Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Weekend Things ~ Still Winter

This is what it looks like where I live right now, at the tail-end of March.

Snowy and muddy and very much still winter.

I was supposed to go to Vermont for the weekend to visit a friend and her new(ish) baby, but I came down with a cold and didn't want to go coughing all over my friend's baby.

Vermont wouldn't have been much of an improvement in climate, but it would have been away, which is something I've been needing lately.

As it turned out, the kids were gone for most the weekend, so it was almost like a vacation, at least from other people's needs.

I found myself in a nearly empty house with a lot of free time, which is a state I dream about but rarely experience, yet I couldn't settle down to do anything.

Whatever powers the perpetual motion that propels me through winter seems to have run out of fuel.

I spent a fair amount of time working on my final project for my naturalist class. I was pretty excited by this turtle for about a minute after I finished it, and then my mind spun into the abyss of "my drawings are so flat I don't understand perspective and they have no character and this is going to be the worst project ever."

It was time to get outside. 

A walk to the (starting to break up) river, and some time just lying around doing absolutely nothing, followed by a little reading and daydreaming helped. Funny how hard it is to do nothing.

When E and Z got home Sunday afternoon, we did a little half-hearted Easter decorating.

It's kind of hard to get in the Easter spirit with snow still so deep I sank up over my knees when I went off trail.

We didn't have any wheat berries for starting Easter grass and no one even dressed up in the bunny costume and hid eggs.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Weekend Things ~ Cabin Fever

We had another tough week, last week, with C traveling for work again, this time through the weekend in order to accommodate busy evenings earlier in the week. I had not expected full-on parenting to be so exhausting. It's not just doing all the cooking and cleaning up and getting on the bus and putting to bed and driving to lessons and picking up from practices that's so wearying. It's the coaxing and urging and answering questions and fielding complaints and breaking up fights and enforcing rules and confiscating iPads and enduring temper tantrums from kids who you'd think are far too old for temper tantrums. C and I have our share of disagreements about who shoulders more of the burden in these various departments, but it's clear that 100% is a lot more than usual. I salute anyone out there who is not co-parenting with another person.

And then there's this time of year. March. Not my best month. I try to be good and not complain about winter all winter long, because really, what good would that do? But by the end of March, I'm good and ready to see some green. And get out. I feel restless. I can't read more than a paragraph or two in a book or magazine or knit more than a few rows of stitches before I toss it aside. TV doesn't appeal. Unfinished projects hold no allure. And housework is definitely off the table. But the urge to go do something makes me feel like bursting through my own skin.

By Saturday I needed to get out. In the afternoon I announced that I was going out to run errands--one of the wonders of having a teenager in the house is that you can leave the house all by yourself--and left the only rule of not going on the river. My only goal was to pick up fancy Easter candy (I had lentil mints on my mind), but I found myself buying spring tops (that are far too cold for this weather--a sure sign of spring fever), browsing a book store, window shopping in a natural foods store.

After I got home and fixed a quick dinner we went out again to see the new Cinderella movie. The boys were skeptical at best, and the "Frozen" short feature before the film did nothing to endear the movie to them. "That was pretty lame," was M's assessment when it was over. "There were no brutal killings," was Z's main complaint. But I thought it was cute and funny, and at least we got out of the house, even if we did have to drive home in a mini snowstorm (of course).

Sunday the sun came out and C came home and we all went for a walk in the woods (the same old woods on the same old trail). But this week I'm feeling the cabin fever take over again. Yesterday evening after work I stopped in a Maine crafts store out by the Turnpike to see a friend's gallery show before it closed and I was just a little tiny bit tempted to hop on that highway and head south. To New Mexico perhaps. I understand it's warm in New Mexico this time of year. But I turned around and came home instead.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

This Boy

When M was a baby, I was terrified of toddlers. They seemed to be a cross between a bulldozer and Frankenstein. Once, I was sitting on the couch at my local yarn store, holding M  on my lap, and a toddler barreled over to us and jabbed my sweet baby in the eye. I could not believe I would have one of these monsters in my life in a few short months.

And then, within a few days of his first birthday, M said his first word ("koob" for "book") and made the transition from walking-while-supported to walking-all-the-time-get-that-stroller-away-from-me-you-harridan. And then things got really interesting. Sure, he was headstrong and destructive (though only mildly so--I would learn what destructive really meant four years later with two toddlers in the house), but he was also turning into a really cool person. Each night he came home from daycare with a new mouthful of words. He discovered, and helped me rediscover, amazing new things every day. Ages 12 months to 3 1/2 years were probably my favorite.

