"She refused to be bored, chiefly because she wasn't boring." Zelda Fitzgerald

Monday, November 28, 2011

Celebration to Celebration!

This is how Mama gets things done!
Well, I survived being the mom on Thanksgiving. Actually, to be perfectly honest, I so much more than survived that it is a little bit pale to even call it "surviving." The meal was a grand success. The food was fine, nothing I personally cooked was outstanding (although props to A on his tiramisu cake!), just good..but the company was warm, the house was bustling and the vibes were very, very good.
A's beautiful rolls, rising.

Nib in the midst of the glowing scene.
I had several grand moments in the party when an individual clasped my hand between two of theirs and sincerely thanked me for hosting them. It doesn't get a whole lot better than that. I was a very happy girl and I sailed out of the event with sparkly visions of all the parties I want to have in the future. It was a pretty great note to begin Christmas season on.

And so here we are, in Advent...the first candle in our Advent circle is flickering away at mealtimes and we're singing, "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" with great vim and vigor. We cut our Christmas tree last night and hauled in and erected the largest Tenenbaum that could possibly be squeezed into our living room. The whole house smells like that wonderful tangy, warm scent of fresh tree and the corner the tree is bursting out of is encroaching mightily on the nearby doorway.

The boys had the first chocolates from their Advent calendars this morning and all the Christmas/winter books are out of storage and stacked heaping in the holiday basket next to the big reading chair. I foresee many cozy afternoons and evenings in front of the fireplace in our future! Next up, decorating the mantle! I need to get out in the countryside with my clippers and hunt up winterberry branches and evergreen boughs. Maybe tomorrow!

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Monday, November 21, 2011

Thankful List

List day today. We haven't had one of those for a while. A grand tally of: Things I'm Thankful For seems in order, right? Am dwelling firmly in Thanksgiving prep land anyhow, might as well tint my glasses the best possible color, a nice pinky shade of grateful instead of that dark panicky charcoal.

Things I'm Thankful  For
  1. Paper towels (green guilt, be gone!)
  2. The smell of spilled coffee grounds on the counter...most pleasantly scented mess clean-up of the day.
  3. Friends who turn a blind eye to my in-house chaos (or at least do a good impression thereof)
  4. The extra refrigerator in the basement
  5. A son, old enough to help me put on a band-aid when I cut my finger in the kitchen
  6. Houseplants who bring the green inside when life gets chill
  7. Cinnamon, dusted into a cup of warm decaf 
  8. Green paint under my toddler's chin
  9. Genuinely helpful people
  10. Peaceful morning reality after rotten nightmares about cooking disasters.
  11. The tackiness of fresh rosemary pinched between the fingers
  12. A forgotten clementine in my coat pocket after yoga class.
  13. The inky smelling pages of the first seed catalog of the season
  14. My new oven.
  15. Our newly insulated attic
  16. A spouse who enjoys food just as much as I do
  17. Meditation
  18. Dimples in the grins of naughty little boys
  19. Chapstick
  20. My smallest boy's new word, "yes!"
  21. Midwifery care so gentle and kind that is very hard to replace.
  22. Bubble baths, for boys and mommies.
  23. Neighbors who wave when you're out.
  24. Friends who share their puppy's snuggles.
  25. The end of the first trimester. :) Feeling good again, finally!
Off to an evening yoga class! Be well people, and hang in there. The Holidays are upon us!


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Mommy, Heal Thyself

Sometimes, life is just too much and I'm kind of blowing steam out my ears and afraid someone will talk to me at which point I will either explode or burst into tears...not that anything super horrible is happening.  I just need a little time in a safe place sometimes, a little hope and a little healing and some way to create some extra buffer space and margin for myself.
Image by tkw954 via Flickr
Historically, the woods where I grew up was my "safe place" where I went to recover and breathe again. There was a bottomless sort of solid freshness to the feel of a mound of moss under my fingers or the tinkling run of the crick at the bottom of our little valley.
Country Road
Image via Wikipedia
Once I no longer lived in a woods I had to extemporize. I would escape the pressure of campus relationship dramas, my roomate's eating disorders and the endless industrial pavement of the city and drive my little clunker around in aimless wandering spirals on little country roads north of town and south of town and east of town, wherever the sidewalks ended and the farmstands began. I'd roll the windows down and play loud music and sometimes stop to sit in a roadside ditch just to listen to the crickets sing around me.

