Monday, August 31, 2009

An Abomination

I was sure it’d be better, easier. Once we moved to our new house, had our new kitchen, we would have a much better floor. The “oo” and “goo” would not be as bad. I wouldn’t battle the nastiness like I did before.

The flooring in our old house was a nightmare. It was supposed to be this high end flooring that you could only wash and clean with certain approved cleaners. What a nightmare for a mom with young children.

The only way to get it clean was to get on my hands and knees and scrub like Cinderella. The sparkle only lasted until the next meal time, or the next moment my sons came in from the sand box and back yard adventures. I blamed it all on my floor. It was the floor’s fault.

I’d go to other homes and be envious of their floor choices. If only I had what they had. My mom was sure it was me. She bought a new mop and scrubbed away. She humbly admitted that it was my floor. She had great empathy for me after that.

We’ve been in our new house about a year. It is a lot better. I don’t have to scrub and crouch with mop bucket by my side; however, it still gets nasty. What’s the deal? The constant battle, the pit of hell, is around the kitchen table where my little gentlemen eat. Why do I find large hunks of hard cheese, bits of bread, globs of jelly, and crusted pasta underneath this place of family connection? Why can’t it stay on or near their plates?

I hate monotony. I hate repetition. I love to do something once and check it off my list. This is why kitchen floors are my enemies. If I wanted my floor to always look presentable I would need to sweep, vacuum, and mop that baby three times a day, and then once right before bed.

Last night I tackled the demon head on. I moved the furniture, placed the chairs on top of the table, got out my scrub brush, and attacked with a holiness not seen before. It sparkled. I thought, “I must not let this abomination win! I should resolve to do a simple scrubbing after each meal. Then I would have less work in the long run.”

I know this resolution will last a week at tops. That is just me. That is how I function. I will slowly let the crumbs creep back in. Soon the watermarks will blend in with the other stains. My middle will finger-paint with the margarine. My oldest will turn his fish crackers into bombs, and my baby will spit up all manner of mashed veggies and fruit.

This is my reality. I think I need to accept it and not try to fight the beast. But I don’t have to like it, right?

Friday, August 28, 2009

A Book That Made Me Cry

Since becoming a mom I have become more emotional. Movies that I used to simply stare at, maybe even roll my eyes at, make me tear up. There are certain topics I avoid all together. I just get too weepy. Having kids did this to me: it made me gentler in my spirit---I guess.

It happened again as I was reading to my two oldest boys. What great picks this last trip to the library brought out way.

Here they are:

Don't Forget I Love You by Miriam Moss and illustrated by Anna Currey. Published by Dial Books for Young Readers. Way to go team! This was/is so good. This one seems to have been written from experience, from the heart, and from a place a knowing.

It is about a hurried mom and son, bears, who are late to preschool and work. In the rush of the morning the mom forgets to give her son his special bunny and forgets to say I love. But she comes back! My sons listened. My middle totally empathized. He is so sensing and feeling. This comes easily for him. But even my older one got it. We all could relate. I as a mother who often is hurried and neglects to do my job of mommy totally perfectly, and my sons who need that constant affirmation from me.

The other book was beauty! (The Little Yellow Leaf by Carin Berger and published by Greenwillow Books) Beauty in words and in pictures. It would make the best coffee table book for adults and for kids. What a great fall pick. Great for a teacher to use in her classroom before a lesson on leaves. Carin Berger personifies the Little Yellow Leaf in this book. You find yourself sympathizing with this little fellow and not wanting him to feel too rushed to fall like all the others. Yet this leaf gets lonely. He hangs to the tree all through winter, but after the snow melts away he hears another leaf call to him and they decide to let go together.

I look forward to more reads by this author and illustrator.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Are They Whimsical?

I am thrifty. This does motivate much of what I do. I do desire nice things. I want people to see my house decor and think I have style and taste, but not extravagance. So, I try and work with what I have. One thing I did was make bathroom curtains out of bath towels. I have gotten mixed reviews.

I thought it was clever and whimsical. Two friends and my mom agreed! My husband and sister did not.

So, it is your chance to vote and let me know. This is scary because I really want to hear they are great, only if they are. But, since I like them no matter how this poll turns out...I will probably keep them. I have other things I want to spend my money on.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Clouds of Smoke

I am one of those people who is very sad to see field burning come to an end in agricultural least here in the Willamette Valley. I grew up with its excitement. I love the smell. And, it is way better for the environment than all the chemicals farmers will now be forced to put into the soil to produce pure seed.

