Saturday, November 29, 2014

Christmas Scenes Part 1

My honest intention was to buy nothing on Black Friday.  However, the day's purchases did end up including one dozen donuts, a quart of apple cider, and a seven foot tall Douglas Firm. We had planned on chopping down our own tree at my sister's house, but given the fact that it's deer season, we opted instead for the local nursery. On Sunday, when hunters take their day of rest, we might head up there to forage for some greenery, but I was impatient to put up the tree and didn't want to risk being mistaken for prey. 

We listened to David Grisman's Christmas album, and Arlo broke four glass bulbs. Sena and Gus found their yearly ornaments and tried to hide them in the tree's upper branches, out of Arlo's reach. Tom spent no less than twenty minutes carefully tightening the strings on his banjo ornament before he broke one. Then he spent another ten minutes trying to photograph said ornament.  Unfortunately, he shot it vertically, and I pretty much never use vertical shots, so you will have to use your imagination on that account. 

I'm going to try my hardest not to be a giant Scrooge this season. A few weeks ago I was reading through old blog posts, and almost as annoying as my constant mention of exactly how much daylight any given day included, was my passive aggressive moaning about December.  No child wants a spiritless mother. I'm going to try to find a way to take charge of the holiday, not let it consume me as it has in years past.  I'm going to focus on creating some stress free, inexpensive traditions, and maybe, just maybe, come January I won't feel so resentful. Yesterday was a good start. 

In other news, how has my daughter grown so tall? 

Friday, November 28, 2014

All The People

Lots of my family lives close by, some siblings as close as next door. And yet, despite proximity, it's amazing how often there are long stretches of time it feels like I haven't spent that much time with one sister or another. But the last few days have been blissfully slow and there has been plenty of time for being in the same space.

We went to my parent's house in the afternoon, but we spent the morning at home, getting things ready and  working on projects. Since most of the neighborhood kids were gone for the holidays, Sena and Gus mostly stuck in doors playing Smash Brothers on an ancient Nintendo and building giant forts that were easily overtaken by a storming younger brother. Since the Thanksgiving responsibilities were divided among my mom, myself and three sisters, preparation relatively easy for everyone. Afterward dinner we piled as many people as we possibly could around the television to watch The Notebook, suggested by a quasi-brother-in-law who never fails to surprise me.

I've spent the past few days watching my children function as siblings, while thinking about my own brother and sisters. I am grateful that my children have each other, just as I am grateful for my own siblings, who despite driving me crazy and sometimes even to utter despair, also bring me joy and comfort. I'm grateful to have them around to drink coffee with in the morning. I'm grateful that there are people to distract Arlo with dog videos when he becomes distraught. I'm glad that my own children have a chance at those things too one day.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


If there is ever a time I don't mind being a cliche, it's now. I have no problem joining in the chorus of voices listing off all the things we have to be so very grateful for. And my list sounds like so may other lists; I am thankful for my family and my friends and my home. I am grateful for my husband and for the little girl who is kicking her feet inside my belly as I write.

If ever there was a holiday I wholeheartedly endorse, it's this one. Sure, like so many things its past is a little suspect, but it's the present that matters. Today it reminds me to be thankful and that's what I plan on doing.

Happy Thanksgiving folks. 

Monday, November 24, 2014


There is nothing so important on a warm Monday in November that it can't wait until Tuesday. It's worth eating scrambled eggs for dinner and forsaking lofty laundry goals. A clean house is no match for watching two boys behave exactly like brothers-- brothers who happen to look almost nothing alike except for their streaky blond hair. 

Arlo seems to be growing up twice as fast as Sena and Gus. The influence of older kids has driven him to do things that took the older two much longer to attempt. He spends more time out of my field of vision, off with the big kids, following their lead. He desperately wants to keep up, and for a tottering not yet two year old, he does pretty well. 

When Gus bangs his hammer, Arlo grabs a branch and imitates. When Gus goes scurrying over fallen trees, Arlo is close behind. 

