Saturday, February 23, 2013

Pussy Willows, Roller Coosters, and an Unwelcome Guest

Sometimes it's the little things that make the big news here on Laurel Lane.

Pussy Willows
The weeping pussy willow tree is in bud.

 I remember reading about pussy willows in books when I was a child. They seemed so exotic to me then because there are no pussy willows that grow on the central California coast. I still remember the thrill I felt when I first discovered a pussy willow tree a few blocks from my home after I moved to Oregon. About 5 or 6 years ago, Mark and I bought a weeping pussy willow tree at a plant sale. Now I have pussy willows in my very own yard. I clipped a few branches to bring indoors today, and I feel like a wealthy woman.

Roller Coosters

The mail carrier brought such a treat this week: a letter from Lala! Love her 3-year-old penmanship.

"Hi Grandma, I made you a roller cooster. (heart) Olivia"

I turned her letter over to see what a roller cooster might be:

Yup, it looks like a roller cooster to me!

Actually, when I went back and took a closer look at her letter, I realized that she had attached a little tail to the second "o" in "cooster," so it probably really says, "coaster." But I think "cooster" is pretty cute, so I'm sticking with that for now.

It never ceases to amaze (and embarrass) me when I see how many of my grandchildren are able to read and write before they ever reach kindergarten. I do not remember teaching my children to read before they started school. Some of them could write a little, and I do remember teaching them to make letters by drawing dotted lines in the shape of letters for them to trace over, but nothing like a whole letter like this, written without any dotted lines. Katie said she did help Olivia with the spelling, but Olivia actually held the pen and wrote the whole letter herself. And addressed the envelope. And drew the roller cooster.

(Just for the record, all of my children did graduate from high school in spite of having a pre-K slacker mother.)

I have an early childhood memory of "writing" of my own. I was probably about Olivia's age. I was sitting at the dining room table, across from my mother, who was writing her weekly letter to my paternal grandmother. Mind you, my mother did not get along very well with her mother-in-law, but she was a good daughter-in-law, and she wrote a letter to my father's parents every week. I remember sitting at the table while my mother wrote, with a pen in my hand and a piece of paper in front of me. I remember making whole lines of looped "l"s - lower-case cursive-type l's. Or maybe they were e's. I remember thinking "Whoa, I'm writing!" and simultaneously knowing that I was only pretending, not really writing. Not like Olivia (or Arora, or Abbi, or Katie, or Seth, or Becca, or...).

I guess kids today are just a whole lot smarter!
(And, of course, they have brilliant parents.)

An Unwelcome Guest
Mark and I have a pretty set routine in the mornings. One of us hops in the shower while the other one heads downstairs to get breakfast started. A week or so ago, I ran across this fellow, making his way from the dining room to the kitchen.

Uggghhh!!! Yes, it's a slug. He was about 2.5 inches long. Skinnier than a big, fat banana slug, like we see on our hikes. This was just a little garden variety guy. He was actually making pretty good time across my smooth floor. I was surprised at how quickly (for a slug) he was moving. But still. It was a slug in my house. Not acceptable!! He quickly became a resident of the (outdoor) trash can.

Mark and I can't figure out how he got inside the house in the first place. Our house is generally pretty bug-free, except for the occasional swarm of fruit flies in the summer.  (Except, of course, for a couple of memorable yellow jacket infestations in long-ago summers...those are stories that will have to wait for a future post...)

Mark thought maybe he rode in on one of our shoes, but that just didn't make sense to me. Could he have come in all the way through the sump drain into the basement, and then all the way from the basement into the kitchen? That would be quite a hike for a little critter.

I've lived in the house nearly 34 years, and this is the first time I've ever had a slug in my kitchen. Maybe he's a harbinger of climate change??

Time will tell...and in the meantime I'm not walking barefoot in a dark kitchen!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

I-Spy Fabric Ball

Katie's mother-in-law, Trish, sent photos of a beautiful fabric ball she made for her darling grandson, Calvin.

