4 November

Another phone post tonight after a day that was just one of those days. It wasn't bad, it wasn't good, it was just kind of indifferent. I was sore, John was cranky, the children spent time cleaning their rooms and playing independently of each other, my husband touched up some paint and worked on installing baseboards. The weather was cold but not particularly noteworthy. Later I taught lessons which wasn't fun considering cello is an instrument that is played seated and sitting is a "pain" for me right now.

Anyway, after all that, I went to make this post and was thinking, "What will I write about?" Four days into the month and I'm already a bit unprepared. Well, not totally, I just don't have photos ready to go. And then these words of Blessed John Paul II, in his Letter to Artists, came to my mind: "All men and women are entrusted with the task of crafting their own life: in a certain sense, they are to make of it a work of art, a masterpiece."

As a musician, decent amateur photographer, and dollmaker, I do consider myself an artist. But even when we are not artists, or just don't feel like it, or a particular day didn't seem to offer any inspiration at all, we are still crafting our lives. I know I've written about this some time ago, somewhere, but I can't find it right now and can't add links from the phone app anyway. But it's something I've thought about a lot over these last 11 years of spending most of my time raising my children. Crafting our home, making mindful decisions in my parenting, all of this is part if crafting this life. I'm not at all sure I've reached "masterpiece" level yet, but I'm certainly trying.

I firmly believe that being conscious of how we live, having the goal of a life lived as a masterpiece to strive for, is a very beautiful and worthy endeavor.

Here's to another day spent working on that masterpiece.

4 November

1 April


Light snow is in the forecast for tonight and later in the week. But just now I smelled the unmistakable scent of earth and sun and growing things that means spring is around the corner and I'm so excited!

Last week was busy and a little chaotic here. We had a ridiculous comedy of errors trying to get everything done that needed to be. And then we discovered Saturday afternoon that the puppy had destroyed all of my shoes -- and I do mean all of them -- within the preceding 24 hours. She's so sneaky. It's kind of funny but of course not that funny, too, because all of my shoes (and I am not a big shoe person, I only owned 5 pairs total) were expensive. I wear a size 12 and have plantar fasciitis (which is way better now than when it developed 8 years ago, thanks to wearing good shoes), so I have to be careful about what I wear on my feet, and of course, what I can get is pretty limited due to my size. (Being as tall as I am is mostly great, but the challenges come in when you are on the largest size of generally available shoes.)

Anyway, that was a bit of a digression. Friday night found us at our church's always breathtaking Good Friday service. We are blessed with what I am convinced to be the best music director of any church of any denomination I have ever witnessed. In three years, he has transformed our slightly rag-tag group of singers into an amazing choir, who perform beautiful pieces from Gregorian chant, to Thomas Tallis, to contemporary choral works. It's impossible not to be brought to tears with our music director's musical setting of the Reproaches. Being a musician, nerd, and highly religious individual, I fully admit to looking forward to this all year.

waiting for the Easter Vigil to begin

Saturday was, as always, a quiet day for us. We did some minimal prep for Easter dinner and then rested in the afternoon. After the alarming shoe discovery, we set out to the Easter Vigil. (One pair of shoes was intact enough that I could wear them with the addition of a grocery store insole.) It was extraordinarily beautiful. Fiona slept for about the first hour, but was up for the rest, and the other two children took turns sitting in the aisle so they could see better. They were all quiet and did beautifully the whole time. The Easter Vigil is long (about four hours at our church, this can vary), but so beautiful and transcendent. I wish I had better words, but I guess this will have to be enough. We got home at about 1:30am, and my husband had to be up at 6:00 to go play in a brass quintet at another church's services!

(Note: I made my dress, based on some basic ideas I saw on DIY Maternity, using fabric from Girl Charlee. I am not going to take full-body pictures of it because even though I like it, I don't feel the need to share full shots of my pregnant self on the internet. More about my rosary here.)

slow Easter morning

table setting

I love our dining room

lemon water


The rest of us spent a slow morning. Elisabeth and I gradually prepared our Easter dinner in spurts, between my resting and the children playing outside with sidewalk chalk and bubbles. 

My husband arrived home at about 1:00, and my brother and his wife arrived at 3:00 for dinner. It was a sunny, beautiful day, so restful and perfect. Keeping it simple and doing most of the prep in advance made it easy for me and my helpers. I never host holiday meals because generally that's the territory of my mom and mother-in-law, but this year it just worked out for us to stay home (with the addition of my brother and sister-in-law). It was so nice. I hope over time to have the chance to host a few more things!

Last night, I got my three overtired children and exhausted pregnant self into our pajamas at 6:00. I read each of them one chapter from their latest books. Fiona was asleep by 6:30, James by 7:00, and I think Elisabeth managed to hold out until 8:00 before falling asleep. They all slept in until 8 this morning, too, so it was well-needed rest!

