Two weeks with nothing but a haiku food review to show for it, at least in the virtual world. Starting over again, it’s hard to know where to start.
But embracing life has been a noble experiment, worth every minute.
An increasingly verbal wee one has turned into quite the Daddy’s girl. She looks for me in the dark house before I leave for work, makes me read to her with my coat still on when I return. Mama brought her in to work twice this week; both times, the look on her face as she ran towards me was priceless.
Meanwhile, elderchild goes solo at bedtime for the first time. She looked so proud and sleepy when I stopped in to check on her.
It’s my birthday tomorrow, and we’re having a party: barbecue and beer, a mixed bag of coworkers old and new, a few friends from church, their kids. It’s the first party we’ve thrown, I think, other than family events, and the first time our guest list runs multigenerational in both directions. It feels very adult.
In other news, mama’s replaced the computer chair with a huge yellow yoga ball. It squeaks beneath me as I write. There’s been a flurry of books, arriving each day like rain; used paperback Discworld novels, the year’s Best American Non-Required Reading. The quantity of it pleases me. I read a book a day, all week, and do not blog.
Nothing to say tonight, really. I just missed the old regularity of the blogged life. It's been a good week, anyway. A little restless tonight, perhaps a little bittersweet. Two days worth of nostalgia are coming, and I'm looking ahead with my heart.
First, tomorrow night we've accepted a quiet invitation to old friends from the prep school teaching days. After seven years on campus, it's going to be more than a little odd to feel the pull of these now-deserted buildings that once held our lives captive.
The next morning we're expected at what will surely be the last of a long tradition of Hangover Special breakfast feasts farther north, at the house in Newfane, where we crashed for one glorious summer, and a decade of New Years Eves; where our family grew bigger as Darcie's brother Josh found his own second family.
The world is about to change again. The siblings continue to disperse: Josh and Clay to Oregon next week; Ginny back to Hawaii the next. The endless uncertainty and stress of the workweek whirlwind looms in the forecast, longterm and practically eternal.
I've been thinking more about the idea of New Years resolutions than about any particular self-improvement or renewed conviction. Giving my wife the gift of time for the holidays has left us both more relaxed, and with more energy left after kid bedtime for each other. I'm fresh off a workmeeting about my professional goals, with clean markers of progress to report; my Instructional Technology certification finally arrived last week, an early holiday gift from the great state of Massachusetts.
Which is to say: I'm doing okay, I think. My family is amazing; my environment is safe and stable, if still bereft of snow. Life is crazy, as it always is. But this year, I'm resolving to let the world be what it is.
Do you like beer? Do you like ice cream? Well, has Ben & Jerry's got a taste for you...
I consider myself somewhat of an ice cream snob, ever since I spent a summer scooping ice cream at a local Steve's franchise, my first real job (from which I was ultimately and rightfully sacked, a story for some other evening). At Steve's, we made all our own ice cream, and it was beautiful to watch; we folded our own toppings in by hand on a long, creamywhite countertop long before a generation of Cold Stone employees discovered tendonitis, and it was a glorious, sticky summer all around.
One especially hot and adolescent evening we decided to try making beer ice cream. It tasted like vile swill -- mostly because the beer already tasted like that before we put it in. But otherwise, our experiments were generally a success. I can still taste the fresh peach ice cream like it was here in front of me. With mixed-in mini-sized chocolate chips. Mmm.
And after being so close to the process, I'm always game to blow those gourmet bucks on the best quality. No cheap, rectangular ice cream cartons for me; it's Ben & Jerry's if I'm doing the shopping. For a long time, I stocked up on Pecan Pie (with real chuncks of pie!) or old standby Chubby Hubby when I got the chance.
This week, after eyeing it on the shelf since it's release date in March, I finally tried something really new. Black & Tan, Ben & Jerry's new pintflavor, ain't the work of a couple of stoned teenagers. Here, the bitter bite has been tempered to a faint and fond hint of a quite distinctive cream stout.
I don't usually "do" product reviews these days, but this is amazing: deep, rich, extra-dark chocolate ice cream blended with cream stout ice cream, with a cream stout head. It doesn't taste like beer so much as it tastes like the world's best beer ice cream. It's like frozen Guinness, if Guinness didn't leave that bitter bite on the back of your tongue. And it looks like this:
Yeah, I know it's freezing out. But there's still no snow. Settle for ice cream.
A lazy day amidst the holiday season -- errands late this morning, a leftover lunch of christmas ham sandwich and heavy squash soup, a bout of to-the-basement woodstacking in the clear, still-snowless side yard.
In other news, elderkid got a gigantic Colorforms set for the holidays; I've more than doubled the piececount by cutting out lines and boxes from the sheet from which the original shapes had been punched. Check out how well they photograph against the soon-to-be-terraformed yard.
Darcie suggested we use the shiny plastic to map out the lines for this spring's yard project. It works out: red and white for path and stone walls, yellow for deck and railing, green and blue for field and fountain. I'll probably have at the windowglass this afternoon, after furnace fire, perhaps a nap.
