Thursday, November 27, 2008

You're Sort of Funny, I Guess.

So I am clicking around on some blogs I read, and notice that one of these bloggers has been nominated for a humour award. She prefaces her blog entry with a comment her husband made when hearing of this nomination, the gist of which is: "you aren't that funny in real life."

Now, I think I'm a fairly witty writer, so I decide to do an impromptu poll to see just how deluded I really am what the people I live with think: is she funny or isn't she? In real life, I mean. 

As Max is in the room, along with my husband, I ask them if they think I am as funny IRL as I  tell them I am on my blog. Richard, canny man that he is, checks the Sensible Spouse Option: "Of course you're funny," he says, though not in those words. (I feel compelled to add that he used a distressingly cheesy phrase I can't repeat here, other than to say I've heard the same term on a McDonald's commercial)

Since I never trust anyone who compliments me so blatantly, I decide to ignore him and ask Max, who is scribbling away in his art book at the table. Max would never blatantly compliment me unless he really wanted some of the fresh bread cooling on the counter.

"Max, do you think I'm as funny in real life as I am on my blog?" I ask. Max actually reads a lot of my posts, particularly if he's featured, so I figure I'll get a reasonably honest answer out of him. Of course, in hindsight I should have thought about the fact that it's not my writing that cracks him up, it's his behaviour. He thinks he's hysterical. But I didn't have my Hindsight-O-Matic working at the time, alas.

"Umm, funny? What do you mean, funny? You? I don't get what you mean." he says, looking confused. 

Great, I think. This is going really well. Richard starts guffawing in the other room, no doubt greatly enjoying this scintillating conversation, not to mention the razor-sharp wit of his offspring.

"Funny, as in HA HA funny," I say, "Assuming you think some of my blog posts ARE funny, I suppose."

"Uh, well, I guess you are. I mean, you're sort of funny when you're around your own friends. People like you. You aren't all that funny around me." He says this while waving his finger around in the air. Looking pained. 

I'm funny amongst my own kind. Nice. I sit silently for a minute, wondering now who and what my own kind are. And feeling like I'm a gazelle. Or a giraffe. It's not an entirely unpleasant experience, but it's definitely a new one. 

"Well, umm, okay, pretty much," he adds kindly, after seeing the effect his words have had (his mother, momentarily silenced). "Sure, Mum, you can be funny." 

Thanks, kid. Now go eat some bread. I think I'll stay here amongst my own kind. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Advent Reading

I'm slowly amassing Christmas reading from our library, in preparation for Advent, which starts on Sunday. There is something so delightful about seeing all our old favourites, even if my kids are growing out of some of them.

(Ah, who am I kidding. They've grown out of most of my favourites)

First there was the Rosemary Wells Max series. We found this in print long before we ever saw the (vastly inferior) television program, and while we didn't buy quite all of them, we did get our favourites: Morris's Disappearing Bag, Max's Christmas, Max Cleans Up, Max's Chocolate Chicken, Max's Dragon Shirt (with our very favourite line: "It was a teenager; Max screamed."). I think I have them all memorized by now, along with her other series about the fluffy white MacDuff, a dog that likes sausages and rice pudding and gives very arch looks to babies.

Later we found Mary Calhoun's Henry series, about a Siamese cat that can do the most remarkable things. Max still sits through these. The artwork is gorgeous and evocative and that cat is (dare I admit this without being teased by my friends?) hilarious. Or perhaps you have to be a cat person to really appreciate Henry. He's so, err, like a cat.

Along the way there were Raymond Briggs, Tomie de Paola and Ezra Jack Keats. I still tear up at The Clown of God.

I wrote a post last year about our Christmas reading and listening, which you can reread here. There are a few books there you might like to read with your kids. And if you can bear to sit through our Christmas carol hilarity, here's another old post for you. I'm particularly fond of that one. It shows Max with his "I go to great lengths to humour my mum" game face on. I cling to these moments when he's mired in a BeavisorButthead impersonation, and remember that this too is Just a Phase.

