Saturday, August 13, 2011

In a Land Before Time

Adriana posted a picture on FB, and two seconds later I had my camera in hand and I was sounding the general alarm: Who's sleeping?! It's Kook time! Let's go! I had three takers. Not bad for a Saturday morning.

Suddenly I am nostalgic for Saturday mornings with my brothers, Bill and Hans, piled in our mom's bed waiting for Land of the Lost, when the Marshalls and Cha-Ka were about to be chased through caves by the Sleestak, and we did not want to miss one suspenseful-hilarious second.

The Kook is getting carried away this time!

Or the artist got carried away... we have a pretty good idea about some of the planning, and effort, that went into this epic Cardiff Kook prank. Seriously, epic. I love this community!

The city council got their feelings hurt after a recent Kook art attack poked fun at them for removing the Surfing Madonna, and there were advisories about the city cracking down on any new installations of artistic expression, like these Kook enhancements. I hope the rumors are false, because it would be a waste of money and energy to go after the community for being creative and having harmless fun. It's plain to see that the attention drawn is totally worthwhile and positive.

I wonder if the artists that began painting in their caves ever feared prosecution? Let's hope we can look forward to more installations of good spirited guerrilla art.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Skates and Planet Pluto... Forever!

This picture evokes no less than forty-two sentiments, forty-two utterances, forty-two joyful exclamations. Maria is learning to skate, to fall, to get up, to tie laces, to strap on gear.

So much to love... it leaves me speechless.

{this moment}

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.
:: Idea from Soule Mama ::

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Clip, Felt, Glue, Go!

Maria made a plan. She always has a plan! This time her plan was to make dolls, something she came up with the day she spent with her Tutu. Now that she can read, she is realizing that my office drawers have labels, and the labels give clues to all the treasures and supplies hidden away. So, she hauled out supplies and began following her plan... and then she asked me play too.

I need to thank her. It's been a thick week... hectic, derailed, kind of overwhelming in ways, and I was sinking into a rather miserable state. I thought play was the last thing I needed, but of course I was wrong. I do not regret making one more mess, bringing out more supplies, and getting engaged with some clip, felt, and glue play.

I was reminded how much fun felt is. Even the cheap stuff. It's been such a long time since I brought these supplies out, and recalling how much I enjoy it felt really nice.

I added a magnet to my prototype doll clip. She is just cut fabric and hot glue. No stitches. Now that I have a better idea of what to do, I can help Maria make some friends... not with paper and yarn, but with these sturdier supplies, so her plans and cute creations can last. And looking at this picture, I am thinking we should make one of her sheep drawings into a doll clip... wouldn't he look adorable all woolly and plump?

Thank you for playing with me, Maria. You make good plans, and I like when we can learn together. Want to make a flock of sheep?

More than a Cabin

Dear Gary, Laura, and Sophie,

Thank you. For biscuits, and butter, and local honey. For preserves. And especially, thank you for that fruit salad. Oh my. I do wish we had some of your fruit salad right now.

I am missing the three of you, and laughing together around the campfire.

Everyone! Calm down!

I am missing all of that green on green, on green. And those rigorous hikes.

The blueprints you showed me, four years ago, looked very good, but what you have actually built is even better. Labor and lumber went a long way, but your generous and kind hearts are what have made your home truly special... time in your company, in your home, has left a lasting mark on my heart.

Thank you.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Into The Woods

Imagine entering another world. A world of lakes and tall, clustered trees. A world of green on green, on green. Even as the flight descended we were mesmerized by the patchwork of farms and fields, bodies of water dotting the land, like mirrors reflecting blue and clouded skies. Tempted by all this we made a few stops on our way to see Laura, Gary, and Sophie.

At one point Maria, overcome with emotion, exclaimed: "Woot! I am screaming for nature!" She was delighting at the sight of every river crossing, every clearing in the woods.

Then, breathlessly, she announced, "I just saw a pile of birds, flying across the sky!" Geoff suggested, "A flock?" And Maria laughed and said, "Yes, of course! I saw a Squawk of birds." And now I can't decide which I prefer, a "pile of birds" or a "squawk of birds." For sure I like screaming for nature!

We arrived at our destination after dark. More magic. Because even though we had an entire day to grow accustomed to the idea, I still could not believe we were finally in the North Woods, finally seeing Laura and Gary in the home they built, finally hanging out with cousin Sophie! It had been too long since our last visit, but now we were really here, and it felt amazing.

A campfire awaited us, and the loons were calling from the lakes. Loons! Lakes! Giant marshmallows! Loons! I did not get a picture of loons, those ancient birds whose melancholy cry reaches through the night. They play a compelling serenade. I did not get a picture of the giant marshmallows, those puffed confections about the size of a small child's upturned, eager face.

