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Hello Summer Brain!

Driving Over Lemons

For Ashley and Caitlin, today is officially the first day of summer. It is the first Monday morning that they don’t have to get up at their usual time of 7am and then go to school. All the children seem to be embracing this first day of summer. It’s almost 9am and everyone of them is still asleep!

Most surprisingly even Sean, our early morning alarm clock, has jumped aboard (or should I say cuddled up) to the big summer sleep. He is usually awake by around 6am and likes to play quietly in his room until just before 7. Then he tries to wake Ethan by calling out, though it really sounds more like a groan. He doesn’t touch Ethan to wake him, strangely enough. If he is unsuccessful waking Ethan, he then calls out for either James, myself or Ashley until one of us comes to let him out of his room.

So here I am having a slow start to a peaceful summer morning. I’ve seen James off to work. I’ve eaten a leisurely, uninterrupted breakfast and researched some online sites on planting parking strips for some gardening ideas. And now I have some time to write a blog entry. I’m loving our summer already :)

Although, unlike the girls, today isn’t the first real day of summer for me. That was Friday. And no, it wasn’t because it was the last day of school. Nor was it the successful unveiling of the final assembly slideshow and the yearbook distribution to the kids. Those are all the hallmarks of the end of the school year but it happened when I settled into bed on Friday night.

Exhausted from all the work with the school photo projects and end of school year activities, I snuggled down to read book nine in the Martin Beck series I’ve been reading on and off for more than a year. As I read the first couple of pages my brain stopped and said “no”. It felt like a winter read. A detective story that for me is best read on dark evenings either by a fire or under a duvet. Not under a sheet and lightweight blanket with the sun still coming through the blinds. That’s when the image above popped into my head. I wanted to read travel literature again and that’s when I knew it was summer.

I returned Martin Beck to my borrowed books shelf and reached for Driving Over Lemons. Ian and Janet gave me this book (nearly a decade ago?) written by Chris Stewart who retired as the original drummer for Genesis before the group became a huge success. This book tells of his adventure buying a remote farm in Andalucia in Spain and relocating there with his wife to live a fairly idyllic life (after all the trials and tribulations of settling in to a new life in a foreign country).

When I finish this lovely little book I have a number of other books of travel writings left over from last summer, when a similar transition hit last October and my brain stopped and said “enough” of summer reading. I love the seasonal cycles and how my mind and body have their own ways of marking the beginnings and ends.

So here’s to a glass of chilled Riesling, relaxing in my sunny well-tended back garden, happy children keeping themselves occupied (well it is my dream after all) while I read about other people’s travels and imagine the possibility of some travels of my own this summer. Cheers!

Simple Summer Goals

Tomorrow is the last day of school. Another summer is almost here. Ashley graduates from elementary school tomorrow, so this is a milestone summer for her. Next stop middle school.

I’ve spent the last couple of months investing a lot of time and energy into putting together our elementary school’s yearbook and working with James on the school’s end of year slideshow. Thousands of photographs. It’s almost done and today, as I finish my role in the slideshow, I found myself thinking about enjoying a simple summer with family and friends. Seeing all the photos of our school community reminds me that we live in a wonderful neighborhood. We are not going to fill up our summer with summer camps or music lessons. We will have lazy days, flexibility, and fun. We will enjoy our neighborhood and our community. And yes, I include myself in that too!

Keep living things alive and happy-feed and water family and plants. Play with husband, children and friends. Read to myself and the children.

Maintain a comfortable home-keep fridge, freezer, food pantry and clothes and linen closets stocked.  Pick up books, toys and clothes. Garden.

Play with our photo archive-delete the dross and create memories (frames, albums, slideshows).

Okay, that’s my simple plan. I’m all set. Here comes the summer!!!

Right Now I’m…

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…enjoying a cup of morning coffee prepared the café au lait way. My favorite decaf French Roast. Yummy.

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…planning a delicious looking new cake recipe for Ashley’s half birthday today. She’s halfway to 11. How did that happen? She chose a chocolate cake with coffee frosting for her half cake. My girl likes coffee. She loves coffee ice cream and I have allowed her to drink decaf café au lait with me now that she is 10. I think it helps her feel older and allows us to bond as we share a coffee break together.

The Lord of the Rings -The Return of the King

…looking forward to our dinner and movie night with grandma and granddad this evening. We have been watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy and will watch the final installment tonight. It is so much fun to have Ian and Janet join us on Friday night for this family time.

