One of the great joys, and small sorrows, of parenting is revealing your favorite things to your children to be embraced or reviled. There’s the magic of having them fall in love with something you fell in love with too. There’s nothing like snuggling with them on the couch watching your favorite movie for the first time, or catching your youngest staying up too late reading a book you also stayed up too late reading. Of course, they don’t always love what you loved. There you just hope that maybe someday they’ll have better taste.
But every once in a while, they introduce you to something that means a lot to THEM and the process works in reverse.
Grey bought a Google Home Mini with the Christmas money his uncle gave him. I’d been reluctant to add that technology to our household mix, but then he put together a six slide presentation on why he should be allowed to keep it. So it stayed. Grey and I have, uh, different taste in music. He really likes rap. So I was very surprised, listening to one of his playlists, to hear him singing joyfully along to a simple piano and vocal piece with the refrain “Potatoes and Molasses“. Very weird.
I asked him what it was from, and he was horrified to discover that I hadn’t seen his possibly favorite ever show, Over the Garden Wall. So over the course of the next few evenings, we watched it together as a family.
You know what? It was really fantastic. The kids kept warning me every episode that it was “dark”. It was serious, with real emotions and important themes and the opportunity for real loss. But it was also silly, surreal, sweet and unexpected. It had beautiful pieces of music interspersed. I think my favorite moment was the Beast’s Song, which I recognized from Engelbird Humperdink’s opera Hansel und Gretel. Do you have any idea how few subtle references there are in popular culture to obscure Germanic operas? And that one was so spot on, thematically, that it pointed to an incredible attention and care that the makers of the show lavished on it. I so deeply appreciate discovering my children love something that has depth, meaning and craft to it. This is literature in cartoon form – nodding backwards as it walks new ground forward.
I also really liked how the show modeled being brothers. (Mild spoilers.) The two key characters are step brothers. The little brother is annoying, for sure. The older brother is supercilious. But the love the two of them have for each other is plain in every scene and interaction. They’re never cruel to each other, and are very patient even when the sunny, goofy character of the youngest puts them in true peril. It’s a lovely model for my two, as they think about how they want to deal with each other.
It was a lovely thing – to have my kids pleased and proud to show me something that they loved. We got to be together. We got to point out to each other things we’d missed – those small details that can tie together a complicated story.
What’s something the next generation has introduced you to that you’ve discovered you really like afterwards? What are some of those moments of reversal for you?
This is been an interesting winter for skiing in New England. On Christmas Day, a hearty foot plus of snow fell on the region, and skiiers rejoiced. Right after they finished their figgy pudding, to the slopes! But mere hours after the snow came the cold. Bitter cold.
Last year this time, we planned a weekend trip to the White Mountains. The original weekend has ended up being the installation weekend for our new pastor – so that was out. I moved it to the weekend right after New Years. But as the forecast unfolded, the very day the boys would’ve been hitting the slopes was also the day of record-breaking cold. If these were the temperatures in Boston, next to the water, what would they look like in the mountains of New Hampshire? Not skiing weather, for sure.
I figured there were some big upsides from pushing it back to the long weekend. On the downside, it was a bit more expensive to get the rooms, and they weren’t as nice. But an extra day! That’s definitely worth something. And the record cold was supposed to clear out.
What I didn’t figure was the record warm we got to end the week last week. It was 60. Then, over a thirty hour period, it dropped a degree and a half every hour. In the morning we had the windows open. By bedtime it was hovering near single digits. And raining – hard. I’d been afraid of the flash-freeze impact on the roads when I planned our drive up for Friday after work. But the temperatures held. What I didn’t anticipate, because I’d never seen it before, was what the warm rains on the so-frozen snows did to the drive. We went through nearly 100 miles of the densest fog I’ve ever seen in New England. This was San Francisco fog; Central Valley fog. There were times when I had to slow to 10 miles an hour to not overdrive the few feet of visibility I had, clinging to the reflective center line of the road like a lifeline. The fog moved fast, skittering across the road as though chased by some unseen horror. The periodic rips in the fog-cloth only served to show us just how dense it really was. There were a few times where I held my breath as we left some brief intermission of the clouds only to slam again into a near solid-wall of mist. I’ve never seen anything even close to that before. New England fog clings to low-lying spots and is elusive. This was anything but.
