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On the Nightstand
  • Your One-Year-Old: The Fun-Loving, Fussy 12-To 24-Month-Old
    Your One-Year-Old: The Fun-Loving, Fussy 12-To 24-Month-Old
    by Louise Bates Ames, Frances L. Ilg
  • Your Six-Year-Old: Loving and Defiant
    Your Six-Year-Old: Loving and Defiant
    by Louise Bates Ames, Frances L. Ilg
  • Ragnarok: The End of the Gods (Myths)
    Ragnarok: The End of the Gods (Myths)
    by A.S. Byatt
  • The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home (Revised and Updated Edition)
    The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home (Revised and Updated Edition)
    by Susan Wise Bauer, Jessie Wise
  • The Bay Area Forager: Your Guide to Edible Wild Plants of the San Francisco Bay Area
    The Bay Area Forager: Your Guide to Edible Wild Plants of the San Francisco Bay Area
    by Kevin Feinstein, Mia Andler

Better living by being boring

If you have read here for a while, then you know (and, perhaps, have long since tired of) the cycle of improvement and chaos. Me too. I don’t think it’s particularly good for any of us, and it exacerbates the highs and lows of the boys’ developmental cycles. In order to build a better path, I’m working on a few key steps:


  1. Non-negotiable housework day. Every Sunday, our excellent baby sitter comes and spends the day with the boys, so I can clean. If I keep up with the laundry and dishes during the week, this makes everything works out well, even if, like yesterday, I spend most of my cleaning day at one of the library sites at Shay’s school. Monday remains “chores and errands day”, so I have some make up time as needed. My goal is to get the inside of the house along enough that by the time our sitter graduates this May and moves home, I can knock out the house in a few hours, and add tasks for the boys as they grow.
  2. Fixed menus. Everyone will eat a meal twice in a row. The drought is going to make food very expensive this year, so I want to get us onto a fixed menu plan for all of our meals, pronto.
  3. Figuring out the projects I can do by myself, and then do them. I think at this point, any interior project that does not involve painting or building is pretty much on me, as Patrick’s dance card is crazy full. I want his buy-in, but sometimes that won’t happen on the timetable I have, so I’ll need to forge ahead and not get irked about it. This will come more easily when the first two steps are better established. Routines help me get creative elsewhere.


More later, as the boys will wake soon.


First glimpses of the new year

Trainspotting in Emeryville. Tristan can do a spotted pull-up.


Avoiding getting bounced from IKEA.


Breaking up concrete in preparation for a drainage trench. Plus, more yard!


Making turmeric tea to combat colds. And I thought bee pollen was gritty.


Taking the architectural component that cannot yet be installed, and using it to hold the books which could not fit into the house. Call it the porch library.


Pavers for the 2014 road to Hell

Happy New Year! We are sick and tired and sick of that, but eh. 

We got through our triage list okay - I’m doing the interior organizing that makes cleaning the house easier, Patrick started the backyard drainage/leveling project that has to precede all of our backyard projects this year. I got sick so I didn’t make my planned dinner, but will before Patrick heads out to CES (knocks wood).

Because it is January first, and because I love a good cliché, I have a list of stuff to work on. I’ll try to revisit it each month and update the status of each item. In no particular order, though I may categorize them later:

  1. Stop eating food that triggers my binge eating. This is not a diet, but it’s going to look a LOT like one. I can’t stop eating certain foods once I start, whether it’s making them my go to for lunches and snacks during the day, or evening-long binge eating. I know them all at this point, so it’s time to let them go before I nosh myself into one of the conditions that plagued my grandparents later in life, namely Type II diabetes and heart disease.
  2. Move more. I may schlep around more than many Americans, but it’s not enough for me to make those sweet, sweet endorphins that I need so very badly, nor is it enough to wear out the boys. This is not about going to the gym, or for designated runs, which are great personal time activities when you have personal time. I want to start the day with a kids’ yoga video, take the dog out on a long walk in the mornings, and maintain our bicycle commute. I want to show them that being active can be a structural part of their day-to-day.
  3. Stay on top of the house. The more we unpack, the easier this gets. Seamus give us a lot of push back on his chores these days, so i think staying on top of the rest of the house will provide a better model for him. We all dislike housework, child, but taking care of your space is a core competency.
  4. Make less trash. I want to reduce the amount of waste we generate. While the diapers will be with us a while longer, we have a stunning amount of packaging waste, and not all of it can be reused or recycled. I want to focus on eliminating soft plastics, which can’t be recycled.
  5. Tweak our food supply. This means more bulk shopping, more making instead of buying, more farmers markets, gardening, and possible foraging. I have a deep fascination with foraging. Seamus wants to learn to fish, Patrick wants to get a hunting license. 
  6. Make more things. For Patrick and the boys and the house, but I’d also like to make myself something this year. I never have.
  7. Finish Seamus’ school library infrastructure. We have a catalog, but now we need a LOT of documentation, which I’m drafting, and processing of the collections. If I can finish this before the next school year, I’ll be happy.
  8. Build more community. After two years in this house, I finally feel okay with letting people see it in all its “before” glory. While we didn’t entertain much in that time, we did try to invite people on our adventures, which was met with mixed results. I’d like to provide a base camp again and rebuild our tribe. I know some friends are lost to us, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make new ones.

