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April 2009

What happens when...

Yesterday I asked V if there was anything she was interested in learning more about. She said yes, kittens. So I asked her if she had any questions about kittens and she said yes, she had five questions. I wrote them down for her.

  1. What happens when I'm gentle to a kitten?
  2. What happens when I eat a Rice Krispy Treat and a kitten eats cat food and drinks water?
  3. What happens when a kitten wants to play and I'm throwing it to a kitten?
  4. What happens when a kitten wants the light and I turn the light on?
  5. What happens when a kitten wants to smell some catnip plant?

She wanted to start with the first question, so I asked her if she could think of a way that we could find out what happens when she's gentle with a kitten and that's when she went looking for sweet, long-suffering Grace, V's best friend.

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V petted and hugged on Grace for a while and decided that when she's gentle to a kitten, the kitten will purr and snuggle up next to her. I wrote that down.

For the second question, she decided she could ask me what happens when a kitten eats cat food and drinks water, so I told her the very basics of digestion, which brought up a lot more fun questions.

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After that she wanted to be a kitty cat and play with the cat toy (the best cat toy in the world, by the way - get one before they're gone. They last forever.), so we left the rest of the questions for another day.

I hope this is the beginning of what will turn into project-based homeschooling with V. I'm never sure if I'm doing it right, but practically everything I know about it I learned from Lori at the fabulous Camp Creek Blog, should you be interested in reading more.


Please join me in Gayle & ELK's Pet Parade! It's the perfect day for a parade!

Beautiful blue

I'm such a procrastinator. By that I mean that I have not unpacked a box in at least a week - and probably two weeks before that. Until this morning, that is.

This morning I unpacked a box with a few of my favorite things. Wind chimes to go outside. My favorite photo of a cat I used to have. And this tiny pot.

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I got it at an estate sale about 12 years ago. It doesn't say who made it and it's not really big enough for much, but I love it. Maybe I'll plant one of those miniature African Violets in it and see if I can keep it alive for more than a month.

Unless you have a better suggestion for a very small plant that's quite unkillable?

Oh, hail no

Ok, that title totally makes me laugh. I had to use it.

Today, as we often do, V and I played in the yard. I sat beneath the dogwood tree while the flowers fell like a very light snow. V raked leaves with her new pink rake.

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I don't sew (yet) and these pants aren't handmade (they are hand-me-downs, though), but pants that look like this make me want to start sewing. Really bad. Every time I see a post from SouleMama about sewing, I get the itchy fingers.

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Whenever she finds leaves on the ground, V asks me if it's fall yet. Today I told her, honey, it's not even summer yet. You just wait and see how hot it's going to get and then tell me how excited you are when fall finally gets here!

She loves throwing leaves in the air.

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And then she has bits of them in her hair until I brush them out, sometimes longer.

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But that's ok; it's worth it.

We saw Mr. Fuzzy Caterpillar on our way back inside. He looked to me like he was getting a bit toasty in the sun, so I tossed him into the grass.

I hope I didn't ruin all his work getting up those stairs. There are a lot of stairs.

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In Georgia, I've heard many a person say, if you don't like the weather, just hang around five minutes and it will change. Same is said in Florida.

Well, right as V was about to get into bed tonight, we had a storm. The light was weird in the way that it is when you know it's not just rain that's about to come down.

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We got hail. Lots of it.

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It pelted the few poor plants I have on the back porch. Not very nice, is that?

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R braved the storm to grab some so V could see and touch it - and eat it, apparently, because that's the first thing she did when she got her little kitty paws on a hailstone - she popped it right into her mouth, quick as you can blink.

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By the time the storm was over, the flowers on the dogwood tree were decimated. I can't bear to post that here, but you can take a look if you must.

Life is never dull, is it?

And thanks to everyone who left me wonderfully encouraging comments on my last post. It always makes my day to hear from you. Always, always.


I'm Spent. There, I admit it.

The past several months - actually the past four years - have been exhausting. We've moved a lot. We've had disappointments and setbacks. And just when I thought there were blue skies with big, white fluffy clouds ahead, another road block.

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Along the way (thanks to Gwyneth's Goop), I picked up a book called Spent: End Exhaustion and Feel Great Again. When I read the symptoms of Spent, I said, yes, that's me. I feel like I could go to sleep for the night at around 4pm every day (though I don't seem to get there until midnight). My whole body hurts. I lack motivation to do things I really want to do. And I can't take it anymore.

