Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009 year in review

I have a lovely photo mosaic to post soon, but in a nutshell?  2009 is the year of the beloved wife, the children that I love and who challenge me beyond my wildest imagination, and the year of the miscarriage.  I slipped another one in there while I was busy not blogging; nothing says Christmas like diminished embryonic growth.

I really am blessed beyond my wildest imaginations.  We'll see what happens next.  I'm 40, not as adventurous as I used to be and feeling a little beaten down.  The wife is out of town for a week tending to her newly widowed father, the children, somehow sensing my mood/ needs went to sleep by 8:30 (for the first time in months) and the new year is ringing in all askew.  However, I am an eternal optimist - go figure - and it can only go up from here.


I really want to write a lovely, long, witty post about the first Christmas that the kids have been aware of. It was mostly a very fun day. I am just so overwhelmed and tired. Monday - yesterday! - Homestead Mama's stepmother died as suddenly as one can when one is on the lung transplant list. H-Mama is leaving tomorrow for about a week to stay with her dad 3 hours away, help him through this and start getting things sorted out. I'll stay here at home with the kids and muddle through. I have been thinking up fun activities to entertain them with like night weaning. H-Mama has been the hold out on this, and I not producing much anymore so this seems a PERFECT time to acclimate them to nursing down and upon waking, but not at all during the night. Sounds like fun, eh? Boy, do I know how to have a good time.

I would normally go visit my parents, or friends in Canada with all my free time. However, we have pets that will tie me to the house. (And I haven't managed to renew our passports yet and get them for the kids. Do straight, married parents both have to be present at the post office to get passports for their kids? Talk about a deterrent to foreign travel.)

So maybe I'll have time to blog. Check back soon!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Wordless Christmas 2009

Here Comes the Sun

I am not a morning person. Children have been a rough adjustment for me, as the little buggers tend to wake up early. Even as one of the luckiest parents I know (Monito sleeps until 7ish, Pequita would sleep in until 9 every morning if I let her) I still struggle with mornings.

I now have a wonderful assist in the process of facing the day. Light from the new doors floods up the stairs and welcomes me each day.

The kids love it too - their inner artists are reveling in the perfect light.
Their attention was split before Christmas on their masterpiece and the contractors outside building the deck. They love Roy; Pequita was having an episode (our new, less judgmental word for tantrum) at one point (well, actually at about 5 points) and she sobbed Ruh! Me want Ruh! (Both my kids are having trouble with the 'oy' dipthong. It is quite endearing.)

And the dogs? They like the new platform that we had built for them. They sit out there surveying all their land, watching for prey and postal carriers.

Life is good.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Les Portes Francais

We have intended to have French Doors in our kitchen for, oh, about a decade. And in the last week we went from a wall cluttered with a bookshelf and napkin storage to a large blank wall

to a reminder of how much we love our insulation* (R-7.5 per inch, folks!)

to a big hole in the wall on a 20 degree day

to French Doors installed

The contractor will be back next week to finish the insulating, trim, handle set installation, etc. Also, they'll be building a deck right outside that is the length of the house and projects 8' out onto the grassy patio we had created this past summer. Already the house is lighter, more open and so lovely. As always, each thing we get done inspires more work, but in the good way.

Yes, that is my sewing machine on the kitchen island. I've been Christmas-ing the only way I know how.

*We used sprayed-in rigid foam insulation. It expands to fill every nook and cranny and dries hard which offers the house a lot of structural integrity as well as insulating the crap out of a 150 year old dwelling. I have NO regrets with this product. Our house has drafts but NONE of them are from the walls. (As pretty as it is, our field stone foundation is something that I'd get redone if we win the lottery.)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Each night now we read holiday and winter stories at bedtime; in top rotation is a picture book of the Nutcracker ballet story. Pequita's excitement about ballet is ramping up, and we scarcely pass a full length mirror without her busting a move, be it plie', arabesque, or pointed toe leg lift.

