Aveline in a pretty little courtneycourtney dress.
The thing about life is how fragile it is.
We don’t realize it.
We’re too busy pumping up humanity and climbing Everest and launching ourselves into orbit. We collect accolades and list our achievements and add antennas atop towers in an effort to make it all seem bigger, better, taller than it is. We love the stories that are larger than our collective humanity, the people who muster brute strength to do the one thing that no one else can even imagine.
We’re obsessed with strength.
We’re fascinated by human success. We can form armies, we can stop rivers. We’re so busy being strong, we sometimes forget that for all our sky-high buildings and conquered Everests and technological masterpieces, we can’t stop a cell from marching.
We can’t push oxygen where it needs to go. We’re no life-givers.
And in these moments when our frailty becomes the largest thing in the room, we see. We see the veil, thinner than we ever knew it could be. We see the Milky Way and we see the oceans and we see our souls and we see the sky as a canopy over us.
And the wind rushes in, and the curtain lifts up for one ethereal moment and then falls — and we gain a glimpse, and know that in all our trembling bravery and brawn, it was always His hand holding us up.
And we cling to that.
If you’re friends with me on my personal Facebook account, I know, I’m sorry. I’ve been over all this before. But when I saw the positive reaction online to the news this morning — Japan just became the 91st country to ratify the Hague Convention — I’ve decided I need to talk about it here, too.
Because it matters.
I’m not going to talk about whether or not there were good intentions behind the Hague Convention in the beginning. I’m going to talk about now.
We’ve seen it over and over and over again: the Convention adds an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy and red tape to the countries which ratify the treaty. It piles on the list of requirements, and in many cases the countries don’t have the infrastructure, the funding or the ability to comply with the new regulations. And in the wake of the Hague Convention — not always, but often — international adoptions grind to a near-halt.
Take a look at the Hague Convention’s complicated legacy in Guatemala.
If you want to take a more in-depth look at the way the international adoption system is broken, I’d highly recommend watching the STUCK documentary. (At the time of this post, you can stream STUCK for free if you have a Netflix account. If you don’t have a way to access Netflix, email me, and I can send you a different link to stream the film.)
It’s a cookbook, yes; but more than that, it’s a story of people. It’s a story of homes from Brooklyn to Copenhagen to Portland, where people linger, laughing, over favorite meals. The Kinfolk Table is a song to warm kitchens everywhere, where the food is exquisite, where you are wholly present, and no one notices if the Christmas napkins are still in rotation (mine are).
So, pause. Make this the year you live intentionally. Take an extra half an hour to make your favorite biscuit recipe. And then when they’re still warm, pull a book off the shelf, sit down, and breathe.
You might not have time for this.
In the end, you might have a flour-covered three-year-old, crumbs all over your shirt, a sink full of dishes, unanswered emails, and clothes waiting in the dryer (not pictured).
But I’ll let you decide if it was worth it.
Aveline’s birthday was on Sunday. Since she’s now three, she decided she would choose the pose for her birthday portrait. Alrighty, then! (She asked to wear that particular “pah-ty dwess” too.)
She’s literally been talking about “berfdays” for one whole year. She loved the party she had in California last year, so much so that it’s been a nearly daily topic of conversation. And then my dad celebrated his birthday here in October, which set off birthday fever again.
But Sunday was Aveline’s day, and she was completely overwhelmed with excitement. She wished us “happy berfday” dozens and dozens of times throughout the day. And three balloons, she decided, could only mean one thing — one is for Aveline, one is for papa, and one is for mama.
That night, she stayed awake in her bed for two hours after bedtime, happy as a lark, singing happy birthday to herself.
Oh, what a little beacon of light and joy she is! Thank you God, for allowing me to be her mother for such a time as this.
We receive a big stack of magazines every month, and of those, a large percentage are free subscriptions. I’ve never needed an excuse to read a magazine, although I don’t always fork over the cash for them. Once, when my mother-in-law was trying to describe me to an employee at a library we both frequented, the disappointed librarian exclaimed, “Oh yes! She checks out…magazines.”
Some magazines, like Martha Stewart Living, Dwell, and Inc., I love. Others — like Parents — I find myself reading just because the content baffles me so much.
