"Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."

Friday, December 31, 2010

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year


We pulled it off.

After a rather odd and stressful week leading up to Christmas, with kids with fevers and husbands with bronchitis, and missed Christmas Eve services, and last minute trips to buy new sleeper couches ... it all somehow came together. I had my lingering doubts right up until 9:00 the night before Christmas, but then it was there: that moment when all is right with the world, that moment when life is fuzzy and warm and we're all together and the kids are happy (at the same time!) When no one's worried about to-do lists or expectations or stresses; when life is just about the holiday, about being together, and about celebrating.

And it was good.

Christmas day was busy and fun, as were the days that followed.















And just like that, another year is over.  I noticed in my online wanderings this morning that lots of bloggers were honoring the end of the year with a list of the "best of the best", sort of a round-up of their top - or most interesting or most noticed or most read - posts for the year.  Never one to miss a party (at least the virtual kind where I don't have to actually be social and talk to people), here is mine.

Best wishes for a healthy, happy, prosperous, and peace-filled 2011.

My Future Street Sweepers

Teens and Toddlers

He Who Spareth the 1/4 Inch Plumbing Supply Line 

Harry Potter, Hiking Shoes, and Vacations

Condemnation 

My friend is one... who take me for what I am

Discipline

It's that time of year again, folks

Attachment Parenting:  Freedom and Joy

Offensive, defined





Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Anatomy of a Gingerbread House

This was the first year we bought one of those pre-packaged gingerbread kits, in all its hydrogenated, artificially colored glory.

Everett immediately put himself in charge.


"I'm doing something fun with my brothers and it involves CANDY!"


Sometime around here, 2 year old disappeared.  She was clear across the house.

"No, I don't have a mouth full of candy."


Meanwhile, back in the kitchen.....


It was when I was taking pictures of the finished product that I saw the ever-widening gap on the ceiling.


Going.


Going.


Gone.


The whole thing took an hour, from box to table to mouth.  And it was worth every second, and every penny.

Seven days till Christmas.





Making a list, checking it twice


Last year, we decided not to send Christmas cards.  I wanted to save money, I was concerned about the trees (oh the trees!!), and it seemed just another thing to stress out about during an already busy holiday season.  

Not sending cards made me sad.

This year, we have twice as many things to do, as evidenced by my lack of blogs (another thing that makes me sad) but I was not going to miss my cards again.  So we took some pictures, found a good deal, and cards that were printed on recycled paper, thank you very much.  The kids and I visited the post office for some Christmas stamps, hit the Dollar Tree for some fun stickers to decorate them, and spent an afternoon addressing, licking, sticking and sealing.  




And now it feels like Christmas.







Monday, December 06, 2010

Dora, Breathing and Other Life Lessons


Christmas is in 19 days. In one fell swoop November ended, December began, and we were thrust head-first into holiday mode. We've decorated, we've shopped, we've ordered Christmas cards. We've hung the tree, the stockings, and the advent calendar. We've started the Jesse tree. We've made paper snowflakes, we've gone to the company Christmas party. We've mailed holiday cards to soldiers.

And I feel...

tired.

It's not the kind of tired you feel when you're running around all crazy, stressed and frazzled and trying to do too much. I think far too many people turn the holidays into some sort of competition - even if it's just a competition with themselves - a race to see who can stretch themselves the furthest, and push themselves the hardest. Out-shop, out-gift, out-decorate, out-spend, out-party. It's a race I have no interest in joining. No, my fatigue comes from the simple fact that life is busy with four kids, and as much as I try to live in the moment, try to find peace and stillness no matter what's going on around me, I get caught up and forget how. More than that, I simply forget to breathe.

It seems crazy to me that one can forget to do something as basic (and important!) as breathing properly, and yet I do. One of the things I love about yoga is that it forces me to breathe again... to concentrate on breathing, to calm everything down again, to return to the moment and be able to say, "Ah yes, that feels better." But because not every moment lends itself to the feasibility of spontaneously breaking out into a downward dog, I have to find other ways to return to that place of calm, other ways to remember to breathe.

My kids don't seem to have that problem. They are almost always in the moment, almost always happy. They know that life isn't just about the little things, but that life IS the little things. That's where the happiness is. Not in money or toys or "stuff," but in the little things. In the moment. In the breathing.

A few days ago, Tegan was sitting on my lap at the kitchen table, playing with Moon Sand. Now as any parent can tell you, Moon Sand is cool, but messy. Really messy. But I already had the trash can out, along with the dust pan and broom, because I'd swept up the bits of paper from snowflake-making earlier. I'd clean up the Moon Sand, then move onto the kitchen, which still held most of the mess from the cookie-making we'd done during our play date. There were dishes to be done too, and I had to rinse out Everett's little medicine cup, because he'd need another dose soon. I'd taken him to the dentist for a tooth extraction just the day before, and while it was healing fine, I wanted to be sure we kept up with his after-care. We'd have to think about dinner at some point, and I wanted to try to go to bed fairly early, because I was to babysit at 7:00 A.M. the next morning.

My mind was focused on a million insignificant things. I was sitting with Tegan, but I wasn't there. I wasn't breathing.

