November 30, 2009

December Blooming?

The unseasonably warm end of Autumn has thrown my newly planted bulbs for a curve. Here, my paper whites are shooting for a Dec 1st bloom.

Weekend Moment, Team Craun Snuggle

I am still processing the over full and restful long holiday weekend, but hands down my favorite recurring weekend moment, happened first thing every morning. As we were hosting the Grand Dubs, Dave and I were sleeping upstairs in the spare room adjacent to the each of the Craunlets. Promptly at 7:01 Bella would prance from her room on her toes, and leap into our bed for a snuggle. Brother Nate would follow suit, crawling in within 5 or so minutes of his sister, and our bed would be overflowing with wiggling limbs. And though the excited-to-get-downstairs snugglers would only last 10 minutes tops, it was a sweet start to each of our days.

November 25, 2009

Food Drive, the Receiving End

Yesterday, a very long and heart breaking day, will not leave the back of my eyelids. I was at a Cleveland public school for my current Artist Residency, an elementary + middle combination that is nestled in the heart of the projects, and situated on a corner of the Central neighborhood.

I saw piled-high boxes of food.
Heavy big corrugated boxes stacked, like a warehouse.

A food drive.

Insert warm and fuzzy [white, middle-class, naive] feelings here. My own, I am referencing here, to be clear. I am judging only me. My head aswirl with idyllic images of children lugging cans + pantry goods to school for families in need. I nearly wept thinking about these children with so little, giving to those with less.

Seen and participated in those many a times, and many a holidays.

What I hadn't seen before yesterday: columns of heavy plain-colored book bags lined in between rows of desks, in already crowded classrooms. Bags with first names written huge in permanent marker, and their home room number beneath. Backpacks that did not contain books or papers, but food. Food for the desperately impoverished, and the homeless. Ones with less than little.

The desperately impoverished and even homeless children within the walls of this place I love. This very school, this very class, these very smiles. Hungry. And many, how could I be so surprised by reality, without homes.

And I left exhausted. Seven straight printmaking classes with the youngest in the school, and no lunch break. But yesterday, not so physically exhausted, as much as heart-heavy and emotionally whipped.

November 23, 2009

Weekend Moment, Slow Sprint to the Finish Line

Nearly two years in the slow and spotty works, Nate's room is at last finished. At almost three, the baby is moving out of the nursery. We converted a once too-large laundry and storage room into a little blue cave for our little man. And finally, on Sunday, we moved him across the hall. To a room. With a door. Mom-readers, you know how important this is. A little bear sleeping in a tandem room...all the tip-toeing, and sneaking by. He has a door now. And a cozy little cave to call his own.

More images forthcoming as we process the long and dramatic room overhaul. And most certainly, a room tour will be in order. Right now, I want to savor the sweet, though slow-coming, satisfaction of a long project completed.

November 20, 2009

Family Pictures, Autumn Edition

Several Weeks ago we went on family play photo shoot in the Metroparks at the peak of Autumn's Splendor. How does one begin to select their favorites from over 200 stunning photographs? Here is but a tiny glimpse, a sneak peek into our newest family pictures, just in time for Thanksgiving.

Photo Credits: all Dan O'Keefe of Z Media, 2009

More to come, I assure you. I simply would not be able to resist. Our friend so magically captured the team, and all the photos of lovely miss bella and sweet precious nate are music to my spirit. An intoxicating song playing on repeat.

My heart is so full.

We have so much to be thankful for.

November 18, 2009

Stuff my Stocking, Installment I

Perhaps it is the love of the teeny tiny; the miniature -- well scaled and detailed. Or the nostalgic love for new school supplies? Maybe the thrill of the towering brightly colored display, each pick only 99 cents?

We stumbled upon these in a local art supply store, and I was head-over-heels. There must have been well over 100 beautifully miniaturized little packages of iwako Japanese erasers. So lovely. So functional. And so extravagantly fun. And did I mention TINY?