I am rolling elderchild around atop the giant yoga ball before supper; shrieks of glee echo throughout the house. The wee one, ever Daddy's little girl, sees this as an imposition, a usurping of her usual role, and runs over.
No! My ball! NO! I'm....ME!
My wee one. Lighter than air, deceptively small for her age. Says please and nak noo, fusses over the slightest mess, spends hours wedging herself into the tiny space under the kiddie kitchen sink. This is a kid who names her emotions, who, when the world begins to whirl in front of her, yells Fun, yes? Fun, Daddy! like a spriggan.
Surely, she intended to say No! I'm mad! Just as surely, something more primal, the sheer identification of the feeling ego, was all that could emerge. Only with language so new could emotions so potently overwhelm the very vocabulary.
Home from the heavywet snows of Vermont to a garden pushing up green bulbshoots through the heavywet leafbed. The house is cold, as if the fog had infiltrated everything in our absence. The cat is happy to see us, happier still to be let outside again.
It was a frantic Christmas, like every year -- a dizzying flurry of wrapping paper and elderchild deliveries from undertree to aunt, uncle, grandparent, parent. We were late arriving, and my wife's siblings had to run their separate ways soon after, but the long afternoon with the inlaws was quiet and centered, and the kids were happy to play with new braintoys, the hanging bells, their great, great grandfathers' music boxes.
Now we fill the fridge with scavenged Christmas ham, line the kitchen counters with gifted bakedgoods, begin the long process of cleaning up for tomorrow' mass playdate, my father's afternoon visit, a week of snowless vacation. In the corner, the dog chews on her Christmas bone, tired out from long outdoor hours with my in-law's mixedbreed giant. The wee one slumbers in the car outside, pooped out from a long overnight. 364 days to Christmas, and it's good to be home once again.
Emotively speaking, the middle school holiday break begins midweek, somewhere between the multifaith and snowman-heavy decor and the calendar's end.
By Friday morning, the kids are a mess, and so are we. Learning has gone out the window, to be replaced by so much sugar it's not even funny. In my case, this meant cookies, gummi bears, and enough chocolate covered goodies to overload the nervous system. At 7:40 in the morning. After the usual six cups of coffee.
Of course, you just have to have one of everything, lest some kid feel left out. Not even the gift of a half dozen buttery, smooth pierogi, boldly requested in compensatory jest from the kid who took Thursday off from school to make 'em with his family, could take the edge off the sugar high.
By midmorning I'm practically hallucinating. I've given my morning lab classes the option of free play on the computer; the best and brightest choose to make holiday cards, or fiddle with the snowflake-maker courtesy of my mother in law, but most play mini golf while they munch on their cookies. The rest flail around the classroom, hurling gift wrap at each other, laughing uproariously while I make snide comments that keep them -- barely -- on this side of appropriate behavior.
I save the last few minutes of each class for a comprehensive crumb-cleaning and lab shutdown, finish my own classes by ten thirty, spend the afternoon wandering the halls, wideeyed and jittery. The kids are in their teams, watching holiday films; most won't finish, but the point is to be eye-glued to the screen, given the potential for havoc. Their teachers look frazzled after their own morning of containment. Their classrooms are clean, and ready for a holiday break floorwash in their absence.
By 2:15, I'm on the road, surprisingly relaxed, ready for a long winter's break. No snow in the forecast this year, but the rain begins as I crest the mountain. It hardly makes a dent in my serentity.
Back home, the kids are charging around the house like angels, pantless and gleeful. Elderchild and I present mama with her gift: some rose-scented bath lotion, the plaque above, and a commitment to moving the bedtime ritual into our mutual corner, that mama might have more time this year. The wee one throws cotton snow from window display to couch; everyone smiles, and no one asks her to stop.
We light candles, trade a last night of Channukah gifts, eat fresh challah warm from the oven. Darcie calls some old friends, making plans for a New Year's in our old prep school haunting grounds. The air is full of holiday shufflesounds. By nine, I'm asleep beside the elderchild, wiped out from a whole year's worth of bustle.
Pre-holiday Wednesday is a bit like the bitter, poisonous taste of biting into an orange rind -- you can take it, even as your lips grow numb and itchy, because there, unfolding before you, is the Fruit, leaking onto your hand.
I was going to write more, but now it seems unnecessary.
Hanukkah was a rush this year, as always but moreso, a perennial crunch of eight days into concentrate made both necessary by our family's inevitable diaspora. In eight hours or less, a whirlwind of eventhood: lunch with my brother, our spouses, or father, my children; a rush back and forth in various combinations to get the right people in the right places to prep for the party, and to pick up my brother's car in the shop.
By six, we were singing songs around a dozen menorahs with my parent's oldest friends, now joined at the kitchen island by their own grown children holding children of our own. By seven, the family left behind was deep in a gift exchange, the kids burning off the evening's sugar rush rapidly among a blizzard of bright orange toys and wrapping paper snow.
By the time we arrived home, it was past ten. The kids had fallen asleep miles back to the story of the Maccabees, the lullabye rush of the holiday traffic on the turnpike; Darcie put them in their beds, and stayed up to clean and read a bit.
And instead of heading right for the computer, I used the sudden, rare silence to take out this year's present from mom: a dulcimer, in cherrywood.
The perfect instrument for the mellow and melancholy. Sure enough, I spent an hour in the firelight, faking my way through the Sufjan Stevens Christmas songbook.
Since then, I've managed to sneak in a few moments here and there, away from grubby fingers and eager minds unused to fragility. And, after wanting one for years, I'm pretty happy.
The dulcimer sounds a little like a banjo, and a little like one of those autoharp things that were popular when your mother was a hippie. You've probably heard it on a bunch of old Joni Mitchell songs without realizing it -- though it's much easier to play.
Want proof? Less than two hours total, and I can play the full set of blues chords, but more than that, after years of flute, I can find the intervals in the music, play melody and twang-harmony alike. I've mastered a dozen songs, and can play them at speed, and all without having to run through the usual gradated boringness that is the learner's workbook.
And thank goodness. Because it did come with a book, like instruments do. And, typically, the book is called You Can Teach Yourself Dulcimer. Which is the dumbest name for anything, really, because either it's true, in which case what do I need a book for? Or it's not, in which case maybe this isn't going to be the best book to start with, seeing as how they don't think you need one.
Also, the picture on the cover isn't promising. It depicts a guy wearing a dorky vest and a tall, blackbrimmed, turn-of-the-century hat. He seems to be working at some sort of faux-authentic outdoor museum; all around, perfectly normal children pull at their equally normal parent’s hands, point and laugh and this poor goofy-smiled guy who...well, darned if he doesn’t look just like me, beard and all.
I've decided I don't need the book. I can be me better at home than I can in a crowd of overcharged gawkers. No, it's enough to play along with the radio, and with the songs in my head, and finally and so rapidly be an agent of the full, chorded sound that fills my universe. And to be given such peace, such autonomous peace, out of the midst of such chaos. Thanks, Mom. It's what I've always wanted.
I hate quotations. Tell me what you know. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
And you know, when you study the semiotics of Through the Looking Glass or watch every episode of Star Trek, you've got to make it pay off, so you throw a lot of study references into whatever you do later in life. - Matt Groening
She wrote secret web pages with gentle empty spaces where the universe could creep in and rest when it got overwhelmed. - Robin Williams
Cable news networks...often act as if the best way to present information is to serve the viewer two opposing advocates battling it out. But in many instances, this ends up confusing rather than illuminating. Not every fact is debatable, not every opinion equal -- or worth equal time. - David Corn
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. - Arthur C. Clarke
This "telephone" has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no use to us. - Western Union internal memo, 1876
The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular? - David Sarnoff's associates, in response to his urging for investment in radio, 1920s
Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons. - Popular Mechanics, 1949
There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home. - Ken Olson, President and founder of Digital, 1977
Subject: HIGH TECHNIQUE ELECTRICAL HOME APPLIANCES---COMPUTERIZE GAS KITCHEN
Date: Mon, 7 Jan 2002 08:53:27 +0000 (UTC)
From: "MRS WANG"
Organization: FUJIAN HUALI TECHNOLOGY CREATING CO,LTD
Do you like to comprehend a computer housemaid ? Do you like to own a blue soldier ? Today , SHIELD gives you the answer .
SHIELD is a computerize gas kitchen which is controlled automatically and intelligently. It is a world wide invention , is a new generation of the gas kitchen..
What is the benefits that SHIELD brings to us ? Firstly , it will relieve you out of the kitchen ,you shouldn't be in when you cook the food .Second ,it solved the problem that the food would be burned ,the soup be out and the gas be leaked .And it will make your family safer and healthier.
Do you want to understand much more merits about SHIELD? Please see the followings:
1. amounts and the kinds of food (boiling water, porridge, rice , soup ,fish ,meat ,medicine), SHIELD will regulate the temperature and time to cook automatically ,and the soap won't be out ,the food won't be burned .It will turn off the electric and gas source by itself ,and tell you by springing out the music .
2. when needing and you can set five times to light fire .
3. ,it will send out a big fire ,and when the temperature reached 100 ,it would change the flame .If the temperature is below 100 ,it will turn to be a big fire ,and keep the flame blue .The containing of CO is less than 0.04% of total .(standard :less than 0.05%) . And then it reduced the pollute .
4. B"CAutomatically limit the time of offering gas :It is 30 minutes that offering the gas. When cooking ,it won't be out whenever it is blew or watered .Because when the fire is out , it will light automatically. When the gas leaked ,the density reached up a level or the temperature of the platform is over 80 ,SHIELD will warn you and turn off the electric and gas source .
5. need ,it can set the temperature and heat the food by itself .
6. according to the container .
7. 70.51%(standard :higher than 55%).Comparing to the common gas kitchen ,it can save more than 40%source of total .
8. natural gas and marsh gas to cook , also can use many kinds of pans, such as iron pan ,aluminum pan and high pressured pan. SHIELD computerize gas kitchen is a housemaid , is a soldier .Is there anything more important than the safety and health of your family ?
Let us share more happy in our lives .Not to bore for the burned food, not to be sad for no time for cooking .For you love your family ,please begin with SHIELD .Possessing SHIELD is possessing love .