One of my goals for this year is to explore each and every plant, organism, and landscape in our extensive yard. As Max and I tried to identify a tree near the river yesterday, it dawned on me that I had a lot to learn in order to keep up with Max's conversation. So I began this morning with an attempt to learn more about the strange purple grape-like berries in our yard.
This plant grows along the edge of our yard near the clay-rich garden soil. It is a woody, shrub-like plant.
Max immediately informed me that this plant was a privet, but I insisted that not all the privets had these berries and so this must be something else. Max laughed and said, "No mom, it's just privet."
Max was right.
There are many uses for this nefarious, fast-growing evergeen which was first brought to the US from Korea in 1794 as an ornamental. It forms thickets and grows rapidly (up to 35 feet in height), requiring regular trimming, shaping, and cutting. It has leathery, glossy leaves with a sharp tip and brownish-gray branches with many lenticels. The glossy privet colonizes by root sprouts and is prevalent in lowlands. It tolerates shade quite well and is an extremely hardy plant.
From April to June, glossy privet has white, fragrant flowers with four petals.
Fruits appear from July to February. The fruits are ovoid drupes arranged in clusters. The drupes are pale green in the summer, ripening to a blue-black in the winter.
There is more to there fruits than meets the eye. Glossy privet has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for over 1,000 years. According to Plants For A Future:
The fruit is antibacterial, antiseptic, antitumour, cardiotonic, diuretic and tonic. It is taken internally in the treatment of complaints associated with weak kidney and liver energy such as menopausal problems (especially premature menopause), blurred vision, cataracts, tinnitus, rheumatic pains, palpitations, backache and insomnia. Modern research has shown that the plant increases the white blood cell count and is of value when used to prevent bone marrow loss in cancer chemotherapy patients, it also has potential in the treatment of AIDS. Extracts of the plant show antitumour activity. Good results have also been achieved when the fruit has been used in treating respiratory tract infections, hypertension, Parkinson's disease and hepatitis.
The fruit is harvested when fully ripe and is dried for later use. It is often decocted with other herbs in the treatment of a wide variety of ailments and also as a general tonic. Some caution is advised in their use, since the fruits are toxic when eaten in quantity. The leaves are anodyne, diaphoretic, febrifuge, pectoral and vulnerary. The bark of the stems is diaphoretic.
Even a mainstream source like WebMD acknowledges its medicinal uses.
How exciting to think we have a thriving natural pharmacy in our yard! I think it is time to harvest some privet fruits and dry them out.
Last night, Patrick, Tino, Cam, and I stumbled across Plato's pole. Suffice it to say that this esoteric and oft-overlooked aspect of Platonic thought now forms a strange bond between us. I can only describe the night with the assistance of aphorisms- a conversation between ancients, moderns, and misfits, if you will.
"Man's chief difference from the brutes lies in the exuberant excess of his subjective propensities. Prune his extravagance, sober him, and you undo him."
"Life is a language in which certain truths are conveyed to us; if we could learn them in some other way, we should not live."
"Grub first, then ethics."
"Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not."
Ralph Waldo Emerson
"Love is imminent in nature, but not incarnate."
"For though we love both the truth and our friends, piety requires us to honor the truth first."
"One could construe the life of man as a great discourse in which the various people represent different parts of speech (the same might apply to states). How many people are just adjectives, interjections, conjunctions, adverbs? How few are substantives, active verbs, how many are copulas? Human relations are like the irregular verbs in a number of languages where nearly all verbs are irregular."
"As he knew not what to say, he swore."
"In a war of ideas, it is people who get killed."
"Only with those we love do we speak of those we love."
"Where does one start with a theory of man if the theory of man as an organism in an environment doesn't work and all the attributes of man which were accepted in the old modern age are now called into question: his soul, mind, freedom, will, Godlikeness?There is only one place to start: the place where man's singularity is there for all to see and cannot be called into question, even in a new age in which everything else is in dispute.That singularity is language..."
