Late November

trislandRight across the river from the chaos and traffic of the National Mall is a little nature reserve— an island, in the middle of the Potomic, with wild wooded trails and little else, accessible only by footbridge— where you can find respite from the hubbub of civilization. Black Friday found us wandering these trails and marveling at the dancing falling leaves and the deep golden sunlight. Ducks floated in loosely constructed vees down the cold green river eddies, their black-green plumage flashing as they turned and swirled in the late November rays. Bean was fascinated and spent a long time hanging over the wooden railing of the arching bridge, mesmerized, hypnotized by the flowing life. Once his reverie broke, he pretty much ran the entire time on the island, blowing leaves before his flurry of boy-energy. He was only lost twice.

We met some friends there, while Abby spread a homemade quilt of patchwork stars on a bench, and carefully set out a tiny porcelain tea set she had packed and poured tiny portions of lemonade in the little tea cups to share. Jeffrey, more interested in what was for lunch, helped me unpack the picnic we had brought, and distributed the carefully cut sandwiches. I spread out an array of cheese and fruit, and settled in to watch the kids play. A game of hide-and-seek turned into a game of Find Bean, as it always does.

29341_10151171966285963_553044660_nAfter our picnic, we made the mistake of thinking it might be fun to hit the Natural History Museum, and we left the Eden of the island to head across the river. It took an hour, and all the peace and calm of the island was drained away. The traffic in DC was insane, and there wasn’t a single parking spot to be found— anywhere. So we scrapped that, bid our friends goodbye, and went home to bake apple pies instead.8767_10151173887580963_1117363878_n

Through a little alchemy, my pippins and macintoshes and honeycrisps, some cane sugar and fresh nutmeg became this….318902_10151173969100963_999205484_nOn Saturday, for the first time since Abby was born, we went and got a fresh-cut tree. In the chaos of the move, and despite the Tardis moving truck, Fakey Fakerson was unable to join us here in Virginia. He lives now with Mo and her crew in Seattle, and she was awesome enough to send me a picture of him last night.414913_10200141157030722_918379070_o

All three of my kids have asked for hand-knit socks for Christmas. They couldn’t ask for a scarf, or a hat- something easy and simple to toss off the needles— noooooooo. Instead I have to dig out the DP’s and find the time to knit a passel of socks- and figure out how to do it while they are sleeping. Who needs sleep anyway?

Hope your thanksgiving was lovely and you found whatever you were looking for- whether it was crazy sales and bargains on Friday, or the tranquil peace and sunlight that soothed my soul.

Thankful

Thank you for all the marvelous recipe ideas. I think I have my menu set now, thanks in no small part to the links you sent me. The turkey is wearing a coat of bacon, the dates will be stuffed with goat cheese and wrapped in whatever bacon is left, and the mashed potatoes will be baked twice and topped with… bacon. Hmmmm… a theme, perhaps?

What are you doing for Black Friday? Are you a shopper? My mom and sisters-in-law are the kind who totally dig the vibe and head out at midnight. Me? There is nothing in the world I want bad enough to get me in a store on Friday. I’m taking the kids on a picnic and we’re going to play hide and seek with friends in a cool wooded area we found. Then when we get back, it’s time to get out the Bing Crosby and find a tree farm.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all. If you’re a shopper, bon chance mon amis, and enjoy yourself in the invigorating chaos of the hunt. If you’re like me, consider a picnic if the weather is nice enough, or do whatever it is that brings you joy.

Help Me Love This Holiday…

Holy smokes, next week is Thanksgiving. HOW did that happen? It’s early this year, right?? I’m not even close to ready, but I suppose it doesn’t really matter- we’re not doing anything special, really. Just quiet, with us and a friend or two. Usually I completely abdicate on the traditional TG fixings, and make a massive Mexican throw-down with Mo.  This year it’s been requested that I go retro and do a turkey with actual stuffing, gravy and potatoes. *sigh* okay, fine. Be that way. I guess I better go to the store, eh? Are there even any turkeys left at this date? Have I mentioned I hate turkey, stuffing is a nightmare of a celiac, and I think gravy is gag-worthy? Maybe I’ll make a little pan of enchiladas for myself! I do like cranberries… so there’s that. Anyone with any recipes they swear by to help me get over my fear and loathing of Thanksgiving? I like the idea, I just find the food… um… yeah. So, I’ve given you my recipes over the years, I’m asking you to kick them down, mamas (and Ray). Share your treats!

Fall Around These Parts

Just before the apocalypse of sickness and the hurricane hit us, I took the kids to a pumpkin farm up the street and around the corner. Literally. It’s fun how close we are to DC, but how the sprawl here is super concentrated and you don’t have to go far to find working farms and country lanes.I told Bean if he could carry it, he could get it. That might have been a mistake.Jeff was slightly more reasonable, and Abby opted for ‘cute’ over gargantuan.Now they want to make pies. Can’t we just buy one at Costco? I’m hoping they’ll forget and the pumpkins will just continue to look festive on the porch. Anyone else remember the Porch Pumpkin of yesteryear?

Row Row Row Your Boat…

You’d really think I’d be really good at fielding hard-hit curve balls by now. I mean, big picture, everything is fine— it always is. The last few years have taught me nothing if not that somehow it all works out. But dammit, once in a while I want to stomp my foot like a petulant child and just have it go my way. Laugh with me.

But there’s something else I’ve learned too, and it’s manifesting in curious ways. Lately, even when things don’t go the way I hope or think they should, there is this odd calm where once resided anxiety. So much has happened that, while unexpected- or even difficult- ended up opening doors to unforeseen opportunity and even joy. So lately, when crap roils up, as it will, I kind of have this zen thing going on where I sort of look up and go “Ok. So what shall I do instead? Show me my direction.”

My grad program was in jeopardy of not being funded- that’s the risk when you’re part of an inaugural cohort, and I knew that when I signed on. But this program in ASD has always looked like the best program, despite the risk. When my advisor and I last met, she was encouraging me to apply to a parallel program with guaranteed (very sweet) grants and funding and a spot for me. But the more I thought about it, the less I wanted to do it- it wasn’t where my passion lies, and I knew it. I had until November to decide, and I had all but made the call to tell her I was going to pass on the program behind door #2, when she called me and told me my first option was going to be fully funded and I had my spot. Hooray!

But…

The program won’t start until spring. Originally it was January, and that’s what I had budgeted and planned for– eeep, spring. Crap. What am I going to do? I can substitute teach in my local school district. I can keep winging-it with free-lance work. Oddly calm, I just felt, again, like it was okay.

That week, Abby was diagnosed with some health issues pertaining to her bones, and our schedule suddenly filled with doctor appointments, specialists, and trips into the District to visit Children’s National Hospital. She will be fine, and it’s nothing life-threatening, but it’s going to eat up a lot of time and energy; suddenly grad school not starting in January revealed, in sharp focus, the blessing of postponement.

On the heels of the slew of scheduled doctor appointments, I received an offer about a regular free-lance gig. A paid gig. Yes- writing for income. It’s true, I’ve made some income from my book, and it’s helped to float the boat this long, but whoa… I can take care of my kids, I can pay my rent, I have a guaranteed spot in grad school, and I have a few extra months to get all my ducks in a row.

May I remember this calm when I’m again strewn to the water of chaos.

Suspension Tension

I just had to check the calendar to see not just the day, but the day of the week. The last ten days or so have felt like a submarine trip out of time and outside of reality. All three kids just got on their busses for school, after having missed six of the last nine days of school, and not all always on the same days. Sometime early last week we had a hurricane, and it all went to hell from there.

The hurricane, while it seems to have largely passed through America’s awareness, really hammered the east coast. We escaped without any major damage, and other than having to hunker down and ride it out, were fine. Only along with the hurricane, my minor annoying chest cold migrated into my lungs and rapidly moved from bothersome to bronchitis, and then made the leap to pneumonia.

After spending the night in the hospital and a rousing round of prednisone, antibiotics, codeine, and albuterol, I started to feel human again just in time for all three kids to go down. Four infected ears, three infected sinuses, a cacophony of constant coughing, fevers and sleepless nights, followed by five bottles of antibiotics, constant antihistamines, mountains of laundry, and finally disinfecting the entire house, and maybe… maybe… maybe… we are coming out the other side.

Abby still had swollen glands this morning and looking something like a chipmonk as she pulled her stocking cap on and pleaded with me for another day at home. Jeffrey scowled at me when I made him take a shower and get dressed, then refused his breakfast, and forgot his PE clothes (probably better anyway, that is). Bean was the only one I think was relieved to have me force routine back into shape.

I feel dizzy. The house is quiet for the first time in days and days. I know there are a million things I need to attend- from missing school conferences,  appointments with my GW advisor, studying for the MAT, some freelance work and about a million other irons warming in the fire.  Right now, though? I’m just glad for the quiet.

Oh, and we had an election a few days ago. My only comment on that is will be this: Living in a swing state sucks.