Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Flippin' the Night Away

I spent the day contemplating my academic future and having professional conversations with colleagues.  I have some serious decisions to make.

So, what better thing to do when I get home, after dinner, than…


Samuel learned how to make origami frogs while at camp this past weekend, and he has been prodding us to race the frogs ever since.  We finally did tonight, and it was one of the best nights ever.  I needed a little frivolity and laughter, which were in abundance this evening. 

There were lineups.

And flipping.
And measuring.

And scoring.

And prizes.

Alas, my contestant, “Bubbles the Frog,” came in dead last.  However, Bubbles was the clear crowd favorite, with much chanting of “Bubbles, Bubbles” going on each time he/she (how does one tell gender with an origami frog?) came up for a turn.  Okay, maybe that was just me chanting. 

It will be a long time before I forget this night.  Or Bubbles the Frog.

What do you do to invite unabashed silliness into your life?  Do you need to do it more often?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Objects of Childhood

There are objects in my house that transport me back to my childhood.  Well, better said: they call upon old memories and events that go so far back that my earliest images of them are blurred.  Here are a few around my house:

A salad bowl and vinegar cruet.  I love both of these dearly.  However, it’s the vinegar cruet that is most firmly lodged in my childhood memories, because my mother always had it out (along with a jar of yellow mustard) whenever we had corned beef and cabbage.

A small blue pyrex bowl.  I bought a set of pyrex bowls from an indoor flea market when I was living in Pennsylvania in the late 1990s.  At some point, my mother must have owned the whole set herself, possibly from sometime early in her marriage.  By the time I came around, only this little blue bowl was left.  It was the entire reason that I bought the set.  It conjures foggy memories of my mother baking in the kitchen while all my siblings were at school.  I have clearer memories of egg salad sandwiches (this was the bowl for making egg salad for quite a while). 

A tin recipe box (for 3x5 index cards).  My mother barely remembers having one of these, but I remember it.  I found this one at the Rowley flea market years ago and left it at my sister Kaethi’s house "to pick up later."  This weekend, while Anya and I were visiting Kaethi, she dragged out my long-forgotten flea market finds.  There are recipes in the tin that belonged to some woman I never knew.  I doubt I’ll keep those, or that I’ll put recipes in the box.  But I am quite certain that I will discover some use for it.

Not all memories are caught up in my mother.  For example, there is the…okay, I don’t know what to call this—book shelf? – that my brother Tim made in high school shop class.  My mother gave it to me last year, and it hasn’t yet found its “home” in my house.  When I was a kid, I loved this piece.  It held treasures, served as a “bed” for my favorite stuffed animal (Rosie the Rabbit, whom I still have somewhere), and of course later held books.  Tim is a very talented guy.

This item speaks simultaneously to my childhood, my mother, and my brother Tim’s talent.  A cribbage board—not the one from when I was a kid, but one that Tim made for me a few years ago.  Every night after dinner, even before the dishes were cleared and washed, my mother would play cribbage with one of us.  First it was Mike, then Pat, then Kevin, then me.  (Each time someone moved out, a younger child would take the last player's place.)

What items around you evoke special memories from your childhood? 

Friday, February 18, 2011


It’s one of those days that teases me with spring-like weather.  The air is milder, and it smells different, letting off wafts of wet earth.  Birds were singing this morning, louder and stronger than I have heard them for months now.  I look at tree branches and notice that potential life is there, waiting for spring to blossom into flowers or leaves.  It’s so warm that I half expect to see crocuses erupting out of the snow. 

A few warm days this week have finally reduced the piles of snow: I can see grass in my back yard.

The gargoyles are released from their snowy prison. 

And, well, melting snow has also revealed that last fall’s pumpkin needs desperately to be gotten rid of.  (Gross, isn’t it?)

But, indeed, it’s all just a tantalizing taste of what’s yet to come.  I tend to savor these days.  In New England, one never knows what spring will be like.  Some years it’s lovely and lingers.  Other years, it stays cold and grey through April or May, and then shoots directly into heat and humidity.  Fall we can rely on, but not spring. 

Still, there’s something magical about a day like today.  I remember loving these days, these moments of smelling and feeling potential life and warmth, even when I was a kid.  Then, I thought of forests and fairies and adventure.  Heck, maybe I still do.  But now my forest is the tree out my window, my fairy is the twirling child in my kitchen, and my adventure is trying to live like I mean it. 

How do these peeks of spring affect you?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

(Today’s art is from Anya, who loves all things with hearts and swirls!)

On Valentine’s Day, it seems only right to take stock of some of the things I love and cherish about my husband, from the mundane to the silly to the serious.

Let’s see…there are two reasons that I tell everyone:
1.      He can, on occasion, make me laugh until I cry.
2.      He does the laundry.
Other reasons are:
3.      He grew a beard for me.
4.      He came up with an elaborate end-of-the-world escape plan the involved duct taping garbage cans together into an escape pod (are you beginning to see where the boy gets it from?).
5.      He rants about politics with me. 
6.      He’s cynical enough to be fun, but thoughtful enough not to lose his soul altogether.
7.      He likes books like How to Be a Villain and Life’s Little Destruction Book.
8.      He was willing to have a wedding with only 27 people in attendance.
9.      He “gets” how I feel about my work (the whole love-hate thing).
10.  He would drive me to see my Dad any time I wanted, on a minute’s notice, when my Dad was dying.
11.  He had the courage to face his truth.

Did I mention that he does the laundry???

I love you, Howard.

On this Valentine’s Day, how can you appreciate the people you love most?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Picturing Perspective

Some of the best photos that I take are close-ups…capturing a small part of an object or view that, to me, reveals something important about the whole, or about the world/life.  Other favorites are pictures that I take from unusual angles or vantage points.  I often use them for cards and calendars.  Once in a while, I will share a few of my favorites here. 

Today:  Perspective (because that is what I am so often seeking lately)

What brings you perspective?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Proud Parenting Moment

So, this is the source of my parental pride today.  A creation by this bright, imaginative, and slightly twisted boy of mine.  Wouldn't trade him in for anything.

(love the "shiver" references with this first one)

Okay, so his spelling isn't perfect, but clearly he's listening at school (about trees making oxygen, about how the dinosaurs became extinct).  I'm afraid that I must admit that the super villain talk is partly learned at home!  Villains are, after all, more fun than heroes.  

Addendum: Last night at dinner, Howard asked Samuel how things went with a placement test he took for a special school program.  When Howard asked whether Samuel finished first, last, or in the middle, Samuel replied: "I was the penultimate one."  Egads, I love this boy!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Pet Peeves

Let’s face it.  We all have them: pet peeves.  Some are understandable, others entirely idiosyncratic and irrational.  My list, I think, contains a little of both. 

1.      People who say “itch” when they mean “scratch” (as I tell my kids: itch is what you feel, scratch is what you do).
2.      How my husband loads the dishwasher.  Wrong, just wrong.
3.      When students say “I couldn’t come to class yesterday—did I miss anything?”  (A runner up is “Do I have to buy the textbook?”)
4.      Being called Mrs. Brenner (simply not my name).
5.      Cabinet doors left open in the kitchen.  (This one must be genetic: My mother was the same way; when I was a kid, I thought it was sooo stupid…)
6.      People who walk at a snail’s pace in the middle of the sidewalk. 
Okay, I’ve admitted some of my top pet peeves.  What are some of yours????

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Surviving February.

I have long held that even though February is the shortest month on the calendar, it feels like the longest.  Last year, I fell into a “mid-life, mid-career, middle-of-winter” funk that took me weeks to get out of.  This year it’s not so bad, though I find myself simultaneously longing for spring and panicking that my sabbatical is speeding by me.  That, and I am dreadfully sick of snow.

So, how to survive February?  One needs both gratitude and opportunities for escape.

In February, I am grateful:
1)      That it is wee Anya’s birthday month (photo from last year at Grandma’s.)
2)      That Valentine’s Day gives us an excuse to get a babysitter.
3)      For Samuel’s drawing of a groundhog (on my calendar).
4)      That spring is getting nearer.
5)      That February is the perfect excuse to curl up with a cup of tea and a good book.
6)      That It’s still baking season. (That’s a spicy quick bread; last week it was banana bread. Okay, it doesn't look pretty--but it's tasty!)
Escape ideas:
1)      Well, there’s always that good book with a cup of tea.
2)      The bathtub.  Hot.  With lots of bubbles.  (Oh, yeah—and that good book.  Or candles.) 
3)      Planning/daydreaming of what we’ll do when it’s finally spring (maybe garden, or take a trip, or go on a picnic).
4)      Tell stories.  The sillier the better.
5)      Better still: ask Anya to tell me a story.  I’ll forget all about February trying to keep up with the twists and turns and unusual plot lines. 
6)      Guilty Pleasure movies. (You know, the kind you love to watch but don’t want anyone to know about.)
That’s about all I’ve got.  Mostly, we’ve just got to muddle our way through and believe that spring is, indeed, on its way. 
How do you get through February?