Saturday, May 30, 2009

do you believe in magic?


We have, right now as I type, several polaroid pictures of my girl, my big ten and a half yr old girl, from her littler days tacked up on the corkboard in my kitchen. I love a polaroid picture. I've had a camera for years, but all the moves (and then, all the moves) have made a lot of non-essentials difficult to pin down and find. We came across it just the last week or so (with a packet of unopened film in the case, even!) and so, when we packed for a cabin camping trip with some local homeschooling friends, I knew I had to bring it along.

I haven't much written about the H word here. Homeschooling. And I don't plan to write much about it. On one hand, it adds such bright gladness to our days, is such a perfect extension of the way we respect and trust and live, that it deserves not one entry, but many, a whole dedicated blog of entries. But there are plenty of homeschooling blogs out there. Just like there are plenty of baby blogs and mommy blogs and vegetarian blogs and sustainable blogs and other such blogs of various passion. And so any curious party could click and find exuberant defense of this alternative-to-the-mainstream lifestyle choice. I don't need to expound on it here. I wouldn't get it right, anyway. So, on the other hand: it's too true and personal, too beyond scrutiny and defense. It's funny, the way some people immediately launch into why they "could/would never. . . " homeschool when they discover that I do. Because truthfully? I don't care. I do what works best for my little family and I trust that you do, too. What Works Best. I think that's the essence. And I can be very rational and serious and ramble on about reading comprehension and self-esteem and understanding of chronological history and long division, and the "working best" might fit under any standardized government expectation. But the best really lives in a place you can't so much measure: in the way we get along, in my kid's resilience in all the change we've thrust upon her, in my children's sweet sibling relationship, despite their 7 year age gap. So many other things. It's not my job to make other people comfortable with my choices and so with this one, especially, when the stakes are so high and egos so fragile, I remain mostly disengaged. My kid doesn't go to school. Never has. Who knows what the future holds? Ask about Socialization at your own risk (I'm pretty far past any teeth-kicking instinct, but eye-rolling is still fair game).

ANYWAY (consider the previous paragraph one giant parenthetical aside, minus the visible parentheses). I don't care if your kids have video games (mine don't.) or cable (nope.) or some kind of crazy, innovative l.e.d. light flashing interactive toilet (uhhhh. . , i was drawing a blank on examples), no modern child is too jaded to be fascinated by the polaroid.

The technology of Polaroid is timeless, in that it's as absolutely fascinating to children now as it was to children in the seventies, the eighties. The surprise when the camera spits out the print -even though it's expected, it's a little wonderful and surprising every time-is the same. The innate urge to grab it and whap it gently around in the air remains. The thrill of watching the picture emerge, shapes like ghosts forming on the film, is just as thrilling!

It was such fun to break it out with a bunch of children around. (also, camping with a bunch of children = a good time. we almost always camp with just our little family and it was a special sort of lovely to have kids romping around together in the woods like that). The polaroid is the magic pipe and the children follow. I was disappointed to find out that the film was expired and while it still worked somewhat, the colors were wavy and yellowed. I need to get some more film soon.

Any photograph snaps a moment, the seen and unseen of one quick second, but a polaroid maybe captures something more. You push the button and *just like that* you go from looking at the moment, being in the moment, to holding the moment. And sure, I use a digital camera almost exclusively. Digital photography gratifies instantly, as well. But it's not the same. I love my little Canon Rebel, and I'm quite fond of a lot of pictures I take, but digital photos are a little, to me, like looking at a picture of a picture of a picture. Even when the quality is brilliant and the colors vibrant and beautiful, the emotion feels less authentic to me. Polaroids produce a poorer quality print, but capture emotion like no other camera can. So says me.

I'm thinking of a polaroid art project that would be fun to execute. Actually, I'm thinking of dental emergencies and joblessness and unpaid bills and this house of cards we all live in, but I'd like to be thinking of taking instant pictures and leaving them around town. I'd like forget my worries for a moment and maybe help other people forget theirs, too. Something like that.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

nobody gives a damn

So. Maybe you noticed I missed last Sunday. I missed all last week, actually. A week ago the kids and I took a 5-hr drive up to visit friends. Upon our return home, we had one crazy busy day sandwiched in-between that trip and a two day camping trip with our local homeschool group. All the while our major appliances were living in the living room while the husband replaced our troublesome kitchen floor. We finally, yesterday, moved the washer and dryer back into the laundry room -the clean clothes situation was at red alert- even though the laundry room floor is only primed and not at all finished. You do what you have to do and I can't do a week plus without doing laundry.

The ten day forecast expects sun, sun, sun. While the end of May, the beginning of June, can be unpredictable, a curious weather crapshoot, we seem to have reached that "all danger of frost has passed" point. Lows in the high thirties, the forties, the fifties, ahead. I spent the day beefing up our herb garden (really, my daughter's little plot of land, but I jump in and plant a little there, too), with seeds that have been waiting, waiting. Maybe I'm too much of a worrywart and I've missed maximizing our growing season by waiting so long to sow seeds outside. We'll see. The vegetable beds are filling in nicely. My kale! I want to pluck the leaves, big as my thumb now, and eat them up, but I will hold off, and hope they keep growing.

With such bright skies, and laundry on the line, and iced pink wine in my tumbler, it feels like the start of summer. It feels like the beginning of bare shoulders and bare feet and grass stains. And when I'm feeling particularly summery, I want summery music and I'll tell you that there's something about Wolf Parade's 05 Apologies to the Queen Mary album that makes me want to crank up the volume and open the windows and throw a garden party or something. (not that I've ever thrown a garden party, I just feel like it. I'm not really the party throwing type, if I don't throw parties I don't have to worry that no one will come!)

Youtube usually delivers, but tonight I couldn't find a good quality recording of my first choice, so I'm sharing my number two. I really love this one, as well, though. But I urge you to splurge on the .99 (if you don't have it already!) it will cost to get You Are A Runner And I Am My Father's Son and then you'll really know what it sounds like in my head today.

Friday, May 15, 2009

lalalala library

I had such love for my library the other night, I wanted to kiss everybody there. (do you know me? I'm not the kissy sort). First of all, I noticed that one of the summer selections for the library book club is none other than The Grapes of Wrath. (and in my head I'm adding in an enthusiastic, well-placed 'mother-effing' and some serious air fist-pumps: excited!). Surely I've blabbed about my trite but true love of Steinbeck's rambly california prose. Surely you know that I consider TGOW my favorite favorite novel of all (making a rare exception to the 'if it's popular, i don't like it' tendency I brazenly exhibit). Surely you can imagine how glad I am that, maybe, other people who might have read it in high school (the cliff notes?), can probably catch the some of the related references (the Joad's loaded down hoopty) could be digging into it afresh. I would like to know who, at the library, was responsible for choosing it (midst a lot of contemporary books), because I would love to say Thanks and give a little positive feedback. But I'm such a book nerd that my 'thanks' might be something more of a verbal full-on running start piggyback. They wouldn't know what hit them. Better I keep quiet. Maybe I'll even write down the book club date and attend!

So I was all floating happy about that and then I checked out not one but *TWO* children's books illustrated by Jen Corace: Hansel & Gretel and Little Hoot. You might not know who Corace is, but if you do, then you know why that would please me so. My library is small but I am constantly surprised by how much it offers (I am also, to be fair and honest, often frustrated at the lack of certain materials, what with me being a city mouse and accustomed to big city libraries and all, but today it's all good). I brought home, for my boy (for me), the new Cynthia Rylant/Jen Corace Hansel and Gretel. I'd read this one at bookstores, thought of buying it, really really wanted to buy it, held off. I will still buy this one, but full-price new books are not in the budget right now but I can always afford a trip to the library! (Well, usually. I'm in the habit of going so often these days, three times a week at least, that I have kept my fines down, but I have racked up some doozies in the past). I did a little happy happy dance and told the children's librarian how delighted I was that they had that book. She looked at me oddly. Maybe because I really did say Delighted and maybe because I was not accompanied by any children. Fruitcake. Yes. Cynthia Rylant is one of my favorite current children's writers (oh! did I ever tell you that my friend Laurie challenged me to come up with 85 recent children's books that I love, because I tend to be something of an old book snob? I could easily fill up half the list with Rylant books. I haven't actually made the list yet. My ardor for old books is a wee bit subdued as the insane cpsia -consumer product safety improvement act- bullcrap that had a lot of secondhand stores pulling and destroying pre-1985 printed kid books from the shelves hasn't yet affected my local stores and, I confess, I've been lazy and complacent about it). This book is worth doing a happy dance about. Beautiful writing, beautiful pictures, beautiful.

And then, as the girl and I headed to the check-out, our arms at max capacity, I was so surprised when the clerk had, waiting for me, the second flipping season of Dexter!! Yahoo! I had just been telling the husband, literally the very last thing I said to him before I walked to the library, that when I got back one of us should run to the movie store for the first disc of Dexter season 2, because I was jonesing bad. (okay, I did actually say all of that, except that last part. I might really air fist-pump -and air quotes, too, but that's another story- all the real life time, but I don't really say 'jonesing' and if it ever fell out of my mouth accidentally and you had to hear it, I'm sorry, because I bet it sounded ridiculous). I had put a hold on it the week prior and estimated that it would be weeks or longer before it came in. The hold was so newly returned and ready for me that I hadn't gotten the email notification yet and I wasn't even expecting it. I didn't jump up on the counter and I didn't do somersaults but that's what I was feeling: happy! I love being in the honeymoon stage of a new show and right now, I'm all about Dexter. I was willing to go to the movie rental place (not a problem, really, because we have, in our little town, the best little movie store I've ever been to anywhere) but the thing with renting television shows is that you just get a disc at a time. At the library? They lend the whole season! Yes! So while I really have a lot of other more pressing things I ought to be doing tonight, I'm going to tuck my kids in and dig into that whole world of blood splatter and Miami murders. Even the library clerk and I had a little chat about how great the show is, even though, we both admitted to each other, we're not typically the serial killer show watching types.

(psst. . . really, this post should have been written three days ago, but I wanted to take a picture of our library haul, or maybe our library shelf -actually, two shelves, dedicated, for library books in the living room, not counting the ones at bedsides, in bags, on the floor of the car- but i kept procrastinating and then not writing because i didn't have any pictures, not even one, to accompany the words, and i've let myself grow this very silly Why Bother? attitude when it comes to posting without a picture -i think they call that 'perfectionism'- and i have to try very hard to just do it anyway, picture or no. so hi. this is me. who even fails at perfectionism!)

Monday, May 11, 2009

mild synaesthetic thinks too much

squelch squerch

I'm thinking of the way so many things sneak up on you, the way every moment is your first moment, your last moment, and how the weight of the importance and the insignificance of everything teeters: important, not important, important, not important. And we never really know which was which was which until we look back, remember. Even then, how can we know? Maybe something that looks so innocuous, so simple and forgettable, was the most significant action yet.

I'm thinking of the way camping sounds like zippers. Tent, sleeping bag, backpack. The way the whole house smells a little like campfire even days after we come home. The way home sounds like overall buckles clanging in the dryer.

I'm thinking of the way I am better at burning bridges than building them, waiting for the mud to dry out instead of trudging my way through. Being good at waiting is like being good at bending your own thumb backwards to touch your own wrist, just because you can do it, doesn't mean it feels good. And overextending those joints when you're young makes for problems later and then nothing feels so painful as being patient. Wait and see.

I'm thinking of the way loud sounds flash colors when I'm tired. The dog barks Blue and the crack of our cheap ikea bed frame is White. I'm thinking of the way I know too much about everyone, the way people don't know their words drip with color and shape, the way I collect every tiny piece and clue, without meaning to, and they knit a brilliant map, so revealing I can't always make eye contact, it feels too raw and personal.

I'm thinking of the way I'm still wondering what I'll be when I grow up. And realizing that this might be it. I'm thinking how watching Dexter makes me wish I'd gone into Forensics. Imagine getting paid to think about things and put them together!

I'm thinking of the way I want to be right here as much as I want to go back to simpler days as much as I want to skip ahead to stability. But solid ground can be misleading, soil shifts and feet slip and -just like that- perspective changes and we see the whole world differently.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

treat her right

I did not, I don't know how, realize that today is the day for Mothers until, I'm pretty sure, my girl woke me up, sometime in the 8 hour (sleeping in!), bearing a little bouquet of flowers from our own yard and, also, a lovely picture she drew (first thing! waking up early, even!) just for me. Happy Mother's Day!

Remember when radio stations and roller skating rinks took dedications? Maybe they still do that, what do I know? Anyway, this one's going out from me (Sunday Song Share! I've been spearheading the sunday night pizza gig for long enough, who knows what new tradition I can get going?!) to you, because if you're not a mama, then you have one. And who doesn't like a good excuse to see Mister T rockin' the camo short shorts? Ha!

Saturday, May 09, 2009

a good sport

I don't know why I hesitated. Now that I have a fat old school canvas and flannel sleeping bag (no more of this light-as-air slicky slippy nylon nonsense I've been enduring all these years), camping is cake. And it shouldn't have given me pause when the husband and daughter declared that the next camping trip would be off grid. I grew up wilderness camping with my grandparents. So why have I done so little of it with my own little family? Maybe it's just the spooky What Ifs and such. Because, really, if you don't mind some sap on your pants and flippy morning hair that sticks around all day, it's a sweet way to spend a couple of days.

I was inexplicably reluctant (it had been so wet and muddy here last week, maybe that's it, or maybe I've just been something of a stick-in-the, rain or no.) but I'm not too prideful to turn around and admit that we had a really great time.

Even as I talked up my self-appointed A.F.T.R. (along. for. the. ride.) position (as opposed to, say, the husband's P.I.C. -person in charge- role, which, conveniently, let me off the hook for decisions like what to eat and gave me ample sit-and-read time) I was really, truthfully (shh! maybe this is better kept secret!) there for my own self and had fun. I know my way around a squat, though I prefer, and always look for, a private tree. So that's no problem there. (and, we all know what a lot of campground bathrooms are like, it's usually an in and out affair as it is, no loss there). I spend most of my time in campgrounds snarking about the other people in campgrounds. So not only did we not see *anyone* else (or hear anyone, save for a few distant vehicle drones) for two days, but no one had to hear us either. No quieting the children. Which is such a grumble of mine anyway. Camping kids should be loud kids, if ever ther was a reason for kids to be loud. And, yet, when we've had camping "neighbors" twenty feet away, I find myself shushing the children and reminding them that we're not alone. But, my friends, we were alone. The dog could bark. Though, she didn't. She can be barky at campgrounds, but no wonder, what with the leash and all the other dogs and all. But off leash in the mountains for two days? My old dog didn't bark once. She ran herself into the ground, though, and kept up on all of our hikes and now, I suspect, won't move again for three days.

I admit to having a hard time getting to sleep: all that quiet. I found myself on the first night restlessly tossing in the tent, midst three snoring Timmy Willys, the lone Johnny Town Mouse in the bunch. We were camped next to what is called a Creek but runs like a small river, deep and swift. During the day, with our busyness as distraction, the stream was faint background noise -is that water rushing? can you hear? But sometime between the last birdsongs and the rising moon, those very dark and bottomless hours, the water sound amplified and, I swear, became mechanical and supernaturally spooky. Maybe that's just me. Good thing I brought along my ipod. No joke.

Not any of us would have wanted to, not really, meet up with a bear, but we did find fresh bear scat not fifty yards from our pillows. And non-campground camping insists, says the ten year old resident Tom Brown, that words like "poop" stay home. She takes her words and her knives very seriously.

My girl (the P.I.C.I.T., she's not in charge yet, but she'll get there) whittled the bark off of a thick birch branch for me, a staff in waiting for our next trip. She's already growing handier with a blade than her mama is, and can ID more plants than most people I know. It was just the sort of little trip a girl like mine can dig into and adore and, well, that sort of thrill and gladness spreads around.

We finished up on the way home with a hike to a hidden waterfall. We parked our car down in a mucky gully off the side of the road, hopefully unnoticed while we hiked. It was obvious, as we walked, that the trails had been usurped by off-road trucks. We said we hoped some halfwit mudboggers wouldn't charge around the corner and mow us all down. The trail to the falls sharply declines and narrows, it's hard for single file people to traverse it, let alone 4x4s. We made our way down and sat in the waterfall spray and under the haze of this sweet family time. We climbed (and I mean climb, hand over hand with a rope someone smartly, generously, left behind) up and out and started back down the muddy hill to our car. And we were nearly ran over! By halfwit mudboggers! Plowing around the corner! It seems while we were having our lovely waterfall experience, the mountain above had been overtaken with so many trucks. We walked down the road (the only way to walk down) and they had to stop their mud splashing and nature destroying for us. I heard someone mumble, "where did *they* come from?" and I noticed others, watching, incredulously, at our little family scene, dad, mama, daughter, son, dog. But not incredulously, no. That conjures up a certain righteous tsk-tsking and I mean to paint something more pissed-off punk in a pick-up truck. So maybe a synonym a little more on the slackjawed side. Anyway, we walked right down through the middle of them, a whole lot of them ten or so mudcaked trucks and a slew of muddy young men, and down into our little gully, down to where we'd parked way out of the way, out of site. And can you picture how funny it was to me (but not to them, surely.) when we roared up out of that gully and onto the road in our growly, old Range Rover?! Rawr! I laughed and laughed.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

the clouds'll clear the sky


If I do something twice, it might stick and become tradition. Last week I shared a song and since I'm low on anything worthwhile to write about (or at least, low on motivation in pulling the worthy out of my brain and tamping it down in a pattern that makes sense to anyone else), let's call this Song Sunday and do it again, why don't we?

A few years ago, a friend gave me this song on a mix-cd. It was a peppy mix anyhow, but when the first notes of this one came through my speakers, I stopped. And listened. And then I danced. I couldn't help it.

Life felt bleak, then. We had to, due to circumstances much bigger than ourselves, move from one temporary place to another, shortly after our huge relocation to Arizona. Our transient existence elbowed a dark and painful infertility situation for the number one biggest problem position. I felt put on pause in so many ways.

I'm not so glib that a snappy tune can lift all fog, but this was like an instant aural anti-depressant. Just a sweet gladness that came from nowhere else. And while I'm not all for helping out big businesses, it's beyond me why pharmaceutical companies haven't gotten permission to use this song in a television spot. You hear that, Eli Lilly? My freelance marketing consultant fees are chump change, email me and we'll get it all straightened out.

I've been pulling this one out again recently. Maybe you need it, too.