Warm-mug moments

Just before my kids closed their eyes last Saturday night, I broke one of parenting’s Ten Commandments: Though Shalt Not Make Promises For Things Out of One’s Control.

What can I say? I’m a silver-haired, tired mom rebel.

“Guys, it’s going to snow tomorrow!” I blabbed.

My son immediately looked up, eyes shining. “Enough to have a snowball fight?” he asked eagerly.

“Enough to make a snowman?” his sister echoed.

Yes! I boomed. Absolutely!

Like I could control the weather. Though I would if I could for my children, of course.

Oliver and Hadley have been talking about a good snow since Hadley’s interest in “Frozen” began in earnest last year. We were all ecstatic when a dusting fell on Christmas Day, but it disappeared just as quickly as it had magically appeared. No snowballs. No snowmen.

Last weekend’s “storm” — all of three inches — was the most the Washington region had received in two years. And on a weekend! By Monday, I was frowning at the same scene while contemplating my commute. Icy Tuesday was even worse. My second vaccine dose was scheduled for 9:20 a.m., and I had an hour-long drive ahead of me. “Be cautious, but drive with confidence!” encouraged my boss, an Ohio native made of sterner stuff than me. But I took her advice seriously, white-knuckle coasting most of the way south. I arrived for my shot just in time.

But none of that worry was served on my Sunday plate. I was immensely proud that I’d remembered to buy hot chocolate mix, thinking of how my dad always made cocoa with tiny marshmallows after my sister and I “helped” clear the driveway. I can still feel the ice coating the hem of my jeans before I had slipped into sweatpants, bounding downstairs to find that special treat waiting.

I want to create warm-mug moments with my children. At five and three, I’ve already seen how simultaneously fast and slow these years have gone. I’m fascinated by the idea that any of these simple events could actually solidify, proving to be the kids’ earliest memories. How can I make them good ones?

Through the pandemic, I probably join many parents in believing I have not been my best self. While I try to enjoy the little things, day-to-day life cannot be separated from the fear and heaviness of everything else happening in the world. I’ve had so much on my mind lately. We all have.

And yet. Already the boots purchased in anticipation of a day like this were snug on my children’s feet. I’m Mom, not Mommy, and the last of the toddler clothes have all been packed away.

We jumped into the moment. My husband, a New Yorker also made of stern winter stuff, packed snowballs and chased the kids on a gleeful mission. Each time they ducked behind a vehicle or skittered around a corner, Spence found a way to arc the snowball into a hit. Even Ollie, who hates being cold or wet or uncomfortable in any way, tolerated these hijinks. Enjoyed them, even.

After we’d all had our fill, cheeks red and toes chilled, we shuffled inside and shucked wet jackets just inside the door. I wrestled Hadley and Ollie upstairs for warm baths while Spencer got to work over the stove. By the time we returned, the kids’ hair damp and eyes shining, Spence had prepared four mugs of cocoa — with tiny marshmallows. It tasted like simple happiness, with memories settled at the bottom like coarse sugar.

We hadn’t received enough to build a snowman, as I’d naively promised … but we definitely made good on the snowball fight.

And you can’t go wrong with a day ending in chocolate.

Blue morning. Home.

Blue morning

We woke this morning to a blue world — incredibly still, snow-covered, wracked with ice slapping against our windows. Everyone along the East Coast knew about the impending storm, and most of us spent last evening breathlessly anticipating the first few flakes . . . but by 10 p.m., nothing much was happening.

I had that familiar pang of disappointment left over from my days as a student — the one that accompanies epic snow predictions that ultimately result in . . . nothing. Our meteorologists in the D.C. area are notoriously off-base, but I can’t say I blame them. Things happen, you know. Storms shift course. Snow fails to fall. Classes resume.

But by 6 a.m., it was a different story. Spencer stirred first, stumbling to the window to peer through our thin curtains. The hill was glazed and frosted.

“How much?” I croaked.

“Not much,” he said. But I immediately asked for the “Maryland version,” knowing “not much” to my hardy New Yorker husband is pretty different from our standards.

It was much. Even the plow trucks weren’t out yet, our parking lot a drift of deep snow. But without my contacts, I had to take his word for it. I’m so blind in the morning.

When I could finally gauge the situation for myself, I decided to stay home. And it’s super strange. Between the violent ice crashing into our windows all night and the roads being far from passable now, I decided to take a vacation day and hunker down in our condo.

After all my big talk of never getting a snow day, it feels so weird to be home on a Thursday morning. We’re watching “Today” and its Olympic coverage, dreaming of balmy 60-degree temperatures in Sochi and staring at piles of dirty dishes. This isn’t a true snow day — the kind granted free-of-charge by a benevolent employer — but hey . . . I’ll still take it! And gratefully.

But . . . I’m trying to figure out what to do with myself. I’ve been up since 6:30. Faced with hours of freedom and seclusion, Spencer is working while I envision finally backing up years of photos, working on our wedding photo album, vacuuming, finishing The Heart Is Not a Size . . . or just clearing out the DVR, drinking tons of coffee and scraping this place into some semblance of organized.

This is the first snow day I’ve been snug in our condo, not at home with my parents and sister — and maybe that’s where my sense of nostalgia stems from. I’m thinking of our old snowmen, epic snowball fights, shoveling with Dad as we sweated through our winter coats. Here we have nothing to dig out save our cars, nowhere for snow forts. And though I’ve felt at home in my new space since my October move, there are still moments — sudden, overwhelming moments — when I feel 10 years old again, wondering how I got here. Where my snowman went.

But there will be more snowball fights and hot cocoa. It’s a gray day, but it’s a beautiful one . . .

. . . And it’s all mine.

The art of staying in


Yesterday, we stayed in.

All day. The whole day.

I didn’t even shower until 1 p.m., which is . . . well, it’s unusual, friends. Because since Spence and I married, thus blending our schedules, I’ve been forced to become a morning person. He gets up at 6 a.m., I get up at 6 a.m., you know?

(Well, “get up” is a relative term. I give him an ugly look before ramming a pillow over my face, then eventually rise to see him off to work. And then I pour my sorry self into the shower, so on and so forth.)

But Sunday was a lazy day. The weather outside was truly frightful, as they say, and I planned — planned, I say! — to make no plans. I got up early, plunked down to watch the Food Network, worked on a slew of crochet projects that have come in before Christmas. I made a real breakfast. I drank coffee in a ceramic mug.

I put my feet up. And I stayed there.

In the afternoon, we wrapped presents. Spencer worked. We cleared some space on the DVR, emptied the sink of its many dishes, read, cleaned, admired the tree. We burned a Christmas candle for 12 hours, watching the flame sink deeper until the evergreen wax. And we actually smelled the evergreen.

It was glorious.

I often think about the speed of life — how quickly it moves, especially at this time of year. We look forward to Christmas all year long, then find ourselves consumed by the many things on our to-do lists when we would really like to just soak up the atmosphere.

And I’m the schedule-keeper. Spontaneity is my enemy. I like to plan my time to maximize fun, if you will, which can often . . . suck the fun out of everything.

That’s a lesson long in the making.

After the chaos of wedding-planning, I vowed to focus on what truly matters this holiday — and to get many of our “must-dos,” like shopping, done as early as possible. I’m not a Christmas Eve shopper, zooming around the mall in a state of utter panic. That makes me feel like I’m going to have an anxiety attack. I like to get done early, loaf around, wrap stuff.

I try to find some real peace. To stay in the moment, and to learn to be still.

And I’m proud of myself. Really proud of myself. This year has running over with changes: both the big, sparkly, obvious ones and the tiny, personal shifts. The ones you can’t see at a glance.

Less flashy, but no less important.

Snow and other unforeseen events

Something about snow still stops me in my tracks.

We don’t get much of it here in Maryland — most of the time, anyway. There was that freak storm in February 2010 that dropped more than three feet all over the D.C. area, and I’d certainly had enough of the nastiness by the time it all melted away.

But it’s usually calm here. Winters dip down to around 20-30 degrees on the rough days, but we can usually coast with temperatures in the 40s — even 50s. Maryland weather is nothing if not unpredictable. We’re seasoned to prepare for anything: hurricanes, tornadoes, flash flooding, earthquakes. And that’s to say nothing of snipers, terrorist attacks and bombings.

Maryland is Equal Opportunity for Disasters.

Snow isn’t a disaster, though. I was already snug at my desk when the flurries started yesterday, so no grip of panic seized my throat as I tried to figure out to get to work. Since we’re into the new year already, I have vacation and sick time o’plenty; and since it wasn’t predicted to last long, I didn’t have that worry about getting stranded at the office.

I could just enjoy it. The first real snowfall of winter.

I write often about enjoying the simple things in life. That’s what snow symbolizes to me: that untainted time when flurries meant school would be canceled, and all I had to worry about was dodging snowballs my dad and sister would aim at my knees. Snow days meant hot chocolate after helping Dad shovel the driveway and hours of Nickelodeon. No homework. Hanging out with Mom, who would usually take a “snow day” herself. Simple things.

I want 2012 to be more about those innocent joys. About taking time to breathe and free myself of needless worry. I don’t write often about my struggles with anxiety, but I’m weighed down — like all of us — with responsibilities and guilt and uncertainty. I’ve made great strides in the last few years and find myself a much happier, calmer person this January than last. But it’s a process.

As I shift and grow and change, I want to look out my office window and watch fat flakes of snow coat the sidewalks. I want to take in that quiet, serene vista without worrying how the weather — like so many things — will impact my scheduled, well-oiled day.

The best things happen when life doesn’t go as planned.

The snowpocalypse comes to Southern Maryland

So we’re in the middle of a snowpocalypse here in the Washington, D.C. metro area! The most snow ever reported in December has covered our area in a thick blanket of white. Of course, the kid in me felt a smidge disappointment when our snow day falls on a Saturday, but the adult in me feels grateful none of us had to try and get to work yesterday! Because, you know, almost two feet of snow? That’ll slow down your progress a bit.

Since we definitely weren’t going anywhere yesterday, my family hunkered down to tend to all sorts of Christmas-related activities! And on the top of my list: baking. My sister and I made our annual sugar cookies and they came out quite stunning. And by “stunning,” I mean delicious… because I quickly ate my way through the first batch. But, you know… that’s what they’re there for. Santa won’t mind!

The big part of any snow day, of course, is actually digging out. We’re lucky my dad is such an intrepid believer in tackling the snow as it falls, rather than waiting for all of it to come down before venturing out with a shovel. We went out yesterday and moved as much of it around as we could, but by the time we reached the end of the driveway and turned back — the concrete was covered again. Frustrating! And what’s worse? Muscles I didn’t even know I had in my arms, shoulders and back are screaming at me in the most shrill of voices. I feel like I spent yesterday moving boulders with nothing but my hubris and bare hands.

But I’m trying not to be a sissy! And I still have plenty of sugar cookies to help ease my suffering…

Belated weekend wrap-up: Snow edition

img_5403As many folks on the East Coast know, we dealt with quite the unexpected snow storm over here! In Southern Maryland, we got a whopping nine inches of snow — far and away the most snow we’ve gotten this winter. I took a snow day yesterday to stay home and help dig us all out, and I’m psyched that I had an extra day to work on all the little projects I had planned this past weekend, especially finishing The Anglophile — definitely the worst book I’ve read all year, if not in the past few years. And I don’t make statements like that lightly!

But moving on to more positive matters, we had fun running around in the snow with our dog and getting out on Saturday so my mom and I could fire off some shots for our photography class. I got some good ones, I think! And I’ve been messing around with a lot of new techniques in Photoshop — and some of them are really fun! My favorites, as of late:




I’ll be working on more of them, too! We got a lot of good photos in Chesapeake Beach at the Rod and Reel restaurant. That was all before the blizzard came in.

And when the area was covered in a thick blanket of white, it was time to get to work! But we still had a little time for fun, too. Or our dog did, at least.





Let’s close work two hours early

snow_newspaperI’d heard the rumblings over the past few days that we were going to be getting some snow today, but we hear that a lot in Maryland — and it rarely comes to pass. When I woke up this morning, though, that tiny bubble of excitement began to expand in my chest… until I realized that no, despite the treacherous roads and people who can barely drive when it’s sunny, let alone snowy, I do have to be at work today. My tires spun a mere two or three times, letting me drift slightly over to the shoulder, and my heart was hammering so badly in my chest I almost pulled over. (Pulling over would have been a decent idea, save the fact that everyone else was spinning, too.)

So my ten minute commute to work became a thirty or thirty-five minute commute, but I did make it — and I’ll live to lay out pages another day! Pulled my wipers straight out, locked up my car and waded through the few inches of snow in the parking lot to get to the office. I sit all day in a windowless room, so I’ll pop out in a bit to see what’s going on. I think the worst of the snow was coming through in the morning, and we should be clearing up by the afternoon. I definitely hope so — girl’s gotta get some lunch!

I took a few photos this morning but haven’t uploaded them yet. I’ll leave you with the image above — my newspaper in a fresh snow almost exactly one year ago today! I felt far more excited then than I do now. It’s sad when you reach an age that the sight of snowflakes produces little but trepidation, worry and anxiety over… being able to continue with our everyday lives, uninterrupted. Ah, to be young again — the public schools in my county are closing two hours early! If we had a “half day” at work… now that would be exciting.