Wednesday, December 14, 2011

state of the garden

It was so so hot this summer, and so dry, that we basically gave up on the garden after about mid-June. When July 4th rolled around, (pumpkin planting day, if you want them by Halloween) I thought about how many gallons of water I'd have to pour on a tiny pumpkin plant to keep it alive through August, and said, maybe next year. 

But then once it was semi-bearable outside again, we planted them anyway. And now we have pumpkins in December, even if I do have to run outside with an armful of sheets to tuck them in a couple nights a week.

I don't tuck the kale in, and it doesn't really seem to mind. Neither does the chard. These guys are just the eternal givers of the garden. Total workhorses. I haven't watered them in a month, I go out and break half of the plant off and then next time I go outside it's ready to be harvested again.

And oh how much the children will rejoice when there's finally no more left. But not today! sauteed chard for everyone! MWAHAHA!

These ladies will also rejoice if I call the garden done and let them clean up the leftovers.  Early dark means we get fewer eggs, and the cold seems to make them a bit broodier than usual. The last hard freeze finished off the birdhouse gourds (which is good, because they were covering up the wiring on the outside of the house... they got... kind of aggressive there at the end). But there's still lots of bug-eaten salad greens and flattened squash leaves and little green bean shoots from various spilled seed packets. 

My garden helpers, always there to insure that I'll never know what will come up where. They take their banished-outside microphones to the top of the playscape and give the neighborhood Christmas concerts, whether the neighbors want them or not. Coats over pajamas seems to be how we roll around here, on weekend days.  

Anyway, that's the state of the garden, mid December. There are lots of things I'd like to do differently next time- I definitely learned stuff this year. I still don't quite feel like I get out of it what I put into it. I know that I'll keep learning, and every year I work in this garden, my soil will get better and easier to work with. I just want to be better at this! All at once! (One of the many things montage-to-upbeat-music-in-80's-movies has to answer for - I feel like I should just be able to put on some ABBA and BE GREAT AT THIS). 

We're renters here, and so I don't want to make these big infrastructure investments with cedar raised beds and stuff... and I don't have the money to do that anyway. I just... work with what we've got. And that means we've got a lot of kale. 

Good thing I like kale. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

holding the adventmass line

I am trying to walk a line this season -- 

I am trying to be present (which feels hilarious to write, here on my MOM BLOG, while my family is running around asking for dinner and I am ignoring them). I am trying to be present and engaged and not always asking the girls to please for the love of God take those damn "Merry-okie" microphone toys OUTSIDE.

I want ridiculous mom blog things - all our gifts to each other to be handmade, with love. I want to help each child make a gift for the others- the gift that they dream up for their sibling. I want to make pajamas! For Christmas Eve! For everyone! I want to KNIT ALL THE THINGS. 

I want to give two dozen cookies and a quart of bourbon to everyone who has dealt with my kids in any capacity all year. I want the dogs to have little sweaters on. And to stop digging through the recycling bin in the garage. 

I want to have the perfect little containers for homemade vanilla extract, and to have... you know... made it. And also to make all the cookies that have over the years become Christmas Necessities, including the refrigerator cookies you roll in a tube that only my mom likes.

BUT. I also want to be sane in January, and to have spoken to my children in something other than a yell during the most wonderful time of the year. 

So... There's a line. The line means watching the Grinch and eating popcorn for dinner. It means picking my battles and trying hard to believe that when Jane says she doesn't need a coat because she's not cold, she might actually not be cold. It means going to HEB for a tree, not driving out to Elgin and slogging through a field full of anthills, so I can have a file in iphoto that matches last years'...  Instead of some of those handcrafted gifts over on pinterest... There might be an EZbake oven and some My Little Ponies under the tree. And it's not going to bother me. Because I'm holding the line. I'm not going to go nuts making my kids hold still so I can get good shots for grandma's silhouette collection (07). I'm not going to throw a roll of butcher paper across a room when I drop stitches on a hat the night before Christmas (09). It means I am never setting foot in a post office in December with my kids again, even if it means no one who doesn't live in Austin gets their gifts on time (11). 

Hold The Line. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

I am thankful

for a walk in the woods with my family.

Monday, November 21, 2011

pow-wows and quilts

I've always felt a little ambivalent about the Pow Wow at Jane's school. It's really fun and it's the culmination of a long unit of study about Native Americans leading up to Thanksgiving. And the teacher in charge is really honestly wonderful...

On the other hand, it also takes place with this in our backyard, and that's something the kids could take part in without quite as much of a "dress up and make noises like these funny characters whose land and lives we stole! good times!" vibe. I'm just a jerk though. Obviously the kids are having a blast... 

The boys in Jane (Singing Fox)'s class made shields...

