Friday, February 27, 2009

I've been thorougly remiss ...

in not pointing any of the people reading this blog to the barefoot mama. She is hosting a week of Jane Austin and I have thorougly enjoyed every one of her posts. A wicked cold has prevented me from joining in the give away, but perhaps you could join in yourself?
Go on and read through a weeks worth of posts on one of our favourite authors. If I feel well enough I might join you later and pen a comment on why the Keira Knightley movie is but a cheap knock off that has little to do anymore with Austin's romance aside from the names of the characters.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ash wednesday

Today, with Ash wednesday, Lent starts. Fourty days to prepare, mentally, physically, emotionally, but most of all spiritually to renew ourselves in God's service at Easter. We can never show enough gratitude for what He did for us. We can never deserve His mercy.
What we do at lent is humbly trying to prepare ourselves, to make us closer into His image. We step into the desert for fourty days, retreating from the meatpots of consumerism and mindless, thoughtless living. And we focus.
Each day of the year we try of ocurse to become more Christ like. But during lent, we force ourselves to stand still even more. To deny ourselves in the flesh in the hope for more spiritual discipline, to better be able to receive His abundant Grace.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Etiquette: adapt, improvise or overcome?

According to Wikipedia, etiquette is a code that influences expectations for social behavior according to contemporary conventional norms within a society, social class, or group.

I love etiquette. But my problem is that aparently the etiquette that I adher to seems to belong to a different time or a different society than the one in which I find myself. I often have a vague feeling that this was the case, but today it struck home sharply after visiting of all things, an etiquette blog.
I stumbled over this blog (to which I will not link in this post for obvious reasons) following a little blog rabbit trail, as I do often if I have some spare time.

Unfortunately the first post was rather dissapointing to me. The writer had a very bad experience with someone over a swap. From what I read she had every right to be utterly dissapointed. Unfortunately she then proceeded not just to tell about this dissapointing experience, which I can understand, but instead of advising readers how to graciously handle such dissapointment she dragged the lady at the other end of the dissapointment through the mud in capitals, naming her by name, professional connections and allowing her anger to shine through in every word.

While I certainly think she was entitled to her anger, I wonder if her blog was the right forum for it. It's why I agonised over making this post and how to write it. Am I not guilty of the same thing in writing about something unpleasant here?
I think it's important for us to be honest in our blogs, and not to pretend we live a sugar and cream life in which our feet never touch the ground to brush a pebble. On the other hand, I think it is very important not to use our blogs to point a finger. The smallest child is taught that pointing a finger at someone is rude. We can be very honest about our experiences without, and this is where I find the important difference, embarrasing someone publicly. I do not write this post out of anger to the author of that blog, her post was just a little feather of inspiration so to speak, to put some dillema's in front of you.

When you have been raised a certain way, how much can and should you adapt to the culture around you? I have moved to the US three years ago and now in raising my son, I am trying to find the right balance between adapting to my new home country and the way I was raised.

For example, it is easy for me to still remain true to my mothers dictate never to embarrass someone else in public, because by doing so you will automatically embarras yourself. "You can not throw mud and keep your hands clean."

What is not so easy are matters more related to custom. Names for example. I grew up in the strict conviction that it is rude to address someone by their first name unless permission is given or exchanged.
You introduce someone as: "Please meet my friend, John Smith". And the correct answer is: "Pleased to meet you, Mr. Smith". Now, if Mr. Smith wants for a less formal rapport, he can say: "Oh please call me John". And from then on the title can be dispersed with.
The 'higher ranking' person is the one who is entitled to set the tone of an acquaintance. He or she is allowed to decide the level of formality. Higher ranking is not a matter of inherited titles, unless anyone has them. It can be determined by relationship. If someone is in a shop or restaurant as a customer, they have the higher rank. If people meet on equal footing, the eldest has higher rank, between a man and a woman, the woman enjoys the priviledge of higher rank.

I find it utterly annoying when people immediately address me with my first name. The first time it happened was when I was boarding an airplane and I nearly stood still to gape in shock. Well, that is a literary exageration, but the incident has still not left my mind years after the fact, so that speaks for itsself.

My question is now, should I adapt, or insist? Should I start introducing myself as 'Eva' instead of with my full name? How much of this is culturally determined? And how much of it is true politeness? Of course I will never insist upon is to the point of someone elses' discomfort. The perky flight attendant never knew that I spend the rest of the two hour flight mulling over the way she addressed me.

When I leave the house for a certain occasion, I like to dress up for it, whether it is a meeting or going to chuch, there are certain standards that I adher to. But, aside from church, I find mysef often feeling 'overdressed' since every occasion seems to call for jeans or slacks and truely beautiful outfits seem to have been deferred to weddings. Should I adapt? Is it custom? Culture? Or just general sloppiness? Am I relic from another time and would it be the polite thing to just adjust to the times? Or should I 'proudly but quietly hold up a standard', as the expression goes?

I am actually confused as to what the most kind and polite thing to do is in situations like these. And I want to try and clear up parts of my own confusion, since I am trying to train a young gentleman under my roof. He has an excellent example in his American father who has what I would consider oldfashioned European manners. But are those truelyEuropean? Or are they applicable in every Western society?

Can you help me out, ladies? What should I do?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Knitting update

A quick update on my sock. Well the one that I am attempting to knit. It has been busy so the progress has not been as fast as I wanted to. To my surprise the double pointed needles have not created any trouble. I have finished the cuff in kn1, P1 ribbing, and am now working on the leg in simple stockinette.
After that I will have to start on the truely scary part, which is the true shaping of the foot, turning the heel, etc. But I think that will be a week or more away from now. I wish we still lived in a society where it was acceptable to bring your knitting to meetings. which I avoid whenever possible. Most of the time when I go to a meeting, I feel like I am wasting time while others are discussing something, and I miss my knitting. Unfortunately I am convinced people would see it as a lack of attention if I hauled out my sock. But I am perfectly able to keep my attention on both, especially in this simple part of the sock. Ah well, we do what we can here at home.

The Simple Woman's daybook

I am following in Peggy's footsteps again and am exploring the day through her daybook format.

For february 23d

Outside my window... The sun is colouring everything outside my window a beautiful golden colour against a stark blue backdrop. A leaf is making summersaults on the streets now and again, encouraged by the wind, but the trees do not seem to wave as much. It might become a very nice day here.

I am thinking... about the way the rest of the day will go. How long will my cute boy leave me to finish this post? Will he be in a good mood? And will there be todler tantrums today? THey don't bother me too much, until about 6.30 pm when I am starting to get tired.

From the learning rooms... we are colouring with crayons and I am still making plans for the learning room that I will set up one day. Bookshelves, bins, a table, maybe a small mommy desk.

I am thankful for... my husband and his utter kindness and love towards me.

From the kitchen... I need to go shopping soon. Tonight probably will be spinach potato mash with bacon. Then tomorrow we will have pancakes for fat tuesday. I need to be ready for Lent.

I am wearing... a knit black and white dress with black top over it to combat the morning cold. I am even wearing boots on my feet. Yes! I managed to be well dressed when I am making this post!

I am reading... a magazine called "Real Simple". It was an impulse buy last night because I ran out of books. Still not something I should do too often, even if it is a nice read. But I really think the ratio advertisement to articles should be lower!

I am hoping... to be able to go to the library tonight, to have a good day with my little boy and to get some of the laundry backlog worked away.

I am creating... a sock. Yes, still that same sock. Things have been busy. I am also trying to create a wonderful and happy home. But that is a day to day project that will never be finished.

I am hearing... the clock, the zooming of my computer and now and again the floor creaking upstairs as my husband moves about.

Around the house... laundry today, as well as a serious sit down to make some preparations for lent. It's there in only TWO days!

One of my favorite things... Just enjoying the time to write my thoughts down, to craft a sentence and to sit here with a bit of sunlight playing near, slowing down and reflecting.

A few plans for the rest of the week...starting tonight with birthright, preparing for Ashwedneday, Ash wednesday mass. Starting the newsletter. And contacting a friend for a playdate.

Here is a picture thought I am sharing with you...

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Inspiration, another rabbit trail

I am upset with Preppy Cricket. Well... not really upset. But does she not know how dangerous it is first to post such magnificent foto's of childrens bedrooms. And then to mention the new website in which the furniture for these photo's is to be found? Leading me to discover a whole new website with cute and interesting childrens toys and furniture?
I am convinced she is in on a conspiracy! Emma started it with this play kitchen. For a while I had noticed my sons interest in stirring his own pot and so far I had nurtured it by leaving a few cabinets accessible to him so he could get out (unbreakable) pots and pans. I offered him a spoon and that was that. But Emma's playkitchen led to more ambitious plans. My son might like a playkitchen of his own. And I might like the freedom of movement to cook while he cooked alongside with me!

This was the result of my first brainstorm:

Yes, that is a shoebox that makes him a little stove and a big magnet (too big to swallow) as some food, as well as an empty box of macaroni to play with. I remembered the little kitchen in preschool which was stocked mostly with empty boxes and jars from parent's shelves. Then Kelly led me to her new website, full of plans and hopes to 'feather her new nest'. And the planning and decorating bug bit hard. Oh, it had been gnawing for a while now, leading to the earlier reorganising of my desk and the plans for a learning room. But now it truely started buzzing around my head as well with all kinds of possibilities to improve and beautify our house. Small projects here and there. Would that little shoerack that is just holding a box of diapers in the hallway not be better solution for a little stove than a shoebox? Hmmm... it could hold a small pot underneath and a spoon or such on the shelf and then on top he could be cooking... now that would work for now.

Already I had ordered a new Ikea catalog and had been looking at the clearance section of Pottery Barn for Kids and ToysRus furniture.
But now the Preppy Cricket added another website to look at. And guess what they have?

Is that not the cutest little toykitchen imaginable? It's portable which is perfect for our on the move boy. It's not too big, and best of all, it's only 35 dollars at
land of nod.

I think this actually might become the first toy mommy and daddy buy for our little boy. And there are so many cute new ideas and oportunities opening up for new improvements to our home. A learning room. Soon an end to the highchair and hello to booster seats. Crayons and paper and books are slowly replacing rattles and stacking rings. A whole new phase to adjust to and enjoy.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Feminine Friday

In Feminine friday, Kelly gives me an interesting dillema this friday. "What book do you feel best exhibits femininity or possesses a character who exemplifies positive feminine qualities?"
What do you mean 'what book'? You mean I should chose only one? Oh good heavens...

What books spring to mind immediately? Books that I love? One of my all time favorites is The Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Even though this is about a girl, not a woman, I definitely think it offers a glimp of how a child can grow into true womanhood. How kindness and determination under misfortune can shape a character. And how to keep up faith and hope when things seem to have no way out. I love Sarah Crewe's view on 'being a princess' and how she manages to be kind even while having lead a spoiled life.

