And…we’re back

Re-opening the blog attempt #…

yeah, I don’t know either.

The whole keeping-up-frequent-posts-with-no-home-internet thing is a bit of a drag.  It requires discipline.  Which I sometimes lack.

But here goes again, anyway.

I went to my first writer’s conference this weekend.  The Louisiana-Mississippi region of SCBWI held its first ever KidLit conference Saturday at Sacred Heart Academy in New Orleans.  It was lovely.

The take-away:  Write for yourself, revise for your readers.  Thank you, Cheryl Klein.  

We also got to meet Angie Thomas, four days after her debut novel The Hate U Give hit #1 on the NY Times bestseller list.  Needless to say, she was glowing.  Though I suspect that is usual for her.  She was definitely an inspiration.  Yes, I bought the book.  No, I haven’t read it yet.  Really have to finish Octavian Nothing Part II before I take on anything else.  And that may be a while.  

I also got to meet Carrel Muller, who is the lower school librarian at Sacred Heart.  I want my girls to go to school there so she can be their librarian.  She is lovely!  She convinced me I need to go back and fill in all the holes in my folklore and mythology education.  And read do the same with my kids.  She also read a piece of mine (in the First Look part of the program where they read and critique the openings of several submissions), and it was exactly as I would dream of a children’s librarian reading it to little ones.  So that was a very cool moment.  Now if I can just convince someone out there to publish it…

Right.  So on that note, I could use prayers for persistence – to keep showing up at the page, and to keep sending things out, despite the piles of rejections.  Blah.

For those of you who are here less for the minutiae of my writing life, and more for cute baby stories, the lovely children are well.  I’ve picked up two Latin classes at JPG in the mornings, so they are spending the mornings with a friend and coming home for lunch, naps, etc. in the afternoons.

Just through May.  If the headmaster asks, you can assure him I still do not want to come on full time next year.  This experience has been a good reminder of where I want to be.  Home.  Period.  Which, of course, includes the library and the park.  But mostly home.

I thought our chickens had stopped laying, but it turns out they laid all their eggs in the bushes for a while.  Under the blackberry brambles, to be precise.  We found 24 one day, and 7 the next.  We have three chickens.  Three eggs a day, at best.  So it was a jubilee.  They seem to have figured out the purpose of the nesting boxes again, though.  Which is easier, but less exciting.  You can’t have everything, I guess.

We planted some vegetables and flowers last weekend.  (Thanks to Fr. Sam for the seeds!  The wildflower bed is well on it’s way!)  Hopefully there will be pictures…when I get better at technology.  Maybe next spring.  
Book of the week: This Is Not My Hat by John Klassen.  Hilarious.  It should be used in film classes as a study in dramatic irony, and in writers’ workshops as and example of how the pictures and text work together.  No redundancy – each does its own part towards a flawlessly integrated whole.  And it’s soooo funny.

I hope that there will be more posts soon.   And that is not intended as ironic, but whether it is or not remains to be seen.

Homeschooling digest 3/18/2012

Friday Lucy helped me make strawberry jam – our best batch yet.  She was very excited about making it so we didn’t have to buy it any more.
Saturday the girls helped me weed a bed at Nana and Papa’s and scatter seeds for the polyculture.  That meant lessons on mulch, different kinds of seeds, weeds, manure, and lizards.  We went to Mass and to Mimi’s for a St. Patrick’s day dinner.
Sunday was our day off for the first time in a couple of weeks.  The girls got to go swimming and played outside with the neighbor kids.  Lucy is just like Craig – she wants to invite everyone she meets to dinner immediately.  Lucy also helped clean up some shelves I found on the side of the road and both girls helped cut strawberries for “fruit nachos”.
Today (Monday) we read the first story in House at Pooh Corner and Lucy had ballet.  We tried to Skype with a friend in Seattle, but it didn’t work right.  But we did get a geography lesson on where New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Seattle are.

December 14, 2010

Homeschooling Journal:

Visited the Farmer’s Market and Whole Foods.  The girls are getting to meet lots of new vegetables since Craig has decided we’re going to try to eat as “raw” as possible.  Yesterday I brought in the last bell peppers from the garden and each of the girls ate a whole one like an apple.  (They were small.)  That made us really happy.  Lucy also was chewing on cabbage like a dinosaur.

This afternoon we went with the Justice Walking group to the nursing home and the girls got to watch us sing Christmas carols and talk to the residents.  Lucy barely said a word, but when we left she said she liked it and wanted to go again.

