Friday, December 31, 2010

Cheers To An End and A Beginning

For last year's words belong to last year's language.
And next year's words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.

~T.S. Eliot, "Little Gidding"




I wouldn't say this year has been bad. I wouldn't say this year has been good either. I would say this year has been challenging. It has been a year of growth. And of growing up. It has been a year of set backs. It has been a year to reevaluate. And reevaluate. And reevaluate. It has been a year of heartache. It has been a year of deep sacrificial love.

This was the year the baby bird flew the nest. The year she took off to a new world outside of our home. The year she started kindergarten. This was the year she found her best friends. (A feisty mess of sprites they be.) This was her year for independence. And the year her independence left her needing a lot of mama snuggle time. This was the year she learned to ride a bike. This was the year she learned she likes having wheels to exert that independence. This was the year the ocean didn't scare her. This was the year she started learning to read and add and write her name. This was her year for growth.

This was the year the middle one was pushed, maybe too hard. This was a year of tears. This was the year she drew on, sculpted, and built with at least 200 cardboard boxes. This was a year of fairy magic and nature appreciation. This was the year she learned to ride a bike. This was the year she learned that she doesn't really like riding a bike. This was her year to need shelter and comfort. This was the year she got her ears pierced. This was the year she soothed her soul with the ocean. This was the year her best friend moved away. The year she made a new best friend. This was the year she read A Little Princess. This was her year for challenges.

This was the year that marked a decade for the boy. The year he heard the phrases "be respectful" and "be nice" and "go to your room" more than he cared to. This was the year he found his creativity. This was the year he sculpted a dragon and filled a sketch book with drawings. This was the year he read novel after novel after novel. This was the year he watched Princess Bride and liked it (something his mom thinks is key to be a well rounded person). This was the year he was put in the honors class. This was the year he learned that while honors may mean extra privileges , it also means extra work. This was the year he rose to the occasion. This was the year he grew into the same shoe size and T-shirt as his mom. This was the year seeing his mom cry made him pre-teen moody face soften. This was the year he learned that doing that right thing can leave him feeling left out with his friends. This was the year he needed more wisdom from dad than care from mom. This was the year he started growing up.

This was the year that Steven and I...well I don't know what to say about us. This was the year we reevaluated everything. Everything. This was the year we went bankrupt. The year we learned our family could not only make it, but thrive on very little. This was the year we fought hard. This was the year we loved hard. This was the year Steven excelled at work. This was the year he really knew he had found his niche, his calling. This was the year he worked three jobs to make the income from that calling livable. This was the year he sold his motorcycle. This was the year my last baby went to school. This was the year I started to accept that she is really my last baby. This was the year I learned to make strawberry jam. This was the year I let the ocean soothe my soul. This was the year I needed a lot of soul soothing. This was our year of set backs and break-through. This was our year of heartbreak and deep sacrificial love.

I'm ready for the new year. And yet with each new year I want to slow down time. I'll turn thirty this coming year and my son will officially be a pre-teen in the coming year. It's cliche, but childhood does go by far too quickly. As does life. I have many resolutions for this new year but that's for another day.

For now, let me just say "Cheers!". Cheers to the new year. To new opportunities. To new beginnings. To new growth. To new joys.

And thank you. Thank you for reading, for commenting, for supporting this somewhat melancholy, sometimes muddled woman. For loving our beautiful mess.

Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 Has Come and Gone

"Today is gone. Today was fun.
Tomorrow is another one."
- Dr. Seuss, One Fish - Two Fish - Red Fish - Blue Fish

2010 has come and gone. It was a good year. It was a hard year. It was an emotionally charged year. But more on that tomorrow. For now, here are some of my favorite pictures from the year. My freckle-faced wildflowers have never been more beautiful.



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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas Merriment


"The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree:
the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other."
- Bu
rton Hillis









Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Our White Christmas

Christmas morning was cold but sunny. It was actually great for taking a family walk along the creek. Well, Steven and I were the only ones walking. The girls got new scooters for Christmas and the boy got a new bike. (An adult sized bike. Oh, my. He's getting so big.) So they were riding while we were speed walking to keep up. It was the highlight of my lovely Christmas day.


But right after dinner the weather shifted. Big wet snowflakes started falling to the ground. Although it made for a pretty winter sky, we went to bed thinking it wouldn't amount to much. We awoke to a wonderful surprise. A winter wonderland! Quiet and white and peaceful. It was beautiful. We got the first white Christmas that the Queen City has seen in 40 years. It was the perfect Christmas present for us all.


