Monday, August 31, 2009

Muddled Reflections

This is how it was supposed to happen. Steven gets a job at a big firm, puts in his time, makes partner. We buy a house, a house that needs a little work, a house at the top of our price range, but a house that we'll be in for a very long time. And the top of the price range thing, well, that was ok, because of the aforementioned "making partner" which equals making more money. See I had this crazy dream of finally settling down with our little family into this old house that our kids would grow up in. And when they were grown they could come back with their family and say, "See. This is where I grew up". I know, that doesn't happen much anymore, but it was my dream. My dream to have and to lose.

Because that's not what happened.

What we didn't consider is that lawyers aren't bullet proof. If you look at the track record at these firms you can be easily fooled. They bring in these young attorneys and those young attorneys work hard, pay their dues, make sacrifices and finally become old partners. That's it. That's the way it works. Only it didn't. What we didn't consider was a serious tank in the economy where even hard working young attorneys get let go. We didn't consider that the banks would fail and our safe little Charlotte town would start to struggle. We didn't consider that so many people, well educated, smart people would be left to scrape at the jobs on the bottom. We didn't consider that there would be a time when we couldn't pay the mortgage and they would take the house away.

And yet here we are. We're sinking and if this old house doesn't sale by the end of the month, they might take it away. And then we won't be able to buy another house until our oldest is out on his own. There will be no house that he grew up in.

Yes, it's sad. If you've been with us long enough, you don't judge us, you just shake your head and say, "that's just the way it goes for them". And you'd be right. It is the way it goes for us. At the end of this year we will celebrate ten years of marriage. In some ways this year will be a fitting end to this ten year journey we've been on. It has taken a full ten years for both of us to be fully broken. It's ok, broken pieces of glass make the prettiest mosaics.

Our's is a good story. A story of pain and struggle, of deceit and ugliness, of joy and happiness. Don't forget the happiness. I see it everyday in a rough and tumble boy and two little princesses.
Looking at ten years, I've decided to tell our story. Slowly. In sweet drops of rain. Washing out the hurt. If you don't want to hear it just skip over the posts with this title. I understand. This is for me. I need to share it because under it all is a faithful God that deserves to be seen. His hand is ever present and His grace needs to shine.

And don't worry. We'll be ok. You'll see, despite it all, we're always ok.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Growing Up

Oh, this girl. Can you see it? Can you see her grown up teenage self looking into the same mirror, maybe with a few pictures stuck in the sides? Can you see her getting ready for her first day of high school? Can you see the horrible fashion mistakes she'll make and the phase with too much make-up? Can you see the jewelry scattered across the dresser and the brushes and hair products? I can. I can see it coming way too quickly. I want to savor the princess dress and the chapstick and the bows. I want to tell her over and over again that she's beautiful just the way she is, so that later, in those awkward years she might believe it. I want to play with her hair while she'll still let me. I want her to know she's loved so that those pictures aren't boys that she's trying to get love from. I want her to know in her heart that she has a God who made her exactly as He wanted her to be and to be confident in that person. Oh, this girl.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The first day of school...

the smell of coffee from downstairs

time to get up

groggy kids rubbing sleepy eyes

getting dressed in fresh first day of school clothes

the excitement, the nervousness

"mom, make my hair stop doing that"

"Chris, make your hair stop doing that"

the cool new shoes

the giggles at too heavy backpacks

the ever increasing smiles as we get closer to the entrance

"mom, that's far enough"

"mom, can you take me to my class"

"Hey Chris!" and off he goes

"Cile!" "Analiese!" hugs and hands held and off she goes

Then the turn around, "bye mom" "Have a good day Chris"

And another turn around, this time with a hug, "have a good day sweetheart"

the ever increasing smile of a happy mama heart as I get farther from the entrance.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Last day of summer vacation...

The last day of summer vacation. We soaked it up today. Mama sleeping in just a bit too long. Girls running through sprinklers until their toes and fingers were wonderfully prune like. Boys running to hurriedly built forts and soaking in the last bits of all day freedom. The sweet smell of sunscreen mingling with sweat. Bare feet on soft green grass. Last nights fireflies released with hopes of meeting them again next summer. A midday tea party in sparkly dresses. And a sweet summer treat to cool the sweaty and happy.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Friday Favorites

Every summer our elementary school asks the students to read at least 50 days of the summer. They get a chart to keep up with their reading and if they reach the goal they get to be part of an ice cream party at the beginning of the school year. Today we took down our reading charts so that they can turn them in next week. (The older two will be getting ice cream. And the younger one will be getting a special ice cream date with mommy!) While we were looking over them, I decided to ask the kids what their favorite books are right now. And I'm so very glad that I did! I think it will be fun to look back and see what stories they loved at these ages. They picked some very good ones!