A new year is right around the corner, and I get goosebumps imagining what it may reveal to us about ourselves, each other, and our world.
Somewhere in this year, I fear, there is a standardized test for Max. Alabama gives us no way to escape this sort of nonsense, so I will roll my eyes, hope the kids don't notice, and begin preparing my creative, adventuresome boy for the dull toothache of multiple choice tests.
One of my favorite aspects of learning at home is precisely the sort of meeting we will have tonight. I've told Max and Micah that we will have a family meeting tonight and they are very very curious about the topic, which I have managed to keep mum.
The scene includes Patrick and Alina sitting in the story corner, Max laying upside down on the couch while Micah and Milla alternate between sitting and fighting over their dolls- a family meeting for a living, loving family. Maybe we'll be wearing our royal capes and crowns and "holding court" or maybe we'll just come as our plebian selves.
The agenda is simple- what do we want to learn in the year 2012? So we'll talk about the skills we want to learn (for example, I want to build a cob play-house and learn to use an overlock) and start making lists. Then we'll probably separate the girls who are fighting over the dolls just long enough to discuss how we could learn these things- what months might be best, what travel might be advised, what outside assistance we will need, etc. Patrick can use this information to think about his vacation calendar for the coming year, and I can start lining up lessons, resources, classes, and plans for all the tiny details.
Can you imagine how excited I am about this meeting? What could be more fun than choosing what you will learn and explore for the coming year? What could be more beautiful than doing this as a family? I love learning at home so much that everything else pales in comparison.
Tino smelled like a bonfire after burning trees and leaves on the job yesterday.
Frasier fir all over the house, decking the doorways and covering the mantles.
Little ones out in the perfect weather with baby sweat on their brows, the scent of little chicks.
The pungent plastic-y smell of scotch tape and wrapping paper.
The Dude would grumble with joy for this is truly the rug that ties the room together. We found it in Gary's garage yesterday and he gifted it to us. Out came the shop vac to whisk away Vanilla's hair. Granted, a few hairs remain as a fond tribute to the ever-mischevious Vanilla, muncher of dirty diapers and thief of table food.
Thank you Ratpaw and Bunica. What a pretty little place for our feet.
I love our story corner. Last night, we lit the bordello light and our newly-crafted starry night light and read holiday stories as a family. It felt so intimate and special- like the sort of secret which requires a whisper.
The starry night light is a combination of copper wire, a thrifted treasure, a string of white Christmas lights secured in the bowl with copper wire, and a white extension cord procured for us by Tino. I wish I had a better camera than my iPhone 3 to share how magical this light looks at night. Imagine the pattern of stars cast over the floor and the white walls.
Do you have a special place to tell, create, enact, and share stories?
Milla plays with geodes in her wooden bowls.
She likes the sound they make on the metal table.
They make a different sound on the wooden chair.
Then back to the bowls in our story corner.
The munchkins encourage me to learn more about our traditions by asking all those little questions beginning with "Why...? In turn, explaining these traditions makes them meaningful rather than superficial and merely ornamental.
"Mom, why do we have Christmas trees that we decorate? When did it start? Who came up with the idea?"
The Christmas tree tradition stems from many different legends as they evolved in different places over time. Some say that an English monk named Saint Boniface, who organized the Christian Church in France and Germany during the 8th century, played a part. Legend has it that on a Christmas eve long ago, Boniface came upon a group of worshippers gathered around an oak tree preparing to sacrifice the son of their chief, little child Prince Asulf, to the god Thor. Boniface was horrified at the prospect of a child being sacrificed to appease a god, so he whacked the tree with an axe and managed to topple it. A small fir tree sprang up instantly in its place. Boniface told the awed spectators that this was the Tree of Life, representing Christ.
First Patrick strings the lights.
The tree is lit. Time for ornaments.
Max adds ornaments.
