The Lighthouse

the lighthouse

24 December 2010

Hush

There is a palpable hush in our little world. It is Christmas Eve and the Peanuts are in bed for a few hours of rest before we go to Midnight Mass. The tiny tree is trimmed, packages are beautifully wrapped, and displayed so at to tease and entice.

We have been preparing ourselves for four weeks,and now the celebration is about to begin at last. Not only do we have a tree and treats and presents, but our new year will begin in a new house... yet another chapter for this Family of Nuts.

Speaking of family. We are greatly blessed to be together this Christmas - the eight of us and Oma too.  There are many of you out there we consider to be family, and you are in our thoughts and prayers.  May this Christmas be one of blessing and great joy for you.  Some of you have suffered this past year, and our prayers for comfort and peace are with you.

Happy Christmas, dear Reader.  May God bless you.

CTKS

The Peanuts are a good bunch of nuts. They really do try to behave. Take yesterday, for example. Mama Nut was leaving the house to walk the Big Nuts to the school bus stop, and, as is usual whenever he sees his mother, Five piped up with, "Mommy, I want..." which this time was completed with "a drink". "You're going to have to wait," said Mama Nut, "I have to take your brothers to the bus."
Hoping to be helpful, I went into the kitchen, and filled a cup with water, offering it to Five. "No" he said, "I have to wait for Mommy."

Some time ago, I took Three to the library. The library, as we know, has many wonderful books, but they also have toys - a big attraction for the toy-playing demographic. (Libraries sure know how to get us through the door!) On that day, a featured toy was a basket full of animals - plastic mini ones, that is - of all habitats and time periods. Dinosaurs mingled with zebras while giant ants chased tiny tigers.
"Guess what animal I have behind my back," Three suggested.
"A turtle?" I gamely played along.
"Something like that," He encouraged.
Thinking about animals with shells on their backs, I went for snail.
"Close!" he tells me, "A giraffe!"

Winter weather calls for oatmeal in the mornings. Somehow, Five understands this to be "opie-milk".

When looking at Five, he would seem to have a normal-sized head. However, if we were to have access to highly sensitve and extremely accurate scientific equipment, I'm sure we would discover that his head is actually unusually large for a boy his size and age.
This hypothesis of mine is based on the fact that he often bangs his head on things, into things, and against things. Perhaps this is to prepare himself to be a stunt double, or crash test dummy?
The other day, in trying to see a book, he bumped into his brother Four. "Say sorry" I reminded him. "I don't have to say sorry to Four" he told me, "He bumped his head into myself." Poor thing just doesn't realize how much room his head takes up.

We have a routine of vanilla and ice so efficient First Responders would be amazed. It comes from frequent practice and application. Not too long ago, Five took a tumble down the stairs so we swung into action. Usually he's very good about ice wrapped in a cloth being pressed to the emerging bump, but this time he kept swatting at us, so I held his hands out of the way. "Give me my hands" he whimpered, "I want my hands back!"
I heard my heart break in that moment.

Being Canadian, we don't let a little ice and snow stop us from trooping to the park. Four and Five were wrapped in the best man has to offer munchkins as protection against the elements. Being so densley wrapped that he resembled a mini Michelin Man, Five could barely walk, so we propped him in the Red Flyer and away we went to the Blue Park (the one he really likes). The play structure was so slippery that Five had to crawl up the stairs on hands and knees. Four, being a little steadier on his pins had mastered the ice-walk technique and was on his way down the slide. Icey slide + slippery snow pants = a wild ride, let me tell you. Four went shooting off that slide just like a cartoon character - flying through the air in a perfect seated position before landing with a thump at least three feet from the end of the slide.
Good thing Oma wasn't there to see that!

15 December 2010

Pondering

To ponder: to weigh in the mind; to consider especially quietly, soberly,and deeply.

"But Mary kept these all these things, pondering them in her heart".Lk 2:19

How right Merriam Webster is: pondering is not merely thinking about a thing. To ponder is to keep something in your heart, to consider it quietly, soberly, and deeply, as St. Luke tells us Mary did at the birth of her son.

She weighed in her mind the knowledge that her savior had been born. While every one else was amazed and talked about it with great excitement, Mary kept it in her heart. She was quiet, she was sober... solemn... grave... with the import of what had occurred, and she took it all deep within herself.

The dignity of Mary is striking. She preserved her modesty by keeping what was hers to herself. We might think she was reserved... maybe even a little cold in her quiet reflection. I certainly thought of Mary as distant, impossibly perfect, and untouched by the events happening around her: Angels delivering messages? The Messiah born at last... as her son? Fleeing to Egypt based on a dream? No big deal. She won't let any of it distract her from being serene and composed.

The truth, of course, is something else indeed. The magnitude... the importance... of the event deserves some quiet thought; it is worthy of pondering.

Fish fingers

We look forward to simple things in this house. For example, Monday is garbage day. Four and Five are big, big fans of garbage trucks. Well… anything on wheels in fact, and garbage trucks definitely qualify. It helps that they drive right by our house: garbage; recycling; compost. And each of the three trucks goes up the street past our house, and down the street past our house. For those as mathematically-challenged as I am, that’s six passes of big trucks past our front window. What makes it even better is that sometimes, while the truck is in sight of our front window, the man who runs alongside the truck will push a button that makes parts inside move, causing the garbage to be squished up and disappear. Moving parts are as fascinating to boys as wheels are.

Another cause for excitement is library day. Every two weeks or so, I go to the library, book bag in tow, to restock our supply of reading material. By ‘our’, what I mean is ‘their’. ‘Their’ being Four and Five… with a little One, Two, and Three thrown in. It’s fun for me, because I enjoy forging connections between people and the printed word (please note: I said ‘printed word’ very deliberately. Do not get me started on bound books vs. electronic publishing) and because by the end of two weeks, the literate in this house are ready for a fresh batch of story-time material. I like browsing the shelves for good books, and with each selection I wonder: is this going to be the favourite book of the bunch? Because there is always one that is a big hit, and gets read aloud at least 73 times a day. It could be about a duck driving a truck, an animal ABC book, or a story about an enormous potato (which Five calls the Bigtato book) The front runner this time seems to be one called Barney’s fingers, or something like that. It’s about a fish called Barney who has fingers. Get it? Fish fingers? You know… like fish sticks… oh, never mind.

08 December 2010

CTKS

We had a lively discussion the other night at supper about flags of the world. Two was trying to remember which country's flag was white with a red 'X' on it. To help us figure it out, he told us his friend 'Whoobert' had a shirt from there.

"Whoobert," he said.
"Hubert?" We asked.
"Whoo-bert, we call him," Two replied. Well, that's that then. Whoobert has a shirt from the country with a white flag that has a red 'X' on it.



In the latest batch of library books is one called "The Enormous potato" about a... well, a very large potato. One of the lines of this picture book about a farmer who grew a special spud describes the wonder as "a really big potato"
Which has led Five to ask us many many times each day to read him the "Bigtato Book"

Another one of those books is an animals ABC book: A is for alligator; B is for black bear... and so on. S happens to be for scorpion. The scorpion is a mean looking critter... all stingy tail, pinchy claws, and beady little eyes. Five doesn't like the scorpion at all, and will scootch to the other end of the couch when we get to that page, telling me, "I don't like that guy. I don't want to look at him." and waits for me to turn the page, so it can't get him.

At one point during the weekend, we caught about half an hour of an old television show called Airwolf. It's about a team of good guys who use a top-secret helicopter whose best feature is a really cool soundtrack that plays whenever it's in flight.
It was the first time the Peanuts had seen the show. Mama Nut and I were big fans of it ourselves, back in the days when we thought shoulder pads were the height of fashion. (Jan Michael Vincent had absolutely nothing to do with our high regard for this show.)
Anyway. While Mama Nut was getting Five ready for bed, he recounted all the details of the show, stopping himself occasionally to ask Mama to hum the musical theme - correcting her when necessary. Then he would cut her off with, "That's all. Thank you." and carry on narrating the story, cuing her again in the appropriate spot for more musical interlude.
I should point out that he's three years old, and a few months ago could barely make himself understood well enough to ask for juice.

03 December 2010

Home in 23 days

... until the House of Nuts is on the move once more.

In the way that has become typical of us, we began to think that we should think about moving. Not long after, moving became a reality: the day after Christmas we will get the keys to our new house.

The time between thought and move here to Sohoe two years ago was two months. I've had other moves that happened that quickly, but this one - 23 days - is the quickest, by far. Not to mention awkwardly timed, what with Christmas coming and all. It seems that our Advent preparations this year will involve packing and cleaning, rather than baking and wrapping.

What a wonderful way to begin a new year though - everything feels new again in a new home... full of hope and promise and unknown potential.

The truly amazing detail is that we're moving only eight houses away. We can see the new place from the front door of the current house. It backs onto the park the boys play in, and not only will the big boys be able to go to the same school, they will use the same bus stop.

The drawback to it being so nearby is that we're thinking this is going to be an easy move; that we'll just load up the Red Flyer wagon with sweaters and tea towels and legos and pull it down the street behind us, then unload the things directly into their new places. Sounds great, doesn't it? But consider the date, and the expected weather conditions. Consider how many sweaters and tea towels and legos there are in this family of eight people and how many trips of the Red Flyer that would require. Imagine unmentionables falling off the pretty red wagon into the slush, left behind for cars to drive over, and a random neighbour to leave on the front doorstep because they were too embarrassed for you to bring themselves to ring the bell.

Anyway. Think of us as you fight the crowds, or family, or the holiday blues and be thankful that you're already home.

29 November 2010

Preparation

First week of Advent. The world is hushed, awaiting the birth of the Christ Child.

Ok, it's not. It's crazy, rushed, and noisy, with lists and lines, and sales. There are plastic reindeer on green lawns, and piped 'Christmas' music everywhere you go. (If songs about chestnuts or lovers coming home can be considered Christmasy)

Still, a feeling of anticipation is building. The urge to prepare is growing stronger: to clean the house, bake cookies,to delve into quiet and prayer.

