Thursday morning as I looked into the rear view mirror, I caught a glimpse of the future–not what I have passed on the road but what I will be looking forward to. I was filled with a bit of ache in my heart.
Alex and Joseph sat in the back seat white shirts, black ties…all ready for FLAME‘s dress rehearsal…formal concert attire this year. There they were so serious, looking so handsome and yet the night before there was sword play and wrestling in the grass with a friend. What I saw this morning were not my little boys -but my 11 year olds on the brink of becoming young men. And perhaps the ache came from wanting to hold time just a bit. Hold their innocence. Hold onto their boyhood. And yet I have so much to look forward to in the years to come.
It is interesting that several months ago Alex came to me and asked if he could still call me mommy. I immediately thought some one had made fun of him but he said that he was just wondering. It was like calling me mom was a rite of passage that happened at a certain prescribed time. After that conversation he called me mom for a few days and then went back to mommy. But recently I have become Mom again and Andy has become Dad. This time the change is permanent. (I asked.)
What I saw in the mirror was a bit of maturity, still mingling with the boy, and I look forward to mentoring in a new way. I look forward to seeing Alex and Joseph blossom and begin to walk into their callings. I look forward to the new relationship that we will have even though it is hard to say goodbye to my little boys.
It has been awhile since I have had a two year old around, and although I have been a parent for 11 years and was and accomplished babysitter, it is easy to forget the AMAZING amount of work generated by a precocious toddler. Here are just a few gems from the past few weeks:
A metal cookie cutter in the toaster. Naomi came to me and said her fingers hurt. They were burning her. I asked her to show me what happened. She went to the toaster and told me that she put her fingers in there…she must have seen horror in my face as I quickly unplugged everything and fished out the cookie cutter, because she started to cry and say she was “so sorry.” My heart was beating a million times per minute as I thought of all the awful things that could have happened.
Calling out her elders. During a recent visit to Chicago, Naomi was promised a special waffle breakfast. After about a half an hour she came to me with a very dramatic pout on her face and said “Grandma lied me–where are my waffles?”
Making use of what’s on hand. A friend came to visit overnight and forgot her liquid face soap in the bathroom when she went home. Naomi found the soap and in a cleaning frenzy used all of it to clean the bathroom.
Fun with chemistry. Andy and I were sitting in the living room with both of the girls. While we were chatting, they started giggling, hilariously, around the corner in the hallway to the kitchen. Upon investigating the source of the giggles, we found Naomi squirting Windex from point blank range at her sister Gwenna, who was licking the nozzle of the bottle. Oy Vey! We really do watch them…but they can move so fast, and can think of the most creative uses for things.
And in case you think we have not been toddlerized before…
Helping with the dishes. When he was two, Charles flooded our entire kitchen. The water had even started to form a waterfall down the basement stairs.
Keeping daddy busy. When Alex and Joseph turned three I made a cake with a Busy Town theme. It had roads made out of black frosting and buildings made out of cookies, the whole neighborhood on a sheet cake. But the very best part was the die cut toy cars that were on the city roads. In a moment of sheer delight the boys climbed up on my buffet and drove the cars all over the cake. Let’s just say there were more than a few potholes created in the time it took my husband to bring a basket of laundry up from the dryer in the basement…. (Andy was the parent in charge at the time, since I was part of a search committee at our church.) In addition to calling into the meeting to tell me that there was an emergency at home, he must have really yelled because when I got home the boys said they were sorry and that they sang Amazing Grace with daddy several times. The boys probably thought that was why I put the cars on in the first place. To drive on the cake, right? Our friends’ reaction: “Those kids must have had such fun!”
I am sure that Gwenna will have her own surprises for us. She seems happy enough scooting around on her hands and knees, but she’s already blowing raspberries and climbing stairs…
Have you ever had it? Do you know anyone who makes it? Each spring as the dandelions begin to flood the open spaces along the highway, in sidewalk cracks, and heaven forbid our yards, I am reminded of my great-grandma and her dandelion wine.
“Pride of lions in the yard. Stare, and they burn a hole in your retina. A common flower, a weed that no one sees, yes. But for us, a noble thing, the dandelion.” –Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine
She died when I was in high school, but every year until then my sister, my aunt and I would gather the biggest yellow dandelions heads that we could find. My mom had a BIG green tupperware bowl that we would have to fill. (We still have the bowl; I think it was much bigger when I was a kid…) The three of us would sit in a field covered with these weeds. Pluck the heads and fill the bowl, and pluck the heads and fill the bowl, for as long as it took till Great-Grandma had enough.
