on 30 September 2013

We have been enjoying the most luxurious Fall weather.  Cool, crisp mornings followed by warm and sunny afternoons and cool evenings.  Not yet cold enough for sweaters and socks, but still, after a long, muggy summer, it's been a welcome change.

Sunday morning dawned sunny and chilly, but I still opened up all the windows and doors to air everything out after a Summer of recycled and conditioned air.  The Boy declared, "I need my sweater, Mama!"  So I cheerfully went to the bin in my closet and pulled out his finished sweater and tossed it to him.  (Which was the whole point in working my fingers down to nubbins this past summer.)

And here is the proof that the Red Sweater is, indeed, finished.

As you can see it's too big.  But that was on purpose.  I'm hoping that it will last him for the next 2 years.  It looks slightly off kilter, but that's the angle of the photo.  I assure you, I worked really hard to make sure those patterns would line up across his chest.  The collar is messed up on one edge, but turned out just perfectly on the other, and by the time I knitted the collar I was so exhausted that I couldn't bring myself to rip it back and make it perfect. 

All told, we're both really happy with it.


on 25 September 2013

Just when it has seemed I couldn't bear 
one more friend 
waking with a tumor, one more maniac 

with a perfect reason, often a sweetness 
has come 
and changed nothing in the world

except the way I stumble through it, 
for a while lost
in the ignorance of loving...

someone or something, the world shrunk
to mouth-size,
hand-size, and never seeming small.

I acknowledge there is no sweetness 
that doesn't leave a stain,
no sweetness that's ever sufficiently sweet...

...Often a sweetness comes 
as if on loan, stays just long enough 

to make sense of what it means to be alive,
then returns to its dark 
source.  As for me,  I don't care

where it's been, or what bitter road
it's traveled
to come so far, to taste so good.

  • Stephen Dunn

Lost and Found

on 23 September 2013

So my Grandma is fading.  She's nearly 97 and so it's not entirely unexpected, but it's still sad.  She's always been this undeniable force of life, so to see her so faded is hard.  I've been trying to go down as often as I can to help her and my parents and to spend time with her.  Since, in the end, time is all we really have.

I was down last Saturday, and she sleeps quite a lot now, so I sat with her and held her hand and chatted with a friend of hers from church.  We talked about family, about life and death and about my Grandma.  She woke up just as her friend was leaving and I helped her eat some lunch and tried to make her laugh.  Grandma is a tough audience, so making her laugh is ALWAYS my main objective.  I know if I can make her laugh, then I'm doing pretty well.

When Chris and I finally left, I was feeling tired and sad.  I think we're all feeling tired and sad.  But the babies were at home and I had been away from them all day.  So we made a quick stop to pick up a carbonated beverage, and while I was in the little convenience store, I picked up an ice cream bar.  Not an ice cream sandwich, not a drumstick, but my favorite old fashioned ice cream bar.  Well, not my favorite.  My favorite are Brown Cows which are not sold this far east, but it was another brand equivalent of vanilla ice cream on a stick and dipped in chocolate.  I got back in the car and Chris said, "Oh, babe.  Is it that bad?"  And I said, "Yes and No."

See, I had watched this Documentary last week.  It's all about the British love affair with boiled sweets, or what we Americans would call hard candy.  And the presenter, whom I didn't recognize, but who is apparently a famous food writer, was talking about the power of sweets to take us back in time, to enable us to relive our childhoods.  In the course of the documentary, he sat down with Nigella Lawson and she made the most appropriate comparison.  She said that boiled sweets are for the British, what the madeleine was for Proust.  And after getting back in the car, I realized that for me, more than candy, more than cookies or cakes, it's ice cream on a stick.

That lovely crackle of the hard chocolate as you bite into the vanilla ice cream, it takes you back to a time when you were small, and the world was big, but you were surrounded with strong, confident people who would always protect you.  Back to a time when fathers were super-heroes, mothers knew just how to fix what ailed you, big sisters lived at home, and no one frowned on running around dirt roads absolutely bare footed.  A time when Grandmothers were strong and sharp, like crunchy lemon drops, and Grandfathers were indulgent (my papaw's treats of choice were old fashioned peppermints and those horrible circus peanuts, but it was from my papaw that I obtained that miraculous quarter that would buy me a Brown Cow down at the Piggly-Wiggly).

