Posts filed in: Life

Mid-July

comments: 54

Reed1

I'm in a brown study today. I'm not sure exactly why. Just so many things feel so hard. Everything still, for so long, feels so hard.

Reed2

I was supposed to have lunch with a friend today, my old neighbor, who retired to a beautiful condo on the river a few years ago. I haven't seen her, probably since the summer of 2019. She cancelled today because she has pink-eye. :( Pink-eye is wretched. I got it for the first time when Amelia had it at age two or three. I feel like my eyes haven't been the same since, to be honest. (Well, now I have thyroid eye disease and Grave's disease, good times, yay.)

Reed4

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all of the orders last month. I truly and sincerely thank you. I am so grateful for your orders. It was a pretty unusual thing for us to make all that soap. I honestly do not know if we will ever do it again. It felt like a once-in-a-lifetime thing. I don't know!

Reed5

I'm getting into making jewelry now. Still trying to find myself somewhere. Boy, I've started a lot of new hobbies lately. Doing things I've always wanted to do. We'll see if any of it sticks. My head is a swirl. I don't understand the creative impulse. It comes and it comes. Then I leave off and another one comes, and I follow. Here I come, beads! Jump rings! Cord ends! Chain-nose pliers! I'm here now. I'm like a zig-zagging runaway. Try to catch me!

Reed6

I took Amelia to the Reed College canyon yesterday. We hiked around half of it under a lovely cloudy sky. Amelia says she wants to go to Reed College. She wants to go to the closest college so she can always be close to me. I didn't tell her that she'll have to be a super-genius or win the lottery to pay for it. :| I like to walk around there, though. Campus was closed to the public all year and only recently reopened. I love campuses. This one is very, very quiet. I don't know if that's Covid or typical for Reed. I've been here before Covid and it was also very quiet.

Reed7

A team of student and professors were putting a recently banded bush-tit back in its nest when we were there. I love bush-tits. Gosh, they're the sweetest little birds, like baby mice. A flock of them were in our yard a few days ago. You never see just one. The whole flock — maybe thirty — swoops and flitters, only for five or ten minutes at a time. I have a special bird feeder for them (the kind with the outer cage around the suet cage — they like to be in a sort of enclosed area while they eat). For a long time we had a nest (it look like a gnarly old sock) hanging in our plum tree. Eventually it fell out, long after it had been used, I think.

Reed8

One of Amelia's favorite things to do, she says, is "eat snacks while looking at a pond." When she saw the perfect log to sit on she excitedly sat herself down and pulled out the little cup of trail mix she had packed for herself. Agh, she's so adorable. We sat and watched a family of five raccoons climb off of a log, cross the water, and play on the edge of the pond. Also, insanely adorable.

Reed10

It was strange to see so many raccoons just right out there in the middle of the day, no?

Reed11

Just hanging out. They move very quickly, like kittens playing. I heard their noises and realized I've heard noises like that in our neighborhood. I've seen a giant, hump-backed, more scary-than-cute raccoon walk right into my neighbor's backyard (also during the day). These babies at the pond were so sweet, though. I think there were two parent and three babies all together. They were actually pretty far away and I had my big camera completely zoomed in, with just the kit lens on, so I couldn't get better than these.

Reed12

Tell me what you're up to. Are things hard for you right now? What is hard? What is helping? What are you looking forward to?

A Weekend at the Farm

comments: 26

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Hello! How are you?

Summer is here and I am thrilled. Amelia has three more days of school and then we are FREE. I've never been so happy about the end of the year before in my life!

Andy Paulson turned FIFTY a week or so ago! I spent the week before his birthday making a secret video (which turned out to be over 38 minutes long). I texted all of our friends and family and asked them to make a quick video of themselves saying "happy birthday" to him. Like, everybody. Literally every single person did it. It was epic. Some people were so creative they made entire little movies and wrote original songs! And so many people dropped in little comments in their videos about something very specific to themselves and Andy together. That was so moving to me (let's just say that when I showed Andy the video on his birthday morning I literally wept, sobbing, through the entire thing, ha!). But some people remembered stuff from college, from Missoula, from childhood, just all sorts of inside–Andy Paulson jokes that kept adding up into something just . . . I don't know, but it was pretty spectacular. I am a genius for thinking of this and feel free to steal the idea because it was epic!

