Found

21 03 2014

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Yesterday was the first day of spring.  I can almost hear the angels singing and the weary, storm-ravaged parents rejoicing.  It has been a long winter for many.  Snow storms on top of snow storms.   Flooding.  Or conversely, drought in some areas.   When the calendar rolls over to March, the inherent hope of spring makes all things seem a bit lighter.

After moving this past summer, we have endured our first “hard” winter and now that the sun is beginning to peek out again, we are walking to and from school.  This daily walk has been a true gift.  Flowers and blossoms are bursting forth and it feels like the world is waking up.  Almost like the Artist, our Creator, came out of a gray, winter slump, bought a new set of paints and set to work.

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There is value in the gray.  Growth comes from the times of hibernation and long, dark nights.  But the colors, sounds and opportunity of spring seems to push us towards new life and hope.  My friend, Micha Boyett, known as Mama Monk in the blogging world, has a book coming out in a week called Found:  A  Story of Questions, Grace and Everyday Prayer.  Micha shares about her journey during the second and third years of her oldest son’s life.  After “losing” her Spirit life during her son’s first year, the book chronicles her journey to find meaning and connection with God in new ways.  Micha openly talks about these darker days, filled with the chaos and unpredictability of parenting.  The moments we often feel lost.  Lost dreams.  Lost vision.  Lost direction.  Lost hope.  And the opportunity God gives us to be “found” again, even in the midst of parenting and life changing before our eyes.

She shares, “…In the same way you can’t understand spring without the winter suffering, the warm thaw of Easter cannot be celebrated without first sinking into the cold, dark murk of Good Friday.  That’s why I need liturgy in my life.  That’s why I need a church calendar to guide me….

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As parents seeking to explore these same realities with our children, how do we help them engage in the realities of Easter, of seasons of darkness & light, with authenticity and hope?  The light, joy and promise of Palm Sunday, the fear of Maundy Thursday, the darkness of Good Friday and the new life found just three days later on Easter.  How can this mystery be explained, when we ourselves struggle with the dichotomies and truths of one week in the life of Christ?

I was surprised this week that walking to and from school with my boys helped me answer this question in an unexpected way.  Is there such thing as a spiritual practice of the daily walk to school?  The conversations to be had?  The observations to be made?  The quiet and the rushed steps?  They ALL work towards seeing God moving and changing, building and growing, being present in our daily, mundane lives….as liturgy of the natural world.  The bright, vibrancy of the daffodils,  tulips and hyacinths from the dormant ground seem like a message to us each day, traipsing down our street….God saying, “Hey!  I make all things new!  Out of that snow covered, icy ground….there is new life brewing.  The gray skies won’t stay forever and behind the clouds?!  There is always blue.

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My boys and I didn’t have these “revelations” or hear God in the formality of the church sanctuary or in the confines of a Sunday School classroom (although they happen there too!).  But, it was found in the mundane, everyday moments of life, chaotic and unpredictable as they may be.  Walking home from school.  Playing on the playground.  Making pizza with fresh vegetables.  Doing homework.  Odd as it might sound, sometimes life, newness and hope breaks through in the most unpredictable of times.  In the most unexpected places and ways.  Spring reminding us that new life waits under the Earth.  Resurrection is happening.  Even in the dark, hopeless gray, color is below the surface or behind the clouds all along.

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Micha Boyett’s book, Found, officially releases on April 1st.  Worthy Publishing reflects that Found is a “story of discovering divine kindness and affection in the most mundane moments of life.  With brilliant and moving prose, Micha invites us on a journey to discover the richness in the everyday—and it changes everything.”  It is a thought-provoking and yet, practical book written with honesty.  Micha always makes me feel that I am not alone in my questions about faith and mothering and helps me think more deeply about the implications of  Benedictine spirituality for “the rest of us”.  If you want to read more of Micha’s writing (which you SHOULD!), hop on over to her blog which moved to a new location today, March 21st, at www.michaboyett.com.

{this post is part of regular posting at Practicing Families…you are welcome to hop over there and read there too!}





Notes from a Blue Bike

7 02 2014

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Two months to the day from the last storm, we have Snowmageddon, the Reprise.  This was our view out the front window about 6 inches into a 12 hour, constant-flow snow storm yesterday.  We have a little reprieve this morning and then reports say it plans to start again in earnest this afternoon.

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A quick dusting at 5:45am became a steady dumping…..

and the boys were “striking”, begging their mean mom (notice the sign, “Mom’s Mine!”) to let them outside at 6:30am after school was cancelled.

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Finally let them out after breakfast and morning cartoons.

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….which lasted for all of 10 minutes when they barreled inside and stripped off all the layers.

Snow days are all about peace, calm, slowness and coziness, right?!??!

It became the perfect day to set aside my grading, lesson planning, schedule stressing and school concerns.

And pick up Tsh Oxenreider’s new book, Notes from a Blue Bike:  The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World.

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I have followed Tsh’s website The Art of Simple (formerly Simple Mom) for a long time, often referring back to her wisdom or ideas here on the blog.

When she began to share about her current book project, now in finished form, Notes from a Blue Bike, the theme resonated with me before I read a word of the text.

Living intentionally in the midst of chaos.

Making intentional choices.

Leaving margin for doing nothing.

Making choices, even hard ones, to live the life we truly seek.

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Back in 2008, we made a very difficult decision to leave our current jobs, house and close proximity to family.  A smaller town beckoned and a job that promised (in our minds) a slower, more intentional framework for our lives.  It was a sweet season for our family.  Our first born was nine months old.  We had a chance to work together in ministry.  Our house was surrounded by Redwoods, we had a creek mere feet from our back deck and the ocean only 20 minutes away.  Within 1/2 an hour we had more wineries than you could ever visit in a life time.  It was a perfect recipe for a slower life.

But…..despite our remote location and ingredients for a calmer pace, it didn’t end up looking that different that our days in the Bay Area.  The pull to work hard while balancing life with a toddler and later, another baby, took its toll.  It wasn’t a BAD life, it was just busier than we had expected and more hectic than we imagined possible “out in the boondocks”.   As Tsh reminds in the opening pages,

Life is chaotic. But we can choose to live it differently. 

It doesn’t always feel like it, but we do have the freedom to creatively change the everyday little things in our lives so that our path better aligns with our values and passions.

Notes from a Blue Bike hits on six main areas of intentional living—food, work, education, travel, entertainment, and revival, with an added appendix on finances and budgeting.  Her style is part travel memoir, with a heavy dose of inspiration and application.  Through her example, I found myself reflecting on our family, the choices we have made, the moves we have endured.

Just as yesterday’s “BIGGER THAN PREDICTED” snow storm halted plans and schedules, we can do the same.  Living intentionally and slowly in our fast-paced world doesn’t just happen.  It requires staying true to our selves and to choices our family has made even when other expectations and voices and internal pressures feel VERY hard to ignore.

In the food vignettes, Tsh emphasizes the importance of slow food, time around the table, menu planning, being intentional with what we buy and valuing the community & connection that can be formed over a meal.

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As I have recently re-entered the working world, her words about work and education rang so true.  As parents and educators, today’s push for each child to learn in the same type of fast-driven environment may not be best.  As adults, deep down, we want more freedom to learn, to be creative and grow.  She writes,

“We are hardwired to learn, and creativity is in our DNA; we’re made in the likeness of an ultimate Creator.”

So often, creativity, time and space to experiment and explore is squelched.  As a teacher, I have a lesson plan book with detailed, daily plans.  I have larger range goals for each subject area, tied to the core standards, to ensure the students are getting a well rounded education.  Despite so much controversy over Common Core Standards and the various “swings” we are taking on the education pedagogy pendulum, I find their intention to be sound.  Deep down, it is about depth of knowledge, critique, analyzing, explaining thinking and sharing learning.  Every theory and educational approach has its “issues”, but truly, if we are encouraging our students, children and ourselves to be lifelong, intentional learners, we are on the right track.  Tsh shared CS Lewis’ thoughts,

“The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles, but to irrigate deserts.”

My heart sung when I heard these words.  As my friend commented, it is about being proactive and not destructive.  To offer refreshment, challenge, tools for growth and learning.  As parents, we can provide a wide range of books, out in our living spaces, ready to be cracked open, read and enjoyed.  WE can read more too, modelling an inclination to learn.  Ironically, Tsh’s book was electronic for me as it was an advance reader copy, but typically, I am very intentional about reading paper style, from the library.  I want the boys to see me reading and know that I’m not engrossed in work email, texting with a friend or researching this or that.  Encouraging creativity can mean having toys out that lead to free, self-directed, unrestricted play—LEGOs, trains, art supplies, cars.  And even in the midst of a snow storm (gulp!), pushing the kids, and myself, to be outside, exploring, getting messy and having free time to explore.

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After too much time on the tv yesterday, we said “no” this morning.  Of course, the boys kissed our feet and thanked us profusely for setting this boundary for this {uh, no…..}.  After getting over the initial, painful hurdle, they have settled into playing and creating huge train villages and LEGO communities.  In Notes from a Blue Bike, Tsh shared about the general malaise she noticed in her kids, the lack of productivity and propensity to snap at one another that began when they started their mornings out with tv.  It seems so much EASIER in the moment, but in the long run, it bites us in the rear.

Boredom is a new concept for many of us.  “Lack of stimulation and the accompanying feelings” are almost painful.  My eldest’s grandiose ideas and plans often leave me crying for a trip to the spa for some peace and quiet….  Fostering his creativity has dividends I even can’t imagine, though.  So, within reason, I am working to see his cardboard box creations, never-ending self-authored & illustrated books, hand-drawn game boards and Taj Mahal forts with a different eye.  Intentionally seeing this creativity as learning blocks for who he is becoming.

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As the snow continues to blanket our little neck of the woods, I have turned to dreams of travel and sun to cope.  Tsh’s chapters on travel inspired me to step out into the fears of the unknown and plan some adventure.  To “love the world and drink it in deeply.”  To remember that road trips {despite hours in a small vehicle with young, cranky children} can lead to memories formed and family bonds strengthened.  As we plan for summer ourselves, I am trying to hold true to the stage our family is in.  To lower expectations a bit, think about places that allow for space to explore and room to breathe vs. a fast paced, jam-packed schedule.

Tsh has written a book that leaves me excited to make some tough choices and decisions.  It is not “simple” to make these changes.  It is “easy”.  But it is “good”.

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I would love to hear how you are choosing to live with intention.  What is one change that you are making or would like to impliment?  Leave a comment below, and head to http://notesfromabluebike.com/ to find Tsh’s book.

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Notes From a Blue Bike is written by Tsh Oxenreider, founder and main voice of The Art of Simple. It doesn’t always feel like it, but we DO have the freedom to creatively change the everyday little things in our lives so that our path better aligns with our values and passions. Grab your copy here.





Dpp 2013 :: December 30th :: ER Fun & 2013 Reads

30 12 2013

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Our children seem to have a radar getting bad injuries on Sunday nights, after 6pm.

Urgent Care is closed.

Doctor’s offices are  closed.

And thus, the ER is the only option.

Coupled with the highest co-pay.

This time it was Alex that had a weird injury—

I had taken the trash bag out of the can in preparation for Monday’s trash pick up.

He had run toward the bag to put some dinner leftovers inside and a can lid collided with his toe.

Cue:  blood, tears & parental confusion.

After some TLC in the ER, 2 stitches & Cinderella in the exam room, Alex was much better.

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One of his favorite Christmas gifts was a hospital LEGO set from his aunt, uncle and cousin.

And well…..it seems a little prophetic that is was the current centerpiece on our dining room table!

So we have had lots of LEGO building, laying around and trying to force him to take it easy today.

Auntie Elena comes for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day—-so it’s time to rest up and prepare!

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I also decided to document the books I read this year.  I know I’ve missed some for sure, but it was fun to look back and remember the ways I was stretched and grew through the amazing words and ideas of others.

On “Simple Living”:

Almost Amish by Nancy Sleeth

Obsessive Consumption by Kate Bingaman-Burt

Living More with Less (not pictured) by Doris Janzen Longacre

Get Yourself Organized Project by Kathi Lipp

Young House Love by John and Sherry Petersik

Kate Spade:  New York Things We Love (“simple living” because it was about looking at expensive things in a library book vs. buying them!) by Kate Spade New York and Deborah Lloyd

Fiction:

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple

Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

Theology/Spirituality/Faith:

An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor

A Million Little Ways:  Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live  by Emily Freeman

Help, Thanks, Wow by Anne Lamott

Carry On, Warrior.  Thoughts on Life Unarmed by Glennon Doyle Melton

A Homemade Year by Jerusalem Greer

Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist

The In Between by Jeff Goins

Jesus, Feminist (not pictured) by Sarah Bessey

Parenting:

Minimalist Parenting by Christine Koh & Asha Dornfest

Some of the “Kid” Read Aloud Favorites:

Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Charlotte’s Web (plus Stuart Little and The Trumpet of the Swan), by E.B. White

The Secret Garden (not pictured) by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Every book by Beverly Cleary

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

Biography/Autobiography/Memoir:

Sparkly, Green Earrings:  Catching the Light at Every Turn by Melanie Shankle

Lit by Mary Karr

Art/Craft:

A Beautiful Mess Photo Idea Book by Elsie Larson & Emma Chapman

Cooking/Memoir:

Bread & Wine:  A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes by Shauna Niequist

The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman

Dinner:  A Love Story by Jenny Rosenstrach

and….lots of magazines!

Hoping to read a LOT in 2014.

Looking forward to:

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Stitches by Anne Lamott

A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans

Pastrix by Nadia Boltz-Weber

Talking Taboo by Erin Lane (and lots of other amazing ladies!!)

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

The Paris Wife by Paula McClain

And still to come out this year…

Found:  A Story of Questions, Grace & Everyday Prayer by Micha Boyett (!!!!!!!!!!!)

Notes from a Blue Bike:  The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World by Tsh Oxenreider

Surprised by Motherhood by Lisa-Jo Baker

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Bread & Wine

15 04 2013

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A few months back, during California’s infamous “ski week”, I was glued to my bed.  Matt & I were gripped with a horrendous illness that kept us bed-ridden, energy-zapped, for over 10 days.  It was a doozy.  Two of the most glorious packages arrived, though.  One was delivered by FedEx and the other, to my inbox.  A “hard copy” and a “digital” copy of Shauna Niequist’s newest book, “Bread and Wine“.  I first read Shauna’s second book, “Bittersweet“, two years ago when it caught my eye at the Library and quickly became a devotee to her writing and message.  Eventually, it came time for Shauna to share some writing from her new book to come out in Spring of 2013.  She began looking for recipe testers and later, folks to read and review advanced copies of the book.  I jumped on both opportunities and have felt such blessing from the chance to be a small, teeny part of the process—watching alongside, anticipating the arrival of the finished product, a published book.  It’s almost like waiting for a friend to have a baby.  You know the induction date/due date/publication date, but you watch as announcements come out, glimpses via ultrasound or in this case, Shauna’s blog and instagram feed and think about holding that finished product—baby or book—in your hands.

It is hard to “find time” to read, let alone cook & bake these days.  Yet, both are endeavors which fill me with great pleasure and joy.  There is something so magical about tangible chances to create finished products.  Parenting, teaching and ministry are ongoing.  One never really “finishes”.   Cooking, food, life around the table, family & friendship are all topics that ignite me.  So when the final subtitle was determined for Bread and Wine, I realized why my anticipation for this book was so great.  Shauna titled it Bread and Wine:  A Love Letter to Life Around the Table.  As she began writing the book, she realized that it was a book that included recipes, yes.  But more importantly, it became vignettes about love, intimacy, shame, isolation, rest, nourishment and at times, fear.

We often can think of food, recipes, meals and eating as a chore and a to-do to be checked off our list.  On the other extreme, we can assume that we need a spread worthy of Martha Stewart or Williams & Sonoma to actually enjoy a meal with friends and extend an invitation.  Bread & Wine focuses on the joy, community and growth that can come from practicing authenticity and hospitality around the table.  The table provides a space  to let go of our need for perfection and show up as we are. Shauna sums this up so eloquently in the last chapter of the book, “Come to the Table”:

“Most of the time, I eat like someone’s about to steal my plate, like I can’t be bothered to chew or taste or feel, but I’m coming to see that the table is about food, and it’s also about time. It’s about showing up in person, a whole and present person, instead of a fragmented, frantic person, phone in one hand and to-do list in the other. Put them down, both of them, twin symbols of the modern age, and pick up a knife and a fork. The table is where time stops. It’s where we look people in the eye, where we tell the truth about how hard it is, where we make space to listen to the whole story, not the textable sound bite.

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We don’t come to the table to fight or to defend. We don’t come to prove or to conquer, to draw lines in the sand or to stir up trouble. We come to the table because our hunger brings us there. We come with a need, with fragility, with an admission of our humanity. The table is the great equalizer, the level playing field many of us have been looking everywhere for. The table is the place where the doing stops, the trying stops, the masks are removed, and we allow ourselves to be nourished, like children. We allow someone else to meet our need. In a world that prides people on not having needs, on going longer and faster, on going without, on powering through, the table is a place of safety and rest and humanity, where we are allowed to be as fragile as we feel. If the home is a body, the table is the heart, the beating center, the sustainer of life and health. Come to the table.”

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I have made many recipes from the book already—-Blueberry Crisp, Nigella’s Flourless Chocolate Brownies, Green Well Salad, Mango Chicken Curry, Breakfast Cookies, Annette’s Enchiladas, Dark Chocolate Sea Salted Toffee, Gaia Cookies & Sullivan Street Bread.  I can tell you about the amazing flavors and sighs of yumminess I blabbered on and on about as I dug in.  I could describe the small scraps of toffee leftover, despite my incorrect cooking attempt.  Or the glorious first bite of Gaia Cookie I bit into while sick with fever.  I SHOULD have been sleeping while Drew was napping and Alex was absorbed in LEGO building, but nope…that recipe was literally calling me.

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But more than all of those bites of goodness, meals shared over the table and with the company of others are what hold the most true.  I am a perfectionist and I HATE feeling “undone”.  I want my house picked up, dishes and laundry done, kids behaving and quiet (better yet napping or sleeping!) when friends and family show up.  And then I am reminded of the true gift of communion over the table.  Not about perfection but being present as Shauna reiterated:

“Hospitality is about love, not about performance.  Above all else, people want to feel welcomed by someone who wants them in their home.  No matter how unimpressive the food is or how messy the house is, if you greet your guests at the door with happiness and warmth, they’ll feel glad they came.”

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In preparation for this book review, I had the gift of getting to hear Shauna speak last Friday.  I was a giddy groupie, unashamed of my geeky, cult following mentality.  The chance to spend some time with friends, though, over drinks after the event, was as much as a highlight as hearing & meeting Shauna again (first time here).  It felt like a small victory to raise our glasses that night.  It was a “late night crowd” at the restaurant, almost 10pm.  We were surrounded by Silicon Valley folks that in many ways seemed to lead a much more glamorous and exciting life.  But it wasn’t really about that.  It was about practicing presence and showing up with and for one another.

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shauna1Shauna Niequist is the author of Cold Tangerines and Bittersweet, and Bread & Wine. Shauna grew up in Barrington, Illinois, and then studied English and French Literature at Westmont College in Santa Barbara. She is married to Aaron, who is a pianist and songwriter. Aaron is a worship leader at Willow Creek and is recording a project called A New Liturgy. Aaron & Shauna live outside Chicago with their sons, Henry and Mac. Shauna writes about the beautiful and broken moments of everyday life–friendship, family, faith, food, marriage, love, babies, books, celebration, heartache, and all the other things that shape us, delight us, and reveal to us the heart of God.  Shauna regularly blogs at http://www.shaunaniequist.com/.





dpp 2012 :: December 29th :: fuel

29 12 2012

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Favorite time of night….kids sleeping.

Sally snoozing at my feet.

Sipping Candy Cane Lane tea.

Halfway through a great book.

Cozy new socks.

Bliss…

and the life giving fuel I need to get up and approach the day to come.

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dpp 2012 :: december 8th :: fort christmas

8 12 2012

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Our Advent Calendar Countdown plan for today included a fort built with Christmas lights….a cozy spot to read some of our favorite holiday books of the season.  {inspired by the super creative ladies at A Beautiful Mess and Rachel at Smile & Wave} Luckily Matt set to work building with Alex while I put Drew down to bed.  Drew in the fort would have meant imminent collapse.  It wasn’t the longest-lasting creation, but Alex still had a blast and fell asleep.

Thanks to my father-in-law’s willingness to help with my crazy scheme, we will soon have another more stable structure to enjoy, but first, I have to actually finish and sew the structure.  Stay tuned for completion {typing it here means I HAVE to complete it before the 25th!!}

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Good times.

December Photo Project 2012

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and one outtake…

Yes, Drew did put hummus on his knife and carefully spread it all over his Naan.

And indeed, said hummus-covered Naan did end up on Alex’s head, hummus side down.

True Confession….I let it happen.  And grabbed my camera, snapping many shots.

Bad Mom.

There is always the evening bath….

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“LOVE ME!”

3 11 2012

Ramona Quimby, as I mentioned yesterday, is our current character of interest these days. At my insistence, we are taking a little break from the intensity of The Chronicles of Narnia. Following a child of a similar age to my own child, in circumstances which ring startlingly familiar, seems more up my alley than the battles of CS Lewis’ creation. {Although I will interject  that I came into the bathroom to get Alex out of the tub last night and the entire bath toy collection was waging a battle and our squeezy, bathtub toy lion–Aslan–was running the show.}

We finished up Ramona the Brave tonight and Alex enjoyed projecting himself into the world of first grade, along with Ramona. Bigger expectations, more social dramatics & sibling challenges. One of the most heart-wrenching scenes in the story occurs during an art lesson in Ramona’s class. They are making owls to have on display for Back-to-School night and Ramona is ecstatic to let her creativity and individualism shine through her creation. Sadly, this chance to bask in the glow of her work of art was cut short as a classmate, Susan, eyed Ramona’s owl and began to mimic the same elements on her own piece. As you can imagine, or might remember, Ramona loses it. She throws her own owl away. Stamps out of the classroom and later ruins Susan’s work, after it is held up in high esteem by her teacher, shown as a model to the whole class.

These events get back to Ramona’s parents during Back-to-School night and again on her progress report. Ramona collapses in anger, frustration and sadness and feels “less than” for the umpteenth time when compared against her “perfect” sister, Beezus.

She is broken in this moment. When pressed by her parents, who wonder what to do about Ramona, she cries, “LOVE ME!” Ramona’s own words surprise and shock her self. So much so that she buries her face in the pillow. But the truth has seeped out. The cry to be loved. The realization that in the midst of all the mistakes and bad reports and comments about her character, Ramona just wants to be loved.

I see so much of this in my eldest….and I know it is happening and will continue with my youngest. We all and crying out this same response, in fact, whether audibly or more subtlety. As I see teenage-like responses from my 5 1/2 year old, I wonder how best to love him. When we put boundaries on behavior, we often hear, “YOU DON’T LOVE ME!!!” in response. Despite the fact that kids unconsciously crave and need boundaries, in the moment of fences being erected and lines being drawn in the sand, it is NO FUN.

Some moments are filled with deep joy and thrill…

Others are times of experimentation—dressing up in Dad’s boots. Choosing to quiet oneself with art to “take a break”. Measuring spider webs.

Sometimes life just forces times of patience, waiting, observing & watching—and in spite of best efforts and intentions, that lollipop & sticker at the end of the rainbow doesn’t materialize.

And I am remembering for myself and also for my parenting, for my relationships and with those I encounter, really it boils down to this….we all are like Ramona. We hit the end of the line, the frayed rope, and deep down, everyone just wants to be loved. In different ways, the cry for love is the one foundational desire and motivation that fills every heart.

The storm that has hit the East Coast this week has brought deep devastation to so many. Hurricane Sandy packed a big punch and the region will be reeling, no doubt, for a long time to come. As I watch various reports, news pieces and interviews, this same desire, maybe with slightly altered words, is shouted, “LOVE ME!” “See us.” “Don’t forget our devastation.” “Don’t leave us here to fight this battle alone.”

Lord, show us how to do that day-to-day. Moment-by-moment. Show us the path of love when every other emotion and need competes for our attention. Help us love when things feel too big, too hopeless or too dark. Give us grace to see the need that lies below the surface, threatening to seep up—this cry for love.





The Baddest Witch in the Whole Wide World

2 11 2012

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We have delved into the world of Ramona Quimbey over the last few weeks, enjoying the adventures, predicaments, awkward struggles & memorable moments. A few scenes over the last two books have surprised me, squeezed unexpectedly between Ramona’s antics. Moments of deep truth and wisdom eased into the narratives by Beverly Cleary.

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In Ramona the Pest, Ramona, a kindergartener, decides to dress us as a witch for the long awaited Halloween parade. She asks her mother to find a mask. This mask must transform her into the ‘Baddest Witch in the Whole Wide World’. On the day of the Halloween parade, Ramona proudly shows up with her costume on, reveling in the fact that she can chase her classmates without her identity being breeched. When it comes time to line up, Ramona’s teacher calls them and, “Seeing Ramona standing alone, she said, ‘Come on, Ramona.’ It was a great relief to Ramona to hear Miss Binney speak her name, to hear her teacher say ‘Ramona’ when she was looking at her.”

Later as they are ready to head out for the parade, she realized “she was afraid of losing herself behind that scary mask.” Taking matters into her own hands, Ramona “printed her name, and then she could not resist adding with a flourish her last initial complete with ears and whiskers…” on a sign and hung it around her neck. “Ramona Q!”

“Now the whole world would know who she was! She was Ramona Quimby, the only girl in the world with ears and whiskers on her last initial.” Ramona continues in the parade, mask firmly in place, sign held up for for all to see. Between the sign and her boisterous hellos, her mother, little Willa Jean and even Henry’s dog, Ribsy, recognize her and she takes great joy and delight in those realizations.

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I was talking with a friend this week about how marriage and parenthood pretty much takes away any thought of masking our truest, rawest selves. You just can’t hide your humanity when you are chasing your kid through the bike shop as he screams, shrill-fashion, wearing a “DANGER” helmet. {really, that MAY have just happened to us….just maybe}. Marriage too is a place where hiding is almost impossible. Some may try to live successfully within a marital relationship with masks, but sooner or later the preverbal rubber band snaps off the back and the disguise falls.

As fun as masks can be, as easily as they hide our truest selves, we long, as Ramona did, to be known. Ramona wanted that scary mask more than anything, but simultaneously she wanted her identity to be clear. Ramona needed the WHOLE WORLD to know—-she wasn’t the baddest witch, she was truly RAMONA, just disguised.

Halloween, for all of the opinions out there, can be controversial. For me, though, I love the chance it gives kids to take on a new identity. Try on a new persona. Be the villainous Darth Vader for a night, wielding a light saber into the darkness….only to lift the mask (and the cape) up and off after three rough tumbles. Maybe we just have to learn by doing, by trying, by falling and failing….try the mask on, thinking it will hide the deeper stuff beneath the surface, only to miss the depth of being truly “seen”.

More on Ramona later this week. She has some profound insights on love. For now, I’m playing a few roles—-sometimes masquerading as the baddest witch as I fight frustration with two determined young-ins, other times taking that mask off and letting my true identity be seen, even with its flaws and growing edges. May we feel that same great “relief” Ramona felt, though, when those that love us no matter what, especially our Creator, speaks the words, our names, with love. The gift of Grace that can give courage and truth to the dark, embarrassing and challenging places we would prefer others not see.





Impetus

12 09 2012

Our **little** Drewske turned 23 months yesterday. As each month ticks by, I look into his eyes deeper and deeper, wondering to myself, “What is your story, Drew? What will you be about as your life unfolds?” Will you be the listener and observer, a faithful friend?  The energizer, a comedian that keeps everyone on their toes, laughing?  A creative mind, expressing itself through words and art?  A linebacker, holding your place but committed to your band of brothers, your team?

I’m not fully sure, but I do so love watching and wondering. Some might call it “PROJECTING”.

Rather than getting too deep and philosophical, I want to share something that is uniquely TWENTY-THREE months. At least uniquely “DREW” at 23 months. The impetus for Drew’s smiles these days, while varied, has one sure motivator, especially when taking photos. Burping.

We happened upon this truth as Alex accidentally let one rip right as I was trying to get a smiling picture of Drew one night.  And since then, Alex’s ability to burp on cue has been utilized “on occasion” to get a good smile and laugh out of his brother (see photos below captured yesterday).

It is rather horrifying, or potentially amusing if I’ve had a glass of wine first, to realize that such an inappropriate thing would get a consistent smile and laugh. But hey, I’m living with three boys, this truth was bound to be revealed sooner or later.  Tonight, while reading our continuing bedtime novel, Danny, the Champion of the World, it all was validated or verified, thanks to Roald Dahl. Listen up as Danny’s dad talks about the infamous “dewlap”.

On this particular walk to school, there was an old frog croaking in the stream behind the hedge as we went by. ‘Can you hear him, Danny?’
‘Yes,’ I said.
‘That is a bullfrong calling to his wife. He does it by blowing out his dewlap and letting it go with a burp.’
‘What is a dewlap?’ I asked.
‘It’s the loose skin on his throat. He can blow it up just like a little balloon.’
‘What happens when his wife hears him?’
‘She goes hopping over to him. She is very happy to have been invited. But I’ll tell you something very funny about the old bullfrog. He often becomes so pleased with the sound of his own voice that his wife has to nudge him several times before he’ll stop his burping and turn around to hug her.’
That made me laugh.
‘Don’t laugh too loud,’ he said, twinkling at me with his eyes. ‘We men are not so very different from the bullfrog.’”

I am afraid we are just 23 months in on this fact—-my boys can get so distracted with these antics that one wonders if the original impetus for the smile will end.  No clue how these scenarios will build and continue over the years to come, but I must admit, I made myself burp to get that picture up on top this morning after Alex had left for school, and Matt for work.  What is this world coming too?!?  I’m figuring, if you can’t beat them, then join them?!

Happy 23 Months, Drew…





My Brothers & Sisters Obsession Guided the Day….to Ojai!

5 08 2012

I love, love, love the show Brothers & Sisters. Or should I say LOVED the show as I think it’s come to the end of its run. Matt used to always comment that it was so overly done. Each plot line was fairly over the top and sensationalized. I, however, loved the sibling relationships and the connection to the food industry in their fictionalized business, Ojai Foods.

So, for our first full day of vacation, we drove southwest, up into the mountains, along Hwy 154 to Ojai. We left the fog rolling through Carpinteria and landed, 40 minutes later, in the roasting valley. We spent the bulk of our time at Bart’s Books, an amazing outdoor bookstore and mom (me!) scored….found a used Star Wars sticker book…Alex has been glued to it every since, even forgoing playing at Libbey Park in Ojai for looking at the new treasured book. Drew spent the whole time at Bart’s Books getting book after book from the law section. I’m thinking Matt’s dad and mom, both lawyers, would have been so proud. At the park, Drew spent almost 1/2 an hour playing ball with a one year old black lab. I think he found his soulmate.

We enjoyed lunch at the east end of town at Boccali’s Italian Restaurant. The outside patio dining is perfect for kids and the food is unbelievable. Tomatoes, in season, can’t be beat. Caprese salad and bruschetta were amazing! Even their basic marinara sauce for Drew’s meatballs?!?! HEAVEN. Then we pulled into an amazing gem on our way out of town, Hip Vegan Cafe for my long waited Date Milkshake. Simply raw cashew milk, frozen bananas, vanilla and dates. Vegan, yummy goodness slurped down!

I am tired from chasing Drew around and trying to get him to sit still and not be screaming/giggling at the TOP OF HIS LUNGS, but am so grateful for a patient husband who trades off and keeps his cool. And I keep looking at Alex, amazed at the corner we’ve turned. It is SO much easier with him this trip. It helps me see the light at the end of the toddler travel tunnel. This time with the boys is so special and yet, not the vacation we would have had 6 years ago. No matter, we see things with different eyes, skip “must see spots” because they would be a nightmare with the boys, and become experts on all the playgrounds and parks, no matter the towns we are in. Praying that chatty Drew, who has been talking away for over an hour in his crib will finally crash for his afternoon nap.

Here’s some pictures of the adventures of today, including time spent coloring this morning and blurry pics of bed shenanigans. I love the blur because folks, that’s what it truly is….too much fast movement to capture a single, clear moment!

And if you are at home, yearning for a little Southern California slow life, summer goodness, whip up a date milkshake and turn on an old episode of Brothers & Sisters. I’m already planning an encore in a few months when vacation seems all too distant!

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