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Loves

"But for now let me say -

without hope or agenda -

just because it's Christmas -

and on Christmas you tell the truth -

to me, you are perfect."

- L
ove Actually




Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Winter

A wrinkled crabbed man they picture thee,
Old Winter, with a rugged beard as grey
As the long moss upon the apple tree;
Blue-lipt, an icedrop at thy sharp blue nose
Close muffled up, and on thy dreary way
Plodding alone through sleet and drifting snows.
They should have drawn thee by the high-heapt hearth,
Old Winter! seated in thy great armed chair,
Watching the children at their Christmas mirth;
Or circled by them as thy lips declare
Some merry jest, or tale of murder dire,
Or troubled spirits that disturbs the night,
Pausing at times to rouse the mouldering fire,
Or taste the old October brown and bright.

-Winter, Robert Southey


(picture by Chris)


Today is the Winter Solstice. I love knowing that. I love each seasons change. Each just long enough to enjoy, not so long that you grow weary of it. Winter is a season most dislike. But I find great comfort in the winter. Winter is a season for savoring long, quiet stretches of just being. It's a season for a bit of solitude. Winter is the season of snow, so beautifully peaceful. Winter is the season for hot chocolate and warm fires. It's a time for huddling under blankets in the comfortable presence of someone dear. It is the season of rest. The earth goes to sleep and rejuvinates it's soul so that at Spring's arrival it can burst forth in energetic displays of color. It seems to me the human soul needs the same. I find with each new year that my melancholy spirit settles into winter especially well. A season of rest. Quiet. I do love a long stretch of quiet.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Candy Cane Therapy

We all need a candy cane and a break.

Yesterday we fell apart. This morning we stumbled around. We need rest. Deeply.

We start school very early here. 7am early. Too early for little bodies. Those little bodies are tired.

It's been a trying school year. Constant assessing and testing. Constant pushing to the limit. A school system that's a bit budget-cut chaotic. And these little ones who are overwhelmed and stretched.

We need a candy cane and a break.

Yesterday the youngest threw a full out tantrum because she had no homework. Yes, I did say because she had NO HOMEWORK. She's just irrational and tired. She's so used to getting work that she thought I was wrong and that she would get in trouble. Then she thought she was being left out of the homework fun. So she followed me around telling me so, tears streaming down her face. I told her that she could go and play, have fun with her toys. Instead, she hit her brother in the arm and asked him to give her homework. It was like a mouse hitting a lion. He was sitting at the computer already on edge and near tears over a social studies project. So the lion ate the mouse. He shoved her and called her stupid. Something he knows he shouldn't do and would later cry about. Being a feisty one she scrambled back to her feet and started a full out brawl. Meanwhile the middle one erupts into tears because everyone else is yelling and screaming. Her sensitive heart couldn't take it. And I, in an embarrassing moment of childishness, threw a box of colored pencils and a binder full of paper against the wall. In the movie version of this scene, the pencils would make a great crash and then the screen would go silent as the white papers float back to the ground slowly with the four people staring at it in stunned silence. Then they would all turn on heel and go off silently to separate corners. Oh wait, that's what happens in real life too.

It was not our finest hour. After sitting in silence in our rooms for a little while, I went to each one, apologized, and hugged them. They also apologized to me and to each other. We all cried and hugged and took a deep breathe. We had Chick-Fil-A for dinner.

We're done. We're tired. I've considered homeschooling.

We need a candy cane and a break.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Lesson on Rockwell



We've been studying Norman Rockwell at the studio. I've been using his work to teach my students about illustrating everyday moments. Being a huge Rockwell fan, I've loved this study. Rockwell embodies ideal American life. He captures moments that make us wish we were there. I especially love his holiday portraits. They wrap up everything I want the holidays to be. Which is why I chose to start this project this time of year. This way I've gotten to decorate the studio in all of my favorite holiday Rockwell prints. My heart smiles every time I see them.

I know I don't often share studio work here. But the finished projects are definitely on my list of all time favorites. We made "Sunday Evening Post" covers. (Yes, I know it's supposed to be Saturday, but you know, copyrights and all.) I love them. I especially love this one:

But I'm a little biased given that the artist is my smallest sprite. The picture is of my sister and her husband out for a walk with the baby and the dogs. It's a very sweet picture. She started drawing it right after Thanksgiving, thus her inspiration. This one is definitely going in a frame. I'm absolutely in love with it.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

If You Let a Boy Make Cookies...

It started like this...

just a boy and a double boiler. But somewhere between that and this...

I ended up with a kitchen that looks like this...

You have to be careful this time of year.
Otherwise you may decide to let a boy make cookies.
Which will lead to you getting caught up in the baking.
Which will lead to remembering all of the people you should bake for.
Which will lead to approximately 300 cookies and some candy on the side.

Treats anyone?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Heart Smiles

Christmas is coming.

My heart smile gets bigger as each gift is wrapped, each advent door opened, each cookie made. This is joy's time. This is hope's time. This is Christmastime.


“Fail not to call to mind,
in the course of the twenty-fifth of this month,
that we celebrate the birth of the Divinest Heart
that ever walked the earth;
and then smile and enjoy yourselves for the rest of it;
for mirth is also of Heaven’s making.”
~Leigh Hunt



Thursday, December 9, 2010

"Sick" Day


OK, so I admit I probably could have sent her to school. I don't think a runny nose counts as being really sick. But later she played me a little song and I was glad that I didn't.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Male Extinction


It was 13 degrees outside when we got up this morning. We all bundled up in winter gear before we headed out into the frosty day. All of us except the boy. I pointed at his jacket. He just nodded his head no and started out the door. I told him to at least put on a hoodie. At the blast of cold air he turned around and grabbed his hat too. I let him go. This is one of my "pick your battles" issues. If he's cold enough he'll wear a jacket. Right?

On the way to school we talked about how this was an unusually cold December and I mentioned off hand that he wouldn't be as cold if he had worn a jacket. He told me jackets are embarrassing. I started to tell him how ridiculous that sounded but at this point we were at the school and I watched children stumble out of cars. All of the girls were bundled in down jackets, scarves, gloves, hats, and Uggs up to their knees. The boys on the other hand were getting out in jeans and a hoodie at most. I saw one kid in shorts and a T-shirt. May I remind you that it's 13 degrees outside.

That's when I thought that maybe this should be a battle more moms pick. Because apparently the male version of our species would all die off before they hit puberty if it weren't for nagging mothers.

They'd all be standing in a circle in 13 degree weather in shorts and T-shirts. "What? I'm not cold. You cold?" "No, I'm less cold than you. I could stand out here naked at 13 below." "Yea. That's my teeth chattering. What? I'm not cold." Then they'd all freeze to death in one big act of machismo.

Deep down men will always be wild animals. And at this age they are completely illogical wild animals just feeding off of a flood of testosterone. So they'll freeze because not freezing makes them embarrassingly wimpy.

Other animals know to come in out of the cold. Our cat stays outside for no longer than five minutes at time. Then again she's female. Maybe all of the male cats are sitting in a circle somewhere saying, "What? I'm not cold. You cold?".

Monday, December 6, 2010

Funny Wish List


With the Christmas season here, I thought it would be a good time to ask the kids what they'd like for Christmas this year. I knew exactly what they were going to say. Chris wants a bike, Analiese wants an American Girl doll (not happening), Sicily wants her own Legos (because Chris doesn't want girl germs on his). And of course, a long list of other things they've seen at friend's houses and on TV.

I'm their mom. I know these things.

Only that's not what they said.

Instead Analiese led with, "I'd like a really big bag of Cheetos!". And then Chris said, "I don't like Cheetos, but I'll take a Butterfinger and maybe one of those cool Christmas bobble head things." Of course Sicily had to be heard, "I want...fruit snacks, the kind we don't get..and....a Hershey bar."

Really? That's it.

Pause.

Then Analiese said, "Yea. Oh, and an orange flashlight!"

I'm not sure what to do with this. On one hand, I could go with it and make this the least expensive Christmas ever. On the other hand, I feel like maybe our children are a little deprived of treats. Then again, apparently when junk food is a rarity it really is a treat. That's not such a bad thing.

One thing I'm sure of, the stockings will be stuffed with Cheetos and fruit snacks and Butterfingers. That's a Christmas wish list that's budget approved.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Thanks. Thanks. Thanks.

Our Thanksgiving was lovely, full of so much to be thankful for...
...like a rough and tumble boy who is soft and gentle with a new baby

...like loving eyes for a new cousin to share secrets with

...like a girl who reminds me that sometimes the middle of chaos is the best place to stop and meditate

...like good food prepared by good family. Family so welcoming and awesome that we didn't want to leave.

...like Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping. And a big girl who sits cross-legged with a laptop looking far too big for a mama's heart.

...did I mention a boy who is oh, so good with this baby. A boy who is almost as tall as me, who can wrap his whole hand around her little one. A boy who, though he fronts tough, has a serious soft spot for his new little cousin.

Yes, it was a lovely Thanksgiving indeed.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanks

I am thankful for bright red maple leaves.
For stars that make shapes and full moons.

I am thankful for a funky little cottage to hold us all.
For soft blankets and warm fires.

I am thankful for tender cheek kisses and big squish hugs.
For giggles and laughs and cute little pouts.

I am thankful for good food that comes from hard worked soil.
For steaming plates that gather us together at days end.

I am thankful for grace.
For being reminded that I am weak, but He is strong.

I am thankful for new baby toes.
For family who loves us even though they really know us.

I am thankful for a man, a boy, and two little girls.
For people who I am so in love with that sometimes I cry.

I am thankful for so much more.
For life is truly wonderful, though sometimes I forget.

I am thankful to have a moment to sit down and remember.
For I am thankful, so very thankful.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Parties And Programs To Be Thankul For


I sat in the school auditorium for two and a half hours on Friday to watch three programs. Then I made my way around the school to three parties. All full of turkey talk, Pilgrims, and Native Americans. Cupcakes, apple cider, and leaves of thanks. All fun, all important. All part of getting ready for the wonderful holiday we call Thanksgiving.


Sweet faces still holding baby fat sang about Columbus and his three ships. Their eyes wandered and they shuffled their feet. Then the audience stood clapping. They all looked up with big smiles and pride in their eyes. And I just wanted to scoop them all up into a hug, especially that little freckle-faced blond in the middle.



Fourth grade boys are far too cool for school programs. If you watch closely you can see that they are all mouthing nonsense to look like they're participating, leaving the true performing to the girls. Silly boys. But the video is cute anyways, especially the girl who got the role of the turkey.



Finally, I dedicate this video to my sisters and mom. Three people I am very thankful for. And they are the three people who know why listening to my daughter repeatedly rehearse Colors of the Wind for the last two weeks is really funny. You see, my little sister was in kindergarten when the movie Pocahontas first came out and like every other five year old at the time she had her fair share of Pocahontas related items in her bedroom. One of those things was an alarm clock that sang Colors of the Wind. The problem is my little sister can sleep through a tornado, so we all heard that song over and over again every single school morning for about a year. Now when I hear it I start to twitch a little. But it really is a beautiful song especially when performed by my beautiful daughter who is still singing it over and over again long past her actual performance. Thus is life. This is horribly filmed and I apologize but you see why I had to show it to you despite that fact. So for my family, and all of you, I present Colors of the Wind.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

My Wildflower


( p.s. None of us are really adults, you know.
We are all just pretending we like the order and strain
the rest of the world deems so important.)
-sara sophia, tout-est-des-roses



I like coloring books. I like to draw pretty pictures and paint them in with watercolors. I keep my eyes open for fairies because who's to say they aren't real and I have gnomes in my garden beds. I like witty British comedies and Rockwell makes me smile. This is me. This is me as adult.

My daughter likes coloring books. She likes to draw pretty pictures and paint them in with watercolors. She might just be a fairy. She likes Tom and Jerry and Degas makes her want to dance. This is my daughter. This is her as child.

We share a similar spirit. But where I am strong, she seems fragile to me. And where she is free, I feel restrained.

She is frustrated by life's boxes. She doesn't fit into the system that she's been thrown into. They see her scattered and disorganized and behind. She feels their glares heavy. I cry for this little one of mine. My fairy child with freckled face and hidden wings that give her flight. I want to build her a world of fancy so that she can soar. Right now she feels stapled to the ground. I fear her spirit will die held down so low.

My mind is filled with thoughts and ideas of how to free her. Should I remove her from the school that is stifling her? Or should I let her tough it out? Should I protect the fragility of her young spirit? Or am I supposed to leave her to learn how to thrive in this world? And what if I choose wrong and that beautiful, creative soul is lost in the testing? Why is this so hard?

I like wildflowers. They are strong, beautiful, and independent of restraint. I want her to be a wildflower.

Maybe the answer is in helping each other. I will help her to be strong. And she will help me to break free.

And our world of fancy can exist within these four walls if only when we look into each other's eyes.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Chasing Leaves


my heart smiles when I watch them

as their minds dance across the page

carefree and concentrated

chasing leaves

gold and maple red

orange and withered brown

big piles of decay

made beautiful and light

by little hands and jumping feet

'til they fall to the earth in contentment

and the colors twirl about their heads

in airy halos of imagination