Friday, December 30, 2016

christmas 2016

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we had a low-key, stay-home kind of winter holiday this year. and there were moments (mainly due to being on whole30) that were a bit tense and less than idyllic, but overall, we enjoyed spending time as a family, watching the kids faces as they woke up and beheld the chalkboard wall we painted and teepee we set up for them and opened their presents (hats and books), grilling and watching christmas movies as a family (love that we finally had movies to watch that were kid appropriate!), making gingerbread houses and rationing the sugar intake (that evie is a quick one! i have never seen a kid so quick to shove unknown things in their mouth...), wearing matching jammies and making messes. it was pretty wonderful and i can't wait to do it again next year. 

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Thursday, December 22, 2016

home.

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In such a night, when every louder wind
Is to its distant cavern safe confined;
And only gentle Zephyr fans his wings,
And lonely Philomela, still waking, sings;
Or from some tree, famed for the owl's delight,
She, hollowing clear, directs the wanderer right:
In such a night, when passing clouds give place,
Or thinly veil the heav'ns' mysterious face;
When in some river, overhung with green,
The waving moon and trembling leaves are seen;
When freshened grass now bears itself upright,
And makes cool banks to pleasing rest invite,
Whence springs the woodbine, and the bramble-rose,
And where the sleepy cowslip sheltered grows;
Whilst now a paler hue the foxglove takes,
Yet checkers still with red the dusky brakes
When scatter'd glow-worms, but in twilight fine,
Shew trivial beauties, watch their hour to shine;
Whilst Salisbury stands the test of every light,
In perfect charms, and perfect virtue bright:
When odors, which declined repelling day,
Through temperate air uninterrupted stray;
When darkened groves their softest shadows wear,
And falling waters we distinctly hear;
When through the gloom more venerable shows
Some ancient fabric, awful in repose,
While sunburnt hills their swarthy looks conceal,
And swelling haycocks thicken up the vale:
When the loosed horse now, as his pasture leads,
Comes slowly grazing through th' adjoining meads,
Whose stealing pace, and lengthened shade we fear,
Till torn-up forage in his teeth we hear:
When nibbling sheep at large pursue their food,
And unmolested kine rechew the cud;
When curlews cry beneath the village walls,
And to her straggling brood the partridge calls;
Their short-lived jubilee the creatures keep,
Which but endures, whilst tyrant man does sleep;
When a sedate content the spirit feels,
And no fierce light disturbs, whilst it reveals;
But silent musings urge the mind to seek
Something, too high for syllables to speak;
Till the free soul to a composedness charmed,
Finding the elements of rage disarmed,
O'er all below a solemn quiet grown,
Joys in th' inferior world, and thinks it like her own:
In such a night let me abroad remain,
Till morning breaks, and all's confused again;
Our cares, our toils, our clamors are renewed,
Or pleasures, seldom reached, again pursued.


— "A Nocturnal Reverie"Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea



on sundays, i go to costco and load up my cart the way i used to watch moms do before i was a mom—eyes wide, amazed at the amount they put in their cart. if i bring a little, we hit up the sample stations, which almost serves as both lunch and entertainment, thank you costco. then i bring it all home in the back of our crv and unload it armful by armful into the house, usually to the music of my daughter saying "mommy! mommy! mommy!" as she circles my legs, and to the sight of my little boy running around in costume as an alien or a big mean emperor or a pirate, and to my husband telling me about his next project. and then i restock our bigger fridge with all the staples. the drawers are packed tight with produce and meat, cheese, eggs, milk, bread: all those ridiculously commonplace things that i've longed to always be in need of. and in between scooping up a snuggly little girl and cramming vegetables into a bin and clearing away dirty dishes and going to change a diaper, i am visited with joy. it is so faint, so easy to miss as i am hurriedly going through the motions of these chores, my stomach (and everyone else's) grumbling, nap times looming and frozen things defrosting on the counter. so small this joy can seem. what does a full fridge really mean—other than plenty and happy tummies, which i do not undervalue at all? what is the combination of these things i am surrounded with—have in fact been doing for 3.5 years now—that is now causing my heart to alight? as if i had just now stepped into this fairytale and were experiencing it for the first time?

for as long as i can remember one of my dearest dreams has been for consistency, to feel settled, to feel kinship and belonging.

