autumn days

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Long Winter

We awoke to a touch of snow today, the first snowfall of the season.  We get pretty excited about snow around here, as we only get a few white days each year.  We have been eagerly awaiting a three day blizzard since reading Laura Ingalls Wilder's The Long Winter.  This morning's touch of snow brought such joy to my two children (and all the squealing children in the neighborhood) and helped me to embrace the little moments in the day.  Like excited children missing a day of school, we all bundled up and hurried out as the snow fell and quickly began to melt.  When we finally came in to warm up, we put on warm dry clothes, had lunch, and got ready for quiet time.  And then the snow started pouring down again.  Out we raced, in the middle of our quiet time, to catch some falling flakes.  Hannah is not quite ready to roll her own snowballs, but both kids love dropping and stomping my snowballs to bits.  We completed our snowman with bottle caps and a cork saved for our stepping stone project.  We added our own gloves, scarf, ear muffs, and shovel.  We always love our first snow day each year, and we'll keep waiting for (but not expecting) that three day blizzard Laura had plenty of in her own Long Winter.

our second snowfall of the day
our first happy wet snowman

playing together all warm and cozy inside

attitude of gratitude

Every few months I pick up a Portland Woman magazine and eventually find time to read it.  Today I've found the time to read a few articles from the new January/February 2012 issue.  Reading An Attitude of Gratitude, I am reminded that the attitude of gratitude truly can take a person a long way.  Each weekend as I fill the tub with hot water for my weekly bath, I write a gratitude list into my journal.  In an attempt to regularly acknowledge and be grateful for my many blessings and resources, I'd like to follow this article's advice.  First step (of three): "Make a mental gratitude list in the moment" (or on paper).  Second step: "Create a written gratitude list to read aloud to yourself daily."  And third step: "Give of yourself and express your gratitude to others."  Step three seems to give permission to get mushy and thank people in your life for specific reasons you are grateful for them.  We regularly send love notes to friends and family, thank our teachers at the end of every class, and thank friends for spending time with us, so perhaps this is a start.  Beginning today, my four year old daughter Hannah and I made and read aloud our gratitude lists.  Here they are.

My list:
I am thankful for safe beautiful snow outside.
I am thankful for my healthy children, their cousins, and the other children in my life.
I am thankful for time with my parents.
I am thankful for a loving funny husband.
I am thankful for my community of friends.
I am thankful for learning and growing in my garden.
I am thankful for tonight's eggplant calzones recipe.
I am thankful for a blog in which to express my thoughts.

Hannah's list:
I am thankful for having Christmas with Grandma and Grandpa each year.
I am thankful for making dinner with Mama tonight.
I am thankful for having so much friends and family.
I am thankful for doing different projects with Mama.
I am thankful for saying I'm thankful at Thanksgiving.
I am thankful for typing letters on the computer some days.
I am thankful for having such a nice brother in that picture (below).

And in Hannah's words, Liam is thankful for having such a nice sister.
liamishgyrtrr1fdsdghhsdfdfcsf gc fdhfgdfggjhhgfsdfghjdsfgf ghhdgggdsgdtry
(Translation: Liam is one and he's thankful for everything.)

giving thanks... for one another

Thursday, January 12, 2012

prayer of a parent

A few days ago as I processed some of my parents' psychology, I sat down without reason to type out the following paragraph.  It demanded to be written, as if my subconsciousness were pleading with my consciousness, and it flowed without any expectation.  Here it is.

This is a critical time in which we choose how to tackle the challenges in life.  Will we meet our stretched patience with forgiveness and honesty, or will we pretend things are fine when they are not?  I swallow my pride and apologize and hope that I am not giving too much of myself away in this daily challenge of balancing my own needs with my children's needs.  May this burden not be too much for me to carry.  May I carry it with grace and love and peace and joy.  May I let my inner monster out to play when it is needed and not make it hide deep within to later attack my inner self and those I love.  May I move through parenting with peace and contentment, enjoying the moments and the journey.  Please let me be honestly joyous now and later. 

When I shared this with my friend Holly and asked her what she thought it was all about, she responded with: "I think it symbolizes you growing and expanding in directions you really want to go but may be holding back in some ways.  You can see the end goal, but know that not everything can be achieved at the present moment.  Your inner monster could be anger or impatience or an injustice you are fighting."  Her reflections allowed me to see this as an honest prayer that will lead me in the right direction.  By sharing my honest prayer as a parent, I hope it will be easier for you, dear reader, to express and process some of your own gut feelings when it comes to meeting the challenges of parenting.  

