Archive for the ‘Family Adventures’ Category

Things I did this week when I wasn’t obsessively scrolling the news

March 22, 2020 @ 12:33 pm | Filed under: , , ,

Ha, joke’s on me! I wrote this post yesterday morning and left it sitting in drafts, awaiting photos. Went out to putter in the garden and took a spill jumping from the raised bed (I mean it’s not that high, just a step). Smashed flat on the patio. Thumb and wrist now killing me and elbow is pretty ouchy. But nothing broken, I’m reasonably sure. Just sprained, I think? And bruised? And basically furious at me for forgetting I’m not a gazelle?

We scrummaged up an Ace bandage from the first-aid kit and wrapped the hand overnight. I’m not keen on paying a visit to urgent care this weekend, GEE I WONDER WHY, so I’m just keeping it wrapped and we’ll see how I do. Can type for brief periods before my thumb starts to yell but I’m not doing much. Reading. Walking around my garden, longing to dig. Fortunately, the injured hand is my left and I’m righthanded. I might even be able to embroider if I use the hoop stand. Hooray for hoop stands! Okay, no more exclamation points. They’re the ones that hurt my thumb.

(Who even AM I without exclamation points??)

Anyway, on to yesterday’s plague journal. 😉

Things that happened this week:

• I finally planted the veggie starts I bought a couple of days before we went into isolation. (We isolated a bit earlier than the rest of Portland due to some high-risk family members.)

• I repotted a whole bunch of houseplants

• and cleaned the garage

• I got a tower of review books from a (beloved) publisher who, despite nearly three years of dogged efforts to get them to update my mailing address in their system, continues sending packages to our San Diego address. UPS saved up NINE BOXES and redirected them to Portland all at once. Yes, the delivery guy thinks I’ve lost my mind. He’s not far off.

I’ll be sharing these with young friends after I read/review them

• I swapped out the regular suet feeder for the squirrel-proof one (rediscovered during the garage cleanout) because the starlings kept wiping us out, leaving nothing for the bush tits and chickadees. However, the down side of the cage feeder is that the downy woodpeckers and flickers will be as stymied as the starlings. Either way, we only have a few suet cakes left. Our favorite retailer does have curbside pickup during the quarantine, but given the state of things, suet might not make it into next month’s budget.

Bush tits at the old feeder, before the starlings moved in. They’re tiny and travel in a flock of forty or so.

*Sunday update: we spotted a Northern flicker at the feeder this morning! Its beak is long enough to reach the suet through the cage. Not so for the starlings. This may be a solution! Waiting for the bush tits to return. Meanwhile, we had an absolutely new-to-us bird at the feeder just now. Still trying to id. Finch size, blue-gray back (more blue than gray), yellow belly, and the tip of its tail looks like it was dipped in white paint. A warbler of some kind? Photo coming–we got one goodish snap–but transferring the memory card from camera to laptop is beyond my poor hand’s ability right now. As are em dashes. Had to go with double hyphens. This may be the end of me.

• I taught the final week of my Comic Strip Capers class at Brave Writer. I get a week in between and then I’ll start a new session on the 30th. These kids, their comics—such a delight. (My class is sold out but Brave Writer does have openings in other fun courses if you’re looking.)

• I also continued my work on Brave Writer Arrow literature guides. I’m both revising/expanding older guides and writing new ones for the current year’s subscription. I recently finished the Arrow for Bronze and Sunflower, a beautiful tapestry of a book by Chinese author Cao Wenxuan, translated by Helen Wang. The literature guide was challenging to write but oh, so worth it! I’ve walked around for weeks pondering this gem of a novel, turning its poignant scenes and lush imagery over in my mind. I think now that my work on it is done, I might reread it (or read it aloud to the kids?) just for pleasure.

• I worked on a secret stitching project that is different from my OTHER secret stitching project—this one a test stitch of a new sampler for a favorite instructor’s upcoming Creativebug class. Originally I was supposed to finish it by mid-April, but now the class taping is postponed like everything else on the planet. It’s a gorgeous sampler and I’m having a wonderful time with it.

• I did some prep work for my Prairie Thief readaloud sessions in next week’s (free! online!) Homebound conference. (You can register for my sessions here. The schedule and other session links are here.)

