Monday, September 29, 2008

Mail Call!

We got a bunch of stuff in the mail today.  I love getting mail (not bills, though!) I got a package of Wrap-N-Mats from  They are little mats that you can wrap a sandwich or snack in, and you can wash them and reuse them over and over.  I hope they will help me reduce the amount of plastic zipper bags I use.  I try to wash those out and reuse them, but they still turn into garbage that will last forever, so I have been looking for opportunities to reduce the number I throw away.

Aaron got two packages of software, one is a trial version of a program and another is Photoshop, so we can work on our photos easier.  Aaron is also busy scanning some old glass negatives that we found in our garage when we move in.  Stay tuned for more on that in future posts.

Finally, I got a book I have been waiting for eagerly: Home: Chronicle of a North Country Life by Beth Powning.  It is full of luscious photos and sensitive, observant writing from her years living in a farmhouse in New Brunswick, Canada.  I started reading it as soon as I opened it, and had a hard time pulling myself away to attend to the children.  Eventually I did put it down, but am looking forward to diving in again this evening.  I meant to put a link to Powning's website here yesterday.  You can find out more about her there, and see some of her other books.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Hatbox Letters

This weekend I finished reading The Hatbox Letters by Beth Powning.  What a wonderful book!  It is a novel about a woman who was digging through some old hatboxes full of letters, diaries, and other items from her family's past.  She learned more about her family's history while she was working her way through the grief of losing her husband over a year ago.  Powning's writing style is descriptive - she describes things so well that you can really picture the scene.  She uses surprising phrases, metaphors and similes to get the atmosphere of her scenes across.  In addition, she gets so into the character's heads that I felt immersed in their reality.  She explored grief, acceptance and renewal in a realistic and fascinating manner.  I had a hard time putting this book down.  Saturday I had large chunks of quiet hours to read uninterrupted, and it was so satisfying to be able to immerse myself in this book.  Already I want to read it again, to catch things I may have missed the first time.  But, I think I'll let it sit for awhile and start on the newest book I treated myself to, Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.  I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Artful Parenting

I came across a new blog today, called The Artful Parent.  It looks really fun and educational!  The writer, Jean Van't Hul, encourages her daughter in various art projects, and gives parents tons of advice about pursuing artistic endeavors with their own kiddos.  Check it out! 

Red and Orange

Last Friday Gabriel had a day off from school.  I felt like we could both use some time together, so I promised him that during Annika's nap we would do something special.  I gave him a choice of activities, and he chose to do artwork together.  Of course, he wanted to use my special scrapbooking supplies.   We gathered our art stuff at the dining room table.  I thought that I would like to start with pastels, which Gabriel had not had a chance to use yet.  He was interested in them, so I showed him some techniques for drawing with the chalky sticks.  He really enjoyed being able to meld the colors together with his fingers, and made two or three paintings with them over the course of our time together.

We have been trying to encourage Gabriel to use art as a way to express his feelings, to externalize the difficult emotions.  I worked on a piece about how I felt about being laid-up after my recent surgery, and he imitated me, using red and orange.  He wrote underneath the picture, and I was surprised by what came out:

He said, "Red and orange are very vibrant colors.  They are warm and cosy."

My little boy has an artistic soul.  He picks up vocabulary words and remembers them.  Have I ever explained "vibrant" to him?  I don't remember.  But he tucked the word away somewhere, and pulled it out when he needed it.  How cool is that!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Spider Part 5

In the past few weeks, my kitchen window spider has been industrious. While I was away at a writing class for three days, she laid a third egg case. A few days later, her first egg case hatched. Tiny little fuzzy creatures slowly spread away from their silky home. Eventually she laid a fourth egg case, and today I noticed that the spiderlings in her second case have emerged. Several insects are hanging in the window, lifeless, wings falling off, skeletons dangling. The whole scene is beginning to gross me out, but I am reluctant to clean it up. I am genuinely curious about "my" spider, her life cycle and the snippet of nature I am privileged to observe every day.  How often have I seen spider egg cases and wondered about them?  It is fascinating to get to watch in person.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Spider Part 4

Today my kitchen window spider laid her second egg case.  I felt extremely fortunate to get to watch her complete this task over an hour or two.  She began by creating the top part of the silky egg case, which she attached to the top window frame.  It looked all white and cottony.  Then, when it was about 1/3 of the way spun, she began squirting a yellow fluid out of her abdomen - the eggs.  They did not come out of the tail end, where the spider silk comes from, but rather from the middle of her belly.  The eggs were included in a yellow, gel-like blob, and she pushed them out in convulsions, reminding me of a human woman in labor.

After her eggs were out, she completed the strands of silk around the eggs, forming them into a lumpy oval ball.  It changed from white to gray, looking like the dust one would find under a house.  I expected her to be greatly diminished in size; she was smaller after giving birth, but not as much as I thought she would be, considering the size of the egg sack.