The cure
Tuesday May 17th 2022, 9:53 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

Woke up running a slight fever but got up and stayed up and didn’t mention it because it was just a slow-start morning, right? Plus I didn’t want to interrupt his meeting. So he didn’t know.

Finally, no, enough already, and at about 2:00 I went to go lie down, telling Richard, Wake me up in half an hour. Um, maybe forty.

So he tried, but nothing doing. I was not getting up yet.

At the hour, he came in and, knowing I don’t like insomnia at night after too long a daytime rest–

Okay, here’s where I explain about being toddlers and preschoolers in church together sixty years ago. Little kids need movement and song and dance is their thing.

So here’s my 6’8″ husband holding his arms over his head for a sun or a tree, take your pick, singing, Innn the leafy treeTOPS* the birds say good morning. They’re first to see the sun! They must tell everyone! Innn the leafy treeTOPS, the birds sing good morning! as he leaned to the right and stood on that foot, then clapped the other against it then leaned to the left and clapped the right foot against it in rhythm the best he could, swaying back and forth with his sun held proudly high.

You goof!

I hadn’t thought of that song and especially those movements in just forever. I was laughing as I put my hearing aids in.

And then he had to sing it again so I could hear it this time.

 

*(That’s the highest note so you have to sing it the loudest. It’s the rule.)



Watching, listening
Monday May 09th 2022, 9:31 pm
Filed under: Family,Wildlife

After a restless night worrying about baby birds I woke up just after dawn and ran to go check but it was of course the coldest point and too early.

But there was a mockingbird perched in the same nearby spot on the telephone wire as the night before–much fluffed up against the cold and his eyes looked closed but his head was upright: asleep but at the ready.

He was instantly all attention a half hour later when I came back and uncovered the tree.

There are to be four of these unseasonably cold nights and then that should all be over with. I will fold the frost covers up and out of the birds’ sight.

I covered the mango again tonight just after sundown, hoping that that was late enough, and when I had the first layer halfway over, out flitted a mocker from the apple tree. Not coming straight there–no, you don’t give it away, you zig zag and head there kind of sideways in fits and starts when you’re a nesting parent.

But which nesting parent? And was one in there already?

I stopped, pulled things back to make room for it to dive down in the branches, went inside, and when that didn’t work, went out of sight inside for a few minutes (knowing the last of the light was fading fast.)

Nope, s/he’s sticking to that spot. Okay, so I came back out and finished the job as it maintained its and we will both do the best we know how and I know where to find him in the morning.

The other thing I wanted to mention: Spencer, who is three until September, the grandson I played Chase Me! with last month while his siblings played Legos–his daddy started Facetiming me for Mother’s Day at a moment when his youngest was far across the room and down the hall.

Spencer saw my face on that screen and instantly came running! He was so thrilled to see me! (I adjusted things on our end so he could see Grampa too because that level of enthusiasm just has to be shared.) They’d gotten doughnuts for Mommy, and he’d done this and this and this and this! and he was so excited to get to tell me every detail of his day! Everything. Not that I heard all that, but I could throw in a, That’s cool! and a, Yay!

I had never heard him talk that much in his life and I was loving it, while his older siblings grinned and yeah okay’ed and little kids gotta little and waited their turns quite nicely.

Doughnuts for them all and stories and love. Life is definitely good.



The burned saplings growing back in the yarn
Saturday May 07th 2022, 9:34 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

The knitted redwoods are ready to go.

Twenty-something years ago, we used to make the drive from the San Francisco Bay area to Salt Lake City every summer, usually for five days, after Richard’s sister who lived there was diagnosed with lymphoma. We wanted to see her and her family and that was the way we could make it happen.

A CD would get popped in in the minivan and my husband’s favorites in particular would get played again and again and again and again (with me trying not to say more than once, For the love of pete can we please play something else?! Do those have to be every single trip?)

Tom Paxton. Willy Nelson. Pete Seeger. The Dave Matthews Band picked by the kids as they got older was pretty good, though I’d have gone for some James Taylor, myself.

To his credit, Richard did occasionally fiddle with the radio dial, but there’s a whole lot of nuthin’ going through Nevada.

Those albums became imprinted on my brain as part of, we’re doing a hard drive and we’re getting past my fears of driving past those thousand-foot drop-offs and the roadstop McDonald’s that missed half our order (again! Please can we do the Arby’s next time dear) and you don’t find out till you’re a mile or two down the road and you just go forget it because you’re not doing those miles over and you let a kid have your burger so they don’t go hungry because we’re going to see Cheryl and to show her kids they’re loved and we are not getting there late.

Especially after their dad decided he was afraid of being widowed and alone and was determined not to feel that pain.

I’ve met men who later cheated on their wives but never to the degree that one did. She was so much better off after their divorce.

We came.

There were zero cures and three known cases of remission of the type she had when she was diagnosed on her 40th birthday but she was determined to see her kids grow up. (They say they can cure that type, now.)

And she did it. She did it. Eight years. She made it through her son’s wedding looking far better than I would have expected and got to see him married to the best young woman she could have hoped for, and the two of them so happy. And they still are.

J., his baby sister, was a freshman in college along with my oldest when her mother passed six weeks after.

This afghan is for J.

What I wouldn’t do to be able to give her her mom back instead. But I can offer love and she can wrap it around herself at any time forevermore and know that I’m thinking of both of them.

This new Tom Paxton song for Ukraine came courtesy of my friend Anne today and I found myself near unexpected tears.

With the sound of his voice, all those memories and associations of piling four kids in the car and making that long thirteen hour drive across mountain and desert and salt flats, driving, driving, driving, heading towards people we loved to make good memories with them while we could.

And thinking of all those families who, if they’re lucky, have piled into all those cars to drive drive drive to flee the country and friends and places they’ve loved, wondering if they’ll ever see them again.

We are with them in heart and song and we will play it over and over and over and over. For them.



72″
Sunday May 01st 2022, 8:45 pm
Filed under: Family,Knitting a Gift

Finally, I thought as I broke the strand on my niece’s afghan. Now I can do colors! I walked down the hall to go get my phone to take this picture with visions of various skeins bought and not bought yet and all the ways I could play with what they could do.

Waiting on that phone was a text from another niece: her son loved the green hat I’d made him a few years ago; could I make him a dark gray one?

She didn’t say, in a color he got to choose himself this time.

There’s only one answer to that question. Of course.



He might want his shoes after all
Sunday April 24th 2022, 9:48 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

One of my favorite pictures from last weekend. Spencer is 3.

It reminds his grandmother of how, in elementary school, when the door opened for recess I would run and run and run and run and burn off all that energy from having to sit too long and too quietly.

The only time I ever got sent to the principal’s office is when one larger older boy decided that I needed to be chased and since I didn’t know what he was going to do if he ever caught me and he wouldn’t stop even though I told him to, he socked me and I socked him back. Once each because we instantly found we did not like this turn of events. But being kids, we needed help being stopped so we would both know we both knew it wouldn’t happen again.

There happened to be a teacher steps away right at that moment.

The principal was dumbfounded that I of all his students had done such a thing. So was I.

And it never happened again.

In sixth grade they were doing Presidential Fitness Awards (I think Nixon started it) for athletics in young kids, so then the other kids had to run, too. Measured. Competing. All the boring stuff.

Which made me officially the third fastest kid in my grade. I was the fastest girl, by quite a bit, and when the boys I’d beaten tried to put me down about it I was having none of it–I’d outrun them fair and square and they knew it even if they didn’t like it.

Go Spencer go!



An early start
Saturday April 23rd 2022, 8:53 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Garden,Life

When Richard and I had been married about a year, I discovered a farmer whose wife had a few apricot trees that were for her personal pin money and she was offering 27 lb wooden crates (with a strong request that you return the crate) for $5.

I brought that crate home in great anticipation and glee at our adulting–all that fruit from pick-your-own farms in my childhood that my Mom had put up every year, and now we got to do it–and my husband and I spent a Saturday in grad school jamming and bottling and creating rows of all those gorgeous jars of summer sunshine.

I lined them up, tired and proud and admiring what we’d accomplished, when my sweet new husband turned to me with a smile and a half-apologetic half-bemused confession: “You know what? I really don’t like apricots.”

He’d waited till we were done. He hadn’t wanted to wreck my enthusiasm. We gave most of it to his older sister when we moved away and she was quite happy to have them.

I remembered that day when I read last week someone saying she’d picked a hundred pounds of apricots off her four year old tree. At least mine were growing from seeds, not nursery stock, so I figured we wouldn’t have to deal with anything like that for awhile yet. Besides, all you have to do is ask friends to come over and help themselves and a good time will be had by all.

He has actually tried the Anyas from Andy’s and though not as bowled over as I might have hoped, he conceded that for an apricot they were good.

I have six seedlings left, with two spoken for.

I figured we have several years before I even get to taste from the two I intend to keep long enough to find out which one has the fruit most like its known and loved parent.

This evening, I saw, really saw for the first time, and how had I missed this? My third-year has this one branch near the top that hadn’t been sprouting any leaves off it, and it was now quite a bit thicker and browner than all the young ones around it growing straight and red.

