Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Community is an amazing thing. This afternoon as I write this, for example, I can say that I have an impeccably clean house (even the bathroom! and that is a miracle), there are two loaves of freshly baked bread cooling in the kitchen, and I have a tired baby sleeping in the room next to me. And all of this is entirely because of community-- my dad, namely, who dropped by this morning to take Zosia out for a walk so I could get a few things taken care of around the house.
It is amazing to know that there are so many people around us that Ben and I love and fully trust-- and to know that Zosia is growing up knowing that love is something that comes from all sorts of people and relationships.
So, in keeping with the lighter tone of today's post, here are a few pictures of my growing baby bump, doing yoga with Zosia, and Zosia pre-walk with her dziadzius:
Monday, December 29, 2008
As McMansions Begin to Die Off, Look to the Past for Housing's Future
Recession Should Change Tastes
This comes as no surprise to me, because I've never been a fan of the large, treeless neighborhoods that seem to populate the majority of DC's exurbs. Our little three bedroom rambler is perfect. Here are some of the reasons that we actually prefer living in close quarters:
1. We don't need a baby monitor
2. When we're at home, the whole family is automatically together
3. We need less furniture
4. We get creative about using our space
5. I can usually holler from any point in the house and be heard by Ben in any other point of the house.
6. It feels safe to know that Zosia is always close by
7. If anyone tried to break into the house, we would know
8. It's easier to heat and cool
9. It's way easier to clean
10. It feels cozy in the winter
Now, that being said, I also recognize that we live much more spaciously than many people around the world-- the majority of which share a single room. Having some space is nice. It makes having a life after the baby goes to sleep easier (although we still feel like we have to tip-toe to keep from waking her up), gives me and Ben more privacy and better rest at night, and allows us to simultaneously engage in different activities at the same time. Like right now, I'm writing, and Ben is changing Zosia's diaper in the other room. But having enough space to live comfortably is quite different than the extreme of the McMansion, where whole families can go days without even seeing one another.
So three cheers for the end of the McMansion era! And bring on some cute small houses.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Ben and I have never actually been at our own home for Christmas-- we've always traveled to visit family or friends (and now have the luxury of living among our family!). So this was our first Christmas morning on our own, and since both families do the majority of celebrating Christmas eve, we could do our own thing. This year, we woke up late (thanks, Zosia!), went out for a nice long Christmas morning walk at a park in Arlington (it was in the 50s on Christmas day, which was amazing), came home and started a fire and had some traditional German sandwiches while listening to Christmas carols. It was perfect, and relaxing, and gave us a little time to meditate on Jesus being in our midst.
Since then, we've been doing what we do best-- relaxing together, spending time with loved ones, and embarking on a few special adventures. Today, to celebrate Ben's birthday, we went out for breakfast at The Original Pancake House, a local Falls Church establishment that we've heard about for so long. It is amazing! No place we've lived has felt totally like home until we've found a great place to get some breakfast, so it was a homecoming of sorts.
I hope everyone else had a blessed and joyful holiday and I'm looking forward to hearing many stories!
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
As I felt the stress and negativity well up within me, I paused for half a second to realize that this is not an environment suibtable for welcoming a new baby, let alone the Christ child in our midst. I realized that I needed a second to put everything in perspective, so turned to the Henri Nouwen readings that have been keeping us focused this Advent. Today's reading hit me like a ton of bricks, so I thought I'd share it here:
Somehow I realize that songs, music, good feelings, beautiful liturgies, nice presents, big dinners, and many sweet words do not make Christmas. Christmas is saying "yes" to something beyond all emotions and feelings. Christmas is saying "yes" to a hope based on God's initiative, which has nothing to do with what I think or feel. Christmas is believing that the salvation of the world is God's work and not mine. Things will never look just right or feel just right. If they did, someone would be lying.... But it is into this broken world that a child is born who is called Son of the Most High, Prince of Peace, Savior.Amen to that!
Monday, December 22, 2008
Zosia was a very planned pregnancy. Ben and I started meticulously trying to get pregnant, and when we found out that we were expecting, it was joyful but also very expected. This pregnancy, on the other hand was not at all "planned." We were in the middle of our move between my parents house and our house when I realized that my period was late-- very late-- and, in total fear and trepidation, walked down to the pharmacy to pick up a pregnancy test. When the test was positive (which, in my heart, I knew it would be), I laughed out loud, but was totally terrified inside. Zosia was still breastfeeding, and really seemed like a little baby to me (this was right after she turned one). She was still waking up at night to have a feeding, wasn't walking, or talking. I couldn't imagine having another little baby in the house. So, even though my circumstances are obviously more accomodating of pregnancy (I'm married, have a home, am a stay at home mom, have a loving and supporting husband and family), I get how Mary must have felt, just in the littlest way.
