Thursday, December 18, 2008

The internet is up and running again, and I am back to work online reading journal articles and ethics statements.

Yesterday we were stranded up here on the hill. The kids stood outside for 45-50 minutes waiting for the bus. Then they headed up the hill, cold, wet, and very upset thinking they had somehow missed the bus. As they rounded the top curve heading up the hill, the bus ploughed by without even slowing down. They came home and in the door at 5 to 9, five minutes before they were supposed to be in school.

We'd had ice and snow during the big "ice storm", but mostly snow, last Friday. Then is warmed up on Saturday, melting and creating ice where there had been none. Burt has been plowing, which is great, but we don't have any sand or salt, and as of Tuesday, we were looking at glare ice in large patches on the driveway.... with the worst part being that last curve and small hill leading to the joint entrance from Route 14. I had been playing the "go-down-in-first-gear, foot-off-brake, aim-for-snowbank-on-opposite-side-of-sawmill-parking-lot" game. But just after I got everyone re-dressed in warm, dry clothes, and clothed the baby, and had almost gotten myself ready to run the kids to school (dread of driveway building in my stomach), when the phone rang. Colin said, "DO NOT ATTEMPT THE DRIVEWAY." Very firmly. I had already called the school to say the kids were going to be late. What now?

I called the school again. The response? "Even if you got down your driveway, the roads are terrible." Um... so I guess I am keeping them home?? Yeup. That's what we did. An unofficial snow day. We danced and played piano and cleaned and picked out the kids' "little trees" (a tradition I began at Madison dorm at Sterling for Aidan). I shoveled the deck and the kids put the plastic deck chairs in the garage for the winter. And we did chores (BOY hard not to fall on your arse in this slippery snow on glare ice!!). We watched an episode and a half of Fame. Even Aidan... who has dropped his pretense of not liking it ("Ms. Sherwood is my favorite teacher because she is funny and sarcastic, and she is still tough. "). And Nadia came running as soon as she heard the opening music yelling "YEAY! FAME!" Then she started dancing and said "trying. dancing." I asked her if she liked dancing and she said, "yep. Dancing. Fame." So maybe she shouldn't be watching too much tv... but when we're all dancing, playing the piano, watching at the same time, does it count? As Nadia says, "Fun."

As for the piano, it is getting lots of attention, and it hasn't waned at all. We are all playing quite a bit. One morning, when Nadia and I had been up nursing at 5 am on the couch, I let her fall back asleep on the couch. When Colin went to work, she still didn't wake up, so I got to sleep in a bit. I was awoken by the sound of a very tiny finger very gingerly hitting a note in the middle of the piano. Awake and happy. Great! And Aidan has been asking lots of questions about how to read music. We wrote the notes on the staff for him, and on one octave on the piano. Now he is picking out melodies from the music books and showing Sage how. Sage is memorizing and practicing the same pieces over and over, then memorizing the next piece. Colin has been very patient with them, and has been very insistant on the "right" practice (fingering, which things to learn first, etc). And I get to play! And I play much better than I thought I did.

Well... off to tackle the next load of laundry, the readings (riiiiiight... like there will be time for all of that!), dinner, and the multiplying dust bunnies in the corner.

Love love!!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The kids get home a little later each week, it seems. Yesterday it was nearly ten after 4 when they walked in the door from the bus and walking up the hill.

But I was ready for them, and Sage and I made a batch of cookies and finally found the cookie cutters. The recipe was a very tasty dough, but as is usually the case, I am not real excited about the cooked cookies. I really wish cookies could just stay doughy! They are the most beautiful color, though, because our eggs are so orangey yellow! We set the dough to chill, and ate dinner, then headed off to Aidan's first basketball practice.

Aidan did well, not fooling around too much, and really putting his best into it. The coach said something like "The best 5 players will be who are on the court the last 3 minutes of every game, and you want to be in that group." Now, I would never say something like that. Especially on a team of about 9 kids. But then he said, "It takes hard work and lots of practice to be in the best 5. You can't fool around at practice and be in that group."

So Aidan worked really hard (don't worry, I brought the inhaler for pneumonia-lungs-boy). And he blocked the kid he was guarding, always staying in front. He played excellent defense! And he even got a few shots off. During drills, he did them with precision and skill, and a lot of hard work. I was really impressed.

Sage is excited to start basketball. We couldn't get her on the 2nd grade team because they only meet on Saturdays. But she will be a "manager" for the 3rd and 4th grade girls, practice and scrimmage with them, and maybe get a few minutes here and there to play in a real game, but probably not many. She said she was ok with that, she just wanted to practice and be ready for next year.

Basketball went well, and we got home, and cut out cookies, decorated them, and baked them. Everyone got a cookie before bed, and some to take for snack today. Today Nadia and I will cut out the rest, then bake and cool them, so after school we can frost them. We also have comic book club today.

I start tutoring a 7 year old this Thursday night, and it looks like I will have 2 kids here to care for in January if all works out.

We miss you all, and hope everyone is well... the snow fell all morning, and yet it is supposed to start raining this afternoon. Yuck... but I guess the snow will be back by the weekend.

Monday, December 08, 2008

December glog

Sorry it has been so long... but I did just holiday-host ya'lls...

We have survive round 2 of pneumonia, and both Nadia and Aidan sound a bit better 4 days into their antibiotics. Sage is now sounding awful, but is at school because she doesn't have the temp... I am calling the doctor today to try and figure out if we can just go ahead and put her on antibiotics anyway.

We found a problem with the furnace last week. Colin and I had headed out to do chores, cut the Christmas tree, and generally tinker around outside after being stuck inside with sick people all week. We turned around in the driveway to find blacker-than-black smoke pouring out of the chimney. I ran in and unplugged the furnace (a really great feeling when you have two kids with with pneumonia, and one with the cough). After 24 hours off, and heating the house with the little electric radiator, and Colin fixing vaious little things on the boiler, we called another dude in from Irving and found out that A) the chimney has a hole in it, and was never lined completely so we had to wrap the pipe with insulation in the meantime. B) the Chimney needs a thorough cleaning; Colin and his service tech friend did their best. Turns out Mark's nephew was supposed to have done it the week of Thanksgiving. He didn't. Mark is in Florida selling Christmas trees with Jesse and the kids. His cell phone doesn't work down there and he has been calling his brother from a pay phone. We can't get ahold of him to find out who to call to clean the chimney. Or to let him know there came a notice that the cable company is about to turn off the internet/tv, and I need the internet for school. URGH. He should be home in a week, I guess. AND C) the boiler has been sucking dryer lint in it and burning it, hence the black smoke. Cause guess where our vent led to? A VERY LONG hose in the basement, that ended behind Janess's pile of crap in the basement with a sock on it. Her dryer wasn't vented at all. So, Colin bought all the necessary materials, and the dryers are now vented out of the back of the house.

This has been on top of the discovery of mold in each and every window on the sill in the entire house. Where it condenses, it molds. This appears to be the first time, probably because the air has always been very dry in here previously... he always had a wood stove going.

I can't imagine why no one can breathe.

SOOOoooooo, we have been bleaching windows like mad people and trying to figure out what to seal the windows again. And of course, Mark isn't here, so we can't ask. Crazy times.

On the nice side of things, we got the tree in and decorated and it is tall, about 8 feet. We didn't go for HUGE because we don't have the right tree stand. But it is beautiful, and the kids love it and helped decorated it, and Nadia ran around it yelling "TREE! TREE!!!" and the dog has been scratching her back on its lower branches, and drinking the water because it has ginger ale in it. We lost quite a few of the kids' old decorations to mice a few years ago, so I am hoping to do a project with them to make new ones they can look forward to saying "I made that when..." in the future. Outside, Colin covered the Cherry Tree in blue lights, and it is really pretty.

We are still trying to figure out about the piano; she sent us pictures. It has a low back, is off-white, and in great shape. But she has a weird schedule, and she and Colin are working out the details. The space is empty and waiting for it.

Nadia is pretty consistently using the potty, even for poop. This weekend, she was usually only in a diaper at night. Although we did head out to Craftsbury to say goodbye to our old neighbor who is heading off to New Zealand for a few months, and she wore a diaper then. She enjoyed shaking that little diaper butt to the music for a night of Farmhouse Fun! Everyone loved it!

Last night the big kids and I finished the Golden Compass. I think I am going to head off to get the Subtle Knife to read with Aidan for now, Sagey later. I heard it gets more adult as you go through the books, and the ending of the Golden Compass was quite sophisticated. But such a great read!

