Archive for September, 2007

Illustrated Family Tree

Posted by julie on Sunday, 30 September 2007, 13:49

Dad’s family, displayed on the wall

When my Gramma Gertrude passed away nearly four years ago, I asked for these photos that hung on her bedroom wall. They’ve been on the plate rail in our dining room for two years, and, on Friday, I arranged them according to what branches they inhabit on my family tree.

The little smiling cherub on the bottom is my Dad, and, on viewer’s left is a toddler photo of Gramma Gertrude, complete with side curls and a crocheted sweater, pointing at something fascinating over the photographer’s shoulder. Her parents, George Fisher and Ethel Violet Pilch Fisher, or Nana, are on the left. Nana lived with Gramma when I was little, rocking in her chair in the kitchen at Gramma’s gorgeous house on School Street, and she passed away when I was eight.

Above Nana, going clockwise, are George Fisher’s parents, Grandpa & Grandma Fisher, as Gramma Gertrude’s note says, leaning on a rather ornate column. Her name was Anna, and I’ll defer to Dad and Uncle John to fill in his name. Clockwise and up a bit are Nana’s parents, Robert Owen Pilch and Mary Ann Monement Pilch, rocking on the porch. Mary Ann looks exactly like her daughter would when I knew her years later. I believe Mary Ann was blind, and I think my Dad told me he remembers being in her kitchen as she was cooking and singing.

10/7: Regarding Grandpa & Grandma Fisher, from Dad: “My grandfather Fisher’s father was named Johannes Fischer—a Swiss immigrant. He and Anna (who was German) lived in Hermann, Missouri—a German-speaking community on the Missouri River, founded by Socialists in the 1840′s—It is now famous as a wine-growing tourist destination. Johannes lost an eye in the Civil War—he fought on the Union side–Missouri was about 50/50 in the war. Grandpa Fisher dropped the “c” during the First World War—there was strong anti-German prejudice at the time.”

On viewer’s right of my agreeable little Dad, who has a little curl “right in the middle of [his] forehead,” are his father, John Alexander Polhemus, with his parents, Julia Hanna Polhemus and George Warren Polhemus. Moving counter- clockwise, George’s parents are above him and to the right; they are Mathias Van Dyke Polhemus and Eliza Warren Polhemus. Up and to the left are Julia’s parents in the separate photographs, John A. Hanna with the astonishing moustache and his wife, Ada Preston Hanna. John Hanna was a New York assemblyman and head of Dutchess County’s Republican Party.

Okay, we’re ready for photos of the ancestors of our three other parents. I’ve thrown down the gauntlet. I’ll find some wall space.

Happy Birthday, Gramma.

Something Gramma Mia taught Sylvan last week

Posted by jonesey on Thursday, 27 September 2007, 21:09

While Julie and I were in Alaska, Gramma taught Sylvan the proper way to say goodnight. Or so I had heard. I wanted to find out for myself.

So tonight, after we brushed our teeth, had some cow milk, and read a truck book, I walked to the door, closed it most of the way, and said “Good night, lovey-dovey.” Just like Gramma Mia.

Sylvan looked right at me and said “Good night, lovey-dovey Gramma.” And blew me a kiss.

Good job, Gramma.

The Meme

Posted by julie on Wednesday, 26 September 2007, 1:26

So, there’s this 8 Things Meme traveling around the blogosphere — a lower-stakes chain letter, in essence, with no dismemberment or bankruptcy as a consequence of inaction. Eric brought it to my attention, and, since then, I’ve seen it on quite a few blogs. I don’t think I’ll be tagged by anyone anytime soon, since, well, I think it’s just my immediate family that reads my detailed musings about my toddler, and none of you have a blog that I know about. So I’m going to tell you about myself, untagged though I may be.