 Love the red polka-dot middles with the bright I-spy fabrics on the outside. 

Calvin approves!

Lucky little boy to have such a doting grandma!

To make your own fabric ball, click here for the tutorial.

(If you're interested in a few stats, you might like to know that the fabric ball tutorial just keeps chugging along. It gets around 30-40 hits every day, from readers all over the world. It is far-and-away my most popular post ever, with a total of over 18,000 views so far. Not bad for a little grandma blog!)

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Welcome to Avalon!

David called late last night to say that their new baby has arrived!
He and Holly had planned for a home birth, and everything went very well.


Avalon Eve arrived at 11:20 pm last night.
She weighed 8 lb 3 oz, and she is 19 inches long.

It's a good thing that David learned lots of first aid skills on the way to Eagle Scout...because Avalon arrived about 20 minutes before the midwife! David caught Avalon successfully. He couldn't say enough about Holly, and how calm and brave she was. (David says the midwife wasn't's just that Avalon was fast!)

Here are a few more family photos.

 David and newborn Avalon

 Beautiful girls...Holly and Avalon

Arora and Ender welcome their new little sister

Love the look on all three faces...

Arora and Ender slept through the whole thing. They were excited to welcome their new little sister this morning. Just's better than waking up to a stocking full of toys on Christmas morning!

And if you're wondering how many...yes, this is grandbaby #23 for Mark and me. SO amazing! We can't wait to meet this little gal.

(PS - Many thanks to Sarah, who showed up just in time to help a friend!)

Monday, February 11, 2013

It's never too late for friendship

Partway into my 9th-grade year (waaaaay back in 1968 or so), a new girl moved to town. Her name was Ann. Someone--a counselor or a teacher, I suppose--asked me to show her around the school. That was the beginning of a deep and loving friendship that lasted all the way through our high school years.

I have sweet and happy memories of spending the night at her house, doing homework together, eating lunch on the lawn at school, listening to the chirping of the finches she kept in a large cage, soaking up her mother's kind counsel to me, enjoying the joking and teasing with her father and brother.

Ann always seemed a little exotic to me. Because her father had worked for USAID, she had spent much of her childhood in Malawi, Africa. She missed our senior year of high school because she elected to travel to Taiwan on her own and study there for the year. After high school, our ways parted, but we kept in touch. She eventually went to work for the State Department and has been posted in various places, mostly in Asia.

Over the years as I was raising children, it was always a treat when the occasional box from Ann arrived. It was generally an assortment of clothing and miscellaneous items from the country she was living in. Her Christmas cards were richly decorated with Chinese dragons.

It was at least partly due to Ann's influence that I hosted 5 different full-year foreign-exchange students when my children were at home. The quilt she sent to Mark and me when we married hangs on our living room wall still. My youngest daughter, Katie--Kathleen Ann-was named for my high school friend and me. I think it is partly due to my friendship with Ann that I have enjoyed being blog friends with Bridget (here's the link about our face-to-face meeting last summer).

But our contact has decreased over the years, and I have missed Ann. The last Christmas card I received from her, several years ago, had no return address. From time to time I have toyed with opening up a facebook account, just so I could try to find her that way. Then, last year, my parents forwarded the Christmas letter they received from Ann's mother, Maria. Following clues from Maria's letter's return address, I did a little google searching and found a phone number for Ann's mother in California. I called her a year ago, and we had a lovely conversation. Maria wanted to know about my family, my life, and I wanted to know about hers. I hoped I could get in contact with Ann again, through Maria, but she said she couldn't give me Ann's address. I didn't know if it was due to security issues with the State Department, or some other reason.