What else is new? Ah yes, Colin and I went into the brewing store in Plainfield. We checked out the cost of supplies, and talked to the guy about methods. We have decided that in January or February we will begin amassing supplies, and then will begin brewing straight to keg. All our friend bottle, but it takes an extra 3 weeks to carbinate that way. If you keg, you can carbinate in 3 days. Jeremy Randall says he's got some great "beginner" recipes for us, which is good. We've tasted most of our friends first few batches. Uck. So we're hoping that kegging will allow us to move on quickly to decent beer. The supply store has those small, cylinderical kegs the soda companies used to use. They're solid, in good shape, and sell for $45. Not too shabby! An WAY easier than bottling. We're also going to bottle a bit in "growlers" (those things that look like glass moonshine jugs. Usually 64 ounces.) That way we have some that is portable. (What does everybody want? Porter? Stout? IPA? German White? Irish Red??). I am hoping to make some herbal/ancient grain brews next year. That way we can grow herbs and plants that we want to flavor it. And yes, I am planning on growing some heather for some heather brew. I am hoping to go up to Wolcott to Stever Young's ericaceous nursey (I am totally not kidding... he grows all sorts of ericaceous plants, in particular heathers), to get some of the species he brought back from Shetland and Orkney.

We got a bit of snow last night... and it was wet and slippery and icy and horrid out. The kids and I crawled home from the pick up spot at 20 mph and watched an ambulance PLOW into someone. Awful. I was shaking like crazy by the time we got home. But today the snow tires are on, and the Rav is ready for winter action. (I was in the truck last night). I have to say, I am a STELLAR winter driver... despite having been scared half to death!

Well, I am off to read my last few textbooks (the attachment book is um, more than meaty.... taking forever!) and do some work. We love you all!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


FINALLY! The snow is sticking a little bit. As the fall has paraded on, brown and gray and harshly cold followed by unbelievable warmth, I have waited for the snow. Colin and I discuss snow flakes by their scientific terms, referring to what it means that we had grappel the other other day... or that the flakes today started out large and are slowly decreasing in size (its getting colder... means the snow crystals "scinter" less and can't form large flakes)... in any case, we seem to desperately miss the snow. Colin comes home from his round to Woodbury and Hardwick, Morrisville and Calais, and tells me of the snow that is actually stuck on the ground. And sometimes, Nadia and I drop the big kids off at school and drive north just to see it for ourselves.

On one such drive last week, we passed the resevoir lake north of Groton on route 2, and I saw something large and brown moving in the evergreens just off a dirt road at the top of the lake. I assumed it was a moose and pulled in, only to find a HUGE 10-point Buck staring back at us. I have never seen such a large deer. He meandered a bit, then ran across the road in into the hemlocks north of us.

But mostly, we stay at home, and I attempt to write a paper and make some sense of these homework assignments, feeling sheepish that I thought this would be easy. (I think it might be easier after the first few are done). And that I shouldn't have started with history of psychology because I am finding it hard to narrow down and focus. (All ideas... no focus; That's me!)

And today we are home, and Colin is coughing in bed with a fever, and I keep ferrying him up cups of tea, water, and coffee, telling him it is ok to take the Ibuprofen for aches and fever, and finally it snowed and stuck. But just as I wrote this sentence, the flakes have slowed to a spit, and the sun broke through the clouds... and the scene is stunning.

The woods seem to go on and on beyond the backyard, a soft, light carpet of white, with touches of white on the hemlock and spruce branches. The birches and pines that ring the yard look sugar coated for just a moment before the sun melts it all off, and it sleds like a child beyond the tips of the branches.

Nadia is here beside me, poking holes in a piece of paper that I wrote a poem on with a pen while saying, "Cee.... One.... Eeee.... *sigh* show.... E...." and then she scribbles very delicate little spirals all over my words.

Colin has risen, cranky and loud, and I can't seem to get the ebrary and ebooks to open on either computer.

So I am headed out to search out eggs... finally found where they lay... found 16 eggs yesterday! (Now for where the duck lays...).

We love you all and look forward to Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Life after the Election and a trip to the Mountaintop.

So first things first, after I posted all that stuff about Christmas, Sagey commented that we have no games really, that we can all play. So games for the 7 and up set would be great. Or, some updated cards for Trivial Pursuit, including children's decks. We wanna play, but Sagey doesn't know any of that crap in our old 80s kids stuff. (I don't know that I know any of it!!). And she concurred that she would like to take more dance classes, and Aidan concurred that he would like to take music lessons so he can be in band next year. Yeay. no, wait: YEAYYYY!!! So PLEASE keep your eyes peeled for a cheap used saxophone (shouldn't have sold it eh, Ma??) and let me know if you can find one. Sage also mentioned she'd like anything High School Musical and Hannah Montana. I am also adding the category of princess because I read an essay she wrote about what she would like to be when she grew up and the steps she'd have to take to get there... she said a Princess. Even though I wanted to burst out laughing, I didn't because she took the steps so seriously (Learn to be polite. Meet a prince.). Also anything for just me and Sage to do would be great. She tries really hard to be with me and show me how much she loves me, and I realize I often brush her off because of how brusque she is. And this morning, she tried to cook me breakfast in bed, and she dropped something and made a mess and Colin told her she had to stop, and she didn't see his point of view about the mess, only that she couldn't show Mommy how much she loved her. I cried. Then I helped her make breakfast for everybody. (Our egss are SOOO yellow and yummy! I hope more of them start laying soon!!). So things we can do together without Aidan and Nadia would be great. They seem to have an easier time connecting with me.

So this is incredibly materialistic, but Colin and I would love an IPod, or small MP3 player. (how we'd share it I have no idea). But we'd really like to be able to pull stuff off of our computer and bring it for trips in the car, and stuff. I am hoping to save up for a new record player/tape player that has an ISB port (maybe for Colin's birthday), so we can put all our old music on the computer. We have such great stuff on record and tape, I'd hate to lose it or pay for it all over again.

NOW>>> on to the important stuff.

I stayed up to watch the election stuff, and once everyone else was asleep, i allowed Aidan to get up and watch some with me. He was mostly excited to watch John Stewart and Stephen Colbert's Indecision '08. We had a lot of fun. I sent him to bed at 5 of 11. I know, I know. But I did call to him and let him know, and made him a cup of chamomile tea right then. Rubbed his back, even.

Then, I went back and watched all the pundits blabbering. But I couldn't stop watching. And I watched McCain and Obama's speeches. I was touched by McCain's. He was earnest and clearly knew that he had allowed people to "mold" him when he could have been himself and gotten much farther.

That said, Obama's speech was amazing. Gentle, real, and not self-congratulatory. I have to say, this man is brilliant. Brilliant. And not crazy. (Although, just in case, David Allen Greer on Chocolate News on Comedy Central reminded him last night NOT to go crazy!!). Seeing Jesse Jackson in the crowd, tears streaming down his face (despite clearly being half crazy himself this year), made me cry. Seeing Jesse and Oprah being treated like everyone else, jammed in the crowd, also made me cry. We are equal in this world despite our posturing.

And so, I felt strange yesterday. Like it was all unreal. Could we really have voted with our ideals? Our ethics? Could the youth (I use this term losely, to include my own generation) actually be proud to be American? Wow. Wow.

My head felt detached, and my heart felt like it was a real center... so Nadia and I headed out, after dropping the big kids at school, and went to the hills.

Literally. I drove to New Hampshire. We went through the Franconia Notch. I didn't know where we were headed or even why. I just knew I had to be OUT. In the world. The natural world. I needed to think, to not think. To be. To breathe. To just listen to the sounds around me and share them with Nadia.

We ended up on route 112, which leads to Vt 302. We hiked a short trail that is a section of the Appalachian Trail, on the Lost River, just off the Kancamungus Highway. The trail starts out all beech trees and Nadia just ran through them, picking up leaves and dancing in the woods. She tried to go into the river (a small stream there, really). I grabbed her and headed the other way, and we looked through the silvery trees to the beaver pond. It was really a dramatic scenery. The trees were all birch, silver-grey bark, with a carpet of those gorgeous ribbed tan leaves carpeting the ground. Here and there lycopodium (club moss... the single stalk kind, with no silvery tail) poked through the leaves, as did various kind of ferns. I looked, but didn't find, beech drops. The hills curved down toward the highway from both sides, and behind us the mountains pile up larger and larger, with bare rock faces glistening in the sun. It was so warm I was in shorts and a tshirt, and Nadia had only pants and a long sleeve shirt on.

Our reverie was interrupted by LOUD planes flying overhead. They sounded like the Green Mountain Boys, breaking the sound barrier repeatedly in circles. Nadia had an absolute cow. Her face contorted and she ran to me, squeezing her arms around my neck. Poor baby, we don't live where there are loud planes. In the Kingdom, we could hear the boys practicing maneuvers sometimes. But never as loud as this, because here they echoed off the narrow valley walls and crashed into our minds like a drum circle in your ear. LOUD.

I picked her up and whispered over and over that it was ok. I imagined briefly what it must be like to be a mom in a war-torn area. How do whisper "OK...." to a terrified child listening to the planes there? Knowing the planes actually are menacing? Here, they are practicing to go there and kill people. To terrify mothers and children. To fight over oil. A few tears slid down my face.

But then I put her on my back, threw the baby bag over her which effectively held her tightly to me in a way no backpack ever does and in the gravitationally correct spot. The straps sat further out on my shoulders, allowing them to pull back and supplement the strength in my chest.

So up the hill we went. Over the river at least 6 times. Signs posted periodically on the trail spoke of the treacherousness of the hill and rocks. I wondered at what they meant by "Experienced hiker". But it listed "The Cascades" as being a half a mile up the hill, so we went, Nadia snuggled against my back, and my earth shoes sticking to the rocks like climbing booties.

The hill was not easy, and had lots of bold face open rock, and I imagine that in other time the rocks are wet and slippery. But it was amazingly beautiful, warm, and dry this day. the sun poked through the bare tops of beeches, birches, and evergreens. The cascades were a beautiful series of waterfalls tumbling through the rocks and over downed trees.

Nadia whispered "water" and I asked her if she liked it. "Yeup," she said. At the top of the waterfalls, we stopped and sat on a rock, staring out across the waterfalls, and then over the valley.

Suddenly it occurred to me what I was looking for.

Here is the beginning of life. Primordial ooze of spirit, if you will. I know New Agers often speak of "God within all" and use it as a way to exemplify the "god" within themselves and to feel as if they are the holy be all and end all.

But here, there was god. God in all and through all. Moving, not static. Through me and Nadia, and faster and slower than the waterfall. Like wind through the trees. Like wind through my heart. Here, all things are created equal. Here, we dance with the spirit of life. Here we stand tall with the strength of millennia.

Earlier this week I heard someone speaking on NPR about the "slurs" thrown at people in various elections in US history. One talked about the Jefferson/Adams election where someone was called a "Deist" because they believed in a God that made the world, then turned away to other things.

At a time in my life, that idea would have appealed to me. At another, it would have frightened me. I'd say I have been a Deist, an Atheist, a Humanist. The divides in Judeo-Christian religions do not interest me. And the Eastern philosophies, though they touch my heart, do not reflect the entire picture for me.

Here, on this hillside, I thought about all those pieces. What if we looked inward, prayed and meditated to hear the voice of God within, so that we may, in turn, look outward to our deep connection with the world? Looking inward only turns us in towards ourselves, and hardens our hearts to the larger world. The heart is not a piece that is deep and individual. It longs deeply for connection. The soul's energy is tied to the world... and even those things we imagine to be non living. Rocks are alive, if we understand that their seeming static status is only relative to our own time frame. Once we recognize this connection, we cannot see the world the same way.

So here, literally amidst the mountaintops (I have been to the top of the mountain... and I have seen the Promised Land... I may not get there with you...), I felt that what changed for us in this election was that the voice of connection was speaking to us. And only those who think God is a detached, separating voice, could fail to feel it. God is not on the other end of the life line. God is here and now.

As I walked (very carefully!) down the hillside in silence with Nadia, I heard in myself that God truly is in and with all. But this does not make me, or anyone else, the center of God, the center of the Universe. It puts God at the center of me. I am therefore required to connect myself, my heart, with the heart of the world. I must seek and do good for the universe. Only there can any of us truly find God.

Sillily enough, as I headed for the car, I heard the Battle Hymn of the Republic in my head. It felt fun to sing it. It connected me to the little girl who came home from school this week, carrying a huge Uncle Sam, and talking about how everyone should wear red, white and blue on election day. What I thought frustrating and too easily swayed in her, I began to recognize as pride and connection. I wished briefly that we had been able to be in a crowd like that at Times Square on Tuesday night, watching and barely breathing with the world. Instead, I have to be satisfied with having allowed them watch me fill in that bubble and feed the paper into a machine (step up from Craftsbury! It would have been into a hand-count ballot box there!). Nadia's giddiness and screaming as she ran through the gym (distracting other voters, no doubt), and Aidan's insistence that I vote Obama/Biden first (I saved the best for last), and Sage's deep patriotic fervor, reminded me that we all feel our connection differently.

It is my job as mother, teacher, counselor, to help nourish that connection, even when it doesn't fit with my personal paradigm. It my calling to recognize the forms deep connection takes, and to hold it sacred. To help others to hold it sacred.

So we came off the mountain top and headed home, a pile of birch leaves in the seat next to me. We followed along the winding, rocky, post glacial river to a wide valley, and past the reservoir in Plainfield to home. We went inside and nursed quietly until Daddy got home at 1.

Nadia spent the next few hours playing outside while Daddy worked, connecting to her home and sense of safety in this unsure world. And I went off to volunteer at Sage's class on their Native American unit.

I dropped off my resume to be a substitute to the principal while I was there. Sometimes, you connect any way you can.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Halloween etc

So we marched the little one out in her cozy, fleecy Unicorn outfit (from when Aidan was 3...thanks Grandma!). She clearly thought the whole thing strange. It took her quite a while to not yell, "No nononono!" and back out everytime someone asked her if she wanted a "treat". By the end, though, she was digging it. Walking up and saying "treat?" And then taking one, and saying "THANK YOU!" as we left. Until the last house. Where she walked in. And wouldn't leave. And when I picked her up, she said, "NO! Stay! FUN!" Soo.... note to self, Baby likes strangers.

Today, she has been meandering around behind and underneath me in the office, and rumaged through the recycling in order to wear an oatmeal box on one foot, a cracker box on another, and a granola box on her arm. Very funny. She even made strange noises and danced, and put on a woolen cap. Never mind that she had no pants or diaper on.

The elder two spent the weekend at their dad's, enjoyed their trick or treating, but Aidan asked to stay home next year to scare little kids. *Sigh* Already?? I still want to go trick or treating, just to get dressed up and walk around. Oh well.

Colin and I went to a yearly ritual in Craftsbury, a nice little sware with punk bands and a sign on the door telling all those under 21 to beware and run away. There have been years when this was a wild place, but this year it was fun... all the people we know there in costumes, good music, people from past years, and we got to say hey to everyone. We left relatively early, since Colin had to work in the morning.

We're getting ready to vote tomorrow, and the kids are excited to come with us. We plugged the tv back in so we can watch the results tomorrow night.

Colin and I have begun searching to buy a house again. We're feeling like we got ourselves in over our heads with the downstairs neighbors. They party all the time, are really loud, keep the heat up, and use all the hot water. And when Colin approached them the other day about noise, they told him our kids are loud. (No kidding! They're kids!). And now that the barn has been run over by horses and hay, and the downstairs neighbors have filled the side yard with snow machines, we think that maybe we should look elsewhere. The problem is there doesn't appear to be anything in this school district (same high school is ok, but in the elementary school district they all come with a gazillion acres and we can't afford them), and of course, we'd rather not move the kids into a new school again.

But frustrations aside, we are looking forward to Thanksgiving, and all of you coming to be with us. What do you all want to make? Ivy, I know Colin wants the sweet potato banana thingy you made last year. But I am totally open to suggestions... I will fill in around what you guys want to make, so let me know!

As for Christmas and the two birthday kids, we are trying to get them to say what they want. Sage of course, wants clothes, but really doesn't need any. Maybe she could use tights, stockings, socks, and "accessories"? Bracelets, necklaces, hair ties, headbands, etc? I really don't know how to feed her love for clothes, without having to wash more stuff!! Bedroom "froofies" like picture frames and throw pillows are always a plus, I think. She has flowers (pink, yellow and purple) on her quilt, and red ladybugs. She is also really loving her dance class in Burlington, and her teacher praises her all the time, so I am debating getting her into an afterschool dance class here as well, so maybe she could use some legwarmers, ballet slippers, and leotards? (And those funny dancer's sweater with the long arms but not much of a body... like arm warmers?) And maybe yoga clothes. I have been debating yoga class for her. She would also like a magazine by the Cricket group. And music. I have no idea what kind, but I'd imagine it would be Disney-esque, like Raven, Cheeta Girls, Hannah Montannah, and the Jonas Brothers. But she has a lot of that on her MP3 player, so I really don't know. Books are good, as she is actually reading a bit herself now. SHe LOVES Junie B Jones books, and we only have 4 of them. American Girl books are awesome for her, as well as "stuff" for her dolls. She also wants her own sketchbooks and art supplies. Size 8-10 clothes (Medium.... sometimes this is a little big, but 8 is about right). Feet are a 1.

