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Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Our Quiet Christmas

We woke up slowly and gently, snuggling together in our king-size that feels smaller every day. I shuffled downstairs following the sounds of joyful discovery to stop them from ripping their stockings off the mantle. Matthew joined us to light the final Advent candle and we enjoyed hot chocolate with our lovely breakfast of oven french toast. Christmas scripture reading followed, and then the kids dived for their presents. By which I mean they scrambled for the gifts they picked out at the thrift store for us. (I got jingle bell earrings) There was something about this Christmas that felt as though it was our first Christmas as a family. For the first time, both of our kids really “got it.” To open these gifts from them, to see them exchange gifts, so perfectly selected for each other, was magic.

As far as elving I’ve been doing, *wry smile* there’s really only one thing. And since I don’t have a camera I can’t show you. But I’m pretty happy with it. I made the kids a card table playhouse. It’s a cloth playhouse that fits over a card table. It has 2 windows, a door, a mail slot. They love it. And I love watching them in it.

But to me Matthew’s gift to the kids is the crowning gift of the day. It was a gift to the kids, but it ended up being such a huge gift for me as well (which really isn’t fair since we decided we weren’t giving each other gifts and I didn’t have one for him). Anyway, here it is. Matthew’s gift:

 

The rest of the day was restful (literally, Matthew and I slept through all of Rudolph and longer). We had a nice Christmas dinner (in spite by my breaking 5 dishes on the counter and all over the (1st batch of) gravy. The kids played well together overall, loved their gifts and watched their movie at least 4 times. It has been a beautiful day.

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I don’t have much to say here, except that I just bought myself an early housewarming present. Yes, we won’t be moving until Sept. And, yes, our 15-year-old van with 370,000 miles on it finally gave up and we will have to buy a new one. And yes, we just found out that we have to start paying our mortgage now, even though the house isn’t done and we are also still paying rent. Oh, and there’s the monthly payment on the security system we had to install after the 3rd break in to the new house…

But… the house will be done (projected completion=Sept 6)! And we have had a lot of wedding video bookings this summer! And I got a raise!

So, in spite of all the financial stresses we are currently under, I decided to go for it. Because with all of the above mentioned things going on, I need to believe that there is a rhythm in our future.

A rhythm that doesn’t involve me rushing off to work before Matthew gets up, frantically trying to get done anything house rehab/wedding video/documentary related during my breaks at work, rushing home for 2 hours of dinner and bedtime with the kids, then squeezing in some “Matty time” (which means mostly taking alternating turns editing videos) before completely losing steam and falling into bed.

That isn’t rhythm. It’s just survival. And I’m sick of it. I’m ready for a more Soulesque life. 🙂  And not that I believe her latest book is going to solve all these complications, but I am ready to be inspired.

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Two days ago a man was shot a few blocks from us, right in front of one of my friends and her two-year-old. Later that night, the neighbor of my friends at West Park had a heart attack and died. Yesterday morning, while working out in the park with my YMCA class, I saw a dead body floating in the river. And last night, the tension on West Park erupted, with 13-year-olds holding guns and rival groups marching down the street. The police had to intervene between the warring factions surrounding my friends’ house.

Death and chaos are all around me. The image of the man face down in the water has been flashing in my mind for the past 2 days. His name was Gary. I just found that out.

People don’t know how to respond to death. Most of the others in my class made inane remarks about CSI: Columbus. One girl said, “I feel so bad for the little ducks!”

I have been mourning Gary. And I have discovered something. My response to suffering in the past has always been to respond, to react, to focus on what can be done to stop it. My gut has always urged me toward the disaster. I can remember as a child, seeing strangers in need, beggars on the streets, a quechua woman attacked by a dog… I always wanted to go to them, to somehow make the sadness go away. Even when I had no idea what to do, I still brought the woman home, asking my mom to fix her leg and sew her dress where the dog had torn it.

Perhaps it was the finality of seeing someone so far beyond any help. But all I want to do is curl up inside my house with my kids and shelter them from the world. Becoming a wife and becoming a mother, having these 3 people in my life who I love so deeply, so completely, has brought my gaze closer, reigned it in to this small circle around me.

But I do still long to join the action, the crusade, to make a difference. I hear from Kelly on West Park how they gathered in the 11 kids next door on the night their neighbor died. How they reached out, instinctively, before even understanding what had happened, when they heard the mother screaming in the street. What my friends in that house have done for those kids, not just in this one horrific moment of tragedy, but every day, is immeasurable. They have given them glimpses of a different way of life. Brought them to festivals and introduced them to music. Taught them to feed the chickens and find the right plants in the garden. In the midst of a warring neighborhood, the West Park House is a beacon. Because the tragedy is not just momentary. It is everyday in Franklinton. And every day, Kelly and Ashley and J. Meier and Jonny and Jonathan Youngman and Greg are there.

And while I yearn for that opportunity, I long to reach out like that, I find myself turning back to the 2 little lives that I have more power to influence than any others. At the end of the day, when I get home from work and there is maybe 1 1/2 hrs left before their bedtime, I want to spend it right there, with picture books and playdough and hide-and-seek.

How do I live out completely who I am? How can I be crusader and nurturer? How can I nurture my own in this place of chaos without also crusading for others? I am in search of a way to live this out…

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He is Risen!

This was my mother’s Easter hat when she was a little girl. 🙂

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So I meant to post the egg decorating on Friday, but things just got busy, you know?   I love how SouleMama’s post on Natural Egg Decorating contains this deceptive little phrase “we kept it simple…”

Ok, so, making dye, boiling eggs, decorating eggs, then dying them requires chopping, peeling and steaming beets, carrots, spinach, grapes and blueberries (which is an astounding display of stovetop acrobatics-that’s 6 pots!), straining each one, cooling the liquid, creating a space for decorating, convincing children that white crayons on white eggs really will show a visible design after the dyeing, etc, etc.

Oh, Amanda Soule.  You and your simple life… 

Anyway, the natural dyes were great, but the kids wanted more of a hands on artistic approach, so we pulled out the watercolors.  And since, in spite of the knowledge that I am not and will never be her, I did follow SouleMama footsteps once again. I found that I had a pile of raw muslin scraps and soaked them in the dyes as well. The makings of an Easter banner!

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Thrift Store Consumerism

“Please, can I wear my new shoes to preschool? I want to show Ms. Katrina! Please? I really, really want to!”

From what she says it sounds as if she’s already told her teacher all about her new shoes. I hem and haw. I tell her the shoes are still too big and she has to grow into them a bit.  Which is true. But here is the starkly honest reason for my hesitation- the “new” shoes are a scuffed, world-weary pair we picked up for $1.99 at the thrift store.

Now, I am proud of the fact that my family shops at the thrift store. But in that moment, the last thing I wanted was for my daughter’s preschool teacher to see these “new shoes” that have my little girl so very excited.  Half-formed thoughts whisper to me, urging me to do what any other mother in her preschool would do- go out and buy shiny, truly, new shoes. Send her to preschool without the stigma. Show her what it means to be excited about actual new things.

Wow. The marketing world has become so powerful, that voice so loud, that it carries this far. Into the mind of someone who doesn’t own a TV, who hasn’t seen a commercial in who knows how long.  There it is. That voice. Telling me exactly what I need to do, what my role is, how I fit into this society.

And that role is BUY. I will be happier that way. My children will be more confident, more polite, cleaner even, in those new clothes. And it’s not just about me. The entire economy depends on this, my drive to consume. People all across the nation will benefit from my immediate satisfaction.  It’s a win win.

If we trade our souls…

But I believe in dying to self. I believe in living for others. I believe in community, not individualism. I believe that I have a connection to this earth and to the materials provided for us here. I believe that I have the ability and the strength to create. I believe in the exhilaration of working with my hands. I believe in the beauty of small imperfections. I believe we are all responsible. I believe in shaping, molding, kneading, threading, whisking, scraping, hanging, grinding, mending and crafting. And I believe that out of all that can come art, bread, clothes, food, tools and toys. I believe in the home as a unit of production, not a unit of consumption.

And when we must consume, I believe in hunting and gathering, not in browsing and window shopping. I believe in reusing and reclaiming. I believe in thrift.

And Lala will proudly wear her new shoes, and her mama will know that this is our choice. That this is what we believe in. Because that foolish voice can’t shout louder than what I know is true.

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Okawa’s Carefree Clothes for Girls delights me.

I made the headscarf for Lala last spring, and this spring I decided to try this darling blouse. (though my daughter calls it a dress. I guess it kind of is.) I made it with raw muslin and a doily I found at the thrift store. Perfect!

She loves it. And I love it. I kind of want one actually.

 

 

 

Bubby on the other hand, prefers to forego the shirt.

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