Thursday, December 20, 2007

Smuggy birthday!


I am 42 today. I have no party planned, just a long-overdue haircut, and maybe even, shhhhhhh, highlight, followed by a women's league hockey game. I doubt there will be cake, though Ian might surprise me yet and the gifts will be less material than the kind I used to enjoy as a child. But.... just in case I paint a depressing, mid-life-reeking picture I must share my morning with you so far.

After the usual morning circus of feeding, watering, grooming, wiping, diapering, snapping, zipping, wiping, zipping, didn't I already do that?, and ruthlessly rushing the girls, I got them out the door and to their respective holding pens-- Esther-Kindergarten, Isla-daycare. I came home and fed the horses. I mucked out the barn, threw ten bales of hay down out of the hayloft and kissed the horses on their velvet noses. Then, on the way in, I spied one of our sledding tubes that had blown in the wind off to the side of our yard. I went to retrieve it and, on the way to the basement, decided to take a spin. I climbed in, shoved off, picked up speed, and got an exhilarating shot of fresh snow right to the face as I coasted to a stop. "Again," I thought to myself, in the voice of Isla who has recently discovered the joys of sledding. "Again."

The fact that I was sledding alone on my 42nd birthday didn't bother me. In fact I realized that the reason I was alone was because most people-- normal, mature people-- don't really have the time, or inclination to go sledding at 8 a.m. on a Thursday morning. For once in my life, the fact that I did, have the time and inclination to do something childish on a weekday morning, made me feel ever so slightly smug. I'm getting smarter with age.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

here blizzard blizzard


One day cooped up inside while the wind howled and raged outside and it feels as if a week has passed. We swung from peaceful artists, to warring siblings, to sad, unloved oldest daughter, to Mary and baby Jesus in the stable, to bathtime buddies. All this before Isla's nap.
Ian and I folded the mountain of clean laundry that has been sitting on our bedroom chair for at least a month. As we encountered sock after unmatched sock, I wondered aloud how "all the other mothers" manage to keep matching socks together throughout their lifespan. Yes, I used to compare myself to others in measurements of speed and strength and stamina, now it's all come down to domestic prowess.

That said, I've written this

Friday, December 07, 2007

living in black and white

I love December in Vermont. It proves that black and white can be beautiful. The starkness of the landscape kind of lets my mind relax. It frees up space for things that matter. The riot of color that fall brings leaves me feeling anxious and pulled in every direction. In December, days so short and the nights so long, and the world stripped down to its barest bones, I'm focused, like a bear, on one thing: conservation. While conserving energy, I've been writing over here

Friday, November 30, 2007

There are excuses for lameness


This blog has become a bit like an old, neglected teddy bear. I see it lying, forlornly on the floor and stoop down to pick it up, admire its familiar face, stroke it a bit discuss old times, then put it down on a chair and promise to come back real soon.

Then, days, weeks, even months later, I find it under a bed, staring up at me with its pathetic lost-button eyes and balding fur and I do it all over again.I take it in my arms, promise to be better this time, promise to be nurturing and consistent with my attention. Then life calls me away again.

Kids need things, they always need things; attention mostly. Undivided attention. Dust settles, it always settles, in places that are hard to reach. And the setting sun seeps like butterscotch syrup through the West windows exposing those hard-to-reach places with stark, unforgiving clarity. The vacuum calls. I need a cup of tea. It's time to build a fire. It's time to pick up the kids. How could that be? Maybe tomorrow I'll be more productive. Until then. I've written
this

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

mirror gazing



Here is the latest.
It's a bit on the dreary side. Sometimes it's just hard to keep up the cheerleader-like enthusiasm if you know what I mean. I'm just sitting here wondering when and where and how, exactly, I ended up so painfully, embarrassingly dependent on my husband. He does everything for me. And I let him. I carry around a little minidriver and he wields a Bosch electric drill. It's no contest really.

