26 October 2015

Family snippets

To begin, I'll point out that this is only the second post I've written all month. Draw your own conclusions about my busyness level. Sitting down at the computer with the adorable monsters munchkins both awake is a joke: Ellie wants to sit on my lap and type, or share my tea, or watch Little Einsteins, while Zoe makes a beeline for a trash can or a bookcase or a set of electrical outlets. She is a troublesome monkey, as we tell her ten times a day (she responds with a brilliant five-toothed grin and crawls off to find something else to destroy).

Therefore, save for this magical Sunday afternoon, since they're sleeping simultaneously and I don't need to do chores . . . no blogging for me.

I'm fine with that now. I fought it for months, but just this week, reached the blindingly obvious conclusion that I no longer live in the Writing Frequently chapter of my life, and I shan't live there again for years. Forcibly wedging my blog into the current chapter-- which we might title Loving My Babies and Not Doing Much Else-- is a terrible idea. I will not live under that self-imposed burden anymore.

It's remarkably freeing. Without realizing it, I had come to believe that if I wasn't maintaining my wee space on the internet, I was letting myself down. Maybe I was even letting God down. He gave me the gifts and desires that launched this blog, didn't he? So if I didn't keep writing, I would be losing an essential part of myself. And-- I think due partly to my generation's congenital compulsion to Change the World and Make a Difference-- wasn't I supposed to be aiming high? If I contented myself with ordinary life, life without an interesting internet presence and a significant project, I could fail to achieve my full potential (which may be the fate we millennials fear above all else).

All false, and absurdly so. I've got a billion things to do. They're extremely ordinary but God gave them to me, which makes them quite precious. They concern the physical needs of my family, the care of our lovely home, the kindness I can show to friends and neighbors. And it turns out that they are essential things, even when I'm not telling the internet about them. Shock! Amazement!

So I'm going to march along my noisy little road of mothering and home-keeping, without a keyboard hanging round my neck like a millstone, and without trying to measure up to the movers and shakers. Or anyone else, for that matter. I believe that God is calling me to do something significant, but I no longer think that "significant" means "affecting lots of people and accompanied by beautifully composed pictures." He sees. He cares. He blesses. That is sufficient.

Well.

On to the girls, because while I'm at it, I may as well describe what they've been up to.

Ellie: always learning and imagining. If she isn't asleep, she is either talking or singing. (Lacking a song for the occasion, she makes one up.) Her chatter exhausts me but it's also insightful and funny. And she's only two! Who knows what she will be coming up with next.

The child has limitless energy, which, paired with my emotional hunger for sunshine, has led me to make a point of spending time outside every day. Sometimes I just send her into the yard, where she loads rocks into her giant Tonka dump truck and spies on squirrels; I come out to uproot bedraggled hostas and plant tulip bulbs. Sometimes we go for a morning promenade around the block, and if so, we often end up at the playground down the street.

Indoors, she likes to draw and use scissors, build "tall tall towers," crumble playdough all over the floor, look at books, have books read to her, beg for snacks, dance until she falls on her face, make Zoe laugh, steal toys from Zoe, play with her pretend kitchen, and help me in the real kitchen. We went on vacation to the Outer Banks at the beginning of October, and by the end of the week she was leaping into the pool like the waterbug she is. Now that we're back home she must make do with splashing wildly in the bathtub.

Ellie has been successfully potty trained, which feels like a whole new phase in motherhood. A good phase, except for when I'm hunting for a bathroom because someone announced "I NEED TO POOP!" in the middle of the grocery store. Her vocabulary, her skills, and her ideas all make it impossible to think of her as a baby or even a toddler anymore. We have a real Big Girl in the house.

Zoe: always exploring and discovering. Too clever to keep tabs on. We barricaded the staircase with furniture but she finds a way to push it aside. She pokes her nose into every cabinet she can find. She knows when you are eating something, and flaps her arms unhappily until you share. I guess you could say she's making her presence known! At nighttime too, unfortunately. She had been sleeping pretty soundly, but several weeks ago she started a dreadful teething/growth spurt period when she would wake up 4-6 times a night. What a headache. Thankfully, she is settling down and has only gotten up twice for the past several nights. That much, I can handle.

She has learned how to imitate us-- if we click our tongues, smack our lips, or make a silly face, she does it right back. Sometimes she attempts to clap. Though she doesn't babble as much as Ellie did, she has a very loud voice when she does choose to use it. Again, I think she's just making her presence known, which is not an easy feat with her explosive older sister around.

Two children feels like a lot of children, these days. They're gorgeous and smart and loving them is a full time occupation.

03 October 2015

Weekend linkage

I just discovered the blog Coffee + Crumbs, and this essay moved me so deeply that I absolutely must share it: I suspect many of you will relate. "Dream House."
Houses tell a story. Somewhere between no kids then two, I started to believe my house could tell one about me where I am astonishingly pulled together, and everything from the floors to my toe nails is marvelously shiny, and nothing smells funny. I want my house to tell the story of how awesome I am. One problem: I am not awesome. Not by a long shot.
Another great piece, much shorter (this one from Jess Connolly's "No Filter" weekly email): "You're Asking the Wrong Question, Sister."
So if you have any of that in your heart today - if you wonder: Am I doing this right? The answer is: He is.
At The Economist, a fun reflection on Jeeves and Wooster, to celebrate their centennial: "Jeeves and the vital oolong." Many are the J&W volumes I have borrowed from the library, and many are the side-splitting cackles they have caused.

"Motherhood Screened Off."
My husband thinks no amount of narration will change the way our kids feel about the phone. The problem, he says, is that whenever I grab it, they know that I am also holding a portal, as magical as the one in Narnia’s wardrobe and with the same potential to transport me to another world or to infinite worlds. I am always milliseconds away from news of a horrific mass stampede near Mecca or images of great medieval art or a Twitter dissection of the pope’s visit. How far am I going, they might reasonably worry, and how soon will I be back?
"Christianity in Kenya: Faithful in the Midst of Frauds."

Goodness, look at these beautiful bags.

This is funny! The truth behind cool Instagram photos.

I am no food photographer but it was yummy.
A Few Things We've Et:

Butternut squash soup (two smallish butternuts, roasted + one fat, tart apple + a quart of strong chicken stock + chipotle pepper and salt to taste + a knob of butter to finish)

Sausage potato salad (cubed and roasted russets + spicy sausage + lightly cooked peas and mushrooms + thinly sliced green onions + olive oil and mayo and apple cider vinegar as dressing)

Stuffed sweet potatoes from Against All Grain (very good even though I had no bacon)

Pork and chicken fajitas (with salsa from the last of our tomato crop)

Pictured is creamy potato soup (with broccoli and carrots and cheese . . . a lot like Panera's cream of broccoli soup, but yards better because of the homemade stock and the big squirt of sriracha)