Saturday, December 29, 2012

Outside there is much fluffy snow

It's falling right now. Has been all day. The garden fence outside my window has been dipped right down to the ground by a drift. All that was unsightly and out of place and unfinished about our yard just a few days ago has vanished underneath a cloak of cold perfection. The trees are no longer bare, dressed in finest white fur right down to their fingertips.

Some flakes are fatter than others. There's just enough room to slide under the fence on the sled if you lie flat.

 The best part is the quiet the snow brings. The peace. Falling, falling, falling without a sound. And no sound upon landing, except for maybe the tiniest sigh. My movement across it, on cross -country skis is quiet too.

 While the sight of it elicits shrieks of joy from all of our throats, I've also noticed a calming effect. I've caught my children lying motionless in their angel prints, or on their sleds, looking up at the sky, saying nothing, for minute after minute. Are they listening for something?

 My sister and I limboed under this laden branch yesterday, determined not to disturb the perfection. Then my father came through and, just like the boy he is, whacked the branch with his ski pole and watched it rise before him.

We skied up to his cabin to admire the view. It pained me to see it looking so uninhabited and remember that time changes everything. Everything must change.

 Except for this view,
 and the reassuring sound of ponies munching sweet feed
in the middle of a snowstorm.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Where the snow never melts...

I crave snow so much it's starting to consume me.
Yet the sky remains stubbornly stingy, spitting out random flakes here and there and carrying the sweet, clean scent of snow just to tease us.
And the temperature is so schizophrenic-- it's cold, no it's warm, hell it's 50 degrees in the sun.
I've said it before, but the entire East Coast feels constipated and I'm suffering vicariously right along with it. It's also sort of comparable to that trapped feeling I got when I was hugely pregnant and five days past my due date with Esther. You go into this waiting place where it feels as if nothing will ever change.

Then there's the added pressure from  my children, taught to love and worship snow as if it were a holy savior, who badger me every single morning:

 "Why won't it snow? We're never going to get any snow. I thought you said it was going to snow? You lied. That stupid weatherman doesn't know anything."

I feel their pain. It is a physical pain. And I share their longing. And it feels so stupid to be putting this much energy into something that is totally and completely out of our control. It feels stupid because it is stupid. But I have this unshakeable memory of winters spent under a pillowy blanket of white snow. When I wasn't burrowing under it, or wallowing in it, or gliding across it, or ingesting it, hurling it, or shaping it into figures, or lying in it with my face to the sky, watching it drift, from an infinite source, or staring out the window and marveling at its perfection.

And I've been whining lately that if this is truly it, if global warming really will spell the end of winter on this earth, I want to relocate myself to wherever it is on the globe where the last mound of snow melts. Call me selfish, or irreverent to a real crisis, but if the world is going to end, as some say it might tomorrow, I want to be surrounded by my sweetest memories of it.

I will take it as a sign of good things to come that the Wikimedia photo of the day, today, Dec. 20th, my birthday coincidentally, is this shot of a Norwegian freight train:

photo credit:

Friday, December 14, 2012

My right foot

 My Nikon Coolpix is officially deceased.

It's possible it could have been saved, but I chose not to resuscitate.

I'm looking at it right now. Face down and lifeless on the kitchen table.

I'm afraid I can't muster up too much sympathy for the thing. I never liked that camera.
Ian bought me this LG cell phone that takes pictures. I feel like a grownup now, being able to snap away with my phone. Now if only I could figure out how to e-mail them...

It's as primitive as it gets, I'm afraid. But some of the shots I've taken so far are kind of interesting.

 Esther's second birthday cake of the week. It was a near failure, but I successfully resuscitated it, gave it a pep talk about not identifying too deeply with it's aesthetic failings, and concentrating on the fact that it was beautiful on the inside.

 Not to mention fairly delicious. Thanks Martha Stewart. This recipe is the closest I can find. Seems she's discontinued the actual recipe we used. Yellow cake with lemon curd filling and chocolate frosting....

 Not too shabby in the right light.

 We went to a performance of the Messiah. Isla took pictures when she got bored, which was about fifteen minutes in.

 There's Isla's little hockey -short butt at Saturday morning Learn- to -Skate -to -play- hockey class...