Aidan would like to keep getting a magzine but would like to switch back to Dig from Calliope. Since he missed getting into school lessons, I am trying to figure out how to get him some private lessons, and to rent an instrument. Anyone who'd like to contribute to that is welcome! I have emailed his music teacher to ask for a list of names of teachers. He's really into music, and really quite good at it. I still have some beginning sax music, so I think we're ok on some of that. We also have stands, and a metronome. He is enjoying the comic book club at the library, so comic book stuff is good too. Also graphic novels are a favorite (Although definitely check out the content first!!). He could use some clothes, and asked for sweat pants and really big sweatshirts and tshirt (I know.... I know.... ). But he also likes real dress up clothes. And boxer briefs ("No tighty whiteys Mom!"). He also likes music, but again, hard to know what and whether to buy or whether I could just find him some stuff on the computer and burn it for him. He has asked for "the new" Bionicles and Legos. Also, as always, Buddha stuff and books now on Judeaism and Buddhism.

Nadia is really into books, and playing with the trains, and the kitchen and doll stuff. She has also begun getting into dress ups. And ours are pretty sad at this point! They've been through a lot of wear and tear (So get out and get those cheapo post halloween costumes! Dig through the christmas tree crap to get to them!). SHe has begun to get into art stuff more and more, and we'd love some beeswax modelling clay, or real clay. She needs clothes, size 2 ish (She's in 18 months right now). She needs pants, and I would love for her to have tight-like legging pants that could be worn with any number of outfits. She also needs long sleeve shirts and layers. I'd love for her (and all the kids, actually) to have polypro long underwear and winter pjs. Wool socks for them all. Nadia also loves her wooden toy car, and would love more.

But again, remember that they don't need much, and would probably love one big, thoughtful, natural thing more than a lot of little stuff. I am really struggling with what to get them. I am debating snow shoes for them so we can all go out together. Our sleds are kind of sad, so they would love some new ones. Anything that keeps them busy outside, or encourages them to think and spend time with their own minds is great. Also, things that remind them of you all! And the things we all do together.

I personally would love to see them get things they need (long underwear, socks, etc), and a few things they wants, and a few things for them to DO. Right now it looks like I might be taking a few kids in come January, so I really need less stuff to trip over, and more toddler appropriate things out, and more sensory stuff. Clay, yarn, paper, etc.

As for us, I have no idea. I'd love it if you'd all collect used sheets from yard sales and thrift stores for me to make rugs out of. And I'd love more canvas to paint rugs. Also a nice set of decent paint brushes. I'm sure there are things we have talked about needing, but I don't remember what they were. I will get back to you all on that.

We want to know what you all want from us as well. Let us know so we can get started! With school, I am trying to get the holidays set ahead of time, as much as possible.

We love you all, and miss you and will talk to you all soon.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Mo' Dreams at MoMA

Gustav Klimt. Right there.

Brush strokes on a Monet.

Marilyn in all her golden glory and Andy's soup cans.

Legos. Can shapes. Chairs galore.

An Airstream camper.

And outside, new ideas on modular and solar housing.

Wow. Wowow.

Being out with just Colin at the MoMA, walking in Manhattan, sipping the strongest cup of coffee I have ever tasted, and running into (literally) Eliott Spitzer was about the best time I have ever had. Art that was unique and interesting and something we had always seen.

Perhaps I could have done without the gazillions of Picassos. And Picasso sculptures. Everywhere.

But the stuff was pretty cool. I longed for more design art. Furniture and buildings and clothing. But the rest was neat. Some was just plain weird. The exhibit on photpgraphy through time was cool. And the modular homes outside were really cool.

The best thing was all the people. All walks of life from all over the world in there, for free, looking at the art.

I'm going again someday.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Sense of Place

I knew that weed. Actually, it was a baby birch tree. It has grown just a bit over the last few years, gaining a few inches here and a few inches there. I never really notice it until fall, when it turns a brilliant yellow against the brown and green background of the sugarbush.

But I noticed it that day.

The kids and I were up visiting Craftsbury, looking for people, saying hello, and doing a lot of driving around the area to do what we needed to do. And as I passed by Sterling College and Craftsbury Common, I saw the vistas and yards I had come to know very well in the last 8 years. Some are pieces of land where I could draw a visual map in my mind of where they went and what grew there and experiences I had had there. Some are more like postcards on the fridge, pretty pictures I know well, but take for granted.


What does that mean? Did I really take it all for granted? And what does any of that have to do with that damn little weed?

There is a sense of security and confidence that brews when you're intimately familar with your surroundings. It is more than knowing where your favorite tree grows or where the first little snowdrops will appear in Spring. It is a subtle, but constant, awareness of the cycles and lives that are moving on all around you. It is a deep knowing of where you fit in those lives, those cycles. It is knowing the rituals the earth preforms, and when to see the sacred moments.

It is being granted a private conversation with the Universe.

Not everyone is looking. Even when they notice, "Hey, that little tree is all yellow against the leaf-covered bank" they may not really see it. They may not say, "that little tree wasn't there when I moved here 7 and a half years ago, but now look at it. It seems almost tall enough to stick its little tip above the snowbanks this March."

But if you stop, even if just in your mind, and really allow it to sink in your soul, you can feel something speaking to you. It is as though the story of that tree's life unfolds in your mind. You might remember where the nearest adult birch is. What the soil is like around there in the spring. That the garter snakes have a hibernaculum in the rocks next to that tree. Where the horses stop when they are backing the maple syrup tank in to the old road in the woods, just five feet from that little tree. That that birch just might survive no matter how cold it is, because birches stay with you as other trees drop out on the journey north from here.

But I don't live here anymore. I don't live where I know the shapes of the spruces against the dusk sky. I'm not sure where the snowdrops will pop through the snow this spring, or even if there are any here. I don't know where the first dandelion greens will be that could be cooked up to nurture our winter-weary tummies and souls with rich green food. I don't know where to find wild leeks, or where the bethroot grows. I don't know how long those baby spruces have grown beside the driveway, or whether the birch tree in my back yard died last year or ten years ago.

It is disconcerting to be disconnected. To feel like a guest in the world I used to know so well. But I do know where to begin to look, and this winter maybe the beginnings of finding my spot in the lap of this little hill of ours.

I already know where the deer trails are, and where the hemlock stand can keep them safe. I have heard the Barred Owls at night, and know that as the winter drags on and food gets scarce, they're likely to hang out in the old dead birch tree snag. I saw a red squirrel bouncing up a tree with food in its mouth, readying for the cold. Colin told me where the beaver is building his dam. The winter birds have begun to sneak out of the woods, collecting seeds and making stashes. And I know where the coyotes call from, and that they know where the deer hide. When the snow falls, which it should do soon, we will be able to go out and track them over the karst topography around us.

I left school this morning, the last day of our residency, ready to come home and delve into my semester's work. And as I headed across the campus, there in the disatnce, looking over the village of Plainfield, the traingular strength of Spruce Mountain held everything in its place. And I remembered... I am not a stranger in a strange land here. I am here, and have been here, ever since the first time I saw that mountain from the road as we passed through town. I was 16. I have been drawn to these hills ever since. And for a time, if ever so brief, Plainfield was home.

Here I am again. Looking to memorize the trees.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Switch to Grad Program

Hey all....

So the official word is this: I AM NOW A REAL GRAD student. I decided that I was academically beyond the "Pre-G" semester, stated my case, talked to everyone and financial aid, and then the status was switched.

So what does this mean? It means 4 grad level courses at 4 weeks apiece rather than 5 undergrad level courses at 3 weeks a piece. And it means more in depth, study, an extra 10-15 pages of writing per course, and a focus within the course. Mostly it means the same texts, with a bit more reading.

So now I had better get on those study plans, and my "SPAW" (Study Plan As a Whole)! See ya'll soon.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Away at school

HI all, I am at school, and loving it. Keep in touch in the evenings!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Setlling into the craziness

The rush to be ready for next week at Goddard has kicked in. Trying to settle housing arrangements (aka: I don't need any), get childcare figured out, plan meals for the family for the week that Colin can throw on and be done with, and get the "little things" organized and ready. I figure that oughtta take me all week, and through the weekend!

