Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The View From Here {Gatherings}

At the risk of being entirely too corny, I bring you our gathering round the ole Christmas tree. This week over at gogovivi, the photo theme of the week is {Gatherings}. There have been several of those over the Thanksgiving weekend, which also included a birthday, but somehow the pictures ended up being more of the food and less of the people gathered. I agree with my friend that part of this is due to the fact that it just feels annoying to be sticking your camera in people's faces all day. It was enough that I made them all pause and back away for a few minutes to let me snap away before they dove, headfirst into the pies.

But the tree all lit up and bedazzling to little eyes was not hard to capture. So entranced were these little ones that they seemed barely aware of my existence, except when they had to ask for one (who will remain nameless) unruly child to be removed from stepping on all their ornament piles, or when they wanted to know if THIS, TODAY was Christmas Eve because it seemed so special (and have asked every day since). 

For me, being so far away and so separated from all the beauty of the Christmas season makes it feel almost more important to do the few little things we can. In many ways, I appreciate being removed and distant, and in many ways, I wish we weren't so far away. More on that tomorrow, I think. Regardless if it is easy or not, I  love creating the atmosphere of delight and wonder for my children... it spreads I tell you.

And just so you don't think I'm trying to only share my perfect little rosy moments with you, I give you proof that there is plenty of real life mixed in here! 

We whine and fight, refuse to listen and get frustrated with each other. But in many ways, this makes the celebration all the more sweet. For the people living in darkness have seen a great light...

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Firstborn as Trailblazer, Me as Sappy Mom.

I waited for him, stuffing my face full of turkey and potatoes and a piece or two of pumpkin pie. Six short years ago, I waited, with my sides bursting and my skin stretched taut like an air balloon so full it's rubbery skin becomes almost transparent. But he knew I didn't want to miss the most famous meal of the year, so he made me wait.

He was the first to make me a mother. And I told him, he is also the first to make me the mother of a six year old. Should I take a class? Is there a manual? I've never been the mother of a six year old before. He looked worried, and a little proud. This is his lifelong role, to lead us into unseen waters, to take us where we as parents have never gone before. I think he feels a bit like a real life version of Luke Skywalker, the young hero who must learn from his master but is bound to lead because of his bravery and untapped skill. Follow me into six year old land, he says. And then, a little concerned, do you really not know what to do?

Well, I know to make pancakes even though you didn't ask for them. And I knew to get you a chapter book of your very own, even though you've never read one before. And you're already on page twenty one. And sometimes that seems to be just about all I know. 

But, yes, I know other people to go to for wisdom and I know to spend time on my knees. And I know I'm terribly proud of you but too often worry about being embarrassed. I know that most of what you're good at has little to do with me, and I have to remember the same is true for most of what you struggle with. I'm a shaper and a mentor, a guardian and a nurturer, but I'm not your Creator nor am I the keeper of your soul. 

But you, being six, think little about all these things, though I wouldn't be surprised if you did. Your mind, like a maze of whirring gears, is tuned in to every detail and step of reasoning. I think you would have made an excellent addition to the Enlightenment. But here you are in post-modernity, and with a mother who wants you to be free from all its trappings. You're so resilient though. Making light savers out of wooden sticks and DS's out of cardboard cut outs. 

And yes, you're six, sitting there with your hair falling wet on your slowly thinning face. Your profile sending flashes of what I may be looking at in ten or twenty years. Can we stop? Can you sit just like this and help me drink in every six year old moment? The questions you ask and the way you fly about kicking balls against every surface of the house and gobbling plates full of food, taking your sister for rides and shouting kung fu orders at your brother, can you help me remember these moments when they are gone? 

I love you getting older, I love every new minute of you being so enamored with your six year old self. It's no small deal, making it this far. I'm trying my best to keep up with you, to remember my place and to remember yours, and to delight in the every day we have together. You made me wait for you, remember? So now return the favor and be patient with me as you blaze down this trail of growing up much too fast. 

Friday, November 26, 2010

Not to be Overlooked

Early morning Turkey Walk traditions.
Darkness and quiet before the day begins.
Little boys who can climb mountains.
A son who turns six and asks for a spice cake.

