The hallelujah chorus that I woke to every morning was symphony sung by roosters and herons, backed by the beat of the clicking cicadas and the low whirring tick of the fan. Kicking aside thin sheets, I scratched fresh welts on my ankles and watched as a lizard flicked his tongue, then crept on padded toes toward the blood-drowsy mosquito. From the kitchen, the smell of pancakes with imitation maple syrup, carefully rationed to compensate for the sharp tang of Haitian honey. And after breakfast? An unending parade of distractions.
I’m staying up way too late enjoying the missionary kid’s memoir The Gospel of Trees. Set in Haiti and northern California, it perfectly balances the heroism and deep disappointment twined around being the child of parents who believed they could change the world.
A museum with a century-old tradition of cascading twenty-foot long trails of edible flowers to celebrate spring (and April birthdays) beckoned us out this morning. There were some claims from the children that “another museum would be no good” and was a terrible idea, but I believe even they were wooed in the end. The fact that the palazzo style building is labeled Palace in all the museum’s posted signage got their attention as well.
We stumbled into some sort of national college-kid-visit-a-museum day which resulted in crowds, and cookies in the greenhouse, delightful.
There are lots of old treasures in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum but shambling around the central courtyard to see the flowers from all directions was the treat for us today. The nasturtiums were eagerly reaching toward the sky, their petite circular leaves like lily pads, and the courtyard was filled with flowers of all sorts to match their cheer. The horticultural staff begins growing the flowers nine months earlier, and manage to cajole them into thinking it’s summer, for Boston’s great benefit.
The casual, lived-in way that art is displayed at the ISG make it one of the more un-child friendly museums in Boston–because museum staff clearly worry a lot about their relics getting touched, and make that known to parents frequently. Having once owned a few nice things myself, back in the day, I relate to their reaction.
Therefore, it’s not at the top of my list of places to for families to visit in Boston, but in the month of April, I think it is! And keep in mind if you are local, you can likely get a discounted pass through your library. The restaurant is delicious, be sure to put your name in as soon as you arrive.
We knew upfront that Easter and April Fools would fall on the same day. I was secretly pleased that April Fools was so easily superseded by Easter. April is my birthday month, an elegant spring month that contains snow, rain, mud, and sunshine. It is a unique month, as months go, and beginning it with a Fools day belittles it.
So we knew those two were paired together, but I don’t know if we realized that Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day would then also be the same day until a few weeks before when I asked our babysitter to come that evening so we could go to the service and dinner, how luxurious. A babysitter, an evening service sitting next to each other in the pew, then the train to Thai food. During our meal, where we were seated next to a bright aquarium of fish, there was a birthday song for one of the diners that night. For the song the restaurant dimmed the lights, flipped on hidden flashing disco lights all around the room, blasted a pop version of the song, and circled the table with clapping waiters. All of this happened within 30 seconds and then the lights returned to a dim romantic glow and I could just make out the finger smudge of ashes on Joe’s forehead.
And we couldn’t have known that the March for Our Lives would take place the day before Palm Sunday, a day that recalls a march-cum-parade that celebrated Jesus but also eerily confirmed his death soon to come. As re-creators of this parade–at church we each hold slim palm branches and wander outside singing hymns–one experiences the enthusiasm of crowd spirit and the sickening feeling of the doom to come.
And a March to draw attention to the constant threat of gun violence, to the way a seven-year-old quietly told me the only things she was nervous about with her new school in a new state were “the shootings,” an ebullient morning of group zeitgeist that only happened because people died…well, the parallels were there.
In Boston, the March for Our Lives ended on a muddy hill. Though respectfully a movement of the young, many old people were at the March, even old enough to have canes and walkers, creeping slowly up the hill and standing on the edge of the mud with their signs like, It’s Harder to Adopt a Puppy.
The speakers were young and we couldn’t make out their words from where we stood, but we could hear the screech of their voices, rising in anger and shout here and there, which made them seem all the younger. I realized I hadn’t heard from an inexperienced speaker in a long time. Vulnerable has been a feeling present from the beginning–vulnerable at school, vulnerable on Twitter and in responding to the verbal attacks of adults questioning their character and motives, vulnerable in their emotions and hopes.
I absentmindedly made a palm cross from the palms in church, folding the still fresh palm into corners, then folding them again. I handed the finished cross to one daughter, and another whispered please make me one while I’m at children’s sermon. I am not the fine handcrafter of the family; they don’t ask me to draw things for them or cut straight lines, though dirty dishes, dirty clothes, tattered books in need of a sling of tape are often left in my hand. I felt honored by the request.
A few photos from our cozy stay-away in February. The Lenox Hotel offered to host us for one night of vacation week. We had so much fun with it! In the winter it is so easy to get stuck inside and stare at your own walls a little too much.
I had never been to The Lenox, never had reason to stay before, but I felt that it was an ideal hotel for visiting the city. There was an intimate feeling to it, plentiful free coffee in the lobby in the morning, chocolate on the turned down beds in the evening (a lost art in hotels these days), excellent location, friendly staff and quite affordable.
The escapism of the night worked better than I imagined. I packed toothbrushes and pajamas in the bottom of the stroller and we took the train over. “I just love the green line,” Lux sighed as we walked. I do too.
The Lenox is neighbors to one of our favorite buildings in the city: The Copley Square location of the Boston Public Library. It is also several blocks away from the downtown Flour bakery, the Pru (which now has Anna’s Taqueria, Sweetgreen, and dig inn, not to mention Eately), the Apple store, and in the summer, the Copley Farmer’s Market. So it’s an ideal location for visitors to the city.
And directly next door is the Lindt chocolate shop which offers free samples to anyone who walks in, including your kids! Gourmet milk chocolate, as Joe refers to their delicious line up (though they carry amazing dark chocolate as well).
The girls dug into snacks and jumping on the bed, as one does. We requested one of their fireplace rooms, a novelty I just could not get over: a fireplace in a hotel! You do have to defer to a bellman to build the fire for you for safety reasons. They reassured us not to worry about rebuilding it. We called down several times for more wood, and it wasn’t an issue at all.
I had packed a folder of stationary to catch up on a few letters, including ones to the international buddies that we sponsor through Compassion (been meaning to post about these; a favorite way to expand global thinking with my kids and myself) and got to work on them. Selecting one task from my overflowing to-do drawer and bringing it with me always works well.
I had also packed a wine bottle opener for that evening and sandwiches so we could do an easy dinner in the hotel.
After Joe biked over from work we headed to the Pru for an after dinner Pinkberry snack. Once home, we brushed teeth, dimmed the lights, and Joe and I set up reading lights, wine, and pulled chairs around the fire. It was bliss!
Waking up without the immediate, “Mama, I neeed cereal!” which is Alma’s rooster crow, was a refreshing change. I ran across the street for Dunkin Donut breakfast sandwiches and bagels. After Joe headed to work on his bike, the girls and I packed up the stroller and headed to the Library for a couple hours and then headed home. Thanks Lenox, we so enjoyed!
We are on our third round of colds, and I’ve got two gardening books (an organic gardening classic and a friendly kid-project one) out from the library to plot for our tiny patio garden this summer. I want to have an edible flower basket, a line of sweet peas on trellis, and tub of new potatoes, and string beans. My next step is to sketch a floor plan and make a list of what I need to buy.
I also need to find a really, really, classy inflatable pool.
On Sunday Lux and I appeared at one of the occasional outreaches of our church. I’ve been meaning to go, but the weekend never seemed to work (on the gravestone for many of my hopeful participations: it just didn’t quite work).
As a matter of fact, outreach at an Episcopal church with an urban professional congregation can be hard to muster. The church services themselves take 6-10 people to run, relying on a heavy volunteer force. Then there are weekly Sunday coffee hours, with food provided by four parishioners for each of the two major services. There is also a loyal crew that prepares, serves, and cleans up after a weekly three course meal for the homeless. For the outreach needs that simply crop up in an urban parish–arguably the most important part–one is recruiting from an already over-committed and largely overworked (though ironically very successful) crowd.
The program is a twenty-two-year-old weekly, rain snow or shine, outdoor church for the homeless, the “housed and unhoused.” They gather at an open plaza around a fountain in front of the capital building on Sunday mornings. They serve lunch beforehand, but they call it coffee hour so as not to place too much weight on the food element—simply letting the food nourish and then moving right along into the service.
