Posted by: alethacs | December 17, 2009

Miss Monie

Ramona Ladine Gentry

 September 1, 1950-October 4, 2009

In October, our dear Monie passed away.  Truman always called her “Miss Monie” & she liked that.  She also loved Christmas.  I never really got the sense she cared too much about what she got–but she wanted to make sure everyone–especially the children–received their heart’s desire.  My childhood Christmas memories were delightful, in large part due to her.  So, I have waited to post this till now as my thoughts are with her frequently this season.  Although he’s only 5, Miss Monie made a big impact on little Truman, who continues to speak of her in the present tense and just yesterday commented on, “what a good mind Miss Monie has.”  We love you, Monie!

Ramona.  Monie. 

The force of your character, the strength of your will, and the size of your love:   all larger than life.  Anyone on the receiving end of your generosity felt the electric strength of your personality.

Nothing you did was every small.  You were the ultimate queen of the  over-the-top gesture.   Always the MOST.   Always the biggest present you could think of that would please the recipient the best.  Somehow, you always knew what each of your children wanted most, and you provided it. 

Our earliest Christmas memories were orchestrated by you—a room full of treasures, Santa’s workshop itself transported to our house.  Presents upon presents piled upon each other reaching to the boughs of the huge tree at the Big house.

Oh!  And what a laugh—I can hear it now, at one of your own jokes or witticisms.  You bandied words to match even the best of them and your sarcasm could bring a wry smile to the most serious of folks. 

A roaring voice, you were the Mother Lion ready to defend your kith and kin.  Ever fiercely loyal.  Ready to meet all enemies.  And a  role model you will ever be for standing up for what you believed in, for what you thought was right, no matter the cost to yourself.   Pity the one who crossed you or your protectees.

A heart bigger than even your voice.  Your love and commitment to your family, your mother and father,  your home, your farm, and your heritage surpassed all others.   

The courage to match the mightiest warrior angels.  Never afraid to show your feelings, always a kiss and hug at parting, a following out to the driveway to watch us go.  And calls waiting for us at home before we returned.   You were not afraid to show your vulnerability by asking for what you needed—when would the next visit be?  When could we call again? And could we help you do x, y, or z?  Every  request always followed by lots of I love you’s and even I owe you’s, with gifts, again, soon to follow.

A memory like no other.  THE memory of the Gentry clan—every fact and piece of family heritage, you retained, and you could relate a story about.  And you alone of all would remember the departed ones on Decoration day.  Oh Monie, who can replace your? 

The keeper of family treasures.  THE one relied upon by us all to do the dirty work of going through old family belongings from homes and years past to collect the treasures and pictures therein; and NEVER to sell but just to cherish.

The loyalty of the bravest dog, you were unquestionably loyal, forever dependable. And our pictures tell the tale– There you are at all my graduations—even though you had to travel hundreds of miles to get to them.  There you are again at my wedding, and there you are again holding and cooing to my children, bequeathing yet another generation with the wealth of your generosity and love. 

No matter the occasion, you had a present for the wee ones when they came to see you—even if it was your favorite blanket off your own bed, if they took a fancy to it.  And who could forget the child-sized ride on train?  They never will.

Ever the consummate mother, you gave more than you received back from your children.  You gave and you gave, and we thanked you and loved you, but did we match your love?

You wanted, above all, to be appreciated, to be honored, to be remembered.  And so that is what we can do, even now and as our days go on.   My second child was born on your birthday, September 1, an auspicious day, as you said-“he will always be good with money.”  So there is no doubt, as we mark each of Isaiah’s birthdays, we will set an extra place at the table for you to join us.

 And, even more,  there is no doubt that any of your children will forget the force you were in our lives.  The deep sadness and longing we feel at your passing is simply the footprints you have left upon our hearts. 

I love you Monie.  And I will never forget. 

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We are chugging right along on our Year to Simply Live 2009, where we have pledged for one year to buy NOTHING retail (new), make ALL our own food from scratch (this includes not eating out), eliminate television from our home, cut out the use of credit cards and stop all unsolicited mail (junk, catalogs, etc.) from coming over the threshold.