Another favorite would be Sense and Sensibility. While most people immediately go to Pride and Prejudice as their favorite Austin, Sense and Sensibility has a special place in my heart, specifically because of the two qualities of which it bears the title: sense and sensibility. The combination of keeping to politeness and the demands of society on one side, to do your duty to your own family and to do so with a cheery face even when you feel like your heart is breaking, and a sincere love in your heart for others at the same time, to look at others and see their faults and still be able to love them, all that makes me a great admirer of Elinor Dashwood.

And then there is "Little Women". Few books have been written that so illustrate a coming of age of girls turning into women, becoming wives and mothers. Most people favor Jo. She is the quintessential heroine that so many teenagers identify with. Slightly ackward, wanting to rebel, writing stories, and trying to do 'something wonderful'. I too identified a lot with Jo, especially in her desire to write, naturally. And sometimes I wanted to be like Beth, full of cheerful self sacrifice and quiet caring.
Looking back and rereading the books at least once every year, I think my favorite heroine actually is Amy though. While I spoke of Laurie in this post, I am in awe of the way Amy manages to overcome her faults, the way she learns to put vanity aside but still value femininity, how she learns to handle the little humiliations of life with grace and heaps burning coals on the head of those that hurt her. How she manages to achieve domestic bliss and a serene spirit. Yes... Amy is definitely a favorite.

There are others though, probably not known to any but friends from Belgium or the Netherlands who read this book. Maud in "schoolidyllen" being the most notable one. Her combination of refinement and simplicity, as well as her sensitivity and desire for justice were something I always admired. And I always loved the ending of Hasse Simonsdochter. How she managed after the wild life she had lead with Jan van Schaffelaere not to be hardened and still do what was best for her daughter, to seemingly even becoming happy in a simple life, becoming a good wife.

Well... that was more than one book or one character, wasn't it? Let's better stop here before I start on French literature!

A fine... romance... with many kisses

I told you I was going to keep romance as the theme of the week. Yesterday I may have gotten distracted by the excellent post in the blog 'the delighed life, but today I am back again. Romance. Did you know that you can deliberately chose to be romantic?
When I walk across the street and see a young couple that is obviously in love, how do I see it? Well, they hold hands perhaps. They touch eachother, not especially in a sexual way, but as if they just love to be close to the other person. And when they talk they won't just speak about 'Brandon' or 'Elly', no there are little words of endearment escaping every now and then.
Some people think it's silly and annoying. I always thought it sweet. When I look at older couples in Church, I notice some of them are still holding hands, staying close whenever they can.

Maybe you have noticed on my blog that I rarely refer to my husband simply as 'my husband'. I speak of my 'beloved' husband. My 'wonderful' husband. My prince. When people point out how cute or handsome my baby is, I never fail to tell them how much he is like his dada. I love telling him how handsome he is. How I admire him. Usually these are not the long winded declarations of love you find here on my blog (and won't he be slightly embarrassed at all this praise when he peeks in), but just a little 'Have I told you how handsome you are?' as he is emptying the dishwasher, or reading a book and I pass by.

When I need to go do something difficult (like getting off the couch to get a glass of water after a long day of todler chasing) I tell my sweet husband that I will do it, but that I need a kiss for strength first. There are other ways to get an extra kiss in here or there. Like last week when we were driving to Hilton Head and he predicted we would be at our destination in 30 minutes. I bet him for a kiss that it would take us less than that. And then there are the kisses 'just because' you are just passing by eachother and a kiss is absolutely mandated.

Sometimes, when my husband does something that annoys me (believe it or not, even my wonderful, magnificent husband sometimes does things that annoy me) I make it a point to set it aside if it's a trivial matter and instead of harping on it, go and get a kiss. If it's something that seriously bothers me, I'll talk about it when I'm not feeling snarky or 'in the moment annoyed' anymore. Because that's usually when unkind words fall. And that extra kiss usually gets me over the annoyance pretty quickly.

I'm not trying to make anyone believe that ours is a fairytale life. We're a normal couple with many shortcomings before either of us manages to become a true mirror of Christ like love. But we have found out that even the most difficult time becomes a little bit easier when a small offering of love is made in a word, a touch, or a small or big action.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

I wish I had seen this post a few years ago...

Being an only child and the first in my generation of acquaintances to be a homemaker with children, my images of what my life as a homemaker would be came mainly from blogs. It seemed smart to listen to what other women, several with many more children than I, were doing during their day and find out what life as a homemaker would be like.

I wish I would have read this post, at a most excellent blog, several years ago. It may have saved me months and months of doubt and emotional heartache because I just felt like an utter failure as a homemaker and mother for not being able to create that same blog picture home here, while my baby didn't sleep for more than three hours during his first nine to ten months!
I honestly was ready to go back to work to pay for daycare because I was clearly not capable of doing this mothering thing. I hung in there, thanks to some people who were honest to me. Who told me that, while people may tell you to 'just enjoy this time because they are so tiny only so shortly', it sometimes simply isn't possible to enjoy it, because you are overexhausted. And the only thing you then have to do is love your child and survive. You don't need to love the situation, to love your child.
Seeing what a happy, healthy boy my Joseph is, I must have done something right.

I really want to encourage the women further along the mothering and homemaking path to be true Titus 2, 3-5 women:

"Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored."

Please encourage us to love our husbands and children, by showing us the beauty of being a homemaker IN the chasing of crumbs, the overexhausted days, the giving up of hobbies and sometimes even of our brain. My world has always turned around words, and sleep deprivation actually robbed me of the ability to find even the simplest words like 'fridge'. And I did not expect it. I didn't know being a mom and a homemaker was like that.

