Simple Pleasures (or bare feet, frogs, books, and berries)

Finally, its summer in Latvia. We may start later than everywhere else in the universe, and it all ends sooner, but what we lack in duration, we certainly make up in intensity. The honey-scented countryside with its decadent green is doing its thing - if you sit still enough you can actually HEAR the plants growing rapidly around you. I have been working two (LONG) days a week in Riga and spending the rest of the week with the boys in the country. The temperature the last few days has been in the high 20s, which is a HEATWAVE for the locals, and is predicted to last for another week or so. We have spent a couple of days at the beach, and now are living outdoors under the trees. Jem is right now outside trying to fashion a home-made slip 'n' slide for the boys - do you remember the slip 'n' slide? I never had one, never tried one, but when I was around 10 I watched those happy kids squirming around in soapy water on the tv ads and tried to curb my envy.
It is so good to have a relax in the country now, because the last few weeks of our lives have been the busiest weeks of the year - before Jani my bosses turned up from the USA, which means I was "on call", Jem's parents also arrived for a three week visit - which meant a pretty intensive time of playing and visiting and touring, and was WAY too short, might I add - and the museum had its first exhibition open, for which Jem did the design. And although all of these things were very positive experiences and enjoyable, they mean that we have been working and socializing way too hard, which is all wrong - in this kind of weather you need to lie on a lilo in the middle of the lake and not do much. Beer in your hand.
Anyhow, back to the country. One of the big joys of the last few days has been Mikus in bare feet. TWO bare feet on the grass. A couple of days ago Jem + Mik's doctor + his splint maker between them worked out that Mikus' splint doesn't need a part under his foot any more - that his ankle doesn't need to be supported. Now the splint just compresses and wraps around his lower leg like a leg warmer, in order to protect the bone if he gets a direct blow to the leg. How cool is that! I don't know who is happier - Mikus or us - to see him racing around the front yard with two bare feet. The muscles in his ankle need strengthening, and he has moments of limping when he gets tired, but give it another few weeks and he will be running faster than the other kids.
On to Matiss - who has finally discovered the joy of reading. Both Jem and I were avid readers as kids, and it has been quite frustrating for me to watch my 7, almost 8 year old struggle with reading in the last year at school. He was only doing it when he was forced, and then only reading the minimum requirement. At the beginning of his holidays we pushed Tiss to read a chapter of Winnie the Pooh a day, and when he actually finished that (a few days ago) he was puffed up with pride. We bought him a little book light to celebrate, and ruled that if he couldn't fall asleep, he was allowed to read a chapter or two in bed with the light clipped on to his book. What an incentive! That, coupled with a trip to the library, and we've got a bookworm on our hands. He finished another (comparatively long!) book between last night and this morning, and I can see, finally, that a love affair has begun. Amazingly, Tiss can also read English - this happened without any training, apart from telling him the sound for "th" - he just picked up a reader for kids his age and ripped through it. Probably totally normal, I'm assuming if you have the skills for reading one language it can be transferred fairly easily to another, but to me its seems like a miracle.
As for me, I've been watching frogs in our little pond near the house. Totally delighted. There's brown ones and green ones, with spots, or stripes, and if you sit quiet enough, you can also see tritons (or are they called salamanders in English? Lizards that live underwater). In Queensland, in my childhood, there were green tree frogs that lived in the bush around our house: they were so prolific that occasionally you would visit the toilet to find a green leg sticking out from under the rim - they would crawl in under there to enjoy the cool water flushing downwards. Later, the frogs began to die out, and by the time I was at uni a whole movement had been established to try and recreate frog habitats in suburban Queensland, to encourage them back into our backyards. Jem and I spent hours digging in our hard, rocky earth on the hilltop to make a tropical pond, lined with black pond liner and succulents planted around, so that we could have frogs in our yard. As a result, we had a lot of cane toad spawn in our tiny pond, though I do also remember being excited about a couple of miniscule green tree frogs that made an appearance. But it was a struggle. Here, frogs are obviously pretty common - and because we don't farm or have any pesticides or fertilizers, our land is a frogs paradise. The kids can spend ages with little nets catching hem by the pond, holding them in their hands and letting them go again. You walk along the edge of the pond, accompanied by the plop, plop, plop, of tens of frogs leaping in the water to evade you.
A last highlight of the past week - berries. Strawberries to be precise. Strawberry season is coming to a close, and every opportunity I get I take off to the market to inhale the aroma and to buy a kilo or two or dark red, mushy, sweet berry goodness. I haven't started making jam yet, but will be doing so presently, because at this time of the year you have to make the most of this, the most yummy of fruits.
So, that's what's happening at our place. I'm not sure I will get motivated to do another post for a while. Outdoors is calling...

One Response so far.

  1. Courtney says:

    Great blog Mook! I love the way you've capture summer and the outdoor life.

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