Saturday, December 31, 2011

A creative year: 2011

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This year we became four, when we met the most exhausting little beauty with wild eyes. After many months (6 or 7), I felt like I had finally grasped being a mother of two. Two children who are so opposite that I can’t even begin to tell you how, except that I haven’t sleep through the night since 2010 and I have never been needed so very much.  Having both of them here is my favorite and my greatest challenge to date.

And somehow in the midst of this, I remained sane because of art and the great life-giving, calming, energizing power of creativity.  I learned to paint before washing the dishes and write before sweeping the floor.  And by doing this, I found enough strength to carry out the long list of responsibilities with my name on it.  I left the house once a week all by myself.  I wrote my thoughts, my prayers, and dreams in the hours after those children were sound asleep.  I took nap time for myself.   I was unbothered by this idea of having to have everything so perfect, and choose simplicity and peace instead.  Strangely, the year of great exhaustion was also my most creative.

Truthfully, the year was long and often lonely, as good friendships here are few, but I can’t help but notice that this season was more about collecting invaluable lessons within myself and practicing gratitude for the magically, common everyday.  It was about taking long breaths and realizing that the often intense demands of motherhood can be done as an act of worship, and thus the hours of each day can be spent in connection with the one who supplies all our needs and is strong when we are not.  It was about finding contentment on the water’s edge, when there were so many questions about being here and what is next.  It was about scribbling down the tender moments of quiet mornings or sweet goodnight hugs and silly antics.

We chased after a dream and felt it was the right to begin and together used our creativity to work turning, wouldn’t it be great into we’re really doing it.

Nothing ever happens how we think it will,  and really, do we still believe that silly old myth, because past the long hours, the nights spent dreaming of sleep, and the restless within,  I can’t consider the past twelve months without a recognizing a sense of great accomplishment. It may look small and humble, but in a way, it’s been pretty huge.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

it’s art and

It’s a love song. A prayer. An act of worship. A place to meet God. The declaration of a dream. The whisper of my heart. An offering of gratitude. A tribute. An ode.

To the creator, with love.



Inspired by.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

how creativity actually does keep you sane



"I began to notice that when I was able to fit a bit of creating into my day, I was more centered, at peace, and fulfilled.  All those things make me a calmer, more patient, and more mindful parent.  My needs were getting met, and I was therefore able to meet the needs of my children even better. Creativity quickly became an essential requirement."
- Amanda Soule, The Creative Family.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The language I understand

This video. Can not stop watching, the wonder overwhelms me, the magic races through me and I feel as if I need to paint forever until I have captured it all and then instantly, start again.

I want to live there and I want my every morning ritual to be this, to wake up and take in its beauty, to breath in the aroma of pure, fresh air, and to revel in the creator who must dwell in this place, yes, in all places of course, I know this, but here I imagine, He favors and one can always feel Him in the cool mountain air and in the dancing, falling water, and in the jagged rise and fall of the rocks set against the endless blue.

It reminds me of the film Where the Wild Things Are and that one moves me like no other.  How is it that certain things speak to us so?  Like we are foreigners in a strange place, but in a sea of people, we alone speak the same tongue.

Beauty, wonder, mystery, marvel, meaning, awe, art, life, God.  The language I understand.

 

Linking up with Just Write.

Monday, December 19, 2011

the date.

On Friday night he came home from work, a long 60 hour week, the usual kind, and with our daughter in his arms, the one who demands to be there within one second of him walking in the door, he stood in front of me and said, I have a very important question.  Will you go out with me tomorrow night?  I hesitated only because my thought was, what about those two kids that are always hanging around here. I was then informed that he had arranged for my mom to come and watch the kids.  Well, in that case, my answer, absolutely yes.

Then he handed me a dark chocolate sea salt candy bar.

Saturday evening, after another long day of work for him, he walked in the door holding my favorite flowers.  I mean, alright, husband. I’ll go out with you.

And so it happened that a 8 o’clock in the evening, this old couple ventured out the door, hand in hand, child free. How wild of us. This hour usually finds us sitting on the couch, children in bed, drinking tea or hot cocoa, doing wild things like knitting and reading.  Don’t be fooled, we’re not even eighty.

Our top secret destination was this hidden gem of an Italian restaurant not far from Uptown.  We enjoyed toasted ravioli, chicken fontina with this incredible homemade pasta and beautiful mushroom wine sauce, and then tiramisu, my other true love.  And like kings and queens or just wealthy people who have other people care for their children during meals, we ate slowly and tasted every gorgeous bite of uninterrupted flavor.  The luxury of leisurely eating is finer than gold, because even I have to break my own rule of not holding children while I’m eating, on occasion.  I’m serious about that rule, I am.  Because, my children are lovely and amazing, but a hungry mama is not a happy one and a mother who gets to sit in a chair all alone and drink coffee in the afternoon is the key to a pleasant home. I’m also serious about that.

And thus my handsome husband gave me both of those things on this glorious December evening.  Post dinner, we drove through the weaving roads near Lake Calhoun in search of Christmas lights. And we gazed in the open windows, like any decent person would do and decided that most people have bad art on the walls of their grand homes.

This was also the night were my husband willingly tried on an argyle sweater at the store, and I decided that it wasn’t him.   That sweater stayed at the store, making it officially the first time in history that a husband willingly tried on such a sweater and a wife decided against it.  Let the record show, this happened on December 17, 2011.

All this occurred one crazy, perfect night in December, when a boy asked out a girl, who was already his wife.

Friday, December 16, 2011

a Christmas coat

She won’t remember this Christmas or the presents marked with her name, but perhaps, the first one is for the parents anyways.  Because it only takes one breath to instantly forget what life was like before them, before those sparkling eyes and wild squeals.  My son, I melt for him, I simply melt. But this girl, I look at her and I feel crazy alive and slightly terrified at the same time.

Last night her brother was drawing on his chalkboard, at a lovely 10 months old, she watched him, picked up a piece of chalk and started drawing like him.  He began to put the chalk back into the cup, piece by piece and she copied, until they were all gathered.  She’s a doer, my girl.  That’s why I’m a perfect blend of awe and terror on most days.  Anyways, look out world, and by world, I mean, me.

And so, for this wild-eyed wonder on her first Christmas.

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The buttons are from the collection saved by my husband’s grandmother, given to me by my mother-in-law, one of my favorite gifts of all time. Tiny white polka dots on a classic red line the inside.  The pattern is the Abbey Jacket from Shwin and Shwin, modified as found here.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

pictures and words

 

I’m kind of all warm and fuzzy inside, because I just finished adding pictures to our 2011 photo book.   It’s pretty amazing, because I’ve never actually finished a photo book. I had all these grand schemes for our wedding album, Hudson’s first year, and so on, but those projects got too in depth and overwhelmed me.  I no longer wanted anything to do with them.

But this time,  I powered through and decided that no words would be allowed, after all don’t pictures already contain thousands?  So, no words and no limited amount of pages.  We’re 80 pages in, folks.  Eighty pages full of tiny moments and big ones too, from this year known as 2011.

The cover alone hold 700 small photos taken on my phone turned in a massive collage. 

And while, I feel rather victorious, I also just relived a year in the life of us. I filled many pages with photos of my newborn baby girl, superfluous amounts to be exact, and nearly as many with my goofy little boy.  I watched the seasons change from winter to spring, and from spring, the sky turned radiantly blue and the water from the lake sparkled in the warm summer air.  The warmth faded into a mosaic of glorious autumn hues and slowly, (thankfully) those colors floated down from the trees leaving bare, spiny trees and a brown earth.  Even today, the rain is erasing any remnants of previous fallen snow, and rain means the temperatures are higher than freezing, glory.  

I clicked and clicked as tiny newborn faces turned into a sitting, crawling, and standing, full of life, wild eyed wonder.  I saw a brother very unsure of this new little creature in his home grow into her favorite playmate and he’s just waiting for the day she will chase him down the hallway as far as she can. I watched a two year old turn three, his imagination soar and his spirit as gentle (and yet, trying) as ever.  I noticed the depth of the reservoirs of a father’s love for his baby girl, with the shiny blue eyes melting him always.  And the way my heart swells when my little boy sinks into my arms. 

As I revisited every walk to the beach, every trip to get ice cream, all the adventures and celebrations, I studied the face of my love, the one who stole my heart.  The guy who I never planned on meeting on that California mountain and now everyday he loves and works so hard for me, for us.  Sometimes, it still catches me off guard, this life, this family we have made, the dreams we are building.  Sometimes, so much so, that I run out of words.

 

Linking up with Heather and all those Just Write folks.

Monday, December 12, 2011

homemade marshmallows

The thing is this, they will change your life.  And I mean that, because you think you like marshmallows, the ones in plastic bags at the store and you think you like them on your hot cocoa, but really, you don’t know.

Because, then you have a homemade marshmallow and you wonder, did I even know what marshmallows were until now?  Nope.

One of my dearest friends and her parents came into town for the weekend and it was amazing.  After a dinner of lasagna and homemade French bread, we stirred milk and three kinds of chocolate on the stove until they melted into perfection.  Then we plopped one of these little guys on top and it slowly formed this creamy, delicious layer of magic. Game changer.

I make them every year, but usually only around Christmas.  They are a perfect gift to give and people will stop and say, I didn’t even know people could make marshmallows.  You don’t forget homemade marshmallows.

Here’s the recipe, enjoy!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

When you only have a little to give

Last night I dreamed of a land that was dark and gloomy, full of 2,3, and 4 am sighs.  A world where parents never sleep and babies woke up crying.  But, then strangely, that dream never ended and here I am in this foggy, foggy world, spending lots of time with this delicious mug of magical, black goodness.

The sun is shining, the sky is blue, and the snow is kind of assaulting my sleepy eyes with a rude brightness, a kind that only people who slept would enjoy, you know the chipper folks.  Yet, somehow the brightness and the blueness are a comfort on this winter morning, telling me that life and fullness is possible, but only if I squint a little bit. 

The truth is today might be long, really long, but right now I will decide that if I only have so much to give, if I only can do one or two things today, there is no competition.

It’s simple and really, they are the sweeter choice, with their hugs and their great interest in being with mommy. I’m pretty much a celebrity around here.  So, I’ll choose them and nothing else.

Much better  than trying to be a  grumpy do it all monster walking around in a haze.

And I cleaned yesterday and who cares if I didn’t.

And we have nowhere to go.

And projects will get done.

So, really, it’s simple. They win.

We’ll pile blankets on the floor and collect all the pillows, because that is a land where no one can be grumpy. 

And in a way, knowing this and doing this means I win too.

 

It’s Tuesday, er, right?  I’m linking up with Heather and the Just Write gang. You can too.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Memories collected in stitches: A Christmas stocking tale

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And one stocking knit by mama makes four.  A {10+ hour} labor of love, of following patterns and making up my own. Every year I’ll notice the imperfections and remember the hours I spent counting stitches and how I learned to turn a heel {sounds like a dance move} and decrease for a toe.  We’ll remember my adoration of all things mustard yellow and grey, of bows and buttons.  Maybe, she’ll share those too or maybe not.

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It’s unlike anything else, just like her and adds a crazy splash of bright, glowing spunk to our family lineup, just as she does.  I studied it late last night as I knit the last stitch, and it puzzles me and it delights me.  I’ve come to learn those are the best kind of creations, but something I could never explain. Maybe you understand.

To knit a stocking is something I’ve always wanted to do and I love that the first one is for her, my girl, on her first Christmas.

I see them all together, the ones we bought our first year as husband and wife (I didn’t know how to knit back them), the one I sewed for our boy from an old sweater and scraps, on our first Christmas as parents, and now…

our first as four.

Is that the reason for the timeless activity, do we knit to create a place for our memories to live?

Four stockings.

