Feathered Aspen


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Just the two of us

Dear Lu,

Here you are.  What a love.  A cuddlebug.  You and I, we spent the day together.  Just the two of us.  We hadn’t planned it that way.  This morning when you were playing with your daddy and sister, you scuttled over to daddy’s cup of tea and upended it over your foot.  What ensued was not pretty.  It involved being dunked in last night’s bathwater with your jammies still on, nursing between screams, sitting naked with your foot in a mixing bowl of water, rocking through your sobs and breaking your blister, falling asleep at the opportune moment where your mommy had to cut off the skin of the blister and bandage your foot, and then taking a three hour nap on mommy’s lap.

Oh dear.  To see you pain is another kind of pain itself.  You were writhing, little one, and I was nearly crying with you.

photo 1

But, as your sister would say, you are “tough as nails.”  When you woke up from your nap, you were cuddly and wanting to be held, but calm and sweet.  The open blister larger than a quarter on the top of your foot couldn’t keep you from smiling.

So we went for a walk in the gulch.  We rode the train, we walked through campus.  I sang to you, and you sang with me.  Your sweet little voice made the flowers bloom as we walked by.  You made the apple blossoms smell sweeter.

You’re growing up so fast.  You lift up your arms when I declare “so big!” And you giggle when I play peek-a-boo.  Your sister makes you laugh, and you make us laugh too, scuttling over the floor.  You’re not crawling, but you may as well be.  While not quite as fast, you can get everywhere you want to go, leaning forward and sliding your dust-covered bottom behind you.

You love to eat.  Asparagus, peas, spinach, cheese, eggs, pear, apple…  You want a little bit of everything.  I spread little raisin-sized bits over the tray of your high chair and you pick them up and feed them to yourself.  I love watching your focus as you set your sights on a piece, reach for it, and then pick it up between your pudgy index finger and thumb.  You use such care and quiet with small things.

While we were out and about, daddy and sister went on a date.  They fed chickens, ate fro yo, and shopped for our groceries.  Before she left, she counseled me:  “mommy, nurse my baby, she’s sad.”

We talked on the phone when they were out, and she asked, “Lu ok?”

And then, when we were back, she kissed Lu.  “You happy, Lu?”

I love watching your relationship with your sister unfold.  Every morning, both of you are eager to smile at one another.  Lily says “good morning,” and you squeal with delight.

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Watching the two of you makes me think of Khalil Gibran’s poem On Children, specifically:

You may give them your love but not your thoughts, For they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls, For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

I know I can’t determine the type of relationship the two of you will have.  I can’t be certain that you will be close or that you’ll seek each other out for advice or comfort.  But I hope.

The poem reminds me of an artist and their canvas or bronze.  They have intent, they exact form and color, they hope.  And then, the art works independently of the artist, inspiring things or provoking thoughts the artists could not have predicted.

Dear Lu,

Thank you for spending the day with me.  You even spirit is better than meditation.

I love you,

Mom


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8 mos/35 mos

Hello World!  The sun is shining, Stacy and Ellison* are in town, and this coming weekend we’re off to Salida!  Life is so good, especially now that February or as I like to call it, the longest shortest month of the year, is done.  There are many things I love about winter, but without some nicely groomed ski trails nearby, the cold and the ice can be a huge drag.  Especially with kiddos.  Plus, there’s something about those dark months of January and February after the bustle and cocoa of the holidays that’s just plain lonely.

But right now, we’re feeling great! Nothing like friends and a little Vitamin D to give you a whole new perspective.

So, in those 10 minutes when both of my daughters are sleeping, I thought I’d share a few brief updates:

Lu:  Eating more and more these days.  After a slow start (she really wasn’t interested until a couple of weeks ago), she’s now grabbing for my food, reaching to intercept spoons, and getting frustrated when she doesn’t get a little of what we’re having.  She’s had pureed tortellini with pesto, egg, purreed rice with kale and mushrooms, broccoli, potato, polenta with ragu, apple, carrot, and a bunch of other little nibbles of anything we’re eating.  She’s got a pretty strong gag reflex, so we’re trying to blend everything or give it to her in tiny grain-sized bites, but I’m looking forward to when I can just hand her an apple to gnaw on.