Panera Bread
Image via Wikipedia
Then once I was married life got a little busier and I couldn't always dash off to drive off my worries but I discovered a greenhouse in town not far from where I worked and sometimes when a rough shift ended on a cold winter night, I'd stop at the greenhouse and dawdle my way through every single row and table, reading the names of different epiphytes and orchids, playing in the water the the table-top fountains they sold burbled and petting the ubiquitous greenhouse kitties. I don't know if it was the sound of moving water, the smell of growing things, the green haze in the air or the purring nudge of the resident cats but it always worked. I'd go back to my car feeling like I could walk again, like I wouldn't cry after all and like there was a reason to live.

Lemons as big as your head!
Maybe you think I'm crazy and shallow and even selfish, but that's how it works with me. The one last place that has been a haven in tough times (don't laugh!) is Panera Bread. Somehow everything is alright again when I am snuggled own in a warm booth, watching the fireplace flicker with a mug of coca as big as my head between my hands. I think I can thank my sister-in-law, Jane for introducing me to this particular form of healing. We spent many a chatty afternoon back in my college and post-college Michigan days noshing in the comforting glow of Panera after they built one right down the road from her house. Now Panera makes think of all those who love me and slow conversation and laughter and good times and there's also something very boosting as the perennial mommy-person who takes care of everyone else, in having someone else make me lunch and bring it to me on a platter (special perk of appearing at the counter with your arms full of babies) even if "someone else" is a guy named Jose who doesn't know me from Adam is being paid by someone else to make my lunch. Still. I'll take it. And it does come with a fireplace and a mug of cocoa the size of my head.

Giant green leaves. :)

Today I took the boys to Panera. (They pretty much always have to come along whenever mommy needs some healing.) I've discovered that Panera makes pb&j perfectly and that they serve these exciting little yogurt-in-a-tube snacks that Mommy never buys which are thrilling to my sons. We had lunch together, watched all the other people eating lunch and talked about them, snuggled up to the fireplace, and then bought a gingerbread man to split over our cocoa. Life was better.
The beautiful herb wreaths they were making while we were there today, all sage and bay and thyme etc. They smelled amazing.

Nib, wandering the aisles.
And then I remembered that there was a greenhouse I'd heard a rumor about that I'd been meaning to visit for some time...so we gps'd it and drove ourselves right over. There are actually about four greenhouses, a special one just for herbs, one with an amazing, lush lemon tree and one with an indoor farmer's market once a week (today, just by chance!). There are kitties curled up snoozing on the top of plant racks, there is that moist green smell that all greenhouses have and there are little corners where nobody is and you can just let your boys sit down on the ground and run the pea gravel through their fingers while you smell flowers and meander around fingering tags. The doors on each house close so there's no serious losing of the toddler and it turns out my boys light up just as much as I do when they walk into a greenhouse. We all left ready to come back again soon. I think I just found my safe place. If you need a little solace yourself and you happen to be in the area, this particular greenhouse is called Gilbertie's Herb Garden. So, I'm feeling better now, and our house is one jasmine plant and a few herbs richer and we have a place to run when the needle is on E.
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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Little Homeschool

Everyone is always asking me, everywhere I go, "So, how's that homeschooling thing going? You started this year, right?" The short answer is, "Just fine!" and the longer version details the fact that I totally over-prepped psychologically for this year. I felt like I really needed to brace myself and be ready for the full-impact of real life, full-time homeschooling to hit me. (Look out world, I had a genuine kindergartener on my hands!)

The truth is, honestly, kindergarten isn't a whole lot different from preschool and preschool is just normal childhood at our house. The only things that are really different are the fact that I am working through a book of pre-reading skills with Ru which includes writing practice and we're attending Cherry Blossom School House, our once a week co-op. Otherwise it's basically life as usual around here and "schooling" is definitely unschooly in the form of baking together, watching videos on YouTube to answer kiddie questions, nature walks together as a family, and lots and lots of stories and conversation. Same old, same old.

