It's Isabelle's daycare. I guess that she wants to earn some cash. It's a good idea as she is good at it and enjoys it. This is one of her posters: Be sure to read the fine print at the bottom: Having trouble reading it? I'll decipher:
Note: Your child will be expelled for unexceptable behavior, such as running off into the woods; biting; scratching; pooping or peeing on me; etc.!!!!
There was an open house, but I'm afraid that Isabelle forgot about it. We don't know how many prospective attendees showed up.
He's adorable: He's frightening: He's sweet: He's scary: Isabelle took these photos. I cannot get a decent photo of this dog, and she can get a slew of them. I think that she has some talent. She also has the desire to take a lot of photos and the time to loll about doing it. We have a few photos of people and hundreds of animals and sunflowers and objects around the house.
Photos by Isabelle, found on my camera days later.
I'm making dinner. A girl and a boy are doing computer games or power point presentations or maybe just solitaire. Sebastien was flitting about, doing all sorts of things. The only thing missing is the soundtrack of constant whining and bickering. On the table are our new cycling clothes. I've been getting winter cycling gear for half-price. Sebastien has cycled through a winter, so he knows what I need. I now have lobster-claw gloves, that blue jacket with reflective strips, and tight (!...never say never) black pants that can double as a wetsuit if I ever have the need. There will be no photos of those. And the living room is actually kind of clean. It is right before dinner at this moment, and the scene is similar. Bionicles cover the living room floor...two boys are doing something on the computer in the living room...Isabelle brought in some freshly picked berries for dinner...and I'm wearing my uniform with those shoes and my pants rolled up...and that apron that I wear about five hours every single day. Today's dinner comes to us from the bounty of mid-Missouri gardens: Summer squash soup, potato pancakes with zucchini, basil and onions, cucumbers, sausage for the omnivores, and Blackberry Puff. With the usual side of bickering and whining.
The task of teaching a child to drive has fallen to me. My driving history includes no tickets and no accidents (just that dent in the garage wall), which means that I got the job. It is not an easy job. It is hair-raising and heart-thumping. Week One had to end on Thursday because I just couldn't take the stress of cars blaring their horns at us anymore.
Some snippets from the week:
Susan: Calvin, you just blew a stop sign. =========== Susan: STOP!!!!! =========== Calvin: How was that? Susan: Your turn was really good, but you are driving on the wrong side of the road.
I'll be getting my affairs in order before we begin Week Two.
When Isabelle finally cleaned her room (and she has kept it clean), two things happened. First, this painting came out. She didn't want it anymore. It is tiny; the outside of the frame is almost 8 by 10. It had a dark gold frame that overwhelmed it, so I painted it white and put it up by my desk (computer) area in my kitchen. It is a nice addition to that spot; it softens up the electronics and paperwork and work stuff. I gaze at it while my photos are loading and am reminded of the early days when Sebastien and I lolled around on the ground around bonfires. He would frequently doze off. And with her clean room, she earned her shelves. They had been sitting in the garage for a long time waiting for her to get busy. I painted them (a long, tedious job), and she loaded them up with her plants. Her plants are doing great. She is very good at growing anything and knows a lot about them. I can't grow anything except lettuce in my magical Aerogarden.
Above is Sebastien's card. It's his July 4th/American Independence card. He also received a Canada Day card. What did I get? Diddley squat. That means nothing. I'm green with envy. Don't these children know who carried their huge baby bodies around for 9+ mths and then fed them, cleaned them, educated them, and cared for them day in and day out for the last fifteen years??? And I am now tired of green in my house. It used to be just the kitchen cabinet fabric. But then we painted a bedroom at the other end of the house green; it works with the green carpet. I was okay with those, but then last week I helped a girl paint her bedroom mint green. She also has a green chair and green bedding, and I am now all greened out. I'm so glad that I painted the bathroom eggplant.
The man above is the man who left me nine years ago, while I was hugely pregnant, while he went to an airshow. He was sure that I'd still be preg when he got back, and I was. For many, many days. And it is still a green jungle around our house. Isabelle's sunflowers are lovely, but the rest not so much. The workers were scheduled to finish the foundation work (just the finishing dirt work) in mid-June. It didn't happen. Then Adam came out for a day last week and was able to work for an hour before the rain stopped him.
The boys have dug out all the brick walkways, and we now have eight big piles of lovely black dirt in our front yard waiting for Adam to return. One day it shall be done. One day. Until then, groundhogs are tunneling in the dirt, a family of raccoons has been hanging out in front, and the driveway is in its worst state ever.
Rachel has received several invitations to dinner in the last year. Every time I tossed one her way, she batted it back with an excuse. Her excuses usually involved her husband's travel schedule or her children's sports games. Finally the stars aligned, there was a break in ball games, and Rob stayed home long enough for the whole family to join us for dinner. We celebrated Bahamian independance. Why? Are we Bahamian? No. Have we been there? No. We do, however, have a calendar from the Bahamas. We get one every year from someone who lives there. I was perusing my calendar and noticed some interesting things: 1) It's full of orthodox fast days. Tons of them. Sometimes half the month, but never on Sunday. 2) Their Independence Day was coming up. 3) Recipes. Lots of them. So I made two of the recipes from the calendar along with some typical American fare and we called it a party. Rachel and Rob determined that they had been to the Bahamas on a cruise. From my calendar I made Bahamian Mac 'n Cheese. It wasn't a big hit. After appetizers, all the males and some of the females went on a long ride around our property. They were gone a long, long time, and when they came back someone was sporting red, puffy, itchy eyes and needed some medicine.
Then we had dinner and the children watched a movie (with the medicated child falling asleep in the middle of the crowd of seven) while we listened to the exploits of a plant scientist. When it got late and dark, Rachel and Rob told us a horror story: The Day That Rob Lost Grace. She was four and the story included a swamp and search parties. For dessert, we had Banana Cream Pie (from the calendar), mint-chocolate cookies and coconut cookies. The pie tasted good, but it didn't set. Both recipes had errors in them, so I was guessing while making them. I do not recommend making recipes from an island calendar. However, Julia Child's birthday is coming up (August 15), and I do recommend making recipes from any of her books. Rob and Rachel and family ended up staying very late, but we were having such a good time (and William was having such a good nap) that no one noticed. After they left, the girl pictured above helped me clean up. She did chore after chore with cheer and speed. When we were done, she asked me if I had any laundry to fold. It was about 11 PM, but she was flying high on sugar. Now I know how to get her to work.
Saturday the 11th, that is. Sebastien and I rode to town and back. We visited the farmers' market and friends. The back part wasn't fun because we took gravel roads. Hilly, gravel roads and I don't get along, and we never will. I get along with paved roads really well. In the late morning, while I was in town with Freddy (golfing) and Isabelle (librarying), someone dropped off this bag of garden goodies. The tomatoes aren't great, but the rest is, especially the little, skinny eggplants that went on our pizza this week. Someone arranged the bounty into eco-art. And someone else took a photo. We are still getting our CSA food, but it was mostly fruit last week. We had to visit the market to get vegetables. We bought and bought and left it all with a neighbor who sells there; he delivered it to our house for us so we wouldn't have to carry it while cycling.
Then Sebastien spent hours mowing and caring for his tractor while I worked on dinner. Isabelle's best friend Grace... and her family came for dinner. They came to celebrate something very special with us. More on that later.
Elvis has been hanging out in our living room lately. He's spent the last ten years in the basement, and I thought that he deserved to come up for a week or so. He was going to grace the bathroom, the new eggplant-colored one. I thought that he'd be perfect in there, but Elvis is a lot rougher-looking than I had remembered him. His head is kind of flat, and the paint job isn't as great as I once thought.
