All work and no play means there won’t be any Apple Betty.

Apple NST

We have these shrubs out front, under our windows.  (I say under, but really they are creeping up, so that the windows are cozily nestled into the bushes.  I like the way it looks, but it is a bit of a battle to convince The Man that the windows should remain nestled…)  I swear those shrubs grow 18″ a year.  We trim them, and we trim them and they just keep right on growing.

Most of the time, I can’t get to the entire shrub when I’m trimming.  At this point, they are five feet wide and four feet tall and full of yellow jackets most days.  So I do my best.  I clip from the front, and I can usually get about 3/4 of the plant done…just not the back.  I generally manage to remove only about 6″ of height at a time.  In order to finish the job completely, I have to do the remaining parts from inside the house, hanging out the windows and that is a real pain, to be honest.   So the shrubs are almost never fully trimmed.  I just skim the surface.

They are a metaphor for my life, those bushes…just skimming the surface these days…

I think about it constantly — how if I had more time I could do more.  How nothing ever seems complete, but everything is “good enough for now.”  Good enough to get by.

The weekends are good…they are a time to catch up a little…and to do the things we love without feeling like we are casting our obligations aside.  Even still, I wake up most mornings feeling an ache in the pit of my stomach.  There is something inside me that will not quit, and so at 5:00am Sunday morning I am worried about Algebra, and groceries, and apple picking and basketball tryouts and church and how we fit it all in on this day.  And the dialogue in my head begins…

We can’t do it all.

Maybe we should go to church early.

That’s just asking for trouble…they need a sleep-in day.  William has tryouts and he needs to sleep.

Well what are we going to *not* do then?

Apples.  We won’t go apple picking.

That’s the only fun thing on the list!  Poor Ella…  We always went apple picking with the other kids when they were little.  She always gets the short end of the stick…

And this goes on and on in my head…the guilt…the scheduling…the mind racing…until I realize my stomach is upset and there is no way I’ll get back to sleep so I just get up and make coffee.

In the end that day, we decided to go apple picking.  We took a ferry across the river and drove down narrow, hilly roads through farms lined with split rail fences. Red and yellow trees dotted the landscape and the hills in the distance were painted in ribbons of gold and orange and crimson.

We had agreed before we left that ten pounds of apples was going to be sufficient and we needed to control ourselves because we always get too many apples and after 2 weeks of apples apples apples we are sick to death of apples.

So we came home with 21 pounds of apples.  I don’t know what happened.

The kids got ice cream and we got a drink and we loaded up our apples and headed home.  The four were too loud in the car, but it was a good kind of loud, where you know they had fun even if one or two of them had complained about going in the first place.

When we got home, I put on a football game and William set up the computer so he could keep an eye on his fantasy team and yell at them now and then while I made smothered chicken for supper.  And for once, we sat around the table together and ate.

That night Kate and I climbed into bed and we practiced the distributive property.  Oh my was that all kinds of fun.  (For me.  Not too much for Kate I don’t think…)

That day, we did what we could.  I didn’t get the groceries, which meant I had to go in the pouring down rain on Monday (which pretty much stunk…), but it ended up being a good day.  A pretty day, where the Earth did not fall off it’s axis, and the sun did rise again, imagine that.

Cut Apples NST

Half of the apples we picked are piled in a big footed bowl on the island.  It’s a good reminder of that pretty day…and that every now and then having a little fun is way better than getting it all done.

All work and no play means there won’t be any Apple Betty.

Nothing Else Matters

And so it is with life that we are, now and then, presented with a choice.  I can say that neither choice will have a completely comfortable outcome, for one reason or another.  But surely, there is a right choice here…surely there is a better choice.

Whatever choice I make, it will be because of them.

Because of her…

Kate Beach Portrait 2013 NST

Because of him…

William at the Barn NST

Because of him…

Henry Beach Portrait 2013 NST

And because of her…

Ella on the beach 2013 NST

Without them…without David…without my little furry beast…nothing matters.  

Nothing else matters.

Nothing Else Matters

Advent Calendar

This Advent season, as for the last few years, we’ve made an Advent calendar.  I remember having a candy calendar as a child, and I just loved it — counting down the days until Christmas and, each day, unwrapping a piece of candy.  Our calendar takes a little different spin.  Each day there is something fun to do.  Most of the activities are Christmas related, but there are a couple that are not.  But all involve family time. 

For instance…we spent 6 whole hours of family fun time together this past Saturday.  In the car.  Without getting out.  We drove to Antietam to see the Memorial Illumination.  I’m not even sure what I was thinking when I planned this excursion.  I certainly was not thinking there would be a three hour line to GET IN.  Nor did I think this would take over six hours from start to finish.  Because, you know, four hours is about all the fun this family can handle before we begin to eat our own.  In all seriousness, it was impressive, and while the meaning was probably lost on 75-100% of the children experiencing it, it was still something beautiful to see…23,110 luminaries, one placed for each soldier killed — both blue and gray — on Sept 17, 1862 at the Battle of Antietam.  It is the bloodiest one day battle in American History.  The Illumination was incredible. (Totally not Christmasy, but incredible nonetheless). 

Anyway, so this year I made new cards and little vellum envelopes and snowflake confetti.  The envelopes are numbered and tied with a red ribbon, and each day one of the kids opens the envelope for that day and reads the card. 

This has become one of our favorite traditions.  Just like when I was a girl, the kids love the anticipation of each new day, each new envelope.  Wait until they open tomorrow’s envelope…

Merry Christmas!!!

Advent Calendar

Childhood Memories

This fourth of July was a memorable one.  David and I planned a bbq with my family–all 18 of us–here at the house.  I was really looking forward to a day of fun with my family, enjoying each other’s company and celebrating the birth of our great nation.  Wednesday my mother called and told me that my cousin, Craig, and his family were planning on coming up for the holiday, and she hoped they could join us.  This may seem a bit ordinary, but it is far from it.

I hadn’t seen Craig, or heard from him, in twenty years (nor had anyone else in my family).  The last time I saw him was at my memiere’s funeral.  Twenty years.  I was just a teenager then.  Out of the blue he phoned my parents and asked if he could visit. 

I’m so glad he did.  It was great getting to know him.  Because really, I didn’t know him before.  I saw him once a year during our family vacations, and back then he seemed so much older than I that we just didn’t connect.  Hearing his accent immersed me in memories of my childhood.  And they were beautiful, happy memories…  Lobster and melted butter.  Fishing with hotdogs off the dock.  Swimming in East Pond.  Picking blackberries.  The loons calling over the water.  Chocolate cake donuts rolled in sugar.  Fishing in the yellow rowboat.  The way the oars sounded as they moved through the water and then rested in the boat.  My memiere and how she would laugh and laugh, sometimes unable to stop.  The chilly August mornings that gave way to beautiful, sunny warmth.  And sun glinting on the water as it set beyond the lake. 

I haven’t reminisced about these things in years.  Probably since my memiere died.  Maybe even never.  And now I realize how much I miss them.  The happiness and the careless days we led.  The people I barely knew, but adored.  There is no doubt they helped shape me.  We are grown now, and some of us are gone from this life.  We have taken different paths, we are scattered across the country.  But when my cousin and his family came to our house, we were one, big family again.  Craig, I’m so glad you called.  I’m so glad you came.

Childhood Memories