Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Laundry Bonds

In everything I do I can find some beauty, even in something as prosaic as hanging laundry to dry. As I stand here this morning I am refereeing a game of freeze-tag that is happening in the driveway, and contemplating the contrasts in the clothing in front of me. One of the cutest things I see is the tiny shirt of our baby son, hanging right next to his father’s big shirt. What a difference. And yet, Phil’s son is attached to him in a way none of our daughter’s ever were. He has a special bond with all his children, but something extraordinary exists here, in this little lad who prefers Papa to anyone else - sometimes even to me. I think if he ever figured out that Papa could feed him, too, he’d go happily over to him entirely.
Even the girls have a different relationship with him than they had with one another. In their cases I think it is less the fact that he is a boy than the age differential. At the time Pippa was born, Glady was the age Pippa is now, and still too self-centered to truly realize the older sister relationship she would have. But from the beginning, all three girls (Pippa the least of the three) have had a protective, mothering instinct toward him. He loves them, and they love him right back. How long that will last after he starts walking and wanting their toys, we will see!.
The birds are singing around me, the sun is warm and welcome on my head while my feet are on frosty ground. Last night, as I brought in the last load at dusk, I believe I heard a Woodsnipe singing for his mate (bzeeep...bzeeep). Today there is a flock of suspicious sparrows in the mockorange peering at me, then bursting out into song. And three little girls laughing and chasing one another around the drive while they wait for the bus.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006


We celebrated Phil's birthday this weekend. As always, Glady was my party planner, she decided that we should do a sports theme and have a cake with a football field on it. The girls made paper chains and other decorations, and we had a party Saturday night. We invited Sharon and Rachel and Ray and Patty, and had a big mexican dinner. I love having a fun, warm event with friends and family. We didn't have much room, but we all sat around the table and laughed until the kids went to bed. Phil always tell me not to make a fuss over his birthday, but he appreciates it when we do. The girls love doing it, too. Sharon had the brilliant idea of making a poster for him that was the kids' handprints with the caption "World's Best Dad, Hands Down."

Well, I had written more, but then my page crashed and I lost it all. Now I have no time.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


written 3/18/06
This morning as I was giving the girls their breakfast, and telling them I needed to sit and feed Johann, Julie asked me “Mama, how do you make his food?”
“My body makes it.”
“Yes, but how?”
As I walked away to tend the baby, I hurriedly explained. “Milk ducts inside me make it.”
As I cuddled the hungry baby, I could hear her in the kitchen exclaiming in a tone of disbelief, “Milk ducks?!”
And for the record, no, I do not have waterfowl inside me. I did get a good chuckle out of that one, though.

quack quack

written 12/21/04

There are many signs of motherhood. Today I wore, for a while, a badge on my shoulder and reflected about other badges like it that I have worn and will wear through my life. My youngest banged her head, and as I held her in my arms and murmured to her, she buried her face in my shoulder and sobbed. A few minutes later, after I had put her down and she was playing happily, I realized she had left a patch of tears and snot on my shoulder. One more in a succession of such spots. They started with the spit-up from my babies, and will progress to lower marks of banged knees and elbows, from cuddles at an age where they are usually past such comforts. Hopefully, when my daughters are teens I will be mother enough to shoulder their tears over every little heartbreak in a way my mother never did. And when our lives have come full circle it will be spit-up again, from their babies. All my life I will be proud of my badges of motherhood, but I prefer to wear them invisibly. Pardon me while I change my shirt.

written 11/05

I think my children are actually beginning to think about their father. They had real ideas on what to get him for Christmas this year. Glady made a beeline for what she wanted, and Juliet was very disappointed that we could not find the chef's hat she so badly wanted for him. Pippa, of course, had no idea, but I pointed her at a couple of things and she latched on enthusiastically. I even saw what I wanted to get for him, although it was out of my price range tonight. And they were sold out of Lord of the Rings Risk. But the point is that we want our daughters to be considerate, giving and loving little creatures, and I saw glimmers of that tonight. They had reasons for what they chose, and told me exactly what they had in mind. There may be hope for our little monsters yet. But don't get too excited, I had to be very firm with Juliet about the Care Bears Movie.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Joyful Noise

A Joyful Noise

Hark what angels hear;
A voice, raised in song,
Peals of praise to Him.
Perfect beings above listen
Pausing in their perfect song
To hear the earthly heart
Lift her voice to heaven.

They marvel at her gift,
For their own song may be
Flawless before His throne,
Hers is infinitely more precious
As hers is sung by choice.

She has the choice to remain
Silent in her earthly cares
Silent in her fears and clouds
Silent ever before her God.

Yet her heart cannot lie still,
Beating fast, assists her voice,
As her song joins a chorus;
One voice, two, and then more.
Angels above shed tears
For the love of men who choose
To worship their Creator and
Create a perfect gift for Him.


Tuesday, March 14, 2006

A Cookie Afternoon

I had the opportunity to stand outside in the rain this morning with both Glady and Johann. We were covered by an umbrella, and Johann was safely wrapped up in the sling and my coat, with only his head showing. I relish the chances I get to spend time with my children like that, undistracted by the outside pressures of the business or house or even other people. I find that each one of them, and combinations thereof, are so different that there are endless surprises in exploring them.
Glady with Johann and I is much more mature and happy to figure out what her little brother wants and is thinking. Like me, she is fascinated with watching him discover his world. Today, it was the sound of rain on the umbrella, cars passing on the road, and thunder. You could see the mind working behind bright eyes as he cuddled with me and turned his head this way and that to see and hear everything.
Later in the morning, after Phil had gone to his show, Juliet and Pippa and I made cookies together. Julie mixed, Pippa “spilled” ingredients into the bowl, and when they were done we sat at the table and had mugs of milk and light, crispy-chewy oatmeal cookies. MMMMMM!
Watching those two together is interesting. They don’t quite move on the same plane. Juliet is a little more sophisticated than Pippa, and they tend to fight when it is just the two of them. As now, when Pippa is running screaming from their room because Juliet wanted her to conform to her rules of the school game they were playing. I think Pippa will be a leader, and once she learns how to be a team player things will be a little smoother, but she absolutely hates to give in and bend her will to someone else’s rules. Life with her growing up is going to get more interesting with every year, I think.

Pippa and Juliet Cookies

2 c Rolled oats
1/2 c All-purpose flour
1/2 c Whole-wheat flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp Baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c tahini (I suppose you could use creamy peanut butter)
4 tbsp butter, softened
2/3 c sugar
2/3 c brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
2 tsp Vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 and line baking sheets with parchment paper (cookies will be very delicate). Mix dry ingredients, then in separate bowl cream butter and tahini, then added sugars until well blended. Add in egg and vanilla, then stir in dry mix. Drop dough by tablespoonfuls onto prepared sheets and bake for 10-12 minutes, until edges are golden brown. Careful removing them from the oven, the paper will slide off the sheet unless you hold it, too. (Yes, this is experience talking!) After a minute or two, you can take them off the paper onto a wire rack to finish cooling. Makes about 2 1/2 dozen.
We've had an exciting couple of days... Johann is pulling himself up to stand in the crib! He got up there, a little wobbly, and gave me this great big grin, like "see what I can do?" He stood there and I cheered for him for a couple of minutes, and then he fell over backwards. Poor little guy. He has such an expressive face, and all I could think was "oops!" as he went over.

I'm a little out of it this morning. I stayed up late to finish a weskit last night. I had promised it to Phil for today, and I wanted to get it done. Then Johann woke up at 5:30 this morning and I didn't want him to wake Phil up. So here I am, listening to Glady and Pippa, who are sitting on the floor behind me looking at a balloon catalog and playing with Johann, who is in his Jolly Jumper.

It looks like it is going to rain again today. It rained all day yesterday, until we had quite the puddles in the driveway. Saturday it was gorgeous. Dad and Sharon and the kids all went out and tapped trees. Dad and I went out first and marked all the Red Maples. We don't have any Sugar Maples anymore, the blight killed the last one on the farm off years ago. Without leaving the hedgerow we found more than he had expected. I think we are going to thin some of the clumps this summer, and maybe get rid of some of the cherry trees to give them some room. Even without critters, the work never ends!

Friday, March 10, 2006

Magic Ahoy! The Search for Dewey's Treasure

Well, yesterday was THE Day. The children’s librarians of New Hampshire (hereafter referred to as Chilis), gathered into one overly warm room in Gilford to review a roster of artists. Our summer hangs in the balance, as for the fifth time we were selected to be on that roster. Months of effort on our part, from concept to construction of props and promotional materials, all boiled down to four hours of standing and talking and laughing with a lot of ladies who have become friends over the last six years.
This year’s summer reading program theme is Treasure Reading, and all the artists presented something a little piratey. Same of the past themes were a little hard for us to work with, this year has just been fun. The other artists on the roster ranged from another magician, to storytellers and musicians, to a lady who comes in and teaches a little orienteering and runs a treasure hunt. The idea is to promote reading and the library to children throughout the summer. Some libraries have enough budget to have a performer every week (the Summer Reading Program is usually about 6 weeks long.), others might have one every year, and that with the help of the Chilis grant.
We know most of the librarians by now. Over the last six years, we have been on the roster an unprecedented five times, and the one year we weren't on the roster we were awarded a spot on the Master Artist’s grant. The grant doesn’t come to us directly, but to libraries that apply for money to cover all or part of our fee. However, only certain performers are eligible for the grant - hence the roster. Yesterday we took Johann with us, and he was the hit of the day. I think everyone there (all 125 or so) came by to meet him and coo and exclaim what a good-natured little boy he was. Several told us that we would be coming to their libraries this summer, so already the efforts are paying off.
Mostly, yesterday was about greeting old friends, making new ones, and showing off what we do. Mr. Phil made everyone laugh, and both of us came away from it with a renewed sense that what we do is worthwhile. We realized - or at least, he did - I never doubted - that we are in the same class as performers who travel all over New England and are feted as great. Mr. Phil has a gift for making kids laugh and for teaching them without letting them know he’s doing it. Children remember him and ask for him all year long. I loved talking to librarians who reported that people had been asking about him all winter long.
One new librarian started just after Mr. Phil did a show at her library this January, and she told us that her group had been telling her all about him for three weeks after she started. Another took a different approach to Mr. Phil and I by asking me to please put pictures of our children up on the website. You see, all these ladies have watched our family grow. I was very pregnant with Juliet the first time I met most of them, at our first Chilis conference, and our little girls have been to some of their libraries, and to conferences, and now Johann with his happy little personality is charming them again. I feel like I have so many friends there, and they are so fond of the girls and Phil is makes me warm and happy just thinking about it.
As you can see, it was an eventful and long day. To top it off, we made some new performer friends, and renewed our acquaintance with other. I met Steve Blunt’s parents. He is a singer/songwriter, and they were very sweet, and very proud of him. We met the magician and his assistant, the Almodarrs, who were very nice people and very talented. He and Mr. Phil had so much in common it was funny, and we wives were laughing together about our magicians. Phil got to talk to T-Bone, who wrote a song twenty years ago called the Existential Blues that Phil has in his favorites collection. It turns out the Tom (T-bone) is a brother in the Lord, has a three-year old son with Autism, and his wife went to the same college we did. To top it off he gave Phil an autographed 45 of the song, and sent hula skirts from his act home for the girls. Sometimes life just overflows with blessings.
To top it all off, when we got home Phil sat and held Johann while I did dinner, and he was kissing Yo all over his face, which made Yo belly-la ugh. I think that is the greatest sound ever - a baby’s belly laugh.

Friday, March 03, 2006

If a poem is a snapshot of one’s soul, then these are pictures of my emotionally turbulent late-teens.

When I am dead and gone
Others will not know me
Not know my dreams, my fancy.
What was in life a brilliant jewel
Will but faded glass be.

I regret it never,
Because I know what will be.
Another my pity what was me;
My faded glass to their jewel.
I may be gone, but my children shall be!

EEk. I think that was written in November 1994 isn’t it awful. I wasn’t even thinking about marriage then, let alone children, so I don’t know where this came from.

Babies smell
Like milk
And soap
And Bananas.
(At least
If they have
Eaten them
Babies wave
Their arms and legs
While chortling.
Babies look cuddly
And sometimes are.
Babies cry
Cackle, and eat
A baby eating
Screws her face up
And munches
On her pudding.
Babies’ hair
Is so fine
And so light
That it floats
And sparkles
Like a halo.
Babies can’t talk
But communicate
Babies are precious,
Babies are valuable,
Do you want one?

Written in May of 1996, this was a playful question of Phil, when we thought we were getting married in a month. (his response to this poetic question was a firm No!) We did get married a year later, and then Glady came along in 1999, but she didn’t change my opinions about babies. That had to be one of the first times I ever babysat.

Poem for a Child on Christmas Eve

Look, child, beloved one, look!
Out here, just at the window.
Can you see, like a fairy brook,
The frost creep out the window?

Look beyond, far-sight, to see
The flakes drift down to cover
And hide the bare-brown tree.
This one, look here, soome to hover.

Each precios crytal flake
Rejoiced by you, my little friend
Will join with others to make
The very best sledding without end.

Falling, drifting, sleepy eyes
Your head is nodding, little one.
When your head on its pillow lies
You may dream of gifts and fun.

For tomorrow is celebration,
The best time of year for you,
And your joyous exaltation
Shall ring out, loud and true.
‘Tis Christmas.

I wrote this just before Christmas 1994, I guess I was already feeling the disconnect from my family - or maybe feeling nostalgic about my own childhhood. Phil’s note on the margin, dating from 1996, soon after we started dating, is to save this one for our kids.

I have a lot of poetry from 1994 to 1998, but I think most of it is just too terrible to ever see the light of day. Some of it is too tearingly personal for me to bare my soul to others, and a few, very few, I will reprint here. I am reminding myself of where I’ve been, in order to see where I am going, and how far the road has come since then.