Friday, October 21, 2011

A Journal of Tomatos and a Bird of Giant Proportions....

Many people I know who are into gardening ( and much better at it than I) keep a Garden Journal.

That Garden journal looks different depending on the gardener; Some are just little snips of information scrawled across pages, some are beautiful diary entries in wavy script chronicling everything from the choosing of heirloom carrot seeds to the recipes those carrots will later become.

My Garden journal (if it existed in hard copy) would like be of the first type and would consist of two random notes about how to better grow lettuce next year (and how to avoid trying to eat it once it has bolted...cause... ya, that was nasty) and the rest would be about tomatoes.

Oh how I loved growing tomatoes this year.

I made more mistakes than any one need ever know and the things I learned along the way could fill a notebook surely.  There are so many things I'd do differently next year:

(Largely, creating a planter box for them ....the cracked black tree pots leaned ramshackle against my house looked a little white trash I dare say)

I will choose different varieties, learn how to spray them for aphids, prune them properly and actually water them like I'm supposed to....oh and the tiny .99 cages I bought them were a joke. They literally heaved them out of the pots and threw them was crazy.

But many things I will keep the same:
 Their position in the yard was good, keeping them in the garage until the first weekend of June was good....even the tree pots were good.
Kevin can pick the spiders out of them.....Coco helping to water them...and Billy check on their progress every day when they are first seedlings in the windowsill in March... those things were all really good. Those things can all stay.

Next year I'll try to remember to get out there and pick all the tomatoes while the sun is still up, unlike this year where I found myself in the dark, having been alerted that a frost was coming; groping about in the vines, praying that the giant brown spiders had ...traveled south for the winter? I don't know....and hoping I got them all safely inside.

I'll also probably try to find a day to process all of them OTHER than the same day I'm trying to prepare Turkey dinner for everyone. stove top had to work pretty hard to accommodate the blanching pot and I didn't get to enjoy the wonder of peeling all those tomato skins while I had so many other pressing concerns, like setting the table for the guest shortly arriving....

Oh but there is magic in blanching and peeling a tomato isn't there?

I suppose the best story that came out of the garden this year would have to be the one that actually walked right out of the garden... on long taloned feet.

I had the seventeen pots all positioned under the kitchen windows and one sunny afternoon at the end of september I opened the windows and startled something that becan making a rummaging and ruckus in the tangle of vines below the window sill. I started scanning frantically for what creature could've snuggled down into the plants and kept expecting to see a squirrel or chipmunk or even a skunk hop out from among the vines and scoot out the yard....

Only that didn't happen. I was still intent on scanning the pots right below the window when I heard a terrific hissing noise coming from few feet away.

and no it was not a snake.... it was this strange giant bird.... over 2 feet tall and absolutely terrifying to me.

I screamed and Ava burst into tears.

It was just that kind of moment when you are not expecting to find a pterodactyl in your garden bed....and then you do.

The evil bird started bobbing it's gross long neck and hissing at us with it's long pointy beak and only Kevin was actually brave enough to go outside and take pictures of it.

What the heck is it? Where did it come from ? ... New Zealand?????

I had never seen such a bird before, although I found out a day later that it was actually a type of egret (an American Bittern) apparently native to my area....
my area being the central prairie swamps geographically  in my area... not the suburbs I live in....

Somehow knowing it was just a normal bird didn't diminish the terror of it I felt and even seeing it's image in the "Birds of Alberta" handbook made my heart palpitate just a little.

Who knew I had a blind irrational terror of water-dwelling, carnivorous, migratory birds...

Maybe I'm just afraid of the one with the evil eyes that was lounging in my tomato plants....

It was quite the adventure anyway....

Tomato Plant Gardening in general was a happy adventure and as the last few green bulbs ripen in a bowl on the counter I guess the next stage of the adventure will be to think up some fabulous ways to  use them over the cold winter months. I'll be able to pull them out and make sauce, soup and salsa and all the while it will taste like the sunny days of my backyard when the grass was green, the air was gentle and enormous, exotic birds of prey swooped in to visit...

and I might just try some fried green tomatoes tomorrow for lunch...

Monday, October 17, 2011

Staying in the Saddle....

What do you do when the little tiny baby they put in your arms suddenly turns into a five year old little lady and you've hardly had time to catch your breath 
somwhere in between when all this change and growth was going on?

