Sunday, September 30, 2007

aziba ziba

zipper- aziba ziba
one more time- one finger up plus ma ma ma, (serious face)

John still says very little for a two year old, but he is learning new words almost every day now and is getting more bold about saying them. He knows his colors and can pantomime the various emotions. My favorite is excited because he shakes his arms and grits his teeth.

He is quite interested in crayons and paper and returns to his coloring books and paper several times a day. He holds his crayon just like a pencil and "writes" very carefully. His hieroglyphics look a lot like letters that he sees his sister writing.

Speaking of sister, she had a bee in her ear today. She started screaming outside and holding her ear. Looking in it, I saw nothing so I got a Q-Tip. There seemed to be nothing in her ear, and then out flew a little sweat bee. It obviously stung her in the ear and she was nothing short of berserk. I put some imaginary cream on it and it seemed to be fine in about ten minutes, but I had to tell her about every bee sting that I had as a child as well as every bee sting that uncle John had as a child.

Friday, September 28, 2007


I'm having a little flirtation with these days. This house is about the same distance from town as our current house. It was built in 1880 and has five acres. Like all houses, it is a bit out of our price range. It also claims to have only two bedrooms. 2500 square feet and two bedrooms. I'll sleep in the parlor.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

a group of butterflies is called a flutter

So one day I'll start talking about Ella's school more. I think I have to name it and it just hasn't come to. I want to do it justice. Today Ella joined some other children at their "work" on the playgound. They work for a tree.

Yesterday I pulled into the parking lot as Ella's class was filing out the front door. The monarch had emerged from his chrysalis at snacktime and was taken outside. They read a book about butterfly metamorphosis and then went back inside. Back outside an hour later, they saw the butterfly emerge from the butterfly house, spread it's wings, and fly as the children shouted their best wishes for a safe journey.

I know that it is hard to be five, but don't you just wish for a moment that you could work for a tree, study rainbows all morning, and have science unfold itself in front of you like the wet wings of a butterfly.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

thinking about myself

Sometimes I can get things done. Sometimes not. I am going to just take it as a compliment that John thinks that I can stain our decks this week while he is at work. While taking care of a twenty five month old boy.

Sunday, September 23, 2007


singer, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

Part of the whole oya baka dilemma is not buying the children everything in the whole wide world. Then again, Santa Claus is starting to make his lists, and this will be under the tree.

Marble Run

After saving for quite a while Ella finally got to go to the toystore and get a marble run. We got the Haba one because all the blocks can be moved around quickly--lots of experiments. If you are local and haven't been to the new toystore at the old train station send me an email and I'll give you directions. They sell environmentally friendly wooden toys and cooperative games. I fear they won't survive.

She has been playing with the marble run nonstop and already wants more pieces. We brought in our big basket of wooden blocks to add to the building process so she can build castles and cities with a moving component. Even John has been propping up the "running" blocks and sliding marbles down them. I put some more components on the Froogle Wishlist for the holidays if you are a friend or relation with my littles on your shopping list. All in all, it is a toy I can recommend without reservations. I think that means that the grownups in our family like to play with it too.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

seuss and seuss

seuss and seuss, originally uploaded by ellajohn
Friday was Ella's twenty fifth day of kindergarden. She is getting more confident about her long days there but is still quite happy to see us at the end of the day. She seems to be exploding with language. In five short weeks she has mastered the ASL alphabet as well as many new signs. I was thinking how interesting it must be to be approaching spelling from three directions. Phonetic spelling, fingerspelling, and a few sight words in Spanish.
I know I haven't talked much about her new school apart from her nervousness about being alone there. Perhaps I'm still thinking about how going to an alternative school is going to change her in comparison to the public school. Everyone packs their lunch, so she won't be experiencing cafeteria food. Some of her friends in other schools are experimenting with "steak and gravy" and elementary school spaghetti. Even I remember the steamy smells on spaghetti day. The puffy noodles with the bland meaty sauce. Ella will never have to change for gym or take a shower in front of other kids as a middle schooler. I'm sure there are many other differences that I haven't even thought of yet. For now she is grappling with her newfound reading skills. Suddenly she can write words, rhyming words. I have to slow her down. Today she was plowing through a workbook and worrying about getting her homework done, but it isn't due until next friday and she has already started it. I'm trying to get her to bed by seven thirty each night and keep her schedule predictable. She is playing outside at school for two hours a day, thirty minutes in the morning, an hour at lunch, and a half hour at snacktime. By dinnertime she is exhausted.
Friday afternoon I picked her up and went to a woodland park in the nearby national forest. The leaves are just starting to change and the air was cooler and misty. We found green and red acorns and saw lots of wildlife. Three deer were on the trail, and Ella and her friend walked so close to them that Ella was afraid. We saw a salamander, several turtles, frogs, and a dead snake hanging in a tree. Little John walked all the way around the pond, two hours.
Today may be the last day of summer, but it seems that fall is already upon us. Ella's birthday is in two weeks, and I know that we have long weeks of indian summer ahead of us. For now, these are the weeks of misty mornings and spider webs, slanty light and red trees, warm days and chilly mountain nights.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

pink vanilla play dough

The girls are playing tomorrow afternoon, so I cooked them up some pink vanilla playdough.

4 cups of flour
1 cup of salt
4 cups of water
4 tbsp oil
1/2 cup cream of tartar

Mix in a large pan on medium heat, stirring until glossy not sticky. Let cool and store in a container or plastic bag. I added some vegetable dye and a teaspoon of vanilla extract. It is lovely to knead while it is still warm.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

to the moon seven times plus infinity

school, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

We have had two successful school days. I picked her up every day last week in an attempt to calm her fears about the afternoons on the playground. She arrives home happy but later suggests that she may have to throw up at school tomorrow and would I be able to pick her up if this happens? I'm noncommital, and she moves on to other thoughts.

My mother called with more factual information about my first days at school. I knew she would feel guilty that I thought that I was being kidnapped--thirty six years ago. Apparently I had survived some sort of orientation that involved being wrenched from my mother in a cafeteria and taken to the kindergarden class screaming. Then on the first day of school the kindergarden teacher met us at the elementary school and rode with us to the annex. I must have thought that she was in on the kidnapping conspiracy.

To be honest, I loved kindergarden. I was the smallest and always got to sit on the teacher's lap during story time. I remember playing kitchen and the smell of modelling clay in that room.

I'm pretty sure that Ella will feel the same way. She woke me up very early on saturday morning to whisper Spanish words to me.

Every morning in her classroom we write her a reminder of who will be picking her up in the afternoon and at what time. We draw a clock with the pickup time, and I write her some huge declaration of love. She probably shows her friends thinking that she has more love than they do. At five, everything is compared. She likes it when I make it into a math problem. I love you to the moon seven times plus infinity.

Monday, September 17, 2007


Back in early spring John and I got out some notebook paper and sketched out all the things we wanted to do during the summer. The budget was pretty tight, so we choose some camping and some music festivals in our area. This past weekend was our last festival of the summer, and it was a really nice way to launch us into fall. We went to the Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion in Bristol, Virginia. Well, one side of the main street is in Virginia and the other side is in Tennessee. Anyhow, this past weekend State Street was well loaded with bluegrass and old time bands, cowboy boots, and hipster north carolina boys. I don't know if they were really from north carolina, in my mind they were, with their artfully messy hair and carefully selected green t-shirts. Finally, I saw the Everybodyfields... Outside at sunset with thousands of bats swirling in the sky like an undulating bat roller coaster. It was fantastic even with a thirty pound man strapped to my chest.

