Friday, August 31, 2012

This Kid

He's got me by the heartstrings.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Grandma and Grandpa are HERE!

 James's sweet parents are here for a week-long visit! The kids are in heaven. :)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Oh Sweet, Sweet Organization

The kids were in bed, the baskets I'd ordered had arrived, and I was looking at a horrifying jumble of toys, games, puzzles and books. An hour and a half later, I had thrown a laundry basket full of JUNK into the recycling bin, put aside a bag for Goodwill, and organized everything else. Both cabinets (underneath) are completely cleaned out and organized. The drawers are free of detritus and debris and filled with puzzles IN THEIR OWN BOXES. The shelves no longer look like something out of a hoarder's paradise. Nothing is stored in Ziploc bags anymore, because I replaced them with little plastic boxes-with-lids (now that Miss V can get into everything). Aaaaaaaahhhhh. I love it. Sometimes, I just go in there to gaze at the wonder that is the living room toy area. Is that weird? Eh, I don't really care.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Last of the Summer Swimming Lessons

 It's been a big summer for swimming around here. Both kids have been taking lessons at the municipal pool, and it's been a hugely positive experience.

 Due, in large part, to their great teacher, Alyssa.

 The previously fearful J-bird has learned the love the water. (And he learned about water safety, which is what the life jackets in this photo - taken on "safety day" - are about)

 And Miss V...well....she's made her feelings about it very clear from the start.

 But all good things must end, and our last day of summer lessons came up at the end of last week, so James took a little break from work to come watch the kids swim.

 Miss V is too young for the group classes, so I've had her take a few private lessons, and it has been worth every last nickel I spent.

 And, after watching them both in the pool, James agreed that it's been a summer well spent.

 They've made some friends.

 learned to be patient, when it's someone else's turn to swim (well, erm, sort of patient),

 they've learned a lot

 won out over some fears (he floated for several seconds on his own!)

 and enjoyed the sensation of flight.

Much gratitude to Alyssa, and to our local pool. After a little hiatus, we'll be signing up for some lessons through the Fall and Winter months as well (excellent P.E. for my little home-squirrels), and we can't wait!

Friday, August 24, 2012

If I Could Save Time In A Bottle

The J-bird is learning to tell time on a regular clock this week.

I saw something like this (only made of paper) that a teacher friend posted on Facebook, and I thought it was smart, so I copied it in window crayon onto our sliding glass door (which serves as a blackboard for us).

 Once I'd explained it all out, we started playing with this toy clock that my mom gave the kids. I'd put the clock hands on different numbers, and then the J-bird would tell me what time it was.

After that, I made him a quick worksheet. He grasped the concept much more quickly than I anticipated. Pretty painless, actually! Obviously, we've started with the most basic stuff, and we'll keep working on it, but I'm pleased with what he's got so far. I love teaching at home :)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Sidewalk Paint

 Craft playdates with our neighbor kids have been few and far between during the summer months. We're all running in 14 directions at once, to get all the warm, outdoor fun we can while the gettin's good in the short but lovely Oregon summer. Wendee and I managed to schedule one for this week though, and it was lots of fun.

 Wendee mixed up some sidewalk paint - just corn starch, water, and food coloring. She gave them each a sponge brush, and then we stood back and let them go to town. The kids had a blast with it, and the drips that got on them (and their clothing) washed right off.

Thanks, Wendee!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


The kids were drawing on the back patio with some chalk, and Miss V came in to show me something.

Miss V: "J---- DWAW on me!"
Me: "J, did you draw on Sissy?"
J-bird: (Thrilled with himself) "I gave her little cheekies!"

While I appreciate his work, I think I like these cheekies better.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Every Time

Every time we go to the farmer's market in downtown Hillsboro, my boy has to stop and visit his friend in front of the toy store. His delight with this giant Playmobil figure has yet to dim, even slightly. I love that about him.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Swimming Lessons and the Spray Park

 I love watching my kids take their swimming lessons. They enjoy it so much, and they're learning to love the water as much as I did as a kid. Or, in Miss V's case, continuing to love the water as much as she always has. That child fears nothing.