What do you do when you transition from diapers to dollhouses, 
from nighttime feedings to bedtime chats, from crawling to cowgirls?

You bake a Peppermint Pinto Pony  birthday cake and invite all the other 
cowboys/cowgirls in the neighborhood to celebrate.

And you make peace with the fact that there is no catching your breath in this line of work....

there is only the trick of trying to stay in the saddle.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

One of the Best Yet...

Last week, we had thanksgiving here in Canada.

I think it is actually one of my favorite holidays of all the year.

It always sneaks up on me, I often times don't realize it's coming until it's only days away, but that somehow makes it all the better. It's like a sweet surprise; like the chocolate center that hits my tongue when I was already enjoying the hard caramel of the autumn days crisping up around me.

What? THIS weekend is Thanksgiving? ...already? ... sweet!

Thanksgiving in October also gives me another holiday instead of Halloween ( I really don't like Halloween...I've tried...but we just don't get along) to pour my energies and love of pumpkins into.

I love the wreath of red and orange berries on my door, I love cracking open the chest of throw blankets and quilts, the excuse to pull out my crochet needle and still feel like I'm doing something totally productive and justification, nay the NEED, to start the coffee pot and fireplace every morning and the smell and warmth that waft from the oven.

And nothing wafts from the oven like Thanksgiving dinner, I tell ya. 

This year we decided to keep with a loose tradition we started back in University to invite around our dinner table, new faces or folks that otherwise didn't have any shindigs going on themeselves. Back in our younger days that meant calling my relatives frantically on how to cook from frozen the bargain bird I had claimed that morning at the grocery store down the street in my tiny apartment stove.   It meant figuring out how to transform a teetering stack of textbooks into a fabric swathed stool for guests to sit on around the table in the living room of my dorm .serving mashed potatoes in a scrubbed out change dish ....and  a couple twigs and leaves from the Student Union lawn spread over the  rickety table, adorned in my one white bedsheet and cramming for midterms once the dishes were done..

We were ridiculous and pathetic perhaps, but every part of those celebrations filled me up with laughter, humility and indeed, gratitude.

And that's the feeling that still fills me up every October when this season rolls around.

In the years that have ensued I have since picked up a set of china (at a garage sale for only 30.00 because a mug was missing), I was gifted my gorgeous linens, (thanks Pubs!) I actually thaw my turkey and no one falls off of  any stacks of books... we have actual chairs now.

 However, some things still make me shake my head at myself, like being set back an hour on a painstaking layered dessert because I forgot to add....sugar.....of all things.

Oh yes, I picked every last pecan off of the top and then replaced each one.....although no one was the wiser.

and I still love to adorn the table with things fresh from the outdoors.

There's a children's table to set these days and of course they bring with them a whole new kind of thanksgiving and humility....

There were new faces this year around the table, all families that like us have made big moves since the time they last sat around a turkey in October...

Some from clear across the country

Some from the only place they'd ever called home

and ourselves; not so far in distance, but still quite a leap in leaving behind what we thought would be our home for much longer.

We all had so much to be thankful for

So much to be optimistic about

We gave  toast to new babies, a toast to new homes and new jobs, new cities, new adventures, new friendships and new community....

Yes, I really love this time of year... and I think this year may just have been one of the best yet...

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

To What Aim We Grow...

I still exist.

I am alive.

And I am staging a comeback to the blogging world.

(Thanks to some of you, I can now actually say I am "Backed by popular demand" Thank you, you are a boost to my self esteem )

But the rules have changed a bit perhaps?

Where to begin?
I really needed a break. 

As a blogger, sometimes it begins to feel like there are two different lives you are living. There's the blog world which is full of recipes, stories, crafts, creativity, inspiration, insight and hilarity (right?)

And then there's the real world which is full of temper tantrums, messy houses, piles of laundry, headaches, soul-aches, hissy fits, uncooked dinner, cheeze whiz, cold coffee cups and pms. 

Can I get an amen?

There's the world where everyone get's to hear about all the fabulous things you've been up to and the compliments are nice (believe me... I LOVE them....maybe a little too much)

And then there's the world where you have real relationships and people have to work hard to get together and keep it together. There's struggle and irritation and ignorance and hurt feelings and the messy work of forgiveness and personal growth. 

