Tuesday, November 19, 2013

To holiday or not to holiday?

I'm trying to figure out how I feel about the holidays this year.

It is still a crapshoot and it could go one of two ways.

It *could* be joyful and celebratory. I will design and have printed happy greeting cards for my family and friends, accented by a perfect little collection of iconic snapshots from our year. The return address will be another perfect greeting with our grinning faces and clever nicknames. I will put up a Christmas tree and boxes of our destined-to-be-heirloom decorations. We carefully hang handmade and lovingly crafted ornaments of paper, clay, and wood crafted by the little learning hands or the skilled weathered hands of grandparents. We will greet each holiday party, gathering, and obligation with an open heart and spirit. We will find and make perfect and thoughtful gifs for all those we love and when we exchange gifts, we will all laugh and hold our hearts less they actually overflow with love and goodness and all that is contained within you literally does burst forth from your chest.


It *could* be an excruciating six week long process in which my heart sinks a little lower every time I leave the house and am attacked through every sense to remind me that the holidays are upon us! We could crank classic rock and zydeco instead. We could pretend we are going out of town instead of attending holiday events. We could make peppermint mocha coffee creamer the extent to which we acknowledge the season.

I was grocery shopping several weeks ago and heard the first song of the season. Instantly, my head and heart sank. It's a strong reflex cultivated through many years of holiday seasons that just didn't feel good. I hadn't even considered the upcoming Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. I hadn't had time to decide how I felt this year and prepare for the moment I would first get barraged by the sounds and smells of the season.

I'm a very upbeat and positive person throughout the year. But there have been several years in which the holiday season has literally brought me to my knees. The holidays are just so big. So much. So perfect. So ungenuine. So material. So obligatory.

Truthfully, I've been on a good run. The years since Ponygirl and then Hazelnut were born have been awesome and at times deliriously happy. For real. We go pick our tree together and talk about Santa and play the music loudly and constantly. We belt out the same old songs loudly and drink our hot cocoa and celebrate our newly forming family traditions. Before Ponygirl's first Christmas, I could barely remember a joyful Christmas. It wasn't until after I had kids that I really understood that Christmas could feel good.

For most of my twenties, I always travelled on or around Christmas. Throughout the months-long season I would always remind myself that I had a trip to look forward to. I wouldn't have a reason to decorate and I always picked up extra hours at work to compensate for my upcoming time off. The rare years that I didn't take a trip were almost unbearable.

I don't remember when Christmas turned into a bummer for me. Nothing traumatic has ever happened, there isn't any particular event surrounding this time that triggers a panic for me. We always celebrated quite joyfully growing up and parents and sisters readily embrace it all.

In this moment I feel as if I am consciously making the decision for this year. As a mom, the season depends on me. Mr. Foxwood isn't going to go pick out a tree by himself. The kids aren't going to hang the jingle bells and stuff the mittens. It all comes down to me.

This will be our fourth year celebrating as a family. We will get a tree and send out cards. As a mom, I don't really have a choice. I do it for them and it is worth every little bit.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Lingering music

I caught a glimpse of the CD this morning. I haven't seen it in a while. I can't even remember the last time I listened to it, but I can hear the opening notes of the album so clearly in my head I don't even need to.

Music is an awesome and powerful thing. Many people have songs, albums, and artists that can conjure up vivid memories from days past. Music becomes you and stays with you. It's pretty cool like that. Almost all the amazing moments if my life have a song attached to them.

But this album. Oh, this album is more complicated than that. It almost haunts me. It is a great album. It is one of my favorite bands that would surely be included in the soundtrack of my life. But this album is different. I think it is the combination of the almost melancholy tone of the album and the bittersweet moment of my life where this music and I collided that make it different.

In my early 20s my life opened up in a beautiful way. It was a time of great empowerment, improvement, and exploration. Things were so good. Life was awesome for the first time I could remember. I had emerged from a darkness and vowed to never return to it again. Music was a constant friend. The album was one of a few in the playlist rotation. I think it had just come out so I listened and learned the songs over a period of days and weeks, blaring loudly from my fast little purple car on those country roads I loved.

It was there holding my hand as I realized the guy I thought I would love forever would never really love me back.

It was there as I found out my grandfather's health was declining and my father and I took an impromptu road trip to see him and comfort my grandmother.

It was again there when my grandfather passed and I started to realize what happens when you love someone for 60 years with all your heart and have to let them go.
It was there when our beloved family dog left us.

And it was there when I had to pull off the road when my mom called me to tell me my dear cousin had taken his own life.

Those singular and simple opening notes play over and over as the events of this moment (which actually occurred over the course of a couple months) run through my head and wash over my heart. I don't know the last time I listened to it. It became too hard to hear certain lines that rang too true or to just hear the music itself.

Every once in a while the CD will pop up and I'm not sure how that happens. Sometimes I'm tempted to listen to it, submerge myself in it and let all the many emotions wash over me and see what comes out. I look at it as I would a time capsule- the smells, feelings, sounds, and emotions of that time period just bottled up and waiting to burst fourth into my world again. Maybe I'm just not ready to do that yet. Maybe the next time it turns up I will be.

Friday, September 6, 2013

working mom

I'm a working mom. Newsflash: every mom is a working mom.

Before I had kids both Mr. Foxwood and I worked full time jobs and spent our time off together skipping through fields of daisies, spending the endless amount of extra money we had, watching movies undisturbed on the couch in our really clean living room, and taking our fast little cars out for joy rides through the countryside after an indulgent meal at a quiet and romantic restaurant. Ok, I might be remembering this a little different than how it actually was.

The truth is that I had a job that I loved. It was (for the most part) challenging, rewarding, creative, exciting, and all around pretty awesome. When I started to realize that my heart was opening up to the desire for a child I tried to start imagining what it would look like once that day arrived. Working full time was always a part of that picture. I envisioned working through my pregnancy, taking my 3 months off to be a mommy, and then coming back to work with a renewed sense of purpose and confidence.

After encountering a few bumps in the road along this path I thought I would be taking, one thing became really clear to me: I want to be a mom. Just a mom. I want to focus all my attention and energy on this whole mom thing and do it right. I want to be there. I knew that I could not spend my days at a job, away from all that was really important to me.

It is funny how challenges and heartbreaks can change you.

Relying on one income definitely took some adjusting and rearranging but thankfully Mr. Foxwood was totally in agreement on how important it was to have me at home with Ponygirl (and later Hazelnut, too). It gave him a renewed sense of purpose to be the sole breadwinner and take care of his growing family. It made me love him in a whole new way.

While I knew that I needed and wanted to make my home and family my focus, I began to realize after Ponygirl's birth that I could take on some very limited part-time endeavors. There have been different opportunities that have come and gone and a couple that have endured. The two part time jobs that I enjoy now are things I love being a part of and also provide additional benefits beyond a paycheck. It has been and continues to be an evolving landscape of what works for all of us at each moment.

Every family is different and I think that every mom who does what she feels is best for her and her family is doing the right thing, whatever that may be.

I love my day-to-day life and that each day is different. I love being here with my kids. I love creating a home for Mr. Foxwood and our awesome little family. Most of all, I love being a mom.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


I spent a few summers in my twenties teaching myself to can foods (sounds pretty wild, huh?). I had seen my aunts, grandmother and a few friends do it and figured I could, too.

I was successful. I learned all about the methods and accumulated all the right equipment and was kinda proud of my little homesteading hobby.

Fast forward five years....and I've got 17 jars of pickles and hot peppers that aren't going anywhere, enough empty mason jars to line the street with luminaries, as well as plenty of cabinet-space-stealing equipment that all must be taken out and utilized if canning is to occur.

I said, "There's got to be a better way."

I'm all about eating with the seasons and preserving the bounty of each season to enjoy other times of the year. Canning helped me feel like I was doing this, but the reality was that I canned a lot of things that I found no use for later. (Seriously, pickled peppers anybody?)

This year I've realized that there is a method that works much better for me: FREEZING!

I've been blessed throughout this summer, often bringing home a delicious bounty of ripe farm fresh fruits and veggies. We eat a very veg-heavy diet, but there was no way to consume the amount of fruit and veggies that I've scored in the last few months.

It started out with the summer berries. I made 5 quick pints of strawberry freezer jam but just washed, dried off, and froze the blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries that found their way home with me. While we use fruits mainly for smoothies, they are ready to use in any kind of pie, jam, or quickbread I could imagine.

Along the way this summer I realized that those freezer bags that Ziploc makes are for real. They are no joke. I thought I could use my store brand zippy bags and be frugal and it wouldn't matter. Heed my words: it matters.

This week alone I prepped and froze 7 quarts of peaches, 5 quarts of sliced peppers, and 2 quarts of tomato sauce. Easy to store, easy to identify, easy to use a small amount, and easy to put right back in the freezer. My happy little freezer.

In the meantime, I've found that Mason jars are great for brewing and storing iced tea. For the whole neighborhood.

Friday, January 25, 2013

A weather freak-out

We got a nice little winter storm today. Nothing huge, but enough to snarl traffic and shorten school.

I love love love a good weather holiday. It's an unplanned vacation, a hidden treasure. You get sent home from work early (if you are lucky), scoop up any supplies you may need for the storm, and go home. You stay hunkered down and watch the weather unfold.

Nature is awesome. Weather is fascinating. I love teaching my girls about different types of weather and to appreciate all of them. We all get into it. The Hubs got home early, my teaching gig in the morning was canceled, and it is Friday night! Nowhere to go, no pressure to be anywhere.....this is perfect.

Getting a weather holiday is a treat. I love the whole ritual of it. It struck me today that weather events (and cold weather events in particular) are really unofficial food holidays. When we talk about food holidays, we generally think of Thanksgiving and Christmas, maybe Easter and Fourth of July, too. Oh, and the Superbowl. You can't forget about that. Yum. All joyous holidays in their own rite, propelled to higher heights by the foods we expect and enjoy during the celebration.

As the weather started to precipitate this afternoon, my newsfeed was filled with friends posting pictures and offering luscious descriptions of the food that they were celebrating this impromptu holiday with. These meals were the visual and descriptive embodiment of comfort foods. We've got baked pastas and hearty enchiladas with wine. The colder and icier it gets, the more comforting the foods get. Loaded pizza and grilled cheese with tomato soup. Salmon cakes and bowls of cheesy grits.

As we are bundled up here in Foxwood and watching the world silently turn to white, we are enjoying our weather holiday with all its sweetness. You never know how many (if any) we will get in a year, so each one is special.

This one seems like it will be brief, just a day or so of people being encouraged to stay home and wall to wall weather coverage. Whether the it lasts a day or a week, I always love to celebrate this awesome holiday.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Life in Foxwood

I live in Foxwood.  It's kinda quiet. Except when it isn't.

We have lived here for seven years. That's pre-baby, pre-dog, pre-marriage!  Life inside the house is rarely boring and life outside the house is frequently note worthy.

Across the street is a row of townhomes, rented out by individual owners. Of the six homes in the row, four of them are peaceful and house normal families and individuals who go about their business and exchange friendly greetings with their neighbors.

But see, there are these two homes in that row that are a little different. One is just a little interesting, but the final home is what we like to call 'The Portal.'

There have been a number of people/families/groups that have lived there and it has been a constant source of drama for us. I'm talking about cops, fires, runaway dogs who impregnate other neighborhood dogs, drug deals, a drive-by shooting, undercover stakeouts and just general mayhem. It makes for fairly entertaining watching from our window.

So a few months ago someone new moved into The Portal. We held our breath as the moving trucks arrived. We soon realized that this time it might be different. It was a beautiful family. A mom. A dad. A toddler. They owned cars that were maintained. They go to jobs! Gasp!

Our attention shifted to other things after a quiet month seemed to confirm that these were indeed normal people.

So Tuesday morning I wasn't really watching too closely when another dude came walking up to the house and then knocking at their door at 8 in the morn. Although I did soon notice that Baby Daddy's car was gone. Hmmm...

I got busy doing other things Peanut and Basil related, and a while later came back to my post and saw Baby Mama out in front with the dude that had walked up. 'Maybe that's her brother,' I kept saying.

After a few minutes they got up, finished their cigarettes, and headed back inside.

Then he smacked her on her butt.

My jaw dropped to the floor.

So maybe we've been wrong all along. They aren't married? Or...they aren't normal?

Monday, January 7, 2013

Those winter blues

It was bound to catch up with me.

It's usually somewhere around the first or second week of December that it starts to creep in...that sinking, paralyzing cloak that slowly shoulders its way in and nestles itself around me and renders me helpless beneath it.

This year, with baby Hazelnut's first holiday season and Pinutile's first holiday season at school, we seemed to be busier than ever. It wasn't too much, it was actually just right. Just the right amount of plans, of decorating, of holiday spirit and celebration.

I remember taking a few deep breaths in the days before Christmas, thinking 'wow, it didn't get me this year.' I was just enjoying the season through the eyes of my little ones. I'm grateful for them, beyond words.

Christmas came, and then the flu set in. The Hubs had it the week before Christmas, then I had it the week after. It was like a time warp. When I emerged from it, the tree had been stripped and tossed out the back door, most of the holiday decorations had been put away for the year, and Hubs and Ponygirl were wide eyed and giddy from living off of chocolate and donuts for a week.

Slowly, we have gotten back into the swing of things. Ponygirl has started back at school, Hubs has gone back to work, Hazelnut and I have quiet and calm mornings three days a week again.

But here I sit, in this familiar place. I spent years in this dark space, alone and sad and unable to see beyond it.

Yes, it's hard. I have a to-do list that needs to be tackled. I've got two awesome little girls that need their mama. I've got the Hubs who does a lot to help me keep the house running.

I guess the difference now is just that I know it won't last forever. I'm feeling so low, I may not get a lot done today or tomorrow or all month really, but, as it always does, this darkness will pass.

As much as I just want to snuggle up under this warm blanket and just hibernate through the winter, I've got two precious babes who need me. I need them, too.

Here's to sunny days ahead! xxoo