Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Ten Things...

I have been doing some thinking lately about this blog space.  It is one I'd like to keep up, because it is sort of the only catch-all that I have left for thoughts and photographs and documenting the kids hallmarks and milestones, etc... It also serves as a portfolio for the handwork & art projects I do manage to finish, believe me, they are few and far between these days. And apparently, the free crochet headband pattern I posted WAY back is still a hoppin' source of pinterest traffic, which is funny, because I'd never before written a crochet pattern and haven't since.  It is also a nice way to relay pictures and life-going on to far away family (or close by family when busy schedules don't allow time for visiting).  So, in short, I don't want to quit on bloggin' but something has been troubling me about it lately.  I don't want this space to make other moms or DIYers or human beings in general to feel inadequate, or like their own life doesn't somehow measure up.  In the last couple of months I've had two different mom friends ask me how I do it all.  The truth is I don't.  Nobody does.  This blog is a place where I like to post picturesque snapshots of our life, or moments that make me feel proud and joyful, but in no way does it represent our WHOLE lives.  So in the spirit of blog transparency, and using social media to promote an honest picture of things, here are ten things about my life that I bet you would never guess from reading this blog.

1.  I totally slacked off at gardening this year.  There were many reasons, the main one being chicken containment issues.  Did you know chickens will eat your entire garden?  They will.  Pshaw... here in Southcentral Alaska it is usually a moose that terminates your cole crops, but for us it was the cluckers.  We did what we could, and we were able to eat out of the garden all summer but the only thing I put up in the freezer were raspberries.  It was my goal to have a ton of frozen and canned veggies for this winter, but alas, it was never meant to be. 

2. Speaking of chickens, we decided to take on a flock of 30 meat chickens in addition to our 13 laying hens and one two roosters.  I'm not gonna lie, I'm not feeling the love for the meat chickens. They are smelly, destructive, agressive, and not growing nearly fast enough to make them financially worth while.  We decided to raise Red Rangers because they are good foragers and don't have the leg problems that Cornish Cross breeds do.  Those two things have proven to be true, but at 12 weeks they are barely big enough to be a decent sized meal, so we keep having to put off butchering till they are bigger, and now we are fighting the cold temperatures.  I think it's a good thing to be able to raise your own food, but we are going to have to rethink this whole process before we try chickens again.  Maybe for now it's better to stick with moose and salmon and fresh eggs. 

3. Another reason my homesteading skills have been seriously sucking it up this summer is that I have been recovering from an exhaustion related hormonal imbalance (something akin to adrenal fatigue) that started this winter.  Actually, it probably had been fomenting for quite a while.  Four straight years of pregnancy and nursing and not sleeping (neither one of my kids became a good sleeper until they quit nursing) doesn't exactly do wonders for the body.  The kids caught a couple bad tummy bugs last winter and the total misery and exhaustion from dealing with the last week of that while single parenting was the straw that broke the camel's back. I seriously thought I was dying or suffering from an auto-immune disorder.  It seemed to get better in early spring, but then it got bad again in May-June when I stopped breastfeeding Eli.  I sort of had the equivalent of really bad post-partum depression two years after having a baby complete with panic attacks, heart irregularities and vertigo.  Thanks to some strict medical orders to take some personal time and do things that are restorative, a vitamin and herb regimen and two months of regular acupuncture treatments I am almost feeling like a human again.  I'm putting this out there in case another panicked, exhausted mom stumbles across this.  I want you to feel hopeful, and encourage you to seek some alternative health support.  I can't even say enough good things about acupuncture.  I was a skeptic, but now I'm a believer.  Sleep helps too.  I'm so thankful that both my kids are now sleeping through the night.  That alone feels like a small miracle.

4. This coming October marks a year of me being gluten free.  Just in the last month or two I feel like I have finally gotten over the grieving process.  That sounds so melodramatic, I know... but gluten was pretty much the base of so many of the comfort foods I grew up with.  So while my taste buds had happily settled into a gluten free diet many months ago, my emotions still had to give up the ghost.  One thing that was the hardest was the ritual of baking bread.  I have so many happy memories of doing that with my mom, so I have decided to continue that tradition with my own kids, I just can't eat the results.  And finally, I feel at peace with that. 

