Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Last Week Goodness that Made Me Smile...

Here are 10 Things from Last Week that Made Me Smile....

1. An unexpected surprise in the mail from my best friend in college.

2. A whole 24 hours spent with my dear, dear friend who spent the last two years being crazy busy with going back to school. Now she has her Masters and can answer lots of my medical questions. I am so proud of her!

3. A wonderful visit with my former student and her lovely family.

4. Babes with Big Dogs.

5. Babes with Beautiful Cats.

6. Babes with a Mouthful of Sand


7. Realizing that my daughter is going to be a big fan of the Beach just like her Mama.

8. Six and a half hours spent in the car with only Grins and Snores.

9. Finally being introduced to Downton Abbey.

10. A week of (mostly) Drama-free Bedtimes.

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Month of Courage Round-Up 2012

The end of January is almost here, so that means I am wrapping up my posts on Courage and beginning to write about Love. Here is a explanation of my Monthly Themes. I have a long list of people, organizations and books that inspire me with their courage - I didn't even get to scratch the surface...more for next year!

1. Peace Pilgrim

2. Mattie's Mom

3. Pink and Say

4. Innermost House and a Video of Innermost House

5. Molly Murphy

6. Teaching for Change

7. Horse Boy Film and Foundation

8. Urban Homestead Path to Freedom

9. Kiva

10. Courage During Wedding Planning

Friday, January 27, 2012

Scratch the Pirate Boat: Part II

Now that we have established that the pirate ship is out of our budget, let's move on...

If her birthday was in April, we could have the party at Frying Pan Farm Park. Spring is the perfect time to check out all the new baby animals and the farm has an terrific wooden carousel that's great fun to ride when the sun is shining. You can read about my post on Frying Pan Farm here.

Instead of reading a trashy novel or taking a nap or sitting in a coffee shop on my baby-free night two weeks ago...I ended up spending four hours doing research on prospective venues. A little sick, I know. The good thing about my obsession is that I'm learning much more about the area - I'm even picked up a little bit more historical knowledge. It also kinds of makes me want to plan another wedding (or at least help someone else plan their wedding).

The search for a venue prompted my husband and I to get off our duffs and do some exploring in our area. Chinquapin has the most amazing soft lay room and is reasonably priced but it seemed a bit too dismal. The Apothecary Museum in Old Town is a lot of fun to visit but is too small. Gadsby's Tavern has a great birthday package for older children but not for a 1 year-old and 50 adults.

The Old Maryland Farm seems like something Lina would be into but there is only room for 35 people total. She is too young for a birthday party at the National Zoo. Brookside Gardens do birthday parties for those under the age of 4 but I have to find out how many adults they can accommodate.

Right now are two fore-runners are Fairfax Station Railroad Museum and the Billingsley House. Both are only open on Sundays from 1-4 pm for tours. We are going to be out of town this weekend - so it looks like Super Bowl Sunday will be a really, busy day for us! It's really getting down to crunch time.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Courage during Wedding Planning

Having a trans-cultural relationship definitely made our wedding planning easier. There were little expectations on how a Jain-American wedding should look. If my husband had married an Indian woman, I'm sure it would have taken more courage to "step outside the box." Since I am writing about courage this month this month, I thought I'd include a discussion on what bits of our wedding took some courage.

Things that Took Courage

1. No diamond ring. I've never wanted a diamond ring, so this one was easy. It wasn't so easy for my mother-in-law who was convinced that I didn't have one because my husband couldn't afford one. I was very happy with the simple amber ring I picked out a few weeks before he proposed. It was nice to have a ring to point to even if most people didn't "get" why it wasn't a diamond. After our wedding, I stopped wearing the amber ring because I love the simple, clean look of only wearing my silver band.

2. Unusual Setting. Indian weddings are ALWAYS in a hotel or a ballroom, so I know I know my husband and his parents were stepping outside their comfort zone by planning a wedding on my family's farm.

3. Our officiant was my mother. This one was pretty unusual for whatever type of wedding you attend. But in my family there is a tradition of family members acting as officiants (my parents got married by my uncle, my grandparents by either my great-grandfather or great-great-uncle....I can't remember).  I really wanted both our mothers to marry us. I thought it was a beautiful sentiment having our mothers (who brought us into this world) join us together in marriage. But my mother-in-law is not comfortable with public-speaking, so my mother graciously agreed to be the sole officiant.

4. I assembled and created our ceremony. The ceremony was the most important part of the wedding for me, so that is where I focused my energy. I wanted to capture both our personalities as individuals and as a couple, while also honoring my husband's religious tradition without being sacrilegious. It was tough but I am so proud of the end result.

