Monday, April 27, 2009

The Pool Boys

Gillen and Jesse spent over an hour today scrubbing the pool. All they asked of me was some help dumping the dirty water out of the buckets.
They finished up just in time for the Wilson brothers to join in on the next step.
Filling it up!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Inman Park Festival

There were beautiful booths, and wonderful company (the Traaseths, the Stonebrakers and a surprise appearance by the Epsteins).
But this year, as opposed to last year, I didn't see much of the parade. Gillen and those who were brave enough to withstand the heat and massive crowds saw plenty. I watched those watching:
And then turned around (in the artist's booth I was in with Alec) and watched the sculptures, who were watching something far far away:
I walked a few feet back to our friend Terry's house, looked up and watched Jesse and Ike staying cool in a tree:
and then cooling off closer to the earth.I also snuck a peek at the wee girl behind them. I wonder if that's how big Isha will be (my sister's new babe) when I see her next month.

Now, I'm ready to watch my boys fill up the pool (their favorite part of spring).

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Our family is growing

Two new stray cats have been hanging out at the farm. Helen is already feeding six cats and is at her limit. I don't blame her. I offered to take the two new ones to the pound.

I looked at Gillen sitting in the propped-up pup truck the other day (turns out the clutch is out) and felt sure that that he was imagining driving.But he looked so relaxed. I walked closer and looked inside. Turned out he was bonding, with the banished male. Gillen's tenderness towards him softened my heart and those other-worldly eyes caught me off guard. Names started involuntarily running through my head.

I only took the female cat to the pound and that story ends well too - she is being rescued there today by her former owner who used to work at the farm. After hearing a description of her, Eva recognized that this calico cat must be her "Poochy".

Here was Gillen's reaction after hearing that we get to keep "Kelly" (named, for a brief time, after a Lee-jeans commercial actor from the eighties who watched me dancing one night at a party in NY and declared that I danced like Ann-Margret. sigh. The week's Kelly thoughts brought back that memory.) Quickly, that name was rejected for the name of my mother's other former cat, Fracas' black brother, who looked very much like this one. So, I'll be getting "Frickle" fixed tomorrow and we hope that Fracas will be pleased. "Frik and Frac" can keep each other company in what was supposed to be primarily the art room but has now been renamed "the cat cave".

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Kelly(ie)s/ or, true confessions of an eighth grader

I have "Kelly" on the brain this week. It started with the Park School (fourth through ninth grades) reunion I'm going to in a few weeks. Several days ago I dug through an old trunk in search of two green spiral notebooks. I remembered writing in them back then, thirty to thirty five years ago. I found the green spiral notebooks, but the blue locked diary was better. It covered almost every day of 1977 and some of '78. Every entry begins with "Dear Kelly", as that was my diary's name (which is also true of all of the green notebooks and of most of the baby dolls I cherished when younger). There are even worse embarrassing revelations, like the list of my favorite songs at age 14. Don't Give Up on us Baby by David Soul led the list. And then there was the mad crush I had on Sylvester Stallone. This dark, rugged man had overcome the challenges of living in Hell's Kitchen and had gone on to write and star in "Rocky". I was in awe. I sketched a picture of the beaten-up underdog with vulnerable girlfriend Adrian in my diary. Gonna Fly Now was number two on my favorite song list.

The second Kelly of the week is a more recent friend, the unschooling Live and Learn conference creator, Kelly Lovejoy. She came last week to get tomato plants from Nicolas and in return listened to me babble on hung out with me until 1:30 in the morning and much of the next day. One of the highlights was watching she and Helen talk chicken. Kelly is all about their color while Helen only notices how many eggs they lay. Kelly has put my dog on a diet. Others have tried, but they weren't Kelly. The next two Kellys are from previous chapters in my life, one visiting us from Boston where she is married to my friend who helped start Barking Dog Theater and the other was a college roommate. College-rommate-Kelly visited me here in GA when I first moved here and proceeded to fall in love with and marry my ex-boyfriend (the one I'd been complaining about to her in letters for a year). These two Kellys both ended up at the same party with us this weekend and were both monopolized by me much of the day.

