Monday, September 29, 2008

four oh

Happy birthday, Will! I'm never entirely certain whether it's safe to call the stateside line and just leave a message when I know you're sleeping, or whether it might wake you up in the night. (Lee got the kids some walkie talkies, and last night, my dreams were interrupted by someone ten-fouring his good buddy at three o'clock in the morning. One of these days I will have eight hours of uninterupted sleep. Right?)

I hope you enjoyed a beautiful day, and that you wake up well rested and ready for your next trip around the sun.

Sunday, September 28, 2008


Today has been a lazy day. I was supposed to meet the girls at the coffee shop this morning, but it's mid-afternoon and I've still not taken a shower. It's so rare that we have the opportunity to be lazy -- I feel like I'm doing something wrong. It's also rare that we spend time in front of the television on a beautiful fall morning, but it's difficult to pull ourselves away from the news today. I suppose economic collapse can have that effect.

The kids are oblivious to the state of the nation. They pulled out their art supplies and set up shop on the walk this morning, and now they're building a tent out of furniture and blankets, desperately trying to avoid a particular spot on the floor that is apparently made of hot lava.

I think I'll go take a shower.

Saturday, September 27, 2008


The leaves are starting to change, and Lee spent the afternoon splitting logs in preparation for colder nights. Leah and Neal sat on an upturned laundry basket watching while he pounded the axe against the wedge, the sound of metal striking metal echoing far off in the woods. I had a sudden recollection of standing at the top of my grandmother's driveway in Troy, shouting toward the garage doors just to hear the echo.

Friday, September 26, 2008

debates and dolls

Lee is in the other room explaining the presidential debate process to Leah. She seems very interested in such things. We are careful and thoughtful with our words, much as we are when we talk about religion. She is trying to sort out the relative importance of mayors, governors, and presidents. Meanwhile, Neal is constructing a house of Jenga blocks and Lincoln logs so that Biteman (which is what he calls Batman) will have a place to sleep tonight.

two hours later....

I've just finished reading the final two chapters of The Cricket in Times Square to the kids at bedtime, and I couldn't help but weep when Chester cricket returned to Connecticut. Fortunately, Lee found my Red Riding Hood doll at the old house, so I reckon I'll snuggle up with her and fall asleep while he watches the debate. I'm too tired to get myself all riled up -- it'll just have to wait until tomorrow.

(The doll is my favorite -- if you pull her dress over her head, she turns into Grandmother, and then if you pull Grandmother's hat over her head, she turns into the Big Bad Wolf. Forgive the quality of the pictures, particularly the blurry Wolf. I am buying a camera this weekend!)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

crazy jambalacos

Lee and the kids like to poke fun at my crazy, makeshift dinners. The other day, I made something they dubbed 'crazy jambalacos' -- it was a taco dinner, but I didn't have any soy crumbles, so I used beans instead, mushing them up and seasoning them and topping them off with cheese. I'm not sure why, but they did end up tasting like New Orleans tacos.

Attempting to compete with my dinnertime improvisations, Lee whipped one up entirely based on shells: shells and cheese, peanuts still in their shells, and hard boiled eggs. For dessert: bananas and oranges (we convinced ourselves that peels counted as shells).

Speaking of hard boiled eggs, I would argue that once you've seen and tasted farm-fresh eggs, you can never comfortably go back to the ones you get at the store, even if they say they're organic and free range and farm fresh and all of that other good-sounding stuff. The color is just not ever the same as the vibrant orange of a truly fresh egg, and the taste is equally lacking. Unfortunately, our chickens are so free to range that they have decided to lay their eggs wherever they want, which is not always in the coop. We still manage to gather enough eggs for our family, but I really miss having enough of a surplus to give some away. Also, I've collected enough egg cartons to open a craft store, and they just keep coming (I told all of my coworkers that I was permanently collecting cartons a while back, when we were gathering six or seven eggs a day). So we read and we clean the coop and we put out fresh straw and we hunt the wild nests. I'm pretty sure the chickens are laughing at us.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

yard art

One day, while Lee was chopping things down and carrying things around, I dragged some heavy concrete blocks from the fire pit to a tree and made a little bench. Then I found a small roll of wire fencing and placed it in a semicircle behind the bench. Then the kids and I began to gather sticks and branches and weave them through the fencing. It's not quite yard art, but it's a start.

There was a great bit on Tapestry, a local NPR program, about a woman who lives in Crestwood and weaves woolen fabric strips through burlap bags to make old fashioned rugs. It reminded me of the woman (I can't remember her name -- shame on me) at Pop's museum who worked the loom, her hands and feet moving in tandem to create intricate tapestries. I have two that were in Muv's house. They are beautiful, durable, and created using a tool that doesn't emit anything at all harmful -- now that's my kind of machine.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

spider funnel

For the first several months after we moved out here, we slept in a tent in the house, mainly to avoid the brown recluse. The house had been dark and empty for some time, and we came across a few too many for comfort as we tore things apart. Now we see only harmless specimens. Luckily, the recluse is true to its name.