Television has never been a part of our children’s lives, nor was it much a part of mine for some time now, but it was still in the family room.  And so, of a tired evening after the littles were asleep, I did not protest if Daddy turned it on “just to relax,” and every week or so it was me turning it on “to wind down” with a gardening show  or Bill Moyers on PBS (cable/satellite having been cancelled some time ago).   As a compromise with Daddy for our “simple year”, we agreed to move TV upstairs.  And so, the last thing I watched was the presidential inauguration in January.  Daddy watched once or twice after that until the night he went to watch something and in his words the TV went, “flash, flash, buzz– no more TV.”  We had just inherited this relatively new TV, but it was kaput.    Ah!  A gift & a seal of approval from the tv-free gods.  As we are buying nothing new this year, there will be no replacement–thank you, universe!  (In all fairness to Daddy there are 2 working TVs in the basement (not hooked up) that haven’t made it to a donation center yet, however he hasn’t moved either upstairs).

The first week or so it was gone, I missed it in the sense that my option to use it was not readily available.  However, I have not missed ANY of the programming and do not foresee a time when it will ever find its way back into our home.  It is incredibly freeing NOT to have the media monster lurking ominously in the room.  How I ever thought this machine could help me relax or unwind seems really confusing to me now.  But I think what it did, and does for many, is akin to what fast food does for those accustomed to that dietary lifestyle–it numbs or deadens our thoughts and feelings just as white flour/sugar/excessive fat deadens our taste buds.  When we watch TV (and yes, even so-called “educational” TV) we do not have to, nor do we GET TO think, or feel or intuit our own thoughts feelings or strivings, these are provided for us.  And regardless of one’s geo-spiritual-political persuasion surely one’s own mind and soul strivings are different–and valuable–than whomever authored whatever program or movie that is streaming out of the plug in drug.  And, like it or not, regardless of what program, or commercial free channel or movie you choose to watch, it was not made for free and somehow is seeking to recoup its cost through direct advertising, product placement, or just by displaying the latest hairstyle, that yummy glass of wine on the table during the meal shot, or the cool shoes the children in the show were wearing.

But often modern tv shows and movies are not so innocent.   A recent episode of one of the law and order spin offs showed a non-vacccinated child dying from the disease he wasn’t vaccinated for.  This episode was produced by ABC-Disney with sponsorship from the American Academy of Pediatrics, who have a definite agenda concerining vaccinations.  Whatever show or movie you watch, somebody is paying for it to be aired, and their agenda will stream beningly out at you as you beningly watch.

in lieu of more meaningful conversation, invariably, a friend or acquantaince will ask what I thought about xyz show or the funny commercial they saw last night  (or worse, ask my oldest just 5, how HE likes whatever the latest Disney flick is).  As he stares blankly at them, I explain we don’t use the TV.  Typically, that person will ask me,  in a slightly incredulous voice, “What do you do all the time?”  Or, “how do you get anything done?” [Meaning, without the tv for entertainment for the children].  These comments often come from incredibly busy people who are always complaining about having no time, or at least, not enough of it.  Suprisingly, I’m a bit stumped for an answer.  We just live OUR lives, as we choose to define them.  We talk more.  We laugh more.  We play more.  We feel less hurried.  Our evenings are spent gardening, or around a fire in the backyard.  Our house is peaceful. We go to sleep consistently at an earlier time, we fall asleep more quickly, we sleep loads better, and awake energized to begin anew.

As a young child, TV was a part of my life.  I was taken to all the Disney flicks and have fond memories of them.  It was something my mom and I did together and it was fun.  At one point, when Truman got old enough, I was even planning on sharing some of my favorite movies with him.  I envisoned us snuggling up with a warm bowl of popcorn and sharing with him some of my childhood memories via “Sleeping Beauty” or “Snow White.”  It certainly would be easy to do.   But as I reflected more on this, I have come to feel that sharing this with my child is limited and empty, really empty.  Surely I have more to give than a movie memory?  And as I reflect on the truly special moments from my own childhood, they do not involve the box.  A warm bowl of popcorn may still figure prominently, but accompanied by the warm gravelly voice of my grandfather telling me a story.  My grandmother’s laughter as we sat on the edge of her bed looking out the window on a summer night, kicking our feet like schoolgirls.  My mother doing a crazy dance in the middle of the dining room floor for no reason.  These are the kind of memories I want to give my children, memories we create together– that are not manufactured for us.