The day before his birthday we went for a two-night stay at Dolan Creek Farm. What an enchanted place. From the minute we got there it was so pretty, the weather was so nice, the birds were so vocal, the sunset was so rosy, the breezes so cool. I mean, it was literally magical. The pictures above of Mt. Hood in the distance? Those are taken from the porch of the studio. Just, right from the porch. Where you sit and drink your coffee. And cows come up to the fence to say hello. And swifts swoop across the fields. And bullfrogs call across the pond. Agh. Andy kept saying, "It's just so big! There's so much space here! I'm never in this much space!" Amelia was beside herself with delight, getting to help gather eggs, bring the chickens in, and feed the horse her dinner. On the full day that we were there, I carried a quilt and my little chair to a big tree down by the pond and finished my book (All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews). Birds and bullfrogs kept me company. Andy and Amelia explored and found another hidden pond. They played cards and ran through the fields. At night we barbecued and the owners, Kirk and Chris, started a campfire for us and showed us around the barns and talked to us about the history of the farm and the pumpkin patch they have in the fall and what it was like for their kids to grow up here. (Several nights later, Amelia stayed up way too late listening to music on her iPod and when I came upstairs she said, "Mama, I just listened to a song that reminded me of the farm ["Thank God I'm a Country Boy," which she and Andy had been playing all weekend] and I'm so sad! I want to go back to the farm! I want to go to the farm! Why can't we go for my birthday! [We can, but we can't stay overnight, because they don't let you stay overnight in October because pumpkin patch, etc.]" Anyway, just utterly melted down, went downstairs to get a drink, came back up with her dad and did the whole thing again, crying true tears, shattering my heart into broken pieces of hay. My god, my darling girl, I would give you a life on a farm if I could. It was my dream when I was a little girl, too, though I've never really mentioned it. Farm Fever is real. I was a bit older than she is but I used to cry myself to sleep I wanted a horse so bad. My parents' garage fell down in a snowstorm when I was ten and they rebuilt a new garage and painted it barn red with white trim and I thought I'd die of longing. No horse in there, just bikes and floaties and tools. Evermore.

Anyway, it was the first time that we had been off the property at home in almost a year, and my god, it doesn't take much for us Paulsons. Two nights and a day at a farm forty-five minutes away on the backroads and we are REBORN. Ready to tackle these last few weeks of school, make some plans for the summer that involve rivers and trees, text friends to invite them along, hope for our own invitations, etc. Let it be, let it be! Vaccines!!!!!

My electric bicycle has arrived, and though I need to make some modifications to one petal so that I can fit my wonko orthopedic shoe on it safely AND figure out how to lift it into the back of the car (it's so heavy! it's so heavy!), I am further on the road to freedom and reinvention and I need it. Yesterday I saw a video on Instagram of a bunch of people dancing and singing to a band on the road by the reservoir in Mt. Tabor and I've never vicariously related to anything more. If only I had my pedal and could join them! I will get there. I'm meeting a bike guy on Thursday after I visit my friend in her rose garden and . . . just . . . life on earth. It can be so hard and so beautiful.

Much of the soap that Andy and I made six weeks ago and beyond six weeks is now cured, and wrapped, and ready to go! I think I'll have a launch. I've got two new patterns/kits, one a hoopdy and one a cross-stitch that will be ready within days of June 16, which is when all printed patterns get here. We'll have some reissued older kits, too (and just, for the record, this is literally the only time ever that we are reissuing kits — it is happening, and has already happened for some), and we'll have seven kinds of soap, and lotion bars. No, guys, I don't know how I do it either! I'm thinking Monday, June 21, 2021, at 10:00 a.m. PDT. Here's a cool chart that tells you when that is for you!

So, I'm making fish balls for dinner tonight, and this is one of those recipes where you can make almost all of it in the morning and then fry it up at dinner time. And I need more recipes like this, because I am good at things in the morning and I am bad at things in the evening, especially at dinnertime. I recently had my knives sharpened by a mail-in service called Knife Flight and I cannot recommend doing this enough. It is unbelievably great to have nice sharp knives — today I sliced green onions into transparent wafers (not like I have awesome knife skills, but that's how much having a sharp knife will do for you) and chopped up a pound of cod, and it was pure pleasure. I've also cut myself five times just by waving the knife around carelessly and touching it where it used to be dull (the bottom corner edge, hello; the tip, ow). Anyway, it was really perfect timing because I'm trying to cook a lot more. Here is my cake I made over the weekend and other stuff on Instagram, too.

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I mean, just look at this. I can't wait to go back either, Amelia. It was just so, so nice.

Already Mid-May!

comments: 42

Daisies1

I'm sitting in the living room listening to traffic, lawn mowers, and birds outside. Andy's at work. Amelia just logged into math, and she'll be in Zoom school for at least another hour. Clover is asleep on her pillow and not stalking me to feed her. I've got old episodes of Real Housewives of NYC on in the background. I love Bethenny and I think she's hilarious. "The only person who got the memo was Dorinda, who showed up wasted. She understands. Where we are." Ha! Silly and funny. I find this show so silly it's relaxing. I love all the Bravo shows. My favorite is Shahs of Sunset, but I also like a few of the Housewives, and I love Million Dollar Listing New York and Los Angeles. Agatha is creeping around on the mantle chewing on stuff and chasing flies through the house like she's on fire. She will mow down anything in her way to get to her fly. I still haven't let her outside and I'm not sure I will. We've never had an indoor cat before. She seems to like it okay. The biggest change is that we never have our back door open like we used to. It opens out so there's no screen door. How do you put a screen door on an outward-opening door? Is that a thing?

