Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmasy do-dads.

This Christmas, we're doing 1 big gift for the girls, and 3 smaller gifts for each, just like baby Jesus got from the wise men. "Gold, Incense, and Myrrh". ;o)

Here's their biggie, from my amazingly resourceful and talented spouse. Nate really rocked out on this project!! I showed him an example of a Waldorf-style interlocking dollhouse idea, and he took it and ran with it. It's completely collapsible, and very sturdy.

And here are the little wooden peg people I burned faces and clothes on...the girls have dubbed them "The Foley Family"

I'll admit that the dready mama with a monroe piercing is my favorite. They're not perfect, but the girls love them. <3 (They got their "biggie" a bit early)

I'll have some more to post later after I take some pictures...

But they're also getting some wooden cars and a flatbed truck, some felt food, a play sling, several dvds and some edible goodies for their stockings. :oP

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Food, weight, pregnancy.

I'm now at the point that I start packing on weight like nobody's business. Trying to keep a healthy perspective is a challenge, especially when every "pregnant" model you see looks suspiciously like one of those teeny bopper models with a pillow stuffed under her shirt. :OP

With my first pregnancy, I gained 50lbs. (You're free to gasp. It's shocking, I know.) I lost it all within 6 months. With my second, I gained 60. (Gasp #2.) I lost it all in 6 months. I could have cut back a *few* treats, but don't entertain the mental image of me lounging in the couch eating 2,000 dingdongs. I didn't. I just tend to gain while playing the preggie.

So, my plan this time is to eat reasonably, exercise decently (30min a day), and to not let the scale get to me. I can do that. If I can come out of a pregnancy with a baby built on a healthy diet and a body that has retained some amount of flexibility and muscle tone, I'll count it a success, no matter what the number says. In the end, I think that's my best bet for being somewhat energetic and in a good mindset for regaining a more active lifestyle. (Self talking here)

Soo, a genuine sampling of my pregnancy diet:


-Breakfast: smoothie with yogurt, oatmeal, berries, banana, raw coconut flakes almonds, celery, liquid chlorophyll and stevia
-some hummus and baby carrots
-Lunch: a bowl of healthy choice canned tortilla soup (yucko!! I need groceries.)
-a apple and half a banana, a couple of swiped bites of my toddler's berry yogurt
-Dinner: my husband's amazing baked spaghetti with whole wheat pasta and Parmesan. The man is amazing. <3

-Breakfast: Smoothie with fresh mango (which hides the metallic taste of liquid iron surprisingly well!), frozen peaches, banana, couple TB of cooked oatmeal, raw almonds, liquid chlorophyll, floradix with iron and flax seed oil.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Trail of Tears according to Mirth

Guess what, bean? We're going to Red Clay State Park. It's part of something called 'The Trail of Tears'.

"What's the Trail of Tears?"

Well...when people from Europe were settling in America, there were already people here called the Cherokee nation. The Europeans made the Cherokee people move off their land because they wanted it instead. It was very sad for the Cherokee people, and they path they walked away from their home is called the trail of tears. (pause, wondering how much of that she absorbed...)

"That was VERY rude!!! People should NOT treat each other that way! That makes me sad. They need to learn better MANNERS, and learn not to chase people away from their land!"

Wow, honey. I agree. That wasn't a kind thing to do at all.

"I think those mean people had too much sugar. Sometimes, too much makes it hard to control your body."

And there you have it.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Being Receptive to the Moment

I've been appreciating stillness this week. It's a practice in guard dropping, and embracing the good things that are available for me if I do so. For whatever reason, it's an incredibly difficult act for me. I'm out of practice.

During prayer and silent reflection time at church, His presence was so gentle and available, it took my breath away. The simple act of allowing my heart to be searched and fully present in that moment brought almost instantly the state of my heart into focus: I need to tweak my heart's "filter" to allow the good in, to accept what I know is genuine love in the moment with others without suspicion, and receive God's kingdom like a trusting child by accepting the grace extended to me. It was as is a dark and blurry vision became focused and bright instantaneously. The palpable warmth of that gentle, concerned love was almost startling.

And, I have to correct myself and say that it wasn't *God's* presence that made the difference, but my own. I was present in the moment, God had always been there.

As a mother, I'm an instrument of perpetual motion-planning, comforting, working, being bigger than my children's fears and emotions, providing security. In relationship, I sometimes tend to shut out or deflect caring moments for others. I do this because they come too far in between for me to trust them in our isolated society, perhaps, or because I'm afraid that if I once let go of the carefully held tension, I'll spill out all over the place like a burst water balloon.

