Sunday, December 30, 2007

A Sydney Sunday

We went sea kayaking this morning and I not only survived, I really liked it. Jesse played on the beach with Naomi and Zoe while the rest of us went out for an hour. We paddled past sea planes and water skiers and huge yachts. We saw the big sights of Sydney harbour in the distance. We rode the swells and were not sunk, or even seriously swayed. I am not afraid of spiders, snakes or sharks, even here - where it might be a good idea - but I am a bit scared of having to swim too far, out at sea. Gillen was kind of nervous too. So we were pretty proud of ourselves out there.

For lunch, we were invited by a few of their good friends to a "bahbie". So much good food and wine (lots of that in Sydney) and a few recently engaged and married couples who live here but are from all over the world - Italy, New Zealand, Holland and England. It was a great mix of accents and tastes, including every kind of animal that has ever been cooked. Here is Nicolas, further and further from the farm, pre-feasting, under the trees - one was an Avacado tree with a very ripe massive avacado hanging over our heads.
The other was a Frangipani tree, from which these beautiful flowers fell upon our heads. Luckily, the avocado stayed put.And of course, the highlight of every day - Zoe, who really loves the nursing beads that I gave to her mother (made by Rue).

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Mosman Bay, seen through different lenses

Kenneth and Naomi took us on a walk around the Bay where they live. We walked on a trail that winds around beautiful homes and Baobab-looking trees and magnificent gardens until we ended up at a public salt water pool with a view of the Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge across the bay. From a simply touristic point of view, it was a fantastic walk, with loads of colorful flowers and a gentle breeze coming to us from the water, where we could see all types of boats swaying in the brilliant afternoon sun. As an American, it was interesting to have to move to the left (almost hit a few people when I moved to the right) so that those coming on the trail from the other direction could pass us.

But I don't know that any of our group perceived many of the same things on our walk. Each of our walks was colored by our own lenses, by what we brought to the trail. For Jesse, it was his vivid imagination, as influenced lately by the many Calvin a
nd Hobbes books he's been reading. He brought his small but fearless dog Rusty and had a running commentary about Rusty's amazing Hobbes-like feats, almost the entire hour and a half. Where I would see a cool view of Kenneth and Naomi's apartment from across the Bay (they are all the way to the right, right above the water)

Jesse, looking in the same direc
tion, saw a hole in a wall that meant a great spying opportunity for Rusty.

Gillen, always looking for a bird or a fish, found both. He got to watch a man pulling in a Leather Jacket fish from the Bay.

Kenneth and Naomi, the parents o
f my three month old niece Zoe, brought all of their conscious parenting to the trail. I carried my babies all the time, slept with them, nursed on demand and was a radical mom for it - ten years ago. These guys represent the pinnacle of attachment parenting. They are even practicing elimination communication, which means that (like 85% of moms in the world as it turns out - I just don't speak their languages) they usually don't put Zoe in a diaper. They follow her cues and are teaching her sounds to help in the communication, and are able to place her over a pot in order to let her go. It works. They make a sound when they want her to release and they have her in a comfortable position and she does it. Truly! An interesting thing happened on the trail today, accompanied as they were by a ten year old boy. Gillen made a typical ten year old raspberry sound that sounded a lot like the sound to tell her to release. Luckily, her papa was already getting her out of mama's baby bjorn and letting her pee when... she also pooped (maybe because of Gillen's sound) just as many strollers and joggers were passing by. It was pretty funny. I am really impressed by their commitment, and by Zoe. She is a very happy babe. Yes, this is great for the environment and she is free of all of the discomfort that occurs with diapers, but the greatest part is that her parents have to pay attention to her, in a very committed, consistent, conscious way, in order to pick up her cues. They get instant feedback if they aren't paying attention. Kenneth and Naomi love this Australian web site about this subject. Move your lens elsewhere if this freaks you out. To each his own path.

I tried to take a picture of a Lorikeet but couldn't get in close enough. I need to bring more of a telephoto lens to my path once I get one.

It's 11:05pm here. Time to sleep before our first big adventure - kayaking. Back home, the sun is rising.


Friday, December 28, 2007

Christmas in the sky; we're down under!

