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Venice, January ’14

When I visited California last winter, I had no idea we would be moving there.  Nor did I know it two weeks ago when Adam was flying out to Silicon Valley to interview for a job we both assumed he wouldn’t take.  We had other plans.  Good ones.

I didn’t know we would be moving to California until after the interview, when I heard the sound of Adam’s voice on the phone.  Until I stayed up half the night naming all the reasons not to go (cheddar and apples, coming in and warming up, Silicon Valley). Until I woke up the next morning wanting it anyway.  Wanting it completely.  And feeling good.  A little scared, but really good.

In the next couple of months, we will be sorting through our things, painting our walls, selling our house.  We will be emptying, arranging, flying.

Meanwhile, I am finishing my semester. Making meals, writing books, putting the dishes away.  Dropping Reed off at school.  Kicking around a soccer ball.  Changing Margot’s diapers.  Putting up Helen’s hair.

We are moving to California.  It will be a little scary.  But mostly, I think it will be really, really good.

October Rains

looking up


The October rains have come.  There is the usual necessary work to be done (the schoolwork, the dishes, the doctor’s appointments and general child-maintenance) and some larger changes underfoot in our household that keep us up, talking and planning.  My writing gets tucked in at nap-time or before bed with the last dregs of the day.  The housework, characteristically, falls behind.  I never cared much about laundry, anyway.

The October rains have come.  And I think I will put some apples in the oven to eat, hot, with dinner.  When the rains go, we will have that best slice of autumn, that cool and sunny slice with all the colors.

But for now the rain is here, and it is warm outside the house and in.


Them, now: Margot


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Happy Margot

When she exasperates him, Reed calls her “Baby.”  As in, “No!  Baby!  Don’t do that!  You’re ruining it!”  But she isn’t really a baby, anymore, least of all in her own mind.

She is probably the most independent of all my children and resents that independence being breached.  When she won’t leave Reed’s classroom of her own accord, I pick her up and remove her, and she screams.  A good, loud scream.  When I put her a cart or stroller against her will rather than letting her walk along in her own way, she struggles and cries.  It’s a daily friction, and not one I particularly like.

When it comes down to it, though I do respect her for it.  And I am learning to make room for her strong little will.  I am learning to leave early and let her walk around, sometimes in the wrong direction.  I am learning to let her be a part of things. It’s as good for me as it is for her.

I think Margot is happiest when she is with people she knows and loves making them laugh.  She likes Duplo and Kapla blocks and building and planning and interfering with her brother’s things.  She likes milk and bread and tomatoes.  She likes music.  She likes movement and being a part of things, and she likes to talk insofar as she can.

That’s Margot, now.  That’s some of her.

rat and mole


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The smell of that buttered toast simply talked to Toad, and with no uncertain voice; talked of warm kitchens, of breakfasts on bright frosty mornings, of cosy parlour firesides on winter evenings, when one’s ramble was over and slippered feet were propped on the fender; of the purring of contented cats, and the twitter of sleepy canaries.

There was the old Disney Wind and the Willows tape I would watch at my Grammie’s house, always nestled close to the television until someone would tell me to move back, I was ruining my eyes.  But I never read the story and only brought the audiobook home last week on a whim.  Now I can’t listen to it without smiling and feeling that good belly-hunger you get when you are reading something really wonderful.

That belly-hunger for the hot sun “pulling everything green and bushy and spiky up out of the earth towards him, as if by strings.”  For “toast, cut thick, very brown on both sides, with the butter running through the holes in it in great golden drops, like honey.”  For more of Toad and Mole and dear Ratty.  And Badger, who “never said ‘I told you so,’ or, ‘Just what I always said,’ or remarked that they ought to have done so-and-so, or ought not to have done something else.”

september sun


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September table



We drop Reed off at school, and then we keep walking. A month ago, we might take the shady side of the street, but not anymore. The warm sun won’t last long. We take all we can get.

September is the most beautiful month.  The food is the best, and the clothes, and you don’t have to mow the lawn much or worry over seedlings or shoveling snow.  The cool air makes you hungry, and I love being hungry.

September is the most beautiful month, but as much as I like it, I also don’t at all.  It is like a beautiful, interesting person whose company- for some, unknown reason- you can’t stand.

Ah, well.  I don’t feel at home in September, but I am still glad it’s here.  I’m glad to live in the world and watch the months come in and out and eat apples and brussel sprouts and walk on the sunny side of the street.  I am glad the sun is still warm and I can keep walking and walking and point to the bits of yellow on the trees and say, Look, Helen!  It’s autumn!.


school year


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School.  This is the first year that autumn has meant a return to school in our family for anyone but me.  Reed has had three days of 4-K, now, and it is a new rhythm for us, and we are both still figuring out what to make of it.

For now, Reed knows he likes the big plastic slide in the classroom and he likes the other kids.  When asked if he does a good job of listening to the teacher, he replied “Well, what about the other kids?  The other kids are so interesting.”

For now, I know I like walking to drop Reed off, walking to pick Reed up, seeing the other parents and kids and backpacks all in a row, and how it feels when Reed comes home and we all eat lunch together and tell stories from earlier days and read a book.

Here be Monsters! we are reading.  We sit around our too-small table loaded with plates and jam and knives and cups and straws and read Here be Monsters!  We love it, all of us.  And I think we all love that moment, too.  Coming home.  Eating food.  Reading a book around a table.

feather bed




‘It was a good thing for them, but it wouldn’t be for him.  He’s been over a year thinking it out and studying books about it, and if you have to spend a year worrying and arguing yourself into a thing, that thing’s against your nature.  If he had been cut out for [it], he’d have just sunk down into it months ago, as easy as falling into a feather bed.’

                   -spoken by Uncle Tom, Flora Thompson’s Over to Candleford


As easy as falling into a feather bed.


ice cream!

We had our first visit to the orchard.  The apples are ripe, but it is still watermelon season, sidewalk chalk and open windows.

Here it happens all at once.  You blink an eye and it’s autumn, autumn in earnest, and you don’t know how it happened.  This year I am going to watch the pot.  I am not going to miss it.

these days

artist II“I am going to school, too, mom.”

“You are?”

“Yes.  Not 4-K.  A different school by Reed’s school.  My teacher’s name is Ms….Don’tfalldown.  She likes to bring everyone blue moon ice cream all the time.”


These days Helen talks as much as ever and Reed always seems to have  tomato seeds in his hair.  He has at long last discovered the joy of a bicycle, and is out riding as soon as his teeth are brushed.  Helen annoys him at the table by singing.  We are constantly talking about table manners.

And Margot is more a part of this world than she ever was, before.  She is learning how to ask for things without screaming (an appreciated skill if there ever was one) and slowly transitioning into the biped life.  She gets as many laughs and as many tomatoes as she can, and I like that about her.  There is a lot to like about Margot, that logical, fun-loving, strong-willed girl.



in the corners

gardener reed
If you stay in one place long enough and don’t move too fast, you get to know its ways and rhythms.  We used to take evening walks by the river, and I know where the geese liked to rest and the habits of swallows.  But lately evenings have taken me in the other direction, uphill, away from the water, to the pavement.

The middle school parking lot is empty and wide with shallow hills and inviting curves, an appealing place for budding cyclists.  I give Helen’s training wheels little nudges with my feet when the going is tough and watch Reed pedal around.

Around the bend, behind the gymnasium and along the tether-ball poles, a group of three or four kids lolls.  They are never the same kids, but always just the same, somehow.  On bikes.  On scooters.  Eating an orange popsicle.  Not doing anything much.  Never causing  trouble.  Not being exactly good either.  One boy always showing off.

They could be a kid-gang of any era, really.  They could be Little Rascals or Tom and Huck.  And I like that.  I knowing they are a part of the summer evening landscape along with the happy man and his baby girl, the large woman and her golden retriever, the joggers.  I like being reminded that we aren’t all about Are-we-just-teaching-to-the-test? and Is-technology-hurting-our-children?.  We are also about Biking-with-an-orange-popsicle.

Here’s to that.


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