Flying Away

I’m writing this from roughly 30K feet over Dallas. I habitually mis-remember this flight to LA to take six hours. I get all worked up about the claustrophobia of it all, and am then relieved when I board and see that it’s just under five. Then after a few hours I am again distressed when I realize that just under five is also too long to sit in this tiny chair, surrounded by strangers. I’m only 5’2″, so the normal amount of space is really fine for me. Until the person in front of me reclines, and then I go from zero-buried alive! buried alive! The best plane trick I know is to finagle for the exit row. The seats in front can’t recline. God bless.

This is a long one for me, Sunday-Thursday. I always tend to get a little blue and anxious when I know I have to leave the boys. It comes to a head the night before for me, and I wake up repeatedly to stroke their little sleeping faces. It comes to a head for Alden when I actually leave. The whole family drove me to the airport this morning and Alden said, “Mommy, I think I’m going to cry.” So much more piercing than if he’d just wailed. Elliot doesn’t really get what’s going on and will randomly look for me until I turn up again. The good news: Damon has this down cold. The other good news: As soon as we actually split, I feel better. Now I’m counting down to getting back to them instead of counting down to leaving.

It’s probably all a little too much drama. I’m going to go stay in a nice hotel and do interesting and useful work. The boys will be indulged more than usual (which is already a lot) and I’ll return bearing gifts. That last part is new. I was flailing around trying to make Alden feel better and I threw out an offer to bring him a present. (Way to teach him to mask his feelings with commercial goods! Buying things make you happy!) He was ready for me, though, and asked for “…a chocolate rabbit. A big one.” Elliot piped up that he’d be happy to have a toy train, so now I have my marching orders.

I’ve also started a new work travel tradition, which is that the boys’ toys have taken to hitching rides with me. Last trip to NY, a tiny stuffed Grover came long and I texted back pictures of him accompanying me on my rounds. This time it’s a bathtub Grumpy. So far Grumpy isn’t impressed, but what can I expect?

New Year’s Eve Tradition

Our family has a sacred New Year’s Eve tradition that I just made up.

I know I want to spend New Year’s at the cabin; but in order to make this day different from every day at the cabin we are instituting the New Year Family Dinner. Every person gets to pick one dish and they all add up to dinner — whatever they are. Elliot spoke up first, and ask for broccoli with noodles (noot-les). Alden picked pizza. Damon added on my quasi-homemade Alfredo and mushroom sauce, which we can add to Elli’s nootles. I threw in Boston cream cake, one of my Dad’s favorites and a historical cabin dessert staple. Kind of a reasonable dinner, actually. I was hoping for something weirder.


This has been my view for the past 36 hours.

Cabin Cats

Cabin Cats


New Year’s Eve Eve

One year ago we were tucked up in our little cabin in the woods. Which is where we are again. I’m feeding a cheerful fire that will keep us warm in this icy weather and the boys are watching Star Wars for the first time. I will really miss them if they don’t like it.

One year ago Alden got sick here. January 1 at about 4am, to be specific. I hesitated when we made these plans, but that’s ridiculous. It will seem even more ridiculous once we cruise healthfully into the new year. I need to strangle that superstitious association.

I’ve been puttering around, sweeping hearth, wiping down walls, cleaning fruit, scrubbing carpet. I also spent some time hauling a dead tree off the side porch. Storms have whacked down a lot of trees around here and we’re lucky to have gotten away with just a smashed railing and a few crunched steps. I love taking care of this place. It’s both a small service I can do for my Dad and also nesting against all the future years we hope to spend here.


I just had this exchange with Elliot:

E: I am going to punch you in the face if you don’t love me!

J: I do love you.

E: Okay, I not punch you in the face.

I can only hope he refines his technique by prom. He is what my Dad would call a “buster.”


Christmas was great. We spent it in my hometown and luxuriated in lots of time with family and old friends. The boys got an obscene number of toys. My Mom gave them both cash, too, treating me to a new level of middle-class discomfort to see my toddler running around waving a fistful of dollars. Still, it was all to the good and fun for everyone.

My stocking was full. My cup runneth over. I’m awfully grateful that we’re ending this year with everyone accounted for.

Letter to Santa: 2012

I took dictation for Alden on this note last night:

Dear Santa,

I was nice at the old lady’s who had nine grandchildren.*

I want an all-green soccer ball, please.

