December 29, 2008

Caitlyn goes racing down the hall, into the office, zig-zagging around where I'm folding laundry.

"What are you doing?" I'm a bit suspicious. It's the tail-end of the day and she's probably moving her toys into the office where I'll trip over them or something.

"Running!" And she runs back toward her room. It's not a long hall, so the complete circuit requires less than one minute.

"Why?" Every parent's question.

"Because I'm crazy!" Saying it seems to have pointed out the truth in her actions. She stops running and returns to her room, where she begins having conversations with her animals and trains.

December 24, 2008

"Santa comes down the chimney?"

"That's what they say."

"So, how does he go up?"

"Well, he lays a finger aside his nose," I say, demonstrating, "and he goes up."

"He has to climb back up the chimney."

"No. He puts his finger by his nose and just goes up."

This is met with a look that's part confusion, part my-mother-has-lost-her-mind.

"Santa's magic."

A pause.

"So," like she's caught the flaw in my logic and is about to pounce like a 3.5 year old trial lawyer, "how does he get down off the roof?" Ha! I've got you now! Just try to get out of that one!

"He doesn't. Remember how Santa has raindeer? The raindeer and the sleigh are waiting for him on the roof."

She's had enough of trying to figure this out. Logic be hanged, she's going back to a magical view of the world.

"So, what does he say to the raindeer?"

"On Dasher, on Dancer, on Prancer and Vixen, on Donner... I forget all their names."

"Oh, can we do projects now? Like cutting and folding and, and, and coloring!"

Yep, time to go back to the things that make sense. She's right though; when you explain it that way, the whole Santa thing is laughable, really. Odd, that in a culture that seems to see everything in light of either hard science or divine miracle, we still hang on to (and encourage!) the Santa story.

December 21, 2008

After dinner this evening, Caitlyn announced, "My voice is getting loud because of my imagination. It's this big," spreading her arms about shoulder-width.

"That big?" said Ian.

"Yes. It's medium sized. And oval shaped. And orange."

"Your imagination is shaped like an orange."


"Is your imagination juicy like an orange?"

"Sort of."

"Will your imagination grow as you get bigger? Will it get juicier?"

"Yes. It will be really juicy when I'm sixteen."

Oh, honey, you have no idea.

Happy Solstice from Seattle, where we have about a foot of snow on the ground and somehow miraculously still have power.

December 18, 2008

Snow! There's between 4 and 6 inches (by my highly inaccurate and subjective measuring - that is, I looked at it and thought about quilting rulers and came to a conclusion) on the ground already, and it's still falling. I'm astounded we still have power.

December 14, 2008

Oh my goodness, it's cold. The snow that fell on Seattle last night is mostly still here, which is unusual in my (limited) experience. Factor in the wind and the perceived temperature has been below 20 degrees F all day, which is about where it's forecast to be for the next week to ten days. I'm very much not looking forward to standing at the bus stop for our rides to and from school tomorrow.

Cold weather is good, however, for appreciating the work that went into food storage over the summer. I spent time this evening pouring over cookbooks and recipes, looking for things to do with winter squash and/or sweet potatoes. All the ideas I found (Zanzibar Beans and Sweet Potatoes, Penne alla Zucca (pumpkin), a curry that uses both) are beyond Caitlyn's frontiers of culinary exploration. She might try the pasta based on the presence of noodles, but the others are have too many ingredients. I'm tempted to try anyway, but probably not this week. We'll have sweet potato quesadillas a la Kingsolver and probably potato soup.

While I'm thinking food, though, let me recommend the letter to President-Elect Obama from the folks at in support of a Secretary of Agriculture nominee who will:
"recreate regional food systems; support the growth of humane, natural and organic farms; and protect the environment, biodiversity and the health of our children while implementing policies that place conservation, soil health, animal welfare and worker’s rights as well as sustainable renewable energy near the top of their agenda."
If you think the national agricultural vision should favor small, local and sustainable family farms over agribusiness and commodities, please consider signing the petition.

December 09, 2008

I have a new favorite quote:
Despite all our pretensions, we still are totally dependent on six inches of top soil and the fact that it rained.
-- Confucius
So the economy is falling apart, retailers are starting the post-holiday sales before the holidays in hopes that they actually make some money, the Toys for Tots warehouse is empty, food banks have slim pickings, the American auto industry wants a bailout (Who's next?!?! Is this the new consequence for making poor business choices, begging for taxpayer funds so that a failed business doesn't actually have to fail? When the corporations have taken all the taxpayer money to keep themselves in the black, can the taxpayers rely on the corporations to give individuals handouts when the average wage doesn't keep up with the cost of living? Yeah, that's what I thought...), and $700 billion in taxpayer money has gone to the finance sector, apparently where it continues to sit instead of unfreezing the credit markets as intended.

In times like these (a loaded statement if there ever was one), it's important to remember what's really important, and not in the some mushy holiday way. We don't really need all the things we claim we can't live without. Americans are so good at panicking over things that should be amenities and ignoring the essentials. The loss of healthy farmland, either to agribusiness and genetically modified crops, to over-dependence on chemical pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers so that the soil is stripped of life and blows away, or to shiny new subdivisions, is a far more tragic, far more impactful loss than fewer Christmas presents, a bad retail season or the collapse of the American auto industry. We can scale back our expectations, tighten our belts, appreciate the things we have instead of whining for the things we don't. The failure of one industry makes room for another, hopefully lighter on its feet and on the planet than the American auto industry has been.

But if we loose those six inches of topsoil, we don't eat. And if we don't eat, we die. And that seems a more significant impact than all the rest of it.

December 06, 2008

I don't think I like grief. It's unpredictable, illogical. If somehow my eyes don't burn, my stomach hurts instead, and if I'm actually having a moment of physical peace, I'm uneasy in my mind because I simply don't know what to do.

This wasn't supposed to affect me like this. It's not like there was a car accident, something swift and sudden, leaving us all shocked. This went on for years, longer than even the doctors thought it would. We said goodbye by degrees, brain cell by disappearing brain cell, always a one-way conversation, over and over and over again. I would have thought there were no more goodbyes to give.

Maybe it's the silence that gets me, the fact that the goodbyes are really done. The service is over, the condolences from old family friends received, the ashes scattered. We're down to our own memories now, dusty, imprecise things buried under the bitter taste of the last seventeen years. He left so very slowly we didn't know he was gone until he was different - mean and suspicious and silent and unengaged instead of laughing, hoping, caring. Now that this chapter is closed, can I find the happy memories again? The ones I can think of have the patina of oft-told stories but not the warmth of genuine affection.

"FTD" usually means flower delivery, but it will always first mean "fronto-temporal dementia" for me. It will always be the thing that stole my father, first his gentle, geeky personality, his ability to make sound decisions, his words. It took his memory of me, his eldest daughter and the first of the family members to vanish from his mind. It stole whatever joy he might have had in knowing Caitlyn, his only granddaughter. It took his dignity, the integrity of his body, then stripped him to essential functions and finally took from him the comfortable habit of breathing.

We knew a decade ago where this road would lead. And now that we've arrived, I've run out of map. The view from here is amazing, a wide open future, but I have no idea what I'm looking at. I'm not sure where to go next, which path to take, since I'm not sure where I'm going. So I sit here, unmotivated, sure there is something I should be moving toward or taking care of, but not certain enough of the next steps to make it happen. The days stun me with their hours, their endless minutes of knotted stomachs and prickled eyes, and the silence after the last echo fades.

November 08, 2008

Just finished reading Michael Pollan's excellent memo to President-elect Obama regarding the state of American agriculture. An excellent overview of the problems of the current intensive methods of "farming", if that word can be used for monocultures of corn, CAFOs, manure lagoons, feeding antibiotics to cattle as a matter of routine, food irradiation, a process that requires an average of 10 petroleum-based calories of energy to produce one calorie of mass-produced "food". What was on your dinner plate tonight? Do you know how much oil it took to get it there?

But even better than the overview of what's wrong, Pollan includes three critical steps for changing the current system, improving our security, improving our health, and addressing climate change: resolarize the American farm, regionalize the food system, rebuild our food culture. My favorite part: tear out a portion of the White House's South Lawn and put in an organic fruits and vegetable garden, use the produce to feed the Obama family (and the White House staff, presumably) with extra going to local food banks, and be sure that the entire Obama family spends a little time out there pulling weeds. I can't think of a better way to be the change we want to see, than to have our President take 20 or 30 minutes between meetings to take in the weather and harvest something edible. The world will have truly changed when the Secret Service guys can get involved, too.

(If you don't have a New York Times account and want to read the memo, check out BugMeNot for a login/password combo.)

November 05, 2008

We watched election returns at a friend's house and heard most of Seattle burst into cheers just before The Daily Show signed off with the announcement that Obama had won. For a moment, I thought it was just The Daily Show being funny, since sometimes I find it hard to tell when they are being serious. But when we switched to a "real" news station, it was all about the win. I don't miss the nail-biting cliff-hanger at all.

We watched McCain's speech and were generally impressed. And we watched Obama's speech - twice - and I teared up - twice. Caitlyn sat on my lap for the live airing of the Obama speech, and when he said "United States of America", she turned around to me and said, "United States of America! What was that again?" "It's our country," I told her, and was surprised to hear the pride in my voice.

I've probably failed at explaining to Caitlyn why today was significant, although she did learn the word "voting". Since we vote by mail, I'm not sure she knows what concept goes with the word, but it's start. I never seem to plan ahead for these large explanations, just start in on them and then suddenly find myself trying to define "government" in terms a three-year-old would understand. But I will be able to tell her that she saw President Obama's acceptance speech, that she was there, awake and paying attention, when America made history. Yes We Can.

November 01, 2008

I have eaten the last of the caramels made by my grandfather. I think I made the last batch last three years, sneaking them one at a time out of the freezer. But they are gone now. I may go into withdrawals at any moment.

To add to my list of things for the kitchen: candy thermometer and marble slabs and a stainless pot of sufficient size. Maybe one of those neat double handled knives Mom has... which could be useful for cutting large cheeses as well. I still need the 16 or 20 quart stainless pot for cheese making, plus the cheese press and molds for cheddar and gouda, and the mini-fridge for aging the cheese.

Don't ask about the cow. I still have to figure out how to convince the neighborhood that a herd of goats would be ok, never mind a cow. And the goats are going to have to wait until after I've gotten the anti-outside-clothesline rule repealed. Well, ok, I think I have a chance with the clothesline rule - the goats are probably more of a stretch than my neighbors want to make.

October 14, 2008

We were briefly part of a group that gathered once a month for a "visioning potluck", an evening of food and imagination. There was one evening, the one most memorable to me, when we all shared a vision of the future, as if it were the past.

The idea was that rather than saying, "I wish things were like this," or "I plan to do that," we were to think as if all that had already happened. What if we were at a potluck celebrating something that was 20 years old? What did it look like? What challenges had we overcome? The collective imagination in that room painted a picture of a nearly-self-sufficient artists collective/community, with sustainable local agriculture, all power needs met renewably, and a thriving sense of "know your neighbors".

When it was my turn, I talked about the garden I'd started, and how it was thriving now, how I was "growing my own pasta sauce." That was something I'd been talking about wanting to do - really - for a number of years, but I hadn't gotten anywhere with it. I don't know if by thinking of it as a done deal was transformative in any way, but I have a garden now. It didn't produce pasta sauce this year - our summer was too cool to make the tomatoes truly happy - but I have a couple of pints of green peas in the freezer, a couple of pints of cranberry beans in the pantry, lots of quarts of blueberries and raspberries, and upwards of 20 pounds of potatoes.

I suppose my point is that sometimes it's helpful to stop thinking about how something is going to get done and start thinking about it as if it were already done.

So, with that in mind, I'm announcing my latest co-venture:

We See America Thriving

Enough with the grousing about what's wrong with the country. Enough with waiting for someone else to fix it. Let's start talking about it as if it were better, right now. And if enough of us start seeing America as we want it to be, perhaps the road to that place will become so clear that we can't help but get there.

