Archive for August, 2010

School Days

This week Hannah began the first grade, at home in our loft. I’m grateful to say that it felt really natural. Technically, I classified this week as a light week. That meant I marked it with a yellow highlighter on my master calendar letting me know that nothing actually needed to get done. Rather, it was a week for both Hannah and I to get used to our new arrangement. Here’s a taste of how things went.


The sisters found common ground among warm morning sun, pajamas and sidewalk chalk.


We made our way to the library to pick up books in preparation for our trip to the Getty Museum. I know I’m a bit behind the curve on this one, but I can’t tell you how amazing it is to be able to search for books online when children are sleeping, request them via the internet and go pick them up! This feels especially convenient now that the littlest finds great pleasure in proclaiming toddler gibberish while speedily running through distinctly quiet venues.

 While at soccer practice, one of the other moms discovered I was homeschooling Hannah this year. She first asked if it was because I wanted to save some money by not sending her back to the private school. I said, “no.”

She then went on to tell me that ironically, she reported a case this past week (she’s a court reporter) that involved this really intense divorce. The parents were in court because the mom wanted to continue homeschooling their kids and the dad just wanted their kids to live a normal life like everyone else. From there she continued that the mom was pretty crazy – she was a vegan, didn’t allow her kids to go to McDonald’s because she thought it wasn’t healthy, steered clear of media and also didn’t allow them to eat all of their Halloween candy. She ended with a laugh and told me to be sure to keep letting Hannah chew gum. I bit my tongue hard, smiled and was reminded of the following:

1. Some of the choices we’ve made as a family are weird by the world’s standards.

2. I never want to find myself being equally obnoxious towards someone else with my own ideas or convictions.

3. At times I can be too uptight about what my kids eat or don’t eat.

4. It is important to carefully consider which hills to die on … after all I’m not a cat.

5. I still won’t feed my kids McDonald’s.

 In the future, Hannah will be doing her puzzles on the school table as opposed to the floor. What’s a toddler to do?


I had three main objectives for our field trip to the Getty. First, I wanted to the two of us to have a really great time together. This would be big girl/Mommy time which is a commodity these days. With this in mind, we listened to Ramona’s World on CD both to and from the museum. We packed a lunch that included an Afghan flatbread that Hannah samples each week at the Farmer’s Market but we never actually purchase because it is $6.00. This past Wednesday we procured it and enjoyed this spinach filled vegan bread with sun-dried tomato pesto at a table by the rectangular fountain.

Next, I hoped to help Hannah make the connection between an artist we’d grown familiar with (Monet) and his incredible work. The books from the library were great in helping to bring his story alive. We walked the halls searching for his bridge in the garden and his snowy haystacks. When she found them she was thrilled! She was so thrilled that she unknowingly walked across the invisible threshold (in order to see how the impressionistic painting style can look like “blobs” close up). Her exuberance sent a very serious-looking guard in our direction. He asked her to please step back. She was mortified momentarily, but I assured her that she was fine and that the guard just wanted to make sure that the paintings stayed safe. She quickly recovered, was amazed to find Monet’s actual signature on these originals and within two minutes was ready to move on.

(One of the original haystack paintings by Monet on display at the Getty)

(Hannah’s original springtime haystacks on display in the loft)

Last, I wanted her first experience in a grown-up museum to be positive, rather than boring. Understanding this, I tried to focus in on things that I knew she would enjoy. We began and ended our trip with the tram ride; this was required but nonetheless fun. We explored the gardens first off to avoid even hotter temperatures and to take in their unquestionable beauty. We found every fountain there was to find and we browsed both gift shops for quite some time.

She seemed to really like the paintings – not just the Monet’s but also earlier pieces that depicted the life and death of Christ. Context is helpful for most people when entering a new environment. I think we found that in all that we did.

(Overlooking the gardens and North Pavilion – she loved the maze in the middle, could have done without the heat and the bee population but ultimately chose this space as one of her favorite parts of the day)

(A favorite fountain)

(The flowers were incredible)

(H discovering a shaded path made of Travertine)

(A glimpse of autumn)

*You’ll be happy to know that the Getty does in fact have flushers rather than robot potties. That only helped to seal the two-thumbs-up review from the seven year-old whose sole complaint was the 95 degree weather. She too is a coastal thin blood.

Hannah once described Hailey as applesauce with a little bit of cinnamon. I find it an entirely accurate portrayal of our mostly sweet with a touch of spice second born. Her presence both blessed and challenged me this week. I’ve come to understand at a deeper level that the toddler does not always adhere to Excel spreadsheets designed by her mommy even when they are very clearly laid out in color coded format as to how each day of the week ought to unfold. I also rediscovered that there are few things cozier than a groggy little one with a sweaty head of curls reaching her arms out to you from her crib, regardless of the nap violation. 

(Hailey loves the Brown Bear and Panda Bear stories right now. Sometimes she displays this admiration by nodding her head to the beat of the words and other times this affection comes by way of crinkling up pages. The latter really bothers the older child.)


(This one loves all things fancy and funny. She knows how to make us laugh. Her silliness toward Hannah reminds me of the dynamic between my brother and I growing up. I love that.)

Last evening, Hannah really wanted to work on her field trip journal entry for the Getty. Her assignment was to compose three sentences highlighting things she enjoyed on her visit and then to draw a picture that would coincide. Together we identifying the things she’d focus in on. Next, we brainstormed descriptive words that could help form a sentence. I then dictated the sentence she created orally and finally she worked on copying it into the journal. Before long, her face was contorted. I could tell she was tired and I nudged her toward completing it in the morning. She asked if she could hold off on her final sentence and move to the picture. Relief came by way of Crayola. When she’d stopped for the evening, I asked her to show Phil. She was hesitant but then complied.

Later, as I sat with her in her top bunk she explained to me that she felt embarrassed by her work. I sent up a silent prayer and probed a bit more. Her final statement brought the clarity I was after. She told me that she felt as though the sentences she’d created sounded like a three year-old. I did my best to let her know that I’d heard her and understood her frustration. As a writer myself I explained that oftentimes I feel less than satisfied with the words I string together. I ended the night by trying to help her see that the sentences she’s accustomed to reading in books are composed by grownups who’ve spent decades practicing their craft.

This afternoon, before school began I set the table with our water bottles and two chunks of dark chocolate.  Hannah  was delighted to find this treat. I told her that before we tackled that final sentence,  I wanted to follow up a bit on the conversation we’d had the night before. She wiggled enthusiastically in her chair, with bits of melted chocolate already managing to smear her upper lip.

I pulled out her keepsake album that her three year-old preschool teacher had compiled for her at the end of the year. She remarked how cute she was back then. I agreed. From there we found our way to her earliest attempts at penmanship; they were nothing more than scribbles. Countless colors, not at all complementary were strewn across a coloring sheet covering every possible space but with no sense of order or continuity.

I recounted her top-bunk confession with care and then helped her contrast the work of a three year-old with the work she was now taking on. While my perfectionist could not deny that progress had been made, she still admitted that she wished her sentences could sound more interesting. I again, empathized and then left her with this thought; greatness is not easily acquired. She too could be as clever, interesting and witty as Beverly Clearly and Betty Birney but not without years of diligence and practice. This along with the chocolate seemed to stick and with that she set about composing her final sentence.

In the garden, there was a maze in the middle of the pond.



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Lessons I Never Wanted to Learn

This afternoon we gathered with hundreds of people to honor our friend Claire and to say our final goodbye. She was much too young to leave this earth and our hearts remain heavy, even confused, as to why her story ended the way that it did. In the weeks leading up to her death it became clear that her time here would soon end. Understanding this, she sat with some of her most beloved friends and helped to plan her own memorial service. That was Claire. And that was a blessed gift for all in attendance today.