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I've been trying to work on my gardening. There are a bunch of little calendula and cornflower and strawflower volunteers down in the parkway (parking strip) that I've been nurturing. I water down there almost every single day, and that is unusual for me. I am typically a very unreliable waterer. But now I've figured out how to do it with the small hose (it's one of those fabric hoses) and I can sit on the front stairs instead of standing. Its best done in the early morning when it's all in shade. I was down there this morning at like 8:00. I saw everybody. A neighbor across the street. A lady riding her bike with two kids ("Hey! I got the same bike helmet! It looks so cute on you!"). Two ladies who looked like twins walking down the middle of the street who complemented my sprinkler system (me with a hose on a stair). Then another lady stopped by with a birthday gift for my other neighbor because she wasn't home. So many people! That's more people in one morning than I've seen in a week!

I'm late with my summer cross stitch design and my summer hoop design. I am almost finished with the cross stitch sample. We have made five different types of soap that we will be launching soon, along with restocking lotion bars and making new bubble scoops and bath soaks. Making body care stuff has been bringing me happiness lately. Who knew! I am trying to make some videos about the process and I will post those on IG.

I get my second shot next week and I can't wait. My electric bicycle will be shipping out from California on June 4. I absolutely cannot wait for the bike to get here. We have a long multi-use trail called the Springwater Corridor that Andy and I used to ride our bikes on all the time. It's a 20+-mile-long trail that runs from Southeast Portland to Boring, Oregon. You can hop on it all over the place. I am going to ride all over it with my electric bike. I could not be more excited about it. I'm just going to ride and ride and ride. I just can't stop thinking about it and I can't wait until it gets here. It can't come soon enough.

Rose1

I was just heartbroken to hear about the passing of one of the sweetest, kindest people I have ever known in the blogosphere, Teresa Kasner. She was so joyful, always so encouraging, so curious about things, so filled with delight, and always, always had something nice to say and took the time to say it. God, it just breaks my heart. Andy and I both (Andy still reads every comment on this blog, and he knew exactly who Teresa was from all of her many years of generous commenting here) are thinking of her and Dayle and their sweet family. Rest in peace, dear Teresa. You set such a beautiful example. Thank you.

Randommmmm

comments: 62

CatCloset1

I mean, look at her expression, as she's walking back and forth across all my newly hung hanging clothes (I cleaned my closet). Naturally she's giving me the stink eye. She walked back and forth across here several times, wobbling, meowing, knocking my clothes of their hangers, and looking supremely annoyed by it all every minute, even though she’s the one who put herself up there somehow and chose to stay. Alicia. Why would you put a clothes' closet here where I'm trying to walk?” Ah, we humans are such idiots, I know. This morning I went down to my office and was bewildered by the presence of dried flower petals all over my work island, which I'd literally just cleared and completely wiped down the night before. Looking up, I saw all my cute dried flowers hanging from my cute little driftwood ladder suspended from the ceiling. And now I know what Agatha did last night. Generally she likes to break into my yarn cabinet and drag skein after skein of worsted all the way up the stairs to the second floor, and then drop them all over the hallway while we sleep. But I also cleaned my yarn-cabinet area up and put all the yarn away AND locked the door on it with a twisted rubber-band so apparently she had to find something else to do to wreak Aggie-havoc. She finds things to do that I didn’t even dream were things to do.

For yes, it's been chaotic around here. I've been scrambling to get a handle on it all but no, my taxes still aren't done, my driver's license is expired, the back yard looks abandoned, there are magazines all over the bathroom, yarn all over the house, and, even though my new assistant Ivy is leaving for the summer on June 1, I haven't started any of my summer designs yet.

Nevertheless, I do say to myself every single solitary day, Girl, you did the best you could. I do say that. I say that to the pile of coats, boots, and shoes piling up in Amelia's outerwear corner of the dining room; and Andy's Snack Central bags of chips, salts, and popcorn seasonings scattered on top of our red Ikea cabinet and on top of the cookbooks up there (bags of Funyuns, on top of the cookbooks, good lord); and of course detritus from my own fourteen new hobbies (resin, polymer clay, pottery, and, naturally, metal-smithing among them) covering any available surface. I look around and I say that to all of those things. Girl, you did the best you could today. For what it's worth. Someday I'll get there. Meanwhile I sit on the bed with a giant breadboard on my lap, making soap dishes out of clay and re-watching season 1 of Keeping Faith because Where the hell is Evan??? Season 2 just came out so I will soon know!

THANK YOU thank you thank you from the bottom of my heart for all of your orders of my new spring designs and all of the soap and lotion bars and yarn I released. I sometimes cry in the studio and I did cry while packing all of these things, from gratitude and maybe just a little bit of exhaustion but mostly gratitude for all of you and your generous orders and patience and interest in and support of my ideas. Thank you. It means more to me than I can say. My words feel so awkward and hard to find anymore so I don't write often. But I thank you for being here still.

