The way a child’s skin smells at the end of a long summer day outside
Rain on the roof at night
The slight hiss that invades my son’s speech when he loses a tooth
Running miles barefoot on the beach
Black and white photographs
Dinner parties – not the stuffy, formal kind, but the kind where the food is great, the conversation is even better, and the laughter (and wine) last far into the night
Jokes invented by preschoolers
Chocolate, raspberries, red wine, crusty sourdough baguettes, port salut cheese -- singly, or in pretty much any combination
The sound and smell of the ocean
How about you? What do you love?
Saturday, August 28, 2010
The way a child’s skin smells at the end of a long summer day outside
Monday, August 16, 2010
Why? you ask. Because my son bit through his own face in a freak accident involving a ballet barre that dislodged from the wall and a window sill into which he subsequently did a face plant. The net result: four hours in the E.R., stitches both inside and outside his mouth, a tooth removal (thankfully, only a baby tooth) the next day, 7 days of antibiotics, and enough cheek swelling that he could have auditioned to be the The Godfather's MiniMe.
The only reason I can write about this in any kind of light-hearted way now is that the stitches are already out, and by Saturday, he was completely back to being himself. I have never been so happy to watch my children aggravate each other.
"Isn't it crazy that no one even bought the one thing we had at our garage sale that was FREE?! No one. I mean, vacuums cost thousands of dollars, and no one even took our free one."And that, my friends, with an extra added dose of heated, humid hotness, pretty much sums up our garage sale success this weekend.
I've concluded that garage sales are only worth the effort if you can guarantee gorgeous weather the day of. Prepping can be efficient if you do it as you clean over the course of a couple of weeks. But housewares (even free ones) don't sell. All the baby gear could be more easily sold at a Mom2Mom sale. And despite oppressive humidity and unpleasant heat and big crowds (it was a subdivision-wide sale day), the kids' lemonade stand did a poor business.
The best part of a garage sale, it turns out, is that your neighbors stop by, and you get to have lots of social time in between sales.
You, too, can play pastry chef.
Turns out, the work that goes into baking a giant "wedding" cake for the kindergartners to eat after their teacher's wedding, to which they have been invited for the ceremony only, so obviously, there will need to be an alternative "reception" in a park somewhere with a giant confection in white? Totally worth it.
Oh, I was faithful to Seventh Generation lavendar and eucalyptus, biodegradable, good-for-the-environment, conscientious, crazy expensive laundry soap for a good long time. But although (because?) I adored its clean, fresh smell, I didn't like that the smell lingered not at all in the clean laundry once it was dry. And the pricetag? I did not love.
Then I came across a tiny pump bottle of Method laundry soap, promising to be ultra-concentrated, and biodegradable, and 95% made of plant materials, and superior in its cleaning power, and only four pumps to do a whole load of wash. Also, the packaging is about the size of a salad dressing bottle, which I like because I am nothing if not a half-passive environmentalist (meaning: I like to do my part, but I like to do it even better when it's easy). Also? It was half the price of the Fancy Schmancy Expensive Brand. So I bought it.
It passed the dried blood and red popsicle drips test earlier this week. I'm permanently sold.
Because awesome readers deserve props...
Comment of the Week this week goes to Melanie, perhaps the newest reader here, and someone who totally got my sense of how children can be babies, school-aged, and grown all at once. Thanks for reading, Melanie!
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Her arms still have a margin of baby plumpness, a soft rounding in their upper halves. The skin, taut and supple, silky, feels like the return of a caress as my bare arms encircle her small self. She sits on my lap on this breezy summer day, burrowed into the curve of my body, a tickle of her hair brushing my nose, her scent like lavender and sunshine and child skin warm from play. For a moment, I am holding my baby, still and close, a crystalline sensation of being wrapped up in each other, enjoying the silence.
And then her laughter bursts our bubble. She flits away on sturdy, four-year-old legs, and I am left with an empty lap, a sharp intake of breath, a stinging reminder that, though her arms still have a margin of baby plumpness, she is no longer a baby.
He rolls over, our bodies close, our heads closer, as we stare together at the pages of the book. I am reading aloud and he is listening, pointing to the inset details about vampire bats, relishing the fact that he can read along if he chooses. I am amazed by his prowess. At six, he is engrossed in books, fascinated by words.
And yet, the most banal of puns, a bit of potty humor, or even just a silly voice can set him off in peals of giggles that evoke for me a cherished memory of his barely-toddling self. The day he laughed so hard at a rolling toy car that he literally fell over onto the floor, the better to enjoy the whole-body experience of laughter.
I am reading to him now, at six, and we come to a funny part, and--our heads close together--we take in the joke and burst into peals of exuberant, spontaneous, uncontrolled laughter. We look at each other and laugh harder, reveling in the intimacy of a shared joke. And he is one and six and twenty all in that instant.
She is serious and attentive at ballet. Talkative, dreamy, stubborn and opinionated at home, she spends thirty minutes each week intently focused. She watches herself and her teacher closely in the mirror. The small pink legs, the floating pink skirt, the soft pink ballet slippers...she controls them all. To be sure, the remnants of the baby belly protrude slightly over the skirt; the slight roundness of her soft toddler arms is curved over her head.
But with her hair swept up, there is a moment when I see in the arch of her neck, the much older, more graceful creature she will become. Poised. She stands poised between baby and child. Leaping in slow motion towards the glory of Bigger Stronger More Coordinated.
He is learning chess. He can see the consequences of his own moves and anticipate those of his opponent. He almost always beats me at checkers and soon will far outstrip me in chess.
It has only been two weeks since he first touched a chess board.
It is as if his mind is only capable of growing exponentially as he learns things in enormous, greedy gulps.
He is teaching her chess.
She independent and capable. She can entertain herself for an hour with her art box or her dollhouse. She can reach the water to wash her hands--and remembers to do so every time she goes to the potty. She can have a conversation, tell you a story about something that happened when you weren't there, feel deep empathy for her brother's pain.
And yet, she melts into a whining puddle if I do not let her finish her rambling non-question of a question before I let Daddy interrupt to ask if we turn left at the light or not.
He seems so much older than six. He is polite and brave and thoughtful in a crisis...in a crisis of his own. Getting stitches, he has a level of patience that makes me proud. I am awed by his concerted efforts to remember his "please" and "thank you" while speaking through a swollen, numbed, gauze-filled mouth and out from under a sterile drape.
And then, he wants to sit on my lap. To be held close, to have his hair stroked and his back rubbed. To feel still and small and protected.
Our lives, I feel almost every day, are a balancing act of epic proportions. How do I hold them tight, keep them here small and loving and close? How do I know which moments are right for letting them test their wings? Where do I balance the laughter with the correction, the quiet moment of snuggling a lap child with the practical fact that I can hardly carry him up the stairs any more? Where exactly is that line, the one I dread overstepping but cannot seem to find, between being too protective and not protective enough?
I look down into my safety net and I see infant coos, toddler laughter so enormous it cannot be contained in the mouth but invades the whole body, impetuous kisses, deep looks that pass between our matched pairs of brown eyes, shouted greetings at the end of a long day, quiet hands slipping into mine as we cross the grocery store parking lot.
And I take another step along with wire. Balancing. Balancing. Dreading their growing up and infatuated with it. Longing for what is past as much as I anticipate the next big achievement. Wondering whether tomorrow's hug will come from still-round toddler arms or suddenly-slim little girl ones.
Friday, August 6, 2010
Just take a moment to drink in this photo.
It needs almost no words; the light and composition are just that lovely.
But it will probably amaze you, as it did me, to find out that this photo was taken in 1940. Here's its caption and credit:
"Boys fishing in a bayou. Schriever, Louisiana, June 1940. Reproduction from color slide. Photo by Marion Post Wolcott. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress"It is one of a series of color slides that were taken between 1939 and 1943 by Farm Security Administration and Office of War Information photographers. They document Depression and early wartime America--from rural workers to real Rosie the Riviters--in vivid color.
"Woman is working on a "Vengeance" dive bomber Tennessee, February 1943. Reproduction from color slide. Photo by Alfred T. Palmer. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress"It is so strange and haunting to see images like the iconic ones by Dorothea Lange, but in bright color. There were moments scrolling through the series that I felt like I was looking at photos from a movie set in the 1940s. But these are real. Haunting. Beautiful, even despite their disorienting color. For the whole, astonishing set, look here.
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
I do not want to try your Dead Sea Minerals Hand Polish. Or your Dead Sea Minerals Scrub. Or your Dead Sea Minerals Fingernail Buff Kit, even though it produces glossy smooth nails that always look freshly manicured.
Nor, quite frankly, do I want to be hounded as I walk through the mall, after I've used my Polite Voice to say "no thank you; I'm not interested."
And when, after I more firmly insist, "NO thanks," you immediately start bad-mouthing me to the too-skinny-big-smile-blond-highlights girl who is your kiosk partner, it doesn't do much to endear me to you. Don't think that just because you are speaking Russian, I don't understand you. I may not speak Russian, but Snark is a pretty universal language.
Despite your patent-able combination of bravado, smug condescension and baby-soft hands, you aren't actually better than me.
I? I am a mother/wife/professor, who adores her family and friends and is really extremely happy in her life.
And you? You are a pushy Mall Kiosk Guy who isn't very nice.
I know you have a crappy job in a state where lots of people have no job at all, but here's the thing. "Mall Kiosk Guy" may not be the most prestigious title you'll ever have, but unless you do something quick, "pushy" and "not very nice" may stick with you forever.
Just a thought,