All Saints Day

Time for another bullet points update!

1) The dining room is finished!!!

Dining room beforeDining room before

It looks much the same, but feels spacious and warmer
It looks much the same, but feels spacious and warmer

After three months of working nights and weekends (and taking a bunch of Fridays off) the dining room has now been completed. The difference is hard to see on camera, but the extra six inches in the ceiling are remarkable. The room already feels more comfortable (with, you know, actual insulation in the walls…). And it is such an incredible feeling to get both the room and the husband back! Adam did a phenomenal job on the work.

I have put together an (unedited) album of all the stages of the work. You can see it here.

2) We trick-or-treated like bosses

The Chestnut Street crew
The Chestnut Street crew

There’s a chance this year will be the high water mark for trick-or-treating. We started around 5:30 or 6. The oldest kids and grownups didn’t roll back in until well after nine. The candy bags were HEAVY. We fell in love with the house that handed out water bottles. I love these nights when the streets are alive with friends and neighbors. My mother-in-law did an amazing job feeding everyone, manning the door and welcoming the little ones when they returned. It was a great night in which to get an extra hour, so we didn’t pay as high a price for the hijinks as we might!

3) We gave Thane a great 7th birthday party!

They played in a vast melee for HOURS
They played in a vast melee for HOURS
Happy 7th rotation around the sun, sweet child
Happy 7th rotation around the sun, sweet child

Thane said he wanted “a neighbor party”. Usually this means “as long as there are Doritos I’ll be happy”. My incredible mother-in-law made this happen with her usual sang-froid. I ordered a really cool cake from The Mad Cake Genius (I’m still surprised at how affordable her cakes are for the works of art they also are). The kids were insane, like always. The grownups were happy to see each other. They just played, and we just watched (and blew balloons – the true test of friendship). It was so lovely to see the kids being with each other and enjoying each other’s company. Thane thought it was an awesome party, and is so grateful to his friends. In fact, the biggest challenge was that Grey was super jealous of his brother’s awesome party.

4) I’m doing NaNoWriMo this year
Because I’m crazy. I sure am not bored, and November is never a good month for this. But honestly, I love writing. And I have a friend whose writing I really want to read, so I’m dragging her into NaNoWriMo with me, which means I have to actually do it! So, um, please feel free to ask me how I’m doing.

5) It’s been an amazingly busy and rich fall

A cloaked apparition amongst the graves.
A cloaked apparition amongst the graves.
Thane ran hard all year.
Thane ran hard all year.
You can always tell when we did something on Sunday because my jewelry and clothes don't align.
You can always tell when we did something on Sunday because my jewelry and clothes don’t align.

Just looking at my pictures, I am amazed at how much we’ve done this fall. Hikes in the Fells. Family visiting. Birthday parties, hosting and attending. Construction projects. Apple picking. Soccer. Church. There are about two weeks left in the “high season” before things quiet down again.

You can see all the pictures from the second half of October here. The first half of the month can be found here.

Camera Obscura

My backpacking trip this summer to Mt. Rainier was fabulous. Fantabulous. Fantabuloustic. Really, really good. There were really only two things I’d change about it: give me 2 hours at Spray Park before the clouds rolled in, and give me a better camera. The first one is obvious. I had a sinking feeling as I raced up the face of the mountain ahead of a roiling ocean of clouds that I would be thwarted, and I was right. It just means I need to go back.

Data prefers catnip to mountains, thanks.

But my camera? I was in one of the most scenic places in the world. Some of the places I planted my feet can’t be gotten to without either real labor or a helicopter. Some of the things I saw are beyond beautiful. I still walk those paths in my mind when I can’t sleep. But my camera. Well. Let’s just say that Thane’s baby pictures were taken on this camera. He’s in Kindergarten. He’s an OLD Kindergartner. There are baby monitors with more megapixels than that thing. It struggled mightily trying to capture the nasty, back-lit conditions that are the mountain at sunrise. Or sunset. Many of the pictures I took just weren’t as good as they could have been. And the video? So 2007!

