Wednesday, July 30, 2008

16 cups

. . . or maybe 18. At any rate, enough for three full batches of blackberry jam. And the price? Free, well, except for the slashed hands from huge thorns and the whining perpetrated by children who don't love berry picking as much as their mother and aunt. We walked to the first patch.

I kept thinking, "A woman's reach should exceed her grasp, else what's a berry patch for?" and then realized I'd feel like an idiot if I fell face-first into a thorny bush on a fairly busy street.

It wasn't as full of berries as I'd hoped. So, after getting everything we could reach, we headed out to a soccer field we remembered as having lots of berries last year. This year? It was better. By standing on a metal trash can, my sister and I could reach the fat, thumb-sized berries. Talk, talk, talk, pick, pick, pick. We share enough brain to mean that when one of us says, "Now, Sal" to the reaching-for-a-berry-in-the-bowl child, the other one says, "Mother wants to can the berries for winter," and we dissolve in laughter while the child stalks off in high dudgeon.

Best quote of the day was when my sister said, "If we get stuck in the woods, we eat Thing 2 first," because she was whining so actively.

We may actually go back in a week for more. "Too much" and "blackberries" don't actually work together for me. Maybe this time we'll do it solo. It might be worth paying Miguel the Wonder Sitter for some peace and quiet. I wonder if he'll take jam as payment?

This is the jam hoard before the jars of blackberry. There's yellow plum, red plum, strawberry, and a couple of precious ollalieberry jars. Every once in a while, a child will insist that we have "enough" jam, and I stop to think. Am I being crazy about making jam? Every time I see a glut of fruit, I think, "Preserve it!" so there definitely is a bit of knee-jerking going on. But it's more than that. In these jars, I see a Christmas free of shopping either online or out in the world; I see ounces of summer sunshine vacuum-sealed under a two-piece lid; I see something done ourselves instead of shipping it out to a company "out there;" I hear me saying, "Go downstairs and pick a jar" to a child when we've scraped the last of the open jar onto some homemade toast.

Not infrequently at all, when I'm buying yet another dozen jars, someone will stop me and ask me if I'm making jam. "Why yes," I answer, and usually can't help myself, adding, "It's really easy and fun." Most times I get some variation on why the person can't, and how much they wish they could.

I feel like a member of a secret underground society -- those who read the recipes in the pectin boxes! And I get kind of sad. I know I tend to jump right into things, but come on, people, it's jam, not home appendectomy! There are even classes if you're into being taught things that people used to just do. [Wonder if they'd hire me to teach home bread baking -- strangers often act like I'm a Dark Arts practitioner when they hear I make bread.]

Generally, I'm a really optimistic person. And I don't know where the world as a whole is going right now, although it seems to be heading for some difficult times. I just have a pretty strong feeling that I'm not going to be as much of an outlier, jam-wise, in the coming years.

I just hope there's room on the soccer field for me then.

Dance like no one is watching

Another quiet solo run this morning -- just two miles, but a nice pace and good head time. Then I came home and jury-rigged these from a standard scone recipie:

These are Meyer Lemon Blueberry Vanilla Yogurt Scones with Lemon Honey spread. Notice the tiny fingers on the side? I had to do a hockey-player block to get that picture. A wee tweak of the leavening to deal with the increased acidity, and voila! A new recipe and the last of the farmer's market blueberries are all eaten up.

Then my day began unfolding in the usual way -- sweeping, cleaning up, taking the recycling out, and there was one more wet load of laundry to hang up. I noticed yesterday that when I hang laundry, I find myself smiling for no reason. I just like doing it.

And this morning? I was wearing my mp3 player -- often something I do while sweeping or cleaning, and the combination of hanging laundry and "Jive Talking" just got me going. I danced with tank tops; I danced with pajama bottoms. I danced with cloth napkins, I just danced and danced and danced. I assume no neighbors were watching, but if they were, I hope it gave them a huge smile -- I miss dancing, and if doing it around my laundry line is the way to get some, then I'm all for it.

Nothing like the smell of fresh laundry, too.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

So there are the kind of parents who never embarrass their kids. The kind who have matching shoes and socks, who don't ask their friends awkward questions (like, "Hi, how are you?"), the kind who don't ever burst into song in the aisles at Trader Joe's and do a little shuffle shuffle, hip thrust right by the nuts and dried fruit, and the kind who do not stop by tree trimmer's trucks every single time they see them and ask for a truckload of mulch to be dumped in their yards.

