gratitude: on this weary, chilly Tuesday

About a month ago, I got pulled over, in our older (often fondly called “the battlewagon”) car– expired tabs. I was so annoyed, because I rarely drive that car, since my lovely husband insists I drive the nicer of the two cars, but the one day I did, State Patrol of course rolls up and puts on those gut-punch-invoking flashing lights. Just my luck, right? (p.s. the tabs were an honest mistake…but I’ll spare you the song and dance.)

Fast forward to last Friday. I was leaving work early that day, planning a sassy new cut & color and then an early arrival to surprise the kids and to prepare for my husband’s return from a week-long business trip. You know the drill– shower, pedicure, make the house really pretty. Bake brownies for that inviting “welcome home” smell. Oh, I am indeed a pretty dang good wife, too. Well, what to my wondering eyes does appear, but a FLAT FREAKING TIRE. On the new car, this time. Grrr, why me?!? Right?! Long story short, some guys at work gave me a hand, I hobbled on a spare to my appointment (that’s a whole other long story, but we will leave that one alone for now.) I still got a bit of extra time with the kids, my husband still came home to a freshly-sassified and polished up me, leftover homemade pizza, and the inviting scent of warm brownies. All good.

Now, it was a very busy weekend, and yesterday was a day off school, so my husband stayed home and I drove in with the older car, again. The newish car is still grounded at home, needing a new tire. No problem. We thought we might get it in today, but there was too much going on for each of us, work-wise. So, he took the motorcycle, and I again, took the older car. No big. I even planned a quick trip up to the DMV to get those pesky tabs taken care of.
And then.
A light.
A “check engine” kind of light.

You can probably guess my response. Yep, I cried a little and cursed fate. I dramatically wondered why life has to get so overwhelming.

But, just as quickly, I was filled with a warm sense of gratitude. My mind started reeling with all the beauty and love and laughter in my life. And I thought, “this is really not a big deal.”
I have changed immensely in this sense. I used to be the ultimate cynic, the pessimist to put all other pessimists to shame. Slowly, and I believe as a result of one of the hardest times in my life, the switch flipped. I feel lucky most of the time, despite never winning the lottery, despite often feeling extremely stretched for time and energy, despite not having the perfect, fancy house or private-school tuition, despite my (sorely) limited fashion and travel budget, despite having been through three or four life-altering and extraordinarily difficult crises, I feel so very fortunate, almost all the time.

I like it much better this way.

So, just today– what exactly am I grateful for?
love. so much love. my healthy, capable, unique and self-assured children (I’m counting all 4 in this equation). my pup. grilled cheese sammies. chai tea. an amazingly comfy bed. the 100 push-ups program. photoshop. my new desk. how my kitten likes to wedge her head under my chin. youtube. my sense of humor. kissing.

lucky me

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twelve times around the sun

My boy is twelve.
He recently passed me in height.
He has his own taste in music. We agree on much of it. Because …you know, I’m still a cool mom.
Sometimes, anyway.
I have been known as Mama for twelve amazing years. I don’t even remember who I was before I was this boy’s mother.
He makes me laugh, he makes me proud, he sometimes exasperates me, but all I know is, when he falls asleep at night, the few nights I am awake later than he is, I sometimes sneak in his room, and I still see the angelic baby I remember from 1999. And 2000. And 2001. And so on.

Will it always be this way? When he has five o-clock shadow, when he becomes a father someday, when he falls asleep on my couch when he’s home for a visit, will I still see that baby boy in his face?

I hope so.

lunch box love


(image from glamour.com)

I pack all the kids’ lunches. It’s a whole lotta slicing, dicing, and peanut-buttering, let me tell you. I often wish I had more time in the mornings to make them awesome Bento-style lunches, but the sad reality is– I already wake up at 5 AM, and the odds of me getting up any earlier are slim to nada.
So, I do what I can. Slip in a chocolate kiss here and there. Put in a little note. For a while, I was printing out and putting in Lunchbox Poems, an idea I still love. Sometimes the kids are really rushed through their break, though, so I started putting in shorter, sweet printables– some of which I found over at Kind Over Matter. Not all of them are totally meant for kids, though, so I thought I’d start making my own. I made a set that include some kid-friendly quotes, and some random ones that are just little love notes. I’ve made them into a PDF, so feel free to share them with YOUR kids too. School days can feel long and tedious, and sometimes other kids aren’t as nice as you’d hope, and some days can be overwhelming. I think a little extra love in your lunchbox might just make a so-so day into a much better one, at least for the children I know and love.
So, please…share the love!
lunchnotes

knitting, what??

For a long time, strangelittlemama was primarily a knitting blog. Well, it was also about parenting, and music, and other good stuff, but it certainly featured a lot of knitting.
Around the same time I stopped blogging regularly, I also stopped knitting. Not completely. There was a hat here, a scarf there, something for a new baby… but really, no knitting. Life was super hectic as a single mom, for one, and for two, I lacked inspiration.
Now, I have lots of inspiration. A handsome husband, four gorgeous children, a never-ending wishlist of lovely knits I see, but between weekday work, the weekend photography gigs, being a girl scout leader, ad nauseum… I just don’t ever get around to picking up those needles.
Well. The day of reckoning has come. I’ve found a pattern I can’t bear NOT to knit. Thank goodness I still remember to check knitty now & then!

Really?? I can’t wait to get it on my body, let alone knit it!

Later, I’ll be posting this year’s holiday shot on the good love blog. I’ll also be hosting a girl scout meeting and making lemon squares for my son’s band bake sale. Who me, busy?

comfort and love

Oooh, look at me writing so soon after my “I never write” post!! I’m telling you, I’ve got my blogging mojo back. Now, let’s just hope that little statement didn’t jinx this sudden burst of motivation.

Anyway, I love autumn, especially here in New Mexico. The days are crisp, usually sunny, the sky is spectacular, and as leaves turn and fall, and the chill becomes more and more prevalent, we begin to hunker down and cozy up, and in my case, bake, which… let’s be honest, during much of the year, I can’t be bothered. I mean, I see recipes that sound amazing, and I think about making them. Sometimes I even go pick up the ingredients. But actually carving out the time to execute them? Rare, at least during spring and summer. Not to mention, the few attempts I have made at cookies here at 7,000 feet plus have been…pathetic, at best.
But November is here, and all things pumpkin start to call my name. Seriously, who can deny the sweet, spicy, comfort of pumpkin? Pas moi, mes amis, pas moi!
First on the agenda each year? Why, pumpkin bread, of course! I made this one, and hot damn, it is GOOD. I reduced both the sugar and the oil, since they seemed excessive and some of the reviewers did the same with good results. I made three loaves, one of which I folded in dark chocolate chunks. Oh, mama. So good, and even better the next day. I failed to take any artsy pictures, and besides, I have found that food photography is perhaps my LEAST favorite, so sorry, but you’ll have to trust my description.
Next on the pumpkin list? Vanilla Bourbon Pumpkin Tart. You heard right. Swoon.

Oh, and on the subject of comfort food? Tonight I am making Neapolitan Baked Ziti, with a red butter lettuce salad, and Miss V’s spectacular homemade dressing.

So, since I titled this comfort and love, I suppose I should mention love? Well, I’m bursting at the seams with it, really. I am THE luckiest woman in the world and I am so madly in love, the rest of the world should be jealous. Yes, I gush and swoon, and make a fool of myself over this, and guess what? I do not care. Love, love, more love. On that note, please go listen to Somebody Loved, by The Weepies. Be prepared to get a little weepy, yourself.

Rain turns the sand into mud
Wind turns the trees into bone
Stars turning high up above
You turn me into somebody loved

Nights when the heat had gone out
We danced together alone
Cold turned our breath into clouds
We never said what we were dreaming of
But you turned me into somebody loved

Someday when we’re old and worn
Like two softened shoes
I will wonder on how I was born
The night I first ran away from you

Now my feet turn the corner back home
Sun turns the evening to rose
Stars turning high up above
You turn me into somebody loved

xoxox

five months later

Well, yes. I rarely write. I know, I know. I’m not sure if it’s a lack of time or more to do with the fact that as the kids grow up and life continues to morph, I feel more guarded about what I share.
I’m hoping to come here a bit more. I miss it. I loved writing this blog, and regularly.

But I’m guessing it will take on some new characteristics. A photo here, a recipe there, links to blogs that inspire or educate, or hell, make me feel completely inadequate. That’s alright. I’m pretty good at quite a few things, but I will never be a chef, a master baker, or manage to carve out the time for all the cool crafty endeavors I see out there, covet, and then never get around to.

For today, a photo I took at Ghost Ranch, NM, where Georgia O’Keefe lived and painted many of her best known works. I went with my sister when she was here for a visit a couple weeks ago. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again– New Mexico is unlike anywhere else on this planet.

and one of my favorites from a trip we took to NYC back in July (which oddly, feels like yesterday…I believe that may be symptomatic of **ahem** getting old) right before my 40th birthday. Ayayay!

about a boy


When S was born, 11.5 years ago, I was determined to do everything right. I read parenting books, I knew early in my pregnancy that I would nurse exclusively, that I would co-sleep, that I would love love love this child so much that no harm could ever come his (or her…I didn’t know) way. What I didn’t know, or couldn’t really fathom, is that life has its own trajectory and even if I was the most amazing parent on earth (which I’m certainly not) so many other factors determine how a person’s life turns out. Peers. School. The internet. DNA. There’s so much at stake, yet so little I really can control, in terms of his eventual destiny, and the way he chooses to lead his life, the mistakes he’ll make and just how much they might affect him.

This fact terrifies me.

And of course, I feel exactly the same way about all four kids. J & I look at each other sometimes, and reluctantly shake our heads with the unutterable knowledge that, with four, odds are fairly high that at least one of them will go through some very difficult times. Obviously we aren’t assuming that it will happen, but I can feel us mentally bracing ourselves for it.

Back when S was a baby, I read what I considered to be a parenting bible. It was written by Katie Allison Granju. Katie also participated on the hipMama forums, which for me as a novice yet determined and overwhelmingly in love new parent, were the source of so much of my parenting decision-making. If anyone knows how to parent, it’s Katie. If anyone is wise, and loving, and close to her children, it’s Katie.
On Monday, after over a month in the hospital due to a drug overdose and a vicious attack, Katie lost her 18-year-old son.

I can’t imagine how ripped asunder she must feel. I can’t put it together in my head how it must be to logically come to terms with the fact that not only has your child died, but that there was nothing you could do. A parent who has lovingly and mindfully raised her children with intention, and yet….it didn’t stop it from happening.
I have talked to S about it. He’s seen all the pictures of Henry– and he can see himself why I’m reminded of him, a little. When I read that Henry had not made it, after following every single update for over a month, and I burst into tears, his eyes welled up, too. I hope this affects him profoundly. I hope he sees how my heart can break for another mother, and in imagining her pain, and I hope with all my heart he remembers when he is 15 and tempted. Or 12 and tempted. (A sixth-grader at his school was suspended for smoking pot on campus this school year.)

I am looking at this differently. I think my generation tends to think that despite all the experimentation we may have done, we all made it through, intact and healthy and responsible. We have jobs, and homes, and our own children. We vote and we care rabidly about what happens to the next generation. So, yeah, we turned out pretty damn alright. But kids… the game has changed. Little sneaks out of parents’ booze cabinets and smoking a little bud out of a Coca-Cola can are no longer the main attractions.
Lock up your prescription meds. Replace household chemicals with natural cleaners that can’t be abused.

Talk to them. Tell them what could happen to them. Tell them how it would wreck you. Cry.

Tell them a story. Honor Henry and his family.

good love. and stuff.

I’m once again sorely neglecting this blog, but I think it’s just a side-effect of having an extraordinarily busy life. Four kids, a full-time job, pets, being a Girl Scout leader, trying to be an attentive wife… I think I’ve got a fairly legitimate excuse for slacking, Then there’s this other thing I have been working on, and I’d like to show you, finally.
good love
Now I know I’m a bad blogger and I know many of you just keep up with me on Facebook, but those of you who still stumble around here now & then, I hope you’ll pop over and take a look. I’d love to hear your thoughts. I’m excited about this. I’m not quitting my day job or anything, but this gives me concrete opportunity to exercise my creativity in a way I really, really enjoy.  I’ll also be blogging on that end, intermittently I’m guessing, as well, but more toward projects I’m working on and sharing some photos. If you’re interested, the blog is here.
I will keep this going as a family/ general musing blog, as well, although I won’t promise to be super-regular about it. Maybe by giving myself lots of flexibility, I’ll be more inclined to write. Since I have a few minutes to relax at this very moment, I think I will go by your blogs & say hi!

Oh boy, I am so out of practice…

When did I last write? It’s been a few weeks, I know. I guess after such a long blogging hiatus, I barely remember that this is something I love… writing, musing, spewing forth, whatever. Part of the issue is I read so few blogs now and don’t feel part of any specific blogging community. This used to be a mama-blog and I read the other mamas, they read me, we had a dialogue. It then morphed into a knitting & family life blog; again, I was conversing back and forth via blogging. Now, what’s it about? Hmmm… still family life, some photography, very occasional knitting (though I’m trying to remedy that.)
I’m re-defining myself, I guess… again. Problem is, it’s not a complete definition. One strong motivator right now, though, is moving in the direction my creativity dictates. I can’t keep ignoring it, it causes way to much existential angst, and in a life where I barely have time to breathe, I find myself actually holding my breath for lengthy periods (and yes, that does cause a person to pass out, or very close) which I’m taking as a life metaphor. It’s a piece of me I must nourish. I’m immersing myself in learning as much as I can and allowing myself the time to really push myself creatively. To that end, I will be launching a business in the next couple weeks, focusing mainly on custom annnouncements and invitations, but also marketing materials. I expect, for the moment, for it to be a trickly business– a little here and there, with friends as my main customers (which is already the case) while I stick with the day job. But that is okay with me, as long as I’m doing something that really feeds this truly ravenous side of me, this part of who I have always been yet chosen to ignore for logistical reasons, mostly. Any maybe because of tiny bit of doubt.

“He who is not everyday conquering some fear has not learned the secret of life.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

So, yes. I will be doing new things, and I am really excited to dive in and go for it. The name, the site, and the fun will be revealed within… one week! I’m committing.

In the meantime, I have been doing the Year in Pictures project on Flickr. I flailed through January and February, posting just a few shots I truly loved. The rest were done under pressure, and half-assed to be perfectly blunt, and so I almost quit. But then I decided a theme would help, and so this month I am shooting hands & feet. Hands, mostly, because they tell so many stories. Here are a few, so far.