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  • Archive for April, 2017

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    I’ve reached a point in where I could easily just set this space aside and let it float through internet space for the summer. It’s been years—a decade? More??—since I’ve taken any considerable time off, more than a week or two, from writing online. I think we were living in Miami at the time, our little apartment on the edge of Kendall and the Everglades, and for whatever reason I went months without writing. Then I came back, of course, kept going through thru-hikes, field work, and having a baby.

    But I feel like I’m teetering on a ledge, ready to kick the blog into the atmosphere to fly off somewhere else for awhile. I’ve not outgrown it, I love being here, but the problem is my mental space—it’s too cluttered. A combination of the time change and a toddler entering a different life phase has thrown me for a whirl. Something else I’ve come to realize is that I find myself not living in the moment, striving for the next thing, what I ‘should’ be doing. Some of that mental clutter was covered in the Creative Priorities post earlier this month and now that I’ve had some time to sit with it even more, I’m coming to new conclusions.

    I was digging around into my really old archives, looking for something one day, and came across a few posts that were nearly in the same vein as the Creative Priorities post—just written 10 years ago, or nearly that. I laughed to myself because some of the same sentiments I was expressing then I was expressing now. I suppose I just have an overwhelming urge to create and do-all-the-things and the ideas just keep coming. The irony is that I had a lot more free time to dedicate to that back then and I most certainly didn’t dedicate the time I could have to the things that I thought I wanted. The funny thing about all of this is that the things I was doing then, the ones that if I look back at now as the obvious ones that are most important to me, they are practically the same things as the ones that are important to me now, the ones I dedicate my creative time to—being outside (hiking, exploring, kayaking, etc), gardening, photography, reading, and writing a blog. Sure, there are all of those supplemental hobbies that I fit in wherever I can, then and now. Some of them are certainly seasonal or episodic.

    And I guess that last sentence is what I am realizing needs to happen now, to free up some of the shoulds and musts with what I actually feel like doing and what I can logistically dedicate my time to. And so I have to set some of that stuff free for the time being, to come back to it eventually, in a different type of year or another year completely. Looking back at the Creative Priorities post, I think that was where I was heading but it took some more thinking to come to that conclusion. I definitely lead with my gut and my intuition for a lot of my decisions—how I feel about something in the moment is where I typically go. That would be the F talking of my INFJ personality. Of course this can be problematic sometimes where there might be a real goal at hand (see: editing/reworking my book) but at the same time maybe those things can be shuffled to another season, when the time is right.

    As an introvert I spend quite a bit of time in my head, talking to myself, which lends itself to the mental clutter situation, hence writing things out. In all of that thinking time I realized that I spent the last two growing seasons feeling lost because I wasn’t able to garden like I wanted—you know, the first year there was a baby constantly attached to me and the second year was a small toddler who had no attention span, and there was massive flooding and rain events derailing gardening at every turn—and here a few weeks ago I was trying to be upset about not doing other creative pursuits? Seriously, Self, get with it! And so I have come to slap myself back into reality with being in the moment and enjoying what is in front of me. Yes, this sounds incredibly simple, something we should all be doing, but I think we all fall into the trap of not relishing the thing we are doing that we enjoy that is right in front us. That we spend some of our time stradled between two planes, the here-and-now and the next thing we’re going/shoulding/suppose-to-ing/musting to be doing.

    In the mental clutter situation, I’ve also pretty much stopped following politics. I dislike that I had to do this because I really enjoy knowing about politics, but my sanity was really starting to go. The man being dragged off the airplane a few weeks ago finalized that. I found myself getting an elevated blood pressure from seeing the video and the constant asinine commentary from the news and was done. I had already stopped listening to NPR after inaugration and had switched to KPFT, a local listener supported news station that would broadcast Democracy Now in the mornings. But I even quit that. Now it is classic rock or a local 80s and 90s mix. I’ve been listening to CDs and plan to dig out more of them to keep in my car. I’m currently flashing back to 2005-2009, the era in which I was listening to The Weepies, Chantal Kreviazuk, Feist, and Regina Spektor. I may have to load up my Pandora stations from that era, too. I even locked down my Twitter account, which was my last vestige of news. I found myself getting irritated with the same outrage cycle and feeling completely helpless in everything going on and I had begun just unfollowing, blocking, or muting people. It wasn’t fun anymore. I hesitated from deleting it totally but I took the app off my phone and logged off the computer version, making it as difficult as possible to sign in. It’s been about two weeks and it feels great! If I can make it two years (and counting) without reactivating my Facebook account, I’m pretty sure I can go awhile without Twitter. Yes, I know just about nothing of the news (though I just saw someone mention something about national monuments and Bears Ears and I’m going to have a shit fit—-well, crap I just Googled and yes, now I’m just angry. When you are a liberal with gleam in your eye for the second Bush era, something is wrong.) See? I can’t do it. I can’t do the outrage cycle. It’s one damn thing after another.

