Thursday, September 30, 2010

Wild Visitors

We were visited by three wild creatures this weekend (perhaps they heard about the two souls who have high hopes for pets).

This is the only one that held still long enough for a clear photo:

This painted turtle wandered across our driveway Saturday afternoon (it was hanging out on third base in our kickball diamond when C found it).

Later Saturday evening M went out to find a pileated woodpecker chuffing at loose bark on a dead tree near our deck. Every time I clicked the shutter, though, it flew off to the next tree (this was the closest I've seen one of those birds--huge).

Then Sunday, E and Z discovered a mole wandering around the front yard and managed to herd it far from the hole it had dug near our front walk. I told them to leave it alone, but later saw from the kitchen window Z carrying a big metal bucket to show E something. Of course he'd scooped up the mole and was planning on keeping it for a pet, "just for a few days." I guess all those times I said he could keep a squirrel or a snowshoe hare for a pet if he could catch it were coming back to bite me! I convinced him that it would not be very happy to be above ground, even for a few days, and we nudged it out of the bucket near its hole, which it immediately paddled down.

A turtle, a woodpecker and a mole. Auspicious sign for the coming season? (Certainly more auspicious than the skunk that's been hanging around all summer--though the skunk has proved itself useful in digging up and dispatching hornet nests).

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Tea and Books

I spent two-and-half days last week curled up on the couch in a blanket with a bad cold, a pot of mint tea with honey and a stack of library books.

I've gotten into the habit of ordering a book through interlibrary loan whenever I read a review online that sounds good. This usually results in pleasant surprises when I pick up the books (I rarely remember any titles once I've clicked "request"), but sometimes they pile up faster than I can read them. Just such a situation was threatening last week until I was laid low and given the rare opportunity to read in peace for hours each day (broken only by making more tea and naps).

Three of the books explored the mistreatment of women in three different historic periods and settings (witch trials of the Reformation, insane asylums of the Victorian period, and American textile mills early last century). Truly, I eat this stuff up; I think it's such a valuable role for literature to shine a bright light on the darker parts of our history--especially those parts that tend to get ignored or glossed over in our history classes. I'm also stunned and amazed by the research that went into writing these books (two were based on actual events, the third was based on a renowned work of literature from the era).

Triangle by Katharine Weber tells the story of the last living survivor of the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire in interview transcripts alternating with scenes of her granddaughter and her fiance/husband. I have to admit to rushing through the parts about the granddaughter, and especially her fiance's music to get on to more about Esther's experience of the fire, which is horrific and, as it turns out, a bit of a mystery.

Daughters of the Witching Hill by Mary Sharratt is the fictionalized story of the lives of the women of Pendle Forest who were tried as witches in 1613. I'm endlessly fascinated/horrified by this era of history, and found this book very well done. In fact, I think it's my favorite of the four.

Dracula in Love by Karen Essex is the Dracula story recast in feminist clothes. I have to admit to being too illiterate to having read Stoker's original, but I found this version (told in the voice of Mina) to be a fascinating look into both life in Victorian times for women and the history and mythology around vampires. Stoker plays a walk-on role, which is amusing. I only wish it had been a bit scarier...I would have liked more suspense...and that some of the characters that were introduced earlier on (e.g. Kate Reed) had been carried through the narrative in some way. Otherwise, very well done and I might just go read the original.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender departs from the other three books I read in that it takes place in the now-ish era. It is the strange tale of a woman who can taste people's emotions in their cooking. As she grows up and begins to find a way to cope with her strange skill, she discovers that other members of her family have unusual skills as well.

