Thursday, November 26, 2015

the giving of thanks

When the news of the world - both afar and close to home - has seemed sadder lately, it's all the more poignant to stop and give thanks for all the good things.

It was our first Thanksgiving as just the four of us -- no traveling, no hosting, and not even a turkey!

As it turned out, I totally loved it.

I didn't do any prep yesterday, I didn't stay up late last night making pies, and I didn't set an alarm for this morning.  I got up when the kids woke up, enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and coffee and conversation with the girls while Nathan got to sleep in.

Sarah: I'm thankful for coffee
Nell: I'm thankful for milk

Sarah: I'm thankful for my daughters, Nell and Marie
Nell: I'm thankful for my baby dolls

Sarah: I'm thankful for our home.
Nell: I'm thankful for my room and my bed!

Sarah {looking over at Ree}: I'm thankful for babies in jammies
Nell: I'm thankful for dammies too

{and really, what's not to be thankful for here? alpine pajamas with elbow patches!  pigtails!  and perhaps she's planning on auditioning for a new installment of Home Alone?}

After breakfast, we got down to the serious business of making the feast.  Nell helped with the rolls, the pie crusts, and the whipped cream.

Everything came out deliciously, and Nathan set the table oh-so-nicely while I cooked everything.  The china is our wedding china, and the silver belonged to Nathan's great-grandmother, Nell's great-great-grandmother, Nellie.

Candles were lit, prayers were said, tears of gratitude were shed. {ok, that was just me. but I challenge you to sit across from the sweetest three-year-old in the world folding her hands in prayer and not get teary-eyed over all the goodness there is to be had in life.}

Nathan gave Nell a tiny crystal glass of very watered-down wine this year, and she was so thrilled about the whole thing it was a delight to behold.  She promptly declared, "I'm thankful for wine!"

Two pies seemed just about right for the four of us.  I added a dash of freshly ground pepper to my pumpkin pie this year, and it was a good call.  And the chocolate pie is and always will be my Grandma's recipe.  I miss Grandma and Grandpa every time I make it, and my heart is full.

As it turned out, Ree was a big fan of whipped cream.

In the late morning today, when the pie crust dough was chilling and the dinner roll dough was rising,  I went out for a short run by myself.  Usually, if I'm able to sneak in a run at all, it's with the double stroller and both kids in tow, but this morning, Nathan was home and so the girls stayed in.  I donned my running tights and shoes and enjoyed the cold fresh air and a bit of time all to myself.

My first mile was a bit under a 10-minute pace.  Although I wasn't really pushing myself or thinking about it, when my iPhone informed my of my pace, I found myself musing a bit about my pace in running, and my pace in life.

Five years ago, I would have pushed myself and tried for a sub-seven minute mile.  I could go for a run every single morning, and I usually did.  In retrospect, I hardly know what I did with all the free time I didn't even know I had back then.

But my heart was smaller then, and I didn't even know it.

Monday, November 16, 2015

A Day in the Life of Ree {embracing the everyday when you feel helpless}

I haven't written here in a long time.  Two months or so, I think.

Life has felt busier than ever, and I'm unable to put my finger on whether it's the two kids, or that I'm working more than perhaps I have previously, or why exactly I feel as though I have hardly a minute to reclaim for anything other than the basic necessities of each day.

I feel helpless lately, as I suppose most of us do.  In the face of a refugee crisis, of terrorism in Beirut and Paris and so many other places, I feel helpless.  And perhaps it seems like a curious time to claim a rare evening at home to write here in my small corner of the internet.  I was looking over a few very everyday photos with Nathan, the two of us laughing quietly together, as I captioned the antics to him: "A Day in the Life of Ree."  And there was something about those photos that made me want to record them here, to remember.

The photos we looked at together were anything but spectacular.  There was nothing good about these, objectively, as pictures.  And yet, there was everything good about them.

Our bed-headed 18-month old girl, sitting on the living room floor in a diaper, a scarf of Mama's draped around her middle.  A meat tenderizer in her hand, naturally.  A favorite book on the floor behind her.

That tummy was full of breakfast, that diaper was clean and fresh, and that girl had been wandering happily through the house, sorting through my kitchen drawers while my back was turned and settling - out of all the many things we have - on the meat tenderizer as her desired object of play.

* * *

She has learned to put her own pants on with some degree of success now, except that she can't pull them up over her fluffy cloth diapered bum - and yet, she balks at the idea of help, and prefers that they remain like that.  She crows victoriously at each day's partial-donning of her pants.

She has clothes to wear.  And look at those toys cluttering our home in the background.  We have toys for our children to play with and a home for them to live in.

* * *

When evening falls, I help her into her jammies, the Christmassy hand-me-downs that Nell wore before her and someone else wore before that, and, after leaving the room for a moment, I return to find her cradling her stuffed bunny and singing the Brahms lullaby to the best of her baby vocal ability.  {The moment was so sweet I had to get her started on it again to recreate it on video.}

Red goes to bed in our guest bedroom, one of five bedrooms in our house.  FIVE BEDROOMS.

* * *

These children, the displaced children of Syria and other parts of the world, they don't get to have everyday days like Ree.  And that sad reality makes me cling more tightly to the mundane, blurry photos hastily captured on my iPhone.

Like most mothers, I suppose, I've been known to occasionally complain of the everyday difficulties inherent in parenting two small children.  But lately, I stop and thank God that I haven't had to cross oceans with them seeking safety, haven't walked miles carrying them in my tired arms, haven't wondered where our next meal would come from, or even if we would see another sunrise in safety together.

Oh, how I wish we could offer our spare bedrooms to those little ones and their families seeking shelter and safety.  How I wish that we were not separated by vast ocean and by borders that prevent the type of everyday, tangible help that we could so readily offer - the rooms we could so easily spare and the groceries we could so afford to share.

* * *

I know that terrorism and the refugee crisis bring with it some polarized political opinions.  And I get it - the real economic problems inherent in the issue, the growing need to defeat the terrorists for good, the fear of unwittingly opening our borders to terrorism.  There are real concerns, and we must not act unwisely.  And I don't know the right answers.

All I know is that terrorism, even here in my own country, is not what I fear the most.

I am more afraid to someday hear the words,

'I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me ... Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.'