November 30, 2010

I've been tossing a small handful of raisins on my granola in the morning. These are extra special raisins because they came from these:


The grapevine in the front yard was prolific this year. Some of the grapes became grape juice or grape jelly or grape syrup. And some of those grapes spent some time in the dehydrator transforming into these tiny, sweet-tart bundles of sunshine. Having them in the granola makes me smile at my breakfast.

November 29, 2010

I have this fantasy about melting snow:

Imagine you have some snow on the ground. Seattle snow. Midwestern snow would be too deep. Now imagine that it all melts, all at once. Instantly. Like someone used the Clapper and instead of turning on a light, all the snow was immediately liquid. Now imagine the split second when the water is all standing where the snow had been, all still and quiet, like the water's a little surprised to be Not Snow. Then, it all suddenly rushes away. It's somewhere between that Parting of the Red Sea scene in The Ten Commandments and a child's moment at the beach when that last pail of water breaches the castle wall. Or if there was a glass of water and someone shot the glass.

Yes, I realize that if snow actually melted this way, it would be A Bad Thing. Instant floods and all. But it's still kind of fun to think about...

November 24, 2010

One of the things I enjoy about a good snowfall in Seattle is how it shuts things down. We live a block off an arterial road, and when we've had a good snow fall, the volume of traffic drops significantly. There were occasional cars on it yesterday, but mostly just the big trucks interspersed with stretches of quiet. Today - probably due to the holiday since I'm not sure the road is really all that much safer - the cars and their constant hum are back.

Snow provides an excuse. I'm behind on my pre-holiday to-do list because it was important to take Caitlyn out in the snow yesterday (beautiful blue skies, a "balmy" 26 degrees F) for impromptu neighborhood sledding. When snow doesn't happen all that often, you have to make a celebration out of it. Otherwise you just end up complaining about how it's messed up your habits and your plans.

We've been below freezing since Monday; when we return to the "normal" temperatures of mid-40s, it's going to seem so warm!

November 23, 2010

A neighbor asked Caitlyn, "What were you for Halloween?"

"A princess. Fairy Princess!"

"How nice," the neighbor replied.

"Yeah, she was really scary," added Caitlyn's uncle, which inspired chuckles from the rest of us.

Caitlyn was offended. "I was not!"

"You were!" he insisted. "Some people are afraid of clowns, I'm afraid of princesses."

Caitlyn hasn't quite figured out how to tell when people are teasing her, and she doesn't know the cultural reference to coulrophobia. Someone else admitting a fear is apparently grounds for asserting superiority:

"I'm not afraid of anything!" she declared.

Everyone else thought this was hysterical, especially her parents. Caitlyn started to laugh a little, because everyone else was, but then moved to reinforce her claim, with only a slight huff in her voice:

"I'm only scared of scary things."

Which apparently includes closets but not princesses.

November 22, 2010

mmm... crabapples!

Snowy day and squirrel.

It's currently 28 degrees outside. That's also the forecast high for tomorrow...

November 21, 2010

You make me feel guilty. I didn't think people still cared anymore.
He was an older man, African-American, with a small hat and a black jacket. I wonder what his life had brought him that a few people in front of a supermarket asking for food bank donations could seem so unlikely. And I'm grateful that despite my frustrations with things in general, the specifics around me are of people who do indeed still care.

November 20, 2010

Caitlyn dreams of spelling or reading, apparently.

When I woke her up for school yesterday morning, before she got out of bed, she told me (her version was much longer than this one):

"I played this game called WordTag in my head. There were all these letters. I was pink and I ran around and put them together. Yellow wanted to break them. But if I made really long words, then Yellow couldn't. Or if there were lots of 'a's or 'the's on the ends. Those were red, the sight words (she really called them that). So pink and red could win and I like those colors, but sometimes I like yellow, too, but not then."

November 19, 2010

I'm afraid of losing my mind.

Not in the popular sense, the tossed off turn of phrase. "A clean desk is a sign of a sick mind." "Of all the things I miss, it's my mind I miss the most."

This is a fear that sometimes keeps me awake at night and the kind that can inspire nightmares. That prompts panic attacks over forgotten words and misplaced keys. That makes me ache with worry when I realize I don't like something as much now as I once did. I don't do as many "brainy" things as I used to - analyze symbolism in novels, say, or practice trigonometry - and trying to keep up with a discussion of current events or technological trends or a movie's thematic elements leaves me feeling like I've somehow missed out on the critical details everyone else found obvious. Was I merely not paying attention or are there gaps between the folds of my brain?

