Saturday, September 29, 2007

More about the Harvest Festival

I told the fairy tale version of the harvest festival below, I now realize. I love my cousin Annie's mommy blog as she is willing to tell the good, the bad and the ugly side of her life. It is so reassuring to read about someone else's baby poop fiascos or early-riser/short-napper/late-to-bedder triple whammy. So in that spirit, here are some more details from the harvest festival.

So I was excited to hang out with Lucy and her kindergarten class for the whole morning. I'd never done that before. Granted, they were not doing any of the usual things since it was a special festival day, but I was still looking forward to it. And it was fun. But kindergartners are an interesting breed. I couldn't be a kindergarten teacher - I'm too sensitive and take things personally and they are a fairly brutal lot. At one point, teacher Mary gave me the highly undesirable task of policing the swings. Basically making sure that each child swang for only a few minutes, that no one jumped ahead in line, etc. Most of the kids are fairly civilized about this. They take turns and they wait in line, standing on a row of stumps. But one girl just stared at me as I asked her to relinquish the swing to the next person in line. Her look said "who are you and why should I do anything you say?" I got as creative as I could, tempting her with other activities and she eventually got off. One boy wouldn't get off the swing. He had run on, completely bypassing the line, and then I held the string of the swing and tried to entice him into getting in line, a real winner of a proposition. He wouldn't get off; a whole crew of children are watching the drama unfold. Defeated, I eventually had to go get one of the teachers who in about one second got the fellow back into line, so to speak. Very humbling.

Then there was Lucy who coudn't get her groove on, apparently. She had three meltdowns in the first hour or so - she lost her special stick, she hit herself in the face with a glass jar as she was making cream, and she bonked herself in the head somehow another time. Each time, tears ensued and much mama comforting was required. And then the rest of the day, Lucy didn't really seem to engage in the way I see her engage during playdates or imagined that she did during school. Friends would look for her and want to play, but it just didn't take off, and I'd see her later way up in a tree by herself. Teacher Mary later told me that Lucy is usually much more integrated with other children and generally had a much different gestalt with me there then she usually has. I am relieved, but also kind of surprised that my presence at school (which I tried to keep low-key) impacted her so much.

Finally, towards the end of the truly lovely harvest feast at the big red tables outside, with all the children happily munching on dragon bread, sipping the last of their cider, or scraping out their bowl of vegetable soup, I hear teacher Mary say "Hannah just threw up." And indeed a glance towards the table revealed a pile of puke in front the tiny sweet girl. Talk about keeping it real.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Harvest Festival at Kinderhaus

Today was Harvest Festival in Lucy's kindergarten. Only parents of the older children are invited to participate in this event, under the careful, loving orchestration of the teachers. Days in advance, the children bring organic vegetables, which teacher Mary transforms into a delicious vegetable soup. The other class makes a bread shaped like a dragon. Much of the morning of the harvest festival, the children are participating in the preparations for the harvest feast. They "churn" cream into butter in glass jars - this definitely should be tried at home! The butter it yields is the most delicious I've tasted! They help cut the apples to be pressed into apple cider. They create garlands made from chestnuts, fruit and flowers to hang from a long ribbon over the tables. The tables are covered in red cloth and set. Just as the children sat down at their places, the sun burst from behind the clouds right on their faces. They held hands and sang the usual grace:
For the golden corn and the apples on the trees
For the golden butter and the honey from the bees
For fruits and nuts and berries we gather on our way
We praise our loving Mother Earth
And thank her every day.
Blessings on our meal and
Peace be on the Earth.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Baltimore and Balls

Those are pictures our friend Matt took on an outing to a local farm. This outing was the first episode of a five-day father-free adventure the kids and I had. Rob went to Baltimore for a conference on Saturday morning and came back last night (Wednesday night). I was tired today in the way I imagine I might be if I'd run a marathon yesterday. Solo parenting for five days is a little like a marathon, even though I had help from many quarters. Jennifer and John hosted me and the kids for dinner on Sunday. Betsy hiked with Jasper and me on Tuesday. Grandma Gloria took a stint with Lucy and helped me with the bedtime routine on Tuesday.

Highlights of our father free time:
Lucy and Sophia playing with pumpkins as you can see above. They did this for at least an hour. And Jasper falling asleep in my arms as we took the hayride. So sweet!

Having some lovely grown-up time, including delicious dinner and wine, at my friends' Jennifer and John's house on Sunday night while the kids played.