What had happened was that we had our first warm day in awhile today and the buds had burst out from it. Thus the nubbly randomness that had caught my eye at long last while the other branches around it had grown past it and obscured it.

Those are flower buds!!! That’s a fruit spur!

I wanted to jump up and down like a little kid.

I don’t get it. Not that I’m complaining! My cherries, peaches, and plum, my other stone fruits: they all bloom first and then leaf out as the petals begin to give way in the spring. That apricot was the first one to leaf out starting over a month ago and there were no signs of flowers then. As a matter of fact, I had thought that in years to come it would be more likely to lose its crop to the weather because it had leafed out three weeks before the second-year seedling.

Granted, it’s still a baby and its timings could be random for now and time will tell.

But an apricot that doesn’t bloom till the end of April or more? If that holds, that would be a highly desirable thing indeed.

Edited to add: I just heard back from the friend I gave a Blenheim to as a housewarming present several years ago. She told me that the lower blossoms do open first in the spring, before the leaves, but that there’s often a few fruit spurs at the top of the tree that open up at the very last like mine is doing.

Well there you go.



We’re working on it
Monday April 18th 2022, 7:48 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

We got a little extra grandkid time!

They had their brunch with the great grandma and then they’d hoped to take the kids to see the redwoods. Richard-the-younger mentioned that their town near San Diego is beautiful and certainly has lots of trees, but he hadn’t realized just how much greener it is here. He’d wanted to show their kids the best of it.

But looking at the time, in the end, the distance vs the route vs potential traffic and the potential of missing their flight with four kids in tow, they came here to retrieve his camera bag instead.

So I pulled Kat’s polished redwood slab out of the other room and told them about our neighbor’s generosity as Maddy and Hudson promptly sat down to count the rings. I told the kids how the fog condenses on the needles and runs down the trunks and that’s how they get their water.

That got their daddy reminiscing over the immense cross-section of an oldest-growth redwood cut down in the 1800s, preserved at the visitor’s center at Big Basin, how it has these little tags that mark off this is when this happened, this is when the Magna Carta was signed, this… It’s a map of human history, he said, just the most amazing thing.

I hadn’t realized how much of an impression it had made on him when he was young but I definitely understood why he wanted his kids to have that experience, too. But…

…It’s gone, I said.

He went right on saying a little more about it.

It’s gone, I said again. It burned in the fire. The beautiful visitor’s center built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930’s that it was in front of–it’s all gone.

I saw in his face that sudden moment of staggering loss that we had gone through at the news. It was even worse than that, though I didn’t say so; the CZU Complex fire had burned through 97% of that old-growth park, though some of the oldest trees did survive after all when the biologists hadn’t been at all sure they would. (Park FAQs here.)

And then we moved on from there, a lot gladder now that they hadn’t made that long trip for nothing. It will take some planning and checking next time to see what’s ready for visitors again, but a lot of effort is going into reopening things safely. Alright then.

That space where you know you have to leave soon and you hate to really get into making a Lego robot like the one your grandmother so admired yesterday before the little Hulk! Smash! got to it and you might not have time to finish it anyway? The two middle kids suddenly needed something to do.

So I asked them if they wanted to learn to knit (suddenly very very glad I had two balls of already-wound-up soft, thick Mecha yarn right there.)

Yes!!

And so I pulled out a pair of needles for Hudson and one for Maddy and cast on a few stitches each.

Hudson was sort of getting it, with a couple of long loopinesses where he’d dropped a stitch or two. But he’d done it. He’d knitted all by himself. Maddy wrapped the yarn for me and I popped the other needle over it and showed her what that did.

But what does it make? she wanted to know.

Well, I told her, our neighbor used to have a very fluffy cat and we combed its fur, I spun about 18″ of yarn out of it, and I knitted it into a little square just like this and then glued this thing on the back that made it into a pin for her.

I cast off both their pieces and showed them how pulling the yarn through the last stitch meant it wouldn’t unravel now. Maddy wore hers as a necklace. Hudson was deciding as they left, but they were both quite proud of their first knitting, especially after I made sure they knew how much I was. Suddenly his funky strands were okay after all.

Spencer (whose shoes had been found in the car, and that’s where they were again) danced barefoot down the walkway towards the rental car as they headed for the airport and away and home.



Barefoot
Sunday April 17th 2022, 9:43 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends

Easter Sunday at church, lunch, dinner: today was our day with the grands, and a grand time it was, starting with their discovery of the kids’ corner by the fireplace. Legos, Play Dough, Hot Wheels, something for everybody. (Let’s take the Play Dough outside, said the wise mom, looking at the carpeting.)