Thane dropped that same camera that had recorded his borning cry. (Or actually didn’t. As Adam said at the time, “I don’t want anyone seeing *this* mess!”) It doesn’t turn on. Awwwww, shucks.

Not a baby anymore.

So with my birthday coming up, I asked for a camera. I did some research and went to a camera shop, and the guy wrote down what I looked at. I passed off the card to my husband, and looked forward to a Mega-Pixel future. The camera came. I pulled it out with glee and started taking pictures. They, um, didn’t look so hot. And there were no manual functions. I’ve invested a lot of time and love into learning how to really use my camera. I want something that *can* hold my hand, but doesn’t necessarily do so.

I returned the camera.

My last attempt to like camera #2
My last attempt to like camera #2

I went to Hunts Camera in Melrose, the grownup version of a toy store. (With an extra 0 or two added to the end of the price, the way grownup toys are.) The helpful salesman walked through my desires: fits in my pocket (the horror was writ large on his face), manual controls. I’m not too picky. I got my new camera and brought it home and gave it a run.

I really wanted to like it. I really, really, really did! It had a 20x zoom! It was, um, fancy! It has all the controls of my DSLR but in a camera that can fit in my coat pocket, if not so easily my jeans pocket. Yay! I brought it to the soccer field. I brought it to Cape Code. I took pictures hiking.I took pictures apple picking. I took pictures at home. And you know? It drove me nuts. It was hard to focus and slow to turn on. It kept on accidentally turning on when I put it in the case. My kids usually had at least one blurry part of their body. Not only did I not dig it, I didn’t like it. I spent WAY TOO MUCH on it not to like it. With great reluctance, I went back today.

Fractious fractals of romanesco

Truthfully, I was kind of expecting a hassle. I took a few hundred pictures on the camera attempting to like it. I even brought my kids with me to the swap – my prior failure before had been that I hadn’t attempted any photography with vibrating subjects who like to perform photobombs. I asked my assistants to be as obnoxious as possible while I attempted to capture their hijinks on camera. They were naturals.

Many props to Hunts – they swapped out my camera without demur or delay. When the camera I wanted was (of course) out of stock, they sent me home with the floor model and a promise to call me when the new one comes in so I can immediately swap it out.

And guys, I love it. Phew. Third time’s the charm!

Here are the last pictures I took on the second camera and my “trying it out” pictures I took on the new one!

Mr. Puppy in very low light
Mr. Puppy in very low light

PS – one of my daydreams is to turn the attic bedroom into a camera obscura. Someday…..

Oh, the Lord is good to me

Can you spot Grey in this picture?

For my birthday, I got a new point-and-shoot camera. My prior camera really annoyed me on my trip to Mt. Rainier. It just wasn’t as good, as clear, as sophisticated, as HD as I wanted my record of that trip to be. But it did fit in my pocket, which is a definite advantage. I believe I got that camera shortly after Grey was born. Certainly I had it before Thane was born, which puts it at the 6 year old range. That’s downright elderly for a digital camera.

The need for a new one was made inarguable when Thane dropped my old one. So for my birthday I got a sparkly new point and shoot camera. It has pretty much everything my big camera has except a hotfoot for a flash and the ability to switch lenses.

We went apple picking today – a very hot day for late September. We got a bushel of apples, a dozen apple cider donuts, three ice cream cones and a tour of the farm. I figured this was a great opportunity to give my camera for a spin. I’m definitely still learning how to use it most effectively. It did run out of battery halfway through, but I think that I didn’t charge it when I thought I did. So hopefully that’s indicative of nothing.

You can find all the pictures here.

The other pictures I’ve taken this month on my “big camera” are here, including some really cool pictures of our last beach day of the year, which was bookended by a crazy thunderstorm.

The very last set off my old point and shoot can be seen here.

Oil and ashes

The southern point of Cozumel

I really love writing, and I love writing this blog. I have watched it fade over the last few years with chagrin. There was a time that I wrote many times a day – back in the Livejournal days of my youth. Then at least once a day. Then at least twice a week. Once a week. Once every two weeks is more or less my current schedule. There are many causes. Sometimes I think the longer form I employ on this blog is a mistake, since it calls me to be more thoughtful and write better. I am tired of my own autobiographical story: I went somewhere. I did something. The kitchen is dirty. The children are joyful. My friends fill my life with adventures. I prefer my own writing about thoughts – about the noticing of the world. I like the way my eyes work when I gaze at life on your behalf.

Today is Ash Wednesday. I sit in my high attic – the elevation makes the stars brighter and dims the noise of the city downstairs. Through these higher, unsullied windows I watch snowflakes like tourists lost in back allies change their minds in their dance between roofs. I’m listening to Russian Orthodox liturgical music, which captures Lent very well for me. I do not recognize the words, but the vast number of voices – so low and so high – sound very sincere, and as though they really know the darkness of Lent. The older I get, the more I love Lent. Maybe more than Christmas, or Advent, or even Easter. Many of the meaningful parts of the Christian calendar have been co-opted by culture. I love Christmas, but not as a Christian. I love it as a child reborn. I turn to Lent and to Pentecost for the depth of contemplation and the spirit of fire I need to bring even a hint of Christ into my secular life.

I was very diligent in getting and organizing my pictures from Cozumel. I did that the first day I was back. I was less diligent in sharing them with you. Probably because I intended to write a novella on the topic of Cozumel, but what somehow aware that would be uninteresting.

The pictures are here.

The summary is this: Such epic vacations carry with them a hope and expectation out of line with the fact that fallible humans will undertake them. I went to Cozumel primed for it to be imperfect, especially with children. I was gallantly rewarded with behavior better than I thought my children capable of, relaxation, love, laughter, snorkeling, adventures and joy. It more perfect than such things can be expected to be.

There was a moment when I went snorkeling with Grey. He asked me to hold his hand as we went out, and fighting against the hard current, I held it tight. Unsure of his courage in deep waters, we went further and further out – more aquatic wonders opening to our eyes – until we hovered above a sunken wreck. There I was with hot sun on my back, small courageous hand in mine and flocks of brilliantly colored fish swimming in uncannily perfect formations through untread stairways. And for a moment, my life was perfect.

How are you doing? Do you lament over the longness of the winter? Do you look forward to the quietness of Lent? Have you had a perfect moment? Do you miss me?

The Eastern coast

All beautiful the march of days

Before I had children, I thought of January and February as the wasted time. The boring time. The stuck inside time. The vaguely depressed time. Now the first three months of the year represent the only times in my life when the pressure eases back a little. I – sometimes – have weekends when nothing much happens. If you try to do something with me in the summer on a Saturday, chances are good I’ll return with a next-free-date a month in the future. In January, there’s time for reading, relaxing, not-muching. Of course, I respond by being terribly lazy and hanging out on my couch in my jammies. (Ahem.)

Still, it is against my nature not to use the free time for some joyful activities. I have a big one coming up (and am being forced to be slightly less lazy in order to prepare for it), but my camera has evidence of a joyful January together.

Here is a link to the full set of pictures!

It included:

The kids loved the kids room at the Peabody Essex Museum
The kids loved the kids room at the Peabody Essex Museum
Grey and Thane both expend creative energy in their time at home.
Grey and Thane both expend creative energy in their time at home.
Uncanny picture of two magician brothers. (The link has a video showing Grey's tricks.)
Uncanny picture of two magician brothers. (The link has a video showing Grey’s tricks.)

Merry Christmas from Legoland

Little Lego set before heading into Vampyre castle

The house is full of little boys yelling out “Wow! Cool!” and “Sticker help, mom!” Grey is on bag six of seven of the Lego Vampyre Castle, and Thane has completed “Spider-Man’s Doc Ock Ambush”, “Genosian Starfighter”, “Space Police” and is attempting to open “Droid Escape”. Suffice it to say, we’re having an amazingly awesome Christmas morning.

Doc Ock’s Ambush

As I waited for the kids to fall asleep last night, I pulled some pictures off the camera. These include Grey’s Christmas concert and Christmas Eve at Grandma’s house with Cousin Alec!

Pictures here!