Thursday, December 19, 2013

let it snow

the kids have experienced a first in their lives - snow days from school.

all of us, but the kids in particular, were looking forward to having actual snow without having to drive anywhere because we had moved from the west coast to the east earlier this year.  we knew it existed out here last year because steve had taken a selfie with his warm hat on and we could see the white stuff behind him.  i was elated when i woke early last sunday morning to see the flakes coming down.  when ander opened his eyes, i told him to look out the window.  his very first request was to immediately go outside to play, but i convinced him to wait until i had at least one cup of chai in me.

not so for diana.  having slept later, as is her wont during the weekend, especially when she and i stay up unreasonably late to cram watching as many doctor who episodes as we can manage, she took one look outside, saw the snow, and immediately went to change her clothes and dress for outside play.  that, of course, meant that ander wanted to go, too, so i started his elaborate list of Things That Needed To Go On The Body before stepping out of doors.  you know, the snow pants, sweater, coat, hat, mittens, scarf, and snow boots (which thankfully fit so much better this year than last).

our neighbors came outside, too, with their young daughter and we tromped around for a little while before i asked steve to get the surprises out of the shed.  a few weeks prior, i was wandering the aisles at target - all alone - and saw an endcap full of sleds.  so i got a saucer and a toboggan.  and then doubled that, because i didn't know which ones the kids would like.  smart of me after all, because that meant we had enough for all three kids and an adult to brave the treacherous bunny-slope hill behind our townhouse that starts on our porch and ends in the bramble, or the creek, depending upon where you stop.

oh, there was snow sculpture, too.  diana made her obligatory tiny snowperson, while ander started first with snow pyramids and ended with a snowman.

i think we learned on sunday night that school would be closed on monday because of the weather.  the kids were dubious or confused or something, but they took it in stride.  diana was disappointed that she would miss chorus and extra strings practice, but oh, well.  ander simply asked if he could stay in his pajamas all day, like we often do on the weekends (he likes to be comfy and also asks if i will "keep me comfy" which is his version of asking me to keep him company on the couch while he watches a favored video).  yes, my son, yes, you may.

we all understood why it was a good idea to stay indoors on monday.  the ice that made everything glisten would make it too difficult to walk or drive; even steve stayed here to work from home instead of heading to the office.

it looked magnificent to me, though.  i love seeing bits of nature encased in a clear shell, like insects captured in amber.

we stayed warm and toasty inside, decorating gingerbread houses.  in years past, both children have been frustrated by various aspects of the actual house construction, turning the experiences into ones that were memorable (but not in happy, enjoyable ways), so i tried something different.  i purchased kits from trader joe's and built the houses myself.  this worked out so very much better.  their pieces were soft and smelled yummy, the a-frame design worked really, really well with the excellent diy frosting, and the kids had plenty of calm, creative, cooperative, and collaborative moments with each other, each satisfied with their own creations.  epic success!

canned chocolate frosting (we always seem to have some in the fridge) and tic-tacs really added that je ne sais quoi element to diana's abode

monday night we heard that school would be closed again the next day.  diana had enjoyed her marathon session of minecraft, and ander had danced the entire nutcracker ballet in full at least three times, but they weren't that interested in a repeat performance.  thankfully, when tuesday morning arrived, the world was, once again, softly blanketed in white crystals.  it was going to be another good outside play day.

ander and i walked out letters in the snow in our parking area again, which steve shoveled out to make them clearer.  we persuaded our neighbor to come outside to play.  (i totally want her and steve on my team in a snowball fight.  excellent aim & power in their throws, all right.)  sledding was messy and muddy and a bit dangerous, as the heavy ice brought down large tree branches in our path, so we focused on building snow daleks and snow forts and perfecting ander's aim with a snowball.  throwing into the snow-laden branches of evergreens was fun, too, as we made snow showers upon the ground and each other.

the stunning tree right outside our door

my hard-working men

starting a snow dalek. yes, she is obsessed with them right now.

my very favorite snowman

diana & neighbor tanya. she's awesome in oh, so many ways.

i really enjoy the views from our back deck
and in our backyard
those days were just what we needed.  i especially enjoyed my time with ander, as i abandoned all my responsibilities and just played with him (diana was mostly on minecraft or with her head in a book, as per ususal).  we talked about our upcoming mommy-son date to see the nutcracker ballet, performed countless readings of all four stories in a christmas book gifted to him years ago (he likes to do all the voices while i read the background details), and sang along with the muppet christmas carol.

oh, how i long for more snow!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

the longest night

it's coming up again, the longest night of the year, at least for those of us in the northern hemisphere.

we've completed our major preparations for the winter solstice already: having selected our tree and decorated him with gold and silver sparkling ornaments, along with shiny red apples, cranberries, and snowflakes; brought out the winter solstice fairy doll to oversee the arrangements; reminded ander of the words to our song (he's working on harmonizing with it).

we named our tree 'frasier' because, well, he's a frasier fir.
as part of my personal preparation, i am thinking back to past celebrations and what they have meant to me, determining what i'd like to keep and add as part of our evolving tradition of recognizing holidays of light.  one thing in particular stood out to me as i reviewed my post from last year:

i want my children to know, to believe, to encompass, to embody the idea that we all can be lights in the darkness.  we do not need to fear the night.  our own individual brilliance can be enough to sustain us, maybe even be enough to lead the way for others to follow and find their own way to shine.

over the last twelve months, i think that has come to pass for both of them.  they are aware of their personal strengths, of their effects on those around them, of the joyful experiences that arise from shining their own lights.  when i am quiet enough to see their shine, i can reflect it and amplify it and be uplifted in its brilliance.

this is a time for rebirth, renewal, recognition, rediscovery.  if you are finding it difficult to maneuver in the darkness of this time of year, hold on to the hope that springs forth with one little light.  cherish it, nurture it, feed it, join it with others.  the sun really will come out again.

Monday, November 18, 2013

seeking solace

{my writing was inspired by no. 18 in the november prompt-a-day at write alm.}

making the transition from home to school is a tough one for ander.  it's not necessarily easier for him to transition back to home from school, either, it's just different.  i spend time and emotional energy thinking about how i can make these transitions smoother and easier and more comfortable (or at least less uncomfortable) for him.

the kids have short school days on mondays so the teachers can use the much-needed, student-free time to work. diana stayed at school to practice with her strings teacher, so ander and i had the opportunity to walk home alone, together.

on our walks (or rides) home - and for some time after we've arrived - i usually hear a torrent of anecdotes pouring from diana, intermittently punctuated by frequent, loud, and usually unrelated outbursts from ander as he seeks to be heard.  today, though, ander had no one to compete with, and his words came more easily, his thoughts more completely expressed, his antics more pure in showing his excitement rather than gaining attention.

it was a fine afternoon, weather-wise, and in between playing rounds of his invented game of "being losted" we stopped each and every time he found a perfect stick or a place to dig or a different ground surface or feature to investigate.  we talked very little, but ander occasionally hummed a tune from the vast repertoire in his head and invited me to sing along with him as he drummed a rhythm, reveling in the sounds we made.

trusty lego rocket in hand. because LEGO.
he had informed me of at least three different things he wanted to do when we got home.  somehow, though, all those plans were forgotten as some new joys caught his eye: the seven silly eaters (which he said he had read before and wanted to take a look at again) and the wedgits set we borrowed yesterday from a friend.  he loves patterns, and building, and building patterns.  and he's been happy all the rest of the afternoon.

so i had been seeking ways to soothe and comfort him when he does not care to go from here to there.  today i was quiet and observant and patient and responsive only to him.  i gave him space to find his own solace in his own way.  he did.  that brings me comfort, too.