These parents probably only exist in fiction. I remember being horribly embarrassed by my father, but then so was my mother, so it probably wasn't just teen-hood. I don't think I cross the line, even with tree trimmers, because I never tell them they have to go to college and make something of themselves, nor do I hold up my children as examples, negative or positive, to the tree trimmers.

After months, literally months of talking to random tree guys on the street, today as I biked the little ones to swim lessons (almost done! Thing 4 puts her head under water now!) I stopped yet again. I am nothing if not persistent in my optimism -- someone's going to bring me free mulch someday -- and I chatted them up a bit and asked if they'd dump a whole load into my driveway. As I pedaled away, I called out my address one more time.

And then I forgot about it. I've made a new friend family at swim lessons, so I chatted with the husband (the wife was taking her lactation consultant board exam -- so cool) and got a lovely surprise when I came home. Here's the view from my front room:

The only down side I can begin to think of is the effort it's going to take to finish weeding and raking the back yard before moving it, wheelbarrow load by load. But hey, what else would I do with my time?

One thing I'm not going to do is spin more bamboo. Why? Because, after spending months worrying about ruining some beautiful roving, making half-hearted attempt after another, last night I just sat down with the rest of it and spun. I didn't worry about doing it perfectly, but I didn't give up either. Just spun and spun. And when I was done? I plied it up with the rest of the dark brown merino to get this:

Only 88 yards were in the other skein -- it seemed like longer when I was spinning, but interestingly enough, last night's was spun in a different spirit and it went faster and easier. Lessons there, of course. Lessons everywhere, darn it all. Whether or not I have enough for a scarf or not.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Besotted with Brambles

Solo run this morning -- Eric's knees are acting up. He can sprint with me, or sprint ahead of me while I gasp along behind him, but he can't put in a longer run. Thing 1 said emphatically that she did NOT want to come, despite saying last night that she actually did want to run, "If it's going to be long running."

Maybe 6:40 am feels earlier in the morning than it seems at night.

So, hat on, I headed out to the beach. I vary my route a bit because I read lots of spy novels. Ha! No, it's because I get bored pretty easily. I'm okay with the broad outlines being the same, but I like a bit of change up. No pelicans this morning, alas. Just gulls and cormorants, the grouchy members of the beach community, in my opinion.

No idea why pelicans get to me like they do, but it's getting worse.

What also is going nowhere, obsessionville-wise,is my addiction to the bramble fruits. On the last leg uphill I discovered a fairly large blackberry patch (another good reason to try different routes -- surprises!). Since I have never, to my memory, passed ripe berries without stopping, I stopped and got a handful for breakfast. I'll have to get my sister to come over and pick through the patch with me this week.

With the sweet complexity of ripe blackberry on my tongue, I finished the tiny hill and came home to this:

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Friday, July 25, 2008

Where oh where

Generally, Thursdays feel most like a weekend for me. Once preparations are made, we go off to park day and everyone plays and plays and plays.

Yesterday wasn't that blissful. My beloved car won't start, and my mechanic-by-telephone said he'd love to look at it, could I bring it in (no, obviously, it won't start) and after some serious kerfluffle, my spouse arranged for me to come and borrow his car, necessitating a bus trip by me and the son-child. That was actually fun, and getting to go swim at the lake afterwards was also much fun, but worrying about not being able to help out a friend as I'd hoped was a bit more stress.

Then, there was the call at the lake about a swarm of bees in the next city over. I arranged to talk to the person later and headed home. When I told Eric the address, he said, "Oh, no. No. NO. Not a place you want to go after 7pm." Well, okay, he knows this city much more than I do. Then the person returned my "I'm not coming" call, and after I hung up with her, I looked at the caller ID. It read (I kid you not and will provide a picture as soon as New Camera shows up -- whoopiee!) "Pimp oftheyear." Apparently it really isn't the neighborhood I want to be in.

I do not get it. Okay, I get street cred and all this stuff, but why? Why make anything harder on yourself. It's as though the Enron guys would have programmed "White collarcrime" as their cell phone IDs. I don't know. Things remain far too mysterious for me.