I told her that we'll spend Christmas 2010 in Boston at Grandma & Grandpa's house, and that we will all get dressed up and go to see the Boston Ballet dance the Nutcracker. Squeeeeeee! Not only has she planned out her own outfit to the last detail (purple, puffed sleeves, shiny bodice, tulle petticoat, tiny gold not-too-fancy crown) but she has assigned us all colors for our outfits. I am orange (what else?) H-Mama will be in red, and Monito gets a nice backhoe-themed oufit. Not sure how to pull that off as a seamstress.

Big Girl

Pequita woke from her on-the-road car nap and said:

"Mom, back in the old days, I wasn't very tired much. Now, I'm very tired a lot."

Aren't we all, little girl! I told her that its because she used to go to sleep by 7:30 and now she is up until about 10 every night.

"Oh. That's because I'm a big girl now."

I guess she is, if she can refer to the 'old days'.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Saratoga Springs

Homestead Mama is spending her days at a professionally invigorating conference, networking, teaching and learning. I am spending my days hanging out with my parents and kids, taking in the best of what Saratoga has to offer. Coffeehouse breakfasts, walks along a snowy main street liberally coated with holiday decorations and lights, a well-funded and beautifully decorated library, and after naps (with Grandma! Whee!) swimming in the hotel pool.

I am immensely grateful for this window in time to enjoy the bounty of my life.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Needle Felting

I put some finishing touches on the felted balls with a little needle felting.  It is a fairly precise activity; I was watching Fringe, and have the two thumb piercings to prove it.  I am totally pleased with the results, and will definitely make more. 

We'll see if my skills are as good as I think they are - the red guy is not Santa, but is a Tomten or gnome.  Could you tell?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


I was quite taken with this article. Maybe my wild kids are just COLD, and when they are warmed up they will sit all day peacefully reading books and tracing their hands! The article is definitely on the edge of Waldorf-y preaching, but the concepts are sensible. We keep our house at a toasty 65 degrees day and night, so are big into the layering concept. Except for Pequita who has up to seven wardrobe changes a day, many of which are from one filmy fairy princess dress to another. It is like living with Celine Dion except I am the lackey who trails after the diva picking up the discarded clothes. Next thing I'll be blogging about will be Pequita's request for an all-white nursery with white flowers and 27 new bottles of mineral water imported from France at all times.

I just bought a set of silk long johns for us all, and will have a go at making us woolen ones with my serger, as the cost of outfitting pottty training kids in woolens ($40 per shirt? $50 per pair pants? are they kidding?) is a smidge prohibitive for kids who grow a size every few months.

Anyone who has merino wool or cashmere sweaters with holes, stains, shrunken, or that they just don't like is invited to send them on to me for repurposing. I can offer you a barter - have you seen my felted balls?

Warm Hands, Warm Hearts

Having looked all over for simple wool mittens, I realized that duh, I'm a knitter. On to Ravelry for the classic mitten pattern, and voila*.

Mittens for the kids in the only superwash (machine washable wool) I had on hand. I originally bought the yarn to make a vest for a boyfriend, which indicates how long it has been in my stash. Pequita LOVES them.
They were worsted weight yarn, so a little light for sledding or playing in the snow. Modification is my middle name. So happy was I with the classic mitten pattern, I started knitting a pair of thrummed mittens by making one size up (to accommodate all the fluff inside!) and tufts of roving I had on hand for wool felting. I just HAD to enliven them by striping the wool, which resulted in a teensy bit of irregularity as I figured out tuft size, frequency, etc. The second one will be better! I would be a better knitter if I actually made a prototype to practice patterns and skills, but it isn't in my nature. Hopefully the kids won't notice the little differences.

Here is the first thrummed mitten of the season, awaiting a thumb. They would knit up a lot faster if I could skip the self-admiration after each and every row. This one is awaiting a thumb still, but Pequita was willing to model it.

And this is how it looks inside-out:

They are the perfect play weight, and with the extra wool should keep out wind and keep fingers warm for a long time. I'll let you know!

Enjoying the quick project as much as I do, and wishing to make a few pairs for Homestead Mama and myself, off we went to the local yarn store. Mmmmmmm, Cascade Superwash. Santa knows what I like!