• I went on a few walks in the quiet neighborhood, nodding at neighbors from a prudent distance or chatting from the sidewalk. Our streets are empty but I’m noticing that porches are full. So many more neighbors sitting out front in the evenings.

• Huck is crushed that he can’t play with friends, but at least his very best pal doesn’t have to be kept at a distance. Our next-door neighbor, for whom Huck & Rilla have a standing weekday dogwalking gig, is working at home for now and is therefore walking her mini Schnauzer herself, but several times a day Huck and Barkleigh meet up in the backyard for some buddy time.

I took this photo through the fence. Only one of them noticed.

• I completely failed at playing a game of Ticket to Ride with Huck. I tried, I really did! Couldn’t focus. Got so squirrely between turns, my mind racing. You’d have thought I was the eleven-year-old child, not the mom.

• I laughed over this memory that popped on Facebook from 2013:

So the 4yo is standing beside me and asks, “Are you Mommy?”

“What?” I say, confused.

“Are you MOMMY?”

I’m laughing, thinking he must be playing a game. “Yes, I‘m Mommy.”

He points across the yard at his 17yo sister, nods to himself.

“OK, so that one is Jane.”

• I put in some more work on my rebooted newsletter which I am trying very hard to get out this weekend!* You can sign up here.

*Laughing somewhat hysterically. Obviously that was written before yesterday’s tumble!

 

Suddenly homeschooling? Don’t try to make it like school.

March 17, 2020 @ 6:58 pm | Filed under: , ,

I just wrote an epic Twitter thread with advice for parents who have suddenly found themselves thrust into homeschooling situations due to COVID-19. I promised to compile it here for easy reference, so here it is!

Dear Suddenly & Temporarily Homeschooling Parents:

I’m a work-at-home mom of six who has been homeschooling for over 20 years and I’m here to help if you have questions! I call my family’s learning style “Tidal Homeschooling” in recognition of natural ebbs and flows in life and learning.

One of my kids is high risk for respiratory issues, so our family began social distancing about a week before it went national. This is definitely a low tide season in our homeschooling life! Lots of art projects and games. Gardening. Poetry. Baking. Music. A bit of mellow math.

The Prairie Thief by Melissa WileyAnd readalouds, our absolute staple! Grab a copy of Finn Family Moomintroll or By the Great Horn Spoon or Stella by Starlight or Bronze & Sunflower or The Fourteenth Goldfish or Where the Mountain Meets the Moon or The Girl Who Drank the Moon or…(I could do this all day.)

As you can see, I’m bananas about middle-grade fiction. That’s what I write! Starting next Monday I’ll be reading my novel The Prairie Thief out loud every day at 4pm EDT/1pm PDT. Details coming soon—you can sign up for my newsletter and get more book recommendations. Also this blog! The archives are crammed with book recs for all ages and other fun learning resources.

Challenging but full of delight

I’m seeing a lot of tweets right now about the struggles suddenly-homeschooling families are experiencing and I get it. I’ve homeschooled through book deadlines and killer workloads and breast cancer and kids in the hospital and you name it. What I’ve learned: relationship is the most important thing.

Carve out some work time for yourself & a family quiet reading time if that fits your schedule. Dig out old toys the kids outgrew—nostalgia is a major entertainment aide in times like this. Play board games. Make slime. Find art & craft supplies from projects you meant to finish—let the kids have at ’em. That bin of quilting supplies I’ve been hoarding? Yeah, turns out I’m never going to be a quilter. That fabric is fair game for cooped-up kids now.

We’re getting ready to launch a massive D&D campaign—I’m DMing. And the kid who likes gardening is helping me repot plants. The kid who likes games is roping siblings in to play. Lots of Wii action too.

Don’t try to make it school at home

If they have packets of schoolwork they have to do, don’t let that be the thing that pits you against each other. Working one on one often takes less time than group learning. (Group learning has its perks too. We’re sorely missing our homeschool co-op these days.) Get gummy bears or pretzels for lesson time because chewing helps people concentrate. No, really, it’s a thing. Keep lesson time short for now, and if they’re writing, you write too! Good time to start your plague journal.

Homeschoolers all over the internet are sharing resources right now. Brave Writer’s Homebound page is a fabulous place to start. Or follow Julie Bogart on Instagram. Read her book The Brave Learner: Finding Everyday Magic in Homeschool, Learning, & Life. We’re all brave learners now!