One curent mystery is the location of the two pieces of dowel around which I wind newly-spun yarn into skeins, on my "yard stick" which is a piece of board with holes (the diameter of those dowels) driled in it. One round is two yards, which is how I count how many yards I spin.

Yesterday I finished the crabapple roving I'd dyed back when they were in bloom. It wasn't a fully accurate color match, but it was nice thick spinning and I gave the 45 or so yards to a friend and she'll do something lovely with it. But last night, I finally finished the bamboo/merino (well, okay, I stopped -- there's still some of the maddening-to-spin bamboo left) and plied it up, trying to not underply as is my wont.

Now I would dearly like to wind it off and see how many yards it is. But Thing 4 had those "sticks" yesterday, and now she doesn't know where they are. Neither do I. I do know they are not "in my head" as she's insisting.

But when wiping a shelf in the refrigerator two days ago, in preparation for putting new groceries on it, I found nail scissors. On the shelf. Those sticks could almost be anywhere.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


I took myself out this morning for a reprise of yesterday's route -- alone. What a gift. No vision of a 13 year old gazelle outstripping me, no stroller to push, and man was it quiet in my head.

Just wonderful.

Which is nice, because there's a lot going on here on even the quietest of days.

Here's a nice essay by a long-ago friend of mine. I share some of her experiences, especially the nagging feeling that my family wasn't finished. As I hear mine preparing their overly-honeyed tea in the kitchen now, and see the lump that is Thing 1 down in my bed, I'm peacefully satisfied that four was perfect for me.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Word to the, well, not so wise

Note to self: When you're running around, making bread, hanging out a load of laundry, doing another load, picking up, and getting ready to make jam with your sister this time, maybe it's not such a good idea to push the wire-surrounded clothes hamper with one foot while also putting more than half your body weight on that foot.

Trying to pull out the stuck foot while hopping off balancedly on the other foot was both painful and funny. The only person who would have utterly understood and also found it funny is my sister, because she does things like this too.

She just said to me, "It's a wonder we have even survived to reproduce. Maybe that's why the birth thing is so easy."

Wasted on the Young

When sleep tickles around the edges of my consciousness, I enjoy feeling my body slow down and become heavy, resting until I drift off. My four children, however, apparently view this as a challenge -- just how can they use their bodies' frantic motion to stave off any drift into the Land of Nod? No matter what sleep routine we work on, this happens. So they (not Thing 1 so much any more -- she just stays up late) wave their arms and legs, they talk to each other, they jump on their beds, and bedtime, well, bedtime stinks at my house.

I go to bed every evening in some degree of frustration and irritation.

Last night, we said, this has to stop.

The only way I know that works to get children to sleep at night is to roust them in the morning.

Accordingly, Operation Boot Camp swung into play today. Solo, because Eric had to actually go to work this morning, I rousted the kids, got them in something resembling clothing, got the bikes out, got the jog stroller out, and put on my sunblock.

It went about as well as could be expected, really. Complaining, falling off of too-big bikes, and then just the running and riding. It's so beautiful that even when I'm in the middle of my head, it gets my attention.

But after all of this? What really sticks in my craw?

After a summer of lying around, sleeping until noon and eating lots of ice cream and potato chips, Thing 1 is still faster and in better shape than I am.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Just call me MacGuyver

Finding Balance

I woke up this morning from a baroque dream which segued from a documentary/participatory drama about a buffalo hunt featuring someone like a Sioux and then ended up being a lion doing the hunting, then to a bizarre golf tour/decorating tour during which I realized that what our house needed, in terms of decoration, was bunches of crystal-bedecked chandeliers mixed with found objects (one of which was a black and white picture of a very elderly, seated, Winston Churchill). Apparently that is all it's missing to turn it from the "Daily Chaos" style we feature now into something really. . . different.

That taken care of, I realized that there is one very good reason for Thing 4 to not have a cup of blackberry tea with honey before bed. I'll be doing a load of my sheets and blankets and pajamas this morning as soon as she realizes it, too.

Since staying in bed wasn't an option, I got up and did some yoga. For this morning's practice, I decided to focus on breath. In on the extensions, out on compressions/folds. I can seriously call what I do a "practice," because I'm so very very inexperienced. But I did what I could think of, and near the end decided to throw in some Tree Pose.

