30 January 2008

observing lent with our families

finally, the wheel of the year has turned past the grand celebrations of Christmas. winter is really here, and we're settling in to the cold. i started to think about the coming of Ash Wednesday and Lent and how we might celebrate as a family. over at my flickr site, i asked how others might be planning to observe. Grace commented that it's hard to be somber with little ones around! that got me thinking that there have to be ways to enter in to this season even with littles under foot. here's a list of ideas that might provide a spark of inspiration to light the way to spring.
  • make doughnuts or some other deep-fried yumminess on Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday.
  • learn a new song. a song that points to spring coming and new life sprouting. yesterday Mabel and i were singing For the Beauty of the Earth as we got dinner ready. maybe you could illustrate the song to help little ones learn the words.
  • go for a walk every day. i once knew of a homeschooling family who put a pot of soup on to simmer for lunch and headed out for a walk each day. no matter the weather.
  • make a nature almanac recording what you see on your walks. when did the moon come full? what day did the buds burst? what stars are out?
  • learn a new prayer to say at meals. we've started singing our prayers. music is big around here these days. it lets Mabel really enter in even though she can barely talk.
  • give up meat as a family. or (closer to my heart) sugar. give the money to an organization like Heifer.
  • change your seasonal table or alter. add a bowl of water to be the waters of life. or a tray of sand to be the 40 years in the desert, our own long journey, our dustiness.
  • sprout something. wheat berries sprout and then grow a neat green grass perfect for hiding eggs when the time comes. but beans and lentils work too.
  • make bread. to go along with the soup. it's very earthy. and the spaces created by waiting for the dough to rise are perfect for story telling.
  • celebrate love on St Valentine's Day. our hearts of stone have been changed into hearts of flesh! glory!
  • wear purple, the traditional color of Lent, to keep you mindful.
  • light candles at meals. turn off the electric light. enjoy the darkness. try for silence even for a few moments. the light is coming!
  • and when all else fails and you're at the end of a long day, play "Jesus in the Tomb." the rules are simple: everyone must lay down very still and quiet. enjoy the respite!

last year when M was but four months old, it seemed odd that we were going to church to be reminded of our mortality. this girl was vital. our life together was just beginning. when we got to the priest, she took a smudge of ash from last year's palm branches and whispered to Mabel,"Remember that you are made from the dust of the universe, and that one day you will return to the stars!"

and that's what i want to hold in my intentions for this small girl.

the comments are on...i'd love to hear what you've got planned.

23 January 2008

a vacation at home

to celebrate MLK Day, we rented a car! makes perfect sense, right? we talked about driving north to see our friends in Washington. but driving with the prospect of winter weather sounded a bit much. so we stayed home. we rented a car and drove around our city and out to a few wild places.

on Friday night we drove over to NE to have dinner with Ben and Jess and Sophia. we shared a lovely meal at a Thai restaurant on Sandy. then drinks back home at their place. then over the bridge and back home to St Johns. being in the car let me notice all sorts of things i must have seen before but never quite registered. like the beautiful light posts lining our bridge. they can even be seen from our deck. or in the bathroom when you're brushing your teeth.

Saturday morning we were up early and cold. we made a thermos full of coffee, boiled some eggs, bundled up and headed out to Sauvie Island. we drove the length of the island and saw sheep, cows, horses, cormorants, vultures, winter wrens, and geese. then we turned around and parked the car at the Wapato Greenway. we were headed toward a seasonal lake that is home to many birds who spend their winters in Portland. it was cold. freezing rain turned sleet turned snow. we followed a Stellers jay out to the water and back again. judging by how loud he was, i think the weather agreed with him!

on Sunday we went to church. then we watch the football game. our friends from Washington called...they were in town for the Old Time Music Festival...would we like to join them for the tail end of a concert? well, yes we would. we headed to the Mission Theater in NW and found the place packed with happy people, kids, mamas with babies in the sling dancing in the aisles. i saw two other little one ask to nurse. it was amazing to be listening to people sing and play the banjo and stand up bass, for there to be beer to drink if you wanted it, for kids to be so much a part of what was happening. i felt very blessed.

then we went to another friend's house for burritos and more music. Nicki played her banjo and Kevin played his fiddle. and Mabel danced and played with the puppy named Zion. it was a comfortable, quiet evening in an old Portland house with dark wood floors. Troy came home with us and we made popcorn and talked about his trip to France and art and making a life and god and church and children.

in the morning we went out for breakfast with the big bunch of people and said our cold goodbyes. our family drove out to Kelley Point Park at the very edge of the peninsula. it's the confluence of the Willamette and the Columbia. i love seeing the two waters the mix, where the darker blue of the Columbia laps into the Willamette. the wind blow the clouds away, and the mountain was visible. it was windy up there too--a cloud of snow hung above the summit.

this entry is already too long. and i don't feel i've even begun to tell you what we experienced. how nice it was to get very cold and then rush back to the car to get very warm. how full and expansive our days felt. how refreshed we were after being together in this new place in a new way. it was every thing a vacation ought to be. and it happened over one long weekend, right in the place we call home.

17 January 2008

aunt Phan

it just amazes me that M gets to have such wonderful people in her life. because there was an empty chair next to Phan when my brother Steven walked into his math class, my daughter gets to learn how to make papaya salad from a wonderful cook. at the end of the video, you can see Phan's nifty rice cooker that makes sticky rice. yum!

14 January 2008

without pictures

i've been holding in my heart a few things i wanted to write about. but it just seems a bit odd to post a story without the pictures. will you be able to see what happened with only my words? some of the most important things that happen in our life don't have pictures. we're too busy living the experience to bother with a camera. and that's as it should be. i reach for the camera when things are quiet otherwise. but sometimes that leaves me wishing i had something to share.

in the middle of December we had visitors. first came the Layton family. good friends who fill up our house with children and conversation and wine. it is such a treat for us to get to share time with those five kids. to tell stories, to hear theirs. i had a stack of books that i thought might interest one or another of them. and then things happen by accident too. Clara found a calligraphy dip pen. so we got out the paints and she practiced writing. that meant we got a few other paintings as well. last night Mabel sat on the floor with all of the painting spread out around her. she looked carefully at each one. i can't wait to go visit them in the spring. then we get the kids and the wine and i get to eat good food made by Jess too!

Tim came by on his way up North. we shared warm mugs of spiced wine and then walked over to the pub for dinner. we sat at a perfect table where we could be comfortable while Mabel could play and couldn't get too far. it was the kind of visit that leaves you wanting more. more talk, more time to just be together. i love that we live close enough that he can just pop in. that by itself makes the move worthwhile.

finally Dianne and Jacob visited twice. the two littles play well together. or next to each other. they can spend an evening together with little conflict, little reason for mamas to stop their talk and offer some help. it's easy to be with these two. comfortable.

our house was full as fall tilted toward winter. and now the afternoons are getting lighter. buds are on the bare trees. we wait in hope.