Saturday, February 28, 2009

Random goodness in the rain

Jesse came into the kitchen, bouncing, asking us to guess what he just did.

"I blogged!" he announced, before we had a chance to guess. I read his post, a list of random things, and was inspired to do my own. We've had some heavy rain the past few days and lots of driving to do to get to violin and archery classes. These gray, tired days can hide the good stuff, if I'm not careful.

We watched the documentary about the wire walker who danced and played on a tiny cable strung between the twin towers in the 70's. Called simply Man on Wire, it just won the academy award for best documentary. It combines the wire walker's present day thoughts about his wire walking journey with home movies and media footage of he and his team back in the day. Philippe Petit's dream of making that World Trade Center walk began when he was a boy in a dentist's office, reading in a newspaper about the plans for the building of the towers. What power there is in a long-held dream, when accompanied by some crazy good friends and passionate preparation.

We finished reading The Island of the Blue Dolphins yesterday and watched Escape to Witch Mountain the other night. I remembered liking both a lot as a child. The book traveled better through time than the movie. Gillen has declared that it's his favorite book ever.

Having had a few weeks of lessons now, Jesse had been feeling frustrated that his instrument, the violin, sounded so drastically different from that he'd heard in the Manheim Steamroller concert. But yesterday both he and Gillen were feeling very musical and were awe-struck by their new ability to actually play something close to a song, not just notes.

All is well; I'm ready for spring.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Kids interview meme

I stole this from Ginger's blog. I was so surprised by how willing Gillen and Jesse were to be interviewed. And then, their answers! I hope you get a chance to do this with your kids.

1. What is something your mom always says to you?
Gillen: I love you
Jesse: Do you want to go on a walk with Tuki and I?

2. What makes your mom happy?
G: Doing art together
J: When we do things together

3. What makes your mom sad?
G: when we don’t even want to try something
J: When we aren’t a man of our word.

4. How does your mom make you laugh?
G: By dancing
J: By singing

5. What did your mom like to do when she was a child?
G:play with friends and watch “Saturday Night Live”
J: play with friends

6. How old is your mom?
G: 44
J: 45

7. How tall is your mom?
Jesse:5” 3”
Gillen: 5’ 8”

8. What is her favorite thing to do?
G: Write and finish a book
J: Art and watch “Grey’s Anatomy”

9. What does your mom do when you're not around?
G: clean the house
J: write a book

10. If your mom becomes famous, what will it be for?
G: Being an actor
J: Being a celloist (interviewer's note - I have yet to touch the cello)

11. What is your mom really good at?
G: Everything
J: Being an unschooler

12. What is your mom not very good at?
G: hunting
J: singing

13. What does your mom do for her job?
G: nothing
J: Unschooling

14. What is your mom's favorite food?
G: Lemon tart with fresh blackberries
J: Creme Brulee

15. What makes you proud of your mom?
G: That she can take really good pictures
J: That she gives me freedom to decide things

16. If your mom were a cartoon character, who would she be?
G: Elastigirl, Popeye
J: Jen in Sixteen

17. What do you and your mom do together?
G: Art, photography
J: eat

18. How are you and your mom the same?
G: we both love the spring and to take pictures of flowers
J: we both like string instruments

19. How are you and your mom different?
G: I like to hunt and don’t like board games anymore
J: I don’t care how I write and she does care about her handwriting

20. How do you know your mom loves you?
J:Trust me, you can tell!
G: She says it everyday and she is very kind

21. What does your mom like most about your dad?
G: That he is bald and that he is Belgian
J: That he is papa and a farmer

22. Where is your mom's favorite place to go?
G: Home
J: somewhere she’s never been

Whenever I'm in a funk, I am going to remember that I AM Elastigirl and that I have a son who believes that I will be great at the cello.

Monday, February 23, 2009


In honor of the Oscars last night, I am thanking beautiful Gail for this award. I thought about giving the speech that I practiced as a child (for my best actress oscar) but it needs some updating.