In my 7 month plus being completely media free, I feel more alive, more open, more receptive.   The birds seem to sing louder.  The wind seems to smell sweeter.  The sky seems bluer.  When we go to the store, the music in the store seems louder, the “doot doot” of the price checker seems REALLY loud, and the flourescents in the store are almost blindlingly bright.  The removal of the plug-in drug has seemingly led to moments of heightened sensory awareness.  It is as if my senses were deadened before and are now awake.  Is this all attributable to no TV?  Possibly not, but it certainly feels to me that its removal has opened a door in which life is now streaming nicely through.  Funny thing is, I didn’t even know I was missing it!

I have found being TV free SO freeing that I have extended the scope of  the tv free year to include all media.  So, no movies in the theater, no You Tube, nothing like that.  What has become apparent is how ubiquitous TV is and how hard it is to get away from.  Taking the children to an alternative-minded doc–there is the TV blaring out age-inappropriate images aabout animal cruelty (doc’s a vegan).  Go with an old friend who’s in town for an evening to grab a bite to eat–there’s the TV in the restaurant to make sure we all get our fix.  Go to a department store to buy a part to fix a broken door–there’s a mini TV on one of the Garage Door Opener Boxes plugging away on the product.  Once it’s out of your home, it’s easy to notice all the places it is where it doesn’t really belong.

Instead of receiving constant new input, more sensory stimulation, my TV & media free year have allowed me not only the time, but the ability to be creatively productive.  Without so much coming in, I am now able to produce so much more.  Poems, paintings, song–all come so much more readily.  But what is even a better surprise is the level of optimism, hope and overall sense of well-being I feel permeates not only my outlook toward life, but the entire atmosphere of our home.  

Life without the plug-in-drug is actually turning out to be a wonder drug in itself–a cure all for negativism and apathy and a straight shot to productivity, creativity, and harmony.  Cheers!

Posted by: alethacs | April 22, 2009

In Praise of Other Mothers–An Ode For Alice

p51600071Alice Charlotte Morris

Nov. 20, 1956-April 2, 2009

Alice was my dear Aunt, whom from the time I left our hometown until her death wrote me letters–over 25 years worth.  What follows is a tribute to her based on those letters and our friendship.  She also introduced me to John Lennon (she always “played” him when imagining with her sisters that they were the Beatles).  One of her favorite songs was “Instant Karma,” especially the part about it knocking you right in the head (that made her laugh).  Alice, you were a superstar, and you are shining on.

Just fifteen, wailing baby on her arm.  “Where’s the paregoric?  This child won’t quit.”

Noting the accusing stares at her homemade cut-offs and bare feet, she cruises through the store to get the colic cure, head held high and smiling.

She’s not the mother, but her care is no less genuine for the child from the sister closest to her heart.

Days spent running and chasing, hugging and playing.  A seed is planted in the little one:   this one’s for keeping.

No greater gift than the time of her days, spent with an under-five who forgets for now but remembers forever.

Unconditional love is what she gave no matter when or what or how.  An unhurried love ready to listen to what could not be spoken.

A confession, a release too dangerous for the mother; this other welcomed without fuss.  And so she became a savings bank for secrets both silly and serious.

Who was this other Mother?

A stack of letters twenty-five years high.   All the news that was fit to print (and sometimes not so fit), usually in tentative light pencil. 

Always with an, ”I hope you can read this.” 

Always with an, “Remember I am always thinking of you and love you very much.”

And sometimes with a secret, “you’re my favorite one.”

Jobs gained and forgotten.  Pounds lost and gained. 

Sleepless nights draw the letters.  Rarely Alice is the subject.  But instead:

 “Audrey did not like the farm.  She said the water ‘kept moving.’  But we had a good time at the lake.”

“Bobby is doing well.  It is good to see him so happy.”

“I will never have Mama or Daddy in a nursing care facility.  I’ve seen what they call care.  Just a money making place.  I’d quit my job first.  So they could be taken care of at home.”  And she did.

