Thursday, March 24, 2016

our Ree girlie these days

We are in the process of attempting to determine whether Ree might be an undiscovered genius or not.  On the one hand, she is nearly two and seems perfectly capable of making the "N" sound - for example, if she wants to nurse - but chooses not to apply this sound to say the name of her dear big sister Nell.  On the other hand, when asked to say "Nell," more often than not her smiling response is, "Dumb!"  As to whether or not this is intentional and a mark of her giftedness, only time will tell.

I'm sharing some photos I took of her this past fall, because I was too busy to even look them over at the time when I took them, much less share them and jot down any notes or memories about Ree at the time.  So here we have photos from November combined with memories from... now.

She walked around the time she was one, and hasn't stopped moving since.  A common exchange between Nathan and myself is, "Oh, look at Ree doing ____.  Can Nell do that?"  Nell loves to have fun, but tends to err on the side of caution, whereas Ree will attempt to climb anything, reach anything, run anywhere, and do anything she can think of.

She started singing recognizable melodies when she was fourteen months old; we noticed it while visiting Grandma and Grandpa in California, and while I was wondering if I was imagining it (typical overly-proud mother, of course), my Dad commented on it first.  "Marie is singing Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star!"  And so she was.

Nowadays she uses singing to communicate at least as much as she uses words: singing "Six little ducks" when she sees a picture of a duck, "Rain, rain, go away" accompanied by wild jumping when she wants to go out and jump in puddles, "Five little monkeys jumping on the bed" when she wants to hold my hands and jump up and down, and even "Abide with me" to point out the similar cross shape on her plastic cereal bowl that reminded her of the image on the virtual CD cover that comes up when we listen to that recording on my phone.

A few of her favorite things to do include playing amongst and hiding behind the long curtains in the master bedroom, waiting quietly for me to proclaim, "Where could Marie be?!", and then yelling, still enshrouded in drapes of white, "BOOOO!"

She loves to play outside, particularly when it involves collecting gravel and small pebbles from our street, digging in the dirt, or helping with sundry outdoor chores like leaf-gathering.  (I wish I could say the leaf-gathering was all concluded in the fall when it ought to have been; sadly, the process is still ongoing here in March, since we never quite finished before winter set in!  But she is as eager to help bag up the leaves now as she was in the autumn!)

She loves grapes, clementines, kiwi, strawberries, eggs, potatoes, and rice, and despises cheese.  She hates sitting in her high chair and makes knowns via pointing and gesturing and pitifully crying "Mama!" or "Dada!" that she would really prefer to spend mealtimes in one of our laps.  

Trains, books, the play kitchen, and the car table are lots of fun, but nothing compares to the joy of putting shoes, boots, clothing, underwear, socks, and hats on and off all day long -- whether her own or someone else's.  I have to keep a watchful eye on the dirty laundry hamper, or Ree will often emerge suddenly decked in Nell's previously-worn pair of underwear, my bra, Nathan's dirty socks pulled up to her thighs, my black concert heels, and a winter hat from the hat basket to top it all off, of course.  

Her words include:
Uhbuh (other)
Muh (more)
Mah! (mine! a quintessential toddler word!)
Nuh (nurse)
Ashes (indicating she wants to do ring around the rosy... or perhaps she's just very liturgically inclined ever since the beginning of Lent?)
bye bye
dah! (yeah!)
eh-bow (elbow)
ah duh (all done)
uh oh
Aga (Uncle {Andrew})

Not a bad list in all, but the amount of frustrated screaming around here indicates that she wishes she had a considerably larger vocabulary at her disposal!

Lately she is all hugs and kisses and squeezes, and wraps her arms right around my neck, huddling her little body against mine for snuggles.  An adventurer by day and a snuggler by nap time, tired moments, and night -- oh, how we love this girlie.

Monday, March 21, 2016

a broken foot for Holy Week

In our household, I've spent the last nine years growing accustomed to hearing the phrase: “You weren’t being careful enough!” on a regular basis.  I know that this is more a symptom of Nathan's love for me than a criticism; the slightest accident on my part causes his fearful side to rear its head with utterances of cautionary advice.

Anytime anything happens – a twisted ankle, a slip on ice, a dropped bowl in the kitchen, a stubbed toe, a broken glass – this happens when one isn’t being careful. Nathan has made it his mission in life to teach me this underlying life principle, to write it on our doorposts and engrave it on our hearts and all that.

