95. Thanksgiving Mail

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Are you like us, thousands of miles from your family during the holidays? Even if you’re not, it’s hard to resist doing a few Thanksgiving crafts: turkey cards (cut on the Silhouette – I finally figured out how to use it, only a year after purchasing it on cyber Monday!) with a note inside telling our loved ones how thankful we are for them, and a collaborative mother-son hand tracing fall tree for the grandparents. And we do have so very many things to be thankful for: the basics (which so many around the world don’t have) of clean water, a safe place to live, enough food, relative health, stable employment, good friends, visits with family, and so, so many more that my heart nearly fills to bursting when I stop to think about it. Happy Thanksgiving!

94. Shoebox Time (& Child Sponsorship)

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It’s amazing how much you can fit into a shoebox when you really start to think about it! Advent (a time of preparation, including giving to others, before Christmas) for Orthodox Christians begins on November 15. Operation Christmas Child collection week begins right after that. It’s great timing to talk about what Advent means for us.
I was surprised by how seriously my son (three years old) listened when I explained to him that we would be purchasing gifts to send to children around the world who may not otherwise receive any gifts. He was full of questions about why they might not have gifts if we didn’t send any.I love having a way to give back that is on a level that a child can understand. I love that it’s tangible, that he can see toys and art supplies being shared with other children instead of just being purchased for him.
Just for some ideas, I’m sharing our list. (I’m one of those clearance-crazed ladies who strolls the end caps of Target throughout the year and stashes everything in a box until Christmas time.) In our box: socks, underwear, tights, toothbrush/paste, soap, washcloth, school and craft supplies, a small teddy bear, small toys, hair bows, and to be added, combs, a little hard candy, small sewing kit, small tape measure.
Related to this topic, we are so happy to be able to be involved with child sponsorship through World Vision. As my son becomes more and more interested in geography, I’ve finally put up a map at his level with the locations of our sponsored kids to help him make the connection. He sees me writing letters for them, and he sees the letters and drawings that they send to us. It’s powerful stuff. Having the map up where I can see it often has been a huge help for me as well, helping me keep their needs and the needs of children like them in the front of my mind. I want my son to know that, while he is blessed, part of being blessed is giving back.
I’d love to hear your experiences and thoughts with Operation Christmas Child and sponsorship!

93. Progress Remembered

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Earlier this summer I was a little saddened to see my son’s reaction to being in the unfamiliar forest (see this) – my beloved forest! He hated it. He cried to go back. Meanwhile, his local cousins happily romped through the ferns and pine needles. Oh, my beautiful, beloved, wonderful Black Hills forest that I’d explored since my earliest days! But during our three weeks there, he began to reach out more, to touch things, to not feel so out of place. This cheered me. One day we followed a path in town lined with purple dame’s rocket and other wild flowers (and invasive weeds, if we’re being honest), and he reached out to touch things and notice them. I was so proud of him, so very happy to see him becoming acclimated to a place (the Black Hills) where being outdoors is basically a part of everyday life. We have the misfortune to not be able to live there currently, but my hope is to claw more and more time each year out for us to spend there, in the place that I love and consider home, and that hopefully he will come to love as well. Baby steps. Isn’t that what it’s all about?
Even now, only November, I’m counting the weeks until we can return in early summer.


92. You Are Loved – giveaway & free download

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To celebrate my post at the Mops Hello, Darling blog today (An Introvert’s Guide to Hosting), I’m sharing a free download of one of my favorite personal heart photos, hopefully a small bit of encouragement for you or a friend when you need it. Just click here to request it and I will email it to you! I’m also holding a giveaway for one of my alphabet posters and some other surprise goodies from my etsy shop – just leave a comment below to be entered! Comments open until midnight Pacific time on November 20. If you’re here from Mops, welcome! I’m so glad you stopped by.
I’m also excited to share that I am re-opening my etsy shop – ALL profits will be donated to charity. I am especially fond of World Vision’s Child Friendly Spaces program, which offers comfort for kids in disaster areas and refugee camps. As you can tell from my blog, I love to do fun, hands-on thing with my son, and I yearn to provide a small way to help children in difficult situations find a bit of a respite from the stresses of their life (hence the Child Friendly Spaces program.) You’ll find images of hearts, a darling alphabet poster, cupcakes, flowers, and more. I am also passionate about feeding the hungry, so I support my local food banks as well as international charities.
Again, thank you! And remember, you are loved.

91. Carried Forward – Reprint

_MG_2670rip·ple  (ˈripəl),  v.t.  [RIPPLED  (-id), RIPPLING], [Early Mod. Eng.; orig. of stormy, dangerous water; hence prob.  <  rip, v.  -le,  freq. suffix],  1.  to form of have little waves or undulating movements on the surface, as water or grass stirred by a breeze.  2.  to flow with such waves or movements on the surface.  3.  a)  to make a sound like that of rippling water.  b)  to proceed with an effect like that of rippling water: said of sound.  v.t.  1.  to cause to ripple.  2.  to give a wavy or undulating form or appearance to. n.  1.  a small wave or undulation, as on the surface of water.  2.  a movement, appearance, or formation resembling or suggesting this. 3.  a sound like that of rippling water.  4.  a small rapid.  SYN. see wave.

Carried Forward
That summer, I attend aqua aerobics classes with a handful of elderly women, where I can float and swim with no crowds. Their soft, saggy upper arms wiggle as we raise plastic dumbbells overhead. I find childlike delight in the water. I wonder if you feel as buoyant in your amniotic fluid as I do in the pool.  Sometimes I have to stop moving and stand still because the intermittent waves of morning sickness don’t combine well with the splashes and slaps of the water as we bounce up and down with our foam noodles.

My doctors are ultrasound crazy.  I see you on the screen many times and imagine waves of sound moving around your body.  At thirteen weeks, your tiny arms curl and uncurl on the screen, and I see that your vertebrae have unfurled down your spine with precision.

You travel to many places that summer. We circle the continent in our comings and goings, making loops back and forth between Houston and more beautiful places.  Your father and I trace our history and at the same time turn outward to imagine our future, turning to places we’ve already been, and some we haven’t, wondering what travel and life will be like once you arrive.

In New Mexico, I sit on the edge of the hotel bathtub and run mountain-cold water over my dusty feet. The sand from my toes is carried down the tub drain by small ripples. I buy tiny, sweet strawberries at the Santa Fe farmer’s market.  Miniscule seeds speckle their red flesh, beginning in a tight whorl at the tip of each berry and spiraling out into wider rings toward the stem.  On the way to Taos, we stop at a state park.  I stand and watch a small, clear stream running over its rocky bottom while your dad hikes up to a raging waterfall.  He shows me a picture of it later, water pounding in a steady rage over a cliff.

In South Dakota, your dad and I walk deep into the woods behind Pactola Lake, following the course of Rapid Creek.  He finds the biggest slate pieces he can lift and swings them into the moving water.  They crash loudly on the stream’s surface before sinking to the bottom, the impact sending small circular waves toward the banks.  I don’t know why he thinks this is so amusing.  Ferns are unfurling themselves along the forest floor, tips tightly closed as they lean upward and unroll themselves toward the sun.

In Minnesota, I do the dishes when we visit my mom, your grandma.  She’s only 56, but her dementia is moving quickly.  Sometimes she will pick up the dishrag and dip it into and out of the soapy water, drops puddling back into the sink from the soaked rag. We visit the largest farmer’s market I’ve ever seen – stands of vegetables, fruit, flowers, and baked goods march onward in even rows.

In Oregon, we rise early, at low tide, and chase to the shore as I did fourteen years previous.  The waves flatten on the wide beach. Each footstep in the shallow water makes a lovely splish-splash.  I scan the beach for sand dollars, wanting to find them before the flat waves that brought them in carry them back out.  Mesmerizing patterns cover the beach, ripples in the sand replicating the ripples of water that have disappeared. Rivulets begin to run into the tide pools as the morning moves toward noon.

In Pennsylvania, we baptize another godchild.  She is dunked three times into the large metal font, water splashing up and beyond the lip, white towels already piled around the base. Their folds rise and fall along the floor.  In less than a year, it will be your turn for this ancient immersion.

Your limbs move visibly across my stomach as you turn inside.  Some women call their contractions waves.  I suppose they do start slowly and then build in intensity as a wave does, and to me, they are as violent as the waves we saw pounding a rocky shore in Maine, water still pouring out of the clefts as each new wave came in. I wanted to use a tub for at least part of my labor, but medical interventions make that impossible. We watch the undulations of my contractions on the screen, another line below charting the valleys and peaks of your heartbeat.  The two lines are not as synchronized as they should be. I wear a mask, oxygen flowing into my lungs, not for myself but to try to help you. They break my water, thinking it will speed labor. White towels are put out to catch the stream.  A photo shows the doctor grasping you as you emerge, a circle of fluid radiating around your head.

You sleep next to me at home and little pools of milk spread out in circles on the sheets.  You nurse and then rest, nurse and then rest, rhythmically swallowing.  Blue-white milk streams down your chin and onto your neck.

Two weeks old, you relax visibly as the warm water I pour over your scalp trickles down your shoulders.  Eighteen months later, you still want me pour water over you in the tub, protesting with a little grunt when I stop. You are mesmerized by the thin cascades of water running down your skin. You hold your hands under the hose as water sprays in a circle onto the perennials, wiggle your fingers in the dog’s water bowl.  You pick up the bowl and dump it onto the floor into a huge spreading puddle if I don’t catch you in time.

Each month of your life expands my own, rings of experience and memory growing bigger with time, carrying the three of us forward just as the flattened waves in Oregon slide sand dollars out of the ocean depths and onto the level sand, into the wide open.

I wrote this essay a while back. It originally appeared here.

90. Seed Work

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Kids love to plant things, don’t they? This fall as I’m beginning my very first pre-k catechism class (based on this beautiful, deep curriculum), we have been focusing on seeds in preparation for learning about some of Christ’s parables.  Forcing paperwhite bulbs to grow in mere water is so easy to do and provides quick gratification.  I bought mine at a local garden center. The little white pointed roots appeared within a few days and quickly entangled the rocks they sat upon.  I also have crocus and hyacinth bulbs hibernating in the fridge and will try forcing them in water later this winter.

I also saved the seeds from our Halloween pumpkin (I’m not a big fan of creepy Halloweens but it is fun for little ones to cut open a pumpkin and see all the seeds!).  We planted them right along the side of a clear cup and had a wonderful view of the sprouting process.  Now we are watching the roots grow.

I’m enjoying this seed and root work quite a bit!

89. Leaf Wreaths

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I’ve been trying to scrape back a little time these last few weeks from our overcommitted days, in disbelief that my son is almost four and with the yearning to be home purposefully spending time with him. I am at home with him, but I take on too many projects and end up spending too much time running in circles. I miss our lazy days of puttering on projects together. Since fall is finally beginning here, today we made time to gather leaves from our backyard with the intention of turning them into wreaths. He just liked gathering leaves, happily scooping up dirt-crusted ones and fallen lime leaves off the patio. He asked to pick some Meyer lemons from the well-laden branches. He glued three leaves into the middle of a paper plate and called it good, but I decided to complete a birch wreath as planned. I glued my leaves around the trimmed edge of a paper plate and will punch a small hole in it when dry to hang it. I feel so blessed to have had that short time in the yard together and, I’ll admit, blessed to have three lovely birch trees!  When they turn, I can admire their yellow leaves on the green grass and pretend that I’m in the forest of the Black Hills again.