Going Home

You never know what will happen on the way home from school.


Itchy Feet


Picture This

I have no photos on my phone to share today, except an ugly one of my medicine cabinet that I sent to my sister. I'm attempting to strip 90 years of paint off of it. At first, I imagined that I would just repaint it, but it seems silly to invest all this time and effort and then cover up the wood again. So you can picture that, me applying coat after coat of Citristrip and painstakingly removing one layer of paint at a time with a scraper.

You can also picture me at a cutting board with a very sharp knife, in an effort to clear out our fridge from the overabundance of produce we received at Monday's market. Broccoli soup with greens. Then green smoothies for the children. They suck them down but I think it's because they like the mango chunks I throw in there. Biscuits to go with the soup, which have nothing to do with the farmshare, other than the fact that freshly baked biscuits can turn a pot of cream of broccoli soup into a meal.

The other thing I did today was run home from Laurel's school after I dropped her and Marko off, and then in the afternoon, I ran back there to pick them up. It only took 5 more minutes to run than it normally does to drive, and that may only have been because I briefly got lost behind these new apartments that have just gone up. I'm very interested in this idea of running as transportation, although it certainly works less well with small children in tow. (We took the bus home.)

Marko learned to nod his head yes, which has improved our communication tremendously, and he's now in bed, listening to Brian Eno. Laurel just shared all of her news of the day with M, who just got home from work. It was picture day at school. I ordered the cheapest package possible because I have a backlog of school pictures that I owe to all of you. Then Laurel told a bizarre story of Katy Perry sneaking into her friend's room to leave a KitKat, which somehow ended up in her possession at lunchtime. Laurel hates the grilled cheeses they serve at lunch. "They give us stale bread!" she says. The highlight of the day is always the hour or so we spend at the playground after school. Kids running every which way, dangling from the playground equipment, daring each other to drop from ever increasing heights. They climb the fruit trees and the little kids gather around and stare up in awe and then run over to the smallest tree that has a low branch and climb up all together. They perch on the branches like monkeys. I'm only a little worried that the tree will break.



Marko insisted on carrying the bag of apples but it was so heavy he staggered under the weight. I discretely plucked a few out and hid them in my purse to make the load more manageable for a not-quite-two year old. He waved goodbye to everyone we passed as we left the market. Laurel busies herself with visiting the other vendors. Clutching money in her hand, she says a loud "excuse me!" and gets a pound of coffee, or a container of hummus. Italian ices ("icetalians" she calls them) are her favorite, but they are gone for the season. She's learning about money and scrubbed the bathroom floor and tub today. (She's working off a ten dollar debt right now. Long story.)

Margaret gave us bunches and bunches of broccoli this week. I tossed it in olive oil and stuck it under the boiler for a few minutes. You can also slow roast if you have more time.


Fall Camping

Let's just get this out of the way...yes, it's cold and you might be a little uncomfortable. Once you get beyond that, it's quite enjoyable to go camping with kids. Bring hats. The leaves were pretty close to peak in Ohiopyle this weekend. It was super misty on the ridge where we dropped M off to run. We didn't buy nearly enough firewood but it was enough to cook some lamb sausage. Everyone slept peacefully in the backpacking tent. We practiced for our bike vacation by heading to Confluence and back. 1% does make a difference. I always feel like I'm home when I'm near the Laurel Ridge.


Early morning bike maintenance tutorial

Their favorite thing is probably the bell. I shout to please not get greasy because we are on our way to school. Marko can't help but spin the tire. 


The Rain Is Welcome Anytime

Nearly Five

Laurel is nearly five, which means a few things. She'll soon be old enough for Real School necessitating some real decisions on our part, we'll teach her to use a knife (house rule) and she is so firmly into childhood that her baby-ness is just a memory now. I don't even think about it when she climbs in my lap anymore. She's all legs and complicated questions.

But also, I've been someone's mother for five years. Five years! The transformation into motherhood was jolting at first, and then all-encompassing as I obsessed over the proper way to diaper, wean or sleep-train my way through the first years, and has now faded to a layer that sits beneath the surface...always there, but not the most important thing about me anymore. Having kids helped me to realize a part of my personality that was always there, but I didn't know I had. And now there is no separating the mother part of me from any other part.

After five years, my biggest lesson is that in having kids, you are inviting actual people to come into your life for a really long time. (Wanting a "baby" is kind of dangerous. Like wanting a kitten, it goes by really fast and they are super cute and cuddly and then you have a cat for like 15 years. Hope you like cats.)

The books make it sound like child-rearing is this series of gameboards you must conquer before moving on to the next level. There's infant sleep then potty training then tantrums. Then school. Peer pressure. Tweens and teen stuff. Apply each solution to the appropriate developmental stage and WIN!

Parenting has been more like committing to a long-term relationship before I really knew what I was getting into. Along the way you learn about each other...likes and dislikes and how to get along. How to disagree and make up. What you can share together joyfully. What you should just avoid in the spirit of family harmony. How to balance everyone's needs.


Hello, Autumn!

