Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Love and joy come to you...

Yesterday I started picking up the living room- putting away some of the Christmas toys, clearing away some wrapping paper that was still hanging around. I definitely wanted to vacuum. There had been some small efforts to pick up the last couple of days but I was feeling like something a little more advanced. I felt like clearing away at least some of the Christmas that was still lingering in the corners and crevices throughout the house, particularly in the living room. Samuel had other ideas, however, and was crestfallen when he saw me putting away legos and hauling out the vacuum. He said he really didn't want Christmas to be over, it was too soon, and if I started putting everything away and cleaning everything up, it would mean that Christmas was over and that was sad. Well, he convinced me. I did a little cleaning up when the kids were in the other room but focused most of my efforts on the kitchen and other parts of the house. It's still Christmas here, at least for a little while longer. I know from experience that Christmas will eventually go away on its own. The tree will dry up, the frost will turn to dew, new toys will be exchanged for newer, interests will march on.

Maxwell on Christmas.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

christmas eve

Shhh. Do you hear that? That is the sound of me taking a very deep breath and sighing. This day, the longest day of the year, is coming to an end. The kids are winding down with cookie decorating. The pullah is done. The other cookies are done. The knitting is {mostly} done. I am ready to watch White Christmas with the kids and finish up the knitting.

Watching Samuel and Eva as they cut out cookies and talk happily to one another about which cookies to leave out for Santa, I find myself wondering, albeit briefly, if maybe I imagined the intensity that filled the house earlier. The hippety hops were brought out and there was jousting and hopping and falling and bumping and tossing and laughing and crying and shouting and laughing and hilarity and madness. It seems inexplicable that all of that has melted away. Ha. I was here, though, so I know I am not imagining it. And I am not imagining the peace that has taken hold, at least for the moment, now. One, then the other. Both sides. All in a day- the day- before Christmas.

Eva making cookies on Christmas Eve.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

it depends

And of course no sooner did I write the last post then Eva pointed out the camera sitting 0n the nature table, completely camouflaged. I would have taken a picture and put up a sort of eye spy the camera game if it were logistically possible. The minute I let go it all falls into place. I would love to learn how to let go even sooner. Of course it I had let go sooner, I would probably have found the camera before I found the perfectionism post floating by, grabbed it and written it. One of those maybe good, maybe bad sorts of things, as usual, I guess. And it all worked out well in the end, again- as usual.

on gingerbread houses

Feeling rusty. I was just going to post a picture on this two-days-before-Christmas-sort-of-day. The camera has gone missing again, though, and while I keep wracking my brain about where it could be and have looked everywhere- the usual places and little extras like under the bed and behind the guinea pig cage- it looks like a no go on the picture posting today, at least for now. The last I remember seeing it was when Samuel was switching out the batteries to put in the wii remote. No, it's not by the wii either. We made gingerbread houses with friends yesterday and I wanted to get a picture before the decorations begin disappearing from the roof and doorway. I have to say that this gingerbread house was by far the most successful and satisfying that we have tried. The company of friends helped immensely in keeping it fun and light and doable. It was definitely a fun project for celebrating both Solstice and Christmas.

Samuel mentioned on the way home that he doesn't think a gingerbread house with a group is a good project for him because he likes things to be perfect and you can't make things perfect with three people working on the same gingerbread house. He said he had a lot of fun today with friends and also looked forward to the day when he could work on his own gingerbread without any interruptions.

I had an urge to correct him somehow. A part of me wanted to respond in my typical way- it's not about the finished product, it's about the process, enjoying yourself, spending time with friends. It doesn't have to be perfect. It *is* perfect. Everything is perfect just the way it is. And then I thought-

-including my son. And how wonderful that he already knows he likes things to be perfect. That he can look forward to a time when he will have the focus and time to work on something in a way that makes him happy. That he can embrace this part of himself. And how amazing, I reminded myself, that he knew enough to realize he couldn't make the other people involved in the gingerbread house making (namely me and Eva) do things exactly as he wanted them. That part, making people adhere to your vision, is at least half of what gives perfectionism a bad rap in the first place. Not the vision.

Let's face it- there are mixed messages about perfectionism in our culture. On the one hand, it is often forced on us- we are taught to keep pushing at ourselves at all costs to be better, do better, on and on. There is a subtle and not so subtle message that if we aren't a certain way there is something wrong with us. On the other hand, people who *are* perfectionists are often ridiculed for not being able to relax, let things go, enjoy the process. What about those who have a vision for how they want things to be and are at peace with themselves, having integrated their perfectionism into their way of being?

It's something for me to ponder a while. Perfectionism has been something wrong to fix and mock in my own life for so long (and I don't even consider myself to be that much of a perfectionist- which is met with both laughter and derision depending on who I say that to). I wonder what it would be like to simply make peace with it and the many ways it presents itself in my life. How freeing to notice when it would feel good to honor perfectionism's eye for detail, adding just a bit more garlic to soup or reworking the top of a mitten, and when it would feel better to let it all go, setting Eva up to decorate cookies without a care for how the cookies turned out. There is a time and place for both, worth to be found both in fine details and broad strokes. I am glad Samuel reminded me of that and knew enough about himself to know that someday it would feel really good to sit down with a gingerbread house and make it just the way he wanted.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Eva in her fort behind the Christmas tree. Are those guinea pigs I see back there with her?

