Friday, February 15, 2019

a Friday with a twist

Typically, Fridays are predictable  for me: shop for food, play with Snowdrop, cook dinner, go to sleep. With a few small additions, of course, but this is the core.

But today, I wake up to a phone call, which is never a good thing. I mean, who calls anyone these days except to relay a worry? Sure enough, it's my older daughter, telling me that her husband had the gall to get sick (the sentence gives a transparent hint as to what's wrong). He is out of circulation (indeed, out of the home) for several days. Normally, I would step up and offer more of my services, but it just so happens that another grandparent is visiting right now and so I am actually free for the day, even as it is an unusual day because there is this festering anxiety that always makes an appearance when someone in the family isn't quite up to snuff or under the knife.

In the short run, the weekend, which was supposed to include a sleepover for both kids at the farmhouse -- is now completely rewritten, though it is unclear yet in what fashion.

Everything is a little topsy turvy.

Well, okay, but the day is sunny, so one tends to feel optimistic about pretty much everything that comes along.

I come out to feed the cats. Hi, beautiful snowperson!

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But where are the cats? Gone again. This time, I have no horrific images of the little ones being snatched by some feline predator. I know they must have walked off -- two babes, following their mom. But why???

Don't they like it here?

Ed tells me that some cats will roam. And that's fine, but why would you set out adventuring before you had your morning meal? That seems terribly ill advised, no?
They know you'll dash out with food the minute they come back! 
If they come back. I suppose someday they'll just move on.


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Oh but wait! Right around the noon hour they make an appearance again! All three! Where have you been in this bitter cold weather?? And yes, I'm immediately out there, scolding, feeding, fussing!

(Call it brunch)

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(Followed by a nap)

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In the afternoon, Ed and I go to the Arboretum with our skis. It takes a bit of pep talk (him to me, me to him) to get us out there -- I mean, it's really cold! -- but we do it!

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And of course, it is so worth it. The light is beautiful, the snow is icy slick, and though there are no real ski runs, moving through the quiet of that vast woodsy space will take the wrinkles out of any day, really it will! 

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Toward evening, I get reports that things are on the mend for the young family and really, in a few days, all should be back to near-normal again. You know, the regular normal, where we move seamlessly between homes, school, work and play, and all is right and beautiful and not dramatic or slightly twisted at all.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Val Day continued

Such a funny little Valentine! Mischievous, impish, beguiling. The sun came, albeit fleetingly. The temps soared -- up beyond 40F (5C), melting stuff, before tonight's deep freeze will recreate a layer of ice again. Everyone talked of how close we are to spring, forgetting for a while that we aren't anywhere near March 20th.

I go out to feed the cats, with a bounce to my step. Lots of footprints tell me deer have been visiting the farmette again. Perhaps other animals as well.

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But where is Stop Sign?

The little ones are hiding again. The mother shield is missing. Their confidence is weakened.

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Fortunately, they do come out to eat. Two little ones, alone.

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Stop Sign does not show up in the course of the day. Perhaps this should not come as a surprise. In the past, she would leave her kitties in search of food. Eventually she lead them here. Is she telling them that they must now manage on their own? Or has she had an accident? Ed always says that the most dangerous "animal" for a rural cat is the human-driven vehicle.

Breakfast. Ed is being silly. Valentine silly.

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And then we go skiing. Of course we do!

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There's snow! It's warm enough! (Too warm, says Ed. Perhaps he is right -- by the end of our long run, our jackets are open.)

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Our hearts are flying! Is that a cliché? Of course it is. I'm allowed -- it's Valentine's Day!

(Ed, by his favorite tree.)

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In the afternoon, I pick up a happy Snowdrop. As we walk to the car, she shouts out -- we live in a big, huge place! It's so huge! So so huge!

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At the farmette, I suggest outdoor play. She hesitates.

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Maybe. But the lure of indoor routines is too great.

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But eventually, she is ready for snow play. But No mittens! Please, they don't feel right!

I let her suffer without mitts.

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Well, she's not exactly suffering...

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In fact, she is joyous! It is the first time we could readily build a snow person!

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Much of Valentine's Day is enjoyed (pr exploited, depending on your holiday politique)in the evening  of February 14th. What was it like here, at the farmhouse? Good news! Ed goes out to the garage and finds that Stop Sign has returned! A day's reprieve from tending to her babes? A dalliance on this love day with her sweetie? Who can tell! I'm sure her babes are so very happy to see her back again!

Ed and I sit down to dinner, served on our little table in the living room. A tiny lobster tail or two (thank you, grocery stores for understanding our need for the easy and exquisite on this day!), an ear of corn, a piece of chocolate, a glass of bubbly.

Can we be more conventional??

Never resist the tried and true if it brings you joy. Happy days ahead to you all!

