Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Happy Six, Big B

I no longer have a five-year-old. Big B turned six yesterday, and we've been celebrating non-stop over much so that I really don't have very many pictures to prove it. We had a Tiger Party on Saturday with a house and yard full of little roarers. Tiger tails, tiger toys, tiger books, tiger games, tiger prizes, tiger coloring, tiger balloons, poacher jeep pinata...okay, maybe that was a bit much, but the kids had a great time.
It was a scorcher until the rain fell, so we hired our good friend to come and serve our guests his famous Hawaiian shave ice treats. What a hit! He served over 100 of them!
We also had tiger-themed food, prepared by both of Big B's grandmothers.
Aunt S came through with some gorgeous face painting for our little cats.
Through rain and chaos, we had a wonderful celebration. Yesterday we intended to celebrate further with the real tigers at Busch Gardens, but little b's fever had other plans. So we stayed local, had a sweet day of game playing Grammy, Papu, Noni and Uncle Bob, and enjoyed being with our new six year old.

As I told him the story of his birth last night, I couldn't help crying. He asked if I was sad, and I said no, quite the opposite...that his choosing of Papa and me has made me happier than I ever dreamed. I thanked him for being exactly who he is, and I told him what an honor it is to watch him grow, and grow, and grow.

Friday, June 25, 2010

(this moment)

Via Soule Mama: A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Neighborhood Lemonade Stand

Have I mentioned before how fabulously fabulous our neighborhood is? We live on the greatest street in all the land, with five very close families with young children within mere feet of each other. I know that the value of this kind of community in the growth of my children is beyond measure. Today, one of these families called us and reminded us of an idea--and just a few hours later, five families came together to host a neighborhood lemonade stand.

Our children collectively decided that The Humane Society would be the lucky recipient of their earnings.
One family brought cookies, several brought lemonade, one brought paper goods, one brought ice, and many painted signs. We mostly just had a very sweet afternoon, pausing at the parental shout of "CAR!" to grab signs and entice passing motorists.When all was said and done, our amazing children raised $96 and change for their chosen cause. All of us agreed that we should do this more often! It has so many benefits: us mamas and papas truly enjoy each others' company, our children simply love each other, and they are learning valuable life lessons in the process.
We are so lucky.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Summer Solstice 2010

Today is the Summer Solstice. We woke up ready to celebrate the summer sun.
What better way to pay homage to the sunshine we are so warmed and energized by than to visit the beach? We threw on our suits and were out the door. Our dear friend Rose and her monkeys met us there, and her sentiments echo the thoughts I'm trying so hard to suppress today. The water was clear and sweet and we celebrated it fully. Like little drops of sunshine, these mahoe flowers were everywhere on the sand near our blanket.We collected several of them, along with some shells and seaweed, and brought them home to add to our beach pebble, making a lovely palette for our solstice spiral: a nature devotional to the sun.
Later this afternoon, Big B and little b revisited our beach collection and made gorgeous vignette compositions on solar print paper. They were most pleased with the results! We'll be doing a lot of these this summer--a very gratifying project.
As the year's longest day came to a close, we read some of our new library books. This adaptation of the classic Canticle of the Sun was a perfect way to end our solstice celebration, and a reminder for us to give thanks and praise and act with respect and kindness toward the systems that sustain us. This is not optional. As Chief Seattle said so wisely: "Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect."
The Circle of Days

Lord, we offer thanks and praise
For the circle of our days.
Praise for radiant brother sun,
Who makes the hours around us run.
For sister moon, and for the stars,
Brilliant, precious, always ours.
Praise for brothers wind and air,
Serene or cloudy, foul or fair.
For sister water, clear and chaste,
Useful, humble, good to taste.
For fire, our brother, strong and bright,
Whose joy illuminates the night.
Praise for our sister, mother earth,
Who cares for each of us from birth.
For all her children, fierce or mild,
For sister, brother, parent, child.
For creatures wild, and creatures tame,
For hunter, hunted, both the same.
For brother sleep, and sister death,
Who tend the borders of our breath.
For desert, orchard, rock, and tree,
For forest, meadow, mountain, sea,
For fruit and flower, plant and bush,
For morning robin, evening thrush.
For all your gifts, of every kind,
We offer praise with quiet mind.
Be with us, Lord, and guide our ways
Around the circle of our days.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A Man of Many Hats

In honor of Father's Day this morning, after preparing a stellar breakfast-in-bed for our pater familias, Big B and little b put on a fashion and music show for their biggest fan. I don't have pictures of this spectacular display because I was too busy cheering and narrating the show--all I have is a photo of the pile of discarded fashions--but I'll describe it as a sweet celebration of how much two boys love their daddy.

And let me use this space to say this about the man that is their father. Papa never, ever ceases to amaze me. Even after a very long and cerebral workday, his enthusiasm, excitement, humor and strength nurture and grow these children on a daily basis. He has never once failed to seize an opportunity to make them happy. Perhaps above all else, Papa is simply a good man. His example has already laid the foundation for my two young princes to grow into greatness.