Feed yourself, too

Follow Holly Wren Spaulding on Instagram for poems and thoughts to keep you sane and grounded. I also recommend Commonplace Podcast and The Slowdown—vital listening for my peace of mind. And the Poetry Unbound podcast!

Makers gotta mess

Use up the paints and good paper you’ve been hoarding. Or use printer paper and a ballpoint. Get messy. Do round robin drawings where you draw a bit, your kid adds to it, you add more, you all laugh hysterically & make sweet memories. Get out the family photos. Make videos!

Watch science videos. Watch Bill Nye! Find Cyberchase on PBS Kids! (More magical nostalgia for my gang.) SING, sing as much as you can. Youtube search any song + karaoke—now’s the time for your family to find that perfect song they can belt out. It’s a life skill!

But what about their homework?

If they have math to do: here’s the thing. There are loads of ways to learn math. If a concept isn’t making sense, ask for help here or on Twitter. You’ll be bombarded with creative ideas.

Don’t try to make it “school at home.” The dynamic is SO different. You can do math in bed & foreign language while loading the dishwasher. Make beanbags (remember that fabric stash? If you don’t have thread just staple them) & toss them while chanting times tables. The beanbags won’t last but the memories will.

I wish I had time to ____(it’s time to fill in that blank!)

Find out what each kid has been yearning to learn. Ukulele? Coding? Cake decorating? Let that happen now. Ransack the cabinets. Try Creativebug or Skillshare for classes. Millions of tutorials on Youtube. Let them go deep if they want.

Or let them chill out if that’s what they need. Down time is a precious commodity and lots of kids don’t get much of it these days. Read comics. Crumple aluminum foil & have a catch in the living room. Tape toilet paper rolls (if you scored any) to the wall to make marble tunnels. (I would say fill a pan with rice and hide “artifacts” for littles to find, but maybe you should save your rice for eating.)

Dive deep

All I want to do right now is embroider—I have a couple of TOTALLY ABSORBING stitching projects—but I have a heavy workload at the moment so I have to squeeze it in. Find out what your kid’s (and YOUR) embroidery equivalent is and let now be the time.

A school day includes making lunches and walk/drive/bus time and moving between classes and tests and homework (one of my six goes to public school, I get it)—remember, all those minutes are free now. So you don’t have to expect homeschooling to take as many hours as school-school. In our “high tide” times (structured learning), we knock out our work between nine and noon. Afternoons are free time for my kids and work for me. I have college grads—it worked fine!

My one school kid is in tenth grade. His teacher sent me a packet of schoolwork but said the only thing to make sure he keeps up with is the gratitude journal. Three things a day. I loved that idea and made them for my younger kids too.

This thread got long! I have a bajillion ideas but they all come back to leaning into the together time as much as possible, diving deep into personal interests, keeping a daily rhythm that suits your family (including your own work time), and lots of readalouds for all ages.

All roads lead to learning

Another thing we do! (See? I can’t stop.) My family uses The West Wing as a spine for 10th grade civics. It’s a springboard for all sorts of research topics. You can do the same thing with any show.

Any kid interest can be that springboard. Homeschoolers call it “rabbit trailing.” I’ve written a ton about it here at Bonny Glen over the years.

Schoolhouse Rock. Downton Abbey. The Importance of Being Earnest. Horrible Histories. Fun in themselves, and also: springboards!

Mad Libs. Hot Wheels on the stairs. Jim Weiss stories. Baby books! Seriously. My 11yo son happened upon all our old Sandra Boynton & Byron Barton board books the other day & hauled them all upstairs for a giggly rereading session.

Here to help

Hit me up for ideas anytime. I know it’s challenging to do kids and work in the same space & same time frame! But it can be joyful, I promise. Forget about subject categories and just explore stuff. Let the teens sleep late. Let the tweens learn fancy hairstyles on Youtube.

Make a family Minecraft kingdom. We had one and my kids kept filling my house with pigs, and one of the tweens had a long-running Monty Pythonesque retort competition with my husband via the wooden signs.

My parenting life got hit with a 9-month children’s hospital stay when my oldest was 2yo (leukemia, she’s 24 and healthy now) so I had to learn fast and young how to make life fun for my kid and me in social distancing situations.

Holler if I can help with anything. As the mom of a medically complicated kid (and a person with a dodgy health history of my own), I sincerely thank you for doing your part to flatten the curve.

Preorder my new book, The Nerviest Girl in the World!

Preorder THE NERVIEST GIRL IN THE WORLD, coming August 2020

Three things on Leap Day

February 29, 2020 @ 11:00 am | Filed under: ,

watercolor painting of a green moth

1.

I was looking for something in Dropbox and found a bundle of design elements I bought for my website a zillion years ago. Lots of pretty watercolor images and other goodies. There don’t seem to be any designer credits in the files, though surely there was documentation somewhere? I haven’t looked through all the files—much of it looks like things easily created in Canva now—but there was a folder full of watercolored butterflies, moths, leaves, and other bits of nature. I grabbed the image above to brighten up this post, and it turned into a twenty-minute effort to find a designer name in order to credit the artist. I mean, the entire purpose of a design elements package like this is that you’re allowed unlimited (and uncredited) use of the images. But someone made this art and it bugs me not to be able to say who.

Those lost minutes exemplify my theory that everything in modern life takes a minimum of 20 minutes longer than than you think it will. Especially internetty things. We’ve built a rabbit warren and we’re forever getting lost in meandering tunnels. And every seemingly simple task involves half a dozen steps, at least one of which will rack up your extra 20 minutes.

2.

As of yesterday, we are now a one-vehicle family. Since our move to Portland, I don’t drive much at all. Our old Saturn was out of commission for a long while, but we got it running again last fall and decided not to renew the minivan lease when it expired. This after I did the math and realized just how much each infrequent van trip was costing us each month. I’d rather take a Lyft if I’m going across the river, anyway—I loathe hunting for parking downtown. And we do most of our daily errands on foot now: possibly my most favorite thing of the many things I love about living here. Groceries a block away. Dozens of cafes, pubs, and restaurants within walking distance. Two bus lines moments from our door, making it easy for my older kids to commute to work and school and Powell’s Books and other essential destinations. I could even walk to my doctor’s office if I needed to. I don’t tend to, because it’s next door to a grocery store I like, and the walk home is uphill. But I could.

Of course this means we’re now three seats short for a whole-family excursion, but an occasional rental (or two Lyfts) is still a lot cheaper than keeping the Odyssey.

Scott and I had been worriting over the end-of-lease busywork for a while, and yesterday’s turn-in appointment felt a bit anticlimactic—we’d had no one big family moment where we said goodbye to the minivan that bridged our time between San Diego and Portland. It’s just suddenly…gone. Along with (we just this minute realized) my I’d Rather Be Reading Betsy-Tacy license plate frame. Whoops. Scott’s making a call to the dealer as I type. Fingers crossed!

3.

I got the stitches out of my nose on Thursday! And things are looking pretty good. Still in my jammies this morning so no pics:) There’s one small bump of scar tissue on the bridge of my nose that I’m worried is going to hang out and look like a perpetual pimple, but other than that I’m really quite amazed at how well the incisions have healed already. The scar is a faint red line zigzagging along my nose, and it’ll fade. There’s still some swelling so that my nostrils aren’t in exactly the same places they used to be. In a few weeks I’m supposed to start kneading and massaging the tissue daily to help break down scar tissue and restore the original shape. I’m hoping that means the one little scar bump will flatten out as well? If not, it’s only noticeable in profile. I’ll live. 🙂

I’m not yet able to put sunscreen on it, which means I’m going to have to overcome my aversion to wearing hats long enough to get my walks in—spring has arrived in full force and I need to be out in it! Cherry blossoms, plum blossoms, daffodils, grape hyacinths, hellebores—oh it’s a magical time! Rilla just noticed the neighbor’s clematis vines have climbed into the hedgehog tree. The tree (a dogwood) hasn’t yet begun to leaf out, but its bare limbs are clothed in a green shawl embroidered all over with starry white flowers.

Oh gosh, that makes me want a leaf-green shawl I could stitch all over with little white flowers. —Because that’s what I need: another stitching project. I have so many going at once right now! I spent some time reorganizing my studio this week, and now everything has a place again and I know what I’ve got in progress. A few things are quite close to being finished. Why am I still writing? There’s stitching to be done!