Here are a few books I found today:

Henry the Christmas Cat by Mary Calhoun (manna from heaven for my cat-crazy kids)
The Magic Sleigh by Cynthia and Brian Paterson (this one is for FDPG)
It's Christmas by Jack Prelutsky
The Christmas Rose by Sepp Bauer (this is a great story if you happen to have Hellebores, aka the Christmas Rose in your garden, because they really do bloom at Christmas time)
Amahl and the Night Visitors by Gian Carlo Menotti
The Amazing Christmas Extravaganza by David Shannon (of No, David! fame)
Toot and Puddle: Let It Snow, by Holly Hobbie (for younger kids)
Christmas by Jan Pienkowski (you must see the artwork in this book)
Father Christmas by Raymond Briggs (comic style artwork, very appealing to early readers)

I'd say these are mostly for the younger set, although my 11 year old sat through most of them quite willingly. Now he's off trying to recreate the silhouette artwork from Pienkowski's work.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Sunset of My Day

I know, you can officially call this The Lazy Sheila Blog, because I am resorting to lovely nature shots instead of actual posts, but tell me, would you rather look at this beautiful, serene photograph or hear about the charming moment I had today when I realized that my 11 year old son can imitate Beavis OR Butthead with ease in public situations (and he doesn't even know who they are)? Or that FDPG eats like a hamster, shoving as much food into each cheek until she's bulging and can barely chew or breathe? Or that I suffered absolutely no shame walking into a store today and asking the clerk how much the Foxi Wheels children's bike cost?

No, of course you wouldn't. You can look at that anytime. Let's crack open a bottle of Schadenfreude. I'm telling you all this because I feel the need to share my recent bouts of public humiliation, because that, Gentle Reader, is what I'm all about.


And just in case there is anyone out there who really would prefer to see the picture and forgo my thrills and spills, I'll tell you about it: taken from the back deck at sunset. Deepening shadows and all. Sun setting in a completely different spot tonight. Glittering lake reflecting the last rays of the sunset. As always, no flash.

Made up for all the embarrassing, slightly anguished, exasperating AND irritating moments sprinkled throughout the rest of the day.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Free Things

We were exiting our gym drills the other day, and on our way out to the car in the rain, when my eye was caught by a lot of tile samples on masonite, propped up against a wall. Nice tile samples. Very nice tile samples. I don't know about you, but I cannot resist Free Things. And these tile samples, stuck haphazardly in the grass at the edge of the building, were most emphatically in the Free Things category if there ever was one.

I flipped through some of them and they looked right up my alley: all earthy colours and scumbly textures. Some were a bit on the Gothic side, some were on the Villa in Tuscany side. And even better, they were right opposite the car, slouching most mournfully. I took that as a sign that I was meant to have them. "Come on, kids!" I said, "help me load these into the car."

Fortunately my kids adore Free Things just as much as I do. Maybe even more. Never mind that they had shown a complete disinclination to tile projects when we were renovating the house we bought last year. Never mind that they generally do not enjoy trolling with me through Home Despot. Never mind that they are not quite as enamoured of Kaffe Fasset as I am, although FDPG does tend to do the "I want that that and that" routine when paging through his books (so do I). They do, however, flock to Free Things, whatever shape or form they might take: be they tiles, plants, or furniture. And no, I am not being facetious.

Max was first on the scene. He seemed to think we were in imminent danger of being arrested for theft and practically hurled the tile boards into the car. In fact, all the kids seemed to think I was doing something dodgy. "I hope Mummy doesn't get arrested and go to jail," I overheard Dominic saying to FDPG, worriedly. "Those tiles were being thrown out," I said over my shoulder, as we drove away, "that's what places like that do with stuff they don't want anymore, because they know someone else might want them." Dominic seemed to think that this was just too incredible to be true though, and in the rear view mirror I caught sight of him rolling his eyes at FDPG.

As we drove home, masonite rattling around beside the kids, I said "What do you think Dad will say when he sees these?" Instantly FDPG answered "He'll say 'Oh great! More junk for the basement!'" She has her father pegged, that one.

When we got home, I wrestled some of the tiles off the boards. There were several sheets of river pebbles, flat and unglazed and gorgeous. I laid them along the hearth. We were all quite giddy. "Wow!" said one. "Oh my gawd" said another. "Ooooo!" said yet another. We ran our hands along them. We stroked. We burnished. I think we even gazed lovingly; well, I know I did. I felt like Dominic when he says "I didn't know I always wanted them but now I do."

