Saturday, November 23, 2013

Fanksgiving (Faux Thanksgiving)

Because all we Moyers are traveling this week to Washington to visit my brother's fam and their new baby, we threw a DC Thanksgiving last weekend.  I've always wanted to host a family Thanksgiving but have come in from out of town and have never been able to.  Our fanksgiving plan unfolded slowly, changing houses along the way, and all of the sudden I was hosting!  Because I was only responsible for the turkey (and almost dropped the ball since I shopped the day before and, of course, in mid-November there were only frozen birds in the stores), and had been reading Bon Appetit for days, I got to pick a couple of extras (though there are about a dozen sides or more I'd like to try -- maybe a few a week throughout December!).

Here are two little additions I recommend!

Cranberry Margarita 
  from Bon Appetit Nov 2013

Cranberry Jam
3/4 c fresh cranberries
1/4 c sugar
1 t finely grated orange zest
2 T fresh orange juice

Assembly
1 T kosher salt
1 T sugar
1 1/2 t Chinese five-spice powder
1 lime wedge, plus 2 oz fresh lime juice
4 oz fresh OJ
6 oz tequila

Jam: bring cranberries, sugar, orange juice, and 1/4 c water to boil in a small sauce pan; reduce heat and let simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickens, 30-40 minutes.  Mix in orange zest, let cool.
(can be made 5 days ahead, covered and kept in fridge)

Assembly: Mix salt sugar and five-spice powder on small plate (this recipe makes a LOT of salt/sug/spice -- you could definitely cut the amounts in half).  Rub rims of glasses with lime and dip in salt mixture.  Fill glasses with ice.

For each cocktail, combine 1/2 oz lime juice, 1 oz orange juice, 1 1/2 oz tequila, and 2 T cranberry jam in a cocktail shaker.  Fill shaker with ice and shake until outside is frosty, about 30 seconds.  Strain and pour into glass.

*this drink is not very sweet, so we ended up adding some dollops of cranberry sauce we'd just made to the drinks to sweeten it up*
*also, a couple of people in our crew were horrified by the idea of 5 spice powder rimming their glasses.  A couple of them rose to the occasion though and discovered that the flavors surprisingly work and blend all together.  A couple just opted out (wimpy)*



Pomegranate-Mint Relish
         also from Bon Appetit Nov 2013

1/2 small shallot, chopped
1 1/2 c pomegranate seeds
1/2 c olive oil
1 1/2 finely grated lemon zest
1 T lemon juice
1 T red wine vinegar
1 c finely chopped fresh mint
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

Combine shallot, pomegranate seeds, oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, vinegar, chopped mint in a small bowl; season with salt and pepper.
(can make a day ahead and chilled without the mint -- add mint before serving)

This was a fun addition, a different set of flavors at the Thanksgiving table, but the bright pomegranates and tang of vinegar was great with turkey.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

ripe pears

This morning I stood in the kitchen while it was still dark, wintry white just beginning to seep into the low trees.  Maeve sat on the counter, as she does, head a hair below the bottom of the cabinets.  I picked up a pear whose skin looked like it had been painted dandelion yellow before the green wash went down.  I stood cutting one thin slice at a time, the way I learned watching my grandmother cut apples, knife toward her thumb.  The slippery white pieces trickled juice down Maeve's hand as she shoved them in her mouth, Maeve who shakes her little head at the suggestion of any food beyond milk, bananas, and stoned wheat thin crackers.  This morning, she didn't refuse, and together we ate a pear, one slim slice at a time, while the house slept above us.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Baby Fairies

Yesterday morning as I wheeled around to face Ben, frustration crackling through my body as Maeve, for the zillionth time that morning, shook her head no at the food I was offering and wildly threw it all over the floor.

He smiled at me.  Do you want to give her back to the Baby Fairies? 

Yes, without hesitation.  I looked at her soft curly hair and moony baby face.  Yes, I do.
In fact I've wanted to every day this week as she's added witchiness to the once-peaceful witching hour, and I haven't known how to satiate her.

Last night sleep and popcorn making collided -- so much just-getting-warm in the blankets and then POP! someone cries and up I go.  All.  Night.  Long.  On one of the visits to Maeve's room, we sat in the chair, her head tucked snugly in the crook of my neck, little arms around my arms with a koala grip, and rocked.  This, I thought, is what I love.  As soon as I thought it, I realized why I've felt so bewildered and disappointed this week:  I still think I have a baby.  I'm still expecting someone loose and snuggled in my arms, someone whose needs I meet easily with a bottle.  I'm not prepared for defiance yet, even one year old uncoordinated head shaking that makes her fall down when she walks (because she shakes her head and tries to run away from me!!!)  I'm not prepared for a baby with strong preferences who wants to eat ONLY bananas, cottage cheese, cereal and yogurt (is that ok??) rather than whatever great foods I offer.  But here we are at 13 1/2 months in the toddler years.

Maeve, I am sorry I wanted to give you to those fairies, though they would have loved you.  I promise not to give you away.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Superpowers

If I could have any superpower, it's always been to teleport -- more than flying, more than superhuman strength, I'd love to blink my eyes and arrive (it's the destination, not the journey...). But tonight for the first time, I wanted a power more than that.  I wanted the superpower to multiply myself and maintain a unified consciousness -- to at once rake in the yard with Ben; sit on the yellow couch with Eden, stroke her hair and ask her dozens of questions about her day; wrestle through word sorts and spelling words with Silas in the dining room; pick up crying Maeve who is clinging to my leg and rock her weight against me; stand in the kitchen alone to open the oven without fighting off Maeve with my leg; walk alone under the pinkening-gold that's spilling over the clouds right now and take a deep breath -- to be fully present to all of these at once.

Instead, though, I am leaving Ben to rake thousands of leaves alone while Silas and I work on "fruit" and "suit" and "dude;" I'm running outside to rake with Ben until Maeve's yelling turns to crying in the half-dark yard and I have to carry her in kicking and put her in the tub; I'm sitting alone for three minutes on the kitchen floor, Maeve screaming in her bed, with a glass of Malbec writing as I wait for the lasagna to be done; and then unexpectedly, I have a stolen moment with Eden who pokes her head in.  I get to hold her 5 year old self for a minute and ask about the fireworks of her day.

{now it is tomorrow}
After everyone was finally tucked under blankets and quieted by the dark, the 60 degree day faded to a night still warm enough to sit in.  Ben and I walked outside and sat on the front step, a slivered moon lit up through the branches.  The air smelled sweet -- leaves and earth and the cool dark -- and absorbed some of the exhaustion we both carried from raking and wrangling.  We just sat, looking at a scattering of bright stars and for a moment, I didn't need to be anywhere else.

Today Silas is home with a fever.  After the tylenol kicked in, what he most wanted to do was make a cardboard house (inspired by the wonderful book, If I Built a House -- love Chris Van Dusen) for his two bears.  I loved his wanting to house his bears and create something.  But standing there with Maeve clinging to my legs crying -- because either she doesn't feel well, some tooth deep in her gums is pressing, or she's simply ornery already at the age of one -- feeling sleep deficiency stinging my eyes and making my head heavy, I couldn't imagine helping him set up for that project.  So he cried, and I felt like I failed him.  Maeve yelled and clung, and I at least got breakfast's cold items back into the fridge.

