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.