Within a week of finding out about the pregnancy, Zosia was a different baby. She weaned herself, started walking, sleeping through the night, and became much more independant (I'm wondering if this is God being showy). Now, several months later, we're totally overjoyed and excited about this baby girl, and can't wait for her to join our family. Somehow, my uncertainty and fear was turned into joy. I'm sure as this baby enters the outside world and becomes her own person and adult, that joy will only grow. So, while I make absolutely no promises of having six children (and might even be willing to make promises to the contrary), I can understand Mary Alice's decision to be open to as many new lives as possible. I think it's amazing that she's doing it. I hope that in my own life, I can be open to the Annunciations that God puts in my path, whether that's a new friendship, a new commitment, or in the most extreme case, a new baby.
These more or less capture what's been going on. It's been a peaceful and joyful time here with a lot of enjoying the baby, having friends come through, baking, and long quiet evenings. And a few minor frustrations mixed in-- like a two day nap strike put on by Z that finally ended today (Whew! That is a huge relief). We have so many friends coming back to the area for the holidays and family events planned this week that I'm hoping we find the time to remain centered and focused amid all of the excitement-- but we're so happy to spend time in community that we're happy to just ride the wave too.
1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language (not well)
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied.
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke.
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class.
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone.
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating.
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life.
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous (Woo hoo Ronald Regan!)
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a mobile phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Read an entire book in one day
Thursday, December 18, 2008
1 cup milk
1/3 cup nonfat dry milk powder
Squirt of vanilla
Pinch of cinnamon
One Frozen Banana (warning: peel before you freeze it. I found this out the hard way)
Combine in blender and enjoy! It makes a surprisingly filling afternoon snack or even lunch if I drink the whole thing myself. Otherwise, it really makes more of two servings. I imagine it would be an easy recipe to doctor with various other healthful things (flax meal, that sort of thing).
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Magdalena just had her second daughter three weeks ago, so yesterday was my first time meeting Ania, who is so tiny and beautiful. I've been seriously nervous about the first few weeks with a newborn in the house, mainly because Zosia is beyond being a "mama's girl" at the moment. She's so overly attached that it's hard for me to do anything without Zosia realizing that she wants and needs my attention and care at that moment. This is apparently totally developmentally normal for a 15 month old, healthy, and fine. And I've been through so many stages with Zosia that I'm happy to go with this, because just like all the others, I know that this too shall pass (and I should enjoy it while it lasts, because soon she'll want nothing to do with me). But I can't imagine doing this and having a newborn.
So going over to Magdalena's house was part to see her beautiful new daughter and part observation, seeing what it's like to have a toddler and a newborn at home. And it was fine! Now, I must say that Magdalena is the most natural mother I have ever seen. She lives in this one bedroom apartment with her husband and now two kids, and it just seems like the most natural thing in the world-- Ania is in bed with her and her husband, and Zosia has a little toddler bed off to the side. They just live in this equilibrium that is so foreign to us American parents. It totally reminds me of the way that my mom was with me and my sister-- totally willing to give of herself, whether that meant sleeping with us (until we were like 7 and 9 or something!), playing with us, whatever. Maybe this is a Polish thing?
But the bottom line is, having two kids at home was not a big deal. Newborns sleep all the time, which I now remember, but had somehow forgotten. So she said she has plenty of time to play with Zosia, and apparently even reads to Zosia while she's nursing Ania. And, newborn babies usually sleep so much that you can get a reasonable amount of rest. The whole thing is just nothing to worry about. Which is a good thing for me to remind myself daily as I'm preparing for April!
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Here's an excerpt from a poem written by Maya Angelou entitled "Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem." The whole thing is beautiful, and I encourage you to check it out from the library:
It is Christmas time, a halting of hate time.
On this platform of peace, we can create a
To translate ourselves to ourselves and to
At this Holy Instant, we celebrate the Birth of
Into the great religions of the world.
We jubilate the precious advent of trust.
We shout with glorious tongues the coming
All the earth's tribes loosen their voices
To celebrate the promise of Peace.
We, Angels and Mortals, believers and
Look heavenward and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at our world and speak the
Peace. We look at each other, then into
And we say without shyness or apology or hesitation:
Peace, My Brother.
Peace, My Sister.
Peace, My Soul.
Monday, December 15, 2008
Now, I'll admit, when we first moved here from Somerville, one thing that I couldn't verbalize but missed was the trendiness of our old neighborhood. In Somerville, there were tons of independent coffee shops, funky people, and quirky happenings (like these crazy massive bike rides through the streets). Our little corner of Falls Church, on the other hand, is humble. Unlike in Somerville, the people are not all young urban professionals, but there's truly a mix-- some young couples, some people who have lived here for decades, some middle aged families with older kids. The houses aren't super trendy-- they're stable reliable brick ramblers built in the 50s. Some have been renovated to look cute and craftsman-y, others have received these horrible makeovers that make you scratch your head in wonder. Others are just plain little homes that are unpretentious and functional.
Last night, though, I realized this amazing asset about our neighborhood-- the people, like the homes, are unpretentious and down to earth. Yes, we could have moved to Del Ray (a renovated part of Alexandria that is all the rage right now), but I bet we would have inherited some neighbors with lots of "image" issues-- let's face it; in order to be willing to pay the price to live in the hottest neighborhood in town, you've really got to care about what people think about you. Here, there's an assortment of people; the woman who hosted the open house has a knack for interior decorating and is the most amazing mother to two boys, one with autism; her neighbor across the street has lived here for 50 years, and was sweet enough to notice and compliment our window boxes; there are older childless couples, a couple that just adopted a little girl from accross the country, and then some young couples with babies and toddlers. It felt so... normal and down to earth. People were wearing horrible Christmas sweaters, jeans, ridiculously out of style long skirts, and a few were dressed trendily, but it seemed like no one cared, and I loved that. Jen, the hostess, made a comment at some point in the evening to the effect of, "We're never really planning on moving from here." I've been thinking about it all day, and have realized that I would be totally happy to become that woman who has lived here for 50 years.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
This afternoon eleven members of the Collins family (plus one guest) gathered at Ben's parents house for an Advent celebration. Advent is huge in Ben's parent's house, and one of the main rituals is gathering together, eating German Christmas cookies and singing Christmas carols (a LOT of them, especially since every person gets to choose their favorite, and verses are generally not skipped).
It's something I look forward to each year, and it's amazing how I can look back over the past many years (I think I've been attending for at least eight years, maybe more!) and see how circumstances have changed (from being teenagers to college students, to a young married couple, to parents) and how my own experience of Advent has also changed. I remember the year before Zosia was born, Ben and I were both so totally present and contemplative during all of advent, including our gathering at the Collins house. This year, of course, we were as present as we could be while keeping our eyes on a 15 month old who was climbing furniture, clapping, climbing stairs, and snatching Christmas ornaments-- I truly don't know what I would have done without the expert babysitting help of Zosia's two cousins, Caroline and Annelise (12 and 8) who entertained her for the majority of our time there.
Anyway, each year different things jump out at me from either the readings that we do or the Christmas carols that we sing. I think that my favorite Advent carol will always be "O Come O Come Emmanuel," which feels like the perfect invitation for Jesus to enter into our presence. But this year, while singing O Holy Night, I realized that there was a verse that I had never heard before (or heard, but not really understood). Here it is:
Truly He Taught us to love one another;Wow! Talk about a radical message, and one that totally jumps out into your face among a bunch of fa la las. Traditionally I've been a sucker for the radical theology stuff, so I was surprised that I hadn't caught this lyric sooner. Anyway, for now I'm just realizing how much Christianity turns the world upside down and challenges the traditional ways that we relate to one another.
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother,
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Babies are incredibly needy-- at least my babies are (I still occasionally see what I call the "backpack baby" who just seems happy to be schlepped around anywhere, but as far as I am concerned, these children are a different species than Zosia). What's more, she is not ashamed of unabashedly demanding my full presence and attention. She is a master at sensing when I am being present and when I am not. For example, I can be making little faces at her while I try to carry on a conversation with someone on the phone, and she doesn't buy it for a second. She knows that I am not being present. Or, at the sound of computer typing noises, Zosia runs (even if previously happily playing on her own) screaming, because she knows that when I am on the computer is one of the times that I am the least present to her.
What's amazing is that once I set aside whatever the obstacle is and truly engage with her, she instantly mellows out and becomes happy. Sometimes just a few minutes of presence (lying with her on the couch, reading a book, chasing her around the house) give her the security and confidence to play independently for a long time. So, all of this has me thinking about God yearning for our presence, and Jesus' command that above all else we should love God (above even loving our neighbor, which is totally not the way I usually think about it).
It's a bit trickier with God, because God doesn't come screaming, doesn't whine, and doesn't tug at our pants. But obviously, just as our human relationships are deepened by real presence to one another, so too does presence deepen our relationship with God. This is something that, to be totally honest, I struggle with. It's hard for me to take any substantial or even insubstantial amount of time out of my day (especially while I'm surrounded by a host of creatures that very vocally demand my presence) and be present with God. I have a hard time justifying it. But those rare occasions that I do become present to God, I feel like the details of the rest of my life fall into place and everything remains so... in perspective. Maybe I just need to make a commitment and trust that everything else will fall in place? And, perhaps ironically, I have a 15 month old that just came in from playing outside with her dad now tugging at my sweater!
Friday, December 12, 2008
What you'll need:
- 1 1/2 cups ground cinnamon
- 1 cup applesauce
- 1/4 cup white school glue (like Elmer's)
- Plastic food wrap
- Rolling pin
- Wax paper
- Cookie cutters or a knife
- Ribbon or yarn for hanging
How to make it:
- Mix cinnamon, applesauce, and glue together in a bowl. The dough should be as thick as cookie dough. Add a bit of water if the dough is too stiff.
- Remove from bowl and knead. Put it back in the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit for at least a half hour.
- Remove the dough, knead again to make sure it's smooth. Flatten/roll the dough between waxed paper until it's between 1/4" thick and 1/8" thick.
- Cut out desired shapes, use a straw to punch a hole for the ribbon to hang. The circle of dough will pull out with the straw.
- Gently place the shapes on a piece of clean wax paper. They will take 3-5 days to dry, and you will need to turn them over a couple of times a day for them to dry evenly and flat.
Check out the full recipe at http://crafts.kaboose.com/cinnamon-dough-ornaments.html
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
We're all so excited, and can't wait to have another baby in the house-- and knowing that it's a girl just makes it all that much more real. And we LOVE having women around, so the more the merrier!
Saturday, December 6, 2008
If you're debating between a live or fake Christmas tree, here's the green winner:live. Fake trees are manufactured overseas (translation: fuel costs) and are made from non-renewable, non-biodegradable materials. When thrown away, they clog our landfills. A live tree is usually grown on land unsuitable for farming anyway, but still contributes oxygen to the atmosphere. Trees are also recyclable and most communities have programs in place.I've been pro-live tree for a while... but I must admit it's mainly the intoxicating scent of pine. But this argument is true-- none of those trees would have been planted had it not been for the Christmas tree market. They're a net benefit to the environment!
Thursday, December 4, 2008
During Advent, I am called in new ways to wonder what being a people of waiting means in such a world. How am I supposed to be looking for Jesus, the Prince of Peace in our midst, when it seems like Jesus is nowhere to be found. And yet, it is Jesus himself who in the Gospel reminds me to constantly watch and be alert, challenges me to be awake and not sleeping. It is those moments of wakefulness, which are all too brief, when I recognize Jesus in strangers, beautiful things, moments of despair, and friends and family members that bring me into fullest communion with God.
And yet when I look back on my life, almost all of those moments, so profound to my own spiritual journey, have been teeny and insignificant, not momentous or earth-shattering. It's something like the arrival of Jesus himself, which the Jewish people were anticipating would be an earth-shattering event. The prophet Isaiah calls on God to "rend the heavens and come down, with the mountains quaking before you." But God had more modest plans involving an unwed teen mother, a carpenter, and a manger. Jesus' entry into the world, which we are currently so eagerly anticipating, was a whisper in a world of disorder. It was quiet and humble and forgettable, just like those moments of witnessing Jesus' in my own midst today.
This Advent, I am going to try to remember the smallness of the whole thing while celebrating the hugeness of its implications. I hope my own carol will be more like an Capella lullaby to a sleeping child than the Hallelujah chorus of the Messiah. And I hope that my own small gestures-- of being present to the moment, pausing between activities to say a prayer and remember the God that formed me, being thankful every chance I get for the beauty of every person and creature God has created-- will be the ones that call Jesus into my midst and transform this broken and hurting world.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Lately, when I get in a funk, I've been trying my best to take some action to pull myself out of it. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't-- usually at the very least I feel like it shortens my period of grumpiness. Today, that meant going through the motions and hoping that eventually my spirit would catch up with my body... Making the bed was the first willful act of productivity, followed by taking a bath with Zosia, buying some Christmas lights, and later in the morning actually hanging up some lights. I must admit, there's nothing quite like Christmas lights to lift the spirits. Once I was hanging them up, I felt like I had arrived and was no longer a victim of my own day. Why is it that it takes so much work to just do the thing that makes us the happiest?