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Monthly Archives: August 2011

Art smock

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I made a big ceramic bird playing the piano in Mr. Hill’s art class in elementary school that I may have sort of just very recently let myself part with.  It sort of resembled a lumpy potato with a beak and wings and it had long spindly legs and real feathers sticking out of the top of it’s head.  It was the last art project from my school days in existence.

I have fond memories of many other projects we made in the 6 years he was our art teacher.   I also have fond memories of the smock my mom made for me to wear during art class.  It was an old dress shirt of my dad’s and my mom appliqued my name in colorful block letters across the back, shortened the sleeves and sewed elastic into the cuffs.

Tea’s school supply list included an “over-sized button-down shirt to use as an art smock”.  I wanted Tea to have a smock similar to mine.  The shorter, elastic-cuffed sleeves make it easier to keep from dragging them through paint.  The personalized name  is just fun.  I chopped the sleeves off of a shirt, sewed a wide hem, and fed some elastic through with a safety pin.  I can’t applique very well so I used freezer paper stencils to add his name to the back and a fire truck to the front pocket.

It’s not as awesome as the one in my memory, but Tea likes it enough that he told me he doesn’t want to get it dirty so he’s *not* going to wear it as a smock.  Hmm.  My plan seems to have backfired.  I hope he gets to create something as fun as my old ceramic bird whether he wears the smock of not.


First sign of fall

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Our asters are nearly blooming.  I didn’t used to like them, but now that most of our flowers are a dried out, weedy, overgrown disaster, I’m looking forward to something new before the snow flies.

The red backpack

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Thanks to everyone who weighed in on the pink backpack dilemma.  Between here and Facebook, I got a lot of support for getting it and also some great alternate ideas.  It almost made me wonder why I didn’t just get him the pink bag in the first place.  If Tea’s favorite color was pink and he’d been yearning for a pink backpack all summer, I wouldn’t have hesitated.  I was reluctant to let his off-the-cuff choice become something he’d physically wear on his back all year, and that could turn his identity into the “pink backpack boy” before he had a chance to make friends.  Especially since he didn’t tell me, “Because it’s my favorite color” or “Because pink is so pretty” or, well, any reason at all other than “Because”.


We don’t steer Tea from “feminine” things to “masculine” ones – he’s done just fine determining his own interests and they run the gamut.   He enjoys playing with his dolls, trains, kitchen, and fire station.  He loves his dance class and has requested to start gymnastics (soccer was a bust).  The majority of his friends are girls, and sometimes they all put on princess costumes together.  He loves to snuggle.  He adores hunting for worms and watching construction equipment at work.   But Tea is pretty sheltered from pop culture.  He doesn’t watch TV.  He hasn’t been indoctrinated with the “Pink is for girls” message most boys get by his age.  It wouldn’t be fair not to let him know that picking pink might lead to some comments.


Despite my misgivings, the comments I got from friends encouraged me to nurture his confidence to march to his own drum.  When Tea came home yesterday I told him I’d bought a red backpack but that I was going to return it to the store so that we could pick one out together.  Pink, if he liked, or whatever color he wanted.  Did that sound like a good plan?


He asked to see the red backpack. His eyes popped out of his head.  I swear I had to pick two beautiful, slimy, sparkling eyeballs off the floor and stick them back in their sockets.  I rinsed them off first, because I haven’t swept in a few days.


“Oh WOW!  Mama!  LOOK. AT. THIS!”


He snatched the backpack from me and started investigating zippers and pockets and hidden compartments and straps.


“Mama!  See HERE!…  Mama, look at the…look at the COOL RED!  Mama…Mama…Mama…I LOVE IT!  Mama!  Mama!  Oh my gosh!  Oh my gosh!  Oh my gosh!  Mama!”


He was so excited he could barely finish his sentences.  He rushed to try it on and began strutting around the room.  I tried to get a word in edgewise: “I’m so glad you like it!  Will you go to the store with me?  We can look to see if you want to trade this one in for one you like even better?”


“NO Mama!  I LOVE the RED one!  This is SO COOL!  PEA!  Look at THIS!  This is my BACKPACK, Pea.  I’m going to wear it to SCHOOL!  This is my COOL RED BACKPACK!”