I am passing it on to just one of the many blogs on which I am hooked, as I hate leaving any one out and this makes it less gnarly for me. So, the award goes to Wistful Wanderlust, a blog that I got hooked on relatively recently . I wish much happiness for Laura. Oh! I forgot. I first have to list six things that make me happy. That's easy.

1. Nicolas, Gillen and Jesse - so breathtakingly so. Especially when they are happy.
2. Blogging - It combines reading, writing, photography, and connecting with amazing people - all major ingredients to my happiness.
3. Good movies - two days ago I got to watch those films nominated for best picture in a movie marathon at a theater, with unlimited popcorn, sitting next to Kelli and Abbi. It was bliss. I loved all of the films (though we didn't stay long enough for "Frost/Nixon"). "Milk" was my favorite.
4. Traveling and exploring. I love so much about travel - getting out of the routine, discovering, all of the heightened senses that come when you aren't in your own territory. I could do without the plane trips. But I am almost over that.
5. Dancing. It used to be, when I was really dancing, that feeling that I would have after a few classes in a row, or after dancing for hours at a club, of just being, just happy, not attached to anything. Now, I am just happy to still be able to move enough to have started taking Zumba dance classes!
6. Crafting with paper. ( I think eating lobster may make me happier but since it's only good in Maine or Boston or on northern islands, I'm not getting much joy from this one.)

The other award that I have received, from Danielle and Ginger, is this one:It looks heavy and oscar like doesn't it? I could be tempted to pull out the speech and the smelling salts. But I won't. I will pass it on to a few talented women in Australia whose bright summery photos have brought me smiles this winter. I pass the award across the equator to Che and Fidel and Four Leaves.

These are the rules to accept the award:
1. You have to pick 5 blogs (or a few, or more : ) that you consider deserving of this award for their creativity, design, interesting material, and also contribute to the blogging community, no matter what language.
2. Each award has to have the name of the author and a link to his/her blog to be visited by everyone.
3. Each award winner has to show the award and put the name and link to the blog that presented her/him with the award.
4.The award winner and one who has given the prize have to show the link of Arte y Pico blog so everyone will know the origin of this award.
5. To show these rules

Friday, February 20, 2009

Play part 2

After writing the last post, we went to see a performance art piece/science lecture about pollination. It was a collaborative work between scientists and artists. The most intriguing part of it was created by a pair of artists out of Seattle who call their work - Lelavision Physical Music. Sculptor/musician Ela Lamblin creates the fantastic (sometimes giant) instruments that are then played in their pieces with all kinds of bows, sticks and even with their dancing bodies. It was a lesson in physics as much as a new way of looking at pollination. Gillen and Jesse were mesmerized. If this show, Prop a Gate: Spreading the Stuff of Life comes to your area, don't miss it. Check out the videos on their web site.

I will never look at a flower or even an eggplant in the same way. I now truly understand the amazing journey that those tiny pollen cells are experiencing behind those fragile petals. I will also have to add a new element to the bee novel. Certain plants can only release their pollen once they are embraced by a bee that is buzzing at a specific tone. Who knew? Fun, slightly sultry possibility in that for my Irish bees, as they are buzzing through fields from Hadley, Mass. to Block Island on their way to saving the world.

In addition, I am thinking more about play. On the back of the program was this definition:
Lelavision = PLAY to the third power (playing with sound + playing on sculpture +playing through space) But what I've mostly been thinking about is something that was revealed in the question and answer period after the performance. The sculptor/musician, Ela Lamblin, grew up making his own toys. When he was six, his father told him that he wouldn't buy him any toys but would get him any materials he needed and would help him to make them himself. Ela credits this with enabling him to be so creative in his life, to not just let life happen to him. His work is brilliant. But, as an unschooling mother, I've been thinking about how his dad could have created the same possibility for his son without restricting him so intensely. And I've been thinking about how restricting possibilities can help one be more creative. I think the restriction has to be agreed upon by the artist, of any age. And I was thinking, what if legos or even a plastic GI Joe doll that were bought pre-made at a store could have been the tools to an even more satisfying creative discovery. Am I over-thinking this?