While every now and then the three year old simply took off at a run across the back yard because we had the space and the fencing and he could. He and I played Chase Me and Peek a Boo that involved blowing kisses when you showed your face.

So. Much. Joy.

I told Hudson the chocolate torte was for his birthday this month. He thought it would definitely do.

I texted my neighbor afterwards, telling her, I don’t expect so but just in case: over at the half-high fence section, if you should by chance happen to find a pair of toddler shoes, the three-year-old was throwing things near there and there was no sign of his sneakers when they had to go.

She laughed and said she’d look–and mentioned that her son’s baseball had gone over the fence there a day or two ago.

So that’s where that came from! I told her the grands had been playing with it and I’d had no idea where they’d found it.

I walked it back over to her on the spot and we looked in the dark for the shoes and topped off my day with a great time visiting with each other.

As I told her, when I was three I floated my shoes bye bye down the creek in back of my parents’ first house. It’s genetic.



But it didn’t have a basket
Saturday April 16th 2022, 8:42 pm
Filed under: Family

There was a breakfast at the church with an Easter egg hunt for the kids. Today was Great Grandma M day for our kids but it was before her family’s festivities began, so they came. Minus Hudson, who woke up feverish, and our daughter-in-law, who stayed at the hotel with him. Poor kid. Poor mom–man do I remember the days. Taking a train from Boston to DC with two toddlers and pregnant to come to my cousin’s wedding, and then spending her wedding at some random pediatrician’s office for a kid with an ear infection and missing all of it. I think every parent has a story like that.

But meantime, it was fun watching the number of people who did a double take at realizing who our son holding his three year old was. He was surprised at how many people there still were there who knew him; this being a college town (not to mention having an insane cost of living), people come and go all the time.

Someone had brought their very large orange pet rabbit. They had set it in a corner of the gym on some blankets that were clearly home territory to it and it was staying put. The adults kept an eye on the kids going over to pet it; not all of them knew how. Stroke in this direction. Don’t grab fur. Gently, yes. Like that! Well done!

Being surrounded by strange small bouncy people intruding on its space didn’t faze it a bit.

Maddy (I made sure it was okay) fed it a grape. It reached out its nose to take it right from her hand, accepting her offering, and that sweet rabbit just totally made her day.



Don’t forget to change the tablecloth
Thursday April 14th 2022, 10:23 pm
Filed under: Family

Chocolate tortes about to come out of the oven, lemon almond blueberry muffins that SOMEbody snitched one of, thoroughly approved what he’d just tasted and came back for a second, Costco lasagna in the freezer–sprinkle a little Penzey’s Pizza Seasoning and a bit of parmesan and a spoonful of the best olive oil on the top to make it not taste like it’s from Costco, and if you can wrangle it into your own pan from frozen before baking it you can actually pull it off–and milk and apple juice in the fridge. Raspberries and ripe mangoes, the simplest salad in the world but very good, okay, got those, and I know how much they love raspberries.

It’s the great-grandmother on the other side’s birthday this week and since she’s a local (and turning I think 99?) they’re coming to see her while they can, grateful for the break in the pandemic.

Which means we get spillover grandchild time this weekend.

Our older son was 6’2″ and 126 pounds when he was 12, and grew nearly eight more inches after that. Parker is 11, and just set a record for a baseball hit farther over the fence than any 11 year old in his town ever has; the kid’s a natural athlete.

He wasn’t towering over me last August, but you know that one by one they’re all sneaking up on me fast.

I can’t wait!



Bus, stop
Tuesday April 12th 2022, 9:34 pm
Filed under: Family

I offered to help get stuff out of her car before it got turned over to the repair folks who will tell the insurance company whether the frame is bent or not.

Afterwards, we sat and talked about it all. Turns out Richard had looked at our car’s clock, which has not been reset, which is why he’d insisted he’d been home around 2 a.m. I’d thought, well, okay, if it makes you feel better, but no it was not.

No, she said, *I* got home a little after 3:00. So yeah, closer to 3:30 for him.

Yup.

You know, the important details like that. Sometimes it’s just easier to sweat the small stuff.

But she’ll be alright.

She showed me the imprint on the back of her car from the bike rack that had been on the front of the county bus. We marveled at how much worse it could have been given all that kinetic energy. She felt so bad for the driver and hoped he wouldn’t lose his job, and he had been so worried about her, not himself. By law, the sheriff had had to come, the supervisor, the cops, and the bus had had to stay in rush hour exactly where it had hit her as they processed everything.

