Monday, September 29, 2008

the cow

I love, love, love my new Kinder teacher partner. We have been friends a long time, but this is only the second time we've actually "teamed up" together. The first week of school she ran up to me and said excitedly, "Do you wanna get the cow?!"

Um, well, DUH. Who did she think she was asking? The Dairy Council sends "the cow" out to schools for a little dairy promotion and a lot of real life learning. It's so cool. The trailer drives up. The farmer embarks on a little introduction. The door slides up with a whack - and boom, there's the cow. A collective gasp goes up as my class comes face to face with where their grimy little cartons of milk (most of which they usually pour down the sink) really comes from.

And of course, the secret of the cow's milk production - the calf. It always amazes me that even adults don't get this basic fact: mammals must be nursing to give milk. This baby was not actually the cow's offspring, but she was a cutie pie all the same. I wanted to take her home, of course.

Wouldn't it be fun to give her a bottle like this?! Oh my gosh she was cute. All the kids got to give her a pet as we rambled back to class and got on with less important things (like math).

Both the cow and the calf's name was Elly.

I love my Kinder partner.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

life skills

One reason we like Montessori school is that they teach the importance of life skills. The children are responsible for the orderly atmosphere in their classroom, and are active participants in taking care of their immediate world. In this way, P. #2 has learned to fold and put away her own clothes, tidy books, sort toys, feed her beloved chickens, and care for plants.

Can you spot the bee in this picture?

Little P and I made a mini garden in the front of the house about mid July. We started all the seeds in pots on the deck and we watered and cared for them diligently. I dug the beds and added house compost as well as manure. Then we dug holes and carefully transplanted our prizes, mulching them down with chicken house straw.

And the rewards for our efforts have come into bloom this past week. Glorious golden sunflowers nod and bob outside her bedroom window. These beauties seem to shine with light all their own.

Of course the bees are in heaven. It's like a big yellow fluffy trampoline in there.

Even more exciting was spotting this cute little baby pumpkin, and watching it practically triple in size every day. It's still swelling nicely, and is the recipient of constant care and attention; a nice little life lesson in nurturing.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

what's going on

In case you thought my life was as bucolic and wonderful all the time, as I try to show you all the best bits, there are other realities happening that are more challenging. My morning commute is one of them. It takes me about an hour to get to school in the morning, so I leave around 6:45. Here is the view I snapped the other day: I love how the fog, way below the mountain where I live, looks like the ocean around an island of trees.

Part of the reason I leave so early is to get small Princess to her Montessori school for before care and still be on time. We love her school but it definitely adds time on the road. Here she is on the first day, just half an hour before coming downhill around a blind curve and colliding with a contractor coming too fast and obviously not aware of the dangers of driving mountain roads. We were all fine, but my poor little 4Runner suffered a longish dent. Bummer!

I'm also on the road twice a week, jetting down after school to class at SJSU. Between Atypical Development in Children and Social Issues in American Education, it's making for a pretty depressing semester.

But, like the island in the clouds, if I wait long enough, the blue sky shines through. This second picture was taken just seconds after the first. I love my house, my family, my job. And I love SJSU, even though it's sad to sit through classes about premature babies and the current welfare system.

And last Thursday, I got wireless. The sky doesn't get much bluer than that.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

apple dapple

We had a lovely time picking apples this weekend. The Granny Smith tree is prolific this year due to the presence of our bees and a little Gala tree that we received for a housewarming gift.

Little P. up a tree. What will we make with all these? Sauce? Juice? Pie? Or just biting into the crunchy, juicy, organic goodness right off the branch?

I'm not big on ladders, so Nice Dad does the hard part. This tree is easily 30 years old, and seems happier this year than ever. So prolific.

My favorite treat is crisp, fresh, tart Grannies eaten in slices with nonfat feta from Trader Joe's. Yum!

Enough to eat, enough to share with family, friends, colleagues... I fantasize about handing them out to strangers on the street. We are rich!

Of course we'll leave some for the birds, and bees.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

summer's end

The Santa Cruz County Fair marks the official end of summer for our family. Goodbye, fishy game. Maybe next year the prize will live longer than a week.

