Thursday, December 30, 2010

Moving, the Process

This is a picture of Eden at the airport yesterday, her one tantrum of our travels, which happened to take place almost in baggage claim, right in front of the crowd eagerly awaiting their loved ones from the flight.This morning as I faced the unpacked house, the mass of empty boxes, and Ben's utterly different packing philosophy, I embodied this photo perfectly, so perfectly that Silas and Eden, like a little Greek chorus sitting at the breakfast table, kept saying, "why were you so mean to daddy? why? why were you so mean to daddy?" Since, when the mouth is full of rage there is no appropriate answer to give a two and four year old asking this question, I stormed into the kitchen. Only fifteen boxes/three hours later could I bring myself to call him and say sorry. (We are working on resolving conflicts in front of Silas, so at dinner I had to apologize all over again).

Amy gave me soup, coffee and her company all day long (i.e. sanity). And other friends took Silas and Eden to play, brought cookies, boxes, and groceries. (thank you!!)

I am now tucked into bed feeling jet lagged and groggy. The kids are asleep and I can hear Ben dragging boxes around upstairs. We aren't quite ready, but in the morning, movers will appear and take these packed and half-packed things to the pink house that i can't quite imagine living in, and we will start something new.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Our Visit

It's 9AM and suddenly the house is empty. My parents left for the airport, KJ drove off to the mountains, and Ben left while it was still dark. My mom always talks about how in a breath the house transforms from a flurry to stillness. Usually I am in the flurry, but today, I sit at the counter in the quiet pause that follows departure.

I feel a little restless: the tug in my chest I always feel when I leave Washington; the awareness that I still, despite the three full suitcases, have many things to gather and zip up; the anticipation of packing and moving when I get home.

Instead of springing to action, I am sitting at the counter drinking lychee tea and looking at pictures. The time has been full, "magical" as Ben said last night, a dose of everything.

Here are some pictures:

The babe we met for the first time, cousin Jesh:

brief snow:
the cathedral:


new york with Ben:
the pageant:

Christmas morning:

my sister's crocheted gifts (greatness):

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Twelve Days of Christmas

Yesterday I was going to write a post called "The Twelve Days of Christmas: the Pros and Cons," and it was going to say something like this:

After Silas and Eden gave each other their one present weeks ago and reveled in it, I began thinking that there is a certain brilliance in the Twelve Days of Christmas philosophy: Why not spread Christmas over several days to savor the gifts and avoid the ravenous ripping through that can happen Christmas morning?

Though the idea sounded great, I could think of no easy way to follow through with it, especially once here. But despite that, our Christmas really did shake into several days: We had California sibling Christmas, cousin/Eli and Hollie Christmas, and Newcott Christmas Eve all before Christmas. The pro's were everything I'd imagined: the slow wending through the season, through the presents, and the lack of one big binge. But as of yesterday, we had celebrated so many Christmases, that I could hardly keep in my mind that actual Christmas was still on the way - the clear con. I have always loved Christmas and been one to soak in its magic. But as of yesterday, I felt detached from all Christmas music, Christmas trees, and any sense of anticipation. Bummer.

[Enter today's blog: The Twelve Days of Christmas]
But then last night, after a day of Newcott Christmas, a mid-day of settling sadness that Cindy wasn't here, that we, again, sit at the brink of family change, we all headed to the church where Ben and I grew up for the children's Christmas service. Immediately, we were ushered into a side room where Max (my brother) and his 3 year old son were already wearing shepherd's clothing. They had volunteered our family, too -- Silas was quickly laden with sheep-dress and Eden made into an angel. Though Ben wasn't there yet, we were told that he was listed in the program as a shepherd too (he ran there). There we were, residents of a state across the country, fat in the middle of a church that had been our home for so many years, in a play. I LOVED it, and sat in the front row taking pictures of my little costumed family.