 And Timmy, and Peewee, and Ramona, and Virginia, and Bobbiesue, and Melanie, and Paulette and all the rest.

In between the surrogate mother and child dance their way through the teens, young adulthood, Motherhood; a give and take not equivalent, not unequal but shared.

Treasured memories:  but shhh—who’s listening?  A trip in a Trans-Am with the T-tops out, kids driving.  Don’t tell.  A night on the roof of the school—shhh don’t get caught!  Unnaturally late nights awake—shhh what’s the harm?  And under the love an inborn imp ready to spring.

“Time to check the trot line.  Wanna hold the lantern or check the line?”  “I’ll do the lantern.”  “Ok” a twinkle in her eye.  And as every bug climbs into the girl-child’s nose-eye-mouth, Alice is laughing hysterically.

Yet more of the ultimate gift.  A trip to indulge the girl-child:  a night watching a shooting star storm.  A trip in honor of the girl-child:  a weekend float on the river.  And many days spent just sitting and nights just laughing.

Who was this other Mother?

Homemade baby toys from empty bottles.  A tinker at heart.  A heart that was all heart and felt so much it sometimes hid.

Yet the tinker always returned; with a five cent find that resembled the Holy Grail, or the idea for a quest worthy of the name. 

Always seeking treasures.

Always finding junk she somehow turned into treasure and a gift for another.

News shared:  A new love.  “You’ll like him, he’s a lot like Brian.” 

And always more letters.  More love to give.  “Hope you’re feeling better.  Don’t worry about me.  I know you’re busy.  I’m so proud of you.  Can’t wait to see you.  We’ll have so much fun.”

And more news:  “Just one more thing before I go to bed.  Doran and I are getting married!” 

To every address, to every name.  And then to the women-child’s son:  more of the same.

New treasures to find and repair and give.  New babies to love and hold.  More impy rhymes to teach–

And the child-girl-woman was neither faithfully correspondent nor modest; these things she easily ignored.  She was faithful.  She was modest.  She was not “fancy people.” 

She had no airs to put on yet put forth her humble love letters without worry of response.

How can you be gone, my other mother?  I so long to confide in you about your death.

Alice, you are loved.  You are the treasure.  You make a difference in my life.  I love you.

Love, “E”  

Posted by: alethacs | March 24, 2009

Our Daily Bread: Update on The Year to Simply Live

st-pats-streamers

Our St. Patrick's Day Wand Streamers Catch a Breeze While the Pitas Cool in the kitchen

What!  March already!  We have been very busy with all sorts of unplanned activities (the subject of a later post) but are finally ready to update our status on our year to simply live.  If you’ll recall, we have decided  for one year to buy NOTHING retail (new), make ALL our own food from scratch (this includes not eating out), eliminate television from our home, cut out the use of credit cards and stop all unsolicited mail (junk, catalogs, etc.) from coming over the threshold.  We are happy to report progress and success in all of these areas and will try to update you on each category (one per week) over the next several weeks.  

First, we wish to come totally clean with our dear readers and tell you we had to delay our start date till Feb. 1, but we are now going strong.   I am so excited about the progress on our second goal (eat to live) that we will begun our update there.  If you’ll recall, we have pledged to make all our own food from scratch, to buy nothing that comes in a box, package, or mix, including not purchasing prepared food from the supermarket or eating out.  But please don’t mistake my enthusiasm for bragadiccio regarding my cooking prowess because it wasn’t so very long ago that I was calling up mom to ask, “Just how do I boil an egg again?”  (Seriously, they kept coming out tinted green) (Seriously, seriously they still come out a little green sometimes when I leave them on too long!).   We did have a fairly active kitchen in past years– almost always making our own daily bread, pizza doughs, ice cream, soups, etc.  such that the thought of increasing my time in the kitchen was a bit dautning.  How could I cook even more from scratch?  Thus the idea for our year was born–I needed something to motivate me to take that final step.  

So, drum roll please. . . We have so far made the following “new” items in our very own little kitchen:  juice, butter, yogurt, pita bread (twice now), tortillas, and crackers. 