Seb bought him for me and painted him, long ago and far away in Canada. I remember taking him to the tavern my sister tended on Friday nights in Chicago. He'd sit on the bar on his special days: his birthday, his deathday. He doesn't get any respect around here. No one wanted him in the bathroom, calling him ugly and creepy. And also in our living room: The order of service for our homechurch the Sunday before last: We used to attend Pastor Job's Church when we stayed home on Sundays. But Pastor Job has since been sainted. I am an elder, so I helped with communion. Sebastien is the choir. He has a wonderful voice, but he really needs to spend some time memorizing the lyrics. Coombyeah was interesting. There was a girl in charge of playing organ music on our newish keyboard, a great addition to our church.
And the sermon...can you read it? To Do or Not to Do, That is the Question. Very illuminating. You'll all be clamoring for a seat in Saint Job's Church, I'm sure.
On our trip back on day one, we stopped at a spot where Sebastien had noticed a trail. Actually, what he noticed first was two young women coming out of the brush, and then he noticed a trail. I figured that they were taking a potty break.
He climbed up a steep, steep trail and discovered a little cave. It had bones in it. And now on to day two. After a disappointing breakfast (and you can be sure that the hotel staff was informed of exactly how disappointing it was), we left our hotel and strolled around Jefferson City for a bit. We saw camels. We saw goats and sheep with four horns. We saw big, stupid racing cars. Then we went to the trail and biked around fifteen miles. Certain parts of our bodies (especially the parts we sit on) were sore, so the ride wasn't as much fun as the previous day's ride. It had also rained in the early morning, so the ground was wet and the air was humid. So, we had sore legs and rears and riding conditions that weren't as great as the day before. But we rode. And then we packed up and moved on. We went to Graham Cave State Park and saw...a cave! And some groundhogs. Sebastien practiced his diving. And then we realized that we were dirty and smelly from biking, so we decided to do something about it. I went first... and then Seb had his shower. We came home to a clean house and live children. I was horribly sore on Sunday evening, groaning every time I got up during movie time on Sunday night. By Monday the soreness was gone. We had a great time, and I can't wait to do it again.
The necessities for a biking trip: energy bars (especially for a vegetarian needing protein on the ride), water, suncreen, phones, sweat rag, cash, extra clothes and a dreamy biking partner.
Freddy decided one day that he wanted to make a corn cob pipe. I don't know why. He didn't tell me about it, but he did buy an ear of corn at the store for a dime. We aren't big corn eaters. I'm not supposed to eat it...Frenchmen don't eat corn on the cob and aren't fond of corn in any form...two of the children have braces. So, the corn sat for awhile until someone shucked it. That is when we learned of Freddy's plan for the cob and let him know that it wouldn't work with a fresh cob.
Now that I think about it, I am pretty sure that he wanted to make one because we had some mullein sprout up. The native people used mullein leaves for many things: They were used as diapers; they were dried and smoked; they were dried and used to make tea to heal respiratory problems. The smoking tidbit brought up stories of Sebastien's father drying and smoking all kinds of weeds in his pipe.
Freddy still needed a cob though. One morning while I was biking, I stopped next to a farm field and picked up some old cobs. I put them in my bicycle pouch and there they stayed. They went with us on our 40 mile bike ride before I remembered them and took them out. They finally got into Freddy's hands, and Sebastien helped him make a pipe. And then tested it for him by putting in some tobacco from a cigar. The cigar had been in his car. For a looooong while. A long, long while. We think that it is form the It's a Boy! cigars handed out when Calvin came into this world. The pipe worked beautifully. It turns out that Freddy wanted to make it to send to his Grandpapa. The funny thing about it is that, for years and years, Freddy sent his Grandpapa anti-smoking literature and letters asking him not to smoke. He was really worried about his health and the condition of his lungs. I guess that he's not anymore. Or maybe he's given up.
The pipe won't be going to France though. It disappeared. I swear that I had nothing to do with it.
Sebastien's car may be filthy, but it holds both of our bikes (which are big) without taking off the front wheels. We drove to our capital city and cycled twenty miles west. We took plenty of breaks to pose for photos and explore. After cycling west, we turned around and cycled back ten miles. We then stopped for lunch in Hartsburg. If you go there, bring your own water; that town has the worst tasting water ever. Whether you get it by the trail or in the restaurant, it's bad, bad, bad. Here we are by the Missouri River. Sebastien climbed down to it. I was afraid that my legs might cramp up on me, so I stayed up by the trail. We saw a lot of bikers on the first day, all kinds. The most interesting one was a man with a dog carrier (and not a small one) behind his bike. Behind that was a carrier thing for a child. He had gear in it. He weaved back and forth on the path. He also had all kinds of gear hanging off his bike and carriers. For all my single friends: I am sure that he's available. He's headed east and probably hasn't made it far from Jefferson City. After four hours of biking and a lunch break, we drove to our hotel and freshened up. When we stepped out of the hotel to walk to dinner, we came upon a parade. It's been a long while since I've been to a parade. We walked through a street party/carnival to an Irish pub. Sebastien had dark beer and bangers and mash. I had a disappointing salad, good horseradish/garlic mashed potatoes and great breaded and deep fried portobello mushrooms. The pub wasn't what we had hoped for. I'm the Irish one, and when I was a young lass (Scottish too) we used to go to an Irish pub. Our Irish pub had good food and was based at an airport. My Irish aviator dad must have been in heaven. Ours had Irish music also, sometimes live.
When we walked back to our hotel, we caught a bit of the Aaron Tippin concert. Not our thing, but at least we heard some live music.
Cycling 55 miles on the Katy Trail over the holiday weekend. More on that later, but here is a photo of me with an apt sign above my helmeted head: If I can't be a belle femme, then I'll be a bonne femme. And this bonne femme is now ten pounds heavier. Ten pounds in one month. Three pounds gained in the last week. For some reason my body is in pregnancy-weight-gaining mode. But I'm not pregnant. Maybe it is sympathetic weight gain; maybe it is thyroid related. My hairdresser thinks that I'm gaining weight because I'm really happy. As long as it stops soon, I'm fine with it. Actually, I'm embracing it.
Somebody is at Geek Camp this week; others are volunteering at a church; I'm spending a lot of time carrying whiney preschoolers around. They are cute and sweet though, so I'm not complaining too much. Everyone gets whiney every now and then, especially ladies who can't find any clothes that fit.
The latest from the local paper: Speaking of dogs, last week I cycled 50 miles. Sebastien did a little less because I went on my own one day; he couldn't go because it was too late and he is not a person of leisure like I am. There were no dogs bothering us all week.
We did see a lot of interesting roadkill. It is different each day. On Friday it was a snapping turtle and a big bird or small hawk. On Thursday, it was a raccoon, a snapper, and half a mouse. On Wednesday, it was a small snake, another snapper, and...the head of a baby deer. Just the head. On the road. The body was nowhere to be seen. Mysterious Missouri roads.
Freddy loves his friends. This is one of his favorites: Freddy begs to have him over every week, although he'd prefer every day. They love to play outside. They have a family of mice (living in an old car) that they like to visit. They visit them about once a month and (surprise!) there is a new litter every time.
On this day they were loaded up with all their survival gear: weapons, tools, blanket, food, water, and who-knows-what-else. After awhile they came running in the house and went straight to the bathroom. They accidentally walked into stinging nettle and had to wash it off before they suffered too long. I don't know if this friend will get to come back: He woke up with chigger bites all over his legs the next morning, even though he and Freddy followed proper chigger techniques while playing outside.
Freddy has always lived here, so he knows what to do outside to protect himself from chiggers, ticks, stinging this and poisonous that. When he was two and we were on a family walk through the woods, we left him on his own to see what he would do. We were watching him closely, but he couldn't see us. We knew how the others coped in the woods, and we wanted to know what he would do if he got lost or left behind.
He played for a bit and then started off down the path, continuing on. He recognized the stinging nettle and raised his little arms up in the air to protect his exposed skin. Then he walked along the path until he found us. He wasn't afraid and didn't panic or cry.
A close up of the survival pack (including a rug to sit on to protect little people from little chiggers): The pack contains the usual survival gear along with some unusual items, like a large trash bag just in case they come across a deer skeleton. The silver thing on the left is Freddy's pedometer that he bought at our favorite junk store for a quarter.