Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Liam and the Big Foam Finger

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Not long ago, Bill of the Birds got a wild hair, and he called me in the afternoon and asked me if I wanted to take the kids to PNC Park in Pittsburgh (a mere three hours away) for a Pirates game. That same night. Well, uh, sure! Sure, we can do that. I could hear in his voice how much he wanted to go. I examined my inner soul and realized that, to my surprise, I did, too. (I am not your biggest sports fan. I know that will come as a shock.) However...As summer wanes away and school grinds into gear, Bill and I jump at the chance to do special things with Phoebe and Liam. Nothing makes them happier than when all four of us are together, even if it's just on the couch with popcorn or sitting outside for dinner in the slanting light of evening. That's when their world is right.

When I told Liam what Daddy had suggested, he did one of his trademark boneless swoons, collapsing to the floor like a happy limberjack. Phoebe did her bouncy eep dance. I raced around like a shrew, madly getting outfits and snacks and drinks and coats and hats and sunscreen and throwing everything into tote bags. I apologized to Chet Baker and left a sliding glass door just a little bit open and taught him how to squeeze through it and when I was sure he had it down I told him that he'd need to use it when he needed to go pee and he said, "Mether, thank you. I can go without for 12 hours, but I would prefer not to." That dog understands. And sure enough when we got home he pranced and bounced around us and took just the tiniest of wees, because he had availed himself of his makeshift doggeh door. And we were all happy, and he was very proud of himself.

It was so exciting, approaching the ballpark. It really is just the best ballpark you could ever imagine, spotlessly clean and graphically appealing and full of pretty good if hugely overpriced food. Plus, the Pirates are there, and they are Bill's favorite ever team, even though they break his heart pretty much every day, they win just enough to keep him hooked.

We got there really really early, a half hour before they even start letting people in, because Bill wanted to watch warmups. It was so cute the way he wore his Pirates jersey and hung over the wall watching.

Speaking of cute, Liam saw some big foam fingers for sale and said in this dreamy voice, "I have always wanted a big foam finger. May I go look at them?"
At this point I got my 300 mm. telephoto going, because I didn't want him to feel self-conscious. He approached the foam finger girl.

and asked to see the foam finger.
Look! It's a giant foam finger!

At this point, Bill and I were ready to pay anything for the foam finger. I think it was the slightly knock knees. The slightest thing about my kids can make me weep.

But being Liam and being a sweet boy, he gave it back to her and came back to us, ready not to have it for his own. I love her body language here.

And Daddy sent him right back to buy it.

He is his father's son.

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Sunday, August 02, 2009

Checking the Frog Puddles

A particularly handsome American toad.

The summer posts will keep coming for awhile. My laptop is back at Apple, having given about twenty high-pitched death wails in a row (a nerve-jangling experience) before I removed the battery and silenced it. I'm working off a small reservoir of photos, now undoubtedly consigned to eternity, that I uploaded before the hard drive committed hara-kiri. Best case scenario will see it back here with its hard drive erased...again. I've got 40 days remaining on my 3-year AppleCare contract, pffft. Everybody make a little sacrifice to the technology gods for me. I'm working on Old Slow, who tries but can't do much any more, as her operating system is too old to accept upgrades. She says they hurt. But enough about me and my screwed up computer. Boooring. Frogs and toads, frogs and toads.

Bluebirds aren’t all we check on our rounds. This has been such a wonderful wet summer that our frog puddles on the oilwell access road have been stocked with taddies all season. Green, wood, mountain chorus frog, spring peeper, Cope’s gray treefrog and American toads have all successfully fledged from their muddy depths. Heavenly! You hear so much bad news about frogs lately I thought I'd pass along some good news.

The kids love to go look. In a concession to the abundant ticks on our place this year, they don kneesocks.

Liam was adamant that I not photograph him in red kneesocks, as he did not appreciate my observation that he strongly recalls Christopher Robin when he wears them. So I shot him from the back, to preserve his dignity, at least for the moment.

