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slow down.

April 30, 2012

We had a busy weekend where we were surrounded by way too many people. It’s nearly May(!) and people are beginning to come out of hibernation, and I forget, that since we are people who believe there is “no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes” that when the hoards of people reemerge on the weekend come the bloom and the bees, I’m the one who tends to want to hibernate. I don’t like lines, I don’t like witnessing others bad behavior, I don’t like port-a-potties and most of all, I don’t like not being able to give my children the wide berth they deserve when out and about. Large crowds make me anxious, and my children have inherited that anxiety, be it through genetics or influence, but outings in large crowds overstimulate us all and sometimes we just have to flee and escape.

Saturday’s outing began with a concert in a nature preserve, which was actually quite lovely and fun were it not for the crowd of under-7’s dressed and dancing like ke$ha and actually seeming to make the members of the band visibly uncomfortable. My children felt too inhibited to dance, I felt slightly embarrassed and uncomfortable watching it and we nearly left the concert which we were otherwise enjoying because of the spectacle of writhing, booty shaking toothless kiddos, but we were determined not to let it ruin our good time. We left the concert and headed to a music and art festival in a city park, which we have attended for four years now, since it’s inception, and despite it being in the city and attracting a large crowd, the park is spacious, on the water, and adjacent to a playground so there are lots of places to spread out and feel “free”. We walked around, said hello to friends, checked out the art and crafts and food offerings and then the kids took off to swing in the willows at the edge of the water and weave willow crowns on the rocks overlooking the river. We were able to give them the wide berth they need, and when they were joined by friends and grew tired of the willows, there was healthy food vendors and mama bags filled with enough snacks to make a picnic for the kids to enjoy while the grown ups enjoyed music and conversation. There was even enough space during the headlining band for the group of five kids to spin and dance and cartwheel  and roll on the grassy hill at the back of the crowd. Satuday was a generally successful outing for us, and we headed home happy and hungry, ate dinner and then kids were exhausted and off to bed after only a chapter of their bedtime book.the papa and I spent an hour or two together before heading to bed early in preparation of another long and hopefully exciting day.

Sunday we drove forty minutes to another music, art and food festival that we have been hearing about for years. The drive was lovely and scenic, we listened to mary pope osbourne’s tales from the odyssey while papa drived and I knit, and we were there before we knew it. The entire town was mobbed, and people spilled over from the sidewalks into the streets. We lucked out and found a parking spot in a metered lot not far from the action, and the fellow pulling out gave us his parking tag so we had almost two free hours! I set the alarm on my phone so we could walk back and feed the meter in time, but it turned out we didn’t need to. We walked over the bridge to the festival amid throngs of people, and found ourselves in the middle of a giant shoving match. It was so crowded that the children were nervous about getting separated and lost, and it was so loud that we couldn’t even find a place to discuss a plan in case it happened. Everyone was hungry, and there were lines for food,  drinks and portapotties. I had packed snacks, but we had heard that the food at this festival was great, so we were looking forward to trying something new. As it turned out, there was an Indian restaurant vending, the line was minimal, and they had some of our favorites on offer, so we got some korma and rice and tried to find a place to sit down and enjoy our lunch. We ended up eating in front of the Wells Fargo bank, as there we were able to carve out a sidewalk square to ourselves, though we did get hassled and had to move out of the way of several giant double strollers while we tried to enjoy our lunch. After eating and determining that hunger wasn’t the source of our collective grumpiness, we decided to walk back across the bridge and leave the festival. We found a small park, literally the size of a parking space, where the kids sat on a rock and skipped stones into the river for a while and we enjoyed the relative quiet. We got back into the car and drove until we found some nature, a park at the top of a steep hill, where we walked at out own pace, and enjoyed the rest of the day as a family, in wide open space with the sounds of nature and each other as the only distractions.

At home, as I dozed in a patch of early evening sunshine coming through the back window and papa was busy lighting the grill and getting ready for our first Sunday cookout of the year, my fella came and snuggled up with me and and asked if he could tell me something. We often have our heart-to-heart talks at night, under cover of darkness, and I guess he interpreted my doziness and lack of eyeglasses as a good time to clear his head and get something off his chest. “Mama?” he began. “I like doing things with everybody on the weekends, but today? Today was too much. Can we maybe think about only doing something one of the weekend days, so the rest of the time we can just be together and it isn’t so…much?” I told him he read my mind, that even though we are the least scheduled, least frantic and hectic family i know, we still need to recognize our limits and carve out time for just being together, even though it might seem as though that’s all we do. At the dinner table, over burgers both grass-fed and local and vegetarian white bean( courtesy of mark bittman), we talked as a family about how we want to spend our time together. We reminded each other what is important in our family culture. We planned game nights and camp outs and kite flying. We planned to try the hiking trail that intimidated us last year, when legs were littler. We talked about a picnic at the drive in, and lake swimming, and picking strawberries, cherries and blueberries. I’m delighted to watch these kids grow up, and I’m glad they are confident enough to do it at their own pace, and that we have the kind of relationships where its safe to say, “slow down”.


April 27, 2012

There are whole stretches of days that we move through without a stumble, a slip up, a cross word or an interrupted night’s sleep, where we linger in each day’s new gift over breakfast together and connect before our days begin, and then there are weeks like this one, that had me sending text messages to my beloved on Thursday morning cheering us on with “it’s Thursday! One day closer to the weekend!” and then today, each of us sending a message, his via text, mine via facebook with the simple word “FRIDAY” followed by a series of exclamation points. This week was was real, it was a challenge, and I figured a great and honest opportunity to begin this blogging journey of mine.

My partner and I have an agreement with ourselves that makes life a little bit easier most of the time, it goes a little something like this—every day, upon waking, we do something that will make the end of the day easier, more pleasant, more rewarding, simpler, and in turn, each evening, we do something before going to bed that will make the morning the same. Often, my evening “gift” to my morning self will be to ensure the kitchen is clean, breakfast things are at the ready, the table is set and our coffee things are arranged. My partners gift to himself is usually ironing his clothes for work and preparing and packing his lunch.(I know, what kind of at-home partner am I, leaving him to fend for himself with both ironing and lunch making?) Our morning gifts to our evening selves include tidying the yard, paying a bill online, taking the dog for her long walk, soaking beans, prepping a crock pot meal, baking a treat for the week, doing a load of laundry– any number of things we can do while we have abundant energy that streamlines and makes our evenings as a family easier and less hectic. This week, however, there was no abundant energy in the mornings, and we got through the week(well, with a few hours left til the actual weekend begins) with the bare minimum.

Each day this week has begun playing catch up before our feet hit the floor. (and yes, one of us is forgoing slippers and feet are hitting the floor directly, since one of us seems to have misplaced one of his slippers. How does one loose ONE slipper? It’s been that kind of week.) Breakfasts have been late because every morning, I’ve had to clean the kitchen before beginning cooking, and since we’ve established this lovely routine of eating our morning meals together, my children aren’t very willing to eat a “convenient” breakfast of a slice of toast with peanut butter while standing around the kitchen(I tried) and want to sit down at the dining table with tea and breakfast proper. My partner is rushing about, ironing his shirt while drinking coffee and slapping together a sandwich and I then have a whole other mess to clean up once he’s rushed out the door ten minutes later than usual.

As a result of the late start to breakfast, the whole rest of our day is off. Lunch is later because we ate breakfast closer to lunch time than our usual breakfast hour, and chores and stories are pushed back to the afternoon. The kids are cranky during ballet and tired during dinner. I drink too much tea and not enough water. We forego our time in nature and find ourselves on an emergency provisions trip to target that saw us walking out with two boxes of tissues(not recycled), target brand dye free allergy medicine(not natural, homeopathic or organic), a box of celestial seasoning sleepytime sinus tea(not organic, but my oldest spotted it and desperately wanted it and I thought it might at least have a placebo effect. it does have nettles and some other herbs I’d been dosing them with anyway) and two mary englebriet card making sets from the dollar spot, because my girls wanted to write letters to their friends to tell them how miserable they are feeling). The girls have abandoned their usual handkerchiefs in favor of a box of tissues each. We skipped the second day of ballet this week when the oldest took to wearing a roll of toilet paper on a fingerknit chain around her neck because she was blowing her nose so frequently that it was the only logical thing to do. We’re home more, which means more mess, including piles of discarded streamers of boogery toilet paper. Dinners have been challenging because we’ve completely abandoned our meal plan due to avoidance of inflammatory and mucus causing ingredients and I’ve been trying to make night after night of soup less boring. (I guess we usually eat a fair amount of inflammation and mucus causing meals?) Bedtime has found me falling asleep reading “Moominpapa at Sea” which is a delightful read under almost all circumstances but after tending to the whims of two under-the weather girls and making sure their healthy-and-a-little-bored brother gets the time and attention he needs, not to mention the interruptions that come with sleeping in a queen sized bed with a five-year-old, a ten-year-old and a six-foot tall bedhog under the best circumstances, never mind least each girl waking during the night at least twice, needing reassurance, tea, remedies, medicine or a good nose honk. Once I make it to bed, I lay there awake, listening to their breathing, their snoring and sniffling. Twice this week, I went to bed forgetting that their brother was asleep in his own bed upstairs with a tooth under his pillow–the first night I remembered I got up but found my wallet empty, the second night, I sent papa out to get cash at 11pm and he came back with ben and jerry’s frozen greek yogurt and we ill-advisedly stayed awake long enough to share a pint and catch up on a weeks worth of the daily show. Ugh. It’s more than just sick kids, it’s bad decisions that have left me drained and playing catch up all week.

Today the girls seem to have turned the corner a bit on the allergies and have been less needy. They agreed to peanut butter toast, an apple and some tea for breakfast, though we ate it together at the table, with proper plates and cloth napkins and conversation. They did math, and read books and while my fella still can’t find his other slipper, they got dressed and brought in the trash cans after the trash collection and took out the compost, which left two less things for me to do. I took the time that they were dressing and making beds(beds haven’t been made at all this week, I don’t think) to thaw some black beans to make a batch of black bean peanut butter brownies this afternoon, and despite my taking this time to type away on the computer, I am determined to finish all the laundry, read to the kids, go for a walk, and get everyone, myself included, bathed. I’m determined to give my weekend self the gift of a head start, and it starts now. Tonight, an early bedtime for everyone, and hopefully, just me and my bedhog in my bed without interruptions til morning.

“I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Don’t plan it. Don’t wait for it. Just let it happen.” Special Agent Dale Cooper, Twin Peaks.