Saturday, December 28, 2013


I hope you're all enjoying the holidays. 

Things are very different with my husband home. Rafael is so excited to play and spend time with his father, and he usually pushes me away when I want to join saying, "No Mama, not you. Go away." I don't take it personal, or at least I try not to. I know he is making up for all the many many days his father was away or distracted this past year. Those two have a lot of catching up and bonding to do. 

This was the first Christmas where Rafael was aware of what was going on, so it was a lot of fun to get into all the magic making. Putting out cookies and a letter for Santa, wondering with Raffi what he would get, then clapping and saying 'Hurrah!' when there were gifts under the tree Christmas morning. Santa brought Raffi a big wooden Noah's Ark, and he has been playing with it for hours every day since, putting the animals in and out, and looking for the Mamas of the baby animals, reuniting them. "Where are you Mama Sheep? There is your Mama, little baby sheep. Now you can go in the boat with her."

I do sense that Rafael is going through a difficult period. He is very whiny and resistant to almost everything. He hates going on morning walks, which means that every day begins with a struggle. We try to mix things up, bring toys and tools along, go on new paths, pack a picnic. But he's not having it. He gets specific ideas in his head and when they don't happen he has major melt downs. We are doing that balancing act of trying to avoid freak-outs, but also trying to avoid raising a tyrant. It's tough. 

Still, at the end of the day, with our feet up on the coffe table and our nerves slowly easing, we look at each other and say, "Now that he's sleeping, I miss him." "He's so incredibly cute." "Remember when he said this and and did that?" 

Thanks for all of your input regarding my inner dialogue about parenting and the future. I really appreciate it.


Friday, December 20, 2013


Although there is no snow, everything is gilded with ice. The frozen ground crunches under foot and the tree tops are frosted white.

I took my camera on a walk along my favorite new forest path, which leads to a grassy open area, all the shades of camel, sand, chestnut, and pale wheat. It is so beautiful there right now. Tranquil, completely silent except for the chirping of birds who swoop from branch to blackberry cane. The mist is so heavy that it is hard to tell where the trees end and the sky begins. I couldn't stop taking photographs.

I wanted to tell you about the combination of things which have made daily living in it's current state a bit difficult: since winter is here, and it is bitterly cold, Rafael doesn't want to stay in the forest very long in the mornings. He also has stopped taking naps at midday. And he also has found it hard lately to play on his own, which he used to do for long periods of time. This means that we have a ton of time indoors where he is dissatisfied. His friends are all in daycare or kindergarten, and he is starting to get antsy and bored with me as a play mate. I am really beginning to realize how unnatural it is for a child and a mother to be alone for such long periods of time. I don't think it is good for him, or for me. He needs the company of other children. And I need to talk about something other than firemen, and need to do something other than desperately try to come up with something to keep my son busy and happy. 

My husband's work year has come to a close and it has been refreshing to have more time for myself while he goes on little day trips to the zoo or museums with Rafael. While they strengthen their bond, I am quieting down and getting to know myself as a whole person, aside from my role as a mother. These quiet hours to myself, either at home or in the woods, give me the possibility to reflect on what I want. What is working in my life, and what could use improvement. Which areas need a little fixing, and which areas need a big renovation.

Questions I am asking myself lately: When this new year begins, what do I want to change about our daily rhythm? Should Rafael spend more time with other children in a childcare setting? Would it be better for him, and for myself, to have some space, and to have experiences with other children and people? Am I holding him back by keeping him at home? Or am I pushing him to early if I send him to daycare or kindergarten? If Rafael starts going to kindergarten or daycare a few mornings a week, how am I going to use my time alone? Should I do something creative? Something that earns money? Something creative that earns money would be great...but is that realistic? Should I instead use the time alone to get housework done so I can focus on Raffi when he's home? Or....should he stay home longer, as originally planned, and I just need to structure our at-home time better, and begin teaching him things at home myself? Will staying home make me bitter? Or do I just need a different approach?

I still have not found the answers to these questions. I am hoping things will evolve and form naturally, that answers will present themselves, that things will flow easily and I will make changes and decisions lovingly and with a happy heart. 

What I know for sure is that I must make some changes.

I feel pressure, in the time I have to myself, to be especially productive; to do or make something creative. I ask myself: is there really room, time, space, for me to just be for a little bit? Can I allow myself that? Today I finally let myself sit in bed for a while, looking out the window at bare branches and sky, even dozing off. I am so used to functioning day in and day out, and using every spare minute productively. After all, friends and family ask: "So, what did you do with your free time?" I always feel like I should have these great things to report. 

Just being along, doing nothing for a little while, felt like the biggest luxury imaginable. 


Saturday, December 14, 2013

To be so strong

“Promise Yourself

To be so strong that nothing
can disturb your peace of mind.
To talk health, happiness, and prosperity
to every person you meet.

To make all your friends feel
that there is something in them
To look at the sunny side of everything
and make your optimism come true.

To think only the best, to work only for the best,
and to expect only the best.
To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others
as you are about your own.

To forget the mistakes of the past
and press on to the greater achievements of the future.
To wear a cheerful countenance at all times
and give every living creature you meet a smile.

To give so much time to the improvement of yourself
that you have no time to criticize others.
To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear,
and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.

To think well of yourself and to proclaim this fact to the world,
not in loud words but great deeds.
To live in faith that the whole world is on your side
so long as you are true to the best that is in you.” 

-Christian D. Larson Your Forces and How to Use Them

Maybe these words will enfold you in their warmth. When I read them I was filled with inspiration, and the strong desire to be true to the best that is in me.

The photos were taken at Annahof, an organic farm we like to visit whenever we get a chance. 


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

I would take you by the hand, dear reader....

What an unexpected, beautiful surprise, now at the end of the year, to discover a completely new path in the woods. As you know, I walk our dogs every day. And I admit, our usual dirt roads have begun to lose some of their magic for me, considering I see those same trees and logs and bushes every day, and now is the season where things look the same for a long, long time. Bare, brown, wet. Beautiful, yes, but I wasn't feeling as excited to take our morning walks anymore. 

There is a wooded hillside that we look at from our kitchen window, and when we moved here, we saw a large herd of wild boar digging their snouts through the snow, looking for food in deep winter. Although this was a beautiful sight, looking out from the within our warm, secure home, it made me a bit afraid of that part of the forest. Then some other dog owners told me there were also a lot of deer in those parts. This all made me hesitant to enter the woods on that side, and so years have gone by with a whole area of wilderness that I had never explored right in front of us. 

I had a morning off the other day and was feeling a mixture of bored of my regular walks, and brave enough to try something new. I thought, Today is the day, I'm going to finally have a look at those woods...I need inspiring to take photographs of!

I headed into unknown territory, going up the steep path that was ankle deep with fallen leaves. At first I wasn't very impressed; it was basically the same as the other way I go every day. But then I noticed that there was sky shining from behind the trees up at the top of the hill, and I got curious about what was on the other side. I went quicker, motivated by curiosity, noticing how happy the dogs were to have a fresh path to sniff. 

Finally I reached the top and the thin path I had been on joined a wide dirt road. The sky was big and there were birds fluttering and chirping in that wide open space. A valley, tall grasses bleached by the cold, dry brown thistles and gigantic piles of logs. Silvery birch, bare and blue against the tan, camel hillside. My heart was beating fast as I took pictures. I was dumfounded that this beauty was right behind my home. 

If I could, I would take you there. I would take you by the hand, dear reader, and lead you up the papery path, up up up, til the trees spread and the sky stretches and you feel small under a big sky. You feel far away from the cars and houses. Time stops. There is only sky, birds, trees, tall grass, and the road under your feet.

At the first chance I took Rafael and Ramon to see it. 

I want you to know how happy I am to have this new place to photograph, to share with you. The next four seasons will be so much sweeter because of this.


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Warm Ovens and Cold Mornings

I've been keeping the kitchen warm with baking. The last pumpkin pie has been finished off and now we're on to more Christmasy things like gingerbread cutouts, buttery lemon rounds, almond anise cookies, and a few dozen meringues, full of dark chocolate chunks. 

We've been having frosty, ice cold mornings. I took a backpack with me on a recent walk through the woods and gathered larch cones and pine branches to decorate our home for the holidays. Paired with simple white candles they make the most humble, beautiful arrangements. 

Now, when the branches are bare, I spot so many woodpecker holes and squirrel nests . From Rafael's room we can also look out the window and watch ravens in the tree outside, cawing, wiping their beaks on the branches, and sometimes looking back at us. So many of the other creatures are burrowed away now, hiding from the cold, and it is kind of nature to give us the open sky and naked trees in winter, that we may observe the birds so closely, who are mostly hidden by green foliage in the warmer seasons. 

The days, though short in terms of light, feel very long. Rafael is going through a difficult phase, seeming dissatisfied and irritated much of the time. Maybe we are alone too much. Maybe he should be with other children more often. I wonder if he is bored. Our walks in the woods are so much shorter now that it is cold, and then we are left with a lot of time at home, and although we have Play-Doh, crayons, Playmobil and puzzles, Raffi appears to have lost some interest in playing with these things. I ask him if he'd like to bake cookies or read a book, and he just seems annoyed with everything I suggest. I ask myself: Is this a phase? Or do I need to make a change?

On clear, freezing cold nights, walking the dogs down the quiet neighborhood streets, the stars pierce the darkness, and I get that strange feeling in my stomach that I always get when I look up at the night sky. There is something about seeing that open space, feeling so small under it's gigantic darkness, which both frightens and fascinates me. Seeing the stars, knowing they aren't just tiny lights but actual physical things that I could touch and walk on if I was close enough...

I also get that strange feeling in my stomach when I see airplanes soaring through the sky. I always wonder: where is it headed? Who is inside? What are the stories and dreams and hopes and disappointments and fates of all those passengers? And then my stomach starts feeling funny, and I think: to those people in the plane, looking down, I am just an insignificant dot. 


Friday, November 29, 2013

I'm Ready For a New Year

As the cold and mist settle in and the last leaves flutter down from bare branches, I am ready to welcome winter, and say farewell to 2013. 

Since moving to a country with the four seasons, I have learned what the cold season means for my soul. It's a quiet, contemplative time. A time to gather your nerves, hunker down, light candles, and be strong. The survivor inside of me is called forth. I cook hearty meals and am challenged with extra chores like washing salt and mud from doggy paws after walks and dressing my wriggly toddler in many layers before each outing. 

Long icy winters build character. They test your patience and optimism. I appreciate people who appreciate winter. When someone says, "I love winter," they are immediately a bit more charming to me. 

As much as winter wears on me by the time February rolls around, I really love the beginning. The first snow; that clean, pure smell the air has on a freezing winter evening. The glow of warm homes, dots of lights in the velvety dark blue of night. The lemony morning sky. Gathering evergreen and pine cones in the woods. Baking gingerbread and making lemon curd. Piling the quilts on the bed and waking up to a snow covered world.

I have been trapped at home all week with a sick boy. I think we have passed the worst. We had some pretty horrible days and nights. And as you can imagine, I am longing for the woods, for fresh air, for moving my legs, watching my boy as he scrambles up hillsides and climbs wood piles. I miss taking photographs and observing the daily minute changes in our forest. 

Surely Rafael misses it all too.


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Late Fall

As I write this, Rafael is cuddled up on the couch with a fever watching Handy Manny, and the first snow is falling outside, leaving everything covered in white. We rolled out sticky brown dough this morning and baked up foxes, stars, and hedgehogs, and now our home has the deep spicy scent of gingerbread. The dogs are snoring. We are still in our pajamas. 

These photos were taken a few days ago before Rafael fell sick, at the local nature park. There are deer and wild pigs, and now that the cold weather had settled in, there are huge piles of sugar beets that you can feed to them. Raffi and his cousins loved climbing over the sugar beets, picking out the biggest ones, and giving them to the deer and pigs. Rafael said he was 'working,' which meant taking beets from one pile and bringing them to another. I was so glad that the large deer buck came to us, eating the roots from our hands, letting me take some photos of him with his herd.

Thank you all for the words that came from your hearts. I felt the warmth and comfort in them. This year has been incredibly difficult and at times very dark for me, from beginning to end. There are some things I haven't shared here because they are too personal and painful. But you have always been here, a source of light and support. I am very grateful.

Now, when Raffi is sick, it is time for patience, cuddling, reading books, and waiting. I can hardly wait to get out into the snowy woods!



Related Posts with Thumbnails