 Can you smell it? One of my all-time favorite smells is balsam. I am a Christmas tree sniffer from way back. It drives Ian crazy when I judge trees by their smell.

 Pick this one, Daddy.

 Yup, this one smells like the right one. This camera doesn't like me in white. And where is my hair?

 Esther took this one: "Angel straddles Christmas light. "
A blur of lights....

 On a winter hike with my sister. Swear that camera puts 15 pounds on me...(:

All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth......
Who needs teeth when you've got those eyes?

There. I've successfully blogged about nothing.

The real world feels kind of sad and disturbing right now. I feel bad, heartbroken, for those parents whose kids never came back from school today.

Sick actually.

Putting together this post was the only thing I could think of to get me away from the news updates. I'm tired of news updates.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

She can wear my sweaters now

When I was teaching high school German, I took a group of students on an exchange trip to Stuttgart. Esther was two and a half and I remember freaking out about leaving her, to travel abroad with a dozen or so children who didn't belong to me, for three whole weeks.

Eventually we arranged for Ian to bring Esther over to Germany from England for the final week. It was the first time I had been away , truly far away, from my child for longer than four or five days. I remember having to ask other mothers if it was alright. As if Esther might possibly be harmed somehow by the sudden absence of her mother.  Motherhood has always messed with my unnaturally guilty-filled head like this.

Once I got to Germany, and learned from Ian that Esther was fine, and realized that I was fine too, the sense of physical and mental liberation was profound. Not only was I free, in the physical sense, my freedom came in this very clear context of intellectual freedom, an essential element of life which, from the moment I delivered my baby, seemed to come to a screeching halt.

Now I was in in a foreign country, Germany, responsible for escorting students around Berlin and Stuttgart and other regions, and, most importantly, speaking German almost exclusively in the home of my German exchange partner.

Every day I had to dig deep to prove myself and communicate with all the teachers at our German exchange school. Every day I was called on as a teacher, and a mother of sorts, by any of my dozen students, to solve some problem or other. But also, I was free to explore and absorb and simply enjoy my temporary reprieve from the domestic confines of motherhood. In short, I did not change one diaper or vacuum for three solid weeks.

In my free hours, yes hours, I wandered the streets of Stuttgart. I visited art museums and galleries. I resisted stopping at every fresh-pretzel bakery I passed. I went out of my way to find the longest possible way home and walked, sometimes two hours, through city streets and along woodsy walking paths, to get there. I lost five pounds in two weeks simply from all the walking.

And every night I went to bed with an aching head, swollen with all the new German words and brain twisting grammar rules I was now being forced to actually use, rather than simply recite. The pain of foreign- language acquisition is an exquisite kind of pain. Pain with purpose.

Then, after two weeks, I went to the airport to meet Ian and Esther, who had hopped over from visiting Granny in London. And it wasn't until they were in my sights, behind that glass that separates customs from the arrivals waiting area, that I realized how much I had missed them. By the time they were within reach, I was a sobbing mess. I hugged Esther's little body so hard and cried so many tears I couldn't speak. She pulled away from me, looked into my flooded eyes and said, "Wha' happen'?"

I laughed and answered, "Nothing, Essie. Nothing happened. I'm just so happy to see you."

The minute we were all together in the car, with my host at the wheel, heading back to the house, and my host started speaking English to Esther and Ian,  mommy's little foreign escapade was over.

I realized the trade-off of being reunited with my family. And I struggled with the confusion of being both elated to see them again, and disappointed to feel the spell of all-German- all -the- time be broken.

Anyway, the sweater Esther is wearing in this picture-- I bought it at Benetton on the Kønigstrasse in Stuttgart. I've got a bright orange one too. My new, forty-something mom figure can't really pull them off like it used to-- they're a bit tight--so I gave them to Esther.

I love seeing her in them.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Those hands, that butterfly cake

I've mentioned Ian's good hands before. The ones I married him for.
I've told that story, right?

I explained the way everything about Ian, when we first met, seemed to fall into place, one piece at a time, as if I had been waiting for him to show up and finish my puzzle for me all my life. And how on the way home from our first dinner date, the one I showed up an hour late for because... well, that's a story I haven't yet told, he walked me back home through the snow-glazed streets of Lienz, Austria-- one of my favorite competition sites where the race course snakes down the mountain through the trees and sends you catapaulting down a final waterfall-steep headwall, and spits you out right at the sidewalk's edge of the village. And on that walk, Ian reached for my hand, for the first time, and caught my fingers in his and pulled me into his world right then and there.
And it felt a little bit like going through the wardrobe and into another, more pure, more promising world than the one I'd been inhabiting for so many years.

 Well those same hands made two- dozen butterfly cupcakes, orange and lemon sponge cake with butter and powdered sugar frosting,  for Isla's birthday party over the weekend. (I suspect he used this Delia Smith, he's loyal to Delia, recipe.

The man, and his hands, never fails to surprise and amaze me with his ability to bust out the cookbook, or, in this case, find a video tutorial of the British persuasion, and produce the most amazing edible concoctions.

 These butterflies ended up getting snowed on in the end.  It's always snowing in Narnia. A light dusting of "icing sugar." They also got gobbled up, no scraps left behind, by a rather modest number of party guests at the ice skating rink where we had the party.

And when his hands were done with performing kitchen alchemy, they washed up nicely and deftly fastened Isla's new birthday locket, given to her by my parents, inside which she intends, as soon as Daddy prints out the right size image for her,  to keep a picture of her beloved dog Ruby, gone but in no way forgotten.

"We'll never forget Ruby, will we mom?"

"Never, Isla. Never."

Sunday, November 04, 2012

November is so transparent

Just before Super Sandy huffed and puffed and blew the rest of the leaves down.

And unexpectedly beautiful with her 50 shades of brown, tucked in so neatly under the puffy, thick, gray quilt of sky.

And she's well put together. Her dried up gray milk pods are the same color as the sky.

The beauty of the  bare silver birch trees reflected on the surface of the dark pond takes you by surprise. As does the patchwork pattern of brown on purple, purple on brown, across the surrounding hillsides, defiantly proving that even impending death, complete dormancy, can be beautiful.

November hides nothing. How could she when she's been stripped totally bare naked. Down to bark and pulp. 

And she makes no promises. She knows better. She knows she is pretty much the end of the line. Just one more month to go behind her before it all starts over again.

I never thought I would say this, especially after the frighteningly listless past few weeks I've had, but I am actually looking forward to seeing, feeling, what kind of cosmic shift November brings.

I use this new-age language, not my mother tongue, because the shift is already happening. 

November 1st was a hellish, snot-infested, all-over body aches and chills, generally depressing affair, complete with an uninsured dentist appointment where I learned I need to have a crown replaced. (I've been ignoring my broken tooth for months.)

 A crown. For the whopping price of, yep, you guessed it, just about the total that Christmas was going to cost back before I learned Christmas might not be coming this year. Well, not the kind of Christmas my kids are hoping for, the kind with beaucoup presents.

Sorry kids, I'll say, flashing them my shiny new gold crown, mommy was the only one to get anything sparkly this year. I'm exaggerating, kind of, but if anyone had told me I would one day, in my mid forties, shudder with financial terror at the thought of an unexpected dental procedure, I'd have ignored them.

"Oh don't be such a pessimist,"I would think. "There will always be money. Right."

Maybe not. But, despite the inauspicious start to a normally inauspicious  month, each new day of November, and its decided "here we go folks, you didn't actually think we could skip this part, did you?" air, has seen my spirits rise, and lift, and, as of today, practically levitate on a breeze of annoying positivity.

The whole world around me is dead or dying, dried up leaves, skeleton bone trees, crispy grass, not a soul on the street, and definitely not enough money in the bank, yet I am filled, at least today, with that sort of calm self assurance that all is as it should be.

There will be a father in this house, unlike last November that saw us pining pitifully. There will be wood for the fire. There will be less driving around, chasing the frivolous daylight. There will be more layers, and wool and socks, I'm finally ready to accept the reality of socks. There will be more family time. There will be cabin fever, the kind which inspires creativity and hones our dealing with boredom skills.

And, if we know what is good for us, there will be a certain amount of austerity.

And, I'm hoping and guessing, but not promising, there will be more time to write.

I'll leave it at that, for now.

I've got a feeling this chair will see a lot of action in the coming days.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Living room

Our living room doubles as a stage .

On certain days, often late afternoon or early evening, when the light is dying outside and glowing inside, we, each of us, simultaneously, get that sense that there is no place we would rather be than inside this house with each other.

We don't necessarily interact so much as we simply be, together.

Some do homework. While others dance. 

Isla was in a dancing mood last night. When she gets in the mood to dance, no one, nothing, not even the lack of music, can stop her.

And her ability to choreograph to the obscure rhythms in her head, I think, is remarkable. She's all grace and flow and creativity. That is until she dances herself right off her feet. She does that quite a lot.

But there are no borders to her dance floor. No limits to her style. No reservations hidden in her passion. No rules.

After she finished her homework, Esther practiced her own art. Contortions.
"Mom watch this. Look Mom. Mom, you're not watching."

This is what home is. This is what shelter is for. A space to move in, out of the elements, under one roof.
Room to live. In our living room.

Friday, October 05, 2012

What's with the flies in my kitchen?

I'm in here. My kitchen that is. There's a bit too many flies in here. That might have something to do with the horses out back and the pig who's peering out of her cage at me as I write this. Her cage is like  a miniature barn. She poops a lot.

Anyway. Um. Yeah. So. It's like. Well. You know..... it's been a while since I've written. I can't explain why.  Intertia happens.

Summer turned to fall when I wasn't looking. I was still daydreaming about ocean waves and lazy days  and salty air and such, when, wham, the leaves turned color and the clouds dropped into place and it started to rain, and rain, and rain. And throughout the rain we have stood, mostly, on the side of a soccer field watching Esther, and her teammates, chase a ball back and forth in a strangely compelling sporty diversion.

And who would have thought I would have the stamina to watch her do this for three hours straight? It's weird. I've learned that real soccer moms and dads keep chair in the backs of their cars for just this purpose. Sitting and watching. Some of them even have huge umbrellas in their cars as well. Others have popups.

This is indeed a new chapter of parenthood. I'm not sure what this chapter should be called. Jealousy, maybe. Because, you see, I still imagine myself as an athlete. I still want to be the one who is running around, out of breath, for hours each day.

Spectator has never been in my resumé. Until now.

Funny thing, Ian likes to watch Esther play soccer too. So rather than one of us representing the family on the sidelines, while the other does something productive like, work a second job, which I should, or clean the house, which I should, or work on the book I'm planning to write about living in France en famille, which I should,  or unpacking the six boxes of books which came over on the boat from France and were delivered over a month ago, which I should, or unstrangling the garden and putting it to bed, which I should, we both just ...... stand there and watch Esther run.

Her sense of purpose, while chasing and carrying and shooting and blocking that ball, somehow lightens our loads. All the chasing and carrying and shooting and blocking we should probably be doing ourselves is somehow pushed onto the back burner.

We'd all much rather be playing games. Wouldn't we? 

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

The summer of our content

I'm embarrassed to admit that forcing myself out of bed at 6 this morning to make sure we got to our first day of school on time felt a lot like getting up to go to work. For any and all of you who aren't such lazy slackers as to be able to stay at home and suck your thumb while sitting at your laptop and call it work, I fully understand why you might be laughing right now.  But after this leisure-time bender of a summer, which crescendoed with ten straight days at the beach, I think I might be in shock.

But I also think, I've come a long way as a mom who once went into an absolute panic at the thought of spending even one full  day alone with my kids with no "higher purpose" to at least pretend I needed to attend to.

If this is surrender, I think I like it.

And as much as I appreciate the seasons and the beauty that is fall and winter, I always get nostalgic right about this time every year.

Summer is so fast and furious. It feels kind of like being part of an explosion. Now, with the shorter days and the cooler nights, I'm overly aware of the little bits of shrapnel everywhere that need to be picked up.

But Esther and Isla were so anxious to get to school, their first day, this morning, Isla even let Esther do her hair, I can't help but see the upsides in all this back to school stuff as well. Even kids, it seems, need to go back to work.

So, at the risk of rambling on and on with no real destination or point, I will leave you with a few final images of our criminally-contented summer.