Then of course my eyes strayed to the now abandoned masonite boards, lying in a messy heap on the floor, where I'd peeled all their paper off one side. What to do with those?

Fast forward one day.

Here we are at a Waldorf Christmas Fair. If you've never been to one I highly recommend it, particularly if you happen to be visiting from other places and would like a slice of West Coast Cultchah. Here you will find most things that make us kooky Pacific North Wet Coasters tick: sensible but colourful knitted items, sensible but quirky footwear, sensible but weird food items (spirulina in your smoothie, anyone?), lots of fleece in varying shades of blues and reds, some very long braids, long-haired children of all genders, people hugging and smiling. The smell of beeswax, natural wreath ingredients, and wool in the air. And of course, a lot of recorder music.

And no, I am not in that picture, nor do I wear sensible but colourful knitted items. I tend to black and fitted. I'm going all conservative in my dotage.

Anyhow, we are in the Wreath Making room, and I am watching FDPG stuff fir branches into a wreath while coveting way too much ribbon, when suddenly I glance up at this chalkboard. It has a lovely, typically Waldorfish, chalky design on it, snowmen and santa and fir trees and snow. Swirly letters. I like the way the Waldorfs approach art. It's charming yet acutely sensible.

And then it hit me: all that masonite, all those large flat boards, would make perfect art boards for the kids. They are big. They even have handles cut into them, smooth and rounded, nice for littler hands. I could paint one side with chalkboard paint. I could get some Waldorf chalks. We could draw snowmen and fir trees. Maybe I'll take up recorder music while they draw (whoa, sheila, don't get too carried away now). I could see it all, right there, even with FDPG directing me around the Wreath Making Bins ("get me a bow, I think I need two, hold this while I cut it, wait, I want more pine cones on this side"). Even with Richard, who attended Waldorf schools for much of his school life, pretending to do his own very silly version of Eurythmy next to me, as an aid to Dominic's wreath making.

I felt, dare I say it, quite inspired.

And that, as my pal Martha likes to say, is a Good Thing. A Good Free Thing.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Oh What A Beautiful Morning

This was what I saw this morning, as I shuffled into the kitchen to see if our morning latté was ready (yes, I admit it, I am a Coffee Snob - no drip for me). It was, so I picked my mug up, cradled that lovely fragrant warmth (ooh, a cute little swirl in the foam) and opened the Dutch door to see the morning. Habits. 

We live on a very open, south-facing hill, and the view is generally pretty spectacular: clouds, mountains, birds, stars. It's a Big Sky view (makes me want to burst into Kate Bush sometimes). And this morning was no exception. It was only this colour for a brief moment or two, during which I, with my handy dandy camera, inhaled that purple gorgeousness as deeply as possible.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Espaliers and Other Things

We put in another trellis last week, not for berry bushes, but for the deliciously crispy sweet apple known as the Cox's Orange Pippin. This is the apple to have if you're having a cheese and apple sandwich, I'll have you know, but they must be pretty obscure here these days because we import them from New Zealand. Now I like New Zealand but the idea of eating an apple that travelled thousands of miles to get to my stomach makes me feel a little, err, spoiled. Not that I have a hair shirt complex or anything, but it does seem odd.

I'm going to attempt to - drum roll please - espalier this tree. I've never done much in the way of fruit tree pruning, so it should be an interesting experience (sheila clears her throat nervously).

This photo doesn't really do justice to my inept trussing and hacking job efforts so far, but we've put in 3 cabled guidelines, two 4X4 cedar posts, and some bamboo sticks as guides for the branches.

I'm using Christopher Brickell's wonderful Pruning and Training book as my crutch guide, because the idea of cutting the leader off of a perfectly decent-looking tree, not to mention removing branches not in My Espalier Plan, is completely counter-intuitive to me. I'm having a hard time finding this exact book because it seems to have been reissued under several different titles at various points in time, but the library has several of those various copies, so I can revolve my requests privileges until I've either memorized the book or gone mad.

It also has a lot of very useful advice if you have, like I do, old and ineptly pruned over the years pollarded apple trees, not to mention how to properly train a berry fan.

(stop that snickering, this is cool stuff and yes, I do have a life outside the garden)

Here is a diagram of a two branched espalier. The idea is that you get a young tree, set the guideline about 18" off the ground and either find the nearest branches or clip the, gulp, leader just above this line. Wait for the sprouts to come out, train them along that line, wait for another branch to emerge and train that as your new leader, waiting for it to reach the next set of guidelines. Then you do this all over again once the leader reaches that line.

Now you know the reason for my trepidation. Not only am I commitment-phobic, but this is going to take several years. And a lot of careful pruning and observation.

But I speeded up the process by chickening out and getting a tall tree with lots of branches deciding to use an older tree, so I don't have to cut too deeply. I merely removed several branches not in My Espalier Plan (talk about rationalizing severe pruning), staked one set of branches to a guideline, then staked a second pair, then let the leader dangle over the top a bit, while I wait for the weather to get cold enough to prune it some more.

But wait, there's more! Did you know that to properly espalier an apple tree one must use spur-bearers only? Not tip-bearers? Yes, boys and girls, there is such thing as a tip bearing apple out there, and I had no bloody idea. Thus my single espalier. The Summer Red reposing so beautifully down the hill from the Cox, the Summer Red which was going to be the anchor of Sheila's Espaliered Fence, is a tip bearer. Which means that it bears its fruit on the tips of the branches, as opposed to places all along the branch.

I learn something new all the time.

Other things I learned yesterday in the garden:
Nasturtiums like my compost bin.

Pansies thrive no matter what chews on them.

My yard is much more photogenic than I am.

Toffee in the Rain

Okay, so it isn't raining today (it's actually gorgeously sunny and mild), but this little 5 minute fort is for when it's raining and blowing and storming and Toffee is outside. It's protected, nestled in the bamboo like that, and I've covered it with some plastic just in case some drips get in. And it's filled with something the same colour as the cat some clean straw.

Toffee is one of those cats who really likes being outside. When we got him from the Pound he was 5 months old and had been living behind a Pizza Hut for a while, so I suspect this is behind his need to be free and unfettered during the day. He's come a long way since we got him: he no longer flattens to the ground in a complete panic whenever someone comes up behind him, he graciously allows FDPG to maul him almost constantly (she loves him with a terrible passion), and he leaps and cavorts like a little kitten with the boys.

And now I won't feel bad when we're out, he's out, and it's raining. He has his bolthole.

Eating In Restaurants

I had lunch here on my birthday. I love this place, even if the hostesses are crap. The owner seems to go for the young, hip and doesn't she know it, slacker girl, and I seem to be forever waiting for them to finish their gripping "He is SO cute!" conversations with other employees. Sometimes I even say "Hello! Can I sit down or do I have to wait for you?" just to liven things up.
Fortunately I've yet to get a crap waitress. They too tend to the pierced nose, lots of black clothes grungy hair variety, but I don't care what they look like as long as they deliver the goods and don't hang around, asking inane questions like "And how's your food today?" or "Is everything okay here?" I know, I sound like a grouchy old man, but I like being left alone in restaurants; well, unless I have a problem ("Uh, Waiter? There's part of a band-aid in my soup...").

The food is pretty good. Not hugely varied, but good. But why we love going here has little to nothing to do with the food. We love the atmosphere of the place. Look at the colour of those walls! Those tablecloths! The wall decor! The cheesy red plastic water containers that I can never bring myself to drink from (a little too much on the "ewww" side)! And all those funky, pierced, black-wearing girls, slouching around too cool for school. Now THAT is what I call a fun lunch out.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Birthdays and Poetry

Look who I share my birthday with: Melancholy Charles. He's looking rather fine and dandy, don't you think? I like a man who knows how to dress for the occasion. I'm planning on dressing for the occasion myself.

Plus, I've always been rather partial to deep red and gold cording.

(I like that chair too)

I was googling around last night, using "birthday" and "poems" as my search parameters. The cast of characters who wrote birthday poetry was intriguing: another Gloomy Charles came up — Mr Bukowski. Apparently he wrote himself a poem on his 43rd birthday. I took a look at it but really, the first lines were far too depressing for me to use in conjunction with my own birthday:

To end up alone
in a tomb of a room
without cigarettes
or wine--
just a lightbulb
and a potbelly,
and glad to have
the room.

Cheery, wasn't he? Sorry Charles, but if I was potbellied and grayhaired, along in a tomb of a room on my 43rd birthday without anything to drink I think I'd rather cry rather than read your poem. I need to laugh at my demons, not mourn them. Yegods.

Then I found an old favourite: Christina Rossetti. I love her. We all have her Caterpillar poem memorized, along with our Toffee variation. Her poem is less, err, physical, shall we say. More joyful. And wonderful etheric.

Just in case you're wondering,
vair is squirrel fur.

My Birthday
Christina Rossetti

My heart is like a singing bird
Whose nest is in a water'd shoot;
My heart is like an apple-tree
Whose boughs are bent with thickset fruit;
My heart is like a rainbow shell
That paddles in a halcyon sea;
My heart is gladder than all these
Because my love is come to me.

Raise me a dais of silk and down;
Hang it with vair and purple dyes;
Carve it in doves and pomegranates,
And peacocks with a hundred eyes;
Work it in gold and silver grapes,
In leaves and silver fleurs-de-lys;
Because the birthday of my life
Is come, my love is come to me.

Now that's more like it. Who wouldn't want a few halcyon seas and rainbow shells around on their birthday? Plus, I've always been partial to the idea of reclining on a dias, carved with pomegranates and doves.

And for Charles? I found a perfect one for him. A touch of melancholy, a pinch of worry and frustration, a stiff Scotch, and some perfect inner turmoil.

On The Eve of a Birthday
Timothy Steele

As my Scotch, spared the water, blondly sloshes
About its tumbler, and gay manic flame
Is snapping in the fireplace, I grow youthful:
I realize that calendars aren’t truthful
And that for all of my grand unsuccesses
External causes are to blame.


Such fears and dreams, however, always pass.
And gazing from my window at the dark,
My drink in hand, I’m jauntily unbowed.
The sky’s tiered, windy galleries stream with cloud,
And higher still, the dazed stars thickly mass
In their long Ptolemaic arc.

For the rest of the poem, click here.

Poetry Friday is being hosted over at Yat-Yee Chong's blog. Head on over for yet more poetry!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Walking in the Sun

If you look very carefully you can see our house up on the hill, behind those Garry oaks.
Well, provided you have really good eyesight...

It was a perfectly glorious day here on the Wet Coast today. The kind that lulls me into thinking that winter might not be so horrible after all. The kind that makes me think "Gosh, the winters here aren't so bad, really." The kind that gives me hope that I might, just might, not moan and kvetch my way through the rest of the winter. And yes, I do know that winter hasn't officially made it here yet. I do, really I do.

I should know better, shouldn't I?

Anyhow, with it being so sunny and all, and with me having woken up early and seen the full moon setting right across the street, surrounded with all that wonderfully atmospheric pink and blue mood lighting, I wasn't in much of a mood to make sure my kids did some improving schoolwork clean my pigsty of a house do anything, really.

Housework? Ugh.
Laundry? Ick.
Think about dinner? Nope.
Grocery shopping? Boooring.

I did have to briefly fight the urge to pack up and head south in a caravan, chasing the warmer weather all the way to Peru or somewhere. Yes, I know, terribly mature of me. But there was a time in the not too distant past when I would have done exactly that. Well, a time in the not too distant past before I acquired a husband, three kids, a cat, a guinea pig, a hat collection, a cold frame, an asparagus bed, and a lot of fruit trees. It's kind of hard to fit all that into a caravan and still have my own private bathroom space, though, so now I tend to stay put, repressing my Inner Weather Diva until spring. Mature AND responsible, c'est moi.

Anyhow, it was a lovely day, so we went walking around Bird Lake. We put on our rubber boots, I grabbed the camera, and off we went.

