Sunday, September 30, 2007

Gillen and I

These were taken by Adrian in Highlands, NC last week. Looking at these, seeing myself in the picture for a change, I realize that once again, a Gillen passionate pursuit - in this case, fishing - has led me down roads that I may never have been. This time, they were roads and rocks and hikes that I was revisiting but that I was seeing in a whole new way.

"..and a river runs through it."

Our fishing trip was full of moving, side-splitting and jaw dropping stories told by our N.C. host, my father's friend Adrian, about his amazing life journeys. Listening to him was as good as hearing "This American Life"on NPR and that show is one one of my 10 favorite things. There were endless stories (if he doesn't write the book of them, I will) but unfortunately, due to drought, there were hardly any fish. Adrian taught Gillen fly-fishing and wood-working. And Gillen did get to bring home some huge trout, after all, thanks to my father, who took him to fish at a stocked trout pond an hour away. I loved watching Gillen so gracefully and patiently fly-fish. And it was really sweet being back in the mountain town that my brother and I visited so often with my father, grandmother and cousins when I was a child. The smell of the many different kinds of trees (Highlands is known for its huge variety of trees), moss and mountain air brought back more memories even than seeing the houses my family used to own. And through it all, there was the peace of the river that has always run through it.

Any one else love that movie?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Back to Carolina

As Louis Armstrong sang - we're "gone fishing". Gillen has been wanting to trout fish for a year. He wanted to go on his birthday, in August, when there aren't many fish. So for the next four days, Gillen, my father and I are hunting the ones that are coming back to cooler weather, in streams and rivers in North Carolina. Jesse is going to hold down the fort with Nicolas.

Back to the tall pines and mountain air of Carolina!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Changing Perspective

At the Live and Learn Conference I got to hear a wonderful, moving, funny talk. It was Diana Jenner's talk about change. She talked about her life in terms of it being a beautiful lake that she gets to enjoy except when she suddenly finds her perfect view disrupted by the emergence of a tree. She talked about realizing that all she had to do to change that frustration over the tree being in her way was (and here she hopped sideways away from the podium) to move so that the tree was no longer in her way. I love that metaphor. If you want to hear Diana, in all her inspiring Diananess, you can download her talk at the Live and Learn Conference store site (as well as all of the other great talks).

I thought about that tree yesterday, with Gillen's soccer coach taking on the role of the annoying, view-blocking tree, when Nicolas and I were driving two hours to Gillen's soccer game in the North GA mountains. We had woken up super early to work at our farmer's market in Atlanta, had worked there for hours and were now having to get back in the car, really hungry due to not having time to get lunch and....I stopped, in the middle of a high pitched, tired moan, and looked at the beautiful day out the window. I looked into the back seat where my 7 year old was not whining and was reading the book _A Series of Unfortunate Events_ , giggling to himself. I put Eric Clapton and JJCale's CD on to try to tame the farmer's mood. He works really hard and it was the end of a long week, so he was allowed some moaning. And he too was able to change his perspective.

The day ended up being great. Gillen's team won their first game! A loud and bad-mouthed and obviously in the wrong soccer-mom on the other team (who wanted to insist that her kid was in the right and that mine should get a penalty card after her son had roughly pushed my son down) did NOT provoke me to loudly respond to her screeching; I walked away from her to watch the game where I couldn't so easily see or hear her. Gillen hadn't heard her and was fine so why not hop away towards better views. And after the game there happened to be a big bluegrass festival going on in that small mountain city so we got to listen to some amazing music, eat good Mexican and buy their local honey (we're buying local everything when we see it to get ready for our eat local month). Suddenly, the soccer coach tree was not so misguided in his insistence upon scheduling games in far away places. May my side-hopping abilities work well until December, as our Saturdays become about two games of soccer and other long drives. Just a small life-view obstacle. I'm so grateful not to be working my way around any large ones at the moment. Truly grateful.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Favorite Female writers; food facts

Favorite female writer of the moment - Barbara Kingsolver. Half of the thousand or so audience members at the Emory talk last night wanted their books signed. I used my old urban stride to make it to the front end of that line and got to speak to her. Here is the scary (not to mention fuzzy) picture that Nicolas took of me, with her husband Steve to the right. I look like the crazed fan that I was, and wish that I had taken a better look in the mirror (did I think to look?) before leaving the house. I did make fairly intelligible sounds towards her, including the fact that Nicolas had grown many of the foods in her dinner that night. She and her husband raved about the arugula.

Now that it has earned Barbara Kingsolver praise, I have to highlight it here:So good on a pastrami sandwich (or in a salad for those who are eating only locally and don't have a local pastrami maker :)

Here's one of the farmer who grew it:He's wearing the cool new shirt that we bought last night from GA Organics (one for me too). It says "I'm a Local" on the front with the GA Organics emblem on the back.

I hope that you get to read Animal, Vegetable, Mineral. If you don't (listen it took me months while it was one of seven must-read books by my bed, and I am that scary fan), then know that you can get great recipes at the web site that I linked. Eating locally is not just a dire, get ready for the end of the world as we know it, gloom-filled fate. It is also a way to get back in touch with healthy food that tastes good and to get to know where your food comes from, or have the satisfaction of growing it yourself. Kingsolver's family decided to eat only locally produced food for a year but she said that they didn't even notice at first when the year was up. In that year they made a paradigm shift that had them appreciating this way of life so much that they are still doing it.

We eat a lot locally but have never gone cold turkey on food that is produced more than 100 miles away. We are talking about some day soon taking on that challenge for a month. Speaking of turkey, she told great stories (she's very funny) about their Bourbon Reds - the same breed that Gillen is raising (down to two couples now, but they're fit and sassy and hanging out as boy/girl pairs).

Local eating doesn't have to be such a huge commitment. As her husband says, "if every U.S. citizen ate just one meal a week (any meal) composed of locally and organically raised meats and produce, we would reduce our country's oil consumption by over 1.1 million barrels of oil EVERY week." He also pointed out that "because most of our food travels 2,000 miles before it reaches our plates.. [it went up 500 miles this past year when we started importing more food than we export] we're consuming 400 gallons of oil a month per citizen...for agriculture." This includes the production of synthetic fertilizers, tractors, packaging and farming machinery. But most of this oil is used "getting the food to our plates".

I got one more statistic from the book and talk last night that I want to share here. "Modern U.S. consumers now get to taste less than one percent of the vegetable varieties that were grown here a century ago. These old timers now lurk only in backyard gardens and on farms that specialize in direct sales - if they survive at all."

Off my soapbox now.

I realized last night that this was the third favorite woman writer that I was lucky enough to hear speak in the past few years. I also got to see Annie Lamott (so funny that I cried) and another amazing but less well known writer, and just as good - Janisse Ray. These three are great at fiction and at more political, personal journaling about our times. I feel so inspired by all of them.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Barbara Kingsolver; the rock star of my book world

Yes, Barbara Kingsolver, one of my top five authors of all time is coming to speak tomorrow night at Emory University. And I get to go! My love of her began with the book The Bean Trees, which I read about twelve or so years ago. It has been my favorite book to give to women, over the past decade. She wrote it as a result of having insomnia while she was pregnant. Rue Kream, who wrote a wonderful unschooling book, Parenting a Free Child, also wrote with the help of insomnia. This should inspire me to move to the computer in the middle of my insomniac nights, but it hasn't, yet...

I love all of Barbara Kingsolver's books. When I took that book quiz a few months ago I was defined as being her novel, The Poisonwood Bible, which made me so happy.

And now she is coming here, to Emory, to speak to the importance of eating locally produced, organic food. I only started reading Animal, Vegetable, Mineral (the book that has provoked this book tour) this week. I am loving it. She speaks to the dying art of valuing your family and your country through the culture of food; of how important a meal, lovingly made (and even grown) together as a family, no matter how busy we are, can be. The book has me ordering cheese making materials to make my own cheese using our local organic dairy guy's raw milk, for which I will make the hour long drive every two weeks to get the milk.

Barbara Kingsolver's talk is kicking off a week, in Atlanta, of celebrating eating locally produced food. Nicolas, his mother and Gillen's pictures will be displayed at Georgia Organics headquarters, for some celebration, along with the portraits of lots of other farmers, on Monday. We will have a booth at a farmers market to be set up at Emory this Friday. I so hope that Barbara Kingsolver gets the urge to come buy a local tomato or a pepper so I can gaze upon her reverentially, maybe even get my voice to make a few intelligible sounds in her direction.

Later: I found out that Ms. Kingsolver is being fed our farm food tonight for dinner, before her talk. Our arugula, eggs, beans, tomatoes, and some others that I can't remember. SO cool.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Inspiration from Abbi and on Oprah

The other day I was reading my new friend Abbi's blog and came upon this poem that she wrote. Not only are these always-unschooled teens usually kind, confident and comfortable hanging out with both young and old, they are also so talented! They follow their passions and it shows. Here is a link to her poem, The Future As We Made It.

Below is a picture of Abbi in silhouette. She was the first one in our group to volunteer to climb 50 feet to the top of the challenging Alpine Tower last week.
Here she is in color, the one on the left, dancing with some other unschoolers at the dance.

Today, I got the rare opportunity to watch Oprah, not TiVoed, but live, while I embroidered for sweet Zoe. I am so glad. I got to see the truth come out clearly, finally, about the connection between vaccinations and autism. A few articulate celebrity moms who have children with autism were talking about how they have been able to help their kids by changing their diets AND about how they believe their kids got the autism from vaccinations. This is huge, that Oprah risked the controversy that could follow such claims. The other glimmer of hope was that the CDC gave a statement for the show that conceded that they did not resolutely know what causes autism, thereby allowing that vaccinations could play a role. They also said that they are going to do more research into the vaccination-autism connection that so many mothers have realized exists as a result of what has happened to their kids right after being vaccinated. It was also good to hear the moms being able to say that they don't want their kids defined by the label of autism and that there are MANY, highly successful, brilliant people who are on the autism spectrum.

I was so lucky, while pregnant with my boys, to have a naturopathic, wise mother-in-law who gave me information about the dangers of vaccinations; information that is not readily available to most moms. Apparently the problem has gotten so much worse in the last decade. I learned from the show that now one out of 98 boys is diagnosed with autism. Naming certain vaccinations as a big part of the problem, on a show with such a large audience, could hopefully help to change this figure. Yes!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Frik is actually Frac

A few posts back, I mentioned a cat that has been showing up at our house and whom we have decided to start feeding and caring for and calling "Frickle" because "he" looked like my mom's male Calico cat whom I loved so much years ago. In the comments, Tamar pointed out that Calicos are female, to which I retorted, "not this one!"

But Tamar's comment got me thinking and Nicolas and I decided to look for ourselves. It turns out that just because you can hunt and raise chickens, two things that our 9 yo friend Aaron does very well, doesn't mean you are equipped to designate the sex of a cat. The equipment that Aaron saw back there must have been the calico patterning playing tricks on his eyes. Frickle has been renamed "Fracas", for the female sibling.

In that same post, I called my mom's two cats Calicos. I cat-sat these two, loved them from the time they were kittens and inherited them from my mother when she died. I would know! Well, apparently not. I looked in an old album today and it appears that my memory has become an issue. Here they are, Frickle on the left: What is up with my brain! What else have I rewritten? Good thing I have this blog to keep as evidence when I start rewriting my kids' childhoods!

Here is our new Calico, Fracas the second.
She is outside looking in while the first Frik and Frac were doomed to always be inside looking out, at the many many birds that came to my mom's seven bird feeders.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Finally Fall!

Well, technically in a week. But we were cool enough this morning to wear sweaters and long pants. yes! Gillen and Nicolas went fishing. Jesse, Tuki and I went for a walk. I brought my camera to take pictures of Tuki and Jesse and Jesse managed to take the camera to catch a rare non-goofy one of me (and so it looks so goofy to me, so posed).

Jesse transplanted some flowers into a ditch and later in the walk found a green acorn, so planted an Oak. I found my first turning leaf of the season.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Drinking in color

Since finding myself drawn, in art projects, to combinations of patterned colored paper, I've been thinking a lot about color: noticing just how many greens there are in nature - really seeing the monochromatic palette in our yard, the farm or the park; or experiencing the power of taking color away - switching a photo to black and white. And then there are the mixtures - seeing what happens to raspberry when placed next to deep blue or the magic of a touch of red against muted browns or the combinations of colors that Gillen can wear together with camouflage : ) Here are a few of today's colors.A farm bouquet by Helen.
Newly wound up embroidery flosses from skeins we bought on sale.
The STILL not finished ripple blanket for new baby Zoe. I'm waiting on more Mission Falls yarn to arrive in the mail.
Gillen, this morning, in his bright new uniform.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Jumping in the rain, Frickle, and a new hobby

Lately, there have been several storms in the afternoons. It can be beautifully sunny, no sign of anything coming, and our dog Tuki will sense the possibilities and start shaking. This is followed, suddenly, by big, southern style (I never experienced it like this in the north) thunder and lightning. But for the past few days, after the thunder and lightning, there has been a time of rain - safe, wet, slippery, pattering rain. Time for jumping on the trampoline with your brother for an hour kind of rain.

In other news, we have a new cat. The last time I loved a cat (her name was Celimene - spoken with a French accent) I loved her so hard that when she finally died, after almost dying three times and being nursed back to health, I thought I'd shut down any cat longing for good. Plus, I don't love all cats. She was special. She would sit on my shoulder while I picked flowers and vegetables.

The other cats that I really loved were a brother and sister pair that my mother owned named Frik and Frac (also known as Frickle and Fracas). They, like Celimene, were Calicos.

So yesterday, when a small calico showed up on our side porch, looking exactly like Frickle and without a collar, it took me only two minutes to agree- yes, let's care for him, as an outdoor cat. Today we bought cat food and fed him. The kids made him a cozy box home. On Mon. we'll take him to the vet. Gillen already loves him so much that right now he is crying because it is raining and Frickle (G calls him Freckle) is out there, somewhere, not coming when he calls (as he has been, surviving on his own for months before we met him). GIllen has become his Little Prince. He has fed him and cared for him, just a bit, and now this kitten could break his heart. What are we going to do about a cat when we go to Australia. : 0

Luckily, there is some distraction from this new infatuation. We are almost finished reading _Deathly Hallows_ and Gillen has brought a new hobby into our lives - embroidery. I had been wanting to do it for a while, influenced by my talented seamstress friend Helen, by soule mama and by the book Kids' Embroidery, by Kristin Nicholas. But it was a conference funshop called "clothing tattoo" that got Gillen excited about it. We discovered that you can get iron-on transfers that disappear after a wash, to enable him to do really cool "tattoos". He has made a skull and bones and a beautiful, free-form leaf. I'll be embroidering "Zoe" and pandas on tiny clothing while watching soccer games this weekend.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Zoe J. Roberts

It is 2 a.m. here in Georgia and a whole day later but less middle-of-the-night in Sydney, Australia. My brother called to tell me that his daughter is here! Momma Naomi is fine. There was a c-section but not the complications they feared. I am so happy! Her name is Zoe J. Zoe means "life". J. is the first initial of our mother's name - "Jill", whose soul I think may be feeling the same joy we are, wherever it may now reside.

Yay Kenneth and Naomi and Zoe!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The 2007 Live and Learn Conference

Despite my lack of meaty, womanly, luscious hips, I learned tribal belly dancing from my talented new friend, Mindy. She decked us out in turbans, small shirts and tribal makeup and we performed in the talent show. I love any kind of tribal dance and this was a lot more of a work out than I anticipated! I'm going to have to find that unopened belly dancing DVD that I bought a few years ago.
One of the best parts was having Gillen and Jesse hugging me in glee as I came off stage.

I loved watching them dance too, at the Saturday night all-age dance party.

What a wonderful, varied, huge group of people. They came from Vancouver and Maine, and everywhere in between. So many women there that I love and respect and whom I wish lived (with their families) just over the clothesline from us. We even got to see our old friends - the Buskes - who used to live here and moved up there to the mountains several years ago. Oh how I miss mama Buske!

As always, I was reinspired, in particular by the unique example and wisdom of the teenagers, to be even more trusting and respectful of my kids.

Stealing off to the lake to fish, the first afternoon.
Nicolas (the one who just kicked the ball) and many other dads, had as much fun as the kids in the soccer game.

Gillen and Jesse both told me, seperately today, that it was the best week of their year.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Gone to Carolina

Tomorrow morning, very early, we are leaving for N.C to go to the Live and Learn unschooling conference. I just finished packing! I need the adrenaline of last minute intensity to do things well. Well, to do things. This is a conference filled with "fun shops" in a variety of unusual topics (not to mention the talks, the talent show, the all-age last night dance, the tie-dying, the music and s'mores round the camp fire). The "fun shops" we are most interested in are: clothing tattoo, recycled art, tea time, one about all things Japanese, birding (Gillen is leading this one), soccer (all three guys here are hosting this one), letterboxing, geocaching, belly dancing, taking apart sweaters to get yarn, and many more. So there's a lot to bring for all of this - from our favorite tea bags, to binoculars, yugioh cards and embroidery tools.

And there's a raffle - for which I made a "passion basket" about our passion for Laura Ingalls Wilder (in particular, Farmer Boy), which contains seeds we saved from heritage plants at the farm, quartz crystals that came up out of the dirt at our farm, four of the Little House books, locally spun virgin wool yarn, a cob and husk to create Laura's first doll and a wonderfully smelly bar of soap. I wished I'd asked for more ideas here, many moons ago...
Above are our piles of raffle stuff, funshop stuff and camera stuff, and of course, colored duct tape, with which the boys declare they will be making stuff.

I love N.C. As a young girl, I went to summer camp near where we'll be this week. "Nothing Could be Finer than to be in Carolina in the Mo oo orning" has been stuck in my head. It's especially fine to be meeting up with familiar and yet to be met unschoolers. Not to mention, I don't have to cook or do dishes for five days. sigh. COULD anything be finer? Hope you all have a good week.

Sunday, September 02, 2007


Gillen took apart a broken stand-up fan today,

Jesse re-viewed the possibilities of its parts...

And we saw a butterfly right after it had come out of its chrysalis.

Tonight, we watched an episode of "Survivor Man" (our newly discovered favorite show) as interpreted by Gillen at the farm, filmed by Nicolas. It was awesome - he made a fire, picked up and described a non-venomous rat snake and even ate a live cricket - ATE it, whole. As soon as it ended, a tiny toddling Jesse and a three-year-old Gillen, both helping Nicolas plant flowers (in what is now Gillen's garden), filled the screen! We had taped over old video of them. We haven't taken much video of them so that's really disappointing. But it was wonderful to suddenly see a little Jesse smiling at me (as I was holding the camera) and to hear Gillen's rolling giggle. Talk about metamorphosis. It's amazing how much we have ALL changed.

Lastly, my favorite change of the day - the weather. The warmest it got was 80 and there was a breeze. I actually chose to be outside all day. Every thing is lush and colorful again in Gillen's garden and Tuki is having a much easier time of getting us to go for walks. GOODbye August. I know you're much appreciated in other parts of the country, but here... not my favorite piece of the year.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

This moment

Since Gillen joined a more competitive soccer team six weeks ago, Jesse has realized how long practice can be and how short his own soccer-brother-patience is (listen, it's been hard for his soccer-mom!) On Saturday mornings, he has chosen instead to go with Nicolas to our farmers' market in Atlanta. I wake him up at 5:15a.m to help him get ready for when Nicolas comes back from picking up the vegetables.

Surprisingly, since I am not a morning person, this is one of my favorite times of the week: gently rousing him from his bed; listening to his half-awake, soft musings; getting what he suddenly decides he will need for later, when he gets tired of helping man the booth with his papa. He always takes whichever Harry Potter book he is re-reading, a pillow, and a back pack filled with yu gi oh cards.

I can't believe my youngest is already seven. I want to always remember this time - his nose still small, his dreams brazenly brave and big and his still light body nesting easily within mine, in this once a week, early morning moment.