That’s More Like It

Last Thursday we finally (briefly) had some snow — real snow, not just a trace on the ground. We knew it was coming, so when Ryan woke up at 4:30 and valiantly resisted all attempts to get him back to sleep, I made the best of it by peeking out of the window a lot at all the white. (Ryan’s thoughts on the view: “Eh eh?!”) I imagined sitting with a cup of hot tea, watching the flakes floating down. This wasn’t, of course, possible with a sleep-deprived little boy, but it was nice to think about.

Arguably my favorite part of the day was a couple hours later, when Nathan started to make noise. I went into his bedroom and sat next to him. “There’s a surprise outside for you,” I told him. “Do you want me to open the blinds so you can see?” He made a vague noise of assent, so I let in the daylight and sat back down with him. It was minutes later, when he finally opened and focused his eyes, that he said “What’s that?” And then, “Snow!”

Once he understood the snow situation, Nathan was ready. Forget breakfast, showering, all our normal morning routines. It was time to get outside into the white stuff, and nothing else mattered. We scrambled for clothes, warm coats, and hats, and we were outside by 7am. There were perhaps two inches of crunchy, fluffy snow — just enough to turn the world white and wonderful. Nathan headed into the lawn without hesitation.

Ryan was a little more dubious. After a while I figured out that his shoes for some reason gathered the snow. When his complaints became bitter, I would pick him up and find an inch of packed snow on each sole, which he knew was not right, and which eroded his confidence in his walking ability. Still, we managed to go out walking for about an hour before the lack of sleep caught up with him and he became inconsolably disinterested in the snow. I held one little boy tucked into my coat, trying to get him to fall asleep, and coaxed the other one toward home, inch by dragging inch. I assured Nathan over and over that we would go out again that day, that in fact being outside was our primary goal for the day, with hot chocolate next to the fire a close second.

Thank goodness that Nathan pulled us out so insistently. By 10am the snow was well on its way to melting, as sunlight warmed up the ground. We went out again and Ryan found the world much easier to maneuver around, but Nathan was disappointed by the conversion of snow to slush. By noon the white was nearly gone; patches were tucked away in shadows, and a few dripping snowmen huddled forlornly in front yards.

Still, snow continued to fall on and off for much of the day, taking every form from quarter-inch pellets to huge, fluffy flakes. It never made a white world again, but we did get enough slushy snow on the ground to make a splashy, crunchy layer, perfect for pushing the mop bucket around.

And I managed occasional moments — in between dressing kids, undressing them, feeding them, feeding the fire, and trying to actually get some chores done — of simply watching the snow falling. In later years there will be opportunities to sit and knit, or read, or just enjoy a warm drink and savor the quiet. Now is not that time. Instead snow is currently about bundling up small children, checking fingers and ears to gauge how much longer we can stay out, warm baths when we return, and hoping the shoes dry before our next foray.

And — one of my favorite parts — small hands and noses pressed against the window, and Nathan saying “Look at all the snow!”

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Fabric Hoarding Pays Off

Long ago, there was a time when I was intimidated by patching jeans. Why? Who knows. But when the left knee of my jeans blew out (and it is always the left knee), I would reluctantly be forced to downgrade them to my “dirty work” jeans, and the current “dirty work” jeans would be downgraded to scrap. But I couldn’t bear to just throw away all that good denim. I would cut apart the scrap jeans along the seams and add the panels of fabric to my ever-growing pile.

This is how I accumulated a rather impressive stock of old denim. I’ve used it for patches (now that I’m past my little phobia), and for making a backpack for Nathan, and various other little sewing projects. Still, I haven’t made much of a dent in my stash. Without a serious and recurring use for denim, I would have been hard-pressed to claim that saving it all had really paid off.

Until now. Fabric hoarders of the world, rejoice! We’ve been right all along!

When I went into my sewing room looking for tote fabric for Craft Hope’s Project 11, I naturally gravitated toward the denim. And I would just like to point out that if I had not been saving old jeans back in my lab-working days, I would not have had the lovely cream-colored denim that was the inspiration for my tote. I lined it with some calico, complete with an inside pocket, and double-top-stitched everywhere I could to mimic the sense of the original jeans.

That’s right: a moment of frugality ten years ago has been transformed into (in my humble opinion) a sturdy, attractive tote that hopefully will be useful to someone in Haiti for years to come. I added a receiving blanket made from two of the sweetest flannels in my stash. I also made a simple soft toy with a few ribbons for grabbing and a small container of beads inside to make it rattle. I need to hit the store for a couple more of the medical items for the birth kit, and then I’ll send this baby off.

When I first heard of Project 11, I had visions of making tons of birth kits to send. (By “tons” I mean about ten.) Obviously I haven’t been quite that productive. But I’ll tell you one thing: more of these denim totes are on the way. And if Konbit Sante will still accept them, more of them will be on their way to Haiti with birth kits tucked inside. I honestly can’t think of a better use.

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At The River

Last Thursday was one of those gorgeous sunny winter days: clear skies, minimal wind, a world bathed in sunshine. The kids and I headed out soon after lunch. Given the number of days lately where we’ve hardly stuck a foot past the door, I was not about to let such a beautiful day go to waste.

We took a short walk and played for a while at the nearby park. The wind wasn’t strong, but it was present, and I was just about to call things off on account of small cold hands when Nathan decided that he wanted to go down the old road to the river.

Well, why not? We headed down and found that the little beach we’d played on last summer had disappeared. The river was now high enough that muddy water was roughly level with the highest chunk of concrete at the end of the road. I knew that this meant the water would be about four feet deep right off the little concrete pad. This visualization on my part was not an idle consideration. I did the calculations very quickly when Ryan, whose experience with muddy water has hitherto been confined to mud puddles, immediately walked up to the edge of the concrete and attempted to step off of it.

I had not, of course, let him get out of my reach. So I pulled him back and we had a long talk about how the water was 1) cold and 2) deep. The first concept I knew he understood. The second? I wasn’t sure. He tried several more times to dip a shoe into the water, probably to test this “deep” concept, but with vigilance and redirection (who doesn’t love throwing rocks into water?) I eventually got him to stop trying.

It felt balmy down there, where we were completely protected from the wind. Despite the unfortunate proximity of the freeway bridge, the gentle motion of the water was soothing. Nathan soon got tired of the rock-throwing game and started climbing up on the surrounding banks, finding various leaves and twigs to see what happened to them when thrown in the river. Ryan stuck with the rocks. It would have been a peaceful and relaxing time except for the little shots of adrenaline that went through me whenever Ryan got close to the edge. I try not to be too protective, and I’d already run through in my mind how I would pull out a kid who fell in. I wasn’t worried about Nathan, who demonstrated both dexterity and caution near the water’s edge. But when Ryan would walk right up to the water and do his little baby wobble as he stopped… well, each instance gave me a moment of minor panic. My hands would shoot out a foot, and then I would reel them back in when I saw he wasn’t falling.

Eventually I couldn’t take it. It was time to go.

Neither kid, of course, wanted to do anything of the sort. I couldn’t blame them. From their perspectives, this was the best thing we’d done all week. And Ryan apparently decided that, if we were really going to leave, he was darn well going to satisfy his curiosity first.

I didn’t actually see him go in. I had turned my head to tell Nathan, higher on the slope, that he could find one more stick and then we were going. I turned my head back in time with Ryan’s terrified — or perhaps indignant — scream to find that he was in the water up to his waist, his upper body lying on the concrete pad. I had him out within two seconds, and he didn’t even cry. He just looked at me with wide eyes, as though to say “That was cold! And deep!”

