Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Years Eve 2015

New years. On this holiday I celebrate by writing a new year on checks, Excel files, and within my digital photo filing system.

An invitation to a party might be nice. The last time I went to a party was when Jared and I lived in Queens. We found ourselves in a loft apartment (a real loft apartment - cold, big as in actual big not New York borough big, concrete floors, dusty) in Brooklyn. The party was held by a friend's son. We knew no one, and found ourselves sitting atop a wooden platform  high above the partygoers. Next to us, a fight was brewing. It seemed like it would a boring yet still physical fight. Jared and I moved on. A popular dance song bleated and blipped in the background. I say "background" because although the music was loud, no one danced. No one.

The prospects of a rowdy party tonight are nil. It's 9:25 pm and Beren is finally asleep. Jared's doing some research online. I'm writing a blog.

Nevertheless, next year is going to be a good one.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Township

Tonight's bedtime routine...Ranger Rick magazine and snack. Lights out. Free form Cheetah Story: Beren find s a jar of pickles left on his friend Cheetah's sidewalk. Together, Beren and Cheetah wonder who might have left the pickles for Cheetah.

Beren interjects in my story and says, "They should call the township."

This is definitely better than when Beren recently paraphrased one parent (who will remain unnamed) who was saying something about a "shitting bag" (plastic bag malfunction) by saying "Sh*t bag. Sh*t bag. Sh*t bag."

Monday, December 14, 2015

Working with a knife

Yesterday I found myself writing for an intended audience. My thoughts were caught in quicksand. I always write with someone or many someones in mind, but I felt as though I might be too easily misunderstood and that my words would be carefully and individually examined. My writing went into the draft bag and is likely to remain there.


At night, I lay awake at times and consider aging, taxes, itches, and scampering sounds. Most nights I can drift off, even when I think I might not. Some nights I wake in the night charged with thought. By my side, my husband breathes. Some mornings he tells me he slept poorly, and I wonder if we were both awake at the same time.


This week we began stewarding the edge between our field and the woods where the geology changes from bony to steel. Along the edge, Japanese honeysuckle climbs multiflora rose. Beneath their vines forms is a gnarled architecture of dead stumps, and bent box elder, mulberry, black walnut, black cherry, and slippery elm. A mix of unkindly named trash trees and inhabitants tolerant of people and too many deer. Most of the trees had been cut again and again, resprouting contorted and weighed down by vines.

Jared ran the flail mower, growling, through the tangle. I went in with the chainsaw's spinning teeth. We freed the trees and selected the best stems to leave, cutting the rest. With such machines and noise, sacred harvest often loses to cold efficiency.

Still, we collected rose hips, and Beren with pure innocence pointed to each stem I might leave behind. "Momma, there's one," he said, gesturing towards a cluster of three rose hips, one nibbled, two perfect. "Ok, I'll get that, too," I replied adding it to my basket.

From the pruned black cherry, we took the best stems, leaving those girdled and deeply wrapped in honeysuckle. I considered leaving it all behind, but decided I'd make a syrup for gifts.

Back at the house, I debarked the wild cherry twigs and branches. I tried different methods until I settled on the first method. Behind me, Jared split firewood and Beren stacked. "I don't want to interrupt, but I found the peeler worked really well on the cherry last time," Jared quietly called.

I'd forgotten that. The peeler worked for me on this task, too. "Ok," I said returning to my work. Several branches later, I said, "I'm not ignoring your thoughts. I'm just enjoying being here. Just working with my knife."

Friday, December 11, 2015

Then and Now, the ages in photos

Beren's first egg.
Recently I blew my top. I put dinner on the table - noodles and some kind of sauce. It possibly was something my mother would have put on the table when I was a kid and said, "Slop's on."  

Beren protested, "I don't want sauce on my noodles!" The day had been long, and the refrigerator near empty. There had been the pre-dinner witching hour - the hour in which the demands of little ones come fast, come unreasonable, and come with imperative. 

I'm not one to force feed my child. "Make your own noodles then," I growled. "I caaaan't," wailed this hungry boy. Jared remained silent. "Yes, you can." "I caaaan't!"

"Yes!" I said standing up. "Come with me! Let's choose a pot, and now find a lid that matches. OK, fill it with water. Now, add salt. I'll turn on the stove. Watch and we'll add noodles when the water boils."

Beren whimpered a bit at first. He was uncertain. I was furious, possibly unnecessarily so. In ten minutes he had a bowl of noodles he could dress as he wished, and he did. "You cooked your own noodles. How do they taste?" I asked. "Good," Beren answered. "Good."

Cooking an egg, 2015
 Sneaking a taste of crusty gingerbread 'glue', 2014

Trimming rose hips for syrup, 2013

Sitting on a wooden wine box (covered with a blanket) at the table since my mother was too cheap to by me a hideous, plastic booster seat, 2012

 Intense baby stare, 2011

Arrival, 2010

Friday, December 4, 2015

More on artmaking

Untitled (A campfire for bears at the south pole), Beren, age 5
Pencil and pencil shavings on paper, December 2015

Each month Beren anticipates a new issue of Ranger Rick Jr. The children's wildlife magazine uncannily arrives on a Tuesday, just in time for me to slip out for my kung fu class.

Jared looks forward to it's arrival for that reason. The distraction is less important these days as Beren less frequently implores me, "Stay, Momma. Stay." My heartstrings would play sad note, but I'd leave nevertheless. The internal, somber tune plays as I drive past the front of our house. Last year, I'd see Jared occupying Beren, keeping him distracted from my departure.

More recently, Jared would remind me as I kissed them goodbye, "Now, Momma, remember to look at the window." They'd wave from the brightly lit window, Beren smiling. I'd roll down the window and honk. Down the road, the farewell song would dissipate in the whir of the car's transmission as I sped along county roads highway-wards.

In my absence, Jared and Beren read Ranger Rick Jr. straight through. Often, Beren asks to read the narrative feature, "Ricky and Pals", first. Father and son discuss the animals, correct any mistakes in infrequent references to flora [a couple weeks ago Beren asked me to mail the letter he and Jared wrote to Ranger Rick Jr. explaining that they were incorrect in saying that pine was inedible], complete puzzles, and look for Sammy Skunk hidden in the pages.

Beren enjoys "Ricky's Mail", a page towards the end of the magazine that features drawings by young readers. "Lemon shark" by Helen, age 4. "Penguin" by Antonio, age 5.

Lately, when Beren and I reread Ranger Rick Jr. issues, I no longer mention the children's ages lest Beren think he needs to make line drawings of bald eagles, zebras, or warthogs using his Crayolas. I'd rather he not. He seems pleased with his artistic endeavors which include working with various materials and color. Age and skill appropriate, I'd say.

At about age 3, Beren had an artistic crisis. "I make mess art," he moaned deprecatingly. I was shocked and dismayed. Did he expect to make lifelike graphite renderings of cheetahs and fire trucks? Where was this coming from?

I decided this funk needed a remedy. I pulled out lots of art supplies from college. Dr. Marten's watercolors (I thought Dr. Martens only made boots for punks before I found these). The little glass bottles are lovely objects themselves. Colored pencils and a sharpener. Modge Podge. We made mess art.

We still make mess art, though neither of us call it that. Since I hold a degree in (mess) art, I'm hoping we can hold off on drawing lollipop trees. Instead, I'd like to let our hands and color roam freely across the page like lions on the savannah.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

A whirlwind day...birthday breakfast and Lego assembly with the birthday boy and Papa before heading off to a La Leche meeting with old friends. I held my friend's newborn for a couple minutes. Had lunch with friends, saw another friend by chance, held another baby who was heavier than the newborn but nowhere near as solid as the five year old birthday boy.

Zoomed back homewards to pick up the birthday boy. Read Dr. Seuss books from the library, I could definitely leave the Dr. Seuss. Ate birthday cake which the birthday boy is still burning off in his bed. Wonder when he will wake up tomorrow.