We also cleaned the living room and they played dress-up all evening.  I think that covers it.

Excitement…

…of various sorts has been ours lately.  I’ll have to come back to the posts on the road trip, but here’s what’s going on more recently.

Lucy has finally given in and decided that she is, in fact, old enough to poop on the potty.  We are jubilant.  And it’s consistent, it’s been only one diaper since we got back from Fargo.  We even tried sleeping without diapers for a couple of nights (at her request), but that went less well.  Apparently if she sleeps in a diaper, she waits until she gets up to pee, and if she doesn’t, well, she doesn’t.  But maybe soon.

Craig is now putting both girls to sleep every night, which means I have unimaginable amounts of time to my self for the moment.  I nurse Samantha, then he takes her while I read to Lucy, then Lucy joins them in bed and everyone is happy and sleepy, at least for a couple of hours.  Samantha has been making it to 3 or 3:30 often, which is great, and Lucy usually stays in her bed until Craig’s shower wakes her up in the morning.  For comparison, a couple of weeks ago I was still nursing Samantha to sleep every night, she stayed in our bed all night, and woke up several times at least.  Craig had been putting Lucy to bed most of the time, but whether she stayed there was pretty hit-or-miss.  So this is going really well (knock on wood!) so far.

Samantha’s vocabulary is growing fast, and she is saying some really cute things that I think should be recorded.  Here is the list that comes to mind (spelled as phonetically as I can manage):

Lucy = see-see

Theresa = see-sa

cookie = key-key

cracker = ca-ca

when she hears a train whistle = tain tack (train track)

Mikey (the dog) = bike-y

Mr. Bob, who is supposed to be “B-Bob” = Bob-B (which the kids on the corner used to call him, also)

I’ll have to add to the list as I remember more of them, but these are some of the best.

Our real excitement today was that Craig bumped the spicket in the front yard with the lawn mower and we now have a gigantic leak.  He used some over-the-counter remedy to slow it down, but we’re still having to turn off the water at the street while we’re not frantically trying to get all wet things done at once.  The leak is between the main line and the house, and there’s nowhere to turn it off and still have water in the house.  So we’re getting a taste of Little House on the Prairie.  Or something.  I guess this will give us an idea of just how primitive we can stand should we ever get around to moving to a farm.

On the farm note, I am looking into chickens.  A movable pen and coop, and just a couple of layers to provide bug control and fresh eggs.  Chickens are cheap, coops are not.  If anyone has a favorite chicken tractor design, I’d love to see it.  Or advice on breeds.  The catalogs are in the mail, and this is all very exciting.

Also in garden news, we had our most exciting crop from the yard today: one large and one small cantaloupe.  The small one had split a little, so we cut it, and it’s gone, mostly eaten by Samantha.  The flavor isn’t spectacular, but I was impressed that the little, almost dead, three-for-a-dollar plants I picked up to fill in the spaces where my own seedlings had succumbed to slugs produced such bounty.  And there’s one rock hard, very green little melon left out there.  And all the things I thought were dead in the garden have sprung new life since it’s rained every day for nearly a week, so maybe it was not all a bust after all.  (The only thing we’ve had enough of to use all summer was basil – and more of that than I can stand to use!)

So there’s the update.  If you know a good plumber in our area, let me know, I’ll be making lots of those calls on Monday.

A month in the life of the Bakers

Well, it’s been a while, hasn’t it?  Nearly a month, actually.  If you’re still checking, I’m impressed.  There has been a lot going on, including my going offline for weeks at a time and some serious writer’s block.  But here’s the update.

School ended, thank God.  Everyone survived.  Summer is hot, hot, hot.  There will be not trips to the zoo any time soon, membership or no.  The goal is for everyone to survive the summer.

We’ve been keeping busy.  I can’t actually remember what happened right after school got out, but we spent some time at Craig’s parents’ house (mostly in the pool) and then came back to spend a day canoeing with Theresa and her friend Paul, and then a day of rapid laundry and packing, and off to Bunkie.  For nine days.  If you don’t know where Bunkie is, it’s in central Louisiana, near Alexandria.  It does not have its own Wal-Mart.  That tells you how small it is.

So we were on the outskirts of Bunkie, LA, helping to facilitate a leadership retreat for some of the finest Catholic youth of the Baton Rouge and Lafayette Dioceses.  It was really good (I think there are some pictures attached in some way I don’t understand to Craig’s Facebook page…or maybe he can see them but not share them…I don’t know) and we had a lot of fun and great prayer experiences and spent time with wonderful people.  The down side was the ridiculous number of chiggers and mosquitoes (which I am still scratching) and the two poor baby sitters who were left with my attached baby most of the day.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  There’s only one danger with attachment parenting – they might actually become attached.  And Samantha definitely is.  So that was hard on Samantha, me, and the two patient young ladies who volunteered to spend their week watching the facilitators’ kids.

Also, the camp is run by the Department of Education, so we had school lunches for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for a week.  On the last night, vegetables were brought out as snacks.  I have never seen teenagers attack bell peppers and carrots, watermelon and cucumbers like that before.  The cookies were abandoned.  The granola bars, abandoned.  The Big Cheez-its were not abandoned, as they apparently complimented the vegetables.  This should tell you something about the nutritional content of school lunches.

[I have been told that the nutrition in school lunches “balances out” over the course of a week – sure, sometimes it’s pizza, but sometimes it’s meatloaf.  That only worked for our week if all the students were pregnant and needed 80 or so grams of protein a day, but only needed one serving of vegetables per day.  Over the course of the week we had corn twice and carrots (overcooked and drowned in sugar) once, plus the lettuce for hamburgers and tacos, which I don’t count.  I do not call eating French fries at least one meal a day balanced.  But I digress.]

So we were happy, after another two days at Craig’s parents’ house (for meetings and a youth group softball game – which we won!), to return to our garden and our kitchen.  We had pizza with chocolate bell peppers, a tomato, and basil and parsley all from the garden for dinner tonight.  We’ve also had two yellow squash now, a couple of other tomatoes (including a beautiful Cherokee), and delicious purple beans which have all been eaten raw.  There weren’t really enough of them to cook, anyway.  I have battled slugs in the squash/melon patch, and finally have plants large enough to survive their onslaught.  There are now beautiful yellow, black, and white caterpillars eating my dill plant, but the thing was taking over the garden, so I’m letting them go to it.  They don’t seem to be bothering anything else, and Stephen Locke says they make pretty butterflies, although he couldn’t remember which kind in particular.

Meanwhile, Lucy has taken to singing made-up songs with repetitive words, which is pretty funny, and she is writing beautiful letter “L”s and upside-down letter “U”s.  Samantha continues to learn new words to say, and to mimic whatever Lucy may be doing.  They both swim fearlessly with floaties now, which is great except we have to make sure Samantha doesn’t get near the pool without them, because she will jump in and expect to float.

In case you were wondering, the pooping on the potty seems to have been a fluke on all accounts.  There have been no repeat attempts.  Two steps forward, one step back.  Or something.

I have tried to update my reading list, but the plug-in is on the fritz, so that will have to wait.  I’m busy with several sewing, framing, and card-making projects, which will hopefully be posted when they are done and/or delivered.  There are pictures, I just have to sit down and put them up.  I should really get Craig to work on that part I guess…

So for the rest of the summer we have a week planned with my mom’s family in Florida, and a week in North Dakota (actually, a weekend in North Dakota and the rest of the week driving there and back), and another weekend in Bunkie for Taylor’s wedding.  After last week’s experiences, I, for one, will be wearing eau de bugspray with my bridesmaid dress.  I’m still scratching.  And then the rat race starts again.  If, of course, you consider it ever to have stopped.

Garden update

The beans have come!  It’s garden time, and my first order from Seed Savers has come in, and is already in the ground.  Well, not all of them, but nine Flor de Junio, and nine Tejano beans (I only ordered the Flors, apparently the others were lagniappe) are in their appointed squares.  Prior to their arrival, we already had onions (some green ones we rescued from the compost pile and some seeds which are just coming up), orange, green, and “chocolate” bell peppers, jalapeño and Anaheim peppers, basil, oregano (which over-wintered) lemon balm, dill, chives, parsley, orange mint, salad greens (some of which have already bolted and been removed, including the bacon-flavored one, whatever it was), and several types of tomatoes.  The daffodils and tulips are bloomed out, and the iris are in full bloom now (some yellow and some white, with some white and purple on their way).  I put in some morning glory seeds in pots in hopes of getting them to climb the play ground the porch posts.  The orange tree is blooming (I wish I could send you a smell of it – it is amazing!) and the jasmine is almost there.  All the berry bushes (ok, they’re not bushes yet, they’re sticks) have new growth, so in two years, if nothing goes wrong, we will have berries, too!

And there is a dove nest in the tree-bush near the garden.  She’s sitting, so I’m looking forward to hearing the babies chirping soon.  Apparently the eggs take about two weeks to hatch, then another two to leave the nest, and then they might even reuse the nest.  I’m pretty excited about all that.

We’ve also had one big, black snake behind the shed, and more cats than we can keep track of coming through.  I found one tabby tom-cat sitting in the stroller we had left out a couple of weeks ago.  It looked ready to go for a ride.

Lucy wants to plant potatoes and other food, so her square will be turned up from the tulips and daffodils, now that they’re bloomed out, but we’re not quite sure how that is going to work yet.  And Craig built a worm farm, so now all we need is manure and, well, worms.  The garden shop nearest us doesn’t sell them, so I have some searching to do.  Which means I should probably get busy before the girls wake up.  Happy Spring, everybody!

Blame it on Spring Fever

In an attempt to make up for the long, long silence, here are some pictures.  First, the “man pit” that Craig build over the old (dug out hole in the grass) fire pit.  It is now an oven and stove.  I picked up the brick off the curb, in my church clothes, no less.  Dad would be proud.

The roasted (in brick oven) vegetable quesidillas (cooked on brick stove) were really, really good.

We have done a little planting.  We’ve had several dafodills bloom, and the tulips and iris are ready to bust.

In other garden news, an orange bell pepper, orange mint, dill, lemon balm, dill, and chives are in the ground.  The lettuce which over-wintered is going crazy, and some of it tastes like bacon.  I don’t know what it is, because it’s from a mixed lettuce seed packet, and process of elimination hasn’t worked it out yet.  But it’s bacon-lettuce.  Who knew.

In Lucy news, she is fiesty as ever.  Wants to watch a movie every day, and rarely gets to.  But she likes “writing” scribbles and “reading” books she has memorized, or just looking at the pictures.  And she loves the zoo.

In Samantha news, she is getting the last four pesky teeth through.  She is running.  And she has a nice long list of words now, including Da, dog (which also means cat), doll, bowl (which also seems to mean spoon and basket), Papa, Ma, banana (which is sometimes “ba” and sometimes “nana”), ball, no, diaper, book, door, open, hot…those are all that come to mind at the moment.  She has been walking around the house “reading” books out loud over the last couple of days, which is really, really cute.

So that’s the update.  Craig’s working a lot, and I spent the day baking.  Which reminds me, happy St. Joseph’s Day.  Here’s the bread I made:

It’s supposed to look like St. Joseph’s beard.  Judge for yourself.  I also made egg-free chocolate chip cookies (surprisingly delicious, once you make it past the cookie dough that acts like toasted bread crumbs), vegetable broth, two pans of bread pudding, and dinner today.  I wish I could say days like this were the reason I haven’t written in so long, but it’s really been more a combination of distraction and laziness.  So hopefully more interesting things will happen soon for me to share with you, and I’ll feel like sharing it.  In the mean time, here’s a pic of the girls with their friend Cylis to hold you over.

Louisiana Sweet Oranges…or not

My heart is broken.  The six (and only six) oranges left on the tree we planted last year are gone.  We weren’t really expecting any the first year, so we were really excited when we had a ton of buds, then hundreds of tiny green oranges, which diminished slowly until eight were left.  Two split and we removed them.  And when I went to check the one that had started to turn yellow this morning, they were all gone.  Even the ones in a bunch that I contrived a pvc-and-rag contraption to hold up since they were too heavy for the little orange tree branches.

What’s funny is, this weekend I was saying how I’d like to plant a fruit tree in the front yard for people to take from as they pleased.

But not the tiny little tree in our backyard, not our first-fruits!  Not all of them!

Am I being selfish?  Part of me says, “Share!  Why do you need those oranges, when you have a basket of Satsumas that were given to you?”  But I really, really, really wanted to taste those oranges.  They could have left us one!

I’m telling myself that if I had a huge tree overflowing with oranges, I wouldn’t have even noticed, much less minded.  But they’re all gone.  Maybe next year there will be enough for us to get some.  But I don’t want to wait another year!  It makes me wonder about people.  Harumph.  And then I just feel bad for being grumpy.  It’s not fair.

