March 2, 2015

A Walk and A Thought

snowshoe at the garden / march 1, 2015

The problem with a life booked to full capacity, is that piling on even the smallest bonus commitment upsets that precarious balance. It seems more and more frequent that I find myself gratefully presented with some promising  opportunity; in work, in life, and I often don't want to say 'no', but I also don't really want to say 'yes'. 

I feel a general swell of encouragement for mothers to maintain their own interests and identity, to not get pulled into the undertow of single-minded parenthood. There have been countless moments when I clung to that support, feeling desperate to define myself outside of these two small people, who have rendered my life unrecognizable in a just few short years. 

And yet... my own reality seems to be that the deepest bliss is found in hiding under the covers of motherhood, allowing myself to become completely swallowed up and lost in that role, even at the expense of my other passions and interests. 

I fight that temptation to quit everything, and I take on new opportunities that inspire me, so long as they can be squeezed into the margins around full-time parenting. The hope is that I can continue to grow as my own independent woman, alongside my children. Because we all know that the time moves quickly, and soon these babies will be gone, and the wisdom is that I need to nurture myself, my marriage, and my work... ultimately those are the constants.

It's good to strive for balance, and that's what we've been doing over here these days. Still, it does pull at me, because we all know that the time moves quickly, and soon these babies will be gone, and I would love nothing more than to dwell in the fulfillment of motherhood, for as long as my luck holds out.

February 18, 2015

Two Kids + An Epic Winter

It's no secret that Boston has been pummeled with storm after storm in the last few weeks, each armed with several feet of new snow. It's impossible to accurately describe how much snow we are working with;12 foot banks line our driveway and surround our house. Shoveling is a puzzle, with nowhere left to put all this snow. Pulling out of the driveway is quite literally a leap of faith, there is zero visibility. The entire neighborhood is completely transformed, and I actually have found myself lost on drives that are part of my daily routine, just because the landscape is suddenly and oddly unfamiliar. 

I know that everyone here is absolutely done with winter, but I have to quietly confess that I am still enjoying the season. It's a giant pain, but also exciting and beautiful. Call me crazy, but I'm just not yet suffering those winter blues. I am finding though, that with many days requiring lots of indoor time, entertaining two little ones is more work than ever. I'm not one for planning activities in advance, or scheduling any of our time, so most of my survival strategies shake out from my own interests around the house, and some minor resourcefulness. So far, we're hanging in there happily, but if these storms persist through to March, send help!

*build forts

build forts: This is one of those mandatory indoor day activities. I think every childhood should include many many blanket forts, filled with stuffed animals and books and annoying musical instruments... and ideally including a 'no adults' policy.


*surprise projects

surprise projects: As I mentioned, I am terrible at planning (or shopping) ahead for any activities, but we do have a stockpile of gifted puzzles and kits that make for an exciting surprise on a cranky afternoon. In a pinch, a few boxes or cups and some beans or rice can also be thrilling... though ultimately messy! In our house, the more suddenly these projects appear, the better. Any advance notice results in inflated expectations and whining, the surprise is half the enjoyment.

*sprout / grow

sprout / grow: Nothing brightens up the winter gloom like a little green. I love planting bulbs, like paperwhites, the kids can help with watering and see fast results. We will soon be planting some seeds, and we've been experimenting with several different types of sprouts. All you need is a mason jar, some cheesecloth (or a special sprouting lid, which makes things even easier), and some appropriate seeds. The kids love the rinsing  each day, and as a bonus they're tasty.

*bake / cook

bake / cook: We do a baking project at least once a week, and while for years I would beat the standard drum that 'help' from kids actually makes things twice as complicated, I now find 4 year old Little Smith legitimately helpful. He can measure cups of flour and stir, and Roo seems to follow his lead, even if her aim isn't always spot on. Sometimes they do go nuts and suddenly the room is covered in flour, but less often than you might imagine. 

*live dangerously

live dangerously: Every child has a different temperament, and every family has to work out appropriate boundaries, but we let our kids have a lot of autonomy around the house, and access to things that some might view as inappropriate or dangerous. The fireplace is a prime example, we've been lighting a fire every evening for the kids. They both quickly drag pillows and blankets to the floor and get cozy while snacking on pretzels. I haven't encountered anything else that keeps them both glued to their seats and quiet as effectively, and I often do leave them unattended and prepare dinner (one room over) while they fire gaze. They both understand the concept of 'hot', and I do think that their heightened attention has something to do with the awareness of potential danger. 

For safety, they have been instructed to head over to the lounge chair, on the other side of the room, if they want to roll around and wrestle... and we also do allow them to poke and shove each other until someone begs us to intervene... or until someone bites (I have no patience for that! We all have our limits).

*embrace the snow

embrace the snow: We love us some snow, and any day that isn't insanely cold is going to include some outside time. At this point, the snow is well over both of the kids' heads and we can't even get into many of the local parks. A simple trek to the yard is a big adventure, and Roo is easily frustrated and probably a little young to really push through such a substantial winter. Even when it's challenging, I find that forcing ourselves outside every day makes a huge difference in every one's spirits. We are contemplating snowshoes for Little Smith, this might just be the year!

