Friday, January 31, 2014

we are very brave...tracking the BBW

a post, in which I learn to do screen shots

We were at breakfast.  Well, Elliott and I were in the kitchen together while he took those last few bites of his oatmeal that I was forcing on him, and Julia and Nicholas were already upstairs brushing their teeth.  I walked over to the back door to let our two labradors in, both of them wagging their tails and waiting for me to let them inside and off the frozen tundra that is our backyard currently.  As I reached for the doorknob, Elliott said it.  Actually, shouted it.


It took me a few moments to register, jumbled thoughts running through my head, trying to make sense of his word based on what I could see.  No, dogs, silly.  Or woof doesn't have an L in it, love.  Or yes, please wolf that oatmeal down and stop complaining about it, my dear.  

But then I turned my head and looked over at Elliott and beyond him to where he was pointing.  And saw it.  A streak of grayish whitish reddish long and shaggy fur making a beeline from the apple orchard right up against the busy street, cars whizzing past during their early morning commute, and straight back to the woods on the bank of our river.  This flying fur ran into the woods, over our brush pile, and disappeared.

This is all I saw.  What I noticed.  Nothing more.  I stared after it.  And then thought of two things:  our dogs, and our chickens.

I ran back to the door and let our domesticated and protective -- but honestly useless in an emergency -- dogs inside.  And then I threw on my parka and boots and headed out the back door.

It was freeeezing out there.  And quiet, traces of the sunrise's colors still streaking the sky.  I headed toward the coop.  No squawking and rustling coming from there, as I had heard at other times when predators had gotten in.  The frigid temperatures had frozen the snow and ice hard and the crunching beneath my boots was loud and made me quite clumsy.  I made it to the coop.  Our chickens were fine and there was no sign of predator visits.

Then I turned toward the woods to reexamine the spot where I had seen this flash of wild fur disappear.  And realized something.  I was standing outside.  A long walk from the house.  Elliott looking frantic in the window up there, but definitely not following me out.  In the vicinity of some kind of wild canine.

I high tailed it back to the house.

I asked Elliott, realizing that in the seconds in which I had seen the creature, I had focused in on its fur -- and so I did not have enough information to identify it.

What made you think it was a wolf?  I asked.

Now, I hate to brag, and apparently there has long been some concern that I might have a tendency to do so,

but, I have to tell you now what Elliott said next.

Because it looked exaaaaaaactly like the wolf in Carmine.

Carmine: A Little More Red, by Melissa Sweet  Such a good boy.

And then after telling Nicholas and Julia about what had happened, we did what all 2014 urban dwellers do who have just had an unmistakably authentic Little House on the Prairie moment.  We brushed our teeth, put on our parkas, gathered up our backpacks, and got ourselves into our Subaru and headed to school.  The only change in our routine was that we decided that the kids should not, as they usually do, head out to the car before I joined them.  So we went out together, standing for a bit on the patio, looking off into the woods as though we might still see it.  Nicholas asked Elliott to describe what he had seen.  And then, they kicked it Pa Ingals style, throwing on his coveralls over his pjs, running outside in the middle of the night, grabbing the shot gun from above the door as he went.  Stay here he says to his girls, Ma bolting the door behind him.

We headed to school, running flashcards and last minute scheduling issues as we did so.

Julia asked if we could tell Daddy.  I handed them my cell phone in the back seat (just like they used to do on the prairie) and they texted this:

Ma's been teaching emojis again.  Writing them in the frost on the glass window panes Pa bought for her.

Jonathan's response was to call animal control.  Apparently, there is no animal control on Thursdays in the City of Portland.  Wild canines run amok on Thursdays.  Put it in your calendars.

So instead, he was patched through to the police.  After a man listened to his tale of woe, it was suggested that Jonathan either: 1) buy a big trap, 2) call again when the wild canine was actually still in the yard (dare I ask who would show up if animal control is not on duty?) or 3) call Mr. Spark.  Mr. Spark is the gentleman who comes to kids' birthday parties.  And lets children touch and hold the cute furry creatures he rescues from homeowners' chimneys.  I pictured images of five year old children in birthday hats snuggling with the Big Bad Wolf (BBW), and shut that image down.

We dropped Nicholas at middle school, parked and walked into Julia and Elliott's school building.  I gave Julia a kiss, adjusted her hopefully lice-deterring tight pony tail ('tis the season to be licey), and headed into Elliott's class.

He walked straight up to his teacher and announced: we saw a wolf this morning.

