Monday, December 29, 2008

ice cream and collard greens

I've been away so long that I barely know what day it is. We gave the children such a late lunch that we thought they wouldn't want dinner. Little John had a slice of cake with ice cream just before bedtime and then requested his own big plate of collards and a slice of bread.

My mother and I are drinking gin and tonics out of season.

(I'm going home wednesday morning)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Breakin' Up Christmas

Hooray Jake, hooray John
Breakin’ up Christmas all night long
Santa Claus come, done and gone
Breaking up Christmas right straight along
Don’t you remember a long time ago
The old folks danced the doesey-doe

I was singing this to myself this afternoon wondered if I had posted about it last year when I read it in Hillbilly Savants. I was thinking today about how fun it would be to have an old time dance in my imaginary farmhouse of the future. Next year, the year after.

My brother and his wife came over for the afternoon, and he fried up a batch of oysters. My mother made a pot of mussels, collard greens, "the" potato salad, a green salad, homemade rolls, and pound cake. There was Guiness, irish music, and the cutting of trees with a chainsaw. Little John loved that part and helped with the stick collecting. The littles collected a huge basket of giant acorns and were outside all afternoon. It was so grey but nearly seventy degrees. We sat outside tonight until it was dark and a bat was out hunting above the garden.

Friday, December 26, 2008

soul flower shopping

note to self from the road

be back soon

Sunday, December 21, 2008

under the tree

I made it to Granny and Grampy's house in four hours and forty five minutes. No stops. Small John was amazed to discover that a small boy can go to the potty before he goes on a trip. We crossed Afton mountain under full dense fog, and as we descended on the other side Ella said that she felt like the tooth fairy flying along under the pillow.

At some point I found a cheesy radio station playing lush hip hopped up Christmas carols and we sang and "danced" our way through the final hour.

By ten all the littles were fed and played and filled with food and cookies and ready to be tucked into their little side by side twin beds.

Now it is sunday and John and Ella have gone out with their grandparents to see a play, Peter Pan. Ruby is bouncing away under the christmas lights, sucking her thumb and talking gibberish to ber feet. She and I had a lovely nap this morning, my first in months.

Solstice. My father died eleven years ago yesterday.

Friday, December 19, 2008


oya baka mama: Planetarium

Ella's space homework reminded me of this Adrienne Rich poem.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

wrap and mail

Our living room is the pre-post office.

I bought a stuffed puppy for John today right under his nose, and he didn't even notice. Daddy found the kooky Western Store even though their giant horse blew down in the wind and found a real belt for the little man. A cowboy belt, no less.

This is all coming together, but can we transport it over the river and through the woods in a compact car?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

littles asleep

littles asleep, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

The house is finally quiet and I'm going to make a quick little baby owl for a special friend at Ella's school. I made a nest for it yesterday out of some brown wool yarn and some oatmeal colored mohair.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I have crafted

Fifty homemade cards.
So much to do before the rocket ship blasts off to Christmasland on Saturday.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

always the crazy legs

always the crazy legs, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

Ella and I went to the Nutcracker this afternoon, just the two of us.

my girl

my girl, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

ella and her mouse friend at the Nutcracker

ruby june, six months old

Originally uploaded by ellajohn

Friday, December 12, 2008


What this life needs is a little grace. A little gratitude. Instead I'm caught up in the circle of eight pm bedtime and six am mornings. There have been too many arguments about who is going to drink out of what color cup, and who is going to sit in which little chair. I'm living in some distorted version of Goldilocks. I am so tired of being the divider and the teller of what is fair.

the final official letters to Hainta

Dear Santa
Me want a upside down car
A bob belt, no, real belt
a cupcake maker
dog, real
cat, real
rabbit, real

nothing else


Dear Santa Claus,
I want an American Girl doll and a pottery wheel and a cupcake maker. I have tried to be good. Ruby wants a baby doll about the size of a banana.


Thursday, December 11, 2008


Pork Chops with gravy
Turnip, parsnip, white potato, and sweet potato puree
Turnip greens

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


3, originally uploaded by ellajohn.


Monday, December 08, 2008

Winter Fire

dress up, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

On Sunday afternoon we had more than twenty children and their parents over for lunch and playtime. We had planned a bonfire, but the fire chief here in Smalltown said that the wind was blowing too hard. All these little people, instead of bundling up and being outside a bit, had to run up and down and all around our tiny little house. Luckily, they did so in costume. I wish I'd gotten to spend more time with each and every person here.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

way to go

stickers, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

Ella made a reward sticker book for me. I get one whenever I do anything especially nice for her.

I know.

