Southern Roots

May 26, 2009

We have finally had some breaks from the rain and with that has come the discovery that our hydrangeas and gardenias have burst into bloom. One of the things I love most about our current home is our back yard. I love the big oaks that give us shade and remind me of my Louisiana roots. And I love the old established plants that remind me of both of my grandmothers and their love of gardening, Southern gardening: azaleas, hydrangeas, gardenias, caladiums, iron plants, magnolia and ferns. All staples of a traditional Southern garden. Blooming on schedule each year with their heady scents and their decadent blooms. Bringing up so many memories and linking generations together. I will be sad to leave these familiar scents and colors. They are a part of me and now a part of my children. Sappy, but true.

And here's one more thing. Noah will be graduating from Kindergarten tomorrow. Feeling very sentimental today. In awe of how quickly he is growing up before our eyes and so proud to be the mama to one very amazing monkey boy. And see those big blue eyes of his? Those are my blue eyes, but even more meaningful to me they are my father's eyes.

Memorial Day 2009

May 25, 2009

Memorial Day will always have extra meaning to me. My father's funeral was on Memorial Day 2008. A fitting day to remember and mourn.

I gave the eulogy. I ended it by asking everyone to turn off their cell phones, turn off their gps systems, roll down their windows, and enjoy the journey as my dad had done so many times on those same country roads. We all gathered outside Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church and watched with tears as Adam, Noah, Michael, and my Aunt Claire climbed into my dad's favorite old green truck (1976 Dodge). The truck sputtered, coughed, and then roared to life. There was a collective celebratory yell and then
we each climbed into our separate cars to make the trip to the cemetery. 9 miles through the neon green rice fields that my dad loved to paint. Big clouds over the prairie. Birds flying through the fields. It was truly a morning that my dad would have loved.

My father was a Korean War Veteran. A patriotic man. A gentle, loving man. A man who would have felt very honored to have a military burial in a small Cajun cemetary overlooking his beloved rice fields.
Noah,Daddy, and Shadow standing on the edge of the fields. Summer 2004.

Leaving the Nest

May 24, 2009

Our baby cardinals are 10 days old today and right on schedule they have left the nest for the very first time. You can read more about the exciting day here. Waiting to see if they will return to the nest tonight.

Our rain soaked kitty has found a new home. Sad to say good-bye, but good to know he will be safe and loved.

Our friends who came for the weekend have also left. As always, we had a good visit. They are truly some of our favorite people in the whole world. We spent most of the rainy weekend lounging around, eating,talking, reading, and eating some more (very hard to resist Louisiana crawfish and chocolate chess pie!).

The only thing that continues to linger around our nest is the rain. Still raining. And expected to continue through this week.

Suburban Wild Kingdom

May 22, 2009

I rescued a kitten from the never-ending rain this morning. Heard some crying on the side of the house and discovered it wedged in our plastic sandbox sitting in a pool of water and old leaves. Soaking wet, shaking, and crying. Brought it inside. Dried it off. Put it in an old box with a warm towel. Hoping it will survive...but five days in non-stop rain doesn't seem like a good thing. Eyes are open so it isn't a newborn but not sure how old it is. Also, Adam and Noah are very allergic to cats and we have friends arriving tonight with a dog. Never a dull moment!

Any advice on kitten care? what to feed it? any other suggestions?

Starting to feel like we are living on Noah's Ark!

Travel Photo Friday: Family Travel

This is one of my favorite pics from our trip to Hilton Head Island, SC in 2007. It was our first bike ride on the beach and we were quickly sold on the virtues of beach rides. Most of the beaches we had visited in other parts of the world were too rocky or the sand was too loose/deep, but this beach was perfect. The pictures and the memories of that first beach bike ride are similar to this one...captured moments of happiness,relaxation, and discovery. I don't have any pics of us struggling to carry three bikes, two small children (ages 4 and 1), and a bag full of beach gear up and over a sand dune path. It wasn't a pretty sight and there was a fair amount of crying and cursing. I wondered why we were even attempting this. But once we eventually got on the bikes, it was so worth it. It kind of sums up how I feel about family travel.

When we first started to travel as a family, Noah was two months old and we flew from Seattle to Louisiana to spend a month with my family. We took two suitcases. One enormous, bulging one for him and a smaller one for both of us. We quickly realized we had done an extreme job of overpacking. A few months later we moved to Japan and spent the next three years traveling throughout Asia with one and eventually two kids in tow. We learned a lot of lessons.

At that time, website and book resources about family travel were slim to none. I ordered the only two books I could find related to family travel but was disappointed with both of them. They were too skinny. I needed more bulk, more nitty gritty guidance. I was hungry for details. I wish I had had this book seven years ago (would have been better preparation than most of those parenting books I read during pregnancy!) Wanderlust and Lipstick: Traveling with Kids is the most recent in a series of travel books written by and for women and it is full of details, links, and personal stories from a wide mix of traveling families. It celebrates the joys of traveling with kids while also tackling the challenges at all ages/stages. Practical, motivating, and real....highly recommend it for all families.

More of Photo Friday here.