For a long time--probably since M was born--I was also scared of teenagers. I've never really liked teenagers, even when I was one. They seem like selfish, narcissistic, obnoxious, rude, uh, monsters. Basically, really tall toddlers.

And then M turned 13, and once again he was becoming a really cool person (not that he wasn't in the process of becoming a really cool person in the intervening years, but I was too focused on bossing his recalcitrant little self around, and worrying that his money phase or his army phase or his Joe Hardy phase was a permanent fixture to notice).

Last week, since I had the kids with me at work on Friday, we headed over to the music store at lunchtime and M bought the guitar he'd been trying out last time we were in town--a major upgrade from his current instruments. While I ran the other two around to pick up lunch and a new pair of boots, M sat on a stool and plugged various guitars in to the amps on the showroom floor, testing out the different tones, making sure it was the right one for him, then he handed over months of allowance, Christmas money, and a major withdrawal from his bank account, all with the exact seriousness of expression his face has held since he was born.

When I take him to Portland to his voice lessons, I get to eavesdrop on him talking to an adult, professional musician in what is basically a foreign language: "Did you change the key?" "No I just dropped down an octave." "What chords are those?" "[Insert gobbledeygook of letters and numbers]." He knows what he's talking about and knows what he's doing. On the long drive home, he watches old Wayne's World clips from Saturday Night Live on my phone. I don't need to see the screen; Wayne's World defined my SNL-watching era in high school and college. And now I get to laugh when my own kid says, "Sheah, and monkeys might fly out of my butt." Is that obnoxious? Maybe, but it cracks me up.

At a party at our friends' house over the weekend, he sat down at their piano and picked out a song, "There's a lady I know. If I didn't know her, she'd be the lady I don't know...She's choppin' broccoli...chopping broccoli..." The next day, we hung out more than usual, as I *encouraged* him through his honors' class applications, his struggle to think of a historical character who inspired him, finally veering away from Frank Zappa and agreeing to my suggestion of Pete Seeger because there was a picture of Seeger wearing an orange hat on his Wikipedia page.

I like watching the way his mind works, and being astonished at what comes out the other end. And sharing juvenile Wayne's World jokes. And hearing him talk about and play music, even when he learns songs I hate on purpose just to annoy me (shh, don't tell him that). He still laughs at my jokes (when they're funny), but tells me to "Go away and stop annoying me, Mom," when I interrupt him while he's doing homework or watching The Daily Show (Dude, it's my job to annoy you). He's getting to be a really cool person, and not a monster at all. Knocking on wood that he stays that way.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Weekend Things ~ Quiet

We had a snowy weekend. Big feathery flakes tumbled out of the sky most of Saturday and Sunday. It didn't amount to much--three or four inches--and it wasn't very cold, holding steady around 36 degrees, but I took it as an excuse to spend most of the weekend indoors, other than a stroll up the road to our neighbors' house for a Pi Day pie party Saturday evening.

Last week was kind of hectic, with C out of town for work, two evenings of lessons, plus parent-teacher conferences another, and all three kids at work with me all day Friday, due to logistical difficulties surrounding a day off regular school, but M still having his morning math class. So I welcomed a slow, quiet weekend.

Other than Saturday's party and the usual housework, the only thing I *had* to do was work on a project for my Master Naturalist class. Good thing sketching is so relaxing.

With St. Patrick's Day coming, I was feeling homesick for Ireland (are you allowed to be homesick for a place you've only visited for ten days?) and spent some time decorating the house with green and re-reading my travel journal.

On Sunday afternoon, I made green soup (nothing Irish about it, except it's green) and Irish soda bread. I had tried to find some of the foods that I liked best in Ireland. There had been rhubarb everywhere (including the most divine rhubarb yogurt), but the only thing rhubarb I could find was some strawberry-rhubarb jam that didn't taste very rhubarby. Maybe they don't have rhubarb in Ireland in March, either? I did find some aged goat cheese very similar to what was served everywhere, in salads, and in the most amazing roasted vegetable puff-pastry tart. Other foods from Ireland that we don't have here: red onion and farmhouse cheddar crisps; blackcurrant sorbet and smoothies; curry sauce for fish & chips. C did buy me a bottle of Bailey's. That has helped some.

While the soup simmered and the bread baked, I drank a cup of tea and knitted while C, E, and I watched The Secret of Kells (Z was building a lego set, and M was doing whatever it is teenagers do--probably watching The Daily Show). 

It was a neat movie, but I'm feeling like I still need to watch The Secret of Roan Inish, which is what we usually watch around St. Patrick's Day.

Friday, March 13, 2015


I had so much fun at the paint night at my friend Helene's art gallery, that I decided to repeat the project at home with the boys.

And by a happy coincidence, the craft store was having a sale on canvases, so I bought a pack of eight.

Helene had given us a very particular set of steps--from which we were allowed to deviate at will--which gave us the opportunity to try a variety of art techniques, play with color, and work with perspective.

As it turned out, E and Z weren't much interested in following directions (not an isolated incident) and ended up making their own paintings.

But M got really, really into the project, and was particular about following the directions.

He kept at it long after the rest of us moved on to other things (pointing a fan on his picture between layers to avoid the smeared paint the rest of us put up with). I love his results.

I joined in and painted along. I think I could go on recreating this same painting forever. M wants to paint again this weekend...I'll have to come up with another set of instructions.

With the finished artwork, I refreshed the wall in the living room, where our last painting projects had hung.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


All the world is still as covered with white as a frosted cake.

And when I tried to go for a walk without snowshoes on Sunday, I sank to my thighs with every step.

Mornings are still cold. Ten degrees. Or seven. Or negative thirteen.

It is far too early to declare spring, but there is a change in the air, a hint.

The sun noticeably higher in the sky.

The rays brighter, more direct.

Afternoons 43, 44, even 48 degrees.

C went out and tapped trees on Sunday.

And there's a fragrance in the woods, like the earth breathing out a sigh after a long, long rest.

No, winter's not over yet, but its icy grip is just starting to break.

Friday, March 6, 2015

March Knit ~ The Two-Night Hat, or, The Hat That Never Was

A few weeks ago I got an invitation to my cousin's baby shower. My cousin lives in Colorado, as do most of my relatives, so going to the shower was out of the question. But I set the invitation aside, planning to send something in the mail. Fast-forward two weeks, to this past Sunday. I was talking to my mom on the phone and she mentioned the shower. Oh, crap. I had forgotten about it and it was less than a week away. I thought briefly of knitting a hat, but decided there was no way I'd get it done in time. I considered just sending the hat later, since I wouldn't be at the shower anyway. And then I thought, f*ck it, I'll make the hat and I'll get it there in time for the shower. 

I cast on and knitted the first 2 1/2 inches that night during Downton Abbey (speaking of which, wasn't this season awful? I found myself wishing those horrible servants in Brancaster would stage a mass murder-suicide and put us all out our misery). The next night I watched four episodes of Lark Rise to Candleford after the kids went to bed and finished weaving in the last end at nearly 1 a.m.

The baby shower invitation had requested that guests bring a book with an inscription inside, rather than a card, so I popped into the bookstore and picked up three of our favorites (who can stop at one in a book store??). I think this is such a great idea. I never know what to write in a baby shower card (Congratulations? Good luck? Say goodbye to sleep?), but I can always find something to say about books, and each of these has a special memory or experience associated with it. In the morning, I scrambled to find something to wrap it all up in, other than Christmas paper, and came up with some tissue paper to match the hat and a bit of leftover yarn, and stuffed it all in a flat rate envelope, ensuring it will be in Colorado in time for the shower.

Now, I happened to have the yarn, pattern, and needles for that sweet little pumpkin hat on hand because I had intended to make it when I found out I was pregnant with twins.

Why, yes, this boy existed before digital photography.

I'd already knitted a sweet little purple eggplant hat for M when he was a baby, and I needed a matching one so each twin would have a toasty warm head. Only I never got around to making it. I feel kind of stupid about that now that I was able to make the self-same hat in only six hours. In my defense, being pregnant with twins left me so tired that when I wasn't at work or transporting M back and forth to preschool or sitting in a hospital bed getting non-stress tests and ultrasounds, I spent all my time lying on the couch, semi-comatose. 

So one twin went with a cold head. Just kidding. I'm sure there were plenty of hats, gifted and hand-me-downed and store-bought. Neither of them seems traumatized by the lack of a pumpkin hat, although I really, really wish I had a picture of the two of them together in hats made of veggies they both refuse to eat!

Pattern and yarn info on my Ravelry page.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Happenings ~ Everything But the Kitchen Sink

I've taken a little unplanned break from blogging--and reading blogs and social media in general--partly because we've had a lot going on (appointments and events and rescheduling) and partly because sometimes I just need to step back from the "Another Perfectly Perfect Day in My Perfect Life" vibe that bloglandia sometimes projects. I know that I run in danger of projecting the same vibe, and so know it's not reality, or intention, but sometimes my self-esteem just needs a  little time away.