Our little fashion show was an appropriate tribute to a man who wears so many hats, and a chance for the recipients of his many gifts to tip their hats to him and say: Thank you, Daddy.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Calm Cushions: Zafus for Kids

Yesterday we headed south to celebrate Papa's Grandma Ruth's 85th birthday. As is her custom upon receiving her grandchildren as visitors, she began offering the things in her house. She insisted that I take the two lovely hand-crocheted pillows I complimented on her couch. I graciously accepted. She said they were made by her friend's daughter and would love to find them a good home. Done!

Today I played catch-up around the house, and as a result, Big B and little b were getting a bit out-of-sorts toward day's end. I remembered the pillows and threw them on the floor and asked each boy which was his favorite. They chose differently (whew!), and voila, my children now each have their own "calm cushion." I told them that whenever they were feeling like they needed a moment to take a deep breath or read a book, they could use their cushion and it would bring them a bit of peace. It worked, if only for a moment (and perhaps for novelty's sake), like a charm.
Seeing the pillows on the floor also reminded me of my friend Rose's recent zafu creation. So there's something to this! A zafu is simply a round cushion traditionally used in zen meditation. Having a comfortable, portable piece of peace is a great idea for kids--why haven't I thought of it sooner? And these are just perfect. Thank you Grandma Ruth!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Summer Homesteading: Sweet as Honey

Some things are genetic, I suppose. Like getting overzealous at a good locally grown crop of tomatoes. When my sister learned of my tomato bounty, she loaded up Big L and little l and headed south for a 24-hour food preservation whirlwind.

Big B and little b could just hardly stand it, waiting for their arrival.They came bearing tomato-trading gifts: four quarts of frozen blueberries they'd picked this spring, two jars each of homemade strawberry and blueberry jam, vidalia onions from a u-pick on the way to our house, and potatoes fresh from their garden.We spent twelve straight hours in the kitchen processing our harvest. This is one of two five-gallon containers of tomato puree!
We canned 18 quarts (about 50 pounds) of herbed tomato sauce and 12 pints of yellow tomato and tomatillo salsa, leaving us each with about 25 pounds of tomatoes to bring home.The next morning, Aunt S revealed the four frames of honey she'd brought from her hives to show Big B and little b how it was bottled.The honey glistened like gold as she scraped the beeswax from the comb.Big B got a turn scraping the honeyed wax......and little b got a turn eating the honeyed wax!
When the frames were emptied there were several containers of sweet golden wildflower honey on our dining room table.Aunt S poured all of the honey and wax into a large bucket fitted with a filter to catch the comb, squeezing out as much of the deliciousness as she could.
We left the bucket o' honey bathing in the sun while we took a quick dip in the ocean. When we returned, it was ready to pour into jars. And in case I haven't mentioned it, this is by far the most delicious honey I've ever tasted.
A quick visit with very little money spent yielded a feast of homegrown goodness for two families. Canning and processing is hard, fast-paced work, but there is so much love poured into each jar, and so much peace of mind knowing where every single ingredient comes from. This is one lesson that radical homemakers are re-learning, one that our elders know all too well. As one wise woman said to my sister upon seeing the many mason jars in her shopping cart: "I kinda feel sorry for you, and I kinda feel envious of you at the same time."

Friday, June 11, 2010

When Life Gives You Tomatoes...

Earlier this week, I was blessed by a friend's delivery of locally grown tomatoes, fresh cream from local grass-fed cows, and two dozen farm-fresh eggs. I have been in domestic heaven all week. While letting the tomatoes ripen on our dining room table, Big B and little b helped me make butter for the very first time. I do declare I may never buy butter from the store again.We also made ice cream using the fresh cream, fresh eggs, hand-extracted vanilla and handpicked berries. Delicious.When the tomatoes were sufficiently ripe, I scored them, blanched them, peeled them, de-seeded them and pureed them.I wanted to can tomato sauce, something our family uses quite a bit of. The consensus recipe for such an undertaking was from Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. The recipe calls for dried spices so as not to interfere with the acidity and pH of the sauce. As the other ingredients in the sauce were so lovely, local, and organic, the boys and I took a trip to our local spice shop to bring our herbs up to par.The sauce cooked for about three hours before we canned it. The house smelled divine, and Big B and little b just couldn't get enough tastes.I was hooked. Tomorrow is the last day of the summer tomato season at our local farm, and what isn't picked and sold will be plowed and burned. As a result, they are selling u-pick tomatoes for a dollar a bucket. That's one dollar for over 25 pounds of tomatoes. How could we resist? The boys and I and several other tomato lovers met out at the farm for a few hot hours of harvesting.When all was said and done, we piled over 200 pounds of tomatoes in our car and paid just $23. We'll be divvying these up among family and friends, and using our share for more canning, sauce, salsa, ketchup, and fresh salads. And counting our juicy red blessings all the while.
"It's difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts
while eating a homegrown tomato."
--Lewis Grizzard