Goodbye, fair food. Too many wonderful choices to choose. This year I went for the baked potato with butter and sour cream, and of course the peanut butter fudge. ND tried a portabello mushroom burger, but later lamented not going for the deep fried burrito.

Goodbye, midway. Not really our favorite section of the fair, but P. #2 really likes it, and it makes for nice nighttime pictures. Soon it just won't be this warm and balmy at 8 pm.

So long to the fish, awaiting their unavoidable septic demise. It's fun every year.

So long to Brad's Reptile House. It's better than the zoo, since you can sometimes hold the snakes, and get close to the crocodile.

Goodbye to the poultry exhibit. We entered four pullets, and received three blue ribbons and one red, in addition to Best of Breed and Reserve Best of Breed. Next year ND wants a turkey.

And this picture is dedicated to working mothers everywhere... Goddess knows I feel like this at the end of a long day with my nineteen Kindergarteners. Little P. was determined to bring one of these piggies home, and believe me it was a narrow escape. Nice Dad is an easy mark for such impulses.

Monday, September 15, 2008


We love the annual ritual of creating a scarecrow for the fair each year. Once we made a baseball player; another time, a pirate. This year we went for a traditional approach. Does he scare you?

The clothes came out of the dress up box; his head is an old pillowcase. Princess #2 cut the pieces out of felt for the face and I stitched them on. Horsey Girl's old boot were perfect for the job since they had big holes in the bottom already.

We stuffed him down with plenty of real hay, and I sewed an old Halloween crow to his arm for the final touch.

Later last week, the results spoke for themselves. First prize!

Good family fun.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

my dog

My dog came to live with us about six years ago. We rescued him from the Santa Cruz SPCA and he was on his third strike. That means two families had already adopted him and returned him, and if we had returned him he would have been put to sleep.

He is an energetic Airdale mix. The first family to adopt him had two small toddlers at home, and found his energy was just not a good match for their little fragile family. The second guy took him home, then went to work the next day and left him locked in his apartment. You know the rest of the story. (um, duh.)

I fell in love with this dog instantly. ND and I are fairly frequent visitors to the SPCA, and ND will always find a dog (or three) that he is willing to bring home. I am more skeptical. However, this fuzzy faced boy dog just stole my heart. On our second visit, I even cried when I saw the handler shoving him back into the crate as we left. When we finally claimed him as our own, the woman at the desk repeatedly asked us: "Now you know about his problems. You do know about his PROBLEMS." But we knew, once he was really home, his true home on 20 acres in the forest, he wouldn't have any "problems". And we were right.

Until about a year ago, when he started to develop strange symptoms: arthritic movement, lethargy, depression. Turns out he had Lyme disease. Now he's been on medication for a month, and I am thrilled to report that Whoopie is back to his wacky, obsessive, crazy, fuzzy, lovable self.

Here he is, climbing the ivy over the carport to catch a rat. Welcome back, friend.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


I've had this picture on my desktop for some time. Little P. snapped this shot of Horsey Girl and her unmistakable aura swirling around her. What do you think? Is this a spirit? Guardian angel? Or just her own intense and glowing life force as she drums to the beat of her heart love? And what of that orangey glow to the right? Plant deva? Or just her finger in the way?

I've been growing wheat grass. My juicer does a mediocre job of processing this stuff, but this little tray served a variety of purposes: cat bed, dog snack, conversation piece, tactile objet.

And a fun centerpiece on my $20 garage sale deck set.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

finger knitting

It was with great joy that Princess #2 learned to finger knit this summer - and got hooked. I was surely a proud momma to see her become addicted to a craft so dear to my heart. It was wonderful to knit alongside her... when I'd pull out my dishcloths, she'd grab her ball of yarn and crank out yards of chain, with great concentration.

Please disregard the dirty fingernails. These lengths of love started to appear everywhere: as necklaces, hairbands, dog collars, decorations.... even a handle on a homemade burlap purse.

But even more valuable was her sense of accomplishment. She loves to show off her skill to friends and strangers, the majority of whom are suitably impressed. Could needles be far behind?

Of course there are the usual snags once and awhile. What the?

Ah yes. Beware the "help" of curious cats.

Truly blessed we are.
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