Spending Monday afternoon with the kids at a wetland up in Snohomish County (north of here). During our walk on a boardwalk through the wetland, Jasper sidled up to Lucy and asked her to hold his hand. Watching them from behind as they walked along holding hands, on a warm afternoon, through a huge grassy bog with no buildings in sight was heavenly.

I went to sleep cuddled next to Lucy every night and stayed in her bed all night, except when Jasper needed me. Lucy never comes to our bed any more and Rob usually puts her to bed, so I really appreciated this time with her. And truthfully, I don't like to sleep alone...

And the biggest highlight of all: getting the call from Rob on Wednesday night that his plane had landed in Seattle. Yeah!

Balls - coinciding with Rob's departure, Jasper became attached to a few of his balls. He has even slept with a ball each of the last three or four nights. And he frequently carries a ball around with him. This all calls to mind a little boy I saw at a friends' house years ago who had a "special saw" he carried with him everywhere. And Jasper frequently asks me or Lucy or Rob to play a "football game" or soccer or volleyball or basketball or a baseball game with him. All of these "games" look exactly the same except for basketball which requires that one of the players holds a small wicker basket into which the other player attempts to throw his ball. Jen tried to offer Jasper a fuzzy cuddly soft ball, but he seems to prefer his hard orange plastic one or the yellow tennis ball we found at the park, gulp...

Rob bathed the kids tonight while I typed this and for that I am so, so grateful.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Lucy's Song

Lucy composed this song while she was swinging on the playset by herself. The main refrain is "She's walking a-radiay..." Lucy tells me that walking a-radiay means walking her scarves around. Hmmm...

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Summer is Over

While it isn't officially fall yet, fall weather is definitely upon us here in Seattle. It is hard to believe we spent a warm sunny Sunday playing on the beach with our friends the Sagers ten days ago. That might have been summer's last gasp. Here is the evidence.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Two Miracles

Today Lucy washed dishes for the very first time. Not standing by me, dumping water and playing with bubbles while I wash dishes, but actually picking up a cloth and scrubbing each of the dirty dishes until it sparkled, then handing it to me for rinsing. I didn't even ask her to do it. I honestly thought this day might never come.

Second miracle -- Jasper ate at least 1/4 cup of sauteed shiitake mushrooms at dinner tonight. Again, I didn't even offer them to him, he just asked what it was in the pan and then started eating.

We've all been enjoying raw milk from a nearby farm. It is the most delicious nectar I've ever tasted and Lucy and Jasper who usually are not that interested in cow's milk, love it.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

On Jasper's Mind

#1 - Hornbills
We saw hornbills at the zoo a few days ago. One was jumping on a branch.

#2 - The pieces of apple he put in his teacup. Today we had our first parent-toddler class meeting at Seattle Waldorf School (same school Lucy goes to). The children all sit down at a table together with the teacher for a snack. It is quite charming to see a group of 1 - 2 yr olds sitting down to have a snack and tea together. Many occurrences such as apple pieces in teacups ensue...

#3 - The fish pond that had been at the school last May when we went there for May Faire and its absence today.

#4 - The ice cream store we went to in Port Townsend last week. One of the last things he said to me tonight was "ice cream store."

#5 - Airplanes and gliders. I don't think these items ever stray far from his consciousness.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A New Kind of Day Plus Lucy's School Plus My New Obsession

This is a new kind of day for me already here at 7:48 am. As Rob and I were lounging in bed this morning at around 6:30 am, we heard little footsteps in the dining room and, lo and behold, Lucy had padded to the table and was waiting for breakfast. This NEVER has happened before in my memory. She was hungry and eager to get to school. Meanwhile Jasper, who I'd nursed at 4:30 am, is still asleep as I type. Another rare occurrence. And today Rob took Lucy to school and Grandma Gloria is going to pick her up. Jasper and I are going to go hiking with Meta and Kate. Jasper never has playdates of his own without bigger kids so this will be a first too. Hopefully this will be our Tuesday routine and I think I'm going to like it.

Speaking of routines, maybe it is because Lucy and I are not so naturally good at creating routines that we each seem to find a great deal of comfort in the routines of Lucy's school life. Yesterday, teacher Mary gave us a handout with a list of the activities for each day of the week. I love to read this list and Lucy loves to hear it read. Today Lucy and her class will take a walk to Good Shepherd's park, return to school and have a snack of organic oatmeal with lots of butter and maple syrup, have circletime (this usually involves a story or a song or a puppet show), play and do beeswax modelling, clean up and then have lunch. This is kindergarten. No math, no reading, no writing, no days of the week or time-telling. Just variations on the themes of play, clean up, and snack. We will see where it all leads.

Lastly on my mind this morning, I love to study nutrition and I think I am going to pursue a degree in microbiology so that I can really go deep into understanding how our bodies interact with food. This will come as a surprise to no one who knows me... I am almost always learning about some new dietary philosophy and I've circled back to one I used to read about and I am so into it that I'm going to write about a few of the principles here. The source is the Weston A. Price Foundation. Weston A. Price was a dentist who studied the diets of healthy traditional populations around the world and came to some interesting conclusions. The conclusions totally suit the way I prefer to eat, but all the science behind it seems to jive too. Plus it flies in the face of conventional "wisdom" and what the government says to do, which is usually a good selling point for me.

For starters, we should eat no refined or processed foods, particularly no corn syrup, white flour or hydrogenated oils. Secondly, that to be healthy we must eat properly raised animal products including fish and shellfish, birds, red meat, eggs, dairy - particularly focussing on the fatty parts such as organ meats, liver oils, butter and cream. All of the fat-reduced or fat-free dairy products are also under the category of refined and not whole foods, and therefore are not good for us. To properly absorb all the nutrients in the dairy, we need the fat. For all of the traditional cultures that were healthiest, they never ate lean meat or fat-reduced anything - that was food for dogs. Bring on the fat for them. The reason for eating all this animal fat is because they are sources of and also required for the absorption of vitamins A & D, calcium, iron, magnesium and copper. You just cannot get enough of the essential nutrients from vegan sources.

There is way too much emphasis on cholesterol levels in modern medicine. In fact, they recommend that people rom age 40 on be tested for vitamin B12 deficiency rather than cholesterol levels. B12 deficiency causes fatigue, sleep disorders, irrational anger, and tingling of hands and feet.

People are dying of cancer, heart disease and diabetes in record numbers because they are eating too many bad fats - heated vegetable oils and partially hydrogenated oils (these are the fats that predominate in clogged arteries), and not enough good fats such as fat from properly harvested or farmed seafood, the meat or milk of pasture-raised or wild animals, coconut and palm fruit. Olive oil and sesame oil are also ok, but the mass-produced canola, sunflower, safflower, corn, and soybean oils are bad news.

And there is so much more... Doesn't all of this just make sense? Basically, the more technology we create to tinker with the substances of nature, the less our bodies can recognize them and use them properly. And the move away from lard and to things like soybean oil and corn oil was more about a solution trying to find a problem (i.e. what to do with the abundant yields of soybean and corn crops because of the petro-chemicals used to grow them) than a problem (clogged arteries and cancer) finding a solution. OK, so I'm heading to take the placement test for community college math... soon.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Lucy's First Day of Kindergarten

This day was practically a non-event, in all the good ways. I had made the seemingly big decision to not attend opening circle each day this year, in hopes that drop-off would be easier. Well, after a small amount of inner angst on my part, and a teeny amount of outer angst on Lucy's part, I did in fact leave with Jasper almost right away, before circle-time. This is after attending every almost single circle last year. Lucy was absolutely fine and enjoyed her day. As usual, at the end of it, she didn't tell offer and I didn't ask for details. They will emerge when and if she is inspired, not on demand. But I did ask her if she'd give the day a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down and she gave a resounding thumbs-up. That will have to suffice for now...

Compared to all her friends attending various public schools this year, Lucy's year is very business-as-usual. She is going to the same school with the same teachers and many of the same kids as last year. The only difference is that she is going five days a week instead of three. And that this year, I am really letting it be "her" experience instead of Jasper and I hovering around in the beginning. I left the car parked outside of Lucy's school and Jasper and I walked up to the zoo for some much-needed animal time. Jasper really loves the animals and is interested in watching them for longer times than Lucy so it was a treat to let him linger while a hummingbird drank from a honeysuckle, the ducks floated in the pond, the flower beatle played with a woodchip, the spider scampered around his web, the lemurs called to each other and jumped around in the trees, the jaguar restlessly paced the perimeter of his enclosure, and the gorillas ate their lettuce and broccoli. and just like when he looks at our animal encyclopedia or our dinosaur book, at least once a minute he asked "oats that?" trans: what's that? Oh, a Victoria-Crowned Pigeon... after a thoughtful stare, he says "et's go, mama."

