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Monday, April 14, 2014

because I want what I want (my messy beautiful)

"What's wrong?" I say to the pouting face in front of me "Why are you so sad today?"

"Because I just want what a want," she says. "That's why."

She wants what she wants. Of course.

I want to tell her to stop whining. I want to tell her how great she has it. But. I stop to think. Yea, I want what I want too. I get that, don't you?

When we were newly marrieds, in our early 20s, me finishing undergrad that first year of marriage, I often said a similar thing to dada.

He reminded me of this, so kindly as he is want to do, when I was complaining about our whiney five year old daughter.

"Yea, well, do you remember what you used to say?"

"Me????? Whiney?????????? NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.........What did I say?? I have no memory of this event."

"You used to say to me all the time, something like "Because I don't want to, or, what was it?""

"Oh yes," I say. "I do what I want to do, when I want to do it."

"You also used to lie on the floor, whining, when you were writing grad school papers, and say "I HATE EVERYTHIIIIIIING!!!!!!!!""

"Lovely," I say, "thanks so much for remembering that."


This was truly my mantra in those early 20s years as I struggled through college, early marriage years, then grad school.

I do what I want to do, when I want to do it.

You profs might boss me around, my boss might boss me around, but dammit if I want to stay out until 3am with hubby when I have a class at 8am, I AM GOING TO DO IT.

If I want to eat two entire pizza bagels at 11pm, I AM GOING TO DO IT.

Its like my little five year old is channeling my 25 year old self.


I was charming in my 20s, truly. HA.

But, you know, we all face this at some time in our lives I think, multiple times really, this claiming of self, this "Who am I and where do I fit in the cosmos" question. We all wrestle with it. And it comes and goes.

All children face this too. In fits and spurts. Nailing down their "place" only to have it ripped up with a new revelation about life.

"Mom," little man says to me one day last week, "I have some news for you."

"What is it?" I say, expecting some Lego creation presentation.

"Um, the sun is going to collapse into a black hole and we are all going to die."

"Uhhhhhhhhhhhhh......What have you been reading?"

He holds out a National Geographic. On the cover an ominous picture of a black hole, surrounded by stars. I flip through it quickly.

"Buddy, it says right here in the article that that isn't going to happen for how long? Read this."

"Five thousand years?"

"Five BILLION years hon. That's a LONG time. Maybe humans wont even live on this planet anymore. Maybe we'll already have found another better planet [to suck up ITS resources. HA.]"

"But what if we don't? What if all those people on earth then all get sucked in?"

"Weeeeeeeeeeelllllll," I say, thinking quickly and creatively, "Maybe they will get sucked into another dimension, like Narnia! Or, maybe like heaven!"

"Oh. Well, maybe."

But he wasn't convinced. And for several days we wrestled with questions of the what if of this scenario (oh the joys of masterful little readers!)

His sense of place, of being, was rocked.

And as I watch little miss wrestle with this question now, in the daily scenario of simple things, her temper quickly flaring and fading away (talk about a black hole...OY) I find myself relating with these questions of my kids.

Human questions.

I want what I want too.

I want a garden, planted, growing greenly. I want warmth (its 28 DEGREES RIGHT NOW) I want an agent, a finished manuscript. I want to have all logistical questions about Hawaii answered. I want dada to be earning money in his new biz, hand over fist. I want to take a frigging vacation to Disney World over spring break and hire someone to clean. HA.

[Honestly though, mostly, more than anything, right now?? I want the garage sorted, toys arranged and clothes put away from the Great Bedroom Rearranging of 2014. (You know that point after rearranging bedrooms where the furniture is moved but the resulting MESS is still left. This is where we are right now. And me? NO MORE ENERGY. Please, put yourself away! Where is Molly Weasley when you need her!)]

So, as my daughter sulks about the picture of the princess she tried to draw, blue eyes filled with tears of frustration, pouty lips trembling, what do I do? (Back from the philosophical into the parenting realities, right?) I smooth the crumpled offending princess out, pointing out the bright colors she used, and offer to draw in new eyes (the offending part that got scratched out.)