But the day went on, as they do, and time extended its arms, as it sometimes does.  Maeve slept.  I ate avocado on toast.  Silas paged through some books and started to make the box house on his own.  Armed with a long serrated knife and gorilla tape (I couldn't find the glue gun), I came to help.  We cut windows and doors that he designed, hung curtains that look like stained glass, taped up a package delivery slot, and fastened fabric across the roof.  I think it still looks a lot like a mailing box with a little paper glued to it, and fabric taped on the inside, but he is thrilled.  He keeps walking by saying, "I can't believe we finished my house!!"  "I can't believe I made such a cool house today!"  A little effort worth it.

Eden got off the bus crabby and angry about missing house-building and a day at home -- and hungry (hangry!) because she didn't eat her lunch.  Maeve continued her yelling/incessant hold me!/shaking her head no, and Silas's fever kicked back in.  Hairy.

But now, we are waiting for Chinese food to come.  Silas's fever broke and he's making music on the ipad, while Eden plays with Maeve in the basement -- a playing that sounds like lots of shrieking and LOUD squealing laughter.  They have a magic chemistry where somehow their four years difference dissolves into play they both understand.

This must be how days work -- frenetic to calmed, racing to lying on the ground looking at the leaves.  A woman I knew in California called it inhales and exhales of the day.  We need both, she said.  These inhales seem to last so long that my chest hurts and my throat feels tight, but then, at some point, I always get to exhale, even a short exhale and there's release.  And so, as I pause at the table for a second, before the onslaught of dinner and bedtime, I will tell myself to keep on breathing.
 
 


Friday, November 01, 2013

a Happy Halloween

I am sitting at the table with Halloween remnants scattered around me: a bowl of clementines with jack-o-lantern faces drawn on, a witch's broom on the floor, unwashed travel mugs of spiked cider (so good), a stack or orange paper plates, yarn for making ghosts' necks, and, of course, candy, my own Reese's cup wrapper at my wrist.

Halloween this year was ideal -- all of the dark, murderous, gory stuff held at bay.  Instead there were neighbors gathered, kids on swings, throw-back costumes (Michael Jackson, skeletons, witches, cat in the hat), pizza, and streets teaming with kids.  Once, when Silas was two, I broke up with Halloween.  Good to know, even Halloween break-ups can be redeemed.

 That's Silas's real hair -- gelatin does wonders -- and he now wants to wear a mohawk to school every day...
My mom, Goldilocks, was my favorite.  


Spiced Apple Cider
     from Bon Appetit 

1 gallon apple cider
1 T whole allspice (I used ground and less than that)
1 t freshly grated nutmeg (I used dry and less)
4 whole cloves
3 cinnamon sticks
1 vanilla bean
Brandy, Calvados (apple brandy), or Bourbon (I used bourbon)

  • Combine cider, allspice, nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon sticks in a large pot. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; add bean. Bring spiced cider just to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook just below a simmer until flavors meld, about 1 hour.
  • Strain cider through a sieve into another pot or heatproof punch bowl; discard solids in sieve. Add brandy/bourbon to taste, if using.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

a poem for today by Charlotte Matthews

Patron Saint of the Convenience Store
     In this life we cannot do great things.
     We can only do small things with great love.
     --Mother Teresa

Think how tired she must be,
after she's drawn letters in the dirt,
jumped rope with beggar children,
cradled a man in the streets of Calcutta.
She can still come up with phrases
well worth writing down.
And here she is, in the 7-11,
buying clove cigarettes to bring
back the smell of High Mass.
Me -- my purchase?  A bright red
Tootsie pop, hard-shelled exterior
that only gives way and melts.
I'm thinking how bleak
the emptied city pool looked
on my way over, how it'll be
winter soon so sadness will set in.
She stands unswerving, probably
coming up with another great quote.
It is only through repetition
that we make ourselves.
Her heart, like this store, is never closed.
I follower her out the automatic doors
to the steamy black parking lot.
She slides into her seat, adjusts
her habit, drives away.



(published in The American Poetry Review May/June 2013)

Monday, October 21, 2013

It's All a Little Better Now

It's 8:31 and I'm toying with going to bed, which means I'll probably get under the covers soon, read Bon App├ętit, write in my journal, make some lists about tomorrow, think about cracking open the Bonhoeffer autobiography, text with Lindsay a few times because it will be pre-dinner making in her time zone, come down stairs for a glass of water, get back under the covers, make another list, probably about Christmas (seriously, I've started.  I love-hate that) or my brother's birthday party. And then it will be 11 and I'll be cursing myself for staying up so long.  This is pretty much how it goes every single night, and then it's 5AM, and Maeve is wide awake in America.

What do they say the definition of insanity is, repeating the same action and expecting different results?  Well, my "attempts" at being rested may fall into that category...

{oh, I should qualify that Ben is out, which is why there is no mention of him at all -- usually we do talk to each other, in case there was concern}

Today was a day of stuff: car that will barely start + really want sweet coffee = left the car running in the parking lot (for fear that it wouldn't start again if I cut the engine) and went in to order a a mocha with caramel drizzle (...) While there, the pediatrician whose office is in that same parking lot called to say I was, unbeknownst to me, supposed to be at their office.  SO, I left my car running longer and walked over to the doctor's where she told me that, yes, as I could tell from the lack of crying, fever, and sleeplessness, Maeve is better.  Thank you.  Next time I will ditch the $20 follow up... Gladly, my car was still running in the parking lot when I came out {small congratulations to the people who resisted the obscene temptation to drive off with a perfectly fine car} so I drove to the body shop to explain the starting problem and tell them it sounds an unplugged robot winding down each time I turn it off.  On the way home (in another car) I found a witch's broom for $2.99, some fluorescent tights with tiny witches flying on them for my big witch to wear, and orange and green hair spray.

Then I stopped.  Maeve napped for what felt like two days, and I sat on my bed.  Last fall I spent a lot of each day sitting on my bed nursing Maeve.  I watched leaves of the hundred year old oak trees change from green to yellow to golden against the bright flat blue skies, and listened to Ben and the kids raking, swinging, playing below.

Today we had that kind of sky, and wind whirled the leaves.

I almost can't remember those days of sitting on my bed with someone so small.  What did she sound like?

A friend just posted this on Facebook: "Pick up the nearest book, turn to page 45.  The first sentence explains your love life."  There is no book to be seen near me.  Bowl of edamame? Yes.  Eden's asthma chart?  Yes.  Pumpkins and gourds?  Yes.  Napkins, bulbs to plant, a tub of markers, school folders, a bottle of wine, a bottle of bubbles, some mail? Yes.  No book.  Oh! one book! shoved under Silas's homework folder.  I picked it up and turned to page 45:  "Who are you?"

I laughed -- I'm glad that does not explain my love life!

But then I thought.

Sometimes when people are so close to me, so in the thick of the every day, so familiar, I forget how utterly mysterious and other they are.  Today sitting on my bed was kind of about that.  After a morning of maintaining -- cars, children, caffeine desires, Halloween wishes -- I got to sit and remember mystery.  Sunday at the church we were visiting, each 2nd grader was given a Bible in front of the congregation.  The moment was personal and sweet -- they clearly knew each kid.  2nd grade Silas sitting two seats away from me (anger distance) was devastated to be sitting with us instead of standing with the kids -- an insult to the injury that we are visiting churches in the first place.  So today, I wrote him a long letter in the cover of a Bible that I "presented" to him tonight.  In that letter I wrote about mystery, God's mystery in the midst of all we learn, the mystery of the man Silas will be, the mystery of a book that's written Spirit to spirit.  Mystery.

So here at the end of the day, "who are you?" may actually be a good question for my love life -- another invitation to step back and look again.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

teething, fevers, shrieking, sleep

I am writing with Maeve standing in the chair behind me wielding a rubber basting brush and stomping her feet.  She's teething and will not let me set her down.  Incredibly charming when touching my body -- leaning her head around my shoulder, tilted to the side, dimpled smile, in a high singing voice: hi!  -- but as soon as her feet touch the floor, she throws her toy, crashes to the ground and cries, hence our double-deckered seating, which, even now, is deteriorating....

Today is our first cold day.  53 and raining makes a cold that sinks through clothes and skin.  This is the kind of cold that requires a shower to get warm.  What, I keep wondering, does everyone do who lives outside, who sits tucked under overhangs wearing wet sweatpants?  I talked to a man like that earlier today, John, who had accumulated a couple Starbucks cups -- people's gestures toward warmth and well-wishing.  What can I do for you, I stood there wondering, knowing a laundromat, a new set of clothing, a hot shower would all do wonders but were not possible.

****

That is as far as I got that day with teething Maeve.

Now is it several days later and teething Maeve has turned to fevered Maeve with a sore throat that makes her stick her tongue out and leave it there while she wrinkles her forehead and yells.  She's taken to falcon calling -- short sharp shrill screams (maybe not at all what a falcon sounds like) all day long..........

It's after 9:00 and I can hear that quiet wise voice in the back of my head telling me to slam my computer and run to bed.  I need sleep.  So I shall.  The house looks mildly like we've all walked around for two months throwing everything we've touched on the floor, so I hope I wake up in another place, maybe a hotel.

Friday, October 04, 2013

A Poem by Marina Tsvetaeva

What is this gypsy passion for separation

What is this gypsy passion for separation, this
   readiness to rush off -- when we've just met?
My head rests in my hands as I
   realize, looking into the night

that no one turning over our letters has
   yet understood how completely and
how deeply faithless we are, which is
   to say: how true we are to ourselves.



Doing it "Right" (the blogging break is over -- it was overrated)

Hello October!

Five weeks into school, and I am beginning to feel comfortable in our new rhythm.  Maeve has moved (or been moved) to one nap a day.  Our afternoons have some rubbery structure -- homework is mostly done before dinner (leaps and bounds above my rushing Silas through homework sheets at the breakfast table!!); sometimes we do science on Thursdays; Tuesday's and Wednesday's I have an hour with each kid while the other is at a class.  There are still things to figure out -- like how and when and what to make for dinner...  My sense of overwhelm at being responsible for my kids' spelling and fluency in addition and subtraction tables that left me ranting after Back to School night has even softened.

I've learned an important thing about myself recently.  I love latching on to a new routine and resolution: we will drink smoothies every morning from now on!  Every Tuesday we will go to the library and research a nonfiction topic!  Every week the kids will have these chores and put stars in the grid on the fridge!

But the fact of the matter is, as soon as I staple us into a strict routine like that, I buck it.  The IDEA of living these resolves makes me feel safe -- or, really, makes me, for the fleeting moment of drawing a magic marker grid and buying star stickers, feel in control.

One step into it, though, it's instantly clear that I'm not in control and may even be missing needs by pushing a rigid agenda.  But it does work well when I have, not family rules, but a thoughtful bank of ideas to draw from --  -- we could go to the library and research a nonfiction topic (we haven't ever done that); we could make green smoothies for breakfast; we could have a list of brainstormed chores on the fridge we all have to get done.

Yesterday a friend was talking about the constant busyness she feels taking care of three kids.  She said even though they're all in school now, the demands are constant: the dog needs long walks, she wants to help in kids' classrooms (now three), someone needs new pants for a performance, the grocery list demands trips to three stores, someone needs a non allergenic mattress cover to stop coughing all night long, the soccer ball has no air in it and practice is today, bills are due online  -- where is my time -- how can I do this better??  I could just stop trying to do it right...

I was struck.  Yes, how much pressure do we carry around trying "to do it right," to do it ALL right.  And how much time do we spend trying to present our "right" lives to the world -- instagram, blogs, facebook, twitter...

It's exhausting.

I lock into resolutions -- rules, really -- for the relief that, YES, this will make me do it RIGHT.  In my house, kids shower every night!

But then the kids don't shower (again), and I realize for the zillionth time that no matter how much structure I try to give us, it's not going to make me do it "right."

Sometimes the floor is just filthy.
Sometimes we have no fruit or vegetables in the house at all.
Sometimes I curse when I can't find the hairbrush, and I have to do Eden's hair in the morning.
Lots of times I yell when people can only find one shoe and the bus is coming in 3 minutes.
Yesterday I yelled so loudly about a sweatshirt and Eden cried so hard that I couldn't put her on the bus and had to say sorry while I drove her to school.

But the good news is that I am showing up and doing it.  As I let that impulsive resolution-junky quiet, there is freedom.  Pinterest-perfect "right" is not really the goal (though so lovely and aesthetically pleasing).  The goal is putting down my phone, looking at their eyes, smiling instead of sighing with exasperation, saying sorry, slowly learning.  It's good news when all I can think about is falling onto my bed and staying there for days and instead I'm answering questions about rainbow loom bracelets, about how to spell "said," about what's for dinner even when I haven't the faintest idea.  It's good news when instead of ignoring him and moving on, I attack Silas crawling across the floor under a blanket wanting to be laughed at, or dig through Eden's closet to help her lay out an outfit even though she's violently rejected my last four suggestions.  Today, I am standing on the good news.



Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Celebration

A year ago, she was the baby we held like a dolly





whose tininess we studied,

whom we surrounded.



Now she's a little girl turned 1
 eating her own frozen banana on a stick
 and tasting chocolate birthday cake.


Maeve, every day I'm glad you're here.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

A Different End to a Different Day (& signing off for now)

One day left of this cropped week --Labor Day and Rosh Hashanah -- Friday already in the morning!  Tomorrow we'll attempt our first walk to school -- a mile up-ish hill.  We'll see how they do...

The great news is that there have been no Monday morning stomach aches so far and no tears to the bus.  My heart seems to be the most off-kilter and stiff to transition.  Thankfully, theirs seem more like Gumby.

Some days I wonder how I'll survive parenting --  the changes, the bloomings, the stunning surprises of emerging people, the hundreds of ways we must release them, the daily push-and-pull, trial-and-error, the pain of the errors, the fun free play, the hefty responsibilities, the wiggling waggling act of balls flying through the air -- the wind from the rush of it, the thrill and the speed.

