Take A Hike!

It must have been obvious that I was not doing well.

So obvious, in fact, that my mother’s dear friend and my stand-in godmother (who also takes on role of great auntie and sometimes even grandmother in her friend’s place) informed me that she was coming to watch the boys on Wednesday afternoon and that I should leave the house.

She didn’t offer to watch the boys. No. She informed me she was going to watch the boys.

Alrighty, then! I’ll leave!

But where to go?

In the Before Times I’d have booked a massage, or perhaps an afternoon sewing lesson at a local fabric store. Maybe a mani-pedi or a visit to the hairdresser.

But in Covid Times (despite being vaccinated), either these activities are unavailable or seem unsafe.

So instead, I checked the weather report and then wrote to a friend.

“I know you’re working and you have responsibilities and everything, but I’m not okay and my godmother is watching the kids tomorrow and do you want to go on a hike with me?”

The response was swift and encouraging: I’ll make it work.

Outdoor Escape

That’s how I found myself in the car headed west on a mid-week afternoon (on St. Patrick’s Day, no less!).

I’d gone on AllTrails and found a lovely-looking hike within reasonable distance of home. I packed my hiking backpack with water, a first-aid kit, my knitting, two hunks of cheese and a Swiss army knife, grabbed my walking sticks and my mother’s old hiking boots and hopped in the car.

We met at Sky Meadows state park, a lovely park with several trail routes. After encountering a brood of chickens zealously guarding the restrooms, we struck north and tackled a 4.4 mile loop with gusto.

The first part of the hike was the hardest, but the view was worth it. As we stood at the top of a very steep hill, winded and sweaty after just 10 minutes of hiking, I thought to myself, “This was a wonderful idea.”

So Grateful

That hike in excellent company (and the delicious meal that followed!) was exactly what the doctor ordered.

So many things can crowd together to fog my mind and put me in a funk. Tedium, boredom, loneliness, feelings of inadequacy… We all have these feelings sometimes.

What we don’t all have, and what I am privileged to enjoy, are resources and opportunities.

Resources like the wonderful people who support me: my husband, my mother’s best friend, my own friends, family. Opportunities like being able to take a hike mid-week.

For these, and for so much more, I am very grateful. I hope to never take the people and the circumstances that surround me for granted.

If You’re Feeling Blue

You’re not alone. Though trust me, I know it feels like it. Depression sinks us further into isolation, which is a scary side-effect of social distancing.

If you or someone you love is suicidal, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (or SAMHSA–I know, catchy, right?) also offers a 24/7 hotline for free treatment referral and information: 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

There are lots of online resources like Better Help and others. I have no personal experience with these and don’t know how they work. Many of them are for-profit companies, so be aware of that.

If you have a family doctor, you can also reach out for tele-health appointments and referrals.

You can also write to a friend, or call. If you’re reading this and you want to talk, just drop me a line or give me a call. My friend rearranged her work day to take a hike with me. That’s what friends do. I’ll do the same for you.

Photo credit: Brittany Baker on AllTrails.com

One Year On

One year, folks. One year since things went nuts.

On March 6th 2020, Chico flew back to the United States from Spain, and on March 14th Trump banned flights from many European countries (including Spain!).

The fact that Chico has been with us through this pandemic has been one of the small miracles I’ve witnessed over the last year.

There have been a few others.

The Power of a Gifted Teacher

We are lucky to live in a privileged school district, where each child was issued a Chromebook. We are also lucky to have reliable internet connection.

And we are extremely lucky that for kindergarten the Bug was assigned to one of the finest teachers I have ever encountered. A woman of great patience, kindness, but firmness, with a sense of humor to boot.

Mrs. B has reached through the computer screen and ignited the Bug’s love of learning. I consider that a miracle. And the miracle of Mrs. B’s gift has had such a big impact on our family.

He’s logged on to school each day with joy and anticipation, and not once has he complained about it. Miracle.

The Dedication of a Team of Strangers

I signed up to volunteer with the local medical reserve corps last spring. I felt powerless in the face of the pandemic and wanted to help.

From the first time I volunteered, I was struck by how well organized, how proactive and how coordinated everything and everyone was. It seemed to me like all the other volunteers were pros who had been doing this forever.

It turns out, a large number of them were first-time volunteers like me. But like me, they were of a mindset that they were there simply to be useful.

It speaks to how well the organizers from the health department do their jobs, because the MRC here runs like a well-oiled machine.

We currently vaccinate between 1,800 and 2,800 people a day at the county vaccination site. That entire operation is staffed solely by volunteers.

That volunteer army is a miracle.

How Children Adapt to the New Normal

The first time I went to the grocery store wearing a face mask, I nearly had a panic attack.

It was so strange, so frightening and so new to me that I didn’t think I’d ever get used to it.

Ha! Shows what I know! Now I feel weird NOT wearing a mask!

When the kids first had to wear masks, it was a struggle. They complained and fussed, and kept pulling them off their faces. By the second time, they were more resigned. By the third time it was as if they’d been wearing them all their lives.

Now, when we leave the house, they put on their masks like champs. It’s the new normal for them, and they shrug and put them on, just like they put on sunglasses on sunny days and hats on cold ones. No biggie.

Not having to argue about mask wearing every time we go out? Definitely a miracle.

A Shoutout to Librarians

The last little miracle I’ve witnessed is the wonderful dedication of people who love their jobs, and do them well.

Specifically, librarians.

They are a rare and wonderful breed, and they enrich our lives in so many small ways. Every Monday, we go to our local library, and there we encounter the ways librarians show the community their love.

They’re small: A carefully chosen display of books and references on this month’s theme (March is national crafting month!). A printed flyer with a list of read-aloud chapter book recommendations for children ages six to nine. The weekly craft, all neatly packed in a brown paper bag, ready for us to take home (this week we’re growing zinnias!).

The joy the boys feel when they pick up their weekly crafts, and then settle in to browse the bookshelves… That joy is a gift from the librarians.

And it is no small miracle.

Thank You, Miracle Workers

Thank you to the teachers, the volunteers and the librarians. Thank you for the miracles you work every day.

Bright Spots

Today on our local NPR station, we were invited to send in our voice messages about our “bright spots” during this pandemic.

That got me thinking. What are my bright spots?

1. Baking with the Boys

Yeah, I’m trying to lose weight (it’s still going alright, though somewhat stalled).

But baking with the boys is so much fun! We’ve made scones, all kinds of cookies (chocolate chip, sables, New Zealand afghan biscuits, etc.), Irish soda bread, pies, tarts, cranberry upside-down cake, muffins…

Today, we made one of my absolute favorites yet: a blueberry “plain cake” by Dorie Greenspan.

OH. MY. LORD. This cake is SO GOOD.

The secret is beating the egg whites until stiff and gently folding them in. The boys were fascinated with this process.

(Though admittedly they’re usually in it to lick the beaters and bowls.)

The cake is now sitting on our counter, and I can hear its siren call…

2. FaceTime with Family & Friends

Another bright spot has been talking on FaceTime, Skype, WhatsApp video, Houseparty, or WHATEVER… with family and friends.

Today, I spoke with my godparents over FaceTime. Seeing their smiling (and HEALTHY!!) faces was a delight (though I was a bit frazzled by the boys–sorry about that!).

I’ve been on Zoom with friends from my master’s program in the UK, girlfriends across the world in NZ and Australia, and family in Europe & the States.

It’s true that as this has stretched on, the novelty has worn off and there have been fewer digital happy hours. But they still happen, and when they do, they’re certainly a bright spot.

3. Reading as a Family

Reading alone and as a family has been one of the biggest bright spots.

We read a lot before the pandemic too, don’t get me wrong. But in the fall of 2019, we started reading chapter books with the Bug.

We got ourselves a copy of The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease, and using that and Goodreads, we’ve built a reading list for the Bug.

Since starting down that path, we have never looked back. The Bug is now an independent reader, and picks his own books at the library each week.

That doesn’t mean he doesn’t like to be read to, though. He loves sharing the joy of reading, and a huge part of our stuck-at-home routine has been reading out loud together.

Not just before bed, but all throughout the day. I’ll read to them while they eat their ridiculously early lunch. I’ll read when they need to wind down. We’ll hunt for all the books we have on a certain theme (“snow,” “pets,” “summer,” etc.).

In fact, both the boys love reading so much that we launched a little YouTube project: Stories with Sammy (the Bear). Mostly I read the stories, but Felix also reads for us. The latest video is actually Sammy reading!

How can this not be a bright spot?!?

What Are Your Bright Spots?

I realize I am so lucky to have these bright spots. So many people have none.

What are your bright spots? What little moments, no matter how tiny, help you get through as this pandemic drags on?

Thinking of them helps. And hopefully looking for them will bring more.

Craftivism & Gentle Protest

I’m currently reading a book by Sarah Corbett of the Craftivist Collective.

The Craftivist Collective, founded by Corbett, is

“an inclusive group of people committed to using thoughtful, beautiful crafted works to help themselves and encourage others be the positive change they wish to see in the world.”

https://craftivist-collective.com/our-story/

In her book How to be a Craftivist: The art of gentle protest, Corbett walks through definitions of craft (noun, verb and metaphor), activism (“the policy or action of using vigorous campaigning to bring about political or social change”), and how to marry the two into craftivism.

In 2003, Betsey Greer coined the word craftivism and defined it as

“…a way of looking at life where voicing opinions through creativity makes your voice stronger, your compassion deeper & your quest for justice more infinite.”

https://craftivism.com/definition/

Gentle Protest

What I love about Corbett’s book is her focus on gentle protest.

By her definition, gentle protest is not passive or weak, but instead it is kind, empathetic, supportive, compassionate and thoughtful.

Much of the book emphasizes the importance of doing your research: not just on the issue that you are tackling, but also truly getting to know the people you are trying to reach out to.

Corbett’s method of protesting is revolutionary because it puts the focus not on anger (though a measure of anger is needed to spark action), but on positive relationship-building.

She writes that instead of being enemies to those we disagree with, we should be “critical friends.”

How I Can Use Craftivism

I’m not going to do a full write-up of the book here. It’s easy enough to get a hold of a copy if you’re interested, or poke around more on the Craftivist Collective website.

But reading this book, a couple of ideas have struck me about how I can use craftivism to try and make small positive changes in our neighborhood.

Starting with some new neighbors we have.

We live in a townhouse, tightly sandwiched between our neighbors. The walls are about as thin as cardboard, and we hear a lot of what goes on next door (as do, I imagine, our neighbors!).

The house immediately next to ours on one side is a rental property, and we have already seen three different tenants come and go. The owner does the bare minimum to keep the house up and has proved himself to be a terrible landlord to previous tenants.

The current renters don’t seem to care too much about the state of the house. They’re a group of truck drivers who share the rent (probably against zoning laws…) and use the place as a crash pad. They didn’t even move furniture in for a couple of weeks!

Needless to say, these are not ideal neighbors for a family with small children. The first encounter we had with them was to ask them firmly but politely not to throw their cigarette butts in the shared public spaces. We’ve had to ask them to quiet down numerous times, including last night when they woke us up at 1am because they were out on their back terrace smoking and laughing.

There is definitely tension between us, and it makes for passive-aggressive behavior like loud music late at night and carelessly slamming doors.

Inspired by Craftivism

Corbett writes how the unexpectedly friendly nature of craftivism is part of its efficacy. Its basis in kindness and empathy disarms people and opens up avenues of positive, constructive interaction.

So I figured, why not try a similar approach with these neighbors?

Instead of allowing tension to build, why not adopt Corbett’s approach to try and difuse it?

After all, there is nothing we can do about these neighbors. We can’t get them evicted, and we don’t want to keep treading on each other’s toes.

I may not incorporate cross-stitching or knitting, but my idea was as simple as baking a batch of cookies and putting it in a tin with a nice hand-written note with the following quote:

“No one is rich enough to do without a neighbor.”

Danish Proverb

Starting Small

I may give this a try. I’ll let you know how it goes.

If it goes well, I have a further idea of how to use craftivism to tackle a problem in our neighborhood: littering.

I’ll keep you posted.

Compulsive Phone Checking

You want to see something freaky?

Go into your settings and look at your screen time report.

Earlier this year I finally turned off my screen time report notification when it kept telling me that my average weekly screen time was creeping up.

I looked at it today for the first time in a while, and it’s at 1 hour and 28 minutes per day on average. That’s down 29% from last week!

The truth is, picking up my smartphone has become almost a compulsive behavior.

Put Into Perspective

Let’s be generous and say I sleep eight hours a night. That gives us 16 waking hours left per day.

If, on average, I’m spending 1.5 hours per day on my phone, that leaves me 14 and 1/2 hours left in my day.

That doesn’t sound too bad.

But when I compare that to the time I spend doing my hobbies, that’s when it starts to seem like a lot.

  • Reading: I definitely don’t read 1.5 hours a day.
  • Knitting: if I knitted that long every day I’d have serious shoulder pains!
  • Writing: nope.
  • Exercising: it’s about 30 minutes every other day.
  • Playing piano: I play for max. ten minutes if I’m lucky.

And remember: 1.5 hours is down 29% from last week! What was I DOING last week??

Checking the Phone Compulsively

I wake up, I check my phone. (The first pickup today was at 7:35am.)

My phone lives in my back pocket or sits next to me on the counter. It follows me upstairs, downstairs, outside… To the bathroom…

(Don’t tell me you don’t do it!)

Any change in pace or activity, any lull and I whip it out.

Mostly I’m on WhatsApp and Instagram. On WhatsApp I’m at least interacting with family and friends.

But on Instagram, it’s just mindless scrolling. I shoot past post after post, pausing occasionally to unmute and watch a video, or to like something.

The worst part is, though, that I’ve clicked on some Instagram ads. And have even bought off of Instagram ads!

Each time it happens I get SO ANNOYED with myself! I’m behaving exactly as Mark Zuckerberg wants me to and making him money with each stupid purchase.

Gah! Damn the man!

Why the Compulsive Checking?

I’ve been wondering about this. What is causing me to constantly reach for my phone?

Why am I mindlessly scrolling? Checking for messages I know have not come? Looking for likes when I haven’t posted anything?

What does it give me? Is it escapism? Am I doing it out of boredom?

Maybe it’s just become a habit, like twirling my hair. It certainly feels that mindless most of the time.

Looking for Contact?

Or is it that I’m desperately looking for contact?

I’d have to delve a little deeper into my screen time data to see if the pandemic has had much of an impact on my phone use.

Since we’re not seeing much of anyone, the phone is my only point of contact with anyone outside my household.

Perhaps this compulsive phone checking is simply an expression of loneliness.

What To Do?

1 .Forgive myself:

It’s okay to be desperate for contact in these socially distanced times. I think we can all relate to that.

2. Set some ground rules for phone use:

Not at the table. Not when I’m spending time with my Chico or the kids. Never in the car. Leave it downstairs at bedtime.

3. Delete Instagram:

I’ve done this before, and it was good. I still used my phone a lot for WhatsApp and other messaging apps, but at least I stopped the mindless scrolling (and stupid purchases. Damn you, Mark Zuckerberg!).

4. Wear my watch:

One of the biggest reasons I pick up my phone is to look at the time. Wearing a watch precludes that necessity.

5. Forgive myself again:

Don’t get mad at myself for failing to do any or all of the above. Even being more aware of my compulsive phone checking is a positive step forward.

The Slough of Despond

The Swamp of Despair. The Pit of Gloom. The Dismal Abyss.

You get the idea, yes?

John Bunyan’s Slough of Despond was a place where his protagonist (a rather obviously named “Christian”) wallowed in the weight of his sins and his sense of guilt.

My personal Slough is more to do with my feelings of failure.

What Brings It On

It’s hard to say what brings on these episodes. I find myself sinking into a gloom, as if the weight of something is sitting on my chest.

The smallest tasks become overwhelming. The slightest things become major irritants.

It’s a debilitatingly contradictory combination of numbness and hyper-sensitivity. It fixes me in a gloomy funk and can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days, or in extreme cases, a few weeks or even months.

Focusing on Failures

This gloomy mood happens to all of us. Many people are feeling it more with the isolation that the pandemic has brought.

When it descends on me I tend to focus on my perceived failures. Which particular failures change from spell to spell.

This time my brain seems fixated on how I have failed to be as well-informed, well-read, thoughtful, spiritual, generous with my time as…

My Mother.

This is not a new way I have devised to punish myself. I’ve compared myself to her often enough in the past.

The comparison has also been made by others, and often times the expectation for me to be like her is very real. I’ve been told of it outright.

It’s unfair. It’s unfair for me to do this to myself. It’s also unfair for others to do it to me.

My mother was an extraordinary woman. There is no doubt about that.

I am also extraordinary in my own way. I’m a woman of remarkable abilities. However…

I am not my mother.

I’m not even all that much like her. I think that’s part of why we got along so well.

While she was alive, I felt no pressure to be like her (at least not from her). We shared the joy of our mutual love, our admiration and our capacity to push each other out of our different comfort zones.

Since her death, however, both I and others seem to have transferred a lot of what she was to me.

A spiritual mentor of hers writing to me as he would have to her. A friend of hers expecting me to share all my mother’s knowledge of literature. A family member expressing dismay that I do not take the same joy from cooking as my mother did.

And then there are my own feelings of failure at not being such an active participant in my community as she was in hers.

The list goes on.

Gloom or Grief?

It’s almost as if I knew better who I was and what my place was before my mother died.

Losing her, I have lost some of my sense of self.

It’s hard to say if what I’m feeling is a “depressive episode” or simply grief. More than three years on, it can still sneak up on me.

I miss her. I also miss who she helped me to be.

A Farewell to 2020

I came across this clip on Instagram:

npr.org

I watched it repeatedly. I cried as I did. I defy you not to shed tears when you watch it.

As Much As I’d Love To Forget…

Forgetting this year would be too easy. And extremely dangerous.

To forget this year would dishonor the memory of the over 343,000 Americans who have lost their lives to Covid-19.

If we forget, we brush aside those who have survived but suffered through this pandemic.

Forgetting would trample on the memory of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and many, many more who were killed by police brutality this year.

We cannot forget the lessons and the reckonings of 2020.

If we do, what will happen the next time a global pandemic strikes? Will we be just as unprepared as we were in March of 2020? The idea of that terrifies me.

We Also Shouldn’t Forget the Joy

Amid the bleakness, the anxiety and the isolation, there have also been moments of joy.

These are usually small and very personal. Collective joy has been noticeably scarce.

Personal moments of joy for us this year have included:

  1. The Bug learning to read and becoming an independent reader.
  2. The Bear learning to ride his bike and taking joy in riding with us.
  3. The Chico’s slow progress in his immigration status (though admittedly this has also sometimes been a source of frustration).
  4. My rediscovering the piano and taking the time to practice.

What Joy has 2020 Brought You?

It doesn’t matter how short the list is. Try and make one. It just might help you feel a little better about this past year.

Happy New Year. I hope 2021 brings us all peace, joy and collective healing.

Making Christmas Last

As he was going to bed on Christmas night, the Bug said, “Mama, now we don’t have anything to look forward to tomorrow!”

That pretty much sums it up.

All the build-up of Advent is pretty much guaranteed to ensure that Christmas day is somewhat anticlimactic.

We Did Our Best

The boys definitely got more gifts this year than they have previously. Since we’re usually traveling on Christmas, presents have traditionally been kept small.

This year, we had more time to think about it. The present ideas kept accumulating, and knowing that we didn’t have to fit any of them in a suitcase helped to remove almost all restraint.

Luckily, our budget ensured that we didn’t go *too* far overboard.

Presents Alone Don’t Cut It

Yeah, the presents are great. There’s magic in coming down the stairs to find presents piled under the tree where only the evening before there were none.

But I think it’s everything around Christmas, the other traditions and activities, that help to make it special and to make the feeling last through the whole season.

Here are some ways you can make Christmas last a little longer than our modern allotment of 24 hours.

1. Food

Christmas cookies. Baked ham. Panettone. Or, if you’re feeling ambitious like I was this year, a bûche de Noël (aka a Christmas log cake).

These make the Christmas season so special. In Spain, it’s tradition to eat fish on Christmas Eve (Chico spoiled me thoroughly with a hake and green sauce dish with littleneck clams!).

Then of course there’s Christmas day with all its epicurean delights.

But the pleasures of Christmas food don’t need to end there. Panettone lasts for days, and Christmas cookies can last past Christmas (though they don’t often).

Baked ham makes for great leftovers, and there are other traditional foods to be eaten all throughout the twelve days. I’m looking forward to another spread Chico is planning for New Year’s Eve!

And don’t forget to make a King cake for January 6th! We plan to make a roscón de reyes. Soon we will have to have the perennial debate: stuff it with whipped cream or not?

2. Music

Yeah, I know you’re probably sick of Christmas music by now. But I’m not talking about cheesy mall Christmas tunes.

There are a lot of beautiful albums inspired by the season, in pretty much every genre. You can go for a cappella, crooners, jazz (a favorite of ours is the Vince Guaraldi Trio’s soundtrack for A Charlie Brown Christmas).

If you’re into classical music, you can enjoy a little Handel. Or even look up traditional Christmas music from other countries and cultures.

In my books, we can listen to Christmas music through Epiphany!

3. Gift-Giving

In the States we generally limit gift-giving to Christmas Day. Mostly, it’s because we don’t have the vacation days to celebrate for the entire Christmas season.

But one way to keep the Christmas cheer going for a little longer is to extend the gift-giving over several days. Or you can celebrate Epiphany on January 6th, which is when many cultures exchange their Christmas gifts.

Today is Boxing Day (the feast of Saint Stephen), which was traditionally when landowners would give gifts to their tenants. It was a day for the wealthy to share with those less fortunate.

Today, in the spirit of giving, we took some old shoes, toys and puzzles we have outgrown to donate to a local shelter.

It’s important to do as the song says and “pause in life’s pleasures to count its many tears,” and remember those who aren’t able to enjoy Christmas like we can.

4. Playing Games

Games are a big part of Christmas celebrations around the world. Yesterday we enjoyed a couple rousing rounds of Funny Bunny–always a kid pleaser.

The boys got several new games for Christmas, and throughout the season we’ll take time to play them as a family.

Charades or Celebrity are great games for get-togethers, and Chico and I have had success playing them over House Party calls.

If your household isn’t big into games, maybe the festive season is the right time to try a few. So long as you can avoid arguments. Always a danger when it comes to games…

5. Lights & Decorations

Darn it, I’m keeping these decorations up until Epiphany (or until the very last minute for when our HOA is offering tree pick-up).

Having the extra lights in this darkest time of the year is really cheering. The decorations make the house feel cozy and inviting.

Since we’re spending so much time at home, I say the cozier the better.

The Magic of Christmas

It doesn’t have to end too quickly. I’m going to continue to advocate for celebrating right until the very last day.

After the dumpster fire of a year this has been, I think we could all use some extended partying.

Christmas Cookie Madness

It’s been a crappy year. For that reason alone, we need LOTS of Christmas cookies.

Also because we’re at home, we’re bored, and we might as well bake.

Therefore, I admit it.

I have gone overboard.

I have made cookies in years past, it is true. But not quite this many cookies. And perhaps not with this intensity and sense of purpose.

It’s hard to say exactly when it started. Honestly, the days are kind of running together at this point.

But I think it was Friday night that I mixed up the first batches of cookie dough, ready to bake on Saturday.

First up were some wonderful gingerbread cookies. I haven’t made these every year, but the Bug asked specifically for gingerbread cookies this year.

Next up, I mixed up the dough for the ever-popular and much-beloved peanut butter chocolate kiss cookies (sometimes called peanut butter blossoms).

Saturday and Sunday we baked and decorated, and by the end of the weekend we had the previously mentioned cookies as well as my favorite sour cream ginger cookies, and Russian tea cakes.

The last cookies to make are the chocolate crinkle cookies, which are always popular.

Why so many cookies?

Is it just me, or does it feel like this Christmas has to be the most Christmassy of Christmasses in this history of Christmas?

As if, in an effort to make up for such an awesomely and epically crappy year, we need to make Christmas even more over the top to compensate?

I was even thinking of making a Bûche de Noël, for goodness’ sake!

Whatever the reason, I feel myself driven by some unknown force to make this Christmas a very special one for the boys.

This is the first Christmas we are spending at home just the four of us. Up until now we have always traveled for Christmas.

Perhaps I’m worried they’ll find it disappointing after previous years of boisterous family gatherings.

Relieved and Disappointed

Honestly, though, I am so relieved not to be traveling for Christmas this year.

Though we were supposed to have seen our family members throughout the year: in summertime, for Thanksgiving…

So now, even though I wanted to stay home for Christmas, I’m still feeling bummed about not seeing our families.

Less Christmas Stress

But as Chico and I were saying the other night: we feel far less stressed about the holidays this year.

It’s nice not to worry about packing so little so that we’ll have room to bring gifts back. I’m not worried about overweight luggage, travel delays and winter storms.

(I’m also remembering how last year the Bear spent the entire transatlantic flight being sick to his stomach. Man, I’m glad we won’t have to deal with that!)

Bittersweet

In 2019, I wanted to stay home for Christmas 2020. In 2019, I had crossed the Atlantic four times, flown domestically four times, and was ready to just stay put for once.

Now in 2020, I’ve been forced to stay put. And the travel itch is growing.

Hopefully, in 2021, we’ll be able to see our loved ones near and far. And maybe we’ll travel for Christmas again.

Maybe.

Snow Days!

I don’t know exactly how this works.

Our county schools all reverted to 100% distance learning as of Tuesday because of rising coronavirus infection rates.

On Wednesday, we had a snow day. Today, we had ANOTHER SNOW DAY.

I don’t really see the logic of declaring snow days when everyone’s connecting virtually anyway, but whatever.

One Happy Dude

I know one person was DELIGHTED to have two days off from school.

Yup. He’s in kindergarten, he’s nearly six, and he’s our Winter Baby.

The Bug, our very own Canadian.

In His Element

I practically had to wrestle his snow gear on to him before letting him out of the house. He was dying to get out in the white fluffy stuff.

The boy who normally doesn’t want to get out of his pajamas on the weekend was dressed shortly after breakfast and ready to be out of doors in the falling snow.

It was delightful. We took an ambling walk and admired the flakes that landed on our gloves, caught them on our tongues, and marvelled at the accumulation happening right before our eyes.

I was taking photos, and in each one the Bug has an enormous grin on his face.

He’s making snow angels, making footprints, gathering up snow for a tiny snowball…

The Bear, on the other hand, looks less than amused in most of the pictures.

Ah, the difference between my Summer Baby and my Winter Baby.

Born To Cold

The Bug was born in early January in Montreal, Canada.

The day before he came it had been mild, only -17 degrees Celsius (hovering just above zero in Fahrenheit).

That night, though, the temperature plummeted to -34C (-29F) and every pregnant woman in Montreal near her due date went into labor.

The only reason I scored a private hospital room was because the Bug came in a damn hurry. Five hours from the first contraction to delivery.

The February after he was born was the coldest February in recorded Quebec history (a fact my mother never failed to point out to me when she was visiting that month).

We toted him around in a carrier with a special insert in our winter coats to keep him warm. We took him out in a stroller so bundled up that only his little face was showing (he needed his vitamin D!).

And since then, he has always loved the cold.

Two in a Row

So you can imagine his delight when they announced another snow day yesterday afternoon.

We’ve spent most of the past two days outside in the snow. Snow forts, snow castles, ice piles, butt sledding, ice skating on our frozen driveway… We did it all.

And though it was exhausting, it was magical.

It’d be nice to get a bit more snow for Christmas, but being in Virginia, we won’t hold our breath.

At least we’ve had this taste of winter wonderland. And we can confidently say we took full advantage of every minute.