Monday, November 30, 2009

Where the Wild Things Are

One of the things I have always been very grateful for is the richness of my childhood. There were times we lived in what my mom called "the boonies" - where my sister and I would spend our days exploring the creek, playing house in an empty chicken coop, and never needing to go in for a snack because we would graze all day on fruit from no less than a dozen different kinds of trees (avocados, apples, oranges, peaches, plums, apricots, cherries, grapefruits, lemons, limes, kumquats, raspberries). We also had many oak trees around our property - the evergreen/live oak variety. I was never very fond of them as a child. They seemed quite uninviting with their creepy, twisting branches and little prickly leaves that really made an ugly mess of things when they turned brown and fell off. At least that's the way I used to feel about them while futilely trying to rake and sweep them away from the front porch of that chicken coop.

Once I grew up and moved to the deserts of Las Vegas, I really missed the oak trees, because I missed trees in general. I still agree with the hand-written sign I read on a highway in Hawaii - "Oak trees do not belong in Hawaii" - but the oak is so woven into the tapestry of my childhood, that I cannot deny the fondness I have for it now. There is a wildness about the oak tree that echoes the wildness of days spent hunting for frogs and guppies under its canopy.

Yesterday, after going for a country drive and buying some produce from a road-side stand, we went looking for the old one-room school house in De Luz that I remember as a child.

It is used by the Fallbrook School District which takes classes out there for a week to learn about the native plant and animal life, as well as the Native American history in the area. Here is more information on the history of the school.

I remember having class out there for a week in the 4th grade. We got to write on slates and sit on benches instead of desks. I still have the rodent bones from the owl pellets we dissected.

The playground is gone - probably because the government determined the old, metal equipment was unsafe and they didn't want to replace it and ruin the antiquity of the property(nevermind the concrete steps) - but most everything else seemed unchanged since 1986.

We had gone on the 45 minute drive to find this school house twice before, and couldn't. It almost happened again. We found our way to a dead-end road and had to back-track, but I am so glad we didn't give up. The oaks were there in all their glory, and De Luz was living up to its name. We had the place all to ourselves.

Here we could smell the ancient oaks, hear the sounds of woodpeckers pecking above our heads and leaves crunching beneath our feet, and see a lonely trail lit up by rays of sunshine breaking through the blanket of those twisted limbs.

We explored that trail and discovered this amazing view...

...and a number of scat piles from a few different types of animals. Coyote? Bobcat? Mountain Lion? Unfortunately, I left my scat identification book at home, which was probably for the best because I was nervous enough wondering if their owners were not far ahead, or watching us from a bush. Some of that scat looked very fresh.

We did stumble upon some sheep who were very curious about us.

And some moss.

And this great tree we could peer through.

And another great tree we could sit in.

Taylor wasn't happy about the picture taking. She just wanted to explore. I think her grumpy face goes perfectly with this grumpy, old tree.

There was also this charming wood fence.

(See what I mean about all those little oak leaves. They are wonderful out in the woods, but you don't want an oak tree on your front lawn unless you like a perpetual carpet of toothed, little leaves. )

Oh, and I can't forget to mention the little bitty post office, which hasn't been used since the the 1950s and makes me sad that things will never be as they once were.

Combination mail box locks. I love these.

It was a special day - a peaceful, yet adventurous, memory-making day.
The kind you can't help but give thanks for.
It's great to live in Southern California;
where you are as close to the ocean as you are to the mountains;
as close to the snow as you are to the sandy beaches;
as close to the city as you are to the country;
as close to supermarkets as you are to acres and acres of farmland and tree groves;
where there are endless rolling hills and winding roads to get lost in,
yet, where big box stores, special events, and amusement parks are just as abundant;
where God has blessed the land with fertile ground and mild climate,
giving us access to a wide variety of local produce and farmers markets;
where the weather is usually perfect...

like this clear, 70 degree day in late November,
which made the shady trails just right for a light sweater.

And where a family can find a magically serene piece of earth...

where the wild things are.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Halloween - Fall Festival

This was the first year we dressed Taylor up for Halloween. She had seen a few cartoons leading up to the holiday, so she had a bit of an idea what it was all about. She was excited to dress up and get candy. It wasn't a surprise when she decided she wanted to be Sleeping Beauty. That is her favorite princess.

Remember this picture?

Yes, she was in awe. She still talks about meeting Sleeping Beauty and the first words Sleeping Beauty said to her, "Hi, little princess." Of course, Taylor is a mute until she warms up to anyone, especially her favorite celebrity, but that day she met Sleeping Beauty is still burned in her memory.

I'm not sure why she likes Sleeping Beauty so much. I always thought of all the Disney Princess movies, that one was more about the story than the princess herself. Sleeping Beauty is a baby, sobbing, in a trance, or asleep through 3/4 of her screen time. All the other princesses have character development and time to become endearing. I guess the dancing scene in the woods was all it took for Taylor to get hooked. The first song she knew all the words to was "Once Upon a Dream", and she sings it while she makes her Sleeping Beauty and Prince Philip figure toys dance. She even asks to dance with daddy while she sings it.

One day I will get a sewing machine and start making her costumes, but this year I bought an over-priced dress that began unraveling by the end of the night. I'm not sure I would have been ambitious enough to make a Sleeping Beauty dress anyhow.

(This picture was taken before I cleaned and painted her nails.)

I was so happy to find these shoes in Target! I was concerned about the shoe situation, since I couldn't imagine her little feet walking around in large dress-up heals for 5 hours. I found these down a toy isle. They are actually play ballet slippers that I could fit around her own shoes. They passed wonderfully as princess shoes and solved our problem - nevermind that each one of them came untied and was lost as some point that night after holes were worn into the bottoms.

We didn't go trick-or-treating, but we did go down to our church's Fall Festival. Kennedy and I are in the media ministry, so I had to get there early (2:30 PM) to take some photos and video of the set-up.

Needless to say, by the time the festival started at 4:30 PM, Taylor's crown was off and her curls were long gone. Then, it was all about the jumping...

And the games...

The craft table where she made a frame for her souvenir photo.

On the Tot Racing track with her friend, Coen. They got a souvenir picture taken together towards the end of the night that was hilarious. Taylor was missing a slipper and had sucker all over her mouth and in her ratted hair, and Coen had a silly look on his face.

This is Miss Heather. One of the young ladies that helps out in the Childrens Church. Taylor adores Miss Heather. She is so fun and always so sweet and gentle with Taylor. It takes a long time for Taylor to open up to people, and she is still a mute around Miss Heather, but she loves the attention from her. When we arrived early for set-up, Taylor wasn't expecting to see that Miss heather was now a pirate. She hid behind my legs like she never has before!

The Poway Fire Department brought a large engine out and judged the pie baking contest with our pastor. (Later, someone paid $500 to smash a pie in Pastor's face.)

Speaking of contests... we won the pumpkin carving/painting contest with this...

Now, it was a miracle that we got this perfectly shaped pumpkin. We didn't buy our pumpkin until the night before Halloween. We went to 2 grocery stores and they were out. Henry's had a a couple smalls ones and a couple knobby ones, but none that could possibly be used well for Cinderella's carriage. We shot over to Stater Brothers and they had about a dozen odd shaped, rejects left (most without stems), and there were 4 other people there rushing to find the best one. Now, we had already bought all the craft supplies for the project, so I was determined to find what I was looking for... and I did. This pumpkin was hidden between two boxes. The shape and the stem were PERFECT. I was so happy. Do you ever have those moments that you know God was blessing you? Well, this was one of those for me, like He had saved that pumpkin just for us.

It would have been nice if Taylor had dressed as Cinderella to go along with our pumpkin carriage and lost slipper, but I couldn't deny her the honor of being Sleeping Beauty.

(I managed to lose her crown, each slipper at different times, and our car keys that night at the festival. Amazingly, by Sunday morning, we had found everything.)