Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Relinquishing Control

This year I have been participating in a bit of a Lenten experiment. Instead of giving up chocolate, desert, or wine, I have given up something else entirely: control. Those who know me may be surprised. I'm not your typical "control freak." My house gets messy, my children get messy, I seem pretty relaxed. But the truth is, I cling to order and control. I think that as a mother, or as any other person who's involved in a high risk/ high energy occupation, order and control can be lifesavers. Routines are wonderful. Plans end up saving you time and energy in the long run, because who has the time to take two extra grocery runs mid-week?

But plans can also be obstacles: obstacles to listening to a unique idea presented by your child that doesn't fit into your schedule; obstacles to enabling your partner to do something that is meaningful and wonderful to him or her; and (and this has taken a while to sink in), ultimately obstacles to listening to the voice of God. During the first few weeks of this season, there were many times that I felt like the ground was pulled up from under me. Little things: a change in our dinner plans, a revamping of our children's schedule, just felt wrong at times. The control person in me wanted to fight for maintaining order, for clinging to that false sense of security that control can usher in. But instead, and this was a challenge, I just sort of went with it.

There have been times that things have fallen apart. Dinner has been an egg sandwich when it was supposed to be a roast. The children went to bed without a bath, the house wasn't clean. And there certainly is that little nagging voice in the back of my head that wants to say, "I told you so! I could have held this together better." But giving up control has given me the beautiful gift of being tuned in to the subtleties of the voice of God in the day to day. Like the serenity of a springtime walk, even if it happens to be four runny nosed humans taking that walk. Or welcoming unexpected help from neighbors with our older daughter which enabled me Ben and Lily to go for a run together (a rare treat!). And I think that it has also given the people in my family: my husband, my daughters (okay, mainly the older one... Lily's just a baby!) the gift of feeling my trust in their ability to make their own decisions. And ultimately, isn't that one of the goals of marriage, parenthood, friendship? Supporting the people you love to make their own decisions and mistakes and discoveries? And somehow, in that ambiguity, in that leap of faith that dangles in the chasm between certainty and uncertainty, I truly believe that we can feel the presence of God, the voice of God in our daily lives.

My mother recalls that one of the few observations my preschool teachers had to make was something to the tune of, "Adele? She's a boss." That is a gift. But learning to take a deep breath, readjust my expectations and go along with something totally unexpected is also a gift. And for once, I think that I have a Lenten resolution that will stick come Easter day.

This blog is a part of Steady Mom's 30-minute blog challenge.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Weekends are for...

Trips on the "choo choo train" (Ben has already announced that he is going to make trips on the train a date with Zosia... we're wondering if they charge you if you get on and off at the same station? Experience, anyone?)

to exciting destinations

filled with color...

and old friends. Does anyone recognize those two ruddy cheeked cuties flanking Lily? And their mama even brought some homemade granola bars (that's a hint!)

And then a quiet evening at home with friends, after the babies are asleep, playing a game and listening to Kings of Convenience. Bonus points if you can guess this game! Oh, how I love it!

Wishing you and yours a lovely weekend!

(some photos taken by Ben! I only wish I could remember which ones...)

Friday, March 26, 2010

this moment

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

I'm joining in this week! See more at SouleMama.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Year's Difference

Oh, the difference a year can make. I was looking through old photos, and here's one of me this week last year. I remember the waddle, carrying one baby awkwardly around the bump that another created, and that old table. A lot changes in a year, doesn't it?

And a self portrait from a year later...

And how could I forget my little sunshine, that baby that was taking up my entire abdomen? How did life happen without her?

Whew, it is crazy and amazing what time brings. I'm feeling stilled and awe-struck by it all. Just one year! What a magnificent journey.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Day trip...

to the local garden center. We came home with a trunk full of dirt (to finish up this lovely raised vegetable planter Ben built this weekend), but spent the morning wandering through aisles of azaleas, boxwoods, pansies, and so many others. Am I the only one who has a love affair with all of the amazing and beautiful plants that are out there? I think I fell in love with a dozen trees or so. And, for the children, one of the wonderful attractions are the many fish that the garden center carries. The koi hadn't made it to the fountain yet for the year, but we admired them in their warmed enclosures and Zosia announced that she needs a fishing pole so she can catch them and bring them home with us. Koi, beware.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

March 23: In Search of Spring

Today is the last day of our little searching for spring series. It's been fun! The first wave of spring is in full bloom here... those are the pansies in the window box outside of Lily's room, which sprung right back after a brief winter hiatus. We were thrilled this weekend to hear a little tap tap tapping from the inside of our birdhouse (not this one, which is on our mantel, but the one Ben hung on one of the poplars in our backyard). We've been hoping and praying that a little bird family would find our home suitable, and it looks like some finches have decided to move in. I can't wait to head out on a slightly sunnier day (it's drizzling today) and take some pictures.

