Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Tuesday Ten: Countdown

Ten blog posts behind. More like twenty or thirty, but this is the Tuesday Ten. I don't have time for a Tuesday Twenty. I'd like to write about learning to pan for gold in Sumpter, I've got some great nature photos, a short blurb about a stunned dragonfly (the body was all ridge-y, and bumpy--way coooool), first days of school, nature outings, art projects.....

I'm too busy doing all this stuff to sit down and write about it.

Nine months of school, give or take. We're cruising right along into this new school year. Already we've hit our groove. We've got animal masks drying on the cabinet, nature poetry in the nature notebooks, Japanese Post-its all over the living room, a nature collection on the cabinet next to the masks. This year we seem to have hit our year-round groove too. I expect we'll be enthusiastic and immersed in projects and outings this fall. Ambitious. By the time winter really sets in, we'll delve more deeply into rigorous academics, with lots of reading and writing and snuggling on the couch in our jammies. By spring, we'll be ready for the outdoors and lots of hands-on active learning experiences.

Eight books in my to-review stack. I've read some really good books in the last couple months. But at the end of the day when it comes down to, hmmm....read? Or write about reading?.....I go watch Project Runway. (Just kidding. Sorta.)

Only Seven days in a week, twenty-four hours in each day for teaching, piano practice, laundry, cleaning, yardwork, gardening, grocery shopping, volunteer work, cooking, talking to my wonderful teens, homework, errands, playing games with the boys, reading out loud. I wish we had an extra day in the week, just once in a while.

Now I've got "Eight days a week, I Loo-ooo-ooo-ooo-oo-oo-ve you" in my head. Great. Oh well, it's better than something insipid like The Itsy Bitsy Spider.

Added a few minutes later: Well crud. Now guess what's spinning through my head.

Six things on my mind at all times. There's always something going on up there. Mostly things I need to do; the rest thoughtful, personal, spiritual, whimsical. That doesn't count any of the hundreds of things I'm forgetting. One thought enters, another must leave to make room, perhaps never to be seen again.

Five wonderful children. All unique, all precious, all maddening and beautiful and time-consuming and absolutely worth every second I can spare for love and discipline and play and conversation and hugs.

Four: The number of jobs I can handle at one time. Mom (with the attendant nurse-chauffeur-counselor-police-housekeeper-pet care-gardener side jobs), Teacher, Choir Parent, Activity Director & Behavior Manager. I gave up one of my choir volunteer positions because I didn't feel that I could do a good job on both and have time for my family. Fortunately there was a woman who actively wanted the position. But I still feel guilty.

Three things at once is about all I can manage. I've become a queen of multi-tasking. I can talk on the phone, hand out schoolwork and stir dinner all at the same time. Of course I might start telling you over the phone to carry the ten, or to add 1/2 cup of broth, or that "h" is a tall letter.....

Two hands.

And only ONE of me. Maybe I'll try to build a duplicator in the basement. I could make a chauffeur-me, a housekeeper-me, a yardwork-me, a detail-person-me....that would leave this me to do the fun stuff, like teaching and gardening and napping.

Until then, I'll muddle-scramble-revel in and through all of the lovely chaotic mess that's my life. Life is good.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Hey, C'mon!

This little gent is such a hoot.

I told him that the other day, "You're just a little hoot!"

"I'm a little hoot!" he said. "Yep, I'm a little hoot! Dad, I'm a hoot. A little one!" He made it into a little song. For half an hour. He never stops talking.

He can't say "l" or "r" sounds, and "s" blends are a challenge. Half the time we have no idea what he's saying. "Can you say Llllllllllll-evi? L-L-L-L-Levi." I say. "L-L-L-L-Yevi," he replies. Instead of worrying about it, I am charmed.

When he was ten months old he couldn't walk. But he didn't know he couldn't walk. No hesitant wobbles and tentative first steps for him. He got up and walked across the room. Well, not really. His intent and his ability didn't quite match. What really happened was, he got up and fell on his face. Over and over and over and over. Until he walked across the room.

He kind of lives his whole life like that, with a "why not?" air. Instead of mere walking and running, he has this way of skipping and dancing and wobbling and bouncing his way through his days. He's the one who brushes off and keeps going when he takes a tumble, who finds a way to put a bright spin on things. He'll smile through tears with a quivering lip and say, "I know! I can try again!"

In the picture he's saying, "C'mon, Mom! C'mon!" He wants to see and do everything, and he wants to make sure that the rest of us follow right along to see and do everything too. Living life with that kind of enthusiasm is enviable, precious, endearing.

I wish he could stay little forever, and I can't wait to see what he's going to do, what he's going to learn, what challenges he'll overcome next. The mom dilemma, we're always cheering the next steps while we mourn what they're leaving behind.

He's got me absolutely and utterly charmed. They all do.

Monday, September 15, 2008


School. Home. Sick kids. Two involved volunteer positions. Choir and piano and girls group and swim lessons and gymnastics. Teenagers. The cats and the dog. Friend time and family time.

I'm not whining.

I am not fussing or fighting or feeling sorry for myself.

But I do have a question: What do you do when you have so much to do--when your life is so blessedly full--that it's a little (or a lot) overwhelming?

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Hear that?

It's quiet. (Sort of. I hear someone whispering to himself and the sound of Hot Wheels zooming very quietly.)

It's Quiet Time.

I used to wish for a quiet time. I feel so stretched these days, stretched and tired. But we couldn't do quiet time: No time-too busy-too hard to get the kids to stay quiet-we're always gone in the afternoon-too much work to do. I had lots of excuses, er, reasons.

Lately, I've been craving quiet. As my children have become more and more involved in activities, and I've taken on some volunteer duties to support those activities, I've been tired, pulled thin by volunteer demands and school planning and lessons and "Mom, Mom, Mom!"

Remember when you were a kid and you had time to daydream? Time to think things through or to pretend you were someone else or to drowse. My children still have plenty of free time, but me?? I miss the gift of having nothing to do. How in heaven's name can I give that to my children, this gift of quiet and calm, without modeling it for them? They will do as I do. Not only do I want to meet my own need for rest and quiet, I want to teach my children that as they grow and their lives become more and more full, it's important to take time from the busy-ness of life to refresh and renew.

So I took a page from a dear friend's book, and set a Quiet Time. Each afternoon we settle in for a whole hour: One fine young gent upstairs on the Big Bed, one on his own bed, the littlest on the couch. They do their free reading, puzzles, play quietly. Even the dog flops down on the floor with a sigh and closes her eyes.


I can read my own book. Time to read, during the day! I can write in my blog. I can daydream and puzzle. I can (dare I say it?) take a nap. Well, sort of. Littlest gent is snuggly and sweet and tries his best to stay quiet, but he's got three-year-old-talkitis. "Mom, look at this. Mom, I'm reading a book. Look, Mom, I'm being quiet! See how quiet I am?"

The key to successful quiet time is making it a number one priority. Not just for the children, but for myself as well. Laundry to fold? No can do, it's Quiet Time. Kids haven't practiced piano? Too bad, it's Quiet Time. Schoolwork isn't quite done? After Quiet Time. After only one week, the fine young gents look forward to Quiet Time too. Yesterday I gave them a choice: Quiet first, then play? Or play first, then rest? "Quiet time first!" they shouted. (Yeah, well, they're quiet once they get to their cozy spot.) The day before, a tired gent leaned his head on my shoulder, asking "Is it Quiet Time yet?"