Actually, field burning is quite good when it comes to going green. The Native Indians in the Willamette Valley were the first to clear and clean through grass burning practices.

But, this entry is not supposed to be political, merely nostalgic. Last week I made my sons notice the plumes of smoke for the last time. I wanted them to have a foggy memory of this practice. Next year all field burning will cease on the flat, southern Valley.

I am not a poet, but I did attempt to do so with this topic.

Clouds of Smoke

The black smoke rises while
The flood of flames create rhythmic movements.

A man on the water truck,
Around the field he goes.

Into the Ark, the house,
We take all our pets.

Waiting inside...
The excitement builds.

Then it's done.
Black patches scatter the Valley.

The smell of burnt earth...
The field's cycle begins again.

30 and Then Some

I was so jazzed about turning 30! I planned a big night out with my closes of close friends. Our small little group celebrated well at the Melting Pot in Portland. I love going into the city and being "hip and cool" even if it is fleeting and a bit silly. I loved turning 30. Saying it made me feel.....hip and cool and totally Portland. I wanted to use my new age like my sons do. They randomly walk up to strangers and announce, "I'm four. I'm two. That is our baby brother."

30 means something. (Teehee, remember the show ThirtySomething?) It means you are now officially an adult. No one questions you. You are legit. But as you continue to age in this decade of possibility, you realize you are just getting closer to 40. And 40 is old. 40 is how old your parents were when you realized they had an age. I know people, Oprah, try to make us feel good about aging, telling us that 60 is the new 50 and 50 the new 40, but it really is what it is.

I'm turning 32 this September. It sounds scary now because it has all gone so fast. It took no time to get to this moment. This means I'm going to be 60 sooner than later. Panic!

I took one of those silly quizzes on FB. It said my real age was 29. I was sort of pleased with my results. I certainly don't want to be acting 21 or 22. That would be ridiculous. My sister kept taking those age quizzes also and they kept telling her she was 40, almost a decade older than she is. That might be worse than being told you are 21.

The experts also tell us that age is how you feel. Kind of, but age is also what is on your driver's license, birth certificate, and social security records.

Now that I vomited my age thoughts out, I don't really feel any better.

I'm just glad my parents were older when they had me. This makes me feel young still. I can always remind myself that my mom was still five years shy of having me when she was there!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Comment Moderation Change

Ok, so people send me messages from time to time saying they are unable to post comments. So I changed my settings. Anyone can leave a message, even if you do not have an account. However, I get to view it first before I let it post to the blog. I may go back to the old way, but will see how readers like this for a bit.

Book Bombs....

My boys checked out over 35 books on our last trip to the library. They used to be into the toys at the library, then they got into the puppets, and now they are into the books! That is a good evolution. I should be pleased, but getting out of the library with three large book totes, diaper bag, infant, and two preschoolers is a tricky undertaking.

With that many books to read, we were destined to find some total bombs. Can anyone explain to me how bad children's books get published? With so many people submitting books to publishers I would think only the best would make it to print. So, here are some books to avoid:

When Agnes Caws by Giselle Potter; this book is more about cause that good reading. It was one for the birds, literally.

Seven Stories by Ed Briant; Ed was thinking he was very clever as he used allusion to all the wonderful children's classics, but Ed's book really lacked a true story of his own. And our main character, a young girl, lives somewhere in a large city and struggles with sleep on a nightly basis. My country boys who sleep well and hard could not relate.

Tyrannosaurus Tex by Betty G. Birney; the language was beyond them even though they were attracted to the dinosaur cover.

Wink by J.C. Phillipps; it was about Ninjas. My boys just aren't into Ninjas. They had no ability to relate.

Good Little Wolf
by Kristina Andres; I loved the idea, the concept! Each page had the right amount of words for a 3-year-old boy. That is why this one gave me the biggest disappointment. I just didn't get it. The art was strange, and I wondered if I was not appreciating something great, but I just didn't get it. There was nothing written on one page that drove a reader to turn to the next. Here are some of the lines, "In winter I keep all my friends cozy. Sometimes I tell them I'll grow and grow and grow right through the roof. But no one believes me." Each sentence was a new page. Anyone think this sounds good? I feel bad for saying this since this author has an impressive resume'. She studied art history and literature, studied painting and drawing; illustrated her first story when she was in the first grade.....must be me....

Now for our one awesome book!

