none of it goes unnoticed

Will a new raincoat turn me into a person less grumpy about January, I wonder?
In January, I wonder and I wonder and I wonder. 
Where has the cat gone, why are their voices so loud, what on earth do we have for dinner?
A piece is always missing, and I am always trying. Trying not to stare at my phone, trying not to cry, trying to hold together the calendar parts, trying to bend the days into a shape that might fit.

January is basically over, finally, and things are back to normal, the rhythm that almost feels like a routine, that definitely feels like home. The boys are reading books and banging out piano tunes, scavenging for metal scraps and building finger skateboard ramps, and I am wondering how on earth we got so lucky.


the oceanarium

Near the end of our trip, we spent a day in Lisbon, the capital and the largest city in Portugal. At Parque Eduardo VII we happened upon the Winter Wonderland festival and holiday markets, and toured the Estufa Fria, a "cool greenhouse" built into what had been a 19th century basalt quarry. Late in the day we had tickets to the Oceanarium, an entire world in and of itself. Tucker asked to write about that part of the trip, below!

There's some stimulation of curiosity that travel provokes, the fascinating work of puzzling out a new place, the long-awaited pleasure of getting away. There's also the chance to drive an SUV on roads built for burros, to make worried faces from high places and to help abstract impressions become realistic paintings. Home again, grateful for clothes dryers and ice cubes, bourbon reserves and our own mattresses, glad that everyday life here is not something any of us are often looking to escape.
guest post, by Tucker (age 13)

The Lisbon Oceanarium was many things for us - an unforgettable and amazing aquarium, an escape from the rain, the place from which Hank’s new Black-Footed Penguin stuffy came. We first entered the saltwater exhibits via a bridge high above the port. I was struck by worry that the whole Oceanario would be crowded when I saw how many people were at the first viewing tank. Fortunately, the visitors dispersed tremendously as we went further into the building. We gazed at and observed the giant octopus; we descried the leafy sea dragons, and we recognized some rays. The Oceanarium formed a ‘+’ shape and in the center was the biggest aquarium, with lots of schooling fish and a few sharks. Without a doubt the most interesting room we came upon had high ceilings and slide-shaped ice blocks - a few seabirds flew about and penguins chilled out under some false rock outcrops. After we were done in the Oceanarium we were planning on visiting a separate wing of the building, holding an exhibit titled ‘Forests Underwater.' Little did we know this was the largest (42,000 gallons) freshwater aquascape in the world. Just before we walked in I took a moment to read the sign saying ‘Aquascaped by Takashi Amano.' “Wow,” I said to dad, “these tanks were scaped by 天野尚, a very famous guy. I've read about him in library books.” But I was wrong, it was not five, not ten fish tanks but ONE giant, U-shaped, fish-and-plant-loaded work of art. Seeing this really nailed into me (and I assume mom and dad as well) that nature truly can be brought indoors. In my eyes, this was the greatest thing I have seen in a long time. I’d call it my happy place if it weren’t 3,848 miles away from home. I am grateful beyond words for our trip to Europe, and I look forward to seeing other parts of the continent. At some point in the near future there may be a blog post regarding an aquarium of my own! 


the windmill

Because the boys are built to be outside and in motion (or bent over studying moss) and because Tolliver in particular is prone to enjoy the delicious freedom of walking barefoot to select an orange to peel for breakfast, we based every accommodation on such criteria - which is how we ended up in a windmill in the Sintra Cascais Natural Park. The GR11 Atlantic path to Magoito passes nearby the property and we tossed down our luggage and took it immediately the evening we arrived. After about an hour through pine forest and along a bamboo-lined creek we were struck by a truly unparalleled stretch of sand and cliff, which we enjoyed until the sunset began to scream goodnight and even then it hadn't occurred to us that we'd be hiking home in the dark. Multiple creek crossings and rock scalings had been an adventure in the daylight, and the return trip (and our first fire salamander spotting!) will likely forever be a dried flower memory, pressed tight between pages of bunless hamburgers and tuna pizza.

Sintra, according to what we'd read, is magical and mysterious and also tricky to navigate without a guide. We spent an entire day with Bruno, who had been a high school geography teacher and provided historical context and cultural details (with lots of mythology and Disney and Broadway references) that captivated the boys' attention. He showed us two stunning palaces (Quinta da Regaleira and Monserrate), introduced us to legendary travesseiro da casa piriquita or "pillow of Sintra" pastries and also to octopus rice and fish eyeballs (he helped the boys order fresh pompano for lunch, overlooking Praia Grande). Our last stop with Bruno was Cabo de Roca, the westernmost point of Europe, and even though we had a far greater understanding of the region's unique mix of fishing heritage, 19th century grandeur and the animation of modern tourism, we felt like we had made a new friend, and wished we had more time with him.

I wonder what the boys will remember most - the bags on their backs, the world at their fingertips, the lush green landscape or the slower pace, the adventurous food tastings or the Aldi picnics. Despite the fact that his focus appeared to be strictly on pigeons plus the next gelato opportunity, Hank's first grade weekend report filled two pages and mentioned nothing more than the lady who delayed takeoff because there was a not a seat on the plane for her dog. Watching the boys stalk reptiles and spin the giant concrete mill mechanism, watching them descend in awe the eighty eight foot Initiation Well and underestimate every single wave, I felt implicated in their joy. They may not ever face the urge to lunge toward places away from here, but if they do, if they ever set off to find somewhere that might hold more of who they are or how they want to be, their wings will have had some practice.