Anybody Can Play

One of the books Hannah loves to read is Anybody Can Play.  She especially loves to act out the physical movements on restless rainy days.  Today was a blustery wet day and she again pulled out this book.  In trying to get Bert to lighten up, Ernie moves his body parts in a variety of ways.  One of these ways is to draw with feet.  Today we finally tried to do this ourselves.  We discussed how some people use their feet to eat and write and draw when their hands aren't able to do the job, "like people use wheelchairs when their legs don't work, right, Mama?"  Drawing with our feet was more difficult than we'd predicted, though we were invigorated by trying a new physical activity.  We will surely be trying this exercise again.  And our technique is sure to improve. 

Ernie and Bert drawing with their feet

Hannah's feet at work

my attempt at sky, grass, and a signature

Irving & Muktuk: Two Bad Bears

One book we have read almost a hundred times is Irving & Muktuk: Two Bad Bears.  We loved it so much we can almost recite the entire thing.  We have just hosted our own New Year's Eve Blueberry Muffin Festival like the one hosted by the book's characters in the frozen north.

Dear Friends,

We are gathering at the Brass Monkey Hotel (our home) for the first annual Blueberry Muffin Festival.  This is an extension of our new favorite book Irving and Muktuk: Two Bad Bears.  We will "stay up all night (or as late as we like) sampling muffins, listening to the piano, drinking root beer, and playing cards for money.  [We] are a hard lot, but [we] have a soft spot in [our] hearts for blueberry muffins."  We will also have lasagna and popcorn.  If you so choose, you may bring blueberry muffins, a meal to share, and a variety of costumes from the book (chef, officer, zoo keeper, girl scout, penguin, or anything else you feel like).

Happy winter days, 
your friends in the frozen north

For this festival, we baked a lasagna and four dozen blueberry muffins.  A friend brought candy fish to put on top of the muffins, as Irving and Muktuk love to put fish on their foods in Bad Bears Go Visiting.  We continue to find new books detailing the adventures of our favorite bad bears, Irving and Muktuk.  Next year, however, we plan on inviting our friends in their pajamas to join us for a lunch version of the Blueberry Muffin Festival on New Year's Day.

a blueberry muffin topped with cream cheese frosting and a fishy treat

We never tired of eating all the blueberry muffins.

garrison keilor (movie review)

Lying with my sleeping beauties tonight, I was able to watch an entire movie on my little Kindle.  My goodness, I don't remember when I've watched an entire movie at home in the last year.  What a treat!  And I feel like I have spent the last couple hours with one of my favorite (though famous) people.  Garrison Keillor: the Man on the Radio in the Red Shoes.  I grew up listening to Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Companion radio show on Saturday afternoons as my dad worked in the garage.  It is a futile effort to try to listen to the radio show nowadays with two busy young children wanting my full attention.  With this movie, I loved watching Garrison talk about his life, fearing it would be ordinary, and finally realizing that everyone lives a wonderfully ordinary life.

The two lines that brought out my emotions were these, roughly translated.  "When you get to be the age I am now, you start seeing things as a child of 12 or 13 again, fuzzy around the edges."  I see my mother doing this now in her 13 year of retirement, reliving the joys and wonder and freedom of her childhood.  Garrison also said this: "As children we see the world as it really is and then we spend the rest of our lives trying to remember what we saw."  I am sad for taking my job as a parent so seriously, though I know I am helping my children and myself build memories we'll enjoy for the rest of our lives.  In the background, I am still grieving for what was lost in my own childhood and missing my estranged brother.  My mother says she remembers being a carefree happy child.  At this time in my life, my childhood memories are dominated by fear, pain, and calculating for my own safety.  The playtime outdoors with neighbors pales in the background.  One day soon I will be able to recall more wonderful feelings from my own childhood.  Garrison had many other wise words to share.  "We have to live in the past and the present because the past is who we were.  Experiencing things from our past helps us feel young again."  "Governments and policies rise and fall, famous people die, but kindness prevails.  America's prevailing quality is kindness."  This film gives me the opportunity to reflect on my past and connect it with my future with a dash of kindness and hope.

