Wednesday, December 28, 2011

What Happens After

Today we returned from ten days in DC.  We woke up at 4:40AM and were in the car driving to the airport by 5.  Now it is 4:15 PM California time and the day is still g-o-i-n-g.  We've settled in, opened mail, poured over Christmas cards, sat outside in the sun, talked through the story of Frankenstein (thank you school Halloween art projects), which despite having taught for several years, I still had to reference to remember the ending -!.  We've played at the park, visited some friends there, and lastly shopped at Trader Joe's to fill the empty refrigerator.  Silas, who apparently lost one shoe at the park and thus had to sit in the cart the entire time with all the cold food, was moved simply to make loud noises the whole time we shopped.  At one point I called to him from the wine tasting booth to please let me and these other people stand in this quiet happy place for two minutes. I don't do well after many nights of too little sleep.  Trader Joe's was a little crowded and there were definitely people near me when I told Silas there would be consequences if he made another noise.  What consequences?  Probably, off with his head (first thing I thought of).  Off with my head!  A long silence, and then as I rifled through the bags of spinach, a quiet voice from the cart: I'm scared.  You said you would cut my head off.  I know you'd never do that but you said you were going to.  Why did you say that?  Oh brother.  Then some other shoppers heard me say, you won't eat dessert tonight, or probably again this week, a natural consequence for nothing that was happening.  And pushing my cart with my legs as I tried to yank screaming Eden out of the cart basket for throwing the bag of spinach AGAIN (because her nerves, too, are a bit exposed, and I was gripping her), I looked up to find that I knew the check out guy, who is THE kindest most upbeat man ever.  Great.  He immediately doled out stickers until both kids stopped crying/whining/making noises and somehow made me smile and release the surface-y rage of impatience.  Now we are home, and I'm thinking I should drive back to the park to find the missing shoe.  But my body wants sleep, or at least a chair.  And again, it's only 4:30 in the afternoon.  This is a long one.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

School Work

We found this hanging on the wall of Silas's classroom.
In case you can't decipher it, the words read:
"I would like a ipad.  I wil pla aree brs on it."
with an illustration of a flying yellow bird hurdling toward a tower of green pigs.
oh mercy.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Oh Christmakah

When Silas got back tonight from "a town of Bethlehem" where he went to various shops, made buttons, ornaments with the star of David, saw Mary and Joseph in a barn, and got a dreidel (I wasn't there because I was with Eden, the first in our family to get stitches after Silas hacked (accidentally?) her forehead with a garden hoe), he said:

I love Chanukah!  Chanukah is dreidels!

Yes, Chanukah is great.  It celebrates a miracle God did.

Yeah!  You can celebrate it all the time because it's celebrating God!

You can?

Yes!  It's God and dreidels!  And I'm really good at dreidels.

What about Christmas?

Santa. (disappointed tone)

What about Santa?

He has reindeer.

Yeah, what does that have to do with anything?

You know, he brings presents and stuff.

Ok.  Again, how is that connected to what we're talking about?

Chanukah is about God but at Christmas there's Santa.

Christmas is about God, too, (oh please tell me you know this) -- celebrating the greatest present, that God came to earth so we could know him.  The presents we give are because God gave a present and we're happy about it, we're celebrating his birthday!

Yeah, they're like party favors.

...The presents are party favors.  Exactly.

I love my dreidel (at which point he climbed into the top bunk with it).

Monday, December 12, 2011

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

december sludge

Tonight my plans for a quiet evening alone by the fire with a cup of tea and no people ended up as an evening of Eden inexplicably screaming and crying for 45 minutes from bed, a cup of tea that never made it past hot water, and a fire that was only smoking logs.

Here an hour after the house finally quieted, I'm drinking wine that was supposed to be for a party, by the fire that is blazing only because I've one by one thrown in all the beautiful pine cones I've collected over the years as Christmas decorations.

I've started several blog entries the last couple of weeks that I haven't finished.  One about how when Annemarie was here I must have made 14 comments a day about how glad I was not to have a 1 1/2 year old, but how immediately after she left, I plunged into grief that I don't in fact have one of those delicious roly toddlers just learning language, and I won't again.  3 1/2 and 5 1/2 are kids.  But how can the whole stage of childbearing and babies already be over??  I'm not quite sure, nor ready, though I also can't imagine starting it again.  To learn how to hold both grief and longings about such things and gratitude and contentment at the same time must be something God most wants to teach us.

I am also marveling at (or bemoaning, really) the fact that despite lofty resolutions, I am inevitably a frantic do-er in December.  How is this unavoidable?  But with two families of six, nearly all the kids married with kids, three December family birthdays, four January family birthdays, four November family birthdays, Christmas cards, parties, school holiday shows, travel -- how does one not become an intense planner and list maker?  I really do want to know.  I think I'm related (especially by marriage) to several people who are NOT like this.  Please teach me. (Zack?  Beth?  Susan?  Tiffany?  Kaia Joye?  Homer? help.)

For the last three weeks, lots of family has cycled through my house.  First my dad for a weekend, then Annemarie and Greg for a week, and immediately after, Hollie and Jesh (my brother's wife and babe) for a week.  So I've been doing a lot of thinking about why family tensions arise so heartily over visits and holidays.  Of course there are lots of reasons like becoming a child again in your parents house, grief, missed-expectations, blah blah.  I'm not really thinking about those.  I'm thinking about the nitty gritty practical stuff.  When people come stay at my house, the things I cut out of my week are the little things: Friday morning writing time, a few hours with a babysitter, my yoga class, going for a run or walk, checking my email at the kitchen table while the kids play, doing laundry, reading in bed, taking long showers, going to sleep early, eating normally (instead of three huge meals and snacks and three desserts every day).  But it just so happens that those little things are the sanity-giving events of my week -- so of course tensions rise without them.  Annemarie taught me another thing -- when she was here, she cleaned incessantly, and it made ALL the difference with nine of us here.  The dishwasher was always running, toys were off the floor (again), markers were put away (again), laundry was going, the floor was swept.  I didn't realize how much low-grade tension she was alleviating in her constant maintenance, but it was a lot.  In a couple of weeks I head to DC for ten days to stay at my parents' house, and I'm wondering if it will make any difference to arrive with a game plan, could I curb some of the tensions if I pick up after us incessantly, find a yoga class ahead of time, plan a couple times to walk/run alone, ask my mom to take the kids for a few hours one day so I can write.  I'm not sure -- it's possible that once you add in jetlag and the desire to control things I may just be in trouble, but I'm going to try and see if it makes a difference.