Sometimes these two world collide....and when that happens.... they don't get along very well. 

Where those two world converge there is a fork in the road and a decision has to be made. 

To be an authentic person in the real world, must I give up the pretenses of the blog world that has inadvertently been created ( no matter how well intentioned) or for the sake of being an authentic writer, must I give up my real world priorities in order to throw myself upon my craft?

In the face of all that there's miscommunication, an awful lot of self reflection, prioritizing and serious time crunch (because really my days often feel like they fly by in about 5 minutes).

All these questions equaled.... burn out from the blog world. 

I....really....needed... a .... break. 

And I needed to reevaluate the whole machinery of the world I had created with my writing. 

Now, don't get me wrong... it's a genuine world, I am nothing, if not sincere in the things I write here. It's just a lot of editing.... a lot. Because my brain often feels like a full on 3 ring circus and I had to streamline that into something coherent, non-flippant, and hopefully entertaining all in the span of time it takes for my children to lie in their beds for naptime with their eyes wide open kicking the walls before they decide they are giving up on sleep happening for them that afternoon. 

It got a little tiresome to be honest. 

Of course the computer issues I continue to have don't help... I think I may give up on adding more than one photo per post max if I can too, cause.... well.... that's another post altogether. 

I needed the time to figure out where all of this is going. 

I needed to be honest with myself about where my motivations were coming from, what I was sacrificing and how much I had become dependent on the outside affirmation of strangers for the things I wanted to be intrinsically motivated to do for myself and my family. 

I needed to evaluate how I was presenting and representing my true self. My principles, my beliefs, my faith and on a lesser plane my opinions and ideas.

I needed to reevaluate my family's need for privacy... my own need for privacy and my maturing need to learn to keep my mouth shut at different times too.

I'm a big mouthed person who kind of blabs and blabs and blabs and doesn't always know when to quit and I think I got to a point where I was kind of sick of my own chatter. 

I just suddenly said "when"...and shut the computer off. 

Shut it down and put it in the basement. 

It's been almost a month... and boy oh boy have I been a busier, happier, free-er, girl because of it.

That's why I say that I think the rules have changed a bit for me. 

It's not a bad thing. 

I'd always said this blog was supposed to be a filter for personal growth, a journal, somewhere to chronicle my journey as an individual and if anything my last month of introspective hiatus has proved that the blog is working... it forced me into a place of confrontation with myself that I otherwise may not have had. 

Rules need to change because the writers need to change too...

So, all of this is to say that I likely won't be here to write every day as I was before. 

In fact, I definitely won't be.

I likely will write about a lot of OTHER things than what I have been writing about. 

Not that I WON'T write about sewing projects or things I'm crocheting...just don't EXPECT it...cause as excited as I am to DO the projects... I find WRITING about them.... kind of boring to be perfectly honest.

that goes for recipes too. 

I love cooking and eating.... I will never be a food writer....this I have discovered. 

On a side note, I'm not that good at taking photographs... especially in poor lighting and especially not of the step-by-step processes of craft or kitchen projects... so I'm just not going to take them anymore. If you see something that I've posted and your curious how I did it.... just email me and I'll fill you in. I likely won't do any more tutorial... I found they made my eye twitch. I literally had to schedule them on my calendar to get myself to do them and then I disliked every second of it. I also discovered this last month, that not needing to take pictures at every juncture of a project I was working on, significantly increased my enjoyment of the project. 

Also, the stories you will hear here are likely to be slightly outdated at times. One of the biggest difficulties as a blogger is where the world of blog anecdotes meets the world of real relationships and I go to share a laugh with a friend over something in my week and they say, "Oh, I already knew that... I read it on your blog."
... oh.....right.....

So, for those of you who know me... you might get a little repeat if you are reading a story here and you have already given the story a live audience at some can all just keep me more honest in not embellishing the details right?

Okay, well that's it for now. 

I do have lots of "After" pictures to show you of a lot of the amazing things I have been up to the past month...but really one of my biggest accomplishments has been the regularity with which laundry has been washed and put away and my toilet bowls have never been less daughter can find everything in the craft cupboard, my son has not run out diapers and my husband has not had to make his daily sandwiches on freezer-burned hotdog buns found in a pinch...

these are good things and these days they are my priorities.