Saturday, December 06, 2008


Didn't we buy Ella and alarm clock for a reason?

Friday, December 05, 2008

the power of sleep and why I don't get any

I've already missed posting every day. Last night I fell asleep with the children when I put them to bed. I suppose I'm lucky I got that extra hour or so because Ella woke me up at five muttering about television. When I pointed out the time she spent the next hour clinking change together in the next room until she could watch Martha Speaks.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008


Christmas shopping. I still have some making to do, but I managed to never go to a mall. Mr Fed Ex arrived with the last package tonight, and now I just need to hunker down with my wool and my doll parts and my card making supplies and brew a few pots of tea.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

roungh morning, smooth landing

Seven is trying to derail me. Before breakfast this morning she was rubber stamping in a nightgown at the dining room table. I admire her passion for crafts just after six am, but she couldn't seem to get her day pointed towards getting to the first grade on time, and by eight o'clock I was ready to lose it. Of course we made it with time to spare, but we had to have the talk about ways to make our mornings easier. Crayons and pencils only after breakfast, clothes, hairbrush and toothbrush.

The second advent stocking contained three candy canes and a note. We would paint wooden ornaments after school. Three, you wonder? I didn't tell you about my secret fourth child? She is eight and lives next door. She likes to come over about two minutes after she gets off of the school bus, and she goes home right after dinner. Her mother works and there are only teenage boys in the house, and, besides, over here we have crafts, games, toys, kids, and homemade food. The girls painted their ornaments and then sprinkled them with that fine Martha Stewart glitter.

Stocking number three contains Lindor truffles. I'm off to bed.

Monday, December 01, 2008

writing time

writing time, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

It is very easy to not come here and write something down, especially now that I can post Ruby's bouncing videos, but I'm going to try to post every day of the month of December.

Thursday we drove to Farmville for Thanksgiving dinner at my brother's house. We were joined by my mother and my sister in law's parents for a potluck feast. I took cornbread dressing with pecans and apples, and kale from our farmer's market. I also took all the ingredients for the avocado, mango, pomegranate guacamole from November's Gourmet. John smoked the turkey outside, and my mother made her grandmother's Irish rolls. There was broccoli, a root vegetable mash, and glazed tomatoes. Shelly made what was perhaps the best cake I've every eaten, an apple spice cake with caramel frosting. I'll probably violate all kinds of copyright laws when I put the recipe here in a few days. Let's just say it was stunning.

My brother gave me some deer antlers for the children's nature table. As we drove down the pitch black country road heading towards home I was holding the antlers and said to John, "Watch out for the deer tonight." It was as though I summoned him. A huge buck with giant antlers was on the driver's side, and as we slowed down he panicked and crashed across the road and into the front bumper. What a sick feeling. He made it into the woods, but our bumper was cracked. Those legs just look so fragile. Luckily, two out of three littles were sleeping and didn't even feel the bump. The next day little John was walking around the house holding the antlers to his head asking if I had taken them off of uncle John's dog.

My mother came to our house the day after Thanksgiving and stayed until this morning. We barely left the house all weekend, a quick trip to the craft store and to the grocery store for supplies. We went to the local produce stand to get some dried beans called "yellow eyes" that I'd heard about. They sell local apples and have baskets of sidemeat and hamhocks. I didn't see the salt fish, but that is on the sign on the outside. There weren't any other customers, just three old men watching television and one woman at the register.

Yesterday the children and I put up our advent stockings, and this morning their December first stocking contained sterling Christmas ornaments from Ri, a Santa for John, an angel for Ella, and a snowflake for Ruby. Each day I put in a chocolate, a little candy cane, or a note describing the day's activity, cookie baking, cake making, hot chocolate, ornament painting, etc. A little gnome doll travels from stocking to stocking, and the treat is under the gnome in the morning.

morning snow

morning snow
Originally uploaded by ellajohn

ruby june

ruby june, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

Friday, November 28, 2008


walk, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

thanksgiving day

thanksgiving day
Originally uploaded by ellajohn


tractor, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

apparently shelly's cookies are very good

Saturday, November 22, 2008

bouncy seat queen

bouncy seat queen
Originally uploaded by ellajohn
How long have I had this camera? I can start to record all of little John's juicy goodies, soon to be classics such as "That no freaky me out". Maybe I could even get him to sing Brown Girl in the Ring.

John just took the big kids to the recycling center and the dump. Oh, the simple joys of saturday. Ruby just fell asleep on the floor after a long quiet play session with her own feet, and I have brewed a press pot of coffee. I have this notion that I'm going to scrub all the floors tonight.