The bowling set was instantly my favorite. My selection. We were each allowed to pick one. The standard rule initially created for the Craunlets, but needed also for restraining myself from all the cuteness and selection-overload.

The clincher with this set? The milky white pins, the scarlet ball, and hello--the stickers, and the ever cute Japanese instructions for application...all nestled into one little bag, waiting for play. Seriously??! That little red bowling ball -- the thumb hole is even sized slightly larger than the finger holes. And wouldn't you know, those lovely pins machined in precision, stand perfectly upright until the ball crashes them down. STRIKE!

I am certain, given the insanely vast selection, combined with their diminutive size and price, that there is a perfect gift pairing for every person on your list. In my opinion, this is a stocking stuffer must-have. Take a looky-loo right here.

November 17, 2009

Reading Lists

We find ourselves always reading here, and surrounded by piles and piles of bound pages. [remember?] With the holidays fast approaching, and all four of us soon celebrating our winter birthdays, I was thinking it would be a good time to intentionally grow our library.

Here is Nate's newest book, resting on Bella's desk.

Bella is just starting word memorization and letter sounding, and is slowly amassing a small Henry & Mudge Pre-reader collection. Any suggestions to further motivate her reading? Nate could really stand some additional alphabet/letter recognition help, and he loves his few lift-the-flap books about Trucks, Diggers, and Trains. Both could benefit from more variety in the read-aloud category, as it is our bedtime [and now afternoon] ritual. Mom and Dad would like a little more to pick from also.

What are some of your favorites? New fantastic books and treasured Oldies? Moms, what are your favorites in your collection? What childhood books do you remember most? Please share...

November 16, 2009

For the Love of the Book

I watched this video last week, and loved it. Like my soul sings when I watch it, kind of love. I have watched this start-to-finish artist book edition video now a handful of times. For any of you wondering just what it is to print, and to make books, take a click. Behold 3,000 photos laced together in stop-motion video, and be tantalized by printmaking, hand papermaking, letterpress and book arts production.

This morning, still somewhere between asleep and awake, I finally identified just what it is that resonates with me about his video -- I do this. I do all of this. And this video, makes it all look so good.

November 15, 2009

Weekend Moment, First of Christmas

This weekend we wrapped up our very first Christmas presents. One for little girl, and one for little boy. We packed them into shoe boxes, and readied them for travel across the globe, through Operation Christmas Child. To children who don't otherwise know presents as a part of Christmas.

Our packages are loaded with toys and health care items, much like the ones we packed up + sent off last year for the little girl and the little boy. Only this year, a new feature is included: tracking. We get to follow our package; know when it is delivered, and to where. I cannot wait to locate the place on the globe with the Craunlets; sometime much closer to our own Christmas celebrations.

Here is a peek inside of our boxes:

For the little boy: Planet Earth Animal Coloring Book, big crayons, toothbrush + toothpaste, sponge-covered bar of soap, 2 pairs of socks, a plastic comb, 2 lip balms, a foam football, cuddly teddy bear, wooden block toy train, and a candy cane heart.

For the little girl: Planet Earth Animal Coloring Book, big crayons, toothbrush + toothpaste, sponge-covered bar of soap, 2 pairs of socks, a plastic comb, 2 lip balms, a play purse + pearl necklace, cuddly teddy bear, hair clippers, baby doll with change of clothes + milk bottle, and a candy cane heart.

Again, I am surprised and delighted at how much you can squeeze into a shoe box. And glad that again, these are our first presents purchased and given.

November 13, 2009

The Cadence of Kindergarten

This afternoon I had the pleasure of visiting the three kindergarten classrooms at the school we hope to send Bella next year.

Astounded by the cleanliness and kid-quiet atmosphere of the school, my favorite moment was in my second classroom observation. I watched twenty little people file into their room, stand behind their little wooden chairs, and begin moving through some yoga poses, as the teacher called out the positions: flamingo, bird, waterfall, starfish, seal, shark, and squirrel. After these few stretches, the children sat in their seats, laid down their heads for a few minutes of quiet time, while classical music played. The Canon in D major, specifically.