But this week the days have taken their time.  I've hit tired, as happens, so have been reading aloud.  I've come to think of books as scripts of kindness -- when I can't say anything nice, when my mouth is a landmine ready to blow, I read, and soon we find ourselves leaning against each other, together on the bed.

As Autumn comes, ripe with yellow change, I am going to break from blogging for the month in hopes of creating space for poems.  It will be an experiment. But before that,

A September List of Likes:

*The Butler (worth $12 for a movie)

*The Wishing Chair -- my current script of kindness and sweet and fun

*A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, by Donald Miller
(read this aloud with Ben -- scripts of kindness work with adults, too...)

*Maeve full-arm-ed waving at every stranger, mute and ignored, but full animation

*Bread & Wine, by Shauna Niequist -- per the author's suggestion, a group of friends and I had a dinner-book club through the month of August using her menus and questions at the back of the book-- fun

*glow in the dark pacifier -- I am not kidding when I tell you this is the best invention I've ever met.  These things glow longer than any glow-in-the-dark item I've ever seen.  Genius.

*A cocktail: The Sandbridge Swizzle (invented by my mother -- also genius)
32 oz cran-strawberry juice
44 oz ruby red
16 oz can margarita mix, frozen
32 oz seltzer
22 oz citrus rum
10 oz orange liqueur -- cointreau, grand marnier, triple sec
mint (lots)
(serves 27-30)

*toothpicks that make lunches happy


One of the top items on my September list of NOT-likes is dragging my kids (or myself or anyone) through indecision.  Today, for example: the kids and I tried to leave the house for ONE HOUR to drive to a beach on the Chesapeake: packed water bottles, bathing suits, towels, sunscreen, snacks, shoes, pacifiers, change of clothes, and finally left the house -- without the stroller.  A few miles away, I made a u-turn, spilled Maeve's bottle all over the car, somehow had no napkins in the glove box to clean it up, got home, man-handled the stroller into the car, started to drive back toward the highway and heard the-still-small-voice saying drop this overly ambitious plan and play at home today,  made a u-turn to take us home, then shook off the-still-small-voice, made another u-turn and pulled onto the highway.  Even on the entrance ramp, I realized it WAS too much and now too late in the day, that we'd tangle with rush hour and not have fun.  I took the first exit and everyone cried.
We drove to my parents' empty house so Maeve could nap, and I collapsed on the nearest bed, too, while Silas and Eden disappeared with legos and crayons.   I woke to Silas and Eden's loud voices saying family member's names and dragged myself up to tell them they were LOUD only to find them in my dad's office with his file cabinet drawer open reading aloud the file tabs, a few of which included our names.
You guys cannot play in here!  Ever!  This is Pop's office and those are his important files!!
But we love playing office in here.
This is not a play office!  It's a real office!
Well, shrug, this is where we play office.
and sure enough, all the drawers were opened, pens out, stapler on the desk...

When Maeve woke, we rocked on the porch swing and then walked home.  Silas and Eden busied themselves with an old bin of costumes, making cameos in wigs and giant shoes, laughing too hard to talk, while Maeve squawked like a parrot from her highchair.

The day wasn't what we'd wanted, an afternoon with friends, finding shark's teeth in the sand, digging and playing in bathing suits like it was one more day of summer; it ended up different with plans splatted and people coming apart at the seams (all of the people, really...).  But the different day had a different end, and people even laughed.  I'm reminded again -- so quick to forget -- to be grateful.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Good News

This morning we ate croissants before school to celebrate that it's Friday -- the first full week down!

They (we) did it!  And so far, so good...




After we dropped the kids off, Ben took me, red-eyed and sunglasses-ed, to coffee, where we realized that, to add to the list of changes, Maeve needs a new car seat...

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Hot Diggity Dog

Over the last couple of years, I've read all sorts of recipes for hotdogs -- chili cheese dogs with maple bacon and gouda, hotdogs piled with roasted veggies, feta, hummus and dill, dogs with soba noodles and siracha, dogs doused in all sorts of sauces.  In Costa Mesa, LA's Pink's set up a stall at the fair and Dogzilla made regular appearances at the Wednesday farmer's market.

Last weekend, we finally tried our hand.  Friends brought dogs and buns and we made toppings. Most of the recipes below are at least loosely adapted from Sunset magazine.  

This was our menu {plus the Meditrranean Dog: hummus, olives, feta, cucumbers}




The Surfer Dog + carmelized onions

Gripping as We Go

I've been digging in my heels this August as school's pushed closer.  My resistance has really been about Eden's leaving for kindergarten (which, unhelpfully, is coinciding with weaning Maeve).  It feels like a loss all around: the loss of two hours alone with her before Silas comes home, the loss of 50% of her day being imagination and play,  the loss of a 15 minute drive together to and from school.  It's the loss of "pre" -- pre-school, pre-homework, pre-buying lunch food I've never seen in a far away lunchroom, pre-big kids all around.  It's the loss of sibling-summer-magic.  There's some good wholeness that happens when kids are thrown together day after day.  Even when they shake and tumble through it, they're together rather than on opposite sides of a wall.  Silas and Eden, who've always liked each other, have changed this summer to be more affectionate, sillier, fond of each other: they're good friends.  Starting a week from tomorrow, for almost 7 hours of the day, they'll be on different sides of a wall. 

I know this is rhythm.
I know millions of kids are starting school this month. 
I know all of this is normal. 
But I don't care.

Right now, after leaving Peter's apartment, change does not feel good.  I do not like time's insistence.  Constant movement feels unnatural, and some of it is.  

But here we are, on a planet with time and seasons.  
Here we are, in motion.
There is no protest (that's useful). 
There is no standing still.
There is only the choice of how we'll move.

Walking today, I noticed that the trees are already starting to change and drop little hints of what's to come, as if they're saying let's all hold hands and jump together because we're ready, and we're going.

They are ready, putting on their reds without resistance.  

As I picked up their little leaves, I felt for the first time this summer, that fall might be possible, that I might be able to bear Silas and Eden's going (will I write this same thing in fifteen years when they head back to college??), that they might be able to separate and stay connected, that going back to school might be ok, that it could possibly even be good.  

People have planted mums already.  Soon the maples will tip toward fire with shocking beauty, and the ground will be littered with little promises that movement is the way of life, the way to new life.

Regardless of my wanting to close my eyes or spin the earth backwards like Superman did, the air will start smelling colder, the trees will pelt the ground with acorns, Eden will fight me hard when she doesn't have her way, Maeve will begin to walk, and the trees will blacken and stand bare.

I kept an orange heart-shaped leaf from my walk and am carrying it with me as I think about Peter and about change, about how God sticks close to us and leads us through this wild windy land, about how hard we can grip His hand, about how even when we do a shitty job along the way -- flail and scream and hate the road -- he doesn't stand any farther from us because his nearness isn't dependent on how we do; it's dependent on how He loves.  (I will remind myself of that again and again).

So here, where the leaves are mostly green and the air still thick with summer, I will resolve to grip and put on my reds, too.