I'm off to buy a pottery wheel.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

miss ruby, coy

miss ruby, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

You may have noticed the lack of posts recently. I'm determined to get back here, but I've been cooking, cleaning, crafting, driving, changing poopy diapers, doing first grade homework, Christmas shopping, party planning, needle felting, crocheting, Santa shopping, falling asleep in my chair at night, and dragging myself from my bed in the morning. There just isn't enough coffee in this world. We've had snow, colds, hacking coughs, and some of us lost our mittens.

I'm so looking forward to a two day school week next week. That is just what I need.

oh, I look like my daddy

oh, I look like my daddy, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

five months old

five months old, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Christmas Trolls

We were at the public library today researching the Hopi Indians and picked up ten or so holiday books. Tonight we read Christmas Trolls by Jan Brett, and I'm recommending every little bit of it.

Today I have actually watched a movie in German, done some needle felting, made three little troll dolls for the nature table, and put three hot meals on the table. Rooms have been vacuumed, and nails have been trimmed and filed. Daddy did lots of laundry and dishes, but for me just making something and watching a movie has been a coup of sorts. People, I read a book this week, Gilead by Marilynne Robinson.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

looking back

ellajohn, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

Someone asked me yesterday just how hard it is to go from two children to three. If only there was some sort of mathematical computation one could do.

john at five months

I keep getting asked what John looked like at Ruby's age.

I'll be right here

John, 3, just came to the top of the steps and shouted down, "Mama, do you need my help?" I said, "No, I'm fine." He shouted back, "I'll be in my room if you need me."

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

the ripe old age of twelve

We carpool with a seventh grader. As we pulled into the school parking lot he spied a Hummer and let out a long disappointed exhale and said, "When I was young this used to be a hippie school."

Ten miles per gallon in the city, fourteen on the highway.

Monday, November 10, 2008

princess of peace

self portrait by ella, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

I think that it happens at every house with children. The time between dinner and bed gets a little kooky. Around here I think the word is raucous, so I thought I'd try something new. I appointed Ella the princess of peace for that period of time. I told them they could have me one hundred percent from dinner to bedtime, no dishes, nada. Just baths and stories. I made a warm lavender bath for them, lit some candles, and put on a lullaby CD. Then we read a Jack and Annie book for Ella and a Curious George book for John, and they were both asleep by seven thirty.

It worked nicely with some backup from Daddy, and we'll try it again tomorrow.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

running in boots

running in boots, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

This morning we raked leaves in our local park with about fifty people. Then there was coffee and pie in the woods. I got to sit in the sun and talk with a friend for a while. She is expecting her first child in a few weeks, and I was thinking back to the month before Ella was born. I was living in Oregon, and she was born exactly a month after September 11th.

Thursday, November 06, 2008


cartwheel, cartwheel

My children had no idea that a person with brown skin had never been president. Ella scoffed at the notion that a woman had never been president.

Everything I know about politics I learned watching the West Wing. Seriously. I also can't talk about politics. I am very opinionated but cry easily when people start getting ugly about it.

Sarah Palin didn't know that Africa was a continent.

At last we will have a president will character, integrity, and intelligence. I don't envy him. He has a tough row to hoe, but I think he can be a great big community organizer. Maybe we can even change the whole system and give up on this ugly tit for tat, red versus blue, jesus versus science, big hair versus little hair extravaganza we call partisan politics.

It was so ugly that I got small minded and contemplated skipping my family Thanksgiving because I think that everyone else who will be attending voted "the other way".

I am hoping that the Obama administration brings this country some very practical things. First, we need a car that gets more than 34 miles per gallon and costs less than 20K. We, as in me. We can put a very smart robot on Mars, but we haven't figured out an alternative to gas powered cars.

Won't it be nice to have some little girls in the White House again instead of some boozy celebutants?

yes we can.

cartwheel, cartwheel.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

so 7

so 7, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

This one is trying my very soul lately. Everything drops to the floor the very moment she is finished with it, and I am so tired of bending, sorting, and organizing her small world of purses, wallets, quarters, and post it notes.

Tonight she read me the same book twice with a great deal of pride. She was reading so smoothly. She liked the word "ceased".

As we were cleaning her room this morning we measured her on her sunflower on the wall and she has grown two full inches since June 4.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


ruby, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

One year ago this week I had a miscarriage. I had been through one before, so I knew what was happening, and at my age it wasn't unexpected. I knew that this was my last pregnancy and tried to reassure myself that my family was truly complete with my two.

Two weeks later in the doctor's office the ultrasound showed a strong little heartbeat. One lost. One found.

