Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Last(ing) impressions

I am the luckiest girl in the world.

Perfectly timed with my unspoken threat to run away with the circus, my biggest sister stepped in and swept my children away from me, all the way to Massachusetts, overnight for two nights.

They've been away for less than 24 hours,  and I am beside myself with the strangest mix of apprehension, giddiness, liberation, and the most profound sense that something, something essential to my identity, something etched into my bones and sewn into my soft tissue, is missing. There are ghosts in this house.

Madness, I tell you. It's madness.

And would it shock you to hear that the first instinct I had upon their departure, strapped in and grinning in my sister's car with nary a regret, was to lie down and go to sleep until morning.

How funny life is when the most exciting part of being apart from your kids is the ability to completely disregard pedestrian schedules.

Of course there are a million things I could be doing to take advantage of the fact that no one, no one, needs me right now--okay the dog keeps barking to go out, then come in, then go out again, but I can handle that--and I am practically paralyzed by choice.

I'm also haunted by the imprint my kids have left in my mind and on this house.

Like the memory of Isla, enjoying her new room. Her own space.


 And the serenity that comes with playing on the floor.

And the joy of making a pair of dress-up falsies, or "implants" as Essie calls them.

Or the two of them running down the hill to the library the other day. Honestly, can we get any closer to Walnut Grove?

And this, for which I have no explanation, but which I woke up to this morning.

And the seal of approval which comes with the decision to get back in bed in the morning.

 Unless, of course, you didn't stay in your bed all night.

And the perfection of a late afternoon bath.

With the little Mermaid in bondage.

Or one of our final summer days at the lake.

With actual time to read

a good book.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Full moon swimmers

This full moon was actually a week, or more, ago. I only just imported my pics and remembered I took some photographs of the shimmery path it lay down, so enticingly, on the water.

My camera seems to work fine at dusk. The ghosts only come out in the daylight. As you can see here, it's nothing but cool, blue, wet perfection. There are kids in that water, but you can't see them.

I envied them the feeling of slipping into silky darkness after dinner. I, joyless adult that I am, couldn't make myself do it because it was no longer hot and I didn't feel like putting my wet bathing suit back on. Silly grownup details.

What happens to us?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The rewards of rastling with pricker bushes

We are still discovering, or, should I say re-discovering? the many splendorous things about summertime in Vermont.

After what feels like years of  unremarkable blackberry picking on my parents' property, the blackberries I remember from my childhood, plentiful and, some of them, almost as big as our thumbs, are back.

Everything has its year. And for that, we're glad.

We went out one lazy, quiet evening right about supper time. Esther was having a sleepover so it was just me and Isla. Or was it Isla and I? I guess it all depends on what I'm trying to say. Despite years of practice, I'm never too sure. Always second guessing. Overthinking.

The thing about blackberry picking is, you need to be dressed for combat. (I wasn't.) Those bushes are armed and will defend themselves to the bitter end. And they aren't above ambushes from behind. Could this be the origin of the word "ambush?"

While trying to break through to the most enticing stash, set back from the trail protected by a daunting wall of prickers, I felt a bit like all those poor princes in Sleeping Beauty. The ones that didn't make it to the castle.

Needless to say, my legs look like those of an 8-year-old boy just come back from Boy-Scout camp. But I did come back with the prize, half a sand bucket filled with plump berries. And a world of choice when it came to deciding just how we were going to eat them: Straight out of the bucket, in a bowl with cream, or maybe in a blackberry cobbler if mom gets so inspired.

I will now share some photos taken on our expedition despite being hugely annoyed at their quality. (Did I mention my camera drowned in the lake a while back? I've tried everything, including the rice trick, and, it seems... I need a new camera. There's a blurry ghost floating in almost every picture. The more natural, gorgeous light involved, the worse the blur.)

Monday, August 08, 2011

Friends don't let friends eat with ugly forks

On the way to the car the other day, I nearly tripped on a package that was lying on our porch floor.

Curious, but in a hurry, I stepped around it and continued on my urgent way to pick up children and get somewhere-- I don't remember where--on time.

When I got back, I picked up the box and carried it into the house. The return address said Hmm. Have I been online shopping in my sleep or while intoxicated? Is it possible I've ordered something and already forgotten about it?

I tore the box open and discovered an order form and "gift note" from my college- friend, Joyce.  "Welcome home," it said.

There, underneath the turbo bubble wrap that sounds like gunfire when stepped on, was a set of flatware. Flatware. Just that word conjures sophistication and maturity. Flatware. Flatware for me and for my family. Flatware to expand upon the two forks and one knife and assorted unsightly spoons that were left in my silverware drawer.