Did you really need to waste your time on any of this? Probably not. But what was revealed at this party, where we rehashed various shared experiences, while our poor children tried to get us to quiet down, was how very wrong I am about that long-term memory talent I have often bragged of having. Turns out it's not just my short-term memory, but even the dramatic events of my past that have been seeping out my ears to make room for the present. Periodically, I have to record things here so that I can put names with faces as it gets worse (wish I'd remembered to take pictures of the last two Kellys). And then, the Kellys fit so nicely together in a set. I just need to see this one now to complete the theme.

Thanks to all of these women, it's still one of my favorite names.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Unusual day in the life...

I'm due a description of a typical day in our unschooling life. So I decided this morning that I would keep track of what we did today. It proved to be a challenging one for me to post - not the greatest example of unschooling, for any non-unschooling reader who doesn't know the bigger picture.

9 am - Both boys came out from their room. Gillen played Crusader on the computer.

After hanging out with me for a bit, cuddling and telling me about the rest of "Pirates of the Carribean - Dead Man's Chest" (I fell asleep in it last night) - Jesse made himself a bowl of granola. I sat with him while he ate and I got some very vivid descriptions of all of the "undeads" in the film. It seems Jesse has become less sensitive to scary movies. He loved this one.

Gillen made himself some eggs and I ate granola. Jesse went upstairs to work on his lego creations. I asked he and Gillen if they wanted me to read to them. I sometimes read while they do legos. They said yes. I read several chapters of "My Side of the Mountain" about a boy who runs away from home and lives in the wilderness alone, training a Peregrine Falcon to hunt for him. Jesse made a lego boat with a moving wheel in the back. We talked about paddle boats and steam ships and how they work. This ship did not run on steam, I was informed, but on wind. : ) We stopped reading several times to talk about things that interested us - how the boy's traps (from the book) might be engineered, whether trapping was humane, how to raise a bird, how much Jesse's dressed lego horse looked like the Greek horses he'd been talking about with Papa yesterday.

When they'd had enough reading, I made us a snack and checked my email. Gillen sat at our second computer, next to me, and started an online chat with me. I learned how to create a face that turns from sideways to upright (it actually moves!) on gmail chat.

Jesse brought his guitar upstairs and continued working on a song he's been writing called "Eternity". Gillen (this is not typical at all) decided that he wanted to work on "math"! He often does difficult addition and even multiplication at times, in his head. He wanted to try the math he knew that people in school did. So I taught him written multiplication. We'd looked at it before but it's been awhile. It was amazing to me that he got it so easily. He wanted more! We did division, using the fractions that he'd always used in life experiences like cooking to bridge the path into the written formula.

I am hoping that we get to build something soon as a family. I think it would be fun to have a small guest/teen house in our yard. That would be one way in which I would have imagined math coming up, just as it has when they have needed it to add up totals in their head at our farmer's market. But for whatever reason, he was wanting to see what this "math" thing (as it is used by those he knows in school) is about. He's used math in games, in cooking, at the market. We just hadn't often talked about it in this scholastic way before. Because he felt ready for it and curious, it was easy. I'll have to relearn some harder stuff now, like algebra, which I think can be really fun.

Jesse must have picked up the smell of "subjects" too as he brought out the Usborne History Encyclopedia, flipping through it (backwards mostly) for an hour and reading things as they seemed interesting, sometimes reading out loud to me. He said that his favorite parts were the descriptions of the Hebrews, of the Normans and of the Mesopotamians "because I knew nothing about them before this." I couldn't help thinking about how much exploring this book would have meant to me a few years ago (I worked for Usborne four years ago just so we could have lots of their books). Today, it was just one more interesting resource in our world. This morning, he had talked about the connection between the the Flying Dutchman boat in the "Pirates" movie last night and how he'd also seen it in a "Sponge Bob" episode and he wondered where else it might be. We ended up in a round-about way talking about Vikings. History comes up all the time, without the beautiful Usborne book (though we do now like it very much).

