A few portraits snapped through the last few days.
Dziemik (“jam”) is a new favorite, and she wears it well. It’s particularly tasty on a Saturday afternoon when L has been entertaining herself — quiet well, in fact — while K and I clean.
We got home Wednesday and L headed straight to her room to rummage through her treasures. The light was perfect, and the camera at hand.
We end each evening with play time in L’s room. In fact, we spend a significant amount of our evening in her room, reading, playing, dancing (though only L does the dancing).
At school, everyone is “Miss.” Miss Karen. Miss Cathy. Miss Deborah. Miss Brenda.
Miss Cathy — L’s favorite — works in Toddler I. L no longer sees her on a daily basis, but her eyes light up when she sees Miss Cathy coming.
Miss Karen, Miss Deborah, and Miss Brenda work in Toddler II, where L spends her days now.
I wondered whether L thinks “Miss” is just part of their name, but it’s become obvious that L has separated the “Miss” from the name. She understands it as a prefix, but she still doesn’t understand its significance. It’s a term she uses with individuals she really likes.
Hence, I am often “Miss Tata” now. K is “Miss Mama.” Our cat, “Miss Bida.”
“I didn’t do that! I’ll put it on my mother!”
“Well, you see, what happened…”
“Didn’t you see all those others doing it to?”
“But she was talking to me!”
“But he tried to trip me!”
“Well, he knocked my books off the desk.”
“No. No — that is not what I did.”
Sometimes, the excuses pile up. When they all come from one individual, someone who is always in the middle of things but always innocent, we see a life stretching out in front of this him that is so frustrating because he has such a warped perception of everything going on around him. We hope he can begin to look around and start taking some of the responsibility for the negative consequences he faces almost every day, but sometimes it seems the odds are against him.
In Albert Camus’ The Plague, one of the characters — referred to as “the Spaniard” if I recall correctly — sat in bed with two bowls, counting peas, moving them from one bowl to another. So many repetitions of this and it was lunch time; so many more, dinner; still more, and it was time for sleep. It was Camus’ portrait of nihilism, the notion that all life is meaningless and amounts to little more than waiting for death.
Then there are accountants, known affectionately as bean counters. Is there so kind of connection? Perhaps there is something ultimately nihilistic about spending one’s time, counting other people’s money. Then again, most accountants do fairly well counting, so perhaps it’s not as bad as the Spaniard.
L has taken to counting beans, though she does it literally.
It’s something they do in Montessori, something all the kids enjoy: moving dry beans from one container to another and back again. It’s wonderful for developing coordination and an understanding of materials.
And when a mis-aimed cup spills beans all over the floor, it’s an opportunity to deal with frustration (something L is not very good at without accompanying vocalizations) and patience.
And it keeps her busy long enough for me finish picadillo.
The Girl loves to immitate what she sees. This can be quite practical, in our laundry “room” for example.
Eventually, trash night will be her responsibility. For now, it’s nice to have someone willing to load and unload the drier.
Fairly far down the list of our house renovations is the finishing of this room. By the time we get to it, I’m sure L will be helping with that as well.
One of the many things I miss about living in Boston is Trader Joe’s. This fun video gives a lot of the reasons why.
We are slowly creating a late-winter, Sunday afternoon ritual that is focused on swing time for the Girl. We headed to Southside Park Sunday, and as we sat there, K and I realized it was a better choice than our usual one: less crowded and closer.
The Girl was pleased, too.
Such a change from the first time we were at Southside. Still wobbly-footed and wary of being alone, she wouldn’t let us out of her sight.
And naturally, we didn’t want her out of our reach. Wobbles turning to dangerous tumbles — the nightmare I continually endured at playgrounds last year. “They’re made to bounce,” Nana and Papa say, but my gut isn’t made to bounce: it dropped every time she fell, filling my head with visions of — well, no need to go there.
Now, when she’s playing, the Girl makes the choice whether or not to play near us, and I’m only moderately paranoid. I’m sure that moderate paranoia will continue until she’s in her thirties or so.
Or maybe it is a permanent fixture.
It is the flip side of the joy of seeing her smile, of hearing her laugh. It is the worry that it won’t always be so. And why worry about that? Certainly she’ll have her share of bruises, emotional and physical, and it’s only natural that I want to protect her from them — at least minimize the impact. Yet we learn from the pain. In theory.
L still doesn’t learn from the pain. At least, she’s not convinced. She knows the cat doesn’t like being tugged and violently hugged, and she knows what the cat’s claws are capable of, but every few days, the Girl tests the hypothesis again.
At least now the threats are visible, and the cause and cure clear.
Indeed, this is the only time that K and I can kiss the pain away. Pain floats away, removed with a kiss that is then blown into the empty distance. “Bye bye!” L says after we blow away the kiss that took away the pain.
Broken hearts and disappointment aren’t so easily mended.
But with everyone playing on a cool Sunday afternoon, these thoughts drift away.
The guns are still plastic.
There are two kinds of home improvement. One type amounts to little more than maintenance. It could hardly be called “home improvement” in fact; “home status quo” would be more appropriate. The second is the actual addition of value to the home.
This weekend’s project tackled the latter. More than simply adding value to our home (and the monetary value would be negligible), this weekend’s venture will add value to our lives in the form of fresh peppers, beans, and zucchini. We began our garden.
“Isn’t February a little early?” you ask. It certainly is for planting, but we weren’t planting. We were creating a bed for our coming lasagna garden.
There are many ways of creating a layered garden (hence the name “lasagna”), and many are “no dig” methods. We elected to go for the all-day, back-breaking, line-your-garden-with-timbers method.
Of course, this meant a lot of initial cutting, which was great, because I got to use some of the equipment Papa and Nan have been buying for me over the last two birthdays.
Still, in order to have a nice cut that didn’t go too far into the timber, I had to pull out the trusty reciprocating saw — the tool every homeowner should own — to finish it off.
K, being the surveyor that she is, wanted to line things out before digging. It was useful, to be sure, but I was simply planning on digging it out with timbers for reference.
We got a cute picture out of it, though.
The real work — the heavy lifting, to use a cliche — came next: the digging. Getting land level gave me a new appreciation for landscaping crews.
Once everything was level, the rest went fairly quickly. Driving ten inch spikes through three layers of landscaping timbers (though pre-drilled) aside, it was fairly pleasant work.
A little filling in the cracks and final digging — then we were ready for the first layer.
The idea of lasagna gardening is simple: layer leaves, compost, peat moss, and manure on a bed of paper (to keep out weeds, I believer) and simple plant. No tilling, no nothing.
Lacking newspapers, we used magazines. I’m hoping the glossy paper doesn’t have a detrimental effect. (No one Google it for me — ignorance is bliss.)
Whether or not the best method, it made for an interesting image
After the paper, we added our first layer: leaves. We’ll let it settle before adding the other layers.
In the end, I’m not sure what our neighbors found more amusing: laying out issues of Discover magazines or taking pictures of every step.
Why are elephants seem so wise? Because it looks as if every experience is etched on their face:
Why do giraffes seem so elegant yet goofy? Lumpy, bumpy heads.
Why do baby orangutans seems so playful?
Because they are, even with empty Folgers containers.
Why does the Girl seem more and more independent? Because she is. She gets her zipper going, hops with joy, then rips off the jacket and cries, “Try ‘gain!”
She’s not quite this independent, but give her some time — she’ll be there before I’m ready.
She already realizes how far away she is from baby-hood.
What I was getting at in the last post is simple: most inspirational writing requires no mental unpacking. It tells; it doesn’t show.
Nell Maiden (who, I recently and sadly discovered, died in 2003) shows:
Prayer, September 29
if it’s going to happen,
pack it in an earthquake.
Give me epiphanies that blind,
that trip or wring
and tear but leave no doubt.
Deliver me from diurnal grinddown,
from innuendos, suspicions,
from mere cells quitting.
Let it be fatal and instant.
Or stripe it with rainbow.
Call me to action with purple.
Lord, let me know.
I sleep in lieu of deliberation.
I’m strung staccato.
I’m insensitive to puns, hair growing,
the lampshade wearing thin, that shy kiss
that hardly costs a breath.
Lord, grant me moans.
And when it’s over, give me
a moment to realize and leave
me breath enough to say:
yes, yes, yes.
That is what I mean.
But most Evangelical believers don’t seem to be interested in things that have multiple meanings, especially when it comes to belief and faith. They seem to be less interested in instant epiphanies than instant religious gratification: microwave dinners for the soul.
I don’t want my soul filled up with cliches.
While much of the country still seems to be under snow and ice, we’ve had a warm spell. Spring comes early in South Carolina, with temperatures already in the mid-60s. It’s likely to cool back down, but for now, we’re enjoying the warmth.
Such a change from the last group of pictures from this time of year. L requires a larger and larger arc on the swing to provide the same satisfaction. “Higher” she can now ask, and I wonder how much longer we can even use this swing. Certainly this will be the swing’s last spring.
And yet there are plans for the replacement, and a tree house in the same area. “In a few years,” K says, but those few years will melt faster than the single snowfall we experienced here (in January of ’07).
The little girl, evident in this picture, will quickly replace the lingering lines of baby, and before we know it, she’ll be talking about having a tree house.