We met the cat that lives at the lake's edge first. It purred and miaowed as we went by. We stopped to stroke it, and in the ways cats are wont to do, it stuck its bum right in my face. "She's so soft and furry," I said to FDPG. "That cat is a boy," she replied, "I just know it." "Did you check?" I asked. "Nope," she said, tossing her head a bit at my obvious thickheadedness. Max snorted as I said "But this cat hasn't got any testicles, like Toffee does. I think this cat is a girl cat." "Humph, it's black all over, it should be a boy," was all she said. Yup, I thought: black, furry, miaows a lot, that says male to me, too. But she was already stomping her way along the footpath.
Boy, does that kid hate being wrong.

We continued down the path.

We saw some lovely red rosehips.

We also saw a lot of bird nests in those lovely red rosehips. FDPG remarked at every bird nest she saw. Max remarked at every bird nest he saw. A few minutes after they'd both done so, Dominic remarked at every bird nest he saw. I found myself nodding and saying "Wow" a lot more than I'd expected to. And wondering if any of my kids needed hearing aids.

We walked across a wooden bridge, listening to the clamour of the birds in the bushes. They followed us along the bridge, flitting in and out of the dense scrub bush around us, and periodically zipping back and forth across the path. They were clearly delighted with the weather. Fortunately my Inner Weather Diva was too, and I was able to bask in the almost warm sunshine.

We paused at the edge of the lake, awed by the periodic carpets of algae, green and glistening in the sun. The kids got sticks and poked and poked, stirring up the sleeping turtles as they did so.

We had just started across the floating bridge when the kids noticed something weird on the surface of the lake. Spiders, seemingly millions of them, scattering across the water with the wind, all headed towards the rushes by the edge of the lake. They were slipping over the water, skidding and spinning, with the breezes. But these didn't look like your average aqua-arachnid. We stood staring, until FDPG shouted "We have to do something!"

I leaned over, with Max's bullrush, and scooped up one. We examined it closely, but it seemed rather nonchalant about its brief water trek. I put it on the rails of the bridge and we all watched it scutter away. It was then that I noticed more spiders, walking on the rails, hanging from the rails, swinging by their threads over the water. And they were all the same: small and brown.

What's more, they were all going the same way.

I think it was at that moment that I realized we were all wondering the same thing: was a basilisk going to rear up out of the water at any second? Something large, perhaps, named Aragog? Or a Chamber of Secrets, newly opened, and these spiders were heralds, warning us of imminent disaster. Whatever it was, we all felt slightly panicky, seeing those skidding, slipping spiders.

It was weird, not to mention slightly distressing, seeing them skating across the water. Some had obviously given up and were lying in little pathetic balls in the surface, while other, still energetic spiders zipped by them, buoyed by the wind.
So we did the only thing we could think of in the circumstances: we formed a Spider Rescue Team.

All thoughts of Chambers and giant basilisks were forgotten.

FDPG scooped them up.

Max scooped them up.

Dominic didn't scoop many up, but he did rush around yelling "We're the Spider Rescue Team!" in case anyone forgot.

And yes, I scooped them up too. When I wasn't documenting our heroic efforts, that is. I'm irritating tireless like that.

But eventually we tired of rescuing spiders, sad as that may sound. The supply of skating spiders seemed infinite. They were jettisoning all around us, endlessly. And while I do like little spiders, my urge to keep a loose Prime Directive of sorts reasserted itself.

"Come on!" I said, "this is getting tedious. Let's keep walking. Basilisks be damned."

Our duck friend, who had kept rather tight-lipped up till then, evidently agreed with us, because he pushed off from where he'd been loitering near the shore (guarding mysterious openings?) and paddled across the lake, following us to the other side. The kids wondered why he wasn't eating the spiders. "Maybe he has poor eyesight and can't see them," I said. The kids thought this was one of the more hilariously idiotic things I've said. Heck, we all have corneas, don't we?

So we continued wandering around the lake, the boys continuing to poke things with sticks.





I saw a strange giantess of a creature, silhouetted against the grass, and stole her soul for my own personal amusement. Yes, Gentle Reader, this is about as close as you'll ever get to seeing me. But hey, it's a pretty good likeness of me: two legs, long coat, shoulders, head.

Entirely gray.

Yep, that's me.

The kids dashed off into the rushes, playing hide and seek with each other, until Dominic remembered a cougar sighting we'd heard about here a few weeks back and raced back to the path, telling FDPG breathlessly that "Gosh, a cougar could attack us at any moment."

And after all that fun and excitement, we went home, winding slowly along the path in the bright afternoon sun, basilisks and skating spiders forgotten. We walked along the paths where we'd seen grasshoppers laying eggs among the rocks in late summer. We swung on the rope swing over the creek by the willow. We watched FDPG slide along the mud when she fell off the rope swing over the creek by the willow. We watched her scowl. And then we climbed the hill, and Toffee came bounding down the road to meet us. "Well, at least we know he's a boy, don't we, Mum. He has testicles - I can see them," muttered FDPG.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Paean To A Granny Smith

When we first saw you, you were languishing.
Lichen trailed across your bark.
Caterpillars in swathes festooned your limbs.
Spindly branches twisted everywhere.
You were dark and overhung the garden in the most unhealthy way.
It was hard to believe that you might conceivably produce something edible.


I raked the ground under your drip line.
I applied compost that I'd made myself.
I sprayed you with dormant oils.
I observed you, worriedly.
I pruned you.
I cut off water shoots.
I pruned you some more.
Then I read a book about pruning and worried about my own efforts.

"Looks like you really scalped it," said a friend.

Last summer you sent forth lots of apples, but they were small.
Some were spotted and scabbed and in weird shapes.
It was a promising start.
Still, you didn't look very healthy.
Better, but not best.

Then, this year you blossomed.
Branches burst forth.
Flowers unfurled.
Bees buzzed.
Fruit swelled.

Alas, Max spotted it: a caterpillar nest.
A big one.
And then another big one.

Argh! I thought.
Something in me snapped.
I grabbed my pruning saw and climbed into you, determined once and for all to rid you of those horrible, chewing, nesting caterpillars.

I sawed.
I sweated.
Back and forth.
The entire branch.
I jumped down from the tree, panting.
Then I returned to my senses.
It was a big branch.
I looked up.
There was a very large hole in your middle.
I could see the sky.
I could see a cloud creeping nervously by that hole, no doubt horrified by what I'd just done.

I hid the branch at the end of the yard, in case you felt bereft and went off your laying fruiting. For a week I poured over that pruning book, wondering whatever had possessed me to go nuts and hack you up remove that limb.

Bloody caterpillars.

But that big open space snapped something in you, too.
You sprouted.
You fruited.
You burgeoned.
Your leaves lost their thin, huddled look and sprang into dark, glossy waterfalls of green.

And the apples!

Some of them should have had little blue ribbons attached to their branches, they were so big.

This one weighed 15 ounces.

FDPG was quite taken with it.

Here it is again, sitting beside a sibling.
They are off to become an apple crisp.
We will eat it.
We will be glad you are in the back yard.

And for that, I thank you.

Oh loveliest of apple trees.

Why I Love My Bathroom

I love this mirror frame. I love the Christmas decoration hanging on it. I love the colour of the wall. I love the tiles on the floor. I love the taps on the sink. I love standing in the shower and looking out the window across the valley while hot water pours over my head. I love that hummingbirds buzz the window while I'm in the shower, on their way to the feeder. I love watching the baby birds sit on the arbor, fed gently by their parents. I love hearing the Stellar's Jays shriek in the trees in the morning while I'm washing my face. I love watching bike lights glint in the dark as they wobble along the bike path across the valley in the dark morning. I love watching the rain drip onto the trellis of the garden.

I love this bathroom. It's one of the nicest rooms in this house.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

That Goofy FDPG

FDPG when she was 4.

Today FDPG said to me "I felt very distressed when you said you were going to make dinner."


She feels distressed when I prepare dinner?

Nice one, FDPG. Distressed my foot. Harumph. Thanks for the vote of confidence.

So you know what I did? (oh juvenile that I am) I made dinner with yellow tomatoes! Lots of yellow tomatoes! And if there's one thing I know about FDPG, it's that she hates tomatoes, no matter what colour they are. Tomatoes and FDPG = Mortal Enemies. I roasted those tomatoes in olive oil and garlic till they were good and soft and sweet, then I puréed them and added them to a pesto sauce, because if there's one thing I know about FDPG, it's that she loves pesto, especially if it has lots of grated Romano cheese on it.
(thank you thank you Moira, you have no idea how much we are loving those blocks of Romano)

And then I served it.

