"Don't you stay at home of evenings? Don't you love a cushioned seat in a corner, by the fireside, with your slippers on your feet?"
-Oliver Wendall Holmes Sr.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Nestling In With Field Guides

 We escaped this past Saturday to a local greenhouse for a little snow relief. We have been amazed that the snow has just kept coming. We have had no real bare ground around here since December which is unusual. I keep stuttering over the fact that normally I have snowdrops poking up in my garden in February....this year there's no plants or even garden edging stones in sight. All still buried under about two feet of snow. We were outside shoveling yesterday morning first thing and we had to push the van out when it got stuck in the driveway momentarily today. What a winter!

I usually am looking for a little sight of green and some warmth right about now...all the seed catalogs showing vines and flowers and nothing looking remotely green in the yard at this time. This year that concept on steroids. We enjoyed our greenhouse escape. The place we go, Logee's Tropicals is a cobbled string of greenhouses that have retail plants but clearly have their roots in being personal growing places. There are giant towering citrus trees planted directly in the soil that drop fruit on the rows of pots for sale in the benches below and avid vines climbing the walls and creeping into every crack and rambling around all doorways. Its a very human kind of place. Very warm. Very green. The boys love it too and immediately start hunting up homes for themselves under certain potting benches or behind terracotta planters. Who wouldn't want to homestead in a greenhouse?!?
 At home, life continues apace. We may have a later spring with all this snow to melt, I sure wonder. I am packing for Florida (we leave Friday for a week!) and while away I am kind of hoping to map out where the vegetables will go in each garden bed. I might even order seeds while sitting in the tropical sun. I'm also really excited for the chance to see people we love who have moved away to the land of sunshine. We will be seeing one of Ru's oldest playmates, the daughter of some sweet friends that we have just managed by the skin of our teeth to stay in touch with through several moves and accumulating years. The mama in this particular family was one of my first mama friends. When I was just getting started, and had only one or two children, we would get together to talk about our latest parenting conundrums. Amazing to think of getting together with our now enormous kids, on a beach and laugh and talk together again. I'm also really excited to visit with my cousin (always a big hit with the boys!), eat Cuban sandwiches together, reminisce about our childhoods together and compare life goals. Family is the best invention ever.

 I am packing suitcases with all our shorts and bathing suits, thinking so excitedly of being in actual warmth. I cannot wait to lay in the sun on a beach and fall asleep while "reading." My shell picking fingers are itchy for beach combing and the boys are talking all day, every day about the sand castles they will build and the tricks they'll do in the water. So much, absurdly giddy fun to think about the magic of air travel and how it can take you to another place where life is so different and so warm but in the same world and time. What an incredible thing!

 The boys have been having lots and lots of snow play this year which is really cool. Our two sleds have been getting the best workout of their lives. We've also had snow ice cream a couple of times this winter. So much fun to enjoy the last of the cold weather with a tumbling bunch of little boys who go spilling out into the snow like so many puppies. Ru has also really been getting good at shoveling which is fantastic for the whole family and for his muscles and sense of accomplishment. One of his chores right now is making sure the front and back walks are clear and sprinkling salt if needed. He feels like a legit groundskeeper and gets a lot of positive regard for his hard work. Winter gifts.

Sending you all warm thoughts in the midst of another gentle snowfall as I traipse off to bed to flip through my stack of South Atlantic shoreline field guides....shells, sandpipers, sponges, seaweed......*sigh*

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Missed Sap Seasons

 Its Sugaring Season here in Southern Connecticut. Yet again, I have considered but then skipped tapping the maple trees here on our city lot. Only one of our trees is a sugar maple but we have several other maples, red and Norway on our city lot and any maple, as a learned a couple of years ago, can be tapped for sap! Maybe next year. I have to buy a few spiles and buckets and stop making plans to run away to the tropics screaming during the exact week that the sap runs hardest where I live. Heh. We leave for Florida soon.

 We are taking a class at one of the local nature centers (the kids and I, although I have to admit that I am a tag-along and the class is supposed to be for my sons) and today it involved a hike through the snow and sparkling sunshine to inspect the woods, chew birch twigs together (Mmmm!!!! Wintergreen!) and take peeks into the first few filling sap buckets. Next week we are promised tastes of maple syrup since they will be hopefully getting enough sap to start boiling it down. Even without any action, it was super fun to visit the sugar house and pat the stove and sit together on hay bales around it. Maybe next year is the year that I will put on my giant canning stock pot and keep the stove at a simmer while I lug buckets of pale golden water indoors triumphantly. I'm quite keen on the idea....I just keep forgetting every year. Maybe I should put a reminder in my electronic calendar that will go off mid-January and tell me that I want to tap trees. "Order Spiles and Scrub Out Canning Pot" it could say. Laura Ingalls, move on over.

 The boys and I got out our first big teeny piece jig-saw puzzle after dinner tonight. I was giving them lessons on sorting out the edge pieces and examining the cover illustration for small clues on the gray shag rug in front of the fireplace. So much fun. Dee took to it like a duck to water, I had to pry his little engineer hands off the project when it was time to take a break for the night. A's family are great puzzle lovers and my ended family love puzzles quite a lot although my own natal family group didn't do them much at all. I think my Mama found them tedious or boring or maybe the baby was always losing pieces and the dog was always eating a few and somehow that rattled her..... Anyhow, its kind of a new pasttime for me and I feel really happy about bringing some piece of A's childhood into our family activity.

 Joke books are huge this year, especially with our newly confident reader who is suddenly devouring everything written within reach. He's incessantly reading his new joke book that he got for Christmas and loving his new handwriting book which has him doing jokes for copywork. Such a hilarious, brilliant otter idea for a kid like mine.

Well, its time to go to bed. The quilts and down comforter are calling and my good man is waiting. I hope you all have a snug night and wake to a day full of challenges and excitement, little gifts and new lessons. I am thinking of you out there as we pass the middle of the week, as my tiny nephew recovers from his surgery this morning, as my garden sleeps under the snow, as I plot lesson plan in my mind, as the mending sits waiting in the downstairs closet and as we all recover, rest and rejuvenate under the half moon. xoxo!


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Amish Parenting and Seed Catalogs

Reading a really great book about Amish parenting, believe it or not. I am really struggling lately with teaching my children to not be prideful and haughty, getting across the ideals of industry and conscientiousness and getting at the soul of helping to instruct in kindness. Most of these things are weaknesses in my own personal character too which means that I'm searching for ways to teach myself and guide myself as I struggle to get across to my boys. Parenting is the most fantastic muscle work! Seriously!

I am not finding the book astoundingly revelatory, the author is no researcher and sometimes isn't able to pinpoint what the Amish are doing differently but there are hints and clues and some clear ideas. Its also just a super interesting cultural narrative, there are lots of things I didn't know about the Amish: they occasionally allow....movies, video games, cell phones, divorces, visiting with shunned folks, birth control, junk food, puzzles etc. Fascinating to imagine their lives and look over the landscape of their world for useful principles, ideas or viewpoints. I wish I had an Amish neighbor. The warmth and support sound so indescribable, especially in the stage of young motherhood. My Mennonite roots start to show during reading and I find myself missing some of the older, more devout, grandmas of my childhood church. Makes me want to go can a giant batch of apple sauce....and read more Amish literature!

Today was cold again, the sun still shines though which makes it so much more bearable. I don't mind so incredibly much when it is sunny during the day and then the wind kicks up as darkness arrives and the temperature drops. Its kind of cheering to snuggle down under the down comforter with my man and listen to the howling in the branches of the old white pine that towers over our house. We have however been freezing our pipes and bringing in eggs that have frozen and split from the coop. Its great pruning weather though, so I need to get my snips all dusted off and get out there and shape up our fruit trees. I am thinking that next week might be a great time to make sure that gets done! Spring is coming soon and now's the time to make sure that we've finished all the winter jobs. Isn't that a cheering thought!?!

Another thing I need to work on is planning out the vegetable garden. Last year's simpler garden arrangement went fairly well, so I think this year I will do a similarly streamlined plan. Not a million varieties, just the basics, and clean, neat planting set-ups. I see a date with a thick stack of seed catalogs in my near future. Mama morning time with a steaming cup of tea by my side as the sun rises and boys snore! YAY!

Sending you lots of cheering energy as you while away the last hours of winter, plan your spring, travel for breaks, try to get yourself out of bed in the morning, smile even though the wind bites and wrack your brain for creative and energy consuming things for kids to do indoors! I am on the same program. Lets keep on!