See how he grows

October 31st, 2009

We have started hockey again this year, and after the gap of the off-season I see huge changes in my Small Boy, leaps of maturity that I did not notice in the small steps leading us from day to day. But this start into a new hockey season brings me messages of change: in his attitude above all he is a new boy. He is confident. He is eager, even volunteering that in addition to the standard Saturday afternoon practice he would like to go to the optional Thursday session as well. He hits the ice and doesn’t look back – unlike last year there are no requests for rests, no coming off the ice to sit on the bench, no sitting on the ice refusing to try. There are no tears; on the contrary, every time he looks up there is a smile on his face. I am even allowed this year to leave the players’ bench and go to the restaurant, which is out of the line of sight of the practice rink, for a coffee; and I find that now that I can do this I do not want to. It is too fun watching the surprise appearance of this new Small Boy. For reasons I no longer recall, shortly after the Boychen was born I started calling him the Butterfly King; but it is my Small Boy this winter who is spreading his wings.

End of the year sprint

October 30th, 2009

Looking over my poetic output for the year-to-date, I see that I am far short of my goal of a poem-a-week. I have probably written something each week, but I have an invisible line in my head that the work needs to cross before I can call it a poem. It does not have to be a polished ready to go out the door final draft; I’m happy with rough and messy first drafts but they need to have something in them that shows promise, some clue that the poem is, in fact, going somewhere before I count it as one of my fifty-two. I figure I have about thirty or thirty-five of those for the year. If I’m going to make it to 52, I’m going to need to finish the year with a sprint. How perfect, then, that this challenge  starts on Sunday.

Who wants to join in?

Blood work

October 29th, 2009

I’m sitting at Starbuck’s in the city. I have just had vials and vials of blood drawn – I stopped counting at five – on an empty stomach and I have earned this treat, this hour in the coffee house with no children, this triple-shot latte, this blueberry muffin.

The blood work is to try to find, or not find, a cause for my embolism. The doctor running my intake paper work was the same nice doctor from my ER visit; not the brusque one who told me I had multiple pulmonary emboli in both lungs and then left but the nice hematologist who came in afterwards to clean up her mess, the one who talked me down out of my panic, the one who drew little pictures of lungs and circulatory systems on a loose piece of paper and explained to me why I shouldn’t worry about a stroke, about an aneurism.

The phlebotomist who drew my blood was kind and cheerful, chatting away while deftly switching vials, distracting me with questions about my kids, about where I’m from, if I have Heimweh (homesickness, though a more literal, and literary, translation is pain; pain for home). People see my name – I never changed it to R’s über-Swiss last name, it was too much trouble and anyway to this day I don’t think I pronounce it quite right – and they hear my book-German and they know I’m not from here. They ask how long I’ve been here, they complement my German, they ask if my boys speak English or German. They are always pleased to hear “both,” say what an advantage the boys will have with English as a mother tongue, say how good it is that they can speak Swiss with the other kids. They are always nice to me. Switzerland is gaining a reputation as Fremdfeindlich (xenophobic) – hm, perhaps campaigns like this have something to do with it? – but people are always nice to me, curious. I am, of course, the “right” kind of foreigner, but that is a post for another time. For the woman drawing my vials of blood it was probably a godsend, my Ausländerin status – something new and different to chat about as she distracts yet another patient from the sixth, seventh vial of blood.

And then it was over. She gave me a bottle of water and told me to go straight to the cafeteria to eat something. (I disobeyed, took the five minute bus ride here instead). She said it would probably be two weeks, a little longer, before my results come. There will be a letter. In two weeks, a little longer.

In two weeks, a little longer, the Boychen turns two. In two weeks, a little longer, there will be a letter, telling me a little something – or nothing at all – about  the rest of my life.