Chris loves the Magic Tree House Series by Mary Pope Osborne. He said his favorite of the series was Christmas at Camelot. (The one in the picture is the one he's reading right now, Night of the New Magicians.) These books are great. I especially like them as a chapter book series for boys because unlike some of the other series out there right now, the characters are curious and witty without being disrespectful and crude.
I've also started introducing him to some of the classics. This summer I bought him Treasure Island. He surprised me today when he said that it was one of his all time favorites. Score 1 for the classics!

Analiese chose Skippyjon Jones by Judy Schachner. If you haven't read this book you should. It's pretty funny. Get ready to use your best story telling voices for the read aloud because this book definitely calls for nothing less!
Her second choice was Fancy Nancy by Jane O'Connor. If you have a girly girl like I do then these are the books for you. No character captures the true over the top daintiness of a 6-8 year old girl quite like Fancy Nancy. Warning: After reading these books you may find that your little girl wants to leave the house in big pink boas. Or maybe that's just my drama queen.

Sicily chose Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. We've had this book since Chris was little but she's the one who has really loved it. It fits. She is a wild thing. Of course this is a classic and for good reason, it's wonderful. If you haven't heard, let me be the first to tell you that a movie version of this great book is coming out this fall. I'm pretty sure that I'm more excited than the kids! The previews look awesome. The wild things look like they popped right out of the book. It's on the calender as a must see.

I couldn't leave out my favorites! I love this little story. The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton is on the top of my list right now. It's about a little house in the country that wonders what it would be like to live in the city. Over time the land around her get developed and before she knows it she is in the city. She becomes neglected until one day when a little girl notices her. The little girl's family decides to move the house back to the country and the little house is happy again. I think this book appeals to my secret desire to live in the middle of nowhere. It's really a very sweet story.

There are so many good children's books that it's really hard to stop at these. There are so many more I want to tell you about. I think it's story time.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Muddled Reflections

Will I only boast of His great works when He does something that I deem a miracle? Will I only call Him faithful when He exceeds my expectation of provision? What of the daily provision?Will I only boast of Him when there is a great sign I can show the masses? What of my heart's answer, the simple knowledge that He is there beyond proof?
I am a coward. I am faithless and pompous. Who am I to demand a sign, a miracle, relief?
So instead I thank Him for the rolly-pollies in her hand. For the water splashing at her feet. For the smiles these simple pleasures bring. For the graceful crane and the boy who can climb trees. For reminding me with a simple red leaf that this too shall pass; that a new season will begin soon. I can move on with the seasons or I can remain in this dark winter of discontent. The choice is mine. He will remain with open arms.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

fresh haircuts

She lost her massive jumble of curls, but this should be a little easier to manage. Plus, the lady blow dried it, which I have no intentions of doing, so I'm betting that after a wash those curls will pop back up. (I hope!) I fear my baby's growing up.

She loves her hair short. I think it makes her look younger but hey, I'm not complaining about that! She's such a little diva. When the lady was done she asked Analiese if she liked it. Analiese flipped it around a bit and said in a very drawn out high pitched voice, "It's bea-u-tiful!" Oh, my. She's started spending large amounts of time in front of the bathroom mirror, brushing her hair and reapplying chapstick. I see "confessions of a teenage drama queen meltdowns" in our future.

There is no before. You may have notice a lack of boy pictures around here. Don't worry; he's not being neglected. He's just stubborn and extremely against taking pictures right now. Some battles aren't worth it. Other battles currently not worth it: wearing the same shorts three days in a row, actually wearing pajamas as opposed to the shorts he has worn for three days, and this punk-skater-disney star look he has going on right now. Ok, let's be honest. I'm loving his long hair, skater clothes, and converse. I don't fear, I know, that my boy is growing up.

It's here!