And the girls made papooses and cradle boards. Jane's main concern along these lines was that it must have been TERRIBLE to be a Native American baby because your diaper was made out of MOSS and that would be SO ITCHY.

Her class was studying the plains tribes mainly. Next year I may have to talk about the Matriarchy of the Iroquois... 

Ben didn't exactly have a blast, but he endured the whole thing pretty well, considering we woke him up from a nap to get there on time. We decided not to stuff his diaper with moss, for authenticity. 

He was a trooper, but he was also happy to be done pow-wowing.

Moving on! I listed some new quilts in the shop.

Sort of wonky log cabin squares.

  And a very simple, binding-less blue coin quilt. I think these are probably the last two quilts I'll get finished up before Christmas, since pretty soon it will be all Christmas crafting all the time.  I really love this time of year and it seems like it goes by so fast. I can't believe Thanksgiving is THIS WEEK!

Friday, November 18, 2011

amazing seiferts

Look at this video by the very talented Jeremy Seifert.

Made me cry and -almost- made me pack up the kids and head back to our Los Angeles family. Man I miss those guys.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

That's right ya'll! It's time for Christmas card photos! When I round up my protesting children, force them to put on hot winter outfits when it's 80 degrees outside and bribe them with ice cream for standing in one place and looking in the same direction... Does it feel like standards have fallen somewhat?

And yet we still can't do it. This might actually be one of the best shots. Certainly the most representative of the outing as a whole. I especially like that both Ben's shoes have fallen off due to his angry flailing, and his screaming has bothered Wren to such an extent that she's apparently sucking her thumb for the first time in her life. Jane is unperturbed but then she's probably planning to stab me again with her soccer trophy, which she insisted be in all the pictures with us. You can just barely see his head down at the bottom of the photo.

I hope you're all having better luck. And I think next year I'll just send everyone a picture of Ramona and the chickens. They're really my favorites anyway.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Friendship is Magic

For the non-Bronies out there, that is the name of the new My Little Pony series that my daughters routinely lose their shit over. Chase is also kind of a huge fan, and will happily chat pony character arcs and whether Applejack should really have all the responsibility of the orchard on her Little Pony shoulders.

Costumes were obvious to Bronies, everyone else was gently corrected by Jane, "NO I AM NOT A FAIRY I AM A PEGASUS! I AM A WEATHER PONY!!!"

And those wings are why parts of my house still look dyed chickens exploded.

Benno was Spike (Twilight Sparkle's dragon friend). He was happy and easygoing all night, although he did appreciate breaks from wearing the top part of the dragon costume. He also pulled up and stood unsupported for a looong time (and the first time) at the party we went to. Hurray Ben!

And here are our pumpkins. Wren designed a Very Scary Vampire pumpkin and somehow in the process managed to freak herself out enough that she ended up not wanting to look at it. And Jane requested (demanded) Hello Kitty and then I made it and then she dropped it on the ground. In that picture Kitty's face is held together with tape.

I feel like somewhere in that last paragraph this became a parable about motherhood? Meh. Anyway, I love Halloween because it's the non-family holiday. It's about your neighbors, that you never talk to, that have creepy couches on their porches but their light's on... do you send your kids to the door? Do you try that house down the street with all the decorations? Because those people were kind of dicks about your dog when you first moved in... you get to find out what kind of velvet painting your neighbor has in her living room, and who gives natural fruit snacks and who gives pennies (WTF?) and who gives full size candy bars (THE BEST PEOPLE THAT'S WHO).

Anyway if you're looking for me today I'll be at Target... buying some clearance candy. Because other than the initial "I made your whole damn costume" tax, my kids are not sharing.

Monday, October 31, 2011


We are still here, busy and well, only lacking the charger for our camera... So unfortunately I just have the evidence of phone pictures, both with and without super exciting Instagram filters, to document my very favorite season.

This is a tiny sweater, blocking out on my bed. Luckily that's Chase's side of the bed, because I didn't use enough towels and things were sort of damp and sheepy over there that night.

I knit my first pair of socks, my first sweater, my first real lacework, and my first pair of mittens in the last month. The socks are on Chase's feet (turns out I don't like socks) the lacework went to a wonderful friend for babysitting, and the mittens are in the Christmas gift pile.

I've also made baby hats and baby mitts, but those are fast and I've made them before. Fall tv and fall weather combine to make the perfect knitting storm. And of course there's always the best show on earth to knit to- old 30 Rock.

Also of course working in the evenings means the library is nice and quiet and other than finding the occasional book on reserve, and chatting with the library ghost, I can just knit the night away.

On the first day with a high below 80 degrees I made gingerbread, pumpkin bread and even more pots of coffee than usual. I made a pumpkin cake for Ben's birthday, that was supposed to look like this:

And actually looked like this instead...