That should keep me busy enough. I’ll check in on those in a month.



Semper Gumby

The working holiday is almost over, and a lot of productivity has been lost by the stomach flu (boys) and a beak injury bad enough that I’m worried that the chicken in question may not be able to eat enough, in which case I’ll have to cull her so she has a humane end.

It’s my birthday, the house is a half torn-apart wreck and the kids are cranky and clingy. How to celebrate?

1. Triage. We’ll pick the job that impacts our imediate quality of life the most and try to finish it.

2. Walk. We may not go anywhere special, but fresh air will do us all some good.

3. Decent dinner. With one kid on clear fluids/BRAT today, and the other unable to eat dairy due to wicked post-nasal drip that’s triggering vomiting, I’ll make a pureed butternut squash soup, serve it with toast to the boys, and with cheese and apples for Patrick and I. Instead of cake, I’ll see if the grocery store stll has those twee organic popsicles made from high-end chocolate and other local ingredients.


Merry Christmas!

I’m avoiding doing the dishes right now, but I’m going to have to hit the kitchen shortly, as we’ve been working on a nightly routine for prepping the house for the mornings.

So, off we went one morning to hunt down our tree, using those crazy scimitar-esque tree saws:

Showing Tristan how it’s done.We went to this place, changing farms after a decade. I didn’t dislike the place we’d gone to previously, but I was desperately trying to woo folks from the island to join us on our holiday mayhem. “C’mon, I know it’s a long drive, but they have alpacas! It’ll be fun! In the end the people who joined us made for a terrific group. We got a bigger tree than usual, and even managed to get it up well in time for the holidays.

Glowing in anticipation of Movie Night.Next year we should have our projector screen mounted, so I’m guessing that this is the last ceiling-brusher we have for a while. On the plus side, if we ever do find our Flying Spaghetti Monster topper, it will fit. I hung our stockings on the bookshelves next to the tree, as we still have nothing going on in the mantel department.

There was some last minute gift making. I stenciled twelve shirts, including a very messy sugar skull  for Patrick.


And we walked down to Christmas Tree Lane, aka Thompson Avenue. Every house on this block does something in their yard, and the municipal power company foots the bill for the month of December. This stretch of Thompson has a grassy island down the middle of the street, planted with coastal redwoods, and kids can visit Santa under the dark trees, surrounded by yard displays. I’m not sure if that’s more or less traumatizing than a mall trek. Ah well. This is my favorite house, taken with a shaky camera while I tried to keep an eye on Tristan in the crowd.

It’s the characters from “The Nightmare Before Christmas”, and it inspires me to do a yard display featuring the snow people from “Calvin and Hobbes”. Someday perhaps.

And oh, there there was the day of presents. Tristan was good for about four of them, then he really needed some food.

New slippers for Seamus. I have no idea why this is sideways.

Ukelele, steel tumblers, and the perplexus.The macaroni case is full of thrifted LEGO, possibly sold by the kilo.

We had a nice late lunch before visiting friends, one of whom was celebrating her birthday. Their house was full of family and friends, and it was fun to visit and then return to our less chaotic space.

The next day, we swapped the dressers around as part of converting the boys’ room into a more kid-capable space, and as part of getting our own bedroom unpacked. First I painted the little dressers that used to hold art supplies.

Tristan’s is on the left, Seamus’ on the right. Shay picked out the pattern and the colors for his dresser.

Then they went into the closet in the boys room, along with a narrow hanging rack for shoes and hats. Each dresser has only three drawers, so we had to pare down Shay’s t-shirt collection, but they are so low that even Tristan can access his clothes. I want to put in a long mirror and a laundry hamper next.

I should really do those dishes. Next on our lists: leveling the backyard, and planning/building a bike shed and new coop!