Eva hanging the last of the ornaments she made this year for our tree. Do you see the small, white stuffed guinea pig up near the top of the tree? A little while after we decorated the tree, the kids and I drove around the neighborhood looking at lights and listening to The Nutcracker. At one point while we looked at some Grinches and Santas and Bears, Eva said, "I wonder why more people don't decorate with guinea pigs?" Yes, the pigs have truly taken over our household. How to explain that many people don't know that guinea pigs are Christmas animals too?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Two stories from today.

The first one. This morning Samuel and I were the first ones awake. Samuel got both guinea pigs out of their cage and sat with them for a few minutes. When they tired of that, the pigs ran off to check out the house, a little piggie floor time, if you will. The funnest part was sitting with Samuel and watching the guinea pigs root around together. Terrence followed close behind Albert, as usual. Each pig had his nose out and his body low. There was an almost constant chatter between them. We talked about how Terrence's legs are much longer than Albert's and that he looks as though he has knee high socks on when he runs very very fast across the floor. The pigs moved along the wall until they reached the curtains and crawled underneath. And then- we saw first one nose and then another nudge out from under the curtains, the only evidence that guinea pigs were there at all. There were a few catalogs and pieces of paper scattered near the curtains and both guinea pigs, first Albert, then Terrence, began gently chewing on the catalogs. Samuel and I burst out laughing. What a sight. Two guinea pig noses and mouths sticking out from under the curtains, nibbling away on Christmas catalogs. Nibble nibble stop. Nibble nibble stop. Soon Maxwell and Jack sauntered over as well to have a look at the guinea pigs and what they were up to and that cracked Samuel and I up even more. There is nothing quite like Jack and Maxwell looking suspiciously at the guinea pigs, wondering what they are all about and if there is something edible there for themselves. Jack never tires of sniffing catalogs, carrots, kale, dandelion greens in a last ditch effort to find something, anything, to eat. I swear sometimes he even shakes his head at the guinea pigs and looks at me quizzically as if to say- "That's what they're eating? That's what all the commotion is about?" Thankfully he doesn't seem to consider the guinea pigs in the least bit edible, just smaller members of the pack.

And the second. I was walking up to the front door carrying sandwiches and yarn when I stopped to watch bushtits fly about on the suet. There are large flocks of them around the suet feeders everyday now. I have one suet feeder hanging in front of the living room window and one in the back yard by the other bird feeders. On a good day, the bushtits will fly back and forth from one feeder to the other, sometimes landing in the trees nearby, sometimes not. Today while I stood there watching the bushtits, a hummingbird flew up to the nearby hummingbird feeder I had refilled just yesterday. Most of the syrup was frozen inside but there was some at the very bottom that had thawed in the sunshine and the hummer sat perched on the feeder and ate for a very long time. When he was done he flew over to the laurel a few yards away and perched on a limb there. I stood very still in the cold sunshine and felt blessed at having caught all the birds at the feeders at once. I love the activity of the birds during winter- the flocking, the time spent at the feeders, the chattering to one another. All of it reminds me that while we typically think of winter as a time of rest and hibernation, there is activity here as well. Each season brings movement of its own kind, each adds to the movement of the others. And we are each a part of it all.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

When late afternoon is suddenly 3:30 pm and the light outside is casting the longest shadows of the year. We have had gloriously-cold-sunshineyness over the last several days here. The kids are talking of snow but alas, there is not a cloud in the sky, a marked contrast to the days preceding this cold snap.

Today Samuel's project was to fill up the kiddie pool outside with water from the kitchen sink. His goal is to have not one but two large containers of water that will freeze so that he can spend his mornings breaking up ice, a favorite activity for him and Eva this time of year. Eva is also dreaming of an ice rink in the backyard and is hoping at the very least to be able to stand on the frozen pool of water tomorrow.

I have been busy knitting mittens and now fingerless gloves for the kids. For some reason the mittens have not been a big hit in the choosing-to-wear-them-when-cold sense of the word. Every child in my family was choosing to wear my fingerless gloves when he or she was outside and cold instead of the mittens I dutifully carried around for them. This made for very cold momma hands and very cold other-child hands as well. So, after spending a little time feeling frustrated and considering just framing the mittens, I decided to knit both kids fingerless gloves- when in Rome, if you can't beat 'em join em, and all that. Eva was sick the other day and I knit her pair that day. Samuel's will hopefully be done today, unless I run out of yarn, which is a distinct possibility, in which case it will mean another trip to the yarn store tomorrow. I am loving the yarn I used for Samuel's mittens and now for both of their fingerless gloves. It is a worsted merino wool from Malabrigo Yarns. So yummy soft and warm. I want to knit everything in it. The mittens and gloves are knit at 6 stitches/ inch and the woman at my yarn shop showed me a shawl she knit at 4 stitches/ inch that felt very close to cashmere. Heavenly.

The other fun thing the kids and I have done was to go and see Fantastic Mr. Fox- Wow! I have an extra soft spot in my heart for foxes anyway and this movie made it even cushier. Just a lovely funny marvel of a film. I can't say enough goodness about it- about the story and the music and the details and the crazy perceptiveness of the film's creators. So many little details that made it just so.