Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Springing Forth

We have this plum tree in the backyard.  Or maybe it's a cherry.  Its fruit are inedible, whatever they are.  It sits at the bottom of an unstable slope covered in weeds and blackberry brambles.  It doesn't have a symmetrical and graceful crown. It suffered imprudent pruning in its youth.  It has thick truncated branches that sprouted new branches at awkward angles.  

My neighbor would like to take it out.  My brother who is designing a deck for us would like to take it out.  But every year for a few days when it blossoms--when springtime has brought it the right combination of water and warmth--I find it so agonizingly beautiful, so heartrendingly ephemeral, its white blossoms on black branches ready to fall or be swept away like snow on eyelashes, that it is worth all the other days when it frankly borders on being an eyesore.  We returned from Texas to find it blossoming and I was sorry to have missed even a day of its brief grace.  

Clementine, who in no way resembles this tree, has been bursting forth with creativity. While nature has been bedecking our yard with white blossoms and yellow daffodils and green poppy plants promising a profusion of orange, Clementine has been at work on the inside.  I set out a stack of card stock and some scissors and suggested Valentines.
Instead we got Clementine's menagerie.

 Though not inexpertly pruned or an eyesore, maybe she does resemble the tree after all.

Don't we all stand ungraceful at times, withdrawn, fallow?   Clementine can be found often in her pajamas, hair knotty, staring out a window, listening to her book on tape.  Or on "the warm" (the heater vent) with Calvin and Hobbes open. Soaking up the water and heat of creativity.  And then, unexpectedly, she bursts forth with inspiration.

What's blossoming at your house?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Headful of Numbers

We're just back from Texas visiting grandparents for their 45th anniversary.  Greta made everyone feel young by announcing 25 years instead of 45.

Later she was singing 100 Bottles of Bear on the Wall, but a la Calvin (& Hobbes) she started with one trillion.

Greta:  One trillion bottles of beer on the wall, one trillion bottles of beer.  Take one down pass it around--  
I don't know what comes after that.

Me: Nine hundred ninety-nine billion, nine hundred ninety-nine million, nine hundred ninety-nine thousand, nine hundred ninety nine.

Grandma: That was a mouthful!

Greta:  No.  That was a headful.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Off Path Paradise

Last week while tramping around in the woods with her nature class Evelyn forgot her backpack at Off Path Paradise, her backpack with her knives in it, the ones she uses for whittling, the ones she treasures.  Off Path Paradise lies off the Ridge Trail which is a mile long hike straight uphill (which is only a wee exaggeration) from Canyon Meadow. I'm not given to whining about one mile hikes of any verticality, but every single one of us was sick.

Since burglars (which Greta calls "gurglers") got into our house last fall...during the day, minutes after we left the house...I worry about leaving the kids home alone.  So, oh poor me, I had to strap on the Ergo baby carrier I haven't used in a year and carry Greta up the mile long hill while sick.  You can pin my medal right over my heart, thanks.

Off Path Paradise is a true child's paradise.  It is marked by a forked branch leaned up against a tree.  Its chief appeal is that few know it is there.  The kids found it by searching a topo map for flat areas.

It is home to dented and rusted and broken things dating from my childhood.

Nearby lies "Glass Valley". 

The kids have made it their own in ways that are familiar to me from my own, much more free, childhood.
Sweet-smelling, medicinal yerba buena grows there.
And Ev's backpack was there, safe and sound if slightly damp and covered by a few windblown leaves.

On the way up I didn't look past my own two trudging feet.  On the way down I saw the sluggish me had missed a few things.

Down was such easy going that the kids even broke into a run.

Here's where I'm supposed to say we were all invigorated and even healed by our foray into nature.  But it just wasn't so.  Still I was glad to have had a glimpse at the kids' Off Path Paradise.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Dead Sea....Monkeys

Greta is intensely jealous of her sisters' fish tanks.  She is no way ready to maintain a tank and I entertain no illusions about who would be changing the water, scraping the algae, changing the filters, testing the water.  So I said she could start off with sea monkeys.  Fun!  Educational!   Not so upsetting when they die!

Sea monkeys are a bit of an exercise in patience.  The first day she put in the salt mixture.  Then she had to wait two agonizingly long days until she could sprinkle in the eggs.  And then began the even more painful wait for those invisible things to hatch.  Four or five days later she was carrying the little tank around moaning, "When will my sea monkeys ever hatch?" 

We took it into the bright but indirect light of the kitchen.  And in that light, if you looked very hard, you could just make out tiny dots moving around.  Oh joy!  Little sea monkey families wearing their teeny tiny crowns and carrying their teeny tiny scepters!

A few days later, long before you could really make out those little guys, long before they had lost their luster, we had friends over for dinner.  The sea monkeys, honored guests, had a place at the table.  One of our small human guests picked up the sea monkey container and inverted it.  Off came the lid and out came the water.  The sea monkeys, those that hadn't splashed onto plates and ended up as spaghetti and sea monkeys, now inhabited Sea Monkey Lake, a thin and spreading tabletop lake ending in Sea Monkey Falls.

The little boy was horrified and apologetic.  "I thought it was a snow globe!"

Greta was hysterical. 

I was practical.  What did we have this marvelous (if not fashionable) plastic tablecloth for except to pour a lake of sea monkeys back into its proper container?  We stopped Sea Monkey Falls.  We lifted up the edges and poured the sea monkeys back into their container.  Greta was wailing, "We should give them to someone who can take better care of them!"

I contemplated the results.  Murky.  The table had evidently been liberally dusted with parmesan cheese.  And the container was only half full.  There was a large puddle on the floor.  I did my level best with a turkey baster, but didn't recover much more.  Still, in strong light, a few hardy swimmers could be seen navigating the murky depths.

We hoped the cheese would settle.  It's salty, I thought.  And tasty.  The brine shrimp will love it.  Not so.  Parmesan cheese, in sufficient quantities, is fatal to brine shrimp.  This is a little known fact and I offer it to you in the spirit of a public service.

Greta took the news with her usual calm resignation.

Yes, she burst into tears and hid herself in a closet wailing, "They were more dear to me than I am to myself."

What did I learn from this (educational!) experience?  That I was wrong that is not upsetting when sea monkeys die.

Oh, and also, if you have sea monkeys: tape that lid on really well.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Fever Dreams

Greta is sick this week. I have swapped guilty admissions with moms on the upside of fever and lethargy.  You can get a lot done.  They huddle in your lap so sweetly.

I was not particularly effective this time 'round because the lethargic days were preceded by restless nights with a hot little body pressed against my back, with that little bird heart hammering away, and restless scaly bird legs clambering up and down my side.  There was coughing and moaning and vomiting and hot compresses for an aching ear and doses of motrin.

On sick days our screentime scruples go out the window.  Greta's filled her days with back to back episodes of How Earth Was Made.  After her ear stopped hurting and bloody pus (she calls it puss) poured out we headed to the doctor.  She regaled the doctor with stories of the formation of the Marianas Trench (Doctor (not our usual doctor): "I've never even heard of that!") and Mount Everest.

When we got home it was time for the complete classic Winnie the Pooh.  When that was over I said, "Let's do something else.  You must be so sick of watching TV."

To which she said, "Oh no!  It has always been my dream to watch this much television." 

We put in Cinderella. 

I guess sometimes dreams really do come true.