Friday, May 04, 2012

All the Little Things

Such a sweet, happy song! Ben Cocks, "All the Little Things".
The kind of song I would've listened to a lot when I was home with little Knox.

"I came to thinking that the best use of my time would be with you; that'll make me happy. All the little things that you and me could do together..."

For you, mamas!

Here's the link in case the play button doesn't work above.

Sunday, April 01, 2012


It's April 1, and though it has felt like all four seasons at various times of day lately, today was particularly, gloriously springlike. It started out quite cool, so cool that I wore thin gloves when I took a walk this morning. But afternoon found most of the neighbors and all of the kids out playing or gardening in the perfect temperature with the sun shining.

I had an awesome day. I gardened! I spent two hours digging, pulling up roots and planting some pretty lettuce. Farmer Todd lives across the street from us, and he is in charge of some community gardens that grow produce for lower-income housing developments in the city. He has an amazing food garden in his own backyard as well, and he is kind enough to be the resident garden consultant on our street. He always takes time to talk to neighbors about their gardens, answer questions, give advice and lend his awesome tools. He's a great guy. He even showed interest in my two lettuce plants (hee hee), and told me to divide them into four sections and plant them six inches apart in order to grow more heads of lettuce. I borrowed his super-duper, massive fork that is two- to three-feet wide and helps really dig up the sod to make a garden bed.

I had fun forking the sod, and the neighbor boys got in on the action with me. There was another boy helping as well, but I was too busy supervising young boys with a massive garden tool to snap a picture when he was in it. My own kid? Well, he participated for thirty seconds before losing interest. He didn't even last long enough for me to snap a picture. Sigh. Maybe someday.
I also made pizza with herb-speckled whole wheat dough from Mona Lisa Pasta, and chocolate chip cookies with spelt flour. I am feeling really good after exercising, gardening and preparing healthier versions of pizza and cookies today. I wish every day could be so active and productive!

Friday, December 09, 2011

methinks perhaps crafters are crazy

This is my "never-again" Advent calendar.
I got inspired to make this from a photo that someone had posted on Facebook. It was a photo from a craft store ad. That should've tipped me off to avoid this project! I've seen all these creative Advent ideas--mostly on blogs and Etsy--of Advent muslin drawstring pouches, Advent bags hung on cute little clips, Advent boxes hanging down as a strip of garland. Now I know these people are crazy. What happens when I do a project is that my house, the laundry, and all other priorities aside from my job go to hell while I produce my one little whoop-dee-doo-da.

I don't know why I ever thought it would be fun to do this. It was fun for maybe the first seven boxes. But there are 24 days leading up to Christmas, not seven. And that means 24 little gifts or handwritten certificates for fun extras (watch a Christmas special, play a game of your choice with Dad, 15 minutes of pillow-fighting, etc.) That's like stuffing five stockings, except you can't just stuff them into a stocking. Nope, you have to find things to fit each container or write a note that says: "Ask for the present that goes in #9 because it doesn't fit." It takes time, thought and money. It's also a puzzle. I had fun finding the little gifts, but I'm over it now.

My mom sent us 24 miniature Advent books that tell the Christmas story, so I wanted to contain them in a cute way, to be opened each day. At least the calendar is done now. And I can reuse it next year, if I can stand to go through the present part again. I am one big Grinch. I just want to get to the part of Christmas where there's time off and no more preparation or stuff. Pajamas, hot cocoa and a cozy fire are all I want.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

A Christmas Meditation

 Somehow the quiet light of Christmas always finds me, even when I have forgotten to look for it, or have despaired of finding it in the jingle-jingle tidal wave of the holiday season. In December, I always end up feeling like I'll need to be carried into Christmas on a stretcher, next to all my fallen holiday aspirations, my visions of sugar plums marred by stress and fatigue and burnout. And all I'm doing is trying to make it to the last week of the year without crumbling like a Christmas sugar cookie, patched together with frosting because one pan of cookies burned and the others broke and it was too late to make more dough and try again.

And then it happens: the true light that came into the world casts its soft glow in my heart. Ever so quietly, ever so kindly, ever so faithfully, the light finds me and softly bathes me to prepare me to behold the Christmas miracle: The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.
(John 1:9)

It always happens at night when it's quiet and I'm alone. It happens when I'm listening to soft, sacred music in the low light, taking pen to Christmas card to write my love, pen stroke by pen stroke, to family and friends, pausing to recollect each one, while images of them dance in my memory. All of a sudden, some portion of the Jesus narrative from Scripture takes hold of my heart and I am transported with wonder at the goodness and persistence of His light shining through the ages. He was the long-expected one.

Simeon, a devout old man at the time of Jesus' birth, was waiting for the consolation of Israel. And upon holding that consolation in his arms, he was ready to depart this life in peace:
"For mine eyes have seen Thy salvation,
which thou hast prepared before the face of all people,
a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of my people Israel." (Luke 2:28)

That's all he needed, just to see Jesus, just to know that the consolation, the light and the glory had arrived in the flesh, safe and sound.

Simeon knew the light was coming because it had been foretold by the prophets. He knew the light would shine on all the generations to come, long after he had departed. It was all he needed to know. It was all he needed to anticipate. It was all he needed, period. And now that it had finally come, he could go in peace.

That selfsame light of the world is all I need to know, and I am so thankful that it finds the way to my heart more surely than Santa finds the way to my house. It finds me without fail in the midst of all that is merry and bright, or wearisome and overwhelming, and it shines its faithful, persistent light as though Simeon himself had passed me a candle during the Silent Night.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!!

