Saying goodbye

Ollie and his great-grandparents

My grandmother died quite suddenly on Veteran’s Day. Since she was “only” eighty-eight, and the youngest of my four grandparents, all living until 2009, I wasn’t prepared. In retrospect it seems ridiculous to not be prepared when someone’s eighty-eight, but that seemed young, especially because she was so active and energetic.

Ollie was very close to her, his “GG” (great-grandmother), and as I frantically made plans to visit with her one final time, Jason and I struggled to explain what was happening. It’s been hard for him to comprehend, and it’s led to lots of awful questions and statements.

Ollie and GGPa

Now my grandfather, after losing his wife of sixty-six years, with his health already in decline, is nearing his end. We’ve had more time to warn Ollie of what’s imminent and about once a week I sit with Ollie to talk about it.

Ollie’s not entirely clear on the concept of marriage, so often he’ll ask my father if my mother is his “friend”, and sometimes he’ll say she’s his special friend. I like this idea of marriage.

The other day Ollie and I had a talk about GGPa. I told him GGPa’s old body wasn’t working anymore, and that very soon he would die. I started to cry.

“It’s ok, Mommy,” he said softly, looking at me, “because when he dies he can go in the same hole as GG! And they’ll be together, because they’re special friends.”

Somehow that’s the most comforting thing I’ve ever heard.

My Grandma & Grandpa

Made up baking with kids

Photo

Recently Ollie’s been talking about a time he lived “in England.” Whenever he begins a sentence with “In England…” I know he’ll follow with something that displays his independence and self-sufficiency. Often the stories are about cooking, and he’ll tell me about things he baked in England. Sometimes there are adventures with his cousins, Strawberry and Pumpkin, with whom he lived, and he had some jobs and drove a lot as well. But mostly it’s about cooking.

Lately I indulge his “In England” baking stories and we recreate his favorite recipes. He instructs me on the ingredients he used to create things like “Honeychrists”, a kind of inedible biscuit like hardtack, and “Chocolate Chip Cookie Muffins”, which we baked on Sunday.

After the honeychrists episode, I’ve tried to direct a little more, so these muffin cookies were actually edible and quite tasty. Half-way through the measuring, I got a great idea. Ratio, a book and iPhone app by Michael Ruhlman gives you the ratios for ingredients for all kinds of recipe, would be perfect for this situation. (Though he doesn’t have “cookie muffin” listed).

In the future I can guide Ollie knowing the ratios, so if he wants muffins, I can measure 5 ounces of flour and liquid, and 2.5 ounces eggs and butter. He can add the spices or food coloring or chocolate chips, whatever else he wants, and I can be assured that the resulting baked good will probably be edible. I’m looking forward to trying this out, as it’s been so much fun to do this crazy baking with Ollie.

Funny thing about the chocolate chip muffin cookies: they were edible! And because I added baking powder and baking soda, they were puffy cookies, soft and kind of doughy, wide-spread on the sheet and mounded in the middle. Just like you’d expect a “muffin cookie” to be!

Four resolutions for the new year

I’ve never been one for making New Year’s resolutions, mostly because I think if you want to make a change you should just do it, no matter where you are in the year. But maybe because I’m older, or in a more reflective phase, or maybe simply because a few changes have occurred to me and it happens to be the start of a new year, I’m making some resolutions.

Resolution #1: Write fiction.
Write more fiction, and by more I mean, write fiction. After lots of creative writing in the eighties and early nineties, I drained my fiction well, or something, because I haven’t written a story since about 1994. But I’ve been remembering how it felt to write stories, how I’d disappear into the world I was imagining. And I want to experience that again. Also I have ideas for stories bubbling.

Resolution #2: Write for Megnut.
I’ve fallen into a variety of traps that have kept me from writing here. Aside from the lack of time (which is really a lack of prioritization), the other excuses will be ignored and overcome.

Resolution #3: Have Wants Driven By Need
More production is countered by less consumption. I’ve noticed that a lot of magazines and websites I visit show me things to buy. Mostly they are things I didn’t think I wanted or needed before I saw them in the pages of Martha Stewart Living (as an example, because I find it so blatant there lately, and in stark contrast to how the magazine used to be). I like to buy a thing because I need it. But it’s hard to resist the lure of such pretty stuff highlighted in all the design blogs and magazines, and the curating sites like Svpply and Pinterest. So no more reading/subscribing to media that makes me want stuff I don’t really need (or probably don’t even want, except for in the fleeting moment that caviar sounds like a good idea, or some lovely La Lune print can be imagined hanging over my bed…)

Resolution #4: Read More Books
As I try and escape the magazines and blog posts, I discover I’ve lost my reading muscle. Sure I can handle a gripping tale like the Lost City of Z but there’s plenty of good reading out there that takes a bit of work, effort I used to be able to put in. But I’m lazy now, easily sated by 140 character tweets and 500 word articles. My mind drifts reading a longer book. But no more! I’m reading books this year, as many as possible, until I get back into reading shape.

Is there a Resolution #5? Probably but then I’d get into the usual, all the time resolutions that I live with daily: enjoy time with kids, smell the flowers, get to the gym daily, eat healthy food, cook more, worry less, etc. etc. That’s like my to-do list though. So I’ll start with these four resolutions. Here’s to a year of making more. And desiring less.

Dollhouse and clothes

Dollhouse and clothes

When I was little my mom and I built a dollhouse from a kit. Around seventh grade I got really into making stuff for the house, in particular hats and some clothing. My house spent the past 2o years in my grandparents’ attic but yesterday it finally found its new home here in Vermont. Eventually the kids will play with it. In the meantime, I poked around this AM and found all the old stuff and created this photoset to detail my millinery work. I see a new Etsy shop in my future!

Here’s the whole set of photos.

11 Months

11 Months

I can’t believe we’re in the final stretch of Minna’s first year already! Big progress this past month. She loves to read before bed, turning the page whenever you ask her to and "knocking" in Dr. Seuss’s "Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?" at the appropriate page. Her favorite game right now is what I call the "Sharing Game". She’ll be playing with things, like a bunch of wooden vegetables, and then hand you one. I always say, "Oh, for me? Thank you Minna!" and she smiles. You can try and give it back, but she’ll give it right back to you again. And keep giving you the other ones. She really seems to understand a lot of what you say to her, even if she can’t reply.

She’s also crazy about Bodhi and whenever she hears him meow she whips her head around to find him and claps and smiles and makes happy sounds. She also does this when she sees him first thing in the morning. And of course when she sees Ollie she just lights up and claps and laughs. The two of them have a band I like to call "The Kottke 2". He bangs on all sorts of things, and she takes the xylophone and a stick and whacks away, and then she claps while he sings and bangs on "drums". It’s quite a sight.

Two more teeth on the bottom, for a total of 6 teeth! And I think two more on the top are about to cut through. She’s also getting better at standing, but still no crawling and no pulling herself up. She’s an eating champ and pretty much can feed herself now if it’s not a liquid. And on her monthiversary she had her very first Shake Shack burger. I got some nice pictures of her eating it. But I like this photo better, of her sitting in our backyard, enjoying some O’s, and saving that special one for later.

The more things change the more they change

While poking around online (actually trying to confirm the spelling of Buttner’s, an old department store on Nantucket) I came across this New York Times article from 1989, Changing, Unchanging Nantucket, bemoaning the changing island. It’s quaint in its complaints about the transformation, with notes like “[T]he tariff for motor vehicles had gone to $66.50 from $47.50 each way.” It’s $380 now. And the development and traffic and loss of stores on Main Street he catalogs are nothing compared to what I witnessed this summer. The stores that replaced the stores he misses have been replaced again by new stores — the Benetton is long gone! And yet it’s true, the mores and beaches are still the same. “There have been changes, but Nantucket remains a very special place indeed.” Indeed.

Trouble with sunscreen

My hate-love relationship with sunscreen has taken a turn back to hate. Until I discovered Neutrogena’s Sport Sunblock (and then their UltraSheer) I simply couldn’t stand the stuff. But oh Neutrogena! It was weightless, it didn’t even feel like you were wearing anything. For years I slathered myself happily and regularly.

Recently my father sent me a link to the Environmental Working Group’s Sunscreen Guide. And I discovered that my beloved sunscreen had a terrible rating! Worse, I felt horrible about putting it on my kids. So I bit the bullet and switched to some brands they recommended, all of which use physical barriers (as opposed to chemical) to block the sun’s rays. Guess what? YUCK. I applied sunscreen yesterday morning and I swear I’m still coated in the stuff! It does not budge, not even with a loofa and body wash scrub-down.I’m totally bummed because I know this is “better” but the other stuff was so nice! Once I’m done breast-feeding I’m tempted to switch back.