So what am I doing about it? The first thing is that I'm overhauling my diet and losing some weight. I'm not following the program in Spent by itself, I'm sort of mixing it up with things I've read in another book called Eat to Live.

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While Eat to Live isn't for everybody, I think it's a good, healthy way to lose a lot of weight quickly. I've followed the program before and I know that it works. I know that it will lower my blood pressure and cholesterol and clear my head. I know that its claim to "lose 20 pounds or more in 6 weeks" is not an over promise. I know that I never felt better in my life than when I was eating all those fruits and veggies and healthy fats. My problem is sticking with it for the long haul - try and wish as I might, I'm no vegan. But I can pretend for 6-8 weeks while I figure out what to do next.

I call it my Salads as Big as Your Head Diet.

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And I am feeling better. I started last Monday and I've lost 8 pounds. And I just feel better. Not perfect, but a very definite improvement. My brain's not so cloudy. I have more energy. I feel more positive and happier. It's such a relief, I can't tell you. But I still have a long way to go. This week, I'm going to start on some of the principles outlined in Spent. I'm going to move more. I'm going to relax more. I'm thinking about how I can find my balance.

One thing that's difficult about it is feeding V. She likes a good salad - occasionally - but I find that I'm feeding her other things that I don't think are quite so good for her just because they're quick and easy. She doesn't like a lot of vegetables right now, though I continue to put them on her plate. She's beginning to flirt with cauliflower, if only because she likes the way it sounds when she says it.

So I need more recipes we all can eat. I have some good resources, but I need more.

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V and I used to bake something once a week and I wanted to start that up again now that we're in the new house. I'm looking for healthier things to make so we can still enjoy cooking together, but I get to have a little taste too. This week we made Yummy Banana-Oat Bars (click here and scroll down just a bit for the recipe).

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We used Craisins instead of raisins and it was a tasty treat.

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So I've started working on our diet and this week I'll be working on moving and relaxing more, but there is a third part to the plan - the part where I both learn to do something I've always wanted to do and use my new-found skill try to replace some of the income I lost. I've never had a job before that I loved with my whole heart, but I'm hoping this is it. I'll talk more about that in a few weeks.

If you've gotten this far, I thank you for sticking with me. I try to make a pretty blog, but real life isn't always sunshine and kittens. I do what I can to make it so. My question for you is - are you Spent? I certainly hope not, but I have the sneaking suspicion that I'm not alone in this. Is there anything you're doing about it? Got any veggie-centric recipes or websites for me? I'd love to hear from you.

Underneath the dogwood

We have a dogwood tree in our backyard. It's not one of those full and lovely ones - it's too tall and spindly.

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It looks like it may be dying. Nearly as tall as the house, there are no blooms on the top third of it.

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But underneath the dogwood tree is pretty nice.

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From the ground, you can't see the ailing top branches.

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And the bark is pretty, as are the flowers against the clouds in the blue sky.

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We're having just about perfect weather here lately, aside from a few thunderstorms and tornado watches. It stormed last night and today looks gray so far.

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But I think V and I will go outside and enjoy the day anyway. She never minds the gray, and neither do I.

It's just half full

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A sweet moment in my home:

V was taking a bubble bath after her daily romp in the mud and I was hanging out with her, knitting. She was playing with a cup, filling it with with water and pouring it out. While I was concentrating on my cable row, I realized she was talking to herself about how the cup was half full. Then she said to me, "Mama, is the cup half full?" I looked and told her that it was.

Then I asked her what she would have to do to make the cup half empty.

She filled it all the way with water and asked me if it was half empty. I told her no, it wasn't; it was completely full. So she emptied it and filled it halfway and pronounced it half full. I said, "Yes, but is it half empty?" She said "No, it's just half full."

I could work on thinking more like that myself.

Happy weekend! I have no idea what we're doing this weekend - it's a wonderfully blank canvas. What about you?

The Battle of Kettle Creek

I was never much for history class. I don't think I ever made better than a C in any history class I ever took. Who wants to read about history in a textbook? So dry, so boring, completely sleep inducing.

I always thought I hated history, but it turns out that I don't. I love history. But I'm way behind. My plan to catch up is to learn it along with V. And to find different ways to make history feel alive for her and not mind-numbingly boring.

I've decided to stop at roadside historical sites whenever possible. While I have no way of knowing how she'll feel about it when she's older, I think they're really interesting. Hopefully she will too. Back in January I slammed on my brakes and quickly veered off the main road to take in the Kettle Creek Battleground in Wilkes County, Georgia.

