Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Reasonable expectations

Nature reclaims along the Unami Creek, Quakertown, PA
It's been the winter of field trips. Outward bound movement has been easier, much easier for awhile now.

We can hold ourselves together as family and as individuals. One person's meltdown is not the whole family's meltdown. Don't read "one person" as necessarily the littlest person in the family. We all have our expectations and when expectations are not met, the mood can head south. Now, we all rebound more quickly. And, I think our expectations are more realistic and less based in idealism.

Jared, for example, hope to visit beautiful natural areas. I do, too. It's not always easy in this geographic area. Deer, invasives, a long history of people beating up on the land. All this means degraded landscapes which can be tiring rather than rejuvenating. Maybe we'll see something new, one pretty thing, one hopeful thing. Maybe we toss a few rocks into the Unami Creek and have a decent walk.

Me, my expectations. A peaceable trip with some excitement. Some laughs. Yet, no trip is without some minor vexation. I realize that. It's a big deal if I make into one. So, don't. I try.

Some of activities we can find in our culture are shopping-based, oh well. We went to Material Culture, a big warehouse of eastern imports and distressed furniture. I didn't find the tall, narrow cabinet to solve all our household's hat-and-mitten-avalanche-from-cubby issues, but we spent a nice hour looking at colorful stuff.

Plus, we saw a primitive art sculpture that made us laugh. Let's see if I can describe. A seated, headless male figure made of plaster of Paris soaked gauze painted faint neon colors. Long, large, somewhat curly penis painted gold. The figure had no back, no back on legs, just the front. We hardly noticed anyway. Beren pointed. We all laughed.

Afterwards, we drove to see our old apartment in west Philly. We didn't recognize it. In fact, I said, "It's not the one with the brown paint", but it was. The corner house still had pretty gardens, or seemed to on this winter day. A older man had tended them. Now, a wheelchair lift was mounted to the porch.

From there, we went to an Ethiopian restaurant. Tired decor. Sagging ceiling. Worn carpet. Friendly people. The hostess seemed to know one word, "baby", which she called Beren several times. He didn't notice. We gobbled a platter of aromatic, saucy foods, sat back and patted our bellies.

*Today, a hostess at a local diner also called Beren, "baby". Not "baby" as in a term of affection, but "baby" as in a little one. I love that.

 Unami Creek, Quakertown, PA

 Unami Creek, Quakertown, PA

 Inside the Material Culture store

 Outside the Material Culture store

 Philadelphia always had great diversity in food, including Ethiopian food

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Mountain Kitten

Why is Mountain Kitten pacing the floor? Winter is hard for cats, too. "My ancestors are from the Middle East*," complains Mountain Kitten as he does a circuit around the first floor. Perhaps, he'll attack my foot or the carpet.

He'll go upstairs while Jared tells Beren a bedtime story. He ascends the stairs silently. When he visits them, Jared and Beren laugh. I call him down, and he sounds like this: thunk a thunk a thunk a thunk a thunk. "Mmrrreow," he says to me as he enters the living room.

We discourage Mountain from going upstairs. Two years ago he had fleas. We knew that because my legs were bitten daily. Occasionally, Jared and Beren were bitten. I washed every article of clothing in the house. Then, I recalled that Mountain had tended to sleep in the closet near my pants.


Mountain Kitten listens intently to the sounds of mice in the walls. He likes to play with the mice that emerge from under the stove or the greenhouse. He does not kill them. Instead, he leaves that work to the mouse traps.

Mountain Kitten likes to eat chemical-free, greenhouse-grown native grasses, especially bottlebrush grass (Elymus hystrix).

Mountain Kitten likes to dig in recently sown seed beds of native woodland wildflowers.

Mountain Kitten needs frequent reminders of where his food bowl resides.

Mountain Kitten ate a rotten mouse in the attic on the day of Beren's birthday party last year. He was bloated and not well.

Mountain Kitten likes to go on walks with us. On summer walks, we carry him back because he overheats and his tongue turns red. We often put him in the basement when we plan to go far.

Mountain Kitten practices kung fu with me. He attacks my legs as I run through forms.

Mountain Kitten sprints after and attacks Beren when Beren runs across the field.

Mountain Kitten does not mess with Jared. Mountain Kitten bothers the h*ll out of Jared for food.


*Read a National Geographic article on the lineage of house cats:

Saturday, January 7, 2017

My Old Neighborhood, My New Neighborhood

I continue to get back into writing, so I'm going easy on myself here with a little slice of life:

Last night Jared went out with a friend so I picked an extra evening of bedtime duty. "Clusters" we call them. Jared does two nights, I do two nights. Beren will ask, "Is it Papa's cluster or Momma's cluster?"

Alternating every other night was difficult, a little unsettling for all of us. At some point, we decided two nights in a row worked better for everyone. My evening kung fu class causes leap nights every other week.

Sometimes Beren asks for adjustments in the routine, depending on his desire for dynamic bedtime story (Jared's domain) or perhaps one parent has recently clamped down on him and he'd rather not snuggle with that parent (too bad). Only an absolutely ill parent gets a by on "BT" (bedtime).

Last night we followed the usual routine. I told him a rambling story about fairies. I told him a story about when he was little. Then, we deviated. He asked for a story about when I was little. I told him about the neighborhood where I grew up near the Rahway River.

There seemed to be so many kids on the block. Chris (a little kid who moved in a couple years before we moved. He played sometimes.), Ben (played all the time) and his older brother, Chris (much older, never played), and Carrie, my best friend. My brother was a baby, a baby in the house.

That makes three of us, and four if you count the latecomer, Chris. Back then, I felt like we were a massive band, a wild gang on trikes and bikes. Three of us. I was surprised to realize we were so few.

Our domain felt huge - from my house to Carrie's house on the corner. Six houses between Carrie's house and mine, maybe. Carrie's, the Knott's, Chris and Ben, maybe another white house, Bucky's (then little Chris' once Bucky died and house sold). The lots were small, houses separated by only driveways. It felt like we owned the vast world. I think we did.

I wish that for my son. A wild band of kids to freely roam with. That's not likely to happen. We live in a rural place not far from where my family moved when I was eight.

Families are busy these days. Now, you have to schedule "play dates". Every day was a play day in my old neighborhood. After school, weekends, all play time. Until Ben's dad whistled from him to come home for dinner.

At age eight, my family moved away from what I considered paradise. Looking back, I'm not sure that's true. Nothing lasts anyway. I went from owning the concrete sidewalk that we marked with chalk to owning the woods, all by myself. It was exciting but lonely. Eventually, my brother grew big enough to sometimes build forts with me.

My son is likely to roam the woods alone until like me he finds a couple friends to roam with him. Maybe when his legs get long enough to reach the next neighbor kid who likes the woods.

I recently corresponded with my very first and very best childhood friend, Carrie. I'm completed awash in strong feelings for that time.

I moved, she didn't. I wonder if she feels the same nostalgia, or I have clouded vision of over thirty years gone by.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Night Out

Last April, we slept under the stars. It was a school night. No matter, I thought, let's live a little. There's always excuses to stick with the routine or the rut.

I remember Beren was excited. He wiggled. He flopped. Jared and I were ready for sleep.  "Would you like me to bring you inside?" I asked quietly. "No," Beren answered. "OK, let's settle in."

He drifted off quickly. Jared and I lay awake. I did finally fall asleep but woke regularly. The cat visited us. Insect sounds, animal sounds. Wind on my skin. I marked time, watching the arc of the moon across the sky.

I hope to sleep outside more frequently when the weather warms.