Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Ordinary Days

The other day, while reading Jen's 7 Quick Takes, I watched this video. It is a little long as far as You Tube clips go, but for moms in particular, every moment rings true. Warm up your cup of tea or coffee, and enjoy this. You may need a kleenex. I did.

So, being inspired thusly, I have decided to do just that ~ treasure my ordinary days, and soak up the time I have with my children. I received a new camera for Christmas from my husband, and have set out to use it this week with the phrase, "Ordinary Days" in mind.

One of thousands of diaper changes that have taken place here. This one is typical in its communication, tenderness and joy. I have never, ever taken a picture of a diaper change before, but these are some of the most tender and intimate moments between baby and either parent or sibling.

Melanie eating spaghetti for the first time. She was watching her dad talk to her sisters, in the photo below.

Typical animated discussion. Sadly, the boys had already finished dinner and weren't in any of these photos. I will remedy that today and tomorrow.

Typical teenage reaction to "let me take your picture".

And here is Melanie playing with the doll house again. This time you can see the inside. And as usual, I have dressed her up like a little dolly and think she is the cutest little 11 month old on the planet.

This is my 5 year old helping Melanie down the hallway.

My seven year old, just hanging around, being cute.

So, I will be carrying my camera with me more, and documenting my ordinary days while I still have them. My eldest enrolled for his senior year yesterday, so I see the writing on the wall, these days are short. Tomorrow, I will make certain to get pictures of the rest of the boys.

Monday, February 22, 2010

As we embark on week 2...

This is the view out my window this morning:

To me, very soothing monochromatic beauty. This sets the stage for a peaceful, productive day. This photo reminds me of our clean week diet.

We made it through the first week of Lent quite nicely. The simplicity of the week, with only uncooked food (fruit, veggies, flat bread with hummus and guacamole, nuts and trail mixes). For breakfast we had toasted protein bread and a nut butter to taste (some like peanut, some like sunflower seed, some almond butter). An abundance of fresh and dried fruit, tea and juice.

Lunch was a salad with more fruit, nuts and chopped veggies, some days we stuffed it all in an Ezekiel Bread pita pocket for variety.

At dinner time I would refill the bowls of dried fruits, trail mixes, tangerines, grapes, carrot sticks, hummus and guacamole, chips, and a few sesame seed snacks from Trader Joe's.

No one was ever hungry. But as the week went on we noticed the simple, penitential quality of a diet like this. The sensory input usually associated with cooking was missing, and until this week, we hadn't appreciated that. I didn't realize the comforts associated with the aroma of cooking food in a home, or the texture of cooked food that soothes; how seasoning and spice expands the palate and pleases the body.

We all felt good physically, although I did notice the baby nursed much more and seemed a little more hungry (probably the reason nursing mothers don't have to fast). Fortunately she eats food on her own, so I made more efforts to give her more "real food". She prefers nursing, so now that "clean week" is over, it will most likely get back to the production she is used to.

Last night I made Lentil Stew, and while this would have been receives as a penitential food any other ordinary day in Lent, after our Clean Week it seemed like a feast.

I was able to dispose of two bags every day last week, on average. It worked out to be about half trash, half donations. I am committed to keeping this up, and am very excited about the new open spaces I already see around here.

Here is Melanie discovering the doll house we have in our hallway. One day, years ago, we were cleaning out the middle girl's room, and decided to move out the doll house. It never made it past the hallway, and has gotten played with more there than in any other place it has ever been. Well, now Melanie knows were it is, loves it, and makes a bee line for it whenever she has the chance. The babbling she does while she plays with the dolls is so precious.

She took a few steps this weekend, so we are moving on again. During the decluttering this week, I realized I was caressing the very same baby hats and sleepers exactly one year later. Only instead of looking forward in anticipation of her arrival and getting to put the little hats on a sweet newborn head, I was reminiscing and sniffing the hats for any lingering newborn sweetness. It really is such a cliche, that time flies, but what else is there to say?

Saturday, February 20, 2010


This is "the" look I do not want to forget.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Small Successes

I haven't done this for a while, but today it is a fit.

1) Cleaned out both of my laundry rooms yesterday. Filled two bags of trash from the exercise, and that was yesterday's contribution to the 40 bags in 40 days program.

2) Got the candle wax off of my tablecloth from Thanksgiving. Finally.

3) Made plans to reconnect with an old friend. We meet for coffee today, after not seeing each other for 5 years or so.

Small successes, yes, but significant none-the-less.

For more successes, go here.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Our Science Class

I do a science class with seven elementary students. We are doing a nature journal, and have used our powers of observation to document the wonder our our world. Today, I was fatigued with winter, and rather than doing another winter study, I decided to study shells. I have a decent sized collection, and a few books, so we read about shells, the creatures that lived in them, the ocean they may have come from, and then just marveled at their beauty. Between "listening" to the waves in the shells, and feeling the sand fall on our hands from turning the shells around and around, and the bright sun streaming in the window, we almost felt as if we had a vacation.

I love the sight of sunshine streaming through blue glass. It is one of my very favorite things! Not a shell, but it reminded me of the beach anyway, except for the snow in the back ground. I'll pretend it is white sand.

There. All better.

Day 1

Our day one purge in 40 bags in 40 days.
Our Clean Week dinner menu.

A successful day one of Great Lent.

And look who is standing! 11 months old tomorrow.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Great Journey Begins

Today the Eastern Christian churches begin Lent. I have tried to put more planning into how to go about embracing the Fast, which does include menu preparation. But also I feel I am being asked to "root out" some aspects of my life. Permanently. As in not just giving something up for Lent, then going back to it after Pascha. So, here are my main goals:

Less time on the internet, more time blogging. I have neglected this space. I have found tremendous spiritual benefit from keeping up this blog, so I am going to put more effort into it.

I will decrease Facebook, and news sites.

I will join in with 40 bags in 40 days, a decluttering effort shared by others this Lent. I am praying I will become more detached to stuff, and some permanent growth will take place.

I will detach from food as comfort and companion. I will eat healthy, but by embracing the Fast, I will decrease my inordinate attachment to the comfort food brings.

AND, I will not have any alcohol during Lent, but will return to enjoying my Belgium beer once Pascha has come.

I will read some good books that I have not had the time to tackle, like Brothers K.

I will try to go to as many church services as I can during Lent, but if I don't go, I will use the time for rest, reflection, and re-ordering.

and that should do it, don't you think?

Tuesday, February 09, 2010


Ah, this is a lovely post. It is about the end. Fearing the future without the promise of a new baby of your own. About the marching on of time, and passing of eras, and the diminishing of our own youth and promise. But that life will go on, with new promises.

I already went through this once. It is documented with this post, entitled, "Living Life with and Open Hand":

I don't know if it was the icon, the fact that many people I know are pregnant, or the fact that I am forty and haven't had a baby in 3 years, but the phrase "open to life" has been bouncing around in my head with increasing trajectory for weeks.

In my history as a mother, not one other question has been asked of me with more frequency and with sincere curiosity than, "How many kids do you think you'll have?"

After about 5 years and 4 children, I landed on an all purpose answer that got my point across, wasn't hostile, and usually ended the line of questioning quickly. The answer?

"I don't know, because my husband and I are open to life."

Interestingly, no one asked me, "What does 'open to life' mean?', which was fortunate, because I am not entirely certain I knew what it meant. At the time it meant being willing to hear the "yes" to new children, even if it was challenging, or I was afraid, or I was feeling overwhelmed.

Eventually, I had to work through the idea of using Natural Family Planning, and if I was still "open to life" at that time. Could I still hear the "Yes" to creation that God was whispering to me? Turns out I could, as we had baby number 6 during that time, and when one leaves a window of opportunity open for God, and He wants something, He uses that window.

Now that I have seven children, and I am nearly 41 years old, being open to life is beginning to mean something else entirely. Something I never imagined. When people ask me now if I think I "am done", I still use the same answer, but a sinking feeling hits me at the same time and whispers, "I might be done." Now, being open to life means being open to hearing "No" to creation. It means not assuming there will always be a baby in our home, and yet, still keeping the ear ready to hear the "yes", in case that should be in God's plan.

I thought it was very challenging to keep my heart open to all the "yeses" God asked of me. I am finding keeping my heart open to the "nos" to be even more difficult. Or should I say, to the "maybes". I can say I do not look forward to 16 weeks of severe nausea, or the inevitable weight gain, or even the long, sleepless nights of the newborn phase. And yet, the thought of never having another one or "our" babies here, no more new combinations of my husband and I to marvel over and love, well, that makes my heart ache.

So now, open to life doesn't mean just being open to a new baby, it means being open to God being finished with the co-creation in our marriage. It means being willing to accept my life in thanks and joy regardless of what God's plans are for me. It means living my life with an open hand, and open heart, and not always having a vision for what my future will bring, and it means believing that God already is there, in my future, giving my all the blessings I need, no matter what they are.

Then again, later with this post, "Turning Point":

Well, it's official. I no longer have any "babies" in my house. My youngest, my baby, turned 4 this morning at 2:35am, and now she is a little girl, not a toddler, and definitely not a baby. And what a little girl she is. Confident, loving, bossy, vivacious and full of energy. Creative, funny, and very clear on what she wants.

She, of course, is thrilled to be four years old. It's about time, she says. But oh, my, as I sit here, watching the garbage truck coming to haul away the toddler bed we put at the curb this weekend, my heart is aching. No more cribs, no toddler beds. No little things. No high chairs, no potty chairs. There are no children in this house that use little things any more. She has a big bed (I'll download photos of the big bed later, along with others from her big day). She is an independent pottier. She dressed herself, and buckles herself in her car seat.

I remember longing for the day that I could say, "Everyone get in the car", and they did. When I could say, "Get on your shoes and coats", and they did. And that day is here. And I am more sad that I could have imagined.

I hate feeling this morose on a joyous birthday. I can't help it though. It's all going so quickly, and so much of my time is spent doing needed activities that distract me and exhaust me, and make my time with my family less in quantity, and quality. I mourn all the times I said "no" to my children when they asked me to read a book, because I had laundry to do, or dinner to cook, or the house to pick up, or weeds to pull. And yet, if I didn't do these things, we would be living in a hovel. I know I show my family love by caring for them and our home. It's just that the memories of all the laundry and shopping I have done do not warm my heart nearly as much as the memories of being with my babies.

I can still remember my oldest son, at three years old, sitting on my lap, and giving my spontaneous hugs, his little arms wrapping all the way around my neck, his cheek right next to mine. He still gives my hugs, but he is much taller than me now, and he stoops down to hug me, and he is careful with his hugs. The exuberant tight hugs are long gone with him. And my next daughter is 13, and she now gives delicate little hugs. Her sweet silly ways are settling down into more mature and adult behaviors. But I sure remember her 3 year old self, silly, uninhibited and so very gleeful. I won't go on through the list of all seven children and the things I remember about them, as that could get pretty dull to a non-parent, but I will share one common memory of all of them.

With the first baby I was completely caught off guard, and then with each successive baby I eagerly anticipated this moment. It usually happened at between two and three months old. I would be up in the wee hours of the morning, nursing the hungry baby. I usually nursed the babies in bed, but occasionally I would get up and sit in a chair while I nursed them. I wear glasses, with a pretty strong corrections, and would not wear my glasses while night nursing. So, there I am, sleepy, in dim light, everything a little fuzzy without my glasses, but looking at my baby, contentedly nursing away. Then the baby's eyes would open, and meet mine, and a look of delight would cross the baby's face, and a smile, almost involuntary, would erupt, a smile so big that milk would drip out of the mouth. That look would melt me and delight me, and literally feed my soul.

That look. That is the thing that I miss in my big children. They have all gone and grown up, and rightly so, but I am the same mom here. Eagerly looking into their faces, and willing them to know how much I love them. It is good, and right that the bigger kids spend more time looking away now. I know this. And I still have plenty of hugs and kisses around here, but it is slipping away. It is the greatest paradox of my life; watching these children grow up, and pull away, and knowing that by doing so, I am doing my job well. And it is breaking my heart.

And now I know I will have to go through that sadness all over again, and I dread it. However, the time is not now. Now, I still have this little promise!

Monday, February 08, 2010


I saw this at Real Learning (shared items), and am so very glad I did. It seems sometimes our greatest disappointments can lead to great acts of love.

Please, go check this out.