In terms of movement, she’s leaning over and grabbing things, scooting on her butt, and traversing quite a distance that way.  She’s pulled herself up onto her knees a few times, and she also has gotten onto her hands and knees and rocked, but no crawling yet.  She loves picking up small objects, and I like letting her do that while I watch because she’s so graceful and focused on coordinating her fingers.  Right now, she’s loving anything that’s paper, and I’m constantly removing choke-sized bits of paper from her fists, much to her dismay.  She also loves plastic bags, so I let her play with little sandwich sized ones sometimes.

In terms of interaction, she’s smiling so much these days, fooling people into thinking that she might want to be held by them 😉 She’s so easy going, but it’s rare that she’ll tolerate someone other than her mama holding her.  Joshua definitely has the most luck (though I’m afraid it doesn’t feel like it to him).  She also is giving snuggles that look and feel more and more like hugs, and the other day, she even played a little peekaboo with my scarf and then leaned her face into my chest every time I asked for a hug.

Lily:  Is potty trained!!!!  Hurrah!  Sure, it may have taken almost exactly a year, but when it really happened, it happened fast.  One day we were in diapers, and the next, we were only in diapers for nap and night.  We had two accidents in the first couple of days, and now, I’ll sometimes ask her if she needs to go, but usually, she just takes care of it herself or let’s me know when we’re out and about.  I’m so proud of her.  In the end, it took the push of me saying, “no more diapers” and her crying a little bit, but the transition was so quick that I think she really was completely ready.  I know there’s lots of kids out there that have been potty trained for ages and Lily’s might seem late, but it doesn’t diminish how proud I feel of this independent little girl.  You go Lily!

This past week, we had another rough patch.  Lily tried something new:  an insult.  I’d like to be that confident woman who is not even phased, but even after years as a middle school teacher, it still hurt, aaaaand as usual, my wounded response just made things worse.  God, I can be such a mope sometimes.  I texted Brittaney, and she was just great.  She’s so encouraging, and I come away from those exchanges feeling like this is normal! Keep on! Show her love and be firm!  It’ll be ok!  There’s nothing wrong with you or her!  And it’s that last one that really gives me the strength to go back and set the tone.  To show her that it’s not ok to treat others poorly, but even when she does, I’m not going away and I’m strong enough to be there through it all.

And then, like any other almost three year old, she can also be so sweet.  “I love you SOOO much, Ellison!”  Kissing my “lonely” cheek, and curling up on my lap for stories.  The other morning, I was at my wits end trying to get out the door, but once we were outside, she grabbed my hand (unsolicited) and announced cheekily, “Mama, I’m a monkey.  I’m a green monkey!”  (She had dressed herself from head to toe entirely in kelly green.)

I was asking my mom about myself as a little girl, curious about how Lily and I were similar or different.  I think our intensity and affinity for order and schedule are very similar.  (For example, whenever we move furniture, Lily breaks down in sobs.)  Although both my mom and dad say that I was a little more serious and quiet.  I do see some of myself in her in social situations where she’s clearly fascinated by watching other people and seeing them interact, but often too shy to go and join in.  And, like me, when she is comfortable with a group, she has no problem talking up a storm and being in the thick of it.

That’s all for now.  Spring is in the air, and even though I’m sure it will snow again, our little seedlings are coming up and the sun feels warm on our bare arms.  I feel like singing 🙂

*Yeah.  That’s my name.  Yeah.  That’s this little one’s middle name.


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Dear Lu

This morning, Lily and I crawled out of bed and left you sleeping.  Your hands were curled shut and flanking your cheeks like little bookends.  Somewhere between coffee and eggs, I hear you sigh.  It’s half a song and a yawn, and when I walk in to say good morning, you smile with your whole face.  You kick your legs and give a wriggle when I kiss your nose.  I pick you up, and you curl into my shoulder, nuzzling my neck.