(Am I the only one who has cheap- silverware aversion? There are certain utensils I just can't bring myself to use for purely aesthetic reasons: too light, too thin, too..... cafeteria style. Can silverware have bad feng shui?)

The positive feng shui of my new flatware is emanating right out of the box it's still in. 

Joyce apparently read the "I still can't find my toaster" blog post, which I, self promoter that I am, posted to my Facebook page, and took pity on me. I quickly brought up her Facebook page and wrote on her wall asking her if, were I to write about not being able to find my car, she would send me a new one.

Cheekiness aside, this gift of silverware was a lovely, unexpected gesture. It ranks right up there with the mysterious book we received just when we got back from France, (Did I ever mention that mystery was solved? The book came from the family of my friend Bridget, who lives in France.) and the stuffed-animal care package sent by a loyal reader, Meowmie, in response to the news that Esther had lost her beloved stuffed bear, Barnus, and the book, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, sent by Anna, also in response to Esther's loss.

Unexpected gifts, and the warm fuzzy feelings of connection they instill, are one of those rare things in life that remind you of the importance of human connection. They also serve remind me of how lame I am in regard to how many times I've ever actually committed a random act of kindness such as this. The thought, the intention, has struck me on the head me dozens of times. The following through, the actual act of doing it, is another story.

All this to say, Thank you, Joyce. Thank you everyone. Thank you world for having so many cool, kind, conscious people in it and giving me the sense to recognize those people for the gems they are and cling to them for dear life. Not that I needed to receive a gift from my old friend to appreciate her, but maybe I needed to be reminded of just one more thing I have to be grateful for. Gratitude is a renewable resource.

Oh yea, and, about that toaster........

Guess what I found in a dark recess at the opposite end of the attic from the end where all the other boxes were? Yep... a box with the word "toaster" scrawled on every side in my stressed-out-chicken-scratch hand.

And.. in the box with the toaster, to my horror and delight, was a large Ziplock baggie containing the missing silverware, measuring spoons and perfectly-beefy, ergonomic vegetable peeler.

Ooops. I guess I owe those college boys an apology. They may have been astonishingly negligent, but they didn't steal, or wreck, my toaster or silverware. (If only because I packed them safely away, as I should have done with EVERYTHING.)

And, Joyce.... It's not too late for a refund....

Thursday, August 04, 2011

What I've learned from an incontinent dog

In my darkest hours, when I truly cannot stop wondering if we made a big mistake by rudely dumping Europe and getting back together with Vermont, and I'm lost in idealistic reveries of wandering the Marais district of Paris, or taking that last top- to- bottom run of the day in Courchevel, after downing the $8 chocolat chaud, I am often interrupted by the sounds of heavy panting, licking, whining, or overly- loud breathing of my aged dog, Ruby.

Only today did it occur to me that Ruby might be trying to tell me something. Something that goes like this: "Get over yourself, already. What about me, you heartless hussy? Are you not content, ecstatic even, to be reunited with your long-lost first born dog? Do you not remember the suffering I endured, while you were away?"

And my dog has a point. While she was adored and well cared for by my parents, pats and cookies on demand, I know she missed her family. And her family missed her.

We returned home just in time to join her in the autumn of her life. She is thirteen. She is our dog. We love her. She is not long for this life. She has experienced one old-dog problem after another since we got back, including that which should probably be addressed by a doggie psychologist, but which I'm hoping can be resolved with good old fashioned love, affection and constant reassurance from her clan.

Adding to the long list of hot spots, fungal skin rash, and worms, she has recently developed incontinence.

Poor girl. I couldnt' figure out what was making her so.. moist, on her back end for days. I thought she was licking herself, which she was, but never once did I suspect it was urine. Only after a friend suggested incontinence did I stick my head into her doggie bed and sniff deeply to discover that, yup, she's been wetting her pants. Bad mommy.

I suppose the fact that she doesn't wear pants gives me some excuse. And she hasn't been leaving puddles around, just wet spots where her perpetually wet rear end has lain. She is a leaky dog.

Turns out, I hope, that the leakage has to do with a negative reaction, common to old dogs, to prednisone, a drug she was prescribed for her festering under-the-chin hotspot. The hotspot I only discovered after giving her a bath with special shampoo for her fungus issue.