After our hour of rest, we're refreshed. We come together ready to play and laugh and be silly. I've had a chance to pursue something interesting uninterrupted...mostly...and I've had a break from noise. The fine young gents aren't grating on one another's nerves or jumping up and down on mine. Afternoon squabbles have all but disappeared, I feel more prepared for the demands of dinner and housework, we've laughed together a little more. We've all met our need for quiet and peace and reflection, and we're ready to rejoin the world with energy and enthusiasm.
Quiet Time Rules:
  • Quiet
  • Everyone finds a cozy spot to be alone. Take your toys, books, puzzles with you.
  • No phone, no housework, no schoolwork except free reading, not even for Mom.
I had to make one more rule: No hollering, "MOM! MOM! Is Quiet Time over yet?" I will tell you when Quiet Time is over.

Quiet time is over. It's finishing up right now. Today I've chosen to write in--on?--my blog for my contemplative time. My middle gent just came to hug me. He's leaning on me as I type.

He said, "Anyway," as though continuing a conversation, "I don't want to be mean."


"I don't want to be mean in this world. I just want to be happy in this world. I want a happy heart."

I asked him what brought that on. "I just want to make peace. I just want to share."

Apparently quiet time gives my deep thinker a chance to slow down and think deep thoughts.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Kids in the Garden

They will plant crooked rows, dump a handful of tiny seeds in one spot, and dig up the bed you've just planted.

They'll pull up the spinach and leave the weeds, trample the strawberries, knock over the bean trellis, pull the carrots before they're ready, and eat all of the raspberries before you get even one.

They will talk your ear off. They will ask "Why? Why? Why?"

They will say, "Look! Look! A ripe tomato! Look, here's a cucumber! Wow! A butterfly! Look at the sunflowers! Look, what I found!" And they will insist that you actually stop and look and marvel right along with them.

They will grow up to be gardeners.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Fishing With Grandpa

Another year, another vacation, another fishing trip with Grandpa. Two Grandpas--Grandpa Dennis and Great-Grandpa Ed.

Flashback: Opening day of fishing season every year, we were at Grandpa Ed and Grandma Ruby's house on the lake. We'd get up bright and early and fish off of the dock with our cousins. Dad offered prizes, a dollar each, for the person who caught the biggest fish, the first fish, the most fish, the smallest fish. Sometimes we'd swim later, and we'd have contests with our cousins to see who could swim the farthest, who could hold their breath the longest. There was always junk food on the dock, and fish for dinner.

This is how we create memories for our children. My children will remember Grandpa Ed hooking fish and hollering, "C'mon now! Come and get this one! Reel it in!" They'll remember learning to cast by themselves for the first time. They'll remember holding a slippery fish in their hands.

Anthony Lake is beautiful. They'll remember this too, fishing from the shore. The mountain, the rocks, the blue water. Watching the ospreys.

This lovely lady loves to fish. She's patient and watchful. She cleans her own fish too. Her first...second?...year fishing we jokingly told her she had to clean her fish to eat them. And she did it, so we never got around to telling her that we didn't really mean it. Now she helps her grandpa clean fish when we get home, without being asked.

Not only is she a patient fisherwoman, she's patient about posing for the camera too. I suspect that most of the fisherfolk would rather not have me clicking away while they're trying to fish and were all rather relieved when my camera and I took the restless younger gents for a hike around the lake.

Let's say you don't like to fish. You consider yourself a city girl, an indoor kind of gal. You think nature is dirty and itchy. Read a gossip mag and listen to your iPod while those around you are slaughtering innocent fish. Tell anyone who will listen that you think you're a vegetarian.

Later on, you might even admit that it wasn't all that bad being out of doors in the fresh air.

We'll all remember Bodacious. She's a smart well-mannered dog, a bit of a crotchety old lady by now, who adores my dad. Dad has had a Brittany spaniel since I was in high school. First Lucy, our family pet. Then Belle. One summer, I helped Belle with her first litter of puppies. Then Bo. Bo was a puppy when my lovely lady was a baby. Now Bo's getting gray around the muzzle and eyebrows, slowing down a bit. I don't know how many more summers she'll be fishing with us. It certainly won't be the same without her.

Sweet patient gent. Fine fine young man. He loves to fish. His birthday present last fall was a brand new fishing pole. This year he sat patiently the entire time at the lake, watching his pole. Watching and watching and watching. He was in the dead spot. He didn't get a single bite, even though he moved twice.

"C'mon now! Got one! Come and get it!"

Good thing Grandpa Ed knows how to cast right into the good spot.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday Ten: Ten Places to Visit in Oregon

We drive to the eastern part of the state every summer. Oregon is a beautiful state. In a day you can drive from the cool coast, through grasslands into the mountains, and through the mountains into the high prairie, and down into the desert. Every year we drive by beautiful sights and say, "We should stop there sometime." This year we stopped. We went to a few old favorite sites, and saw a few new sights. It was a lovely trip.

Ten Places We Visited (You should visit them too!)

1. Sahalie and Koosah Falls
Sahalie Falls has been our favorite rest stop on our trip over the mountains. The McKenzie River is icy blue as it cascades over the fall.

Who knew there was another waterfall within a hop, skip and a jump of Sahalie? Instead of using the restroom, taking a picture of the Sahalie waterfall, and going on our merry way down the road, our merry way took us on down the trail along the McKenzie River to the top of Koosah Falls. From the viewpoint on the trail, you can look almost straight down as the falls go over the cliff, then down the path to a shady viewing spot with benches from which you can see the falls.

2. The Metolius River and Camp Sherman
An old favorite. The Metolius River is one of the most beautiful spots in the entire world.
The river is gorgeous, the land is beautiful. We picnicked at Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery, then walked around the fish pond and fed the fish.

We stopped for ice cream at the Camp Sherman store.

Just like in the old days.

3. I'm cheating a little. The High Desert Museum and Lava Lands Visitor Center are two separate places. But they're not far from one another, and we went to them on the same day, so I'm counting them as one. The High Desert Museum has a raptor exhibit (a favorite for the fine young gents!) complete with bald eagles, a golden eagle, tiny burrowing owls, and more. It's got a living history pioneer home and more historical exhibits, gorgeous bronze sculptures, and both an indoor and an outdoor play area.

Lava Lands has a self-guided hike through (what else?) lava, up to a viewpoint from which you can see the mountains all around, and the land covered with rock left by a volcanic eruption over 7,000 years ago.

4. The Painted Hills



Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. Sometimes....you just need to see it for yourself.

5. John Day Fossil Beds, Sheep Rock Unit
We hiked back into the hills, a short hike. It was like walking into an alien world. Our Earth is marvelous and strange.

6. Anthony Lake
Fishing with Grandpa Dennis and Great-Grandpa Ed. A hike around the lake. Could there be a better way to spend the afternoon?

7. Oregon Trail Regional Museum
This is a really cool museum. There's an entire room full of old wagons and cars and big stuff. There's a huge rock collection that had the fine young gents oooh-ing and aaahing. Upstairs, a schoolroom display, a doctor's office, a grocery, a kitchen.

8. Cracker Creek
There's gold in them thar hills! Folks are still mining out there. We stopped at the Cracker Creek Mining Company, drove up to a tiny community called Bourne, then stopped and splashed in Cracker Creek.

9.Sumpter Valley Railway
We rode the train up the valley. It's a beautiful ride through miles of piles of rock dredged up during the gold mining heyday. You can see the Elkhorns in the distance on one side, pools of water among the rock on the other.

10. Grandpa's Store, York's Park Grocery
Early mornings one or another of the kids dragged out of bed to go to Grandpa's store. They'd bag ice and pressure wash the sidewalk for a while, then get treated to maple bars and hot chocolate. How cool is that?

Monday, September 01, 2008

Kids in the Woods

"Our most important resource in this country is not forests, as vital as they are.

It is not water, although life itself would cease to exist without it.

It is people.

The challenges of climate change and looming water shortages will not be resolved in a few years.

It will take generations.

Today's children - and theirs - will need to be able to take the baton and continue the race.

For that, they will need a full understanding of why forests are so valuable, along with a strong land ethic.

It is our job to give them both."
~Forest Service Chief Gail Kimball, August 27, 2007