Every Advent/Christmas season has its own flavour. Some years we (the House of Nuts) go all out with the decorations, the festivities, and the food. In those years, our joy is exuberant, vital.

In other years, the preparation runs deeps and still, well below the surface. The joy is subdued, the mood more reflective.

This year is one of the latter. We are quiet and still in mood this Advent, preparing for a quiet and still Christmas.

I hope these next four weeks will bring moments of peace to you and your family as you make preparations for Christmas.

25 November 2010

The fonder heart

Absence makes the heart grow fonder, or so I've been told. I'm hoping that's the case between us, dear Reader, as I've been less than prolific here at the Lighthouse of late. I hope to be back to a regular schedule of posting next week. Till then, I hope you are well. Happy Thanksgiving to the Americans out there. Please be safe if you are driving, and remember to love the ones you're with.

16 November 2010

Horse puckies

There must be something in the air. Or perhaps a genetic marker has been triggered, releasing crankiness, whining, and boundary testing in Four and Five. It's unusual that a four year-old and almost-three year-old would be going through the same difficulties at the same time (nature's way of preserving the mother) but here in the House of Nuts, that's precisely what we've been dealing with for the past week.

Nature also has a way of preserving the cranky child ... or at least these particular cranky children: they are cute. Edibly cute. I can't pass them by without at least patting their head, but usually I have to stop and snuggle them, which they endure with resigned patience... most of the time.

Cute has a way of fading into distant memory while the said cute being is wailing - no not just wailing, but full-out shrieking - because they've been told: No, you can't jump off the roof with your Superman pyjamas, even though they have a cape; or, Stop hitting your brother over the head with the dump truck.

Having been told to say sorry to his brother for the dump truck incident, the offender collapses to the floor in a boneless heap, barely able to get out the words: I ca-a-a-an't. Clearly, we ask far too much of these children! Child is sent to the stairs, which inspires another bout of protests: I ca-a-a-a-n't. This poor soul - who has spent every moment since opening his eyes with the turning on of the sun in nonstop motion - cannot walk to the stairs, so, out of pity (for him? for herself?) Mama Nut sends the hooligan down to his bed, where he can moan to his tiny heart's content. The moaning of course has the decibel level of a World Cup vuvuzela concert, but if we give in to one vuvuzela, we will have to give in to five vuvuzelas. This is a war of numbers, people! What I mean to say is, little boys together have an ingrained pack instinct, and if one discovers a sure-fire way to get better food or shelter... or tv privileges... they share the information. Our survival depends on our endurance... we must hold the line.

Discord arises over who gets the long spoon to eat the yoghurt at lunch and who should have possession of the clone trooper now (Did he have it first? Yes, but I want it) And to ensure we have not forgotten either about their little selves or their very pressing needs, both Four and Five have taken to repeating their status updates, which go something like this: "Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. I want some lunch. Mo-o-o-m, I want some lunch. I want some lunch." And so on. Never mind that this child needed half an hour to poke indolently at his bowl of cereal only 20 minutes ago. Naps have been applied early and often, and if in perfectly balanced combination with food, have helped to stave off some of the more outrageous displays of crankiness.

To give him credit, my Number Five Nephew is simultaneously teething a back molar and fighting a cold; circumstances under which I'd be uber cranky as well. As for Four, he seems to have decided he's a grown up now and is determined to prove it.

Earlier in the week, we decided to take advantage of the fine weather and distract the boys by taking them on an adventure to a nearby conservation area. There are miles of paths through the woods for walking and horseback riding (BYOH, as they are not provided). Normally this is the sort of day they love - Mommy and their Tante Tess all to themselves with a car ride to boot, woohoo! It didn't work this time, however. Four didn't want to walk, didn't care for the waterfall but then didn't want to leave the waterfall and insisted in picking up every stick along the way... and letting us know several times he was ready for lunch.

Five is normally an absolute trooper about walking but on this day he pouted over tree roots, moped through mud and sulked about the birds chirping in the branches. Because of the horses, one must be attentive as to where one places one's feet. A helpful family tradition has evolved of calling out: Horse puckies! to alert fellow walkers of hazards on the path to be avoided. For some reason, Five took it into his head that horse puckies were something to be feared... perhaps they were bad men on the path behind us? Whatever he imagined them to be, he was scared of them and it took us a while to console him.

Four kept talking about wanting to go back to the car, while Five took up a low-grade moaning, just under his breath. Nothing was right: he disliked walking through mud, wasn't interested in the smashed pumpkin on the riverbank or the horse that just trotted by - definite signs that the boy was not quite well.

Having examined the 'map' at the entrance to the trail, and based on previous outings in these woods, we came to what we determined was a good place to turn around and head back. This triggered yet more protest, but we persevered and soon enough found ourselves back at the waterfall, where we paused to enjoy the wonders of nature's beauty - and negotiate who got to climb down the stairs first.

Something went wrong at this point. We realized the trails weren't very clearly marked, and one path cutting between the trees began to look like another. It began to feel as though we were walking much longer than we should, and that none of the landmarks looked familiar - certainly we hadn't crossed that bridge on our into the woods? So we turned around, getting a little grumpy ourselves at the thought of possible hours spent circling the paths with a whiney toddler and three boys sitting on a school bus waiting for someone to come and get them. We turned back a short way and climbed up a hill and plunged further into the unknown woods before realizing it was a foolish tactic and we should head back to what we knew was familiar.

I must tell you that Mama Nut lost it a little at this point, pointing out to the pines and maples around her that the stinking map posted at the park entrance didn't show any of these trails, and a sign that said exit should not point into thicket of brush which clearly was not an exit. Somewhere around this time, I tried to take everyone's mind off the ludicrous situation we were in by pointing out some very fresh horse puckies. Four was very keen to see them for himself, but no matter how emphatically we pointed and directed his gaze, he couldn't seem to spot the puckies right in front of him. (What is it about the Y chromosome?)

We eventually found our way back to the water fall, and from there we did find the path we were looking for. By now we were marching very determindly, as if to convey our displeasure to the park around us. Five wanted to be carried, then wanted to walk on his own. Four wanted to go back to the car, but didn't want to leave. We seemed to be walking the same path we took in from the entrance, but now found ourselves coming at the helpful map from the other direction. Nevermind; we could see the car in the distance.

Boys were bundled into the car and gownups gratefully slumped into their seats, with plenty of time to spare to meet the big boys off the school bus. As I prepared to pull out of the parking lot, I commented that someone smelled rather aromatic. Mama Nut agreed, that yes, it smelled like horse puckies. At that moment, she looked down at her feet, just in time to watch as a horse pucky fell off her shoe.

15 November 2010

A day in the house of Nuts...

7.00 AM - wake up when 'the sun turns on' and start to play (hockey, tonka trucks, dinosaurs, fly-like-superman... whatever is handy) but pretend to be quiet, cause the alarm doesn't go off until 7.30 and grown-ups tend to be growly if we wake them up before the alarm goes off.

7.30 AM - Finally! We can be loud! And play! Oh, and get washed and dressed tidy our room and eat breakfast and pack our bags for school... but only if we're told at least 3 times. Otherwise it's the weekend and we can play!

8.00 AM - Mama Nut has laid out breakfast, made and packed lunches, ensured school bags are properly stocked, checked that clothes are clean, hair is brushed, the right shoes are on the right feet and herded 3 boys to the bus stop.
Two little boys stand in the window calling goodbye to their brothers and frantically waving until the others are indecipherable specks off in the distance. Then they play! (Or watch PBS Kids on tv)

8.15 AM - Ask where mummy is.

8.30 AM - Mama Nut comes through the door and little boys ask for food

8.35 - 11.30 AM - Ask for food. And play!

11.30 AM - 12.15 PM - Poke disinterestedly at food.

12.15 - 2.30 PM - Ride in car, then walk in woods for a very long time. Youngest brother falls asleep in the car on the way home, then wakes up to go to bed for a nap. Other brother gets to play! But is told he must be quiet while Mama Nut rests too.

2.30 - 3.15 PM - "Quiet Time" which involves asking for food, and driving large metal toy trucks up and down the living room floor.

3.15 PM - Mama Nut leaves to pick up big boys from the school bus.

3.20 PM - Ask where Mummy is.

3.25 PM - Smallest Peanut wakes up. Asks where mummy is.

3.30 PM - Mama comes home with big boys. Now it's time to play! And ask for food.
Three children are corralled into doing homework. Messages from school are addressed, belongings are sorted, long narratives of the days events are told.

4.00 PM - Supper preparations begin. Children are asked to help in various ways that make them unhappy because they'd rather play!

5.00 PM - Supper time! This takes 10 minutes if its something we like, and 45 minutes if its something suspicious. If we finish quickly though, we can go downstairs to play!

6.00 PM - Cubs/Beavers/Swim lessons/Y Time/Altar server training... can't we have any time to play?

7.30 PM - Bed time. Rats. We barely got to play today. Must tell my brothers something important.

7.32 PM - Grown-up reminds us it's quiet time.
Start to sing the Marine Land Theme Song.

7.34 PM - Grown-ups starting to sound cranky, and tell us it's bed time.

7.40 PM - I sure wish I could pla.....

04 November 2010

Dante's dressing room

You know Dante - he wrote about the circles of hell. In modern terms, if waiting in line for the flu shot is the easiest circle of eternal torment, then the ladies dressing room of any clothing store is at least three quarters of the way to complete and utter misery (trying to get customer service from an automated telephone menu)

Not even Catharine Zeta Jones relishes the idea of clothes shopping, I'm sure of it. She probably has clothes made to measure, specifically and perfectly just for her. She has hired someone of her exact proportions and colouring to first try it all on for drape and colour. The items not rejected are then sent to her home, where she is able to try them on at her leisure... after eating some chocolate to soothe her soul, and by candle light - because every woman looks her best by candle light. Her private dressing room has a mirror that can only flatter, but has not even one pesky, intrusive sales clerk asking "How are we doing in there? Did we manage to get those pants on? I just knew puce was Madam's colour, and polyester is always so comfortable, isn't it?"