Two years ago this month, my father's body finally gave out. He'd developed a form of dementia in the early 1990s, when he was in his mid-forties. It changed his personality, rewrote his likes and interests, stole his words, ate his memories, paralyzed him and ultimately destroyed the part of his brain that told him to breathe. For a while, the doctors would take annual scans of his brain; every year the black spaces where there should have been something grew larger.

My father never met Caitlyn. He wasn't at our wedding. I'm not sure he was ever really clear that Ian wasn't Aaron, my sister's husband. And while he was present at my college graduation, he inspired concerned comments from my professors ("What's wrong with Christina's father?" is not what you want to hear whispered at the graduation breakfast for your department.).

After he died, we had an autopsy done on his brain and spinal column. The results lined up with medical opinions from before his death - that his form of dementia didn't bear any of the markers of being genetic. There is very little reason for me to fear that I will develop the same dementia or that I have passed it to Caitlyn and will have to watch her unravel the way I watched my father fall apart.

But logic and reason don't seem to be the loudest voices in the room. And sometimes I am so afraid, I can stand in the kitchen and watch my hands shake.

November 18, 2010

This may be the most beautiful pie I've ever made:

peach pie!

It had absolutely no structural integrity once we started cutting it, oozing peach parts and the crust sticking to the dish. But it was yummy, and really, that's all we care about, right?

November 17, 2010

Caitlyn's school issues monthly "20/20 Reading Challenges", encouraging the kids to find someone to read to them for 20 minutes for 20 days out of every month. After the post-school snack, Caitlyn and I sit down and she reads one book to me and I read two or three to her. The other day, she read I am Invited to a Party! by Mo Willems to me and I read Three Little Kittens, One Smart Cookie (which I think is cute but she thinks is boring), and The Adventure to her.

Later, while I was attempting to find a quiet moment on the couch with my own book (City of Bones at the moment), Caitlyn perched on the other end of the couch with a book she's been "reading" for a couple of years now. I don't know why she chose it, but a year or more ago she picked up Joshua from the shelves in the living room. She will sit with it and turn the pages, then put a bookmark in it and put it back on the shelf; later, she'll come back and "read" some more from where she "left off". It's a novel, with no pictures, and I'm impressed that she's stuck with it.

Late last week, she finished Joshua and started in on the sequel, Joshua and the Children. So there we were, on opposite ends of the couch, both of us with our books. She turns the pages slowly, and she has started whisper-sounding out a few words on the page before she turns it. Then she looks up and says, "Mama, look how much I've read. I've read from Chapter Three to Chapter Six. Did you know this book has 36 chapters? Isn't that a lot? Do you want to see how much I've read?"

I have a bookworm in training. Mama is so proud.

November 15, 2010

Back in the spring, I spent a Saturday making Traditional Cheddar. Apparently, I didn't document the experience, and I don't seem to have a clear memory about it. It took all day, but most hard cheese do.

Six months later, I opened it up for tacos last week and discovered My Best Hard Cheese Yet. The other cheeses, the gouda, the jack, the colby - they each came out ok, if harder and drier and sharper than expected. But the cheddar Actually Tastes Like Cheddar! I'm rather pleased about that.

So the plan for next spring is to make as many batches of Traditional Cheddar as I can shoehorn into the calendar. This will allow me to practice and hopefully improve the technique a bit so that when I try a different cheese - the Jack again perhaps - I'll have some sort of baseline to start from. Besides, it's hard to have too many rounds of cheddar on hand.

The big maple across the street has dropped all its leaves and the smaller maple our front(different variety, flame perhaps?) is a brilliant gold. Though I will be a bit surprised tomorrow if there are any leaves left on it, given the way the wind has been tearing down the walk beside the house. Caitlyn found a leaf ("Mama! Look at this leaf! Isn't it huge? I'm going to put it here, where I hide things on the porch!") in the time it took to cross the street from the bus stop. After school, we sat in the kitchen, ate pumpkin muffins, and watched the neighbors' St. Francis, visible on his fence-perch from our kitchen window, bowing to the remaining leaves as they hurried by: Good-bye! See you in the Spring!

November 12, 2010

I finished this over the summer, much to the consternation of the other parents observing at circus class - how could I stand to be working on a quilt in the summer, when it was hot?!? Of course, then I forgot to photograph it and then I wasn't blogging much...

Anyway, here's how my second quilt repair project turned out:

Now that it's raining and chilly, it's now totally acceptable for me to be working on a quilt while Caitlyn's circus-ing. I finished the other one that's been in progress forever yesterday - photos to come next time the sun comes out and the light is decent. Next up, a skirt, a quilt, a dress, another skirt, another quilt, repeat.

November 09, 2010

Evenings can be kind of stressful for me. There's the getting dinner together (which sometimes starts right after lunch), getting Caitlyn home and doing the after-school routine, then eating and cleaning and prepping lunch for the next day, all before bedtime. I'm wearing down at this point and want nothing more than quiet and maybe a cup of tea; Caitlyn is getting increasingly crazy as the evening goes on, babbling and dancing and interrupting and fidgeting. She interprets things as narrowly as possible, so that telling her to stop sitting on the radiator also requires telling her to stop leaning on it, stop touching it, move away from it. It's not a combination that's inherently peaceful.

This evening, while in the making-tomorrow's-lunch phase of the routine, Caitlyn, while standing on a stool, facing sideways and wiggling to whatever dance beat was in her head, placed her sandwich halves on top of the baggies, instead of inside them. Then she dismounted from the stool and gyrated her way to the towel on the fridge. This looked to me like forgetfulness and a lack of focus. (She said later that she wanted to wipe her hands on the towel since Ian had been telling her to stop wiping them on her pants.) And since I was in the "just get it done already" frame of mind and since we'd already told her several times to be less crazy, I asked her what she was doing and why were her sandwiches not in their bags and what was the matter with her pants that she kept grabbing at them?

She burst into tears, screamed "You don't understand me at all!" and ran out of the room.

Frankly, I was hoping for another six or seven years before hearing that one. Does this mean the teen drama has started at age five? Or that, God willing, she'll get it all out of her system before she's twelve?

November 08, 2010

November 07, 2010

I've given up waiting for the first light frost I thought I was waiting for and put the plot in the p-patch to bed for the winter. One last weeding, tucking in the garlic and asparagus under a mulch of maple leaves, raking in a sowing of cover-crop seeds (thanks to Celeste!). Maybe I misread the how-to sheet that came with my garlic, but I thought I needed to wait for a light frost before putting the garlic in; now I'm wondering if I misremembered, putting in the garlic three weeks late. The cover-crop labeling certainly seemed to think we were late. Oh, well.

Anyway, this means that the garden and the p-patch, with the exception of some carrots and kale in the backyard, are shut down for the winter. I'll pull carrots as we need them or after their greens freeze (although I suppose if I pull them just before a freeze, I can donate the greens to the rabbits across the alley); I'm not sure if we'll get any of the kale since it is being thoroughly consumed by something else. I keep thinking that whatever it is will stop eating the kale once the weather gets cold enough and since kale is cold-hardy, it will bounce back and we'll have kale enough come March. But perhaps the hungry critter is cold-hardy, too...

It's been startlingly warm over the last week. I expect it won't last. In fact, Caitlyn and I read the week's forecast this morning after breakfast, Caitlyn interpreting the rainy icons and reading the high temperature numbers. NOAA has since revised our expected highs down to "high 40s" all week. I'm ready to turn inward and do inside things for a while, I think. Check in with me in January and see if I'm over-eager for spring.

November 06, 2010

I am uncertain of my relationship with the notion of "childhood". There seems to be this pervasive contemporary cultural sense that children should be protected and sheltered from all sorts of things, and that childhood is a time of magical, blissful ignorance. And while it's certainly too true that there are American children (and others, too) who face too much too soon - hunger, poverty, abuse, homelessness, disease, etc - there are plenty who are indulged and coddled and sheltered from the burden of Responsibility for far too long. I have no problem with kids believing in the Tooth Fairy, or any faerie for that matter; I have huge problems with behaviors that are brushed off as "that's just how kids are" by so-called Responsible Adults.

We have generally had a habit of taking Caitlyn with us where ever we go, even when she was much younger. The idea has been that kids should be part of community and society and not exiled to some special area where they are insulated from everything. If you want a child that can not be a terror in a restaurant, then you have to teach restaurant behavior. Yes, it's challenging; yes, it's easier to say "oh, he's only three" when your kid wants to paint the table with the ketchup or experiment with different pitched screams. But then you have a kid who doesn't know where the boundaries of polite behavior are and you're that parent that has no authority. What are you going to do when you need that authority when he's twelve?

We take Caitlyn with us to restaurants that are not kid-themed and require that she stay in her seat. She's been a regular attendee at office parties since she could walk, including those at a favorite pub and the big holiday gatherings. By taking her along and sticking to our expectations of good behavior, we now have a kindergartner we can take almost anywhere.