I arrive at the hotel as white-knuckled as I’d been LAST year when we drove up through a snow storm. Life lesson – you should never plan a vacation at the same time and place I do.
Saturday was a complete loss for outdoor activities. It was just too wet. The ski resorts lost TWO FEET of snow in just two days. I’m sure they’re tearing their hair out. It was un-ski-able, and several of them closed. We read books, played role-playing games, hung out in the hot tub, watched Jurassic Park on cable (OMG the commercials!), I got a massage and enjoyed the Patriot’s game. But I didn’t step off the hotel grounds all day.
Today was at least cold. A little too cold – teens. But the resorts were open and making snow and by gum, we’re New Englanders now.
That last part is actually a good bit of why I work so hard to make the snow sports happen. I never skied growing up, despite living in striking distance of two of Washington’s greatest ski areas. My father is legally disabled with a knee injury. My mother is a California girl. There was no one who would’ve brought us, and we never went. So the very first time I ever strapped on skis in college, on the very first slope I ever went down, I didn’t do it well. In fact, within the first few turns I snapped my ACL, and have been struggling with the consequences ever since. But instead of concluding that “skiing is dangerous and should be avoided at all costs” I’ve instead decided “if you don’t pick up skiing when you’re young and you bounce then you better never try it”. And since I’m raising New Englanders, I’m bound and determined to do a proper job of it.
Plus, I’ve had this fantasy for years now of having choreless hours to myself with this as my muse:
I’d finally finish my book. I’d write brilliant blog posts that would go viral. I’d read a book. I’d pray. I’d read poetry and feel it. I’d read history and live it. I’d rest: body, soul and mind. Such daydreams we have! To digress on my active fantasy life, in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series most inns have a library. In my daydreams (alas, not in reality) this incredibly beautiful hotel has one too, on the third floor, with a killer view, where I could sit and read quietly or write or think. It doesn’t, and the public areas are more, uh, golfy than bookish. But still I dream.
My daydreams got off to a great start this morning! We had the famous brunch. I drove the boys to Attitash and pushed them out of the car. “Bye guys!” Then I hightailed it back to the hotel to brew coffee, stare out the window, and write the next major scene in my long-neglected novel. Heck, it’s the penultimate scene. I’m almost there. After about 2000 words, I decided to exercise both mind and body and put on my work out gear. This is the first time in the history of me I’ve actually followed through one of my resolutions to run while on vacation. I’d really like to do a serious hike this summer, so I have motivation to get fit.
I’d been on for about 3 minutes when I got a call from Adam. “Thane fell and hurt his wrist. We’re going to talk to the medical folk and see what they think.” I only had time to just start regretting my 6 mph pace when I got another call, “He needs to go for xrays at the hospital.” It is, perhaps, a blessing to be in the right place to take your child to the hospital yourself. Last time I got a call that my son had hurt himself on the slopes… you remember, a week before Christmas? (It was Grey. He fell on his head. He’s fine.) I’d been 3.5 hours away and had to trust my friend who’d taken him, and then my husband to pick him up. I high-tailed it to retrieve my child, and a sorry state he looked. He had this massive sling encompassing his right arm.
The hospital was close and *very* well set up to deal with out-of-staters with skiing injuries. In a hilarious turn of events, while waiting with my son I got a LinkedIn message from a former coworker who had worked with me years ago. His daughter had a rather more serious leg injury in the room across the hall. It was a weird place to catch up, but we did so anyway!