I, like anybody, have my reasons for filtering out the good along with the bad, at times, because I don't want to take a chance on losing that feeling of safety once it's gone. Sometimes, I do it because I don't want to show my cards. Sometimes I feel it's the only way I can keep myself together and functioning. Perfect love and peace can scare me, because I fear their absence. I think almost everyone in our breakneck society sets their own pace in how they experience love to some degree.

Slowing down and participating fully in the joy and peace of a an unpredictable moment becomes unfamiliar, even though our bodies and souls crave it like water. Sitting down and taking a more receptive stance to the world isn't something that comes naturally. We can control everything else. I know I do.

I love that Jesus says in Mark, "anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." And then he took them in His arms. I think that's interesting, because my own little children have almost no ability to look to the future. Everything they do is fully in the present. The squish, climb, roll, smell, taste, eat, dance in and actively receive and partake in the present. That's their domain. It's were they live.

Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, "The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is within you."

Journeys aren't always about walking. Sometimes we're already were we need to go, and we don't even notice it. We act as if we're Alice running along beside the tree in Wonderland with the Red Queen, running till breathless just to stay were we are, and having to run twice as fast to actually get somewhere else. Realizing that the journey is all around us already us for us to explore and receive is difficult.

This weekend our family went hiking near a canyon covered in gorgeous autumn trees. We, the parents, walked along, pressing towards the end of the trail, commenting at how magical the woods seemed this time of year, and dragging the littles along behind us, encouraging them to hurry up and keep walking. They wanted to go off the path, stick their fingers into things, pick things, smell them. I wanted to capture it all in photos, and was busily snapping away, stuffing beauty in my box without really partaking in it.

My youngest child in my belly finally slowed me down, quite literally. I needed to slow my heart rate, so we decided to rest in the comfortable roots of a giant cyprus tree. I had no choice. And my children were happy to finally do what they'd been trying to do all along: enjoy that moment in that place.

I began to unwind, to unfold my soul under the stained glass leaves that were making a colored sunset canopy above us, and to enjoy listening to my girls playing pretend as they climbed and hopped around the giant roots. I noticed how peaceful the woods were, and how sweet the air smelled. We stayed there for half an hour. I could see it on Nate's face, too. We had been transported somewhere else. Rather than trying to capture the moment in every way possible, the moment was actively sinking into us.

Our souls were being fed by stillness. The kingdom of heaven was near.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Deconstruction of Me

There is a point in the life of each person when they gain the courage to start closely examining the parts and pieces of what makes up their own self, and the even greater courage required to toss out the unneeded things that hold them back and keep them from growing. Self reflection can be an exciting and terrifying business.

Eventually, as I realize how many of my assumptions and pieces of "me" are dependent on the unwanted bits, large portions of who I think I am come into sharp and glaring focus all at once. These moments are often akin to having the proverbial rug yanked out from under my feet, leaving me disoriented and searching and off balance. The domino effect of realization is dizzying and humbling and numbing, and, if I fail to quiet my heart in the moment, can leave me scrambling for a scrap of identity to hang on to.

I start to feel like Tevye, the main character of Fiddler on The Roof as he shouts in a moment of introspection, "One little time, I pulled out the thread, and where has it led? Where has it led?" I'm torn between the comfortable "used to", yet called at the same time towards the irrevocable pull towards growth and stretching. It hurts. It is a great, great struggle. Change is the ripping apart long held assumptions and notions that have brought me comfort, pain, belonging and rhythm. The roots and tendrils are woven into all the experiences and assumptions I gained from them, for better or for worse, and losing them blasts away all semblance of equilibrium in my "self esteem".

I don't know if I can change. I don't know if I'll ever be "happy" again if I pursue it and fail to catch it. The prospect of growing beyond my limited understanding and capacity for living and love sends shivers of delight and dread down my spine. What if I can't catch it? What if I end up depressed and self-loathing? I feel so alone and ill equipped.

But I'm not alone. As illogical as it sounds, I truly believe myself accompanied. I have to believe in my heart that the Caller of my soul is one that I can trust. That
someone will be there at the end of the journey, following me, empowering me, comforting me along the way, as I allow myself to come apart and be scrutinized by gentle eyes. That the core of who I was when I entered this world will be retained, and that I won't be lost all together in the deconstruction.