To test this theory, the three of us attended Caitlyn's first live concert last night. A friend of ours plays second violin in the Lake Union Civic Orchestra, and they opened their 2010-2011 concert season with a Beethoven/Shostakovich combination. Caitlyn did very well, I think, even if she found it hard to stay still through the second symphony and spent much of it with her ears covered (it has some very loud parts).

She said today that she liked the violins and the cellos, which we had a good view of. The conductor's coat tails flapped in fun ways and she liked how he waved his baton. Afterward, Caitlyn had good questions for Mel about how to understand what the conductor meant. During the bit before when everyone warms up and tunes, the tuba player did some of that off stage, down in the seating area, which meant we got a good look at his tuba and got to experience some fun acoustics that made it sound like he was behind us although he was clearly in front of us (curved ceiling).

Could we have waited to take her to a symphonic concert? Sure. This time, though, she had a friend up there on stage to make the experience more accessible. Someone she could watch and ask questions of afterward. And maybe, just maybe, I have successfully shared my fondness for Beethoven's symphonies with my daughter in ways besides "Beethoven's Wig".

November 05, 2010

Big shout out to our neighborhood's park's maintenance crew, who has left a huge pile of leaves in the park across the street from us. I don't know if they planned this deliberately for the enjoyment of the neighborhood's kids or if they've just gotten busy elsewhere. Doesn't matter, and I don't care - this pile has been leapt in, rolled in, scuffed through, thrown in all directions both before and after school, and will be one of Caitlyn's favorite fall memories for at least the next 12 months.

November 03, 2010

A new project:

Or maybe I'll start with this one:

I may do some prep for a few more before I actually get started sewing anything. I've got the sewing table at it's "tall" setting which makes cutting so much easier. Or maybe I should move all the other stuff off the table so it isn't so blastedly difficult to adjust when I need it.

November 02, 2010

At the risk of offending someone:

It's election day. I'm "watching" returns by refreshing and refreshing four or five news sites. It's depressing. And it's frustrating.

On the radio today, there was yet another bit of predictive reporting, detailing how the Democrats were going to lose their majorities to conservatives who have campaigned on undoing everything from the past two years. Conservatives who are endlessly in favor of reducing government, reducing taxes. This story was immediately followed by a conversation with someone from the Army Corps of Engineers concerning the weak and damaged status of many river levees in Washington state.

My takeaway: Our physical infrastructure is falling apart. The levees are likely to fail in even a minor flood event (and the forecasters are talking up a wet and crazy winter for the Pacific Northwest, so it seems likely that something, somewhere is going to flood). We have floating bridges that need to be replaced before they up and sink. There's a viaduct that very likely will fall down should we have an earthquake of any significance. Not to mention roads and schools and law enforcement and libraries that all need help and attention.

That's just here, in the Puget Sound area. I'd bet that this situation isn't confined to or unique to us. I'd bet every place around the country has a similar list, and a similarly deficient budget.

And what have we, as a country done today? Stood with the folks who want reduce government spending. Turned down reasonable propositions for expanding government revenue sources.

You just can't starve the civic structure and then expect it to take care of you. When the infrastructure fails and lives are lost and millions and billions of dollars in property and businesses are lost and there's an enormous cleanup to do and to fund, I'll be over here, saying "I told you so."

November 01, 2010

Well, that seems appropriate, somehow. I've finally come back to writing here and Uncommon Grace (a crafty writing mama with great photos!) mentions that she's doing NoBloPoMo. (I first heard of it on Grace's site a year ago, I think.) There's a challenge: can I find something to say every day for a month? More interesting, I think: if I succeed with November, will the habit stay with me?

I blog for a couple of reasons. I have a far-flung collection of family members and friends, and it's nice to be able to post things about what I'm working on and what Caitlyn's up to so those who want to follow along are able to do so. It's also a creative outlet, one of many, since I apparently need lots. This past summer got so busy at times (ok, all the time) that lots of my projects got neglected (sewing, writing, recreational cooking); the lack of creative outlet time made me rather habitually cranky. Blessings upon my family for keeping me, anyway.

Not to say that it wasn't a fun summer. We did some great things and I hope to post at least one or two representative pictures at some point. But sometimes it's necessary to stop doing outward-facing things. And I know that I'm much happier having spent a good chunk of time on Sunday wading around in my fabric stash with no particular timeline or agenda. No dress or backpack to make, no gifts to assemble on a deadline.

Maybe I was ready for fall back in July or August. There's something about the return of the rains (almost 2 inches today!) that inspire things like tea and soup and books and staying home and working on projects. Now that the rain is back, I'm enjoying all four.