Sunday, February 28, 2016


Every time it snows this winter, which has been a bit too rarely, if you ask us, Elliott asks me if it is snowball snow.  And then without waiting for an answer he throws on his boots and heads out to give it a try.  Typically, a disappointed pajamaed boy returns to the kitchen with a frown and a report that the snow is not sticky enough to work into a ball.  Or a snow person.

When skiing this past weekend, the few inches of fresh snow had fallen in the mountains the night before we got there.  The skate skiers amongst us were disappointed, as these inches had covered the coveted corduroy of a freshly groomed trail.  But Elliott, throwing himself into the snow in the parking lot as soon as the minivan doors slid open grinned and reported, with a fluffy ball to my car window, that this was good snowball snow.

And therefore, Elliot wass accompanied by a cast of snowballs for the entire ski that day.

It seemed he was most inspired to collect a new passenger whenever the trail began to head uphill.  And he would stop, flop, and throw himself into the fluff beside the trail and begin packing.

Rest taken, rather, snowball made, and he was off again.

Sometimes your snowball needs a little song.

Or a friendly lick.  Which is totally okay when snowball comes from the freshly fallen snow in the White Mountain National Forest, right?

And sometimes, when the trail starts to ascend upwards, and really two poles are necessary to get up that hill...

...snowball gets a little toss into the woods.

It's okay.  You will make another one.  Right after this snack.  And that hill.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

cheese sandwiches

Nicholas and Elliott have five full years between them, almost to the day.  That's a very big difference, in body, mind, focus, and endeavors.  One is growing into that extended body, extended mind, pushing himself toward growing mastery, seeing just what he can do with his body and mind and with what lays before him.  While the other is still soft and playful and enjoying the nesting stage, and, well, making snowballs in the snow while his brother whizzes past.

Julia is almost exactly two and a half years between each of them.  The cheese in their sandwich, we sometimes say.  And cheese is actually quite a good description.  She can be the glue that binds , the one that can go either way, joining in the activities and interests that either her younger or older sibling might be offering toward the family buffet of activities.  Or offering up something of her own inclination that either or both brothers think sounds like an excellent way to pass some time together.

So when this cheese is absent, sometimes it can feel as though you have just two pieces of bread, you know?  Two who need to figure out how to enjoy each other.  The amazing thing is just how often this happens.  When Cheese, and I am enjoying referring to Julia as Cheese right now, so bear with me, was at several weeks of basketball practices for a few hours on each half day of school, it was a bit bumpy at first.  But not for long.

Delicious warm sandwiches have gone a long way toward half day joy. And by sandwiches, I do mean sandwiches.  Not sandwiches.  If I am really on the ball, there's freshly baked bread to make them with.  There is a bit of an unexpected sandwich theme going here, so let's just go with it.  And, in true 14 year old style, a bag of decadently unhealthy potato chips to go beside these sandwiches can make me very popular.

Also?  Freshly fallen snow.  That helps bring two bookends together, pulling them towards center, towards each other.  And a dog who acts like a puppy in the fluff.

It helps if the older brother is patient, and remembers that he, too, often needed to have an unnecessary snowball in his hand at all times.  Because snow that is sticky is awesome.

And irresistible to elderly puppies.

There can be joy in coming together and finding that middle place with one another.

But patience is limited.  And does not necessarily extend to serving as one's personal tow rope.

It all makes a trip to your older brother's orthodontist appointment kind of okay.

And the sitting in the waiting room reminds me, again, of the difference, and sameness, that five years makes.  In five more years these moments of togetherness will be much harder to find.  For now, big and still little sit next to each other.  Teeth that are still falling out beside teeth that are being moved into their adult positioning.  What each is reading, the clothing, the changes to body shape and skin.  Five years between them.  And yet, so much between them, actually.  

Sunday, February 21, 2016

how to cross a grassy patch

Sometimes, when conditions aren't great, and you are doing more portaging with your skis than gliding, you have to find other ways to entertain yourself during the spring-like conditions. In February.

Ah, man!

Hey!  Julia!  Wait for me!  Did you see that?

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

snow day wax

We finally got a bit of snow, and with it, a very well timed snow day home from school.  Between visits to the backyard for sledding and snowballs and general rolling about in the fluffy fresh drifts, we rendered wax.  Of course.

I had a large plastic tub full of wax that I had been intentionally ignoring in favor of other things like parenting, and basketball games, and ski races.  But I decided, without really asking anyone, that the snow day was going to be wax day.  Julia was in.

This was some ugly wax we had going on, full of dead bees and debris and pollen and honey and general grime.  But I had been reassured that once processed, it could make some lovely wax.  Just watch.

I purchased a $5 electric fry pan at the thrift store, much like the one my grandmother used to have at camp, waxed a bit nostalgic about that memory for a few minutes, and then surrendered it to a late in life repurposing.  

I highly recommend an old tablecloth for such an activity.  My poor kitchen is still recovering from the honey extraction and flying bits of wax propelled across the room by shish kabob skewers from a few days before.  It's going to, as you will see, get messy again.  And laying out said tablecloth beats needing to answer one of your children's teenaged friend's questions such as hey, what's this sticky brown gross stuff on your table with something like um, pupal lining.  Or from having to call to them hey, just a second, I have to wipe some bee detritus off your pants.  Which can be awkward.  Just sayin.

Julia got all the wax cappings Jonathan had created when he removed them while extracting the honey.

We added enough water to get it all floating and melting.  And I added pieces of the brood comb from the bin.

Before long we had something pretty gnarly looking going on in that fry pan.  I Googled.  And it had a name that only adds to its general yuckiness. We shall refer to it as debris, or detritus, a word I really enjoy.  It is comprised of pupal lining, excrement, and other residual debris.  It has its purposes, I am told, such as fire starter, swarm trap bait, and smoker fuel.  Which is good, because I now have a whole crop of it.  

We scooped some off while making up a new rendering wax song.  As we do.  It is hard to rhyme with residual detritus, by the way.

We then poured the wax through a filter.

Which resulted in a bowl of partially rendered wax and water.

Back into grandmother's rinsed out fry pan went this water and wax.  Where we let it cool and harden.  During this hardening process, the wax separates from the water and floats above it.  

I gave the wax a rinse, gave the water in the pan a toss, and started again.

We made three more batches of brood comb stew.  And lots more detritus (which is a slant rhyme with retrovirus.  kind of).

And watched the designs that formed in the wax as it hardened.

Once all of that wax was hardened and rinsed, it was back into the fry pan.  For one final melting.

We strained it through cheesecloth and a sieve.

Now relatively detritus free, we poured that rendered wax into a shallow edged cookie sheet.  And all sat around and watched the wax designs like we were watching TV.  We can be weird.

It did not exactly pop out of the cookie sheet like one recipe said it would, so we popped the sheet in the freezer for a bit.  That did the trick.  And we now have one sheet of homemade rendered beeswax.  Which is pretty cool for those of us who watched the whole process unfold, beginning four years ago when that wax first began its lifecycle.

Now we are making plans for what comes next. Any ideas?