Wednesday, November 07, 2018

This Fall

I haven’t written anything in a long stretch. It wasn’t intended, never is, the blinking cursor abandoned for house projects such as removing bathroom wallpaper and creating long over-due vacation photo books. This afternoon, I gave up an attempt at cleaning out Lily’s closet to play Scrambled States with Daisy.  

Setting aside productivity; saying yes to something lovely.

On my nightstand and in my earbuds:
Washington Black by Esi Edugyan
The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
Two Steps Forward by Graeme Simsion
I, Eliza Hamilton by Susan Halloway Scott
The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wildler
The House at Pooh’s Corner by A. A. Milne
Dante Club by Matthew Pearl

This past month. Spontaneous playdates. Soccer games. Frozen yogurt dates. Birthday celebrations. Field trips. Long hikes with good friends. Christmas songs practiced for the upcoming piano recital. Afternoon runs.

This past week. Halloween costumes strewn about the playroom. School parades. Sugar highs and sugar crashes. Dinner with friends. Roasted vegetables, hardy soups and lots of salads. After school bike rides and evening board games.

The past twenty-four hours. A quick trip to my hometown to kiss cheeks of my first church family. Laughing and crying while listening to eulogies. Spotting familiar faces – old pastors, long-ago friends – and remembering moments of my youth that had fallen to the recesses of my brain. Listening to old memories. Margaritas’ and delicious enchiladas.
Scrawled in my planner, from A.A. Milne: And by and by Christopher Robin came to the end of things, and he was silent, and he sat there, looking out over the world, just wishing it wouldn’t stop.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Heaven is a place on Earth and that place is Switzerland

Oh dear Internet, I have been struggling for weeks on how to write about our trip to Switzerland. What is it about vacation - after you come home and daily life continues on, and your trip feels like a beautiful dream where you eat chocolate each day and wake up to beautiful views of the mountains. You spend the day hiking and eating all the cheese you can muster and stop for a beer at two in the afternoon and listen to the cow bells ring in the distance. And then think, "Oh right, that did all really happen. Let me just clean up this pile of dog vomit and fight traffic and sort through laundry and I'll get right back to remembering it."
Paris was amazing. Switzerland was heaven. Switzerland was more of the vacation part of our family vacation - you know, where we were a bit lazier in our daily activities. We hiked, but we also let the kids jump on trampolines and play on playgrounds. We hung out on our deck in the afternoons and read and drank wine and admired the mountains while the kids watched movies on the iPad. 
It was beautiful and glorious and relaxing. It was like nowhere we'd ever been before. When we were deciding where we wanted to go for the second half of our trip, we all agreed that we wanted somewhere that made people wrinkle their brows and, "you're going where?" We wanted to take trains and get away from people. We wanted a chance to slow down and breathe deeply after the hustle of city life. With Switzerland, we got it. 
Ninety percent of what made Switzerland so incredible were the towns we went to. We started in Murren, a charming alpine village in the Bernese Oberland region, with magnificent views and zero traffic. The town is perched on a ledge of Alpine pasture overlooking the steep Lauterbrunnen Valley below. 
The village was so calm and so quiet. I couldn't stop being surprised how something so enormous as the mountain peaks directly in front of us could be so peaceful and so still. Each day we hiked and ate chocolate and explored and we ate cheese and we hiked some more and we found ice cream and we read and we cloud-watched the mountains and we talked. We hiked from Murren to Grindelwald, stopped for a beer and shared a cheese board for lunch while the kids ran between the table and the playgound. We marveled at the Trummelbach Falls thundering above us, and ate homemade meringues the size of our fists. We followed a herd of cows through their pasture, listening to the cow bells clanging like church bells ring on Sunday mornings. We went to the tip-top of the Matterhorn and slid down ice slides and rode cable car and funiculars and cogwheel trains. 

This, however, is probably the kind of crap you hate hearing about from your freezing cold beige-paneled cubicle, or while your kids are staging a revolt from the next room over while you drink your hours-old lukewarm coffee. I know, I get it, I'd hate hearing about it too. Quit it with the beautiful mountain views and the enviously perfect family and the twinkling stars and the delicious chocolate, I'd think. 
And so, therefore Internet, you will not mind if I tell you how I cleaned up vomit at least once a day. Bingo! That just made you instantly less envious, didn't it? Suddenly, it doesn't seem like such a perfect, amazing vacation. 
When we left for our trip, Lily was in the middle of antibiotics and Daisy had just started a course of peniciliin for strep throat. Now, all three of my girls are normally very healthy children - a mild cold or a short bout of the flu may knock one or two of them back a few days, but nothing major. This, however, was the first time Daisy had ever taken an antibiotic. We made it through the first week in Paris, and it was on the very last cable car of the last thirty minutes of the eight-hour trek from Paris to Murren when Daisy started complaining of a rash that was driving her crazy. An allergy to peniciliin was actually the furthest thing from my mind. The next afternoon the rash was full-blown; we stopped the antibiotics and hunted down some advice at the local Apotheke. 
We naively thought the rash would just fade away, but as the week went on and we moved from Murren to Zermatt to Geneva the rash went full blown, a cough developed and the nausea started. Internet, if there is anything worse than being sick, it is being sick on your first overseas trip when you just want your own bed and your own space and clean pajamas. But, being true to form, Daisy was a total champ - hiking through exhaustion, smiling instead of crying, numbing her swollen throat with ice cream and always, always being positive. 
Just as with all travel - through Switzerland we practiced the fine art of balancing a profound wanderlust for this wide planet with the delicate yearnings for home. Travel stretches us. It is taxing at times, and achingly beautiful at others, and we always return home a bit crumpled, but a lot changed. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2018


It’s that time between seasons when the bathing suits and swim goggles hang up next to the hoodies in the hallway. When we divide our days between cozy blankets in the evenings, but coat our shoulders in sunscreen to guard against the afternoon sun. 

Last week, a camping road trip to visit J’s brother in Portland. Two weeks before that, J and I went on a road trip from Chicago to Nashville. This month, we stay home. Morning routines. Evening rituals. 

Soccer games and ballet practice. Piano and gymnastics. Homework and reading charts. Paint brushes and watercolors on the dining room table. The hammock hanging from the back deck. Jars of freshly canned plum compote from my brother-in-law’s backyard plum tree. 

Violet gave up her afternoon nap months ago. But, she is exhausted after school, so we pile on the couch with dozens of books: The Gruffalo, Little Blue Truck, Fancy Nancy and the Posh Puppy, Room on the Broom, Give a Moose a Muffin, and Mr. Magee and the Camping Spree just to name a few. 

My nightstand is piled high with books, but I am working to finish My Dear Hamilton by Stephanie Dray. My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan, Ike and Kay by James MacManus and The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware were all snagged just last week at the library. Even though I'm not sure when I'll find the time to read all the pages in just three weeks time. We just listened to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Penderwisk: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits and One Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall on our ten hour road trip. I'm listening to Hamilton by Ron Chernow and The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder with the girls on audible. 
In an effort to kill all the germs in the house and clean out the camping dirt, I launder every last one of our sheets, linens and sleeping bags. Corral the missing pillowcase pairs and fold into packages for storing. Domestic hysteria, I thought, but in truth, what I’d wanted to do after all the choas of travel was perhaps better accomplished with bedding: cleaned, sorted, tidied. Thread counts promising what words cannot. It's what I'm hoping the slower days of fall will bring. 

These words, spoken by President Obama, “Even the smallest act of service, the simplest act of kindness, is a way to honor those we lost, a way to reclaim that spirit of unity that followed 9/11.”

This, too, from Laura Ingalls Wilder: “It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.”

This week's project: charitable words. Mercy. Small kindness. Today it seems especially poignant to remember those words. To enjoy the sweetness of a crisp, fall apple. To feel the sun on my face. To enjoy the fleeting, fragility of life. 

Soon, fall. Jacket's for the morning walk to school. Afternoon bike rides. 

We’re ready.