Archive for the ‘Seth’ Category

Preschool Murals

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

This is the little mural on the garden shed at Mountain School.  It is an ode to the chickens, Poppy, Tallulah and Marie.  The outlines of the venerable ladies are based on Chloe’s chicken drawings from a few years ago.  Since Seth and I did summer school this year, we took advantage of a warm summer day to bring permanent paint to school with us.  We drew outlines of the chickens with chalk and let all the kids paint them however they wanted.

The great thing about letting the kids paint was that the design of the colors was uninhibited.  If I was to sit down and fill in the spaces, it would not be nearly as cool.  I came back later and used light washes of color to smooth all the sections together.  This way it retained the kid painted feel, but allowed me to blend a bit and darken where white paint would go.  The last step was for me to paint on the white chicken outlines.

Seth gave me the idea that the children could paint the chicken mural themselves.  The summer before last Seth helped me paint the mural in the bathroom hallway.  The main parts of the mural were painted in chalkboard paint, but Seth painted all of the colored sections.  He actually got up on the ladder on a hot August afternoon and painted the tree and everything.  When children paint something their touch adds a sense of whimsy and the unexpected.  Although they are serious about painting, their strokes add a sense of energy that I love.

Our three fours class was the inspiration for the mural.  First off Seth was / is really into drawing with black on white.  I think the sense of contrast is appealing to him.  The hallway is rather dark and dingy anyway, so the contrasty black sort of makes a crisp statement.  Secondly the kids loved having Teacher Laura measure them.  This was the inspiration for the measuring tree.  The chalkboard paint was sort of an academic theory.  But it was based on the premise that at this age kids like to draw on walls, furniture and in other inappropriate spaces.  I thought it would be cool to have walls at school that you could draw on, so that there would be a designated place in a mountainschooler’s life where they could “tag” things and not get in trouble.

For years this quote had been printed on eight and a half by eleven paper and pinned up in the main room.  One day Aimee was musing that we should paint the quote in big letters across the top of the wall below the ceiling so that parents could have something to “inspire” them while they composed their observations.  This gave me the idea to paint the Sartre quote on the bathroom door (yes his name is misspelled, but I did return with a sharpie and added a carrot with the extra r).  Often times I find parents standing in this grimy hall way because their kids have asked them to wait outside-but-not-leave while they use the potty.  Why not take advantage of this idle time to hit parents over the head with early childhood propaganda.

I like the markings that started to appear over the year.  It looks to me as if older kids have been here writing and drawing too.  The beauty of chalk is that it wipes off with a wet towel, leaving the hallway ready for the next year.

Harvest Notes Autumn 2010

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

It is hard to know what to write when you have been out of the habit for a long time.  For gardeners it’s easy, you write your harvest notes of course!  There is not much to write about on our garden front.  Our biggest crop was Delicata squash and Cayenne peppers.  The apples are from the Hansen’s orchard.  We helped them harvest last weekend, now we are up to our ankles in apples.  In the Seth department we are up to our ears in Kindergarten.  Seth is happily ensconced in Teacher Kathy’s class, which until now has more or less been his life goal.  I am sure soon his goals will be reevaluated, but for now he has arrived, and is basking in his achievement.

I for one took a little break over the summer.  I had a great deal of actual work to do, so I made sure that got done and didn’t sweat the lack of creativity.  However, with the change of season comes that burst of productivity that all animals experience in the autumn.  The sudden need to store food, make art, plan fund raisers – the usual biological shifts in attitude.  I find the shift energizing, suddenly there is so much to do and so little time.  No more whiling away the hours with a good book.  It’s hand to the craft, finger to the brush and spade to soil – no time to loose.

Summer offers all the time in the world.  In summer we appreciate the vast, the leaves in the garden are green and abundant with hope.  As the long days wane, autumn reveals what is really there, maybe not so many squash as we hoped.  how will we make due?  It is in the autumn that we learn to live with what we really have, a time for accounting.  It is a time for me when my life comes into clarity, I chuck that which did not work and capitalize on what did.  What needs to be done always seems blatantly obvious when the sun is lower in the sky.

It is funny that after a summer of plenty in the zucchini department we are down to just the few sparse buds trying to burgeon in the cool air with little hope of growing to seed.  This last effort seems sad, but I try not to dwell on it.  Every transition is a little sad, be it seasonal or personal.  Sometimes we have to stay in that sad space a little while to get ready for what is next.  My own sad spaces come and go.  As I get older I get more comfortable with them, more familiar with the rythms of my own consciousness.  I can’t be up without the downs, and if I was even keel I guarantee you I would not be remotely as interesting of a person.

At the risk of getting to philosophical, I am going to change the subject to apple crisp.  We made some the other night and it was the simplest slice of heaven I have ever tasted.  My favorite children’s book/book is Our Apple Tree by Gorel Kristina Naslund and illustrated by Kristina Digman.  In the back they have a recipe for apple crisp.  I had never tried it, but now I am kicking myself for not trying it earlier it was so easy and so delicious!

Apple Crisp


1/2 cup granulated sugar

1tablespoon all-purpose flour

1/2 tablespoon cinnamon

1/8 teasopoon slt

8 cups sliced peeled apples


1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup rolled oats

1 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup butter, cut into small pieces


Oven 375

Combine sugar, 1 tablespoon flour, cinnamon and salt

Add apples and toss to coat

Spread in a baking dish

Combine 1 cup flour, oats, brown sugar, baking powder and baking soda

Cut in butter pieces till clumps form

Sprinkle over apple mixture

Bake uncovered for 35 minutes or until bubbly and apples are tender

4/5s Culmination

Friday, June 4th, 2010


Dear Seth,

You started this year off at the tail end of 4,  a big bundle of emotions.  You had the desire to be a “big boy”, but hyper moments and raw energy kept getting in the way.  As the year progressed I have watched the infant in you wane as the child in you waxes.  The manic play and first time ever moments are giving way to the known, the refined the real – less blocks, more Legos.  You no longer accept what I give you with enthusiasm, you seek out what you want with purpose.

This school year has been characterized by very specific play cycles that seem to illustrate your progress toward little boy hood.  We started the year at the height of your dragon fixation.  Autumn was all about dragons.  I drew outline after outline for you.  You filled in the colors with wild energy, spinning tales as you drew and describing the characteristics of each dragon the instant the thought came into your head.

By Thanksgiving you were close to the end of the dragon run, and laying the groundwork for the great  “store room”.  You became mildly obsessed with the book Friendship Valley by Wolo which features an escape from a forest fire and a re settlement in a fertile valley.  Part of the story is that the creatures who re settle there create a store room and store food for the winter.  The concept of the store room served for many an intense hour of construction play.  You would build elaborate store room islands complete with boats, fairy guards and endless types of food.  One of the staples of store room construction was your hoard of ornamental corn kernels.  I loved the way we made restaurants and served corn kernels nestled in acorn caps to the fairies.  And how we categorized and organized endless piles of wooden food, seeds from the garden and fairy stones.  I thought that this play seemed sort of primal in a way, and felt naturally connected to the season.  I don’t want to forget it as the primal you slips away and the conscious you emerges.

By January you had the store room out of your system and had moved on to “farm”.  We came across an old mismatched set of farm and safari animals at a garage sale, along with more blocks to augment our supply.  I would have thought very little of the animals, but to you they were gold.  You set up elaborate farms with attached zoos.  Every time you came to my house you set up a new farm and worked on it during you entire stay.  Each type of animal had an appropriate environment structured for them.  We spent a lot of time delivering food and making sure the animals were fed.  Yellow blocks for the grass eaters, red blocks for the meat eaters, and blue blocks for the seafood eaters.  My favorite little touch was “crazy chicken”.  Crazy chicken was a particular rooster that would get loose and take joy rides in the green farm truck that delivered the hay.  It happened several times day.  A little foray into mania, a moment of wild abandon, a bit of the old you that was a welcomed diversion from the intense focus of the farm.