A mountain at the edge of a crowded, bustling city.
A city at the edge of a sparkling expanse of sea.
Coffee kept hot in a thermos.
Turkey roasting hot in an oven.

Friends near and far.
Family, so very far. 
Grace, so near.

A day of food and togetherness.
The load shared, and the absence of stress.
The comfort of the familiar even when nothing is how it used to be.

Cool websites with amazing recipes and people who are willing to make them.

Green things.
The way they make you feel nearly as fresh and happy as the way they look.

True Things.
Husbands who do dishes.
Friends who do dishes.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

One Thankful Tree

I am wanting very simple ways to celebrate.
Because celebration is important, but so too is the ability to actually do it, without feeling overwhelmed, or guilty, or busy, or like it's just about going through the motions.

I am thinking through ways to do this for the coming Advent Season. Mostly just weeding through all the ideas out there, to pare it down to just a few that we already do, or to change things so that they are more refined... simple, but uniquely and exquisitely special. I can hardly wait for Advent to begin.

So this too, this day to Give Thanks deserves simple but helpful preparation. I saw this tree idea somewhere... and it is just the right thing for little hands and heads that are learning what it means to think about what you are grateful for, and to live a life of thankfulness.
 "I'm thankful for ME!" was one of the first replies. Well, I am thankful for you too! But what about thinking outside yourself...?
And that is the daily battle, but one well worth fighting.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

If You Can't Think of What to Make for Dinner

For the last three days in a row, I've eaten this salad. Either it is that good, or I am prone to ruts, or there is nothing to eat but apples, cranberries, and lettuce in this house. I suppose it may be all of those things. I'd like to think it is simply because this little throw-together is feeling just about perfect for a fall afternoon. 

You see, even little four year old fingers couldn't keep their hands off it.

With the coming events next week, this salad is not the only food on my brain. 

I just put a down payment on what seems way too much to spend on a turkey. You see, no one eats turkeys around here except for these crazy foreigners on this one specific day. So as the laws of economics go... they are not cheap.

Then there are the school events, the bake sales, the birthday parties, the potlucks, the gatherings in my own home... all in one short week. I love food. I love the gift of it, that we can enjoy it and not just inhale it. I love that we can share it and find such pleasure in making it. I love the way it looks, the way it smells, the way it tastes. And yet, sometimes it can be a little overwhelming. 

I feel that way about weekly menu plans too. Swapping menu ideas and recipes seems to be a frequent and regular conversation I am a part of. And this in an attempt to help lighten the loaded question that lurks in every home at the dawn of a new day... "what are we having for dinner?" (or is that just my home?). And in honor of that idea, I thought I would share a few meals we have had over this past week. Every family has their own particular tastes and tendencies, so I'm not promising you will want to make any of them, but maybe they will spark an idea if you're stuck (like I often am), or maybe they will make you think, wow, this girl needs my help, and then you can leave a wonderful idea for me in the comments below. One giant menu sharing extravaganza. I'll probably still poll the moms on the walk up the hill tomorrow though.

Here's to sharing what's going on in your kitchen...

Sunday: Chicken Fajitas (sides of sauteed peppers, fresh salsa, sour cream, cheese, and a black bean salad that a friend brought. YUM). This amazing birthday cake, with the raspberry substitute and vanilla frosting.
Monday: Our once weekly Chinese meal.
Tuesday: Corn Chowder, thick homemade bread slices, Autumn Blend Grilled Chicken Salad
Wednesday: Oven Baked Meatballs with barbecue glaze, baked potatoes, sauteed broccoli and carrots
Thursday: Chicken Curry, Biryani rice, more rice.
Friday: not sure yet
Saturday: Homemade Pizza

Autumn Blend Grilled Chicken Salad
-Grilled Chicken absolutely essential that it be grilled (I cheated on my grill pan for the stove).
-Fresh Apple, sliced and halved
-Almond Slices
-Dried Cranberries
-Romaine and/or green leaf lettuce
-I used a toasted sesame dressing b/c it's what I have and I love it but maybe that mixture is too weird for you... so use what you love.
{And if you're prone to ruts like me, make enough for several servings and pack in the fridge to assemble the following day, or several days}

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Stripes for Scout

Originally, I thought this pattern was going to be a nice break from some of the similar items I've worked on recently, namely hats. I also had this leftover skein of camel colored yarn that I've been trying for what seems like forever to figure out a way to use. When I came upon this little sweater, I thought it was cute and would be perfect for using this bit of yarn that had yet to find a home.