It has been many generations since my very predominantly female family has had a set of brothers in the mix; it's not a dynamic I grew up with. My only brother was lost in a sea of sisters. Rough housing was not a part of my childhood. Watching these two little boys attack the world together, all bulldozers and dirty knees, is an all together new experience for me, one I am happy to devote my energy to while a half dozen projects remain half done. 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

This Weekend We / Played in Fields

We got to their farm right as the sun was going down, which happens so very early these days. And as my sister finished dinner in the kitchen and Arlo slept soundly on her bed, I watched my biggest two take off into the wider, more open spaces.

Later, my parents arrived as did two more sisters and a handful of friends, and we took to the dark, hiding in shadows, while being sought with flashlights. It was very cold and mostly quiet on the farm, though the silence was peppered with the sound of diesel trucks in the distance and the barks of big dogs standing watch on farms nearby. As I sat tucked in among a grove of cedars waiting to be found, I wondered when the last time I sat out in the dark alone was.

The house in the distance  looked warm and inviting, bright windows, smoke billowing from the chimney. Eventually I faked a sneeze to speed up the discovery of my hiding spot. If I can't have farm and field for myself and my children, I'm glad that my sister has those things to lend us for a dark, frigid night in November.

And now for a Saturday night with just my kids and me, some delivered pizza, and whatever movie grabs our attention from the great, wonderful Netflix.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Blurred Memories

Sometimes the blurry ones tell the most truthful story, the frantic energy pent up inside on cold, dark nights. The littlest boy insisting on running 'round and 'round the house, begging his brother and sister with new found words--"Come on guys." The little boy who is suddenly not nearly so grumpy, who seems to be defying all my expectations for that dreaded year of terrible. The boy with crimson cheeks and labored breath from his evening adventures is flirtatious and agreeable and so much less likely to scowl.

I'm sure this is how I will remember so much of this time, the two years we were a family of five. The memories of the winter we waited for our girl will likely be grainy and a little out of focus, just like so much of the past.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

This Weekend We Did Very Very Little

This weekend was the slowest sort of weekend. We didn't go anywhere. We didn't see anyone. We mostly just were.

The kids came home from their week away late on Friday evening. We celebrated by renting Malificent and making a giant bed on the living room floor. The next morning I made a big breakfast, while debating my own Saturday plans. I was supposed to drive to Baltimore to have brunch with friends, but I had missed my kids in a way that maybe only pregnant, hormonal mothers can miss their children, and I was not emotionally prepared to leave them again. So I bailed on my plans, and then promptly regretted my decision. It took no time for my kids to leave me in favor of outdoor explorations with friends. I was left with a quiet house and conscience guilty over canceling.

But as the afternoon wore on, Tom and I started in on projects. We put more hours on scraping and sanding and priming our new, old doors. I dusted neglected corners and scrubbed every baseboard, and I was happy to do it all dotted with the frequent interruptions of children in need, the very interruptions I was so happy to have a few hours without the week before.

The beauty of slow weekends is that there is time for all the forgotten things; time for jumping contests and bubble baths. Time for rounds of board games and morning reading sessions. Time enough to soak my kids in and feel back to being myself.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

A Room of Our Own

I'm certain that there is some sort of pseudo-psychology out there that addresses what sort of person you are based on the way you prioritize  your home. And if there isn't, there really should be. The people who landscape first are most certainly different from the ones who set up intricate sound systems. And there must be a difference between the people who focus on their kitchens and those who put their efforts into the rec room.

My sisters are bedroom people. It seems to me that all my sisters learned the art of setting up a bedroom from my mother. Their beds are floaty and luxurious. The rooms have the perfect amount of feminine touch without being cloying. They are rooms men can still feel comfortable in, even if the rooms are just a little sweeter and softer. Their bedrooms are beautiful, relaxing, serene.

I did not inherit this bedroom designing skill, or maybe my psychology is just different. Maybe I am not really a bedroom person (I feel like there should be a joke about my husband's disappointment, but I can't quite flesh it out so...) I have fully embraced the idea that bedrooms are supposed to serve very limited, very specific functions: sleep and one other thing.