Now if I can just spend the time to figure out how to update my Ravelry account to show some of this activity.

*Elmer's Glue & glitter ornaments. Easy, satisfying for kids and SPARKLY! Draw a shape with the glue & let the kids sprinkle on the glitter. I'd have shown you the green sparkly garbage truck Monito made, but it is already hanging on the tree.

To Blog or To Make Holiday Gifts?

Clearly, gifts have been winning. 

Wet felted balls batch #1.  Homestead Mama's hand for relative size.  Monito refuses to let them out of his site, let alone to be shipped off to other kids.  I may have to rethink letting the kids participate in our gift-giving to others.

I've finished a thrummed mitten, too.  I'll do a mitten rundown tomorrow.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Let Go

I'm not good at letting go of control.  I find it challenging to wait and be patient. 
Anyone care to join me in a deep cleansing breath?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Gingerbread Houses

We did our annual trek to the mega grocery store today to participate in the gingerbread house building class. For $10, the kids each get a base house and all the royal icing and candy they need to decorate it, and I don't have to clean up or to chisel the icing off my kitchen afterward.

We had some friends join us this year and it was a huge success. Monito really shone, wielding the icing bag like a culinary school graduate. I barely had to help him - he actually had some good design ideas. I built him a chimney, and he let me ice & decorate his ice cream cone tree because I was itching to do one of my own, but other than that he worked until his supplies dried up. Pequita, on the other hand, could barely take time off from her candy consumption to bother sticking some to her house.
This gave Auntie Kiko free reign, and together they did a lovely job. We now have 2 hardening houses covered in contraband drying in the pantry behind the baby gate. We'll pick at them for a few days and then they will disappear.


By the way - the two sites below are chock full of holiday (and year-round) crafty goodness for those of you so inclined.

The Crafty Crow
Gingerbread Snowflakes

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Oh Tannenbaum

Homestead Mama and I always pick a day that it is snowing to go fetch our Christmas tree. This has meant that we've cut it close to the actual holiday some years as we are waiting for Mother Nature to provide the atmosphere necessary for proper festive tree selection. Only one Christmas during our nine years together have we had non-snow; it was a short selection process in the pouring rain. We used a lot of BIG ornaments on the side that only had a few branches.

We revel in the quiet sound of snow falling on the hike in. It is usually so pleasant that we hike further into the snowy meadow than is necessary just to prolong the experience. We embrace the ritual, the peace and quiet, the hauling of bulky down-jacketed 40 lb kids in Ergo carriers on our backs. It is a pleasant bonus that we can get a 7' tree for $20 when down the road a couple miles you can pay $40 for the same tree and get a smog-filled tractor ride down a crowded field to pick your Christmas tree out of a pile of pre-cut trees, all the while assaulted by Happy! Holiday! Music! spewing from speaker wired into the fields.

We always look for a few perfect trees, and every year this requires some discussion. I tend towards a Charlie Brown sparseness, the better to showcase a select few precious ornaments. Homestead Mama prefers a tree so dense that light doesn't show through the branches, and likes to pile on every ornament she has ever bought. Once we've found two or three that ride the line of compromise, we check for bird nests. Did you know that it is good luck for the coming year if your Christmas tree has a bird's nest in it? With a little effort, we get lucky almost every year. Not so this year in our perfect trees; we found a nest in a neighboring tree that was too big by at least 10 feet and plucked it out, decided that would bring at least a little luck for 2010. We got the old man who owns the tree farm to snap our photo again like we do every year. In jockeying the kids, the camera, the saw and my mittens I set down our nest and left it at the tree farm. I almost sent Homestead Mama back for it - its only 5 miles away. In the end, she set the tree up in the stand while I monitored the kids in the bathtub. When we came out, H-Mama was beaming and asked us to look into a particularly dense section of the tree, low down near the base.

Lo and behold, there was a perfect, tiny little nest. It must have been extremely well-built, as we were not at all gentle in the cutting, dragging, loading and unloading of the presumed nest-less tree. I guess we are due for a little luck next year after all.