Now bless this gifted woman, she looked at him, gave him a shocked expression, and said, do you want to put your name on the board so you can share this with our class today?

Now, lest you think I am making this up all up, which I began to think I was, especially since I was given some pinched lip looks by the grownups in hearing range when Elliott made his announcement, please know this.  I have proof.

Elliott and I quietly conferred before I left.  Where did you see it?  I asked him.

It was running in the apple trees.

Okay.  Kiss on the head.  And I was off.

Once home, I headed off to the apple trees.  I felt like Kate on Lost, except I was in my Bogs and parka instead of a tank top while sweating gorgeously and running through a tropical rainforest after a black smokey metaphorical nebulousness.

(not me)

By the way, did you know she was hiding some serious ears under that flawlessly tousled, despite her lack of hair products on her not so deserted island, mane of hair?

I digress.  I poked around our orchard for a bit, thinking that perhaps I had made it all up.  Maybe this was like the day that the kids and I had returned home from guitar lessons and I had rounded the corner from the barn and looked into the garden.  And had seen a phoenix!

Once I got a closer look, it was actually clearly not a phoenix, but for a few moments there, all of us, fresh off a Harry Potter movie marathon the previous weekend?  We were sure it was.

Okay, so it was actually what I now believe to be a golden eagle who had swooped down to try to snatch Louise, our intrepid and plus sized model chicken, and the eagle had not been able to lift her off the ground because of her heft.  

So maybe this illusion is what had happened this morning, too.  I am, after all, on a bit of a fairy tale kick here.  

But, no.  I found the tracks.  Here they come into the orchard, straight after crossing the street.

They followed a pattern:  two in front of each other, then a long space, then two more in a line pattern.

They were this big.

And they led down the backyard and into the woods.

Yes, I did.  I did indeed return to the house and fetch the yardstick from its nail on the basement door.  Miraculously, for once, it was actually hanging on its proper hook.

This span makes me think that the creature was just as big as I thought it was.

I returned to the house.  To do some research.  I stood in the kitchen.  Glanced at my laptop.  And headed upstairs to Elliott's room.  Because all things animal make their way to his room.

I fetched these books:

And perused them for information.

And then, and only then, did I sit down at my laptop.

The first thing I read was this.

I found this website to be very informative:

The kids came home later and wanted to see the tracks.  They say this was a pacer gait.  Incidentally, being prepared to skate looks a lot like being prepared to hunt for the BBW.

And so I have decided.  Given that I apparently become fur centric in emergencies and therefore have very little information about the shape of snout, ears, and legs.  That I must return to that information which I trust most of all.

 Among this collection of hybrid animals -- the dreaded Broccolion for example -- it became clear I had most definitely seen a coyowolf.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

this is you

Yesterday I arrived at a parents' meeting right after dropping Elliott off in his classroom.  I get to stay with him for a bit each morning and we usually do some artwork together.  The result is that I often leave with some papers in my hands.  Take this home with you, he tells me.  Keep it safe until I get home.  And I do.

I walked into the meeting, the room filled with people, most of whom have children older than Elliott, with this paper in my hand, not really realizing I was still holding it.  I sat down next to another mother, and settled myself, turning my hand toward me and registering that there was something in it.  The other mother reacted, Aw! she said.  I remember those days.  You are so lucky to still be in them.

I looked down at the picture.  Of a bear that Elliott had drawn moments before.  He and I sitting in tiny chairs at a low table.  Speaking quietly to each other while his classmates arrived.  Watching each child enter school in his or her own way, some excited and bounding off, some sticking close to their parents.  A chime announcing that it is time for us to say goodbye.  Elliott snuggling in for a hug before I leave.  I can still feel his soft baby hair against my lips from when I kissed him goodbye.  I do not linger too long after this hug.  Because saying goodbye to me each morning is hard for him recently.  I can move through all these moments and sensations over and over again, whenever I look at the pictures he sends home with me.

Yes, I am, I say to this woman. Knowing that before long I will be her, looking at some other mother, a younger than me mother, with the awareness that she does not know just how soon she will be me, a mother that is very easily said goodbye to.

I've been looking so long at these pictures of you 
That I almost believe that they're real
I've been living so long with my pictures of you
That I almost believe that the pictures are all I can feel

The Cure - Pictures Of You

Ok.  So I tripped you up there a little bit didn't I?  I started with a child's picture and then I swung a hard right into a Robert Smith song.  That's right.  I am a complicated woman.