With love. ❤️

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Valentine's Day is now

The sun comes out, the day sparkles!

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I don't care what's underneath that beautiful white blanket! (Hint: it rhymes with nice.) At the moment, that stuff's hidden. We crunch along paths of snow.

When we have a large snowfall (it does not happen very often), everything looks lovely the next day. Each tree looks regal and splendidly bedecked. (Most would agree that the tall pines look most regal and splendid of them all.)

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With sunlight come the lovely blue shadows. Blue skies, blue shadows, yellow farmhouse: perfection!

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(Morning visit with the cat and her kittens.)

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Breakfast. Pink is fitting for this day.

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Why? Well, call it Valentine's Day for me!

How so?

Perhaps you remember sweetheart celebrations that I have dragged Ed through in years gone by. They were very nice, very sweet. They involved coaxing him to a card stand, typically conveniently positioned in a chocolate shop where he would buy chocolates, though I would be there walking him through the ritual and of course, we'd share the sweet candies afterwards.

But a few days back, I mentioned to him that someone we knew had just had a massage. I must have seemed wistful because Ed asked -- do you want a massage?

A Valentine's Day gift was born!

I hadn't had one in a dozen years. They're beastly expensive and when I do the calculation, it always seems that the benefit is too short lived to be worth the cost. Still, this winter, I have had my share of sore backs,  wrecked knees and who knows what else. On a February day, a whole body massage seems heavenly.

I pick everything carefully, spending hours on selecting the place, the person, the type of massage and perhaps most importantly -- the date for it. The massage would have to be at a time when the afterglow can stay with me. A stress free day. One when I can take lots of little breaks and remind myself how wonderful I feel (after the massage).

I chose today.  I selected a hot stone massage and no, they don't just take hot rocks and throw them at you! You get your massage and incorporated into it is a working of heated flat stones across your body, allowing them to kneed you before being placed in key spots where their warmth feels especially welcome.

I did not just go for my massage: I prepared for it. I did yoga beforehand. I savored my breakfast, and then I tried hard not to rush to the studio. All morning long I moved with care, with anticipation.

And it was an incredible hour! The sense of physical well being during a massage is so complete that you truly believe every muscle in your body is revitalized and ready to spring back into action.

I wonder if wealthy people who have massages on a regular basis continue to appreciate the wonderfulness of the experience. Possibly it becomes just a thing to check off, like drinking a cup of coffee in the morning. But for me, that hot rock hour was otherworldly!

Happy Valentine's Day to you, too, Ed!

In the afternoon, I pick up Snowdrop. That is, I appear at her school on time, ready to take her to the farmhouse. But she is in the middle of an art project. She needs the little bits of paper, carefully colored and cut up to be safely tucked into an envelope created by her, or rather by us, because she can't quite get the envelope to emerge out of scant pieces of paper.

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Many, many minutes later we head out into the cold. At least I think it's cold.

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Today, we are a little in a hurry. Still, you surely can't help but love the utter prettiness of the landscape as you crunch along (to warmer spaces).

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A quick play, read, snack...

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And then it's time for ballet.

Snowdrop does love going to class, though without question, it is the "story" part of "storybook ballet" that most excites her.

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She'll do the dance positions, the steps, the moves.

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But it is the reading of the day's story and the dance that follows that really draw out her inner joy.

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Happy child, relaxed grandma, beautiful snow scapes, warm farmhouse. What else does one need to make a February day shine?!


(Here's why you should not put away your holiday lights after the holidays: their color on a snowy landscape is magical!)

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Tuesday, February 12, 2019

it snows

All night, all day, the snow came down. Were it not for what now lies underneath that new snow cover (a thick blanket of ice), I'd say it was one of our prettier snowfalls. For once, it's not terribly cold and there is no wind.

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Honestly, it's the kind of snow that will bring a smile to any snow loving person's face.

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But there is that base of ice and so deciding on how to proceed with shoveling calls for some discussion.

An Ocean reader suggested we explore some environmentally friendly snow melting granules. I like that option! I logged onto Amazon first thing this morning and purchased what I thought would be the most environmentally friendly stuff ("Natural Alternative Ice Melt") -- all this before Ed even stirred. I knew I'd get push back from him and I decided that when I ran out of counter arguments (he'll ask for lists of ingredients and then dig up scientific articles discussing their efficacy and potential for harm), I could say -- well, too late: I already ordered some, followed by -- it's way better than salt and we have to do something!

It's a predictable tug-of-war. Ed has always lived in ways that do minimal damage to the environment, but I'd say, with age, he's become even more rooted in his convictions that we are a wasteful species, caring little for the footprint we leave behind. I don't disagree, but I cannot quite reduce my footprint to the levels that he would like. The Ice Melt I bought was the only one I could find that claimed benefits to plant life, at the same time that it would not release unwanted elements into the watershed and ultimately the lakes fed by our springs. Run-off from salted roads and from excessive use of fertilizers has polluted Madison's lakes and we do care deeply about this issue. And of course, even using a product endorsed by the scientific community and a few environmentally focused agencies is not completely without consequence. Ed would rather just wait this freeze out. Me, I've done some slip sliding recently and so I want to do some minimal ice removal in just a couple of crucial spots -- where I get in and out of the car, where we step out of the house. Slabs of ice in both places wont disappear for many weeks. I'd like to give them a nudge.

In the meantime, we continue to walk cautiously. He feeds the cheepers, I feed the cats.

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We eat breakfast, enjoying the beauty and serenity of the winter landscape out the window.

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Because this snowstorm is so persistent (from yesterday evening until tomorrow morning), schools had to close today. No one wanted another snow day: teachers will have to make up the time in June and kids just came off of an extended stay at home time. Still, it was the right decision. The plows just cannot clear a street when the snow keeps on falling.

Parents once again have had to scramble. In the afternoon, the young parents drop off Sparrow and Snowdrop at the farmhouse and go off to their respective offices. Yo have to wonder what parents are expected to do when a retired Gaga isn't within reach.

(Ed eats an apple, she wants an apple. Ed eats nuts, she wants nuts...)

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(And Sparrow is just so delighted with the whole setup.)

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Sister and brother, brother and sister...

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Don't you think it's time the two of them played together? He's willing!

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She's willing, so long as he steers away from the pink.

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When Sparrow naps, we read. And then I suggest she make Valentine's Day cards. Snowdrop loves everything about this project.

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And of course, there has to be a solid block of time for story-telling.

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There's a lot of story in all of us. But for this little girl, the beat of a story is so strong, that a day cannot be whole without its satisfying release.

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Evening. I check on the cats again, brush the snow off the pathway, reheat some leftovers for dinner. It's still snowing. It's still very slippery. And very beautiful out there. And even more beautiful here, in the quiet farmhouse, with the still twinkling colorful winter lights.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Monday before the storm

We read that today, Madison took the unprecedented move of salting every street in the city, including in all residential neighborhoods. The thick layer of ice everywhere is not otherwise navigable and we are expecting a snowstorm tonight -- one that will dump a layer of snow on top of the ice. It is not a good combination.

Here, at the farmette, there is little more we can do: I'm glad we toiled with the walkway, chipping away at the ice as it was coming down. The path to the door is mostly free of slippery spots. Everything else is one huge sheet of ice. We've never had anything quite like it. On the upside -- when you know it's icy, you walk with care. Deliberately, slowly. A controlled glide!

This morning, I walked with care to feed the cats.

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(animal paw prints, and underneath the light dusting of snow -- ice)

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And I walked with care to pick up Sparrow when he arrived for his farmhouse visit.

And then I stayed inside. We stayed inside. It's just below freezing and so nothing is melting. How this will all thaw out is a bit of a mystery to me. But most certainly, the next several weeks will be mostly inside weeks for us. Avoiding treks across ice fields and along icy driveways is surely a priority.

Sparrow joined us for breakfast. He ate, I ate, we ate.

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As always, he is one cheerful guy!

Added bonus at play time: I can concentrate on his needs (Snowdrop is at school), which include a dig into some of Snowdrop's toy loot.

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Another meal already? Exciting!

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"Fun book, gaga!"

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Good effort at standing/climbing/scrambling.

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And eventually, Sparrow goes home and I bring Snowdrop to the farmhouse, warning her to be very very careful on the walk from car to house.
Gogs, my shoes are rubber! It's like having sticky stuff on them! Still, she is careful.

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Apart from a half hour spent on reading a book, she is committed to letting out one, big, complicated story. Indeed, she starts her tale in the car. It's as if it had been percolating in her for a long long time and she couldn't wait to let it out.

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Eventually, she asks for paints. But the story doesn't stop there.

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I had ordered a smock. It arrived in mid-painting. Gogs, it's got a castle on it! She puts it on and continues with her story.

She is clearly under the spell of the weekend movie. There are black twists to her painting. I pick up plots of smoke and fire and boats sailing on a blue, swirling sea with crashing waves.

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Done with that painting.

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But not with the story. Still time for dress-up. For pretend phone calls to mysterious persons.

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And when her dad comes to pick her up, she makes me promise that I leave everything just as it is now, so that she can continue tomorrow.

It's snowing now. Big, quiet flakes. We pulled down the garage door some and checked on the water supplies for the animals. Tomorrow, we'll have to dig out. Right back down to the ice layer that stubbornly rests at the base of it all.