Saturday, July 16, 2016

Camp Out



The other week we went camping with some friends, and it was a reminder of how sometimes it's worth it to just block off a weekend for something out of the ordinary.  There were burgers, and bunny sightings, and children playing around in a lake, and even a little birthday celebration for our friend's sweet (now) three year old, and mandatory smores.

The single thing that was probably the most marked for me was the fact that open space is the most perfect natural habitat for children.  There were, let's see, fourteen children, and they were all off gathering sticks or chasing each other around, or making piles of the dry earth.  And, aside from keeping an eye on all of the little ones because of all of the mountain lions in these parts (!!!), everyone was very independent and happy.  

The nights are cool, drastically so (is it because of the dry air? The breeze from the ocean?), and by the time the sun was going down, everyone was in sweaters and socks, and covered from head to toe with dust and marshmallows.  If you lined our family up, we could have been cast as a family in the dust bowl, complete with bare feet, determined faces, and many little children.  Isn't it the craziest realization that children don't need a bath in the evening for their health and well being, they're just fine sleeping a little dusty.  It feels at once rebellious and totally natural.

We happened to be out camping during a heat wave, and that meant that the days were hot.  Up in the hills, it gets dry in the summer, the tall grass that was verdant with rain in the winter are yellow and parched, and during the summer the heat can be pronounced.  We went fishing in the little lake in the afternoon, and we left woozy with the heat, happy to cool off with cold water and fruit at home.

It was a pleasant little camping trip, and I hope we have more of them in our future (and now that we have a big old family tent, I'm feeling optimistic that it might be the case!).  

Do you have any favorite camping memories?  Or any tips for camping with kids?

Monday, June 27, 2016

Mid Summer Snapshots

::Every now and then I browse through my recent pictures and wonder, "Hm.  Where's Zosia?"  And the answer is exactly the same as when we ask that question in our own house, which is "Probably reading a book."  This child of mine is a voracious reader (if she were still up I could ask her how many pages she's read in the last year, but I think it's three million?  Four million?).  Ben and I are more than sympathetic to her cause, and I admire her ability to discreetly duck out and find a cosy place to read.  Can you think of a better way to spend summer vacation?  She found some Nancy Drew books at a yard sale this weekend, and has been reading them one by one.
::The retreat center I went to the other week had a cubby system to keep track of napkins, and it was such an effortless way to keep track of nearly 30 women's napkins from one meal to the next.  We have tried having unique napkin rings in the past, but it just has never quite worked from meal to meal, so I knew this was a system I would have to attempt at home, and it is a success!  Numbered according to birth order, starting from Ben, who is the oldest in the family.
::Josephine is five months old, and she is in the most perfect stage of babyhood.  Smiley and curious and yet still snuggly and... immobile.  I love it.
::Our big kids and their neighborhood friends put on a full fledged lemonade stand last weekend and those kids made some M O N E Y.  Granted, it was "dance on the street day" (You know you live in California when your whole town, including all of the streets, close down for a whole day to enable dancing on the street.  These Californians have some joie de vivre), so there was a lot of foot traffic.  Those kids juiced hundreds of lemons from our neighbor's yard, manned the stand for hours, and helped me bake all of the cookies and brownies.  I was definitely proud of them, and when they walked down to town all by themselves the next day to go shopping at the candy store I think they felt some gratification.
::These children of mine have weathered feet and sun on their faces all day long.
::Dinner is outside most evenings, weather permitting.  We have been working on more peaceful dinnertimes.  Doesn't that sound like it would be nice?  Those of you who have eaten with us know that our family grace is a verse of "Dona Nobis Pacem" which is a traditional latin hymn meaning "Grant Us Peace."  And there are definitely nights when dinner feels like a peaceful occasion, although there are also definitely nights when it feels like there are five hungry lion cubs trying to make sure they get their part of the kill (or perhaps even worse, the night when our lion cubs have full tummies and get bored about two minutes into the conversation, begging to be allowed to go and play). 
::Our resident little mommy, doing things like voluntarily giving the twins swimming lessons and humming as she spontaneously tidies the house.  This one was made to have little siblings, and I am so glad that she has not one but four!
::Gratuitous clothes line picture.  This thing still makes me so happy. I filled it three times today, and the clothing was dry in less than an hour.  I am amazed.  I actually happened to have an especially large load of laundry the other day which didn't all fit on the line, so I split it in half, and put half in the dryer and half out on the line as a race.  And the result was..... drumroll........ a tie!  But of course not as far as our electric bill is concerned.  I'm totally a convert.
::It is in my nature to always be scurrying around and picking things up, or preparing meals, or whatever other housework is at hand, but if I am sitting down, I am probably reading aloud to the kids.  I love that when Ben or I start reading a book, one by one the children start gathering around from whatever they might be doing to listen.
::The farmer's market that's right up the street from our house just started back up for the summer, and although there are several year round farmer's markets around, there's something about an event being right underfoot that makes us so much more likely to attend.  This week's haul included bread, tomatoes, stone fruit, mandatory flowers, and a bunch of veggies, which Ben decided weren't pretty enough to include in the picture.

It is really starting to feel like summer, and I love it!  How is your summer going?

Friday, June 17, 2016

A New House, A Clothes Line, and a Reptile


We’re in our new house.  It was a move that will be remembered by the many helping hands that loaded boxes into our rented van and drove them half a mile up the road, only to lift them out again and carry them into our new house.  The kindness that was shared with us is something that I will remember for many days and hope to be able to return to others who are in a tricky situation.  And somewhere in there there was the end of our kids’ school, a neglected anniversary and birthday, a week of sickness, and a heroic rescue mission from my Mom, who flew in from the East coast after I had been very sick for a week.  

Our first days in this house will be remembered by the doorbell ringing like clockwork every afternoon, and the opened door revealing a sea of smiling faces of neighborhood kids of varying statures ready to play.  Or walking into the back yard to see ten kids, only three of them mine, sitting in a circle and “playing school” or an early summer lemonade stand, still in the works, or pleasant evening walks into town, which is not only four leisurely blocks away.  

In many ways our new house is less curated, less manicured, less "fixed up" than our last one, but it feels more like home.  There's something about an old house with quirks that instantly wins my heart.  When Ben hung up a clothes line for me that runs from directly next to our washing machine to the garage, I was as happy as one of those women in the diamond ring commercials.  I think it's the most beautiful thing in the world and I could stare at it all day long.

Josephine babbles and loves chewing on things and reigns as the central attraction of the house.  She came with me on a silent retreat this past weekend.  I truly appreciated the space for thought and prayer, the chance to simply listen without speaking, and the opportunity for starting anew that such a retreat affords.  Somehow, it felt very timely.  And I think that as the only baby in a retreat with thirty women, largely mothers, Josephine scored pretty big herself.

Of course by the third day of the retreat I was dying to get home to the kids, and as I pulled up to this house bursting at the seems with life, Ben proudly displaying the tomato plants he got in the ground while I was gone, the twins laughing as they tackled me on the bed, and Zosia looking so so grown up, I felt like I was coming home.

And if my heart wasn't already full enough, Hugo got a pet green anole he quickly named "Chris" for his birthday on Tuesday. I'm pretty sure I once promised myself I would never own a reptile.  But now I guess we're.... reptile enthusiasts?  Not sure how I feel about that one yet.  Welcome to the family, little guy.