Category Archives: Fambly

All about H. Well, not entirely.

So, H is 8 now. I didn’t do a birthday post. Because I am inconsistent, essentially. But no matter! Because there are other significant childhood things to document! I am feeling proud of H lately. He is a big allowance saver. For instance, he saved his allowance (which was only $1.75 per week then), plus did extra chores, and also saved any gift money that came his way for about a year to buy himself a guitar. That was last fall, though — it’s not really news. More recently, he saved up for a fishing pole. Since then, he’s been fishing more. Here’s his first fish:

I have never seen a smaller fish hooked. You could almost not distinguish it from the bait, hanging at the end of the line when he pulled it up.

And, a few days later, his second fish. It might technically be his third. I’m not totally sure. But it was a trout, not a chub!

You can see it better! It’s bigger than the width of his hand!

Fishing is a thing that requires patience. The first time I took H fishing, over a year ago, he didn’t get anything. Which is not shocking. In fact, I’ve since learned that that spot is a terrible place to fish — I’ve never gotten anything, not even many nibbles. Anyway, H thought that when one went fishing it meant immediately pulling fish after fish out of the water.  Little waiting, sure pay-off. It was difficult to convince him that wasn’t the normal experience. So I was pleased to see his interest, and have been pleased to see his patience paying off, finally, too.

And then there’s the little matter of hiking Cat Mountain with his dad last weekend — a 10-mile trip. Since H is typically a pretty whiney hiker, I was extremely concerned that this trip would sour him on hiking pretty much forever, what with Brad insisting on going on, and H insisting he hates the whole idea. But nope, that apparently not what happened.

On the way.

At the top.

On the way back down. Note that he is still smiling, after having walked, um, like seven miles, some of it on steep terrain.

Then H finished second grade.

Last day! Now I’m a third grader! A home-schooled third grader….

In non-eldest child developments, I finally got access to my study sites. Finally. After months. Now the only issue is lab access. Oh, yeah. And money. Also, having a firm study plan. Details, you know. Withoug disclosing any details on location, here are my sites. It’s all super secret, you know.

Site N. I have a flair for romantic names, I guess. AKA, The Place With No Birds For Some Reason.

Equally romantic Site S. With 100% more ducks! And one wooded edge, which makes me a little irrationally worried about mountain lions. I need to stop listening to people’s worst wilderness stories. It’s like watching A Baby Story when pregnant.

Random picture of me that H took. I don’t usually post pictures of myself, because I have that common neurosis of hating pictures of myself. But this is the best picture H has ever taken of me. Normally, they’re so awful I could just…. well, just delete them, I guess.

Cannot think of a reason to give why I put this photo in. I just like it.


Good dog

So my dog, Emerson, is a handful. He really is a sweetie, but some days his exuberance and energy are a bit much. I knew this before we got him, and I’m not really suprised, but some days on the ground are on the exhausting side.

But yesterday he really earned his kibble (plus treats). The kids, Emerson, and I were in the front yard messing about when Emerson suddenly took off barking his “threat” bark — straight toward (I thought) one of the Ranger School students. I can often call him off if he’s worried about a person, but he didn’t call off when I yelled. A moment later I saw it was actually a strange dog. Emerson had headed him off at the edge of the yard, and they were going through the usual dog get-acquainted rituals, when the strange dog made a beeline toward my kids. I had no hope of stopping of blocking him, so I just watched apprehensively. He was streaking toward them in that purposeful way a dog will take off after a deer or a rabbit or something, so I really didn’t know what would happen.

Know what happened? Emerson decided he didn’t like what was going down. So he ran alongside the strange dog and herded him away from the kids. Stood between the kids and the strange dog. Herded him away again. Again. Again. Until the dog’s owner successfully called him away.

I don’t think that strange dog was a true threat (saw him again today). But Emerson correctly assessed the situation to know that the dog’s intent was unclear, and he took the initiative to take care of business, using the least force needed. He was effective, serious, and in control of himself.

Dudes, I am ready. I have been ready since winter, at least. Look at me.

In short, he was fabulous.

