Monday, March 31, 2008
Eight Questions About Our Lives Because Eight Questions Are Plenty
1. What is the best part of your life right now?
I am blessed. I can count my blessings and really feel them. I wake up in the morning and know that I have been blessed beyond measure. I am healthy. I have a husband who loves me enough to build a chicken coop even though he could not care less about chickens. I have children who teach me and challenge me to be a better person. I have dear friends who care about me, who make me laugh and who make me think. I live in a beautiful home and have healthy food to eat and clean water to drink.
2. What do you think the best part of the near future will be?
Learning with my children and watching them all grow. They are all on the threshold of new adventures. Planting the garden and watching it grow. Swinging in the hammock in the sunshine. Living my life.
3. What are you most afraid of?
Losing a child. Losing my memories. Getting old. Dying young.
4. What are you a little worried about?
Steering, parenting, guiding my girls through their teen years. What if I say the wrong things? What if I don't say the right things? What if they make serious mistakes? What if I do?
I'm not consumed with worry over the lovely ladies, but it's in the back of my mind, always. They're such shining lights. I love them so much. I want them to be happy and successful.
5. What do you dream of?
Literally? The most bizarre things you can imagine.
Figuratively, as in my hopes and aspirations? I dream of living a simple life, a mindful life, a thoughtful life. I want to live in the country and raise chickens and bees and blueberries. I want to choose my life, not drift through it.
6. Who do you trust the most to share these things with?
My husband. My dear friends. My sisters. My mom.
Look how many people I've got in my life with whom I can share my hopes and dreams. I am blessed.
7. What questions do you have?
You know, I expect that this question was intended to trigger specific questions related to the group for whom the questionnaire was originally intended, but isn't this a good general question? We all have questions, big ones and little ones. What do we really want to know?
Why is there evil in the world?
How many stars are in the sky?
Do people like me?
Are the colors that you see the same as the colors I see?
What is the purpose of all of this? What is my purpose?
Who in heaven's name thought up the Chia pet and said to themselves, "Hey, that's a great idea?"
8. What gifts and skills can you share?
Gifts: Passion and enthusiasm. Flexibility. Delight. The ability to cut to the heart of a problem. And to solve it. A connection to the natural world. A genuine desire to see the best in other people.
Skills: Stuff I can do? I can multi-task like nobody's business. I can clip a chicken's wings. I can overthink just about anything. I can walk and chew gum at the same time. I can climb a tree. I can teach. I can learn.
I'm going to turn this into a meme. I'm even going to "tag" people, even though I'm always a little afraid to leave someone out. What if someone gets hurt feelings at being left out? Then you'll secretly hate me.
Or what if a person I've tagged thinks it's dumb? Or what if they think I'm dumb? What if I tag you and you already secretly hate me, and you roll your eyes and say, "She's so dumb."
What if I just get over myself already and invite a few people to play along and (now I'm really stretching here, so bear with me) realize that since your lives are not about me (go figure) then if you don't want to play, it's probably got nothing to do with me at all, even if you do think I'm dumb????
So here's who I'll tag:
My Irie sis, because she's smart and I like to read and hear what she has to say. And because even if she thinks I'm dumb, she's too polite to tell me. I think.
Melly, because she's thoughtful, as in full-of-thought, and her thoughts make me think new thoughts of my own.
Laura, because she likes to do a Tuesday Ten every now and then. Plus she's smart too.
Karisma, because she's funny and I like reading about her life.
Lanna, because both her picture and her "voice" remind me of a dear friend.
And...I know I have to stop sometime, but I want to add Sara because even though I don't know her in real life, I know I like her.
And anyone else who wants to play, even if you secretly hate me because I left you out or if you think I'm dumb.
Growing with grace. What a lovely sentiment, one worth working toward. Life is good.
Sunday, March 30, 2008
Well, we'll use the word "family" loosely.
Most family members won't end up in the crockpot if they don't earn their keep. Just in case, maybe we shouldn't give them names. For weeks after Lucy, er, left us, every time we had chicken for dinner, the fine young gents asked, "Is this Lucy?"
Oops. Too late.
The names are, apparently, Kettle, Pot, Cotty and Squirrel. I did not name them. Obviously. Who names a chicken "Squirrel"? A seven-year-old, that's who. His five-year-old brother came up with Pot and Kettle. And Cotty.
We are all smitten.
Friday, March 28, 2008
Thursday, March 27, 2008
It looks like an overgrown path. It's really the wagon ruts left by wagons passing over the Oregon Trail. After so many years, they're still there, worn into the land. Where they pass over public land, you can walk in them.