5. Along the same line of thought, I got into a serious food funk earlier this summer.  I think the combination of never sitting down to a family dinner (Loren has to work late and long hours in the summer) and Sadie going through this super fussy complain about everything on her plate phase, while Eli just managed to constantly spill or dump his food out just left me totally fried, no pun intended.  I really have to thank our friends Jeff & Laura, who stayed with us while waiting for their baby to be born,  for re-inspiring me to get back into cooking with joy. It was really a pleasure to sit down and enjoy meals with other adults and also to have a break from cooking some of the time & try food prepared with a fresh perspective. I feel like now I can tackle the cooking part of my home-maker duties with more purpose and peace.  And lo-and-behold the kids are eating the food I cook again. Just goes to show, love really is the secret ingredient.

6. After two years of living in this amazing house here in Palmer I am beginning to understand the curse of too much space.  Can I just #firstworldproblems myself here?  But seriously, I feel like one or two more families should be living in our house.  All three of us still sleep in one of the downstairs bedrooms, in spite of my attempts to create a big-girl room for Sadie.  She does hang out in there during the day, but at night she still sleeps in toddler bed next to us.  People told us when we began this journey of co-sleeping that the kids would never leave our bed.  People were right. That said, some nights snuggling up to the sweetest little sleeping angels in the world is the only thing that redeems the utter chaos of the day.  It is a fleeting part of small children that will never come back.  I have no regrets at all.  I just think we should have bought a one room cabin on 40 acres.  Maybe we need to find some awesome room mates, or rent out our basement to an amazing non-profit, or something. 

7.  Secretly, I keep hoping someone(s) from my family will move up here.  One of the hardest things about having a hobby farm/ dogs/ tight budget/ small children is that it makes traveling really, really challenging.  Also, being a homebody doesn't help.  I pretty much never go anywhere now.  I'm totally okay with that except that I know it bugs my husband, and I miss the heck out of my big crazy family--especially now that my siblings and besties also have kids of their own.  I wish we could let all our wild bebbies run nekked together in the yard, with the chickens and dog and just drink a margarita and chill--in between the mandatory conversation punctuation marks like, "Don't put that in your mouth!" and "Stop tying string around your cousin!" and so forth.

8. My to do list is so long.  As I write this I have two sheetrock repair jobs, one leaking toilet, one that wont stop running, a laundry room sink that Eli ripped out of the wall (holy crap! Can I just say it is impossible to child-proof a house from a kid like Eli?) Rooms that need painted, furniture that needs built to store and sort and streamline our daily activities and the list goes on. The thing is I LIKE doing house repair projects like this, but they are so, so hard to do with small people in tow.  Someday, someday.... maybe when the kids start school.  I hope the floor under the leaking toilet doesn't rot out and fall into the basement in the meanwhile.

9. I sometimes flirt with the idea of going back to work.  Then I realize I'd still have to do all THIS^ with a full time job.  But working and getting an actual paycheck?!  I miss that.  I miss having reasonably priced health insurance,  adult conversations and a feeling of purposefulness, an organized schedule... a moment to drink a cup of coffee and complete a thought without....wait a minute.... my career is teaching, so never  mind.  Sometimes I really wish motherhood came with a prep period though. 

10.  Sometimes It is hard for me to relate to my kids.  I love them so very much, but there are times, when Eli is throwing the umpteenth tantrum because Sadie did something kind of mean to him, that I just feel like checking out.  Sometimes I yell--but I'm trying really hard not to do that.  It doesn't really serve a purpose, and it makes us all feel stressed out, but still.  No parents are perfect.  Spending all day with small children is hard.  It is actually a wonder that my head doesn't explode nearly every single day.  But it doesn't.  And each day I get up and do it all again, and that is a gift... a funny gift that I don't always understand the magnitude of until after the fact. 