I let the thought of a twin pass through me without grief because I am celebrating what I have.

seaside ruby

seaside ruby, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

We are back from our beach trip, worn out and sandy. Two days later there are still buckets of sea shells in the car. The outer banks of North Carolina are just too far from Appalachia to be sane with three littles, but we hadn't seen the sea this year. We needed some shrimp and some of that north carolina barbeque. We joined some mamas, a grandmother, and friends for a four day beach fest that included hounds, a parrot that takes baths in the kitchen and an ocean that was lapping at the foundations of the beach house. There were dolphins, sea birds eating tortillas, and lots of fun for the little people. I brought lots of art supplies, and the five kids created quite a stack of drawings and sunprints. The previous weekend's nor'easter had closed down the lower decks and the hot tub, my raison d'etre.

I drove home late monday night after bedtime, and thought that I was hallucinating on I-81 when it started snowing. That morning I'd been sitting in the sun watching pelicans and dolphins.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


cartwheel, originally uploaded by ellajohn.


3, originally uploaded by ellajohn.
This is the best of the christmas card photo shoot. I kind of love this one, but I'll try again soon. The light was amazing at five in the afternoon, but I couldn't get all three of them to even look at me at the same time.


sisters, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

Monday, October 20, 2008

leaf man

leaf man, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

One of the few inconveniences of Ella's school is that there is no bus. It isn't even in our town, and we spend a lot of time in our car. The mister bought me a new car this summer, the Cabana, so that I didn't have to make so many trips between work, school, and home, and we do carpool with another family, but I still spend a lot of time out of the house with the two littlest. For the most part this is a good thing. We are seriously out and about, and the roundy roundy playground is John's number one. It is within minutes of school, nestled in a subdivision in which we do not live, but the orange bucket swing and the merry go round are his favorite places to be on a sunny fall day.

roundy roundy playground

roundy roundy playground, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

fall ruby

fall ruby, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

acorn head

acorn head, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

I've been making hats, and I think the acorn is my favorite.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


sunday, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

We went to a pumpkin patch that launched pumpkins out of a cannon. The kids were completely unimpressed, but daddy loved it. We got three pumpkins and lots of apples. Ella did some haystack climbing and caramel apple eating. John refused the sandbox style apple bins filled with corn, but was wide eyed for a hayride behind a big tractor.

allis challmers ride

allis challmers ride, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

pumpkin wasteland

pumpkin wasteland, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

john and the wolf pumpkin

john and the wolf pumpkin, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

wrestling with rudolf steiner

Ella's seventh birthday has come and gone practically without a post because I've been so busy. John has been away at a conference, and I've been limping around on a bad knee. For her seventh birthday I got her a Barbie doll, three Barbie dolls to be exact. She had been visiting a friend and playing Barbies about a month ago, and when she returned home she asked me if I liked her friend's mother. This particular mother is lovely and creative and artistic, and of course I said yes. Ella then says, "Well, she played with Barbies when she was little and you still think that she is a good person?" I don't judge good people on the plastic crap they played with as kids, and went out the next day and bought said plastic crap. I imagined Rudolf Steiner rolling in his grave.

I appreciate most of the basic elements of Waldorf education, and have tried to incorporate them into our home learning. For many years I've have given Ella all the opportunity in the world to expand her imagination and experience the splendor and simplicity of the outside world. She believes in the fairy world all around her, and loves to draw and paint and create. She loves books, stories, and words.

Now in the first grade, she isn't a strong reader. She loves to have books read to her, but she is finding the act of actually reading on her own somewhat difficult. It requires such patience. At the beginning of the school year she awakened to the notion that others in her class were actually far ahead of her in their abilities, and it was a somewhat rude awakening for her. Not so much that she is behind her grade level, but they are so very far ahead. In several subjects her class is grouped by ability, and she is in the lower groups. Am I worried? Not so much worried but wondering. I lose my bearings when she is subjected to various "methods" of evaluating her reading ability, checkmarks and lists of words to be mastered in certain grade levels.

Waldorf teaching would say that she is merely standing at the door at this moment. Seven. Time to begin.

Monday, October 13, 2008

october 9

october 9, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

She is seven. She has had a family dinner, a Granny visit, a Scottish festival, several cheese pizzas, new boots, all the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, and two cakes with candles.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

run, ella, run

run, ella, run, originally uploaded by ellajohn.


john, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

Friday, October 03, 2008

i feel fall

mama, I wet

At four in the morning last night I hear a little voice from the next room.

"Mama, I wet."