Well, this is may be my rambliest and most pointless post ever, but I'm happy, so happy, that Easter has come -- I've been so looking forward to it this year! -- and that spring is around the corner. Soon enough, we'll be getting ready to welcome our baby. What a season of goodness lies ahead.

12 November

baptism candle


My baby nephew was baptized a few weeks ago. I was thinking about him and this beautiful moment, my radiant sister, my joyful brother-in-law, and how extraordinary things really do happen. It's so easy to forget this, to take things for granted, to miss things as life goes by. But the world is full of remarkable, surprising, magnificent things every day, in the details, big and small. I think if we'd allow ourselves, we'd realize that there is more that's extraordinary than just plain old ordinary. 

James and my nephew

Let's all remember to drink it in.

22 November


I'm about to admit something that I have a feeling may ruin my "image". That's funny to me, of course, because I am who I am, and I'm also obviously the person who crafted whatever "image" it is that I have. (Also, I am being a little bit facetious.) But here goes:

We love Michael Jackson. Our whole family, we just love him. When he died, I was shockingly depressed about it. I was also newly postpartum and fairly vulnerable, but my reaction to his death surprised even me. The week after he died, I wrote this post, and a lot of it was about my feelings about his death (also, the speeding ticket, the dawdling in the pool locker room, and the 2000 stitches per inch of work on my niece's sweater were also real anecdotes). Kyrie called it my "Michael Jackson post". 

Anyway, we love to watch Michael Jackson videos on YouTube (my kids' favorites are absolutely Smooth Criminal and Beat It, while my husband likes the album Off the Wall quite a bit), and sing and dance and generally have a lot of fun with it. 

Right now as I type this, my husband is playing Michael Jackson songs on the guitar behind me. And that is more what I wanted to write about, Michael Jackson being my long-winded introduction.

There is something intangible and kind of magical about being a musician or an artist. It's so hard to put into words, even for a person who has experienced it for many years. But there is a sort of "can-do" attitude in the fact that we can pick up instruments and learn Michael Jackson songs and play them together in an impromtu jam, or the way many of us in this (blogging) community jump in and make incredible pieces of art -- with fiber, textiles, all kinds of media! -- and the photography, too! I look at the photos on so many blogs and all over flickr and they are better than lots of "professional" photography that I've seen throughout my life. 

I guess what I'm trying to say is, embrace art! Embrace being an artist! It is something you will have with you all your life, wherever life takes you. Art is one of the very few, very real legacies a person can leave behind. For me, this always seems especially clear when I hear Schubert's 4th Symphony. I don't know why, but everytime I hear this particular piece of music, composed nearly 200 years ago, I am blown away by the fact that something so "old" still has such deep resonance and relevance. So much so, that people devote their lives to developing the skill to be able to perform it. (Life as a classical musician is a bit odd in that way, because most classical musicians don't play music of their own creation, but are rather the conduits of those who have gone before. Which is amazing to me, such evidence of the true value of art!)

Whether it's Schubert, or Michael Jackson, whether it's textiles, photography, or food: remember, you are an artist. I believe that we were created to create. And that is something huge, and beautiful, indeed.

(PS: Two of my real kindred friends, Martha and Kyrie, have released an ebook of knitting patterns today! Check them out!)

5 November

Oh, dear friends, thank you for your warm and loving response to last night's post. I am so grateful for your empathy, your own stories, you encouragement, your advice. I feel so lifted up, and I hope you all do, too. A burden shared really is a burden lessened. 

My husband's school is doing their school musical right now (right after marching band season! Ack! More nights away!) They are doing "Fiddler on the Roof", and today he came home from their "tech rehearsal" whistling some of the tunes. It made me think of this Sabbath scene in the movie, one of my favorite movies scenes ever. Though I don't share this faith or these rituals, this image of a family celebrating a weekly tradition (here, so simple: a loaf of braided bread, candles, prayers -- and yet, so profound, as the celebration of the Jewish sabbath is) and praying for their hopes for their children is one that I treasure. 

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LnaZqHy2ZHE?rel=0] 

It has me thinking tonight of the small rituals we have as a family, and how there is still more I'd like to incorporate in the rhythm of our days and weeks to set aside as sacred -- not just in the spiritual/religious sense, but also in terms of the sacredness of our life as a family right now. I have a sense that time with these young ones under our roof is fleeting and to be treasured, and I would like to communicate that to them even more in our family life.

I'm wondering, what small traditions are most valuable to your families, and what little rituals have you valued as your children have grown?



