Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Rock out

I always feel kind of shoddy when I complain too much about my children on here, as I did a couple of posts ago. They're good people and I don't want anyone saying anything bad about them, especially their own mother. But on the other hand, I strive to be realistic... I don't want anyone to feel that they suffer by comparison to me if I'm painting a picture of family life that is unfailingly rosy. So many things that I don't want. Let's see here, what do I do want.

I want people to not feel alone on this journey of parenting that is sometimes so challenging.
I want my kids to be happy.
I want us to enjoy each other's company.
I want it to be safe for us all to say exactly how we really truly feel.

Ahhh, OK. That's better. Anyway, I woke up feeling froggy about all that this morning and all my ills were cured by rocking out to my honey Josh Ritter between the hours of 9 and 10 this am. I'll leave you with a few songs of his from Youtube... I wish they had 'Bad Actress'. I don't know why, that one is the one that always cheers me up. "She said she gave her heart to you/ if it was precious why'd you lose it/ if it's big it won't be hard to find/ if it's red it stains your hands like wine/ you can look but there's no use trying/ 'cause no matter what she said the truth/ is that she'll never give her heart to you...."

So, here you go... I get all tongue-tied when I try to express why Josh Ritter is the best, so you can just sample for yourself and see if he's to your liking:

I will say this: He's joyful, and it's infectious. I just strive to do anything with my life that will make me as happy as making music makes him.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Carpentry for Children

I'm so excited, ever since discovering this amazing guy Jack McKee and reading his book, Woodshop for Kids, and checking out his inspiring website, I've been wanting to teach a class based on it all. He teaches carpentry to 3-6 year olds! I just think that is so brilliant. I mean, I'm sure he teaches older kids as well, but I just love the idea of teaching younger kids this stuff. I think that if you present the material carefully and thoughtfully they won't endanger themselves AND it will just be so empowering for them. I never learned how to fix or build anything real when I was little, truth be told, I didn't really learn how to do any of that stuff until my late twenties! I think having this kind of knowledge and ability can help people feel more like an active participant in the world and it's workings rather than just standing idly by, letting the big people have all the fun.

I still couldn't figure out how I could set up the class though, but finally today my friend Dorte came over and we hashed it all out. She's going to co-teach with me and we're going to do it at Hyde Park Montessori, where she works. The projects we're going to be doing in the class are so perfect: simple, but the kids are going to be really excited about them. I'm not sure if this class is going to be offered to just the Montessori students or to everybody. The students at the school are definitely going to get first dibs, but I'll let you know if there ends up being availability.

These aren't the projects we're going to be doing, but these are some images from Jack McKee's website that will hopefully inspire you to visit it.

Roasted and Toasted

That's how I feel after the last two days with these little hell-raisers. Seriously, I just don't get it. Why are these children so perpetually crabby? Aren't they living heaven-on-earth compared to most kids' circumstances??? Why do I have to deal with all this rage and grumpiness and near-constant screaming-crying?

I mean, I know why, we made it safe for them to share their true feelings, and most of us adults would be walking around screaming-crying half the time if we hadn't been taught so well to suck it up and stuff it down, and we'll be glad in the long run that it's the dawn of a new era when everyone won't be so repressed, but still, OY, my ears. Can everyone just scream-cry a little more QUIETLY??

We had had such a fantastic time at Metz playground on Saturday afternoon, just randomly started tossing this golf ball around and it was one of those miraculous happenings where with little-to-no prep or equipment everyone just had a marvelous time, even the baby. Heck, especially the baby, she almost always has a great time. But I pressed my luck when I tried for a repeat performance the following afternoon. And we biked and triked over there... and brought several more balls to spice it up a little... and it was mondo-disasterrific. After being there only a few short moments, with the babe trying to nurse and Jack angry about something, Bruno spun around and fell off this concrete stage about 3 feet onto his face and started voluminously bleeding from his poor little nose. And I had brought nothing... absolutely nothing... nothing to soak up or wipe up a fountain of blood... we were only four or five blocks away frm home... of course, the longest four or five blocks of my life as I tried to sheperd the crew back home, carrying Bruno's trike, struggling to keep spirits aloft, past shocked folks wondering what had happened to that poor little boy's face, as I assured them we were on our way home to clean up a nosebleed... then it turned out a dusty hill, some karate moves, and some lounging time right there on Holly Street were all they required for entertainment. At least the outing ended on an upswing.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Saturday morning