For instance, a few months ago, Parents ran a Venn diagram of stay-at-home moms vs. outside-the-home working moms. The word “exhausted” was conspicuously absent from the stay-at-home mom’s circle. I rubbed my eyes and looked again, thinking perhaps my sleep-deprived orbs deceived me. But I showed the magazine to two or three well-rested friends, and they saw the same thing. Outside job or not, I think any woman who has brought forth another human from her own body will agree “exhausting” is a mild and kind descriptor.
This month, one of the feature articles in Parents is about hyperparenting. I have no idea what hyperparenting is; but admittedly, I’m still getting used to the idea of the word “parenting” being tossed around as a verb. My Oxford dictionary tells me n., a father or a mother; but then again, there’s probably a word for people who still own multiple copies of physical dictionaries, too.
I’ve been reading the article in snippets, in between explaining to a small bouncing kangaroo the difference between the clothes in the laundry basket and the clothes in her dresser. (“I not Aveline today, mummy. I just a little kangaroo.”) The author, Gail O’Connor, cites a 1995 University of California, San Diego study which apparently found that “mothers spent an average of about 12 hours weekly actively attending to their children”. The author goes on to say that “by 2007, that number had risen to 21 hours.”
Certainly the author meant 210 hours? Because, in any given 168-hour week, I would say about 210 of those 168 hours are spent actively attending to my child — er, kangaroo.
I started a load of wash, first stopping to gather up Hello Kitty unders from various points throughout the house while once more expounding upon the virtues of the laundry hamper to my bouncy offspring. I then stepped on a Lego, removed a My Little Pony comb from my screeching kangaroo’s flowing locks, and spent the next fifteen minutes explaining that I could not, in fact, miraculously refill the squeeze bottle of Elmer’s despite the pile of farkly [sparkly] beads just begging to to be glued into the coloring book pages.
I turned back toward the coffee pot. I could see the fluorescent light glinting off the stainless steel of the French Press. The miraculous vision blinded me, and I tripped over the magazine. Twenty-one hours per week, it said.
Cold coffee in hand, I moved a pirate and a Lego flower and sat down again to ponder this. Last Wednesday was 24 hours long, five of which I slept, except for the two occasions at 4 AM and 5 AM when I was, in fact, not asleep and instead in my kangaroo’s room bouncing her. (Ah, how the tides have turned.) According to my highly-calibrated mathulator, I logged 21+ hours of “actively attending to a child” on Wednesday alone.
Staring blankly into the bottom of my coffee mug, I suddenly remembered where we had an extra bottle of Elmer’s glue. “Aveline!” I called, holding out the magazine. “Do you still want to glue beads?”
Stunning, aren’t they? I can’t even fathom the amount of patience that must have gone into creating each one of these paper crane trees. (Scroll down on this page on Naoki Onogawa‘s website to see just how tiny they really are.)
What do you have in store for your Thursday? Aside from the normal chores and weekday routine, we have our weekly produce pick-up (organic produce has so much personality!) and I’ll probably work on Aveline’s birthday crown, too. She’s three on Sunday — and no, I won’t be decorating with hundreds of paper cranes.
She’ll understand. ;)
“So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. …
Ask the questions that have no answers. …
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
“Where does the light goes?” she asks. “Where does it goes?”
No one really knows, we say. It’s all packets and photons and waves. But, this we know. It’s always there, even when it’s dark, because the darkness is no match for light. Light swallows the dark, and the dark will never triumph over light.
She presses her forehead against the glass, and looks out at the solid sheet of afternoon clouds. She asks, “It still a sunny day? It not night?”
It’s called daylight, we say. Even when we can’t see sunshine, we’re still wrapped in light.
It’s almost sunset. The sphere of light is edged in coral, sliding down behind the ridge just across the highways. “Where da sun go now? It move in da sky?” she asks.
It is we who move, we say. The light is always there, an anchor. We move around it, our faces to it, our eyes fixed on it.
“Leave my farkle [sparkle] light on?” she asks. “Leave it on?”
We have to turn it out, we say. It’s time to sleep. It’s dark, but just for a little while. The morning will come. And it will be light again.