 And both kids ADORE their teacher, Alyssa.

She's pretty great.

Last week, we had a bit of a heat wave, so during the last few minutes of their lessons, the kids got to spend a few minutes playing in the water at the little spray park attached to our municipal pool.

 So fun! Miss V, of course, ran head first into this activity. Never mind that the water was cold, or that she'd never done anything like this before. My go-with-the-flow girl was all for it.

My cautious-and-careful J-bird preferred to hang at the side and watch the other kids go first, but once he had assessed the situation and was sure it was ok, he had a blast, pressing the buttons to make each set start spraying, and then running away, giggling that gorgeous giggle of his.

And me? I stood over to the side with the other mothers, letting the teacher be in control, and enjoying the delight of my children. If I'm being honest, it tugs my heart every time one of my kids walks away from me to do something on their own. I feel happy and proud as they grow and become more independent, but I also struggle with the desire to run and re-claim that little hand for my own, to put off the transitions from babyhood to toddler-hood to kid-hood for as long as I can, to hold them tightly and never let them go, because seeing them go, even for a short time, is so impossibly...wrenching. My feet sometimes start to move of their own accord, my hand reaching out. Then, I take a deep breath, like my Mama taught me to do when things get weird, and I stop, wave at them, and watch them go; and I let the happy-for-them part hold hands with the wistful-for-me part, and I get on with things until they come back to me. I suppose that's just being a mother, isn't it? Watching these living embodiments of my heart take on the world, one swimming lesson at a time, while I sit on the sideline with all the other mothers, grinning proudly, with tears in my eyes.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Bigs and Littles

 I have a small group of girlfriends I met in a new baby/nursing group when our oldest kids were tiny. We bonded over cloth diapers and sleepless nights and first teeth, and we've stayed friends over the years. In fact, by crazy coincidence, we all have second children who are also the same age. Weird, right? Awesome, is what I call it. Three of us got our kids together last week for some splashing-in-the-water fun on a hot day.

 The three big kids.

 My Miss V and little Miss M were born one day apart in the same hospital!
 (We were getting ready to leave, so Miss V wasn't in her swimsuit anymore)
(And Little J was running around somewhere else. I wish we'd gotten a photo with him, too!)

Bigs and Littles. It's nice, having friends you've known your whole life.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Such A Little Lady

Once an ankle crosser.....


 Always an ankle crosser.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

We Love The Farmer's Market

In our area, there's a farmer's market running somewhere pretty much every day of the week from May through October. We go at least once a week for as long as they run and stock up on the bounty offered by local folks. And then we go home and eat it all up.

(These green beans, leeks, garlic, broccoli, zucchini and carrots made a lovely stir-fry with some chicken sausage and hot sauce. Yum.)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Dugout

 My friend, Kim is opening a gourmet deli and beer bar in a few weeks called The Dugout. I'm so excited for her! I offered to help with anything she needed, and she asked me to paint a sign to go behind the bar.

 Here's her logo. I went to the construction site of her place and checked out where she wants the sign, and Kim decided that, rather than painting directly on the cooler, it'd be nice to have a large, painted cutout of her logo to hang up.

 I drew it out on a big piece of wood I had out in the garage, then cut it out with a jigsaw and sanded the rough edges.

Then, I painted it. For a hand-painted sign from a non-professional, I think it looks pretty decent. I'm really happy with how it turned out anyway, and Kim seems pleased as well, which brings me no small measure of relief. :)

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Life's a Garden. Dig It.

When I was a girl, my mother always had huge, glorious flower and vegetable gardens that she tended from Spring through Fall every year. She lovingly tended each vine and branch, and the results were breathtaking.