With idiots in expensive cars going around them to the right over the curb in front of all that law enforcement! Some people are determined not to learn the lesson of the moment.

She told me she’d asked me to come help out in part because, mindful of my health, last night they’d insisted I go to bed (even if I didn’t sleep) when it was clear the ER was going to drag on forever–and that she knew I’d needed to see her.

I did, very much. And that is one very perceptive young woman.



This life stuff
Monday April 11th 2022, 10:53 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

Okay, for those of you who live in hurricane country, which I have not for a very long time now: do you ever feel the wind go right through the house?

Because there were no air vents to the right of me and nobody was walking around, but in today’s strong wind storm, there was this one big gust where I not only heard it, I felt it coming through. Not hard, but cold like outside and very startling because that has never happened here.

Edited to add, okay, today’s post isn’t about the weather after all. We just got a series of messages from one of our kids. (type type type. Delete.)

I’ll let them process their own story before I barge in, on second thought.

ERs are mostly about waiting. Which is good, when you get to have to.



Namely that one
Friday April 08th 2022, 9:54 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

Every now and then, the comments are as good as the story; not every one, but certainly most. The story being about parents who meet their new babies and ditch the name they were going to give it and why they do.

We did that on one of ours. We spent most of the pregnancy trying to pick one of two names and neither one of us was able to decide which. I would just have gone with both, but my mother-in-law, I am told, hated her middle name, hated dealing with having a middle name and then four as an adult and forms only letting you put down two and a middle initial and what do you need that extraneous one for anyway, and my sweet husband grew up thinking he wasn’t going to do that to his daughters, no sir.

Whereas I grew up without a middle name and was the only kid in the grade as far as I knew who didn’t, and I wasn’t going to do that to my girls, no way.

So.

Frances (hi Mom!) or Carole (which would have deprived my niece born later of what turned out to have belonged to her all along.) For nine months.

I’d been in labor for hours when we looked at each other and had a mutual moment of truth: not those names. Something else. But what?!

We started throwing ideas at each other, no, no, do you remember–not that one, you’re right–till I said how about? and he went, That’s it! We decided to wait for sure till after we’d seen her but hey, not long now.

But it already felt like we’d finally found the right one.

Our family doctor stopped by the hospital after dinner. I had just been wheeled to my room. The baby had spent some time in what that hospital had as far as an NICU–nobody had told us till she arrived that the closest one was a two-hour ambulance ride away–and I was a little hazy on where she was at that point other than the nursery. I wanted to hold my baby. I hadn’t gotten to do that yet, they’d been in too much of a hurry when she’d arrived.

He stopped by my room to reassure me, telling me he had examined Michelle and she was looking great.

Me, having had a very very long, strenuous day, bone tired: “Who?”

He looked startled.

Oh right, right, that’s her name now, right. Sorry.



So close
Thursday April 07th 2022, 9:43 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

After seeing my mom, our younger son, my older sisters and their husbands, my older brother and his two girls at home and Richard’s sister last week, today felt antsy: I wanted more.

I checked our flight miles, and it turns out that after accumulating them for two years we have enough to fly a round trip free.

As my oldest niece said after her first flight when she was two, Mommy! Get air pane! Less go!

As we wait to see how this BA.2 variant progresses. I’m glad we went when we went, but for now, we’re back to not yet. Not quite yet.



Kids don’t try this at home
Tuesday April 05th 2022, 9:28 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

Sara and Matt used to live fairly close to us; he was at Stanford and she taught dance at San Jose State and was advisor to one of my girls at church. When they moved away, Matt sold his most excellent bike to my then-teenage older son, who was grateful to have one from a fellow tall person and bike enthusiast.

Not long after that, we discovered that the man we all instantly adored whom my cousin was marrying was Sara’s brother. Small world. So the connection continues.

Sara was running an errand yesterday, the kids were in school, and Matt just happened to be in the one place in their house where he didn’t know he needed to be.

The next door neighbor hadn’t wanted to pay an arborist $4k to take out that 140′ pine and so decided to let some random guy with a chainsaw who was offering to help in exchange for the wood have at it. Video here. No license, and apparently no insurance nor bond.

We had a neighbor’s major tree limb take out a line of the fence and punch a branch through our roof years ago and that was LOUD. Even to my ears. I can’t imagine….

Last fall, due to the supply and labor issues and lumber prices of the pandemic, while we were changing insurance policies we were told that the estimated cost to rebuild our house from scratch just then–and it’s certainly no mansion–would be a cool million dollars.

I think forking over that four grand just might have been the better idea to go with.

There’s a reason we have regulations. They protect both sides.