march

2.boys

Hi!  It’s still March, right?  I’m getting this post up just under the wire, of my personal March deadline.  Yes, no problem.  When I only post once a month, it seems like there is so much  that happens!

Our lives have been a flurry of kid-paced activity these days…which is to say, sometimes I feel like we are whirling around doing a thousand things at once and sometimes I feel like time has never moved so slowly. (i.e., while I’m waiting for someone to put their own shoes on….)

I have a love/hate relationship with this time of year in Portland.  It’s rainy and grey and still cold — I am sick of wearing corduroy pants and wool cardigans.  I’m tired of soup.  And yet — the daffodils bloom all over town early March and I feel like they are speaking to me personally!  As if to say, “hold on, Mary.  Spring is around the corner, summer is coming!”  Have you ever seen a friendlier face than that of a daffodil?  Oh, I just love them.  The spring blossoms in Portland are just outrageous — all the flowering trees make it seem like a magical kingdom and their soft pinks and sweet lavenders and buoyant whites poke out in colorful majesty against the grey sky.  It’s breathtaking just walking/driving/biking down the street.

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Orlis and I have been busy with projects — grabbing our duo hours here and there while Lenox naps and doing messy things with them.  Glueing fabric scraps to pieces of cardboard and making volcanoes with baking soda!  Endless fun!  This past Christmas, Orlis’ most beloved godmother gave him the greatest gift ever — a subscription to Green Kid Crafts.  Every month he gets a box in the mail with 3 craft projects inside.  They are great!  We’ve made soap, shadow puppets, volcanoes, stuffed animals, paper lanterns, and all kinds of other cool stuff.  The crafts in the box get us going and then we get craft-minded and start making up projects of our own.  I love making things alongside little hands.  It’s like having a new pair of eyes.  Wonder-filled.featherhangingfeather

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When you live in Portland, you need to have indoor hobbies.  That’s what I always tell the checkout folks at the grocery store while we watch the rain outside — “it’s a good thing for indoor hobbies!”  I’ve been sewing every little chance I get.  Reversible sun hats for the boys (hoping the sky will take a hint), some placemats out of a table runner that I made last year and never used, a fun springy version of the Washi dress (hoping the temperatures will take a hint; I’d actually like to make about 5 more of these in every cool fabric I see), and some very cool little feather quilts for my walls.  I felt these two walls flanking our little living room side window were begging for some art, so I decided to turn Anna Marie Horner’s feather quilt into some mini’s for the occasion.  Anna Marie gave me the pattern, and wonderful Melissa from her blog gave me the courage.  They bring such a softness to this room, and a sense of whimsy.afterlenoxo.w:farmtablerunnercut tablerunnerplacemats.ongreenpants

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Mostly we are spending our days remembering to breathe through the moments that require lots of patience and reminding our hearts and bodies to laugh.  Growing pains are hilarious if you allow them to be.  Rough little hands can so quickly become soft hands with the right coaxing, and I know someday, I’ll sleep!  In the meanwhile, summer is coming soon, and my mind shifts towards that moment when I realize we are spending more time outdoors than in.  With that in mind, we have mud piles and sand piles to create for summer fun, and maybe — if it doesn’t incense the neighbors too much — the makings of an outdoor sound wall in the backyard.  And in the meantime, there’s leftover birthday cake to eat and an endless supply of fabric in my studio…..

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lenox hatorlisringcakebirthdayblowoutHappy Spring!  See you next month….

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february

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Happy Love Month, friends.  Here I am, checking in mid-February, as promised.  It’s been strange, wild weather around here — most of January sunny, bright, and in the 50s, and then the last 4 days we’ve been completely covered in snow and ice.  We didn’t leave the house for 3 whole days and I think they were the 3 best days of Lenox’s life.  (re: no carseat time).  We’ve been busy — especially with our hands!  Late January and through this ice storm, we have had our hands in a hundred projects all at once, just the way we like it.  Oh, how I love these winter days with some good excuses to stay inside and delve into our “indoor hobbies” as I like to call the best things in life (cooking/sewing/crafting/baking/reading).  The rituals of this time of year are dear to me — slow-cooking winter soups on the stove, flannel pajamas worn into the lunch hour, and time to dream and make bucket lists of all kinds.  We’ve been talking a lot about our nighttime dreams these days — sometimes acting them out and sometimes just remarking how weird and wonderful it is to dream.  And, we’ve been dreaming about all the things we want to do before…hmmm…I don’t know, summer?  Like make more goop.  And make more flubber.  And make more playdough in every color.  And make more baby quilts out of old sweaters and make more magnetic fish for our magnetic fishing pole.  (Sometimes Orlis can catch 5 fish on his line at one time!)