The director reminded me of a New Hampshire hiker-turned-priest. She had a thermometer toggle on her backpack that jangled alongside her long braid. She pointed out that the mild cold of that Sunday was worse than the extreme cold of another day because it was a cold that crept up on you. She pointed out that waiting when you are traumatized can induce anxiety. She emphasized that we only set up the food a few minutes beforehand so not too much time is spent waiting in line. Those handing out food should be careful not to continue the paradigm of giver and receiver. Those handing out food should be greeting and smiling, nodding and saying certainly if someone wants more than one sandwich. Time would be left in between refills for those who wanted to approach the table without making human contact.
I was thrilled to listen to these subtle directions mentioned with care. For a few moments it felt like training to be a valet at the Ritz. Lux listened to all of it with great attention and then whispered the order of the food to me as it should be set up: sandwiches, hot soup, popcorn, bananas.
She and I volunteered to cut and give out the sheet cake. Evaluating how many people came and how many sheet cakes we had, I cut really enormous square pieces. People asked for the pieces with yellow flowers, just like they do at birthday parties. Birthdays were an easy discussion topic. I’m turning 33 next month, one man announced. I am oldddd.
Me too! I said.
He frowned at me. You don’t look old.
You don’t look old either! I said.
As people in their thirties often say to each other.
Lux and I were really grateful to be part of this event, to step into it as participants and friendly faces. The delight of sharing this new experience together reminded me how difficult it is to find volunteer opportunities to do with your children. She didn’t want to leave my side, didn’t want to strike up her own conversations, but she was quietly observing how everyone interacted with each other, the physical disfigurements and disabilities that were taken in stride, the way an “uh huh” or “oh yes,” could smoothly breach an awkward conversation gap. It is both a hurdle and goal of mine to find more of these opportunities.
I can’t get the UN write up of the visit to the United States out of my mind. You may read it and different painful elements may stand out to you. Infant and maternal mortality always stand out to me. Whenever I read that phrase, for a moment I have a flashback to waiting for a visiting nurse to come by my humid July apartment to check the infection on my c-section cut. It felt like a lot of work scheduling that nurse every couple days, whom my insurance paid for, being awake for it, answering the door, calling them back to find parking. This concept that somehow mothers make it through pregnancy, give birth and then die is baffling, infuriating, and yet totally imaginable.
The slow debilitating effects of living with zero covered dental care stood out to me to me as well. If you read it, and then look at the Guardian’s photo essay accompaniment, you’ll see a man the same age as me whose teeth have completely rotted out.
“Poor oral hygiene and disfiguring dental profiles lead to unemployability in many jobs, being shunned in the community, and being unable to function effectively.”
I recall the period between getting married and being officially employed when Joe and I didn’t go to the dentist for several years. Naturally we both had cavities, many of them, when we finally went. It took $500, in addition to the insurance, to get us back into good shape. And we don’t drink soda. And we were in our 20s.
I don’t know, the whole thing left me feeling like it might be wiser to sponsor education and healthcare for children in the US rather than in Central America and Africa as I do. Reading the report, I realized later, brought on a horrifying I already knew this feeling. Nothing was really new to me, it was simply as bad as I had guessed it might be.
A reader recently wrote me to ask about socialization when staying at home with a three or four year old. Such good questions here that we all tumble through. I thought I would share her email and my response.
I have been reading your blog for a long time now (do all of the emails you get from strangers begin this way? Probably.) Anyway, it’s true. Since before Joan was born!
I’m now lucky to have two girls of my own. 2.5yrs and 6 months, so we are still in the trenches of learning how to handle two kids. I’m writing because I’m considering pulling my 2.5 year old out of preschool next year. She has been going to the sweetest montessori program two days a week. It’s been good for her – and good for me to have some time with just the baby. Despite its benefits, T. is clearly exhausted by school. We will likely be moving before the next school year and the only Montessori program in our new town is 5 mornings. I’m not sure she can hack 5 days and I’m not sure I can do the get-to-school scramble 5 days in a row, especially bc Dad travels 5 days a week for work. Okay, enough about our predicament. I’m wondering how you handled socialization for your girls when they stayed with you at ages 3 and 4. Did you opt into specific programs? Hit the library story time circuit? Or just plan play dates? Do I need to join a gymnastics class or something?Another lurking question re schooling is: do you think the socialization is important for the kid? Or, mostly for mom? Having been home for almost three years, I fully know my needs for socialization and structure but I’m not sure my daughter’s mirror that. Because you’ve been on the other side of 3 years old twice now, I’m wondering: did you see this increased need for socialization? How did your child staying home blend with the choice of the majority of the families? I guess the bottom line is (and isn’t it always?): if I make this choice primarily for my sanity (not rushing to school 5 days a week), will my daughter be left wanting?
