Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Snow for real!

The snow is falling.... and falling.... and fallllllliiiiinnngggg.

And I would be totally happy to cuddle up to my posse of kids.  Except that the big kids are in Craftsbury.  And now, I have to brush off a car... and it is looking like a truck today.... and head up north to retrieve them.  Honestly, I just didn't believe we'd get any snow at all.  Although, I have to say that at least  we finally got some winter.  And now it will probably be here until June, but as long as it is snowing... and not just cold and grey and awful, I think I am ok with that.  I am totally confused about tapping the maple trees, however.  But that's a subject for another day.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Snowflake envy

As I sit here, on the dreaded pink couch, trying to figure out if I can shove it through the sliding glass door and out to the curb on my own, a few spitty snowflakes have begun to fall.

Outside it looks like a suburban winter wasteland... the type of landscape I wanted to escape all those years ago... gray snowbanks melting into muddy streams by the side of the road, dirty colored snow around all the houses and buildings you can see, and an icy sheen on top of all the snow that remains. Dry, dead brown grasses poke up from the ground, and you can't go sledding without being inundated with burdock.

The patches of warmth that usually open up around the trees when the sap starts running have frozen in time, the deep cold and lack of snowcover's warmth driving the sap further into the roots, and actually signaling a later sap run this spring... maybe.

But as this is Valentine's Day, and I am feeling hopeful about my love of everything in our life, and the soft drip of the icicles outside reminded me that we saw this house about a year ago, and now it is ours... I will focus on the pretty hope that these spitty little flakes will deepen with the hour and at least bring us enough fresh snow to cover the grayness and bring a bit of brightness to this week.

It is school break for many people in the Northeast, but for us it is another week of school. Aidan starts rehearsals for "Alice in Wonderland" in which he will play Lord Milquetoast and Juror No. 4. And we sign him up for wrestling, too, this week. I imagine he may begin to feel a bit over-run, with school, trumpet, play practice, and wrestling. But this is good practice for grown up life... always on the run... and a time for him to begin to prioritize. Sage is taking Hip Hop up in Morrisville and still has her violin, too. I am still trying to volunteer at Sterling, but finding the time harder and harder. We will spend the next two months running around like crazy people, but there will always be dinner, and game nights, and sledding runs.

Valentine's parties brought homemade valentines... Sagey's were some hearts decoupaged with torn tissue paper, and Aidan's were black hearts with a glued-on picture of a zombie eating a heart. We made bright red chocolate chip/peppermint cookies. Tonight we'll eat cheap-o cherry pie, and maybe burgers and beet salad (HA! as if my chillenz would eat beets! Or Colin for that matter!). The stereo is finally hooked up, and we can dance the evening away, together, as we should be on Valentine's Day. This day also finds Colin and I together for at least 4 years. Plus some, really, but more officially four years since Valentine's Day (we had a lovely dinner that night cooked by Josh Wilcox).

Milo has begun the task of turning into a real baby, and seems so much older than he is sometimes. All during The Calais elementary school music concert he sat upright on my lap, looking out at the kids and listening to the music. Although he occasionally bobbles that head of his, he usually seems so grown, head up if he sitting or standing or in a baby carrier. And now, when he is in his seat on the floor, lap full of toys, he'll lurch forward to grasp at things or get you to pick him up, so he can't be left alone, or up high. And he's so big, my back is beginning to pay the price for lugging him around...

Nadia is working on puzzles and organizing things all the time. Soon, she may move upstairs to Sage's room (so I can make room for Milo in the downstairs room), and she is always busy telling me how things are going to be. But she is cute, trying so hard to define her place in her family, and whether she wants to be big or little. She plays dress up and store in her room, dances with big sister, and is learning to cut with scissors. Now... if only I could gether to eat real food...

Well, I have taken longer now than I meant to, and the fire calls, and the dishes do too. Nadia is wanting help with her Arthur alphabet puzzle, and Milo should be awake soon, calling for me and a clean diaper. The snowflakes have finally thickened a bit, and I may get my wish for snow. And sooner than I wished... I will be heading to Burlington to pick up an electrolux vacuum cleaner that is probably older than me, and my kids.

Hope you all are shoveled out and safe in your real winter... send some up here!

Monday, February 08, 2010


As Milo wheezes his way through yet another day, and we have given in to the lure of the doctor's office... today another visit with the more conservative doc who usually sees Sage and Nadi rather than the more laid-back guy who sees Aidan and Milo... and I am feeling sorry for myself.

I see factors for breast cancer, diabetes, asthma, and alcoholism in my kids' genetic histories, and it is frightening to think about what could be. I worry about the corn fields we used to be surrounded by and the fact that Craftsbury's water seems to have enough atrazine in it to give us all a cancer we can't control.

Somehow, in your thirties, you seem to very suddenly hit a wall that yells "GUESS WHAT?? YOU ARE NOT IMMORTAL!" and in the daily smiles and grins and dreams of those beautiful children all around me there is a bit of sadness... we are not immortal... who knows how many dreams you will see come true?

Then Zeke and Nadia streak through the room playing "No bad guys" they tell me... yellling "They're comin' right now.. NO! NO bad guys they are gone and a duck and a dino and .... HELP ME Arrrrgghhhh!" and I think... we are born knowing this crazy unknown exists out there and we play it out, say it out, yell it out... try to help it find form and function and still dream anyway.

Milo drools on his wooden toy, Lucky ambles through the kitchen, tail wagging trying to play with the little ones, having one of her "good" days when she can walk and play, and I realize we are always struggling with a lack of ease in this world. Sometimes its form comes in disease, some times in fear, sometimes in bad guys, sometimes in the end of an old doggy's life.

All we can do is strive for our dreams.

So dream.

Dream big.

And pull yourself toward that golden moment where even the worst of it is just the way it should be. It is just life, after all.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Asthma and chaos reign supreme

The inner preschool teacher in me has finally taken over.

I can no longer take the "I didn't know where it goes" or the "I put it 'away'" from everyone around me and finally decided the time had come...

... to label everything. Shelves. Toys. Art supplies. Dresser drawers.

The artist in me, is of course drawing up funky designs or printing unusual fonts, but the teacher in me requires labeling of bins AND the location on the shelf where the bin goes (for matching words, of course. How else did you learn to read the word scissors?).

Really, it is just that there is this constant shifting mess around here as we try to figure out where to put things in this new house, and as room after room gets its makeover. Many times I think we were nuts to have bought instead of built, but even then there would have been a shell with little finish work done inside as we moved in... so maybe the chaos would have still reigned supreme.

I try this nailing down of "home" for objects, books, food, dishes, toys, clothes, even as I run around making sure everyone has had their medicine, the baby isn't choking on phlegm (trip to the doctors in his near future) and the dust I stir up is immediately caught and washed away. Nadia, Colin, Aidan, and Milo have all been suffering from their annual (well... Milo's first) asthma-inducing cold. Which means Xoponex and steroid inhalers litter my baby bag, my daily life, my every moment. Milo is sleeping sitting up and sometimes in a steamy bathroom. Nadia has learned to shake and inhale various drugs sloooowwwwlllyyy to get the full effect, and we have cut dairy out of our daily lives. (Which means an awful lot of undrunk WIC milk rotting in the fridge).

But instead of feeling sorry for myself and my kids, I decided to make use of the frustration to get things done. More bags of clothes to get out of here. More books on the shelves rather than in boxes in the basement. More wallpaper peeled in the kitchen. More healthy food on the table, despite a tight budget. More kisses for the ever-sicker doggy. And more labels for clutter-less living. (As in less clutter, not clutter free).

And just to be sure I remember how lucky we are, I offered up three, two-hour sessions for auction in Hardwick at a fundraiser for Haiti. We are blessed indeed. I may not be able to mail the baby clothes, or find extra change that I might not need for gas this week, but I do have time to share, and a skill with kids. So maybe someone in Haiti will benefit from me giving up a little time I had to give anyway. I wish I could do more, but sometimes giving what you got is the best you can do.

And it sure beats the six hours of gym-class teaching I am gonna do on Wednesday. Now _there_ is a skill I don't have.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

The things I didn't do today

I didn't get the mail. I haven't finished scraping the kitchen walls... and "Scotland" remains firmly intact, if covered in bluish wallpaper-remover goo. Bake. Put the roast on for hours... I guess we'll eat it tomorrow. Call the school. Take the girls in for shots, Nani had a fever yesterday and Milo one today, and I wanted to be sure everyone was well before we headed into the germ bin. Wash my hair. Decide what I am supposed to do with the busted-ass mini van, broken-up and uninspectable Subaru, and the lack of a working child transporter ever since the Rav finally sold. Sort baby clothes (again). Sort diaper wraps (again). Clean out the closet in Nani's room.

What I DID do today:
Nurse. Drink coffee with chocolate syrup. Scrape the kitchen walls. Do lotsa laundry. Dishes. Make shit on a shingle for breakfast. Cuddle everyone; at least for 30 seconds. Tuck homework in a bag. Eat delicious left-over white pizza that C made and cream-on-top-whole-milk-french-vanilla-organic yogurt. Help N do sommeraults on the thermarest. Change many a poop. Nurse lots more. Pump. Pump again. Print out chore sheets. Write out the itches in my brain.

What I MIGHT do:
Nap. Mop. Sweep. Vacuum. (OK, I won't nap but I will definitely clean the floors). More laundry, for sure. Move my bed. Clean/organize/trash the big kids room.

What I do everyday without a doubt:

Love love love. And hate. And cry. And love some more. Passion is as passion does.

The house's latest make over

Besides spring in a pot/on a plate on the pine farm table in front of the sliding glass door, this weekend will mean the end of a famous piece of our house: the half-peeled wallpaper in the kitchen. Saturday, we PAINT.

Of course, that also means a good by to my favorite section of unpeeled wallpaper backing: the one that looks suspiciously like Scotland. Or maybe that is just my genetic memory kicking into gear. But I will miss staring at it during dinner. I guess I will have to frame a map or something.

So the walls will be a delicate gray that matches the gray in one of our Gangloff beer posters. There will be bits and pieces of scarlet and black, and a chalkboard wall. And eventually, a painted tree will wrap itself around the sliding glass door (which now sports a fancy-shmancy new curtain rod and a plain, unbleached linen drapery I sewed with raw edges and fancy stitching that matches the uh, um, well, rather turquois formica). There may even be corkboard squares, although I am a big fan of making our own out of wine corks. So save us your corks!!
"All our words are but crumbs that fall down from the feast of the mind." ~Khalil Gibran.

We have an absolute smorgasbord of mind crumbs around here. Sometimes that works, and sometimes it is too many flavors at once.

I feel like I am always trying to streamline the sound, the flavor, into a palatable six course meal. But who gets to be dessert? Who's the drink? The main dish (me, of course).

We've had to talk a lot about fairness and what that really means. I mean, really, who DOES get to be the main dish? And do they get to be that all the time?

I have begun to find the balance of mommy-ing all these kids at once. Sometimes I think those mom who push out four kids in four years had the right idea. They just load them all into car seats or playgroup or the local museum for preschool activities and plow through their day (I canNOT imagine what all that would be like for a breastfeeding mother. I assume there is a lot of forced early weaning).

But there are moments when sibling rivalry or just plain nastiness takes over and I find myself swimming in a sea of uncertainty (just to use a cliche). How do they all know I love them? How do they know it doesn't matter to me whether their dad lives in Colchester or here in this house... I love them all equally.

Oh, I have tried to understand that favorites thing. Some of my friends freely admit they have a "favorite" in their bunches of offspring. But I truly cannot imagine such a thing. Once, Mom told me this story about a family of sibs that were talking after their mom died. Eventually one says, "Ya know, mom told me I was her favorite." And another looks up, surprised, and says, "Mom told ME I was her favorite." This went on, through all the siblings, and MY mom said, "Each of them got to feel they were special."

During a week of extra duress, I tried this on my older two (the younger two being too young to know what that means in any way) only to have them both respond, individually and with indignation, "BUT MOM! That's not FAIR!"

And I grinned, and smiled, and told them the story, and then said how proud I was of them for thinking about their siblings and wanting for them what they want for themselves.

Since then, I have decided that my smorgasbord and cacophony of kids and love is exactly the way it should be.

Even when they are yelling that they wish someone else would "just go away. I don't want ****/* here!" (Insert name of your choice).