I wrote on my Instagram that Andy and I have been making soap together again, and this, too, takes up much of my sunshine daydreams, thinking about soap and planning for new soap. Milk soap, aloe soap, baby soap, pink soap. We've made two 3.5-pound batches every weekend for the past four weeks. I must say, oh my, I don't know why, but the soap is coming out SO GOOD. Something is good! Maybe we're finally figuring it out. We made an executive decision to stop using anything but natural ingredients in our soap, so no micas or synthetic fragrance oils at all — only natural colorants and essential oils and perhaps pure botanical oils for fragrance. So far we've made a beautiful, creamy pale-pink scented with Ylang Ylang; a pretty seafoam blue scented with Clary Sage and Bergamot; a dull, chalky lavender scented with Bulgarian lavender and peppermint; and the one I'm calling "Dreamsicle," which is a pale rosy orange with cream, scented with orange, pink grapefruit, and balsam Peru (which smells like vanilla), like our Summer Day lotion bar. The bars are cut to 1.5 inches wide, or about 7.5 ounces each, and they are whoppers. They’re huge. And there's just something so beautiful about the big soap. It's so creamy and has these sort of creamy waves on the top that I just smoosh on with a spoon. The consistency of the soap when it's wet is like pastry cream or pudding, but even smoother. It's so satisfying to just mush a spoon through it. It's so pure and beautiful and it smells so good. It plops into the molds with such a ploppy, puddingy sound. I love it. After we put it all in the molds I just lean on the counter and stare at it for a long time. It takes six weeks to cure.

I was thinking about something I think I've written about before — I'm sure I've written about this before but I don’t remember when. I was thinking about this little jewel-box of a store called Essence that used to be on Lake Street in Oak Park, next to the Lake Theater where I worked as a candy girl when I was in high school. Essence sold Crabtree and Evelyn soaps and stuff and all sorts of pretty apothecary stuff, perfumes and soaps and potpourri sachets. The store was the shape of a rectangle with a center entrance and had wooden tables in the center and dark wood shelves on all the walls, and it just smelled so good in there. I used to spend so much time in that store, usually before work at the theater. I still think about it all the time!!! So weird! I also remember this other store that was in Galena, Illinois, on the Mississippi River, where I went for a weekend with my family when I was in high school, because my parents were thinking of buying property out there. There was an apothecary store there, too, and I think it was in an old barn? Maybe? It had dried flowers hanging from the ceiling and it sold herbs and soaps and bath stuff, I think. It was dark and warm and fragrant, like a Tasha Tudor sort of place. And I always remember that because my dad said to me that day that I should own a store like that when I grew up. And I was so flattered. Usually the things he wanted me to do only ever royally pissed me off (I won't get into it, but let's just say I did not want to learn to do martial arts — not judging martial arts but I had zero interest) and he also usually did not say very nice things in general. I remember the few that pleased me, and this was one. Another was that he told me, at my cousin Michele's wedding, before I was dating Andy, that he thought I should marry a hobby farmer and have a rural life (I would've done that). Another one was that I reminded him of Sigourney Weaver, and I will never forget that. I remember those three things. Those things aligned with how I saw myself or wanted to see myself and that was rare for us.

Anyway, I have this vision, those visions, of those places, around these soaps and I don't know why. I don't know if it is tapping into some childhood dreams of mine, or a fiercely beloved version of what I wanted my room to look like in high school (white, with whitewashed siding, and lavender-blue stuff, and dried lavender hanging from the ceiling, and rafters, and a little window, and slanty ceilings, and I swear I got this from an old Laura Ashley catalog I had and can no longer find even though I literally bought all the ones from 1983-1987 on eBay several years ago, I had such a longing to see whatever picture it was that I was "remembering," though I never have found it. Did I make it up?), or something sweet and beautiful that is just literally soothing me right now, in these days. I don't know. I spent a long time looking at '80s calicos again on eBay the other night, thinking this time of how they would look in little strips wrapped around soap. So I guess I haven't gotten it all out of my system. Maybe I'm just homesick. I don't know. I don’t know what it is. Or why it’s happening now.

What's your favorite kind of soap and do you use handmade soap? Do you think about this?

Oh — and also — I went to my P.O. box for the first time in over a year, and thank you very much for all of your kind notes and gifts! I am so sorry it has taken me so long to pick them up! I have not done a good job responding to emails and other contacts this year, and I hope you'll forgive me. I sincerely thank you and am hoping to respond personally soon. XO

Waking Woods

comments: 40

9Woods1

Headed toward home plate on a year of this. It's hard to remember how we did things. Did Amelia actually go to school with a roomful of other kids? Did I sit side-by-side with the moms on the playground and talk about genealogy and Shopify and in-laws? Did we eat at restaurants every other day? Did I take her to Ikea every other week to play on all the furniture? Did she touch everything in every room of the children's museum, where there isn't a single window and it smells like dirty diapers and microwaved food and lifesaving espresso? Did I sit in the front room of the ballet school, talking to sweetest Teacher Michelle and knitting as the high-school girls filed in and the little ones held hands and fell into each other's arms on the old couch? Was there ever a time when it wasn't just Amelia and me somewhere in the woods, building fairy houses, searching for tiny mushrooms, listening for woodpeckers, and hoping no one else shows up? I have a terrible time wearing a mask. My glasses just fog up no matter what I do and I can't stand it. My asshole eye doctor won't release my prescription to me so I can get new glasses because it's over four years old. Glimpsing another person coming from far down the trail fills me with adrenaline. God, I just hate the feeling. Hello, person fifty yards away! I'm terrified of you!

9Woods4

The woods receive us nonetheless. Everything is still very chilly and very sleepy. There's usually at least one bird singing. The sound of traffic far off. The smell of red cedar. I watch the time because we have to get back so Amelia can go to math class online at 1:00. We drive-thru McDonald's for frozen lemonades and Happy Meals and eat them in the car, blasting Lizzo on the way home.

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Last week a nutria swam out of the beaver lodge and sat in front of a log in the water, staring at us. I had to rub my eyes because I couldn't believe it. Later he came up out of the pond right near where we were sitting and started snuffling around just yards away. It was adorable (however, invasive)! We sent a video to Andy. He's been at work a lot lately. I think we're both very tired (and our brand new hot tub is BROKEN). When he gets home there's a short, happy reunion and then I race to my room and shut the door and turn on the TV, knit something, call my friend, make some jewelry, surf Instagram, eat Chipotle carnitas burrito bowls delivered to the front porch by a rotating cast of GrubHubbers. I'm embarrassed by what my neighbors must think about how much I order GrubHub. I try to work. I've got spring stuff coming. My hand-dyed floss order got lost for a while at Weeks Dye Works so we're a bit behind, but it's here now and I'm hoping we'll launch stuff next week. Andy pulls the floss. It's kind of complicated. The cat has to be locked up the entire time. He's going to make more lotion bars soon. (The kid works hard. He does anything he can to help me every single day.) My new assistant Ivy is just a dream. And I still have my goal of reformatting my cross-stitch patterns for wholesale. I was supposed to do that in 2020. I still want to make it happen. Right now I desperately need to pull my stuff together to send to the accountant to do our taxes. Ugh. Whatevs. Send food and nap dresses.

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I started making resin jewelry. I enjoy this very much. I'm totally new at it. I learned a lot from my first batch: Let the resin sit for about fifteen minutes to get rid of some bubbles. Don't pour it in, just dab it with the popsicle stick. Don't ever put open bezels on whatever kind of packing tape I have (it sucked). Don't take the sticky residue off with a scratchy cotton ball (not sure how it can be scratchy, but it was?). I mean, in a lot of ways I did a mostly good job on my first batch. (I had watched a lot of tutorials about how to do it before I tried.) But I need more practice. I need to pop every single bubble. I bought a new full-face respirator and signed up for a beginner's metalsmithing-at-home class at Portland Community College that concentrates on all cold connections (no soldering). I want to make my own bezels. Right now I'm using the batch of them I bought online. I think my technique needs to get better before I use really nice bezels. All of the botanical material I used was from our yard or our walks in the woods. Tiny ferns, little Robert geraniums, plum blossoms, a few vinca and veronica from the parkway. All these sweet little baby greens keeping me from despair.

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I hope you are all well and finding vaccine appointments if you are eligible and finding ways to stay occupied until you are if you're not. I hope if you have little kids you are not fried. My friend told me yesterday that a local newspaper said that Oregon was going to have enough vaccine for all adults by the end of April. I want to believe that. Thank you for the emails and comments about the playlist. I'm so glad you like it! If you've made one, leave a link in the comments? Thank youuuuu. I'm grateful.

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It’s A New Year

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Happy New Year, guys.

Eeeee-yipes, am I ever lazy. That's January. I usually lay around. The other day I stayed in my nap dress and got back into bed and put my computer on my lap to work on my cross-stitch pattern and watched TV all day. It was glorious. Andy busted out laughing when he came upstairs and saw me, a stack of dirty dishes next to me on the nightstand. I'm finally starting to get into lockdown. Nowhere to go, no one coming over, nothing to do, no guilt about that! I did feel vaguely guilty about not even getting dressed. I only get to do things like this when Andy is home, of course. Generally he works four 12-hour days in a row, and yes, I am almost shrieking by the end of Day Four, especially when Amelia decides to throw a wobbly right at bedtime. Why is it only at bedtime?! It only seems to happen on Day Four. It's only Day Two today, so hopefully we're good. . . . I can’t take it.