2013 Focus 03 March

…excited for the month ahead. Since the start of the year I’ve been keeping a checklist for each month over the light switch in my closet. I have nine items on my list that add a great deal to my happiness. They are little things that I often neglect and now I have finally decided to make myself more aware of their importance by tracking them. I check the list each night before I get into bed and again in the mornings before I start my day. I find little checkmarks to be the best reward to motivate myself.

…happy to have scheduled solo voice lessons for myself again, starting today! James and I have a duet lesson together every other week and it is great fun singing with him. I have missed having a solo lesson since we started the autumn/winter session of duet lessons so decided it was time to sing solo again too.

…motivated to lose 10 pounds between now and my birthday in May. I will add exercise to each day, drink a glass of water each time I feel like eating outside of designated meal/snack times and get adequate sleep.

…committing to twice weekly check-ins with my friend Pauline to keep focus on my monthly checklist and encourage Pauline to focus on what’s important to her each month.

Okay, time to make a phone call, play with my boys, run an errand, sing some songs, bake a cake, prepare a dinner and enjoy my day and my family. This is good start to a new month.

Popcorn

Happy New Year. A trip to the Oregon coast and the first week of school have made for a pleasantly full start to 2013.

As a result of our stay at Cannon Beach we had to defer our first Friday dinner and movie night of the New Year.  Continuing a budding tradition that started in December, Grandma and Granddad braved the rapidly dropping temperatures and joined us for dinner and a movie. (They get a ride home at the end of the night, which was probably very welcome tonight with the temperature below 30F!)

Chimpanzee

Tonight we ate Swedish Meatballs, mashed potatoes, peas with Lingonberry preserves. Then we watched Chimpanzee, a Disney documentary set the rain forest in West Africa. We all enjoyed this beautifully shot and absorbing glimpse into the lives of these chimps. Our viewing was enhanced by a few additional rainforest fact supplied by Caitlin who has been studying rainforests in school. I learned about buttress roots, luminous fungi and Gabon Vipers. I go to bed tonight a little wiser :)

To date we have watched the following films as part of our dinner and movie night (we watched Brave after dinner on Christmas Eve and  A White Christmas after dinner on Christmas Day):

E.T. The Bishops Wife

It's a Wonderful Life Brave

A White Christmas A Christmas Carol

 

My Languages
Image credit: Created by emperorp using Wordle

When I first realized a few weeks ago that I was internalizing the end of year wind down, I decided to give some thought to things that I have consistently enjoyed over the years, even if I have stopped and restarted them a number of times as Life intervened. It’s a short list:

reading
blogging (I used to journal)
walking
yoga
creating (drawing, painting, sewing, crafting, cooking, baking and scrapbooking)
traveling
learning languages

The activity that leaped out at me was language learning. I had taken a break from actively studying a language after Ethan was born. Just prior to that I had put about six months of study into learning Spanish and had enjoyed it very much.

When I first chose to learn Spanish four years ago it had been tough deciding between it and Italian. Practicalities won out-there are so many more resources here for learning Spanish. While I had no experience with any of the Spanish speaking cultures to draw me to the language, I do love the language learning process, communicating with someone in their own language and making a connection. There are more possibilities for this with Spanish given where I live.

Since this summer I have been reading a lot of Italian themed novels and travel memoirs. Naturally, my desire to learn Italian emerged again. When I first looked at my language learning materials again a couple of weeks ago I had been planning to start Italian. But then I looked through my Spanish binder with all the materials and the learning system I had put together. Surprisingly, I found myself enjoying the quick review of the language learning process I had set up for studying it. Even more surprising, I discovered a growing fondness for the sound of the language and a strong urge to approach Latin American cultures in a manner I have enjoyed for French, Japanese, Italian, Greek and Irish culture. I am going to read novels set in these cultures. I am going to read about places where the language is spoken and I am going to read about travelers’ experiences in these places.

Using Amazon and the Seattle Public Library, I have researched and ordered a few travel memoirs to get me started. I love this growing feeling of excitement as I renew my studies in Spanish. Now that I’ve picked it back up, I find it an excellent salve for the restlessness I have been feeling. I look forward to documenting and sharing my continuing adventures in language learning.

Note: For related posts and more about my interest in languages you can check out my language page here.

check mark    check mark check mark

As I find myself daydreaming about things I would like to be doing, but have not yet been able to act upon, I am finding it helpful to shift my thoughts to things that are currently happening and that are working well. My daydreaming leaves me restless. My reflection on family routines that are working relaxes me.