I've officially burned all my pine cones and my fire is now quite small again, so I am going to head to bed (my bed where loud Eden is, at least until Ben gets home and moves her).

Sunday, December 04, 2011


This is the part of Sunday where I sometimes get a little frayed.  I have 24 avocados for guacamole on the counter, and the grill is preheating for 8 lbs of chicken breasts for park dinner tonight.  It's Eden's half birthday, so this morning we baked a vanilla cake and just made pink -- very pink -- frosting for the half cake.  The kids are bickering in the yard with a neighbor.  I've closed all the doors and windows to stop myself from yelling instructive and protective things from in the house (how obnoxious!)

This is the time of year when we race.  I've heard words like "rushed" and "frantic" -- strong words, and am amazed that I relate to every single one of them.  Must we get so insane?  -- the list making and organizing, the party planning, baking, cooking.  I did post a few weeks ago about how I was NOT going to let myself be swept right off my feet into all of that.  And yet, here I am.  Ben and I are both from families of six.  Our siblings are married and most have kids.  We have three December birthdays in the family and four January ones, not to mention the slew of November (there are four then too).  This = a LOT of presents.  How does one navivgate that sanely?  I really want to know?

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Babies Gone

{one of the entries I mentioned in the previous post}

It's funny, when Annemarie and Greg were here, I must have made a dozen comments (an hour?) about how glad I was not to have a one year old, to be out of the baby woods, to be in the land of children and non-nappers.  But almost immediately after they left, I was overwhelmed with the desire for a roly- poly dumpling just learning language.  It took me a couple of days to realize that more than wanting a third baby (though some days I do), I'm mourning the end of this stage of life -- babies, somehow, are gone, and kids have taken their place.

A few weeks ago we visited my sister in Catalina.  Silas threw up on the boat (as usual) and then came down with a high fever (not usual).  So I spent most of the day in KJ's room  with Silas, doling out tylenol and taking his temperature, while Ben, Eden, and KJ hiked to the top of the peak and held all sorts of sea creatures in the touch tank.  At one point when I was sitting outside KJ's room while Silas slept, Eden and KJ drove by me in a john deere min-truck and Eden just waved.  I think these are the moments that crush you, sometimes.

On the ferry boat home, though, Eden fell asleep in my arms.  And when I looked down at her, what I saw was still baby.

So for now, I'm holding on to that.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Christmas Trees

Southern California is a weird land.  Today we opted out of our usual Home Depot Christmas tree shopping to go instead to a family-owned local farm.  I've experienced the pumpkin patch against the backdrop of banana palms and desert mountains, but never the Christmas tree farm against office parks and the freeway...  Combine that with weather climbing toward 80 and parking-lot sun, and an east coast girl has to work to feel Christmas.  Silas was finally stripped down to a bare chest and rolled up sweat pants.

Historically, Ben and I have some differences in how we revere the magical process of shopping for a Christmas tree (hence the years of Home Depot trees...).  I have memories of racing around Christmas tree lots in the dark cold with my brothers under strings of white lights.  Ben today was ready to buy the first cheapest tree he saw.  He, as my parents would say, woke up on the wrong side of the bed.

We also tend to have a slight difference of opinion every year about how one ought to transport the Christmas tree home.  Does one tie it to the roof or simply reach out of the driver side window and hold onto the trunk with one hand while one drives?  This farm included a freeway drive -- would we possibly have this discussion here?  I looked over at Ben who still looked like a flat-mouthed muppet with frowning eyebrows.  I was pretty sure we would.

Silas raced into the dense trees, and Eden kept congratulating me for following her voice even though she walked behind me.  Once Silas got the hang of reading the tickets wired to branches, he'd yell for us to come see this tree or that.  At one of those moments, I tripped for the umpteenth time on a little stump (I wore tall clogs) and then rocketed forward, as if I'd just been launched, into the arms of a living tree that immediately dropped me onto the dirt.  Apparently, Ben saw me go but didn't hurry, and I sat there for a long time laughing while Silas and Eden stood over me watching without cracking a smile.

Finally we decided on a tree -- the one I fell at the foot of -- and pulled up our car.  Lo and behold, a man emerged carrying a bucket of rope and without question strapped the bushy tree to our roof!  I don't think that added to Ben's pleasure, nor did the $5 tip we gave that angel-man.  Now we're home with the tree in the living room.  All of our lights are broken -- how does that happen in a silent garage during the year? -- and boxes of decorations are half unpacked.  Eden keeps creeping into boxes, secretly unwrapping ornaments and then dangling them in front of our faces while I tell her again to put whatever it is back til we're ready.  Maybe by tonight.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Many times I've made lists of things I'm grateful for:
-hard rain
-the smell of wet concrete
-the brightness of a humming bird's head at the feeder
-trees moving in wind
-looking into Silas and Eden's wide eyes
-the softness of Ben's cheeks above his whiskers
-new markers
-letters in the mail
-my mom

I've heard that the antidote to worry is gratitude, which makes sense --  anxiety is the mind ricocheting in the future, and gratitude focuses on the present and gives ground.  Today someone even said that thinking of something you're grateful for breaks a bad mood.  But after I make these lists, I don't seem to be changed.  Where, then, is the power of being thankful, the transformation?

This week I've fumbled my way into experiencing the answer, at least a little.  Annemarie, Greg, and their three girls are here for the whole week from DC.  The plan was for them to stay here in our bitty one bathroom house for the first two nights and then move down to the neighbor's empty house.  But day after day, we keep choosing to stay together.  Somehow, the nine of us as one family feels more fun than the nine of us as two neighboring families, even though it's loud, people fight over toys, throw tantrums, and grow broody in need of space (all of which seem to be coming to a head today, of course on the day of thankfulness).  

Last night I lay in bed in Eden's bottom bunk grumbling to myself because Ben on the top bunk had gone to bed angry at me for being overly jocular (or as he would have said snide and rude).  I'd climbed up to apologize to no avail and now was back alone in the dark.  Lying there I still felt the energy of self-justification in my body -- sorry you felt bad when I was joking around.  But as I lay there, I began to think about Ben, not about the evening, the remarks, or the fact that this happens to be the time of month when I make sharp remarks, but about Ben, his feeling badly in front of friends, like I was not for him, and then going to sleep alone on the top bunk.  Slowly that frantic energy left until it was just me, small in the room of the people I most love.  I was grateful for Ben, and sorry, for real, for being a jerk.  I climbed back up to the top bunk and woke him again and my words were different -- sorry for being abrasive and inconsiderate, sorry I embarrassed you.  This, I think, is real gratitude, gratitude that changes us, pulls us out of our little kingdoms and back into the light of seeing other people and our real thanks.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Today my Dad is a Year from 70

I've written several poems about my dad over the years.  Some are about his childhood, the moment he learned at age 11 that his own father died.  Some are about my childhood, driving around St. Petersburg, Florida with him as he gestured here and there naming places and stories of his life.  Some are about sitting together at a Redskins game or my visiting him at the hospital when his lungs were full of blood clots (and he just sat watching the Redskins game rather than talking to me -he and I still disagree on this detail).  And some are about tiny moments when I've looked at him and been struck by the fact that I have the privilege of still having him with me at age 34, a privilege neither of my parents had, that my children get to have a warm-eyed grandfather in their lives, a mythical kind of man I only imagined.  This poems describes a moment like that, and his birthday, as I celebrate his life and health, seems like an appropriate day to share it.

My Father Who Holds the World

When I walk into the bathroom, the small TV on the counter 
speaks the 11 o'clock news and my father is at the sink. 
I sit and watch him as I watched him 25 years ago, his young daughter

balanced on the lip of the tub, watching to see him run the razor
across his soft cheeks, over his Adam's apple, along the jaw bone.
Tonight I watch with the same attentiveness, wanting to commit
to memory the slope of his forehead, the way he stands with hands
on either side of the sink, the tension silenced in his shoulders,

the shape of his watch imprinted on his wrist.  I am sitting
with my back against smooth tile, my son asleep
in the neighboring room – please please stay alive.

(Portland Review 56#1 Spring/Summer)


After I wrote about Eden's wakings, I began thinking about them conceptually.  A friend suggested they're night terrors, which re-framed them for me -- beyond aggravating and exhausting they are terrifying in a way, full of torment and unrest -- they're dark.  That night as I leaned over to kiss Eden's little face, I prayed that God would protect her from that in between state, that she would be held in sound restful sleep until she needed to wake, and when she woke she'd wake completely.  I have prayed this every night, and what amazes is that every night since, she's slept soundly.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

a little more Eden

Sally visits only rarely, these days.  But Bella still spends quite a lot of time with us.  Usually she wants to talk about college where she does art, ties ribbons or does "bouqueting."  Or else she meets up with us on her way to "skate camp" where she skateboards a lot.

Yesterday I met Ivy for the first time.  She's my age.  But she still has a hard time buckling her booster, which maddens us both.  Her baby is called Margarita and sometimes "munches bitty zucchinis" -- they'd have to be bitty since baby Margarita is only about three inches long and is sometimes still in utero.  Ivy spends a lot of time buckling and unbuckling Margarita into various spots.

At night these charming girls/friends/sisters leave and Eden is replaced by Needen, a semi-consciousness hellion.

Sleep had finally became delicious for a small time in our house, but nights again are riddled with waking.  I find myself climbing into bed with the newborn pit in my stomach -- the dread of having to wake again in just a few hours and then again, and again, and again.  For a while we woke because of a persistent night cough, because someone had to go to the bathroom or needed a fresh diaper or had kicked off blankets and was cold.  But these days, we wake because of Needen.

Needen starts off crying in a normal, child-like way calling for Mama, but then lingers in a half-dream state, adamant and refusing any comfort (or reason).  We meet her a few times every night, and I think Ben might murder her.  A conversation with Needen might go like this (and, in fact, did go like this two nights ago):


whimpering, crying.
Mama!  I want my Mama!

I force myself out from the covers into the cold air.
Coming Eden.

Crying crying

I sit down next to her

Hold ME!!!!

I touch her.  She reels from my touch, screaming.  (Silas is on the top bunk)

Sh Sh Shhh, it's ok.

THE FIRE PIT!  I want a fire in the FIRE PIT!!!



Ok.  We can make a fire tomorrow.


Eden, it's the middle of the night.

Screaming, crying.  YOU SAID!
I want the FIRE PIT!!

More crying.
Hold me Mama.

I touch her.

NOOOOOO!  Screaming and squirming away from me.

And on it goes.
Oh Needen, please don't come here any more.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Crabby Mama

A lot of the games i play with my kids end up sounding really dumb once I say them aloud to another person or articulate them -- this will be one of those examples.

Today everyone started off on the wrong foot.  Or it's possible that only I did.  In any event, it felt like EVERYone was particularly crabby.  But when Silas screamed and cried and clung to my leg at drop off (unprecedented), I had a hunch it was because of my icy facade all morning.  And when Eden burst into tears more than three times crying, "YOU HURT MY FEELINGS!" I once again had a sense that I was the root of our distress.  And yet, awareness or not, the intolerance and impatience persisted, for hours.

Sometimes, when I am in a continually foul mood that I can't shake, we call the woman before us "crabby mama."  And when it's all gone on for WAY too long and it must stop, there is sometimes an urgent news flash (the kind that Kermit used to do) to announce that crabby mama, who has been crabbing and pinching all morning,  has left town and regular Mama has replaced her.  As silly as it sounds, somehow the public announcement really does chase her away.

Today was not a good day.

But the surprising saving grace, once crabby mama had officially been pronounced gone, was that my friend Joan and her family came for dinner.  Ben was at a work dinner and I hadn't gone to the grocery store, but I was determined to cook from what I had.  Originally I'd planned to run this afternoon because I'm pretty sure that's what I most needed -- endorphins -- but instead, I cooked.

There is something truly life-giving about working with my hands. I feel that when I art journal, when I write a poem, and when I make a meal for people I love.  Tonight, channeling myself into a dinner saved all of us.  Eden and Silas, once they had the vague sense that I was once again their ally and fan, played in the darkening cold yard for ages while I busily chopped and whisked:  Breaded lemon chicken with pasta, skillet carrots with onions and thyme, Ina's celery Parmesan salad, and Pam Boch's Apple cake.

Conversation was full and the kids squealed absolutely happily for hours.  Now at 8:08 everyone is asleep, and I, too, am already tucked into bed.  Whew.  Glad for people to sit at the table with.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

forget the kitchen

My kitchen has been dirty all day, and now I think I may never go back in.  In fact, I may just climb into my bed and never go anywhere again.  Doesn't that sound good on a chilly night, post daylight savings when the kitchen is piled high with large aluminum pans, giant strainer/mixing bowl/coffee carafe, piles of serving spoons, monster cans of pumpkin -- donations for park dinners that arrived before a system for storing them...

Since I started making park dinners in June, I haven't cooked as much at home -- my energy has shifted to  following the grocery store circulars and buying in bulk.  But today, on a grey early morning that quickly broke into pouring rain, I cooked.  While Ben and Eden were camping somewhere not far away, and as it turned out, in the car, my friend Kelly and her boys came over for warmth and breakfast.  Silas and I made eggs with Parmesan (my specialty) and banana-chocolate chip pancakes.  A small grapefruit from the market ended up pink and sweet, and later in the day I made grilled turkey-brie-arugula-and-pear post-camping sandwiches, and this evening, a huge amount of chicken tetrazzini.  I do love making food for friends who love food.

Now it is time for bed.  I can't imagine how breakfast and snack/lunch making/packing will happen in that kitchen tomorrow morning.  Maybe the Kitchen Fairy will swoop in tonight while I sleep...

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Gusty Christmas Blowing In

I am sitting on my bed; the house is quiet.  Ben's in LA for the night for work.  Silas is tucked into bed with a fever and a throat so swollen I can see it just by peering into his mouth.  Eden, after probably pulling all the tissues out of the box and squeezing all the saline drops out of the bottle near her bed must now be asleep.  Even the dog next door is not barking.

We finished Halloween without too much fanfare -- the ninja and Ariel-turned-ladybug happily raced door-to-door with another ninja and a flower fairy, and all was well.  The two of them had decided ahead of time to trade their candy in for a toy, something I did not offer but a friend we know does.  They walked in from trick-or-treating, chose three pieces of candy each, and turned over their bags.  There wasn't much to do but comply so after they went to bed I rifled through the rest, made myself a stash (where are the mounds bars, by the way, are they extinct??) and then today bought them each a toy, of their dreams apparently, for $10.

Already today -- perhaps after having witnessed the mad rush of CVS to replace 6 ft skeletons with shiny-cheeked wreaths while I was filling a prescription --  I feel the hot breath of Christmas on my neck.  As every year, but perhaps a bit more in earnest this year, I am wondering what I will do differently to slow things down, to lean away from the compulsive consumption, to stand back from the perfection the season demands.  I have never used the word "perfection" to describe the weight of the season until tonight, but I think that's what it is, even driving the lengthy to-do lists.  This week the catalogs began rolling in full of beautiful sparkly houses, organic striped leggings, wooden washer and dryer toys, cranberry cocktails and chestnut stuffing -- the perfect gifts, decorations, tables, trees, parties, and traditions, all perfectly photographed, perfectly thoughtful, delicious, beautiful, hosted, and handmade.

The catch always when trying to regroup or clarify my vision before charging headlong toward December is that doing these things -- hand making things, decorating, baking, hosting, photographing the kids with Santa, buying presents, writing down wish lists -- is fun.  

And so I am left with my hands open in front of me holding the question of balance, a posture I hope to remember as I click through photos for Christmas cards and linger on etsy an hour too long.

Friday, October 14, 2011


I could drown in the stream of papers flowing into this house from elementary school.  Yesterday a teal sheet arrived announcing an art contest -- literary, visual, dramatic art addressing the prompt "Diversity means..." So this morning, Silas and I sat down and talked about what diversity means -- it's the opposite of same, diverse fruits and vegetables at the farmers' market, diverse people at the park, how if a group of people all looked exactly the same and said the exact same thing etc.  Then he left to draw.   At one point I heard him say, I'm coloring my ninja.  Ninja?!  What exactly is happening in your picture?  This was it:  someone tall, someone low, a ninja, a bee keeper with bees on him, a (very small) robber, a baby, and multiple X's that show that other people are NOT those things.  Diversity.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

one way to look at it

I have a sinus infection and have felt sapped of energy for nearly a week. As I was gearing up for this trip, I was talking to my friend Keri about its many moving parts -- packing, flying two legs with the kids, arriving at midnight, having a day in DC, renting a car, driving five hours solo to Pittsburgh, going to rehearsal and rehearsal dinner with the kids, staying in a hotel, wedding the next morning etc.  The five hour drive sounded like the worst -- kids who now ask "when are we going to be there?" and "how much longer" with the insistence of sitcom kids, my feeling crappy and sick, mad impatience -- a nightmare.  Keri was right there with me, nodding, until I said I wanted to make it an adventure instead of a hellish drive, and she sprang to life:  Oh yeah, you could stop for smoothies and chew lots of gum, watch movies and suck cough drops the whole time!
She was half kidding about the cough drops, but yes, I think we'll do that.

Since my mom's become a therapist, she often follows up bemoaning complaints with the phrase, "that's one way to look at it."  Conversations like this:

me: this is going to be the worst trip EVER.  I don't want to have to DRIVE all the way to Pittsburgh after flying across the country and staying up ALL night with Eden's coughing -- this is the worst!!
my mom: that's one way to look at it.