You’re so patient in the morning.  I sit you in the sunlight, surrounded by pillows and rattles and books that crinkle, and you pick through them methodically, grasping each with your little fists, smacking them into the floor or gumming them.  Your sister gives you kisses and hugs, she runs around, takes your stuffed animal and hands you another.  Sometimes she makes you cry, and sometimes she makes you laugh.  I’m always telling her to be gentle, to pull back, to be a good big sister, and she tries.

We eat breakfast and get changed.  Just before we leave, you nurse.  I almost always think you’ll fall asleep, but you rarely do.  You curl in, trying to get some peace while your sister competes for my attention, playing the harmonica or banging about in her little kitchen or asking for a story.  “Not now, Lily.  Lu’s eating, she’s trying to sleep.  Shhhh.  We’ll leave in a little bit.  Go play with your toys.”

On our way out the door, my hands are full.  You’re in your car seat, Lily’s still resisting her winter coat, and I have my purse, the keys, my phone, a carrier, and a bag of library books looped through my arms and banging the sides of my legs.   You were crying on the way out, but once you see the sun, you start cooing and smiling again, happy to be outside.

I wrangle the two of you into the car.  Once I’ve buckled in your car seat, I run half way down the block to chase after Lily, who’s giggling and looking behind her to see if I’m in pursuit.

We drive to Walgreens for passport photos, and I hold you in front of the white screen awkwardly, trying not to get in the photo.  No matter.  You smile anyway, and then it’s your sister’s turn.  She’s a little alarmed.  She thinks we’re going to Mexico today; the link between this photo and our summer trip doesn’t quite make sense.

You’re happy in the car.  No cries.  You play with my wallet, hitting the sides of your car seat with it.  When we get to music class, I can tell you’re tired and you want to nurse, but I’m wearing a dress, and I’m still not completely comfortable nursing in public.  I try to avoid it when I can.  I hate that.  I’d like to invent a nursing bra with the image of a hand flipping the bird to anyone who doesn’t like it, but it does bother me, the looks.  So I hand you my watch to play with, and we go inside.

You like music class, but the time’s all wrong.  You’re ready for nap.  You cry after we put away each instrument, and when Lily tries to dance or cuddle with you, your face crumples.  Even so, you smile and sing along.  You like bouncing on my knee and shaking the rattles, ringing the bells.  You love when we get up and dance.  Today we danced to ‘Send Me On My Way’ which is one of my anthems.

At the end of class, we sing ‘so long, farewell, goodbye my friends, so long, farewell, goodbye.’  I load you into your carrier, and we walk the six blocks to the library.  On the way, you nurse and then you fall asleep, head into my chest, heavy weight.  I cajole and bribe Lily the whole way.  ‘You can have a snack after we are done with the library.  Hold my hand.  Lily, watch where you’re going.  I know it’s a long way.  You have strong legs.  Wow!  I’m so proud of you!  You’re such a great runner!  Are you going to be a runner like you’re mommy and daddy?’

You sleep through it all.  I wrap you in my jacket, but the sun in shining, and you head feels warm.  I kiss your downy hair.  At the library, you start to cry because your sister is worried that I won’t let her scan the books at the self-checkout.  She calms down when I set her up, stacking the books and lighting up the bar codes, but you’re a little grumpy that you’ve been woken up.

We get outside, and you smile up at me.  Something about that sunshine and cool air.

Lily looses it on the way back to the truck.  It’s my fault.  It’s one thirty, we’ve walked nearly a mile, and I’m out of snacks.  She’s tired and hungry and… Tired.  I carry her on my hip for a block, and she sniffs through her tears and kisses you.  You’re not pleased with the additional passenger, encroaching on your space.