Do you have a story about your own Christmas stockings? Please tell me.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Calm and Bright

Last December was our first winter in this land of wintry oppression, known to the greater United States of America as Minnesota.  At this time last year, we were already six weeks buried under countless feet of snow. I think six weeks is the perfect length for winter, incase anyone wanted to take note of that this time around, ahem.  I was also supremely large with child, only eight weeks to go, eager and anxious.  The day after Christmas our car died and we were carless for two months.  Matt was still working two jobs (still is) and relying on the bus system, which took extra hours away from us and meant he faced frigid and inhumane temperatures. And our new baby cried for the first four months of her life.  It was a long winter, literally and figuratively.

Today, I look outside my window and only a light dusting of the second snowfall remains cast upon the brown earth. On most days, I feel like I’ve got a handle on this whole two kids gig, at least 85% of the day.  We’ve implemented a system that includes me leaving the house one afternoon a week all by myself.  No errands, no demands, just a few hours of remembering what it was like to sit in a coffee shop at leisure.  My husband gets an afternoon too, because he needs that time just as much as I do.  It’s the best thing we ever done.  Every night, I’m free writing (morning pages as known in The Artist’s Way).  It’s a season of abundant creativity and I’m so thankful.  On a regular basis, I have tea with a friend and the most encouraging and inspiring conversations, while our kids play. We started a small business this year, and we just completed our first custom family Christmas card.  We’re getting to be part of helping friends grow their families.  We’re investing in a dream that no longer seems far away, as we hold a large stack of printed cards in our hand. On the back, our own names where you’d usually find another.  We’re seeing provisions come in the most unexpected ways.  Last night, we stood in the kitchen at a very late, sleepy hour and acknowledged this first major milestone with Furthermore Creative.  And today, when I paid the last bills of the month, I didn’t grimace or sigh.  There was enough.  Because, he is enough.

I’m knitting a stocking for my baby girl, it will be her first Christmas and my first knit stocking. Today, during her nap, we strung popcorn on a thread to hang on the tree. Mostly, my helper ate the popcorn and sipped hot cocoa, heavy on the marshmallows. And tonight, the evening is ours. We’ll tuck our babies into bed at a ridiculously early hour (because it’s already dark and we love them and our time alone) and catch up on our favorite Thursday shows, that we always watch on Friday nights, by the light of the fire and this week, the peaceful glow of that silly little tree in the corner.

I think of the words, “All is calm, all is bright.” and I wonder if the calm is more than a description of the manager scene. Is it also an offering of thanksgiving, a story of peace and contentment, an acknowledgement of love and hope? I think, maybe yes.

All is calm. All is bright.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Mixed and Matched and Magical

2011 pt

Woke up the a world frosted in snow, must be December.  It adds a little something to the bare spiny trees.  I love bare spiny trees, but you knew that.  Last night, we bought our Christmas tree, a small one again, because of the baby Godzilla who lives in our home.  A tree skirt would be ripped off in 2.5 seconds.  I daresay she might just try to scale that evergreen if it was on her level. 

We bought the cheapo stand our first year and every year since, that darling man has declared in exasperation how we must get a better tree stand next year.  We never do.  Maybe that’s what he wants for Christmas?  After busting out the drill and some twine, our stand is secured, but I wouldn’t bet my life that it won’t probably fall.  That darling, she’s a force to be reckoned with,  behind those beautiful, sparkly eyes.

It’s small, of course, and maybe a cousin of the Charlie Brown variety, but I love it, imperfect things have a way of sneaking into my heart and creating cozy memories.  Is perfect a  real achievable thing after all? Because a baby was on the floor discovering a strand of white lights for the first time and  we were pulling all the ornaments out of the shoe boxes, remembering all over again.  We listened to Perry Como and Frank Sinatra croon their carols. Hudson cried hysterically that the wooden Santa train, boat, and plane were not toys, but then he got to decide where they went and all was well. He picked them out last year, as our tradition goes of buying a handful of new ornaments every December.  Always remember to write the year on the bottom so that 80 years down the road we’ll know, but I could tell you right now the story behind each one.  The items topped with string, wooden and shiny, a tiny collection built each year, just like our family, our love, and our dreams.

And you better believe there is no pre-determined color scheme, just the one of life.

Mixed and matched and magical.