5. My biological father wasn't invited. This was the toughest decision, I had to make. I figured if I invited him he wouldn't come anyway. But, I knew there was a very tiny chance he would and then it put a damper on the day for my step-father. Calling my father, afterwards, was really, really difficult and I know he was hurt. But, I don't regret my decision. Weddings are often full of tough decisions and accepting that reality is part of being a full-fledged adult.

6. We planned the wedding in 5 weeks. It took a lot of courage to say, "we can plan a meaningful, beautiful, joyful at-home wedding in 5 weeks" (especially in a culture that says you need at least a year to plan). The challenge forged our family into a much tighter unit. I've become a bit fan of short engagements now!

Scratch the Pirate Boat: Part I

Source ****

Who knew 1st Birthdays were SUCH A BIG DEAL? I certainly didn't before I had my daughter.
Offbeat Mama talks about it here.

Now that we have less than 2 months before she turns one, we are on the hunt. So many options, it's kind of like planning a wedding...only on a smaller scale.

My daughter dances as soon as she hears music and gets really excited around animals - we are trying to decide on a party based on either one of those interests. My head is spinning with all the different directions we can go. We are working out our budget but it looks like both the pirate ship and the private canal boat tour are out of the picture.

Weather is very unpredictable at the end of March, so we can't go the inexpensive route and have an outside BBQ at a park pavilion with lots of dancing.

Here are our requirements....

1. Interesting space

2. Minimal set-up and clean-up (I don't want any family members exerting a lot of effort by hosting the party...I want everyone to have fun and not have to worry about being the host).

3. A space that can accommodate at least 45 adults, 3-4 babies and 4-6 kids (this is the hard part...we have a BIG family).

4. Within our budget

Over the next few weeks, I will be posting updates on how our search is going and sharing some different party theme ideas.

****Ummm....can you tell this child is my first? We happened to be visiting my mother when Lina turned 10 months. When my mother decided to bake a spice cake, I insisted we add candles and sing Happy Birthday. It's practice for her 1st birthday, you know?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Seven Reasons Why Our Winter Getaway Rocked My Socks Off

Papa Bear and I got out of Dodge for a 24 hour Winter Getaway. We were sans baby and sans camera - it was lovely. Berkeley Springs...I'm smitten with you.

Seven Reasons Why Our Winter Get-a-way Rocked My Socks Off
1. I soaked in a Roman Bath for the first time.
2. We stayed in a cute little cabin with a fireplace at Cacapon State Park.
3. Snowed covered the ground and made Cacapon look so peaceful that we didn't mind that we couldn't swim in the lake or use the tennis courts.
4. We devoured some delicious creme of crab soup at Tari's Cafe.
5. We tried Atholl Brose for the first time and decided it needs to become part of our family tradition at Christmas.
6. We got to hang out with our dear family friends (who are not only charming hosts - but amazing artists as well).
7. We only had to drive 2 hours to feel much, much further away!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

1,000 Books Before Kindergarten: Books 16-20

We've been busy....bunnies and pandas and piggies around here. I've been neglecting to post the books I've been reading to Lina. Only 980 more to go!

