Thursday, May 27, 2010

Sand Buckets and Water Ballet

I could tell you that I took over 500 pictures while we were on vacation. But that would make me sound like a camera-happy crazy person. So instead I'll tell you that I think my family is absolutely adorable when they are being bowled over by waves, building sand castles, and just generally sitting on the beach. And that those moments are well documented.

I just had to share some of that documentation. Check out my hot husband in those jeans and old t-shirt! And that boy, who is looking less and less like a little boy with each trip. (Am I really old enough to have an almost ten year old?) And my girls. My silly, sweet girls who dance in the waves. Well, they're just too much sometimes.

I hope you'll indulge me as I share a few of my favorites. At least I know our moms will be happy with this post. And if your heaven is on a beach some where, like mine is, then you will too.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Sandy Kisses

I hate to wash our clothes after a trip to the beach. I want the smell of the ocean to linger. I hold my husband's shirt close to my nose and breathe in deep. It's the smell of him mixed with salt and sand.

I love the assault on my senses when I'm sitting on the ocean's shore. Waves crashing hard, birds talking overhead, gritty sand between toes, and face filled with breeze and salt and fish. I love the cold water hitting my knees and damp hands holding mine for balance. I love sand castles and purple sea shell bits.

I sleep hard under a beach moon, waves lullaby. My tumultuous spirit finds rest for a moment.

As I'm sorting dirty laundry, shaking out sand, I hesitate before starting the wash. I take one more deep breathe, getting it all. Letting it take root in memory. Savoring the smell of my sweet family, my husband, my boy, my creative one, my little one, covered in salt and sand and tender love.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Tiny Dancers and Great Artists

Whew! We're back. Our wonderfully relaxing beach vacation (which I'll get to tomorrow) had a very abrupt end as we rushed away from the coast on Saturday in order to make it back in time for the girl's dress rehearsal for their recital the following night. I wasn't sure if we were going to make it, but thanks to my husband's speeding we rolled in just in time. We blew into the auditorium in a flurry of hairspray and sequins, sand falling from our Crocs as we ran.

But it was worth it! They both looked beautiful and did a wonderful job. They were such great little dancers. Sicily is probably the best go-go dancer I know. She's just straight up awesome. And Analiese was a very elegant ballerina, graceful pointed-toes and twirls.

The whole recital went smoothly. And all of that purple crayon work was displayed and appreciated by some very proud parents. Including this parent.

Now the studio can take a rest for a few months while all of the teachers summer chill. Two more weeks of school and then summer vacation officially begins on all fronts. I think I'm as excited about it as the kids are. I'll have to daydream about that later though. Right now I have a pile of sandy laundry calling my name.

Friday, May 14, 2010

It's Been a Long Day

The other day I found myself on the bathroom floor. Gray's Anatomy style minus the prom dress. It's been happening a lot lately.

When I started this blog I promised you that I'd be honest. That's a hard promise to keep. I prefer to write about the fun things we do. The accomplishments, the sweet stories. Honesty can be kind of ugly and not so fun to write. I imagine it's sometimes not so fun to read. But here I am, being honest.

Back to the bathroom floor.

I go there to hide because a while back anger, distrust, and anxiety barged in and took up residence on our sofa. They settled in and made themselves comfortable. We have asked them very politely to leave but they sit there stubborn and menacing. So we did the next best thing. We decided to leave instead. We've planned a vacation that we really can't afford. But really can't afford not to take either. We need a break. These bullies have walked us to the edge of the cliff and are threatening to push us over.

Last year when Steven lost his job, a good friend of mine told me that she hoped it would bring Steven and I closer together. Hard times are the stuff of good bonding. But that's not really how it worked for us. Years of inner tension just sort of started blowing up in our faces. We ran to save ourselves. We did. We took care of ourselves. I think we've each grown a lot in the last year and a half, individually. We just haven't grown together. Last month we had a heated final eruption following some poetry and wine that should have killed us. But it didn't. We are broken but we're still hanging on. Which gives me hope. I guess hard times do bond people, even when they're trying hard not to. We've realized that being together right now is hard, but being apart would be unthinkable. We are tied together with invisible thread. Right now it's pulled taut.