Rain Update

May 21, 2009

The super duper rental pump did the trick. The afternoon was rain-free. The lunch gathering went well. A long day is now behind us. Exhausted and headed to bed.


The water is rising. Poor Adam made two trips to Lowes last night to get a pump for our backyard. The first one didn't work. The second one did. We pumped out the water and went to bed. Woke this morning to owls calling in our backyard. I was so excited. We've never heard owls in our backyard before. I woke the kids and we rushed to our back door to hear them better....that's where we were greeted with the sight of water. Lots of water. Quickly got the pump going again and borrowed a second pump from a neighbor. The storms are supposed to be steady for today. Adam is headed to a rent an even bigger pump and we are both keeping our fingers crossed that we don't lose electricity because then we will be moving furniture and getting to higher ground! In the midst of this, I am trying to clean the house and keep the Cardinal umbrella in place (gets blown off the bush every few hours). Also making a conscious effort to be less of a grumpy, bitchy mama. Sadly, it felt like I spent most of yesterday afternoon yelling at my children. Very, very ready for this rain to stop. And did I mention that we are hosting a luncheon today? I thought about cancelling it but now I am thinking we should call and tell them it is "BYOB"....bring your own bucket. We could use some extra hands around here and if the electricity goes out I am thinking we might need a bucket brigade.

Protecting the Nests

May 20, 2009

It's been raining nearly non-stop since Sunday. The first few days were actually kind of nice. Nice to listen to the rain on the roof. Nice to walk in puddles. Nice for sleeping. But today isn't quite so nice. Today our backyard is flooding and I am getting ready to sandbag our back door. I am not the only one feeling a little stressed by the water. Our poor little Cardinal family is also struggling with the rain. A few weeks ago we watched them diligently building their nest near our front door. Made mostly from moss, leaves, and bits of plastic. We left pretty pink yarn around the yard for them but they seemed to prefer the plastic. I was actually kind of sad to see them flying around the yard with plastic, but now I wonder if they are actually smart parents who were trying to make that nest a little more water repellent?

When the rain first started, the babies were just a few days old. We wondered what would happen. I had never thought about birds in the rain, much less newly hatched birds. Here's what's been happening. The mama spends most of the time in the nest sitting over her babies. She gets soaked, but keeps her babies dry. When it wasn't raining, both parents took turns hunting for food and watching the nest. But with this rain the daddy Cardinal has been keeping a close watch from the tree above and he has been regularly flying in with food. It's been a heartwarming little nature show outside our front door. But it's now starting to become a little heartbreaking.

With this non-stop rain, I have started to worry about our little bird family. This morning as the water was rising in the back yard I could hear a lot of chirping in the front. Poor Mama Cardinal was hopping around the bush. She was so wet it seemed hard for her to fly with her water-soaked wings. And I could see one little lone baby (originally four babies) poking his head out of the nest. Unfortunately when they built the nest they chose the spot right below the roof line....just a few more inches closer to the house and they would have been free from any rain. Makes me worry that the babies are drowning in the downpour and that Mama Cardinal is in need of some serious respite. Feeling the need to help but not wanting to cause further problems. The only solution I could think of was to prop an open umbrella over the bush. So far it seems to be giving some relief. Mama Cardinal quickly returned to her spot in the nest and things have been fairly quiet...except for the rain. Keeping my fingers crossed that both of our nests can weather these heavy rains.


May 19, 2009

Florida Watermelon fresh from the Farmer's Market, walks in the woods, newly hatched Cardinals, being with friends, time in the ocean, writing letters, working in the garden,time alone...all good things for a sad heart.

May List

May 12, 2009

A few things we have been enjoying recently:

The Invention of Hugo Cabret: This is a fabulous, adventure book. Great for adults and six year old boys. A mix of text, drawings, photographs. 2008 Caldecott.

Found: All sorts of interesting discoveries.

Douglas Florian: thanks to several of you for this great recommendation. We are all enjoying his poems and illustrations. Currently reading Omnibeasts and Insectlopedia with plans to add more to our library list.

The Thousand Watch Project: I especially love reading the notes attached to the watches (click on one watch at a time). And wouldn't it be fun to have something of yours in the Smithsonian?

Nestcams: we continue to make daily trips to the park where the young owls are getting bigger. Really amazing creatures. We are also lucky to have a nest full of Cardinal eggs by our front door.Don't have your own nests to observe? Check out these.

Bembo's Zoo: amusing and creative

Acorn Naturalists: great resource and very impressive catalogue...for naturalists of all ages and interests.

Dung Beetles: Noah begged to listen to this Fresh Air interview twice on the day it aired (poop and insect weaponery turned him into a fellow Fresh Air junkie!). I have to admit it was interesting and dung beetles have been added to our growing list of possible future pets (cheap to feed them, right?). And a word of caution to coffee and chocolate lovers...don't listen to the final moments if you want to continue loving coffee/chocolate.

Not sure if I will be making any more posts this week. Adam is going to be traveling for work so I will be doing the solo parenting thing again. And the first anniversary of my father's death is quickly approaching. So I find myself feeling the need to just hunker down and withdraw for a little while.

Travel Photo Friday: Motherhood

May 8, 2009

I have quickly learned that motherhood is the ultimate travel experience: exhilarating, intense, surprising, humbling, fun, exhausting, and full of discoveries. Happy Mother's Day!

See more Friday travel photos here.

Family Art

May 7, 2009

Inspired by a favorite blogger and a favorite author/illustrator we spent most of this afternoon on the floor drawing together. Truly a fun and highly recommended activity for all ages. We did as suggested and took turns picking themes. Willems is so right.We should all keep drawing and doing it with our kids. Fortunately, I was surrounded by adults who never stopped drawing and always encouraged us to do the same. I have been making a conscious effort to draw more on my own and also with the kids. It's good for them and it's good for me. Listen to what he says about empathy. And I especially love his family's dining room which is covered with chalkboards. Check it out here.

Today's themed drawing session was fun and brought Noah back to drawing. He really got into creating an underwater scene and continued to draw long after the rest of us. Noah seems to go through phases of intense drawing/painting and I have a feeling this
afternoon may be an indication that he is about to pick up his sketchbooks again in earnest.

Camille has been drawing a lot lately. She loves using the large drawing pad to make big, bold portraits of family and friends. It has been interesting to see the developments in her drawings. She has begun to add more body parts and accessories. A drawing of Emee with a bird in one hand. A drawing of Adam and another of Noah. Both with toothbrushes in one hand and guns in the other (perhaps our recent focus on dental care has been too intense?). An interesting one of Liam and Camille. But my favorite is the one she did of me. She had me sit down next to her and she studied my face as she kept adding the hair, my teeth, my cheeks/ears, and my toes.
We are going to keep drawing. Hope you will, too.


May 6, 2009

Driving to Noah's opthalmology appointment today I was stuck behind a jeep/small suv vehicle. It had a spare tire on the rear covered with this:"TOO BLESSED TO BE STRESSED". It felt as if the driver was giving me the finger. Large bold, all-caps letters which seemed so snotty, cocky, and superior. Maybe it was just my mood and my anxiety about the appointment, but it just rubbed me the wrong way. Seriously, how can one be human and not be stressed? I have to think even Jesus went through moments of worry, anxiety, and stress. Certainly Mother Teresa had some sleepless nights. Didn't Ghandi occasionally bite his nails?

We are obviously not as blessed as that driver. Looks like Noah will need to have eye surgery before we move. Not fun, not great timing, but not a huge shock.So there is now a little more stress added into the current mix. And that's just how it is. I don't see it as a measure of our "blessed" or "non-blessed" status. I've distracted myself today by trying to think up a good, snappy retort to the Mr/Ms. Too Blessed. But haven't come up with a good one yet. I guess I'd have one already if I had been "blessed" with a quicker wit.


May 5, 2009

Owls in the morning and Walmart at night. That was my day yesterday. An odd, but satisfying mix. The owls were amazing. A mother barred owl and her two young ones learning to fly. We squatted on the ground to watch them. They swiveled their heads to watch us. The kids eventually grew tired of watching and returned to the playground. I could have watched the owls all day. One moment cursing under my breath that I didn't have a better lens to really capture what I was seeing and in the next moment happy to just be there, soaking up what I was seeing. Fluffy little heads. One feather floating down to the ground. Protective mama owl changing position. Piercing eyes. Curious eyes. They must have been here all along. Perched in these trees above the playground, yet we never noticed them until yesterday.

And late last night a trip to Walmart. By myself. I know that some people make a conscious decision not to shop at Walmart. I am not a big fan either, but I do love my occasional late night field trips. Observing, listening, and taking in the roaming characters. Late night at Walmart is not the same as morning, not the same as weekend. It's a different crowd. Foreign languages punctuate the aisles. The pace is slow. No need to rush. I amble and enjoy feeling as if I am the only one in the store. And when I happen upon other shoppers there is an uneasy sort of comradeship. I spend too much time studying the wild bird seed and realize that I am becoming one of those kooky bird people. I hear the shift change as the new crew arrives to stock the shelves. They rumble out of the back with their bulging, beeping loads. A night of work to prepare for the next day's onslaught of shoppers. Unlike my typical, mad rush shopping trips with kids in tow, when I leave Walmart late at night I feel sated and strangely revived. It satisfies my introverted desires to shop without others whining or pushing and my voyeuristic desires to peek behind the scenes.


May 4, 2009

I had busy plans in my head for the weekend, but instead we spent most of it in our back yard on the big rainbow quilt my mama made many years ago: reading, watching a woodpecker, munching on a hunk of cheese, and discovering what can be done with an old rake handle. It turned out to be a much better plan for the weekend.

Travel Photo Friday: Koinobori

May 1, 2009

Koinobori: Flying carp flags in honor of Children's Day in Japan. One of my favorite signs of spring. This photo was taken in Okinawa, Japan (2005). These are part of a small town's annual festival. An amazing collection of hundreds of koinobori flying over the water. I loved seeing these each spring, but I have even fonder memories from the first time I lived in Japan (1996). Living and teaching in rural Japan, I remember riding my bike through the countryside and admiring the koinobori flying in front of homes: so enchanting and festive.

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