She smiles.

And I smile.

This, at least, for now, I can soothe.

And, mostly thought, as is with everything in parenting it seems, I can show her. To model it, right? This is what we do. Model calm. Model patient. Model gentle hands, gentle touch. And with too. Because, I too want what I want when I want it. We all wrestle with that, we all struggle with it. And what do we do? How do we model this one? We work. We work towards what we want, slow and steady. Five hundred words a day on my manuscript. An hour here and there, sorting clothes, a sunny afternoon in the garden, hoeing at the soil, cold temperatures be damned.

Another attempt at the princess drawing, and you will get it.

And more than that, the day in and out of life, we will become who we are meant to be, we will, we are, continuing to unfold. "From down below, up up I grow, and spread my leaves, so wide," we say, "and at the top, a little room, from which a lovely flower blooms, and opens to the wide blue sky."

This is parenting. Life too. Guiding these plants as they bloom. Not as gardener, but as a nearby flower, stretching, searching, this leaf uncurling, then that, just a few more summers ahead in the garden that is life.

notice the forced smiles. by the end of this picture taking attempt I was
yelling my face off "JUST ALL SMILE AND HOLD STILL,
GOOD GRIEF!!!!!!" ha.

Hey, so, if you don't know Momastery, the amazing Love Wins blog, well, you should. Glennon writes about the messy beautiful life we live on this brutiful planet. So, I am sharing this post on her website as part of her "messy beautiful warriors" project! a blog roll of sorts to share the love with other sister warriors as Glennon celebrates the release of her paperback "Carry on, Warrior," (which I'm excited to read soon!) Click here to find out more about her book. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

spring break, June-style

You know how it is now, as a mom.

Gone are the days where spring break was about beaches in Mexico and shots of tequila. In fact, the thought never crosses our mind.


Spring break is now about work. All of the necessary things to prepare your house for the change of seasons. There is toy rotation, pulling out summer clothes, finding out who needs new shoes (seriously NONE of little man's shoes fit, except his snow boots), putting away boots and snow pants, washing loads of mittens, hats and scarves, finding the screens, washing down windows, random cleaning like sorting out the linen closet, sweeping out the garage.

I'm trying to take it slow, but the list is mounting.

And of course, adding garden and outside things to the list "farm type" things, makes the list even longer. Chicken coop needs mucked. Cold frames need to be fixed, early greens need planted, inside plantings need started, compost heap needs turned over, etc. etc. etc.

But we are slowly tackling the list, while dada goes to spend his time in the home office on contract work. Kind of amazing, to knock on the door to ask where he put the spare tinfoil, instead of sending the texts. Oh, the thousands of texts over the years!

And, of course, the kiddos are "out" of school, so that makes life easier for me, and we are being quite generous with things like lollipops and videos and iPad time.

And the weather. AH the weather. This is the great thing about homeschooling. We waited to have our "spring break" until the weather truly turned. We've been outside for hours upon hours the past two days. Enjoying the balmy 50 degrees. Windows cracked, snow dripping from the eaves.

I have no idea what this post is about.

Kind of life too lately.

I finished my client project and realized at the halfway point I am not really into consulting/client work anymore. Kind of good to realize. Sure a paycheck is nice again (strangely liberating really, hey would you look at that, I CAN earn a dime still!) but...the stress of wondering what other people think of my work was really hard on me this week. I know that sounds kind of wimpy of me. But, in any case...

In any case, its done now. So instead, I push past bad consulting vibes and when the sun hits just right on my table in the afternoon I sit down and write my fun book and have glorious dreams of sending off to a publisher someday.

And I do crafts with the kids (we planted our Resurrection Garden in anticipation of Easter this week!)

And, of course, I organize the shit out of everything.


Nothing is safe.

I paired ALL THE SOCKS IN THE SOCK BASKET LAST NIGHT. This is an amazing accomplishment, fairly close to a miracle really.

I FOLDED ALL THE TOWELS IN THE LINEN CLOSET. Usually we just shove them in there until the closet is near to exploding. Doesn't look as clean as my mom's linen closet but, its as good as its gonna get in this house.

Also, I made the most lovely smelling laundry detergent. (see this post for how I do it) I have been making detergent for years but I've been pretty lazy about it. This batch I actually used a ton of essential oils - lemon, geranium and tea tree oil - and my whole laundry room smells deliciously.

I may even tackle the most embarrassing spot in my house, the full to overflowing tuperware/odds/and/ends cabinet.


And, AND we are doing a grand rearranging of bedrooms in our house. We are giving the girls THEIR OWN ROOM, and little man HIS OWN ROOM. And mama and dada are following through on dreams of claiming the downstairs family room (with wood stove and lovely light) as A MASTER BEDROOM. AHHHHHHH.......its going to be great.

I hope. And of course this means getting baby out of our bed at night. Which may prove challenging, despite the lure of a "princess bedroom" (shudder, but its what they want so...fine.)

Baby, who is 2 1/2 years old, and, as of this morning, pretty much officially potty trained!!! AND THE ANGELS REJOICED! I declare a child potty trained once the poop on the pot happens, and this morning, she says "I need to pee on the pot" and...the deed was done! And for days now...DRY PANTS. I'm amazed.

Wait, so, let me just acknowledge this.



Letting that sink in.


Okay. I'm done.

Of course we still have night time dipes but....that doesn't count in my book.

So, there you have it, spring break week.

Tomorrow we might take the kids for a hike nearby but really I think that is going to be it.

Spring break. Tired mama style.

Alright, that's all I got for a post.

I'm lame lately huh? HA.

Maybe next year we need to do spring break in Disney World. I'm thinking yes. Right? Definitely. HA.

Happy spring!!! May the cleaning/sorting/organizing gods smile on you in benevolence and goodwill! (Me too, m'kay?)

First picnic of the year! 

Reclaiming our cold frame box from the mice who moved in for the winter...eek!

This side yard is begging for fruit trees and a play area and a gazebo...

Poor garden...

Photos of the rearranged house to come. When it's not a total disaster!!!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

getting by

I wish I could say my lack of writing here lately was because of some inspiring reason...Cleaning my house top to bottom! Homeschooling prowess that would make Mary Pride envious! (You homeschoolers know who I mean, right?) Writing day in an out like a true novelist in the making!

But no.

Instead I am in this mode...  GETTING BY.

You Northerners will know what I am talking about with this post.

There comes a point in early spring where the snow predictions (up to a foot by Friday!) and the in between days of dripping eaves, mud trekked into the house, lost mittens, wet boots, etc become a daily grind, slowly wearing you down until...You reach this point. NOT CARING.

And right now. I am in that mode. I am getting by. Doing bare minimum. You hungry kid? Get a banana. (She did just have lunch an hour ago.) Floors need washed? Eh. Writing however blossoms in this mode for me. ESCAPISM. Writing fiction is escapism in its finest. Those characters  (for the most part, HA) DO AS THEY ARE TOLD. They obey. HA. Perhaps being a writer is all about some cosmic need of control?


Okay, I am laughing at myself. Do you see this weird mood???


In any case. I have all kinds of big thoughts lately, swirling and whirling. On the sisterhood of mothering. On our need for place in it all. And when its all settled down I will write more inspiration type things here. Also, I need to write about the fiveyear old girl child. A most perplexing creature who lately has been spouting off things like "BECAUSE I WANT WHAT I WANT" when I ask what is wrong with her. Ah yes. Wanting what we want. I know that crabby-ness too.

For now, this is what you get. HA.

How about this for entertainment to make up for the lame post?

(The beginning sweetness of this video -which led to irritating big kid antics- was followed by multiple attempts to capture the wit and adorableness that is my children but swiftly devolved into me stamping my foot and yelling at boy for sticking his face in the camera with his tongue out and at little miss for screaming lyrics at her sister. I will refrain from sharing them. But do be assured, they happened. And life rolls on, right?? HA. I wasn't even going to show this one - mainly due to said irritating big kid antics - but then I figured...REAL...I am about REAL in this space. You guys appreciate that, right? ) (ps baby is screaming at me at the end because I was holding her slipper which she MUST wear to dance. ONE slipper. Of course. Because, why? Because, two years old. That's why. You know?)



Saturday, March 29, 2014


Different. This is how life feels lately.

Dada quit his job, after years of talking about it, and is going out into the world of self-employment. Which means....what exactly?

Well, exactly.

Different. Different is what it means.

It means no more weeks on end of 12 hour days all week, mama and babies. It means running at noon and writing at 4pm when the sun hits my dining room perfectly and I just want to WRITE but too often I am stuck doing XYZmommyness instead.

And not every day will this magic happen. But its possible, it COULD happen, and that is the gloriousness of it you know?

And then, yesterday I tell dada, "hey, this lady nearby is selling her goat milking equipment" (milking stand, milk pail, filters, books, etc) and I am like, "hey, we should buy it," and he's all like, "sure, lets buy it." So today he goes to pick it up and comes back talking about buying goats after he gets some fencing up this summer. THIS SUMMER.


My city born dada wears plaid shirts, chops wood like a boss, with an axe, and is now a small town/country lawyer and just agreed to buy goats.


And I am still writing my book, and I am going to finish it. Soon.


And baby is actually potty training. And, you know, not actually a baby anymore.

And this too means different.

And then other, not good different. My April Hawaii teaching gig has been postponed. Not good different, but, understandable different. And my whole "lets do some contract consulting work from home" idea is proving challenging, juggling kids and homeschool and noise and chickens and wood for the stove and...(okay goats will probably do me in but, you know, GOATS.)


So, good different, not so good different. Different all around.

And its weird.

And even, yes, the hair is different. I had a dream about re-dreading my hair the other night, and it was such a relief, in dreamland, to have them again, hiding once more in my "different-ness."

And so, here we are. Different, somewhat exposed, ready, even expecting for all the what-ifs to come crashing down, juggling balls dropped to the ground in defeat, and what have you.

So. What to do with that mood. Well, you know, I do what I do, which is NOT different. Type out a post, exposed and all, nurse baby while typing (wondering when THAT will be different) and watch the icicles dripping outside, foretelling of a new season in life.

So, I'm not usually one for selfies (though we all know I am not shy about them...I don't want to end up one of those
moms who is behind the camera and has NO record of her life with her any case...) I took this picture and
1) I LOOK OLD. hello wrinkles. really? 2) really? this is me?? Huh. okay then.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

waiting, waiting, waiting

Waiting, for spring of course.

This is me. June. I write about my kids, cooking attempts, cleaning the house, attempts at being a professional and...the WEATHER.

Because I am boring like that.


But this is the melting time of year. One day. MELT. Next day. ICE COLD. Next day. MELT MORE. DRIP DRIP DRIP. And you think, this is it, we are done, mud and brown ugly grass here we come, then 6-8 inches of the fluffy white stuff hits you in your smug March face. HA. Just kidding! Here, have another single digit temperature day while we're at it.

Mean King Winter.

My kids totally talk about King Winter, how he is battling with the Sun King right now for who gets to be in charge. Then someday, hopefully soon, Old King Winter will pack his bags and leave for his ice palace in the north (but we ARE the north mama, little man wails, OH NO!) and then the Sun King will come, and caress the little seed babies who have slept all winter in their snug little beds, and the rain will come and wash the snow away and up, up, up, the green things will come.

Really MOM??

Yes, I promise baby.

Here is the adorable story I told the kids recently about the brave little snowdrop flower poking up through the snow and wind.



C. S. B. Adapted from Hans Christian Andersen.
The snow lay deep, for it was winter time. The winter winds blew cold, but there was one house where all was snug and warm. And in the house lay a little flower; in its bulb it lay, under the earth and the snow.

One day the rain fell and it trickled through the ice and snow down into the ground. And presently a sunbeam, pointed and slender, pierced down through the ground and tapped on the bulb.

"Come in," said the flower.

"I can't do that," said the sunbeam; "I'm not strong enough to lift the latch. I shall be stronger when the spring time comes."

"When will it come spring?" asked the flower of every little sunbeam that rapped on its door, but for a long time it was winter. The ground was still covered with snow, and every night there was ice in the water. The flower grew quite tired of waiting.

"How long it is!" it said. "I feel quite cramped. I must stretch myself and rise up a little. I must lift the latch, and look out, and say 'good morning' to the spring."

So the flower pushed and pushed. The walls were softened by the rain and warmed by the little sunbeams, so the flower shot up from under the snow, with a pale green bud on its stalk and some long, narrow leaves on either side. It was biting cold.

"You are a little too early," said the Wind and the Weather, but every sunbeam sang "Welcome," and the flower raised its head from the snow, and unfolded itself—pure and white, and decked with green stripes. It was weather to freeze it to pieces—such a delicate little flower—but it was stronger than any one knew. It stood in its white dress in the white snow, bowing its head when the snowflakes fell and raising it again to smile at the sunbeams. And every day it grew sweeter.

"Oh," shouted the children, as they ran into the garden, "see the snowdrop! There it stands so pretty, so beautiful—the first, the only one!"
our nature table dressed for spring with a little root baby and a snowdrop
(made by yours truly)

really simple to make, but kinda sweet and cute

through spring and summer we will work on new nature books combining science/nature studies and art
(and writing!) we just did another page today of robin's eggs in a nest in watercolor. LOVE THIS.

little man copying my flower diagram

school room diagram

little miss version. also with seed baby nearby. :)

and then it snows....

so we read.

and sit right here with tea.

and read more (he's amazingly proficient these days. apparently I can teach someone to love reading. WHO KNEW?)
AND little miss can now easily read simple words. YAY.

and we play.

bear sleepy in his den. is it spring yet? no? back to sleep.

and then it warms up.
so we go outside to do some of this.

and this (eating SNOW ICE CREAM. it was truly gross to me but she loved it...milk, powdered sugar, vanilla and SNOW)

and we do this.

and this. (she actually fell asleep here. in the snow and puddles. water dripping from the deck onto her face.)

a little more cozy of a spot.

but then its cold again. so we come in and do more of this.
and some this (bead stringing, excellent busy work for busy toddler hands)

and play made up board games

my cozy crew

and mama puts up spring decorations

and we hope for a rainbow soon!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

on perspective and getting little man to sleep

As a baby little man was such a, er, challenging, sleeper. Mommy friends would eye the wild look on my face, my sighs, my chugging coffee, and say "um, so how is he sleeping?" They soon learned not to ask.

He was a hall walker. Or we were rather. Up and down the halls, for hours. I would nurse him and instead of falling to sleep like my other babies. He would just stare at me. "Hi Mom. Thanks for the milk. Now what's on our agenda??" And at first yes, I was trying to "schedule him" till I threw that out the window. I had an excel spreadsheet. Do I not seem like that type of parent? Oh yes, yes I did. I tracked his naps. His feedings. His poops. No seriously. You can laugh. I totally did this. But after awhile, once I trashed the tracking, it was clear. Child just didn't like going to sleep. This is about when we caved to the co-sleeping, which I fought against even as he was older. MAMA JUST NEEDS TO SLEEP. His little cocooned self tucked in my arm, finally, I did.

