Monday, April 21, 2008


LaRue Pine Hills; a natural area of great biological diversity along the flood plains of the Mississippi river in Southern Illinois. Twice a year, hundreds of snakes migrate from the high cliffs to the swampy wetlands of the floodplain. The "snake road" is closed to vehicular traffic for a period of a couple weeks.

I have been to LaRue Pine Hills a couple of times, but never for the snake migration. Saturday my friend, who is a zoology student nearing graduation, called to ask if we wanted to go with her to look for snakes. The plan was to have a yard sale that day, but the dark clouds and off-and-on drizzles allowed to abandon that plan in favor of a rainy day adventure.
Snakes like sun and warmth, so we had trouble finding any. We peeked into rock cracks with our flashlight (which was not nearly bright enough) and saw a couple of cave salamanders, but no snakes. On a May-Apple (I love those plants! They cluster together in tiny villages of leafy umbrellas) sat a green tree frog who sat completely still no matter how close we came ("I'm a leaf! You don't see me!"), but no snakes.

The last leg of our adventure involved climbing a BIG hill for the lovely view of the floodplain from the top. Our leg muscles burned (or at least mine did) as we hiked up, and suddenly Lauren stopped in her tracks with a "woah--" The head of cottonmouth (one of four venemous species in the region) stuck out from under a rock warning us to take a different path.

Most people would not think it fun to find a venomous snake in their path, however we were quite happy. All my life I was afraid of snakes until a few years ago. I remember I was hiking and a black rat snake (really big, long, docile snakes which are abundant in our region) slithered up into a little pine tree to watch me. At that moment I suddenly knew that he was not curled in those branches to wait for me to pass so that he may strike-- it was more like he was curious about me and scared enough to get out of the way so that I may pass without harming him. Ever since then, I have gotten some excitement out of seeing snakes. It's always excitement mixed with a tiny bit of fear since I am usually taken by surprise.

Dudo has been really interested in snakes lately; studying our Illinois Snakes poster, drawing pictures of each species, and expressing great interest in wanting to see snakes while out in the woods (Dudo was not with us on the snake expedition and so has not seen any yet this season). Yesterday he was telling Na and I about which species were endangered and other snake info that he soaked up from casual conversation with Lauren the zoologist.

I'll leave you today with some picture of snake-related creations and projects.

Wishing You Adventures Beyond Your Comfort Zone,
mama randa the snake hunter

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A Very Good Day

Why are these tulips (tulips with two lips!!) and this mushroom so happy? Well, first of all, today is an absolutely gorgeous day which was MUCH needed after many days of cloudy gloominess.

But mostly this happiness is in relation to the return of our dear friend, my partner, Tim, after a separation of five months.

Tim and I's Story

Tim and I first met while I was living in Wyoming in 2004. Ari was just over a year old and I was a small, young, lonely, unknowledgable single mother in the center of the least populated state in the country. Although I was living on a college campus in the second biggest city in Wyoming, I did not make any friends. My second semester at Casper College, I met a guy named Phil. He was kind to me and was the first person that I considered a 'friend' in the entire 9 months that I had lived there to that point. In April, there was a Keller Williams concert that I wanted to go to in Fort Collins, Colorado. I asked Phil if he wanted to go. He said he couldn't but that his brother might want to. I met his brother, Tim, for the very first time when I picked him up and, along with my brother, drove to Fort Collins for the concert. Well, it turns out that none of us thought to get tickets ahead of time, and after the four hour drive, the show was sold out. So isntead we went to a party at one of TIm's old friends' houses in Cheyenne where I felt quite uncomfortable. Several weeks went by before I talked to Tim again. I was plannign on moving back to Illinois, but I didn't want to (and my mommy wouldn't let me) drive my big van all the way across the country by myself. So I asked Phil, "Hey, would you like to take a free trip to Illinois and help me drive?" And again his answer was "No, but my brother might". So I began hanging out with Tim and a relationship quickly developed. Ari loved him from the very beginning. Tim would show up at my apartment door and Ari would happily cry out "Na!!" (pronounced like 'nah'). We never knew why he called him Na, since he was already very articulate at that age (about 16 months) and had no trouble with "T"'s. But the name stuck, and to this day, he is still "Na" or "Nanni" (pronounced "nah-nee) to us. Anyway, Na decided he move to Illinois with us.