We are here! I am looking out over the bay, in my brother and his wife's beautiful apartment in Sydney. The first morning, we woke up to the sounds of monkeys screaming at each other in the trees. It was before 6am. We all got up and met outside on their deck with binoculars to look for the "monkey" birds - it was Kookaburras, laughing at our American ignorance. So many different and amazing birds and trees. I'll take lots of pictures. We need to buy a reference book to give everything a name.

The journey here was two days, and three plane rides long. We flew to L.A., then to New Zealand and then to Sydney. The only difficult ride was the one to L.A. Gillen was dehydrated and they were limited on the amount of water they had on that particular flight (!) and he'd stayed up really late the night before and had woken up really early... He was in his biggest and most dramatic mope state, to date. Nicolas and I wondered how he/we would survive this for 20 something more hours. But then, in LA, I gave them (all three of them) the ipods I'd spent the past two days loading, two small shuffles for the kids and an ipod classic for Nicolas, and all were tamed by the sounds of their favorite tunes - High School Musical, Amy Steinberg, Harry and the Potters, some hip hop, some Christmas for the boys and U2,Reggae, David Sedaris, This American Life, lots of music I'd just discovered on the "e music" site (25-50 free downloads to start)- for the farmer. Then we entered the New Zealand airlines plane! It was a behemoth - two stories tall, wide comfortable seats with individual screens and hundreds of movies and TV shows, games and music to choose from. The Flight attendants wore elfish Christmas ribbons in their hair and were so friendly that one could start to believe that they were excited about spending their Christmas serving us in the sky. Gillen's headache immediately disappeared. He was in love with all of the sweet ladies who kept bringing us good food and drink (yes, good!) and that flight was over before we were even uncomfortable. Just shows how much kindness and some care to details begets kindness. The Delta crew back in the US were giving us what they got. And, I have to say, that people in this part of the world are extraordinarily friendly.
Getting some perspective on the journey and picking places we'd want to go next, at a huge wall map in the New Zealand airport.
Pointing out the last leg left of our journey, from Aukland to Sydney.

It is newly summer here and not yet too hot. Just right! It stays light until really late and then, the setting sun shines through their stained glass windows to cast even more pink glow upon my already rosy niece. I am so happy to be warm, to be with Kenneth and Naomi and to have Nicolas off of work for a month!!Nicolas, the mango of my eye.

But I am particularly gleeful about all of the opportunities to hold sweet, new, joyful little Zoe J.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Feeding the birds, and ourselves..

Despite my having killed a pot of black of beans that were needed to make the all important non-sugar part of the edibles (yes, it really is possible to fail in the cooking of beans), the cookie swap party yesterday was wonderful. My friends brought the needles, thread, popcorn popper, cranberries, wine and most of the cookies. Angie was asking how I do all this - I have great friends. I did contribute a very popular Mexican Wedding Cake cookie, which flew off the plate. And we sacrificed several advent calender chocolates to one of the three-year-olds (Gillen's good friend Jared, so he has managed to forgive him). When you have something in abundance, it is easy to be generous. ; ) Below - cookie generosity for the man who brought us more logs for the fire.
We wrapped the Cedar tree in our yard (once a living Christmas tree in our living room) with strands of popcorn and cranberries. The first birds discovered it this morning.

Gillen did choose to show the kids his new BB Gun (just purchased with his own money the night before and hidden away by me for the party) which was not a highlight of my day. I'm still working on embracing this new hunting and gun passion.

But then, that night, helping him to embroider a gift for his Australian family while he and I watched "Rudolph" (thanks Helen), I recovered.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Visit to Mindy's Mountain

We had my good friend Flea, her husband Greg and their four fabulous kids (one of them my godson :) here on Friday night. It was much too short of a visit, so I'm already plotting ways to get them back here next summer. As Flea and family drove away, we packed the car and left as well, for a weekend at Mindy's.

We chose not to think about how busy we would be this week - well, we would think about it...but then think better of thinking. I am so glad that we went. It was like going to a spa retreat, but surrounded by happy, frolicking kids. What a wonderful home in the mountains. What hospitality! Mindy made homemade coffee cake and pizza dough with spelt (knowing that I am sensitive to wheat). I hadn't had coffee cake in years. And we ate more of her cookies - I made her Mexican Wedding Cake cookies here today for our cookie swap tomorrow. So good.

I came home with lots of recipes, books about Australia to read on our way down under next week, new music on my computer to add to possible MP3 player gifts : ) and a hoarse voice - from all of the good conversation.

Once again, filled with gratitude for friends (and again, filled with cheese). In the dark days of February, when I am still jet-lagged and freezing, I promise to lighten up on the joy : )

Friday, December 14, 2007

December crafting

Looking at me at the dining room table last night, as he washed the dishes from the meal that Gillen made, Nicolas pointed out a trend of mine. Every year, no matter what is going on in our lives, I come up with some brilliant homemade gift idea for Christmas, usually about two weeks before it needs to be given. I put on my favorite music, take over the dining room table, and go into the crafting zone.

This year, I had only a few days in which to go there, in between visitors. Gillen joined me for a while and made some more ATCs and Jesse came for a bit. But for the most part, they were left to fend for themselves. I did manage to wash and hang some laundry and take a few things out of the fridge. But that's it.

Last year, immersed in my passionate creation of memory games for my nephews, I even gave away my rare ticket to Cirque de Soleil in order to craft at home alone. I don't even know if they ever played with them. I hope so, but even if they didn't it was worth it. It's not as if I'm really good at this but the process feeds that obsessive, creating (more pronounced in December) need.

I only made one present this year. I wish that I could post it here, but the recipient, if she isn't too busy crafting herself, may be reading.

I think I may have finally realized that I need to start crafting/creating in a space set up for it all year. Nicolas agrees. I wonder if he'll be willing to help me build it? ;)

Gillen wanted me to post a picture of the ATC that Mindy made when she was here. He traded for it and is so excited about it, with good reason.

Here are my Christmas wrapping bags, that will hold the handmade gifts that I bought and made (as well as a few small "Apple"s :) They are handmade fabric sacks that are tied at the top with beautiful yarn, and then will be reused again and again. My crafty friend Helen made them for me for my birthday and I love them. She even used thrifted fabric to make them. She calls them "Evergreen Bags". They will be available on etsy next year. Check out her other creations - especially the stockings made with wool she got at the thrift store and then felted.

Here is some of the luscious paper that was brought to me by Danielle and her family. Huge sheets of it! I had to take a picture of it before I could start cutting. I'm looking to the evergreen bags to balance out my enormous paper usage of the past few days.
In the few minutes I was able to grab to check in on my favorite bloggers, I saw lots of amazing creativity. Check out Molly's stockings and aprons.

I cleaned the table last night at midnight. My friend Flea (Felicia:) is coming with her family today, and for the night. Tomorrow we go to Mindy's for the weekend and then I host a cookie swap here. I'm thinking crafting is over for the year.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Week in Review Tag

I was tagged by Schuyler to do this one. I'm hoping that it may help me to be more brief in recounting a very full, wonderful past week -

The game is to talk about your past week through these 4 questions:

1. What did you accomplish?
2. Did anything not go as expected?
3. What was the highlight of your week?
4. Did anything exciting happen you did not expect?

1. What did I accomplish? hmmm. The biggest one that comes to mind is that I was able to keep up with Danielle when we drove in caravan to the Lovejoy's home in S.C. It was an exciting and much quicker trip than it would have been had I been leading; and I am not a slow driver.

2. I didn't expect to love the Amy Steinberg concert as much as I did. She is one of those musicians who bring their music to another level in performance - she was part Janis Joplin, part Bette Midler, with some Joni Mitchell-style, beautiful lyrics thrown in the mix. I was too busy dancing to take very good pictures, but here is one:

I also didn't expect to be receive so many amazing birthday gifts from my friends and from my sister. I am feeling giddy with possibility as I look at my new paper and crafting supplies, and excited about passing on the generosity.