i've longed for schedule, for fundamentals, for uniformity, for security, for comfort, for belonging.{i've longed too for fairytale castles, knights in shining armor (or nicely pressed shirts;), twinkle-lit gardens and balls.} but only recently am i suddenly cognizant of what it is i have been craving:

it is daily rituals that are more than habits, that are made to savor and slow time down—like a cup of hot tea early in the morning when the steam from the cup is the only thing moving.
it is the freedom of not having to constantly question if i am loved, if i am able to love, if my life is worth it, if i am wasting it, if i am doing what i'm supposed to be doing.
it is the ability to autopilot the weekly chores and meals to make and bills to pay.
it is a faith that things will work out and believing in what doesn't *look* worked out because of my Rock within.
it is joy.
it is a narrative of living life. actually living it, not just ambien-sleep-walking it. a narrative of taking joy in the simple mundane tasks of my role as mama. a narrative of putting vegetables into my refrigerator bins, as if they were pockets in my heart, full of love for my people. a narrative of home.

a few weekends ago we unconsciously coordinated a sleep-in day for each of us and then labored respectively over meals and compost bins while our littles ran around amusing each other and us. and it all began to hit home (to be puny) — this is it.

and then last week, we collapsed our bed frame and put our mattress on the floor and that might sound like a non-sequitur, but to me it signifies something i've never fully experienced before — an allowance to settle in. to be comfortable. to find joy in our surroundings. to acknowledge the fact of our existence in this life. an allowance that probably only i withheld and could give myself.

it has been a process for me to come out of the dark, hidden highways within and allow myself the sunlight—to throw out a bed frame that isn't working, even if we don't have the money to buy a new one yet. to both move in to my life and to offload the baggage i've carried around as if my real life is somewhere else out there. i'm simultaneously someone who will throw out sentimental things without a second thought and yet a hoarder of extra luggage—a mirror into my inner workings, i am starting to think.

it comes from a distrust of becoming comfortable, of taking any pleasure in life. and deeper, it signifies a hesitancy to make this life mine. to cease to walk the no-man's-land between life and living death. to move more firmly into my own life. not the life i dreamed, not the life i would have imagined, not the life i think i'd like to have. but this life. this place. this family. this narrative. this home.

our three and a half years in our first and previous house was the longest i'd lived somewhere in 19 years. growing up, my longest span of residence in one place was seven years in a rented house with no proper neighbors or neighborhoods. it was a wonderful but also strange sort of belonging. from the age of 14, i lived in 19 places, never for more than two years and most for shorter than a year, until we bought our last house. so i guess you could say, i have been accustomed to the nomad life. and through a somewhat parallel psychological journey, my heart—a nomad's heart: only carrying with me what is essential for survival, not for pleasure, not for comfort, not for joy.

don't mistake me, my childhood was happy, my mother was the most perfect being this world has ever encountered, and my friends and family are the most special, loving and lovely—this i have not been without. and yet, there has ever been something missing: a true sense of belonging. a sense that i believe has everything to do with home.

last year was the first time i had been in a place long enough to notice that the hornets were once again building a nest in the wreath i hung on the door the first winter and never took off. long enough to notice that the second to the last bottom stair creaked a little. long enough to feel that i was always buying new lightbulbs. that seems like such a simple thing to say but in actuality, it is an indicator of what my life has been like since i was sixteen: tumultuous. inside and out.

and this is the first time in 19 years that inwardly and outwardly, i've had a measure of calm, of peace, of joy even, inside and out. it is making me want to slow down and settle in. be aware of the moments. stop and smell the figurative (and literal) roses.

but, is it just the right floor plan? is it the perfectly flat and waiting to be gardened backyard? is it bountiful sunlight? most of the houses i've lived in didn't have a great (or any) backyard or much natural light or decoration, for that matter. and yet, in those 19 residences, i felt at home in one or two. sure, sunlight, space, feng shui, those things matter. but to me, home is not an actual place. home is the proximity to a sense of family. maybe not even actual family. but the sense of belonging. the sense of family, wrapped in a life.

and maybe it's hard to understand, but it's been a difficult part of my life finding that even though your people are your family, sometimes they aren't. sometimes, you feel like you are inhabiting a stranger's life and nothing seems to fit. it has been a long time of feeling uncomfortable in these shoes, of wishing i could open the door to my real life. of chores and errands and morning coffees that never become treasured rituals. of the strangled feeling that not only am i doing everything wrong, but maybe it's me that is wrong. of the burden of a to-do list that feels as if it blocks the sunlight. of feeling the earth tremble beneath my feet. of discomfort. of feeling an alien in my own life.