Others believe the tradition comes from a 10th century legend which held that amazing events occured when Christ was born- all the animals began to talk and every tree blossomed and bore fruit, despite the snow and winter cold. All the trees paid homage to the newborn king with the exception of a tiny fir tree from the north who was so insignificant in stature and appearance that the other trees tried to hide her. She had almost mustered a deep-green blush when the Lord intervened- stars tumbled from the heavens, lighted on the fir's branches and illuminated them like a sparkling diamond necklace.
Still others say that a poor German forester welcomed a strange child into his cottage one cold and snowy Christmas eve, feeding the child and giving him a warm place to sleep. The next morning, the child, who was actually the Christ Child, caused a small, glittering fir tree to grow beside the forester's door. The happy host took it inside to become the first Christmas tree.
Micah adds ornaments.
Milla goes back and removes all the ornaments added by Max and Micah.
Some very Protestant folks maintain that Martin Luther is responsible for the tradition of the Christmas tree. According to this legend, Luther was strolling through a snow-covered forest on Christmas eve and was deeply moved by the beauty of the starlight gleaming on the evergreen branches. He cut down a small fir tree, took it into his home and placed small lighted candles on its boughs to dazzle his wife and children with the same heavenly light that had dazzled him. Though no mention of this event can be found in Luther's many writings, the legend became popular among German Protestants. As a result, some German Catholics resisted using a tree as part of their Christmas celebration until a century ago.
The children are attracted to the tree like moths to a window in the summer.
For more history of this tradition, the Christmas Archives has a neat, illustration-laden page.
Nothing left to do but lay under the tree and look up through her lights.
Milla got jealous because Patrick kissed me. She let out a yell and bopped him on the back. You can barely see it, but she is kissing me on the lips.
Do you have any special family tree traditions? Any stories or legends I can share with the munchkins? What does your tree mean to you when you put it up?
On the edge of the mantle, an inspiring art book ($1.98 from thrift store) with a clay statue of a child's head ($1 from estate sale) and a framed postcard from the Romanian Peasant Museum (about $2 total).
Hanging from the ceiling in my sewing corner is the bordello chandelier (free from a neighborhood yard sale), which I strung with knotted twine. The oil painting was a gift from my mother.
Getting ready to go and get our Christmas tree requires a little dazzle. My striped orange tights made me so happy this morning that I asked Patrick to snap a photo before I had finished dressing or even started brushing.
Orange striped tights go with everything...
But my uniform for cold weather this year has been the Romanian H&M crushed velvet leggings selected by my cousin Alice and gifted by my dear mother. I've worn these leggings for days on end with everything- even slept in them a few nights. Crushed velvet. Why didn't I ever like crushed velvet before? I mistook its sparkle and shimmer for kitsch. Lesson learned with love.
My favorite pants this fall.
A sad discovery on our front lawn this afternoon- the dismembered pieces of Ion, our wooden pull toy from Transylvania, a confidante of Milla's, and an honorable friend to us all.
Unlike most pull toys, Ion kept Milla company during her Romanian fever and virus. They became such good friends that Ion also flew with us on the airplane back to the States. Now Ion is, quite literally, beside himself.
Milla couldn't quite believe it. Ion did not look at all like himself in those pieces.
Poor little Milly kept looking up at me with a quizzical expression. How could this happen to her Ion? What if it happened to her Micah or her Max?
She kept murmuring something indecipherable and trying to press him back together.
Sadly, the culprit is in the background. Vanilla must have seized Ion and taken him outside, where he slowly destroyed our friendly Transylvanian. Max was furious- "How could Vanilla do this? If he does this to my Transylvanian sheep, I'll just have to hit him SO HARD!"
I reminded Max that hitting Vanilla wouldn't make him feel better. It would make him feel worse because then Vanilla would be hurt. Two hurts don't make it better. On the other hand, going outside and punching a bag of leaves or stomping as hard as you can does make you feel better because you can get rid of that hot angry feeling without hurting anyone. Max nodded- "You're right, Mom. I need a punching bag."
Hmmm... maybe he does. Maybe we all need a little punching bag thingy.
We actually kept this sign from our wedding.