And boy, am I nervous! A new school (at the old school??) with a bunch of people I don't know (average age in the psych program is 44 or something), and a whole new subject. And I will be doing FIVE undergrad courses between now and the middle of February! Holy cow! (School supplies? Oh... my!)

Sage was feverish all night, and her nose just snuffled and snuffled all night long. Aidan began snuffling around 10, and had a fever as well. Nadia fell right asleep at 8, but then woke up at 9, and fussed and fussed for hours, finally falling asleep around 11 (so much for my "mommy time"). She woke up again at 2:30 and never fell back asleep until 4:30. I had put Sage and Aidan in bed with me because they weren't feeling well, and to keep them from waking up Colin when they needed me. But Nadia was sleeping with him, and obviously, woke him up, and then he was up off and on while she fussed (I heard the tv go on a couple of times). So I can't imagine anyone feels good today. I know my throat is sore, and I am exhausted. And I have everybody at home in bed. But of course, they get a little restless, and begin to fuss about. Sage's fever seems to finally have lessened up about a half an hour ago, so hopefully we are past the yuckies!

Now... hopefully Nadia and I don't get sick next week. Hmmm.

Colin found childcare for Nadia where one of his co-worker's kid goes. I have called today, but didn't get to talk to the woman (busy with kids perhaps??) so I will call again this afternoon. I'm nervous about that too. The horror stories I can tell about childcare, day care, babysitting! And not from my side, but from moms who have had bad things happen to their kids. I am sure that everything is fine, but I am going to go and visit, because otherwise I will worry all the time.

Sage has discovered the "Jack and Annie" books we have (The Magic Treehouse Series), and although it is hard for her, she is actually reading them. SHe seems to have done a lot more reading lately. And suddenly seems to be enjoying it (THANK GOODNESS!!). These books are easy enough that I think she might be able to plough through them once she gets through one or two.

The cold has finally come to Montpelier. The laundry Colin hung out last night was covered with ice this morning, and the house was definitely chilly. But the sun came out, and is warming everything up quickly (no fog last night). We expect another hard frost tonight and then it is supposed to be warm for a while after that.

Everytime I think it couldn't possibly be any more beautiful here, the next wave of changes hits, and it is stunning. When we first visited and paid our deposit on the house, the apple trees, elder, and the honeysuckle were all in bloom. It smelled amazing. The pine and fir and spruce and hemlock were covered in pale green spring growth, and the maples had leaved out their deep red buds. The woods had small ferns unfurling and no other undergrowth but last fall's dark brown leaf litter.

Then summer came, and there were raspberries and cherries and elderberries and apples and blackberries. It looks as though there might even be a few strawberries. The maples and birches filled the air, and made the yard feel enclosed and cozy and protected. The garden spilled over its borders despite the late start, and sunflowers poured over the top of the chicken coop fence.

Now, leaves of all colors litter the yard, and the white pines have seemed to turn yellow underneath the green, dropping last year's needles to form a deep carpet of orange beneath each tree. The firs and spruces seem as green and blue as ever, and the apple trees are still going strong, despite the frost. Long ago, the cedar waxwings came and stole all the berries, leaving the cheery tree and elders picked clean. No one seems to want the Japanese honeysuckle.

As the leaves fall, the view opens up to the hills beyond, one view to the southwest, and one to the north west, along the spine of mountains that runs from Hardwick to Montpelier. I have watched as the fall colors swelled and faded, leaving now a brown-ish grey sheen where the deciduous trees rise, tucked in between their evergreen cousins. It seems much the same as life in Craftsbury, but for one thing: we are either too far south for the cold sinks where tamaracks thrive, or the soil is too sweet for their taste, and I will miss the pumpkin orange of the last blaze of Autumn, as the only coniferous tree to drop its needles displays its fall color.

It makes me wonder what winter will hold? I can already imagine the snow draped across the white pines and hemlocks outside our living room windows, and the dance of chicakdees and jays across the deck as they look for seeds. We've already heard the owls calling in the night, the Barred owls, and I expect to find them come late winter balancing on the branches of those huge trees outside, staring down at us, wondering why we don't fling mice and shrews at them. And the coyotes, crying in the woods, must know about the fir stand just across the property line, where deer must overwinter. We see them already, out in the pasture, and sometimes in the yard, and we expect to be able to follow their trails easily when the snow comes.

I hope to find some snowshoes for the kids this winter, since we have such vast woods behind us, so we can all go out traipsing through the woods, tracking, and playing in the snow. I wish I could've afforded an amauti when I was pregnant with Nadia (an Inuit winter parka with the "shelf hood" for the baby to sit on), so I could carry her close to me, and we could share our warmth. But we will figure something else out, I am sure. And off we'll go, to find those wolf-coy hybrids' footprints lurking in the snow, reminding us that this world is little of our own making, and too much of our own taking.

The children are sitting, glassy-eyed, at the table, making puppets on popsicle sticks, and Nadia is crying "Fee Fiee... See book!!!" at me (Followed closely by a "TanTooo!" ..."thank you"). SO I am going to go and oversee the process and read to Nadia. "Fee" means fish in Nadia-ese; her new favorite thing is fish. Sometimes it even sounds like "feee-sh"! She looks like a freshly washed ppodle staring at a fish tank at the moment, her hair all wet and curled (after 20 minutes of brushing out the horrid dredlocks) and close to her scalp (despite being longer than the middle of her back), and she is staring at a particularly colorful page of fish from the DK book series.

Off I go to play and heat up chicken soup and biscuits (last nights dinner for sick people).

Monday, October 06, 2008

Sick Day

Sagey is sick today, complete with hot skin, an headache, a runny nose, a stomach ache, and glassy eyes. Bummer. Especially since I am trying to get things settled for school and get the garden in tonight... killing frost over the entire state tonight and tomorrow, with warmer temps later in the week.

But we baked oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, and are about to do some reading together, and Nadia is only having about 25 hissy fits a minute because she has to share her momma.

But the chill air smells delicious, even though Colin and I desperately miss the feel, smell, taste, and sight of wood heat, we welcome the moments of battening down the hatches. And our house is warm and comfortable and clean. Really, who could ask for anything more?

I am looking into natural paints and lazuring techniques for doing the girls' room walls. I would like to paint their room a warm peachy pink, and put in the ol' double bed and set it up to be a comfortable space, pretty specifically for sleeping. Play is for out here. And besides, no one seems to notice as the toys migrate to the garage, so maybe they won't notice the migration of toys from the bedroom, either. I haven't thrown them away, and I was asked about the guys, the cars, and the animals, but I think that is more than ok. They promote open-ended imaginiative play anyway.

Well, off to give cuddles and kisses and chamomile tea to Sagey, and hope that Nadia lays off the nipples long enough to let me cuddle her big sister.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Good News


Now we're scrambling to get everything taken care of (child care, deposit, residency request info, fin aid, etc...) before SATURDAY!! (Woah.) We're down to about three days we have to figure care for Nadia, and I may have to look into before school/after school for Aidan and Sage on those days. We'll figure it out.

We miss you all. If you'd like to actually catch us at home and not eating dinner, 7pm is usually a good time! I pick the kids up at 4 usually on Sundays, so we're home around 4:30. Sunday is usually an easy dinner so feel free to call anytime Sunday evenings.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Duckie Dos and Snow in the Air

The new Cayuga pair have arrived!

They are large and beautifully feathered out, deep black with the most radiant "beetle green" sheen all over! Sue and Aaron picked them up for $10 for the pair at a bird swap at the Lamoille County Fairgrounds. We drove up yesterday, gave the kids a chance to play with their buds Silas and Mianda, dropped them $10, and brought the duckies home. They are currently penned in the barn in the old cow stall, getting used to their new home. They will be introduced to the chickens in a few days, and then be let out to free-range. (Saves us soooo much money!)

The kids were supposed to have a hike day today, but at 6:50 AM it was pouring and cold. I finally went down at 7:30 to plug in the heat system. We'll need it tonight, as snow is forcasted on the mountain-tops. I guess that means if we get a break in the drizzle this afternoon (the sun is supposed to come out eventually) that I will have to go out and harvest most of the garden. This leaves me in quite a pickle, as there is almost no room in the freezer. We really need to get our hands on one we can stick in the garage. The freezer is currently full with the 5 roosters Colin slaughtered last weekend, and the huge package of meat I got yesterday at the grocery store. Turns out Hannafords will sell "Family Packs" all put together for you for about 2/3s of the original price. I spent an hour yesterday afternoon repackaging and freezing it all. Should be set for a very long time!