July 15, 2008

The only thing in dinner tonight that came out of a can were the olives. Just about everything else can be accounted for. Homemade pizza crust, with homemade sauce. I made the mozzarella yesterday, with milk from Golden Glen Creamery. The tomatoes came from Rockridge Orchards. The zucchini came from the Alvarez Organic Farm.

The pizza was a little overcooked - still trying to find the best way to divide the dough so that Ian and I get a pizza to share and Caitlyn gets her own pizza, with only the things she wants ("Nothing scary, Mama, ok?"). And the sauce needs some work, but all in all, I'm pretty darn pleased with myself right now.

July 08, 2008

I've had the link to this video on my desktop for months, waiting for a good time to post it here. Not that the "why less stuff is better" shtick is news to any of the five people reading this, but it's a good video with coherent explanations (I thought). Maybe one of the five people reading this know someone who could benefit from a viewing:

The Story of Stuff

Of course, in my quest to minimize stuff and reduce waste, I did just buy an actual plastic waste bin for the bathroom. And storage bins for Caitlyn's enormous collection of project/craft supplies. And I spent a moment thinking about airtight storage bins for 25 pounds of rice. Is it possible to get emergency water storage containers that aren't plastic? So, I'm not sure that I'm exactly succeeding in my quest for less stuff. I'm not sure that I'm satisfied just being lower than the average American in my stuff-addiction. I guess everyone needs a goal...
I'm attempting physical fitness by riding Ian's bike through the neighborhood. Tonight, one of the neighborhood kids spotted me and called out, "Hi, Caitlyn's Mom!"

Awwww... It must be home.

June 22, 2008

We ate the first of our homegrown peas with lunch and dinner today. With dinner, they were sprinkled on a salad of homegrown lettuce and topped with homemade feta cheese. (For lunch, we ate them straight from the pod.) Very yummy!

Caitlyn went to her third Solstice Parade at Fremont this weekend. We met with friends, picnicked on breakfast carbs (thanks for the idea, Abra!), and had front row seats for the general wackiness that is Solstice in Fremont. Caitlyn got to draw with chalk in the middle of the street, collect candy tossed by parade participants, and then follow the parade by walking down the double yellow line - the only time of year her parents let her do that. Her favorite parts: the cakes and poodles and the butterfly. She totally didn't notice that half the people in the parade had no clothes. "Mama, that person is silver!"

June 19, 2008

Caitlyn has developed her own personal creation myth. Apparently, I sewed her together, around her bones, then glued her to a piece of paper, stood her up and said, "There you are, Caitlyn!" Sort of makes one wonder what all she thinks I'm doing at my sewing table while she's napping. I'm not sure what I'll say when she tires of asking me to make her new dresses and says, "Mama, make me a friend."

Happy Third Birthday, Sweet Pea!

June 14, 2008

Proof that the internet is waaaay too much a part of my life:

I hand-wrote a letter the other day. Folded it, put it in an envelope, addressed it, stamped it, and put it where the out-going mail goes. Thirty minutes later, I was obsessively checking my email looking for the response.

June 05, 2008

Things I've learned today:
  • 7 pounds of rhubarb cans to a lot more than the 7 half-pint jars I was hoping for. I have 13 little jars of rhubarb now...
  • one really should move the butter dish before firing up the canner...
  • Caitlyn isn't quite ready to give up afternoon naps, despite her protests to the contrary. She fell asleep in the stroller today, something she's only done once before. This time, I had the sense not to try to put her in her bed but just draped a quilt over her and prayed the cat would not meow in the living room next to the stroller.
Somehow, I feel I should have more to say...

May 22, 2008

Things Caitlyn says when she's asleep:

"I don't want the tomato!"

"Mama, wear gloves."

"S T U V W X Y and Z."

May 13, 2008

Out of nowhere the other day, Caitlyn announced, "I don't like the dark." She paused, then confirmed, "I like the light."

Having just watched NightWatch, a Russian vampire movie, this was an especially reassuring statement.

May 08, 2008

Caitlyn: "Why do we have a cat?"
Me: "Mama doesn't like dogs."
"I like dogs."
"Well, when you are all grown up and live in your own house and are responsible, then you can have a dog."