But, gosh I have missed this world too, so  somewhere along the line these two world will have to form a compromise.... I think I can manage it. 

For if not, then to what aim do we grow?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

all kinds of ruckus...

"Quick!" I hissed under my breath in a hoarse whisper, grabbing his arm frantically as he came out of the bathroom from his morning shower. Steam billowing behind him, a towel still thrown around his neck.


You see, I had forgotten to swap the tiny little tooth sitting in the pink plastic cup on the kitchen counter last night for a coin of some sort, and my daughter had almost caught me in my folly.

She had stumbled downstairs before the sun was even up, although I was already in the kitchen bustling around. She tiptoed up behind me and startled me as she tugged on my sweater.


oh crap.

"OH right!!!!! The Tooth Fairy! don't we run upstairs and get dressed first so that I can take a nice picture of you with whatever she left in your cup!"

I turn her around and herd her and her confusion straight up to her bedroom, catching Kevin in the hallway. His eyes widen as they meet mine and seconds later I can hear him in the pantry jingling coins out of the stray cash jar.

"wow, I think to myself... the tooth fairy sure sounds like she's  paying well...."

In fact the tooth fairy left a whole five dollars in that pink plastic cup and it was well deserved because the morning before all of this it had taken a whole lot of convincing to get Ava Grace to concede to her Daddy wiggling that little itty bitty tooth out of it's rightful place and into that pink plastic cup to start with.

We told her the tooth fairy pays a premium for first teeth because she knows how scary they can be.

The tooth had been wiggling for days and had gotten to the point where it was causing all kinds of discomfort and angst for poor Ava. She made sure I told her teacher each morning of school that today might be the day that the tooth would fall out AT SCHOOL (horrible thought) and it was very important that Teacher Alice and Teacher Lois be prepared and know which of the special pockets on her new backpack would be used to store the tooth in case of an emergency.

For almost two weeks I had been trying to reassure her at bedtime that she was not likely to swallow it or choke on it in her sleep...but in all honesty once she said it, the thought was stuck there in my mind too....

Finally the day came when brushing her teeth left her bleeding a tiny amount and sobbing a very UN-tiny amount. Sobbing so much that in my frazzled state one night I told her in frustration that if she kept up this sobbing, the tooth fairy wouldn't even want the tooth because she had made all kinds of ruckus over nothing.

Of course an hour later I felt terrible and crawled into bed next to her still whimpering in the dark and we lay there after I apologized profusely, talking about the finer points of tooth fairy theology; what she looks like, where she lives, and what do you suppose she actually does with all the teeth anyway?
Ava Grace actually asked some questions that almost stumped me (which happens a lot by the way) such as "How does she even know that my tooth has fallen out, how does she know to come and get it?"

"Well," I faltered "Maybe it's like how Santa just knows what you want for Christmas"

"No mom" she says like she's explaining to it to her younger brother,
"Santa knows because I write to him and tell him...I don't write to the tooth fairy.... she just knows."

"'re right Ave." I shrugged.

"I think maybe it's because she's actually an angel more than she is a fairy and God tells her to go and get my teeth."

"Sure. that sounds good to me." I smiled in the dark and hugged her closer.

The next morning I hugged her nice and close on my lap while Daddy reached into her little mouth a cold wet cloth and without even a whole tug that little tooth was in the cloth and out of her gums. The little tooth that I remember being the first to erupt through those same gums almost five years ago. The same little tooth that suddenly made her baby smile the cutest thing that I just couldn't get enough of. The same little tooth that she hardly fussed over when it first cut through, the same little tooth that ushered her into a world of chew toys and crackers just yesterday, has ushered her into a new world of window-gapped school photos and money left behind under pillows or pink plastic cups.

I have to say that little tooth now missing has changed her smile all over again in it's absence and I still have to say it's the cutest thing... and I just can't get enough.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Model Trains....and the Men that Love them.

He was shaking...literally shaking.


His little fingers were both pointing and his two eyes, even widened like little saucers as they were, couldn't take in everything around him.

He was vibrating and stomping his little feet and bending his knees in excitement. It was like a little tribal dance.

"DING DING DING DING DING!!!!!!" He chanted imitating the crossing bells.

I loved every second of watching him completely spellbound by the impressive model train layouts we got to see this weekend at the annual model train show.