It's good I married a grounded farmer. Time to go stir the chicken stock. The roosters are no longer pacing in their farm pen yard.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


Last night, I found Jesse creating a stage for our resident head panda, Rosalinafini, and an auditorium for her audience. This set-up changed rooms a few times.
At the park the other day, ready to take on the monsters of the lake after "spreading" the water with pine needles to be able to allow them to emerge.
Lately, Jesse seems to be entering a new lighter, less serious and intellectual stage. Where he has always been called "old" for his age, into reading long book series and doing difficult puzzles and philosophizing about everything, lately he is all about silly jokes (the more pointless the better) squeaky, grandiose complaining (gotta have the ying with the yang ) and he is even more into imaginative play with his friends. He picked out a Charlie Brown DVD from the library a few days ago. We all giggled through it together last night. I hope that Gillen and Jesse will always keep their love of play and will mix in the innocent old favorites as their lives become more worldly and responsible. I remember how scared I was, on my tenth birthday, that being two digits now meant that I had to give up playing with my dolls. My mother answered my fear with the reassurance that I could play with my own kids someday. While I have loved playing with them, I hope that they don't ever feel like the time has come to "put away childish things" for a more mature perspective, on hold in terms of free play until the next generation comes along.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Farm Capers

It was a beautiful day at the farm; except for these ugly guys, and their brothers and sisters. Really, nothing like they looked and acted as poults and not half as cute as even the adult Muscovy ducks. I am impressed with how quickly their faces turn a horrible shade of blue and how alive their feathers become when I enter their pen.

We helped Nicolas and his gang put up two more high tunnels. Well, we held down some of the plastic for a short while and were then told to go play, but I sensed that we were vitally important for that windy period of time.And then I got to take pictures. It was a perfect day for it. The barely blossoming plum trees were conducting the clouds.The tractor posed through the tire swing. We brought home lots of Kale and ate it cold as a salad - mixed with 2 tbls. braggs (your can also use soy sauce), 2 tbls. olive oil, 1 tbls. apple cider vinegar, sea salt and garlic powder. It takes lots of massaging to tenderize the leaves. I love the subtle highlights on the Swiss Chard:Jesse played restaurant, picking and washing lots of greens and baby turnips and then plating them up:As well as admiring his place between the sun and the earth.Gillen and his friend Aaron (who is out of school for the week) started work on a new fort.There were some territorial wars for a bit when Jesse decided to build a fort forty or so feet away from Gillen's property. We sat in the woods and talked about it for a while and finally they came up with a solution. It's amazing, with so much land to share that they still feel conflict over boundaries. Is this just human nature?

I quietly wondered why they didn't just want to renovate the old fort, which is filled with beautiful bamboo. Jesse hung out there for a while before following the scent of men who have moved on to "bigger and better" real estate.Gillen's lack of neighborly spirit with Jesse was probably partly due to frustration over not being given the green light to drive the farm truck alone with friend Aaron to the back fields. He is a good driver but not quite ready, at eleven, to show off his off-road shifting abilities to anyone but us. Though I'm afraid that Nicolas doesn't agree.