Anyway, while we waited I watched Thane use his hand. I figured it definitely wasn’t broken. It might not even be much of a sprain! He had good range of motion, was tolerating the pain well, and didn’t see THAT bothered. There was little bruising or swelling, and he can move his fingers, turn his hands and be touched. But then when he went in for xrays I saw a … wrinkle in a bone where it didn’t look like there should be one. I am no doctor, and I had trouble making out the ultrasounds that proved he was a male issue, so I didn’t put too much credit on it. But I began to doubt.
In a remarkably short amount of time we were having a conversation with a nice (and very experienced in snowboarding injury) doctor. It’s a buckle fracture. Thane has a splint to prevent him from moving it too much. Ibuprofen for pain. And a followup prescribed with his PCP and probably orthopedist. But he may only have to wear the splint for a week or two. It’s about as unserious as a broken wrist can be. I took him out to his first ever Taco Bell, and then we picked up his brother and father.
The slopes were apparently treacherous today – a sturdy remnant of ice limned by a bare modesty of created snow. Adam says it’s the worst he’s ever skied on. He feels guilty for bringing his son there to be injured. We both feel badly about basketball. Thane’s been doing SO WELL on the courts lately, and he has an amazing coach this year. I’d venture this is at least a two week outage on the courts. Given that it’s his dominant shooting/dribbling hand, maybe more. Thane was a trooper the whole way through. He’s so sturdy and reliable and tough.
I “treated his pain” by playing a bunch of Plants vs. Zombies mini games while he offered expert advice. But when the time came to turn out the lights and go to sleep, the whimpering began. The pain had broken through (I was probably late offering his next dose of Ibuprofen, but during the video games he wasn’t feeling any pain). And he was thinking through the implications. How would he be able to write in school? How long would he be forced to wear this uncomfortable brace? How could he sleep with it? He was, for the first time he could remember, broken and unmendable. He was away from home, and it was dark, and he had a broken wrist.
Thus, in the end, we all confront our brokenness and fears and not all the love in the world can wipe them away. May all your healing in times to come be as fast and complete as this one will be, my sweet son.
For four straight weeks, I’ve had four straight days where I was home. I took a long weekend to prepare for Christmas. Then Christmas. Then New Years. Than the blizzardpocalypse of arctic doom (we worked two days, but from home). I’m really rather looking forward to “leaving the house” and “doing stuff other places”. This time of year, the walls start closing in on you.
One thing we did during this period was change the boys rooms. In preparation for our attic project (which it seems like we’ve been preparing for for years at this point) we have totally gotten rid of our guest room. After long begging, the guest queen bed (which is crazy comfortable) is now Grey’s. The bunk beds that were in his room are now in Thane’s. If we get company while the attic is undergoing construction (and likely afterwards too) they’ll be in Grey’s room and Grey will bunk with his brother.
The boys did a great job of working to clean up and clean out their rooms as part of this. Grey’s is especially cozy right now. Grey also did a fantastic job helping Adam repaint a wall in Thane’s room which had taken significant abuse over the years. The kids have really been great lately, and I’ve thoroughly been enjoying their company!
It is hard to tell, in these later days, when something is really bad or when it is simply overhyped. Or possibly, really bad but national coverage so you only got the glancing blow from it. (See also: Hurricane Sandy.)
Today’s blizzard has the makings of a Real Event. We’re used to storms up here. It snowed on Christmas Day and we thought it was scenic. Until we had to start shoveling, at least. In 2015, feet of snow fell and did not melt on an unrelenting weekly basis. Snow is no reason to panic. But today’s storm has a few attributes that make me think the hype has a chance to be justified, and we have a reason to be wary.
1) The key one is the wind. Usually our snow storms are just snow. It falls on our driveway and we shovel it. But this storm has near hurricane force winds associated with it. Sideways snow is more serious than straight snow. This makes it harder to keep a house warm, and also threatens trees. We’ll be absolutely fine as long as we keep power. This isn’t usually an issue. But things will get very serious for us very quickly if we lose power. And that’s what wind threatens to do.