Finally, I got around to making a simple valance for our dining area window and then Orlis and I sat at my machine and sewed a heart garland to mark Valentine’s week.  We caught wind from the preschool that it’s ok to bring a Valentine for everyone this Thursday so, as you might imagine, we got right to it and cut up our garland scraps and started collaging some paper hearts.  Orlis chose the word “friends!” to mark his sweet creations.  I just love them.

Lenox is getting to be quite the tubble-butt — boy, does that boy like to eat.  (the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree there.)  Now he crawls around following Orlis wherever Orlis goes (which is in mad circles around the house from dawn until we strap him into his bed at night….j/k)  To prompt brotherly cooperation, we’ve taken to letting Orlis brush Lenox’s 6 teeth which makes everyone giggle and still gets the job done.  The soup/stew section of our family favorites recipe book is getting a lot of love — we go back and forth between potato leek soup and baked potato soup and throw in some winter root vegetable chowder for good measure.  I’m finally getting into the groove of bread-baking, finding a natural rhythm with it, and finding it is, of course, so easy.  Just a whole lot of do-nothing, really, with this recipe.  It’s SO delicious and makes our house smell the way I imagine heaven smells.

I’d like to make a bucket list of slow-cooker recipes but only absolutely delicious ones, and make my way through them in the next month or two.  I have a few I like but not enough.  I’d love some vegetarian ones too — maybe something Indian-inspired.  Do you have anything you’d love to share?

Happy Valentine’s Day, by the way.  I’m thinking we’ll start ours with a dance party to appease the mini-bootyshakers in this house, and end it with a round-table appreciation ritual at dinner time.  Now that’s lovin’.

See you next month!

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january

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Hi.  I’ve missed you.  Happy New Year!  I’m so happy it’s January.  I like the twinkly, food-and-wine heavy, long (short) days of December but, for me, they don’t hold a candle to the fresh, buzzy days of early January.  In December we made gnocchi, we played instruments, we took walks, we lit lots of candles.  It was lovely.  But, ahhhh….January.  A new year.  A new list.  A few resolutions.  A bustling energy for cleaning out drawers and amping up the old morning jog.  Ah yes, this is much more my speed.

I feel that I owe you an explanation for my relative absence in this space the last several months.  Of course, I’m sure you’ve guessed that I’m just busy now with 2 kids — and that is, indeed, mostly why I haven’t been checking in as often.  I only have about a total of 3 hours a week of “me time” (on the mornings when Orlis goes to preschool and Lenox is taking a nap) and truth be told, usually I’d rather be sewing or reading than going anywhere near my computer during those cherished 3 hours.  So, I’ve been sewing a LOT and I’m so sorry…not showing you ANYTHING!  (shame!).  But, the other issue is, I just haven’t been taking that many pictures.  Oh, please help me with this!  I find my hands are occupied and still-lifes are a thing of the past, but even sweet, real-life moments are so much harder to capture these days.  I find myself reaching for the camera on two consistent occasions: 1. when Lenox is being especially cute, I think to myself, “don’t be lame and not take pictures of your 2nd child!” so I try to capture some of that stuff for posterity, and 2. when the boys are loving on each other (or more rare, playing easily alongside each other), and I’m think to myself, “Oh!  They do like each other!  This is going to be okay!  I’d better take a picture so I can remember this peaceful, loving, gentle moment!”  …….and that’s about it, my friends.  The rest of the time, I have no idea where my camera is.  And what’s a blog without photos?