What are you reading?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Men's Work

Last Saturday I took a little break from my day to sit outside and do a little hand-sewing on a small project. E joined me and tried his hand at blanket stitch, then decided he wanted to work on his knitting. In May, when my mom was here and knitting up a storm, E decided it was time to graduate from finger knitting and try the real thing. At first he just sat on my mom's lap and held the needles while she did the knitting. Over the summer he's picked it up off and on, taking over a little more of the actual knitting each time, to the point that last weekend, he was doing it all, I just held the needles to keep them from sliding out of the stitches (he's a loose knitter).
When it got too cold and we went inside, I found Z in the kitchen doing this:

He helped C make homemade pasta and sauce from start to finish. I love that these boys, despite having rather strong feelings about pink and purple NOT being colors they like (at least one of them has a strong opposition to "girl" colors), and despite HATING flowers (except when they forget and pick me a bouquet), are eager knitters and sewers and cooks, and in fact have no gendered associations with those activities.

Hurray for boys who knit and sew and cook!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Autumn Equinox, Observed

We welcomed the season this weekend by cleaning and rearranging the living room. E and Z have been asking for ages to "rerrange the riveryroom" and the turn of season seemed like as good a time as any to get dust out of the corners and change the view. E helped me dust and vacuum and move furniture and then I gave the boys free artistic control over setting up the Nature Table.

They seem to favor the well-populated look. Hiding in there somewhere is this sweet woodland animal set from Anne Moze that I couldn't resist buying a while back and tucking away for the autumn (you can see the hedgehog as half of the chimera M put together).

For dinner we made an autumn feast of vegetable soup, pain d'epi and a rustic apple tart. I usually make pumpkin soup for the first day of fall, and had even bought a ridiculously overpriced buttercup squash at the health food store for the purpose (our winter squashes are still hanging out on the vine in the hopes of gaining in size or ripeness), but our cornucopia runneth over with green beans, tomatoes, broccoli, and potatoes just now, so I made a more harvest-appropriate soup with all of the above plus some carrots from neighbor's garden.

I was reading a book the other day about Celtic festivals, which said that the Celts celebrated the beginning of the harvest in early August (Lughnasa) and the end of the agricultural year around October 31 (Samhain), but did not do much to mark the autumn equinox because they were too busy harvesting and storing away the year's crops. I think I can relate; truly I never thought I'd say this, but I'm looking forward to the end of tomato season--C harvested all of our own this weekend starting up more rounds of baking, skinning, blending and freezing.

How are you welcoming the season?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Pet, For a Day

I have two little boys who want more than anything in the whole wide world (well, maybe not anything, but most things) something furry and soft and alive to call their own. The trouble is, C and I are just not pet people. I know that probably sounds awful, but I feel like I'm hanging on by my fingernails just to keep everything together most of the add another heartbeat to our home would truly send me over the edge . Plus I'm allergic to many furry things. And neither of us wants to clean up after another animal (other than the three bipedal ones we already have). Or figure out what to do with it when we go away.

We may some day get something farmish and useful, like chickens or a goat, but for now we are petless.

But those boys love animals. So much that they regularly offer to trade me in for a dog or cat (my allergies being the scapegoat and cover for our petless condition). Last weekend, C was scything the overgrown weeds around our "yard" and accidentally injured a mouse. Z brought me to see it, curled in some dry grass, nose bloodied--whether from a cut or a blow I do not know.

Now I admit I get a little squeamish around mice. They do kind of ick me out. And I'll also admit that when they invade my house or car I do not hesitate to give the orders that snap traps be installed. But here was this injured creature, and here was my boy who has shown moments of aggression lately, concerned for the welfare of this tiny ball of fur. So I found a container and we filled it with dry grass and scooped in the mouse (heebie-jeebie) and gave it little dishes of water and grated apple and cheese (what else?), and brought it into the house.

I fully expected it to die overnight from its was after all bleeding from its mouth and nose, but by morning, when I got up to make breakfast, I could hear it rustling around in its enclosure. I couldn't tell if it had eaten or drunk anything, but it was moving and no longer bloody. The boys came down to see it first thing when they woke up, and wouldn't let it alone for all their holding and touching. Let me tell you, despite my deep reservations about caged animals--especially caged wild animals--and despite having trapped this one's cousin in our house just months ago, I had a brief vision of going up to pet smart and getting an aquarium and wood chips and mouse pellets and a water bottle for the thing.

Happily, that vision passed before I did anything rash, and after the sun came out and the air warmed up in the afternoon, we returned little mousy (we didn't even have it long enough to give it a name) back to nature. Immediately it disappeared down a tunnel of dried grass that must be part of network crisscrossing all our land (except the lawn), and that we never even knew existed. Z was not happy that it took off so quickly before he got a chance to hold it, but I was happy that it seemed fully recovered and hope that the boys learned something about kindness, in seeing their mother open her heart to a creature that just makes her want to shake all over.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Tomato Jam

In addition to all the solar cooked tomato largesse, I made these four tiny jars of tomato jam.

The recipe is Mark Bittman's, and it is divine. Truly.

I got the idea from a little deli in South Portland that has a sandwich with pesto, fresh mozzarella and some sort of substance that could only be described as tomato jam. So I looked it up, and there was a recipe right there in the New York Times.

I told a friend about it and she thought it would be good with cream cheese on crackers, so for a little get-together with my knitting buddies, I made some nutty crackers and some yogurt cheese (I did want to make real cream cheese, to get started on my autumn to-do list, but didn't have all the necessary ingredients) and placed a dollop of jam on top.


I have this weird thing about liking to make a whole meal from scratch...I have visions of some day making a spanikopita from homemade filo dough, with home-grown spinach and homemade feta. I know it will never happen (I would never, ever have the patience to roll out filo), but the idea of the gritty authenticity of having to make it all appeals to me in a weird way. My crackers were on the dry, abrasive side and my yogurt cheese a little grainy a tad too tart, but the overall satisfying. I know...weird.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Table Runner Accomplished!

Among my list of autumn-to-do's was to make this table runner, which I got inspired to do last weekend, jumping the gun a bit on the season. Though as I was making it, it occurred to me that the colors are a bit more summery, with that buttery yellow and those blossoms, so I may need to make a more autumney one yet.

Now I could tell you a long boring story as I am wont to do, about how I fell in love with the sparrow fabric when I first saw it, but was in the midst of my Buy Nothing Year, and then decided to get some to make living room curtains last year, but by then it had been discontinued, and all I could get my hands on was a single fat quarter the complimentary "rose" design (as it turned out, the decorator weight and width that I ended up using was a much better choice for curtains), then last Thanksgiving while visiting friends, I found a bolt of the sparrows in a tiny little gift shop that just happened to sell a few fabrics and bought a single, precious yard, to hang onto until the right project came along, and then, by chance discovered the tangerine wood grain at a huge discount store that is about 15,000 square feet of garbage and 500 square feet of really great fabric at super cheap prices, and then the idea and design for the runner just came together and clicked, and how the vase my mom sent for my birthday (it arrived the exact day after I brought home flowers from the farmer's market and thought, "I need an in-between-sized vase" and pictured in my mind the very one you see here) matches exactly.

But I won't...instead I'll just ask, how much do you love those colors? They make me happy just looking at them. On third thought, perhaps this should be a winter table runner, to offer color and cheer during those dark months.

I do admit to taking it off the table when we sat down for dinner after taking this picture, 'cause I didn't want it to get all messy, but since then I have left it on the table and it's gotten its share of milk splatters and sprinklings from the flowers and pepper will fare worse over time, no doubt. We have all really yucky plastic place mats that do it no justice at all...I am contemplating the trip to Marden's to buy up the last of the orange wood grain and make a dozen or so (hmm...but then we'll need complimentary napkins!)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

More on Solar Cooking--Tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes!

I've been meaning to tell you more about solar cooking, which we're finally getting a hang of this summer. We have a Sun Oven that C bought me for Mother's Day a couple of years ago. That first summer, it imparted a funny smell/taste to food, which I think may have been the paint off-gassing (yikes) and last year we didn't get much sun, so this summer was the first time we've had a chance to really see what it can do.

I love to pile an eggplant cut in half lengthwise, a couple of handfuls of baby potatoes and cherry tomatoes, all drizzled with olive oil and a full bulb of garlic on top and turn what comes out at the end of the day into a variety of pizza toppings and salad fixin's. I have also had excellent luck putting in a pan of dried (and soaked) pinto beans...they come out the perfect texture, with nary a one broken from overly aggressive simmering. Garbanzos seemed to need more time (or more sun?) and leaving rice in for the day just creates rice mush, but if I were home to tend it, it would work fine.

Lately I've been using it to preserve tomatoes. We use lots and lots of canned tomatoes over the winter (pizza and spaghetti sauce and C's specialty, tomato-rice soup) and I would like to minimize the expense and use of resources (energy in the canning, transporting, etc.). We've had a decent tomato crop, and I was lucky enough to be able to pick from a garden of a friend's neighbor who had way over-planted. (Oh, yeah, and we just got a chest freezer).

The bounty:

To solar-cook, I just core the tomatoes (we're not picky about seeds), cram as many as I can fit into the roasting pan, add a handful of peeled garlic cloves, a couple of chopped onions, some fresh basil and oregano, a spoonful of salt, a shake of red pepper flakes, a few gratings of nutmeg and a few pinches of fennel seed.

It goes in looking like this:

And comes out like this (anywhere from a couple of hours to all day, depending on the sun-to-cloud ratio):

I pull the skins off with tongs, run it through the blender and pour it into yogurt tubs.

Right now the tubs are the limiting factor in our productivity: we have tons of lids of one brand and tons of bottoms of the other (because the bottoms of the first brand and lids of the second brand were #2 plastic, and therefore recyclable). Plus, I think my hands have permanently taken on that funky cooked tomato smell. You know the one? And the extra dishwasher runs may cancel out any energy we save in not canning. We still have a fairly hefty pile of tomatoes (and more on the vines), so I may (inspired by Rachel at 6512) turn to making catsup to use them all up (we do love our catsup around
here...and I do love to spell that word the old-fashioned way...I have a thing for words that sound nothing like they're spelled. Is there a word for those? Absurdonyms?).

In other low-carbon preserving news, I attempted to sun-dry these little tomatoes in the sun:

but not much happened. I ended up moving the operation (and adding a sprinkling of sugar, salt and thyme) to a low oven for about an eternity. The didn't end up as tangy-chewy as commercial sun-drieds, and I had to freeze them anyway (the recipe said they would keep a few weeks in the fridge), but they will be good on pizza.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Good news!

My poem First Practice was one of six poems from Vox Poetica nominated for Best of the Net. I'm not sure what that means, practically-speaking, but I feel very honored to have my poem selected from among the many outstanding pieces on the site!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Back to School Shoes

The only time I've ever done any official "back to school" shopping was when M was in Kindergarten--a case of overeager first time parent syndrome (OEFTPS) I suppose. After I realized he would never even wear all the spiffy new clothes I bought him, and that we acquire school supplies simply by being alive I never went back to school shopping again. Whenever we are gifted the odd bag of red pens, ream of filler paper or box of crayons, I squirrel the items away in a box labeled "school supplies" in the basement...we just go shopping in that box. And, sometime after school starts, when the weather begins to turn, we go shopping again in the hand-me-down bins stacked up in the basement, in search of fall and winter clothes. (More on previous Buy Nearly Nothing Back to School years here and here).

This year, however, all three boys needed sneakers, badly. I generally try to buy shoes in the spring, so they can be worn all summer and fall, while in the winter snow boots reign, but M had shredded the sneakers he got last spring, Z was wearing a tattered pair of hand-me-downs that had been through at least two kids before him and E had outgrown the shoes he preferred last school year and wore sandals all summer. They needed shoes.

I have a hard time buying shoes, though, with the sweat shops and toxic materials and all. It makes me sick to my stomach to think about. I've been trying to find "greener" shoes for a few years. When M was in first grade, I bought him some Simple Eco-Sneaks, which were fabulous. When he outgrew those, I got him another pair, but they had changed their materials (from a heavy hemp canvas to thin cotton and from tan rubber soles to recycled tires) and the shoes fell apart in just a couple of months. Last spring we tried Keen canvas sneakers, which were a little better, but they had full-on holes by the end of summer, and they're not cheap. I was about to give in and buy all-leather Keens, which are neither cheap nor all that eco-friendly when I discovered Ethletic sneakers from Autonomie Project. They have that cool old-school sneaker look that M favors, they appeared more rugged than the Simples and they're less expensive than the Keens. And they're organic cotton with FSC certified rubber soles. (Plus, they were on sale and I get a discount as a member of Better World Club--the roadside assistance that lobbies for better alternative transportation and clean air, rather than against all those things like AAA).

I had to make the leap and guess at the right sizes (a problem with online ordering from anywhere). I got E and Z's right, but the sizing gets weird in the bigger kids (they go up to size 4 kids', then start all over at 3.5 in men's...I think it's a bad translation from European sizes). I had to order a second pair to get M the right size (which pushed him over into men's sizing...and pricing). The boys were all thrilled (E and Z probably because they haven't gotten new shoes of their very own--that weren't hand-me downs--in their living memory) and they seem to be working out great (Z even learned how to tie almost right away and E is almost there...I think it took until he was in first or 2nd grade to teach M)! If these wear out too fast, I may end up getting all leather shoes after all...but I hope they survive at least until snow boot season!

Other than sneakers, all I had to buy this year was glue stick for M's list. I spent a considerable time in Staples contemplating which was the least worst brand, finally settling on the official Glue Stick brand, because they labeled their package as PVC-free (though why I can't buy a single glue stick without getting a pack of three bugs me!). As it turns out, E and Z's teacher gave us goodie bags that each had a glue stick in them, so I could even have avoided that purchase if I had procrastinated a couple more days! E and Z didn't need any supplies for kindergarten, but the teacher had a wish list that included pencils, so I unloaded a ton of the pencils that have made their way into the house from various holidays (really, why does one need a Halloween pencil? And just so you don't think I'm too cheap, I also supplied wipes, tissues, and granola bars). M chose only yellow pencils from our stash (even ones that had been sharpened down to little nubs), so apparently he's outgrown the decorative pencil thing, and I really hate that plastic wrap that peels off many of the decorative pencils. Besides, how many pencils does one household truly need (I may regret my rash move next year when I'm trying to fill school boxes on another Buy Nothing Back to School kick).

Monday, September 13, 2010

Autumn To-Do List

Yes, yes, I know it's not officially autumn yet, but once school starts, it kind of feels like the end of summer, know what I mean? I just looked over my Summer T0-Do List and I'd say I scored a 50% (good thing it doesn't count for a grade!). I have a couple of weeks left in which to squeeze a few more items (another trip to the beach, perhaps? And that dang summer blouse, which is cut out but not sewn). But it also feels like time to start a list of things I want to do this fall:

In the Kitchen
Make cheese
Make a meal schedule/plan
Get up early Sunday a.m. and make bread and a healthful baked good for school snacks.

In the Sewing Corner
Make a table runner
Make bedroom curtains
Start planning Christmas gift making

In the Writing Corner
Finish and submit one essay
Produce another issue of GEMINI

In the Home
Do a 15-minute de-clutter every weekend day
Keep the dining table clear of junk
Paint and put up shelves in basement store room to make pantry

With the Kids
Keep Cranky Mommy in her box

Start walking our trail again
Hike Morse Mtn. when the hawks are migrating
Hike the Kennebec Highlands when the leaves are in full color

For Me
Give up sugar (again--I made it from Memorial Day to mid-July; I was going to start again after Labor Day but had some setbacks)
Exercise daily (for real this time!)

