December 28, 2008

Wrapping up the Season

Something big happened in the frenzy of the ice storm and the mad holiday rush, and it went completely unnoticed. We passed our six month milestone in New England. I'd intended to commemorate it with a photo montage-- I love those things!-- Instead I'll just say: Shew! In some ways it feels like it's been much, much longer.

This Christmas had a few firsts for me. I think this was the first Christmas I've ever spent without my mom, and (in a completely unrelated way) probably the least ulcer-inducing holiday I've experienced since I was old enough to understand the meaning of family dysfunction.

Also, this was the first time I'd ever attended church on Christmas Eve (well, there was one other time, but it was sort of against my will, and I had to leave after a few minutes because Sweet Potato's Dorothy Barbie kept shouting "There's no place like home!" between the shouts of "Praise Be to God.")
We joined the Unitarian Church at 7 p.m. for the Eve service, including a Christmas pageant in which Sweet Potato played the part of a shepherd at the birth of Christ. Now, why the Unitarians celebrate the birth of Christ is probably a topic that's better left for another post.
Have you heard this joke? I heard it on Prairie Home Companion, so it can't be all that offensive: What do you get when you cross a Unitarian and a Jehovah's Witness? Someone who knocks on your door and doesn't know why.
Back to the pageant: Since Sweet Potato was a shepherd, Buckaroo played the part of her sheep-- sort of like the Joan and John Cusack of the spiritual world. The minister encouraged him to roam freely about the sanctuary during the service, and at one point he stood on the stairs of the altar and just stared out at the congregation from under his fluffy white sheep ears.
I'll have to finish up later. I hear movie music playing in the den.

December 20, 2008

The Many Faces of Snow

The white fluffy stuff is here in earnest. Well, I guess it won't always stay on the fluffy side. Tomorrow, in fact, it's supposed to be heavy and sleety. I didn't know there were so many types of snow; I just know the kind in which I'm happy to play, and the rougher kind I would rather watch from behind a window.

When we returned home from our evacuation jaunt the snow was light, but on top of it was a layer of ice that made one feel as if she were walking in styrofoam. That led to this funny conversation:

R: When I was a boy, and the snow was crunchy like that, I'd make heart shapes and lift them off the ground.
Sweet Potato: Heart shapes?
R: Yeah, the snow is hard enough, so that you can lift the shapes right up.
SP: Not rectangles or squares? Heart shapes?
R (standing a bit taller): I was a sensitive boy.

Last night as we headed down to the FMF's house to fix their computer (have you noticed how the FMF are plural and singular, like deer?) the snow came down in the teeny tiniest flakes that sparkled when they hit the light. It looked like silver glitter falling everywhere.

Today the snow is heavy and feathery, and when the wind hits the fallen snow it creates snow dust. There's probably a more accurate term for it, but I never knew it existed until now. I also didn't know the birds would like to frolic in the falling flakes. They've been out there all day fluttering around the bird seed and teasing each other. It's like watching an illustration from a book of Robert Louis Stevenson poems.

I'm sure there are more types of snow to learn, but that will have to wait because I'm still recovering from this nasty head cold. Sweet Potato ventured out there with Tap Girl, though. They sledded down the hill and then came in for hot chocolate-- an afternoon about which Sweet Potato has been dreaming since we decided to move here. We learned that she needs ski pants and snow boots.

Buckaroo was out there, too, working on snow balls, still trying to re-enact Peter's Snowy Day.

I stayed indoors and made bread in my new bread machine, a late birthday/early-Christmas present from R and his parents. I opened it today, in time for solstice. Tomorrow we'll celebrate the return of the light with home-made bread and summer jam, courtesy of Grammy Flo.

Thank the goddesses for the light-- and may it get the molasses out of its a**!
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December 19, 2008

Jiggety Jig

We all survived the great ice storm of '08. Sounds very dramatic, doesn't it? We stayed three nights with R's parents, basking in the electric light and delighting in the swirl of a toilet flush,
until we finally got word that our little toe of the woods had power again. It's really lucky because some folks will be stumbling through the dark until January.
In the middle of the craziness that is being homeless-- and in-between tummy bug and head cold-- I did really believe that the state was out to drive me away. Now that I'm back in the piney cottage, I'm seeing things in a new light, but I won't touch that pun.
It was so good of R's parents to let us stay with them indefinitely. They chased after Buckaroo so I could sleep off my cold, went to the store to buy me cough syrup and tea, made us dinner, washed our laundry, and brought out the antique toys to entertain the kids. There are a lot of families who had nowhere to stay and had to hit the hotels and shelters. We were fortunate.
Still, there's nothing like being the queen of one's castle, the ruler of one's roost (or co-ruler in this case). I know that it's difficult to live with me. I like my organic food, whole grains, and I read all the labels to make sure there's no high fructose corn syrup-- with the exception of certain treats. I'm noise-sensitive, and the drone of the TV makes me grumpy. The news gives me nightmares. I like to wear my pjs until late in the afternoon, and I don't always clean up my messes the minute I make them.
The miracle is that R lives this way with me, doesn't ever complain, and it is completely opposite of the way his parents live. I want to be clear that I am not in any way dissing R's parents because I know that I'm the oddball in this scenario. The average American watches about 30 hours of TV a week, so I'm clearly not the average American.
Anyway, to get back to my point: It's really hard to live with other people, and this whole ice storm and subsequent evacuation helped me to remember that I am blessed to have a house where I can live in my quirky way.
Who cares if the house is covered in knotty pine and wall-to-wall linoleum? Not me! I can run around naked if I want (although I don't, too chilly). I can eat my Lucky Charms with organic milk for lunch and follow it up with a hokey pokey dance in my fuzzy slippers. Woo hoo!
So, I could be wrong. It could be that Massachusetts really does hate me and is trying to drive me out, but maybe the universe is just trying to remind me to be thankful for what I have-- even if it is about to be buried in two feet of snow. That's OK. We're buying a generator.

December 15, 2008

Outta Dodge

I think Massachusetts hates me. Last winter, while I was watching from my home computer in California, the Massachusans enjoyed the worst snow ever. This summer, the worst rain. Now there's an ice storm that's cut electricity, phones, water, and heat for most of the state for an indefinite amount of time, and no one can remember ever seeing its equal. What do these things have in common? ME.
You know in the horror movie when the happy little family moves into the big, scary house, and the house tries to warn the family that it's not welcome with the evil "Get Out" whisper? I think this weather is the state's equivalent of that whisper.
Monkey Girl and her mama arrived from California on Wednesday and, despite the icy frost, we had excellent book browsing and soup in Peterborough on Thursday. That night everything sparkled in a layer of ice. Ice encased the branches and fences and made a slick sheet over the stones. In fact, Monkey Mama and I both fell on our tushies. Still, it was shockingly beautiful. The next morning the sky was a spectacular, sun-shiney blue.
Then the lights, phone, and water went out, and Monkey Girl got the stomach flu. Luckily we didn't lose heat like so many other families. We all huddled in lightest room (even in the most glorious sunshine our house is a cave) next to the gas stove, reading and knitting, and entertaining the toddlers.
Next Monkey Daddy showed up, and soon it became clear that he also had the stomach bug. Then we all had some form of the malady (except Monkey Mama and Buckaroo who miraculously escaped unscathed), and we had to flush the toilet with lake water because there was no other water to be had. It really did feel like Little House in the Big Woods.
Meanwhile, outside, the tree branches crashed into cars and houses and wiped out power lines.
Sunday rolled around-- after a long Saturday night of projectile vomiting in the dark-- and the monkey family had to go home. We do hope they'll return some day in happier weather and health.
The rest of us hightailed it out of dodge. We drove the hour-ish to R's parents' house and were amazed at how much the roads around our town looked like a war zone, while 20 minutes down the road life seemed to be going on as usual.
Now R is back at work while the kids and I hang out with his parents. Sweet Potato is happy school is canceled for the whole week but dreading the make-up week in summer.