For those of us who are not Catharine Zeta Jones, we must brave the scores of racks in countless stores packed with clothes made for other people. People who are not short-waisted, or pear shaped, or slope-shouldered, or super tall, or bountifully busted... or whatever your clothing-related nemesis may be. Off the rack apparel doesn't seem to be made for real world women.

Purveyors of women's fashion don't really understand what clothes shopping is like for the average woman. We don't like being on display to the passing world as we sort through bins of unmentionables, or hold slacks against ourselves to judge if they'd fit, thereby bypassing the necessity of braving The Mirror. We speed through racks of tops and tees with the hopes of not attracting the attention of The Sales Assistant, because if there's anything worse than The Mirror, it's The Sales Assistant.

When we are fortunate enough to have made a hopeful selection, dodging the offers of 'help' from at least two store employees, we enter the dressing room... or step behind the curtain that doesn't close all the way. These areas are brightly lit with florescent bulbs, just to make sure no detail goes overlooked. Some shops provide two mirrors in the cubicle to enhance the sensation of there being a whole lot of you in the room, while other stores prefer their customers to peek through the curtain to make sure no one else is around before darting out to stand in front of the mirror which is helpfully placed in the main shopping area - in the black cocktail dress we're hoping fits ok and doesn't wash us out but it's hard to tell because of the florescent lights... and the striped socks with a hole in the toe and the legs we didn't shave that morning, not realizing that public humiliation was on the agenda for the day.

Hardly ever does it end with one trip to The Mirror. We make our initial dream selection with the hope that this time, everything will fit perfectly. We shed our street clothes (ie. the clothes we already own) and wiggle, hop, shimmy, squirm, spin, and tug our way into potential new ensemble. All with constant knocking on the changing room door and bright chirping inquiries from the sales staff. Invariably we must reverse the above procedure, go back out to the sales floor and make yet another selection (second best options, hope is fading) and do the whole thing over again. And so on, until either we give up, or are at last successful.

Finally we make it up to the cash, worn out and rumpled. Big smile in place, the clerk asks brightly, "Did you find everything you were looking for?" to which I always lie and say yes, though I'm tempted to tell her the truth: that no, I didn't find thinner thighs, or Johnny Depp; but I found a pair of jeans that fit and I'd like to go home now please.

What we learn from children

We can learn a lot from little children, especially what it means to be trusting, to be joyful, to be unselfconscious. They throw themselves into every moment with abandon and are just as free with their honesty - sometimes to the chagrin of adults.

Those are positive characteristics of childhood that we often lose as we grow up. We need reminding from time to time to be more childlike in how we perceive things, or express ourselves.

Unfortunately there are other childish traits we hold on to and would be much better off for growing out of. I think of this almost every evening, when my nephews go to bed. Every night the routine is the same; there are no surprise expectations: brush teeth, put on pyjamas, fold clothes at end of bed, get into bed, say prayers, be quiet, no more talking, go to sleep.

Though the rules never change, and even though they are reminded - gently (at first)- what to do, they act like lunatics, taking forever to get ready, forgetting to clean their teeth, leaving clothes on the floor, and then talking and singing instead of sleeping. It isn't until an adult completely loses their mind and with raised voice, promises dire consequences for transgressors. Or more direct action is taken; this may shock you, but a bottom or two has been paddled in this household.

We're not so different, us adults. Our disobedience looks different, and the consequences are not the same, and yet we too rail against expectations and protest about the rules. God reminds us gently at first, but in our giddy oblivion we either don't hear, or we disregard Him. We ignore the clearing of the throat, the casual chat, the friendly reminder, the loving correction... until finally the grown up comes stomping down the stairs and declares that there will be no more computer time for the week. Or, you know, the spiritual equivalent of that.

From my nephews I have learned to pay attention to life... and hopefully to listen better the first time.

26 October 2010

Grumpy and the Knight

In a voice absolutely laden with resignation, Daddy Nut said, without looking up from the supper table, to Number Three Nephew:
"Go get your costume on. It's the only Hallowe'en you're gonna get."
(Three was going to a Beavers costume party)

"Costume? What costume?" Asked Three.

"I don't know. Just get something from the box."

"Oh." Standard reply from any of the Peanuts.


Several minutes later he came back as Sir Three, Squire of the Realm, having assembled tunic, helmet, breastplate and so on, from the odds and ends of the costume box. For his troubles he came home with heaps of tasty treats. Not a bad haul for a tickle trunk knight.

24 October 2010

How England and Holland made Italy and Sweden: CTKS

The blood of Daddy Nut is steeped in Britannia. His forebears ruled the waves, ate Yorkshire pudding, and drank pots of tea.

Mama Nut comes from another seafaring nation - the Netherlands, home of wooden shoes, tulips, windmills and polder dykes.

The British and the Dutch have several things in common: they are blond and fair, are not known for great teeth, and both love football.

The English often sound like they have a mouth full of marbles when they talk, while the Dutch would seem to have hairballs.

This particular son of Brits and this specific daughter of Holland have very Canadian patterns of speech. Their conversation is peppered with "eh", and "thank you", in an ever so subtle Canadian-twang-meets-neo-Scottish-lilt.

How did it happen then, that Number Three Nephew sounds like a surfer dude? More surprisingly, Four is a little Italian boy (Somebody helpa me! Finda my car!)while Five could have come from Ikea (I see a skewel bus; a yellow skewel bus.)

Pass the pasta smorgasbord, please.

23 October 2010

Where in the world... am I?

I live in Sohoe, which is a Slice of Heaven on Earth. Let me set the scene for you:

Two of the Great Lakes are joined by an historical canal. The land is fertile, and the climate is mild, so all around is beautiful agricultural land - cherry, peach, pear and apple orchards alongside vineyards, corn fields and dairy farms. There are picturesque villages, a few small cities, and one of the natural wonders of the world. The landscape offers rolling hills as well as flat, far-reaching plains. There is a Carolinian forest and several significant historical sites. Sohoe is heavenly indeed.

What endears Sohoe to me is that is reminds me of Germany. There are narrow, winding country lanes, houses set into the hills, sheep and cows grazing in the pastures of well-kept homestead farms. The weather is reminiscent of Germany at this time of year as well: the temperatures are cool but milder than much of Canada, and the rainy days are straight out of my childhood overseas. Something in the quality of light here, is suggestive of Deutschland.

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to go wandering for a bit. I haven't yet done much driving around the area myself, as I am usually with the family, with BIL behind the wheel. I have a general idea of where places are, but have you noticed that things look different when you are driving than they do when you are a passenger?

There I was, navigating the windy roads and lanes, enjoying the scenery. I pulled over at one point to let a shiny black SUV pass me - they were in a hurry and I was poking along. (Good thing I was driving BoB, our family van. Nobody expects a van to break any speed limits so I was free to saunter as I wanted) It dawned on me that I had no idea how to get to where I wanted to go. Was I supposed to turn right at the gabled barn, or go straight through at the herb farm? Did I want to be on First, Fourth or Eleventh Louth Street? Or maybe 8th Avenue? They sound like significant streets, right? You're picturing 8th Avenue in New York City, but here, no matter how grand the name (anything called an Avenue has pretensions to grandeur, in my opinion) it is a country lane wandering through corn fields or following the historical canal. Anyway, the point is, I've been down many of the roads here at one point or another, but unless you really pay attention, one beautiful vineyard looks like another beautiful vineyard until suddenly you are trying to get yourself to Schmalmart without a copilot.

I sat at one crossroads after another, trying to remember if this horse pasture looked familiar because we pass by on our way to the grocery store, or when we go for a drive to the Wonder of the World, which is in an entirely different section of Sohoe. However, as I am a most fortunate person without schedules or deadlines (and because BoB is equipped with a very detailed map) I was able to just enjoy my wheeled migration through the beauty that surrounds our home. I did eventually find Schmalmart, but that was incidental to the day.

I live in a Slice of Heaven on Earth

18 October 2010

A report from the world of boys


I’ve learned a lot about men (also known as boys) from living with Nephews One through Five (also known as the Peanuts). Here are a few insights:

1. Boys are competitive. Everything, from putting on their shoes to eating meatballs is a contest to them. They will assess who has the fastest shoes, and who has the most meatballs, and they. Must. Win.

2. Boys need to be in constant motion. Whether putting on their shoes or eating meatballs, boys tend to flop or squirm or wiggle throughout the entire activity. The only time the Peanuts are still is when they are asleep; and then only because the grownups have finally had enough nonstop movement and we’ve flipped their off switch.

3. Boys have very little sense of personal space. When putting on their shoes or eating meatballs, boys will find the smallest possible area to do it in, and do it piled on top of each other. It appears, through observation, that two limbs must be touching at all times, or they just aren’t close enough. Number Three Nephew is an exception to this rule. He’s the one who will draw a boundary on the couch and tell you, “You can’t go over this line.” while the other four will happily all share one cushion.

4. Boys are loud. Regardless the task (it could be putting on their shoes or eating meatballs), boys like to make noise. Noise. Noise! Every activity is accompanied by a soundtrack of sound effects, music, or dialogue. They also tend to be very exuberant in their noise production, so things get very loud, and because of #5 (and perhaps #1 also) they tune out all the other noise around them – though they know it’s loud – and simply increase their own volume to ensure they are heard.

5. Boys listen selectively. Unless they think what you’re talking about has anything to do with them, to positive effect, they will not hear you tell them to stop eating those meatballs and put on their shoes. The most common response around here is, “What?”, closely followed by, “But I didn’t hear you!” In one of my first CTKS posts, I quoted Two as saying, “You yelled just the right amount that time” or words to that effect. So true.

