Monday, July 27, 2015

Grammy Passes

Donnie's grandmother, Irene Beauchemin Carr passed on Monday this past week. I cannot write an adequate tribute, but  can say that for me her presence added a lilting and joyous strain to the communal music of family life.  Every time that I saw her, she had something kind to say to me (often about this blog).  I came know her not only through conversations and time spent together at family gatherings, but also through witnessing the strength and goodness of her two daughters, my mother-in-law Kathy, and her sister Aunt Debbie.

Once, while perusing an album of the Sheehy family genealogy, I came across a old society page clipping.  It was a record of Miss Irene Beuchemin’s coming out ball, written with a tone of great affection by the employees who worked with Irene's father.   The clipping described her as a “French beauty” in a yellow taffeta dress.  She would be attending the ball with the man who would later become her husband. 

The image of Grammy as youthful debutante dovetailed with a story that my sister-in-law Colleen told at her bridal Shower.   Colleen had accompanied Grammy dress shopping for a family wedding.  Grammy, already in her late seventies, came swishing and twirling out the changing room in a formal gown.  “I feel so pretty, I feel like a girl of sixteen!" 

Such was Grammy's joie de vivre, that the girl in the yellow taffeta was very much present despite the passing of seventy three years.  Bitterness seemed to have no hold in her.  Even in the face of terminal illness, Grammy was joyful.  She joked about “the trip” she was going to take.  I'm forever indebted to her for her example of faith, courage and unrelenting positivity.

{p,h,f,r} July 26, 2015 - Grammy Passes, My Birthday, Miniature Mountains, and Mushrooms


On Monday, Donnie’s grandmother, Irene Carr nee Beauchemin, passed away.  Grammy Carr was a lovely woman.   Tomorrow we're traveling to be with our folks in Shelton and to attend the memorial service on Wednesday.

{Happy and Funny}

I had my birthday this past week.   Donnie got up early and bought bagel sandwiches from Brueggers, and surprised me with the gift of a hula hoop. 

 I REALLY wanted a hula hoop.  Two days prior, we had seen a hooping presentation at our library given by a bonafide hoop artist. After a tutorial, I was able waist hoop for the first time.  The performance was lively and inspiring, and seemed somewhere between belly dancing and juggling.   It seemed more accessible to me than juggling without the complicated baggage of bellydancing.  I suddenly had a vision of our entire family in the back yard working on circus skills.   It was a pleasure to see that shiny purple ring when I opened the bedroom door.

Maria’s birthday gift to me was a natural material art installation she made on our picnic table the evening before.   She called it a “miniature mountain.” Donnie called it a “ziggurat." It put me in mind of a gnome’s house, of the empty tomb after the resurrection, and a hermit's cave.  I can’t think of any other gift I’d rather have from Maria.

I was actually present during the making of the miniature mountain, but Maria forbade me from looking at it.  Maria was excited about her creation, and said she would give me a clue to what it was. “It’s covered in dirt!” she said.  "It must be a Pippa,” I replied.      
She's actually relatively clean in this picture.

One of the sources of dirt in our lives.

The hula hoop Donnie bought turned out to be the wrong size  (size is very important), so I cajoled the kids into the car for a jaunt to our local hardware store for some irrigation tubing.  (There are great Youtube videos on how to make hula hoops from well tubing)  The kind men at the hardware store put the hoops together for us.  They even had a roll of penguin duct tape for Maria’s hoop.

I spent hours working on my hula hooping. 

We had a pizza dinner with our wonderful friends, the Whites.  They will be leaving the area soon, bound for a sunnier part of the world.  I'm happy to soak up every moment with them while they’re still here  

Donnie and I rounded out the day watching “Mozart in the Jungle.”  The show has some raunchiness and dissipation, but I mostly love it. The he characters are struggling to produce great art despite their egos and the other absurdities that surround the endeavor.  There is the added bonus that Gael Garcia Bernel reminds me so much of my brother!  

It was a marvelous birthday, marked by a straightforward joy—a respite from my own anxious nature.  At any spare moment, the simple exclamation “It’s my birthday!” would pop into my head.  Everything seemed a gift, and it was!