I have to run downstairs to get a diaper for him. I stand him up, thankful that it is just his pajama bottoms that are wet, not the sheet. I put on the fresh diaper, lie him down, and he is instantly asleep as I pull up his comforter.

This morning as I'm changing him and putting him into his little red cords I realized that in the night I'd strapped him into one of Ruby's tiny diapers.

A few weeks ago I stopped talking about potty learning. John reached a point where he was saying things like, "I not very good at poops", and I backed away from the subject. Last night he ran into the bathroom and pooped on the potty all by himself saying, "I could do this every day!" Perhaps the end is in sight. Two in diapers is like being in the poop and pee chain gang.

I am using cloth diapers with Miss Ruby and any day now I'm going to wax poetic about it. I wish I had started this years ago.

Sometimes I just look at Ella and say, "Do you know how very happy I am that you know how to use the toilet?".

Thursday, October 02, 2008

ruby june

ruby june, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

Ruby, I waited for you for a long time. I'm so happy you are here.

see, her head is just fine

2, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

i'll have the fruit plate

head on a plate, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

red footprint

John put his tiny converse all star footprint on his baby sister's forehead yesterday. He didn't do it in anger, more of an experiment. He says "I have an idea" about a hundred times a day. That idea was not a good one. The baby was lying between my legs, but I couldn't anticipate that little foot as I was trying to grab his whole body. Ruby was fine in a minute, but that red footprint made me so angry. And guilty. He is experimenting with new emotions and new ways to express himself. His vocabulary is growing by leaps and bounds, and he can really explain himself. In three year old fashion. He recently pretended to be angry at TJ, and then burst into laughter and said, "Pretend". I have to remember that he is still so little. Last night he cried because he was afraid Ella was slipping down the bathtub drain.

I've been spending most of my time following Ella around asking her to clean up after her own myriad of projects. We have embraced an absolutely no television policy, and I am loving it. They are both more engaged, attentive, reading more books, making things, the list goes on. I'm tired of "managing" the television. It was pretty minimal and always PBS, but I was tired of doling it out. I'll admit I do miss the monkey dance on Word Girl.

bubble bubble

bubble bubble, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

bristol, virginia

bristol, virginia, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

ada fleetwood

ada fleetwood, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

This is my great grandmother, my mother's father's mother. While she was dying I was in the hospital parking lot listening to my father tell us stories from Bullfinch's Mythology.

I think that hers was my first funeral. My cousin tried to convince me that he could see her breathing as she lay in her coffin wearing a shade of lipstick that she had never worn before.

Saturday, September 27, 2008


I got a haircut, a nap, and some good homemade food, and I'm ready to head back to the mountains. John and I went out for Cuban food tonight and drove around Richmond looking at the remnants of our former life, places we lived before we were a family of five. Back in the day.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

run, sally, run

And then fall down and take a six hour nap in the middle of the day.

I've been out of sorts to say the least. John says that I'm always like this about three months after a baby. All my hair is falling out.

I'm exhausted. I'm at my mother's house, and it has been raining all day. Ruby and I went back to bed at ten this morning and woke up at four.

Ella is trying my very soul with her almost seven year old self, the noise and the strewing, the constant evaluation of what if fair and unfair.

Monday I'm going to go back with renewed vigor. And be a better mama. Promise.

Friday, September 19, 2008


daisy, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

We are headed to Bristol for the weekend for a music festival. I'll be slinging and strollering and changing diapers on the streets of Tenessee.

baker man

baker man, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

sick day

The first cold of the season has arrived, and Ella spent the day on the sofa, slightly dramatic in her silk kimono. John and I made lentil soup and baked french bread. By tonight she seemed her sassy self again with only a runny nose and an itchy throat.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

brother rides

ride, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

Monday, September 15, 2008

mama and ruby

mama and ruby, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

We all picked raspberries on sunday afternoon. We are still grasping at every little bit of summer, but the spiders and the goldenrod are hinting at cool weather ahead. We picked a gallon of berries. Late last night I made a cobbler to have for breakfast this morning and in lunchboxes.

I used that old simple ten dollar pudding recipe.

1 stick of melted butter
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup milk
spoonful of vanilla
3 tsp baking powder
1 quart of fruit, heated

Mix up the batter, pour it into the pan, and then pour the fruit on top.
Bake at 350, 45 minutes to one hour. The recipe is just the right size for a pretty stoneware deep dish pie pan.

Ruby is starting to like riding face forward in her sling, sitting like a little Buddha. She didn't mind the raspberry picking as long at I kept her face out of the sun.

the gallon

the gallon, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

ruby june, three months old

ruby june, three months old, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

wooden flower

wooden flower, originally uploaded by ellajohn.