6. Boys have complete faith that Mama Nut knows everything, from where the shoes are, to did they like meatballs when they were five. This saves them from the dreary task of having to remember such things themselves. They also don’t know where the milk is, or if there is any more toilet paper in the house.

7. Boys like to be helpful when they’re feeling warm and fuzzy. They will gladly tidy up the shoes or help you make the meatballs because they appreciate being useful. They will be especially helpful if there is an element of competition involved, or if they will win something in return. A note for moms desperate for help with the laundry: boys prefer to feel benevolent rather than obligated, so be wary of issuing ultimatums.

8. Boys are incredibly territorial. They are loathe to have anyone move their shoes or touch their meatballs. Their treasure may be just elastic bands and old batteries in the eyes of a girl (or mother... very different entities in a boy’s understanding) but the elastic or battery is his own... his precious, and therefore worthy of being prized and protected.

There is more to boys, of course – wonderful, mysterious creatures that they are. I’d love to hear your boy stories, if you care to share them.

13 October 2010

The Korean guy

I grew up in a small family: two parents, one sibling and I. We made a quiet, contained, and mobile unit. We weren’t entirely cloistered – we did, after all, venture out to collect the mail and purchase supplies when necessary – but we did tend to keep ourselves to ourselves. We had a small circle of valued friends and enjoyed entertaining them in our home. We weren’t a casual family however; friends generally didn’t drop in spontaneously but rather arranged plans well ahead of time. Most of our time at home was spent with each of us quietly reading our own book, music playing softly in the background.

Needless to say, life is very different here, in the House of Nuts. There are five very active boys, one very exuberant Daddy Nut, my sister who somehow keeps them all together (alive, fed, clothed, content) and me...maintaining a semblance of sanity in my quiet corner, but loving all the chaos nonetheless.

This is a house where people do drop in, and events occur spontaneously. Take this past weekend as an example. Family friends came to visit for Thanksgiving. They have four boys who get along with the five Peanuts very well. We had planned the sleeping arrangements, stored up sufficient provender, and prepared the house to be seen by company.

The evening before their expected arrival, we were enjoying our Friday Fast supper of rice and beans. As often happens when the menu features rice, we talked about how in many parts of the world, rice is the main component of all three meals in the day. “For example,” said Daddy Nut (my brother-in-law) “the Korean guy who’s coming here, would appreciate this rice very much.” Knowing my BIL as I do, I began to imagine scenarios of what he could mean with that statement: a Korean gentleman involved in scouting, the Knights of Columbus, or the school, was coming by the house later in the week; or, a Korean man would be arriving during the week to work on the water meter or some such thing; or, maybe it had to do with BIL’s marathon, and the Korean fellow who was coming here had been talking about the nutritional benefits of rice for athletes in training?

But no. The friends who were spending Thanksgiving with us were bringing their Korean exchange student with them. Apparently BIL had told us earlier in the week, but honestly, the first my sister and I heard about it was with those words: the Korean guy who’s coming here would appreciate this rice very much.

What fun it was, to have him with us, this man of 28 who barely spoke English and had never experienced a Thanksgiving, or even eaten turkey before. Have you noticed how people communicate with each other, when they don’t speak the same language? Speech becomes slower, and louder, loses prepositions, and gains exaggerated gestures. There are broad smiles all around when communication is successful; when understanding is not achieved, the same words are used over and over, but ever more slowly and with greater volume as if somehow the same sentence spoken more loudly will aid comprehension.

Regardless, we managed to share complex ideas such as Korean social structure, and the differences between a marathon and a triathlon. We enjoyed the beauty of Sohoe together, seeing the Falls through his eyes, and laughing at his three helpings of his first ever turkey. He narrated (in Korean-tinted English) for us a slide show of his trip to the Philippines where he met many Spanish people, and talked about how much he missed his mom.

You see how it all comes home again? You can travel half-way around the world, you can find yourself in unexpected circumstances, but at the heart of us all, is family.

11 October 2010

Of neighbourly neighbours

We have very neighbourly neighbours here in Sohoe. From the very weekend we moved in here, they have taken an interest in us – and not merely as a source of gossip. They know us as ‘the family with all the boys’ who left the big city behind. They endure with good grace the chatter of little Four who is eager to make a friend of anyone who passes the house. Even the garbage men wave as they go by, knowing how admired they are by Four and Five who think anyone who drives a big truck is the bee’s knees. One neighbour even gives daily Peanut updates to her family in another town.

Our neighbours notice when we have car trouble, and come to offer help. They realized I was home alone this summer while the Nuts were on holiday, and took me shopping or stopped by to chat in case I was lonely. I’ve been asked by strangers in the street about the boys, or some piece of family news.

This is a big change from the place we lived before, where two neighbours who happen to be outside at the same time don’t look at each other (a discrete nod of the head might be acceptable if both parties have lived there for ten years or so.) Fences are erected not to establish property lines, but to continue the illusion that no one else exists.

It’s taken some getting used to, all this friendliness and interest. The other day, a gentleman I didn’t recognize came to the front door. My instinct was to ignore him, but there he was on the other side of the glass, looking right at me. “Can you get the door?” I asked my brother in law, “there’s a man there.” feeling very un-neighbourly and a little grouchy that someone had the nerve to approach the door. And so he did, and had a good old conversation with the man at the door too. Doesn’t he turn out to live down the street a bit, and has noticed the flag we’re flying at the front of the house. He had some old books from his mother, in the language of that country, and wanted to give them to us, rather than throw them out.

That’s not the first time such a thing has happened to us living here. We’ve had various people drop off toys or clothing or books for the boys; bikes, baked goods and produce. There has been such incredible generosity of their time, their goods, and their presence. We are truly blessed by our neighbours in Sohoe, and on this feast of Thanksgiving, I’d like to take this opportunity to say thank you, and God bless you for all you have given us.

07 October 2010

CTKS

Daddy, I miss your beard. Four, stroking his daddy's newly-clear-from-stubble face. We should go to the beard store, you can get a new one.

Five, while not faint of heart, is not quite as adventurous as his brothers. He's content to watch the roller coasters from the safety of firm ground, and observes new people from a distance rather than immediately embracing them as new friends. He has admonished me to be gentle with him when I push him on the swings, and in the back row of BoB he used to clutch at his car seat, white-faced, when Daddy Nut took the hills just a little too fast for his liking. Earlier this week we undertook a drive through the country, and when one of those hills was breached, he said: "It's not scary; I'm a big boy! When I'm a grown up, I'm going to be a big boy."

Must they grow up?

04 October 2010

How to dress like a Canadian

Dressing like a Canadian is an art form. It requires agility of perception as well as of closet space. Sound tricky? It is. Allow me to demonstrate.

The date is October something or other. Temperatures have calmed from summer highs in the 30s to more palatable teens. Mornings start out chilly, but the day can warm significantly by noon, before flirting once more with the frost factor come night fall. It might rain, it might be overcast, or it might be brilliantly clear and sunny.

Agility of perception is required in not being bullied by the calendar. It may tell you it is October, and as you learned in elementary school, October is an autumnal month. Catalogues and advertising campaigns dictate that in autumn months we wear sweaters and scarves with our perfect jeans, and jump joyfully through piles of leaves in our sturdy leather hiking boots. How idyllic that world is!

A Canadian, however, due to vagaries of weather and a constitutional reluctance to admit summer is over, will still wear open-toed shoes until it becomes absolutely necessary to move to the next level. Driving down the main street of any Canadian town in the fall, you will see every combination of shorts and sweaters, boots and sandals, t-shirts and jackets… all on the same day. And even on the same person.

Which leads to agility of closet space. It requires ingenuity to manage the clothing for three seasons concurrently (storing the necessary footwear alone is a great challenge). During the fall, Canadians are still holding on to sun-kissed dreams with their cotton, while acknowledging the approach of winter with wool.

To give an example, here is what I wore when I went out last Sunday evening: capris and a t-shirt (fond memories of summer), a cardigan (admission of summer’s passing), a long woollen sweater-jacket (for survival in colder temperatures), and flip flops. You see, wardrobe is just a small factor in how to dress like a Canadian; you’ve got to be tough. We have been exposing our flesh to the harsh elements for so long that we no longer feel the pain of frostbite setting in.

We are not entirely foolish, however -- we do know when to concede to the elements. We know to allow for double layers of socks when sizing new boots, and to buy the heavy winter coat in a larger size to make room for a thick sweater underneath. We even have special seasonal unmentionables that cover more surface area for added thermal insulation. In the thick of winter, it’s not unusual to see a Canadian dressed in parka and mukluks clutching a shoe bag. Underneath that parka is a cute sweater, or a business suit, or a formal evening gown. The shoe bag declares that while we acknowledge the weather in order to survive, we will not surrender our Jimmy Choos.

01 October 2010

Of preparation: hard hats and chocolate

Autumn has arrived. The signs of its approach began with the staccato fall of acorns on the shed roof, sounding very much like gunfire. Our wardrobe at this time of year should include a hardhat; acorns are tiny and cute looking, but they pack a wallop when they land on your head from a great height at high velocity. An acorn-shaped hole drilled from cranium to gullet is not the look you want this season, so wear the hardhat.

Squirrels and chipmunks are frantically at work, eager to hide away as much food as they can find for winter survival. By all accounts we are in for a long winter. This suggests to me that we too, should be finding and burying as much food as we can for the winter months ahead. Of course, what that looks like for people is buying tinned soup and jars of peanut butter for the pantry. Don’t forget the chocolate; it could very well be the difference between surviving the Long Dark, and curling into a pallid ball of defeat sometime around January 17th.