You can see how it could seem a bit annoying, but the fact of the matter (which is why it is so annoying) is that the statement's right.  So every time I've started to dread the drive (tomorrow morning), I think of Keri and chewing gum.

Monday, October 03, 2011


On Saturday morning I woke up in a funk.  Or I should say Friday night I went to bed in a funk and several times I woke up during the night wondering if the weight had lifted.  It hadn't.  So early Saturday morning, I peeled myself out of bed, tied on my sneakers and walked.  The sky was overcast and the light still dim.  It was early.  

Slowly, the sun burned through in one blazing patch of clouds and the sunrise began.  I kept walking.  I didn't notice the colors or even the way the light caught on the clouds; I felt small and shadowy and not quite sure if I was fit to interact at all with people around me, especially Silas, Eden or Ben; I hadn't been the day before.  What finally caught my attention were the rays that reached out from the sun and stretched all the way above me.  Every time I looked up, they were still there, perfectly defined.  I kept trying mentally to work myself into the day, but the enormity of this sunrise was distracting -- the rays!  

After an hour of this sky, of the rays perfectly visible, I told Silas, who had joined me, that this sky was relentless, looked at it again and realized the word was unrelenting -- determination behind it, a refusal to stop giving in the face of my mucky regrets, a beauty that refused to stop pouring over us.  And I knew I was loved, despite any despite I could think of. 

(and we had a great day.  I was loved).  

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Adventures of Sally

We used to meet Bella every day on our walks to school when we played "stranger."  But then one day, Eden became Sally and she's been Sally ever since.

Sally is not just a name but a character that Eden refuses to break;  she's Sally, and she's 6.  Eden is her little sister and Silas is her "5 year old big brother," and apparently we are all staying at her house.  There is a cat, "kitty bell," and dog "ruf ruf" that is yellow and white striped.  I haven't met either.  And -- most delightfully for me -- Sally knows how to buckle her seat belt herself.  Miracle. 

This week, Sally met Tinkerbell, Silvermist, and Dawn (all fairies) at Disneyland, and when each one bent down with her beautiful disney-fied face to meet Eden and ask what her name was, I watched Eden look shyly into their eyes and say, "Sally."

On Friday she asked me to write a note to her teachers, which she dictated:
Dear Miss Niki and Miss Tiffany,
Now that my name is Sally and Eden's at the donut shop, why doesn't my mom come back?  You can call me Sally but my real name IS Sally, ok?  
love, Sally
So that really cleared things up and was returned with a message from the teacher saying that for safety reasons they are not allowed to call a child a different name at school.  Sally was less than thrilled.

All weekend Sally has stayed with us, and in the mountains with several family friends she had them all calling her Sally by the end of the trip.  And last night (the four of us shared a room) I heard her say in her sleep, in a crystal clear voice: "I am big Sally!"

Yesterday in town, Eden told the old guy Richard who owns the moccasin store that her name is Sally, which made me kind of feel like I was a liar when he looked up at me beaming and said, "I love the name Sally!"

No matter how many times I call her Eden in a day, each time she patiently says, "I'm Sally, you bebember?" 

Sally she is.  

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Another Cloudy Morning

It's Saturday.  The sky once again is a stuffy grey and the damp air sticks to everything.  I heard rain in the night, but this morning all that's falling is mist.  Ben is on a trip, and I am tired.  I've been tired since school started, as if I were the one in a new classroom for more hours than I've ever been away from my mom, with 20 kids I don't know.  I'm not the one with a huge list of sight words to learn nor the one who just started preschool either.  But somehow, I am the one who is exhausted.  And maybe packing lunch and snack every day, thinking newly about what we need in the cupboards, filling out and keeping track of a ridiculous amount of paper work that public school requires, focusing on getting people here and there and everywhere on time, staying on top of homework for the first time ever, and adjusting to this new life overall is more work thank it seems like it should be.  But in any event, I am tired and my patience's running thin.  Right now Silas and Eden are calling from the other room, but I don't feel like putting a drop cloth down in their room so they can paint on the easel.  I don't feel like getting up and washing out Eden's brush because she painted in the red with the gold brush, I don't feel like fielding complaints ("MOM!  Eden is painting all OVER the easel!!").  I don't even feel like sitting on the couch and reading aloud.  What I'd really like to do is sit quietly at the kitchen table with the three days worth of newspapers that have built up and read them, then take a nap, then go down to the beach to walk alone.  That's what I feel like doing.  But today, like so many pieces of so many days, has nothing to do with what I FEEL like doing.  Today has to do with showing up for the day that was born into my hands this morning.  Today has to do with trying to speak in a nice voice and praying for patience when I have none, digging hard because I know it can come.  Today is about forcing myself to stare at Silas and Eden and see their small noses and little faces and hear them speak without R's ("let's get in the caw"), to see that today they still are small.  Today is about getting up from here and even though it's Saturday, packing a lunch for them and walking to the elementary school to meet with Silas's teacher because that's what I said I'd do.  And even if the whole day feels like slogging, I will slog because these are the people I love, and love as we so quickly learn, has little to do with what we feel like, and has much to do with slogging when what we'd most like to to is press mute and climb into bed for just a little nap.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Working the System (another goodbye)

Tonight Eden gathered up her blankies in a pile and announced that she's ready to give them up.  At this point, I think she's trying to find things around her room to exchange for presents, but since the pacifier exodus #2 is going swimmingly, I'll take whatever she's giving.

I have no doubt that she'll sleep just fine without a one -- she was a pacifier girl and the blanket was just icing -- but I will miss it, the way she always tucked her blanket under her chin like a violin and held its cool cotton to her cheek.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

tiny bright spots of imagination

Eden most all days is "Bella," one of the "sisters."  Her other sisters are Eden, Tulip, and Aryiah, who is very shy.  Bella often holds hands with Eden or Ariyah when we walk or crosses her arms over her chest to carry one of them.  Throughout the day, Bella asks where Eden is, which I think is a bit awkward since Eden obviously is left to navigate the world without parents.  I'm never sure how to answer this (though we have established that on Fridays Eden works in a donut shop).