One of the blogs that I read daily is SouleMama. It's full of inspiration for living a bit more handmade, enjoying the seasons, and loving on kids. I love following her creative household. Her first book, The Creative Family, has become a constant go to for me. (Have I told you lately that I have a deep need for creativity? Oh, that's right, I did. Extensively. Thank you for indulging me.) So when I read that she had written another book I preordered it immediately. I've been anxiously watching the mail like a child at christmas. And yesterday, it came! It's everything I hoped it would be. Handmade Home is full of wonderful projects turning repurposed goods into useful and beautiful things for your home. I love the way handmades and vintage fabrics immediately soften a room. I have my eye on several projects already. I plan to keep you posted as I finish them. So this post is simply a plug for one of my favorite mama artist. I hope you'll stop by and visit.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

one queen sized sheet = three little girl dresses

A while back I read an ariticle that said our generation of women is reviving our grandmother's mantra of "waste not, want not". Given that we are on a severe budget these days, it has definitely been true around here. And I like it. It's challenging to see how much we can save. If we weren't teetering so near the edge, I might say I enjoy living on less. But back to "waste not, want not", I learned this weekend that one queen sized sheet can make three little girls dresses. A while back I bought a bunch of old sheets at a thrift store for 99 cents a piece. (for you germaphobes out there, I washed them. three times. in bleach.) They have sat in my craft closet staring at me but I had no time to do anything about it. This weekend I made the time. Using some vintage dress patterns I made these:

This one is for Analiese. It's the first time I've done a pleated waistband. It's a little tight so I might have to go back and adjust that. The flowers on the bottom weren't part of the plan. She took one look at it and said, "It needs flowers here, here, and here." Ok designer; if you say so. Overall she was pleased, so I was pleased.

This one is for Sicily. It's a simple A-line with pleating at the neckline. It was super easy and only took me about an hour to make. It's comfy and fits her no frills personality. I like this one a lot. Once again my little fashionista insisted it needed a flower.

This is my favorite of the bunch. It's for Analiese. It's the same pattern as Sicily's. (She's a lot thinner than Sicily though. Shhh. Don't tell Sicily.) It's simple but really pretty on her.

And the ultimate test of a good dress: does it spin?

Yes, they spin very well. A very well spent 99 cents, wouldn't you say?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Friday Favorites

I decided to start something new. I'm going to call it Friday Favorites. There are so many things that we love and really shouldn't keep to ourselves. So I thought I'd start sharing them with you. I can't promise I'll remember every week (I do still have three kids you know) and I can't promise that it won't be a completely random selection. But I hope you can sort through it and find something that you love. And here we go.

We love this cd! The title track (Catch the Moon) is really beautiful and perfect for little girls. It also has classic children's songs like Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star but they're just so pretty. My girls love to put on princess dresses and prance around the kitchen. But mommy gets tired of the Disney Princesses Songs (quickly). This is one I never get tired of.

This book was a great read, not to mention full of great recipes. I've used so many of the recipes that it now lives on my cookbook shelf.

My Calphalon omelette pan is the one piece of cookware that I guard with my life around here. I love it! And the omelettes practically cook themselves. ps: It will help you make excellent crepes too!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Muddled Reflections

I'm writing again, really writing. It's something I haven't done in a while, at least not in the light. And like the day after you've worked out muscles that haven't been used in awhile, it's ugly and it hurts. Steven says I've had a "to hell with it all" moment this summer that actually let a little bit of me slip out. I've started to climb out of this self imposed mold that I've worn for years. A mold built from self doubt.
Am I a good mother? Am I a good wife? Do they think I'm doing a good job? Do I look like I've got it together. I'm not good enough to be an artist, a writer, I'll stick to the laundry, thank you very much.
Along the way this ugly self doubt caused me to hide away the artist part of me. I have a closet full of paintings and drawings that no one will ever see. Secret writings threaten to spill out of my bedside table. When the creativity threatened to burst out I poured the energy into kid crafts and family meals. Good things no doubt. But the secret art, the me art, the art I pour myself into was hidden away, and before I knew it I was beginning to drown in my own self doubt. The creativity is my air, it lets me breathe, and I was suffocating.
At some point this year I snapped. At the point when I thought my melancholy was going to consume me I said enough and I started writing. I started writing in rambles of peace seeking conversations with myself and God. I hung a piece of my art on the wall because I thought it was good enough.
I'm still working through it all. I still have moments when I crawl back into the comfort of my shell. Though it's dark there, it's easy. Like I said, working out hurts.

summer indulgences

There are two summer treats that we like to indulge ourselves with around here. Now you're going to look at these and say, "those aren't indulgences. they're no where near sinful enough." And you'd be right, unless I told you that we have them for breakfast. There's something about having dessert for breakfast that makes it seem more like off limits calorie filled goodness.

Summer Fruit Pizza:

1 refrigerated pie crust
1 Tbsp cinnamon/sugar

the "sauce":
1 1/4 cups half and half
1pkg. vanilla instant pudding
1 cup whipped cream (homemade always best)

the "toppings":

any seasonal fresh fruit you have sitting around

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Unroll pie crust onto a baking sheet. (you can leave it whole, making it look more like pizza; we like to use cookie cutters to make mini shaped pizzas.) Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned. cool completely. Meanwhile, pour half and half into a medium bowl. Add dry pudding mix. Beat with a wire whisk until well blended. Gently fold in whipped cream. Refrigerate until ready to use. Spread "sauce" over crust and top with fruit. Enjoy!

Watermelon Ice:

1/4 cup sugar
2 cups water
4 cups of cubed seedless watermelon
juice of one lime

Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan set over medium heat. Stir until the sugar has completely dissolved. Remove from the heat and allow the syrup to cool.
Puree the watermelon chunks (it is fine if small seeds are still attached) in a blender until smooth. Pour the simple syrup, lime juice, and watermelon puree
in a 9 by 11-inch nonreactive baking pan and stir well. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and place in the freezer. After 1 hour, stir the mixture well, using a fork. Return to the freezer for another hour, then stir again. This time allow the mixture to freeze for at least 6 hours or overnight (it is not necessary to continue stirring after you have done it twice).
Remove the pan from the freezer and allow it to sit at room temperature for about 5 minutes. Using a fork, scrape the fruit ice and serve it in a small bowl.

my pajama/play dress clad kitchen helpers in too big aprons and with sticky cherry stained fingers

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Bring on the fall

I slept in a bit today. I am using the word "slept" loosely here. The kids were in the play room, cd already blaring, games already being played. But I stayed in bed for just a bit longer than I should have today. Why? Because for one more day I can. Tomorrow starts early rising; trying to prepare my body for the predawn wakings of back to school. Two weeks from today school starts and parents everywhere celebrate the wonderful relief that is the public school system! Unless your children start school at 7, which puts you rising at 5:30 and dragging groggy, grumpy kids to the bus stop every day. Then you too cherish the lazy summer mornings that go by way too quickly. Aside from the early mornings we are all ready to go back to school. By the end of the summer we are all usually craving routine. We are all eagerly watching the mailbox for teacher assignments. Fresh school supplies are packed into backpacks waiting to be carried away. And the annual sorting of clothing that has been outgrown has begun. I say bring on the fall! A much different fall than the last one. But that's a post for another day....

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Snapshots from our week of rest...

a bountiful farmer's market trip. I love summer produce! I woke up that morning craving goat cheese, so we had to get some. I know, I know, that doesn't happen to anyone else.

quiet meditation and reflection

comfort food. mmmm, banana bread.

lots of games and puzzles were pulled out and dusted off. Chris can beat anyone at Monopoly. Take him on, I dare you.

This week has been refreshing and necessary. We took a step back, slowed down, and enjoyed one another's company. We slept in, ate late breakfasts, and stayed in our pajamas until noon. We went out and explored. We walked through our quaint little downtown and stopped at the old hardware store to play with baby chickens because we were in no hurry to be anywhere else. I wrote and drew and sewed and released an abundance of creative energy that had been pushing at the seams to get out. We reflected and reset our course. We rested.

" Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you." Psalm 116:7

Monday, August 3, 2009

A Tired Lot

We are a tired lot. This summer, no this year, is wearing us out. Never before in the short history of our family have we been stilted for such a long period of time. We've had many times when we've had to readjust or realign our routine, but we've always been able to do that within a matter of weeks. We're going on months here, 7 to be exact. This year has been one event after another, so many people have needed our time and our energy, and of course there was the income loss that has shifted so much of our life. You may think I'm exaggerating (if you are one of my sister's, you don't, because you've heard all of this before. thanks.) but I'm truly not. Our oven door fell off yesterday. That's right, just fell off. Steven and I actually started laughing. Combined with everything else that has broken around here it's comical.
I'm rambling, I know. I ramble a lot lately. I think it's a sign of exhaustion.
My spirit is depleted and I think I'm bordering on depression. I struggle to peel myself from bed most mornings. We have a wonderful life and if any family is able to find fun in the mist of chaos, it's our family. I have so much to be thankful for. And I am, I truly am, but that doesn't change the fact that I want to be locked outside of my house so that I can't go back in. It doesn't change the fact that I feel like I'm sinking.
So I'm going to fade away this week. I'm going to spend some time nourishing my starved soul. I'm going to spend some time hugging my weary children. I'm going to spend some time loving my frayed partner. We need to mend our walls and we need our Lord to restore our spirits. We need to find a place of rest and beauty and to start fresh.