Monday, September 21, 2009

New home, new blog

Hello faithful readers . . .

When I decided to get back into blogging after our recent move I felt like I needed a bit of a fresh start. Find me writing again over at Life Together. Everything that is here is there and I'll keep this up, at least for awhile, to keep links working.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

paying it forward

My old friend Ginger used to live in DC just a few houses down from me. Since I can no longer be inspired by her creativity and energy in person I am an avid reader of her blog and I'm not ashamed to admit that I jumped at the chance to get a handmade item from her some time in the next year or so. I felt even less bad because I can definitely credit Ginger with directly inspiring me to finally learn to knit. Just a few days before she posted this blog chain I had gifted myself with a book and materials to begin knitting. This book was highly recommended by an accomplished knitter and though I'm excited about working through it I definitely don't need to keep all those projects for myself.

I'm not sure I even have three readers on this blog right now but if you want to play, here are the rules:

1. Be one of the first three bloggers to leave a comment on this post, which then entitles you to a handmade item from me.
2. Winners, you must post this on your blog, meaning that you will "Pay It Forward," creating a handmade gift for the first three to leave a comment on your post about your giveaway!
3. You have 365 days to make/ship your item. And, remember: It’s the spirit and the thought that count!
4. When you receive your gift, please feel free to blog about it, sharing appropriate linky love! If you are not one of the first three to comment on this post, you can still play along. Start your own "Pay It Forward" chain and encourage your blogging friends to do the same!

You'll probably get a knitted item from me but you never know what creative juices will begin to flow once I get the crafting bug.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Coming Home

Ernest Hemingway wrote about Michigan from a Paris cafe. He said he could only write about his home from a distance. Like a Seurat painting or--to put a more modern spin on it?--an HD TV, the picture is only clear after obtaining a certain distance.

We've spent the last year living in Minnesota. I didn't blog much in Minnesota. It's not that I gave up blogging or that I was more busy than usual (sure, I had a baby, but there's always something), I just didn't get to it. I never felt that I had anything to say. It's not that we had a bad year--our time in Minnesota was lovely. We made some wonderful friends whom I will miss a great deal. We spent lots and lots of time with Eric's family and our kids had the incredible blessing of living very close to grandparents. We got to see parts of the country we hadn't explored before. Eric's home is the Midwest--he grew up in Madison and went to college in St. Paul where his family now lives. It was very, very good to gain more familiarity with my husband's home but I found myself, for the first time, missing mine.

I was struck, in part, by the intense loyalty to their home that I saw in people from Minnesota and Wisconsin. I used to joke that my husband's family had a religious devotion to Wisconsin but I found that his family was far from unique. I was even more flabbergasted once winter came: these people endure weeks of sub zero weather and, for some reason, do not move away once its warm enough to go outside.

Joking aside, the turning point in the year was, I think, our trip to New England in October. We had a friend's wedding and a 50th Wedding Anniversary party to attend so we went for ten days. I grew up in a very small New England town and it had been years since I'd been home in the fall which is a famously glorious time to be in that part of the country. There were many moments of nostalgia, to be sure, but there was also an acute sense of being home. My knowledge of being from somewhere was deepened. Just a few days into that trip Eric got laid off over the phone and our life felt completely upside down. Our time in Minnesota felt all-the-more temporary.

Shortly after that trip I got an e-mail invitation to my 10th High School Reunion. It was sort of out-of-nowhere and when I mentioned it to my mom she casually mentioned that she'd gotten some mail for me on the subject but had tossed it assuming I'd have no interest. Not too long ago she would have been right but I suddenly realized that I was pretty disappointed to miss seeing my high school classmates. I was intensely curious about what had become of them all.

Eric landed his full-time teaching position in the winter and we ended up spending the second half of our year in Minnesota preparing to leave. While we still enjoyed family, friends, and the sub-zero weather our hearts were already looking forward to what would become our home. My sister convinced me not too long ago to get on Facebook to keep in touch with our adult cousins and I was suddenly connected--for, really, the first time in over ten years--with people I'd grown up with. There they were, other people from that small New England town, living their lives. Some are married, some have kids. Many of them still live in our hometown or very close by. And here we are, about to move to the city that my children, very likely, will know as home when they are grown.

It seems likely that we are finally settling for good and I am so grateful for that. I am also grateful that we will be living close enough to my hometown to easily go back and visit Grandma for a long weekend. But we'll be far enough--just far enough--to step back from my home and see it and, I hope, reflect a bit on the importance of place and roots and community and belonging.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Starting school

Hello loyal readers (and you are loyal indeed if my blog is still on your reading list after such a long break). I could write several posts, at least, on all the reasons I haven't posted all summer. Chiefly, we moved to Minnesota and that has taken a lot of time and energy. But more immediately, I don't have any idea where regular blogging can fit into my life right now. So I've had moments here and there when I could have written something but I never wanted to give the impression that I was "back to blogging" only to take off for three months again. What's the word for this kind of "all or nothing" personality of mine? It does not serve me well.

So I'm going to dive in here on one of the gazillion topics I've been wanting to write about lately and I'm going to start with the easy one: we started school.

Joseph will be four in October. I think, actually, that in most school districts he would not be eligible to start kindergarten until Fall of 2010 which is just incomprehensible to me. I have many, many unschooling and "Better Late than Early" tendencies and I struggled with how much--and how formally--to attack the whole school thing this year. In the end I decided that Joseph and I would both benefit tremendously from some structured time together each day. My crazy daughter has taken up most of my time and energy for the last two years and my laid-back son has really gotten the short end of the stick. Margaret still naps two hours every afternoon and Joseph almost never naps. Our routine is that I get Margaret to sleep after lunch, have an hour to nap myself or get some work done, and then spend an hour with Joseph who will have had an hour of quiet "rest time" on the futon by then.

I wanted to round out our new "school" focus with a reinstatement of our tea time tradition which was definitely set aside this summer. And I want some kind of semi-regular outing schedule for mornings. But one thing at a time.

I intended to start school the first Monday after Assumption but we had an out-of-town guest. Then I realized that things were still a total mess in our home and that I couldn't really be in school mode before Labor Day anyway. So I moved the start date to the day after Labor Day. But we were out-of-town that day. So we started on Wednesday last week and that was all the school we did last week.

But we did get in tea time every day. Tea time is a snack--usually a sweet one--with tea (herbal and diluted for the kids). I read about the saint for the day and then we dive into the refreshments while I read aloud from a chapter book. We got through quite a few last year and last week I started The Secret Garden.

Today was a fiasco schedule-wise. Margaret fell asleep at 10:30 this morning. But in an amazing feat of flexibility it actually ocurred to me to do school anyway. And in a last-minute inspiration I decided to use the material and activities I'd chosen for the year to work on one letter each week. So with no preparation at all we started right in on "A".

Our curriculum this year consists, so far, in nice paper, crayons, colored pencils, scissors, glue sticks, old magazines, and books. Basically we have an activity at the table and then we read together on the couch until Margaret wakes up. I'm still working on what it will mean to do one letter each week but today I drew an A, and Joseph traced it. Then I helped him think of something that started with "A" and he drew an apple--a really lovely apple, I might add. Then I let him draw his own picture of anything he liked with his new crayons while I worked on my own drawing. Margaret woke up then and we put away the nice art supplies and moved to the couch. Instead of finding an A book we read Tomie de Paola's book Mary, the Mother of God in honor of Mary's birthday today.

My "goals" for this year with Joseph are to improve his fine motor skills and solidify letter and number recognition. I have no idea how long that will take but that's the goal until we meet it and then we'll set a new one.

I do hope to be back here more often but I've only been able to write this much because my children have suddenly decided that raisins are the single best thing that has ever happened to them.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

I'm still here

I think.

It's been almost a month since I posted and in that time . . .

I have started a home business.
Eric has gotten a job.
In Minnesota.
We've been packing and preparing for a cross-country move.
We've discovered that we're expecting baby #3 next February.

Life is busy. Busy is good. I haven't had too much time for morning sickness--but I've had a bit of that. And I'm exhausted all the time. But I think busy is, overall, a good thing for me. I don't have as much time for wallowing in discouragement. I also don't have as much time for anything else--including this blog. We won't really be settled for another couple of months, unfortunately. We'll be hunting for a rental house for a couple weeks while we stay with Grandma. Then we have to move and unpack and, doubtless, spend hours and hours on the phone with someone in India trying to establish internet service. Once all that is taken care of I'll be back online. Until then, I'll post if I can. Happy summer, everyone!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Happy Birthday to me . . .

Yesterday was my birthday, actually, and a lovely day it was. I'm twenty-eight. I don't have any weird hang-ups about my age. I remember in college that some classmates were moaning about how old they felt when the turned 22 or 23. I have had the opposite problem of being the youngest mom in my neighborhood by a good decade. But I still don't feel old and now I know lots more moms closer to my age so I'm pretty much fine with 28.

We took a breakfast picnic to a lovely island in the Potomac yesterday morning. This island is on the small side with a few trails scattered about. In the center there is a Theodore Roosevelt monument with fountains and huge statues and it feels like something out of Tolkien. There's lots of wildlife and if it weren't for the airplanes overhead on the approach to Reagan you would never know you were so close to a city.