2) Potential. The worst of this storm is actually offshore. Our planned 12 – 15 inches is not the best this storm can do. The heart of it could be worse. And it’s gradually been moving closer to us. Even two or three days ago this was only going to be 4 inches. It’s a tiny distance. If the weather forecasters get just a bit of a surprise, we could end up with far more snow than any of us are ready for.
3) Cold. The storm is part of a one/two punch. It’s actually “pretty warm” today (eg. in the 20s). Given our streak of last week (seven days under 20 degrees – which hasn’t happened in 100 years) twenty actually sounds pretty warm. And it is, compared to what’s coming next. There are places in the world where a winter temperature of -9 degrees is normal. Boston is not one of them. We’re right next to the ocean, which ought to moderate our temperatures. It’ll be worse inland. This is not a normal temperature and may set a new record for the day on Saturday. This is what makes the prospect of losing power so appalling.
On the plus side, pretty much everyone wisely canceled almost everything, so we’re working from home. It’s cozy. The kids are much older now, so it’s a lot easier to spend a day with them! And I’m looking forward to the traditional snow day pot luck with neighbors!
I’ll keep you posted!
10:18 am – They say we’ll be getting about two inches of snow an hour from now until 4 or 5 pm tonight. So far it’s not too heavy, but very steady. Accumulations are hard to gauge because of the wind. I hear some plows attempting to plow a nearby parking lot. Good luck – this snow won’t stay where you put it!
11:28 am – Visibility has dropped a lot. I can probably only see about 200 feet. The snow appears to be falling sideways and you can hear Hollywood-style whistling. I’m on my second pot of coffee.
1:31 pm – The neighbors have started shoveling and snowblowing. I’m skeptical regarding how useful that is in 40 mph winds. Visibility has, if anything, gotten worse. So has the wind.
3:32 pm – The dark is rising and the snow is falling.
11:21 pm – well. I think that was as much snow as we’ve ever dug out of our driveway from one storm. The snow piles are nearly as tall as 2015! The snow stopped falling around 5 pm and the wind stopped whipping. It’s hard to tell with the drifts how much fell, but I’d have to think it was at least a 12 inch baseline. And our driveway is not kind to us in the drift department. Adam probably spent 3 hours shoveling. I spent at least two. It really had to be done tonight, because the big freeze coming will make the snow harder and the work harder. But we did it. Mostly. I think.
If I can’t move my arms tomorrow, you’ll know why.
This is it. This is the day when we’re feeling rested and relaxed. We’ve done most of the pressing chores that need doing. Quality time has been spent with loved ones, family and friends. Planning has been done for the coming year. Movies have been watched. And today, we were full of energy and verve and without commitments.
So it was time to start a big messy project we won’t have time to finish.
As I mentioned, we’re readying for the attic project in the new year. Part of that includes clearing the stuff that’s currently in the attic out. Our plan there is to move Grey’s bunk beds to Thane’s room with both twin mattresses. (Right now there’s only one mattress and the bottom is open.) Then the guest bed – a very nice queen bed – will move to Grey’s room. He’ll have to go to his brother’s room if we have company, but that’s the deal. This requires quite a bit of jigsaw-puzzle like furniture moving. Along the way, we painted a wall on Thane’s room that had been rather poorly maintained by the incumbent kid. I replaced the trashy looking particle board thing in the kitchen that always looked messy with papers spilling out with one Adam painted for me. And Grey used his brand new tool kit (a Christmas present) to help his father disassemble his bed.
The day went fast! Now it’s a matter of energy – can we actually finish the tasks to a sufficiently completed state before we run out of energy?
I’m a little sad to be going back to work tomorrow, but this has been a fantastic, restful and productive break. Also, very very cold.
Today is the day we break down the tree and put away the Christmas ornaments. It’s the bittersweet counterpoint to the day after Thanksgiving. Well, honestly, this year it’s the bittercold counterpoint. This Christmas break period is one of the coldest stretches I ever remember. Twenty degrees seems warm by comparison.
My sons were 9 and 12 this Christmas. That’s a little past Santa age. But it’s the beginning of great gifts age. Both of my sons gave me thoughtful and kind gifts. Grey gave me a Starbucks Christmas ornament. Thane got me some sparkly dice. I love watching people learn the joy of finding a great gift for a friend! When I was a kid, my folks used to wrap in my mom and dad’s bedroom. My mom would finish wrapping a present, open her door with a bang, put the present down, and slam the door shut. We kids would race at full speed to pick up the package, shake it, contemplate it, smell it, and place it under the tree. We’d arrange and rearrange the packages under the tree constantly. But historically, my kids just didn’t want it to work that way. Grey doesn’t actually like anticipation. He’d rather have a surprise and no waiting. This year, though, they were in for it! Bonus – it was great exercise from the attic to the tree.
We’ve developed our own set of Christmas traditions. There’s the getting of the tree. We like to go to Beverly Tree Farm (which sells out Thanksgiving weekend every year). There’s the hanging of the ornaments and lighting of the tree. This year we did an Advent candle liturgy, where we talked about the week of advent (Peace, Hope, Love, Joy) and lit the candles together.
Christmas Eve Eve, after the rehearsal, Adam and I went to a Blue Heron concert (one of my presents!). It was magical. I’d forgotten just how much I love early music. It made me feel so happy. (He even sprung for front row seats – which are rather more obtainable at medieval music concerts than at rock ones.) In the dark church we shared a moment with our ancestors six hundred year ago. It was an incredibly icy day, and afterwards we carefully picked our way across Cambridge to get cookies at Insomnia Cookies. Best date ever!! (Best of all, he got me all their CDs and a really cool book about the creation of western music notation!)
Christmas Eve is all tableaux. This is the third year I’ve taken the helm of the Christmas show. I’m wondering how many years it will take until I feel like I am creating instead of remembering how it should go! I was super lucky this year to get some extremely capable help with the costumes. I’m TERRIBLE at costumes and my dear friend who helped me is awesome at them. Next year – we need new angels and maybe a new Mary. This year’s service was pretty magical. There was a medical emergency just as we were getting started (thankfully nothing that ended up being too serious!). Blue and red flashing lights are pretty, but not quite the festive we were looking for.
But after that, the old, old story carried its majesty. Mary was teeny tiny. The angel Gabriel was glorious. Joseph was solicitous to his bride (half his height!). The shepherds were appropriately amazed. In perhaps the greatest Christmas miracle of all, the Herald Angel kept his face serious while angeling to the shepherds. And baby Eddie as Jesus looked very sweet indeed. Our youth soloist sounded amazing. Better yet, with the new candles we ordered, no wax got on Christmas costumes. #miracles You can see it here if you’d like. I got to do some trumpeting afterwards, and by 8 pm on Christmas eve I was breathless and full of hope and joy in the season. Thane stayed with me until 9, when we’d gotten things mostly cleaned up, and we left the quiet dark church together to go home to read “Twas the Night Before Christmas”.
Our Christmas mornings, we open up our stockings together first. (There was the memorable year where the kids didn’t wake us up and started opening presents on their own – a tale which will be told in our house for the rest of their lives…) Then breakfast, and presents! Yay presents! This year, we went to a neighbors for brunch and then the snow shoveling. The Christmas snow that was falling so beautifully needed to be shoveled. It needed to be shoveled VERY WELL because the forecast showed not a hint of melting. (It still doesn’t – the 10 day forecast doesn’t have a single temperature above freezing. It’s January 9 before we get UP to 32 degrees.) But it was a peaceful feeling to dig out on a Christmas day. We helped dig out a neighbor’s house too, which felt very virtuous and in the Christmas spirit.
We had friends over for dinner on Christmas night. It was lovely way to close a lovely day, with friends and conversation!
It was, all told, a fantastic Christmas season. I’m sad to say farewell to it! Until next year!
