Archive for April, 2008
Scott and I have just returned from a trip. I didn’t tell you I was going because I felt funny announcing to the world we were going to be away from our children for six nights. Actually I was in near-total denial about this trip during the two months leading up to our departure. We have never left our children for more than a night, EVER. And even that only twice (not counting the nights I’ve spent in the hospital having babies—even then I have only stayed away for one night). Last October we went to L.A. for a night to see Springsteen, and in July of 2005 we went to Greensboro, NC, for a night. To see Springsteen! Detect a theme?
This time, oh my goodness. Scott was asked to attend a comic book convention in Barcelona. The folks who invited him offered to pay for airfare, lodging, and meals not only for him, but for his wife. His wife relayed this generous offer to her mother. Her mother said, “Oh honey. I would hate to see you pass up a free trip to Spain.” Scott accepted the invitation.
My amazing, amazing parents flew out here to San Diego from Denver to stay with the children while we were away. We departed last Tuesday morning, the 15th of April. Tax day! We changed planes in Atlanta and arrived in Barcelona around noon on Wednesday the 16th. We spent six nights in the Barcelona Catalonia Plaza hotel. Flew home yesterday, Monday the 21st, departing Spain midday and arriving home around 9pm. My parents returned to Denver this afternoon. I am groggy with jet-lag, delirously happy to be with my children again, and on a massive high from having had the time of my life in that incredible, gorgeous, magical city.
We had the best time. Words fail me. And yet: I will be writing about this for weeks, months. It was a glorious experience. I had no idea what a jewel Barcelona is. While Scott worked (poor thing), I soaked myself in museums, architecture, Gaudi. Everywhere I turned there was art. Our evenings were spent in the company of some of the world’s best comic book artists and writers, and I thoroughly enjoyed the long and lively discussions that lasted until the wee hours of the night. We slept little and laughed much. I fell in love with La Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s cathedral-in-progress. Really truly in love, in the way that means I will be carrying it around in my heart for the rest of my life. More about it later. More about all of it later, when I’m caught up on sleep.
I’ve been uploading pictures like mad to my Flickr account. Not all of them are labeled or tagged yet, but I’ve made a good start.
The kids had a great week with my parents. Rose and Jane kept me up to speed with newsy emails. Our internet access was spotty but we were able to send short bulletins once or twice a day. My dad emailed lots of pictures. Scott and I missed the kids like crazy, but we enjoyed ourselves to pieces just the same. I am savoring the memory of all the conversations, the discoveries, the new friendships, the ways leading on to way. You’re going to get sick of hearing me talk about it. There is so very much to tell!
View of Barcelona from the steps of the National Museum of Art on Montjuic
It doesn’t seem possible.
How could two years have passed since
I know, it really is sobering.
This calls for extreme doses of chocolate.
Carpe cake, my dear. Old time is still a-flying.
I had to go to an IEP meeting for Wonderboy yesterday. I was planning to take the whole gang, but as the hour drew near I changed my mind. I called my friend Mary, who has often encouraged me to lean on her in such instances, and asked if she were going to be home that afternoon and could she keep my girls. She agreed, warmly and eagerly, almost before I got the sentence out. I would have to drop them off in an hour, I clarified. Mary was unfazed by the last-minute-ness of the request. Absolutely, bring ’em right over.
Mary has seven children of her own, including an infant. Her oldest child is twelve. Her arms are always full, yet her door is always open. She and her husband Ernie gave Scott a room for over a month the summer before last, when he was new in town and the kids and I were still back in Virginia trying to sell the house. We were complete strangers, connected via our mutual friend Erica, and Mary and Ernie said any friend of Erica’s was a friend of theirs. That summer, Scott worked long hours at his new job, but he was around the house long enough to be mightily impressed with this warmhearted, friendly, happy family. He told me how the kids would greet him so politely, “Hello, Mr. Peterson!” every time he pulled into the driveway, and how warmly Mary and Ernie would press him to join the family for dinner.
Look at me using the word “warm” three times in two paragraphs. It can’t be helped: these are some of the warmest, sunniest people you will ever meet. I dropped my four girls off yesterday and took Wonderboy to the IEP meeting, and when I returned ninety minutes later, I found six of Erica’s seven children in the throng. Five minutes after I’d left for my meeting, Erica had called Mary with the same kind of last-minute request. Her baby needed to go to the doctor; could Mary watch the other kids? Sure she could!
I love walking into that house. Here I go, wanting to use the word ‘warm’ again. It’s a home that says: children are cherished here. And: friends are always welcome. Kids’ drawings embellish the walls; their books and toys enliven every room. The kitchen and family room occupy a big space as open and inviting as Mary and Ernie’s hearts. I look around that great room and I see the definition of hospitality. I’ve seen it immaculate for parties and I’ve seen it enthusiastically lived-in on a weekday afternoon. I’ve seen that every soul who enters is greeted with genuine delight, as if dropping by was the very nicest thing you could possibly have done.
I marveled, yesterday, at the nonchalance with which Mary had taken on ten extra kids for the afternoon. It was no problem, she assured me, the more the merrier—and I could see she meant it. Ernie was fixing a late lunch for the two of them, and almost before I’d slipped my bag off my shoulder, a plate full of chicken and peppers appeared before me. I was famished (IEP meetings always have that effect on me), and I inhaled that meal and felt myself to be one of the most blessed creatures alive. Eighteen other blessed creatures chattered and tumbled and raced and cooed around us: my five children, six of Erica’s, Mary’s seven. I watched how Ernie took time to talk to each child who crossed his path, asking them questions, listening intently to the answers. The more, the merrier. This home bears testimony to the truth of that phrase. How easily I can imagine the merry homecomings in years to come, the boisterous Thanksgivings and Christmases, the jubilant Easters; shy brides laughing at the goodnatured ribbing heaped upon young grooms; grandchildren by the dozen. Mary’s eyes smiling across the kitchen island; Ernie’s voice ringing out above the happy throng. This is the sort of home children will want to come home to, even when they’re grown; it’s the sort of home in which every guest is made to feel like one of the family. The more you’re there, the merrier you are.
April 9, 2008 @ 7:19 am | Filed under: Science
…when she sees this Home Chemistry link. Thanks for the heads-up, Andrea.
Updated to add a link to an easy and stained-glass-gorgeous density experiment, courtesy of Poppins.
April 6, 2008 @ 1:27 pm | Filed under: Bloggity
After more than three years of blogging, I still haven’t figured out the best way to respond to comments. When you ask a question in the comments, do you keep coming back to that post to check for an answer?
Or is it better if I pull both question and answer into a new post?
Obviously there’s no one best way. Some questions are not directly solely to me but rather are parts of ongoing discussion, and in those cases of course it makes sense for me to respond in the comments as well.
Other times, my response to a question turns into a whole post in itself. And in still other instances, I might make a short response in the com box, but newer posts and comments push that reply down the page and the person who posted the question might never know I replied.
I’m glad many blogs are now providing the option of subscribing to comment notifications so that I can follow com box discussions I’m interested on other sites.
I replied to a few questions in my own comments last night: Michelle’s daughters had a question about the Martha books, Hannah was curious about how we make read-alouds work with noisy little ones around, and Mary Alice wondered about kids who gulp down books very quickly. Feel free to chime in on those last two topics if you’d like! (I mean, you’re welcome to chime in on the Martha subject too, but that’s one of the very rare questions for which only I could provide an answer. It was about whether the Martha-and-Lew wedding story is ever likely to be told.)
April 5, 2008 @ 4:06 pm | Filed under: Baby
Just don’t take this the wrong way: you make it sound so easy. Lay the right books around the house, throw in a little yarn and cool background music, and away you go! I know it can’t be so simple all the time.
I thought about this all day, and I realized that this really is the easiest thing I do. If I am alert and open for conversation, present and mindful in the way Leonie has been describing, the connections happen like fireworks, pop pop pop pop pop all around us.
That post wasn’t meant to be a blow-by-blow account of our day. I had just finished jotting down notes about the cool things we talked about that day, as I try to do most days, for my own enjoyment really, and I thought it might be fun to flesh out the notes a little over here. But there were lots of things that happened yesterday that didn’t make it into my little connections list, and not all of them were easy. One of the kids had a particularly rough afternoon. By the end of the day I was a shriveled husk of a person, and Scott probably read desperation in my eyes when he walked through the door. His jovial hustling of the kids outside to run races is undoubtedly what saved me from blowing my calm-and-patient streak. (Owe you one, honey.)
So my goodness, please don’t read that post as an account of a perfect day. It’s the account of some awesome moments in a pretty typical day. I am suddenly reminded of a conversation I had with Alice not long after I made the cross-country drive to San Diego alone with my kids. Alice was in the planning stages for her upcoming Golden Gate adventure, and she was trying to decide whether to drive or fly to San Francisco. “Seriously,” she asked me, “how bad was it?”
I replied, “No worse than any regular day at home.”
I still remember her peal of laughter: she saw at once what I meant. Any day at home in the company of many small children is full of challenges. There are great moments, and there are moments when the sound and fury threatens to swallow your sanity. I love this life, this stay-at-home mom stuff. I’m grateful to be able to do it. But there’s no denying it’s a bumpy ride at times. My toddler has decided she is morally opposed to sitting in her carseat. She has no choice, but every journey begins with an outraged protest. My four-year-old falls apart if I put my keys on the counter instead of in my purse. My introverted nine-year-old would love nothing more than to be at home all the time, but she is sandwiched between sisters who bubble over with eagerness to Go and Do. We compromise, we bend, we go up, we go down. Every day has its moments. Gorgeous moments, and moments of the sort that make a 2500 mile road trip seem like a walk in the park.
But the connections moments? Apart from the difficulty of climbing out of my own head and being alert and present for those around me, this really is the easiest part of my life.
April 2, 2008 @ 7:12 am | Filed under: Bloggity
How ironic that so many of you are getting an “unable to connect” message when you try to click through to this site.
My web host assures me, however, that this situation is temporary and will be resolved very soon. My hosting company switched servers last week and they are still ironing out the wrinkles.
I’ve just learned that at least one person has tried to post comments and had them disappear. I am very sorry to hear that. If it has happened to anyone else, please let me know. I may be able to restore them from the feed.
Thanks for your patience, and please do keep trying to get through when you want to leave a comment! I’m sorry this problem has coincided with our busiest discussions ever.
Michele Quigley has some big news:
A while ago I started a craft, sewing and knitting board as an offshoot of my On Pins and Needles blog. It’s been quiet lately and a few friends (and my husband) have nudged me to expand it into a larger, more diverse forum.
Family-Centered Living went live this afternoon. Membership is growing fast and discussion is flowing already. Won’t you join us?