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Often these roadside historical sites are down little dirt roads that aren't always well maintained. I think this adds to the fun (except when I drive around for half an hour and never find the site!).

I like to roll down the window and feel the history.

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I look at the old trees, left to their own devices, and wonder about the stories they could tell.

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Colonel Elijah Clarke was one of the men who fought at the Revolutionary War Battle of Kettle Creek on February 14, 1779. Later, nearby Clarke County (now Athens-Clarke County) was named for him, and details of his life were one of the sources used in creating Mel Gibson's character in The Patriot.

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So what is it about these places? Is it me or the place? Because I swear things feel different here.

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I think part of it is knowing Something Happened here. And part of it is that there was no one here but me that day. V was with her daddy, so I was alone. I'm not often completely alone.

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I'm not used to that feeling of being alone outside. It's pleasant at first, but it eventually puts me on edge, makes me feel vulnerable.

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It was so quiet there, so still. The sun was about to set and there was no one there but me and a few revolutionary spirits.

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I felt that I could almost hear the battle cry, almost see the blood in the dirt. I felt the history there and it surely felt alive.

Easter morning

Oh how I love the squeals of delight!

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And bedhead on Easter morning!

Not to mention all the super saturated color.

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And her favorite chocolate bunny.

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But most of all, I love spending time with my family and taking photos that show me just a glimpse of the future. This is one of those photos that seems to give me a clue what V will look like when she's older. Don't grow up too fast, V! For now, I'll cherish the often muddy kidlet with a mouth crammed full of chocolate and jellybeans.

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I hope you had a happy Easter as well.

Strewing words

Since we've moved in and I found our set of Melissa and Doug's Alphabet Magnets I've been strewing words for V daily.

Sometimes she walks into the kitchen and reads the word or phrase right away (recent ones: home, love cat, silly rabbit), sometimes she doesn't notice at all and will start playing with the letters herself, and sometimes she'll ask me what the word is. This morning, she asked me about this word.

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She was in the mood for more, so we talked about how funny it is that gh makes f. It made us laugh. Then I made another gh makes f word.

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Next, she usually wants to find out what happens when you add or subtract letters. We both think this is fantastic fun. This one made us "co-laugh."

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Sometimes she spells words all on her own. She knows a few, but coming right up is her most recent favorite.

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Lately, she pretends she's a kitty cat every day, pretty much all day long.

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She calls herself an indoor/outdoor kitty who likes to take baths.

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From there we just play until she gets bored of the letters.

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Then she's off, meowing about the house.

Your best advice

I loved reading your comments to my post about losing my job - really cheered me up to hear from you! I thought I'd put everyone's ideas together here. I'm also making my own plan, which I will post as soon as possible just in case it'd be helpful to anyone else.

Many of you - Natalie, Monkey's Momma, Alex, Toni, Amy, Lisa, Elizabeth, Kim, and Jessica - say to breathe, relax, and/or reflect. I figure if everyone says it, it must work.

NON-Superwoman - says that trusting that your gifts and talents will make room for you and offer an opportunity that affords you to stick to your homeschooling commitment. That sounds good to me! I'm trying to keep an open mind so that I can recognize opportunities that might come my way.

Sharanya says to pray and keep faith. Doing that, for sure.

Lindy says just remember what's important to you and keep your eyes on the goal post - this too shall pass. True, that. And I'm looking forward to when it passes!

Amy says know that you're not alone. Oh how I know this to be true. That's what makes me worry most - the whole it's going to get worse before it gets better cliche.

Allison says to remember that your family is precious and worth every challenge you go through to keep it stable, safe and happy. Absolutely. I'd be nowhere without them.

Jen says surround yourself with things and people that make you happy. If you can't do that everywhere, create a corner where the breeze can flow, where the colors saturate, and where you can stop for a minute and drink in the beauty of the crazy, complicated mess of nonsense that is life. I happen to think that the crazy, complicated mess of nonsense is beautiful. Really I do. More about this later - my thoughts are still brewing.

Toni says a glass of wine and long walks. I think I could use a bit more of both.

Kim says removing yourself from a potentially volatile situation and spending time in your room/sitting in your favorite chair knitting, knitting, knitting. I like this because it's realistic advice - it can be so very easy to take your stress out on your kids or other loved ones. But it feels rotten and doesn't solve any problems really. Occasionally, I'll have V hang out in her room and play or read or watch a video so that I can get 15-30 minutes to chill out. Makes us both happier and I can get my head right so I can get back to giving her the attention she needs.

Alex says to make lists and think in simple terms - seeing the positive in our lives (love, health, closeness of our family, etc). Definitely. I think that when people feel stuck in a situation it very often leads to depression. I have felt myself slipping into that but I really don't want to go there. It's good to remind yourself of the good things in your life so you can readjust your outlook.

Gayle says don't worry about what might be around the bend. Stay in the present. That can be really hard to do, but very, very helpful when you accomplish it.

Kristen says exercise really helps with working off steam. Yes - it's one part of keeping yourself sane in good times and bad. I need more exercise. That's going into the plan.

Michelle says to take this time to reflect on what you really want to do -- maybe it's your photographs! :). This bump in the road will prove to be a blessing someday. Just trust it! This is also going into the plan. More later.

Jessica says drive while listening to the radio loud while crying and laughing. This is something I used to do a lot. It's harder now with V, but not impossible. And my singing always sounds better in the car. Ha.

BlushingInk says that sometimes getting out of town for a few days makes you realize how good you  have it back home - but I think she may have had an ulterior motive there when she went on to suggest I go to Louisiana later this month and photograph her wedding! It's tempting - it'd be my first wedding, which I'd love to try, but I'm not sure I'm ready for that kind of responsibility.

Julia says to concentrate on what you CAN do right now and not think too much about all the things that are out of your control. That's just the thing - feeling out of control is what brings all those irrational thoughts into my brain. That's where the lists Alex suggested might come in handy - writing down concrete things I can actually accomplish so that my thinking is less scattered and I can see positive results when I cross things off the list.

To add to these, I find that it helps me to:

Give myself permission to worry. I'm a worrier from way back. For several years, I've felt that I had an increasing number of things to worry about. It can feel like an avalanche sometimes. I've come to realize that if I give myself permission to worry instead of making myself feel guilty about it, I worry less and when I do worry, it's not as stressful. Does that make sense? Works for me.

I also try to swing the opposite way and refuse to worry when we are spending fun time together as a family. V doesn't need to go to the park and have me stand over in the corner biting my nails. No, she needs me to be in her face with the camera as she's sliding down the big kid's slide. Right?!

Watch mindless TV, knit, or read a favorite book. Everybody needs a cheap escape.

Soon I want to write about the plan I'm hatching. It's not a "how I'm going to replace my lost income" plan, but more of a "how I'm going to find balance in my life" plan. I haven't laid it all out yet, but that's what I plan to work on this week. I'm looking forward to seeing how it looks on paper.

Rural decay

I think that if I'd had someone with me, I might have had the courage to go inside, but certainly not through the front door.

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Now I'm kicking myself for not getting closer to this door to peek inside.

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Of course there are signs all around saying not to trespass, but they look more like they're to keep hunters out and off the surrounding property.

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Surely a photo or two wouldn't have hurt.

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What do you think? Too dangerous to go inside? Or would you be as adventurous as I'd like to be?

Mud pie, with dandelion

V made dinner all by herself this afternoon. Yep.

She made me a mud pie, with dandelion.

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And with that, a spot of sweetmud rain tea.

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It's been raining a lot here lately, in more ways than one.

While I'm very pleased that the lakes and rivers in Georgia are much higher than I've seen them in a couple of years, it's really very sucky to lose your job. It was a part-time, work at home job as an editor for a Christian ministry that I held for almost five years. They are millions of dollars behind on their donations.

Also, a family member's pay has been cut in an effort to keep the company in business through this chaos and that person is coming to live in our basement for a while. A few months ago that was us. Though I'm worried about pretty much everything these days, I am happy that we are able to offer the space.

R and I are dedicated to each other, dedicated to me staying home with V, dedicated to homeschooling her. We may have to roll up our sleeves and get our hands a bit more dirty than usual, but that's okay.

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We must continue to keep our chins up and remember the important things.

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We must bloom where we're planted. We must not waste what we have, this life we have. We must keep calm and carry on.

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And you, dear and gentle reader, do you have any keeping calm and carrying on tips for me? I would love to hear them. Or if you need to share the rain falling in your own life, please feel free. We're all in this thing together, aren't we?

The Welcome Table

There are many churches in the South that have picnic tables out in the churchyard for gatherings. They're made of granite, with a giant slab for the tabletop.

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These aren't that old, but you can find them much older if you drive around in the country for a little while. I'm thinking of starting a photographic collection of them.

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My question to you is - what about the rest of the country? And if you live in a country besides the US, what about there? Is this a common sight in your neck of the woods?