winter

Tomorrow, a High of 2

Grateful for heat and a hot gas fireplace and worn-in flannel pajama pants and the draft stopper Sophie made with Nini for the window by her bed and the space heater in the boys’ bedroom and my black kettle and a (mostly) working stove and being able to put additional quilts on all of my sleeping children tonight. Grateful for the wonder of what negative daytime temperatures feel like without the worry.

May all living things find such simple, necessary comfort tonight and tomorrow.

“[W]hat a severe yet master artist old Winter is. … No longer the canvas and the pigments, but the marble and the chisel.” —John Burroughs

March Snow

This winter has not been kind to us in terms of sickness. Early December all five of us had a stomach virus (a nightmare). Early February, despite flu shots, we were all sick with something viral, which my doctor suspected was a mild case of the flu. And which, a week later, turned into pinkeye. Last week, something viral invaded our family again.

Late Tuesday night Sophie’s temperature peaked at 106.5°. We called the doctor on call. Gave her Tylenol and Ibuprofen. Woke her up every hour to check her temperature and make sure she was lucid (which was difficult to determine as she was groggy with sleep). Her temperature dropped and steadied (although it was still high) so we avoided the ER but took her in to see the pediatrician first thing the next morning. Aside from a cough, everything checked out—including a flu test. But later that afternoon, she started complaining about abdominal pain and her fever peaked at 104.5°. Back to the pediatrician again (same day). She was tested for a UTI—nothing. So we continued monitoring her, giving her Tylenol, Ibuprofen and Delsym.

Of course Owen and James also had colds and fevers, with Owen’s temperature peaking at 105° one night. And then I caught it. And then Andy. James started complaining about his ear, so back to the doctor we went—double ear infection and the start of bronchitis.

With sickness comes fussiness. Thursday morning, before I knew James had an ear infection, I tried to pick him up while he was throwing a terrible tantrum on the kitchen floor. He flung his head up and his skull caught my chin. It hurt, the kind of hurt that instantly brings tears to your eyes. I put him down. Walked to the bathroom. Shut the door and cried as a bruise formed on the underside of my chin and blood formed on my lip, where my teeth caught the skin. At that point I had a fever too. I was exhausted from overnight temperature checks. I wanted to rip out my lungs from coughing. I had three screaming children outside my door and all I wanted to do was curl up in bed. My phone rang. It was my mom calling me on her cell. She was on her way. With lunch. I did that awful cry-talk back to her, thanking her.

How do moms do that? She called at the exact moment I needed to hear her. I can only hope I’m able to do the same for my children when they’re grown.

And then today. Sophie’s temperature came back (low grade, 100.5°) and she was still complaining about abdominal pain. So back to the doctor we went. Next thing I know all four of us are downtown at Children’s Hospital so Sophie can have an x-ray done—poor kid has pneumonia, in her lower right lung.

This winter has been filled with over-the-counter medicine distributed in plastic alligator spoons, around-the-clock temperature checks, inhaler treatments, nebulizer treatments (we own our own machine now), bedroom humidifiers, middle-of-the-night-bundled-up-because-of-the-freezing-temperature porch sits for croup, fussiness, wiping noses constantly, reminding to cover coughs constantly, so many missed days at school. And all I will say about the stomach virus is the laundry. My God. The laundry.

Is this normal? Sophie’s in preschool. Even her teacher was noting how another parent, rightfully so, called the classroom a big petri dish. (And they have a strict sick policy, as well as strict hand-washing policies—every child washes their hands first thing when entering the room.) One morning when I called her in sick I discovered I was the sixth parent to do so that day, in a class of 20-something. I take the boys to Child Watch at the Y—when healthy. We go to the museum—when healthy. We go to the library—when healthy. But then, I can’t help but think doing these things leads to more germs and more sickness. They’re building up their immunity, yes, but it’s exhausting.

And now it’s March. Yesterday we got one last big beautiful snowfall. (And please know that if I had known Sophie had pneumonia, I certainly wouldn’t have let her play outside—for what it’s worth, we were only outside for about 20 minutes … despite the good half hour it took to get geared up to romp around in the snow.)

I love snow, I do. Even today my heart did a little flip flop when I saw our cardinals flit about the snow-covered branches. It was beautiful. They were beautiful. The boys squealed with delight, calling them friends. But I felt less giddy than usual as the big flakes fell this time. I sighed heavier as I dressed the kids in layers. I’m ready for Sunday’s time change. I’m ready to play outside daily. I’m ready to open up all our windows and air out our stuffy, germ-filled house. Even the kids ask daily, “When can we go to the big park?” I want to go to the big park. I want to go to the park sans coats. Sans runny noses. Sans cringe-worthy coughs.

I just hope Punxsutawney Phil was right.

“Nature looks dead in winter because her life is gathered into her heart. She withers the plant down to the root that she may grow it up again fairer and stronger. She calls her family together within her inmost home to prepare them for being scattered abroad upon the face of the earth.” —Hugh Macmillan

A Now-Pink Highchair

Sophie’s dolls (some of which were my dolls, when I was little) eat their meals in the same highchair my dolls used when I was little. Katy and I shared the highchair, as well as a doll crib. It’s seen some great wear, but still, Sophie was thrilled to receive it (Colleen has the crib).

One boring, cold, rainy Saturday afternoon, while the boys were sleeping and Andy was away, I decided we should paint it. Sophie wanted it to be pink, of course, which was easy because we had leftover pink paint from painting her bedroom walls.

And yes, I opened the paint can with a chisel.

And yes, I stirred it with a broken mini-blind rod, which I found in a pile in the basement.

We moved into our house when the boys were three months old. My days were a hard cycle of pumping, feeding, changing, unpacking. Some parts of the move, such as the basement, were never properly dealt with. As the weeks went by and we needed things from the basement we’d dig around in boxes, leaving messes, never organizing a thing. Andy has never minded it but I’ve always felt agitated, walking around our first floor knowing below me was a mini disaster, well beyond your typical basement disaster. (We made a path so our meter reader wouldn’t break an ankle.)

But putting off cleaning the basement is easy to do. Especially with three small children.

However, the frustration I felt trying to find a paint can opener, stirrer and brush in our throw-it-down-the-steps-and-deal-with-it-later basement put me into a full-blown tizzy.

Operation Clean Basement is underway.

Andy is less-than-thrilled.

Back to the highchair. It’s amazing what a couple coats of paint can do. Sophie loved the project. Sure she missed a bunch of spots, and at times she applied the paint too thickly and too evenly (I did, too). Paint got on the kitchen floor (despite the newspaper) the bottom of her feet (and mine), on my elbow and in her hair. But given that I’m a terrible painter, I loved having her help me. Because no matter how it turned out (and honestly, it turned out surprisingly OK), I could say “Sophie helped me!” when anyone commented on the paint job.

“Life is a great big canvas; throw all the paint you can at it.” —Danny Kaye

Clementines

We eat clementines like candy during the winter months. Although Sophie doesn’t technically eat them. She prefers to suck all the juice out, leaving the skins all over her plate (and the dining room table, and coffee table and cup holder in the van). The bowl was a Christmas present from my parents—it’s made by Heath Ceramics. I’m in love.

“Life without love is like a tree without blossoms or fruit.” —Kahlil Gibran

Catch Up

I feel like it was just yesterday when we were tromping around a hilly field, looking for the perfect Christmas tree. And just like that, on Monday we dragged what was left of it in our backyard to the curb (I know, I know, it’s March and we should have recycled it with the rest of our neighbors in January and yes I did feel ridiculous dragging a totally brown Christmas tree out to the curb in 70° weather).

Some days I feel so behind, on everything.

So here’s a post of the many things I had hoped to write about this winter, and didn’t.

We went with Nini and Pop Pop to see a most amazing model train exhibit, in the basement of one of my dad’s co-workers. That marked the beginning of Owen’s current obsession with trains (or choo-choos, as he calls them).

