Everyday Life, Parenting

Building Dams in The River of Life

How many times have we heard it: “You can’t slow down time.”

We know it’s true. We feel it when we look at the pictures of our children a year, two years, ten years ago. We feel it when we race the clock again to do this before the holidays or that before the arbitrary but very set in stone deadline. I feel it when my newborn outgrows her newborn clothes in just four weeks. I feel time rushing by so quickly these days.

Time is a river that keeps on flowing, and the only way to slow it down is build yourself a dam, picking up the rocks in the river and collecting them into a wall so that the weight of your moments becomes a life of substance.

photo (19)A weighty life can be a good thing.

Each moment I feel the weight of my baby in my arms and let it really sink into my memory, that is a rock I add to my memory dam. Each time I look up from the thousand tasks and look into the gray-blue beauty of Ella’s five-year-old eyes that won’t be the same when she’s six, that’s a rock in the wall. Those moments when I squeeze that hand my husband reaches out to hold mine with every single time we ride in the car together after nine years of marriage make up a boulder. When I trace the curve of a chubby cheek on a pillow as I stop by to check on three-year-old Isaac in the middle of the night, I claim that moment from a sleep-deprived season as a gift. When I stop sighing at the laundry and start fingering the toddler t-shirts and memorizing the pattern of the favorite dress, I make my life into something tangible to my mind.

Each moment truly realized by how it looks and feels and smells and sounds becomes a rock in the dam to keep the river from rushing too quickly.

When my family goes to the mountains, there is always a creek nearby, and there is always an hour when the kids who live inside the grown ups gather rocks and build a small dam in the creek. It’s just for fun, a test of man versus nature. The kids always win, but just for a little while. Even though they’re grown men and women now and know how one rock stacks on another, the next hour or the next day, the dam is gone and the creek rushes on. The creek makes short work of all our work to slow it down, but this fact remains: we made memories in making those walls of rocks in mountain creeks. We made crazy fun memories when we built sandcastles while the tide came in and made a game of saving them from the waves as long as we possibly could. The sand, the rocks, they wash away. That doesn’t diminish the memories.

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I know the dams I build will be just like that. I know that time will keep rushing on, even though I have stopped and picked up memory rocks, cradled them, and considered them and stacked them together. I know they’ll not stay there, that the weight of the minutes fully cherished won’t stop change. But when I gather my memories during my days, they become apart of something bigger. The joy and the pain and the sorrow and the giddy happiness will be there, living on in the timbre of life.

The memory of a three-year-old boy asleep in your arms as you carry him from the car will contain that feel of heavy arms and legs against your skin and warm breath on your neck. A lifetime of noticing and grabbing hold of the heft of the baby curled in your arms, and the softness of a quilt handmade from your grandmother, and the warmth of the sun that broke through the clouds at just the moment you needed it like a gift straight from God…these moments remembered and fingered make the whole of life into beauty realized. The beauty has been there and has been felt and seen. The stones have been held before they moved on down the river, and that makes all the difference.

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Children's Books, Parenting, Reading

I Need A Hero(ine)

As my daughters grow up, I remain concerned about what values I’m promoting amidst the fairy tale frenzy they live in. I love fairy tales as much as the next little girl at heart, but I have concerns about flooding our children’s minds with glittery dresses and happily ever afters that usually involve castles and servants. Real life has more grit to it, which is why it’s harder to expose our children to it. We don’t really want them to have to deal with real life just yet, and that’s understandable. But I want my little girls to value hard work, bravery, and honesty. I want them to see beyond beauty on the outside and care deeply about the inside of a person. So when we browse the shelves at the library or bookstore, it can be disheartening to see how the sparkly pink book bindings and the elegant gowns draw my five-year-old daughter in like a hummingbird to a red flower. Pink, sparkly books abound in the picture book genre (not so much for girls in the chapter book age, I’ve noticed), but there are some gems out there we’re slowly discovering. These books don’t feature princesses at all; just real life young girls who became heroines by bravely facing the hard tasks before them.

