Sunday, November 28, 2010

An Advent Wish

The first Sunday of Advent is upon us, and it felt so warm and comforting to sit back down with my little family and start preparing our hearts for this great coming. Here are some words from last year which still resonate in my heart. Wishing you eyes for the small signs of God's presence among us these coming days.

On this first day of Advent, there are many things I could write about. I could write about our morning trip to get a Christmas tree-- the excitement of a certain wee family member to decorate it, the delicious smell of pine in our home, the cheer of garlands in our window boxes. Or I could talk about some of the special things we have lined up for Advent: our traditional Sunday Advent celebration, complete with singing, cookies, and the lighting of Advent candles; a beautiful wooden Advent Calendar that was a gift from Ben's mother, which has magnets for each day of the month; a beautiful little nativity that is currently on its way from Israel; or my rediscovery of pregnancy artwork as symbols of Christ's coming. Our little attempts at materializing this great hope that we have. Our best efforts at making the coming of a baby from a distant time and place feel intimate and real. Feel exciting and joyful and even uncertain in that way that any real birth feels uncertain.

But no, not today. Because all these little preparations are just sweet little attempts at capturing something that is so much bigger than all of this. And my own scurrying to make a home for a God who became incarnated are really just cute. So today, I share the words of my own favorite spiritual writer, Henri Nouwen, whose words about the Christ I will be meditating on and savoring in these coming weeks.
I keep expecting loud and impressive events to convince me and others of God's saving power....Our temptation is to be distracted by them....When I have no eyes for the small signs of God's presence--the smile of a baby, the carefree play of children, the words of encouragement and gestures of love offered by friends-- I will always remain tempted to despair.

The small child of bethlehem, the unknown man of Nazareth, the rejected preacher, the naked man on the cross, he asks for my full attention.
May you all have eyes for the small signs of God's presence in these coming days; eyes for the subtle beacons that tell us that yes, God is among us... all of creation is full of anticipation because The Holy One is coming.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

In which we get away

Ben and I snuck away. At least that is how it felt-- tiptoeing out the front door while Lily slept and Zosia played with blocks. We had said our goodbyes. Lined up pajamas on beds and laid out food on the counter. We left the babies with two women who are like second mothers, and off we drove with turkey sandwiches and many hours of uninterrupted time together.

We went on a walk along dim country roads, stayed at yet another cute little b and b in rural Virginia (with a claw foot tub in our bedroom! Man, have I been missing out), pondered questions like, "And what should this next little one be named?"

Slept in, drove right into the mountains and embarked upon a challenging hike-- a long hike that my burgeoning little hiker isn't quite ready for. Just when our ears were frozen through and our tummies grumbling, we stumbled upon the loveliest little lodge, complete with piping hot coffee, restrooms, and a warm hearth.

It was just perfect-- a little miracle to top off the loveliest of weekends. We drove home along winding roads, and I just couldn't help myself: we stopped along the way to pick up a Christmas tree as a special surprise for those two smiling little faces waiting in the front window.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving News

We have a special piece of news to celebrate around here-- a third little one, the fifth member of our family, is due to arrive right at the end of this spring! We are all elated, but Zosia seems to be the most overjoyed of all, doing things like sleeping with the little "baby book" that we have showing the progress of the pregnancy. It truly is magic to stand back and watch this family unfold and grow before our eyes!

Wishing you a joyful and peaceful Thanksgiving weekend!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Recipe

The table is set, the turkey is in the oven, and the house is clean. The girls spent the morning with their grandparents at the Smithsonian (to share a local secret: it remains open on Thanksgiving, although just about no one knows it does!). Zosia, Ben, and I are watching Mary Poppins (while Lily sleeps). And I for one can think of a hundred things to be thankful of right off the top of my head. What a truly lovely Thanksgiving.

I know today you all are busy baking, roasting, chopping, and mixing. But while I'm thinking of it, I thought I would pass along a favorite family recipe, one that just makes it feel like Thanksgiving for us.

Cranberry Bread

Recipe makes two (9x5) loaves or one large and three small loaves.

2 cups flour

1 c sugar

1 ½ tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

½ tsp baking soda

½ c butter

1 egg, beaten

2 tsp grated orange peel

¾ c orange juice

1 ½ c golden raisins

1 ½ fresh or frozen cranberries, chopped

Sift dry ingredients into a large bowl. Cut in butter until crumbly. Add egg, OJ, and orange peel. Stir until evenly moist. Fold in fruit items. Grease a piece of brown paper and place in the bottom of the greased pan. Bake for 1 hour 20 minutes at 350°F for the large loaf pans, 45 minutes for the small pans. Cover with foil for the last 15 minutes. Cool 10-15 minutes before removing from pan.

Enjoy! And hopefully I'll be back a little later today with another little surprise.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Table

We're hosting Thanksgiving this year, and as we sat down to plan out the logistics, we realized one thing: our own little nuclear family just barely fits at our dining room table. Even our small Thanksgiving gathering of 9 people would require some creativity-- or a new table. We opted for a little of each: a new table (thanks, Ikea!) that will expand according to company, and some painted old chairs. A few coats of pale robin's egg blue and butternut is enough to put a smile on anyone's face, messy little Lily included.

I did choke back a little bit of sorrow in seeing our old table go. So many precious meals shared, relationships nurtured, games played, first foods eaten. But here's to a new beginning, a table with room to grow, and a Thanksgiving gathering to kick it all off.

Monday, November 22, 2010


I never cease to be amazed by the renewing energy that sickness can usher in. After three sluggish days, I woke up this morning with clarity, joy, and so much energy-- a first for me since the shortening of days. And it only serves to remind me that there is a purpose to these ebbs and flows, and sometimes that purpose is out of reach of understanding. For every winter there is a spring, for every sorrow a joy. And this morning I am giving thanks for it all, especially for getting the spring back in my step.

Photo credit Ben

Friday, November 19, 2010

Sick Day Cake

I had an honest to goodness sick day today. One where I stayed in my pajamas, took a long bath, stayed in bed when at all possible, and took a long nap in the afternoon. Whew, how long has it been? It's a rare luxury, such a sick day!

I was doted on by two little silly girls and one very sweet husband, and we decided to celebrate such a day well spent with a meal of hot chicken soup followed by delicious coconut layer cake. Zosia made us sing happy birthday to her, which seemed only fair, since Lily made us sing happy birthday to her before she proceeded to blow out our dinner candle. And after a day full of remedies from vitamins to juices, I think that cake was the best medicine of all.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thankful Thursday

A certain little one walked up to me this afternoon, smiled, and said simply, "I am thankful for you, mama." It was a moment I will hold onto for many years-- a moment when a few words and a genuine spirit combined to create the most beautiful gift. Of course then the thankfulness just overflowed. "And I am thankful for Lily, and Daddy, and (insert names of all other family members near and far)."

And isn't she onto something? The practice of gratitude is something that begins with a simple observation, and culminates in a complete transformation of the way we view the world. Suddenly, where there once was barren earth, there is a field full of blessings. If we are indeed the domestic church, then this afternoon, Zosia was the pastor, because her words were exactly what I needed to hear.

So today I join the lovely Kerry with her practice of offering thanks in preparation for Thanksgiving.

Breakfast bowls laid out, from big to little.

This little monkey.

The rare opportunity to be a human train.

What is filling your life with thanks?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Seeing Double

We live about a mile from where my family lived when I was born. It's funny visiting places that I remember from my own early childhood, places that are familiar from memories, stories, images. And every now and then I realize that my own children are walking the same ground I walked on, touching the same surfaces, living the same stories.

Above: Zosia and me, separated by a few decades but kindred kindred spirits nevertheless. Can you tell who's who?

Friday, November 12, 2010

This Moment

Playing along with Soule Mama this week. Wishing you all a lovely weekend.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Things Fall Apart

A brief story:

I am at the doctor's with Lily. My doctor's appointment, not hers, but of course she doesn't care. She's terrified, the poor girl, convinced she's going to get a shot, or an exam, or some other unpleasantry. I play with her. We buy a snack. Two sweet ladies give her a lollipop, but nope. This is not her morning. She burrows her face in my chest and cries, trying to take deep breaths between her sobs.

An hour later, we are still waiting. Crying baby aside, I need to leave in a few minutes to pick up my other little love from preschool. I had been assured that I would be seen before noon, but that time is rapidly approaching. I tentatively approach the receptionist. I ask a question. Gently. She rebukes me. Harshly. And you know that expression, "And then the damn broke?" Well, it happened.

Picture this. Me and Lily, standing in front of the receptionist crying. Both of us. I honestly don't know who was crying harder (although that Lily does have a set of lungs). Two sweet nurses approach us, usher us into a room. They give each other a look like, "Oh Lord, what have we gotten ourselves into," but then they make sure we are taken care of. Another lollipop. Some stickers. Are they for her or me? I try every trick in the book to pull it back together. I think of funny stories. Say a prayer. Take deep breaths. But somehow a river of tears has sprung forth from my eyes and is not going to be stopped easily.