A few shots of our Halloween. Knox went as a blue Angry Bird from the Angry Birds video game. He has a flock of stuffed Angry Birds that he dearly loves. Dinner was hot dogs wrapped in Pillsbury breadstick dough to make mummies. (I picked up that idea from a dad, not a mom, much to my amazement!) We made ghostly cupcakes for dessert and had apple cider. Then Clay and Knox set off into the night to procure the treats. After they wandered the neighborhood, I drove Knox to our friends' house, where the front porch was a beautifully done Hogwarts and they passed out jumbo candy bars--no candy under six inches there!
Sweet little blue Angry Bird, hat turned

Our porch

The loot, the stash--yum!

Our friends' lovely Hogwarts-themed porch: owls, candles, sorting hat, and Sirius Black poster

More Hogwarts porch: Harry Potter jack-o-lantern

Mama Witch and her sweet-cheeked blue Angry Bird boy

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Full or Half?

Lately I've been troubled by how distracted I am when I'm with my seven-year-old son, and how I haven't been wanting to spend time engaging with him. It's been hard for me to bring myself to spend time with him doing what he wants to do. I'd rather be accomplishing household tasks, reading, or doing email and Facebook, etc. I've felt dragged down by moving through the evening routine of after-school activity, dinner, cleanup, homework, bedtime. I've wanted to be free of parental responsibility and get on with my own tasks, interests and pursuits. It IS difficult to know that I won't get to those things, MY things, until I'm almost too tired and out of oomph for them late in the evening. But I don't want to live in a distracted state of internal and external conflict between his wants and needs and mine.

I work with young children in two different settings, one in a play studio for children ages 2-8 and one in a small, in-home Montessori morning program for ages 12-24 months. My Montessori "boss" gave me a book to read about caring for infants with respect. I started out reading it only because I had to, but I was eager to "get it out of the way" and get back to material I really wanted to read. However, it has been a very pleasant surprise to discover that it might be exactly what I need to be reading right now. Its pace has slowed me down, helped me take a deep breath and given me much food for thought and reflection. It's written for parents or caregivers caring for infants, but it is so applicable to working with older children as well.

The portion that leaped off the page and spoke to me today is:
"'Unbusy' your head and 'unbusy' your body. Be fully there, interested in only your baby for that time...
If you pay half attention all the time, that's never full attention. [Your child is then] always half hungry for attention. But if you pay full attention part of the time, then you go a long way."

This evening, I hope to call these words to mind and choose to unbusy myself for a few minutes and give Knox my FULL attention. Instead of saying "not right now," "maybe later," "in a moment," or "I have work to do," maybe I can just stop for a few minutes and say, "Sure!", thereby communicating to him that I am interested in him and that he is worthy of my attention. And maybe if I can do that this evening and again the next evening and even on Saturday afternoon, maybe his chirp for attention will diminish a bit because he will no longer need to clamor for it. Maybe??! We'll see...

(The book is called "Dear Parent: Caring for Infants with Respect" by Magda Gerber, Resources for Infant Educarers)

Friday, August 26, 2011


I just drove past a UVA frat house on my way to return library books at 6pm on a Friday evening, and the revelers were littering the lawn, boozing, mingling and throwing an inflated football while some were hanging out in an inflated kiddie pool and spraying each other with a hose. This scene didn't stir any feelings of nostalgia for my college days, nor did it make me wish to be young, free and unattached again. Quite the opposite, actually. It brought up my feelings of social dread, cringing and party phobia. I was SO relieved that I wasn't spending my evening there with them! I felt all the things I used to feel when I was that age but no more inclined to party then than I am now: What will we DO for all these hours? What if I stand around awkwardly and alone, or can't fake it and pretend I'm comfortable and having fun? I can't handle these open-ended social situations where I'm supposed to be either hot or funny and able to banter or flirt. Where can I find a conversation? Where are the grownups?! I need to find comfortable, nice people! And isn't anyone else pained by how stupid all of this looks (particularly the blowup kiddie pool bit)? Maybe people drink to overcome how appallingly uncomfortable they feel, or am I the only social weirdo? Why would I so much rather be home right now, or at a coffee shop with just one or two or three close friends when everyone else seems happy to be in this big, noisy group? Why do people spend the whole night doing this? When can I go home?!

Parties have long inspired fear and dread for me. Even now as a full-fledged adult, social engagements that involve more than a few intimate friends or acquaintances make me very nervous. I find it hard to pry myself away from my day-to-day thoughts, responsibilities and to-dos and just have a good time hanging out and making conversation. I'm especially nervous if I anticipate that it might be hard to find common ground with the crowd I'll be socializing with. I cringe at my lack of cultural currency to bandy about in witty repartee. I also get nervous about how much money will be spent having a good time, as I am a little tightwad and can't ever let loose when it comes to spending on drink and merrymaking.

Usually, things go better than I expect, and I find I am now far better equipped to be comfortable standing or sitting alone for a few minutes between one social pairing or grouping and the next, and I even seek the refuge of being alone and browsing bookshelves or sitting on a sofa by myself for a few minutes of solace--an oasis from the pitch of laughter and amusement. Sometimes I even enjoy a gathering immensely. When I am nervous in anticipation of a social event, I try to recall my most recent social experience that went well and I call on those feelings of confidence and courage to help me. I remember that it can be fun and that the uncomfortable feelings beforehand are often the worst part of it. But I'm still always relieved when it's over and I can go home. :)

(I wish I had had my camera with me when I drove past the frat party. I would've loved to post a snapshot of those silly college kids in their blowup pool.)