Last night Agatha Kitten was just attacking me relentlessly for an hour! Biting my hands, stalking then lunging at me, and trying to jump up from the side of the bed to get under the covers and claw my feet. What is her problem! She was possessed. She just wouldn't stop. I put her in the hallway and shut the door and then she howled and banged on the door. I'm not kidding. I got up and let her in and she just started biting me again. She is a very bitey cat. It's been so long since I had a baby cat that I can't remember how long this attack-stage lasts. I remember Violet when she was little attacking my feet under the covers, too. That's very annoying. I'm ready for her to start acting a little more mature instead of like a rabid goblin. (And, BTW, she did very well with the Christmas tree and couldn't have cared less about it, but she was absolutely obsessed with the decorated mantel and went up there almost every day and tried to throw things off of it and knocked everything over regularly.) She has no fear and is utterly indifferent to our displeasure. But then she can be such a little lover! Agatha is like a Garbage Patch Kid. First she's sour, then she's sweet. Currently napping sweetly and adorably on the sofa next to me.

I cleaned the house for several hours yesterday. It was so messy. We put all of the Christmas stuff away and I redid my mantel with nothing but a few fake candles, a fake snowy owl, a little vase of fake eucalyptus, and two baskets. I ordered new curtains to cover the shelves on either side of the fireplace (they hold nothing but all of our photo album and old VHS tapes that we can't part with on one side, and a bunch of toys and junk on the other side). I used to have two matching curtains for those shelves but apparently one is lost. I might get two new lamps for the tops of those shelves. We just really need a change. I have two little Ikea lamps up there right now and I've probably had them for twelve or thirteen years. I don't like Ikea lamps because you can really only use Ikea lampshades with them (unless you want to do a clip-on, on the lightbulb). Ikea lampshades are kind of lame. I enjoy surfing Wayfair and maybe I'll do that later.

Andy got his first vaccine on December 26. He gets the booster in ten days or so, depending on his work schedule; I can't remember. So grateful for this. Beyond words.

I got a plug-and-play hot tub for my birthday! It's absolutely awesome. We go in it almost every day. It's really, really good. We need a cover lifter. I don’t enjoy staggering through the mud trying to heft a giant cover onto the table so we can get in when I’m here alone with Amelia.

Currently obsessed with documentaries and reality shows about polygamous cults and other cults. Naturally. Andy was mildly disapproving every time he came in and saw me watching Escaping Polygamy again, goggle-eyed, munching on my lemon cupcake in my nightgown and pointing at the TV like I can’t believe this! But then he'd sit down for one second and start watching it and couldn't look away! I told him! And have you watched Wild Wild Country? Rajneeshees in Oregon. Andy and I are glued. We have one episode left. Incredible story. Well worth watching this. ***Finished it: WOW. What a film. I highly recommend it.

Good times!

I have three embroidery kits I am working on. One is a new 6"x8" seasonal cross stitch (to fit an 8"x10" frame), one is another little hooped wreath (for spring), and one is the embroidered jewelry I was making last year. I'm trying to source everything for that now. I've never done this kind of kit. It will include four pendants with jump-rings and chains, and one pin. I think it's going to be really cool. I am happy with my cross stitch design; I was inspired by woodcuts and I think I have pretty good ideas for all of the upcoming seasons, too.

I hope you are all well and cozy. Tell me what January is like for you.

* Meet Agatha *

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We got a new kitten. Her name is Agatha. Isn't she adorable?????

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We love her so much! She is so utterly adorable and sweet! I've never had a kitten like this. You can turn her over onto her back and she'll just lay in your arms and let you rub her tummy. You can pet her anywhere on her body and she loves it. You can pick up each of her paws and play with her little pads with your fingers and she doesn't even flinch. She is so totally relaxed. She wants to sit on one of us all the time and her purring is intense. She is so cute and sweet and adorable and loving, and the most chilled out cat I have ever seen and I can't believe she's ours!

Roll on By

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Just two days. Two days that felt like two years and also two minutes. River time is fairy time. You don't know what hour or even what day it is, unless you can tell time by the sun. And who really cares what time it is. There's nowhere to go, nothing else to do. The sun and the stones and the water are everything. They're all there is, all you need. Three nights and two days. If only we were there for longer! I honestly did not want to come home! I wanted to stay in the sun with the stones and the minnows and the water-skippers, with the eagles and the sparrows and the ducks, with the wind and the water and the people floating by with their radios and their super-loud conversations and their silly, cartoony tubes. I wanted to stay right there, with my book and my basket and my baby catching crayfish, and my husband skipping rocks, and my legs plunged into the cold, clear water, and then go up to the house for tacos for dinner and s'mores at the firepit and Taylor Swift on repeat and checkers before bed and baths together in the giant tub. I wanted to stay on the porch with my loves, drinking coffee by dawn-light, listening to owls hoot in the gloaming, looking for deer and rabbits in the grass, and watching the water roll and roll and roll on by. Time, mystical time, cutting me open then healing me fine. Oh, no, no, I did not want to come home. . . .

