Monday, November 30, 2015

The Tortoise

I'm a sucker for slow. Put it in front of anything, and I will idealize it deep in my core. Slow parenting. Slow food. Slow Sundays. Slow school.

Because slow comes naturally and fast never did.

I was up all night with two sick boys and a teething baby. The plans to return to school books today are put on hold, while we watch movies and read books. We will putter and sip and accomplish next to nothing on this cold, gray day. And it feels good, once you sink into it. Once you accept it for what it is. A day to be sacrificed to small thoughts and smaller projects.

Chicken stock is simmering. And we're all still in pajamas. And tomorrow we will find the time for the things we want to do, and we will ignore the things we don't for just a little longer.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

This Weekend We

This weekend Alamae and I headed out in the still and quiet morning to drive in circles looking for a vintage fair, stopping for breakfast and directions at the most perfect wood paneled breakfast spot, sharing a bit of bar space with two watery eyed, rough edged men, who bowed their heads in thanks before eating plates piled high with scrapple, pancakes, and eggs. And when we finally found said vintage fair, the line deterred us from purchasing an old baby scale and a few bars of handmade soap.

This weekend I stopped with co-workers at a dive bar after our shift, and I reacquainted myself with pleasure of nearly screamed conversations with strangers.

This weekend I sat around with ten women and three babies, eating reimagined leftovers and possibly the world's most perfect cookie bar in honor of a bookless bookclub. Because we needed our lives to make space for our club, even if this go around we couldn't make space for a novel. And I realized that much like my friend Claire, drinking coffee and eating sweets is one of my very favorite things to do with a day.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Thanksgiving 2015

In short, it was the most unremarkable of Thanksgivings. A long, shadowed quiet afternoon. Small, scraped helping hands. A blessing said at 5 pm. A game played before heading to sleep. Sweet and easily forgotten. Half formed memories that will blend into other years at the very same tables, with the very same people, eating the very same food.

But one does not need the extraordinary to give thanks.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015


I decided that we should take a full week for Thanksgiving Break, even if the county we live in doesn't. I wanted to make time for days of arts and crafts. But life had other plans for those coveted hours, and the full afternoons of paint and clay have become stollen moments here and there.

Some of the moments have been all by myself. And I have had the pleasure of falling into my own thoughts as I complete a repetitive, and yet rewarding task, watching my hands create something that will remain longer than a dinner or a freshly swept floor. I  am envious of those mothers who find time to pursue artistic ventures. (Anne with her finger puppets, macrame, and wet plate photography while raising five kids does it as well as anyone I have ever witnessed.) There is a part of me, small though it is, that is fed when I get to make things.

And while I loved those hours and minutes I sat at the table on my own, I equally loved the time spent there with my kids at hand. Watching as they solved problems and discovered new techniques, created patterns, revised plans. I sunk into the stretches when we were all quiet, focused on our own tasks. I hope to spend untold hours doing more of the same through the holiday season. That prospect brings me more excitement than nearly any other Christmas endeavor. I hope to show you finished projects at some point, but seeing as much of what we made our gifts, for now these bits and pieces will suffice.

*I had visions of what the kids should make for gifts. For instance, I thought Gus should make these eye ornaments. After completing just one, he decided that his ornaments needed to be far more personalized, and incidentally, far less decipherable. However, he is bursting with excitement and wants to tell everyone what he has made them a month in advance. The lesson being, my plans paled in comparison to his. 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

A Few Things

  1. Watched Inside Out with the kids last night. That is one seriously good kid's movie.
  2. Embarrassed by how much time I spend fantasying about buying a sofa from these guys. Cool and ethically made in the USA. Should I ever save the appropriate number of pennies, I'm pretty sure I'd go for brown leather (maybe the Chesterfield or Basel), but there's a big old part of me that wants something crazier like this or this. No one should think about sofas this much.
  3. Ordered this book earlier this week, and Sena has already read it cover to cover. Now my yard is full of holes because she has dug out every single dandelion root and turned them into tea. 
  4. Considering buying these  boots , unless someone has a suggestion for a good lace-up boot that has decent traction. (I pretty much only wear boots or sandals.)
  5. Planning a New Orleans Bachelorette Party Weekend for my best fraand for the end of January. I bet I don't need to tell anyone how excited I am about this.
  6. Made this cabbage, date, and feta last night and it is my new favorite thing. It's the first thing I have made in a long time that feels interesting. All my food has started to taste the same. This did not. 
  7. Walked the kids to the library last to try to get a copy of The Danish Way of Parenting  after my dad posted an article about Danish happiness on his Facebook. Turns out the book is only available on Kindle, and I didn't have time to find anything else before Arlo had an accident, reminding me that it's always best to just let that boy be naked.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Becoming a Soccer Mom

I am decidedly not competitive. While my friend Shannon insists that I am, and while there were a few pretty heated games of Taboo in college, I think she is projecting. I just don't think it's a label that I can/ need to claim.

