Friday, November 27, 2009

the holidays cometh

basket of locally made beeswax candles ready for long winter nights

Miryam was born on the 19th of December 5 years ago. We joked that she was trying to hold out until the solstice but I went on such a beautiful winter walk that day and the moon was in the phase Andy had guessed she would be born in, and we were just so ready for her, that she decided that a couple of days before her plan was just fine. That is sort of her personality too. She makes plans, sometimes very big plans, but she also understands their impermanence.

December 19th is a tricky time to be born if you come from a family that celebrates Christmas, Hanukkah and Solstice. Scheduling issues abound but, even more difficult, it all just blends into one celebration. Which is nice in some ways but often it just feels like a busy two weeks of getting presents and eating food. Not so bad in print but in practice it can lack in relaxation, gratitude and meaning. So this year we have tried to distill what we get (or want to get) out of each holiday and how we plan to celebrate them as a family. Andy and my families of origin are Jewish and Catholic, respectively. We still feel, at least culturally, connected to those traditions in some way and so want to include them in our winter celebrations.

For Christmas we go to my family's house for gift giving, the big tree and a feast. Santa comes to Grandmas house only - this was something we really waffled about when Miryam was smaller but really it came down to the fact that Santa visited Miryam's 4 other cousins and so we weren't sure how to handle him in our family. The man-in-red visiting Grandma's house is our compromise. We honestly try to talk about him as little as possible. We give gifts to my family on this day but the children don't get any from us or vice versa.

During the nights of Hanukkah we light our menorah (note to self: remember to order beeswax candles because every year you forget and no one locally carries them) that was made for us by our dear friends. We talk about the story of Hanukkah and what it represents in our lives. We also give the children a gift each night and eat Latkes at least once during the 8 nights. We always make a big batch using Andy's Bubbie's recipe and we also attempt figure out when our friends are making them and try to get an invite!

Solstice has always been the holiday that feels the most authentic to our lives for Andy and I. Before we had Miryam we had yearly Solstice parties with mulled wine, a big potluck and lots of friends. One year we even made it through the night until we could climb up a local hill that has a panoramic view of our whole Valley. Once Miryam was born that party was supplanted by her birthday celebrations and so Solstice sort of blending into the General Winter Festivities. This year we decided to bring back some of the traditions that were important to Andy and my Solstices together and adapt them into traditions that fit into our lives as they are now. We've decided that I'll knit stockings for each of the children so we can hang them on our mantle filled with small presents both some just fun and others practical (growing up mine always included a new toothbrush). They'll also get a new pair of pajamas to slip into when the sun starts to go down. We'll do the whole of the evening without using electricity (except passively in our refrigerator and well-pump, you know). We'll have some sort of a meal in front of the fireplace, light candles around the house and play with the new toys from the stockings, sing some songs, play some games, read some books. We'll put mattresses down on the floor so we can have a big family bed in front of the fire and snuggle through the longest night.

Now that there is a plan and a vision the season to come seems more exciting than it has in a while. I'm going to hold on to that feeling of glee as long as I can.

Monday, November 23, 2009


Truly, it is the liminal seasons that I like best. Summer is what I wait for, of course, but I the image in my mind might be better than the reality. We have the fleeting moment of late spring, early summer which is just perfect. 70 degrees, sunny, dry and everything is bursting as if reaching out towards July. All the good weather is ahead of us, all the bountiful local food is a few weeks away. Picnics are packed, bicycles are found in the backs of garages and us crazy New Englanders feel as though (if we are standing in the sun, at least) that it might just be warm enough to swim. This is the time of optimism. We pay no mind to the humidity and mosquitos no come. Those are a surprise each year.

Autumn is season of neither-nor, of a time-between, but it comes with none of the innocent optimism of spring. We know, deep in our bones, the cold and snow to come. The first morning we put bare toes down onto cold floorboards we see the months of winter stretching before us and shiver. This creates trouble when attempting to enjoy Autumn, to look forward to it even. There is that day, that bittersweet day when the trees are adorned with color, the sun is bright and still strong but there is the smell of wood stoves in the air. That day is so perfect but there is that feeling of waiting, of knowing what's to come. A bit of worry about how to get through until spring again.

This year, I am determined to look the Snow Queen in the eye and welcome her with a mug of cocoa and a lap blanket. I have new wool socks and I am ready to welcome the sweetness of winter.

Monday, November 9, 2009

halloween bag

The children chose (not that Éamonn had very much imput) to be Thing 1 and Thing 2 this year. I have to say, truth be told, that I have no love for the Cat in the Hat but I'm not wearing the costume so, hey. I am required to sew the costume though and, as usual, I was hand stitching the last bits in the car on the way to my brother's house. We live out there just enough that you might not fill your bag on halloween without trudging a couple of miles. That might be hyperbole, which I am prone to, but I think not. I didn't get any photos but I'll see if Grandma's camera caught any good shots.

I made sure to get a photo of the halloween bag before it went into the basement until next year. I made 4 of these and Miryam gave the others to two of her friends. I had another fabric to make 4 more for other friends but the sewing machine jammed and so the fabric is ready waiting for me to stitch it up next year. Luckily the machine is going into the shop this week - I think it just needs a good cleaning but let's all think some good sewing-machine-repair thoughts, eh? I have my mom's old kenmore which is a workhorse but I really need to make a cover to keep the dust out.

Must respect the Sewing Machine.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


please pardon the poor iphone photo.

On our most recent trip to Maryland we left, as usual, at night so the children would snooze on the way home. Unfortunately Éamonn hit a big wall emotionally at around 11 pm and we decided, with 4 hours of driving ahead of us, that it would be more humane for all of us to get a last minute hotel room and go to sleep in a proper bed. The littles were both so exhausted that they were sleeping within moments of crawling into the bed.

They don't, generally, sleep in the same bed because they might never sleep, so I've never had the opportunity to see them snuggle so much. I love the chubby hand at rest, the sweaty brows, the pouty lips, the rosy cheeks. Miryam has always wished that she and Éamonn were twins, and snuggled in that bed they look as though they might have willingly shared a womb.