A pause.

"I don't want to be responsible. I'll have a cat."

April 30, 2008

Ian just headed out to the party for this:

Microsoft Photosynth makes star turn on CSI: NY tonight

Not sure if I like the idea of it being a "Microsoft world", but I do have quite a bit to be grateful to them for...
Caitlyn seems to be experiencing synesthesia, or at least she's getting her sensing verbs all mixed up. While waiting for the light to change this afternoon, the other crosswalk light was chirping. She says to me, "I see it beeping, Mama." When warned of impending loud noises, she'll often cover her eyes. We'll talk about spring and new leaves and she's tell me how she hears all the green.

My favorite, though, was Monday night on the walk to Maki & Yaki for dinner:

"Papa, I can smell my reflection in the window cars."

April 27, 2008

Things on the internet last forever: Here's more proof.

Ian tells me the article is rather dull, about some one in Poland who has resigned from a post. The individual had gathered some prior media attention for being somehow involved in or an instigator of an investigation into the Teletubbies and if watching the show encouraged homosexuality in infant viewers. But of all the pictures out there of the Teletubbies, this particular blogger has made a fascinating choice.

March 23, 2008

This is an excellent distraction: Free Rice! Quiz your vocabulary, learn new words, play with a rather addicting website, and donate rice via the UN to end world hunger. Ah, an Internet toy with a positive benefit for everyone!

March 09, 2008

"Don't, Mama. I'm dreaming." So says Caitlyn to me apropos of nothing while we were at the Seattle Aquarium.

"You're what?"

"I'm DREE-ming."

"Ah," I say. "What are you dreaming about?"

A small pause, and then she answers, almost wistfully.


February 18, 2008

Caitlyn and I had our lunch outside in the garden today, all informal and picnicky, perched on the stepping stones eating our sandwiches while Wasabi took in the sun. She wanted to know if it was popsicle time yet.

We've planted the peas. Caitlyn has her own "garden", a large planter where she's put in peas and hopes for corn. She helped plant the first of the lettuce seeds, carefully sprinkling then covering and watering. I have to keep her from over-watering the beds or from digging where we've planted. Til the seeds come up, it's just so hard to remember where they are!

The narcissus are up, and I've spotted the swellings that will be flowers in another week or so, especially if this warm weather keeps up (54 and sunny today). There's a crocus blooming in the front yard, and the hellebores are in fine form. I fear I've lost the fuchsia to the several freezes we had over the winter, but I am wantonly hoping that it will leaf back out as it continues to warm up. Same case for the hyssop in the backyard. But there are buds swelling on the blueberries, new growth coming up on the chives and some of the strawberries I thought hadn't survived last summer, and an abundance of leaf buds on all three fruit trees.

Hooray for spring!

February 09, 2008

We caucused (is that a word?) today. Caitlyn thought "the tacos" was much fun. She got to sit on parental shoulders, and there was lots of applause, one of her favorite things judging from the enthusiasm with which she stopped whatever she was doing and joined in whenever she heard some.

I'd never been to a caucus before. Maybe it was the elementary school gym we were in, but it felt a bit like a pep rally: that old-gym smell, barely audible instructions, inaudible speeches, spontaneous chants. I missed the cheerleaders' dance number, which was always the best part of those rallies in high school. At least this was a more productive gathering than a pep rally. Not being a popular person or a football fan in high school, I couldn't say if all the pep generated by rival chants of "Freshmen!" and "Seniors!" had any influence on the final score of the football game that weekend. As for the caucus, I can only pray that this rally was another step toward Hope and Change for this country.

January 07, 2008

Caitlyn: one two three five six eleven twelve... one two three five six eleven twelve... (repeat, to the Sesame Street counting song tune)

Ian: Good counting, Caitlyn. That's a lot.

Caitlyn: Trees. And birds.

Ian: You're counting trees and birds?

Caitlyn: Yes. There's a lot and a lot and a lot.

Ian: Holy cow.

Caitlyn: I'm not a holy cow, I'm a sea otter.