Friday, July 24, 2015

The Bigger the Book Bag...

We walk into the library, twins in the stroller, a boy on either side, and tell the librarian that we have books on reserve. They don't even ask for our name any more. They know it's us. We're the ones leaving with half the contents of the bookshelves.

On each of our weekly visits to the library, we have been accompanied by our trusty book bag, a gift from our old library. Every week, we shove dozens of books into its canvas expanse, the braided straps pulling taut under the weight of covers and pages and ink. For as long as Tiny has been alive (which isn't really saying much), we've been toting our weekly reading in that bag.

It's had a good long life. And now, preparing to breathe it's last, we are retiring it.

This month...I bought a new book bag.

For those of you who think a designated library book bag is an extravagance, I beg to differ. We have other bags. That's not the point. But our library books live in that bag. We take a book out to read, we put it back in. It's the only way I manage to keep from losing books. I have a friend who has a shelf set apart for their library books. Unfortunately, due to the Man's and my assiduous book buying skills and the fact that we seem to lose a book shelf with every move, we're already rather short on shelf space. The bag system works. It also enables me to move library books from one room to another with little effort.

So, needless to say, I put a lot of thought into our new bag. It had to be sturdy. And it had to be at least the size of a small child.

After a little digging, I found what I was looking for and went ahead and ordered on Amazon. It arrived just in time for my flurry of summer reading (I've got to get my kicks in before Littles' starts school again). Considering that we get out about two dozen books each trip and we're at the library almost every week, it's proving a good investment.

And if I suddenly and mysteriously decide I hate books and no longer want to spend a good chunk of my free time at the most wonderful place on earth (where you can get free books), I can always recycle it by using it to tote the twins around from one place to the next.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Ants of August

July is seeping out under the door and with it summer. I told the Little Man we'd take two months off from school, June and July, and because I am both lazy and a woman of my word, we have done so. With aplomb. Other high achieving homeschool moms have already gotten things rolling, but not me. It's kindergarten: why rush? There are cars to be played with and beaches to explore and lazy mornings around the house.

More later about the bag Blythe is sitting on...

I did, however, finally order curriculum last week, and somehow doing so has triggered my inner nerd. No amount of the Man telling me how long it will take to arrive can keep me from checking the mail multiple times a day. Something within me has kick started and I want to sharpen an entire box of yellow number two pencils. That, in turn, makes me think of You've Got Mail, which is totally beside the point. The point being: my inner nerd is a bit antsy.

Bruiser has a good arm.

The antsy-ness is a wonderful thing (why is "antsy-ness" not a word?). I transformed two old baby blankets into floor pillows, thereby ridding myself of three of the last four hideously ugly throw pillows that came with the couch (waste not, want not). Also, fabric glue is my new best friend. I finally reattached the toggle that fell off the wind chimes two months ago. And yesterday, the boys and I dug out from behind their bunk bed half a deck of cards, three stuffed animals, one sippy cup, and sundry bits of trash that were mostly book shreds (Tiny is a picker), random bits of tape, and a discarded band aid or two. That felt good. Oh, and I rearranged our tables.

Floor pillows make everyone happy.

And let me just say, happiness is a checked off To Do list. It is also finding your driver's license that Bruiser stole from your wallet and promptly threw away. Said happiness was greatly heightened by the fact that I had already gone through the trash twice before I finally found it...but that's another story.

Normally there is no bike in the dining room, but the cat in the laundry basket happens fairly often.

Side note: Bee would say that happiness is hiding under the dust ruffle of Bruiser's crib and giggling hysterically when we pretend like we can't find her even though her foot is still sticking out from under the bed.

Bed-head and pilfered breakfast grapes. What could be more fun?

At any rate, there's something in the air. What is it about in-coming August that makes me antsy? Not antsy in a "something's got to change" fashion but antsy with the desire to work hard and make something beautiful with what I've been given.

Do you ever feel the same way?

Thursday, July 16, 2015


I ordered curriculum for the Little Man's next school year today. I also took both the big boys to the dentist, which somehow they enjoyed more than normal people should. Bee comes equipped with a stand up ponytail these days, and both twins are expanding their vocabulary by the day. Everyone is growing up, and they refuse to stop, even when I ask nicely, which I have to say is not very loving of them.

Anyway, you don't need another post about how "the days are long, but the years are short", no longer how true it may be, but I have been thinking about that lately.

The concept of quickly passing time has been resonating with me even more as last week we got news of our next duty station. Though orders are not yet in hand and we've known from day one when we'd be moving out, something has shifted and the clock has started ticking, whether I like it or not. I know this because I've started list making: things we want to do before we leave, ways to make Christmas fun while moving halfway across the country, and yes, what to pack where.

And yet, how badly I desire to not rush this. There are still friends to make, relationships to savor, routines to enjoy. Every morning I look out our windows and say, "How did I get this view?" The every day must happen, but with it comes the chance to truly relish where we are right now, and I don't just mean where, but when. This moment won't come around twice.

