(photo by the Papa)
It seems that carrying my babies is something I like to write about. I hope you can handle one more today, because it's been on my mind lately.
There are times in the lives of my little ones where the sling (or whatever carrier I'm using - I call them all 'slings' for some reason), is on all the time. Where I walk around for sometimes hours with it on my body, without realizing it's even there. It becomes, in those times, an extention of my body, just as the little one who fills it becomes a part of me. Snuggled, nestled, and so close.
And then, there are times when I am much more aware of the carrier and the baby in it. When I know that the days of us being attached to each other with a piece of fabric are dwindling. This summer has been like that. It's so much more rare that she's on my back these days, that each time I am all the more mindful of the experience. I'm flooded with the thoughts of first making this one with much anticipation - before we even knew her; or the memories of wearing a very small version of her on my chest in those days when I barely took it off at all, where her tiny sleeping breath blended right next to my own heartbeat. And I think about how it has been this summer - the few times she asks for it - as part comfort and part novelty. It's trickier for me to manage these days, but when she asks and when I can manage to wrap it around my belly comfortably and happily oblige her - she still snuggles in and rides on Mama's back. Sometimes - like the day above just a few weeks ago - slipping into sleep on our walk, despite long ago giving up her naps. As if it being wrapped up in there takes her back in time, and her body knows just what to do. Rest.
I've wondered each time this summer as she climbs up my back and I wrap those ties up over my shoulders and around my waist once more - will this be it? Is this the last ride she'll have in that fabric, on my back? I hope there are just a few more yet to come. But if not, I hope when she sees a new little one snuggled up in here soon enough that she'll remember what it feels like, too. I hope she always remembers - in some part of her being - what this feels like.
Some favorite and familiar sights in these last weeks of August: a few more tomatoes and cucumbers each day from the garden (gathered in the apron/skirt carry that she learned from her Mama); the constant little pile on the kitchen counter that grows and shrinks and grows again all day; and the ultimate summer lunch for me - sliced cucumbers and tomatoes, with a little bit of vinegar and sea salt. And some iced tea, too. Perfection.
I think I say with each new crop that is harvested as the summer rolls along, that it's my favorite of the season. But really and truly, I think cucumbers and tomatoes - together - are 'it'.
Oh, but soon the apples come...and then there's all the squash...
I want to remind you that there's just one week to go until the submissions deadline for Nest: Bringing Warmth Home! (I first posted about the project here). After a proper trying-on and photo shoot, these three hats are ready to go. I've got my knitting already packed for our camping trip this weekend, hoping to maybe finish a few more. (A long car ride, some dock sits, a hammock rest. Yes, I think I can squeeze in some knitting.) And then, they'll be off to join the rest of the lovely, warm things that have been coming in to the project. It's been such an honor to watch this project take shape, at the helm of its organizer, Jean. I think there are going to be some warmer heads, hands and hearts this winter because of the efforts.
And that silly photo? I must tell you that the shirts were not my idea. These little ones of mine like to play 'camera' nearly as much as I do (and there are an equal number of their photo shoots on my hard drive). When I mentioned that I wanted to get a photo of the three of them wearing these hats, but that they needed to put some more clothes on (ahem), they all marched upstairs together, giggling and conspiring. And this is what they came down in. The hugging? Totally unprompted too. As was the wrestling match that quickly followed...
I guess you could say there was a theme to our weekend. It started simply enough with a blueberry picking date with a friend, followed by a record-breaking 3lbs eaten by three babes in ten minutes upon arriving home. Then there was an afternoon of making blueberry jam. Which of course, required a reading of Blueberries for Sal (always and forever "Blueberries for Cal" arond here). And to finish the weekend off, there was a Sunday morning backyard picnic of lemon scones and blueberrry jam. Oh, that was a tasty weekend.
(adapted from the "cream scones" in the fabulous Tassajara Bread Book)
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup honey
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons cream of tarter
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 stick (1/2 cup) melted butter
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
1 tablespoon raw sugar
Mix the milk, sugar and egg. Sift in the dry ingredients. Add melted butter, followed by folding in the lemon. Roll out into 3/8" thick on a floured board. Cut into wedges. Place on parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Sprinkle sugar on top. Bake at 350 degrees until just barely golden brown (10 minutes or so). Transfer to cooling rack to cool slightly before serving. Devour. With jam.
