Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Happy Birthday, Papaya!

There are many reasons I've been a terrible blogger lately: my mother-in-law's 10 day visit, our insane planting and yard work mania (which deserves an entry to itself), and last but not least, the Papaya's 4-year birthday party, which was yesterday (his actual birthday is today).

It was, of course, a Lightning McQueen birthday party, and it was a lot of fun to plan and host. Since Memorial Day is not a great day to host a birthday party around here (most people get away for the long weekend), we only had two families show up. But those families brought 7 kids between them, so it was the perfect number for the Papaya. I made 2 large pizzas, the cake (pictured above, a race track scene with Lightning pushing the King across the finish line - the Papaya's idea), and cupcakes with "wheels" made out of Oreos on top. Papaya Daddy made a large wok of yummy fried rice and some cold lemon-mint tea using the abundance of mint growing in our yard. For games, we had a spare tire beanbag toss & the ever-popular pinata (a birthday party tradition in this neighborhood). It was a fun, low-key time and most importantly, the Papaya loved it. In fact, he spent the entire afternoon leading up to the party just staring at the cake and Cars-themed decorations. He wouldn't even leave to watch a video. And the guests brought more Cars-themed toys as gifts. Life doesn't get any better than that.

It was fun to honor the Papaya with a party. He's a sweet, imaginative, and lively 4-year old (if a bit manic at times). He seems to have grown up so much lately, wanting to do everything himself now. I look forward to seeing how he's going to grow and change in his 5th year with us. He is so dear and so loved.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Kids are gross (or is it just boys?)

Yesterday, after sitting and laboring successfully on the toilet, the Papaya informed me that he wanted to continue sitting there while he flushed, because he really liked the feeling of the dirty toilet water splashing his bottom. A painful admission for a mommy to hear - the Papaya was quite upset that I did not encourage his plan.

Pretty gross, but not quite as bad as a couple months ago, when I walked into the bathroom to discover that the Papaya's hair was dripping wet. After using the toilet (and before flushing), he had dipped his entire head inside the bowl. Dirty toilet water was running down his face and neck. Hopefully, his swift removal to the shower and the cold water that immediately drenched him, clothes and all, dampened his enthusiasm for a repeat performance.

Are all kids this gross? Is it innate? Or is it just the Papaya? Perhaps he's one of the few who will find satisfaction and success in a future career of sewage processing and management.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Strength-building Saturday

This morning I woke up with sore arms, very sore shoulders, raw fingers, tired legs, and a bruise on my inner thigh. All completely worth it, and gained in the course of a very full outing with the kids to Jack's Canyon yesterday (pictured above). We joined a group of fellow health center employees, a few other kids, and half a troup of boy scouts on a hiking & rock climbing expedition. Sadly, Papaya Daddy had to work yesterday, and missed out on our fun & action filled day. To his credit, he was the one who spurred me to get ready and basically shepherded us out of the door & into the car before he left for work. Without his selfless encouragement (he would have loved to go himself), we would probably have left hopelessly late or not at all.

The Papaya Daddy's absence made things just a little more complicated. Usually when we hike, he carries the Banana on his back, and I carry everything else (water, food, extra jackets, kid stuff) in a large and beautifully ergonomic backpack. Papaya Daddy's absence meant I was the only beast of burden available. After quite a bit of contemplation concerning how to carry everything, we settled on the arrangement pictured to the left (add a 19 month old in the child carrier on back, and a bit more bulk to the green backpack, and you'll know how it actually looked on the trail yesterday). The green hiking pack wasn't quite as ergonomic when hanging from my front, especially when loaded down with over half a gallon of water, a picnic lunch, and various other necessities when taking a significant hike with two small children. Now picture me in this get-up climbing down (and then back up) a very steep, crumbly, rock-laden trail into a canyon, unable to see my feet, with a Papaya clinging onto one of my hands and using me for support whenever he slipped or jumped down a rock step, and you'll understand my sore shoulders & tired legs.

Jack's Canyon is about a 1 3/4 hour drive from where we live (via Winslow, where we did some shopping & recycling on the way), and so we arrived after everyone else (who camped the night before) descended into the canyon, and left before they hiked back up. Otherwise, I'm sure somebody would have helped me do a little carrying. The weather as I drove between Winslow & the turn-off for Jack's looked truly menacing - I could see about five storms to the west and even drove through about 3 minutes of rain & hail. It seemed inevitable that one of those storms would hit us. Indeed, I almost turned back.
But somehow, despite my best rational arguments about two wet and miserable children, a possibly violent storm in a remote canyon, and several miles of muddy, unimproved road to get back to the highway, I couldn't bring myself to do that. We ended up gearing up & hiking down into the canyon to find the others. And what a good decision that was! Yes, a few storms did hit us, but they were short and consisted primarily of wind and a little hail-snow (weird precipitation that was a combination of the two). Jack's Canyon was verdant - full of green trees, bright red penstemon growing out of the rock, hummingbirds, and countless other wonders. The Papaya had a fun time playing in the dry wash with the other three children present (he even did his own bit of rock climbing, as pictured above), the Banana had a great time toddling around & flirting with the men, and I had a lovely time just being there (once I got over my worry about the weather). Despite the many boy scouts rock climbing for the first time, I even got to ascend three routes.
This was my fourth time rock climbing - each of the four have been in Jack's Canyon, initiated by another health center family who let Papaya Daddy & I borrow their equipment and show us the ropes (literally). I've been surprised at how much fun it is, and how pretty much anyone reasonably fit can succeed (or at least succeed enough to have fun) with a lot of encouragement and supportive belaying. Jack's Canyon is a sport climbing location, with bolts already attached to numerous routes throughout a good mile of canyon. One of the experienced members of our group leads a route or two, anchors the rope at the top, and then we take turns being top roped & climbing to the top. Yesterday, I sailed up a 5.6 route I'd done twice before, found a 5.8 route to be a fun challenge, and inelegantly clawed my way to the top of a 5.11 route (an accomplishment made possible only because of some very aggresive belaying down below). The 5.11 ascent didn't really count, but it was fun to make it to the top!
Last week was a long, mostly house-bound week (two days of strong winds and one night of heavy rain that made it too muddy to get out the next day). It's impossible to express just how good it was for my soul and body to get outside and away from the house - worth every bit of inconvenience. I just wish Papaya Daddy could have been there.
The 5.11 route I kind of climbed (made it to the top of, anyway).