It’s January, so like millions of other Americans, I have all sorts of ideas in my head about things I need to organize. My need to de-clutter kicks into overdrive every year when I’m putting away the Christmas decorations. (Which I haven’t actually started yet, by the way. But I haven’t even been home for a full week yet, so I think that excuses me. For now.)
My desire to organize and rearrange spills over into the digital realm. I need to clean out files I don’t need anymore, because my poor iMac is choking and needs more space. (Anyone else notice that it’s way harder to organize virtual file folders than it is to clean out a junk drawer? Or is it just me?)
And, I feel the itch to reevaluate — and redesign — this blog. During 2012, this blog grew by leaps and bounds, a dramatic jump up from the year before. But then, throughout 2013, traffic remained exactly the same as 2012, almost to the digit. Sure, I maintained the growth this blog saw in 2012, but I feel like I didn’t really build on it throughout 2013. So that’s kind of discouraging — to get to the end of the year and look back and realize this blog didn’t reach the kind of growth I wanted it to.
Interestingly, though, engagement across social media skyrocketed during that time — with Instagram, Twitter and Facebook chatter climbing up the charts. I think a lot of that has to do with how we spend our time online these days. Blogs are evolving as the internet becomes more and more saturated with content, and I am constantly trying to figure out what the “it” factor is that makes some blogs really take off while others remain stagnant.
So, in addition to doing a little visual spruce up in the coming weeks, I’m thinking hard about how I’m going to approach this blog and its content in 2014. I’m not going anywhere. I’ve been blogging since 2004 and couldn’t imagine NOT doing this. But I want to set some big, yet realistic, goals for Oaxacaborn in 2014.
I’m just not sure yet what they are.
What do you love most about this blog? What do you want more of? What types of posts could you do without? I’m all ears!
We’re starting off 2014 with all kinds of 3′s. Right away, this month, it’s three and thirty for the three of us. Three for her, and thirty for Josiah and me — and my birthday is even on the thirtieth.
Beyond that, I really have zero idea what’s going to happen this year. And that’s kind of exciting! Especially when it’s the Lord of the universe who guides our way.
“By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.” (Exodus 13:21-22)
No better place to be, don’t you think?
This is it: the great frozen north, separated from the great white north by an icy body of water that the Song of Hiawatha calls “Gitche Gumee, that shining Big-Sea-Water.” For me, it’s a land of family history. My parents grew to adulthood here, as did their parents before them. When you climb the branches of my family tree, the only place that comes before the great frozen north is the Old Country itself — or countries, rather — Italy, Slovenia, Russia, Finland, Sweden, and Poland. Between the Old Country, and me, there is nothing but this great frozen north.
Even I lived here; not for long — just two years — but I did it. And I was cold. From the upstairs of a 1920s house, I was within earshot of the shining Big-Sea-Water, within earshot of the fog horns and the ice-breaking tugboats and the winds that pulled the water from the Lake and twisted it and stretched it and smoothed it like a icy blanket over the naked branches and undulating streets.
But the Lake isn’t all of the north. Like Longfellow wrote,
Dark behind it rose the forest,
Rose the black and gloomy pine-trees,
Rose the firs with cones upon them…
And it’s these inland woodlands that grew up around my parents as children, that grew around me summer after summer and that grow up around my own child now as we visit. It is these woodlands and these tired old towns, once humming with industry and iron mines, but now battered and listing, with every winter leaning further away from the future. It would be wrong to say time has stood still here, for had it stood still it would have left a kinder mark on the crumbling foundations and the aging rooftops.
Stepping here feels like stepping between the pages of the National Geographic photo essays I loved as a child; in the glossy photos I see the live bait and chainsaw repair shops, the blaze orange, the Stormy Kromers, the ice augers, and chatter about choppers (not airborne flying machines but leather-and-shearling mittens).
Here is where we Christmased, this year; here in the waves of gray that slowly sweep from sky to earth in great snowy sheets that obscure the horizon, layer after another until there is no more sense of up or down but only a single color painted in a single swath.
And in that horizon, I see only the lights of Christmas and hear only the laughter of everyone I know, and I forget the heat and forget the noise and forget the traffic and forget the tropical gales.
The snow covers it all.
Dear readers, this Christmas season’s final guest post is by none other than the Copenhagen-based Flying House blog. You might know her as Traveling Mama AKA Tina Fussell — you do follow her Instagram account @tinafussell, right? Tina’s graciously agreed to share a little about her experiences in the magical place that is Scandinavia at Christmastime.
Scandinavia has to be one of the most charming places in the world to celebrate Christmas. For weeks the light of day grows dimmer and dimmer, like a great bear snuggling down for a long winter’s nap. By three o’clock, darkness descends and candlelight flickers in the window of every home and shop. It is everything you might imagine an authentic Christmas to be, as if every everyone and everything has been perfectly scripted into a fairy tale story.
Click for more about Christmas Market shopping and the store windows, from Tina’s blog.
The days are filled with festive foods such as pebernødder cookies and æbleskiver, eaten while creating traditional handmade Christmas decorations, a craft that is passed down from one generation from the next, while the evenings are festive with parties and glogg, a warm mulled wine. The shops are packed with everyone bustling about while Christmas music hangs in the air.
Click for more about gløgg and the Christmas market at Tivoli, from Tina’s blog.
The Christmas markets sell a variety of wares, from seasonal teas to wool hats and gloves and the air is filled with the smell of earthy pine and sweet, sugary nuts being roasted and peddled by street vendors.
If you are looking for a quintessential Christmas experience, then Scandinavia is the place for you.
Click for more about the pebernødder cookie, from Tina’s blog.
Tina, thank you so much! And readers, for more of what Denmark has to offer, be sure to follow along with Tina over at the beautiful Flying House blog, as she takes you inside some of the best little spots in Copenhagen — and shares peeks of her cozy home! It’s one of my favorite reads, for sure.
Such a delightful mix of inspiration from Sophie (Interior Stockholm) and Cecilia (Homemade Stockholm)! It’s all so festive, isn’t it? I like the mischievous tomte, and I’d happily put any of these items into my home — or, tummy! ;)
Thank you so much for putting this together, Sophie!
I’m happy to introduce you to Linda, the talented and design-savvy owner of a London-based Scandinavian house & home shop called Bo Nordica. (Have a browse, it’s lovely!) Linda graciously sent over this post to share with you. If you’ve been an observant reader of the Bo Nordica blog for some time, you may recognize it — for everyone else, enjoy this beautiful star DIY, originally from the Home by Linn blog. I can never get enough paper stars, can you?
Christmas is one of my favourite times of the year. Over the years, the fondest memories I have of Christmas do not include expensive purchases, but precious moments spent with family and friends.
I grew up on a farm near Stavern, a coastal town in the South East of Norway. Every year my father would take the family out in search of the perfect Christmas tree from the woods surrounding our farm. When we returned home my sisters and I would spend hours making paper stars and paper hearts to adorn the tree and decorate our home.
This is just one of our family traditions that made Christmas extra special..
You will need: paper, scissors, pencil and ruler.
1. The star is made up of of 8 paper squares – so you need to start by cutting these out. To save time you can make a thin cardboard square template – draw around it and cut out. I made my squares 10cm x 10cm. Position the square in front of you with one of the tips pointing towards you. Make a fold diagonally down the middle to make a crease, then unfold paper.
2. Fold each corner to the centre so the tip meets the middle line.
3. Fold again as shown in picture (See the Home by Linn post).
4. Fold the top triangle parallel along the little triangle below. Unfold and make a fold on the opposite side.
5. You have now made a cross. Then turn it around.
6. Make sure it looks the same as it does in the photo! Take the bottom pointy end and fold it to the left along the line that you made before you turned it around.
7. Now this is the tricky bit… You should have a small triangle on top of a large triangle. The large triangle has a line down the middle – fold down the middle along the line. The little triangle should now be bending a little. Fold the little triangle and follow the line from the cross you made earlier.
8. This is what it should look like. It should be easier the second time around.
9. Practice makes perfect… You have to make 8 of these
10. Now for the assembly… Insert the small triangle behind the ‘flaps’ of the large triangle. Do not tighten too hard at first as it will be difficult to assemble the last one. Tighten when they are all connected. Pull the tips carefully one by one. Voila! You have a paper star. You can make an assortment of these in different sizes, colours and patterns.
I hope you enjoy giving these a try. And don’t forget to let me know how you get on!
Until next time,