16. Busy Pandas

17. Baby Animals in the Jungle

18. Busy Piggies

19. First Body Board Book

20. Baby Faces

Saturday, January 21, 2012

10 Months: Happy Birthday.

My Dearest Lina,
Now you have been here with us a week longer than I was pregnant with you. All of those months of being pregnant seemed to take forever – but the same amount of time spent holding you and playing together has gone by in a flash!
You’ve shown a great sense of humor ever since you were 3 months old and started humoring Mommy by laughing at my one lame bathroom joke. During this past month your sense of humor has seemed to develop even more. If I am sitting on the couch, you will often walk into the kitchen and find my shoe to carry into the living room. You laughingly offer the shoe to me (after having gnawed on it while grinning at me) and then you shriek and run away when I try and grab it. You know how shoe-gnawing is not encouraged in our household. You know exactly what behaviors are “good choices” and what behaviors are not.
Your favorite thing to do this month is to race up to someone, let out a huge shriek while your arms flail around and convince them to chase you. Daddy is particularly good at this game.
Another game you enjoy is looking at someone and then tilting your head while moving your body until the other person can’t see you. Then, after a few seconds, you pop up and laugh. You get so happy if the other person joins your game. When there is music playing and you are dancing, you have tons of fun spinning around in circles until you get too dizzy and you fall down. It’s pretty hysterical.
What isn’t hysterical is your reaction to someone talking on the phone in front of you. If you aren’t the person holding the phone, you get very frustrated and upset. We need to work on that, Sweet Child of Mine. You are still spending a lot of time walking around with your toy phone talking to Dada. Thankfully, we’re not paying your phone bill yet.
I am enjoying the fact that it is getting easier for you to communicate. If you want something on a table or high shelf, you point at it with your index finger and request it (usually politely, although not always). If your ball rolls under a piece of furniture, you squat down and look for it. Then you sit back up and I point at it, so I can retrieve. Yes, Madame.
Teaching you sign language has been a bust – you rather just point and use your few words. So far you say Mum, Dada, na-na, “at” (for cat), “ahhhh” for water, and both “gad” and “yum” (for when you are eating something good and yummy).
You started crying whenever we took away your tooth-brush. I think any dentist would say 10 minutes on 2 ½ teeth is probably sufficient. So, now we’ve started a morning ritual where you brush your teeth with Daddy. After a reasonable amount of time both of you put your toothbrushes in the cup and way “good-bye” to them. No one can deny that you are an expert at waving bye-bye.
One thing you are not an expert at is going to bed. You are still a very restless sleeper and usually stir after an hour of sleeping. You are definitely having difficulty on learning how to self-soothe. Please take pity on your poor Mommy and start sleeping through the night, okay? Know that even though I often feel like a sleep-deprived zombie, seeing your face in the morning makes it all worth it. You are very, very loved…

Hugs and Kisses,

Friday, January 20, 2012

We are Taking the Waters this Weekend...

I've always wanted to say "oh, I won't be able to attend your event because...I will be taking the waters." Now, I can. On Sunday, my husband and I are going to Bath. Not Bath, England where the expression came from but Bath, West Virginia (also known as Berkeley Springs). We will be staying in a log-cabin with a real fireplace and being going to the "Bathhouse." My wonderful parents will be busy chasing around after my daughter and trying to keep her from giving too much love to the "ats." I'm so excited.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Month of Courage: Urban Homestead Path to Freedom

A few years ago, my sister and I went to the Charles Theater in Baltimore and watched Homegrown Revolution, an intriguing movie about the Dervaes family. This family, while living only 15 minutes from downtown Los Angeles, are able to produce 6,000 lbs of organic food on 1/10 of an acre. Talk about one serious urban homestead!

Who are these folks? one Papa (Jules Dervases) and his three adult children (Justin, Anais and Jordanne) live together on this homestead.

What are they doing that caught my eye? They are pioneers growing their own food, raising citified-animals and attempting to live lightly on the land. They are living proof that you don't have to a 200 acre farm in the country to be self-sufficient and to be free!

Where can one find out more about them? Check them out here at their blog.

This is the Official Trailer for the hour long movie on the Dervas family.

Below is the 15 minute film created by the family sharing their story.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Hard at Work...

Montessori: Color Bottles

I was inspired by the beautiful blog, How We Montessori, to make some small color bottles for Lina. We didn't have any extra hotel shampoo bottles laying around, so I used some plastic sand art jars. She is now obsessed with walking around holding the yellow bottle, it seems to fit so well in her hand. I love it!

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Month of Courage: Teaching for Change

One of my favorite things about living in the NOVA/DC area is the bookstore Busboys and Poets.  The bookstore is run by the staff of Teaching for Change, a non-profit devoted to providing "teachers and parents with the tools to transform schools into centers of justice where students learn to read, write, and change the world." Pretty exciting stuff.

Teaching for Change is a fanstastic resource whether you are a teacher or a parent unschooling, homeschooling or just encouraging your child to become a life-time learner. In honor of MLK and the fearless work he did, I am sharing the book Putting the Movement Back into Civil Rights Teaching with you today.

When I was teaching at a Friends school, I discovered this book; it's full of some very brave people and deserves to be read and used in every classroom.

New Mama Mondays: Molly Murphy - One Gutsy Lady

I spent much of my first few months of motherhood reading while nursing. I stumbled upon Rhys Bowen at the library and became a fan of her Molly Murphy series and her Royal Spyness series. Here is a review I wrote of the most recent Royal Spyness book I enjoyed. I think Molly Murphy is the stronger of the two series and I am completely enamored with this feisty heroine created by Rhys Bowen.

So, I am beginning this week of my Month of Courage on a light-hearted note by adding the fictional character, Molly Murphy, to my list of gusty people.

Molly Murphy is an Irish immigrant who arrives in New York City during the exciting first days of the 20th century. After fleeing from police, she takes on another's identity and discovers she has a knack for uncovering mysteries. The books crackle with wit. I love how there is minimum gore and maximum history in each book. The author does a terrific job of including at least one historic figure or event in every novel.