A child can get lost in a puddle, watching the tadpoles surface for a quick gulp of air, watching the water striders skitter on its thin skin.

Perhaps Indigo Hill’s teeny-weeniest vertebrate: a newly metamorphosed spring peeper.

If there’s a smaller spined soul on the place, the Science Chimp has yet to catalogue it.

A soul so small, yet to itself so dear (paraphrasing Bobby Burns).

Liam eventually relaxed his no-photos policy enough to make some goofy jumps while I crouched at ground level, hooting in delight. The Bacon joined in, but his leaps were somewhat less spectacular.

Phoebe’s “Let’s Go Bananas” t-shirt seems particularly appropriate. Here’s to kids who are willing to make beautiful fools of themselves. May they grow up into adults who feel likewise.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Checking the Bluebird Boxes

Two weeks is a long time to leave one’s boxes in bluebird nesting season. Lots of things can happen while you’re gone. One of the last things I did before leaving for Trinidad was check the boxes, and checking them will be one of the first things I’ll do on getting home. Right now, I'm putting away food from our apres-vacation trip to Columbus' twin emporiums of foodie pleasure: Trader Joe's and Whole Foods. I'm also spraying scale-infested orchids, burning trash, taking stock of the (well-watered) gardens, emptying the dishwasher, sorting mail, hugging Chet Baker and kissing Charlie, smooching the kids, reading 305 emails, cleaning Charlie's room, trying to figure out what's for dinner, tracking the rotten smells in the fridge...you know the drill.

The kids usually come along when we check boxes. Here, Liam gently touches some nestling bluebirds before Daddy hangs the Gilbertson PVC box back up on its post.

Sometimes one or more eggs don’t hatch, and when I’m sure there’s no hope that they will (after the other nestlings are three days old) I open them up to see what’s what. Almost always, they turn out to be infertile, and the embryo has never developed. Phoebe holds a couple of infertile eggs about to have theirselfs analyzed. She's working on her naturalist Vanna White chops.

And then there are the eggs that do hatch. I love opening the box at just the moment of hatching.

A bluebird hatchling, having pipped and cut all around the big end of his egg prison, wears his shelltop like a helmet. Enh! Enh! I closed up the box and tiptoed away.

When they’re very young, nestlings think I’m Mom, and they beg for food at the slightest stimulus.

It’s good to be back, and see things like this again.

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Boy and His Turtle

You may remember a post from some time ago about the two baby box turtles we are fostering for eventual release into the wild here on Indigo Hill. Shelly, the smaller of the two, was found as a newborn hatchling in a flower garden on Fifth Street, a heavily settled area, where she'd have faced an even more uncertain future than a hatchling born in appropriate woodland habitat.

Shelly looks ahead. She's about the size of a lemon now, at a year of age.

How Shelly's parents found each other in midtown Marietta I don't know, but they had doubtless been abducted from outlying woodlands and brought as pets into town. The woman who found her is a caterer, and she pampered Shelly with all manner of good foods, including thin slices of hard-boiled egg. Shelly came to me at a few months of age, hard-wired to eat only egg, and it's been a fun and interesting experiment to bring her around to live foods and earthworms and Repto-Min Aquatic Turtle Food Stix, her staple diet now.

Shelly is Phoebe's to love until release day. Shoomie, the bigger one, is Liam's. Shoomie was born in captivity of turtles kept by Dr. David McShaffrey of Marietta College. The idea is for me to raise them until they're big enough (3/4 lb.) and their shells are tough enough to withstand predators, chief among them eastern chipmunks. Shoomie now weighs 6 oz. Shelly, 2.5 oz.

The kids love to take "their" turtles outside for exercise.

And I love to watch them with the turtles. I can see Liam disappearing into his imagination, feeling what it must be like to live in a shell and trundle around only an inch off the ground.

Shoomie covers a lot of ground when he goes on walkabout. Shelly sits and looks.

A boy, his turtle, and Chip, the Pig of Good Fortune.

Liam never lets Shoomie out of his sight. The name was Liam's, one of his many baby nicknames that stuck. He passed it to his turtle.

