Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Before we move forward



can I take a look back over the past couple of weeks?  There was quite a lot of wonderful stuff going on, and I didn't have the time or presence of mind to share any of it in this space. 

Our sweet Zosia turned seven, which is a really delightful age, if you ask me.  Sweet, curious, witty, clever and very fun.  She loves Harry Potter and has read through the first four books, only stopping because I wanted to make sure that the fifth book was age appropriate before I gave her the go ahead.  Ben and I have been trying to read along with her, but can't keep up!  Ah, to have hours for reading each day.  Anyway, when she was reading the first book and clearly falling in love with everything Harry Potter, I would be silly and try to get her goat her whenever she put her book down, asking, "How are the muggles?!"  At first she would sigh and try to explain that these books are not really about muggles at all, but about wizards, so she didn't know how the muggles were doing.  With time, she learned to just giggle.  Ben started in on the first book, at which point I lost not only my daughter but husband to the world of Hogwarts.  And then I realized, if you can't beat them, join them!  So we're all at various stages of reading the series, and enjoying them quite a bit, as I knew we would.  Zosia caught me reading the first book one afternoon, and just as I put it down, I caught her sly little smile.  "How are the muggles?!" she wanted to know.  Well played, my darling!

The day of Zosia's birthday we had cousins visiting, which I'm sure would have been celebration enough for everyone in the family.  We love Ben's brother's family, and it's always a treat to spend time with them.  But just because it's nice to have an excuse to get together with friends, we met up at a favorite park for cupcakes and nature exploration.  It was drizzling, which of course worried us adults as we were heading out the door, but in the end I don't think I fielded a single complaint from any of the kids.  Drizzling rain?  It's like the ultimate party favor.  A couple of umbrellas and a change of clothing did the trick.  Children are so wonderfully resilient.

My dad, one of the most active seniors I know (and I think he would frown at my use of the word "senior"), had a birthday, which we celebrated with frozen custard.  Northern Virginia friends, I think I might have found a competitor to our beloved Frozen Dairy Bar.  You have to check out Nielsen's!  It's really good!  

And while I'm taking care of family housekeeping, my beloved mother in law, known as Omi to us all (above with Zosia in the lavendar), just had hip replacement surgery yesterday.  She is doing well, but I know would appreciate prayers for a quick recovery!

Okay, I think that catches me up!  Onwards and upwards, my friends!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

First Days, Birthdays, and New Things



We have had a full few weeks, as I imagine many of you have.  A couple of birthdays (happy birthday, Zosia, Dad, and Irene!), a couple of visits from family, one pulled tooth, several school preparations, one school blessing, and one first day of school, along with a stomach bug (no thank you!) and a case of the sniffles thrown in for good measure.  As much as I like to think of myself as the laid back sort of individual who effortlessly adapts to changes and transitions, I am a creature of habit.  I love the book The Hobbit, not for the cliffhanging adventures that define the tale, but for the placid domestic scenes at the beginning and end.  A cup of tea and a hobbit hole sound about right to me.  So it's really only now, after the dust of all of these new things has settled, that I can look around, take a deep breath, and start to see that I am surrounded by many wonderful things.

We are getting used to our new rhythm.  Purposeful mornings spent preparing for our days ahead, some focused time with Hugo while the babies nap, and then a big chunk of time to embark upon some little adventure, or just relax and pinch baby thighs.  Afternoon snacks and homework time, dinner preparations, and some very treasured time with the big girls after the littlest three are asleep.

The girls adore school, which is wonderful, and we love hearing all about it.  The transition has been seemingly effortless for both for them, and they delight in their new friends, new teachers, new lessons.

Hugo has celebrated the beginning of a year spent at home by potty training and very happily assuming the role of occasional only child.  He will wake up and ask if maybe he could have breakfast in bed?  Or maybe we could make play dough, or muffins, or whatever else his little heart desires.  I say yes to every thing within reason, because a little boy is only three for so long.

The babies have celebrated the beginning of school by growing three (Clara) or four (Dorothy) new teeth apiece overnight.  They are eager to connect and communicate.  Clara eagerly signs and says "All done!" at the end of a meal, while Dorothy is more likely to sign "more" while saying "Mamamama!"  Clara's favorite catch phrase is "I did it!" which she screams while smiling.  I am certain she has no idea what it means, but until she does, I suggest we all keep her away from a courtroom.  Dorothy, on the other hand, prefers to stick to "Blah! Blah! Blah! Blah!" which she says with equal conviction.  They eat what seems like a huge amount of food, possibly because they have good appetites, and possibly because there are two of them!  A typical meal might be yogurt mixed with mashed banana and oatmeal, a cup of cheerios, a diced peach, and some cubes of cheese.  They would be quite happy to just finger feed themselves in entirety, but we feed them the messy stuff.

I have started to see that as my children start to go out to have their own adventures outside of the house, my job as a mother is increasingly centered around making our home a place of rest for them.  My hours with them may be more limited, but I hope that they will be filled with enough love, warmth, and nurturing energy to sustain them when they are away.  I am hoping that over the coming weeks I will come to see what this looks like, and how I can do it better.

The girls' school year started with a beautiful school blessing: an evening to meet teachers and classmates, and spend a moment reflecting on the coming year through prayer and words.  This prayer for parents from that blessing has been cut out of the program and placed on our refrigerator, because I hope to recite it often. I thought you might enjoy it, too.

Prayer for the Parents

Heavenly Father, you have blessed us with the joy and care of our children.  We pray that we can be strengthened by you to love them with the love of Christ, who tenderly received them and gladly welcomed their presence.  Give us light and grace to so nurture and challenge them that they may love whatsoever is true and pure and beautiful and of good report.  Remove from our homes every root of bitterness, seed of despair, habit of hurry and pride of life.  Make our homes sanctuaries of peace, rest, love and joy.  Through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Blueberries for Sal, Horses, and Other Things


One of the things I love about going to the mountains is that it is like stepping into an entirely different season.  Summer has been mild here in Virginia, but even so we often find ourselves with temperatures in the eighties.  It is warm, and sometimes hot, but rarely cool, and by August, we are daydreaming about bundling up for the winter.  We have learned that in the mountains of West Virginia, it is about twenty degrees cooler than it is at home.  This year, we packed long sleeves and sweaters, which ended up being perfect!  Can you believe that there was one morning that it was 35 degrees?!  In August!  Apparently it has been unusually cool in West Virginia, too, which actually ended up working in our favor.  

Usually, July is peak wild blueberry season.  You can find huckleberries  in August (which are, it turns out, a lot like blueberries, but with a large seed in the middle), but blueberries are long gone, having been picked over by hikers and wildlife alike.  But this year's cool weather has pushed everything back from its normal timetable, and so we had the unexpected good luck of being around for wild blueberries.  We knew we had to get up to Dolly Sods to do some hiking and blueberry picking.

Back in the winter, when we were planning all of this out, we decided to invite our neighbor Carly.  Part babysitter, part surrogate big sister, she is one of the most delightful people we know (and now an honorary member of the family).  And in the end, it proved to be the ticket to having a truly restful vacation with five kids six and under!  Besides, there are a lot more board games to play with three people than with two (here are some favorites).

So anyway, when we decided to do some ambitious hiking with the kids, it ended up being surprisingly relaxed.  Ben and I each carried a baby on our back, and Carly told some epic stories to the kids (I think she must have spent on the order of five hours crafting tales about spiderman and princesses and kings.  She's pretty much the best.), which we've found distracts them from the intensity of the hiking at hand.  I was really proud of all the kids, but Hugo and Lily in particular for hiking five miles on some difficult terrain.  It's kind of amazing what kids are capable of, and I think each and every person felt a tremendous feeling of accomplishment upon reaching the peak.  Which was sweetened by the fact that the peak of the mountain happens to be where all of the wild blueberries grow.  I think Hugo in particular was convinced that he was a character from Blueberries for Sal.  The little bear, not the human, of course.

Two sunburned baby noses (yikes! I always forget that sweater weather has equally strong sunshine!), one breakfast of waffles with wild blueberry sauce, and a few canoe rides later, we big girls went for a trail ride on horseback, which must have been the crowning achievement of Zosia and Lily's lives thus far.  Certainly something to dream of for the next few months.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Away


Two weeks before the twins were born, when he should have been making extra meals, or folding baby clothing, or whatever other nesting activity is appropriate for anyone about to welcome not one but two babies into his family, Ben booked our summer vacation.  Let me tell you, it seemed ages away, and like a bit of a silly idea.  We had a million practical considerations, and were quite busy from moment to moment.  Who was thinking of summer?

But then during the coming days, those most difficult days of my pregnancy, when just getting through the day or even the hour seemed to be the primary task at hand, I found myself closing my eyes and imagining our favorite mountain spot in West Virginia.  I'm sure as Ben was taking on essentially every household task in addition to working a full time day job, as he did in those final days, he did too.  Our twins would be almost eight months old.  We hadn't even held them yet, seen them yet, or safely welcomed them into the world yet, but on our vacation all of those unknown details would be filled in, and we would be able to enjoy one another's company in a magical spot in nature. I imagined the little lake, the cool air, the mountain breeze.

We just got home from our week, and last night when I closed my eyes I still saw it in my mind.  The mountains, the pine trees, the deep silence.  My mind feels so clear, and as we settle back into our own quiet day to day back home, I am realizing what a tremendous year it's been.  Tiring, exhilarating, filled with incredibly hard work, and the deepest joy I have known.  And now we find ourselves in a more restful season, gratefully accepting the gift of rejuvenation.