Moonlight Chronicle no. 59 (c) Dan Price

I got my first Moonlight Chronicle way back in 2004. I loved it and subscribed to a couple of future issues. I got so hooked on that great feeling of opening the mailbox and seeing that small but thick envelope nestled there, with one or other MC stamp and Dan’s crazy handwriting on it.

So I requested all the MCs I didn’t have in one big order. What a feeling, getting that big box and sitting down for days on end to read through all of them! It was one of the most worthwhile splurges I ever made (did?), a close second to buying the complete collection of Glen Gould playing Bach!

I kept on receiving my MCs until issue 49. Then, for some reason, probably the one we call “life”, I failed to subscribe to new issues. I almost forgotten all about it when Amie discovered the big tin box I had stored them in.

She loves books, of course, especially small ones that easily fit her small hands. And she loves drawing and drawings. Books + drawings = Moonlight Chronicles!

She sat down and “read” through half of them! Commenting:

– Mama, Mama, there’s a house in here!

Leafing through two more, her frown growing more and more threatening. Comment:

– Mama, this is no good! These books don’t have houses in them.

Then, flipping through the next issue, with great relief:

– Ah! There‘s a house!

amie reading Dan Price’s Moonlight Chronicles (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

I sat next to her on the floor, also reading, haphazardly, issue 41, then 30, then 7. I know Dan’s life story, so I didn’t get lost in the chronology. I think it was the first time in days that I was so relaxed!

Dan’s a goodhearted hobo who lives an enchanted life in a tepee and several handmade constructions (“hobbit-holes”) in a meadow by a creek near Joseph in Eastern Oregon. His life is enchanted – he searches for his style in drawing, a smaller ecological footprint, a closer bond with nature, and ruminates about life. But his little journals also reflect the hard side of that life, the isolation from his family and the discomfort of living simply. And all that in such direct language and illustrated, of course, by his neat little drawings.

Check out this cool documentary about Dan on the Oregon Public Television (not very recent, but it still reflects his life).

– Mama, are there more of these? (Amie asked)

– Of course!

– Can we get them?

– Of course!

13 more Chronicles have been written since I jumped off that wagon. We saved some money with our so-far-successful $200/week regimen, and with DH on board, I wrote to Dan and am now joyfully anticipating catching up! So is Amie!

Amie moving rice around, feb 2008 (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

Amie has taken a great liking to this game, another one straight from a Montessori lesson.

A while ago I introduced the tea set and the pitcher to let her pour water as a game, and her own drink at mealtime. More recently, I also gave her the responsibility of filling the sugar pot. She loved it so much, she was heartbroken yesterday morning when Laura had already filled it up. We could have poured the sugar back into the bag and let her do it over, but she is still coughing and sneezing all over the place.

Then I remembered a small bag of old brown rice that has been sitting in our pantry for over four years (five? six?). The rice is nicer than water or sugar, for her because it is such fun to dig her hand in, and for me because it doesn’t make such a mess when spilled.
I gave her a bowl full, a teaspoon and a smaller sugar spoon, and her tea set. She played for a full hour, carefully filling all her tea cups and pitchers, emptying them again, and so on. She couldn’t stop commenting:

– I like this game, Mama! I really do like this game very much.

Project for DH: Put together sorting trays, like these, or these:

sorting trays (c) E & O Montessori

Amie is ill again. She has “upper respiratory problems”. One child sniffs > Amie gets a cold. Our trip to the Science Museum was fun, but by the evening I could see that we had brought home more than a bunch of good memories.

Yesterday she spent the day glued to me. She slept until noon! On me. DH took this sweet picture of us on the sofa.

Mama reading and Amie asleep, feb 2008 (c) Satrajit Ghosh

I look so sleepy, don’t I? It’s not the book I’m reading  though. Try staying awake with such a warm, sleepy body weighing you down!

Cover of Rick Bass *Where the Sea Used to Be* (c) Rick Bass, Houghton Mifflin

The book is actually really good. It’s Rick Bass’ Where the Sea Used to Be. I love Bass’ short stories and novellas – I think I’ve read most of them. This was his first full-length novel. I must say I didn’t like the first 31 pages of it: they didn’t speak to me at all. Luckily I don’t give up on books so easily. I was on the verge of feeling very sad and disappointed when, on p.32, the book finally opened up to me, the characters became alive, the language beautifully evocative.

