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'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!