Finally, finally, we get to the truck.  I buckle the two of you in, slide into my seat, and pull out the passport photos to take another peek.  So darn cute.  I look at my watch.  It says 2.8 miles, but I’m not sure how much of that is from shaking a tambourine in music class.

We drive the residential roads home, but neither of you fall asleep.  Back at the house, I set you up in the sun again.  You play while I make lunch and pour myself another cup of coffee.  Lily bursts into tears over her eggs and beans.  I change your diaper and put Lily down for nap.  I scoop you up and we nurse.  You fall asleep and I pull out the computer, trying to write without waking you up.

These are our days.  This is you.  You’re still so little that you feel like a part of me.  I know your cries, and your comfort is mine.  Nursing, cuddling – these are my rest too.  Soon, you’ll be crawling.  I find you on your tummy often, having launched there in an effort to grasp a toy just out of reach.  But for now, you’re in my arms or sitting in the sun.

I love you, Lu.  You’ve taught me so much.  You’re resilient and curious, patient and happy.  When I labored and delivered you, I felt your little spirit the whole time:  calm, patient, and sure.  You’re first months have shown me the ease and joy of new life.  You help me to be calm, to be patient, to be sure.

Love,

Mom


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Thanksgiving, 5 months, 2 years 8 mos

As Lu gets older, those moments where both of the girls are sleeping are fewer and farther between, but now is one of those lucky times, so I just knocked out the last of my homework for nutrition and now on to a much overdue post!

I had intended to write thirty posts of thanks in homage to this thankful season, and while initially, I had thought that I might be able to check off thirty in the month of November, that proved to be a bit too ambitious.  Nevertheless, the season for thanks is still upon us, so I’m not completely ducking out of the resolution.

Family Update

This past week was wonderful.  My dad, Mandy, Hannah, and Eamon made the drive down to Denver, and we spent four solid days together, including multiple runs, a few walks, Thanksgiving dinner, shabbat, the Art Museum and even a spontaneous nose piercing excursion!  In fact, I ran so much that I’m up to 37 miles for the week!  I can’t remember the last time that happened, and what’s more, I hardly noticed the additional challenge of that increase, because I had such great company.

It’s always good to catch up.  Hannah is about to begin her last semester of her undergraduate, Eamon is a sophomore and excelling in Cross Country, and dad and Mandy are active in the synagogue, running, working long hours, and overseeing a long overdue kitchen renovation.  Rather than getting easier with experience, saying goodbye seems to get harder.  Just think what Lu will look like in two months time!  What will Lily be saying or doing next?  I’m just so grateful that the girls love these guys as much as I do, and watching Lily’s special relationship with Eamon in particular is a treat.

Thankfully, Joshua also had the past week off, and after many long hour s of working on our back two rooms and Sarah’s house, it was a relief to have a bit of time off.

Lu

Lu turned five months yesterday!  And it’s true.  Time absolutely flies into hyperdrive with the second baby.  She’s loving her little excersaucer, rolling onto her front and her back, sitting up unassisted for a few seconds at a time, and even responding more her name and our voices.

For a while there at the beginning of her fourth month, Lu’s wakefulness presented a new set of challenges, and Lily definitely noticed the reduction in the amount of time devoted to her.  It felt like Lu never slept during the day and I could hardly put her down.  Thankfully, that stage has begun to ease a bit, and in the past few days I’ve been able to set Lu down for a few naps.

Despite that challenge, Lu is really an easy, happy baby.  She hardly ever cries, endures the knocks and longer periods of independent play required of a second child with grace, and smiles with all the warmth in her little body.  I’m also so thankful that another stage seems to be passing:  she’s taking the bottle from Joshua better than ever, and they’ve seemed to have worked out a special bounce to ease my absence.  Evenings are still a little tricky when I’m in class or otherwise engaged, but they seem to be getting easier.  As much as I enjoy being able to soothe Lu and getting her smiles, I am relieved when I see her relax without me, and I know Joshua can’t wait for their relationship to take on more and more importance.

