enjoying solids. He still spits up a ton, but it doesn't seem to be painful or problematic to him, he just spews and keeps playing. It is problematic to me mainly in the laundry department. He and I change clothes frequently during the day, or just go around smelling like nasty milk.
Harris's check up on Thursday went well- he is 16 lbs 2 oz. and 26 inches tall. Not sure about percentiles and his other measurements. The doctor said he is growing great!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Mountains! the Abode (it was not Adobe)

Some friends from Mobile let us use their beautiful home, about an hour west of Asheville. It sits up on a winding road, surrounded by woods. You have to actually ford a stream to get up to it! See the picture of the waterfall? That flows down over the road, and the footbridge, where you see the kids, is below the road. The picture of me and Mac is on the back deck, where they have birdfeeders and we saw several bird species including two of my faves, the black-capped chickadee and the tufted titmouse. The house also has an ivy-ringed pond, with cool, clear water, and a swing off to one side (but no swinging into the pond). It is just a peaceful place, perfectly situated. We loved it and we thank our friends so much for opening their home to us!

(this is from a random overlook off the BR Parkway-a mile high)

Mountains! Fun with trash

The house we stayed in did not have trash pick-up so we bagged it up in small bags and distributed it in trash receptacles across the Blue Ridge Parkway. It got to be pretty funny. Ok, maybe you had to be there.

Mountains! Part Two

Day Three we climbed Waterrock Knob again, which is a short hike, at only 1.2 miles roundtrip, and moderately strenuous with an elevation gain of 412 feet. The kids went on this hike and really did wonderfully. Ruthie dealt with some fear, but she toughed it out. Mac was a trooper, and Harris did the best of all, riding on his mama. He had just fallen asleep as we started taking the pictures of us at the top, above. It was clear on the way up (see the first two pics), but some clouds rolled in just as we reached the top-we tried to wait a bit, but that is the best we could do! The elevation at the top of Waterrock Knob is 6292 feet, and it is the 16th highest mountain in the Eastern United States! Not too shabby for the kids' first summit!

We came down the mountain and ate lunch in a scenic little town called Maggie Valley, then drove more of the Parkway till we found another trail to attempt. It had an amazing overlook and then you plunge downward through thick forest. The path was leafy and easy going.


Our trip to the mountains of North Carolina was really wonderful- crazy but wonderful. Crazy because we had six children under the age of 5 under one roof for five days and five nights. (Equivalent of 4 year old twins, 3 year old twins, 1 year old toddler and a nursing infant.) Wonderful because we were all together, enjoying the beauty to be found around every corner.

Our journey to North Carolina was rough. We got stuck in traffic and it took us two hours to get out of the city- this on top of a way later start time because Jay couldn't get away from work. Hindsight being 20/20 we now know not to even attempt to leave the city anytime on a Friday besides maybe the butt crack of dawn- and this was a holiday weekend for government employees, which means everybody around here. Groan is all I can say. We ended up having to get a hotel that night and arrived in NC the next afternoon. It was rainy and cloudy but we managed to get in a good hike up to the top of WaterRock Knob (which we reclimbed later), it was just discouraging because all views were obscured.

Day Two was overcast, and what that means at higher elevations is zero visibility because you're in the clouds. We drove around on the Blue Ridge Parkway which is right around the corner from where we stayed. It is one of the most beautiful drives in the US, and even though it was cloudy the woods were so beautiful with all the changing leaves. We did see some mountain views during some breaks in the cloud cover, like the pics above. As we drove around and around on the curving roads, my brother, who was driving his Suburban up ahead of our van, suddenly slowed and pulled over. Alan got out sort of laughing, and my Dad came back and said that Alee (almost 3) and Annabelle (4) had just thrown up. It was a bonafide Barf-o-Rama! So we had some haz-mat clean up and alot of laughing- except from the poor, green-faced bewildered kiddos. Let me just say that Alan drives like a wildman on those curvy roads, and the Suburban is no minivan! Ha! We made it to our picnic destination and had a nice lunch on Mt. Pisgah (and we couldn't even see the promised land!) and the kids played soccer and ran around for a while.

We headed back to the house but my brother saw a promising trail head down at a lower elevation so we pulled off and went for a hike on a nice, level path along a rocky, rushing river- I think it was the North Fork of the Pigeon River. I can't remember the name of the trail, but it was lovely. I even found a spring bubbling up beside the river.

I always have to steal my kisses from you...

So the blossoming romance continues between beautiful Isabelle and handsome little Harris. Their recent visit only reaffirmed their mutual affection. Isabelle was very bold in initiating some play-date hand-holding, and Harris was only too thrilled to comply. There was the rumor of a first kiss as well, undocumented and not necessarily approved by the attending chaperones.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Now hear this...

Attention all readers of hodgepodge- I am officially making my blog private in the next couple of days-please comment on this post with your email address if you are a reader and want to keep reading! All family and friends already in my email address book (those I email on a regular basis) will automatically go on the list. You'll just have to log in to see my blog. Been pondering this for awhile- and I think it is a wise decision, thanks for bearing with me! I am also pondering a spin-off blog for children's literature- and maybe some writing of mine too, both of which would be public. Thanks for being a reader, I appreciate all of you!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Sunny and High of 59

The five days of rain are past. It is amazing to me how much the sun or lack thereof affects my mood. I like this quote by English essayist Joseph Addison- (and I wonder if I could ever live in the Arctic circle, or Seattle. I seriously depend on Vitamin D it seems.)

"A cloudy day or a little sunshine have as great an influence on many constitutions as the most recent blessings or misfortunes."

It is so true, but it makes me wish I were more constant, less affected by physical things. Like Harris being up so much in the night last night, pain in my knees, or days of gloomy rain.

This brings me to two of my favorite things about God that go together really. His immutability and self-existence. Unchanging-ness and un-neediness. He is not affected by the weather, the political climate or hair loss. He does not need oxygen to survive, or food to keep him alive. He is all he needs. He does not grow tired or weary and mouth off at people. He does not get depressed. He is steady and true, He depends on nothing but himself to thrive and survive. This is so attractive to me, one, because I am not that way, and two, because I can fall on him as my rock, my anchor, my sustenance. And I really need an anchor because "the sea is so wide, and my boat is so small." And I really need sustenance because I am weak and frail.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Mount Vernon

Day three with Jen and Brandon was spent at Mt. Vernon, a hop, skip and a jump from our very own estate. It is an amazing place, sort of like a historical Disneyland without the rides and with way better views. There are people in period dress walking around, and we got to see Martha Washington sewing and a real blacksmith who makes things that are used on the farm and estate. Our neighborhood is located on one of George's five original farms which qualifies us as "neighbors" of Mt. Vernon. We can get passes and special invites throughout the year. I can't wait to see the house decorated for Christmas!

Friday, October 16, 2009

"The best thing one can do when it's raining is to let it rain.”-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

It has been raining for three days now.
Two days to go.
And it is cold.
Come back sunny fall weather.

First Tooth!

Can you see it?

A is for Apple Orchard

The second day Jen and Brandon were here we went to Stribling Orchard to pick our own apples. It threatened rain, but then cleared up, and was really the perfect day for picking-not too hot, not too cold. We picked Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Stayman Winesap, Rome and McIntosh varieties. Alot of the apples were up high and they had these Lacrosse-looking poles for reaching up and picking. The orchard was very hilly, and we rested at the top and enjoyed the view (see top picture). All in all a very fun day.