In his radio show, Garrison speaks of being a bachelor farmer in a town of 300 people.  Somehow, I feel he's speaking of my family's roots.  My father is from South Dakota and has shared a few sentiments from the midwest.  He grew up eating breakfast, dinner, and supper and now he is grateful to have Oregon rains instead of endless snow to shovel.  I am grateful my father was drawn to Garrison's radio show and shared it with me.  Growing up with Garrison in my garage on Saturday afternoons, I grew up feeling quite comforted by the constancy and humor and love in his voice.  He was like a grandfather to me.  His show began in 1974 and continues to this day.  I look forward to listening to the Prairie Home Companion radio shows someday from the beginning.  Perhaps my children will want to listen to the shows with me.  For now, watching this sweet movie while cuddling my sleeping babes is enough.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Portland Scrap (part two)

Today we three ventured to Scrap once again with nine of our favorite friends.  We learned today that Scrap is an independent organization with about 50 volunteers and three sister locations in other states.  They host camps, classes, and parties too.  I hoped to find a big box of spinning clay that I'd passed up on the last visit, though someone else had already claimed it as their own treasure.  In the fun-filled building, we found a laminating machine, a full tub of bottle caps, a champagne cap fairy chair, boots turned into planting pots, and a mirror framed with purple paintbrush handles.  Oh, if only I'd had my camera to take more pictures!

Liam chose to carry home a wooden spoon and a wooden dog.  Hannah's treasures were iron-on fabric decals, tutus for her dolls, and a wooden zebra box.  She and I chose oodles of awesome yarn to fuel her attempts at crocheting with her grandma.  My yarn is generally used to knit (easy rectangular) scarves to donate to someone with a need for warmth.  I claimed most of the purple yarn to make purple hats for newborn babies as a reminder to not shake babies.  (This will be my excuse to finally learn to knit something other than rectangles.)  With a little help, I found the wood to make the grocery list dispenser I have had my eye.  (We only have 24 boxes of two-ply receipt tape in our garage, mistakenly ordered for the family business.)  While trying to donate some of our receipt tape (unsuccessfully), our friend gave us powdered tempera paint that she saved from her school's dumpster to donate at Scrap.  Altogether we only had to pay $4.55 for all these treasures.  We are so grateful to Scrap for providing us with all this crafty inspiration!  We are again already planning a return visit.

a fabric-covered wall art project from our last Scrap visit

the grocery list dispenser I am attempting to reproduce

some treasures we found today (Holly's idea to add cork board to list dispenser)

enjoying his newest pet

yarn for rectangular projects

Thursday, January 5, 2012

fine balance of parenting (part two)

As an attached parent, I notice how fine the balance of parenting can be.  For example, after getting up in the black of morning to have a little time to myself, my beloved daughter hopped up to follow me out the door.  She is now cuddled onto my lap in the dark as I write about desiring a bit more personal time.

A conversation my husband and mother had about our parenting style keeps replaying in my head.  Times have definitely changed in the 30 years since my parents had young children.  My mom has just gone home after spending a week with us, and she doesn't understand our parenting choices.  I am so thankful my husband and I both enjoy our style of attachment parenting.  My husband has a flexible work schedule and is quite attached (literally) our wee ones.  He makes a point of going to all their prenatal appointments, pediatric visits, and their special occasions.  As a full-time mom, I am with the little ones day and night.  I tackle more of the children's activities and foods while my husband manages much of the home and errands.

In all the choices we've made together, we know only a couple families who have chosen the same things for their children.  (Oh, good.  My son is awake and on my lap as well.)  Most parents love their children and make different choices that depend on their resources and their children.  My parents made the most of their resources (and cultural norms) when raising their two children.  While I make some of the same choices as my own parents, I make a point of doing some things differently.  My husband and I know childhood passes so quickly.  Just look at how we are now!  Our two small children will soon be brushing our teeth (in a matter of decades).  Keeping in mind how temporary childhood is, our children share a room and beds with us.  We don't let our children cry it out the way I cried alone as a child.  Thankfully our children love to sleep in the Ergo carrier.  Hannah enjoyed mama's milk and rides in the Ergo until I was considerably pregnant with her little brother.  Our children don't watch television, nor do we entertain them day and night, so they are forced to entertain themselves while we wash dishes or make dinner or take a shower.  It is such a joy to watch them cuddle and share and learn and play together.

This attached parenting thing can be physically demanding and exhausting, but we again hold a crying child and remember that we will only have these two little babes for a few short years.  Despite the gap between generations, when it comes to parenting, my mom did concede, "Well, at least you won't regret not spending enough time with your children."  So true she is.

Liam walking a labyrinth with his grandma

We don't go far without our beloved Ergo.