Of course, Ann isn't the only high school friend I keep in contact with. My friend Jill, who was maid of honor when I married Mark, lives in California and checks in here at the blog regularly. Ginger lives in New York and sends occasional emails about her family and her work for the Department of Defense. For several years her son lived in Lake Oswego, and she always called when she was in town visiting her son. We got together a few times. And Mark Kelley sends Christmas cards, occasional emails, and even came to visit a couple of years ago. All of these dear friends shaped who I am today and I am grateful for our ongoing contact. We all have full and busy lives, lives that rarely intersect, but we know where one another is, and we still matter to each other.

A few weeks ago, when I cleaned off my office desk, I found Maria's (Ann's mother's) telephone number again. I tucked it away (I thought) while I finished cleaning, but then when I went to find the number and call her, I had lost the number! I was so sad. I looked through all the papers I had sorted, but it wasn't there, and I was left to assume that I had accidentally let it slip into the many reams of paper I recycled on that busy cleaning day.

On Saturday, I looked inside my old address book--I don't even remember why, now--and I found the slip of paper with Maria's phone number. You can bet that I didn't lose it again. Maria and I had a lovely phone conversation, and by Sunday morning, I had two email in my inbox: one from Maria, and one from Ann.

It was that easy. She is in Tokyo now, where the clock is 17 hours ahead of Oregon's. By Sunday evening the timing was right--it was Monday morning in Japan, and it just happened to be a holiday that day--and since she had the day off, she was able to call me on one of the embassy lines that connects to the US. We talked for nearly an hour.

In the email just before our phone call, when we were agreeing on a time to call, I told her that I could still hear her voice, what it sounded like.

Ten minutes later, when the phone rang, that's exactly what I heard. My friend, who I have missed so much over the years. I would have known her anywhere. She sounded exactly like herself, and it was just what I needed to hear.

Friday, February 8, 2013

What a week

It's been a crazy-busy week here on Laurel Lane.

Last weekend we traveled to Washington for Katie's baptism. So exciting to have an eight-year-old granddaughter! Josh, Sarah, and Kat traveled with us. They were really good about the long drive. It makes my grandma heart so happy to see the cousins together.

 A "Kathleen" moment - Kat, me, Katie on her baptism day

 Katie and Sarah 

Seth and Josh

 Kat, me, Becca


One of the best things about Katie's baptism was the opportunity to connect with family we don't see very often. Eric's parents, siblings, and their families came from Seattle. The travelers who came the farthest were Katie's birth mom, half sister, and birth grandparents, who came all the way from North Carolina and Alaska for her special day. What a wonderful miracle to have this large and loving family all together around one dear little girl!

We arrived home and I dived into the last-minute preparations for the annual "New Beginnings" event for the Young Women on Wednesday night. The church class I teach was in charge of it this year, and my assistant and I have been working on it for several weeks. Planning fancy parties is not one of my talent areas, but my assistant, Rene', is a pro, and she helped us look good.

The decorations were girly and fun.

 Savannah conducted the event - did a great job.

The girls sang some beautiful songs.

Meanwhile...poor Mark was sick with an intestinal bug on Tuesday and Wednesday. Ugh. In case you're not a teacher and you don't know this, it is much worse to be out sick and have to make sub plans. It's easier to just come in and do it you know how sick he was, to miss two days in a row.

Today was inservice day and I presented a 7-hour training to the high school teachers. I had them actually take one of the new standardized tests that our juniors will take in two years. Some of them grumbled about taking the test, but once they got into it, they could see that it really is quite different from the way that our students have been tested in the past. We had some lively discussions about what it will mean in our classrooms, and the ways we can change how we teach to help our students be prepared. The tests will be more rigorous than anything our students have encountered in past state tests. However, a good part of that rigor comes from tests that assess skills in a much more "real world" way, and I think it is a positive, though challenging, change. 

It's been a good week, but daunting at times, and I am drained.

Oh, I am enjoying a quiet evening at home, with no big projects to prepare!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Wonderful Sewing Patterns at a Great Price

$24.95 for 18 wonderful PDF sewing!!

Katie has all the details posted on her blog.

Don't put it off...the deal is only offered through February 9.