I enjoyed it because I was completely spellbound too.

I was transported back to memories of my seven year old self with my face pressed to the glass of the model train layout displays at the sketchy Bavarian Miniatureland my grandparents were sweet enough to take us to every summer. Amid all the creepy displays of malfunctioning nursery characters popping out of rundown village windows and moving on faulty mechanics to tinny music... the trains stood out in my memory as a thing of wonder.

All those tiny trees, trestle bridges, snow capped hills, villages with little people waiting at miniature train stations. I loved it only slightly less than he does now.

I couldn't stop taking pictures of all the impressive work that dedicated individuals (all men of a certain demographic) had lovely put into their trains and how proud they were of being able to show them off and represent their subculture for the rest of us.

In fact the more I began to look around at all the displays the more enthralled I became with photographing the men behind these tiny train models. Their passion so evident, the importance of what they were doing made clear to us all. There were teams of men for each display, all representing their particular model train club or association, some of them having traveled quite a ways to come for the expo. Some of them had all matching outfits, some of those outfits were downright adorable. Covered in all manner of important badges of model train honor.

We stopped to chat with many of them; ask them the particulars of their layout designs. "How long did certain pieces take them, how do they cooperate each set with one another, who paints the backdrops, what materials do they use?"
I listened intently to all they had to say, I couldn't NOT listen, they were so absolutely passionate about it all, that you wanted to hear them go on about scale and plaster and the real life places, important enough to them that they had created miniature worlds in homage to them; A bridge in Edmonton, a mill in Salmon Arm.

At one point we stopped and had a chuckle over one particular fellow who was rigged up with a complete head gear set so he could communicate with the other "engineers" running the fleet.
"You know," Smirked Kevin "Your a train man got an antennae running out the back of your head!"

We smiled to eachother and giggled but really I have to say I had quite a bit of awe for these men who had made something really beautiful together and were proudly sharing it with the rest of us. More than the trains they had built a real community together and as I looked down at my little boy trembling at the magic of it all, my little boy who already spends quiet hours building and rebuilding wooden train tracks for his beloved little engines, "Yes, my son someday a train man you shall be". and I'll be pretty proud too. I might even get him a walkie talkie headset for Christmas someday.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Conversations under the Wing...

Am I the only one who feels like their parenting get's more focused on one child at a time for periods of time?

One child can  feel more hands off, while one needs more focus than the other?

I remember the first time I felt this tug towards one of my children over the other and it nearly broke my heart in two. Ava was 2 years old and sitting on the potty, hollering for help to wipe herself. I was struggling desperately in the next room, clenching my jaw and trying to get my screaming newborn Jackson to latch on without killing me. I was already crying but I called out to her miserably that mommy needed to focus on Jackson right now, she was gonna have to handle this one herself.

Thankfully since then, the pendulum between both children has swung with less severity and more of a regular rhythm. For the most part I can pay attention to the tiny signs each child sends out that they need to be pulled in closer, listened to more intently and observed more carefully. Lately Jackson has been flexing his two year old muscles and exercising a new level of independent play, Ava has been my chick pulled under the wing. I guess the irony of this is that as she spreads her own wings a little more and takes flight into kindergarten and the brave new territory of the wider school world, she's been seeking out more and more time just sitting in my lap, rocking in the rocking chair and telling me the deeper thoughts she's been thinking for the first time. It's like a small switch has been flicked on and suddenly questions and musings are pouring forth. Nothing is as straightforward as it was before, and things taken in faith are now needed more conversation to sort through.

"Mom, there were boys at the park playing guns and playing shooting, why they do that?"

"Mama, why does (our neighbor) like to smoke those things, what if she burns her house down?"
"If I am a cowgirl when I grow up, can I still be a mommy too?"

"Mom, how come you wanted to marry daddy?"
"How come I can't marry Jackson?"

"Mom, how come there are bad guys in the world? How do we know if people are bad or good?"
"How do I know if I'm a good guy or a bad guy?"

" How come I can't stay little forever?"

"I don't know little girl, but I'm trying to keep up with you, and hold you closer than ever. I love that you talk to me, and I pray you always will. I pray that I will have some sort of answers to your questions, that I'll keep a straight face when I need to and a brave face when I need to too. "


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