*Likes:  Rorsie Lion, the crinkle book.  Her play mat and the dangling toys.  Her exersaucer!  The Bjorn and facing out more and more over all the other carriers.  Snuggling with mommy.  Giggling at sister’s antics.  Car rides (hooray!).

*She’ll pass:  on anything other than a quick nurse in the middle of the night, waking up early (she sleeps in until at least 730 most mornings), a pacifier, and startling noises.  Me being gone in the evenings.

Lily

Oof!  The beginning of November was challenging with this little girl!  We had temper tantrums, tears, and heartache all around.  It really made me sad to see her struggle, and I felt terrible.  You know.  ‘Cos I’m supposed to be able to prevent that from happening 😉

I really do think this past month has been the hardest thus far in terms of adjusting to life with a little sibling.  Lu demanded more attention than ever before, and Lily definitely noticed.  There was some moments of naughty behavior including poking and biting (!), but I’m so happy to report that Lily’s attitude towards Lu has really shifted in the past couple of weeks.  I credit the exersaucer!  All of a sudden, Lu seems like more of an independent little person to Lily, and Lily will play next to the saucer, singing, dancing, and making Lu laugh.  Nothing makes me happier than watching the two of them lock eyes and communicate.

I’ve also had a chance to see more toddlers in action over the past month, and it really makes me appreciate Lily’s individual personality.  Yes, she has moments of naughtiness when it comes to her sister, but she’s actually showing remarkable poise when it comes to sharing and being gentle.  She listens to me very well, and she’s a great and adventurous eater.  She definitely has pretty intense emotions, but as she learns to communicate more and more, those extremes do seem to lessen.

I’m so thankful for this time with Lily.  Our first conversations are pretty thrilling, and I love hearing what she has to say.  Watching her make believe is a new frontier too, and watching her imitate us makes me feel a new surge of responsibility.

*Likes:  the Children’s Museum, Church (“can we do it again?”) and more specifically, the nursery at church and the other kids there, pushing her stuffed toys in strollers, walks, her “big slippy jacket and boots,” the train, going to the park, and dates with mommy and daddy.  And hot chocolate, of course.  Three books and three songs before bed.  The ABCs.  Practicing with scissors.

*She’ll pass:  on my outfit choices, hats, having her hair brushed, using the big girl potty (:(), fried collard greens, and waking up from nap.

Well, that’s all for now.  Lu just woke up, but it’s good to catch up!  Hope you had a wonderful holiday and gave lots of thanks!


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3 month, 2.5 years, 28 1/2 years update…

This afternoon, I sat down and wrote an insightful and lengthy post.  I hit publish, and then I lost it all.

But I actually didn’t get too upset, because I’m fairly sure it wasn’t insightful; I was rambling.

The finer points:

Lu

  • Turns 3 months on Tuesday!!!
  • Has rolled from her back to her side at least four times this week (whoa! slow down, girly)
  • Has begun clasping her hands together
  • Tries to eat both of her hands at the same time
  • Is awake more and more these days
  • Enjoys the occasional comfort nurse (as opposed to her 5-10 mn quick feeds)
  • Still sleeping through the night
  • Still loving the wrap and bjorn
  • Loves being held so that she’s standing
  • Likes sitting up and facing out when she’s being held
  • Much better neck control
  • Smiling a ton
  • Sweetest coos
  • Probably 11 lbs 10 oz
  • Transitioning to 3 mo. clothing
  • Long and skinny, but starting to get those little leg rolls 🙂

Lily

  • “Oh, ick! Dirty floors, Mama.  Lily get broom (retrieves broom).  Lily clean.  Watch Mama!  Lily cleaning.”
  • “Daddy working.  Daddy help people.  Good job, Daddy.”
  • “Go to river today?  I know, Children’s Museum.  Ok, Mama.  Eat Fro Yo.  Ride train!”
  • “Lily want mango for snack.”
  • “Cuddle daddy. Cuddle mommy.”
  • “Baby Mina come?”
  • “Family day!”
  • “Mama do homework?”
  • (In reference to the TV) “Turn it off!”
  • “Uh oh.  Where rainbow go?!  Rainbow go home.  Rainbow ‘hind buildings.”
  • “Sunscreen.  No burn skin.”
  • “Lily poop on toilet, get Fro Yo.”
  • “Look, Mommy!  Boy has tattoo! Poop on toilet, get Fro Yo?”
  • “Lily wants braids.  Two braids.  Clip?”
  • “No Mommy.  Lily choose it.  Matches?” (holding up her clothing selections)
  • “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6!”  “12!”
  • “ABCDEFG, elemeno, QRSTUV, now I know my ABC, next time sing with me!”
  • “Shhh, Mina.  It’s ok.  Shhh.  ABCD!”

It’s not quite as lyrical in bullet points, but it gets the job done.  Both girls are so much fun, and I’m so thankful that I get to be home (or at the library or children’s museum or science museum or botanical gardens or playground, as it were) with them.  I’m on the search for other mommies and toddlers for friendship and playmates, but it’s not an easy hunt.  There’s a complicated social pattern at play here, people, and I’m not sure I’m up for the task.  Where are the mommies who proudly wear thrifted outfits and enjoy varied conversational topics?  Where are the mommies who both stay at home and listen to Ani?  Can I get a hell yeah?

Nope?  Well, then…  I guess the search must go on.  Wish me luck.  I don’t need a mommy who’s the same as me (some of my best friends have some pretty big differences), but kids around Lily’s age and some similar interests would be, like, INCREDIBLE.

In other news, I’m going to dabble in minimalism!  Hooray!  I hope you won’t be bored to tears if I tell you I pared down my wardrobe to 100 items, including outerwear, workout wear, regular wear, night wear, shoes, accessories, undies, etc, etc, excluding jewelry in which I refuse to be minimalist and it only takes up one jewelry box, so no biggie, right?  I didn’t get rid of everything else (I’m dabbling, after all), but I did put it into storage.  The plan is to go for six months with just these 100 items (I think it’s 96???) and to not buy anything for those six months.  (I mean, I will be buying diapers and toiletries because, as I mentioned, I am trying to make some friends).  I’m also going to go the six months without buying the girls anything, save a gift each for Christmas.  I’m not trying to be draconian, but I’m also feeling a bit owned by my stuff these days.  Plus, the bombardment of this cute outfit, those adorable boots, that perfect toy, etc, etc is totally overwhelming.  How do you navigate a world that’s continually telling you to purchase something that will make you more beautiful, more confident, a better mommy, more happy?  I say opt out for a bit.  I could be totally wrong, but hey, it’s worth a try.  So in tandem with my six months of living with less and not buying frivolous things, I’m going to delete pinterest and eBay from my phone.  I’m embarrassed to say I spend far too much time salivating over what amounts to fabric, leather, and plastic.  I will continue buying memberships to places/classes where I can bring the girls, because I would go CRAZY if I didn’t have anywhere to go.  Seriously.  It’s pretty much the only time of the day when we all feel like a team rather than competing factions.

Anywho.  I got the idea for my minimalist dabblings from these three places (1, 2, 3).  The general idea is 40 items or less for 3 months, but usually people exclude outerwear, workout wear, night wear, and undies.  So I included all those things, extended the experiment an extra 3 months (cos I’m an endurance athlete, as you know) and upped my limit to 100.  It was actually pretty fun to plan out the things that would make the cut, and today, I packed everything else away and tucked it in the basement (which is a terrifying place indeed).

So that’s that.  The experiment starts October 1st, and I won’t lie; I am using the approaching date as an excuse to acquire a few more items, but I’m not going crazy.  In total, I’ll probably spend about $200 to get some things to power us through the winter 😉

Lotsa love,

E

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12 Days of Christmas: Over the River and through the Woods…

Christmas was a whirlwind, so a photo-journal will have to document what I am to weary to catalogue:

1

On Christmas Eve, a sick Lily opened a few gifts while leaning back against mom and having photos taken by Grandma (and dad).2

Opening the gifts was as much fun and playing with them once they were opened.