High Summer (and a Plan)

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It's truly summer now. It's hotter, drier, dustier, and everything is in bloom. Our weather has been quite pleasant, in my opinion, because it's been a very cool summer here, only heating up this week. All the many troubles of the world aside, I could get used to this kind of summer, even though we rarely go out; every excursion beyond the property-line feels like traveling to a place of unrest. Everything that was so constant and familiar now feels strange, and tilted, and fragile, and fraught.

Thank you very much for all the homeschooling thoughts, and just for generally listening to me and helping me think through things. In truth, the decision was probably made by the time I got to the end of writing the previous post: We will definitely be homeschooling Amelia full-time next year. And we just got an email from our school yesterday that says they are tentatively planning (among various other options) to allow us (not just us — anyone) to 100% home-school with our own curriculum (instead of the school's distance-learning offering) and still stay enrolled and still be in touch with the class online.

It's all just incredible. My heart truly goes out to every single educator, school employee, janitor, parent, and kid right now. This is hard.

I think I literally researched every single suggestion for a curriculum or approach that everyone here and on Instagram made. I like doing stuff like that. You feel so clueless at first but it's always so bizarre — dig in just a little bit and you will quickly know exactly what you do and do not want. At least in theory. I talked to friends and looked at web sites and read Instagram posts and watched YouTube video-reviews and almost immediately settled on purchasing a boxed second-grade curriculum from Oak Meadow. I wanted something boxed, secular, nature-y, and tested. Oak Meadow happens to be Waldorf-inspired and, it was kinda funny, I got unexpectedly excited about that. It's been bringing me a sweet sort of comfort that reminds me of older happy days. When Amelia was four and five she went to a neighborhood Waldorf preschool (Song Garden, for anyone interested) that we absolutely loved, and I have a very soft spot for the traditions. The teachers were a couple of professional musicians who were longtime Waldorf teachers and had been running their little school for many years. The kids did lantern walks for St. Martin's Day and winter spirals at Christmas, played outside in rain or sunshine and planted a garden from seed. They made stuff out of felt and acorns, wore capes and crowns on their birthdays, and helped make stone soup and bake fresh bread for lunch together at the big round table. It was sweet and slow and gentle and thoughtful, and, for Andy and me, it was our very first introduction to being part of a (great) parent community and we could not have had a better experience. Those were happy days indeed.

Waldorf theory is interesting (I don't get too deep into it, but I'm good with most of what I know for younger kids) and it's also super CRAFTY. And very earthy. And it has a very strong community. And, you know, I just want all that right now. I don't want to be alone. This year is going to be hard for lots of reasons, relentless generalized anxiety notwithstanding, and I want our home (and our home-school) to be a place of joy and peace and comfort and connection. I want songs in the morning and candlelit reading and wildflower studies and fairy stories. I want Beatrix Potter and Elsa Beskow and dandelion play-dough and nature journals. In the second-grade curriculum they study dramatic storytelling and zoology and the histories of ancient China and ancient Mali. They learn to play the recorder, work times-tables up to 12, and use some expensive (holy shit! did you see how much?) art supplies. And I am excited to be part of all of this. Andy is excited, and we make a good team because I like to do the research and make the choices and he is always awesome about not only indulging my each-and-every obsession and whim but also getting totally involved and onboard (like, literally every single time). Amelia is excited because she's Amelia, and she's just got game. My girl is thriving at home and I'm so grateful for that. So, as I said on Instagram, get ready for the beeswax-candle and watercolor-rainbow and moon-phases-made-of-clay posts because we are about to head right down this rabbit hole! Let's see where it takes us! I want to share this experience here.

And very best of luck to every one of you who is also making this choice right now!

Considering

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Oh, hello my dear friends. How are you? We are all home today. Andy is in the garage playing guitar. Amelia is smashing something with the pestle and mortar (I dare not ask). I am cutting linen for the new summer cross-stitch kits. It is slow going and I don't think I've cut literally anything in parallel (I'm sorry). But it's getting cut, and that is something.

Thank you so much for the movie and TV-show recommendations! I am adding everything to the list. Many of them I have seen (because I love the genre) but many are new to me. Last week Andy and I together watched all of Godless, recommended by my friend Jolie, and wow, that was seriously intense. I thought it was amazing. (Very heavy on the sad, violent, and terrifying, though. Be warned.) Michelle Dockery from Downton Abbey is in it. I think she is most soulful and lovely. I really like her. This week we're watching A Knight's Tale (which was recommended by many people!) and Ken Burns's The Civil War, and are trying to get into Poldark again. I watched Poldark a few years ago but there was one scene in season one or two that almost killed me and I never watched it afterward. But, so many good things on the list. Thank you again. I really appreciate it!