As sad knitting stories go, about halfway into it I was growing less and less enthusiastic. The look of it just wasn't calling my name, or my little girl's as far as I could tell and I started to think I'd made a mistake. 

It was intended as a birthday gift, a size four for a girl turning two. I finished it two days late, and it took snapping a few pictures and seeing her wearing all that hand-worked goodness for me to start to feel any attachment towards it... reminding me a bit of my baby love story with that curly head as well. 

Here you have it then, a little bit of stripes for my sweet, sassy little Scout. 
I think I'll keep them both.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Has It Only Been Two Years?

I feel like she came out rolling just like this. At 10 lbs. 3 oz. (or about 4.7 kilos) she was already a bit of a barrel, and in the first year of her life docile was not a word often on our lips. 
I've watched her leap and jump and fast forward her way into toddler-land, and though there have been many hazards along the way, she has started to exhibit her own bit of grace.

And who wouldn't love that mixture of strength and beauty, the ability to take on her older brothers tackle for tackle, but giggle over a floor length dress and sit patiently while the curls are tucked into place. 

Two years into it, her personality is just emerging; making inroads and splashes and leaving clues of an inner person it will take a lifetime to get to know. I love it all... the obstinance (I mean, look at that glare!), the glee, the abandon, the clinging, the sense of purpose, the way she loves more than anything (and more than she used to) to cuddle safely in your lap, letting these arms that can only shape so much, hold and mold for the little time that they have.

Happy Birthday Sweet Sadie Girl.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Because We Just Can't Stop Celebrating Stuff

I love how calendars in this day and age are so egalitarian, so politically, or should we say globally correct. In most modern versions you will find every holiday from Botswana to Iceland to the tips of Patagonia represented, not to mention all the newly formed holidays that are forever popping up... Secretary's Day, Teacher Appreciation Day, Remember Anything That Doesn't Yet Have a Holiday Day.

 I tend to like the ones that have a couple hundred years behind them, but that cuts out a lot of modern day events so I need to work on getting over that.

Living overseas in a country with holidays far different than my own, and among other foreigners who bring their own set of traditions and celebrations, new reasons to celebrate seem to be popping up all the time. Yesterday was November 11, and on that one day alone...
  • The feast of St. Martin (or Martinmas) is celebrated all over Europe
  • Remembrance Day is celebrated in the U.S. (which used to be Veteran's Day, which began as a memorial to the WWI armistice signed on Nov. 11th at 5am)
  • Pepero Day is celebrated in Korea (a brilliant marketing plan)

My observance of Remembrance Day was limited to reading all the comments on facebook. My interest in Pepero Day began on the walk to school where I first heard about it and continued to rise throughout the day as it was brought up again and again. Where was my Pepero is what I want to know?

With all of its history and the fact that its celebrants walk around with lanterns, Martinmas was a dead ringer for me. There was a local gathering put on by some expats living here, to help the children celebrate by making paper lanterns and then taking a lamplit walk. We couldn't go because of scheduling conflicts, but we made our own lanterns in the afternoon and then lit them during our evening meal together. 

It was fun and so simple, and gave some festivity to our otherwise midweek Thursday meal. I'm not sure that the Europeans serve Indian Curry at their Martinmas dinner feasts (I think goose is traditionally the way to go), but it worked for us. 

As a whole, I think Martinmas is a sweet little holiday. It's history is simple, and perhaps not entirely compelling, but it does have all those years behind it which moves it up a few notches in my book.

Just one more stop, one more bit of preparation and festive enjoyment on our way to this upcoming season we call the Holidays. I'm hopeful they can all be this calm, simple, and full of Light.