I love my tender little boy.

Chet Baker keeps an eye on the turtles, too, and gets nervous when they head for cover.

But Shoomie's in the best of hands with Liam watching over him.

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Monday, June 01, 2009

Photographing Kids

Liam on the Pig of Good Fortune.

When I take photos of other people’s kids they invariably stop what they’re doing, spin around to face me, and flash a camera smile, one that has nothing to do with anything, and isn’t a happy smile anyway. It’s just a face they’ve been conditioned to make when they see a camera. Who wants to see that? I want to see what they were doing before they noticed the camera.

He doesn’t know how beautiful he is to me. He doesn’t understand why I take so many pictures of him, but he usually doesn’t mind, either, and that’s why I get photos that mean something, not just grinny static snapshots, but little pieces of his soul.

When he does pose for me I wait until he's almost done posing to take the photo. When he's done making the face, the real Liam creeps back.

Phoebe is proving as elusive as a fawn where photography is concerned. I have a tough time catching her off-guard. It's all part of growing up, of half-hour showers and picking out just the right outfit for any situation, no matter how inconsequential; of the self-consciousness that comes from having your body change overnight into something entirely other than what it was.

So I stay back, behind, hoping to find her lost in thought or in something she's doing.

And marvel, because every image tells of the growing.

She waits for the bus, dawn finally painting the sky before she boards. It's been such a long, dark winter, and we'd just gotten a little daylight to enjoy when Daylight Savings Time plunged us back into darkness. It seemed counterintuitive, to call it that, to take it away on the blessed morning end. Finally, the birds are singing when we meet the bus. Just in time for school to end.

She stands under the sentinel pin oak that has weathered so many storms, so many fences, so many snowplows and graders, even had a chicken of the woods fungus poking out of its belly button two years ago. Still it stands, and each morning it watches this young sapling grow.

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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Bus Stop Mornings

I won’t miss getting up at 5:30 every weekday morning, that’s for sure. But I will miss these moist warm mornings when I get to walk the kids out to the bus, which stops by our mailbox.

I will miss watching Liam run like anything, from an imaginary truck, to an imaginary reward.

I will miss watching him read Harry Potter, lost in another world, as meadowlarks and bluebirds sing all around him.
He won't miss the meadowlarks and bluebirds until he's been away a long, long time. They are the soundtrack of his life, and he doesn't know what it's like not to hear them. He doesn't yet know what it is to live with car alarms and sirens for music. But someday he will. That day needs to wait awhile. Neither of us are ready.

I hang on to these days.

And am thankful for Chet, who stays with me when Liam isn't here.

That's why I wanted a boy dog.

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Sunday, November 09, 2008

Liam is Nine!

Nine years ago this day, I was holding a very small boy in my arms. His hair was the color of champagne, a blonde I'd never seen before, with a silvery cast. His head was the size of a Delicious apple. His hair is still white-blonde. His head is bigger now, and stuffed with thoughts.
Saturday, we celebrated his birthday. I arose at 5 AM to begin wrapping presents, baking his cake, and straightening the house. Liam and Phoebe helped me bake the cake--they're trying to get egg cracking and using the mixer down these days--and clean up the house. The weather was glowery and cold, but I decided that the first thing we would do would be to take a good hike. Maybe it would burn off some of the almost unbelievable ya-yas that five 8-year-old boys generate when they are together. If there were a way to harness that energy to some purpose other than total chaos...But then they wouldn't be 8-year-old boys.
Barely contained chaos.Phoebe just towers over them at 5'3". My gosh, she's within a couple of inches of towering over me. It's not fair that she got the willowy gene. Managed to get them lined up on a log like little wood ducks.
Ethan cracked me up. He wouldn't smile; he looked like he was posing for a Polo spread. "I'm used to not smiling," was his laconic answer when I ribbed him about it.

