Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Words to live by

So I started this all-encompassing post, oh...at least two weeks ago with tons of photos and I could not I mean Could Not get the photos in the order I wanted them.  Either I am trying to force blogger to do things it cannot or I just cannot figure out how to gently force it to do what I want and I do not have the time/desire to learn so here I am.  No photos, no 10,000 word entry covering the last six weeks or two months or however long it has been since I posted, just today. 

Today is Labor Day.  I don't count it being "tomorrow" until I have gone to bed and woken up, so today is still Labor Day.  And guess what we did?  This may come as a complete shock, but we went to the beach.  For the whole day.  And had a glorious time.  And had an enormous delicious and fabulous family dinner whilst the early evening breeze blew off the perfectly green Atlantic Ocean and caressed our sunkissed cheeks. 

Just past the breaks is Magdalena and my favorite place to hang out in the ocean, we've named all the waves according to how we should approach them, as in: "floater", a wide gentle swell that we barely have to move for, one that we gently float up with; "under" a huge wave that is about to break on our heads that will send us tumbling in frothy white bubbling sea foam with a possible abrasion from bouncing off the bottom if we do not dive under it; "over" a biggish wave that we can either jump off the bottom and clear or swim to the crest of just before it breaks; M - "under!" me - "over!" a wave that is about to crash on our heads that Magdalena doesn't think she can clear but I do that as I clear it I have to turn my head towards the shore so the crest doesn't smash me in the face but just makes my hair go all wonky.  There are a few more, but I believe you get the picture.

The Degeneffes joined us on the beach today and they were a perfect compliment to the Storch/Houston/Barnas clan day.  The children romped and played and daddy Joe aka Bobo aka Mr Degeneffe pulled the girls waaaaay out into the waves in Tita's two man blow up boat and would release them into the biggest waves he could wait for so they could ride the most amazing bucking bronco that is a crashing wave - screaming wildly laughing maniacally - to the shore, only to reload and go back for more.  Jen joined Magdalena and I for some deep swimming and could not remember the last time she was able to swim so freely, not just in the shallows holding onto the hand of a giggling toddler. 

Tito Chuchi had his fishing rig all set up and was out casting, water chest deep, curls a-flying trying to round up a bit of fresh sea fare.  The Houston clan came out en masse, not a one missing, shining and sparkling as they are known to do.  Jeanna a vision in her hot pink ruffles, face a mask of horror as she watched Joe let the boat go on huge waves, watching those poor innocent children have the ride of their lives...we all know, the daddies do it differently.  And dropping words like jejune at dinner, (me) what does that mean? (Dave) puerile.  Oh those Houstons!  Those academics and brainiacs! 

Dinner was a riot of stories and food, as it should be.  There was even an official children's table tonight.  Oh how I love a children's table.  And sweet Abuela.  At the table, Jeanna said, these are the good old days, referring to our Mother's noblesse oblige at always being the hostess with the mostess, and not just the oceanfront thing, just her momminess.  Her fervor to serve, to loveliness, her humility.  These are the good old days, and while I do believe we have a lifetime of them in front of us, I would not want to miss a second of honoring how truly special these days are.  How incredibly blessed we are, how fortunate, how alive.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

there have been some changes lately...

Did I mention that we bought a house?  No, really?  Hunh, how strange, I thought had...oh yeah, I did just mention it in passing in that last post/rant, but now I'm announcing it:

WE, or rather, I should say, My Man, done bought us a house in the suburbs y'all, and it is the loveliest thing I have ever participated in.  And that lovely comes from what is pictured below, a pool.  And a tree.  And not just any old tree now, but a Tree, capital T Tree.  Big beautiful old and shady Live Oak Tree.  The kind with a mountain of roots at the feet and a canopy large enough to keep our entire back yard in the shadiest of shade all throughout the long hot humid north Florida afternoons and shady enough to keep us all from getting roasted on a regular basis and shady enough to keep the water a refreshing mid-80 degrees.  Oh sweet mystery of life, I have found you, again!  And did I mention that our neighbor to the east has a very similar tree, in his yard, that keeps the morning sun from scorching said cool refreshing pool and backyard until ours can take over in the afternoon?  and that there are trees all along our back fence also?  Ohhh delightful trees and shade.  So so sooooo appreciated by me, my little guys, and every person who has experienced it so far. 

Now, along with that wonderful backyard of heaven, comes a few other lovely things: 

my 1962 pale pink GE oven, and our delightfully delicious custom green walls, a la Senorita Flaire and her exquisite sense of color.

Augusutus' Blue Galaxy walls, on which will hang his moon that lights up with all the phases that we love

Magdalena's luscious pink room, just a passage

formerly a window onto the porch, but now a wonderful "pass through" (view of the kitchen from the rumpus room, and further back, the laundry room/pantry) from the kitchen into what has been dubbed the "rumpus room" that holds all things arty, crafty, dress-up-y, homeschool-y, ya know, basically a room where our children can actually spread out and play and create and be and absorb. 

Front door of said house, immediately after closing, with the blissful me and the OMG-really-what-did-I-just-do? Ethan, ready to open the door of our home for the first time.

And above, directly after entering said casa, after having our very first swim with friends.

Before we moved in, we had what I thought was one week to paint.  And pack.  No problem, right?  Uh, well, no actually, major problem.  I have issues with time management, it could be said, but nothing like the hurdles I have to leap when it comes to time perception, as in, how long I think something will take me to get done and then the actual reality of how long it takes something to get done.  And by something, for now, I mean paint every square inch of walls, ceilings, baseboards and doors of our new-to-us but really much too neutral colored house. 
With an army of help from family, friends, painters, bearers of food, and basically everyone I know who is available to help, I am still not finished, and I do not jest.  Sigh.  Hence the photo below of three sweet sleeping children.  After having enlisted everybone's help for a solid week and not being near done, I said baby, (to my man), I've got to spend the night.  If I have to leave every day and feed you and the children, and then wake up and get it all together to come back, I'm missing hours of valuable stay-up-late-and-paint time, and wake-up-and-work time, so I'm staying.  And where I go, goeth my children, and of course at times Frida because who wants to miss the fun?  So just let me say that I constructed a seriously comfy palette for us to sleep on.  Three pool rafts, blown up and duck taped shut (the valves kept popping open, who needs that?), layered with 7-8 quilts, a thick and fluffy comforter, topped with a super thick pillow top mattress pad to hold the entire shebang together, soft as an old t-shirt jersey sheets and let me tell you, you got one seriously comfy bed.  Exhibit A:

We celebrated Independence Day in true grand style, outfitted by Aunt Su-su and Tito Chuchi with red-white-and-blue tie-dyes for the children and patriotic tattoos for all. 

And Frida caught a wave, WOW!

And Tito Chuch, a fish (he went back, of course, just wanted to document...)

And now, (drum roll) may I present my newly minted seven year old daughter, Magdalena!  She wanted to start her day at her favorite breakfast joint, Famous Amos, and how could I deny her that?  Who can resist fried tomatoes and grits?  Not me anyway.  We partied like it was 1999 I tell ya.  First breakfast out.  Then an afternoon family pool party.  Tita called me a little after 11am, saying I'm on my way, thinking maybe she was late because the party was supposed to start at noon to which I answered don't worry, we're not even home for heaven's sake! 

Here Magdalena is practicing her eye roll.  I know, it seems obnoxious, and one day I know it really will be, but for now it is still relatively cute because she doesn't really have it down (not realizing, of course, that she has been doing it naturally for years) and every time she tries it is sooo obvious and she can't help smiling a bit at the end, like, I did it! and I always say- I saw that eye roll, which makes her break out into a huge grin because I noticed it. 

And here Augustus is doing my favorite new face that he makes, it's insanely adorable and he just started doing it, out of the blue one day, totally a made up face because when I say "do the face", he totally does it.
And did I mention the scarf?  Normally he likes to wear it as a fluffy bow tie with either his bright orange or green shirt because the orange of the tulips is picked up by the orange shirt or the green of the outline accents the green shirt.  Well, this day he opted for what he called his "cowboy" look because as he said, "mama, don't you know?  This is how cowboys look."  Rock it my son, as you are known to do.

Abuela and her big girl

The party, Tito Chuchi manned the grill and the chicken, well, it appears he does not have the same phobia of undercooked chicken that compels me to cook chicken for at least an hour, and his was succulent and juicy, not to mention cooked! 

