Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year

This ^ is our holiday card as we failed to get one out this year.  I know it's goofy and last-minute and Juniper has a sippy-cup and Hazel is probably cold and I'm all dressed up and my man looks like he just went sledding (he did)...but the point is, we're all together and someone else was there to get a photo.  

I was hoping to get our apres-Christmas post out before today, but will have to wait until 2013.  Happy New Year y'all!  

Monday, December 24, 2012

on the eve

Our house on Christmas Eve.  Welcome.    
Sprinkling reindeer dust in the snow (Juniper's been back and forth on whether or not the reindeer should land on our roof; she's convinced it will collapse and has settled for guiding them to the driveway):
Hazel and my brother: 
Our holiday table: 
And lastly, the part she's been talking about for weeks...

Merry Christmas y'all!

Friday, December 21, 2012

return of the light

Happy Winter Solstice to you all!  I love how all this cooking, baking, decorating, elving, giving and joy helps us through the darkest days of winter.  And here we are, over the hump, and ready to honor the return of the light.  My mom and brother showed up yesterday.  This afternoon we went for a walk just as the sun was setting.  It was stinging cold and awesome.    
:: I have mentioned before my desire to develop meaningful rituals and traditions with my kids.  Now that Juniper is 3 and logging lifetime memories, I have an overwhelming urge to solidify lasting holiday family mores.  But I am working from a cracked and broken foundation and while I am so excited! to raise the walls of our new rituals, I also want to fill in some gaps and shore up the footing.  I want our holiday to represent us--our family--and those things we hold dear.  We're working on it.  Slowly, we are carving out a place for our family within the season.  As usual, I have grand plans that are wholly unrealistic within our days.  Despite the bustle, I'm trying to focus on slow family time.

This year, we are putting a stronger emphasis on giving back.  Juniper is so excited for Santa! and presents! and cookies! but we try to remind her that yes, Santa gives gifts because he is kind and caring.  She helped me pick the recipient of our Angle tree gift; we talked a lot about how it's important to give to those who have less than we do.  And we are giving back to the land we love.  My man and I are permanently protecting nearby public land from oil & gas drilling--we're "giving" (i.e. protecting) an acre of land for each of our girls.  An acre for their future.  

:: Snapshots from the last few weeks:

Our tree--and the adventure that came with it.  I adore this ancient tradition of bringing the outside in, during these cold, short days.  (Also, in our area, the aspens really appreciate us thinning out some of the conifers.)  
  ^This was just after Thanksgiving and before we got a load of snow.^

Tea Time.  Fast becoming an after-school tradition.
Homemade ornaments.  We have lots of homemades--dating back to the 1970's--their histories written on the back: who made it, who received it, in what year.  Juniper and Hazel have both added their own handmades to the tree and I look forward to doing more every year.    
Decorating.  Holy moly.  Juniper's been "decorating" our house since the beginning of November.  She decorates, then re-decorates, adding some bling! to this home where we spend so much of our lives this time of year.  
^Juniper "decorating" in early November.^
^Juniper's decorations in early December.^
^And man was she serious about decorating the tree.^

Advent Calendar.  This year, my mom sent the calendar I grew up with, made by my Grandma.  It's so seventies, but we love it.  A couple ornaments were lost...I replaced one with a Solstice sun Juniper and I made together.   
Christmas songs.  Have I ever mentioned how much Juniper loves to sing?  She loves singing on any given day, and tends to sing a lot when she's excited, but since November she's been bopping along to Christmas songs.  I bought a caroling handbook just so I could help her get the correct wording.  Her favorites?  What she calls, "The bad pear tree" (we tried to correct her in the beginning--"it's a partridge in a pear tree"--but she wasn't going for it).  Jingle Bells, of course.  And Up on the Rooftop.  Also, she knows the poem "T'was the Night Before Christmas" nearly by heart.  
^Juniper "Dashing through the snow...!!!"^
^Here she is building some "bad pear trees".^