What does autumn have in store for you?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

One Small Change August Wrap-Up

Our summer One Small Change--eating locally-grown food only--officially ended last Monday as the boys ripped into a bag of Mesa Sunrise for breakfast, as if it were not corn & quinoa flakes, but rather a box of Cap’n Crunch.

They had been complaining for a couple of weeks about having oatmeal or granola every day. C had been complaining about having to make oatmeal when we were between granola batches. I promised everyone that they would have ‘real’ cereal when school started. Getting three kids to the bus by 7:35 would be hard enough for C (my plan being to be out of the house by 6:30), without daily breakfast battles.

I do plan on continuing to buy our produce locally at least through September, and to continue using up the dry goods on our shelves before buying more. And told C I wouldn’t buy him olive oil until he used up the stinky canola, but I’m going to need to get some soon to make my basil into pesto (along with some Pecorino Romano and pine nuts).

Sometime around the middle of August, C asked if I had gotten any fennel seed at the store. “That will have to wait until September,” I said.

He looked confused for a moment and then asked, “Are we doing the Hundred Mile Diet again?”

This tells me two things: 1) either I don’t communicate or he doesn’t listen to me; and 2) it’s not much of a deprivation to eat locally (at least not in July or August). I did find local cheese and root beer and salami, which I guess kept the masses happy.

“Good thing I didn’t go grocery shopping,” he replied. I don’t think we were in too much danger of that.

The thing I like about eating locally (and I’m pretty sure this will become an annual event, with a hopefully ever-lengthening season), is that it strips you down to the truly necessary, shines a bright light on your limits and what is non-negotiable. What will you take in your covered wagon across the prairie? Salt pork and cornmeal or Pecorino Romano and extra virgin olive oil? Apparently for us it’s breakfast cereal. Our prairie schooner will be piled from wagon box to canvas with bags of Mesa Sunrise and Heritage Flakes.

We watched No Impact Man, The Movie this past weekend and it made me: a) really jealous of New York’s farmer’s market...with options like that why would you even want to go into a grocery store? and b) want to push the envelope a bit more with our small changes. But I’m not sure what that would be yet. I like his discussion about volunteering and building community. I’m just not sure when I’d find the time for one more thing.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Of My Very Own

Check out what C got me for my birthday:

It came a few days after the actual event, in a big, unmarked box. “Is it a laptop?” I joked as I peeled away packing tape.

“I’m not that rich,” C replied.

“I guess it would have an apple with a bite out of it on the box if it was.”

“Or a circle with ‘dell’ in it,” M offered.

“Circle with a line through it ‘dell,’” I said.

By then I had gotten through the outer box to the inner one and saw the apple with a bite out of it.

I admit I got a little weepy. Then I chided myself for getting weepy over a material object. But really, it was because C knew what I really wanted and gave it to me. I’ve been saving up for my own computer for almost 30 years (truly, I started my first computer fund in a toffee tin when I was in 3rd grade. Of course, back then my handful of coins and $2 bills were heading toward an Apple IIe or a Commodore 64). All the computers C and I have had have either been hand-me-downs or, in the case of the most recent two, purchased for his work. In every case, he’s taken the interest to set them up, configure them to his preferences. I use a computer eight hours a day, five days a week, so it’s generally the last thing I want to do when I get home at night. Until now.