Speaking of meat, we should be picking up a 20-22 lb turkey for Thanksgiving from Sue and Aaron at some point this weekend. The turkeys went to the slaughter house today. [Aaron is still trying to decide what to do about their 14 meat (chicken) birds, as it costs about & a bird to send to slaughter, but 14 is a lot to do on your own.] The turkeys were happy, well-cared for, fed organic grain and free-ranged. And very funny. They gobbled exuberantly as we walked out past them to catch the ducks. I look forward to eating them! (A very handy tool I was taught early on in my "I wanna farm" days was no matter how cute something is, always remind yourself and it of its ultimate purpose by saying something like, "Hello birdies, don't you look tasty today!" Silly? Maybe. But it works for me.)

Well, it looks like the rain is lightening up and I can no longer justify sitting here at the computer. Off to household chores and doing a bit of "feng shui" in some of the rooms. We've been here long enough now for me to figure out what works and what doesn't. I love our great room. I hate our bedroom, and the girls' room. At the moment, I am keeping my eyes out for a decent deal on a full-size mattress and box spring. Aidan and Sage slept together for awhile when Sagey was about Nadia's age, and it really eliminated a lot of the jealousy and angst of who got attention when at bedtime. Since both girls go to bed so well (when not distracted by their never-sleeping older bro), and since their room feels crowded and divided, I am looking to put in Aidan's old double bed. Hopefully that will help organize and create a feeling of coherence and unity between the girls. Plus, on nights when I need to put them both to bed myself, I can lay in bed and read to both of them, and no one has to feel left out (unless I fall asleep before getting to Aidan!).

Alright... here I go. Really. DOn't try and stop me. Besides, I guess I have to go find all the mittens and hats and coats in the garage attic. Ugh.

Miss you all and wish you all lived in little Bungalows around the yard.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Rain rain go away

A grey drizzle has settled over our little hill today. The chickens have yet to notice. I have watched them chase one another across the driveway, pecking at the grit and salt by the sides of the road. Ambling back across the yard, with a flutter here and there, they end up back in the garden, nibbling snails and earwigs.

Yesterday, though the clouds dampened the sky, it didn't rain. So after I met with Aidan's teacher prior to school, Nadia and I went for a fall foliage drive. We went down to Brookfield, VT, and up to Allis State Park. All the parks are locked up for the fall at this point, but we parked below the gate, and walked up the long hill. The maples, birches, beeches, and ashes have all dropped leaves (the beeches didn't seem to be holding on to too many of their leaves like normal. I wonder why?). Nadia yelled "YELLOW!!" and filled my vest pockets with leaf after leaf. At first, it was ok for me to take them from her and put them in my pocket, but soon Nadia had to do it. Eventually the pockets were also lined with small rocks and sticks. Who says I ain't got nuttin' in my pocket?

Eventually Nadia noticed places where the wind had made deeper piles of leaves, which are of course, for the sole purpose of walking in. We ran and laughed as our feet shot leaves everywhere. Near the top of the hill, her little legs began to get tired and she asked to be picked up. I put her on my shoulders, and away we went. This is a state park in the woods, with campsites and leantos, built by the CCC in the 30s. (Time for a new Great Plan?) The road turns to gravel at the check-in building, and loops around, with small driveways off to each campsite. This is a pretty unique place because there is no pond for swimming, and the site is on the top of a hill. From some sights you can see South/Southwest. From the main building you look North/Northeast. And from the best site, you look over the hills east/southeast of Brookfield that are separated by deep gullies and ravines and a few flat valleys. On a clear day, I am sure this view must extend to New Hampshire. Even with the clouds balancing on the hilltops, it was a beautiful view, with deep splashes of color and texture on the hills beyond.

As we walked, Nadia would yell, "Yellow!" at most leaves, and we began discerning between the colors, and mentioning that they were all still "Leaves". When a bird chirpped or cawed or jayed, we would stop and listen and Nadi would whisper "Buuurd." We scared a grouse (which, let's be honest, sorta scared us) who took off with the heartbeat sound of its wings pounding the air, and our ears. I stopped and pointed and we watched it fly away. I also mentioned that we had scared the bird. The second one scared me less and we laughed.

My favorite part of our walk was on the way back, when Nadia got off my shoulders and picked up a stick. She traced the cracks in the pavement with her stick for a good half a mile. Very deliberately, she would stop, crouch, and trace. At one point, she shoved her stick in the crack so deeply that it stood on end. She backed up, leaned back, put her hands out to her sides (palms up) and yelled, "Woooooaaaaahhh!" Unbelievably adorable. I resisted the urge to make a big scientific discovery out of it, and just allowed her to enjoy it, echoing her woah, and smiling. I then turned and continued on my way to see what she would do next. She slowly examined each crack for a time after that, trying to jam her stick into it, but never meeting with the same result. It always fell over. A few times she left her stick and then went back for it. She ran up and poked me in the butt with it and said, "Bonk!" then laughed like a crazy person. Eventually, I showed her how to use it to swish the leaves around, and about half way back down the hill, stuffing my pockets with more leaves had taken precidence, and she dropped the stick. Again, I resisted the urge to interfere, deciding that the experience was worth far more than the object.

She never mentioned the stick again, until dinner, and has yet to look in my pockets for all those rocks and leaves. Our walk took nearly two and a half hours, and was a wonderful way to spend the morning before heading to grocery store, off home to nap (for her), and then to pick up her sibs and head to the library.

At each stop yesterday she asked to go potty, and I pulled off the diaper and helped her to squat in the woods, avoided the thr grocery store bathroom, and we peed at the library. On diaper, off diaper. On panties at home, diaper to go out. (Sometimes we use thick undies and vinyl pants, but only have a few pairs... they tend to get used up quickly).

At the library, Aidan went to a comics club, and they drew two, three-panel comics for submission to the paper. He also got a free comic book, and they will meet again next week. We'll always be a little late because it starts at the moment the school gets out in East Montpelier. Ironically, they meet in the East Montpelier room at the library. (Weird).

Sage and I looked up "Princesses and Fairies" for her topic of interest (getting her to read anything but Dick and Jane by herself is like pulling teeth. Why Dick and Jane? Those were our "Schoolbooks" for reading during homeschool. She has since convinced herself that she can't do anything else. *Sigh* Perfectionism is a sign of smartness. And then, that person never feels like anything they do is up to snuff. This leads to being afraid to try. Hmmmm.... sounds like both Aidan and Sage. And me. And Colin. Call us the crippled crazy-brains.) Eventually I got her to enjoy herself, and she didn't want to leave. She took out every copy of the fairy poems by Cicely Mary Barker that they had. Garden fairies, tree fairies, spring fairies, winter fairies, and a fairy alphabet. We also got a book called "Princesses Never Quit," about princesses who are bored and switch with their servants for the day, then go on to always help with the chores. At home, she set the table (her night... I finally wrote it on the calendar... how long it takes me to be organized!) and gave us all assigned seats by putting afiry book at each spot. Colin didn't get it at first, and asked her to remove them. I asked him to let her explain, and whispered "It's ok..." and he grinned. We just moved the books ourselves when we took our seats.

Colin ran into another friend this weekend. Two weekends ago it was his buddy Johnny (who now goes by Juan) at the residency at Goddard. This weekend it was his friend, Sam, who plays in a brass punk band we went to see at the Langdon Street Cafe (Feel free to Google this place. They list their schedule online. We know the principle owner.) She plays the cymbals. Aidan and Sage were soooo impressed. And when she gave them a free copy of the her cd, they were even more impressed. There were lots of little kids there, all dancing in the empty lot under the tent, and marching around the block as this band paraded around Montpelier. A lot of fun! Lots! It is especially nice when we get to do something we like to do with the kids. Plus, I had the nicest mug of beer. Pumpkin Ale. By Smuttynose (I think) definitely not by Sam Adams or Long trail or whoever else makes one. This one tastes a bit like pumpkin pie with hops. Delicious. And orange in tint. I am always a fan of anything that comes in that deep, harvest, rusty-orange.

My application was reviewed on Monday for the psych and counseling program. I should find out today or tomorrow by mail. I will keep ya'll posted.