We're savoring the picnics these days, squeezing in as many as we can before the weather shifts, and school and fall schedules pull our friends in other directions. There's time left, though for a few more summer picnic dinners at the beach. Arriving just as the beachgoers from the day are leaving, and just as the parking fares go down to 'free'. Swimming, eating and laughing, we'll linger at the beach, watching the sun go down. And when it does, and the chill comes up, and the bugs come out? We slip into pajamas for the sleepy drive home. Such a good way to end a summer day.
Steve snapped this underwater stumble and subsequent Mama-catch - one of many at each beach visit by this little one who loves the ocean waves with no worry or fear yet. Coming up for air, her face is full of shock, replaced quickly by thrill and then a huge surge of energy that fills her entire body (and sends her running for more). It's familiar. Especially this late in the season, it's the same feeling that being submerged in the cold, cold ocean gives me too. A sudden, powerful and joyful reminder of being completely alive.
From house reorganization to ....ice cream consumption. The important things in life. Here you can see my strategy for tricking myself into thinking I'm not eating all that much ice cream in one sitting, by placing an entire pint of gelato (cappuccino, topped with freshly picked blueberries) in an extra large bowl. Magically, it appears to be less than it really is. Oh so tricky.
Thanks for all the sweet words yesterday! Many of you wondered where all 'the stuff' went. Ha! Yes, that room did indeed have a lot of 'stuff' in it, didn't it? Now, it's all scattered a bit more - carried into other spots in the house for storage and hopefully, easy access (much of it now lives in one half of our sunporch, pictured below). There's a quiet, pretty little corner for writing by a bedroom window. And in the dining room, where so much other activity happens in the house, sits this corner (above) for sewing.
And the rest? Oh, there was some serious purging that happened from that little room. I had to quiet the Yankee, resourceful, 'waste not, want not' in me with a voice of attempted simplicity. That was the biggest challenge of all, but each and every bag that I filled up and carried outside of my house, I breathed a little bit lighter. Success. (Coincidentally, True Up just posted a great 10 Steps to a Decluttered Stash.)
Itchy to see how this whole new set up will work, last night I had to make something. I found a few things really helpful - keeping a large empty basket in the storage area for carrying project supplies to the machine (you know, the whole 20 yard journey that it is). The cutting mat can be easily slipped onto the dining room table, and on and on with little things like that, intended to make sewing not such an obstacle to have happen in the new space.
A half an hour later, in between making dinner and with lots of help from my helper, we had a new skirt. She happily twirled her way around the house and then right on outside...where I could still spot her as I cleaned up. Ah... While certainly I will look forward to and plan on once again soon having my own space, for now, I think this is going to be just right...
A few weeks ago, we settled into the reality that this baby of ours will be arriving far sooner than we could ever sanely find, close on, and move into the house we envisioned finding and being in before its arrival. I won't say that I embraced this change in The Plan gracefully (I do love myself a good plan)...but accept it, I did. Because, really? Life, so far, seems to always send things our way when the time is right, and not a moment sooner. There's no need to stop trusting that now. (And this, I repeat until I believe it.)
But the problem was that this little space of ours wasn't flowing right for us as a family anymore, and the thought of entering the fall and winter months like this? Oh my. And, so...I made Plan B. A multi-phased, totally-Virgo inspired, IKEA trip-requiring, seriously nesting-induced Plan B for the house. Want a visual?
How about...my studio. One week ago today.
And the same space...this morning.
My 'restructuring' plan involved a big change in every room in this house of ours. Any sadness about letting go of this studio was quickly balanced by excitement of what was to come. New bedrooms for all, a bit of a break from work, my creating 'things' in our family space once again, and excitement about the next studio I'll have...soon (just...after baby).
With all the moving of furniture finally complete, and everyone settling nicely into their new rooms, I feel inspired by all the 'new' spaces we've made here for everyone, and a little bit more in love with my home right now. We feel a little more ready for all the family-focused cozying, loving, playing, learning, creating, birthing, and baby-loving that we'll be doing here in the coming season.
Making room, getting ready, settling in, and looking forward....it feels good.
All feels right with the world at sunset on the beach. Oh yes.
Last week was just the week I needed to get a little more grounded in the here and now. I feel refreshed and a little bit reinspired. It's amazing what comes when we leave a little extra room for quiet and peace. I must remember to do that more often.