Suddenly, after a September filled with blue-sky days and pleasant temperatures, autumn is upon us. I took Laurel out in the bike trailer on Saturday where she had her very first experience of getting hailed on. It was windy and rainy and cold enough to chase M out of the woods, where he had planned to do a long run. M really loves to run so you know it had to be pretty unpleasant for him to cut that short. Laurel declared it the "worst bike trailer trip ever," but she can be sort of melodramatic about these sorts of things. The hail wasn't really that big and we were only biking around my parents' neighborhood. Note to self: buy her a winter coat.

I haven't blogged for a while for a lot of reasons. Maybe I'll write more about that, maybe not. All of us are fine here. Sort of cocooning for the winter. Folding into each other and slowing things down.

Last week we had a visit from my friend, Leah, and her two year old son. We took them to Ohiopyle for the day where we wandered around the Ferncliff peninsula trails and splashed in the Youghiogheny River. Hiking is very slow....basically Laurel sets our pace these days because she's too big to be carried. Four-almost-five-year-olds cannot be hurried. I love to watch my children in the woods, noticing little bugs and flowers.  Running their hands across mossy rocks, and climbing over decomposing tree branches. Everything I've ever seen and become familiar with is new again as I watch through their eyes. It was fun to take Leah to a place that is special to us. We've been friends for a decade, but spent most of that time on opposite coasts, growing our friendship through emails and letters and the shared experience of motherhood. We could have just hiked somewhere closer to my house....we do live near a 500 acre wooded park. Taking Leah there was a way to reveal something else about myself that could never be communicated another way. Plus her kid really likes to splash in water. (Unless it is a bathtub. Oddly, he is vehemently opposed to baths, but had no qualms about the river, or the water tables at the Children's Museum.)

I have a lot more to say, but running out of time. Here's what you should know in case I forget to blog for another month. (1) I quit my job and have zero regrets about that. I will not be writing about that here, but feel free to ask me in person. (2) We're planning a bike trip down the Great Allegheny Passage in a couple of weeks. Pray for no hail. It will probably be kind of cold. I welcome your suggestions for long distance biking with small children. They'll be in a trailer and it's about 300 miles total, I think. (3) Laurel is reading! Sounding words out on her own and blending sounds. Spending hours sitting on the couch paging through her magazines. So cool to see it happening before my very eyes. (4) Wassail Fest is ON for this year. I seriously will tune my piano, once we set a date. Mid-December.


The Great Milestone that is Back To School Time

Laurel's first day of school was on Wednesday and I did not take a picture. This was partly because I got a bonk on the head a couple of weeks ago and have lingering concussion symptoms, so just getting her to the school building itself on time was feeling like a pretty epic accomplishment. Even with the concussion, I did remember to pull out my phone as we approached the building but Laurel gave me a firm no. I think she was nervous.

School went fine and by Friday she happily posed for a "first day" picture. School is a funny thing. As a person with teaching experience, I ought to have a fairly good idea of what happens there, but so much of it is a mystery. Side conversations with her peers that happen out of the earshot of adults. Her perception of a disciplinary choice of her gym teacher. Why she's there in the first place. So much of the whole experience has nothing to do with the curriculum. At our parent conference last week, the teacher asked me what my goals were for Laurel for this year and I didn't really know how to answer the question. I mean, it's preK. I hope that she emerges from the year relatively unharmed and has a good time playing with a lot of kids on the playground. Read her some cool stories. Teach her to count.

On the first day, she came home delighted to be back in school. I got to make orange juice, she said, and then I got to drink it!

That seems like a pretty good thing to be doing in preK, I think.

It will be two more years before Marko is old enough for this school, but he is firmly out of "baby" territory and exerting his will as an active toddler. He mimics everything that Laurel does, so getting him to act properly is very much about getting her to do it. He can say a few words: dog, duck, Lah-lu (Laurel), and apple. He still uses the sign for more. I'm learning a little bit about using Montessori with him and he loves to help around the house. Although he doesn't talk too much, he can definitely follow 1 and 2 step directions.

Last night, I was doing the dishes and realized it was pitch dark and only 8:30. That's the other part of Back to School. It marks the coming of the autumnal equinox. Our garden phlox has just about given up blooming. The dill went to seed. Our sunflowers, which we planted very late, are now towering over the rest of the garden, with thick stalks and umbrella-like leaves. When walking home from the playground yesterday, we found a few red leaves on the ground. We've now lived in this house for nearly six years and - the longest I've spent anywhere since my childhood home, and it's interesting to note what I have grown to notice and expect from my surroundings. The sunrise drifts from one end of the dining room window to the other and back again. The gingko trees across the street will not be the first to turn, but will be the most brilliant. The grass in our front yard will slowly turn to yellow as the winter deepens. The house itself will shift, tightening up as the moisture from the air disappears when the boiler turns on. The doors may shut properly in their frames again. We will change our habits, sleeping more and earlier.

As for me, I'm taking it easy. A few weeks ago I hit my head while I was cleaning the house. It really hurt, but I put some ice on it and didn't think too much about it. Next day, I still had a headache and a few other troublesome symptoms, and was instructed to rest from pretty much everything....no computer, tv, driving, exercise. This week, I'm trying to ease back in so I can return to work.