Thanks again to Tino for capturing us in all our dysfunctional functioning. I've always thought the right kind of photo shoot for me would be one in which I didn't wear any make-up on a day I skipped the tooth and hair brushing.
To raise money for Circles of Peace, the Tuscaloosa affiliate of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, I will be selling hand-drawn, hand-painted greeting cards at next weekend's Handmade Holiday Event. A little snap view of the cards I drew and painted last night...
The drawings are inspired by my recent visit to Romania, and the folk drawings and vividness of the village costumes and local embroidery patterns. Each one is unique, there are no copies, stencils, or tracings involved- just pure fun with watercolor.
If you'd like to purchase a card, 100% of the proceeds go to Circles of Peace. Each card comes with an envelope and is blank on the inside (so you can fill it with your light). Cards range from $1.00 to $2.00 a piece. Your support makes the sun shine a little brighter in this heart.
A little peak into the Coryell Castle today. Hanging in our hallway near the entrance is a portrait of baby Max. I love this unique portrait so much. It was drawn with a blue highlighter marker on postboard and manages to convey his delicious jolliness without overly staid or formalized portraiture.
Have you tried your own highlighter portraits? It's easy as pie. Artyfactory has a great online face drawing tutorial you can use. Try your hand at a few pencil sketches and then pick up a highlighter and head for the real deal. The only caveat is that you must agree your goal is to represent your munchkin rather than exactly copy him or her.
Every time I chased Milla past that cross, it left a vivid imprint on my mind. A cross of flowers- the way meadows crown gravestones with wildflowers, the tiny little nails to remind us of the unbearable ones.
My Bunicu, who was spending the day with us, wanted to buy a reminder for me- something special to put in my house.
"Why do you keep looking over there, Alina? Heh. Is it that little cross?"
"Yes, Bunicu. I am trying to memorize it so I can make one."
"Then let me buy it."
"No no no no no..."
"Excuse me madam, can I have that cross on the wall? Yes, that little one."
My little cross' creator is artist and sculptor Marian Zidaru, whose wife, Victoria, features prominently in his work and inspiration. Zidaru and his wife live in an Orthodox Christian artistic community in the foothills of the Carpathian mountains north of Bucharest. Aside from having participated in international art events in countries as diverse as Germany, Spain, Belgium, Italy, Brazil, Marian Zidaru has won various international awards and fellowships. Together, the couple transformed art into a potent form of evangelizing for their faith and the sufferings of the world which we inhabit and share.
In an insightful and mesmerizing essay on the Zidaru's art and its spiritual compoment, Anamaria Iosif Ross writes:
In addition to being the creators of striking social and spiritual artworks, which they sometimes display on mountain-tops, among trees, and amidst other natural landscapes, Marian and Victoria Zidaru are the most visible figures of a revivalist, apocalyptic, charismatic Orthodox Christian movement that sees itself as today’s Israel and holds Romania to be the site of the spiritual renewal of humanity through the Word of God. The earthly source of the New Jerusalem movement was a woman known as Saint Virginia (1923-1980), or diminutively St. Verginica, a devoutly religious seer who lived in the town of Pucioasa, near Târgovişte, a small historic city located two hours away from Bucharest.
The Courtyard of the Mother God, 1987.
I only wish I could have visited this town last month- that I had known more about Zidaru than the lovely way in which he combines paint and wood. If I have the opportunity to visit the Kripke Center at Creighton University, another little longing will be sated.
More sculptures and paintings by Zidaru across his broad range including:
I feel like this little cross deserves an entire wall of its own... Whenever I try to put it next to something else, it seems to overpower it. I'm still fascinated.
Tino takes amazing photographs- a talent I never knew he had and have been fortunately discovering. It looks like the Coryell family will be getting their first official family photos soon. Just in time for the holidays. I am so excited. We've never had portraits taken before!
Preparing to go out in our Transylvanian costumes.
Patrick ended up as a Transylvanian granny, or a "Tranny". We ran out of gender-specific costumes. Tino rocked a hardcore sheperd-hora dancer costume.