Huge thanks to Steve for filling in here so beautifully last week...among all the many other things he does. I'm a very lucky girl.
A happy Monday morning to you all!
I saw some of my oldest and dearest friends recently. I've known them since I can remember knowing anybody. They've always just been there...even when they're not there. Like family. We've blown and scattered, our communications few, even in this golden age of electric text. With a little effort we reunited, spent a couple of days together like the brothers we always were, and went home.
I watch my children grow. I remember being five years old. I wonder what they will remember from this time in their life. I wonder if they have met any friends that they will have as adults.
I remember my grandfather always taking pictures. Taking pictures and telling stories from his past. Later, as he was suffering from alzheimers, I wondered if he had been trying to preserve all that he knew...so he wouldn't forget. I wonder what I will forget.
This time of having children so young, is so busy and moves so fast that I fear it will be gone before I can fully realize what it is that I have.
I remember my good friend Darby. I would bring people to meet him at his house in the woods and he would always jump up to embrace them and say, "welcome home!". I loved that.
Wherever he is now, I'm sure it is home.
I hope my children always feel connected and loved and embraced no matter how far away they may be.
Here we are.
We're on a ball hurtling through space and spinning. Spinning at around 1000 miles an hour if you're an equator dwellor or essentially 0 miles an hour at the poles (I can get you a formula if you want to calculate your own areas rotational speed).
Steady now, don't stop reading.
I think I might be going somewhere with this but I didn't plot it out all the way through before I started typing. 0 mph at the poles or 1000 mph at the equator but hurtling nevertheless, hurtling in an orbit around a big fiery ball of mass or gas, or what have you, that we call the sun (el sol...cool.). About 18.5 miles per second we go in that orbit or...66,000 miles an hour. I'm not an astrology guy I had to look these numbers up. Correct me if I'm way off here but I gather that our little personal solar system is on the edge of a spiral arm of our galaxy. We're buzzing along, in orbit, around the center of "our" galaxy, the Milky Way, at like 155 miles per second. We'll complete that orbit in a mere 200 million years give or take a cuppy million. It goes on and on and on. Galaxies and groups of galaxies...
Still with me? Let me bring this back home.
We're born, if we're extremely fortunate, into the loving arms of our mothers. More fortunate still if there are more arms there that love. Fathers. More mothers. Excellent mothers. GRAND mothers you might say.
We grow. If healthy, we grow and grow and develop our own patterns of movement. Irregular orbits around those mothers and fathers in a little personalized version of the solar system. But they have their own orbital patterns that they must follow. We try and keep up but it's tiring, very tiring. Often we get scooped up and carried. Now we're like a moon. Not a dry and distant, cold looking moon. But a living breathing drooling stooling crying sleeping wailing hungry moon that needs nourishment. Nourishment of all imaginable sorts. So, we're nourished and we grow and grow some more and in a few short orbits around the fiery ball in the sky we're set free. Those arms that held us so tight and warm and rocked and spun us around our world give us the loving cosmic nudge into our own space. (Sidenote: Some cosmic nudges are more loving than others. Harder nudges can be referred to as the cosmic boot.)
Here we float. Adrift in a sea of possibilies. The infinite.
Some float here for many revolutions around the fiery ball.
Others prefer and seek more defined orbits.
I floated... And floated.
I found something to help me float. Water. I found water.
I floated on water for many fiery trips around the sun. I stayed with her as she froze and remained at her side as she melted again. Whether she was fierce and overpowering or gentle and placid. I stayed with her.
Eventually though... eventually, I slipped out of the water onto the ground.
It wasn't as dizzying as I'd remembered. I felt stronger in my orbit.
Just when my thoughts and feelings and rotation and orbit were at their strongest I found the most amazing and dizzying concept of all...Love.
Love that never leaves.
It held me with all of its' force and told me this was good. This was the place.
Love grew and grew and grew and spun rapidly into family. Family that supports and nourishes and spins around itself. We practice the nudges into orbit and relish the sweet and messy gravity of the moons. We forget and must remind ourselves that we're spinning through space. Together. Of all the moons and stars and galaxies across the universe. We are here. Together.
There I was on the journey toward mindfulness screeching through the parking lot in a desperate attempt to get past the auto doors and into groceries before closing time. It's 9:47pm.
I recite the list in my head and grab a cart. Wheeling it nimbly around I'm happily calling Amanda to pronounce myself king for making it in time and to ask her what was the other thing she wanted me to get besides milk.
"Tea" she says after giving props, "I REALLY need some good tea". Oh yeah, tea.
I pop a cart wheelie and drive promptly into the auto doors which don't budge but make quite a loud sound when rammed with a metal box. A man with no soul is tapping on the glass and pointing to his watch, "We close at 9:30, sir", his eyes shifting to inspect the doors for damage. "It's Sunday" he says.
I can't speak as I walk shamefully back to the car and consider how miserable a Monday morning could really be with nothing to feed the kids, no tea and, worst of all, I'm leaving early for work and laying it all at my dear wife's aching pregnant feet.
How is my world of part time stay at home Papa, so dialed in just moments earlier, tossed this easily into disarray...chaos. Driving home I realize how unfit I am to be charged with rearing children...educating children!! I can't even manage to get food for breakfast.
I wheel into the driveway. Radio off. Driving slow.
The headlights illuminate my yard in all its' neglected beauty. This sight does little to boost my spirits.
Hoping to do something of benefit before leaving I set the alarm an hour early.
I wake determined to dent the formidable wall that is my list of chores. Chores that must happen before the weather flies south for winter. I grab my camera on the way out and begin documenting what i see. Unruly wisteria, leaky shed roof, wood pile, randomly strewn objects. At first I'm framing shots like an insurance adjuster, just the facts. Soon, the morning air loosens the tension from my face and I'm enjoying myself. No worries. No hurries. I walk through the wet grass.
Grinning, I snap a few more pictures as the sun rises over my shoulder... That's better.
Now I need to find a store that's open this early.
"All you do is head straight for the grave, a face just covers a skull a while. Stretch that skull cover and smile." - Kerouac
I'm feeling the pull to embrace some quiet this week. The sounds and sights of summer and my family are so very full and alive right now, and I want to spend some time just really watching and listening.
Thankfully, SoulePapa is feeling more chatty - he's going to step in for a bit!
Have a lovely week!
It appears that the five hours of bliss we had for the birthday celebration were all the sun we're going to see this week. Sometimes - even in my precious sun-filled summers - we get thrown a week like this: one full of so much rain, cool and dark days, and life events and moods to match.
I wanted to share a Mary Oliver poem today, but couldn't find quite the right one. As I was sitting here uploading this photo, I overhead this breakfast-table conversation coming from downstairs that felt more fitting for me today than any poem I would find:
Calvin: It's raining AGAIN. I don't want to get wet today.
Papa: Well, when it rains like this you have a choice. You can stay inside all day. Or you can just go outside, know you're going to get wet, plan on getting wet, and enjoy the day anyway.
Of course. Sometimes it really is that simple. Thank you, my loves.
Happy Weekend to you!
My least favorite household chore becomes so much more pleasurable once it's taken outside. I love the silence that comes with hanging clothes on the line, especially in the morning when my time is shared with the chatting birds, and my chatty helpers...one who insists on dragging out a stepladder to 'do it my ownself'.
There's been a flurry of knitting happening here this summer. Some for Nest (submission deadline at the end of this month!), some for me (in an overambitious urge, I cast on for February Lady, which might, coincidentally, be finished just about in February...of 2010), and of course - there's been lots of knitting for baby (in the photo is the beginning of a February Baby Sweater - because I figure it's only fair to right away introduce this little one to their fate of a Mama-matching handmade once in a while).
I love the way the wool feels such a sharp contrast to the needs and carefree nature of the summer moments. And the way it keeps me focused in the moment, and also preparing for what is to come. Providing balance, and always a little bit of peace - no matter what the season may be. It's amazing what two sticks and some string can do.
An inside tent made of bedsheets, a thunderstorm outside to break the humidity, and a fresh stack of picture books from the library (thanks to all your wonderful comments, we had a fresh list of illustrators!).
Ah, summer peace and comfort for everyone (especially the mama on the couch).
Have a great weekend, everyone!
Greetings! I'm Amanda Blake Soule - mother of five, author of three books on family creativity, and editor-in-chief of Taproot Magazine. I live with my family in an old farmhouse in Western Maine where we raise animals, grow vegetables and make lots of things. I write about it all here on the blog. Thank you for visiting!