Do you have visions of me slaving over the hot stove, sweat pouring down my exhausted face as I roll dough?  I must admit, I did, before I did it, but IT IS SO NOT THAT WAY.  After we made pita (with apologies to those of you who already do this on a regular basis), I couldn’t get over how easy it was.  Why did the thought of those little pocketed wonders that enliven sandwhiches seem like the impossible kitchen task?  Don’t know, but Truman, Isaiah, & I had great fun.  The second time we made pita, we decided to double the recipe.  We made the dough in the morning, counting out the 12 cups of flour into our largest metal mixing bowl–Truman’s eyes bright as he got to stir this (to his 5 year old self) huge pile of flour.  It was even more fun to see his look of pleasure on peeking at the dough after its first rise–where it had doubled in size to fill the bowl.  He observed–“Mommy, the bread grows when it rests just like I do when I sleep!”

Then, after lunch, we set to work dividing the dough into 48 or so balls, rolling it out to pita thinness, and baking.  The key to getting the nice round shape appears to lie in starting out with a nice round ball (a lot like making a play-dough ball, but more satisfying ’cause you get to eat it at the end).  After that, the rolling out the dough is as easy as pie, er pita.  Next, you place on the pan, they cook for about 5 minutes–and poof (literally) yummy fluffy whole wheat goodness. 

We need to score some more pans at a rummage sale, though because we only had two, so that lengthened the process a bit (You can only fit a few per pan).  Since they cook at 45O0, lengthening the process does tend to heat up the kitchen.  Luckily, it was a cool but not cold day so we opened the kitchen door and let the heat out.  Our ultimate goal is to build an outdoor brick oven and do these outside.  For now, we’ll have a last marathon pita cooking session before summer heats us up too much.

We had similar success with our other cooking items, and the rewards, apart from beginning an enjoyable and nourishing tradition with our children are all about the taste.  Making yogurt is REALLY easy (why did I ever buy this, easy) and to me, it tasted like ice cream! (Okay, so I haven’t had actual ice cream in over a year because of Isaiah’s dairy sensitivity, but still it WAS good, just ask Truman who eats like it IS ice cream).  Same with making our own oj–it tastes so good, you drink less & it goes farther.   As for the pita– they were good.  Even better the second time around.  Brian never really ate pita before, and now I have to ask him to please save some for the rest of us!

As mentioned, dear Isaiah has oodles of food sensitivities, so we have eaten out only rarely in the past 18 months (maybe 1-2/month), so giving up eating out, while still a sacrifice wasn’t much of one.  But, we did have our version of “fast food.”  About once or twice a week we were using canned beans.  Perhaps refried to make tacos, chalupas, enchiladas, kidneys to do a quick red beans and rice,  garbanzos for a fast hummus, or cannellini for an “instant” pasta fazioli.  Since we have eliminated all canned items our taste buds have been singing.  I had no idea how much taste quality we have been sacrificing by relying on these products.  Now I make some “bean of the week or month” in a large batch in a crock pot where they cook themselves, and put up the surplus in the freezer.  The taste quality of just our hummus has increased 100%!

The moral of my story is that if I can do it (albeit with the help of two master chefs 5 and under), anyone can if you want to.  REALLY.  It does take a little more time for some things (our two-pan pita operation, from making the dough to 8 “packages” of completed pitas took a little over 2 hours).  And a little more planning.  For instance, Saturday is waffle day, we make enough of those to last the week.  If we want to have tacos, we’ve gotta make sure we’ve got the tortillas made AND the beans.   So I have a little menu planning cheat sheet for the week where I remind us to take items out of the freezer for the next day, make up a batch beans or whatever is needed. I do not feel like I am spending oodles more time in the kitchen, and I am certainly not a slave to the stove.

Upcoming cooking projects include making our own graham crackers, pasta noodles, baked tortila “chips,” and fruit leathers.  Next steps?  We are planning to grow our own beans in our own little backyard so that we can add “grown at home” to our “cooked at home” repertoire.  We anticipate our taste buds will be singing AND dancing, if we succeed.

