Monthly Archives: July 2010

She Can Be Cute Too

For the five nights my sister’s family stayed with my parents on the island, Paul, Josie and I packed up our contributions to dinner and headed to their house (aka: the mother ship) at cocktail hour. The weather was beautiful and as the sun stretched long over the horizon we clustered around my parents’ glass table and ate our dinners family style.

The day the cousins left we planned to have a quiet dinner at home. While I cooked, Josie messed around in the carport. We’d just returned from swimming in the lake and her inflatable boat was in the center of the flagstone. I looked out and she’d climbed inside. I asked where she was going and she replied that she was going to Bumpa’s (Grandpa’s) house. OK, have a nice time (is she really playing by herself? Awesome.)

A few minutes later I peek out the door again and she isn’t there. I walk to the other side of the house toward the beach. She isn’t there. I walk around the side of the house quietly, afraid I will disturb the rare, elusive, self-occupied toddler (I didn’t know it existed!). Finally, I see her walking up our long, steep dirt driveway toward the road with her inflatable boat raised over her head. This is, of course, the same driveway that she cannot possibly walk all the way up when her parents are around to carry her. But here she is walking and holding a boat over her head. Not only is she occupied but she’s wearing herself out. It’s like Christmas over here. Sure, she’s headed toward the road but it’ll take her a while to get there and there aren’t many cars and they don’t drive very fast and, well, she’s playing by herself. Needless to say, I don’t want to break the spell.

A few minutes later when I can no longer see her I hoof it up to the end of the driveway. I expect to find her resting somewhere along the way, distracted by a bug on a leaf or maybe playing next to the road but there she is sitting in her boat right in the middle of the road. Oh stop looking at me that way, there wasn’t a car in sight and if there had been, it would have driven really slowly and have I mentioned that she was playing by herself?

Anyhoo, Josie tells me she’s going to Bumpa’s house. I explain to her that if a car comes, I’m concerned the driver won’t be able to see her down here in this boat. When she gets up three plastic plates, two knives, a plastic frying pan, and a plastic piece of lettuce clatter to the pavement. While I move the boat to the side of the road, she starts walking. It’s about a half mile to Bumpa’s house and I’m pretty sure if I let her she would have made it fine without getting lost. Finally, concerned that the non-plastic dinner is burning on the stove, I talk her into returning to the house to find Daddy. Maybe after dinner Paul will carry her up the driveway, because she can’t possibly make it to the top herself, and we’ll all walk over to Bumpa’s house.

Tiny Cases to Hold Things

It was my birthday on Saturday. My hero, Polly, came to watch Josie while Paul and I jumped a train to Portland for two days and two nights. It was a dream come true. Here are some of the highlights.

We stayed in a trendy hotel.

I bought little cases to hold things. They make me enormously happy.

I tried to take some blogger self-portraits. It’s surprisingly difficult.

I wore a skirt.

I spent hours at the world’s largest bookstore. We bought books. I considered sharing a picture that didn’t show the titles but this says so much about our lives right now. You can’t see the children’s books on the bottom – Olivia, Curious George and Corduroy. It’s kind of a little poem.

I turned 37.

Lover of Trees

The other day I was at a stoplight, spacing, thinking about the sound of waves and the heat of summer or the whooshing of air though the open car windows – or whatever it is I think of when I’m not really thinking at all. Anyway, there was a woman on the corner, she had waist-length hair and wore a prairie skirt. Her arms were stretched around a tree in a bear hug. I use “tree” loosely, it was really more of a tall shrub, an evergreen column. Her head was turned, cheek to scrub.

Now, there is a woman who really loves trees, I thought, good for her.

Then the light changed and as I pulled away, she stepped back and moved her walking cane from one hand to the other and tapped her way across the street. How awesome is it that she has a perfectly acceptable excuse to hug trees all day? I’m a bit jealous.  

I love trees and have been kind of captivated by their health benefits since I first read about this Japanese study that found men who walked in the forest for 2 hours for 2 days had a 50% spike in natural killer cells (cells that destroy abnormal cancer cells). And the study found that women showed a spike in immune system function that lasted for over a week.

In January a similar study was released. 140 people were instructed to walk though a forest for a few hours while another 140 people were instructed to walk though a city for a few hours. The second day they changed places. The study found that being among plants produced “lower concentrations of cortisol, lower pulse rate, and lower blood pressure,” among other things.

It makes me want to try harder to find places to plant trees in my already full yard. Maybe I’ll find a few more places. Maybe I’ll put in a bat house or two. Maybe the barn swallows will like it too. Maybe they’ll eat all our insects. Maybe they’ll all help us live longer.


Heaven help us.

