WHAT COULD NOT BE

cinnamon homework

Sometimes it is difficult not to wonder what could have been if certain things happened or did not happen. Today is one of those cases. My father would have turned 72 years old today. Instead he was taken from this world at the rather early age of 59.

For some reason, Sage has taken to building as his grandfather. 'When I'm a worker, I will build you a house', Sage tells me often. I then recall the house my father built us in Oregon. The one on Cougar Lane. I remember watching as it was being built and my father telling me he probably would not build me a house because I was so picky - I told him the 2x4s of the framing were not smooth and should be sanded. I'm sure he was joking. I was only nine years old at the time.

The house was a two-story house built out of redwood and stone on the outside. It had a living room to the left as you entered the double front doors and stairs to the right leading to the four bedrooms. As you passed the living room, the hallway to the right led to the kitchen, dining room, and family room. To the left it led to my father's office where he had a desk filled with papers and architectural plans. At one point, I had my bed moved to his office so I would have my 'own' room.

sage writes

One thing I remember well is him telling me when I had children he would build things with them just as he would often build things with me. Other things I recall him telling me were about my being stubborn and my not being the kind of person to be able to have an office job. Somehow he saw that at such an early age. Unfortunately, he never even got the chance to see me become a mother. He never walked me down the aisle or got to hold any of his grandchildren.

Despite the unfortunate circumstances, life continues with my children. Sage has inherited his love of building, Saffron his steadfastness, and Cinnamon his kindness. His life is reflected in his grandchildren. 

Building memories is what we should be doing daily as memories will be the only thing left once someone has gone. Even the simple things such as doing homework with the children or sitting down for an afternoon treat of cookies - with the children taking turns dipping their cookies into my Croatian coffee. Those are the memories they and I will cherish the most.

afternoon treat

The future is never quite as we imagine it will be. There will be people who leave our lives, relationships which fail, and circumstances out of our control. Then there will be new people who enter our lives - ones who will change our future in ways we never imagined. As tempting as it may be to dwell on what could not be, life is too short to live in the past.

WINTER IST VORBEI

sage smiles

'I wanna go swimming', Cinnamon exclaimed as she climbed into the minivan after school. With the temperatures today having reached 26 degrees Celsius, I could understand why she wanted to go to her lesson. What I could not comprehend is why it was so warm in January. It felt as though the winter days were behind us.

Nature was seemingly taunting those of us who would love to spend time outdoors but end up paying the consequences during these winter months of cedar fever. I agreed to take Cinnamon swimming but stayed in the car with Sage during the 45 minutes of her lesson. Sage told me he did not wish to go outside so I would not get sick.

Whilst his sister was swimming, Sage sat next to me on the passenger seat and worked on his reading. He went through all four columns of his sight words - those for both kindergarteners and first graders. He needed help on some of the words but made it all the way to the end with great determination. I let him know how proud I was of him and his progress.

sight words

Cinnamon enjoyed her lesson and her new one-piece swimsuit. The sun was shining brightly and I wished we could have stayed outside for a while. Once inside our house, I had Cinnamon shower first, followed by Sage. I took a shower as well in order to wash off any pollen that might have made its way on me. It seems silly to do such things, but when you live in Central Texas these routines are necessary during the winter months.

seenas new swimsuit

Though I realise winter is not truly 'vorbei', I long for the day it will pass and make way for spring. I eagerly await the days I no longer have to worry about pollen or the unpleasant effects - the watery and itchy eyes, puffy face, runny nose, and forever feeling tired. At least I will have some relief next week when I arrive in Ireland where I know winter is still very much winter.

UNRELENTING MONDAY

seena striped pants

The morning greeted us early. If we could have had another three hours to sleep in, we would have felt much better. However, Monday arrived and we could not ignore it. I joined Cinnamon and Sage for a simple breakfast of Special K cereal. Polenta or oatmeal would have been a better option but at least it wasn't Fruit Loops or some other sugary cereal - ones I make a point of avoiding.

'Will you also have cream', asked Sage as I poured a splash of cream into his bowl of cereal with milk. 'No', I replied. I enjoyed the time we had to sit together for breakfast and would have preferred to take my time and sit at the table longer with them but their lunches needed to be made.

Four to five items are enough to get through lunch and snack time. The main item is a sandwich of some kind - naan bread or a flour tortilla with Parrano cheese for Cinnamon and either challah or seed bread with almond butter and honey for Sage. The second item is a piece of fruit - apples, oranges, bananas, berries. For the vegetable, I have only gotten my children to eat carrots so far. Then a snack - pecan crackers, pretzel sticks, rosemary crackers, or some other crackers. And finally a granola bar - usually peanut butter or pumpkin spice. One or two days of the week they get a special treat for dessert.

With the children in school, I readied myself for the gym but left later than usual. In retrospect, I should have stayed home and caught up on sleep which is something I intend to do tomorrow. The effects of the cedar pollen have been debilitating thus far this year but today seemed much worse than the previous week. I considered taking more allergy medicine until I came upon an article linking certain allergy medications to the development of dementia. I can hardly wait until a month from now when the pollen has subsided. March is time of year when I start feeling better.

After the gym , I made a quick stop at the local grocery store for three items. As soon as I walked into the store, I could not remember what they were. Pistachios were one of those items and something I keep telling myself I need to stop buying as I find myself eating far too many of them in one sitting. I eventually remembered the three items but ended up with a couple more in my cart.

Once home, I had a quick chat with my boyfriend who ended up having to go to work on his day off. We spoke later in the evening, but by then I was unable to focus on anything and simply wanted to get to bed and have this unrelenting Monday be finished.

