Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Tis the Season

Tis the season for what, I might ask. The stark wind and cold complements the month of December well. Keeping the wood stove going is a welcomed break from the other tasks at hand, those of fulfilling the Christmas requests. There's the remote control monster truck (gas powered? really?), the board games and the DVDs, the gift cards to the mall. In our household, Santa brings each child three presents and a stocking. Simple, but complicated still. This all requires planning, insight, saving and spending.

My husband's task of wrapping the presents helps, as well as him offering the eventual shoulder to cry on. He shares solace and humor, comfort and wisdom. He reminds me to relax. I remember that while I am out there shopping, he is outside working, in the wind and cold, often high up in a tree, with both a pole saw and a chainsaw snapped onto his harness. Now, which task presents a greater challenge? They are probably about the same. I seek to streamline the holiday experience, and add a finesse and grace as I execute my tasks. We are an American family celebrating an ever changing tradition.

There are some traditional Christmas characters that are new to me this year: The spritely angel Christkindl, the dark goat creature Krampus, St. Nicholas' companion Knecht Ruprecht, and an old lady gift giver named Babushka. These days the flash mobs known as 'Santarchy' are rising in popularity. How's that for modern tradition?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A New Season

Goodness, this summer was dry and hot! We made best use of an August pool membership. The kids were swimming laps all the way into September. They all took swimming lessons, and made progress in their own ways. Our oldest discovered that freestyle swimming yields a cardiovascular workout similar to running. Our seven year old gained the freedom of the diving board. My goodness, those kids jumped into the pool for hours! Our youngest slowly learned how to float on his back. Even I was able to take time to enjoy swimming in the lap lane. Using my set of fins made for a very efficient workout.

Just as much fun as swimming was the companionship of meeting friends at the pool for dinner. It was all so spur of the moment, and yet it became a routine very quickly and without much effort. We would confirm the meeting time and what food we would bring to share. We just used what we had at hand, and so meals like watermelon, sandwiches and pretzels became standard fare. That pool membership was the best hundred dollars I spent all summer.

The weather is turning cooler. Autumn is here, indeed. The leaves are changing colors, and there are grey and rainy days more often. Soccer season is upon us. It is a time of keeping to a schedule of practices, games and recovery. Our daughter has been playing since kindergarden, and it has become a very important part of her life. She expresses a focused intensity out there on the field, and really grows in her strategy and skill every season.

Our seven year old joined a local team this year as well. On the morning of the first game, her advice to him was this: "OK, you gotta go out there and play your hardest, every time. Don't give up, keep on it. Play your best, all the time, every game!" Yes, that pretty much sums up how she plays.

We've been plugging away at various tasks involving firewood and fence repair. There's talk of building a simple structure to house the family bicycles. Piles of weed debris are slowing 'melting', as our four year old describes it. The backyard is looking nice, and at times it feels even more comfortable to sit there than in the living room. Family living can be hectic and loud and boisterous. I'm getting better hiding at my desk, playing ninja, staying current with record keeping tasks and such. Still, the outdoors never ceases to humble and amaze me.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


The heat has just not stopped. We don't have A/C, and this year I am really considering a window unit. Our house is surrounded by trees, for the most part, and we live in a valley, which does help cool things off at night. Still, icy cold indoor environments are a nice break from the heat.

The kids and I have been making lots of trips down to the creek to splash around in the water. One of our favorite things to do is build up stone walls in the shallow currents. My youngest child is particularly fond of this, and becomes fully absorbed in the activity. He'll sometimes pick up a stone that is too heavy for him, and I'll gently suggest, "Roll it. Roll it in the water." I'll model this for him, and then watch as he adds on to his wall with ease. After working for a while, he'll step back and look at the whole thing, and implores all of us to do the same. With his arms folded, he smiles gently, in awe of what he has built with his own two hands.

The other two kids enjoy swimming in the deeper parts; the best place we've found is a spot where two branches of the creek meet, where the water is about four and a half feet deep. My daughter has been giving the dog swimming lessons. They have grown quite accustomed to the whole routine.

One afternoon last week I took the boys up to Amish country. I had an assignment for work and decided to tow part of the gang along. After a long car ride and an hour outdoors in the sun, the kids had had enough. The seven year old started whining for a Slurpee. He was almost to tears. I knew there was no place in sight to buy such a thing, and was glad that it didn't become a, "Mom, you never buy us anything good," conversation. Rather, we were poised to seek out a solution together, and focused on the task of finding a cold drink.

A few miles down the road we found a gas station, clean as a whistle, with a huge market garden to its side. This place had fresh corn, tomatoes, peaches and other fare for sale right there inside the store. Apparently they've been doing things this way since 1985. I let the kids each have a root beer, and ordered up some french fries to enjoy outside. We enjoyed our treat in the shade of a large, clean pavilion. There was a wonderful breeze blowing up the hillside, and the kids played on a swing set after their snack was done.

"I will never forget this day, Mom," my seven year old said. By this time we were snacking on ripe, juicy peaches.

"Oh really, why is that?"

"This is the day you bought us soda and french fries!"

We both grinned.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day

This Mother's Day was especially pleasant. I got to sleep in, and was greeted in the kitchen by a full plate of scrambled eggs, English muffin with jam and fresh strawberries. Our daughter has been cooking eggs this way for a couple of months now. Her best friend taught her how. The food was delicious! Indeed, it was a better breakfast than I make for myself on most days! Almost every day my husband makes strong, dark coffee in the French press. That is one specialty I get to enjoy all year.

Throughout the day I put a lot of effort into not doing too much. I wanted to see if I could slow things down, and really appreciate the day and all that it had to offer. I had plans on taking a long bike ride or going on a run, but I put those ambitions aside when I started feeling a little sick. Out of nowhere came sneezes so loud you would have sworn it was a distant dog barking. There's nothing like a little head cold to make life slow down.

Lately though, this spring has been extra special. I am not sure what it is, but it could have something to do with the kids getting older. I can work outside in the garden for a good two hours with only a few mild interruptions. I have regular time to enjoy weekly bike rides and trail runs. It's like I am a kid again, pretending that my bike is a hover craft, only now my neighborhood is next to miles and miles of wooded trails. When it is all said and done, I am still home before the street lights come on.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Last week I found some incredible documents at the recycling center. I was gathering newspaper for a mulching project in the garden. The metal bin was quite filled, and as luck would have it, this pile of old papers was laying right on top. My eyes were first drawn to the old maps. Some were simple road maps from the 1950's, while others were more elaborate, detailing state highway department districts. One map detailed a driving route along the Civil War battlefields, while another documented the various Native American tribes. I brought them home, and I plan on hanging some of them up around the house.

Friday, March 19, 2010

I never really wanted a dog. I am not a 'dog person'. I perceive dogs as outdoor creatures who are best suited to very specific, important tasks. I have very little room in my domestic life for a dog whose main purposes are entertainment and companionship. Much to my eventual dismay, I acceded to welcome a dog into our family. My present opinion is this: This is the one and only dog our family will ever take care of, so I may as well accept it and try to enjoy it.

You see, when other people tell me stories about the funny things their dogs do, I don't really care. Usually I am polite and listen well. I try to understand what is so interesting about the dog's antics. But really, so what if the dog does something funny? I don't understand what all the fuss is about. If someone proclaims how cute a dog is, I have a difficult time agreeing. Dogs just look different, and they smell weird, and they're just so, doggish.

Friends assured me that once I saw how happy my kids would be with the dog, it would make it all worthwhile. Hmm, nope. The kids were happy before the dog. In fact, our youngest is now in competition with the dog, but over what I don't know. You see, I don't understand dogs, I don't speak their language and I certainly don't know what the heck they want, besides constant attention. I don't need another creature to take care of. Like I said, I never really wanted a dog.

People have told me that our dog is a really good dog. He has a command for coming back to us, and he doesn't bark at all. He 'bays' when he has important needs to express. He sleeps a lot, which is nice, and he doesn't have fleas, which is essential. He enjoys spending a lot of time outside. But there are still a couple of things I don't understand: Why is he always following us around? Why does he always want to sit right next to us when we're on the couch?

After complaining about it a lot this week, I began to get tired of the sound of my own voice. I suppose a change of attitude is in order. I can choose to be humbled by our newest family member, and I can choose to adjust to this new lifestyle. Sigh. I can choose to be a 'dog person'. Chuckle. I can choose to be amused by the dog. Grin. For the sake of new possibilities, I can choose to enjoy the challenge of loving and accepting our newest family member.