And while we sat in one of the more chaotic services -- instruments for all -- shaking my maracca to the Christmas carols, I listened to their words about light coming to me -- something I need so much -- healing, life. And I thought about birthdays and birthday parties. I love birthday's, especially my own. And I love birthday parties. I thought about how even when I don't feel like going to someone's party, I go because I love them and it's their day. So sitting there, I told God that I'd shake off my blah's and rise to the occasion, yes, I'd come to the party. It sounds silly, I know, but I made him a cake, just like I was a 7 year old, and piled it high with whipped cream, marshmallows and sprinkles. And thanks to my sister's prompting, the kids and I put out cookies and milk for Santa and a carrot for the reindeer. After they fell asleep, we all filled the stockings FULL, and went to bed with the twinkle of Christmas reignited.

And today, the twelveth day of Christmas, was the best Christmas day yet.

Friday, December 17, 2010

In the Kitchen

Tonight my dad made eggnog; my sister, a huge bowl of salsa; my mom, french toast bread pudding; and I, a carrot cake, all at the same time in the kitchen. We talked loudly over the old mixer and waited for measuring cups and mixing bowls. Eli sat holding 5 month old Jesh, whose little head bobbed and watched us all, and Hollie drifted in and out of the room, her bread patiently rising on the counter.

At home, I love to be in the kitchen alone -- a corner of the house where I can unlock my mind to wander as I work with my hands for a few brief moments in perfect allowance.

But here, at my parents' house, I spend about 80% of my waking time in their kitchen with family, eating, talking, watching whatever's being made or sorted or discussed.

There are few places I'd rather be.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Last Hurrah

The party felt like a goodbye party to the house; it's held us well.

(banner idea from katie did)

an Eggnog Extravaganza of sorts

When I was a kid, the night before my parents' annual eggnog party, my dad and uncle would disappear to the basement for hours of eggnog concocting. I could hear the thrum of the electric mixer knit with their voices and would poke my head downstairs to watch. It was always a night of chemistry, as they tweaked the recipe and jotted notes on the index card my dad kept in his yellow plastic recipe box.

When I was in high school and college, I began sitting in on the sessions a little longer, learning how to beat the yolks to death, to pour the liquor in a tiny steady stream. After Ben and I lived in California a few years, we decided to throw our own eggnog party; making my own frothy batch felt a palpable rite of passage. Each time we make it (this year was our 5th time), I have a wow-ed sense of accomplishment, that I have invoked my father, his mother, his mother's mother, and on back, in my own kitchen.

Last year I was clever enough to jot myself a note: 4 dozen eggs for eggnog this year -- perfect! Long story short, my note was faulty; 4 dozen eggs was a larger amount than I had EVER made before. So large, that it overflowed both of my biggest pots and left me at 11PM with no container big enough to combine the halves:


to be combined with egg whites/whipped cream:
I stood in the kitchen staring at my two largest pots, filled, and at more egg whites and whipped cream than I'd ever seen. Ben breezed in and out holding various pliers and announcing he was turning off the water. After looking between the pots, I finally got in my car; we had nothing large enough. Thankfully, a friend was awake and met me in her driveway with a cooler that we swapped for a bigger cooler. At home, I stood in the dark cold scrubbing it in the hose and then went about the work of combining:
In the end, it all worked. I did have to dump some eggnog residue down the drain of the complex, which I'm pretty sure I wasn't supposed to do, but at the party there was eggnog for all. I will note for next year that 4 dozen (though unprecedented) was the perfect amount but to be sure I have large buckets on hand.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010


A conversation between Silas and Eden while listening to Christmas carols in the car:

song: everybody knows some turkey and some mistletoe

Eden: turkey head!?

Silas: no, Eden, turkey hand.

Monday, December 06, 2010

one of those days

The kids wanted to have a camp out on the floor of their room tonight -- really on the stairs' landing, but I swayed them toward the bedroom. All afternoon, they played camp with imaginary "Olivia the camp mom." Playing in any imaginary world is unprecedented, much less one that involves a camp mom, whom Eden called on her imaginary phone every few minutes. (I loved this game). So, though I have a headache that has hovered for two weeks, and though I am worn out and feeling blah, I moved mattresses to the floor and rearranged their room.

Now it is night. Bedtime has been going on for an hour. I think everyone has gone to the bathroom at least three times a piece, and there has been much calling/yelling/crying/negotiating. I've already taken away the nightlight and overly-scolded. I partly need them to stop talking so that I can stop talking.

