Monday, March 30, 2015

Hope Yet

Oh, you guys.  It is just. so. cold here.  Still.

I know that you all in the rest of the country, those of you enjoying apple blossoms and purple crocuses, and sun-warmed soil are probably pretty sick of hearing those of us in the frozen north whinging about how cold it is, and how much snow we've gotten, and how this winter just feels like it is never going to end.  But really.  The cold! My winter coat and wool hat and mittens are still in daily use. And the snow?  Still here, in dingy brown, icy patches.  Our neighbors on the north side of the street have taken to shoveling their yards, spreading out the piles a bit, in hopes of harnessing what few sunny rays there are to help divide and conquer.  The banks left by the plows at the edge of parking lots are starting to look like modern sculptures of souls in torment as they unevenly and ever-so-slowly start to melt away. And this winter?  Like an unwelcome guest that has flopped around on the couch and left his trash all over the house and hogged the bathroom for way too long, we are ready to say goodbye.  No more romantic images of cozy evenings, snuggled in our warm little house.  No more bright sparkling days of sledding and snowman making.  We are so done, and yet spring seems so maddeningly slow in coming.  This is why, when I happened to jog past the marsh yesterday and caught a glimpse of white in the distance, I stopped, stared, and then hotfooted it home to yell at the family, "Grab the binoculars and get in the car! I think there's a swan in the swamp!"  And indeed, in the company of the red-winged blackbirds, the herons, and the mallard ducks was the majestic and impossibly beautiful figure of a mute swan.  We take it as a good sign.  There may be hope for us yet.          

Friday, March 6, 2015

Hello, March

Hello, March. How've you been?
Come on in; pull up a chair!
We saw you tromp up to our door
like an arctic polar bear.
You'll have to excuse our messiness
for even though we knew
that you'd be coming eventually
February threw us for a loop.
Our house is getting a little stuffy 
and the corners are giving us a squeeze
We go outside when we know
that our snot isn't going to freeze
So now that you're here, March,
Winter might be nearing the end
So go ahead and take your boots off
get comfortable, settle in.
But we're getting kind of tired
of all this cold and snow
So, please don't be offended 
If we're not sorry to see you go.

One way to beat the middle-of-the-winter blues?  Go snowshoeing!

Also?  Cook some good food.  All three big kids got in on the fun this week when we made a Redwall-inspired feast one night with recipes from this book.  We had decorations and everything!

This book is a really fun read aloud.  Be warned: You will have to say the phrase "My best friend is a Hippo named 'Boo Boo Butt.'"  But it makes them giggle, so just do it.

And laugh with them.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Go Clean Your Bathroom

"Ugh.  Entropy.  I hate it."

I was standing in the bathroom, talking to The Mr., and staring at the sink, which, but a few short days ago had been clean and white and sparkling, and now was covered in dust, smears of toothpaste, and stray hair.  The tube of Crest was open on the counter, someone had set down a comb and several rubber bands willy-nilly on one side, and the hand soap was dispenser was out of soap.  Again.  A crumpled towel lay on the floor, the baby's bath tub obstructed the path from the door to the toilet, and the trashcan threatened to over flow.  It was a mess.

Entropy happens, right?  No matter what we do or how hard we work, things fall apart.  We clean and straighten and pick up and put away again and again and again, then turn our backs, and suddenly, cabinets have erupted, boxes have spilled over, drawers have spit up, and dirt and detritus is everywhere. The Second Law of Thermodynamics strikes again!  Often around here, it's not a matter of days, but hours between when something is clean and something is a wreck.  In the case of the kids' rooms, it might even be minutes.  Sometimes, it can start to get a girl down.  

I have a magnet on my fridge that matches the picture at the top of this post and proclaims: "A Clean House is a Sign of a Wasted Life."  And mostly, I believe it.  I'm glad that those of us who work in our homes full time have finally been freed from marriage to our houses (no longer are we called "house wives") and to an ideal of "house beautiful" which can only be maintained at the cost of our relationships and sanity.  I'm glad, mostly, to be a "stay-at-home mom" instead, and glad to be allowed by my society to focus my energies on my relationship with my kids and being a good mom, rather than on keeping a spotless house.

It's true, though, that even though I've come to terms with the fact that, no matter how hard I try, the best I can do is try to keep disorder in my house at bay, and even though I know that the cleanliness of my house is no real measure of my worth as a person, I do believe that real beauty, joy, and shalom can be found through just simply cleaning up our home.  We've discovered of our family that things go more smoothly when the house is in order -- chaos there breeds chaos in our relationships too.  So, I've been making a more concerted effort lately to battle the brokenness on the home front. Our last few weeks have been full of entropy, rearing its ugly head.  We've come up against a broken well pump, a broken car, a broken favorite mug, broken good intentions, and a broken health insurance policy, just to name a few. And that's only our petty, insignificant experiences with entropy.  If I start thinking about things falling apart in national politics or international conflict, the brokenness of modern-day slavery, or viral epidemics, I can really start to feel powerless and overwhelmed.  There's really very little I can do to fix any of these things, or to fix them easily or well, but cleaning the bathroom, making my bed, vacuuming the living room, these are all things I can do, and while they're all small, they're not insignificant.

