Archive for December, 2008

Natural Bridges Renaissance Day

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

It’s been about nine months since we visited Natural Bridges. I forgot how convenient it is to have a kid day there. We parked our stuff on the beach and took excursions to the tide pools, the inland pond and the butterfly hollow. When we first arrived the beach was short on humans and full of birds. As the day progressed many more humans arrived, but pretty much all the birds stayed.

It was a renaissance sort of day for me. We have been doing more city things, and less days in nature. I miss this. Spending a day watching the natural world is core to my well being.

Seth was very concerned about me getting too close to the edge of the tide pools (for good reason), so I got an earful about safety. Regardless he did have a sense of wonder and expressed many times how amazing this was.

It was high tide so the deep water came right up to the rock shelf where the tide pools were. This gave us a chance to experience the way the deep water moved without having to be in it. We also go to see a pelican out fishing.

Watching the pelicans fly over was a big treat because they all have different patterns on their wings and their coloring varies radically. I love the tip feathers on their wings.

All of our excursions were punctuated by sand play. Without the distraction of anything other than sea birds and a fancy camera today I really paid attention to Seth playing. Or rather I listened to Seth playing. I knew he sings to himself when he plays. However, today I realized he is singing work songs, kinda like if Merle Haggard sang Zippity Do Da – a real “labor” vibe.

After the beach we hit the Long Marine Lab. Seth got to meet his first Rockfish in person. This seemed more exciting to me than to him. I think he was tired and the Leopard Shark sort of stole the show.

At the hands on area Seth kept taking starfish from this girl. I thought he was just throwing his weight around, but I was wrong. When I went over he gave me a long starfish stewarding lecture on how the starfish did not want to be out of water for too long or they would die. Every time I held one, he was anxious to get it back in the water lest it expire ~ snarf!

Finally out on the deck Seth found something that really caught his attention – a tool! I find he likes all activities to be punctuated by tool usage of some sort. He likes things that “work”, they bring him joy.

I like immense whale skeletons. They bring me joy. Look at the way every piece fits together and the angle of repose. This would be a great plein air subject, maybe I should roust Steph. The pelicans flew by one last time in the setting sun, a perfect ending shot.

Best In Show

Sunday, December 28th, 2008

So what do you do on a Saturday sans kid? You go for a big long hike! Yesterday we hit Russian Ridge. We were not 15 minutes into the hike when this casual coyote ambled up the trail. Russian Ridge is a great place for coyotes to live because there are no dogs allowed, so there is no one to wreak havoc on their leisurely lifestyle. In fact, the pair that we observed seemed perfectly at home with us. They didn’t seem to mind us taking photos of their afternoon amble come hunting spree.

The immediate consumption of prey sort of set the mood for the rest of the day. I forget how sudden death is in nature. One minute you are a conscious gofer and the next minute “you” no longer exists. In a matter of seconds your entire frame is crushed and stomached. Your existence is gone in the blink of an eye. It’s hard for a slow moving human to get her head around this concept. I know death happens to humans in an instant also, but it does not mean I am equipped to process that experience. I harbor the illusion that time is on my side to process all things, but it’s not.

Presumably the consumed looks something like this on the other side.

Other things on the hike had more time on their sides. The ancient oaks always cause me to pause and ponder time. Although they can be snapped up by chain saws or fire, their usual mode of existence is slow and long. I wonder about their consciousness. I wonder what they feel. How they pass their time, sacred as it is.

The terrain of Russian Ridge really emphasizes the fine line between earth and sky. That kind of place where you feel the urge to jump and fly, but are just a little too reserved. What if the chance was really there? Would you take it?

Days like yesterday are full of great light. Who needs a bright sunny day when you can have a moody, ambiguous, unpredictable cloudy day. I told Ryder that it was the kind of day where I wanted to come home from my hike, curl up with a cup of tea and read about dragons. Goddess bless I will get lots of chances to do this with Seth. There is nothing that gets the imagination aroused more than a cloudy day with unexpected colors and textures – a visual passage to the realm of fantasy.

Marek-Seth Communication Breakthough

Friday, December 26th, 2008

Marek sent me this vignette on Dec. 5th.  However, I forgot to post it.  Thanks for the contribution Marek!