5 Year Old Birthday King, Complete with Chocolate Cake Remnants on Shirt

5 Year Old Birthday King, Complete with Chocolate Cake Remnants on Shirt

Hard to believe but our oldest just turned 5 at the beginning of the month.  We hoped to tailor the day for him to make it memorable and so planned a birthday party with friends and a family party weekend just for us.  Here’s the story of what we did:

Part Une

For his birthday party, Truman and his friends got to make grass seed heads.  They scooped out dirt and put it into little pots they could decorate with wicky stick mouths or whatever they desired.  Then the put in the grass seed and covered with more dirt.  Next was hand washing time.  After a little free play, we gathered in the family room for circle time–or singing games sung in a moving circle.  With trembling voice (yes, one of my friends is a professional singer, my “mommy voice” was a bit shy) we sang about the mulberry bush, old brass wagon, and many other tunes.  Some of the children created a mini circle within the big circle and there were lots of smiles all around.  We also did some sit down fingerplays–eensy weensy spider, and row your boat, to name a few.

Next was snacks and lunch.  We had homemade crackers, cheese, some veggies & fruit, homemade pizza and Truman’s new favorite and a first for his birthday, although–an old family tradition for others’ birthdays–Chocolate Sheet Cake (with extra rich icing).  We also served homemade ice cream and strawberries for over a dozen people.  There was some more free play–lots of dress up play was happening, and a monster was on the loose.  One Mama did some face paining while I prepared our puppet show in the next room.  This was my first time ever telling a story publicly, so I was quite excited and nervous–just hoping I could keep the attention of the children.  Truman was extremely excited about this as he had been watching me prepare the puppets and scenery for the show all week.  I began by lighting a candle and playing a quick tune on the lyre.  This seemed to set the mood, and then I began, “Once upon a time, in a land far yet near. . .”  (see link to full under this page).  The children were quiet (except for Isaiah, who chose then to want Mama, of course, so Daddy had to take him to another room) and and were all eyes.  As I began to work with the puppets and scene, they seemed to move as one, closer and closer to the scene.  Truman was the guard of the scene, making sure no fingers strayed too close.  As I neared the end of the story, the air felt electric with anticipation.  Each child was perched on the edge of their seats, er floor– eyes all sparkling and eager as each of them entered the story to receive a present from the Wise Gnome.   They really seemed to enjoy the story, and I was proud I remembered it all, held their attention and only messed up in a few spots (hopefully noticeable only to me).  We finished up with a little more play and then said goodbye to our friends.  All in all, an enjoyable party.

Part Deux

For Truman’s actual day, we focused on doing some of Truman’s favorite things which right now mostly involve staying home and playing pretend games, doing some sort of work around the house (will it last, please say it will last!), and doing anything involving trains.  So on his birthday weekend we braved the frigid temperatures, put on our long johns and headed out to the museum of transportation (a mostly outdoor experience).  We had great fun exploring inside the caboose (not to mention it was a bit warmer in there), and ringing the bell on one of the locomotives.  But far and away Truman’s fave thing there is conducting the “Big Boy.”  Big Boy was one of the largest steam engines ever built, and you can go right inside and handle all the bells, levers, pulleys etc to your hearts content–which would be all day for Truman!   We capped it off  when our fingers (despite the gloves!) started to go numb. 

That night, Mama read a special poem before we blew out the candle for sleep.  It was taken from Druitt et als, “The Birthday Book” (an excellent book worth borrowing or purchasing) and goes like this:  “When I have said my evening prayer, and my clothes are folded on my chair, and I blow out the light, I’ll still be four years old tonight.  But from the very break of day, before the children rise and play, before the darkness turns to gold, Tomorrow I’ll be 5 years old.  5 kisses when I wake.  5 candles on my cake.”  Truman enjoyed this poem so much, he is still having me read it to him (almost 3 weeks later!) such that I have also created his very own personalized 5-year old poem we read at night before sleep.  Anyway, back to the birthday.  In the morning when he woke, we gave him 5 kisses and I asked him to go check under his pillow–the birthday fairy might have paid a visit.  Indeed, there was a silver coin imprinted with an angel waiting for him.

