Even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art winter

Hope in trying times

So, in case you hadn’t heard, New England has become Narnia under the reign of the White Witch: always winter, never Christmas. Tomorrow is supposed to start out in the low teens and there’s a major nor’easter heading our way for Wednesday, which at least will cover up our dirty old snow with nice clean snow.

But… it’s actually been a few weeks since our last major pummeling. Granted those weeks have been icy cold, but the spots that sit in sunlight have shed their coats of ice. (Meanwhile, the shady places where people shoveled snow to are still glacial wonderlands.) Today, a few days into the theoretical spring, it got up to 50. All across New England we contemplated shorts and tank tops in celebration.

The Flynn family made our way the library this morning – on foot. We usually go on Monday nights, but Grey had finished book 1 of a series and was dying for book 2 (which tragically is not out yet). Still, it was a strange novelty to walk across sandy, beach-like sidewalks with hardly any ice patches the two blocks to Andrew Carnegie’s gift to Stoneham. After we restocked the boys, I thought I might show them that there were actually *other* parts of the library than the kids’ section. We found one particular spot, and Grey begged to let us stop and read there. “Don’t throw me into the Briar patch!” I thought. He settled down with a graphic novel. Thane, our new reader, pulled out a Suess, and Adam and I paged through a book of Maurice Sendak’s art.

When Grey finished his book, we headed further. The next sunny, cozy patch also tripped up my eldest. I was a little less of a pushover this time – the little one had been very patient, but he was ready for action! So Adam and Thane went back home while Grey and I read in sunbeams.

Apparently this one is about zombie goldfish.

We made it home eventually. There was lunch, and Fate, and reading, and laundry. It started to rain, which made me happy because liquid water, but sad because hiking. Then it stopped raining which made me happy, because hiking.

Although the paths were muddy and the wind was cold and there were almost no hints that it was not just a thawing patch in January, it was glorious. We walked and climbed and joked and looked and felt the sun on our face. We got a tiny bit lost. We found the Panther Caves and talked about the Mountain Lion that might be hiding there and came up with six names for Mountain Lions where there should only be five. (Mountain Lion, Panther, Jaguar, Cougar, Catamount, Puma – we know we are wrong)

It was glorious.

Having been watching the new Cosmos with the boys, I became obsessed with finding a Tardigrade and seeing one for real life. So I swiped some vernal pond water and moss to see if I couldn’t find this mythical, ancient beast. After some dinner (mmmm Five Guys), we pulled out a long-disused microscope. Adam and I made slides out of plastic packaging, using an aluminum plate to spot interesting stuff while the boys had a soap-fight in the bath. (Note to self: they’re never actually old enough to leave alone in the bathtub.)

Prepping the slide
Prepping the slide

We didn’t find a water bear, but we did score a little devilishly fast water flea, a microscopic worm, a beetle, new moss roots, a weird looking seed and a something that had tiny creepy ticks embedded in it. In the immortal words of Calvin, “There’s treasure everywhere.” Adam and I came to the very scientific conclusion that we need a better microscope because we want one.

So there it was. A Saturday perfect in its Saturdayness, full of all the things you think you are going to do with your children before you actually have children. Better yet, for me it was bookended with breakfast in bed (my husband is kind and loving) and practice on both trumpet and guitar. There are many days that are much harder, when you feel the color seep out of your life and perspective – turning it to a black and white version of a WWII prison camp movie. This week was a hard one for me, for many boring reasons. Next week will hopefully be better, but not warmer. But today? Today was glorious.

Porch time

It’s the middle of April – exactly – today. It’s a time of year where New Englanders start to believe that maybe there are only one or two good snowstorms between them and the three weeks of beach weather we call summer. Friday was the Sox home opener.

I’m sitting – in short sleeves – on my front steps (glare making it hard to read the screen) watching my eldest playing in a gaggle of kids across the street while listening to the Red Sox (winning!) while Thane sleeps. Ah, bliss!

It’s been such an unseasonably warm winter and spring that the oddness of this near 80 degree weather is masked. I mean, we’ve already had 80 degree days this year… why should it be weird to have one before Patriot’s Day (the Boston Marathon day, tomorrow, a state holiday). But oh it is odd. It is an extreme weather event, this winter and spring heat. It’s a rather lovely one, but a touch ominous for all that. Still, I could lament, or I could enjoy. Enjoying seems like a better plan.

