autumn days

Friday, July 31, 2015

Cherishing Moments of Growing Independence

Children grow so much in the summer, free of the more rigorous routines and out in the sunshine.  I love seeking out the scrumptious details in how my children are growing and expanding.  Even though I am at their side most days and nights, I know I miss some things.  Last night as I lay awake in bed, it was delightful to hear my daughter's books moving around in bed with her and to hear my son laugh in his sleep.  I breathed a sigh of relief and thought, "I'm doing okay if she's covered in books and he's laughing in his sleep."  I truly treasure these moments with my ever-growing young children.  I appreciate the preciousness of it all.

"I want to get started as a professional chef right away!"

"I can water the garden for you, Mama.  I'm a big helper now!"

"Do you want to wear my cape?"

Dandelion Love

We really love dandelions.  We use them to make smoothies, cookies, sauteed greens, and bouquets for neighbors.  Dandelion-infused oil is good for the skin.  The dried root makes a great tea for digestion.  Dandelions grow best for us in the spring, when this photo was taken.  The fresh spring greens are packed with vitamin C.  The benefits of these dandy flowers are vast.  Join us in our Dandy Love Fest!

Talisman Tree

My children and I have joyously prepared talisman for several firewalks.  We have not attended the last two due to our stomach flu and state fire restrictions.  Now my children and I each have two talisman that haven't yet been burned.  They continue to grow in power as they rest in our prayer room, next to me as I type.  I love our talisman tree, as we've come to call it.  It is full of masks, ladybug fabric, colorful quilting strips, and prayer ties filled with tobacco, corn meal, and many prayers.  My intention with the last talisman was to release my resistances and to bring in laughter.  I found myself laughing as I created these prayer ties and still find the answers to my prayers coming in daily.  Liam intended to bring in stars and Hannah chose to manifest friendship.  I give such thanks for the opportunity to set intentions with my children and to release them to the divine when the time is right.  Blessings abound!

Joyously creating prayer ties

Our talisman tree

Ceramic Date

When my daughter was very young, my mother painted her a dinner plate while I painted one for my partner.  My son has been very attached to a Cookies for Santa plate that has begun to excessively chip.  With a little personal time on my hands, I painted a new cookie plate for my sweet boy, along with a plate he helped me design.  As my daughter had a tea date with her Fairy God Mother across the street, my son and I finished up the plates with hand prints, rainbow dots, and a giant rainbow.  It was such a treat to have this little date with my sweet son.  And it is a treasure to know he finally has his own personal plate.

My focused artist

A cookie plate with a family of five, like ours

The back of our love plate

"Plant a kiss, endless bliss, kiss my son every day"

Simple Sewing Pleasures

In our gloriously free days, we've been tackling projects.  Before swapping out my colorful thread for the grey needed for a quilting project, I intended to complete a box of mending.  This box comes out for attention every six months, so thankfully the clothes all still fit these growing children.  I had no idea this little activity would turn into an entire day of sewing adventure!  
Four year old Liam learned to use a real needle and thread to sew his own project.  He independently sewed two long strips together to make the letter T that ran the width of our living room.  Hannah created colorful ocean collages with her scrap collection.  She then ripped out seams on many of her brother's shorts so I could replace elastic waistbands.  I got to patch up various holy pants and shirts.

We enjoyed spending this productive day together.  My children helped me move one small step closer to my quilting project.  I intend to finish up the box of mending before it again fills with the wear and tear of these lives we love.  What simple pleasures!  

Ocean collages

Little hands crafting with an even-smaller needle

Seam Ripper Extraordinaire

The baby quilt we will soon sew

The Blue Zones

My friend Audrey invited me on a hike a couple weeks ago.  As we walked and talked for hours about everything under the sun, she recommended The Blue Zones, a book of "lessons for living longer from the people who've lived the longest."  I had been quite perplexed by my recent disinterest in reading, until this book.  Apparently positive, comforting, non-fiction books are what is on tap for me in my current gestating phase (seven weeks until our third babe arrives).  This book was just what my inner-doctor ordered.  Through this book, I was able to travel the world to areas where people live in awesome numbers to be healthy and happy past 100 years of age.  The narrative of the unfolding human stories and research kept me coming back for more.  After reading this book, I am able to explain some important ways in which to help yourself stay healthy longer.