As Dave pointed out, the good news is that he apparently took my cautions enough to heart to go into the water as though getting off a bed (feet-first and backwards) instead of just stepping blithely in as had been his first intention. And I’m now pretty sure that he has a better understanding of what “deep” means. Overall there was no real harm done, even by the cold. Snuggled up against me in the sling, tucked under my coat, he was warm and cozy very quickly.

Which was good — because Nathan, unfazed by the incident, still didn’t want to leave and used every stalling tactic in his repertoire on the way home.

Tramping Through Woods

We have a patch of woods near us, just a little area a few houses down which is completely wild and untended. It can’t be larger than an acre. But it has all the really important aspects of woods: tall fir trees, shorter alders, a few twisting madrones; patches of holly and oregon grape; the occasional trailing blackberry vine; big, moss-covered stones; and, perhaps most importantly, deer trails.

It was only a couple months ago that we got to explore these woods for the first time. For a long time Nathan was uninterested in traversing any surface that wasn’t relatively smooth. Ryan is currently in this same stage. Set Ryan down on a surface as uneven as, say, the floor of an apple orchard, and he is liable to stand rooted to the spot, complaining bitterly about having been stranded in the wilderness. And to be fair, he’s making a pretty accurate judgment of his own abilities. After all, he still has occasional Walking Failures when traversing the living room — and there are very few rabbit holes in the living room.

But Nathan has moved past those kinds of Walking Failures. And one day in December when we were out for a walk, he discovered that he likes the woods.

I am, of course, thrilled at this development. There are some canonical Wonderful Things in my childhood memories, and one of them is being alone in the deep woods, isolated from any sight or sound of human civilization. This little woods patch can’t quite deliver the same experience to Nathan; it is, after all, only about an acre, and there’s no way to escape the ever-present sound of freeway traffic. Also it backs onto the water treatment plant (perhaps why it hasn’t been developed?), so you don’t have to go far to be reminded of human habitation.

But we can still spend a good hour tramping through it, particularly at Nathan’s current age, and with his very dubious sense of direction. There are fallen logs for him to climb over or crawl under, and a wonderful little tunnel through a bush that leads from the front, fairly open section to the secret back section. We’ve found deer spore back there; in fact, on our first foray into the back of the woods, we found two deer. I rather suspect that these are the same deer that like to wander through the neighborhood, nibbling on things like tender young apple tree leaves. I am still slightly bitter about that. But since we were in their territory, and since I had two small children standing enthralled by the deer twenty feet away, I decided to hold my peace.

We could spend longer there, actually, except that Ryan considers the activity to be extremely boring and/or slightly worrisome. He’s a bit of trouble to lug around while ducking blackberry vines and climbing over stones. One of these weekends perhaps I’ll leave him at home with Dave so that Nathan and I can have a proper woods-delving by ourselves.

First Haircut – Again

I knew this would have to come. I vividly remember how strange it was when Nathan got his first haircut. It was like having an impostor in the house for a couple of days. So despite the fact that Ryan’s hair was starting to tangle, and it tickled my nose at night when he snuggled with me, and it made a way-too-convenient handhold for his brother… I dragged my feet at lopping off those little baby locks.

Dave, however, had no such compunctions. And since he’s the one who actually does the trimming, Ryan has been successfully shorn.

And oddly, it doesn’t bother me. The looks suits him; he’s still little enough that, with his very short, fine blond hair, he just looks like an almost-bald baby. I miss his little double-swirlie rooster tail in back, but overall I’m quite happy to rub my cheek against his sweet fuzzy head.

Sittin’ Pretty

Dave informs me (I don’t do well keeping up with the news lately) that much of the country is in the grip of freezing weather and record snowfalls.

It seems a little snarky, then, to post this picture that I took outside our front door a few days ago. But this is simply the truth of it: we live in one of the best climates in the world. And here, spring is already fighting for a toehold. That doesn’t preclude another freeze in February, but it is a little golden ray in the here-and-now.