On the way back, Liam's introspective side came out, and he let the other boys rampage far ahead as he dropped back to walk quietly with me. "Don't you want to catch up with your friends?" I asked, just making sure. "That's OK. I want to walk with you. Thanks for my birthday, Mommy."
In the meadow, we checked our little persimmon tree, that came up a few years ago in the middle of a clump of sumac. The fruits we'd been watching eagerly all fall were finally ready to taste.That is, they'd frozen solid a couple of times and were mellow enough not to make our throats close up and our tongues fuzz out. At least not too much. I tied into a handful with little groans of pleasure. Liam liked them at first, but the bitter aftertaste was too much for him.I have to say, he's a game little guy, and he'll try anything once. But there's no mistaking this look. "What did you feed me?"Soon enough, we were back home, and it was time to open presents and blow out the candles on his butter cake with bittersweet chocolate icing.
He somehow got the idea that he'd turn nine when he blew out the candles on his cake. So here he is, turning nine.

After cake, we repaired to the stairs to throw water balloons off the towertop.

The culmination of the party was throwing a large whole pumpkin off the towertop. I did the honors, mostly so it wouldn't land on the roof, and because at that point in my day I needed to throw a pumpkin off the tower. The sound it made when it hit the ground 50' below--a muffled SBBBBLLLLOOOOOOPPPPBBBTTT!!! was the most exhilarating thing I have heard in a long, long time, and the perfect anodyne for having planned and executed a boy party. They loved it too and we all cracked up and high-fived.

When everyone had gone, Phoebe and Liam set to excavating Liam's new "I Dig Dinosaurs" kit. Some clever person got the idea to encase a jumbled up plastic skeleton in a block of coarse grit, and give a kid a chisel and hammer with which to chip out the prize. Genius, if a bit messy. This is the kind of toy that would have caused my mother to deliver a barnyard animal on the kitchen floor. Grit and sand were flying everywhere. I banished them to the guest room, spread newspapers, and resolved to vacuum it out of the carpet when they were all done. Big deal. The cheesy little chisel and hammer were too delicate, so we got busy with a real wood chisel and a screwdriver. That made it go a bit faster. They worked peacefully together, chiseling away, until almost two hours later they emerged with a complete Tyrannosaur in their proud little hands. Phoebe did the gross excavation and Liam did the detail work.

Bacon was so tired from chasing little boys that he fell into a dreamlike stupor, sucking on what remains of his Vo-Toys Gigantic Fullback (one of the best toys he's ever had, and one I must replace this Christmas).
Happy birthday, sweetest Liam. You're growing up so fast, changing every day--you won't be my little boy much longer. Know that I treasure every moment with you. There never was a sweeter Shoomie.
photo by Ric MacArthur

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Waiting for the Monarch

I have not forgotten about our chrysalis. Although a monarch chrysalis, in nice warm weather, normally gestates about two weeks, my life went into spin cycle right after the last chrysalis post, with multiple speaking engagements at far-flung places.

So picture Wayne making a bead curtain with his fingers, and time-travel with me back to the caterpillar Liam named Combo (one of my pet names for him, as it happens). Combo went into J formation, split his skin down the back, and became a sea-green chrysalis, which then hung for two weeks. We almost forgot about it, but then one day Combo's chrysalis went slightly transparent, and within a few hours it went completely dark.
The chrysalis covering goes from opaque to transparent, and the building color of the monarch's wings and body shines through. In this picture, you can see where the butterfly's legs have pulled away from the outer shell, giving it a whitish look. Something's about to go down.

Liam was on fire. He kept a close eye on Combo all through the predawn hours as we got ready for school.
Much as we willed it to be so, I knew that Combo wouldn't emerge before the bus came for Liam at 8:05.

So we made consolation pancakes, and Liam got to flip them. This one is just about ready to flip.Go Shoomie, go!

Well done, Chef Shoom.
Finally, the time came to take Liam to the bus. I drove down the driveway, holding Combo on his twig aloft in one hand while negotiating the bumps and curves. I didn't know when he might hatch, and I wasn't going to let him out of my sight for a moment.
Liam and I took Combo on the bus to show the kids, he knowing that the chrysalis would be a butterfly by the time he came home that afternoon. It would be three more hours before the butterfly emerged, and I fought with myself the whole time. Should I have kept them home to see this miracle, this thing that means so much more than math and social studies?

