Sunday, April 22, 2007

the love of a child

He is transparent in his need, wears his adoration openly.
He says as soon as he thinks it, hold me, or I want to hold you, hold me tight, and will not relent until we are in each others' arms.
He does not compliment us, hardly uses the word love. His ardor is concrete, always present. He needs us always, wants to know we are near, listening. When I cry, he brings me his ball; you want dis? For you. When I am working nearby, he brings me a little stick, You want some chock-late? Thank you very much.

He doesn't care whether say I love him. He wants me to look at him, to hold him, listen to him, sing to him, play with him, protect him, take care of him.

He asks for a story, asks to hold my hand, climbs into my lap, asks for water. He needs them equally.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Solar Oven Love

So this morning Gibbie helped me cook dinner.
We lugged a bag of carrots and a lil sack of potatoes out the back door.I peeled carrots while the kids played in the grass. We washed the potatoes together. (Gibbie also helped by fetching rags to scrub with, putting the lids on, and he and Ezra gnawed on carrots. They love helping with real work) We put everything in our black enamel pots along with half a dozen whole raw eggs. The pots went in this black box, then a big clear lid and a collapsible reflector. We turned it to face the sun and played all day in the yard. Twice in the afternoon I turned the oven a bit more as our northern sun arced across the sky.
By our 5:00 dinnertime we brought out bowls and drinks, served up piping hot food and had a dandy little picnic. A simple meal, quite good. We are looking forward to using this new oven lots and lots. The next day we got a little more adventurous. I adapted this recipe from The Sephardic Table,
a lovely Middle Eastern cookbook.
Solar Oven Lamb Stew
This is one for the recipe box. It was easy and delicious. It makes its own gravy.
1/2 onion, chopped
6 md. yellow potatoes
12 carrots, peeled and broken into finger lengths
1 lb. pieces of lamb stew meat (so worth it to get organic, pastured meats!)
1 tsp. fresh ground coriander (let me rave about my mortar and pestle sometime!)
2-3 bay leaves
1-2 tsp. tumeric
1/2 tsp. salt
a few grinds of black pepper
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
handful of raisins
a glug or two of apple cider vinegar
I've given measured amounts here for the spices, but I honestly just do dashes and handfuls and pinches myself. These things are flexible.
Put all ingredients, in a black covered pot, into the solar oven. We cooked them 5-6 hours. The oven temp never exceeded 250F; these low temps make for tender, juicy meals and apparently more of the vitamins stay intact than when cooking conventionally.

We toured the Solar Oven Society where the oven was made. (it's in Mpls on Hennepin!) All of its simple, carefully engineered parts can be cut, folded, and assembled using hand-operated jigs. No electricity is used. They are a pretty great organization. Half the price of our oven goes towards making these affordably available in third world countries where this kind of technology makes so much sense, for the same reasons I want to cook solar here in Minnesota though the needs in other communities may be more accutely felt.

Solar cooking doesn't:
-consume natural resources
-cost anything
-degrade our air or water
Our friend Willington, a Ugandan priest who attends our church while working towards a PhD, said of solar cooking, "The one thing we have so much of in our country is sunshine! And all it does it seems is to make it too hot, to make the groung too dry. But this-- this is a way to catch it-- and use it, for something good!" You really have to see his face and hands while he talks-- he was quite excited. He wants one for his mother.
Many people in Uganda (and countless other countries) cook daily over open wood fires. Now, I love a good campfire, but a little reading has opened my eyes about the implications of cooking with fire everyday. The byproducts of cooking with wood are deforestation; (fully on half of the wood consumed today is used for fires--more than that for paper or lumber!) lung problems, especially for women and children; and lots of time spent gathering wood as local supplies diminish.
Now, while we don't typically cook with wood,

for us, solar cooking means:
-Gibbie's increased participation in cooking (safer for him to be near than the stove)
-decreased use of non-renewable resources
-not heating up the house in summer! We try not to use A/C and I missed cooking so much last summer. Bread, vegetables, meats, eggs, cake, cookies can all be made in the oven.
-the simplicity of consuming less
-the pleasure of being outside more
-a lower energy bill (I said above we don't cook with wood, but we use it indirectly; our power comes from a grid of nuclear, wood, and coal power plants, each of which create their own types of disastrous waste. We try to use as little as we can.)

I think this oven is a do-able choice for anyone with access to sunlight. This is Minnesota in April! It doesn't need to be hot to cook; just sunny. It was also less expensive than I thought it would be, and very easy to use.

Thanks to our neighbor and friend T.J., who swang, slid, and rolled on the ground entertaining Gibbie and Ezra while I wrote this post!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Monday Adventure

I'm not bloging about anything too serious today- just a photo tour of our day.We stepped out of our front door for our usual Monday morning outing. This week's adventure had an added twist caused by our recent car trouble. (Don't worry, it's nothing too serious. I just need to get around to it! I'll blog about it later.) We took the bus to Swede Hollow!
We had to transfer buses in downtown St. Paul. Gibbie's did pretty well with the waiting.
We finally made it to Swede Hollow. Much to our surprise, as well as their's, the power was out. Gibbie had a cold chocolate instead of hot, and I had a drip brew instead of Macchiato. The shop has such good natural light that, apart from the slight drink differences, we didn't miss the electricity.
Then down into Swede Hollow park we went. Libby and Gib had a great time playing by the water.
Look at the strange flowers Gibbie found. He said, "They're sticky."
Ezra needed a little snack in the woods.
He felt much better afterwords.
Here we all are. It was a difficult self portrait to take with such a squirmy family. Another freeing, relaxing day off.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Kid's Stuff

