Saturday, June 19, 2010

Catching up

Foggy summer morning in our new garden.

I would have to agree with my friend Sarah who said recently that the longer you stay away from your journal the harder it is to return to it. I have definitely been remiss with this blog but life has a way of getting in the way. I have been overwhelmed by the minutiae, and unable to find enough time to gather my thoughts, cull through them, and focus on this task.

Truth be told, the main reason I didn’t write a post just after Jasmine’s wedding was that the only thing I could really talk about was slugs. Yes, slugs. SLUGS. With all the wet weather and then the warmth, the slug population in our area has skyrocketed and there are slugs everywhere. In the garden, on the front porch, all over the hay barn, on the wheelbarrow, inside the grain bin, inside the grain bag.

There were so many all over the hay barn, that I adjusted how I dressed for the task of feeding the animals every morning: cowboy hat pulled snuggly down to my ears, flannel shirt buttoned up to my neck, collar up, even as the weather warmed up. The thought of one of those slugs being shaken loose and falling onto my head and down into my clothes almost kept me from the job. They are baby slugs or a small variety, but their tininess doesn’t make them less disgusting to me. People keep saying, “Too bad you don’t have chickens” but if I did I’d then have to face the fact that chickens eat slugs and then I eat their eggs…better not to know.
Slugs on the outside of the hay barn as seen from the inside.
Above L, the hay barn. Above R, slugs as seen on the outside of the barn.

It offended me to follow such a pretty post with a post about slugs. But for a bit, that was all I could think about. So I didn’t write.

Almost three weeks later the slug fest is pretty much over and I feel that there’s enough space between the slugs and Jasmine’s wedding to proceed.

The slugs (guess I am not quite done) have been ravaging my garden as well. Despite the copper tape edging all of my raised beds and the saucers of beer that I’ve put out, there are nibbles taken out of almost every leaf and some crops have had a hard time overcoming their place in the late night buffet. The weather has changed enough that I think we’re getting ahead, the garden is bursting with new growth. I almost wrote “Maybe there’s enough for everyone” and then changed my mind. There’s not. I’m selfish about my garden. I want it all for us humans at Three Boys Farm. The tomatoes, the beans, the lettuce, the tomatillos, herbs, and nasturtiums. The pumpkins and cucumbers and squash. The flowers that the boys planted. I want it all for us! That’s why Mark and Harry built so many gorgeous gopher-proofed raised beds for me this year. No sharing! Once we start harvesting, if you’re human come on by. If you’re slug or gopher, this offer is not for you.

Summer is officially here. The camping trips, beach days, afternoons at the pool or the Russian River, and Fanwar (LARP: Live Action Role Play) events are filling the calendar. The boys sleep late while I go out to feed the animals and water the garden. I love this weather as I have always loved the beginning of summer, when you can really appreciate the change of seasons.

People ask me if we stop homeschooling for summer and I usually respond that our whole year looks more like most people’s summer vacations, so no, I don’t tell the kids, “It’s June. Stop learning.” and when September comes around, “It’s September. Start learning.” Our homeschool life IS learning. Wherever, whenever. We’re not gathering every morning to say the Pledge of Allegiance and the boys don’t sit in desks doing penmanship. There are no timed quizzes and there is no extra-credit busywork. By my bedside table are some new books that are inspiring me about science and nature journals, and one called Macbeth: for Kids to get us prepared up for the Sebastopol Shakespeare Festival next month. But no, we don’t stop for summer.

I saw some school kids the other day in town, a small gang of teens in cut-offs and tank tops, and they had the definite look of kids just set free from school. A wave of recognition swept over me, a sensation I remembered very distinctly, that feeling one has the first week of summer break. It’s pure freedom. No homework, no early morning bus rides. No pressure. I grew up in Santa Monica and those first weeks of summer were amazing because we’d grab our towels and hit the beach, just a few blocks from my home. This season was such a contrast to the rest of the year, not to mention the weeks preceding the last day of school/first day of summer break that had so much anticipation built in. The weather was warm and the ocean was calling to us.

My kids don’t have that definition in their lives even though our activities change during summer. Their lives have so much more freedom on a regular basis that they don’t chafe at the end of spring to be set loose. That makes our life different from a school-based life. Better in myriad ways, I believe, than it would be if we were sending them to school every day. But I still felt the nostalgia for the traditional when I saw those kids in town the other day.

Harry’s bags are packed and his hair is newly shorn for three weeks at Camp Tawonga. We’ll be taking him to the camp bus pickup tomorrow morning. This summer he’ll be an S-I-T, Specialist in Training, his ultimate goal is to be the arts and crafts counselor one day. We’ll miss him, but it will be a great experience for him and he has always loved Camp Tawonga. Toby will join him in a week, and is thrilled that his big brother will be a “counselor” while he’s there.

The rest of the summer holds three camping trips (two to Mendocino and one to Yosemite’s Tuolumne Meadows), cooking camp for Ben at Sur la Table, and the Homeschool Association of California’s annual conference in Sacramento.

Oh, and a surgery for Ben.

Three weeks ago we took another x-ray of Ben’s spine and found that his curve has progressed to 27 degrees, up 12 degrees from the last x-ray. This is a sign of growth. As he grows the rod is holding his ribs down and so we need to get him to Shriners Philadelphia so Dr. Cahill can get in there and adjust it. Just a centimeter…or should I say, a WHOLE centimeter! We just got the surgical date (July 30) this week and have begun to make the arrangements. Ben and Mark will be going while I’m in Yosemite with the other guys. We had two choices of dates, July or early October and the latter just felt too far away with the amount of change we’d seen in 7 weeks. Also, Ben had already opted out of the Yosemite trip, so it wasn’t a real conflict for him. Well, on one level, anyways.

I called the Ritz-Carlton yesterday. It was just like I remembered. As soon as I said who I was (speaking to the general manager’s assistant) I was greeted with, “OH!! How is BEN?! Everyone is asking about him!!” Within minutes the wheels were in motion and a “superior” room was booked for us and I was arranging for our star to have a tour of the restaurant kitchen one of the days he’s there. Those folks are so incredible. They want to do anything to make Ben happy, it’s truly incredible. Ben and I were interviewed recently for the Philadelphia Inquirer about our stay there, since now the hotel has developed a special program called the Medical Concierge, to help people staying there who are in Philly for medical treatments. Ben’s quote is priceless (“They treated me like a god”), and his story was the lead story in the article. His picture (from my blog) graced the front page of the newspaper. If he was a rock star there before, he’s a mega star now. I’m sure he and Mark will really get the royal treatment.

That helps a bit, but this is Ben’s personal rollercoaster of emotions and he’s having a hard time of it. Just when he was feeling really good physically (running around and battling with foam swords at Fanwar events, and rolling and jumping into swimming pools), he’s facing down his demons again. July 30th is just around the corner, but it feels like February 15th was not so long ago. This surgery should be much less difficult, with fewer hours under anesthesia, only a day in the hospital, less pain, if all goes well. However, as much as he enjoys seeing his friends and fans and being pampered at the Ritz-Carlton, I think he’d trade it away in an instant to have what he calls a normal life. He’s had seven surgeries in his 12 years, with more to come, and that is bitter for him. For his mama, too.

If you’ve made it this far through my post, I will say thank you. And, I promise to try to keep up with my posts, even if it means following up beautiful and sweet with disgusting and slimy. This, is my life. I need to appreciate the definition!