Elving, making, giving.
Ordinary days.  When 3 year olds wear a bear costume, dancing skirt and fairy wings all at once.  (She also wanted to wear her bathing suit and snowpants but I had to tell her they wouldn't fit.)
Standing Hazel.  She can't get enough.  She lives to stand.  She is fast becoming the captain of her own ship.
Elk meat.  At his very last opportunity for the season, my husband killed a cow elk and filled a freezer that was looking a little thin.  As a family, we crouched around this elk's face and thanked her for giving her life to feed us.  J bug help my man cut the meat off the bones.  She used her own wooden toy knife, but her real job was to put fat scraps in a pile for our resident magpies.  Gosh, were they happy.  On several occasions, Juniper stopped, held this elk's muzzle between her palms, and said, "Thank you elk.  Thank you for the muscles."     
First blush.  Juniper's relationship with Santa is similar to that of the bears.  She's obsessed with him, and afraid of him.  When he came to visit our town, we waited patiently in line only to have her skirt out at the last second.  We sat and sipped hot coco for a good half hour and she never took her eyes off him.  And yesterday, guess who made a surprise visit to J's preschool?  When he walked in the door...that was the first time I've ever seen Juniper blush.  I watched her cheeks turn beet red as he walked across the room.  She was totally okay with him, but refused a turn on his lap.  Then, just before he left, he stepped towards her to give her a stocking (since she didn't get a turn on his lap), but dang she shot right out of there and ran towards me.  My husband thinks this should be our Christmas card photo:
And here we are.  Talking about the sun.  Keeping it simple.  Giving.  Feasting.  Loving.
Happy Solstice.  

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

our first job

Everywhere we go, this...tragedy? (is that even the right word?) is written all over the faces of everyone we see.  We don't say anything--for the children's sake, of course--but it's there.  It's the longer-than-usual eye contact with a woman at the market, her six-year-old daughter in tow.  It's in the heavy eyelids of our post-mistress; it lurks behind the jolly Christmas music in the produce isle.  It was just beneath the bright smiles of unusually patient parents as they waited in line with their kids to sit on Santa's lap.  
Juniper was scared to death to go to bed last night.  After we clapped five times for the bears and then the lions, I announced that big, strong mama can scare anything away; I kissed her on the forehead and said I was sending sweet dreams straight to her brain, I flipped her pillow to the "good dream" side, I did everything we have ever done in any given night to make her feel safe, but last night it wasn't enough.  She cried and begged and pleaded and said she just wanted "to snuggle with mama."  Oh, I nearly melted.  I curled up with her in the tiny little toddler bed, nuzzled my nose into her damp, clean hair.  She held my cheeks and kissed my face.  I started to drift off, then remembered I was in a fetal position in a toddler bed.  The instant I tried to move an arm, to peel myself away, Juniper tightened her grip, moaned, Noooooo, and wrapped her arms fast around my neck as though she were floating out to sea and I was her buoy.
Juniper doesn't know what happened on Friday, of course.  But lying there in her tiny bed, it occurred to me that she's picking up on the vibe.  I kissed her and stroked her hair, her cheeks.  I told her that she'll always be safe in mama and daddy's house.  I told her we'll always be there for her and we'll never leave.  She kept saying, "I'm scary."  (Meaning, "I'm scared.")  I tried to get her to name what she was afraid of, but she couldn't.  She just looked around her room, stuttering, then landed on the clothes hanging above her nightlight.  "I'm scary of my clothes."  I told her I would move her clothes and just like that, she loosened her grip and let me go.          
In the words of another blogger:
"My kids do not know what happened on Friday.  I hope it is a story I never have to explain to them. Because how can I? I can not comprehend it myself, much less translate it to my innocent six year old. Children - all children - deserve to live a childhood knowing they are safe. I'll do what I can to keep that belief alive."

We do not watch, nor do we have, television.  All of the news we've gleaned from NPR and a handful of internet articles.  Still, with Juniper, I think we'll need to be more careful.  She has asked us several times if we were sad.  We told her we'd heard a story that happened far away and made us very, very sad.  And then we told her how very much we loved her and how happy she makes us.  She smiled and giggled and asked us to read her another book.

This is not what I intended to write.  I wanted just to catch you all up on our holiday fervor.  But I just couldn't sit down and not acknowledge the thing that has lodged itself into the heart of our nation.  People who never cry, are crying.

"This is our first task -- caring for our children.  It’s our first job.  If we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right.  That’s how, as a society, we will be judged."  ~ President Obama, Newtown, CT  

Up next: holiday fervor.  Promise.

