Monday, February 25, 2013

The Spirit of a Home

Children and dogs are as necessary to the welfare of
our country as Wall Street and the railroads."
Harry S. Truman

When Anna Cate was a baby, I stayed home with her until she was 2 and a half. When we realized we were not one of those families who could make major sacrifices for me to continue to stay home, I was so lucky enough to get a job back at my old school, back to the same exact subject I was teaching before. When it came to care for Anna Cate, I only made one phone call about day care, to Miss Diana.  I knew Diana from church, and that she was a friend of BJ's mom, Susie. When we talked, she told me a bit about the way she runs things, and I don't remember much from that conversation, but I do remember her saying "This is a HOME first and foremost."

So we have dropped one or both of my girls off at Miss Diana's home since August of 2008, for five years.  In the midst of learning their ABCs, seasons of the year, days of the week, how to share with other kids, my girls have experienced things I would never have imagined or thought to teach.  From end-of-the-year sleepover celebrations, and ice skating on shaving cream, to hibernation days and holiday parties, I've been comforted with the fact that my children were having great experiences.   

Yet there are times that I've been sad about not being at home with them, but last week I was reminded of just how real that home experience has been. The embodiment of such played out in children circling around Daisy, the family dog.
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Hibernation Day 2009, Anna Cate's first year at Diana's.

In fact, before we got Rosie, when Anna Cate would talk about a dog, I would say, "you have a dog at Miss Diana's." Daisy, pictured above, shared the name of my first childhood dog.  In fact my first sentence according to my family was, "Is that Daisy?"

Leading up to the day I speak of, Daisy (Miss Diana's dog) hasn't been able to walk by herself, and last Friday the decision was made to put her down that weekend.  So on Friday morning, before the school kids got on the bus, they circled around her with tears and heavy hearts having heard the news from Diana.  I didn't see it, but my best friend Norah texted me how upset Anna Cate was and I was reminded of the school day decades before when I knew it was my Daisy's last day.  It seemed so similar. 

That afternoon when I went to pick the girls up, Anna Cate was on the floor with Daisy and  I saw a note on Diana's kitchen table from Anna Cate. In "writing work shop," she wrote about how much she loved Daisy and told Miss Diana how sorry she was. Molly plainly said to me in the midst of the serene setting, "Daisy is going to die."  In this profound yet typical family experience of losing a pet, I've realized yet again that my kids are experiencing home... even if not with me as a stay-at-home-mom.  

 I've been looking back at pictures Diana has sent me over the years.









   It's so evident that my girls have been in a home. Lately, I'm noticing the story lines in literature and themes of history portraying the struggle between the law and the spirit: be it in religious history of the Pharisees and the Nazarene, in a musical setting with Javier and ValJean, a parable of the Prodigal Son or in my own definition of a perfect setting for child-rearing.  I wonder how much of life we toil in clinging to strict definitions, possibly missing the spirit of that for which we long.  In my case, I long for my children to experience home and am so grateful that they have it in ours and in Miss Diana's... and Daisy's.


"Until one has loved an animal, part of one's soul remains unawakened."
~Anatole France

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Wanting to be the Woman

I want to be the woman I'm trying to raise my girls to be....

Your children will become what you are; so be what you want them to be.  – David Bly


A little story....

My dear friend (sister from another mother) Yvette creates fabulous wardrobes for her daughters, and this past summer she sent Anna Cate several boxes of her eldest daughter's hand-me-down clothes. 
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We've enjoyed them tremendously. From bathing suits to cardigans, jeans to scarves, dresses to flouncy tops Anna Cate has enjoyed the touch of style her Aunt Yvette has.  
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Like their Mamas, Yvette and me, Peighton and Anna Cate are built differently so not everything  from Peighton fits the way it did on her.  Last week, as we were getting ready for a few people to come over to watch  Super Bowl, Anna Cate wanted to wear some of Peighton's jeans,  and when they didn't zip, and Anna Cate burst into tears, buried her head in her hands, turned away from me and exclaimed, "I'm fat." My heart was completely ripped out. 
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DAMNIT!!!!  How did this happen? I thought I've controlled her environment, focused on health. Personally, I think I've grown so much in my own issues. Well I still really want liposuction but haven't I been careful not to mention it in front of her?! I try to not say derogatory things about my body around Anna Cate or Molly. As I watched my precious child cry, I held her I kept thinking,  "How in the world did my healthy and beautiful little girl get that bullshit memo from society that a flat stomach equals worthiness?" 

I told her that she is beautiful, that there are plenty of things great for her to wear,  that not everyone is built the same.  I asked if anyone has ever called her a name, and she said, "No." I said, "do you think Mommy is Fat? because I can't wear jeans like that!?"  She said no, and I agreed even though I know I was lying to her a little, well maybe a lot. I've spent years in either figurative or literal fits over the fact that my belly isn't flat. This encounter with Anna Cate was a perspective-changing moment for me and probably not for her.  We picked out a cute dress (from Aunt Yvette), and I think she's ok. 


We enjoyed our friends


 and getting to cuddle little baby Davis.
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But before our friends arrived, I walked into our bedroom to get ready myself and said to  BJ, "well, you can scratch my idea of us saving up for me to get a tummy tuck, because I'm not.  That would make me a hypocrite. I just told Anna Cate to accept her beautiful body; what type of example does that set if I try to get myself a flat stomach under a knife?" 

I'm doing the best I can in loving Anna Cate and Molly into the same amount of confidence in them I wish I had in myself, I realize the truth in the words of the song, "God's not finished with me yet."  So we do what I know is true and good -- healthy eating, moving, and trying to model the type of acceptance I want them to feel.

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Molly is eating grilled Romaine above, and the girls enjoy a healthy dinner below.  This is in between a crossfit workout and swim practice for Anna Cate, yesterday.
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One hidden message I've had to reconcile is this perception that if you eat right and work out, you'll look like Barbie.  Well, that's not true and more than anything, I want my children to value their health.  I wish that they could see their bodies for the beautiful expressions of perfection I see.  Sometimes I wonder if my creator wishes the same for me.

There are old heads in the world who cannot help me by their example or advice to live worthily and satisfactorily to myself; but I believe that it is in my power to elevate myself this very hour above the common level of my life.  Henry David Thoreau 


In other, less life-analyzing existential encounters, we are enjoying the season of Love. 


This week Anna Cate has come home with daily Valentines. IMG_0202_zps67b827fe.jpg


At Miss Diana's Molly has enjoyed celebrating the Chinese New year, Mardi Gras and dental health awareness.
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This is the year of the snake...
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In celebrating Chinese New Year, Miss Diana gave the kids some chop stick and some take-home calendars.
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According to this little placemat, if you are born in 2010 like our dear Molly Mae, you are TIGER. Yet, this information just flat ticks Molly off.  She insists with fury, I am NOT A TIGER. I'm a HORSE! 

At least the pancakes on Fat Tuesday are not as controversial. 

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Anna Cate had a sleep over at her bff's Leana's and we enjoyed a quiet Saturday morning with Molly where she helped make French Toast.  She was so proud.
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And, this week marks our year anniversary with Miss Rosebud Rosalina, aka Rosie.


Molly hugs her every morning, Anna Cate adores her, she loves BJ so much she sleeps in his laundry basket so she can smell him.  Even though she's not very well trained, makes a fool of me when I try to take her on a walk and would destroy our house in a New York minute if we left her home alone out of her crate, she does sort of complete our family. We love you, Rosie girl.

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The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough. --Rabindranath Tagore

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Typical Style

“Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn.” 
― Gore Vidal

Sometimes it seems my life is typical, which bothers me a tad. I am a teacher; my husband is in "sales" and we have 2.5 children (two girls, one dog).  We live in a neighborhood that looks like many neighborhoods across the country, on a street where many houses look the same.  This might be why I want my home to look different, the girls birthday parties to be different, and my parenting style to have a unique mark.


Since I want our home to have character, on that long drive home from Tennessee after Christmas vacation, I began to think of how to transform our front room to a place for me to read and sip tea and invite guests with charm.  I used my smart phone to look up my amazingly talented friend Melanie Edwards (who is an interior designer) and her pinterest board for ideas. When in Nashville, I visited Anthropologie and fell in love with this yellow couch, but since it is like $6,0000,  I just used Anthropologie for inspiration....and Melanie's room ideas on pinterst. In the same silly, superficial vain where I  fret about life as typical, I realize I don't have much style but just enough sense to know who does. . . . . including another friend who has both the eye and hands to create character in a space a s well as in a family. She also paints furniture as a side business. So Debbie came over, told me what I needed to do, which included shopping my house by rearranging furniture and pieces, putting away pieces I don't love to look at, and creating a space for your eyes to rest. 

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This shelf was $20 at an estate sale in Centerville; Debbie took the colors from these curtains I got at World Market to create such a fun and funky look. I kept drawing myself to green and turquoise.  The gallery collage on the opposite wall includes lots of pictures we've gotten from another talented friend, Jennifer.
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This chest of drawers was an antique purchased from a house sale in Centerville before I moved to Fredericksburg. I've never thought about this before now, but that house is the one where my brother and his family live now. Debbie stained the top and gave it a vintage turquoise look that I love.
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This tea cart was my great grandmother's and I had never noticed the date on the handle.  Thankfully, Debbie left this unpainted giving the piece and my home even more character.
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So, we created my little space, where I'm writing now. A place to read, to cuddle, to get away from the TV.
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Last weekend it sort of all came together when BJ hung the pictures and I picked out some pictures that Jennifer (talented photographer friend in Tennessee) took in December.   On Monday, we were given this gift which is the perfect touch of style.
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The canvas framed piece of art came from a Facebook gift/challenge BJ accepted.  The deal was that the first five people who commented on his friend's status would get something handmade that they didn't know what it was- BUT those five people then had to do the same thing and post the challenge on their page to keep it going.   He picked it up Monday morning and when he called me, he said, "you'll love it. It will look great in your new room."
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So when he said he took the challenge, he didn't know what he would be getting or that it would go in this room. The artist?  None other than my friend Melanie whose sense of style (and pinterest board) inspired the room in the first place!!!

The colors, green and blue, the major colors in the picture are the themes of the room, and that little funky house on the picture represents for me that my house, my life may look like others but it's not.  It's polka dots, and stripes and random numbers, but maybe in a way my home does look like others. And that's ok, too, because part of my style is finding and experiencing these connections.


BJ is doing the challenge on Facebook sometime during the year, and  I'm also going to do it here. The first five people who comment on this blog will get something homemade from us (but you have to pass it on in some way yourself). So leave a comment and tell me a recent connection that has happened in your life OR your favorite room of your house and why. 


A major disclaimer: it will not be as cute as Melanie's! 
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Now on to our making a mark in things outside of this room.


Anna Cate has learned how to ride a bike sans training wheels.
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While Debbie and I were talking home decor, Anna Cate and her kids got into BJ's tool box, took off her training wheels and taught her.
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Sarah was a fabulous coach and is a sweet girl.
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BJ's birthday was the 8th and since I have not the talent to make a cake, but wanted the girls to participate I wanted my friend Chas to make him one with her.
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We've decorated for and enjoyed some snow days together.
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And decorating for Valentine's Day includes using candies that are years old.
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Our friends, the Pences, have moved to live much closer to us and it is fabulous!!!
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 The kids play and work out so well together. Anna Cate and Leana do crossfit kids, which is probably another post.
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And speaking of style....check out Molly Mae doing the workout in cowboy boots. She demanded to dress herself and I think had on no less than 4 different prints or patterns. Molly's personality is developing and her sense of sass is her style.  She says the funniest things but often I don't know whether to laugh or send her to time out. Last night, she told me when I told her to let Anna Cate talk, too, "you need to zip it up."  On the way home from church on Wednesday night, after I suggested we all sing Jesus Loves Me when she wanted to sing by herself, she said, "you guys are RUINING MY LIFE."
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Last Sunday, Anna Cate's youth choir sang at church and in picking out this dress, she told me she would wear the smocked dress BUT NOT THE BOW.
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She's developing her own sense of style.  After her report card, I told her she could request a treat but let's think of something other than food. She asked for a second dog, and after some reflection after that denial, she said, "how about red lipstick?" Today, when Leana was here this morning, Molly Mae, Anna Cate and Leana enjoyed donning the red lipstick, but we had to wipe it off in time for her Father-Daughter Dance tonight. I tried to straighten her hair for the first time ever.
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She looked precious.
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Molly and I enjoyed a Mommy-Molly date as well. No pictures of it but memories.

So I think about style, making my mark and I see the details, the connections. Pink cowboy boots, beautiful art that represent the connections of life, and these "typical" experiences that connect me to women, parents and children whose houses or lives look the same, but thankfully I know talented ladies whose gifts help me create and celebrate our own style. I'll close with some family pictures Jennifer took while we were in Tennessee, showing her talent and maybe even our style.
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I love the scene on the train tracks as I reflect on this quote:
“The journey not the arrival matters.” – T. S. Eliot
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The look on Molly's face below is a great window to her personality.
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This old barn sits in front of the cemetery in my home town. BJ said he loved that sign, which I never noticed. Jennifer took the girls through the barn for more pictures and I loved these scenes.
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 When we were talking about which ones I was going to buy, she noted that you can't really tell its graves in the background or that she can edit them out.  Yet I know that they are dancing and holding hands in the shadows of a graveyard, a place where my dear grandparents were laid to rest. And there is beauty and symbolism for me in that scene. You dance through life, you look at the people that matter and in the backdrop are those that have gone before us.  Scenes and symbols are the style that transcend my typical life or the ordinary backdrop of a picture. 
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Dance, then,wherever you may be,
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he,
And I'll lead you all,wherever you may be,
And I'll lead you all in the Dance, said He.
--Lord of the Dance Hymn 
by Sydney Carter