Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Advent and Premature Decorating

I don't know what it's been over the past few weeks.  The seasons changing (which they are, complete with colorful leaves and crisp fall weather)?  Sickness working it's way through the house (and now on it's way out the door, knock on wood)?  Nearing the advanced stages of this pregnancy, our own little advent in this family?  Or maybe so many sad stories of violence both near and far?  I find myself ever so ready this year for the Advent season, for joyfully waiting for and celebrating the great miracle of God incarnate among us.

The other day I was sleepy and sick, resting in bed while Ben and the kiddos embarked upon weekend adventures.  I only have to be away from the fun for about thirty minutes before I start missing everyone, and when I crept downstairs, a full blown dance party was underway in our living room, with everyone from Zosia down to Clara and Dorothy shaking their stuff to Ben's eclectic dance mix.  Those little ones have some moves, you guys!  "Mommy loves this one," Ben said as he changed the track, and when he started the song I could only manage a smile for a second before I burst into tears, because isn't it all so beautiful and unlikely?  And Ben held me while I cried for the entirety of that song, because there are very few things so good and true that they only get better and better over the course of a lifetime, and this is one of them.  It is a good thing to cry about something like that.

On the home front, all of this has meant that I have embarked upon some utterly premature holiday decorating, which I blame in part on my nesting instincts and in part on my eagerness for it to just be Advent already.  We even took our family Christmas photo this morning, which I will obviously hide from you until it is appropriate to share, but I got a kick out of some of those out takes.  Twins in little gnome hats is among the cuter things I've seen this week.

We love Advent around here, and over the years I have realized that it takes surprisingly little work to create the space for a meaning filled advent.  Simple rituals: the lighting of an advent wreath, the singing of an Advent song or two (O Come O Come Emmanuel is our daily tune), and the reading of a few sacred words together alone can create the feeling of a sacred time that is somehow set apart (It's all about a wreath and a nativity, you guys!).  This year I'm hoping to join the church in the reading of one of the hours, maybe Night Prayer, just because that is the time of day when things simmer down around here.  The kids have already been asking about our advent celebrations, and it makes my heart so glad that they think of joyfully waiting for the arrival of Jesus rather than all the other stuff that can be so distracting this time of year.

Ben is out picking up some pretty awesome family from the airport as I write, and we brought home our Thanksgiving groceries this morning.  Thanksgiving is one of the best holidays around, if you ask me.  There is so much to be thankful for.  So much, you guys.  And then we just have a big party with all the best food to celebrate it, and a few days later we begin the Advent season.  I hope you find yourself in the midst of the spirit of gratitude these coming days.  Oh, and because I know I myself will be searching the blog for this turkey recipe within the next 24 hours, if you're still about to dash out to the store and haven't yet found a turkey recipe you love, try my mom's!  It's totally the best, even though it will never be as good as when she herself makes it.  Happy cooking!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Halloween Roundup

::A pair of foxes, who, as you can tell, are quite taken with one another's tails.
::We convinced Hugo to change his costume from a frog fish (which is a real animal, by the way, which most of us have not heard of, except for Hugo, who wanted to be one for Halloween) to an Osprey, because at least a bird would be identifiable by most people, right?
::Lily the raccoon (thankfully, we had a mask on hand, because we learned the day of the school parade that Lily is severely allergic to even hypoallergenic face paint!  For better or worse, this girl has inherited my sensitivity!).
::Zosia the deer.  You may notice that she has both the speckles of a fawn and the horns of a buck, which, if you actually live in the country around deer, you will probably realize is not the way God created it.  But it's cute anyway, right?!
::Ben the park ranger
::And the mama bear!

Oh, you guys.  I love this time of year.  I take everything back I said about California being too warm and too sunny all the time, because it turns out that when, paired with a slight cooling of the temperatures, daylights savings time, and a fun holiday like Halloween, fall is glorious even in sunny California.  

There were times "back East" (as everyone around here seems to refer to it) that, I will admit, daylights savings time felt kind of cruel.  It was getting cold and rainy, the foliage was all dying, and as if you aren't already adjusting to your inability to be outside, just like that it started getting dark early.  Last year was probably the first year that I met all these changes with downright dread, an experience so common that those of us from back East have given it a clinical name.

But on the West Coast, fall is gentle and mild.  There is no sudden temperature snap, no weekend when all the beautiful leaves fall to the ground, no drama.  I will admit, I do miss the drama.  But if you tune in closely, you do feel a shift, and the mornings are cooler, the sky is especially clear, and at night it feels cosy to be tucked under an extra blanket.  I make applesauce at least once a week, and Clara has decided that the only way she will nap is once she has fallen very soundly asleep on the shoulder of someone she loves, which has resulted in some wonderful afternoon snuggles.  And truth be told, when the time changed, it suddenly felt just right: dinners with a candle, slightly earlier bedtimes, and we even turned the heating on for the first time this week.

I think what I love about Halloween is the creativity: the excitement and imagination involved in dressing up in a costume and taking on another identity.  Over the years we've often developed a tradition of making costumes, which, despite the *ahem* lackluster craftsmanship involved, is something the kids love and look forward to, and I think there's nothing that pairs better with more time indoors than unlocking some creative energy.  I think this year might be my favorite year yet, and I do believe that there is nothing that makes it feel like fall more than Halloween.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Inside and Out, and the Changing of Seasons

Hi there!  Happy fall?  Not really yet for us, but people keep telling me it's coming one of these days.  The other day the girls and I were riding bikes to school on a pleasant 65 degree morning, and we passed another cyclist who was wearing mittens and a hat, I kid you not.  Oh, that gave me a good chuckle, because these Californians are soft when it comes to the weather.  Here in San Jose it is just about always sunny and pleasant, usually somewhere in the 70s or 80s, and would you believe I miss moody weather?!  The other weekend we went up to San Francisco for the first time with some friends and the city was covered with a dense fog, and it was the perfect change of pace.  Ha!  Who would ever guess it would be the rain, the clouds, the unexpected chills that I would miss most.

On the home front, things have pleasantly full.  We have settled into a sustainable and energizing rhythm of life, with each member of the family finding his or her own routine, all brought together by the gatherings of our whole family together.  School, and play, and little adventures, and work, all beginning and ending together in what has come to feel like our home.  All of those little rituals, like gathering together for dinner, reading stories before bed together, making something special for breakfast on the weekends, seem quaint and charming when your children are all little, but as they start to increasingly venture out into the world, those little acts become the thread that hold the family together.  I have noticed what fullness and joy they offer, even on those days that a certain pair of toddler girls sit at the table for about twenty seconds before clearly declaring "All done!" and gesturing to be lifted onto Ben or my lap for the remainder of the meal.  One day they will linger at the table, but for now they wiggle and squirm in their 22 month old beauty, and I know I will miss it one day.

Just as reliably, I have started to feel times of day that were once an expected quiet time, time I could spend writing, or exercising, or cooking quietly, start to be filled with other meaningful things, like giving Hugo a reading lesson, or corralling a twin who has escaped from her crib (oh.my.goodness. I didn't know this could happen.  None of our kids have been crib escapers, and we had a very stressful couple of weeks before we discovered these miracle tents  which have been lifesavers.).  Luckily, we have a lot of support out here, so I've found ways to keep things feeling sustainable, ways to carve out time for meaningful things in new places.  Flexibility and resilience seem to be such key parenting traits, I pray I will increase in both of those things!

It's funny that even though the weather hasn't changed for us, I am still feeling the pull of the changing seasons-- cooking stews and soups, any recipe I can find that includes pumpkin, and leaving blankets around the house (which we use every single morning and evening, because it does get chilly!).  I think as a lifetime east coaster those seasonal rhythms will be something I can never shake.  And our ten day forecast includes three days with a high in the 60s, so maybe fall is coming our way after all (fingers crossed!).  

And with that I'm off to work on some Halloween costumes.  Halloween is sort of a big deal around here, and for the first time ever we have a whole family theme costume!  I can't wait to show you!  Oh, and I'm suddenly quite pregnant!  I have a lot to fill you in on!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Exploring California, Yes They're All Mine, and Other Things

Having visitors is the very best excuse to get out and see new places!  The big girls have had the week off of school, and that paired with Omi and Granddad visiting has meant lots of trips to parks, museums, brunch places, and natural wonders (just the regular tourist stuff, right?!).  There was a big neighborhood parade (so cute!), some new-to-us local parks.  We live ridiculously close to some redwood groves, and visiting has been on our "to do" list ever since we moved here.  I think if I knew how overwhelmingly magnificent, how at once ethereal and majestic and wholly earthy they were, I would have gone the second we got here!  Seriously, I loved being among those redwoods, and there is something mind blowing about standing in the midst of these towering beings that are thousands of years old.  Wow.

I have been thinking lately about this fruitful family of ours, partly because I'm going to be needing another baby chick for my favorite necklace, which Ben got me when the twins were born.  We're marching right along here, you guys!  But honestly, there are very few days when I'm not reminded in some way of the fact that this family of ours is quite unusual.  Just yesterday we were riding our bikes (Ben, Zosia and Lily on a bike, Hugo on a balance bike-- that kid can go full speed, or as he would say "double speed!!", and me on my bike with one twin in a baby seat and one twin in a trailer) in downtown San Jose.  We had gone on a late afternoon trip to the Discovery Museum, met Ben up, and gone for a leisurely ride through the downtown, by the art museum, park with fountains, and the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Joseph.  At one moment Ben and I looked back at the kids and saw that the hipster on the sidewalk was smiling and taking photos of our family.  Ha!  We spent the rest of the ride debating whether we are instagram gold or simply a freak show.  Maybe somewhere in between?  :-)  

Now that I'm wearing this pregnancy on my sleeve, or on my belly, as you would have it, it's fun to respond to the question of "Is this your first?" with a relaxed, "No, it's my sixth."  You can literally see the incomprehension and confusion take hold of the poor stranger's face as they try to digest the information they have just received because hey, we're young!  We have a lot of kids!  I am happy to report that every single person I can think of has responded, after their incredulity has worn off, with either encouragement or an anecdote of some great big family they have known.  It's nice to know that when you enter the world with kindness and open arms, it sometimes (often?) responds in kind.

And speaking of welcoming the world with kindness and open arms, for those of you who, like us, don't actually have cable TV and didn't get the chance to follow the papal visit as closely as you might have liked to, set aside 20 minutes and watch this homily from the World Meeting of Families.  My dad passed it along, saying he found it "absolutely fantastic."  I watched every word, and I agree!  Let's create a space for beauty, truth, and goodness in our families where we can open our arms to the incredible creative power of God.  Love it!