Because I need a bit of a boost

October 19th, 2009

I have been having a series of days in which the joys of motherhood have remained quite stubbornly on the other side of the fence. It has been exhausting. A trial. Dare I say, unrewarding? Days with very little in the way of short-term payoff. I need to remind myself that if the cliche “It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon” applies to any endeavor, it applies to parenting. This isn’t about today. It’s about the long, long road I need to walk these boys down, the slow growth into manhood. These boys will be men one day, and let’s be honest: though they very clearly have their own little spirits, will be their own men, they will also enter adulthood with a bag full of gifts they got from me. So because it’s been rough, I’m patting myself on the back today.

This Time The Mother Writes a Poem For Herself

I am golden glitter and Elmer’s glue
and big blue stars on construction paper.
I am thick magic markers on the blank page.
I am beads and bangles, scissors and glue
and autumn-leaves-and pipe-cleaner bouquets.
I am popsicle stick castles and bobbing for apples
and popcorn garnish for the tree.
I am the walk in the park and the bread for the ducks
and the acorn that started to sprout.
I am the stick boat in the creek and the sand in the box
and the lemonade stand on the side of the road.
I am all of the childhood days you will likely forget
but the smell of Elmer’s glue will make you smile
and you will always be partial to blue stars
and you will know how an acorn turns into a tree.
And I will know that I am this,
that I am this and this and this.

Mortar and pestle

October 17th, 2009

Last night Small Boy and Boychen were taking turns smashing crackers in my mortar and pestle – I was not cooking anything that required the mortar and pestle but they wanted to use it, so I put some crackers in for them – when Small Boy asked me which was the mortar and which was the pestle. In twenty years of using a mortar and pestle, it never occurred to me to wonder this, though somehow I knew, when I thought about it for a second, that the bowl is the mortar and the stick is the pestle. But I have never actively considered it: it has always simply been my “mortar and pestle” and I use it to make pesto and crush walnuts and grind up a masala.

But of course the Small Boy would ask: there are two words, and there are two things, and he wants to know which noun belongs to which object. He wants to know these things. And so he makes me slow down and look actively at the objects around me and name them. With precision. Which is what I am supposed to do as a poet; yet it takes a four-and-a-half year old to make me look down at my moss-green mortar and pestle set that came across the ocean with me, really look down at it, and make sure that I have a clear picture in my head of which is the mortar, and which is the pestle.

* * *

In other news, Small Boy has crafted his first couplet:
Fly away
bird of prey

He got meter and rhyme in one fell swoop.

Postcards from a changing season

October 14th, 2009

Ten days ago we were having a glorious Indian summer, a last hurrah. Summer is surely gone now, it’s leaving goodbye notes everywhere.

    This morning I went to tip water out of Small Boy’s wheelbarrow and a thin layer of ice slipped off.
    We had our first hot chocolates of the season; I love steamed milk.
    At the zoo Boychen’s hands were red and cold
    We bought Small Boy’s snow suit today
    Hockey camp starts on Saturday
Another Swiss winter is on the way.


October 11th, 2009

Also from several weeks ago…

A walk in the woods

October 9th, 2009

We live next to the woods. Some of it is privately owned and occasionally harvested; some of it is a nature preserve with a pond, a brook, and ducks. There is a fox, there are herons. The boys treat it as their private paradise and go into the woods almost every day; it is my mother-in-law’s favorite thing to do with them. This afternoon we went on a mushroom expedition, or, as the Boychen said “memli looga” (Schwemmli luega, Swiss for looking at mushrooms). There was also dancing and tree climbing.

Corn harvest (from the last weekend in September)

October 8th, 2009

So now that I have regained the ability to post pictures, I will be bombarding you with the pictures I’ve been wanting to post since we moved here; there will be more images than words in these next few posts.

A farm morning

October 7th, 2009

I have not been withholding pictures of the new place deliberately; I haven’t been able to upload photos for some time now. Then again, I hadn’t upgraded WordPress for forever, so I finally got around to doing that and lo! and behold! A farm morning.