Off the grid…sort of

We had an exciting weekend.  (The post is a little late because I was waiting on pictures.)  In honor of Craig’s Justice Walking theme this week, which is fasting from the artificial and feasting on the natural, we went to Barataria Preserve to “hike”.  We did the two-mile board walk through the swamp, which was really cool.  There were tons of very large spiders, lizards, small snakes, dragon flies, and we saw an owl in the top of one of the trees.  Lucy walked almost the whole way by herself, which was nice.  Samantha got to ride with Dad.

After this adventure we returned, we thought, to civilization, only to find that the power was out.  Craig called Entergy, and they said it would be back on around noon.  (This was 11 o’clock or so.)  We ate lunch, started naps, and when the power still wasn’t on at two, called again.  Now it would be on at five.  When six o’clock rolled around, we called again, and supposedly it would be back on at eight.  So we packed up the girls and went to buy a lantern. (Which we should have had in our “hurricane preparedness” kit, but that gives you and idea of how hurricane-prepared we are.  We generally go running to Baton Rouge, so lanterns and the like have never been a priority.)  We played in the lantern light until a little after nine, when the power actually did come on.  I was so thankful that this happened now, and not a month ago!  We had already had the windows open for a couple of days, and the cool(er) weather held out for us.

(Apparently the problem with the power turned out to be that some Entergy workers had hit and exploded a gas line.  That took a while to fix.)

We had to eat during all this time, so we took to lighting the gas stove with matches.  (Electric starter.  Sigh.)  Craig wanted to make something fun, so he dug a recipe for caramel rolls out of my Grandmother’s Czech cookbook.  They were good.  I had planned breakfast for dinner, and Craig wanted something new and different, so he made cornmeal mush.  We actually ended up going to CiCi’s Pizza after the lantern-buying excursion, but this morning we had fried cornmeal mush for breakfast.  And don’t knock it till you’ve tired it, it tasted like soft French toast.  Mmmm.  I will me making it again.

So today (= Sunday), before the mush, with power on but still with the A/C off (on principle), Craig and I went outside to drink coffee before the girls got up.  While we were there, I wandered to about the back corner of the yard, where we have a square-foot garden, three rose bushes, two basil plants, and a statue of the Blessed Mother surrounded by volunteer loquats.  I was pulling weeds, and Craig came to mow a path to the square and around it with his non-power mower.  We started talking about what I’d like to see there, and decided to go get some mulch to try and clean up around the roses, Mary, and the basil plants.  Since it was St. Francis’s feast day, it seemed like a good time to tackle this.

Load up girls, go to Lowe’s, put down mulch in the rain, and listen to Lucy sing “Row, row, row your boat” over and over and over.

Once the weeds were curtailed and the mulch was down, Craig started to worry that the grass would invade the newly-cleaned areas very quickly if we didn’t put down some kind of border.  I described to him what I wanted in the way of paths and such back there, and after lunch we headed back to Lowe’s.  Then he put out the stones while I tried, unsuccessfully, to get the girls to nap.  More “Row, row, row your boat” followed.

And, finally, here is the (partly) finished product.

Square foot garden, soon to be planted with lettuce and carrots and spinach.  (Done, by the time I got around to posting this!)veggie garden

Seating area, with fire pit (Craig’s idea) in the middle.

fire pit

Lucy’s square?

Lucy's square

Rose bushes.  (Very hard to see because they’re scrawny and not blooming, but there are three of them there.  I promise.)

Rose bushes

Mary and basil.  (The basil are also very, very hard to see.  One took a hit from the lawn mower, and is very short, but recovering.  The other was picked and snailed nearly to death.  Its fate is yet to be decided.)

Mary and Basil

The point of all this being, I’m feeling like, at least for fall and spring, it wouldn’t be so bad to live off the grid after all.  Of course, then you wouldn’t get to hear about our gardening adventures.  I guess we’ll have to keep the power…for now at least.

Strawberries

This post made my day.  Craig’s dad is growing strawberries, and we have been the beneficiaries of his bounty for the last month or so.  We are exploring new and exciting ways to use them all, but Lucy still likes to eat them plain, preferably daily or twice daily.  Craig’s dad has beautiful, neat, raised, mulched rows for his plants, but neglected strawberries for ground cover, now there’s an idea!  The book list at the end of the post is great, too.  I’m going to have to head to the library for a copy of Jamberry.  That was one of my favorites growing up.