Thursday, December 30, 2010


Some of the things I should most cherish about my kids, drive me crazy. It's all about perspective though - if I turn all my thoughts on their heads, the things that make me nuts, sound completely endearing. Something to continue to practice...

He is so clingy - He loves holding me
He pulls my hair all the time - He feels safe and secure when he is holding my hair. He loves the way my hair feels in his hands.
He gets in the way when I am doing chores - He loves to help unload the dishwasher, load the dryer, and turn the lights on and off
He wants anything Peanut has - He thinks that any toy his sister has is worth working for
He always wakes up when I go upstairs to go to bed - He is highly attuned to the sounds in his home and wakes when he hears mom or dad upstairs

Just writing these, makes me want to go upstairs and snuggle with my little guy.

OK, here's some for Peanut.
She is so painfully shy - She really takes her time to get to know people before she opens up to them. She is very cautious, which will be a huge benefit in high school ;)
She whines - She has learned that some vocal tones receive more attention than others
She acts so helpless sometimes - She is so able that often she doesn't need help but wants me there, so she has learned to pretend that she needs me
She can be bossy with her brother - She is really trying to teach him everything she knows
She wants to be held and carried - She loves to feel safe and secure in my arms.

Same thing - I'm all warm and fuzzy about my little bean.
Try it!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


We've all been sick over here, so not much writing is going on, but I wanted to share a bit of our holiday...

The Winter Solstice was last week, and we had some friends over to celebrate. The kids made candles and lit them in a solstice spiral in the yard. As they walked back out of the spiral, they each lit a votive or tea light - it was beautiful when it was all lit up! The idea (for us anyway) is that you are walking towards the sun, and each of us gets to share a bit of the light. It was a calm and meditative way to enter into winter. The kids were cold though and patiently waited their turn to walk, but once they lit the candles they wanted to go back inside fast!

A few days before Christmas, I heard Peanut telling her "girls" that Santa would come and bring them presents. I thought this was pretty funny since Santa chat around here is pretty minimal. Amazing.

Well, she set all of her girls up one day for some snacks at the dining room table. This was after we had given them all baths and helped them go potty. Of course they all have place mats and their own little dishes. Love that kid.

Christmas morning, the kids woke up and I think Pumpkin was unclear a
bout all the stuff under the tree. It took him a while to even notice it. Pea
nut had been talking about "the pink princess and the yellow princess" for a few days too, and I was concerned that since neither of the princesses was under that tree, she would be disappointed. I think they were both pretty happy - they played all day with their new toys, and nothing has been tossed aside.

I think her favorite gift was a purple fairy outfit. She wore it all day and even dressed her ballerina to match.

I got a badly needed new camera, an unexpected radio/zune dock for the kitchen, and an even more unexpected spa day. I have a wonderfully thoughtful gift giver for a husband. There's no question about that.
We spent the rest of the day piddling around, playing kitchen and restaurant with all the new play food, and racing matchbox cars. What a life!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Sickness and Scams

Something always gets in the way of my well laid out plans. I know I like to have maybe a little too much control, but really, sometimes the universe just slams me.

I had big plans to take advantage of a very chill holiday with Honey being home to get some things done around the house. I wanted to get some papers filed, boxes put away, generally organize things. I was doing great at the end of last week - recycling, shredding, and filing, and then boom. I get this crazy phone call Thursday afternoon that ended up costing me almost three hours of my day right there and then a few more hours that night on line.

Some woman calls, and claims she is a private investigator. She then claimed that she had been hired to find me in reference to an alleged check fraud. I asked a bunch of questions, and was told that she had been hired to find me, that was her only job, and once she found me that she would send my whereabouts to the court and a warrant would be issued for my arrest. I'm sorry - a WHAT??? I'm absolutely positive you have the wrong person lady.

So she puts me on with a "mediator" who continues on with the story, adding bits of information along the way. I'm thinking this is fishy, but also wondering if someone stole my identity and is messing with my credit now. She basically tels me that I could be arrested before Monday which is the earliest I *may* be able to speak with one of the attorneys on the case. So long story short, I think they are planning to ask me to wire money or something to make this all "go away".