On my list of "things to do before we leave", sandwiched in between a day trip to the redwoods and more time at the beach, are these two words: stay engaged.

It is so easy to check out early. To be mentally planning where everything is going to fit in the trailer before it's even in the driveway. I mean this literally and metaphorically. And I'm not just applying it to the move.

We're only going to be in this house for 5 more months. I want to enjoy these beautiful windows and the brilliant blue bay in the distance. I want to say thank you for the closet space and the scratched up floors where we've played cars and had tea parties. I want to make the short walk to the commissary and the playgrounds as often as possible and be so glad that I don't have to get in the car for a few minutes of fun or a can of fire roasted tomatoes.

More importantly, I'm only going to get these relationships for the next five months. Sure, "in the Air Force, we don't say good bye; we say see you later", but a lot of these friends are not "see you laters", and I know that. I want to learn from them while I can. I want to bless them while I have the chance. I want to stay engaged.

In the same way, the kids are only going to be this age for so long and I'm only going to have a student-husband for another few months. I want to notice when Bee's ponytail tickles my nose. I want to pay attention every time Bruiser makes me reread Muddy Trucks (and all the times I make Littles read it to him instead). I want to snuggle Tiny before he gets too big for my lap even when he's digging his elbows into me. I want to pay attention to each one of the last few moments of Littles actually being little before they slip through my fingers unaware. I want to take advantage of the fact that the Man gets to be home.

Sometimes it's easy to check out early. To count the hours until bed time. To zone out as we go through the same things day after day: the same meals, the same books, the same tantrums. It's easy to dream about someday when things will be different and forget how wonderful now actually is.

I don't want that to be me. So, on my permanent to do list: stay engaged.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Morning Reminders

I've been trying to up my running game lately. This means getting up before the kids and getting Trigger on the leash before his excitement wakes up the entire house. The twins have been sleeping better the last couple months since the Man finally talked me into letting him man the night shift, so, on what has somehow become a regular basis, I've been rolling out of bed and slipping into running shoes.

I haven't run this much since college when I messed up my knee. And it's great. I'm not talking so much about the running (although I'm a dork and I do enjoy it), but the early morning quiet and the time to pray and the chance to allow my introverted self to start my day with a bit less of a bang is amazing.

I'm not going to lie, though, my favorite part of running here is being on the look out for the wildlife. Monterey is fun like that. My first couple runs I saw this incredibly fat hawk that was walking around like a rooster because it was almost too chubby to fly. I've seen deer and rabbits and squirrels. One time, my sister and I even saw a coyote. And on the days I run down by the shore, I've seen pods of whales just out past the breakers.

It's hard to beat whales, let's be honest, but the hummingbirds come in a close second. There's just something about the whisper-flash of iridescent green. They are ephemeral. They remind me of the kingfishers from home who joined me on my morning runs in high school. 

Years ago, when I ran on an orange track in the shadow of a volcano, one of my dear aunt-friends told me that my kingfisher sightings were one of God's ways of telling me how much he loved me.

Now, half a world away, the hummingbirds tell me the same thing.

That's worth getting out of bed in the morning.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Summer Reading (Happened So Fast)

In case you've been wondering what's keeping my brain occupied lately, I thought I'd share a few of the books I've been plowing through lately with an accompanying blurb or two:

Everyone in the family enjoys a good book.
Everyone enjoys piling on top of the Man to read a good book.
  • Cress (The Lunar Chronicles) by Marissa Meyer :: Sci-fi and retold fantasy done right. How rarely do those words come out of my mouth? And somehow,  I found myself completely unprepared for the cliffhanger at the end, which means book four needs to come soon. If I was the type of person who pre-ordered books (or allowed my husband to pre-order books for me...cough, cough), I'd consider preordering book four.
  • Tales of a Female Nomad by Rita Golden Gelman :: Otherwise known as "things not to do as a woman traveling solo". I enjoyed coming along on her journey--but I wouldn't have wanted to do so with her in person. It was nice to visit Indonesia and brush up on my bahasa though.
  • Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver :: Possibly one of my favorite reads this year. Informational and challenging without being guilt-inducing.  Unfortunately, now I really want Littles to have his own backyard vegetable garden to which I'll have to avoid so that I don't accidentally kill it. Incidentally, this book gave me the final push into my farmers market addiction.
  • A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg :: Poignant and entertaining. I love a good food memoir. Too much cheese though. Literal cheese, not metaphorical. "Cheese, me no likey." This is why I can never survive long term in France, because at some point I'd have to stop surviving off crepes and join the rest of the population in their cheese fetish.
  • Rules by Cynthia Lord :: YA fiction that actually helped me see life through someone else's eyes. This was a quick read (three hours, tops), and well worth my time. I'm placing it up with Wonder by R. J. Palacio on my suggested reads for pre-teens list (if I had such a list).
  • Revival and Resistance (The Variant Series) by Jena Leigh :: Pure fluff, but fun fluff. If you're an X-men fan or dabble in super-heroes, these are entertaining and even occasionally funny. Warning: there's a massive cliff hanger at the end of Resistance and no news as to when book three is coming along.
Everything about this screams "summer "to me...
even the upside down book.

So, yeah, now I'm several chapters into Muriel Babery's The Elegance of the Hedgehog which has been on my reading list for quite some time. I think I went a little crazy the first week of Littles' "summer break"...reliving the glory days of my summer vacations when all I did was eat, sleep, and read until school started again. For some odd reason, that's not really a long term, sustainable option nowadays.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Happiness Follow Up

When I was staying with one of my favorite aunts before the Man and I got married (she's now the kids' god-Aunt), she and I would make happiness lists on the kitchen chalkboard. Sometimes I like to continue the tradition on my own. It's a good way to get a snapshot of where I am and what I'm finding joy in. Or, as Ann Voskamp would say, it's a good way to count gifts.

I thought I would share today's list with you after the last post about happiness, and maybe (but I'm not holding my breath) you'll come back and share with me a few things that have made you smile lately too.

So for today, happiness is:
  • Littles asking me if I can make "homemade bacon". Did we not just finish reading Charlotte's Web?
  • The Man reading baseball books to the boys on the front porch while the sun dips into the golden bay.
  • The twins' full throated laughter as they play with Blythe. The accidental scratches have not put them off one bit.
  • Curling up in a chair with a cup of coffee and a good book (or two). Summer reading has been derailing the blog. The twins prefer to curl up on the playground with a side of wood chips.
  • Sharing a piece of coconut cream pie.
  • Introducing my kids to favorite friends and discovering that everyone automatically loves everyone else. In an Anne's House of Dreams reference, everyone was just so race of Joseph-y.
  • First hair cuts, even if they had to be retouched when we got home.
  • Beginner piano books for my beginning pianist that are as yet unused. I should probably do something about that.
  • Guerrilla legos. There is danger in the house plants.
  • Smiling tulips and talking snapdragons. 
  • Cats purring in counterpoint. There is a feline symphony in our bed at night.
  • Tiny sleeping in striped, winter gloves and the twins just sleeping period.
There are so many beautiful moments that bring joy if we can only look for them. I rush through them too often and miss them--I'm not talking about actual busyness, but the idea that there's something else (somewhere) that matters more than the simple moments that really define me.

May we remember this weekend that we have no good apart from God, and that there are beautiful gifts overflowing from the cup He has given us if only we are willing to look for them.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Coffee, Farmers Markets, and Slow Art

Over the past few weeks, I've begun frequenting a farmer's market in the area. I tote all the kids with me, and we go and buy the essentials: fruit and flowers, with the occasional loaf of bread or vegetable thrown in for good measure. I make the kids help me pick the produce and then hand the cash to the sellers and count their change.

Going to the farmer's market has quickly become one of my favorite parts of the week. I love the rich earthy scents of fresh produce. I love the vibrant colors. I love that we get to be outside while shopping. I love the educational experience for my kids as they learn what things cost and that they don't come packaged in plastic but maybe with a little dirt on them. I love that the sellers are gracious with our family as I maneuver the twins' stroller between parsnips and radishes and Bruiser tries to steal some of everything the second my back is turned to help Littles' with the money.

Most of all though, I love that it makes me slow down.

I told you that the Man and the kids gave me a french press coffee mug for Mother's Day--or maybe I didn't tell you, but the point is that they did. We've been doing Keurig coffee for the last year and a half, and while I appreciate that I can make a cup of coffee while juggling screaming twins, I've missed real coffee and I've missed the experience of brewing my own cup: slowly, methodically, with pride and care.

Anyone can jam a plastic cup into a machine and push a button--and there's no shame in that--there are seasons. But sometimes we forget that food (and coffee) is meant to be more than just a check mark along the way. Feeding ourselves, and I mean this in more than just a literal sense, is supposed to be art. And by nature, art must be purposeful. Art must be made with care. Art must be created in a culture of slowness.

I cannot slow down everything in my life. It's just not practical. But I can pick and choose the areas where I want to use a little more care. I still have the occasional mug of decaf that I didn't grind and brew by hand. I still do the bulk of our shopping at Costco and the commissary. Maybe one day I will have the time and money so that I don't have to.

But for right now, it's enough that I can take a little step towards purposefulness and slowing down and art and allow my family do so alongside me.

Smell this. Taste that. Look at these. I want those words to be in my family's lexicon. That only happens when I make the choice to slow and enjoy the bounty God has given, whether that be fresh ground coffee beans or a handful of lavender Tiny just paid 6 quarters for.