KeeKeep the Lights Burning, Abbie (On My Own History)p the Lights Burning Abbie is a book my mom read to us when we were little. I loved it then, and I still love reading it now.When Abbie’s father leaves the lighthouse in the hands of his daughter, he doesn’t know what a test she is facing. Abbie and her sisters prove their bravery as they care for the lights and each other. I get a lump in my throat on the last line every single time — not a “that’s so sad I can’t take it lump” but that kind of lump you get when you watch someone win an Olympic gold medal. The Reading Rainbow episode that goes with this book is also one of my favorites.

 

Kate Shelley and the Midnight Express (On My Own History)If I could have picked a story to star in when I was about eight years old, it would have been a story like Kate Shelley and the Midnight Express. Kate sees a problem, knows that people will die if she doesn’t do something about it, and does the hard work of stopping an engine full of people from plummeting into a river. Now that is some serious girl power. Did I mention the illustrations are riveting? And that Kate crawls across a train trestle over a raging river in the dark? I never did anything that brave, but it seems important that every girl aspire to heroic bravery at some point in their young lives.

Brave Irene (Sunburst Books)Brave Irene  by Kevin Stieg isn’t based on a true story as the other books in this post, but that’s alright with me. Irene doesn’t save lives like Abbie or Kate, but she does display the kind of character traits I would love to see in my daughters. When her mother, a dressmaker, becomes ill right at the moment when she needs to deliver a dress to the Duchess for the ball that night, Irene puts her mother to bed and delivers the dress herself, despite a raging snow storm. Irene is caring and compassionate and, obviously, brave. She is also not above getting discouraged on her journey–I appreciate that kind of honesty in a book about a wonder girl.

I wish I had more Picture Book Heroines to add to this list, but I’m still on this search. If you have any suggestions, chime in!

P.S. My kids are crazy about Mulan right now. Just this morning I had to explain to Ella that Mulan is not actually a princess, but she’s really cool and important; this conversation further confirmed that we have some work to do on the princess mindset. It’d be nice if Disney put out a movie about a lovely girl who lived happily ever after and washed dishes at the same time, but it looks like that lesson is all on me. Come on, Disney.

Everyday Life

Violet Grace

It’s been quiet on the blog lately, but not so quiet at our house.

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Violet Grace arrived on July 17th, a healthy 7 lbs. 11 oz. and 20.25 inches long. She shocked the world with her shock of dark hair, which makes me laugh because my sisters and I all had hair like that and my other babies had dark hair, too, though not as much. Apparently Violet’s lovely locks overshadow the memory of Isaac’s and Ella’s heads of hair.

Violet has lots of love from her family.

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How can anyone help but love these cheeks?

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So that’s what’s been going on around here lately. How’s your summer going?

 

Reading, Reviews

A Reading Worm Hole

Claimer: There are a lot of links in this post, but none of them are affiliates. I’m linking to them for your convenience.

I’ve unintentionally fallen into a worm hole in my reading in the past few weeks. Apparently, it’s a  worm hole that leads directly into 1930s Britain. I don’t know why I enjoy this setting so much, because I’m pretty sure I’d hate to live in it. The food, the weather, the drafty homes, the Great Depression, it all sounds pretty bleak when looked at as a whole. But for whatever reason, judging by the books I’ve randomly selected over the past two weeks, I really enjoy books set in 1930s Britain.

The Young ClementinaThe worm hole opened with D. E. Stevenson’s book The Young Clementina. Stevenson is one of my new old favorites, as I’ve mentioned before. This one popped up on my Riffle book email last week for only $2.99. Clementina was just what I would have expected of Stevenson, though not much like the cover. I enjoyed it thoroughly. With the misunderstood love plot and the resigned spinster theme, it was actually kind of reminiscent of Montgomery’s The Blue Castle, one of my favorite books ever.