Silas the other night over a dinner of cheese tortellini and kale (i.e. very little cooking): "Mom, this is SO good.  I feel like I'm eating in heaven."  

Overheard Eden singing a lullaby to a 1 year old friend: "Lullabyyyyyyy, sweet and sours and a coke"

Today the city cut down all the big beautiful eucalyptus trees on a street near our house.  On our drive home tonight looking out the window, Silas:  "This street makes me feel lonely."  Me too.

Getting out of the car, Eden: "there is a lion who lives on the back of my neck all the time, a little lion, he keeps my hair warm. do you want to touch him? he's right here"

Standing on a cliff over the bay, Eden: "why are there so many boobies down there?"  The water was specked with buoys. 

Monday, September 19, 2011


The weather has been June-like the last week or two -- a low cottony grey sky until early afternoon.  This morning, we gathered in the park, drew on blue and white balloons and released them for our friend Nate who died on Thursday night.  The weather felt like grief.  We watched them bob higher and higher until they were seeds against the grey, and even then we could still see them climb; they stayed right above us.  We all stood around a little awkwardly, and people put markers back in my hands while I tried to make conversation.  Then, so quietly I almost didn't notice, the sun shone down and patterned the grass with light and shadow, just for a minute before the clouds sealed up again.  

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Pacifier -- to be or not to be -- a drawn-out question

About a month ago, I saw a jar of pacifiers at the dentist's office that kids had turned in for a toy (a LAME toy, by the way).  The jar must have planted seeds of pacifier guilt because as Silas, Eden and I were driving, I began to talk about the pacifier fairy and how, one day, she would come to our house and exchange Eden's pacifiers for a toy. Before I knew it, I was into a whole mythology about the baby fairies who cry and cry, and as they cry, their room fills with pickles, and nothing can make them stop crying but a big girl's pacifier. As soon as they start to suck a big girl's passy, all of the pickles pop into rainbow bubbles, and the baby fairies fall asleep.

I remember when my little sister had a "YaYa going away party" and she said goodbye to her yaya; and when the "dup dup fairy" came and took away my goddaughter's pacifier, but really, I hadn't thought this one through:  Eden only uses her pacifier in bed, and I've never been concerned about it -- it soothes her and she sleeps, and one day, I'm confident, she won't need it any more.  But there I was driving the car still talking about baby fairies, and the next thing I knew, Eden said she was ready for the Passy Fairy to come that night.

So she gathered her pacifiers and hung them on the doorknob in a little bag, and after she fell asleep, I shopped in the neighbor's attic and found a little china tea set that I laid out in the dark of her room. The exchange went swimmingly and the pacifiers were gone!

Long story short, after two and a half weeks of MUCH neediness at bedtime that involved clinging to my arm and wanting me to stay until she fell asleep every night (two of these weeks were vacation with my fam -- less than ideal), Ben and I gave her her pacifiers back.  I am pretty sure this is something one should *never* do, a cardinal sin of parenting, but she was so happy.  And she slept.

Two weeks later we popped into the pediatrician for a prescription for the rash she'd had around her mouth for a month, when to my shock and dismay, he said the only way to make it go away was to lose the pacifier.  Eden's eyes filled with tears, and she buried her head in my chest.  I sat there floundering in the facts.  We'd just given it back, school was about to start -- there was no way I could take it away again.  And the doctor would never have to know; the rash (which has no symptoms except aesthetic) would persist, and we'd wouldn't come back to the office.

Eden was thrilled and began saying things like, "I'll be done with this probly when I'm six." A week or so ago I must have said something that sounded mildly threatening about pacifiers because within the next two minutes, she had named each of them for the first time ever --  Rapunzel, purple Rapunzel, and (I forget the other!) -- and gathered them in her bed.

BUT -- end of the story -- yesterday out of the blue she told me she was ready to give them up again (just in time for changing classes at school Monday morning).  Two nights and several conversations later, she's stuck to it, and I think, finally, we're done.

A little note about popcorn

I am quite sure that popcorn on the stove was one of the first foods I learned to cook myself. Popcorn is one of my mom's favorite foods on earth -- f a v o r i t e (right up there with lobster and hot fudge).  Growing up when we had to bring snack to school or on a field trip or anywhere, the Moyer kids always brought a butter-stained paper grocery bag of popcorn.

Tonight as I popped popcorn (to complete my dinner of green beans, croutons, and beer...), I think I made a popcorn discovery.  I've recently been wondering why some batches of popcorn end up a little chewy, like they are stale, and some pop up perfectly crisp.  I'd thought it was simply the problem of a bum bottle of popcorn, but now I think it has everything to do with when the kernels are added to the pot: hot oil = crisp popcorn, oil and popcorn at once = chewy.

I made popcorn tonight to eat while Ben and I watched "The Beaver," which it turns out you should rent right away.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

At the end of the first week

We've snapped our first-day-of-school pictures and sit nearly at the end of our first full week.  Both kids, thankfully, waltzed into their new classrooms with hardly a look back.  And though I've bypassed weepiness and pangs of loss this September, I am keenly aware that I have no idea what we've begun.  And, indeed, this is a beginning.  More than one afternoon already, I've sat at the kitchen table for half an hour sorting through a stack of papers that came home in Silas's bag.  I'm selling wrapping paper already!  (any takers?) -- a sure sign of public school -- and have already written, what feels to be dozens of checks already for the PTA's varied faces.  

We walk to school each morning, and Eden and I walk to pick up Silas in the afternoons.  My mom visited last week and told me that I'd always remember these days, how old fashioned to walk a block hand-in-hand, and as soon as she said it, I could already feel the future nostalgia creeping in.  

What's strange is how unfamiliar this rhythm feels -- I want to jump in my car and race somewhere, I'd rather jump in my car and race than meander down the alley at a 3 year old's pace.   So it will take some learning to embody these days.

This week has also proved my un-readiness for Silas's sudden social craving.  I was positive that at the end of his new long days, Silas would long for down time and bask in the afternoon hours of playing with Eden and me.  Instead, every day I pick him up and he's dying to go to the park with the boys, dying to.  Yesterday when I made him come straight home, he walked down the street yelling, "I am SO MAD AT YOU!" all the way to the corner.  And he was.  So we learn together, and make adjustments.  

