We took a vacation!

It was too hot for poetry.

The midday sun in Texas is scorching.  It’s as if a thousand angry hands are pushing you down, reflecting off the burning asphalt and returning to pull you towards the earth.  Your whole body feels heavy.  The short walk from our car into a grocery store one afternoon leaves me feeling used up, depleted.  Any thoughts I ever harbored about the possibility of living in Texas fly away as I remember the cool midwestern breeze that blows in the afternoons.  I could never live in a place where I couldn’t take my children outside in the afternoon to let them run off all that excess energy they harbor.

In the late afternoons though, the hot sun touches my bronzed shoulders as we laze in the pool, our bodies distorted by the ripples on the surface of the water.  I relax into the two pool noodles supporting my back, my legs held up by the noodle under my thighs and turn my face to the light.  This is heaven.

In the two weeks we were in Texas, Casey became an independent, confident little fish in the water.  Using a round yellow float with ducks on it, his “floaty thing”, he jumps from the top step of the pool stairway and kicks his way over to whoever is waiting.  Such a huge change from the first day we got here when he had to be held the whole time we were in the water.  It didn’t take long- testing the water (literally) each day as he tried something new, slowly letting go of our hands, determining that he could hold himself up and return to ‘home base’, aka the steps, when he needed to.  Soon he was on his own, requesting his squirt guns and letting us know when they were “out of juice” so the epic squirt gun battles could come to a halt while we reloaded.

Taking vacations with a two year old, the very meaning of the word “vacation” changes. No longer are the afternoons spent laying around relaxing, reading a book, taking naps and enjoying time doing nothing (though we certainly fit that in).  There is another person now, someone who must be entertained and taken care of.  He does not understand yet that a vacation should be that different from daily life.  There is the difficulty of adapting to a different time zone, getting used to new rhythms and finding that balance that allows you to relax and enjoy a vacation while simultaneously continuing to be a full time parent. But it also means watching your child explore and thrive in a new environment.  Seeing the look on their faces when they see something new for the first time and discover that the world is so much bigger then what they previously imagined.

Our two weeks in Texas was the longest vacation we have been able to take as a family since Casey was born and it was fantastic.  It was a much needed break from our daily routine and a wonderful way to spend some time as a family of three before we welcome our second boy into this world and discover life anew as a family of four.

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How does your garden grow?

When we first moved back into this house, I stood on my back porch and pictured exactly how I wanted our yard and our gardens to look.  The beds have gotten a bit overgrown the past few years and it will take a lot of work to transform it into the picture I see so clearly when i close my eyes.  And with a toddler, who is beginning to try to run and climb things???  I resolutely made it a five year plan.

This year one of the big jobs I wanted to tackle was redoing the bed underneath our front window.  I figured I would start with the front of the house, since it already has some structure and because it is the part that people see when they pass by. The bed was covered in Vinca, which i think is a very pretty ground cover in early spring when it turns shades of greens and sprouts pretty purple flowers, but the rest of the year, I find it a bit of an eyesore.  Plus it spreads soooo quickly that I needed to tackle it while I could.

Here is what the bed looked like before I put any work into it:

IMG_6104You can see the bird feeders that we spend so much time watching.  I love identifying all the birds that come to our feeders but I wanted the view to look prettier from both the street and from our perch inside the front window.  So, after a day of rain, which loosened the soil, I tackled this bed with help from my favorite side kick.

Casey was a big help.  I gave him a small shovel (not what is pictured here) and he dug in the dirt and helped pull the leaves off the Vinca vines and then put leaves and dirt into our yard waste bags.  When he got bored with that, he was quite content to fill a plastic planter with grass, dirt…my gardening gloves…

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The Vinca was not quite as easy as I though to get out, but with a lot of hard work and sweat, we did it!

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I look goofy in this picture but it’s the only one I got of Casey and I working together!

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Phew!!

 

Lucy helped too:

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Finally, we got the Vinca out and two days later, after a final trip to the Garden Center, I got all of my plants into the ground.  I actually dropped Casey off at great-grandma’s while I did this because the sky was threatening rain and Casey was not cooperating as well that day.  Here is the final result- I love it!


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I can’t wait until everything starts to grow bigger and fill the spaces in.  I also plan to add a few more Hostas and I did plant a few more Bleeding hearts behind the roses so they will add some greenery as everything fills in.

Lucky for us, it rained the next few days after everything was in the ground which was GREAT for the plants and less work for me.  And trust me, I needed the rest after this project!

The herbs I planted in a container on our back porch are really taking off.  I may have to move the basil into it’s own pot because it is doing so well!  Yesterday was the first time I harvested a few of them so I had fresh lemon balm tea yesterday and we had fresh basil and lemon thyme in our salad and on top of a pasta dish I made for dinner.  Yum!  This is turning out to be a pretty good season so far.