Blogger Hate

Well, if I perform a mass-upload of pics on the desktop every few days to make blogging every day easier from my Netbook, the posts, um, post back under the date of upload/ draft save. Grrrr.

Today's post is back there under 12/3. Bugger Blogger.

Friday, December 4, 2009

This Week In History

2005 BK (Before Kids) Martha's Vineyard

2006 Pequita, 2 months old

2007 Pequita conquers the kitchen island; Monito looks on with concern

2008 Gingerbread House-raising with Auntie Kiko
This is such a super event we are doing it again on Sunday

Thursday, December 3, 2009


One week's fruit share in 2009
(not including the 2 other grape clusters and
4 plums the kids ate on the way home)

We belong to both a veggie and fruit CSA here in town every summer. It supplies us with a week's worth of fruit for eating; many weeks I bought extra fruit from the CSA wholesale to preserve and also because my kids can consume massive quatities of fresh fruit. It is all coming to fruition now, as the snowflakes are falling (as I write this - yay!) Sour cherries, peaches, pears, apples, all by the 5-gallon bucket or bushel crate. I was a tad busy in the evenings.

A couple days ago, I served the kids canned peaches that I put by this summer.
They were complaining about all the apples I was serving them, and I made a huge flourishing presentation of peaches in (very light) syrup over Greek yogurt. They were properly awed, and we got to discuss how these canned peaches happened, where they came from, how much fun it is to have yummy summer food on our table when it is too cold for it to grow outside. I am pleased that they seem to understand the food cycles of our household, and realized I need to start planning our own garden layout for next spring. Hopefully, we can do more seed starts ourselves and buy fewer young plants. I expect to remain a member of the two CSAs until our own gardens supply us with enough food.

The kids and I make our weekly trip to the farm to pick up our fruit and veggies an event. We see our friends there, pick flowers and tomatoes and herbs and fruit in the u-pick fields, we play with (chase) the chickens and guinea hens, and Monito caresses the tractors (only after greeting them by name. "Hello, Green Tractor. Hello, Big Yellow Tractor with Dragging Thingy" Mommy needs to learn the names of more farm equipment, clearly.) I consider it early homeschooling about food, science, nature and the seasons that we get to do out in the sun.

With This Ring

New York just voted down my right to marry in my own state. I got my rings back from being resized at the jewelers that same day. It is all bittersweet, and I'm trying to be zen about it; goodness knows I am entirely surrounded by people who are as upset by the injustice as I am. My marriage in Massachusetts is still recognized by my state, but sheesh, that feels a little hollow.

So here are our beautiful rings. The kids love to fondle them and talk about how sparkly they are and love to ask what they are for, knowing that the answer never changes. "Our wedding rings mean that Mommy and Mama will love each other for ever, and our family will always be here for you." This always dissolves them into snuggly puddles. Me too, frankly.

Homestead Mama's beloved Grandma Lillian was from Little Rock, Arkansas. She had a long and slightly daring career as a gymnastic dancer in New York City in a time when that was quite risque. She was very clear about the fact that she WAS NOT a stripper - she had some sexy pictures taken of herself that she said were posted outside the club to lure people in, but when she danced she was more modestly covered.

Lillian, 1926

Her best friend for decades was Harvey a female impersonator - one can only presume that he was gay since he tended to 'impersonate' even in his off-stage hours. There is an amazing photographic history of both of them, and we are still wading through it. When I met Grandma Lillian for the first time, she said, "Well, thank goodness Homestead Mama finally brought home a blonde." When Lillian died earlier this year, Homestead Mama brought home a car full of things deemed not valuable by other family members. Lots of things the kids would like - many boxes of note cards with envelopes to practice playing postal carrier, music boxes, old perfume bottles, and box after box of costume jewelry. I went through it all looking for safety hazards and junky things to toss. On a safety pin amongst a bunch of plastic and corroded metal rings was a dull metal band. It was unassuming and delicate, and so fine and tiny that it didn't even go all the way down my pinky. Upon closer investigation I noticed an inscription that required a magnifying glass. Expecting it to read: "Made by Avon 1953" I was surprised to see initials, the date 1914, and Plat 800/Irid 200. Hmmm. Hello, Google - platinum used to be mixed with iridium around the turn of the century. And with one fell swoop, H-Mama was the owner of the only family heirloom she'll probably ever get. She was thrilled that we hadn't given the kids - or worse, tossed out - her grandmother's wedding ring worth hundreds of dollars and a million more in sentimental value. We bought her a second ring - a little bling - from a local lesbian-owned jewelry store. They are balanced perfectly, completely suitable for my tough-on-the-outside, Martha Stewart-loving, hard-labor loving wife.

My maternal grandmother, Phyllis, was widowed in her 60s and her friends convinced her to have the diamonds from her engagement ring turned into a less-intimidating-to-potential-suitors cocktail ring. (At least this is how I remember the story. My mom will correct me in the comments if I am mistaken.) When Phyllis died, my mom inherited the ring.

Grandma Sharon with ring in her glory with Monito, October 2007
(oh my god the PUDGE on him!)

I have coveted it and loved it ever since - it is uncommon, a little fancy but far from gaudy. My mother intended to leave it to me in her will, but was gracious enough to let me use it for my own wedding after an exhaustive and unsuccessful search on my part for the perfect ring. With it, she had made a simple band to match the curves of the original ring.

Homestead Mama and I have something old, something new, some history and a fresh beginning on our fingers. We couldn't be happier. Unless, of course, we were recognized as actually married by our country.


Monito just demanded that I send his 8 month old cousin a letter. This is what he dictated:

Dear Baby Lindy,

You are too little to eat tapioca with me.

You can play with my water bottles, though. I want to roll them to you.

I love you,


Uncle Tim

Our friend Tim lives in Switzerland. Every time he makes the trek to the U.S. to visit with his family in the midwest, he plans a stopover for a week or so in Boston to visit my family and his friends who still live there.

Tim was my brother's best friend; he and Jason met in 1979 when we moved to Switzerland. Digital Equipment Company moved us over there, and Tim's family was there courtesy of Caterpillar Equipment. I don't think Jason and Tim ever went a year without seeing each other, even when living on different continents. They were roommates in Boston when they were old enough to live on their own. Tim was with Jason when he died in 1993. Tim is a beloved member of our family.

Homestead Mama and I went back to Boston in early November to spend time with Tim on his latest visit. It is always a treat - he's a smart funny renaissance man, fluent in at least 2 languages, unassuming, wry, and handsome. He spent a year biking from Geneva to China and back. He works in finance now because that is what you do when you live in Geneva, but he can sew a pair of jeans, brew a good beer, make a snowboard from scratch and crack up a room with one quiet comment.

He is wonderful with kids, getting down on their level, accompanying them on their play tangents, and taking them very seriously which they can sense and they clearly love. Some day we'll travel to see him and do with my kids some of the things I loved doing in Geneva. We'll buy glaces along the sidewalks of Lac Leman and walk in the spray of the Jet D'Eau.

We'll drive up to the top of the Saleve and watch the hang gliders jump off the cliff. We'll drive 2 hours out of the city and be in the alps. I'd move back to Switzerland in a heartbeat if offered the chance. Next best thing? Having Tim settled there and waiting for us to visit.

90 Minutes

How did you spend the first 90 of your day?

I got to sleep in a bit today - until 9:10! This is no small favor, as anyone who knows me is aware how very much of a night person I am. Homestead Mama frequently takes the early shift with the kids which usually means that she gets them in dry diapers/ panties and kisses me goodbye, but today she ended up going in to work a little late so she could get the garbage out, feed the dogs, and tidy up a bit since she knew I stayed up until after midnight painting people and watching bad TV. The kids helped her with all these tasks, so it took her almost 2 hours. Having missed the early playgroup meet-ups by getting up so late, I embraced the staying home concept. The kids love to meet and play with their friends; they also love to have Mommy on the living room floor in a pig pile, leading the marching band, or getting down the good paints from the top shelf. What everyone says about how beneficial it is when you are living in the moment, following your kids lead, giving them your complete and utter attention? Very true. Hard to maintain, but that's what meditation is for.

