Off to Peru

July 5, 2019

Wednesday afternoon I drove DH and Lucy down to Connecticut. They are headed to Peru for a ten-day father/daughter trip at the start of DH’s summer of guiding. The only flight I could wangle with frequent flyer miles was early morning of the 4th of July, with Lucy returning on the 15th at nearly midnight, so I had booked them out of Hartford, only twenty minutes from Amanda and Jon’s house.

The trip down was punctuated by the discovery that our car’s air conditioning was broken. (This is not a feature that is tested much at home.) So we drove the highways with all the windows open, shouting over the roar of the wind. It reminded Lucy and me of our trips to family reunions when she and Jon and their cousin Jessie were little, when we couldn’t afford to fix the air conditioning and thus similarly drove, sweating and shouting, with me as the driver making up songs in an effort to keep the children entertained.

Sadly, Amanda and Ami were away, but Jon was a fine host. We had pizza and gelato and watched Raiders of the Lost Ark, a film Lucy somehow missed in childhood. It was lovely to hear the familiar sound of Jon’s laugh and the murmur of him and Lucy talking as I washed dishes in the kitchen.

Getting ready for this trip had been pell-mell.  DH worked through the weekend at his old job, had meetings Monday, and then spent Tuesday trying to pack everything he would need for the next two months. He laid out all his clothes and supplies in Jon and Amanda’s room at our house, crossing off lists. In the interstices I was mowing, weedwhacking, and fencing — and pulling him away to talk to people on the phone at Social Security.

But at last all the details were ironed out. After 20 years, he had a new email address. Health insurance had been successfully switched to my name. The packs were packed. The dogs went to the vet overnight. Alison would tend my barn that evening.

Yesterday morning we kissed Jon goodbye and then I dropped DH and Lucy at Bradley International airport.

After hopscotching across the U.S., this morning they finally landed in Lima, Peru. I hope they have a great time.

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 24, 2018

Jon, Amanda, and our granddaughter Ami have been here for the holiday. This photo cracks me up. At eleven months, Ami rarely scowls, but she had just waked up from a nap and was not excited by the photo op. Nor by that day’s below zero temperatures.

It had snowed on and off Wednesday with high winds while we all were traveling. (I had to go to Vermont for the dentist and the kids were driving up from Connecticut.)

However on Thanksgiving day itself, dawning at 2° F, the clouds slowly began to clear. I got up early to have coffee and start baking pecan pies at 6 AM. Soon the whole wheat buttermilk rolls were rising. The pies came out of the oven and as the rolls baked, the sweet potatoes were boiled and mashed. Next the turkey went in to start roasting while I chopped onions and celery for the stuffing. Most of these items had vegan twins so I was watching the clock and my list, crossing my fingers that I could shepherd it all in and out of the single oven to be ready at the same time. It worked! I tossed a big salad — putting the romaine aside for the chickens! — and at 2 PM we all sat down to a casual, fun feast.

Lucy was at a college ski camp in Canada, so it was Jon, Amanda, Ami, DH, me, and our friend Mike around the table. Despite missing Lucy, I felt very happy.  Our first family Thanksgiving at the farm!

Friday was clear and 12° below zero. All the views were lovely (including this one, shot by DH from our bedroom window). The sun has put in an appearance so rarely this fall that one could hardly quibble that the temperature was a bit nippy for November.

The star of the holiday, however, was Ami. We all doted on her for three days straight. So fun to wake up in the chill of the morning to a baby.

Our dogs were fascinated by her noises. Maybe she was a giant squeaky toy! To keep her safe from their boisterous enthusiasm we set up her portable playpen in the living room.

Grandpa and Ami.


Ami was willing to come to me for short periods. Here she’s inspecting my watch.

Currently she tests most items for edibility.

Though Amanda brought a number of freezable teething toys, Ami was most fascinated by a giant ripe pear.

She worked at it with dedication on and off all that day.

Here’s Jon reading Ami a bedtime story. (The E. H. Shepard Winnie the Pooh print on the wall behind them hung in Jon’s — and then Lucy’s — childhood bedroom. It was later water-damaged in storage but I can’t find another copy, so for now I accept the wrinkles.)

This morning Jon took this video of me cackling and Ami squeaking — shared laughter.

The only unhappy moment in this wonderful visit was saying goodbye. Happy Thanksgiving to all!


