Thursday, November 4, 2010

Today's grandmother letter

Dear Vecmamma,

I hope you are doing well! Pak pak pak -- it is raining today! I can't go on a walk outside with my little girl -- we'll have to put on some music and dance around the house!

I love you!


When we were visiting yesterday, my baby tried to give my Vecmamma some kisses. She doesn't know how to make the kissing sound, but she put her face up to Vecmamma's face, mouth open -- and, thankfully, did not bite her. Hooray for warmed hearts and the sparing use of teeth.

Monday, November 1, 2010


My baby had a busy day.

She learned to catch!

She really played with sand for the first time. And she learned to use a shovel! But she is still learning that it is easier to carry sand when the shovel has its scoop up.

And she got, for the first time, two timeouts in one day (in one hour, actually). What a lot of tears.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Joe's Pumpkin

Joe has some new carving gouges and some practice, so this year's pumpkin is a lot better than that other one.

Robert Smith from The Cure

Lights out for full effect

The way it looks when Joe accidentally jiggles the camera

Now we are hanging out in plainclothes, and soon I will put some candy and a bowl near the door. Happy autumn!

Friday, October 29, 2010

More of this same good stuff

"These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city."

Hebrews 11:13-16

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Full days

My days are full lately. Some days my heart is singing at all the wonder in this house and around it. Some days I want to call Joe on the phone just to say "help!" Many days I want to sing and call "help" both, though not usually at the same time.

I needed someplace to put this, so here it is:

"Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful."

Hebrews 10:19-23

Ahh, Marija's up!

Saturday, October 2, 2010


The camera batteries were out, so I will have to remember: little blonde Marija in a yellow shirt and overalls, standing among all the orange pumpkins at the parking lot, patting her favorites with her hands. Blue skies and a happy baby...

Monday, July 12, 2010

A good weekend

I had thought I might want to rent a movie this weekend, but when I really thought about it, I realized I'd rather read and go on a nice walk with Marija and Joe.

So after we spent Saturday trying to fix up bikes and water heaters and the like (does anyone know why a water heater would mysteriously stop leaking?), we went to church Sunday and I read a couple articles and we ate Joe's strawberry sorbet and then we headed out to Laurel Springs Park near here.

Laurel Springs is perhaps most famous for its playground, which is so neat that even Joe went over to play with a digging machine in the sand area, but we spent most of our time investigating a walking trail that goes all around. Parts went along sunny edges of baseball fields, where grasshoppers flew out near our stepping feet, and other parts went through the shade, where we breathed deep because of the warm piney fragrance.

Marija talked to herself a long time, and clapped cautiously when a nearby ballfield erupted with cheers, but she quieted down about halfway. I found a thicket of blackberries and couldn't leave them uneaten, even though we'd already had desert.

Movies can wait until winter.

Maybe tomorrow I will get to post the pictures I've taken of Marija lately.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy Independence

After a visit to see my parents and Vecmamma and Selin, Joe and I drove back down to see the fireworks in Waldorf.

We got there early, so we parked in the perfect spot, on the side of the road between two scenic little lakes. Joe stayed in the car with the sleeping baby while I walked to see the ducks. Later we sat in the grass and read about how to build your own log cabin on the cheap. The family near us had two cute little children. Someone offered us free popsicles, but we were full.

The fireworks were beautiful -- and Marija slept through the whole thing! Joe was disappointed because he wanted to see how she'd like them, but I enjoyed the peace.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

So cool but so ew ew ew

I was pretty excited when I found out the caterpillars returned to our dill plants this year, but even those cool striped creatures pale in comparison with this three-inch-long garden discovery:

I haven't seen anything like it, but I guessed it was one of the tomato hornworm caterpillars I've heard about, since it was on the tomatoes, it's a caterpillar, and it has a little horn. I checked into it, and it's actually the related tobacco hornworm, apparently.

But it's a parasitized tobacco hornworm. That means those white things on its back are wasp eggs, laid in the back of a host caterpillar that will eventually be killed by emerging parasitic wasps!

I probably should just have let it be, but since the caterpillar was still alive, I plucked it off my tomato and moved it across the yard, trying to disturb as few of the eggs as possible. The caterpillar squirmed, and even though I was wearing gloves, I squealed in an enthralled-but-viscerally-disgusted kind of way.

I wonder what my neighbors think if they overheard my gardening pursuits. Meanwhile, Joe and I have been trying to work the word parasitized into our daily conversations. And I should soon have a little squad of defender-wasps protecting my garden in their own parasitic way.

Nature is weird.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Babies and flower wreaths

Happy Jāņi!

We are not jumping over any bonfires this year, nor eating Jāņi cheese, nor even singing līgo songs with Marija -- she fell asleep on time for once! (Maybe I will sing once she's in bed.)

Did you know it is difficult to get a baby to wear a flower wreath and sit still for a photo?

Sunday, April 18, 2010


Here is an interesting article on crack babies -- who are growing up now. I have thought a lot about what makes a child who he is... and I guess there are no real answers except "a lot of things."

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Marija and I were back at the Lutheran church again tonight, where we are becoming regulars on Wednesdays. But the pastor was a different one this time, an older one with a longer beard. He came up to meet me before church and suggested I bring Marija up for a children's blessing during Communion, and I said I would, and when it was time he called everyone up to pray and invited us again specially, "And bring Mary up for her blessing!" (She is Mary to most English-speakers around here.)

The blessing I'd never heard before, something about four angels standing at her bedposts and watching over her... I suppose the blessing will work even if she does not really have bedposts? And even if she will not necessarily be spending all night in her own bed?

Friday, April 2, 2010

This road

It's Good Friday today, so mothers' group won't be meeting in the basement of the Catholic church, where a handful of mothers and their older children usually pray the Rosary as I meditate quietly and the young ones play.

Last week, though, a mother had printed booklets with the Stations of the Cross and led everyone in meditations on Christ's journey to Cavalry. We weren't sure we would get past the beginning, since there was a sudden restless surge as children fidgeted or moped or fled completely, but we voted to press on. And things settled as we went through the stations: Christ taking up his cross, walking the streets of Jerusalem, taking the nails in his hands and feet -- and then the mother leading saw that her newborn had finished nursing and she needed to change him.

Marija was restless, so I walked with her, and a older baby went to climb the stairs. Meanwhile, the baby being changed cried a bit, but another mother led us further, describing Christ dying on the cross and then, as tradition goes, being taken down and placed in Mary's arms -- but then the mother leading let out a sob and had to stop. She looked embarrassed as she wept a bit and wiped her eyes and her son took over, and we got through Christ's burial in the tomb, the end of these pre-Easter meditations -- and then it was all talk of new pregnancies and diapers and whether our dear sweet babies are sleeping through the night.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Joe took Marija for an hour tonight while I went to Communion service at the Lutheran church in town. He thought it might be good for us to practice being apart. We figured it would be harder on me than on her.

But I came home and he said she had missed me. It was about bedtime, and she couldn't get to sleep. There were spurts of crying, he said, though he had managed to calm her somewhat with her favorite xylophone toy. "Oh, and she stained my shirt with her tears," he said.

My baby! I think next time we will not practice being apart when it is close to bedtime.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Little flowers

Good things are growing here -- in me, though not of my making.

Each season puts things in a better order.

Little flowers can bloom here.

I don't have easy words to share it, but that might be okay...

Saturday, February 27, 2010


When I arrived at my parent's house with the baby yesterday afternoon, I was greeted by a smiling dad who said he was just getting ready for TGIF. Soon, the coffee table was draped in a white table cloth, set with wine glasses stuffed with pretty napkins.

I've never been home for a TGIF before, a tradition that started sometime after I got married. My dad, now retired, spends part of the week researching recipes to test on my family, and sometimes I hear how lovely the tapas were or get to enjoy some really delicious leftovers if I visit on a Saturday.

My dad placed a fancy candlestick on the coffee table and positioned two poinsettias left over from Christmas. The he left for an hour while I spent time with Vecmamma and my baby. He came back with a bunch of daffodils he set in a vase.

Then he got my mother from the bus stop, and there were hellos and kisses and time to change into comfy clothes. Then my dad went into the kitchen, and though I stepped in to get some banana to feed the baby, I didn't stay long because it was clear he was concentrating. He was still there as my mother and I sat around the coffee table later, by candlelight -- he was preparing our mulled wine.

The tapas looked delicious, but I wondered if they would be enough -- cheese in special sauce, marinaded olives, tomatoes with mozzarella and pears. But this was just the first course, my parents explained. We shared, and then my dad disappeared into the kitchen to bring paninis with soft cheese and mushrooms. There was one left over if I wanted it, but one with hot potato salad was enough before dessert. I left to get the baby for bed and then came back to more extra-sweet wine and a fluffy custard torte.

Vecmamma was on the couch near us, eating too and feeding the dog as always. She even gave Zemmy some of her coffee in a bowl, but no one called for her to stop, as we sometimes do when we are willing to raise our voices. This time we rolled our eyes and laughed a bit and called the dog closer, and she came wagging and sniffing the baby's pajamas, and the baby smiled and played with a couch cushion, and everyone was smiling.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Grocery shopping before a blizzard

Thanks to the woman who let me cut ahead just a little in the 40-minute-long line at the grocery store after my baby started to scream from weariness.

Thanks also to her and the cashier and other folks nearby for making small talk while efficiently handling groceries. They helped distract us both and reminded me that the world wasn't ending. I thought I was really calm despite her crying, but after a number of minutes of it, I think I was starting to lose it a bit, and I guess it showed on my face.

I was so happy to get to the front of the line, I took just a second after loading my groceries to hand another woman a coupon for the sour cream she had. She saved $1.10, and I saved just a little of my sanity. I was so happy to get out of the store, I didn't even check the receipt to make sure I got my free tortillas.

Thanks to my poor little baby, who found the line at the grocery store more distressing than the shot she got at the pediatrician today. Now she is napping, and it is doing us both good.

(I was going to take a picture, but the camera woke her, so here is one from last month instead.)

Monday, January 25, 2010


You all know how I'm afraid of tornadoes? Woke up last night to rain and wind and my first thought was, "IS IT A TORNADO?" Lying awake, heart pounding, I concluded that no, no tornado -- just lots of rain and, oh, also wind strong enough to rip the neighbor's piece of flapping siding off his house and toss it into our backyard.

When I finally slept I dreamt of real tornadoes.

And now do I deliver this siding to neighbor?

The lack of this piece of siding could lead to water going into both our attics, so it will have to be repaired soon, anyway.

Also, maybe I should read more blogs by cool New Englanders or West Cost people or Canadians, because I had the urge to start this entry out with "y'all." And as much as some people claim I say y'all, I still maintain that I just say "you all" very quickly.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

This is a draft I suppose

One of my favorite things about being grown up is that I get a lot of mail now, though it is only sometimes the right kind of mail. I used to get the mail from the mailbox when I was younger, and as I brought down the hill and into the front door, my grandmother would ask me if there were any love letters. There mostly weren't, though, just bills for my parents and advertisements.

My grandmother used to work in the post office, back before World War II, back in Latvia, almost a story-land. I have never worked at the post office, and anyway, it is different now. I hear they have computers to help sort the mail, sending thousands of letters in all different directions.

But I don't think the computers can read my scribbly writing. I imagine people poring over my letters, somewhere in central processing -- I imagine them cursing my scribbles, being thankful that I am at least legible with the zip code, sending my letters off somewhere near Cloverly where they get sorted again and sent out on the truck, imagining that they know my handwriting soon, imagine that maybe they are familiar with it by now, awaiting them even, sorting them with familiarity now that there have been so many -- a trail from all my other places back to my grandmother, letters leading letters, letters leading to her.

The other day I called and my mother thanked me for something I had sent her, and also said, "And Vecmamma reads your letter every five minutes." When I am visiting her I sometimes clear away the old ones to make room for new ones. And when I am far from her I make new ones to send to her.