Friday, February 27, 2015

Soul Food

During the witching hour of my home, my brain and my "calmly breathe and be grateful" strategies the other day, the noise became all too much. The kids, the chaos, the roofers pounding nails above us, the trucks in our driveway, the alarms in my head that pointed out messes and things I had to do, the voice of "pick up your shoes" and "put your lunch box away" that came out far more naggy than I intended, the phone that rang, the cries for more juice and go outside and mom, watch! watch this!. It was loud and chaotic, and in an attempt to quiet and calm, I piled everyone in the van and headed to the pool. Floats and pool toys blocked my mirror view on the short drive, and we turned around not once but twice to retrieve forgotten goggles and juice boxes. I clutched my poetry book--Soul Food--in my hand as I unloaded kids and dragged foam noodles across the parking lot to the pool where I'd soon sit on the step and watch happy splashers while Mary Oliver whispered me back into calm.

The water was warm and inviting, the pool patio almost vacant except for an older gentleman who looked up from his book only for a moment to confirm that we too wanted peace and that none of my kids looked like the cannonball type. Give Dash six more months.

Gracefully and barely disturbing the surface of the water, Lainey filled her lungs and slipped into the shallow end mermaid-style, a blur of blond hair and long legs disappearing underneath the water until she reemerged in the deep end moments later.

Down two steps went Nella--bravely venturing to the bottom stair, neck-deep, while she clung to the railing, and then back up to the top where she smiled proudly and turned around to do it again. Dash joined her, the two of them conversing through laughter and their shared accomplishment. Finally, quiet.

And then the pool gate opened and a trail of giggling children of all sizes--one, two, three, four, five of them--came skipping through, their mom trailing behind them hollering reminders not to jump. My kids all turned to look, paralyzed in amusement and intimidated by how many of them there were. The older gentleman in the lounge chair looked up from his book again. Cannonball type? Perhaps.

They didn't cannonball into the water; they threw themselves into it--arms out, chests raised, squeals of laughter accompanying their splashes. There was nothing hesitant about any of it; rather enthusiastic, joyous, whole-hearted.

"We just got here," their mom explained apologetically. "I flew alone with them, We came from the cold this morning, so we're very happy to be here."

"No worries, you're fine," I smiled. ("Speak for yourself," thought the old man with the book.) "They all yours?"

"These three are," she pointed to the older ones laughing in the deep end. "And these two--" she motioned toward two little blond girls on the steps of the shallow end. "These are my foster babies. They just returned to us two weeks ago."

For the next forty-five minutes, I watched as this beautiful mother--certainly tired from her travels and worn out from the noise of five children and all that led her on this journey to this place--volleyed her attention between each child who called for her, needed her, wanted her to mom watch! watch this!. How patient and loving and all-embracing she was. Her smile never broke.

Between splashes and jumps, her older children swam to the little girls on the steps, picked them up, guided them through the shallow end, hugged them and praised them for their bravery. Love, security, belonging--it was palpable.

I never had a chance to open my poetry book. But there, in the loud and perfect chaos of eight kids in a pool, three different family stories and the shared experience of finding solace from the noisy parts of life under sunshine, with each other...I found my peace and quiet. I had my Soul Food.

Happy Friday.

More soul food from last night:

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Monday, February 23, 2015

Pajama Glama Oscar Party 2015

We're keeping it classy for the Oscars this year.

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Last night was our annual Pajama Glama Oscar Party where we watch gorgeous toned stars walk the red carpet while we eat cheese and chocolate and smear butter on things.

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Heidi and I have been keeping this tradition since before we had kids, and now we incorporate the little ones in the evening for as long as their attention spans can last--which is usually through the red carpet and the opening musical act, and then first acceptance speech, they're out. Our husbands laugh and roll their eyes, but we're pretty sure they're just jealous because they too are dying to walk the red tablecloth in cute pajamas.

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The Academy Award for the evening goes to Clip-on Earrings, raising the "this is special" bar very very high.

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Dash made a red carpet appearance, giving Benedict Cumberbatch a run for his money...

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...tweeted some of his best picture picks from the show...

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...and then pulled a Neil Patrick Harris and ditched his clothes to go wash cars with dad in the driveway.

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The girls, on the other hand, enjoyed all the fancy.

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Nella's "OH MY GOD, HE WON!" face:

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Favorite dresses of the night? Emma Stone, Reese Witherspoon and  Margot Robbie.

I absolutely loved the unexpected Sound of Music performance from a natural and even more beautiful Lady Gaga as well as the soulful deliverance of "Glory"--and the standing ovation that followed.

Loved Patricia Arquette's moment in her speech when she addressed equality for women: "To every woman who gave birth to every tax payer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America"--and Meryl Streep's "hell yeah" encouragement from the front row.

And JK Simmons' adoration for family and what really matters in his acceptance speech: "Call your mom, call your dad. If you’re lucky to have a person alive on this planet, call them. Listen to them, talk to them, for as long as they want to talk to you."

My favorite speech of the evening though was from Graham Moore for "The Imitation Game": "So in this brief time here, what I want to use it to do is to say this: When I was 16 years old, I tried to kill myself because I felt weird and I felt different, and I felt like I did not belong. And now I’m standing here. So, I would like this moment to be for that kid out there who feels like she’s weird, or she’s different, or she feels like she doesn’t fit in anywhere. Yes, you do. I promise you do. Stay weird. Stay different."

I enjoy the Oscars a little more each year--maybe because we have fun with it all, maybe because they're actually getting better or maybe because, with more life, I appreciate more the role that art and movies and music plays in it. If you can see past the dresses and jewels, the hobnobbing and Hollywood bureaucracy, the Oscars deliver a collection of talented artists who are passionate about their work and believe in the power to make people feel deeply. I'll stand behind anything that does that.

I'm glad we have movies.
And I'm glad we have the Oscars because with it comes our Pajama Glama and these sweet memories. I saw Boyhood--I get how fast this all flies by.

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Friday, February 20, 2015

Friday Faves: Girl Gifts and Fun Wrap

I want to get back to doing some fun Friday posts with favorites--home stuff, beauty stuff, crafty stuff, etc. This week, I'm sharing a new favorite shop and some inexpensive gifts for girlfriends.

I used to be really good at giving random gifts to friends, and I've fallen out of the habit. But every time a friend makes a small gesture--most recently a bag of healthy food from Heidi and a note reminding me to eat better (stop with the candy!), I'm reminded what little it takes to make someone feel very special. Sometimes having someone else say "you're worth it" is the catalyst for self love and good actions. Each of these gifts is inexpensive--around $10 or less, and a little bit humorous, but paired with a meaningful note, can be just what it takes to remind a friend that she is strong, loved and fierce.

Be a Better Parent Tea. For friends who are in the trenches of motherhood and feeling inadequate or tired or laden with guilt. Who knew there was a magic tea to make it all better?!

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Rosie the Riveter vintage tin sign. A powerful (and cute) reminder that we're in it together.

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Frida Kahlo Socks. Holla to the awesome women who went before us...and left their words and art to make our journey a little easier.

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Poseable Wonder Woman . For all your Superhero friends.

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And our favorite new shop this week...

Naples recently got a Paper Source. I walked in the other day and could have sworn I heard angels singing at the entrance. It's full of all my favorite things--and perhaps the most dangerous place for tiny shit lovers like me. But the paper?! Giant sheets of wrapping paper, sold individually, in unique prints--vintage drawings, maps, funky illustrations, colorful art. At around $3-4 a sheet and big enough to frame, we raked up some new art for the house and found some inspiration for new projects.
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I framed a sheet of this vintage alphabet print for some new art above the girls' dresser....

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...and added an old eye chart above Dash's crib, using a 20x28 (fit perfectly, no cutting) poster frame from Michael's.
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Happy Happy Friday!  Create something happy this weekend.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Enjoying: Creative Swell

It's creative flood time. I never know when it's coming which is half the fun. It just arrives, like a tsunami, sent by the universe to swallow me whole, and I ride the waves. I want to inhale books and arrange flowers and write poems and paint murals and make up dances and listen to new music and log ideas in a pretty little notebook and try new lipstick colors and rearrange furniture and talk spirituality and cook something amazing and send happy mail to friends and paint a rainbow step stone path all the way up my driveway.  If I could map these swells out with some regularity and study arrival patterns, I would, but creativity doesn't work that way--at least not the tsunami kind. All you can do is feed that hungry beast.

This week we're enjoying...

New Sidewalk Art Supplies.
Which, when you're a kid and especially when you are a grown-up kid, is very exciting. Also ranking in exciting newness:

A new box of crayons
New tennis shoes
A new jar of peanut butter
New dish towels
New printed photos
New pens--the slick gel ones that glide nicely on paper
A new coffee mug
New mascara
New stamps--and not the plain old forever flag ones. That's mail blasphemy. We're talking a trip to the post office where you stand in line just to say, "Could I see all the stamp designs, please?" And you wait while the post office worker puts them all out on the counter. And you hold up the line while you decide, asking for input when necessary, comparing designs, holding them up in the light and squinting, imagining how they'd look on a nice envelope. And it's the hardest decision ever because the Janis Joplin stamps are so colorful and retro but the songbirds are soft and timeless. And then you find out they have Harry Potter stamps and, oh my God, the Hudson River School Stamps are absolutely gorgeous. But you make a decision because that's part of creativity too, and you walk out of the post office with a new book of beautiful stamps begging for some good snail mail to send out, and you feel all excited and grateful that someone in the stamp department understands that little things like offering different stamp designs can bring a tiny bit of sunshine to an ordinary day. Kind of like getting new sidewalk art supplies.

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A School Day Off
Thank you, George Washington. We all knocked out our teeth and replaced them with wood ones to celebrate you. Okay, we didn't but we made the best of a blessed Monday off by setting out on a mom adventure. Lots of kids, strollers, picnic blankets, packed lunches and a big 'ol state park.

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We hid in the Bamboo Forest which is really just a cluster of bamboo, but when you name places like they're stops on the Candyland board, life is more fun.

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Exploring the historic homes of Koreshan State Park:

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Wave jumping.
We don't stay long at the beach on windy days because there's sand and salt blowing everywhere, hair in your face and rough water, but Lainey loves it when we have waves. So do the people who own surf boards who mistakenly landed on the gulf.

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The first bouquet inevitably setting off my spring cravings which include pink, pink, mint and pink.

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Hand Dimples.
Right when he turns two and I'm missing smooshy baby and nuzzly newborn nurser and looking at all these pictures of other people's babies thinking, "Oh my God, I'll never have that again" when everyone's telling me "How is he two? He's HUGE!"...I look a little closer. I take him all in, study his curves and edges. And I stop at hand dimples. Chubby thumbs and thick skin and four little dots beneath those sticky fingers. He's still so little. I mean, hand dimples. Come on. We're good.

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Early Morning Endless Alphabet. 
And the soft spotlighting effect of natural light--I mean artificial iPad glow.

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Five Going on Sixteen.
Turn down your music and give me back my car keys.

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Afternoons with These Two.
A sweet window, this time with both of them home in the afternoon. We don't get a lot done unless you consider ransacking the house getting things done. But I love to watch them, the way they play, the way they fight, they way they make up.

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It's supposed to drop down to the thirties tonight which, for us, means digging for mittens and throwing an extra blanket on the bed. I'm going to lasso up that creative swell and serve it up to my family in a pot of hot soup, a blanket fort and a Cold & Cuddly playlist which includes all the three-name dudes: Gregory Alan Isakov, Benjamin Francis Leftwich and James Vincent McMorrow. They should have been presidents.

Bundle up and enjoy.

Creative swells call for creative lists so feel free to leave these four things in the comments if you're feeling it.

Last best reads: Still Alice, heartbreaking and beautiful. Currently reading War of Art again (it's a 5x a year read) and Soul Food, an out-of-print poetry book a new friend recommended--I can't put it down.
Music for a night in from the cold: Maxence Cyrin--haunting piano melodies, good with a glass of red wine, a new journal and a nice pen. Start with Where is My Mind, a question I ask myself more often than not.
What are you dreaming of for spring: Easter dresses for the girls; seersucker for Dash; a good deep house cleaning that doesn't involve shoving anything into a drawer, closet or under a bed to get rid of it; decorating projects; flowers, flowers, flowers; Peeps. And yellow...everywhere.
Last thing that made you laugh: Nella who hollered from her bedroom this morning, trying to get my attention: "Mommy! Mommy! Kelle Hampton!"

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