The good sheperd stops at the first house- our former house on Firethorn Drive.
A spooky pumpkin display.
Micah adds the finishing touches to our own abstract expressionist pumpkin who is too modern for even a name.
Milla and I take a moment to enjoy a well-mowed lawn, a sprinkle of stars, and the perfect weather that is an Alabama autumn. I could never get away with this kind of un-harnica leisure in Romania....
My husband makes me smile. All alone in Tuscaloosa and he still manages to find a way to have a "family dinner" with his family..... What a beautiful goofball.
Yesterday afternoon, Gertie let us know that she appreciates company. We spent some time outside petting her (and patting her, she likes to be patted more than petted) and learned that, like a true Southern lady with a well-coiffed hairdo, she does not like for anyone to touch her horns.
When we went back inside, Gertie started bleating. I'm so glad we can hear her little bleat in the house so we can respond to it. Back we went to swing and pal around with the Gert a little more. I hope she likes living with us enough to thrive. If she doesn't, we will of course take her back to the farm.
Gertie arrived this morning amid much bally-hoo and baa-a-a-aing. So far, she is still scoping out the yard and trying to decide if the scene suits her. I put her next to a large patch of kudzu and now I need to run to the feed and seed in search of a proper, comfortable running line for her. Until we fence the back of the yard, her running line will rotate around various trees.
The sun nodded her assent to my plans for a much-ado day. Patrick and his friend the handheld lawnmower are making sweet music together in the front yard while the munchkins continue their fairyland adventures. Laid-back mornings like this turn into heady, busy days.
On my list of possibilites:
Paint the bookshelf I thrifted with black chalkboard paint.
Upcycle some more dresses for the ladies.
Get a goat. Or two. (I'm chomping at the bit to tell you more, but don't want to spoil it.)
Shave my legs so I can wear that skirt I made yesterday. For those who wonder how I blog so much, shaving the legs gets left behind. Back in my college days, I had longterm solutions for my "shaving is the most boring activity on the planet and I refuse to do it". One time, I used a tweezer to pluck every single hair from my legs on a long road trip to the beach. Waxing effects without the hot wax. Alas, car trips don't afford the luxury of plucking anymore.
Finish adding handprint, footprint, and circle appliques to our tablecloth.
Create a canvas using old oil paint and old sheets dried to a crisp in the sun. I need a big canvas for the kids room and the store bought variety is way too pricey.
Buy some fish for dear Bobby Jean, whom I can't wait to see today!
Finish plans for a Sunday school lesson on angels and supernatural stuff.
While Max added cicadas, camelia buds, and other natural occurrences to his nature notebook this morning, Micah and Milla tried on some traditional Romanian clothing in anticipation of our coming trip.
Something about the little pebbles in the sidewalk seemed so beautiful today- almost as if you could use it as inspiration for a quilt.
My sister-in-law, Ashley, introduced me to a wayward little addiction called Instagram, which Max loves because it allows him to "edit" (read alter) a photo very rapidly. We just finished a little photo shoot in the kitchen with photos mostly taken and edited by our in-house Maxer.
The photographer allowed me to take this shot of him.
"Take a picture of ME, Max!!!"
"No mom, leave your hair down. I like it down..."
A little peek inside our house. I love this rug on our wall-- it makes every meal feel like a magic carpet ride for me.
Yesterday, I decided to rearrange all the books on our main shelf in the living room. Max and Micah stacked books in piles according to the colors on their bindings while little Milla toddled around and knocked over stacks that looked particularly wobbly.
Each book brings back so many memories and imaginings, and I love watching the bugs clamber over and under stacks of books.
I ran into Manna Grocery today to pick up some CedarCide for our little ant problem, but the candle section got in my way. Micah picked out a candle made by the Fairhope Soy Candle Company, based in Fairhope, Alabama. The Lavender Linen scent distracted me from the image of little ants creeping over my arms and legs so effectively that I decided to bring it home. Along with the CedarCide, of course. This takes "sewing by candlelight" to an entirely different level-- one which doesn't require me to squint. Whosoever is not charmed by life must not be living it.