Topics covered during a six-minute drive to Trader Joe’s with an 8yo boy

February 10, 2020 @ 5:26 pm | Filed under: ,

Another delicious flashback from my FB memories. This was a mere three years ago, in February 2017, on a shopping run with Huck. 

Topics covered during a six-minute drive to Trader Joe’s:

—Did it rain last night or is that condensation
—Wait, I thought “morning dew” meant poop
—Discussion of various spellings/meanings of do/dew/doo
—Ice/water/steam, water vapor, why condensation happens
—Is that guardrail crumpled from a car crashing into it
—Why are they called “action figures” instead of dolls
—Where do I think the monkey will be hidden this time
—Are peanut butter crackers sweets
—Sewing, pros and cons
—What to spend birthday money on: probably K’nex
—That bus is too long to be Steven’s
—Why does Steven ride the bus
—What does “qualifications” mean
—Qualifications for being on American Ninja Warrior
—Really nice job parking, mom.

These FB memories are GOLD

field of crocuses blooming in Wilshire Park, Portland, OR

Feb 4, 2018. Wilshire Park, Portland, Oregon.

As I mentioned yesterday, I’m scooping things up from Facebook memories.

Feb 3, 2009 (A couple of weeks after Huck was born)
Just said goodbye to my parents (sniffle) and now I’m alone, possibly for the first time, with my OH MY GOODNESS six children.

Feb 4, 2009
Off to a busy start. Speech therapy, piano, Journey North. Nothing like diving right in!

***

Feb 3, 2010
This moment caught: 9yo sketching amaryllis, the 2 boys playing w/ trains. 11yo reading about B. Franklin. Teen reading Gulliver. 3yo sings.

***

Jan 27, 2013
Kids tearing through the room, shrieking, swords aloft, while Scott softly strums the ukelele, singing sweetly: I Wanna Be Sedated

Feb 4, 2013
Aw, how cool is this? The Journey North Mystery Class coordinator wrote me to say thanks for sending so many new families their way. Thanks to YOU guys for joining the fun! You know who you are.

***

Feb 3, 2014
In my statcounter this morning: search hits for “done with downton abbey” and “downton abbey season 4 not believable.”

Feb 3, 2014
Dear new lady in yoga today who said to me, “You’ll understand once you hit 30”: I LOVE YOU.

Feb 4, 2014
Sticky short film preview: “Exiled from the tropical paradise where they evolved, a tiny population of remarkable stick insects dodged extinction by hiding under a single windswept bush on the world’s tallest sea stack for 80 years. Thanks to a dedicated team of scientists they’re now living safely in captivity, but when can they go home?” (2020 note: I never did see the whole film. Must remember to look it up.)

***

Feb 3, 2017
In the car on the way to piano lessons, there’s a heavy sigh from the backseat.

Rilla: Sometimes…sometimes I just wish I were a mantis shrimp.

Feb 4, 2017
Just read the 2009 NYT obit for Eleanor Perenyi. Have decided that being remembered as a “writer and deliciously opinionated amateur gardener” is a worthy life goal. I’m sure I have a book of horticulture essays in me somewhere.

Feb 4, 2017
This one’s too long to paste: a detailed note about books I was reading/half-reading after two frenzied months of reading Cybils YA Fiction nominees. “Books I have read 1-3 chapters of since January 1st, most of which I do mean to finish eventually.” (Note to self: would be fun to do an update of this post. Which ones did I actually finish?)

I’m in a weird place right now where reading is concerned. I do this sometimes–read the beginnings of too many things and find it hard to settle down to finish something. I could have read three books in the time I’ve been pinballing between a dozen.

I try to be patient with myself when this mood hits, once or twice a year. It’s very common for me to rebound from Cybils reading this way—that fierce two-month drive to read a staggering volume of books. It’s compounded this year by—oh, let’s just say by many factors unique to 2017.

***

Feb 4, 2018
This one reminds me it’s time to visit Wilshire Park to see if these beauties are back in bloom. I’m guessing yes: we’ve got crocuses popping up all over the neighborhood.