Then it was time to go to breakfast.  When he opened the door to the hallway, there was a fairy walk waiting for him.  Golden stars led a trail through a jungle of pastel rainbow colored streamers, hung like vines from the ceiling.  Little dark chocolate almonds waited for him along the way (which he stopped to eat as he went), as well as a few treasures–a pretty rock, a wooden heart, a special jewel.  His chair at the table was also decorated and had a surprise present waiting (an old ring of mother’s which he has asked for and fit his little chubby middle finger just fine), a birthday crown (made by mom-mom) and 5 birthday paper lanterns (made from some of our watercolor paintings) had been added to his birthday ring, hung from the ceiling.  We made his favorite breakfast–waffles and fresh squeezed juice and spent the morning playing.  As an added bonus, mom-mom and Auntie Alice were in town. so he was in play Heaven.  Lunch was homemade macaroni and cheese, followed by blowing out candles and cake (another Chocolate Sheet Cake) and having a scavenger hunt for his present.  Ribbons were tied to his chair, leading to different spots where members of a family of dolls awaited him, wrapped in paper (again made from some of our watercolor paintings).  Next was story telling (his rainbow bridge birthday story from the party), followed by a rest time, and then more playing. 

That evening, we had his favorite meal–“pasta bazoo” (pasta & cannellini bean soup aka pasta fazioli), with homemade rolls and more cake and homemade ice cream.  We lit his birthday lanterns, and after our meal two special presents, two of his favorite books were waiting for him–“The Story of the John J. Harvey” and “The Tomten and the Fox,” “My very own copies, Mommy?” he asked.  “Yes” we said.  He went to sleep that evening after another telling of his birthday poem and his rainbow bridge birthday story.  It felt like a magical day for us, so I am sure he enjoyed it, and hopefully we have created some lasting family birthday traditions!

Posted by: alethacs | February 22, 2009

Winter Maker’s Visit

Alas, only one big sled-worthy snow this year.  Truman had a blast, but Isaiah could certainly do without it. Truman had fun shoveling too,  although Isaiah enjoyed it most when it was on its way out!sled-pic2img_26351img_26672

Posted by: alethacs | November 27, 2008

What We’re Thankful For

The comforting smell of turkey wafting through the house, the little nursling on my lap as a I type this note, the small sounds of laughter coming through the window as Daddy and Truman finish up this year’s leaf raking, the sunlight streaming warm through the windows–oh what a beautiful day, a wonderful blessed year! We give thanks for all these things ,remember fondly those who are no longer here, and keep close to our heart those in need. Happy Thanksgiving!
Posted by: alethacs | November 2, 2008

The Year to Simply Live: 2009

We’ve changed the title of our “Buy Absolutely Nothing Retail Year” to “The Year to Simply Live: 2009.” We think this is more positive and better reflects what we’re trying to accomplish– a simple lifestyle focused on what we have, not what others want us to think we want. Some of you have started asking some questions, so we’ll try to address those. And no, we’re not doing this for financial reasons–but the savings will be an added benefit!
1. Buy nothing retail: We are making a commitment to buying nothing new for one year. We will use what we have, make what we need, repair what is broken, trade with others, and shop consignment if necessary.
2. Eat to live: Yes, the buy nothing retail extends to food (mostly!). We will be growing as much as we can in our suburban backyard. However, we can’t grow everything we need (we are going to try to grow a bit of our own wheat, though!). and so we will need to buy some building block items. But–nothing that comes in a box, no mixes, no breads, etc etc. Fortunately, we mostly do this now, but I will be adding yogurt making and juicing to our homemade lifestyle.
And yes, our year will include not eating out!
3. A media diet: Having eliminated cable/satellite and enjoying a media free lifestyle for our children, we are finally ready to take the final step. Yeah!!! The TV will no longer have a home in our home. We feel at peace without the advertisements and materialistic portrayals of fake people constantly streaming into our psyche. Furthermore, it would be nearly impossible to do #1 without doing #3. Even savvy shoppers and “smart watchers” can miss the ubiquitous unconscious effects that powerful television images impart and brand in our soul. When I realized I have difficulty clearly remembering my grandmother’s face (she died 8 years ago), but could vividly recall a Disney film from childhood, I knew it was time for it to go. I want more images of loved ones imprinted in my minds eye and TV simply gets in the way. What if there were no media images to put in, just the faces of my children? I’ll let you know!