Mmmmm..... I fled my family yesterday for another insanely beautiful morning out at Laurie's hill country hideaway with all those lovely women. Still can't get over how easy, fun, fulfilling, nourishing, and inspiring it is. What a perfect group. Everyone is so receptive, enthusiastic, brings so much to the table, is willing to be open and caring with everyone else... the time just unfolds so easily and organically, Laurie and I don't have to lead this hardly at all. We just created the space (really, Laurie did) and this popped up like a perfect green sprout that was just meant to grow there. Our little village, growing.
After everyone left, Laurie and I talked a little about my new idea: a new blog (I know, I know! This is my last one, I promise!), an article for Mothering magazine, ultimately a book.... with Laurie to take photos for all, with the basic kind of feeling of this book, A Year of Mornings, just beautiful, serene, homey, and still... the little moments, not the big picture, but the little lovely moments that make it all worthwhile.
Anyway, I'm SO excited, so happy that Laurie is in and doesn't think I'm crazy (she never does!) and I'm just going to go ahead and live life as if our book was already here and resting comfortably on my bookshelf (would I ever really be able to put it away on a bookshelf? I think I'd have one in every room of the house!) because really, why not. Maybe it will happen, maybe it won't, but we'll just do the little things that inch us towards our dream, enjoy life as it is, and keep our ears wide open for that call from Oprah.
And by the by, I got ASPARAGUS in our CSA box yesterday.......... how much more ridiculously spring can you get?? Except for maybe the strawberries from last week... Thank you Johnson's!!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I'm back, baby!

Did y'all miss me? I was out for like three days. Wasn't using the computer, wasn't drinking caffeine, you know I must be sick if I'm not getting my internet and coffee on. Me and Matt had the strep. It was actually kind of scary, I mean, just to me. I'm so pathological about visiting the doctor, I have to get over that. I just kept convincing myself I was feeling better, and wouldn't have to go in. In reality I felt like that character in Katherine Anne Porter's novella, Pale Horse Pale Rider... you don't mind if I go all literary on your ass, do you? I wasn't really at all that bad but I did just kept thinking that I could relate to that character in her state of delirium, in a way I couldn't before... so many thoughts and feelings came up for me. The main one was: I would make a completely sucky chronically ill person. I know, who signs up for that detail, right? But I would be the whiniest, most unable-to-deal person possible. I read this article in the New Yorker by the woman who wrote Seabiscuit of all things, it was about being struck down in her early college years by a mysterious illness, she probably still has it, the most memorable symptom of which was intense vertigo which, for all I know, she still has... OK, I just checked for you. She has Chronic Fatigue, and still has it, and has had it for 15 years. Anyway, I feel horrible that she has that cross to bear, but I'm so so so SO glad I don't have to bear it myself, I'll stick to complaining about my (poor innocent) children, that'll suit me fine.

But really, the sick did give me such a potent dose of perspective. I was just looking at my children and thinking that I wanted to have the energy to play with them so much, not to be begging them not to jump on me, not to make me speak because my throat hurt so bad. I know I'm acting like I had the bubonic plague here but maybe I'm just trying to show the universe that I learned my lesson so it won't send me any MORE lessons in the form of unpleasant illnesses. So Universe, dig it: I am looking around at the green world in which I live and thanking my lucky stars. The shining faces of my children, my safe home, my super mate, so many blessings, overflowing. And though I probably will forget post haste and complain about some aspect of something, well, always these little reminders, and what can we do but embrace it when we're really and truly reminded and know it so fully that we are living lives of bounty and bliss.

And now, without further ado, some of the life I was reunited with: RAIN WALK!

Rain-kissed streets of Austin in the springtime... glorious. We found a heavily laden loquat tree... abundance. Jack started saving seeds so we could grow our own. Henny LOVES trying new food, the tip of her tongue starts darting in and out as she eyes our loquats ravenously. I gave her some and she screamed when it was all ate up! We'd already left the tree behind... we'll have to go back to snitch a few more sweet fruits for these lads and lasses.

Lest you think it was all sweetness and light, little Darth Vader here (we call him 'Darthie') was noticing all these cute little snails out enjoying the recent rainfall, and he said, "We should take one of them home!" then, reconsidering, "Except these are killer snails. They kill people." And he STOMPED one! OMG. The learning continues. And we just learned about caracoles in Spanish this morning.

Poor little Darthie. You do wrestle with that dark side, don't you?

Savvy Source Austin

I was a guest blogger over at Savvy Source Austin this week, which a guide to activities and fun things to do with your preschoolers and toddlers in Austin, TX. It was so fun and interesting to do, thanks Nicole for thinking of me!

I just wrote 5 ideas of fun and messy activities for these nice upcoming spring days when it's nice to be nakey and muddy in the great outdoors. As a great connosseur of craft and activity books for kids I probably would've been a bit disapointed in this list as it contains nothing you haven't heard before, but lately I've been realizing the more basic and broad with this age group, the better. Fun, open-ended, tactile... it works.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Just cute...

I was just cleaning out my inbox and found these photos my friend Elya took of Henrietti playing in the bubbles in the water table. It's so fun to have her get old enough to participate... this was during my art class, and I think she was having a good time, don't you?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Unbirthday party

Amidst much talk of future birthday parties by my children(and with NO birthday parties on the immediate horizon in either direction) we decided to host a little UN birthday party to hold us over. Everyone brought one present to exchange and I think magically everyone got exactly what they wanted. And we decorated cupcakes and magically no one went into an insane sugar frenzy, for once sugar was just a fun and simple treat and not a recipe for disaster. I love it when that happens. Either we were experiencing some spring break Luck or some unbirthday Luck or some leftover Luck of the Irish, I think we all felt pretty lucky to be enjoying each others' company on a sweet and sunny Spring-y afternoon.

A very merry UN birthday, to you, and you, and YOU!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

In which, I am an attentive mother for one hour

I finally found the perfect bubble solution recipe!

6 c. water (distilled works best)
1/2 c. Joy or Dawn
1 tbsp. baking soda
1/2 c. cornstarch

Even Bruno was able to make Gimungo bubbles. Huge hit.

Then we played Balloonminton... you put a little bit of water into a balloon, then blow it up the rest of the way. The result is a balloon with a little weight to it, which you can have great fun either hitting with old badminton rackets, or just kicking or tossing around.

After all this entertainment you'd think the children would be good to go, well attended-to and nourished and ready to be by themselves for awhile. But no, they were like, "What's next?" Insatiable little beasts.

Cute beasts, anyway.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Joyful Joy Joy

Buds, blossoms, bounty... spring, I love you.
Our Eve's Necklace Tree is in bloom... I just think it is so luxious and resplendent. Those dripping pale pink and ivory blooms, and little black seed pods trailing down like beads... this is a Texas native and I hardly ever see it anywhere... I'm so glad this one resides in the front left hand front corner of our yard.

Next up is our cute little orange tree that we got around Christmas time... I thought, it being so new and all, it would shyly save it's blossoms for next year, and therefore it's sweet fruit... but no, this little lady is flush with creamy little buds... And last but not least, our four year old ruby red grapefruit tree... MY GOODNESS GOSH. I almost burst into tears when I saw this tree last week. Her first year... she gave us two delicious sweet sweet super sweet and juicy pink grapefruits, but then nothing the next year, and then last year we got about ten and that was this totally glorious blessing... but check her out this year... seriously, HUNDREDS. We can't even let her fruit-up all those little potentials, she'd break under the weight. Talk about abundance.

Meet me at my house next January for some fresh squeezed grapefruit soda, greyhounds (that's grapefruit and vodka for you teetotalers out there), or, uh.... grapefruit pancakes? We'll be swimming in citrus next winter so swing by and we'll load you up.


What fun! We got to attend story time, get a tour of the store, and peruse loads of books.

I just love the Book people story time motto, "What happens in story time, stays in story time".

Kiyoshi, in the last picture, is only one but already diggin' on Picasso.

Monday, March 16, 2009


Our plans to go camping during this first part of Spring Break were foiled by this blessed, blessed rain which I am by no means cursing (just don't want to camp out in it) so we so completely on the spur of the moment pulled plan B out of our asses ears and headed to beautiful downtown HOUSTON (Which I had once heard described as the armpit of America by a former resident, and had never had any desire whatsoever to go to before now)!

Actually we were headed first to Hunstville, TX because I'd been turned on to Dan Phillips and his amazing work building houses with low income folks (with, not for, so they also get the amazing skills along with a house of their very own for insanely cheap by today's standards) out of STUFF OTHER PEOPLE WERE THROWING AWAY. So much good stuff gets thrown out from other building sites... and then along the way he also uses hickory nuts, license plates, glass relish plates, bottle caps, egg shells, and bones. It was so cool and I'm going to blog more about that over at Mungo.

We decided to do this trip so on the fly (and I want to give a big SHOUT OUT to my man for being so flexible and actually going along with my crazy idea when it woulda been so much easier to just stay put) but he totally rolled with it and got the kids in the car and all packed up within an hour when I caught Dan on the phone and he said he'd be happy to give us a tour. Matt also got on the computer ( I never would have had the foresight to do this, again, Matt, I applaud your hotel-booking genius) and got us a priceline thingamajingamabob where we scored a four star hotel in downtown Houston for $50!! I am quite glad he did this because I had already looked for a few moments online and had resigned myself to paying $72 for the cheapest (I thought) motel about which reviewers had written "scary neighborhood", "paper thin walls", "ice machine kept us awake all night", " bed was so uncomfortable we ended up sleeping on the floor"... yes, I'll say a four star was quite up our alley. Though a bit of comedy was that in our haste and hurry Matt had booked a room with just one king-sized bed (king sized... mmmm... the luxury....) and no they did not have extra cots, not even to rent. But they did have cribs, and they were free, so we ordered us up two of 'em. Thank goodness our big boys aren't yet a shade too big for the cribs, 'cause ain't nobody sharing my king sized bed with me. I mean except for the folks who normally share my bed. I'm just mean like that.
Anyway, in the morning, we ate crackers and avacados and grapefruit for our breakfast at Discovery Green, which was quite beautiful, then we went to the Rothko Chapel and to Star Pizza, where some good friends of ours met and fell in love and now have three children, and then on to the Children's Museum, which was downright insane in more ways than one. They just added on this major addition and it is GRAND, people, I mean, beyond belief, really. But they added on the damn new addition three days ago, which we did not know, and with it being spring break and all, it was just a little too coocamungo for our blood, and we weren't able to stay very long. Anyone feel like taking a trip there sometime soon though? We could caravan it, plan it for a day when most kids are in school, have the place to ourselves.... it would be hella fun. There was so much we hardly caught a glimpse of.

All in all, I didn't see much of Houston that was armpitty, and there was a lot more I'd like to do there and see there, and we drove through some beautiful old neighborhoods that gave thrills to those of us who like to look at houses and neighborhoods and gardens, so I think we'll be back. All in all I just think it was high time that this family had ourselves a little adventure. I really feel like it set us right, some sort of balance that has been upset for the last few months or so. Everyone was in high spirits and a holiday mood and I cannot tell you how much it fed my soul to see the kids love each other, look out for each other, and play with each other... it has been a long winter of fighting, ladies and gentleman, but now is the spring of our getting-along-ness... from here on out.
ROAD TRIP!!! Cures what ails ya.

Saturday, March 14, 2009


Dang! Sorry this won't come out any bigger. Just wanted to share this ad for the booksale with you. Truth be told we may have missed it by about 15 or 20 years. I got kinda busted regifting this Christmas season when this dropped out of a book I had given my sister-in-law, Jessica. It was a newer book than this ad, I think I had found this and stashed it inside the book last time I was home with my family of origin and rooting through my old possessions. This ad used to be on my wall and it really gives me some strong wrenches in my heart, simply because it says on the back that it's addressed to Pamela Hoffmeister, and I know I worshipped Pam for such a long time as a kid and teenager. I wished (and still kind of do) that I could be a part of their family, making art all the time, living in France for big chunks of time, chickens in the backyard, apple tree in the backyard, family of six children, art everywhere, so much style, always living in some beautiful neighborhood in Seattle or Eugene where we kids were free to roam (instead of the boring rural burbs in Western Washington where I sent a major part of my growing up years...).... I still long for them. Or maybe more specifically, for her. Does anyone else out there have a dream mom? I'm sure whatever mom you have you yearn at times for a different sort, but... she just is my dream mom, and I miss her.
I always say that I'm trying to manifest my dream family in my neighborhood. If I just envision them clearly enough, one day I'll discover them on one of these side streets back here. The perfect family that's right close by, that has kids that match perfectly with my kids, that when we get together it's just so easy and relaxing and fun. I really believe I am going to find that family someday (soon I hope) but whenever I imagine them, they are similar in almost every way to the Hoffmeisters. Of course I'll let my family be whoever they are when I finally meet them... and I'll just try to imbue my own household with some of those characteristics about the Hoffs that I hold so dear.
Now how to swing the living in France part....

Friday, March 13, 2009

I know I'm preaching to the choir here...

...but breastfeeding is awesome, am I right? I've only been nursing pretty much non-stop one wee babe or another for the last six years with no end in sight, so, I guess it can safely be said that I'm a fan.
My friend Marcela is a doula and I had heard her say once a long, long time ago that there weren't many good children's books on the subject of breastfeeding. Or ones that portrayed breastfeeding as a normal, natural, healthy thing to do. I wanted to surprise her with a proper book on the topic at her baby shower for her second baby, but now that baby that was on the inside, Beatrice, has been on the outside for about six months now, so it's not much of a surprise, but there you go. I think little Bea is more interested in the booby-sucking part of breastfeeding than the 'reading about' part, so this book is more for big bro Ezra to reminisce and for Marcela to... I dunno... reflect on her current lactating state? And how marvelous it is? Something like that. I hope you like it, Marcela!

There's many more pages than this, I'm just presenting you with a choice few. And if you were on the fence about breastfeeding... maybe these sweet images will cause you to hop aboard the breastfeeding train... everybody's doing it. All the rage.

Duncan Park

A chilly, rainy day, and what to do with these wild children once school lets out? I had driven past 9th and Lamar earlier and thought that the rain-swollen creek and the bountiful BMX bike hills/jumps/whatever they're called of Duncan Park might charm the young ones for awhile. We went and I was glad we did. We will definitely go back, though I'm not sure what it would be like if the bikers are there using the hills as they were intended to be used, rather than mud slides. Then there will be bikers to watch, and that will be fun. My children have been so surly in the waning hours of the day lately that I am so relieved when I find an adequate diversion that actually brings a smile to the poor beleaguered lad's face... of course, I couldn't get away scot free.... Bruno fell asleep in the car on the way there and woke up in a state and refused to get out of the car... so I was stuck in between Jack bounding about and not wanting to stray far from the car where the angry young three year old seethed in his seat. Ah well, there's always a burr in the saddle, as Bernadette said her husband likes to say. Such is my lot, and it's not such a bad lot. Two out of three kids happy... that's a pretty good ratio.

And this is Henrietta in her sweet little warmie that her Grandma knitted for her... probably her last time wearing it. Cute stuff.