I'm so sorry I haven't posted in the last two days. What I had intended to post on Wednesday felt kind of out of place after coming home from church that evening, smelling like incense and feeling quiet and meditative (in the best of ways). And last night I sat down to write, and fell asleep while my photos were uploading. So, no post!


I'm looking at the photos I've taken over the last couple of days, and thinking about what makes a house a home. It's hard to define, isn't it? My house is usually far from tidy, but there are all these small, quiet corners, the little things that make up our daily lives; bits that wouldn't mean anything to anyone else the way they do to us. And it's a beautiful collection, this home, this artifact of a family's days of living and working and creating, eating and sleeping, breathing and being.



Today I have Erin's post on my heart. It was a good reminder to me -- not to stress and fret, to be OK with saying no to things, to embrace the good quiet and peace that can be ours in this season, if we allow it in.



This weekend we'll seek out our Christmas tree, and do most of our decorating. We will listen to some of our favorite music of the season (some of which can now be found in the right-hand sidebar, below the books). We will celebrate, live, work, create, eat, sleep, breathe, and be.




I wish the same for you, my friends, this December weekend.

More on mindfulness!

You all are so sweet. Thank you for your comments on yesterday's little post -- they ranged from affirmation to concern, and each one was so sweet. I forget sometimes that not all of you have been with me since the beginning of this blog, and so you may not know that I've written here about mindfulness quite a few times. The first time was here (almost 4 years ago! look at tiny baby James, not even a year old there!), and there is a quote in that post that I think warrants sharing again. It expresses, for me, the core of what a mindfulness practice is.

"If while washing dishes, we think only of the cup of tea that awaits us, thus hurrying to get the dishes out of the way as if they were a nuisance, then we are not 'washing the dishes to wash the dishes.' What's more, we are not alive during the time we are washing the dishes. In fact, we are completely incapable of realizing the miracle of life while standing at the sink. If we can't wash the dishes, the chances are we won't be able to drink our tea, either. While thinking of other things, we are barely aware of the cup in our hands. Thus, we are sucked away into the future -- and we are incapable of actually living one moment of life!"

-Thich Nhat Hanh


I do know that being gentle with oneself is a huge step, but I have become a master at gentleness with myself, and I know when I need to step it up and employ some discipline. When I work hard (and it is hard work for me) on being fully present in the moment, then I know I am really living my life, rather than just existing in it, and that's so very important to me.

It's also important to my spiritual journey. Last year, a wise priest I know said, "Being in the moment allows us to be available to the eternal present all the time."

sick fiona

Anyway, I'm so heartened to know that so many of you are right there with me on this journey. I am a very goal-directed person (hello, Type-A personality), and really understanding, in my bones, that life is about the process has taken me a long time. I don't know that I'm there yet, but much closer.

Thank you all for being here, in this moment, with me.


In thanksgiving

I have a great deal to be thankful for today, on this eve of the Thanksgiving holiday.


You see, there is no easy way of writing this. It has been hanging over me, like a weight on my heart, for a long time. With the honesty and encouragement of two bloggers who have shared publicly about similar experiences as those on my heart, I have decided to just say it, today, in this week of gratitude:


My husband almost died this fall. He got sick in July with what we thought, at first, was a bad cold. As he got sicker, and sicker, and began what felt like an endless journey to countless doctors, an unspeakable dread crept into our lives. Carrying on with "normal" seemed the only choice for me, even as his illness worsened and answers didn't come.


In the end, we never ended up with an "official" diagnosis. We found out a lot of what it wasn't, but ultimately, we think it was an MCS-like illness, or actually, more specifically, a hypersensitivity pneumonitis which is being called "trombone player's lung": a disease that only affects musicians! (The NPR article I linked to makes it sound a lot less bad than it actually is, by the way.)


Anyway, this sounds awful, and dramatic, and it really was. But he is well now. He is well! And this is over.

With so much to be thankful for, and so much anxiety and worry to put behind us, we journeyed to the ocean several weeks ago.



As I stood in the icy water, gulped in the salty air, and looked out across the great expanse of the sea, I felt myself letting go of the fear and worry that had permeated the previous months. It seemed to melt down into the sand where I stood. Peace washed over me as I listened to the tide, and played with my beloved little family in the surf.



Again, my children were my best teachers. Even as the ocean was such a concrete reminder for me to let go, and such a beautiful metaphor for healing and cleansing, I realized that my children didn't need a reminder so concrete: they are so present in each moment of life that the stresses of the previous months had already washed past them. What a powerful reminder that was -- my children on one side, the ocean on the other.



I'm hoping that I've brought back a little bit of that peace with me into ordinary life. And hoping, for all of us, that it doesn't take something so dramatic to help us renew our gratitude for the people we love.


Wishing you much love, gratitude, and joy these next days, whether you're celebrating the holiday tomorrow or not.


Summer is ... Swim season

Here at the very end of summer, with so few posts from me in the last couple of months, I thought I would visit a few of the highlights of this summer.

state meet

The most prominent aspect of this summer (after Fiona's broken leg, I suppose) was swimming. We have always done swimming lessons for the whole summer, five days a week. But this summer, specifically, was Elisabeth's first swim (team) season.


backstroke start

At the beginning of the summer, she was one of the weaker swimmers on our (fairly large) team. She couldn't dive off the blocks, and had a fair share of "DQ's" (short for disqualifications). But as the summer progressed, she improved extremely rapidly. Her times kept jumping down by several seconds at each meet. She started to practice in the "harder" group. By the second week of July, she had qualified for the League championship, where she placed in the top ten in backstroke, and ultimately ended up making the State championship, as well. She was named our team's most improved girl, a title she really deserved.


For me, it was hard not to swell with pride at her accomplishments over the summer. Now, with our swim season behind us, I can look at it from another perspective. I'm proud of her, but not just for being fast, and qualifying for championships. I'm proud of her for working hard, and not complaining when it was tough. I'm proud of her for trying her best, even in the midst of being new -- to the team, to the sport, and to competition -- and not knowing what to do, and the disappointments of disqualifications. I'm proud of her for working with, and being respectful to, a number of different coaches with very different styles. For being a true teammate and friend. For rising to the occasion, working hard, learning, growing, and showing much character.

relay start


Swimming is fun. It's exciting, fast, and thrilling when your body hits the water at the start of a race.
But in the end, I shouldn't be surprised that the swimming itself was only a part of the whole; only a means to an end in what became a priceless experience.

our swimming girl

(photos here from our state swim meet a few weeks ago)

At the end of the day

Today I have something very special to offer here. I wrote this post just over six months ago, on August 20, 2009 (the events described had occurred the day before). I didn't end up sharing it at the time ... I don't remember why. It was written in the midst of what was a very hard time for me. My husband had begun his school year and was writing his dissertation; I saw very little of him. I was surprised when I stumbled across this post recently, and so grateful for it in the midst of a very different time of busyness. My baby approaches a year old in just two days; and beginning with mine tomorrow, we'll celebrate four birthdays in the next six weeks. Easter and other celebrations will fall during this time, as well. I find myself once again feeling stretched. How strengthening this voice from the past -- my own! -- is to me today. It feels like a gift that I sent to myself across the months.

I'm so happy to be able to offer this post to you today, just as it was written. How funny to see that many things have changed since then -- details great and small -- and yet how I can conjure those moments of folding the towels that night.

Wednesday, August 19

The baby wakes me at 7:20 to nurse; my husband has already left for the day. I was up too late the night before, and try to coax her to fall back to sleep. She won't have any of it, and the older two are already stirring.

I get up, and make a breakfast of eggs, toast, watermelon. I change Fiona's diaper, brush my teeth, and help Elisabeth and James get into their swimming suits. We leave at 9:25. Too early for our 9:50 swimming lesson, but chairs for parents are a scarce commodity at the pool.

We're early; we have to wait for them to open the doors. It's the last session of the summer, and the 9:00 classes didn't fill, so ours is the first class of the morning.

I have to laugh at the mad rush of parents to those 12 precious plastic chairs. I'm able to snag one today, and I'm grateful, because it's uncomfortable to sit with the baby at the awkward round picnic tables.

My children make their way to their classes. I watch Elisabeth practicing her kickboard across the deep end of the pool. Her legs and feet are so relaxed. She's a good swimmer, like me. I feel so satisfied and grateful as I watch her working hard. I look over to the shallow end and see James dunking under the water repeatedly. It took all summer, but he's found his confidence this week. The sun is sparkling on the water. This is summer.

A grandmother pulls her chair up beside me. She saw a bumper sticker on my car that sparks a long, interesting conversation. After their classes end, my children happily join their friends in the shallow end of the pool to play for a while. They both find their way back to me at about the same time.

On our way out, we run into a family we haven't seen in a couple of years. Their oldest son is Elisabeth's age, and they are also homeschooling. The mother and I have a long conversation about life, faith, gratitude. We exchange contact information, amazed at our chance meeting.

While we're changing in the dressing room, some friends are on their way in for the last lessons of the morning. My friend shows me the dress that she made for her three-year-old, her own pattern. I'm so impressed. Creativity abounds.

We come home and have last night's leftovers for lunch. Diapers are changed, swimming suits and towels are thrown into the wash, Fiona goes down for a nap. Wednesdays are my teaching day. I hurry around the house, straightening up for my students. I find myself taking joy in sweeping today, although I'm so tired and would love to lay down with the baby.

I have a full afternoon of teaching. I hadn't seen two of my students for a few weeks because of vacations. It's fun to catch up with them -- the thoughts and perspectives of preteens are enormously refreshing. I don't have help this afternoon and my kids are really wild, but surprisingly cooperative when I ask them to go play.

My husband arrives home a little bit before my last student. I'm surprised to see him, but glad when he offers to take the kids with him to the grocery store to pick up some dinner. It's already a bit late, and I hadn't started anything.

We eat dinner together as a family. It's not an idyllic meal, but there is a sense of gratitude for it -- we have so few family meals right now.

After dinner, we struggle to get the three children to sleep. It's past their bedtime and they're overtired. When they're finally down, my husband & his laptop retreat to a corner of the house to do more dissertation work, and I sit down with a movie and my knitting.

By the time the movie is over, it's almost midnight. I finish packing the swimming bag for the morning. The towels were already ready -- they were yesterday's, already dry and folded. The suits are hanging on pegs by the front door. I add a change of clothes for both children, tuck the sunscreen and goggles back into their respective pockets. As I fold the now-clean towels from today and set them aside for Friday morning, I realize that Friday is our last day of swimming lessons for the summer. It makes me a little bit wistful, knowing that I'm folding the last towels of the season. It occurs to me, as I take my vitamins, brush my teeth, and turn out the lights, that packing the swimming bag is love. It seems so simple, so obvious. But it's really love. It's one of the many small and not-so-small things that I do every day, out of love.

My life is both lonely and very full; it's both average and extraordinary. Yesterday's drudgery might be today's blessing -- or, perhaps, the other way around. It can be so easy to lose sight of these everyday blessings in the midst of hard work, a crying baby, arguing children, chaos, boredom, exhaustion, distractions. We want every day to offer an epiphany, a moment of catharsis, or peace, or contentment. But some days don't seem to offer anything at all.

Here's the secret: it's not easy. It will never be easy. It's much easier to fall into the trap of sleepwalking through these ordinary days, not realizing that, like each tree in a forest or pearl on a necklace, each one is both part of the whole, and a unique treasure of its own.

A wise friend of mine remarked recently, "The way you spend your days is the way you spend your life."

Here's to spending each day mindfully, living fully, loving with our whole hearts.


A week of awe -- day five (late)

For the final installment in this little series, I have two things that inspire awe in me.



I'm awed by its quiet. By its gift to the landscape. The reverence that everyone seems to feel when it's crisp and white and cold and sparkling outside.


The peeks of the seasons gone by.


And of the seasons to come.

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And knitting.

The way that twisting the yarn around and over the needles, and itself, yields fabric. All different kinds of fabric. Fabric of infinite textures and styles: delicate, rugged, soft, rough, elegant, durable. Beautiful.


It's like a little miracle.

(This is my February Lady Sweater that I'm desperately trying to complete before my own birthday on Thursday.)

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What inspires awe in you today?

Thank you for playing along over the last week. It's been a good exercise for me, noticing things and cultivating awe for them. I'm finding awe a little bit more each day, here and there. It's something I need right now because I'm feeling a bit sad about my littlest one turning a year old on Friday. It's not supposed to go so fast. Sigh.

A week of awe -- day four

{There are many awesome things in this world, but I'm still searching for the awe in 24 hours spent feeling dizzy and faint. Fortunately I'm feeling better tonight. Since I'm behind a day, I will finish up the series on Monday. See you then!}

My mom says I'm an optimist because I'm always looking up -- literally -- I'm much more likely to notice cobwebs around the ceiling than dust on the floor.

I do find a great deal of inspiration and awe in the sky. It is perhaps my favorite part of the natural world, and has been since I was a very small child. And it's always right there. Whether you're peering up between skyscrapers or gazing up over the vast expanse of a prairie, the sky always has something to offer. A moment of respite from the, well, gravity of life on earth.



I love a February sky. Blue one day, gray the next. Actually, despite my complete devotion to pink, during one month of the year, gray may actually be my favorite color. Oh, those varied grays of a February sky. (I really embrace February, the month of my birth. I know many of you dread it more every year, but I really love it, so indulge me, won't you?)





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And what about you? What inspires awe in you today?

A week of awe -- day three

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.

-Albert Einstein

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For me on this Ash Wednesday, my moment of awe today was in my children's reverence at a solemn church service this afternoon.


And in this babe of mine, my little pink girl, who is still such a baby on the cusp of her first birthday.

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And you?

