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.