Joy No. 35: Puffer II cleans up

Honestly, I had no idea a snail would bring me joy (see Joy No. 21). But I continue to visit Puffer II every night, and she fascinates me. Here’s a video clip, but I must warn you, it hardly does her justice:

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Joy No. 33: Old friends in a new place

When I was younger, I lived what I call an air fern lifestyle. I tried out different lives in different places, never putting down roots. The best part of that period was getting to know wonderful people everywhere I went. The worst part of that period was leaving behind wonderful people every time I left.

But an unexpected thing has happened since we actually put down roots. Two separate sets of people from past lives have settled down within an hour’s drive of us. Last night, the second set of these friends, Sarah & Al, who are both from the East Coast and whom I met in Japan 17 (what?!) years ago, came to dinner. When we first met, we were all single. Last night, they sat with my husband, son and me at our dining room table, accompanied by their three beautiful daughters.

They say you can’t step in the same stream twice. But sometimes life gives you the opportunity to enter downstream waters. And they can be just as sweet.

Squid drying in Hagi, Japan -- 2007

Joy 31: Open house, open hearts

I should know by now that things never go as I imagine.

Tonight was the primary school open house, and the little guy was our guide. I truly envisioned us popping in, dropping off our pan of brownies, eating a plate of dessert from the “pie potluck,” visiting the little guy’s classroom and going home.

The little guy and I arrived first, and the visiting began immediately. The speech therapist we’ve been working with for three years, the special services coordinator, the physical education teacher (whom the little guy surprised with a body slam).

The big guy arrived, and we picked our plates and picked a table. The woman sitting a ways down from me scooted toward us to introduce herself as our up-the-hill neighbor (she’s seen us standing at the end of our driveway, waiting for the bus; her son divulged that he has watched our son fall asleep across the aisle from him on the bus). Then my guys went over to visit with last year’s soccer coach and family, while I visited with a mother I met on this year’s soccer team. On and on.

Finally, we headed to the little guy’s classroom, where we met a fellow the big guy works with and his family, one of my favorite moms from preschool, and the wife of the little guy’s soccer coach this year. And others. It felt like old home week.

Walking out to the car, the big guy was quiet, offering “That’s neat” as an answer to everything I was sharing with him. Was he listening? I start prodding him: “Hello?”

Turned out he was being reflective. He observed: Here we are in this little town, and suddenly we have all these connections, all these people who are treating us as friends. And it’s all thanks to our little guy.

He was right. I think there are times when parenthood makes you feel as if you’ve given up everything. And there are times it makes you feel as if you’ve gained everything.

Amazing.

Bonus joy: Minnesota fishing lesson

Joy No. 28: Cross your fingers

I’ve been trying to teach the little guy that when he picks a vegetable, he should use one hand to stabilize the plant and one hand to pull the vegetable away from it. Otherwise, when we pull off the vegetable, a good part of the plant might come with it.

Well, guess who was in a hurry today when she went to yank off a ripe tomato? I wound up holding a stem containing three tomatoes: a ripe one, an almost-ripe one and a hard green one. There was a brief, silent pause as the little guy and I separately considered the situation and both realized that I had not been listening to my own words of wisdom.

The little guy suggested we might toss out the green tomato. I told him, “No, we’ll put it on the windowsill, and see if it ripens. Cross your fingers!”

He was quiet. I looked over at him and saw him standing beside me in the garden, head bowed, eyes closed, fingers folded in prayer.

It might ripen ...

Joy No. 27: A garden first

We had a family garden first this week: We ate our first-ever tomato from a plant we had grown from a seed! That it should have happened this year of all years is a miracle.

The Pacific Northwest is known for its wet, cloudy weather, but this year was something special, and it brought with it innumerable slugs the size of healthy rodents that spent the first two-thirds of the summer marauding our veggie garden, and flower plantings and pots. They chewed up all of our cucumber starts and all but one of our zucchini starts. (An heirloom variety survived … and then, when it flowered, the slugs returned to eat its flowers. Ugh! I transplanted it into a wine barrel and have since eked out a few little zukes from it.)

The little guy and I were rather disheartened and sort of abandoned the tomato plants, which apparently did not interest the slugs. But then, was it the second week in August?, summer came in spades bringing the hot sunny weather that tomatoes love. As I wrote in Joy No. 10, we began enjoying fresh-ripened toms earlier in September. These were from tomato plants we had bought as starts. I kept peeking at the little plants we had grown from seeds, but it seemed there was no way they would grow enough to put out fruit before the frosts of fall.

Sometimes I just love being wrong.

(Confession: These tomatoes and beans are actually from 2010. I’ll try to remember to take a 2011 tomato photo tomorrow.)

Joy No. 26: Music from a tree

I love re-purposing things. This summer, we made tin cans into table lanterns, paper plates into wind streamers, cool packing paper into wall decor … you get the idea.

But this evening I heard about someone who takes re-purposing to a whole new level. Diego Stocco, a composer and sound designer, creates music using trees. And sand. And a dry-cleaning shop. It’s really worth a listen. It will make you smile.

Read the story and listen to the NPR podcast of “The Mad Musical Scientist of Burbank, Calif.”

Bonus: Stocco plays a bonsai tree on YouTube!