The children returned home from school and wanted to read their new books. Cinnamon went downstairs to read on the daybed whilst I stayed upstairs with Sage as he read his elephant book. Both children finished reading their books but Cinnamon wanted another chapter book to read. I suggested she take her sister's fairy book - The Saffron Fairy, a book I got for her in Ireland on one of my trips. Sage returned to his Lego construction and I prepared a simple dinner of penne pasta with feta. Perhaps Tuesday will be better and more productive.

IMG_0352-1-2.jpg
cinnamon sage relaxing

DECIPHERING WORDS

sage reads with elli

'It's Sunday' exclaimed Cinnamon to her brother, 'Mama always has a surprise breakfast for us'. The children were finishing the construction on the Lego lighthouse whilst I prepared the special breakfast. Sage did not want to know what it was, so he kept averting his eyes from the table and the kitchen albeit I am guessing he had an idea of what it was when I turned on the blender.

Had I made challah bread on Friday, we would have been eating French toast as Cinnamon desired. Her other requests were lemon ricotta pancakes or a puffy pancake. It was puffy pancake today - the same as the last Sunday when they stayed with me with orange zest being the extra ingredient - and a bowl of strawberries with sugar. Sage kept asking for more 'salt' for the strawberries on his plate. I knew he meant sugar.

They took to reading today. My younger two children. Sage and I went to the area under the stairs which I set up for them to play and read. It is a simple set up of a large blanket on the floor at the point where the stairs slope downwards. A pile of books and more Lego bricks were off to one corner. I handed Sage the 'Fish Out of Water' book and he began to read with a little assistance from me.

He noticed words he read moments ago. 'Oh, I just read that here', he said. He also noted how if you cover up some letters on a longer words, a new word was formed. 'If you cover these letters, it says cat', he continued. His sister joined us after a while and listened to her brother read.

Before lunch, Cinnamon asked for the other present I had for her birthday but had not yet given to her. I told her I did not wrap this present but she did not seem to mind. It was a chapter book about a bunny fairy. She was delighted and thankful and made herself comfortable on her bed with her new book. I listened to her as she read out loud for a while before she read silently. She amazed me with the speed at which she was reading and would have finished the entire 67 pages today but decided instead to leave the last ten pages for tomorrow.

bunny fairy book

I handed Sage his new book about a little elephant named Elliot living in a big city. His eyes lit up as he saw the book was about one of his favourite animals. We sat on his bed, across from his sister's bed, and at first looked at the book. With Elli, one of his many stuffed elephants, by his side, he started to read.

The words were larger and a bit more difficult to decipher than the book he was reading after breakfast. His eyes kept scanning the pages for any clues as to what certain words might be. There were times when he was clearly guessing and not sounding out the words as in the case of the word 'challenging'. The illustration was of the little spotted elephant attempting to reach the ice cream in the freezer with a broom. Sage read the word 'challenging' as 'ice cream'.

Watching Sage read was enlightening. I recalled the time at the beginning of the school year when he had difficulties recognising letters as I held up flash cards. Now, he is deciphering words one at a time and is connecting the illustrations to the accompanying words. It reminded me of how we as adults learn a new language, especially when in the midst of a country where the language is foreign to us. We look for clues or facial expressions, as in the case of learning by watching television programs in the foreign language.

little elliot

As with any skill, perseverance and determination will lead to success. With daily practice, I have no doubt my son will read like his sisters soon enough. Finding the right books to keep his interest will also aid in the path to his mastery of reading.

SEARCH PARTY

saffi on skype

The silver stickers for the lighthouse were missing. It was my turn to work on the page where I would place the stickers on two Lego pieces as mirrors on top of the lighthouse. However, they were nowhere to be found. We all set out to look for it. Sage insisted it was in the original box. It was not. He went through the instruction booklets of another set whilst I went through the three booklets of the lighthouse set. Nothing.

Sometimes the children put things in the strangest places. Like the yellow duck from one of their games which went missing for over a year. One day last year, I happened to look in the side of the kitchen island where the wine bottles were stored. There I found the long lost yellow duck hiding behind a dusty wine bottle on the bottom shelf.

A search party was underway. Sage searched downstairs but his sister did not make much of an effort. For some reason, I decided to go upstairs and look through a paper bag where the kids had some cardboard for crafts. There, on the bottom of the bag, was the one-inch square paper with two silver stickers. 'Unbelievable' I thought to myself.

The next missing item was the last piece of the 500-piece puzzle which Sage and I 'completed' today. That is, except for the light blue piece which went missing. I moved the Lego table and the puzzle table, then overturned the rug on which the tables stood. Still no piece. After searching for over an hour, we gave up and ate dinner. Perhaps one day the missing piece will show up as did the plastic piece for the globe puzzle which went missing early in September.

Searching through my compact flash cards today whilst transferring photos to the main computer, I noticed a week in September for which I could not locate a card. I spent another hour looking through the handful of cards sitting on my desk. The photographs were already transferred, so nothing was lost. It was a matter of principle to find the card on which the original photographs were taken. Tomorrow I might make another attempt.

Before the futile searching commenced, we spoke with Saffron on Skype. I let the children speak to each other since the weekends were the only time they could get together due to the time difference and the younger two being in school when Saffron calls. All three are excited to see each other in nine days after having been separated for the past six months.

Cinnamon took over the daybed couch and discussed dolls and doll clothes and her birthday makeup party which will take place in two weeks. Saffron has planned everything as she is good with organising. Cinnamon intends to invite her entire class, but only due to the rule imposed by the school - the rule stating you cannot leave anyone out by not inviting them. Small gatherings are my preference. Simplicity is best.

TWELVE SIXTEEN

favourite tree bw

Intending to have a short lie down tonight after dinner and before the nighttime activities commenced, I ended up falling asleep with my son upstairs on his bed. All three of us ended up falling asleep upstairs where it is warm since I left the heating on. At least the upstairs portion of the heating works.

I awoke now, an hour before midnight, from a dream where I was looking at video footage of my father on a plane. He was wearing a grey sweater and was looking in the direction of the camera with a frightening look on his face. The plane was about to crash as it was landing.

For some reason it was a FedEx plane and in my dream I was following behind it with my children in a seeming reenactment of how it landed on a busy street somewhere with an overpass, I think a freeway in San Francisco, and veered off to the left which made its wing break off. It was a rather small plane as I saw it easily glide off its course with a slight wind.

In the next scene, I was walking with my children a bit further down the road where it appeared to be some sort of factory where plane parts circled as if on a conveyor belt for assembly and attached from above. I saw one of my children almost get hit in the head by one of the parts and then a worker told us we should not be there.

Then we were in a building and I was holding my son, cradling him like a baby, albeit he was already too large to be held as such. I put him down and was going to wash his hands or something. Then I awoke to write this before midnight.

There was a broken watch in the beginning of my dream, most likely from the time the plane crashed. I saw its hands frozen at 12:16.

I looked up the meaning of dreaming about planes and it makes sense. Fear and anxiety of failing due to my non-existent career with seemingly zero prospects for a future career. The interpretation of having watched a plane crash has reference to the divorce or childhood trauma. Trauma such as having had my father die at the age of 59 from a type of dementia known as Lewy Body Dementia. 'Lewy bodies with Pick's disease' was the diagnosis. He would have turned 72 in five days.

A RAINY SEVENTH

cinnamon seven

The lemon madeleines were in the oven before 5,30 this morning. They were glazed and cooling by 5,45. I needed to get them to Cinnamon before she got on the bus this morning as they were her classroom birthday treats. She was delighted to see me and the cookies this morning as she and her brother greeted me at the door with their pajamas still on. I gave them both hugs and kisses, wished Cinnamon a happy birthday and told her I would come pick her up after school so she could stay with me for the night of her birthday as she had requested.

After dropping off the cookies, I continued to the gym. The workout was not as productive as I had slept a mere three hours, but I went despite my having been tired and decided I would eventually catch up on sleep. I had one more stop to make after my workout to get Cinnamon's main present - a large Lego kit. It was the Summer Caravan set which I wanted to get her for Christmas. She has come to enjoy building.

Presents were wrapped and the lemon cake was baked before I went to pick up my daughter this afternoon. She had been asking for a bow for her hair but instead of buying one, I decided to make one at the last minute from the silk sari ribbon and beads I use for the headbands in my Etsy shop. I sewed it onto a hair clip albeit it was not the clip I had wanted for that use. Despite that, Cinnamon liked it and was glad I made it for her.

At 15,15 I was waiting outside in the minivan thinking the bus had not yet arrived. It was still raining, as it had been all day, and it was cold outside as well. After five minutes of waiting in the minivan, I decided to ring the doorbell as I noticed the children's shoes outside the door. Their father asked if I would come in as he had bought an angel food cake. 'It's not like your cakes...' he started. The water for the Croatian coffee was cooking on the stove and the table was set, along with candles in the cake.

Sage was a bit cranky and vying for attention the entire time. I guessed he needed more sleep and will make certain he gets more of it this weekend when both children are back at my place. The impromptu party took me by surprise as I had intended on simply taking Cinnamon home to my place. 'The best interest of the children' is a phrase which will no doubt play an important part of this co-parenting situation. Today it was in the best interest of our daughter to have us celebrate her seventh birthday. She will have another larger party when her sister arrives albeit I will already be out of town by then.

We arrived home by 17,30. Still cold but without the rain at the moment, I wanted to take a photo of her outside despite the lack of good light. She wore the beautiful red dress which Saffron sent her for her birthday. I noticed her wiggly front tooth and knew it would most likely be gone by the time I returned home next month. I wanted to cherish those fleeting moments in photographs we can look back on one day - just as we did tonight as I showed Cinnamon photographs of her and her siblings from years ago. Much has changed since then.

She opened her presents and was overjoyed at her new Lego set. 'Yay! A big Lego set' she exclaimed. She liked the hair clips and bunny sweater as well, but her favourite present was the pink bunny slippers which brought a big smile to her face. I was happy to see her happy and thankful for another year to celebrate her life. Seven. My little girl is now seven.

lego summer caravan
cinnamon birth

A MONOCHROME DAY

tree like bw

Winter returned today. The temperature this morning was 9 degrees Celsius. Rain showed up later in the day as did the fog which made the scenery appear to be monochrome. As I looked at the photograph I took of my second favourite tree outside my patio door, I noticed it could have been a black and white photograph. It was not.

Catalogues stacked in a pile stared back at me as I entered the room upstairs. I decided to go through them, record the ones I wish never to receive, and toss them in the recycling bin. The list I would use to call the companies to ask to be removed from their mailing lists. Not only is it a nuisance, but a waste of paper.

Most of the physical mail in my mailbox can be tossed but this morning I saw a purple envelope addressed to my daughter from my boyfriend. A card for her birthday which I will have her open when she comes to stay with me after school. The lemon cake she requested as her birthday cake I will make tomorrow whilst she is in school but I have yet to write the recipe. She also requested to spend her birthday with me - 'all alone', she said, without her brother.

After sorting through the catalogues, I went to the gym albeit later than usual. Then it was to the store to buy the lemons before returning home. Upon checking my email, I noticed my gas bill in my inbox. The amount on my screen shocked me and I wondered if there was a mistake. As I ate my salad, I waited on the phone to talk with a customer service representative at Texas Gas.

The customer service guy let me know the previous owners had a bill double the amount of mine last January. I attribute this high cost to the poor insulation and especially the cold coming from the windows, of which there are many. Once off the phone, I switched off my heating and decided to keep warm with my down comforter. Tonight, the upstairs was far too cold to bear, so I ended up turning on the heater. I wouldn't mind so much if the downstairs unit would work as I spend more time there.

Sometimes life's solutions seem clear as if in black and white. Other times the solutions are anything but clear. Instead they are obscured by the complexities of colours. In time, things will be figured out, such as the path to take which will lead me to the next step in this new beginning. Austin has been my home for the past almost ten years but perhaps the time has come to find a new place to live.

Today was a nice day due to the fog and rain. It brought with it a calm and relaxing atmosphere. Winter arrived and might stay awhile. My children are arriving soon too and things will once again be colourful as they tend to make my days when they are with me.

VEIL OF UNCERTAINTY

green fabric bw

There are times when the future seems out of our hands. We feel as if control of a situation is not ours. We wish our path to lead us one way but instead we end up going in the opposite direction. For everything which happens to us, there is a reason. A reason we might not see at the moment, but one which will be revealed in time.

Life's impossibilities cause us to doubt ourselves and others. Giving up is not an option and we must stand up for ourselves and what we believe to be true. We must go after what we want with courage and determination. The absolute certainty of how things will materialise in the future is unknown. The present moment is what is known to us and is one we should cherish.

If we choose to focus too long on the future, we might lose sight of what is directly in front of us. We miss out on the happiness of the little moments such as the time we get to speak with a loved one, if only for a few minutes. Worrying about tomorrow is useless as tomorrow will eventually come but only after today has passed.

Changing our point of view will help us move forward. Not all is bad, nor will remain bad forever. The experiences we encounter serve to help us learn how to make better decisions in the future. We learn how not to take for granted that which was given to us. We learn how to be thankful for the little things.

Albeit the future might be unknown, we know the present moment is ours to use to make a better tomorrow. We must move forward, learn from past mistakes, and be thankful for every moment we have for we never know when it might be our last. Take a moment to stop and reflect on where you are and how far you have come. At that point, the veil of uncertainty will be lifted and we will see the next step we must take in order to own our future.

THE PRICE OF FREEDOM

pottery barn tree

There was a need to leave the house today for I have remained a prisoner to the walls within for far too long. Freedom from a particle so tiny, one wonders how it can have such power over human beings much larger than it. Pollen is not my friend and has caused too much damage this month with putting off the many things which have been waiting to be completed. I could wait no longer, so I dared to venture outdoors. But not without a price.

The warmer temperatures today made it difficult to stay indoors. At 72F degrees and the sun shining bright today, one wonders if it really is January and not springtime. The day started early with my having taken the decorations off the Christmas tree. I had considered keeping the tree until Saffron returns in two weeks but felt the crispy branches and decided it was too late to keep it any longer.

Breakfast was quick. Coffee with poppy seed lemon cake and a slice of bread with peanut butter and honey. Afterwards, I set out to work on my 'to-do' list. Mostly I prefer online shopping, but sometimes it is not possible. The first stop was the gas station. I cannot recall the last time I was able to fill up the minivan with $25. The gas station I found on FM2222 at HEB sold gas for $1.72 per gallon. I thought it was a good bargain until I drove but a minute further and noticed the price for three cents less. Even later in the day, I noticed Costco selling it for ten cents less.

My next stop was The Container Store. Intending to buy wooden hangers, I found they were all sold out and on backorder. As I wandered to the opposite side of the store, I noticed the boxes for organising Christmas decorations reduced by 50%. The clerk at the store noticed my cart filled with a few of the boxes - ones I have looked at for the past several years to buy but never have - and said they were just marked down this morning. A good find for me and perfect timing since I just took down the Christmas tree.

Crate and Barrel was next and is a place I look for anything small and colourful for seasonal decoration. An aqua cotton napkin was one of my purchases for replacing the plaid runner on the wooden cabinet in my living room. It was a small purchase which offers a splash of colour for the winter season. Target was next on the list for necessary household supplies but I skipped Costco until later in the evening when I ventured outdoors once again to complete the shopping for the rest of the month.

The most important reason for leaving the house today was to take advantage of the holiday bedding sale at Macy's. I had put off buying the children down comforters since last spring as I kept waiting for a good deal. Having skipped the Christmas sales, I thought it best not to wait any further but simply buy three of the down comforters for the children's beds. Now I will no longer have to rely on thin blankets and cranking up the heater in order to keep them warm at night.

I returned home shortly after 14h, ate lunch, and chatted for a while with my boyfriend before deciding to go out again at a time when I normally would stay at home and make dinner. I took my camera with me and ended up photographing a tree in the Pottery Barn parking lot for today's photograph. Costco, Pottery Barn, and GapKids were my last stores to visit for today. My daughter's birthday is coming up later in the week so I know I will have to go out again to buy lemons for her cake and madeleines but until then I will limit my time outdoors as the price I paid for venturing into the beautiful sunny day today has cost me my health due to these allergies. Despite that, it was nice not to be confined indoors at least for one day.

SUNDAY SOLITUDE

bare tree jan18

The sun was shining ever so brightly today and it was warm outside. The same 18 degrees Celsius (64 degrees Fahrenheit) it was yesterday. It was nice enough to take a walk around the neighbourhood, but I could not take advantage of the sunny outdoors today nor for the rest of this month and into February.

Construction noises were absent today as the workers took a day off. It was a pleasant silence and perfect for uninterrupted reading on the daybed by the fireplace. The sounds of my children were also absent today as they are with their father this weekend and into next week. Had they been here, I would have made French toast or lemon ricotta pancakes. Instead, I made myself a simple breakfast consisting of two slices of bread (one with brie and avocado, the other with peanut butter and honey), an orange, and cashews. No coffee.

After my morning chat with my boyfriend, I got up to wash a few dishes before settling on the daybed to read. Nestled under my down comforter, I kept warm as I read. I have almost gotten used to the dysfunctional heating but look forward to a new place where all is working as should be. At one point, I took a break to make a quick lunch of red chard with potatoes, garlic, and olive oil - a dish called 'blitva' in Croatia.

blitva

Later in the afternoon, I craved something sweet. Not the chocolate chips sitting in my pantry but something baked. I decided on a poppy seed lemon cake. The cake I made in a 5-inch cake pan with a recipe I wrote whilst in Edinburgh over a year ago. It was good but I will revise the recipe a bit and test it again when I am in Ireland next month.

In the evening, I reconnected with boyfriend on Skype. He was ready for bed, I was ready to start dinner. We realised this year will be a great challenge with moving forward. The paperwork, the job situation for us both, the finding a new place to live. All of those things are taxing on a relationship but the distance is something we can do nothing about at the moment. Our time will come to be together but not as soon as we would like.

Dinner was in the oven by the time we spoke again after a short break. Chilean sea bass with butter, garlic, lemon zest, sea salt, and rosemary. 'Rosemary!' he exclaimed. 'Rosemary is for lamb, not fish' he continued. I told him I did not listen to the conventions of food pairings as I sipped red wine - another 'no-no' when it comes to fish such as sea bass. He knows I am unconventional and unique - a nicer way of saying weird or odd. The pairings tasted good to me and was all that mattered.

rosemary sea bass

One must take a day like today and enjoy it for its simplicity. When life gives you solitude, take advantage of it, for there will be days when we will look back and wish we had.

WAITING ROOM

tree close up

Tonight's Skype session was akin to watching two people sitting in the waiting room of a doctor's office with my uncontrollable sneezing and his painful ribs. He took some pain pills; I took my allergy pills. The Claritin proved rather useless to alleviating my symptoms. Next season I will have to look into getting the allergy shots as suggested by a friend of mine as I would like to get back the month of January next year.

Today was fairly warm for this time of year, with temperatures around 64 degrees Fahrenheit (18 degrees Celsius). I had planned to get out of the confines of this house and get some shopping done. I made it as far as the bookstore and Whole Foods before I decided to go home. Fatigue set in and the sneezing had commenced. The much needed fresh air would have to wait until next month's trip to Ireland.

The ribs were causing him much pain - more than the previous back pain as a result of his having to be on his feet all day long at work. Apparently the pain started three days ago but became progressively worse today. Thankfully he has the next two days off from work to recover and has a few soccer games on television to keep him occupied in addition to our chatting on Skype.

Doing anything productive today proved useless. I finally gave in an read for a short while before I could no longer concentrate. Then I decided to turn to German television on my iPad and catch up on Lindenstrasse as I had already watched all of the past week's new episodes of SOKOs - the ones from Köln, Wismar, Stuttgart, and Leipzig.

Tomorrow I will be staying indoors. I look forward to the days in Ireland when I will be able to walk outside, albeit in the cold of winter, without suffering the consequences. When I return to Austin later in February, the cedar allergy season should be over by then and my productive life will continue.

FAREWELL FRIDAY

cinnamon friday

A quiet settles over the house as the children are no longer with me tonight. They are back with their father for the following week. Having picked up Cinnamon and Sage from the bus stop at 3pm, I let them know we would be leaving before 6pm. They were excited to get to work on the Lego lighthouse without having to do homework first. They made some progress on the construction of the lighthouse and will no doubt complete it within a day on their return next week.

Sage plugged in the lights of the Christmas tree as he normally does every day. I told the children to enjoy the Christmas tree one last time as it would be gone by the time they returned next week. Their advent calendars would also be put away as will the plaid runner on which the calendars sat for a month. It is always sad to have to pack away the ornaments, toss the tree, and clear the home of the remaining holiday decorations.

Both of the children took turns posing in front of the tree before I photographed them together. I have held on to the remnants of the holiday season as long as I could and look forward to the next one at the end of the year. There is a long way to go until then but I am sure the next Christmas season will be quite different from this past one as all three children will be together once again.

christmas tree diptych
the two by tree

The children were ready and sitting in the car by 17,30h with only their school backpacks with them. The goodbye was long as Sage gave me one kiss after the other along with several hugs. 'Just one more kiss' he said. I will see them soon enough, I assured them. Thursday will be Cinnamon's day with me as she wished to spend her birthday at my place. She will be in school during the day which will give me enough time to make her a birthday cake.

sage in jacket

Tonight starts a return to an alternate schedule. The one where I am alone once again. The one without the normal routine of waking the children at 6am, getting their breakfast and lunch ready, and waiting for their return at the end of the school day. My photographs of them are all I will have to remember them by this week as I look forward to taking more photographs of them the next time they are with me. Farewell Fridays are never pleasant or easy, particularly for the children.

sun streak

I KNU GO AOTS SUET

sibling hugs

Children learning to read and write English are interesting to observe. With all of the confusing rules of the language, it is not easy for children to remember which letters are silent or that letters can have different sounds based on context or simply just because. They have their own interpretation of how words sound and I tend to stay away from correcting the spelling of my children's homework. Thus was the case with Sage's homework today.

'I am in my house putting my jacket on. And I gonna go outside to build a snowman.' - Sage

'I am in my house putting my jacket on. And I gonna go outside to build a snowman.' - Sage

Today's kindergarten homework consisted of writing a story relating to four pictures. There was a picture of a snowman, a house, a jacket, and a boy. Sage was not sure what to do but said he was the boy in the story. His sister started to help him. She came up with the basics of the story and started to help him write it. After the third word, I told her to let him write the words as he thinks they should sound.

I watched as he carefully wrote the letters. 'I am in my house putting my jacket on. And I gonna go outside to build a snowman' was written as 'I am in mie hs pten ym jakt on. Aut I knu go aots suet tu put a so meen.' I had to laugh at one point, not out of mockery but out of sheer delight that he was putting so much thought into the sounds. And this is coming from a boy who greatly dislikes school. Every morning this past week he has woken up with dread at the thought of having to go to school.

'Do I have to go to school today?' Sage would ask each morning as I went to his bed to wake him for breakfast. I told him 'yes' and he was near tears. 'I hate learning' he told me. He would rather build anything than go to school, but he got out of his bed and started his 8-hour day at school.

sage green shirt

Eight hours seems like a long time for a 5-year old to be in school. Learning how to read and write is also something I see as too early to learn at such a young age as most children are not ready for such tasks. The added pressure to perform and pass tests is nothing I experienced in my years as a kindergartener. Times have changes and the pressure to excel is high for young children these days.

sage sitting on wall

I enjoyed watching my son figure out how to write a sentence about ice cream and flowers based on the pictures he made from shapes. 'I eating ice cream outside with a flower' was written as 'I edn isrem iotsuet us a faue'. I did not attempt to correct him as he will learn spelling soon enough. I smiled as I realised how far he has come from earlier in the year.

jan 15 sunset

The events of the evening made me realise adults are not so different from children when it comes to interpretation. Misunderstandings, as misspellings, are abundant but eventually we learn to work out the mistakes. Sometimes we might not understand why things happen. Sometimes we are too stubborn to see things as someone else sees them - to walk in their shoes - and we feel it must be our way or the highway. We speak words which can never be taken back, which forever might change the course we set out to take. Sometimes, silence is best.

A NECESSARY SLOWDOWN

cinnamon 85mm

I checked the time on my iPhone. 11,14h it showed. I had been sleeping over three hours after having taken the children to the bus stop this morning. I realised half of my day was gone due to my prolonged nap but decided it was my body's way of saying I needed to catch up on the sleep which has been lacking as of late. Sleep is not something which comes easily after I have already started my day but today was different. It was necessary to slow down, especially after yesterday's frustrations.

After I awoke, I responded to a text from my boyfriend, and made my lunch. My healthy lunch consisted of sliced shallots sautéed in butter to which was added two handfuls of spinach. I fried an egg and heated up the leftover meatless loaf. Meanwhile, I chopped a bell pepper, sliced seven baby tomatoes in half and topped them with feta, sliced some Gouda, and toasted two slices of seeded bread.

For breakfast, I joined the children this morning as they ate cereal. Special K cereal with whole milk and cream. They were glad I was able to take the time to sit down with them as usually I am busy making their lunch whilst they eat. Advance preparation the night before will allow me to sit down with them more often but the routine we are still getting used to. The routine of being a single mother to three small children who stay with me every other week with one of the children still in Berlin finishing a semester abroad.

sage with lego bricks

In time, things will come to a 'normal' state. 'Normal' as in more stable, but different from anything experienced thus far. Saffron will return from Germany in two weeks and will get to stay with me for a day before I leave for Ireland for the greater part of February. She will finally be joined with her siblings and experience a new life in a divided home but joined with another family and future stepbrothers. Change is ever present and necessary for growth, but something we tend to resist.

The anticipation of getting to spend time with my boyfriend is growing as is the lack of sleep as a result of this anticipation. We do not have the weekends to spend together as most couples who are dating. Nor can we simply get in the car and drive to each other's homes as our homes require crossing an ocean. February is what we have to look forward to for now and is a time we will make the most of as we know how precious and limited is our time together.

The children were greeted with a 'surprise' snack after their return from school this afternoon. Hazelnut napolitanke and gingersnap cookies with milk. They took turns dipping the cookies into my Turkish coffee and were thankful for the sweet surprise. Sometimes we need to step away from the chores and sit down with our children for breakfast or an afternoon snack as a clean kitchen is not something of a priority to them as is time spent with them.

sage waits to read

This year will bring about more change as my boyfriend and I make plans for his move to the States. If circumstances were different, I would be the one making the move with the children as I have always had a desire to live in Europe. For now, we need to be close to my children and their father in our current co-parenting situation. With time, everything which needs to happen will come about. Patience is not always our friend but rushing something is never a good idea. Slowing down will inevitably lead us to a more conscious decision and is necessary for seeing the greater picture of the future.

ABUNDANCE OF FRUSTRATION

children winter coats

'What were you expecting?' asked the landlord via email this morning. He was replying to my having told him to go ahead and advertise the townhouse I am renting from him since the price is too high. He offered me an increased rent for the following twelve months, which I thought absurd.

One frustration begat another today as I drove the 40 minutes to Southwest Austin to look at a house for rent. As soon as I turned onto the street, I said to myself 'no way'. The place looked run down with old houses and ill-manicured lawns. The house I set out to look at had no photographs of the actual house, only one of a waterfall. As I set foot into the place, I realised the reason for the lack of photographs.

The smell of paint hit me as I walked into the place. It was small with low popcorn ceilings which I noticed had most likely not been updated since the birth of the house back in the 70s. The attempt at a modern kitchen was not a good one as the faux granite countertop was poorly executed with half-inch thick tiles instead of a thick slab of granite one normally sees these days.

The new carpet was piece together upstairs as I stared at the floor of the master bedroom and noticed a slightly different colour beneath my feet. Nothing in the house was appealing to me, certainly not the price I would be expected to pay.

After I left, I sat in my car for a few minutes contemplating my next step. There was another house in the area which I ended up driving by since the realtor was too busy to show me today which was a good thing since the neighbourhood of that place was no different than the one I was in previously.

When I wrote the realtor my need to move in April and not now, she responded by saying I was 'starting your search WAY early'. Then she attached a PDF document about how leasing works in Texas. The use of capitalised letters I found to be unprofessional and unnecessary. To me it is the equivalent of someone yelling at me. Thus, I did not respond.

My friend from college who works in real estate in California wrote me to let me know he has connections in the area if I needed help. He also advised buying instead of renting as I would be paying someone else's mortgage instead of my own. I was glad for the advise but the big issue is my lack of income. If I had a steady income, I would be looking at houses to buy instead of rent.

In an attempt to find my way back from the south of Austin to downtown, I took a wrong turn then spent 15 minutes getting back to the 71 freeway. Missing my exit, I found myself at the airport and had to turn around to get back on 183. I decided to go to the North Austin Whole Foods instead of the one downtown as my previous attempt to find the correct exit caused the delay in the first place.

Once home, after getting some necessary food supplies, I finally sat down to eat the pea soup from yesterday as I had skipped breakfast due to the scheduling of the house viewing. A quick search for jobs yielded nothing useful, adding to my frustration. I started to wonder how I was ever going to make this all work - this new start in this new life.

cinnamon climbs

I picked up the children from the bus stop and we sat down for a snack. Peanut butter with honey on French bread and a Cara Cara orange. Then it was time for homework before they were able to play. They wanted to build the last set - the lighthouse - but needed to take apart the boathouse set first. Since it was already late in the evening, the construction of the new set would take place tomorrow.

sage and rocket ship

The highlight of my day of frustration was being able to see and talk with my boyfriend. He has a way of making me feel better despite the difficult circumstances of us being so far apart and the challenges we are now facing in our attempt to make it to our goal of being together on the same continent by the end of the year. It will not be easy but we have to keep reminding ourselves that nothing worthwhile is ever easy.

sage with backpack
cinnamon smile

ON THE MOVE

sage smile

Monday, once again, as we returned to the weekday schedule. Both children seemed well rested and walked down the stairs to sit at the coffee table this morning. They enjoyed their Brown Cow maple yogurts - Sage with pecan maple granola and Cinnamon without the granola - and then dressed for school whilst I prepared their lunches and wrote in Cinnamon's school journal.

'Mama, it's dusty' said Sage as he opened the front door this morning to go to school.

'It's foggy' I replied. All of Austin and Cedar Park was covered in a dense fog most of the morning and there were several accidents on the freeways as a result of the fog.

Although the bus stop is within walking distance, I had the children get into the car so I could drive them and so I could avoid the cedar pollen as much as possible. By the time I return from Ireland, the pollen will have subsided and I can once again walk outside without severe consequences. As the children got onto the bus and the bus drove away, I headed in the opposite direction to the gym. Despite being tired, I needed to get out of the house for a while.

cute cinnamon

After the gym, I returned home where I stayed the rest of the day until I had to pick up the children from the bus stop. As I was eating breakfast, an email from my landlord arrived in my inbox. He inquired about my extending my lease in April or finding another place. I did not reply until late in the evening but this prompted me to go to my computer and continue my search for another place to live come springtime.

My initial criteria are affordability and safety with good schools nearby. The affordability part is the most difficult as rents in Austin are quite high compared with buying a home and paying the monthly mortgage. I found five homes which might be options and have heard back from one realtor within two minutes of my inquiry.

After picking up the children from the bus stop, we drove to the location of the one home which was located six miles from our current place. The photographs of the interior were beautiful. Most of the inside was renovated and there were wooden floors throughout the entire house - upstairs and downstairs and even the stairs. However, the neighbourhood I did not think to be the right fit for my children as the front yard was on a main road.

I searched all of the Austin area and found one option in Southwest Austin albeit with a slightly higher price. My wish is to find something soon so I am no longer on the move and can begin to unpack some of the boxes which have been sitting in the garage these past few months.

Moving is something I have done too many times in my life and nothing I wish to continue doing for too much longer. Buying a home would be ideal but a steady job is needed. This year will be filled with many challenges but nothing so grand as the challenges experienced last year. One step at a time, day by day, minute by minute. At one point, all of the pieces of the puzzle will come together.

puzzle unfinished

THE LONGEST SUNDAY

cinnamon stars

I was awake somewhere around 05,30h and noticed my 'good morning' text from my boyfriend to which I promptly replied. It was his day off but he needed to go to work to cover for someone who was sick. Thankfully I did not oversleep this morning's Skype session as I have a day or two this past week due to the effects of allergies.

On weekends I would return to sleep after our chat, but during the week when the children are here I would get up and prepare both breakfast and lunch before waking the children. Today I did not go back to sleep. Not that I wanted to jump out of bed and start my day. Chores were on my mind and it started with turning on the washing machine to wash a sweater on the delicate cycle and progressed from there.

There were a few dishes left from last night which needed to be washed. Then it was thinking what to make for breakfast and going about gathering the ingredients. The oven was already on by the time Sage and Cinnamon showed up downstairs. Sage wanted to know if he could build on the Lego set he started yesterday. Cinnamon tried guessing what the Sunday surprise breakfast was. I told her she will see soon enough. Her guess was either smoothies or a puffy pancake. This time it was the puffy pancake.

925 puffy pancake

We sat down to breakfast by 09,30h which is early for a Sunday morning. I made Turkish coffee and the children had milk. As Cinnamon left the table, she commented on how 'stuffed' she felt after eating the pancake and two glasses of milk. I was glad she had enough to eat. Neither of the children mentioned being hungry all day but I made sure to have an early dinner.

There was no shortage of activities to occupy Cinnamon and Sage all day. It started with them taking turns building the Lego boathouse. At one point, I had to take apart a few pages' worth of building in order to determine a piece which was placed incorrectly but the puzzling part was an incorrectly drawn instruction - something I determined after the destruction and reconstruction. A piece was shown to be flush to another piece when there was no way it could have been with the pieces given.

Later the children spoke with their sister via Skype. Then they played with their pretend iPhones and went upstairs to play with Sage's foosball table. They carried their stuffed animals downstairs and positioned them on the two chairs and the daybed. Cinnamon read a couple books, and then took up colouring some pages with her brother. The pages were the Christmas-themed ones they got at the grocery store the one day they lost their way and had to be paged by the store intercom.

sage pretend iphone
sage and stuffed animals
fussball playing

Sage returned to the Lego table before dinner and then helped me put a few pieces of the puzzle together. He was fascinated with the boathouse and how the lever pushed the boat out into the water.

sage lego boathouse
lego boathouse finished

Dinner was spaghetti with feta for the children. Neither of the two wanted the meatless loaf or the vegetables. I added spicy Urfa chilies to my spaghetti as did Sage. Instead of feta, I grated some Parmesan cheese.

Sunday dinner jan 11

With waking up early and all of the activities of the day, it seemed like the longest Sunday ever. The only thing I wished was to have been able to talk with my boyfriend a bit longer, but I am grateful for the few moments we had. 

sunday tree

A NICE LIFE

sage big eyes

When we hear the words 'Have a nice life', the first thing which comes to mind is the thought you will never again see the person who spoke these words. Our journey with them is over and the time has come to move on. Whatever the reason, be it anger or misunderstanding or simply a fond farewell, these words have a certain meaning and are difficult to interpret otherwise.

Our journeys, our lives, take turns for the better some days and turn worse on other days. Staying on the path we set out to take can at times challenge and test us. We might be tempted to give up and take another path, go another way which seems easier at the time. Nothing worth having is simple. It is a battle we need to fight. In order to have a 'nice life' we must be willing to work for it - for better or worse.

The day started out early - too early for me. The children arrived last night and were up early this morning. I was still asleep downstairs on the daybed in the cold living room, albeit my down comforter kept me warm. The heater now is working only upstairs where the children are sleeping. At some point I hope to have my bed set up but I do not see that happening any time soon.

I made the children polenta for breakfast which they ate with maple syrup. For myself, I prepared a plate of vegetables, cheese, and a sunny side up egg. Sage was eager to start the next Lego set and asked if he could leave the table when he finished. Cinnamon was still hungry so I got her a small Gala apple as there was no more polenta.

Icicles were hanging off the roof of the new townhouse across from my patio. The temperatures were freezing but there was no snow as Cinnamon had wished for. She had visions of playing in the snow this morning. Somehow I do not think there will be any snow this winter but there are a several more weeks left until springtime.

january icicles

As the children worked on the new Lego set, I slept on the daybed next to them. Cedar fever took over and drained all my energy. We ended up staying indoors today and will most likely stay home tomorrow as the freezing weather is conducive to relaxing at home.

Our 'nice life' continued into the afternoon when Saffron called and spoke to her siblings. All three are getting excited for her return home in three weeks. The balance between the three will be restored and life will resume albeit differently than before.

Saturday night is movie night and although I do not own a television at this point or many movies for the children to watch, I did promise them popcorn and a movie. The movie was a Scooby Doo DVD with four episodes which I had them watch on my laptop as they enjoyed the Vermont maple and sea salt popcorn.

cinnamon and bunny

I spent Saturday night alone downstairs watching some German show on my iPad. I didn't mind so much but would have preferred to spend it with my boyfriend. Sadly, the distance and circumstances beyond our control are keeping us apart. Our 'nice life' is not always as nice as we would like it to be but it is all we have at the moment.

LIFE WRITES ITSELF

winter tree in january

From the moment we awaken to the time we lay to rest at night, life writes itself. Our lives are the accumulation of all of the moments we experience throughout the day. We might see certain aspects as mundane whilst others find them interesting. The routines, the rituals, the everyday happenings in our lives are part of who we are. Whatever the case, life happens and all we can do is embrace it.

The winter months are upon us which means most of us tend to stay indoors more than during the summer months. Whilst some people might find it dull and tiresome, others find it quite calming. The weeks of slowing down after the holidays and before the awakening of spring are ones we should use wisely. We should take the time to reflect on the road ahead of us and where we wish to take our story. We have more say in the direction our lives are heading than we tend to think.

At times we feel powerless as to the direction life takes us. Those are the moments where we simply sit back and observe. We learn from the observations and take note of things we would like to change and ponder how we can go about making those changes. Much patience is required at such times but the lessons learned are worth the investment of time.

On the other hand, there will be moments where we have a more active involvement in our life stories. The last minute decisions we make can change the entire course of our future. Our story, our lives take another direction with new experiences to discover. A whole new world opens up to us as we stand at the fork in the road and choose one path over the other.

The choice of the path we take is one we must learn to live with for going back is not an option. A second is all it takes to change the course of our future. The last-minute decision to wait for someone as you are leaving a restaurant or a concert which has ended has repercussions unbeknownst to you at the time.

The people we meet along the way all shape our views of the world. They might even change our views and lead us on another path. Had we not responded to the email received from the stranger we met at the coffeehouse, at the airport, at a concert, we might never have known another story - perhaps a better one than the one which had been writing itself up until now.

We can either embrace life and take an active role in all of the moments which come along or sit back and be passive. However the story unfolds remains to be seen. Either way, life writes itself. It keeps moving forward with or without you. There is no stopping it even when you die as the impressions you left upon others will forever be a part of those lives. Life continues with a new chapter.