The cadence of this classroom. Moving collectively through the rhythm of their afternoon. The sweet community built on character and shared responsibilities. Mutual respect. Compassion. Teachers that bend down low to make eye contact with sitting children, encouraging them individually. I nearly cried a river.

I further watched children raise quiet hands, and
heard them click their tongues, while pointing to their temples to lock in science vocabulary words. Learning about push and pull.

And my heart was learning the struggle of push and pull right alongside them. Realizing at last, that I am ready for kindergarten, and further, I am certain that Bella is.

November 11, 2009

The beautiful quiet

Quiet is a strangely beautiful thing to me. So seemingly distant, unattainable. and lonely. For those of you that know me well, you know that I don't long for lots of time to myself. I like being very busy, and in company. This semester, I have managed to whittle out a few hours, like little secrets, that I have kept all to myself. I am writing more, collecting, and creating; generally paying more attention.

In a chatter-loud house of preschoolers, quiet is a fleeting thought enveloped in sound. But it never ceases to amaze me, that when we adventure outdoors--especially in the woods--it falls on us like a heavy fog. The sheer amazement of creation. The whole wild world. At our fingertips, and often brought home in our pockets. The relentless cycles of life and death. The glorious beauty.

It stills all the sound.

And together, we are all alone in our own moments and experience.
In the beautiful quiet.

November 9, 2009

Collective Intelligence

To celebrate the unusually delightful November temperatures, we found ourselves again exploring the Metro Parks today. Miss little Lady found armloads of these, and wondered what they were. Completely uncertain, I told her I would inquire.

I posted a query with this photo on my Facebook page: What is this? and what tree does it fall from? And in less than 24 hours the following ensued. Reminding me again of my amazement of swarm theory, and how much I love love love collective intelligence.

Bette: I think it's an Osage Orange? Some people call them Monkey Balls. hmmmm

J: Do you know, are there nuts or anything inside of them?

Gary: We called them "monkey balls".

Sue: I second Bette, Monkey Balls from an Osage Orange tree...not sure if there's anything edible inside tho.

Sue: I bet your father-in-law knows...Gary knows everything! :D

J: I just looked up Osage Orange, which is correct...and it is a lot of work to harvest, but apparently there are yummy seeds inside. Thanks!!

A.Donna: I didn’t think they were eatable? same as the hedge apples around here - can put them around by foundation and they are supposed to repel bugs.

Barb: Yes. I looked them up. They say: The seeds are edible by people, but one must do like the squirrels and pick them out of the pulpy matrix and remove the slimy husk. This is the only part of the fruit that people can eat. Cattle are sometimes tempted to eat the fruit and may choke on them if they do not chew them up sufficiently.

Sue: Barb knows a lot too!! he he!

Tony: Hey how come my comments don't get posted ?

J: i love collective intelligence!!

Michelle: Aren't they beautiful?!!

Donna: My kids love collecting Monkey Balls! We just took our Easter buckets down the valley to collect them on Sunday....I hear if you put them in your house they keep insects away...not sure what kind or if it's true, I need to research that!

Dan: I heard that "monkey balls" keeps insects/spiders away too. So being the willing soul that I am I promptly collected some and put them in the basement. All that I'll say is that Charlotte would be proud of the webs in my basement!

J: I was just feeling like a Boo Hoo Mom, telling her kids to leave them all at the Metro Parks...we could have tested them out all over, around the foundation, by the doors...downstairs :) Maybe they deterred all of Charlotte's food?! :)

Dan: Unfortunately Charlotte's food still lives in my basement too.

Elya: We always called them monkey balls, too. =)

Tony: Jen ... check out and it is Osage orange

Donna OC: we have them dropping from our trees giving bright yellow color to the browning lawn. Always called them monkey balls too-but you can google to get the rest of the story!!!

Leon: Now what part of the Monkey did you say those bright yellow orange things come from?

Savannah: We always called them monkey brains...

Amy: We call those hedge balls and use to put them in basement to keep away spiders. There used to be a bunch of those trees around Gma and Gpa Cropp's farm.

Cheri: Osage tree and we call them monkey balls.

Don: wow that does bring back memories of Gma & Gpa farm.

Melanie: I'm pretty sure if Bryce would look in the nooks of his basement he could find some withered ones we all left there as kiddies. Thanks for the memory Jen. Made me smile. Looks like it made a lot of people smile today to remember.

A. Donna: Bryce probably wishes they would deter snakes!

Denise: I think they're called hedge apples. I know that you can slice and bake them to use in wreaths but not to eat.

Weekend Moment, Made-to-order Omelets

We hosted our family life group this Saturday morning. One of the many great things about this growing group of friends is that we share a hearty feast of a breakfast before some study + prayer, and just enjoy the time of food + each other's fellowship. One among us, Mickey D, is a chef. Yeah! This week, we enjoyed some awesome fresh made-to-order omelets. We selected our ingredients from many preparations he had laid out. Then he sauteed the goodness, poured over some egg, flipped them mid air, folded them inserting cheese between, and slid them piping hot onto a waiting plate.

Unfortunately I was way too busy consuming to get any photos of the magic in action. A most awesome start to a Saturday. YUM.

November 6, 2009

Two For One

Two Indian summers in one Autumn. We are so lucky.

We have been out enjoying the crisp and cool air, the expansive blue skies adorned with white clouds and the oh-so-glorious warm sun.

How I See it

Wow. Here we are again, Cleveland, making the National headlines with such pain and grief. I am finding myself nearly nauseous with mixed emotions, and though I want to remain informed, I am also intentionally keeping myself distanced from the constantly updating and too intimate details of the most awful of crimes.

I have caught a few strands that won't leave my heart and mind, and I have been mulling over our individual and collective life-impact as a result. Much like when we first moved into the city of Cleveland, and found ourselves located on a rough no-outlet street. I saw scattered evidence of children at play, and my heart grieved for each of them. My heart was moved for these children. And I wanted the opportunity to live there, have a shared experience, and hopefully get to know some of the next generation, our future. Having children myself now, when I first heard of the news, I located the neighborhood on the map. I needed to have a place, with streets, and houses, a re-understand more of the community, and I remembered first that children live in this neighborhood. All of our neighborhoods.

I think a lot about children and the concept of normal. How their growing up experiences condition their understanding of normal life, locally and further shaping their world view. And I cannot keep from weeping thinking about these--now eleven--women. I think of these women, as daughters, as sisters, as mothers. These women, that in this community, were understood as disposable.

And I wonder further, what my role in this can be? I struggle with the notion of privacy and silence. The unspoken bond we have within our neighborhoods to mind our own business. The busy way that we don't even make time for conversation with our neighbors. And I wonder how I can engage further with my own street, my very neighbors that I know so little. And what sort of normal the Craunlets will digest. What does their world look like? Will they know compassion? Will they know love? Will they see? Will they know how to help? When to intervene? Mostly, I hope they will not know silence. I hope they will not know apathy. And I hope they will not know negligence.

I read today's column by Phillip Morris, in the Cleveland Plain Dealer online. And near the close of the article, laying out some of the local response to the crime, he left me with a line that has further resonated with my heart:

A group of some of Cleveland's most influential black clergymen gathered Thursday at a church near the crime scene and prayed. The church is so beautifully reactive. So are police. So are politicians. So are the media. They prayed for the victims, for the families of the victims and for a neighborhood and a city that continues to reel from depravity. [full article here, italic emphasis is mine]

Beautifully reactive.

How awfully true. Responsive. Involved only afterwords.

And I think of all the other words I wish we could honestly replace reactive with:




And I could go on listing. There are so many greater things we can be than beautifully reactive. At least, that is how I see it.

Make your own eye chart here, then click on the link in the right hand column.

November 4, 2009

Making Change

This week has been an accumulation of lots of really little steps towards change. And it feels like I am hitting a bit of a stride, and even seeing, in very small ways, some of the early fruit of these efforts. I voted on Tuesday, for a mayor and a councilman. I toured an elementary school, and am mulling over many big decisions that are and aren't mine. Oh the joys of that familiar struggle. Control, I like you too much. You get me into so much trouble.

I said no to something last week, that was incredibly difficult to pass up. And today, was delighted with outstanding confirmation that it was the right thing. Entirely. That turning down something good, made space for something far better. Immeasurably better.

We also started saving coins for the Cleveland Pregnancy Center. And let me just say, I am so happy to toss my spare, though small, monies into that baby bottle. So overjoyed to meet an initiative that isn't so narrowly focused on being pro-life that they are irrelevant to the lives of reality. An organization that can also minister to post-abortions; that unforgivable sin. That they will go near it. To not ignore it. Or criticize it. Or judge it. But that they move through it, and grow their hearts big enough to love a person beyond it. To co-labor in the painful aftermath to healing. I'll put my change there.

Walking through a crowded aisle in a too-big store this morning, a distracted shopper collided with my 2 1/2 year old. A little bump, with no injuries, her eyes simply focused higher than my little guy's not-quite-3-feet. And the first precious words out of sweet Nathaniel's mouth: excuse me. She smiled, apologized, almost moved past us, and paused. A tear ran down her cheek. Maybe the first kind thing she has heard in too long? I don't know. She mustered up a quiet, I am so touched, thank you. Your children are just precious. And she turned to the next aisle. And now I fought back the same tear she just shed. I must agree. I must take the time. I must see. I must talk to these precious Craunlets about the power of those words. The power of kindness, of compassion, of love. The way it breaks down all the hate, and ugly, and hurt. The beautiful salve to the wounds of the world.

And it is such a normal week here in this household, but with more slowing down. An at-last slowing of the frenetic pace, brought on by the cool temperatures, and earlier evenings. Time for more thinking and reading. Time for more creating and conversation. Time for more time. More life. It feels so good to be in the season of making change.

November 3, 2009

This Little Bella

will go to Kindergarten next year. Where has the time gone?

I toured a potential school for Bella this morning, and fell in love. A weepy head-over-heels love for sharpened pencils, and tiny chairs, in spacious and orderly rooms. And the clincher; amazing and grandly tall beautiful windows with long white drapes that could barely hold back any of the bright sun peering into the space and painting patterns all over the high walls. And my heart confirmed, Bella could go to this place. This could be her chair. Her box of supplies. Her classroom.

photo credit: Emily Powers, 2007

This place that I drove by when she was this little, or smaller, and thought...again, charmed by those long white drapes hanging on those big glass windows--enticing, even from the outside of the building...I thought, she could go here. This place. This school. This could be the future. Some day that seems so distant.

And when I stepped inside the halls and classrooms this morning, I felt as though I were pre-tracing her very steps. Making space. And my heart is bittersweet but excited for the new season we are entering, researching and applying for. This conversation I have with Bella every single day now. When will I go to Kindergarten? When will I get to go to school all day? Every. Single. Day. And today, less hesitant, I am finally entering into that excitement with her.

November 2, 2009

Weekend Moment, Haiku me

autumns gift of gold
covering the green carpet
beauty unfolded

Our Nature bowl over flows with the goodness and glory that Autumn sheds; the Craunlets are so engaged by the armloads of colorful collecting that this season has provided. Sunday afternoon, I had the pleasure of driving through the countryside, one hour each direction to an Art Opening just beyond farmland, Ohio.

I found myself enamored in the same way as my little people, and fighting every urge to pull over and collect the various blooming grasses and the bounty of Autumn displayed in full splendor beneath the crisp blue sky.


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