I finally ironed and mounted the Gee's Bend inspired fabric wall hanging for the kids room. The photos aren't good, but you can get a sense of the color burst it adds to the room.
One of my favorite things about this wall hanging is that it brings together all the disparate, wild colors and fabrics which fill the room. I picked up leftover scraps from the bunting and bedspreads and used these scraps in the wall hanging.
We returned from the beach to find a package from Grandma Vicki filled with gifts for Milla's first birthday. The kids helped Milla to unwrap her gifts and to play with them as well. It amazes me how Grandma Vicki has never managed to miss a birthday, Father's Day, Mother's Day, or special day in our family. Though she lives in Ohio, she manages to be present in our lives almost weekly via the postal service. I love her so much and am so grateful for the educational, parenting, and love-life tools she has shared with me. She is truly a woman who cultivates and appreciates a sense of wonder.
A funkdafied, handmade clay vase large enough to hold/hide at least 30 of my highlighter markers to the tune of $2. Love at first sight.
Since he has been waxing poetic about the virtues of seltzer water, Patrick received his very own seltzer maker for Father's Day. I did the purchasing while the munchkins did the wrapping. Have I mentioned how much I love this man?
Trying to get the kids room organized is like trying to pluck a running camel. But I'm not one to give up easily. When all else fails, sew something.
Using Laura Gunn's tutorial for making crate covers, I modified a bit and covered a few crates and buckets with playful leftover Ikea fabric.
Alessandra Kopelson Innis-Jiminez was born with the bloom of hydrangeas. I can't wait to see her again.
And Dirt Cheap has a 70% sale on slip and slides, which works well for my family who goes through a couple of these every year. So I purchased two for under $12 and felt pretty good about the whole thing.
The air is heavy and humid today. I wonder for how long thick humid air will summon memories of the Tuscaloosa tornado.... For those who love the munchkins and miss them, I thought I'd post a bit about their "development".
Also currently known as Mills or Milly, Milla is convinced that there is no liquid in the world better than breastmilk. She may be right about that, but the fact that she refuses to try even water is unfortunate. Apart from her sweetness, manifested in the tendency to cuddle and put her head on your shoulder when you pick her up, Mills loves to eat Romanian vegetable stew, tomatoes, avocado, rice, pasta, oranges, peaches, pears, and various small buttons and pieces of fabric discovered on the floor. Speaking of the floor, if you happen to be on the floor, crawling, Mills will thrust her head towards you with a grunt, challenging you to a race. And boy can this Milly crawl at top speeds.
Also known as Mikey or Bubbles, Micah is very concerned about issues of social justice and fairness in the household and the world at large. She is first to note when a rule is being broken by someone other than herself. If Max is "talking too loud", she immediately tells him to "write ten times". When Milly touches a pencil, Micah takes it upon herself to remove the pencil from Milly's plump little fist. If Micah has two cookies, she always saves one for her Max. Micah continues to adore and admire her older brother. She insists upon dressing herself and picking out her "rainbow" (her name for hair bows) to match her chosen outfit. She loves anything and everything I make for her and sits next to me folding scraps as I sew. Micah still needs to have her hand in my hair to put herself to sleep at night and drink her milk, and she still spends some nights screaming with night terrors, which breaks my heart. She is excited about beginning ballet this summer and loves to describe herself as a "big girl". When she got her 3-year-old vaccines last month, she did not flinch or cry. She is my hysterical Stoic.
Also known as The Maxer or Rabbit, Max continues to manifest his exuberance for life by jumping around and waving his arms while speaking at ear-popping volumes. He loves potatoes baked in olive oil with garlic and can't seem to fill his stomach with three meals a day anymore. He spends hours inventing video games and mazes on paper with the help of a few pens, which he loses while jumping around and describing his latest invention. He has poison ivy on his neck, which requires him to wear a bandage that looks like his head is attached with medical tape. He cried yesterday because he thought his apple tree, which he named "Johnny Appleseed", had died. He is easily frustrated and easily amazed. He can't stop talking about how combustion occurs, why sodium helps composting, how babies need to be protected, where certain plants thrive, how dogs are people too, and ancient history. Last night, he was in awe of the firefly explosion; his sense of wonder is contagious and inspiring.