So….much ado about nothing.   I’m sure he’s going to roll his eyes at me about this when he’s old enough to read, but if nothing else, I’ve done a lot of thinking about supporting my kids in the choices they make.  This was not the soul searching I’d planned on when digging out the school supply list yesterday.  I had anticipated nothing heavier than the great “Crayola vs. generic crayons” debate (cheapskate notwithstanding, Crayola all the way!).  Pre-kindergarten is apparently going to teach me a few things, too.

Tea demonstrating his alternate- wearing method

so proud

“I just want a pink one”

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This morning I asked Tea what color backpack he wanted (because school doesn’t start for 5 more days and I plan ahead like that).  Without hesitation, he said “Pink!”

Um, pink?
He has never, ever shown any interest in anything pink.  While I was trying to think of the best way to respond, I must have looked concerned, because he asked, “What, Mama, is pink only for girls?”
“Well, Sweetie, pink can be for anyone, but *usually*, boys don’t have pink backpacks.  If you have a pink one, I’m afraid some of the other kids might tease you or be mean about it.”
(Very matter-of-factly) “That’s ok.  I want pink.”
“Are you sure?  Why pink?”
“I just want a pink one.”
“Um…do you want to see pictures of different backpacks on the computer to help you decide?”
(click click click) I brought up a page with all different colors of backpacks.
“Ooh – Mama – that pink one there.  That’s what I want.”
(inner sigh)  “If you *really* want pink I can get it for you but I am afraid someone is going to hurt your feelings if you have a pink backpack.”
We talked in circles like this while I kept glancing at Kyle for input.  He shrugged and suggested to Tea that maybe I “wouldn’t be able to find pink”.  In that case, Tea said he wanted a red one.
So I had an out.  But I felt terrible about the thought of lying to him.  I wanted choosing his own backpack to be part of the excitement of getting ready to start school.  I have no problem with him having a pink backpack, but I am stuck with two conflicting feelings.  I want to protect him from the world.  He’s only 4 and he’s my baby.  Alternately, I hate making him think he made a bad choice or that there’s something wrong with him liking pink.
The subject was dropped with a “We’ll see what I can find at the store” and 10 minutes later Tea came up to me and said, “Mama, you can get me a red one.  I don’t want you to be sad if I come home from school and tell you someone hurt my feelings.”  Ouch.  He was much more mature and grown up about the whole thing than I was – he clearly changed his mind for me, not himself.
So today was a Big Parenting Fail.  I came home from the store with a red backpack.  I wish I had been brave enough to get him the pink one he wanted.  I haven’t cut the tags off yet.  Maybe I’ll change my mind.
What would you do?

Camp bliss

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Our annual vacation at family camp in northern Wisconsin did not disappoint.

The week felt like this:

And so it was no surprise that coming home initially went like this:

"I want to go baaaaack." Evidence of a great vacation.

Tea really came out of his shell this year and played hard from sunrise to starlight with the gaggle of other kids.  When the playground is water and sand and forest, the play is easy because toys to fight over are scarce (although Tea was so enamored of his favorite walking stick I had him paint it in the craft building so he could keep it for himself).  He also made many adults friends – he’s gained a lot of confidence in the last year and it was fun seeing him having engaging conversations about fire stations and how to make a unicorn sign with your hand.

Pea was thrilled to follow Tea wherever he went, and wasn’t bothered at all that we were suddenly sleeping in a new place and sharing our meals in a room with 100 other people.  Our laid back kid dove right in and loved every minute.  Especially the minutes involving s’mores.

Kyle and I didn’t manage to steal any alone time this year, but we did take Pea around the lake in a canoe a few times while Tea was in morning class.  A pair of loons surfaced so close to our canoe that Kyle could have clobbered them with his paddle.  If he’d been insane.  They were beautiful, and were calling right at us.  I was amazed at how big they were.  Pea, thinking they were ducks, was unimpressed, although he did repeatedly tell us they made a “pretty noise”.   Another morning a flock of 9 loons all appeared just off shore, all calling to each other.

The bald eagles who nest right in camp were equally noisy.  It was a constant showdown between the loons and the eagles for noisiness.  I’ll take that racket any day.

Kyle and the boys went sailing with my dad.  The little sunfish looked a bit like a clown car, but Tea was enormously proud that he was the “captain” and held the tiller the whole time.

Tea did have one disastrous crash onto the sidewalk that scraped away a good amount of skin from his face, but the mothering he got from his friends (little and big alike) clearly restored his spirits.  Long after the blood had dried, he was still solemnly walking around camp, letting all of the little girls hold his hand and baby him.  I was a almost worried he liked the attention too much and might try to injure himself again on purpose.

We hiked, we swam, we played silly games with marshmallow peeps, we read.  We made new friends and talked with kind and wise people.  We star-gazed and built things in the sand and paddled and sipped coffee in the cool morning air.  Some of us sang (and some prefer to observe the singing).  I learned what a merganser is when a flock of them dashed through the swimming area.  We danced and caught fish and snuggled and drummed in a circle and blew bubbles and caught frogs.  We relaxed.  Standing at Vesper Point overlooking the lake, Kyle and I held the kids and renewed our marriage vows to each other.  Next year, I’m hoping the kids can stay up a bit later so we parents of wee-ones can play some late-night noisy games in the lodge.

Hopefully we are recharged and refreshed enough to get us through the year until we can go back to Moon Beach again.

State of the garden, early August 2011

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We were gone for a week and apparently it rained, because the tomatoes on the arbor are now far past the top and reaching for the sky.  The vines are ten feet tall at a minimum.

What is it about the box that the tomatoes love so?  The tomatoes I have in containers are barely 12 inches high and have no more than 2 tomatoes each.  But the ones climbing up the arbor are as thick as a wall.  I have to crawl in with a machete to clear away the leaves to reach the fruit – there is a lot of fruit.

To harvest the tomatoes, Tea and Pea use mallets to knock the high fruit down. Pea wears a helmet to prevent cranial bruising. Kidding. The helmet is for style.

I’m glad I planted zinnias at the front of the left box, because the peas, garlic, and arugula are long gone, and the few squash plants that survived the vine borer are looking mighty pathetic and overrun by beetles.  But the zinnias create a beautiful curtain to hide all of that from view, and attract a zillion butterflies besides.

The squash, despite the bugs, have limped along and produced monster-fruit during the week we weren’t here to harvest.  Some are nearly big enough to carve into jack-o-lanterns.  So much for 2-3″ squash.  I grated just one of the big ones today and had enough for two loaves of zucchini bread and a huge zucchini fritata.  The fritata also had our own basil, garlic, and cherry tomatoes.  All we need now are chickens for our own eggs and we’d be totally self-sufficient.  Fritata-wise, anyway.

Also, I love our multi-colored carrots just because they look pretty all chopped up.

Now that the summer is winding down I’m watching the bell peppers to see if they will have time to turn red, and the Brussels sprouts, which are still tiny little buds of sprouts on their stems.  I am afraid they will not grow fast enough before the frost comes.  I’m still crossing my fingers.


this stopped the dog discussion for two whole days

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It is no secret that I would like a dog and that Pia thinks she would like a dog, but that Jim knows he does NOT want a dog. So Pia and I badger Jim on a nearly daily basis about the dog issue, which I’m sure Jim enjoys immensely. But last weekend the dog pleas came to a screeching halt with the arrival of Little Foot.

Yes, that’s right, we are now the proud owners of a hamster. I have never had a hamster and it turns out they are delightful. Cute. Furry. Funny antics. You can’t cuddle with them or pet them much or take them for long walks or tell them your innermost dreams and desires while they look at you with loving and knowing eyes, but other than that they are totally like dogs. Sarcasm aside, it is fun to have a new pet in the house, especially one that relishes our crude attempts at making our own hamster playgrounds. Give Pia and I an assortment of boxes and cardboard tubes, a pair of scissors and a roll of masking tape and we go wild. I mean, as wild as one can get with a pet that has to be played with in the bathtub for fear of it running away and a) never being found again or b) being caught by the cats.

We love Little Foot. But now back to the dog discussion…