I spend several hours making phone calls to my bank, the company she indicated was after me, and going on line looking up the mediation company and law firm. Of course everything comes up bogus, and I have spent my time for nothing. So now I have to do a police report, and I'm still anticipating them calling back on Monday to follow up on the "issue and warrant". Oy. Seriously - I think they are messing with the wrong person here - I'm no dummy and I've got no problem calling big companies (or small ones) to find out what I need to know.

So all that aside, now I've got Sunday free to finish up my projects. Well, no. Saturday afternoon and evening, it became evident that the kids were both coming down with something. I ended up staying up all night with Peanut, and in morning I was sick too. So today we have basically laid on the couch and slept all day. I'm just starting to feel like a human again but just barely. Thank goodness Honey is home again tomorrow!

I'd like to let the universe know that I've got it. I do not need to be in control of everything. I'd like the testing to end as I feel that I have passed many times over at this point. Please? Thanks for hearing me out.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Winter Table

We started our "seasonal table" in the fall, and have begun the change over to winter items. The pumpkins and gourds have been moved (into the compost!) and snowflakes have taken over. The plan is to add whatever wintry items seems appealing to the kids. Right now there are evergreens, various kinds of snowflakes, and pine cones, on a sparkly blue cloth. We love this and it has successfully kept Pumpkin from climbing on the table every few seconds like he used to - so a bonus!


I'm pretty cynical about Christmas. Not about the holiday itself, but what it has become. It's just blown up into this huge consumer event where stores are open 24 hours and people are frantically wrapping pieces of plastic for small children who will no doubt be completely overwhelmed by the pile of stuff they will have to deal with tomorrow morning.

I'm just not a gifty person in general. It's not that I think gifts are bad, or that I don't like to give or get them. I'm all for a well thought out item that someone gives because they made it especially for you, or something that someone saw that reminded them of you, or something that someone really knows you love or need. I just don't like giving gifts for the sake of having to give a gift. I don't like the idea that someone was rushing around at Sears and found something on sale that would work and checked me off the list - done. I've had far too much of random gifts under the tree just to make it look "full". I can recall a few Christmas mornings spent opening the oddest things, and realizing that they were not really for me - they were there for me so the giver would feel as though they had given enough. I know there is this childhood fantasy of having gifts piled up until you can barely see the tree, but really, think about it. Is that what you want? Is that what any kid wants? To spend a day just unwrapping socks, books, plastic toys, and princess crowns, and trucks and cars, and ipods, and and and...? To have everything you have asked for (and lots of stuff you haven't, or that you no longer care about) presented in one fell swoop? Maybe some do. I am not in that camp.

I love the way everything feels on Christmas eve and Christmas day - but I don't love the total madness that precedes it all. I'd rather enjoy the holiday by spending time with people I love than run around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to find "stuff" for everyone I've ever met, bake a thousand cookies that I don't want to eat, or send out cards to everyone in my outlook contacts. For the folks that enjoy doing that - fantastic - keep at it. I just feel like there are so many expectations around Christmas that lots of people end up doing things that really stress them out and forget about honoring themselves and their values during the season. That's why the mall is full of crazy people who crash into each other in the parking lots and are tired and rude with cashiers and each other. It all just seems so counter intuitive to me.

I love the holiday lights on a quiet, dark night. I love waking up and snuggling with my family on Christmas morning. I love seeing Peanuts eyes (and am looking forward to seeing what Pumpkin thinks) when she walks into the living room and sees the tree lit with gifts underneath. I love opening and enjoying the (not so big pile of) meaningful and thoughtful things we want to give each other. I love having a home cooked breakfast together and spending the day playing. I love having carolers sing at our front door. I love having everyone home and together. I love the evergreens and the smell of pines in my house. I love how beautiful people make their homes with decorations and candles. There are so many things about Christmas to love - honor yourself this season and do what makes you and your family truly happy.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


The first snow of the year came today and took me a little by surprise. I had heard it would snow, but I am always wary of those predictions. We got only an inch or two, but it was enough for some fun. Too bad Peanut really wanted to play and Pumpkin was completely not into it! Oh well. He will learn...