While in Baker City, we visited the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center. It's got life-sized displays and many of the museum displays center around exerpts from the diaries and journals of those who made the long journey. Admission for children under 15 is free, as are school groups and homeschool families.
From The End of the Oregon Trail website:
"They walked for 2000 miles -- men, women, and children by the tens of thousands coaxing their heavy wagons and tired oxen along the rugged, dusty trail from Missouri. With each step, they drew closer to a dream call Oregon. The story of this journey comes alive today through the life-size exhibits and living history at the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center. Set atop the summit of Flagstaff Hill, where pioneers caught their first glimpse of the Promised Land, you'll behold a sweeping vista little changed from 150 years ago. Along nearly five miles of interpretive trails, you'll see actual ruts created by pioneer wagon wheels. "
In some ways it really does come alive. By this visit, my third, I know to avoid the heart-wrenching voice recording accompanying the display of a pioneer mother mourning at the grave of her child killed on the journey. I cannot bear to listen. It's not maudlin or gruesome or frightening for the children. But I can't help putting myself in her shoes when I hear that mother's voice, weeping over her child's grave. Real mothers lost children. Husbands lost wives. Children lost fathers. Wagons broke and oxen wore out and people quarreled. It was an arduous and dangerous journey. The displays are a reflection of real experiences that real men and women, real families, real children had as they made the journey. After a visit to the museum, I find myself reflective, imagining what it must have been like to make the long journey, to risk so much. I wonder what it was these families were seeking. Adventure? A new life? Free land? A better life for their families.
New to our family was the hands-on room for children. The children's room offers a life-sized wagon replica along with large cushions so that children can pack and unpack and repack the wagon, giving visitors the opportunity to experience some of the challenge involved in decisions about what to take, what not to take, and how to fit it all into a limited space. The fine young gents, and even the lovely ladies, spent a good amount of time on this one, packing and repacking. I made sure they included the coffee every time. 'Cause no one wants to make a long trip with Mama if she's doesn't get her coffee.
And, of course, we had to bring plenty of bacon.
There's also a puppet theater with animals we'd see along the trail, a dress-up area with bonnets and aprons and hats, a table with stamps and colors, books to read, and more. Lots of things for children to do, which is important when your facility is a possible stop along a long road trip.
Below, a replica of the mill for what used to be a working mine, just down the hill.
Once you're done inside the museum, you can walk down to the mine itself. The interpretive center has trails to walk in addition to the indoor displays. There's a long walk down to the wagon ruts themselves, about a 2 hour hike down and back, as well as the shorter walk to the mill building.
The picture below is almost exactly what the pioneers saw. It's gray. It's dry. It's bumpy. It's nothing but sagebrush and grass and dust. This is beautiful country. Stunning. But its treasures are more hidden than on our lush green side of the valley. Can you imagine seeing this when you finally reached Oregon Territory, land of promise? Seriously. What would go through your head? I don't think I'd be thinking "Woohoo! We're here!" More along the lines of "You've got to be kidding me." If you look closely at the picture, you can see a faint line, a trail, running through the middle. Wagon ruts again. Still. It takes my breath away, it gives me pause to think that this amazing trek left such a scar on the land that it is still visible.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Tuesday Ten: Ten Ways to Make a Long Drive with Five Children Bearable (and maybe even kind of fun)
1. Brown bag it.
We used to eat fast food on the way. Stop for breakfast at McDonald's on the way out of town, stop for lunch and dinner anywhere that had a play place. Three reasons not to do it that way: It makes the trip longer, it's more expensive, and the kids get crabby and crazy from all of the fast food. The morning we left, I handed each kid their breakfast on the way out the door. Bagel, banana, milk in a cup with a lid and straw. The night before I pack the breakfast bags and put them in the fridge, pack a bag with lunch necessities (bread and so forth), and set a cooler on the counter. In the morning I toss lunch meat and cheese and other cold lunch items in the cooler, give the kids their breakfast bags, and we're out the door. We either eat lunch at a park on the way, or I make sandwiches during a potty stop and we eat in the car.