Many young women of my generation never had a real homemaker as a rolemodel. I tumbled into homemaking expecting hours to scrapbook, embroider pretty towels, set my table with linnen napkins, always have 5 shirts ironed for my husband, ready with full make up and perfume to greet him with a kiss when he came home while happy children crooned around my skirts exclaiming 'papa, papa' showing him the homemade cards and cupcakes we had made during the day.

And I am sure some glorious days will be like that. I have had days of utter contentment, playing with blocks after all the chores were done in a snap, towels folded, dinner in the crockpot, hair pinned in a pretty do and just happy, to enjoy my little boy. I have had a few days of that. But mostly I have had mere moments of that, in between chasing a todler, chasing crumbs, trying to cut up bell peppers for supper, to add to storebought sauce while someone is tugging at my leg saying 'mama, mama, mama' a hundred times over....
And I have days in which it all seems to fall apart and I am just whispering to God "please give me patience, please give me patience" in an unending prayer to just get through the next hour.

By now I accept this. I've adjusted the picture and I learned to love the reality. But I was very close to giving up on being a stay at home mother and homemaker all together, because I wasn't able to pose next to the 'glamour shot' of homemaking that I found in several blogs.
Sometimes it is easier to hang on if you know that you are not the only one who just found a five day old moulding banana hidden in the pan you were about to use for dinner for which you are already late, while the child you love more than life itsself is trying to get on your last nerve by tugging on your arm incessantly..
Or IS that just me?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Romance: take every day, before or after breakfast

Maybe I will keep romance as my theme for the week. After the high of Valentines day, there might be a slump in attention and I am a great admirer of romance. True romance that is. Now I don't have anything against roses, in fact I love them. Nor do I mind chocolates. I'm from Belgium. Just bring me the good stuff!
Too often we discourage girls to believe in romance because 'it's just movie invented hallmark induced fake stuff that has nothing to do with real life'. Not true. I experienced true romance this morning.

It was raining and on my way to dropping my husband off to work, I needed to get gas. I had been pretty grumpy during the morning since my usual routine was disturbed by getting Joseph out of bed half an hour earlier. I am still a novice driver and probably was not driving my best. I guess something in the set of my mouth told my wonderful husband that I was not in the best of moods. And as I pulled up at the gas station, knowing how much it rained, he simply offered: "Shall I do it?"
To me this is the modern day equivalent of someone spreading his coat out over a puddle. Only it is eminently more romantic since I won't need to wash a sodden, muddy coat. True romance is quietly offering to go out through the rain to fill up the tank so your wife doesn't have to. It doesn't come more simple or more sweet than that.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Literary Romance: great husbands are men of virtue

Last weekend there were a lot of posts about romance in blogland, most of them inspired by valentines day. As I mentioned in my previous post: some people love the day, some people dislike it, but many were inspired by the holiday to give their thoughts on romance. I would like to throw my own little stone in that pond.
I have recently seen many posts that encourage young women to adjust their expectation of a husband. I am in great agreement with that idea if it encourages young women to let go of movie star expectactions and disney princess dreams. Sometimes though, it seems we ask women to give up their hopes and dreams and to 'settle'. As long as he is a Christian... everything else should be ok if you pray a lot about it. I know that God can do amazing things, but our expectations as women will often determine what the goal is that men strive for.
I was struck by this post from the Joyfully home blog. Don't you just love that title?

I agree with a lot of what Jasmine says, but I was struck by these passages:

Many of us would be indignant if young men expected us to look like Anne Hathaway, to act like Anne Elliot, to have an accent like Kate Winslet, to be as tall as Cate Blanchet, and yet to be as spiritually mature as Sarah Edwards or as intelligent as Abigail Adams!

As charismatic as Mr. Knightly may be, I haven't seen him gallivanting around in the twenty-first century, nor should you expect to. As beautiful and multi-faceted as Elinor Dashwood may appear, I am not her, and neither are you. Who we are is children of a sovereign King Who has given us biblical standards for true femininity and masculinity, standards that supersede every romantic notion in our heads, and standards that will be a much stronger foundation for a God-honoring marriage.

Now as far as I know Jane Austin, and Louisa May Alcott who is mentioned further in the post, there is barely ANY emphasis on the looks of their male heroes. On the contrary. All good, marriageable men are recognized by their actions, their behaviour, their... virtues.

Let me give a little summary of some of the well known 'heroes of young womens' literature'.

Colonel Brandon is attentive, steadfast and takes on responsibilites for those weaker than him. He is willing to put his own happiness aside for Mariannes.
Mr. Knightleys great virtue lays in his honesty and moral guidance towards Emma, as well as his greater tolerance for the weaknesses of others.
Edward Ferrars goodness is seen in his lack of snobism, his desire for a simple life and his commitment to a given word, even when it goes against his own happiness.
Mr. Darcy becomes a 'hero' in his willingness to overcome his pride, to confront someone he loats in order to save the woman he loves more public embarrassement and an uncertain future, even after she has previously refused his proposal.
Laurie from Little Women and Good wives sets aside his own desires and grows up. He is man enough to realize that his dream of becoming a genius composer is a castle in the air and instead devotes himself to working in his grandfathers company. He sets aside a passionate youthful infatuation to find a more mature love.
Mr. Brooke is a simple, honest man, who works to provide a living for his family and offers his wife strength,spiritual guidance and growth.
Mr. Bhaer takes care of his nephews, putting more lucrative offers aside to devote himself to his responsabilities. He is generous even when he himself is not rich and is willing to give guidance to a young woman far away from home. He corrects callow youths who try to reason God away and is willing to 'work and wait' to be able to marry.

Does that sound like the current movie star standard? Very few words in the books are actually devoted to the looks of these men. It is NOT their appearance that makes them great husbands, both Austin and Alcott make the virtues of these men the reason why they are worthy of a good wife.

When Jasmine says that Mr. Knightley does not gallivant around in the twentyfirst century, I must correct her. He does. He just does not look like Mark Strong or Jeremy Northam. If I look at my own husband, I can find so many of the qualities of these Austin and Alcott heroes in him. A good provider, a genuinely kind man, someone who helps me grow in spirituality, someone who is attentive, who is steadfast and loving. I could add to the list for a long time. I am not much of a novel writer, but if I was, he would most certainly make a great Austin style hero.

Heroes are around us. They may not look like the moviestars that play heroes, but they have the same qualities still. The qualities that we find in the bible. Because the 'chivalrous impuls' that makes Mr. Darcy protect Elizabeths good name, even when she has rejected his proposel is but a mirror of what Joseph, husband of Mary does in offering to divorce her quietly instead of slandering her good name and possibly sentencing her to death when he finds out she is with child.
Larie's easy compliments of his talented wife near the end of the book is the Proverbs 31 husband praising his wife in the gates of the city.
Edward Ferrars commitment to do what is right is reflected in Boaz who first settles things with Ruths relative who might have greater rights, before taking her as his wife.

I am certainly not implying that our literary heroes are as great as the biblical ones. I am saying though that virtues have not changed. And that there are still men around that posess those virtues that we dream of as little girls. They might not look like Colin Firth (though I personally think my husband quite handsome), but the Mr. Knightleys' Darcy's and Brooke's and Laurie's of this age are well worth waiting for.

I waited for one until I was 28 before meeting him. Now, being married to him nearly three years and with a son, I can tell you that romance, the true and wonderful kind, is a part of my daily life. Do not give up on the heroes. They are there.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Saint Valentines Day

Happy Saint Valentines day everybody!

I know several people who dislike Valentine's day. I know even more people who complain about how commercialised a holiday this is, and how it truely is a Hallmark invention. The explenation then goes on about how we should show eachother every day how much we love them and maybe a complaint about the price of roses or chocolates is thrown in.

I can understand these sentiments. And I would never let an oportunity go to waste for blaming a big company for some of the ills of this world. But in truth, Valentines day is as commercialised as you want it to be. As I type this, my husbands Valentines day present is in the oven. I am baking him a dozen rose shaped cupcakes. The fact that they are cupcakes is for him. The fact that they are rose shaped probably more for me, because for him just any cupcake would be a great gift. The fact that they are rose shaped does not matter much, as long as they are edible, which still remains to be seen as I had to substitute some ingredients in the recipe. Oh well... I have a back up: a box of nilla wafers.

Yes, my friends, a box of nilla wafers might be my Valentines gift to my husband, and you know what? He would be delighted with them. Not just because they come from me, but because he sincerely loves nilla wafers and we never keep them in the house. It's a treat. Something that shows I love him, that shows I want to do something for him, even if it's just picking up a box of Nilla wafers because I know they make me smile. They are storebought in contrast to the cupcakes, but I doubt they are what people have in mind when they complain about the commercialisation of Valentines day.

The other complaint 'that you should show people you love, every day how much you love them' seems very valid at first. Unless... why if you show people you love, every day how much you love them, you don't need to step out of your ordinary pattern for Valentines day at all. Just go on showing!
Since you are doing it every day, this should be simple right? I think most people who complain about the extra effort do not take that much effort to begin with. Valentines day is not the only day that I make cupcakes out of the blue, just because he likes them. Or that I pick up a treat just to make him happy. I just love making him happy.

******we interrupt this blogpost for an important message: the cupcakes are now out of the oven and definitely a failure! I fear they are inedible, probably due to too much baking powder. A good thing I have the Nilla wafers as a back up, and a cute little card! Now back to our scheduled post singing the praises of Valentines day*****

I just like the fact that there is a day designated to remind us to be good to those we love. That are reminded once a year not to go through our daily life without telling people how much they mean to us. It may be slightly artifical, but how many of our feast days and customs are? As humans we cultivate the soil, artificially creating fields of food that would never happen in natures wonderful chaos this way. It is part of our nature to plan and to organise. Setting aside a feast day to remember something is a time honoured tradition. In all cultures things are celebrated on certain days, the sun, birth days, maturity, coming of age, religious holidays... we surround ourselves with rituals that measure time in precious moments. Valentines day can be such a precious moment if you let it. No need to buy a hallmark card. No need to spend a lot of money. No need to commercialise your love. Just enjoy this extra oportunity to show the ones you love, how much you love them.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Joseph sings.... Beyonce and JayZ?????

Ahhh... the failings of motherhood. Shannons children sing the Litany of the Saints in Latin in bed. Joseph sings... Beyonce and JayZ.
I have considered long and hard before putting this on my blog. But I figured people reading this deserve the chuckle.

To my defence, I did not know it was Beyonce. To my beloved husbands discredit... he did. *LOL* Here is the story. When Joseph falls or drops some thing, mommy and daddy often say 'uh oh'. For some reason, from somewhere, I got this whole 'uh oh uh oh uh oh-oh-oh-oh' melody in my head when doing that one day.
I blame the fact that I was teaching highschool around the time this number came along and I must have picked it up from my students. It sounded fun and I repeatedly sang it when I caught myself saying 'uh oh'.

When Joseph started to repeat the 'uh oh' melody, it was very cute. His first song. I even caught it on camera. After a few weeks of this, I mentioned out loud to my wonderful husband that I wish I knew what it was and where I had picked it up.... He mentioned Beyonce and the song 'Crazy'. I looked it up today on Youtube. (not advisable) "Uh oh!" is right.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Simple hospitality

Last night there was a meeting of the board of the Ladies committee of our Church at my home. All the arrangements had been made informally and all of a sudden on the day itsself I found out that there would be thirteen of us trying to cram into my empty front room. There was talk about food and all of a sudden it seemed overwhelming.
One of the ladies brought a fold out table, I put on a crockpot of pea soup, and gathered every mismatched chair in the house in the front room. Everybody brought food it seemed and despite the fact that the meeting was pretty exhausted, it felt good to have everyone sit there in that front room. The table was borrowed, but I had a table cloth that fit just right, and we all just barely fit. After the meeting, we all had food, things varied from chex mix, to Asian slaw, from brownies to pea soup, from Lasagne to quiche to coconut pie... And it was marvelous. We stood around or found chairs back in the front room, we talked of husbands and children and Joseph ran all through it. ]
Sometimes it just does not take much to have a wonderful gathering. Sometimes it just takes the effort to open your door and let people walk in.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Commitment to loveliness

Two new posts this morning, and two blog ideas from others that I like to participate in.
Emma offers us a new challenge in her commitment to loveliness. Small things really do change a life.

Last challenge, these were my attention points
- I will drink more water! (did this a bit, but not enough)
- I will use a bit of make up. (did this a bit, but need to do more)
- I will remember to put on jewelry (I was pretty good about that one)
- I will clean the floor at least every other day (mmmm... no. Should have)
- Make an appointment with the dentist (I tried. I honestly did. But that office closes at the weirdest hours)

So this week I will focus on the following things to allow more loveliness in my own life:
- Drink more water
- MAKE that dentist appointment
- put on a bit more make up
- put some flowers in the house
- try to keep the desk area tidy

The Simple Woman's Daybook

Enjoy the Simple Woman's Daybook in all it's original glory.

FOR TODAY the 9th of february 2008

Outside my window...It's sunny outside and the sky is as blue as a robins egg. The trees look almost pale gold against this backdrop and everything just seems to gleam. A bird just flew by in the yard across the street and made me smile doing so. I can also see some shot up weeds in my fairly brown front yard. It needs some more care now that the weather seems to be turning to sunny and warmer.

I am thinking...that I wish I could have some more sleep. It's shaping up to become a busy day though, and I doubt there will be time for a nap. I have a meeting this evening, food to make for it, a baby to play with and some other things that desperately need doing instead of thinking of it.

I am thankful for... The state of my desk which actually looks not just tidy, but even nice. I should look in the garden later for some flowers.

From the learning rooms...Still dreaming about how to decorate a learning room. We spend some time yesterday with flashcards and discovered that Joseph knows about a third of all the words already. Wow.

From the kitchen...crockpot peasoup for this evening, with smoked sausage. I have a meeting and this is an easy and wintery meal. Looking at the day it might shape up a bit warm for it though.

I am wearing...A red tunic shirt and a dark wash straight legged jeans. I am not that fond of wearing jeans. They can look fabulous, but they so often become the item that you wear because your laundery hasn't been done. (or is that just me?) I prefer wearing a dress or a skirt. Still, at least this monday I am not posting in a fuzzy bathrobe!

I am creating...I am still working on my sock, it will take a long time, since for now it's only a round here and there that gets finished. I am also currently considering working on a recitation around texts from Hildegard of Bingen. But that is just in the concept stages.

I am stay calm, happy and serene today, despite the lack of sleep.

I am reading...'Drunk, Divorced and covered in Cat hair'.

I am hoping... for some new creative possibilities in my life to work out.

I am hearing...The sound of a duckling on a youtube video as my son is watching duck and dog while sitting on my lap.

Around the house...Tonight the house will be clean, clean, clean.

One of my favorite things...musicals. The dramatic music of musicals give me that extra boost to get things done when I have difficulty getting myself into gear, like I am this morning.

A few plans for the rest of the week: meeting tonight, need to finish up the newsletter, want to go to the childrens museum with Joseph, and need to start thinking about a lent menu.

Here is picture thought I am sharing...

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Every woman needs beauty

You may remember how a visit to a friends house a few days ago, made me feel slightly melancholic for the days in which I could surround myself with embroidered napkins instead of paper towels and my decorating dreams centered around pottery barn catalogues instead of ToysRus.
I know that with children there will be messes and that there will be toys littering my living room for a long time still. We hope to be blessed with more children so for the next few years this cycle of diapers, strollers, plush toys and plastic trains will repeat itsself.

As Cricket remarked though, a woman needs to surround herself with some things of beauty. I did, and I do. But the challenge is to stop that beauty from being snowed under. So two days ago, I treated myself to a visit to Staples. With a few simple purchases I managed to reorganise the build-in desk I have here in the living room. And for the last two days it is making me smile.
A pretty, small red fileholder and two drawer organisers were all that I needed. I moved everything I frequently used from the big black scrapbooking tote that had served as my office supply cabinet into the desk drawers or the fileholder. Tossing a lot of paper clutter and rearranging some pictures did the rest. The scrapbooking tote as well as the yarn went upstairs to the craftroom where they belong. And it even gave me some room to put some Joseph friendly art supplies in the little cupboards under the desk.