Thank you Emerson!
And look what Mom did to our hair yesterday. She’s a menace with clippers.

Three years, a day late

Three years ago

Two years ago

One year ago

Four days ago


Your heart's desire was a tricycle, and sometimes we get our hearts' desire.

Happy third birthday, baby little C.

Costumes in a box

My mom is moving sometime soon. To that end, she is doing a lot of housecleaning, and in an effort to ease that process I’m saying yes to pretty much everything she mentions maybe wanting to send me.

So I got two boxes of costumes along with handmade apparel from my childhood and teenage years. Some of the dresses I made, and some my mom made. There are a few shirts my mom made for herself, although I can’t honestly recall seeing her wear those particular shirts. There are many child-sized costumes.

I normally am careful not to hoard stuff. I believe myself to be a person who throws things away heartlessly, and puts them into a scrapbook or something right away if not. But that is not true, really. I can’t get rid of any of the handmade items in those boxes. I have too many back issues of Piecework on my shelves (hoarding them?) to be able to toss aside handwork.

Poor Brad, having to live with increasing amounts of handwork. At least I have been able to discipline myself  at thrift stores and not buy sadly tossed-aside, beautiful handmade textiles. Mostly.

Late summer, zip zip zip, birthday

In the past I’ve not understood those parents who bemoan the start of the school year. I mean, I love my kids as much as anybody, but after a whole summer of having them around, frankly, I was always looking forward to a little more silence.(Not total silence, you understand, since only one of my boys is in school and the other is with me every second of every day, mostly.) Anyway, that’s how I used to feel. This year I was filled with sadness at the start of school, because it was the end of things like:

Makin' rainbows with the hose sprayer

H had swimming lessons. They were great, but pictures of kids doing swimming lessons are awful. This one of C, waiting, is much more interesting and entertaining.

But swimming lessons lead to increased confidence, and that lead to wonderful scenes like this one out in the river. It's like they're forging across the ocean, H inspired by his future, and C just doggedly keeping up. They're really only 10 feet from shore.

Puppy, worn out from all the swimming.

So help me, someday we will drive real tractors.

Down-time during summer

Going to amusement parks.

Riding the helicopters. Apparently I was the only one having fun.

H as Mini-Lancelot in the Missoula Children's Theatre production of "King Arthur's Quest"

So then school started. I considered home-schooling H this year, but I think he has a good (I’ve heard great) teacher. Maybe next year. I think at least some homeschooling is beneficial to a kiddo, but I also think going to the school is valuable. Why not mix it up? We’ll see. I wish there were a way to do a half-home/half-school thing at public schools. I can understand why there isn’t, though. I hesitate to join the homeschoolers in part because as a whole they present a really insufferable holier-than-thou self-image. Not all of them — one family in Wanakena homeschools and both children and parents are quite lovely. However, there is a big heap of speshul snowflakiness about the movement overall that makes me feel like I’m biting aluminum. Also, middle-class entitlement is just rampant. Blech. Yet, I like being around H and think I’d like to nurture his enthusiasm for learning and make sure he’s not just bored all the time (a couple of years ago, I really needed a break from him more often and felt I lacked the patience for home education, leaving that to the pros. Not so much now.) I don’t flatter myself that I can educate him better than professional teachers, but I do think some time doing the passion-based learning thing is beneficial. Other than summertime, I mean… so anyway, no news there, just rumination. School started again.

First day back from second grade

C is so jealous that H gets to ride the bus. He posed for a first-day-of-second-grade picture too, just to be part of things school-ish.

So now this kind of stuff is mostly relegated to weekends (except for I’m taking him out of school one day per month for field trips. We’re going to a modern-dance-for-kids show on Wednesday in Potsdam.)

At the lean-to, trying to kick a stump over. Didn't work.

If you are using that thing to steal my soul, you better at least have a bit of hot dog for me.

Emerson continues to get bigger, duh. He’s about half-grown (weight-wise) now and Brad and I took him on a long-ish hike yesterday (sans children — my birthday present). It was a popular trail, and crowded, so he was on leash the whole time, pulling us uuuuuup the mountain and doooooown the mountain. We’re working on things…


Looking for a dog, it turns, out can take over your entire mind. Well, my entire mind anyway. I do tend to let that happen. A lot. For instance, I have already picked out several sheep breeds to raise (some of which do not exist in North America, conveniently), although I do not own any property.