We payed some respect to Rosh Hoshana this week with sweet dinners and Challah dipped in honey. We had the last of the lamb the other night.... first slow cooked in a wine and cider broth flavored with carrots, onions, garlic, and celery. Then it was broiled with an apple jelly/mint glaze. The veggies from the broth were then mixed with cooked beets and given a maple clove glaze. And last night we had roast beef, mashed potatoes, pear/gorgonzola/almond salad in a red wine coulis sauce, and a tomato basil egg noodle salad. Colin is looking forward to celebrating Sukkot, and building the shelter. We think we are going to put it on the deck, since the tables are already out there. Hopefully, we can have a big dinner potluck for the festival. We're hoping, anyway. Aidan told me the other night that he wanted to be a Buddhist Jew, and low and behold there was a book about a Buddhist Jew in the library. We also got some books on celebrating the Jewish holidays, and cooking for them, and stories and poems about them. We also found out that there are some high holidays services at the Vermont College of the fine arts. So we are hoping to go for Yom Kippur with the kids, to help Aidan see what a temple service is like. Hopefully, someday, I will get him out to Barnet, VT, to visit the Buddhist center out there.

Well, I supposed eventually I should get thee to a nunnery.... oh, no, a grocery store. Bad shakespeare, bad! Stay in thee corner. (I find that I am always saying "Out out dammed spot!" as the children wring their dirty hands, seeking help to get them clean.)

It is pouring now, and I seem to be losing my internet connection intermittenly now. So I should probably post this and get on with my day.

Love you all and wish you were here!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Farmhouse Foolishness

I find it funny how people love the quaintness of farmhouses. Today, I drove past a local house that has been fixed up in the 14 years I have been on the roads around here. It certainly had been a run-down place at times. It had even been a farm. Surrounded by nice, rich, river-bottom soils, and a flat valley, it is definitely quite picturesque.

But now the electro-mesh and fiberglass poles surround a play area filled with plastic Little Tykes climbers and toys. And the house has been painted in fancy colors. It's true, it finally looks well kept. But while the building is attractive, and the name adorable... even including the word "farm" in the title, the fields are fallow and bare.

True, earth should rest. Any amateur agriculturalist worth half their weight in salt knows that.

But a farmhouse should be on a farm.

As "flatlanders" (myself included) invade this agrarian landscape, farm after farm turns to yuppy playhouse, and some turn to developments to feed the need for housing in a rapidly growing region. Many here are retirees as well. People not interested in getting their knees dirty, smelling like deisel fuel, or chasing critters around a pen.

That is not to say there aren't a lot of people who are willing to farm. Vermont is full of them. The Harwick area where we used to live is bursting with renewed agricultural systems from farms, to dairy processing, to soy, to restaurants feeding local foods. There is even a composting company. The systems there have increasingly become more local, more sustainable, and more agrarian.

When we moved here, we knew there would be a lot more people. We knew we would benefit in many ways from the conveniences set up to serve so many people. But in the midst of so many people sometimes one sees why Vermont culture is disappearing in the same way small, localized cultures have disappeared all over the United States. Beyond becoming a "Walmart Nation", we are becoming a nation that longs for an idyllic nature that never existed.

The idyllic, post-card nature of that farm this morning is a case-in-point. It idealizes the work of the farm. We use the term "farm" without seeing the hard work, the deep monetary commitment, the difficulty of balancing between sustainable and affordable.

But farmland is working land. As a t-shirt at the Plainfield farmer's market proclaims: FOOD NOT LAWNS. What if that were true? What if rather than chasing the perfect sod, we tilled it in? Let it grow to house the critters who need to live there, and upon whom we invisably rely? What if we treated our soil like our very blood, rather than the dirt between our toes?

Such foolishness it seems, farmhouses without farms.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Notes to self...

* Do not allow Colin to have coffee at desert time

* Children find cheap, gaudy dollar store underwear funny and will put it on their heads. Colin will laugh.

* Maybe the leaves are all red here because of limited variety or temperature or soil or light exposure. Orange exists in Barre and Williamstown. And its pretty.

* Don't rush a hen. Standing there watching her lay tends to make her nervous.

* Obama and Palin shouldn't be topics of conversation with evangelical friends, no matter how much you have in commmon.

* Don't scare the grandmas with blogs about choking babies.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Evening walk

No one picked up the mail today. As of 7 pm the mailbox was still and quiet at the bottom of the hill, and no one knew if there even was any mail. Nadia had choked on olives at dinner. She greedily stuffed seven or more of them into her mouth at once, and promptly turned blue. I waited a moment to see if a little gagging was going to bring them up, but when one popped out of her mouth like a round black cork, and she still wasn't breathing, I jumped. Colin jumped. I got there first, and, yanking her from her chair, flipped her upside down and whacked. I must've been a sight because Aidan and Sage giggled and sucked air at the same time... half horror, half glee at how funny I looked and how loud the whacks were. They teach you in CPR about using the heel of your hand, and how it will sound, and that you'll just know to use it. But when it is your own child... instinct doesn't seem nearly adequate enough.

But the olives came up. Complete with mostly digested cheddar and a little bit of burrito. Maybe even a taste of kale. It smelled sour and sweet, like babies who drink formula. And there were chunks of olive all over the floor. She looked pale, and her eyes watered, and her forehead had splotches of red from the exertion and upsidedown-ness. I held her close to me, sat on the toy box a bit away from the table, and nursed her in the early evening light.

So now, with dinner done, and clearing and dishes taking place, I needed air. Space. Time. When life goes whizzing by at twice the speed of light, sometimes there is benefit to taking a deep breath without anyone next to you to hear. So I said I was going to get the mail. Sage jumped up and said, “ME too!” and normally I would think about how hard it is to give them all enough attention and if Sagey wanted to be with me right now, that would be OK.

But not tonight.

I just needed to walk. Alone.

The air had begun to feel thick the way it does around here in the evening. I walked slowly, but not in wander, past the new swingset. This suddenly there play area was surrounded by the water bin and buckets, toddler chairs and the little red wagon. It looked idyllic, yet the clich├ęd toys felt right in the pink light of dusk. Passing the barn, I could hear the hens cooing to themselves in the coop, and one clucked and fluttered. I imagined it shoving and pushing like an angry mom having to be first in line at the toy store at Christmas.

Beyond the barn, the woods close in around the driveway. The scent is complicated here, with the deep decay of leaf litter, the homey scent of pine and fir, and the sweet smell of crisp sugar and red maple leaves. As the road dips deeply and winds to my left, I was suddenly taken aback by the autumn colors. The view is open here, and in the distance hills roll away to the south and east, covered in the dusky red that seems to be the signature of this fall. Orange and yellow are missing so far, and we may have to wait for the last gasp of autumn for the blaze of the tamaracks to give us a taste of different color.

Between the hills, where the ancient onion river winds, the fog has blanketed the landscape. Like a scarf draped on delicate shoulders it smooths the depths and accentuates the tree covered mounds. For a moment there is no traffic on either of the busy roads that meet in the village. I am caught in the moment after the sigh but before the breath as the world falls asleep.

This is what I came for.

I walk home, calmer now, as the sky deepens to dark blue around me. Suddenly the everyday-ness of chores and work feel good again, and I pick up some paper someone dropped by the side of the road. A few rocks called to me from where the water forms a rivulet in a storm. I thought they seemed the right size and shape for paperweights or some such silly chachka for the holidays. Maybe I could even sell them at the craft fairs. Ideas for painting present themselves in the mowed pasture that Mark finished just today, and the shadows of the pines settle over me. I dump the water bin that Nadia and I played in for hours today, and organize the toys underneath the climber.

Then the warm light of the dining room draws me in, calling to me to be present for my family. Their chores are making them laugh, and everyone sounds busy and content. I walk toward them, looking forward to the game of UNO we'll play, and the pride of checking their homework. And Nadia will play and laugh and take all the wrapping off every single roll of toilet paper in storage.

And it will be like I never saw my littlest one balancing on the edge of life at the dinner table.

Welcome to the Glog

First things first. Happy Birthday, Mommy! (I get to wish I could've given my mommy a birthday hug, right?) And sorry I haven't mailed the birthday card. To summarize something my former advisor Kati recently said to me, things get shaky when it comes to licking the envelope glue and sticking on the stamp. But I can hit the send button! So this "Glog" is dedicated to you! May you have many more to wonder where my birthday card is! And many more to have me call you on the cell phone in the parking lot.

Second, WELCOME to the first edition of the official GLOG! (Grandparent's Log... Thanks, Chris!)