One of my resolutions for the New Year is to answer my phone more often and also to be better about flossing.  Whenever I read those articles about people who are on their deathbeds saying what they regret about their lives, both “neglecting one’s dental health” and “not staying in closer contact with those they love” always rank really high.  In this I see that my bad habits are somewhat universal.  So, those two things for sure are at the top of my fresh start list this year, along with at least a once-a-month blog to check in with you fine people.  I also made a commitment to use gentler words and tones with my kids….especially the one that pushes my buttons (who shall remain nameless).  I also plan to amp up the craft nights, game days, playdates, and dinner parties around these parts, and to put half of our toys/stuff/crap in storage.  Who knows — maybe a garage sale is in my future.  I think it’s safe to say that the theme of my year will be about simplicity and connection.  At the very top of my “to-do” list (is it a To-Do list when you can’t really ever check it off??) is to help my boys become great brothers.  And by “help,” I think what I mean is “watch and trust.”    My instincts say that all the ingredients for solid brotherhood are there, they just need to simmer.  Finding my best, most useful role in this is the task of the year, indeed.  And who to listen to most closely about this very close-to-my-heart topic?  My mom or my brother?  My friends who are parents of two or more?  My myriad of parenting books?  My kids? ….my heart?

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these days (october)

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These days we’ve been….

*not blogging much.  I find my hands are often occupied and my mind is nowhere to be found, but I very much appreciate all the gentle nudges I’ve been receiving to get back in this savored space.  We are still here — alive and kicking!  Thank you for your loyalty.

*loving the changing colors and the fact that Portlanders treat October like they do December — a whole month of decorating in anticipation of one spooky day upcoming.

*sewing, sewing, sewing.  My mom’s visit last month reignited my fire, and in my few spare moments you can almost always find me sitting on my studio floor cutting fabric and making my way through some new fun patterns.  Orlis, too, has taken to some sewing of his own, and lately has been accompanying me into my studio to “make blankets.”

*doing a whole lot of cuddling (as you can see in these pictures).  Oh, these quilt-loving, snuggle loving boys.

*having many-a-spontaneous music party, usually in our pajamas

*teasing out a stubborn (breastmilk-born) food allergy in Lenox.  So far, we haven’t been able to figure out what it is that he’s allergic to.  The process of pinpointing it (and helping him be more comfortable) is taking nearly all of my energy, not to mention slowly dwindling my food options.  Luckily he’s a pretty happy little guy, hives notwithstanding.  Cross your fingers that we’ll get it sorted out soon.

*loving the particular rhythms and rituals that accompany this time of year — pumpkin patch, pumpkin carving, bulb planting, leaf raking, art walks, and crunchy bicycle rides — all the glory of a bright and glorious fall.

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same shirt, different day

august 2012

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Recently, as I was looking through some photos, I found pictures from a trip to the Oregon coast we took last August.  The photo of Orlis at the top of this post caught my eye.  I remembered publishing the beach diaries shortly thereafter, and moreover, I remember those moments on the beach, snapping away at the beautiful landscape as my little almost-2-year-old ran along the beach, giggling.  I remember the chill in the air and that his too-big pants started to gather large amounts of wet sand at the cuffs, the weight of which was dragging him down.  I remember holding the simultaneous thoughts of he’s so big, and he’s so little, and wondering which of those thoughts felt most true to me.  I know those moments in the mist and the wind undoubtedly brought some tears to my eyes, as the beauty of the beach so often does.  There are truths revealed on the coast that are almost overwhelming in their clarity.

Without thinking, I snapped a similar photo during our vacation at the coast a couple of weeks ago — almost exactly a year later than the original photo.  There I was (this time, with a new baby asleep on my chest), snapping away, while my almost-3-year-old ran along the beach, giggling.  Same coast, same beautiful landscape, same chill in the air, and ha! same sweatshirt on this boy.  It’s a little smaller on him, but not much, actually.  You only really notice it in where the sleeves fall.  I noticed, in comparing the photos, that this year his feet are in the water when he’s running — just an inch or less, but the water instead of the sand.  I notice a confidence, certainly a briskness in his stride, and a determined look on his face that, now that I see it, I recognize has replaced his wide-eyed naivete.  I know that gaze.  I see, too, that he’s shucked his pants in favor of bare legs for a fuller submersion in, not only the water, but the full experience.  And I’m struck, with all that I see in these two photos of this dear, sweet boy how many ways there are to grow.  He fits into his old clothes, sure, and into his old habits too.  And yet, time passes and as his arms curl up into a running position and his legs take a stronger, braver stance in the world, I marvel at how little I have to do with any of it, and what a privilege it is to witness.  Against any landscape, we do come into our own.

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welcome to three

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Due dates are elusive…and that goes not just for babies, but for births of all kinds, projects included.  Well over a year and a half ago — late January 2011, to be exact — we found ourselves twiddling our thumbs in what seemed like endless anticipation of having an official moving date for our big venture out West.  With all the bureaucracy associated with both buying and selling, we were at what seemed like an interminable standstill.  Not knowing the timing of big things (like a cross-country move) can make some personalities (ahem) go a little crazy.  What does one do when one can’t control (or speed up) the timing of major life changes? Well, one makes a quilt, of course.  I remember vividly, during that excruciatingly endless period of waiting, some thoughtful friends of mine encouraged me to engage in big projects to take my mind off of what I couldn’t control.  So, I got out my brightest scraps of fabric and started cutting.

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Now, I’m a big believer in preparation — getting ready, psychologically and physically — for not only what is going to happen, but also what you want to happen.  Around the same time that we were anxiously awaiting a green light for our move to Portland, some very good friends were deep in the process of trying to get pregnant.  Trying, that is, and not succeeding.  As I anxiously twiddled my thumbs, obsessing over my own problems, I thought of them, of how long it had already been that they had been hoping for a pregnancy, and how badly I wished I could do something to help.  And thus, my mindless fabric cutting became something else entirely.  I remember thinking, there’s not much I can do besides hope hope hope for these lovely people, but in the act of hoping, I can prepare a welcome gift…perhaps even summons a baby with some handmade love.

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Usually I do things the other way around — I receive pregnancy news from someone special and I happily trot into my sewing space and commence the process of creating a welcome quilt.  This ritual has become one of my most treasured.  For this child — the very spark of whom was already so wanted, so beloved in the hearts of these lovely friends and a whole community of people surrounding them — well, we needed to pull out the big dogs and work every angle we could.  I put as much love into that quilt as I could muster, hoping someone out there would get the message and work some conceiving magic into the Brooklyn air.

The project at hand worked wonders for my restless spirit.  I worked away on it, loving the simple design, feeling cheered by the bright colors during a very grey January, and enjoying how meaningful it already felt.  Someday, I knew it, this quilt would have a baby sitting on it.

Of course, a week or so after I started the quilt we received our green light to move, so I packed it up, in its unfinished state, and hauled it cross-country with the rest of our belongings, unearthing it months later, still unfinished…still no pregnancy.

Months passed, I worried.  I finished the quilt back, sent the whole thing out for quilting, got it back, and tacked on the binding.  All it needed was a label…and a recipient.

And then, pregnancy news broke.

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No one moved during those early months, and then 2 months turned to 5 to 7 and then to 8 and a half and with bated breath, the insular world of these fine friends quietly waited as he made his appearance about a week ago, in perfect health, a sweet little being.

The best things in life truly are worth waiting for.  And hoping for, and praying for, and summonsing in every which way we can possibly imagine.

Oh, welcome, welcome to three, my dear dear friends.

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oregon coast

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The oregon coast.  There’s just nothing quite like it.  The forested walks that lead down to the beach, the miles of soft sand flanked by cresting sea on one side and creviced mountains on the other, the bending caves and nature-made kiddie pools and the thick, steamy fog that sits just overhead making a glimpse at the ocean never a sure thing.  This was our vacation week, and it was glorious.  Orlis leaped from every fallen branch, made sand castles, and ran (always giggling) ankle deep through the water.  And dear little Lenox slumbered, snoozed, and napped away to the epitome of white noise.  And we, family of four, (still getting our feet wet with this two-kid business), enjoyed small town pies and ice creams and the novelty of a woodsy cabin.  We marveled at how wonderfully relaxing (and cleansing) this kind of computer-free week can be, and also how, even on vacation, you never do get to sleep late with these munchkins.   Bleary, but still wide-eyed, we thanked our lucky stars for this magnificent setting, for the wonders of the woods, and for the endless gifts of the natural world.

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