Friday, April 24, 2015

Five-Minute Friday: HIDE.

Today's Five-Minute Friday is HIDE. You can join us in our quest to write freely for five minutes (without over-editing or backtracking) and share in the community at Kate's. Everyone is welcome.

"Why is is that we all think we're the only ones feeling like this?"

It was typed into a message box on facebook, because it's easier to have these conversations where we can't see each other's eyes...on the phone, texting, or hiding behind our sunglasses on the days we manage to drag ourselves out to a park playdate.

Why, indeed. Why are we hiding from each other? Why is it so important that we always seem to have ourselves together? Why can't we admit to each other how hard this mothering gig is sometimes?

God didn't make mothers for solitary confinement. Even Jesus had twelve people around him. Twelve! There are days when even one close confidant would make a huge difference for most of us.  In those moments when I'm standing over my kids with clenched teeth and fighting back tears at how hard this all is, I can imagine the relief it would be to tell someone that I'm struggling...that sometimes I don't know how I'm going to make it until dinner time...that sometimes at nap time I eat more than one handful of chocolate chips.

The thing is, we can choose to stop hiding. We can do the minimum that it takes to get ourselves out of the house even on the worst days. We can take off our sunglasses, look at each other's eyes, really see what's there, and accept the grace extended to us by another mother who has been right where we are, right now. And we should. Maybe accepting grace from someone else will help us extend it to ourselves. We are loved. We are worthy. Our work is hard, and we are doing a good job.

We don't have to go it alone. Let's reach out and help each other.

For more Five-Minute Friday, head over to Kate's.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Five Favorites: spring books we are loving

We are right in the middle of the #365picturebooks challenge dreamed up by StrongHaven (just finished number 125/365). Somehow, it was easier to devour piles of books when the weather was chilly and unpleasant for playing outside. Now that spring seems to be here in earnest, we are outside most of the day, and I'm having to work harder to keep our read-aloud streak going.

It's one of those things- as soon as we find a time slot for reading aloud that seems to work perfectly, something changes, and we have to renegotiate. I haven't found the perfect spot in our day for reading aloud now that everyone wants to run outside as soon as they finish breakfast (and sometimes even before...Sam has been taking his breakfast out onto the deck if the temperature is above 45 degrees).

We can do the before bedtime slot, but I sometimes miss that because of putting the baby down to sleep, so George gets all the fun. I might try reading while they eat breakfast today.

One of my favorite things about this challenge has been finding new books at our library. We have a large collection, but there are not enough to add up to 365 picture books, even if we read every single one we own. Today, I wanted to share some new picture books we have discovered. While I always go back to read our perennial favorites over and over again, we have been enjoying some new finds from the library that are so seasonally appropriate, I just have to share them with you (in case you haven't run across them yet).

Heads up, local friends- I'm running these back to the library this week, so if you hurry, you can be the next to grab them!


If You Hold A Seed by Elly Mackay is the story of a child who plants a tree and watches it grow throughout his life. He dreams of the day he will be able to sit in the tree, and his dreams finally come true. I don't know how she did the pictures, but Elly Mackay's illustrations are the most interesting, multi-textured, marvelous pictures I've seen in a long time. The light glows off the page so that I almost feel it on my face. My little budding artist daughter pointed at the pages as soon as I started reading and said, "Those are definitely mixed media." (Yes!)


and then it's spring by Julie Fogliano is the story of waiting for things to be green. It is so beautifully written and illustrated (by Erin E. Stead, who is wonderful at capturing the essence of what it feels like to be a little kid) that it is nearly perfect. There is nothing more to say. You have to read it, and I need to buy it, because I never want to return it to the library.


My Garden by Kevin Henkes is a new favorite around here. It is exactly as it should be. A child helps her mother in the garden and dreams of the garden she would create if she could grow anything she wanted. This has led to some interesting discussions here and drawings of gardens growing light sabers and ice cream cones. I'm planning to use the concept as a writing prompt for the kids in the next couple of weeks as we work on our own garden.


Sam and Dave Dig A Hole by Mac Barnett is an odd, funny story of two boys who dig a giant hole, just miss lots of almost amazing things, and then have an inexplicable experience after which things are almost exactly the way they were before...but not quite. The pictures are by Jon Klassen, and they are priceless. It's the kind of book that makes everyone in our family want to go and dig a hole, which is perfect for this time of year. (I'm hoping I can limit their hole-digging enthusiasm to carefully chosen parts of our yard.)


Outside Your Window by Nicola Davies is a new collection of original poetry for the seasons. There are poems and gorgeous illustrations for every season of the year, so it isn't (strictly speaking) just a spring book. Maybe it was the cover that pulled us in (since Lucy is currently fascinated by birds)- I'm not sure- but I am so glad we brought this one home from the library. The poems are simple, lovely and relatable- if you are intimidated by reading poetry with your kids, this book makes it easy. This would be a good choice to add to your family library and keep out all year long...but since spring is the first season of the year, now is a perfect time to start! I now have it in my Amazon cart and am just waiting for the right moment to buy it.

What's your favorite springtime book? (And what's your favorite time of day to read aloud with your kids?)

Linking up today with Rachel for Five Favorites, because sometimes good things come in fives.

Those are all Amazon links, so if you click through and end up purchasing any of these, your purchase helps support this blog (at no extra cost to you). Thanks for those of you that do that sometimes! 

Friday, April 17, 2015

Five-Minute Friday: Tomorrow.

I can hear the opening notes if I try- it started low, on middle C, with a nice friendly open fifth on the low F, full of something I didn't yet know how to name. I'd stand at the end of the piano near the highest notes and watch her fingers. Sometimes she sang, but usually she just played it, the keys smooth under her hands, the instrument shining, almost smiling, basking in the gentle warm light on its shoulders from the brass lamp perched above the music rack.

"The sun'll come out...tomorrow..."

Funny, how dark it the shadows started lengthening so early in the long the nights when we finally got to where morning should have been, it seemed sometimes that the sun wasn't going to come up at all. How long can a sky seem about turn a lighter shade of grey? A week? A month? An entire Alaskan winter? Sometimes, you have to wait until July to find out whether the sun is ever going to shine again. And when the phone call comes saying the plane was found and he's not going to come back, ever, then you realize you're alone. Not just alone in the dark for the night, but alone for good.

And your six year old daughter is watching you, waiting to see what is going to happen next.

I think my mom did the best she could- and what else is there to do, really, other than your best? She played the song. When it ended, she played it again if I asked her to. And when she didn't sing, I did, matching my little girl voice to the music coming from her hands and her heart. Together, surrounded by the little circle of light from the piano lamp, we pushed the darkness back just a little bit.

For more Five-Minute Friday, visit Kate Motaung's blog.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Happy Easter! {new playlist}

Happy Easter, everyone! We survived Lent! Hooray! I know several of you have been having a rough time during Lent this year, and I hope that Easter and the promise of better weather will help brighten your days and lift your spirits. I know I'm feeling better about most things just because there is abundant sunshine and warmer temperatures here. We actually went to Mass yesterday without coats, and it felt like everything was easier simply because we didn't have to figure out where to put all those coats in our pew.

Yay! No coats! And baby legs on display!

Nora keeps walking into the kitchen, throwing her hands into the air, and proclaiming, "It's STILL Easter!" I've learned that Nora is the kind of girl who just wants things to continue. Whatever's happening is fine, as long as it doesn't stop. So yes, Nora (who is still wearing her Easter dress, by the way), it's still Easter. 1 day down, 49 more to go!

Headbands come off, but Easter dresses are forever. 

I'm so glad Easter is a season and not just a day. It makes me feel less guilty about not finding time to dye our eggs on Saturday. I did boil them, and they're waiting in the refrigerator for that magical moment when we find time to do them and I have enough patience to supervise the process.

The process. That's the thing, isn't it? I know process art is the way to do things with little people. The point of making art is to enjoy the act of making art, not to reach some predetermined standard of rightness and make a perfect product. Crafts are fun and fine and well, but art...well, that's different stuff. Art is for its own sake. It is all about the process.

Somehow, though, when I think of the process of being around the kitchen table with my three walking children, balancing the baby on one hip and trying to manage six grabby, snatchy hands that are all trying to get as many eggs as possible for themselves and throw them into all the egg dye before anyone else can get the best colors, I feel a little panicky. If I could dye eggs with each one of them individually, it would be fun. Even two of them at once would be great. But all three of them at the same time makes me tired in advance.

It was easy then, except it wasn't, because he was still 3.
Maybe we'll just wait for an evening when George is home. Or for my oldest kid to turn 8. Or something.

I saw someplace that you can use a whisk to help toddlers avoid dropping the eggs- has anyone done that? You put the egg inside the whisk and dip it in the dye. It seems like it would work better than those little wire spoon things that come with the egg dyeing kit.

OK. Enough about the eggs. We might do it. I'll post some pictures if we do. And if you try the whisk thing before I do, let me know how it goes, okay?

Does it feel like a real challenge to you to keep the Easter celebration up for fifty whole days? That's a long time...even longer than Lent, which always feels long by the end. I feel like I don't usually do a great job after the first week or so. This year, I'm trying two things to help continue the celebration.

First, I'm going to keep fresh flowers on the table and on our little prayer table all Easter season. We had a blend of silk and fresh flowers for our Easter feast on Sunday. I'm planning to change out the live flowers each week and replace them with ones we pick on our walks or buy at the grocery store. I think this will help things feel special and remind me that we're still celebrating. (Let's be honest- the physical reminders are mostly for me, so I can keep everyone else going.)

Second, I made an Alleluia playlist for Easter. We don't listen to it all the time, but it's nice to start the day out remembering that Christ is risen. (Alleluia!) It's a collaborative playlist, which means other people can add songs. I want to invite you to add your own alleluias to it. If you have a favorite Easter-y song that isn't on the list, feel free to go on and add it. It will be fun to see how the list changes with your additions. If you add something, I'd love to know! If you want to contribute but don't have time to add your song yourself, leave me a note in the comments, and I'll be sure it gets added.

Do you do anything special to keep up the celebration of Easter until Pentecost? I could use some more ideas!