Cotton candy

April 27th, 2012

I took the boys to the county fair today, and bought them some cotton candy. Blue cotton candy, big puffy clouds of blue cotton candy. The Boychen ate a tiny bit of his and then decided that he didn’t want anymore and gave it to me. So I ate most of it, one of the pitfalls of having small children and the reason I’m perpetually trying to lose two pounds. It’s also, however, one of the major bonuses of having small children. They give you an excuse to walk around the county fair eating big puffy clouds of blue cotton candy. An excuse to ride the Ferris wheel and pet the dwarf goats and the baby pigs.

They give you a reason to go to the fair at all.

One thing, every day. (For ten years.)

January 20th, 2012

I’ve been letting a lot of the little things, and perhaps a few of the big things, rub me the wrong way lately. And I am aware, when things rub me the wrong way, that a good half of it is my reaction to whatever situation is annoying me as much as the annoyingness of the situation itself. For example, The Boychen isn’t much of an eater: the things he’ll eat are quite limited, he takes forever to eat just enough to sustain life, at the table he squirms and plays and gets up and wanders away. It’s exhausting, and annoying, and has seriously reduced my ability to take pleasure in food, and I eat less than I used to because at some point the food has been drained of all taste and enjoyment. It’s annoying, no doubt, but I also let it upset me more than it needs to, which of course is the completely wrong reaction with regards to the table dynamics, but that’s a whole different post. The point I’m trying to make is I know I’ve been letting things get under my skin.

A corollary to letting things rub me the wrong way, I think, is that it’s hard to savor the little moments when I’ve built up a steam of annoyance. And I don’t want to miss all the little moments which are, after all, the moments that make up life. So one of my personal – as opposed to writing – resolutions for the year is to learn how to let go of minor irritations and, at the same time, pay more attention to the small happinesses. To help me focus my mind on a good, small moment from each day, I bought myself a 10Jahresbuch (10 year book) for Christmas. It’s basically a diary: there is one page for each day of the year, starting with January 1, and each page has ten lines. At the end of each day, I write one short line about the best moment of the day. When I hit December 31, I go back to the beginning of the book and move on to the second line on the page for January 1 – the best thing about January first 2013 – and so on until the book is full. Ten years of best things. It is simultaneously spectacularly ambitious and ridiculously simple.

The boys feeding the swans on New Year’s Day has been a moment, and a full moon on the way home from a hockey game that the whole family had tickets to, and sitting alone at Starbuck’s with a caramel macchiato and the first draft of a poem. And it’s early in the year, but it’s a good thing to spend five minutes at the end of the day remembering something special.


January 16th, 2012

It is cold and clear, a high blue sky day with temperatures below freezing but sunshine and crystalline air. I love these days, and the only thing that would make it more perfect would be snow on the ground. It won’t snow today, of course, or tomorrow – these beautiful days are usually the result of a high pressure zone hovering above Switzerland and keeping away the clouds. The cloudless sky is lovely but it carries no snow.

* * *

The whole family went skating yesterday – R has been learning, seeing suddenly that two hockey-playing sons and a skating wife is going to mean a lot of weekend days at some ice rink somewhere, and he wants to be part of it. He and Boychen are good partners right now, and I can still keep up with the Small Boy in skating, but his hockey skills have already surpassed my rusty ones. We were playing a pick-up game of one-on-one yesterday, fighting over the puck in a corner of the rink, pressed up against the boards, when he hooked his blade under my stick and flipped my stick up off the ice and away from the puck. He snagged the puck and skated off. “Hey! Are you even allowed to do that?” I called. “Sure,” he said, truly surprised, “Herr Trainer likes when we do that.” Well, shoot. He’s actually learning how to play hockey down there on the ice. How about that.

* * *

I went drinking and dancing with some girlfriends Friday night and was reminded that I need to do that more often (also: I need more fun clothes). As Australian Friend put it, I like to talk and be serious, but sometimes it’s good just to go AHHHHHH! It was a bit rough waking up and heading off to hockey school the next morning, but luckily my end of the rink is half in shadow.

* * *

Now it is sunny and clear and cold and SB is at school and Boychen is with the Tagesmutter and I am at Starbucks about to close my computer and pick up my copy of When the Only Light is Fire by Saeed Jones.

* * *

I kind of love that I’m a person who plays pick-up hockey on Sunday and reads and writes poetry on Monday.

* * *

Life is good.


September 17th, 2011

Both boys wake earlier than they do on a weekday. The Small Boy sneaks to the bathroom, I can feel him trying to be quiet, but Boychen knows he is up and calls to his brother. He always wants his brother to be the one to open the door to his room, help him get out of bed. Small Boy goes to get him and they stay in the Boychen’s room, with the door closed, playing – horses, I think, from the sound effects; later, cars. This, then, the sweetness.

* * *

I am making pancakes when they start squabbling with each other in the living room; I let it go, giving them the space and time to figure out how to deescalate things themselves, but it goes in the other direction. Boychen hits the Small Boy, and I give him a two-minute penalty for unnecessary roughness, and Boychen tells me he doesn’t like me. I don’t like you, Mama! I’m sorry to hear that, I say, I still like you. But it stings.

* * *

Five minutes later they are happily putting together a puzzle of the United States. They finish it themselves, then come eat pancakes. Small Boy eats four. My mother used to joke that my brother, the hockey player, had a hollow leg. Yes, it would seem so. Boychen, the child who survives somehow on air and goldfish crackers, eats a respectable two. They drink their milk, ask if they are allowed to watch TV. The yelling, the hit, the penalty: forgotten

* * *

What will they remember from these teeter-totter childhood days? The horses and the puzzle, or the squabble?


August 5th, 2011

A walk in the woods with the boys. Going “off-road.” Finding snail shells, part of a bird’s egg, and the first falling acorns. The boys fjording the creek in their rubber boots, the slurp-suck of the mud. This:

Why cycling is a metaphor for parenting

July 19th, 2011

You teach them a few fundamentals and let go. They head off down the road without you.

The raps are blooming

May 2nd, 2011

The raps come and go quickly in Switzerland. Not as fast as the three-day free-for-all of a plum tree, but there is perhaps a two-week window for a field in glorious full bloom. I caught this one just in time.

Spring, taking me once again by surprise

April 11th, 2011

Spring explodes in Switzerland. Is it like this everywhere, the way the green seems to reach critical mass overnight? I watch for signs of spring, I mark them: the first crocuses, the snowdrops, the first daffodil, the sap rising in the rose bushes turning the stems maroon and then the first curling leaves. I watch out my window as the willow tree begins to yellow, blend to pale green. I am not blind to these individual signs of spring, but Spring itself takes me surprise every year. I swear it comes overnight. Is it like this everywhere? This explosion of green, this all-or-nothing, this no more here and there signs of spring but spring, full and dominant.

Everything is green. It happens overnight. I watch for it and yet I miss it, the turning. How is it possible, with all the watching, all the hints and clues, how is it that it still happens overnight? Everything is green. There are leaves on the willow tree, our two plum trees have already blossomed and shed their petals in an orgy of fleeting beauty, nature’s flash mob, and the more sedate apple trees are budding. The fields are green with wheat, the farmers are out planting potatoes in their distinctive raised rows, the Raps (rapeseed, used to make canola oil) are almost full grown and yesterday I think I saw the first yellow flowers, and if you’ve never seen a field of Raps in full bloom you’re missing one of spring’s most wondrous wonders.

Is it like this everywhere, the surprise of it all? The forsythia are everywhere yellow (and the Swiss do love their forsythia), the tulips are coming, the grass is green, the roses are putting out leaves, it is spring, spring, wild full spring banishing memories of the bare brown fields as if they had never existed. On days like this, perhaps for a lost soul like mine only on days like this,  I can almost understand the resurrection story. On a day like today, I can almost believe that the dead shall rise again, life rising again like sap. It is spring, and everything around me is alive again, and in spite of all the watching and all the hints, it is as if it happened overnight. Life, wild and irrepressible.

Is it like this where you live? Does spring come like this where you live, come one night while you are sleeping so that when you wake winter is so surely banished it is hard to imagine winter ever covered the land? What is it like, right now, outside your window, where you live?

It’s a cliche for a reason

April 7th, 2011

If you stand beneath the plum tree at sunset on a spring evening, the petals really do fall on you like snowflakes.

Spring is on the way

March 3rd, 2011

There are crocuses and snowdrops in the yard and frog eggs in the pond. The seasons are indeed changing.