++++++++++++

With March nearing, I am already feeling the tingling of spring and it puts all this snow into perspective (although honestly, how will it ever all melt!?!) Here's hoping that we can finish out this winter feeling cozy, happy, and somewhat sane!

Oh and Lauren has compiled a fantastic list of projects for kids over the years. Here is one that I currently have my eye on, if only we had some marshmallows on hand.

February 13, 2015

Love Dude

valentines 2015

Every year, I get excited for the brightness of Valentine's Day in the depths of winter. It's an utterly sweet and stress free holiday, which is probably why it's my favorite. I endorse any excuse to bake, do crafts, eat chocolate, and get fresh flowers, but I also appreciate staking out a day for the basic celebration of love. 

Yes yes I know, we shouldn't wait for a holiday to remind us to express our love for the people who are important in our lives, but it certainly doesn't hurt. I look at my own little family of four, and often it does seem like we reserve the very worst behavior for one another; brother-sister battles, parent-child tantrums, husband-wife irritations... relationships are just so damn challenging! Of course, I am insanely grateful for the privilege of these relationships, because the joy outshines the headaches day after day. There aren't words to describe how lucky I feel watching the bond between my children grow, and the qualities of my marriage mature. I have the perfect crew to celebrate this syrupy sweet love fest with, and I hope they feel the same. We'll be doing it up fondue-style on Saturday, and are extra excited for James to be home all day, since it's a week-end.  

And to close out this love talk, last year I heard an interview with Jeff Bridges, which remains one of my favorite conversations about marriage and love. You have to hear the words from The Dude's mouth to really appreciate it, but I've pieced together a quote of one of the highlights for me.

The knowledge, after being married so long, is that it keeps getting better. You don't hear that too much.... It's intimacy... the high that we're all looking for... That keeps you wanting to come back, even in the tough times. Also, I've learned over the years that those tough times are... when the gold can really be found. They're kind of the key, because if you address those and are really intimate with each other, and listen to each other's stories of what their reality is like, that's where the intimacy can be found, and where love has to grow. You come to those places in marriage where you say, 'I'm out of here man, this is terrible, this is terrible!'... and you can hang with that... and love each other. What is love? Opening your heart when you feel you can't and you expand... if you can hang in, you learn in those tough times how to grow.

Wise words, just got to abide. Happy Love Day. Give extra kisses and hugs, and by all means, eat chocolate!

February 9, 2015

Mountain Morning


It's a funny thing to be a stay-at-home mother who happens to have a million interests and hobbies. On the one hand, I have all of this freedom in my day to potentially accomplish many of the activities that would be off-limits if I was at an office job. On the other hand, I have these kids, and as anyone with young kids will (hopefully!) attest to, it is very much a full time job.

I do work hard to maintain my varied interests, and to incorporate the children, which I believe benefits them as much as me. We bake and cook and garden and camp, we visit museums and go out to eat, and it's all simultaneously a greater hassle, and a greater joy with those little hands helping. Considering we have never had an actual babysitter and don't have family right in town, I do think James and I have done a pretty good job balancing the activities that make us happy with the little people that we made (and obviously also make us happy!).

Still, there are a bunch of hobbies that are very important to us both and that we haven't found a way to maintain in recent years. Some things are just tough to juggle with small kids, and for us the most notable is skiing/ snowboarding. We are pretty serious about our snow sports over here, with James leading the cheer for all things that require going fast on snow covered surfaces. Before we had kids, we used to talk about how early we'd get them on skis and we even attempted (and actually succeeded) in planning Little Smith's birth so that I didn't have to miss a season being pregnant. He was born at the end of November, and seven weeks later, we were trading off lift tickets and our tiny baby in the lodge. It seemed so easy, but we quickly learned that toddlers are much more demanding than newborns, and while you can put a two year old on skis (and have a ridiculously good time doing it)... it does not really make for a day of actual skiing. One day these babies will both be faster than us, but for now, it's more work than play.

This past weekend, we decided to sign Little Smith up for a day of big boy ski school, he is just now eligible at 4, and we are still beaming with pride at how well he did. My mom kindly agreed to entertain Roo, and James and I got to play in the snow for the first time in a long time. We had so much fun, more than I think either of us even expected. We've made peace with the fact that this phase of our lives will be light on carefree mountain days, but we certainly do appreciate the few we get.

pictures from my iPhone. we have both had issues with phones freezing and shutting off lately. is it just us in the New England arctic?

February 5, 2015

Details D2.01 / A Bite

counting (he always forgets number 5) snow covered sky view teaching her gentle crescent 'moon cheese' weee! paperwhite peak quiet time tea time ranunculus blooms and paperwhite crashes

Today Little Smith bit Roo's finger on purpose. I was half listening as he conned her over breakfast, inviting with a sweet voice, 'put your finger in my mouth wight here Wooby, it's okay'. Sure I was suspicious, but he sounded so innocent that even I couldn't imagine he would actually hurt her. When she toddled towards me in tears and wagging a puffy index finger with two tell-tale bite marks, I was genuinely shocked. I am an only child, but I'm not so naive that I don't get the whole sibling rivalry bit. In their year and a half as brother and sister, these kids have already pushed and smacked each other more times than I can count, and even delivered several bites in frustration. I'm working to help them find other ways of settling disputes over critical items, like Superman capes, but understand that this kind of squabbling is typical, and probably healthy on some level.