It’s true that I’ve been known to mindlessly wash dishes without focusing every ounce of my attention on the task at hand – now the faucet goes on to just the right level of water flow, now the dish in my right hand; now transfer weight for a moment to my left hand while I get a squirt of soap; back to the right hand, and so forth.

It’s also true that sometimes when I’m walking I’m thinking about other things than which foot is on the ground, which foot is in midair for a moment, and the precise angle at which I expect my metatarsals to graze the floor next.

So perhaps the man has a point.

Over the years he’s learned to decrease the cautionary words of advice, however well-intentioned they may be, and increase the empathy levels.  So, when I texted him on Friday to tell him I had tripped outside, dropped the baby (she's okay, thank goodness!), and injured the top of my foot, which was rapidly turning blue and swelling to the size of a golf ball, I received in response: “Oh baby!  Are you ok?” followed almost immediately by a phone call.  And not once in said phone call did he admonish me to be more careful where, when, and in what fashion I stepped with my right foot when walking out-of-doors. 

On Saturday afternoon, when I still couldn't put any weight on my foot without pain, that empathetic husband of mine drove me to an urgent care clinic where, after an hour of waiting, taking my temperature, asking me a series of inane questions unrelated to the obvious problem at hand, they finally did an x-ray and diagnosed me with a broken fifth metatarsal.  

Going into Holy Week seems like such a dreadful time to break one's foot.  

I can stump around the house slowly and painfully, to be sure, but the going is slow, the stairs are nearly impossible, and worst of all: no driving for the foreseeable future.  

I have things to do!  Holy Week menus to make and groceries to buy!  Easter plans to put into place!  Spring cleaning to be done!  Small children to care for!  Laundry to do, places to go, commitments to keep!  

Compounding the matter at hand, poor Ree was running a temperature today and wanted nothing but Mama snuggles and catnaps all day long.

And I found myself thinking that perhaps Holy Week is exactly the right time to break one's foot, after all.  

It's slowed me down to a childlike pace where I truly have no choice but to stop and let the little children come.

My every step is uncomfortable, to be sure, but can that even compare with the steps we remember this week: the slow and steady uphill steps of a man who carried his own cross?

A small broken bone in my foot?  The whole world is broken, and that is why he came.  Why he entered the world, lived among and loved the broken people, and finally, said, "This is my body, broken for you."

My broken foot will mend in time, but immeasurably greater is the truth that all the brokenness has already been overcome, and it is that celebration of resurrection wholeness that I limp towards at the close of this Holy Week.  

Friday, March 4, 2016

A Rag Rug For Nell

I recently completed a project that I began about a year ago: a rag rug for Nell's bedroom.  

In my own defense, I was not working day and night on this project during that time; in fact, it lay neglected for the better part of the year in question.  Still, it's a strange thing to complete a project you started for your two-year-old's first "big girl room," and then have your daughter who is fast approaching age four curl up on it.  

I won't pretend to contain my pleasure at how the rug turned out.  Is it perfect?  No.  But I love it.  I love how the colors came together, and I love most of all the fact that it actually lies flat (a feat the difficulty of which ought not to be diminished)!

It's made up of old sheets from my favorite nearby thrift store, along with fabric pieces I had also found there in the thrift shop on the same day.  And one floral sheet that had come with the secondhand mattress we were given for Nell's bed was a wonderful way to work in a wide variety of colors - yellows and oranges and greens to go with the overall pink and turquoise scheme, if you look closely enough.

 We love it, Nell and I.  Just tonight, at bedtime, she sat down on it and said, "I just love my wag wug so much.  I want to snuggle on it forever."

{The cuteness of that sentence reminds me of the time when I was still working on the rug, and Ree got into the braided strands of the project, tangling them up.  Nell exclaimed, "Mawee, you're wuining my wag wug!  You're wecking it and wuining it!")

It is "complete" now, but at times I find myself thinking that I could use up the last of those sheet strips to give it a few additional inches in diameter.  Maybe one of these days.  For now, I'm glad to have it finally taking up its proper place in Nell's room.

And speaking of Nell's room, it seems like a fitting moment to show you how far that space has come since we bought this house.

That was the bedroom when we first viewed the house as prospective buyers.  The stickers haphazardly stuck all over the walls covered spots of crumbling plaster and other problem areas.  You really can't tell from the photos, but this room (as with the rest of the house) was in desperate need of some careful attention.