I haven’t been able to put it down since, but the new Orion Magazine arrived in the mail yesterday, so now I struggle to divide my time between the that, Where the Sea Used to Be and The Magic School Bus. And my own novel, and this blog, and some letters I need to write. And playing with the zoo, and the paints, the doll houses and their various assortments of denizens. And the dishes, and laundry…

Amie gets it! She was talking about something and suddenly said:

– Mama, more begins with M.

I had always found it strange that she could rhyme so naturally – she picked it up in one day, months ago – but that she couldn’t isolate the first letter, or sound, of a spoken word, until now and after a lot of practice. Rhyming seems to me a more complex task, especially the way we play the “rhyming game” (I say: “cat rhymes with…” and she needs to sift through her vocabulary looking for a word that rhymes with cat). I guess I was wrong.

Now that she is so interested in writing, we’ve been working on it, of course. It is a part of our day now, to analyze the words we say into sounds. But today she isolated the sound spontaneously, without help or recourse to her memory.

And in the evening, this scene:

Amie and Laura reading, Feb 2008 (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

In the background, our lovely, newly-acquired roommate but old yet ever young friend Laura, reading The Magic Schoolbus while Amie tears through her favorite Kiss the Cow.

Oh, I feel so right at home!

We had a wonderful Sunday filled with family fun. A visit to the Science Museum (DH and I have lived in Boston for almost 10 and this was our first visit!), shopping together (wonderful to see Amie interact with strangers in the store), building and flying paper airplanes (from this wonderful book), reading books and playing with animals.

At the end of the long and tiring day, Amie sat down on the floor and spontaneously took some quiet time. She opened her arts and crafts box and cut pieces of paper (with her ziggy-zaggy safety scissors), colored them, and glued them to a page.

Amie crafting by herself, February 2008 (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

I had nothing to do with it! It was one of those rare and harmonious moments when everyone was doing something exclusively by him/herself.

Part of our shopping today involved a certain do-it-yourself-hardware store, where I found a couple of simple binding posts with screws, like so (couldn’t even find a picture of it on Google Images!):

Binding post and screw

… So that I could finally assemble our “Bambi,” which we cut out of recycled cardboard and painted a while back.

cardboard “Bambi” pull toy (c) Katrien Vander Straeten cardboard “Bambi” pull toy, reverse side (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

It’s a pull toy! It just took me a while to get sturdy enough fasteners, and these binding posts are very cheap, strong and reusable!

I think we’ll make more of these, if Amie likes it – she certainly did look forward to this one. I’ll have to get the hang of coordinating and weighting the limbs and whatnot needs to get moved by one pull, because this baby Bambi moves even clumsier than the newborn one in the movie!

More about having actually watched Bambi later…

Amie drew “The People” today. 4 of them. 1 big person and 3 tiny ones:

“People” by Amie, 20 Feb 2008 (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

She also signed her name on the back:

Amie signs her name, 20 Feb 2008 (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

We’ve been working on letters, and this is her first full written word (besides “8oo”, i.e., “Boo”). The A she has down pat. The M still tends to flatten out and go on at length. For the i and the e she needs a reminder in the form of a verbal description: “a line up with a dot on top”, “a line up and three short lines across”.

She has been very keyed up lately. Very repetitive, anxiously so sometimes, swallowing sounds and whole words in order to get it out as fast as possible: a song sung for the tenth time, a statement made the fifth time around. She talks and sings nonstop. She can’t fall asleep because her mind is racing. Her head hurts when you comb her hair. “Growth spurt,” we call it.

She has also been very imaginative, making up songs and stories, some cute (“Yesterday there was a dinosaur here and we played well together”) and some quite outrageous (“Mama pooped on the floor yesterday and I had to clean it up!” – so not true!).

Toddler life. Nonstop. Breathtaking.

Here’s my pledge:

After the novel is done,

(I still have a couple of months to go before I release it to the Underworld—I mean, the industry… Cheeze!)

I’m going to make something with my hands!

Dig a garden (if we have one by then).

Make a cob structure for Amie (in the garden, if we have one by then).

If we don’t, I’ll remodel the bathroom.

And make a painting (it’s been a while).

A piece of furniture.

Throw a pot (first learn how to do it).

Look at these pictures of Rick Beerhorst’s studio!

Front Page of Puffin 1 (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

Years ago, in 2004, I put together a (literally) small “zine” called The Puffin.

Picture of Puffin 1 (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

It was a zine for family and friends, inspired by Dan Price’s awesome Moonlight Chronicles and Danny Gregory’s Everyday Matters blog (before he became so insanely popular).

I just happened upon the original .jpg version of The Puffin – I no longer have a complete copy for myself, all 50 went out the door – and laughed myself silly!