Life is messy, life is beautiful, life is perfect with is rough edges and spills and flaws.  Please don't mind me if I still post pictures of my awesome home-made sriracha sauce, or rave on about my amazing kids. Of course, those things are real and wonderful parts of life, but just know that in the time it took me to write that blog post one of my amazing kids has probably fed said sriracha to my dog and I will be dealing with the aftermath for the next little while.  Please be in peace about your own journey of motherhood, or person-hood or whatever it is you got going on.  Comparisons are the bane of our social-media generation.  Any time you feel like keeping it real--feel free to show up at my place and get a healthy dose of the bigger picture.  
Blessings, Tara

Saturday, September 20, 2014

two and four

I haven't written anything here in a long while.  It isn't for lack of things going on.  Life has been busy, and full--sowing and reaping, sewing sawing and sanding, enjoying visiting company from far and near, filling flats of canning jars with goodness for the winter...oh! and somewhere along the journey my babies turned two and four.
These two.  It's kind of hard to put into words exactly how they are these days.  Most of the time they amaze me with their ingenuity and spark.   They are industrious and insatiably curious--full of quirks and contradictions.  Thick as thieves one moment, fighting like cats and dogs the next.  But through it all, in the rhythm of our days they have developed a genuine solidarity and love for one another and I am truly thankful that there are two of them.
Sadie is so grown.  And stubborn, and independent and amazing.  She is loving going to preschool this year, and really thriving there.   She is all about fancy these days, and has been for a while.  She never goes anywhere without a dress or crown or some other accessory or five.  She has this thing about putting treasures & toys in the seemingly endless collection of bags, purses and baskets she has acquired (where do they all come from?) Eventually she cant find anything and we have to go through the entire house and car and find all her treasure bags, empty them out and return her things to their rightful places.   I won't lie, sometimes it drives me bonkers.  She is so into creating things (cutting paper, gluing, glittering, putting things into envelopes tying said envelopes up with string, putting them in aforementioned treasure bags). She will be the first to say, cleaning up is not her BEST.  It is hard to get her to put things away.  It is nearly impossible to locate a coat and a complete set of shoes for her these days.  All these props are simply cast aside as the next great feat of imagination sweeps over her.  It is really a reminder how it is the process of creativity and imagination that is valuable so much more so than the end result. 
She has been loving reading books with strong female characters.  Her recent favorites are  Lucia and the Light, Rosie Revere Engineer, and  The Paper Bag Princess. Ive been getting ideas from the Mighty Girl reading list.  I feel like it is so important when girls this age go through their princess-loving stage that they get genuine, well-rounded female characters to balance out the weak, underdeveloped stereotypical princess characters that are so ubiquitous in children's literature and film.
It is just such a joy, plain and simple, watching Sadie grow and turn into the strong little being she is becoming.  

And then there's this guy.  Two.  Where did he even come from. (Some days my suspicions lean toward Krypton).  We have affectionately nicknamed him the honey badger. He is a non stop goer.  A doer of great and sometimes not so great things. A seeker of sensory input and thrills.  A thrower of show-stopping tantrums. An insatiable eater of meat, wholenanas (bananas), tewops (lollypops) and chompang (ice cream). He is a lover of grandmas.  He goes up to random older ladies wherever we go and yells, "Grandma!" and gives out free hugs.  He also points to the picture of Dolly Parton in  the books we get from the Imagination Library and says "Grandma Caroline!"  In general, this guy makes all of us laugh on a daily basis.  His affirmative answer to everything is, "Rup."  As in, "Eli, would you like this banana?" "Rup. Wholenana!"
In the funny way that two-year-olds manage to pull off he is both incredibly messy and impeccably organized.  It is pretty much the end of the world when food falls off his dinner plate or gets on his clothes (but of course it does, because, well...he's two.) He ALWAYS knows where his favorite moon-star shoes and coat are.  He puts toys away--and then immediately throws them all back off the shelves.  He is constantly tiptoeing the line between chaos and order.  Eli has a remarkable amount of co-ordination and bounce back.  It never ceases to amaze me. He also loves books, but is starting to get really in-tune with the characters' emotions.  Now he refuses to read ALL the Llama Llama books and Going on a Bear Hunt because they are too scary.  He will, however, invite you to read Mike Mulligan & his Steam Shovel, and a handful of other select favorites for hours on end as long as he can sit in your lap.  For all his busy he has such a sweet and snugly side.  We are treasuring this priceless age he is in.
So yeah.  Two and Four. 
 Pretty awesome.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

butterfly magic

We've been in for a bit of a treat this summer with the two caterpillar friends we took in.  The first one (sorry I didn't take a picture of the caterpillar) created this magnificent chrysalis:
I didn't know treasures like this even existed in nature! After a couple of weeks (sorry, not a very rigorous scientific method around here--it's lucky I happened to check the jar on the kitchen windowsill one day and see a butterfly because it probably would have starved to death otherwise)
The butterfly that hatched out of this looked like this:
 The kids were amazed.  Eli didn't even try to smack it--which is his go-to for pretty much all members of the insect class these days.

I think we caught it so newly hatched that it was drying its wings still.  We put it on a tree by our porch so it could safely undergo child supervision and still have a chance at survival.  It flew away in about 30 minutes.
Next up: We caught this spiky fellow at the kids' grandparents' house.  Within a couple of days he dropped off a part of his caterpillar body and made this chrysalis:
Not quite as brilliant as the first one, but not to shabby nonetheless. Fast forward a couple more weeks and Loren discovered that this butterfly had emerged:

I didn't get a very good picture of it, because as soon as the kids took it outside...
it flew!  How amazing.  I could probably do a quick google search and find out what kind of butterflies these were, and also why they drip pink liquid when they hatch, but for now I'm pretty content with the whole not-so-scientific side of butterfly magic.  Thank you butterflies for letting us observe your amazing metamorphosis!

Monday, June 23, 2014

a peck of pickled peppers

Summer is in full swing.  The days are full of various ramblings outside.  The to-do list is ever-lengthening, just as the days are (or have been up until Saturday). Growing season wise, this summer has been kind of ideal--lots of of sunshine with a few good rainy days here and there.  The gardens are loving it. So are the weeds.
We have been harvesting our first few eats from the gardens.  Fresh greens mostly.  The kids are fondest of the butter lettuce so far, but we will have many more good things soon.
I picked my first round of peppers from in the sun room.  I can't believe how crazy the pepper plants are going in there.  These sweet and slightly spicy ones looked like they wanted to become pickled peppers.  So they are in the process of lacto-fermenting on the kitchen counter.  If they turn out any good I will report back with a recipe.
Another funny, and random note from the garden--I do believe the children have been doing a little guerrilla planting in my raised beds.  I found many a good-looking poppy seedling amongst the cabbages this week.  They have all been re-homed to more suitable locations.  Gardens, like children, are so full of delightful surprises.  You just never know what you are going to get!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

sunshine tea

We have an overabundance of fresh eggs right now.  That is kind of the nature of chicken keeping I'm learning.  All winter long--no eggs, no eggs...then spring and summer hit and it's OMG EGGS!  I've been trying to come up with ways to use eggs other than the old stand-byes and I came across this old-school recipe that with some minor tweaks has become one of the kids' favorites over the last few weeks.  This is a really great way to get some healthy calories into little ones who aren't big into breakfast.  It is also an awesome before-bed snack. You don't need fresh eggs to make this--of course, they will taste the best, but the hot water does technically "cook" the eggs in this drink if you are worried about food-borne pathogens.

Sunshine Tea
serves 3

Boil 2 cups of water
 In a blender combine:
2 eggs
1 heaping teaspoon butter
1 heaping teaspoon coconut oil
1 tablespoon of honey (or to taste)
pinch of tumeric
dash of nutmeg
shake of cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

While the blender is running
slowly (carefully!) pour the boiling water into the egg mixture 
increase speed of blender and mix until frothy 
pour into cups

* This recipe is generally fine for those who are lactose-sensitive as butter doesn't contain the milk protein that many people are unable to digest.  That said, if you don't do butter you can substitute a different healthy fat or oil in the recipe, you could also just add a bit more coconut oil.

* for a more hot-chocolate like drink try adding a heaping teaspoon of cocoa powder. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

father's day

There are many reasons to love this guy.  He mans the BBQ in a princess tiara with no shame, he tells the very BEST bedtime stories, and gives the highest pushes on the swing.  He is the keeper of the keys to all the 'chines (Eli's word for machines), he keeps the fire going, the dishes washed, and the freezer full.  He works hard everyday, and then comes home and puts in a second shift.  I can't imagine a more wonderful human to raise children with, and I know the kids couldn't ask for a better dad.  We are thankful for him every day, but on this day especially we like to say it again.  
Happy Father's Day!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Good things...

