Wednesday, December 31, 2008

color!

i no longer live in a white-walled house! a few nights ago aaron painted with his brother john and brother-in-law kevan. hooray for color!


living room: winter lake. (warm and lovely)

dining room and kitchen: terrarium. (beige-ish green)

bathroom: wildflower honey. (crazy but fun)

now i look forward to finally hanging up our artwork and pictures, which have sadly been sitting in a box in our closet since we moved in months ago. the big question is, what to put on the living room wall? it's a weighty decision for such a vast space with such high ceilings. maybe we need to commission a very large piece of art. suggestions?

christmas crafting

here's a sampling of the fun handmade parts of our christmas this year.

the felt star ornaments we helped noah make for friends and family (with thanks to heather for the idea)

noah in his new neckwarmer from heather

noah's stocking, made by grandma, filled with a new red hat and mittens, made by oma

N is for Noah, a book i made for noah on snapfish

his favorite page in the book, with a picture of a very sad noah on the carousel

isla in her awesome oma booties, which go halfway up her legs

here's noah playing with his very cool neighborhood map, made by uncle colin, aunt nic, aunt irene and uncle kevan. it includes the police station, the library, trader joe's, and our local market, nelson's, among other stops. (and parking spots for noah's prius and his mail truck.) he loves it!

a beautiful mobile from maryka for isla, with needle felted flowers, leaves and stems and lovely old-fashioned bells
our christmas stockings, which i made! not perfect at all, but functional.

gift baskets for our neighbors, with gingerbread and spritz cookies and chocolate fudge

Friday, December 26, 2008

christmas!

a christmas parking garage

building a christmas snowman with grandpa

complete with a bandstra transportation hat!

our friends heather and pearl (and joey, hidden behind) joined us for dinner

noah and pearl in their fancy christmas clothes

christmas treats

we had a lovely day.
hope you did too!
merriest of christmases to all of you dear friends and family.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

christmas cards

yesterday on all things considered i heard this funny commentary about christmas cards by a jesuit priest. he was criticizing the current craze for family-oriented christmas cards, wherein we take pictures of ourselves and our kids, often from a trip to a fancy beach-front location, and put those pictures in the place of the holy family on the cards we send to family and friends at christmastime. though his commentary was really funny ("think more virgin mary and less virgin islands"), i also felt chagrined.

this was the first year i fell prey to the my-cute-kids-on-the-christmas-card trend, mostly because we just didn't have the energy to make meaningful christ-centered christmas cards, and secondarily because i know people we don't see often like seeing pictures of my cute kids (and i like seeing pictures of theirs!). and the simple message on our cards--JOY--i meant to be big enough to embrace the christmas miracle but also all the other small things that bring joy to our lives (like noah and isla, for example). but maybe subtlety like that isn't quite in keeping with "go, tell it on the mountain!"

but it's tricky, because sometimes hearing a story over and over again makes its meaning go away. it's not like the cards with a trite hallmark christmasy rhyme and a picture of a manger really make me take stock of the christmas miracle. i think the best cards take a small part of the story and open it up, or let you make meaning out of it yourself. i think this also about christmas songs, poetry, media, etc. and this is why i love the charlie brown christmas special more than any other christmas movie: linus reciting the poetic text from the book of luke to a crowd of silly young people trying to put on a pageant, silencing them all. it stops you in your tracks. and some of the traditional carols on sufjan stevens' christmas cds are like this too. my favorite right now is "lo, how a rose e'er blooming," and the powerful image of incarnation it evokes with the lines "it came, a flowerth bright/amid the cold of winter/when half-spent was the night... to show god's love aright/she bore to us a savior/when half-spent was the night."

next year i promise we'll make cards again, with a subtle image or text that will leave you feeling like, "yeah... that's it! that's what it's all about!"

(but in one more defense of this year's cards: incarnation means christ came in body, he gestated in his mother's womb, he was born with blood and amniotic fluid through sweat and tears, he was a beautiful little baby, he nursed at his mother's breast, she cried with joy, she was a mother above all things. and right now being mother to my little ones is what the christmas story is about for me. and right now joy, and holding tight. but later having to learn to let go...

but we'll wait until easter for that.)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

the waldorf holiday faire, and education

we did go to the waldorf holiday faire on saturday afternoon, and we had a really nice time. we're still learning what waldorf is all about, and thinking about options for school in the kids' future, and i thought of our day sort of as an information-gathering outing. we loved the campus, which is out near lake whatcom (about a ten minute drive from our house) and involves a few school buildings and some wonderful play structures in the sprawling yard. noah had lots of fun climbing up the various treehouse-like structures in the yard. we also watched a puppet show (done with needle-felted animals) of the jan brett book "the mitten," and went mining for crystals in the gnome mine that the children had built. there were lots of craft options as well, but noah was running out of steam and probably wouldn't have had much patience for making felt ornaments or candle-holders. but we did buy a panel of blue beeswax with the intention of making our own candle. all the different colored beeswax laid out on the tables was so beautiful!

the main asset i see so far in waldorf education is the value they put on childlikeness. i love that imaginative play is so integral to everything they do--from the puppet shows to the dolls to the treehouse structures in the yard. i want my children to learn in a space where they are allowed to be children for as long as possible. i also appreciate the waldorf school dress code, which is pretty specific but mostly disallows any advertisements or violent images, and expects modesty. what a relief, especially as i think of dressing isla as she grows! i also love all the colors and textures that are part of waldorf life: play silks, wool and felt, beeswax, wood, etc. and i appreciate the importance of celebration and fun, having festivals to mark the changing seasons and important holidays. i'm sure this helps children understand time and change, and to accept the passing of old things and the coming of new.

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here's what wikipedia says about waldorf education for preschool to age 6 or 7:

Waldorf schools approach learning in early childhood through imitation and example. Extensive time is given for guided free play in a classroom environment that is homelike, includes natural materials and provides examples of productive work in which children can take part; such an environment is considered by Waldorf pedagogues to be supportive of the physical, emotional and intellectual growth of the child through assimilative learning. Outdoor play periods are also generally incorporated into the school day, with the intention of providing children with experiences of nature, weather and the seasons of the year. In Waldorf schools oral language development is addressed through songs, poems and movement games. These include daily story time when a teacher usually tells a fairytale, often by heart. Waldorf kindergartens and lower grades discourage exposure to media influences such as television, computers and recorded music, as they believe these to be harmful to cognitive development in the early years.

The education emphasizes early experiences of daily and annual rhythms, including seasonal festivals drawn from a variety of traditions. Though Waldorf schools in the Western Hemisphere have traditionally celebrated Michaelmas and Martinmas in the autumn, Christmas in winter, Easter and May Day in the spring, and St. John's Day in summer, Western schools are now incorporating an increasingly wide range of cultural and religious traditions, and schools located where Jewish, Buddhist, or Islamic traditions are dominant celebrate festivals drawn from these cultures.
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last year while we were at the julian house we participated in a lantern walk for martinmas with the wassells, carlson-liers and some neighbors. the kids all made their own paper lanterns, which we lighted and held out as we walked around the neighborhood and sang. it was really lovely.

here are some of the lanterns

and here's little noah with his lantern in the dark
one thing i don't love about the waldorf school in bellingham is that it's not very close by. i know ten minutes isn't much of a drive, but there are lots of preschools and schools within walking distance. there's also a bilingual spanish preschool nearby that i haven't checked out at all yet, but i do like the idea of helping noah learn a language very early on. and our church has a preschool and school, which we also haven't looked into much yet. i love the idea of our christian faith and the liturgy of the church year being an integral part of noah's education. but i also like the idea of participating in the public school system, which i think is a great way to learn about people different from us, and is a good use of public resources.

and then of course there's the issue of money! any preschool and any private school would require it, and we really don't have much. but some preschools and private schools do offer financial aid, so it might be possible.

and i also know some parents think it's best to keep their children at home for as long as possible... and while i'm not necessarily in a rush for noah to begin some formal education, i do think he and i both benefit from a little time apart, and from interaction with different types of people and learning environments.

so much to think about! i know we still have lots of time, but it feels good to begin this discernment process. what do you all think about education for your children? what do you do, or what do you plan to do?

Monday, December 15, 2008

a great birthday

the theme for my birthday weekend seemed to be delicious food! aaron and i did go to the tapas restaurant on friday night, and sampled a few small but very tasty dishes. the waitress was really thrown off by the fact that aaron got sangria and i had a beer. not very gender typical, i guess, but i enjoyed my manly drink.

saturday i did get my hair cut, and i went crazy and had the hairdresser style it straight! i've never done that before, but it was fun. it took her about half an hour, three products and two different devices. i'm guessing it probably won't happen again until i get my hair cut next. here's me with my kiddos and my straight straight hair.

then saturday night some of my lady friends came out for a yummy supper at d'annas, my very favorite italian restaurant. it was very festive and extravagent--i even strayed from my usual spaghetti and meatballs and ordered a steak! lily said since my hair was straight, i wasn't obligated to do anything i'd usually do.

here's dorothy, irene and sarah

and here's lily, maryka and me... in the SNOW! yes folks, i did get my birthday snow. it began midway through dinner and was a delight to walk out into in the evening. sarah, irene and i continued the magic with a viewing of the northwest ballet's "nutcracker" at wwu. it was a really fun performance without the promised russian but with lots of cute little kids. both sarah and irene felt like the moves they were watching should be reasonable to replicate, but upon trying a few out during intermission, realized that was not true. good thing they're nurses, not ballerinas!

then sunday morning isla shined as little baby jesus (or LBJ, as aaron kept saying) at our church's christmas pageant. she didn't cry a peep, though she was napless and a little restless. the young mary tried holding isla for a while, and many of the older church ladies were on the edge of their seats as isla flopped about. but all went well, and we got many congratulations for having the best baby jesus ever. who would have known?

here's isla in her baby jesus outfit, a lovely little white cardigan and pants from our friend andrea. no swaddling clothes, as i knew she'd bust right out of them.

mary and child

the pageant finale, with isla in the rickety manger on stage. (sorry it's so hard to see! i didn't want to be one of those annoying stage mothers who marches right up front to take pictures.)

we finished off the weekend at aaron's parents' house, where we had a greek feast and wherein i was presented with the aforementioned awesome new digital camera. aaron, uncle kevan and noah also spent a bit of time playing in the snow, trying to sled on a torn apart bandstra moving box. (not a big success.) isla watched them out the window.

thank you to everyone for your happy birthday wishes! it was a wonderful weekend.

there's the bird!

noah and aaron made this awesome birthday card for me, with animal cutouts from a national geographic kids' magazine. by happenstance the big elephant's ear ended up hiding a little bird. noah loved the peek-a-boo aspect, happily exclaiming "there's the bird!" every time he lifted up the flap.


there's the bird!but here's my real birthday present: a new nikon digital camera with ten megapixels! aaron organized his whole family to go in on it together, but he did the choosing. he was so proud of himself for navigating the tricky world of electronic lingo. (he said he had a very helpful guy at bestbuy.) we've loved our old camera (thank you, alan!) since we got it for our wedding four and a half years ago. it had the cool feature of being water-resistant and extremely durable. but it also only had 3 megapixels and very slow autofocus, which meant often blurry and sort of unclear pictures. the new one is super fast and very clear, and has a big screen on the back, which is really cool. (especially for two-year-olds who like to see the pictures of themselves immediately after they're taken.) i'm very excited to put the new camera to work.

here's my first product:

it also helps to have a super cute little girl!

Friday, December 12, 2008

etsy

if you're still christmas shopping, consider visiting these etsy sites:

my friend christina, who lives here in bellingham. she is a lovely painter and maker of pretty things. and her little girl autumn was born on the very same day as isla.
my friend rosemary, who lives in gloucester, massachusetts. she is an amazing artist and she has a really wonderful laugh.
my friend sarah, who lives in grand rapids, michigan. she is raising her little girl eleanor to be an artist and to live on the edge. they are both very cool.
my friend sarah's sister jenny. she lives in port townsend and gave us our very first baby gift for isla, which was a bunch of these lovely block-prints on onesies.
my sister-in-law jessica's friend brielle, who lives in oregon and who i met once at a birthday party for my niece kate. i really like her silverware sets.
i don't know this woman, melissa, but i love the things she makes. she is a new zealander living in norway, and she has two lovely little children.