4. Goodbye Junk mail: Hand in hand with the media diet is also not subjecting our consciousness to the catalogs, magazines and other junk purveyors by inviting them into our home. For instance, I find when I look at a home magazine, maybe not right then, but a some point, I find myself “needing” something for the home that will get that magazine look. Oh, it’s not usually expensive (although it certainly could be!)–just some containers to help organize or some such. Without these images, I am perfectly happy with what we have. What does looking at that mag get me? Nothing, but a feeling of dissatisfaction or a nearly unconscious wanting. So, we are cancelling (as much as we can–these guys are good at worming their way in even if you don’t want them) all catalogs that come to the home–those that make it will be dropped right into the recycle container without ever crossing the threshold. BTW–did you know the USPS has a vested interest in keeping the junk mail coming to your door? To opt out, visit: http://www.salemnews.com/archivesearch/local_story_275005646.html
5. Cash on the barrel. I was in a store the other day and at the register was a sign saying they were no longer accepting cash for certain purchases. Repeat: the store was no longer going to accept money. Like many, we have used credit cards for convenience, but now we feel we can no longer support a system corrupt with predatory lending practices (find out more here: http://www.affil.org). Research shows that when you pay with credit rather than cash or check, you tend to spend twice as much. I know we have definitely fallen prey to this, considering how much stuff we’ve accumulated that we don’t need. So, goodbye plastic!
Posted by: alethacs | November 2, 2008

Daddy Deck Care

Ugh! Is it done yet, is it done YET?! No, not quite. Brian has been painting our deck for about 3 years now. In all fairness to him, we do actually have three decks, so a deck per year is pretty good progress, considering he’s really only got weekends in which to work. We are getting so close to being done. Hopefully we will finish before preciptiation and dew in the morning and evenings makes it too impossible for the paint to stick. Unfortunately, it feels a little like painting the Golden Gate bridge. The part he finished first already needs a little touch up. Fortunately, he is done with the top of the Gazebo so risk to life and limb from this point should be minimal.
Posted by: alethacs | October 19, 2008

Goodbye Dear Grandma

Last week, October8, we said goodbye to our dear Grandmother Gasper. Alice Gasper was a kind, generous mother, friend, sister, and grandmother. Though she was officially my husband’s grandmother, Alice was always welcoming to me, never leaving me to feel as a second-class part of the family or just an “in-law” relation

Brian’s memories of Alice are sweet, full of humor and warmth. I know he will miss joking with her as the children will miss out on getting to know her better (as will we all).

We attended services to celebrate her passing in Dallas, and although the occasion was sad, her funeral mass, said by her nephew Fr. Jimmy, was uplifting and inspirational. I especially appreciated his comments that we should not only pray for Grandma, but to her and that when we feel her operating in our hearts and actions, it truly is her continuing to live through us. He reminded us that the sadness we feel at her passing can be lovingly remembered as the footprints she left on our hearts.

After the passing of my own grandparents, with whom I lived for many years and saw as surrogate parents, I expressed to my mother-in-law that I would have liked to have some of the things they used everyday, to use them myself. She suggested that I ask the people who had them if I might have some of these things. I followed her advice, and although it was hard to ask for as I did not want to seem ungrateful or greedy, my aunt kindly gave me my grandparent’s iron skillet and a ceramic mixing bowl last month (these items were actually my great-grandparent’s). Now as I use these items in my own cooking, I feel as if my grandparents are with me in the kitchen, kindly gazing over my cooking a pancake or mixing up a batch of cookies. I think of all the other items made in these simple kitchen tools and feel a kinship and oneness with my ancestors and a sense of validation in my tasks of mothering and cooking for my children.

After Grandma Gasper passed, I was also the recipient of some of her things. Grandma was a veteran shopper and at 90 was more fashionable than I am likely to ever be, so I gladly accepted some of her things. Now as I wear her coat to work in the garden, surrounded by her great-grandchildren, I feel her spirit watching over us. The things themselves of course do not have life or memories, but through my reuse of them I feel somehow connected to the people who have left them behind and hope I am honoring their memories as they are lovingly used again.

Thank you Grandma for your kind example and thoughtful ways. We will miss you so.

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