Gibbie's feet are making him new friends wherever he goes with these new Dragon Puddle Boots! They were a great gift from the owners of my coffee shop. (Thanks Cathy & Nancy!) They're way too big and have a tendency to fall off, but are easy for him to get on by himself. I really have been surprised at how many comments he gets about them when we're out.
Oma reminded me yesterday that when Gibbie was Ezra's age we used to tie a toy on a string and keep it around his neck. Ezra has entered the age of always wanting an object in his grasp, but generally acting as a object-scattering-agent to his immediate surroundings. The neck string puts a rein on these two opposing forces. If you decide to try this, be aware that it makes some people nervous. At Mary's graduation (when Gib was Ezra's age) we had a little spoon on a string for him. A woman next to us seemed very concerned that he might hang himself while in my lap and said "I didn't know that they were recommending strings of [X] length for babies these days." I guess we don't have the same regard for them as she did.
We usually don't give Gibbie sippy cups, but sometimes he gets one when we're out. It's hot chocolate in there, if you were wondering.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Ukranian Easter Eggs

A few weeks ago, some of our family gathered at Oma's house to dye eggs for easter. These are called Pysanky, and they are traditional Ukranian Easter eggs. They look almost painted, but the process is actually just like batik-- you make designs in wax on the egg and dye the unwaxed shell, layering wax and colors. You can see here my eggs as well as the works-in-progress of our friend Lori.

The process is honestly rather tedious and can be rather infuriating, as eggs do break--but it is all the more beautiful for that--Lent is a season of patience and care. (plus it was great to talk and catch up while hunched over our eggs for hours on end!)

These are the tools of the trade. In the cup are kistkas. Each has a small metal funnel set through a wooden handle. To work an image on an egg, one scoops beeswax into the wide end of the cone, then heating the narrow end in the candle flame. As the wax melts, the kistka is drawn over the surface of the egg, leaving a trail of wax which hardens as it quickly cools. I'm not sure how much you can see in the above picture the varying thicknesses of line.

Ukranian eggs are usually bright vibrant colors, working from lightest to darkest. First is the color of the egg itself, then yellow, light green, dark green, red, etc... until all the colors are covered with black.

That's right; there's nothing pastel about this Easter! As wax and dye are layered on, the egg looks messy, clotted with globs of sometimes blackened wax, as you can see here in Mary's egg in progress. Underneath, however, the brilliant colors are preserved.

We tend to have illustrations of traditional Ukranian egg designs scattered over the table while we work, but I've noticed most of us (Mom and Diane excepted) just use these for ideas if at all, drawing freeform pictures. After an egg's design is completed, the artist actually holds it right in the candle flame to melt off the wax. The trick is not to singe the shell (or one's fingers!) or get the egg too hot. (They can explode!)

We're not Ukranian, but we've been making these eggs since I was a kid. The little ones were around, though we kept them well away from the work table! Gib loves to see his cousins (he had been begging to see 'Lyssa and Befany, and had lots of fun playing with his Cousin Nafan on the stairs) and we need excuses like this one to get together. Lent is the season before Easter. It is the last of winter before spring; and a time of self examination, of looking honestly at my own faults and wrongs; and of remembering Christ's love for me in light of these. The beauty is that looking at shadows more clearly shows light. Jesus' giving of himself shows his great love for me.

People think that Easter is about how Jesus died for us--it's not exactly. That's what Lent and Holy week (that's the week just before Easter) are about--the death of all in me that is not of God, of all my sinful self (my hatred, malice, injustices...) When Jesus died, all that in me died with him. But all this leads to Easter, the jubilation of life. For you see, His death was the end of Death, and then He came to Life. This is my greatest joy; Death turning into Life. Out of a ruin comes strong, beautiful life. Life vibrant and full, the breath of God in me. Ahh.
So, the eggs. I made the cross here glorious, in celebration of the life we have discovered in Christ. The other side is a hand with a heart. This is the Lenten side. The hands of Christ were written with love for me, as was written in Isaiah--See; I will not forget you; for I have carved you on the palm of my hand. I love that these are opposite sides of the same egg; for us every death leads to greater life. Death always turning into life.

Also an egg for Ezra; E on one side, a lovely red-cheeked babe on the other. Maybe a special egg for Gibbie will come next year. Being second, Ezra will need a few things just for him. And lastly, my rose egg. The thorns and blooms have long been a symbol of that same theme of sorrow turned to beauty.

May the brightest light shine into your deepest gloom.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Poor Sick Paul!

I'm sorry I don't have any pictures today; we've not been having the best of weeks. Paul stayed home from work. (! he never does this!) His cheeks are pink, he says his tummy hurts and he's achey all over, and he's been lying in bed all day. He isn't even reading. He had a little fever but seems to be getting better now. Let's hope so anyway, as this is one of our biggest weeks of the year. (It's Holy Week; that means lots of services he plays at, albeit less than usual for easter this year, due to the play. We're looking forward to the new sunrise service.)
Anyway, taking care of three boys is hard! I've been plying him with thin broth and tea and plain toast to entice him to eat. Please pray for a quick recovery.