Highlights from 2005 (Jan-Mar)

January 21, 2020 @ 8:19 am | Filed under: , , , ,

For YEARS I’ve wanted to comb through my blog archives and collect the best writing, the most enduring resource recommendations, the laugh-out-loud kid moments. But that’s a lot of posts to revisit! And time is so short. It struck me that if I aim for three months a week, I could complete the project in 60 weeks—a little over a year. Of course, by then there will be, presumably, 60 more weeks’ worth of posts. But that’s getting way ahead of myself. I’m much better at hatching plans like this than sticking with them over the long haul. (Hello, Gretchen Rubin Tendencies obliger here. I need deadlines and outside accountability to finish things.)

But well begun is half done, as Mary Poppins likes to say (hahaha, it’s clear Mary Poppins never wrote a novel), so here’s one quarter: January-March 2005. Jiminy crickets! There’s some good stuff here!

The comments are closed on some of these older posts, but feel free to hit me with any questions or remarks here on this post.

Book recommendations

Boxes for Katje
It’s Not My Turn to Look for Grandma
The Scrambled States of America
A Case of Red Herrings
Fannie in the Kitchen
Books for nature study, some favorites in 2005
The Floating House
Henry Hikes to Fitchburg
One Day in Elizabethan England (A splendiferous book)

Resource recommendations
Brave Writer (One of my very first homeschooling resource recs on the blog, written in Feb 2005. Now I work for them!)
Snoopy the Musical (the rabbit-trailer’s soundtrack)
A Tiger in Algebra? (Jacobs Algebra textbook)
Three ways to get more poetry into your day

Homeschooling ideas that worked

Mealtime readalouds
Strategic strewing
Project Feederwatch
Life on the Trail
Chain chain chain
How Jane helped her sisters learn handwriting

Kid moments (Lots of overlap here with book & resource recommendations & of course homeschooling. Categories are hard!)

Those Stubborn Bunnies
The More It Snows, Tiddly-pom
The Deliciousness of Mah (hearing aids, ear molds, learning to talk)
The Temper of the Shrew
Perspective
Beanie’s elephant (post by Scott)
One wit left

My commonplace book (quotes from my reading)
The earth, galloping / My Antonia, Willa Cather

August, already?

August 5, 2019 @ 4:19 pm | Filed under: , , , ,

June and July were mighty full months for me & my gang. I hardly ever travel, but this summer I’ve made three separate trips! The Brave Writer staff retreat in Ohio (I’ll be teaching two sessions of Comic Strip Capers this fall); a big family wedding in Virginia Beach; Lynda Barry’s Writing the Unthinkable workshop; and then back to Ohio for the Brave Learner Conference, where I was part of a panel with Julie Bogart, her mother Karen O’Connor, and Dottie of enchanted art table fame! AND THEN, back here at home, we wrapped up July with a long-anticipated event: a (minor) spinal surgery for the 15yo. (It went swimmingly and he’s recovering well.) And in the snippet of time between the conference and the surgery, Scott drove to San Luis Obispo to move Jane to Portland. She had an Americorps position at the university that wrapped up last month, and now she’s HERE. All my chicks back in the nest for a while. Color this mama hen very happy.

As for me, I spent the days between conference and surgery on a housecleaning spree. (Channeling Mrs. Ray expecting Betsy or Julia home from a trip, you know.) I get organization frenzy every summer. And my poor garden, oof, after two months of neglect it needed some serious TLC. When it’s too hot to clean or garden, I’ve been embroidering a lot, catching up on Cozy Blue Stitch Club projects.

So I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised to look at my grid today and realize it’s been a week since I posted? I’ve shared tons in my Stories, so it didn’t feel like that much time had passed. But it has! I had hoped to take a little down time in August, but I’m seeing that wasn’t entirely realistic. The multiple trips left me feeling like I could use a vacation, but now I gotta catch up from the trips! Fortunately I love my work. 😄

How about you? Enjoying a low-key summer, or suddenly feeling like fall is peering at you through the window?

I don’t like wattlesnakes

February 21, 2019 @ 5:43 pm | Filed under: , ,

note: not a real snake

A WordPress update caused some hiccups for me yesterday and I broke my whopping two-day posting streak. The noive!

Ah well, here I am on a Thursday afternoon, finishing up my last BraveWriter Arrow of the year. I think that makes a total of 17 Arrows I’ve written in the past two years. Wow, it’s a lot when I add them all up! This one’s on By the Great Horn Spoon, a most beloved novel in the Wiley-Peterson household. I just revisited the old post in that link—written FOURTEEN years ago, can you believe it?—and am sitting here cracking up at poor little four-year-old Beanie:

It’s been a rough morning. Our wagon tipped over while fording a river, and we lost fifty pounds of salt pork and our only shotgun. Then Rose took sick—cholera, we think—and died before we could do anything about it.