One of the things that stunned me when I began working out again, a year or so ago, was that my balance had somehow gone missing. Not my metaphorical balance -- no one with four children under the age of, say 35, has that -- but my literal, physical balance. I guess I'd been used to moving so fast that I never tried to stand on one foot or turn while keeping my feet together, or anything. And somewhere along the line, I'd lost the ability. Go figure.

So I've kept that in mind as something I'd like to improve. There's nothing like imagining oneself as a little 65 year old woman with a broken hip to provide motivation for working on improving one's upright-ability.

The first tree pose I tried got wobbly, rapidly. Fortunately, in my living room, the only living thing around was the fluffy cat, and he can get out of my way. So I did some thinking. In balance poses, it's all about the foundation. Hey -- metaphor! So I breathed in, thought about rooting my base foot down, slowly raised my other one, hooked it into my thigh, exhaled, looked through the window at my focal point, breathed in, and raised my arms.

And darned if it didn't stick. Really stick. I thought, "I could do this all day!" Of course, I couldn't, but I could repeat it on the other side. And I did.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Cold, cold cold

We've had a bit of what feels more like our winter weather lately -- heavy mist in the morning and cloud cover during the day. So when I went out running this morning, late because we'd overslept, it was still cold. Cold enough for me to dig out the enormous floppy fleece hat because if I run in chilly or windy weather, my ears ache.

So I jogged along, looking no doubt like an enormous goofball, but my ears were warm. Or at least not actively cold. By the end of my run, I was a bit sweaty under the hat, so off it came, ears or no ears.

And then after, the weird happened. At home, I attended to what I needed to, ate a bit, and began working. I literally have been dreaming about grading grammar exercises, so that's what I obviously need to do. But I was so cold that I couldn't type well. Even in my shower, I was cold. Even with the bathroom heater on, I was cold.

Later, wearing three layers of clothes, warm socks, that silly hat again, and drinking hot tea, I was still -- cold.

Since March I've lost a bit over 10% of my body weight, and I'm not underweight, just at my regular young adult weight. I'm just cold. Maybe I'll have to add some more weight lifting or something -- anything to stoke the furnace a bit more. I'll try jumping around at home, or doing more pushups and situps -- that ought to warm me up. Oh! I just remembered my yoga teacher telling me that inversions were heating poses. Must. Do. That. I have my mat out, so I could probably do a handstand or something like that when I'm cold. I'm not going to try to grade grammar upside down, but warming up might allow me to concentrate enough to do so. My students will thank me.

Taking the two youngest to swim lessons today almost felt like torturing them. As I sat in the (windy, cold) watching area, they appeared to be fine in the water. Thing 4 says cheerfully every time someone asks her if she's going to put her head under water this time: "Oh no, I'm not!" Fine with me. If they're not actively crying, swim lessons are okay as far as I'm concerned. Some day they'll all be proficient swimmers. And she actually tried the shower today -- apparently she hadn't believed me that it would be warm and feel good after standing all wet in the wind. The fact that my shoes and cuffs got splashed was more than compensated for by her being less chilly. Then she sat snuggled on my lap, which was warming inside as well as out.

She cut more of her hair off yesterday, in the company of the same barbering cousin. We're not going to have to worry about her bangs getting in her eyes any time soon, is all I'm saying.

And I'm finally working through the grammar exercises, drinking tea my sister made for me and lounging on her bed listening to the kids romp around. I'm not cold, much, any more.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Interval, shminterval

I insisted that we get up this morning and go do the rounds at the baseball field. It's not that this is enjoyable running, it's that this is just part of doing the whole "get healthy/live longer" thing.

Tell that to my chest, which decided that after the first sprint around the perimeter, that it was going to not expand enough to allow me to breathe enough. In fact, my body seemed to strongly suggest that lying face down on the wet grass would be preferable to continuing in an upright manner.

It didn't get easier, either.

Fortunately, after we stopped, so did the pain. I guess that's the blessing of the interval. Of course, it begs the question of why I'm not just hitting my feet with a hammer and then stopping. The pain/cessation cycle would be the same.

At least I haven't had as much kool-aid as Suzee has. No marathons, heck, not even a 5k race, call to me at all.

And, since I never ever post about what I'm reading, despite the title of this blog, I started Nic Sheff's Tweak last night. I had heard an interview with him and his dad about their books that had me in tears in the car, and had been wondering if I could handle this book. When I saw it on the new books shelf at the library, I figured, "What the heck!" So far, it's gripping and sad and worrisome and everything I thought it would be. I'm not sure that I can handle his dad's book, as I see myself much more on the parent end than the kid one these days -- it's a position I hope to never ever find myself in.

