August 31, 2010

Gratis, For this I am So Thankful XVIII

Due to a succession of all too many late nights, I have lost any sense of what day and time it is. It surely feels closer to the end of the week than the beginning, and that will likely hit pretty hard around Thursday when the week just keeps on going. That said, we are looking ahead to the holiday weekend, and marching into this week with relentlessly high spirits.

This week, I am so thankful for:

171. Family jam sessions after dinner. Loud music, crazy louder instruments, and raucous dancing. Nothing closes the day better.

172. Tuesday Playgroup. A pack of supportive mama's, and a small tribe of babes; relating, feasting, listening, sharing advice, and just living out the journey together. It's a weekly treat.

173. Health Insurance. Even though it is a pain, and a constant battle; we have insurance -- and that is such a blessing. We recently lost this round of appeals for Bella's care, but we are not done fighting. We have made too much progress to quit.

174. Central air conditioning. As much as I hate the house all closed up; it is cool. And outside, it is all too close to 100 degrees. Not exactly how I was hoping to start September.

175. Fresh fruit smoothies on super hot days. Like the honeydew blueberry banana chiller that we whipped up this afternoon to soothe away the middle-nineties temperatures. I am so thankful for our Vitamix; I've surely never loved a kitchen appliance more.

176. Our neighbor Mary. Knowing her has changed my life incredibly and taught the Craunlets how to love their neighbors. We celebrated her 94th birthday this weekend, and delivered her a plate of chocolate chip scones. We were hoping to have a mini birthday party in our sunflower house, and sing to her -- but a foot injury is preventing her from leaving the house, so we celebrated on her porch. Maybe for her 95th. In our crazy fantastic re-do of the Sunflower House.

177. A Sabbath picnic dinner in the Sunflower House. Not quite the lush and tall house that we dreamed of this Spring, but a charming and magical space none-the-less. One that is mostly taller than the Craunlets, and in full bloom.

178. Sweet conversations with Isabella, the Kindergartner, providing fascinating insights into who she is becoming:

I made a friend today. [smiling ear-to-ear] And she is a good friend.

Here Bella goes on to list examples of her character from what she has seen in the two days that she has known her. How she waits patiently to go down the slide. How she was quiet during quiet time. How she is a good listener...and on and on...until she pauses briefly.

And then I nod, and smile. And respond: Wow, she certainly sounds like a good friend. I am so glad; it is nice to have good friends.

To which Bella responds: I wanted to be her friend because she makes good choices.

Holding back tears, and smiling an equally wide smile as Bella's--I pray she always makes friends this way.

179. Increased Nate time, which is slowly becoming a much happier experience--thank goodness! One marked with freedom and small adventures. I pray both of these attributes increase, and moreover that Nathaniel becomes more and more of who he was created to be. I am so thankful to get to share in that journey with him.

180. Weekends. Now that school has started, and teaching, and all of the other work schedules, the weekend is such a sweet respite of family time, and Craunlet shenanigans. I LOVE those; their playful laughter together is salve to my spirit.

Hope your week is shaping up to be full of rich potential and much joy. We are at last acclimating to our new schedule around here, and finally starting to enjoy this new season more fully.

August 27, 2010

This First and Second Day, and Forever.

It seems as though Bella was made for Kindergarten. The kind of Kindergarten where you get to go away all day to this magical place of learning and discovery. Where you get to sit at a certain spot that is labeled with your name at a table--a table that is referred to by a color.

The order, systems and structures seem to have won her little heart immediately. Sweet Belle readied herself this morning in a hurried 15-minutes ahead of schedule, and anxiously waited by the door. Just wanting to go. Can we leave yet? P L E A S E ?!

I already know my way to the least I could be the leader of all my other kids...she reassured me, as I tried to slow her down. Tried to explain why we get there at a certain time.

Nate stood by the same door this morning, also waiting. However, with much less excitement. This second day has hit him palpably harder than the first. And he was hoping to slow it down, or stop it all together. I don't want to say goodbye today; I don't want her to go away all day. It is heart breaking, really, and sweet also, how intertwined he is to her. It is crazy to think he hasn't known a single day without her. Until now.

And even doing his favorite things, without Bella, they seem to have all but lost their flavor. Like the saddest train track time that we have ever endured.

And the forever long waiting line. For kids buying tickets to go away all day. Forever, he said. Forever. All patiently in queue to go away.

Sunflower House, in Bloom

The wall around the Sunflower house varies dramatically in height, however, it is dotted prolifically and consistently with blooms in varied stages of opening.

Watching the green blooms at the tippy-tops of the hearty stalks stretch open and unfold in the sun has been a most magical encounter.

August 25, 2010

Gratis, For this I am So Thankful XVII

The week that we have been madly preparing for has at last made its debut. Moments and milestones abound, and strength and joy their dear companions. We are tackling a lot of changes, but are taking them all in stride, one day at a time. I am sort of amazed how well that has worked this week.

I am on the edge of overwhelmed entirely with all that I am so so thankful for today:

161. Cooler temperatures and rainy days that indicate the slowly shifting of seasons. The sweet first kisses of Autumn, so welcome.

162. A confident and strong Little lady who is every bit ready for her new adventure.

163. Seasons of growth, and growing up, and letting go.

164. Sweet and thoughtful reminders. A lovely unexpected gift from the maker of Belle's charming first school bag, here. Thoughtfully tucked inside of the package, and coordinating perfectly the interior lining of the bag. A memory keepsake for mama. And something to hold.

165. A semester that is providing collegiate teaching opportunities for both myself and the Dave. On top of everything else that we do, of course. I am happy to be back at the Cleveland Institute of Art teaching the Artist Book Course, and Dave will be teaching 2nd Year Architectural Design Studio for Kent State University.

166. Making delicious and healthy foods for our family. Like peanut butter, fresh bread, trail mix, and granola. I enjoy a crazy satisfaction and pride in these endeavors.

167. Days with my Little Mister. I look forward to our adventures and discoveries together, especially as the first fresh and new "missing Bella" days wear off...

168. Friends that are delivering healthy babes within days and short weeks of one another. Watching all these families grow and having both the privilege and opportunity to come alongside them. Most recently, getting to meet and hold sweet Axel Aaron marked the youngest babe--not our own--that has ever graced these arms. Holding hours-old babies, just opening up their big eyes to the world, is a gift beyond expression.

169. The fun and the food that our meager first garden has afforded us. And all of the learning, and hard work that has accompanied the small bounty.

170. A busy schedule that has still afforded time for dinner guests, play dates, sewing up a complete set of days-of-the-week cloth napkins, and the designing + printing of a charming school pick-up sign for retrieving Belle from Kindergarten.

August 22, 2010

Bright as Yellow

Our gardens continue to grow and delight us with bright as yellow blooms. The sunflowers are at last opening up and unfolding their heavy and majestic gold heads, and Nate's single--though crazy wild--pumpkin vine is beginning to flower profusely.

August 20, 2010

Kindergarten, Are You Serious?! Post II

We are in our very last few and final days of summer. And thank goodness, nearly through all of the maddening back-to-school preparations.

I even found those school girl appropriate navy blue Mary Jane's--that I refused to give up searching for--while we were on vacation. And for a steal I might add; I nearly bought every future size they had in stock. And then I took a deep breath. I stopped crying and hugging the surprisingly patient Little Miss Belle, and I tried my very best to put myself back together, and just purchase the single perfect pair of shoes. The shoes she will wear as she walks straight away from me on this coming Wednesday.

Skipping. Smiling, probably. Leaving. For the whole day. She has practiced this routine EVERY DAY THIS WEEK. I am not kidding. And she even sings "I'm going to school" repeatedly during her mini dress-up performances. Donning her sweet navy Mary Jane's, her new book bag, filled only with her empty lunch box. Anticipating, and all ready to leave for this next big adventure.

This last month has been a flurry of what-about-this?! moments of panic, as we imagine Belle's days at school, and do our very best to get what she needs and yet still maintain a level of consistency to our household values.

Enter the school lunch.

And much panic.

Until we settled on the Goodbyn, in Bella's favorite-color orange, and decided to start off with 100% waste-free lunches. Like at home. All the little food compartments seal with one lid, keeping the foods separate and fresh, and free from needing plastic bags, wrap, etc. It came with hundreds of stickers, to personalize and such, and even a little drink box that nestles into one of the nooks.

One that looks clever cute with these adorable, and compostable, paper straws. And then there are occasions when she might need flatware.

Again, what to do? Bella does not eat with her fingers. For heaven's sake -- they could get sticky, or worse -- a little messy. I was hesitant to pack up our stainless steel, considering they could easily become lost in the flurry of the almost 100 5-year-olds sharing lunchtime together in rows of seats at long tables. And again a simple solution presented itself. Charming soft + functional birch wood compostable flatware. Light weight, multi-use functional, and just plain lovely looking.

Above Image Credit: here.

So, it would almost seem reasonable to stop there? But then I remembered how Bella insists upon cloth napkins at every meal, including snacks. To accompany her square and proper place setting, naturally. From before I can remember her actually eating food, she was using our very same plates and silverware, and demanding she also have a cloth napkin. like us. EXACTLY. LIKE US. Oh, the monster we have created...

Of course you all knew I would be compulsive enough to re-learn embroidery, and actually stitch the days of the week on each of her future lunchbox napkins I am still frantically trying to sew to a finish. I have enough squares cut for 3 weekday sets; preparing for laundry issues, and potential losses. I have one full set embroidered; and just need to sew the reverse sides with a solid orange cotton.

And then there is afternoon snack to consider yet. How not to create waste here, but reusable fabric bags. Certainly in coordinating fabric to the lining of her new book bag. Of course. The book bag that was fabulously and custom made for Bella by this very sweet Etsy seller, here. Owl fabric snack bags from here.

Watch out Kindergarten, here comes Belle in Team Craun style!

August 19, 2010

Sharing Life, the Sweet Sip of Nectar

It's the sweet exchanges like these that make the world on this side of eternity so enchanting; these moments of shared relationships and colloquies of both vulnerability and trust.

August 17, 2010

Gratis, For this I am So Thankful XVI

For this week's round-up of thanks, I center on family. It has been a flurry of fun here, and we are all trying to get our heads back into normal as we approach summer's finish line. The annual Playcation was grand, and more-than-ever family-filled.

Today, and the last two weeks, I am overwhelmed with thanks and appreciation for:

151. a 3-day 2-night getaway with the husband in Chicago.

152. an extra long week of motorcycle rides, giggly children, ice cream, and play. One with no e-mail, facebook, or blogging -- and no work, phone calls, etc. Dreamy.

153. a safe drive to and from the most-fun-ever Playcation.

154. easy adventures afforded during our time away, like eating fresh peaches in our underwear for an impromptu afternoon picnic on the hood of our car after a steamy zoo trip.

155. the Grand Dubs. They watched the Craunlets for #151, enabled pretty much all of #152, and they put up with and even encouraged most of our shenanigans for more than a week in their house. Including the million motorcycle rides around the neighborhood from Grandpa Dubs on his blue Harley Electra Glide. Bella still swears/brags that they went a whopping 50 mph on one of her spins around the block.

156. Auntie A, Uncle Fred + Elliot who made the midwest trek to join in on some of the raucous fun. The Grand Babes had a sleepover together, and for the first time in years, our entire intermediate family reunited -- and we even took photo's to prove it!

157. Uncle D, who busted out a super car scrub + wax for our weary vehicle, enlisting Dave's help as well, to transform our car to sparkling clean + shiny, or "slippery" as the Craunlets refer to its new finish. And for sharing his bedroom with the Craunlets, basically forfeiting all of his floor space and most of his privacy.

158. Uncle K, who waited and waited on kid schedules to participate in family pictures. And who visited again with his black and orange flame Harley Sportster to give the Craunlets a ride.

159. for Nate's crazy laughter, hard play and ever humorous imagination and wild stories.

160. for Bella's curious mind, playful explorations, and crazy expanded older-beyond-her-years verbal repertoire; a sort of summer growing up before Kindergarten.

With one final week of summer before the Fall academic calendar turns over, we are doing our very best to soak up the final hours of summer.

August 16, 2010

The Quick Return of Crazy

Sometimes the best we can do is hopefully + expectantly wait.

And then be entirely + delightfully surprised with the outcome.

We came home this weekend from a fabulous relaxing and long Playcation -- our best to date. Filled with family, and fun, adventure, sight-seeing, motorcycle rides, ice cream cones, playgrounds and evenings on the patio.

After an anxious night of much tossing and turning as reality crept into every crevice of my thoughts, I was finding myself today entirely overwhelmed, discouraged and melancholy. The multiple inboxes are teeming with unanswered e-mails, the mail pile is towering on top of the dining room table, and the phone has been a constant flurry of incoming and outgoing calls. How does crazy return so quickly?

On top of all the ordinary life re-entry demands, I am engulfed in a cloud of unknowns. Every single one of my Fall employment opportunities, outside of Zygote, remain uncertain, and could potentially begin as soon as a week from today.

In both trying to avoid reality, and to cheer up, we spent the sunny cool afternoon in our back yard gardens. Everything can and will wait just another day. We harvested a rainbow of baby heirloom carrots, a handful of small but very rosy tomatoes, and found our sunflowers now easily towering over the Craunlets, and on the brink of blooming.

We laughed and played, and shared in the joy of living in the moment, together. Even amidst all of the what-ifs and to-dos that still and will forever await us.

August 4, 2010

Playcation Bound

I hope the Grand Dubs are ready for the crazy to descend upon them. It has been a busy hardworking summer here, and we are all ready to cut loose a bit, and vacate play-style.