The piece that startled me about this morning, and felt different from their usual battles, was the manipulation. There was no conflict, she was minding her own business and he cooked up a plan to bite her finger out of thin air. Little Smith is such a sensitive and measured boy, why would he purposefully bite any one's finger with zero motive? When I asked him, he burst into tears. Clearly he was as confused as I was.

I was turning this over in my mind throughout the day, and I remembered a sinister scene from my own childhood. It was preschool, I was probably the same age as Little Smith. We were playing outside in the small yard behind the house-turned-school, when I quietly bit my own arm hard, leaving behind teeth marks. Then, for some reason that still completely eludes me, I convinced my classmate, Gabe, to tell the teachers he had done it. He sat on the steps serving his 'time out' for my crime, while I brazenly played in front of him. What kind of a manipulative and awful little girl would do something like that?! Oh wait, that was me.

I guess kids must just test boundaries, and try out behaviors, to eventually (hopefully!) discover basic empathy and morality on their own terms. It's still creepy though, and I hope Little Smith never sinks quite as low as my own dark preschool dealings. I don't even want to consider the cruelty of the preteen years... we'll take it one bite at a time.

February 3, 2015

Snow Slap Happy


We are facing yet another snow day tomorrow, school is cancelled (fourth day in two weeks!), and I am just beginning to think I might have begrudged our snowless start to this winter a little too much. Still, I'm not quite ready to eat my words. We're holding onto our snow love, with admittedly white knuckles, and are trying to make the most of these housebound days, indoors and out. James did venture off to work today (and had to dig himself out both ways), while the kids and I spent the whole day baking sweets in pajamas, layered with snow pants, as required. That's my kind of Monday!

January 29, 2015

Blizzard Marmalade


In the sliver of sunshine sandwiched between our first good snow last weekend, and our first big blizzard earlier this week, Little Smith and I ventured out for a mama-son date. We rode the train, strolled through the Public Gardens, and ran in circles across the snow covered duck pond. When our noses and fingertips were stinging from the cold, we ducked into the movie theater that borders the Boston Common, and caught the afternoon showing of Paddington. We were both delighted to escape the snow, and indulge in the fantasy of talking bears, ripe oranges, and of course, marmalade day. 

With citrus in season (obviously not local, but making the reasonable trip up from Florida) and several feet of snow in the forecast, I plotted for our very own marmalade day. Watching snow pile up and melt against windows that are foggy from the steam of a big canning kettle was nearly as magical as Paddington's digs in Darkest Peru. I think this will have to be an annual family tradition... although according to James, I'm just not satisfied with the mess of a storm outside, I have to make a mess inside too. He might be right, it was certainly a couple days of beautiful messes, inside and out.

Blizzard Marmalade: adapted from the Ball Blue Book of Preserving 
-makes about 7 half pints
  • 4 cups orange pulp (about 10 medium oranges, supremed)
  • +/- 2 cups orange peel cut into thin slices 
  • 1 lemon, pulp and thinly sliced peel (as with oranges)
  • 1 additional lemon, thinly sliced
  • 6 cups water
  • sugar (1/2 cup per cup of fruit mixture)
Prepare the citrus: (I let Little Smith help with peeling the oranges, which probably made for more work overall, but also more fun). Score the peels in quarters and pull them off (a good job for a four year old helper).Slice some of the thick white pith away from the peels. Supreme the oranges, removing any seeds, working over a bowl to collect all of the juices along with the pulp. Collect the scraps (pith, membranes, seeds) in cheesecloth. Repeat this process with one lemon. Slice the second lemon, and add to the cheesecloth scraps.


Combine the sliced peels, pulp, and tied cheesecloth in a large sauce pot. Add the water and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for about 5 minutes. Cover, and store in a cool place overnight, about 12 to 18 hours. 

Bring the mixture to a boil and cook rapidly until the peel is tender, about 15 minutes. Remove the cheesecloth, squeezing out the juices, and discard. Measure the citrus mixture. Add 1/2 cup of sugar for every 1 cup of fruit liquid. (This is half the sugar recommended by Ball, and as a result it needs to cook a long time to set up, and never really gels as beautifully as the sweeter version would. It is plenty sweet and firm for my tastes though!).

Bring to a boil, stirring constantly until sugar is dissolved. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture begins to gel. Due to the reduced sugar content, this will likely take about an hour.

Ladle the mixture into tempered jars, leaving 1/4" headspace. Process the jars for ten minutes submerged in boiling water, or refrigerate.


This marmalade is a wonderful balance of sweet and tart, and adds a beautiful pop of color to a gray winter's morning. I'm looking forward to using it as a filling for cake, as all roads lead to cake for me. The kids wanted to eat the whole jar straight up with a spoon (much like Paddington actually). If there is snow in your forecast, consider a messy, fun filled marmalade day!