Tuesday, May 18

Strange visitors....

Earlier this spring, the girls and I returned home on afternoon to find one of our cats standing at the base of the dogwood tree staring up into its branches...silly cat. No, wait...What is that?

Can you see it? How about now:

A groundhog??!! And that was how we learned that groundhogs do not necessarily spend all their time on the ground.

In the few weeks that have followed we have met several other visitors here in our own yard.

Thursday, May 13

Come follow, follow, follow....

Yesterday, after a long day that included driving through a neighborhood that was particularly hard hit by the devastating floods (mentioned a few posts ago) and not being able to do anything about it, I felt depressed and a little hopeless. Sodie, Naya, and Mado move through these recent days in a cloud of urgent tension as they work to complete the obligations of the ending school year. We dragged ourselves from the family car and headed indoors, towards an evening of certain drudgery. My gloomy eye was distracted by Toucie as she flounced off into the backyard, wearing the rose-tinted glasses that seem to come standard with most 5 year-olds. I left my belongings in the car, grabbed my camera, and followed her....

The fields all around our home are teeming with buttercups.

Hiding among the buttercups are hundreds of "Indian Strawberries"...completely inedible, but beautiful to look at....Toucie gathered a few and put them in her pocket.

Out where the horses have cropped the grass short, she found a small stand of daisies. She picked one for herself and one for me, whispering, "They smell like feet." in a reverent hush as she tucked it behind my ear.

The odor of the daisy must have prompted her to seek balance, for she sprinted across the pasture to the fence where honeysuckle runs rampant. I breathed in deeply of the rich perfume as I caught up with her. Ah...this is a scent that instantly brings to my mind a lifetime of clear memories of springtime bliss. Just as the scent of damp, fallen leaves or raw pumpkin pulp can summon up autumn recollections and pine sap or gingerbread aromas bring winter thoughts to mind, honeysuckle is a hallmark of spring to me.

There must be true medicinal qualities in the combined essence of daisy and honeysuckle. After sipping the nectar of the few blossoms she plucked for me, the heavy feeling I'd been carrying all day began to give way to a childlike lightness of heart.

As Toucie made the rounds to what were obviously special spots in our yard that brought her joy, the contagion of it all finally overtook me. My 5 year-old was an accidental therapist...here is some of the beauty that she lead me to witness that day:

Here is a girl who knows when to take a break from the drudgery and escape into nature.We found Mado in the backyard. She has the magical gift of being able to call forth a four-leaf-clover from any clover patch...open virtually any book in our home and you will probably find a four-leaf-clover pressed inside - some of them many years old.

Look...she found another before I'd even turned away...she makes my heart happy.

Life is going on, ever forward, flowering, fruiting, bursting with radiance.

Its good to look around yourself each day and recognize this affirmation: the world is a place of beauty. It is good to surround yourself with people who can give you a nudge on those days that you forget to look around.

Tuesday, May 11

Toucie is 5!!

Pancakes breakfast for the birthday girl!

 Before heading off to work early in the morning, Daddy left a surprise at Toucie's place at the table: this tiny little Japanese tea set...so cute!

Toucie's special present this year was to get her ears pierced...it is partly a cultural thing (I had mine pierced when I was 5, too) little girls in my family are adorned with little gold rings in their ears when they are babies. She has been asking since she was 2 to have them pierced and has always been told that she had to wait until she was 5. She was bursting with excitement to think that the day had finally come...can you tell? The other thrilling rite of passage was to go and sign up for her own library card. I'm afraid there are no longer any babies in this family...


We had a 'Rain Party' in the park...although, as it turned out, it only sprinkled a little.

Sloshing through the rills was the favorite activity of the littles.

Big kids tried out some other challenges.

 Those girls can rock the hula hoop! Omigoodness...is that my hubby there on the right? I am surrounded by talent, people...utterly surrounded.

My mom and dad have got the moves, too!! (well...at least my mom does! keep at it, Dad!)

Naya and Sodie sheltering from the drizzle.

Toucie surprised us by requesting pie instead of birthday cake...we made one apple and one blueberry (from the last of the summer's frozen berries...can't wait till blueberry season is here!)

Yeah, kiddo...I'm totally with you...birthdays are awesome!

Back at home, with just the family, the special request for birthday dinner was Spaghetti and Meatballs (we've been reading "Bread and Jam for Frances")...a wild experience for mama who had never before made this dish!