Who can resist a spunky heroine? I certainly can't and Molly has become one of my favorite. Mouthy and curious, she takes you through trans-Atlantic crossings, bleak tenements, sweatshops and makes you kiss the floor in gratitude for your life today.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Nine Months: Happy Birthday, Lina!

Lina turned 9 months on December 21st....this is my letter to her that I never got around to posting during the whirlwind of the last few weeks.

To My Big Girl,
Someone once called your Grandmother a “force of nature.”  The description suits you.  When you set a goal, it is difficult to dissuade you from that goal.  You let us know what is on your mind, whether you are express your happiness at nursing by humming the entire time or express your frustration at encountering an obstacle while pushing a kitchen chair across our apartment.
When Daddy leaves in the morning, you let us know how sad you are by standing at the door, crying and patting the glass. When he returns in the evening, you blind him with your smile. You usually call him “Dada” but last week you mimicked him perfectly and called him “Daddy” when he greeted you. Your word for water is “ahhh” (the sound someone makes on a hot summer day after drinking a refreshing drink). You say “ahhh” after every sip of water. We laugh every time; it still hasn’t gotten old.
You get very, very excited every time you see a playground – it doesn’t even have to be the playground by our house. You get very upset with Mommy, if we don’t stop and play. You can easily spend a ½ hour sitting in the swing and are determined to walk up the slide the wrong way.
We’ve been trying to teach you sign language; the only sign you use is one you’ve come up with for music. You dance and clap to your Music Together CD at least 4 or 5 times a day. You are a total ham at music class where you frequently walk into the middle of the circle and practice your bhangra (hands in the air going from foot to foot). You hate having to put the musical instruments back at the end of the song.
Like both your parents, you enjoy trying a variety of foods. You want to sample anything that Mommy eats and have tried recently: broccoli and three cheese soup, butternut and apple soup, roasted bell peppers, an egg sandwich, Spanish rice, stewed tomatoes and Icelandic yogurt.
You wave your arms around frantically and giggle when being chased around the house. You especially love Dada to chase you; you love to keep him on his feet. When you are not visiting Dada and Dadi, you often pretend to call them on your “phone.” Sometimes your phone is actual toy phone - sometimes it is an old remote control or even a block. I’ve watched you use both a piece of paper as a phone and your maraca, but not at the same time. It makes me very happy to see you developing such a rich imagination.
You think it’s hysterical to offer someone a cracker or a toy and then to take it back right before the other person grabs it. We are working on learning to share but I know that‘s a skill that takes a long time to learn. You love to have someone sit next to you while you turn the pages of the scrapbook Ra-Ra made for you. Photo albums are one of your favorite things in the world right now.
Thank you for helping me when I take off your shoes - it’s a big help having you take off your own socks. I can’t wait to see what you will help me with next. Thanks for being my helper and my greatest teacher.

Know you are very, very loved,

Thursday, January 12, 2012

1,000 Books Before Kindergarten: Books 11-15

As I explained earlier, I want to use this blog to help me document my goal of reading 1,000 books to my daughter before she starts kindergarten. A little crazy, I know. Who knows if I'll have the energy to keep the documentation going. But, goals are so much easier when they are broken into baby steps, right?

11. Busy Bunnies

12. Busy Gorillas

13. I Love Colors

14. A is for A Kiss and L is for Love (the board book I made my husband for Christmas)

15. Lindy's Book (the board book I made for Lina's newest cousin)

These are the first books we read together and these are books 6-10.

Perfect Timing...A Video of the Innermost House Just Released!

Talk about perfect timing! I write a post about the Innermost House and the next day I see that a video interviewing Diana is released on the Tiny House Blog. Enjoy seeing the house in 3D and listening to Diana speak about her choices! 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Month of Courage: The Innermost House

I have always been intrigued by those long-ago crazy mystics who lived by themselves on top of a mountaintop for twenty-years. I recently came upon this couple who seem to have the Modern-Day-Mystic-Thing down and I am in awe.

They reside in one of the most exquisite houses I have ever seen; many of the photos of the interior of their house look like a painting. Diana has a blog where she explains her intentions.  Their intense life-style is not for everyone (especially those with small children). But I have deep respect for those who live their lives authentically and when you read Diana's writing you realize that is exactly what they are doing.

Who inspires me?
Diana from the Innermost House

What has she done that I find courageous?
Diana and her husband have whittled down their existence to living in a tiny, perfect home of only 144 square feet. They read by candlelight, eat salads and stews cooked over coals in their fireplace and spend their days in conversation. They take sponge baths, have no refrigerator and have people clamoring to join their discussions. Everything is done with great intention.