December 9, 2008

Icy Frosty

It's almost 40 degrees out there right now, and hallelujah for that because last night it was 2. That is not a typo. It snows a bit, rains a bit, freezes a bit, melts, and starts all over again. Kind of fascinating stuff.
Everyone is asking how I'm doing, you know, with the cold and everything. So far I'm ok, I guess, because I haven't cried about it once. Before we moved here R's friend (and now our neighbor) said, "You have to find something you love about the winter to get you through it."
So far, I love: Watching the flakes fall (I wonder if this becomes a bore eventually or if it's like watching the sunset/rise).
The icicles, although they do look fairly dangerous. I don't want to end up like Ralphie-- well, it wasn't actually the icicle that got Ralphie, was it? It was the BB gun! Anyway, R took this picture of our icicles a few nights ago.
The sound of snow crunching under my feet.
I've learned that mittens and velcro do not mix. Also, I must remember to wear my gloves even if I think I don't need them. The steering wheel is cold!
Oh, and I can't leave my half-full beverages in the car anymore. Last night I left Buckaroo's magic voo doo water from acupuncture in the car, and by the time I remembered, it was half an ice cube.
Finally, over the summer I was baffled by a Massachusan's ability to leave the car running for an inordinate amount of time, but now I think that it must be a result of living in the cold. If Buckaroo falls asleep in the car I have to leave it running until he wakes up. If I want to dash into the market for a stick of butter while Buckaroo and Sweet Potato wait in the car, same deal. Now I see why the environment is on its last legs.
All in all, I'm surviving-- better than surviving. I'm enjoying the snow and blue skies much more than the never-ending rain and mosquitoes. I keep forgetting, though, that it's not officially winter yet, so I suppose I shouldn't jinx myself.
Now, Sweet Potato has offered me piano lessons for my Christmas gift, and I'm off to play.

December 6, 2008

Mothers, Daughters, Books

The Mother Daughter Book Club (MDBC) by Heather Vogel Frederick takes place in Massachusetts. I want to be clear about that because I told my friend Grateful Mama that the girls in the novel are reading Little Women, and it takes place in Massachusetts. Grateful Mama laughed and laughed and laughed and said that only someone who's not from Massachusetts would point out that Little Women is set in Massachusetts.
Then I said, "No, no, no. I meant that Vogel's book takes place in Massachusetts." Although, if I'm completely honest I didn't remember that Little Women took place here until I read MDBC, so Grateful Mama had every right to hoot at me.
Now that I think about it, it's probably the equivalent of pointing out to a Californian that Steinbeck's novels take place in California. Ok, now I get it.
In any case, Sweet Potato and I just finished reading MDBC, and we liked it very much. It's about four sixth-grade girls who are forced by their mothers to meet once a month to discuss Little Women. The girls are very different and, for the most part, don't like each other.
I told Sweet Potato that I want to read Little Women with her now, and she thought that was a fabulous idea. I also said I want to start a mother-daughter book club, and she did not like that idea at all, which is perfect because neither do the girls in the book.
There's only one problem: I don't know any eleven-year-old girls or their mothers. There's Tap Girl down the road, but she and Sweet Potato have been on shaky footing ever since they voted for opposing candidates in the school's mock presidential election. That would be ideal material for the MDBC, but I'd like to keep our drama contained within the novels. Ah, well. Maybe I'll post a note at the library.
Another Massachusetts story I just read (for my grown-up book club) is Ethan Frome. Boy, was that a downer. I might as well have re-read Jude the Obscure, which I promised myself never, ever to read again. Plus, it was all about the frigid New England winters and how they turn people hard and ugly.
That's ok. We brought home our Christmas tree today (Buckaroo calls it a Santa tree), and now the house smells all piny, which fits perfectly with our decor. I made caramel popcorn, and tomorrow we're going to dig out the ornaments while listening to Stevie Wonder belt out the holiday tunes. Nothing hard and ugly about that.

December 5, 2008

Driving Lessons

Everyone says Massachusetts drivers are the worst in the United States, so when we arrived I was somewhat concerned about what I'd discover on the roads.
So far I can't tell that Mass drivers are much different from Bay Area drivers, but here's one thing: The first week we were here this woman in a purple car tailgated me all the way home-- jiggity jig-- about six miles. I was surprised because, while I'm cautious, I'm no Sunday driver. Sometimes I'm a bit of a Saturday driver-- just get me to the stinken party already.
Then she followed me down the dirt road that leads to the lake and stopped to check her mail the same time I did. So, we're neighbors. I thought she might apologize at the mailbox for her rude driving behavior or at least look at me with sheep eyes, but she said nothing.
I've been harumphing about it ever since. Every time she drives by I think, "There's the purple tailgater!"
Then yesterday it occurred to me that I am quite often tailgated around these parts. I really am not a slow driver. I try to go no faster than six miles above the speed limit because I often have visions of deer and moose leaping out from the dark of the trees, but that doesn't seem unreasonable.
So now I've decided that tailgating is just the way most people drive around here-- maybe it's even on the driver's test. However, I will not be picking up on the habit because my California sensibilities still tell me tailgating is downright rude, but I guess I 'll have to stop all of this harumphing now.

December 4, 2008

Talking to Ghosts

Have you heard of this John Edward guy? I think I saw him on Oprah a million years ago, but lately he's been on my mind.

I've stopped worrying so much about the snow thanks to some serious happy pep-talks from my new New England friends (thanks gals!), so that leaves my brain some room to let the grief back in. Some day my mind will be a tranquil sea of bliss, but not today.

R and I were driving to Turkey Day dinner, and there was a traffic slow down. As we drove closer, we saw the reason: On the side of the road was a giant semi truck flipped on its side with a mountain of dirt plowed against the grill. I think it must have been the first road-side accident I'd seen since I viewed the online newspaper photos of my dad's smashed blue truck. I could feel my throat doing that achey thing.
I took a few deep breaths and let it go.
During turkey dinner my sister-in-law just happened to tell us about her trip to see John Edward talk to ghosts. He doesn't call them ghosts; he calls them people on the other side. I started thinking that maybe I'd like to go see this guy. I told my friend Frog Mama about it yesterday, and she said she absolutely believes Edward is for real, and she knows about this stuff. I guess there's no guarantee that Edward will feel a vibe from anyone I know on the other side, but my dad always was the loudest person in the room.
Frog Mama also said I need to ask my dad to help me get myself to an Edward show. I said I didn't know if my dad would be able to help with that because he never was very responsible. She said, "He is now."
I had never considered the possibility that crossing over would turn a person into his or her best self. That sure would make our relationship less challenging.
Ok, so there's all that stuff coming up for me, and then last night as I was googling around about talking to dead people, I decided to google my dad's name. I do this every so often just to see what's what. The thing is, I must usually google my dad's full name because this time I found something I'd never seen before. It was an ancestry site, and on it were at least ten posts that my dad had written eight years ago. I know the posts were his because he used his real name, and he was posting about our family.
Crazy. I felt like my dad was still alive and sending me letters through cyberspace. You know in The Series of Unfortunate Events when the kids go back to their fire-ravaged home and find a letter from their parents that arrived after they died, and the letter was there all the time, and the kids never knew: that's how I felt.
Plus, the letters contained information about my family that I'd never heard: My papa had a baby brother who died of SIDS; my nana's brother, whom I knew had died when I was a baby, had a wife and a whole gaggle of kids in Texas, and they're still around. My great grandfather had two brothers, one named Mack. I really like the name Mack.
The best part, though, is the idea of my dad researching his ancestry. I love that he was trying to re-connect with his long-lost cousins. It's such a normal, hopeful thing to do. I'm taking it as a sign.

November 30, 2008

The Snowy Day

This is the new view of the lake from our beach. Sweet Potato said, "I can't believe we ever swam in there," and that was before it was buried in snow. I can't believe we'll ever swim in there again.

The flakes started to fall this afternoon just as our leaf guy finished de-leafing the yard. That was lucky. No leaf muck to clean up in the spring! Every time it snows I think, This is it! I'm not going to see the ground again until May. Then it melts. I think the weather goddesses are easing me into this whole snow thing.

We took Buckaroo out for a snowy walk down to the dam. He liked it until he refused to wear his mittens and his hands froze, and then he cried because he was cold but didn't want to go inside to thaw. He likes the book, The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, especially the part where Peter knocks a tree with a stick and the snow plops onto his red hoodie.

I have to say he did look a bit like Peter out there today. "He walked with his toes pointing in like this. He walked with his toes pointing out like that," we repeated to him as he waddled along.

To coax him back to the house we made up new lyrics to "Five Little Duckies": "Five little duckies waddled through the snow one day, over the hill and far away, Mama Duck cried, 'quack, quack, quack, quack,' but only four little duckies came skating back." If you've never heard that particular Raffi song, don't worry. It has a happy ending.

In other news, my first New England T-Day was a success, except that not everyone serves yams at Thanksgiving. I didn't know that. I thought yams were a T-Day staple, right up there with the bird and the stuffins. If I had known we'd be yamless I would have offered to bring my own.

Also, not everyone serves whipped cream with apple and pumpkin pie. As far as I'm concerned, without whippy, there is no point.

Next year I'll be prepared for these things. There's always a learning curve.

Here's the craziest thing: I had to say grace-- me, probably the least religious person at the table, saying grace. R's mom clearly wanted it to be said but wouldn't say it herself, and no one else would offer it up, so there I was, all "Dear Heavenly Father." Just for the record, my god is not a father because, ya know, I have issues with fathers. So I guess in addition to being the biggest heathen at the table, that makes me the most polite.

Oh, and we talked to Obo! I said, "Aren't you glad we stole this land away from the Native Americans so you could come and visit us in the summer?" He said yes. He didn't say much more than that, but he giggled a lot, which was a very good sound.

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November 25, 2008


R was wrong. I really think those weather goddesses are teasing me, but this morning: no snow! I've never been so happy to see rain.

According to the weather report, no snow all week! A reprieve. Shew.

So now I can tell you how I've fallen into the leaf ridiculousness: R spent a good long time de-leafing the gravel on Saturday, and we still have huge piles of the things all over the place. We've decided to hire someone to scoop them up and away because R would like to spend some time with his family on the weekends instead of wrestling the leaf blower.

Then yesterday I came home from acupuncture with Buckaroo asleep in the back, and I sat in the car and watched our neighbor rake up all of her leaves and make a huge mountain of them right on our property line, right where we have to look at them and where the next big wind will toss them willy nilly into our yard-- except that I guess it will all be covered in snow soon, but still.

I know last week I was all about the leaf love, but this week I'm a bit miffed. I told R we need a fence. I've turned into Mr. & Mrs. next door. (Did I mention they put up an ugly chicken wire fence on our property line, on the other side of the house from leaf mountain, to keep our leaves from blowing onto their lawn?)

However, our fence will not be ugly chicken wire.

R, though, doesn't seem to be bothered by leaf mountain at all, and he's the one who did the work, so maybe I should just let it go. Bah! Leaf Shmeaf.

Oh, and somewhat unrelated-- Last night, on the way to Sweet Potato's parent-teacher conference, I noticed how beautiful the bare white birches are growing beside all of those gray leafless oak trunks. I really need to get outside at night more often.

November 24, 2008

The Weather Channel is Sometimes Wrong

Everyone who lives on our little lake says it's about 10 degrees colder here than it is at the bottom of the hill, and I guess the bottom of the hill is where they measure the temperature and all that good stuff. Anyway, it was supposed to begin snowing officially tomorrow, and it did get up to about 38 today, so I was all blissed out with today's clear skies and relative warmth, enjoying my post-dinner book and chocolate when R said, "Come here for a minute."

He guided me to the window in the den, turned off the inside lights and turned on the porch light. There it was: tiny, furious flakes of snow flinging themselves all slanty against our deck and sticking there.

I said, "Maybe it will be gone by morning," with the most hopefulness I could muster. R said no.

Here's the thing: I do love snow. I think it's all beautiful, covers up all the uglies, and I'm fascinated with the way the flakes fall and how you can follow the path of one or you can let them all blur together. It's the same thing I do when driving past an orchard: Follow one tree, let them all sweep past, repeat. And with snow, as with some trees, one can see which way the wind goes.

The thing is, I have this personality where I require leaving the house and making contact with other adults in order to be happy, preferably in a coffee shop or bookstore. I don't have to know the other adults or even speak to them, I just like to have them around. Maybe their presence requires me to act more sanely. This is why I must go somewhere every day. You know how when you're really sick, and you stay in bed all day recovering, and then when it's sleepy time you don't want to go to bed because you just spent the whole day there? At least that's how I feel after being sick all day, and that's also how I feel if I stay home all day. By the time the dark rolls around, I need out.

I'm afraid the snow will hinder my ability to get out. I'm afraid of ice, of crashing big. I'm afraid my car will break down, and I won't have cell phone coverage, and I'll be found frozen to death in a snow drift with Buckaroo strapped to my back. Plus, all the other things I haven't even considered.

Mostly, though, I'm afraid that my fear will keep me home, lonely, I'll start to lose my mind, and I'll want to go back to California for good.

Still, there are bazillions of people who live with the snow. They must get used to the driving conditions, staying indoors, snow shoeing. It can be done. I'm leaving myself sticky notes all over the house that say, "Get Over It," and I think I will. It's just that I haven't even approached it yet, and it feels like approaching Mt. Everest. Tomorrow is my first lesson in Getting Over It.
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November 23, 2008

Our Space

R spent all day painting our bedroom, and it's cozy. We may have to warm up the ceiling a little but haven't quite figured that out. The three walls you can't see are a warm goldy color. I'd show you a picture, but it's messy. Get to that later. Miraculously, R and I each went googling for lamps and chose the same one.

Maybe next weekend we'll tackle the head board. Woo hoo!

Meanwhile, R says he can live with his parents' old bedroom furniture, but I'm not so sure-- or maybe I can live with it if we completely change it.

November 22, 2008

The Big Freeze

I really believed that I couldn't go outside if the temperature was below 32 degrees-- that I would instantaneously frost-blossom into an ice cube. Turns out I was wrong about that, and in fact 35 degrees has come to feel toasty warm-- if there's no wind. I told my California friend, Laura, that it was in the mid-30s here yesterday, and I felt warm enough to take Buckaroo to the park. She said I was out of my ever-lovin' mind.

Sweet Potato is keeping a sharp eye on the lake, waiting for the freeze. One morning this week she walked down the path to wait for her ride to the bus and came rushing back inside, "The lake has ice on it!" she squealed. As I was still sleeping, I was not quite so thrilled with the information and groggily told her she was going to miss her ride.

When she returned home that afternoon I gave her a long lecture about never going out on the ice alone.

This morning it looks like it may have snowed during the night and the lake has about an inch of ice on it. I feel sorry for those poor fish; that's gotta be a rough life. If I were a fish, I'd want to live in Hawaii. Also, if I were homeless-- or at least I'd pile my kids in a wagon and hitchhike to Florida. Then I'd join a church. These are the crazy things I think about, but it's good to have a plan, right? I also have a whole plan for what to do if I fall through the ice, but that's another post.

As a human home owner, though, I seem to be acclimatizing myself (and I just learned that word). I don't always need the thermostat set at 71 now and most days set it at 69. Baby steps. I should add that our wood pellet stove warms the house to about 65, so I'm really only use the furnace to bridge those few degrees.

Other tidbits: Yesterday I told my friends that Sweet Potato had a minimum day at school, and they all looked at me like I'd said she had a Flooferflaggen. "What's a minimum day?" one mama asked. "Is that the same as a short day?" asked another. Apparently it is the same as a short day. R says it was called "half day" when he was in school.

The gas station people here have removed that little lever that allows one to pump gas no-handed. You know, you push down the lever and let the gas pump while you run inside the store and use the restroom or make monkey faces at your grumpy toddler through the window. I can't imagine why they would remove this handy device. At least it's not like Oregon where all the gas stations are full-service and then one feels required to tip.

Kidlet news: Sweet Potato has become quite sporty at school, she tells us. They played soccer in gym, and she played so well on defense that the team captain said, "You should play forward!" A few days later she captured the flag in a rousing game of the same name. This is the same girl who cried hysterically and clung to my leg the first time she was guided toward the soccer field. Wonders.

We've booked Sweet Potato's first solo flight to California for Thanskgiving weekend. I'm just not going to worry about that.

Buckaroo is speaking sentences. His favorites are: "I like it!", "I did it!" and "I didn't" which really means, "I would prefer not to do that thing you are asking of me, Mother. Thank you anyway."

Grown up news: R is very happy at his new job and testing all kinds of brand new technology. Buckaroo and I are making an effort to drive down there once every two weeks to meet R for lunch. The office is near Whole Foods and Trader Joe's, so it's a multi-purpose trip.

I have invented a new drink for myself. It's decaf chai vanilla tea (hot) with egg nog instead of cream and sugar. Oh, how I love a nog! Maybe that's why I feel warmer.

November 17, 2008


I didn't get the whole leaf thing. Yesterday the wind was blowing 19 miles an hour. I was walking through the parking lot after Christmas shopping, my cart chock full of toys, when a gust came up and nearly knocked me flat. I had to hold on to the cart to keep it from tipping, and then I thought we'd both go over. Turns out I'm fairly strong.

Photo Courtesy of Concord Library

Meanwhile, our neighbors are at home trying to blow fallen leaves into piles, and the wind is just blowing the leaves back in their faces. Mrs. Next Door said they hauled sixty-five garbage cans of leaves up the hill.

I understand wanting a neatly groomed yard, (or I would understand if we had something other than gravel beneath our detritus) but rounding up mountains of leaves in raging winds is not something I ever intend to do, much to my neighbors' dismay. They're concerned about everybody else's foliage blowing their way.

These are the same neighbors who cut down three trees over the summer to mitigate the insanity of autumn.

"What's the big deal?" I asked R today exasperatedly. So they have a messy lawn. So we have messy gravel. Besides, aren't leaves good for growing what's beneath them?

R says the big deal is that in the spring when the snow melts the leaves are sopping, so there's no blowing them, only raking. Also, nasty little black flies hunker down under the leaves for the winter, and they get really irritated when raked.

He also said there's no way in Hades he would have chased the leaves in yesterday's wind, so I'm not altogether wrong about that.

Today, as I was taking Buckaroo for what should be our daily walk to greet the horses, I saw that our neighbors were still battling the leaves-- I really can't believe there are any left on the trees after yesterday's howler, but down they fall-- and then two of them-- neighbors, not leaves-- ganged up on a third to have the leaves blown from the dirt road.

Flies Shmies I say. It all seems a bit fanatical, but maybe I'll be singing the autumn blues next year. If that's true, I'll be raking up Ginkgo leaves along with all of the oaks. I can't wait!

November 16, 2008

Birthday Blessings

I had a darn good birthday weekend, despite almost being knocked on my arse by the dagnabbed wind.

Woke up Saturday morning to prezzies-- my favorite way to start a day. R gave me a shiny new compootier (or yap top as Sweet Potato used to call them). Sweet Potato made me a card with the word "honorable" in it, so you know it was a good one. My sweet mama sent me a vest that looks like it's made of orange shag carpet, in the best possible way.

We hopped down to the in-laws, dropped off the kidlets and had a leisurely dinner at The Melting Pot. Yum. If you haven't heard of it, it's all fondue. We had cheese with lager, broth with burgundy, and chocolate with caramel. So tasty. When we returned R's mom had made carrot cake, and everybody sang, and I wished for -- please goddess please-- not too much snow.

Today, after R and I spotted our first redbellied woodpecker at the birdfeeder, I had brunch with my new mama friends. That's us in the picture. Clockwise from the top row: Red Mama, Doula Mama, Tri Mama, Green Mama, Frog Mama, Me, and Hockey Mama. It was really fun, and I am still amazed that I've made seven fabulous friends (FMF was supposed to make it but has a nasty case of bronchitis).

I told them not to bring me gifts, but they ignored that and brought things to help me brave the ravages of winter.

R took the kids to Ashland to visit Grammy, so I had the rest of the afternoon to go Christmas shopping. I even found my way around without GPS. I think I took a few circuitous routes, but in the end I got to where I wanted to be.

Back at home there was a tree waiting for me, a bare-branched Ginkgo sent by some of my friends in California. The card read, "Some things thrive no matter where they are planted," which made me cry some hearty tears. I can't wait to see the green leaves unfurl and turn gold-- another prezzie to get me through winter, but first we have to decide where to plant him and what to name him. Maybe Duckfoot.

I think a birthday boost was exactly what I needed. I feel so loved.

November 14, 2008

Dad in a Blue Suit

Warning: You may not want to read this while eating.

The night before last my dad finally spoke to me in a dream. He was here at the house, early in the morning-- still dark outside. He was dressed in a blue suit. In real life, I'm not sure I ever saw my dad wear a suit. This one was hideously bright blue, and my dad was young and thin with long blond hair and bucked teeth, the way he looked when I was five.

I was making pasta for some reason, standing at the kitchen table testing it for doneness. My dad came in from the back of the house carrying a square, black composting bin. He set it down on the table and said, "Don't you think it's time you start taking care of this?" The bin was empty and the worms were crawling out of it on all sides trying to escape.

I freaked out about the bin being so close to my food and then I was worried that the noodle I was chewing was actually a worm, and I spit it out.

I was so mad that he brought that bin into my house, and I was thinking, I do not have time to deal with this. I grabbed the bin, being careful not to touch the worms, carried it out the front door and threw it as far as I could over the front porch.

Unfortunately, I'm not so strong even in dream land, so the bin landed with a thud on its side right next to the house. I looked at it sitting there in the dark with the worms crawling over it, and I realized I'd have to clean it all up later, and I was angry.

If that's not a symbolic dream I don't know what.

At first I thought my dad came all this way to tell me I need to take out the garbage, but then I realized it wasn't just garbage it was the organics. I do have a whole love-hate relationship with the composting pile in the woods behind the house. I know it's a good thing, and I'm glad we throw our food scraps out there, but I don't want to see it. I don't want to smell it, and I certainly don't want to know if there are worms in it. I know worms are happy and they're doing good stuff to the earth, making nice rich soil. Still, yuck. When I have to empty the organics bucket I try not to breath. I lift the lid on the pile to one side so that I can't see what's on the other side, and sometimes I even close my eyes.

I'm not as bad as Sweet Potato. She wraps a scarf around her mouth and nose, wears rubber gloves and a hoodie.

Anyway, I think my dad made a deal with the devil or maybe he had become the devil so he could be who he was before the drugs and alcohol, and that's why the blue suit. He was telling me to get the rot out, to stop being afraid of the worms because they need to do their thing to make it all better. Maybe. I'm still angry about the criticism. He could have at least said, "Hey, I've missed ya darlin."

November 12, 2008

Food for Thought

Today Buckaroo and I visited our new best friend, Amherst Mass. We went because there's a Whole Foods and Trader Joe's right next to each other and just because we like to get out of the house.
Also, I've been reading You: Staying Young by Dr. Oz and another really old guy who looks young, and they say, among other things, to eat turmeric three times a week. I was inspired to make a menu for the week -- ok, so it's Wednesday already-- that included an abundance of turmeric. With the shopping list in my hot little hand, Buckaroo and I scooted West. At least I think it was west.
It's a beautiful drive out there, winding, piney, and rocky with nary a misplaced dog grooming salon to mar the scenery.
Buckaroo slept in his car seat while I munched on my home-made "No-More-McDonald's-for-You-Missy" trail mix and listened to another podcast of This American Life.
We arrived at Whole Foods just as Buckaroo was waking, and we shopped our little hungry hearts out. We even discovered that Buckaroo loves satay tofu-- which he calls fo-fu-- especially if he can stab it with a fork.
On our way home we drove past all of the little brick bookstores, bakeries, toy shops, and the many students riding bicycles to and from the university. It made me nostalgic for my Chico days. We had to hustle home, though, to meet Sweet Potato after her long day at school. When we did arrive home I announced that Amherst was where Sweet Potato should go to college. Unfortunately, she has her college eyeball set on Berkeley where she plans to room with her cousin. That girl's gotta mind of her own.
In any case, we must get back to Amherst very soon and check out Food for Thought Books.

November 10, 2008

Buckaroo Goes to Acupuncture

Buckaroo still has his allergy/food intolerance problemo, so I've decided to try anything to fix him up. Today we met with the acupuncturist, and while it all seemed kind of hocus-pocus voo doo-ey, I'm trying really hard not to be skeptical because I'm worried that my skepticism will negatively impact the results. Here's how the appointment went:

Doc asked me for a list of Buckaroo's known allergies and his favorite foods. Then I touched Buckaroo while she had me hold different glass vials of the various allergens and squeeze my fist as hard as I could while she pushed down on it. Using this method she determined that Buckaroo has food sensitivities in varying degrees to wheat, dairy, corn, peas, pork, beef, potatoes, and vegetable oil. Then I held the vials while she rolled a poky thing up and down my back and I did some heavy breathing. She doesn't have to do the treatment on Buckaroo because as long as I'm touching his skin, without crossing my legs, the energy will flow through me and into him.

After we did that a few times, she gave us a bottle and dropper of distilled water that has been energetically altered by a computer to mimic the treatment we had today. That water will help alter the message in Buckaroo's body telling him that he's allergic, so instead he'll have a message telling him he's not allergic. She has an eighty percent success rate, so I am not scoffing.

Buckaroo was nervous at first, but he warmed up and was soon holding his own vials and counting breaths with the doc. Of course, his counting is a little spotty, but she didn't seem to mind. In the end, he hugged her leg and ran out of the room showing everyone his bottle of drops. A success.

Today we just worked on a few of the allergies, so we have five more sessions before we knock them all out. Send us luck and help with positive thinking.
PS. R took this picture of the lake yesterday.
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November 9, 2008

Sunny Sunday

It's chilly out there, but the sky is blue, and the sun is shining-- perfect weather for our family portrait. It rained all weekend, so R and I were anxiously watching the skies this morning. We took Buckaroo and Sweet Potato up to our neighbor's farm and Kate, our new photographer friend, took some shots of Buckaroo in his favorite spot-- on the tractor. Sweet Potato very much enjoyed her photo shoot as well.

Meanwhile, the birds and squirrels were taking advantage of the break in the rain to feast at our bird feeder. Since R changed the birdseed we've had a flock of Black-Capped Chickadees hanging around the house. I think of them as raccoon-birds. Black-capped bandits.

The other day I found two completely peeled acorns next to the dog pen. I think maybe there are so many acorns that the squirrels are getting picky.

Other random thoughts: Yesterday, as we were driving to our tiny local airport for breakfast so Buckaroo could watch the planes, R and I spotted some guys collecting money for The Salvation Army. It would have been hard to miss them, actually, because they were standing right out in the middle of traffic at a busy intersection.

That seems to be the thing to do around here: stand out in traffic collecting money for various organizations. Back in California only the homeless stood at busy intersections asking for money. Everyone else stood in front of the grocery store.
R and I are almost finished de-wallpapering the bedroom! R got smart and wet the underlayer of paper with water and vinegar, so much easier. Next stop, paint!

November 8, 2008

Obo at the Table

Warning: If you are like me and have never watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer because you think it's totally ridiculous, you might not want to read this because one day a friend might convince you to give Buffy a chance, and you could, like me, end up watching the entire horrific series on Netflix, and then you would be very disappointed because I'm about to spoil the best parts.
Tonight we placed this leopard in the spot at the table where Obo would normally sit. They don't look much alike, except maybe something about the eyes, but it was nice having Obo there in spirit.
Since Obo left us, we don't hear much from him. He does not enjoy writing letters or emails or talking on the phone, so it's hard to imagine what life is like for him now. That's what made me think about Buffy. In one of season finale Buffy throws herself from scaffolding to save her sister's life (you really just have to watch it). When the next season begins, Buffy's friends don't know if Buffy's gone to heaven, hell, or just some alternate dimension where people wear edible shoes. They want to bring her back, but they don't know if she'll come back like Angel did when he returned from hell and was all hunched and drooly.
We're pretty sure that Obo is not in hell and is standing as straight as he was the last time we saw him.
Willow decides to bring Buffy back from wherever she may be, and in what is probably the best TV I have ever seen (Buffy, the Musical) Buffy sings about her time in a heaven-like place and makes her friends feel pretty lousy about reviving her. So that's how it is.
I hope that England is heavenly for Obo right now, but I guess we won't find out until we bring him back in a couple more seasons.
Meanwhile, we've decided to name the leopard Obo.

November 7, 2008

This & That

I've been so domesticated this week. I spent way too much money at Michael's, but I (sort of) made this lovely fall wreath. Actually I just bought the wreath and some beady things, and R did the magic crafty combining thing that I cannot do. Isn't it pretty? I probably could have made the wreath out of all the fallen branches in our yard. Well, I couldn't have, but somebody could.
I also bought plate pedestals to display the plates Obo and Sweet Potato made many summer moons ago. I have to buy a few more before they're all displayed, but I think they break up the wood on wood on wood monotony a little.
Plus, I finally replaced the frame for the wedding picture that the movers crushed. It's beautiful and makes me happy.
Oh, and that reminds me-- we're having our family portrait taken on Sunday at our neighbor's farm. Well, it's a family portrait minus one. That's the price of procrastination I guess. We'll have another one done when Obo returns this summer.
In other news: R was in a car accident yesterday. He was rear-ended by a rude-O who gave R a hard time for reporting it. When R called to tell me what happened he said, "The good news is that statistically I won't have another car accident." I'm pretty sure he was thinking of that moose I've mentioned, but he didn't come right out and say it. He's somewhat cranky and sore but otherwise ok.
Sweet Potato came home from drama class and said, "Guess what! I have to strangle someone." Apparently, she is a killer weed in the school musical and must strangle an innocent plant-child. She is less than thrilled and says there's no chance of being a happy-fairy milkweed now. I had no idea there was murder in Godspell-- or I thought there might just be the one biggie. Is that blasphemous?

November 6, 2008

Scorpion Insights

There sure are a lot of meat raffles around here. It seems like every organization -- Elks, Bucks, Does, Lions-- they all want to give away meat. There must be a plethora of cows.

The leaves are almost gone. I have on my to do list "grit the stairs" meaning that we need to put that gritty tape down so we don't slip and break our necks. I thought we needed to do this before snow (I guess we missed that window), but it turns out that the stairs are so slippery from the piles of wet leaves that grit will do us no good whatsoever. R says we need to enter and exit through the basement. Harumph.

One must learn to put the scarf on before the bolsa. I've never liked the word purse, and I decided just now to call it a bolsa forever. I keep getting myself all tangled up in the scarf and bolsa combo, probably because I wear mine diagonally. Untangling in public is somewhat embarrassing-- as is losing one's car in the parking lot. I'm not used to the parking lots yet.

Today Buckaroo and I hit Barnes and Noble where we thought about Christmas presents. That's one thing about the cold: It makes me feel like we should have skipped the candy collecting and gone straight to caroling. I hope people carol around here. Even though I've never caroled, it seems like a New Englandy thing to do.

Today is rainy and warmish, with a high of 58. It feels like a California winter day. I've learned to check the temperature before venturing outdoors, something I've never had to do before. It's funny how the cold doesn't look any different from the inside.
Here are the books we're reading:
The Vaccine Book by Dr. Sears
No Cry Sleep Solution (still)
Fortress of Solitude
Schooled (teen lit)-- we're actually listening to this one.
Sweet Potato is also reading Molly Moon's Incredible Book of Hypnotism and is anxiously awaiting the release of The Tales of Beetle Bard.
Buckaroo is totally into the Olivia books, except for Olivia and the Missing Toy, which is a bit too frightening for him. We didn't make it past the toy going missing.

November 2, 2008

Turning the Calendar Page

Well, I took off my weenie hat about 30 minutes before Halloween started and broke open the box of decorations. R dashed around the house with me hanging bats and witches and propping up our fake gravestones.
When Sweet Potato came home we threw together her witch costume, transformed Buckaroo into a skunk, and boogied down to the FMF's house. I have to say, All Hallow's Eve wasn't nearly as chilly as I thought it would be, although some people did mention that it's usually a much colder holiday.

Sweet Potato darted off with the big kids fairly early, and that gave me a twinge of the saddies, but she's her own woman these days. As Buckaroo was running up the street shouting, "house! house!" (as in "Let's go to the next house and get some candy! Why are you walking so slowly?!") leaving a trail of pawprints behind him, I remembered Sweet Potato's first foray into trick-or-treating. She was two months older than skunk boy and dressed as a tomato. She didn't want any part of it and shook when I took her near the front door. I was so disappointed because -- as I've mentioned-- I love candy, and even nine years ago I was a bit too old to parade the streets as a tomato and ask for candy. I did drag her to a few houses. I thought she needed to face her fears, but she just shook more violently. My mom says it was child abuse, but Sweet Potato doesn't seem to be scarred, and she's come home with a bag full of sweet loot every year since.

Buckaroo, on the other hand, that stinker sure could charm the candy from the ladies.

The next day, the beginning of my birthday month, R and I decided to hike the mountain overlooking the lake from the opposite direction. Unfortunately, we couldn't find the trail head. R wanted to trail blaze, insisting that we'd bump into the trail eventually. I insisted that we'd get lost in the wilderness and neither one of us had a pocket knife or flint. We veered from the trail for a while, and I kept trying to remember everything Bear Grylls said when I watched him at my parents' house last Christmas, but for some reason it's hard to concentrate on what Bear is saying.

We stumbled around for a while and eventually ended up in someone's back yard. From there we walked the very long road home. It was cold, but the sky has been the bluest with long streaks of white clouds, like a marble, with plenty o' sunshine. Plus, we saw a few cool things:

1. Pheasant hen in our neighbor's yard. Also, just after I took the opposite photo of R and the sleeping Buckaroo in the maple leaves, we startled a couple of pheasants into flight and the sound of their wings hitting the ground was like a mini-stampede.

2. Which maybe should have been 1: a cemetery. Just right out there on the road, across the street from somebody's house, is a graveyard. It's so small that I never noticed it while driving. The cemeteries out here are so interesting. They just pop up any old place. I imagine they must pre-date city planning. We didn't stop to investigate this one as Buckaroo was singing a chorus of "Meelk, meelk," and the only thing that would quiet him was when we'd jog side by side chanting R's old call and response Navy tunes. We improvised the words, and my favorite was "Heeeey Sweet P--! Put down your candy and run with me . . . ." because she did stay home to enjoy her Halloween booty.
3. I don't know what these red-berried sticks are, but they're so brilliant against the dull swamp background I had to take their picture.

4. The folks out here sure do love their rock walls. Here's what Traditional Masonry magazine has to say about them: "Traditional dry stone walls have many benefits. These 100 percent recyclable walls become stronger as they settle, are earthquake-resistant, and can last for hundreds of years if built correctly. Because dry stone walls are free-draining compared to mortar walls that require weep holes and a drainage system, they don’t need the elaborate foundation of poured concrete. You can build in any weather — you don’t have to worry about your mortar setting. Finally, stone is unmatched for beauty."

The thing that baffles me is how the people who built them, at least a hundred years ago, could drag all of those stones up these hills when I can barely drag my own bum up and down the hills. Plus, the walls go on for miles and miles. They had some kind of energy. It's probably the non-processed food they were eating, but that's another post.

5. We were so happy to see our little lake when we finally returned, and we saw that The Keepers of the Lake had "pulled the boards" which means that the lake is draining now. It lowers about four feet, I'm told, and then freezes over. Sweet Potato can't wait to have adventures on the ice. I've never walked on a frozen lake, and the thought of it makes my tummy do a spazzy-floppy thing, but I'm trying to overcome that feeling.

Then today I went to Pickity Place with the Mass Mamas and piggied out. Yum! I had to balance out all of that exercise somehow.

October 30, 2008

A Few Words about the Cold

I fully expected to wake up in the morning and see white powdery blankets shrouding the outdoors. Unfortunately, I can't see anything without my contact lenses, so that's what I thought I saw. Nope, just very lightly frosted rooftops. We had a toasty high of forty today from what I could tell.
The grocery stores here have a big area up front, inside the store, for shopping carts. I realized that they're inside because of the snow. I'm a bit slow sometimes, but I was dashing for the door and thought, "How convenient that I don't have to stand out in the cold to get a cart." Der.
Also, the malls out here have huge indoor play areas, and I think that must be where all of the little ones hang out during the winter. We were told that the snow would bury our swing, so there's certainly no winter swinging in these parts. The mall's ok and all, but I can only take it in small doses, and when I walk out of a mall I have the same feeling I have walking out of a casino-- like I need to hike up a mountain to balance myself out.
Well, tomorrow is Halloween. It's my favorite holiday even though it's no good for my candy addiction. I've been a bit of a Halloweenie this year, though. No decorations, no carved pumpkins. I just bought my first bag of blow pops today because R insisted that we'll get trick-or-treaters, but I can't imagine who that would be-- the raccoons?
Buckaroo, though, wore his skunk costume with pride yesterday. He doesn't even try to pull off the hoodie with ears. I think he's going to take after his mama with his love of the holiday. Plus, he'll never know about the good ol' days when we brought home pillowcases stuffed with candy and trick-or-treated in a balmy 65 degree evening, so he'll think that covering the two-block neighborhood and getting a little frost-bitten on the nose is all part of the tradition-- unless Sweet Potato spills the jellybeans.

October 29, 2008

Snow Update

It sticks!

News Alert: Snow

Buckaroo and I went to a Halloween party with the Mass Mamas, and afterward while Buckaroo was sleeping in the car, and I was gossiping with the other moms outside, I saw some random white flecks floating through the air. My first thought was that someone was burning paper nearby, although I didn't smell smoke. Then in desperation I thought maybe God had dandruff.

Everyone says that if it snows before Halloween we're in for a rough winter. Well, it's almost All Hallow's Eve, and they are just the teeny tiniest flakes, does that still count?

The FMF says I shouldn't worry until I really am trapped indoors and pulling out my hair, so I'm just going to make myself a hot chocolate with Emmett's and watch Lizzie Bennett and Mr. Darcy do their thing until the panic subsides.

Meanwhile, Sweet Potato just burst in the door wearing only a t-shirt, and said, "Brrr! Turn up the heat! I could really use a butter beer about now."

October 28, 2008

A Few of My Favorite Things

1. Right now I'm sitting in front of the fire. It's a fake propane fire, but it looks real enough, and it feels roasty toastie. I told R that it was a bummer having the wood pellet stove in the basement because I didn't have a place to warm my tushie when I needed to take the chill off. He lit the stove. It smells like burning dust, but that smells like home, like the end of summer.

2. Santa. I know some people opt out of the jolly old elf idea, but I love the guy. Today Buckaroo and I drove down to meet R for lunch and return some frumpy clothes to JJill, and Buckaroo spotted a stuffed Santa ornament. He's been loving up that Santa ever since. He kisses and hugs him, and then plays CRASH with him which means that Santa flies, sleighless, across the room, so Buckaroo can fetch him and love him up all over again.

3. This American Life. I listened to Ira Glass and the boys interview the links in the chain of the mortgage fiasco while driving all the way down 495-- at least I think that's where I was-- and they made me happy even though the topic was bleak. I download the podcast on iTunes these days. So handy.

4. Meeting R for lunch. It's like bonus R time. He's all stressed out about a consulting thingy he's got on Thursday, but I very much enjoyed my Navajo sandwich made with fry bread.

5. There's this feeling I get when I'm driving down the wet narrow roads, and the orange-leafed trees are bending over low over the car. It all feels so comfortable as if I lived here in a past life, and I was always meant to return. It's odd because I am simultaneously incredibly homesick.

6. I love to watch Sweet Potato practice her little hip hop dance. She does this thing where she wiggles her shoulders and sways in a circle. She looks so grown up and little-kid-like at the same time, and it makes both of us laugh. She promises to teach me.

7. Some mornings there's a mist all over everything as if a dragon flew through at night and snorted everywhere, but it looks especially eerie and beautiful over the lake.

8. Cheese. My SF poetry group met every two weeks, and my friend Annie, lovely woman that she is, would supply us with a copious amount of cheese. I miss the group terribly, and I miss the incentive to write a poem every other week, but I've really been fantasizing about that cheese. There's gotta be a place to get a good chevre around here. The goats are everywhere for crying out loud!

9. Chippies, or chipmunks. Today when I pulled up the drive there was a chippy poking his head out of the trunk of the oak in front of the house. I turned off the engine and watched him for a long time until he ran away. I never thought about what a chippy eats, but apparently they do not eat acorns. I wish they did because we have acorns aplenty.

10. Kitchen-Aid mixers. I love them like some people love sports cars, I think. Today I spotted a copper kitchen-aid in the Williams-Sonoma display window. I oggled it for a long time, and then I had to wipe my drool from the glass.
11. I love that so many Cali folks have gone way out of their ways to visit us. Monkey Girl and her parents are coming for a December visit, and I'm so excited to see them it's lifting me out of my post-parental-visit funk.

I guess that was more than a few favorites. I should have titled it "Several of My Favorite Things."

October 27, 2008

Fairy Homes & Skateboard Dreams

You know how I said I didn't want to peek inside the milkweed pods? Well, R had no problem with peeking, and inside he found the coolest looking seeds at the end of all the fluff, all laid flat like peacock feathers.
Also, Sweet Potato earned the role of a weed in the school musical, and she said, "When I said I wanted a non-speaking part, I should have said a non-speaking human part." I said she could pretend to be a milkweed because it's the prettiest weed I've ever seen.
A few nights ago I dreamed I was skateboarding, and it wasn't one of those out-of-control driving dreams where I tried to steer my pillow.
Instead I had my knees bent, zooming through traffic downhill at high speed, and I wasn't afraid at all. I wasn't even worried about falling. In fact I did fall, and it didn't hurt. I think I was able to have this dream (I've never had one like it) because of water skiing. All of those times I tried to ski and couldn't do it I think I was sabotaging myself because I was so afraid to fall.
I haven't quite analyzed the dream yet. Maybe it has something to do with learning to snowboard this winter. The weird thing is that the next day I went to pick up Sweet Potato at school, and the gym class was learning how to skateboard on the blacktop. What? You'd think that would be a sport they'd teach in California. Then, R and I went to the bank to apply for our home equity line, and there was a blond-haired boy in the lobby with a single doll-sized skateboard, no rider. He was zooming it back and forth across the floor. I had that there are no coincidences feeling. Skateboarding signs everywhere, but when is the epiphany going to happen? Does it mean I shouldn't be afraid to fall, ya know, emotionally? Skateboarding: It's not a crime, but is it a sign?
Correction: R does not enjoy leaf blowing, and it is not futile. If we didn't blow the leaves they'd pile up over the house, and we'd all suffocate. R's a hard worker bee.

October 26, 2008

Starting Over

Every morning for the last week, Buckaroo woke up and burst out of the bedroom shouting, "Papa! Papa!" heading straight for the bedroom where my parents were asleep. Even though they were on California time, they didn't seem to mind waking up this way.

I've read that what makes people happy is the anticipation of something new, fun, and exciting happening rather than the event itself, but I don't know about that. I was pretty darn happy while my parents were here. Now I have that first-day-back-to-work feeling, that you get after being away on vacation. It's over. Back to the drudgery. At least I always had that feeling, even when I really liked my job and didn't normally consider it drudge.

With this feeling in my belly, I pulled apart my aubergine scarf and started over, again. Somehow I had managed to add two more stitches (couldn't repeat that if I tried) and it was turning into more of a shawl. I pulled it all out, and Sweet Potato helped me roll the skeins. Last night I knitted anew while R and I watched the first two episodes of Pushing Daisies, weird little show.

Meanwhile, the leaves are coming down fast. There are so many that watching them let go of the trees is kind of like watching snow fall. The day I took this photo was the day my parents arrived. R had just finished blowing the leaves into tidy piles and decided to finally take down the sign announcing his parents as owners of the house.

Today R is out blowing the leaves again. Seems like a futile effort to me, but he enjoys it. I should throw myself back into the routine too, I guess-- finish ripping down the flowered bedroom wallpaper-- but I just want to sit on the couch, knit my scarf, and listen to a book on cd. Dairy Queen by Catherine Murdock, teen lit. Comfort reading-- or listening.

When Buckaroo wakes up from his nap he'll probably ask for Papa again because that's his new routine, and I'll say, "Nana and Papa went bye bye. They flew away on a big airplane," and I'll try not to let my voice catch.

October 25, 2008

SSD & Leisure Lee Go Home

I woke at 4 a.m. to say goodbye to my parents, and I can't get back to sleep. The kids are snoozing, the house is silent except for the hum of the heater, and it's a lonely black outside.

We had a good week: Shopped in Peterborough, hiked Mt. Watatic, watched Sweet Potato's hip hop class, played with Buckaroo at the park, planned a summer lake reunion.

I'm struggling to ride the high of the visit instead of hitting the low of the leaving, but I never function well after a dearth of sleep, so I think I'll just make a pot of tea.

R is probably dropping them at the airport as I write this.

Travel easy SSD & Leisure Lee!
xoxo, La Brat

October 20, 2008

Circling Back

I've fallen in love with the burning bush, also known as the euonymus. Yes, that would be the same euonymus that I just dug, ripped, shredded, rooted out of our garden. I love the euonymus shrub, though. I do not love the vine-- also known as winter creeper. I learned that the vine strangles trees. Creep. Too bad it didn't strangle the pine tree I want to chop down and replace with the euonymus shrub. I also learned that those elf shoe pods turned fairy fluff are milkweed. The FMF told me, back in warmer days, that I could take the kids to search for cocoons on the milkweed, but I didn't know what milkweed looked like. Now I do.

Today Buckaroo and I re-visited Cathedral of the Pines with my parents. We each wrote a postcard to be sent to a soldier and threw pennies in the tree of life fountain. Buckaroo especially liked the model airplanes but was upset that he couldn't touch them.

In the afternoon we picked up Sweet Potato from school and mosied on down to Red Apple Farm in Phillipston. It is, by far, the best farm I have visited. Apples, pumpkins, country store, tractors and goats-- something for everyone. It's like the country version of a food court. Poor Buckaroo fell asleep just as we arrived, so he and I stayed behind for the picking, but he did wake up in time to sit on a tractor, and then I had a chance to buy a mountain of fudge. Who's going to eat it all?

Since my parents have been here I've taken a couple of roads I'd never taken before, and they led me to the same familiar places-- newly familiar places. I always think it's slightly miraculous to feel completely lost and then realize that I know exactly where I am. It's a physical epiphany.

Tonight we played the Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader board game (I'm not), and right now Leisure Lee is watching the Patriots game in our den. It's like old times, except in a new place. R and I have never watched a game in this house. Sometimes I wonder if the house misses the old days with R's parents when the floors were mopped and there was always a program on TV. If it does, the house is too polite to mention it.

It's cold here now. Freezing, in fact, but the house is toasty warm. I've even noticed that the temperature indoors has dipped as low as 67, and I didn't shiver like before. Either I'm getting used to the cold or having extra bodies in the house makes the cold tolerable.

SSD & Leisure Lee Visit The Woods

So happy.

October 18, 2008

What Are Fairies Made Of?

I've been eyeballing these oddies for a while. They grow at the end of our long road home, and I pass them every day. For a long time they were just pods shaped like elf shoes, and I wondered what might be in them but wouldn't let myself peek.

The wait was so worth it. They exploded into silky dandelion-like fluff. Sweet Potato said they look like they might turn into fairies.

October 16, 2008

An Artist at Work

In The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion regularly repeats some of the more significant lines or quotes that stuck with her during the year after her husband died and her daughter was hospitalized. The line that has stuck with me is, "You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends."
I think so much about death-- it hasn't helped that we are creating a will and changing our life insurance policies-- and I'm also thinking about how this is my life now and will be for a long, long time. It will change gradually, I know. Buckaroo's needs will change. He will turn five and go to kindergarten. Sweet Potato will not always demand cookies the minute she walks in the door, dropping her books on the floor. She will not always try to squeeze in two more minutes of reading Harry Potter at the kitchen table before bed time. R will not always work these obnoxiously long hours. Right?

These changes will be gradual, and while it makes me sad to think of the kids growing up, it's also comforting to know that my life will change, too. I've been panicking over this idea that THIS IS IT, that the landscape of my future is all the same dull gray from here on out.

I know it's not true, and I know there will be a time when I'll look back on these days nostalgically. The other night as I was sitting on the dock in the dark wind, I imagined myself as a jigsaw puzzle with some of the pieces put together to create a idyllic scene, some pieces just falling into place, some still unsorted and upside down in the box, and a few lost under the couch.

So this is a piece that's just falling into place: My life is only as dull as I allow it to be. Maybe it sounds hokey, but I'm going to try to think of every day as a surprise, and, yeah, some surprises are better than others.

Also, I need to make time for myself to write or even more of those puzzle pieces are going to be lost under the couch, which is why Buckaroo is going off for a playdate with the FMF tomorrow. I'm going to fling myself into writing and drinking vast quantities of hot chocolate for four hours.
Today, though, was Buckaroo's day to be the artist. He likes to keep the colors separate I noticed, and he doesn't work in grays at all.