And there begins the next chapter in our story. We lived together in Illinois, upgrading houses a couple times, for about a year and a half before deciding to go our separate ways. Ari and I moved to a new house by ourselves just as he was turning 3 in 2006. Things went okay; I was lonely, but also liberated in so many ways. I had convinced myself that it was best for me to be on my own for a while, until IT happened. It was the summer of 2006, and something quite serious and frightening happened. I'm not going to go into the details here, but we were living way out of town, sort of secluded when it occurred---- a stalker incident of sorts. It was getting pretty scary, and it got to the point that we were not safe. The final, scariest occurance happened the very day before we were to go on vacation to my mom's in Wyoming. So I packed
what I could, we went to Wyoming and stayed for over a month. When we finally came back to Illinois, we lived at a friend's house for almost two months while waiting for a decent house to open up. We finally found what we thought was a good home, and Na came back to help us out. He came on the pretense that we were just going to be friends and that he would stay until I got licensed as a Home Child Care Provider and could support myself financially. Our friendship developed again into a relationship, and the house that we thought was nice, turned out not to be and the landlady lived a thousand miles away and refused to do any necessary work to the house. We asked her to check for mold under the house (I'm sure it was there) and she said she would not and asked us to move out. It was around Christmas time, and in A University town, where most leaves begin and end in August, there were very few rental homes open. I was very upset and overwhelmed, but things worked out,as they always do, and we found a nice big home (bigger and nicer than any other we'd lived in-- and for not too much more $$ than the previous house). There were more than half a dozen families wanting this house. We had many things working against us. I had dreadlocks (a major stigma unfortunately). We were a three person family; the house had 4 bedrooms and 2 big living areas and several of the familys had 3 or more children, so theoretically they were in need of the space more than us. And then there was the liability issue of me running a home child care in the house. Despite all this, we connected with the owners and they chose us to be the house's tenants. They are such wonderful people. So kind and supportive. I am so thankful for them after having several landlord nightmares. Anyway, eventually the child care business was going well and Tim and I began making plans to go our separate ways again. He moved back to Wyoming last November. During that time, neither of us were happy, and I was not making enough money to support Ari and I. After a few months, we began theortically talking about what would happen if he were to move back in with us. After weeks of contemplation, we both decided that did want to be together and give our relationship another try. It was about 6 weeks from the time of that decision until he was actually able to come back. So after much anticipation and excitement, he arrived last night around 10:00. Ari tried so hard to stay up and wait, but he just couldn't make it. This is the third incarnation of our relationship and it really seems like we can make it work this time. It feels great to have him around again, and so strange to be a single mother one day, and not the next day.

So anyway, that's the story, and believe it or not, that's the SHORT version!

I'll end this post with one of my favorite pictures of Na and Dudo. (circa 2005)

Wishing You New Beginnings,
mama randa the pseudo-wife

Sunday, April 13, 2008

6 Unimportant Things and a Series of Silly Pictures

I've been tagged by woodmouse to post 6 unimportant bits of information about myself. Well, I've been racking my brain , but really, it ALL seems important. The smallest details, all put together, make us who we are. We cannot be separated from our little quirks. We ARE our little quirks! Well, anyway, here are some of the most trivial things I could think of about myself.

1. When I have paint or glue on my hands I often wipe them off on my pants or even the rug in the art room. You can imagine how not-clean the rug is. If my landlords happen to be reading this, then don't worry, I don't do it to the new carpet in the livingroom!

2. I am currently addicted to these all-natural miniature peanut butter cups that our local foods co-op just started carrying in bulk.

3. My body tends to need lots of sleep. Often 10 or more hours.

4. I sing in the shower-- who doesn't?!

5. I'm really really bad about taking library books and movie rentals back on time. At the moment, I think I have about a $40 fine at the library. Therefore, it tends to be binge-and-purge with the library: check out a whole bunch of books and movies and cds at one time, then forget to bring them in on time, rack up a big fine, then wait several weeks or months, finally pay off the fine, check out a bunch of materials again, and start the whole things all over.

