And it all comes down

There is always a bit of mourning when Christmas ends. The baubles come off the tree, the twinkling lights are taken down, the nutcrackers are boxed away. Every year I consider leaving it all out at least until the New Year, but a large part of me craves our normal schedule and an end to the insanity, not to mention an end to the sweets when I finally gain the bravery to step on a scale and see the results of all those cookies and fudge and caramels and birthday cake and kettle corn. My love for regularity inevitably beats my love for chaos and fudge, and so every year I end up taking down the tree as soon as we are back from our Christmas travels.

And then the house, despite my best efforts at winter decorating, seems suddenly desolate. I go overboard for Christmas, for sure, filling every nook and corner. But part of the problem is there just isn't much to put out on the shelves come winter time. In the Spring I have a seemingly endless supply of pink and girly baubles and fresh flowers and paper flowers. In the Summer I get out my collection of seashells and Zeke brings in his favorite rocks and sticks and the flowers just keep coming, switching to the sturdier summer varieties. Fall has its pumpkins and scarecrows and dried corn and fallen leaves gathered.
In the winter I'm left with...pine cones. And old books, and teacups, and a great collection of beeswax candles that I received for Christmas and thought about doling out over the whole year but in the end set out in one grand display, figuring I could use a little excess during these short, cold days. But it still just doesn't compare with the effect of 3o something little wood soldiers and a freaking TREE in the house.
So this week we wean ourselves off of Christmas. We will finish off the truffles and caramels and candy canes. We will skip chores to build really, really, big train tracks for Thomas to explore. I'll look thru my new hymnal to find songs to replace all the Christmas tunes I've been singing the kids to sleep to. Zeke will go to bed every night hugging his plastic Lightning McQueen to his chest, the special Lightning McQueen cup Santa was good enough to bring by his side (oh yes, we are a bottle-free family now). Malachi will ignore all his toys to chase after Zeke's tricycle, despite being way too small for it.
I suppose it isn't all bad, either. This weekend we will have New Years to celebrate. On the eve we have a party to attend and on the day itself I've got big plans for caramel corn, sparkling apple cider, and playing Wii all day in our pajamas. So its not as if we will be quite to life-as-normal for at least a few more days.
And Zeke and I are both geared up to re-start preschool after our long- since Thanksgiving- winter break. We are doing S is for Snow next week and the paper snowflakes and sock snowmen we're making will in part make up for the lack of Christmas decorations around.

Happy Birthday To Me (#98-206)

Christmas, as wonderful as it is, seems to take over the entire month of December. Any poor soul with a December birthday can easily account to that. For those of us with the ill luck to have been born on THE DAY itself, well, we get lost in the shuffle even more then most. Heck, even I regularly forget about my birthday.

I turn 25 in 5 days, on Christmas Day, and I'm not complaining but in the last 10 years? I've had 2 birthday cakes. I've counted. Maybe pointedly enough that my husband will be sure I get one every year from now on.

And that is why #206 is my leftover birthday cake. It seems obscene, birthday cake this close to Christmas...but I am enjoying every bite.

I'm well loved.

98. The fact that every time Zeke breaks out in song (which is often), Malachi stops whatever he is doing to dance.

99. My husbands mad cookie decorating skills. He wont admit it, but he's way better then me.

100. New recipes for veggies that are starting to feel very old.

101. Piles and piles of cookies on the counter.

102. 45 degrees and snowy.

103. Cowboy boots.

104. The silence of naptime.

105. That we have the wealth to pick out gifts for the needy.

106. Dripping icicles.

107. The smell of Christmas trees.

108. Piles of presents under the tree.

109. The last person crossed off my list.

110. A whole morning of nothing but fudge.

111. The last cookie.

112. Making another batch.

113. Real mistletoe and the bestest man to kiss.

114. Can I say fudge again?

115. Zeke's constant chattering of what everyone should get for Christmas- if he were in charge there would be a lot of trains passed out.

116. Taking a long hard look at my to-do list and playing the Wii instead.

117. Twinkling lights.

118. Finally getting the boys to smile- at the same time- in the same direction- with snot free noses.

119. Sweater vests.

200. A night out with friends. Or rather my husbands friends? Or the fact that really, they are all the same.

201. 36 hours (and counting) with no puppy accidents, that's thru a night people!

202. Zeke's version of "Frosty the Snowman"

203. Malachi's "momma momma momma momma!"

204. A re-commitment to lookign nice from time to time.

205. Re-bleaching my hair, twice because its so overdue that my peroxide actually expired.

206. Leftover birthday cake.


Mal is 11 months now (today in fact) and the boys are hitting a stage for the first time where they will run off and play together. I mean, they always played, they would wrestle and hug and tickle with mommy supervision, but it was always Zeke playing with the baby. The last few weeks have been the first time they have really played together as equals and friends.

Let me tell you, it makes showering around here a whole lot easier.

Brotherhood is just such a funny dynamic. It's very different then sisterhood. Different then friendship. They love each other, and they are merciless with each other. And watching their relationship develop has been a true joy. I've always been a bit of a believer in the influence of age order on people's personalities (the fact that before Malachi we were a family of first-borns always seemed a bit telling to me, for example) but Malachi and Zeke seem to defy all the rules with each other.

Zekey is so phlegmatic, so passive and so slow to act (or react) that Malachi has really taken charge between the two of them. Mal is of course too small for much of his personality to be set but I think he might be the first loud Clark. We are many things, us Clarks, but loud isn't really one of them. We are a decidedly understated family, soft spoken and not much for forcing our own way.

Mal seems to have more personality then the other three of us put together.

So Mal may be the little brother, but he is quickly becoming the brother in charge. 90% of their games are Mal-invented games and without fail every time I leave them in the toy room playing their separate activities, when I come back Zeke has joined Malachi.

I read somewhere once that your siblings will be the people with you for the longest. Friends can come and go and even parents will die, but your siblings will always be there. The person that knows you the longest is almost always your sibling.

I'm so glad they have each other.

Christmas Pictures

I was without the internet for a while...something about construction and moving us to a new server, and then forgetting to move us back to our old server all happening of course on a weekend when they aren't open to complain to.

The funny thing is I didn't really miss it. Sure there was that recipe I had bookmarked, and the address to that birthday party in my email, and the pattern in my ravelry queue. There were opportunities missed, and irritations. But for the most part? Didn't much miss it.

But now, of course, I am sadly behind on everything internet related. So instead of writing out the post I was planning I will just leave you with a few complaints on how very hard it is to get a good Christmas photo of the kids.
First they wont look at me.

Then, my favorite, a yawner and a nose picker at the same time.

Then they aren't looking at me again.

Then the dog butts in.

And for my money. One.

I'm trying again today...wish me luck.

Getting in the Spirit

We've really kicked into the Christmas spirit this week, despite the fact that I have been sick pretty much since Thanksgiving. The holidays wait for no man, after all. Not even for a sick mama.

So we started by baking up a cookie storm. Sugar cookies, and mexican wedding cookies (aka snowballs), and my "famous" mint chocolate cookies. And when those dwindle down we may start thinking about fudge.
This is my first year in quite a while not participating in a cookie exchange, and I have to's kind of nice. I think in the end we baked a little over 6 dozen cookies for home and office use and that was a BIG difference from the 15 dozen I made last year, plus fudge, plus caramels, plus truffles. I'm not saying I wont ever do it again...just that the break was enjoyed.
After that we set up our Christmas tree.
Or shall I say Christmas bush? Zeke picked out the fattest tree I think I have ever seen. But it looks just perfect all dolled up with ornaments.

We even went Christmas shopping to fill out the bottom of the tree, and Zeke picked out and wrapped a gift for a little boy his own age who's family our church is sponsoring. We had been worried about how well this would work out for him, picking out a toy that he will probably want to keep, but he did great with it.

We've even "unwrapped" our first Christmas gift...
Even though she is technically MY Christmas gift Zeke has been telling everyone how "daddy brought him a doggy for his own". And maybe it is partly true. We had pretty much decided on the name Kaylee after all when Zeke ran down the hall yelling "Come on Cla-la-la, I will show you my dinosaurs!!" And of course, off she ran and as Claudia she was forever known.

Other holiday activities have included, watching classic Christmas films (most notably Frosty the Snowman), singing carols (Jingle Bells was an instant hit), drinking hot chocolate (Zeke prefers tea, the wierdo), eating snow...

And passing out from the exhaustion of it all.

Oh yes, and oh so pathetically trying to get a good Christmas card picture...but perhaps that deserves a post all its own?