3. There were too many great moments this week to pick one highlight, so here are a few:

- Danielle sharing her turkey knowledge with Gillen:
Her kids' turkey love:
-sitting in the Crystal Field at the farm, relaxing with Danielle while the kids dug up crystals and played. It was a moment of perfect weather and an ethereal lighting that reminded me of my favorite scene in "Bonnie and Clyde" (when Bonnie visits her family and there is almost no dialogue, but the lighting creates the softness of the mood). The company was pretty great too. ; )

-Getting to craft with so many eager young artists (that includes you Mindy:) at my dining room table, and getting to learn new atc techniques. I finally stopped putting the craft supplies away this afternoon (I had kept putting them up so that we had a table on which to eat when Danielle was here) but made visiting Mindy and her family eat dinner outside tonight so as to keep the supplies out.

-Kid joy in a tree

4. The most unexpected exciting thing that happened was getting Rue's package in the mail today. In addition to being a totally cool unschooling mom and writer, she is my favorite jeweler. I ordered her nursing beads for... well, for someone that is hopefully still too busy down under with her new babe to be reading here. Anyway, the beads were even better than in the picture and she surprised me with a gift of turquoise. : )

As the shirt my long-time friend Flea sent me says, "Life is Good". Flea is my next visitor, with yet more wonderful kids, this Friday. Ah the joy of a full house. All these unschooling family visits have shown me how great it can be to have lots of kids under one roof; there have been very few moments of chaos and many more of glee.

So I have to play some more tag here.
1. Molly, who is so hip and crafty and young to love Doris Day, but does (as do I). I love her blog.
2. Angie, who also has a farm and homeschools but is wearing many more layers than I am right now as she is in northern Wisconsin, so is probably swearing profusely at this moment as she shovels snow or manure. She is one of the real farmer women. Whatever she did this past week, I want to read her take on it.
3. Deanne, who was my secret fairy godmother at the Live and Learn conference and whom I would like to get to know better.
Anyone else I may have spared because you were just tagged by others or have papers to write for college (Sara, are you finished?)or are busy with a new work season (Kimba) Of course, if you or anyone else are interested...

Thursday, December 06, 2007


I am feeling like things are just too good and that there is too much. You know? Look at all of these advent calenders. I made the small matchbox one from Martha Stewart instructions in an old magazine years ago. Then there are two that were given to Gillen and Jesse by their grandmother, that are filled with chocolate (as will be the matchbox one when I find Andes mints) and the Victorian one that just has pictures and is similar to the ones I grew up with. My brother and I always had one like this and we had to take turns opening the numbered windows. It was wonderful. Or did my brother and I just resent sharing and I don't remember that part?

Yesterday, I got to craft for hours with friends at Claudia's house and with an abundance of cool stamps. Our kids were all happy. At one point, I got to hear Charlie Brown's Christmas Special in the background. All good.

We've been cold these last few mornings so we've gone upstairs, where the heat has accumulated. They play with legos or do puzzles while I read "The Children of Noisy Village" - about farm kids from another era, in Sweden, who are joyous over every small tradition.

It's not that mine are not appreciative but abundance can be a tricky thing. At the same time, scarcity creates all kinds of unhealthy cravings and obsessions.

I also feel a bit nervous when all is as good as it is right now. Undeserving? Ready for the other shoe to drop? Most moments, I am just glad - when I am not distracted by frustration over a child suddenly hating the strawberry jelly and preferring honey on his toast that I just smothered in jelly and did he ask me for honey(?) and I didn't listen(?) and yes, I was really impatient and out of line about it all.... But in all the other moments, it's good.

I am turning 44 tomorrow and am healthy. My friend Danielle is visiting for a few days (she arrives with her fabulous children this afternoon), and this weekend we get to go see Amy Steinberg with other unschoolers, in South Carolina.

I'm just trying to say I'm grateful, is all.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Seven Random Things Meme

Rachel, a funny, local unschooler with an amazing cat who I recently met here tagged me for this.

Here are the rules:
1. Link to the person’s blog who tagged you.
2. Post these rules on your blog.
3. List seven random and/or weird facts about yourself
4. Tag seven random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs.
5. Let each person know that they have been tagged by posting a comment on their blog.

I'll be brief, I hope, since I did this one about six months ago and how many wierd/random things can you bear?

Here are 7 more, briefly:

1. When I was a kid, I used to torment myself over which Q-Tip to release from the glass jar where my mother kept them. I was freeing one from it's prison. I had a vivid imagination, clearly, and must have thought my ear wax was pretty brilliant.

2. When my boys put on the song "Roses are Red" by Aqua, I dance all over the furniture with them. I also danced all over the furniture, actually doing grand leaps from furniture on one side of the room to the couch on the far side, when the Red Sox won the World Series three years ago. The kids were speechless. This past season's win, I was more contained.

3. I love peanut butter, mayonnaise and banana sandwiches.

4. I used to direct plays at a theater in Atlanta that my brother and I started and he ran, called "Barking Dog Theater".

5. I was a shoe model, years ago in New York, but not for long. You had to wear a size 6 shoe and I was a 7. My bunioned, dancer feet (now they are bunion and corn free and completely out of shape) could only bear that for so long.

6. I have a grandmother that won't talk to me. We have not seen one another since she and my mother became estranged when I was seven. I am in contact with her sister who arranges for her to send me some money every few years (like now, for Australia - huge help) but I would much rather have her in my life. I keep trying. Now, she is starting to develop dementia so I could possibly visit without her knowing who I am.

7. I love to play with numbers in my head - creating patterns. Like right now, I am about to turn 44 and Nicolas is turning 40 on the 4th of January so I am playing with 4s. We have all kinds of 11s in our family when you use numerology to find "our" numbers. I don't go any further with this, it's meaningless number doodling. I do get a bit into the meaning of astrology, especially seeing how much kids resemble their signs.

Wierd enough for you? I was also tagged for a meme by Schuyler so will have lots of people to tag this week. Beware...

For this random/wierd things meme, I tag:

1. Jessica at Joyfully learning
2. Schuyler (HA!) at Warts and all
3. Mindy at Dancing Chickens
4. Abbi at Exactly Abigail
5. Rue (who probably won't do it but I'll try anyway ; ) at Another Roadside Attraction
6. Tamar at Only Connect
7. Rachel at almost always hungry

I am hoping that some of you read here and get your tag as I have to go do a delivery and can't play tag until late tonight. I'm actually going out tonight with local good friends! I'm looking forward to a girls' night.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Things I am loving right now

This hand-made little elf that I bought at Melrose on Ponce in Decatur last Thursday night. We brought Jean-Pierre and Marie-Helene to an extended hours village shopping night. The owners of the store sang carols with instruments and an amp., easily convincing me to come drink their hot cider and buy from local artisans. We also bought a beautiful bird calender and some other small gifts there. We put our names in a hat for a door prize. Jesse picked the winning name and it was me! This leads me to another favorite thing - this tiny pair of bird salt and pepper shakers that I won:
I'm loving that we have delicious tomatoes, still. We have had them this late before, but never this good, this late.
This is "The Book Book", by an artist, written for children, with lots of inspiration for creating books. I found out about it at this SouleMama blog post. You can get it by clicking on her link to the side there - thus, in a small way, supporting her family - who are fabulous (as if you don't already know this). I was inspired (the kids are not quite as inspired , but are looking) to create a few Christmas gifts using ideas from this book and from Cathy's blog. Can't say more - you could be a recipient!
And I am loving the locked diary that I ordered online, to help Santa make one of Jesse's wishes come true. What a surprising request!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Jean-Pierre and Marie-Helene

It was a really nice visit. Some highlights were picking tons (literally) of pecans at a friend's pecan grove, going to the Georgia Aquarium, eating some good food in Atlanta and experiencing the Europeans watching "It's a Wonderful Life" for the first time - it was my first time hearing it in French. "Mary" was called "Madeline"! Even more reason for me to love that movie. Notice my easily-ordered curtains are still not here - easy to order but not so easy to get the right order. I'm sending them back again. We are loving the Gillen tree.

Jean-Pierre got up with Nicolas at 4:30am this morning to go work at the market with him. Here he is giving his sign for victory, as he survived the massive rush, and helped his son to almost sell out.

I'm off to sleep for a few days but then - bring on the unschoolers' visits!