Browse and Seek

Hands-on Tuesdays: the prep list

After stacking some of Seamus’ tablework onto Mondays and Wednesdays, here’s what the boys and I get to try doing tomorrow:

  • Morning walk to the playground
  • Group math with the pattern blocks
  • Music with  the “Instruments Together” program from BBC School Radio
  • Art with the chalk pastels
  • Sewing with the embroidery hoops
  • Baking applesauce cake
  • Taking care of the chickens
  • Bike ride along the Bay Trail
  • Storytime

Both boys have math and language arts work that’s separate, and Seamus has history reading, but there are a lot of hours to fill between the start of our school day and Shay’s play rehearsal. It’s nice to have activities to reach for, even if we don’t do everything on the list. Here’s hoping tomorrow is smoother than last week!



A lamentar todo, parte uno

A couple of nights ago, I found myself first glaring at my phone and laptop as they refused to transfer photos from one to the other, and then poking through the thousands of images that overwelm the memory on both devices. There were lots of pictures of the boys, but also a ton of images documenting small projects I’ve been doing since we moved to the house four years ago. Photos I meant to post here and write about, but became part of the ocean of things I poured away while depressed. Things I sewed and stenciled, rooms I arranged, meals I made. The backyard’s slow transformation, the chickens, and pets. All left to rot away in memory, pixel by pixel.

This is not the biggest thing I let go of in the last few years, nor the most important thing. But it’s the most public aspect of myself, my electronic face and voice here on the intertubes…and I let go of it first. Both interesting and forboding, like discovering that I’ve become one of the Haight Street bag ladies from my childhood, talking only to myself and unseen interior companions.

No revelations or answers here. Just observing the bag lady.


Eight spins around the sun

Seamus walks quickly now when we have someplace to be, outpacing Tristan and me without noticing, his stride melded to his train of thought. We trudge behind him, hand in hand, and I call out “Pack!” to remind him to come back and walk with us across driveways and crosswalks. When we lack a deadline he caroms and slaloms about the sidewalk, then begs me to slow down. He spies everything, and none of it is boring or unworthy of notice or comment. He wears the same size shoe I wore in high school.

He reads storms of books. We go to the library once a week or when he’s finished a stack of borrowed graphic novels, and the only rule is that he has to be able to carry what he borrows without complaint. So far this has worked out well, and he has read everything I’ve stuck in front of him that’s school-related. He tries moving too quickly through his material sometimes, but fixes his mistakes when I check his work. He drops the odd one-liner that will bend Patrick and I over laughing. Like all good third graders everywhere, he’s discovered sarcasm and thinks himself the world’s first smart-ass.


This year he asked for ballet and theater classes instead of soccer, and declared himself a future marine biologist. He taught me how to ride the spare scooter, and now on Mondays we zip around our old Couch to 5K route, him flying ahead and shouting warnings about uneven pavement. He reads to Tristan and I’m lucky to sometimes catch them in the act of discovering a new and long forgotten story. Beatrix Potter has been big over here lately.

And he balances these parts of himself with the other bits: the roughness and violence that comes with being the age in which you kill monsters. The rudeness and defiance that we sometimes see (and sometimes see a LOT of) has started to integrate a bit more into his personality- fewer explosions, but more arguments, and still all connected to his sense of justice and right in the world. Which probably explains his choice of Halloween costume. He was Rocket Raccoon from the movie Guardians of the Galaxy, and while I despaired a bit at his choice of a gun-toting movie character (this from the kid who was Odysseus at five!), I now think his choice of an unlikely hero who eventually chooses to do the right thing is oddly hopeful. For me, at least.

Happy birthday Seamus. You’re a really neat dude, and we love you.



Shaken to stir

I’ve booted Seamus and Tristan out back for the second time today. Out back because I want to catch up on dishes and some laundry folding, which I can’t do if I have to chase them down the block, and the second time today because despite the incredibly overcast weather, their restlessness is almost tangible. It is a school day, and some schoolwork has been done, but toys have been thrown and kids have screamed and treats and screen time have been begged for. Copywork and math have dragged on and on to careless completion, and then redone. Let’s not discuss spelling.

Blending the boys’ days has not come easily. The four and a half years between them feels like a pretty long stretch sometimes. They can play together well, but they have different needs and different stages of understanding the world, and now that we’re in full school mode for both boys, I’m still trying to figure out the balance. I suspect we need circle time in the mornings, a routine to ground them both in the daily flow and to teach them both to wait their turns for my attention. We do all right when we’re out and about and mostly all right on weekends if we keep treats and screens out of reach, so it’s only their joint school day at home that threatens to devolve into chaos by ten.

I didn’t grok the point of joint lessons for homeschooling kids of separate ages. But I might now.



Before I die, I want to live somewhere with a shorter summer.

After a lifetime under the marine layer of fog, I cannot adjust to hot nights, and from mid-August to Mid-October the sun blasts our town. What meant a high of 75 degrees followed by a cool night of comfortable sleep in San Francisco now means the heat peaking in the high 80s around 2pm, followed by stifling nights of open unscreened windows and angry mosquito bites the next morning. I’m not much good in the heat, especially the parching heat of our late summers. For weeks I’ve been lethargic and unwilling to cook, and unsure of what to try cooking when the mood to do so struck. My grandfather would make sauerkraut and sausage accompanied by his decadent mashed potatoes in the middle of a Michigan August, but when my kitchen hits 88 degrees, I make sandwiches.

But last week the nip arrived in the early mornings and started loitering a smidge longer each day. We’re caught up on laundry and can dig our remaining French drains without fear of heat exhaustion. I moved a huge amount of toys and craft supplies downstairs to make space in the house for playing and making during rainy days (c’mon rain!). I’ve begun eyeballing the outerwear sales and guesstimating the right time to buy the right sizes of rain boots. The coolness, with its promise of civilized temperatures by dinnertime, brought me back to the little galley kitchen we made from some Ikea cabinets. I’ve roasted and baked and simmered, and my fridge is full of the results: chicken, bread, yogurt, stock, pie, muffins, applesauce, and a bread pudding. In my knitting basket I’ve cast on thick wooly yarn for Seamus’ stash-busting sweater.  

The migratory songbirds have begun to arrive in the birch and oak that hang over our fence, and the shorebirds will soon be here. The pets snooze in every patch of sunlight they catch, and the chickens started their molt. On our recess walks and rides we notice the changes in gardens, as apple trees stop producing and persimmons and pomegranates start, and as roses open fully, then fuller still, before dropping their petals and swelling into hips.

The Summer lingers further inland, but here, Fall has finally begun.

I’m ready for it. I’ve had so much more energy since starting my medication, I feel like I could do all of the things I’ve planned over the last few years and have never finished (or started). I’m embarrassed by how much energy being depressed cost me, and more than a little grateful by how much better I feel. I’m sleeping and eating better, and when we miss a walk the soles of my feet tingle. I’m looking at our home and seeing the possibilities of creating comfortable spaces, even if they don’t last for more than a year or two before we knock out a wall or restore the fireplace. It’s stuff I’ve glimpsed for a while, but not felt capable of doing much about it, and more often than not I didn’t see the point.

But the hopelessness is gone. The heat is gone. Maybe it’s time to do some things.