"Take chances! Make mistakes! Get messy!" --Ms. Frizzle

"Take chances! Make mistakes! Get messy!" --Ms. Frizzle

Monday, July 26, 2010


June, you say? Isn't that long in the past? Well, I assure you that June was merely last month, and it was jam-packed with milestones and photo ops. Geneva Lynn had her first birthday party on the sixth, and then had her "official" first birthday on the ninth.



June drew us to the backyard like moths to a flame. The lure of sunshine, wading pools and opportunities for nudity, combined with the ever-growing backlog of outdoor projects, had us spending most of every afternoon and evening out of doors. It has been a lot of fun to see Geneva and her friends Maya and Lucas in this kind of environment. We've noticed that Geneva has taken a keen interest in "helping" us with whatever we're doing, and while it doesn't always speed the process up, it certainly makes it more fun. The things that seem mundane to us-- weeding, pounding nails-- are completely transformed when we see her little hands trying to copy ours. Mostly, though, I just like to watch the babies play without adult interference. When we're out in the yard, it's easier to observe with a little bit of distance. The way they babble and interact with each other makes me think that they really get one another more than I give them credit for. Geneva is lucky to have some really fabulous baby friends.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Plants and Books

True to the name of this blog, our little family has been neck-deep in adventure these last few weeks. We've been to the zoo twice now, have been camping at Mt. Rainier and Spider Meadow, and have been scampering around town during the intervening weekdays.

Yes, I have pictures-- hundreds.

And no, you can't see them.

You see, I've taken so many photos in the month of July alone that the task of sorting through them and editing them right now is positively daunting. Really and truly, I'll have them at least uploaded onto the computer sometime in the next few days, but that's all I'm promising. So instead of a chronicle of the Zoglman family's adventures, this blog post will be devoted to my musings (ramblings?) on the subjects of landscape design and a book I happen to be reading.

First up, landscaping! Now, having lived in Eastern Washington for a mere two years I am still not very well acquainted with the plants that thrive in this particular environment, which has been my main excuse for not getting more done in our yard in terms of planting. However, I'm also discovering that while I can take care of plants fairly well-- as in, sometimes they don't die-- I am still a very unpracticed landscape designer. My gardening knowledge is weighted heavily towards maintenance rather than creation. Fortunately, I've been doing my homework. I wander around the neighborhood or flip through magazines, asking myself a bazillion* questions as I go. Do I like annuals or perennials? Symmetry or asymmetry? Lots of color variety or just one or two colors? Do I like tidy growth patterns or looser growth patterns? How do I feel about trees? Bushes? Vines? Groundcover? With each answer I feel like I know my own taste in plants and landscaping a little better, and after months of observation I've boiled down my preferences to two facts.

One: I like texture. More specifically, I like contrasting textures-- round next to prickly, curly next to straight, shiny next to nubby, etcetera. I would plant ferns next to hostas. Somehow I find those kinds of arrangements more interesting visually than variations in color.

Two: I like blobs. More than borders, well-defined shapes, or homogeneously mixed plantings, I like blobs. If left to my own devices I would probably put a hundred lavender bushes in our yard, but never in rows or clusters. I'd plant them in big arrangements resembling huge lopsided puzzle pieces, with complementary blobs of coneflowers creeping in to fill the gaps. I eschew right angles and straight lines and, to a lesser extent, small dots of plantings all thrown in together (think Jackson Pollock).

And now I'm hoping that my readers... all six of you... will respond. Please, please tell this newbie landscaper what you find pleasing, what rules you follow, when playing with plants in the yard!

Next up, I want to tell you about the book I am nearly finished reading-- a minor miracle in and of itself! The book is Hungry Monkey by Matthew Amster-Burton, and it was lent to me by my fabulous friend Ellie. She has a little one of her own who has recently started eating solid food, so the subtitle of the book ("A Food-Loving Father's Quest to Raise an Adventurous Eater") hit home for both of us. Now that I'm three-quarters of the way through Hungry Monkey I feel qualified to write a review. Here it is.

There are two subjects on which there seems to be excessive information about what not to do: eating and raising children. If we were to believe the experts, the number of possible missteps we could take when consuming food or caring for kids is daunting if not paralyzing. Fortunately, Matthew Amster-Burton touches on exactly zero of them. For him there is no "good" or "bad" food, except in the sense of how it tastes. Likewise, he sees no right or wrong way to feed his child as long as some food actually makes it into her mouth. It is refreshing to see the world of cooking and eating through the eyes of a person who guiltlessly and exuberantly loves to cook and eat. But it's even better-- so, so much better-- to see that world through the eyes of his articulate daughter Iris. She is a bacon snob. She decides, on a whim, that she hates soup. She is fascinated by the concept of a slow-cooker and amazed that maple syrup is in fact sap. Iris reminds us that food is truly miraculous stuff. She also reminds us that even without sticking to the "rules"-- you know, rice cereal, bland food, purees, and so forth-- feeding a child can be challenging the way doing anything with a child can be challenging. Toddlerhood comes with inevitable power struggles and meals are not exempt from this process, but what I appreciate in Amster-Burton's book is that he does not make an issue out of the quality or quantity of food that Iris eats. He loves to eat, and so he prepares meals he likes and involves Iris in the process as much as he can. In the end, if she enjoys it too then that's great, but if she doesn't then that's also okay. Amster-Burton does have the freedom to really cut loose in the kitchen in ways that many of us do not: he's a stay-at-home dad whose lifestyle clearly screams I have money, although he goes out of his way not to flaunt it. Occasionally it's obnoxious to read about the best brand of bacon (Neuske's, apparently), the kitchen gadgets you can buy, or some cut of meat with a price tag that would look to me more like a car insurance bill. In the end I can forgive him for waxing snobbish because I know that, had I the funds, food is way at the top of the list of things I'd splurge on. Also, he prefers frozen hash browns over those prepared fresh and isn't afraid to admit it. To anyone looking for a fun, drool-inducing book I would recommend Hungry Monkey. Read it for the recipes, read it for Amster-Burton's honest and humorous description of life with a foodie kid, or just read it for Iris. To her, the world of food is strange and joyful and brand new. I swear, things taste way better that way.

*The spell-checker accepts "bazillion" as a legitimate word.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Let's Communicate!

It started with squeaks and grunts. It grew into a slurry of random vowels and consonants. And now, ladies and gentlemen, my dear toddler (that's right-- toddler) has unveiled for your pleasure a complete lexicon of her current words, sounds, and other deliberate forms of communication!

Io (our cat, or any cat)


Animal Sounds:
buck buck buck - chicken (or any bird)
BAR! BAR! BAR! - dog (or any dog-sized animal)

Lots of general pointing

"Words" Mom and Dad have yet to decipher:
Laddle laddle laddle (I suspect this one is just fun to say)

That Io - Geneva has said this sentence a few times. My favorite time was when we had returned from a camping trip, and I was wondering if her affection for her dear kitty had waned during their time apart. Not so! As soon as she saw him she scampered to his side, scooted her butt up against him, and reclined her head back onto his fur. With a look of rapture on her face she sighed, "dat Io." Darn right.

Last but not least, I had to include this gesture because as effective as it is, I'm hoping to eliminate it as soon as possible from Geneva's body language vocabulary. To indicate any hunger or thirst, she now dives for my chest and yanks the neckline of my shirt down as low as it will go. If she has a free hand, she'll go for the bra as well. We're working on the signs for "eat" and "water" before I give some poor old man at the grocery store a heart attack.