With a smile.

And she ate it all up.

Diamond of Darkhold

I have another review up at The Well-Read Child. It's a really great book: exciting, mysterious, and even a little amusing. You can read my review here.

The Wet Coast

Yes, that's where we live: on the wet coast. And this morning I woke up to a reminder of that little detail. It's raining. Really raining. Things are dripping. Puddles have formed. The sky is obscured by cloud. It's dark. Cold. Toffee is squeezing his knees together. (sorry Toffee, I'm still kicking you outside)

It hasn't rained here for a long time. And even though it really does rain less on this island than it does on the mainland (it's not just the boys' restless imaginations), I still feel a pang when those November rains begin, because I know they won't let up until spring.

So instead I'm thinking about the beach. Running with pails. Shorts wet at the bottoms from wading. Hair ruffling in the warm wind. Clear blue sky.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Diving into the Depths

Here's Dominic in the bath last week. He has a thing about these goggles, and usually wears them every bath he has. He does a lot of going underwater and holding his breath for long periods of time. He floats there, arms spread, staring down at his Lego men fanned across the floor. Sometimes I catch myself dashing to the bath because the splashes have been silent too long for my comfort level. He almost drowned in a swim class a few years ago, and my heart hasn't beat the same way since.

The funny thing is, his twin (FDPG) almost drowned in the very same class at the very same moment (their instructor wasn't able to manage all the kids and they both sank without him noticing), and when the lifeguard and I hauled them out of the water, her first spluttering words were: "I was seeing how long I could swim underwater!" Little Miss Indomitable. Dominic knew he'd had a close call, though. I was glad I'd been sitting there, watching them, a few feet away from me. If I'd been elsewhere, I wouldn't have seen them sink down to the bottom of the pool. I wouldn't have blinked, appalled, at the impossibly young instructor moving along, utterly oblivious. I wouldn't have shrieked and jumped in with all my clothes on, either, grabbing the nearest child by the hair, thinking "please don't let this be happening please don't let this be happening."

But I was. And I did.

I sat poolside then; I sit poolside now.

But this post wasn't meant to be a How My Children Almost Drowned piece. It was meant to be about this photo. This funny child, sitting in the water in his swim goggles, looking at me as though I were a foreign species. I like this shot a lot. I can see his adult self here: quirky, distracted, curious, and idiosyncratic. Hmmm, he's thinking, where am I? Who am I? Who is that person, holding that camera? And why is she looking at me like that?

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The New Face of Dr Who?

I know I will just have to get over my current mad passionate love admiration of David Tennant, and I will, because I got over my, err, well, you know, my admiration for Christopher Eccleston, who was the Doctor before DT, and at the time I was quite sure I wouldn't.

But I did.

I cried at the end, when he looked at Rose and said, right before he changed, "We were brilliant!" Or something to that effect, I was so busy sobbing on Max's shoulder that I could hardly hear. Max was so busy sobbing himself that he didn't hear either. And yes, it WAS that emotional. Losing the Doctor is an emotional experience.

Here's a total cheese clip that you MUST promise me you'll watch with the sound off but it has the best shots of Christopher Eccleston. I'd forgotten how perfectly charming he was. See - I was lulled by the charmingness of David Tennant. I forgot all about Christopher Eccleston. Richard might think DT a little frenetic but I think he's lovely. What Richard doesn't realize is that he's almost as frenetic, and skinny, and crazy. Almost.

So you see, we do get over old loves. Might take some time. We just need a little distraction sometimes. Is the fellow above going to be mine?

Athena and Herakles

I was amazed to hear that someone opened the door to FDPG last night and said, almost immediately "You must be Athena!"

Amazed and impressed. How's that for neighbours? I wasn't there or I would have queried further ("Are you a retired Classics prof?" "A member of Athena's Secret Club?").

Could it have been this picture on the front of her helmet? Or the Medusa head on her shield? Whatever it was, someone knew just who she was.

The next remark was "I bet you'll be the only Athena I see tonight."

I bet she was right.