Thursday, November 29, 2012


It has been a month of days, many sweet, many plain, a few grueling.  I've made it to the grocery store with a mouthful of children. I've nursed and read stories, sung songs and prayed, and wrangled all three into bed for the last three nights alone. I've fed people every day, though I don't remember really cooking anything or any full meals we've eaten.  I've gotten everyone to school and home on time-ish each day (Eden is almost always 20 minutes late). I haven't run out of gas, despite the gauge being in the red repeatedly. These are the little victories I am living in. 

Today Maeve is tiring in the regular baby ways: muscles ache from the lifting, hauling, holding; another wet diaper right as she's finally drifting to sleep; poop immediately after I've changed her and snapped and resnapped her jammies until the snaps all lined up; a blow out when there are no extra clothes; fussiness right when we start to drive so that I end up driving while standing, my arm stretched as far as possible into the backseat to hold a pacifier in her mouth.  I'd forgotten how driving with an infant is worse than driving drunk. Oh babies.  No wonder they smile so deliciously when they are hungry.

I keep feeling like congratulating myself for living through a winter.  But then I remember that, yes, I do have a down coat on, but it is in the 40's and there has not yet been ice on my windshield or snow on the steps.  The Farmer's almanac and general weather people everywhere all are predicting a particularly cold and snowy one.  Even the weird cat vet Ben met said the cats' coats are especially thick this year, so I don't think I've arrived...  I wouldn't say that I am dreading it, but I will be glad to land on the other side.

Looking out the window it looks like winter. The trees stand with tangled ink branches. A few still hold on to brown rattly leaves, but for the most part, the landscape is altered: outlines against a pale gray sky that yellows as the day ends.  I don't mind these short days, the fact that the sky darkens at five. We burrow in a little deeper, pull down the blinds, sit under glowing lights.  In only a month, the days will begin to stretch again, inching out until we find ourselves squarely in summer, surprised by its sudden arrival.  

The kids and I have been talking about Advent, about how to receive, what to give, about generous unexpected out-pouring, about remembering and preparing.  These dark cold days that we didn't have in California feel fitting, a long tunnel toward Christmas, and the promise of light and longer days at the end.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

a poem for the week

Bless Their Hearts

At Steak 'n Shake I learned that if you add
"Bless their hearts" after their names, you can say
whatever you want about them and it's OK.
My son, bless his heart, is an idiot,
she said. He rents storage space for his kids'
toys—they're only one and three years old!
I said, my father, bless his heart, has turned
into a sentimental old fool. He gets
weepy when he hears my daughter's greeting
on our voice mail
. Before our Steakburgers came
someone else blessed her office mate's heart,
then, as an afterthought, the jealous hearts
of the entire anthropology department.
We bestowed blessings on many a heart
that day. I even blessed my ex-wife's heart.
Our waiter, bless his heart, would not be getting
much tip, for which, no doubt, he'd bless our hearts.
In a week it would be Thanksgiving,
and we would each sit with our respective
families, counting our blessings and blessing
the hearts of family members as only family
does best. Oh, bless us all, yes, bless us, please
bless us and bless our crummy little hearts.
"Bless Their Hearts" by Richard Newman, from Domestic Fugues. © Steel Toe Books, 2009.

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Congratulations to m*, Kaia Joye, and Mandy!

and thanks everyone else for entering.


Monday, November 05, 2012

Winter giveaways for 500 Posts!!

Yesterday I wrote my 500th post, so today I give some of my wintery favorites away:

jars of summer jam,

Big Train vanilla chai,

homemade biscotti,

and classic chap stick (every winner gets some)

Please leave a comment by November 15th to enter the drawing!  Three of you win (which could be all of you!)

Thanks for reading*

Sunday, November 04, 2012

More Life in the New Days

Maeve is six weeks old.  I am sitting at the table, rocking her on my knee while outside the kids stand around a galvanized tub of fall fire, "making torches."  I am not sure this is the safest game.  Ben is grinding down some azalea stumps to smooth out our small hill and ready it for possible sledding.

Today we took a date, rented DC bikes and cruised around downtown to a Ramen noodle bar and thrift shops.  We are weathering the low-grade tension that lives in the corners of these days of small people and full arms, and sometimes yells from the driver's seat or kitchen doorway...  It was good to be together, to bike behind him and watch him boyishly weave through traffic the way he always has, to follow the shape of his back and sit elbow to elbow over tangles of noodles.  Walking through Adams Morgan I could feel the gnawing want to be wrapped in a scarf, wearing fingerless gloves, sitting at a laptop with books, papers and a large coffee outside Tryst, or lingering with Ben over a long breakfast and the newspaper.  These are not days of leisure, or time alone or creative space -- all things we crave.  What I tried to remember, walking down that street past the brunchers, is that milk will not spring from my body ever three hours -- on a date or not -- forever, that one day I might be sitting outside a coffee shop alone missing a squirmy girl in a striped dress gnawing on her fist as she lies across my lap.

She just spit up down her face, into her ear, and onto my leg...  

Maeve is balding and cooing these days.  In the mornings I can steal a rare bright smile from her, and today her tiny purple Mary Jane socks stay on her feet.

Eden received face paints for a gift and has drawn two lopsided hearts on my chin and cheek, one large American Flag -- which greatly resembles a French flag -- on my other cheek, and a blue paw print on my forehead.  So that's what I look like right now.  She is amazed by how good she is at face painting and may begin offering it curbside.

Silas has no school tomorrow or election day and is reveling in the freedom, as if he's a 15 year-old missing exams.  I keep trying to think of fun plans for the hours Eden's at school , but I think he may be most happy to sit on the floor in my attention and build with legos.  So we will.

And so the days unfold into November.  I am trying to remember to stop and be thankful, especially when I find myself frowning or banging around the house -- both things I apparently do  in the mornings, before dinner, and just before piling people into the car (is that most of the day?).  I am trying to practice smiling (to counter the frowning).  I am beginning a book called Seven and hoping it will jolt my complacency.  I am especially missing  the park and California these days, which may be a sign of sinking deeper into real life here; Maeve was the final big change in the series, and she's here, the last loose end tied up.  Now it's all about learning to walk on this new footing.