Thursday, November 20, 2014

A Hike, Not an Expedition

There's a place where we used to go hiking all the time.

(And by 'all the time" I mean at least once a year.)

It has enchanted moss-covered rocks and tall, fat trees and a good spot on the river for throwing rocks and getting wet feet.

It even has a spooky old cabin right on the river bank.

But we hadn't been there in a long time--two, three, maybe four years.

It's only a fifteen minute drive from home and only two or three miles round-trip, but still we could never find the time.

I've been stuck in the mindset--for about thirteen-and-a-half years--that every venture out of the house is an expedition, for which we need to set aside an entire day, forgetting that we no longer need to pack strollers and backpacks and diapers and changes of clothes and dry shoes and cheddar bunnies and cubes of cheese and o-shaped cereal in little plastic tubs and sippy cups of apple juice diluted with water.

I forget that we can just say, on a Sunday afternoon after all the weekend's chores have been done (at least all that are going to get done) and we've all grown weary of our games and projects and each other, but it's not yet time to start thinking about what to make for dinner, that we can just say, "Let's go for a hike!" 

And then we can throw a couple of water bottles in a backpack, put on our coats and our hats and hop in the car and just...go!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Giant Water Bug

This weekend, E and Z had a friend over, and the three of them went down to check out the gravel pit pond, where they found a creature skating along, upside-down below the ice.

A giant water bug or electric light bug.

According to our Pond Life book: "Giant waster bugs are the largest of the true bugs. They feed on insects or even on tadpoles and small fishes, killing their prey with a poison secreted as they bite."

It certainly was giant.

After we all admired the bug sufficiently, Z returned it to its home in the pond.

The pond itself has already settled under an inch or so of ice. The boys pitched rocks out on it in an effort to try to break through, but even the largest just bounced a little--as if the ice were made of something elastic--and came to rest on the surface.

It won't be long before we're skating over the top of the ice. When we do, we'll have to look closely to see if any more giant water bugs are skating along the bottom of it.

Monday, November 17, 2014

This and That

 Since I last posted about our snowstorm, we've had some sun,

And some wind, and two more snowstorms (both on workdays, so no photos, and neither enough to shut down school).

In the meantime, I've been trying to overcome some of my own natural inertia:

  • Making appointments, taking care of car- and bank- and gym-related things. 
  • Piddling around on some small writing and editing projects, but not getting started on a bigger piece that keeps rattling around in my brain.
  • Getting out the knitting for the first time in months (and even putting in a few rows!).
  • Realizing Christmas is right around the corner...and stirring the pot by trying to mix up family Christmas gift traditions--trying to make things less money- and material-oriented (for admittedly selfish reasons...we have so many people on our Christmas would be so much easier to whip up small things in big batches than seek out unique gifts suited to each person!). My theme for this year is "Impersonal But Heartfelt." How is that for a slogan?
  • Creating a new Facebook page in an effort to beef up my "platform." I haven't entirely figured out how it will work, but the goal is to showcase writing that combines the themes of motherhood and nature. Check it out at Mother, Nature.
  • Getting ready for a public reading I'll be giving this Saturday at Local Buzz in Cape Elizabeth. I'm equal parts excited and freaked out. If you're local, come check it out.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

First Snow

Before everything went all to hell this week, there was snow.

A real nor'easter, it not so much fell from the sky as flew to and from all directions.

As I lay in bed in the morning, watching the snow swirl out the window,

I heard shouts of "It's snowing! It's snowing!"

So magic still exists, and pushing snow around on the deck is still fun,

at least for the first snow.

It didn't let up all day,

giving us a good five or six inches in the end,

plus the first snow day of the year on Monday.

It made me want to cozy up by the fire, with a big stack of books and basket of yarn, for the next five months, a kind of reader/knitter's hibernation.

The snow has pretty much all melted by now, but I wish I had gone into hibernation anyway.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Halloween Redux

We got our costumes made, 

and our Jack o' lanterns carved, 

and we loaded on the hay wagon.

While Z's Legolas costume took a few hours of work, E was a skeleton, with a $5 mask and a black sweatsuit. After about the first few houses, he ditched the mask and called himself a "phantom."

No one noticed their costumes, anyway, everyone's attention was on C and M, dressed up as--and acting the part of--secret service agents to our friend's, scariest-of-costume-of-all, politician. 