Yes. I wish I had kept them here to see it.

Like crazy.

The photos in the ensuing posts will have to suffice. There will be other summers and other monarchs, but this one was special.

We await the new monarch.

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Monday, October 13, 2008

A Way With Animals

I like shooting photos of both animals and people with a telephoto lens. You get the good stuff when they're not aware of being photographed. Liam has had very little contact with cats, but I can see that his training as regards dogs, birds, frogs, turtles, tadpoles, crayfish and insects, to name just a few of the creatures he regularly encounters, has prepared him well for a life among animals.

From the time he was a toddler, I've put birds' eggs and tiny hatchlings, toads and insects in Liam's hands, assuring him that if he's gentle, everything will be OK. Liam's inclined toward cautiousness in everything, and handling animals, especially ones with claws, gives him the heebie-jeebies. Recognizing this tendency in him (in marked contrast to Phoebe, who will pick up a praying mantis or hold a lapful of squirming, pooping baby bluebirds while I change a nest), I've sought to acclimate him and soothe his fears by exposing him to as many small animals as I can. We've watched him learn dog language and the right ways of approaching dogs as he's grown up with Chet Baker, and he can't pass Chet without leaning down to kiss him on the cheek and get a little face-washing for his efforts. He's still cautious around animals, and that's a good thing, but he's no longer afraid; he has developed a remarkable empathy for them.

I was so struck by the beauty of little brown Bear that I shot dozens of frames of him. When my attention wandered to a buckeye butterfly, Bear walked off, and Liam followed at a respectful distance. When I turned around, they were interacting, and I watched with my heart swelling as Liam gently suggested that they play with his new toy dinosaur.
Everything in Liam's body language--the curled hands held close to his body, the quiet, compact pose, his stillness--tells Bear he's not going to force anything. He puts the dinosaur out for consideration.Bear sniffs the toy, then allows Liam to gently scratch his neck.
Bear flops down--a cat's invitation to play, or hang out for awhile.Liam offers the toy.

Bear bats it with his paws. Liam giggles.
Bear's owners were watching with me, and they remarked that Bear rarely tolerates kids, much less plays with them. Many cats and dogs feel that way about children, who are often inclined toward rambunctiousness. It was lovely to see that Bear was willing to give gentle Liam the benefit of the doubt, because every once in awhile, a cat meets a child he can hang out with.

Thanks for all your thoughtful comments on the last post. Although I wasn't exactly surprised that people feel strongly about cats--they are woven so thoroughly into many of our lives--I was bemused to find that the dog vs. cat camps are just as lively as the Beatles vs. Stones factions of my earlier years. I can't resist reprinting a bit of an email from my writer friend KM in Massachusetts. She doesn't want to join the public fray, but sends me priceless reactions to my posts. Because she makes me quack out loud, I've twisted her arm to let me quote her:
"Yes, that was one beautiful cat.

"And you are right to alert the masses to the damage done to the ecology of any rural area by already well-fed felines. My friend had a cat who daily brought home birds, voles, mice, you name it. SO not necessary, and shouldn't have been adding competition for food sources to those who have no bowls of kibble waiting at home.

"Every now and then, our two citified, indoor-only cats surprise me with a gift when I come downstairs in the morning --and trust me, having these creatures who every so often bag a mouse from within my house is a fine, fine thing. They definitely earn their keep, by keeping the indoor small mammal population down to two domesticated felines.

"Also, as someone whose life dictates nearly weekly trips to places where dogs would be difficult to have, it's quite lovely to be able to leave our cats happily behind. I used to horrify folks by explaining, when asked if my husband and I would ever have kids, that I'd surely opt in when they invented babies that could be left at home for the weekend with a bowl of food and a box of sand.