And, perhaps my favorite sign of spring, our children's clothing is muddy. So muddy, in fact, that each now has a designated drawer of "play clothes," differentiated from their "outing clothes," which, thank you very much, I would prefer to stay mud-free. I'm hoping that their play clothes get the most use of all (although, as Ben pointed out this weekend, our little rag tag bunch can start looking like we're from the Ozarks with our naked babies, muddy clothes and cut-off jeans. So be it, I don't mind).

Somehow Mary got it just right-- these two weeks really did usher in a new season, thank the Lord. Here's to spring!

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Dum-dums may be my new favorite food... Can I admit that? Okay, second to spinach and tofu. They were purchased to incentivize using the potty for a certain toddler of ours and have worked wonders on that front (this in an otherwise candy-free house).

In fact, it has been so successful that we have decided to extend them as a prize to anyone in the house who successfully uses the potty. Let's just say there have been more bathroom trips than ever. With flavors like strawberry shortcake, coconut, and cotton candy, who wouldn't love them? Delicious. And did you know that you can save the wrappers and send them in to get prizes? Ben and I must be particularly immature, because this has been very exciting to us-- as in, we actually talk about it at night after the kids have gone to bed. I wonder what we should get? I'm leaning towards the Frisbee. I think Ben should get the lunch sack. Who knew that going to the potty could be so much fun?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

March 18: In Search of Spring

I think that something from my upbringing by two European parents must have stuck... In our home growing up, there were few things more certain than the fact that the house would get aired out. Every day. Rain or shine, winter or summer, the windows came open for at least a good half hour-- longer, weather permitting. I'm not quite that die-hard. If it's cold outside, I just keep the home sealed up and step outside for some fresh air. But when it's warm enough that I don't feel like I'm sacrificing precious heat, I *love* opening all the windows in the house. This is the first week this year that I've made a practice of it-- going around and opening all the windows for the morning, closing them in the afternoon. I love when the curtains blow in the wind, how the house smells so fresh, and how I can hear all those little outdoor sounds that I'm usually oblivious to. I don't even mind the fact that my toes get a little chilly from all that crisp air.

I think I'm ready to say that spring is here! What do you guys think?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

March 17: In Search of Spring

It's happening as inevitably as those beautiful bulbs popping up out of the earth: I am getting some springtime cleaning energy. I've been trying to harness it to tackle the projects that most need tackling-- larger organizational/cleaning projects that I usually find too overwhelming to do on a day-to-day basis. So far this has meant organizing my dresser, cleaning out the fridge (here's the fridge, cleaned out, before our Saturday grocery run... and you can actually tell that we need to go grocery shopping, which is a good thing.) and really cleaning out the bathroom. Still on my hopeful to-do list are organizing the basement and setting items away for our neighborhood yard sale, rotating out the children's winter clothes/ clothes that are too small, and organizing the linen closet. If we can take care of that, I'll pat myself on the back and call it a spring.

Any organizational tips/projects out there? Any and all are welcome!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Wedding Blanket

I think I must be getting braver: I actually gave a handmade present at a wedding this weekend. Those of you who have slowly ventured into craftiness can probably understand the self-doubt it can usher in. Is it too crazy? Will it fall apart? Will they scratch their heads and wonder aloud, "What is this?" For now I have put that all aside and am hoping that this lovely couple enjoy their picnic blanket as much as we have enjoyed ours. And who knows? Maybe one day they will be so lucky to have two sweet pairs of tiny bare feet running all over theirs as well.

I didn't get a great shot of it, but I'm secretly in love with the showgirl fabric in the corners (picked up at the old thrift store along with the rest of the fabric). I really do love the tutorial this comes from: simple, straightforward, and just perfect for spring.

Monday, March 15, 2010

March 15: In Search of Spring

Lots of puttering around in the yard... without a jacket (so nice!)...

Inspecting the garden (this is Zosia's special plant that she likes to water)

Everything is blossoming and growing... I think that nature must be exhausted right now, but I am so happy.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

March 13: In Search of Spring

Yesterday went so smoothly after my early rise that I did it again (and on a weekend, too... woah). And this morning I found that as soon as she got up, Zosia (my toddler) had lots of cooking energy, specifically requesting pancakes. In the name of spring, we made something a little more zippy than the usual pancakes, and I thought I would share the recipe (loosely based on the Joy of Cooking Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes, but changed substantially). Enjoy!

Blueberry Orange Cornmeal Pancakes

Whisk together in a large bowl
1 cup flour (half whole wheat and white is fine)
1/2 cup stone ground cornmeal
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Whisk together in another bowl:
1 1/4 cups yogurt (I have to find some way to use up all this yogurt... which actually hasn't been too hard... Ben has requested a full gallon for next week)
4 tablespoons butter, melted
2 large eggs
zest of one orange

Pour wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and whisk them together, mixing only until combined.

Fold in:
1 cup frozen blueberries (I wish I was as diligent as Kerry and froze some from last summer, but in lieu of that, Trader Joe's will do)

Heat a griddle/ pan over medium heat, add a teaspoon of oil, and scoop out pancake batter using an ice cream scoop (the yogurt makes the batter a bit thick, but it does settle... this is one reason medium heat is important, so you can give the pancakes plenty of time to cook through).

Serve with pure maple syrup, and enjoy! We love the extra grit that the cornmeal provides around here... and a couple of pancakes fill you right up.

Friday, March 12, 2010

March 12: In Search of Spring

I took a long run in the rain, the hood of my raincoat down. Getting your face and hair totally wet is so refreshing, and I can only imagine the rain must be so life-giving for all of the plants and animals as well. There is something to be said for enjoying the earlier hours of the day, too... Ben says I still have the sleep schedule of a teenager, preferring to stay up late and sleep in half the day. But there is such excitement and energy in the morning: I'm hoping enough to make an earlier rise time a habit around here.

(photo by Ben)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

March 11: In Search of Spring

at the sewing machine. I'm supposed to be working on a blanket for a wedding this weekend... really supposed to be working on it, this being Thursday. But instead I spent my precious naptime hours working on a springtime dress made out of this buttercup fabric (er... bedsheet). Irresponsible, I know. But it reached 70 today, and just felt so... right.

How have you been searching for spring? See more through the spring button!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

In search of spring

we hopscotched to our hearts' content in our driveway all morning and all afternoon. And then we hopped into the car and took a trip to Africa, Zosia driving, followed by Norway. I think that Africa would have warmer weather, don't you?

Follow spring overy to Mary's page by clicking the spring button to the right.... I, for one, am ready to usher this season in.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Homemade Yogurt

We love yogurt in our house, so I was very excited when my dear friend Michelle told me that she makes her own in her crock pot. We've attempted to make our own yogurt several times in our oven, but we've found it to be hit-or-miss, and I hate having to throw away perfectly good milk. On the other hand, we've made this crock pot yogurt two times, and both times it's worked beautifully... we usually take a couple minutes to get it started in the afternoon, and we have a half-gallon of delicious homemade whole milk yogurt ready by breakfast the next morning.

Our favorite way to serve it is with a dollop of strawberry jam, but it's also great with honey, fruit, or granola. One batch is plenty for our family for a week, with extra to give away. And then you can just use some of your existing yogurt to start a new batch the next week. If your kids are hooked on pre-packed yogurt (I would know nothing of this, of course), you can even sneakily place some of your own yogurt with some fruit in a cup (or a baby food jar is cute), and they won't even notice. And you can use organic milk, raw milk, or whatever else you please for a fraction of the cost of equivalent yogurt.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Energy in the Air

We're well. Thank you again for your sweet thoughts and prayers. And just like that, Lily is walking (with sure footing, too), and it feels like spring. Sometimes I feel like sickness can do that... usher in a new season. Today marked some fresh sand in the sandbox, the first kite-flight of the season (that's me running my heart out trying to get some height), and the first bike ride. Something in the air just seems to carry energy.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Mrs. Mallard

We are on day two of a stomach bug-- a nasty, but mercifully swift bug that has moved from one member of the family to the next like an over-eager contra-dance partner. I have never in my life been in such close proximity to so many bodily fluids in such a brief period of time. Yuck.
The children have been handling it surprisingly well, and my sweet and heroic Ben traveled up to Boston just for the day to give a presentation. I feel like Mrs. Malard in Make Way for Ducklings waving good-bye to Mr. Mallard and saying, "Don't you worry, I know all about bringing up children." So here we are, me and my two lovely ducklings who happen to be spewing bodily fluids left and right. I wish I could put a more romantic spin on it, but we all know that taking care of sick children is hard and messy.

Above: our "sick bed" couch, which is one of the few surfaces that has remained clean.

Wishing you a healthy and wonderful weekend, and I"ll be back in (hopefully) healthier times.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Yellow Tulips

I always walk by the cut flowers without so much as taking a second look... I think I can count the number of times that I have purchased flowers on a single hand. Ben will bring some home from time to time, and I always love having them around: they're joyful, bright, fresh. So this morning when I walked by some bright yellow tulips, I decided that they would bring their worth plus more in joy around our house and I picked up two bundles: one to give away, one to keep in our home. I'm hoping that I can remember to pick some up (or just pick some while we're out and about in the warmer months) every month as a reminder of the bounty that we're surrounded with.

What are you doing to cultivate joy?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A Little Free Art

When we finished our basement last spring, we realized that we needed something big to cover up an electrical box over our basement couch. With an extra sheet of drywall, some buckets of partially used paint, and a printer, we made our own make-shift artwork. I found some bird decals that I liked online (at Urban Outfitters... I don't think they carry them anymore), but wasn't willing to pay for them, so I just freehanded some, enlarged to various sizes on our computer, printed them out, traced them, and painted them on a background of my favorite paint color, silver sage.

In time, we found something more suibtable for covering an electrical panel, so lucky us, as of this afternoon we now have our little flock of birds over our bed. I'm hoping it gives me more dreams of flying.