I went dressed as a mom who wants to stay warm on the back of a trailer at the end of October in Maine. I know, I'm the least fun person ever. But I talked and laughed with our friends, while the kids snuggled under blankets and engorged themselves on candy. And except for the fact that no one gave out a single Butterfinger, it was a pretty good night.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Spiders for Your Halloween Shivers

I was taking a turn on the boys' slack line a couple of weeks ago, when I noticed something large and gray and furry hanging out under the webbing. My first reaction was full-body shudders, but my second was to grab the camera, because how often do you see a spider the size of a cherry tomato?

I decided to take the opportunity to learn more about spiders (with help from this article) and go through my photo archives in search of more spider pictures (because apparently that's a thing I do).

I took this picture (above)in our bathroom a few days ago (using my phone and the cool little phone macro I got C for his birthday). It's of a cellar spider--the type of spiders that make grungy old cobwebs. They like to hang out in the corners of houses and eat whatever happens along and gets caught in their messy and non-sticky webs. They are not to be confused with daddy longlegs, which, though arachnids are not spiders, and have only a single body segment (and, contrary to urban legend, do not have venomous bites). We had a daddy longlegs on our bathroom ceiling one night, and by the next morning, it was caught in a web and this guy was dining happily on it.

Look closely at the opening in the web above and you'll see a little grass spider, a type of funnel weaver whose webs you never notice until a dewy summer morning when they appear all over lawns. These spiders hang out at the mouths of their funnels and when the web is disturbed, they either run our and snatch their prey or scurry back inside their funnels to wait for an intruder to pass on.

When you think of the classic Halloween spider web, you're thinking of the web woven by an orb weaver spider. My little (big) furry friend in the first picture is an orb weaver (possibly spotted or cross).

More commonly seen, though are these black and yellow argiope, who hand out during the day and weave a zig-zag shape, or stabilimentum, in the center of their webs.

I've always known these as "garden" spiders and if you find one near your garden, you're in luck, because they will help control and pests that might come along to try and eat your produce.

I'm guessing Charlotte was an agriope.

If any spider can be considered "beautiful" by human standards, it is the argiope, and perhaps the next spider on our tour, the goldenrod crab spider, which hangs out on yellow or white flowers and can change its color to match its home.

I'm not exactly phobic of spiders and I try not to kill them (thanks to this book, which was a childhood staple, but which I have inexplicably never gotten ahold of for my own children), but I don't love them running around my house and I try to evict them to the outdoors when I find them (which, in January amounts to a death sentence, I suppose). The worst was when Z and E were playing blocks when they were about three and I came into the living room and saw Z watching a big brown spider (I think it was some type of nursery web spider) crawl up his arm, over his shoulder and down his other arm. "Let's take that spider outside," I said, taking his wrist and tugging him toward the front door. "He my pet," Z replied as I hustled him to the front step and brushed the spider off. I still get the shivers picturing that spider scuttle all over my baby. I know it's aesthetic and irrational, since the colorful and pretty spiders don't make my skin crawl at all. I'm working on it, but since today's Halloween, the shivers is a perfectly reasonable reaction.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Halloween Nostalgia

As I was putting together Z's costume, I couldn't help thinking back to Halloween six years ago--the last time I put a lot of effort into costumes, or perhaps the last time I had fun costumes to work on.

E insisted he wanted to be a butterfly. A friend of mine brought me a fairy costume--complete with pink tutu, gauze wings, and a magic wand--from a thrift sale she had been to, but I had something else in mind, and made big, felt monarch winds, instead.

Z planned on being something else--I can't remember what--but at the last minute, he decided to be a butterfly, too. When I went back to the fabric store with the wool felt (a tiny, one-woman place), it was closed while the owner was away. So I pieced together the scraps into a black swallowtail, staying up past midnight October 30, and spending all day Halloween sick on the couch with the flu.

Meanwhile, M was still in his money phase, so I made him a bow tie and handkerchief out of coin-printed fabric, and we glued play money to the inside of his goody bag, and, with a hand-me-down double-breasted jacket, he was transformed into a millionaire.

That year was the birth of our hayride trick-or-treat tradition--I couldn't face trading carseats for wings for carseats at every stop along our circuit.

Our butterfly wings are long gone--borrowed and never returned--the jacket is long outgrown (and possibly never again worn) by everyone.

We still take the hayride on Halloween, and we still visit the chainsaw massacre yard. We still manage to come home with gallons of candy, after visiting only a dozen or so homes. We've moved into more sophisticated costumes (Z's Legolas) or more traditional Halloween costumes (E will be a skeleton). That's fun, too, but I can't say I don't miss those adorable little butterflies and the swanky millionaire.
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