After the family party, we had our little family - mama/papa/MJB/AWB party, plus one birthday sleep-over date friend, and I didn't even start the home-made pizzas until 7pm, so as you can imagine, we sat down for dinner at 9pm.  Maybe not so out of the ordinary for us, not so regular for Lulu.  At dinner Ethan asked her, what's your bedtime?  And she said, 7:30.  Uhhh, yeah. 
Magdalena had Very Specific Ideas about her birthday this year, and that included brownies and ice cream for her afternoon party, and cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory for her evening party.  (cake disclaimer here:  As you may or may not know, I am the caker in our family. I love to bake and I love to bake fabulous and decorative and delicious cakes.  Check them out here and here.  There are more, just can't link to them, anyway, we did a shake-down bake the day before we were going to bake a cake for our dearest darlingest Sarah, decided on some simple cookies.  So I pop the cookie trays in the oven and in seconds there was smoke coming from the bottom of severely charred sugar cookies.  What a bummer, yes, but also, I'm not into baking in an oven I haven't gotten my groove on with yet, so Magdalena said, you mean we get to buy a cake?  As if that were some crazy kind of treat.  Trust, my cakes are good.)   Anyhoo, break out the cheesecake at 10pm, and let the wild rumpusing begin.  And go on and on and on and on.  And the party never stops.  Then of course we all sleep in a bit on Saturday but it is still a party by george, so break out the sausages and let's go swimming!  Oy vey!  I must say, a fabulous time was had by all, as to be expected. 

And don't you have a photo of yourself like this somewhere?  I know this is not the first one I've taken, or posted for that matter, and I know it will not be the last.  There is nothing as perfect as an untroubled childhood, and this is reminiscent of mine.  I know the last time I posted this I mentioned what my mom did with one of our old photos.  Scroll down about half-way through a super long post, and you can read about it here.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

why I love parenting, or a day in the life at Casa Naranja

I was just listening to Tell Me More, on NPR and the interviews were with dads, one stay-at-home, and a parenting perspective informed by the article in the current New York Magazine All Joy and No Fun; why parents hate parenting here. That is so interesting, I was just thinking the exact opposite.  I haven't blogged in over a month not because I don't love blogging, believe it or not I do, but because life is oh-so-full, in a good way.  I so often wish I was a committed, monetized blogger who blogged at least a blurb with photos every day, but for right now I am not. 
When Ethan and I were looking for houses, and we looked, trust, we had a few priorities.  Ethan: different neighborhood, good sized yard.  Connor:  pool, trees.  As you can see, we were on the same page.  Anyhoo, we looked and looked and he was getting to the point of abandoning our search when doncha know the perfect casa fell into our laps, and we scooped it up.  From the moment of signing the contract to closing was 48 days, then two weeks of painting to actually moving in.  All this to say that during all this time, since early June when I last blogged, that I have been awash in the love and joy and yes, dare I say FUN, of parenting.  Why is it that parents don't have fun?  I'm not sure but I believe that it has a lot more to do with the person than the position. 
I'm a SAHM, that's stay-at-home-mom for those unfamiliar with the acronym, homeschooling my newly minted 7-year-old daughter and 4 1/2 year old son and part time my 4 year old niece and we have fun.  I don't just mean I watch my children have fun, I mean we have fun.  Period.  About two weeks ago, just after we moved into our new-to-us house, Maco took Augustus for a playdate with Frida so Magdalena and I were on our own.  We went for an early evening swim and I played with her like I remember playing when I was a little girl.  We jumped up and down in place for ever, just exhilarating in the feeling of plunging in and out of the water, the sounds and sensations, it was incredible.  We raced, we had an underwater tea-party, we pretended, we played; basically, we had fun. 
Some parents work outside the home, some parents work part time, some parents work inside the home, some parents go to school and work, some parents have domestic help, some parents have endless resources, some parents have to make do, some parents are single, some parents have family support, some parents are on their own.  There are endless parenting styles, parenting philosophies, personalities, etc. Here's the big but, but if it sucks, and it's awful, why not examine the parenting situations and expectations, rather than "parenting". 
In addition to being a SAHM homeschooling mom, I'm also an AP, attachment parenting, style mom.  You can check out what that officially means here.  What that means to me is that I (in my best moments, I do, in my worst, I'm still figuring it out) parent with love and respect, mostly by the golden rule.  That being said, not only does it feel good to parent this way, but surprise surprise, it feels good to children, and GASP! it's effective and practical.  So here you have a completely different take on the whole "parenting makes us unhappy/depressed and the more the harrier, not happier" thesis. 
Examine the expectations, examine the parenting model, examine the behaviors, examine the time spent with those little people, quantity counts, quality counts obviously, but so does quantity. 
Ok, that's enough of a rant.  Photo essay and words about our life to follow!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

I'm going to have to stop calling myself a blogger...