We should get Olive and Gus a toy.

I want Gatorade.

Elliot wants dirty socks. Just kidding. But please bring him something.

And I want a shovel to dig in the mines. Mommy will come with me.

I want a cat bed for Olive and Gus that’s super big.

Enjoy the cookies and enjoy the milk. Enjoy the chocolate chip cookies. I know those are your favorite. I want you to have your own pen so you can write down notes on who is bad and good.

And I want lots of Christmas decorations.

Santa, I want lots of toys, but not all of them in the whole wide world.

Thank you, Santa. Love,



Santa Delivers

I offered Elliot the chance to write a note, but he is not down with Santa.

*His step-great-grandmother. They bonded over a conversation in which she thought they were talking about Elliot and he thought they were talking about a dragon.


So many small children — just like mine.

The White House press secretary Jay Carney says that today is not the day to talk about gun control. I will allow that yesterday would have been better. Last year better yet. Failing that possibility, we will have to settle for today.

Inglorious Return

November isn’t a good month to return to a blog. People are NaBloPoMo -ing (I had to check on that twice to get it right) all over the place and I’m wondering if I can get one post out before winter starts. Why does it even matter? Because I’m happier when I’m getting some personal writing done. Because I will never write a memoir, which means this is at least a partial record of our lives. Because sometimes someone pops in and says something so smart and insightful that it’s worth every minute I’ve ever spent here.

I can point to all the things that normally keep me away from WordPress. I travel quite a bit for work, which is demanding even when I’m home. I may have mentioned my two small children. Damon sometimes likes to talk to me. I want to sleep.

The truth is that what stopped me, though, was getting tangled up in something I wanted to write about my Dad. Or something that wanted to be written. So many deleted drafts. This is me deciding to walk away from that. I’m sure I’ll write it, but now is obviously not the time. I do wonder how many years will go by until I stop thinking, “What on earth am I going to get Dad for Christmas?” for just one moment.




Ant Farm

Last Christmas we gave the boys this ant farm.

As is our custom, we popped it in the closet and forgot about it for six months. Summer came around, though, and we started getting crafty. After a very successful run at raising (growing? generating?) butterflies out of caterpillars we were all feeling great about our insect husbandry.

Turns out you can’t just go out into your yard and get ants for your ant farm (Of course you can. I’m a sucker.) We needed the ants with the special mandibles — harvester ants. Also, there was a dire warning about not mixing types of ants. I think if you do that your house burns down.

The first internet order of ants (weird new world) came mostly dead. Not in the funny Princess Bride way. Just in the mostly dead way. I shot an email to the dubiously named and, to their credit, they got another shipment out to us right away.

This time they were in it to win it. We had tunnels on day one.

The pamphlet directed us to give them fresh air each week by opening up the top for a few seconds. When I did, all our ants shot for the top. In one moment I went from feeling pretty good about giving these guys a cushy, blue gel paradise to feeling like their captor.

Alden and I sat down and I talked about how the ants have given us so much pleasure, how we should be grateful and considerate of what they want. Don’t we want our them to have a happy life? Finally we came to agreement and I took the boys outside for a graduation ceremony. We laid the farm gently on its side and watched them all jet for the open air. We wished them well, we gave them advice, and when they crawled up on us I told the boys not to sweat it. They’re just ants, right?

Of course one bit Elliot. Of course it did. Why wouldn’t ants with awesome digging mandibles be nasty biters?

Poor Elli screamed and cried. It obviously really hurt. His morning was ruined. But really, it was the ants who were about to have a very bad day. Because in less than an eye blink I changed from their caretaker to the their worse gigantic stomping nightmare. I scooped Alden up with one arm and Elliot with the other, which left my feet free to do their worst before I whisked the boys inside for tea and sympathy. Possibly I was also cursing, but you can’t prove it.

I guess the boys got an intentional lesson in care and consideration for creatures with less power than you have; and then an unintentional lesson in enforcing your limits with extreme prejudice.

After a few minutes of ice and kisses I looked Elliot in the eye and said, “Elli. I am going to go back outside kill all those ants because one of them hurt you. Do you want to watch?” And he did. That was his lesson in having a Sicilian mama.