Friday, July 31, 2009

I'm learning to make most of small backyard

Post-Crescent column: Wednesday, July 15, 2009
I've been a mom for about two years now, but my backyard is just catching up.
When we moved into our house a handful of years ago, my husband Josh and I had found such a good buy that we figured we'd deal later with our awkwardly positioned, L-shaped lack of green space.
As a couple without children, we'd toss down beach towels or set up folding chairs and spend summer afternoons engrossed in reading or talking about the future.
We toyed with gardening the small soil beds that lie flush with our house and in two back corners. A friend with a green thumb told us the clay content was high and growing potential was low. At best, our efforts yielded a lone loaf of zucchini bread and a panful of fried green tomatoes.
When we prepared to bring our now 2½-year-old daughter Mihret home from Ethiopia, however, we had to face facts. The backyard wasn't "cute" anymore. It was confining.
I thought back upon my earliest days in a rural cul-de-sac bordering farmland in upstate New York near the Canadian border. I roamed the lush woods that were our neighbors' property in fall, and in summer spent hours in an above-ground pool that felt like a secret hideaway. My best friend and I played "Star Wars" on my swingset, and I devoured books on a blanket under rows of crabapple trees.
At least, I consoled myself, we can search for a swingset that fits next to our yard's one gem, our apple tree.
Our January baby got her swingset as a belated birthday present from Josh's parents. Mihret's two grandpas and Josh installed it, along with a new hammock as an early gift for me, a September baby.
Hardly a day goes by when Mihret doesn't want to swing on her "blue swing" and go down her "green slide." She also piles into the hammock with me, or rocks me in it when I'm lounging there.
How our backyard has grown.
-By Kara Patterson, Post-Crescent staff writer

Author's passing revives stories

Post-Crescent column: Wednesday, June 10, 2009
One of my favorite authors, epic fantasy novelist David Eddings, died June 2 at age 77.
Like J.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Madeleine L'Engle and other writers of the genre whom I "met" in my youth through their incredible storytelling, Eddings told stories I devoured, until it came to the last few chapters of the final book in a series. Then I purposely slowed my reading rush, not wanting to finish the book and, in so doing, have to mourn the characters I'd come to feel were friends.
Because I started reading the prolific writer's books in middle school, I literally grew up with them. My most recent memory of disappearing into his world was when I was a college student, bedridden with influenza and feeling isolated during an away-from-home internship.
Eddings' latest series, "The Dreamers," sits on my bookshelf, waiting its turn for attention among other good reads stacked high in piles throughout my house.
But my first memory of Eddings is tied to summer, and to the children's reading program at McCollough Library in Evansville, Ind.
At 11, I flitted back and forth between the teen and adult departments. I'd spend hours there each week. On the day I "met" Eddings, I was both hungry for a new reading challenge, and also somewhat lonely.
A summer library employee in her late teens or early 20s saw me wandering the stacks and struck up a conversation with me as she re-shelved paperback fantasy novels.
I don't remember her name, but if I walked into that library again, I could go directly to the spot where she picked up one of Eddings' novels and said, "I think you'll like this book. Try it, and tell me what you think."
She doesn't know how much her kindness meant to me, just as Eddings never knew how much his books did.
Rest in peace, David, and thank you for your stories. Thank you, summer library employee, for your time. And thank you, hometown library, for the memories.
-By Kara Patterson, Post-Crescent staff writer

Friday, July 24, 2009

Our Big-Girl Bed Girl!

The bars are off - Mihret's officially a big-girl bed girl. She actually sleeps better (most of the time) in her bed. She still sleeps in very odd positions - bottom up in air, head where feet should be and feet where head should be - it's very cute. We've positioned a plump green pillow next to and slightly under the bed so should she fall out (she does this once in a while) it will break her fall. We've got a routine down now so that getting into bed comes after we read a few books, say prayers and read her "Counting Kisses" book by Karen Katz (Interactive: "Ten little kisses on teeny tiny toes..." all the way down to "One last kiss on your sleepy, dreamy head.." and Mihret says, "Now it's time for Mihret's bed!") She is still daddy's girl through and through, so I have to leave the room right after we walk her in there, and go into the computer room or our bedroom and wait for Mihret to come find me (on her terms) for "one more hug, mama." I won't complain when there are cuddles involved, although she has started using that as a manipulative strategy to prolong bedtime. Working on that.... My favorite part of bedtime is that we use it as a chance to practice some Amharic. I tell her ishi, ishi, it's OK, my fandesha, smiley girl, and I love you, ewedishalehu. And she says ewedishalehu, mama, ciao-ciao, goodbye.

We Love Our Library

Mihret receives her first, very own library card at the Appleton Public Library. Now, to complete her collection... (Appleton belongs to one of two library systems in our area, and Josh and I also have cards for the system that encompasses Neenah and Oshkosh. We truly do love our libraries.)
We've fallen into a pattern, not unintentionally, of reading books about milestones or situations in Mihret's life. (See "Diapers are not Forever," "Teeth are not for Biting," and "My Own Big Bed," for example.) One of Mihret's favorite books is called "Lola at the Library," by Anna McQuinn.
Mihret loves to hear about Lola, a little girl who looks a little like her, who goes to the library with her mommy. That book is not a library book at our house - It was a present from Grandma P. We've read it quite a lot this summer, and not so ironically, we go to the library quite a lot. It's a nice, barely-ten-minute walk further downtown from our downtown neighborhood, something fun to do when we all can get home and eat an early dinner.
The library is a place where Josh and I can easily lose ourselves for hours. I can't count the numbers of times I've been barely on time (even late) for appointments and meetings because I've been skimming the pages of new nonfiction, checking the shelves for a documentary or foreign film, scanning the sci-fi section or looking up "just one more" item on the computerized card catalogue.
Mihret doesn't know what to do first in the library. She zigzags across the children's department as soon as one of us unbuckles her from her stroller. She wants to sit in a cubby with daddy and flip through a book. Then she wants to watch an older child play a computer game. Then she runs between the stacks, grinning, like they're part of a corn maze, and expects us to chase her.
While I'd like her to just settle down and pick out some board books - we more often than not end up grabbing a small pile of interest just before the library closes - part of me is just glad that she's able to be in the library. It's like bringing her to church well before she can truly grasp the importance of being there. We do that, and we'll continue to bring her to the library, too, until she's older and can lose herself in the stacks by reading.

Friday, July 10, 2009

A Tale of Color

The favored game in the bathtub these days is "cups." Mihret will say, "Cups, please?" And then some variation of the following will occur:

Me: Which cup do you want?

Mihret: Yellow one?

I place the yellow one on the edge of the tub. She now has four other colors to choose from: blue, pink, green, or orange.

Mihret: Orange one?

I place the orange one on the tub.

Mihret: Um... red one?

Me: You don't have a red one.

Mihret: Blue one?

I place the blue cup on the edge of the tub.

And so on, until she names all the cups.

Recently, however, we had two variations:

Mihret: Brown one?

Me: We don't have a brown one.

Mihret: Brown one?

Me: You don't have a brown cup. *a short pause, as I try to figure out her logic* YOU'RE brown.

Mihret: YOU'RE brown.

Variation two:

Mihret: Sing the cup song.

Note: There is no cup song.

Me: (Singing) Cuuuuuuupppppps.

Mihret: That doesn't make any sense.

I start laughing.

Mihret: Don't laugh!

I laugh harder...