Today I've been thinking a lot about school next year and I'm moving toward a deeper acceptance of what our reality — everyone's reality — will be when (if) we start leaving the house: I'm considering keeping Amelia home, even if her school does physically open. I have been having this discussion with many of my friends, not just from our school but my friends from Oak Park and River Forest and my friends on Instagram and my best friend in Boston, and just all of us who have small children right now. I was really surprised to hear that many are considering home-schooling, if they have that option (and many people do not have that option). This is such an intensely personal decision, and everyone’s issues are so different. I will admit that I have never, under normal circumstances, considered home-schooling Amelia. But these are not normal circumstances. I suspect that our school's curriculum will include in-classroom teaching and online assignments. Online school absolutely did not work for us. Like, counter-productive disaster. I don't know if there's a way we could stay "virtually" in our class so that she can be connected with her people socially without actually doing the work (but doing other work, from whatever home-school curriculum I follow). I will definitely need a curriculum because I have zero teaching experience and, quite honestly, I will need structure and support and everything that would go with a tested program. I absolutely do not want to reinvent this wheel. I am researching several Montessori home-school programs (there are many!) and another literature-based one that my friend from school will be using with her kids. If we do home-school, we would definitely (hopefully) be returning to public school for third grade. (She's a rising second-grader right now).

I can't quite put into words exactly what school meant to all of us this year. The year before, when we went to a private Montessori pre-K-to-8 school and commuted a half-hour each way (and paid a lot of money), well — that was just actually a horrible year. I couldn't see exactly how miserable we all were (well, me and Andy, mostly) until we were out of it. I think it was also horrible because I had expected it to be so great. The school was great. Don't get me wrong — it is an amazing school (Franciscan Montessori Earth School). But traveling way out of our neighborhood; not having any classmates from our neighborhood; having a really gross, depressing, extremely irritating drive; having ZERO playground culture — all of those things wiped out every positive aspect. We just didn't know it would suck the life out of us like that.

But this school year, when we went to our neighborhood public K-5, was like a dream. Not necessarily academically, because I still prefer the Montessori pedagogy and know it would've been excellent for Amelia. (I will never stop wishing that public school was more like Montessori school.) But everything else about our school — the teachers, the playground, the other parents, the kids, my volunteer hours reading with the kids, the neighborhood, the five-minute drive, feeling a part of our community, having a mom crew, feeling like this thing that I, personally, had waited for for so (soooo) many years was finally happening. Just, the belonging. She felt it and I felt it and I loved it. She loves everything but I do not love everything and I loved this, for all of us. I won't lie. I cried at one point or another in the day almost every day for the first two months of lockdown, when everything just vanished. I just couldn't stop crying. I’ve never cried so much in my life. It was fear, I am sure, but also grief. Grief for worldwide suffering and pain but also grief for our family’s inevitable risks as well as our smallest, most prosaic losses: Everything about our now-big girl’s daily big-girl life had just gotten started — and then it was all just as suddenly gone. She told Andy, quite brightly, that she wished she could drink milk out of a bottle again. She wondered aloud to me whether it was weird that she felt the urge to suck her thumb (something she didn’t even do as a baby). I didn't let Amelia see me crying, except for the one time we did a drive-by birthday party for our friend Jaxen, and when it was our turn to approach and I saw Jaxen and his little brother and his mom out front with her streamers and her signs and her giant smile I just burst into sobs, honked and waved furiously with my big red face about to explode, and drove on. But on a daily basis, when I wasn't crying (privately! I swear! privately! [mostly!]) for what had been lost, I was crying because I was just so moved — every time she'd get on a Zoom call with her teachers (ballet, too) and her classmates,  I was just so moved by the incredible efforts that everyone was making to keep all our kids healthy and happy and safe and emotionally connected during this time. Seeing all these little kids on the screen in their pajamas, eating breakfast, with dogs and baby sisters barging in, and computers not working, and Mrs. B being her calm, loving, insanely patient self, teaching them how to turn their microphones on, telling them how good it was to see them. I mean, I just could not stop crying. Amelia was not crying at all. Not even close. She's been thriving at home, says she loves being at home, says she loves being here with us every day, and she's such a go-with-the-flow person that I believe her and I literally think she's seriously forgotten what she's missing. Like — she lives completely in the moment.

So, yeah. Oregon's numbers are going back up. Part of me is devastated that whatever school will look like, it absolutely can't and won't look like it did. Part of me feels obligated to keep my kid home because I can, and thereby will make more room for the kids and teachers who will have no choice (because their parents don't have a choice) but to physically go to school. Part of me thinks it will be a great adventure for us to home-school, and really dig into something that could be wonderful (but without museums? without the library? will they still be closed? will they close if they reopen?). Part of me just wants to do whatever PPS says we're going to do and trust that they’ll make the right decision about how to proceed. And part of me just feels unsure about everything.

About Alicia Paulson

About

My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at aliciapaulson.com

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Photography

Since August of 2011 I've been using a Canon EOS 60D with an EF 18-200mm kit lens and an EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens.