I am a mom, a wife, a lover of God and my family, a friend, a naturalist and environmental educator, a writer, a crunchy granola, a reader, thinker, scrapbooker, journeyer - not necessarily in any order.
I love the smell of bread baking in the oven. We tried out a new recipe yesterday using the large squash we baked the other day. The kids and I are intolerant of wheat, so we are trying to find alternatives to the sprouted breads we normally use. Annika has shown an interest in "helping" me in the kitchen recently. I remember this stage with Gabriel; trying to teach her how to measure, stir, pour, and keep from eating the flour and spreading the dough all over the counter. I took many deep breaths to calm myself, and we got through this baking adventure fairly well. The bread is a yeast bread from Betty Hagman's Gluten Free baking book. I usually have to tweak the recipe in some way, and try them a few times to get them right for my oven and ingredients. The bread smelled wonderful until it smelled like burning...I had forgotten to put tin foil on top to keep it from browning too much. Woops! It turned out OK, we just had to cut the crust off to eat the soft and sweet interior. We ate almost the whole loaf that afternoon, and I made another one today. It turned out better than the first, and we ate all but two pieces. Gabriel even boasted that it is the only bread crust he likes. Annika begged me to let her help bake today, but alas, it had to be done during her nap. Oh well, I still have more squash; maybe we'll make some more bread tomorrow.
Note: I am having issues with Blogger today, so this post is incomplete. I'll try to figure it out and update it in the next day or two.
I am thankful for our autumn traditions. Gabriel keeps me on my toes with our traditions. He pesters me in every season to do those things that celebrate holidays and changing seasons. He is good for me; he gives me incentive to make the extra effort!
One of the fall traditions we have done for several years is going to a pumpkin patch. This year and last we went to the South 47 Farm. They say they practice sustainable, ecologically sensitive gardening, but I don't think they are totally organic. That's OK, the kids and I had a wonderful time Saturday. First we fed the goats and alpacas. The kids were so excited to see real farm animals. There were chickens and ducks there, too, but the kids weren't so interested in them. Gabriel loved the alpacas, but Annika was scared of them. She preferred the goats, who were more her size.
Then we went on a hay ride, pulled by the tractor Olivia, driven by Farmer Dave. The kids both thought this was their favorite part. Annika was chattering about the ride throughout the evening. Here is Gabriel with the tractor in the background: Then we went to find out about picking apples, and walked to the far end of the farm to find the last variety of the year. Gabriel seemed to enjoy this part. The apples we got were 'Gold Rush', and they are so flavorful and juicy! They have a tartness that makes the glands at the back of my throat tingle.
After we had picked enough apples, it was finally time for the main event: pumpkins! I let the kids each get one for carving, and we also got some decorative gourds for the table. I picked out a few squash for cooking. I was in love with the colors and shapes of the winter squash they had. I wanted to choose one of each, but had to limit myself. I wasn't sure if the kids would eat them, after all.
The kids enjoyed the outing very much, and I was thrilled to be able to get out. It has been 6 1/2 weeks since my surgery on my foot and ankle, and I was in some pain by the end of our time there, but we all came home with rosy cheeks and fun memories.
On Sunday I helped Gabriel carve up his pumpkin, and Annika painted hers. I am glad I took the time to do this with the kids. I had so many chores to do, but it was very important to Gabriel, and I think it was better in the long run to spend the extra quality time with him. He designed hie own pumpkin, and he did most of the carving of the face himself. Each year he can do more - pretty soon he won't need my help at all.
I cooked up one of the squash - I can't remember the name of it, but it is an heirloom variety. It smelled like cinnamon and allspice while it was baking. The flesh is bright orange. It is incredibly sweet. After it baked I put a little bacon, green onions, and feta cheese on top. Gabriel had seconds! The rest I pureed and will try to get some baking done with it. I saved some of the seeds, and I hope to plant them next spring and get some of my own. I think it is my favorite squash I've had in a long time. Now if I could just remember the name of it.....
Recently I was perusing some wonderful entries in the blogosphere, and found a post by Nicole on Frontier Dreams about making felted pumpkins. It's from a magazine called Living Crafts. The pumpkins looked really neat, and when I was at the co-op the next day, there was the magazine in the checkout line. I looked at the instructions, and thought I could probably do the project, so the magazine came home with me. We've never tried felting before, so I had to get the materials for it. I finally got to a yarn store on Monday. Annika helped me pick out the colors to use. Of course, I forgot one crucial ingredient, and had to go again the next day to get it, and then on Tuesday we were able to make the pumpkins.
We started by rolling the wool roving around a ball. Then we tied the string around it to make the pumpkin segments and keep it together. We did the wet felting in the bathtub. Next time we felt I think I will use the sink or a washbasin, because it was hard for the kids to bend down and reach into the bathtub. Annika kept threatening to fall in. We didn't have a washboard, so I used a broiler pan and a cookie rack. The broiler pan worked best. The kids liked playing in the soapy water. I was having my doubts at this point, because the pumpkins looked like drowned orange hairballs. But eventually they began to take shape.
A little rinsing was next, then forming the stem. We put the pumpkins in the dryer for a few minutes, then took them out when they were mostly dry. They turned out a little lumpy, but the are cute. We cut the tops off and I sewed the stems on. They now reside in a place of honor on the dining room table.
Gabriel took his pumpkin to school on Wednesday, and I heard that it was a hit. All the kids were entranced by it, and kept asking how it was made. I think more felt crafts are in our future!
The afternoons have been scrumptious the past day or two. The sun is golden, low in the sky. It warms the air enough to be comfortable without a coat. The leaves are at their peak and glow as if from within. We soak up the warmth and light. We know soon the skies will turn grey and cold and drippy, and we will be sentenced to months of dreariness. But for now we enjoy these autumn days.
We had a nice little walk to and from school this morning. It had rained pretty hard yesterday, so everything was wet, and then last night we had a light frost. The sun is out this morning, and leaves and grass were sparkling with frost and heavy dew. One of our neighbors has some shrubs with gorgeous color right now, so we stopped to admire them after Gabriel was safely to his classroom.
Annika has recently decided she wants to wear her backpack on our walk to school just like her brother does. She was only half-dressed this morning, and then decided she didn't need to wear her coat, so I carried it. She noticed the half-moon in the sky before I did. Our walk home took a few minutes longer than normal, but it was refreshing and satisfying.
There are a lot of things I could write about today, but I have to brag a little about my son Gabriel. This weekend he has been busy making books. He'll take two or three pieces of paper, staple or tape them together, and write and illustrate a book. They are mostly non-fiction - "How to Make a Computer" or "How to Make Your Own Galaxy." He is pretty creative about trying to spell out all the words, but he is writing so much, and drawing the cutest pictures too. He spent several hours today and yesterday creating books and drawing in general.
Then this evening he wrote in his journal - a small notebook that his grandparents gave him. He wrote about his feelings and his day, and about what he wants to do when he grows up. I never told him to do any of this; it is all his own initiative from what he sees me doing. I am super thankful for my son, who never ceases to amaze and surprise me with his thoughts and abilities.
I am thankful for serendipity. I suppose it could be called destiny or fate, but that seems too pretentious. Today was about an interesting turn of events. I went to an event my friend put on called Shop Local Seattle. She had a bunch of local folks gathered to showcase their services and products. It was a diverse group of people; crafters, supplement sellers, medical providers, home maintenance type stuff, and others. After saying hi to my friend, I walked around the gym they had rented out. The first gal I talked to was a psychotherapist focusing on mindfulness. I thought that was an interesting niche, so we chatted for a few minutes. She was really interested in my work leading hikes for women, as she takes women on a ropes challenge course. I got to have one of the most adult conversations I have had yet this week.
Then I picked up a few little gifts for Christmas presents for the kids. Finally I stopped at the Usborne book table. I have been impressed with the quality of Usborne books, and I thought I'd pick up a few for the kids for gifts. The gal there was another sharp, intelligent, interesting lady, and we ended up talking for awhile, too. In our conversation, I mentioned I am trying to get a writing career going, and she gave me the name of a local parenting publication's editor. She said I could drop her name with the editor and tell her we met. I was impressed and flattered that she would offer to help me like that, and encouraged. Maybe it will help me get in print.
Then as I was walking out the door, I said goodbye to my friend, and she might have some freelance work for me after the New Year. I'll post more on that later if it materializes.
I was there for less than an hour, yet I felt like I had some meaty and productive conversations. Maybe it will be enough to tip me out of my fear and into movement again. I'm glad I made the effort to get out of the house without the kids. I mostly wanted to support my friend, but I got a lot out of it myself.
This morning we saw three raccoons in the back yard. We live next to a green belt, and they were moving through from one side of the yard to the other. The kids were super excited. I tried to get a picture, but the coons moved too fast. Gabriel said he thought we should leave some bread out on the back porch so maybe the raccoons would come up and eat it, and stay around more. He had a hard time understanding why that might not be such a great idea.
Also this morning I walked Gabriel to school for the first time in several weeks. One of the neighbors up the street has chickens. On the way back from school, Annika and I heard the rooster crowing. At first she was frightened of it, but I tried to show her by my delight and enthusiasm that she didn't need to be afraid. Once she got through that, she wanted to stand there and listen some more. I wish I had my camera along to capture the look on her face - she squealed with glee every time the rooster crowed. It had this funny "toodle-ee-ooo" crow, not as professional as others I've heard. Annika held her hand up to her ear to listen. Did I teach her that? I don't remember doing so. She said the rooster was talking to her. What a treat for us this morning!
I am learning how to sit with my fear. I hold it close to me, examine it, stay still with it. I cup my hands around it like a fine, tender nest. I have given up fighting it for the moment. I stop struggling and rest. I allow myself to be afraid as the days pass. This acceptance is a lesson I had to learn in grief, as well. So often I want to resolve the difficult feelings immediately. I want to find answers, fight against my feelings, and make them all better. I do not want to accept them into my life like a precious being. It is painful to hurt. It is awkward to embrace anger when I trained myself so well to be a good girl. Good girls, or course, do not get angry. Strong women fight against their fear and banish it by their heroic good works. At least, these are the tapes that play in my heart. I am trying to learn a new way of walking my path.
I find as I practice being afraid that the fear diminishes in its power. I have faith that the next step will open up to me, as it has so many times before. Then I will be able to ask for the courage to move forward. By resting, I save my strength to take the next step at the proper time. Then I can acknowledge my fear and allow it to join me, while also finding a way to do what I was afraid to do. I can be fear and courage simultaneously. My fear does not have to control me, and I do not have to control it.
Last week the third spider egg hatched in my kitchen window. Today the fourth egg hatched. The tiny spiderlings hang around the egg case for two or three days, and then suddenly they are gone. A few of them have made it into the house, but I think most find some little crevice to hide from larger, hungry creatures.
I was surprised that the eggs hatched so quickly. I had expected them to wait until spring. I have learned so much by letting this spider have her home outside my window, even though it is a bit gruesome and pretty grungy looking.
Today I took some time just to rest. I tried to leave some of the housework undone (purposefully!) and - gasp - asked for more help. I allowed myself to have some down time. I am thankful I have what seems like a luxury: space to be able to listen to my body and honor my internal rhythms. And the world does not come to an end just because the housework isn't done or the laundry anywhere near caught up. I know in a day or two I will be able to rebound and begin fresh again, and the days will spin onward. I will continue to be creative and try to be more organized, and will have the strength for my tasks.
I think I have already written once or twice about similar subjects, but I am thankful today for being a part of a community. A friend came over today to bring us a meal and help with a few chores, and we were talking about how grateful we are that we have so much help when we are in need. It is very difficult for us both to ask for help. I have noticed the past few weeks that when I humble myself and accept help in my tasks, I feel a great sense of relief. I am unable to care for everything and everyone, and there is something freeing about admitting that and letting someone help me.
I also know other friends who lament that they do not know very many people who will help them. It is a sad testament to our society that we are so wrapped up in our own lives, we don't see the needs around us. Or perhaps we feel overwhelmed by our own lives and do not feel able to reach out to someone else. I include myself in this critique. Being temporarily disabled has taught me many things; one of those is just what kind of help a mom in my situation needs, and how one person doing one or two little things lifts the burden enormously.
I am also reading a book called How People Grow. One of the points the author makes in the beginning is that God's plan is for us not to be self-sufficient, but to need God and other people. I usually try to be independent, to do for myself and to look strong and spiritual. But that way does not lead to growth. When I open up myself to my friends and to God, admitting my failures and weaknesses, I receive the grace of forgiveness and the means to growth. I am trying hard to remember this lesson, though the fear is never far away. Being open and humble about my life also leads to tighter and more rewarding friendships. As we all share our stories, we can relate to each other on a level of authenticity. Our stories are powerful, even the difficult ones.
The challenge for me now is to continue that openness, to increase my understanding of how growth happens, and not to shy away from friends once they have seen my flaws. I hope I can remember these lessons as my foot heals and I am physically strong once again. I hope I can continue to build community around myself even when I feel better.
P.S. I think this post might be a little rambling, but I wanted to use it to sort out some of my thoughts today. I hope it makes sense to you!
Should this post be about storytime, books, the library.... or all of those? I felt good enough to take Annika to the library for the toddler story time today. We have an excellent fellow named Brian in charge of this program now. He is a musician and theater guy, plus he is excellent with young children and picks fun books to read. He does funny voices and sound effects, and mixes stories up with songs and dancing. There is always a dose of classical music included, as well as the traditional nursery rhymes and ditties. We are very fortunate to have such a man to lead our story times.
There were over 40 kids plus parents in the room today, and there was another session after ours, as well. I find it a bit overwhelming, and I think Annika does, too. She is so different than her brother was at this age. He would go up front by himself to get instruments or see the books. She sucks her thumb and needs me to accompany her around the room. But I know it is enriching for us both to be there, so we brave the crowds and get our dose of culture.
We picked up a few books afterward. I love bringing home new library books to read. I like the variety and the luxury of having new material. Even so, I think I read each of our new books two or three times today. I also picked up a bunch of magazines for myself. I am already in the middle of 3 or 4 books (5 or 6??), so magazines are more realistic for me to finish right now. Some of them are research for my writing, some are just issues that looked interesting or informative. Either way, I feel nourished by our visit to the library. Now, if I can just pull myself away from the computer......
Today I had the privilege of holding a friend's baby. The little one is five or six months old. She was so interested in Gabriel's face. She touched his eyes, his nose, his cheeks. He, of course, was delighted in her attention. Her eyes were bright, her tiny little mouth was open and round in joy and the surprise of discovery. She gave little squeals, and Gabriel giggled and tried to stay still for her.
This phase of babyhood is so precious. You can see the learning happening in every new situation. Of course, it's easier to enjoy this phase as a friend of the mom, when I can hold the baby and enjoy her, and hand her back when she's fussy. I am grateful for snuggly babies with bright eyes and squeals of joy.
I am thankful for family time. We had a fun little outing to the Sculpture Park downtown. It has been awhile since we've gotten out as an entire family. We got some sun, some fresh air, some exercise, and a dose of art. Here are a few photos. There are more at nwhikers.net.
Well, I missed a few days in my thirty day goal. Oh well. I hereby give myself permission to be imperfect.
I am thankful for autumn sunshine. This afternoon I took a nap in a pool of sun coming through my window. Gabriel was at a friend's house, and Annika was asleep. Both cats curled up with me. Oh, how wonderful!
Later this afternoon I wanted some fresh air, so I took a little stroll around the garden. I miss being outside so much. I brought the camera out to catch a few memories of the garden in autumn. It's not much this year, but there are a few good things in among all the weeds.
Dwarf Fothergila is beginning to get some color.
The Cyclamen are blooming.
Volunteer tomatoes are ripening.
Our volunteer pumpkin is almost ready for Halloween!
Strawberries? In October?
Roseanne geranium still sending out neon purple flowers.
I am thankful for hiking. My parents took me and my brother out camping and hiking from the time we were very young. My Dad was a scoutmaster, and I was in Camp Fire for many years. I went to Camp Fire Camp in Oregon almost every summer. I have always felt that being in the wilderness was where I felt most at home.
Now I take my kids out. We get out a lot in the summer. They both have to walk on their own now, so we don't go very far, but we have adventures and enjoy exploring. I like to get out without my kids, too. I look up flowers, observe birds and wildlife, and soak up the smells and sounds of the woods and mountains. We are so fortunate to have an abundance of trails of infinite variety in our area. It will take a lifetime to explore every nook and cranny, but I am excited to try them all out! I'm sure I will write more about hiking later, but I'll end with a few pictures from this year's adventures.
Here is Gabriel negotiating some snow patches on the way to Talapus Lake.
This one is the kids at Heybrook Lookout.
"C'mon, Mom!" Annika on the way back down from Heybrook.
Annika on our ill-fated trip at Sunrise on Mt. Rainier.
Here we are at Cape Flattery this summer. It rained.
Today was my first day at home alone with the kids since I had my surgery three and a half weeks ago. I was pretty nervous. I woke up feeling exhausted and depressed. I just wanted to go back to sleep. But I had to get Gabriel off to school, so there was no laying around in bed on this day.
After he was at school, a friend called to see if she could take me to the grocery store. I said yes, I needed to go today, and she came over with her two kids and took me and Annika to the store. I got to use the motorized cart to get around. It was kind of fun, but it sure was tough and exhausting to try to reach everything and dodge all the other shoppers. It gave me a good perspective of what people with disabilities go through every day. I can't imagine trying to shop like this all the time. So my grateful thought for today is that my foot will heal and I will be strong and quick again, and this won't be a daily challenge much longer. It was good for me to get some perspective, so I wouldn't feel sorry for myself.
This evening I have been scratching my brain trying to figure out my entry for the day. I thought about how I am feeling tired and weak and daunted about the week ahead. Then I thought about how relieved I feel because I have some friends coming to help me with the kids this week as I recover from surgery. When I admit I am weak and need help, and when someone offers help and I take them up on that offer, I receive more than just the help. I also receive peace. Perhaps not everything will get done this week, and I know I am in for some trying moments, but I am grateful because my life is full of people who want to help me. I am so fortunate. I hope I can focus on my gratitude and not my grumpiness tomorrow!
Today we had some genuine autumn weather. It was blustery and cool this afternoon, but not raining. The kids were getting on each others' nerves (and mine!) so I suggested they go outside to play. Gabriel got ready more quickly than Annika, and came back in while she was still getting ready. He had a clear plastic produce bag in his hands. It was full of air and twisted shut at the opening.
"I have a surprise for you!" he said.
"Did you bring me some fresh air?" I guessed. His little cheeks were rosy from the brisk afternoon.
"I caught the wind!" he said as he opened the bag and dumped the air out into my bedroom.
I just had to laugh. Of course, my response encouraged him to go out and bring me some more wind. So I thought I better go outside with the kids. I got Annika ready, and then myself. The kids ran around for a few minutes. Then Gabriel went inside and came back out with a kite.
It was pretty funny watching both of them try to fly the little thing. They both got pretty frustrated. But I really enjoyed seeing them try to learn a new skill, and it was refreshing to be outside on such a fall day.
Then Annika started talking about how she wanted to fly up in the sky with the clouds. This is not the first time she has talked about flying. She has expressed her desire to fly ever since she could talk. She wanted to be up with the geese. She would be Super Annika, and I would come flying with her and be Super Mom. I think I have an idea what kind of hobbies she might choose when she is older!
So, at the end of it all, I am thankful for this windy day that brought me sweet gifts from my children.
Today I came across a really interesting website that uses still photos, along with video, audio, and musical scores, to tell a story. It's multimedia photojournalism. One of the stories included on the website is called Common Ground.
This production compares two families. The first is an older couple who farmed their land, and the second is a family that bought a house in the subdivision that developers built after the farming family sold the farm. The photographer, Scott Strazzante, made amazing comparisons that showed ways in which the two families were so alike. I have been thinking about this little clip all afternoon; thinking about how powerful stories are, and how they connect people. It almost makes me wish I went into photojournalism. I'm not sure what else to say about it, but I do look forward to exploring that site more.
I had surgery three weeks ago on my foot and ankle, and have not been able to do very much around my house or for my children. My parents and my husband have been taking over all the childcare and housework, and I have had friends who have helped me clean, brought me meals, walked Gabriel to and from school, and cheered me up. So today, my entry in the 30 Days of Thanksgiving is for everyone who has helped us out over the past few weeks. It has been difficult for me to sit here and watch everyone do all of "my" jobs, but I am so grateful for how much time and effort people have poured out on us because they love us. So, thanks to everyone, from the bottom of my heart.
At the top of my list of things to be grateful for is my husband. It was not love at first sight for either of us when we met (though he did think I was cute), but over time we realized we were the right people for each other. Early in our dating relationship, he took me down to meet his mom and his youngest brother and sister. I knew from that day that he was the man I wanted to marry. I saw how he treated his mom, how much he adored her. I saw how gentle and amazing she was, and how the kids were, and I knew I could trust him with my heart.
Those first impressions were right. I ended up with a husband who supports me as I try to find myself, who serves me and our children and other people. He has stood by my side, non-judgmentally, through the deepest lows I have experienced. He provides for our family so I can stay home with our children. He does not retaliate when I wrong him, but is always the first to apologize, even when he has done nothing wrong. He shares adventures with me, yet allows me to have my own interests as well. Besides all that, he is cute.
I am so thankful I get to have him by my side as I navigate through this life. I am grateful for our little family, and for the loving home we have built together. I look forward to growing even more in our relationship, and I pray we will both be around together for a really long time.
I recently came across a wonderful blog by a woman named Katy Park, and I was inspired by an idea she had, so I decided to shamelessly copy it. She blogged for thirty days about what she was thankful for. So, since today is the first day of a new month, I thought I'd begin here, and do my best to write an entry each day for something I am thankful for. I know it'll be good for me!
There are many things I thought about posting today, but I must begin with the most important: my faith. I am thankful for faith in God. I am thankful that he heard my prayers and brought me to a group of people who could explain things to me and help me on the road to a relationship with him. I am thankful he hasn't given up on me as I've struggled through the years, and that he has helped me to grow through the difficult times. I am thankful for the example of Jesus and his sacrifice that means I don't have to be perfect. I am thankful for the Bible, which has answers to everything, and which has limitless depth and provides inspiration, direction and comfort. There are many other benefits of my faith, but I'll stop here for tonight. I'll be back tomorrow with another entry.