We still have a crazy lot of spiders -- I could sweep webs from the front porch on a daily basis if I were so inclined. No need for screens when the spiders do all the work. I let the tub full o' toys sit for several weeks, untouched by the broom, and this is what happened: a spider funnel. Sometimes we can actually see the spider that lives there, deep inside the hole.

(I stopped off at the dreaded WalMart on my way home from work today and strolled past a box of cooked bacon on a shelf. I ask you: has it really come to this?)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Just the other day, my sister-in-law at Kolo kolo mlynsky posted something about color theory, along with a picture of three colorful cars. When Neal brought home some of his artwork today, I thought it was a nice coincidence.

Leah got a Bozo punching bag as a late birthday present, and has named it Billy Griswald. Billy Griswald is the only "being" we are allowed to hit and kick. Poor Billy Griswald. We all like to punch his squeaky nose.

I went on a bit of a picture spree this afternoon, with my cell phone ridiculously pretending to be a zoom-worthy camera. I ended up with lots of closeups of flowers and locust shells where the subject is fuzzy but the background is absolutely clear. I'm posting some of the least offensive shots. One of these days I will spring for an actual digital camera. Sometimes I pull out the old Pentax, but the battery is dead at the moment.

Monday, September 15, 2008

fall, do

fall, do
through hot wet air
we wait for you

listless, a body
accustomed to itself

sweet, cool the sweat
gentle land the sheet

beneath a sun not new
grace ages
acquaints itself

fall, do
with longness of breath
we want for you

Sunday, September 14, 2008

judge not

There's a fine line between being opinionated and being judgmental. I tend to be both, but I consider the judgmental leaning a weakness that I try hard to control. It definitely improved after I got pregnant the second time around. Kid #2 -- you're just not as uptight about some things. We still have our rules, most of which fit quite nicely with the Waldorf crowd back in Birmingham, but some of which cause more mainstream parents to look at us kind of funny, or to assume that we will judge them in some way.

Our kids don't drink soda, they don't watch television during the week (Lee and I watch after they go to bed, though -- come on, there's a House marathon on! -- and the Daily Show and Colbert Report!), they don't watch some of the same shows and movies that many of the other kids watch, they eat relatively healthy food most of the time, they go to bed between 7:30 and 8:00, etc. This is what works for us. We have beliefs that form the foundation for these rules, but we also try to be open-minded and accept that every family has its own beliefs, and sometimes it can be difficult to always live by your beliefs. My kids have eaten chicken nuggets and hot dogs with the best of them. Although I never once gave Leah a lollipop just to keep her from making a ruckus in the doctor's office waiting room, god knows I gave Neal a few.

What got me thinking about this is that I finally agreed to let the kids watch the original Star Wars today. I know, I know. What's the big deal? I dunno. So they're watching it now. Neal keeps wanting to know when Chewbacca is going to make an appearance. Leah, upon examining the packaging, asked why there was only one girl. I told her that was a good question and she should keep asking questions like that. I can't believe I thought Luke was the cute one.

Saturday, September 13, 2008


Today was girls' day out: Leah, Katie, and I went out to lunch, browsed around the book store, and wore ourselves out roller skating (wipe out!). I LOVE the sheer joy of rolling old-school, four-on-the-floor, around the slick wooden rink. I hope I am never too old to roller skate. (I have noticed that I tend to be one of only a few parents who actively participates in such things as roller skating and water sliding. I don't know what that says about me, and I don't care.)

The picture is of Leah, Katie, and Neal in one room of the chicken coop, with the 'teenage' chickens roosting on a branch behind them. Two of the teenagers are ameraucanas (easter-eggers), which means they lay blue-green eggs. They're not quite old enough to do so yet, but we're looking forward to our pretty eggs.

Friday, September 12, 2008

hey sarah

Quick: What's the Bush Doctrine?

Quick: Who is responsible for 9/11?

Did I mention I am a biologist? I can see nature from here.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

blog for brains

I just performed my first act of kid-inspired blog censorship: I removed the first sentence of my last entry after Leah asked what 's*%ks' means. Not that it's a bad word, really -- just not the sort of thing you want the teacher to overhear.

I read the following brief blog blurb (say that ten times fast) in one of my work-related e-newsletters earlier this week:
Seed Media launches tools to label and tag blogs on peer-reviewed research
Science media company Seed Media Group (SMG) has launched a new technology that will help scientists make use of the explosion of discussions in the blogosphere surrounding published peer-reviewed science. The new technology provides scientists with tools to clearly label and tag blog posts about peer- reviewed research. Labeled posts are then aggregated, indexed, displayed and disseminated, effectively making blogging more functional to the advancement of science.
I love the idea that this kind of technology mimics the way the brain works, taking all sorts of stimuli and arranging and rearranging them into various organizational pictures.

And now I'm going to watch House. The DVR recorded about 20 episodes during a House marathon. Better than chocolate even.

Monday, September 8, 2008

cool weenies

Being accustomed to working with Outlook's email functionality, I find AOL both frustrating and annoying. But, I have to admit that I appreciate KAOL, the kids version that Leah and Neal sometimes use. It prevents them from going to any sites that aren't pre-approved, which came in handy the other day when Leah was about to perform a search for 'cool weenies' (she is enamored with dachsunds). Kind of reminded me of the time my friend Pam wanted me to know what the lead singer of the band Bush looked like, so she started to type the word 'bush' into the search field -- at work -- and was about to hit go when I said, Dude -- bad idea.

Speaking of weenie dogs, here is the original draft of a story by Lee and Leah, each taking a turn writing a sentence:

Somebody Ate the Weenie Dog

Speedy was a little brown weenie dog. He liked to go on walks. One day he was in the park and he saw a hot dog vendor. He walked to the hot dog stand. The vendor thought he had dropped a hot dog, so he picked Speedy up and put him in the box. When the next person came, he gave the box with Speedy to them. The person who got the box opened it up and pulled out Speedy in a bun. He opened his mouth and took a bite of Speedy's tail. Speedy did not like being bitten, so he bit him back and ran. The man screamed. Speedy barked. That just goes to show you, you should never put a weenie dog in a bun.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

mission accomplished

Formerly a grody junk room, the kids' room now has paint, faux parquet flooring, and some cute wooden items we've picked up here and there. There's a great little antique shop in Hanceville called Lavender and Lace. There we found some small Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls, an old enamel wash tub, two metal stars, and a rocking horse. We picked up a bunk bed at a thrift store, and the rest of the furniture is handed down. Hanging on the wall, among other things, is a washboard that once belonged to my grandmother. It says DKC in faded red glitter -- her instrument when she played with the Dixie Kettle Club. I've got a great black and white picture of the band, all gussied up and ready to play.

The room has an intentionally rough finish to it, and the kids love dumping their toys on the floor, building log houses and train tracks. Today, Lee orchestrated an afternoon-long adventure, helping them examine maps and decipher notes written in code. Dragons were slayed, silver and gold was discovered, flowers and eggs were hunted and gathered. Neal let his sword lead the way, while Leah traipsed about in her black explorer boots and pink shoulder bag. At long last, with play, dinner, a bath, and two chapters of The 101 Dalmations behind them, they are asleep beneath their quilts, in their finally finished room.

theory of linguistic relativity

Sometimes I read back through my old posts. I noticed that I wrote "fewer than five minutes" in one of them. Typically, 'fewer' would precede a numeric quantity of something (e.g., fewer than five flowers), but time is abstract, and therefore I believe it's best to say 'less than five minutes.' For some reason, though, this has spun me into a philosophical monologue about the nature of time.

When I was young, time did indeed seem abstract: I was smaller, so it was bigger. Abstractions typically have a bigness about them. After I had kids, minutes turned into something more akin to cookies, consumed with the worried quickness of someone hungry for them. Always running out of cookies, we are.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

other people's plants (and fungi) (and guns)

Lee's dad and stepmom are traveling through the Badlands in an RV for six weeks. (I've no idea how they afford the gas.) While they're away, my job is to water the plants. To date, there has been one casualty -- a potted plant sitting on a small table on the front porch. I think I must have overlooked it during the first round of watering, as all the other plants are hanging in baskets. Today was round two, and while I was there, I took a few pix. Mushrooms are popping up all over the place what with the rain of late. Crape Myrtle grows wild; I like the bark more than the bloom -- the way the smooth brown slowly peels away to gray. The close-up is the leaf of an elephant ear; I like the vascular look of it.

Weird thing: We went for a drive this afternoon, past the organic garden in Warrior, through the one-lane tunnel with the train track on top, and up to the high school, where there was barbed wire spiraled around the entrance, along with a military hummer and some young men suited up in full fatigues, slinging guns. We stopped and gaped for a minute, and then one of them walked toward the car. Clearly he had friendly intentions, but still -- I don't much like the idea of an armed military person approaching my car, particularly when my kids are in it. He explained that they were in the Army National Guard and were preparing for an emergency. Okay. I mean, I suppose they have to do such things, and you never know -- they might end up saving my ass one day. But still. I wonder what sort of emergency they are expecting.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

nyuk, nyuk, nyuk!

Neal got his first real haircut at the barbershop today. Lee took him while Leah and I were at a Girl Scout meeting. Apparently, the barberlady combed his bangs straight down and then cut straight across. It's a Moe! Which I suppose makes me, Lee, and Leah some variation of Larry, Curly, and Shemp.

Monday, September 1, 2008

good morning

Just a few quick pix: The morning glories grow next to a flower pot where our cat, Sika, sleeps. I tried to get a shot of her in the pot, but she jumped out as soon as she heard me and began to slink against my leg. Stovie the stove pipe was created by Lee years ago. I like the little blue button that is blooming at his collar. And last but not least, Leah's lego sculpture.