    With the news out of my mental space, though always lingering back there with some knowledge that I will eventually want to jump back in, I’ve been focusing on gardening and reading. I became interested in knowing more about herbs and herbal remedies a few months ago and have started looking into that more. I have flagged tons of books, not just herbal or gardening related books, to read on Hoopla Digital (they make it so easy to favorite and go back to borrow later!) and on Goodreads. My pile of interesting things to learn about is ever growing and of course I have my own bookshelves to pull from as well. I jumped into the herbal stuff by starting with trying to make a plantain salve. I’ve heard about the healing qualities of plantain for years when used in regards to stings or minor wounds and figured I might as well try something simple like that to start. Plantain (Plantago sp.) is growing all over right now so it was easily found and I harvested enough plants to make a small batch to start. I’m currently in the sit-in-oil phase and will let the leaves continue soaking for another week or so before I finish up the salve. I figured with the new bee hive that it would be worth having it in the house. I was stung on the arm while pregnant and our Bradley birth teacher was at our house when it happened and brought out a salve from her purse that really instantly took the pain away. I never followed up with her to figure out the magical salve but I suspect it was plantain salve. Anyway, I’m just feeling this real need to do more with our plants, to use new herbs and try to be more diligent about effectively using the things we grow to our advantage.

    Well, I feel better after writing all of that. Writing really does begat writing—creating begats creating. There’s a lot going on here in the yard, the seasons are moving right along. I have a lot of photos to process and hopefully I can get some things written this weekend and scheduled for next week. I’ve been listening to Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer and have been taking it super slowly. It’s a 16.75 hour listen and I’m only 40% done, not speeding up the audio this time around. It is a book to be savored and I think I’m going to have to find it to have for reflection and re-reading later. It kind of helped push me into this mindshift switch, to return to focusing on being a better steward for the environment. I’ve also got a hankering to return to being vegetarian or reducing my meat consumption, but that’s another post for another day.

    And I’ll sign off my rambling for tonight. What are you up to? Drop me a comment or an email.

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    (Airplanes > bees !)

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    Four years ago we brought our first package of bees home to the hive and they thrived for three years, more or less, until last year’s rainy mess of a spring and a hive beetle infestation took over the hive. Since then the hive sat unused, other than for the odd roach and other insect, in the flower garden. While the hive was an interesting aspect to the flower garden, after tending to the bees there for so long I really began to re-think where the hive should be located. It was frustrating for me not to be able to enjoy the garden to its fullest while having to think of bees—not only for myself but for guests and especially for Forest.

    Over the last year I brainstormed a variety of places we could move the hive before Chris ordered more bees. And through many discussions and frustrations we finally settled on moving the hive to a grassy area along the fenceline, adjacent to our driveway. It’s more out of the way from daily activities but it is easy to access and we can still pop in to check on how the bees are doing. I’m much more happy with this location and hopefully they will thrive there.

    Bee day round 2 came a week ago and the three of us drove over to Navasota to pick up a fresh package to try this bee keeping thing once again. Forest enjoyed scoping the bees out before Chris installed the bees into the hive. Chris had to go out of town a few days later so it was up to me to check on the bees, replacing their sugar water and keeping track of them building new comb in a straight manner. It isn’t my favorite thing to do now because I’ve become more uneasy since getting stung between my eye and nose a few years ago, but I’ve managed to do it without too much anxiety. I mean, I have a suit on and all but still—a little nervous there!

    So far they have settled in well and we’ve seen them flying around the yard, gathering pollen and doing their job pollinating the plants. Chris said he’d noticed a decrease in honeybees in the yard since we stopped keeping them over the last year. Sure we have some native bees hovering in and out but after I thought about it, he was definitely right. Hopefully we will get a new batch of honey later this summer. I still need to get around to making mead with the honey we have in our pantry from the last time Chris harvested comb!

    More talk about bees on my blog here.

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    Thicket of blackberries

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    Prunella vulgaris

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    Salvia lyrata

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    Yaupon flowers

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    Prairie plantain, Arnoglossum plantagineum

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    Looking at a lizard.

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    Five lined skink

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    A Vaccinium in bloom.

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    Wild onion flowers

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    The Pineywoods Nature Trail turned out to be a fascinating trail for us to hike and one that was perfectly suited for Forest to explore on foot. We went through the loop twice over the weekend we were camping and each time saw new things. Forest really enjoyed being able to explore on his own and funnily enough he remembered some key points about where we’d visited on the first round, such as where exactly we had found a green anole on the first trip. Turned out, the green anole was still in the same place he was on that first trip and he and Chris had a bunch of fun oogling at the lizard.

    If following the boardwalk in a counterclockwise direction, it leads to the bird blind and pond first. Chris spotted a bullfrog on the far end of the pond on one of the visits and Forest and I spotted a rabbit near the bird blind. I’m stuck figuring out if it is a swamp rabbit or eastern cottontail—anyone want to tell me? One of the interpretive signs had a display for swamp rabbit which is what I’m leaning towards here but I’m really unsure because of the angle of the photo.

    There were plenty of caterpillars, too, though we saw a few other species that we weren’t seeing at our campsite. They weren’t dropping nearly as plentifully as they were at the campsite, either, but near the Frog Pond area the railing and picnic table was covered in them. Forest enjoyed watching them from a distance and really, this trail is what I believe eased his fears on the caterpillars. He was able to experience them as an exploration instead of an infestation and I think he came to appreciate them a little bit more.

    What I enjoyed about this trail was that we really took it easy, stopping to look at the different plants or insects, enjoying the changing habitat. While it was mostly a forested and mesic area, there was an open area on the north end of the loop with grasses and full-sun plants to enjoy.

    I realized later that we didn’t really hike a whole lot on this trip. Sure, we did this loop twice, popped over to a short 1/3 mile loop near the park entrance, and then the short section of the Trinity Trace trail, but we didn’t hike the other trails. Chris spent a lot of time fishing and Forest and I just meandered around the campsite and around the area Chris was fishing. It was a pleasant change from the hiking we usually do and I found myself excited for the days when Forest is able to ride a bike and we can bike around the campground, too.

    We have a few more camping adventures planned for spring—hopefully!—and I’ll keep y’all posted on those trip reports as they happen.

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    The Trinity Trace Trail meanders from the Pin Oak camping loop on the north end of the park down to the south end of the park, beyond the Hercules Club camping loop. We hiked only on the portion that began between the Piney Shores and Yaupon loops, heading south. I had been on this section before with Keely but I couldn’t remember everything about the loop. In particular, I’d forgotten about the bridge being out and the inability to complete the loop on the southern end.

    On our way out, behind the Hercules Club camping loop we passed a group of scouts heading north, appearing to go pick up trash. No one else was heading the direction we went and as we carefully passed over a decrepit bridge crossing a creek channel Chris mentioned casually, “Snake!” I had passed last across the bridge so I wasn’t even aware of where he was talking about and I jumped. We paused for a few minutes to take photos and kept on down the trail. As we walked it became evident that not many people went this direction; the trail was overgrown and we were knocking down spider webs. It was a little weird that no one ventured this direction.

    Forest fell asleep not long after and we continued on quietly, looking at the overgrown woods, ambling over downed trees, and avoiding the poison ivy reaching out for our legs. Once we reached the lake we became unsure of where we needed to go. We’d missed the downed bridge on the map when we passed it so we were unaware of where exactly we were on the map, only noticing it when we backtracked our steps.