Earlier, after cleaning a kitchen that bordered on disaster area, I made some less than mediocre lasagna (ran out of tomato sauce halfway through and had to use a tomato paste concoction). In the process, I vigorously shook the can of Parmesan whose lid was not closed and, yes, cheese snowed all over the kitchen. Then a few minutes ago, while making myself a bowl of cereal and trying to block the insane yelling that had just erupted from upstairs, I knocked the can of chocolate milk powder out of the pantry. It fell, hit the floor, lost its lid, and, yes, rocketed chocolate powder all over the kitchen.

Now, I am sitting with my foggy headache trying to finish watching The Office. Out of a brief silence, Eden's voice just called down with a mouthful of pacifier. I have no idea what she's saying and I wish everyone would sleeeeeeeeeep. All I just heard is, "hey Mommy, would you? That would be so helpful." So whatever it is, I suppose I'd best go be "so helpful."

And then maybe we'll sleep.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

from gifts to shadows: anticipating nearness.

Today Ben came home from New York and the kids exchanged presents. As they sat on our bed *delighted* in their one gift from each other, I wished we could give them each one more present and then stop Christmas there. They would be satiated and immensely pleased -- and Christmas would be simple.

But we won't stop it there. It's hard, even, to stop buying presents even when everyone on my list is checked off. Each year, my whole family launches into conversation about how to simplify and change Christmas this year, and each year we celebrate it almost exactly the same. Because we always have. Because it's a moment to indulge. Because we love thinking of each other and hunting for gifts. Because we can.

Maybe one year we will strip it down. Or maybe we'll just always talk about it. I'm not sure.
Today I've been realizing, though, that even if the presents under the tree look exactly the same, we are all different. The year has stripped us down, and Christmas will be covered with shadows, some very dark and some hardly a tint to the light. We haven't ever had a Christmas like that before in our families, and I wonder what it will feel like. I wonder how we will manage to think about each other and not only ourselves, to sit in sadness instead of try to fix it, to make space for absence in the room, and to name each other when we need to be reminded, again, of who (and whose) we are.

This year we'll change our usual Christmas rhythm. I don't know what that will look like yet, but I am learning to hold more loosely to what I've always thought of as in-stone-tradition. Growing up, I tended to be adamant about keeping things the same -- the same food, the same restaurant for Christmas Eve Chinese food, the same Advent celebration, the same people gathered around the living room, the same Christmas party, the same, same same. And, of course, this stubbornness was born out of fear, the fear of change, which is really the fear of loss. We are still in the in between years of sharing the traditions we grew up with and establishing our own -- a dance of loss and gain. And this year, we also knead utter newness into the dough.

In a week we fly to Washington for togetherness -- to walk and eat, watch movies and celebrate birthdays. And I'm guessing over the two weeks there, we'll feel just about everything from misunderstood to sweetly connected, but more than anything, I hope we feel near. That's what we're traveling for, the nearness, for the moments of lying on the floor and hearing family talk in the other room, or watching each other move around a party. The nearness. That's what I'm waiting for.

Thursday, December 02, 2010


we found a place to live and will move jan 1*

1940's house. pink. a back deck. to-be wood floors. walking distance to library, park, coffee, school. one little bathroom. a garage. dr seus pine tree. teeny front porch. dwarf lemon tree, loaded. humming birds. potential tree house tree. friends down the street. old light fixtures on brass chains. a tiny writing studio that looks onto the yard. 80's berry wallpaper in kitchen. pink counter tops.

it's going to be good.

it will also involve our saying goodbye to this little house and neighborhood where we've lived, despite our short-term intentions, six years. the house to which we brought both our children home from the hospital. the house where Ben learned everything he knows now about handiness. the house silas will probably remember as his first house. the house where i learned how neighbors can be life-givers, pantry-sources, and tea-company first thing in the morning. the house where ben and i weathered so many conversations and processed all kinds of news. this is the first house we built and filled to the brim. in the mist of the excitement of newness and the relief of finally settling somewhere, i will be sad to go. as silas would say, it's bittersweet.