“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder without any such gift from the fairies, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in." - Rachel Carson

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Case of the Missing Cat

Our cat, Wendell

We've had a mysterious beast sneaking into our house for a while now. When we go away for a weekend, we often come back to find that most of Wendell's cat food has been eaten, more than he could ever eat on his own. After Memorial Day, we came home to Wendell crouching on top on the refrigerator looking shaken and like he wasn't so sure about his territory, which is something he never does. We've been making guesses about whether we've got another cat coming in, or something worse, like a raccoon or a skunk. Basically this is not a good situation that we need to deal with. This weekend we decided to do a little bit of surveillance and see what we could catch on camera while we were away.  We attached Aaron's wildlife motion sensor camera to the back of a kitchen chair and aimed it at the cat door, and then left to enjoy a great weekend in the White Mountains. We anxiously gathered around the computer when we got home Sunday night to see if we had captured footage of the beast, but alas, this weekend was a quiet one with only 39 photos of Wendell coming and going. We did however notice that Wendell had left at noon on Saturday and hadn't been home since. Monday morning he still wasn't home, and I had a very distraught little girl on my hands. We were out looking for him in the woods and along the road, but no signs of our orange cat. This prompted lots of questions about where he could be, what animals could come in our house, what happens to cats when they die, etc. It was a stressful morning and we thought for sure we'd lost Wendell.

Then our neighbor called with great news- they had heard a cat crying and followed the sound to discover Wendell stuck 40 feet up a tree! We were so glad he was alive, but now how the hell would we get him down?! He has a habit of climbing trees (just last week he was stuck in a tree over a different neighbor's house next to a hornet's nest getting stung repeatedly, but found his way down on his own), but never this high. There was no way he was coming down on his own this time that I could see. My neighbor offered to call the fire department, but I didn't think they were really in the business of rescuing cats. Luckily I was wrong. Before I knew it, there was the loud sound of a huge fire truck backing down our dirt road, followed by reinforcements in another truck. I wanted our cat rescued, but I was also thinking, "Oh God, I can't imagine what this is going to cost, how am I going to explain this to Aaron?!" The two firemen that had come to our rescue kindly hoisted a huge extension ladder into the tree and after much readjusting and coaxing of our nervous cat, they convinced him to climb into Aaron's beer brewing bucket. When my neighbor asked the firefighter if they rescued cats on a regular basis, he said, "No. In fact, this is only the second time I've done it in my three years as fire chief. In fact, come to think of it, the last time was on this road too." Uh-oh. We are the only people with a cat on our road. Then he said, "Wait, was this the cat I rescued last time?!!" That's when I remembered that Wendell had gotten himself stuck in a tree for 4 days when we went to Italy a few years ago and our neighbors were looking after him, and they called the fire department. Man did I feel like a total moron. I apologized profusely for my cat's climbing habit but they shrugged it off and said there would be no charge, I should just keep paying my taxes. So, we found our cat, but have yet to solve the case of the mysterious house beast...stay tuned! Also, Wendell is going to the vet on Friday to get a snazzy pair of vet-recommended Soft Paws glued onto his front claws, which should keep him from any more zany high-jinx for a little while.

This is all an amusing story, but part of the reason I am sharing it is that I was reminded yesterday of several things: 1. How wonderful the kindness of strangers can be. 2. That you just never know what random situations you will find yourself juggling from day to day. 3. That Wendell is an irreplaceable part of our family and I am grateful that his time with us is not yet through. He's been at the bottom of our family totem pole since the girls have been born, but I when I thought we'd lost him I was reminded of how much he means to us, bad habits and all!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Note to Self: Remember This

Rowan and I assembled Retta's new exersaucer on Friday- she's in love, and working hard at trying to spin around and figure out each toy. She's growing so fast-it's strange to see her upright!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Our Blessing Jar

Our family is a spiritual one, but not a very religious one at the moment. I was raised as a Congregationalist and Aaron as a Methodist, but as our own family now, we aren't regularly attending a church. We are trying to sort out exactly what beliefs we actually want to impart on our children. However, we both feel that being raised in families that practiced the ritual of going to church and making the time to contemplate our place in the universe was beneficial, and very formative in a moral sense. Last fall I was trying to think of a way to start introducing mindfulness to Rowan, to start talking about the greater world, and gratitude for all the good in our lives. Rowan had just started preschool and was learning a song about thanking the earth for giving us the things we need, and so we decided to carry that theme over to our meals at home. On most days, dinner is the first time of the day that we all actually come to the table and sit down together as a family, a time that I always cherish.

I had just read Amanda Blake Soule's wonderful book The Creative Family, and in it she talks about having a blessing jar to use at meal time. I set about making us one, using a pretty sugar bowl that was collecting dust. I wanted ours to be something that would hold up over time, so I used watercolor paper and painted multi-colored streaks and patterns all over the paper, and when it was dry I cut the paper into small pieces for our blessing cards. You can google blessings, or prayers, depending on how religious you want to be. I also found a book at the library on blessings from around the world. I copied my favorites onto the cards and now they sit happily in the sugar bowl that has been reincarnated as a blessing jar. Each night  we sit down and one person gets to take a blessing from the jar and read it aloud. Then we hold hands and say, "Thank you earth!" It is a very simple but meaningful ritual, and I feel that it has been a great tool for teaching Rowan the importance of pausing to contemplate and show gratitude for the meal before her, the work that went into preparing the meal, and the family and love surrounding her. She has already memorized most of the blessings in the jar, and often offers to say a blessing when we eat at other people's houses!

Some of our favorites include:
  • "May the love that is in my heart pass from my hands to yours." -traditional American blessing said while holding hands
  • "May the longtime sun shine upon you, all love surround you, and the sweet light within you guide you on your way." - Irish blessing
  •  "Thank you for the world so sweet, thank you for the food we eat. Thank you for the birds that sing, thank you earth for everything." -child's blessing
  • "May you be filled with loving kindness. May you be well. May you be peaceful and at ease. May you be happy."- ancient Tibetan Buddhist blessing
  • Name three things that you are thankful for
  • "Everyone join hands for a silent moment." -Quaker grace
It can be simple, sometimes we just each say one thing that was rough about our day and then our favorite part of the day, but the important thing for us is the ritual of coming together, pausing, reflecting and being thankful.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Lazy Days of Summer

This post is an ode to the awesomeness that is our screen porch. We get to use it for such a small fraction of the year, but it is totally worth the wait. Yesterday we decided to unfold the futon and have family rest time on the screen porch. I proceeded to have a lovely power nap, and waking up to a breeze with birds chirping, looking out at the trees and flowers, all with no bugs was a thing of beauty. I don't think we are going to put the futon back up any time soon. Today Rowan and Retta and I had a repeat performance of yesterday and lazed away half the afternoon resting and reading on the screen porch. We also ate dinner and special chocolate milkshakes for dessert out there under the string of Christmas lights Rowan and I put up a few weeks ago. Oh screen porch, how I love thee! Here are some sweet pictures of our rest time today. Also, we made t-shirts today-- Rowan used my kangaroo stencil to paint her own shirt which she was very proud of, and Retta got a new butterfly onesie!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Milestone: Retta's First Solid Food!

Our little baby is growing up so fast! Retta tried her first taste of solid food last night. She's been continuing to spit up so much that the doctor suggested starting her on rice cereal to see if it helps hold her food down. I know it's not really that big of a deal, but since last summer when I first found out I was pregnant I have been the one to carry her, grow her, birth her, and all the growing she's done since she entered the world has been a result of the milk I've given her. So, to feed her something else, something external, felt like kind of a big letting go. I'm sure this seems dramatic, but then again, I'm sure most mothers reading this can relate! Here are some pictures of the little cutie. She really seemed to like it- this baby is not one to turn down nourishment of any kind, as evidenced by her adorable little thunder-thighs!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Get-Up-And-Go Ginger Smoothie

Mmmm....good morning to mama!
This is my new favorite breakfast, and I find it an especially effective cure for those sleep-deprived mornings when I am forced to open my eyes and my first thought is, "You've got to be $%#*ing kidding me, it's time to get up already?!!" So if you have to rise, this might help you shine too.

Ginger Smoothie:
  • 4-5 ice cubes
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1 banana
  • 2 teaspoons of fresh grated ginger
  • 1-2 Tablespoons of agave nectar or honey, depending on how sweet you want it
Blend until smooth, guzzle down, and feel happy about your healthy breakfast!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Retta's First Camping Trip

A couple of weekends ago we decided it was high time to get into the Maine woods and pitch a tent, what with it being August and all! After much deliberation we chose to go camping at Sabao Lake, a place that my parents took my brother and I many times as a kid. My earliest memories of camping are from Sabao: catching my first fish, hanging over the side of the canoe in my orange life jacket letting my fingers skim the water trying to grab yellow pond lilies, digging giant holes in the sand and trying to jump across them with all the other camping kids, surviving a huge thunderstorm in our tent, picking and eating blueberries, and on and on. Anyway, it is a special place to me and I was excited to share it with Aaron and the girls. Over the years the campground got taken over by what we like to call the "hook and bullet crowd" for a bit, and while it still does not provide a solitary wilderness experience, it is a little quieter there now. At the very least, it was fun to go back and relive my childhood with my own girls. I realized it had been **GULP** 20 years since I'd been there! Retta turned out to be a happy camper, boding well for future trips. She slept swaddled up right next to me on a camping pad, and the only special baby gear we brought was her bouncy chair so we had a place to put her that was up off the ground. Here are some of my favorite pictures from the weekend:

A view of the lake and the gorgeous canvas canoe my dad made us

Huckleberries = happy girl!

Handful of huckleberies

Retta sleeping in the bow of the boat

Hammock time!

Hammock full of important people

Happy Retta

Swimming- it was at least 90 degrees

Evening paddle

Morning in the tent

Retta meets Elmo for the first time

Putting huckleberries on her yogurt

Retta likes the rock tripe

Me and my girls, Retta trying to eat Rowan's hand

Rowan helps paddle

A frog! I'm not sure he was actually alive, but Rowan didn't seem to notice...

Our campsite

A purple and pink caterpillar!

Sister time

"I like camping!!"

Find-It Jars

Here's another simple but fun activity- take a glass jar, fill it about 3/4 full with birdseed and then add in 10 or so small objects from around the house. You may want to stir in the objects that you add to spread them around in the birdseed. Screw the lid on tight and voila, a toy! Rowan loves trying to search for all the objects she added to the jar. Ours has things like a thimble, a plastic butterfly barrette, a coin, a piece of sea glass-it's a good way to get rid of small odds and ends lying around. You could also make it with cool objects found in nature (acorn, special shells, a small feather, etc). Rowan likes to switch out the little pieces every now and then. My mother-in-law made one of these for my husband and his sister when they were younger, and she even wrote a list of the objects to find and taped it to the bottom of the jar. I see they sell these in toy stores now, but this is much easier and more fun!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Fairy Work

Rowan had an important job on Monday: she had a fairy workshop to attend. Apparently the business of building fairy houses has evolved over the past few years, with handbooks and classes available to young builders everywhere. We were lucky enough to have our local library host an event with Liza Gardner Walsh, the author of the new book, The Fairy House Handbook.

The fairy program had been on Rowan's social calendar for a couple of weeks and she was very excited to get some tips on how to improve her fairy houses, insisting that she wear her fairy wings.

After learning about fairy home preferences from the author (they only like natural building materials and there is apparently a hot debate about whether seaglass falls into this category), she got to draw a blueprint for her next fairy house, decorate a bag for collecting building materials, and then the icing on the cake came when she got to package up some sparkly fairy dust to take home and sprinkle on her houses.

After the program was over, she said, "Thanks Mommy for taking me to the workshop! I am ready to go make my house now." So we went down to the beach and she made a well-camouflaged fairy abode, complete with a seaweed roof. It melts my heart how much she is in love with fairies right now- this has been the summer of building them wherever we go.

Thursday, August 9, 2012


I LOVE this book. The text is a beautiful poem about making the most of each day and living in the moment, and the illustrations are all intricate paper-cuts by Nikki McClure who I really like. This is a children's book, but it's one of those gorgeous books that can speak to everyone. My favorite part covers the last few pages:

The past is sailing off to sea,
the future’s fast asleep.
A day is all you have to be,
it’s all you get to keep.
Underneath that great big sky
the earth is all a-spin.
This day will soon be over
and it won’t come back again.
So live it well, make it count,
fill it up with you.
The day’s all yours, it’s waiting now . . .
See what you can do.

I think the part about the past sailing off to sea and the future being fast asleep is so perfect. As someone that tends to dwell on the past and worry about the future, I like picturing the two being inconsequential, that all that matters is the here and now. It's a good message to carry with you through your day, helping to keep perspective that things are always fleeting and in flux, so you might as well just do your best today and enjoy THIS moment. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Family Photo Booth

I've been having fun playing with photo apps on our iPod (Instagram and Pocketbooth)--yesterday we had fun making a "scene" on our bed and dressing up for some photos. We put down a blue sheet for the sky and dug around in Rowan's dress up clothes, deciding on a flying insect theme! A while back I had seen some really creative photos circulating around Facebook called "Mila's Daydreams" that a woman took of her baby while sleeping-- the baby is totally passed out but the mom has constructed these elaborate scenes around the baby...check it out here, it looks like she's made a book of these photos:


I thought it would be fun to try something like that with Rowan and Retta. Then my sister-in-law shared this awesome link on Facebook the the other day as well, and I was inspired by the great photos this photographer took of his two daughters:


The last photo was taken with our Pocketbooth app-- that is a fun one because you can create a photo strip wherever you are. Rowan and I took this one while eating cookies at a bakery in Camden yesterday. Hopefully we'll get inspired to do some more impromptu at-home funny photo shoots soon! Maybe my backdrops will get more elaborate if I can get my subjects to stop wiggling...