Thought you’d enjoy hearing about a breakthrough your son and I had this morning — they stopped over last night on the way back from Saline Valley — but it needs a short explanation …

For a while now I’ve been telling Seth that I’m going to “manhandle you like a sack of potatoes.”

And Seth would invariably reply (in a loud voice): “I am NOT a sack of potatoes!”

Several times I’ve explained to Seth (mainly for my own amusement) that I wasn’t calling him a sack of potatoes but comparing him to one. (And being absolutely certain the sublety sailed way over his tiny head.)

Well, today, the tyke floored me. We were hanging out by ourselves in the kitchen when Seth looked up at me and said, “Uncle Marek, I know I’m not a sack of potatoes. But I want you to carry me like a sack of potatoes.”

Needless to say he got his wish.

WWseF Wrestle Mania Birthday Party

Sunday, December 21st, 2008

PART 1: The Pillow Fight

Pretty much the kids dog piled me about 52 times. Fortunately I had a whistle, and I could give my self time outs. The kids were all cool, and their enthusiasm was infectious. The trick was to make sure that they had a pillow in each hand. This way they can’t do much harm. Oh and keep your tongue out from between your teeth.

This is Austen surrendering for the dreaded Mommy Alis take down. Charlie was so thrilled by take downs that he kept returning and asking for more. I was so flattered because actually Charlie has never spoken to me before <g>.

I’m under here somewhere. The kids were actually really gentle and I had no problem extricating myself from the pile…unless Francis was involved. I don’t know what it is but he seems to have an adamant center of gravity and I just couldn’t shake him.

PART 2: Cupcakes

PART 3: Fairy Stone Hunt

As planned Seth directed the fairy stone hunt. He was thrilled to show his friends where to look. The piece of paper in his hand is the map that he drew on Monday.

PART 4: Presents and Beyond

A gift hug for Tia. Tia was smart and promoted her present so it actually got opened at the party.

Teresa and Owen’s present was of course hand decorated with incredible intricacy. I rescued all the torn bits of paper from the yard later to reconstruct the art with archival tape on the wall by Seth’s bed. Tia can apparently write all the letters, although she was clear on the fact that her parents told her which letters to write. Ah…the difference between boys and girls.

Quinn had a present agenda too. Even though he and his mom had bought a present, he insisted on giving Seth things that he chose from his room. This was a big hit with everyone. The box was not that big, but oh the wonders that emerged from it! The loot was never ending. Seth was going to slow, so at one point Quinn took over and started removing items and naming them, a bit like an auctioneer. This pretty much got the attention of every dude there and soon the present table was swamped. It was a bit like a birthday party swap meet, Seth’s kinda’ party!

Nolan gave Seth some golf clubs (presumably because Nolan likes an excuse to run around and whack things too). The boys immediately hijacked the clubs and made up a game of their own. Seth seemed to be happy spending the rest of the afternoon whacking the giant balls around the yard. I can’t think of a better way to burn of half a dozen strawberry cupcakes and spread the new found joy of being 4.

Birthday Party Propaganda

Thursday, December 18th, 2008

SCENARIO: Seth is turning 4.  He is planning a WWseF Wrestle Mania birthday party.  When I say *he* I am not kidding.  The guy is on a mission, or at least a process.  He spent 2 blissful hours on Monday cutting up ribbon and organizing the fairy stones for the fairy stone hunt.  He carefully drew a map with a highlighter pen on tissue paper that showed where in the yard the fairy stones were going to be hidden.  He is planning on directing and showing everyone where to hunt.  You will notice that everything is pink yes, pink is Seth’s favorite color…pink stencils, pink treat bags, pink balloons, pink cupcakes etc.

Since the invitation says that Seth would like to celebrate his 4th year by whacking his friends with a pillow…well I decided that pillows would be the best favor of all.  So we high tailed it over to Ikea (which is on my “avoid like the plague” list) and bought lots of cheap pillows.

A la Shep Ryder came up with this brilliant stencil. He even captured Seth’s tell tale “squint”.  He added the wrestling mask because Seth commonly stops mid wrestling match to remove a pillowcase from a nearby pillow and fashion it over his head claiming it is a pirate mask.  He then tells his opponent not to move because he can’t see, and he proceeds stumbling toward them with his arms in front of him.   My favorite WWseF evolution is the WWseF Hug.  We both stand at opposite ends of the room posturing and making grunting noises then we run towards each other and grapple one another in a power hug with crowd cheering sound effects.