My husband was out of town this weekend at Helgacon. I haven’t heard the report on how the Cthulu game went, but it seems like “A good time was had by all”. I’m sort of bummed I wasn’t there, but my mother-in-law is in town which makes things easier. The nice weather has heralded neighbor time (before they’re all gone for their summer activities), and we had an impromptu bbq last and heading into temperate dark. I followed up with a few board games with a neighbor, and conversations. It’s so lovely to feel the leisure of warm weather.

Yesterday we went to IKEa – a marathon adventure. No life-changing purchases: bookshelves and duvet covers and white tapers and enough meatballs to feed an army.

Mmmmm the lassitude of the afternoon keeps stealing any attempt I might make at a thesis statement. Suffice it to say: life is busy, warmth and friendship are a joy.

Procrastination vs. Planning

So this year, the result of doing taxes is likely to be me sitting down and writing a very large check to the US government. If I’m lucky, it won’t involve a penalty for having to write TOO large a check. Back in the old days when I used to get refunds, I’d be waiting at the mail for my last W2 so I could get my taxes done by February 4th. Now, though, well….. let’s just say that several weekends have come and gone where I probably should’ve done the taxes and didn’t. Finally, though, we’re in April. (For all the weather doesn’t indicate that.) Time to be done and get it off my list and my conscience. So I sat down at my official tax and bill doing computer, read several websites, IM’d with my mom, found some baseball on MLB.com (Orioles vs. Rays – not sure who I’m cheering for), fixed my MLB.com account and then finally meandered over to log in to the tax web site.

Hmmmm… what’s my password? Maybe this one? Or that one? Or possibly the other one? And then I got a nasty note, “You’ve made 3 unsuccessful attempts to sign in. Your account has been locked for security reasons. Please try again in 20 minutes.”


So that’s what I’m doing right now. Burning 20 minutes (since I’ve already read all my websites) until I can try and log in again in order to have the fun! and excitement! of doing my taxes. You see where you rate.

Lessee… what’s up.

Well, today was the opening day for the Red Sox. I would probably be more ebullient about this, except they got creamed by the Rangers, which was not in our opening day plan. One game in, and Red Sox nation is already panicking because two of our best pitchers had bad outings. It’s great to be a Red Sox fan, when you can start whining while the winter snow is still on the ground!

Speaking of, we got real actual snow last night. I walked out and immediately experienced some nasty PTSD – Post-traumatic Snow Disorder. It’s widespread in New England this “spring”. I’m so ready for summer!

Still, it was beautiful coming home tonight. The snow reduces the visual noise, making heterogeneous locations momentarily homogeneous. The snow had melted on the branches of the trees, turning the trunks of winter-worn maples bright black against the white snow and steel sky. The tone of the light has changed from wan to bright, bringing a strange dissonance to the scene. And the trees are this wonderful pregnant grey, with a faint shimmer of red like a blush on a maiden’s cheek.

OK! Long enough! They let me log in! Now to really go do the taxes. Right after I check to see if any of my favorite blogs have updated in the last 10 minutes….

In the last 48 hours

I’ve made five pies, hosted about 25 people for Piemas, gone on the first walk of the spring, had five people spend the night, and woke up in the morning to discover my entry area redone.

Exciting! It would be even more fun if I didn’t have a nasty cold. I just hope that I didn’t share it with anyone. I washed my hands a gazillion times and covered all my everythings, so here’s hoping!

Anyway, you don’t get a real blog post. Instead, you get a picture post. In this month’s thrilling installment we have:

– Awesome cardboards spaceships at the table
– Silly boys on laundry baskets
– Thane playing Angry Birds with grandma
– Grey hanging around with some rapscallion
– Jessica, also associated with said rapscallion, and the combinations reading books
– Piemas
– A family portrait (because the last picture of all four of us was taken last spring)
– Surprise!
– Playing with the light settings
– First playground of the spring


How fast the time flies

I remember the longest hour that ever existed. It was in Mr. Johnson’s math class — geometry, I think. I remember having the time to notice every single thing about that hour — the droning buzz of chainsaws from the nearby hill being logged, the way the sunlight was golden on the fading azaleas in the interstices of the school, the hum of the overhead projector with the thick black pen markings disappearing into scroll-like rolls, the drone of his voice explaining arcane mathematical phenomenon I did not then and have not now mastered, the coldness of the computer room behind the math room with all the proud ’80s era Macintosh computers sitting under dust covers (it was the mid-90s). There was no whirling of time, no speeding by of concepts or ideas, no blurring together of moments. Every single long second, all (60 x 60 x 1) of them had my complete and full attention, without the distraction of, you know, things of interest. I’m not sure why that was the longest hour of my life, but I do believe it was.

Lately, however, I’ve noticed a phenomenon I had been warned about. Time is clearly speeding up. This makes sense, from one point of view. If you consider each hour as a percentage of your time alive and aware, as you grow older it becomes a smaller and smaller percentage. Perhaps that 16 year old me in that corner-classroom was the optimum point between awareness of time and watch-ownership, and percentage of life an hour represented. In truth, I’ve heard that time stretches out when you are confronted with novelty, because your brain has to explicitly save more of it. For example, you’re unlikely to remember every minute of your commute home tonight. Your brain doesn’t need to save that information: it’s just like yesterday’s version and likely very similar to tomorrow’s. So why bother? The first time you scuba dive, however, every single sensation and view you experience is unlike all others you’ve experienced and your brain saves far more of the information. It’s why a new road you’ve never driven that takes 20 minutes is so much longer than your 20 minute commute, or at least feels that way.

Into my fourth decade, I encounter fewer and fewer novelties in my daily living. My brain relies on the tropes, stereotypes and previous experiences. Whole days, I have no doubt, go by without creating a single memory that will endure past the year. No wonder time seems faster, when I remember less of it.

All this is an extremely long lead in to a statement I never thought I’d say in my entire life in New England. But here it is. Where did the winter go? See, I’m totally used to summer flying by in a flurry of sunscreen and “just keep driving” fantasies as I head on Northward roads towards a climate controlled office. Spring is inevitably fleeting. Fall has the enduring quality, but still slips through my fingers like ribbon on a birthday present being opened with eager hands. The five minutes of Christmas when I deeply breathe of the scent of balsam and stare at twinkling lights persists, but the remainder of the month is gone. However, I can usually rely on January, February and March to provide me with the unchanging interminability of misery that is winter. Ah, winter! The one time of the year that you aren’t pressed on all sides by missed opportunities! Winter! The season when you go to work thinking that at least you’re not missing out on anything fun. Winter, that usually returns three or four times after you dare to hope it’s left for good! Winter, when it is what it is and you can’t complain but you do anyway.

This year, through phenomenon unknowable, winter went really fast. I can’t blame the kids — this is Grey’s 4th winter and Thane’s 2nd. I had a mix of old job, time off and new job (which the novelty of the latter should’ve slowed time down, according to my above hypothesis). It wasn’t a supremely easy winter. I shoveled a fair amount of snow. Granted, Spring did come a bit early and it was one of the warmest Springs on record. I’m sure that plays a role. But in previous winters I remember dramatically complaining that my marrow had frozen and there was insufficient heat in the fast-fleeting summer to melt it before the dreaded chill arrived again. This winter, my marrow was barely refrigerated.

With such a scientifically minded readership, I’m sure none of you will go thinking I’m jinxing Spring by talking about it – as though it’s a no-hitter. I, personally, am often bemused by just how superstitious I really am. But it’s almost May. I’m headed to FRANCE next weekend, for reals. It’s a matter of weeks until our first camping trip of the year. The leaves on the tree out my kitchen window are in full spring color and bloom, fast approaching full size! Could even the most powerful of jinxes bring winter back now? I think not.

So here it is, spring. And here comes summer, hazy, turgid and fleeting as it is. May I find enough novelty, enough observation and enough patience to make many memories that endure for colder winters ahead.

Father and brother
Father and brother


Grandfather and grandson
Grandfather and grandson

This post brought to you by Deadliest Catch

I don’t watch much tv. I have never seen an episode of Friends, Dr. Who, or Glee. Frankly, if it weren’t for baseball, I’d be more or less ok getting no cable whatsoever. (But there is baseball. Do not underestimate baseball.) But on Saturday, a friend came to stay with me while my husband was away with our friends on the Cape. One thing lead to another, and we spent most of the evening watching Deadliest Catch. I have to admit, I love this show. On bad days, it makes me insanely grateful for a desk job with benefits and a practically 0 chance of having 32 degree Bering Sea water dumped on my head. On other days, I reflect on the ties back to a former age. Interspersed with sonar readings and hydraulic cranes are age-old superstitions and an environment where men teach each other to be men in the oldest ways — as men have in the ruggedest environments since they first plied the waters. It’s an interesting environment for a feminist to see. I can tell you this much: I couldn’t hack it. I’m pretty sure that after 20 hours of backbreaking labor I’d be in tears and handing in my resignation.