Sheep are busy filling in their winter coats, getting woollier by the day. Following their lead, this is the time of year to gradually increase the thickness of our environmental protection system (aka clothing). We begin by adding layers: from t-shirt to t-shirt and light sweater, to t-shirt and heavy sweater over thermal unmentionables with a jaunty scarf and cap topped with the latest technology on offer to fend off the deadly elements. Never mind your silhouette: better to be round but warm than lean and frozen. In fact, the more layers you wear, the warmer you will be: you will no doubt become exhausted from putting on all that gear that you will decide to stay indoors with your lovely central heating and have some hot chocolate.

Birds are very clever: they are beginning the long trek south. Most of us don’t have the luxury of pulling up stakes for half of every year in search of warmer climes, so we do what we can to cope. This may include a brief holiday on a hot sandy beach, or a package of 10 trips to the tanning salon. My preference is for borrowing travel videos from the library: South of France, Italy, AndalucĂ­a; and beautifully illustrated cookbooks: David Rocco’s Dolce Vita is a superb source of culinary inspiration and sun-drenched day dreams. We may not be able to fly south like the birds, but imagination can take us anywhere.

The Long Dark is some way off giving us time to prepare. In the meantime, we still have occasional flip flop days ahead with blue skies and sunshine. Like the wise creatures in nature, we must take advantage of those days, delighting in them when they come and packing away the memories for the quiet days of winter.

27 September 2010

Of redemptive bellyaching

It is very easy for me to enter the state of Woe Is Me. In fact, I spend so much time there, I'm sure it's an actual place with a zip code. I could have my bills and junk mail delivered there.

In my own mind, my problems seem to be much harder than anyone else's. The list of injustices and slights against me is long and repetitive enough to bore even me -- yet another unfairness, because my troubles aren't as interesting as what other people experience.

So, after a rather difficult week, and then weekend plans derailed by a cold, I woke up this morning to learn that there was no water. I took it personally and immediately packed my bags for WIM. I'm telling you, the border guards know me on sight I've been there so often.

Recounting my troubles becomes a comforting reassurance that I have every right to feel as abused/misused/refused as I want to. I settle into the woeful wallow right there in Woe Is Me and prepare myself for a good old pity party. I survey the landscape of complaints laid out before me, and count each one to make sure none have gone missing.

I exaggerate here for dramatic effect of course, but certainly there are times when I do dwell on my woes and treat them more tenderly than I should. However, sooner or later(sometimes more later than I would like) I remember that there are people enduring real trials and tribulations while I fanny about with the press releases (catch the quote?) and I offer my challenges for those people.

That's how God works. In the Divine Economy it is called redemptive suffering - the sacrifice of one person's suffering endured for the sake of another person's good. It's like a parent making sacrifices for their child to go to school, or giving up your seat to an elderly man on the bus, but with spiritual goods and services.

To joyfully and freely offer your own pain and suffering for another person's good is a heroic and difficult thing to do. Until I am fully able to do so and leave Woe Is Me behind, I offer my bellyaching - the whimpering and snivelling I do - and trust that God can use even that to help you when you stumble on the rocky path.

* *

The challenges of writing this post are offered for Anita and Colleen.

19 September 2010

Of days gone by

Where does the time go? How is it possible that summer is over already? (It doesn’t matter what the calendar says: school is in session, therefore summer is over.)
I recently had two weeks on my own at a beautiful house near Lake Ontario. This came after two weeks alone here in Sohoe while the Family of Nuts were on holiday elsewhere. The Beautiful House is a place of rest and tranquility... when the wind isn’t blowing it down, and if you can ignore the vuvuzela-like insistence of the chirping crickets.

The crickets were so loud, and so relentless in their song that I bought foam earplugs so I could sleep at night. It became part of my morning entertainment to hunt through the bed to find them; they were never in my ears, but would be in my hair, or under the pillow, or in the sheets somewhere around my knees. How does that happen?

The bed was rather hard, so after tossing and turning the first few nights, I decided to get clever and pad it with a few spare blankets under the fitted sheet. One was a downy comforter and the other was an itchy wool blanket. Guess which one I put on top? That’s right: the scratchy wool job. I figured that once I put the sheet over top, it wouldn’t matter much, but I was wrong about that. Did I do anything about it? Nope. I figured it was a reinterpretation of the hair shirt, and offered my sufferings for you, dear Reader. You’re welcome.

I sat by the water one afternoon, admiring a flotilla of geese body surfing the waves. There were dragonflies as big as helicopters filling the air, and I soon learned how it was they got so big – they were well fed with steady supplies of mosquitoes. I was able to ignore the pesky nibblers for a while in my blessed-out state of admiring God’s glory in the water and trees and sky all around me, but eventually not even the most beautiful of all sceneries could help me pretend I wasn’t in fact being drained dry, and I had to escape to the car and drive away fast as I might with what remained of my life’s blood.

Have you ever noticed that you can see the shape of the lake-bed by watching the waves? They run in long, smooth lines where it is flat, and shimmer in dimpled ripples over the smaller, rounder rocks.

For all it can be a fierce and mighty thing, wind has no sound, on its own. It needs the trees and water to give it voice. Or a building or corn field. Or a hole in the glass of the window it broke as it grabbed the frame, threw away the rock used to prop the window open, and slam it to, so hard the pane cracked from top to bottom and a piece the shape of Florida fell to the ground. Then, the wind can definitely be heard.

One particularly fine evening, when the sun promised a fine spectacle as it set, I took myself to the sandy beaches to watch the show. There were people scattered all along the shore, on either side of the waterline. We all faced the sun, giving it our full attention as it gently slipped below the horizon. It’s nearly impossible to witness such an event, and not feel healed at least a little of the hurts of the day; it is a very tranquil thing, though it testifies to the grandeur of creation. There, before our very eyes, we witness the travels of our earth through space, the cooperation between planet and sun, the surety of the laws of nature that keep us all in balance.

On a lighter note, while I was at home, back in Sohoe before going to the Beautiful House, my friend at The Tree sent me a birthday card. I was so excited to get it, that I couldn’t wait to open it, and stood right in the middle of the street to rip open the envelope. The front of the card had the usual lovely birthday card sentiments, and I opened it to see what personal message she had written to me. Right there, in front of all my neighbours, I opened the card to be greeted by the chorus to Mmmbop by Hanson. Do you remember it? I can’t bring myself to include a clip, but youschmube it if you would like to experience it for yourself. Needless to say I was taken by complete surprise and stood laughing like an idiot right there in the street for all to see. It gave me the biggest smile of the day. Thank you, Miss Tree.

16 September 2010

CTKS

There's a lot of corn in the world. Three, as the van passed the seventh endless field of corn. Corn must be famous.

Daddy! Daddy! Come and see! Four, tip toeing up to the grownups in an exaggerated fashion, knees coming up high, arms held close to his sides. There's a spider! A mommy long legs!

Helping himself to some highly seasoned peanuts, Four ever so casually commented, "Mmm... I like these. I'm a grown-up now."

Five, on being given a sandwich for lunch, responded with, "Nooooo" (in ascending octaves) "I don't want a sandwich. I want ice cream!"

Several evenings later, icecream was part of dessert. The bucket sat empty on the table, and Five, not believing it was indeed empty, asked to see inside it. And so, he stuck his whole head inside to inspect it, holding it up to his mouth, in case there were any drops remaining inside for him to catch on his tongue. Then he looked over at his father and said, "Get more, Dad!"

Riding the slide at the park (which he could do all day long) Five would occasionally bump a knee or his head, causing him to cry out: "My body!"

One, telling the family over supper one night about the famous Egyptian Pharaoh, talked about 'Toukenhammon' and how he was bashed on the head... or poisoned...maybe he was murdered? Two just had to ask: "Touken-who?"

Hearing someone call the mushrooms on their plate marshmallows, Four was very upset to not see any white sweetness on his plate of pasta, and insisted he have marshmallows too.

19 August 2010

It's all so Gorey

It’s a risky business, living alone. Danger lurks round every corner and down every stair, the fact of which I am daily aware as I cautiously descend the concrete steps from garden to basement. What if I were to tumble down, ungainly planting my head in the woodpile at the bottom? What if the pocket of my laundry-day dress catches on the banister (as it is wont to do), tripping my feet from under me and causing me to break my head on the landing? What if, while ever so adeptly preparing a meal for one, I slice a finger off, severing whatever conveyance of blood resides there, and, lightheaded from blood loss, I fall, hitting my head on the stove, catching my hair alight on the way down to the floor?

Yes, it’s all very Edward Gorey and The Gashlycrumb Tinies (A is for Alice who fell down the stairs) It really is not likely that the neighbours would find me one day, on the living room floor, eaten by wild dogs. And while I am a card-carrying clutz, I don’t tend to impale myself on the wood pile when the family is here, so it is improbable I would do so now while they’re gone.

And yet. I’m eating cherries with my head tilted forward so I won’t inadvertently swallow a pit and choke; I walk across the kitchen floor with the knife held well out in front of me so if I were to trip I wouldn’t stab myself in some vital place; I enter the tub with all the caution of a roller-skater carrying nitro glycerine.

It’s much better to be safe than Gorey.

17 August 2010

What dreams may come

I’ve been thinking about dreams. Not the ‘lay your head and close your eyes’ kind; rather the ‘what do you want to be when you grow up’ kind. It’s good to keep in touch with the little person you were who wasn’t afraid to dream big, brave dreams. The heart of who you are now grew from the seeds that dreamer planted long ago.

A friend recently asked me what my dreams were, and I was appalled to not have an answer. I couldn’t think of a single thing I wanted to do. What had become of wanting or hoping for things, no matter how wild and implausible? There used to be many things I wanted to have a go at: archaeology, hot air ballooning, doo-wop girl, acting, Spanish, travel to Russia, developing elegant penmanship.... It was a long and varied list of things possible, and unlikely; long desired, and impromptu.

Then what happened? Life took on a day-follows-day quality and my focus became survival. I chose the path of simplicity and abandonment – both qualities of which are true, good, and beautiful – but also empty because I had left behind what makes me, me – namely my dreams.