For instance, when I watch my kids engaged in sports, competition, or performance, I am not really rooting for them to win, or to be the best. I just want them to be good enough that none of us are embarrassed. This very low bar has still not always been met. We have been at pinewood derby races where Sena and Gus's cars could barely make it down the track. While we tried to spin it in our favor-- we were probably the only parents there who didn't build the cars for their kids-- it's hard to watch your kid come in dead last. Over and over again.

When Gus started soccer this season, I was just hoping for good enough. I hoped they would win some of their games so that he wouldn't lose enthusiasm for the sport. I wanted him to get play time. I wanted him to feel he was an integral part of the team. That was all I needed, and that is pretty much how the season went. He had a laid back coach who remained relatively quiet on the sidelines. They spent most of their practices scrimmaging rather than running drills. The pressure was low, and so were my expectations. The team played well together and there were a few really good players, but it wasn't an all-star team. So it came as a great surprise that they won their play-off game, then the semi-finals, and finally ended the season bringing home the #1 trophy. What came as an even greater surprise was how much I wanted his team to win watching those games. The nerves. The anxiety.
The rearing of a competitive head that I didn't know was buried somewhere deep, waiting to cheer on my child.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Hitchhikers and Jesus

Sometimes I pick up hitchhikers. I have never done it with my children in the car and I never imagine that I will. I cannot compromise their safety.

But I can compromise my own.

I believe in Jesus. The Jesus I serve told me that if someone is hungry, I am supposed to give them food. If they ask to borrow money, I am supposed to lend. I figure that an outstretched thumb is the equivalent of a request, and I am supposed to help those in need.

Very few people see it my way, Christian or otherwise. Almost every one tells me how stupid I am. How dangerous it is. I suppose they are right.

But Jesus never told me to stay safe. He never told me to protect myself.

What he did tell me to do was to turn the other cheek. To love those who hate me. He told me to put back my sword.

Loving people is a dangerous game, but if I die at 31 or I die at 93, either way my life is infinitesimally small in the face of eternity. And I want to make my brief existence count. I want to love to the very best of my ability.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Spoken in Whispers

The best thing about getting older is the fact that after years of trail and error, you come to a better understanding of how to create your own happiness, how to find your own joy. And the best part of the discovery is realizing how much simpler it is than you once imagined.

Happiness is about small moments. It's deciding to abandon housework when you're feeling impatient and frustrated. Choosing instead to go for a walk on a gray autumn day, because gray days have a special kind of beauty, and the golden reeds and the winged sumac look even more stunning against the somber skies. Muddy kids steal your heart. And the rustling of dry leaves is the perfect soundtrack for your fumbling emotions.

You learn that happiness is also quieter than you imagined. Waiting for you at the edges.  There for the taking.

On Monday, my heart hurt. It felt ready to splinter into two dozens jagged pieces. I've never been very good at puzzles, so it seemed wiser to do what I could to keep it intact. Because even if all the king's horses and all the king's men had been there, they too would have failed to put it together again. 

So I set about making right choices. Praying and thanking. Pursuing positivity. Abandoning all else. But I also made small, practical good decisions. I choose good food, fresh air, movement, dirt, and play. 

Age has taught me. When I went to bed that night, I feel asleep with a whole heart. A sad heart, yes, but a whole sad heart. 

Monday, November 9, 2015

This Weekend We // Blackburn Trail Center

This weekend we spent a couple of days unwinding in the hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in an gluttonously large cabin with a few friends. Although the intention had been to fill the place to its brim, I may have inadvertently booked it for a weekend that most of my compatriots already had filled with other plans. Nevertheless, I made sure to enjoy the commercial kitchen and hope to use it even more fully next year when I am able to entice a couple dozen more folks to come wander bits of the Appalachian Trail and spend countless hours on the covetous wrap-around porch. 

The simplicity of spending time in a place that isn't yours, away from the concerns of the everyday. No laundry to do. No bills to pay. Nothing to fill your time except long conversations circling a few key themes. Time spent remembering the person you thought you would one day be and learning to appreciate the person you did, in fact, become. 

Good food of the most wholesome variety. Relatively early nights. A chill in the air. Flannels and sweaters and inappropriate foot ware. One pretty adorable kitchen dance session. A harmonica lost to a rat's nest. The promise of doing it again next year.