So we're going away for a week. Completely away. Away from screens and cell phones and distractions. We need some time. We knew we needed this vacation when we planned it a few months ago, but we didn't know how desperately we would need it right now, this moment. We need some time to heal. I don't expect it will all be magically better in a week, but it has to start somewhere. Why not at the beach?

With that I'll say good-bye for now. I'll see you next week with plenty of wonderful beach pictures of my little wildflowers and maybe some reflections from a muddled heart in the process of being calmed.

Never Say You're Busy

I made the mistake of saying I was busy out loud.

As soon as I hit "publish post" Tuesday, I started feeling a little sick. I can't say it came out of nowhere. I was woken up on Mother's Day at 3am to Chris throwing up on my pillow and spent the rest of the night sitting up with him. So when Sicily and I caught his stomach bug on Tuesday I wasn't surprised. I certainly wasn't thrilled either. The two of us spent all day Wednesday in bed with cold wash clothes on our eyes. Analiese joined us that night. If there is anyone I'd choose to be sick with it's these two sweet girls. They like to cuddle, which is good when you're feeling a little blah and need an extra hug. And blah is the right word. Blah and Ughhh. It's a yucky thing to have, especially when you have a ton of projects rolling around your severely pounding head.

Luckily it seems to be a 24 hour thing so by yesterday afternoon we were all feeling better. That's when I went into the kitchen and found the languishing strawberries that we picked last weekend. I immediately cleared space and got to making jam. Then, when I got light headed, I realized that might have been a bit ambitious coming off of a day spent in bed. So this morning I finished making strawberry jam. And it was well worth the wait. It's sweet and yummy. I can't wait to break into it with some fresh bread. More than that, this jam kicks off the preserving season. A perfect start to the years provisions, I think. And the perfect spring comfort food to warm up the appetite after a few sick days spent in bed.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Purple Crayon Imaginations

I've been a little distracted lately. Ok, a lot distracted. For a lot of reasons really. I had no idea how much I would need that spring break trip to prepare me for April and May. I can't believe April is gone actually. It was a crazy, emotional, active, tumultuous month for us! And if the past week is any indication, May is showing signs of being just as much of a roller coaster.

Among other things, I have been knee deep in children's writing and artwork. I teach art very, very part time at a little studio here. I love my students. They're so creative. I haven't been there much this year, but some great work came from that short time. At the end of each school year we put together a gallery of the kid's work for them to proudly show their parents. The studio is also a dance studio, so the gallery show is the same day as the recital (which both girls are in). It's a big day for all of us. So I'm in the process of getting ready for that. It's kind of magical to watch a piece of construction paper art become a great visual showpiece just by matting it and hanging it up.

Besides regular art classes I also teach a workshop called Book Writing and Illustrating where the kids learn the process of writing, editing, illustrating, and publishing a book. At the end of the class each kid gets a hardback published copy of their very own story. It's so much fun! It was my favorite class to teach last year and it definitely won this year too. I just love the finished product. It's such a wonderful keepsake!

On top of all of my studio work, I'm also room mom in my own kid's classes at school. I had no idea when I volunteered how much work it would be! I love it though. I love getting to have an active role in their classrooms. It's fun to see them in a different environment. They are real little people with friends and inside jokes and work to do. One of the projects I'm finishing up for the end of the year is a program our school calls Kid's Write. Much like the workshop I teach at the studio, the kids write and illustrate their own stories. Unlike the studio where I have a little bit of a budget to order nice hardback books that get put together with a computer program, these books are hand bound. I got help from another mom with making the covers and I've been sewing the typed pages into the binding. Now I'm in the classroom a few days a week helping the kids illustrate them. The last week of school, we'll have a party that the parents are invited to where the kids will get to show off their "published" books.

All of this takes a lot of time. But it's all worth it in the end. I'm very proud of my little artists and writers. Like Harold and his purple crayon they've put their imagination on paper. That's a treasure worth preserving.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Strawberry Picking at Hall Family Farm

Oh, strawberries. Red, sweet, and delicious. This lovely fruit is the first produce available for pick-you-own around here. I've had this weekend circled on the calendar for months. All week I have watched the farm's website for picking updates and the weather to make sure it was going to cooperate. All of the factors came together beautifully to give us a wonderful afternoon of strawberry picking. After a couple of hours in the field we came away with twenty pounds of strawberries and red dyed fingers that suggested juicy sweetness was in our future. They are, oh, so sweet and delicious. Half of a container is already gone and we've been home for less than an hour. I've reserved one box for jam and one for freezing. And Steven has kindly asked for at least one pie, though I suspect there will be a few pies coming his way.

If you've never picked your own produce, I highly recommend it. There is nothing quiet like a piece of fruit eaten directly from the vine. Warm from the sun and full of juice that trickles down your chin. It's good to know where your food comes from and how hard those farmers work, not that two hours in a field can truly tell you the countless hours a farmer will spend making that fruit ready for your brief stay. But it's good to be reminded, or for children taught, that food doesn't magically appear in the grocery store. It gives us a chance to teach our children the process of seed to flower to fruit. Plus there's something about standing in a hot field breathing in the earth and the ripening fruit, letting the sun wash over you, that's good for the soul. Or maybe that's just me.

Pickles For Mother's Day

This morning I woke to the sound of dishes being pulled from cabinets and the refrigerator door being opened repeatedly. I stumbled into the kitchen and found Analiese trying to cut up an apple with a plastic knife. She told me that she was making breakfast since it was almost Mother's Day. When I looked back at the table I saw that it had been set with plates and forks. She had made toast and gotten out jelly and apple butter. Not being allowed to use a real knife had made slicing an apple nearly impossible, so she had gotten out applesauce as a substitute. Then to round out this little child-made breakfast she had added pickles and cubes of cheddar cheese. No one else was up, so I sat down with her and had toast with pickles and cheese. I told her that it was the best breakfast ever, thank you. Then we both went back to bed and I tried to tell my stomach to appreciate the pickles, which it in turn told me it did not. But how could I not eat something so lovingly prepared. My sweet daughter. The early riser with grand ideas and an equally grand heart.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Mother's Work

I spend an inordinate amount of time in my life mending things that should probably be thrown out. I have a box near my sewing table where my family knows to put things that need to be mended. Tights with a hole, pants with no more knees, a dress that needs a stain covered up, etc. Some things are beyond my meager abilities and have to be taken to a professional. For example, if my husband were to completely rip the pocket off of his suit pants, that would need professional help. (I've quit asking how it happened. The man once broke a key in half while trying to unlock the car. He has special skills.)

There are some things though that never make it to the mending box. They are emergencies that require stopping everything to get out my sewing kit. These items usually come to me held in the hands of someone on the verge of tears. One big crocodile tear and I'm sitting down with an overly worn bunny to close another hole. There are a thousand other things that I "need" to be doing in that moment. But she sits at my feet, brushes away her tears, and waits for bunny to be healed. Past stitches run deep and are starting to cover the bunny's whole head. I'm told she wants black thread for the mending and a purple bow to cover it up. So I pull out the needle and thread, and I lovingly add another scar to the sweet, worn bunny. With the last stitch knotted off, the tears are gone and the bunny is carried away to the sweet child place of the worn rocking horse and the velveteen rabbit.

This is the work I adore. These are the moments that make my heart swell. To take a moment of my time and help to make the tears go away. To watch them run off happy and content and feeling loved. It's mother's work. And it is so perfectly fulfilling.