Archive for the ‘Friends’ Category
When my blog-friend Hannah came to visit us last week—and a delightful visit it was—Rilla fell in love with her on sight. Actually, we all did; I’ve known Hannah online for years, and it was wonderful to get to sit down with her in person and talk books and kids and the virtues of dirty floors and all those things we’ve conversed about in the interwebz for so long.
(I say “blog-friend” only to convey that we met each other via our blogs, not in any way to convey a less real kind of friendship than the sort that blooms away from a screen. Some of my favorite people are people I got to know from their writing online.)
Hannah’s visit passed way too quickly; there was far more to talk about than we could squeeze into a morning. We need an encore, this time with her kids too. I think my favorite moment was when Rilla produced a copy of a picture book she has been entirely enchanted with these past couple of weeks, Me Hungry by Jeremy Tankard, and roped nice Miss Hannah into reading it with her.
It’s about a cave-boy who tells his parents “Me hungry” but they tell him “Me busy” so he goes off by himself to hunt. He encounters a rabbit (“Me hide!”), a porcupine (“Me sharp!”), and a tiger (“Me mean!”) before running into a woolly mammoth who surprises him by becoming his friend. The caveman speech is funny and charming, not at all arch, the art is tremendously fun, and the little twist at the end elicits a belly laugh from my four-year-old every single time—seriously, after dozens of readings, many of them on the same day. The look on the daddy caveman’s face just cracks her up.
But why oh why oh why didn’t I get a picture of Rilla and Hannah reading together? Me kicking myself!
August 18, 2009 @ 8:43 am | Filed under: Friends
Mary Ellen Barrett’s letter about the loss of her sweet son, Ryan, has been posted in several places, but in case you missed it, here’s a link to Alice’s blog.
Like so many others, I am still reeling over the news of Ryan’s death. Mary Ellen is a dear online friend and a member of my quilting group. I’d heard so much about Ryan over the years that I really felt as if I knew him. The passage about Ryan in Alice Gunther’s Haystack Full of Needles is, in my opinion, the most moving part of an incredibly moving book.
I remember when my friend Mary Ellen first took her children out of school, including her autistic son, Ryan. One afternoon, as we stood chatting in my backyard after a lively gathering, she looked over at her son playing ball with the other boys and smiled. “You know,” she said, “all the special education in the world cannot match coming here and just being one of the guys.”
I know those other children are missing Ryan now, and my heart grieves for the Barrett family and all their Long Island friends.
February 14, 2009 @ 12:07 pm | Filed under: Friends
Another week, another delightful visit with beautiful online friends.
This time it was the charming Diane of Journey of a Mother’s Heart who paid San Diego a visit. Erica did the honors, opening her lovely home to me and my brood, Kristen and her sweet girls, and Diane and her sister-in-law and adorable nephews. What a fun day. I already knew I was going to love hanging out with Diane; her warm, funny, generous, lively spirit won my heart a long time ago.
Wonderboy was smitten too.
Delicious lunch, stimulating conversation, busy children, snuggly babies: a perfect morning. The time passed too quickly, is all.
All right, who’s next?
(And Erica, thanks so much for providing the cookie-decorating for the children. They were thrilled, and it got me out of having to muster a Valentine’s craft myself. Hee.)
On the CPSIA front: Alicia has started an Illegal Books Meme to help spread awareness of the issue. I’ll be chiming in as soon as I can upload some pictures of books it would now be illegal to sell.
February 6, 2009 @ 2:45 pm | Filed under: Friends
Oh, we had so much fun yesterday! It was As Cozy as Spring over here, and believe me, the company was not a Small Treasure but rather a big one! Jenn and her lovely family were in town for a short while and did me the great favor of spending the morning at my house. Kristen drove down with her gorgeous girls, and pal Erica brought her gang to join the fun. Snacks, conversation, bloggity friends, and seventeen children—who could ask for anything more?