As a way of illustrating what my life was like before I became a mom (very academic – okay: nerdy!), I thought I might share some of the pages with you.

Teapot from the Puffin no 1 (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

Here are the first couple of pages that make the draw-for-your-life pitch and the first page of the rest of the journal, which puts the drawing philosophy in practice. Enjoy (click on thumbnails to see original size)!

1. Page 3 of Puffin 1 (c) Katrien Vander Straeten 2. Page 4 of Puffin 1 (c) Katrien Vander Straeten 3. Page 5 of Puffin 1 (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

4. Page 6 of Puffin 1 (c) Katrien Vander Straeten 5. Page 7 of Puffin 1 (c) Katrien Vander Straeten 6. Page 8 of Puffin 1 (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

More will follow.

Slippers from the Puffin no 1 (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

Ah, no… I don’t draw in my journal anymore. I still do draw, in Amie’s Map Book, our communal Drawing Book and on the occasion of all our crafting, of course. But no longer in my own journal. Why? Sigh. I can only speculate. The best excuse I’ve come up with is that, once drawing “vivified” (jump-started) my journal again, I quickly fell back into my old journaling habits, which are back to being prolific and energetic, but drawing-less. I do miss it though, not so much when I’m writing, but when I’m rereading my journals.

– I’m drinking Luella’s milk [*], I’m eating Little Red Hen’s bread [**]… And when I eat chicken, do I eat Little Red Hen?

We’ve been talking about the food chain a lot lately, ever since Amie watched the movie Madagascar, which is a wonderful spoof on the food chain, with a tongue-in-cheek ending (“The kittie loves the fishies!”). Amie was enthralled by the fact that the lion would want to eat his friend the zebra (“steak!”). When she set up her zoo, she made sure to put the meat-eating animals separate from the vegetarians – which prompted some research on my part: does a hippo eat meat? [***]

Drumlin Farm under a snowy sky (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

We were at Drumlin Farm over the weekend – a lovely day, the sky heavy with snow (photo above, of their barn), only two other families there. On our way in, she told the lady at the gate:

– I don’t want to see the fox because he will eat me!

We explained that that would not happen, first by the following lame explanation:

– You’re much too big to eat!

Like that stops us humans from eating cows, for instance! We quickly asked what foxes do eat, then. There are a lot of foxes in children’s books, of course, so she knew:

– Chickens and eggs!

Fox at Drumlin Farm (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

Then she asked:

– What eats me?

– Oh, no one, honey. We’re the top of the food chain, no ones going to eat you.

The quip solicited a frown of interest.

When we visited the pig sty, there was only one big hog left.

Hog at Drumlin Farm (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

She asked:

– Where did all the piggies go?

Why disguise the fact?

– They were probably eaten.

– Oh. [tone: a surprised why not?] What do sheep eat?

– Grass and hay.

Sheep at Drumlin Farm (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

– We shouldn’t let the lion come on the farm! He will eat the sheep and the chickens!

Upon leaving we bought some of the Farm’s delicious sausages. Amie wanted to eat them right away (she gets those meat-loving genes from her Baba). I decided to ask her:

– You do know what those sausages are made of, right?

She knew right away:

– The piggies!

– Do you still want to eat the sausages?

– Yes!… What were the piggies names? [Note the past tense there!]

– I don’t know, honey.

I remember one evening when my family on my dad’s side (all white-collar people, not a farmer in sight) gathered for dinner. My cousin, then about 7 years old, had just lost her pet rabbit, Nijntje. My grandmother had told everyone to keep quiet about the fact that we were having rabbit stew (a delicacy in Belgium). When my cousin asked, “What is this?”, someone (one of the adults) blurted out what was on the tip of everybody’s tongue: “Nijntje!” The drama and trauma!

Why should that have been? Was it because my cousin wasn’t (yet) aware of the fact that meat = animals? Or was it because this meat was suddenly identified as her pet: Nijntje?

Hopefully we will, one day, have at least some chickens (I’m already lobbying for a goat, but the going is tough!). Then we’ll just have to look the animals right in the face, as we feed it, pet it, kill it.

Amie and Mama at Drumlin Farm, Feb 2008 (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

That’s my girl. While gathering eggs she saw a stack of brochures and cried out:

– I need a book!

And what a coincidence: Rebecca at Irish Sally Gardens has an entry on killing their pigs for meat.

[*] Lovely Luella the magic cow from Kiss the Cow

[**] The little hen who sows the seed and harvests the wheat etc. while the Rat, the Cat and the Dog lazy around

[***] No, they’re herbivores