Saturday, December 15, 2012


Yesterday evening, once my man came home and kids were seated at the table...I sank into his arms and cried.  I went through the motions of getting supper on the table with heavy limbs, dragging leaden feet across kitchen tile.  I squeezed my kids, smelled their hair, memorized their profiles, their pudgy hands, their stained-glass eyes, their innocence.  I was up and down.  Weeping, mad, weeping.  I became impatient over stupid things then instantly felt like an ass.  My mind wandered to the dark place of an innocent school...and then stopped, and then started.  I can barely begin to imagine the life of a parent who had one less mouth to feed that night.

There has been lots of late-night talk in our house about guns, the absurd availability of body armor, video games, our culture of violence, the huge task of raising socially responsible boys.  Boys who aren't afraid of their emotions and can own them, express them through voice.

I am sending prayers, tears, the people of Newtown.  But...I am pissed.  How many more have to die?  Guns are just a piece of the puzzle, but they're the deadliest piece.  I am a gun owner.  I probably always will be.  But it's true, it was easier to acquire my guns than to sign my 3-year-old up for preschool.  Nicholas Kristof wrote a fantastic column today: click here to read it.  I love the way he puts things in perspective:

"The tragedy isn’t one school shooting, it’s the unceasing toll across our country. More Americans die in gun homicides and suicides in six months than have died in the last 25 years in every terrorist attack and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq combined."  --Nicholas Kristof    
~Hug your children, teach them peace, change the world. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

letter to Hazel

Well, I finally hung up my garden fork and hand trowel for the season.  Last night it rained the fluffiest goose-down I've ever seen.  One foot.  You kick it and it's like kicking air.  I shoveled some snow off the garden, pulled back the old sleeping bag and harvested the last of our carrots and beets.  The fact that I am saying this in December is completely nutty.  We live in zone 3, people.  Zone THREE.  I'm okay with it.  

:: Right now I'm listening to Frances England's "Family Tree": think light, happy, banjo and these lyrics:
Hey ho, just how will it be/ when we add another branch to our family tree....

How will it be?  This is how:
Hazel Iris, you complete us.  You were the missing soul at our dinner table.  You were the link we awaited in ring around the rosie.  We always knew something was missing until you came along.  Now, we are whole.  You are the rose atop our three-tiered cake.
Tonight you stood up unaided--like, for three full seconds--first in front of dad, then Juniper, then me.  This morning, somehow, the gate to the stairway had been left open and before we knew it, you had disappeared.  I had a *feeling* and I ran to the stairway to find you, smiling gloriously, at the top.  Damn, you made my heart leap but you were so dang proud of yourself.  You are a climber.  Even before you could crawl, you were trying to climb up my ironing board.
For months now, you wave goodnight to Daddy and Juniper.  At the mere mention of "goodni..." you'll stick your fist out there, opening and closing your fingers with the sweetest grin and your tongue sticking out just so.  And tonight!  You gave your first bonafide kiss.  The real McCoy.  And guess who was the lucky recipient?  For the rest of your lives Juniper can say she was your first kiss.  

These days, you point to everything asking, Eh?  Your favorite objects are lights, fans and snow.
^Juniper had just flipped on the light to wake you up.  This is you, all sleepy and squinty-eyed saying, Eh?^

From the day you were born you've had this goofy head/ear/hair fetish.  It started with a disdain for hats.  Then, as soon as you were able, you'd pull at your ears and grab your hair while nursing.  Then, once you could sit up, you'd hold things up to your ears, or stretch things behind your head, or over your head.  And still today, you love to just randomly slap and grab your own head.  It makes us laugh.  Always.  We love you so.
^Seriously.  You do this to yourself all the time.^  

You are a snuggler.  

You love to play ball.

You can hang with the big kids.
You love Legos and other 3-year-old toys.  You want to be a part of everything.  
Your level of communication astounds me.  You sign "more" and, sometimes, "drink", but hyperventilating when I take a block of cheese out means you want some.  Rapid-fire kicking in your high chair means you like what we're eating.  Slouching in your chair means your less than impressed.  Kicking combined with back arching means you're done and you want out.  Or, you have to pee.

Generally, you prefer meat and fish over anything else.  You especially like salmon and moose.  And pomegranates.  You'll take flavor and spice over mild and bland.  You still only have two teeth.    

Besides an awkward, screechy, baby bird-like ma! ma!, you have two words.  Ba = bath and up = cup.  Two things you really love: taking a bath with big sis and drinking from a sippy cup, just like big sis.

Two weeks ago you turned one.  Oh, Hazel Iris, I love you so.  Happy birthday sweet Hazel-basil.  

P.S. Daddy says, "I want to eat you up."