6. I like to swing.

See, all those little 'unimportant' details really tell alot about me, don't they? Just think of the picture you would get of me if I told the really important stuff!

So I'll leave you with a funny series of pictures that Dudo and I took of ourselves yesterday.

I can't believe I'm posting that^ for everyone to see!

Here's me with the new mermaid tail I made, and there's Dudo, the Prince of Underwater World with a 'broken knee'. Playing this reminded me of how I used to thoroughly enjoy wrapping up my leg and pretending it was a cast.

Wishing You Days of Dramatic Play,
mama randa mermaid glory

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Easy HomeMade Balance Beam

2x4s + sandpaper + screws = balance beam

Simple, Simple! Well, except for the sanding part. My mom is sending me a power sander, but it won't be here until next week, so in the meantime I sanded the whole thing by hand. If you go this route, expect sore arms. It's still not completely smooth, but smooth enough to not splinter our feet. Rubbing the surface with a beeswax polish allows the beam to be soft and slick enough to pivot on your feet without hurting them.

I can already see the benefits of this balance beam for myself. My physical well-being has been on the decline since the winter--the warming weather helps tremendously in getting me active, but the beam makes excercise even more accessible. It's something I can do while Dudo plays happily alongside me, and it's something I can do in the quiet stillness of the night when he is asleep. I was a gymnast for several years when I was young and always enjoyed balance beam and tubling. Unfortunately, my invovlement with the sport has no doubt contributed to the muscular/skeletal upper body issues that I have been dealing with for the past 6 years. But now, I can do it on MY terms. I can make up my own little balance beam routines without a coach pushing me further. Without someone sitting on my back while I do the splits to make me split further (overstretching as a child, I believe, is one of the main causes of my physical issues). After only two days of using our balance beam, I already feel an increased sense of balance, poise, and strength. It's like dancing (which I also love to do in the privacy of my own home), only you have to do it in a straight line which makes you keenly aware of space and bodily alignment.
And here's Little Dudo the "Pixie" hanging out on the balance beam. The pink clothing rack in the background is something I just finished. It was an old quilt rack that I got at the thrift store. I got it in bad shape, and then left it outside all winter. By the time I actually did something with it, it was in complete shambles. I wish I had taken a "before" picture. First I removed all the rusty nail and screws, reassembled it with fresh hardware, added a dowel at the top instead of the wooden slat, and gave it all a couple coats of fresh rosy paint. It now serves as a rack for our Springtime dress ups.

Wishing You Small Steps in Taking Care of Your Body,
mama randa the once-upon-a-time gymnast

Sunday, April 6, 2008


I cut both mine and Dudo's hair yesterday. They turned out really good, I must say! His looks more 'professional' than I have ever been able to do before.
Last time that I tried to cut my own hair, I used a borrowed device called a "Flowbee" and burnt a hole in the bathroom floor. This time was much more successful with good ole haircutting scissors.

Wishing You the Satisfaction of Doing-it-Yourself,
mama randa the haircutter

Puzzle Kids

This design came about by accident. I was attempting to create a puzzle tower, but the shape reminded me of a child sitting peacefully with hands in lap, so I went with it. There's not much to them, as a puzzle they are only three pieces, but the kid's seem to really like them anyway. The felt heart is the final touch, without it they were lifeless. These two now reside in my Etsy Shop.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Hickory Lodge

We've rented a garden plot for the summer at a place called Hickory Lodge. I have long known about Hickory Lodge, but always thought it to be semi-private. Like an office for the Parks District, or someplace that you had to rent. Well, as it turns out, you can go anytime, though few do. It's a really, really cool place with beautifully landscaped areas to play in and explore. More on Hickory Lodge at a later date, but for now I'd like to show photos of the blossoming loveliness at Hickory Lodge today.

And check out this awesome tree-- perfect for little ones to practice their climbing skills.

Wishing You Explorative Spring Days,
mama randa the flower sniffer