    Quietly we returned the way we came, letting Forest continue sleeping as we headed back for camp. The snake was gone when we returned.

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    We’ve been gorging outselves on strawberries the last two months. The season is slowing, coming to an end and it will be back to cartons of grocery store strawberries soon. I had hoped to make some jam with our strawberries but they haven’t lasted long enough to get that far—someone eats them before they can make it to jam! I will likely end up making some jam from store bought berries eventually. It just sounds good!

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    The addition of the arches at the back of the garden has really helped the garden structurally—it looks a little more formal and enticing to enter. The arches were necessary for beans and other climbing plants because we can’t fully utilize the outside fencing due to the deer. The placement of non-tasty plants to deer need to go on the outside and those certainly aren’t beans or squash!

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    I’ve let the radishes flower, both for the bees and other pollinators as well as for myself, to collect seeds. I’ve never done this before so it will be a new experiment for me. I’m still pulling radishes to eat sometimes, so we will see if any make it to the seed collection phase. A few pods are already starting to form on a couple of plants.

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    The Parris Island Cos lettuce is a new favorite for me. The plants are maturing well and I’ve been including them in salads I’m picking at the beginning of the week and eating off of throughout the remainder of the week. I will definitely be saving seed from this lettuce! I haven’t liked some of the other lettuce mixes we’ve had in the past, too bitter or spicy, but this lettuce is very tasty!

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    The kale and red giant mustard is going strong in this particular bed. I sowed more kale in front of the blackberries and those are coming in well now, too.

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    Roma tomatoes! Both Roma plants have tomatoes on them and a few other tomatoes have fruits, too. I can’t wait for them to ripen!

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    I might be savoring the smell of tomato leaves these days…

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    The area in front of the blackberries, sown with various greens and a big patch of dill.

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    Replanted swiss chard that is now taking off. I’m hoping it will last the summer.

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    This Clathrus columnatus fungus popped up after a recent rain and I was intrigued by the brown goo in the middle. I don’t think I’ve seen that in other ones in the yard before, or maybe they were gone before I saw them. Anyway, this is the gleba, the part of the fungus that holds the spore mass. I had to look that one up!

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    The collards are hanging in there between the arches.

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    And the Kentucky Wonder beans are reaching for the skies, with flowers now opening and beans on the horizon.

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    The last remaining bok choy has bolted as have all of the cilantro. Sweet, sweet, cilantro—your season is too short!

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    This photo is at least two weeks old here and the snap peas in the front of the photos are already at the top of the cage and trying to reach higher.

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    We need a little more mulch in the vegetable garden and I’ve been trying to pull weeds as I see them. Compost needs to be put on the leeks, to fill in their trench. There are little chores here and there that need to happen. Soon it will be time to pull the peas and plant beans and cowpeas, squashes and zucchini, then okra and melons and pumpkins.

    Seasons move fast.

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    With the recent time change we made some adjustments to our evening routine, the main one being that Forest’s bedtime was pushed back to 8pm-ish. Sometimes it is a little earlier, sometimes it is a little later, and of course being a toddler, some days he has his own intention for his bedtime. I’ve been loving that we get 1-1.5 hours outside after dinner in the evenings to play in the yard and to garden, or to take walks, though we haven’t done much walking the last few weeks. We’ve mostly played outside or bounced between the vegetable and flower gardens. It is pretty glorious to be spending these hours after dinner outside and I no longer feel as rushed to keep on top of the garden. Wandering around the garden and yard is something I really missed doing the last two summers. I would catch glimpses but not really get to enjoy it. Having it all back makes me incredibly happy!

    That said, because Forest isn’t asleep and I’m not leaving his room at 8pm now I don’t have those two hours after his bedtime to myself. I might have an hour, but lately I’ve been crawling into bed and reading before I go to sleep. My night owl years seem to behind me, for the time being. Before I turned 30 I burned the midnight oil regularly and I was fine the next day. Even post-30 it wasn’t terrible but post-baby it is not doable. Rarely will I make it to 11pm and that’s because I’m vegging on the couch watching tv, not actually using creative brain cells. 9:30-10pm is when I call it quits these days.