Annual holiday dinner party at Ferrari’s with friends. I was too busy keeping two toddlers well-behaved in a nice restaurant to take good pictures, but I do have this one, of Sophie playing peek-a-boo with Mya.

Play date/Christmas cookie decorating with Angel, Zoey, Mya, Christine, Connor, Jenna and Hannah.

Zoey and Sophie always exchange Christmas presents. Early fall Sophie asked Nini if they could make a blanket for Zoey, together. So they did. We went to a fabric store and Sophie spent a long time contemplating different designs before choosing this one. She then spent a day with Nini, pinning and cutting and tying (and trying it out, of course). Zoey and Sophie exchanged gifts before decorating cookies together. Sophie was so excited. (Thank you, Nini.)

Tis this season for surprise packages in the mail. Through this blog I have connected with Andy’s Aunt Cheryl and Uncle John in Texas. And although we’ve never met in person, I’ve loved conversing with them (thank you, technology). They’ve shared old photos and memories with me, and over the holidays sent me some lovely tea cups for my collection, as well as Texas-themed ornaments and little stockings filled with candy for the children (which was met with much glee).

James and Owen fell in love with Little Bear on TV (they’re watching it in this picture). “A Kiss for Little Bear” is one of my favorite children’s books and I’ve long loved the series—the show is quite beautifully done, with lovely drawings, classical music and sigh-worthy story lines. If they’re going to fall in love with a TV show, I’m happy it’s this one.

We had to keep all of our chairs up on the table so the boys wouldn’t climb on them and fall. This was a huge pain. Also, Sophie danced. A lot.

The boys realized a dream of theirs—sitting on top of a refrigerator.

The boys also learned how to climb out of their highchairs, even with straps, so we gave up highchairs, with great trepidation. It was so wonderful. So great. They embraced the chairs (even though they often eat standing up on them) and because they are now allowed on chairs, they no longer care about climbing up on chairs—and the table—and the chandelier, and so we were finally able to put (and keep) all the chairs back on the floor, where they belong. I realize this sounds like nothing but oh did it irritate me, putting those chairs up on the table and taking them back down every time we ate.

We celebrated birthdays.

My cousin Kelsey cuddled with Sophie (and Owen learned how to say “Kelsey” perfectly).

Sophie tried on my riding boots.

James spent many a days wearing Andy’s winter hat.

We spent a most wonderful, snowy weekend in Michigan, visiting our good friends Matt and Christi, and their son, Quinn. We ate out, ate in, went to a children’s museum, stayed up late talking, cared for the kids together and played with the kids together. Christi and I escaped for an evening, to a movie and La Dolce Vita in Ann Arbor for dessert. Andy wore his OSU sweatshirt everywhere.

Sophie played with her baby doll.

We all got colds. Caring for the children while sick wasn’t easy, but their cuddles helped quite a bit.

Sophie wore her beautiful poncho, which my cousin Emily made.

I found the exact kitchen island I’ve long wanted on Craigslist, for half the price. Part birthday/part purchased with freelance money, it’s now become a favorite snacking spot for the kids.

Our house smelled like spring much of late February (thank you, Angel).

Sophie fell in love with Nini’s iPad.

The Lapthorn family visited—and brought pizza. Sam and Sophie are close in age, as are their twins—Charlie and Nathan—to our boys. Needless to say, we always have much to talk about when together.

There was a lot of this.

And now we’re airing out the house (thank God) with windows open in March. And soon it will be spring. And summer. More time to get ahead. And fall behind. And so it goes. So it goes.

“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: It is the time for home.” —Edith Sitwell

Morning Snow

“Winter came down to our home one night
Quietly pirouetting in on silvery-toed slippers of snow,
And we, we were children once again.” —Bill Morgan, Jr.

Window Breaths

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I love her soft clouds of hot breath on our cold, old windows. I keep promising her soon, soon, we can spend hours, once again, playing outside.

“In the depths of winter I finally learned there was in me an invincible summer.” —Albert Camus