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Like a flower

“We must take care to open and bloom naturally and leisurely and keep the center.”

In the smile of a stranger, I found home.

I was pushing Casey in the stroller, walking along the river. The sun was high and hot in a blue sky, the birds were singing, turtles warmed themselves along fallen logs.  As the weather softens into summer these beautiful days call for long, leisurely walks along the water. This particular day, we were enjoying identifying the birds and feeling the sun warm our shoulders and our toes. The paved walkway was busy: men in business suits, jackets slung over their arms, groups of women walking together on their lunch break; a man jogged by listening to rap music, and a couple holding hands moved to the side as we passed, the woman standing slightly behind the man, holding onto his hand, lightly touching his shoulder with her fingertips.

In the warm weather, everyone seems friendlier.  People wave to Casey as we pass, joggers give a quick smile or a nod, people laugh at Lucy, our tiny dog, walking along side of us, her tongue lolling out of her mouth as she grins in the heat.   A woman, with a blonde ponytail, walked by in her yoga capris, earbuds connected to her iPhone.  She smiled at us, glancing first at Casey and then meeting my eyes as she said, “Hello!”  Just a simple, genuine hello but in that moment, I felt connected.  I felt like I was part of a larger community of people who love this city, who take advantage of it; people who have made their lives here and call it home, who are happy here.   I felt at home.

It’s ironic to me that this place, which I have run away from again and again, is now the one place I want to be the most.  It has taken a while to get to this point.  When I first moved here, as an insecure yet optimistic 14 year old, I was convinced that one day I would leave for the Golden hills of California and never return.  But three years after I did just that, I found myself once again back in the Midwest, confused and hurting, unsure of what I was supposed to be doing or who I was supposed to be.  I spent a few years biding my time until I once again found a reason to move away, this time to Seattle.

I loved Seattle, loved experiencing it with my, now, husband. I relished the days and nights we spent exploring the city, finding jobs to support ourselves, setting our own schedule, our own rules.  And yet there was always something missing, something that was harder for us to find in a big city- a sense of community.  We were far away from family and it was an expensive plane ride to go home.  When I became pregnant, we found ourselves longing for change once again and wondering what we were going to do when the baby came.   As often happens when you simply let things unfold naturally without forcing them, the universe and the generosity of the people who love us combined to give us the opportunity we had only dreamed about and whispered of in quiet moments.  And so we came home.

I don’t regret that decision for a minute.  We’ve been truly fortunate to have such wonderful, supportive families and friends who opened their arms to us upon our return.  The kindness we have experienced is sometimes overwhelming.

Periodically, I catch a glimpse into the lives of friends who are still single, living a life I once dreamed of, in cities around the world.  I find myself envious of their autonomy, their nights of limitless freedom.  But then I remember that perhaps that isn’t their whole story.  Many, many of these friends are happy and at peace with their lives, but I imagine that in their quiet moments they too have feelings of wanting something different, whether it’s a family or a quieter life, or simply a different apartment.  Most people have longings for something…else, hence the saying “the grass is always greener.”  The hardest thing is to find your center so that you are at home wherever you are.  It’s hard to see the inner turmoil of those who have not found this, but it is easy to see those who have.  They shine as if illuminated from the inside.  It is difficult to hang onto the feeling 24/7 but, increasingly, I too feel this inner illumination.

For a long time I thought that I could force this place to be home.  If our art was hung properly, our closets organized…it turns out it was something inside of me that had to be given time to flower, to find the right fit.  That’s the way of life isn’t it? It happens without your consent.  You can’t force a place to be home anymore then you can force a person to like you or force yourself to be someone you’re not.  But when you finally let go and get out of your own way, life just sort of opens up; like a flower.  It reveals itself in its own time and with proper attention and nourishment, it presents you with a thing of beauty.

Feeling this way, being centered and sure, feeling a part of a larger community, also brings with it openness to my creative energies and I’ve been rewarded with a wealth of inspiration lately.  Maybe its the extra dose of Vitamin D I’ve been getting or the fact that with Casey’s Grammy in town this past week I had some extra time to indulge in my artistry.  Whatever it is, it feels good. It feels…like I am home.

I made this mobile for Casey.  I call it ” A bit about the birds and bees.”  I love how it turned out.  I want to make another one for our bedroom, it’s so pretty!

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We also planted a small herb garden in a container on our back deck:

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Here are some other recent pics:

Casey making sure I'm seeing the Geese along the river.

Casey making sure I’m seeing the Geese along the river. (That’s strawberry on his lip.)

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Making silly faces on our walk.

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Enjoying the sunshine with Casey’s Grammy- Casey’s escaping!

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Finally got him to stay still for a decent group selfie.

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Casey loves going down the slide. He’s such a little dare devil! Here I am going down with him but he gets a thrill sliding down by himself and into my waiting arms.