My Summary of Lessons:
  • Vegetables, local and fresh
  • Consume less in general, more nuts and beans and whole grains, fewer meats  
  • Exercise, mild and daily
  • Rest, sitting back to appreciate the gifts of life all around us 
  • Live with or near family  
  • Weekly or daily social time with friends
  • Be likable and sociable
  • Take comfort in faith
  • Wake up with a purpose, such as tending to the garden, grandchildren, the community, or a herd of sheep
The Blue Zones' Nine Lessons:
  • Move Naturally: Be active without having to think about it
  • Hara Hachi Bu: Painlessly cut calories by 20 percent
  • Plant Slant: Avoid meat and processed foods
  • Grapes of Life: Drink red wine (in moderation)
  • Purpose Now: Take time to see the big picture
  • Down Shift: Take time to relieve stress
  • Belong: Participate in a spiritual community
  • Loved Ones First: Make family a priority
  • Right Tribe: Be surrounded by those who share Blue Zone values
At the end of each chapter is a highlighted summary of research findings.  The last chapter sums everything up neatly, even providing a link to take our own longevity quiz, complete with suggestions for increasing the quality and quantity of our lives.  The Blue Zones met my needs for a comforting novel and informative research paper.  And it provided me with a gateway back into my love of reading.  What a gift.

Sharing the book with a friend

Nighttime Love Letters

At 4:00 this morning, I was called to awaken and embrace this new day.  As I'd been looking forward to this moment, robustly pregnant with my third child, I joyfully answered the call.  Out of bed alone in the dark, I journaled for the first time in weeks.  I made lists of what I've been focusing upon, what I've been calling forth into my life, and what I intend to release.  In these lists, I identified areas of my life that drain my energy, such as expecting my own parental perfection and the termination of a couple relationships.

Sitting with a pile of homemade greeting cards, I wrote love letters to those previous friends, releasing guilt and disharmony while sharing loving appreciation.  I wrote love letters to a few dear friends, one needing support at a difficult phase of her life.

After opening and releasing and appreciating through these cards, I was finally ready to open to my partner.  I wrote him a note to share how much I appreciate his endless, boundless support, how he encourages me to be better than I think I can be, how he uses humor, playfulness, and tasks to show how he loves and likes me.  Partnership is a challenging task made more complex by parenthood.  What a privilege to choose to view my partner in all his human details as well-intentioned and brimming with benevolence.

I appreciate taking the time to care for myself in the morning quietness.  I appreciate making space for this openness that allows me to share my gratitude with my partner.  I appreciate that in the span it took to type this out, our day has blossomed: my sleepy son found me, took a little nap by my side, was cuddled by his daddy, joined by my daughter, and now my two children are choosing their own cards for love letters at my side.  What gifts.

Intentionally Shifting Perspective

Nesting to make way for a third child, surrounded by people whose faith and choices are different from my own, focusing on the needs of my children and partner, I've noticed my growing silence.  Self-care had taken a backseat since my body began providing for this welcomed third child.  I had left behind exercise, personally enriching classes, and my social and solitary time.  I had reasons and excuses for each release of self-care.  When it came down to it, I was turning into a shell of myself.  This wasn't benefiting anyone.

A few days ago I explored my personal loneliness through journaling.  I detailed the areas of my life that don't fulfill me.  Exploring these areas felt devastatingly sad.  Now that I can see areas of deficit, I get to choose to do something about them.  I have opened up gently to my partner about my concerns and thoughts on our projects and processes.  I have reached out to loving, safe women.  I have found silver lining where before I could see only heartache.

Specifically, I was able to express to my partner my desire to live in a small, sustainable home crafted of green materials near a forest.  We are moving toward living in a larger home on a small bit of land.  Through gentle conversations, I intentionally shifted my perspective to see that this larger home does fit the current needs of my family and the desires of my partner and provides green space for me to grow more of our food.  It brings me great joy to imagine someday living in a sustainable pod in the backyard under the trees while my adult children live within the big house.  I choose to love this plan.

Since we've had children, I put up a wall in myself relating to my partner whenever he is around.  I internally succumb to his plans and preferences and give up my power.  Areas of my life where I feel pressure to please are: making homeschooling look like school and clean the house and begin dinner preparations before his arrival from work each day.  After further dialogue and reflection, I now intend to shift my sight from blaming him for uncomfortable pressures and toward ways I choose to personally to care for my home and family.  I see the dishes, laundry, dinners, and checks and balances within home education as a way to show my love for my family, to model joyous responsibility, and to take steps to create a joyous home environment.  Now instead of wanting my partner to think the house was clean all day, I openly admit the house was a disaster and we have just cleaned it.  I voice that I prefer to make our family dinners so my children consume meals from scratch that include enough vegetables.  Once again opening communication in my marriage is a big part of this new perspective.  Releasing myself from blaming others for my stress and accepting it as my own allows me to shift my view, my choices, and my story.

