Thursday, October 30, 2008

Pumpkin Carving

Days of Grace

"This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul; and your very flesh shall be a great poem..." - Walt Whitman, Preface to Leaves of Grass

This week we have colds and it is cold outside. My thoughts go to last week when we spent warmer days outside, in the leaves. Sarah and I cut plants back for winter. Matt jumped in the leaves or dug in the dirt. Sam, who is becoming achy and arthritic, barked and ran in circles. Readying the garden for winter - can we call it work? 

Even on cool fall days, there is a sense of endings, of needing to things finish up. Like a squirrel with nuts, I become obsessed with completing my projects. Of needing to live life fully, and eat up, before winter comes.

Matt now seems to understand the concept of seasons. Waiting for the bus this morning, he crouched down to touch the grass, coated with crystals of our first hard frost. He tilted his head, "Is it winter now?" Last week, he stood in utter amazement, realizing the leaves were falling from the trees.

I am hoping for a few more warm days. Plants in the front yard need cutting back. Each year I hope for an Indian Summer, warm days I can open the doors and hear the leaves rustle.

Even with all the busy-ness, the colds, and my current bag of worries, these days feel like a poem.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Cheese Bread

It's dark, rainy and cold. The kids are doing puzzles, reading, and coloring. I made cheese bread. Nothing in the world smells and tastes as good as this bread. Nothing.

Cheese Bread

2 packages dry yeast
1 cup water (105-115 degrees)
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons shortening
2 teaspoons salt
1 egg, slightly beaten
6 to 7 cups all-purpose flour, divided
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese

Dissolve yeast in warm water in a large bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Combine milk, sugar, shortening, and salt in a saucepan; heat until shortening melts. Cool mixture to 105-115 degrees. Add milk mixture, egg, and 2 cups flour to yeast mixture; stir until smooth. Stir in cheese; gradually stir in enough remaining flour to make a soft dough.

Turn dough out onto a floured surface; cover and let rest 10-15 minutes. Knead dough until smooth and elastic (about 8 to 10 minutes). Place in a well-greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85 degrees), free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in bulk.

Punch dough down, and divide in half; shape each portion into a loaf. Place in two greased 9 x 5 x 3 inch loafpans. Cover and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, 45 minutes or until doubled in bulk. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until loaves sound hollow when tapped. Remove from pans and let cool. Yield: 2 loaves

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A Turned Brain

"She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain."
- Louisa May Alcott

It's great fun to see your kids take flight. This one may have inherited her father's penchant for reading for long stretches. Tonight she read
Marvin Redpost for an hour and a half, not moving. I have never seen her still (and quiet) for that long. She got her own library card this week and is very, very proud. Her teacher said Sarah told her about the card 4 separate times.

Sarah's library card was a result of us hitting the limit the last few times we've gone. The kids and I are marauders, shrieking and flailing our way to the stacks (some hyberbole here). Books! CDs! Magazines! Learning kits! It's all too exciting. In the summer we visit at least twice a week. Hitting the limit is a little embarrassing, like we've overdrawn an account. The librarians (do I imagine this?) snivvle, like they sense our gimme-the-goods attitude. Aren't we supposed to do this? The library plies its patrons with "Support Your Library" swag. Aren't we just obeying? They are firm: we can't check everything out. We stagger out with our bags. At home we shiver, delighted with all the choices. 

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Walk in the Woods

The day started innocently enough. The promise: a fall family hike in beautiful Brown County State Park.

We started on the trail at 11:30. "Let's make the kids exercise a little before lunch," Erik said. Sure, why not--we'd had a late breakfast. "Are you happy?" asked Matt. Yes, we were all happy.
Matt was rearing to go. Right away he found a walking stick.
"Sacajawea" on the trail. She was both a fast walker and a curious collector. By the end of the hike her pockets bulged with acorns. Her braids bounced with her.
While the trees are still in the process of turning, there was stunning color in surprising places.
Most of the time these two were way ahead of Matt and me.  
We looked for deer and other animals but only saw a bunny. We were probably too noisy. We clattered through leaves. We heard leaves falling to the ground.
After one hour we found our trail was correctly labeled "rugged" on the map. The map? Who left the map in the car? The same person who said we didn't need a map? Where was the trail? Matt was starting to cry. Apparently he thought we were only taking a short hike to a picnic table (he had seen me packing the lunch). There were steep ravines. Large logs to go over and under, thickets, thorny thrashing branches...
It was beautiful, though. We hadn't yet panicked. That happened after we walked back and forth three times along the horse path (according to one rider, "waaaay far away from the road and any trail"). Either we had gone off the trail or the trail was missmarked. A 2.2 mile trail shouldn't take two hours. Right?
Or three hours. Thankfully lunch can be where you make it. Matt perked up. Here, Sarah is still traumatized from seeing her mother squat behind a tree. It didn't seem to hamper her appetite, however. Erik's thinking hard: do we continue on the horse path? Or turn around, again? We see more people on horses who keep saying to us, "we never see people walking in these parts." Where are we?
I am carrying Matt who is so tired he doesn't try to hang on. This view makes me almost glad we are lost, though.
Finally, we hear voices. Cars. Erik leaves me and the kids at a playground, then literally runs up up up a steep ridge road--for an hour and 15 minutes--to find the car.