There are moments that I feel like I have it all together. It's a nice feeling: warm children, full husband, clean house. Sometimes I am tempted to even declare, "I am okay! I have it together!" Well, let's just say that this morning was not such a moment.

But somehow, it is strangely comforting to know that sometimes, things will fall apart. There will be difficult moments, days, periods. Such is life. But grace and love pull us through, and even then, in those difficult moments, we are okay. God is with us then, too. Maybe even especially? And at the end of a morning that could only be described as dismal, I can come home to a great big hug and a family that loves me. And that is enough to dry my eyes and put a smile on my face.

(Above: two sets of Lilies. I couldn't resist!)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Yarn Along

Playing along with Ginny this week... I'm afraid there's been more reading than knitting going on in these parts, partly giving testament to how captivating this book is. Really! You should check it out. But I have been thinking about Christmas knitting, and thought this pink would make a perfect hat for a little girl in the house.... maybe this week?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Looking Out

My energies seem to concentrate into clusters. Spending time in nature. Cooking. Perhaps reading or working on a project. And, I'm sure you have noticed, these past few weeks have been ones of pure delight in the little ones at my feet. Children must be the single most joy-inspiring thing upon this earth (and I'm sure you'll forgive me for filling this space with them, too. :-)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Spirit of Adventure

She looked up at me, a bit out of breath, and said simply, "I don't think I can handle this, Adele." Since when has she called me Adele? Not the typical sentiment for the little girl who us usually found chanting, "I lead the way," but I understood it-- it was a long hike (even for my much longer adult legs), and she had been doing her best to keep up. Quite the trooper, and for the record, she did finish the hike, breaking into a run at the end to make it to the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. It's amazing what such a resilient spirit can handle.

"It is in the compelling zest of high adventure and of victory, and in creative action, that man finds his supreme joys." -Antoine de Saint-Exupery

7 November

The winter air has moved in. Can you feel it too?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Did I mention the mischief?

This little child of mine is 26 pounds of it. She will do something naughty, and then upon receiving a reaction, will spring this little mischievous smile. And of course none of us can resist her: we inevitably break into a smile, too. Ah, the laughter this creates.

Thursday mornings have become our little haven for Lily's mischief. Just mama and Lily at home, so all the rules become a little relaxed and she can do all those things she has dreamed of doing like playing with water all over the kitchen and smearing her whole naked self in blueberries. I wish I could be Lily for a morning, just to see how much fun it is.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Cultivating Joy

This is a picture taken when Zosia was about a month old, and I have come to truly love it. Me, radiating unstoppable joy. Zosia, overwhelmed and wondering what the best path back into the womb might be.

To give some background, I was very excited to have a baby. I had spent months, years really, dreaming about it, wishing for it, praying for it. And then when it happened, I was so filled with joy at being a mother that nothing could change that. I would rock my little baby, go for a walk with my little baby, cook dinner with my little baby, and it was bliss.

When I was pregnant with Lily some well meaning friend made a comment to the effect of, "Well, I bet this next one is going to be really easy, given how hard Zosia was." I think I looked at her like she just landed from the moon. Hard? What on earth could she mean? There was nothing about the first months of Zosia's life that was not sheer joy itself. So what if my baby was easily overwhelmed? I absolutely adored rocking her and holding her and calming her. I think that I was so filled with excitement and joy that I didn't even notice that Zosia was what could be called a "hard" baby.

Well, one baby later, I have learned what an easy baby looks like, and I will admit, my little Zosia was more work than some others. Okay, those first weeks were downright hard. But she has blossomed into a delightful toddler, and, more importantly, those tricky weeks (months?) were filled to the brim with joy. It was unstoppable.

I look at this picture, I am left wondering, "How can I bring such joy to all those "hard" parts of my life?" The difficult relationships, the petty quarrels that can break out, the moments of weariness or sadness or tension. Because there are certainly moments when I toss up my hands and think, "How can this be done?"

And it's usually in such moments when I remember this passage-- and not only does it explain those early weeks of motherhood, but it teaches me exactly where to turn whenever things get tough. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." (Galatians 5:22) Ah yes, the Spirit. Whose joy and love transforms even the most difficult situations. Come, Holy Spirit, and fill my heart.