We are very fortunate here that James’s job allows for him to be with us in the morning for breakfast and back in the evening for dinner. While the changes in roles and duties that his presence has brought about has taken a little time to adjust to, we seem finally to be entering a flow.

Weekday Mornings Routine

Alarm goes off. 

James:

  • Wakes girls
  • Frees the boys :) (They have a child safety handle on their doorknob inside the bedroom  to prevent Ethan wandering around without supervision during the bedtime hours. Sean is still in a crib.)
  • Showers and dresses
  • Takes breakfast requests (within his weekday breakfast limits)
  • Heads downstairs to make breakfasts and his lunch

While I:

  • Nurse Sean
  • Read a story to both boys as I nurse
  • Say good morning to, and sometimes with, Ashley and Caitlin
  • Change the boys nappies/pull-ups
  • Take Ethan to the bathroom
  • Send boys downstairs
  • Have a shower
  • Start a laundry load, strip beds or fold some laundry depending on what day it is and what tasks  need doing.

We eat breakfast.

James:

  • Takes girls to school, nearly always accompanied by Sean and sometimes by Ethan (who seems to be more of a homebody at this hour)

While I:

  • Finish my tea
  • Assess what needs to get done during the day and create a check list.

James returns from school. The boys and I say goodbye as James cycles off to work.

My day with the boys at home begins.

Evening Routine

  • The girls do homework.
  • I cook dinner or put it together from having prepared it earlier in the day.
  • James returns home from work.
  • We eat dinner together.
  • James and I alternate taking the boys to bed and cleaning the kitchen after dinner/supervising the girls’ chores.
  • Ideally, there is then time after the boys bedtime and chores for James and I to enjoy time with the girls before their bedtime (sometimes dallying over homework or chores means these tasks need to be completed in the time before they go to bed :()

As I write this time I can see that we really do have a great deal of rhythm to our days as a family. These routines don’t always run smoothly but they tick along most of the time. Homework and chores are still a work in progress with the girls, but we are starting to have some fun evenings before their bedtime playing Yahtzee or Scategories or reading in the living room together. Some evenings, if the boys have had a very late nap, they join us in the living room. They both enjoyed playing “Pagliahtzee” with me and James one evening recently. (Ethan came up with the names. He has confused Pagliacci Pizza and Yahtzee and run them together. Sean copies Ethan a lot, so now they both call the game “Pagliahtzee” :))

It really helps settle my mind to focus on what is working around here. Our morning and evening routines are working well and act like anchors, giving me a sense of place and purpose with my family. As I reflect I take a deep breath and exhale with a sigh. Life is Good!

ChangeByTryingNotToChange

Image Credit: happiness-project.com

Lately I have noticed a paradox in how I am going about my days.

I enjoy taking care of our home. I have been enjoying baking and cooking, and love the feeling of calm productivity I get from my Monday routine. On Mondays I make all the beds, vacuum the bedrooms and clear out any rubbish before collection day on Tuesday. I am even experiencing a great sense of satisfaction from getting all the laundry done on Mondays and trying to have it all put away by Tuesday. Putting laundry away has always been a thorn in my side. I like the feeling when it is all neatly put away but used to dread the process of getting to that point. Now I’m able to focus on the simple joy that comes at the end and that gets me through the actual putting away.

I enjoy being with my children and my husband. I enjoy meals together, playing games, watching movies, little trips together to somewhere as simple as the library.

I enjoy the books I’m reading right now. I’ve been on an Italian kick and working through some novels and travel memoirs that have been in my Great Unread Pile.

I enjoy the voice lessons I take with my husband every other week. It’s fun to sing duets together.

I enjoy the currently limited time I spend with friends, whether in person or on the phone.

I’ve also enjoyed each season this year and have slowly moved through the seasonal transitions. This year I didn’t hop straight from summer to winter which I have done many times in the past. I’ve enjoyed Autumn, the cooler days, the turning colors, raking and playing in the leaves, the rainy days and the shorter daylight hours that draw me to the fireside.

Through it all I notice deep down that I’m feeling a little lost, a little alone and a drop in my energy. I find myself daydreaming about things I’d like to be doing and, when it comes time to act, I don’t. Maybe it is natural with the year coming to a close and winter about to settle in. Maybe I can just watch the paradox and work through it. Maybe I will continue not to act or try and fix it. Maybe I will just be with my family and sit by the fire, or play a game or read a book. Maybe I could just act small and take a walk alone, or engage in yoga at home alone, or sit in my room and read alone or go to a local coffee shop with my book and be alone. Maybe…

Does anyone else feel a strange diminishing of energy and lonesomeness at this time of year?

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