Tuesday, September 28, 2010

If all you knew of me was this blog, you might be surprised to find that I have a 'housekeeper'.  Anybody who waxes poetic, as I do, about the mundane tasks of the domestic arts (a full clothesline makes me weep with joy!) surely could not abide employing outside help!
Yep.  And don't call me Shirley.  haha!

Luz comes every Friday and she does all the things I don't love doing.  The bathrooms, the mopping, cleaning our stove and hood, the microwave, dusting.  Oh, that's a lot!  She's wonderful.  She brings me enchiladas and tamales and her friend Lupe sent me the best papusas I've ever eaten, outside of a papuseria in Oaxaca, Mexico.

It's easy for me to make the decision to keep her services, even though as a line-item in our monthly budget she comes right after mortgage and preschool.  In the spring, I thought maybe I'd cut back to twice a month, instead of weekly, but...actually, I didn't do it because somebody else cut her back to twice a month, and I am a total sucker just didn't have the heart.  Plus...I love her!

When I'm not working outside the home, Luz comes over and we work together.  She also loves to garden....loves it!...and she always spends extra (unpaid) time hanging out and working the gardens.  She knows a lot and I learn so much by osmosis.  She even comes over when she's not working to get veggies for her and her friends.  We'll also wash the car when we're together.

The fact is, we're so productive, it sort of proves my only-half-kidding belief that, I don't care who you are, everybody needs a wife.  It's amazing how much easier life is with one!  Just ask Erik.  :)
Anyway, if you can swing it, and you find somebody as wonderful as Luz, I recommend hiring some help.  Heartily.  Not only because it frees up your time to putter around and do the things you love (like laundry...I'm weird...or making beds) and learn new things (like canning and quilting) and make things for the people you love (like knitted Kings and Queens), but also because chances are, anybody who cleans for living will have some wonderful, awesome quirks that will make you happy.

Like this one.  Every time Luz comes when I'm at work, I come home to find some little surprise like this ~ a pile of tomatoes I left on the counter is rearranged into a careful ring.  Or, the lotions and mascaras and lipstick tubes that littered the bathroom counters are commandeered into a smart little army of straight lines.  

It just tickles me so!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Dipping a Toe In....

This summer, between spending time with Marie, trying to deny that Marie was dying, and the occasional sweltering heat wave, my mom crocheted this blanket.
It's done in these enormous hexagons octogons, then pieced together with squares.  My favorite hexagon octogon is that super-fly green and brick one in the lower left corner, but I guess I could say that about them all.

My mom completely shocked me by giving me this blanket.  I was admiring it just a few days after Marie passed away, and she said, in the matter-of-fact way that she says everything, "You can have it, I'll make another one."

I LOVE this blanket.  I know my mom loves it too, but I'm guessing she can't look at it without thinking about this horrible summer.  She buried herself in this blanket project, and a few others, so she wouldn't have to think about what was happening.

I totally get it.  I do.  But is it wrong that I love it so much?  I guess....deep down, I'm neither surprised nor offended that so much beauty can come out of so much ugliness. 

I am at the tail end of my math writing project.  Between the deadlines and teaching and THIS OPPRESSIVE HEAT WAVE, I am ready to be done with all this and go back to the glorious,  happy bubble of my ridiculously charmed life.  Last week is gone.  And I say, good riddance.

Now I'm just looking to get through the next 36 hours, and then it's home free...wish me luck!!!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I feel like I have nothing nice to say these days, and I was raised to say nothing at all in such cases as this.  I feel like I've been surrounded by death and chaos and mayhem, and I'm sort of worn out from the whole affair.

It's funny.  I'm not unhappy.  I'm never unhappy (it really is obnoxious) but I'm feeling fragmented.  Through a really difficult start to the new school year (hi, class of 39 third and fourth graders that turned into a class of 32 second and third graders after one month of school and a scant 12 hours of notice) and the death of Marie and  a seemingly unending number of WHOA and HEY THERE and OH CRAP moments queued up around me, I'm just needing....

You know, I almost wrote "I'm just needing to step back", but really, you know what I really want?  I want to sink in.  I want to hole up and hunker down and sink in to my home and my family, because it really is the only place I feel completely safe.

I have a whole laundry list of things I want to make, and fix, and do, and cook, and write, and photograph, and....I guess that's what I'm going to do.   Because in the doing, comes the sinking, and I think that's exactly what I'm looking for right now.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


On more than one occasion over the last two weeks (the most obvious being this weekend, of course) I've had reason to think to myself that life is sweet and fragile and, no matter how much you're hurting, how much your life can change in the blink of an eye, life does go on.  And so it should be.

So much to do in the kitchen these days...most days I'm up by 5 am making bread and I go straight in after work for preserving the veggies from the garden and the fruits gifted to me by all the thoughtful people in my life.  I love my people.
So many tomatoes!  Pizza sauce and pasta sauce.  I really need to figure out the pickles.  I need more hours in the day.  Still on the list:  spiced pear preserves and pickling some of these cucumbers. 
I wish you were here so you could smell this cooking.  It smelled so yummy and savory while it cooked up and simmered there.  Looking at the stove, I also wish, while you were standing here enjoying the aroma, that you were holding a sponge.
A perfect dinner for our lovely three-day weekend that just passed.  The weather was so glorious, all weekend!  (this is the recipe, seriously, no amounts, just do it!)  Chopped romas (and plenty of them!) fresh from the garden and still warm by the sun; basil, fresh from the garden (and lots of it!); minced garlic mixed in; and then covered in some olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Let it sit, covered, to stew in its own glory.  I let it sit all day while I went to work on Friday!  Then I came home and cooked up some sweet sausage and boiled some spaghetti noodles and I don't mind telling you...it was heavenly.  So simple, so fresh, so YUMMY.  Fresh, homemade bread didn't hurt.

In between The Kitchen Chronicles, Erik and I took the boys to the park to ride bikes and eat ice cream (I'm a fan.  Particularly novelty ice creams.  Never met one I didn't want to eat.  Just saying.)  and I gave blood.  More blood!  I just did apheresis two weeks ago, and Erik said I was crazy, but they called twice asking for whole blood and it seemed like they really wanted me to go.  I thought there must have been a run on blood, but they said, not really, it's just a busy time for accidents and lots of donors are on vacation, so, you know, they need you.  You should donate.  I got a t-shirt!  Which is probably the least they could do, considering I just found out that the hospitals will pay $600 a pint for my ultra-rare blood type.  I'm not looking to eliminate the middle man, but I did wonder for a second if I could turn this into some sort of cottage industry for extra cash.  Is that wrong?

Thank you SO MUCH for your kind words these days.   <3  <3

Monday, September 6, 2010


If my mom were the type to allow naked displays of helplessness, you would be tempted (the day you found out her very best friend had died while holding her hand) to go directly to her side, give her a big hug, and tell her how sorry you are for her loss.  My brother tried to do that, in fact, and her response to his outstretched arms was, and I quote, "Don't touch me."  As she pushed past him. 

Because I'm no amateur when it comes to dealing with her, I took a slightly different tact.  I waited two days (I didn't even call her!  let her wonder!  haha!) then I showed up unannounced with two propagated hummingbird sages and two transplanted hollyhocks that self-started in my front yard.  I said, "Hey.  Look what I brought."  With no other words, we headed outside to rake, dig, move, load, and water. 

Because that's how we roll.  Feeling blue?  Get to work!

I was there for nine hours today.  We worked in the yards, fed the horses, cleaned the goat pen, collected eggs, washed the miniature horse's pool, ran errands, downloaded photos, bought a Waldorf Doll from an Etsy shop for Marie's granddaughter, and watched a little college football for good measure.  And in the smallest bits, with no prompting at all, she shared a few thoughts, a bit of her feelings, and some of her grief.  Just the tiniest amounts, but it's not about what I needed her to do.  It's about whatever she needs to get through this.

"I need you to do something for me," she said through tears as we raked.  "Okay," I answered, already tearing up.  "You have to go through my hope chest to get some pictures for Jenny for the service.  I tried, and I can't do it."

That....wasn't pleasant, I won't lie to you.  I giggled at some of the pictures, and cried over others, and generally needed to lie down and wash my face at the end of that little chore.  But I can see her point.  Obviously, she needed help with that one.

The service will be in a couple of weeks, as we wait for her youngest son to get over here from Hawaii, but it will be months...years...possibly ever....before my mom is able to really talk about what happened. 

I plan to be there, if she ever decides to make the leap.  I plan to be there if she doesn't, too.

Friday, September 3, 2010


Marie passed away this afternoon, peacefully.

My mother was by her side.  Naturally.

How Do You Spell That?

Now that I'm at day 10 of the school year (39 students now, and going strong crazy), it's easy to remember why I love teaching so much.  Specifically, why I love teaching elementary school so much.  Over the last few years, I've toyed with various scenarios where I would teach single subject math, but the pull to work with Littles is so strong!

For one thing, you can be as dorky as you want, and they don't even notice.  And, lookit, I'm a dork.  Full stop.  So, yesterday we were doing Writer's Workshop.  Next to math, it's my favorite subject to teach.  I'm just so charmed by the students and their words!

Me:  Writers, your stories are so important and interesting!  This year, we're going to tell our stories and I can't wait to hear about all the exciting and wonderful things you are doing and thinking!
Them:  One time....  I have a dog..... My favorite toy...
Me:  Okay, you know what?  I'm soooo excited to hear these stories, but first, let's pick just one story to tell.  After you tell your story to your partner...
Them:  Can I tell you?!
Me:  I can't wait to hear, after you write it down...
Me:  After you tell your story to your partner, you're going to get out your super special writing notebooks and get that important story down on paper before it floats away!

Students get busy.  And loud.  Oh my gato, this class is so spazzy!  I tell myself (and cross my fingers) that it's because this room (and my patience limits) were never meant for this many children.  We settle back and start to write, in relative silence for these monkeys.  Did I mention the 39 eight year olds?

5 minutes in, a hand.

Student:  Teacher?
Me:  Yes?
Student:  How do you spell alcohol?
Me: ....
Me: ....
Me:  Ummmm....how about if you spell it like you hear it, for right now?
Student:  Okay!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Such a bountiful time in the garden!  Tomatoes, eggplant, cucumbers, squash...so yummy!
Oh, did I not mention...that PILE of tomatoes in the background?!?  I've already got a batch of sauce going in the kitchen, but from the looks of my counters now, I'm a long a way from done.  On the to-do-list over the next couple of days?  Roasted veggies (with tofu and pasta ~ always always always a favorite!), Laurel's Kitchen zucchini casserole (this time with pictures!) and cleaning, prepping, and preserving a hojillion tomatoes.  I think I can keep pace with the bumper crop of cukes and cherry tomatoes....it's quite a pile, but it's time to man up.