You see our car came dangerously close to expiring recently due to extreme dehydration. That is to say I have been driving it to and fro, over hill and dale-- from mall to school, to hockey rink, to supermarket-- without ever once stopping to check the oil. I guess I just assumed that Ian had been doing that. You know, able, already-dirty hands fiddling around under the hood in that oh so manly way. But, alas, he had assumed I, the one who drives the car the most, had had the presence of mind to check it now and again, since I was passing through the gas station anyways. Hah. He was wrong. And I am ashamed.

Aside from all that, we have also recently turned a corner, or I have recently become aware of this change in direction, towards irreversible tedium. What I mean is: we are mired in the mundane swamp of domesticity. With just one child, we could fool ourselves into thinking we were still the cool, world traveling, interesting, sporty, social, fit, people we always were. We took Esther to England, Austria and Germany at whim. We carried her up mountains in a backpack and took her to the rock climbing gym.

Enter Isla. I am afraid to fly with her for fear she will alert the armed guards with her incessant pounding on the cockpit door. I actually heard myself ask Ian, in all seriousness, the other night to put the silverware face down in the dishwasher because it saved time when putting it away. Help.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The fickleness of five



I've got a new Babycenter post here.
Oh how interesting life is here. The day to day changes. I claim to suffer from ennui, yet how could I when I never know what each day will bring. Will my lovely daughters be happy, sad, angry, surly, grouchy, stubborn, compliant, crazy, kookie, bossy or just plain lovely?

Esther has been stunning me lately with her vigorous swinging back and forth on the pendulum of maturity. One moment she is nuts, over tired, calling me a "wicked liar," throwing me pre-teen looks, smirks, shoulder shrugs, "whatever mom" hand gestures, and the next minute she is floating around the house, asking me if she can help me in any way, talking to Isla in this sweet, patient older- sister voice, and offering to empty the compost bucket.

Yesterday she listened to her little three-year-old friend Graeme tell her a story about his new Kitty and how this kitty may "look like it's been painted with a marker, but really it's just its fur," in his amazing cartoon character voice and expressive face and Esther just listened and gazed upon him with this look of sheer, nurturing admiration. She was appreciating every nuance of his little kidness. When he was done she smiled and said, "Oh Graemmy."

I love seeing this. Seeing her potential for compassion and empathy. Seeing the little grownup inside her. Seeing that person who pays attention and notices the small things in life that are so worth noticing. She does this with Isla too. She is always fondling and commenting on that little cleft in the back of her neck and envying how soft her skin is. She is so very aware of Isla's babyness and the fleeting fun of it all.

Then she yells at me for not taking good enough care of Isla, for not keeping her safe. When Isla falls down and cries (every other second), she picks her up and brings her to me, even though I have made it clear I have lost patience and think Isla can work it out for herself. Esther decides when I need to step in. She is the master of this house, really. She keeps me in line.

It gives me glimpses of the older, teenage Esther. And it's a bit scary at times. That is why I've gone out and bought this. It's good to be prepared.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Tunbridge Clouds


We went to the Vermont History Expo in Tunbridge way back in July, or was it June?. Esther dug the doll making,(it made me nervous because I was expected to thread a needle..) and the ladies in old fashioned long dresses. She was born in the wrong era. We were a bit strung out on maple cotton candy at the point this picture was taken. I am even drooling a bit.

I've got another Babycenter post here .

Friday, September 28, 2007

stayed away too long




I've been away from here for far too long, I know. It's just that I can't seem to make the time to sit down and check in, and when I do decide to try, I am usually shunned by the doorman who apparently doesn't think I'm young, cute and hip enough to get in. No really, it could just be Alzheimer's that makes it impossible for me to remember where I wrote my user-name and password down. It turned up, rather accidentally, recently so I thought I would stop by.

I've been writing like crazy over at Babycenter. They've got this new blog, Momformation, that allows me to post everything myself, without passing across the editor's desk first. I like it.

You can see what I've been up to here.

Today is the first day in weeks where it has actually felt like fall. It's raining and the wind is blowing and it looks as if a thief has come to steal all the golden leaves off the trees in one smooth heist, leaving behind nothing but dark, naked bones.

I am relieved. The extended Indian summer was starting to get to me. It feels kind of like holding the hand of a dying friend. You don't want to let go for fear of losing them forever, yet, you wish they would just get on with it, so you could get on with your life.

That comes off as really insensitive, I know, but, honestly, must it stay so poignantly, tragically beautiful day after day after day? How is one supposed to live their life, to go about their tedious business with all this dying beauty around them?

Esther and Isla love the fall. We raked the leaves into a great big pile the other day with their cousins and they spent close to an hour hurling themselves into it, burying eachother, rolling, leaping and tossing handfuls in the air. I loved seeing Isla learn so quickly from observation what to do. She was a pro. And Esther, emerged from the pile looking like Medusa, haboring a tree's worth of leaves in her hair.

Watching them made me wonder why anyone would waste time, gas and money going to amusement parks and state fairs when so much excitement and contentment can be had right in the back yard. Just call me "sanctimommy." I realize I'm lucky to live here in Vermont. Way lucky.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Channeling Dorothy


I'm working hard to channel Dorothy Canfield Fisher today. Dorothy Canfield Fisher was a prolific Vermont author as well as being a champion for social causes and..... you guessed it, a mother. This is why I am trying to channel her. Just when I am convinced that it is impossible to get anything of any lasting value whatsoever done with children in the house I remember that Dorothy wrote something like 45 books in her lifetime. Not only did she pump out the novels like a machine, she founded several non-profit organizations that benefited both adults and children.

Frankly, as much as I respect Dorothy, whose book "The Homemaker" is a feminist manifesto disguised as fiction, written before feminism even had a name, she kind of makes me sick. You see, it's women like this, the alpha moms so to speak, that make us slacker moms look bad. Dorothy had it all, apparently, before having it all was even an available concept to women. She knew she was born to write, she needed to write, she had something to say and she said it. And somehow she managed to put the social pressures put on women to be dutiful, everpresent, homemaking mothers aside and carry on with her passion.

"If we would only give, just once, the same amount of reflection to what we want to get out of life that we give to the question of what to do with a two weeks' vacation, we would be startled at our false standards and the aimless procession of our busy days." Dorothy Canfield Fisher

My book is far from finished. In fact, I'm still working on the first sentence. But I have been writing. Find proof of that here

Excerpt from The Homemaker where the husband, who's been serving as an unlikely primary caregiver for his children, has an epiphany regarding just how little the act of raising children is valued in society: 

"Why the fanatic feminists were right, after all.  Under its greasy camouflage of chivalry, society is really based on a contempt for women’s work in the home.  The only women who were paid, either in human respect or in money, were women who gave up their traditional job of creating harmony out of human relationships and did something really useful, bought or sold or created material objects.  As for any man’s giving his personality to the woman’s work of trying to draw out of children the best there might be in them…fiddling foolishness!  Leave it to the squaws! " 

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

computer abuse


Crikey! I've been shut out of my very own blog for the very heinous crime of forgetting my password. This is where my tolerance for technology starts to wane and sputter and whine. My sister doesn't have a computer anymore because she "punched it in the face." I find this so humorous and understandable because, try as we may not to apply human characteristics to our electronic devices, it is almost impossible not to feel as if an unruly electric device isn't conspiring to drive you mad. I have been tempted many times to "punch my computer in the face," but something, fear of being disconnected, has always stopped me. Not to mention the fact that it would probably hurt.
I've got some new journal entries up at babycenter. You can read them here and here

We're getting to that time of year when Vermont seems like the most idyllic place to live in the entire universe and, similar to childbirth, people who just barely survived the pain and torpor of another long winter here have already forgotten what it was that made them threaten to move to Florida.
The green is riotous, the air pure and rich with the pungent smell of cow manure, spread like cupcake frosting over the hay meadows. As Esther and I walzed the other evening down the steep, grassy hillside (taking care to leap over the stripes of frosting) to pick up our raw cow's milk from the neighbor's house I couldn't help thinking that, despite my constant complaining resistance, I just might be a content country girl after all. I also couldn't help thinking, and mentioning, that just a year earlier, we never would have been able to run so fast down that hill and back without Esther tripping and falling and begging for a piggyback ride. Now her long, strong, able legs carry her as fast and as far as she wishes. Magic. And, when she stopped to pee in the tall grass, I didn't have to help her. My firstborn daughter has mastered the very tricky female art of the squatting outdoor pee. Now that is truly a noteworthy milestone.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

green up


It's hip to be green. I can't help feeling a bit like we are living a morality tale, much like Pinnochio, in which we are warned and warned and warned again about the potential fallout that will most certainly come from our bad choices, yet we choose not to listen until one day the fallout starts to actually affect us directly and we decide it might be in our best interest to listen. Just at that point, an enormous whale comes to swallow us whole.

What am I talking about? I'm not sure, but while stuffing bag after green bag with filthy, yet intact artificial floral arrangements found dumped over a bank behind our local cemetery during Green Up Day yesterday, I couldn't help thinking that us worldly white folks are complete and utter imbeciles. Why are we just now deciding that the native Americans were perhaps on to something with their habit of living in harmony with Mother Nature rather than trying to commandeer the earth for a profit. Now, funny thing, going green is the latest novel, profitable venture. Rather than go out and save the world, I am still sitting here documenting the minutae of our lives here in family land. And you can find the latest earth shattering snippet here

Saturday, April 28, 2007

one year later


Writing for no audience has a certain charm. I can be as honest, freakish, or neurotic as I want and it doesn't really matter since no one is reading.
Which is why I want to write about the complete and utter meltdown I had just two days ago. The meltdown that found me beating the countertop with what just might be my most favorite kitchen gadget, the wire strainer, and sobbing like a recently- widowed newlywed while I mopped up an entire bottle of Pinot Grigio that I had dropped on the kitchen floor while putting groceries away just moments before.

In a fit of compulsive, obligatory housewifeness, I had been trying to cook some cauliflower cheese soup while holding my 18-month old daughter, Isla. I basically do everything while holding Isla, since she shrieks relentlessly and curls up her legs like a 747 lifting its wheels at takeoff each and every time I try to set her down on the floor. This annoying habit of hers has led to an incredible new skill of mine, "one- armed living." I can actually pull down my pants, sit on the toilet and do my business, pull my pants back up and snap them all with one arm. I can make the bed and brush my teeth with one arm. What I can't do is fold laundry or butter toast. This doesn't mean I haven't tried.

When I dropped the wine bottle I was already in a foul mood and was honestly looking for a reason to freak out. I got it and I grabbed hold of it, swung myself up onto its back and and rode it as far as I could. Profanity rolled effortlessly off my tongue. The proverbial spilled milk became reason to hate myself, to hate my life, to hate everything within spitting distance of me and my forked tongue.
"I dont' want to be here cooking this soup in this house, in this kitchen, in this life," I chanted to myself. "I don't want to be here."

Where, you might be wondering, was the innocent, cherubic 18-month old child I had just lovingly been holding before I became Mommy Dearest? She was in the mudroom, where I had deposited her to keep her away from the splintered shards of broken glass and rivers of wine that covered the kitchen floor. She was cleverly steering clear of what she recognized to be a very volatile, unpredictable and completely undomesticated animal.

She wasn't crying, she seemed to know better. She was watching me, very carefully, trying to figure out if I was mad or sad or singing or screaming. I told her many times that I was not mad at her, I was mad at myself. I resented this. The fact that I couldn't even have a meltdown without feeling guilty. Without feeling like a bad mother.

As always, my anger relented to sadness and I became this very wet and salty excuse for a human. I picked Isla up again and she put her warm, sticky hand on my cheek and moved her face into mine as if to say, "Come back, Mummy." It seems love, compassion and empathy are not lost on the tiniest, most immature of human beings. They are there, inside us. Sometimes hidden, buried under a sea of salt water and angst. I feel better now.