I ate my ice cream and had my moment with the past.  And then Chris held my hand as we jumped off the cliff and back into reality.  After all, it's a big world and my babies need their father who is a super-hero and their mother who always knows how to fix what ails them.  And so no matter how tired and sad we are, we keep going.  It's how we teach the Boy to be a super-hero when he grows up, and the Girl to know how to fix what's wrong. 

Yes and No.  It's sad and hard.  But life goes on, and the babies still need dinner and baths and blankets and books and kisses and a touchstone that is safe and happy, so that some day when they are grown and life is sad and hard, they can bite into something and come right back here.

Summer in Review

on 09 September 2013

First, let's have a shout-out to my Mom.  It's her birthday today, so Happy Birthday, Mom!

We're still alive.  Here's a quick review of what we did on our Summer vacation:

  • I finished the Red Sweater!  Pictures to follow.
  • My sisters have been educating/scaring-the-living-daylights-out-of-me about Common Core.  Want to know what Public Education is teaching (or more accurately, NOT teaching) kids at a school near you?  Check this out!
  • I got to see my friend Brett!  She was out here visiting her sister and the three of us had a really interesting conversation about books and why some people prefer Jane Austen, while others like the Brontes.  It go me thinking...
  • And when I get thinking, I go back and RE read.  I didn't much care for the Brontes as an undergrad or a grad student.  And I haven't reread them since.  So I had Chris pick me up a cheap copy of Jane Eyre and I started rereading it, and holy cow, it's SO good.  I have to say, when you strip all the annoying and inaccurate criticism and pseudo-intellectual babble away from a text, it actually becomes quite enjoyable.
  • I started sewing a dress for my Girl, but I still haven't finished it.  I was sucked into a vortex with the Red Sweater.
  • I read and enjoyed Happy, Happy, Happy by Phil Robertson.  Go check it out!
  • My Boy is awesome.  The swim lessons were BRILLIANT and easily the highlight of the summer.  In addition to getting to see my sweet niece once a week, my boy now just jumps into the pool without an hesitation or anxiety at all.  We took him to my sister's pool (and where we'll sign him up for more advanced lessons next year) and he jumped off the diving board!  MY BOY.  My nervous nelson of a boy jumped off the diving board!  More than ONCE!  It was 94 kinds of awesome.
  • Chris took a whole week off of work and we were supposed to go to the mountains, but we ended up with some scheduling conflicts, and so we stayed home.  It was fun having him home all day every day, except that he really wasn't.  He's a newly minted member of the DRPC (it's a gun club) and he went shooting 3 out of 6 days with various people.  My bedroom is now filled with firearms that require cleaning and maintenance, but he had so much fun that I almost don't care.
  • He did take me out on a sweet lunch date one day, and let me tell you, it was a beautiful thing.  I didn't have to cook or clean up.  My lunch companion used proper utensils and good table manners.  We had a quiet conversation about friends from Athens, the children, the firearms, and plans for Christmas.  It was a lovely, lovely treat.
  • We had a family party to celebrate my 10 year Anniversary of being Back in the South.  Chris made pulled pork and macaroni and cheese, cole slaw and jalapeno poppers.  It was basically an excuse to get together and eat a lot of southern food.  My sister made me Pecan Tassies which are a highly addictive treat, that we usually only eat at Christmas time.
  • My brother in law Jeff was laid off from his company in a conspiracy of corporate idiocy.  But then he got a new job at his old company working with much nicer people and for roughly the same amount of money.  We were sweating bullets there for a bit that they might have to move back to New Jersey, so now that they're firmly settled here in NC, we're all doing the happy dance.
  • My nephew who's in school out west, is back for his "summer" break.  He goes to school January through July, and now he gets to be home through Christmas, and he's so funny and charming and my children absolutely adore him, which is also entertaining.
  • There was also copious amounts of knitting, movie watching, cuddling, book reading, singing and attempting to balance two children in the same rocking chair, we did some finger painting which was fun until my Girl ate her finger paint and then there was the unfortunate technicolor vomit afterwards, we did swinging at the park and some dancing in the rain.  Don't believe me?

It was post-church and sometimes I can be a fun mom.

 This is just a gratuitous picture of my Girl, who has proven that she's not only tall enough to reach the counter, but smart enough to get what she wants when she wants it.

But she's also sweet enough to share.