Blessed by owls times two

Our owls blessed us two times over with their gorgeous, fluffy owl-chicks. It was like our very own Nat Geo special, right in our front yard. First, one of the big guys alights in our front yard and we all - Ethan, M & A, and me - happen to be in the living room to see the action, when the owl plucks what looks to me like a humongous black snake out of the yard. Right there, BAM, in our front yard. Ok, so the snake wasn't very big at all, maybe 12-18 inches, but in the beak of a flying owl, twisting and turning, well it was nothing short of spectacular.

Said owl, now acting all nonchalant. Next, we see a baby owl BAM! hit the street right in front of our house! Totally crazy. All the neighbors are out, watching. As is this owl, clocking every move we make, never leaves the branches above the little guy.

I of course, jump into action. Call the emergency vet, they refer me to the local wildlife rescue folks, who then refer me to Beaks, a bird rescue outfit on a barrier island about an hour away. My advice is to scoop the little owl up in a towel, put it in a box, and bring it out because "once that owl hits the ground, it's all over". Weeelllll, not so fast. I took Magdalena to a sleepover date and when I got home I could not find the little owl, but the mama & papa owl were close overhead. In the morning, I searched and searched the bushes and overgrown tropical brush that is the no-man's-land between the houses, to no avail. All the while, of course, under the scrutiny of mama & papa owl. And then behold the baby, all gorgeous and fluffy, scared but pretty darn self-reliant, up about 4 feet in a small tree, on a little limb, trying to sleep until I came stomping around.

I went online to find out about these guys and discovered they are barred owls and between baby chicks and fledglings they are called "branchers". Branchers, right? They have not yet learned to fly and move about the tree tops by using their beaks and talons. And apparently it is not uncommon for them to fall out of the trees and be kind of flopping around on the ground in bushes and such, trying to fly, and eventually climbing back up into the tops of the trees. This guy was in a sapling, but later that day Ethan saw him cross the street and climb up the tree, exactly as I had read about, using his talons and his beak, and by the time I saw him, he was way up in the branches of the oaks above our heads again. He or the other little guy fell a couple of more times. One of them was in the greenery surrounding our oak in the front yard and the children all went out and sat in front of him - two huge owls overhead keeping watch - talking to him and checking him out. The next time I saw both the owls they were flying. Big, beautiful, and fully flying. Still, we are blessed by owls.
Mother's Day
Mother's Day and a visit from no other than Lojeha, mama and roadtripper extraordinaire, accompanied by her two lovelies Harper and Addie. Joy, pure joy. And chalk art, just like when we drove through Atlanta almost a while back at the very start of the road trip, back in December of '08.
Some mama's day family love with Tito Chuchi.

We had a mini vacation while LJ was in town, Jeanna and I packed up the children and headed off to mama's beach casita to have a major two day sleep-over. When packing Augustus said - always interested in the costume options - bring the dress-up! To which I oh-so-dismissively said, uh, no. Mama, bring the dress up bring the dress up bring the dress up mamamamamamambringthedressupbringthedressupbringthedressup bring the dress up! So yes ok I caved and why not I thought? What's the difference if I bring 8 bags for two nights or nine including one over-stuffed huge Ikea shopping bag full of dress up clothes and wigs and silks and scarves? I mean, what exactly is the my major malfunction?

And as you see, Augustus was right, as usual.

LJ, oh sweet LJ. See, ya have to know LJ to get the whole scene. Her language is the perfect combination of sweet tangy southern drawl and her adopted French language, delivered by the feistiest 100 lb fire-cracker you will ever have the pleasure of knowing. (LJ was in Paris to attend the Sorbonne, doncha know, and I can't remember the exact timeline, but at some point money was scarce so she busked, tap dancing for sustenance on the Champs de Le -whatever that famous street in Paris is). Lori Jeanne has done time all over this vast blue and green globe of ours and allows all the good of all the places she's been in all over the world that she's absorbed to slowly eek out, a little at a time here, a bit more there, spreading good tidings and love everywhere she goes, soaking up more good and more groove here, spreading it there. That is LJ. Keeping it together honey, golden hair flying, blue eyes sparkling, heart beating and working, for the love of us all.

Frida in motion is close to perfection.

Addie, contemplating, as she does.

