We've had playmates, the Eldest's first and eminently survivable sleepover, houseguests and important self-discoveries, such as my discovery that, if I must have reading glasses, then by golly: purple.
And houseguests (hat-making, farm-building, kid-loving guests) and chatter and amazing sushi and ooooh-warm soups and holy-freakin-moly cold, and - yes - talk. The Man and I had a series of those spiraling, serious conversations about how we parent, and how we want to parent. We believe strongly in explaining our parental lines in the sand, but that's developed into a compound 'do X, because otherwise there's natural consequence/irate parent consequence Y' approach. Which does not work so very well.
When you do that, the Eldest informed me, I can choose between the consequence and what you want me to do. He raised his eyebrows, waiting while I winced. Tucked under his covers, the Toddles looked up, clear-eyed and thoughtful. Good to know, I admitted. I'll have to think about it. I certainly don't like being the kind of parent who threatens. The Toddles shook his head. Me, neither, he told me.
Wincing, laughing, the Man and I began hammering out a new plan. Possibly involving a lot of hugs. Certainly requiring us to be honest about what we are capable of. Which one of us is more likely to be set off by a recalcitrant, naked person at 38 minutes past bedtime? Which parent can best manage a shrieking, you're so unfair rant over toothbrushing? A shoeless, shirtless small child whose backpack and lunch are still politely at the top of the stairs, while parental teeth grind, trying to herd the kids to the car - and the morning commute? We sat and talked on the futon, on the kitchen floor, curled up in bed, talking about the boys, about who we were, the parents we want to be, the people that we are - and could be. It was necessary, cathartic, and brutally honest. A good way to end the year, we told each other, and talked until a small boy arrived to insist that someone curl up with him.
And then it was quiet.
But in the quiet, gears turned,
How does it work? the Eldest mused, and ran for paper and pencil. He drew carefully, copying sculpture titles, the artist's name, and the details he could find. Oh, said a venerable gentleman observing one sculpture. It's using gears. He looked at the Eldest, to see if the child appreciated this bit of wisdom. Having just fought a round of the duh* wars, I held my breath. But the Eldest merely looked patient. Yes, he said. And there is the motor. And do you see the two springs?
taking notes on the wonders of rocks. The Eldest spent a full hour, drawing, wandering, exclaiming. My favorite is the aquamarine from Brazil, he told me. I rather liked some of the lapis lazuli, myself, but was struck by some of the more bulbous rocks. The Toddles, drawn to the meteors, stroked them comfortably. He showed me their inclusions, but discovered the joys of grin-and-duck when I aimed the camera at him. Urgh.
[this photo blocked until Gamma has received her birthday gift]
And, alas, worked some more. This project took over three weeks, as the Eldest designed, budgeted, and redesigned once his materials arrived. And then, ack! had to re-engineer his work on the spot, as we learned some rather basic lessons about wire. But, said the Eldest, I wonder if we can do things with wire like Arthur Ganson does?
When we took Gamma's birthday gift to the experts (help!), we picked up some supplies. Maybe. Not, I suspect, as effectively as Ganson, but let's try and see, I said. Doubtfully.
...and oh yes, snow fell.
It's been a snowy pair of weeks, with bone-chilling winds. But snow somehow transforms teeth rattling cold into fun. So, the boys happily shoveled the walk on Thursday, stopping periodically to fling snowballs. It's not the best snow for snowballs, I was informed. It's too fluffy! But they cleared the sidewalk and stairs regardless.
Cheeks glowing, the snow critics headed inside for hot soup (see below) and onion tart. And a sense of deep satisfaction - right until the moment when the smaller critic was informed that he was overdue for a nap. [insert wail, whisk and roar here]
Folks, I'll be back with Part Two of the OT/sensory integration story, but for now, I'm off to help the Eldest sort recycled (okay, rescued) glass beads. He's singing quietly to himself at the table as he works, and his peaceful pleasure, the quiet, satisfied vibration of his work ripple outwards. In the kitchen, washing lettuce, I find myself smiling.
And then, he looks up. I love you, Mum.
My throat tightens, thickening. I love you, too, kiddo.
It's been a thoughtful, honest, loving - and as always, slightly cranky- end to the year at Chez Imperfect. With any luck, we'll begin the new year as we've ended the old one, ripe with the awareness of our gifts, and ruthless in considering our needs. But before I head over to join my order-from-chaos kidlet, I did want to say:
from all of the Chez Imperfect denizens, we wish you all a happy new year, rich with ripples of love, satisfaction and the work that makes us sing. And, of course, the imperfections that make us shine.
A Wintry Day's Soup:
3 medium potatoes, washed and chopped roughly
2 large onions, or 1 large onion and 1 (washed) leek, chopped roughly
7-8 Jerusalem artichokes, a.k.a. sunchokes, washed and chopped roughly
1/2 inch ginger root, peeled and sliced into thin strips, or 1 tsp ground ginger
1 can of white beans of your choice: navy beans, chickpeas, butter beans, even Roman beans are good here. Drain and rinse.
salt and pepper to taste
3 bay leaves
6-8 cups water, or vegetable broth
1/3rd cup leftover white wine (or cooking wine, if you are so equipped)
4 Tb olive oil
optional: a sliced carrot
Saute fresh ginger and onions/leeks in oil until browned. (if using ground ginger, add when adding the rest of the spices) Add potatoes and Jerusalem artichokes, beans, spices, wine and enough water to cover the veggies by 1 inch. Let simmer for roughly 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are quite cooked.
Puree. Return to the stovetop and simmer for perhaps 5 minutes, adjusting seasonings. Serve hot, wishing you hadn't eaten all the garlic croutons yesterday. I like sprinkling them on top, said the Toddles, wistfully. Can you make some really, really quickly? And be done making them already?
*in which one side offers various sarcastic, oh jeez that's so OBVIOUS sorts of comments, while the other side suggests that perhaps those are, um, obnoxious. If not also disrespectful and somewhat indicative of the opinion that He Who is Dismissing is far superior than the Dismissed.