(Yes, there was an excess of cakes and pies...you're only 5 once!) Those are the candles Toucie dipped back at Candlemas....look at that happy face :)
Happy Birthday little one!

Monday, May 10

Birthday ideas for the young child

Toucie turned 5 at the end of April.....we had a really lovely celebration. Us bigger folk in the family always end up having just as much fun as Toucie and I think the reason is that I've learned (now that I'm on my fourth child) to keep things VERY simple and to let every family member involve themselves as they wish. We have followed a basic rule of thumb when it comes to the number of guests to invite: 1 guest for every year of the birthday child's age. I never plan games or activities...just a general theme, like "play in the creek", or "play in the new sandbox". With hopes that it might spark someone else's party planning imagination and prove useful, here is a little list outlining Toucie's springtime birthday celebrations from age 1 to age 5:

Age 1: Playsilk Party
-1 one-year-old friend and his mama came to our home for lunch.
-Favors/Activity: my mama friend helped me dye 10 white playsilks with koolaid and I sent 5 home with her.
-Food: soup and bread for mamas...lots of nursing for the babes :)
-Special present: a store-bought rainbow silk and a wooden horse swing (Nova Naturals)
-1 1/2 hours long

Age 2: Creek Party
-2 two-year-old friends and their mamas met us at a local park with a crystal clear wading creek.
- Activity: playing in the creek, pouring endless cups of water, trying to catch frogs.
-Favors: we made big batches of homemade play dough beforehand and put big balls of the stuff in big paper cones (after wrapping the dough in plastic wrap). We attached the recipe for homemade playdough and added 2 cookie cutters to each cone.
-Food: nibble trays (muffin tins in this case) of fruit/veg/cheese/crackers/etc in toddler-bite sized pieces and cake :)
-Special present: a huge yellow wagon and a wooden ride-on 'bike'
-Supposed to be 2 hours, but everyone had so much fun it lasted for 3 1/2!

Age 3: Sandbox Party
-3 friends of mixed ages (and their parents) came to our house for cake and to inaugurate the new sandbox that Daddy and I had built as her birthday present.
-Activity: Play in the sandbox, of course! We asked each guest to bring a bag of playsand in lieu of a gift. Each child emptied their sand and mixed it with the rest, and so their gift became a 'forever' part of the sandbox.
-Favors: I used the sandbox sand to make a stack of 4 sandbags (palm-sized, like beanbags) out of pretty fabrics for each child.
-Food: just cake this time!
-Special present: well, the sandbox...plus a wheelbarrow/shovel/rake
-2 hours long

Age 4: Garden Party
-4 friends of mixed ages (and parents) came to our house to have a "garden party" and some snacks and cake.
-Activity- planting a bed full of sunflower seeds and puttering in the dirt.
- Favors: each child received a big tin watering can (just like the one Peter Rabbit hid in!) inside it were some big tissue paper flowers and a cd that I made of favorite gardening/growing songs. Also an invitation to come back at summer solstice to see how high the sunflowers had grown.
-Food: nibble trays of fruit/veg/cheese/crackers again...this time served in clean flower pots. Cake!
-Special present:
- 2 hours long

Age 5: Rain Party
-4 friends (the fifth one couldn't make it) of mixed ages and their parents met us at a local park where we set up under a picnic shelter with a fireplace...we chose this spot because rain was forecast. We wanted to be outside in the rain, but have the option of shelter from lightening should it become necessary.
-Activity: play in the rain and in the network of little rills that criss-cross the park. (We also brought frisbees, hula hoops, balls, kites, and bubbles to take advantage of the park's broad spans of green lawn)
-Favors: a large, colorful umbrella for each child, tied with a ribbon.
-Food: baguettes and cheese/veg and fruit/hummus...and, instead of cake, two birthday pies as requested by the birthday girl
-Special present: she got her ears pierced...she'd been asking since she was 2 yrs old.(I got mine pierced when I was 5) Also, with much ceremony, she got her own library card.
-3 1/2 hours long (what stamina!our friends can really go the distance!)

Sunday, May 9

Senior Prom

You watch them play at being princess all their childhood....then one day you turn around and they really are.

I am a coupe of weeks late in posting about this happy event...prom landed right between the two bouts of appendicitis. In fact, Naya got out of the hospital the day before prom! Sodie just got out of the hospital yesterday...two days before exam week at school. Whew!