My girls are undaunted by this stunning double tragedy. They push on across the prairie, estimating the number of miles to the next fort. Maybe we can trade our mule for a new gun.

“At least we still have the fishing pole,” says Rose. She seems to have accepted her own death gracefully.

“I don’t like wattlesnakes,” announces Beanie.

Jane cracks up. “Who does? Remember when I got bit, back before we crossed the Platte?”

Of course now I’m remembering our actual in-real-life wattlesnake (or racklenake, depending which of my toddlers you asked) encounters. We’ve had more than our share!

this one was all too real

February, 2012:

Then something will happen to remind me why I don’t go hiking more often, like OH SAY A RATTLESNAKE WILL APPEAR ON THE TRAIL THREE FEET FROM MY CHILDREN.

Rose and Beanie spotted him at the same time—they were in the lead, fortunately; they’re sharp-eyed lasses and I was distracted by a hot, red-faced, cranky Huck. If this had been the part of the trail where Huck suddenly charged ahead and we larger folk had to scramble to catch up, he’d have been on that snake before any of us saw it. It was lying quite still at first, stretched out across our path. Rose had just enough time to ask “Is it real?” before it twitched, and I took in the triangular head and the rattle and hollered EVERYONE BACK UP IT’S A RATTLER GRAB THE LITTLE ONES!! (I used more exclamation points.)

We edged back a yard and stood watching it. Huck, who’d been begging me to carry him, now clamored to be put down. Not a chance, pal. The rest of us were still and silent. After a long moment, the snake began to move; it slid across the trail into the underbrush.

“This is the best thing that EVER HAPPENED TO ME,” Rose declared.

August, 2012 (you’ll note Beanie’s shift to a more wattlesnake-inclusive position):

“I adore rattlers,” said Beanie.

The firemen raised their eyebrows. “Well, maybe don’t adore them,” one said.

“From a distance,” said another.

“Me don’t like racklenakes,” announced Huck.

“ME EITHER,” declared his big brother in the firmest of tones.

ME EITHER, reiterates their poor mother, all these years later. Neither the wattlers nor the racklers. Nor, for that matter, the rubber kind, which have given me no less than seventy minor heart attacks over the years.

january 2: small celebrations

January 2, 2019 @ 7:33 pm | Filed under: ,

 

1

The sunrise was bonkers this morning. Huck and I watched its first faint tintings together, and then he went off to do his Huckleberry things and went back to writing—or trying to write—mostly I was watching the streaks of scarlet and coral paint spread across the sky. Just breathtaking. And…a minute earlier than yesterday.

2

Water vapor billowing off our garage roof as the morning sun melted the frost on its mossy shingles. The kids’ delight at our very own cloud machine.

3

Northern flicker at the feeder—hadn’t seen her in a few days.

4

Huck’s beaming satisfaction at his first cursive letters. His three careful lowercase t’s especially—the first looking rather like a capital A, the second nicely formed but floating in mid-air, and the third one darn near perfect. He’s been very critical of his (print) handwriting, so it was lovely to see him feeling proud of the accomplishment.

5

Belly laughs from my youngest two at the White Queen’s backwards antics in our Through the Looking-Glass readaloud. Six impossible things before breakfast!

6

Lunch with Scott and Jane before she (sob) heads back to California tomorrow. I was captivated by the large black-and-white photo of the restaurant (circa 1941) on the wall above our table. Careful pincurls; a fur stole and plush hat (at a diner counter!); the skinniest watch-strap I’ve ever seen.

7

A walk to the library with Scott. Crisp air, pretty clouds, and the best conversation.

8

A 94-point word in a game of Words With Friends (acolyte/as, triple letter on the C, triple word score)

9

These lines from “Day One” by Franz Wright:

…We should really examine
your life, the one you bought,
and what happened when you got home
and attempted to assemble it:

that disfiguring explosion
no one witnessed, no one heard,
and which you yourself cannot recall,
and by whose unimaginable light you seek
to write the name of beauty.

—from Wheeling Motel