August 2007

Monthly Archive

Orientation Day

Posted by on 30 Aug 2007 | Tagged as: children, parenting, Uncategorized

For kids and parents new to high school.  Here is the beamish boy as he got ready to leave…

high school stidkid

Not sure I’m ready for this!

Total Lunar Eclipse

Posted by on 28 Aug 2007 | Tagged as: children, fun, good things, parenting, Uncategorized, weather

Well, we did it… we managed to get ourselves up last night and — this is the tricky part — the kids(!) and watched the eclipse. Not start-to-finish since it started about 2 am our time and would have gone on until about 3:30… but enough of it to see the moon go from a cookie with a bite out of it to a glowing, pale orange disk. We saw the milky way. One boy saw a shooting star… and all the stars were brilliant.

We heard coyotes howl. We heard the wind rustling the branches and leaves.

We had some light pollution around the edges, in every direction except north-northwest; and the constant hum of cars on the highway (miles from us) and an occasional car on the main road about a mile away interrupted the peace of the night.

It was a cool night, a light breeze sighed now and again… we wrapped up in extra blankets and leaned against the car — and each other.

We talked about the life cycles of stars, planets in other galaxies, galaxies of various shapes and sizes.

And finally, we retired again to dream of space travel, dark nights with bright stars, and coming home again.

At least, that is what I dreamed…

Ready for the Start of School?

Posted by on 25 Aug 2007 | Tagged as: children, good things, hope, parenting, stidmama, Uncategorized

One of the things we try to do for our children is model appropriate behavior. Another is showing and encouraging them to help others and facilitating their helping. Yesterday was a chance for them to spend time with their grandmother, to help her get her classroom ready for school — and simultaneously to help at least 25 children.

Of course I took pictures:

Here they are, working on collating some of the worksheets for the first week.

the boys work on materials

Here is Mother and one kid looking for something in the many boxes…

trying to find a box

In the Reading Corner:

the cozy reading corner

The Calendar Corner (learning to tell time and the passage of the year is important for first graders!):

the calendar wall

And finally a picture of me, with my my mother, just before she starts her last year of teaching. Just think! after more than 20 years she will soon be done with First Grade!

My mother and me

I will be helping my mother three days a week, it looks like — to help her have a good year, and to maybe give some children a slightly better start in their academic lives. Thirty-plus years ago I started my own career as a helper working with my mother in a literacy project at a local library… and now I can help again, using some of the same skills I learned way back then. I like it when a story comes around full circle!

Update on Death and Destruction

Posted by on 24 Aug 2007 | Tagged as: caring, children, Giving, good things, hope, Peace Making, social justice, Uncategorized

A short update on the final paragraph of my Death and Destruction post from two days ago:

The Children’s Burn Foundation, based in the United States, will provide treatment and care for Youssif and his family. They are seeking donations to help with the family’s living expenses — the treatment of Youssif will be covered by the Burn Foundation.

If you want to help this child and his family, there is a donation link at the Burn Foundation site.

More information on what is going on to help this young boy is at CNN.

Journey to the Hundred Years’ War

Posted by on 23 Aug 2007 | Tagged as: children, friends, fun, good things, hope, Uncategorized, weather

Rain is good for being a tourist. The fair weather folk stay home and you have practically the entire place — and the attention of all the staff — to yourself. At least, this has been our experience, more than once. Most recently, last Sunday, when we drove up past Carnation, Washington to the medieval reenactment village of Camlann.

Set in approximately the last year of Edward III’s 50-year reign in England, there are a few buildings and many craftspeople and others to help interpret the way things were.  Absent the plague, of course, and the ravages of war…

Here are a few shots of our family, enjoying market day in the middle ages!

We entered through the town gate…

the menfolk prepare to enter the past

And, doffing our mundane, modern wear, outfitted ourselves appropriately.   Here is one young squire, Master G of Griffinshire.

stidkid models appropriate 1376 attire

We proceeded apace to the finest Inn of the village to enjoy a musical moment by the most renowned Sub Tilia.  Afterward, the minstrels allowed us to examine and, yea!, even play a bit, having left our own instruments at home.

the minstrel boy performs

And a lesson on the Uillean pipes, more complicated than they appear!

The piper gives a quick lesson on the pipes

At the feast, a young hunter and his cohort wandered in…

the hunter and the hunt

The murals in this hall were of the finest quality, as you can see.  Any feast-goer would be much entertained by the adornments alone — and the feast would be enhanced by the presence of so many goodly sights.

Wandering off, we saw a magician, Master Payne:

Master Payne performs feats of legerdemain

From the other direction, you can see the boys enjoying the show and the buildings behind.

three boys enjoying a day in town

And then they were off to the lists, to view the play Sir Orfeo and enjoy a lesson in swordplay.

Three boys demonstrating their prowess in ...

As we were listening to music again, Stidkid#2 thought about Life in the Middle Ages…

a moment to reflect

And then it was time to go.  Time to leave, and to remember…  the chandler surrounded by children and adults enjoying the warmth of the fire under her cauldron; the fletcher who spent time explaining to a simple woman the intricacies of arrow-making, the difference in the size and shape of arrowheads, and the many things that affect an arrow’s flight; the cidermaker with the huge wheel to crush the apples and the ingenious screw-driven lever to press the juice; the young noblewoman whose archery was finer than many grown men; the lovely pasties the serving woman sold in the square; the players and musicians sharing the love of the arts; the toymaker ; the scribe, whose lovely art decorated the walls of her shop.

All these people, living, teaching — and still learning — between two worlds 700 years apart.  They — and their descendents survived the plagues and wars of their time with relative good humor and plenty of enjoyment.   So can, and so will, we.

Death and Destruction, Hope at Home

Posted by on 22 Aug 2007 | Tagged as: Giving, hope, musings, Peace Making, Politics and War, social justice, Uncategorized

I hate war.

This site keeps a running tally of Casualties and Fatalities in Iraq — not just U.S. and other foreigners, also civilians and Iraqi forces.

I don’t have a solution for this mess — we all saw it coming, but protests were useless. And what little I have and do will never heal these wounds.

Now all I can do is cry every time I see a headline about yet another car bomb in a market, or an aid worker taken hostage, or a young soldier (just married, coming home soon) dead.

So, I do what I tell my children to do: stop worrying about the things beyond my control, focus on making life better for the people right here, around me.

This year, I will help in two different elementary schools: the one my children attended, and the one my mother teaches at. I will help my mother in her final year as a teacher, as she tries to give stability and order (and maybe teach reading and writing) to a class of nearly 30 first-graders, many of whom get not only free lunches, but breakfast as well. I will read with first graders, with fourth graders and help in the library at the other school, where few children receive reduced meals, and most enter first grade ready to read — if not reading already. Don’t get me wrong: I love working with the kids, whatever their background, but the difference is palpable: The most capable children in the one school would be flagged for extra attention in the other…

And that, along with the hats and scarves I make for homeless people, the meals I make for my family, the flowers I give (if they are ever truly abundant) to friends and neighbors… and the conversations I hold online and off… will have to be my contribution to world peace.

A drop in the bucket. But maybe, just maybe…

I was done with this article, when I ran across today’s CNN story about a little boy in Iraq who was set on fire. Iraq Boy Short of learning to replace lost hopes, dreams, security and broken bodies…. what can be done?

Stid Family Goings-On

Posted by on 21 Aug 2007 | Tagged as: allergy, Babble, birds, children, climate, critters, Family Matters, friends, garden, parenting, Uncategorized

It has been a very busy couple of weeks for some reason!First off, congratulations to my Babble-Friends, Featherbee and kristinc, who both had their bundles of joy delivered safely in the last few weeks. Two more bouncing babies added to our happy Babble Family.

Let’s see… my last post was on the 8th… a lot has happened in the almost two weeks since!

The children were at YMCA camp on the Kitsap Peninsula that first week. Tom and I were enjoying a few days’ R&R; at home, no pressures. A few small projects intended, only a couple of which were realized. We watched several movies: Little Miss Sunshine was amusing but definitely not for prudes, and appropriately rated R; a very very bad (does anyone remember So Bad It’s Good Theater?) Sci-Fi flick with Patrick Stewart in a relatively minor role, Lifeforce is worthy of cult status but basically trampy and trashy (not unlike the Rocky Horror Picture Show), rated R but I think it was at the extreme edge of R (lots of nudity); and Mixed Nuts with Steve Martin and many other very funny people, rated PG-13; and finally, Hanky Panky, a PG-rated film from 1982 starring Gene Wilder and Gilda Radner, though not technically a comedy the impeccable timing of the stars lent the movie an edge that overcame what could otherwise have been just another Hitchcock knock-off.

Other memorable things from that week:

  • One Stidkid’s suitcase was lost for three days after his arrival at camp. Finally, when I learned on Wednesday it was not found and insisted on talking with him by phone… we were just about to hang up when they found the suitcase! Coincidence? I think it was the Mama Magic!
  • We ate one evening at the Sushi House restaurant on the west side of Olympia. I recommend it. A bit on the expensive side (for us, at least) but the food was excellent and in good quantities, the ambiance is great, and the service was prompt and friendly.
  • I was the first official interviewee for BAbblecast in Episode 11
  • Tom and I spent a nice hour at the Tacoma Art Museum looking at the Japanese Woodblock prints on display… and the photos by William B Post…
  • then I went to the dentist for the first time in over a year. My previous dentist, whom I had known for over a quarter century died this year and I hadn’t been able to bring myself to see anyone since he stopped working. Tom insisted, so we found a new dentist (different office entirely) close to where he works. I think this young(ish) dentist will do nicely. I was really nervous. You know, I had the other one trained already… (insert laugh track here) but this fellow, Steve Russell, in Tumwater Washington had the same gentle touch and voice and was willing to work around my many allergies. He explained things clearly, too. And his staff is wonderful. His father, whom I didn’t meet is retiring soon, but I suspect there is a family resemblance. Do you need a dentist? I recommend this one!

All too soon the children were home. We stopped to get a new laptop computer for me (I like to be able to work from any comfortable perch in the house, and the elder stidkid needed something he could take to high school with him… he gets the old one); then got a bird for the younger stidkid who had earned it by getting his room reorganized and CLEAN! His name is “Bleu”… (as in bleu cheese)

the parakeet

Last week was the 17th International Bacteriophage Meeting at The Evergreen State College. And I was sick nearly the whole time. A bad allergy attack the Friday before triggered all sorts of sensitivities, so I didn’t go to the informal dinner at our friend’s house before the meeting, nor to the official opening picnic, nor to the big feast… I didn’t even get to hear a single lecture, which disappointed me greatly. I just wanted to rest and sleep most of that week. But Stidkid#1 DID attend, in part to help our friend with little errands and tasks, and mostly to just be there. He rubbed elbows with friends old and new, and by the end of the first day, everyone knew his name! I was able to see my friend in the photo below only briefly, very late on her last day in Olympia. I hope that I will be healthy for the next meeting!

Here he is with our dear friend Dr. Zemphira Alavidze, and new friends Dr. Irina Chkonia and Grace Filby. He has known Zemphira all his life — and is penpals with her grandson in Georgia!

stidkid and friends

Here he is with one of his heroes, Dr. Revaz Adamia, of the Eliava Institute in Tbilisi.

Revaz Adamia and Stidkid

Once again, with Dr. Hubert Mazure, the great-grandson of Felix d’Herelle who was the first (along with George Eliava) to really develop bacteriophages as a medical treatment.

Dr. Hubert Mazure and Stidkid

Here he is, with his grandmother “Stidg’mere” showing her the posters at the meeting.

Stidkid and his grandmere

And last but not least, here he is with two of the Evergreen students he has worked with a little bit… (I am sorry I don’t remember their names). They made one of the posters behind them.

students and their poster

I would love to talk on and on about phage and their history, and the Eliava institute, but it has been done so well by Dr. Elizabeth Kutter and her students and other scientists at Evergreen that I will simply direct you to their website.

And since then… well a nice, wet weekend. We went to “Camlann” — but that is a post for tomorrow.

Beautiful British Columbia, Part Four (the last)

Posted by on 08 Aug 2007 | Tagged as: Art Museums and Galleries, Babble, British Columbia, children, food, friends, good things, Uncategorized

Monday morning, another gray and cloudy (and slightly cool) day, no different from home — except we were the guests of gracious hosts… stidkid#1 and I at Hetty and Alan’s house, stidkid#2 at Jillbus’. Like so many times when I am away from home (or just on vacation at home as this week) I woke fairly early and wandered downstairs to enjoy the quiet.

I had an early breakfast of tea and toast, then wandered upstairs to finish packing. When I came back down, stidkid was sitting at the table, happily chowing down and chatting with Hetty. Here is a pic I snapped quickly while their backs were turned. You can see that, from the main floor of Hetty’s home it feels like one is standing in the treetops.

hetty and stidkid at breakfast

Hetty is perhaps the best conversationalist I have met. She doesn’t just like to talk, she has things to say — and is at least as good a listener as she is a talker. Like many Babblers, she has a multitude of interests, and can hold her own I suspect on nearly any topic. I had a couple very nice conversations with Alan also over the course of the visit. I am so happy that Hetty married a kind and gentle man. He reminds me in many ways of my own Tom. Just a bit older… I suppose by the time we are their ages we will also have some wonderful life stories to tell!

Hetty treats every person as important and worthy of attention, she doesn’t talk down to kids, but I noticed she carefully modifies her words to match the understanding of the person with whom she speaks. Jill does the same, but in a different way. It is interesting to me how people can accomplish the same things in such different ways. Hetty is sweet, like cotton candy — Jill is tangy like lemon meringue pie. Both are the icing on the cake.

Speaking of Jill, it was time to bid Alan and Perky adieu and head down the hill to Jill’s house. The younger boy’s belongings were already in the foyer… and away we flew to Vesuvius… in time to watch the ferry pull away from the dock. Even the bald eagle on the tree seemed surprised that we missed the boat!

bald eagle

While we waited (and hour until the next sailing time) we walked to the little store just up the hill and the boys got ice creams (after all, it had been at least an hour since breakfast), then down to the beach.

Here is Hetty, waiting for everyone to catch up (as usual):

Hetty waits for us to catch up

The beach at Vesuvius is an interesting little shallow harbor, looks like it was carved out by an ice cream scoop, so perfectly round! The rocks are a mix of upturned sedimentary and boulders (granite perhaps?) deposited during the last ice age.

Here is are two views from above, you can see the lines in the rocks:

the beach from the trees

another view rocks and more rocks

Part of the curve of the beach, you can see that here wave action has left the beach covered with small boulders and pebbles — most between one and three inches diameter.

the curve of vesuvius beach

A stidkid looks for aquatic life from a precarious perch…

a few of the larger boulders strewn about

On the way to and from the beach, we stopped to admire the blooms in a couple gardens. The monarda (bee balm) caught our attention in this one:

monarda and white fence

And the combination of penstemon and osteospermum (I think) were striking in this garden. I think the purple foliage behind it was a type of coleus.

penstemon and others

The ferry ride was lovely — a quick, calm crossing and this time we were the first on and the first off! At Crofton, we turned left/south and headed for The Malahat which I had envisioned as a sort of deer trail. Surprise, it’s Canada Highway 1, a multi-lane freeway that takes you straight into the heart of Victoria! The views, had it been fairer weather, would have been spectacular. As it was, it was merely pretty (ho-hum, yet again another pristine view). [please note: the last sentence was sarcasm]

In no time, Hetty was pulling into a parking space just around the corner from one of our favorite shops, Murchie’s. This tea shop is over a hundred years old and sells some of the nicest teas I have tasted. And spices, and coffees. They have a nice little deli as well, and it was here that we had arranged to meet the final babbler of our trip, raelite.

Sure enough, we had barely sat down with our salads and sandwiches, than Raelite showed up! Of course, we babbled on about Babble and Babblers, houses, places one can see on on budget in Victoria (always a consideration for us), and Life in General. But in no time, the parking meters were about to expire and we had to leave. Time for a couple more pictures, here is stidkid#1 again, with Raelite:

raelite and stidmatt

And the six babblers all together, this one taken by a kind parking enforcement officer who was checking to be sure Hetty was about to move her car! Behind us is the Thai restaurant, Siam where the children and I later ate supper. If you are in Victoria, this is a good place to eat!

all six babblers

And then, they were off and we were standing there, suitcases in hand, expectant looks on our faces. Where to first? Was there time to catch an earlier ferry?

We arrived at the dock in time to wave goodbye… So back we went to Government Street. First stop Munro’s bookstore, then Murchie’s again to pick up souvenir teas for the family. Then the Irish Linen Shop across the street and down a little to find some nice handkerchiefs for me and a pretty table runner for my mother-in-law who actually has space to put such things.

And then… The Maritime Museum, a very interesting place for two boys and their mother! Again, wonderful, nice people. I think we had the whole museum to ourselves, being Monday afternoon only an hour and a bit before closing… they kindly kept our suitcases behind the counter so we could explore freely. And I asked before taking pictures — they are a little dark and blurry because I had to take them without a flash.

The museum starts out with an historical perspective on water activities, which the children and I found most interesting! Here is something that puts modern day punishments into perspective…

pirates who got caught wore these

And one that shows just how much bigger people today are. stidkid#2 is standing next to a soldier’s breastplate and helmet. Considering he hasn’t even begun to stop growing…

how they punished pirates

A unique item in the museum is the Tilikum, a dugout boat found on Vancouver Island and converted into an ocean-going sailboat in the early 1900s. Here are the boys at the stern. the original canoe stopped at the lower blue stripe:

The tilikum dugout boat

And stidkid#2 at the bow.

the bow of the tilikum

Opposite the bow of the Tilikum was a figurehead. I regret that I did not write down the name of her ship:

a ship's figurehead

This was the permanent exhibit. Upstairs were more, we were able to view the one on the second floor before closing time, titled “P.O.S.H., for Port Outbound; Starboard Home.” It is a look back at the heyday of ships as the major mode of distance transport. The museum curator said they were able to interview a number of people who had either traveled on the boats or worked on them. What a terrific experience that must have been! If you can get to this museum, I do recommend it. It fronts on a pedestrian street, but is easily reached from either Government Street or Wharf Street.

After a very satisfying supper (complete with a delicious black-rice in coconut milk pudding), the children and I made our way along the wharf toward the ferry terminal. Here are my most precious traveling companions with a beautifully decorated orca:

the boys with an orca statue

A reasonably smooth and quick crossing and a short drive home, and we slept in our own beds that night…

What a treat it had been to spend time with Hetty and Jill: from the walks in downtown Ganges to the evenings spent discussing any topic that came to mind, to the narrated tours of the areas around Salt Spring Island. What a joy to finally meet Raelite and learn more about her life in person. What a grand adventure the boys and I had, wandering the streets of Victoria with all the time we needed to explore! I enjoyed every minute. This is what makes British Columbia so beautiful to me — the slower pace of vacation time and the scenery are nice to be sure, but mostly the beauty is in the people.

One last pic from the journey, the one that makes me smile the most, Hetty and Jill by my favorite mural in Ganges. I think they look like the fairy godmothers they surely are to me! [bippity-boppity-boo?]

a mural of butterflies

Beautiful British Columbia, Part Three

Posted by on 05 Aug 2007 | Tagged as: Babble, British Columbia, children, friends, fun, Uncategorized

Well, Sunday dawned cloudy and gray — a bit misty, with promise of rain…

I had asked to accompany Hetty and Alan to church — they sing in the choir (as the veteran performers they are) and then go to the local hospital to sing for some of the people in the long-term care unit there. In a former life, I had done similar things. So, I wanted to hear them sing, and visit with folks too.

Jill took the boys for the morning, and though I am not sure what they did, I know they had fun!

The little church is fairly new, but a good size for a vacation-retirement community. It wasn’t even half full, and there were no children at all. A few younger people, but most were older than I; no spring chicken! It was a typical service in the liturgical tradition, recognizable to any person of Lutheran, Catholic or Anglican background. The music was very nice — though one song had no music available, and I searched in vain for something in the hymnal that might make sense… hard to take the songleader out of me, even a decade on. I will put in a post about the sermon later, it gave me food for thought! The people there are very nice — a little too much for this “hiding in the library” sort of person — but generous and kind.

After the service and coffee hour we drove to the hospital — I am so very happy I went. I love to do things like that for people, and though I did not as Hetty had assumed know these “old favorites,” they were easy enough to pick up and sing once I had heard the chords through. Hymns tend to follow a very similar pattern, after all! The folks who came to the sing-a-long, though, knew them really well. I had to stop singing a couple, when I recognized them as some of my own grandmother’s favorites… but mostly it was a fun time. Only half an hour, but plenty long for these frail elderly.

Then we found a salmon for Hetty to make supper and went on home to gather the boys and Jill. Actually, Hetty and Alan dropped me off and Jill took us from her place across to Crofton on the big island via the little ferry at Vesuvius.

Now, Vesuvius is a tiny little place, a small convenience store and a few houses clustered around the ferry dock. There is sometimes a pub, though it is currently closed while the owner deals with legal issues. A nice feature of the gulf islands, is that ferries OFF are free… you drive on and go!

The ferry “terminal”:

the dock from the beach where Jill swims

And with the ferry in…

the ferry at the dock

Getting on the ferry (it’s smaller than it looks):

the ferry is plein aire

Crofton is a nice industrial town, attached to a pulp mill and the ferry terminal. Working-class and decidedly “un-stylish,” it nevertheless has an air of purpose that is nice — and often lacking in bigger towns.

The view of Crofton from the ferry

But our real destination was Chemainus, a former mill town that repurposed itself after the mill (the only real employer) closed down about 20 years ago. It has become a center for arts and artists. There are quaint B&Bs, a theatre (which I am told is quite good), murals on nearly any vertical surface that doesn’t move, and all the associated touristy-type shops that accompany an artist colony-cum-vacation spot.

We had a lovely meal at a small hole in the wall Greek eatery, then walked around the town for an hour and a half. The sky was overcast, but except for a quick sprinkle just as the lunch was brought out, it never rained. And we did NOT melt!

Pictures, of course!

Here is the “quaint”:

a funky yellow building

A view back to Salt Spring Island from the boat ramp at Chemainus:

three babblers look across the water

And to prove that’s where we were…

the big carved sign at the public park

After Chemainus, we spent a little time at Jill’s again. She has a new type of jig-saw puzzle that also has cross-word clues and answers on it. We had fun working on that until it was time for supper.

And supper…. AH! Jill’s meal the night before was terrific, and Hetty’s was eye-opening! I had not had fennel root before, so of course I made a pig of myself. It tasted so very good, especially with the salmon. Some home-made wine from Alan’s cellar; beautiful tender new potatoes, salad — and of course the company was delightful.

Here is a picture of the table that Hetty set:

a table set for dining

And then dessert, followed by conversation while the boys watched Julie Andrews in “Cinderella” — the Rogers and Hammerstein musical that was the first to be live broadcast on network television.

By the time Jill left and we turned in for the night (after ten o-clock) I was beat, and sorry that we would leave the next day.

In the final installment, our trip back to the main island, the afternoon and evening in Victoria, and our long journey home…

Local Folk

Posted by on 03 Aug 2007 | Tagged as: food, friends, garden, good things, Uncategorized

I write pretty often about the people who run the fruit stand. Michael and Jeannine (I checked on the spellings) are the sort of people I would be happy to have my children become. Generous, honest and hard-working, living their values.

Here are some current pictures of their wonderful fruit stand, in a new location, closer to the freeway exit out to our peninsula.

The original sign, now about six years old:

the first sign they made

The new and improved sign, placed so people notice the stand which is toward the back of the lot:

the new sign

And here is the stand, from a distance:

the entire set up in the new location

And what it looks like behind the green trailor:

the shady side of the trailor where the delicate greens and fresh corn are kept

Evaluating the various melons… first a casava type:

casava type melon

And then the luscious watermelon we purchased!

A hefty fruit indeed!

Notice stidmatt proudly modeling the T-shirt I gave him as a souvenir from our trip north.

Speaking of which, I will load the next installment of our trip to British Columbia tomorrow!