A Dirty Rotten No-Good Day (#82-96)

Yesterday afternoon found me crying, in public, in the snow. (And I never never cry, let alone in public) You see my car was stuck in the snow, my baby was screaming in the backseat, a plow was coming up behind me, a tow truck was on it's way, my car keys were lost in the street, my husband wasn't answering his phone, and I had just gotten 2 simultaneous text messages- one from my babysitter saying she had heard my kids had pink eye and wouldn't be able to babysit that night if it was true, and the second isn't actually my story to tell but let's just say it made the rest of it look like a vacation.

So there I was, crying, in public, in the snow.

Did I mention that my cat had been missing for a few hours already? Yes, my Mony Mony, who never ever leaves the yard, had gone out this morning and not come back. If it was Ziggy I would have shrugged it off as a protest of the new puppy (new puppy!), and expected him back when he decided rotten looks are better punishment then silence. But Mony never leaves the yard and she wasnt even wearing her collar so she had no registration tags on. She is also the epitome of catness and far far too aloof to admit something as measly as a dog could affect her. She had taken one look at the puppy from the top of the stairs and continued on with her day.

So by hour 6 of being missing I was pretty sure we'd find her corpse in the spring thaw.

I was, in fact, looking for her dead body when I got stuck in the snow.

And the blessed thing about days like that, the days where just everything seems to go wrong, is that you hit a point where you really notice all the small things that go right. There is always light somewhere.

And my husband did eventually call me back and remind me that we have a spare "valet" key in his office. And after that quick run into the house I got my car at least started back up which made it possible for my mail man and the elderly man that lives across the street to give me the push I needed to get into the driveway. The plow came thru, which made me give up all hope of finding my keys, but at least now I know I wont get stuck again (at least until another snow). Allowed into the house the baby took a 5 hour nap and when I went outside to shovel my neighbor, bless his soul, helped me clear out the snow against my driveway that the plow created. It turned a 3 hour job into a 1 and a half hour job and I almost cried again in pure thankfulness.

I convinced my sitter that she wouldn't catch pink eye as long as she didn't rub her eyes incessantly- which is true, the boys had been on meds for 2 days and their eyes were no longer pink or weeping, just a little swollen, in fact today is our last day of medicine- and she agreed to come after all. So I was able to make it out to Josh's office Christmas party. Thanks to the neighbor's help shoveling, I was even able to look good. All the pity I received at the party, the hugs and the donated drink tickets (everyone got 2, I assume to avoid a repeat of last year's party where everyone got drunk), made me feel a fool, but also made me feel very very loved. Between people that get my facebook status' and people that were in the meeting Josh left to answer my frantic phone calls I think everyone got to hear about my day.

And then, when I got home and put the puppy out to do her business before bed, in walked Mony, and I went to bed telling myself "do over". And that is why #96 is- That you get to start fresh every morning.

Moments of Grace

#82 I'm thankful for myself. I know my sister said it in jest at the Thanksgiving table but it still stuck with me all day. I'm very thankful for the opportunity, the freedom and ability, to become my unique self.

#83 The kid's table.

#84 Leftovers, particularly when eaten before the day is even thru.

#85 The magical being that is "uncle" to Zeke and all the years he has to enjoy it.

#86 Online weather reports.

#87 Neighbors who offer their car out for loan, because they know mine cant get anywhere.

#88 Pediatricians who come to my door.

*89 New puppies.

#90 People willing to give you that push you need, whether its a literal push on your car or something more more abstract.

#91 Phone calls in sympathy...right when the tears start.

#92 Plowed roads.

#93 Someone to shovel with, side by side.

#94 Hugs. In particular I will say Nathan's hug, I loved his "Oh Courtney, I was watching on Facebook and was going to leave a comment but I'd just rather say it tonight, I'm soo sorry" or something like that.

#95 The cat coming back.

That's What I Get For Making Plans

My last post was auto-posted, and full of misinformation. Which just goes to show that I probably shouldn't make plans, because I am not nearly as predictable as a mouse or a man. We actually got snowed into Idaho and had to stay an extra day, so Sunday I wasn't driving home so much as enjoying an extra day of Thanksgiving. And therefor we didn't start Advent on time, we started a day late.

It was a good Thanksgiving, however. Full of family and food, and aren't those the things that Thanksgiving is about?

Malachi was mostly enjoying the food:

While Zeke mostly enjoyed the family:
and the "pajama party" (aka sleeping bags on grandma's floor with the cousins) that I didn't get caught on film memory card.

The other thing I feel foolish about is after visiting family, and my moms three schnauzers, and Josh's mom's scotty, and his grandma's scotty, and most deadly his brothers brand new australian sheppard (my favorite breed EVAR) I started thinking about getting a dog again. I started thinking hard and admittedly not with my head.

Even though Josh and I have been seriously talking about a dog for almost 2 years now, and have almost come to the brink of getting said dog numerous times, we have always decided that the timing wasn't right yet for our family. Most notably, 4 weeks or so ago.

But even though all those arguments still exist...I have a baby...I have limited time for training...ect. Well how much my kids loved that aussie, despite the fact that she is a rambunctious critter and jumping and kissing them everywhere, it took me over the bridge.

The really embarassing funny part is that Josh and I said in October that if we were to get a dog right now it would be 1. Not in the winter when the 3 feet of snow outside would inhibit both potty training and leash training. 2. Not a small breed, as Josh calls all dogs under 30 pounds rats. 3. Not a puppy, because oh Lordy are puppies 1,000x more work then a dog. 4. And a mutt, because Josh has strong feelings about the purposeful breeding of dogs when there are so many good ones that need a home.

And here we are, talking to the owner of a 9 week old (puppy), Toy (aka small breed), Australian Shepard (purebred) that he purchased and then quickly decided he couldn't keep, in December (winter).

Which just goes to show that I shouldn't make plans. Again.

It's not that we don't have our reasons. There are pluses to puppies, most notably that we have small children and cats and not many dogs are socialized well for both. There are pluses to getting a small dog, most notably that we have small children and a small car. There are even pluses to this dog's purity in breed. Our local animal shelter has a bad habit of selling pit bulls and calling them something else and this dog was going to end up at an aussie rescue anyways. And despite my brother's taunting of being an animal racist, the risks are too high to allow a potentially aggressive animal into the family. There is even a plus to it being winter (I'm impatient?).

But I suppose the real lesson here is that sometimes the heart wants what the heart wants. It wasn't exactly a "good" idea for Josh and I to get married right out of high school. Looking at statistics we are pretty much guaranteed to divorce...3 years ago. It wasnt a "good" idea to have our first child when we did, we were poorer than poor and riding on the expectation that things would work out.

And no, getting a puppy right now is probably not a "good" idea. Heck, if this puppy went to rescue I'm not even sure that our application would be accepted. Aussies are notoriously hyper-active, stubborn, and destructive when bored. They are also loyal, great with kids, smart as all heck, and eager to please...but lets look at all the facts straight. This is not only a puppy, but a puppy that will require a strong hand.

But I'm in loooove.

So hopefully next week I'll be inviting everyone I know over to help me get this puppy used to crowds :)

1st day of Advent

Today is the first day of Advent.

And although we are currently on the road from Thanksgiving, I know that at home this:

Has already been transformed to this:

Nutcrackers at the ready, candles hopefully not already lit, and an empty Jessie tree, awaiting its first ornament.

So long Fall.

Snow Day!

"Zeke look out the window."

"SNOW!!! It's a SNOW day it's a SNOW day it's a SNOW day!!!!!" he screamed while he literally ran in circles in his pajamas.

You see, this past July he received a stack of old books, one of which was entitled "Snow Day". It was an instant favorite that he made Josh read him before bed every single night for literally months. So saying that Zeke was ready for snow seems a bit of an understatement.

When he stopped running in circles long enough to yell "I need my coat!", head twisting wildly in a manner I could only assume meant he was searching for it on the ceiling, I sadly had to inform him that we weren't going out into the snow until we had all eaten breakfast- not to mention gotten dressed for the day.

I expected arguments, if not a full blown tantrum, but I think he was too excited for even that. Instead he froze, hands wide in front of him like some tiny football player, and yelled "OK! Breakfast! Come on, lets eat breakfast RIGHT NOW!" and started running into the kitchen.

I've never seen my son, a notoriously slow eater, finish a bowl of cereal faster and by the time Malachi (who cared more about getting every single cheerio into his mouth then about going outside) was finished Zeke had managed to get one of his gloves and both of his boots- no small feat.

And that my friends is why #82 is waking up to a winter wonderland. Not because I necessarily enjoy snow- I do not. Nor because I was looking forward to shoveling our driveway with 1 child strapped to my back and another with a glove that fell off 3,982 times- I was not. In fact, we are leaving town on Wed and I have already ensured that I will never be forced to drive until then. That is, unless I get desperate enough to trek to the South Hill for knitting group Tuesday night (and I might).

But this is real-life magic, folks. This morning- it's magic. And watching Zeke bound from room to room, window to window, exclaiming "there's snow here!...and more snow here!....there's even more snow out here!" to ensure and delight in the fact that we are completely surrounded, I've got to say- Its worth it.

#67-82 of 1000 Moments of Grace

67. The 25th Sunday after Pentecost- a promise of holidays to come.

68. Zeke playing quietly by himself on a morning when I really really needed that extra hour of sleep.

69. Long, long, dinosaur trains.

70. A library, and all the wonders it contains, just a mile away.

71. New haircuts.

72. New hats, and the idle hours that make them possible.

73. A surplus of overripe bananas, a "problem" easily solved by warm banana bread.

74. Books I've read 1,000 times, yet still cant put down.

75. The husband that lets me sit on a Sunday afternoon, hour after hour, not putting that book down.

76. Hand print turkeys.

77. That first person getting crossed off the Christmas shopping list.

78. Brothers holding hands in the car.

79. The normal, "do nothing", nights that I know we will all forget.

80. Those first few snowflakes falling, and the yearly debate of whether it will melt off or we will never see the ground again until April.

81. A working furnace on cold nights.

82. Waking up to a winter wonderland.


Often, when my desire to homeschool comes up, I am asked if I feel like I could teach my boys everything they need to know. And honestly? The math and the science and the grammar don't bother me a bit- all that can be found in books and I've got a library card. But dependability? Self-Control? Compassion? Generosity? Honesty? Patience?

There are a lot of things I feel utterly at a loss to teach my sons.

It is not a new struggle. I am often reminded of my very first ventures into this balancing act that is discipline, that very fateful habit of sticking his fingers up my nose that Zeke had. I've come some way since then, but not far. I am still no gymnast.

Right now, Malachi loves to pinch me with his little fingers- particularly when he nurses. He also bites me when he's frustrated or his teeth hurt; or more commonly right now when he's frustrated and his teeth hurt. Yet these struggles seem blessedly easy.

Because Zeke and I are having issues with respect.
It started with a very annoying habit of, when asked to do something, saying "Momma do it." I suppose a whole host of shortcomings could be blamed- laziness comes to mind, arrogance that his time is more important then mine. But at the heart if it, I think it's a respect issue.

Since then he has taken to telling me "no", to "go away" or "go into a different room", or that I am a "boogie head".

Ezekiel, at the ripe age of 2 and a half, has decided that he is the man of the house.

And the thing with respect is, that no amount of example-leading is going to teach this. I just plain don't have many people in authority over me for him to see. And while I try to show him respect (I don't call him boogie head after all) I do have the right to tell him "no" or to "go into a different room" if I feel its necessary. He just doesn't have the right to do the same to me. Authority is a pain, son, your dad could probably write a book about it.

So the question remains, how does one teach respect? Josh isn't always home after all (and I have noticed the boogie head comments are much less when he's around).

I suppose I will either figure it out or raise convicts.

Wish me luck.

Christmas Thoughts

Every Sunday morning for quite a few weeks now Josh's finger has led my eyes to our church bulletin. "20th Sunday after Pentecost" he will say, his mouth twisted into a smile. Then 21st, then 22nd, and suddenly, last week 25th. He is teasing, the long count of...well, nothing...after Pentecost tickles his sense of humor.

Next week the bulletin will read "Last Sunday before Advent" and then the long 6 months of Common Time will be over as the steady march of the liturgical year commences; Advent turning to Christmas, turning to Epiphany, then the shortest of breaks before Lent, followed by Easter, followed by Pentecost. A familiar rhythm set on repeat for all time.

But I will admit it- I haven't historically been all that fond of Christmas. In fact some years I've been downright cranky about it, last year most especially perhaps- with my hatred of things growing to previously unreached limits.

But I think this year I am having a bit of a softening of the heart.

It began one morning when I came downstairs to find Zeke (he let me sleep in with Mal, sweet sweet boy) playing with his beloved dinosaurs.
These plastic dinos are his most prized possession at this point (well, maybe besides Baby Burt, and his blankie). And the thing is, they aren't just things, and cheap plastic things at that. They are prized. They are treasured. He has named them- every one; and he cares for them as if they were people.

And don't we all have things we love?

One of my favorite traditions of the entire year is lovingly unwrapping and setting out the Nutcracker Army as soon as we are back from Thanksgiving. There are few better examples of useless excess then my nutcrackers. Two full boxes in the basement that are used for exactly 1 month every year. But they are my treasures.

I'm afraid that in seeking out the holy and the valid in this holiday for myself and for my children I have overlooked the value in the secular and even commercial aspects of it. I failed to understand that the one can serve the other, if you only allow it to.

Gift-giving teaches generosity, after all. It teaches thankfulness. It gives a sense of blessedness.

There will always be that knot in my stomach as the season rolls closer- as I look at my Christmas list, and then at my checkbook, and realize that the difference between the two is one not to be met. The decisions of how much for who, and who will be left out (because there are always those left out), and what I can make and where I will find the time to make it will always be there.

And I will always be a devoted donater of my kid's outgrown things, a sworn sifter of toys, and never one to buy more then a few gifts. But I think I'm going to smile, this time around, as they open those presents. And I think I will pause, and consider, as I go thru those old toys. Because sometimes things are important. And some traditions have meaning whether I fully understand or not.

Go Chiefs!!

Our church all went to the Chiefs (hockey) game for "buck night" (1 dollar popcorn, soda, and hot dogs). As you can see, Zeke was really really impressed.

Like, really impressed.

He really likes hockey, apparently. This thrills me to no end because its the only sport I can actually watch with any interest.

Plus, he got to sit on the stairs next to his friend Makenzie. Not to mention he got to eat popcorn, a hot dog, cotton candy, and even his first soda.

But I think even better than the food was someone to whack (and be whacked by) with a cheer stick.

Malachi, surprisingly, also seemed to really enjoy himself. He liked the hot dog as well, and all the clapping. By the end of the game he was really getting into all that clapping.

I'm thinking this is definitely a yearly event for us. By Zeke's screams the entire drive home, I think he agrees.

Sometimes I'm Hanging By a String (#52-66)

Sometimes, oh sometimes, I am holding on by a string.

I will admit it.

I'll even admit that sometimes even that string snaps with a crack that reverberated these walls, and oh God, my God, I am left shaking and crying and just plain don't. know. what. to. do. Two babies looking up to me to guide them thru this life and here I am- drowning. A husband who comes home and never knows what wife will greet him and oh I know we've had our seasons- we have both leaned on the other at one time or another because isn't that what marriage is? But he has been holding me up for just plain too long this time.

Hormonally nothing has been easy since my miscarriage in July and I rollercoaster from top of my game, to chugging right along, to just plain desperation. I've experimented with herbs, and with vitamins, and now even with hormones but I just can't get myself leveled out to a state of non-panic that lasts any longer than a week.

I am exhausted, and I've run out of options.

And surprisingly that very running out of options is what I am thankful for the most this week. I know its not popular but I will say it- Its when I'm out of all other options and my strength is the lowest that I draw closest to the source of all strength.

"My soul waits in silence for God only, for my hope is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; and I shall not be shaken. On God my salvation and my glory rest; the rock of my strength, my refuge is in God. Trust in Him at all times. Oh people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us." Psalms 63:5-8

"For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake, but my lovingkindness will not be removed from you, and my peace will not be shaken" Isaiah 54:10

My hands often shake as much as those hills as I light my prayer candles in the afternoon, I am so filled with need. And when the clock chimes my hourly Jesus prayer never has my whispered "Have mercy on me, a sinner" filled my heart so. Often these days I need that mercy anew every hour.

But hard as it is, I am thankful for this time.

#66 The reminder of the source of all strength, when my strength has reached its lowest.

52. Offers to take a bath while Josh watches the kids.

53. Finding, and ordering, the perfect book for advent reading.

54. Creative outlets of all kinds.

55. Calender shopping and all the promise of those empty squares.

56. Knowing God will provide, even though we arent sure how.

57. Babies first spaghetti dinner.

58. Having God provide, oh so perfectly.

59. The way lemonade gives way to applecider, which gives way to egg nog- counting the seasons in my mug.

60. Cinnamon, and two children who appreciate it as much as I do.

61. Knitting group.

62. The way Zeke prefaces every sentence with "Sometimes..."

63. Turkey thawing in the fridge, even though its over a week to Thanksgiving.

64. Honest conversations with other moms about those moments when you have plain reached the end of your rope.

65. Eating dinner by candle light, because it makes the kids stop yelling.

Fairly Random thoughts on Tribes and Friends

I have been very very blessed since moving to Spokane, and especially since having children, to be surrounded by supportive women. Friendships with other women have always meant a lot to me. But after considering it, I dont think I've had a tribe like the one described in this classic mothering article) since high school. (High schoolers are tribal by nature)
(My high school bff's, Lianne and Becca aka Pepper)

And I got to wondering why. What is a tribe? How are they formed?

I thought about families, first. Sisters are natural tribe-mates. But I, like many other people these days, live hundreds of miles from my relatives.

(Jen, Becca, Me, and Adria at Rocky Horror)

Then I thought about Ivory, and Elizabeth. They are two friends of mine that both seem to have developed a tribe of close and like-minded mothers. I adore and greatly admire both of those women. The are probably even the two women in my social circle that I admire and try to emulate the most. And I consider us friends- but I am not part of their tribe. Their tribes seem to have developed naturally, with women that live near them and have many of the same parenting and life values.

I agree with the author of the article, however, that tribe mates dont have to have all the same values. For example, Kim is one of my most cherished friends for the past 2+ years. She is one of the very few people I can see myself vacationing with and loving it. In fact, we have and we did. And I have often thought that one of the most beautiful things about our friendship is that we don't agree on everything, or parent in the same ways- yet we are still able to love and support each other. It's easy, after all, to love someone you always agree with, or never makes you angry. It's when you love someone despite your differences, and despite bumps in the road, that a friendship becomes something really special. (In fact as I type this I am chatting with her via IM and I will have you know that we both begin and end every sentence with lol)

(Kim and I)

Friendships are just such a funny thing. There are people like Kim and I who hit it off the first time we met. Then there are people like Josh and his close friend, Jonathan. They knew each other for over a year, warm towards each other and working for the same company, until all of a sudden the relationship blossomed into something much more meaningful. I've had friendships that lasted years and years, only to grow slowly apart, due to no ones fault but just circumstances. I've had friendships that go one for years despite being in totally different stages of life. I've had friendships that have meant the world to me and painfully ended.

I'll admit that I am the type of person that makes friends easily. Josh often teased me, when we were dating, that I must know everyone because we hardly went anywhere without meeting some so-and-so from such-and-such. And I know that nowadays he can't ever take the boys out without someone walking up to him and saying he must be Zeke's dad, because they recognize our son.(Becca and I at ABBA)

But I don't easily make close friendships, like the ones described in the article. I suppose a lot of it is me. I have a hard time taking that barrier down to let people get close. And I will admit the thought of letting someone see my house dirty makes me break out into hives. Cluttered, sure. But really letting them see the dirt? Maybe the base of that is pride. In fact, I am sure that it is.

That's really the kicker about pride. And all other forms of dishonesty, for that matter. It's so easy to put up a front, but then that very front becomes a wall that keeps you from maintaining any meaningful relationships.

Aaaaand this blog post driveled off into no mans land.

But this is how my thoughts are right now. Mushy. I think the conclusion is that I would like a tribe of my own. And that I think sometimes my pride gets in the way of meaningful relationships, because I don't like to allow people to see my weaknesses.

Usually I would go back and organize my thoughts better. That or delete the whole mess. But I think I'll just intersperse it with classic friends pics and keep it.

Warmth and Light in Autumn

I always have a hard time in the late autumn/winter months with warmth and light. Maybe it's living in Spokane, which tends to be a rainy, dreary, gray sort of place during this time of year. But probably it's just me. I get cold; a kind of cold that I'll admit might not have much to do with the thermostat. I also tend to get depressed.

One thing that counting my blessings is teaching me is that there is a stark difference between happiness and joy. Happiness comes and goes. As a person that's struggled greatly with seasons of deep depression there is even a comfort in admitting that fact. But joy? Joy is constant. There will always be joy, even after daylight savings and the sun starts setting at 4:00 in the afternoon.

A habit I've gotten into the past few weeks, to fight off the seasonal malaise, is lighting candles. I've never been much of a candle person in the past but lately I've gotten a bit candle crazy. I'm even seriously considering having one of those candle-parties after the holidays, as my stock is withering fast.

I've got scented candles in the livingroom, that I light for just that extra bit of warmth when the afternoon hits and we are all a bit stretched for patience. In another season we would go outside, but it's beginning to get chilly, we've all had a bit of a cold, and did I mention the sun's 4 o clock bed time?

I've also put some small candles on our table for dinner-time lighting.

And even more in my bedroom for lighting during my afternoon prayers.

The immediate calming effect they have on me is a bit amazing. Josh will tease me for saying it, but I swear they make the room noticeably warmer. And the smell...especially the few beeswax candles I have let off the most comforting smell.

I find myself drawn every day during nap time to the small corner of the bedroom where my prayer journal and bible are kept, which I will admit lately hasn't been the case. What was becoming a tedious chore has been revitalized by the simple exercise of lighting a few candles. And as always, I have been revitalized by re-starting this practice of daily time in meditation. Keeping a sharp eye, I've found that the dim light has also allowed me to let Malachi play with a few quiet toys while I try to pray- a situation that has never ended in much but exasperation on other days the boys' naps haven't overlapped.

Even Zeke is beginning to enjoy the routine of lighting the livingroom candles in the early evening and blowing them out before he goes up to bed. And the dinner centerpiece, as simple as it is, helps hide the crumbs and spills and loud-boy voices that tend to accompany a meal around here.

I think with a few candles, a few quilts, some thick socks, and a really big mug of hot chocolate I might even make it thru this winter ;)

The First of Many (plus #37-51)

The first but definitely not the last very dangerous think I have walked in on my sons doing:

Yep, that's right. They are whacking each other with sharp sticks. And laughing.

Why? Why was I given boys?

Only after looking at this picture again do I realize this could also be titled "Guess What Temperature It Is In My Livingroom"; I would explain why I have one child in a coat and one naked, but honestly? I would rather not. It's kind of like this all the time around here.

And to continue recording my thankfulness, I have #37-51

37. Persevering despite rain.

38. Hot apple cider.

39. Favorite movies watched under warm blankets.

40. Family traditions.

41. Mood candles.

42. Eating out.

43. Vintage dress patterns and big dreams.

44. Friends that only live 2 blocks away.

45. Google chats ability to turn people-I-havent-seen-in-years into people-I-talk-to-daily.

46. Remembering to begin Advent preparations in late October.

47. A toddlers pure joy in watching a garbage truck.

48. The sun peeking out after a long string of rainy days.

49. Steamy bathrooms.

50. A peaceful baby after hours of restless cold symptoms.

51. Surprises.

The Halloweekend

Did anyone else notice that a Sunday Halloween sort of dragged the holiday out? It was a full 3-day affair around here; we got dressed up 3 nights it a row. I have to admit that I am exhausted.

Friday afternoon we went trick or treating at Josh's office.
Josh takes the office decorating contest very seriously and thinks he will win again this year. I'm not as sure, competition was rough.
Malachi appreciated the fake bones strewn about, however.

Saturday we had our church Halloween Hullabaloo. I made 40 cupcakes for the cakewalk (plus a half dozen for Josh to pass out to certain people at work, and a dozen for home), and I have to admit that I noticed my cupcakes were among the first to be taken

Humorously, Zeke won the cake walk right away when it was his turn to play it, which dismayed Josh and I as we didnt really want any more cupcakes. We soon realized, however, that Zeke didn't know there was a point to the game besides walking in a circle to music. I guess he though everyone was just marching along for the pure enjoyment of it. So we let him keep on believing it.

His favorite game was probably eating a donut on a string.
That or throwing pies.

Sunday we trick or treated our 5 or 6 close neighbors, and our friend Jonathan, who lives about 2 blocks away.
Then we went home to welcome the trick or treaters that came to our door. And to enjoy the bounty of 3 days of candy.

Malachi, not willing to be left out, insisted on munching on the wrapped candy.
Zeke didn't always appreciate it.
And now its time for our Hallween ghosties to be retired until next year, (told you I'd put up a pic) and our Jack-o-Lanterns to be thrown out before they start to rot.