The kids play but tire after an hour. Sarah: "What if Dad never returns?" I remember the book I have at home on edible forest plants. 

At almost 4:00 we see Erik in the car, happily listening to the Colts. We are happy to be together. Going home. The fall color in my own backyard has never looked so lovely.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Heaven on Earth

It must be the end of the world--I bought doughnuts for my family. Erik did not believe I did, at first. He had to see the box.

I'm a wheat-granola-sticks-twigs sort of girl. My children are generally brainwashed.  Matt will do anything for a dried apricot. Sarah will whine and cry for an apple.

I never would've considered it except Erik has been talking for weeks about doughnuts. Dunkin Donuts is building in Greenwood and he's all but parked his car at the worksite.

Since DD is still a pile of rubble, Target was happy to oblige.

It was worth it for the incredulous looks.

Matt was shaking as I handed one to him. Sarah all but snatched one from my hand. Erik shut his eyes when he chewed. They were happy. And, so was I.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Wonder of Trees

Each Fall I am reminded of Gustav Klimt's "Birch Wood" series. Don't you think it looks like my backyard? Some time I would like to make a quilt with a similar composition, with the trees made of striated fabric pieces.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Having His Say

Someone new is living in our house. He is small. He has a big personality. He talks all the time.

Actually, it is Matt. At age 3 1/2, he has started talking. In a big way.

We have been praying for this. We have been working on it, with therapists and teachers. It has been a long time coming. 

At age two, Matt only said "uhh." Since it was all he said, Sarah even wrote "uhh" in pictures she drew of him. We attended the "Twos" reading group at the library; my heart broke each week when each child clearly said his name as well as his parent's. We were trying hard just to get Matt to nod "yes" and "no."

At age three Matt learned to say his name. This was good. You could see him working so hard. I kept a notebook of every word he said.

Then there were more words. He was much happier (no more biting at preschool). There were fewer tantrums at home. We could take him more places and do more things. He even slept better. All summer he repeated everything we said. He didn't initiate any sentences himself but we could understand his words.

And in August, he started saying sentences (I tossed the notebook). When he started preschool in September, Matt started asking questions. He was saying what he wanted to say, instead of parroting everything we said. He said "I love you."

This week, amidst family stomach flu (can you believe even the dog threw up?), bathroom flooding, and a dip in the family savings (that made me nearly throw up), he made an even bigger leap. He said "Sarah."

He laughed when he said it. The two of us were at Target by the deli counter. He said it over and over.

Matt has always called his sister (and best friend) "Doo-dah." Both the S and R sounds made the word impossible for him. The two sounds are still hard for him but he can approximate it so closely; it is like a lock almost ready to snap in place.

Home from Target, he burst through the door to run to her. Matt being able to say her name was a gift to Sarah (who barely tolerated "Doo-Dah").

It's been a few days now and he is still giddy when he says it. All of us smile when he does.

That's not all he's learned to say this week. He's had all kinds of sentences. They are like little pieces of pretty fabric in my head.

"Look at the engine in my truck." [I was so excited to hear that we went outside to open my car hood to peer in.]

"I don't want to be called Mattie." My name is Matt."

"Don't get near me - I want you to stay away."

"Do you have mac and cheese? I really want to eat mac and cheese."

"I want to watch the dog movie now. You know, the movie with the white dog?"

"Can I take a lunch in the bag tomorrow to Miss Dana's school?"

Each day there are more sentences, connected words. All the words. 

Besides saying "Sarah," my favorite one this week is "Mommy, are you mine?"

Yes, Matt. I am all yours. I am here sitting by you, listening to you, waiting with you, as you do everything in your very own time.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Mediterranean Soup

It is soup season. This is my very favorite - I love the mix of flavors cumin and cinnamon. It is a perfect soup to serve friends or yourself. The peppy broth always seems to help me when I have a cold, too.

Mediterranean Chickpea, Tomato and Pasta Soup

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup diced onion
1-1/2 cups water
1 (16-ounce) can fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 (15-1/2-ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1/2 cup uncooked ditalini (very short tube-shaped macaroni)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, and saute 3 minutes or until tender. Add the water and next 6 ingredients (water through tomatoes). Bring mixture to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add pasta, and cook 9 minutes or until pasta is tender. Stir in chopped parsley.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Little Rain

We've finally gotten some rain. I rushed out to get Matt off the bus and brushed against this ornamental grass - soaking the leg of my pants. Then I saw all the droplets.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Emperor of the World

"I had rather be on my farm than be emperor of the world." - George Washington

Friday, October 3, 2008

Trouble in a Fur Suit

Favorite Thing to Say "Take me on a walk--NOWNOWNOWBOWWOW!"
Currently Reading Advanced Humping Techniques
Working On Exasperating cry for 4:00 treat ["if the kids get a snack, shouldn't I?"]
Ideal Day Crisp fall day with Mom home with me, treats, a walk, and a nap in the sun (with lots of stroking)
What's New Celebrating ten-year anniversary with parents on Oct 2
Current Toy Tomatoes growing in backyard
Latest, Greatest Feat Back to longer walks (and a spring in step) after a summer of rehabilitation
Big Love Mama
Cookie of Choice Peanut butter

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Warm Gloves

It's chilly in the house today so I'm working with gloves on. A friend made these for me some years ago and I don't wear them as much as I should. I'm finding the colors inspiring.