3

On Christmas morning, Joshua and I tried to go for a run, but it was just to darn cold, and we lost steam less than a 1/2 mile from the house.  Instead, we got dressed and relaxed with Papa Tim, Granny Joette, and Auntie Sarah.

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And we opened some more gifts.5

Some good toys 🙂6

Lots of fun 🙂7

A telephone from Auntie Sarah.8

Auntie Sarah and Dad have the same expression:  JEALOUSY.

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Some kisses.

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Irish cream and coffee…

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The requisite family photos (above:  Gaetano, Joshua, Sarah, Ellie, and Jacquelyn)

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The kiddos (Joshua, Sarah, and Gaetano)

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Papa, Joshua (thank you, good sir), Sarah, Gaetano, and Joette

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The whole fam (except Lily, who’s napping).

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Cousin JoJo came over.  Lily perked up, but JoJo was not impressed. (Dixie and Shannon in the background.)

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JoJo soaks up some Joette love.

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Joette, JoJo, me, and Lily.

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Got your nose (and mom’s necklace).

We were toasty warm despite the chill outside, and Christmas morning was filled with catching up, opening gifts, and sipping coffee.  It was so nice to see everyone!  Lily was still feeling sick, so she was not her usual cheery self.  Gift opening and Christmas greetings were a bit overwhelming, and she spent much of the morning napping, crying, and blowing snot into mom’s velvet dress.

In the afternoon, the three of us (and Thibodeaux and Oscar) piled into the car with Auntie Sarah, and we drove to Stokholm, Wisconsin, where Nana Yvonne and Grumpy Dave live.

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It was quite the drive.  Truly “over the hills and through the woods to grandmother’s house” we went.  So much so that we had to take a little pitstop so that Marge could barf (seriously.  Only it was Sarah, not Margie.).

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But is sure was pretty.  By Pepin in the little town of Maidenrock, we looked out over bluffs down to the frozen lake below.  I don’t have a picture of the whole thing, but here’s a photo from the web:

The place is absolutely beautiful.  Unfortunately, some f***ers (you’ll pardon my french) have set up camp along the river and are fracking oil, injecting nasty chemicals into the ground and contaminating the water supply.

Of course, Evil People (oh excuse me, corporations) always put a positive spin on raping the earth.

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Finally we made it to Nana and Grumpy’s.  They live in a perfectly stunning little farmhouse outside of Stokholm, and the two of them have made it very cozy and charming with tons of Nana’s artwork, lots of photos, and good colors.  Nana even got Lily an old-fashioned wooden high chair to eat at the dinner table.  Clearly, Lily approved of Nana’s good taste.

22

After a good long nap in the car, Lily was a smiles again.

23

She spent some time on Daddy’s shoulders.  You can tell she’s feeling better but still sick.  Her eyes don’t quite open when she’s not feeling well.

24

Cuddles with Auntie.  Sarah bought Lily her Christmas outfit.  My favorite part is her little red socks 🙂

25

Nana made fried tacos for Christmas dinner.  They were delish 🙂

26

The blue-eyed Minnesota genes.

27

My good looking husband.

28

Mom and Lily on the couch.

29

Oscar cuddles with stuffed Oscar.

I’d like to say that we spent the rest of the evening as we usually do, drinking wine, playing games, and opening gifts.  But Lily had other ideas.  Midway through Yahtzee, she started to squirm in earnest, and I spent the rest of the evening trying to comfort her.  It’s so nice to see everyone, and it’s hard being so far away from family, but the go around at Christmas is difficult.

I find myself feeling guilty (cracks about Catholic, midwestern guilt appreciated here) the whole time.  I feel guilty that our jobs have taken us so far away from family, guilty that a 19 hour drive back to family and a change in climate and routine has made Lily sick.  I feel guilty that we aren’t spending enough time with everyone and that they don’t get to see Lily at her best.  I feel guilty that the culmination of a long, very cramped and very stressful car ride coupled with strange beds, a sick baby, and too much time spent driving to and fro has made me cranky and anxious.

