11 March 2012

205 Days

I find it comforting to know that in spite of the fact that it has been more than six months since my last post on this blog, it is still here.

Although, it turns out it is just as difficult to decide what to say after a long time as it is to know what to say every single day.

We've been back in Massachusetts for long enough to know some things. Like that the house seems both the same and different than before, probably because we are both the same and different than before and also probably because the paint on the walls in every single room is new.

This time last week I was on a flight from Chicago to Boston returning from AWP's 2012 annual conference. At the conference, one of the panels I attended was called "Barefoot, Pregnant, and at the Writing Desk" and even though I have been to so many panels and had so many conversations about the challenges of balancing mothering and writing, it is always nice to be surrounded by people striving for the same thing. There were two things said that morning that are useful for me to remember, and be reminded of repeatedly, one is that I have to chose writing again and again and every day, and the other is that life - especially life with children - is constantly changing, which is one of the things that makes finding balance an ongoing challenge. There is no such thing as lasting perfect balance.

I almost always return from AWP feeling inspired and energized, and I was, but then somehow this past week became the kind of one-thing-after-another week in which writing gets bumped down the to-do list again and again, and so today I'm trying to remind myself that not all weeks are like that.

19 August 2011

Home at last.

Even for me, three months is a long time. And so much has happened! We've returned to our home in Pittsfield where we have been very busy cleaning and painting and unpacking, although we've found time for friends and family and swimming as well.

Our little house is just as I remembered it, with a few updates and despite being in awful shape when we first got here, is looking quite well thanks to the generous help of old friends and family members who rallied round and chipped in over the past few weeks. I've never painted every room in a house before, and despite it being a small house, my painting arm sure did get sore! I'll post some photos of the homecoming and tell you all a bit more about the journey (adventure! fun times!) and how I broke the camera at Niagara Falls because I didn't listen to Steve.

And if I owe you a phone call or a message - I will be in touch soon, I promise.



07 May 2011

Pretty, Pretty, Pretty, Pillow

Matilda has her final violin recital tomorrow, after which - according to her - she will never play the violin again. In honor of this recital being a once-in-a-lifetime event, she and I went dress shopping last Thursday after school. This is the result:

There were a number of contenders for Best Dress, including several with Spring-ish flowers and bright colors that brought out her eyes, but this one won due to its superior twirling skillz.

Matilda demonstrated the twirling while I attempted to account for the slight lag in shutter speed and snap the photo when she was facing me. Then she got dizzy and called an end to the photo shoot.

After heading back inside, I attempted to take Freya's picture. As a result of the latest if-my-sister-does-it-then-I-do-the-opposite, this was the best shot I could get:

04 May 2011

Oh, the Freckles!

Nine years old and all grown up, well, not quite I suppose. While I was taking this picture, Freya, who is also getting big (but has less teeth than usual lately, a lot less), was reading an American Girl mystery novel before school. She can't put it down! Of course her teacher is still sending home books with about eight words per page, but that's a battle I stopped fighting months ago. Freya refused to let me take a picture of her, but here's one of her tea party with her BFF Maggie a few weeks ago. Not sure if you can see them properly, but those are tiny cheese and olive sandwiches on the little plates.

This weekend Matilda has her final violin recital. And then, she says, she will never play again. This is why I am so proud of her: in spite of being completely done with the violin and never wanting to play it ever again, she still practices half an hour on school nights and an hour each on Saturday and Sunday. I like to think that the lesson being taught here is something more than you-have-to-do-things-you-don't-want-to-even-when-you-think-they-suck, but who knows? I have a feeling this might be one of those things for which the returns are subtle and known only through something else, years from now, if ever. She's thinking about taking up the piano when we move back to the Berkshires, and even if she has learned nothing else, she can now read music.

The weather turned sunny and breezy and warm here today - summer is coming. The girls only have about four weeks left of school and they're counting down the days. At TMR things are winding down for the semester; I wrote two posts for the TMR blog in the last week and you can find them here and here, if you're interested. The second one is about some artwork that Fionn did for the magazine launch party and the first is about how some pieces of writing just need to take longer than others.

I'll leave you with the new image drawn to accompany the online anthology by Sean, who has also agreed to help me with a redesign for this blog - coming soon...

11 April 2011

Swing and Other News

I did not get a single thing on my to-do list done yesterday and yet it was one of the most productive and relaxing Sundays I've had in ages.

After a trip to Home Depot, Steve fashioned this:

(the swing, not the girl; the girl we had already fashioned)

while I planted these:

and then we taught her:

how to ride her bike without training wheels.

I'm not positive, but I'm pretty sure that all of these things are good omens for the summer full of changes that is right around the corner.

01 April 2011

Fashionista: Matilda for One Year

Memory in general is flexible, and mine in particular is terrible. I swear if it wasn't for this blog I would have only the sketchiest recollection of my daughters' early childhoods, and even then I can't promise that I didn't "embellish" some of the more exciting adventures of the past few years. (I'm a fiction writer, it's not something I can - or would really want to - control.)

As far as I can remember the evolution of my own fashion sense went something like this:
  • Phase one, around when I started dressing myself: any and all combinations of patterns - plaids, stripes, polka dots, you name it.
  • Phase two, most of the rest of my childhood: things get a little vague here, I remember specific articles of clothing rather than any one general "look" - my Chuck E. Cheese t-shirt, striped pajamas, and a matching top and bottom outfit with fuchsia and orange stripes.
  • Phase three, the early awkward teenage years: plaid shirts, baggy blue jeans, turtlenecks. I remember in ninth grade being aware that the other girls had clothes from Gap and Express, but not really knowing what that meant, and despite a vague desire to be more like them (yes, even the hair-sprayed bangs), not caring enough to investigate further.
  • Phase four and five, the later teenage years (this one is two phases because more than any other time I feel like one led directly to the next): Manic Panic hair (pick a color, any color) and Converse with tie-dyed shirts, cutoff shorts, jeans with holes in them and possibly a few patches became Manic Panic and Converse with wild patterned tights (argyle, plaid, stars, the crazier the better) and super short mini skirts.
  • Phase six, the rest: jeans, sweaters, t-shirts, hoodies, black boots, sneakers, lots of black and blue and brown - pretty standard (read boring) stuff. Comfortable. Functional.
Given this unexciting history, including the late start to my teenage experimental phase, imagine my surprise when Matilda began to transform herself into a miniature fashion plate. The girl cares about fashion, and she pretty damn good at it. Every morning she composes her outfit for the day, often including accessories like a thin scarf tied around her neck and a pageboy cap or headband. Everything is color-coordinated in a subtle, but skillful way that would have made my nine-year-old self wrinkle up her nose and say, huh?

My favorite part about Matilda's newfound fashion sense is that it's all her. I mean, sure she lives in the world and has seen a bit of the good the bad and the hideous when it comes to fashion, but, as I'm sure you can tell by my current "look," I don't exactly follow the latest trends. And the best part is she's not pulling her look from the Disney channel or whatever tween magazines the kids are reading these days.

Because I want to remember this properly, Matilda has agreed to work with me on a project. Beginning on her ninth birthday (today!), I will take her picture every morning for a full year. I will post the pictures daily at yearofmatilda.tumblr.com. Since she is only nine, the blog will be password protected, but please email me at nell.meanwhile [at] gmail.com if you'd like to follow Matilda's fashion evolution over the course of the coming year. It should be good one, she's finishing up third grade, gearing up to move back to her native Berkshires for a joyous reunion with her once and always BFF Aurora and start fourth grade at a new/old school in the fall, and who knows what other adventures might be ahead! Follow our blog and find out - it's going to be fun year.

23 March 2011

Spring, Birthdays, Babies and Moving Home

I'm sitting in the living room of my friend Claire's house. It's welcoming here: not too neat, a well-used kitchen, bright baby paraphernalia scattered throughout. Claire's daughter Olive is fast asleep after a walk to the Columbia Public Library (possibly the best library I've ever been lucky enough to live near). The weather has been perfect for the last few days and I'm beginning to feel excited about the next few months and then the move back to the Berkshires at the end of July.

I repainted one bookshelf and a small chest of drawers last weekend and am planning to do the kitchen chairs next. Spring! Projects! Imagining our furniture back in our old house! I remember when we moved into our house the first time how much fun it was to know that I could paint and decorate and change things however I wanted. I'm looking forward to that freedom again, even though I know it comes with having to fix things when they're broken, too.

Matilda is so excited about moving home, although her focus at the moment is on her upcoming birthday and the celebration she's planning with her friends. We're going to throw an indoor beach party with leis and pina coladas, bathing suits and flip flops. Not sure how this is all going to work just yet, but it'll be fun.

01 February 2011

snow days are to children as _____ are to zombies

As predicted, the blizzard has arrived.

It's on some kind of vindictive rampage across Missouri as if to show us just how unprepared Columbia is for, well, any weather at all really. By 2pm we'd already played Barbies, watched TV and gone outside (the girls), packed for DC and made chocolate chip cookies (me) and reached the "now what?" stage of the snowstorm.

The girls and I decided on a photo shoot to pass the time. After I did their makeup (complete with freckles for Freya at her request), they raided my jewelry box and decked themselves out in their best finery while I found working batteries for the camera.

We found a spot in Freya's room that was not too dark and got down to it.

But what began innocently (and sweetly) enough

soon became exceedingly silly,

and then things turned gleefully violent

and eventually ended, naturally enough, in a zombie attack.