new york city kid in arkansas
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Huck has been planning his New Year’s Eve for a few weeks now, and it involves the three of us staying up all night long. When I told him that there was no way I would even consider staying up all night long, he warned me that I would spend my New Year’s Day very bored and lonely because he and Troy would be sleeping.

When we moved to Fayetteville we brought with us some non-perishable food from our New York kitchen, including mustard.  Not taking stock of what we already had, once we got to our new town I accidentally purchased more mustard for our future backyard cookouts.  It became a joke around here that no one should under any circumstance ever buy any more mustard for as long as we live.  A couple weeks ago I got some mustard out of the fridge and noticed an old Associated Market price tag on it from our Fort Washington Avenue days, along with a disturbing expiration date. I announced to the family that we had finally come to the end of our mustard line and would now need to officially purchase brand new Fayetteville mustard! Huck ran into the kitchen and requested the price tag with uncharacteristic sentimental flair.  I carefully peeled it off and watched him put it into a teeny Tupperware container with other precious little items that he can’t quite let go of, including a sketch on a folded up St. Paul’s pew envelope from months ago.  I should probably show him the nearly empty bag of hazelnut coffee hidden in the back of a cupboard also purchased from Associated Market that I can’t seem to throw away.  After all, I got it specifically for Thursday afternoons while Huck and his friends were at jazz choir practice so that the women I became a mom with could join me for an hour of down time in our apartment across the street.  Or how about my last love note found in his New York lunch bag from second grade that I salvaged and put into my wooden box of special mementos before getting rid of the well-used bag? Why, just a week ago we colored together on a kids’ menu at our Christmas Eve dinner, and Huck wrote the restaurant’s name and date on it so that we could find it years from now and remember.

For Christmas Troy gave me Anne Lamott’s new book “Small Victories.”  It begins with a poem by Billy Collins called “In the Evening.”  Here are the last two lines:

And the past and future?
nothing but an only child with two different masks.

All this reminds me of New Year’s Eve.  Holding on to memories and souvenirs from times gone by while glancing forward at what’s to come.  Sometimes you have to put on the lid, shut the drawer and take a step into the new.  Because before you know it, the new becomes a sweet memory, too.

Happy 2015!  And may the people you live with spend the day asleep.

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We made the most of our staying-home-for-Christmas plan, as evidenced by our house full of new books, games, candles, toys and the remains of cinnamon rolls, sugar cookies and homemade Chex mix that we may never again be hungry enough to eat.  I am cozy under my new blanket wearing my new slightly ridiculous adult-sized footsie pajamas drinking coffee out of my new cup, nursing my Christmas Cold while Troy runs our dog all over the neighborhood in order to get thousands more steps on his new Fitbit and Huck practices his speed stacking cups in order to beat his best time while still wearing his Santa pajamas that he put on over 40 hours ago.  And the very best part of staying in Fayetteville? Spending Christmas Day with our dear friends Russell and Cheryl who made our year by moving to our town.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas Break.

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The older we get, the more “I’ll be home for Christmas” actually means staying home for Christmas.  As in Huck’s home! And that’s what we’re doing this time around. We’ve crammed in a lot of celebration in the days leading up to the much longed for holiday, like you do.  I forced Huck to be in the Christmas pageant at St. Paul’s wherein he played the world’s most bored townsperson but also had some fun along the way, partly thanks to a pizza party and some incredible punch. We celebrated the Winter Solstice with friends and rode an overpriced yet adorable horse-drawn carriage around the square.  Sunny finally began to play with her festive red and green rope toy and Huck began sleeping with a towel turban on his head.  Troy said goodbye to Montessori and will return to the University nursery school as a sub in January.  I ended a busy semester of delightful musicals at The New School with hopes and plans to be there more in the new year, subbing on non-rehearsal days. Huck broke hearts by accidentally spelling “full-fledged” wrong in Round Six of his school’s spelling bee, but then came home with chocolate, homemade ornaments, and plans to win next year.  (I was secretly hoping to never have to endure another stressful spelling bee for as long as I live.)  Troy bought himself some reading glasses.  Our Christmas tree gave birth to hundreds of presents that are now taking over the living room floor. We Facetimed with New York friends enjoying our favorite annual party in our favorite neighborhood.  Huck finished another Harry Potter book and moved onto the next.  We decided to let it snow, let it snow, let is snow (and let it go, let it go, let it go) and guess what? Unseasonably warmish days (for the most part) and no snow in sight.

Happy Christmas Week!

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You know the old saying that this is the most wonderful time of the year?  I’m one of those people that truly believes it, but as I trudge through my Forlorn Forties, a phrase I recently learned and also truly believe, I’m struck by how hard this time of year is for some. In the kindergarten and first grade play I’ve been rehearsing, Mr. and Mrs. Claus exclaim, “This will be the best Christmas ever!” and it always makes me squirm. We don’t need this to be the best Christmas ever.  We just need this to be Christmas.

Here’s what Christmas has been for the three of us these last few weeks.  We put up our beautiful tree named Bernice and made my mom’s delicious sugar cookies.  Huck got dressed in all his math paraphernalia and enjoyed his beloved Celebration of the Mind math fair at the University of Arkansas with his like-minded friends.  We voted again.  We enjoyed our town’s Little Craft Fair which might need to change its name soon. We took an evening trip to Eureka Springs and caroled with strangers.  We changed our health insurance again.  We walked around the well-lit town square with big smiles on our faces.  Huck found his ratty old packet of song lyrics from Ft. Washington Collegiate days and began memorizing every single verse of “Good King Wenceslas.” We mourned the repeal on a law to protect our LGBT friends. We went to an eggnog party and taught Huck what “unleaded” means.  We helped out at St. Paul’s Alternative Gift Market on behalf of Prison Stories.  Huck joined his school’s archery team. Troy sang Christmas carols to little ones and rehearsed bigger ones in the Montessori play.  I directed Santa Claus. Huck and his classmates performed a spoof of “A Christmas Carol” at a school concert, reminding Troy and I that maybe we should stop working on plays with kids all day long. Huck was recognized as a National Student Leader by the Continental Math League.  We wrote greetings in Christmas card after Christmas card after Christmas card and reminisced over past Christmas card after Christmas card after Christmas card. We saw TheatreSquared’s latest hit show and had a sweet reunion with my old PROOF friends.  Troy led a singalong of Christmas tunes in our living room with a surprise flute appearance. We became obsessed with baby Alden in Brooklyn.  We thanked God for the lack of snow days and the incredible sunshine.  We prayed for Troy’s mom.  And each night we lit our Advent wreathe candles and tried to remember the light of the world.

The best Christmas ever?  I’ll settle for the most wonderful time of the year.

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… a family to celebrate milestones together like my mama’s 70th birthday, inter-generational Canasta and Uno, surprise visits from old friends, Christmas trees in November, turkey hats, marching bands, living room slumber parties, an over-sized Adirondack chair, magic shows, invisible giggling flautists, introducing armpit farts to 4 year olds, a car chase, a plaque of appreciation for 50 years of mom service, a cake made of dollar bills, cousins who can’t get enough of each other, unseasonably warm weather, and no sign of Louise the Pig Puppet.  As if our hearts weren’t full enough, the day after returning to Fayetteville our friends Russell and Cheryl lovingly drove me three hours to see an ear surgeon in Little Rock, my one and only local hope to end the pain that has plagued and confused me for the past six months.  My long overdue ear surgery is set for February 11th, filling me with exactly equal doses of hope and fear.  Driving across Arkansas at the end of that long day, daydreaming about the future with friends who are as close to family as friends can be, and already reminiscing about the past few days, ’twas easy to be thankful.  And another thing: When I picked up Huck from school the next day he was excitedly telling his friend, “So after her ear surgery she’ll be able to swim underwater with me!” followed by a fancy leap in the air to punctuate his good mom-news.

Here’s hoping.

A Spontaneous Salina Sally Visit!

A Spontaneous Coleman Sighting at Beautiful Botanica Gardens!

The Original Hottman 5

The Grand and Great-Grandchildren, minus Hayden

A couple of hot middle children.  Seriously, it was hot outside!

Click here for my very favorite video ever:

watch?v=I8QGQkO8kGM&feature=youtu.be

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(Due to an attack of strange spam comments that really wanted me to buy new shoes, I had to delete & repost this original entry from November 6th.)

This fall has been a little uncharacteristic for the mother in me.  First I forgot about Crazy Hat Day until it was exactly too late.  A week later I dropped Huck off a few minutes before 8:00 only to realize he was supposed to be at an early morning assembly to receive a math honor.  Just now Huck asked me why I still haven’t signed a progress report and sent it back to school. And the most uncharacteristic of all?  His Melissa and Doug magnetic calendar that we’ve had since he was 3 is forever frozen on September 2014.

So to get myself familiar again, I’ve been taking pictures of the peak of fall here in Fayetteville.  I’m back!

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For the first time in nearly three years, Huck had a sick day this week.  I’d almost forgotten what it’s like to call off school and work and every plan for the day because of illness.  Oh, I know how snow days and birthdays feel.  But this was like going back in time to a land far away where my big nine year old who daily outgrows a new pair of pants spends the day napping and needing help with the most basic things.  At one point without warning he curled his warm little feverish body into my arms and fell asleep, leaving me stranded without a phone or laptop or book or TV remote in sight.  And there I was back in 2005, forced to sit still and be almost alone with someone who doesn’t even talk.  It was good for me then and it’s really good for me now.  Making an exception for sickness, he reverted back to calling me “Mommy” and gave me many terrible messes to clean up.  Ah, the good old days.  Except for a terrifying episode of delirium that went on a few minutes too long, I secretly loved Huck’s sick day. I was beginning to worry he would become an adult with no memories of being miserable at home with his mom.

Lately I’ve been having strange dreams that intertwine New York and Kansas in impossible ways.  My sleepy subconscious can’t quite place extremely familiar locations and people so that by morning I have to put the pieces together and translate why I was down at the Hudson River one minute and my parents’ house the next.  I don’t particularly feel homesick and will be in that very house next week celebrating Thanksgiving and my mom’s 70th, but maybe I miss Huck’s hometown.  Or maybe I miss Huck’s tender age when we lived there.  I remember a New Year’s Eve when he was about four years old, also getting over a sickness, and we pretty much had the neighborhood to ourselves as we played in the snow near Fort Tryon Park (see above picture).  A family with teenagers came walking by and we said hello.  Turns out they had lived right there where we were raising Huck and had since moved away.  I could see the memories flowing for the parents as they looked around and shook their heads. Back then we had no intention of ever leaving New York, but I remember having an abstract image of what they must be feeling. As if that could be us someday.

“Let me be awake in the present moment just as it is.”  That’s the mantra from our meditation class at church that I try to play on repeat in my mind, rejecting my usual tendency to live in the past or worry about the future.  The present moment just as it is finds Huck back at school, Troy beginning a long day in the classroom and me with a few hours alone at home before heading to Huck’s school Thanksgiving luncheon and then onto prepare for tomorrow’s opening of another show starring very short people.  There I go again, leaving the present and thinking about the future.  The present moment just as it is finds the Christmas card sketches on the drawing table, the heater on full blast, and Sunny happily recovering from a longed for morning walk in the brisk weather.  Some present moments are better than others. I like these just fine.

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We had the pleasure of showing off our fall town to the Nickels last weekend.  I love many things about this crazy old world and one of my favorites is watching the trees change colors before my eyes.  Aunt Tina shares this love with me, so the two of us had a fine time taking pictures and oohing and awing over the beauty around us.  Four year old twins Jackson and Rylee, two of the most delightful creatures that ever lived, worked hard to teach Sunny not to be afraid of children.  We knew they were succeeding when during our Devil’s Den walk Sunny stopped her joyful running and prancing through the woods to check on a crying Rylee.

Thank you, Fayetteville Fall, for peaking at just the right moment.

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Another Halloween has come and gone, adding more delightful memories of pumpkin carving and costume creating and candy consumption to our already very, very full hearts.  This year Huck deviated from his usual eccentric costume ideas, giving his dad a break and allowing us to purchase his entire Harry Potter ensemble.  My first instinct was to argue for something more creative and unusual, but there was something sweet about the fact that he has grown to love such a wonderful literary character.  Sometimes I catch him out in the yard with a stick practicing his spells with a very serious look on his face.  And as an added bonus, his dear friend Lydia was dressing as Hermione (as was his Illinois cousin Lily), giving him a partner as we trick or treated on the square and later door to door.  And the day after found us on a long overdue autumn walk at Lake Fayetteville, making the celebration complete for Mom.  Have you noticed a change in our parental names?  A week or so ago Huck decided it was time to stop calling us Mommy and Daddy.  He attempted “Mother” and “Father” for a few days, but after some gentle persuasion from the two of us he has settled on “Mom” and “Dad,” requesting that we also stop calling each other “Mommy” and “Daddy.”

The times.  They keep a’changing.