Sunday, May 30, 2010

Favorite Things: Day 30

Antique Sewing Machines

I cannot help thinking, "They don't make 'em like they used to," whenever I see an antique sewing machine.  My own is a much newer Sears model and not nearly so lovely as this one pictured.  Mine still works wonderfully and, 10 years later, I am still discovering things it can do.  This says more about my own inexperience, and the rare usage of the machine for a number of years, than it does about the machine.  Still, it amazes me, I find it well made, and I would not part with it easily.

I realize this is the third "antique machine" post I have written in this series.  I do not really consider myself a machine-lover, however I have gained a profound respect of how they have changed lives since my recent stints without the modern machines we have come to know and love.  I also appreciate the old ones that still work after 100 years as opposed to the ones with new-fangled plastic parts that are designed to be replaced, designed to be disposed of 2-10 years later.  That is a design flaw.  I prefer craftsmanship and parts that do not easily wear.

What about you?  What is your favorite machine?

(photo credit: burnettesandStruth on flickr)

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Pleasing Things: Day 29

A Sharp-Dressed Man

Perhaps I should also say that this sharp-dressed little man will be having a recital Sunday, June 6th, at 3:30, and you are welcome to email me for details if you'd like to come.

(Perhaps I should also say that I find my not-so-sharp-dressed husband pleasing too, especially when I see him at work, tool belt on the hips, beard growing rough, and dirty from hard-sought productivity.)

Friday, May 28, 2010

Favorite Things: Day 28

Architect's Tables

It was only recently that I remembered my love of architectural tables.  I love that they slant and are adjustable. I love that they are spacious.  I love that they are wood and metal.

My husband had a surprise run-in with my grandfather a couple months ago when he was up in Seattle doing some remodel work for some good friends of ours.  When he came home, he asked me, "did your grandfather used to work as an architect?"

Then pictures from unknown archives in my brain came flashing back, "Yes!" I declared, "I had completely forgotten!"  I sat amused, happily remembering all the times I would climb up on his stool and look over his drawing table, with all the stencils, tools, and carpenter's pencils.  I remembered being allowed to draw at his table (and I remembered times when I could not draw at his table because there were huge, indulgent pages of sketches covering all the work space).  This photo from flickr (at right) is about as close as I can come to finding something that looks like what I remember. Is it not mezmerizing? All that metal and wood with moving parts? I should probably email my grandfather and ask if he still has his table or perhaps a photo of it.  A photo would probably jog my memory even better.

It was during my conversation with my husband that I realized my fondness for my grandfather's table and all its lovely implements is probably what sparked my first "career" aspirations as a jr. higher to become an architect myself (and then discovering Cydney's blog and research further confirmed my suspicions).  When I made it to the "big" world of high school, I was very excited about all the electives my school had to offer (oh, if only there were more class hours to fill up with electives!  - Yes, I was a nerd!).  I was particularly excited about the intro to architectural drawing.  That is, I was excited until I discovered it was a C.A.D. class, and that all the drawing would happen on computers.  Computers?!  Ick.  (I still have a strong distaste for monitors, though you might not know it from my blogging habits.)

I changed my career aspirations and my electives.  That first semester of high school I did take a very fun and very hands-on interior design class.  Sadly, that was probably as close to an "art" class as I ever took again, somehow convinced that the art stuff would come easily later, but that the free science classes probably would not.  I still kick myself for curbing my strong desire to take that darkroom class in 9th grade, or the pottery one in 10th, or....(okay, not really, I mean, I got to skin a cat in Anatomy and Physiology and we made peanut brittle in Chem and learned about the myth of shampoo-and-conditioner-in-one products, plus, physics club was for the cool kids....right?).

Now that I am long past trading a physics degree in for a degree in Liberal Arts, and most of my days are spent coming up with craft projects for kiddos and wondering if I could make all my own clothes, I kinda wonder if an extra art class or two might have been more practical!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Favorite Things: Day 26

Antique Typewriters

I find they stir the inner writer in me.  Perhaps they are not practical for most modern writing projects (ahem, like blogging), but I love them.  An old housemate of mine had one that I used from time to time for assignments, most especially for art project assignments.

Make sure you visit Erin's blog for more pictures of this lovely machine.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Favorite Things: Day 25


I remember one of my first attempts at anything resembling a "blog post."  It was on myspace, back when I had a myspace (2005?).  I wrote something about then-baby Søren helping me notice details (like cracks on the ceiling) that were full of magic.  Each baby has opened my eyes more and more to how magical the world is.  Simple things like opening a cupboard amaze little eyes.  Something seemingly immovable moves!  It opens!  It reveals a whole new world beyond that which they thought was right in front of them. Light switches are really something for a wee one, as are curtains, blinds, telephones, and all manner of technological achievements.

Then they age, but that unceasing wonder does not leave them.  They can find mysteries in the most mundane places.  They can craft adventures and houses out of a crumpled blanket on the floor (in fact, Søren and Elliot were doing this today, and Søren was giving me a little tour of his blanket house for his race cars.  "this is the kitchen, and it has a big pantry - you would love this house mom, it has a huge pantry - ....").

One of the most significant gifts I can give my children is entering into imaginative play along with them.  Often I find my "adult" nature resists granting them this gift.  "I have more important things to do," I think.  However, I have found playing with them has been a great gift to me as it has recovered my own ability to play.  I do not mean "play" in a light and insignificant way, I mean play in the full sense of the word, and the full benefit of activity.  Children are brilliant because they know how to play.  Studies have shown that kids intelligence diminishes as their ability to play dwindles (I'll try to find the link to the article I read about this soon).

Being a mother is life-altering in so many regards, but regaining the wonder of play has been one of the most beneficial changes in my life.  I am a better problem solver.  I am more creative.  I am more affectionate.  In fact, even when I am stressed and crabby, my imagination helps me.  It allows me to place myself in those imagined moments of "wouldn't my life be better if...."  Sometimes its a good imaginative escape, akin to watching a good movie, where I can dream about fulfilling goals and aspirations and thus re-evaluate if I am pursuing life in the manner I wish.  Sometimes it is a great exercise in helping me realize I love my life, when I have momentarily forgotten.   In those moments - few and far between that they may be - when I wish that I had someone else's life, I can put myself there fully, in my imagination, and easily see how, in that life, I would tire of my own circumstances too.  In that life, I would probably wish I had someone else's life.  In fact, I would probably wish for a life that was a lot like the very life that is actually my own.  Thus my imagination brings me back to contentment and away from despair.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Favorite Things: Day 24

Our new washer and dryer and the amazing friends who gifted us with these delightful machines.
As I have already mentioned, I have seriously wonderful friends. 

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Pleasing Things: Day 23

Old couples

This is especially pleasing if they are seen walking slowly, hand in hand, through a park in spring.  You know they are seeing the world through eyes that remember spring from their own youth.  You know they are recollecting watching their children and grandchildren play.  You know they have loved well and endured joyful and painful things.

They grip each others hands, enough to keep balanced, enough not to lose each other, but gently enough not to crush fragile fingers.  They have learned each other so well, and yet, if you catch them meet each others eyes, you also know they still find delightful mystery in the other. 

I hope my own husband and I might be blessed with a long enough life to meet 50 years of marriage (my husband was nearly 35 when we married).

(photo credit: my sister Jen)

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Favorite Things: Day 22

An Excuse to Get Dressed Up

We had the privilege of a little date.  My sister watched the kids so that we could sneak away to watch a philosophy play at my alma mater.  It was lovely to walk slowly, not worried about watching the distance between children and passing cars.  We could hold hands, not poised mentally and physically ready to steady, hold, or hold back little ones at any given moment.

Most of the time, my wardrobe is purely practical (despite my enjoyment of fashionable attire).  However, I do not like to miss a good reason to get a little dressed.  Now, I realize that my version of "dressed up" is probably some people's version of "daily," but for me, it is still fun.  I only wish we thought to have my sister take a picture of us dressed and ready for a date!

With my husband doing Opera now, I am anticipating opportunities to pull out some true "dress up" clothes out of the back of my closet in the near future!

(photo credit: print of Giovanni Boldini's)

Friday, May 21, 2010

Favorite Things: Day 21

Live Music

I don't much care if it's a guitar on the corner, a jazz band, a symphony, a soloist, or one of my favorite musicians/groups, I just plain like listening to live music.  I like the way the air vibrates and you can "hear" the music with your whole body.  I love singing with the kids.  I love "family music night," when we get together with a few other families and just sing and strum the guitar together.  I love singing in church (yes, even old hymns).  I even like it when semi-crazy people sit outside the entrances to downtown locations and make music on whatever they can.  Music is a lovely human expression.

(Photo from my sister Jen  - permission?)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Favorite Things: Day 20

Reading to children

I really enjoy reading to my children (and others' children for that matter).  I remember when I only had Soren.  He and I could sit and read together for hours each day.  Now, sometimes we still read for hours each day, there are just more interruptions and somedays, we barely log an hour at all.

When the boys were a little smaller, they would bring me a book and ask me to "sing it" to them.   They want the story woven out with voices, pauses, facial expressions and a few choice gestures.

We have too many favorite books to capture here.  A.A. Milne, Beatrix Potter, Ezra Jack Keats, Arnold Lobel, Aesop, Mother Goose, Margaret Wise Brown, Robert McCloskey, Maurice Sendak, Holly Hobby, Jan Brett, Peter Spier, William Steig, and Olivier Dunrea probably comprise our very favorite authors (though I am sure I am forgetting several) and we are always discovering new classics.

Recent discoveries include "The Philharmonic Gets Dressed" and "Ming Lo Moves The Mountain" and the "Brambly Hedge" stories by Jill Barklem.

In searching for images for this post, I discovered this blog (I originally landed in the 2008 archives).  Now I have a whole new selection of books to hunt down at the library this week.  Yay for good children's literature!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Favorite Things: Day 19

My growing collection of the Howard Hong translation of Søren Kierkegaard's complete works.

It probably goes without saying that I am a big fan of Mr. Kierkegaard's works, seeing as I named my first child "Søren, " umlaut and everything.  However, I might as well add it to the list of my favorite things.  Among other favorites related to Kierkegaard and my own Søren, is the above picture, first shared in this post.

Someday I will have the full collection.  Someday I will read the full collection.  On that day, I will probably stop writing and just tell everyone to read his words instead of my own.  Or perhaps, inspired by all the double-reflecting on all the tragic and comic existential dilemmas he reveals, I'll decide to author indirect words to my own culture and leave it to God to decide if any of my own musings become world-historical. 

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Favorite Things: Day 18

My babies

When Penny was still brand new, I remember slipping away to nurse her, taking a pause from some show (probably Lost or 30Rock, since we don't watch much else). The monitor was left on, and when I returned, my husband remarked, "you sure love our babies." I thought it was a strangely-timed remark, but then I realized that he must have heard me kissing her head the entire time I was in the room with her. I simply could not resist. I have been that way with all my babies. I am still a cuddly mama, but never so much as when they are truly infants. There is something so very charming and innocent about that stage (so long as they sleep).

 Soren at 17 months (I can't find an earlier one at the moment)

Elliot at 4 months

Penelope at 2 months

Monday, May 17, 2010

Favorite Things: Day 17

House Plants

I am not entirely sure when this started.  My mom always kept house plants in the various apartments where we lived.  When she remarried, we moved into a house with only fake plants but what they lacked in reality they made up for in quantity.  I thought this was entirely strange, even at all of 12 years old.  My mom did put some orchids and African violets by the kitchen sink and some cacti in the laundry room.  I kept an ivy vine in my bedroom once I was old enough to care for a plant.

There was one plant in particular I remember from childhood that I have always hoped I will someday find for my own house.  I just looked it up and it is a Monstera Deliciosa (also know as a split leaf philodendron - see picture from the wiki article on the left), what a crazy plant!

My husband is a plant lover, and I think between the two of us we have over 20 house plants (though a few are being "plant-sat" at our family's until we can visit next and bring them to the new house).  My favorite is to have them dangling in the corner somewhere (like the picture on the right which was a view from one of my previous bedrooms).

They clean the air, they are pleasing to look at, sometimes they even flower, give scent, give fruit, and can be used for home remedies.  Someday I will indulge my witchy nature and I will have all manner of natural healing remedies and health promoting herbs growing in and around my home. 

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Favorite Things: Day 16

Cream (my apologies to those of you who are dairy-free)

Any form of real cream is just fine for me.  I love butter -  passionately.  I can eat whipped cream plain (but preferably with some berries).  I need clotted cream with scones.  I love creme fraiche with just about anything.  I take cream in my tea.  I take butter and cream in my porridge.  I love making ice cream.  I even created this recipe so that I could make it look like I was not just eating whipped cream for dessert. 

I eat so much cream that I am a walking testimony that eating real fat doesn't make you fat (hint: it's the sugar and the white flour).  For the record, my family eats 2-3 pounds of butter each week, at least a quart of cream in various forms, and 3 1/2 gallons of whole (read: raw) farm milk (think 6.5% cream) each week, and I am responsible for the majority of that consumption. 

Mmmmmm, cream.

(photo credit: Cheri Neufeld via Flickr)

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Favorite Things: Day 15

A full-size kitchen again!

Now I can resume my "experiments."

(pictured: marmalade, beet kvass, creme fraiche, salsa)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Things That Make The Heart Beat Faster: Day 13

Seeing someone do what they were created to do

(Yes, that is my husband doing a stupid human trick on the right.  Photo thanks to my sister, Jen)

When I first met my husband and learned of his background in music, I knew that it was something missing in his life. I thought, wistfully, that by getting married I might serve as a muse to inspire him to pursue music again. I didn’t. Then we decided to have a baby. I thought surely a child would inspire him. He didn’t. Nor did another baby but I had no false hopes. What about a daughter? I wondered. There is certainly something different and wonderful about the daughter and him but he did not set to work writing lullabies. There was, I think, a little more singing in the shower.

Enter Suzuki. Seeing Soren work hard at learning music and have fun while doing it, tickled Andrew’s inner musician. He pretended to look into music opportunities in town. Even going so far as to stop by the Eugene Opera’s office and ask what the steps were to audition. They pointed him to the choral director for the Opera (who is also the director of the opera as a whole). Andrew finally emailed him, after much nudging. The choral director emailed back with a green light and Andrew froze. He told himself he was too old, too out of practice, not really that good, etc.

Enter The Artist’s Way. Julia Cameron was writing the book just for him at times (and I think he realized it). Further, it made him realize that he did not want to communicate to our children that art is something you hide, or something impractical. Finally, with more pressure from me and, more convincingly, from a local playwright that he respects, he finally sends the follow-up email (two months later) to nudge the door back open and see if it moves. It moves! He is invited over to sing the next night! He sings around the house. He sings at work. Then, he sings for the director of the Eugene Opera. Now, he has a new voice instructor (for the first time in 20 years, though a sweet new friend of ours did give him a great warm up lesson the night before). He has homework and is preparing to formally audition for the next Opera (performance scheduled for the Christmas season).

He came home emotional, naturally, as anyone might after sitting on their gift for 20 years and finally acknowledging it again. I am proud.  Even better, his new teacher wants a home addition and is happy to talk about work trade. The door really could not be any easier to walk through now could it?

What were you made to do? Are you doing it? (I ask this of myself as well)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Favorite Things: Day 11


(I'm stealing the recent picture from Summer's as I don't have anything else at the moment!)

I hesitate to gush about how much I love my friends but I have the best friends in the world. There are few things as wonderful as a good friend. Most of my friends have seen me through years (and a choice few since the early nineties). Most of my friends have been irritated with me (sorry!), and I with them (you know, just that one time). We have come through it knowing each other better, being challenged to be better, and being all the closer for it. I am fortunate enough to have several friends who are abundantly good to me. More than I deserve. I only hope I can be as good in return as our friendships age along with us.

My only not-so-favorite thing is that my friends are not all tidily kept in one convenient (for me) place so that I can enjoy them all in person whenever I want. For now, I am quite blessed to have quite the cluster here in Eugene (with others who at least pilgrimage here from time to time), and I try not to let the pessimist in me tell myself that it cannot last. Who cares if it won’t last (remember the Tulips!) It is here now and it is good.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Things That Make The Heart Beat Faster: Day 10

Real Mail

I think someone already captured this one but it is one of my favorites too.  Collecting your mail and realizing that there is one that does not belong among the others is exciting.  It wears a real stamp and was likely licked shut by someone you know yea probably even like. (As I write this I can think of at least two people reading whom I owe letters, and I assure you, they are coming just as soon as I get things unpacked here - which shouldn’t take too long).

I love seeing real handwriting instead of New Times Roman or Courier (or really any standard font). I love seeing the success or failure of keeping straight lines or of guarding oneself from typographical errors. The “failures” are such a pleasant reminder that a HUMAN thought of me and sent me something intended to bless me.

Real stamps make my heart leap. I especially enjoy if they are not the usual flag or grocery store variety. I love waiting in line at the post office and asking the postal worker to show me their full selection of stamps (though, let me say, the selection in my town is lacking. I have been spoiled by post offices in other locales). I would buy a Kwanza stamp over a flag stamp any day and I do not even know what Kwanza is. I love seeing evidence by mail that someone else feels the same way I do about stamps. If you have the option, for the same price, to have a little work of art on your outgoing mail, why wouldn’t you do that?

(Photo credits from KellyKautz via Flickr)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Favorite Things: 9

Clean Laundry (photo of me and my laundry with thanks to my dear friend Summer)

We moved into a charming old house with no washer or dryer.  There is a laundry mat a few blocks up the street, but that requires quantities or quarters.  I decided I should try hand-washing a load of laundry to see how time intensive it would be.

I would estimate it took about the same amount of time as a machine.  A key difference being that it required my active labor for that duration.  It required arm, hand, and finger muscles that I do not ordinarily use.  I was tired and sweaty and squirted dirty diaper laundry water in my face.

However, I was also able to do a lemon rinse at the end and hang the diapers out to dry on the line in yesterday's sunshine.  Taking the diapers down, I was astounded at how the sunshine lifted all the stains that had been growing with four months of using a front loading washer to launder the diapers.  I will likely never own a front loading washer (though if I had to choose between front-loading and nothing at all, I would certainly be choosing the front loader!  I have a whole new appreciation for the invention of a washing machine).

Taking down the superbly clean diapers reminded me of my trip to Ghana (West Africa) eight years ago.  It was Africa.  I always encouraged the mission groups I prepared for international travel to 3rd world countries to bring clothing that they didn't care about because they might disappear in the laundry system or get ruined.

Following my own advice, I brought things I was prepared to lose or discard after my two weeks in the wild and dirty jungle (read: we stayed in 3-star hotels everywhere we went).  I brought stained underclothes and night shirts.  After my first load of laundry came back PERFECTLY WHITE, beautiful, and even MENDED, I wished I would have brought a couple of my favorite things that needed some TLC.  Nothing was lost, everything came back better.

So perhaps a machine simply cannot compete with human effort, attention, and a little SUN.  However, while I may be doing without a machine for the next couple weeks, there is NO way that I could give one up voluntarily for very long.  As I mentioned above, I like CLEAN laundry.  Somehow I think if all the washing is left to me, there will not be too much of that around!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Pleasing Things: 8

Le Creuset

I feel a little silly calling Le Creuset one of my favorite things as I have never actually owned anything by Le Creuset.  However, I have spent many an hour in serious covet over several of their items and colors.  It is heirloom quality cookware.  It moves gracefully from cooking to serving.  It makes the kitchen look sexy even when it's not in use - it's cookware you DISPLAY.  They recently came out with a new color line (see left).

I occasionally indulge my love of Le Creuset and scour Craigslist for used pieces.  They rarely come up as people rarely want to get rid of them.  When they do, they are still asking a pretty penny.  I have found the most luck searching Craigslist in larger markets (Portland and Seattle) rather than here in my little town.

Recently, I learned that there is a factory store between me and Portland.  These might have the slightest paint defect and are thus discounted.  I can manage a paint defect.  Someday, I will venture there with only a limited amount of cash so that I cannot fall prey to the lack of inhibition that is sure to strike me if I were in a room filled with nothing but Le Creuset at good prices.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Things that Make the Heart Beat Faster: 7

Antique Keys

Whenever I am in a new town, or leisurely passing through a coastal town, my eyes nervously scan store signs looking for that one little word: antique.  Now, I am no collector, but something about walking around touching items that have withstood the test of more time than I have is inspiring.  My heart beats faster wondering if I might find an old collection of milk bottles, or best yet, a wooden box filled with those lovely old skeleton keys.

I remember the first time I found such a box.  I was somewhere near Anacortes with one of my best friends from high school, though we were in college at the time.  We took a girls' weekend together (think exploring antique stores, taking bubble baths, and reading books along together in the same cozy cottage).  At one of the antique stores we explored, I found a box of keys and was mesmerized.  I couldn't find any good reason to start collecting skeleton keys, and yet I stood there wanting to do it.  My practical nature told me that I should really only buy one.  So I listened.  I picked out my favorite one.  It was not too long, not too short, not too stubby, but not too plain.  I bought it and decided I would keep it as "the key to my heart."  Yes, it was corny, but in my defense I was also 18.  Yes, about a year later I gave it away to a man who had to give it back to me.  However, after that I was more careful.  I do not think anyone else was gifted with such key until my husband, and only after he proposed (a whole grueling - for him - 6 weeks after our first date), and yes, he still proudly carries it around on his key ring.

Still, how I love antique keys!  I enjoy simply running my hands through them.  Someday, I will have a whole box of antique keys by my front door.  they will greet me with the reminder of all the closed doors throughout history that have brought me to the very steps and the very door I am entering.  They will remind me that there is still mystery and that I still never know what is behind the next locked door.  They will tell me of things best kept locked up and things begging to be opened.  They will whisper all these things to me, from an old wooden box by my door and I will run my fingers through them to tell them that I am listening.

(photo credit: Caroline Bowen via Flickr)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Limbo Warning

We are moving this weekend (actually, RIGHT NOW).  We don't have internet service worked out quite yet, so please forgive the weekend silence (and lack of comment moderation) while we figure it out!

I will catch up my Favorite Things as soon as possible!

Favorite Things: 6


Growing up I loved roses.  I thought they were romantic.  I thought they smelled fantastic.  I was slightly embarrassed that my favorite flower was such a cliche one.  Since then, I have left my love of the rose for the love of the tulip, which is probably also cliche but I am no longer embarrassed.  I wrote a silly poem about them when I first started blogging and I think it still captures a piece of my love for them.

A small bouquet of tulips will motivate me to clean my my entire house from top to bottom just to showcase their beauty.  It is contagious.  Nothing should look that good amidst a mess.  They are so elegant.  They are so full of promise and slender beauty when you bring them home.  They open with a little water and light.  Shortly thereafter they have broken themselves so wide open that their petals fall off and you wonder how they were ever so beautiful when you first brought them home.

Yet I love them.  I love knowing their beauty is fleeting.  It reminds me that life, too, is short yet beautiful.  It reminds me that our short lives, which require that we give until we too break open, lose our youthful beauty, and die, are still worth savoring.  We are but grass, 'tis true, but we are beautiful grass.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Pleasing Things: Day 5

Number Five: Farm Eggs

There is something delightful about knowing that you are using your dollar to support local farms and to vote for real food.  Yes, it feels very democratic and satisfies the little revolutionist in me.  However, what really tickles me about farm eggs is opening a dozen and finding natural easter eggs year round.  Truth be told, my current farmers do not keep Araucanian hens, so we do not get to enjoy those beautiful blue eggs, but when I first made the switch to real eggs (pastured hens, living as hens

were designed to live, eating things like BUGS and food scraps and some occasional soy-free grain), we always had an assortment.  They are healthier, yes, but they are also just plain beautiful.  There is an irresistible aesthetic with real food for me.  I buck at conformity.  I enjoy seeing eggs of slightly differing color and texture and shape.  It shouts "REAL" to me in a way industrialized, standardized sameness does not.  In real life there are no identical trees, no identical people, no identical eggs.  When everything is unique, everything is worth studying.  In the case of eggs, it might be a short study, but a satisfying one every time.

I love grabbing a large egg and wondering if it will be double-yolked.  The little ones make me wonder if some poor little hen is young and down in the pecking order.  I can't help wondering, when I look at odd, long, narrow shaped eggs, if the poor biddie was frightened in her box and tried to lay that egg as quickly as possible.

Real eggs are delightful, and worth the slightly elevated price.  Find a farm near you!

(photo credits from top to bottom: Farm Fresh Eggs Sign, Eggs of Many Colors, Eggs in Basket)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Pleasing Things: Day 4

Number Four: "May"

I enjoy the word "may," not the month, so much - though here we are in it and it is going alright - but the word at the beginning of a blessing is lovely.  I enjoy writing "may you enjoy another year of gaining wisdom" or some such blessing in birthday cards.  I enjoy receiving written blessings in birthday cards.  "May you" makes everything sound nicer.  Even, "May you rot in h@#&!" sounds nicer than the command form, "Rot in h@#&!"  In fact, I think I would smile if someone cursed me by starting with "May you", it's just so polite.

May you find many pleasing things today as well!!
(see, didn't that sound nice?!)

Monday, May 3, 2010

Favorite Things: Day 3

Number Three: Believing that all children can learn to master complex things and seeing it in action.

My mother recently gifted us with Suzuki violin lessons for my oldest, Søren.  Miss Heather (pictured here) is his teacher and she is very good at teaching violin to small children.  She was astounded at how ready and teachable Søren is for a child his age, so much so that after our first several lessons she took time aside to ask me how I parent as our children gave her hope she could have her own someday.

I realized, after watching a documentary about the life of Shinichi Suzuki and reading his autobiography about developing "talent education", that my parenting style is very much in keeping with the Suzuki approach.  I think that Suzuki is such a natural fit for our family because the essential foundations have been a part of our life for so long.

The real brilliance of Suzuki is the tenant that every child can learn easily what is modeled for them.  Suzuki's insight came from realizing that every Japanese child learns Japanese (which is a very complex language) easily and rapidly in their earliest years.  He marveled that this was because of the concept of "mother tongue".  They naturally learned what was around them.  Children are brilliant at imitating what is modeled for them.  He thought this might also be applied to other disciplines (learning music, learning manners, etc).  

Thus we learn the dialect around us, down to the very accent as young children - and children can learn 3-5 languages at a time if it is what is around them.  Talking naturally to your infant with good grammar, adjectives, and a decent vocabulary will produce a child who speaks similarly.  Modeling manners and kindness will produce children who say please and thank you.  Of course, I cannot go as far as Shinichi Suzuki in believing that children are 100% environmentally formed.  He does not say it outright, but you could easily infer from his philosophy that we could produce perfect humans if they were only parented correctly.  No, I still believe (firmly) that all humans are sinful and there is no way around it.  Perhaps what I more truly believe is that no one could parent "perfectly" (not even if it were government regulated as Shinichi almost suggests).

In keeping with this idea, I heavily monitor what other "models" my children have.  This has meant largely no media influences in our house.  In the last year or so we have started "family movie night" and when I have relaxed my standards (to things like "The Indian and the Cupboard" and "Stagecoach") I have regretted it for weeks as my house becomes filled with pretend murder.  Sometimes I wish there were such a thing as a brain eraser!  Alas, live and learn.  However, they are much more often to be found pretending to live in the woods, to build things, to run a library or a grocery store, or to conduct symphonies (which is happening as I type).  These are the things they see modeled most often.

What is remarkable, though, is how much Elliot and Penelope are absorbing from Søren taking lessons.  Elliot requested a practice time the other day after Søren had finished his.  Elliot could hold the bow well, the violin high, and perfectly bow the rhythms we've been working on, floating or dropping to the appropriate string by name (A, E, etc) while I did the fingering portion.  Penelope lights up when she hears familiar music (like, the Twinkle Twinkle variations Søren is practicing), and the violin in general.  This is because, for Penny and Elliot, violin practice is a part of our home's "mother tongue".  I am very interested to see how Penelope's musical abilities develop as she will have had the earliest introduction.  Elliot will start some very basic lessons himself next month when he turns three.  For now, it will also be violin, though he informs me that he really wants to learn trombone.  I do not think his lips are big enough for that just yet!

(ps - I may have derailed myself from the simple list of favorite things!  I think I am feeling a bit wordy from a month of no blogging.  My simpler joys will be forthcoming, do not fret)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Favorite Things: Day 2

Number Two:

Having a daughter.  I didn't think I'd really care.  I didn't think it'd be any different.  I even thought I'd prefer another son.  However, I was wrong.  Having a daughter is one of the most delightfully amazing things I've ever experienced, particularly this little daughter that I have, Miss Penelope.  I love her.

Perhaps I needed a daughter in order to reconnect with the fact that I am female.  I mean, not that growing human beings in my body wasn't reminder enough, but with a house full of boys who leave the seat up, sometimes you can forget just a little bit.  Mainly, I wasn't really worried about fully modeling what it means to be a woman.  With a daughter it is different.  It becomes important to address things like presenting oneself and things like pursuing a healthy view of beauty (I am sure most women who have sons are already plenty mindful of this....I was just...well...lazy).

When my mom first dropped me off at college, me all of eighteen years of age, she told me, "Well, I have failed you as a woman.  You don't know how to cook or sew".  Hmmm.  I got right to work on proving her wrong on the first count (and I think it's arguable that have sufficiently taught myself).  Sewing, however, I decided was no longer needed and hey, I could read and follow directions, so how hard could it be. Years later, I attempted my first skirt from a pattern.  It went great except that I made it a size too small and butchered the zipper.  BUTCHERED.  Anyhow, I reverted back to "no longer needed" and went on my way.

Since then I have slowly learned that there is great value in making things ourself.  Not only does it usually save money, but it gives satisfaction, lifts the blues, and allows one to detach a bit from the ills of consumerism.

That is a long rambling way to say I decided to try sewing again (with much inspiration from following Grosgrain).  My regular readers probably already knew this because of this post from last week.  Well here is the finished product (see photo left, and Penny matching frock above)!  Yay for a daughter who helped shift my perspective just enough so that I can join Shania in saying, "Man!  I feel like a woman."

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Things That Make The Heart Beat Faster: Day 1

Number One:

My husband who took our three children with him today to pick up raw milk and fresh eggs from our local farm.  He took them all and spent an hour at the farm playing and visiting so that I could have my first "Artist's Date," i.e. a couple hours to myself to do whatever I wanted.  I had high hopes of walking down to the Catholic church downtown and being inspired by lovely stained glass and ornately carved mahogany inside.  Movies led me to believe Catholic churches in downtown locales were open during the day.  Movies led me astray.  This church has specific hours that did not include the one during which I made it to their front steps.   However, my date with myself was still lovely.  I meandered and took streets I don't usually walk when timeliness and efficiency (while carting around three other little bodies) takes priority.  I saw lovely tulips and smelled lingering lilac blossoms.

I stopped into my favorite thrift store with my "date money" and found a lovely cream pitcher and a new purse (this is the same thrift store where I found my old purse last spring).  By the time I made it home, my family was still off on their farm adventure and I had time to start peacefully catching up on my tidy dish pile to the left of my sink.  Sometimes I think hand washing dishes is the most therapeutic of exercises.  I just wish I had a little more time for therapy.

Then that husband, who can still make my heart beat faster, got to adventure off on his own Artist's Date, but that is really something for his own blog (if he had the time to update it).

What is this Artist's Date you ask?  Husband and I (and a sister and my mother and perhaps a friend too) are working our way through Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way.  We are one week in (11 weeks to go).  I am looking forward to seeing where it takes us, but it seems perfectly suited to the task at hand of sharing the mundane, lovely things that infuse my daily life with beauty.

(and, perhaps off topic, the thing that truly made my heart beat faster today was startling a squirrel in a tree, who in turn startled me as he rapidly scampered down the trunk right as I passed)

Things That Make The Heart Beat Faster: An Introduction

I am excited to embark on a collaborative blogging project starting this month.  Cydney summed up the project beautifully.  I will share a synopsis that links to her opening post:

The collaborators are listed on the left sidebar, under the heading "Favorite Things Project Collaborators." We are Andy (not my husband), Annika, Blythe, Cydney, Jenn, Jennifer, Marianne (Me! you are here), Molly, Stephanie, and Summer.