I'm too exhausted for particulars, and I don't really require platitudes or consoling, because I've passed the point of any of those things being useful. It's a journey, and against almost every splinter of my being, I'm taking the next few steps.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Missing the Boat

One of the biggest pitfalls of being a researcher and "activist" seems (to me) to be getting so caught up in the excitement of learning all one can about a subject, and never realizing the knowledge in real life. My own life is no exception. I'll admit, to my chagrin, that I adore theorizing and discussing and grappling with a beloved idea to the nth degree while completely ignoring it's application in my own life.

I'll believe a concept in theory, I'll even be wildly passionate about it, but because of my personality type (INFJ), I tend to dwell in my head a lot. The knowledge and wisdom and passion I have for a subject sometimes never translates well to my actual life. It's an embarrassing Achilles heel to have, especially for someone who enjoys knowing a concept inside out. Similar to the "the cobbler's children have no shoes" phenomenon. I loathe it about myself, and try my hardest to stomp it out whenever I recognize it, but I've come to realize that personality weaknesses are generally lifelong chores that need constant attention. I'll always have to question myself: how are my ideals lining up with my life?

Just one example: trying to live gracefully towards my husband and children, and not cultivating adversarial relationships within my family. I can talk about it ALL day long, know why it's imperative, even brainstorm practical ideas and applications, but, at the end of the day, if I'm approaching my family in a way that says, "You'd better do what I say, or else!", I've completely dropped the ball and missed the point of all my "study". Until I can lay down my scholar cap and take up the towel of a servant leader, all those wonderful thoughts are rubbish.

Sometimes, it's painful to step back and view yourself realistically with the measure you treasure and find yourself woefully short of the mark. It's so easy to have a good handle on the letter of the law, and totally miss it's heart in your own life.

So, the pruning begins. Sometimes it means the painful removal of things that aren't "evil" at all, per se, but rather things that distract and clutter my life and keep me from having room to put my own feet to the fire. It's tricky for a theory loving introvert to hop out of her own head and allow the grace that her head loves to permeate and saturate her life in every way. It sweeps me out of my element, and off my feet. It forces vulnerability and failure and humility that I'd rather shy away from. The journey from book wisdom to heart wisdom is dangerous and breathtakingly exhausting. It invites opportunity to be exposed, to laugh with those around me, and to dispel my safe belief that knowledge alone fortifies and sustains.

And that's a very beautiful thing.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Baby #3. Thoughts.

I'm noticing and being reminded that there is a distinct difference for many women in carrying their third child. It's interesting.

I'm much more exhausted this time around. More prone to panic attacks and insane worries. Feeling more disconnected and less excited (mostly because I don't have *time* to explore my feelings about this baby).

Physically, I'm SO sluggish in the supposedly "energetic" second trimester. I started experiencing round ligament pains at 5 weeks, and Braxton Hicks contractions at 14 weeks! Everything is more, and sooner. More acne. Sooner sleep discomforts.

And, honestly, everything is ho-hum. There's not the giddy excitement of "first baby". There's not the busy research to have a better birth that I had with baby #2. To be sure, I'm so excited to meet this little one, and I wish I could only slow down for half an hour to think about it! But there's no slowing, and no time to ponder. I feel drained and humorless.

I don't really put it down to "it must be a boy this time", as many women have experienced the "third baby" phenomenon.

Other people, especially men, are less enchanted and excited about the pregnancy. People gape in the grocery store as you cart around two small children AND a belly, rather than beaming at you knowingly and grabbing things for you. :OP

And the women in my life, especially those who are mothers, have been *especially* supportive.

It's interesting, and bewildering, and tiring, and...unique.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

When I woke this morning, the first thing I did was pull my knees back under the cocoon of our Christmas colored quilt, because the cold morning air was making them numb. Then I grinned a very sleepy, stupid grin as I realized that the air was cold. Fall's almost here. Good riddance, summer.

My little girls were sleeping in "daddy's spot", all nestled in together like little spoons in a drawer full of dishtowels. They're so different in personality and traits, but when they sleep they're comically similar. Curled up on their sides, one arm tucked under their body across their chests, the other cupped under their chins in a thinker's pose. Mirth's eyes tightly buttoned shut, Lark's half open so that her enormous eyes peek from under a long, tangled bramble of lashes. The elder's mouth pooched into a rosebud, the younger with a whimsical half smile on her face. Both of them with the rowdy hair of unkept pixies.

Cold air in the morning always makes me half expect to wake up in my grandmother's chilly upstairs guest room, with the oily fog of bacon and eggs creeping up the stairs to mingle in my nose with the smell of fabric softener and cedar. It makes me smile. I imagine I can hear the laid back, balsa wood-soft voice of my Papa drawling away downstairs, and I picture him making jokes as worn out as a lazy old hound as he scrambles eggs and bakes biscuits. I hear my mom laugh, and my dad clear his throat before he takes his first sip of coffe, wild bear hear poking out everywhere.