A Quick Stop Home

October 22, 2018

Lucy was home this weekend for a brief mid-semester break. It was hard as both DH and I had to work and then had additional work commitments Friday and Saturday nights, but early Sunday morning we celebrated her 21st birthday (which actually occurs in another week) with gifts and birthday donuts before she returned to college.

It was the typical family birthday, mostly used books, but also some ammunition for her biathlon rifle and new strings for her guitar. (We call that being well-rounded.) Our friend Gary had kindly wangled a couple of signed ski posters for her dorm room wall.

Almost before we knew it, Lucy had packed up her books, loaded her skis into her friend’s car, and was on her way.

Twenty-one years old and taller than I am! Reading books on philosophy and international political economy! Just the other day she was sitting in my lap while I read aloud Billy and Blaze.

Where does the time go?

A Shopping Trip

August 3, 2018

Yesterday Lucy and I left at 8 AM to drop the dogs to stay at the vet (DH being away) while we were in Vermont for the day. We have scheduled twice-annual trips to Burlington for the dentist since she was a baby. Years ago, Jon, Lucy, and I would all take the day off from school and while in Vermont we would do all our big-city shopping. Now it’s just Lucy and me, she is taller than I am, and she sometimes takes the wheel. But it’s still fun, nostalgic for me, and a great opportunity to spend hours in the car chatting with my girl.

After our dental appointments we headed to the mall for some back-to-school shopping. Given that we had to squeeze in four hours of driving, an hour at the dentist, and a half an hour on each end to tend to the dogs, it was a bit of a Marx Bros. rush through the clothing racks. Still, we found a couple of pretty shirts at J. C. Penney and a denim jacket and pair of shorts on clearance at Old Navy.

However we were searching for jeans. At 5′ 11″, with her Nana’s narrow hips and her skier’s muscled thighs (think Eric Heiden), Lucy is tough to fit in jeans. She tried on pair after pair in store after store. If they fit in the waist, they were sausage casings on her thighs. If they fit in the thigh, they gapped four inches around her waist. If by some miracle they fit everywhere else, they were inevitably half a foot too short. Naturally, the style from a few years ago that fit her perfectly is no longer made.

But even the struggle with jeans is nostalgic. When she was little, I (not a seamstress) used to fold the waistband of any elastic pants in a pleat and stitch it in back to make the pants stay up on her hips. Other styles she simply rolled down from the top. Poor Lucy always wore her shirts long to cover the lumps of extra material. Needless to say, she was an undemanding child. Once she became a teen, however, I discovered Ebay. Now our quest is simpler: if nothing in the store fits, find any style that works and Mom will find them online! Last night I searched for and found a pair of her old jeans on Ebay and ordered them.

It was a long but happy day. I am storing them up carefully, like a squirrel.

Hot Work

July 1, 2018

It’s hot and humid. Flies are biting. The cows are miserable and wait at the barn gate every morning to come into the dark. It has been too clammy to sleep and I am up each day between 3:00 and 4:00 AM.

Damon was felled by a stomach virus so we have not worked on the driveway. I have been outside every day mowing and weedwhacking and picking rocks. I know intellectually that I am making headway but it’s hard to see because a lot of the work has to be done over again so soon.

I try not to get caught up in worrying about it — my dreams of accomplishment for this week were, as usual, unrealistic — but to keep working slowly and steadily. Progress here has always been incremental. Sometimes the increments have been infinitesimal. I tell myself that as long as I’m moving forward I am fine.

Today marks a month since my builder told me in an angry email that he would be back to me “in a couple of days” with a list of work (paid for a year ago; my mistake) that he would finish this summer. I have heard nothing. This unpleasant situation weighs on me heavily and I try not to think about that, either.


I do chores early tomorrow, put the dogs in the vet, and drive to get Lucy in New Hampshire. It will be a long day on the road but lovely to see her, to visit with New Hampshire family, and to see Jon, Amanda, and Ami in Vermont on our way home. The air-conditioned car will be nice, too.


Sobering News

June 13, 2018

I love this photo of our son Jon, his wife Amanda, and their baby Amelie, taken just a few days ago. Ami is a bright and happy baby who smiles all over her face.

Yesterday Ami was sedated for an MRI to check the development of a lung problem that doctors had been tracking since she was about 12 weeks’ gestation. Amanda endured almost weekly ultrasounds throughout her pregnancy and there was a fear that at birth Ami would have to be rushed to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Then Ami was born and everything seemed to be fine. No NICU, no special care at all. We all breathed an enormous sigh of relief and thanked God. Later office tests seemed to indicate that the non-cancerous mass in her lung was now of negligible size.

Thus the news from yesterday’s MRI came as a shock. The mass is still there, it is impinging on Ami’s lung development, and it must be removed so the lung can develop properly. The doctor prepared Jon and Amanda for the possibility that the entire lower lobe of the left lung might have to be removed. While this should not affect Ami’s future breathing capacity (the remaining lobe should grow to fill the cavity), dealing with the mass at all will be a major surgery and clearly not something one wishes to contemplate for their six-month-old baby girl.

No plans or dates have yet been set but I am trying to think of ways I can be as helpful and supportive as possible.



January 8, 2018

In Minnesota, the sub-zero weather was so bitter that several races had to be canceled. (That is Lucy’s breath frozen to her face.) Nevertheless, she qualified for the team going to the biathlon Junior World Championships, in Otepää, Estonia!

Her shooting wasn’t where she wanted it to be but her skiing speed kept her high in the rankings (racers ski penalty laps for missed shots). Qualifying for the team was a feat, especially considering that these were her first real biathlon races on snow.

Unfortunately, between expenses and timing it is unlikely Lucy will be going to Estonia in January. Her goal is to qualify for and compete at the college championship ski races (NCAAs), which are held only a day or two later in the United States. Biathlon has the potential to be a great opportunity for her but it is one that will wait. Though Lucy will continue to train and strive to improve, for now the college circuit is her primary focus.

I really understand very little about sports but it makes me happy indeed to see my girl rewarded for her gritty dedication, day after day for years.

Cold and a Cold

December 28, 2017

It is 23° below zero this morning and the weather station says the wind chill is -46° F. It’s frigid. The timbers of the house thud as they contract in protest. Last night when I walked the dogs by moonlight before bedtime, my boots squeaked on the snow and the hairs inside my nose froze with my breathing. The nose-hair-freezing sensation is the signal that winter is really here. At such temperatures the dogs are extremely efficient so we can all scamper back to the warmth of the house.

I came down with a cold on Christmas evening and so we did not go to Connecticut on the 26th to see Amanda, Jon, and our new grandchild, Ami. We now are planning to go January 1st, picking up Lucy in Albany on the way.

Lucy left Tuesday evening to fly out to the biathlon team trials in Minnesota. Though she’d only had two fever-free days, her ticket had been purchased and was non-refundable. It seems unlikely she can do well after her siege with flu but her friends were going and the experience in the biathlon world will be valuable.

Biathlon (ski racing combined with target shooting) is a small but meticulous and demanding sport. We happen to live in one of the few towns in the country where people train for it. Lucy attended a free invitational talent camp last summer and the other young women were so friendly and the coaches so encouraging that she is considering adding make the U.S. women’s biathlon team to her list of goals.

Lucy last summer

Her birthday present last fall was a lockable rifle case for traveling. The hard-shell case is lined with foam which had to be cut precisely to fit her disassembled rifle. Online I found multiple sites that explained how difficult this was and how to accomplish it — with an electric knife or with a hot-wire foam cutter, neither of which tool I had.

Lucy’s ride to the airport was due to arrive at any moment. I was starting to feel anxious when DH’s phone rang.

It was our friend, Gary. He lives in the Berkshires but was ice climbing down the highway, and he and his climbing partner had lost their car keys and were freezing. DH went down and brought Gary and John back to the house.

It was a mad scene: the dogs barking and jumping, Lucy packing frantically in the mudroom, John on the phone with AAA, DH making tea to warm the climbers, me trying to straighten beds so Gary and John could spend the night in a pinch . . . but all the while I was thinking with relief: Hooray! Gary’s here! He’ll help me figure out this foam!

And of course, he did. Here he is, about to attack it with me. We used a tomato knife.

Eventually Lucy and her rifle were safely packed and picked up. Gary and John borrowed our car to go to Gary’s cabin in a nearby town. DH and I had a quiet supper of Christmas leftovers.

Meanwhile, since a fortnight of temperatures below zero is predicted, naturally a heater in the farm apartment has failed. Our tenant is away. I could not reach the electrician so I purchased a space heater. The attic and the mudroom, being unfinished, also do not yet have functioning heaters. All of these spaces have water pipes. Each evening I walk around the house, opening doors to heat, checking thermostats and nudging them upward.

So far, so good.

A Happy Christmas

December 26, 2017

We had a small but happy Christmas.

Lucy was finally well enough by Christmas Eve afternoon to help decorate the tree. The Charlie Brown tree I’d dragged home from the back acres was so skimpy that we laughed throughout the trimming. Just putting on the lights caused the poor branches to sag and we decided against hanging any of our breakable ornaments. Still, with our papier-maché star on the top we were pleased. Perry Como sang “Joy to the World” and the dogs wagged their tails. A tree in the house!

With no fireplace or mantel yet, I planned that we would hang our Christmas stockings on the staircase. However the old brass holders kept slipping off the stairs and thudding to the floor. Farm girl solution: I zip-tied the stockings to the balusters.

I had hoped we would get to the 5 PM candlelight service at church but I was still mucking stalls then. As it was, DH and I didn’t get to bed until midnight. We could hear Lucy coughing hard.

A normal Christmas in our family starts early. When Jon was small he was always so excited he would wake us at 4 AM. Though we are early risers by nature, I had to decree that 6 AM was the earliest any festivities could begin. This year, with Lucy sick, DH and I were drinking tea and coffee before she came down, yawning, at 7. For our family this was nearly a noon start.

Snow falling, a fire, carols on the stereo, and presents — it was a beautiful Christmas morning. We missed Jon and Amanda but the mood was still festive. We each received several books. Lucy got a pair of Target sneakers to replace her old ones with holes; DH got some khakis for work. I led them both to the basement to show them the project I have been working on for them behind the tarp (I’ll write about this when I finish it this week).

There was a lot of good-natured teasing over the titles of the used books I’d put on my Christmas list. “How do you come up with these?” DH wrote on one package. I explained that it was a fabulous study of a man hanged in Connecticut in 1777 — in fact, I’d actually anonymously corrected the entry about him on Wikipedia. As I was speaking, I caught a glimpse of Lucy’s face. I wasn’t sure if her expression was fascinated or appalled.

Meanwhile we received photos from Jon, Amanda, Ami, and Judy in Connecticut. The new family had broken in Ami early to one of our traditions, reading aloud on Christmas Eve. I always read a version of the Nativity story, Christmas in the Barn by Margaret Wise Brown.

By his early teens, Jon was in charge of reading aloud The Night Before Christmas. He had asked for a copy of “our” edition as a baby gift.

Ami may not have followed the plot in every detail.

But all of the photos filled me with joy, particularly this one.

Then I was busy preparing our Christmas feast, boiling and mashing sweet potatoes, kneading up a batch of whole wheat buttermilk rolls, roasting the turkey, preparing the stuffing, baking a pecan pie. Our friend Mike was our only guest this year, but the traditional meal is a big part of our Christmas.

As we were clearing the dishes afterward, I asked Lucy to take the annual photo of Mike and “Sis.” (My name is too difficult for Mike and sixteen years ago, when I discovered he had no family, I adopted him into ours.)

I thought Mike looked a bit tentative in the first shot, so in the next one, I tickled him.

Although my chest was tight, I was starting to cough, and I was in bed by 7 PM, it was a merry Christmas. I am so lucky.

Lucy is Home for Christmas!

December 20, 2017

… but sick. She had told us by email that she’d fallen sick with a cold and cough on Sunday after her races in Canada. (She won!)

I hadn’t paid much attention to the news that she was sick. Lucy is prey to colds which while barely noticeable during the daylight hours, the minute she lies down keep her coughing all night. This has been true since she was a baby, and was true for Jon as well. (I thought all small children coughed until they vomited every time they had a cold. I sat up holding both of them upright in bed for many years.) So hearing that she had a cold and didn’t sleep well before her finals didn’t ring any alarm bells for me.

However when I picked her up at college last night she seemed subdued. She also coughed non-stop. (As I breathed the trapped air in the car I thought to myself, I’m doomed.) She was wearing her down ski team jacket in the car — it wasn’t cold — and kept cranking up the heat. My plan had been to pick up a frozen pizza on the ride home for an easy supper. Lucy said she wasn’t hungry (what?? Lucy is always hungry) and she’d rather just get home. Once we arrived, still wearing her ski jacket, she huddled by the fire.

I searched until I found a thermometer. She had a temperature of 102.6°. Oh dear.

Lucy coughed most of last night. When I got up at 3 to bring her meds and a water bottle, her skin was dry and hot.

I am canceling our plans to go to Connecticut to see the baby tomorrow. I’m very disappointed, but will try to reschedule the trip for next week. This virus apparently felled half the ski team while they were in Canada. The last thing Amanda, Jon, and Ami need is a bad bug.

In the meantime, I will take care of my own baby girl.