2. Leave early.
Another "we used to," staying in a hotel to break up the trip ($$$) or leaving after lunch and arriving in the evening. I had the big "aha" the summer my sister and her loving husband came along and wanted to leave at 4 a.m. (Guess who wasn't even out of bed when we showed up in time, even though it was his idea?) My husband is not insane, so we don't actually leave at 4 o'clock in the morning, but we do leave around 6. I make all the kids sleep in their clothes, loving husband and I load the car before we go to bed, and I set out shoes and jackets so that we can find them easily. Sixish rolls around and we roust everyone out of bed, put on their shoes and jackets, toss them their breakfast-in-a-bag, and go. Then we stop for coffee. We really plan to leave at 6 and hit the freeway between 6:30-7. (Don't tell loving husband that when I say "Let's leave around 6," I really mean, "If I tell you 6, then we'll be on the road before 7.") Not only does leaving early give us time to stop if we want, we usually reach our destination mid-afternoon instead of at bedtime, which is more fun.
3. Backpacks and blankets.
Each kid brings a backpack or bag with toys, games, art supplies and one stuffed animal. I usually put a box of animal crackers or bag of goldfish in too. The backpacks keep them busy for much of the trip. And blankets to be played with, to keep warm with,to fold up as pillows.
4. No screens.
These trips are family time. No screens allowed on the trip. No movies. No handheld games. By gum, we're going on a family trip and we're going to spend time together as a family, like it or not! A counterintuitive move, but I believe this has been our key to successful road trips, to enjoying one another's company. We're not completely tuned out. We're all watching the same things roll by the window. We all see the deer trekking over a hill, the funny-shaped rock, the rows and rows of trees. We count the waterfalls along the gorge, remark on the smoothness or choppiness of the river, notice the snow in the hills. We admire the John Day River and look at the green of the rocks in the John Day basin. Moo at the cattle. Point out the trains for the youngest gents. Look for shapes in the clouds.
When I read The Last Child in the Woods, I was struck by this passage:
"...[W]hy do so many people no longer consider the physical world worth watching? The highway's edges may not be postcard perfect. But for a century, children's early understanding of how cities and nature fit together was gained from the back seat: the empty farmhouse at the edge of the subdivision; the variety of architecture, here and there; the woods and fields and water beyond the seamy edges-- all that was and is still available to the eye. This is the landscape that we watched as children. It was our drive-by movie." (p. 62, Chapter 5: "A Life of the Senses: Nature vs. the Know-It-All State of Mind")
It reinforced my committment to our no-screen policy, not because I need someone else's ideas to validate my own, but because it frames my own thoughts so well. I believe that watching the river and the farmlands and the mountains roll by are an important part of travelling, as is learning to entertain oneself by observing and daydreaming and conversing, an active life of the mind.
I was tickled to find that our eldest lovely lady even decided to leave her cell phone at home, and told her friends she'd not be getting her text messages.
5. Don't stop.
When the littles were babies, we stopped. A lot. Most of the stops were necessary. The fine young gents were not happy travellers as babies, the two older guys, at least. One gent would scream and rage if he didn't get a travel break after 2-3 hours; the next cried in absolute misery after four hours exactly; the third was a sunny happy traveller who might cry for a bit but was easily soothed. Encapsulates their personalities in a nutshell, that does. One guy quick to anger, but easily appeased if attended to; one guy easygoing until he reaches his limit, then he's out of commission for a while; and the cheerful easygoing baby, willing to go with the flow most of the time. Anyway...back to not stopping. Trips flow more smoothly when we stay in the car, stopping to gas up and take potty breaks. We all get in the travel groove, patient and still, and it's easier to stay with the groove if we stay in the car.
When else are you going to see the sights so far from home? Instead of taking random stretch and play breaks at a dirty fast food place, we stop at Multnomah Falls and hike up to the first bridge. Or we go to Bonneville Dam and the fish hatchery, to feed the fish and to see the giant sturgeon and the huge trout. Going the other way, we stop at the fossils beds or the Painted Hills, or picnic along the John Day River.
7. "Pleeeee-eeeeee-aaaaase Do-oo-oo-oo Not Aaaaaa-aaaaaa-rgyoooooooooo! Beee-eeee-caaaaauuse if you ar-guuuuuuuuuuu--uuuuu-uuuue, I will have to sing this soo-o-o-o-o-o-ong!"
It is a very very very long song. A song which no one can listen to for long. It is loud and out of tune, and would quickly clear the room, except they're stuck. stuck. stuck.
I am gifted with the abilities to sing quite loudly, and to rhythm and rhyme just about anything. The song goes on for as long as necessary. That takes care of arguing.
We take this trip 2-3 times a year. By now they've mellowed into very good travellers. They know the routine.
9. "I'm bored."
Mom will say...
"Okay" or "Oh." (Noncommittal.)
"What would you like to do to entertain yourself?" (How are you going to solve your problem?)
"Let's play a game." (Would you like my help?)
And the show-stopper: "You are not allowed to be bored. That's your brain being lazy. If you give your brain something to do, then you won't be bored any more." (Of course they're allowed to be bored. I can't stop someone from being bored. But the funny thing is, when I tell them they can't be bored, they stop bugging me...and they find something with which to occupy themselves, all on their own. Go figure.)
10. Enjoy one another.
That's really what it's about and why I like our trips. I love hearing quiet conversations in the back seats. Hearing, "Look at that!" Looking back to discover that a sleeping child has been covered with a blanket by a sibling. It gives us a break from our going-doing-playing-working lives. We get opportunities to listen to one another uninterrupted by text messages or homework or dinner preparations. We're all in the same space, sharing the same sights and sounds. Reconnecting in small ways. Life is good.
Friday, March 21, 2008
Remember my romantic anniversary post about my beautiful wedding?
You, know, the one crashed by Darth Maul?
Mom said to me, "You know, every time I heard that story, I always wondered: Where was I while this was happening?"
(P.S. Do you see her? Maybe there was a rack full of shoes back there. Shoes on sale.)
Thursday, March 20, 2008
"Springtime's comin'," he said. "Cannot tha' smell it?"
Mary sniffed and thought she could.
"I smell something nice and fresh and damp," she said.
"That's th' good rich earth," he answered, digging away. "It's in a good humor makin' ready to grow things. It's glad when plantin' time comes. It's dull in th' winter when it's got nowt to do. In th' flower gardens out there things will be stirrin' down below in th' dark. Th' sun's warmin' 'em. You'll see bits o' green spikes stickin' out o' th' black earth after a bit."
"What will they be?" asked Mary.
"Crocuses and snowdrops an' daffydowndillys....Tha'll have to wait for 'em. They'll poke up a bit higher here, an' push out a spike more there, an' uncurl a leaf this day an' another that."
(from Chapter 7, "The Key of the Garden," The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett.)
Check out Celebrate Urban Birds! Lots of bird information and projects, a great hands-on way to enhance a bird study or just enjoy bird-watching with kids.
Sign up for a Celebrate Urban Birds kit, with free bird posters.
Information about common urban birds.
Read about Gardening for Birds.
Collect and share data online about the birds you're observing.
I've just begun poking around the site, and I know there's lots more. Thanks to Elizabeth for pointing me to this site! It's fantastic.
Enjoy! I know we will.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Saturday, March 15, 2008
"We have just launched The Great Sunflower Project, a community science project with the goal of increasing our understanding of where bees are doing poorly and how the pollination of our garden and wild plants are being affected. We're hoping you will join us by planting sunflowers in your garden. Community, demonstration, and school gardens are invited to participate. We'll send you some free native sunflower (Helianthus annuus) seed and twice a month, we'd like you to time how long it takes for 5 bees to visit one flower on that sunflower. This information will give us an index of pollination that we can compare across the United States. Once we know where bees are in trouble, we can start developing a plan to help them.
You can see the details about the project and register at http://www.greatsunflower.org/ or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Do join us!"
From the sunflower project website:
By watching and recording the bees at sunflowers in your garden, you can help us understand the challenges that bees are facing.
- It takes less than 30 minutes.
- It's easy.
- Free Sunflower seeds for planting.
- No knowledge of bees required!
This is a science-nature-garden learning opportunity in the making. Learn about bees with the Bee Guide. Learn how to plant a bee garden. And best of all, this is a hands-on project that allows you to participate in real-life research that can benefit your community.
We can't wait. Hope you'll join us!
Friday, March 14, 2008
Oregon State University Animal Sciences Department Sheep Unit
This year, lambing season is from March 5 through March 28. Open hours are weekdays AND weekends from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The barn is closed to tours and individuals after March 28.
We did not get to see a ewe give birth, but we saw lots of pregnant mamas with lambs rolling in their huge bellies, and the darling lambs we did see were worth the trip.