Gillen wanted to go to the farm to watch Nicolas use the chain-saw to cut up some fallen trees. Unfortunately, by the time we got there, the sawing was over. Gillen fed his turkeys. I filmed a farm tutorial. Jesse tried a few times to make a mud ball but the mud was too wet. Gillen decided to stay at the farm and I went home with Jesse, who wanted me to help him make a lego video. We spent the rest of the afternoon making and editing this short video. At 5:30, I went to my zumba class.

It was strange to post about this day, once it had included such unusual "subject" matter. Yet another surprising day on our journey.

Monday, April 13, 2009

New 'do!

The boys went to the farm to work in the rain with Nicolas so I had a few hours to do all kinds of productive or creative things, many of which I thought about doing, for a few minutes. And then, I got on the computer and went on a facebook journey, reconnecting with friends from thirty years ago. I can't believe I'm going to get to see some of these people in person so soon.

Maybe this set me up for the next spontaneous act. I called down the street to see if I could get a hair cut. On the way there I worked up the guts to get radical - six inches off and straightened (wonder how long I'll keep up the straight bit).

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter scrapbook

We had Mimine (Nicolas' mother, Helen) over for lunch. The eggs in the middle are from her chickens. She created the rich brown colored ones with onion peels. The blue ones emerged that way, from the chickens.
The first Iris fully bloomed:
My vintage thrift store apron (which for some reason I only remember to wear on Easter):Tulips in the kitchen window:An orchid in the art room:Checking out the competition's basket:
My cousin Lake and his friend came for dinner. We had herb marinated grilled local pork chops, kale salad and homemade gingerbread. The next few days will bring lots more rain, again. But today was all about the sun.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Cousin, cousine

First of all, I have to announce that after a beautiful home birth yesterday, my sister and her husband welcomed their first baby into their arms. A girl! I'm ecstatic that the birth went so perfectly and that she is here. A girl!! I love my nephews too. But there have been fewer nieces in the mix. We are filled to the brim with joy and gratitude. I'll be posting more about her soon, since she is all that I can think about.

In more local news, all of the cousins from Nicolas' side (except of course baby Henry) are on spring break this week, which is really cool considering they live in two different cities. So we got to have all four here at the farm with us for the week. It's been great. The main endeavor, a group effort, has been the reconstruction of the fort that they worked on last year.

Clementine definitely shares her mother's love of and expertise in Japanese design. There are several peaceful bamboo areas in the fort. This "meditation area" (named by Clementine) is her favorite room. It could be very useful for the farmers on challenging days, or for picnics.
Later that day, I was sent for supplies. The list included food for the eating room (I made muffins), Gillen and Jesse's guitars, a sheet and clothespins for a door, and a speaker for their ipod shuffles.

We who live here are committed to preserving this fort - named "Bird Song" by Julian and "The House" by Clementine - for years to come, or at least until they return with new plans. I'd like to think that the baby cousins will one day be able to take the lead in reconstruction, that the farm and the fort will still be here when they are grown.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Amy Steinberg at the Opulent Possum

This weekend, we (including Nicolas!) went to the Lovejoys' in S.C. to be with them and other unschooling friends at an Amy Steinberg house concert. It was exactly where we needed to be - find "exactly" for yourself here. If you haven't yet heard her, check her out. Her CDs are great, and live she is even better.

Cameron and Logan were the sweet opening act:
There was great chemistry and joy with these two on stage. This is at the beginning of the night, when everyone was still sitting down, loving it all in a quiet, orderly fashion:As the sun descended, seats were pushed aside and all rose in dance! Under the Amy Steinberg spell:
Doesn't Gail look like a teenager? That woman has got the moves!For awhile, these three (my guys, and Silas) became the back-up singers:
For the most part, Gillen experienced Amy Steinberg from the land of ham and Jesse was truly taken by the music into his own dancing swirl.
When Amy praised him, he left his dancing place and pulled himself right back to reality : )But he managed to get back to the dance.

There were also Bananagrams, gardening talk, Vietnamese food, was a good weekend.

Friday, April 03, 2009

After days of rain,

vines burst forth,
the guys no longer slipped while shooting hoops,
and we were rewarded with an orchestra of color.

The massive rain had caused some turmoil at the farm as it washed away precious top soil. It kept me up for several nights, comforting storm-phobic Tuki-dog. There was a leak. There was some cabin fever.

Today, there was sun. Does looking at Wysteria, Dogwoods and Azaleas feel this way every spring?

Jesse found Wind in the Willows on his bookshelf today. After a few chapters he pronounced it "too poetic for his mood right now." : ) but not before I had read this:

Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing.

It speaks to the way my yard made me feel today - especially the Wisteria. It is once again waking me up with its reinvention of purple. I want to memorize its softness, be just as vulnerable, remember that it isn't just this vine's mere two weeks of color that is impermanent. I want to notice the purple every day in my children. I want to see the moon in the sky in the daylight (even though I can't capture it very well for you here - it is there, floating an inch above the bowing Wisteria).

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

"Yes"es and "No"s; more ramblin' on

Several mentors/teachers in my life have paved the way for me to say "yes" more. The book Jump Into Life, by Arnaud Desjardin was a big inspiration, as was Sandra Dodd.

When Gillen started taking guitar he asked if we could eat at the expensive deli next door to his class. We agreed on this indulgence every six weeks. Today was deli day. He chose Scoops, the ice cream/candy store we hadn't tried, instead. A year ago I would have muttered something about having lunch first or dyes, so the yes would have been tainted.

This was a clear, colorful, bunny and Easter-Pez filled yes. Jesse had orange sherbet with sour dots mixed within, Gillen had strawberry ice cream with gummi bears and I had double chocolate chip. We sat at a booth and watched the rain through the window and talked about what Gillen is going to be practicing next on his guitar - "Ode to Joy" (he reads it as "Odie" to Joy. I so don't want to correct him).

The retro decorations brought back memories of bakery windows at Easter that I'd looked through as a child.

The "no" of the day concerns a cat. Our home has attracted yet another cat.

I was feeling so happy that Fracas is settling into a life without my bedroom in it - you see, here, that she still gets her own quilt covered arm chair in the closed-off art room. Tuki using her dog door was icing on the cake (pale yellow buttercream icing on easter cookies - I've got pastel sugars on the brain now). Then we heard it - a mewing from under the deck. Gillen investigated and found an unfixed male cat with no collar and a broken leg.

The "no" to keeping this cat involved discussion of what he would cost (organic food for all the animals; lots of cats at the farm already), how hard it might be for Tuki to stop chasing him up trees (which happened today, a very tall tree, despite "Cloud's" broken leg), and then there's the still-to-come Papa point of view. It was a no to more cats in our life right now but I did say yes to being responsible. We'll take it to Animal Control or the Rescue League tomorrow (so I guess the yes is still a possibility until then:)

The main objective in our life really has become yes. Even (pretty outrageous, I know) to myself! A few years ago, when my brother emailed about a ten-day job in Australia that I could do to make us lots of money, I immediately said yes. Last weekend, when a long-ago best friend Sally Solomon tracked me down despite my name change and told me about an upcoming school reunion with people I haven't seen in thirty years, my family saw the excitement in my face (these friends from Park School were some really great people) and made sure that I said "Yes". It is in Brookline, Mass. I am going to Montana later that month to see my sister who will have just had her first baby! I could so easily think about this being way too much indulgence, too much time for me. But they made me do it - I said '"yes".