Earlier this year, my old comrade Will Trachmann breezed through town with his new baby, Meira, and spectacular wife, Ellen, in tow. I confess to a certain satisfaction at seeing Will marry so well. As a new mother, Ellen could not have been more laid-back and sweet-spirited. Since they had been traveling, Will and Ellen decided to just go ahead and give baby Meira her first Alabama bath in the kitchen sink (their idea, not mine).
While Will entertained Max and Micah, Ellen and I sat on a blanket in the front yard with Meira and Milla and talked about everything from adoptions to the snotty noses which seemed to be in fashion that season. I wish the Trachmanns lived closer than California because they are quite groovy.
A week or so later, a magical, wonderful, life-saver appeared in the mail-- a little gift from the Trachmanns which tops the list of baby gifts. The Nosefrida, otherwise known as the Snotsucker, became an obsession. Whenever I heard a little sniffle, out came the snot-sucker to remove the brightly-colored wet rainbows of fruit flavor from Milla's nose. Now that snot-sucking season is drawing to a close, I feel a little sentimental as I put away the Nosefrida and hope to see little Meira and Milla toddle around together some day in the not-excessively-distant future.
To be literal and somewhat meaningful, it is actually her first outside-the-family birthday party celebrating her third birthday. But titles are meant as reminders that simplification is an odious and often impossible task.
Micah's three does not look very different from her two-- her cry is still that of the strongest she-wolf in the Bavarian forest. She is the 3 that only she can be.
Micah Magnolia, born when the azaleas full bloom felt like a "boom", continues to amaze and inspire me. There is no doubt in my mind that this little girl will be a force in our world-- a force for good and a force for grace.
For Max's castle collection, a notebook we are keeping of castles, related legends, heralds, and more. He is adding information about each castle type, including materials, special parts, and dates or geographical locations. If you'd like to borrow our castle notebooking pages, just right click and "save as".
A Stone Keep Castle- Crickhowell Castle in Wales began life as a motte and bailey but was rebuilt in stone in 1272.
Our house has been brimming with family over the past few weekends. Suebee and Pops came to visit on Saturday and stayed through Monday morning. Like Grandma Vicki, they seem to keep getting younger with each visit. A marvel of modernity or my own age catching up with me?
Suebee helped me sort through Micah's old clothing and prepare for Milla - one of those tasks that I put off for as long as possible given my natural predisposition towards chaos and what we euphemistically term "spontaneity". Suebee also found a little skirt that never quite fit Micah which sits perfectly on Milla's plumper waist.
I've been conspicuously absent from myself and from my meager attempts to chronicle this adventure-turned-temporary-circus. The past few weeks have been busy with visits from Suebee and Pops, broken water pipes, a short foray to the beach, and the never-ending sport of chasing Micah through the house as she makes like a destructive tornado. I've forgotten that having a toddler means there is always some morsel of food in a hidden location just waiting to turn into a science project. I've also forgotten my own name on a couple of occasions which, I know, should only be an opportunity to invent something interesting but unfortunately feels more like the onset of old age at a fairly young age.
All things in their season.... only the cliches are still memorable. Quick now before I forget all the lovely moments flickering by with the end of the season of fireflies...
Milla loves her daddy so much, saves her most brilliant smiles for him.
Carla and Jeremy returned from their trip to Tanzania with lovely fabrics, shirts, photos, and tales of sweet orphans who need shoes. Carla held Milla for at least an hour; it warms my heart when she holds my children.
David Gray has a new album and an interview in which his marriage and children are as loud as tattooed mustaches. The lyrics from one of his new songs must be about a house filled with the patter of little feet and parents trying to find each other between the footsteps....."What kind of existence?/To want you so much/And only feel the distance/Each time when we touch."
