Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Spring hopes eternal

Two days ago, the snowdrops were blooming. My garden was mostly bare, muddy, half-frozen ground.

Today, my gardens looked like this:

Happy spring. (Grumble)

This time of year, I need something to look forward to so  I go out for pancakes and syrup, because sap boiling is a sign that spring isn't here yet, but it's getting close, and sugar shacks give me something to look forward to in what would be a month of mud and slush and fresh snow that nobody but skiers wants.
I need some brightness, so I buy bunches of daffodils every time I go to the store and cut branches of forsythia to force for our Easter tree.

I need to act like spring is coming, so I buy seeds anywhere I see them (and I never remember what I've bought so I always have way too much lettuce and peas and none of something else.) I never start seeds because I don't have a good place to do it, but last year I read about winter sowing in milk jugs. Today, in honor of spring, I started my garden.
 I gathered the seed starter and the seeds and the saved milk jugs from the barn. Then I schlepped through the snow to the compost pile out back. Even as I grumbled about the snow, I noticed that the sun had come out and the air had a hint of softness to it. The snow was still a solid covering, but underfoot it was yielding. You slid ever so slightly in it instead of crunching. And, I had to admit, it was pretty, clean and sparkly instead of dingy and dull.

I dug into the compost pile, clearing away a layer of snow and a layer of leaves. Underneath, instead of frozen ground, the new soil was warm and rich and fragrant. I scooped two small buckets full and added them to my pile of supplies in the kitchen. 

I prepped the milk jugs by cutting them most of the way around and stabbing drain holes in the bottom. Kathleen helped me fill them and plant the seeds. I labeled them as we went along. We spritzed them with water, and I sealed them up with tape.

Then we put on boots and brought our mini greenhouses out to the sunny side of the house.

Now we wait—and hope. I didn't plant all the seeds. I'll stagger my plantings and use some to direct sow in the garden, whether or not our little winter (or spring) sowing experiment works.

We finished just in time to get Elizabeth up for her nap. We all took a walk around the block with hats but no mittens, boots but no snowpants. We ran into neighbors and stopped to say "Happy spring" and Kathleen and Elizabeth and their friend from around the corner ran in circles and giggled and shrieked. It was bright and almost warm and we stayed outside until we should have been done eating dinner.

Spring is coming. Today, even with a covering of fresh snow, I felt it.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Enough, Late Winter

In late February, I got a weird virus with on and off symptoms that made me really anxious. I was sick for a week and my stomach was off for a bit after that, so I didn't drink much coffee. Or wine. And I didn't eat a lot of sweets. Or a whole lot at all. All of a sudden how much I "needed" was reduced. One cup of coffee it turns out is enough, even when the girls take turns waking me every hour or so. It's amazing how much better I feel with less sugar and caffeine.

I've started running again. Last week I did three 3-mile runs, which isn't a bad start. I scheduled my runs for this week. The first one should have been tomorrow in what sounds like a messy late winter snow storm. And I have a nasty respiratory thing, so I'm going to remind myself that it's good enough to have started, that I'll get out once the roads are clear again and my lungs aren't protesting when I'm just sitting.

As for this storm, enough! I am so done with winter, though it isn't done with us. Kathleen pouts every day that she "hates snow time." I love snow time, but I get sick of it. I'm sick of it now, especially since we were finally seeing bare ground and snowdrops blooming. Enough snow already, bring on spring.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Five of us and the dog

Lately, we've been doing "fire stories" before bed, which means we turn off all the lights and sit in front of the fire and I tell a story.

Sometimes the stories are completely made up, like "Ice cream" which has various people from our family heading off to buy my sister an ice cream cone only to get distracted. My kids love to decide which cousin they will play with and what activity they will do (build a sandcastle, splash in the water, ride boogie boards . . . ). Eventually, she heads off to get her own cone, and one by one everyone tags along to get an ice cream too.

Sometimes the stories are true, like the story Brian told the other night of the night we got engaged.

Sometimes the stories are partially true and partially made up, like the story of taking the train to Boston to ride the swan boats (true) and running into other people from our family as the train stopped along the way (made up).

Tonight, Kathleen asked for a story about "me and Lizzy and mom and dad."

"Okay, a true story about mom, dad, LizzyB, and Kathleen."

"And Henry!" she added. "And Bandit."

"Okay, but it has to be partially made up because Henry and Bandit weren't here when you were."


So I told a the story of our family camping trip, when we all went in the canoes to go blueberry picking. The boys, Brian, Henry, and Bandit, went in the blue canoe. The girls went in the green one. All five of us, and our dog, camping, canoeing, picking blueberries, seeing a bear. It's not so hard to imagine this being a true story.

Next summer, we plan to try camping with the girls. We will go with our one canoe. If the timing is right we will pick blueberries right along the shore as we paddle. It isn't inconceivable that we would see a bear. But Bandit won't be there to bark at a bear or at us as we paddle (he never did like the water or seeing us in or on it). And Henry won't be there sitting in the front of Brian's canoe. He may be in there in our hearts. He may be among the countless stars of the night sky that we see as we sit, telling stories, around the fire, but he won't be there in the canoe or in the tent. And yet, how easy it is to weave him into our family stories.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Sharing the blanket

My grandmother has knitted blankets for all her 16 great-grandchildren. They are all the same pattern, the same as the one she knit for me and my sisters when we were babies. It is a loose knit with fringe on one end.

Elizabeth has been a blankie girl for a while now. At first, I could easily substitute my yellow and green blanket that's slightly scratchy or Kathleen's creamy, super soft one for her aqua one. Now she knows the particular matted feel and smell of her blankie, and is less accepting. Still, when she's really tired, she will sometimes settle for a different blankie if it has that fringe.

Two days ago, she woke around 1 AM, sopping wet. Her bed was wet, and yes, blankie was wet. Brian stripped her crib, got everything in the wash, and got her back in bed. He tried to cover her with a blanket his mom made. She took it, but she wasn't happy. And it didn't last long. She cried and cried for blankie. Kathleen was tangled in her own blankie. I felt around in the dark for my old blanket. It was right here in the basket, but the kids have been pulling things out. It wasn't in the basket or on the rocker or the chair. She was clamoring for blankie and Kathleen was stirring and I was deliriously tired.

There was one other blankie, same pattern, same fringe. It was lemon chiffon yellow. Until a couple of days before it had been folded on the chair in my room, but while I was sick and stressed and looking for comfort anywhere, I pulled out one night. It was, of course, Henry's. It was the blanket we last held him in. It was the blanket I held every night for a year. Could I share it? What if she peed on it? What if she decided she wanted to have it? What if it would help her sleep? I stumbled across the hall into my room, where the blanket was strewn by the foot of the bed. I spread it over Elizabeth, "Here's your fringe," I soothed.

"My blankie wet. Dada put in wash."

"Mhmm, but you use this. Sleepy time," I whispered putting her hand on the fringe. She fingered it, put her thumb in her month. "Shhh. Sleepy time." I went to bed. She fell asleep under her brother's blanket.