A week of awe -- day two

{Oops, I accidentally saved this as a draft instead of publishing last night! Sorry!}

As you probably know, I'm a classical cellist in addition to being mama to three wee ones. I do some performing, but most of my cello energies are directed toward my private studio. I love teaching lessons, I really do. But sometimes, I fall into a routine of dreading my teaching days. The house has to be cleaned, my kids need to be otherwise engaged, what if my babysitter calls in sick?, etc. Sometimes I lose sight of the amazing fact that I'm sharing a love of music with my students in favor of the annoying details of having a home studio.


This week, I was able to look past the details as I sat and listened to one of my older teen students play. I closed my eyes, the afternoon sun shining on my face, and listened as this student -- whose progress has been slow and rather inconsistent at times -- played her piece beautifully. It was a really ordinary moment, but it was also a real moment of awe, too. Just being present to witness this small transformation was a little bit of a miracle.

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What are you in awe of today?

Experiencing Awe

 The Gift of an Ordinary Day by Katrina Kenison

If you've read this blog for any length of time, you know that Katrina Kenison's first book, Mitten Strings for God, is my all-time favorite. I re-read it at least once a year, or any time I'm struggling as a mama. It has been, for me, the single most influential resource in my mama-life. Now she has a new book out about the next chapter in her motherhood journey, The Gift of an Ordinary Day (excerpted above).

Anyway, today I came across Katrina's website and the above video, which is so bittersweet and lovely and so much of what this mama thing is all about. And, coincidentally, all last week I was wanting to start a series here in this space and wasn't quite sure how begin, so instead I was quiet. Katrina's words have helped me to find my own voice.

What I really want to talk about is awe. I came across something last week about children and awe -- and that awe really comes with awareness, something that children are so good at, and that adults so often struggle with. I've been wondering for a week if moments of grace, of extraordinary awareness, of connection with the divine, and with the divine in those around us -- in short, moments of awe -- just come over us or if we can cultivate them. Of course the answer to this is complicated -- but I think that it's both: yes, these exquisite moments do sometimes just come over us. But yes, too, we can cultivate them. And we should.

So, I'd like to spend this week here in this space thinking about awe. Sharing photos and words about my own quest for the extraordinary in the ordinary, the gifts of these quietly passing days.

Will you please join me? Here or in your own little spaces -- it's up to you. But let's spend some time together, here in the middle of winter, thinking about awe and reverence and wonder and being present with our families. I'm so looking forward to this week.


PS: When I ask for advice, you all truly deliver! Thank you so much for your many suggestions. I have many new ideas for James's birthday, and I think you'll all be surprised by the final crown -- it's going to be different than any of the options I shared, but thanks to the advice and input and help from some of you, it's going to be absolutely LOVELY. Thank you again for being such an inspiring community! xoxox

2009, a retrospective {part 1}

I hope you all are not tired of 2009 wrap-ups. I know I'm a bit late, but bear with me -- I've been so very sick for so long, it's making me feel really behind. Anyway, I have had a 2009 retrospective on the creating end of things in mind for a while now, but I still want to photograph a last couple of things, so I thought I would start with the life part. And of course there's some overlap.


daily creativity


Quiet days at home. Knitting the bunting. Visits with friends. Cooking, freezing, nesting. Sewing. Contractions. Waiting.




More contractions. More waiting. More knitting. Elisabeth's first sleepover (away). My blessingway. My birthday. Fiona Catherine. Bliss.


on the couch in march

Holed up, insulated, babymooning. James turns three. Huge snowstorm. Snuggling on the couch with the baby and lots of wool while the others are out in it. Seedlings.



Stepping, ever so tentatively, out of the fog. Elisabeth turns seven. Seedlings (still). Fiona's baptism. My husband decides to finish his doctorate afterall. Dozens of tulips!


may basket in can

happy may day!

Going a-Maying. Enjoying our yard and gardens. Struggling to find a rhythm. Re-reading some of my favorite books. Elisabeth learns to ride a two-wheeler.




Peonies! Swimming lessons every morning. Fiona rolls over. Remembering to slow down. Roses.



hanging out

Still at the pool every morning, knitting in tow. A rainy 4th of July. Camping. Sewing. Second grade workshop. Catharsis.


10 years

pennant banner

10 years! Fiona sits up. Stress. Exhaustion. Computer break (oh-so-good!). My sister's baby shower. Sewing.


at the pool



Holding on to the last bits of summer. habit. Return to homeschooling. Apple orchard (twice), and apple pies. Classes for both children. My new niece.


michaelmas table

fiona and sweet potatoes


ready to go!

