Tuesday, January 27, 2015

the big storm.

The forecast was for a winter storm to end all storms, in reality, this far west we got a nice fresh blanket of snow and a snow day.  Snow days are highly celebrated in these parts.  They are home days where anything is possible.  It is always amazing to see what becomes of these days, to watch our day shift and morph from one activity to the next.  There were snow forts and icicle harvests, junk bands and dance performances, arts and crafts, souffles, sewing projects and so much more that filled our days.  It was a chance to watch our children in their element, a day at home with no limitations.  Here is a glimpse of what happens here on a snow day:

Friday, January 23, 2015

hunger moon.

We have a calendar of natural events that hangs on the fridge.  The calendar was put out by the Massachusetts Audubon years ago.  It shows the cycles of the natural world, week by week, throughout the year. Full moons, migrations, mating seasons are just some of what is tracked on the calendar.  The end of January, beginning of February marks the hunger moon.  Each month, the full moon is given a name that reflects the events of its season.  Many cultures have their own names for each full moon.  This year on Feb 3rd will be the hunger moon, just one of its many names.

February is a hard time of year.  We are using the last of our winter stores: 12 more bulbs of garlic, 8 onions, 10 jars of strawberry jam, 1 jar of tomatoes and so on.  As we watch our own stores dwindle, we are reminded of the reality of the hunger moon.  It is a hard time of year and while we can run to the grocery store when we eat up the last of our homegrown squash, our animal friends are not so lucky.  Food for wildlife is scarce this time of year.  It is around this time each winter that we are regularly visited by an owl.

It is a barred owl that is not visiting us, but rather our compost bin.  Our compost bin attracts mice, squirrels, and jays during this time of scarcity, and the small rodents and birds attract the owl: a living example of a food chain in our own backyard. It is a great learning opportunity for my kids and a delight for us all to see this beautiful predator sitting perched in our trees or flying silently across the yard.  This annual visit from the owl reminds us that we are not separate from the natural cycles, but a part of them, all living under the hunger moon.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

a small window.

Last night my oldest came out of his room and asked to sleep in my bed.  He's seven and this was about thirty minutes after he had "gone to bed."  Normally, I would sigh and negotiate and then sigh again with a little more frustration and he would eventually head back to his own bed.  But last night, I didn't have it in me to negotiate or even to be frustrated, so I said sure.  He jumped in my bed, I tucked him in and he asked if I would stay with him.

My son is often a mystery to me.  He keeps much of his internal world bottled inside, but every now and again and always, always at night there is this small window that opens and there is a direct connection to his soul, he shares everything, he is open.  Last night I felt that small window crack open and so I sat next to him and I prepared to listen.

He instead wanted to listen. He asked me, "Mom, is there anything you have always wanted to be but didn't get to be?"  I told him that when I was his age, I really wanted to be a doctor, but I never told anyone.  He then began to talk, his soul revealed itself like a warm breeze though that open window, and I listened.  I listened to his dreams, I listened to his questions about the world, I listened to his profoundly detailed knowledge of the American Girl industry. I listened.

We spent an hour or so sitting on my bed talking, sharing, listening to one another.  We answered questions from a game set my husband and I created for each other before we had children (more on that soon), we did tarot spreads, we enjoyed one another.  My son is seven.  We spend a lot of time together and love one another deeply;  But there are these precious times where all of our defenses are down, a small window opens, and our souls meet.

Monday, January 19, 2015


Each year for Christmas I buy myself a present.  Let me try that again: I buy my children a present that is not truly for them but is actually for me.  Sometimes it is something I yearned for as a child, something simple like the box of Crayola crayons with a bazillion crayons in it and a sharpener on the back of the box that I will enjoy with them as we pick just the right shade of blue for our drawings of the ocean.  Or, it is a more extravagant gift that is something I think my childhood self would have adored. I spend embarrassingly too much money to be reminded that my children are not, well, me.  This year I bought another gift for me, I mean, for them that was in fact treasured by the younger me.

It was a book that I'm pretty sure was picked up from a monthly Scholastic flyer in the 80's, and I loved it.  There are two books from my childhood that I remember spending hours and hours looking through the pages, absorbing every detail of the illustrations, and this was one.   I could close my eyes and recall, with incredible detail, whole pages from this book that I have not seen in over 25 years.  This year for Christmas, I bought my children a piece of my childhood.

The book is Barbapapa's Ark, with strong, if oversimplified environmental messages.  As I paged through this book as an adult, it was as wonderful as I remembered it as a kid, and I was left with a chicken or egg pondering.  Did this book speak to me as a child because I had a strong connection to nature -or- did this book in its not-so-covert messaging influence my understanding of the natural world and a strong desire to protect our natural resources?  Either way, this book was a foundation of my literacy as a child.

The real gift for me this year has not been the actual book, though I would be lying if I didn't say the inner child in me still loves reading it and is so happy to be reunited.  The real gift has been watching my children.  They are also lovers of the natural world, and this simple Scholastic reader speaks to something in them as well.  I watch as they take in the details of the story as it is read to them, and then my breath is taken away when I catch them later, on their own, pouring over the images and committing them to memory.  My children are not me, but they do have a little part of me, in them.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015


Yesterday there was a knock on our door.  I live in a rural area that doesn't see many random people walking by, well, ever.  So an unexpected knock on the door freezes the whole house in anticipation.  There are wide-eyed stares and expressions among us all that read, "Who's here?"  In all reality, the unexpected knock is one of three people: the mail person, the UPS person, or our dear friend who works down the hill a few hundred feet.  Today it was the mail person knocking.  I know, big news from a small town.

I opened the door and saw a small package of oranges in our mail person's hands. I fully expected her to say something exciting and expected like, "Here," or "A package."  But instead she said, "I'm here for a chicken-sled adventure!"  It was so random and unexpected, and when I recalled the sign that was forgotten but still hanging on my front porch, left over from our guests this past weekend, I started laughing.  It was just a tiny moment, a hearty laugh between strangers over something absurd.

It was a small moment, maybe nothing worth writing about, but I write here to appreciate the small, ordinary moments of life.  Because those small, ordinary moments are actually quite extraordinary when we give them our full attention.  We never know our impact on one another as we interact daily with the people around us.  They say laughter is the best medicine, and that simple exchange of laughter was actually an unexpected gift.  Things have been heavy here.  We are in the midst of a huge transition as a family, and as we navigate through the unknown, it is a gift to remember to laugh.  

"If we couldn't laugh we would all go insane."
-Robert Frost

Sunday, January 11, 2015


Keeping a house clean with three children is a near impossible task.  There are times when we let go and times where we struggle to stay on top.  As though our lives, our daily mess, is a mountain and if we can just get on top of it all we can get perspective, we can see out, we can take it all in instead of having life happen to us.  This past week we've been engaged in the struggle.  My husband and I have been struggling to keep up with the daily chores, to stay on top, so that at the end of the day there is a sense of accomplishment, a sense of space, a fresh start for the coming day.

We are much better parents when we've let go a bit.  When we are engaged in the struggle to stay on top, we are a little more tightly wound.  Today we had guests coming over.  We were almost on top, when I heard a loud thumping coming from the yoga room.  As I approached the door, I saw my son with a wooden axe given to him as a birthday present the year before hitting a large box delivered to our house a few days before.  When I saw him, the first thought I had was "mess, more mess," when I am so close to the top.  And so I asked him, "Are you making a mess?"  It is a bizarre question, but you see, I was engaged in the struggle and here was one more obstacle on my path to....to what?

My son kept beating his axe against the box and simply said, "No, I'm carving out a hole to our cave."  I stepped off of my path to perfection and saw this moment from his perspective and it was clear: he was almost there, he'd almost made it into the heart of the cave.  Our children, mine and yours, have such incredible imaginations.  What looked for a moment like destruction and mess was in fact the climax of an epic adventure and I almost, almost spoiled it by the need to have the house tidy for guests.  I stepped out of the struggle and let go, for the day the yoga room would be theirs.  To play, to adventure, to cook, to create, to mess.  And wouldn't you know it, not long after that cavern door was blasted away, a woodland creature took up its empty nook as a cozy shelter.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

dig deep.

When you plant carrots, you need to dig deep to loosen the soil.  The deeper you dig, the looser the soil, the longer and straighter the carrots.  There are lot's of plants that require you to dig deep.  There are also many, many moments in parenting that require you dig deep in a different sense.  Yesterday was one of those days.

My children came home off the bus in the afternoon, they ran home and squealed in delight at the newly fallen snow: it was going to be a great afternoon.  As soon as the door closed and shoes and coats and hats and mittens and backpacks were deposited into a huge pile in the middle of the mudroom, the tears began to flow.  My children come home from school some days like they haven't been fed in weeks.  Their hunger is so insatiable, so immediate, so primal.  Two children with tears flowing over their hungry bellies.  No problem I thought to myself, I'll make a snack.  I offered a few choices that were met with rage filled, over exaggerated no's.  I took a deep a breath and told myself they are hungry, so very hungry and tired.   They are children who feel everything so deeply when they are overtired.

I cannot tell you what happened next or why, but I had one child shouting at me and another child crying over a toy her toddler sister would not share with her.  It was mayhem, in an instant my house was mayhem.  There was no peace, no kindness, no pleases, no thank yous.  It was a chaos of tears and shouting and hunger and in order not to succumb to anger's seductive appeal I had to dig deep for my next breath.  I had to dig into the place beneath my own internal chaos and mayhem and find that still deeper well of patience and one more breath.  I took a breath.  I tried to make a joke.  The joke stoked my seven year old into a full on tantrum.  I grabbed my now out-of-control boy in a sort of therapeutic hug and told him over and over "I love you, I will let you go when your calm.  I love you, I will let you go when your calm".  He calmed, I let go.  He ran out of the house barefooted in the newly fallen snow, did a lap and came back in and nicely asked for his snack.

Another breath, it was over, peace and kindness restored.  There are moments for my children when their needs are so immediate, so primal, that the need fills their entire being and demands its presence be known. There is no space for discussion or rationalization, it is all so immediate and irrational. These are the times I have to dig deep.  I have to find that breath that lets me stay calm in the face of their chaos.

 I don't always dig deep, just like a shallow garden bed of hard packed soil produces funky, gnarly carrots; the moments I don't dig deep result in pretty gnarly mama moments.  But I strive to dig deep in the moments where my children let their bodies succumb to the feeling of sadness, rage, tiredness, or hunger, because I want them to know that I can hold their intensity.  I can dig deep and find just enough breath, enough root, to ground us both.  I want my children to know that their rage, their intensity, the emotions they are feeling so fully are fleeting and that I will not get swept away, enraged, or overwhelmed by them, but rather will be there on the other side to welcome them back.

I want them to see what it is to dig deep, so that eventually, they will learn that a still deeper well exists within them too.