I haven’t uploaded photos yet (and in any case, my camera was AWOL during the group shots), but Kristen has a nice pic of the four moms on her blog. I wanted the baby in the picture but Rose had him and wouldn’t give him back.
During the long months of this pregnancy, I have been blessed with the companionship of a few special friends. We used to see each other only once a month, but lately we’ve been able to get together once or even twice a week, and how eagerly I have looked forward to these sweet moments of fellowship with women whose joy in motherhood outstrips even my own!
I realized today that our time together is drawing to a close…very soon (very, very soon, do you hear me?) it will be time to go our separate ways, and we shall see each other only once a year or thereabouts. Ah, dear friends, whatever will I do without you? Fortunately I happened to have my camera in my bag at our visit today, so I was able to capture a few treasured snapshots of these fair and tender ladies I have come to know so well.
Here they are all together with their precious infants, the whole beautiful bunch of them. Aren’t they lovely?
So serene, so gentle, so rouged.
I have learned so much from these ladies. For example, here I am about to give birth to my sixth child, and yet until I met Angelica would you believe I had no idea it was advisable to blow-dry one’s hair to a silky sheen, tie back a few glossy locks with a ribbon, don a ruffly off-the-shoulder gown, and apply several coats of blusher before sitting down to breastfeed one’s baby?
This is going to make a real difference in my next post-partum experience, let me tell you. Angelica always looks so calm and well rested. I realize now that my customary get-up of hastily scrunchied ponytail, spit-up-stained T-shirt, and no makeup whatsoever has been at the root of the exhaustion I typically experience during those first weeks with a new baby. LOOK beautiful and you’ll FEEL beautiful is Angelica’s motto.
Elspeth has a similar philosophy about pregnancy. I understand now that in banning white clothing from my wardrobe several sticky-fingered toddlers ago, I have been depriving myself of a kind of delicate radiance that would surely have blessed the child in my womb and all in our presence. And that band of pink ribbon below her bosom—how beautifully it offsets her the rosy glow of her lips. Every word that comes out of a mouth like that is pure honey, I suspect. (I can’t say for sure, because demure Elspeth never utters a word. But you can see just by looking at her that she is full of warm and soothing thoughts.)
As for our ringleted chum Swoozie, I admit I worry a little about her sometimes. Those raw bruises on her cheek…the dark rings around her eyes…her habit of staring off into the distance, lost in thought, absently feeding her infant without even looking at him…I have some concerns about her home life. But she has never uttered a word of complaint, so perhaps I’m mistaken. Possibly she is only thinking about when to get her next perm.
Oh, dear friends, how grateful I am for the many times you have entertained me while I waited for our obstetrician to amble into the exam room! It is very good of you, all of you, to have kept such a patient vigil with me as the long, long minutes ticked by.
You will be sorely missed.
Yesterday, during Rose’s piano class, my cell phone buzzed with the information that Alice was IMing me. I thumb-tapped back to her: “Hi! Am sitting in piano,” knowing she’d know that meant I was answering from the phone’s tiny keyboard and she should expect truncated responses to her half of the conversation.
“Of course!” she wrote back. “It’s the only piece of furniture big enough to hold you!”
I laughed so hard it’s a wonder my water didn’t break.
Sometimes other people’s secrets are as much fun as your own. I’ve been bubbling over with one of Alice’s for weeks. Go look, go! Is it not the prettiest place on the internet? Be sure to click all around. One thing that especially delights me is having easy access to all her tea menus. These teas are one of her best innovations and have been enriching my own family’s feast-day celebrations for years and years. I was one of the lucky ones, you know, who got to reap the benefits of Alice’s particular genius long before she came to the internet. (Forgive me if I gloat a little.) I remember when she presented her first themed tea menu (a Shakespearean repast, that one) to her teeny tiny girls waaay back in our young-mama days. A decade later, I am still giggling over some of her menu items.
Her Midsummer Night’s Dream tea is another masterpiece, invented for the cast party of her local group’s performance of that play. Because I (more gloating) got to read her upcoming book in manuscript, and because she is including that tea in an appendix to the book, my San Diego friends and I got to enjoy the very same feast after our Shakespeare Club’s performance of scenes from that play—the club itself being an enterprise I was inspired to launch after hearing Alice’s Shakespeare stories. This is the effect she’s had on me for years, and the effect she’s had on the online homeschooling community since she joined that party: she has all these great ideas and makes them sound so easy and doable. So you jump up and do them, and she’s right. I see the fruit of her genius all over the internet.
Which is why people are going to love her book. One of the reasons why, that is. The personal narrative itself is captivating, and I’m not just saying that because I’m a recurring character. 🙂 Although she did make me cry a goodly number of times as she recounted the story of our own budding friendship back in Queens, NY. What delicious days those were! But beyond the fact that her book tells a darn good story, there’s what I always think of as the “practical inspiration” factor—does a book inspire me to get up and DO? Haystack Full of Needles does. Which I think is pretty impressive, considering I talk to the author on the phone almost every day, so you’d think I’d have heard all her ideas by now. Not so. Because the woman is a fount of them; they bubble out of her. As I read the manuscript, I was thinking, gosh, people are just going to wish they could live in Alice’s area and be part of the things she’s describing. But as I read on, I realized that no, the effect of the book goes much deeper than that: you find yourself energized and eager to put her ideas to work in your own home and circle of friends. It’s a beautiful look at family and community, what we give each other and how we grow together. Which is exactly how I characterize my friendship with Alice Gunther: we have grown up together, as mothers—we met when her oldest was two and my only(!) child was fifteen months old. I’ve been the lucky recipient of her brilliant ideas ever since. It just tickles me pink that now the whole world can enjoy the riches too.
August, 2000. Post Barnes & Noble booksigning celebration. From left: me, unidentified man’s bottom, Alice with our friend Brigid’s sweet daughter Emily on her lap. Photo by Brigid! You can’t tell because we’re sitting, but I was pregnant with Beanie—Alice’s future goddaughter.
January 11, 2008 @ 12:02 am | Filed under: Friends
After looking at yesterday’s photos, Mary Beth wanted to know if Rilla ever gets a chance to wear that oh-so-fetching pink hat here in sunny San Diego. Listen, that hat is so darn cute it’d be worth running the air conditioner in winter to lower the temp enough to chill a baby’s ears. Fortunately, our nights here on the edge of the desert can be quite brisk, almost what you Easterners call nippy. We’ve even had a few days lately where we had to wear long sleeves. On Christmas Eve, when we drove up to that little mountain town, we thought about bringing jackets just in case, but they were all buried under our surfboards and beach towels, so it’s a good thing I had these scrumptious knitted caps on hand for the three younger girls. And credit for that goes totally to (whom else?) Alice. She called me one day last month especially to tell me Hanna Andersson had the world’s cutest hats marked down to a ridiculously low price and I hung up on her to get my order in rightaway. As always, she was one hundred percent correct. Cutest hats ever.
In response to a French book containing "40 reasons not to have children," the inimitable Karen Edmisten has written a list of her own: 40 Reasons to Have Children. It’s a gorgeous, powerful, right-on-the-money list.
One year ago today I had the immense pleasure of meeting up with Karen and her three children, Anne, Betsy, and Ramona-who-makes-me-laugh, at a motel in Salina, Kansas. They had driven all the way down from Nebraska just for the rendezvous. Karen and I had been close online friends since 1998, but this was our first time meeting in person. It may as well have been our 500th, like we were meeting at a park for our weekly playdate. The kids hit it off like they’d grown up together. In a way, they had. I’ve been regaling my children with tales of the Edmisten girls’ hilarious exploits since all these lasses were teeny tiny. They’d read all the same books, shared a common lexicon, enjoyed the same brand of mischief. An hour in their presence and I could come up with another forty reasons for Karen’s list.
Wouldn’t be half as lyrical as hers, though. Go read and you’ll see what I mean.