it seems so appropriate to be writing of this in winter, as the weather is changing and the nights are getting longer. i find i am starting to light more candles. to want to collect and display the strange little backyard treasures that my babies bring me. to see the beauty in a closet just for shoes. to find uncommon joy in a big pot of bone broth on the stove. to appreciate the humor in life. to treasure the moments covered in flour and crayon and dirt. to be strengthened by my reading of this book and this book. to be moved by poems like the one above. and to look forward to days spent at home en famille.

that is what makes the sight of my own bed on the floor the most precious sight. why i soak in my afternoon cup of tea in the sunlight as if it were a work of art. why i am comparing my refrigerator to the compartments of my heart (among other mixed metaphors). why i'm waxing poetic about seemingly everything and nothing at all. it isn't this house, this space, these windows or floors or trees. not this, this house, though yes, that too (confusing i know). but this, this life i am finally living, finally moving in to.

this family. these days. these smiles. these cups of tea and dried orange garlands. this rearranging of my furniture (and heart), letting go the bad, letting in the good, acknowledging that sometimes night brings in the light, in a way that the day cannot.

this is home.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

grey, blustery mornings at fernbank

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we have been waiting to renew our membership until fernbank had opened their new outdoor space, and when we went on monday, i was so happy we decided to renew. the outdoor space is really cool. they have a little kids playground that resembles nature instead of the usual brightly colored plastics, and a long walking trail. we didn't do most of the trail, but i'm excited to go back and see where it leads. evienne in particular had so much fun on this trip. a museum where you're allowed to touch (and sometimes climb) all the things! imagine! she was basically in heaven, as usual. it was such a perfect day for this trip. i have to admit i'm partial to grey, blustery days. there is just the feeling of magic in the air to me, so i have been so happy all week. if only this grey, 70s weather could just last forever! wilder also had a lot of fun exploring everything, but he remembered our last trip to fernbank when they had a music exhibit (which was temporary) and kept asking to go back to it. that boy is all about the music, just like his papa. :)

some weeks in motherland are really hard, but this is one of those weeks that i wish could just last forever, and i am now convinced that we need to start every week with a field trip. it set a tone for this week at least, that's carrying over. i have no home school theme for this week. we are just playing and exploring and enjoying the weather and the outside as much as we can. i think it's good sometimes to just play it by ear, let go of expectation (and the stress of planning/executing), and see where the week takes us. so far, we've read more books that normal, played for long stretches outside, discovered fernbank, rediscovered play dough, and done a lot of drawing/painting. we still need to get in the kitchen and since j and i started whole30 this week, maybe i'll do a healthy cookie kind of thing, which obviously i wont be able to enjoy, but it will make me feel better feeding them sugar. ;)

also, i've really noticed this week that evienne is saying everything, complete sentences and all. she is like full on toddler now, even though i am subconsciously not admitting it. her tiny little voice makes my heart melt into my socks. especially now that she can say "hold me." i dare you to deny her anything;)

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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

one for the birds

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when we moved into our new house one of the things i noticed right away was how many birds (and squirrels) there were in our backyard every morning. so after two weeks of an "autumn" theme in our home-forest-pre-school, we decided to do a bird exploration this week. so far we have not done much other than buy a bird feeder and make bird food. aaaaannnnndddd it turns out that none of the birds wanted the bird food we put out. but evie did! i was laughing so hard when i was stringing up the little bird food shapes that we made because she was reaching for them on her tip-toes as i was doing it, like it was a pi├▒ata. i love this age and how evienne is not at all put off by what people around her think about what she's doing. if she wants something, she's going for it! so, i think i ended up feeding my children and the squirrels more with this bird food (j was entirely skeptical about my homemade approach and i guess he was right on this one). but! it was fun to make and a good morning's project, so to me: success!
it's not always easy to do this type of project with kids because they are invariably falling off the chairs at the counter or trying to climb ON the counter and knocking over the ingredients or trying to eat the ingredients. evienne did NOT understand or appreciate that we weren't making a treat for her to eat, haha. but i'm willing to put up with some mess and chaos to try to bring my kids more into the kitchen and awaken their curiosity and wonder. i remember as a kid being so fascinated with cooking, and was beyond thrilled on the day that i decided and succeeded in making a veggie soup all by myself. and i was going to do an art project of painting the bird house with the kids before nixing that idea, so compared to that potential mess, this was nothing! ;)
other things on our agenda this week are picking up all the bird books i've requested from our library and maybe visiting a nature center to see if we can spot any birds we're reading about. and we'll probably pull out our crayons and markers to try drawing some bird pictures. mama is not so good in the drawing department, so that should be worth a few laughs. ;)

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