"Hmmm...now I have teen-aged boys. I guess I got pretty much what I wanted! But it's boxes of Lucky Charms and gallons of milk, rather than litter and cat chow."

Thought you'd enjoy KM's take on the scene. Thanks for all your thoughts.

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Liam's Bones

Liam is eight. He's a funny bunch of likes and dislikes, a little bitty boy in a taffy-stretched body. His mind is expanding, and his curiosity and passion are boundless. Here's a sample conversation between me and Liam, one day in the car (where we do our best talking).

Liam: Mommy, if you were to heat water to 500 degrees and shoot it in a person's ear, what would happen?

Science Chimp: Well, Liam, since water boils at 212 degrees, water at 500 degrees would classify as superheated, and it would be instantly turned to scalding hot steam, so that would hurt the person very much.

Liam: But what if the person was old?

Mommy: It would still hurt. (helpless laughter)

On our trip to the Krapp bison ranch, he got to ride in the tractor cab with Elliott. The rest of us had to bump along in an open wagon behind them. He kept shooting happy, triumphant glances back at us as the prairie rolled out before him.

Liam likes bones. He likes all kinds of bones. He spotted a bunch of bones from a winter-killed bison and was practically clawing at the door to get out and collect them.

He eyes the bulbous condyles with the air of a connoisseur.Shirt courtesy of Rondeau Ric and Anne McArthur.

You will notice the Webkinz monkey under his arm. Somewhere in the hustle to collect the bison bones, including a fabulous skull, Liam dropped his treasured monkey. This is the last photo of Liam with his monkey.
The night before, we had listened to the stories of Keith Bear, a gifted Native American storyteller, singer/songwriter and musician. He spoke of always giving something back to the earth after taking something from it. Liam and Phoebe were front row, rapt for his entire presentation.

A very kind man on the bison trip, having seen Liam's distress at losing his monkey, mingled with excitement at finding the skull, reminded Liam that he'd traded the monkey for the skull, and that made it all better.** And then the same gentleman offered to drive Liam's bone collection to the Cincinnati area, for later pickup, for he and his wife are from Ohio. Charlie and Jean, thank you. We'll get with you on those bones. Liam has since acquired a dozen more Webkinz, but bison bones are few and far between in Whipple.
Phoebe (with shawl by NatureKnitter Ruthie J.); Keith Bear and Liam. Carrington, North Dakota, June 2008.

And just for fun, JZ and BOTB get their picture taken with Keith and his handmade flutes.
**Liam: No, it didn't. I miss my monkey. This makes me sad (clutching his Webkinz toucan to his skinny little chest).

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Monday, February 04, 2008

Liam's First Fossil

The chestnut oak acorns were sprouting bright red roots as of December 21. The roots are well sunk in the soil less than a month later. Try to pick up this acorn, and you will have to pull it. I revisit it with each walk. There is such life and vigor in a seed.

I've taken six walks on the new ground lately, two of them accompanied by Phoebe and Liam. They love walking, and they never complain. Liam may do some broad, falling-down slapstick about how tired he is, but he plays it for attention and laughs, and loves leading us the whole way.
On Saturday, as he watched me ease down a particularly steep, muddy slope sideways, he said,

"No offense, Mommy. No offense. But you look like an old grandma going down this hill. And aren't you just a little too old to do those awesome moves that you're doing? No offense."

"Well, if I'm such an old grandma, how come I have to keep stopping and waiting for you to catch up?"

That made him laugh. I have to say that walking three or four miles over rough and uneven ground several days a week feels great. It's not running a marathon, and it's not fast or flashy, but the sights are so fine, and it makes me feel strong and sane. Come late spring, when the fields get too high to wade through, I'll get my exercise mowing, raking, gardening, checking bluebird boxes and hanging out laundry, and my sights will narrow to what's around the yard and meadows. I love covering ground in winter. It's good to have a reason to appreciate winter.