  1. Although Lara Croft: Tomb Raider was perhaps the worst movie I’ve ever seen — the only movie I remember thinking I should just walk out of — I’ve gotta admit that being called “ABSOLUTELY the most living version of Lara Croft I know” feels like a croissant fresh from the oven — warm, yummy, and just a little flaky (Thanks, Mac!). Yeah, no double-Ds or mile-long legs here, but Lara is smart, strong, and sexy, everything I’ve always wanted to be in a pistol-packin’ video game heroine.
  2. I started my first quilt in 1992. My goal was to have it finished by 1997. I designed it and bought fabric, knowing absolutely nothing about quilting. I still know nothing about quilting. I cut, pieced, and hand sewed maybe nine squares for that quilt in the attic of Mizpah Springs Hut; those squares have seen many years of dusty closets. The dark green and dark purple fabrics are great, and I’ll have nine nice pillows someday. As for my wedding quilt, I just gave all of the squares to Aunt Sheila, who offered to put them together for me (Hallelujah!). She said to Mom, “Julie does know that it might take me a while, right?” I got married in 2001; you don’t know “a while” until you come talk to me and my amazing powers of procrastination. I have so many crafts and projects running around in my head (and in my closet, my garage, on my drawing table . . . ).
  3. I’ve never read Catcher in the Rye, Don Quixote, The Jungle, Moby Dick, any of Mark Twain’s novels, anything by Leo Tolstoy, Edith Wharton, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Fyodor Dostoevsky, James Joyce, or, undoubtedly, many other authors who’ve written classic works of literature. That’s not to mention the countless books in the environmental canon I’ve still to read: Arctic Dreams, each and every sentence of Walden and A Sand County Almanac, anything by E.O. Wilson, David Quammen, Peter Singer, Al Gore, David Suzuki, Jared Diamond, Rick Bass, or Robert Michael Pyle, for the short list. Upon re-reading these lists, I’m surprised rogue lightning hasn’t struck me down. Educated? Who am I fooling?
  4. I have run three marathons — Marine Corps, Big Sur, and Avenue of the Giants — all embarrassingly slowly. Of course, that was before I was bionic. I’ll run a sub-four hour marathon in this lifetime, but I’ll never qualify for Boston.
  5. I’ve visited 45 of our 50 states. I still have Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Michigan to go. Just picked up Alaska this month! Our friend, Amy, made it to all 50 some time in the last couple of years. I’ve also visited twelve countries: Canada, Mexico, England, Ireland, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Portugal, Thailand, Australia, and New Zealand. That leaves just 181 for me to visit. Chile, Peru, Spain, Scotland, all of Scandinavia, and Tanzania, you’re next! And I’ll be 77 by that time.
  6. While I think that parenting is the most important job I’ll ever do, I’m still embarrassed to say “I’m a Mom” when I’m asked what I do.
  7. I have wanted to get a Ph.D. in Geography with a paleoecology focus since 1998. I don’t want to be a professor, so what am I going to do with a Geography Ph.D.?
  8. I’ve never really understood the appeal of live music, which is why I don’t go to many concerts. Oh, I’ll buy tickets for Ani or the Indigo Girls if they’re in town. I also happen to be a big fan of the Clumsy Lovers, I’ll follow Laura Kemp around like a puppy, and I’ll even try a new band like the Weepies if they’re recommended. But, in general, it just seems so expensive and temporary to see a concert when I could buy the CD and listen to it again and again and again and again.

The Jerk*

Posted by julie on Monday, 24 September 2007, 16:48

I’ve felt a smidgeon of the shock and latent terror that most Dads must feel when their 12-year-old girls dress up for a dance and, all of a sudden, they look like women. I have seen the future, and he is a little boy. When Chris and I left for Alaska under three weeks ago, I knew Sylvan would handle it just fine — and that my generous, masochistic Mom would, too. And they did; they went to the beach, dug in the sand, picked and dried fruit, read, worked in the yard, danced, and just enjoyed each other. Suddenly, though, Sylvan has passed through the portal from babydom to childhood, and, if Chris and I were to go to Alaska tomorrow, life might be a lot more challenging for those left in Eugene.

This process started when Sylvan and Gramma Mia were together. Sylvan received some “pretty great” (“How are you, Sylvan?” “I’m pretty great.”) toys when we were gone, including — Oh my platypus! — trucks, trucks, and more trucks! Sylvan has never had a problem sharing before, perhaps because he didn’t really have any toys he felt strongly about (Well, you ungrateful child. That’s the last Pringles can I’m giving you.). Now, he does have toys he really likes, and he’s finding it challenging to allow others to play with those little morsels of plastic yumminess. But I don’t think that’s the whole explanation.

He’s reached the lovey stage, that Linus’s blanket age when it’s quite comforting to have Courtney’s cow pillow stashed in your cubby at school. Yesterday, this new interest, um, obsession with objects manifested itself in some very sad ways. At a barbeque, Sylvan picked up a lovely, Delft-looking ceramic ball from an outdoor flowerpot. Its 4-inch diameter proved too large and slippery for little hands, and it slipped onto the concrete and smashed. Sylvan sobbed instantly, almost before the ball hit the ground: “Put [sob] the ball [sob] back to [sob] gether!” His big birdie-perch bottom lip is enough to make me want to cry.

After we’d gotten off the GREEN BUS (yippee!) on the way home, a college student gave Sylvan a red balloon that Sylvan had admired from afar. Chris tied the balloon to Sylvan’s wrist with a slip knot, and Sylvan proceeded to pummel it like a punching bag; but, remarkably, it stayed tied to his wrist. Then, as we walked through the university in the evening’s streetlights, the string and the balloon decided to simply part ways, and the red balloon floated up into the dark sky as Sylvan was left with a red string dangling from his wrist. Oh, no. Chris tried to explain that the balloon was now free. Real tears just streamed down Sylvan’s cheeks: “I [sob] need [sob] red [sob] boon.”

