Archives for August 2011

Transformation

I will be one of the first to say that Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene was overhyped. We were on vacation in rural Maine, almost completely cut off from technology other than sketchy cell phone service, and even we knew that a hurricane was brewing.   The random Twitter or Facebook update informed us that we better get home, get ready, and prepare for the worst.  Being a lifelong New England girl, I have experienced my share of hurricanes.  They absolutely do not intimidate me.  Having seen wildfires burn in the distance from my home in San Diego, with soot and ash literally raining on my classroom, I scoff at an extreme weather warning up here.  New Englanders know how to prepare, we know what to expect, and we can handle almost anything.  Plus, we get a heck of a lot of warning.  So the little itty bitty rainstorm that showed up on Sunday night, with absolutely no wind, caused me nothing but intrigue, not fear.  We didn’t even lose power.

I get the feeling Mother Nature doesn’t appreciate my general disregard for her prowess.  Yes, that’s a Jeep.  Under a tree, roots and all, in a culvert of a parking lot.  Water is not supposed to be in that equation.  Actually, I don’t think the tree is, either.

As every media outlet has pronounced, Vermont got the brunt of the drama from Irene.  We had plenty of rain this summer, and got plenty more in an extremely short period of time.  Add a lot of dirt roads to the mix and a landscape that encourages waterfalls, valleys, creeks, and gorges, and you get the perfect recipe for unbelievable flooding.  And, being New Englanders, we didn’t really think it was going to happen until it was.  But even then, we knew we could handle it.

Take me and JDubbs, for example.  We turned on the Weather Channel Sunday and we heard hurricane, flash floods, and winds up to 85 mph.  We shrugged, turned it off, and went on our merry way.  We packed our bags with enough gear for us and the kids for one night away, certain we’d be back the next morning.  The only reason we went to my in-laws’ in the first place (other than the yummy food and babysitters) is that there was a reasonable chance a tree could fall on our house.  We live in the woods.  It happens.

The storm started just as the kids went down for their nap, so what did we zany New Englanders do?  Jumped in the car and headed toward the river.  Suddenly storm chasers didn’t seem so outrageous to me; it was exhilarating!  We took videos of the waterfall at the Quechee covered bridge that we know so well, marveling at the vibration under our feet, the literal roar of the river charging beneath us.  Only once a massive tree hurtled over the falls, only to shoot back up in a collision with the rocks below, did we realize maybe this wasn’t the smartest thing we’ve ever done.  Not interested in orphaning my children today, thank you very much, especially over something so stupid.  Back in the car, back home.

Put the kids to bed, back in the car, back to the river.  Harder to get there now because the river had taken on a mind of its own and decided that these measly banks and roads that encompass it were really cramping its style.  The laws of physics were suspended.  Where the river usually rushed thirty feet below the bridge, now it was actually passing through it and over it.  Through a bridge that was unbeliveably high, where teenagers idiotically jump to enjoy the freefall.  A bridge that used to look like this, from the river’s point of view before the waterfall:

over the falls, that usually looked like that:

Yesterday, the bridge looked like this:

The river devoured the road.  That’s all there is to it.  You can look down where concrete used to be and now see running water.  The back of that real estate office is gone, their paperwork and office supplies littering Main Street.  Simon Pearce, the restaurant and glassworks shop that you know I love so much from this post, was underwater. That workshop is a mangled heap of metal because the river knocked down the wall and made that space its very own playground.  And that glassblower, I’m sure, is now out of a job.  At least, until Simon Pearce rebuilds, which we all very much hope it will.

After the storm, JDubbs and I returned to our street only to be met with a less-than-friendly neighbor.  Meet Mr. Giant Sinkhole, Esquire, and admire my cell phone photography skills.

He ran the width of the street from end to end.  And climbing through him wasn’t a piece of cake, either.  He was deceptively deep and unstable.  Although I’d take that over our driveway any day.

Those are the pipes that the quaint little brook that flows through our property uses to make its way downstream and follow its destiny to join the big river, which will later merge with that same aforementioned waterfall.  Except usually, you can’t see the pipes.  Seeing them is bad.  Makes it hard for the mini-van to navigate, to be honest.  But I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the town had it fixed that very day.  Why we were high up on the priority list, I’m not sure.  Maybe because it’s a dirt road so it only took a dump truck and a grader ten minutes to accomplish.  Maybe because the road was completely inoperable.  Maybe they went in alphabetical order or pulled a name out of a hat.  I don’t care; I’m just glad to be back home, with electricity and running water.  Not everyone up here can say the same.

On the way home we passed by the Quechee Green, where we admired the propane tank now resting beside my favorite willow tree and the swamp that was once a soccer field.

You are familiar with this park if you’ve been around here long enough.  This is where the Balloon Festival is held, where we took family photos on Father’s Day (same willow tree), where we play in the evenings and run the dog around, where I held my first professional photo shoot.  Needless to say, I am fond of this place; now we have to bring our rainboots.

That night I once again put the kids to bed, jumped in the car, and headed to the river.

The evening was full of poignant contrasts in some of my favorite places to take my kids, as well as to photograph.  My mind had a hard time processing the before and after.

Remember the fabulous red door beneath The Parker House?

Here’s what I found:

Those photos are somewhat misleading in their devastation because the main restaurant and inn are ten feet above this scene.  Luckily for them (and us), the water only got into their storage area (or so I hear).

Surprising myself, Mending Wall by Robert Frost rose unbidden to my thoughts when I came across this new landscape and this now unfamiliar spot.

“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,

That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,

And spills the upper boulders in the sun,

And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.”

Ah, Frost.  No one does New England like Frost.

The sun set upon another photographer, capturing mood and light as best he could, just like me.  At least the colorful sky made the scene less bleak and we marveled together at the transformation before us.

Again, I was inspired to recall a line of poetry, dragged from the recesses of my mind by the somber tone and some strange need to make order out of chaos.  I am not being romantic here; I literally thought these words as I stood there.  Another New Englander, Henry Wadworth Longfellow, from his poem The Rainy Day:

Into each life some rain must fall,

Some days must be dark and dreary.”

I’ll interpret those words at that moment like this.  Life is not going to be easy every day.  There will be rain and there will be clouds, but most of the time, there is glorious sunshine.  I’ll try to remember that on those rainy days, and watch with pride as the people around me band together to begin rebuilding their homes and communities.  Times like these remind me of the good in people and the strength in groups, and how we always seem to come together during difficulties.  We have our home, we have our family, and even our belongings.  We have to work to regain the beauty of our communities and to help support local businesses, but in the spirit of the people I’ve already seen out there, picking up debris and filling in holes, I know this transformation can only lead to growth.  And my kids will be out there playing in their rainboots, having just as much fun as before, making mud pies.

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Aftermath

Would you believe that we’re back in our home?  Tomorrow I will tell you the story, but for now, here is a photo of the aftermath of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene on the covered bridge in Quechee, Vermont.

Now, up to sleep in my own bed.  More than I could have hoped for.

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Come On, Irene!

Hello beautiful bloggy friends!! It’s been too long and I have missed all of you, your comments, our interaction, and of course, your blogs!  I hope you have enjoyed all my favorite crafts, and maybe some of you are new here and didn’t see them the first time around.  I hope maybe I helped one or two of you get through this weekend, especially if you are like me, and dealing with that bitch Hurricane Irene.  She actually wasn’t as terrible as we were expecting up here in Vermont–virtually no winds, actually–but the flooding.  Oh, the flooding!

JDubbs, the kids, and I rolled in to our house at about 6:15 last night, quickly unpacked, did a load of laundry so Jax could have some underwear and Em could have some pjs, then slept–only to wake up this morning and head to my in-laws’ house (on higher elevation) to spend the day and see what trouble Irene would bring.  Apparently our driveway was already in the process of being washed away (not paved, obviously, and a small creek ran underneath the end of our driveway), and a large sinkhole had appeared in our street early this afternoon when JDubbs tried to return home.  The roads to our house are flooded, and I have no idea when we’ll return home.  Hopefully we can at least hike there tomorrow because, stupidly, we didn’t prepare for the worst and do not have nearly enough clothes for an extended stay.  We also have to pick up Baxter, our dog, from the kennel tomorrow, and he will add an extra level of craziness to the mix.  So the moral of the story is, I may lose power tonight, for who knows how long, and although I love and miss you all, I don’t know when my act will be together enough to resume my normal routine.

Thanks for being here, even when I’m not.  I truly appreciate you all, and hope that Irene was at least kind to you.

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We All Need A Time Out

Since my kids have been busy…

…I think we all need a good, long time out.  In Maine.  For a week.  With no Internet.  Just me, my hubby, his family, and our Wild Things.

Luckily for me, there will be a private boat in which I can sail, but maybe not in and out of weeks and over a year.  I just hope if I use my magic trick of staring into their eyes without blinking once, I can tame them into submission for the five-hour car ride.  Or at least yell, “Be Still!” with some effect.

Until then, I will be reposting some of my favorite crafts, every day until I return.

Please enjoy them and I will be back next week, when I get lonely for those of you who love me best of all.  I will be expecting supper, and it better still be hot!

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Instant Fun: Just Add Water

One thing I am going to miss about summer is the laid-back, easy breezy fun that happens so naturally between dinner and bedtime.  During the winter, days seem to drag on endlessly, with the sun setting before JDubbs even gets home and our time spent indoors astronomically outweighing the time spent out.  I pretty much run out of ideas and sometimes out of patience by six o’clock.  Okay, maybe 5:30.  Anyway, in the wintertime I pounce on my husband before he has even taken off his hat and gloves and attempt to dish the kids off on him so I can have a moment to myself.  Unfortunately, he needs a moment or two to himself as well.  That’s why these summer days, when we can just hand them a Popsicle, open the slider, and send them on their merry way, are so delightful.

I can usually supervise from the porch or just sit and pitch Jax a ball while he has batting practice and Em scales our little slide on her own.  JDubbs wanders around outside, accomplishing tasks that are neglected by yours truly, usually those that require any kind of manual labor.  If the natives get restless, we hand them each a watering can and they are appeased once more.  Sometimes, if they are being a bit Daddy-centric, they follow him around like two doting puppies and do whatever it is that he’s doing.

Watcha doin’, Dad?  Can I try?

 I can’t say that I mind.  Those are the times that I usually just grab my camera, sit back, and watch the little ones worship their daddy, with Watch this, Dad!  or Em’s simple, Dada! ringing through the air.  I am momentarily forgotten, and I don’t mind if I do.

On this day, it was hot, and the lure of the hose was just too tempting for my children to resist, especially once Daddy decided it was time to give our dog Baxter a quick bath.  I find this photo hilarious because JDubbs has a love/hate relationship with our dog, and I think the opportunity to shoot him at close range is very therapeutic for him.

Very quickly, they decided that being directly sprayed with the water was way more fun than merely directing its spray.

They drifted back and forth between their usual activities and the hose, but they were always about 75% soaken.  Every time they’d start to dry off, they’d scurry back for more.

Is it crazy that Em has sported a faux hawk but not pigtails yet?  That is on my agenda for my trip to Maine next week, when my hair stylist sister-in-law will be present and we can double team a certain unsuspecting baby girl.  Em loves accessories but not so much sitting still.

Being outside makes them more independent of me, and surprisingly, more dependent on each other.  Not quite playing together, but rather, alongside each other.  Every day a step closer toward becoming friends as well as co-inhabitants.  When they seek out, rather than merely tolerate, each other’s company. 

Don’t let these cozy photos fool you.  Mama was right there yelling, “Don’t push your sister!” and “Wait for her to get up before you slide down!”  It may seem serene, but there is always a touch of sisterly abuse.  By next summer, I’ll just let them throw down and see who comes out victorious.  My money’s on the scrappy little one.  She’s got a touch of crazy in her, that one. 

Hilarious.  Now I’m really contemplating who would come out on top in a battle of brute strength between my kids.  That’s what the winter in Vermont will do to you.  Make you go to desperate measures to entertain yourself, even if that is training your kids for a baby MMA match, summer 2012.  

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Happiness Is…{beach days}

My baby girl is almost 16 months old, and this weekend we took her to the ocean for the first time.

Since living in San Diego, I feel pulled toward the ocean and its rhythms, colors, majesty.  I used to live half a block away from it and spent countless hours just watching its ebb and flow.  It was important to me to take Em there this summer, even just for a day, to introduce her to the salty sea and begin a tradition of summers on Cape Cod.

This day deserves, and will receive, its own post, but for now, just know that there is nothing better than beach babies, especially on the ocean.

There is nothing like it.  I’m smiling even now, just remembering.

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Touch-A-Truck

How about this for fun?  All I need to say is, “Touch-A-Truck.”

I found out about this event thanks to Upper Valley Connections, my lovely sponsor, and I could not imagine a more wonderful way to spend a day if you’re a kid who loves things that go.  And I have one who no doubt fits that category, and one who loves anything her brother does, so it was of course, a wonderful day.

A line of construction vehicles, emergency vehicles, busses, mack trucks, race cars….you get the idea.  Absolute heaven for the kiddos, although it was so damn hot out–yet again–it felt a bit like hell for us adults.

Imagine watching these kids not only get to climb into the cab, but also the trailer, of a big rig mack truck.  To these little ones, it must have felt like the trailer went on forever, and their excited shrieks echoed throughout and beyond it, making all the adults waiting outside smile.

And getting in and out was almost just as fun!  Let’s just say, the ramp was loud, it moved, and they needed to hold on tight to the parents onboard for support.  Bliss.

When we finally, and I mean finally, were able to drag those kids away from the mack truck, the kids split up a bit, with Jax investigating a fire truck and Em going down the big girl slide alone for the first time.

Then there was our ironic summer visit to the snow plow (well, according to JDubbs it was a snow plow.  I think it looks like something torturous out of the movie Saw), which will be visiting us again soon enough it feels like (yuck), and then time for a snack.  What is better than free popcorn and lemonade on a super hot summer’s day?

Look at how red their cheeks are!  I told you it was HOT.

After that Em kind of checked out.  Okay, I’m 15 months old and all trucks really look about the same to me.  But my little boy was certainly in little boy heaven.  There’s just something about a little boy and the CAT logo, isn’t there?  Not to be sexist, but I think it’s coded in their DNA somewhere.

Happy babies, happy mama.  Free fun in the summer sun.  Doesn’t get much better than that!

Oh, and snow plow?  Do us a favor and get lost.

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