Sunday, December 12, 2010


We moved a twin mattress into Pumpkins room the other day. We did this with Peanut about the same age; it's a nice gentle way to get ready for a regular bed. Of course, Peanut started sleeping in hers right away. No chance we are letting Pumpkin do that - he is too adventurous and climbing a bookcase or something in the middle of the night is a very real possibility.
So he can choose to sleep there for naps, and he has taken one in the big bed so far.
The best part about having a mattress on the floor in your room though has nothing to do with sleeping. It's all about being a trampoline!

Thursday, December 9, 2010


He is getting so big, and really enjoys being just like his big sister. She didn't want her chicken soup (she likes it in an espresso cup!) and he went in for the steal. He used one hand and gingerly sipped and slurped without spilling a drop! He loved it and kept calling it his 'tea". What a gloriously beautiful child.

The Flip Side

We no longer have a cat among us. While I am sad, and miss our Calvin, a few things have some to light recently that remind me of the plus side of life without cats. Of course the lack of hairballs and cat puke is a definite plus. That goes without saying. The white couch remaining white is also a welcome sight. The change I am most pleased about is my plants.

I used to have houseplants everywhere; my thumb is permanently green. I am the girl who could take your dead flowers and bring them back. Having a cat (with a bad tummy) put a damper on that. That Calvin ate anything he could reach, so out with the plants we knew were poisonous, up with the plants that were left, and fill in the gaps with fake. My beautiful green house became a little brown, dead, ignored, chewed upon, and questionable. I even gave some plants away on freecycle, hoping some other green thumb could keep them well.
Last week, the Christmas cactus Honey bought me began to bloom. And it was not immediately eaten. As I watched the flowers opening, I realized it was only blooming on one side, and the other side was a raggedy cat chewed mess. I had forgotten what it was like to watch these plants thrive - I was only interested in them NOT dying.
So now it begins - the sad batches of real and fake plants all shoved together in corners are on their last legs. Over the next few weeks I plan to re pot and disperse them through the house. I've already moved a few onto counters that were previously off limits, and one is even on the floor. Honey brought a Pointsetta and another cactus at a fundraiser, and I am still looking for the perfect spot. The idea of spending a few hours with my plants and having it not be in vain is really inspiring. I'm pretty excited, but if you had seen the jungle I used to live in you would understand. Hopefully we can get back to that. Calvin, I'm dedicating this indoor garden to you my furry friend.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


On our way home this evening as it was just getting dark, Peanut and Pumpkin were "oooh-ing" and "aah-ing" over all of the light displays. As we have done the past few times we have been driving past dark, I took a few extra turns to see some more of those beautiful lights. I loved them when I was little; they always seemed huge, bright, magical, and just awesome. Even when we pass the same house over and over, Peanut will yell, "There's one mommy! Look!" as though it is the first time she has seen it.

We pulled into the driveway, it was truly dark by this time, and we had a classical station playing on the radio. A hauntingly beautiful Christmas carol came on, and rather than get out of the car, we just sat. Peanut asked to stay and listen, and the three of us quietly enjoyed the music and night. A few cars passed and made shadows of the trees on the house next to ours. It was a magical moment; one that makes you remember what it feels like to be a child and experience things so completely and for the very first time. A wonderful way to spend a few moments with my babies.

Monday, December 6, 2010


I went to the library the other day to drop off a few books. The kids were in the car and I figured I'd drive to the book drop, park quick and run back to the car. 30 seconds to a minute tops. It's like 35 degrees. I'm NOT taking the kids out of the car just to drop off books. We had other errand to run and didn't have a library outing in our plans.

Well, I pull in and there is a new sign that says "No stopping". Okay, well, that means me and everyone else, so even though I'd love to stop anyway since it is "only 30 seconds" and no one will see me since it is pretty early and it looks like the library just opened, I pull into the lot and park.

I'm close enough that I can run to the drop with the kids still in the car and I can see them. I really really really hate leaving my kids in the car for any length of time; even when I am unloading groceries at home or bringing the shopping cart back or whatever, I can't stand that they are in the car by themselves. It's a thing. So anyway, I run, I drop the books off, I run back. It's inconvenient, but it's not the end of the world and really it's just inconvenient because I am used to the other way "pre-signage".