Poor girl, who knows how long this raw wound has been hiding out in her jowls. It reminds me of the time I was in the  pediatrician's office with my beautiful six-month -old baby Esther, nursing her peacefully and proudly, while waiting for the doctor, and I noticed a foul smell. Where was it coming from? I checked her diaper. Nothing. I snuffled around her like only a mother can, and discovered the pong was coming from the vicinity of her chin. I forced her head back, no easy task, and there, hidden deep under the delicious folds of baby fat, was the most disgusting, gooey, stinky patch of last week's, or month's, drooled milk that had turned into a festering science experiment. I quickly stood up, she was still latched on, and wetted a paper towel at the sink and started to wipe it away when the doctor came in. Busted!

I was so ashamed. How could I have missed this on my sweet baby? I am not perfect after all.

At least I figured this wet-bottom dog problem out. As scattered as I am lately, it could have gone on much longer. I've been giving her daily baths and changing her bedding each night and, now that she's been off the Prednisone for a few days, she seems to have rounded the bend. This morning was the first morning in a solid week she woke up dry.

Hurray for dry doggies. Hurray for old doggies. Hurray for doggie/people reunions. Two years apart was long enough.

See latest Momformation post here. 

Monday, August 01, 2011

I still can't find my toaster

As much as I want to discuss the embarrassing little problem I have of having NO IDEA how to hook up our television, or even if our television, an 80s model, will even work anymore, or if I have to actually go out and buy all- new digital appliances, I am far more concerned about the whereabouts of our toaster.

My toaster, along with my silverware, my salad spinner, and my supermodel potato peeler, are all still MIA.

This is not to say I'm positive these things aren’t safely packed away somewhere in a box upstairs. It’s just to say, my kitchen is still maddeningly incomplete. While having more than two forks has its limits, it’s the toaster we really miss. We like toast. Toast makes our world go round. Life without toast holds no promise for us.

And about those two forks, and the motley assortment of pots and pans: It's starting to look as if they aren't upstairs after all. The only boxes I can find that haven't been opened, are labeled "books" or "CDs", or "candle sticks." (Candle sticks, for the record, were the wedding gift of choice for at least fifty percent of our wedding guests, for some reason.)

One obstacle for finding these lost items has to do with the fact that our attic still has no window, it's on Ian's list, and it's been hotter than Hades for weeks now, limiting my attic-foraging window to approximately 15 minutes before I start to sweat, feel nauseous and as if I might possibly pass out.

Another obstacle is my memory. It's failing me.

Did I actually think it was a good idea, the nice thing to do-- poor college boys don't even have a frying pan--letting three under 20- year- old boys use my Williams and Sonoma all -clad sauce pans (another, particularly awesome wedding present) They were so sturdy looking, so beefy, such good quality I suppose I figured they were idiot proof. Apparently nothing is idiot proof. At least not the idiots I've been dealing with.

Those pots seem to have vanished, or melted, or somehow or other evaporated into the ether. The tops are still in the drawers, that’s how I know I must have been that dumb to leave them out, but the pots are nowhere. I did find one of the smallest sauce pans, the one I often used to heat up milk, or maple syrup. It was outside the basement door, filled with dirt, hidden in the tall grass.

And my electric kettle. I found the base for that. The rest must have exploded. Or maybe it was turned into a bong? And the salad spinner...I found the top for that.

And my silverware? That is the real pressing question. I would swear I remember packing it all away, wrapping it up in newspaper and putting it into a box, sealing that box, and putting it upstairs in the attic or in the bottom of the hutch. But I haven’t found it yet. I have found relatively few boxes with anything of substance in them. Some baking tins, lots of place mats, some wooden spoons, my bowls, glasses, a ridiculous amount of wine glasses,  and plates, hurray, but no silverware. And no toaster.

The fact that there is one fork, one spoon, and one knife that I recognize as being from our collection in the drawer worries me a bit. Is it possible I left them with the entire collection of knives, forks and spoons and they lost or ruined them, on by one, in just two years? Of course it is.

But I’m still holding out hope. Naively. Bravely. Stubbornly.

And that toaster, the retro one with four slice capacity and the dials that made it look like a 50's radio? I'm going out back to dig around in the bonfire pit for that.

There is the remote possibility that our toaster died, or ran away, as the result of being abandoned. That little seed of irrational logic was planted long ago by a Banjo Dan song, Snowfall; "wouldn't my toaster miss me if I moved away?"

Problems far more pressing than runaway toasters can be read about over here at Momformation. 

Disclaimer: that's not really our toaster. Our toaster wasn't robin's egg blue, just your basic stainless steal toaster color.