Monday, April 30, 2012

Time Out

All of the sudden time has slowed down.

The month has been a whirlwind: meetings, birthdays, kiln firings and school outings.
Ideas for blog posts scratched on scraps of papers, just to be piled up while we go on to the next thing.

These are the matching journals I stamped for Ivory and Adam as his 30th birthday gift.  Last fall I started having Ivory draw a picture of her day for Adam on those days that he doesn't come home from work.  This way they can share their days with each other even when they don't see one another.

This is the double layer meat cake I made for Adam's birthday party.  Two layers of meat loaf, a layer of bacon in between and the entire thing is iced with mashed potato "frosting" all topped off with sauteed onions and mushrooms.  

This is the bright white glow of the Anagama Kiln firing. In a few more days, we get to unbrick the door and unload shelf after shelf of transformed clay. 

This is the very patient 3 year old waiting as her bowling ball inches toward the pins ever so slowly.  

But best of all, these are the chubby little toes that stomped around the garden beds, uncovered and free, as we poked hundreds of little onions into the groud, followed by two sorts of peas, spinach and beets as we spent day after day soaking up the warm sunshine.

For now, we are taking a time out. 

The seeds we planted are slowly growing, not yet visible to our eyes.  And while we wait for the first green to push out of the earth, we have been forced to take a little breather.  Both Ivory and Sylvan are sick. Ivory is sicker than she has ever been.  She usually is back on her feet, recovered from anything, in less than a day. 

Ivory and Sylvan are whiny, in need of constant attention and oodles of sleep.  It is tough at times, to convince Ivory that laying on the sofa or a bed would be drastically more comfortable than the kitchen floor she is puddled on even as she is protesting: " I don't want to lay down".

The wind and rain pushed over the giant bean teepee we started building in the yard, but hopefully in a few more days, the sun will shine, little bodies will be filled with energy and we can once again push the branches toward the sky and sink speckled lima beans into the dark damp earth. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

SPRING BREAK: the highlights

The remainder of our spring break flew by in a flash.  A friend, her two, my two and I spontaneously packed a picnic and drove out to our new favorite "hiking spot" in anticipation of the coming cold front.  The remnants of last years floods, vast scoured stretches of ground and mounds of drift wood, are perfect for easy fort building.  We built a fort a few weeks ago, but when we returned it was flattened.  The children were not deterred.   They simply picked up the pieces and put them back together in a new arrangement.  The clouds loomed on the horizon, but were slow to arrive and we soaked in the sunshine, wishing that we had worn lighter coats. 


The cold front did arrive and we woke to blowing snow.  Ivory and Sylvan and I piled into the car to meet up with another friend and her son who where staying outside of town a bit.  I managed to get us hopelessly lost, knocking on the wrong yellow house with a red door, and finally after many twists and turns arriving at the right yellow house with a red door.  The snow hat covered the way markers I was looking for.  This was the second time this week that I managed to get us lost for no apparent reason. 

Sylvan loved the snow, scooping little bits of it into his mouth and later contentedly riding the sled round and round the house even after the other two tired of it and his pant bottom was soaked.

Saturday I divided up all the house cleaning tasks I usually get done while Ivory is at school between all of us..  when I came back down stairs from putting away laundry, Ivory and Adam were engrossed  in a game of chess.  It was her first attempt at playing and Adam was so intent on explaining the moves to her that she beat him fair and square.  I warmed up the left over squash burgers and oven fries from the night before and left them alone, washing the dishes and smiling to myself at Ivory's explanations of what was happening on the game board.  

So excited!!!!  Ivory burst out of the front door off to look for her hidden "eggs".  I struggled with the choice of whether or not to hide Easter eggs at all, and last minute I decided to run the the grocery store on get a few egg stuffers (which really turned into a trip to two stores because after I read all the ingredients on the candy labels, I decided to get candy somewhere else).  After both of the kids were tucked into bed, I pulled out this fun bright fabric I had happened to find at the thrift store a few days earlier and sewed a few fabric bags to hide the candy in.  Adam was skeptical: "But, she will be expecting eggs".  She didn't care.  She loved finding the bags and once they were all gathered, she ceremoniously untied each one and squealed with delight. 

 During breakfast we could watch the kids next door running around outside finding all of their hidden treasures, and it would have crushed her to have been left out of the fun. 

Even Sylvan had an "egg" to put into his little basket. 

As with many holidays, this Easter was a ritual centered around food and its preparation.  Starting with the amazing waffle eggs Benedict Adam made for breakfast, my carrot apricot terrine that had to chill for 6 hours, the ham, kettle corn, the cupcakes Ivory and I made while Sylvan napped and ending with us all sitting on the floor, clutching plates and cups in a living room filled with friends and laughter. 

Full of Fruit Cupcakes

1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup apple juice concentrate
1 ripe banana
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup applesauce (I opened my last jar of applesauce from last fall)
1 egg
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup wheat germ or bran cereal
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp cinnamon

- pre-heat the oven at 400
- heat raisins in the apple juice concentrate until soft, puree
- add the banana, oil, vanilla, apple sauce and egg, blend together 
- in a large bowl mix the dry ingredients
- add the blended ingredients to the dry ingredients
- fill a muffin tin until 3/4 full (oil the tins or line them)
- bake for 20 min
- cool and frost


8 ounces cream cheese
3 tbsp apple butter (I used my apple butter)
2 tbsp apple juice concentrate

Cream together the above ingredients, adding more apple butter or apple juice concentrate if needed. 

This recipe is from Earth Child 2000 by Kathryn Sheehan and Mary Waidner, Ph.D.   I love thumbing through the pages of this book and it is a great resource for parents or teachers looking for Earth Science Activities for young children.

Monday, April 9, 2012

No Place to Hide

Three large, loud shapes suddenly crested the ridge above us.
I was crouched down, hugging onto Sylvan, who since our nursing break a little farther down the mountain, insisted on toddling along behind his sister up the path.

She, stopping to inspect the tiny white flowers that carpeted the ground announcing that spring really is present in our valley, he to pick up one rock after the other, clutching awkwardly onto three and trying to sneak one into his mouth.  I had been expecting a swift, dainty helicopter on it's way to the hospital, not the lumbering, giant, dark shapes of the Chinook helicopters. Against all common sense, my instinct was to hold onto my kids and the thought crossed my mind that there is absolutely nowhere to hide on the barren hillside; just few and far in between trees, mostly dead grasses and the new sprouting green still hugging the ground.  I laughed it off as they passed right above, and we turned to watch them grow smaller on the sky and then I said: "look Ivory, they are landing at our airport."  But she had not tracked them as close as I, and could not distinguish them from the dots that were trees and those that were slowly lowering down in formation to the distant and invisible tarmac.  We slowly wandered up higher, Sylvan setting the pace and Ivory running ahead choosing the perfect rock to sit and wait for us to catch up.  I have no idea what mother's must feel walking with their children in places where flying objects cresting mountain ridges are not those of their own military.

Today is the last day of our spring break, and I decided we would finally climb the "mountain".  I finished the breakfast dishes, swept the floors, put away the laundry and started a load of diapers and by ten, amazingly, we were in the car and drove to the trail head for Waterworks hill which is just on the outside of our neighborhood.  Even though the trail head is close, I have learned that the drive really is necessary if I want to make it up the hill at all.

We didn't make it to the top.  We almost made it to the top, but Ivory's belly said it was hungry and her legs that they were tired and I listened to them and we turned around just shy of what had been my goal of reaching the peak and soaking in the views of two valleys at once.  Instead we traced our path back down, Ivory stopping often, Sylvan wrapped up snug against my chest sound asleep.  But, she was still laughing, still stopping to listen to the birds, and even though she said: "Mama, I never, ever want to walk up this mountain again",  I know that her curiosity will be enough to have her asking to come again - soon - after all, we have to see what flowers all those rosettes of green leaves will send up.

I strapped Sylvan into his seat, Ivory into her's and we drove to pick up milk, cottage cheese and pears. (Milk and cottage cheese being needed and pears the bribe to make it to the grocery store before heading home for lunch.) Singing along to the radio, I absentmindedly glanced at the clock: 12:38.  I was surprised.  We had spent at least two and a half hours in the wind and sunshine.  No wonder belly's were hungry and legs tired...  and, now that I thought about it,  oh, how I had to go to the bathroom.

When we walked up to the house, Adam was sitting outside, finishing up his lunch at the picnic table.  "Did you see those helicopters?", I asked, knowing that he most likely had.  They would have flown right over him too, but maybe he would not of noticed them over the drone of the saw mill, but he had.  I tried to explain that instant of bone chilling fear I had experienced, and failed.  His impulse and mine at the same sight being just too different.  In spite of all the sunshine, bird song and laughter, a feeling lingers at the edges of my heart, that some other mother, in some other moment, on some other hillside  is reaching out for her children with no place to hide.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

SPRING BREAK: DIY: Homemade Play Dough

It is Tuesday.

Both Sylvan and Ivory are snoozing away upstairs.  Sylvan is curled up in his crib and Ivory is stretched out on my side of the bed.  The flicker keeps landing on our roof - ting - his loud call echos down the flue followed in quick succession by his hammering on the chimney cap  The first time I heard him I thought our house was going to explode, but no, nothing is wrong with our furnace.  It is simply spring time in Missoula.
I was clueless as to why this was happening until it was explained to me on Pea Green Boat, a wonderful local NPR show for children.  The flicker is using our chimney cap to amplify his sound - thereby laying claim to a larger territory.  Ivory has taken to calling him: "Our friend".
I just hope he doesn't wake up the kids.

Our spring break, so far, has been an enjoyable one.

We visited the kids - three little goats - that were only two days old.  The smallest one, still a little wobbly on his legs while the largest girl was gingerly trying out little leaps.  The trip turned into more of an adventure than I had imagined.   I got lost between here and East Missoula, ended up jumping some random man's broken down truck at the end of a dead end road, before we finally found our destination.

We finally made play dough.  (I threw Ivory's old batch of play dough out when we moved.  Nothing was wrong with it...  it seems to stay good forever.  And, I might add, it feels so much nicer than the store bought crap.) 

Homemade Play Dough

1 cup flour
1 cup water
1/3 cup salt
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1 tablespoon cream of tartar
food coloring

- mix all the ingredients, except for food coloring, in a pan.  
- cook on low heat, stirring frequently.
- when the dough pulls away from the sides of the pan and begins to form a ball, it is done.  Do not overcook...  or under cook for that matter, because it just stays sticky then. 
- let cool a little bit and divide into halves.  Kneed food coloring into the play dough until you get the desired color. 

We finally had a long awaited picnic on a quilt spread half in the shade and half in the sun under the tall trees in the Northside Park.  I even snuck out of the house last night for a cup of coffee and perused the pages of Home Sweet Home: the House in American Folk Art by Deborah Harding and Laura Fisher. 

But, this morning I woke up stressed.  Which wasn't helped along by either Sylvan's continuous screeching or my two cups of coffee.  I really wanted a shower.  We finally packed together a picnic basket and headed out to the "farm" where we have volunteered for the last two years.  Sadly, for now, it was a non-event.  Sarah, the farm manager, would not be there until the afternoon.  So I wrote her number on the back of my hand for later and we drove back home.  Sylvan fell asleep in the car and I carefully carried him inside thinking: "This is a perfect time to take a shower!!!"  But, when I ever so gently sat this seat down in the bathroom, his eyes popped open.  I took that much needed shower anyway. Sylvan, standing in the shower with me, screaming at the top of his lungs the entire time, and Ivory sitting on the toilet eating a grilled cheese sandwich.  (She insisted. I would have preferred she ate it anywhere but in the bathroom.)  I wondered briefly what hoops I have to jump through to enjoy a little privacy in the bathroom.

A little while later I unpacked the picnic basket at the dining room table and we had lunch.

And now Sylvan and Ivory are snoozing away upstairs, I am sipping a cup of coffee (decaff this time), getting ready to fold the last of the laundry, wash a few dishes and hopefully in half an hour or so, everyone will be refreshed and we can load up into the stroller for this afternoon's adventure:  a trip to the post office!