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Cold frame progress

Exactly three weeks ago, I posted a picture of our cold frame looking pitiful. Here's the close-up (from April 10):
Here's our cold frame today:

Talk about a miracle. The lettuce is actually ready for harvest, enough to make at least three good salads (it's a lot bigger than it looks in this wide-angle). And there's even a little cilantro coming up (still too little to see). Want to come over to our house for some nice fresh salad?

Trip to The Tree & dust devils

Last Friday was a perfectly blue, still, early summer day, leaning toward actual heat. The perfect day to get outside with the kids. So I spent the necessary hour getting both kids sunscreened-up, putting together a hike-survival kit with diaper change materials, water, snack, camera, hats, sunglasses, cell-phone & first aid kit, and blowing up the flat tire on the Chariot (pictured above). Finally, we were all ready to begin our big hike to The Tree.

The Tree is well-known to all members of our housing community here. A large cottonwood, it is the only tree of size within at least a five mile radius. It's almost exactly 1 1/2 miles away, so walking or jogging there and back makes a perfect 3 miles of exercise. It's on the edge of a sandy wash that is a lot of fun to play in and explore. During the few times a year when the wash actually flows, it is a lovely picnic spot where you can bathe your senses in the sights and sounds of running water and rustling leaves. Of course, the walk there and back is completely exposed and shadeless, and is therefore a rather thankless hike with kids in the heat of the summer or the violently windy spring. It's not something we do very often. But last Friday was perfect.

The Papaya walked excitedly all the way to The Tree, while the Banana fell asleep in the Chariot. When we arrived, the Papaya & I had a snack and water while we looked around us (see picture above). The leaves weren't out yet, but there were buds and birds, the sky was a deep cloudless blue, and it was very lovely. As I looked back the way we had come, I saw a large dust devil whirling right over the health center compound (where our house is). It looked like it was headed straight towards us, so I closed the plastic Chariot covering over the Banana, pointed the dust devil out to the Papaya, and warned him that it might get very windy for a little while. (If you look closely at this picture - the view from the tree back towards our house - you can faintly see the dust devil in the distance. It looked more impressive in real life.)

In case you've never experienced them, dust devils are weird things. They're like mini-tornados, but usually just arise when it's still, hot, and sunny. They can really take you by surprise. Last year, one blew into our backyard, picked up our solid plastic slide, and deposited it on the other side of the yard. If you get caught in one, you'd better cover your eyes and mouth if you don't want to be spitting out grit for the rest of the day!

As it turned out, the dust devil changed course & passed quite a distance to the south of us. The Papaya, however, was much impressed, and has been talking about it ever since. I didn't realize how much he had been influenced by it until I found him napping that afternoon with the duvet pulled completely over his head. I pulled it down so he could breathe, but later found it over his head again. When he woke up, he began walking around the house with his hands over his eyes, saying, "I don't have to be scared anymore. I don't have to be scared anymore." When I probed, he told me he was scared of dust devils and that he slept with his head under his covers so they wouldn't get him in his bed. I assured him that dust devils couldn't come inside our house, or our car (we were about to drive to the post office).

As we drove to the post office, he listened to the song I was playing (a contemplative song by Fernando Ortega) and said, "This is a sad song. It's about the dust devil that went away and didn't come back."

"It sounds like you're not scared of dust devils any more," I said.

"No, I'm not scared of dust devils! I love dust devils! Dust devils are my friends!" replied the Papaya emphatically, spreading his arms wide and then crossing them over his chest.

The Papaya's fascination with dust devils has not waned. In Sunday School day before yesterday, I attempted to teach him and a couple other preschoolers about the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Desirous of making a Meaningful Connection, I emphasized that when Jesus' followers heard the sound of a violent wind inside their room, it was just like a dust devil was inside their house. Well, it was a Connection, all right (although I'm not exactly sure what meaning he got out of it.) When the preschoolers got their take-home papers to color, they were supposed to draw tongues of fire over the pictured apostles in the upper room. The Papaya picked up a crayon with enthusiasm. But instead of drawing tongues of fire, he drew dust devils.

The Papaya at the tree, contemplating the dust devil he just saw.