Eden has had only two days of school, but already I am wondering (and apparently she who asks, "when can I go to school every day??" is wondering) why in the world I signed her up for only two days.  Earlier I was obsessing over whether or not to switch her to three days when I stopped by the park to say hi -- a good reality check for what's worth letting consume my mind.

And now, post-back to school night, the house is quiet and I am drinking cheap wine while Ben is at a fantastic going away dinner for his boss (he's texting me about his dry ice cosmo -- got to love a man who orders a cosmo -- and seafood tower right now).  Tomorrow will wrap up week #1 and we'll all have learned a bit more.    

Monday, September 05, 2011

The day before kindergarten

Last week we ate dinner with Ben's dad and were talking about the beginning of kindergarten. Bill can remember both orientation and his first day. Neither Ben nor I could remember ours, or many first days at all -- Ben, none and I, only 9th grade and college. Tomorrow morning Silas will have his first day of kindergarten -- the only first day of kindergarten he'll ever have. What will he remember about this sliver of life when we lived in a pink house and walked to school down an alley? I cannot anticipate or create what comes next. These experiences will be only his, the beginnings of his conscious story -- the friends he'll have, games he'll play at recess, lego creations he'll build, ways he'll be hurt or victorious or excited, beaming moments of learning this or hitting the ball there. I will walk (and pray) him to the door of room #5 each morning, kiss his little face, and just like that, we will live in a new season.

Who knows what tomorrow will bring, but today, a sunny Monday, both Silas and I are ready. I hope we'll hold hands as we walk.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Back Home

Our Sunday morning began with our jolting awake as both kids pushed and yelled, wrestling for a spot in our bed. Then there were fits and tears about putting clothes on and washing faces and getting out the door for a small walk to the coffee shop.

Now, in the calm after the storm, we are sitting in the living room -- Ben is reading the paper, I am typing, Eden (who currently is a 16 year old named Bella who sucks a pacifier sometimes, a stranger who has come to visit but mysteriously sleeps in Eden's bed every night) is lying next to me spinning more of her story, and Silas is knotting a chain around the coffee table.

Our first week back involved nearly no emotional adjustment, which is rare and welcome, but the jet lag has been unrelenting -- everyone droops around 10AM and never quite rallies. But we've had a back to school party, visited Silas's elementary school (!!) and met his kindergarten teacher (!!!), had reunions with friends, and some time at the beach.

In the last month, Eden has bloomed more into a child, no longer a toddler -- she constantly tells stories, tells me she loves me, texts her "sister" on my phone, chatters away with dolls and animals, arranges creatures in houses and boxes, and prances and dances as she goes.

Silas begins kindergarten in two days. Thank goodness (for me) that he is nothing but thrilled about it, especially the lunch card he will swipe on pizza day. He's already begging to bike to school alone -- mercy!

I've been glad to be greeted by September, fresh new beginning, a month I've always loved -- new classes, notebooks, perspective. I'm trying to anticipate what the weeks will feel like, how we'll move in our new rhythm. My friends at the park have weighed heavily on my mind since I've been home: what can I possibly offer, give that will matter enough? Time, meals and friendship, yes, but what more? How will Silas do in his long days with new kids and countless conversations I know nothing about? I haven't written since May -- will the poems come back? These are the questions framing September -- the fog early in the month before the days crisp with clarity.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

At the Beach

bubbles, water balloons and birthdays -- cousins
my sister-in-law's watermelon, greek yogurt, and berries layer cake. genius.

s'mores pie -- the gooiest most labor-intensive pie I've ever made
(marshmallow whipped cream, graham crackers dipped in hot fudge, vanilla marshmallow cream...) Kaia Joye's vision and my mom's heaven-dessert.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Hair

now that I have my camera hook-up, the hair post-haircuts:

Monday, August 08, 2011

The Garden of Eden

A few hours ago, I would have written this:

Last night after Ben checked on the kids, he walked through the bathroom and found curved clippings of brown hair all over the floor. Needless to say that's not usually how I, one of the two brown haired people in the family, leave the bathroom. I tried to feel Eden's hair in the dark and found a few short pieces, but nothing drastic, and there hadn't been too much hair on the floor, so I went to bed without much thought -- most kids try it once, right? and I've always known Eden would be one of those kids. This morning, I saw that the hair on half her head was cut to the jaw bone, some strands a little shorter, though the very front pieces were still up in a rubber band. Perhaps not horrible, just a gap in the curtain of her hair?

She, who rarely lets her regret show, told us later in the day that she likes having short hair on one side and long on the other. And that she does not want it all short because then she can't have braids. And she loves braids. So all day I entertained keeping the gap.

Them came tonight, Eden's Garden:

Despite Silas's early rising and the number of miles the kids trudged over the mountain today, Silas and Eden are jet-lagged and despite exhaustion, had a hard time calming down tonight (much like their mother who is alone on the couch in a dark living room at this very moment). After tucking them in, we could hear Eden's animated voice bouncing behind the door and not long after heard footsteps which sounded like running between our room and theirs. But we were reading happily and knew they'd fall asleep eventually. The sounds continued in a somewhat inexplicable way -- were they jumping? stomping? still running? We ignored it. Then at one point, my mom commented on the fact that there wasn't noise anymore, hadn't been for a while, except hushed murmuring -- dangerous. So we voted for Pops to go up and sternly shoo them to bed. He walked into their room,
Where is everyone?

Then he tried the bathroom door. Locked. We listened to him walk to the opposite bathroom door. Also Locked. He knocked. And (with prompting) knocked harder. The sound of scurrying from the hidden people. I walked up and arrived at the other door just as Silas opened it. Nothing registered.

What are you doing?
Silas's big guilty eyes looked at my face, We're cutting our hair.
I saw it as the words left his mouth -- Eden's hair was now up to the jaw bone on both sides (minus the pony tail still on top) with several pieces almost to the top of her ear. And Silas's hair -- my favorite right now, coarse-soft and bleached nearly white from the sun -- was cut to the skin right on top. I just stood there looking back and forth and a laugh blasted out of my mouth as I turned to my dad. But I knew that wouldn't do, so as it was leaving my mouth, I also said, this is NOT funny. Very effective.

But Mom! It isn't my fault, Eden told me to do it.
(Several conversations followed up this statement).

Eden, tomorrow we're going to have to cut your hair.
I don't want my hair cut!!!
But you cut it.
I want it long.
But you cut it short. Yes, I stopped there. The reasoning was getting us no where.

As they finally climbed into bed sheepishly, a little itchy from hair, Ben rifled through the bathroom for the scissors.
Where are the scissors?
They're behind the sink.
Where? I don't see them.
Behind the sink. On the floor.

I'm pretty sure an angel with a flaming sword will be guarding the bathroom doors tomorrow night.

(at least they put a lot of it in the trashcan)


More than the spattering sound against the porch and railings, the rain rushes and blows through the trees and beats against the windows and sides of the house. Thunder rumbles low and grumbling in the background, through the mountains that we can no longer see.

We arrived yesterday to the woods I've come to for thirty years. In recent years, they seem more towering and brighter than ever as their huge bodies sway in the wind, so unlike the low flat land where I live.

This morning when my mom got up -- she was the first of us -- she walked into the living room to find Silas fully dressed with binoculars around his neck gazing out the door (in his west coast brain it was 4AM). Each time I've spotted his little white-blonde head today, he's been moving and armed with some kind of equipment -- binoculars, walking sticks, telescope, shovel, machete, bear whistle. I think heaven for him, like Nana, will be this exact setting.

The rain has quieted enough now that it's changed to pattering and trickling drops, still with that low thunder behind it. The trees stand perfectly still. My hands are scratched from the rope swing and my hair soft from pond water -- a water so cold it sucked the breath out of me each time I dove in. Jesh, my one year old nephew, is bouncing on the rug next to Silas behind me-- cousins.

On the trail today Eden collected handfuls of treasures that she jammed into my jean short pockets: acorns and two "rainbow leaves"-- the august woods already lean toward fall -- crumpled green leaves Eden was "making play dough" from, rocks flecked with mica.

This summer the hills have been wild with black bears -- a newer development since I was a girl -- bears so bold they've climbed onto neighbors' porches and ambled under their apple trees. Last night at dusk, a neighbor spotted a mama and four cubs right down near the gate digging out a bee hive. We clustered on the porch but couldn't seen them, despite Eli's work with the binoculars, Silas's with the telescope, and Eden's the with magnifying glass. Instead we saw fire flies flecking the dark woods.

In a few minutes we'll walk through the thundery air and drive down to Asheville for bar-b-que, faces to the glass watching for bears as we go.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

From the Other Room

It's Sunday afternoon at 4. A giant enchilada casserole is in the neighbor's oven for the park tonight (our rental-house-oven-from-the-olden-days is too small to fit most everything standard, much less a giant aluminum pan -- a little ironic for this time of life -- so I cook down the street nearly every weekend. Thank you, neighbors). A breeze is drifting through the front door and from the playroom I hear Silas's little voice singing "cream colored ponies and crisp apple strudel" against the sound of blocks going up.
In the two minutes I've been sitting here trying to capture this sweet pause, a battle has erupted in the playroom and Eden, in a deep scratchy voice is screaming NOOOOOO!! NOOOOOO!! NOOOOOOOO!! And Silas, who from the sound of it is still slapping up blocks (and probably pushing her away at the same time) just said, "Eden, laughter is gift."

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Dentist and the Sneaky Girl

Last week while the kids sang and acted the Sound of Music at camp, I sat in the dentist chair and got fillings. A few days later I had to bring the kids with me for a final visit to have one of the filling checked.

As we were walking out of the exam room, I caught Eden quickly rubbing her lips -- I looked at the tray, elbow-height beside her, the pink glossy glob of numbing gel at the edge, and realized this was, indeed, the "lip glass" she'd been sneaking.

Our initial stern talk about putting random substances on one's lips without asking must have been effective because I didn't hear much about how tingly those little lips felt.


A few weeks ago in the library, Eden walked over to me with a glossy pink craft book and said, with her hip cocked, "mom? I want to make some cute things." Where she comes from, I often ask myself, but there she was with her big bright book and I couldn't say no.

I am not a big crafter. Though cooking with recipes satisfies my urge to create with my hands, following step-by-step instructions to paint/sew/decorate feels more vapid. And so the book sat. On Monday, the email notification arrived that the book was due in three days. My goal had been to make ONE thing and time was nearly up. So that morning, Eden and I sat down to pick the craft and decided on the doll.

The first doll (yes, there were a few) we made was for Eden and Silas's cousin. It's a slightly scary duck-man with a felt beak that's a little cute -- it's the thought that counts (right?), and Silas loved it so much that he wanted one just like it. So we made a second duck-man dolly. Eden's doll was more involved, not the doll, herself, but the dress (dress!), which was simple enough in the book. But Eden, who has had strong clothing preferences since she was tiny, predictably had strong opinions. Four alterations later, the dress was done and Nonnie was complete with checkered tights:

We then left for the beach, and as every beloved new toy does, Nonnie came with us. Long story short, Eden left Nonnie on a patch of sand and before we knew it, Nonnie was gone, only her dress remained on the sand. I was ready to throw myself down on the sand in wild defeat. Eden was upset, too, but not heart-wrenchingly so. We retraced and retraced our steps, but, indeed, Nonnie was gone. On the drive home, I waffled between teaching the lesson -- don't leave your beloved toy abandoned on the sand -- and wanting to make her a new one. Since we still had the dress, I plunged into the world of sewing one more time and recreated Nonnie, who inexplicably is now named Nutie (pronounced Nudie, yes).

Saturday, July 16, 2011

20 books

One of our family goals this summer is to read 100 books. When we hit 100, we will celebrate with milkshakes and backyard camping.

100, it turns out, is a large number. So I decided that to keep morale high, we need to have small goals every 20 books. We hit our first 20 this week (doesn't that make 100 seem far off??) and as a reward, Silas and I threw whipped cream pies in each other's faces: