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Nothing feels as fleeting as cleanliness.  A large part of my day off was spent sweeping, washing, tidying, and scrubbing.  The kids arrived home to spread a cup of sand from the playground and a granola bar all over the floor.  I should know to enjoy it while I can.

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Let me count the ways:

  1. the start of school makes me giddy (sorry kids, but you know you love it too)
  2. being outside without sweating or shivering
  3. can you think of a better time to be a knitter?
  4. hot tea
  5. fall foliage
  6. sweaters
  7. curling up under a quilt (to knit a sweater, while drinking hot tea)
  8. apples (apple picking, apple cider, apple butter, apple crisp, apple pie, etc.)

A couple weeks ago, we made our annual apple picking foray with friends. It is not the cheapest Saturday folly, but it is truly fun for the whole family.

Sarah was downright giddy as she walked among the trees, yelling “apple” at every turn.

She seemed to enjoy the tasting portion of the day, too.

The big kids enjoyed searching the trees for the best looking Honeycrisps.

Brad was a few rows over filling a bag with Haralsons.

Honeycrisps for eating. Haralsons for baking and apple butter.

Brad spent quality time with the Haralsons while watching the debate last night. (I was too busy trying to get Sarah to sleep while simultaneously swearing at the t.v.) He cored, peeled and quartered about half of what we brought home. The apples went into a pot and onto the stove for a few hours to end up as apple butter. Brad canned 3 pints and 1 pint went straight into the fridge for (almost) immediate consumption. You’ve got to love a man that cans!

We’ve been making apple butter each fall for the past 10 years. The smell of apples simmering with cinnamon, ginger, clove, cardamom and nutmeg may surpass the smell of fresh baked bread in my book. You can argue with me on that point, but you definitely can’t go wrong with a combination of the two!

A few years ago we earned quite a reputation with regard to our apple butter consumption. We had spent the weekend with a group of friends and cooked apple butter over an open fire in a huge cooper pot. It was a friend’s family tradition and a glorious one, at that. A beautiful October Saturday spent sitting around a campfire, taking turns stirring the pot of apples with a giant wooden paddle. What could be better?

I can’t remember how many jars we put up that day. It was A LOT! Anyway, we came home with around 10 pint and 2 quart jars. I think we were the only family to finish our share before the next October. The next year, we came home with a few extras. 🙂

Over the weekend, we headed up nort’ with some friends. Given my lack of enthusiasm for camping, it might surprise you to know that we went camping in Itasca State Park. I have to admit, it was lovely. Really lovely. The first night was a little on the chilly side, but the majority of the family had very warm sleeping bags and no complaints (thanks, Anna). It seems the effort of getting long underwear and wool socks for the kids was not a waste. (Frankly, given the estimated price of heating this winter and the resulting low temps set on our thermostat, the kids will definitely get more use out of those!)

For our city kids, it was a weekend filled with wonder. The stars alone made the trip worth it. The kids were trying to count the stars and quickly gave up. They looked for constellations and made up a few of their own. I think Joshua’s involved a rocket ship coming from Orion’s belt.

Lizzie’s internal clock, which is set ridiculously early, gave her (and Brad) the privilege of witnessing the mist on the lake at sunrise.

We heard owls at night. We saw and heard loons in the morning. We saw trumpeter swans. Sarah broke the quiet sunrise moment by proclaiming, “DUCKY! WATER!”

We climbed to the top of the Aiton Heights Fire Tower and enjoyed an amazing view. How often do you get to see fall foliage from 100 feet up? I wasn’t sure if I could stomach the trip to the top, or more accurately the trip down, but the view was worth all 100 feet. Brad took Sarah up with him and she was pretty excited. Joshua managed to go twice (no wonder he slept so well).

We also went to the Headwaters of the Mississippi River. As a native of Memphis, I was blown away by the fact that Old Man River starts out so small. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to go across since I was busy trying to keep Sarah out of the water. Once again, Joshua managed to go across twice (that kid is nothing if not enthusiastic).

I almost forgot to mention the apple and pear crisp cooked in a cast iron dutch oven on the camp fire. Oh my, it was yummy!

Good friends, good food, and a gorgeous setting. I guess camping isn’t so bad, after all.

Today, I went with a friend to pick up her CSA share. We took the two toddlers with us, hoping they would sleep. We stopped and got some icy coffee drinks and headed to the farm. She picked out her veggies while I stayed in the car chatting with her daughter, happy that mine was snoozing.

On the drive back, we noticed a large number of police blocking the street we would normally take to get to her house. Not entirely surprising given the relative proximity to the site of the RNC. We had seen multiple police on every corner earlier.

This was different though. Very different. Police in riot gear. At least one on his knee with some sort of weapon drawn. Facing off with a gathering group of protesters across the street. Some yelling.

More streets were blocked by riot police. We did eventually, make it to her house after a long detour and several minutes of animated chatter about what we’d just seen. We had goosebumps. Creepy, to say the least, with our sleepy babes in the back seat.