 We caught a fairly large & spiky looking caterpillar in the greenhouse this morning.  Sadie made it this comfortable home in a jar.  Eli offered it some of his meat to eat--so I guess that is our new family pet.  Name still unspecified.

Bugs and worms are a subject of much fascination amongst these two.  Eli has been smacking mosquitoes and squishing flies in the windowsills.  He is getting pretty ninja about it, so I was only partly surprised when he brought me a bee pinched between two fingers last week and said proudly, "skeevo!" (mosquito). Yikes! Poor bee.  We are working on insect identification.  So much to learn!
 Some days I just can't even believe how fast these children are growing.  They are different sometimes even one day to the next.
Eli has started using the potty and is talking up a storm. He wants to be doing everything that Sadie does these days.  He is beginning to get into imaginative play which is so cool to see.  He is also a major fan of his DaDa right now. Despite his natural bent towards all things rough and rowdy, he is a perfect snuggler. Seriously, I couldn't have asked for a more cuddly child.

 It seems like Sadie has grown by about 4 inches this year.  She has so much more hand-eye coordination and independence than last summer.  Yesterday we had to go to the dentist to get a shard of something sharp (flaked coconut maybe?) dislodged from her gums and she didn't even shed a tear.  She is all about princesses, fairies and fancies, but she is strong and brave too.  She seems to be gifted with a keen understanding of the natural world, and she is a whiz at plant identification.

Hello Good Life, it's DaDa here.  Mum left her blog post up partially unfinished so I thought I would take an early Father's Day license and say how much I appreciate the wonderful, intelligent, insightful, compassionate, patient, gifted and altogether beautiful woman of this house that we all love to call Mom.  Thanks to YOU, Tara, for helping me be a good DaDa, and growing this fantastically crazy and delightful bunch of grommets we call our family.  That's all, DaDa out.  Back to your irregularly scheduled Good Life...

Saturday, June 7, 2014

a bouquet for Sadie

All last winter Sadie handed me bouquets of dried flowers from roadsides and ditches.  On our walks through our woods and nature trails she collected brittle yarrow and grass tufts by the fistfull. When the first blush of spring kissed our landscape she lined the windowsills with mason jars of dandelions and cranes bill, wild roses and dogwood. What an extravagance, now that summer is here, to be able to go out with clippers and fill a large vase with cut flowers from the garden.  It seems like maybe only yesterday or ages ago that I was little girl like Sadie, filling up any spare glassware in my mama's kitchen with whatever loveliness the season had to offer. It is a joy to hold a gathering of stems and blossoms for a moment, then tuck them into a vase to see them fall this way and that with an unstudied elegance.  They may only last a day or two (or sometimes just an hour or two) but I hope with all my mother's heart  & my cupboard of canning jars that Sadie never outgrows the joy of gathering flowers for the kitchen table.

Monday, June 2, 2014

50 shades of green













and finally....
um, the kind you build from lumber scraps
 so your kids can get up to the sink to wash all the garden dirt off their hands.

Okay, so that's only 13, but you get the point.
Wheee! SUMMER!

Monday, May 5, 2014


Spring is here.
All around us the tiniest most determined green things are bursting into bud & bloom.
The songbirds are the last ones to bed and the first ones up.
Sadie and Eli are barefoot running here and there--
occupied with important tasks like making a rainbow with the spray from the hose,
or waving garden stakes perilously close to someone's eye.
The trees are dusted with that perfect spring green color that evades adjectives.
Hens are brooding eggs in the coop.
I'm leaving my plants outside tonight.
Here's hoping...
Spring is a hopeful season, after all.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

rocket science

 We all took advantage of the mild spring weather today to work outside getting some raised beds put together for the garden.  I guess more accurately, Loren & I were building raised beds.
 Sadie & Eli were building a rocket ship.  They spent a couple hours happily entertained inside the frames, with some pots, dirt, and the ever popular "bucket-o-birch-logs."