Critter Sitter
! Go author Chuck Richards, well, actually illustrator. Even though the words were a bit above my boys' level, the pictures were so active and engaging, that they were able to be fully aware of the story and on the edge of their seats! Plus, boys like animals, or at least mine do. And what child wouldn't find escaping snakes and hyper-active dogs exciting as a little boy dives all around and tries to keep things under control! Good job Mr. Richards and good job Walker and Company! You produced a good one and we "force" readers of fine young lit applaud you!
This one is a must read!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Things I Wanted To Say

I love my grandma, love my relationship with her; I am the youngest grandchild. My sister and I were surprises, in a way. My mom was much older when she got married, and so my sister and I were babies in our teenage cousin's arms.

My grandparents used to come and spend two weeks at a time with us growing up. They'd come and help with the putting up of peaches and corn. They'd come and celebrate birthdays and graduations. They'd pull up in their camp trailer and park and stay.

Many times a relationship with a grandparent fades as the grandchild moves away and gets married, has kids of their own. I am glad this was not the case for me and my grandma. I went to college, George Fox, and became her neighbor. I'd walk over and visit her between classes. I even got a job serving meals in the retirement home where she lived.

She loved hearing about my life. I think it kept her feeling young. She would have me over for Sunday dinner regularly. She followed my budding romance with my now husband. She was interested in my writing. She was thrilled to hear about my first teaching job and my classroom. She came with a house warming meal when we moved into our first home. She always wanted to take me shopping for a new outfit.

It was, and still, is hard to see dementia take over her brain like a noxious weed. I hate how it steals away parts of her personality. It is almost easier now. She is so far gone that she's almost happy again, or at least resigned. I know she'd hate it if she could see herself and know this is how she aged. I guess that is the twisted mercy in this disease, the diseased do not know, at least near the end.

Recently I was asked to contribute some writing to an author's book project.

She's putting together a book filled with letters. These letters are the things we all wish we would have said.

I wasn't sure who I was going to address my letter to. I don't have people I wish I would have told certain things to, but never did. I have great parents, no evil high school boyfriends, no sibling that died too soon. But, I do have a grandma that I wish I could still tell things to and can't. I wish I could tell her all about my life now, my three little boys, our return to the family farm, my writing projects, our new church.....but, I can't.

On my last visit I brought my youngest. I chatted away and pretended she was like she used to be. I told her all about him and his developmental skills. She listened and smiled and even made somewhat appropriate comments. Still, not quite the same.

I miss her even though she is still living.

Writing for this book project was therapeutic. It put my thoughts into words. I was surprised with the direction my letter took.

Jackie Hooper has a blog where she's generating letters for her book project. Check it out, give it a try.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Art of Blackberry -One of August's Many Fruits

Little thorns tore at my flesh. Briars reached out and gouged at my legs. My feet were harassed. I dressed all wrong. My top, although it was long sleeved, was a favorite for the hooks and barbs. I felt like I had done the tango with a barbwire fence. I knew better than to wear my whites, so I put on some black athletic shorts. Shorts. What was I thinking? I should have worn sturdy jeans. My shoes, my faithful summer companions, were my blue Chaco sandals....perfect for the blackberry bushes to get in and attack.

Blackberries are sweet, the picking....not so much.

I've been picking for roughly three decades now. I haven't changed my method. I stand carefully and cautiously as close as I can to the bushes. I step on various branches, stamping them down so I can get even closer. I maneuver my arm through the maze to get to the plumpest of berries. My fingers are purple and black. My lips too.

I never attempt to get enough to do jam. I just want a few bowls for a crisp or to smother over a nice bowl of vanilla ice cream. I don't have the mental stamina for more picking.

I got my two bowls filled late this morning. My picking was constantly being interrupted, but so is everything I attempt for I am an outnumbered mother. I asked the boys if they wanted to join me. They did not. I knew they'd change their minds; they always do.

Once they saw me out there they wanted to be where I was. My oldest is capable of putting on his own shoes and had no trouble getting out the backdoor, across the yard and through the cut, dry grass field. My middle son does not have these skills. He stood at the edge of the yard crying. I'm glad he stopped and waited. I have ventured across the dry, yellow fields of August and it hurts. The hollow straw cuts right through bare feet.

So, I left my bowls at the picking site, and I went to get him. He wanted his shoes. We had trouble finding them. We checked multiple locations in the house. We tried the van. We finally found his shoes on the kitchen counter. Then he didn't want them. He didn't want to pick. He wanted to eat graham crackers inside.

I headed back to my task of gathering berries. My oldest was no longer there. He was in imagination world: the sandbox.

