Summer Jar: Bus to Portland

September 29, 2009

One day the Summer Jar told us to take the bus to Portland, and it was really very typical of many Summer Jar activities, in that it gave us something to do, but that something was kind of random, and somehow we managed to find serendipitous things along the way.

Waiting for the bus. The boys felt very Responsible holding on to their bus money (or, well, holding on to my bus money in Eli’s case, since his ride is free).

When we got into Portland, we discovered a belly dancing show in Monument Square, so we got some hot dogs and sat down to watch. Henry finished his hot dog and said he wanted another, so…

I made him go back across the square and order and pay for the hot dog himself. Good Summer Jar activity: order and pay for something yourself from a street vendor, while Mom watches from 50 paces.

I love Portland.

And here the boys play on a crumbling wall next to a decrepit building. Big city! I felt the need to have some reason to go to Portland, so we schlepped all the way down to the bike store to pick up Dave’s bicycle tire that had been repaired. Which meant, of course, that then I had to schlep all the way back to the bus stop with an enormous bicycle tire.



Children’s Book of the Week: The Lion and the Mouse

September 28, 2009

The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney

Has someone given Jerry Pinkney a medal yet? Could they please just give him some kind of big enormous prize? (Oh, ok, it looks like he has gotten a bunch of awards. Alright then.) Seriously, every single book of his is so incredibly beautiful and awe-inspiring that I want to just frame the entire book and hang it on the wall.

His latest is The Lion and the Mouse, which is the classic Aesop fable. This book is nearly wordless, and the story is completely evident in the facial expressions of the animals. Several times I’ve caught either Henry or Eli lying on the floor with this book open, just totally lost in the pictures. I love that even the cover of this one is wordless.


Brotherly help

September 25, 2009

Zuzu is so close to walking. In the meantime, she likes having people help her. Those of you with only one or two kids: this is why you have three. So that the older two can help the baby walk around the house, and you can spend your time doing important things, like hiding in the bathroom with a cheesy magazine and some dark chocolate.


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Big Camping Trip

September 23, 2009

One of the big things we did during the time I was off the computer was go camping at some state parks in Maine, in our new pop-up. The kids had maybe the best time ever, but Dave and I slept maybe an hour each night (or so it seemed). With everyone all on top of each other, in a tiny little room, every little peep wakes you up. The children seemed to sleep fine, and didn’t want to go home at all.

It also rained every night, which was ok, really, I guess (we’ve gotten used to rain this summer) except that we couldn’t really put Zuzu down on the ground (she would have gotten all muddy), and she found this incredibly frustrating. It was kind of cozy to lie in the camper and hear the rain on the roof (while we were lying there, not sleeping).

Here are some of my favorite photos from the trip: (more…)


Who’s Richard Stans?

September 22, 2009


Children’s Book of the Week: Elfwyn’s Saga

September 21, 2009

Elfwyn’s Saga written and illustrated by David Wisniewski

We get this book out of the library every few months, and I’m not sure I can say exactly why we find it so compelling. Part of it is the lush and amazingly intricate cut-paper illustrations, but I think we all love those stories that sound like ancient folk tales (even if they were really imagined for the first time by the author). This is the Nordic tale of good Anlaf Haraldsson and bad Gorm the Grim, fighting over land and casting spells, including one that blinds Anlaf’s daughter Elfwyn. But the magical Hidden Folk are mad that Gorm’s curse affects an innocent baby, so they protect Elfwyn, and she grows into a spunky heroine who races around on her horse, and, in the end, saves her family and the kingdom from Gorm and his Grimmies. Pretty straightforward, I suppose, but really lovely, and again, those illustrations are inspiring and fascinating.


First Day of School

September 18, 2009

Yeah, well, we’ve got the daily schedule for regular days, but the first day of school apparently needs a little extra psyching up. Last year Henry chose to do this:

And this year it was this:



One Year

September 17, 2009

Hey, I almost missed it! One year ago, I posted my first post on my WordPress blog. And 377 posts later, here we are (though let’s not forget the many places you can get lost in the original World of Julie site). To celebrate the occasion, I got a haircut:

Ok, not really. I got a haircut because I desperately needed one (very diplomatic stylist upon seeing me and assessing my needs: “So, well. It’s long. And there’s a lot of it. And it’s all kind of just hanging there.”) There was essentially a haystack of hair on the floor when she was done, as well as two combs, because I had such a mass of hair that she kept losing combs in it, or something.

The really amazing part is that all three kids stayed with Sutswana (and her two kids), and Zuzu didn’t make a peep and when I returned she gave me one look and then demanded that Sutswana continue to help her practice walking around. Sutswana and I were both shocked. We seriously both expected her to be a weepy mess for at least part of the time. S. was all worried that I’d be heartbroken or offended, but I was psyched. I mean, I know Zuzu loves me. She tells me all the time. I’m just really really glad that she knows that when I leave I come back (that, or she just understood by looking at me that I really, really needed a haircut).


Portland is for Foodies

September 16, 2009

Not only does the dining section in today’s New York Times have a big article about Portland, but all the photos are from our very own Stacey! There’s a drool-worthy slideshow too. Yay, Stacey!



Daily Checklist: Living a Methodical Life

September 16, 2009

As promised, here’s what I’ve been doing to try to get myself going down the road to Happy Julie Life Land. As part of living life more methodically, I came up with four things I wanted to do every day: exercise, write, clean the house (or some part of it) and a general category I’m calling “housekeeping” which basically means anything related to running the business of our lives, from budgets to house renovations to researching various entrepreneurial ideas Dave and I come up with.

This is my list. It might not work for you. It certainly won’t if you work outside your house every day. But I’m going to tell you all about it, because maybe something about my thought process will help you to figure out what you want to do every day (alternatively, it will make you think I am a loony nutbar who’s full of herself and needs to get her priorities in order).

There was a great article in this month’s issue of Body + Soul magazine about breaking habits, and that’s essentially what I’m doing here (though maybe not so much breaking bad habits as starting good ones). Listen, I’ve known for a long time that I’ve wanted to do these things, but it’s time for me to buck up and just do them. Part of breaking habits is setting the goal, and part of it is just doing the right thing, every day, until that becomes your habit. The whole article seemed really relevant to what I’m trying to do here, but this part in particular screamed at me:

Take it step-by-step. One metaphor that adequately portrays how habit works is this: Picture yourself taking a sled down an untouched, snowy hillside. When you climb back to the top, you have a choice: Go down the same path or start a new one. If you go down the same track, the ride is faster and easier, and after a while it’s tough to get out of. That, says [Lenora] Yuen, is a lot like habit.

To change the direction and shape of that path, you have to be patient enough to forge a new one, and use it enough times that doing so becomes faster, requiring less thought and effort.

Ok! So I’ve been doing this for about three weeks, and it is slowly making a difference. My first thought every day is, “What am I going to do for exercise today?” (ok, that’s my first thought after, “Ugh, when will we ever get enough sleep?”).

Here’s a little more about my list (you asked, right? you didn’t? well, here’s a little more anyway):

Three times I’ve been pregnant, and three times I’ve gotten back down to my fighting weight, but each time my body is different: softer, wider, pillowy. And it takes longer each time. But Zuzu is fifteen months old, and not only do I want to look better in clothes, I also want to just have that daily habit of exercising. Because I never have, and I know my life would be better if I did (plus it’s a good model for the kiddos). A few weeks ago I saw this Helena Rubenstein quote: “There are no ugly women, only lazy ones” and while she was talking mostly about cosmetics, I feel like this is true of exercising also. Someone all cheeky with the glow of exercise looks lovely. Someone pasty with the pallor of chips on the couch, not so much. The quote is fairly unfeminist when applied to makeup, but I really like it as a life lesson. Meaning: get out there and DO something, Julie! Don’t be a lump!

Now, when I say “clean,” I don’t mean doing dishes, or picking up daily clutter, making beds, or unloading the dishwasher. Those things have to happen every day. What I’m talking about is doing one extra deep cleaning thing. Because I was doing the dishes and picking up the clutter, and corners of my house are still appalling. It’s too overwhelming to do it all at once (plus: impossible), but if I do one thing a day, it works. Things on this list include: wiping down the baseboards in one room, mopping the floor in one room, cleaning the shower curtain, dusting, walking around with glass cleaner and a cloth and wiping away any obvious hand and nose prints. Also clearing clutter out of some area that has gone to seed, like my dresser or the mantel.

Like I said, this is a broad category that just means doing something to keep the business of our lives moving forward. Financial things fall into this category, as do house renovation things, and have-been-on-my-list-awhile things (like figuring out a way to attach the bike trailer to my bicycle even though we can’t find the connector bracket thingie). Anything in this category supports our family and moves us forward.

I really love this advice from DIY Planner: “The secret to writing every day is to write every day.” Exactly. If you really want to do it, find a way. Stay up a little later, get up early, hide in the bathroom, do what it takes. When I write every day, it’s like I’m exercising some little writer person in my brain, and then that little Bartleby is on high alert and keeps throwing out more little writerly sentences, more and more every day, and then I have notebooks scattered throughout the house so I make sure to write the things down when I think of them. And the writing every day just happens, then. But you really need to write every day in order to write every day. (Coming next week: more obvious advice! If you want to eat healthier, eat healthier! If you wish you read more books, then read more books!)

So there you go. What’s on your list?

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