Harper, investigating, as she does.

LJ and the Chuch.

A random shot
Augustus and the faux-hawk. I think he is insanely adorable. And I don't really care how passe this hair style is because my darling 4 1/2 year old can rock it. As he is known to do.

visiting our local Clan Barnas
We drove out to the panhandle to visit with our beautiful family, Neil, Tammi and Ariella and I could not get a decent shot out of the whole thing. This was the cutest one, and I have to admit, it's pretty darn cute. Ari is the most delicious, biggest, and most fabulous baby girl on the planet! Her thighs are never-ending, her cheeks rival Augustus for cheekiness, and I don't think we could adore her more. We'll see, if she progresses in darlingness as she has, our adoration will increase accordingly.

We arrived in north central Florida, about an hour and a half away from home, at the most darling you-pick-them blueberry farm you could imagine. Blubella Farms. Heaven, pure heaven. It was perfect picking weather, overcast and not too terribly hot. As we drove into High Springs, we were listening to the O Brother soundtrack, singing at the top of our lungs, so excited to be "in the countryside", as Magdalena says. Mama, she says to me, can we go to the countryside? (what? where'd you hear that, "the countryside"? Every time she says "the countryside", it's like that, in "quotes", like it means something.) So I said, well, yes actually. We're going blueberry picking tomorrow, and that'll be in "the countryside". Dirt roads and all, we were in "the countryside".

The children ate probably as many as they picked, which was fine, because I was obsessed with picking. Obsessed! And pick I did, a bit too many maybe, but we've been enjoying the fruit of our labor for quite a few days now, and they are oh. so. delicious.

We were all in search of that perfect, round, juicy berry. And we all found our own version, over and over and over again. Yum.

As we packed up our berries, we were mighty sweaty and hot and totally excited to leave and go explore the cold spring water of Blue Springs, right across the main road from the farm. Leaving, driving 15 MPH on a dirt road with no traffic, Magdalena and Frida and Augustus were seat belt free, singing "I'll Fly Away", leaning out the windows, smiling in the sun, full of ripe berries. And for just one moment, Iexperienced absolute freedom. Absolute perfection. Absolute presence. Open and free, no fear, no cars, no asphalt, just music and singing children, dirt in the air, blue sky above, folk/gospel songs and anticipation. Magic, love, blessings. Butterfly wings and flowers. All beauty. All goodness. All gratitude. All one.
spring recital

The spring recital for Kinderstudios, and life is good! Augustus and Frida were up first. So where are the photos of their performance you say? Nowhere I say! A & F declined to dance onstage. Augustus said later, you know mama, I just want to do the dance at home, for you. Ok say I, we can do just that. It only took him about four months to do the Hippopotamus dance for me that he didn't do onstage for the Christmas recital, I'm looking forward to the Froggy dance when that comes.
Magdalena dancing the hop-1-2-3 for Irish. That's what they call Irish dance, just Irish. As in, We're doing this for Irish. Or, I need black tights for Irish! Oh. So. Big. Really.

Here is Audrey, her gorgeous and wonderful Irish dance teacher. We all love Audrey. She's young and gorgeous and an incredible dancer, and she loves the girls.

Magdalena and Lulu finishing their dance for Miss Blythe's ballet class. So delightful they are, our little ballerinas.
Doing "Jolly Holiday" from Mary Poppins for Mr. Todd's Musical Theater class. Allie, Sofia and Magdalena were all playing Mary Poppins.

And here Magdalena partners up with Lulu, her Bert! They were so cute by God! It was a jolly holiday!
The "Bigs" as we called them, all the big girls from the 2009/2010 co-op, together with Miss Audrey. Our "Irish" class photo. Magdalena, Allie, Miss Audrey, Lulu.

And you know Augustus loves Miss Audrey.

With Miss Sarah, all the children's BTJ teacher. (ballet/tap/jazz)

With Mr. Todd, the Musical Theater instructor. Now Ellie and Augustus were not in Mr. Todd's class, but Mr. Todd is such the rock star to the children, they all do love him so, Ellie and Augustus just had to get in the shot.

And finally, Miss Alexandra, the woman who makes it all happen. She is the energy and force of nature behind Kinderstudios. She is sweetness and light, and loves and respects our children for everything it's worth. We do love you Miss Alexandra!

love letter
And we close with a love note chalk drawing Magdalena completed for Frida for her birthday. Happy fourth birthday Frida!