Soon my middle son was crying again at the edge of the field. This time he wanted me to carry him. No shoes. He crawled onto my back. We headed out. As soon as I set him down he was sorry. His feet hurt. Not only was the straw causing his terrible morning to be even worse, he didn't like the blackberry bushes either. He ate a few and was done. Things were hurting him, out to get him.

I carried him back.

I started picking again. This was taking too long. Surely there was a better way. I am a genius, so it only took me three decades to come up with a better picking approach. (Plus, I had only maybe 30 more mins. until my baby woke from his nap and this task would be forced to a halt.) I walked back to the yard and located my garden gloves and pruning sheers. I cut off branches with ample clusters of blackberries. I cut three to four of these goldmines at a time. I sat, squatted, and plucked the berries into my blue bowls.

They filled quickly. I was done. I call this the Snip n' Pick Method.

I might actually make two blackberry crisps this year. It was just that good.

Next time, I will wear appropriate clothing and do it when my sons are all asleep. I will wear my spelunking headlamp, I guess.

Notes: Since writing this I was able to produce one large crisp and one batch of jam, yum! I am so jazzed that I plan on heading down to the river to get more August goodness.)

Sunday, August 9, 2009

A Known Place

You know a vacation has been good when you are ready to go home, but a bit sad about leaving. We spent this last week up in Idaho and Washington, enjoying the family cabin. It sits by a small lake; it is perfect. I've been going to this place for 10 plus years now. It feels very comfortable to me. I think I have almost started to say, "Our cabin," even though it is my husband's families. This cabin was actually the first place I met my future in-laws.

When my husband and I were not even dating yet, he flew me up for the 4th of July and drove me straight from the airport to meet the family and the cabin. I can still see where everyone was sitting, the lighting was low. It was dark and late out. I was all worked out because we all still gather at this place of first introductions.

Memories continue to be made in this place. My memories span a decade, my husband's his entire life.

My family never went anywhere more than once. Our vacations were all about seeing new things. I still crave the new and the adventure into uncharted waters, but I also appreciate the comfort of the known. Coming to this place is like putting on an old, warm, cozy sweater.

When I first arrive, I always climb to the second story and sit and look at the wood ceiling. I think it is beautiful. I like to pull open the blinds and see the sun dance on the lake below. I crave and anticipate the traditions of a crackling fire, swimming off the dock, the paddle boat, the 4-wheelers, picking and eating huckleberries.....OK, so I never pick them, but I enjoy eating them. Huckleberry picking is hard work....another blog....

A year doesn't seem complete without a summer visit to the cabin. A winter of snow and fun seems empty without it including this place and the family attached to it.

I love seeing my children anticipate these same types of memories that my husband had as a child. This makes generations now gone somehow connected to the living of our boys. Even though they will never know their great grandparents, they will know a place that started with them. And in this place they will feel complete and comfortable. This will be their sacred space where they grew and discovered.

I like that.

I am home now, and it feels good to get the suitcases unpacked and clothes put away. It is good to be back to a normal routine. There is always something nice about coming home, but when we leave the family cabin it is always bitter-sweet because we are saying goodbye to a friend or even a piece of ourselves. As we drive away I always try and get one last glimpse of the red roof before it disappears for another 6 to 12 months.

This time my husband said, "It feels like the year is now complete. December never feels like the end of the year for me. August and our trip to the cabin is my time of reflection."

And so it is.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Excellent New Reads

I am so excited about these two new books I picked up at the library! I read them with a beaming smile! The wit! The allusion! So clever.

Sir Ryan's Quest is my living reality. The boys were smiling the whole read, and I kept thinking, "This guy must have had boys." It is his first children's book; Jason Deeble is a science teacher. This makes me like him all the more. The inspiration for his story comes from his own childhood adventures. Sir Ryan, the main character, wears his pajama's through the whole story. He finds adventures in the closet, basement, stairway, and cupboard of his home. How perfect! My boys spend most of the day in their pj's. They only get dressed when they are forced to. They are little Ryan's for sure.

The other book I'm totally jazzed about is Patricia von Pleasantsquirrel. Another very funny read. I love that this book alludes to The Giving Tree and Where the Wild Things Are. I kept wondering what type of writer would create such a funny children's story. Well, James Proimos has written several screenplays for Nickelodeon and created several TV shows. So, there you go.

Anyway, these are worth finding at your library. I plan on buying Sir Ryan's Quest for one of my boy's Christmas presents this year.