I completely relate to your question, and absolute affirm your suspicion that five mornings a week will be too much! The needs of staying home with a 3 or 4 year old is up to the child. The fact that you’re writing at all tells me that your oldest is probably quite social, i.e. if you haven’t made any movements towards going out she might ask, “What are we going to do this morning?” In this situation, which was the case with my eldest as well, I tried to plan things 2-3 mornings a week. Typically I planned these things a week in advance, or over the weekend. 2-3 mornings give you that every-other morning off to stay at home, which is important.
Regarding the concept of/concerns about of socialization as a whole: when Lux was entering kindergarten at age five her new teacher expressed concern that she would have trouble adapting to the school environment. Not because of anything the teacher had observed in her, but because it was assumed if you haven’t been adapting slowly over time, then it’s going to take awhile to fit in. But she adapted immediately, listening with delight to instruction and thriving in the structured environment–both a welcome change for her from home life! She had never had another adult as an instructor, so it was a novelty and she was intent on listening carefully. She’d never had the chance to observe peers for extended periods of time, so she came home and recited all the odd things other children did.
She returned to me in the afternoon exhausted (cranky, snippy), unaccustomed to mingling with her young sisters, and eager for individualized attention. (This compared to what we had before. Our life was outburst free before school-fatigue set in.) “That’s so crazy!” her teacher remarked when I commented on this, “She’s an absolute dream at school.”
Therein lies the great school conundrum. Group-think, traveling as a pack, chatting and running with a gang of children is really fun. But every day for eight hours, it is completely exhausting.
Joan attends a local Classical Conversation group that meets once a week (as they all do). (Find one here by typing in your zip code.) She loves her teacher, her presentation time, and adores her group of seven buddies, as well as her recess time with older kids. She is tired out by the end (1pm) and enjoys the rest of the week at home, asking about her class only one or two days before it begins again. Everything in moderation is the great boon of home life. Had I know about this program when Lux was four, I know that she would have loved it as well.
I remember being at the playground with Lux when she was four and a local day care would show up. She told me she was envious of all the kids running around together. I was sensitive to that longing, but I also don’t think she realized how joyfully she giggled and plotted with her little sister all day, the long uninterrupted moments she spent paging through books on my bed, the stories she quietly told herself as she drew for far longer than “art time” would have allowed.
In my extremely limited experience I have never observed a child who did better because of earlier adaption. Personally I follow research that suggests the more children are one-on-one with adults, the better they do in social settings with their peers. The more they are only with each other, the more unstructured (and natural to their age–selfishly) they behave. (One of the best books written on this idea is from 1989, Dorothy & Raymond Moore’s Better Late Than Early, but you can read some of their ideas in this article as well.)
However, I have seen children who parents are not comfortable with discipline of any kind. They are unwilling to say no to their child and do not follow through with any of their voiced threats/consequences. They are eager for the relief and enforcement of other adults in their child’s lives. In this circumstance, I completely understand that a school/structured environment would return a better behaved child to the home.
Moving to a new town and opting-out of preschool means you will have to be a little aggressive with grabbing folks’ phone number initially. And just shrugging it off when lots of people you meet either work or does not have their child with them in the morning. I promise that there are other people choosing their own adventure education-wise, but it might take some digging to find them. In a new town, an organized class is not a bad idea because you’d have that initial organized chance to meet other moms. However, I find most programmatic things (even library story times) do not offer a chance to get to know other moms. You end up spending the time interacting with/managing your child and their expectations rather than chatting. But a library story time was the place I first met several of my best local mom friends when Lux was little. That was because I aggressively chatted up two interesting women with babies the exact same age, then I suggested we go out for coffee afterwards, and finally one of them said we should trade numbers. We never went to the library together again, instead we met at each other’s houses for the next year.