This is a fantastic time of year for thinking. We think about what we really believe. We think about the folks who are close to us – or maybe not as close as we want and intend. We think about what we did in the year past. And then, at the end of our thinking time, we think about what we want to do in the coming year so that when our thinking time comes again, we’re satisfied in retrospect. New Year’s resolutions get a bad rap, but if you view them as the annual tradition of thinking hard about where we are and where we want to be – and what we need to do to bridge that gap – it seems more like a virtuous tradition than an exercise in futility.
Here are some of the things I’m looking forward to in the new year.
We are finally for reals I swear this time kicking off our attic project. When we brought our drawings to contractors the number they agreed on came back, uh, much higher than we were expecting. More saving was in order to afford it. So after a few false starts and stops (and having cleaned it out and refilled it a bunch of times) we’re now planning to really actually do this thing. Our original start date was in January, but I’m guessing it’ll be more like February given the lack of start date from our contractor. I’m a little nervous. Fun fact – I am not abundantly supplied with taste. I know home renovations can be really disruptive and tiring. And it’s another project to manage. But on the flip side, Grey is a tween. Not sharing a bathroom with him will be great! And our new bathroom will be amazing. And it will finally clear the logjam of projects so we can also do some of the smaller things I’d like to have accomplished. And insulation. And a clawfoot tub and steam-shower. So much awesome.
Adam and I are both getting started on the new roles we landed ourselves last year. It’s always the phase where you need to prove yourself by working extra hard. You have to learn fast, work hard, be patient and show up early. The rewards are great, but there will be no mailing it in during 2018!
They’ve had a great year so far. I’m looking to help them find good strategies to be 100% on the ol’ homework turning in (my mom has a plan to help with that!). I’m also continuing to try to expose them to things that might inspire passion in them, and when they find it to support them. They’re a huge and joyful part of my life!
I usually plan out all our vacations for the year this week – and this year was no exception. It’s not as ambitious as last year. We have three camping trips (one without kids, possibly). We’re headed to Mexico in February and Washington State in August. I really want to go backpacking AND go to Ashland. I’m getting another week of vacation this year (Adam is not) so in my contemplations on how to do this, I’ve struck on the idea of doing a guided backpacking tour after he’s gone back to work. (Don’t feel too sorry for him – he usually does about a week of gaming conventions while I stay home with the kids.)
I have two things I’ve been planning to do here for a while. One is run a fund-raiser to put up signs for the Nobility Hill Historic district. I’m not in it, but I can see the cool kids from my house. This is just a matter of getting a design finalized, canvassing the neighborhood to let folks know what we’re doing (and ask for $$$$) and then getting it installed. It’s already a Historic district. I’ve also been saying for a long time that I’d consider being on the Stoneham Historical Commission. I should probably actually get around to doing that. It’s just hard with the timing. But now that the kids are more independent, I have a little more time to do stuff like that. Finally, I’d really love to finish the story I was working on set in Stoneham. I’m like 10k words from done. But I have a hunch they’re the hard 10k. And I haven’t really been able to work up any momentum.
I don’t think it’s lame that after the indulgence and excesses of the holiday season, we all take a moment to reset ourselves to a healthier baseline. I did ok in 2017. I ran 107 miles this year, usually in 5K increments. I did a very rigorous climb. I’ve kept pretty active. I eat a lot of healthy food, but I also eat a lot of unhealthy food. I’d like to make at least an incremental improvement on my health and fitness. We’ve talked about putting a treadmill in the abandoned basement laundry room (once it’s been moved to the 2nd floor). But I think I need to find a few more ways to sneak healthiness into my life.
A few people noted that I wasn’t in the Christmas Card picture we sent out. It’s true. And it’s kind of lame. I signed up for another round of digital photography classes, to refresh what I learned two years ago. I’d like to do a good job of documenting our life in photographs, since they mean a lot to me afterwards. And I want to make sure I’m *in* plenty of the pictures, however I think I look.
What are some of the things you’re looking to do in the coming year? What are you looking forward to?