In identifying my social isolation as my schedule revolves around my children and we spend very little time with biological family, I've made an effort to reconnect and spend face-to-face time with friends.  My children and I have hosted two informal gatherings to welcome our third child.  My sister-in-law and I plan to get together for a tea date.  I have set up dates with a few parenting friends.  Time with like-minded friends allows me to openly discuss my feelings, processes, present adventures, and what matters to us both: our faith in humanity, our intentional parenting, and our direct healing of Mother Earth.  I open myself to connecting with others and trust that my prayers will continue to be answered in abundance.

I am able to journal.  When hormones and thirst wake me at 4:00 in the morning, I meditate for an hour in bed (looks just like sleeping), and then get up to write in my prayer room.  This is a way for me to check in with myself and to allow space to focus on what is calling my attention.  In this way, I am able to identify and release my own resistances and step more fully into this life I love living with my amazing family.

As for exercise, my yoga ball is a wonderful companion.  My children love to play loud music that gets me to dance.  Most of my day is spent on my feet, I love gardening, and intend to very soon embark on family walks.  Today may just be that day to begin!

I move from a space of density into lightness.  As I am once again able to sing, to find my personal song, I begin to create and express, to smile and laugh.  For these answered prayers, I give such great thanks and share these awakened blessings with others.  This life and these lessons are such gifts.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Cinderella Mother-Daughter Book Club

The story of Cinderella is our next Mother-Daughter Book Club choice.  Each daughter chose an alternate version of the classic tale.  We found infinite variations and sources for this story online and at the library.

Some variations include:
Bigfoot Cinderrrrrrella
Cinderella Bigfoot (Happy Ever Laughter)
Seriously, Cinderella is SO Annoying!: Told by the Wicket Step-Mother
Yeh-Shen: A Cinderella Story from China
The Orphan: A Cinderella Story from Greece

Hannah chose to read and discuss The Fairy Godmother's Assistant, the first story in a Girls to the Rescue book by Bruce Lansky (the only copy we found).  She prepared a Venellagram for each daughter, a Venn diagram to discuss Cinderella.  She prepared a question to ask the group: How did Cinderella overcome her challenges?

Guests gathered for tasty treats and to discuss the chosen stories.  There was some wonderful discussion about the character traits of Cinderella, how sometimes she saved herself, the strengths of Cinderella, how the fairy godmother motivated Cinderella to get herself prepared for the ball without magic, and our favorite parts of the stories.  Alternative Cinderella tales could be used for many book club occasions, though we will move on to other favorite tales.

Dinorella Venellagram

Two Cinderellas all dressed for the ball

Vennellagram for The Fairy Godmother's Assistant

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Ladybug Girl Blessingway

My children want to celebrate their soon-to-arrive little Ladybug Girl with a baby shower.  (We love the story of Ladybug Girl!)  As we have everything we need for our new addition, we have chosen to share fun times and cupcakes at the park this summer.  To celebrate my personal journey into mothering three children, my friends planned a blessingway.

A blessingway is an old Navajo ritual to celebrate a woman’s rite of passage into motherhood. It is a beautiful and unique way to honor the mother, spend time with her, share stories, debrief fears, and to instill confidence and strength.  Typically each guest shares a blessing and a bead for a birthing bracelet.

Five women chose to join us for last night's blessingway.  What a gift to have these strong, caring women take time out of their full lives to offer their love and support for my family and me.  Each woman offered a blessing, a bead, and a small gift to place in each woman's blessing bag.  When I begin labor with our little Ladybug Girl, these women will open their bags to reread the blessings and partake in the delights within.  They will light the candle, eat the chocolate, drink the homegrown apple mint tea, apply soothing lip balm, giggle at the little charms and trinkets, and send their prayers my way to help with the transition.  What a beautiful way to birth this baby into our world together.  It is such a gift to feel the love of these women as they support me in raising my three precious children.  I give the greatest of thanks for such a blessing.

Blessed rocks placed into a handmade bag at our blessingway

Blessingway birthing necklace 

Eagerly awaiting the arrival of our little Ladybug Girl

The Wizard of Oz Mother-Daughter Book Club

My daughter Hannah and I have intended to begin a mother-daughter book club for the last three years.  I read an awesome book on the topic and wanted to being when she was five, nearly three years ago.  The idea of connecting with our daughters through literature has so many benefits: long term connection with our daughters, time to focus on one another, listening attentively to each others' thoughts and feelings and serious subject matters through books, seeing our daughters as the world sees them, our daughters seeing their mothers in a role outside motherhood, other mothers mentoring our daughters, and ongoing connections with the same mothers and daughters.