In February we moved to the new house.  That week you started to draw.  Hither to then your drawings had been abstracted with some sense of outline, but mostly blocks of color.  As soon as we moved they became drawings.  You were drawing your own dragons, hedge hogs, beavers, people, space events, and all of it with defined and recognizable form.  This shift in drawing was profound, because with it your energy changed.  As soon as you could really draw, everything in your life became more deliberate, considered and planned.  No longer is your modus operandi to run about man handling things and people till you figure out what you want to do.  You already know what you want to do.  You have purpose and you operate against it.  I am less in love with the new you, but I must say it is easier on me.  I don’t have to figure out your craziness and help you cope.  I am now able to follow along with some semblance of coherent understanding.

I find myself  letting go of your infancy at an alarming rate.  Every time you come back you are more and more grown up.  Your words are calculated, you are aware of media and violence and you are fascinated by gaming.  Part of you has changed, but I still see your marks of joy, your enthusiasm and your imagination. My role now is different,  I find myself teaching less and sheparding more.  I can’t stand in your way, I have to let you grow up into the man you are destined to be.  I have to do this gracefully and compassionately – Wish me luck, but above all wish me patience!

Love + Mommy


Chicken Eggs

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010


The predominant AM sound track at our new home is “cock-a-doodle-do”.    We love the chickens down the hill.  In fact we are so enamored with them that we bought weekly deliveries of their eggs from our preschool auction.  A few weeks ago these eggs arrived.  Big and little, a perfect salute to the joyful inconsistency of nature.  Thanks down hill chickens and neighbors.

Quail Eggs

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010


Stephanie brought several dozen quail eggs on our trip to Tahoe.  Since we were the last to leave, we got to take home the remaining unboiled eggs.  I explained to Seth about blowing out the yolk and insides of an egg so the shell can be preserved.  He loved this idea.  He spent about three hours of his life this spring happily blowing  quail eggs.  He was so patient.  Whenever  one would crack mid blow,  he would swish out his mouth with water (he kept a glass nearby for this common occurrence), wipe his face with a with a paper towel and carry on.


The morning after Seth finished his egg blowing marathon he announced that he was going to paint the eggs.  Ryder handed over some water colors and Seth got to it.  I forget from year to year how memorizing egg coloring really is.  By the time he was half way through I couldn’t hold myself back, I had to get in on the action too.  The pinks and greens were particularly spectacular.  I don’t know why color is so appealing on eggs, there is something about the form that lends itself to hue.


My springs are very busy.  Every year we have a big egg hunt.  This year we had a small egg hunt that was preceded by a big school auction, that took my time instead.  For some reason these eggs remind me of spring break in college.  All I can remember is sleet out side my window in Providence, and quail eggs.  I don’t know why we would have had these eggs but the speckles make me feel so introspective.  Back then I wanted the life I have now.  It’s funny that I knew someday I would get to make art and crafts with my own kid, all I had to do was bide my time and work through all the things that happened between then and now.


Mommy & Me Dragons

Sunday, January 17th, 2010


Dear Seth,

My new years resolution was to make sure that I documented your impressive dragon preoccupation.   I draw the outline and you fill in the colors.  Sometimes I help with the colors too, it’s something we do together.  It started on the day of the ALS fund raiser.  You were anxious and fidgety waiting for our “performance” were we spoke to the guests about Grandma Belle.  This was our first stab at dragon therapy.  It evolved from there as a sort of transition activity.  The tradition of coloring dragons on legal pad in sharpie emerged from a moment where we were waiting for our carpool, and you suggested we draw a dragon using the materials floating around in the car.  After that, dragon drawing morphed into an an activity indicative of transition times.  Times when you had too much unfocused energy, or times when you were tired and scattered and needed a bit of paper to lay it all out on.


The wall above your bed is covered in dragons, each of them a little slice of your emotional being.  We tried new techniques of coloring the dragons.  In the photo below “Elbowy” and “Closey7″ are partly colored with flower petals.  And of course every one’s favorite “Scratchy” the scratch board dragon.  Scratch-boarding was incredibly appealing to you.  I guess you liked the process of coloring really hard with a big black crayon, then taking a letter opener to the canvas and undoing what you had just done with equal intensity.  When you found out that I was planning on working on a Boy’s Almanac header you politely insisted that we do it in scratch board.  You then proceeded to art direct the entire project from start to finish.  It was neat to see you take creative initiative.  Partly because you have seamlessly picked up the art of creative leadership, but mostly because not in a million years would I have been motivated to come up with these wonderful creatures on my own.


The day that you found the giant piece of Ikea cardboard and announced that it was high time we start making the  “pin the fire on the dragon” dragon was simply the best.  We must have worked on it off and on for at least a week.  Me coloring a bit haphazardly, and you directing me with gentle specificity.  As usual you started planning your fire party well in advance this year.  The dragon was finished at least a month before the party.  You were quite diligent about taking me to Affordable Treasures  and Michael’s to make sure we had just the right party favors.  You were even flexible when we went to the Nob Hill last minute and brought home a blank frozen cake.  You rose to the occasion and art directed Ryder in the process of squeezing out a frosting dragon, complete with fire truck and ladder to douse the flames.


I may never remember any of the imaginary dragon play scenarios from the last 4 months, but I will always remember your legal pad dragons.  Thank you for the fabulous “Autumn of the Dragon”.

Love + Mommy

Last Mother in the Fairy Kitchen

Thursday, October 15th, 2009


The point at which I had just about lost my patience with the suburbs was about the same time I reached for “Last Child in the Woods” by Richard Louv.  Starting to read the book and listening to Richard Louv speak could not have happened at a better time.

When we moved from the mountains to the suburbs I thought it would be fine.  I figured we would continue our routine of outdoor adventures; they would just be a little farther from our home.  Well, by the time Seth goes for three days of Mountain school, and mobile time with dad he is fairly adventured out.  When he spends time here at the house with me all he wants to do is relax, play and stay out of the car!

In the mean time I am suffering from severe nature deficit disorder (I only get to go to Mountain school one day a week ;-).  When we lived in the mountains all I had to do was walk out the door for a healing breath of fresh air.  The solace of  forest and field was was readily available all the time.  In Mountain View (there is no view of mountains from our house) I walk out the door and am instantly bombarded with the roar of three different highways.  Not to mention the distinct traffic noise from the busy street that borders our fence.  The sky is smoggy, and although this lot is almost an acre of space, and there are some amazing old oaks and other trees in the yard, there is little sense of wilderness.


Since I am unable to get out and adventure with Seth as much as I’d like, I’ve had to find a compromise.  I had to find an outdoor destination in the yard that could pinch hit as “wilderness”.  We have several outdoor destinations in our yard, the first and most obvious being the “kid ghetto”.  This is the area of the yard that houses the play structure, sand box, playhouse and dirt pile, all littered in plastic toys and vehicles, in various states of decay.  The kids love it, but it looks like Target meets the dump covered in sidewalk chalk.  The second destination is the vegetable garden.  This is a magical place, but it is also a working place, a place where Seth is a caretaker, and like it or not is surrounded by thinking and “structure”.  There are several tween places that we use but don’t necessarily inhabit, like the fairy garden or the tree forts (adults are not allowed in the overgrown shrubs that serve as “base”).  However, there is one wild place in the yard that fit the bill to a t, that place is the Fairy Kitchen.

The Fairy Kitchen was aptly named by Lily.  After our egg hunt last spring Lily spent at least an hour playing by herself on a patch of Bermuda grass, a little spit of quazi lawn wedged between some Lamb’s Tongue and an abandoned rock garden.  Lily plopped down in perhaps the most interesting spot in the yard and started playing house.  When Geoff asked her what she was doing she explained that she was in “the Fairy Kitchen”.


Since it’s naming, the Fairy Kitchen has been a place, but not a destination.  I realized I had to change this, so I took an active role in playing there myself.  I set out little metal “kitchen” objects and began to set up house.  Seth soon caught on, and now we have Fairy Kitchen fever!  We go out there at least once a day.  At first it was me suggesting we spend time there, but now Seth initiates visits himself.  He seems to sense when I get fussy or distracted in the house and marches us out to the Fairy Kitchen.  If we are there and I am preoccupied with something else, he makes me stay in the kitchen and work it out.  He obviously senses that the Fairy Kitchen is a meditative place for me and that he should see to it that I self medicate wither I like it or not.

The thing I like about the Fairy Kitchen is that it always leads to something exciting.  After we both putz around in the kitchen for a while we get good ideas.  99% of the time the ideas are outdoor related.  It is almost as if spending time in the Fairy Kitchen is a “practice” of sorts.  Something that we do to connect to nature, gather our wits and focus on one another.  Rearing a child seems to involve lots of daily practice that fosters patience and reveals joy.  I’m sure it’s the same for Seth, because growing up is not an easy job.  My memories of growing up were always difficult between 4 walls and blissful without.


Richard Louv says that nature is a gift that if given to a child may allow the child to do something profound for the world in return.  It occurred to me early on in our Fairy Kitchen explorations that a gift of nature was given to me.  I was often left with my Grandmother Marge who lived on the loveliest hillside on the Stanford Campus.  My memories of these visits are full of wonder and magic.  She let me play anywhere I wanted in the meandering gardens.  She taught me how to suck nectar from the Vinca blossoms,  pick geranium flowers, entice a sleeping cat into play and differentiate between jays.  Grandma Marge was even kind enough to let me play house in her amazing succulent garden that lined the borders of the stairs to her front door.  She taught me how to pick just one leaf at a time and replant it somewhere else to make a new plant – such a simple action, but such a profound gift.

I’m sure I have returned her gift to the world at large, and will continue to do so for my entire life.  However, my job right now is to give the gift of intimacy with nature to my son.  We are spending time in The Fairy Kitchen to center ourselves, “checking in” with the earth every day.  Stopping and taking the time to make sense of our intentions for the day, the week and the rest of our lives.

Harvest Moon Week

Thursday, October 8th, 2009


Seth and I were unable to see each other on the actual Harvest Moon, but we started our own harvest on Monday afternoon.  We hitched a ride with Martina to our class field trip at Rodoni Farm Pumpkin Patch in Santa Cruz County.  This year Aydin and Seth were all about “the haul”.  They set about piling as many pumpkins as possible into their wagon.  Needless to say we purchased an entirely different set of pumpkins that were selected for their edible qualities.  The boys found ornamental crook neck squash that looked like guns, and Seth was able to pay for those with a dollar from my wallet.  I’m not sure how he purchased the ammo.  I love the energy at the pumpkin patch, the sun is brilliant, the sky is clear and the pacific reflects the children’s joy a thousand times over.


On Tuesday Seth was eager to harvest at his own home.  Seth and his cousins had taken care of “harvesting” most of the pumpkins and squash from our garden (see below).  This fact did not deter Seth, he marched straight to the beans and got started with his harvest.  At a certain point in the late summer beans just become too much to keep up with.  Ours had definitely gone by, and Seth spent a good half hour picking the seeds from the pods and collecting them in a jar.  He told me we were going to save them for planting next year, however I saw them getting hauled around in a Playskool marine mammal rescue truck after dinner so we’ll see.  We were not the only creatures harvesting.  Lots of little birds were busy eating seeds from the sunflowers.  We had to take long breaks from harvesting to watch them chow down.


Our garden has graciously yielded so much his summer, we are truly thankful.  In all it’s glory we managed to miss all sorts of little treasures.  Tuesday was all about treasure hunting.  We found a few more peppers, a passel of little eggplants and basil galore.  I stayed up late on Tuesday night and made tons of pumpkin seed pesto to hold us till Christmas.  Our week of Mommy Seth Harvesting ended on a perfect note.  Daddy Jim picked Seth up on Wednesday and we all talked for a long time.  Jim harvested all the straggling tomatoes which he carted off in a bike helmet for cooking.  I said goodbye to my loved ones for a few days, and goodbye to this garden for the summer.  It is time to layer compost these beds, and let them dream the winter away till we meet again in the spring.


Doing What Matters – Buckwheat Griddle Cakes

Friday, July 10th, 2009


For the past month I’ve been eyeing the bag of buckwheat groats when I dig through our nest of bulk grains and legumes.  The groats have beckoned in their green auburn way and my fingers slip past to the safety of lentils.  Each time I pushed them away, the details of preparation distant and hazy.  I hedged around adding water and boiling for fear of remembering all the events that lay between then and now.

Sometimes we are compelled to do what matters.  My proverbial “grain hit the pot” when I found out that Sterling’s daughter was in the hospital awaiting heart surgery.  I am a really spontaneous person, so I’ve never been much good at signing up to bring food on schedules or fitting into other routines of suburban life.  However, when old friends are in trouble my inner lioness takes over, psychological blocks are drop kicked and hot cakes hit the griddle!

Sterling kept everyone up to date on Facebook.  As the week progressed I couldn’t help ignoring my urge to fry up buckwheat griddle cakes and rush them to Lucille Packard.  Since the recipe remained hazy, just out of reach in my subconscious I was forced to perform a kitchen brain intervention.  I purposefully shoved fresh basil, garlic and pine nuts into the food processor in an attempt to loosen the ingredients from my mind.  Some bits came to me…sage?…maybe dill?  Finally I turned to old kitchen spattered cookbooks.  I flipped through the pages to see if any of the spills or recipe shapes spawned a memory.  Finally I found it, Red Lentil Cakes with Garlic and Sage from Savoring the Day by Judith Ben Hurley.  Needless to say my version of this recipe is far from the original, but it was what Sterling needed, so I was determined to reconstruct!


1 cup buckwheat groats
½ cup quinoa
1 heaping teaspoon of yellow miso
3 cups water
Combine and boil on medium heat for 20 minutes or till the mixture has no water left

Sage leaves to taste 2 to 4 Tbs
1 red onion
1 clove garlic
Saute till wilted
Combine cooked grains, and sauteed vegetables/sage in the food processor.  Pulse a few times till the mixture is partially ground and feels sticky.
I also added a cup of cooked garbanzos, but I think it would work without.

One meager handful of batter compresses into the right size cake.
Fry liberally with lots of olive oil!

I usually serve these cakes piled with barely steamed summer squash, sunflower sprouts and a yogurt lemon tahini sauce.  I did not have the ingredients to make the sauce this time, so Sterling made due with some lemon and sour cream.  I will add the sauce to this post next time I make it.


Sterling said the following about the meal, “amazing the restorative power of food made with love!”  As usual she hit the nail on the head.  We do what matters when love is involved.  We are driven by love to work through life and collaborate in the healing process.  Sterling and her family’s need for immediate survival prompted me to “clean house”, to examine an ingredient heaped in personal baggage, and to “restore” buckwheat to its proper place in the forefront of our pantry.

Rites of Passage

Friday, June 19th, 2009


Dear Seth,

This week was all about rites of passage.  You asked confidently and we let you have at it.  You started with Yousef’s shirt.  Last week we got two bags of hand me downs for him.  You immediately got out the fabric paint and proclaimed that you were going to decorate them.  You did a few samplers last week, but Monday was masterpiece day!  Aside from taking painting  initiative, you have become very responsible about your permanent paint.  You organize it all into specific boxes and fastidiously store it on the top of the dryer so that “the little kids” will not get into it.

firemankeykeysOn Tuesday you marked your fire engine keys.  This activity was undertaken with the utmost seriousness.  The application of “toe polish” is a grave responsibility.  It musent touch the skin and it’s not to be wasted.  I can’t remember the last time I saw you so focused.  However, I was not surprised, fireman business is serious and you are a consumate professional in all aspects of fire management.


Wednesday was the “moment of truth”.  You asked Mattie “mano a grandmamo” if you could paint the play house permanent burgundy *.   She was very level and said she trusted your best judgement, and was sure you would paint something wonderful.   Well you carefully painted a row of shinges and the interior of the dutch door.  It turned out to be more of a union job.  In fact when I came over to photograph, you said, “Mommy there are no cameras allowed on this building site, it bothers the workers”.


I retreated, but not after stealing a few shots paparazzi style.

Love + Mommy

* Grandma Jan introduced Seth to the color burgundy… thanks Grandma Jan it’s been a lovely addition to our spectrum of pinks and reds!