January 30, 2009


Buckaroo and I are listening to Esperanza Rising on my iPod while he milky drinks himself to sleep (a phrase he picked up from his monkey friend).
I should learn not to judge a book by its cover, but I still do. I've seen this cover in the library and bookstores for some time, and liked it but thought maybe the book was a bit light for me.
Jesus y Santos was I wrong. We haven't finished yet, of course, but we've made some serious headway with Esperanza (the main character's name and the Spanish word for hope), traveling from Mexico to California and so far there is no rising. There is only sinking.
My comfort is the reader's voice, the soft Spanish syllables, and the descriptions of California: scratchy golden hills, bare and bony grape vines, rows and rows of asparagus.
I can't wait to go home.

January 26, 2009

Staycation Blues

We've got some seriously mixed emotions in our house, and I think we must represent a big chunk of America.
I am so happy about our new president that I get all teary-eyed every time I think about him. I'm just so darn-- I have to say it-- hopeful.
At the same time, R and I both know there are many dark days ahead of our country (and possibly us). One news report said that the recession will last 18 months at least, won't hit bottom until this summer, and after that the rise back into the sunlight will be slow and tedious.
Which brings me to the White House-- or possibly, it keeps me out of the White House. I told R I needed to plan our summer vacation. I'm so worried about my return from California and the post-visit funk, and I thought that planning our next trip would pull me from the gnarly grip of the winter bummers. We finally agreed on D.C. I bought a travel guide.
Meanwhile, R has become more and more concerned with the lack of work coming his way at the office, and tonight he announced-- well, it was more like a hushed plea-- that perhaps it would be unwise to plan a trip at this time.
Of course he's right. How could I disagree with such practicality? Still, I'm not sure I'm up to the long, snowy march toward spring without the big, Capitol carrot dangling in front of my nose.

January 19, 2009

Leaky Times

"The roof is leaking and the wind is howling.
The kids are crying 'cause the sheets are so cold.
Woke this morning, found my hands were frozen.
Tried to fix the fire, but you know
the damn thing's too old." Phil Collins
I used to listen to that song over and over when I was in high school. I'm not sure what about it appealed to me. It's a bleak little song for sure. I guess it fit my late-night moods.
It certainly fit my mood today. Sweet Potato stayed home from school and was disappointed because she couldn't play her Xbox. She couldn't play the Xbox because we had to move the TV out of the way of the melted snow that was dripping into the house.
I said, "Sweet P, you're upset because you can't play a video game? Listen, I just bought a house, and right now it's raining in my living room. I think I win this pity party."
Luckily R was able to escape from work early fix up the mess, so it's drying as I write this.
Here's what happened: The snow on our roof melted because of the heat rising from the house, it then flowed to the edge of the roof (the eaves) where it's colder and promptly turned to ice. It's called an ice dam. Never heard of such-a-thing before today. The ice dam prevents the rest of the melting snow from exiting stage left. Puddles form. You get the picture.
R went on the roof with a blow torch and melted the ice dam, crazy man that he is. I figured it might work or he might burn the house down, in which case I'd mosey on back to California-- where I hear it's Spring already. The scarier alternative was that he fall off of the roof with the torch. I tried not to think too much about that one.
Despite my disgruntledness over the ice dam, I am feeling cheerier this week, mostly because I enjoyed my first MNO (moms' night out) on Friday and was introduced to my new friend, the lovely little sour patch martini. Green Mama described it as a "water melon Jolly Rancher with alcohol." Plus, instead of fruit or olives, there was candy in the bottom of the glass-- my kinda drink all over. I told R we must learn how to make them at home.
Also, last night I finished The Painted Drum by Louise Erdrich, and I don't think I will give anything away by sharing this passage:
"And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself that you tasted as many as you could."

January 15, 2009

Dream Stories

We've all been having crazy dreams this week. Maybe it has something to do with winter, the cold, the snow, feeling like hibernating bears.
Sweet Potato dreamed she was playing hide-and-seek in the forest. She ran too fast, fell off of a cliff, and was headed for the rocks and ocean below. She knew she was going to die, and her last sad thought was, "I'll never be able to think again."

I am alternately impressed and fascinated by that last thought. At 11 my last thought probably would have been, "I'll never see my dog again!" Also sad, but not quite as deep.
R dreamed that he stayed too long at the fair-- Well, it was a bar actually, but the fair sounds more romantic, doesn't it? His friends talked him into it, he stayed all night and, oooh, he knew I was going to be one unhappy wife when he finished his walk of shame.
Strangely, the same night I also dreamed that I was mad at R. We were back in California and getting ready for our big going-away yard sale. At the last minute, and without telling me, R decided it would be a yard give-away instead of a sale. Plus, he was giving away my new bicycle. That wasn't so terrible. The worst part was that he was giving away all of my memorabilia. I realized that people were walking away with my photo albums-- the ones I pilfered from my mom ages ago. My baby pictures, my preggie mom, my lanky buck-toothed dad, were all being carted away by strangers. I started chasing people down the street and snatching my treasures out of their hands. "There's been a mistake!" I kept shouting. I looked at R all big-eyed, and he just shrugged.
R woke me up to say goodbye, and I didn't even want to kiss him I was so angry.

January 12, 2009

Snow Daze

My friend Fay called this morning and asked, "How's the weather out there?" I said, "It's beautiful today! Blue skies and sunshine . . . Well, we did get 10 inches of snow over the weekend, and it's only 18 degrees right now, but it's gorgeous!"

I keep thinking that I can't wait until the temperature reaches 40. Oh, what joyous celebrations we will have then.

How my attitude toward weather has changed in just six short months.

On Sunday R pulled Buckaroo around in the snow on the little metal disc. He giggled and gasped and generally held tight. It was a sweet sight. Buckaroo doesn't like the snow covering everything and feels a need to clean it all away. This must have come from his father's side of the family.

R worked hard in the snow, shoveling a path around our cars and then down the lane that Sweet Potato takes to meet her ride to the bus stop. He also shoveled a tunnel through one of the snow banks and eventually Buckaroo worked up the gumption to crawl through it.

Meanwhile Sweet Potato has been busy creating a video game. We discovered a web site that teaches kids computer programming so that it doesn't seem like work. She's digging it.

On Saturday we took the kidlets to the Ecotarium, a science discovery museum in Worcester (Buckaroo especially liked the train, and Sweet Potato was a bit freaked out by the taxidermy). On the way there we saw the crazy ice storm damage. Every other tree is snapped in half like a toothpick with the top branches dangling there upside down. The snapped birch trees look like rubbed out cigarette butts.

As I looked closer, though, I noticed that many of the broken stumps had bird nests built at the tippy tops. They reminded me of an excellent Mary Oliver poem, which I will now share with all of you:

The Rabbit

it can't float away.
And the rain, everybody's brother,
won't help. And the wind all these days
flying like ten crazy sisters everywhere
can't seem to do a thing. No one but me,
and my hands like fire,
to lift him to a last burrow. I wait

days, while the body opens and begins
to boil. I remember

the leaping in the moonlight, and can't touch it,
wanting it miraculously to heal
and spring up joyful. But finally

I do. And the day after I've shoveled
the earth over, in a field nearby

I find a small bird's nest lined pale
and silvery and the chicks—
are you listening, death?—warm in the rabbit's fur.

Mary Oliver

That last line catches in my throat every time.

January 8, 2009


Today is the one year anniversary of my bloggity blog. R took this picture of the kids and me in Chico, CA, about the time I started Fish Head Soup. I wanted to visit my old college stomping grounds one last time before leaving the state. It was cold, the kids were kind of bored (just wanted to spend their Christmas moo-la at Target), and the car broke down on the way home. It wasn't a big break down, but big enough that we traded that lemon.

As I was digging through the computer looking for a January '08 photo and seeing the pictures of our old de-furnished home, I was thinking about how long we lived in limbo-land.

R first suggested we consider buying his parents' house while I was pregnant and at a writer's retreat at Hedgebrook. I remember emailing my friend Laura in excitement and fright: "Sheist sheist sheist sheist!" That was in October of 2006. We decided to visit The Woods in July of 2007, so I could look at the place again from a homebuyer's perspective, as I'd only visited once before.

We moved the following June. I am not a waffler, for the most part. I don't like to ponder my decisions for too long. I just jump in and see how it goes, and if it all goes to Hades in a handbasket I chalk it up to experience, so being in residential limbo for nearly two years was quite a personal accomplishment. So glad I'm not there anymore.

That leads me to a whole new place. I have been shopping like nobody's business-- clothes, home items, music, toys, groceries. I've been trying to figure out what's gotten into me. I like to shop a little, but I've really been going wild. I think Sweet Potato was even overwhelmed with her number of Christmas gifts this year (almost all books). Looking back at last January reminded me: I bought almost nothing new for nearly two years! Every time I thought about buying something I had to decide whether or not it was worth shipping, usually not.

Also, we left so many of our goodies in California and came completely unprepared for winter. We live in a house decorated straight out of the 1950s and not in a hip way. So much to be done!

If R is disgruntled by my spendiness he doesn't mention it. He does occasionally mutter about the flailing economy and how he's afraid he's going to lose his new job. I, however, am perpetually optimistic.

So it's been a year. Obo is gone, Buckaroo speaks in sentences, Sweet Potato is a weed in the school play. R commutes an hour and a quarter to work and back most days, and I trudge through the ice and snow with my big boots and my heavy coat.

Last January I couldn't imagine life in The Woods. Now I sort of feel like I'm living in someone else's movie (with someone else's props, too). I wonder when that feeling will go away. Maybe next year when I'm doing my year-in-review I'll think back nostalgically on how I feel now.

In the mean time, I've made another big purchase: plane tickets back to California. Ten days in the February rain and blossoms. Yay!

January 6, 2009

There's Bob

Today I was reading Bob the Builder to Buckaroo, as he insists we read it several times a day. This time he stopped me mid-story, lowered his head a little and whispered, "I like Bob's eyes," and then added a double nod to let me know he was serious.

In other Bob news, I've made up a "Bob the Builder" song to the tune of "Frosty the Snowman." It goes like this:
"Bo-ob the builder! He is so fantastic with a hammer and a measure tape and a hard hat make of plastic.
Bo-ob the builder was a cartoon they say. He's made of ink, but Buckaroo thinks that he came to life one day.

There must have been some magic in that old orange pen they found cuz when it touched Bob's shirt he began to saw around."

It's amazing what one can create while stuck in traffic with a fussy toddler.

January 4, 2009

Brattleboro or Bust

Sweet Potato and I hit the road for Brattleboro VT yesterday morning. R and I had to switch cars, so I drove his Dodge. I don't really understand how to use all of the gadgets on the Dodge-- the lights, windshield wipers, emergency brake-- so it was a little bit of an adventure. Also, no four-wheel drive. I almost got stuck in the snow twice, and I didn't know how to use the wiper fluid (I thought it was frozen), so I kept pulling over at gas stations to squeegee the muddy snow from the windshield. Eventually we made it.
After a failed attempt to park on a snowy hill, we found a cleared, flat parking lot downtown where we parked and set off for the shops. It was icy cold, but we were bundled and wore our snowboots. Our first stop was a gift shop/ art gallery/ cafe. I perused the glass blown baubles while Sweet Potato followed me and said things like, "But what is the point of that thing?"

"It's just beautiful," I kept answering.

We stopped at the cafe and shared a breakfast sandwich and a doughnut. It was actually SP's doughnut, and I just asked for a piece of it. The taste of it was so strange, like the Littmus Lozenge in Because of Winn Dixie. It made me feel nostalgic for something I couldn't quite name and brought tears to my eyes. That's some doughnut! I considered buying a whole doughnut for myself, but I wasn't sure I could handle it emotionally.

SP and I tromped around town stopping in at the furniture store (where we had to wear disposable shoe covers), the toy/candy store, shoe store, indoor farmer's market where a live band was performing a bit off key (even to my ill-equipped ears), a few art galleries, and one excellent bookstore.

If Brattleboro had ears, it would have book stores and coffee shops coming out of them. If R is true to his word about my (our) being able to dash off every so often to spend a weekend with The People, Brattleboro is where I want to go. I think I've even found the perfect place to stay: http://www.theartistsloft.com/.

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention: There's an India Palace there, too! Seems a like a fine omen.

Sweet Potato could only take so much shopping, though. She perked up after I bought her a hat and a couple of truffles, but she was still antsy for home as she needed to complete her music project about Franz Liszt. When I pointed out that she'd been asking for mother-daughter alone time for weeks, and now she was finally getting it, she said, "We could spend our mother-daughter time at home." Bah!

Meanwhile, R and Buckaroo headed to Attleboro, MA, to meet with Grandma and Grampy for some excellent fish and chips. R said they didn't even require sauce (Buckaroo's word for ketchup). They rocked out with Raffi both directions, and Buckaroo didn't complain once. Success.

January 2, 2009

Trek to Blueberry Island

Today was another first: R led us all out on the frozen lake for a frosty hike to Blueberry Island. It's hard to believe that just three short months ago we paddled over there and harvested the late-season berries.

Somehow it never occurred to me that the ice would be slippery, or I thought would only be slippery if one wore skates.

I was super nervous about walking on water, but I figured we could follow the tracks of the snowmobiles and be safe, but it still gave me the jitters when the crunchy ice broke under my feet. Luckily, it was mostly soft snow. The cool thing was that I could plow through the snow in my new Christmas boots (thanks Honey!), and make a chilly kind of Slip and Slide trail. Then I would run back and forth across the ice and slide into the snow. Weeee!

We met our neighbor out there, and she said, "It makes a really big front yard." She's right, I think, as long as we don't get hit by some motorized contraption.

The blueberries are all gone, in case you were wondering. If the birds didn't get them, I'm sure the ice did. We still had a fun stomping around the island, though, except for Buckaroo who wore his best pouty face and shouted, "Nurse! nurse!" every few minutes.

Oh, and one cool thing about the snow is all of the animal tracks. Every time I see tracks I go all googly eyed, and then R says it's just a cat, which is what happened today. The worrisome thing, though, is we can also see human tracks all around our back yard-- which isn't really a yard, ya know, it's forest. Still. Who'd want to hang out there in sub-zero weather?

In other news: Sweet Potato can play any song she hears on the piano. Have I mentioned that already? If I have, I think it's worth mentioning two or three more times. I am in awe of this ability, especially since-- as she regularly points out-- I am just about tone deaf. During the great ice storm of '08, she'll be able to tell her grandchildren, she spent long hours plinking out Christmas carols on the piano.

Also, Buckaroo used his potty for the first time today! Recently, the FMF gave us the book, Once Upon a Potty and Buckaroo is fascinated with it. He wants to read it again and again. Unfortunately, he also wants to run around nakey bum all day. I would totally encourage this in the summer, but now his toes are turning blue. Time for leg warmers, I guess.

Tomorrow I'm off to introduce myself to Brattleboro VT, if the weather is fair. I'm told that we'll enjoy each other's company very much.

Oh Christmas Tree

Oh, Christmas tree-- how allergenic are thy branches.
I've been struggling with allergies since we moved to The Woods. It's karma, really. Before I had allergies, I used to think, "What's the big deal? Get over it."
One of my high school friends took Actifed every day. I don't know how she stayed awake through school because that stuff knocks me on my tushie. She was a very mellow person, though, now that I think of it. At the time I thought she was crazy.
As we all know, with age (and mold, apparently) comes wisdom. Today I took Benadryl for the first time ever.
My allergies have been mildly annoying since moving here, but once we brought home the tree they were heightened to a whole new level. Finally, this morning I woke up with my itchy nose and burning throat, and the tree got the boot.
According to Dr. Daniel More, whom I found online, I'm not the only one struggling with the tree:

"Think your allergies and asthma get worse once you bring that fresh pine tree indoors during the holidays? It may be more than just your imagination. People for years have suspected that along with that fresh pine scent, an indoor freshly-cut Christmas tree worsened allergy symptoms, but the reason wasn't completely clear. Possibilities included pollen, mold spores and strong odors emitted from the tree.
A recent study appears to shed light on the issue: The problem is likely due to mold allergy. Researchers in Connecticut found that after 2 weeks of being indoors, a live Christmas tree emitted significant amounts of mold spores into the air. In fact, the amount of mold spores found in a home with a Christmas tree was nearly 10 times the amount of mold normally found inside. People who suffer from mold allergies may want to limit the amount of time a Christmas tree is kept indoors (such as less than 2 weeks), or consider using an artificial tree."
Next year we may have to go with an artificial tree, which I swore I would never do. Oh how the mighty have fallen! Luckily, R's parents are ready to part with their fake tree.
Even more disturbing, though, was the realization that I don't know any of the words to "Oh Christmas Tree" beyond "how lovely are thy branches." In fact I don't think I can sing a single Christmas carol beyond the first verse and chorus. I guess that's something to which I can aspire in time for the next jolly season. Maybe if I learn all the words to all of the carols, it will make up for the lack of fresh pine scent in the house.

January 1, 2009

Resolutions to Go

It's a fresh start in fresh snow.

The powdery stuff fell all day yesterday, and now everything that was beginning to look so ugly when the last snow melted looks all romantically fluffy again.

The lake has frozen, too. I think R and Sweet Potato are planning to venture out there tomorrow, and I have to say that if I think about it too much, I'm sick to my stomach nervous about that. Our neighbors have been up and down it on their snow mobiles, though, and no one has drown today.

We had a good New Year's Eve with Frog Boy and his parents. They brought minestrone, and we played Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader. That would have been a good game to play during the ice storm. Frog Boy insisted on going home a half hour before midnight, so it was a quiet ringing in of the new year, but it was good.

Today we had stuffed lobster and steaks with the FMF. I celebrated by drinking a lot of soda. Now I need New Year's purification.

This year I resolve:

To read a poem every day
To chill out-- and I don't mean I want to spend more time in the cold. I just need to relax. What's the point of the fretting anyway?

Oh, and that reminds me. It was 2 below zero last night. It was my first time in negative weather, that I can remember. Tonight it's just plain ol' zero. I'm still surviving it.

And now, Sweet Potato demands that I tuck her into bed. Happy New Year!