    With all of this I’ve lost about one hour of creative time in the evenings, even if I didn’t want to use it creatively, that’s still some ‘me’ time lost. Honestly, I’m trying not to think of this as lost time because it is also found time—time with Forest, time outside, etc. It’s the shift that I’m struggling with, where to throw all of the other things I want to do and figure out where to squeeze that. Yes, I know there are hours in the morning but I am not a morning person. I mean, yes, I do kind of enjoy when we get up at 7am and I can sit and drink coffee and wake up over the course of an hour but that doesn’t mean that I’m the type of person who jumps out of bed and can be ready to go run a mile or sit down and write 1000 words or draw something. My brain isn’t on. Can I process photos while drinking coffee? Yes. Easy. But I don’t always have photos to process. The time I can utilize would be weekends or during my lunch break.

    So, here I am figuring out priorities for the next six months, until the time changes again and we switch back. I’ve definitely learned that with kids, everything is a season and it all changes from month to month, year to year, so I’m really trying to go with the flow. But it’s hard.

    One thing I realized the other day was that I’ve put a mental block on where I create. I have this great space, the studio, but there’s a few things wrong with it at the moment. For one, it is too cluttered. I walk in the room and I feel overwhelmed about everything that I can do, so many projects!, and kind of shut down. I think about the things I should finish, feel guilty about the things sitting unfinished, and then think about everything I want to do—new projects! The space needs organizing, some clearing of projects, and some guilt associated with that to fly the coop. The other thing is that I just don’t have the time in this stage of life to dedicate to going over there. I think in the next year Forest will become more manageable about this sort of thing and I can take him over there to let him color while I work on things on weekends but until then, it isn’t a toddler safe space. Which means, I need to bring my creative stuff over to the house to work. So, I did. I grabbed some pencils and a sketchbook and brought them over. And I plan on trying to do that with other projects over the course of the next few months. Why I was limiting myself to where I could create, I have no idea. I crochet in the main house so why not do other things?

    Below is going to be a brain dump of goals and ideas of what I want to prioritize. We’ll see where it leads!

    +Writing:

    • My Florida Trail book: About two weeks ago I finally heard back from a publisher with an actual review of the sample chapters and proposal I submitted to them. I’ve only mentioned this to Patrice because the whole thing was a blow to the ego. I’ve joined the rest of the world’s writers in this aspect. It wasn’t outright rejection, it was, hey, there are some changes to the book that should be done and if you change them you can resubmit. Some of them were infuriating and I might rant on Wild and A Walk in the Woods someday, but others were helpful and I will definitely take into consideration. It took me a few days to digest the review and after going through the typical grief cycle I felt better about the whole thing. Whether I resubmit to the publisher or not I will definitely be doing some more edits to the book and adding in a prologue with more backstory. And some more research thrown into the book for some details that were suggested. That’s going to take some time and ideally this should be my priority writing-wise. I do want to get this book out into the world, whether it is through a traditional publishing house or through self publishing; more people are hiking the Florida Trail and I want to get our hiking story out there!
    • I have another memoir idea in my head and I started a rough version of it back in January but abandoned it because I didn’t like where it was going. I need to mull it over more and do some advanced planning on it. We’ll see where it goes but I haven’t really re-started it yet.

    +Blogging:
    I absolutely love writing here at least once a week and would like to be here more. This might be where I shift my morning priorities because I might have enough brain power for blogging in the mornings. Every now and then I think about giving it up, so many bloggers have faded through the years, but I love looking back at my blog. It’s my personal journal of sorts.

    +Art:
    I really miss doing art. I used to dabble in various mediums and have never fully embraced one specific type—I always did like mixed media in high school art! This is one of my mental blocks about being in the studio—feeling like I had to be there to create art. It’s time to bring the art to me. Right now I’m just going to draw in a sketchbook but I have a small watercolor book that I also want to fill. No goals in mind, just make simple art for myself.

    +Gardening:
    I’d say the biggest chunk right now of my creative life would be gardening. Yes, gardening is creative! It’s essential for my mental health, getting outside and digging, even pulling weeds. Pulling weeds is meditative. Scoping for caterpillars and butterflies are something I need to see. Looking at the light in the evening soothes my soul.

