June Dreams

This June was our last ballet recital. Maybe not forever, but for a while. Not only are we moving, both girls want to move on to something new. In our four years here, Grace has done ice skating, ballet, gymnastics, and then ballet again, and has decided that she really, really loves gymnastics the best and wants to pursue that. Joy did ballet all four years and loves it, but is ready for a change and has asked for figure skating lessons next year (she did skating lessons for a couple of years in Albany and loved it).

Ballet has been a wonderful experience for us–yes, all of us, not just the kids. We found our church through ballet acquaintances, we made friends who led us to our Classical Conversations community through ballet, the kids learned perseverance and self-discipline, Carl and I learned how to encourage and push without being pushy, we all discovered a deep appreciation for this beautiful form of artistic and creative expression.

I was a little emotional the week of their last classes and then the recital.

Luckily, we had family out for the recital, and my parents stayed a few days after and we had a lovely, lovely visit.

We went to all our favorite spots and discovered a couple new ones, too. We got a wee bit sunburned at the beach–but it was okay, because the recital was over and we didn’t have to worry about skin clashing with costumes! (Every year, I swear. Not this year! This year Mamma was obsessive with sunscreen for weeks beforehand.)

The kids also finished up piano lessons this month, and we got through our social studies book, hurrah! (We do math and Latin sporadically throughout the summer, so that it doesn’t get rusty.) We’ve said goodbye to a few more friends, planned visits to other friends in July, and started thinking about (gulp) packing up the apartment.

So. Many. Books.

Carl’s almost finished with his thesis, I’ve been plugging away at several different short stories as well as editing Whitney & Davies Book 2 (and gearing up to publish Candles in the Dark in a few weeks), and we’re preparing for a major road trip later this summer.

I hope your June has been lovely, friends, and that your July will be even better!

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April Showers Bring …

… May showers, apparently. I keep reminding myself of the awful drought last year and how much we needed rain (especially since we didn’t get much snow this winter), but oh, my spirit is longing for sunshine and warm temperatures! Not HOT, mind you, but mid-60s to 70s would be lovely.

April was notable mostly because I did Camp NaNoWriMo again, and accomplished my 30,000 words with a few days to spare! (actually it was 35,000, but I only officially signed up for 30,000) That’s about half of a draft. Not to give too much away, but this is the first draft of the next Whitney & Davies book, and it’s set in Cambridge. I’m hoping to finish the first draft in May and June, in time to finish the edits on the current W&D book and publish that this summer. Whew!

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I even cleaned off my writing desk and organized my miscellaneous bits of inspiration!

The kids finished Classical Conversations in April, which resulted in mixed feelings. They miss their classes and their friends, but it IS nice to have our Tuesdays back and to be able to focus on our own schoolwork that got pushed aside as the CC work got more demanding. Joy presented a research paper on Empress Wu during the closing ceremony, and both girls got up with their classes to demonstrate something they’d learned throughout the year. They had a great two years in CC, and now that chapter of our lives is closed. We’ve been told there’s a fantastic homeschool community in Cambridge, but no CC. Which is ok, because new experiences are good, too. I don’t like to cling too closely to the past.

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Empress Wu, ready to read her paper!

Carl moves ever closer to graduation; he finished his final translations for his Biblical Languages degree a day or so before I finished my 35,000 words for Camp NaNo (we were having a wee bit of a competition), and all he has left for his New Testament degree is his thesis, which he will be completing through the rest of the spring and early summer. Graduation is a week from Saturday!IMG_2197

Our community ladies Bible Study wrapped up in April as well. This was my first and only year as one of the leaders. This semester we looked at the book of Philippians, and it was such a good study, prompting all kinds of discussion and thought. I’ve been part of the study on and off for the last four years; it’s going to seem odd this fall to not have it as part of my life! (But I’m looking forward to getting involved with other studies–see above about not clinging too closely to the past)

We have gotten some sunny days, and have been able to spend some time outside enjoying spring. Each day is one day closer to the end of our time here. It’s exciting and at the same time a little panic-inducing (mostly for me, as I think of all that has to be accomplished in order for us to move to England). With graduation next week, I think we’ll really be able to call this chapter of our lives closed.

In the meantime, I’m off on a date with my husband while the kids bake an apple pie with one of our neighbors! This, I’m most definitely going to miss.

First Month

Somehow the second half of January has seemed to last much longer than the first. I look at my last post and think, “wow, was that really only two weeks ago?” And yet … I’m not sure we really did that much. I think more it’s been interior stuff, lots of thinking and pondering and feeling. Life as an HSP can get exhausting sometimes, even when everything seems calm on the surface. Plus, all the turmoil in this country right now is draining. Trying to keep my candle glowing against the darkness gets harder some days than others.

We have had some lovely moments. Carl’s sister came and spent a weekend with us. She spent one afternoon playing games with the kids while he and I snuck off on a date, and the next afternoon the three of them made supper (from the kids’ cookbooks) while Carl and I went for (decaf) coffee. The rest of the time we just hung out and enjoyed being together. A lovely family time.

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Wine tasting date! It was lovely. (The wine was good, too.)

We went to public skating this past Friday, and the kids did great and had a blast. Especially impressive considering Joy hasn’t been on the ice since we lived in Albany, and Grace hated (with a fiery passion) her skating lessons the first winter we lived here. They’ve come a long way. And then, as we were getting ready to leave, another mom and her daughter came to skate, and it took me a few minutes, but then I recognized her from my home club. Back in Canton, NY, when we were both teens. We both live here on the North Shore now and we didn’t even know it! It was great fun to reconnect, especially since it was so unexpected.

It was also fun going out for doughnuts and hot chocolate afterward. Skating is definitely going to be a weekly activity for the rest of the season. (doughnuts, maybe not every single week.) Even Carl is thinking about getting in on the action–for the first time ever he’s contemplating getting skates so we can do this as a whole-family activity! I am delighted.

I got very excited, as usual, over the US Figure Skating Championships. This year there was a little more to get excited about than usual–Nathan Chen made history by landing FIVE QUADS in the men’s free skate. And Karen Chen (no relation) was brilliant in the ladies’. Overall, figure skating looks stronger in the US than it has in at least ten years (except for ice dance, which has been strong all along and is merely continuing the tradition of greatness). In a country racked by division and suspicion, it’s beautiful to me to see the diversity, inclusivity, and joy represented by the world of figure skating.

We had our first Family Meeting this weekend, figuring out chore allotment and allowances and basically cementing the fact that we are so not in the little kid stage of life anymore. It was surprisingly fun.

I have been continuing with my French lessons on Duolingo, finding more things about the app that frustrate me no end, but at the same time I’m progressing and getting better, so it is working. I still would hate to have gone into this without at least some prior knowledge of the language, however far back in my past. And I AM getting a proper French grammar book at some point, because Duolingo never explains the rules. As my mother and any other teacher I ever had could tell you, I need explanations.

My fountain pen arrived and I promptly fell in love and never want to use any other kind of pen, and also want to write all my stories by hand again, like I did in the ancient times of my youth before computers were a thing. Even getting my grandmother’s old electric typewriter was a red-letter day when I was younger! But yes, this pen is a joy to write with, and now Carl wants one too.

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Finished Madeleine L’Engle’s The Irrational Season and found it, as usual with her books, a blend of immensely frustrating and immensely uplifting and encouraging. One thing I will say, she always makes me think. Ultimately, it has helped me recognize some of my difficulties with having a still mind, and I was able to come up with a few strategies for minimizing the constant noise in my own head, so very worth it. I’m now in the middle of re-reading Agatha Christie’s autobiography (Christmas present from my in-laws), and finding that bracing, encouraging, laugh-out-loud funny, and just wonderful. My fiction reading has been less memorable. I dutifully recorded each book, but none of them are worthy of repeating here.

Oh, and I taught the kids to knit.

And now we see what February has in store. Fingers crossed it will bring some snow …

Spring Sprain

Thursday was a lovely spring day here (at last!) I got in my walk up the hill with Carl, part of my new exercise regimen as I try to take back my energy and overall health. On the way back down we stopped at the small playground for campus kids and hung out for a bit with our neighbor and her too-cute-for-words baby boy. Eventually Carl went back inside to get some work done, neighbor took the baby in for his nap, and the girls and I decided to go across the field to see the leaves on their favorite climbing tree.

When we got there, all the branches were too high for the kids to see well, so first I tried taking photos, and then when that proved ineffective, jumped up to snag a branch to tug down for the kids to see.

The first branch I couldn’t quite reach, even when jumping up. The second one I grabbed, but when I came down I must have landed on an uneven patch. My ankle rolled, I heard an ominous “crack,” and I rolled my body with my ankle in an instinctive attempt to protect it (former figure skater: we learn very early on how to fall).

The ankle immediately swelled up to twice its size, and the pain was indescribable. With the kids there (and the campus preschoolers blithely playing behind us) I had to keep calm so I didn’t scare them. Luckily my phone was near at hand, I grabbed it and tried to call Carl.

He didn’t answer. Three times. (We found out afterward that his phone didn’t even ring. Technology, you suck.) So I gave my keys to Joy and told her to run across the field, carefully cross the parking lot, and tell Daddy that Mom had fallen and her ankle might be broken. She took off, and I collapsed on the grass and focused on not passing out or throwing up from the pain, hoping that it looked to the preschoolers like I was merely resting on the grass. Gracie kept me company and blessedly didn’t ask any questions.

Carl and Joy finally made it back, we dropped the kids off with a neighbor who said she’d keep them as long as necessary and not to worry, and then we took off for the emergency room.

Once there, I got an X-Ray and the doctors determined it was a severe sprain, not a break, and I nearly cried from relief. An hour after we arrived, we were leaving the hospital, me with an Ace bandage and air cast and crutches and strict instructions to stay off my foot completely for one week and then to ease back into using it over the next 5-7 weeks after that. We went and got pizza for lunch, since we were both starving by then, got back home and maneuvered my crutches and me up to our second-story apartment and onto the couch, and Carl went and fetched the kids, who were vastly relieved to see me with my foot still attached.

And so here I am on Day 3 of my Week of Rest, as I’m hashtagging it on Instagram (elouise_bates). I have finished Chapter 10 of Magic in Disguise (only six chapters left), read three library books, watched a number of episodes of Death in Paradise whilst knitting a sweater for Joy, and directed kitchen operations from the easy chair. I’m so thankful I only have a week of this.

Thankful for a lot of things, really. Neighbors who looked out for our kids so I didn’t have to worry about them as well as my ankle, as well as offering to take them this week for an hour or so at a time, since I can’t. Thankful that Carl is done with classes so he can do the meals and run the kids to their various activities (did I mention it’s my right ankle? No driving for me for a bit) as well as get to the library to keep replenishing my supply of books. Thankful for a cheerful and efficient hospital staff: this was my first hospital visit since Joy’s birth, and despite the agony in my ankle, this time around was much, much more pleasant. Thankful for kids who, despite their own fear, kept calm and did what I asked without arguing or panicking (two years ago they would both have been wailing and flailing through it all). And deeply, deeply thankful that I am not going to have to miss out on a summer’s worth of activities–our last full summer here on the North Shore–because of a broken ankle. One week of inactivity is so much more endurable than twelve!

So that’s the news from Casa E.L. Bates.

Snow Fun

So, you might have heard about the big snowstorm that happened here, and in other parts of the country, this week.

From what I gather, it kind of fizzled elsewhere, but here, it fully delivered. A regular nor’easter, leaving behind nearly 3′ of snow once it passed.

Since we’d been forewarned and had plenty of time to prepare for it, and as we never lost electricity or heat, it was a pretty fun storm for us. The girls have never seen this much snow, especially not all at once, in their lives (that they can remember, at least – I think there might have been almost this much at either Carl’s or my folks once upon a time, a few years back when we visited. But that doesn’t count). They were out helping Carl shovel Tuesday evening, out again for more shoveling, walking, and Fox and Geese yesterday afternoon, and today I took them sledding and then tramping through the field in snow to my knees (which means Joy’s waist and Gracie’s chest) on our way back.

They love it. Gracie has hated snow from her very first winter (she was born in May). Joy adores winter, never gets cold, and would live outside if allowed, so I was expecting her to be in bliss, but Gracie has shocked me by enjoying being outside, and not once complaining that she’s cold. It’s a blizzard miracle!

Last year we took the kids sledding at Grandma’s house. The snow was covered in an icy crust, and Gracie, of course, the one whose guardian angel works overtime just to keep her in one piece, took a face plant and skidded, ending up with a bloody forehead and cheek and a black eye. She was understandably a little hesitant about sledding this year. She went down once with me, once with Joy, and then finally, when I reassured her this snow was not going to scrape her, tried it on her own. And had a great time, though she still liked going down with her sister the best.

Joy, of course, wanted to go down the part of the hill that had been carved into bumps and gullies, and loved it even when her sled took flight. We’ve got to get that girl a snow saucer.

If I’m perfectly honest, I don’t take quite the personal delight in snow, and sledding, and breaking a path through knee-deep snow, that I once did. Still, I went down the hill a couple times on my own, grumbling in a just-audible tone the entire time about why it hurts so much more now when I’ve so much more padding than I had as a kid. And at one point, waiting for the kids to catch up as we walked back, I flopped down on my back in the snow, stared up at the sky, and just breathed.

And it was good.

Baby Joy, a little over a year old. SO HAPPY TO BE IN THE SNOW.

Baby Joy, a little over a year old. SO HAPPY TO BE IN THE SNOW.

Baby Grace, about 8 months. About two seconds from screaming her desire to be inside and warm.

Baby Grace, about 8 months. About two seconds from screaming her desire to be inside and warm.