The other day, Josie, Norah and I went for a walk. Josie wants to hold Norah’s leash and walk in the middle of the road. I bring her back to the side. Then again. I tell her she can walk on the side of the road or she can ride in the stroller. She walks down the middle of the road. I bring her back to the side. Again. I say it’s time for the stroller. She slips from my hand and runs up the hill into someone’s yard yelling nonononono! I can’t go after her. If I do she will sprint away and she’s too fast. With that much of a lead, I won’t be able to catch her. Finally, I pretend I’m leaving (the only thing that ever works) and she starts sobbing, I put her in the stroller and head for home.

My adrenalin is pumping mad as I push that damn stroller up the hill. A neighbor I have never met comes out of her house as we pass her deck. She has a pan lid in one hand and a spoon in the other. Oh, she says looking surprised to see a screaming red-faced toddler and her glaring red-faced mother. Oh, she says again, I thought the cats were fighting outside and I was going to break them up.

That’s right, me and my girl, like two cats. That’s how we are some days.

Mosquitoes (and Bats!)

Begging for a bat house

The garden is doing well (thanks for asking), so well in fact, that we are awash in broccoli. If anyone comes within 10 feet of the house, I force them to take a crown. I pretty much throw broccoli at passersby. It’s like reverse Halloween over here. I’ve given away so much broccoli that Josie has decided that along with happy birthday, enjoy your broccoli is a standard greeting. She’s also in a no-clothes phase of life so our little naked wood nymph has been running around the yard yelling, enjoy your broccoli! to anyone who will listen (ie: the dog).

And this little anecdote has nothing to do with what I really want to write about. Total change of subject. Are you ready?

Mosquitoes! The hysterical’s guide to mosquito repellant (kind of). We don’t have much of a problem here in the northwest with bugs so I’m really not qualified to comment but, as usual that won’t stop me. I came across an interesting article that says wind, even a small amount from a house fan, is an effective deterrent. Mosquitoes are attracted to the carbon dioxide we exhale, sweat, lactic acid and body heat. The fan works not just because it makes it hard for the lil’ buggers to land, but because it disperses our breath and cools us down. So get an extension cord and move that fan outside.

Also bats! I love bats. Really. I’m fascinated by them and collect odd bat facts. I don’t know why. I keep thinking I will write something that has to do with bats someday but it never happens. Maybe this is it. Maybe this is my big bat story. Did you know that the Brazilian Free-tailed bat consumes 200-600 insects per night? And, the bats of Texas consume 6-18,000 metric tons of insects each year. You’re welcome for that. Anyway, buy them a house. (You can even buy one that looks like a castle.) Paint it black. Maybe it would be tough to carry with you when you go hiking but it could help for those nights on the back deck.

Okay, seriously, this is probably no help at all. It’s definitely no help for those of you who want to leave your yard. Any of you peeps living in mosquito-laden lands have suggestions on keeping them away without harming your children or the planet?

The Reward

Ah, vacation… It’s not an easy thing to get a family, especially one with a young child, out of town. There’s so much preparation. There’s the food planning, the grocery shopping, the packing (you have to make sure you have cute yet practical clothes for all weather conditions, the good sunscreen, the sun hat, and for goodness sake don’t forget Baby Chloe and Monkey).

Then there’s the drive and the screaming when the girl decides she’s bored and had enough. There’s the running around at the rest stop. There’s the car snacking and the tears when you run out of ‘ting cheese (string cheese). Then there’s loading everything onto the boat, bribing the child into the life vest, leashing the dog and trying to keep her from pulling you into the water as you walk down the dock. There’s the boat ride where you’re trying to keep the kid awake because you know if she drifts off the real nap will not happen. There’s the unloading of the boat and the loading of another car and the driving to the house.

Once you get there, there’s putting the girl to bed for her nap and unloading the cooler and the totes full of groceries and removing sheets from furniture and opening blinds. By then it’s pretty much time to start dinner. There’s the cutting, the chopping, the marinating. There’s packing up dinner fixings and the vitamins and the sippy cups of milk and going to the parent’s house. There’s the greeting of the nieces and the combining of chopped items and marinated meats and there’s kids and dogs and more kids everywhere, running, there’s the running, then there’s the crashing and the crying, and the requisite stealing of toys.

Then, finally, it’s cocktail hour. There’s the pouring of beverages and the consumption of guacamole. There’s the sun as it begins its descent, there are hummingbirds at the feeder, there’s the dying wind and the still water and the one ferry boat passing by the one fishing boat tied to one buoy. There’s a set table and kids around it (or close enough) and dogs sprawled out sleeping in the sun and there’s this family and this gin and tonic and grilled ribs and salad. There’s the sun warming the back of your neck. There’s this perfect moment when everything good and worthy comes together and you sit with your people in the most beautiful place you know and exhale.   

I hope you’re all finding lots of these moments this summer.