    I must garden.

    +Photography:
    I definitely have lulls where I don’t pick up my camera as often as I should. But it gets used frequently and I feel lost without it sometimes. I have times when I opt for the point and shoot method and other times when I want to document every tiny scene. I have an old SLR camera that was my grandfather’s that my mom gave me. I bought film over a year ago for it and I’ve never sat down to read the manual, to figure out how to use it. It’s been on my to-do list for far too long and it is time to move it up on the priority list.

    +Reading:
    Continue absorbing knowledge via audiobooks regularly and visually as able. If I ever feel lost, like I’m missing another piece of myself, it is because I’m not reading. Must read!

    I guess those are my main priorities. There are several other creative pursuits I enjoy but they can easily be shuffled to other seasons or picked up when I find time. My problems is I enjoy a lot of different things creatively and want to dip into them all and that’s where I get lost in the weeds. I enjoy scrapbooking and would like to finish the book I started but I need to realize that having a modified scrapbook is what I need to do. Several years ago I printed out photos and just taped them into a journal and wrote something down. That is what I need to return to. Simple documentation. I get wrapped up in what I think I should be doing instead of what I want to be doing. I think cleaning up my studio will help with that. Sewing is another little item. I enjoy making little quilts (I mean, really basic blankets!) here and there but the last thing I need is another blanket in this house. And I have no desire to make clothes. Is it a square? I will sew that. But the pile of fabric I’m hanging onto needs to be pared down even more—I went through it about two years ago—and I could do a better job in organizing it. I have a t-shirt quilt that I started before we left Florida and I had the intention of finish it before Forest was born. It still isn’t finished. Should I just pack it away in a container until I *am* ready? Probably. It would reduce the clutter in my studio. I need to be ok with letting go of unfinished projects or those I’ve lost interest in.

    So, in all of this I’m not sure what my real end goal was other than to get some of this outside of my head. Sometimes it is just easier to put it on paper so all of the things rattling around in my head can clear my brain, ya know?

    What about you? Are you like me with a million ideas and no idea where to focus them? What are your creative goals?

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    It’s been awhile since my brother’s clan spent some time at our house but last weekend they all arrived for a wonderful, fun-filled weekend. Oh, we’re getting to a good intersection in this cousin relationship between the three kids, particularly between Grayson and Forest. Those two had a ball playing together, though sometimes I think the love went more one direction with Forest being enamored with Grayson. Poor Forest is just a little too small for real rough housing and playing hard so he had a hard time keeping up with Grayson. And I think we’re going to really have to dig into getting swimming lessons accomplished this summer so Forest can hang out on the dock more; the kid likes being on the dock and wanted to do what the big kids were doing (hanging over the side, fishing, etc.) but he doesn’t know how to swim yet.

    Little Zoe is now a tween and apparently reading thicker, more complicated chapter books than I envisioned her reading. She was reading this cat fantasy novel and joked that next thing she was going to be reading Clan of the Cave Bear or Game of Thrones! Ok, maybe not, but Harry Potter is not but a year away for her.

    The kids got a kick out of painting, as per usual. Zoe and Grayson usually visit my studio but as I rarely even visit my studio it is an awful mess and not really suitable for visitors. I set us up on the picnic table in the backyard, complete with a plastic table cloth, and the three of them went to town with finger paints. I had bought a few wooden pieces they could paint, their first name initials and dinosaur figures for Grayson and Forest and an owl for Zoe, and brought out the large pad of paper Forest uses to color or put stickers on. It was a great way to chill out for an hour outside and still be a little messy.

    You can see in some of the photos how buddy-buddy Grayson and Forest were, with Forest really looking up to Grayson as his big friend and helper. I think Grayson liked being in that position, too. We all played in the garden a bit, scoping out what was growing. Carrots, snap peas, and strawberries were eaten straight out of the garden. Everyone played hard on Saturday because Sunday was supposed to being severe thunderstorms. Those didn’t appear too heavily until right after lunch and even so, they weren’t bad at our house. The worst developed to our north and east.

    As always, it wasn’t long enough and it was really quiet in the house when they all left, even with Forest in the house! I’m hoping these three can get together a few more times this summer!

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