Anyway, back to dogs. I was set on getting a collie. I dragged the family to town last week to meet a real, live, beautiful eight-year-old collie male — not to consider acquiring, but just to meet an actual specimen of the breed. He did not disappoint. He is a really stunning and friendly and well-behaved dog.

But then I found something out. I found out that there are folks out there who are carefully breeding puppies but are not breeding for dog shows. Specifically, there are people breeding old-time collie-type dogs. They don’t care about the AKC registration, some are openly hostile to showing dogs and breeding dogs for shows, and they are breeding really smart, really healthy, really non-neurotic dogs. Some of them certify their dogs as young adults based on their working strengths.

A lot of them breed English Shepherds — not an AKC-recognized breed, but recognized by some other kennel clubs. They’re sort of like a natural-looking collie. Their muzzles are shorter and broader, and their eyes are bigger, and their coats are not so huge, and they are a little smaller overall. They will probably be a little more challenging to train because they like to think independently.

They work.

I’ve wanted a working dog, but not an obsessive working dog. Someday I may get a flock of something wooly or something feathery or both and may need a helping paw. But I also may never get any such flock, so I need a dog that doesn’t need to work constantly or have a big-time effort made to replace all the missing work (border collies, I’m giving your eye right back to you.)

So. I’ve added a visit to a farm with English Shepherds to the travel agenda for this weekend when we’re on the way down to PA. And we shall see what we shall see. Hopefully we shall see the dog who will come home with us, eventually.

Some June-ish things to say

1. I’m getting a dog — and it will be a rough collie — as soon as I decide whether to get a puppy or an adult. And as soon as I can schedule the long long drive to any of the breeders, who are all conveniently at the other ends of the state. Or in New Hampshire.

2. H is riding his bike enthusiastically now, starting this past week. He had a lapse in bike-riding confidence for a while there. Oddly, the argument I finally found to get him over the fear again was that biking is an essential life skill, and what would he do if gas were to cost $100 per gallon when he’s an adult and he can’t afford to drive a car and doesn’t know how to ride a bike? About one minute after that conversation, he was riding again.

3. He is also starting real swimming lessons this summer. This past year (even these past few months) he has become suddenly much more receptive and attentive to learning new things. This summer he and I have several skills to work on — swimming, biking, baseball, piano, and guitar (once he saves enough money to buy one, and he’s very nearly there). He seems to enjoy all of them (except swimming so far), and I think with his newfound ability to focus on a goal that is more than one day out, he will succeed very nicely at whichever ones he wants to. Also, overcoming his fear with bike riding will, I hope, help him to overcome other fears.

4. His brother, on the other, is in a phase of being significantly less receptive and attentive. So potty training is really fun right now. It mostly consists of having him naked as much as possible. C does not have much trouble overcoming fears, since he doesn’t have many of them. He does fear my wrath if he poops on the floor, which is handy, but sad.

5. There is an upcoming trip to PA and DC planned. It will be exciting to see Chris and Olivia in their new digs in DC, especially since I assumed I would not probably be seeing them for some time.

6. Writing Club is done! At the kids’ request, we extended it through the end of the year, but only one or two were showing up by the end. I kept on for their sake, because I liked those one or two, but I’m happy to call it quits. The coffeehouse event was a smashing success, with all the writers sharing their work, as well as lots of other high schoolers and middle schoolers singing, playing, and telling jokes. And an African drummer guy. He was the glue that held everyone together. It was like having a drumming Dalai Lama there — you know, the kind of person who just makes everybody feel loved and confident. I am not so much that kind of person, so it was really fortunate to have him there.