Saturday, September 8, 2007

On the eve of change

Change is in the air here in Seattle. Even with the sky blue and the sun warm today, there was still a hint of fall in the ether. We went to the Tilth Harvest Fair and then to the Lavender Kindergarten blessing ceremony, two markers for changes to come. Endings and beginnings all bleeding into each other. When people ask Lucy how she feels about starting kindergarten, she says she is excited to play but sad to leave me and Jasper. I am sad too. She, Jasper and I are like a three-celled organism. We breathe through the days together, each within our own sphere and with our own activities, but circling around and connecting throughout the day. I am excited for Lucy to have more experiences of other people and of the beauty and wonder of the world outside of our family context, but I am wistful about the years we've been primarily a unit to ourselves. I love her independence and her neediness; her strength and her sadness, her fierce desires and hunger for stimulation and stories, and her ability to lose herself in a quietly whispered story as she dreamily moves through the house and outside. I love the multi-patterned outfits she creates, the knots she ties in everything, the trail of debris from her play that is everywhere - shoes, scraps of paper, cards, pens, dolls, half-eaten plums, clothes, dishes, books, any number of toys and non-toys - all evidence of a five-year-old life well-lived. She told me a few nights ago that she loves me more than anyone loves anyone. I have never felt so blessed and lucky.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Last Hurrah in Port Townsend

On the spur of the moment, I decided to take the kids over to Port Townsend for a couple of days -- our last weekdays before Lucy starts school five days a week. This week, most of the kids Lucy plays with have already gone back to school. So instead of hanging around the house with the kids or doing the usual Seattle area things to entertain ourselves, it seemed a trip to the country to be with the grandparents was in order. It is so quiet here and the air feels so fresh and clean. The kids are so very happy here. Why wouldn't they be? Today we got up leisurely, drove to downtown PT then walked up the beach to Chetzamoca Park - a breathtakingly beautiful park full of wide stretches of grass, beautiful old trees, a bridge, flowers, an arbor, the glistening sea sprawling in the distance - had a picnic and then walked back down to town to have homemade Italian ices and play more at another park on the beach. Lucy went into her own world, barefooted at the edge of the clear, cold water, picking shreds of emerald green seaweed out of the waves to make cake. Jasper quickly joined her in this endeavor. Is there anything more magical than playing at the edge of the sea? Well, maybe so, if you also add the backdrop of the wooden sailboats trolling by, the seabirds swooping, the sunshine sprinkling down while a slightly cool breeze blows the long yellow grasses. You get the picture...

Now I have to shatter the perfect image by adding that Jasper slept atrociously last night. He officially woke twice, but in between those times he called out for me every 15 minutes or so, until I realized his bed had gotten too lumpy with all the blankets I put on him. Once I sorted those out, sleep improved. Lucy, of course, slept soundly and luxuriously next to me, taking up a good two-thirds of the bed. Sleeping through the night and no more diapers: these are things I dream of.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Friends for a Week

Helen and Peter, friends from the UK, visited us for a week. Rob and Helen go way back since they met when they were around eighteen when Helen was an au pair here in Seattle. Helen and Peter are lovely and charming houseguests. In addition to being generally nice company, they did dishes and played with the kids. Below are some pictures from their stay in Seattle. Rob took five days off of work and we all managed to have some fun... Really we had so much fun and had so many pictures that it has taken me a while to organize and blog about it.

They were here from around August 22 - August 29. We took them to the airport to fly back to the UK and the same night picked up my mom coming back home from a month in Europe. The kids and I took her back to Port Townsend and then spent a lovely night there with Mom, Merrill and the dogs. Friday we came home in time to greet our friends Betsy and Frank before we left them with the children while we went to see Stevie Wonder. Next day was Kinderhaus work party and Dave Shumate's wedding. Anyway, you get the picture: we have been very happily busy drinking in this luscious life we have. Yum! But back to the story: Helen and Peter --

First off, Helen and I left Rob with Lucy and Jasper and spent the evening at the Olympus Spa - soaking, getting scrubbed and massaged. All vacations should really start that way. Here we are on our way to the spa and feeling pretty happy about it.

We spent a day in the woods and the lake at St Edward State Park. The kids and I have spent so much time at this park with various friends. I am glad Rob finally came along to enjoy it with us... and to take some pictures of the beauty.

Lucy likes to do things her own way, including riding the carousel at the zoo backwards.

Rob and Helen went to Vancouver BC for the day.

Rob and Helen met Ian and Joan (Rob's parents) at Canlis for drinks.
It didn't take long for Lucy and Jasper to warm up to our guests.

The shots below are from Ray's boathouse on the last night of their stay. We had a babysitter and a perfect evening out on the deck with the seagulls and a heron, and each other, for company.