Ideas of things I would plan, as you feel the need:
-The library on consistently the same morning, probably not the morning of story time (when it is often flooded with people). If I met anyone there, I would say “see you here next week?” or I would exchange numbers, and text the day before, “Planning on the library tomorrow, will you guys be making it out?”
-A standing playdate. These are fantastic because they don’t require planning ahead of time. Ideally you create a loop and host every 3-4 week, but trading off works too. Making coffee and muffins for friends or trying out a craft on a lark is much more fun than by yourself. My friend Noelle–who, it must be said, lives in California–met up at a park with a friend she met via Instagram. They called it Preschool Breakfast. She says…
We would meet once a week at a park (actually the coffee place next to the park first). We would both pack snacks for the kids to share, which they loooved and of course always wanted the other kid’s snack first. Azusa and I would talk about cooking. We would always ask the kids what they had for breakfast that morning, but they almost never remembered. They ended up at different schools now but we still hang out once a week!
-Babysitters: I have always felt best when I’ve had at least one three-hour babysitting session a week. Not for errands, but for adult consciousness things; anything restful and mindful. Reading magazine at the bookstore. Calling an old friend. Writing at the library. Sitting in my car on Pinterest. Take some of the money saved from preschool and put it toward this endeavor. I like coming back just before nap time/quiet time. Emphasize to the sitter that she is not entertaining them but is playing with them, following their lead, stepping back one they are happy enough by themselves. That way when you come home T. won’t act like she just got dropped off after a morning at the fairgrounds. When you hire this weekly sitter, make it clear you will need one or two tasks done during the time as well–all the dishes, tidying the office, vacuuming the living room. This is what you would ask of yourself, so it’s not too much to ask. But it is easiest asked upfront.
-Errand-Coffee-Walk In the words of 600sqfeetandababy, “My cup of coffee is one of the only things I do for myself each day and therefore I love to treat it very seriously.” (I can’t find where she said this, but I love this quote and have remembered as best I can.) If you have a weekly mom-scheduled jotted down, even something of the groceries-coffee-walk variety becomes a “thing” full of the rewards of accomplishment and fresh air.
Please feel free to respond to my admittedly extremely-limited experience with thoughts in the comments. I have some other emails I’m going to dig up and post here as well. If you have a question too, feel free to email me at email@example.com. x
We’re planning to stay in Boston for February break and I’m noting down the things to do with Lux at home and many other otherwise-weekly activities cancelled.
(I’ve also whiled away several hours looking at houses in Georgia O’Keeffe/Deborah Madison New Mexico. Coincidence?)
I foresee several luxuriously long library visits, at date night in, a hotel night out, a museum we would otherwise save for a weekend. A few of the things on my mind…
THE STAY SOMEWHERE ELSE AWAY
Downtown, the Lenox Hotel offers easy in-house activities for kids like Cookie & Paint night, movie night, or a crafting night. The Lenox is ideally located on the green line near the central Public Library, and a few stops from the MFA, both of which will also be offering special activities for the week. Interesting restaurants abound in this area, making it simple to stay indoors if the weather isn’t great. And do note they offer a few select rooms with working fireplaces! From $260 per night. The Lenox has offered us a free night stay in exchange for me sharing these facts, which we are totally taking advantage of.
On Cape Cod, the Bayside resort schedules full days of activities for the whole week, including themed (free) breakfasts, scavenger hunts, bingo, movie nights, pizza nights and simultaneously scheduled parent’s happy hours. Plus, you’ll have the winter beaches to yourself. One night from $159 per night.
THE AMAZING OUTDOORS
The Highland Foundations sponsors totally free skating at the Boston Common Frog Pond.
New Hampshire Ice Castles: These are built new every year in New Hampshire from scratch and appear to be rather amazing. We’ve never been, but I’d love to take an afternoon to get up there. You can see photos here, and coordinate your visit with a fire show!
The Somerville Winter Market: every weekend on Saturdays, indoors, full of amazing food vendors!
MUSEUMS, YOUR FRIEND
The newly reopened Discovery Museum in Acton (about 40 minutes west of the city). This delightfully hands-on, low tech, and interactive museum could you keep your family busy all day.
**Giveaway now closed. The Museum is offering free admission for kids under 12 on March 3rd & 4th.
The Museum of Fine Arts places special kid-interactive crafting activities in galleries all around the museum. Often there are concerts and special guests as well. All of these activities are free with admission. Check their schedule posted online beforehand.
THE GREAT INDOORS, at home
Buy art supplies: I like to think of the money that would have been spent on the random dining out that happens on trips redirected to other things, like buying a new art supplies. Here are a few we love, and are currently out of; combine any of these with a leftover cereal box and I promise amazing things will come of it! Do-a-dots (two year olds love), pastels (particularly fun on black construction paper), shurtape, gold leaf, twistable crayons. Gold leaf and pastels are both special supplies that require adults checking in every now and then. Always useful: this comprehensive list of the Eric Carle Museum Studio’s favorite kids art supplies.
^^ This is a recycled chocolate wrapper, not gold leaf, but we’ve done similar activities with that fluttery gold multipurpose dazzle!
Handwriting hobby After a recent conversation with the first grade teachers, I realized significantly less time is made for handwriting practice in today’s school curriculum. Much more time is spent on writing and writing comprehension. This empowers them as writers (or it has, for Lux) but the actual technique gets left behind. So we are working on this habit at home! Paired with a yummy snack and cozy rug, it’s a great activity and all you need are some ruled papers, or order your own handwriting book.
Count the dice Another activity I’m borrowing from Lux’s classroom hints. The kids make charts with a column for each number from 1-12. Then you get two dice, roll them, and color in the box above the number you received, pass the dice to the next person. It’s the simplest thing, but it seems to be satisfying in those ways that adults love too–rolling dice, reading numbers, checking off boxes. It’s communal and fun to do around the table.
Making your own play dough has gotten a rap as trademark ultra-homemade-crowd, but really, it takes ten minutes and you get to pick the colors and end up with warm play dough. It lasts forever compared to the store bought stuff. I don’t use add spices but I do use the recipes that include coconut oil.
Pillow jump This is from the Waldorf crowd, best for toddlers up to age 3, but fun for all if you’re not worried about the downstairs neighbors. Take a step stool, put it in the middle of the floor. Surround with a big pile of pillows. Climb up, jump off. Repeat.
My Holidays guide to Boston, some of these things still apply.
Anything special on your schedule for February?
At Alma’s two year appointment, I found myself staring into the doctor’s eyes as she reviewed the signs for me to watch for that would signal Alma’s ear infection had taken hold beyond the viral. I knew for certain she had said these words hundreds of times and yet she was carefully, intently spelling them out for me. For a moment, lulled by her soft background melody of a French/Russian accent, I considered it from Joan’s perspective, slouched on a chair along the wall. Two women talking to each other, standing close together with a toddler perched between them, one learning from the other, the other elucidating as best she could.
Often in her office, I adopt the visage of a first time mother. What is the point of pretending, I decided early on, that I was anything but too comfortable in what I knew? Using a “wait and see” method for almost everything. And getting caught unawares regularly! There was the appointment I had to be talked into for croup that had progressed to steroid levels, the poor twelve months weight gain, the enflamed ezcema, the barely noticed ear infection. I could go on.
In contrast to the constant speculative worrying that seem to sum up all baby’s doctor appointments, it was delightful to remark on Alma’s 70 percentile height and 50 percentile weight. Lovely. I felt great affection for this woman, and how we’d managed together for the past two years.
Joan, Alma and I took the elevator down to the lobby. Alma strode ahead, clearly euphoric to be leaving the risky offices of the doctor behind. We headed to the lobby cafe to buy a coffee and croissants for the girls (my first purchased coffee since I took on the frugal month challenge! Wait, it’s only been ten days.). Got to the cash register and realized I didn’t have my wallet, keys, train pass, etc. The cashier assured me I could pay next time I was there, eyeing the girls with an practiced eye that she knew we’d be back.
a few photos from our week
Freestyle Nutcracker before a friend’s parent arrives for pick-up.
She may be sick but her sister pen-painted her toes, selective joy.
Entering the satisfying water pitcher stage.
Brought Alma downstairs by the light of 7am snowfall, found my family texting about crypto currencies. Stare in space wondering what could softly pop the bubble–bend the bubble?–so people like this gal could get their product out before everyone gets too jumpy. Alma hands me a book about water in which an octopus blows bubbles, hoses down the grass, and tears up–differing definitions of water.
The girls are still in vacation mode, entertaining themselves with their new legos sets–freed of instructions and loosed into bins–tromping outside for strictly ten minute periods before asking yet again to be loosed from the strictures of zippers and velcro, making hot coco much darker than mom would have, carefully clipping stickers and sorting them according to elaborate exchange rituals.
Pulled out the last rounds of venison from the freezer because I underestimated our grocery needs, per usual (I was intrigued to hear about this venison cookbook because there is more coming to a freezer near me. I found it on Hoopla via the public library, hooray).
Put a pan of blondies in the oven, went for a walk by myself, a serious snow day perk. Skirted the roaring snowplows. Admired Joe’s work clearing the snow from our block. Stopped for an espresso at a shop that had opened, though left most of the lights off. Read by the dim light a nostalgic glossing speech of a retiring city councilor and the local rates for an overnight garage.
Peered at the bookshelf until I spotted Brother Andrew’s Practicing the Presence of God, put Alma in the bath and sat in the corner reading it. January for me is one of those months when I need monk thoughts from the 1600s.
and the light shines in the darkness, but the darkness does not understand it. -john 1, verse 5
To drive our family to the Midwest for Thanksgiving, we woke the girls up at 4:30AM. Rather than waiting for them to gain consciousness, we began sliding their shoes on their still-sleeping legs, tucking their limp arms into their jackets. We murmured what we were doing as they woke up mid-dress change. They walked outside in the cold moonlight with us. Once in car, they fell back asleep, which felt like a great success: to cross and recross the woken line so easily when typically this line is fixed: once woken, they are awake.
An eerie moment among Jesus’s healings in the Bible is when he tells a dead girl lying on the bed where she died, to wake up. It feels profoundly off-territory—-a man telling another man’s daughter, whom the father believes to be dead, to simply awaken instead. Perhaps the father wondered if he had seen her clearly in the first place. And yet it is a moment of glorious upsidedown: the line that should never be crossed–a child dying before the parent–had been crossed and recrossed.
One layer of the parenting shroud (and there are many) is that you do not see your season of life for what it is. Fondly looking backward and warily looking forward, it’s difficult to evaluate what a stage will mean to your being for the rest of your life. To awaken to your circumstances, your actual life, the decisions you’ve made and where they’ve brought you, the gifts you were given that you did not ask for, is truly a challenge. Often the awake! command is brought on by discomfort, discouragement, or interruption.
The idea behind a prayer journal is that you might reflect on the prayers you once had that were answered. Oddly, without documenting them, these prayers can flee your mind as soon as they are resolved, replaced by new ones. When I encounter a friend I haven’t seen for months, she asks me about something I was worried about last time I saw her, and I stare blankly back at her. Oh, I guess we figured it out, is often my response.
My aunt practices healing of various sorts–acupuncture, herbs, tapping. In that last method, you ask the patient to gauge their pain levels numerically between 1-10. This is important, because as the pain ebbs away, people will quickly forget how they felt moments ago. Or sometimes that pain will be solved, but a new one will speak up quickly, and the mind switches to anxiously centering on the next one.
In daily life, I’ll snap out of peaceful/absentminded parenting when the toddler cuts it too close to an intersection, or one of the girls pushes the other in impulsive frustration. Trotting along cheerfully until I suddenly find myself saying, “Hey! what is going on here???” then we all sigh and look at each other.
Anger is one of those emotions moms like to keep their distance from. Lots of confessions around anger amongst coffee cup chats. However, kids really don’t seem to mind anger. They embrace it whole heartedly themselves, screaming with fury from the youngest age when they are taken aback by something. Anger is the abundance of feeling. My children gaze at me frankly when I am angrily describing what I am angry about. Recently: “Why is everyone here acting like what they want is the most important? I am doing things for you all day, you can also do things for me, and for each other. That is important and it’s how this household works!” <shout, at the end there>
I am one of those who shyly comes up later in the day and whispers, sorry for yelling at you, i was frustrated. They shrug at me, usually smile, ask where their scissors are and if they can have a snack.
I encountered a list of Advent words proposed by Anglican/Episcopalians and I liked the idea of responding to a few of them throughout this month.