And it got it, although not for a couple of years!  Here is Nell's space now.

Nell's antique wrought iron bed, which I've written about before, was a yard sale find I paid just $15 for.  Of course, it was a considerably larger investment to have it sandblasted and painted, but I love it so much I consider it well worth every penny.

With a vintage bed frame and a vintage quilt (also a yard sale find), I set about finding other vintage-themed things for her room.  I printed vintage paper dolls from online and made a little clothesline-type display over framed dolls I laid over lace scraps.

The little silver vanity tray on Nell's dresser was $5 at the thrift store.  The dried hydrangeas are from our front yard.  Her nightlight is a small hand-painted lamp that was given to us as a wedding present nine years ago.

The curtains are from IKEA because you just can't beat the prices.  I looked into so many other options and they were all cost-prohibitive at the time -- even just sewing curtains from lace fabric would have been far more expensive than buying the curtain panels and rods and hardware all together from IKEA!

The shadowbox over Nell's bed has her ultrasound pictures, her little newborn hospital hat, her ankle bracelet from the hospital, and a picture of me holding her the morning after she was born.  Sweet memories, and she so enjoys looking at everything and hearing stories about herself as a newborn baby.  The photographs to the left were taken by the lovely and talented Esther Mathieu when Nell was a newborn.  

 Her closet door displays a vintage pink baby dress, and the wall beside it currently holds one of her baby onesies that had been embroidered with her {nick}name.

My maternal grandmother passed away during the time that I was putting together this bedroom for Nell.  When I came across these little vintage magazine clippings Grandmommy had given me long ago, it seemed quite fitting to incorporate them into Nell's vintage decor.  Just simple pictures of little girls at play -- food for the imagination!

Her tiny wooden bookcase was a roadside find just a few houses down the street from us one Sunday after church.  It's a curious design; the books are held diagonally and the shelves have no bottoms.  It wouldn't have been my first choice for a child's room, because she still has a bit of trouble shelves the books herself, but free is free!

The wooden cart at the foot of Nell's bed was a hand-me-down gift from a violin student who had outgrown its use.  It holds stuffed animals and other such childhood delights, including the quilt I sewed for her.

Tucked into the corner beside the radiator is a vintage little metal baby doll crib, which I'm guessing is from the 50's.  It was a secondhand find I paid $10 for, as I recall, and I later found a coverlet and tiny matching lace pillowcase at my thrift store, so Nell's babies are well cared for at all times.

{The doll on the right, who admittedly looks a little worse for the wear, is of more or less the same vintage as the crib; her name is Betsy and she was my mother's doll, then mine, and is now tenderly cared for by her third little mama, Nell.}

Beside Nell's bed sits a small white table I found at a yard sale, which is home to the old broken iPhone that plays her lullabies each night, and equally importantly, the silver cup her godparents gave her on her baptism day.  Nathan was quite effective in convincing Nell some time ago that holding this "shiny cup" was a great privilege, and she could hold it in bed as she fell asleep if she wasn't fussing at bedtime.

She is quite enamored with it.

So that is Nell's bedroom -- more than anyone ever wanted to know about it, I'm sure.

When I look at it, I still see how badly the floor needs to be repainted, and how the paint is peeling off the radiator, and the windows need a good washing, and the ceiling tiles are ugly and the light fixture should be replaced.  And, as any of our babysitters could tell you, it is usually much messier than in these pictures!  But every once in a while, it's nice to tidy up, step back, and see how much progress we have made on this little space.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Nellisms, vol. 6: The Bedtime Edition

Some impromptu pictures taken in an undershirt with the most charming bedhead imaginable seem like they'd go nicely with a little Bedtime Edition of Nellisms.  I call these Portraits Over a Bowl of Oatmeal.

Upon waking up with a wrinkle from the sheets imprinted in her arm:
Nell: "Oh look, there's a crack in my arm!"


When we got a massive toddler- sized zip-up sleep sack at our favorite thrift store and let Nell sleep in it one night at her request:
"I just think I could use that pwetty nice swaddle for alway and evah!"


At bedtime:
Sarah: "Are you happy or sad?"
Nell: "I'm a little bit sad but a little bit happy."
Sarah: "What are you sad about?"
Nell: "I'm sad that Daddy leaved to go downstairs."
Sarah: "What are you happy about?"
Nell: "I'm happy that I have you upstairs to stay and snuggle a minute!"

At bedtime again:
Sarah: "I can stay for one more minute but then I need to go downstairs."
Nell: "No, stay all of the minutes!"


At bedtime yet again, putting her arms tightly around my neck and interlocking her fingers:
"You're clicked in!  You can't go anywhere!  You have to stay with me!"

When reading from The Jesus Storybook Bible about God creating light when there was just darkness:
Nell: "When it's dark, God should have gone inside where it's light!  And put his padamas on and bwush his teeth and get weady for bed!"


Lying in bed at night, talking to herself (pretending to talk on the phone):
"Umm okay, can you just maybe pick me up somekin [something] on your way home?  Yeah?  Ok thank you!  But DON'T GO INTO MR. MCGREGOR'S GARDEN!"


Lying in bed at night:
"I want a bagel right now in my bed."


At night tucking her into bed and snuggling with her for a minute:
Sarah: What was your favorite thing we did today?
Nell: Go to church!
Sarah: We didn't go to church today, silly!  Today wasn't Sunday!
Nell: I goed to my pretend church.
Sarah: Did you sing some good songs there?
Nell: No, we didn't sing songs.  We ate tockolate.  At my pretend church we eat tockolate!

Snuggling in her bed one evening, her face inches from mine:
Nell: "I like your teeth; they're shiny!" *pause*  "But... yeah... your face is a little bit squishy."
Sarah: "What does that even mean?"
Nell: "It just means God made your face a little squishy!"


Sarah: "I need to go downstairs now to nurse Marie before she goes to bed."
Nell: "Well, maybe Daddy can just nurse her with his nostrils."

Sarah: "One more minute and then I need to go downstairs, okay?"
Nell: "No little Mama, stay forever!!" *sobs* "Why? Why? Whyyy?!"


Snuggling for a minute before tucking into bed:
Nell: "Mama someday when I'm big can I drive a car all by myself and wear big shoes and drive?  How will you feel about that?"


...How will I feel about that?  I think I need a few more years of bedtime snuggles and morning bedheads before I can even think about drivers licenses.

I recently read something that captured a lot of thoughts that have been flying about in my head lately.

The gist of it is, I suppose, that just as we would not waste a moment thinking about ruining a pair of shoes or a pair of suit pants to wade into a pond to save a drowning child, so too we could stop ourselves from spending money on additional pairs of shoes or clothing in the first place, and send the money instead to relief efforts aiding those in absolute poverty all over the world.

It's a rabbit hole I'm struggling with lately; just how far down should we go?

Until this past fall, for quite some time, we were trying to spend as little money as possible.  Then, we were able to refinance our house and roll my grad school loans into the mortgage and now our monthly expenses are significantly lower.  Hurray!  If we did have a bit of money to spend, we both thought it would be nice to get more organized, to get rid of things we didn't truly need or want, and to have fewer things of a better quality.  I gave away quite a few plastic sippy cups, and bought each girl a stainless steel lidded cup, as an example.

And then I felt confused.

Can I justify buying my kids fancy water bottles, when so many children don't even have clean water to drink?

Christmas was coming, and I felt conflicted about gifts.  I don't think we go crazy with gifts, but we bought each girl a few things.  I sanded and painted an old door-turned-train-table I had bought off of craigslist, and got them little wooden cars to use on it.  A small wooden farm animal set for play in a consignment-bought wooden stable.

I took Nell to The Nutcracker at the Boston Ballet.  It was the last year under their current music director, and I really wanted to see it with her.  We had such a wonderful time.  But do you know how much those tickets cost?  Can I justify being lavish with my own children from time to time, when other children not only don't have opportunities in the arts, but they don't even receive the most basic of education?

I'm simultaneously aware of the children of the world who don't receive gifts, who don't have as much as our children have, and aware of the extreme excess of our society, of the aisles and aisles of toys at big name stores, many of which will be played with in America for a few weeks and then cast aside.  Many of which will end up in landfills.

People going hungry, unsure where their next meal will come from; and as much as 40% of our country's food production going to waste.

Holding these things in tension: the excess and the waste, the lack and the wanting and the needing.

To what degree ought we to sacrifice, to forego a pair of shoes or a sweater or something for our children, and to give, instead?  And yet, I have a responsibility to the children God has given me, to love them lavishly and yes, to give them good things.

In a way, it's easier to have no extra money than to have a very little.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

oh, hello again!

For the past month or two, I've been meaning to create an altogether new blog with a new title; a space to start afresh.  Then I sort of got hung up on what said title ought to be, and the project stalled out.  As a freelance musician, my evenings at home are limited, and when I do have an evening home, it seems that a dozen different things are calling my name and vying for my attention!

I want to get back to my little corner of the web, though.  I came across a lovely blog post by Rachael back in January and the idea of it has stuck with me.  It's really a nice bit of information if you - like me, I admit - are not quite certain you've got the whole 21st century thing figured out with regards to your technology and your photo-keeping.  But what I loved the most was this part:
"Part of the trouble is that our digital lives are still often dismissed as self-indulging and ephemeral. Instagram accounts are mentioned with an eye roll. Collecting photos annually and having them printed and bound into books takes hours, truly hours to put together, and feels hard to justify when we’ve already posted it and relished the photo elsewhere. While we’d love our children to someday say “she kept a tidy lovely home” about us, it feels less important to imagine them saying “she did such a great job of documenting our family’s life together over the years.” 
Sometimes I think about blogs as this century’s cross-stitch sampler. I’ve encountered criticism of them as aggrandizing digital wastes of time. A trend. People still say things like “I don’t read blogs,” as if they were a category of acquired taste. But they are the next in a long historic line of homemaking habits, small lovely tributes to our abilities and hopes. Even if the writers gloss things over, even if they make life appear too clean and breezy. Though in theory written and created for others, they will always bring the most pleasure to their creator."
You should still go read the whole post, though.  But she really voiced something I've long thought; a sort of frustration with how "mom blogs" are viewed dismissively when in fact, they can be a beautiful place to gather memories and highlights of daily life.

I'm also inspired by her to create some photo books for our family, perhaps one for each year of our recent life.  Judging from how much Nell loves the family photo calendar my sister-in-law made for us for Christmas -- she asks to look through those monthly pictures almost every day! -- I know she would love having a photo book to sit and look through, to look back on her life as a baby as well as the more recent memories we've created.

So it was that bit of writing from Rachael, in part, that reminded me to return to this neglected space, which I do hope to soon move to another corner of the internet whenever I can settle on where that corner ought to be.

In the mean time, this week is a week spent at home for me, quite welcome after several rehearsals and concerts last week.  It has been filled with everyday moments that we've enjoyed quite thoroughly so far.

Sixty-degree weather on Monday merited a trip to the park.

This particular park, just two minutes from our house, is more than just a playground - there's farm land and a barn with animals as well.

Ree yelled happily or angrily {one couldn't quite be certain which} at all the animals, over and over again: "Hiiiii!  Hiiiii!" (Which comes out more like "Iiiiii!")  I think she thought it was quite rude that they didn't acknowledge her enthusiastic greetings.

Nell was charmed to make the acquaintance of this sweet little goat.

Seeing the girls hanging on fences reminded me of similar timeless moments in my own childhood; somehow perhaps some of the most important things I ever did might have been doing nothing at all, if any sense can be made of that.  I've been pondering the nature of childhood lately, more and more as we move decidedly out of pure toddlerdom and into little girlhood and all that lies ahead.  {Very much on my mind: schooling in the future years and what we'd like to do for that!}

Nell has been faithfully helping me water our amaryllis plants in the living room, and they've all burst into bloom in the past week with a vibrancy that takes me by surprise each time I walk into that room.  I suppose it would be odd to admit that these plants were rescued from a trash bin, but there you go, I've said it.  I have to say it, because to me, it somehow makes their blooms that much more beautiful.

And finally, in hopes of more warm days soon to come, I dug up and created a branch border for a "Bit of Earth" for the girls.  They may not have a sandbox {yet}, but who doesn't love to just dig in the dirt?  And now that Ree is old enough to dig without eating said dirt, I believe it will occupy many imaginative hours of play this spring and summer.  It's a little area beside the shed and off the edge of the proper lawn.  A few pails and trowels and sticks and some pairs of play clothes are all that's needed for a very good time!

I know it's only the beginning of March, but I'm dreaming of many more warm days soon to come.

Today, on the other hand, was a bit rainy, so we found ourselves at the library and arrived home armed with some wonderful books.  Perhaps I'll write again soon and share some of our recent favorites!