To the incredible relief of anyone who reads this, there's a camera on the way -- I have pictures of one finished thing I've done, one Eric has done, what I'm working on, and of course, the Energizer Bunny pumpkins!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Although he had a council meeting until after 2am last night, The Mister got up and ran with me this morning. We did about 1 3/4 miles at an easy pace, then went to the local java joint for a cup of liquid wake-up for him. After we got home, we both stretched a bit then sat on the porch steps and read the paper while the (now well awake) children frolicked around us.

A news item caught my eye: "Fire yields pot plants," about how the Oakland fire department responded to a blaze and found that there were about 150 marijuana plants under (badly wired, one assumes) grow lights which had sparked the blaze.

I showed this to Eric: "One of them was treated for smoke inhalation," and he said, "Yes, treated with brownies and lemonade and released at the scene."

Cracked me up. Even tired and sweaty, he makes me laugh.

And now, with my babies all at home despite a delayed flight, I can settle into the normal summer routine of frantic amounts of work and lessons and social shuttling. Thank goodness for running!

And. . . I'm wearing a pair of Very Nice Socks.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


I'm not the most detail-oriented person (one of the reasons knitting presents a challenge and is so fascinating to me), but usually I'm pretty okay with the level of scatterbrainedness I display. I'm learning to buckle down and do the distasteful work when it needs to be done -- Hello, six more Robinson Crusoe papers! -- and redo mistaken knitting without grumping.

But there is a point at which being overwhelmed can be actually dangerous.

Today was day two of Things 3 & 4's swim lessons. Every single day so far one of them announces that they are NOT GOING, and then by the time it's time to go, someone is impatient that we haven't left yet, etc. etc.

This morning, I was cleaning the pit that Thing 1 swore to me was clean before she left, wanting her to actually experience what a clean bathroom would look like, and the time to go to the pool snuck up on me. So instead of leisurely packing the bike trailer with healthy snacks, warm tea for me, a fleece hoodie for the first one to wear while the second one swims, books and toys for diversion, plus my current fiddly knitting project, I got to run downstairs, shrieking, "Get your suits on! Put shoes on! Agh!! The dog knocked the trash over again!" So I cleaned it up, checked that we at least had two towels, put the trash outside, to prevent a repeat of his joyful trash strewing-and-eating, and ran out the door.

It was while unbuckling Thing 4 and hustling her into the center that I realized I had left the kettle on the stove -- in preparation for my tea!

Of course, this was the day she decided that she was not going in the water. In fact, she was not going to sit on the side and dangle her legs in the water with Kyle. She was not, under any circumstances, going to let go of my body. She was willing to hang on and cry as long as it took. With visions of my house going up in flames, I did what I have almost never done.

I pried her arms from my legs, told Kyle, "I left something on the stove, I don't care if she goes in the water," told her I'd check when I got back and if she was still upset I'd grab her away from the pool, and ran.

As I opened the front door, I could hear the kettle whistling, so I figured there was still a bit of water in it -- I'm so glad it hadn't burned out as I like this kettle. In for a penny, I said to myself, and made a cup of tea before going back to thank the friend who had Thing 3 in her care.

Wouldn't you know it, Thing 4 was happily being towed around by her teacher -- in the water, and she made it all the way through without more tears.

Gobs of things to be grateful for, and I even worked a little bit on the welt of the mitten on the needles! But from now on, I'm going to pack for lessons well before time to leave. No sense pushing it -- I not only like my tea kettle, but I prefer not to burn my house to the ground because I'm a space cadet.

Twilight Zone

There are some very weird things that happen around here. Not even kid-driven weirdnesses!

Our shower, for instance, has a love/hate relationship with the on-demand water heater. So when we shower, it ranges from really hot to rather chilly -- and the shower becomes a dance where one has to listen for the temperature change. On the upside, our showers are brisk and water-conserving.

Then, speaking of water-conserving, we use buckets to catch extra water, or to empty one of the kids' "warm-up" baths, and then to water the plants outside. Maybe because of that, the plants in the front yard have put on huge bursts of growth. For the first time in as long as we've lived here, the wisteria is blooming. The volunteer pumpkin plant had put out four pumpkins, big ones, and we were tickled. Enough for each child for Halloween! But now, every single day there's a new baby pumpkin showing up. Since I am all for increase, when I lug the bucket out, I do some assisted pollination. Maybe we'll have enough pumpkins for all the kids in the neighborhood.