When I was in college, I planted some bulbs and some wildflower seeds outside my little house, and I started to learn the difference between flowers and weeds. My little scratched-out patches of dirt never looked ANYTHING like Mom's glorious growing masterpieces, but I started to understand how satisfying digging and planting and cultivating could be.  Never mind the weeds - there were actual flowers in there somewhere, and I had grown them!

After James and I got married, we bought a house, and I thought NOW was the time to buckle down and become my mother's daughter (flower-wise, at least). My feeble attempts were quickly scorched by the blasting summer heat of Sacramento though, combined with my ignorance and a scary case of asthma that kept me inside (and out of the smog) way more than I would have liked. My asthma is why we moved to Oregon, in fact.

Ah, Oregon. Green, green, beautiful Oregon. Everything grows here. Drop a seed and get out of the way. It's been a perfect place for me to experiment with and learn about growing a wide variety of flowers and plants. After seven and a half years of trial and error, I'm starting to get the hang of it at last. I've learned by doing, I've learned from the wonderful interwebz, and I've learned by asking advice from my mom, my mother-in-law, my friends who garden - really anyone who digs in the dirt. One of my favorite things about gardening is how many things in my yard remind me of people I love. A patch of flowers here, a little statue there. Contributions from and reminders of folks who are rooted (pardon the pun) in my heart. When I step out into my garden, I'm surrounded by family and friends:

 The seeds for these black-eyed Susans came from my mom's garden. They make me think of her and of Kansas, where I grew up.

 Mom brought me these hostas as well. She pulled them out of her garden, wrapped them up, and packed them in a suitcase several years ago. I have a hard time keeping the snails away from them, but I love them so much.

Mom ALSO brought me some of her Stella D'Oro lilies - her favorite. Aren't they cheerful?

 This bee balm (monarda) reminds me of my sweet mother-in-law. She has tons of the stuff in her gorgeous yard in Kansas, and she bought the starters for my patch when we visited a plant nursery during her visit several years ago.

She also bought me this beautiful bench, which I recently scraped down and re-stained. This thing has held up incredibly well through lots of rainy Oregon winters, and I think of her whenever I see my kiddos swinging their little legs as they perch on it, surveying their kingdom.

 My dad built me this beautiful arbor to wind my grapevines around. He took such care with it, and it, too has withstood rain and wind and snow and heat and crazy grapevines that grow nine miles an hour and have to be beaten back with a stick.

 This pretty little touch came from my sister-in-law, Denny.

 My neighbor planted this Wisteria before she moved away. It has taken the fence over completely, and it sure is pretty when it blooms.

 She gave me these, as well, and they have faithfully grown in my front garden for seven years now. Carrie was my first real friend in Oregon, something I'll always be grateful for.

 My hydrangeas remind me of my best friend, Laura, who lives in Kansas. They're her favorite, and she had them in her wedding, where she married James's best friend, Elliot. Pretty cool, how that worked out. :) Laura and I met in college. She introduced me to James. We still talk on the phone a couple of times each week, and I love her so.

 My sister, Olivia was with me when I bought these little boxwoods, shortly after Miss V was born. We always have so much fun when she comes to visit.

And this beauty is the tree that stands in our front yard. Whenever it blooms, I remember when, having just moved here, James came to me, urgency in his voice, with the list of trees the city said we could choose from. It was "first come, first served", and there were only a few of each variety available, so we quickly looked them all up, chose the one we thought would be prettiest, and sent our list back in, right away. It was the tallest one on the street when it went in, and we continue to love and admire it as it grows taller every year.

My gardening skills have come a long way, and I have so much left to learn, but when I step outside my house, into my ever-evolving personal Eden; when I watch my children picking the flowers, marveling at the little creatures that live amongst them, and generally enjoying all those gorgeous, growing things, each reminder of the people who have contributed plants, wisdom, and time makes me smile with a memory. I think that's one of the true joys of gardening - living reminders of love.