Saturday, March 26, 2011

Oh, Mr. Sun

A few quiet minutes here to post and so I thought I would mention this interesting bit of sun and sunscreen information I came across during my perusing of some favorite blogs.

Ashley, over at Small Measure, posted this EPA research on sunscreen. She also provided this link, from the EPA, detailing their best and worst choices for sunscreen. Really helpful information, especially as we're all gearing up for lots of sunshine in the coming days!

And then I'll say here- it always makes me sigh when I see a new list like this one. I pick Burt's Bees sunscreen- it's mostly natural, it's easy to find, and, for our budget (keeping in mind our budget goes to very few things these days), fairly affordable. So it is disappointing to see it fall in the "caution" category of their list, right next to Banana Boat. I've used both, of course, my point is its disappointing to spend more money and time on a particular brand only to discover, eh, its about the same as several others (though, conversely, if you've been a Banana Boat buyer, might as well pump your fist over the couple of bucks you've saved each time you've picked that particular brand.) So I read this and I want to shake my fist and demand of the sky, "what else can we do?!"

Except I know the answer, for me at least. Read! Do your homework. I seem to have been born with a gene that says, if you've thought it, someone else has written about it. Extensively. So I read. A lot.

I'm always so glad to come across information like this, put together succinctly and with sources. I've gone to the EPA site, made notes of their recommendations and now I'll know how to shop differently in the next few weeks. I'm glad to see natural instincts, like "The best sunscreen is a hat and a shirt" at the top of the EPA's advice- at least something is simple!

My active imagination determines I could easily scare myself silly if I read too much. So I stop once I have an idea of the material and think, now on to that new Elizabeth Peters mystery I scored at the library! Or those toe-up socks I've frogged and am ready to cast-on again. Still, a little research goes a looong way. I'm still amazed at how picking up the Sears' The Baby Book completely altered our journey to parenting.

I'm going to stop now, because Dory burst into the room, saying "Peek a boo!"and then our conversation went a little something like this.
Me: Hey little sweetie!
Me: What's that on your mouth?
Dory: Its choc'ate chips!
Me: Are you and daddy making cookies?
Dory: No! We just eatin' choc'ate chips!
Dory: We need YOU to make cookies! We just eatin' choc'ate chips and watchin' Toy Story! C'mon, mommy!

Who here thinks if Daddy was our stay-at-home parent life would pretty much be a carnival all the time?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Always Looking Up

We have sprouts. Or sprouting. I'm not entirely certain what to call them. Seedlings? Whatever these little shoots and small green leaves are, we have 'em.

The tomatoes took off first and the fastest. Originally the Brandywine and the Goldman's Italian-American were going gangbusters, while the Principe Borghese and Riesentraube lagged behind. They have since caught up and I can safely say, of the dozen each planted, we have at least eight little tiny plants per kind, as many as a full dozen for one. The good news came two mornings ago, however, when Matthew sent me a picture of the newly sprouted broccoli. This was our first sprout beyond tomatoes. Since then two of the peppers are showing life, the wild strawberries container is dotted with green and the thyme from Dory's little garden has several shoots. There is growth!

As a first time gardener, I don't yet know what I can't do. While I did read a book and look around for good seeds and I did have a general idea of what was needed (dirt, water, sunshine, right?), I confess to not studying this seed starting business too closely. Now, reading back through old articles on Mother Earth News, I'm realizing all the ways we weren't quite prepared for this. Like starting all your plants in 3 inches or deeper containers. Hmm, pretty sure our sagging and soggy little egg cartons don't quite reach that height requirement. Or the great benefit to having a growing lamp. Our plants look more like dirt on the run, constantly moved around the house to catch the best sunlight and heat throughout the day. I started a faint panic one night, thinking, we're doing it all wrong! We're not prepared! How will we survive the summer?!

I dialed that back pretty quickly and now we have more sprouts. Maybe not all hope is lost, even without fancy growing lights or the common sense to start with real potting plants.

Still, I'm glad of our ignorance at the moment. We're trying veggies we might not have if we had 'known better.' Even if the broccoli goes straight to flower, I'm proud it got going. And I do think we're going to have some winners from these plants. They're just trying so darned hard. They make you want to believe in them.

Friday, March 18, 2011


Woke up on time, awake and ready to go yesterday morning. But somehow couldn’t bring myself to slip out of bed, to leave the warmth of Dory’s little body, not so little now, her slim, long body curled up against mine, her head tucked so perfectly under my chin. Instead, stayed in bed, arms wrapped around her, and for two hours lost myself in family and farm fantasies, imagining a farm, some land and a house for us, imagining our chickens, imagining our dairy cow and our beef cow, imagining our garden, tilled right into the soil, imagining all kinds of things, giving classes in our home on cheesemaking, canning, Dory, a little older, whirling into the kitchen, with Matthew on her heels, the feeling of us being together as a family throughout the day.

We all want this. She loves Matthew as she loves me, she thrives best when we stay together as a family unit. For so long now, forever, Matthew has said, when we three are together,' this is what matters, this is all I want.' And for some time I’ve rolled my eyes and basically thought, enjoy it until real life sets back in.

I have a new idea of what I want real life to look like. Maybe real life isn’t work, cars, bills, with snippets of family love and magic fit in around it. Maybe life could BE family, could be togetherness, could be relationship, with work, cars, and bills fit in around THAT.

There’s no point agonizing over time lost or not knowing these things before. But now that this realization begins to dawn, I wonder what other possibilities are out there? What would it be like to have that, that bit of land, our chickens, our cows, to leave your place only once a week, to find your food there, where you grow it, to find our joy there, being together...

I think, more than ever, the path opens up in front of me... read this book, find this suggestion, get out in the ground, and do this work. Last night, we came together after being gone all day at work and we stayed outside, watering our garden, playing in the grass, sipping cool beverages, feeling the first suggestion of heat and summer on our arms and faces. Matthew said, even as the clock said 6:30, ‘let’s stay outside all day!’ almost giddy with the joy of being with his daughter and wife again. Maybe these times aren’t meant to be fitted in around ‘everything else.’ Maybe THIS is meant to be the time.

I don’t want to rush this or try to make it happen now. I’m a good one for either forcing something to work that isn’t ready yet and so often breaking it, or for staying sick with longing and desire, letting it eat at me until the dream is simply twisted into something that hurts instead of inspires.

I’m not going to do this here. Right now, this is our life. I work as a nanny, I am so fortunate to provide an income to my family, while being with my daughter all day, while taking care of her mostly as I always intended to. Matthew follows this teaching dream, in school on weekends, and working around that. We live in a house we love, in a great neighborhood, we are close to family, we have many dear friends. There is a smoothing to life’s rough edges these days and Matthew and I often marvel that, on a third of the money that he used to make on his own, we live far better now than before. We better understand living within our means, quality over quantity and what, to us, now truly matters, these ties that don’t bind but envelope and hold us together.

We carve out that other life, that life of possibility, in small ways right now. There are three vegetable beds in our backyard, there are little damp seed trays in our windows, there are pots on the front porch that will hopefully become basil, cilantro, dill, and other herbs. Books are scattered through the house with titles like “Radical Homemakers” and “Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens.” There are bonds we make and strengthen, finding a way to eat locally, to buy quality, humanely tended meat, thoughtfully produced produce, shopping at our local co-op for the needs in between. We drive less and less, the miles on the car Dory and I share racking up maybe a dozen a week. We receive from our family, who offer us a car so we don’t overextend, who slip us $30 here or a pair of shoes for Dory there and we appreciate the generosity, try to return the gift by excepting graciously and with good humor.

All these little steps and yet steps go by fast, they take you where you want to go, so often, more quickly than you expect. That’s what I think. And sometimes its worth giving up all the little to-do’s of the morning, to lay next to a sleeping child, that little body that grows so quickly and seems to stay warm with love, hope, and optimism, just to be close to her and dream for a few minutes of what might someday, a few months or maybe a few short years, come to be. What if...?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Seed Fever

This morning, Dory, her arms wrapped around my neck, whispered in my ear, "Let's go see my seeds growing."

One of Matthew's dear, thoughtful co-workers picked up a set of these herb plants for her son and a set for Dory too. This is one of the sweetest gifts I think Dory's ever received. She even labeled each little plant and the garden itself.

Dory and Matthew planted them last night. We checked their progress this morning and, well, not much yet. She was not discouraged. And standing in our kitchen, on a rainy Tuesday morning, with her little monkey arms and legs around me, I wasn't either.

After that, we had tea. Dory served.

If a day can start off this well with no visible seed growth, what will a day with a little visible green be like? I cannot wait to find out.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Seed Starting

(Dory on her John Deere)

Is it March that comes in like a lion? February left like one and March still growls a little. Yet new growth, life and adventure is on the horizon. We started seeds two Sundays ago.
Taking what feels like a lifelong collection of cardboard egg cartons, we got out our seed starter dirt and got going on the dining room table. For anyone who doubts these are the actions of novices, we laid down no towels or newspapers and Dory's first action was to take out a scoopful of dirt, with her little Garfield spade, and pour it all over herself. She announced, this was her shower. I wanted to lecture, on 'where dirt belongs,' I wanted to start sweeping and cleaning up around her. I would have done, too, had not some little instinct, some little voice, called out to me, reminded me of something I already almost forgot- this is supposed to be fun! Dirt is not meant to be tidy, clean, and I expect keeping it to 'where it belongs' is almost impossible. Shower on, little one, shower on.

This was a two step process, playing with dirt with Dory and then actually starting the seeds on the floor of our living room, on a picnic blanket, long after she had fallen asleep, while (talk about getting back to the land!) the Oscars played in the background. We are your modern, homesteading family. In progress.

For the first days my confidence was high, but lately its flagged a little as we see no evidence of growth. Surely its coming. They're in the windows, they're working, surely its coming.

Do we need one of those heat lamps, people? This is my concern.