As I am running back to the car, a Lexus minivan pulls in and stops at the book drop. A woman is driving, and a teenage girl is in the front passenger seat. They chat for a minute, then the girl brings some books to the drop at a very leisurely pace. She gets back in the car, and there is more chatting. They are just sitting there, car idling, chatting it up. What the heck? Does the sign not apply to you? Do you have some kind of pass? And really, you are in a situation where is would be way easier to park and one of you go than I am. I cannot stand when people do this. It's like the folks who park on the curb in front of the dry cleaners. And the ones who take up two spots so their cars don't get dinged. And the ones who speed up to drive past the school bus when they see the lights start to flash but before the stop sign unfolds. And the ones who park in handicapped for "just a minute" because they are too damn lazy to walk 25 feet.

I remember as a teenager I had an argument with my mom about this. She left the car standing at the curb with me in it and told me to move it if a cop came. I didn't and she got a ticket at the shopping center where we used to grocery shop. She was so mad, but I was so adamant that it was wrong to do that. I'm sure part of it was that as a teen, of course I was right, but I still feel that way today. Are we all just so busy that parking the car and walking is completely out of the question? And more than that; those yellow lines and signs are all there for a reason and if we all felt we were above them there would be a lot of serious problems.

As I am pulling out of the library, I couldn't help it. I stopped the car next to the Lexus. She rolled down her window, and I sweetly (OK, maybe not so much) pointed out the sign. She said she had seen it with an annoyed look. The teen, who I am assuming was her daughter, looked at me helplessly, her face saying "yeah - I told her!".

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Happy Hanukkah!

It's the first night of Hanukkah, and although it is a minor holiday in the realm of Jewish holidays it has continued to gain importance because of its proximity to Christmas. We've talked a bit about the holiday; its origins and meaning. We've read some children's books, and pulled out the menorah in the past week or so. The kids are primed for the holiday and not a moment too soon since the Christmas lights are beginning to multiply like rabbits and take us sweeping past all of December in the blink of an eye.

We began the day opening some gifts from grandma. Although I'd prefer to wait until the candle lighting, I knew there was a craft menorah in there and wanted to give Peanut a chance to make it before the evening. Of course, that meant we had three menorahs - the fancy one I've had for 15+ years, the egg carton one we made last year and the new one from today. A Hanukkah trifecta.

Next we put together a little Happy Hanukkah banner - really anything with glitter glue is a hit around here. It may seem like a silly craft, but I liked that we could talk about letters and words, do a little eye hand coordination "sewing" the letters onto the cord, and have both kids put the stickers on and choose where to hang it up. We already have a few Hanukkah "ornaments" hanging from our dining room chandelier which I have always thought is pretty funny since there is no Hanukkah tree to put them on. Clearly an non-Jew came up with that plan.

After playgroup this morning, Peanut was able to carve out some time to paint her new menorah and add some glitter to that as well. Of course the painting continued until her arms and hands were covered with paint to her elbows. My sensory queen :)

Once everyone was home this evening, we lit the candles, said the prayers, and immediately Peanut wanted to sing and blow the candles out. We talked a little more about the candles and why we let them burn rather than blowing them out. I cooked up a fried meal of breaded cod, potato latkes with applesauce, and some random veggies. Since we celebrate the miracle of light this holiday, you are supposed to eat foods made with oil in remembrance of the oil that lit the lamps in the temple for 8 days.

All in all , a good first night! Both kids read more Hanukkah books before bed and seemed to enjoy the whole thing. The current plan is to keep the focus on this holiday through it's end next week. Then next weekend we will turn to Solstice and Christmas. Hopefully was can make it that long! I have to say, I am please that Hanukkah is early this year as it is really helping us to keep our head in one direction. Last year Christmas and Hanukkah were a day apart and it was confusing for me, not to mention a two year old. Happy Hanukah!!!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Apples and chocolate sand

I've been thinking about gratitude. I'm not one for thank you notes, but I do think letting people know that you appreciate them is important. We've been using the Thanksgiving holiday as a lesson in thankfulness for the kids, and I know the more they see the adults in their life expressing their thanks, appreciation and gratitude the easier it will be for them to integrate that into their everyday lives.

This time of year brings people to ask "what are you thankful for?" of each other and ourselves. Some of the answers are very pat and broad, and clearly what "should" be said. I think gratitude loses it's meaning or impact. I'd like to be more specific and clear about my thanks for big and small things, material and intangibles, for myself and as an example. Since it is easier to write (for me at least) I figured I'd start here. I am grateful for so much that I'm sure I won't manage to get it all "on paper", but I'll try to touch on some of them over the next few weeks.

I have a wonderful friend, A, who is a gift in and of herself. I could write an entire post (and them some) on how my life is enhanced by my relationship with her. But for now, I'll focus on her mother and father in law, who are two of the most thoughtful people I have met. The in laws brought me a gift of a huge box of apples last week. So you say, apples, so what? They have a 10 lb bag at Costco for 6 cents! Nope, not these apples. These are McIntosh apples that came from their own tree in upstate New York. The tree and fruit have never been treated in any way, and the harvests are varied. At the end of the summer, they brought some apples for my friend and she made some applesauce. I mentioned how great fresh apples would be and that my kids love applesauce. Well, they remembered this and stored as many apples as they could and drove them down here last week.

I set to work, making apple crisp (made with coconut flour - yum!), apple muffins (almond flour), apple bread (with the last of our regular flour), and applesauce. We used my tiny food processor for a batch of applesauce and the kids ate it all in one sitting. So I borrowed my friends food grinder and strainer to go on my kitchenaid mixer and set about making big batches of sauce. I think I froze 20 big jars of sauce and I have another 15 small ones in the fridge (it wasn't worth canning since we eat it so fast - we have already eaten 3-4 jars).

The gift of the apples was wonderful, but the gift of having my kids see how apples become sauce and getting to help me make it is so much more. I get to pull a jar out of the freezer and remember how the kitchen smelled of hot apples and cinnamon; that will warm me up on a chilly afternoon in February. Having a fresh homemade dessert that was "good for us" on Thanksgiving and being able to give loaves of apple bread to other people who deserved our thanks was lovely. The actual gifts people give lead to other gifts in our lives. And we in turn bestow gift on other people. It just feel good.

It didn't stop there. Peanut really loves the sand in M's (A's son) sandbox. She calls it chocolate sand because it is so dark and soft. Well, the in laws heard this as well, and yep - a huge load of sand came with the apples. The kids helped mix the sand in and then got to play around in it for a bit. I think Peanut didn't realize what she was getting until the third or fourth bucket of sand went into the sandbox - then she got really excited about it. So once again, a gift of thoughtfulness that will get to be shared and enjoyed by my kids and their friends. Thank you G and L for spending the time and energy to collect and load up apples and sand and drive it all the way here so my Peanut and Pumpkin could enjoy such treats!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Universe Knows...

I get this daily email from Enjoy Parenting called The Daily Groove. It's a short pertinent thought about parenting that usually brightens my day. I say usually, because sometimes it makes me sad, or frustrated, or annoyed, but today was perfect. It is about transcending worry, and if you have been following along you know I have been worrying :) a bit. So here it is for you to enjoy -
You can subscribe to the Groove as well, and get these fabulous tidbitd delivered directly to you daily as well!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Seasonal Table

We've been focusing on fall, harvest, and Thanksgiving (consumerism be damned - I won't give in to the store Christmas displays) and have had some fun with our "seasonal table". I just started the table a month or two ago and it has been working out wonderfully. The plan is to have various items, both natural and man made, that signify the seasons laying out so the kids can explore them. I got some wooden bowls at the thrift store to help contain the "treasures" and just generally small things, as well as to encourage some collections. Everything is on the coffee table, so it is accessible for regular play and rearranging.

We've had our pumpkins and gourds out for a while, and I wanted to add a little something new so we did a nature hunt on Sunday. The kids went into the yard with a bag and collected interesting stuff. They arranged and rearranged in their own little bowls and the big bowl for what seemed like hours that afternoon. It's fun to watch - don't mind the runny noses in the pics - we did get right to it once we came inside! No time for wiping noses :)

I've also been on the hunt for Thanksgiving and harvest books that are not created by some random government council or discuss happily our stealing of land. I found some dealing with specific crops, and some nice "Giving Thanks" kinds of books. We added them to the living room display as well. I'd really love to get a small bookshelf that faces the books out like they have at preschool. That way I can keep them neat, but the kids can still see them. Happy fall!!!


Peanut has been in her new preschool now for a week and a half. It seems like it was the right move, and she is enjoying herself, but sometimes it's hard to know. I feel like I have been second guessing myself so much lately - like most of my decision making has been faulty. We had the master bathroom remodeling where I definitely chose the wrong contractor for the job. Then we had the preschool that I was all excited about that turned out to be glorified daycare with letter and number drills. Then we had a fence installed and it turns out I couldn't have made a worse decision about the company to take on that job. So I am feeling a little uneasy with most everything. That makes figuring out how to best nurture my kids a bit of a struggle. I think I know what I am doing and then question everything.

Peanut is alternately garrulous and exuberant or silent and watchful. Most days if we are home or with folks we know really well, she talks and plays and otherwise acts like a three year old. If anything is amiss she will completely clam up. She takes an unbelievably long time (not hours - days or weeks) to warm up to new people and situations, and it can be so frustrating to be the one trying to help coax her to join in or even just say "hello" or "thank you". Honey is pretty quiet and can take some time to get to know so I know she comes by it honestly. He and I have talked a lot about the ways we can help her interact more easily as well as how my perception of her level of enjoyment may be off. He feels fine as an observer, whereas I feel strange just hanging out on the sidelines and not getting into the action. A huge part of choosing to do preschool was that it gives Peanut more opportunities to deal with new situations and people in a safe way. The more positive experiences the better in my way of thinking. But of course, I wonder, should I stick close and help? Should I walk away and let the chips fall? What kind or amount of support would be best? It's all a judgement call, and as I've said, I'm currently questioning mine.

Peanut has begun answering "I don't know" to almost every question, regardless of the kind of question. We could be asking what she liked most about the day, or what she might do with her baby doll, or where she'd like to put her shoes. When we do ask a question with a "right" answer, she still answers that she doesn't know but looks right at the place, color, number, name, picture, whatever, that shows the she does know. We've talked a lot about how it is OK to have lots of ideas and share them with other people, and that everyone has concerns that their thoughts or answers are wrong or silly. We've discussed that thinking about things and coming up with different answers is fine - sometimes thinking of the "wrong" answer helps you get to the "right" one. We've talked about her wants and needs being important - important enough to say out loud.

While I am worried about how Peanut stands back in new situations (or really in any slightly different situation) that does not compare to the worry I have about the "I don't know" thing. Yeah, if this continues and we do decide to send her to public kindergarten, the class size and curriculum guidelines leave little time for a teacher to help my kid engage. I suspect she will be written off rather quickly. But this feeling that she doesn't know or that her thought are not worthy of sharing or that she is sure she is wrong, makes me so sad. I worry that I caused this by being so impatient and frustrated when Pumpkin was born. I worry that I am saying "I don't know" too much. I worry that I have blown off too many of her ideas and now she just gives the standard answer. I worry that she somehow has learned that respect for women's ideas in this world is minimal. I worry about what to do, how to do it, and whether to do anything at all.

I worry. And I know that is not helping. I know that every person is their own person and the illusion of control or influence is often just that. As a parent, I feel like some action is required here, and I'm just not comfortably clear on what that is yet. As much as I'd like to swoop in like some super hero, I think I have to take a back seat here and trust that the answers will come. This is the most difficult part of parenting by far. To sit by while your child struggles is never on your to-do list, but to allow them to grow sometimes I think it has to be.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Worth the raking

As you drive down our street, there are pristine lawns looking freshly mowed and raked. Then you come to our house, where you barely know there is grass in the front yard. We have an extraordinary amount of leaves that fall as you rake so it really feels like little or no progress is being made. Honey and I have both taken rakes and leaf blowers to the front yard twice, but it continues to look like a forest floor.

There are lots of reasons that this is really OK with me though. One, we are not retired - we are really busy, active people who just don't have a ton of time for raking leaves every day. Two is that while I am a stay at home mom, contrary to popular belief, that does not mean I am actually at home. And if I am, I can pretty much guarantee that having a preschooler and a toddler playing by the street in the front yard while I try to rake is not on my top ten. Three is that when we do rake and get a huge pile of leaves, the joy of the kids playing in them is incomparable.
And four, is that those two trees in our front yard are beyond gorgeous. I can see them from the living room window and I wouldn't trade the few days of amazing yellows out there for any easier lawn care. So drive by and scoff, but check out those beautiful trees!