"Shhhhhhhhhhh." The girl put her little finger to my lips. Had she heard my racing mind?

"Shhhhhhhhhhh," she said again, in a whisper. "Dora's sleeping."

I made sure to lower my voice before asking, "Where?"

"In here. This is her castle. She was tired from picking blueberries with Boots, so she's sleeping."


And just like that, I was breathing again. I. Love. These. Kids.

Being invited to share in a child's imagination trumps messes. It's more important than clean kitchens, and what we have for dinner, and whether or not I get my 8 hours of sleep. Even though my body was there, I wasn't being present, and she ever-so-gently brought me back to the beauty of the moment... the moment of just being, and playing, and breathing. Together. It wasn't the first time she'd done it, and I imagine it won't be the last. I thank God for these kids, and what they continually teach me. For some reason, they don't need that reminder that adults might need. They know how to live in the moment, and they know how to find peace.

And it's even better than downward dog.





Saturday, November 20, 2010

Because I Must

There's a scene that I keep thinking of in the movie Blast From the Past. Blast From the Blast was a very mediocre popcorn movie from 1999, which I watched when I was going through a phase of having to watch every movie Brendan Fraser ever made. It was cute but ridiculous, and it wasn't exactly a cinematic masterpiece. He IS a good actor, but you have to watch Gods and Monsters, School Ties, or With Honors to see it. But I digress.

In the movie, Brendan Fraser is born, and grows up in, a nuclear fall-out shelter, cut off from the rest of civilization until he's 35. There's a scene where his father is trying to explain baseball to him, and his character doesn't understand why the person up to bat runs to first base after he hits the ball. He keeps asking why, and his father keeps saying, “Because he must!” Later in the movie, after he's joined the rest of the world and is able to see a live baseball game for the first time, it clicks. He finally gets it, and he excited yells out, “Oh! Because he Must!”

That is how I feel about writing. I write because I must. It's not even something that I chose for myself. It chose me. For better or worse, there has always been something intrinsic in me that needs to create things out of words.

This is November, which means that I've been working on a novel for NaNoWriMo for the past three weeks. Which also means that the past 20 days have been exhausting. Fall on the floor, body aching, weary-boned exhausting. I have four kids to take care of, a Mike, a house, and 12 pets. I don't have extra time time to write a novel in 30 days, so I have to make the extra time. And I do it simply because I must. I don't always want to, but I have to.

One of the greatest things about homeschooling, and unschooling in particular, is that my kids have the opportunity to follow their passions right now. They don't have to squeeze them in in between school and homework and activities. By design, their lives allow them to do whatever it is that they're passionate about, whatever it is that they must do, almost anytime that inspiration strikes. I remember sitting in school as a kid, hiding behind my book, jotting down an idea for a short story, or a few lines of a poem, or at one point even song lyrics. I remember the frustration of having to sneak it, and the desperation of the time constraint, of trying to get it down I paper before 1) I got reprimanded, or 2) I had to go to my next class. I remember carrying ideas around for days, never getting the chance to translate them onto a page. I am so thankful that I have the opportunity to create something different for my kids, to be able to allow them the freedom to not only find what it is that they're passionate about, but to follow it. Right now.

An interesting thing that I've begun to notice is that the more I support them in their endeavors, the more they support me in mine. A few days ago, when I was discouraged, plagued with writer's block, and frustrated by my out-of-control house it was Spencer who said, “Don't quit. Finish your book....” Not because he particularly cares one way or the other whether or not I finish it, but because he knows it's important to ME. He knows I need to do it. As a mom, it's always a delicate balancing act to make time for your own pursuits while still putting the kids' needs first. And they do still come first, no question about it. Which is why a one month writing spree is perfect for our family... For just thirty days I stay up too late, drink too much coffee, and enter the hazycrazywonderful fog that comes with being immersed in my own little made up world, populated by my own little made up characters.

And then November ends. I've fulfilled that need, we all celebrate, and then we move on to December. If November is about writing, which is in effect about me, December is the exact opposite. December is not about me. December is about the kids. December is about giving. December is about hanging the advent calendar with the 25 different activities leading up to Christmas. December is about creating wonderful memories as a family, and December is about celebrating the birth of Christ.

Every bit as vital as the part of me that was meant to write a novel this month, is the part of me that was meant to create a magical holiday experience next month. I look forward to December so much.

So in ten days, I will (God-willing) have the 50,000 words I need to happily put my novel to rest, set it aside until after the new year, and focus 100% of my undivided attention on the kids, on Christmas, and on celebrating.

Because I must.





Monday, November 15, 2010

Offensive, defined

There is a "nurse-in" today on Facebook, both to celebrate breastfeeding, and to protest the removal of many, many breastfeeding pictures, and in some cases entire profiles, because the powers-that-be find them "obscene" and offensive in some way.

I like to give people the benefit of the doubt.  Clearly, Facebook is just confused as to what constitutes "offensive."  Maybe this little pictorial will help.

OFFENSIVE:






NOT OFFENSIVE:







Any questions?



P.S.  Thank you to the beautiful moms who allowed me to use your pictures!




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