We had a tremendously cheap hotel room, so cheap that the nonsmoking room smelled like a dancehall, but we had loads of fun.

appalachia rising

dungarees, originally uploaded by ellajohn.
One of my favorites from the festival is a little outside the traditional.
"We like a good bit of hootanany and hoedowns that tickle the gizzards way down to their sultry inner depths...little bit of good boot stompin' fiddle banjo/tunes passed down along the way...what tunes we can carry on long journeys we do- and travel frequently in old dusty backpacks and vagabond hammocks, throwing out a hitch hickers thumb as often as possible..." -Leah.
Freak-Folk-Soul from the South... Sisters Leah and Chloe Smith grew up from the hood to the hollar'. In the streets of urban Atlanta's musical revolution and in the bosom of the Southern Appalachian music renaissance. Born to a fiddlin’ mother and a folk-sculpting father, they were raised with old-time mountain melodies as their lullabies. But, having also grown up immersed in the underground hip hop and spoken word movements of the urban South, Rising Appalachia stays true to their deep love of lyricism, hip hop, jazz, blues, soul, funk, indie-folk, and roots music from around the world. Rising Appalachia’s eerie banjo originals, gritty lyrics and effortless sister harmonies are compared to that of Ani Difranco, Jill Scott, and even Bjork. Touring again as a duo hear Rising Appalachia carnival folk approach to a beautiful old tradition.

ella::paramount theatre::brisol, tennessee


ella::bear, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

state street, bristol

state street, bristol, originally uploaded by ellajohn.


ice::cream, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

bear meets turtle

bear meets turtle, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

lamby vest

lamby vest, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

monarch metamorphosis

Time elapse photography of a monarch metamorphosis. Ella's class has one of the their table, and yesterday it formed its chrysalis during school.

because I need you all the time

It isn't as bad as Juniper. Ella skipped into preschool and never looked back, and I think that is what makes her fears of kindergarden harder to work through. I think that she misses the kindness of preschool.

In the evening when she is tired she starts talking about how scared she is at school. Apparently she is scared every minute that I am not there, but then again I know that she is often playing and working happily.

On my first day of kindergarden I caught the bus, but no one ever told me that I was going to get off of this bus at the big school and take another bus to the smaller kindergarden and first grade annex. I thought that I was being kidnapped, and that I would never get home again. I was wearing a navy blue and red plaid dress with an itchy lace collar. I wonder how many days it took me to realize that I was safe

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

poop talk

John pooped in the toilet twice yesterday. He asked to be put on the adult toilet instead of the little one. Voila!

late night cooking

I need some new lunch inspirations for lunch boxes around here. Maybe I'll go back to scouring the archives of Vegan Lunchbox. Tonight I cooked some spinach tortellini and made hummus with smoked paprika, roasted cumin, and parsely.

Ella has had a hard time with the long days at school lately and doesn't want me to leave her. She also wants me to pick her up the instant that school is over. They usually have a half hour to play outside, but she has been afraid of this afterschool play time. When we are carpooling our neighbors pick her up at three thirty some days and four o'clock two days a week, and she has been having a hard time with that. For the past two days I've been going to school and staying with her while she plays. They have adequate supervision and most of her class is there. She is contemplating dropping out or going back to preschool. All because she misses me. After two years as the big bossy preschooler she is little again.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

heart sutra

Avalokiteshavara Bodhisattva,
practicing deep Prajna Paramita,
clearly saw that all five skandhas are empty,
transforming anguish and distress.
Shariputra, form is no other than emptiness,
emptiness no other than form;
form is eactly emptiness,
emptiness exactly form;
sensation, perception, formulation, consciousness are also like this.
Shariputra, all things are essentially empty-
not born, not destroyed;not stained, not pure; without loss, without gain.
Therefore in emptiness there is no form,
no sensation, perception, formulation, consciousness;
no eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind,
no color, sounds, scent, taste, touch, thought;
no seeing and so on to no thinking
no ignorance and also no ending of ignorance,
and so on to no old age and death
and also no ending of old age and death;
no anguish, no cause of anguish,
cessation, path, no wisdom and no attainment.
Since there is nothing to attain,
the Bodhisattva lives by Prajna Paramita
with no hindrance in the mind; no hindrance
and therefore no fear;
far beyond delusive thinking,
right here is Nirvana.
All Buddhas of past, present, and future
live byPrajna Paramita
attaining Anuttara-samyak-sambodhi.
Therefore know that Prajna Paramita
is the great sacred mantra, the great vivid mantra,
the unsurpassed mantra, the supreme mantra
which completely removes all anguish.
This is truth not mere formality.
Therefore set forth the Prajna Paramita mantra,
set forth this mantra and proclaim:
Gate gate paragate parasamgate*Bodhi svaha!

Translated by Diasetz Suzuki as "Gone, Gone, gone to the other shore, landed at the other shore."

Sometimes when you are looking for a new mantra you find it in the drawer of your bedside table where you put it eight years ago.

Monday, September 10, 2007


girls, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

Ella started her new ballet class tonight, but in even bigger news she really started reading. She has been sounding out words for a while, but I don't think she believed that she could read. Fox in Socks. Box, socks, Who sews crow's clothes? Sue sews crows clothes. Slow Joe Crow sews whose clothes? Sue clothes.

See what eleven days of kindergarden can do.

Sunday, September 09, 2007


toadstools, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

I heart these.


The kids were asleep at six fifty five tonight. Willingly. Yesterday we went to the farmer's market for tomatoes and the first kale of the season. I'm determined to get more greens into Ella's body, so I let her use a knife to finely chop the kale and saute it with garlic for dinner tonight. She also helped make a bumblebee pie, peach and blackberry. After the market we took the children scootering on the trail and then to the library. We dropped Ella off at her friend's house for her very first sleepover. After a few weeks of negotiating all the new faces and new rules of kindergarden I think she really enjoyed returning to the comfortable familiarity of her best alphagirl. They stayed up late, but apparently not too late. This morning they went to the Unitarian Church, something we have been planning to do for a while. She saw a friend from her kindergarden class, as well as some other's from preschool, so perhaps we can start going there more regularly.

I picked her up this morning and took both children to the natural foods market for tofu, organic oats, and tempeh. I hesitate to take both of them there because they have child sized shopping carts, and have you ever seen a two year old piloting one of those things down narrow crowded aisles? I alternate putting items in his and her car and then try to instill in them a sense of duty about getting to the cashier calmly. Along the way we gathered some little juice boxes and dried vegetables should we reach the car with decorum intact. All was well until Ella tried to divide the snacks in a numerically even fashion, and he lost patience.

John was home all weekend for the first time since our vacation, and he was feeling domestic. That or just afraid of all the spiders trying to set up housekeeping in our house. He vacuumed the whole place while I was out getting Ella, and every bit of laundry is washed, dried, and put
away. Ella has her first ballet class tomorrow evening. Lunches are packed.


I pledge allegiance to the earth of our beloved solar system
and to all her creatures,
for here they dwell
one planet united in harmony
with universal love,
and compassion for all

Friday, September 07, 2007

caity cat

Multimedia message, originally uploaded by styro.

This is my friend Cait, and she is the Mother Teresa of cats. She has been rescuing feral mama cats, taking them in for spaying and then releasing them. She also spays and neuters their kittens and finds homes for them.

Who needs a kitty? This is Maxwell Smart and he needs a family.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

sticks and stones

Ella has gotten some flat stones and written on them with a brown sharpie. They are for the "future people". They include all of our names and phone number as well as some drawings meant to depict the evolution of man from the apes. Information for the future people in case they have not figured this out. Later, she had to rehide these stones in our yard because she was afraid some of the neighbors might find our phone number. Top secret.

She would also like to make some lists about "what people are really like, what people really are instead of just what we already know."

Recently John picked up a copy of "Little Big Minds, Sharing Philospophy with Kids" by Marietta McCarty. From the back of the book, "Children are no strangers to cruelty and courage, to love and to loss, and in the unique book, teacher and educational consultant Marietta McCarty reveals that they are, in fact, natural philosophers. Drawing on a program that she has honed in schools around the country over the last fifteen years, Little Big Minds guides parents and educators in introducing philosophy to K-8 children in order to develop their critical thinking, deepne their appreciation for others, and brace themselves for the philosophical quandries that lurk in all of our lives, whether we are young or old."

you can't wear white after labor day... we tie dyed a bunch of white clothes this past weekend. What a nice two days of crafty goodness and hanging out outside. The children all enjoyed the creek, the hot tub, and running around like banshees.

Today we were back to school and then to a kindergarden class meeting tonight. It was interesting to meet the parents of the class that could be together for quite a while if everyone hangs in there.

Saturday, September 01, 2007


dive, originally uploaded by ellajohn.