The joy and imagination of childhood.  It isn't rocket science, and yet, it kind of is.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


In a different time
a long ago life where bare feet tiptoed through wild forests
soft and soundless against carpets of ageless moss
we might occasionally catch a glimpse of ourselves when passing by
a still pool or lake's edge
but mostly we saw our image reflected
through the eyes of our family, our lovers, our children, our tribe.

Not so long ago
mirrors were not a household staple
and a portrait was a solemn and momentous life event.
In the fading light we stared at the rough-hewn boards of a cabin wall
as we smoothed our hair with water from a basin and hung up our hat
a rumbling stomach chased away vanity's ghost
as we sat down with family to break the evening bread.

In this day
we are surrounded by our reflection
a mirror on every wall to catch us from every angle
to hold our wrinkles and flaws in high definition
to make us linger a moment longer

We have a camera in our pocket to capture and store proof of our lives
with a click of a button we record moments instantaneously
and watch the playback, sometimes before the moment has even finished passing.

We have pages of our children looking spotlessly beautiful
books filled to bursting with neatly documented details of weddings, birthdays, graduations
sporting events, vacations, new homes,
Life's firsts, lasts and in-betweens.

With a click of a button we can broadcast these images
to hundreds or thousands of people
our friends, family, family friends,  friends of friends
and total strangers
But somehow there seems to be no time anymore to look deeply into another person's eyes
to take in the smile lines, the smudges, the unspoken
the whole of a living, breathing, unedited human being.

My little girl has experimenting with self-adornment.
She engineers extravagant creations using up the entire contents of the button jar.
Placing these garlands around her neck she is like an tiny, ancient queen
but she has not once asked to look at the finished product in a mirror.
Maybe it is the satisfying weight of 57 buttons against her chest
or the reassuring sounds of wood and glass and metal clicking softly together
Maybe its the way her little brother reverently runs his fingers across the necklace,
so uncharacteristically gentle.

I picked my camera up to photograph her radiant joy and creativity
but then I set it down.
I thought, just this once, let the moment go uncaptured by shutter or screen
Instead, let her see her own beauty reflected in a mother's loving eyes.

Monday, March 24, 2014

about a boy

When Eli was growing in my belly I was pretty sure he was a boy.  So sure, in fact that when Loren announced "It's a girl!" at his birth my first words were, "check again." During Eli's pregnancy in the rare moments I was able to sleep through the intensive tae-kwon-do routine that was going on in my uterus I would have these crazy action-hero dreams.  Like I'd be skydiving into a flaming airplane where I would need to rescue 20 people and fight off terrorists in hand-to-hand combat.  Stuff like that.  So not my style.  And while It may have crossed my mind sometimes that perhaps we would get a laid-back kinda boy... I knew deep down it wouldn't happen.  Some things you just know.
 Eli's verb these days is "DO."  A hundred times a day he brings me something and says "do."  Put on a shoe, peel an apple, change a diaper.  Fix a page he just ripped out of a book.  "Do, mama, do."  It seems fitting.  He is a non-stop do-er.  As is evidenced by the way our house looks most days by 10 am.
But this do-er has a snuggly side to him.  He has taken a shining to this bear "Helicopter, " a hand-me-down with a mysterious name given by a two-year-old Sadie.  It might have been the name that attracted Eli to him in the first place (or possibly the belly-button) because when Eli can't find Helicopter he sleeps with a magnet with an actual helicopter on it.  He likes to hold the bear real tight and say "deeeeze" which is his word for squeeze.

Eli gets a lot of squeezes these days, because sometimes, it's all you can do to save your sanity.  His state of perpetual motion is something to be reckoned with.  Water cup dumped in plate, hands splashed in that water,  giant mess.  Every. single. meal.

Kitchen cupboard unpacked, pot lid flung frisbee-style across kitchen straight into eggs on counter. Epic mess.

Bath time.  You'd think bath time would be neat.  It is either a combination of water being splashed out of the tub--or inappropriate items being added to the tub. Or both.  Recent casualties have included a hair dryer, and a well loved book of dad's "Flying with Floats."  Didn't make too good of a splash landing.  Praying our bathroom floor holds up.  Washing lots of towels.