Those who know me know that I love to learn. Few things excite me more than the sound of the UPS truck slowing down in front of our house delivering an Amazon box with a collection of words packed inside. The topics vary from organic living to social justice, child rearing to topics pertaining to faith, cooking to organizing and simplifying and sometimes just a really great novel.

There’s one subject, however, that continues to shove its way uninvited into my otherwise controlled collection of ponderings. If I had my choice I would remain decidedly ignorant. The matter is grief and in a word (or three) I loathe it. Over the last seven years it seems I’ve been tossed into death’s waters a few too many times for my liking. And with each immersion I find myself having to learn once more how to swim.

In the case of my brother David, it felt as though I’d been thrown overboard into a frigid and hostile sea. At times I questioned if I’d ever see land again. Ultimately I did find my way back to shore – yet far from unchanged. In other instances the losses have been a bit less jarring and sometimes less intimate. There was time to prepare, to say goodbye and to hold tight to the tender moments along the way. Still, never once as I’ve treaded my way through these profound heartaches have I found myself feeling anything short of exhausted, sick and confused…at least for a good long while.

Phil and I have had the privilege of being in homegroup with Claire and her husband Cam for many years. Collectively as a group we’ve shared a great deal of laughter, tremendous salads for twenty, meaningful studies, inspiring teamwork, sacred moments, more hula-hooping than you might expect and ultimately far too many tears. Week after week, our red-headed Claire led us in prayer using the Psalms as her guide. For years, the passages flowed from her lips with confidence and ease. Later, the words became more difficult to form. Still always there was grace.

I’ve come to accept that with each loss there are lessons to learn and reflections to capture. Claire’s departure is no exception. Conceding to this understanding has the potential to open our hearts and minds to things we might otherwise miss. It can move us to wrestle through painfully raw questions, evaluate our priorities, love with added dimension, extend ourselves in new realms and in the end enable us to receive a profound hope nestled in the intangibles of this life and the next.

“Claire had integrity; she was who she said she was. And who she was was a woman deeply in love with her Lord. We saw Him clearly alive in her life. So we do mourn the loss of Claire Michelle Carey today. And we wish she was still here with us…but even more, I think we wish we were with her, free and whole.”Kelly Soifer (final words of today’s homily) 

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As we considered whether or not to teach Hannah from home this year, one of the most compelling reasons in favor of this decision had to do with Hailey. On the one hand, it feels a bit challenging to think about teaching Hannah with Hailey underfoot. Toddlers, I am now remembering are incredibly busy creatures with very short attention spans and extremely speedy gaits. Whether or not first grade Singapore Math and Fisher Price stacking rings find synergy in our loft during school hours has yet to be determined.

Nevertheless, there was something else within this dynamic of spaced-apart sisterhood that I wanted to nurture throughout the day, everyday. Phil, Hannah and I all in our own ways waited a very long time for Hailey to join our family. Her presence has been a cuddly and spunky addition. The relationship the girls are forming as sisters is one I want to help grow in every way that I can. In bringing school home I see countless opportunities to foster this end.

Today, the ladies found common ground by way of two buckets of water, three wash cloths and two plastic ride-on toys. Each had their own take on the activity. Still, they enjoyed it together for well over an hour. With school fast approaching I’m looking forward to continuing to think creatively as to how to meet each one of their needs while also setting the stage for them to continue loving living alongside one another for years to come.


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Moving entirely out of the realm of the profound, I thought I’d tell you what we had for dinner tonight. Taco salad is fast becoming a favorite in our house. Whenever I can find a meal that accommodates everyone’s dietary issues (which are many) while not compromising taste and preferences I am happy. Truly this can be an entirely satisfying wheat-free, dairy-free (or optional dairy for those who can partake) vegetarian dinner.  I’ve made lots of versions, but this is what I had on hand for this evening’s dinner.

Farmer’s Market corn, cilantro, tomatoes 

 Zucchini (grilled) from my Mom’s garden

Fresh mexican cheese, goat cheese, green peppers, lettuce, blue chips, salsa and canned black beans (I just sautéed onion, garlic, salt, pepper, oregano and cumin and then added the can of beans) all from Trader Joes

Guatemalan Rice. I made a large batch of this a few weeks back and then froze it in single meal portions. Then all I have to do is pull a bag out of the freezer and heat it up.

  The baby ate beans, rice and a few pieces of zucchini and some oatmeal to make up for the fact that beans and rice were apparently not in her dining plans for this evening. Boo is giving me a bit of a run for my money with eating these days. However, based on the circumference of her cheeks I’m not too concerned. 

While Hannah is a pretty great eater, she does tend to avoid vegetables. Tonight I told her that she needed to add two new colors to her meal – her choice. To her chips, beans, goat cheese and cilantro she added corn, lettuce and salsa. We talked about the fact that most vitamins are found in colored food. For whatever reason that really motivated her to extend her palate just a bit and she was glad she did.  


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Borrowed Wisdom

This summer has been different from most. We’ve found ourselves back in toddler mode. Specifically this has translated into respecting sweet Boo’s need for naps even though the Mommy and seven year-old may have other ideas of how to spend summer days. We’ve also opted to shrink our travel budget for economic reasons. Add to this a perpetual blanket of fog and an extended period of  goodbye gatherings for our dear friends the Frohlings and well, this summer has been different. Just to keep things interesting, we’ve decided to switch gears for schooling next year and bring that activity back home (another post for another day).

I suppose that while I’ve spent much less time in my normal mode of taking in the outdoors, I’ve made up for it by exploring the inside of my head and heart. Goodbyes are hard for me. Long goodbyes with dear friends, even harder. Likewise new beginnings are a bit exhausting, but also exciting and most certainly defining for us all. 

 Krista and I have had a few laughs when we’ve stopped to consider that we’re both taking on a new role in the next month (that of a missionary and that of a homeschooling mother). Both carry a bit of baggage depending on who you’re talking to. We’ve made a solemn vow that in the next four years I will not start wearing jeans jumpers and declaring to all humanity that every child should be taught at home and she will not decide to drape her body in floor-length skirts, change her hairdo to include a tight bun and inherit a meek persona.   

Last week Jane, Trish and I bravely took each other by the hand and ran straight for the Pacific at dusk (a very foggy and windy dusk) and submerged ourselves completely in the salty waters in honor of Krista. Wisely, she stood on dry land taking action shots while marveling at our courage (okay maybe marveling wasn’t quite it…it was more accurately laughing over our exuberant show of affection).   

Regardless, we three all agreed that the act was exhilarating. *Remember, I haven’t left my coastal city limits this summer so it doesn’t take too much to find myself feeling liberated these days.

Still, I think for each of us this frigid plunge captured our attention. Personally, I was reminded that a rich life is something you have to fight for. You have to dream and you also have to execute. Amidst the backdrop of the mundane rests countless opportunities to add a bit of spice to an otherwise ordinary course. Having a person like Jane in your life certainly helps this process along.  

While sometimes these moments unfold almost magically with very little forethought, most often they require more of us. We have to instigate, plan, rearrange, prioritize and ultimately get up the courage to take off running. It could manifest in the simplest of terms. Yet cumulatively I am choosing to believe that these small bits of flavor will amount to a full and rich existence.

This week I came across two posts that captured my attention as I continue looking for these moments amidst my foggy summer of goodbyes and new beginnings. These wise words would pair well with a Cafe au lait or Iced Tea depending on the weather in your parts. They could (if you set the stage) be a moment in your week. Drink up!

On Being Busy or Being Full: How Can We Tell the Difference?

Perfection: the thief of “good enough”


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