Because I was there, he was reduced to playing Top Gear (a favorite tv show, that we're watching as I type) in the Radio Flyer.I hope this is the beginning of a new season of Monday Farm Photos, with more vegetables next time. I promise.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Slide Show of Nicolas

Nicolas is the featured farmer at the Whole Foods web site. Their pictures of the farm are wonderful. And you get to hear his sweet Belgian/southern accent, an accent which I heard as being mid-western when I first met him. Maybe wrong about the accent by my intuition was right about him.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Music and light

The windows were open today and the sun was shining bright. I got to do more crafting, we finished reading my book (Gillen and Jesse judged it as being a great story and asked me to please make it longer so I'm going to do a second draft ) and the kids got to know their new instruments better. They both got excited about learning an instrument, separately, just in the past few months. For Jesse, it was a Manheim Steamroller Concert that inspired a wish to get a violin (thanks to Kelli for the concert inspiration and the violin:). Gillen heard a song while making a video with Alex that had great guitar riffs and he has been asking to play for a month. We finally got him his own guitar this week. They both wanted to take lessons as well.

So we are getting to know the sound of strings, with no strings attached. I was made to take piano for years as a kid and to practice for what seemed like hours every day. I won't do the same to them. I hope that they enjoy these new instruments and that if they stop enjoying them, they put them down for a while (or forever) without losing their confidence in themselves as musicians, or their joy about music. If Gillen loses interest in the guitar, both Nicolas and I are eager to try it out. Maybe we'll all end up playing strings. If I were bigger and stronger, and less intimidated by my age, I'd pick up the cello.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Peaceful moments..

via creative urges.

This morning we read more of that book I wrote last June. It's been long enough that I had honestly forgotten most of it. It isn't bad. Once we've finished reading it I may just write a second draft. I owe it to the real bees that I neglected in my yard last summer to give them their voice in The O'Riley Bees.

The best part of reading out loud? I can't help but fall asleep. Neither can Fracas.It's the only way I allow myself to nap.

The kids seem to be following their creative urges so much more easily now that they can see all of the possibilities on the shelves:Gillen made window decals to keep the birds from flying into our new room's windows. Two birds have been stunned and today a Cardinal hit so hard that it died.

Jesse is working on a new set of cards to go with his Treno game.

Now, if I could just get excited about creating dinner.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Gratitude Journal

I'm a very lucky woman with so much to be grateful for but every once in a while I lose sight of this and get caught up in the small stuff. My chronic fatigue annoyances - the occasional dizzy days - are my main complaint. Sometimes I am able to remember reality. I think about those I know who are facing real challenges - like my beautiful inspiring friend Zoe, my long-time mothering mentor, who isn't much older than I am. A few days ago she just started chemo. to fight a recurrence of cancer. Now that's a challenge.

I did my first art project in the new art room today. Here are the wonderful deep new shelves:Here is what I made:It's a gratitude journal. Each page has room for seven entries and there are around fifty-two pages so that I can enter one thing a day. Or not. Some of the pages are folded (like the one on the left) and the entries can be made inside. I also included a few pouches that contain seven tags inside.

Through the window I got to watch the guys jumping, running and, right out the window, climbing. I love the view of "Blackie" the bear in the branches above.Jesse is in a t-shirt because it got into the 70's today! Yes, I have a lot to be grateful for. Did you know that Zoe means life? I'm sure grateful for Zoe.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

The unexpected

When I was in my twenties, in New York City, imagining being a wife and mother (because I probably dreamed more of making a family than of "making it" as an actor) I just never could have imagined this life, that is oh so perfect, but entirely unexpected.

This morning, Gillen was frying up some eggs and singing a made up song really loudly - some manly, guttoral, warrior belting. I was in another room looking for Nicolas' missing phone and was relieved, I admit, when the singing suddenly stopped. I went into the kitchen to help with the eggs and make some toast but the frying eggs were all alone. The outside door to the back deck shut. Gillen came back into the kitchen, his big dimples highlighted by shiny cold red cheeks. He washed his hands and went back to his spot at the stove.

"I just shot a squirrel," he said, pride stretching his grin.

"Just now? What? You shot a squirrel? How? ....Why?" His citified mama was very confused.

"I saw it getting into the bird feeder so I went and got my BB gun, and I shot it. First shot!"

"You were making eggs for papa and you left them to go shoot a squirrel?"