There is not a spring that goes by that I don’t think of that plentiful field and the green bowl and Eva Huebner, the memories of her home. Her old fashioned ways: she ground her coffee with a hand grinder, wound her LONG braid around her head, and made her own wine. Each Christmas she filled a pillow case with hard little German cookies, Peppernuts.
In the fall of 2004 I had a chance to taste for the first time Great-Grandma’s dandelion wine. It was the last bottle left, made in 1977. Honestly, the memory of filling that BIG green bowl in a field of yellow was much more pleasant than the wine, which could have put hair on my chest. For me, that nemesis of a weed brings with it memories of happy times, and just a little longing for an opportunity to help make dandelion wine again.
Over 100 inches of snow fell in Madison, Wisconsin this year! I hear tell that we broke records, both state and national. Last year I think we got about 35 inches. This year Chicago got 60+ inches. A hundred inches is a LOT of snow. Our Naomi begged to go to the park almost every day, saying that we had not been to the park in a LONG time. What was I to tell the girl? We were barricaded indoors. Did I mention that 100 inches of snow is a LOT of snow? It undid me! I began to feel like Noah in the Ark, sending out birds, wondering and waiting to be able to get on with life when the snow melted.
Just last Thursday, there was still a small pile of snow hiding under some trees in Tenney Park. The boys and I were pretty convinced that it would be there until June. We have been watching it slowly melt. Imagine my surprise when I actually saw daffodils by a house last Thursday evening. I was shocked and convinced that a desperate soul had run off to the craft store and stuck them in the ground to herald spring. But then we saw more, almost at every turn. But that little pile of snow was still there. Could spring really be upon us? I had to call my parents and brag about these little “daffy down dillys” waving to me. There was an urgent hope to my call; I felt as if my life would go on, walks to the park and in the woods would happen again. Spring was here and honestly I didn’t think that things could get any better. My mom had sent me a wonderful new spring purse that came in the mail the day before. I was ready. Even another rainy April day could not bring me down.
And then I heard them, as I walked up to my friend’s door, new purse at my side and the awareness of flowers blooming: the incredible chirping voices of the frogs. As the door opened I gasped “spring peepers!” I got a strange look and an apology, “Yes, our children are still up,” said my friend. I could barely contain myself. “No, no outside! The spring peepers! Outside!”
My beloved spoke, and said to me: “Rise up, my love, my fair one,
And come away.
For lo, the winter is past,
The rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth;
The time of singing has come,
And the voice of the Peepers
Is heard in our land.
The fig tree puts forth her green figs,
And the vines with the tender grapes
Give a good smell.
Rise up, my love, my fair one,
And come away!”
The February 9th workshop at Happy Bambino has been canceled–but keep your eye here fo r future opportunities to sign up for a Baby Milestones workshop!
In just a week or so, I’ll be teaching my first class at Happy Bambino! If you have never visited their store or their site, do so as soon as you can! I’m really glad to be getting involved with such a wonderful neighborhood resource.
It will be a workshop for new moms, new-mom-again moms, and those who know new moms to put together a Baby Milestones Album, twenty-eight pages (twelve calendar-layouts, fourteen of your own layouts, and a double-page birthday spread) designed to help parents “catch” the events of their child’s first year. I want to help give my workshop clients the chance to express and preserve their experiences of childbirth and parenting, using the story-telling tools of journaling and scrapbooks. When the moments happen, the album will be there!
The Happy Bambino Baby Milestones Workshop will take place on February 9th from 1:00-4:00 p.m. at Happy Bambino in Madison. The cost is $49 until January 31st. Workshop participants need to bring a refillable 12×12 scrapbook album with them to class. I’ll provide stickers, paper, calendar mats, and other materials. For those that prefer not to bring their own, albums are available for purchase from my CM Website or on the day of the class for $30.
Register on line at www.happybambino.com, and please leave a comment here if you have any questions!
With ten little feet at our house under the age of 11, shoes are always an issue. We seem to either be looking for a matching shoe or needing to get bigger shoes for at least one of our five children. There are days when I wish that shoes came with a homing device (press G!) or that boys’ black dress shoes grew on trees. So when I got this card on my birthday a few weeks ago I wished that I could find this shoe…well, the pair in a size 10 to wear with my jeans. It is a fabulous shoe and I think that wearing a pair of shoes like this would allow me to express a little part of me that is not often seen.
So if anyone finds these shoes (I know they aren’t made for walkin’…) — let me know.