Revisiting Peter

This morning I went to Peter's apartment for the first time in weeks.

When I walked in the man at the front desk stopped me.
I'm going to 903 (a month and a half ago, the week after Peter died, he looked at me knowingly and nodded me on without my having to say anything).
Do they know you are coming?  Already picking up the phone, I will call up to make sure they know you are here.
Oh-- no, no one's there.  My uncle lived there.  He died.  A little while ago.  I'm just going up.
He stared at me long and hard as if trying to know something more from the words I said, until I walked out from under his sight.

Loosing the fact into the air felt sickening.

Some days it doesn't; it feels like fact.  But this morning, the words webbed into the air, I feel vulnerable to the bone: he lived and now he doesn't: a weight pressed hard to my chest.

Our culture is a strange one in how far we stand from death.  Even when a person dies we have no rituals of touch, of how to say goodbye.  Both times I have stood with people after they've died, I could not stop touching them -- cold hands, fingers, arms, face, head -- the last time I would touch their skin, those hands I've known.  How to ever stop, to allow the last contact and walk away?

He lived and then he didn't.

We can't stop it, the fact that those we love will cease to be with us.  We don't lie in wait for the next beloved to die -- we can't -- but we know it's out there, the ambush when once again we'll be seized to the point of breathlessness.

The waves will come.

Today is cloudy and wet.  It's in the 70's but the air is thick and damp.  I feel myself getting sucked into it, waterlogged.

I am sitting in the car outside Peter's apartment building where I've brought down a bowl of cherry tomatoes I picked from his still-living vine, rich red in the bowl.  My front seat is piled with suggestions of him I've carried here: a palm-sized white plate, a wooden spoon his hand held, a can of coconut milk he bought with some plan in mind, a mixing bowl, a book about prayer and one about writing.

I want to sit here, to sink farther into the seat, to become the seat for a little while as the humidity gathers on the windows.

So I am forcing myself out of the car, out into the muggy world -- where leaves are thick on trees and people are breathing -- to walk in it.



Thursday, August 01, 2013

Tired

It is a boring answer to 'how are you?', an insulting comment on how you look; a sometimes welcome explanation for why you feel angry/impatient/insecure; a given when the flu hits; a part of life when you love and travel across the country; a gift when you can sink into bed (and have uninterrupted sleep).

Tiredness is one of my least favorite feelings.
It, obviously, comes with the territory these days -- and years.  Today, this week, this summer, I am tired.  I feel it under my eyes.  I feel it at my edges, a rawness starting to creep toward center.  I feel like a drain is open, and I can't quite fill up.

Each night when I hit my wall, I almost go to bed.  But the evening is bright, sun still throws light across the grass -- it's summer.  So instead I open a book, I look at pictures, I talk with Ben, I sit at my computer, I watch a show (Newsroom is back!), I do something until the second wind hits.  These days that second wind is gusty, and I don't come down easily, and so I'm cycling: late night, Maeve at 5AM, late night, Maeve at 5AM.  Burning the candle at both ends, they say, or what it feels like is just melting in the middle.

I have alternated between alarm and sadness that we're flipping through summer days so quickly, that already, August, the month of school, is here.  I keep holding the kids' faces in my hands and staring at them; they seem to be changing in front of me.  Silas reminds me of my brother Eli; he looks different.  As I wrestle a brush through Eden's hair -- an inexplicable nest every morning and afternoon -- I notice her head against my ribs and her little bare feet on the floor as she waits for my help.  She will be going to kindergarten in a month, and my ache is deep.

This last month of summer, I've left the days wide open: no camps, no classes, just us.  We will swim and walk to the library and drive each other a little crazy.  I need to feel a little crazy-driven to be able to hold hands and walk those little bodies back out to the school bus, to let them climb up the steps and disappear for the day.

These days I want to feel energetic and unhurried with a plan up my sleeve.  Instead, I feel deficient and in need -- of help, iced tea, walks, quiet, sleep...

Need, I suppose, is a force that can change us.  Maybe God will use this to ready me for school, or to make me grateful.  Today, I am trying to find what to be thankful for in this sluggishness: right now, as I'm trying to type on my bed, Silas is lying full-weight across my back, Eden is tapping each of my toes singing "eeny meeny miney moe," and Maeve is yelling for me from her crib -- this, I know, is one thing.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

appropriate

a poem by Mary Oliver (thanks, Carrie P):


I Have Decided
   
I have decided to find myself a home
in the mountains, somewhere high up
where one learns to live peacefully in
the cold and the silence.  It's said that
in such a  place certain revelations may
be discovered.  That what the Spirit
reaches for may be eventually felt, if not
exactly understood.  Slowly, no doubt.  I'm
not talking about a vacation.

Of course at the same time I mean to
stay exactly where I am.

Are you following me?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Driving

 For days I have been readying for a road trip with the Eden and Maeve, an 8 hour drive to the mountains (will that mean 12 for us??).  I have been organizing: a heap of books-on-tape and videos for my car sick girl, bags of food for the week, running packing list on the marker board, extra diapers and babyfood, bug spray etc. 

What I had not prepared for was sickness. Or sleeplessness.  Eden coughed and whimpered all night; Maeve cried with a runny nose; my throat hurt, a storm lit the sky with strobe-like lightning for hours.  At 5 AM (thanks, Maeve) feeling hit by a truck and utterly thrashed, I was ready to bag the whole thing, car packed or not. 

But Eden. 

She has counted down the days and hours, watching the video of the zip line her dad and uncle Max just strung over the pond, imagining her firm little hands gripping rope. She has taken steam showers and drank countless glasses of orange juice to fight her cold. 

There was nothing to do  but to wake the girls and go. Motherhood in all it's glory.

We are now  on 81 south. The early morning sun on the foothills, grey-bottomed clouds, pale blue sky behind them, Queen Anne's lace and chicory, greasy McDonald's breakfast sandwiches, our neighbors at a middle-of-no-where rest stop who offered to hold Maeve, my favorite childhood  movie playing behind me – these are the gifts I'm counting as my head pounds and eyes sting.  

These details are not what Eden will remember, nor how we blew our noses a thousand times, burning through a whole roll of toilet paper. What  I remember about road trips with my mom is the sense of it -- the adventure of getting in the car early, the safety of being with her, the small treats and stops we didn't  usually make, the excitement of finally turning up the mountain.  It must have been the way my mom arranged these days for us, her tone, that have left me remembering the twinge of magic instead of the slow stretching hours. 

When I talked to my sister last night and told her about our trip, she said, "how very mom of you," which made me laugh. But driving down the very same roads this morning, I hope she's right -- those trips were the glue, days we still talk about. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Super Moon: a weekend alone (ish)

Tonight we'll have a Super Moon.  Silas, Eden, and Ben will be driving home from New York and  will watch it appear and waver on the horizon of the highway before it rises high above and follows them home.  I will strain to glimpse it through the trees out back.

This weekend has been a bit of a supermoon for me -- not a honeymoon, not a babymoon, just a supermoon, with Maeve.  Without the weight of the other children, I shuttled between hardware stores, Ikea, and Target, bought supplies and painted the walls I've stared at for nearly a year, shooing Maeve from the paint trays as I went, and luring her to the other side of the room with toys I threw.

Each evening my house fell silent at 6:00 and I sat at the kitchen table and enjoyed summer -- vidalia onions, zucchini, summer squash, and my favorite kale salad.  Tomorrow, all of this will shift back to normal with swim practice and dinners on the fly, but for now, salad:


My Favorite Kale Salad
(is no picture better than an uninspiring one?)

Ingredients:
kale
lemon
olive oil
salt
shredded Parmesan
candied pecans (or something sweet + nutty)

For this salad, the dressing is simply lemon juice and olive oil.  
Wash kale and tear it into bite-sized pieces.  Discard the ribs.  
Squeeze a quarter or more of lemon all over and drizzle olive oil.  
Be generous with your Parmesan.
I like something sweet to counter the lemon and kale, and candied pecans (from Trader Joe's) are my favorite.  Try nectarines, toasted almonds/walnuts, crasins -- whatever you have on hand


Waiting for the Adult

Several times this summer, I've had a vague sense of waiting for the Adult to show up and handle it -- the basement flooding after extensive "waterproofing" work; the soaking carpets and mud residue downstairs; the decision to take Silas to the ER or not for blood work; hiring the next company to deal with the flooding, the mosquitoes, the poison ivy at this house;  what next to do for Silas's Lyme disease.

But that vague wise, authoritative Adult doesn't come because I, somehow, am she, right along with my best-guy-friend-from-high-school-turned-lover-and-father-of-my-children, Ben.

It's a strange life stage, these 30's, and stranger now that we are living in the city where we met, moving through the neighborhoods of our childhood.

This week Silas finished his 28-day course of antibiotics.  He feels well but is still missing about 10-15% movement in the left side of his face.  So, wise and knowing Adult, wherever you are, what to do?   Our kid can't scrunch his nose on one side.  The Internet (and neighborhoods, and pool decks and book clubs and coffee shops) are full of frenzied Lyme stories.  Everyone knows someone who's had it, and lots of the stories are bad.  My approach generally (there are exceptions) is to do things pretty well, well enough, so they are all right, completed, cleanish, a little rough around the edges but good and done, but all of the sudden, here we are, dealing with some one's FACE and that approach does not work.

My brother reminded me to pray -- I do believe in healing -- so we've been praying, and reading online about recovery -- go to holistic doctor ($500 for initial visit), fight for 6 weeks of antibiotics, visit a neurologist, begin physical therapy, visit a peds infectious disease doctor, give him cat's claw tea twice a day, move him to a gluten free diet --  and calling doctor's offices, which we may or not be able to get into this month, though his medicine ends in two days.  Having the wellness of some one's sweet face in my hands -- not some one's, but Silas's -- is pushing me (again) into the space of adult and action.  It nixes any stall tactics, any hemming and hawing, any waiting for the Adult -- we are his adult, and so we go.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

List of Likes: April

1. Spring break with Silas and Eden -- no where to go or be

2. Searching for Sugarman

3. cold full-bodied Sauvignon Blanc

4. daffodils daffodils daffodils, and clusters of yellow-centered crocuses cropping up like tiny towns in the dirt

5. recent article in psychotherapy networker about raising anxious kids -- worth the read!   You can find it here. 

6. Maeve.  how she props up like a tripod, holds my hair, smiles broad gummy smiles, grabs her toes, thumps her legs on the floor when lying on her back, squeals.

7. today we have lived in DC one year; the hard edges of transition have softened

8. cadbury milk chocolate candy coated eggs


The List

On the way home from the beach last weekend, after battling mosquitos with citronella candles, swatting horseflies, and making Silas pee on his leg where a jellyfish stung him, Ben made this list:

What makes DC different than California

-basement floods
-mosquitos
-mosquito diseases like West Nile
-bee and wasp stings
-ticks and Lyme disease
-camel crickets
-poison ivy
-jellyfish
-sea lice
-gnats
-horseflies
-centipede clusters
-humidity and heat rash
-power failures
-derechos
-tornadoes

He finished it with, "I"m going to pack up my babies and head west."



Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Year 20: beach day

This is the 20th year Annemarie and I have taken a summer beach day.  We began as new drivers with a map highlighted by her mother and a warning about couches along the freeway that might have fallen off of trucks (of all things!).  There was the summer we found fields of sunflowers and jumped from the car to take pictures (we have never found them again).  There was the summer we didn't like each other much and met up for an hour or two to take a picture and say we went.  There were college summers and the summer we were engaged; the summer we were both married; the summer Annemarie was pregnant and about to alter everything we knew about life.  There was the summer I was platinum blond; the nine summers one or both of us was pregnant or pumping.  There was the summer I moved to DC, and the summer we both lived here.  

Though some years we don't even touch the sand and some years we swim in the ocean, what we always do on our day is go to the old tired photo booth.  Each year we hold our breaths as we peek into the arcade, and each year the booth's still standing, and we feed our dollars in.  The quality steadily worsens and occasionally a man has swung the front open and is tinkering with the mechanics, but it always manages to spit out our faces and makes us laugh.  This year the our machine was gone.  We pummeled the 15 year old boy working at the desk with questions about why and when and WHY?  And then we walked back outside.  The sad truth is that now we have photo booth apps that can our pictures all day long and mail them to our houses.  But that, of course, is not the same as the wet smelly photo paper that dropped into the slot as the drying fan kicked on, the streaks from the quick developing, and how we were never quite ready for the first shot.  Apps don't have the squeaky stool we spun until our eyes lined up with the little arrows or navy polyester curtains we could pull across for background.  

This is our first non-booth strip, and we are grieving in the first picture.  Try not to enjoy the crispness of our faces nor the dune grass in the background; we are missing the booth.  



Summer


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Silas

This morning, a tiny curve at the the corner of Silas's mouth when he smiled -- he's coming back!!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Words for Uncle Peter

Dear Peter,

You are one of my teachers.  Growing up you taught me what a golden birthday is and celebrated my 10th with me on the blue sun room couch; you taught me about thinly sliced agate held to the light, about tiger's eye and moon stone, and made me long to crack rocks and find treasure.  You taught me it was possible to make chicken stock crystal clear, and to grow tolerance for hot sauce that would burn your fingers. You taught me it is important to kill frogs when you catch them for frog legs and not just knock them out, and that it's possible to take down a bee hive with a rifle. You taught me first about mustaches and how you could curl the ends, and about the crispness if Peking duck skin. You taught me about my mom as a little sister, how you hit her with a bee bee, told me about cousins who kept squirrels, and your father who performed his own surgery. At Nana's kitchen table beside silver wallpaper, you told stories because you, of course, were the story keeper.