At first there was nothing much I could do with my new computer. It didn’t come loaded with any useful software and I couldn’t connect to the Internet (we use C’s Blackberry as an external modem--we didn’t run cable to our house when we built it and by the time DSL reaches our neck of the woods it will have been replaced by some other technology, like teletransporting oneself to an Internet cafe--and the software disk he had didn’t work). I could mix music tracks, play chess or take pictures of myself like this:

(Believe me I did that for a good solid hour). I realized that I still think of a computer as a fancy typewriter while for the rest of the world views it as a multimedia experience...a really expensive toy. Now we’re one of those families with more chargers than people: C’s Blackberry and Bluetooth, my cellphone (which I use mainly as a really expensive alarm clock), both laptops, plus a variety of battery chargers.

That weekend I found my way to a wi-fi location and downloaded a trial copy of iWork. I still haven’t solved my internet connection, but I can type!!

I even made it its own cozy.

I was going to make a bag, but when I looked around on the Internet for ideas, I saw that the laptop sleeve is the done thing. Since I already have a messenger bag, it made sense. Plus I didn’t have to fiddle around with straps.

Even though it's tiny, the computer doesn’t fit inside my desk with the door closed because there are pigeon holes in there, but it fits nicely on the shelf. Now nothing is standing between me and a bestseller.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


Last week was a bad week. Very bad. I can’t think of time when I’ve felt less equal to the task of parenting (actually I can...the first two years of the twins’ lives and M’s 5th and 6th years).

I don’t know the right way to respond to a child who filches pocket knives out of drawers, one who spits in my face, one who kicks and hits me, one who sprays the hose directly into the house. I know lots of wrong ways.

Mainers use the word “ugly” to describe a type of personality or behavior--angry, mean, grouchy, ill-behaved. We all four were ugly last week.

It was the first week of school. The first week of Kindergarten at a new school for the twins. It was probably a hard transition from summertime’s easy living to learning new rules, meeting new people, holding it all in and behaving for six hours. Every day I failed. It was also 90 degrees and 85 percent humidity every day, with high ozone and particulate matter in the air. Too much for even heat-loving me. Weather that can make anyone ugly.

I tried to be understanding. Every day I vowed to be more calm, patient, loving. Every day I failed.

I tried to build extra moments of connection into our days--reading books in the afternoon, letting them squeeze lemons beside me as I made dinner, coming home early with ice cream sandwiches and filling the pool, lying in bed with them after lights out.

And still they were ugly at dinnertime and bedtime and wake-up time and pick-up time. And I was even uglier because I resented that I had made those extra efforts and there appeared to be no benefit. I did not want to be around them. I wanted to run away to a villa in Tuscany. I could hear my own voice in their angry interactions with each other and it made me sick to my stomach.

Friday was the worst--they had the day off of school and I had it off work. We were going to go up to our friends’ camp on the lake, but decided to put it off one day because of Hurricane Earl’s expected arrival, which was a huge mistake. It was still hot, a perfect day to be at the lake. Having other people around to pay them attention and being outside on the water would have calmed everyone’s ugliness I’m sure.

Finally, I shut myself in my room just to avoid any more confrontations. I did some sewing, some lying on the bed blankly, some cleaning. I could hear them downstairs making messes. I could hear them outside, with M as the director of activities. When C came home, he took them all out to dinner and left me home alone.

I reread the short story, “Boys” by Rick Moody. It reminded me that boys are dirty, smelly, ill-mannered creatures, not the angelically behaved cherubs that appear to exist all over blog-land. The reality is much less pleasant, I reminded myself, but a lot more interesting. I would prefer interesting children to pleasant ones, right?

I had just written a short piece about nature journaling as a form of meditation, so I took myself outside to contemplate the sunflowers and the stunted giant pumpkins, colored pencils in hand. I lay on the couch mindlessly. I ate cold onion rings and half a pint of Ben & Jerry’s after C got home (emotional eating always helps). I told myself I just needed some restorative time to myself, but really, I just did not want to be around my own children.

I hope our weekend at the lake helped and we’ll all feel restored this week (though what I truly needed was a weekend in a sensory deprivation chamber!) and better able to cope with whatever comes along.

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