Orange Beach is still beautiful- the oil spill is most evident only in the tiny dribble of boats venturing out to sea every day and the BP Milkshake specials at the local cafes. Unfortunately, the lovely turquoise water now looks more like a mud puddle. The optimistic blame it on the rain while the sober-minded just hope it returns to its natural color quickly.
Max is preparing for his first Tiger Cub meeting this year by jumping around and exclaiming all sorts of things. Tomorrow we look forward to the study of the Yamato dynasty in Japan. Here is a copy of the notebook page I made for other families studying this right now as well.
Of all the days to raise money for a good cause, this morning might just have been the hottest. All proceeds from Max's lemonade stand will be sent to Children's Hospital in Birmingham, so we were hoping that we might have more than $20 to send.
After making signs and cookies last night, we were a little late getting started this morning, but no matter- everything came together in its usual, Schumpeter-inspired way. Patrick went out with Max to get ice and put up signs. By the time they returned, Milla had finished nursing and the lemonade was ready to go. Max sat outside in the sweltering heat; he manned the stand with enthusiasm, which involved screaming, "Lemonade" at passing cars. Soon, Micah woke up and joined him.
The morning started slowly until Emma showed up and brought good luck. Then a few garage sale customers followed by a donor with an extra-large heart that left a twenty dollar bill. Max invented a dance to celebrate. He also decided that his goal would be to earn $100; I smiled and secretly thought he was overshooting it. A few cool neighbors whom we hadn't ever had the opportunity to meet stopped by; one gentleman had hair even longer than Mr. Max's (always fun). Things were picking up. And so was the temperature.
So Patrick set out the sprinkler as I refilled the lemonade and the munchkins soaked themselves in the water. Then we had a visit from Carol and Connie from the Woodland Hills Garden Club, such a lovely surprise... and my 5th grade teacher, whose wife was one of Emma's professors at the University.... and suddenly there were more customers than Max could quickly serve. The heat, only bearable when you agreed to move in that slow and "lazy" (I say heat-adapted) Southern way, was too much for little Milla, who spent most of the morning in the house.
Even after the lemonade stand had officially ended, a gentleman whose daughter had been under the care of Children's Hospital came by and left a huge bag of change and cash on the table. We discovered it later in the afternoon- such an awesome gift. Max had to sort and count all the money; I love those homeschooling exercises which come for free.
Thanks to the kindness of friends and strangers, Max will donate over $120 to Children's Hospital. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much.
"Baby why...", says Micah. She is still working on that letter "c".
"All Joy and No Fun", a wry take on parenting.
Pet rocks, hootenanny puppet shows, and more ways to savor summer days.
A perfect, pint-size thunderstorm to water the garden.
My dad and Pam flew in today with bells and balls to make the munchkins smile.
As we embrace the new "normal", we find ourselves appreciating the old familiar familials as well. For example, this morning, as Patrick talked to Milla, Max and Micah argued over books in the background. I love these photos because you can see the story as it unfolds.... with Micah eventually running over to Patrick to tattle on Ba-Ba because he took "her" book. So sweet to see Milla coming out of her little shell as well.
Max and Micah have been getting along famously since Milla's arrival. It makes us happier than I can put to words... The latest development in our home was the creation of the Baby Hotel last night. For at least two hours, Max and Micah labored in the guest room, creating what can only be described as a luxury inn for babies. Like a self-respecting, one-day-to-be-resume-adjusting American, Max did not fail to create an advertisement for their product.
In the upper hand right corner of this photo, you can see the "vent" advertised by Max as an amenity at the Baby Hotel. Does that mean our house is too hot? Is an air vent really an amenity? I love the space inside Max's head where all these beautiful, fun imaginings bloom. Is it any wonder Micah adores him so much? Oh, and in case you are wondering, yes, Micah is reading the ad in the photo above. Now let's take a look at the Master Suite round back.