I have three large plastic bins that I keep up in the attic, tucked up against the large brick chimney that passes through the attic on its way to the roof.  I have them in order of our children's age from left to right, labeled Nicholas, Julia, and Elliott.  In each bin is the artwork and school work that I have saved for each of them.  I am forcing myself to select carefully because I know that really these precious pieces of art only have value to each child and to me.  And eventually, given how I have felt when my mother has given me bins of my old artwork -- faded, broken, decomposing, and mildewy -- they will probably only have value to me, their mother.

I have needed to come up with pictures of myself for a couple of projects lately.  And I have not been able to do so.  Apparently I am usually on the other side of the camera.  Or I move quietly out of the picture when someone is taking one of the kids.  I must admit I don't really like myself in pictures.  I know that is vain, but there it is.  I imagine myself looking different.  And I like my imagined self better than the real me.

This focus on yourself.  It is unsettling and uncomfortable for me.  And yet, the question I ask myself lately, perhaps not in words, but just in the way I interpret every moment, is who am I?  There are a lot of answers.  A lot of ways I could depict myself.

In kindergarten, each of our kids made self portraits each month.  And at the end of the year, their lovely teachers bound up the portraits and sent home a booklet.

And so we have pictures of each of them, evolving across the kindergarten year, those sweet faces going from chubby and round to lengthening and maturing, the kindergarten dental drama playing itself out in gaps and spaces and sometimes teeth that are jagged and terrifying, as though there should be spittle dripping off them they are so huge.  Their drawings also demonstrate a year of growth in their artistic representational skills as well.

Depending on what they are studying at the time, and what mediums they are exploring with their art teacher, I have portraits that are drawn, collaged, and painted as well as portraits in which they stand in the snow (because it was drawn during the winter) or portraits in which they have taken an imaginary trip to the country they are studying for their Global Focus week.  Which led to one very funny and confuzzled self portrait of Julia in which she was in a desert stroking a Moroccan camel in her parka while the snow fell around her.  And the polar bear that slipped in from the Arctic Studies unit immediately preceding the quick turn around to the Sahara dessert, sipping from the oasis in the background, was just as confused.

But this habit of portraiture.  It starts very young doesn't it?  But what's kind of strange to me is that my children only seem to draw themselves when asked or during certain stages, short lived and dicey, when they are having a development.  What they are more likely to draw when they sit down with a piece of paper and some pencils is a creature, or a place, or each other.  Much more likely to draw a this is you, than a this is me.  And then these pictures of others are gifted away.

One of my favorite early pieces of art work is Julia's.  She drew it one day while I was not looking, grabbing the cardstock backing of a pad of paper.  It is of Elliott, who at the time was a baby.  And she wrote a backwards E for Elliott.  And gave it to him, being held and jiggled in my lap.  I quickly tucked it away, as what Elliott really wanted to do with that picture was eat it.

These gifts of this is you.  I love them so.  Both because they show me how they see each other and also because, in some ways, no matter how young the artist?  They get it just right.

I struggle with this picture a bit. I am not sure whether it should go in Julia's box, because it is her artwork.  Or in Elliott's.  Because it is of him and gifted to him.  And back when he was a slobbering happy bald headed big eyed baby?  He looked just like this.  This is better than any other actual picture I have of him.  So maybe it goes in a bin for me.

And then a few years later, I started being gifted pictures of us as a family.  I long ago gave up trying to get a good picture of all five of us looking normal for our annual holiday card.  And then, I gave up trying to get one of all three children looking normal all at the same time.  And then I gave up on trying to get them looking normal at all, so we went with a collage format and put a whole bunch of pictures on the card hoping that in general, if you looked at all of the pictures, people who had not seen our children in a long time, or ever, would get the vague idea of what they looked like, and hopefully that they were human children.

My kids drew better pictures then than I was ever able to take with my camera.  This is us.

Julia, drawn at preschool, on a day that she was a missing home a bit
apparently Nicholas was in a ninja phase

Elliott, that same day, 
seeing Julia's drawing and not wanting to be left out, 
throwing in careful renderings of our belly buttons to make it uniquely his.

Nicholas, age 10, he and I at the chicken coop for my Mother's Day card

They are some of our best family pictures.  Far better than most of the ones backed up in my Photobucket account.

Now, with the kids older, I find the piles that I sort and lay out on our dresser to take upstairs to their bins are quite uneven.  Elliott still produces art work like the young child that he is, or like a beaver makes woodchips.  And Nicholas' pile is small.  The projects are long term, more carefully done, and therefore there are few.  And there is a good amount of written work going into his bin now instead of wacky masking tape and glue concoctions of things from the recycling bin that were so common years before.