Where can you find out more?
 Innermost House. You definitely want to drool over more photos of the house.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Month of Courage: Pink and Say

This children's book is one of my all-time favorite books. It's beautifully illustrated and beautifully told by Patricia Polacco. It's the story of the friendship between two teen-age boys, one White and one Black - both Union soldiers. This month, I am writing about courage, so I knew I had to share this book with you - it has haunted me ever since I read it ten years ago.

Who demonstrated courage?
Pinkus and Say are two young boys caught in the middle of the Civil War. Every time I would read this story to my students, I would end up in tears. At the end of the book, you are realize you just read a true story - a truly compelling story of courage and friendship. The author is a descendant of Say.

I'm not going to say anything else about the book because I don't want to ruin it for you. Just do yourself a favor and go read this book - honor the memory of these courageous boys.

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Month of Courage: Mattie's Mom

Jeni Stepanek is the next person I wanted to profile this month. I met her two years ago when she gave me a copy of the book she had written about her son. It's hard to get through the book without weeping. I had skimmed some of Mattie's poetry and seen him on T.V.. I had read some articles about him, so I knew a little about his story when I began Messenger: The Legacy of Mattie J.T. Stepanek and Heartsongs. Even so, I was unprepared for the power of his story and the power of his mother's love. 

 I think every mother should have a copy of this book by her bedside. Whenever I start feeling overwhelmed or down, I need to re-read a few pages and be reminded of my blessings. This Mama has dealt with obstacles I can't even imagine and her perseverance and inner strength is a true inspiration.

Who am I am inspired by?
Jeni Stepanek (she also answers to the name "Mattie's Mom). Her bio can be found here.

What has she done that is so courageous?
She has the adult-onset of a genetic neuromuscular disease that requires her to use a wheel-chair and a ventilator. All four of her children - Katie, Stevie, Jamie, and Mattie - also had the disease. Her youngest child, Mattie, accomplished more and lived more deeply in his thirteen years than most of us do in eighty.

Where can I find out more information? Her book on Mattie's legacy can be found here. The foundation she began in his honor can be found here.  Please check them both out!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Hello....The Month of Courage

Between Holiday exhaustion, colds, food poisoning, a migraine and mourning the passing of a friend this past week has been a bit rough. Not much writing happened.

Now, I'm visiting my parents and have a bit more time. My plan for this month is to share with you various people and organizations who have inspired me over the years to live a truly authentic life.

Some have been devoted mothers, some have been devoted entirely to their cause. Some have written books that have changed my life. Some have built their own homes with their own hands. All of them have taken risks and I bow down in gratitude for having the opportunity to hear their stories. Please join me, as I share some of their courage with you...

The Month of Courage: The Peace Pilgrim

Who inspired me with her courage? 
The Peace Pilgrim

What did she do that required a remarkable amount of courage?
Mildred Lisette Norman Ryder's path in life took her many, many places and after the age of 44, she arrived at each new place by foot. She called herself the Peace Pilgrim and strove to promote Inner Peace, Peace between Individuals, Peace between Communities and Peace between Nations. It was not a popular idea at the time.

On January 1st 1953, as the Korean War raged on and McCarthyism destroyed lives, the Peace Pilgrim began to walk. The only things she carried with her was a comb, a toothbrush and a pen. She chose to "walk until given shelter and fasted until given food." She walked until July 7th, 1981. After 25,000 miles she gave up counting.

During her 28 years of crisscrossing the United States, her message was simply: good can overcome evil, love can overcome hate and truth can overcome falsehood. She truly walked the walk.

I heard her story a handful of years ago and can think of no better way to start off this month of sharing stories of courageous people than with the story of the Peace Pilgrim. My hat goes off to the memory of this inspiring woman!

Where can I find out more information?
Go here and check out the foundation begun in her honor.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

I am Really Missing a Woodstove Right about Now

You never seem to notice heat unless you don't have it. I don't know what is about our family but today is the second day we've been at a house and the heat system has conked out. The first day was on Christmas Eve when we were staying at a Lockhouse on the C&O Canal. Today, our apartment's heating system stopped because it froze. Luckily, my daughter is a little hot-water heater who seems to thrive in cold weather.

I grew up in a house with two wood stoves. It was a lot of work but we never had to go cold. I visited my father in West Virginia on New Year's Day and spent much of my time repeating the words "it's hot" to my daughter. But, boy, were we toasty.

I am dreaming about our first house right about now. I've decided - it definitely needs a wood stove. What do you think about wood stoves?

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