Thane loves the park. It has the BEST garbage!
Thane loves the park. It has the BEST garbage!

I figured that as long as he didn’t go around preschool saying, “What the *beep* took you so *beeping* long to *beep* bring me my *beeping* Legos?” this was a pretty good show to watch. The only violence is against crabs. And there’s a truth to it. Of course, now he says he wants to be a fisherman because “It looks like fun.” Clearly he’s not paying attention.

Since I complain plenty when the boys are hard to handle, in fairness I should tell you that they’ve been just amazingly lately. Thane has stopped clinging to my leg like a screeching limpet while I make dinner. Now he’ll play with cars (he LOVES lining them up on a table, taking them down, and lining them up again). He has this Spongebob figure he’s extremely fond of. He, like his brother before him, calls the little yellow guy “Bob-bob”. He’s talking up a storm. He’s extremely interested in whatever his brother is doing. One of his most frequent words is “Gwey”. He’s also recently become obsessed with apples. Normal people will eat a great apple down to the core. With Thane, if he’s hungry, he’ll eat the entire apple. As in, there are no remnants of the apple left when he’s done. Apple is also one of his clearest words. At the height of apple-mania, I believe my 25 pound son (or so) ate about 5 apples in one day. There was a dinner where the boys collectively turned their noses up at pizza and preferred to eat apples instead. I confess that one left me not knowing how to feel. On the one hand, children should eat their dinner. On the other hand, apples are likely much better nutritionally than pizza.

Project “Teach Thane To Walk” has been going extremely well. Thane will now walk considerable distances holding a hand. The other day, he walked all the way down the block with me. This may not sound astonishing, but he has little legs and strong opinions. For him to nicely walk such a distance past so many distractions is real progress. Grey is quite a walker. My friend who spent Saturday brought her pedometer. We walked 3.7 miles that day. Grey walked all of it with us, and with the running around and jumping, much likely significantly more. I look forward to the day when all four of us can walk through the woods together (and not stop every 3 feet for a snack).

Grey has been super and fun and a delight (with one or two exceptions). I’m continually stunned by how USEFUL and HELPFUL he is, and how we can DO things with him. For example, we played several games of “Kids of Carcasonne” and he followed the rules and played correctly. He was also compassionate towards his parents (possibly not getting the idea of a game) and helped us complete our roads. He’s really, truly, honestly reading. I asked him to read a book to my friend, and he read through the entire thing with one mistake. He said “not” when the word was “never”. And it wasn’t a book he knew by heart — he was really reading it. (The book in question is Today I Will Fly). He is superb with Thane… most of the time. It’s a joy to watch him run and jump and play and make friends. And he’s very loving towards me. He’s also really sensitive. The other night he said he was scared. As I carried him to his room, I was talking about all the reasons he should be happy and ended with “And all’s right with the world.” He replied, “No, it’s not. There was that earthquake, and all the people got hurt.” He’s right, of course. All is right in his small world, but not the larger world. I was struck by his awareness that just because everything is good for him, doesn’t mean everything is good.

Little boy blue
Little boy blue

Monday is Patriot’s Day. It’s a state holiday. While theoretically it’s about some historic thingamajig, in reality it’s a day when Boston shuts down to watch some baseball and then watch the Boston marathon come through. There are some battle recreations in the morning, too, I believe. I have to work, but the boys’ new preschool is closed for the day. So I called Abuela tonight to ask if she’d be willing to take the boys. You know, she sounded really, really happy to hear from me. She really wanted to hear how the boys were doing. She said she really missed them – and I believe her. I’m caught between feeling great and feeling sad. Feeling great because it was such a great relationship for so long. And of course, feeling sad because I don’t see how that relationship can be well continued (although I have suspicions that if the Y takes Patriot’s Day off, they probably take all the other holidays off that I don’t get).

I hope that all is as well and joyful with you out there as it is for us!


It’s possible I should upload pictures more often, so that my uploads are slightly less schizophrenic. To which I say: pppffft. You’re lucky I take pictures at all.


Anyway, I have pictures for March and April, including lots of playground stuff, pretty much every nice day in the last 6 weeks, Piemas, grandma, Easter, and many silly faces by Grey (which represent only a small portion of the silly faces that have pictures taken).