We won't, however, have enough chickens for everyone. We had gotten the six new ones, bringing our total to ten hens. One of them had a congenital defect in her beak, so she didn't eat or drink as efficiently as the others. She seemed, however, perky despite small. Then, one of the completely healthy new hens died a couple of weeks ago. I didn't do any kind of post-mortem, and the kids buried her. I am so over naming the hens that I didn't even attend the funeral. When I told people one of the chickens had died, every one said, "The dork-beaked one?" But no. However, last night when I went out there, the dork-beaked one was dead. Lying right in front of the coop building. I noted that but figured I'd grab her body and put it in the city compost bin later.

Later didn't come until this morning. I'd wrestled the bag of honeycomb up onto the draining area, poured the already-drained honey into jars, and then after wiping up, decided I needed to tend to the living and remove the non-living. I grabbed newspaper and went outside. And -- the body was gone. I didn't see any tracks, or feathers, or anything. She was just gone. I assume something got to it and ate her, but I don't know. It felt like one of those scary kid-stories about how the hitchhiker just disappeared.

And I sort of talked to the guy at the camera-repair shop yesterday, and if I understood him correctly, the part to repair our camera isn't available or is only available on ebay, or we should parts our camera on ebay, or he wants our camera for parts, but I have a sinking feeling that I'm not going to get to use my camera again. This makes me sad, because I really enjoyed using it.

Fortunately, the place where my spouse works is having enough scandals and crises that every time he turns around, they're promoting him and giving him more money, and my job is steadier than I could have predicted, so we can afford another camera, but making the decision about what camera isn't easy for me. It has to have a really fast shutter, because my kids move so quickly -- I can't do that digital drag. I'd like it to date-stamp pictures as an option. I'd like it to have huge resolution so I can make big big blowups occasionally. I'd also like it to have easy to understand options, and maybe a clear manual. I'd like to be able to do macro shots. Spouse thinks a Nikon is the way to go, and maybe that's true.

I know that waiting on electronics almost always makes the price go down and the options go up, so I'm not impatient for that. But the all-words blog is boring me, and I'm two welts into the hot-color family snail mitten, and there's a lovely finished object just waiting for pictures, so I would like to have some pictures.

Not to mention, you gotta see these pumpkins!

Monday, July 14, 2008


This weekend, Mr. Reading While Knitting and I went and got a pair of running shoes -- for him! He got these:

And then we took them and Thing 4 out for a little run. It was pretty neat to have a partner to run with, although it's going to take some time for us to get our pace worked out together. Taking turns pushing the stroller (containing a 3 year old who alternately talked and demanded to "get out and walk!") probably threw us off.

So here's to him and his knees, hoping that they allow him to run with me from now on.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

I couldn't make this stuff up

From a student of mine:

"It is important to understand the rules and regulations of writing and sentence structure. Communication has always been the cornerstone of our past. Even the men and women who lived in the Crustacean era tried to communicate with each other. Even though to us it may have looked like crude drawings and may have sounded like grunts and groans, regardless of how primitive they were, they must have had their own rules and regulations in order to be understood."

Heeeeee. I guess this is when everyone was pretty crabby.

Training, interval and otherwise

You know the theory, right? Bouts of hard work interspersed with rest allows a greater buildup of cardiac capacity (leading to longer life, more sparkly eyes, and hair that curls nicely, presumably). So this morning, I didn't run, since I'd done a long, slow 4+ miles yesterday. And I didn't feel like doing yoga -- not centered enough, or something.

Instead, I grabbed Thing 2's jump rope, put on my togs, and went out front and jumped and jumped. Even though I now have a watch attached to my wrist after weeks of driving it around in my car to get the $3.50 part to fix it, I didn't time myself. I counted.

"One, two, three. . . seventeen, oops." I keep tripping myself. Instead of getting annoyed, I figured I'd just keep going every time. After 225 -- restarting many times, I thought I might throw up, so instead I came inside and took my pulse. 120. Is that healthy? I don't know, but after a bit of rest it was back to 76, so I guess I'm not dying today. I'm also annoyed that I'm feeling the strain so acutely since I've been diligently exercising for a while now. I guess it's hard work, no matter how you slice it. I'll just have to add jump days in between run days.