{Pretty and Real}

When my brother called me for my birthday, he asked half-jokingly whether we have been able to avoid lyme disease this year.  I answered that though we are still properly terrified of ticks, we have a new reason for hysteria: the horror of the mushrooms!  

Our yard seems to be hospitable to all manner of fungi.  The diversity of mushrooms  in our yard exceeds the  scope of the fungi section of our New England Field guide—I need to order a field guide specifically for mushrooms.  Still, our field guide has enough breadth to tell me that we have several species that are "deadly poisonous."  I found a fly amanita growing next to the drive way,  and several examples of what are called “destroying angels” in the flower bed and yard. We also have a toddler who still gleefully explores with her mouth. 

Pippa's freedom to roam the backyard has been seriously curtailed since the profusion of fungus began.  The older girls are what I’d call “wigged out” by the mushrooms, and hate even stepping on them.  Louisa assures us several times a day “I do NOT want to eat that mushroom.  I DO NOT LIKE mushrooms.”     

 I’ve done several rounds gathering up all the mushrooms I can, bagging them and throwing them away.  I feel a vague regret when I throw them away.  They are intriguing.  Many are beautiful.  There are charming rose colored ones, velvety rust colored one, great, muffin-like King Boletus mushrooms that leave slimy black patches on the grass; there are strange, transparent sprout-like ghost mushrooms, and of course there are the elegant and ethereal destroying angels.  I could spend a pleasant morning drawing them—but they must be pulled up before the toddler wakes from her nap!  So I set about my work with rubber gloves and a plastic bag. 

Here, at least, are some pictures.  All the identifications are my inexpert ones.  Please correct me if you know better!

King Boletus

Part of a fairy circle.

Destroying Angel

Destroying Angel

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real - May 2, 2015

 ~ Capturing the context of contentment in everyday life 
~Every Thursday, at Like Mother, Like Daughter!


These pictures are from Easter, but the girls wore these dresses for Mass today (sufficient justification for me to show them here). Whenever the girls wear these dresses, we receive a flurry of compliments usually with the advice for Donnie and me to "enjoy this this time, because it goes by so quickly."  Indeed, I relish the sight of my girls in these dresses with a sort of preemptive nostalgia. What better symbolizes the innocence and sanctity of girlhood than a smocked dress?


A pair of robins have set up housekeeping in the rododendrum by our front door.  We noticed the nest over a week ago, and wondered at our luck.  We had a direct view into the nest from our front stoop and a very good view from our guest room.  Then passed many days when we didn't see a robin in the nest, and I reconciled myself that the robins had thought better of locating their nest next to such a nexus of noise.  But lo and behold, today, on our return from Church, there were two perfect blue eggs in the nest, soon to be followed by a third.

Here is  mother robin on her eggs.

Our robins are a sign that spring has finally found its stride here in northern Connecticut.   We're enjoying it!  Maria spends hours building fairy houses and setting out imaginary feasts on flat rocks.   Lulu has taken a new interest in the climbing dome and an old interest in donning her magenta tutu swimming suit.   Pippa is proving to be quite the outdoorsy toddler.   She points her  chubby finger at the door and cries and makes herself a nuisance until let out.   Donnie has been clearing brush and making himself  busy with the logs.  He his fond of his outdoor kingdom.

As spring has unfurled around us,  I've been reading The Secret Garden aloud to the girls.  It's the perfect literary accompaniment, and does so much to open the senses and the heart to the season.   It was one a my favorites as a child, and it's a joy to share it with the kiddos and see Maria's dawning sense of wonder.  Louisa is not quite at the stage of wonderment, but she has at least gleaned that we do not want to be like Colin, and throw tantrums!  (And, indeed, we have no excuse, because we are not stuck in bed believing that our backs are crooked!)
Maria tending her garden.

One of Maria's fairy houses.


Donnie relayed the following conversation:

Don: What are you singing?
Lulu: It's a song that's never been singed before.
Don: What's it about?
Lulu: It's about pirates and a land full of princesses and Cinderella and Snowwhite, and Belle and a war and the princesses are wearing pink dresses and the pirates are fighting the princesses.
Don: How does it end?
Lulu: The ship sinks and the land sinks. It's a pretty funny song.

It's so very Lulu to sing about pirates and princesses at war.  Louisa combines a deep love of fanciness with a willingness to wield violence.  Happily, it's mostly theoretical violence.  For a while, her stock retaliation to any imaginary bad guy was to "cut his fingers off."


This is shot from our guest room, which doubles as a craft room.  It offers just a small glimpse of the disorder that reigns around here.  I am trying to focus of creating oases of order.  This room is still very much a desert.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real - Jan 11-17, 2015

{Pretty} More Tales of Hair

Last year, Maria's hair was long, and I loved it.   Spurred by a lice outbreak a Maria's school, I learned how to make a sock bun (keeping her hair up any out of reach of little critters).  A high sock bun became Maria's trademark hairstyle for a while. I'd do a bun and surround it with flowers and glittery bows--a folkloric look that suited my wistful, dreamy girl.

In the spring, Maria took matters into her own hands and cut her hair, ushering in the dragon hair phase followed by  a return to short hair.  We thought to grow it out, bringing a sock bun renaissance, but the winter got the better of me.  Somehow,  hair in the face makes a child seem twice as snotty and whiny as she would seem given better grooming.  So, as with the Norman haircut of yore, I picked up the scissor to appease the voices that yelled "chop it all off!"  from the backseat of my mind.  Here are the resulting two brown, bobbed heads.

Maria is already practicing for the photo on the dust jacket of her novel.

What a ham!


Maria and Louisa started at the Montessori school this past week.  They're excited to be going to school.  In fact, Louisa resists leaving when I arrive to pick them up.  That's not so flattering for me.

Getting back into the swing of school drop-offs and pick-ups took much of our attention the week.  There's the shuffling of winter gear, the paper work, the extra miles on the car.  But it is all still new and exciting.

With the older girls at school in the mornings, I hope to get a little time to myself (providing that Pippa naps).  Perhaps I'll be able to make headway in taming the chaotic corners (read rooms) of our house.  Perhaps we can bring a little of the order and freedom of the Montessori environment home.  That's the hope, at least.

One happy thing about our return to the Montessori School is that the girls will be able to continue their Tuesday morning Catechesis of the Good Shepard program.  I love the program and how the girls seem to be imbibing ideas in Atrium.   I love hearing Maria talking to herself off-handedly in the back of the car. "God is the sheperd and he always looks for his sheep.  I'm a sheep, baa, baa, baa!"


Donnie: You know why you have to stay away from sharks, right?
Loulou: Because they'll blow down your house!

So much for our girl ever being a naturalist.  One of Louisa's favorite books is The Three Little Hawaiian Pigs and the Magic Shark.

The girls have been doing a lot a doctor play lately (probably as a result of our many doctor's visits over the past month).  Louisa uses doctor as verb.  "She's sick.  I'm gonna doctor her."  Usually, Louisa's patients have fallen victim to one of two mishaps.  Either they have choked on a battery or they were bitten by a lion.

One last entry:

My solution to the crisis of keeping baby socks on babies---just use adult socks!  Works so much better!  Really, this is the kind of brilliance that can only happen at three kids in.

Pippa's sideways smile.  It's the thing of the moment.


Our Christmas tree is still up!   A tree is such a lovely treatment for seasonal affect disorder.   And it has to be a sort of humidifier as well, right?   I haven't been able to face taking it down.  I'm waiting for the calvary to arrive in the form of my mother.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real - Week of Jan 4, 2015

Snow dumped on us Friday morning, preventing the girls and me from attending adoration (Donnie went in our stead).  In the afternoon, the day brightened and our house was filled with winter light. It feels like with each year I become more sensitive to the lack of light in winter, so I'm grateful for that extra bit that comes bouncing off the snow.  Here are some pictures from the girls' bedroom on Friday afternoon.


I've been wanting to do this little craft for a while: melt crayon bits in silicon molds and make happy, chunky, rainbow crayons.  We made hearts and cars.  It's satisfying to see those molten colors and to know that after the process is completed there will be fewer crayons to be picked up off the floor.  Loulou played with them for hours after we finished them.
Loulou is eating raspberries, calling to mind the opening credits of Amelie.  You can see our heart crayon in their mold on the counter.


On Sunday (Jan 4), a friend held an Epiphany celebration.   I called my friend shortly before the party: "Imelda, I've just flushed a pair of underpants down the toilet, my baby has a goopy eye, and it turns out that babaganoush doesn't taste nearly as good if you sub in balsamic vinegar for lemon juice."  Imelda graciously said that we should still come, and we did, grapey-babaganoush and red-eyed baby in hand.   We were forty-five minutes late.

The celebration was beautiful.  Good company, beef strew, king cake, and Anglican rite chant--what more could you ask for? (Except, perhaps that second daughter not throw a grand mal tantrum on the way out.  That would have been nice.)

Happily, the underpants seem to have gone through to the sewer without causing a problem.  I now know more about the anatomy of a toilet.

(I should mention that Donnie was away in San Diego during this episode.  We aren't generally so scattershot when he's around.)


Conjunctivitis! It seems to like visiting us when Donnie is traveling.   Pippa had it, then Louisa. It meant bringing the whole crew to the doctor's office twice, as well as missing a museum outing and  karate.   Happily the drops were very effective this time.  

Before getting the antibiotic drops, I tried the folk remedy using breast milk.  There's something about the act of attempting to squeeze breastmilk into the eyes of a squirming, screeching baby that drives right to the heart of the human condition--n'est-ce pas?  A life-giving substance, being used or perhaps misused.  The mother, well-intentioned, but inept.  The recipient violently protesting the administration of said substance.  The grotesque and the sublime side by side. Someone unpack that for me, please.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real


This time last year, Maria was still in what we will call her "comestible phase."  It was all cupcakes all the time.  That's not quite right---there was the occasional glass of smoothie or chocolate milk, and once and a while, she would pencil "i heart porridge".  I wondered if she had a sugar addiction.  These days, Maria's artworks are lush with stars, planets, angels, and crazy machines. Her compositions have a satisfying, folkloric symmetry.  It has been fun to see creche scenes spouting up on papers around the house.  Here is one of our favorites.

 And here is a  drawing that we scanned and used for wrapping paper.

If you look carefully, you will find Jupiter, Saturn, astrological symbols for Mercury, and a few Christmas trees thrown in for good measure.


There is a book called "Mr. Wilowby's Christmas Tree." We don't know the book well because we have the French version and can only just make out the gist of the verse--but it is charming for the premise and illustrations.  The top of a large Christmas tree is lopped off to allow the tree to fit in Mr. Willowy's grand hall.  The rejected piece becomes a Christmas tree for the maid, who in her turn, lops off the top so that it will fit in her apartment.  This chain continues, with various people and then animals, using the rejected pieces of the tree and trimming and discarding the top.  At last, the very tip becomes a Christmas tree for the mice in Mr. Willowby's mansion.   

When we put up our Christmas tree on Christmas Eve, Maria asked if we could cut off the top for her.  Happily, the tree had a forked top that needed trimming.  Paschi magicked a stand, and, voila, Maria  and Loulou had their own personal Christmas tree.

Christmas Eve, after wrapping arranging presents around the family tree, I snuck into the girls' room and placed some of the smaller presents around the tree, and staged some of the girls' stuffed animals having a tea party around the base of the tree.
It was very sweet to hear the girls waking up an finding the scene.  Maria kept saying, "It's nursery magic!"


Donnie insisted that I share this video, which is from some weeks back.  All I can say is that I have a vitamin D deficiency and have not been cheery, cheery, cheery this winter.  In case you can't tell, that last line is "Now I have to delete this."

And here's a picture of the banditti.


Meme and Grandpa took the older girls for three days.  It was a lovely rest, and allowed Donnie and I to tackle a few household projects.   I sorted and organized the kids' clothing.  Here's a picture from midway through the process.
 If any one knows a good treatise on how to manage children's wardrobes, I am eager to read it.  Truly, I'm not  sure whether or not this a reasonable volume of clothing for three girls (taking into account there might be more to come).  It seems entirely unreasonable when it's all heaped up.  When it's neatly folded in Sterilite, which it now is (thank you Meme and Grandpa!) it seems not so crazy--especially since we have a high attrition rate.   I got rid of a good bagful.  I had to come to terms with knowing that I will probably never be the kind of laundress who can get rid of three year old drool stains.

And I had this delicious being as a helper: