feeling thankful for ...

:: the resurrection of a long, rainy day provided by good rain pants and boots.
:: sunny days for hanging linens that ended their journey from Hong Kong smelling rather musty. Really, not pleasant. We need more sunny days, too ... I'm not done yet.
:: the wonder of homemade ketchup (yes!) with oven-roasted fries, made with tomatoes from the school's garden ... at last, a tomato product that Finn will eat.
:: the apple-sowing journeys of John Chapman (better known as Johnny Appleseed), to whom we owe a debt for starting many of Ohio's apple orchards. Did you know apples aren't native in the US? And that the first orchards started by the colonists failed because of the absence of honeybees, also not native? Many of these orchards today grow direct descendants of Johnny's apples, my favorite being "Rambo," a name that just makes me giggle.
:: a clogged milk duct. Yes, I know this is a little perverse, or maybe even tmi, but really it's just a good reason to put my feet up and relax and let Willa do her thing. Go Willa go!
:: Burton antiques festival ... a long morning of me-time that resulted in the discovery of several just right organizational pieces, already making our porch and bedroom work so much better.
:: the beginnings of color on the trees! This, my friends, I have missed so much the last three years, and I am thrilled to see it again. Fingers crossed that the rain doesn't just blow all those leaves down early ...
:: unpacking the final boxes. We are so ready to move on from this stage of "moving in."  I think I can, I think I can ....


Even though ...

Even though we just got our shipment and are now back in "unpacking" mode,
Even though there is hardly space to walk through our dining room due to said boxes,
Even though there are multiple loads of laundry to be folded and put away,
Even though there are papers to be marked and grades to be entered,
Even though the fridge is full of produce waiting to be made into ratatouille and frozen for mid-winter meals,

Sometimes, when the sun is shining after days of rain,
when the kids are grumpy after all that time inside,
when the forecast calls for yet more rain,
when the baby's nose is running and she just wants to be held anyway,
when the neighbor kids are going for a hike,

Sometimes, the best thing to do is to just forget "the list" and join them. Especially when you live next door to an as yet unexplored national park. Yes. It was sabbath, indeed.

This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Psalm 118:24


Simple Math

new clothesline + sunny day = satisfaction
(postscript: busy afternoon + sudden rainstorm = disappointment)

farmer's market + many errands = simple, Ohio-grown lunch

bucket of dirt + rain/ old pots + old spoons = busy boy


On the anniversary of 9-11

As I listen to the litany of names read aloud of those who lost their lives that day, my tears overflow. I can only listen, and breathe, and implore God's mercy on us.

Have mercy on these, your children, still grieving and missing loved ones.
Have mercy on those parents who lost children, a cruel reversal of the natural order of death.
Have mercy on those children who lost parents, forced to grow up too soon.
Have mercy on us who take for granted the loved ones in our lives, we who don't stop often enough in simple gratitude and love.
Have mercy on us who have caused the loss of innocent life in retaliation for this evil, we who have inflicted this same pain on others in far away lands.
Have mercy on us who refuse to see someone else's loss as equal to our own.
Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on us all.

O God of the stars 
and the night skies
May your light be coming through 
thick clouds this day
On me and on everyone
coming through dark tears
On each one in need
and in suffering.

--Celtic Prayers from Iona, J. Philip Newell


The language of fish

There are different textures in our days here: Old wood and tree trunks. Wet sidewalks. Mud and sand, and lots of grass. Nights are quiet and cool, shadows are long, and the outdoors is spacious and welcoming. 

Do we like it here? We are asked this question daily, by students or other faculty or townspeople, proud of their town and eager for our approval. The answer is yes, an unqualified yes.

They don't ask if we miss Hong Kong, the answer to which is also yes. We miss little things, like people taking off their shoes in spaces where babies will be crawling around, and those umbrella bags hanging at the entrance to every mall or building on rainy days. We think it's funny that just as once Matt had a hard time telling apart his Chinese students, now he has a hard time distinguishing among his white students. (The girls--especially the girls! They all look the same.)

We miss our little apartments. It used to be that no matter what Matt and I were doing with our evenings, we were in the same room, at least, sharing the time by means of sharing the space. But now we are cut off, folding clothes in the bedroom, grading papers at the table, knitting at the sofa or washing dishes in the kitchen. I'm tempted to bring the sofa into the dining room, consolidating our space once again.

People push huge strollers here, and I have yet to see another baby worn in a baby carrier. We have a hand-me-down jogging stroller that's been in storage all these years, and I feel strangely American and awkward using it—it's so big! and heavy! I have to physically lift up the front wheel in order to turn a corner.

I'm not at all thrilled to be living in a place where the local gun shops put 4-page, full color advertisement inserts in the daily newspaper, for much more than just hunting rifles. But we do love being just a short drive away from Amish country, where horses and buggies come clip-clopping down the road and even the thrift store has a hitching post. We love the frequent communal meals, the after-meal frolicking of the kids.

Yes, there is a different texture, curiously familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. And we're learning to speak a new language, a language of home and roots, a language of a school with long tradition and a town with a heritage. We're learning to avoid the creakiest floorboards in Willa's room, and how to navigate the stairs in the dark. And through it all, our kids keep asking us questions, and keep us asking questions, keeping the wonder alive. 

People travel to wonder at the height of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars; and they pass by themselves without wondering.

St. Augustine

A conversation this morning:

Finn: Las tortugas. That means turtles.
Me: Yes, that's right, turtles in Spanish.
Finn: Yeah. (long pause) But how do we know the language of fish?

I don't know, my son. But keep asking. Keep asking. 


There he goes

Way back last spring, Matt and Finn witnessed a traffic accident--a pedestrian hit by a car--coming home from the park across the street. It was fairly traumatic, as you might imagine. We tried to strike a balance between using it as a chance to remind him how important “street rules” are, on the one hand, and assuring him that the doctors would help the person get better, that there are always people who will help, on the other. It showed up in his play for quite a long time, enacting stories of a horse who got hit by a truck, or a lost sheep who got hit by a car and then the hero-ambulance-vet comes racing in to save the day. It also showed up in his prayers, frequently thanking God for the ambulance and for the doctors, and praying for the person who got hurt. Sometimes he didn't quite know what to say, and I would suggest some simple but earnest sentence that was almost always rejected. My favorite of his prayers was his tendency to sing, as in this little conversation I wrote down verbatim the night it took place:

Me: Well, we could say, 'God, please help the person who got hurt, that they will be safe and healthy.'
Finn: Or we could sing a song for that person.
Me: We could sing?
Finn: Yeah, a song could be a prayer. Like we sing before meals.
Me: You're right, bud. A song could be a prayer. Do you want to sing?
Finn: Yeah. (very confidently and definitively)
Me: What do you want to sing?
Finn: Jingle Bells.
(and then he began to sing, very quietly, very reverently) Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way. Oh what fun it is to ride in a (mumble mumble) sleigh-hey!
Me: Amen.

Anyway, all this is on my mind because that accident was the first of several incidents that called upon new parenting skills—skills of helping Finn deal with the world beyond our home, a world we can't control. And now, since moving here, those skills are constantly in demand. He has, somewhere in recent months, become a full-fledged kid, and we are constantly negotiating the boundaries between freedom and oversight, between giving him space and keeping him close, between helping him interpret the social situations he encounters and letting him figure it out.

Now we have a yard—can he go out alone if I'm on the porch? What if I'm inside, or upstairs with Willa? How often do we check in? He's fast and confident on his bike, easily able to ride to town. But how far ahead of us do we let him get? We live on a campus where there are lots of faculty kids, who have lots of freedoms. Can he go outside with them after dinner? What if our neighbors are there, two older, responsible, kind girls? Or what if another faculty boy is there, also older, not-so-responsible and not-so-kind?

This was Finn's first week of preschool, a new social world he is entering without us. And although it is a very safe, nurturing environment, and I really have no fears for him, it is still bittersweet to let him go, knowing he'll experience things I might never know about. I'm thankful for his long periods of play at home, time that I can observe and listen in on, getting a sense of what's on his heart. And I'm thankful for our ritual of "thank yous" before bed. Tonight's list? "Thank you for my bike, thank you for xxxx (the not-so-responsible and not-so-kind boy), and thank you for sitting like a pretzel!" (collapsing in giggles) I think we're going to be just fine.