This week Loren and I have been attempting to renovate our sunroom--just paint and put in a new floor really.  The project is a source of endless fascination for Eli.  He just wants to do.  He watches carefully as I use an exacto knife to cut the molding from the wall before I pry it off.  Without a word he disappears into the kitchen returning with the carrot peeler and proceeds to "remove" the fins from the wall heater.  As we install one plank of flooring we look up to see that he has scribbled on no less than 7 freshly painted walls with a carpenter's pencil.  I should have looked when I heard him saying "paint, paint, paint!"  It's so frustrating, and yet also understandable.  The world looks different from 18-months-old than it does from 33.  I am quite sure that most of what could easily be written off as mischief is actually an attempt to contribute to our household in a meaningful way.

It is a challenge.  Every day with this guy.  I was thinking about it in a brief moment of solitude this morning.  Actually, I was thinking of my youngest brother, on a freighter somewhere between here and Japan, and how as a little guy he never slowed down.  He had a true desire to move and learn the world around him kinetically.  It can be hard to parent this kind of a kid (ask my mom, she can tell you all about it x4) but it can also be so rewarding when their energy is directed into a worthy cause.  Of course, Eli is going to need to work hard and use his hands along side his head and his heart.  I'm not exactly sure how this will look over the years, but I know what it doesn't look like, which is a lot of time spent in front of a screen watching violent images and playing video games.  I feel like that would most certainly spell disaster for a boy as inclined to rough and tumble as Elias.  It is probably a saving grace that he has a big sister who is currently into everything fancy.  As I type this Eli is sporting a Disney princess tattoo on his bicep and wearing a pink t-shirt.  (Thanks to the random lady at the hardware store for introducing my kids to fake tattoos and Disney princesses in one fell swoop! Do those tattoos ever wash off?!)

I'm going to watch this boy so many times, caught between a nag and a sense of outright wonder and amazement at what he is doing.  Today it was standing  in a box on the teeter-toter, on top of the couch (Loren had set it there to vacuum).  Sometimes there just aren't any words.  But lots of times there are, and those words need to be positive, affirming ones.  I can see how important it is to shower love like that on a kid who could easily make you yell and want pull your hair out 20+ times a day. 

Every morning Eli sits straight up in bed and says to me, "wake!"  After all, a new day awaits. Why linger in bed, right?  Then he goes out to the kitchen and tells Loren who is usually up making coffee "Joe!"  He helps his dad (and sis) bring me a cup of coffee and hauls his favorite books into bed where he flings them over to me too roughly (usually spilling some coffee) and snuggles in for a read. In these sweet moments, with only a little spilled coffee burning my arm, I feel like the luckiest mama in the world--call it what you will, snips & snails, zen or straight up grace, whatever it is...it's good stuff.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Did you ever grow anything in the garden of your mind?

This week as I was picking up some seed starting mix at the local garden center a bag of bulbs caught my eye:
Lily of the Valley (that's Convallaria majalis, for my fellow botany geeks).  Sigh.  How lovely.  And I'm always on the lookout for some shade loving plants to beef up my cottage-style (read: chaotic and rambling) perennial garden.  How perfect would these be... and hardy to zone 2 none the less!  I asked the garden lady if they were poisonous, and she looked at me like I was crazy.  "You're not planning to eat them are you?" she says. "No," I say, "but my 18-month old might give them a try."  "Now why would he do that?" she asks.  I bite my cheek to keep from asking, "are you serious? Because he's 18 months old."  But thankfully Edward Scissor Hands aka The Christmas Tree Guy steps in and says, "I ate every plant I could get my hands on for the first 5 years of my life.  At least that what my mom tells me. I turned out okay for the most part. Just keep Poison Control on your speed dial."  I pull out my phone--and show them both that poison control is indeed on my speed dial already, and then I google convallaria and as it turns out it is poisonous.  Very poisonous. And as an added bonus, when it's done flowering, it grows delightful looking red berries.  So I guess it's out for the time being.  It does bring up an interesting point though, when you are a mom of littles who love to ramble outside all the livelong summer days where there are plenty of poisonous native plants even if you don't intentionally grow them in your garden:  How do you keep your kids safe from accidental poisoning?