The result is a workspace that looks much more inviting. The picture frames lend it some elegance, the fileholder is a nice pop of colour and there is room now for a little vase with flowers as well. Maybe as the weather turns warmer, there will be some from my own garden that will add their beauty to this little corner. But even now, I feel happier looking at my desk.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

How much is that doggie in the... cupboard?

My little boy, who has never been that interested in stuffed animals, developed an interest pretty rapidly in sleeping with them over the last month. It started out with duck. Actually, it started out with an empty cola bottle that daddy gave him to play with when he layed down for a nap. It kept him quiet instead of having him start nap time off howling. We found out that if we gave him his duck to take along to bed for naptime, he would go without much protest.
But after duck he also wanted to take doggie. And then after doggie he also wanted to take bear. Which is why each time when he goes up to bed, the whole menagerie goes along. And each time we bring him down, all three animals need to be taken down with him, where they are promptly forgotten once he has set foot on the living room floor.

But a few days ago, doggie went missing. For two naps and nights, we could not find doggie. We looked around at bedtime, but... no doggie under the couch, no doggie in the playpen. No doggie in the toybasket. No doggie under the desk.
Joseph asked after 'woefwoef' a few times, but was pretty content to go to bed with duck, bear and a toy horse added into the mix instead. Still, we wondered where the doggie had gone.

Last night, I really wondered 'now where could that dog have gone'? I tracked in my mind all the places where Joseph tends to play and all of a sudden I got it! I went to the kitchen, opened the doors to one of my bottom cabinet.. and upon closer inspection saw a little snout peeking from the deepest shadows of the cabinet. He had locked woefwoef in the cabinet!
I called Joseph and pointed. He immediately fell upon the little dog with great enthousiasm, dragging him out, hugging him close..... to then drop him on the floor again and forget all about him. Ahh, such a fickle, fickle love. And that while doggie has actually been with him since he was a tiny baby.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The road to sainthood

As I was trying to buckle Joseph in his carseat on the parking lot at Aldi's, I had a small revelation. Paul had his on the road to Damascus... mine came on a slightly more mundane place. Though to be completely honest, I do not know how mundane the road to Damascus was for him at the time.

I was muttering about the acrobatics of a sixteen month old todler, too big for the buckles in the Aldi shopping cart, pondering about something I wanted to write and wondering why my road to sainthood could not be made by reading and writing beautiful things and singing Gods praises instead of wrestling with an adorable 16 month old who pooped his diaper out during naptime for the second time this week. That would make this whole 'becoming more Holy' thing a whole lot easier. I love my son, and quite frankly I love being a mom. But I am not always certain if I am that good at it.

I am pretty good at teaching. At reading things and explaining them to other people. Even sometimes at writing. I am good at it, and I love it. So why does God chose to refine me through dirty diapers and a mama climbing boy? Because I clearly feel that tending to Joseph has already helped weeding out sins like selfishness, procrastination (you can NOT procrastinate on a dirty diaper or a hungry child) and vanity. I wish I could say that these sins have been plucked right clean out of my heart, but like with weeds, it just doesn't work that way, and I will be weeding my hearts garden until the day I die.

I realised I was confusing two things. Reading, teaching, speaking in public might be my talents, my charisms. They are gifts from God. They come from him and I need to use them in His service. But that does not necessarily mean that they are the things I will need to use most in my quest to become more like Him. They are not the muscles that need the most training.

If you look in the bible, God often calls people to do exactly what they do not seem to be very good at. Moses as a public speaker? David as a Giant slayer and a king? That does not mean they do not use their particular talents in his service, but what he asks of them to give to Him, is not just the best part of themselves. In giving over the smaller parts, the things that maybe are not their greatest talent or fondest occupation, they give themselves more completely. Maybe our talents will be what will be noticed most by others in His service, maybe they will even accomplish the most in His plan for others, but what matters most are the things that refine us unto His will. What refines me most is not just the use of the 'best parts' of me, but exactly the use of those parts of me that need a whole lot of work.

Joseph's vocabulary

Inspired by our doctors visit I sat down an tried to remember which words I heard Joseph use frequently. Within twenty minutes or so, my husband and I reached the following list and I thought it would be nice to have a memory later of Joseph's vocabulary at 16 months old. New words seem to be added almost daily.

Nijn (a Dutch book character)
wah (waffle)
nana (banana)
Jee (Jesus)
ho (hot)
keey (key)
Ki-y (kitty)
woef woef (dog)
wroar (lion)
duh (duck)
bah (bath)
co y (cookie)
Boh (block)
c'rrr' acke (cracker)
Bye Bye
booh (book)
ouh (out)
buh (outside, from the Dutch buiten, though sometimes he uses ouh. Buh is also used for button)
teeh (teeth)
Mmmma (Oma)
Meh (drink, from the Dutch melk, milk)
Beh (bear)
baaaaah (for the sheep)
boo (for the cow)
Uh-Oh (if something falls or spills)

There are probably a few others that are escaping me at the moment. There are also a lot of words that he recognises but does not say yet. If you ask him to bring you his shoes or his socks, he will do so. And there are several more words that I have heard him say once or twice but that I don't hear consistent enough to consider them part of his vocabulary.
But some words I am particularly proud of. Like 'Jee' (hurray for lots of Jesus in our daily lives) and 'booh' (hurray for reading 10 to 20 books a day). To my utter surprise, he does not say 'no' yet... but I doubt I will have to wait long.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A glorious day

Last Saturday was not my most wonderful day. Yet I am proud of myself for being able to look past the borders of that day, even while it was going on, and look to the better days and even the magical ones.
Today was one of those gold bordered days it seems. And I had actually been dreading it. To avoid a long wait at the doctors I had snagged the second spot of the day, which was at 8.30 am. But since I had to bring my husband to work first (we chose to be a one car family) We needed to leave the house at 7.30 am. Two hours before Joseph's usual wake up time. And I do not like to tamper with his sleeping or nap schedule.