Image Credits, here.

August 3, 2010

Sunflower House, We have Walls

Be them still on the short side, our sunflower house has walls, and they are filling in nicely with broadening leaves like little shelves jetting out from the sturdy stalks. Each of the 26 plants are nearly all standing at close to 3 feet tall today, and they are daily orienting their leaves with the sun. Several plants even boast the beginnings of blooms still nestled tightly within the folds of the top leaves, ready and waiting to emerge at the very tippy-tops of the still-growing stalks.

We are crossing all of our fingers that they will continue to grow, grow, grow quickly over the next couple weeks -- as we plan to celebrate our neighbor Mary's 94th birthday at the end of August. And we very much want to to have our little party inside the towering blooms. Chocolate cake in a sunflower house, I cannot imagine a sweeter way to celebrate.

Gratis, For this I am So Thankful XV

It is a quiet and rainy morning here; both attributes are quite welcome. I brewed up a mean big pot of drip coffee, and piped some terrific uplifting Misty Edwards through the household. It is her real voice, mad piano skills, and the straight up bold truth of her lyrics. It never fails to lift me up, and get my focus pointed in the right direction. Away from me. And toward what matters.

I colored at the big round dining table with the Craunlets. And we feasted on donuts like it might be a Saturday. Better, a weekday holiday. We giggled. We worshiped together. And we made art. By the pile. Oh joy, how our fingers are made for paper in this household! Just delighting in the sweet company of one another, and every color and shade of marker imaginable.

And I am so thankful that today started this way. Carved accidentally and serendipitously out of all the crazy. Unexpected respite.

I am further thankful this week for:

141. sweet Bella all ready for Kindergarten. Her sad parents are struggling to catch up, and get all the essentials in order. But Isabella is beyond-belief, every bit of r.e.a.d.y. And her readiness is the sole thing that is going to leave me crying in the parking lot as she skips off--racing towards her first day--without an ounce of hesitation.

142. the season of Nate that is also just around the bend. Where it will be just me and him on grand daytime adventures, including music class, story-time and the like. I cannot wait to watch his identity broaden, and get to spend some sweet solo time with Nate in his preschool years. Similar to the years I cherished alone with Bella as a baby and toddler. I love how sweetly the seasons have shifted, giving me each of them together and separate.

143. mail; unexpected lovely and sticker-laden. Nothing beats receiving such real treasures in the mailbox. Drawn, written, packaged, mailed. The love, the travel, the surprise. Such a sweet kiss.

144. welcoming babies to the world, and waiting on one more -- due any minute now -- alongside our dear friends, and their growing families. [With more in queue for Autumn] I was bestowed the honor of holding and singing a sweet prayer over a handsome new baby boy just a couple hours old. And it is the best thing in the world--holding a baby, and all that wonder and miracle. Waiting also to meet the adoptive child[ren] of very expectant good friends. Life is such a gift.

145. waived parking tickets incurred during the emergency gas line repair. And the anticipation of much thankfulness when the muddy mess is finally restored to concrete and grass again. At some point. Hopefully soon.

146. wiggly baby teeth, and the golden coins in wait; getting to be the tooth fairy soon. The bittersweet celebration of milestones.

147. something is always blooming in our gardens, window baskets, or porch planters. Being a small part of thriving life is intoxicating; the diversity of creation astounding.

148. toasted coconut donuts from a local donut shop. Every bite of yum sneakily consumed whilst the Craunlets nap. Nothing is sweeter in the hour of quiet.

149. living loudly in our neighborhood and city. Being vulnerable, and real, and just enjoying life in community--and coloring it all over our sidewalks and garden stones.

150. PLAYCATION. An annual all-play all-vacation stay with the Grand Dubs. It is finally [almost] here again!! oh so long over due. And I am going to do my darnedest to unplug. Entirely. For many many days in a row. And enjoy myself, and my husband, and my family.

August 2, 2010

Gardens, and Dreaming in Green

Last week, we were introduced to this fabulous picture book at storytime. A book about gardening; about hope, and vision -- believing in a city, and working, loving, growing, inspiring. It is truly a gem. Simple sweet story, and lovely stunning illustrations.

And it made me further love our city; all of its grand potential. We are finding ourselves renewed, and again dreaming in green for Cleveland.

And my neighborhood--most especially the sweet little pocket garden that is just up the street adjacent to ours--what a lovely spot of walkable green, filled with native blooms. A little respite, built by the community in the very same spirit as this book.

What a fabulous delightful asset to our neighborhood, and one that we are doing our best to actively appreciate.


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