With Sadie, who has a very well established sense of caution, it was enough to give her a blanket warning on eating any mushrooms, and then begin situational berry identification guidelines with her.  She can now accurately identify dogwood berries and baneberries, which are two of the main poisonous around our place.  We are working on wildflowers now.  Currently her favorite book is a plants of Alaska flip guide, which is coming in handy as a teaching tool.  She's also big enough to know to ask about a plant if she has questions.  Not sure how it will go with Eli. He is more of a caution to the wind fellow.  I'm banking on close supervision and lots of yummy and edible landscaping that he can safely browse close to home--and a whole lot of grace.

But back to the edible landscaping idea, I really am trying to establish some permaculture on our land that is edible and kid-friendly.  As evidenced by the fact that my kids will happily eat raisins and week old potato chips out from under furniture, it is clear that young children have a very innate desire to forage in their environment.  I'm sure there is more scientific evidence that points to that fact out there somewhere (a study in Scandinavian countries comes to mind) , but I have met my google question search quota for the week already. 

There's a lot of thought that goes into establishing your permaculture, and it's intimidating, and I just don't have the time or $1600 to take the local class this spring.  That's why the book Edible Landscaping with a Permaculture Twist is now at the top of my homesteading reads wishlist.
early Mothering Day present...hint, hint?

Lastly, in the garden of my mind I'm trying hard to make a spot for some honeybees.  I've been told  that beekeeping isn't rocket science, but there is something about it that sure intimidates the heck out of me....but oh to have some fresh, home-grown honey... and your trees and cane fruit adequately pollinated to boot.  Almost too good to pass up.  I'm currently plowing my way through the Beekeepers Bible.  Holy tome of amazing information!  Still, thinking the safest bet in the end will be to hit up some local knowledge.

And finally, to round things off, we decided to host a little seed/start swap potluck here at the end of the month to celebrate the kickoff of growing season and be a grounds for exchanging knowledge & ideas.  If you're local and want to attend leave me a note and I will get you the info.

Happy daylight savings, and may the garden of your mind be a source of pure delight in these last winter months.

Monday, March 3, 2014

nature tables

The sun has been shining and the weather has been trying to fool us into thinking spring is finally here.  It's not.  Not in early March in Alaska unless the world's weather has just turned on its head for good {can't entirely rule that possibility out at this point}.  The kids have been collecting treasures and Sadie and I have done a couple crafts to celebrate nature in this inbetweener season.
 We painted these birdhouses and decorated them with twigs and moss.  Sadie did the green one and I did the other one. 
Loren found this tiny birdhouse blown down in the woods after a big windstorm a few weeks ago.  We've been admiring its remarkable craftsmanship (even some horse hairs in there).
 This is Eli's nature table.  Sticks and pine cones he's collected and some birch bark that came off the firewood.  A nice yellow backdrop painted by Sadie at preschool reminding us of the spring sunshine.  This nature table gets taken down and reassembled by Eli about 5 times a day, so it is in a constant stage of evolution--kind of like nature. 18-month old kids are miniature zen masters.
I finally got around to staining the shelves I built in November....Yikes!  They are housing the kids treasures and some very wonderful driftwood as well as our Valentines willow, which is growing leaves!  The kids are in total wonderment that you can plant a bare stick in water and in a few weeks it will sprout.  I'm sure there will be all kinds of sprouting experiments to look forward to in the very near future, what with seed-starting season just around the corner.
and speaking of seed starting.  This is Sadie's new self-designated project.  She has been cutting out all the flowers she likes from the seed catalogs {all of a sudden she can do scissors quite proficiently!} and pasting them into this book.  Yesterday she asked me if Marry Poppins could bring some magic water and sprinkle it onto the book to make the flowers grow into a real garden.  I love the three-year-old world of magical realism.  I see an all-pink flower growing plot for Sadie amongst the garden projects this year.  I love that she is a February garden dreamer just like her mama.  But March is not just dreaming time, it's planting and building and scheming time....It feels wonderful to have some purposeful, satisfying work ahead--like we've finally rounded the corner on winter and are heading full-speed ahead to spring!