7. After losing the fire for a bit there, I think I will go ahead and finish this damn degree after all. So I’m courting major professors here and there (mostly there) and talking to a guy next county over who helped me out with a project last year. I think I have an idea for further work that he will like. In fact, I think he’ll like it so much I will have to really focus on reigning in the scope of the thing. It can hopefully focus on monitoring some restored riparian wetlands. I can count birds, oh yes I can. And maybe I can get a really nice scope on loan from the university! I miss having good optics lying around like I did when I worked for GSLEP. In fact, I miss counting birds a little bit. Never thought I would. I do NOT miss counting brine shrimp.

8. I do miss counting brine fly larvae. Really really never thought I’d say that, but they are so fascinatingly revolting. It’s not the counting them I miss, it’s the watching them twitch. It’s hypnotic. Okay, okay, the way brine shrimp ruffle their setae is rather soothing, but really, it’s nothing compared to the interesting way the brine flies spaz around.

9. I don’t miss doing destructive species monitoring. I didn’t have a great moral problem with the killing of the brine shrimp. It wasn’t fun, but it wasn’t the kind of inside objection right down into my gut that I felt with all the trout killing I was doing a few years ago. Counting birds — what’s the harm? Especially if I stay away from their nests?

10. Maybe I could count birds from a kayak; that could be fun. In fact, I may volunteer for the loon count here shortly. Just for an excuse to leave the kids with Brad and go kayaking out on the Setback, where I suspect there is a loon pair.

11. I’m taking a full-stop break from knitting, crocheting, weaving (did I mention I constructed a backstrap loom? Fun stuff), embroidering, tatting, and typing/mouse-using for more than 20 minutes at a time for the benefit of my sad, sad wrists and all the tendons in there, which are in need of some love. That means I am reading instead: All Creatures Great and Small, Dreams from my Father, To the Lighthouse, and various books about dogs.

12. I suggested To the Lighthouse for my book club. I am happy to be reading it again because I believe it to be the best book in the English language (I am partial to stream of consciousness though). I fear no one in the book club will like it. I’m nearly sure that will be the case. Now I wish I had maybe not suggested it.

13. Elementary school is almost out for the year, and I am looking forward to it. That is how lazy I am — I don’t like getting up for the bus.

Ice show before it gets just too old

OK, here’s video proof that H skated in the ice show. He complained every single night that we had a lesson that he didn’t want to go. I don’t know if he’ll do it again next year (he claims that he loves only skiing now). So this might be it.

It’s long. If you’re a grandparent or something and you’re going to watch the whole thing, then he’s in a blue coat with yellow bands at the sleeves and epaulets, and an orange headband. If you would like to spend slightly less time, just look at 2:08. That’s his solo on-skate glide trick. He did a good job!

Mystery birthday party in eleven easy steps

H likes to read Hardy Boys books. I hate them because they are silly and simple and sexist*, and yet too hard for him to understand more than about half. But no matter; he loves them. So he requested a mystery-themed birthday party this year. We had pin the mustache on the detective, a mystery ring toss, and the case of the missing birthday candles. I am documenting how this last game went because it was a pain in the butt to create and also because there were suprisingly slim its when I googled for ideas. Maybe my google-fu was weak that day, but maybe if someone else is in the same boat I was in a week or so ago, this will be helpful, while boring to most anyone else. However, all the rest of my computer time is being used up right now trying to understand public sector unions and what’s going on in WI, so this will have to do.

A relevant bit of information before reading the process outlined below: H believes fervently in leprechauns, more fervently than he believes in Santa. I have not encouraged this, but he is wholely convinced that I’ve never seen one because they are just so darn conniving.

1. Discover mid-party that the candles are missing. Loudly accuse all the birthday guests of stealing them. Listen to their pathetic protestations of innocence. Corral them in the bedroom and be a little menacing about it.

2. Take mugshots of all guests. Later, print them and give them to their parents/guardians. This will make you look like a super awesome, on-top-of-things, over-achiever parent, meaning slacker parents will hate you and over-achieving parents will want to be your friend. Before planning this step, consider whether or not you’d like to have that status.

3. Discover a verse on a card near the scene of the crime. Sheepishly admit your mistake in falsely accusing the children.  Don’t worry! This whole process teaches the children about injustice, a valuable lesson! Read the clue:

I’ve taken your candles,
so you can’t have your cake
unless you follow the clues
back to where H—- awakes.

4. While step three is happening, have someone go to the bedroom and dump out pre-prepared balloons, two of which contain the next clue in the form of a rolled-up piece of paper.

5. The children will go the bedroom and figure out after an absurdly long time and some hints that they need to burst the balloons. They will read this:

Ouch, you popped me
I’m going to bawl
The next clue is where we keep
the batteries in the hall.

6. Then they’ll ransack the hall closet and cabinet until they find your egg beater with a big tag on it reading “Take me home.”

7. They will go into the kitchen looking for where the egg beater belongs. Fortunately, H is the only one who knows, exactly, so he gets to contribute here. In the drawer where it goes, there is a card with a photo of the globe, but distorted to be stretched very very long and thin. Once the kids figure out what it is, they will

8. Run to the globe, which someone will need to get down for them or else you will have children scaling your living room bookcases. In an envelope stuck to the globe is a puzzle. They will sit on the floor to assemble it and discover it’s  a picture of a fireplace.

9. If you are not me, you may have the forethought to clean out the fireplace before the day of the party. If you are me, you will need to vacuum the living room as an afterthought. In the fireplace is a close-up picture of the wall clock. Mine wasn’t close-up enough to be hard. Curses!

10. The children will go to the clock and someone will need to beat them there to prevent the glass and metal clock from being torn right off the wall. They will read a clue taped to the back of the clock. While they are doing this, you should really remember to go to H’s room and slip the final verse and the candles under H’s pillow.  Should you forget to do so, you may need your SO to physically hold the children back after they read:

Look in a place that is under your head, and that would be in a nice cozy bed.

11. After you place the candles and final verse, the children will be released by your SO and stampede into the bedroom to locate the hidden items:

Your birthday’s in March
When the leprechauns play,
so I just stopped by early
to say happy birthday!

Then you may eat the cake, as per usual procedure.

*Note to self: check out a Trixie Belden book for H. Still silly, but less with the sexism.

Thirty days had September, I swear.

I just didn’t post on any of those thirty days. But I did some things.

Canoe downriver. Somehow, my technique is not improving. I try, but we zigzag around in the most embarrassing way.

Does this need a caption? No, but here, have one, anyway.

Then my mom visited and I have only, like, two pictures of that, and they’re not great.  But among other things, we went to the Local Living Festival outside Canton, and it really exceeded my expectations.  There were something like 50 workshops and I attended  (1) having a family cow (I’m unconvinced; if I had ten kids I might need that much milk), (2) home orchards in the North Country (moral: don’t plant trees that die when it gets cold.  Also, don’t plant trees that are sensitive to cold.  In addition, be sure to consider the cold winters when selecting varieties and specimens.), and (3) indoor composting toilets.

Let’s talk about that third one, ‘kay?  Back in late spring, I went to meet the farmers before I started going up there to help them out one day per week, and they seemed like normal people.  I thought, “But they’re relatively young and they have teenage kids, and they just bought land to farm it, so I know there’s some crazy to be found somewhere, I just haven’t seen it yet.”  Then on my first day of work we went into the house for lunch, and the farmer told me where the bathroom was, and said, “It doesn’t flush.  Just use the bucket of pine shavings.”  And I thought, “Found the crazy!  Where does the ride go from here?”  But I went in anyway, because of course, I needed to.  And you know what?  No bad smell, no grossness (grossity?).  In fact, pine shavings smell really great.  My toilet has nothing on that toilet.

“Why, Katherine,” I hear you say, “you don’t have to empty a bucket of excrement from your bathroom on a regular basis.  Of course you regular-shmegular toilet is better.”  But this kind of toilet will never ever break in a troublesome way.  Or overflow (well, with water).  Or clog.  It is cheap and understandable to build — no plumber required.  I can build it with a jigsaw and a pencil and a measuring tape, all of which I have.  And a couple of buckets.  Maybe some sandpaper would be a good idea.  Then I could paint it and even decorate it!  I could have a Craftsman-style toilet. And so could you.

(Why does link not turn blue and become a real link?  Sorry.)