Love is …
• A friend who hauls your Country Mouse ass downtown and back every day with a smile and unflappable traffic savvy.
• A takeout sushi dinner to celebrate ch-ch-cha-cha-changes on the evening of the first day of a new job.
• Clever people who correct broken AC units (both at work and at home) and stop the sweltering; thanks for taking care of that, Ian.
• A teen who willingly goes on evening walks with his mama: “We can catch Pokémon, Mom!”
• BBQ at Papa and Grandma’s house, with swimming and all the foods.
• Chicago Fire Pizza.
• Getting to be a tourist in your home town.
• Lunchtime exercise walking at the Capitol, along with all the state workers, lawyers, and tourists.
• Hoping my feet don’t smell after my lunchtime walks.
• Finishing the third Pippi Longstocking book with Asher, who is sad there aren’t more Pippi books to enjoy.
• Discovering a neat little gizmo from the library called a Playaway, a single-audio-book device on a lanyard that runs on a AAA battery—perfect for little people who don’t have iPods or tablets to carry around everywhere.
• Getting a text that says, “When will you be home; I’ll have dinner ready.”
• My Village of helpers—Angels!—who cheerfully cart my boys hither and thither and care for them after their daily activities or even when no camp activity is available; they are amazing and wonderful.
Pippin the puppy (officially Peregrin Took) has been with us since July 1. We figure he was born somewhere around May 5, 2015, so he’s still a baby. He has brought us all immense joy, endless cuddles, nips, and licks, and has chewed up more of our belongings than we would like. (Three pairs of my shoes!) When he gets in trouble we exclaim, “Fool of a Took!”
Pippin and Asher are quite close. They play together a lot and it’s so much fun to watch. They’re always interacting and Asher can wear out Pip like nobody else. There’s really nothing like a feisty little boy playing with his feisty little dog in the spring sunshine!
Pip likes to box and cuddle with me, and cuddles sweetly with Lucas (who has a kind of disappointing relationship with Solstice). Pip tears around the house with Solstice chasing him at least three to four times a day; Solstice whups up on him, and he comes back for more immediately every time. Pip knows a few words really well, like “sit,” “outside,” and “treat.” We’re working on teaching him “come,” and I think he knows what we mean, but sometimes can’t be bothered to interrupt his explorations to do it. We should take him to a puppy behavior class, I’m sure, but there’s no time. He can scoot under our fence and sometimes we find him in the front yard; we have to find those spots and block them.
All in all it’s going pretty well. Pip is goofy and zippy and dopey and can jump really high. He rolls in the mud. He wakes me in the night with a lick on my face when he wants to go outside. He chews on Asher’s stuffed animals. And we love him anyway. We feel he must have been designed by committee because his legs are soooooo long and his head is soooooo wee. We’ve decided that his breed is Teacup Warg.
Isn’t he fierce?
In Beauty may I walk.
All day long may I walk.
Through the returning seasons may I walk.
On the trail marked with pollen may I walk.
With grasshoppers about my feet may I walk.
With dew about my feet may I walk.
With Beauty may I walk.
With Beauty before me, may I walk.
With Beauty behind me, may I walk.
With Beauty above me, may I walk.
With Beauty below me, may I walk.
With Beauty all around me, may I walk.
With Beauty within me, may I walk.
It’s here! Glorious Summer is here! Actually, we are now starting our second week of the boys’ summer vacation. These are days full of lovely things, like swimming and day camps,
nature walks with friends,
swimming pool horsing around,
a few runs at our river parkway, which I try to accomplish mostly in the shady areas,
some gaming with Daddy and neighborhood friends, both D&D and LOADS of Magic the Gathering,
and this. Lucas has been in a junior lifeguard camp (with three friends from school) for the last two weeks at Folsom Lake. This photo is from the tryouts day. I’ve been BLESSED by another mom, an angel who is doing most of the driving to and from camp, and so I only have photos from tryouts. The kids have been trained in CPR and choking rescue, gone river rafting, practiced water rescues, and I don’t even know what else! Their days are full of physical conditioning—running, core exercises, push ups, swimming—and these kids come home TIRED and sore. It’s great! We’re packing enormous lunches and liters of water every day to keep Lucas fueled and hydrated.
My harpies woke me up this morning in the wee hours. I started thinking about all the usual worries, and then a new one struck: This week, Tuesday through Thursday, late, Lucas is going to Santa Cruz to do open-water lifeguard training and to compete in a lifeguard competition. He is going along with our dear friends because Ian and I cannot go with him. It’s truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and we’re very happy he gets to go. However, last night I started worrying about my little son in the great big ocean without my being nearby. I started spinning on that: What if something happens to him?!
Then I realized he would be surrounded by pro lifeguards, and I went back to sleep.
Asher is doing a day camp with some buddies at Effie Yeaw Nature Center, which is a jewel in the middle of our city. From 9 to noon for ten days, he gets to do crafts, hike, learn about wild creatures, our local ecosystem, go fishing, go rafting, and more. Lucas did this camp when he was younger and it was wonderful. It really helps that two of Asher’s buddies (Star Destroyer and Blackout) are doing this with him. Asher’s nickname is Shadow Sting. How cute is that?
Last week, Ian and I got to see Eddie Izzard’s Force Majeur show. It was deliciously funny and I laughed until I felt amazing!
We have been spending our summer evenings reading. Daddy has been reading Harry Potter books to us for hours almost every night. We’re into the middle of book 4 now, and the children’s enthusiasm for this nightly ritual has not waned. They even prefer this over a movie night.
You might say it has ignited their imagination.
This one loves to shout spells and play wizard.
Sometimes we read outside together, if its not too hot. Sometimes we’re inside, enjoying the AC. Ian got the ebooks too, so if we’re out at a restaurant he can read to us while we’re waiting for a table, or when we’re waiting for the play to begin.
Ian is a master of funny voices and accents. It’s amazing to hear him read a conversation in a scene with eight wizards in the room, some sounding Scottish, Irish, Russian, English, American, powerful, weak, evil, or snobby. He switches between these various voices with such facility. I applaud at the end of certain scenes because they sound damned difficult to read aloud!
I’m loving this summer’s evening entertainment. I love how we’re all enjoying it, how the Harry Potter books have wide enough appeal that all four of us are engaged. It’s simple, and sweet, and bonding.
This is my garden in summer. These photos were all taken between the very end of May and July 7.
This is, of course, the very best of it. We are having a terrible drought in California, and I’ve been conserving water. I’ve not pictured my yellowed lawn or the roses with burnt petals. I’ve not pictured the patches of bare dirt or my lack of much-needed mulch (where does it go?). I haven’t pictured how my hydrangeas have 90 percent fewer flowers than usual. Naturally, I don’t photograph the plants that perish. I kill things all the time.
This is the best that I can show in this hot time of year.
But I want to show it because I love it and because I have worked very hard over the last 11 years turning into this third-acre of weeds and potholes into my oasis, my home. This is my English garden, California-style, and infused with all the flare of a Brazilian Carnival that I can muster. This is what my dreams look like at night. A jungle of color. A rush of blossoms. A heaving of growth and urgency. A riot of shapes and textures.
I can’t explain why this garden is important to me, except to say, this is how I surround myself and my family with beauty.
It’s a celebration around here. There was a big class party for the sixth grade. The first graders had a swim party yesterday. They are done for the year, and are dreaming of lazy days of pure fun. In honor of this special day, the last day of school, I present this evocative poem by Whittier.
Blessings on thee, little man,
Barefoot boy, with cheek of tan!
With thy turned-up pantaloons,
And thy merry whistled tunes;
With thy red lip, redder still
Kissed by strawberries on the hill;
With the sunshine on thy face,
Through thy torn brim’s jaunty grace;
From my heart I give thee joy,—
I was once a barefoot boy!
Prince thou art,—the grown-up man
Only is republican.
Let the million-dollared ride!
Barefoot, trudging at his side,
Thou hast more than he can buy
In the reach of ear and eye,—
Outward sunshine, inward joy:
Blessings on thee, barefoot boy!
Oh for boyhood’s painless play,
Sleep that wakes in laughing day,
Health that mocks the doctor’s rules,
Knowledge never learned of schools,
Of the wild bee’s morning chase,
Of the wild-flower’s time and place,
Flight of fowl and habitude
Of the tenants of the wood;
How the tortoise bears his shell,
How the woodchuck digs his cell,
And the ground-mole sinks his well;
How the robin feeds her young,
How the oriole’s nest is hung;
Where the whitest lilies blow,
Where the freshest berries grow,
Where the ground-nut trails its vine,
Where the wood-grape’s clusters shine;
Of the black wasp’s cunning way,
Mason of his walls of clay,
And the architectural plans
Of gray hornet artisans!
For, eschewing books and tasks,
Nature answers all he asks;
Hand in hand with her he walks,
Face to face with her he talks,
Part and parcel of her joy,—
Blessings on the barefoot boy!
Oh for boyhood’s time of June,
Crowding years in one brief moon,
When all things I heard or saw,
Me, their master, waited for.
I was rich in flowers and trees,
Humming-birds and honey-bees;
For my sport the squirrel played,
Plied the snouted mole his spade;
For my taste the blackberry cone
Purpled over hedge and stone;
Laughed the brook for my delight
Through the day and through the night,
Whispering at the garden wall,
Talked with me from fall to fall;
Mine the sand-rimmed pickerel pond,
Mine the walnut slopes beyond,
Mine, on bending orchard trees,
Apples of Hesperides!
Still as my horizon grew,
Larger grew my riches too;
All the world I saw or knew
Seemed a complex Chinese toy,
Fashioned for a barefoot boy!
Oh for festal dainties spread,
Like my bowl of milk and bread;
Pewter spoon and bowl of wood,
On the door-stone, gray and rude!
O’er me, like a regal tent,
Cloudy-ribbed, the sunset bent,
Purple-curtained, fringed with gold,
Looped in many a wind-swung fold;
While for music came the play
Of the pied frogs’ orchestra;
And, to light the noisy choir,
Lit the fly his lamp of fire.
I was monarch: pomp and joy
Waited on the barefoot boy!
Cheerily, then, my little man,
Live and laugh, as boyhood can!
Though the flinty slopes be hard,
Stubble-speared the new-mown sward,
Every morn shall lead thee through
Fresh baptisms of the dew;
Every evening from thy feet
Shall the cool wind kiss the heat:
All too soon these feet must hide
In the prison cells of pride,
Lose the freedom of the sod,
Like a colt’s for work be shod,
Made to tread the mills of toil,
Up and down in ceaseless moil:
Happy if their track be found
Never on forbidden ground;
Happy if they sink not in
Quick and treacherous sands of sin.
Ah! that thou couldst know thy joy,
Ere it passes, barefoot boy!
—John Greenleaf Whittier (1855)
Yay, Summer! Indeed!
We’ve just finished spring break. It’s been two weeks of lots of fun for the kiddos, starting with a glorious day at Point Reyes National Seashore. We have a tradition of ringing in the spring by going to the beach.
Lots of Magic: The Gathering games were played. And even more card sorting and organizing and deck building.
We made some funny pictures.
Mama worked a lot, but I got to work here for some of the time. My garden is beautiful right now and I’ve hosted two parties to make my friends see it.
We saw these handsome fellas. They and their girls had the run of the school campus while the students were away.
We watched Cosmos and snuggled.
Lucas had baseball practice on several perfect April days. And for five days he got to do an archery camp that he loved, with two hours of practice a day and games and fun contests.
These are just some highlights. I can’t seem to keep on track here at Love in the Suburbs lately. I’ll try to do better. Happy spring, and Happy Earth Day, everyone!
- RAIN. My garden looks so grateful, and bulbs are starting to pop up from the soil.
- Sleeping in until 8:30 a.m.; waking to hot, fresh coffee.
- Grandpa’s 68th birthday, and gathering around a table with my new beautiful nieces.
- Work that comes when you need it, even if it comes all at once in a big rush.
- Dog-sitting a sweet little girl for a sweet friend.
- A creative friend who spends his precious free time hanging out and playing Magic with my kids, conjuring a magical duel between wizards.
- A husband who does laundry and cleans the kitchen while I work on the weekend, even though he’s sick.
- A young friend who gives my older son a taste of big kid adventure—exciting paintball wars in the rain and mud.
- Basketball games, even when we get skunked by a team two years older and two heads taller than our boys.
- Little boy who says, “Mama, put your arms around me; it makes me feel safe,” and then tells me precisely how much to keep the bedroom door open and “check on me in four minutes,” every single night.
- Big boy who lately seems more interested in hugs than usual, and who is learning how to write essays.
- A grandfather who braved an outing alone with the boys for the first time.
- Trudging through the muddymuck of the chicken coop to feed the hens; finding that their laying has increases ever so slightly.
- Realizing that I live with Tigger—irrepressible, indefatigable, bubbly, bouncy funfunfun 7-year-old!