We started out explaining what Pequita had painted on her brother's face while Mommy was in the bathroom (a lion). She paints their faces every day at least once. Yesterday she accompanied me on all our errands with a huge black and purple blotch on her cheek looking for all the world as though I had been beating some compliance into her. She proudly told anyone who asked that it was the Evil Queen from Snow White. A little nonrepresentational, but she got the colors right.

I was treated to a ballet recital by the ballerina in our house while I brushed my teeth. She then taught her brother how to twirl and plie, which is going to be the impetus I needed to order myself a new charging cord for my video camera. My kids dancing together is something that I would love to watch on DVD as an old lady sitting in my quiet house when the kids are grown.

We followed that by playing trumpet on our left over cooked shell noodles from last night. (The stuffed shells with organic pork meat sauce was a HUGE hit with all of us. A good thing, since I made two gigantic pans.)Yankee Doodle Dandy, tooted deep with a whole noodle and ever-shriller as the noodles mysteriously got shorter and shorter in the kids mouths. Pequita bounced on her riding bouncy ball in time to the song. Then I got them dressed while singing This Old Man. The kids got to alternate picking the number verse I sang; Pequita worked her way through 1 - 10, but Monito only ever chose 2. Each time I sang, "He played knick knack on his shoe" there was much cracking up. I think he likes the way showing me 2 feels in his fingers - he uses his index and thumb (a.k.a. Pointer and Thumbkins in our house.)

They spotted the dice jar on a shelf and we spent 20 minutes playing with that. Every time I go to the thrift store, consignment store, or salvation army I buy up all the dice games I can. Boggle is a great one. I then repurpose the boxes and other playing bits elsewhere in our lives and toss the dice into a big jar. We make up our own games, spell our names and whatever words the kids want, and then sort them back into the jar by color, size, letter, whatever. It always changes, which keeps it fun for all of us. I also have a massive jar of Scrabble tiles for the same purpose. The nice stiff game boards make great dance floors or car ramps when Mod Podged with pretty paper or painted over by toddlers.

I didn't post the picture with their names spelled out even though it was the better photo. For now, I am going to keep the anonymity up on the blog. It is annoying to have to write fake names, but as a lesbian family with cute kids in a fairly identifiable town, I just feel safer. I'm actually working on another blog idea, one that would end up being more craft oriented and less of a family/ baby book and would use our real names. Because I need MORE time on my computer. Sigh.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Peg People

I have been feeling badly about not blogging more, both because it is my record of what's happening in my life and also because my friends IRL are calling, emailing, asking if I'm ok or if I've fallen into a funk that I need help getting out of. (I must say, I have encountered no funk that toddlers cannot roust me out of. Best medicine ever.)

I haven't been sitting on my thumbs. I have been investing my evenings in crafting the likes of which I haven't mustered since before the second kid was born. I will be posting some pictures over the next few days so you can comment and lavish me with positive reinforcement.

Christmas is heading our way rather fast. I've done all the online shopping I had to do, and come the 25th the kids will be jumping on an indoor 40 " trampoline and riding around the yard on a pedal-powered green front-end loader. Happy happy, joy joy. I've been making a bunch of other smaller things to fill in holes in our toy arsenal. From my favorite wooden acorn source, I ordered a bunch of plain wood people shapes. I've made some into gnomes, left some plain, and am painting the rest into various little personalities. As always, the prototypes are a bit rough and take a lot longer than future versions. I am, for the most part, having a blast doing this. I LOVE painting the people, and suspect that investing in paint brushes that didn't come in a kids' water color box would improve my accuracy.

Mermaid, pirates, wolf and Little Red Riding Hood.

Assorted playmates.

Christmas avatars for each of us to display on our holiday table.

The two tall guys need no introduction, but the little guy is for Monito. He is entering superhero admiration, so one for himself seems appropriate.

I have a whole box of blanks still to work on, although I am about to stop for the holidays.