The trauma of the day’s events woke Sylvan four times between 10:45 p.m. and 12:30 a.m. Recently, when Sylvan wakes up at night, he’s just asked for Mommy or Daddy or for cow milk, no crying necessary. But, last night, he sobbed, asking for his giraffe, his yellow balloon (still in the house from the Eugene Celebration), the red barn, his soft pillow, the lion book. His bed ended up looking like Leta’s. Then, this morning, he asked Chris to take down an armload of stuff to breakfast: “All I need is this pillow. And this truck. And this lamp. That’s all I need.”

*The movie, Silly, not my son.

Last Day in Alaska

Posted by julie on Sunday, 23 September 2007, 22:09

Chris and I have been home from Alaska for a little over a week, so I’m sharing some photos of our last full day in Alaska, which was brilliantly crisp and windy (we’ll slowly work backwards and tell you about the rest of our trip). “Termination dust” fell on the tops of the mountains surrounding Anchorage the day before we left, cloaking them in winter white and reminding us that Alaska does, indeed, close on September 15. We’re goin’, we’re goin’; no need to push.

On Friday, September 14, we woke up at Tenderfoot Creek Campground, across Summit Lake from the highway that runs between Anchorage and Seward. We rarely managed to camp away from highway noise in Alaska, ironically enough. The sun rose behind us, a bald eagle kept his eye on the lake from a nearby spruce tree, and the hills across the lake gained color from the top down, rising from behind the lake mist swirling in the warm air.
From Tenderfoot Creek, southwest across Summit Lake

From Tenderfoot Creek, northwest across Summit Lake

We drove north to Anchorage, stopping along Turnagain Arm to enjoy the sun and scan the water for beluga whales. William Bligh, Captain Cook’s Sailing Captain, was searching for the Northwest Passage when he reached the upstream end of Turnagain Arm, and so had to turn [around] again.

Sunny Turnagain Arm

We spent the afternoon returning unused stove fuel and water treatment to REI (Can I ask what other store would take back a canister of fuel and a bottle of chlorine? To my response of “Really? You’ll take it back? We haven’t used them, but . . . ,” the sales associate grinned and asked, “Are you lying?”), seeing 3:10 to Yuma (okay movie, good acting), visiting with a friend Chris hasn’t seen in twenty years (How’s that possible? I’ll let him tell you about that one.), and getting a yummy takeout salad that we learned, after we put it on the conveyor to go through Security at the Anchorage airport, came with a 6-ounce side of dressing. The very understanding TSA agent allowed me to go back out through Security, dress the salad (with a bit less than the six ounces), and come back through.

Good-bye, Alaska. You were lovely, autumnal, and brimming with wildlife. But I do love my sunlight and my bike-able city.

Aw, shucks

Posted by julie on Friday, 21 September 2007, 14:38

Gramma Mia and Sylvan sat on the back step and shucked corn last Tuesday evening. Sylvan helped by pulling off the cornsilk. And, in honor of his Aunt Jenny, who used to do just this, he dug right into the raw corn. Yummy! Last night, when I shucked with him, he ate an entire ear of corn, raw, while I shucked the rest.

Gramma Mia and Sylvan pose while shucking corn on the back step

Sylvan thinks highly of shucking — or of the final product

Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’

Posted by julie on Tuesday, 18 September 2007, 16:09

What are YOU lookin’ at?

Julie and the Durango

Much to the surprise of some of our family, Chris and I chose to rent an SUV (what?!) — and they don’t make hybrids in Alaska — while we traveled north of the 60th parallel. And, boy, let me tell you, it was the right decision. Since Chris and I are — how do you say? — CHEAP, staying inside just doesn’t cross our minds. When you travel, you sleep in a tent. Right. That works well most of the time. When it’s pouring along the gravel Denali highway, and sleeping in a tent would mean setting up your flimsy nylon sack in a mud puddle while the hunters in their 25-foot motorhomes watch Dock Dogs as they put away their Sloppy Joes, it feels good to nestle into a dry sleeping bag in the Durango and fall asleep reading John McPhee. I never thought I’d come to appreciate my 18 MPG vehicle so much.

And, in full disclosure, we did actually sleep in a bed one night. Seward, Alaska has a nice, little hostel, the Moby Dick, across the street from an even nicer B&B, Ballaine House. Unfortunately, the Bed and Breakfast’s five rooms were already taken for the night. Some night, Chris and I will stay in a B&B. We’re only 34, after all. We just became adults, what, yesterday? Are you even allowed to spend the night in a B&B before you’re 35?

Cute Baby in Anchorage REI

Posted by julie on Monday, 17 September 2007, 11:39

Look who I found in the Anchorage REI!

Sylvan made it to Anchorage, too!