I could have spared myself all the worrying. Joseph behaved perfectly. He played nicely in the waiting room. He charmed all the nurses. And the doctor. Weight and height are in perfect proportion and he is way ahead of his 16 month development. In fact he would be ahead for his 18 month check up in cognitive as well as physical skills, and has a vocabulary triple of what an average sixteen month old has. Aside from that, he cried only for about five minutes when getting his shots and then was back to his sunny self.

He behaved incredibly well the entire day, playing a lot, bringing books and just being very sweet. It was so visible to me what a little sponge he is. And I feel so blessed to be able to spend this much time with him. I saw him select four puzzle pieces that together made up a yellow truck out of a whole box of puzzle pieces. He somehow knew that these pieces went together, even if he can't yet fit them together perfectly all the time. It just amazes me how much he can do already, how much he anderstands and how much every little game of blocks, puzzles and itsy bitsy spider helps him learn more things.
And as the most wonderful bow around the package, he is such a happy, affectionate boy, friendly towards other people, and loving towards his parents.

Ah yes, today is one of those gold border days!

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Simple Womans Daybook

Enjoy the Simple Woman's Daybook in all it's original glory.

FOR TODAY the 2d of february 2008

Outside my window...I can't see the sun, but there is this silvery light shimmering over the street that holds the promise of a sunny day. I hope it get's warm today so that Joseph and I can spend some time in the garden. I have such plans for the garden for this spring and summer.

I am thinking...that it is almost time to get my little pumpkin baby out of his bed, and I hope he and I will have a wonderful day together. I love the way he sort of 'pops up' like a little Jack-in-the-box when I get him out of bed and then exclaims 'mama' in that wonderful suprised voice of his as if he is happily amazed to see me.

I am thankful for... an email from a friend last evening, and a wonderful compliment that put an immediate end to a grumpy mood.

From the learning rooms...I am actually considering making a 'learning room' in my house. We are not there yet of course, but I am starting to have some lovely plans in my head.

From the kitchen...Spaghetti this evening, with my homemade sauce with beef, tomato, bellpeppers and carrots. I am also going to cook more healthy this week. I have bought a few of the ingredients that I need. One of my problems is that I shop at Aldi's every week and many ingredients that I want or need for healthy cooking are not available there, like wholegrain pasta, lentils, not to mention spiced oils, tofu or 'health food' that is not chemically engineerd. I like their fresh foods and even some of their frozen selection. But I spend a 'big shopping' at our local publix to add some ingredients for the next few weeks.

I am morning bathrobe. I wish I could put something else here, and I can tell you that I do not spend my day in this thing. It is my 'waking up' attire, because the house is cold and I just shrug something on when going downstairs and then put 'real clothes' on a few hours later when the rest of the household gets up. I should however get back in the routine of immediately dressing in the morning.

I am creating...I am TRYING to create a sock. There will be some up and downs in the process.

I am buy another package of sock needles so that I have the one missing size three double pointed needle.

I am reading...'Bringing up baby Bilingual' from Janet Merril.

I am hoping... for a nice week with some special surprises for my mom, and some clear answers from the doctor on Joseph's possible food allergies.

I am hearing...The murmur of my husband reading the liturgy of the hours.

Around the house...I will tackle some laundry sorting today. Strange that that's a chore that I keep postponing while I actually don't even dislike it.

One of my favorite the idea that we will soon have warmer weather. I love living in the South.

A few plans for the rest of the week: Going to the doctor with Joseph, finish up a promising roleplay, get started on my sock, go to the museum, find out when storytime starts again, start writing a newsletter and keep the house in order

Here is picture thought I am sharing...

The sock

Goodmorning and a great week to all!
Tiffibug is helping me out in my quest to knit a sock. It seems a slightly insane idea for someone who learned how to knit only a few months ago to attempt a sock, but there is something about the idea that stuck into my mind. So far I have knitted scarves, shawles and baby booties.
Why socks? I can probably put the blame on the often quoted book: "No idle hands, a social history of American Knitting." (I will get everybody to read that book.) It gave me just a little taste of knitting and especially of the idea of knitting socks.

Unfortunately there seems to be some sabotage going on. Knitting lingo is scary and it took me a while to find a pattern that didn't frighten me away from my needles. After I finally found a pattern that seemed both readable and doable I didn't have the right needles. I bought a circular needle in the right size, but the cable turned out not to be flexible enough or long enough for the magic loop knitting I was hoping to try. Luckily I had bought a back up of double pointed needles and I looked forward to start my first training sock this morning. Only to discover after I opened the package that I am one needle short. The pattern I use requires five needles and this package only contains four. Strange, since the package of wrong sized sockneedles that I bought a week earlier did have five needles per set.
Well, back to my practice swatch it is until I have the right needles. I might even eliminate some mistakes this way.