I have always focused my attention on public spaces-- making my home as welcoming and inviting as I can for guests, even to the point of neglecting the private spaces. I hang my favorite pictures where they will be seen and admired. I vacuum the living room floor at least four times as often as the  bedrooms. If I am going to spend money, the money goes towards the people zones: new throw pillows, coffee table books, candles.

My bedroom is the room in the house that always feels the least finished, a hodgepodge of whatever is left, and I'm sort of sick of it. For my birthday I got a dreamy white bedspread and beveled edged mirrors. My parents are buying us antique dressers for Christmas, and I'm ready to replace the plastic mini-blinds that came with the house.

I think the fact that I want to change our bedroom is tied to my own psychology, a desire for a little more private life, a little less public. This pregnancy has  begged me for more solitude, more quiet time, more reflection. There have been times I have not felt like myself. My most typical self craves lots of people, lots of energy, lots of conversation. But these days, I'm spending a lot more time tucked away somewhere reading, listening to my children playing together in the yard from an open window. And for the first time, I want to room I share with my husband to be a place I can retreat and relax, rather than just stumble into late at night once all the kids are in bed and all the lights are turned out.

It's not there yet. It is still full of things that don't exactly spark joy. But I'm excited to make it better, make it ours, probably just in time for a new person to invade our sleeping space and constantly dirty our sheets.

Monday, November 10, 2014

This Weekend We / Just Me and Tom

After taking Sena to go see my school's fall performance, my mom ushered my kids away for a week at the beach, leaving Tom and I with an empty house on Saturday morning.  And we spent the next few hours cleaning the house, drinking coffee, and generally relishing the absence of any sort of rushing or responsibility.  We were just two grown-ups with only ourselves to look after.

My mom takes my kids away for week long stretches to Ocracoke with more regularity than I might actually prefer. The time they spend away from me always leaves me feeling a little guilty and then a little empty. But the first two days are usually wonderful, and this weekend was no exception.

Tom and I spent a whole lot of time just the two of us, which rarely happens. Even when the kids do go away, we usually surround ourselves with friends. We plan all sorts of social things to do, the sorts of things not conducive to kids and families. But this weekend we didn't do those things. This weekend we went to an architectural salvage yard, bought old doors, and spent hours and hours on our back porch stripping them of years of paint.

We interspersed our project with lots of long walks, a late night Rushmore viewing, and a couple of pints of gelato, but mostly, we just worked side by side. It was pleasant and peaceful and exactly the sort of thing young me thought boring adults did. Turns out, I'm just another boring adult.  A perfectly content, boring adult.

Yesterday afternoon, the excitement of time alone started to wear out when I heard the neighbor kids all running around playing. I wanted my kids to be in the mix. I wanted them to bombard the porch, hungry for dinner and eager to tell tales. I wanted to watch an episode of The Wonder Years with them more than I wanted to watch the episode of Breaking Bad we ultimately indulged in.

I miss them.  I would rather that they were here with me, but I am also glad I get to spend time alone with Tom. When I was pregnant with Sena, I watched a lot of Oprah. So much Oprah that I have never felt the need to watch another episode since Sena's birth. I distinctly remember an episode with Muffy Mead- ferro, who wrote Confessions of a Slacker Mom.  The book stirred up some controversy because Mead-ferro professed to love her husband more than her children. At the time, I was completely befuddled. I wasn't sure what the love of a mother was going to be like, but I assumed it had to be pretty damn intense. Furthermore, my relationship with Tom was a little unsettled.  I just couldn't really imagine where I would ever stand on the issue.

Ten years later, I'm not sure that I agree with her on that point, although Confessions was one of my favorite books for a long time. I lent it out to so many different people, I don't know whatever became of my copy. But I will say that I am glad that I can enjoy spending hours on end with Tom, and we don't spend it all discussing our kids. We talk about things and make plans and try to make each other laugh.  Although we got married because of a kid, we stay married because of each other.