Laura and Gary built a home fit for hospitality. It is comfortable and inviting, with thoughtful touches throughout. I love the laundry room, with the chute, and all that wonderful Packy storage! From magazines on the bedside table I read about the Eagle River ice palace, and places where you can ride ziplines through the forest. The boys and Sophie indulged in a mini-marathon of Dr Who, happy to share in their mutual Geek passions and interests. Every window offers a view of the forest they love, green and lush, now. Between the natural beauty outdoors, the comforts indoors, and the delicious provisions Gary kept putting out for us... how many desserts did you bake, Gary?... it's no wonder the children are eager to return in winter. I would love it too.

Maria saw a deer.

What a proud and special moment for her. Maria saw a deer. No one pointed it out to her, she wasn't in a zoo, or on a field trip. Just strolling around the yard, maybe looking for toads, she noticed the doe stepping lightly through the forest, gingerly making her way across the yard. I think Maria will always remember the moment... I hope to always remember the awe and gentle hush of Maria's voice when she announced to me what she was seeing, for me to see too.

On another garden to forest stroll, we began noticing the toads. Tiny-tiny toads, like playthings or cute school erasers... one, two... three. Alex and Max love frogs and toads. We all love Frog and Toad.

This day, this vacation, this adventure, just kept getting better and better. Sophie had funny, and tragic, toad stories to share. I can't think of a single frog or toad in our yard since our days at El Rancho, but here in the North Woods one has to watch her step. Small and big critters are everywhere.

Both Alex and Max have pined for pet frogs, and admirably they have both refrained from keeping any. Whenever they have researched frogs as pets they have come to the same conclusion... frogs are unhappy as pets, they have many complex needs.

But... such a temptation! We could not resist the opportunity to recreate a safe and dear environment for our tiny friends, to keep them safe for one week, then release them unharmed at the end of our visit. Sophie made a juice bottle vivarium, and Max, Maria, and I made another. We dropped in some pebbles, covered it in earth, with some rooted plants, a twig, a stone, a leaf, and one toad for Sophie, and three for us. Why is it so appealing to create little worlds, to hold it in your hands and observe the activity up close?

We caught bugs for our friends. We kept them out of Addie-Cat's reach. And we spent the greater part of our visit talking to the toads, or about them, and watching them in their bottled forests. I know I have not lost my longing for other worlds, play places, a Wind in the Willows community of forest friends, and their cozy homes.

We walked to one of the lakes.

People, do you know? Not everyone can walk to a lake. We have a lot of natural wonders where we live, namely an Ocean! But lakes are something new. Something special. Laura and Gary carry their kayaks, or canoes to this spot, then slip in, and paddle away! How far? For how long? Do they fall in? Are there riptides, or jellyfish? I know the Pacific. I do not know lakes. I think they are mysterious, a bit deep. How deep? Goodness.

We should have planned to stay longer. We hope to return. I want to slip a kayak into the water, and paddle around.

Sophie did not have to work. Laura did, which was a bummer. Gary made it his job to feed us, and guide us, and feed us. How many different desserts did you bake, Gary? Gary and Sophie were wonderful guides and hosts, and even from afar, Laura made us feel very welcome.

We spent a good while here, where the lake narrowed into a creek, slipped under the dirt road, then gurgled onward, twisting and turning through the forest. Maria played Pooh Sticks here. And Pooh bark, and Pooh pinecones, and Pooh leaves! She conducted all kinds of experiments with floating stuff down the creek.

I called every excursion "a hike." My little joke. The mosquitoes in the woods were thick and thirsty, the ticks too. I wasn't too disappointed about our abbreviated hikes. Our main objective was visiting, passing time with family, so we were happy doing whatever.

Really happy. Enchanted with the soothing colors, the shade and dappled sunlight, bird calls.

Into the woods. Alex came prepared, for fun.

Ever seen a log splitter?

Not me! But when Geoff heard about Gary's, he could not wait to rev it up. Gary had two empty spaces he intends to fill with split logs for winter. He has one pile all ready. Geoff got busy, happy to make a start of filling the other two spaces.

Pure force driving the wedge through the wood, making a nice, clean split. The machine was loud. Geoff kept at it for a long time.

Well... long enough for one weekend this winter, when Laura and Gary can stay snug and warm in the North Woods. But for the whole winter? There's plenty of work left to be done!

Sophie and I remarked... Geoff was enjoying a lumberjack dream come true, and Gary got to enjoy someone else being the lumberjack!

So... I wonder how many days in winter we could manage to get away for another hike in the North Woods, time in Laura, Gary, and Sophie's company? Maria is more than happy about the idea of spending Christmas in the woods. Now, that would be magical!

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Stillwater, Ladysmith, On Our Way to Eagle River...

I still say flying is some kind of miracle.

Another miracle: us, getting out of the house, packed and ready for a long week of travel and vacation in Minnesota and Wisconsin. About the one thing I was sure of was pet care, because both Rebekah and Ruth had agreed to share the duties, leaving us with peace of mind about the house, and farm. Early fights seem like a good idea, weeks before the date, but the morning of departure always comes too soon for me.

Just three mental notes about the actual flight:
1. So much luggage is carried on, I am convinced sooner or later a plane is going to roll-over, right there on the tarmac, due to being too top heavy. All of our luggage was carry on, and so it seems was everyone else's. This airline charged for every, even the first, piece of checked luggage.

2. My lemon soda and ice slipped from my hand and I spent two hours with an icy-cold and very wet region.

3. Maria thrilled at take-off, then fell asleep, and then woke in a whole new world.

Welcome to Minnesota!

Stillwater, Minnesota and the St Croix River. We were here twenty years ago... making visits to a town so quaint it didn't matter if it was the Fourth of July or the still of winter. We wanted to live here, once upon a time.

Here, actually. Across from the park with the bandstand, above the river, in sight of Wisconsin.

And Wisconsin was our destination that evening, so after a riverside lunch and a quick hike up and down the trail to the old prison and warden's home, we crossed the St Croix and headed north and east. We stopped along the way, for the usual reasons. We stopped along the way for the sheer delight of a playground miracle!

Untouched by the overzealous hands of "progress and safety," we found a marvelously dangerous park. See-saws, or do you call them teeter-totters? And three different wobbly, fast, paint peeling, merry-go-rounds! A twisty slide, and one with no landing... just a sheer slip, with barely a side barrier. What joy.

Plan your next vacation: Ladysmith, Wisconsin. Adventure and danger, thrills and wonder await you at the playground preserved from progress. We did not stay long. The sun was dipping and our map pointed us far from our destination, but the vacation fun was already in full motion.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday to You, Grandma Eunice!

We got together for an early celebration of Eunice's birthday. My cousin Stevie and his family brought the piñata... it's totally their thing, and they are good at it! I mean seriously, ¿Nacho and Esqueleto, chocolate? ¡Excelente!

A beautiful Pasadena day, a beautiful birthday woman, and as much family as we could gather? Plus a feast, and a Nacho Libre piñata? "Don't you want a little taste of the glory? See what it tastes like?"*

*If I try to summarize my profound love and admiration for my amazing grandmother, I will become emotionally overcome, and unable to face the responsibilities of the day. So this post will be liberally sprinkled with lovely images, and Nacho Libre quotes... "Everyone is dancing, happy, party!"

::Beckie, Daniel, Eunice, Rebekah, and Julie::

::Talia, Ashley, Andrea, Steve, and Eunice::

::Ron, Eunice, and Delia::

Nacho: "Ok. Orphans! Listen to Ignacio. I know it is fun to wrestle. A nice piledrive to the face... or a punch to the face... but you cannot do it. Because, it is in the Bible not to wrestle your neighbour." That is what piñatas are for!

Esqueleto: "Summon your eagle powers."

As Stevie pointed out, Mexican families tend to be big. Piñatas have to be built tough so everyone gets a chance to beat it senseless. Grandma went first and she gave it her all. At this point I was reminded, again, of the twisted irony of choosing a favorite character for your birthday piñata... you have to hit it, pound it, destroy the object of your affection. Of course, it is for chocolate. I guess the inevitable truth is that chocolate is the greater object of our affection.

First honor goes to the birthday celebrant, and then we bring them in by birth order. Maria wasted no effort, hitting swiftly, deftly. ¡Dale!

With a height advantage, leverage and strength, Max had eagle powers and he used them to great effect.

Nacho: "I don't want to get paid to lose. I wanna win!"

Nacho: We need to show him that we mean business. That we are ready for the 'big leagues'." Talia is ready for the big leagues!

The piñata is beleaguered. We smell the chocolate. William is dealing some piledrives.

Ron knows when to stand back. We started bringing in harder sticks, new tools of piñata destruction. I was recalling other piñatas, other means of bringing it down.

Cousin Julie showed no mercy. "Eagle powers... come to me! Please!"

Sister Encarnación: "No. If you fight for something noble, or for someone who needs your help, only then will God bless you in battle." Rebekah was fighting for something noble, and with a good, strong stick, and her efforts caused a great rejoicing...


My life is good. Real good.

Time together, to celebrate this day, to recall yesterday. Grandmother's eighty-ninth birthday celebration was a happy one, sentimental, and silly. Full of laughter, and connecting.

It was dear, and heart warming, seeing family that cannot often get together. And we made early plans for next year, so family, you know who you are, mark your calendars. We want a full house. Steve, we're gonna need a bigger piñata!

I don't know that we need a fancy venue, or entertainers. We seem to manage just fine making our own fun, finding our own entertainment.

"You gotta be kidding me. Everything you just said, is MY favorite thing to do, every day!"

Julie applied her crazy-hair skills to Maria's head... hair raising fun!

One last laugh before we head out... someone taped Nacho's picture onto Grandmother's light fixture, where she can gaze at his nucleus while falling asleep.

Nacho: "Beneath the clothes, we find a man... and beneath the man, we find his... nucleus."

So now you pretty much know what we do. Pretty dang exciting, huh?