Upside-down in the mixing bowl it sort of slopped into. So then I made him a gingerbread cake instead.

And this is sadly the best picture from his little birthday dinner. Stupid phone. But it was a lovely night.

The other big news in our life right now is our new housemate --

Fierce the Bunny. His owner, my sister Anne, is also living with us. Which means Ramona can usually be found right here

curled up on Anne's pillows. At least until Ben finds her, and then she reverts to hiding in her favorite, baby proof closet.

To summarize, we're great, but too busy to find the damn camera charger.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

change in the air

Fall gardening (even though it's 103 again today).

Tiny baby winter plants, that hopefully will survive the ministrations of my 3 excitable garden helpers.

This one doesn't want to wait for squash- he eats dirt instead.

This one is rarely without her birthday cowgirl boots these days. She is heartbroken that they're not appropriate for school days, but that means they get worn everywhere else.

Last week when the temperature dipped briefly into the low 90s I got out the yarn basket. I've picked up my New Years Resolution socks again, so hopefully I'll make some progress on those. And I've made a few fast hats, 3 for bartering purposes with my sister's favorite carpenter (last year I got a chicken coop... who knows what could happen? I want to stay on that guys good side).

The strider bike Jane got for her birthday has been getting a lot of use, but the other favorite presents (besides her girl pet lion of course) have been the walkie-talkies. There's been a learning curve, and maybe an overly heavy reliance on the "call" button (dear god make it stop. or short out or something). But overall the girls have really loved playing with them together. So now I can reclaim the baby monitor from them.

And finally, I moved my craft stuff out of the living room into a closet... less light for pictures, but more ability to work for brief uninterrupted periods of time. This is a patchwork blanket in progress, and I am making a little stack of these for all those babies due this winter. Any mother who has suffered through the summer we've had deserves some handmade baby blankets in the fall!

So fall is on the horizon, I don't care what the thermometer says. Gingerbread, pumpkin pie, sweaters, knitting, HOT coffee, and RAIN. Things are looking up! Nothing but good times ahead. Right guys?

Friday, September 9, 2011

mercury in retrograde...

I feel patently ridiculous complaining about anything when my city is completely surrounded by raging fires and my neighbors have lost homes and cars and pets. Our house is standing. Absurdly, grossly messy, buried under piles of laundry, but standing. The kids are healthy, other than the standard "back to school" runny noses and coughs. We did not at any point this week have to scramble to throw our belongings (get the quilts!!) into the minivan and flee in panic, only to turn around and go back for the fishbowl.

But still. Can you please indulge me for a minute? In the banal and lame complaints department? If you really cannot stomach hearing someone talk about how they feel like they're living "under a black cloud" when you are actually living under a cloud made of the ashes of your home... maybe just pretend like I never wrote the following --

First dental work in 15 years (me and Chase), re-fixing dental work (just me- FUN), disappearing stomach lining (me again!), sleeplessness (everyone except Jane), late night missed buses (yep, me), and of course imminent suffocation by giant pile of laundry (ALL OF US SEND HELP OH MY GOD)

Also. When I make jam, 1 out of 8 jars seals, when I bake, it's mushy or burned, when I sew, my thread breaks, then my needle breaks, then my thread breaks again. When I knit I miscount. I rip out, I knit again. I end up turning it in the wrong direction and knitting diagonally?! WTF. Usually when things are feeling difficult I calm myself down by making something, but it feels like I need to just go to a cabin in the woods (not the piney woods.. ) and try not to touch anything.

We are both being really short with the kids. It might partly be the fact that Ben frequently wants to sleep just a little bit less than he wants to scream as loud as he can into your face, and that can be kind of wearing. NONETHELESS. My kiddos do not deserve this- they are living their own lives, newly jam packed with exhausting school days and new challenges and although they can be kind of IRRITATING (ha. kind of). as they work through these issues, they still need their parents to be on the ball, dealing with it kindly and presently, not just staring at the wall and wishing it would be time to open the bottle of wine already.

BASICALLY nothing's wrong. Everything's fine. Wah wah. We have a house and jobs and health. I'm shutting up already.

P.S. The "OMG I know how blessed we are and I am SO GRATEFUL" postscript- more or less effective than the more traditional version of putting dirt on your kids' faces to ward off the evil eye? Because I do that too.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Tourists in London

The London Eye

Westminster Cloisters

London Fields, in the rain

Waterloo Bridge, between Somerset House and the National Theater

Big Ben. Little Ben was asleep when we took it, or we'd have made him pose.

Millennium Bridge (rebuilt with less falling down!)

Baby in Soho

St. Paul's after Matins (Ben slept through that too).

And sadly, Starbucks. In our defense, we needed coffee badly and it was across the street from our bus stop.