Dreams are what fuel our fire; motivate and energize us; distinguish us from every other beating heart out there; and ultimately draw us to God. We are designed to dream, to yearn, to reach, and to strive. It doesn’t matter a button if we accomplish any of them, only that we have them.

Since that conversation with my friend, I’ve been poking around in my heart, looking for the box I buried my dreams in. Just as we grow and change, however, so do dreams grow and change. I realized those in the box were old and dusty, and belonged to a different person. I needed to discover what are my dreams of today.

Here’s what I found:
They are more mellow, and more attainable than the old ones.
They focus more on growth and virtue than accomplishment and experience.
I feel more inclined to pursue them, rather than keep them in a list.
Having acknowledged them brought a measure of peace and contentment.

Can you dream a dream?

12 August 2010

Grace

I love this time of day, when the sun is just about to go down. All the sounds I hear are of preparation for night fall: people driving home for the evening after a day spent out in the sun, enjoying summer; squirrels running up and down the trees and across the fences, playing at burying winter treasure; insects singing about the heat of the day; children calling out to each other as they bike down the street. It’s as if the sun, by going down, is muting all activity, dulling the volume of life.

The sky is moving through its palette from pale blue, to soft grey, to mauve. The trees now stand out in relief against the heavens, losing the detail of their own colour but retaining the character of their shape, like black paper silhouettes.

As the air grows softer and the sky turns darker, crickets seem to move closer as they take first chair in the evening symphony, leading the chorus and dictating the tempo as living things ease into the subtle stealth of night.

This is the quiet time; the gentle time; the perfect time for reflection and grace: the eyes of all hope in You, oh Lord; You give them food in due season. You stretch out Your hand, and every creature receives Your blessing. Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised.

11 August 2010

Holding on for dear life

I rode my bike to morning Mass today. It makes me feel virtuous to say that: I rode my bike. To morning Mass. Lest you have an image of Tess from the Lighthouse sitting serenely in her pew, with golden, polished halo in place, let me inform you that the weather here is very hot and very humid. Nobody is serene in these conditions.

To set the scene properly: it is humid, so my hair is very large. I do not have the luxury of naturally curly hair, but I get to share in the inconvenience naturally curly haired people have of hair that grows more voluminous in the humidity. Nothing can tame it. Also important to know: I was wearing pants that came to my knees (Long shorts? Short capris? Whatever – my kneecaps were exposed)

By the time I got to the Church, I was glowing (a polite euphemism for sweating), red-faced, and big-haired. No halo would fit over that hair. I made use of the ladies room to pat my face and run cold water over my wrists in an attempt to cool down (a trick I learned from my mom) and check the mirror for flies in my teeth (an occasional downside to biking is the involuntary intake of insects), and to dry my elbows, which for some reason ‘glow’ quite a lot. I didn’t once think of my knees.

I selected a pew which promised a steady stream of coolness from the air conditioning vent and composed myself for prayer. Catholics do this on their knees using conveniently placed kneelers at their seats. The kneelers are usually covered in vinyl. Vinyl, as you may have experienced, gets rather slippery when wet.

Remember the long shorts/short capris I was wearing that left my knees exposed? Turns out my knees, as well as my elbows, ‘glow’ after a bike ride, meaning my knees were damp, causing me to slip and slide from side to side. I gripped my arms more tightly over the pew in front of me to keep myself upright, but my elbows were slippery as well.

So there I was, far from a serene, halo-in-place parishioner; less concerned with my devotions than I was with holding on for dear life. That’s what prayer is, isn’t it? Holding on for dear life.

10 August 2010

No man is an island

Walking down the hallway where the family portraits hang, I thought to myself, “We should take a new picture of Pop.” thinking that the one hanging doesn’t look right anymore – not how I remember him. It took two full steps before it came back to me: we can’t take a picture of him. He’s gone.

A year and a half after his death, the truth still strikes me at unexpected, unguarded moments. I think I’m coming to grips with this new relationship with him, which is somehow more distant and more intimate than it was before; but I haven’t, even now, quite found my footing yet.

The edge of grief has dulled. I think the frequent passage of my heart over its blade has softened the sharpness a little. Acceptance brings strength. It’s difficult to grapple with a thing in the dark. It must be brought into the light so it can be seen, and then dealt with.

I’ve been reading John Donne, and once again came across these words: Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. It’s the ‘involved’ bit that comforts me. My dad was involved in mankind: me, his family, his friends, colleagues neighbours – he was connected to us. He wasn’t an island, in isolation and solitary. None of us is, no matter how small our life, or how quietly we live it.

That doesn’t change with death. We are still connected. Pop is still involved though the physics are different. Catholics understand this concept as the Communion of Saints. His involvement now takes the form of prayer and intercession rather than phone calls and teasing. But he still is who he was, and he’s still my Pop, and I’m still his daughter. We are still connected to each other.

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.

06 August 2010

In which fashion addresses the real woman

High Fashion For Real Woman?

Many women have had this experience: a dress looks better on the hanger than on her body. Is that dress then clothing or art? Is the female shape lacking in aesthetics, or is the designer lacking the ability to flatter a woman’s body? Many haute couture designers have the view that their clothes are works of art and are best appreciated under ideal circumstances; very tall, very thin women. Under such precise circumstances, the designer is able to control the exact drape and silhouette of his creation. Beyond the gallery of the runway, in the real world, the challenge is to design beautiful clothes for the real woman – short waist, knobby knees, sloping shoulders, and all.

Instead of addressing (or dressing) reality – the female form as it naturally occurs – couture designers impose an ideal that is uncommon, perhaps even unnatural. They require a form to serve their vision, rather than adapting their art to the form. To meet their aesthetic needs, designers, choose size zero or two fashion models who meet their ideal proportions. By comparison, the average woman in Canada wears a size eight to12 and has neither legs for days nor a neck like a gazelle. While designers create visually stunning pieces that could accurately be called art, the average woman struggles with hemlines, necklines, and panty lines, not to mention her self-image. Is it any wonder the uniform of The Real Woman is jeans and a t-shirt?

03 August 2010

In which the boys rule the house

It happened a few days ago. You may have heard about the straw that broke the camel's back? Or the bridge too far? Or the outside of enough? You may also know this one: when mama aint happy, aint nobody happy.

The straw was laid, the bridge was crossed and the outside was passed last week. It may have had something to do with the question "do we have any milk" from the person standing in front of the open fridge; or tiny Lego pieces impaling tender Mom feet as they tried to cross the living room floor; or the Cheltenham Tragedy acted out when one or another Peanut was asked to put his granola bar wrapper in the recycle bin (Peanut's response: I work all day long. I do nothing but work. You're going to have me do this until I die!)

And so Mama Nut made a declaration: she was, like France, going on holiday for the month of August. The Peanuts One through Five, along with Daddy, are going to be responsible for the food cooking, toy tidying, baby bathing, schedule setting etc. that is usually Mama's purview. For an entire month she will not swipe one single toilet bowl, plan one meal, or sweep one floor.

Well my goodness, based on the reaction when asked to put one small piece of garbage where it belongs, you can only imagine the happy proclamations that were heard when the 'Mama's On Holiday' plans were unveiled. For my part, it sounded very much like: Hooray! From the Why-chromosome bearers, it was rather more along the lines of: oh woe, poor me.

It took a few days for the sting to fade, but gradually the idea began to settle in and feel comfortable. Men like to be in charge (even the small ones), and to do things their way (it's the right way, after all) And so Daddy Nut rose to the occasion and organized his troops. There is a roster with rotating duties posted on the fridge at Peanut height; each task is outlined in a flowchart; chores are clearly outlined with expectations and exceptions.

Today was day one. There wasn't a grumble, nor a pout - each Peanut rose manfully to the occasion. There was such a feeling of industry and order in the house, which was peaceful and - quite frankly - delightful, most especially because it happened without reference to Mama Nut or I. Hoorah! They can do it! They did do it! Let's hear it for boys who rule the house!

24 July 2010

Some woe, a Moe and the show

Poor old Bob has been unwell for some time. Not long ago he was leaking from one (or several) of his inner parts and Bil would pour replacement liquid back into the bowels of Bob (boBob?) The worst of it was expensively repaired a few weeks ago, during the process of which we learned that one of the wheels was due to fall off at any time and nearly every hose needed overhauling. (We know about hose, don't we ladies? Nasty stuff, that) I think the brakes needed doing as well - something I pay attention to, because brakes have shoes.

However, we are brave and hearty folk (I don't call us the Nuts for nothing) and last Sunday saw us preparing for a road trip to the Big City for some Big Fun. We packed snacks, had plenty of drinks, hair was pulled back and windows were down. We had hours of travellin' tunes lined up... I'm telling you, we are experienced road trip professionals.

As every road trip professional (R.T.P, or, in military terms r-teep) knows, the first stop you make is at a gas station. It's much more fun getting where you want to go than being stranded at the side of the road because you weren’t paying attention to the fuel indicator light. And so it was that four songs into our expedition we found ourselves at a gas station, where we discovered Bob had sprung another leak. Not so much a drip-drip-drip as a pour-pour-pour. Obviously, no more road trip for the Nuts.

Back home went we, vastly disappointed at our curtailed adventure but recognizing the wisdom of being safe, not sorry.

Two days later, Bil and Bob arrived home from work just in time for all the fluid in the radiator to come gushing out like a mini, radiator-fed Niagara Falls. Bob was not going anywhere, anymore. What were we to do? My car, the Honourable Red Rocket has been temporarily decommissioned (though not yet discharged) so it is unavailable for immediate service. Bil must get to work and back, which even in Sohoe includes hills and traffic and distance. Fortunately he enjoys a good bike ride, so he madly pedals his way around town.

Our plight hit cyberspace as we told the story of Bob’s demise on Waste Book and Bil wrote an ad on a local trading site explaining Bob’s ailments and the impact on our situation (5 children + 0 vehicle = inconvenience 100)

That is how we came to know a man named Moe. He replied to the ad, saying that he’d like to help. If Bil could afford a couple hundred dollars for parts, he would come by and help do the work here. We went from needing thousands of dollars for repairs at the dealership (or getting a new Bob) – totally impossible right now - or somehow getting by without a vehicle, to a solution within our means all through the kindness of an absolute stranger – our Good Samaritan Moe.

Saturday morning dawned sunny with a threat of rain. Bil and Moe went to purchase parts from wherever such things are done and then set about attempting to put Bob back to rights. Only Bob is a complex construction. His parts are all piled on top of each other in what I consider an unhelpful and illogical fashion. He is NOT German designed. I found it hard to tell what was going on, but it did seem to be taking a while for the appearance of progress at least. Apparently Bob’s bolts are stubborn and their placement awkward, so Moe found himself involved in a job that was rather more involved than he’d anticipated.

All of which he endured even as he became the Main Event. There he was, wrestling with temperamental Bob in our driveway, with 3 of the Peanuts lined up on lawn chairs right beside him, watching the proceedings. They even had drinks and snacks. As far as they were concerned, it was better than a movie: this was real! A man was taking their car apart! The engine was sitting right there on the pavement! He had lots of cool tools! I don’t think Moe was terribly keen on being under such close observation – or maybe it was the cardboard guns they were holding that made him nervous? Anyway, soon enough they were lured away by soccer balls and wagons and left Moe and his trusty sidekick Bil to their efforts.

And then, it rained. No no. Correction: it poured. It deluged. And still Moe worked. He wouldn’t accept food or drink and kept on working. And still Bob resisted giving up his bits. After a full day of cursing and coaxing, the men decided to quit while still sane. As I look out the window at Bob, he looks like a victim of plastic surgery left halfway through the procedure – he’s rather droopy and misshapen – a sad sight, indeed.

This story is as yet unfinished. Will Bob be road worthy once again? Will Moe come back tomorrow? Stay tuned. There is a lovely postscript however. The evening of the waterfalling radiator episode, a gentleman from down the street brought over a beautiful red Radio Flyer wagon and it was full of toy cars and trucks for the boys to keep. Weren’t they the happiest boys in Sohoe? Nay, the world? Aren’t people wonderful, underneath it all?

22 July 2010

The wait is nearly over

Four, Five and I walked to our park today. I've mentioned before the 'make work project' in our municipality of rebuilding and updating the play structures in our parks. They were to be completed by the end of June - a date all parents recognize as when the kids are finished school, will be home all day, and will need some occupation. Such as a handy park nearby.

We are now well and truly past the end of June. In fact, the end of July is close enough I can count its freckles, and our park still stands incomplete and unused. Mama Nut phoned the relevant people last week, to inquire very politely into the reasons for the long delay and was assured with confidence that all systems would be a go by the end of this week. It is now Thursday, so the end of the week is close enough I can hear it breathe.

Last night I took Two and Three with me to the library by bicycle, and the babies were very disappointed they couldn't come on their tricycle and plastic push-car. So I promised them an outing to the park in the morning, just the three of us.

And so, this morning we duly set off, parkwardbound. I fully expected to find the park as it has been all summer - skeletons of swing sets without swing seats, and climbing bars perched in concrete... not exactly child-friendly. Lo, though, and behold, there were men at work! Bob the Builder and his crew were laying the soft and squishy ground cover. Surely even hours from now we can play?

Though we couldn't yet swing and slide, we sat on a conveniently placed bench and watched the workers go about their task. They seemed to do so rather inefficiently... I was so tempted to suggest alternatives but decided to let them at it, while Four fairly strained to hunker down right beside them to observe closely how they hammered the fuzzy fake grass into place, or cut through the material with very sharp knives.

It would seem all that remains is to complete the carpeting and hang the swings before the park will be open for business - our wait is well and truly nearly over!

20 July 2010

Offerings of the earth

The growing season is in full swing, here in Sohoe. Corn is tall and in tassel; grape vines are fully dressed in foliage and actual clusters of tender green grapes; trees bear their offerings of cherry and peach, while strawberries and blueberries are being picked by the bushels.

As for our own bounty, we have sampled lettuce grown at our front door. A hot pepper is currently drying in the kitchen prior to being a welcome addition to something yummy in a few days. The Whopper tomato plant has one small fruit undertaking its journey to bigness (or so I am expecting. The helpful plastic information tag that came with it promises a bountiful harvest of large fruit) after flirting with an early demise. The Sweet Millions is literally bursting with life, growing four inches in all directions every day and now fostering cherry-sized fruit by the dozens. The earliest are now a glossy deep green, so we can expect some to be ready for picking any day now. (When I say 'every direction' I do mean 'every direction'. Some branches are so long now, this plant resembles a vine as they creep along the ground) The Patio Tomato has a cluster of green crab-apple sized tomatoes, and two days ago we noticed one was blushing. Today it is a proper tomato red, ready for harvest. Hoorah!

Our bucket-o-potatoes is flourishing - or at least the green leafy bits are. We've been teasing ourselves with the thought that there might not be actual potatoes in the soil, but even so, we are proud as peacocks at having managed to produce these lush green plants. Yesterday, I convinced my sister to rootle her hand in the dirt to discover if we were indeed the proud parents of baby potatoes. We are.

These are modest efforts, for sure. You experienced gardeners out there are probably chuckling over how excited we are over a potential potato, but to go from 'plant killer' to 'tomato grower' is a heady transition.

How does your garden grow?

19 July 2010

Of the resumption of life, postBIOF

I promise, this is not a post about football, so please feel free to keep reading.

It's been over a month since I've inhabited the lighthouse. I can feel the return of creativity, and it is wonderful. Oma Nut recently asked me if I still believed that I HAD to write, and the answer was a quick and certain affirmative. After a rather long drought, there are tender shoots of ideas seeking light, ready to grow. The challenge will be to impose some discipline and resist the languor brought on by this outrageous heat and humidity so many of you are feeling.

The same holds for the routines of homekeeping. First there was the sumptuous banquet of the Beautiful Game that had us reclining on our couches rather than sorting, dusting, cleaning, baking etc. Only the necessary details of eating and taking out the garbage were attended to; only the very necessary clothes were washed; only the dirtiest bodies were bathed; and only when the cupboards offered nothing but stale, forgotten crackers did we leave the house (ie. the tv) for the shops.

We don't have that excuse anymore. Now we are dealing with extreme weather conditions which make roasting a turkey for 5 hours in the oven, or cleaning behind the fridge, or putting junk mail into the recycling bins seem like the most arduous and sweat-inducing tasks ever. I would walk 500 miles through snow backwards and uphill rather than exert myself in this weather.

It seems we have gone from the hibernation of winter to the hibernation of climate-controlled summer with only the briefest respite of active spring in which to plant gardens, paint houses or walk energetically to the mail box. Now we move slowly and only when absolutely necessary, hoping that the weeds will not kill the plants before September rolls around, when - God willing - the humidity will finally dry up and I will not have disintegrated like macaroni left in the water too long.

So, with these challenges in place, I shall attempt to develop a work ethic and partake in the activities of ordinary life (such as returning books to the library).

I hope you are all doing well and enjoying summer. Try to stay al dente, ok?

12 July 2010

CTKS

What am I forget abouting? Three asking Two what he was forgetting.

Can I have plain bread when I'm done my pie? Two, negotiating to have a plain tortia shell. The price was eating a piece of pie first. These are truly unusual children.

Take the stick out of your bread before it ends up in your nose. Mama Nut to Two, who had decorated the aforementioned flat bread with toothpicks.

Somebody! Somebody! Help-a me! Wipe-a my bum! Four, sounding like a little Italian boy, who still needs a little assistance in the loo.

Five, on being given a sandwich for lunch, responded with, "Nooooo" (in ascending octaves) "I don't want a sandwich. I want ice cream!"

Several evenings later, icecream was part of dessert. The bucket sat empty on the table, and Five, not believing it was indeed empty, asked to see inside it. And so, he stuck his whole head inside to inspect it, holding it up to his mouth, in case there were any drops remaining inside for him to catch on his tongue. Then he looked over at his father and said, "Get more, Dad."

05 July 2010

Three


Today is Number Three Nephew's birthday. He is now seven years old.

He's a very special Peanut, this Three; he has a way about him that goes right to your heart.

He's got a very well-developed sense of humour, with a real knack for telling a joke. He's got timing down pat, and is able to deliver a line that can make you spit your juice across the supper table. (I've seen it happen)

Three has a wonderful, Disney-worthy voice. Not just his own voice, which sounds perfect for a wise-beyone-his-years cartoon character, but he's able to 'do' voices very well, too. Need someone to voice a cranky crocodile? Three's your boy! Have a stalwart superhero in need of some spunk? Three can do it, no problem!

From his earliest days, Three made people work for it, and he had a finely-tuned intuition into people. Older folk would coo over him, begging for smiles, and he would gaze back at them, assessing them, often delivering his judgement - like the time he called a fellow a bad man, or told a woman at the beach she needed to put her clothes on.

While naturally athletic, he tends to hang back when undertaking a new activity, like swimming or riding a two-wheeler He observes carefully how it's done, then he will practice on his own until he's on his way to mastery. Over the winter he developed a passion for hockey, and would spend hours in the basement doing ball drills for hours at a time. Now, soccer is his consuming passion, and at every opportunity is to be found outdoors, shooting the ball against a fence. He's showing signs of real footballing intelligence - understanding where the ball is going to be, and where it should be, and how to move himself around while controlling the ball.

Three doesn't have much of his very own. 'Having' things isn't important to him, and it gives him pleasure to share what he does have. When taken out of school to spend a special day with Mama and Papa Nut, he was intent on bringing somethig home for his brothers, so they could share in his gift.

While being very close to his brothers, he's not an overly demonstrative sort. While he may burst into a room asking "Where are my brothers?", he will also squirm and whimper if he has to share a bed, because they are touching him.

He is a very tender-hearted soul: when USA lost the gold medal hockey game in Vancouver 2010, he cried for them. He's not shy to express his happiness: each time Germany scored a goal over Argentina in the World Cup 2010 quarter final game (four times!) he leapt into my arms, overcome with joy.

One of the favourite stories from Peanut Family Lore is from when they went to Disney. Three was actually three years-old, and he walked and walked and walked, from one end of the kingdom to the other without complaint or fatigue.

He used to call the Dollar Store the Weapon Store, because they stock foam swords and plastic water guns. He used to point out 'army guys' in any book we read, managing to find the one and only gun-carrying Indian in a book about early America.

He's a soldier in the making, beloved Three. May God bless his fierce heart with courage and conviction.

24 June 2010

CTKS

Little Five had just woken from a nap. As the weather had been rather warm and on the humid side, Mama Nut had taken his pants off, putting him to bed in diaper and shirt. He wanted to join his brothers outside, so, being helped into his shoes, off he went, trot trotting around the house to the back yard. Not long after, we could hear the trot trot come back around the house and up the front stairs, followed by a knock at the screen door. I opened the door, letting Five back in the house, where he announced: "I want my pants... on" (he tends to hesitate before the last word of his sentences.) Pants firmly in place, back he trotted to join his brothers. I wonder at what point did the realization strike him, "Something's not quite right here. Heyyyy... wait a minute! I'm outside wearing only a diaper!"

Being too hot to wave a blow dryer at myself these days, I put my hair in a braid or twist it up after washing it. Four asked to see it one day and feeling rather proud of my efforts, I quite happily twirled for him, to give him the full benefit of every angle. "Oh no!", he said. "That's not good."
"It's not good?", I asked.
"No," he replied, "I don't like it at all."

23 June 2010

Seen around town

Several people flying their flags of national pride, supporting a country for the World Cup. We have England on one side and Germany on the other side of our Beast of Burden (BoB). This, of course, is historically ironic, given events of the last century. However, this is a new dawn, a new age... a new World Cup. Whenever we see a fellow Germany supporter, we wave frantically at each other, bonded in our pleasure of this every-four-year burst of football frenzy, and our mutual love for the mannschaft - the German National Team.

The Canadian tradition of decking out the garage as a summer living room, with arm chairs, tv's, refrigerators and even art work and bookshelves. People will move the chairs just out into the driveway in fair weather, and sit just inside the garage in foul. I think this is odd behaviour, but it is also rather endearing.

Garden benches facing the front door, rather than the garden. Now, a nice door is a nice door, but come on! A garden is a garden!

A homeowner who has 'decorated' his front yard with 'antique' lawn mowers - two of them - those old push-powered kind. I wonder, do they have to move the lawn mowers in order to cut their grass, or do they use those old pushers and then simply leave them on the lawn when they're done?

People are endlessly fascinating, aren't they?

22 June 2010

CTKS

Mom; Mom; Mom; this is you: "Oh my lanta!" - Four to his mother this morning, as she walked through the rooms of her FIFA-widow home, noting the neglect and destruction of the last two weeks. Four has cottoned on to the instant replay style of his older brothers.

One went on a field trip with his class yesterday, to one of those places where 'wild' animals watch you drive by in a special safety vehicle, exhibiting their natural, 'wild' animal behaviors. He also had a soccer game that day, so his mother explained to him what he should wear, and what he should pack. As he went downstairs to get socks, his mother said he didn't need them, because he should wear his crocs. He turned to her, and said patiently, as only a ten year-old attempting to explain life to his mother can, "Mom, I'm going on safari."

The House of Nuts has been rather consumed with football of late. It's on our tv for nearly 9 hours every day. Naturally, all the peanuts are now also very football-driven. Even Five, is into the spirit of things: his latest favourite game is to run slowly around the living room and then dropping to the floor in slow motion, calling out "Lee-ah-poo" and flopping on his back, before getting back up to do it all over again. It's wonderfully appropriate that he has connected Liverpool with diving...

12 June 2010

BIOF

There's a condition in the House of Nuts which is likely to become more serious as time goes on. We're calling it BIOF - Blame it on FIFA.

It's like this:
Up at the crack of dawn for the first whistle. At half time, get coffee, and make sure all Peanuts are accounted for. Offer them snacks.
Quickly grab something for breakfast during the half hour between games. Make sure all Peanuts are accounted for. Offer them snacks.
At the next half time, quickly brush teeth, throw in a load of laundry... whatever seems necessary. Make sure all Peanuts are accounted for. Offer them snacks.

You should know: snacks keep them quiet. Real food comes now, during the 2 hour break before the next game... like cheese sandwiches. We will eat many cheese sandwiches in the next month.

It's not my fault: Blame it on FIFA!

I may become a little squidgy around the edges, so I advise you to keep your distance. BIOF.
We all may develop scurvy. BIOF.
We may run out of loo paper - there's just no time to shop. BIOF.
All of Europe may be raptured tomorrow, but if it doesn't happen in South Africa, I won't know about it. BIOF.
It's hot and humid - BIOF.

11 June 2010

Waka waka

Here we go, football fans - today began the World Cup 2010, a tournament for which over 230 countries tried out, and only 32 qualified (perspective: the UN consists of 120 countries) Half of the planet watched the final game of the last World Cup (not an exaggeration for dramatic effect), and it's fair to say this go-round will do as well, if not better. This is the world's game, the beautiful game!

What happened today:
South Africa against Mexico: It was an exciting game, because it was the host nation, and the very first game of this month-long contest for best. The vuvuzelas (you can't miss 'em - they're the long, loud horns being blown during the match, in the colours of your country of choice. This method of showing allegiance is as loud as a chainsaw. Imagine 60,000 chainsaws in a stadium!)... the vuvuselas were so loud, I couldn't hear the whistle. I only knew each half was over because the players walked off the pitch.

Here's a name to remember: Siphiwe Tshabalala. His name will be forever honoured in South African history because he scored the first goal for the home team, and during his celebration, invited his teammates to dance with him on the touchline. Plus, it's a fun name to say - go ahead... try it. It'll make you smile! Lalalala

It is common among football supporters to wear large things. For instance, today I spotted very large green fake plastic glasses (in support of South Africa) and enormous powder blue Mad Hatter type hats (to cheer on Mexico, presumably) Why glasses and hats? No idea. It's just something the fans do. When Netherlands take to the pitch against Denmark on Monday, I fully expect to see bunches of carrots in the hair of grown men wearing aprons.

The second and last game of Day One was played very poorly by Uruguay and France. Of note was the Uruguayan keeper, whose bright yellow socks were sooo long, they looked like leggings. Hey, women are wearing them now - they're very fashionable - so why not superstar soccer goalkeepers?

France has two players: Gouvou and Gourcouf, both on the pitch at the same time. The commentator would name each one as he touched the ball, and I always thought he was correcting himself, until I realised they were two different fellas with very similar names! France also has a lalalala in Toulalan. For a tournament that began on a dark note with players dropping from injuries, it's nice to kick off with such a lighthearted note.

I've spotted a trend already: orange boots. Many players are wearing bright orange soccer boots (or maybe they're red... it's hard to tell what with the awesome feed from the Ceeb) or more eyecatchingly, boots with an orange heel. I see this spreading to the cat walks of Milan in the Fall - watch for it!

I shall now take a headache powder to alleviate the throbbing in my ears from the vu-vu's (I will likely dream of swarms of wasps for the next month) and prepare for Day Two, beginning at 7.30 tomorrow morning.

Just a closing note to jersey designers: football players are known to sweat, especially when playing in South African climes. Baby blue looks cute when on a dry mannequin for your promotional campaign... not so cute on a grown and sweaty man.

09 June 2010

The fallen and the flourishing

There is sad news to convey:

Our vibrant and fiery orange nemesia plant has died. I had to pluck its withered stems and roots out of the pot and throw it on the lawn waste heap. Part of the club moss, and the coral bells are rather peaked, and I think I know why: three days ago, I saw Four 'helpfully' watering the containers by the front door. From a 2L watering can! It was more water than a camel needs after the rain we'd just had. That explains why the soil in those pots always feels moist to the touch!

The garden thyme is also struggling, though it is beginning to show signs of revival - probably because J moved it to the sunny side of the front steps (and I make sure the watering can is always empty.) The Thai basil is also looking shocky (to borrow a term from the emergency room) but it seems to be clinging to life. Hooray for basil! We definitely need a second rosemary plant, and yet more Italian leaf basil. And why not? We've still got room for more pots on the steps... we'll just use the back door from now on.

Our big tomato plant, one I picked out specifically because it already had flowers on it, has lost its flowers and isn't exactly thriving, though its doing fine. I don't know if its determinate or indeterminate but I figure it will give up fruit when its good and ready to. The little patio tomato is showing great promise for a bountiful harvest, with its seven or so flowers and numerous other fuzzy spots. Yay! The sweet million tomato is growing like crazy. Each day I check it, it's at least an inch taller. That is very exciting, and rather reassuring too, that I don't kill absolutely everything I stick in the dirt.

Green stems and leaves are shooting out of the potato bin. We will soon have to mound them up further. Out of five wrinkled old spuds from our kitchen cupboard, we have 14 plants!

Three varieties of lettuce are doing well. I sowed a second batch last week, and they have already poked their heads above the soil. (lettuce... heads... get it?) The first batch needs to be thinned, but I'm nervous to do so. How can I make that decision? "You, stay. You however, sorry, this is your end. Mwah ha ha ha!"

Three stems of garlic, which share the lettuce pot, are standing tall and vigorous. Sadly, I'd planted four, so one of them didn't take. Still and all, three whole ears of garlic from four little cloves we had sitting in the fridge anyway... not a bad return.