Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Last Two Weeks: In which we hear opera, paint faces, and become pet owners

It has been a busy string of weeks.  The more eventful a period of time, the less likely I am to sit down and  blog about it. 

Highlights of the past two weeks included a solo trip to Madison, CT, to watch my friend perform in a production of Solome. The performance was in a converted barn—the most intimate venue for an Opera that you can imagine.   The acting and musicianship were splendid.   It is a gripping opera! The modern interpretation and framing were not splendid—confusing and in poor taste—but could do little to detract from the overall experience.  Indeed, for a curmudgeon such as myself, the only thing more enjoyable than seeing a truly wonderful performance is to see a strong performance that has some flaw that offers the opportunity to nitpick.  And nitpick we did!  My friend and I went to a diner after the show and spent a couple hours “unpacking” the production over sweet potato fries.

 The following day was the spring fair at Louisa’s school.  I volunteered to paint faces.  Here are my practice faces from the day before. 

And here are a few from the day of the fair.

Then came the baptism of our little twin nephews, Stephen and Michael.  Donnie and I became Michael’s godparents. The two boys entered the Church with great aplomb and cuteness.  It was a beautiful day, and it was lovely day and was wonderful to see the extended family.   

From the baptism party, Donnie departed on a week-long trip to Ohio. During his absence, we introduced this little fellow to our household.

This is Seaweed.  Seaweed was a birthday present for Maria—he—or rather the accoutrement that sustain him, were Maria’s big present this year.  This was a classic case of gift-escalation.  I went to Petco with the vague idea of buying a small tank—or possibly just a bowl—and surveilling the fish choices so that I could offer Maria a curated set of options.   In the process, I learned that fish ownership is more complicated than I realized.   Wanting to stave off premature lessons on mortality and provide the room for additional fish, I decided to get a whole aquarium set-up.  The very knowledgable girl at the store advised that we go with bettas.  Betta fish have a special organ that allows them to breath atmospheric air.  It makes them able to survive in small containers.  They are also quite lovely.  But all their lovely fins are like banners of war—they will fight each other for territory, so you have to be careful about adding additional fish.

Now we have our handsome Seaweed, living in a spacious 5 gallon tank with two garishly colored silk plants.  The aquarium gravel that we thought would be a subdued dark blue glows cobalt under the aquarium lights.  

As much as I warned myself and the girls not to get too attached, it is easy to be fond of Seaweed.  I'm convinced that Maria found the best fish in the store.  He seems unusually responsive and alert for a fish—and oddly sympathetic.  Indeed, Maria told her father the other day, “Seaweed understand all my feelings.”  All of us enjoy watching him curve through the water, his veil-fins trailing.  He blends in with the purple and red plants.  Every viewing becomes a game of “hunt for Seaweed.”   Pippa thanks God for “Seaweed Fish” practically every night, and has given the check-out woman at Aldi’s the full run down.  

This past weekend, the older girls spent a day and  night with Meme and Grandpa.  They went to the Children’s Caberet Theatre and saw The Princess and the Pea.   After meeting up with Grandpa for the handoff in Cromwell, Pippa and I took advantage of being so far to the West, and visited Kidcity.  Kidcity is my favorite children's attraction. It is an artfully designed interactive play experience.  During this visit, Pippa and I spent all our time at the Toddler Seacaves—an area specially designed for the under three set.  I love that the wall murals feature an infant mermaid, as well as a pregnant mermaid, and a nursing mermaid.  Though fantastic, it is still a truthful celebration of family life. 

Nursing mermaid

Baby mermaid, sucking on fins

Mother mermaid, talking on shell-phone with three kids

Maria’s birthday party was Sunday afternoon.  It was understandably subdued.  The kids were tired, and the number of children was small—at Maria’s behest, we had only three kids over for the party.   Still, we had fun romping in the backyard, playing with hoola hoops and bean bags.  Our friend David demonstrated how to lasso a stump.  Donnie and I pulled out our musical instruments.  Poor Louisa was a bit moody.  She finds it most comfortable to be in the center of attention; other people’s birthday parties are difficult.   Maria loved her presents—a paintable teaset and a set of knitting looms.  She has already painted the teaset, and used a loom to knit her own version of a cozy for the teapot.  She has scheduled a fish-themed tea party for this afternoon (thus bringing together all her presents).

Meanwhile, the yellow irises that I planted two falls ago are preparing to bloom.  The rhododendum blossoms have burst out of their magenta lipstick buds, to show crinkly star faces.  The robin babies that were born in a nest in the Rhododendrum, have grown feathers and left the nest.   Donnie just spotted one on the ground--maybe they are in flight training.   Oh, profusion of life.  Oh, May!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

{p,h,f,r} Catch Up Post for Week of May 1st

As we climbed into the car to go to church on May 1st, Maria asked, "how can it be raining on May day?"  It was a cold and rainy week, and I forgot to take pictures during most of it. Our chief occupations were getting over our collective family head cold and getting used to Louisa being back on a half day schedule at school.

Finally, on Sunday, as a special gift to the mothers of New England, the sun appeared.  That was just when I was getting ready to sit down to do a weekly blog post.  The blog post had to be postponed in favor of a family walk.


 Here are the crab apple blossoms from outside St. Mary's, where we attend mass and adoration.  Shortly after I took this photo, Louisa slipped while trying to climb one of these pink trees.


 The girls love to play dress up, and we've collected a lovely wardrobe over the years.  I've been daydreaming of some sort of organizational scheme that would get their costumes off the floor and save them from being tangled up in bins.  Most of the schemes involved advanced wood working skills and at least fifty dollars in materials.  Last week I spotted this adjustable clothing wrack at Aldi's for ten dollars.  The girls have been very good about hanging up their finery since its arrival.  This is one of those little pieces of happy that is very specific to this era and this time of life.

These pictures were taken on Sunday, after the sun came out.  The flowers glowed and princesses exited their dungeon and went out to survey the transformed world.

Children love a path!  These slates were salvaged from various roof renovations at West Point. They were hanging out in our garage until I brought out a few to serve as stepping stones over the mulch in  the front garden bed.  Louisa added more to make a little path.  Now the girls walk the path every time they exit the front door.  


A highlight of the week was having our friends the Bogues over for a communal meal on Friday.  Imelda called me the day before to say that she had a brisket that needed cooking and a recipe she was eager to try, and would it be acceptable if she brought it over and made it at my house?  It was indeed acceptable, and turned out to be a lovely format for a dinner party.  One cook takes on the responsibility of preparing The Large Piece O' Meat while the other cook pulls together the sides; a pleasant and equitable devision of labor.

Imelda is in the throws of rehearsing an opera which will be opening this weekend.  I got to see her again Sunday night, after she discovered that her husband had, with the very best of intentions, polished their kitchen hardwood floor while she was away at rehearsal.  Fearing that the polish fumes would endanger her voice, Imelda came and used our guest room that night.  It was so fun to have my friend at my house in the late evening.  We had a good, long talk while Donnie caught up on basketball.  It's nice to have another night owl for a friend.


I'm not sure why, but Louisa and Pippa have been dramatizing every stumble, bump, and hang nail this week.    One or the other of them seems to be crying or announcing a hurt every five minutes or so.  Donnie and I have difficultly maintaining empathy, and often find ourselves saying "that's what happens when you do x."   They fetch each other ice packs and put band aids on each other, which is quite sweet, but leaves the house in a whirl of bandaid wrappers and melting bags of blue chemicals.   Perhaps we just a had a particularly uncoordinated week.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real - May 1, 2016


Our yard is not a "lawn," but a forest meadow.  A million sprouting acorns will second me on this---this land wants very badly to be woods.  Forest meadows have numerous advantages over lawns.  The best is that you get to rejoice in the dog violets, bluets, and ajuga that appear in the spring.  Second best is that you cut the grass only about twice a year.


Maria finally has the jack-o-lantern grin that you expect in a near-seven-year-old.  She has two adult teeth already, but they grew in behind her baby teeth, so this is the the first time we are seeing a gap.


Popop turned ninety!  The girls made water-color and crayon resist artwork to send him. We are so blessed in Popop! Congratulations and many happy returns of the day! Here's sending you our love via the Inter-waves!


This is a holdover from last week.  We met Jonathan, the UConn mascot, at an Earth Day event at Merrow Meadow park.  He's a beautiful and well-behaved creature.   His colors are so pure that it looks like he was cut from a black and white photograph.


Our literary intake for the week: listening to audio books of My Father's Dragon and Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang. Maria brought home Olympig from the school library and the girls have requested it several times.  We have just begun the D'Aulaires Book of Greek Myths.  I am so excited!  All the D'Aulaires books that I have come across are wonderful.  So far, the D'Aulaires have managed to present the mysterious and beautiful beautiful aspects of the myths while keeping the grostesque and horrifying from taking center stage.  We are fortunate that my friend Imelda makes a hobby of visiting library book sales and buying up all the children's classics, regardless of whether or not she has them in her collection.  She passes on redundant copies to friends.  We've received so many marvelous books this way! 


There was a morning last week when the girls got themselves up and immediately dressed (for once) and put on an impromptu musical performance.  Maria was a statue of the Roman God Mercury and Louisa was a statue of the Roman God Apollo.  The statues came alive and sang a song with the chorus"we were statues, a long time ago."  Maria is wearing a head ornament with wings and has a paper staff with the Mercury symbol. Louisa had a wad of yellow tissue paper to represent the sun and a box for a chariot.  Maria talked about herself being "the morning star"  and Louisa being the day star.  Louisa sang about "getting the gray off [her] face" and wanting bones made of stone, like a dinosaurs.   Donnie and I thought the whole performance admirably rich---you might say "polyvalent."  Most of all, it was nice to be greeted by a morning musical rather than the sibling squabbles that are our more common faire!



Real Bricks!  The girls unearthed some brick in the back yard.  They had such fun with them that we bought fifty more at a tag sale. The girls have constructed a fort for themselves under the treehouse.  These make games of 3 little pigs way more real.