March 24, 2015

A Little Luck

st. patrick's day 2015

Although winter temperatures linger, it's been such a welcome treat to enjoy the daylight stretching into our dinner hour. The seasons are slow to shift this year, but tonight I drove into the city to teach an evening class with the skies still blue, and even more notably, parked on the street and fed the meter without scaling a mountain of trash encrusted snow. The thaw is on, and we are patiently waiting for invitation to plant peas and shed coats. 

Life has been busy and full, and James and I have been working hard and holding our breath on a few big plans. It certainly feels as though March has been a month of looking forward, and so I am doing my best to close it out by being present and accepting in the moment. That's nearly an impossible task for me, but I'm giving it my best shot. Wish me luck.

March 14, 2015

Gramma's In Winter


Despite the challenges this winter has put on any travel, we have been finding ourselves making the two hour trip out to my mom's more often than ever. Snow just looks better in the country... or maybe we're totally desperate for a change of venue (a snowed in winter will with two small children will do that).

Little Smith has a brain that is so driven by science, it's fascinating to watch his interests develop because they are so different than my memories of my own. He is in constant search of uncovering a process; how flowers grow and bees pollinate, what everything looks like inside, and (to my occasional horror), death, rotting, and the full circle. My mom is fueled by many of the same questions, and it's such fun to see them tear apart flowers and poke at them with sticks, identifying all the pieces and consulting a tower of reference books. 

Baby Roo has proven to be an animal lover (torturer?) and is thrilled to present Blue, the dog, with apples, cookies, and hugs... again and again. She has also become such a bossy little lady, and constantly directs everyone where to sit, crying whenever anyone exits the room (the bigger the audience, the better!).

James is never happier than when skiing, and while his days on the mountain are far fewer than he'd like, and my hometown mountain is small, I think seeing his son get just a little more confident on his 80cm skis has made up for the loss of turns this season. He's also partial to my mom's selection of micro brews, and her number of televisions (4!).

My highlights are getting to sleep in late (sometimes), wearing my 'little house nightgown' (one of those purchases that has made this winter tolerable), and curling up by the wood stove with a good bar of chocolate.

This week has brought the first legitimate hopes of spring to our permafrost, sunshine and rain and even a little snow melt. I am lunging forward, towards longer days and milder temperatures... but I have to say that this winter has been a lovely one for our family. James always laments the receding snow, and I won't go that far! But I am certainly going to miss my nightgown and the wiggle room to eat an extra chocolate bar when spring does find us.

March 5, 2015

Frozen


When March hands you lemons (aka 5 feet of crusty snowpack)... you freeze said lemons in blocks of ice and call them bird feeders, at least that's what we do! 

Little Smith is at an age where every moment of the day has to be filled with an exciting activity or he starts whining, and I am convinced there are few things worse in life than whining. I have been trying to step it up with some basic structured recreation, like board games (we love Wild Craft and Uncle Wiggly along with the staples like Candy Land), craft projects, and the kinds of things I mentioned here

I still do pledge my love for winter, but unquestionably, it's just way more work... especially with children. For anyone that does not have playgrounds with swings buried under the snow, it might be difficult to imagine just how huge a difference these seasons make in the work load. I delude myself into thinking that we appreciate the warmer months that much more.


There are those bonuses of living in a land of snow; the optimism of waking to a fresh white covering, that special pink light, and the novelty of making giant frozen blocks of citrus, and having them last for weeks. It's the little things.

For now I am adopting the attitude of 'enjoy it while it lasts', and we are heading to my mom's tomorrow for a weekend of skiing and snow worship. However, I fully expect to be having a different conversation by months end, one that circles around mud and green gardens rather than ice cubes. I think I can, I think I can...

March 2, 2015

A Walk and A Thought

snowshoe at the garden / march 1, 2015

The problem with a life booked to full capacity, is that piling on even the smallest bonus commitment upsets that precarious balance. It seems more and more frequent that I find myself gratefully presented with some promising  opportunity; in work, in life, and I often don't want to say 'no', but I also don't really want to say 'yes'. 

I feel a general swell of encouragement for mothers to maintain their own interests and identity, to not get pulled into the undertow of single-minded parenthood. There have been countless moments when I clung to that support, feeling desperate to define myself outside of these two small people, who have rendered my life unrecognizable in a just few short years. 

And yet... my own reality seems to be that the deepest bliss is found in hiding under the covers of motherhood, allowing myself to become completely swallowed up and lost in that role, even at the expense of my other passions and interests. 

I fight that temptation to quit everything, and I take on new opportunities that inspire me, so long as they can be squeezed into the margins around full-time parenting. The hope is that I can continue to grow as my own independent woman, alongside my children. Because we all know that the time moves quickly, and soon these babies will be gone, and the wisdom is that I need to nurture myself, my marriage, and my work... ultimately those are the constants.

It's good to strive for balance, and that's what we've been doing over here these days. Still, it does pull at me, because we all know that the time moves quickly, and soon these babies will be gone, and I would love nothing more than to dwell in the fulfillment of motherhood, for as long as my luck holds out.

February 18, 2015

Two Kids + An Epic Winter

It's no secret that Boston has been pummeled with storm after storm in the last few weeks, each armed with several feet of new snow. It's impossible to accurately describe how much snow we are working with;12 foot banks line our driveway and surround our house. Shoveling is a puzzle, with nowhere left to put all this snow. Pulling out of the driveway is quite literally a leap of faith, there is zero visibility. The entire neighborhood is completely transformed, and I actually have found myself lost on drives that are part of my daily routine, just because the landscape is suddenly and oddly unfamiliar. 

I know that everyone here is absolutely done with winter, but I have to quietly confess that I am still enjoying the season. It's a giant pain, but also exciting and beautiful. Call me crazy, but I'm just not yet suffering those winter blues. I am finding though, that with many days requiring lots of indoor time, entertaining two little ones is more work than ever. I'm not one for planning activities in advance, or scheduling any of our time, so most of my survival strategies shake out from my own interests around the house, and some minor resourcefulness. So far, we're hanging in there happily, but if these storms persist through to March, send help!

*build forts

build forts: This is one of those mandatory indoor day activities. I think every childhood should include many many blanket forts, filled with stuffed animals and books and annoying musical instruments... and ideally including a 'no adults' policy.


*surprise projects

surprise projects: As I mentioned, I am terrible at planning (or shopping) ahead for any activities, but we do have a stockpile of gifted puzzles and kits that make for an exciting surprise on a cranky afternoon. In a pinch, a few boxes or cups and some beans or rice can also be thrilling... though ultimately messy! In our house, the more suddenly these projects appear, the better. Any advance notice results in inflated expectations and whining, the surprise is half the enjoyment.

*sprout / grow

sprout / grow: Nothing brightens up the winter gloom like a little green. I love planting bulbs, like paperwhites, the kids can help with watering and see fast results. We will soon be planting some seeds, and we've been experimenting with several different types of sprouts. All you need is a mason jar, some cheesecloth (or a special sprouting lid, which makes things even easier), and some appropriate seeds. The kids love the rinsing  each day, and as a bonus they're tasty.

*bake / cook

bake / cook: We do a baking project at least once a week, and while for years I would beat the standard drum that 'help' from kids actually makes things twice as complicated, I now find 4 year old Little Smith legitimately helpful. He can measure cups of flour and stir, and Roo seems to follow his lead, even if her aim isn't always spot on. Sometimes they do go nuts and suddenly the room is covered in flour, but less often than you might imagine. 

*live dangerously

live dangerously: Every child has a different temperament, and every family has to work out appropriate boundaries, but we let our kids have a lot of autonomy around the house, and access to things that some might view as inappropriate or dangerous. The fireplace is a prime example, we've been lighting a fire every evening for the kids. They both quickly drag pillows and blankets to the floor and get cozy while snacking on pretzels. I haven't encountered anything else that keeps them both glued to their seats and quiet as effectively, and I often do leave them unattended and prepare dinner (one room over) while they fire gaze. They both understand the concept of 'hot', and I do think that their heightened attention has something to do with the awareness of potential danger. 

For safety, they have been instructed to head over to the lounge chair, on the other side of the room, if they want to roll around and wrestle... and we also do allow them to poke and shove each other until someone begs us to intervene... or until someone bites (I have no patience for that! We all have our limits).

*embrace the snow

embrace the snow: We love us some snow, and any day that isn't insanely cold is going to include some outside time. At this point, the snow is well over both of the kids' heads and we can't even get into many of the local parks. A simple trek to the yard is a big adventure, and Roo is easily frustrated and probably a little young to really push through such a substantial winter. Even when it's challenging, I find that forcing ourselves outside every day makes a huge difference in every one's spirits. We are contemplating snowshoes for Little Smith, this might just be the year!

++++++++++++

With March nearing, I am already feeling the tingling of spring and it puts all this snow into perspective (although honestly, how will it ever all melt!?!) Here's hoping that we can finish out this winter feeling cozy, happy, and somewhat sane!

Oh and Lauren has compiled a fantastic list of projects for kids over the years. Here is one that I currently have my eye on, if only we had some marshmallows on hand.

February 13, 2015

Love Dude

valentines 2015

Every year, I get excited for the brightness of Valentine's Day in the depths of winter. It's an utterly sweet and stress free holiday, which is probably why it's my favorite. I endorse any excuse to bake, do crafts, eat chocolate, and get fresh flowers, but I also appreciate staking out a day for the basic celebration of love. 

Yes yes I know, we shouldn't wait for a holiday to remind us to express our love for the people who are important in our lives, but it certainly doesn't hurt. I look at my own little family of four, and often it does seem like we reserve the very worst behavior for one another; brother-sister battles, parent-child tantrums, husband-wife irritations... relationships are just so damn challenging! Of course, I am insanely grateful for the privilege of these relationships, because the joy outshines the headaches day after day. There aren't words to describe how lucky I feel watching the bond between my children grow, and the qualities of my marriage mature. I have the perfect crew to celebrate this syrupy sweet love fest with, and I hope they feel the same. We'll be doing it up fondue-style on Saturday, and are extra excited for James to be home all day, since it's a week-end.  

And to close out this love talk, last year I heard an interview with Jeff Bridges, which remains one of my favorite conversations about marriage and love. You have to hear the words from The Dude's mouth to really appreciate it, but I've pieced together a quote of one of the highlights for me.

The knowledge, after being married so long, is that it keeps getting better. You don't hear that too much.... It's intimacy... the high that we're all looking for... That keeps you wanting to come back, even in the tough times. Also, I've learned over the years that those tough times are... when the gold can really be found. They're kind of the key, because if you address those and are really intimate with each other, and listen to each other's stories of what their reality is like, that's where the intimacy can be found, and where love has to grow. You come to those places in marriage where you say, 'I'm out of here man, this is terrible, this is terrible!'... and you can hang with that... and love each other. What is love? Opening your heart when you feel you can't and you expand... if you can hang in, you learn in those tough times how to grow.

Wise words, just got to abide. Happy Love Day. Give extra kisses and hugs, and by all means, eat chocolate!