It is only 8:59 in the morning and the sun is pushing through the fog, creating inrows of sunbeams from directions we rarely see in this foggy river valley. At the trailer we rarely saw the fog wind its whispy little fingers across route 14, and when it did, it settled down in the creekbed that meandered across the cow pasture. It is funny to me that each morning here is so new and different, and makes the image of life outside our old windows so very vivid. In the newness of here I feel the foundation of yesterday.

We have yet to have had a killing frost "down" here (all things are relative, and we are Southerners compared to those in Craftsbury) and it seems downright tropical. No frost by the first full day of Autumn? And the second?? WOW.

The apples have begun to drop from the trees and Colin and I spent Sunday morning picking and sorting apples. We've made apple butter, apple sauce, apple crisp, and dehydrated apples. And we left some for the turkeys. When we still had roosters (they're in the freezer now) they would wander under the trees, grab apples and head for our deck. We're hoping our new hens are far more skiddish than that! They seem to be. We have 2 Amerecaunas, 3 Buff Orpingtons, and 4 weird looking buggers with feathered legs. Plus one Welsummer and one beetled black hen. We kept Naked Chicken, who almost has tail feather now that he is 6 months old, and the 2 Aracauna roosters. And everyday, we have two green eggs! I have learned, however, that a straight run really doesn't save you money. So next spring I hope to order 25 Aracauna/Amerecauna hens. I want those funny colored eggs! (Organic eggs are selling at farmer's markets for over $4/dozen!)

We decided against the goat for the time being. Colin was really afraid the cost of feed wouldn't balance out the amount of milk we'd get. I am hoping to rent or borrow some of Sue's goats instead. She has one that will be freshened for the first time this fall, and another that has milked quite a bit, who we might be able to borrow in the Spring. I am hoping to do this. Maybe it helps them and us. And I am looking forward to making cream cheese and traditional lemon juice soft white cheese. Maybe if I get good enough at it, I can experiment with some hard cheeses. Colin and I have some friend (Princess and Marissa) who have their own cheese company now. Next time ya'll are up, we'll get some. They are called Ploughgate Creamery and they have the best blue cheese called Blue Aster. Nummy yummy. They age their cheese up at Jasper Hill... I'd imagine you could google Jasper Hill Greensboro VT and find out about it. It is the only cheese aging cave of its kind. It's HUGE. And we know lots of people who are working there.

I went to the school's open house last night. I have to say, that despite my frustrations with Craftsbury, I miss the "small town" aspect. Open House used to mean the whole town came out, and the kids were all playing on the playground in the dark, and we got to see their stuff. They dragged us in, pulling out arms out of the socket, to proudly show us their work and rooms. Here, the kids weren't allowed. We had to go to the auditorium and sit and listen to the principal. (Look Mommy... the prince is my PAL.. I can spell it!!) Then the bell rang (for real) and we had to go to the "first class". I listened to the 4 grade 2/3 teachers talk. AS boring as it was, I have to say, it does sound like they will be doing some cool stuff this year. In November they will be doing a huge 6 week project on Native Americans (never mind the fact that most nations ask you not "DO Indians" for Thanksgiving... someday we'll all get there). the unit will end with a potlach supper (a traditional party of the NW American tribes on the coast... the Tlingit, et al).The kids will work in small groups with kids from all 3 classes, and not necessarily with their teacher, doing a piece of the project that could be a writing piece, an art piece, music, storytelling, etc. I am hoping to volunteer, because my Northern Studies degree at least preps me for this stuff! In the Spring the kids will study slavery and African American history (thank god!!), countries around the world (a two or three week whole school intensive), and some science units. They will go to the Montshire Museum in June, and to see the play Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters in April at the Flynn theater in Burlington.

Aidan's teacher spent most of the time explaining their folders, which I have already been through with him time and again. And the rest of the parents in that group were from 6th grade, so they were all talking about the new 6th grade math program. Apparently, the teacher and parents are distressed about the new way the district (woah... they make district wide decisions here) is doing math for 6th, 7th, and 8th grade. (Which means Aidan will get it here next year, then when he goes to middle school up at the huge high school U-32). They are grouping the kids all together in one class regardless of skill level to teach concepts, and then individual work is given depending on the child's skill level. Mrs. Barrett seems concerned that children who need to be challenged will find it boring and children who need extra help might not get enough support. I think if the kids work together, kids with more skills could teach kids with less skills, cementing the concepts in both their minds. But what do I know? I'm just a preschool teacher with a degree in an ecological region that will cease to exist in the next 50 years. Hmmmm. Whoops.

I did see a mom from Sage's class... but she was in the 2nd 2/3 session and I was in the first. Her name is Julie, and they just moved here from outside London. Her husband hasn't moved yet, and she is living with her in-laws. She has a daughter a few weeks older than Sage (Another July birthday! YEay!), and a little boy who is 4 and in the preschool. I like her, and it is nice to have someone else who is new in town to talk to. Last night I told her I felt like a lost sheep. She agreed!

Nadia is doing well with the potty, although some days are better than others. If anyone can find and wants to pick up size 2T training undies, please do. I realize that most children train later these days, and that most kids are huge compared to mine. But really, should it be that hard to find undies for a little girl?? I did get some vinyl pants to go over them. And we bought regular undies in size 2T, but I am having to wash them in boiling water to shrink them. The early childhood professional in me has this to say: we should create an economy that values parenting and children's developmental processes, and encourages a parent to be home. Oh I know all the reasons not to... many parents feel isolated and alone, schools can do a better job of prepping kids for kindergarten, blah blah blah. But if little kids were back in cloth diapers and at home where someone is paying attention to whether or not they need to go potty, I think we'd find the toilet training age dip again. I read recently that the age for potty training has gone from 2 to nearly 4 in the past few decades (I am summing up.... don't quote me). That is sad. Sure, night time can take forever. But day time shouldn't be that big a deal.

Well, enough ranting, although I guess that is what a blog is for.

Nadia and I have been taking breaks throughout this to read, go potty, and dance to the music on the radio. Right now she is putting her little babies (one pale, one brown) in the doll swing. She pushes them, and then screeches "WHEEEeeeeEEEeee!" Yesterday she got a cup and spoon out of the tea set and fed them while they were swinging. This week's object of choice, however, hasn't been babies. She has been really, really, really into cars. "VROOM VROOOM!" she yells when she sees or hears any kind of vehicle. We got out the cars and trucks puzzle, Sage's metal cars, Nadia's wooden cars, some of the wooden trains and cars, and a PJ that used to be Aidan's (and hangs to Nani's knees). We have to say "Vroooooooooooooom," for each one. She is doing incredibly well on the puzzle for how little she is.

Outside, life has been much more exciting for the kids since the arrival of the swing set. The big ones didn't even come inside after school, just ran straight to swing. Then Sage decided Nadia should come out too, and ran in to get her. They have 2 kid swings, a baby swing, rings, and a slide. It took them about 2 minutes after the slide was up to start doing what Luke and I used to do: someone sits perched precariously on the edge of the top the slide; the other kid picks up the bottom of the slide as high as s/he can. Then they drop it quickly, and the child on the slide goes screamingly fast down the slide. Now, this is how I squashed Luke's finger so hard his fingernail eventually fell off. (The coolest thing ever was watching him make our babysitter sick by pulling on his nail, sliding it out of the nail bed little by little. She literally turned green). However, that was when slides were metal and had an accordion-shaped ridge at the top. On the plastic slide, there is no where to get the thumb stuck. Also, despite their best efforts, it doesn't really make you go all that fast on a plastic slide. I don't know if I am relieved or sad for them. Funny how one glance out the window at your children can make you feel 6 years old inside. Nadia loves the swings, and begs to be on it almost all day. And boy, are we reminded she's a toddler when we take her out of the swing. Remember how Sage had no fear? Well Nadia seems to be my thrill-seeker... she giggles and grins and reaches around behind herself to pat her back and says, "again!" asking for you to push her higher and faster. I am hoping to find the post-hole digger today, so we can put up the basketball hoop. Sage said last night, "I will never come home and watch tv again in the afternoon, unless the swings and basketball hoop are gone!" And Aidan keeps saying, "Now we don't have to go to the park!" I guess my next "Gongloff Doolittle Park" object will be some sort of goal to kick the soccer ball in. And this winter, I hope to make a little ice rink near the orchard. There's a hose there, and we certainly have enough mulch hay bales.

Well, I have wasted enough of your time, and mine. Oh who am I kidding? I will probably make this look pretty before I post it. I promise in future to KISS (Keep it simple stupid). And to add pictures. But right now Nadi and I are gonna go dance to cheesy 80s tunes, and hang out the laundry.

We love you all and miss you!