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Throat lumpy and thick, eyes all a-prickle, I stood at Baby Kate’s dresser when she was about six months old, and for the first time, sorted out all of her “small” clothes. I remember thinking, “I will never get used to this.” And indeed I have not. Each onesie, each gown, each soft baby sock beckons to a long gone time, a time when she will never be that small again. They are reminders of seconds, minutes, hours passed by with my baby. Did I savor them enough? Did I hold her close enough? Kiss her newborn fingers enough times? Really smell her baby scent?

I know I did, but I wonder also. Even now, cleaning out her 2T and 3T clothes, I find myself in the same state of shock and awe.

My friend Marguerite said it best as we were waiting for Steve’s wedding to begin almost four years ago. She described the longing we have as mothers to have our children in the past, present, and future all at once. We love who they are right now, we long to hold them as they once were, and we long to see what they will become and know that they will be happy adults.

We want it all, even as time drips like bubbly bath water through our fingers as we wash the silly rice cereal grins and the fingerpainted arms.

Standing at her dresser when she was six months old, I consoled myself that perhaps I would see, touch, smell, and use these clothes again. We didn’t know back then if we were committed to a second child, but Eric was already a blossoming thought. Our children always are part of us, even when we’re barely aware of it. This same consolation carried me through other difficult clean-outs. I’ve never been able to deal with giving any of it up, not even the very worn clothes. I put them all in boxes, bins, and bags and promised myself: later.

When Eric was growing inside of me, I gleefully returned to those clothes and picked out anything gender neutral to put in Eric’s closet. Just hanging them up felt like having part of newborn Kate again, too. Later became a joyful now.

Then Eric outgrew those first-year clothes, too, and he has his own wardrobe these days. Back into the boxes, back into the garage, back into holding.

Yet with Eric, with our two kiddos now, has come the moment of having to face a truth. Bill and I have always said that two children would be our maximum. On some days, this makes perfect sense; on others, it is a truth I hesitate to say above a whisper in my own mind, one I have wrestled with in October of this year. I know that if, by some outlandish chance, we got pregnant with our third or our fourth, I would want them all. Part of me will never be ready to accept not having more children, and part of me knows I need to accept it.

This past Thanksgiving, the Matics-Lambert-Horne family (my dad’s side of our family) received the most longed-for news in our recent history as a family. My cousin Bethany, after years of hoping, praying, working, and waiting to become pregnant, is now well into her second trimester of her first pregnancy. For most of our family, we have felt deeply every second of standing in hopeful wait with our Beth. It has been emotional for so many of us, and her little baby is so wanted in our family, so very wanted. I have known for a long time that, if Beth were to have a little girl, I would find it beautiful indeed to pass along some of those baby clothes that represent so much longing in me.

Well, Beth is having a little girl, as our family learned last week.

It just so happened that Beth and her husband Marshall were stopping by my parents’ house this week for something. I decided that it might be  good time to give Beth some of Katie’s clothes. It is still far enough away from the shower, so that Beth can see what she still wants/needs in the way of registering for clothing.

Katie helped me open all the bins/boxes one afternoon. There were some items I could not part with—some that even made me wonder how I could ever part with them. And then there were the pieces that felt achey but right, the ones that made my heart leap up just a little. So many were memories: the pink and brown onesie Katie wore the first time I ever put clips in her hair, the romper she wore on our trip to the park when we first went on swings together, her first Easter dress, the little outfit she wore to the Pancake House with Nana, the sweatshirt and pants she had on when my best friend Rosa met her… and on and on. For me, clothing (as well as music and scent) is a huge memory device. I have an almost flawless (well, okay, maybe not “flawless” but certainly “very very good”) visual memory when it comes to what people were wearing and on what days and what happened on those days. Kind of weird that this ability is tied into clothes, but it is, and it is strong… So nearly every piece of clothing that we boxed up to give away has a story, a picture, a moment, and a sentiment threaded through it.

Beyond these memories, it is an admission to myself that I consider it highly improbable that I will have the joy of a third child. I am far too practical to give away anything I might find truly useful in the future. Several times, I wanted to stop in the middle and bawl…but I also know and intuit a rightness to giving these clothes to our new little girl cousin. It is more right than it is sad. I have to honor that intuition and the symbolism that goes with it.

I see the radiance in Beth for her new and growing daughter, and I am excited even to be a small part of those joyful preparations for this new life that has been given to our family. I think of her sorting through those clothes and imagining her own baby girl and dreaming of everything they will do together, just like I used to do when my children were still in my womb.

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Scenes from the McGaugh House this week:

Earlier this week, Katie helped to make Italian meatballs and our family tomato sauce recipe passed along from my mom.

We had some basil left over from our tomato sauce, so we made a big batch of pesto. I could almost live on basil pesto… And the kiddos both love to snack on toasted pignoli.

Katie is an experienced pasta maker…

…but Eric is still learning, although he has watched many times. He liked best to sit in my lap and turn the crank, where he could reach it.

Although, he also loved to play with the fettuccine as it came out of the machine. There was flour EVERYWHERE after this pasta making session, by the way. Truly everywhere. Well, almost…

We also had an outdoor lunch picnic with the kiddos in the warm, springlike air: we love days that we can spend almost entirely outside, soaking up all that sunshine goodness.

I made risotto for the first time, and it turned out to be straightforward—and super comforting in taste and texture. Our risotto was a pea and parmesan risotto, and we used five cups of our homemade chicken stock, which felt quite efficient. As an added bit of instruction, I had Katie compare and contrast the Arborio rice with our basmati and other rices. We use cooking for just about every kind of lesson (math, science, art, language)—the kitchen is a natural place to learn. We served our risotto with a lemon roasted chicken. I bought this chicken on sale for $4.82 (normally $9.40). I always serve a big meal from our roasted chickens, and then I pick the carcass to death to produce shredded chicken for use in a second meal, sometimes even a third. After the carcass is picked, we make chicken stock—which we then never have to spend money to buy. We use every bit of the chicken, so for $4.82 plus one onion and the lemons from our tiny backyard tree, a roasted chicken is really a way to extend our food budget.

Katie and I spent some time this week playing board games, exploring old school favorites like my childhood Lite-Brite, schoolwork, and reading. She also helped me to clean out several drawers and cupboards during Eric’s naps this week.

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The kiddos and I collaborated to invent a little game—“trash can ball.” Katie had the balls, Eric rolled the clean trash can on its side, and I came up with the idea of kicking or rolling the ball in. We’ve been having fun with it, and all of us can play. Toys are awesome and often educational, but these good old-fashioned, made-with-whatever-we-have games shave a special magic to the.

Eric has had me read this vintage Jean Cushman/Eloise Wilkin book to him every night for the past couple of weeks, and he loved it even before now. In fact, it was one of the first books months ago to capture his interest. First published in 1959,  it tells the story of Martha and Bobby helping their mommy around the house and at the market. I am a huge, huge, huge fan of Eloise Wilkin’s illustrations (I try to collect them, in fact), and the kiddos and I love the way she captures children. She is a magical illustrator, and the children evoke a different, beautiful time. Eric seems to enjoy that there is a brother and sister in this book, and he relates to helping with the housework and laundry and the cooking. Every night at bedtime the three of us sit in his rocking chair, read our books, and sing lullabies. Special time.

Another of Eric’s favorites right now is The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss (illus. Crockett Johnson). Both of the children love how the little boy’s belief in himself proves to be well-founded. Every time I reach the part, “And then, one day…a carrot came up…” and we see the first rumble of dirt around the leaves, Katie gets a sweet grin on her face.

We’ve done better this week at setting a reading routine. It has taken awhile for Eric to connect with the reading process. Katie and I have always read for hours, even when she was in her first year of life. With Eric, it has mostly been a book here and there—and then he’d be off and running again. Believe me when I say, this had me panicked for a little while, especially since I was used to Katie’s way. Then, six months ago, we started reading in Katie’s bed (which is up against a wall). He was able to listen, but still bob around without falling off, and slowly he started connecting to a few books here and there, especially We Help Mommy and Goodnight Moon. We then added a couple of books before bed. Still, though, it was a bit hit and miss with respect to what caught his attention. Now, we’re in a routine, though, and we read nearly every morning after breakfast from many, many more diverse books—and thankfully, the same level of book Katie enjoyed at his age. He also reads at bedtime, so he has two reading sessions a day.

Katie almost always has four major reading sessions a day: Eric’s two, plus one when Eric naps (used partly to work on her own reading skills) and another before her bedtime. I finally feel that we’re where we ought to be with respect to this. It felt like one or both children was getting shortchanged for awhile, but I am loving our new reading routine.

The other “new” interest of Eric’s is to watch taped episodes of The Barefoot Contessa (Ina Garten) on The Food Network. Sometimes we watch in the morning before breakfast. He fusses and says, “More, more” when she breaks for commercial and before I get to the remote. He seriously loves watching her more than he likes to see Sesame Street. We talk about what tools she uses that we also use, and what recipes look good. Katie likes to watch, also. The poignant thing for me is that, in one of the last conversations I ever had with my Uncle Eric, we talked about how The Barefoot Contessa was one of our mutually favorite shows. He mentioned specifically how much he liked the clinking of her measuring spoons and cups on her countertop—I will never forget that. So to see little Eric loving to watch her is both surreal and beautiful. Obviously, she appeals to a wide audience!

Finally, one day Katie said she wanted to make a grand painting/mixed media project:

Paints, fabric, glitter, paper….

A little while later…

Katie is truly her happiest when she is creating art. She sings and hums contentedly to herself, and is in her own world. Love it.

From “Sonnet XVII” by Pablo Neruda:

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way

than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.

Eric picked out pink roses to give to his sister for Valentine’s Day. What a sweet brother! She loved them, of course, and she kept thanking him over and over again. We put them in her room. I never want Katie to worry about whether or not she has a romantic beau on Valentine’s Day—love and beauty and special acknowledgement can come from the gentlemen in her family, or even from herself. I think it is important to teach this while she is young.

We had a fondue party at our house with my parents. Little Eric is one of my main squeezes!

On Thursday, my cousin Kd surprised us with oodles of treats for her baby cousins in the afternoon. This was perfect timing, because Eric had his 18-month well-baby check-up in the morning complete with the last of his vaccinations until his boosters, so he relished the fun of his cousin! They have been playing with wands, play fish that grow, and much more all weekend! For Eric, she brought a tool bench that has a hammer, a saw, and a wrench and pegs that light up when you pound them….he has logged quite a bit of time with that toy, his current favorite. Every time he gets out his tools, he says, “Boppa, Boppa” thinking of my dad. Very sweet.

Kd also brought over original artwork for both of the kiddos and our playroom, as well as this piece from her personal collection:

I had no idea how prolific she has been these past few months, and then the other night she posted her entire collection on her Facebook site. I absolutely fell in love with this one the moment I saw it, and I let her know it. I had no idea she would give it to me! My mom and I both love this one, and we’ve discussed it at length for its symbolism. I see that the rain is vibrance and joy, and no type of obstacle (the umbrella) will keep it away from you. Or, I see that sometimes what you plan (to stay dry, for example) is not what you really need, and that life gives us unexpected blessings if we are open to them. My mom sees childhood joy and innocence. I have just the place for it, and my goal is to get all of her work hung by tomorrow (need to rummage around for some nails).

On Saturday we took a family trip to Idyllwild, where we most definitely did not stay dry, to frolic in the soft, fluffy, deep snow. It’s been a Valentine’s tradition for us to visit Idyllwild, even before the kiddos were born. Of course, we honeymooned there, as well, and have spent several “anniversarymoons” at our favorite bed and breakfast, The Strawberry Creek Inn. We love to share our special place with our babies every February, and to tell them things like, “That gazebo over there is where we sat and pondered what to name you, Katie” or “Cafe Aroma is the place we always go for our special anniversarymoon dinner” or “Before you were born, Daddy took me on a date to Bubba’s Books and gave me a red rose.” Katie is starting to know the place, and it is becoming part of who we are as a family.

Every time I am in Idyllwild, I have the most difficult time leaving. It calls to my very essence. The mountain air, the running creek, the fir trees, the feeling of being in a quiet, magic world… Ah.

We parked at our inn and took the trail down to the trickling Strawberry Creek and walked alongside of it. We always remind the children how Daddy and I walked together there on our first married morning in 2006.

I love these little people.

The kiddos and I watched the creek for awhile. Idyllwild is part of who I am. In fact, I summoned this creek and path when I was in natural labor/delivery with my children, especially with Eric (whose labor was more intense). Of all the beautiful places in the world I’ve been lucky to see, this special place is where my mind wanted to go to calm itself.

Katie and Daddy

Eric’s favorite part was watching me throw snowballs at trees as I exclaimed, “BOOP!” He just cracked up over and over again.

We always have lunch at Jo’Ann’s, where Bill and I caught a late, late dinner the night we were married. Katie and Eric enjoyed watching the toy train circle the perimeter or the ceiling. As we ate there this weekend, we reminisced about our wedding night dinner and where we sat, and now, can we believe it?—we have two children here with us. It is beautiful and surreal at the same time.

After lunch, Eric started to grow sleepy, so we bundled him and strolled about the town. Bill wanted me to buy a present for myself, he said. I always get something for our yard, but this year I found an “Idyllwild” Christmas tree ornament in the Spruce Moose. I love having ornaments on our tree of my favorite places (Point Reyes, for example), so I thought it would be fitting for the collection. Katie remembered getting a penny candy (more like $0.25) last year at the nostalgic candy and toys store, so I treated her to a bubble gum flavored stick of candy. She ate it all up thoroughly.

While Eric slept in his stroller and Bill sat on a log to watch him, Katie and I played at a winter playground with swings, a slide, and a teeter totter.

And we built a snowgirl, the first we’ve ever built together. Makes me want to spend a week up in the snow, doing all kinds of fun snow things… Here, Katie put the arm on our snowgirl.

Our finished snowgirl. Last night I went to sleep thinking of her under the night sky right where we left her. Oh, I love Idyllwild.

Playful Katie, throwing a snowball.

Today (Sunday), we took it easy and prepared for the week ahead. The kiddos helped me do our much-needed baking: a loaf of challah, a pumpkin bread (for breakfasts), a banana wheat germ bread (to freeze for the week after), fresh egg pasta dough to make homemade noodles in an upcoming meal, and homemade Hawaiian pizza for our movie night (Star Wars, Ep. 5) tonight. I am almost never this on-the-ball with our menu prep, and it feels good. I haven’t bought bread (other than to make croutons) for months (although Bill does buy special bread for his diet), and I think we might finally be fully converted to this new routine of bread-making. It does help our food budget go a bit further. The kiddos adore challah, but I’d like to transition to making that once a month and filling the other weeks with more oat or wheat breads (we’ve had a couple, but the kiddos always ask for the challah). This will be a goal for the springtime.

We had a beautiful Valentine’s Week, celebration all the different kinds of love in this world. We even started (after finishing Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman) Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Kind of Valentine’s-ish, no?

XOXOXO, Sarah

I love my friend Lauren. We go way back…all the way back to “teacher school” at CSUSM in, gosh, what was it now? 2003-2004? So we’re coming up on ten years of friendship pretty soon. We first met at TVHS, when we were both substitute teaching. She’d been a long-term sub for a teacher who had a mythology course in second trimester, and when she moved to a different long term assignment, I inherited that course for third trimester. She came in one day to the classroom looking for a mythology textbook she’d checked out. She had such a presence and verve about her that I was sure she was an experienced teacher a couple of years older than I was. It turns out, she is slightly younger. A couple of weeks later, I heard about her in passing from one of our admins, who just absolutely loved her. We didn’t run into each other much though, until…

…a couple months later, when we were both interviewing during the same session for CSUSM’s part-time single subject credential cohort. We both were accepted, started carpooling, gravitated toward the same friends in our cohort, made a video for a class in which I dressed up as a goth student and she dressed up as a cheerleader, student taught at the same time, were both hired at TV in the same department, and the rest is history. I would definitely say she is our leader in our friendship, and I’m not sure if I am entirely right about this, but I think she is one of my only really close extroverted friends—and that makes her very special to me. At least, she seems more extroverted than I am! She is fearless in asking questions and probing people, so she is able to make me ponder aspects of myself in different ways. I see her as a balancing force in my life. She is also, in many ways, more down-to-earth than I might be, and I credit her almost entirely with getting me to see the value of just being more “real” with whatever is going on in my life. She suggested about a year ago that just dropping by people’s homes unplanned or semi-planned is such a gift—we don’t have to spend time putting on shows for one another, or even stressing about whether I am still in my jammies with the house picked up or not. I credit her with completely changing how I view all of my friendships, and breaking down vestiges of formality. Every so often, I hunker down in my cubbies and niches to ponder that dynamic, but she is always patient and giving.

Today we made lemon meringue pie together, well, two of them actually—thanks to the abundance of her lemon tree. We tried two different crusts, one from Joy of Cooking and one from Pioneer Woman. We liked both crusts. We used the lemon meringue recipe from Joy of Cooking, and with her lovely lemons, the filling burst with flavor. My parents came over later and each had a big piece and are hoping for more of it tomorrow. What fun!

Lauren works on her pie crust—her first. It was a triumph! The best part is, her recipe made three crusts, so she has two more waiting another double-crust pie or two single-crust pies. Yum!

Rolling it out

Lauren and her youngest, Baby G

The other kiddos (we had four children 4-and-under this morning!) played with Play-Doh. All of them were so good! We were so thankful for how well they all played together. No major tears, meltdowns, or scuffles over sharing. Very awesome.

Into the oven go the pies!

Oh, so much fun to bake with her!

Two pies before naptime? Not too bad! And what a cozy day for baking and sharing time as friends, too. I’ve wanted to cook with Lauren for a long, long time. I love being in the kitchen with her, and I hope we come up with some other projects soon.

Thank you for this beautiful day, Lauren. You rock at being a mama, a wife, a friend, and a baker. Love, me.

As usual, Katie was helping to sort out her freshly washed laundry from the basket of the kiddos’ clothes the other day. After she helps me to sort them, she is then responsible for gathering together her under things and putting them into the correct drawer, and she is also in charge of putting her leggings and socks/tights away. I help her with anything that needs a hanger, as well as anything that goes into the drawer she cannot yet reach. Mostly we work on this without much issue, but this last time I heard a full litany of complaints: “I want to play with my Legos instead” or “I’m too tired to do this.”

And that’s exactly the moment when she received a pleasant enough, yet comprehensive, lecture on the value of having a good work ethic. I am fairly certain I used the phrase, “When I was not much older than you…” and also pulled out the trump card of, “Your great-grandfather worked in the Matics store for over 50 years standing on his feet all day, and we are still reaping the benefits of his efforts” and “It was thanks to your Great-Grandpa Yoder’s hard work that we all just enjoyed our time in Hawaii.” She also heard something along the lines of, “All of your great-grandparents and grandparents have left you a legacy of hard work, and we owe it to ourselves and them to keep it going…hard work is part of your blood.” And then the real kicker: “You come from lines of people who would never, ever, ever dream of complaining about working, no matter how hard they had to work. In fact, we consider it shameful and embarrassing in this family to complain about working. We need to honor our legacy.”

And you know what? She finished the job without complaining, and we had a decent time of it. No tears, no yelling, no fuss.

I can “Tiger Mom” with the best of them.

This weekend, though, I have needed to be a Tiger Mom toward myself.

Now, I come from farm people, on both sides. My dad—at age ten, and unprompted by his parents—took it upon himself to mow the family lawn on a weekly basis. The work ethic is almost the stuff of family lore. When ancestors weren’t walking in the snow for five miles (and we’re several generations of Californian, so that wasn’t quite an issue), then they were making a living by the sweat of brow. I usually look at this mythic work ethic as one of my driving forces in life. Back sore? Don’t feel like working on an editing assignment? Eyes tired, but still have the family menu to plan? Not in the mood to bathe the children? Too bad. We’re not made to whine; we’re made to get things done.

This weekend, though, I’ve been wrestling with my work ethic. I have found myself wishing I could cross stitch for hours in a row, or lose myself all day in a book, or have a magical fairy make dinner. Normally, postponing these desires or indulging in them just a little bit during kiddo-sleep-time is just a matter of perspective and self-control and love of duty. More than once this weekend, though—while finishing up a manuscript for a new client, or cleaning all the sticky off of the high chair—I’ve really had to tap into my reserves, to fall back not just on the work ethic itself, but the very reasons why (my family) that I have one in the first place.

At some point this weekend, in order to amuse myself while cleaning the kitchen, I remembered a speaker I heard quite some time ago. He made the statement that he “never [does] anything that [he is] not inspired to do.”

Yes: “never.” Never a single thing.

I remember sitting in the audience and rolling my eyes big time at that one.

I am a horrible eye roller, by the way.  People really ought to know that, if I am being honest.  I should work on that…

Part of me wanted to raise my hand and ask, “Really, Mr. X? You mean you’re inspired when you use the bathroom?” or “You are inspired to make your bed?” Or mop the floor. Or take out the trash. Or sit in traffic.

I am sure his overall point in his speech must have been something about finding our passions and following those. Yeah, yeah, I’m all about that, too. I have many passions, and I cherish them and my time with them. Most of my life has been built around those passions, which I consider partly very lucky and partly very planned. But come on—in even the most passion-driven life, there is still work. What struck me most about this speaker’s message was the sort of glib way he delivered his point: all I heard was entitlement in his voice. Never do anything unless we’re inspired first?

To me, that’s all backwards. Yes, we might be inspired to write a poem or to compose a song. Creative pieces (and I include raising a family, as well as other humble professions, as works of art) often take life from that initial vivid spark that lights up our whole torso when the idea first comes. But after that first spark? It’s work. Creativity is work, failure, work, more work, some success, a little backtracking, more work again…and maybe, if we put in enough of ourselves, enough of our heart, enough of our TIME, finally a triumph. It is childish, in my mind, to think that we have a right to be inspired every step of the way, before we take action.

Action itself is the inspiration. If anything, inspiration has to be earned.

I may not feel like making dinner every night, but I do. It’s work. But after the fact, I look at my satisfied family and I think, “Okay. Remember this feeling of accomplishment, because it can be your inspiration tomorrow.” Only by acting and moving can we create an inspired momentum for ourselves.

I struggle, pitifully sometimes, to remember that I am not entitled to inspiration first. Notice, too, that the authors of our Declaration of Independence acknowledged this, as well. Pursuit of happiness. Pursuit. We don’t deserve anything, except life and liberty, unless we act first.

Even the fact that I have the time to work out my feelings (and to try to motivate myself) by writing about them on this blog means that I have one luxury many of my ancestors did not have. I am even reminded that I should probably  get up off my bum and finish putting my own laundry away.

Those who have been reading this blog for awhile (hi, Mom, Bill, and Nana!) know that the title “Bird in Your Hand” celebrates a philosophy of appreciating what I already have in world of abundant beauty and grace. When we think about the idiom “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” we realize that failure to appreciate the goodness we have already in our grasp might, in fact, cause us to lose everything. At least, that is the way I interpret it. Quite possibly we might overlook the goodness we have in pursuit of “more”—and this might be seen, to some, as simply ambition. And I agree: sometimes we have to strive beyond what we know to be good in order to clutch at something greater and in order not to settle. Yet I have never thought the owner of the hand in this idiom was implied to be successful: we know that birds in bushes seldom are caught and fly away all too elusively. He does not see the beauty right in front of him, and consequently, he loses it all.

Be thankful for what we have been given. That is the meaning of “Bird in Your Hand” to me.

Despite, and perhaps because of, my introverted personality, I have somehow gathered friends who, I now know, will be lifelong. They have stayed by me through thick and thin, showing unconditional loyalty even during my most vulnerable moments. I can be a difficult friend—although a fiercely loyal one—because I often feel close to people in my head and take for granted that they always know I love them. With maturity has come the understanding that I should, and also want to, express these feelings more readily and often. In this third decade of my life, cultivating and nourishing these friendships has become one of my absolute priorities. I wasn’t born knowing how to do this always, or how to let people I valued always see my imperfections.

The glorious thing about friends, though, is that true lifelong friends do not need to worry about pretense. That is a gift I am just starting to unwrap in my thirties. I can just be me—and whoa, my friends are still my friends.

My friends are birds in my hand.

Every once in awhile I am given one to add to those I already hold dear (friends from “recent” years—and “recent” to an introvert might be seven or eight years ago, ha!—you know I am talking about you). Like a true bird, the grace of friendship flutters toward us. Patience and gentleness make it stay.

In my twenties, I found that I was content to see my friends every once-in-awhile. I take even small interactions so much to heart that they last for a long, long time.  Now in my thirties, I feel as though I could never see them or look on them enough. What is different? I know how precious my friends really are. I know how quickly time actually goes. I know life promises nothing in length, for any of us.

My friend Emily has been my friend for over fifteen years. We whirled about in clubs and classes together, yet I think we’d both agree that, for a time, we were rather in a Seinfeld situation. Steve, Marguerite, and Emily were really close, and then we all hung out and had fun together. She was Steve’s “Best Woman” at his wedding, and she and Marguerite took a ladies’ trip to Australia. It’s kind of like when Elaine, George, and Kramer suddenly realize that none of them hang out together without Jerry. Yet in our later lives, Emily and I have had a chance to develop our own bond, to find our own step with one another, to enjoy thoroughly one-on-one time together. Every time we are together, we delight in finding deeper and deeper similarities and resonances.

Emily lives far away (well, far away in my world), but fortunately she still comes to see Dr. Perry, our beloved town dentist. Everyone loves Dr. Perry, and I know a few people who are loyal to him even after they’ve moved away. I was thankful that she was able to add us to her post-dentist plans this afternoon, and that I got to share more time with her. I loved our conversation, and her friendship is a beautiful gift to have.

Sarah and Emily, 2012

And looking into the past:

Summer mornings were full of tennis, 1998. Emily, David T., me, Steve

High school graduation practice, 1998. Angie, me, Emily, Rosa, Michelle

Mock Trial state level competition in Sacramento, 1998. Numair, Emily, me, Shil, Cari, Michelle

May the years only bring the opportunity for more. Emily, I am thankful for you and for your life.

It seems that writing has escaped me almost entirely this past week and a half or so. Downton Abbey may or may not be partly to blame, I must confess. I had not seen any of Season 1, and I am now completely and utterly hooked on it.

My hands have kept busy with my cross stitching during other moments of leisure time. I put down a project around this time last year to make Bill his Valentine’s Day quilt. That quilt led to Katie’s quilt, which led to Eric’s quilt and to other sewing projects beyond. Yet in trying to live more simply and make the most of what I already have, I realized that I should probably finish current projects before embarking upon too many new ones. Working my “Do unto others” pattern again feels renewing and heart-calming. During high school and college breaks, I used to stay up until 2 AM cross stitching, often. On hold for now are those types of nights, but even slow and steady will do: there are a finite number of stitches, and a few here and there means the design is bound to get done someday.

In between child-rearing duties, I’ve also had some freelance work, including a new client, come my way. Editing is truly a hobby.

I’ve also been devouring Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. I feel as though the author, Susan Cain, is writing truly about me. And about my husband. Even though I know I am a classic introvert (enjoy people well enough, but recharge at home, work best in solitude, etc), and even though I know what those traits feel and look like, reading about them in this validating way has been a huge boost.

We also enjoyed time on Saturday with my cousin’s sister-in-law’s daughter Gracie for her 5th birthday. Yes, cousin’s sister-in-law’s daughter. That’s how we roll in our family. 😉 I love that marriage in our family means a true expansion. I feel as though the Booth line (Bethany, my cousin, married Marshall Booth) has always been a part of us. Katie and Gracie played so well together, along with another first grader and two older girls. Eric loved the piñata and the jumpy house, and he helped Rob, my cousin’s father-in-law, put dishes in the dishwasher. What do I love about my family? I love that I can hang out with my cousins and their in-laws and that it all just feels normal. I am so close with all of my cousins, and as we age and enter new phases of life together it is absolutely awesome that we enjoy being together even outside of the usual family holidays. My parents and their siblings gave us this amazing family legacy, and I cherish it more every year.

This past weekend I also had a bit of time to reorganize my recipe folder and to sort through clipped recipes that I have been saving for quite some time and wanting to try. I am excited and feeling newly inspired in the kitchen, and Katie spent time helping me plan a few menus. I love involving both of my kiddos in this. Eric is cooking more with us now, although he has always been on my hip (just like his sister) since he was a newborn. Yesterday we all made bibimbop (a Korean mixed rice, vegetable, and beef dish), miso soup, and sweet sesame baked wontons with raspberry sorbet. In honor of the upcoming Mardi Gras, Katie has also asked for jambalaya and beignets—which I think we’ll try this weekend.

Today we worked on Montessori activities in the morning, played monster, prepared a side dish for a luncheon with a friend for tomorrow, did some laundry, and took a walk to see my friend Lauren’s new house. She happened to move to a house that is now within walking distance of mine, and is, in fact, in a place that is right on one of our favorite routes. I absolutely adore her family’s new home, and we’re planning a lemon meringue pie baking session soon. She was extremely generous to take us on a tour even as she is still settling in, and we’re excited for the opportunities that being closer neighbors provides.

The kiddos and I attempted an art project this afternoon: using a pounding method to make prints of flowers on water color paper. We originally found this idea in one of our Family Fun magazines, and since they have never steered us wrong, I do have to question whether my help in pounding was good enough or if perhaps we need juicier flowers…. Suffice it to say, we are enjoying our work but it is no where near the vibrance of the model pictured with the directions. Or near the clarity… Some of our flowers seemed to pound into a mush-blob. Oh well. We can chalk it up as an experience. Possibly, too, I would save this activity for an older age—one strong enough to wield a hammer. I tried letting Kate use a kitchen pounder (and Eric his toy hammer) but I ended up having to use all my might, as well. I can say with certainty, though, that we did have a blast collecting our flower specimens.

Preparing to make our flower prints

Some of our final work. I think we’ll cut this sheet a bit smaller and glue it into our nature journal.

Whatever has been keeping you occupied lately, I hope it has been beautiful and full of joy.