Monday, January 31, 2011

inside out

As promised, the baby gift I was so thrilled to make:

I'm getting back into the swing of creating which is friggin' fantastic because my hands were starting to get twitchy.  The idea for this baby quilt had been rolling around in my head for months.  It took an early baby and several 10:00pm-1:00am sessions to get 'er done.  But I loved every minute of it and though I welcomed sleep, I *almost* didn't want to finish.

My idea was simple: to make a baby blanket, shorter than crib-sized, that was also a play mat.  I thought of all the things that engaged J bugs through different stages.  In the beginning, it was strong black and white contrasts, then finer contrasts, then colors and textures (I incorporated ribbons, corduroy and embroidery floss ties).  Also, I wanted simple blocks because I needed to be able to finish the damn thing before this baby learns to crawl.  (Obviously.)  Ultimately, it is a blanket and the woman whose child will be the recipient is very pro-natural fibers, so I didn't want to get all crazy with crinkly paper or plastic eyeball buttons.
    (^Sorry about the out-of-focus photos; we were kind of in a hurry: J bug was about to leap off our front porch.^)

I adopted my step-mom's signature quilting style: 3 different colors of thread in 3 wavy lines (who wants to sew straight when you can sew crooked?) along each block.
I think it turned out stylish and functional with a touch of whimsy.  I dig it.  I envision this blanket on the floor, in the garden, over the car seat, in the stroller....
Or, a baby yoga mat.  

I may have been sewing by night, but we've been crafty by day as well.  Juniper received her first set of beeswax crayon blocks, perfect for a little scribbling and a lot of chewing.

Meanwhile, I made playdough.  Although I don't have my mom's old recipe, I found one through a blog who found it on the internet which I then tweaked, but just a tad.
Playdough Recipe: 

1 cup white flour
1/4 cup salt
2 tsps cream of tartar
1 cup water
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 to 2 tsps food coloring (my green is 2 tsps, purple is 1 and orange is 1/2)

Combine dry ingredients in a sauce pan, add wet ingredients, cook on medium-low and stir until dough forms a ball.  Lightly kneed with a smidgeon of flour, store in air-tight container.  
(Apparently, you can use Kool-Aid powder instead of food coloring, but I haven't tried it; I didn't want Juniper to confuse playdough with some sweet, edible, fruity treat.  Maybe next time.) 

:: The fact of Obama's State of the Union Address reminded me of this time last year, when I took my first step into the blogging world.  My original intent was to lay stake claims on a small corner of the internet where our far-flung family and friends could take a peek into our lives without me flooding their inbox.  And for the most part, that's what Clove's little Corner is all about.  But I've also come to realize this blog is MY corner.  It's my space where every week or so I shuffle through photos and thoughts and moments, pull out the parts I want to remember, or the parts that are hard, and string it together.  Sometimes I end up posting a necklace of mother-of pearl, and sometimes a child's lopsided string of plastic beads.  Nonetheless, this blog rests in the back of my mind all week, reminding me to pay attention, to be present to my life with my family--and for that, I am appreciative.  


:: Juniper had her fifteen-month check up at the vet's this week.  (Ha.  Pediatrician.  You knew what I meant.)  She continues to be tall (32"--83%), stout (24 lbs 6 oz--75%) and level-headed (50%).  Also, she talks.  We knew that, but thought it was normal.  Turns out, your average 15-month-old has 5 words.  We've stopped counting after twenty or thirty.  Maybe she'll grow up to be a great orator, the second female President of the United States (because by then, we'll surely have had one, right?  Sorry--didn't mean to jinx our country...NOT PALIN), and with her words of inspiration she'll bring about world peace, end poverty and hunger, save the last of our earth's untrammeled lands, and make truly sustainable living a reality.  That may be a tall order, but not for a 15-month-old with over thirty words.  And a molar.  Off the top of my head:

eyes :: ice
giraffe :: raff
bath :: basth 
bike :: bi
horse :: os
water :: labla  and my personal favorite,
belly button :: baaay-buh

Have a great week.  It may be my blog, but your e-mails and casual comments fuel my fire.  Thanks for reading, we adore you.    

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

apple ball bird lights

If, in 1996, you would have told me that in 15 years I would be a "stay at home mom" strapped down with a kid and no paying job, I would have balked.  I would have said, Wait.  What?  Nooooooooo!!!  And I would have made every effort to avoid such fate--I would have been Doc wearing the bullet proof vest in the final scene of Back to the Future, except mine would have been kid-proof and, as an extra precaution, wedding-proof.  Which just goes to show it's a good thing we can't foresee our futures when we're 20 years old because guess what?  This right here is the stuff life is made of.

Okay, so yeah, last Friday I was all huffy and irritated because I wanted to get out of the house for our kid-play-group/mom-excercise hour and Juniper was sooooo cranky that it never happened (turns out she had a big poop brewing).  And, yeah, tonight I wanted to take a sledge-hammer to our bedroom wall just to open it up and get enough space to put a rocking chair because I am convinced that a rocking chair in our bedroom will eventually solve all of our sleeping-arrangement issues.  I didn't do it, but only because it's cold outside.    

I think Juniper is changing faster now than she did the first year, which seems impossible for a creature with an average lifespan of 79.1 years.  Shouldn't she slow down a little?  Right now (when she isn't bothered with a massive poo), Bugs is all smiles, giggles, hand-clapping, squat-dancing, stomp-dancing...a pure extraction of everything good...


...and life-affirming.

:: Before she learned to walk Juniper was a crazy little bookworm, then she didn't want anything to do with books, now she is back at it--pulling all her books off the shelf, sitting atop the rubble and flipping through the stiff pages, often upside down and backwards.  I guess she just needed a little break from her studies to get that whole walking bit down.  

Also, she is sitting on her potty again.  (I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but we've practiced EC--elimination communication--since Juniper was born and she has been sitting on the potty since she was 6 weeks old.)  During the walking stage, we were limited to 2-3 times a day, tops.  Who wants to sit when you can walk?  But now that she reads books on the John again, she digs it.  And she loves to check out what she did in the potty.  We really ham it up for her,  Wow!  Look what you did!  Juniper went pee-pee in the potty!  Wow!  No, we don't touch our pee-pee, but we can look.  Yeah, 15 years ago if I'd have known that I would be having conversations like that, I would have doubled up on that bullet-proof vest.    

:: So many changes in the last week alone have me dumbstruck and speechless.  For one, after all that time we struggled to get her to eat solids she suddenly has the appetite of an adolescent boy.  But the biggest thing, the thing that absolutely *blows* my mind out of the water, are her words.  She'll take a new word and try it on for size and fit, but also she has her everyday favorites.  Right now they are apple, ball, bird and lights.  The last, as in Christmas lights, is her absolute favorite.  (Yes, we still have our Charlie Brown tree up.)  She'll point to the tree, roll her head back as though gathering the word from the very back of her throat, then roll her head all the way forward, chin in the lead, and spit out: iiightzs. 

I have a running list on the kitchen table:

apple :: app or app-el
beans :: bee
egg :: eeh
cheese :: choos
juice :: ju or dzeus (with a French accent)
no :: no (no surprise there)
lights :: ights
bird :: birr
blue :: boo
ball :: baawl (with an Appalachian accent)
down :: dow (when Osa is circling her highchair, Juniper will point at and say, Dow!)
don't :: doe
done :: duh
purple :: purp
pee :: pee
poo :: pu
balloon :: baa-ooo
um :: ummmm
oh :: oh
yes :: es
dad :: da
mama :: maaaaa-maaaaaa!!!!!!!!!!!!!
book :: boo-h
^ This is Juniper signing (and saying) "book."^

:: While Juniper learns words by day, I have been a busy little elf by night.  While the rest of my family sleeps, I tip-toe around our Christmas tree-lit home, knocking projects off my list.  Right now, I am finishing a gift for a baby born one month early (she is doing great, but now I am a month behind), and also tying up some loose ends on Christmas gifts we haven't yet exchanged with our Montana family (who we'll see just as soon as the newest member enters this world).  I am loving the baby gift I've made and will most definitely share the details in a future post.

:: One other random, disjointed note for the week: J bugs loves to eat snow.  For a long time now, whenever we track snow in the doorway, Juniper makes a bee line to those white waffles sluffing off our shoes, sits and eats until it's all gone.  Being outside is, for her, the proverbial kid in a candy store:

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

razor clamming

We have been home for three days and have already fallen into the hum-drum rhythm of a new year.  I love to travel, but it feels wonderful to be home.  Even our teeny, tiny hamster-smelling living room, single-sink-kitchen, and moldy bathroom feel homey.  Or maybe it's the freshness of a new year.  Or listening to NPR and the horrors of Tuscon, Arizona and then this: the only thing we can see in our almost-fifteen-month-old's eyes--hope.

:: We spread our holiday out like warm butter on homemade bread.  First, we had an unofficial Christmas back east with the family I married into: sledding, toasting homemade wine and the glory of far-flung family bunching back together.    

:: Our second Christmas was on the day itself, but you already know about that.

:: And, whew, lastly was our annual clamming extravaganza where we celebrate Festivus ("for the rest-of-us"; remember Sienfeld?) with my side of the family on the Pacific coast.
We rent a little house on the beach and are joined by two of my brothers, a sister-in-law, one of Juniper's cousins, my mom, my dad and my stepmom.  Now some might think the last three are a recipe for disaster, but they're not.  In fact, they are totally chill.  My mom and stepmom can often be found in the kitchen chitter-chattering away like a couple of songbirds in spring.  It's awesome.  I love my family.

I was about to write that I was spoiled by having so much family to help with Juniper (especially her older cousin Aspen who was a non-stop joy for J bug--I have never seen Juniper have so much fun), but I think it was more like I got a taste of what childrearing was like before we decided to move out on our own and be nuclear.  I was never harried, never stressed, never over-taxed, never hungry, never thirsty and even occasionally found myself standing around in a daze, not really sure where I was needed because my toddler was fully engrossed in a game of chase with her cousin, or reading with her grandpa, or gazing at Christmas lights with her grandmas.
 ^J bug's cousin Aspen showing her how to use her new balance bike.^    

:: My husband and I have a tendency to incorporate the hunting and gathering of local foods into our vacation plans and Christmas is no exception.  My family rocks, but we're also there to dig razor clams.
^J bugs: watching and laughing from her perch on her papa's back.^ 
^Although it's true that all good clam digs start with a good brew, my mom is not tipsy in the above photo.  In fact, she was a total trooper to be out there at all as she is scheduled for a knee replacement!^  

 Early in the dig, this ^ is what our group looks like: a couple of guys bent over and the women making tracks to see if anymore clam shows appear in the area.  We don't actually dig our clams, we use clam-guns which is a complete misnomer because they are really just siphon tubes made of PVC or steel.  My dad demonstrating the technique:
It is quite a hefty suction to pull back up and I obviously wasn't rolling my eyes like I should have because my back spasmed by the second day and is only now beginning to feel normal.  If you really want to know what life is like when my back spasms, click here.
So mostly we cruise the beach looking for "clam shows" which can be anything from a clam neck sticking out of the sand and worming around, to a doughnut-like volcano, to a tiny dry hole in the sand, to a delicate shifting of the sand in a little indentation--depending on the conditions.  They can be really easy to spot, or almost impossible--depending on the conditions.

But when you find one, you twist, plunge and push your gun overtop the show, put your thumb over the airhole on the handle, pull the gun out, and release your booty on the beach.
^Above, right: my dad pointing, exclaiming, "There he is!  There he is!"

Typically, the clams themselves are swooped up and dropped in a mesh clam bag.  It is fast-action, like they are going to runaway or something--but I managed to get one photo just as the hand (and the dog) were moving in:
The shells are generally 4-7" long (more or less), but the necks stick out a little further.  Last year, we dug some real doosies.  This year, they were a touch on the small side.

Razor clamming is super fun.  It's like an Easter egg hunt for the pros.  And, they're super tasty.  Since my man and I don't buy any meat, eating mainly what we catch and kill, razor clams are our sole saltwater representation in the deep freeze.  


After this bucolic scene of coastal beauty comes a couple of hours back at the homestead of cracking and gutting (the men's job), cleaning and rinsing sand off (the women's job--often resulting in comments like, This one must be male... 'cause he's full of shit!) and bagging clams.  A job best done under the influence of champagne, dark chocolate and Milwaukee's Beast.    

:: Once the clamming days were over, we went for mid-day walks and let Juniper have her way with the beach.
^That's J bug's super-excited face.^

Juniper loved doing her stiff-legged run on the beach, and Osa did too.  Still hanging in there, that old girl.

:: Geesh.  I'm so ready to be home again.  All these big, travel events are eclipsing the tiny miracles that happen everyday.  I want to write about the little things again.  Like how Juniper, at some point between Washington D.C. and the Pacific coast, made the switch from pulling everything out of a drawer, to putting everything into a drawer.  Tiny, silent changes that turn a baby into a person.