This last week, I have learned more from you. I have discovered your gentleness and how you loved faithfully even when little love came back.  I have realized small ways - all of which were enormous efforts for you -- that you lived richly: Standing on your balcony the night you died, I was struck by your 9th story garden, dozens of seedlings watered and waiting.  You'd insisted on buying and hauling all those insanely heavy bags of dirt, which to me seemed impractical, because -- I now see -- instead of ease you were choosing beauty - flowers and purple radishes in your hand.  Planting your boxes was one of the many things you could have refused to do because it was too hard, too complicated to maneuver in your wheelchair, too cumbersome to maintain.  But instead you did it, seemingly undaunted, just like you whipped up miso soup from scratch for my children, baked me brownies on my birthday, and scootered off to whole foods when Taylor Bay scallops were on sale.  I will think of you and hope I to be like you in that way.

The most important thing i learned from you this week is humility.  That is never an easy lesson but is one which God is always in. There was much of you I missed these last 8 months and for both of us, I am sorry.  I've had to learn a difficult way that there are some things we can't do over.  But we do get to be forgiven, and now you know that more than any of us here.

You, my uncle Peter, have finally  been released.  I picture you saturated in the Love we crave to our bones, for which you waited so long, filled and overflowing.  You may not have gone by direct ascension, the way you always said you would, but your leaving seems to have been so soft that maybe you just did.

You always told us when we left the house to "make everyone glad you're there" -- and now, to you, I say the same, knowing you already have.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Silas's Face

Today is the ninth day Silas's face has been frozen with Bell's Palsy.  It's hard, now, to imagine he'll wake up one day without it.  The past few weeks, I've been discovering Silas anew, surprised and impressed by his chutzpah, and his response to this new face has added to it.  

The other day, on the way to tennis with a new coach:
Silas, do you want me to tell the tennis coach you have Lyme Disease?
Nah.
Is it ok if he thinks your face is like that all the time?
Yeah. (laughing his sideways laugh), I wish it were like this all the time!
You do?Yeah. (laughing)  I like it. 
I hope your movement comes back...  
Why?
Well, I like your face.  But if it doesn't, it's ok because we love this face, too.
Yeah, we do.

I listened to our conversation again in my head as we drove. 
We do love this face,-- it is Silas's face.  
But it is changed, and I can see, already, ways he would change, or be changed by having this face permanently.  He has to reach up and close his left eye from time to time because he can't blink fully.  This would be a new way of being, little paw to the eye throughout his days.  He wasn't much for eye contact with new people anyway, but now when he stares at the ground, he looks more expressionless, dejected.  I see how people make quick assumptions -- something mental connected with the nerve damage.  I watch people step away from him, or at least not draw near, turn to Eden more readily for a face they can mirror.  I see how people miss his happiness -- his twinkle and smiling backdrop -- when his whole smile is packed into the right corner of his mouth.  His speech has changed, words loose and less formed in his mouth, and his eating is messier and louder.  Looking at him, I can't picture what he looks like with his full face in motion.

And at the same time, there he is: across the pool, he tugs on his 13 year old swim team "buddy" (whom he met a week ago) and hangs around talking to him, older boy larger than life.  I watch the buddy smile and stay with him.  I see Silas pull goggles over his eyes to protect the one that won't close, and dive into the pool and swim hard.  I see him try to press his lip against his spoon and eat more quietly, already improved.  I hear him in his room singing, making up rhymes, busily building circuits, a doorbell that sings "happy birthday."  And here he is, little Silas Rock, as always.  I just want the rest of the world to see him, too.  



Saturday, June 15, 2013

Feta Watermelon Salad

I love this salad!
*

Watermelon, Arugula, Feta and Balsamic Salad
1 bag of arugula
1/2 watermelon, de-seeded and cut into chunks (can use any amount -- more of an arugula salad with watermelon, picture above, or watermelon salad with arugula, my preference)
2-3 T feta cheese, crumbled (again, or as much as you'd like)
1/4 c balsamic vinegar, reduced
Combine arugula, watermelon and feta in a large salad bowl.
Cook vinegar in a small saucepan on medium heat, for 7-10 minutes to reduce.  
{If you don't have time to reduce the vinegar or need to maximize what you have, add honey instead.}
Remove vinegar from heat, let cool a bit and toss to coat.

*photo from http://lindsaysoulfood.wordpress.com/ -- thanks, Lindsay!

A Week

Tonight is Friday.

This week, I have felt like a cloth that a needle's driven into again and again.

Peter died.

A few days later, Silas started having body aches -- head and hip, sharp and tearful.  Then fevers began.  He missed school, and again, and again, then the whole final week.

We planned the service.

The doctor sent us for a Lyme disease test -- though not a terribly reliable test -- because I'd found a tick on his neck two weeks ago that had been there for days, blended into his freckles.  We all dragged to the lab, Silas in stroller, Maeve strapped to my chest, Eden walking, a perpetual good sport.

The fevers continued.  He moaned, whined, cried all day every day.  His head hurt, his eye, his hips.

In the evenings, I sat around my parents' kitchen table with my mom and dad, brothers and sisters telling stories and laughing harder than I have in a long time.

We didn't sleep, the nights punctuated over and over with crying, fevers, nursing Maeve.

Lyme came back negative.  Our basement flooded with puddles of standing water, a scrim of mud residue covering the floor, 10 gallons of water sucked out of the wool carpet and it still too wet and heavy to move.  (I fell in love with wet dry vacs).

Silas kept crying.  I got worried.

We held Peter's service in bright colors with words of hope.  Light shone in.

Ben and Silas went to the ER for blood work -- for 7 hours -- where the doctors missed his vein repeatedly and finally jammed in a huge needle so that his arm aches today.

This morning when he woke up, half of his face had limited movement: a crooked smile, an eye that won't blink all the way, lips that can't hold in all the water when he drinks.  A changed face.  God, please, no.

I researched:  Bell's Palsy.   "Most people recover spontaneously and achieve near-normal to normal functions." The doctor declared it Lyme.  Silas threw up, and started antibiotics.

Living at my parents' house, we were surrounded -- mom and dad, sister, brother and sister-in-law, cousins, brother, sister-in-law.  People started praying.

We showed Silas his face in the mirror and he laughed at his crooked face, and the harder he laughed the more crooked it was, and the harder he laughed.  Ben and I started laughing, too.

Last night, we celebrated my sister's birthday over lobsters, summer corn, and a camp fire.  For the first time in a week, Silas's fever didn't rise after the tylenol wore off, and he played.

For the first time in a week, we slept.  Silas didn't have a fever all night and is fever-free this morning.  His face sags on one side and his blinks are slow, but he ate grits and eggs for breakfast.

The week began dark and heavy, death at the table, and with each day, my need increased, but slowly, at the same time, the sentence was completed:


Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

in the Shadow

Last Wednesday my uncle died unexpectedly.

I drove in the dark to his apartment.  How soon he left; I wasn't ready.

The week, discomfort sank in -- Silas sick, Ben away, friends experiencing other losses--but mostly death came, its heavy breathy presence.

Death alone hurts.
But death never comes alone.
It brings the weight of the deaths that have come before it and all the deaths that will follow.
It weighs heavy.

It reminds us that though we walk in our own brightly fastened lives, death will crash in, and crash in, and crash in again, waves that knock us flat and breathless, as long as we are living.

The sea never stops breaking.

How will we endure it, the waves in our faces, salt water instead of air?




                                                  yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death....






Sunday, June 09, 2013

Silas at the end of 1st Grade

Several things have stayed the same:
Silas still looks tiny under his huge backpack.  My heart still almost pulls out of my chest after him when I watch him walk off into the world, skinny-legged, beneath it.  Despite some quiet discoveries (like a-s-s, a word which he learned unbeknownst to me and so nicely spelled for his cousins over Christmas dinner), Silas still comes to me with questions, like what "hay-ull" means -- figured out that was "hell."  He loves for me to lie down with him at bedtime and make Veeny (bear) and Harold (elephant) talk and tell wild stories about their days at school.  He still loves to cuddle up next to me and listen to chapter books for hours, and is thrilled with I come into his classroom.  The other day he rode with me on the school bus during his field trip.

But 1st grade has also been a year of changes:
Silas stopped running to me, arms flung wide, face fixed on mine, beaming as he crashes full-weight into my hug.  Now he lopes along under his huge backpack, unhurried, and flings an arm or two around me when he reaches me.  He has dropped my hand a few times -- at school or on the way to the bus.  A few weeks ago, I embarrassed him for the first time at JogFest as I cheered rowdily for strangers.  He gripped my arm and slipped behind it -- "MooOoom"  "Oh, does this embarrass you??" And I let loose yelling and whooping and clapping.  His fingers clenched my arm but I could hear the laugh in his voice and kept going...

Yesterday was his first timed trials for swim team.  We are such rookies that I didn't even know what that meant.  We rolled in 20 minutes late, Silas wearing board shorts (decidedly NOT what one wears to timed trials).  We were equally nervous driving over except he was in tears and I was saying everything I didn't quite believe in a kind even voice: "you are going to be SO glad you went.... This is bonding with the team!... your time doesn't matter...  If you float on your back for most of your butterfly lap, that's OK, you just need to get to the other side (surely not quite right, but were they going to make him swim a whole lap of wiggly butterfly??  He can't do that!)... It will only be cold for a second and then you'll warm up (66 degrees and cloudy -- freezing and awful!)"  The night before I'd offered to bring pom-poms and jump and yell on the side of the pool, and that morning he asked me if I had them.  Really??  No, maybe at your first meet, I told him.  ""Awwww."  But when we got there and he dove his scraggly dive in (and thankfully his board shorts stayed up), something happened.   He became part of the team.  He walked around the pool deck in his shark robe eating a giant muffin that someone gave him, getting pep talks from his 13 year old new buddy, playing tether ball between strokes.  There was a transfer.  He hardly waved when I left.    

As I walked out of the pool looking back at his skinny boy body, his laughing with the other small boys -- especially small next to the rest of the team but feeling like they couldn't have been bigger -- I watched our separateness.

This is how it's supposed to be.  He began as my moon, but quickly -- so quickly -- he is already evolving into a planet, that will orbit the sun next to me.


Friday, May 31, 2013

End of May

I apparently have lost hearing in my right ear.  Or blown my ear drum.  Or funneled in pool water.  Or tree pollen.  Or some small toy that found its way to my pillow in the night.  The sickness that fell a month ago when I ate pots of tortilla soup has resurfaced and lodged itself in my ear, cut off some of my taste buds, and is just overall inconvenient.

But the air is breezy with only 44% humidity, which for a Washington day in the 90's I will bask in!  Tonight, Ben and I sat on our front stoop (which literally means sat on the one tiny step we have that leads to the front door) and drank June-eve cocktails (coconut rum + cran-raspberry juice and a little splash of lemonade, shaken and served on ice) and watched the first two fireflies in the yard.  Then we migrated to our neighbor's porch where newly installed fans really did blow the mosquitoes away.  I was skeptical, but now we may sit there every night.

The kids can tell you exactly how many days are left, probably hours, of school.  We are all standing at the exit.  Silas is already plotting ways I could take him out early, launch a road trip, be done.  Eden pined for school each day over our long weekend (we stretched Memorial weekend), and I'm not sure she understands that she isn't going back to her preschool -- this is it and then we will fall into two and a half months without school.  But her birthday party is tomorrow -- she will be 5 -- and that she certainly understands.

Eden these days is like a mini 12 year old packed into a 4 and 11.8/12 year old's body.  She is expressive, independent, adoring, imaginative.  She's fun and good company.  It's hard to escape her games when we're together: usually one of three: Maeve's twin (in which her name is Maggie and Maeve's name is Sadie and they are both two but Maeve is slower in her development because Maggie can speak and Maeve is more like an 8 month old -- which she is); neighbors (we are are neighbor friends who are 11 and have no brothers or sisters); or cousins (we're named Violet and Sadie or Brittany or Lexi and we are 11 with rainbow braces.  Sometimes we have identical sisters who share our same name and sometimes we don't, but Silas is always our younger brother and Maeve sometimes lives next door with a girl named Eden).

May.  May is a chicken-with-its-head-cut-off month.  I forgot this.  There are field days, assemblies, ballet shows, concerts, class parties, pajama days, forms to fill out for class gifts, forms to fill out for next year, forms to fill out for camps, flowers to pick for teacher appreciation (missed that entirely this year), camps to register for (if you haven't...), swim team overlapping with soccer, soccer's final game and party, school projects -- like making a building out of recycled materials--  busy.

Long before I had children, when I was just teaching, I resolved NOT to have over scheduled kids, kids involved in activities every day who raced around and had no down time.  This month I have wondered what in the world I did wrong because we have been racing.  It took me until this week to realize that if each kid has only one or two commitments, he or she is pretty good, but I am living the addition and have to be all of the places.  I didn't know that before!  So I am shifting expectations, and hopefully their lives will remain relatively mellow, but that will not mean that mine will........This should not be a surprise, really.  I remember my mother living in her car every single day.  So much so that in jr. high when I was grounded, my punishment was to ride around with her everywhere she went. I do kind of feel like I'm revisiting that punishment.

But in two weeks we will plunge fully into summer -- hot, slow, long, bright days.  I can feel the anticipation percolating: what books will we check out from the library? what projects will we tackle? how will we structure our weeks?  where will we drive?

And at the same time I wonder about being exhausted and having to stay home every morning so Maeve can nap while the kids long to  DO something.

We will see how it shakes out.  But in the meantime, welcome June.  So glad you're coming.

Monday, May 27, 2013

lying

Just in the last couple of weeks, Silas has begun to lie, not with brash left field tales, but with earnest eyes and plain-faced persuasion.

Tonight Ben found a rogue two dollar bill in Silas's jeans pocket.  Back and forth and back and forth and back and forth and FINALLY the story seeped out, part of the story, and then a bit more, and then the whole thing.

After hashing it out, little Silas climbed into bed under a heap of regret.  Ben followed him over to his bed, and I sat in the semi-dark on the floor of his room, unsure about our parenting.  With my back against the wall, I watched them.  Ben sat on his knees, his bare feet dirty from the day, and leaned over Silas who lay huddled on the bottom bunk, and without betraying his wearied frustration, Ben kissed Silas's face and tucked him in.

As if in answer to my questions, there was the picture of how I want to love: with my dirty feet in plain view, full of forgiveness.

sometimes the easiest place to begin is with pictures: may