Then as a toddler we tried to push the pack and play. Maybe he could just play in there, like other kids, until he falls asleep? Don't some kids do that? NOT MINE. Ha. The first (and only) time I tried this move he looked at me like "What do you think YOU are doing?" Night night baby, time for sleep, lay down. Confusion. "You are going to shut the door and LEAVE ME HERE?? Hells NO!" Commence screaming. And mommy runs in, holds his hand, night night baby, lay down in your nice bed. I will hold your hand. Go to sleep. This was attempted ONCE. And never again. More typically it was both mama (who was expecting sister at this point) and dada lying exhausted on our bed while little man did silly dances, jumped, and was all around crazy until he would collapse into a ball of used up energy, and then fall asleep.

For years even after he was a baby we had to lay with him in his bed. Tell him his story about his mini action figures rescuing animals in distress (my specialty) or about his two bears Charlie and Alexander and their adventures with Curious George. Then there was the singing. For months it was that holiday bell song "Hark how the bells!" over and over and over.

And then the magic moment. His eyes would close. His breathing would get deep. And he was out. Sigh of relief. Kiss on the cheek. Parent performs the ninja roll off of his bed, tucking hands under the covers. Sweet Jesus. We did it. He's asleep!

Ah. The joys of parenting an intense kid.

Somewhere around five it changed. Bedtime. "AW MOM" Come on, go get in bed. "FINE" stomp stomp. Tuck boy in. Kiss. Song. Prayers. Walk away. He falls asleep ON HIS OWN.

It comes and goes in cycles though. The past week or so he has fairly much insisted every night that he must lay in our bed to fall asleep. Which means mama or dada picks up his gangly 7 year old self and hauls him into his upper bunk bed. (Kid is HEAVY) And of course, it is not ideal.

"But WHY?" I say to him last night after we finished our nightly reading (mama was doing solo bedtime). Both girls asleep on my lap. Mama eager to tuck sisters into the big bed (they sleep better when someone else is there, then little miss gets moved to her own bunk later) and drink some tea and watch some Netflix or just stare at the ceiling IN SILENCE.

Eyes well with tears. Little foot stamps in rage.

"Buddy. WHY? You used to sleep in your own bunk just fine!"

"I just want my mom!" was all the explanation I could get out of him. Fists balled up in anger. Tired eyes full of tears.

I sigh - and not a patient calm sigh. A crabby mama sigh.

"FINE. Okay, okay, go get in my bed. I will be there in a minute." Little girls get carried to the bed too. Tucked in. Arranged. Some discussion follows about WHERE little man is sleeping. I fold up my glasses and climb into bed next to him, impatient, upset at myself for being impatient (you know that spiral, right??).

But then. Oh, then. He curls up on his side, I curl up on mine. We face each other. His little expression melts into a peaceful one, he reaches out to hold my hand. Mama. And I watch him. My big boy. Who can carry on a conversation that holds the interest of adults, read a book, write in cursive, feed our chickens, make a cup of tea. My big boy, as he closes his eyes, becomes my baby again. His face soft and happy.

I kiss his forehead, and it hits me. Not too many more years left of wanting to cuddle mom to sleep. Not too many more years of "sing to me mama." And while I have hopes he won't be a stinky teenage boy who is repulsed by his parents affection, well, things will change.

And for now, as I have the chance, watching his still baby like face drift off to sleep is a precious moment. His dark lashes batting up and down to make sure I'm still next to him. Smiling when he sees me looking down, still there.

And his breathing deepens and his eyelashes finally stay down and I do the ninja roll, tucking him in (sisters too) and I feel like I have been given a gift, a chance to see for a second, The Big Picture of parenting. That it goes so fast. That I love his so much. That each moment, each frustrating, hall-walking, song-singing, please-dear-god-let-him-fall-asleep moment, is precious.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

right now

Right now.

Music playing.

Dishes with princess.

Kitchen window framed with icicles.

Snow melting in drips all around.

Fire blazing in the woodstove.

Kids playing Monopoly.

Mama sipping hot, strong, sugary tea.

Clearing off counters.

Ticking off to do lists.

And all in all.

In love.


mr. ramsbottom, the snowman


yes, that is snow up to Ayla's armpit

little man is toothless these days

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