PS Don’t tell the kids about the pillows, and yes Damon we ripped off your Chas Tag idea.

Dead Man’s Cove – A Family Hike

Sunday, December 14th, 2008

Much of life with Seth looks like this.

True Love.

Sticks in water, another common theme in our life.

Add Uncle Cary and it becomes very serious business.

Out of the blue water, Pirates arrive!  Could it possibly get any better?

Yes it could get better becasue apparently those very pie rats need help in getting thier boats out of the water.

My brother, ever the great blue heron.

Doing What Matters

Friday, December 5th, 2008

At a recent circle meeting “Austen’s Mom” was asking questions and sharing some second-hand advice. She sat with calves crossed, Mountain School binder open on her lap. She was dwarfed in an oversized chair, like Lily Tomlin in that 70’s comedy sketch. I listened, longingly from my own comfortable spot. Safe at home, sandwiched between a sleepy carpool partner and a new friend on the cozy sofa. Ashleigh was describing how she had asked her own mother, a former mountain school parent about how to observe Austen. Her mother’s advice was to pretend she was looking into a fish bowl. I thought this was such a great metaphor, and I relished Ashleigh’s contribution to our conversation dearly.

Listening to people convey advice from their mothers tugs at my heartstrings because it is a dialog that I crave. My own mother is long deceased. I’ve learned over the years to take mothering where I can get it, but still there is always something in my life that is missing. Like anyone my recollections of early childhood are dim. It was a time when my mother did the lion’s share of the parenting. My mother was not a “talker” and she died long before I was even thinking about becoming a mother, so I never asked what it was like for her with little kids. I have tried over the years to ask friends and relatives for recollections to piece together a better understanding. But in the end, I am left with not much to go on, and a vague point of reference.

As life would have it, I’ve been left to carve out my own path of maternal wisdom. So far this has proved intuitive, but not easy. One of the techniques I have found to be most useful is to write. Every time I sit down to write about my son, he and I become engaged in the creative universe. The act of writing helps me sort out what matters in our life right now. It helps me identify what his needs are in that moment. Most of all, writing helps me embrace the humor in our lives. If I make one tangible thing while my son is 3 it will be a record for him. Not a record of day to day life, or a sentimental overview, but a collection of poignant vignettes. In the future these may help him understand himself, and give him insight into my experience and how our interactions informed our relationship as mother and child.

I sometimes wonder if it isn’t so bad that my own mother is not here. In many ways my circumstance has forced me to create my own experience of being a parent. Perhaps it will get easier as my son grows older. Because, presumably there will come a time when I can access my own memories of being mothered. Regardless I refuse to languish, I just keep engaging. I witness “what is” and commit it to paper – creating my own points of reference. I find myself listening, and drawing on wisdom from the universe of parents all around me. Maybe someday Seth will join the universe of parents, and find my observations helpful, or healing. Maybe he will just chuckle to himself, because every time he does I catch a glimpse of his grandmother.

Where there could be a void we have constructed a house. Where there could be sadness we have made our own joy. – Alis Whitman, 3/4s Mom

That Word Has Letters From My Name!

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

Dear Seth,

From time to time you seem interested in letters. Sometimes when you get in the bath you tell me, “mommy let’s work on my letters”. After a few minutes the stick on letters are abandoned for stick on roads and other more actionable bath toys. I know you keep a secret diary of letters at Beba and Rada’s, a notebook that you illuminate with crayons like a little monk. For the fleeting moments that you train your mind on letters you are very studious. Last week was the first time I have ever seen you write your name, at least the E the T and the H. I’m sure in your mind you have been writing the letters of your name for quite some time, they just didn’t look like letters to us.

Most of your comrades have a better handle on lettering than you. This is ok because I like how positive you are about the repetition of mastering letters. You keep at it with a steady hand. You take the task seriously, but don’t let it over or under shadow your areas of expertise, such as mechanical work, building, and lecturing. You seem to give letters even attention. And yes, my heart soared last weekend when you ran to the Southwest sign and yelled across the baggage claim rotunda, “Look mommy! This word has all the letters from my name in it!” That is really all I can ask for. A small, intermittent feed to my heart, letting me know that someday you might come to love symbols, words and language as much as I do.

Keep up the good work! + Mommy