I love Minnesota, especially in winter, and I’m not being sarcastic.  I know most people are when they say that.  I’m one of those rarer breeds who love the winter because I love snow.  I love the weak, pink light that the sun makes as it descends below the flat, cold skyline.  I love the swish of my skis against icy snow and running when my breath makes puffs of steam in the air.  I love how ice crystals form on my eyelashes and the flyaways that have escaped my hat and neckwarmer.  I love the contrast of bare branches against all the white.

And I love my mom.  I love how she makes every space that she lives in a home.  Her hodge-podge furniture that she’s found (for free, mostly) and saved, the fabrics that she’s found (for free, mostly) and salvaged, and the artwork that she’s made or discovered (for free, mostly) creates this collage of earthy colors, homey vignettes, and well, spaces that just speak “Eunice.”

I love how she cooks.  It’s probably one of the first things that I tell people about her.  When I’m trying to describe my mom, I explain how she cooks.  You know that cliche saying about how “Indians used the whole animal”?  Well, that’s my mom.  If you were to look in the fridge or the pantry and ascertained that there is absolutely nothing in there (oh sure, maybe some rice, an apple, a few wilted fronds of kale, one small head of broccoli, the heel of a loaf of bread, and the back end of a wedge of parmesean) and what is left could not possibly be assembled into anything that remotely resembles a palatable meal, my mother is here to prove you wrong.  She’ll whip up a meal with her trusty iron skillet, and it will be sublime.  It always is.

I love sitting down and making art with my mom.  I love that she’s always making something: music or soulful conversation, art or food.  I may tease her, because frankly, going “meta” all the time can drive me bonkers, but I love that my mom has made a life that speaks for her.

I love my dad.  He gets me, or at least he gives the impression that he gets me.  He might think I’m off the charts or something, but I feel “gotten” when I’m with him.  He laughs at my acerbic observations and just generally makes me feel far wittier than I deserve.  He asks great questions without me feeling like I’m being interviewed, and he always seems interested in the answers.  He’s smart and loving, and he treats people well.  We can talk and talk, and we love to run together.  He lets me know that he’s proud of me for things that feel like, well, duh, normal.  And when he lets me know that he’s proud, it feels pretty nice like, well, I guess I am pretty cool.

Ironically, I think his opinion matter more than almost anyone’s to me, and yet, I can’t remember the last time he’s given it.  I think dad just wants to see what I’ll do next, and he doesn’t need to lead or influence behind the scenes.  Maybe that’s the teacher in him.  He did his part; he did the best he could, and now he’s content to see me use the things I’ve learned to make something new and different.

I love Mandy, her conversation, and her will.  I love how she gets excited and knows exactly what she wants.  I love Eamon and how he wears his hat cocked to one side and his pajama pants way too short.  I love how he sit next to me on the couch and puts his head on my shoulder.

I love Hannah.  I love how she’s forging an identity all her own, and even though she loves people to pieces  she won’t let them push her around.

And then there’s Joshua’s side of the family.  They’ve welcomed me with a generosity and familiarity that is humbling.  Papa Tim and Granny Joette are constantly providing.  Their time, skill, and care are such steady forces in our lives.  Nana Yvonne and Grumpy Dave have a special place for each of us in their homes and hearts, and every time I spend time with them, I am reminded again how well they have loved their families.  Their priorities are very clear.

So of course I want to share all of this with Lily.  I want her to have relationships with these wonderful and important people, and I want her to “get” Minnesota.  But it’s hard.  We’re still figuring it out.

30In the meantime, we’re living out of overflowing suitcases and abiding by a master schedule so that we can spend time with everyone.

That’s all from Stockholm, where the men are hard of hearing, the women wear “progressive” lenses, and the children are snarky.