While I was out, we had a party. A big, wild fiesta. My friend Tina came over and helped me make a mountain of tamales, and we also cooked up enchiladas, quesadillas, black beans, red tomato rice, guacamole, and Mexican chocolate cupcakes. And mixed up Margaritas, of which I may have imbibed a little too liberally (note to self for next year: more lime juice, less tequila).

I didn't take any pictures before or during the party (which I guess is a sign I was having too good a time), but the next day, I took a few of our decorations--papel picado (which I'm keeping up in our living room until they fall apart) and a couple of my Southwestern tablecloths (let's face it, at least 25% of the motivation for a fiesta is to display my tablecloth collection--another 25% to cook and eat really good Mexican food and 50% to enjoy time with friends and lift spirits in the middle of a long, cold winter).

In other news, I registered M for high school last week. And I don't even feel the tiniest bit weepy or nostalgic about it. He outgrew his little K-8 school long ago, and I'm so looking forward to seeing him stretch his wings in an environment that will offer new challenges and opportunities. It's been a rocky road to get to this point--our town does not have a high school and so we have the choice of at least six area schools, each of which is almost exactly the same distance (a 25-minute drive) from our home. M's first choice was in the exact opposite direction from where I work, with no bus to our town, while my first choice is roughly ten miles out of the way of my office and has a bus that stops at the end of our road. I played the "I'm the mom and I know what's best" card. This has been really the only source of conflict between M and me since he became a teenager (knock on wood), but I think he's finally come around, or at least resigned himself. It's really a wonderful school and, like I said, I'm excited for him to move on.

I also finished E's replacement mitten before February ran out, which means I don't have to count a tiny heart as my February knit. I threw it in with several loads of wash and got it to kind-of, sort-of felt. We have a front-loading washer, which does not do a very good job of felting (though it has managed to shrink a couple of hand-knits that accidentally got tossed in with the laundry). I'm hoping that if E wears it in enough wet snow, it will shrink naturally.

We got our first harvest from this cool oyster mushroom growing kit we got for Christmas. We've been patiently moving it around the house, trying to find the optimal growing place (turns out ignoring it in the basement in bright sun did the trick). The harvest was small, but that's a good thing in this family where 3-4 people out of five hate mushrooms. In looking for recipes, I learned that oyster mushrooms are among the most widely-cultivated, however recipes were hard to find (though there were numerous recipes for mushrooms plus oysters, which sounds revolting), so I just sautéed them with a little butter and salt and put them on toasted baguette, which was delicious.

Over the weekend, I also went to a paint night out at my friend Helene's art gallery. It was so much fun. I could have just kept piling paint on my canvas all night long. I'm afraid I've found another hobby I don't have time to keep up with (by the way, the painting looks much better in a teeny, tiny photo than it does in real life). I bought supplies to repeat the lesson with the boys, if they'll let me. I'll keep you posted on how that goes.

February's frigid temperatures carried right through to the end (we woke up March 1, to -13 degrees F). Getting dressed in the morning takes a good half hour just to pile on the layers and snow pants have become acceptable office wear (for me at least).

But we got a couple of Sundays in a row where temperatures topped the freezing point: 34, even 37 degrees F.

We've carried on snowshoeing right through the winter, regardless of cold or wind, but what a difference 20 or 30 degrees makes.

I just feel so much more alive when I walk through the woods and don't feel like my face is going to freeze and fall off.

We found another trail of otter tracks on the river this past weekend, complete with holes where they enter and exit the cold, dark water below and a little scat present (this one appeared to come out of its water hole and leap a couple dozen feet to poop; very tidy of it). 

The scat was all crawdad parts and maybe a few fish scales. Mmm.

I spent a little time in the gravel pit, sitting on a log and writing in my journal, which is something it's just been too cold to do all winter. I even found this tiny patch of green moss (cohabiting with a purple liverwort). A sign of spring?

Over the weekend, I also cleared away all of the hearts and snowflakes and other signs of winter inside, replacing them with green wherever I could. And now it's March. My least favorite month. I always get depressed in March. This one is going to be extra challenging because C has to travel a lot for work, which means I have to double-up on duties: getting the kids on the bus, cooking and cleaning up, keeping the house warm (this is a terrible role for me; I'm much more apt to just keep adding sweaters rather than start a fire). And I can't believe Daylight Savings Time starts this weekend. The thought of having to wake up in the dark when it just started getting light out by six a.m. in the last few weeks fills me with murderous rage. Do you think I could just hibernate until April?

Oh, wait that IS my kitchen sink.

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