Directions to the OSU Sheep Center: Take Hwy 34 over the Willamette River into Corvallis (you will be on Harrison Blvd). Stay on Harrison Blvd., keeping in the middle lane, until you reach the western edge of the city. Just before the intersection of Harrison Blvd. and 53rd Street, you will pass the OSU Dairy Center on the left and a large Mormon church on the right. At the next intersection, there will be a stop light with the Fair Grounds just a couple of blocks to the south. At this intersection, Harrison Blvd. becomes Oak Creek Road (and 53rd becomes Walnut Blvd.). Proceed across the intersection, and follow Oak Creek Road 1.8 miles, until you see the OSU Sheep Center sign on your right. Turn right onto the gravel road winding uphill - you'll find the Sheep Center at the top of the hill.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
In my little profile blurb, I state that I am mom to two lovely ladies and three fine young gents. The fine young gents get lots of press here at Poohsticks, the lovely ladies not so much, so I'm giving them their moment in the sun. Ten reasons they're not often featured:
They're busy on Tuesday evenings. The elder of the two lovely ladies rushes in the door on choir afternoons, grabs a snack and her choir notebook, and they're off. No time for pictures, or for anything else.
They had a concert on Sunday. The Oregon Children's Choir Girlchoir, the middle school choir in which the lovely ladies participate, is amazing. Their choir director, Jennifer Searl, has an absolute gift for working with lovely young ladies of this age. My girls are inspired by her, and look forward to choir each Tuesday.
2. They're always doing this....
3. And this....
Reading and drawing are commendable activities, but they don't make for exciting photos. Now, if I could convince them to roll down a grassy hill.....
4. One of the lovely ladies is gone all day. She's attending the high school down the road. She leaves in the morning and isn't back until mid-afternoon. Makes it really hard to take her picture. Plus when she gets home she thinks she should do her homework and chores instead of a photo shoot. Sheesh. You'd think we'd been trying to raise a responsible kid or something.
5. The other doesn't like nature. It's sticky and dirty and there are bugs. I'm not sure she's really my child. She skips many of our nature outings and grumps through the others. And when it comes to school, just the basics, please. This hands-on stuff...not really her bag. And taking pictures of a kid doing math with her headphones on, it's just not that exciting.
6. And along that line.....
"Moooooom! Stop taking my picture!"
(I know. This isn't very nice of me, but I can't help posting it because it's funny.)
7. They are their own people, doing their own thing.
They're growing up. The fine young gents are their own people doing their own thing too, of course. But the girls are often more interested in doing their own things-- talking together, spending time on the computer, going places with friends. They still hang out with us, but it's different. Plus (see above) it's annoying to have someone pointing the camera at you all the time.
8. Their victories and their experiences are their own, and they may not feel comfortable having them shared with other people. Or rather, they want to share them on their own terms, not through my eyes. They read this blog on occasion. I wouldn't ever write anything about them that I wouldn't want them to read, that isn't what I mean. I just mean that their stories are their own, and I don't want to interpret (or misinterpret) their lives for them.
9. They're busy.
I know I mentioned that they've got a lot of activities, but I want an excuse to brag about my kids, so bear with me. One lovely lady is busy getting straight A's in school. She's taking Algebra and Japanese and Geography and Art.
10. The other is busy working on her part in another Bridgeway House production, Wonderland. She's playing the part of the white rabbit. A girl rabbit, mind you.
Thursday, March 06, 2008
We learn so much in the garden. We listened for birds, dug for worms, looked at the buds on our backyard trees, searched for flowers. We collected worms and grubs and potato bugs and ladybugs and some other kind of bug that middle young gent discovered. We let out the chickens and fed them tasty treats, worms and grubs. First grade gent and I had a long discussion about decomposition of food and other organic materials as I turned our compost. The compost pile has been neglected, so the much needed digging was a bit smelly and slimy, but it made for a great science lesson. We've been studying the African savanna and have just read about decomposers, bacteria and the like, so it was helpful to have a real-life example to offer. We also talked briefly about setting up a weekend worm stand once fishing season opens. Our compost bin is chock-full of wiggly red worms and their fatter and slower cousins.
The gents also filled some of their time taking turns with the shovel, turning the garden boxes. What wonderful work for their growing bodies! My active boys need time for big play and hard work. They enjoy digging and raking and carrying and hauling things in the wheelbarrow. After a rainy and cold winter, they need opportunities to move and run and work and jump and wiggle and splash and climb. They helped me shovel and spread the dirt from the end compost bin, the bin that's ready for the garden this year. When I took off the side panel, we found weeds growing right up against the side of the bin, so closely that once the panel was removed we saw a perfect cross-section of the plants from the top right down to the roots, just like an illustration from a biology book. In the corner was a potato bug colony, which occupied the fine young gents for quite some time, leaving me free to turn the rest of the boxes in peace without any help.
School in the garden, delightful. Peaceful bodies and peaceful spirits. Life is good.
Wednesday, March 05, 2008
Ten Tuesday: Ten Ideas for Tuesday Tens
It might be fun to do an update on my ten New Year resolutions. Um, maybe. On second thought, it may be a little embarrassing. What if my update list looks like this: Still need to do that one. That one too. Haven't even started this one. Forgot about this entirely.
2. Ten Things I Like About This Town.
A totally original idea. All mine. Well, it would be, if Alice hadn't thought of it first. I think it's a fun idea, so I'll steal it sometime. Read Alice's list here.
3. How's Your Day Going? Ten Things About How My Day is Going
As long as I'm stealing ideas, I'll steal one from my Irie sis. (Read ten things about a day in her life here.)
4. Truth or Dare.
Ten weird things about me. But I don't know what the dare part might be. But just "Truth" by itself is a little odd.
5. More Pet Peeves.
I think I did a peeve post way back, but I've got so many peeves! Like, people who are always complaining about all sorts of little unimportant gripes really peeve me.
6. Ten Favorite Poohsticks posts.
7. Ten pictures I love.
8. Ten Things I Want to Do When I'm Eighty.
I want to be like that little old lady I always see around the neighborhood. She looks like she's about 100, she's always wearing a scarf over her hair, and she has great running shoes. Up until about two years ago she jogged every day. Now she's slowed to a brisk walk.
Can't do too many of those blessings posts. I go back and re-read them periodically. As a matter of fact, when I'm feeling a little glum, down-in-the-dumps, grey and schlumpy I find a post with the tag "This Good Life" at the bottom and read about my wonderful life. It almost always works.
There I go. I'm stumped. Wanna fill in number ten for me?
Thanks. Love ya.
Tuesday, March 04, 2008
Monday, March 03, 2008
"Robert gave the box-room door a resounding kick, merely for his own satisfaction, for he knew that only the kick of a giant would have made any impression on its strong oak panels, and sat down cross-legged on the floor to consider the situation. Betsy was roaring in the bathroom, Timothy was yelling in the broom cupboard, Nan was sobbing in the linen room, and Absalom was barking his head off in the small cupboard where the boots were kept." (p. 1)
Who can resist a beginning like this one?
The resourceful and "high-spirited" (as their father calls them) Linnet children are left to live with Grandmama while their father rejoins his regiment in India. After the incident which leads them to be locked away, they escape, hop into a pony trap that's been left awaiting its driver outside an inn, and conveniently land at the home of gruff Uncle Ambrose, a vicar and retired schoolmaster who has said that he hopes never to set eyes on a child again. Naturally, the children have a smashing magical adventure in the woods and hills, foiling the spells and wickedness of a witch and reuniting a lost family. This is a delightful story. I remember curling up on the arm of the faded stuffed rocking chair when my mother read it out loud, and it was just as delightful to read it aloud to the fine young gents.
Swallows and Amazons, Arthur Ransome.
From the description in the front of the book: "This book is about sailing, fishing, swimming, camping, and piratical exploits on an uncharted lake (which bears a certain resemblance to Windermere in the Lake District). It makes the sweet freshness of the early mornings on Wild Cat Island, the long sunshiney days of adventures, and the satisfactory evenings of plotting around the campfire so real that, as one critic has said 'you don't realize it is written at all, the adventures seem to occur to oneself'. "
Swallows and Amazons was a perfect read-aloud for the fine young gents, full of adventure and daring, explorers and pirates, camping out on an island, and a real buried treasure. Captain John, Mate Susan, Able-Seaman Titty and Ship's Boy Roger, the youngest of the crew at age seven, get permission to spend their holiday camping on an island. As they sail the lake, er, the uncharted high seas, in their little boat, the Swallow, they encounter a retired sailor with a real live green parrot, and both declare war upon and befriend Amazon pirates. One of the best jokes I've ever read in a children's book: " 'Her real name isn't Nancy,' said Peggy. 'Her name is Ruth, but Uncle Jim said that Amazons were ruthless, and as our ship is the Amazon, and we are Amazon pirates from the Amazon River, we had to change her name.' "
The writing is superb, detailed and delightful, perfectly navigating the fine line between the fine and vivid imaginations of the children and their real adventures on Wild Cat Island. I couldn't wait to read the next chapter and the next and the next to discover what was going to happen next. It's a thoroughly satisfying read, and has fired the imaginations of the fine young gents. The last time we went to the park, a small hill became Wild Cat Island, and we were the ship's crew sailing the park....I mean, the lake. I've promised to sew pockets into an old sheet so that the boys can make a Swallows-inspired tent in the basement.