December 30, 2009

Her California Cousin

Sweet P and her cousin have known each other since birth. They are not first cousins (and I could tell you how exactly they are related, but it'll hurt your brain), but they were born four months apart.

As toddlers they lived less than a mile apart and could pronounce only the vowels in each other's names-- no one else knew of whom they spoke-- and spent most of their time taking toys from each other and crying. They bathed together, ran through sprinklers together, and gave each other hair cuts. Once, in a fit of frustration, Sweet P pulled out her cousin's hair. It was a low point. Still, they belonged to the same playgroups and were guaranteed to see each other at least twice a week.

As preschoolers, Sweet P and her cousin learned to have animated conversations (which only they could comprehend), always argued over who got the pink cup, played dress up and Play-Doh, and created intense little imaginary worlds. It was a challenge to draw them back into reality, as if they'd entered their own bubble where they were the only existing people. They promised to marry each other, and when Sweet P's cousin's little brother came along, Sweet P had a full-blown throw-herself-on-the-floor-kicking tantrum because she wanted one, too.

In kindergarten Sweet P and I lived with her cousin and family, so the girls started school together, and the school folks thought they were twins. The cousins didn't want to marry each other anymore but wanted to take turns marrying one little golden-haired boy who may or may not have known he was of interest.

And it went on like that (although we did eventually find our own apartment a few blocks away). The girls played soccer together, read the same books, wore matching Halloween costumes, went on vacation and camping trips, had sleep-overs with the same group of friends (mostly from their old playgroup), and birthday party extravaganzas. It was a good ten years. Then, poof: we moved to The Woods. California Cousin drove across country with Sweet P and her dad by way of goodbye.

California Cousin is visiting us in The Woods this week. She hasn't been out since that cross-country summer trip. Some things have changed, as they must. There's no more Play-Doh or dress up, as far as I can tell. While Sweet P is fascinated with fashion, her cousin refuses to wear buttons. They've both given up soccer. They're reading different books and have made new friends.

I'm happy to see that they still don't need much besides imagination to entertain them. The last two days the temperature has leaned toward, or leaped below, zero, and the girls have not complained. They spent most of yesterday reading aloud to each other animatedly from the most recent installment of an old, favorite series (the name of which I'm not sure I'm allowed to divulge). Today they've finished the book and are designing homes and characters for their own stories and giggling over their drawing mistakes.

Suddenly the girls, who are seated next to me at the table, have begun to argue heatedly over the placement of a house window. Sweet P tries to draw the window on California Cousin's paper as Cousin pulls the paper away, "If you put the window there, it'll be looking into your house," she says. Sweet P disagrees.

"Are your houses supposed to be attached to each other?" I ask.

But they don't answer me; they don't even hear me. They're inside their bubble again, hearing nothing but their own laughter.

December 27, 2009

A Change of Dream

My friend Reggae Mama and her family moved to The Woods from the Bay Area just a few months before we did. She recently told her husband that she wants to buy a house now. She's ready to have two feet planted on the East Coast instead of straddling the country with one foot in California.

I know I have one heavy foot in California, but I'm not sure how to drag it out this way-- or even how to know that it's arrived. Our home-buying was built into the move, so I can't use realty as an indicator of my readiness to be fully here. I can't imagine there will ever be a time when I'm not a little bit homesick. As usual, I watch my dreams for a sign.

This is what I see when I dream about California. I'm always walking through the neighborhoods where it's sunny and every flower is blooming. Since we've moved to The Woods I've had the occasional dream that I never left California, or that I've moved back there. R doesn't exist in these dreams-- or if he does, it's as I'm waking, realizing that I don't want to move without him. It makes for a quiet morning.

This week I had the same dream of walking the sidewalks past the brightly painted houses. It's warm and breezy, and I'm inspecting neighborhood roses. Then I return to an apartment where Sweet P and I lived together before R came into our lives, but in the dream R and I rent it-- it's our vacation spot.

I look around the apartment and think about how lucky I am to have this place to visit whenever I want, when all of a sudden I realize how much it costs to keep up an apartment we only use one or two weeks a year. It's an outrageous expense that we can't afford.

I decide to tell R, when I go back to The Woods, that we should give up the California apartment and save our money, use it to improve our home in Massachusetts. I'm a little sad about it, but I know it's the right thing to do.

I woke up, and I wasn't grief-stricken. I was happy that my subconscious finally caught up with reality-- that the idea of going back to The Woods was just a natural course of dream events instead of the drama that cried me awake.

Having one foot in California isn't as expensive as renting an apartment there, but there is an emotional cost, and I'm not sure I can afford to pay it much longer. Maybe if I can't drag my foot over here, I can make it dance.

On the flip side of my subconscious, I also dreamed I was having Christmas dinner with my dad, so there are many miles to go down that path before I wake. One journey at a time.

December 17, 2009

Rocky the Red-Nosed Froggie

Each night after Buckaroo and I read stories, turn off the light and tuck in, he asks me to make up a story, and then he gives me the subject. Usually the stories involve him and his best little buddy riding a roller coaster. I attempt to make the stories as brief as possible as the goal is to get Buckaroo to nod off. Sometimes I get wrapped up in the adventure of it and forget I'm trying to get him to Bedfordshire.

Tonight Buckaroo asked for a story about a red-nosed froggie. I named him Rocky, and the first story I told was how Rocky lead a rescue team to a boy who was knocked unconscious while ice skating-- maybe not the best choice for a two-year-old's bedtime story, but I've had a long day.

Buckaroo requested a second story about Rocky hopping through the snow, and this is what I told him:

One day Rocky's wife asked Rocky to pick up a few things at the store. It was bitter cold outside in the middle of winter, so Rocky bundled up in his hat, coat, mittens and scarf, grabbed his reusable grocery bag and began the long hop through the snow.

As he made his way along the road, cars sped past him and would sometimes splatter him with muddy, icy, puddle water. The wind bit at his cheeks, and he struggled as his little frog legs sank into the frosty powder with every step.

Rocky decided that hopping in the snow was for the birds, so he leaped out into the road just as a truck blew past, and he landed smack in the middle of the truck's bed. He rolled this way and that and tried to find a toe hold as the truck bounced through potholes and slid across ice patches. Finally he wedged himself in against the wheel well and held on with all of his strength.

When the truck finally squealed to a stop, Rocky was shaking all over, even his teeth were chattering (do frogs have teeth?). He managed to clamber out of the truck and find his way to the store. He bought butter, bread, cheese, and apples, packed up his bag and headed back out into the chill.

He soon spotted another truck, but this time Rocky wasn't so lucky with his leap. The heavy bag must have slowed him because instead of finding himself in a truck bed, he was hanging onto the bumper. The wind took his hat, threatened his scarf, and his bag of food was whipping wildly in one hand as he clutched the trailer hitch with the other. His eyes teared with the sting of the cold, and he couldn't see where the truck was taking him.

After what seemed like months, Rocky saw the blurry vision of his favorite old oak tree as he was racing by it, and he let go of the truck. It was a rough landing. Rocky banged up his knee, and his groceries tumbled all over the road. He found himself a walking stick, gathered up his bruised apples and scuffed cheese, and hobbled home.

Inside the house he emptied his bag of booty onto the table and plopped into the nearest seat, assessing the damage and catching his breath.

Ms. Frosch-Frog found the band-aids and tended to her crimson-cheeked husband as he shivered and puffed in his chair. She kissed him very tenderly on his cold forehead
and whispered, "You forgot the milk."

I know. I left the red nose out of the story line completely. Buckaroo wasn't bothered. Maybe you can fit it in somewhere?

December 6, 2009


I wonder if the progression of one's perfume choice says something about her. Here's mine:

1. Love's Baby Soft
2. Stetson (I know, it's men's cologne. I wore it anyway).
3. Obsession
4. Tresor
5. Truth
6. Now I'm lucky if I remember to wear deodorant (or everyone else is lucky). Also, I've become aware of other people's scent sensitivities, so if I wear perfume I have guilt.

My friend Sparkle Mama (formerly known as Green Mama) and I went out for a bit of shopping and a bite last weekend, and when we ventured into the scary little bathroom at the Mexican restaurant, Sparkle Mama pointed out the Spray-O-Matic and noted that she had not seen one since she was a itty bitty.

I had never seen one.

The idea, I guess, is that people like me who forget to spray themselves up before going out on the town, can sneak off into the powder room and and splash on a scent. Only a quarter a squirt!

Sparkle Mama and I decided to test it out. The only available scent I recognized was Obsession, so I went with that one. It did look somewhat toxic right out of the nozzle and honestly, it smelled a bit toxic, too-- like old lady powder gone way south. It was not the Obsession of my youth.

When I told Sparkle Mama I had never seen, let alone experienced, the Spray-O-Matic, she wondered if they were just a local gadget since the one before us seemed to have been crafted in Massachusetts.

I tried to Google around for more information on the company but found only the Spray-O-Matic name on a list of possible polluters in Lawrence, MA.

Oh, but I have a feeling they are polluting dive bathrooms all over the state. Perhaps you have a Spray-O-Matic story of your own?

December 2, 2009

Good Day, Sunshine

I've had a string of dark days, and today was a day of pulling myself out of the muck. As a get-out-of-bed motivator, I decided to make a photo journal: One Day of Life in The Woods. 6:50 a.m.: Sweet P plops Buckaroo into my bed, and I grab the camera. R is long since out the door.

7:15 a.m.: Sweet P leaves for school-- without a coat or mittens despite the 28 degrees outside. She did toss a hat on her head as she sauntered into the frost.

7:20 a.m.: Buckaroo's morning wrestling match with the doggie.

8:25 a.m.: A bundled Buckaroo, ready for Bella's morning walk.

9 a.m.: The ponds and puddles have a thin layer of ice.

We could hear geese a-honkin' in circles above. Buckaroo hoped to spot an aardvark, inspiring a long conversation about where aardvarks live.

10:15 a.m.: After a dash back home and tidying up, we're on our way to meet R at his office for a lunchy date. Buckaroo also requests a visit to the bookstore, but we have to be home in time to shuttle Sweet P from school to her riding lesson.

Have I mentioned my fondness for stone overpasses?

11:30 a.m.:Buckaroo wakes from a quick shnap.

And he's not so happy to be in the car!

We usually go out for sushi, but R had a special surprise for us: HMart!

More than a grocery, HMart also has a yummy food court-- similar to a mall, but with much tastier food options. We shared palak paneer and chicken tikka masala. Buckaroo called his "spicy rice," and gobbled it up. We bought some ice cream mochi for the road. The cashier was very flirty with Buckaroo and gave him a pink cookie.
The stinky durian is, I am told, beloved by many and also smells like cat poop.

12:30 p.m.: Said goodbye to R and made a quick stop at the bookstore where Buckaroo enjoyed a few minutes of playtime and stories.

1:55 p.m.: Starbucks. I used to refuse to partake of The Bucks, but that was in Alameda when Peete's was across the street. Now there are only so many places a mama can sip a decaf eggnog latte with whip in The Woods. Interestingly, these drive-through guys are quite entertaining. This guy, for example, sang "mah nah mah nah" at me every time I began to order at the drive-up intercom, until I finally just had to stop laughing and shout over him.

2:10 p.m.: Sweet P is often hungry-grumpy after school. She perks up when she spots the Starbucks banana bread. She spat out the walnuts.

2:20 p.m.: Stop at our little local market for a small purchase and change because the riding instructor takes only cash.

2:35 p.m.: The stable.

Buckaroo and I spend a little time swinging and sight seeing-- the boy does love a tractor--
while Sweet P rides.

Sweet P and DaVinci work on corners.

4 p.m.: At home, Sweet P does her usual-- homework, staring at herself in the mirror, and talking on the phone. I have to remind myself that she hasn't quite reached teendom.

She would have chatted all night, I fear, if I had not reminded her that it was time to practice piano.

6:30 p.m.: R returns and we have our usual fare of pasta with meatballs. Buckaroo could eat a meatball at every meal. In fact, he may turn into a meatball one day. We would still love him.

7:30 p.m.: Sweet P and Buckaroo paste snowflakes to the front door.

I planned to photograph the bedtime routine, but, as so often happens, the night fell apart soon after snowflaking, so that particular chaos will have to be left to your imagination.

November 20, 2009

What Would Scout Do?

I was baffled by Publisher Weekly's choice to exclude books by women from their "Best of 2009" list, but as I mentioned I couldn't really argue with them since I hadn't done the reading.

Now the National Book Award people have announced their top 2009 picks, and again, no women. Odd. They did, however, give Flannery O'Connor a "Best of the National Book Awards" award.

Meanwhile, Kamy Wicoff, creator of, blogged about her lunch date with a(male) marketing guru who told her that She Writes is a terrible name for her business because it's a pigeon hole that makes people think of only women-type books such as The Lovely Bones (his example).

Ok, what?

He went on to say, according to Wicoff's blog, that even though it's written by a woman and narrated by a girl, To Kill a Mockingbird is a male book because, "Atticus is really the main character. And that book was a historical book. It had an impact on history. It was important. You know. It was a man's book."

I read this and wanted to spit. Or kick something. Or do both at the same time. I love Atticus. I considered naming my child Atticus in honor of him, but main character My Ass. It makes me wonder what Scout might have to say about it. I could rant long and hard about this marketing guy's unfortunate literary notions, but I'll just say this:

What this guy and the National Book Award people are saying, from what I can tell, is that fiction by women only gains its worth after sitting on the bookshelves for at least a good fifty years. Then we can look back through the lens of time and decide whether or not women really had something to say that was worth reading.

Well as they say out here in New England: No Suh. I found the short list of nominees for the 2009 National Book Award, and there are a few books by women on it, so instead of kicking something (or someone) I'm setting a goal for myself to read all of these books-- well, maybe not the non-fiction because a woman's only got so much time and attention span-- and make my own list of winners.

Here's the nominee list for your perusal:

Bonnie Jo Campbell, American Salvage (Wayne State University Press)
Colum McCann, Let the Great World Spin (Random House)
Daniyal Mueenuddin, In Other Rooms, Other Wonders (W.W. Norton & Co.)
Jayne Anne Phillips, Lark and Termite (Alfred A. Knopf)
Marcel Theroux, Far North (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

David M. Carroll, Following the Water: A Hydromancer's Notebook
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Sean B. Carroll, Remarkable Creatures: Epic Adventures in the Search for the Origins of Species (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Greg Grandin, Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford's Forgotten Jungle City
(Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt)
Adrienne Mayor, The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome's Deadliest Enemy (Princeton University Press)
T. J. Stiles, The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt (Alfred A. Knopf)

Rae Armantrout, Versed (Wesleyan University Press)
Ann Lauterbach, Or to Begin Again, (Penguin Books)
Carl Phillips, Speak Low (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon, Open Interval (University of Pittsburgh Press)
Keith Waldrop, Transcendental Studies: A Trilogy (University of California Press)

Young People’s Literature

Deborah Heiligman, Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith (Henry Holt and Co.)
Phillip Hoose, Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
David Small, Stitches (W.W. Norton & Co.)
Laini Taylor, Lips Touch: Three Times (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic)
Rita Williams-Garcia, Jumped (HarperTeen/HarperCollins)

Perhaps you'd like to read a few as well. We could compare notes.

November 16, 2009

The Birthday Monster

You may remember Buckaroo's poem from a few posts back. The FMF added an illustration of her own and turned it into something like a page out of a children's book-- just for me on my dirtday.

I told her I'd never before had a birthday prezzie that made me cry. I must be getting smooshy in my old age. And I was so worried there would be a dearth of friendship in The Woods.

And just because I'm feeling sentimental I thought I'd add this one of my little mama and a brand new me:
November, 1971

November 14, 2009

The Subjective Ten

Publisher's Weekly created a list of the top 2009 books, and there's a lot of uproar about it because their top ten includes nary a woman. My initial reaction was, "Really? Not one woman? I'm dubious."

Then again, I don't really prefer to read books by men-- just check out my "Quite Incomplete List of Favorite Books." I could say more about this, but I'd probably just manage to insult a lot of men with my broad generalizations, when really my taste just is what it is. I do have to say, though,The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is one of my most favorite books of all time and one I probably wouldn't have read if Monkey Mama hadn't suggested it, so I know I need to work on that bias.

Also, I tend not to read much in the way of non-fiction, with the exception of parenting books and my recent foray into Buddhism, so if I were going to make my own 2009 top ten list, I wouldn't be likely to include the non-fiction genre, whereas PW included five non-fiction titles (six if the graphic novel is included). It made me wonder how many non-fiction books were published by women in 2009. Where does one find that list?

Plus I am certain I would have included one book of poetry, probably Jennifer K. Sweeney's How to Live on Bread and Music and not just because she is one of my most favorite people.

As much as I want to get all riled up about PW's list and create my own, I haven't read a single book published in 2009 (with the exception of poetry) because hardbacks are too expensive, and the reserve list at the library is too long. I imagine a lot of folks are on this page with me. Even my friend L, who is Diana Gabaldon's original and biggest fan, did not run out and buy An Echo in the Bone upon its release. It's the stinky economy.

The cynical part of me thinks that PW came up with this list and decided to run with it because controversy sells. The lit-loving side is glad it's selling. I'm thrilled that so many people are talking about, and buying, books in response.

Right now, though I may change my mind, I'm going to err on the side of generosity and tell myself that PW is not evil; their taste just is what it is, too, and if I had the time and money to read the books they read, I'd probably find that our taste isn't compatible.

On that note, I'm off to buy Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffeneger, which we're reading for my bookclub. I was enduring the long wait for a library copy, but now I feel compelled to support a woman writer.

November 9, 2009

Our Buddhist Hearts

In my quest to chill myself out, I'm reading Awakening the Buddhist Heart by Lama Surya Das. I haven't even finished the first chapter-- I'm a bit of a slow non-fiction reader-- but I found this interesting tidbit you probably already knew:

"According to Tibetan Buddhism we have each had so many births that in all probability our paths have crossed time and time again. Wondrously connected to one another, we have been for each other brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, children, fathers, mothers, and mates . . . each person we meet has at one time been a close, caring family member and should be treated with the respect and love such a relationship deserves."

So, who do you think we were to each other in our past lives? I don't know, but I like the idea that whoever you are, reading my blog, we are not strangers. Man, this idea could really help to cure the road rage epidemic, among other epidemics.

Here's another thing: Before I picked up this book, I'd been thinking about the ways some of my new relationships out here in The Woods mirror friendships I have (or had) in California-- almost as if the issues I didn't resolve with myself, or with others, in that past life are finding another way to surface. Of course, I don't seem to have much say in the matter, so in true Buddhist fashion I'm trying to be ok with that.

So maybe that's how it works for everyone? Not only do we have chance after chance to untangle our knots during this lifetime, but in all of our following lifetimes as well.

I'm not sure, though, if that makes me feel more motivated or just a little lazy.

November 5, 2009

Pass the Peas, Lover

Two Peas in the Leaves

I always considered the word lover a kind of secret word, meant to be whispered in an ear or repeated behind a closed door, the kind of word only spoken aloud by characters in novels-- racy novels.

Then during college I was having dinner at my friend G's house one evening, when G's mom turned to G's dad and said, "Please pass the peas, Lover." I nearly choked on my chicken bone. I pulled myself together quickly, though, when I noticed that no one else seemed phased by the tossing about of such a private word. I decided it was an odd little family quirk and kept my mouth stuffed with my drumstick because it sure was delicious.

Fast forward twenty years: Here I am in Massachusetts, and I hear people calling each other lover freely. Couples use it as a term of endearment with each other and their children. They're using the word at the playground! G's mom, it seems is not so wacky, just an east coast transplant. And I thought California was supposed to be home of the love children.

I'm making a good faith effort to fit in with my fellow Massachusans, so I've been rolling this new definition of lover around in my head, trying to see if I might use it with R in public. So far love and lovey are as close as I can get with a straight face.

Also, whenever my brain wanders off in this direction I end up with Mickey & Sylvia's "Love is Strange" stuck in my head:
"How do you call your lover boy?"
"Come here lover boy!"

Maybe that's how I'll holler R and Buckaroo to dinner: "Biscuits on, Lover Boys!"

October 28, 2009

Tall Girl with Horse

Sweet P had her first riding lesson yesterday, and I swear when we pulled up to the stable there was a red wheelbarrow beside some chickens. I took it as a good omen, and tried to get a photo but forgot an essential component of the camera. Today I bet the wheelbarrow is even glazed with rain.

Sweet P rode a lazy white, blue-eyed horse named da Vinci-- I guess he doesn't take much after his namesake, but he was perfect for Sweet P. She learned how to groom and saddle him, too. When she told R about her lesson she said, "We used a brush with a name that reminded me of Indian food-- Oh! It's called a curry!"

Now I should backpedal (back trot?) and say that since the age of five Sweet P has been sending fervent prayers to any listening god that she remain short. Unfortunately, she didn't inherit the petite genes. While she was tall in California, she was at least the same height or a smidge shorter than her friends. Here in The Woods, though, she's nearly a giant among her peers. This does not please her.

Meanwhile, she's also been required, by moi, to participate in some sort of sport and has just as fervently begged the gods for release from what she considers a peculiar kind of torture.

I always thought Sweet P might enjoy riding lessons, but in the Bay Area the horses are few and far between. Now there are horses nearly everywhere we turn, and we found a stable just ten minutes from Sweet P's school, so I signed her up. Plus, Frog Mama and Green Mama say that riding is as much exercise as walking. Still, I never mentioned competition to my girl because she considers that word a type of swear.

Nearly as soon as Sweet P finished her lesson and we were in the car, she said, "J [The Horse Lady] said I'd be really good in competition because anybody can compete, but the game was not really intended for the short and squat."

Sweet P didn't say whether that means she's interested in competing, but it was the first time I'd ever seen her beam at the idea of being tall.
PS. Second lesson today, and I remembered the camera, but it was difficult to shoot with a very crabby Buckaroo on one arm. After her lesson, Sweet P said, "I always thought I might be a natural at something!"

October 26, 2009


In general I try not to be snobby about my California ways. It's not helpful, and it's certainly not going to win me any friends, but here's where I probably cross the line: chow mein.

In California, chow mein is a delicious dish with noodles. Well, of course, all of you west-coasters are thinking. Mein means noodle, doesn't it?

Maybe, maybe not.

Out here in New England an order of chow mein will get you a gloopy gravy mess of veggies and meat with not one noodle in sight. The first time I ordered chow mein, I thought the restaurant got my order wrong. The second time, I thought it was just that one lousy restaurant, and then I tried again somewhere else (I can be tenacious when it comes to my chow, I suppose). "No, it cant' be true," I cried to R upon opening the little white to-go carton. Alas.

There's a lot of conversation on the web about the difference in east coast and west coast chow mein, but no one seems to be certain about the reason for it. Some people say that noodle-less chow mein is Cantonese style. I don't know if that's true; all I know is, I want some stinkin' noodles.

My friend Bio Mama, who is also from California, suggested I order the lo mein next time. I'll let ya'll know how it turns out.

Also, while I'm being obnoxious, everyone out here pronounces the word loam, "loom." The landscaper told us we needed to get a good loom, and I thought, "but we don't own sheep."

It's ok, I pronounced the word for wet concrete, "sea-ment" long into adulthood, until a good friend laughed heartily at my use of the word. Next thing you know, I'll be saying "loom" too.

October 24, 2009

Odds & Ends

It's autumn! Yesterday I taught myself how to build a fire in the new wood stove while R was at work, and only had to make one panicky phone call in the process. While I did have a fire that lasted the day, for some reason I couldn't get the house to a toasty 70, so I baked some cookies. The house was warm, my belly was full.

It's a misty drizzly Saturday morning, and Sweet P is on her way to Salem with a friend, dressed as a pirate. Did I mention how, growing up, I thought the Salem witch trials took place in Salem, Oregon? That's a Western girl for ya.

I was just remembering when, one August a few years before we moved here, R and I took the kids to Salem, MA for the day. The brick buildings reminded me of Chico, CA, where I went to college. As we were driving back to R's parents' house I said, "I could see myself living here," and R said, "Ha! You've never been here in the winter!"

And, here we are. You never know where life's gonna lead.

Buckaroo has reached a couple of milestones: He no longer nurses and sleeps all by himself in a big boy bed-- most nights. Next up: potty training. He also enjoys playing with his train set now instead of dismantling the pieces and tossing them about the room. Of course, there was the time he peed on his train set, but we're all hoping that was a one-time act. He completes puzzles by himself and very much enjoys a game of hide-and-seek, which he calls, "You Can't Find Me."

Sweet P is signed up for her first horse riding lesson next week and really enjoys her piano lessons. Her piano teacher is a poet as well, and likes to recite poetry to us. It's quite funny. Sweet P also has a job one hour a week at the farm up the road. She helps in their gift store, mostly stuffing things with lavender.

R spends most of his time, outside of work, disabusing me of my home renovation ideas. It's a tough job, and I don't envy him, but he chose to marry me. He even did the asking. He's also been in the woods behind our house cutting and clearing broken branches. He's cleared a long run for sledding, too. I am looking forward to that. I've already ordered hot chocolate from Dean's Beans.

The farmer's almanac said there wouldn't be much snow this winter, but it's already snowed three days, and it's not even Halloween. This year we will conquer the slopes for sure. Did I mention Buckaroo has a passionate love of the snow? He takes after his father.

R and I dusted off my guitar and are learning three chords: G,C,D. I've learned them several times already, but I just can't make my fingers travel from one to the other with fluidity. Buckaroo's music teacher says it will take me about six months of playing to figure it out and build up my finger calluses. R at least has the ability to hear when he's playing the wrong note. I'm not so lucky, but I keep trying. I feel a bit like Mary from Pride & Prejudice that way.

Oh, and most exciting: R and I are finally celebrating our anniversary this evening (two months later) with Sushi and Sendak.

And Bella still enjoys her daily walk, although it's usually Sweet P who takes her these days. Bella also really digs the compost pile, and she truly needs a bath.

October 19, 2009

I Was Only Dreaming

I know some people feel that dream discussion is a waste of time-- like talking about the filing of fingernails. Boring Shmoring. I still can't help myself. I am fascinated by my dreams and the dreams of others. I think there's more to a dream than just tossing out the day's garbage-- whether it's a premonition, ghost visit, or just an emotional barometer. I love to dissect it.

Here's last night's dream: I was in a restaurant. My dad walked in and sat at my table, and he was fit and glowing in a blue button down shirt. I said, "Dad, You're not dead?"

He said, "Nah, I just faked my death so I could get away and get clean, you know."

I was so angry and happy, and I had so many questions, but I couldn't stop crying, and he didn't want to talk about the details. He wanted to joke around and catch up. I cried through the entire dream, cried while he showed me his new iPhone and all of its apps. When I realized that he would finally be able to meet my son for the first time I cried even harder.

Then I woke up and cried through the morning because I was only dreaming. By the time I finished making Buckaroo's breakfast I was exhausted.

I was hoping not to have these dreams. They're almost worse than nightmares because when I wake from a nightmare, it's over, and I'm safe; when I wake from a dream like this I've lost my dad all over again.

I had the "You're Alive?" dream series for 20 years after Nana Pat died (my dad's mom) when I was twelve, and I read that I wouldn't stop having them until I really understood that she wasn't coming back. I finally had one last dream where my subconscious chose to say goodbye to her, and I hadn't had that type of dream since, until last night.

Yesterday morning a Buddhist teacher spoke at the Unitarian church. He talked about how important it is to embrace the unpleasant. Most of us want to push away what's difficult or painful and replace it with what feels good: food, alcohol, toys. When we embrace the hard stuff instead of pushing it away, he said, we learn from it, work through it, and finally find true happiness within ourselves.

As he was speaking I thought, I don't know how to embrace the difficult.

Maybe last night's dream was a sign that I need to figure it out.

October 11, 2009

No Faking It on a Horse

Harry Burns: There are two kinds of women: high maintenance and low maintenance.
Sally Albright: Which one am I?
Harry Burns: You're the worst kind; you're high maintenance but you think you're low maintenance.
Sally Albright: I don't see that.
Harry Burns: You don't see that? "Waiter, I'll begin with a house salad, but I don't want the regular dressing. I'll have the balsamic vinegar and oil, but on the side. And then the salmon with the mustard sauce, but I want the mustard sauce on the side." "On the side" is a very big thing for you.
Sally Albright: Well, I just want it the way I want it.
Harry Burns: I know; high maintenance.

Meg Ryan & Billy Crystal, When Harry Met Sally

Sally Albright and I have this high/low maintenance thing in common. I toodle around my life feeling like I'm a fairly logical, easy-going person. I'm not particularly picky. If a waiter brings me fettuccine instead of lasagna, I'm likely to just eat the fettuccine rather than make a fuss. I don't usually wear make-up, have to remind myself to brush my hair, and have been seen wearing the same pair of jeans four days in a row. I don't even shout at other drivers anymore. Low maintenance.

But I will scour the market for a loaf of bread baked without high fructose corn syrup, and I get really peeved if I can't find one. I used to shout at TV commercials, too, but now I just refuse to watch them. I will not shop at Wal-Mart. High Maintenance.

I don't feel like I'm stressed, but my body is telling me otherwise because I've developed TMJ disorder from clenching my teeth while I sleep. The temporal mandibular joint is the place where the jaw connects to the skull, and mine is not happy with me. It mostly aches, and the pain radiates up along the sides of my head. It's difficult to open my mouth in the morning, sometimes I can't chew my toast and when I do my jaw cracks loud enough for everyone in the room to hear.

Obviously I need to mellow out but the problem is, like most people, I don't notice when I'm tense. Before I go to sleep I remind myself to relax my jaw, and then I realize that my toes are curled tight and my hands are balled into fists. Just when I let that tension go, my mind wanders, and before I know what's happened I'm a taut rubberband all over again.

Then I got on a horse. One of my Honey Mama friends arranged a field trip for us. I've been trail riding before, but I've never really had anyone give me any horse-riding tips. Pam Houston wrote that horses are like dogs in that they react to people's emotions, so I climbed on Cinnamon, my horse for the day, making an effort to be totally relaxed, and I thought I was doing pretty well.

Then our trail guide pointed out that I was white-knuckling the saddle horn, which indicated to Cinnamon that I wanted to trot. I did not want to trot. Apparently, one should hold the reins with one hand (western style) and rest the other hand casually on her thigh.

"What? Let GO?" That's when I realized it's not in my nature to let go.

Not only did Trail Guide want me to let go, he wanted me to reach back and pat Cinnamon's bum. Ha! I said, "That seems a little advanced for me."
"That's how we teach the little ones," Trail Guide said.

We went 'round like that for a while-- truly. I walked Cinnamon in circles around the stable while Trail Guide encouraged me to relax. When Cinnamon started to trot again for no apparent reason, Trail Guide pointed out that I was probably squeezing my thighs, signalling her to go faster.

We did eventually make it out to the trail, and I stayed as relaxed as I could be while riding a giant animal up hills, over rocks, and through mud, and Cinnamon let me know every time I went tense.

If only I could live my life on a horse; maybe I wouldn't need a night guard, acupuncture, medication, jaw surgery . . . whatever might be in my disordered jaw's future.

Plus, what a workout! My thighs and tushie were so sore the next day I hardly noticed the pain in my jaw.

October 6, 2009

Buckaroo and His TV Troubles

Buckaroo watches TV with Nana Sandy

Buckaroo enjoys his television time a little bit too much, as far as I'm concerned. I can't seem to eliminate it from his life though, because his time in front of Kipper does give me a chance to catch my breath and start dinner in the afternoon-- well some days, like today, it's just an opportunity to finish a really good book-- but I do try to limit his time and content.

When we go a-visiting, Buckaroo likes to watch anything on the Noggin channel, and that's been fine. He's also been introduced, courtesy of Nana, to Finding Nemo, but that's the only movie he's seen, as far as I know. It's hard to resist Ellen DeGeneres.

Meanwhile, Buckaroo loves his books, and he especially loves books about cars and trucks, and he most especially loves books from the movie Cars. I may have neglected to mention to Buckaroo that his favorite Cars characters are in a motion picture. I've never seen the movie, and I don't have any particular desire to see it, and I sense it might be one of those movies Buckaroo will want to watch more than once.

So yesterday Buckaroo had is two-year medical check up (a few months late). He had blood drawn to test for lead and anemia, and it was a slow, miserable time. He didn't cry, just looked at me with a pained face as the nurse squeezed many, many drops from his little finger.

On our way out the door the nurse gave him stickers with McQueen and Mater on them, and I was buckling Buckaroo into his car seat I said, "Don't forget your stickers" and put them in his lap.

He held a sticker between one fat, cotton-bandaged finger and one good one, wrinkled his brow and said, "I think we're supposed to watch these guys on TV."

I paused. I've read that parents shouldn't give kids treats as rewards when they're hurting because it creates a life-long habit of comforting pain with food. Would Pixar fall into the same category as a cream puff?

I decided it would. Then I asked, "Would you like a popsicle when we get home?"

Uh, well. They're 100% juice.

October 4, 2009

Bookish Delights

Some people believe that there are no coincidences, and lately I'm counting myself in that category.

I'd been having trouble reading much more than Buckaroo's Bear Snores On,-- which is excellent, if brief, reading-- when Sweet P announced that she's not really a reader, never has been. The only books she's truly enjoyed, apparently, are the Harry Potter books, and she's not interested in reading anymore.

I lifted my jaw off the floor, said "Ok," nothing more, and made a dash for the library where I found The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman on cd as well as Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters by Lesley M.M. Blume in hardback.

I swept up Sweet P from her piano lesson and popped Graveyard into the car's cd player. My friend Allyson recommended it, and it's perfect. Very Harry Potter-esque, but with its own ghastly appeal. We listen intently every time we're in the car.

At home I started reading Cornelia so I could talk about it casually at the dinner table. It's about an 11-year-old girl who lives in her pianist-mother's shadow and is befriended by her elderly and worldly neighbor, Virginia Somerset. Cornelia is enraptured by Virginia's tales of her adventures around the globe with her three sisters.

It was the sisters' run-in with Picasso that piqued Sweet P's interest first. Next, it was Virginia's encounter with a famous ghost. Maybe your interest is piqued, too? You know I don't like to give too much away.

"I want to read the book now, but I don't want you to say, 'I told you so,'" Sweet P said last night.

I promised her I wouldn't.

The funny thing is that I grabbed the book randomly, hoping it might be something Sweet P would enjoy, and I began it a bit half-heartedly the day I found out my friend Renato Gasparetti passed away. As I read on, Cornelia's relationship with Virginia reminded me more and more of my friendship with Renato. I thought of all the times I sat at Renato's table and listened to his stories of growing up in Italy, of his days as a prisoner of war, of courting his wife after the war.

I finished the book tonight (while Sweet P waited impatiently for her turn), and I felt like it helped me say goodbye to my friend, just a little bit.

September 14, 2009

A Summer Affair

As we go keeling headlong into our second New England autumn I've realized that summer here is much like a long-distance love affair. There's the spring joy of feeling the sun's warmth again after so long, accompanied by that muddy awkwardness of reunion; the summer's sunshiney bliss, and then there's fall: that long, last, brilliant and bittersweet night together before the goodbye of winter. The trees are blushing.

Unlike other long-distance love affairs, though, there's no communication between rendezvous. Summer is off in some unreachable place where there are no phone lines and no post. It's a sad, sad business.

I endeavor to remain perky, however. I'm determined not to let my dread of winter throw its shadow over the beauty of autumn. Here's one of my happy thoughts:

I love the fungi around here. I took the above photo in my neighbor's yard. After googling around, I think I figured out that this thing (looks like a Halloween mouth to me) is called Sulfur Shelf, also known as Chicken of the Woods because it's supposed to edible-- although, you're not going to find me hunkering down to munch on it anytime soon. Also, it might be damaging to the oak tree. Here's what Wiki says:

"The mushroom can be prepared in most ways that one can prepare chicken meat. It can also be used as a substitute for chicken in a vegetarian diet. Additionally, it can be frozen for long periods of time and retain its edibility. In certain parts of Germany and North America, it is even considered a delicacy.

However, a small percentage of people can have an allergic reaction when ingesting it. To quote Michael Beug[2] " causes mild reactions in some, for example, swollen lips" or in rare cases " nausea, vomiting, dizziness and disorientation." This is believed to be due to a number of factors that range from very bad allergies to the mushroom's protein, to toxins absorbed by the mushroom from the wood it grows on (for example, Eucalyptus or Cedar), to simply eating specimens that have decayed past their prime. As such, many field guides request that those who eat Laetiporus exercise caution by only eating fresh, young brackets and begin with small quantities to see how well it sits in their stomach."

Apparently some Sulfur Shelf can grow to be 100 pounds. That's one big chicken!

September 3, 2009

Firsts, Lasts & Everythings

This afternoon Sweet P, Buckaroo, and I took a chilly dip in the lake. It was refreshing, but the water is definitely cooler than it was two weeks ago. These cold nights are doing their thing. Also, it's so much clearer without the summer boats swishing up the muck; we can see the fish again. I keep trying to figure out which swim will be my last of the season, so I can mourn the end of summer, officially, but there's just no predicting the weather (I have learned). Today may have been my last swim, but if the sun and the mood strike me right, I may jump off that dock again in October. Ha!

Sweet P and Buckaroo, like so many other children across the country, headed off to school this week. For Sweet P, who's beginning her second year of middle school, this was easy-peasy stuff. Her most stressed moment was first-day eve, when she thought I hadn't washed her favorite jeans. Such drama! Still, I've gotta give the girl some kudos for dragging her own tushie out of bed every morning at 5:30 a.m. to catch her ride to the school bus at 6:45.

My poor mother was still dragging my bum out of bed until my senior year of high school-- when she finally just let me oversleep. I missed my favorite class, earned myself a detention and had to spend it cleaning up school trash. So embarrassing! Don't think she had to wake me up again.

Buckaroo was full of firsts this week. He caught his first fish (he prefers to catch and release), and he started preschool today. Many of the preschools out here are part of the school district, and the little folks have to be 2.9 years to attend. Buckaroo has not reached that advanced age, so he's attending a private preschool. He attends a one-day-per-week class that's geared for the newbies. During the 2.5 hours he enjoys play time, circle time, story time, and snacks. One of Buckaroo's favorite activities, according to his teacher, was counting. He is all his father's child.

I guess Buckaroo sensed that I wasn't having big emotions about the preschool milestone, so he threw a couple more in there. This morning he woke up with a dry diaper and then peed in the potty. I did a little jig over that one.

Also, though, Buckaroo did not ask to nurse for the second morning in a row. I know, I know, I can't believe I'm still nursing a preschooler. Before I had kids I said . . . Well, all moms say those pre-baby things, don't they? But Buckaroo is my last babe, so I decided to let him self-wean.

Then I panicked. What if he never gives it up? What if he's asking for a nurse break in the middle of gym class? I started to distract him, offer him his favorite foods when he asked to nurse. We were down to just his morning dose of milk before he really woke up. This one I didn't mind so much because it offered me a few more minutes of sleep before he started jumping on the dog. Plus, like I said, I'm never going to be in that space with him-- or any child-- again.

I'm not sure if we're finished. But if we are, I wish he would have mentioned it when he nursed three days ago. Because if that was the grand finale, I really wanted to remember every detail. The end of nursing is a lot like that last lake swim of the season. I'm always asking myself: Is this the end? Is this? I know autumn, and growing up, have their own kind of beauty, but I want to hold onto this moment just a little bit longer.

August 29, 2009

We Walked a Massachusetts Mile

In honor of our surviving our first year in New England, I've made a montage. We passed the year mark back in June, but it didn't really feel like a true year until Obo's return. Don't forget to turn on your speakers.

It was good to go through our photos and see that I did have happy winter moments.

August 24, 2009

My Wandering Ways

"When I want to run away, I drive off in my car,
but whichever road I take leads me back to the place you are." --
Peter Gabriel

My dad was a driver, I think I've mentioned. He spent most of his life in his car and died in his car. When he lived in California he would wake up in the morning and decide to drive to S.F.,-- two hours down the road-- just to fly a kite in Golden Gate and slide a few oysters down his gullet. As I got older he'd get an itch, call me up on a Saturday morning and say, "I'm leaving for Mexico, you comin'?" He'd pick me up within the hour.

I get that itch, too, and am especially feeling it with September a tiptoe away. R and I could smell fall on the water tonight, and we had to zip the boat back to the dock because Buckaroo and I had a serious case of the goose bumps. I'm not ready for this. I want to run.

The thing about winter is that it comes on something like I imagine insanity might. I know it's out there, hovering closer, but the weather is fickle, and it's hard to recognize that winter is really happening until we're in the thick of an ice storm and can't imagine that summer or clarity ever existed. At least that's how last year felt.

Last summer I worried about the winter because I didn't know what to expect, but I had this idea that once I'd lived through a New England winter I'd feel less anxiety about the frostiness. Unfortunately, after last winter, I have mucho anxiety to share-- which is why I want to take it on the road.

The problem with my dad's road trips was that he was missing the tiny bulb in his brain that's supposed to light up and tell the tripper when it's time to go home. Sometimes he was gone for weeks. Luckily, I inherited a Trip Over indicator from my mother, which keeps me honest.

Don't get me wrong: my fantasy travel life is quite active. Most recently I was hitching a ride, in my head, to Australia to meet a kookaburra. I know, though, that I must be home near 3 p.m. on school days to make sure Sweet P starts her homework at a reasonable hour. Plus, Buckaroo and I don't do well together with more than four hours in the car a day, and though there have been days I've considered it, I just can't bring myself to stick him in front of the tv with a looping DVD of Bob the Builder and a mountain of fruit chewies.

Still, I have to scratch a little. There's a bookstore I'm longing to eyeball in Rochester, VT, but that's three hours from here one way, according to Mapquest, so today I settled for Peterborough, NH instead. Packed up the kids and boogied on down the road. Sweet P had never heard of Fleetwood Mac-- and egregious parenting oversight on my part-- so I introduced her to my favorite childhood songs in the car while Buckaroo napped.

We perused Toadstool Books, sampled our first fluffernutter sandwich and discussed John Mackey while Buckaroo canoodled with a chihuahua, braved the decidedly unfriendly staff at Twelve Pine for some foodie accessories (burnt fig jam, wasabi sauce, a bottle of red-- not to be enjoyed simultaneously) and dashed into the little corner market for R's faves: clotted cream and digestive biscuits.

We were home by 3 p.m., so Sweet P could be on time for her first (voluntary) sleep over, and R returned early from work, so we had time to watch the sun go down on the beach while Buckaroo chased frogs through the shallows. Did I mention that Green Mama cleaned my house while we were out? So lovely.

So it wasn't one of my dad's off-the-wagon three-week splurges in Mexico, but I can't say that's really my style, and my husband was happy to see me at the end of my trip which is always a bonus and not something that was necessarily true for Dad's wives.

All day I kept saying to myself I am one blessed woman.
This winter may I hold those blessings close like a hand sewn quilt-- soft, warm, and bodyworn.

"Well I love you so dearly
I love you so clearly
Wake you up in the mornin' so early
Just to tell you I got the wanderin' blues
I got the wanderin' blues
And i'm gonna quit these ramblin' ways one of these days soon " -- The Be Good Tanyas

August 21, 2009

Here Comes the Rain Again

Obo really did bring the sunshine with him, and apparently carried it back across the pond when he left. It threatened to rain all morning yesterday, which suited our moods, and as soon as Obo stepped on the plane -- crack!-- a torrential downpour. Incredible.

All of my hubbub about not being able to walk Obo to his plane came back to bite me in the tushie. The ticket lady was happy to let R accompany Obo to the gate, and would have let Buckaroo and me go as well, but I forgot my driver's license. Gah!

I told Buckaroo that Obo was riding an airplane back to England, and Buckaroo didn't understand why he couldn't ride on the airplane, too. Eventually he gave lots of hugs and kisses and was distracted by something shiny.

So Buckaroo and I rode the escalators, shared a cookie, played with the rental car telephones, and mashed ourselves against the giant windows so we could watch the supply trucks come and go.

Sweet P opted not to join us at the airport. She is poo-pooing that whole crying-in-public thing these days. She waved from the porch as we drove away and then made a big batch of Beat the Blues cupcakes.

It's quiet in the house now. Even Buckaroo's favorite game of Tackle the Dog couldn't match the silly wildness that Sweet P and Obo cooked up.

Frog Mama and the FMF came for a swim in the near-hurricane winds today (good friends that they are), and that kept us busy and chatty, but as we were waving them goodbye Buckaroo said, "I just want Obo to come back now."

August 20, 2009

Goodbye Day

You know the worst part of airport security? It's not removing my shoes and realizing that I've forgotten to clean my toenails, or having some shmoo view all of the intimate items in my carry-on bag-- or worse, bring them out for the entire airport to view-- it's not even scalding my throat trying to guzzle down the hot tea I bought because I forgot I couldn't take it past the metal detector. I know, I know, it's all in the pursuit of safety-- but the worst part is that we can't, as a family, walk our boy to the gate and watch his airplane depart for England. It might make saying goodbye the teeny tiniest bit easier.

Goodbye Obo, skier of the lake, jumper of the wake, singer of Ga Ga, fan of all things poppity, boy who makes the air a little lighter, who finally brought us the sun.

We love you.

August 10, 2009

The Waterskiing Boy

Look at this handsome face! Isn't it just smoochable?
Obo does not enjoy having his picture taken, and he really does not enjoy having his photos tossed out to the online world, so nearly every one of the 10,000 photos I've taken of him are just a blurry hand, but this one slipped through. Ha!
The boy finally hopped up on the skis today and stayed on top of the water for about 200 feet. It's a record. We plan to have him zipping around the lake before he hops on a plane back to the land of the jolly.
Here's the Obo quote of the week: Upon requesting a third helping of dessert, "I can't help it. It's my stomach! 'SHUT UP stomach!'" You might have needed to see his angry hand gesturing at his tummy.
I'd like to share more of the funny things Obo says, but they are mostly inappropriate. Funny, but totally inappropriate. He is fifteen, you know. He and Sweet P have bonded so tightly around bathroom humor.
We've got 10 more fun-packed days with the English Boy from America. Our agenda includes: One trip to the Boston Children's Museum
One fish and chips dinner with the Grandma and Grampy (although Obo doesn't eat fish. I said I thought it was unpatriotic for a Brit to refuse fish and chips. Obo said he can't wait until I visit him in England so he can disabuse me of all my British notions).
One horseback riding adventure in New Hampshire
One visit to Old Orchard Beach in Maine for roller coaster rides and chilly ocean swimming
One trip to Burlington for Indian lunch with R and a trip to the mall so Obo can spend his birthday money
Oh, and the lake zipping
Not sure we'll squeeze it all in, but we'll give it the old New England try.
He's hovering over my shoulder now to ask if this bloggity blog is finished. It is.

August 4, 2009

A Hole in the Water

"You know what they call a boat, don't you?" R asked as we were driving to Bob the Boatman's store to pick up a new starter for the boat.

"I don't," I said.

"A hole in the water where you throw your money."

Sure nuff.

The previous evening we'd had a glorious time skiing and tubing until our digits were all numb from the boat's vibrations. Just as we were packing it all in-- kaput-- the engine wouldn't start. R thought it was the battery. We were, of course, at the far end of the lake, so we took turns paddling, and it was slow going-- especially with Buckaroo (who had been so patient until this point) whimpering, "I want to go home now." Did I mention we hadn't eaten dinner?

I've never been a big fan of motorized thingies. A friend in high school said, "I don't like things that make noise in nature," and I totally agreed with her. Sweet P's dad taught her to call any sail-less boat a stink pot, and I was really ok with that.

Then I bought a house in the woods, and it came with a motor boat. What are you gonna do? Learn to ski! That's what you're gonna do! Now I can't imagine why I didn't learn to ski twenty years ago.

Still, when we were ever-so-slowly paddling our way across the lake, and the sun was just melting, and there were the brightest patches of blue sky between the gray clouds-- and then-- a perfect rainbow all the way from one side of the lake to the other, and it was so quiet, and I remembered what it was I liked about a motorless boat: the calm.

Maybe there was a reason our boat broke down with all of us in it. It forced us to take some time to look around and appreciate the beauty instead of zipping past it at high speeds.

Then, today, as we were splashing around on the beach, I said, "It would be fun to have a sailboat," and Sweet P said, "I was just thinking that!"

Not a half an hour later, a neighbor's tiny sail boat washed up on our shore.