Diary Of A Provincial LadyThen Diary of A Provincial Lady finally came available through my library. E.M. Delafield is always on my list of recommendations on Goodreads.com, but her work is hard to come by around here. Rachel over at Book Snob often mentions Delafield and I usually enjoy her recommendations, so I was excited to finally get my hands on this one. On the surface, it seemed kind of boring to read about the everyday housewife details of a British woman in the 1930s, but it was actually witty and sometimes hilarious. Think Bridget Jones’s Diary tones but on totally different subject matters. I thought it was amusing and fun to read. Today I downloaded a free copy of The Provincial Lady in Russia, so we’ll see if The Provincial Lady remains amusing or if one book by her is enough.

Her Royal Spyness (Her Royal Spyness Mysteries, #1)Though the book I read next isn’t written in the 1930s, it is set in that time. Her Royal Spyness is about Lady Georgiana, 34th in line for the throne, penniless, and skill-less. She decides to provide for herself by being an undercover house cleaner, but finds herself an undercover spy. Written by Rhys Bowen, it is a fast paced mystery with some pretty likable characters. I thought the plot was a bit too easy to figure out. I knew who had committed the crime by about 1/4 through the book. But it was still a good, light read, without any of the gory details I’m not too fond of in mystery novels. I could have done without all the “you’re still a virgin, what’s wrong with you?” talk included between Lady Georgie and her best friend, but I guess that’s par for the course in a modern novel. This is the first book in a long series. I may give one more a try, but I wouldn’t say that I’m hooked. I’m much more likely to go for something actually written in the 1930s, as I’ve mentioned before in a post about Downton Abbey Look Alikes.

The Daisy ChainNow, I’m climbing out (or falling further in?) the worm hole and reading The Daisy Chain, a book written in the 1850s that was very popular in its day but is neglected now in lists of classics. I hope I can get into it and write a review when I’m done, but the fact that the author apologizes for its length before the first chapter has me a little worried. =)

 

 

Everyday Life, Parenting

The Tenth of July

I’ve officially reached that point–the one where you’ve been pregnant for so long, you’re sure the baby is just not going to come out. It’s true, I’m not due for four more days. For some reason, I have had it in my head that July 10th would be a great day to have a baby. July 10th just has this nice ring to it. But it’s not looking like that’s going to happen. I don’t know why I feel much more in a hurry for this baby to be here than I was with my second child. I think I may have been wiser three years ago than I am now. In those days of waiting for Isaac, I was only two years removed from the newborn stage of mothering and I remembered how hard it was. I valued my sleep. I valued my time without having to constantly hold a fussy baby. Maybe because Isaac was such a happy baby or maybe because it’s been three years, but this time I can’t seem to keep the “I’m fine waiting patiently” perspective I had when Isaac was ten days late. I cherished the golden days of normalcy with my two-year-old daughter and simply enjoyed the waiting.

But this time, my ankles are swollen, my legs are jumpy with RLS all the time, my back hurts, and I don’t sleep much. This time, I’m just plain uncomfortable. This time, I so badly want to stop the maddening weight gain! Just end it! I want my husband to be able to take some time off work now. And I want to meet my little baby girl! But I can’t make it happen. My timing isn’t so much the thing here. (Why am I surprised?) I know God’s timing is perfect. I remember how great Isaac’s labor was compared to Ella’s, when I was induced on her due date because of a complication. I know I need to trust.

So today, I will do my best to enjoy the waiting. I will enjoy the MOPS play date I crossed off my mental list weeks ago. I will relish the twenty games of Uno I will inevitably play with a five-year-old who just learned how yesterday. I will cook dinner without a baby crying in the background. Hey, maybe I’ll even get around to buying a baby book for this baby. (Sorry, dear third child, it just slipped my mind…). Maybe I’ll finish the painting project I started two weeks ago. I’ll be thankful for the fact that I have time to clean the bathrooms, wash the sheets, vacuum the carpet. I will be thankful that I can hold Isaac and Ella in my arms with no distractions. Today, I will rest in the happy and hard moments of now, even as I excitedly hope for the joy of the new baby to come.

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