"Yes. I can't believe I got him. Do you want to see?"

I didn't. But I followed him outside and looked anyway. One shot in the heart. I was relieved to see he never suffered. Gillen's first kill. Wow. I can't say I ever imagined having to deal with guns in my home and a passion for hunting. Nicolas and I asked if he had thanked the squirrel, as previously instructed in many discussions about hunting. He had. He bagged it up and put it in the fridge and before I knew what was happening, the husband of my local homeschooling friend was here on our porch eager to teach Gillen how to mount it.

Jesse and I hid inside playing Quiddler. Jesse was shocked by the killing but had decided to wear his camouflage shirt out of respect for Gillen's moment - also unexpected, and very cool.

So right now, on top of my new art cabinet, a squirrel skin is laid out flat, curing in a plate of salt. There are four tiny squirrel legs soaking in salted water in the fridge, waiting to be marinated in something good while we go to gymnastics, and then eaten tonight (we have asked that Gillen eat anything he kills). The squirrel couldn't be mounted since its tail had been injured and it wasn't going to sit correctly. No mounted animals in my home. Yet.

I was also surprised this week by another example of how little I know about my children. I love how impossible they make it to pigeonhole them.

As a result of "that horrible Lassie movie" (I ignorantly brought home the one when Lassie is poisoned by an evil man and spends much of the movie dying), "The Yearling" (o.k., my bad) and "Around the World" (which had some frightening footage from race riots in the sixties) I have had a reputation with my eldest son for picking the worst movies ever. I keep trying to pick movies from netflix that everyone will like but most of the time Gillen won't even give them a try - until this week, when the netflix queue did not reflect conscious family choices that I hoped would appeal to everyone, at all. We watched "Mansfield Park" the other night, an historical drama that is based on Jane Austen's most autobiographical book. Not only did Gillen sit through the whole thing, he really liked it. Then, last night, we watched another historical drama about a farmer in MN meeting his mail-order bride. It was a slow, tender, visually beautiful film but definitely not one I'd have chosen for my sons. Gillen liked it.

You just never know.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

While excitedly waiting for the big snow storm...

that isn't going to arrive here after all, we got a surprising break from the cold weather. It was a small preview of spring.Nicolas and Gillen were inspired to go out and do yard work. Here they are pruning the grape arbor.
(If you look very closely to the right of Nicolas' head you can see the Confederate flag - one of two- that hang boldly from the home across the street. This flag is one of many reasons for our tall Poplar tree, our untrimmed giant Azalea bushes and our full grape vines that create obstacles, when they are in season, to the view of our neighbors. )

Ground was re-broken, around the beautiful thriving onion trees from Sandra, for a future Spring bed of vegetables. There will be many more beds this year, in our backyard farm. I want in on the action too.
The biggest sign of spring around here - the daffodils:

Last night, I was sitting with my laptop in the living room thinking about doing some writing but really just exploring facebook when Jesse walked in and sat down next to me.

"Do you want to write something and I'll type it up for you?" I asked, having neglected to do this for a few years now. He used to write great stories this way. But he writes plenty on his own. As much as I like to think I inspire them to do things, Gillen and Jesse do find all kinds of inspiration on their own - like this morning when I found Jesse writing a letter to a panda we know in Australia. It is difficult for Rosalinafini to write to her sister Louisafini with such big paws (not to mention new glasses) so she asked Jesse to write the letter for her.
Though it is good that I don't suggest too often (with my kids, this can be a way to get them to leave the room) I am glad that I asked last night. Here is part of what he wrote:

Candles flickered in the dim light of May. All was quiet. The children were fast asleep. The flowers whistled in the moonlight. The dog paced back and forth. A single light was lit in the kitchen...

And indeed, the flowers must have whistled in the moonlight because we seem to have woken up to a unexpected day from May. Nice. Though we'd still like one snow storm.