Saturday, June 28, 2008

To Oma, in Haiti

I'm so sorry we've been so hard to get a hold of, our internet provider had an antennae ripped off by a certain baby we know, and we don't have service at our house right now! But, dearest Oma, we did get your messages, have passed them on, and are praying for you!
I don't remember what had happened to us when you left, but we have had a hard two weeks, and have especially missed you and Mary.
We love you dearly and are lifting you up to our loving Father. We are praying for dealing with the heat, for strength, energy, and safety, as well as relationships, and for fruitful work. We love love love you, and can't wait to have you back here with us. We'll talk lots more so soon. Maybe I'll even post again! Ezra prays for you at every meal.
love love love love, Libby

for anyone else who wants details about this great project in Haiti, I'm reprinting my mother's comments here from the comments section, written just the other day from rural Haiti, so you can join us in holding her in the light, especially on the journey through Port au Prince and home.
She is training Haitian teachers in a tiny village, which you can read a little more about through our friend Nic's blog, here:
Hello Libby and Paul and everyone, I finally found a way to get to you
through email. I sent you a message last night by commenting on your
blog, but you must not have checked it. You can reply to me at this
address. I would really enjoy hearing from you. Would you please call Dad
and forward this message on to Robert, Mary, and the Ringdals.
I am doing very well. I had a bad stomach ache for a while yesterday
morning and was really worried, but fortunately, it was a day off and I
could hang out and rest for the morning. By the time we had to leave
for Lougou to attend the graduation I was all better. The graduation
was very long; we were there from noon to about 8:00, with nothing to do
but watch and hang out. You know how I am at hanging out.
Today, we went to Lougou for only 3 1/2 hours of teaching. It was a
light day because everyone was tired from the graduation. The next three
days will be long; 9-4. The teacher seminar is going very well. They
really like the stuff we are showing them. The actual teaching isn't
hard, but the heat, rough roads, and lack of modern comforts is wearing.
I am tired at the end of the day and am sleeping well. Madeleine is
a very good cook and I am eating better than I ever do at home.
Haiti here in the south is very beautiful. It is very green and rural.
There are lots of patches of forest that might be something like the
original rain forest that used to cover Haiti. There are really nice
looking cows, goats, sheep, donkeys, horses, pigs, and chickens all over
the place. The people are nice and not sophisticated. They don't beg
or run after us shouting "blanc". They don't treat us with any
special respect. We're just some visitors. At the graduation, lots of
people asked me to take their photo. Then they liked looking at it on the
camera. I had lots of photo-ops that way.
Lougou is very remote. It is literally at the end of the road. The
Lougou people are looked down on by everybody else around. They used to
not have anything at all, barely clinging to life. Now they have a
school and it is THE best school around. I'm so happy to be here. Keep
praying for our health and safety. There is no violence here now, but we
could very easily fall off the mountain when we are driving to and
from Lougou. Nic is a very good driver and he is very careful, so don't
worry. Just pray.
Doug, read this message to house group. I love you all and am beginning
to miss you. It won't be long and I'll be home. Today is more than
halfway through the visit. Kiss and hug those grandkids for me. Tell
them Oma will be home pretty soon and she loves them.
Love, Myra, Mom, Oma

Monday, June 16, 2008

Name That Plant

At Purlieu, I went back and forth between the forest and my stack of guide books. We made a last minute stop at the big library on our way out of town, which cost us a parking ticket. It was worth it. I got a stack of field guides. They were invaluable in helping me learn more about our land and its inhabitants. I was amazed how many times I had to recheck my theory on a plant I'd found before I could correctly identify it.
None of these are uncommon plants at all, and I think of myself as pretty well-versed in the local forest for a city girl. This just shows how out of touch I am with the world around me; I've been coming to this land since I was a kid, and never noticed these plants, which are abundant on our land, until this trip. I had no idea what they were.
Looking them up was a fun little puzzle to solve, counting petals and looking in different sections of the books, smelling and tasting parts of the plant until I had found out who it was.
It's fascinating, learning not only the name, but how each little one works, how it spreads, what people have used and enjoyed them for.
Gibbie got so used to me dropping to the ground in amazement that he would spontaneously do it too--"look at this!" he would say, "it's a cerota." Nodding seriously, "It makes water in it's leaves." I love that he does this. He's thinking about how we interpret nature, and joining right in. Soon enough knowledge and experiences with the plants will catch up with desire to participate. I'll bet to him a lot of what I say sounds just crazy, and often he can't see a thing that's being pointed out to him, like the wild turkeys out the car window, or the skunk he just missed when walking with Papa in the garden.
What I really love is that this little person of but three years has already learned so much. Many different plants he can identify in various seasons, though they look quite different, and he has a lot of favorite little flowers and leaves he can find to nibble on.
Or, pointing out into the forest, "Did you see that? It's a deercat. Right there, in that tree." He also spotted the rare leafcat. "It eats leaves."
Notes on the plants: the two photos of the pink and white ones are not of the same flowers. The flower in the first photo, seems to grow just one flower each, and the stems and low leaves are remarkably soft, covered in downy fur. The second photo features similar flowers, but as you can see, there is a small cluster of them, and a pair of leaves with parallel veins.
The top flowers, the white and purple ones, do very well if transplanted into a garden, where in the loose, fertile soil they grow to giant versions of their forest selves.
The fourth photo, with the white-veined leaves, the leaves are rather thick, almost leathery. The last picture the drying up berries, are growing on a short, pretty tree. These also grow in the city. I guess the birds don't like them much, since they still have lots of berries now in the spring. I have so much to learn!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Look Close

Have you seen the inch worms?
Inching up the trees?

This little caterpillar has little sets of legs, in front and in back, and his middle humps up as he draws his back legs up to his front legs.

You can see the legs even better with a magnifying glass. (a great tool for a little one's expotition rucksack!)

Now is the time to find these little guys, if we keep our eyes open.
Paul found this one on a tree trunk.
Last week Gibbie found one in mid-air, suspended above our path from a silken, unseen thread.

One dropped in my lap during a recent picnic outing!

Some of them turn into lovely moths, others eat all the leaves from the quaking aspens. (I wonder if the aspens quake for fear of the tent worm!)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Pudgy Pies

Some people call it a tonka-toaster. We always called them pudgy pies, presumably because eating them in great quantities makes us pudgy, hobbits that we are. There! The secret's out! They can be savory or sweet, but the classic pudgy pie is filled with marshmallows and pie filling.
A good pudgy pie can only be made in a cast iron clam-shell cooker. Aluminum or steel will not work just as well. We've tried. We only have one pudgy pie maker, and don't know where to get another one. Maybe I shouldn't advertise!

Pudgy Pies
-butter two slices of soft bread. Whole wheat will work great, so long as it's soft.
-Lay a slice, butter side down on one half of the pudgy pie maker.
-Spoon on fillings.
Fruit is great. Depending on how gooey you want it, add sugar or brown sugar if it's fresh fruit rather than pie filling. Chunky jam will work if it's on hand. Maybe a dollop of butter or a marshmallow, one big or several mini mallows.
Other combos: Chocolate and marshmallows
or Chocolate and peanut butter
Peanut Butter and Bananas.
Chocolate and dried cherries, Dried fruits, nuts, cream cheeses, etc...
The fillings are quite personal.

Savory Pudgy Pies:
Eggs: it may be best to cook the eggs and meats or anything that really needs cooking, not just heating up, before assembling the pudgy pie, especially for pudgy pie newbies. Eggs of course like bacon, ham, cheese, sausage, broccolli, peppers, mushrooms, onions, though I doubt all the above would fit in a single pie!
Potatoes, gravies, meats, you get the picture.
So, we've put in the fillings; enough to fill the pie but hopefully not so much it oozes out all over the place, unless you're into blackened food.
-Now we put the other slice of bread on top of the pile, butter side up like a grilled cheese sandwich.
-Close the clam-shell cooker, clamp it shut
-and set it right on top of a nice bed of coals.
-Flip over every 15 seconds several times and check for doneness. We like our pudgy pies dark golden brown.
The art of the pudgy pie is in getting the insides melted and gooey while the crust is golden brown. The common failing is the filling being cool while the crust is blackened. This especially happens if the pudgy pie is cooked over hot flames instead of hot coals. Coals, I think, cook much better, but the inclination is to put it in the dancing flames. We wait to cook them until the fire has a nice bed of coals, and rearrange things a bit so there's a good place for roasting.
The most difficult part of pudgy pies is waiting until they cool off a bit before devouring them. We eat these at the cabin, where we're ravenous from hiking around all day, so it helps if they come as a dessert course, which also makes time for a nice fire full of glowing coals, but we like them so much they are often the main attraction. I usually burn my tongue on the first one. Watch out!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Mine to Give

As Gibbie is three years old now with Ezra almost two(!), and soaking up the world like sponges, becoming more and more themselves every day; as we encounter new ethical dilemmas to find some way to work through with them; as we chart our own course through this sometimes-weary world, we are thinking about education. About how we learn things, yea how we learned to learn. About love and how we love each other. About character, how it develops. About society and culture, how we participate in them, how we contribute and help to sustain, and when we withdraw from them. As we have watched good friends choose schools for their dear little ones and as we have spent a year trying out preschool, we have been thinking about those things that are ours to give our children, those things that are our responsibility to bequeath, and those things that are beyond us entirely. What must we let them choose themselves? Are there paths cannot or must not travel with them, even now? What can we give them to help them chart their course?
At first I thought, well, I want them to love reading, art, every book that I love, camping, lakes and poetry and rain. Going deeper, we want them to love people, to care for the land, to think hard, to feel deeply, to follow Jesus and to serve the poor.
But already, we have wished for them many things which they must choose themselves, with all their will, if they are to have them at all! Alas, we can't shape them like clay, they are not so much ours as that! More on this in another post.

At the same time, they need so much from us, if they are to have a fighting chance; more than we can give, small as we are. Each one needs so much love, such intimacy. To know by daily experience that we listen to their voice, that we look at them with love, that we are watching over them, to pick them up when they fall. We let them watch us forgiving and being forgiven, working through disappointments and anger and sorrow. They will see us pray and work and listen. Sing and make, fix and worship.
Then with, God's help, they will somehow, between Him and their own selves and us, learn and become truly themselves.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Mmmmouse Museum

At a coffee shop we like to go to, there was a tiny little display called "Mouse Museum".
Little folded pieces of cardstock displaying tiny paintings. As you can see in the photo, the mouse museum was patronized by cattoy mice.
Ezra had endless fun picking them up and rearranging them.

This would be such an easy little toy-game-art-project to make with things around the house.

Thursday, June 5, 2008


We're going to a place called
Cause Mary's there.
It's lots of fun there.
There's no toys there,
cause there's no kids,
but it's very pretty.
See? Look at all those
- Gabriel Isaiah Johnson

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Why don't we cut his hair?

He may spend most of his days looking like a tiny absent-minded professor, but on rainy days, or freshly out of the bath, I just can't get enough of these curls!
By the way, Ezra's word list now includes:
Read! Duck. Bird. Car. Boot. Shoe. Back! (this means to hit, as well as go back.) Water. Hot. Spoon. Again. Oma. Opa. Sock. Pants. Shirt. Off. On. Bye. Hi. Truck. Man.
Bonk. Pig. Dog. Nonny.
Guy. Pocket. Scoocher. (his little bike.) Gibbie. (whom he usually still calls Ezra for reasons we like to speculate upon.)
Evra. (Ezra) Poop. Ball. Down.
Guitar. Cake.
Certainly, these are not all legibly pronounced, and a stranger mightn't understand a single one of them.
He likes pointing out a picture on his shirt, practicing his newfound jumping skills, and putting things in his pocket.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Sleepy Bumble Bee

Out at the cabin, picking and smelling daffodils, we found a little sleeper inside of a flower.
Gibbie had picked the flower, so we put it in a cup on the picnic table. It had been nice and warm, and then we had a few days of rain; I think it was too cold for him. He stayed resting there for several chilly days, until it warmed up, and he woke and flew away.
Now Gibbie checks all the tulips for bees.
We've only got about five that produced flowers in our garden this year, due to squirrels and enthusiastic neighborhood children, but with each new flower, Gibbie asks, "Mama, why is there not a bee in this flower?"

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Barista Boy

Gibbie really knows his way around coffee shops. He has his favorites and list off most of the independents in St. Paul. He has his own regular drink (foam, aka a cappuccino minus the espresso). He does a better job of busing his own dishes than a lot of regulars I know. Sometimes he plays coffee shop at home and serves up pretend drinks. He can recognize a latte on sight.

Today he got some behind-the-bar with my best buddy and pro barista Pat. I was impressed that Pat could pour a good rosetta with Gibbie on his shoulders. I don't know if I could do that!