Our dinner was fried fish. Eric's birthday was in March and for his birthday dinner he requested fried fish. I agreed--it was his birthday--but dreaded both the eating and the cooking. I'm not good at frying stuff and I've never had fried fish I liked. I did, however, have a good recipe and the results were amazing. I liked it so much, in fact, that we decided to do the same thing for my birthday. Mostly I'd completely failed to plan any food at all for dinner and fried fish is pretty easy to do in a pinch if someone is available to run out to the fish market. Eric was available to do this so fish it was.

For dessert I made a strawberry tart. I'm allergic to most kinds of fruit but I can eat berries and I've been wanting this dessert for the last week. Its from my favorite cookbook, of course, and the crust is a shortbread. I made a custardy vanilla cream to go over the crust and then just sliced plain strawberries on to the top. I tried to arrange the strawberries in some artistic way even though I assembled the dessert only about ten minutes before eating it. I wanted a nice picture and I need to work on my food presentation skills. In the end I just sort of crammed the sliced strawberries anywhere they'd fit. I asked Eric to get two cartons of berries and only used one but in his birthday zeal he bought me a container of mascarpone, knowing my love for high-fat dairy products. I might think of another yummy dessert using that because it would be wrong to just dip the berries in the mascarpone and eat them all that way. Right?

After dinner we watched the first half of a movie of the life of St. Rita of Casica whose feast day happened to be yesterday as well. We really enjoyed the first half and I'll post a review once we finish the movie this weekend.

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Me and My Dishwasher

My dishwasher is working again. Just after Christmas it tanked: the fill cycle kept repeating itself without ever doing any washing or draining in between. It wouldn't shut off, either. I finally just gave it up for lost and Eric and I each spent some time sucking water out of it and then I irresponsibly forgot all about it. I bought myself a drying rack and a drip pan and in the intervening months I think I've actually gotten a lot better at keeping up with the dishes.

Around the same time the dishwasher broke an awful odor overtook our kitchen. It was a distinctive rotten-lettuce smell and it seemed to be coming from the refrigerator though I always had a nagging suspicion that it was dishwasher related. After a few weeks of horrible stinkiness Eric and I took an evening and emptied the refrigerator. All the food was inspected and wiped down. The shelves and drawers were removed and washed. Everything was neatly replaced. The smell persisted. Our ice took on the smell and was too gross to use. Our cheese and butter took on the smell. And I kept thinking, I hope that the smell isn't really, somehow, the dishwasher. Every once in awhile I'd open the unused dishwasher and see a roach scurrying away. We didn't bother complaining to our landlord about the dishwasher because Eric is convinced that we are going to lose our entire security deposit because so many things in our apartment are broken. Our apartment is beautiful but it was renovated on-the-cheap. The cabinets are falling apart, the plaster crumbles if you stare at it for too long, and mold grows on our walls because the original brick walls can no longer breathe properly. The dishwasher really seemed to be the least of anyone's worries.

I'm embarrassed to admit that we put up with the fridge smell for a couple of months until a couple of weeks ago we got the brilliant idea that maybe the smell was emanating from our jar of homemade fermented garlic. That might seem like a no-brainer to an outside observer but we had smelled the garlic lots of times and it didn't smell a bit like the rotten-lettuce odor that had overtaken our apartment. We pitched the garlic and sanitized our garbage disposal and the smell disappeared. My mom was due to arrive the next day so it was with intense relief that I found myself living in an odor-free apartment again.

We started in on several days of torrential rains that day and by the next afternoon a new odor had arisen. This one was much, much worse than the rotten lettuce smell. What could it be? My mother is as sensitive to smells as I am and confirmed that the smell was quite foul, indeed. Oh, no, I thought. It is the dishwasher. I'd meant for weeks and weeks to scrub it out with baking soda and vinegar and dry it thoroughly and I'd been putting it off because I'm afraid of meeting roaches and now it was going to be awful. I was trying to come up with a creative and not overly-manipulative way to talk Eric into doing it for me when he casually suggested that I run the dishwasher just to see . . .

It worked like a charm and, oh, did it stink. I ran two consecutive sanitizing cycles and had a sparkling clean appliance again. And the smell persisted.
We decided by the end of the weekend that an animal had sought refuge from the days of steady rain by crawling into our wall and had then died in our wall. That's what it smells like. It's been a little over a week and the odor is finally gone and I can finally write this without convulsing in disgust.

As for my new dishwasher, well, I have mixed feelings. I'm not really sure if my improved dishwashing habits are the result of a method that works better for me or just a more improved character. I used the dishwasher for the first time last night and it saved me a lot of time and stress. I'm such an all-or-nothing person. Maybe this will be good for me.