Turns out we missed the real action by mere moments. Watch the video. We are the white van that drives by right before the protesters start to cross the street.  Right before the police start firing tear gas.

After listening to this story on NPR last week, I started to think more about our grocery lists.  What could Hillary Carlip, a Los Angeles-based performance artist who develops characters from discarded shopping lists, come up with based on ours?

There are the “regular” lists, typically scribbled on the back of envelopes or other scraps.  These are often written by both of us.  Adding items as we check recipes or remember something else we need.  Deleting items that we discover hiding in the pantry. We include notations regarding the need for containers for bulk items.  After the shopping trip the list will have the tare and plu of the bulk items jotted next to the item name.  If something on the list isn’t available at the co-op, or prohibitively expensive there, there’s a notation to signify we’ll get that item elsewhere.

That’s just the system.  What would she make of the list’s content?

Spam?  Where the hell does Spam fit on that list?!?  Would she think to attribute the Spam to the fact that my family is from Hawaii and my kids love spam musubi?

(Looks like we were making Thai noodle salad, biscuits and gravy and spam musubi that week.)

Then there are the lists I make to get the kids involved.

I started making cards to take shopping a few years ago.  Lizzie was just starting to read and Joshua wasn’t reading at all, but wanted to “help”.  I doodle some pictures on index cards and then divide them evenly between the two of them.  Must keep everything fair, you know.  It seems to help make the experience less frustrating for all involved when they have a job to do.

If I were smart, I would make a master set.  Ooo, I could laminate them, too!

As I write this, it is far earlier in the morning than I am typically apt to be up and about. What has driven me from the warmth and comfort of my bed so early? Pain.

The pain that woke me up is from my tooth. Oh. My. Word. The dull pain that sent me to the dentist yesterday has developed into an acute pain that sends me running for the ibuprofen. A call to the dentist’s office for “something stronger” is not out of the question. I’m actually eager for the upcoming root canal. The sooner this is dealt with, the better!

The pain that is keeping me awake is of a different sort. A friend of mine just lost his mother to Alzheimer’s on Sunday. I suppose she may have been lost to him long before, as that is the nature of the beast.

I struggle to use the word friend. It has been a long time since I could easily describe us as friends. The intervening crap is complicated. We likely would have parted ways years ago had the situation allowed it. We work together. He’s my boss. At a church. Like I said, complicated.

Over time, the complicated crap has settled into functional dysfunction. A dull pain.

The death of his mother has made that pain more acute. At one time, I think that I would have been on his short list of friends to call. An offer of support accepted. Now there is nothing. Silence. We receive information only through the grape vine.

I am truly sorry for his loss.

I am also truly sorry for the loss of our friendship.

There’s nothing to readily ease this pain. No ibuprofen. No root canal. Just time. More prayer.

pew

Joshua’s birthday, viruses, wedding anniversary, back-to-school, first day of kindergarten, garage sale, Rally Sunday. Just to name a few of the things going on in our household lately (or coming too soon).

Last Thursday, Joshua turned 5 years old. We celebrated with pancakes for breakfast and a trip to the fair. Nothing says, “Happy Birthday” like some deep-fried food on a stick.  Per Joshua’s request, we came home and had rice and tofu for dinner. No, it was not in response to the fair food, he just loves rice and tofu. Add some peas to his plate and you’ve got his all-time favorite meal. I never claimed the child was normal.

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After the kids were asleep, I settled in for my own personal birthday tradition. I watched the video of Joshua’s birth. I never claimed I was normal either.

I also watched some video of Lizzie when she was around one year. I was a regular waterworks by then. I suffered the double-whammy of remembering those oh-so-long-ago moments and realizing that my baby is almost the same age.

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It won’t be pretty around here on September 24th. I should talk someone into taking me to Costco to stockpile tissues.

Tomorrow may be another tissue-fest. Joshua starts kindergarten. On the one hand, I might be doing cartwheels once he is on the bus for the sheer relief of not having to be primary caregiver to a very active, very “spirited” young boy for a few hours. On the other, it is a big milestone. What happened to my happy Buddha baby? How did he get to be 5 and going off to all-day kindergarten?  That’s worth a couple tissues (even if he is a stinker)!

No time to cry long.  I have a boatload to do at work and plenty of prep work for our garage sale on Saturday.  If I can just survive through Sunday afternoon, I have this as a carrot dangling in front of me:

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Hand-delivered from Japan.  One of Brad’s co-workers just got back from a trip there (we are both a little jealous).  Before she left, he asked her if she could buy a craft book for me.  I didn’t want to overwhelm her with specific titles since she doesn’t speak or read Japanese, nor is she a Japanophile craft blogger.  I think Brad’s instructions were along the lines of “a book of sewing patterns for little girls with a European feel”.  I’m pretty pleased with the result.

A friend of mine jokes that Brad and I must sit around all the time and think about how to save the world.  That definitely is not the case, but lately a large amount of my brain capacity (such as it is, given I am a sleep-deprived mother of 3) has been occupied with living a greener lifestyle.  Certainly compared to a large portion of society, we are fairly green.  We have been doing a lot of the easy steps for a long-time:  composting, recycling, buying in bulk, reusing a lot of what we can, using compact fluorescent bulbs, etc.

Certainly, there’s plenty of room for improvement.  I have been taking a couple baby steps lately by trying to remember my travel mug whenever I go out for coffee, using cloth produce bags and canvas bags at the store and reducing the amount of plastic in our house.  Sometimes, though, I am easily overwhelmed.  I spent days researching what sippy cup to buy for Sarah.  Nalgene?  Sigg?  Klean Kanteen?  So many factors to consider!  Even though it was the least expensive of the three options, I ruled out Nalgene because of the possibility of leaching toxins.  Sigg doesn’t leach chemicals, but A LOT of energy goes into making aluminum.   On the pro side, it is recyclable at the end of its life.   I ended up going with the Klean Kanteen.  Stainless steel:  no leaching, little to no production waste to impact the environment.  Not an inexpensive choice, but I am hoping it is a sound one.

Part of what overwhelms me is weighing competing values.  For instance, I would love to get a Klean Kanteen for each of the rest of us.  It would be nice to not worry about leaching toxins in our water bottles (especially when we regularly forget one or more of them in the car on a hot day).  On the other hand, I would be spending close to $80 to get four bottles.  I would also have to decide what to do with the 4 Nalgene bottles we already own.  All those brain cells in use for a water bottle!

You should see me at the grocery store.  Even before I get to the store I have had to make several decisions that weigh competing values.  For the most part, we shop at a one of the local co-ops, thus favoring the values of small business versus chain stores.  It also means that we a) drive farther, b) pay more and c) have a smaller selection.  Once I’m at the store, then I start asking more questions:  Is it local?  Is it organic?  What is the per unit cost?  Sometimes you can get local, organic and less expensive all in the same product.  Most of the time you have to be willing to sacrifice on one value or the other.

I  went to the co-op with the kids the other day.  As we walked through the produce section, Joshua started asking to get apples.  A quick glance at the signs and I just couldn’t do it.

“Sorry, honey.  What about some watermelon?”

“I want apples!”

“None of them are local, they are all from Chile.  Just a month or so and we’ll be able to get local apples.”

“Awww.”

Sometimes, it’s not easy being green.

Over a year ago, I made a foolish proposal to the youth group of the church where I am employed as Director of Education. I told them that if they raised:

$500 – I would let them dye my hair the color of their choice

$750 – I would get my nose pierced

$1000 – I would get a tattoo

You might ask, why are those numbers so low? The youth group consisted of 3 kids on the best of days. I figured they would organize a bake sale or something. Ahh, the power of humiliation. A few weeks of announcing the challenge and the money was raised. The next youth group is going to have to work for their fundraisers!

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Dyed and pierced (April 2006)

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Promise fulfilled.

Time spent waiting for my turn at Leviticus was time well spent on my socks.

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Now that the socks are finished (except for blocking), I have started a new shawl. I don’t know what I am more excited about: knitting something out of Folk Shawls or using my ball winder and swift (didn’t take long for me to break down and order one, eh?).

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I am a complainer. I have always been a complainer. When I was a kid my aunts bought me a t-shirt that said, “Monku, Monku, Monku” which basically translates to “complain, complain, complain” from Japanese slang. I wore that shirt a lot.

Lately, I’ve been trying to cut down on the monku and replace it with some gratitude. For instance, I am grateful that my family has been relatively healthy this winter (that thumping you hear is me knocking on all the wood in our house). When I think about my friends who haven’t been able to hold their newborn very much because she is in an oxygen tent, I am grateful that Sarah was healthy and able to come home with us right away.

I’m not complaining, but…

School was out on Monday for President’s Day, so all three kids were home. Brad, however, was not. The kids were also home on Friday, so by Monday the novelty of being home had worn off. I had the greatest of intentions for the day, with ideas of baking together, playing games and making crafts. We were out of flour, sugar and butter and I couldn’t muster the energy for games, so out came the paper and scissors. Truth be told, paper and scissors are always out in our house, but this time it was a little less free form than usual. We made the bird garland I’d seen posted on Kiddley in December. I figured, we’ll make it with floral paper, so it will be a spring garland. Leave it to my children to start a theological debate over the meaning of the garland. The top of the template page said “Holiday Garland Template”, so Lizzie decided that it was a garland of doves to remind us of Jesus’s baptism (Baptism of the Lord Sunday is not the most commonly celebrated holiday, but, whatever). Joshua, on the other hand, determined that it was representative of the dove that flew from the Noah’s Ark to find dry land. Ok, it is true that I am employed as the education director of a church, but sometimes my Jesus freak children are a bit much for me. “Jesus!!” “No, Noah!!” “Jesus!” “Noah!” I am grateful my children are so passionate about their faith???

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