The only other thing we're doing is working on math with Ru but I'm not responsible for that or doing anything to make it happen. A has taken over the job. I have mixed feelings about that. I love that he wants to teach some subjects, I love that he's been so driven about making it work and I love that he gets special consistent time with Ru. (He's also really good at math which is obviously a good thing too.) The downside is that this means I'm not likely to get better at math myself (one of the coolest things about teaching something to someone else) and it also means my brand as the family math-dummy is likely to perpetuate. Man, do I hate having my own past ghosts never die! I was really kind of hoping for a clean slate or at least a boost up in this department because of teaching my own kids, at least at the lower levels. Oh well, I am glad A is being participative, more glad I'd ever feel if I was sitting around cramming numbers in all my spare time to try to be a presentable teacher.

So, yes, my mom was right, (aren't they always?!?) when she told me to not get all worked up about homeschooling this year, kindergarten is not a belly buster. For all of you out there who haven't asked me yet how I'm doing with homeschooling, here's the answer...fine, just fine...it's really about the same as preschool...kindergarteners aren't up till all hours with mind boggling homework, they still want to hear stories and spend hours building things with Duplo Legos, they just know how to write their names.
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Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Here, in the middle of November, we've finally come to the visual apex of fall. A bit late but hey. Better late than never. And I really, really thought it was going to be never this year. Looking back through my photo files from last year tells me, surprisingly, that the colors really aren't any later than they were last autumn. If it weren't for bulging photography files I could have sworn to you that the colors this year were so much later than they normally are. When we got that snowstorm in late October and everything was icicles and frost and the boys were out in the yard swinging their snow shovels around for old time's sake and A and I looked around at all the trees, still green in the leaf and though, "Well, there goes our fall color show!" I was sure that once the snow melted and the air warmed up again all the leaves would turn brown and insta-drop.

Heh. Never second guess Mother Nature...she is her own boss. Looks like all that really happened is that we got an early taste of winter spirit to put a little extra spring our step and then we went back to our regularly scheduled autumn show.

Maples are my favorite trees, second only to beeches, I'm so glad to have several of them on and near our property. In the back yard, over the garage a big grand sugar maple and her neighbor has gone school bus colored and are starting to drop leaves in a pile the boys like to jump in every morning. 

In front of our house, we have two Japanese maples, one on either side of our front walk reaching up towards our bedroom window.They spread their double canopy right about even with our second floor and specifically my bedside window. They are now the most amazing flame scarlet and waking up in the morning to see the sun rising out my window in cotton candy wisps and swathes of pink and gold through those bright red leaves is completely surreal. I wish I could paint it or photograph it for you but it is one of those breathtaking things that makes you leave the camera where it is and just open your eyes a little wider instead. There is no capturing certain visual moments except with the mind. This Autumn-That-Almost-Wasn't is a really beautiful thing.
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Monday, November 14, 2011

Turkey Day Mental Simmer

Just a busy Monday mish-mash of all the things in my mind today. Basically all I'm thinking about at this point is Thanksgiving Day planning, my mind is buzzing with ideas and lists and possibilities.

My hopeful little invitation ended up being way more inviting than I ever dreamed...we won't have just our little nuclear family trying pathetically to down a turkey dinner. People are turning out in droves. Counting ourselves and the boys we will have between 25-30 people, give or take. I'm totally psyched!

Last night we solidfied the menu:

Roast Turkey
Honey Baked Spiral Glazed Ham
Giblet gravy
Fruit and Cheese Plate
Garlic mashed potatoes [1/2 batch made w/ olive oil and half with butter for the vegans in attendance]
Rolls or bread
Cranberry Sauce
Sweet Potatoes
Wild Rice with Wild Mushrooms
Curried Squash Soup
Green Beans w/ Olive Oil, Garlic and Toasted Almonds
Roasted Cauliflower
Cold Lentil, Persimmon, Pomegranate Salad

Pumpkin Pie
Apple Pie
Poached Pears
Assorted Chocolate Truffles
Flourless Chocolate Torte
Whipped Cream

I realize this looks like proof of my certifiable insanity but I swear to you, most of these items can be made ahead, A is taking several of them and teaming with me to cook, I am delegating some dishes to guests and most importantly...even if it's crazy...I really want to be doing this and I'm excited to make it happen!

Now that the menu is all set, I'm collecting my recipes, making the big grocery list, drawing up a cooking schedule for the week beforehand and musing on other happy "Thanksgivingy" things.


  • A Thankful Paper Chain which could be a really fun activity to keep dinner guests occupied while the meal is being finished.
  • Pretty decoration ideas from Better Homes and Gardens.
  • The ever inspiring Martha. I especially like the leaf decorated glass jars with candles in them. I am imagining using any old recyclable glass jars we have in our bin. I think the boys would like helping make these.
  • These ARGH! beautiful, beautiful harvesty floral arrangments by my floral designing idol Saipua.
  • A very charming vintage card cover that makes me very happy. I may print it off just to prop in my kitchen window while I bake. Do you think I could pull off a little starched cap like that?
  • This beautiful junk chair frame...turned autumn scene frame. Wish a stunning Queen Anne frame like that would get tossed in my neighborhood.
  • Baby dormice, who are both British and alarmingly cute and autumnal...plus, they live in a pumpkin! What's not to love.
  • Acorns so achingly beautiful that I want to go out and collect bucketfuls.
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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Together Work

This morning we went out and had an early family work bee in the yard. A has started "working out" two mornings a week in our own yard: moving wheelbarrow loads of garden goods, hoisting stones, digging holes for me, hacking bushes apart and other little homeownery, outdoor chores. It is so fun to have him chip in and the boys and I always try to put on our garden gloves and outdoor boots and join in. I am sure the neighbors must think we're crazy, all out there in the yard together at 7 AM but we're having fun, we're actually getting the outdoor work done and there's something so very seasonal about being out in the thick of it like that.

We've seen the first frost and the first leaf color firsthand, noticing all the tiny changes as they come because we're out there, saturated in it on those work mornings, breathing clouds of frosty steam and kicking through the first falling leaves. Another great bonus? When we finally come in, peeling off work gloves and stamping our feet, we bring our heartiest appetites to the breakfast table. Oatmeal never tasted so good!

Lately we've: dug the ephemeral summer bulbs and put them into the basement for storage, finished stacking the stone wall along the back property line, given the hedge one last trim for the year, and now the boys and A are busily stacking up a big pile of wintery kindling to heap into a cardboard box in the basement where it will dry out thoroughly waiting its turn by the fireside. I am thinking about tying them into little bundles with garden twine, would make transport easier and also look really cute.

This family-work is a new thing for us, we've historically been pretty thin on genuine group-efforts but somehow we've hit the right sort of activities and time-slot. It feels good to work together, not just play together...and it feels really right to be working as a group to manage and maintain our little plot of land....even if it is just a little farm in the city.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Sweet Moments

You can tell Halloween just happened and we're still living in the celebratory Land of Abundant Candy when you open the dishwasher and find the soap cup has been secretly stashed with the toddler's back-up supply of fruity ju-ju drops. Sometimes motherhood does make me smile. Love the random silly bits of life.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Not-So-Scary Relatives

My in-laws came and they went. I didn't keel right over from anticipation stress and the visit went very well. I'm not sure exactly why but I sure am able to make a whole lot of panic out of a friendly visit. I'm so intimidated by other people sometimes, so scared of sharing my space (lest it be sneered at), so afraid of criticism and so unsure of my ability to get "included." I think a lot of it stems from not being a very strong feeling person inside, I'm not confident in my ability to hold my own, impress, blow away the competition or be what I am supposed to be.
A's parents, in the flesh.
It was just a little weekend visit, they flew all the way out from the Midwest, just to spend the weekend with us, belnieve it or not. On that weekend visit they sent A and I on a highly relaxing overnight with no kids (Oh, baby-free, king-sized, sleep-number-bed...you were heaven!), they re-stocked our kids with books, brought us sheet-music for children's songs, did all the laundry in the house, ironed anything within a 1 mile radius, took all our trash out, shined our every dish, treated us to pizza, and even maaged to hang a curtain for me on the sly that I had been battling with.... What exactly was I so scared of? I sometimes wish I was less of a ridiculously cagey bird and more placidly trusting and smoothly optimistic. But yeah, I'm still me.
 How the Grinch Stole ChristmasImage via Wikipedia

So, now that they're gone and all is well after all, I'm handing out the homemade cookies my mother-in-law whipped up for snack time and we're all reciting the lines from, How The Grinch Stole Christmas (which we can now recite in chorus thanks to Grandpa's astounding patience with "one more time" requests from Ru.) I feel soundly on my feet, heading into the holidays with my cap tightened down and my kitchen counters shining. I am determined to manufacture more goodwill for my fellow man, more cookies for the Christmas tins and as much good cheer as can be reasonably obtained. Morning sickness be darned!
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