And yet, the kids are still gifting each other their this is you's.

Elliott, of me, in small format

Julia has currently returned to self portraits here at home.  She is trying to get her hair just right.  She can't find a marker that is the right color, her hair a mass of browns and blondes and highlights and waves.  She brings each attempt to me, to see what I think.  What I notice is the eyes.  So carefully drawn.  More realistic.  Not round circles with a dot in the middle.  Shaped and therefore older looking.  I am not sure what has caused her to turn back from the you to the me.  I am sure there is a reason.  I just don't know what it is yet.

Julia, hair exercises

And so, I have been given my fair share of this is you's lately, especially from Elliott.  These pictures of me?  I love them.  This is what my children see.  Or at least what they can draw of what they see.  I am often waving to them as I either say goodbye, or greet them as they return to me out the door of their school.

Elliott brought this picture in to me in the kitchen last night as I was cooking dinner.  There was a lot going on up there in my head as I stirred the risotto and helped Nicholas solve for x.  

Here Mommy, he said.  This is you.

I stepped back and looked at this me.  His me.  A me that is there for him, even when I am not.  A me he can draw when I am not in the room with him.  A me that he knows, even when I am not sure I do.

I like this me.

Sunday, January 26, 2014


Last Wednesday at Sophomore Beekeeping Class, my teacher, Geoff, threw out the word bivouac.  Okay, so I wrote bibwhack in my notes.  And came home and looked it up.  Because I had no idea what he was talking about.  I read the definition offered on Urban Dictionary:

So, Jonathan's Civil War knowledge led to a much more likely interpretation of my notes and therefore a much more likely definition, on a decidedly more reputable site, Merriam-Webster:

Since we were, in fact, talking about swarming at the time, I will go back and adjust my notes.

Friday, January 24, 2014

full grown people

A few months ago, I happened upon Jennifer Niesslein's web magazine, Full Grown People.  It was like finding an old friend, in a way.  I had missed her writing and editing since she and Stephanie Wilkinson had sold their magazine, Brain, Child.

I read through the information on the website, learned about what was new for this woman, who I have never met but who had been a voice in my head for years as I devoured every issue of her former magazine, as a parent of three very young children.

And I felt like this, her new adventure, was again following and growing along next to me.  Speaking to me.  Here I am.  Older.  Parenting older children.  Adjusting.  And definitely still very awkward.

When I found Full Grown People, I did two things.  I sent a link to my very good friend (an actual, real world friend).  This person is my former Brain, Child friend, she and I swapping back and forth issues between us for years, whispering to each other about articles while our sons played in warm soapy water in her kitchen sink and we furtively drank tea.  Or emailing late at night, a sick child asleep on our chest and our right hand jabbing out...did you read this one?  Must discuss.

And the other thing I did was sit down and start writing.

This is all to say that the essay I wrote after finding Full Grown People is featured there today.  I am quite delighted.  Take a look, here, if you have a minute.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

keeping, sustainably

I am back in school.  Every Wednesday night for the next five weeks I am attending a Sophomore Beekeeping class at the Honey Exchange.

Last year, around this time, I attended a Beginning Beekeeping class there with the same teacher, Geoff.  And a lot has happened since then in my small beeyard.  And this winter's class is intended for those of us with one year of beekeeping under teach us about what comes next, with a focus on small backyard beekeeping that is sustainable.

This class is helping me focus on the coming spring and summer and is just what I need during the polar vortex that was visiting...

then went away for a full on foggy thaw, warm air meeting up with cold snow...

and then the return of the dreaded polar vortex.

We had, this past week or so, what is called the January thaw.

I had a note about it in my bee school binder from last year:
Put the candy board in the hive during the January thaw.  
Well, there it is.  I wrote that back when I had no idea what this meant.  I also really had no idea, despite my fascination with them, what to do with the information about how to prevent a swarm (I then had one), how to mark a queen (that's what mentors are for), and when told that I would need to make a sugar syrup solution of 2:1, I never wrote down whether this was two parts sugar to one part water or vice versa.  As I look back at my notes from last year's course, I am reminded to be patient with some of the homework issues, mistakes made copying information, or even not writing down information that Nicholas makes for his own homework.

But during the thaw last week, we had several sunny days that were warm, and on alternating days, I saw bees out from each of our two hives.  I remembered that I was supposed to be waiting for one of these warm January thaw days to quickly undo the strap, lift the outer cover off, and deftly slide in a candy board, should I determine that my bees might be low on honey reserves.

So one afternoon last week, when the kids were at school, I headed out there mid day, when I thought it would be warmest and therefore least likely to chill the bees.  It was very quiet down there, as it has been all winter long.  I had thrown my veil on, tucking the bottom edge of it into the collar of my parka.  At first, I was going to go barehanded, but I decided last minute to throw on some dish gloves I have been using for this bee tending of late since my pricey propolis encrusted leather beekeeping gloves began attracting the angry attention of guard bees every time I approached the hive.  But, I did not, I admit, go through the process again of removing my parka and putting the gloves on under the parka so the wrists were sealed.

I undid the straps, opened the inner cover and remembered, by seeing it lying there, the insulation board I had put in the hives as well.  I pulled that off and came upon a large and buzzing and completely lively cluster of bees, between the inner cover and the insulating board, likely high in the hive to enjoy the warmth there from the sun and taking their turns walking down the groove in the insulating board to the upper entrance, so they could take their cleansing flights on this warm and sunny day.

I was so pleased to see them so plentiful and active.  And then I realized I was in a bit of trouble here. I had on a veil.  I had on gloves that were gapping open at my wrists where the close fitting gloves met my velcro parka cuffs.  And I had no tools, no smoker, not even a bee brush.  I was going to need to get that cluster of bees down into the hive in order to remove the inner cover and replace it with the one that I had with candy board poured into it.
Every time you go to inspect your hive, make sure you have your veil, your hive tool, and your smoker.  If you don't have one of these things, turn around and go home.
I thought about it for a minute.  Given what I read about Amanda Soule's disastrous bee experience, you would think I would have thought this through better.  I considered closing it up and trying again later, properly prepared, thought about the chimney cleaners coming at any moment, and how the weather was supposed to turn bad again the next day with snow, and decided to plow forward.

What ensued was a perfect lesson in what not to do, and how to behave like a truly inexperienced beekeeper.  I attempted to guide the bees down and into the hive.  They would not go.  I lifted in the inner cover and tried to thump them down into the hive.  They took to the air and began buzzing around me.  In a last ditched effort, attempting to remain calm, I took my gloved hand and brushed the hundreds of bees that remained on the inner cover off and into the top hive box.

That's when I simultaneously watched three bees slip into the space between my glove and my parka cuff.  And noticed that one of the bees buzzing in my face?  Was not separated from my face by the veil.  It was inside the veil.  I looked down at my parka.  Yup.  Covered in bees.  Like the Queen of the Sun cover image.

Okay, not really.  But it felt like it there for a moment.

I stepped out of the beeyard and away from the hive and stood still, having watched Bonnie doing this a few times when barearmed, barefooted, and barehanded, she attracted the attention of my hives' guard bees.  I watched her last summer from behind my full upper body veil, long armed gloves tucked in at the wrists, long pants tucked into rain boots and shirt tucked into pants.  I squinted at her out through the mesh of my veil.  But now, parka-ed and inadequately tucked in in several vital regions, I thought the farther away from the hives I got, the more likely the bees would kindly fly back and warm themselves.  Nope.

They seemed to be snuggling in.  Almost as though they were attracted to my warmth.  Then  I decided I needed to deal with the bee in my bonnet, so to speak.  I did not want to kill her, so I started to remove my veil, flicked off a few bees I noticed milling about my wrists and got half way out of the veil when I realized all the bees buzzing about me were now landing on my exposed head.  I smooshed the bee in the veil between my fingers and as I did, I remembered that bees are attracted venom, more likely to sting where they detect bee venom.  Bee venom along with other bee materials were now on my gloves.

I started walking fast toward the house.  Think Pig Pen from peanuts, a swirl of buzzing angry winter bees in a halo around me.

I again stood outside the door of the house and started to remove things.  The veil, not well tucked, held out from the back of my neck by my parka's hood.  My gloves.  My parka.  And I then realized that these thing removed, there was still a lot of movement around me and on me.  I started taking the bees off my arms.  And from my hair, pinching gently a few crawling on the back of my neck.  Thinking I was now free, I ran inside as guard bees began to buzz directly toward me.  I slammed the door.  And realized I could still hear buzzing.  From my hair.  I ran back outside and tipped my head upside down and shook my hair hard.  More angry bees took to the air.  I ran back inside.  Still a quiet buzz, from a lonely bee that was lodged deep in the hair at the nape of my neck.  I took it out and watched it fly off.  Inside the house.  I am imagining a feral colony of bees developing in the beehive oven of the fireplace.  Awesome.

And you know?  I did not get stung.  Not once.

That night, adrenalin still high from that experience and chagrinned by my foibles, I headed to my County Bee Club's monthly meeting.  I sat in the back row.  And listened to the experienced beekeepers there answer some questions and give a bit of advice.

One person there said:
Wait until it is 30 degrees out.  So it is warm enough that you won't chill them to death, but not warm enough that they are flying.  And that's when you can do a quick inspection or put in a candy board.

This same person told the story of how she had unknowingly transported three of her honeybees to the grocery store recently.  The bees had hitchhiked on her car and in the parking lot she had tucked them into her shirt pocket to keep them warm while she was shopping.  I looked at my fingers, thought of the dearly departed bee in my veil earlier in the day, and put my hands in my pockets.

And so, it is clear that I still have a lot to learn.  I am being the best student I can be here despite my advanced age.  I take my glasses for long distances so I can see the eggs in the photos projected on the smart board.  I ask questions of Geoff, my teacher for two winters now.  And from the back row, I nod vehemently when he tells us to wear our veil at all times, even when doing quick inspections in the winter.

Before I ran out the door to class last night, Nicholas caught me in the kitchen and asserted, Wait!  I just have a quick math question.  I am trying to solve for x.  The equation is x/2=9.  I know the answer is 18, but I can't figure out how to solve for x.

Show me your work I said, looking at his sheet.  

It looked a little bit like this:

x / 2 *2 = 9 * 2

In my rush, I could not help him to wrap his mind around the idea that divided by 2 and multiplied by 2 cancel each other out, and then just the x would remain on the left side of the equation.  He kept multiplying 2 times 2.  I was in a rush.  He was tired.  In the end, I gave his frustrated face a kiss, told him to go find his father and ask him, and said if you haven't figured it out when I get home, I will try again.  

I arrived late for class, even though the few extra minutes I spent in the kitchen with Nicholas did not result in him being able to solve for x when division was an operation in the equation.

As I walked in, I heard Geoff say, 
You want two hives in your beeyard.  And a half.  And a half.  
This is some funny math.  I am pretty sure the answer is 3, though my math confidence was a bit shaken by my hurried moments in the kitchen with Nicholas.  Three hives.  You want three hives.  But no.  That's not it.  And division was the operation this evening as well.

For sustainable beekeeping, the focus of this course, what you want is not necessarily to keep the bees you have, but to maintain the same number of hives across the years, in general.  And to do this requires being prepared for loss.  For the loss of a hive or two to mites or other sicknesses.  Or to starvation or cold in the winter.  Or to queen issues.  Or most likely in my case, user error.  But if we are doing our job correctly, we are ready when this happens, we have a potential colony in the works.  We have prevented swarming and also gained backup by creating nucleus colonies, or small colonies of bees with their own mated queen that can be used to replace a dead out.

Or we have taken swarm cells and raised a new virgin queen in a queen castle.

Or what Jonathan keeps referring to as a princess palace, which makes us both giggle as we picture this instead:

You may be wondering about the other half.  Well, it turns out we have that one covered.  It is a swarm catcher.

Getting back to numbers, I am going to need to purchase nucleus colony boxes and a princess palace from Phil.  Dish out some money for my sustainable beekeeping efforts.  It will all come out in the wash, I know, since I will hopefully not need to purchase package bees or nucs again.

But this acceptance of my constant foolishness.  Of all of my mistakes.  And most importantly of my acceptance of loss.  That I am tending and not keeping.

* * *

I was reminded of this idea this week, as we celebrated Julia's tenth birthday.  Ten years.  A decade with us, this big little girl has been.

Julia is trying to keep up with the math concepts that Nicholas is working on for homework.  She doesn't like it when she does not understand something that someone else can do.  She asked me to explain negative integers to her the other day, and then this morning, looking at the thermometer which read negative zero she said, Oh!  It's zero.  But worse.

I look at her across the table, the 10-shaped candles facing backwards for me.  Does that make it negative 10?  10, but worse?

Big and yet still that same toddler girl with the crazy spiky hair and personality to match.

Determined and quiet. Enthusiastic and easily drained. Unpredictable yet predictably kind.

I feel a tinge of sadness that she has left her single digits behind.

But I think I need to work on acceptance of the loss of having her as a little girl, and be at the ready for, prepared for, what comes next.  Because that?  That will be good, too.  Because no matter what the numbers, no matter what operations you work through, no matter all my mistakes and blunders, she will still be her.

Math can be funny.