However, that's not really interval training. That's cross training, where you do a different activity in order to shake things up. So maybe later today I'll go out with the jump rope and let Thing 3 time me for two minutes on, two minutes off for 15 minutes -- if I can. And I also added another bout of cross training -- I mowed the edges of the lawn. There's something going on with our irrigation system (a work of the devil, I firmly believe) and the edges get more water, leading to more grass length, leading to the grass blocking the sprinkler, leading to more water getting to the edges, and on and on. Running the reel mower over those long patches was a full-body workout indeed.

Cross training also seems an appropriate way to think about my household right now. Things 1 & 2 got on an airplane yesterday and flew across the country to visit my parents and their cousins, but that didn't stop me from buying lug of strawberries at the farmers' market yesterday. I'm still on "full house" mode. This morning, even with diligent eating efforts, there were enough left over to make the chickens happy with the moldy ones.

I'm starting to wonder if I bought too many peaches, also. And I don't want to make peach hand pies, unless I give them away (because I'm completely capable of eating only peach pies all day long). Maybe I can borrow some children.

I must do something, because 20 or so grammar exercises await my grading, and I can't expect the remaining kids to completely entertain themselves while I struggle with that. Art supplies? Maybe. Maybe an outing followed by a video or something. And you know, I'd like to knit something too. Or spin. Or something with my hands which doesn't involve a computer keyboard. We'll see. Cross training seems good for the soul as well as the body.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Keystone Kops

My camera still isn't back from the shop, so instead, here's a glimpse into what my life is like today.

Got up, siphoned last night's bathwater out the window and into a five gallon bucket while I ran back and forth in my jammies watering the front yard, took shower, made breakfast for kids, folded lots of laundry and put it away -- my goal is clean laundry baskets by lunch time -- had the kids shoo the escaped chickens back into the coop -and started to work. Lots of good questions from students, I'm on a roll.

What's that sound? What do I see? It's the street sweeping machine, going east on my street. Eeek! It's Monday! My side gets swept today. It's not mandatory sweeping, in that we don't have posted hours to not park, but if I remember, I like to have my street portion swept.

So I toss the computer off of my lap, do NOT trip over the wire, grab my key and run barefoot to my car. Waving wildly to Mr. Street Sweeper, I leap in my car, start it, put it in gear, move it down the street, realize that he's nicely waiting for me, roll down the window to wave a cheery "thank you."

And with that, I knock off the plastic wind guard that looks like an eyebrow from my window and run over it.

I am nothing if not smooth.


Saturday, July 5, 2008

Nope, I'm still not an introvert

Four pounds' worth of jam into the 25 pounds of plums the middle children and I picked today, I realized that making jam alone isn't as much fun as doing it with someone else.

I'm cooking the rest down and saving it until later.


I'm waiting for pictures, so in the meantime:

Friday, July 4, 2008


I took the last sock with me to the park yesterday. I'm past the heel, so it's half stockinette, half leaf pattern, and fairly quick. At the end of the day, though, I looked down and instead of seeing a wee pattern of three yos making up the base of a leaf, there was one rather large one. I was six rows past the problem.

I looked at it. I held it up to my foot -- where would that mistake fall? I wondered -- rip or go on? I asked a knitting friend, who said, quite reasonably, that it depended on my level of perfectionism.

And I put it away for the afternoon.

This morning, I woke up and realized I was going to rip it back and redo it. I was also going to rip back something else I've been working on, and redo that. Why on earth am I making such a big deal of the string and sticks, when everyone knows I'm no expert on them and no matter how many times I rip things back, there are going to be mistakes -- generally mistakes any competent 11 year old with a basic grasp of mathematics wouldn't have problems with?

Part of it is the Penelope thing. I'm not in a terrible hurry to get these things done, although having them done is nice, because then I can cast on for more things to rip out. Part of it is the enjoyment of doing, and if a thing is worth doing, well, it's worth doing enough to have knit ten of the thing. Part of it is that so little in my life feels do-overable now that having something that putting ten more minutes of concentrated effort into can turn it around? Well, that's worth something.

So I have something more than our slightly cheesy hometown parade (yes! We are the only small town in existence, let us celebrate us) to look forward to today.

Happy fourth of July, everyone who's celebrating. I remember years of debate with my parents who were/are pretty much "Love it or leave it" people -- and isn't that an odd approach to take to patriotism -- about how I could passionately love my country in all its contradictions and still be heartbroken at the many ways it fell short of its promise. May I always feel this way, and try to find ways to be a good and working for the good citizen of it.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

For those of you keeping track

No pictures, because now my Sororal Default Photographer's camera is broken, too. So from an email I just sent to my mamas list:

"Post bedtime -- she cried some, then said she had a whole stack of books for me to read if I wasn't going to give her milk. So I read, she asked for just a teeny bit, just one more week, and I said, "No." It's sad for her, but happy for me. Does that make me a bad parent? I don't think so, just a tired tired mama.

So she lay down and I held her hand and she went to sleep. She also didn't nap today and played really hard and had a lot of sugar -- it was an over the top kind of day. I'm sure we have some rough days and nights ahead of us, but heck, I have those regularly with the others and they've all been weaned.

I'm very tired and I have a whack of work to do, of course."

This isn't the usual "my child's birthday" posts from me or any blogger. I'd love to be more in the "I remember you when you first wriggled into this world" kind of place, but I'm not. My children are miracles, but they are miracles that cost me an awful lot right now. I'm delighted that this one is three, and I'll be delighted when she's thirty-three too. There are times I want to throw myself, heart and soul, into the future and be past this tough spot. But today, her brother held her and looked through her new book and repeatedly said, "It's Randolph the red-nosed reindeer," and she sang, over and over and over again, "Strummin' on the Old Man Joe," and my sister made me laugh really hard and I smiled at friends and made them laugh really hard and my good buddy worked on my sore back and made me yell. All in all, I'll take my life, sweet and sour, right now.

I'm still not happy about the work I have to do tonight, though. I'd rather be going to bed. Humpf.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Only a little stinky

The "corpse flower" actually smelled more like "musty old house flower," but it was fun to go. There's a bit of the eternal tourist in me, that wants to check off sightings and activities, and make sure that my children also have those experiences, so, "Stinking flower? Only blooms every so many years? Check!" Since I balance this by being boring and uninterested in other stuff, I figure it's an okay urge.

And then some of us ended up in the newspaper. Usually my sister and I don't let reporters use our kids' names . . . and we've had some very weird reactions from reporters. But this felt a lot more educational, I guess. Two of mine are in the background of this picture. We have some other pictures of the kids there I'll add to this post when she sends them to me.

Then, the leather-repair place had moved, and the tailor was gone, so it didn't matter that I remembered to bring my beloved but torn jacket into town with me, but we did get oodles of basil and I made pesto for dinner tonight -- three kinds of ravioli: butternut squash with brown butter sage sauce, pesto, and goat cheese and walnut. I'm hungry just thinking about it. Maybe I'll make a tart too. If I get all my whack of grading and teaching done!

Good run doing intervals this morning, and I feel not-injured, which is a very pleasant place to be.

And tomorrow? Tomorrow I win back my body in a really profound way. Thing 4 turns three tomorrow, and that's weaning day. For any of you who have nursed toddlers or who plan to, believe me, I'm not going to miss nursing. Eleven-plus years of nurturing children in just this way has fostered in me a deep, deep appreciation for fancy undergarments, tucked-in shirts, and dresses with no front openings. Really.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

You just have to laugh

Yoga Journal's website has some nice streaming videos of a few small practice routines. Since I like doing yoga, but struggle making my own sequences, I find this very helpful.

What is less helpful, though, is children "doing yoga" along with me, saying, "Waffle, waffle, waffle," without breathing in between, and occasionally being jumped on by them. I finished the sequence, but it got progressively less centered. Even the big child on the couch had opened her eyes by the end.

If I want to do this, I'm clearly going to have to get up early, just like running. And it's okay, but still funny.

Plans may have changed today -- the corpse flower is blooming at the Berkeley Botanical Garden. How could you miss something that blooms so seldom? I'll have to fit a Farmer's Market trip in there somewhere, though, because I need basil, and one child went to sleep nicely last night. The other one changed out of her pajamas back into full clothes and shoes. When quizzed about why, she said, "I don't want to get dressed in the morning." Since she took a bath, she did anyhow.

As I said, sometimes it's just better to laugh.