Hannah wanted to focus on Little House in the Big Woods, though her project ideas were so elaborate that I pushed off plans for too long.  When she and her little brother became captivated by reading The Wizard of Oz and I began seriously nesting in preparation for our third child, we worked out a plan for a simple gathering centered around the book.  After years of anticipation, it was finally time to begin our Mother-Daughter Book Club.

Four daughter, four mothers, and one fairy god mother gathered under our cherry tree recently to talk about The Wizard of Oz.  Each girl brought a book-centered question, a tasty treat, and an activity.  After connecting with one another through unstructured play time, we shared a meal, each answered the girls' questions about favorite characters and moments and lessons, and finally dove right into the colorful activities.  Simple and sweet.

Our gathering was such fun we have decided to choose and discuss another book.  Together we brainstormed a list of books with female protagonists and can't wait to get started on planning our next Mother-Daughter Book Club!

Joyful preparations

My four-year-old son's ruby slipper

Ruby slipper portraits using corn, pen, pipe cleaners, glitter glue, etc.

Polka dots


Simple elegance

Corn, quinoa, and tissue paper

Magic with pipe cleaners and tissue paper

My son created this ruby slipper after the party.

Somewhere over the rainbow, we fall more in love with reading together.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Today I Appreciate...

Today I appreciate two hours alone.
I appreciate calling my mother for an un
interrupted telephone conversation.
I appreciate harvesting calendula seeds in the shade.
I appreciate moving my way through a long list of tasks.
I appreciate planning social time, sometimes with children, sometimes without.
I appreciate cold watermelon on a hot day.
I appreciate finishing books and returning them to the library.
I appreciate making plans to plant black-eyed susan flowers and rhubarb.
I appreciate ripe figs and blueberries from our own garden.
I appreciate showing up early instead of late to be there to support friends.
I appreciate knowing all these energies swirling are not mine.
I appreciate letting these energies flow and go where they are needed.
I appreciate the gifts of this unique day.

The Burning of Bridget Cleary, Part 2

I began to read The Burning of Bridget Cleary as a way to connect with ancient fairy stories.  (Part 1 is here.)  Fairies were important to my grandmother and the women who came before her.  This is unlike any other book I've read and far from my usual choice, though I followed my curiosity into this book to learn more of how fairies fit into our world through old tales.

After completing this book, detailing the circumstances surrounding a young woman's death in 1895, I have a new perspective on that time of cultural transition.  I appreciate having insight into Ireland's political changes to contrast what I know of my own country's challenges at that time (Laura Ingalls Wilder's stories and the mass settlements of white homesteaders in Indian land around 1889).  It was indeed a time heavy in shifting powers and domination.

Bridget Cleary was a young woman caught between old oral, fairy-centered tradition and the incoming Catholic structure.  She was trained in a valued profession, made her own money, had saved more money than most of her neighbors made in a year, and was childless in her marriage.  She was self-supporting, independent, and friends with a wide variety of people in her community.  She did not conform to the cultural expectations of her time and of those around her.

"She had accumulated power, both economic and sexual, it seems, far in excess of what was due to a woman of her age and class, and when the balance tipped, all the anger flowered toward her" (page 155).

At this particular time in history, people were said to have "gone with the fairies" when they were ill or different.  One way to bring people back from mental or physical illness was to threaten to or to actually burn them with hot shovels.  Aside from Bridget, all victims who died from this practice were children.

When Bridget fell ill with bronchitis, her husband exhausted himself in caring for her by not sleeping for over a week.  He was under high pressure from those around him to get her to conform to the standard role of women, to bring her back from the fairies and into health again.  When she refused to break under his violence, he killed her, unhindered by the numerous family members in attendance.

They "were exerting their communal power against a woman whose behavior they found unacceptable.  Modern though they might have been in some aspects of their lives, Jacke Dunne and the Kennedys, men and women, were here reasserting the authority of an older way of life.  As they did so, there were also driving a wedge between husband and wife by demanding that Michael Cleary ally himself with the ideology of stigma and control, which fairy legend represented, against his wife" (page 154).

This is a sad and violent tale, though the author's detailed research and well-rounded perspectives provide a way to see this era in a new way.  It is curious to see the same story line and struggle for control with differing details in our own lives and times, such as how people repress and oppress certain groups.  The lessons shared through this story share threads with many throughout history.  I find it very fascinating.