Monday, November 11, 2013

the texture in trees

{my writing was inspired by no. 10 in the november prompt-a-day at write alm.}

i have found the most moments of solace since moving to virginia within this season of autumn.  living in california for several years prior i appreciated summers the most, oh-so-hot in the sun but cooler (enough) in the shade, orchards at our favorite u-pick place bursting with fruit, fields of sunflowers nodding as we drove by.

but here i can revel in the kaleidoscopic color change of leaves once again.  it brings to my mind images from childhood, going to the very same tree at a state park each and every fall for our family photo after a rigourous hike and a picnic lunch.  i don't know that i knew what kind of tree it was, but it had brilliant yellow leaves in my memory.  i recall fresh apple cider and wondering if one churned apples to make apple butter and the steep slope of the roof of the cabin we stayed in for one thanksgiving holiday.

when we go for a walk on one of the many paths around our home in reston, ander tells me how much it is like being in a forest.  a varied conglomeration of trees, not the gargantuan california redwoods we so enjoyed roaming among, but maples and oaks tall enough that you have to crane your neck to look up to see their tops.  they are bird-nest-holding playgrounds for scampering squirrels, vantage points for watchful owls, camouflage for the gentle deer.

these dwellings of dryads generously offer us autumnal gifts for our senses and our souls, if we are open to and accepting of them.  the winds dance through branches, tickling the leaves to mimic the soothing sounds of a soft drizzle or the flurried frenzy of a torrential downpour.   the delicious crunch of fallen leaves underfoot inspire us to drag our feet along slo-o-o-o-owly to maximize the rustle, effectively warning off any creatures along our path.  crackling a dry, withered, brown specimen within my fist i consider its life cycle - what was once green and vibrant and a mastercrafter of photosynthesis has completed its task and is no more.  it is one of countless many, yet its presence is enduring.  it was here.  its work mattered.

ander smells the fallen leaves as others smell blooming flowers.  i don't know what he senses in them, but it is meaningful to him.  he notes their sizes and shapes and remarkable colors.  he compels me to stop and notice, so i do.

and, oh, the vision of a flamboyant red- or yellow-leafed beauty has led me to catch my breath, to pull the car over and take a picture, to change the course of my day to stop and sit and just be.  to lie on the ground and feel the roots pressing into my back, to unfocus my gaze upward into the myriad layers of leaves, seeing patterns emerge and dissolve and reappear with the blink of my eyes.

these trees connect me to life.  they remind me to breathe.  they are the reason i can breathe.  their presence quietly guides me to take the rough along with the smooth, the bitter with the sweet.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

carl sagan's birthday

we will have apple pie in honor of a glorious dawn, with thanks to diana for suggesting it.

diana's chibi carl
we will hold a cosmos marathon, likely starting with episode 3, the harmony of the worlds, which is ander's favorite.

we will listen to this musical gem i just found:

happy birthday, carl.

i got a rock

here it is, my epic halloween post, late in coming, but at least it has some of the photos you've been hoping to see.

halloween was different this year, not just because we are living in a new place, but because diana is in school.  in years past, she and i spent countless hours planning and preparing for this day of days, her favorite holiday.  it's changed, though, and it took a while to get my head around that, mourning the loss of old traditions while simultaneously gathering excitement about new ones.

as per usual, diana started decorating her room around the time of the autumnal equinox when i pulled out the trusty rubbermaid bins full of holiday doo-dads.  she placed cobwebs over the bed, a giant spider on the floor lamp, and an actual skeleton in her closet, among other things.  she does take some things quite literally.

she added a bit to one of her gravestone settings this year, giving it the perspective of shadow.

our first opportunity to show off costumes was on the saturday prior.  our neighborhood held a small party for the kids in the afternoon with plenty of yummy treats and a parade on the streets.  steve had just finished ander's requested costume of burn-e (it took about a week to make) and ander was quite pleased to see how good it looked.  if you don't know who burn-e is, well, just watch this:

he's got the welder taped to his arm and is holding a replacement light spire, both of which would glow in the dark

diana had changed her mind about her costume a multitude of times.  first, she was going to be a poisonous vampire toadstool.  that one involved a clear plastic umbrella.  after some work on it, she gave it up in favor of scarlett.  this was a character of diana's own imagination, whom she described as the daughter of lord voldemort.  i particularly loved this idea, especially all the details she put into it with horcruxes and a black wig and a green-and-black gown and a snake wrapped around her arm and all.  but, she decided upon another harry potter character, a little-known-and-only-once-mentioned-in-the-epilogue-of-book-7 young woman named victoire, the daughter of bill weasley and fleur delacour.  diana accurately guessed that no one would quickly determine her identity, so she wore a name tag.  i think the biggest appeal about this costume for her was the use of eye shadow and lipstick for the first time.

she used the last name delacour, thinking that it seemed more fitting for a daughter to have the surname of her mother rather than that of her father. it also sounded prettier than weasely.

our party hostess really got her hands into things. bwahahahaha!
after the gathering we headed to the "air & scare" at the smithsonian national air and space museum udvar-hazy center.  (as we sat in the long lines of traffic driving in to park, we listened to the am station announcements and laughed at the different ways we had been mispronouncing the names.  now we know it's "OODvar - HAAzee").  diana and steve headed off with some friends, while ander and i tooled around on our own, taking in the eery lighting of his beloved space shuttle and admiring the inventive costumes.  we gaped in open-jawed amazement at a very authentic-looking chewbacca.

the 4th dr. who, merida, victoire, and burn-e

pondering what else to add to his rendition of "halloween on mars"
i ended up carrying nearly every part of ander's costume around the air & space museum, but it was made entirely worthwhile by the appreciative comments of just a few people who actually recognized the character without any need for explanation.  one young man regarded it as the best costume he'd seen all day.  the cutest interaction was with a mom, dad, and little boy, younger than ander, who also had 2-liter bottles spray-painted and attached to his back.  in his case, they were upside-down as the engine tanks of a silver space vehicle.

we had one trip to a pumpkin patch here, mainly owing to the much greater distance to get to you-pick fields as compared to what we experienced in california.  it more than satisfied our needs, though, as we had just the right fodder for the kids' imaginations.  ander had been asking nearly every day when it would be time to carve his pumpkin.  monday afternoon, off early from school, was the perfect time.

as expected, ander was more excited about telling me how to scoop out the goopy insides instead of doing it himself. diana, however, amazed us both with how much she emptied her own.

when he draws jack o'lantern faces on paper, it's often with triangles. not so with actual pumpkins. i momentarily panicked until i remembered my trusty corer tool from the pampered chef.

we had some artistic disagreements about the mouth, but i was able to provide ander with something that ultimately met with his approval. the pumpkin was named "mr. musician head"

in carving, as in sewing, it's best to measure twice and cut once...

...or just make the best of the missing fangs and turn it into "the-pumpkin-which-must-not-be-named"
i got around to roasting the seeds on halloween day and did a great job this time - perfectly brown, perfectly oily and salty.

for the actual trick-or-treat night, the kids changed up their costumes.  diana abandoned victoire and decided to be fleur instead, since it was getting too confusing to explain to people.  taryn came over to gather candy with us, and steve headed out with the girls to meet up with another family while ander helped me set out luminaries.  ander did not care to be burn-e, as he had "already" been that.  he asked to be "lord vampire" but when we headed to the costume closet, he decided to be a ghost instead.  fortunately, he made out much better with his treat collecting than did charlie brown's character.  (both of the kids watched "it's the great pumpkin, charlie brown" in school on halloween and came home talking excitedly of rocks.  also, i love how ander refers to to "charles" brown.  he's charmingly formal.)

fleur and minion

much cuter than casper
as i had predicted, ander did not want to spend too much time gathering candy.  our trek was cut even shorter by the unexpected presence of large dogs, which always make him uncomfortable, but he was able to then hand out candy to other trick-or-treaters, which is his very favorite thing to do.

after he saw the contents of his sister's bucket, though, he reconsidered facing his concerns.  when she said she intended to collect more, he asked to come along, this time as a king with a royal robe.  he was much more comfortable with "his girls" by his side and he eagerly pointed out to us all the jack-o-lanterns he admired.

this might be my favorite photo of the evening. she really did help him so much.

life is good.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

four days

four glorious days of no school for the kids.  two for the weekend, two for teacher work days.

when my kids are aware they don't have school, they relax into their natural states, secure in the knowledge that they have the freedom to do pretty much what they'd like, and i have the privilege of experiencing them in those states of being because, more often than not, they invite me in.

i didn't keep track of everything - there's just too much.  here, though, are some of the things i want to make sure i remember.
  • ander waking early, extra snuggly, recounting to me his dream of "growing up to be a man like daddy, working and eating lunch with him."
  • diana's delight at a last-minute sleepover at her friend taryn's house, where she laughs until she loses her breath while watching despicable me.
  • ander listening to and watching vi hart and doodling with sharpies on graph paper, easily harmonizing with me as we sing along.

  • ander studying jaystepher, intent on how to build a pumpkin so he can replicate it in his own choice of colors.  same thing with the fireplace.  him running from computer to LEGO space and back to change out pieces and tweak modifications.
ander's is on the left; diana decided to make a ghost pumpkin after she saw his.
  • diana excitedly selling rock pets at a community children's flea market.  exclaiming her joy with taryn when they realize how much money they have collectively earned.  my pleasure at having made excellent purchases from other vendors, including hand-made bracelets from taryn and artwork from kathy.
this translates to "happy" or "lucky" "stone" - a perfectly fitting name for her creative, whimsical creatures

two of the five creatures she brought to life
  • the pure joy evident in ander's whole body when i give him his first "real" violin.  he's asked to take lessons again, and i have learned from last time that it is far better to invest in a slightly-lower-yet-still-decent-quality instrument than suffer my anxiety over him possibly damaging a rental.  his frequent exclamations and demonstrations of appreciation over it to me.  his obvious care in rubbing rosin on the bow to make a better sound.
ander is left-handed and tends to resist the customary hold of the bow. he's experimenting with how he can create his music using either hand. also trying it in a cello hold.

  • taking videos of ander's own creative lego review for a set he recently purchased and built.  (sorry, readers, he wants to keep these reviews private for now.  they are personal practice and not ready for public release.)

  • lovely fall walks to lunch and back for our family plus taryn, who hangs out with us for the afternoon, not ready to end her time with diana.  admiring leaf shapes and colors and stopping to plunk stones in the water that collected during our heavy rain.

  • a late-afternoon visit to the udvar-hazy center then impromptu dinner plans with a delightful neighbor who shares our love for so many quirky things.  (and she bakes. a lot.  wonderfully.)  she's excellent company, especially because she seemed nonplussed by the kids choosing to race each other in a large, empty space over visiting the space shuttle.
  • "field trip" with ander to the toy store while diana at a playdate.  perusing each and every LEGO section and discussing the wow factor of  particular items.  his money, his choice, his purchase of another set.  i'm just along for the ride.

this took him under 20 minutes to build. he sat up against me on the floor, saying nothing except for requests for me to turn to the next page of directions or help position a tricky sticker.
  • diana practicing her juggling and the cups rhythm, which she is learning at school in her music class.  her trying to teach me and ander with varying levels of success. him arguing with her almost every time, but always watching and listening, enough to learn it on his own and show to us.

  • an all-day marathon-repeat of the LEGO: the adventures of clutch powers movie.  ander building a fleet of spaceships almost as fast as clutch himself and fashioning a tiny interstellar porta-teller like artie's in the digital short of "bad hair day."  me laughing at and explaining to diana the monty python jokes embedded within the movie.

  • endless repetitions of so many videos by the maccabeats and stand four and peter hollins.  ander directing us on when to sing and how to dance and asking for clarification on lyrics (i finally printed them out for his reference).  my goodness, his ear for pitch is remarkable and excruciating and gratifying all at once.

please, please let it be the weekend again soon.