Our belated Michaelmas celebration. Eurythmy. Knitting. Lots of snow. Hot cocoa many days. New high chair cushions, and Fiona's first solid foods. Marathon costume sewing. Jack-o-lanterns. Halloween. My favorite month.




e sweater7

NaBloPoMo. Church linens. Elisabeth's first sleepover (at home). Simplicity Parenting. Martinmas. Sweaters. Book reviews. Thinking ahead to advent and Christmas. Giving thanks. Making dolls.


habit december23

habit december11


My shop. habit (december). King Winter. Helen's baptism. Fun with family. My husband's graduation. Sickness (lots and lots of sickness). Small miracles. Late Christmas cards. Last-minute gift making. Stillness; peace; silence. The richness of tradition. Joy

habit december21

Right now

Awed by the connections we all have: the way my life looks very much like yours, and yours like mine -- we're all in this thing, aren't we?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Happy new year, friends. May 2010 (which I refuse to pronounce "twenty-ten", by the way) be your best yet.

My next post will be the creating retrospective. And I'd still like to share a few things that we did in December, in between all the sickness. And then it will be new material for the new year, I promise.


Exactly as it is now

Sorry for my long absence from this space. It has been a whirlwind couple of weeks, with sickness, making, celebrating, and living. I'll get to more of that in the coming days. But for today, I have something different I want to share.


I was talking to my wise friend Meghan today, and she made this comment: "This moment will never be exactly as it is now." So true. There's so much to hold onto in these days with our small ones. There is an art to this -- to recognizing that every moment, whether happy or sad or angry or just ordinary, is magical in its uniqueness. These moments that make up our lives come and go -- they're so fleeting. And somehow a few of them will stand out in the course of a life, memories that never fade. What would it be like if every moment was like that? Fully lived, remembered, treasured?


These pictures are from today's very ordinary afternoon. My older two children were outside playing in the snow, and I was trying to get Fiona down for her nap. I looked at her and thought about how she will never again be as she was in that moment: exactly that chubby, exactly that pink, exactly that combination of curious, sleepy, content, busy. She will never be exactly 10 months and 4 days, ever again.


I made a choice at that moment, to love it, just as it was. Not to get sentimental and bittersweet about it, but to just live it. Fiona and Mama, this afternoon, laying down for a nap.


Just exactly as we were.


Mama. It's a big word, for being so small. And it's a big job: so scary, uncertain, frustrating, maddening.

You have a new baby. You're filled with love -- and other emotions, too. Emotions as complicated and delicate as the hormones of pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding. The emotions, like the hormones, are interconnected and complex.

Your baby grows. You are still filled with love -- and all the other emotions, too. Every day brings new fears, and new jubilation.

Your child stumbles. You stumble. But you go on, motivated by this incredible love for your child. It never gets any easier, this loving, stumbling, getting up and going on.

But you know -- you just know -- in your heart of hearts, in your mama-heart, that this is your path. This is what you were meant to do. This child? This child is your greatest gift -- the greatest gift you have been given, and also your greatest offering to the world.

I've been thinking about my mama-life a lot lately. As my babe reaches three-quarters of a year next Thursday. As I ponder the upcoming holidays, and the gifts I hope to give my children -- beyond what they will find under the tree on Christmas morning.

My job as a mama has been harder, in some ways, this fall than it has ever been. And in so many other ways -- some of them, I know, still hidden from sight -- it has been incredibly, richly blessed.

I needed something, some little thing, to commemorate this -- all of this -- my growth, my struggles, all of it.

So when the opportunity arose for me to choose one of Lisa Leonard's beautiful pieces  a couple of weeks ago, my eyes and heart kept leading me back to this one:


Hand holder. Dream soother. Love giver.

Yes. All that, and so much more. Thank you, Lisa. It couldn't have come at a better time.


(This mama necklace is a limited edition piece. It's so incredibly beautiful and well-made -- the details are perfect! If you're not familiar with Lisa's beautiful work, and beautiful family, please go check her out. I can't think of a more generous, gracious mama.)

Thinking about Simplicity

We've had a lot going on this fall. A lot. Some of that, you know about. The dissertation, and work to graduate on time, being chief among it all. But we've had other stuff, too. Most of it good, some of it not-so-good. And we've all been pulled along in this current of activity, keeping afloat, but not always thriving.


Each Monday, I wake up and realize, "Holy cow, I have seven cello students arriving this afternoon, and this house is a MESS!" And so Elisabeth and I usually spend about 30 minutes frantically tidying, vacuuming, and dusting the living room (where I teach) before my first student's arrival. This past Monday, as I was knee deep in this catch-up ritual, I had this moment. This moment of complete overwhelm and complete clarity, all at once. I'm sure you know the kind. I realized, in that instant, that we have too much: too much stuff, too much stimulus, too many activities, too many bills, too much work, too much on the schedule, too much stress, too many commitments, too much clutter, too many choices.


books, packed up for later

The thing is, I try to be really conscious of this. (I mentioned yesterday that I try to be very mindful about what comes into our home, for example.) And I'm guessing that as chaotic and generally cluttered as things feel around here to me, they are probably a lot better than they would be if I were less conscious.


Enter Simplicity Parenting, a book that recently crossed my path. I'll admit to feeling a little bit skeptical at first -- don't I already know all this stuff? Well, yes ... and no. Sometimes you just need a reminder.


I absolutely love Simplicity Parenting. It's giving me the strength and motivation to remember to say no a little bit more. To set boundaries, and seek balance.


I haven't even finished reading the book yet, and I've already gained so much from it. My feeling is that any parent -- at just about any point on their parenting journey (from infant to teen and everything in between) would gain insights from it.


It's organized beautifully. Every few pages, key points are highlighted in headers entitled "Quite Simply". There's so much good in this book, it's possible to open it at random and find a perfectly beautiful, succinct, and relevent idea for your real life.

I especially love the chapter on rhythm. Just listen to this:

~"(Quite Simply) Rhythm builds islands of consistency and security throughout the day."

~"Meaning hides in repetition: We do this every day or every week because it matters. We are connected by the things we do together. We matter to one another. In the tapestry of childhood, what stands out is not the splashy, blow-out trip to Disneyland but the common threads that run throughout and repeat: the family dinners, nature walks, reading together at bedtime (with a hot water bottle at our feet on winter evenings), Saturday morning pancakes."



OK, those are just two quotes, and they really only scratch the surface of what's in this book. There are so many concrete, practical suggestions about how to rein in family life, to take it back. Whether we already have a good start, or whether things are completely out of control, these are suggestions that can really help to make things meaningful to us.


linens from our church that we help wash each month

Coincidentally, Kyrie mentioned Simplicity Parenting yesterday (yes, we're friends, but no, we didn't discuss this first), and said she feels almost evangelical about it -- and I agree. This may be only the second book (after Mitten Strings for God) that I have felt this way about. Really -- this book is really, really worth it. I wish I could buy a copy of each for every parent I knew.


our dragon candle, today

I'm still struggling with the feeling that our lives are a bit cluttered right now. However, I'm learning to look again. To realize where we're doing well, and to carve out space in our days for more of that, and less of everything else.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Since I've committed to writing here every day this month, I'm trying to come up with as many ideas as I can to fill all those days. One thing that I've been meaning to do here are semi-frequent book reviews of some favorites -- both new and old. So I'm going to be doing these on Fridays in November -- the final Friday (November 27) will be my annual winter/holiday book post.

Making camp


We spent a lovely few days camping this weekend. A lot of our friends have commented on our "bravery" for taking new babies camping, but it's something we've always done and enjoy doing. Over the years, we've discovered what kinds of camping situations work well for our family -- where we like to go, for how long, what we need to bring to make it comfortable and fun for everyone, etc. We have it down to a system at this point.

So we spent a lovely few days playing, enjoying one another's company without other requirements or pulls at our attention, just focusing on one another. It was perfect.

knitting in the tent

We did a little knitting,

hanging out

and a lot of lying around nursing in the tent,

played many games of picture bingo,

jumping off rocks

jumped off rocks,


made our campsite beautiful,


listened to the sounds of our feet walking on a soft bed of pine needles,

reading in the tent

read some of our favorite books,

snuggled by the campfire,


ate just a few marshmallows,

listened to the rain falling on our tent,

rainbow (photo by elisabeth)

and then saw a rainbow,

walking stick

found a new favorite walking stick,

and so many other favorite things.

This year my husband is working on his dissertation and I'm single-parenting most of the time. So this dedicated family time was welcomed (and needed) by all of us.

Like anything out of the ordinary, it's hard to say goodbye and come home, and a little hard to adjust back into "regular" life, even after only a few days. But I also think that happy family times like these are what carry us when things get a little tedious or stressful on a daily basis. I feel like every positive thing we do with our children, no matter how small, helps to create that family "culture" that we really long for. That's why something as small as a weekend camping trip is such a special thing, and gives me so much to think about. It takes us a step out of the ordinary, and refreshes my parenting, reminds me of the small things that help to make a day special, helps me to recommit to things that had perhaps slipped a little in my daily interactions with my children.

Now the camping gear has been stowed on a shelf in the garage, and I don't think we'll get out to the woods again this year. But what a good time it was!


{I promised some shop news this week, and the news I have is a little disappointing -- I'm not ready to put it up yet. I don't know how I always think things are going to happen so much faster than they actually do! Anyway, I still have a lot of sewing left to do, but I really would like to get it all up and ready soon! I will be sure to announce it here in plenty of time. I'm thinking early next week. Thank you all again for your enthusiastic support!}