I imagine my Mimi padding into the kitchen in her embroidered robe and slippers, her face still shiny and soft with cold cream, asking me, "Did you see what Santy-Clause brought? Are you hungry? Did it get too cold up their for y'all last night?"

I always lie, no, we were just warm enough, thank you, ma'am. The truth is, it WAS cold, but I don't tell her, because she'd fiddle with the heat and roast us like turkeys. It can always stay chilly, as far as I'm concerned. I like snuggling under the quilts, feeling the cold air on my eyelids when I blink.

I wouldn't have it any other way.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

My Jack and Jill

I've always despised violent nursery rhymes for small children. Humpty Dumpty falls down and irreparably breaks into pieces, everyone falls down from the plague at the end of "Ring around the Rosies", London Bridge is destroyed, Mary Contrary's garden is filled with torture devices, Jack and Jill break their heads while falling down the hill...gruesome stuff. It used to make me shiver with protective indignation. Such stuff seemed wildly inappropriate for such innocent little people.

Then, my children became old enough for me to realize that there are some annoying traditions I cannot protect them from. Trying to keep them from absorbing those crazy poems (which mostly originated as political statements) is like trying to keep candy a secret from them. :OP They catch things from our culture that I wish I could simply disappear by waving my magic mommy hands and Avada Kadavra! But, in reality, it's simply not possible, much to my annoyance.

Anyhow, I've found that most of the creepiness goes right over the head of a child under, say 4, and once that age is reached, they get a chance to process their newly found understanding of permanent damage and death in form of a silly game or rhyme. It's not all terrible. If they don't have gory songs to sing already, they'll make up songs and stories themselves.

Case in point: Mirth tells us a bedtime story right before bed...

"Once upon a time, there was a team with a mascot. They were (thinking hard with nose wrinkled) the Northeast Bears. Yes. They were bears that lived in the Northeast. They EAT people who live in the Northeast. All the northeast people were dead. The people got scared and SHOT the Northeast bears. Then, they were dead. :) And the team didn't have a mascot. The end."

I suggested the "Northeast Goldfish", and Mirth agreed that fish were a better idea. "They just swim in a fishbowl all day, doing nothing but swimming. Goldfish don't eat people."

Suddenly, Humpty Dumpty seems tame.

And, true to form, she generally finds a way to redeem the characters in her fantasies. She's the eternal relational optimist, and loves to bring peace and solutions to tricky situations, as a way of bringing peaceful, safe feelings to her own mind about the subject. I love it about her. I love it about that age. She'll have years to grapple with the realities of life, but in this moment, she embraces fantasy, the magical and the terrible.

She explores the fantastic with gusto and ease, and fleshes out every possibility, from extraordinary peace to dismemberment, without a bat of an eye. It's constant. A character might die and be resurrected five times within a day, and she uses her magic words to change their fate, which is as capricious as a fairy tale.

Yesterday: "This is my little brother Jack (pssst! Mom! It's REALLY just N'omi, don't worry!) and I'm the sister Jill. But we don't ONLY go up the hill to fetch pails of water. Sometimes, we feed BEARS, too. They're not scary. They're sick. We put them into bed, and feed them soup. We make them scarves. See? They live in shoes. They hibernate there and eat fried corn. They're friendly bears."

And, in Mirth's world of bright eyed wonder, everyone gets to live happily ever after. Or not. ;)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Angry Dance.

At our house, when someone gets really, really angry, we suggest doing an angry dance to let go of the tension...and we've seen some really great ones in our day. I've done quite a few myself. They usually end with a fit of giggles.

I have to say, this one takes the cake in the "Elaborate" category, and it makes me giggle the most. I love these guys. :D

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Words are Magic

There are so many things in my almost 4yo's day that seem disconnected, but stem from the same basic developmental behavior. It's so interesting and earthshaking for me when I finally have that, "Aha!" moment that gives me insight into her behavior and how she's processing the world...and connects all the things that have me mystified with a common, very practical thread. These are the moments I long for as a parent, because they make sense of SO many seemingly crazy behaviors in my preschooler.

She falls apart completely, because her 2yo sister tells her she can't eat any dinner. She insists that flowers can regrow after they die if you put them in water, because her little friend said so, and cries for an hour when it doesn't happen. She looks at me in astonishment when she tells me something will happen, and I say "No". She insists she didn't do something I know very well she actually did.

Words are MAGIC to her. To Mirth, if you say something out loud, it HAS to happen, because words make it so. Sometimes, she catches nuance or joking, but the vast majority of the time, saying something makes it absolutely fact, it can even reverse what's already actually happened!

It's making for interesting conversation, and also a really fun time to allow her to explore her imagination, and process and teach through fantasy. :o) More, later, maybe...our 2yo is teething and fussy..

Here's an excellent article by a friend of mine on the subject. :o)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

If I were Juno McGuff today, I'd be barfing in Brenda's urn. That is all.

All I've eaten is half a piece of cold cheese pizza (gack), some puffed millet, and a bowl of rice chex.

No blue slushies.

I managed some laundry, cleaning the kitchen, but nothing beyond that, really. Everything's a blur.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Heard today when Lark was hitting her sister on the head and laughing, and Mirth was very, very angry (but restrained herself from hitting back):

"You stop it RIGHT NOW, you little....BUCCANEER TEST!!!"

** scratching head and laughing ***

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Viva la differance! (Positive Intent)

As I was folding all five loads of piled up laundry in my rocking chair this morning, my brain was chewing on something I've been struggling with for a while: assuming the best about myself and others.

One of the driving forces behind my personality is a strong sense of "should", although I'm relieved to admit that the older I get, the more that idealism is able to expand, recognize the complex, and be shaped by growing knowledge and compassion. Even so, I tend to be very optimistic when I'm feeling safe, and something of a fatalist when I'm feeling fearful, quickly assuming that behavior that I can't easily understand comes from the darkest place possible in the other person's heart.

Thus, when feeling overwhelmed, I can become very hard on myself and others, even when my intuition is telling me there's more at work than meets the eye.

However, I'm cheered to discover that I'm growing in the area recognizing human complexity and having the patience to carefully ponder all possible motives/causes behind a behavior. (This I've always understood in theory, but in practice, it's a much more slippery notion! To know something for fact is one thing, but to automatically apply that knowledge when emotion involved is so much more "twicky!", as my 18mo likes to say. )

I'm finding increasingly that there is more often than not a very real rationale behind most human behavior, and the root issue is rarely as nefarious as all that. Much of the time, the person is acting out what honestly seems like the most reasonable reaction to whatever they're facing.

Obviously, weakness and sinful nature come into play somewhat, but the end, I think the greatest underlying sin is simply the unwillingness to trust Christ for perfect provision-something that I can only imagine God meeting with an ocean of compassion and gentleness. As a friend put it to me recently, I believe God treats those who struggle with fear with special patience and compassion!

And, I believe that more often than not personality strengths often set the person up for acting in ways that don't make sense to others who don't share (at least not as strongly) those characteristics.

Case in point: My good friend Lindsay has a head for people details. Seriously, she's amazing. She remembers Suzie Q's birth stats, whether I live in a town where there's a certain store, what kind of hairspray you use, her friend's kid's birth months. She just knows it. It sticks in her head like glue, and it's *amazing*. It makes the people around her feel loved and special. (shout out to Linds...I love ya! <3)

Not so with me. You could tell me how old you are, and I might forget, say, two minutes later. I don't often remember how much gas is, when your birthday is, my own measurements, or even street names on the way to my house. I've learned how to focus on details in my own home and with my own family, and I do it well...but beyond that..pfttt! Forget it!

Is it because I don't care about details of those around me? Nothing could be further from the truth! It's because when you're talking to me, I'm busy hearing the "feeling" phrases, what seems the most emotionally significant to you, and reading your body language. I'm distracted by your feelings, and I'm feeling them, too. Therefore, I sometimes stink at small talk. (Or at least stink under the surface...I can do a good job of pretending to listen on the surface by murmuring "mmmhmm"s and reflecting your facial expression back to you! *blush* It's genuine emotion, because I can resound with you while my brain being completely elsewhere. *more blushing*)

Half the time, if I seem to zone out while someone is talking about what they ate that day, it's not because I don't's because I'm chewing on whatever profound thing you said five minutes ago. **blush** And if you hang in there with me, I might be able to offer some insight.

I can't tell you how many times those around me have assumed that I'm stuck up, unintelligent, airheaded, inattentive, or impractical. (And, in fact, none of those things are true about's just that in an emotional situation, my intuitive side tends to take the driver's seat, followed by deep internal thought!)

I'm also slow to make friends, and tend to only have a few truly close ones at a time. I know I've hurt the feelings of others before when we fail to start a friendship or be as close as I'd like. I can be aloof, vague, evasive and even curt towards those I feel would cloud my emotional receptors. I tend to hang onto the emotions of others as if they were my own. Sometimes, I simply have all the relationships I can handle at the moment, even though I seem energetically friendly.

Only recently have I come to realize that this doesn't make me a defective person. I needn't be so hard on myself, while realizing, of course, I need to keep a careful watch out for going out of balance.

I realize tend to make quick judgments of others in my life, too, my husband in particular. He's similar to me in some ways, but he tends to feel out the world in concrete/in-the-moment way. He's good at creative problem solving, and at what it's going to take to fix something. If I philosophize around him, he has a tough time paying any attention at all until I get around to the practical, "Here's how this plays out in real life" area. And then, he's very, very honest about whether he perceives it as a good application or not. It's his strong suit, and it's extremely helpful as long as I view it as him working within his area of strength.

But if I sense boredom from him during my emoting, or if he fails to instinctively know I'm feeling (in other words, if he fails to be *me*), it's very easy for me to interpret that as apathy or annoyance.

And that scenario plays out with endless possibilities. It would be easy for one personality type to assume that another is selfish, indulgent, negligent, overbearing, heartless, lazy, non-committal or any number of harsh trait assumptions. It's so very easy to believe that others are acting out of sin (which is indeed a small part of the equation), but it's so much more complex than that.

This is part of the reason I take issue with Christians who fail to acknowledge psychology, personality type and human development as part of their faith. *muse*

Whenever I hear someone say, "That's just plain old sin!! Don't feed me any of that psychological mumbo jumbo!" (as I've said before in the past), I can't help but hear, "I don't have the energy, knowledge or resources to expend to find the real cause of this...and I really wish a good old alter service would make it go away!" Which is a totally understandable sentiment-who hasn't wished for an easier, less exhausting way of dealing with a problem?? I totally wish I could find MY magic wand. :OP

I feel greatly encouraged and buoyed by the voice in my heart that prods me towards the harder road, the road that enables me to develop and use all the fruit of the spirit in my life. Magic wands don't require thought, insight, patience, peace, gentleness or love. Learning as much as I can about the unique workings of my friends and family certainly does. And it's wonderfully humbling to discover and acknowledge the beauty of the working of the gifts and minds and spirits of others who are SO unlike me.

The more I understand that, and the more I understand what makes those around me tick, the more I realize I NEED others desperately. <3

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Wide World Comforts Her

It was nearly a year ago that a good friend and I sat on a quilt in my backyard and marveled at how *calm* our both our intense children were as soon as we took them outside.
They drove each other to tears indoors, teasing, grabbing, bouncing quite literally off each other and my crayon marked walls, but as soon as they stepped outside, it was as if we had given the both behavioral meds!

Instantly calm, and happy to collect sticks together. We laughed the relieved laughter that only the parent of a "more" child can was glorious!! It was like magic.

I shouldn't have been surprised.

Our girls have been lovers of the outdoors since they were infants. They never had any other choice, really! Barefoot Man took both of them for walks around the yard in the golden autumn air the first week they were born, Mirth in Oct and Lark in Sept. Lark had her first glimpse of our giant tulip tree and honeysuckles from daddy's cloth sling just a few hours after she'd suckled for the first time.

One of Mirth's favorite books is "When Sophie Gets Angry". It's about a little girl who has angry feelings exploding inside her like a volcano, and who finally feels peace when she runs into the forest and climbs a giant tree. Our favorite line is, "The wide world comforts her". That line is our favorite because it's so very true: it's hard to stay angry when the world around you is embracing you, dwarfing you, soothing you.

I'm currently reading a most excellent (if a bit rambling)book called "Last Child in the Woods", it's premise being that many children in our current society suffer from what he calls "nature deficit disorder". There are a great many thought provoking interviews in the book, as well as some really plausible theories about the connection between the apparent epidemic of ADHD and lack of unstructured outdoor play. It's a read that's well worth your time, and raises some really important questions about the effects of a sterilized childhood.

In addition to fleshing out the skeleton of some of my cherished beliefs, Last Child also brought back a flood of memories from my own girlhood. I realize that I was largely inspired, informed, nurtured and challenged by my own hand to hand experiences with nature. I'm made up of cotton plants and black eyed susans and bee stingers in my feet and grimy river dirt under my fingernails.

My favorite and most distinct memories are climbing the persimmon tree in our backyard, and squishing the rotten ones beneath my dusty keds. Of feeding baby birds with pairs of tweezers, watching my brother try and teach them to fly, and crying both happy and disappointed tears when ey finally did. Of squishing cool, plowed dirt between my little toes. Of tasting tiny green crab apples, of collecting nuts at my great grandma's house with mosquitoes buzzing my head, of crawling across the dirt to capture a blue tailed lizard (only to have it's tail come off when I grabbed it)

I remember rubbing brown dirt on my skinny arms and legs, and pretending to be friendly Pocahontas or brave Sacajawea. I remember flying out the door after piano lessons into the woods with my friends, brandishing stick-shaped pirate swords as we commandeered the musty old rotting tree house in the woods. I remember skimming my fingers over the fish smelling water outside my grandparent's boat, and the sting of my hair as it whipped my face in the wind. I remember making tepees out of big branches and moss and clumps of grass with my brother in the woods at my grandfather's cattle farm. I can still feel the rush of glee as I recall swinging on old vines over a small gully in my grandmother's back yard, and the flush of excitement that comes from escaping danger unscathed.

little Barefoot in a tree

I remember finding baby sharks in tidal pools and feeling an a deep connection to the restless, boundless sea as a teenager. Laying on my back and looking at the stars with my brother in our driveway, and dancing in the rain...something that brought me connection with my younger years and helped me not take myself too seriously. Of sneaking into the woods late in the night at summer camp with my good friend Lyn, and listening to the cicadas drone as we softly giggled under the watch of an enormous moonlit sky. Of feeling like we could conquer the world and dream our dreams out loud with no one around to make us feel self conscious.

Nature gave me a chance to process, to release, to try on new persona, to test myself, to teach myself "I can", to show me the world is bigger and more constant than my own emotions and thoughts. To quote my favorite girlhood heroine, it "soothed my crumpled spirits". It invited me to dream, and learn, and transport myself elsewhere.

Nate's childhood was perhaps even more closely connected to creation than even mine, and we share the ability to be almost instantly calmed and centered when we walk outdoors.

As an adult, I tend to thrive on order. I get a thrill from seeing all the laundry neatly stashed away, not feeling crumbs under my feet on the floor, and seeing my counters gleaming a cheery "hello" in the morning. (I am, admittedly, a little obsessive in my efforts sometimes. ) My family's life needs order and structure to run smoothly, and that's fine by me. I enjoy having everything in a reasonable state of organization. :oP

I also feel strongly urged let my daughters run wild a bit. Outdoors, unstructured, unfettered, uninhibited by rules about clothes or germs or climbing too high or messing anything up. While they might thrive on structure inside our home, their spirits and minds seem awakened when they get a chance to spend lots of time out in the wild, rambling, sensuous earth. They squish, they rip, they climb, they taste, they prod, they whoop with delight...and I'm trying my best to let them.

They need to feed their wild side more than they need educational shows or my calming techniques or nice, clean shoes. I need to remind myself daily to slap floppy hats on them, put on their old shoes and turn them loose. The world is their laboratory, their muse, their problem to solve, their challenge to conquer, their embrace.

The wide world comforts them. It comforts me, too. <3

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

We Are Here!!

My 3yo recently watched the "Horton Hears a Who" (and promptly fell in love with it). I spent the the last 60min of the film standing aghast as I watched the Mayor of Whooville alloted only 10 seconds of his day to each of his 96 daughters who longed for his attention, while devoting great energy to his one disinterested son who was fated to take over his job of mayor someday. Throwaway, dime-a-dozen girls, and a special, special boy. Of course this provoked me, both as a daughter and a mother.

I'm going to share someone else's words instead of mine...partially because he expressed nearly exactly what I wanted to say, and partially because one of my own bright female offspring is using my right shoulder blade to cut her last pointy, pearly tooth on. ;)

An essay by Peter Sagal of NPR:

I become annoyed with a current kid’s movie, on All Things Considered this evening. Transcript after the jump:

I don’t know what sins Dr. Seuss committed in his life to be doomed to have Jim Carrey star in movie adaptations of his books. But I came out of “Horton Hears a Who,” with my wife and my three excited and happy daughters, irritated by something even more annoying than Carrey’s tics. In a new subplot added by the filmmakers, the Mayor of Whoville has 96 daughters. He has one son. Guess who gets all his attention? Guess who saves the day? Go ahead, think about, I’ll wait.

No I won’t. What’s so irritating about this casual slap at daughters is the sense that the makers of the film didn’t really mean it. They seemed mostly interested in riffs on pop culture and jokes about violating bodily integrity. But what writers are told, you see, in Hollywood notes meetings, is that every character has to make a journey, towards something he needs and ultimately gets, and what they decided the Mayor of Whoville needswas a better relationship with his son. Here is a father with 96 daughters — 96 amazing, beautiful, unpredictable, mysterious, distinct, glorious human beings — but gosh, what in the world is he going to care about? I know, let’s give him a moody silent uninteresting offspring, but this one’s got a Y chromosome… that’ll be boffo box office!

Have the clowns who made this movie ever met a daughter? Have they dated one? If they did, did they meet the daughter’s father? Did they then ask that daughter’s father if there was anything more dramatic, interesting, arresting, and moving to him than his relationship with his daughter? Did they ask him if he might find that a close relationship with said daughter might be something he would care about? . What do they imagine that we do — sit around, and watch our daughters grow and change and suffer and fail and triumph — and idly wish for something more INTERESTING?

And there’s this — not only does the movie end with father and son embracing, while the 96 daughters are, I guess, playing in a well, somewhere, but the son earns his father’s love by saving the world. Boys get to save the world, and girls get to stand there and say, I knew you could do it. How did they know he could do it? Maybe because they watched every other movie ever made?

We got into the car outside the cinpeplex and I was quite in lather, let me tell you. How come one of the GIRLs didn’t get to save Whoville? I cried.

“Yeah!” Said my daughters.

“And while we’re at it, how come a girl doesn’t get to blow up the Death Star! Or send ET home? Or defeat Captain Hook! Or Destroy the Ring of Power!”

“That’s rotten!” cried my daughters.

“How come Trinity can’t be the One who defeats the Matrix!” I yelled.

“What are you talking about?” they said.

“You’ll find out later,” I said.”But here’s one: how come a girl doesn’t get to defeat Lord Voldemort!”

“Well, wait a minute, Papa,” they said. “None of us would want to mess with him.”

I took their point. But I still wanted to grab that fictional, silly Mayor of Whoville by his weirdly ruffled neck, and say, you see those 96 people over there? Those girls, those women, those daughters? You know what they’re saying to you, every minute of every day that you waste thinking about anything else?

They are shouting at you. They are shouting:

“We are here! We are here! We are here!”

Monday, March 10, 2008

Smarty Pants :)

Hey, Mirth, whacha drawing, baby?

"I'm drawing bones. You have them all around your body. Drawing bones is a SKILL. I have a drawing skill, see? Bones make high blood sugar. You can see the bones inside. They point to your body, all around, and they make high blood sugar. They're help us do things. See these round bones? They're called atereals. The round ones help the line ones stay together. We need them."

Oh! wow. Mommy's drawing a smiley face. *grin*

Sooo, Lark, who are you talking to on your phone?

demurely answered: "Somebody."

I love these stinkers.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Sleepy thoughts, pretty little duds

It's very quiet in our house, except for the hum of the heater, and dark, too. I'm up rocking a sick little one, so I thought I'd pass the time updating my neglected little corner of blogdom while I kiss my poor, warm baby on the top of her head.

I've been trying my hand at making some easy peasy toddler clothes for the girls this summer, and at the gentle nudging of friends, I might get up the nerve needed to try an actual pattern. These were fun to piece together, and I'm happy with how they turned out...summery and fun and clam-digger-ish. If you're an experienced seamstress, avert your eyes, or find something kind to say while ignoring my lack of skill. *giggle*

(Also, excuse the lounging menagerie of stuffed anima
ls strewn all over the house...they are beloved friends who see quite a bit of play time these days. The favorites have been dubbed "Pillypoolah", "Moses", "RumTumTugger" and "Molly". Separating any of these from the rest of the pack results in hurt feelings in the quarantined party, you see, so we try to be all-inclusive, so as not to injure any animal's feelings ;) )

I cut apart some old size 4 wide legged capris, and straigh
tened the legs out a bit, and used the pieces as a pattern for drawstring pants. I thought it would be a disaster, but they turned out very wear-able! I'll admit it: I was really, really pleased with myself. *grin* I remembered my first sad attempt at clothes making for a doll when I was 7 or so, and that dusty little part of myself was redeemed a bit after years of thinking I couldn't do it. :-P

There's something sweet and happy about watching your kiddos dance around in something you put together with your own hands. It's similar to feeding someone a good meal, or singing someone to sleep, or arranging flowers that you grew yourself.

Speaking of DIY...a friend recently sent me a kombucha tea scoby and some kefir grains. Wheeee! I've been blending the kefir with some berries and some xylitol, and wow, it's good.

I need to get to the store and pick up some more natural sweetener, but first, I need to get these bubs well. Not so much looking forward to several more days in the house. :-P