I love my boys! They have brought so many things to this girly-girl: baseball, stick collections, and energetic wrestling matches, just to name a few. And honestly I have never thought of adding something new to the holiday season. But as I posted on traditions I began to think about Santa Lucia. I told my husband that perhaps it would be okay because I am Norwegian and now we have girls! This celebration has fond memories for my husband as he grew up in a Swedish congregation on Chicago’s North side. And since he grew up in an all boy (and non-Swedish) household, his family probably did not celebrate this holiday outside of the church.
My husband and I wouldn’t want to adopt things that are not really part of our culture and would have no meaning, so I did some research. I found that Santa Lucia is celebrated throughout the Scandinavian countries and even has some roots in Germany. Her story, which like many saints’ stories is dramatic and gruesome, is the tale of her mother’s pursuit of healing, and her own devotion to her mothers healer, Christ the Bridegroom. Her desire to be possessed by Christ rather than by earthly suitors resulted in her martyrdom, and in her becoming a patron saint of chastity, eyes, and light.
The idea of Naomi and Gwenna dressing in white, Naomi in a wreath with candles, singing and serving coffee and rolls, sounds delightful. In this crazy head of mine I am even wondering if I could make special robes for the girls that they could wear year after year. Oh, the possibilities are endless! There is a family in our church who visits every year to a different house of someone in the community, serving rolls and coffee on the Saturday after St. Lucy’s day. Is it our turn? What do you think?
At this time of year our minds seem to remember things past. Visions of sugar plums dance in our heads, and we vow either to make happier memories for our kin, or to live out our traditions just exactly as we did when we were very young. Each year, we grasp at something solid, with roots that can bind us to our parents’ olden days and to the new days of our children. Each year, we seek remembered and imagined grace.
Our family traditions around the holidays are a mixture of both my husband’s and my family’s traditions. Right now my husband and I give our children new winter pajamas on Christmas Eve. And some years we’ve given them a Fontanini nativity piece as well (though our village is growing a little to quickly for the available real estate). We’ve picked and blended a little Christmas gift protocol from his family and from mine: we find St. Nicholas Day presents in our shoes on December 6th, but not presents from the Brownies each night between tree-trimming and the 24th; we haven’t done Santa Lucia, yet; all the gifts (or most) are opened Christmas morning, after a glass of milk and the stockings, as in his family; “Santa” presents are found unwrapped, as in mine, and we continue my parents’ tradition of giving each other our gifts alone, on Christmas Eve, once all the kids are asleep.
This is not the same pattern that either of us knew when we were young; it has changed from the way it was. It had to change! Trying to recreate everyone’s tradition, from every side, heedless of changing places and people and times, would have torn us apart.
But the traditions that are most meaningful to us are not the “traditional” public festivals, the ones that you do because they are common and expected, but the ones that our little family of 7 has embraced for ourselves:
We make homemade donuts on the first day of school. (You’re welcome to join us next year if you bring the coffee!)
Sometime around groundhog’s day we have a winter picnic, complete with fried chicken, lemonade, brownies and a picnic cloth on the floor.
On New Year’s Eve, I just can’t convince my family to share the traditional pickled herring snack from my family. But every year we make both cheese fondue and chocolate fondue. At midnight we set off fireworks.
I have found that everyday traditions like these are important. As Tevye the milkman said, “Without traditions, life would be as shaky as a fiddler on the roof.” But if we cling too tightly to them, they can also cause us to unravel.
What are some of the traditions that give you meaning, and keep your balance?
I have been asking this question of my children a lot these days. And each time I ask that question I am reminded of several episodes of Babylon Five where this question is asked of all the ambassadors. ( Watching B5 was an act of love when my husband first proposed the idea as I am not a big fan of science fiction. However, I quickly became engaged in the story and enjoyed sharing this program with my husband. You can find out more about it at the Lurker’s Guide.) I also just asked this question with the small group that my husband and I lead through our church.
It is an open question, and as Christmas draws near images of lists for Santa, friends, and loved ones come to mind. But that is certainly not what the characters of B5 were thinking when asked, nor our house group, or even myself when I ponder what I want.
In B5 the characters all took this on a very deep level, asking for justice & vengeance on evil enemies, or glory & power. One of the Ambassadors chose to not answer the question, knowing that it was asked with ill intent. As the series progressed each character got what they wanted and the consequences that accompanied it. It was chilling to see a good natured ambassador become a ruthless dictator, unloved and unwanted by even his own people. This character eventually repents and helps his enemy. They even become friends. Both of these characters got what he wanted, but what they wanted changed over time.
This question lodges in my brain often. What do you want? And if I get what I want, what will the consequences be? Will I be able to live with them?