Crossing a little stream, Liam spotted something in the water. He came running back to us, all afire, his eyes like saucers. "You have got to come with me RIGHT NOW becauseIthinkIfoundaDINOSAURFOSSIL!!!He's been reading enough paleontological lore that he knows that streambeds are a good place to find fossils. And there it lay, glimmering in the rushing water. Liam's first dinosaur fossil.

The Science Chimp in me leapt up, screaming happily, and was just as quickly muzzled. Suddenly, I wasn't so sure just what kind of creature might have once used this jawbone.

Liam examined the teeth, and decided it must have been a plant-eater. Check. The Chimp agreed.
He studied it and studied it.He smiled a secret smile, whispering, "My first dinosaur fossil."
He turned to me, saying, "Smell it, Mommy! It takes you all the way back to prehistory, and you can tell what kind of dinosaur it came from, tyrannosaur or a felociraptor or maybe a longneck!" And it did have a wild, earthy scent, the smell of mystery and uncertainty, of moss and soil and creekwater. This picture makes me weep.

For a shining week, that jawbone went everywhere with Liam. I had a flutter of misgiving when he took it to school for show-and-tell the following Friday. This Monday morning, he's home with me, suffering once again from a stomach virus. (This time, I was pathetically grateful to find he had only anointed his bed at 2:13 AM Saturday, instead of the hall carpet. Beds I can wash. Carpet thus soiled makes me beat my breast and tear my hair.)

In the course of conversation in the studio this morning, Liam said, "When I took my fossil on the bus, Jeremy and Chase said it was a deer jaw."

"Really!" :-/

"And Sue (the bus driver) said she thought it might be, too, but only a little bit."

(Sue is very kind. The two boys tend not to be.) "Who's Chase?" I asked.

"Oh, he's this tricky, kinda not-nice kid. I know he's older than me, I think. Are you imagining him as a boy? Because he is."

"Yes, I had him imagined as a boy. So what do you think that jaw bone is?"

"I still think it's a dinosaur. What do you think it is?"

"I'm just not sure. I still think maybe it's from a dinosaur."

"Thank you for understanding my feelings. I think Chase is kind of a liar.
He said, 'Thet bone raht thar is a DEER JAW.' And he always tricks me."

Thus, we learn. But hope stays alive, and flutters in the breast.

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Manly Music

Liam likes to have his cousins over to play from time to time. I ride herd on them, making sure the computer doesn’t melt down with their incessant interactive games. And I unplug the dern thing and make them go outside when it’s nice, which it has been all fall. At this point, we have to hide the cord to the desk computer and make the laptop disappear altogether. When they realize their electronic dreams have been utterly and cheerfully defeated, they play outside for hours.

Playing with some rubber-band airplanes, Liam and Gus launched them into my prairie patch, which is loaded with black raspberries around the edge and most likely poisonous snakes, if you listen to Gus.

They came to me, wanting me to fetch the airplanes from the middle of the prairie patch. Nothing doing. I had just settled into the chaise with Chet on my lap and a cool drink, and I wanted them to fetch their own planes if they were going to launch them into the weeds. If I fetched the planes, they'd just send them right back into the weeds again. There was a lesson to be learned here.

I assured them that any copperheads in the grass would hear them coming and beat it, but that they were in more danger from thorns. So they went and put on long pants. I pretended not to be listening to their conversation, but was smothering laughter the whole time. Moms get good at that.
Gus: “There are snakes in there!”
Liam: “My mom says the snakes are all asleep.”
Gus: “They’ll bite us and we’ll bleed and die.”
Liam: “We’ll put on shoes.”
Gus: "Let's get weapons."

And then, from Liam: “Wait. Wait. We need some manly music.”
And he began to hum loudly, duh duh duh DUM DUM DUM na na DUM DUM DUM…no particular tune, but definitely manly.
Gus chimed in and they held hands and waded into the unknown, marching to a manly beat.

We found it!!
Good. Now don’t shoot it in there again. Snicker snicker. Or, do. I'll be listening. You little knuckleheads.Blogger is acting very wonky the last couple of days. It takes forever, like overnight, to post. It pretends to post, then takes it back. It won't show comments. Poor Bill of the Birds has been trying to post all afternoon. If you don't see a post from him, it's not because he isn't trying. Same goes for me.

The first few snowflakes are drifting down. Just put more bird seed out, and used a 2 x 4 to wedge the greenhouse door shut against the howling gray wind. I dumped out the Bird Spa and put it in the garage. Two red-breasted nuthatches came down and hovered over the spot where it had been. Bawww. Time to turn inward and drink tea.

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Monday, March 12, 2007

The Healing Woods

Shila and Chet take five. A powerful dynamic duo of positivity, great karma, and healing power, plus bonus cuteness.
Photo by Shila Wilson
Photo by Shila Wilson
Baker demolishes a stick. Good thing he doesn't bite.

Sunday was sunny and warm. O rare moment! Carpe-frickin' diem. Shila called in the morning and I could tell from a note in her voice that, our prior commitments and chaotic houses and all the roughage of life aside, it was high time for a girl-walk. We were both badly in need of being transported from our routines and lifted to a higher plane. We also think we have a calcium and vitamin D deficiency brought on by too little sun. Last winter we walked like crazy, took tons of pictures of tons of ice, and got great workouts on the slopes. This winter, it seemed as though our lives ran us. Where did our walk-time go? Pfffft.
So I picked crap up and swept and cleared the kitchen counters (again) and recycled newspapers and hauled trash and burned papers and put away six loads of clean laundry until Chet announced that his favorite person had arrived. Liam decided he'd like to join us, and we chortled quietly at his running chatter as we kicked through the dry leaves.
Liam has an intrepid streak, but he's still a very careful little guy. I know he'll choose his path well, and I also know he'll sound off if he hurts himself. It's such a delight to watch him stretch his young muscles and explore, taking joy in everything he finds. Until you put a boy next to these rotting ice sculptures in the place we call Beechy Crash, it's hard to appreciate the scale.
Big, big, big. I like places that make me feel very small. So does Liam.
Chet Baker was so very happy to be out with us. He has matured so much in these two years. No longer does he catch a whiff of cow and take off like a streak. "Stay close, now, Baker," is all I have to say to him. And when we are near pastures, I have but to say his name and he comes and sits at my feet, and waits for me to put his lead on. Such a good boy.
It was hot enough to get pants out of Chet, and a wonderful kind smile.
The walk was long enough (four hours of climbing and sliding up and down vertical slopes) to give us a good workout, and make Liam feign death as we climbed the last long hill toward home. He kept asking me if I knew where I was going. You could set me down blindfolded, anywhere in the 320 contiguous acres of woodland around our house, and it would take me about ten seconds to figure out where I was. But I feigned confusion and asked Liam to find the way for us. And he knew, too.
I was proud of my two boys, so happy to be with my best friend, so glad to be in the moment and not in some manufactured time and space of my overactive and weary mind. I stopped to show Liam the sprouting sporangia of mosses on a log, breathing in his sweet boy smell.Photo by Shila Wilson
Baker does not like to see anyone get loving unless he gets some, too. He horned in, Boston-style.Photo by Shila Wilson
And made sure his presence was known.Photo by Shila Wilson
And felt. Licking the lenses always gets a reaction. That's what he's shooting for.Photo by Shila Wilson

Thank God for spring sunshine, warming days, shorter nights, my sweet boy, Baker kisses, and good friends. I for one am glad for earlier daylight savings time. I don't feel like quite such a freak when I wake up at 4:17 AM. 5:17 has a better ring to it. I fell asleep on the steep hillside, nestled in warm beech leaves, half-listening while Shila gave Liam a life quiz. She asked him questions like, "You go into the lunchroom and there's a kid crying there because he doesn't have a lunch. What do you do?"
Liam: "I give him some money and buy him lunch and dry his tears."
Shila: "Correct answer!"
Liam: "Ask me another!"
Shila and Liam and I came back from the walk recharged, and a little better equipped to face the world in the week to come. Baker was already there. He starts out with a charge.
Photo by Shila Wilson

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