Plus, there's this:  After I made the comment to The Mr. about hating entropy, he responded: "yeah, I get it. But think, there are some people who have two, even three bathrooms to clean, and you only have one!  Lucky you!"

Lucky me indeed!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Cardinal Virtues

Perched among these garden graves
bereft of any headstone set to say
what they were or what they will become
in winter's dead and frozen waste
this unexpected grace
a streak of scarlet flies and lands
a spark upon this barren branch
that set this burning bush aflame
he wings and sings of time redeemed
and calls to mind the flaming leaves
that lit from spring, summer's green
and fell and lie beneath this snowy shroud.
Death lies close underground
cold and hard and still
but so does the seed.

[Photo Credit: The Mr.]

Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Best Valentine's Day Yet

At the beginning, we made a big deal about not making a big deal about it.  It was just a day, a Hallmark-manufactured holiday, an excuse for sentimentality and maudlin emotions, a reason for people to spend money on things that didn't matter (extra empty calories and blooms that live a few days and then die).  "We don't 'do' Valentine's Day."  Except we did (remember that six-pack of Squirt and that dainty bouquet?).  And now, we still do, only now doing Valentine's Day means picking up the car from the shop (car finally fixed after busting a belt on Monday!), dealing with the plumber who came to fix our well pump (pump only temporarily fixed and we're living on tenterhooks, waiting to see if we're going to loose all our water again. Do you know how much snow it takes to flush a toilet?  A lot of snow.), baking the best chocolate cupcakes I think I've ever had, making dinner ("I love you" with a side of french fries), readying the church for a feast tomorrow, bathing kids, feeding kids, reading to kids, watching a Mr. Bean movie with the kids.  And  Baby, it's cold outside -- the snow keeps coming and the mercury is falling and isn't going to get much higher than nothing tomorrow -- but it's a jungle in here, and this jungle keeps us all warm.

Plenty of that to go around.

Yes, this is first grade.  Gotta love it.

Did I mention the best chocolate cupcakes I have ever had?  This is how good they were:  At one point, I walked into the dining room, and the Mr. looked at me and said, "Do you realize that you are holding three sticks of butter?  Are you using all of those?"  And the answer was yes.  Beauty, joy, shalom, chocolate.  

Enjoy one of the best Jason Harrod tunes ever:

Friday, February 6, 2015

I've Been Baptized

Last week,we had a small moment in our church service to remember our baptisms.  The font was filled with water and people came forward to dip their fingers in, to feel the dripping wet, to hear words: "You have been baptized.  You are a child of God."  The point was identity -- this is who we are -- the baptized ones, the claimed, the held close, the united with Christ, the crucified with him, the raised to new life.  These words have stayed with me all week, through the snowy gloom and the freezing bright blue, as I walked into an intimidating board meeting and as I contemplated my messy house, the split second after I responded to a child in anger and moment that I apologized, as I celebrated a six-month birthday and gave thanks for the invention of antibiotics.  I have been baptized.  As a roundhouse kick at the darkness, it works pretty well.  So, take that.

We finally got our big snow this week.  Honestly, I prefer a few feet to a few inches.  At least it gives us all something to do:

And there was sun this week too, enough so that this girl thought she was reading at the beach one afternoon:

Obligatory cute baby picture, just because:

Can you guess that we read aloud a lot around here?  There are very few other primers on beauty and joy and shalom that are quite as effective or captivating as a well-told story, and we love sharing them together.  Right now, The Mr. reads in the evenings, and he is on our second book in the Redwall series, and yes, he does all the voices.  Of course.

And this literally happened:  Just tonight, as she was midway through a bite of chocolate pudding cake, Ana looked up at me and asked, "Mom, is there any more broccoli?" "Why yes," I replied. "Would you like some?  Instead of your cake?" "Yes please!" she replied, pushing her dessert away and reaching for the broccoli pan. Gotta love that girl.

Finally, last week Sunday I croaked my way through this song as a special offering (my head cold having turned into an honest-to-goodness sinus infection).  I probably didn't have any business trying to sing, but just couldn't help myself. Fortunately, I wasn't the only one singing.  Unfortunately, I accidentally left my melodica at home, or it would have been even cooler. It made a good soundtrack for the week: