Monday, August 19, 2013

The Island

Friday and Saturday we went in the boat with my parents to "The Island" as Liam likes to call it.  This is not any of the usual suspects when people around here talk about islands; instead it's a little state park, in the south part of Puget Sound, McMicken Island.

As luck would have it, I forgot my camera, so the photos here are all culled from other places on the Internets.  (Here, actually, thank you.)  It's hard to go forward without photos because the place really is magical.

It's a tiny, small island, connected to a much larger island at low tide by a sandbar.  Liam and I walked across it.  Then walked back.  On the sand bar side are amazing eel grass beds and every kind of intertidal creature you can imagine.  On the other side is an eagle nest and a giant erratic left by the last glacier.  Big enough to be marked on charts.

I hadn't thought much about magic for many years, but when you have a small child around you develop a new relationship with the idea.  That moment when the water under the row boat is 5 or 6 feed deep and clear so you can see to the bottom, and that secret undersea world starts to peek out at you.  Magic.  Noise of kingfishers, scolding and diving, also magic.  Seals.  Tides.  Sandbars.  Islands in the first place.  All magic.  And why not.

At low tide we saw moon snails (and brought home an empty shell), reefs of mussels, a sand dollar garden, every manner of sea star, sea anemones, hermit crabs.   Liam carefully collected some of each, brought them back to the boat to live for an hour or so in pots and pans with a little sea water, until they were even more carefully returned to their homes.

Tonight we walked out down the ally to bring in the yard bin.  One of the neighbors was out and we got to talking about the island.  Liam loves to tell people about it. She told how night before last they saw a great horned owl in one of the trees across the road.  Passing through.  We talked about owl boxes for a few minutes.  They promised to call -- day or night -- if it came back.

Right after Will died we had an owl take up temporary residence in our yard.  It would sit in the rhododendron tree, or in the mash up of fir and hemlock across the ally.  We heard it every night.  I still think of it.  I remember laying there listening to it over the rain, trying to figure out what type of owl it might be. I thought it was a Saw-Whet owl, I told them.  No, they told me, male screech owl. Calling.  It was here for eight weeks.

The south part of Puget Sound is made up of finger inlets.  Six or seven main ones, depending on how you count.  Henderson, Budd, Eld, Totten, Hammersly, Case, and Carr.  I guess I count seven.  Before we got here, separate bands of native peoples lived along the shores of each inlet.  The clam legend  teaches that in the long ago time the Raven put people into clamshells and dropped them all around Puget Sound. According to the story, this started the various small bands of Native Peoples up and down Puget Sound.  Magic.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Catching up

I've been pretty absent from this space over the summer, but seeings as how I am trapped in the Boise, ID airport for the foreseeable future due to broken planes and delayed flights I thought I might catch up a little.

We raised tadpoles this year, and they pretty much all made it to frogs, which was much better than two years ago when we tried and got almost no frogs.  We were on a good path to release the frogs into their home pond until there was a terrible accident with the tadpole/frog container resulting in water, rocks, wet leaves, broken glass, tadpoles and frogs all over the kitchen floor.  We did the best we could with all that and then decided we'd done enough for the frog population for the year.  It was fun while it lasted.

We celebrated Liam's 6th birthday.  Six!  He received, among other things, a national geographic documentary about cougars and a stuffed tiger with leash, collar, and feeding dishes, and he and my mother continued the tradition of making the same face in all the pictures.   Liam was (and remains) very interested in big cats.

We picked the first strawberry on June 8 and ate strawberries almost continuously for the rest of June.

We went for a hike from trees and hot sun to snow, something Liam had never done before and almost couldn't believe was possible it was so fun.  GoGo was our guide and he and Liam made a snow duck to celebrate.  Liam learned to use a compass.


We went camping with Auntie Chris at the ocean where Liam swam in the waves and flew kites on the beach and we were all almost consumed whole by mosquitoes.  Blech.

And, finally, but maybe the most exciting: Liam learned to ride a bike.  He now takes great delight at biking on the protected bike paths and explaining to all who will listen that soon he will be biking to the grocery store for me and biking all around the neighborhood at all hours of day and night with the neighboring Liam.  Here's hoping!

Monday, August 12, 2013

It's not about the apricots

A few weeks ago I returned from a work trip east of the mountains with two boxes of apricots.  We dried a bunch.  Made this jam with a few.  And we put a few in jars.  I asked Liam if he wanted to be in charge of packing the jars this year and he said "by myself?" and I said, "well, sure, I'll be here if you want help; I'll make the sugar syrup."  So he got out his little knife, washed his hands really well, and started to pit the apricots and drop them in.  A little instruction along the lines of make sure you get the bottom of the jar really full, we want to pack them in tight, and he was off.  He packed four jars.  He didn't cut himself, he didn't lose interest.

The thing is, the thing that is so easy to forget is, it's not so much about exactly how safely he can use the knife or whether he will actually finish packing the jars.  He has practice enough to be safe enough with the knife* and apricots are pretty low risk.   Besides, I'm right there, I'm watching.  It's about him understanding that I believe in him; have confidence in his skills and ability to contribute something of value in the house.  

He had a great day today; a four-hour play date with no fits or yelling, all disagreements worked out amicably; lunch in the chicken fort.  So many of the things I see as behavior challenges on my good days and character flaws on my bad are undoubtedly something else entirely. Tiredness.  Hunger.  Too many instructions.  Too little undivided attention.  My own moods.  He needs to understand beyond all doubt that I know for sure he is not just the fits and the whining and the spilled and broken stuff.  He's also the kid who will jump up and pack four jars of apricots. 

*That band-aid is from some other insult, not this adventure.  See his bent fingers in the first picture?  I taught him that.  He knows how to keep his fingers out of the way of the knife.

Friday, August 9, 2013

When you are away

Back a million years ago, or maybe only 15 or so, Auntie Chris was deployed on ships.  Sometimes large; more often small.   She was one of three females on a fast frigate deployed in, what, 1998 or 1999 I guess.  On an aircraft carrier, the one that was deployed forever and helped with the Indonesian tsunami relief effort.  Some other ship after that.  She'd give me a folder with all the information about her auto-pay bills, instructions for the DVD recorder she'd installed at my house to record the West Wing or whatever (Can you imagine! It used to be the only way!), where the keys to everything were, what to do if her helicopter crashed into the ocean, and then away she'd go for six months, nine months, until she came back.

While she was gone I'd send her things.  Once a week.  Not every-single-no-matter-what-once-a-week but, pretty much 80-90%, once a week.  Sometimes it would be cookies.  Sometimes candy.  Often I'd try to send something silly.  Once I sent one of those robotic plush pet dogs that you could "train" to bark and jump.  She told me this lived in the helicopter group office, or whatever that space is called where they kept their stuff and talked about what needed fixing and all the rest.  Once I sent a whole bunch of soap and asked her to please have the ship spell out my name in bubbles in the ocean and take a picture from the air.  Twice, at least, I sent kites.  I can remember in a visceral way shopping for this goofy stuff, packing these little boxes, filling out the carbon-forms you get at the post office to send something to an APO box.

Chris said sometimes the mail would be squirrely and a bunch of boxes would arrive all at once. Three, five, six weeks of stuff.  She said it was like some strange holiday.

More often than anything, I sent these brownies.  They mix up by hand in one bowl, no fuss no bother.  They cook up right and pack like a dream. 

Auntie Chris texted me today. (So sorry DVD player, your days are gone.)  She said she was thinking of someone deployed and could I please send the brownie recipe.   Sure thing.

Chocolate Chip Brownies for Mailing to People Who Are Far Away
3/4 c butter
4 oz unsweetened chocolate
4 large eggs
1 3/4 c sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla (sometimes I just add 2 tsp)
3/4 c flour
1/2 tsp salt, or a little more
1 c chocolate chips (or finely chopped chocolate is good too, also M&Ms)

Melt together the butter and chocolate and set aside to cool.
Bet the eggs and sugar together with a whisk until they are pale yellow, thick, and light.  This takes 3-5 minutes depending on your energy level.  This is the leavening, don't phone it in.
Add the chocolate and butter mixture and fold in.  Be careful it's cool enough so you don't cook the eggs.  Add the vanilla.
Fold in the flour and the salt.  Add the chocolate chips or whatever (or you can just sprinkle them on top when it's in the pan).
Bake in a 350 degree F oven in a 9 x 13 x 2 inch (or slightly smaller) buttered pan for about 25 minutes.  Don't over bake.

PS -- I looked all over for a photo of Auntie Chris and one of her helicopters.  I think I must have some somewhere, but they seem to have vanished into my fancy picture organizing and storing technology, in which I can locate no photo taken before 2006.  Sigh.

PS again -- updated to add pictures, from a ship's tour in Australia.  Thanks Chris.

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Thursday, May 9, 2013

CF Awareness Month and Creating a Real-World Social Network

May is CF awareness month. 

You can help.  Giving money to support drug research for a cure is great.  I do that.  In my mind, though, bringing dinner by some night when someone really could use it is. . .better.  Coming over to play cards or watch a movie or just hang out with someone who would otherwise be alone, also, better.

My 90-odd year old across the street neighbor, Mr. Z, who generally still mows his own lawn God-bless him, drives out twice a week to deliver meals-on-wheels to seniors.  He tells me, otherwise they might not see anyone.  He wants to help.

He and I talked about this one day last fall when Liam and I went over to rake leaves for him.  Mr. Z protested that he could rake his own leaves, thank you very much. (This is true but it's really, really slow these days.)  He protested and protested.  Finally I took him aside.  John, I said, I'm trying to do something here, I'm trying to teach this kid about neighbors and taking care of people -- he's only going to learn that by doing it and seeing it done.  Will you help me?  He stopped protesting.  Can I give him a dollar he asked?   Sure, I said, he'd love that.  We raked leaves.  In the winter we shoveled snow.   Sometimes John gives Liam a dollar.  More often not.  Sometimes, not as often as I'd like, we bring soup over.   

You could help someone with CF, or you might help someone else.  Just get out there, be present in your world.

Check this out if you need some CF-related motivation:
Emily's entourage 
Emily's entourage, TEDx talk, about using social media to create a community of support
New medications are making are difference, these make me feel so hopeful.

Okay - thus ends the sermon.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Roller skating (in the house)

One nice thing about having really old, really crappy, painted wood floors is that on rainy Fridays afternoons before the pizza is ready you can roller skate in the house.  It turns out both small and large boys like to roller skate in the house, although small ones like it more.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Animals in our house

Doesn't everyone keep baby chicks in the kitchen this time of year?  Ours came to us a week old from a farmer out towards McCleary. ("If one dies or turns out to be a rooster, just bring 'em back; I'll give you another.")  They came home from the farm in a shoe box and took up residence on the kitchen table, the regular kitchen light bulb replaced with a heat-lamp for now and my heated seed-starting mat under their container for added warmth.

They peep continuously and make many other chirp-ping noises.  They've been named Fluffy and Sunflower and have doubled in size since arrival.  They're soft as all get out and sleep like the dead, which can be a little alarming, but when awake they flap their perfect little wings and can hop-fly strongly enough to get over the top of their container if we don't pay attention.  They yellow one has perfect chipmunk strips down her back and speckled wings.  The black one has a snow white tummy and bottom and likes to peck.

Today we moved them and their heat lamp to a big, tall wooden box in the garage with air holes in the side and a wire top.  They'll stay there for another 4-6 weeks until they're big enough to live outside where, what, by the end of summer hopefully, they'll be integrated with our current flock of three and up in the hen house laying green and blue eggs.  Unless one's a rooster.  Fingers crossed.