A Choice

Today a wise mama posted words hit me like a bat to the head.  A well needed blow may I add.  One of my favorite bloggers, Nici from Dig this Chick, wrote an amazing, mind-blowing entry about making choices in her life.  Finding balance. Being present. 
"My daughters have helped me remember that we have choices about most things. Feeling panicked or overwhelmed is a choice."
Since this summer, I have felt overwhelmed from the present.  My father-in-law suffered a second major stroke at the same time our house was torn to shreds for massive renovations. Two factors of my life that I relate to stability and to endless joy became anything but solid.  The physical changes planted a seed of upheaval within me. I let it establish strong roots.  
I masked the anxiety this summer by enjoying the time living on the boat and then spent away on vacations.  But as fall replaced summer I felt the weight of supporting my family through my husband’s reeducation stack on the mounding pressures.  And then I let everything get to me - deciding Alex’s future schooling, my Dad’s health concerns, my father-in-law’s progress, my pending job changes, and money.  I was numb and exhausted.  I could not enjoy my frequent visits to Pennsylvania, seeing that my attention was focused on attending to family needs. I walked away from simple pleasures including posting on this blog, and then felt guilty for dropping it.
And then it took 7 simple words - feeling panicked and overwhelmed is a choice - to sucker-punch me out of my fog.  Holy shit.  It was my choice. It is my choice.  I need to look at those words every day.  I need to remember that I alone decide to be present or not.  
Yesterday I took advantage of an extremely mild day in mid-November to walk to lunch versus a quick drive.  And I was enjoying the warmth, I thought about the book One Thousand Gifts, and how I never started recording my gifts of the every day in a journal.  Then I thought that my first blessing to record should be: Walking on a sunny, mild day. I can see that the healing started yesterday.  I know that I'm capable.
:: July Recap ::
Ben and I were asked once again to drive the Faces of Valor mobile in the Galesville, MD 4th of July parade.  Our little Statue of Liberty was as popular as the car.
I made her costume last summer from a small sheet, 1/2 yard of 1" foam, a bit of dye, a sharpie pen, and sharp sheers.  Who knew it would get so much mileage.

:: Martha's Vineyard ::
There's still something rustic and unpolished about the island of Martha's Vineyard, MA.
It's where I grew up as a teen.  It's where we got married 20 years ago.  It's where I share space with my dearest of friends who opens her vacation to us every summer. I know that roaming here with her by my side is a blessing. A gift.

We gladly trade television for nature's creatures at low tide. Every single day.
Grey proves year-after-year that he has the special touch with the local creatures.

:: Long Point Beach - how I have a crush on you. Shallow freshwater lagoon on one side and the blue Atlantic ocean on the other; with the two waters separated by a strip of dunes and a lot of poison ivy. The space beacons that you bring it all - shovels, toys, and colorful beach umbrellas.

:: Chappaquiddick - a new adventure for us.  A local island, accessed by a fast boat ride. Without cars, the island can only be discovered by foot. We gladly obliged.
:: There's a natural connection between our three children.  They will grow up knowing each other and remembering all the crazy moments.

I love this place so much. It makes my soul swim in deep happiness.

And looking back tonight reminds me that life will fall in place as it ebbs and flows. And that I have the choice to control my perspective.  I'm not saying that I will ignore the need to worry about the details, but I cannot allow it to control my reality. The one that I appreciate so.

1. Taking a walk on a mild fall day.
2. Gathering leaves.
3. Sleeping next to my daughter.
4. Fresh roasted coffee with cream.


Once Upon a Time

Once upon a time, my little girl turned four...

The one passion I share with several close friends is the need to celebrate life - to celebrate the child.  So when I asked Alex earlier this spring what she wanted for her fourth birthday party, her thoughts included the words: pink, purple, sparkle, princess, dress-up, castle, and Rapunzell.  And she wanted it to be at home because to her, "that's where the best parties are."

I set up an enchanted party board on Pinterest to gather my varied thoughts into something tangible.  I wanted the party to feed her imagination, to be welcoming to both boys and girls, and to truly allow children play openly and unstructured.  And so the thought was born to make it a storybook fairy tale, which would force books, not Disney princesses, to be the focus of the party.
I found the perfect invitation from the Etsy seller Perfectly Touched - an 10" x 6" sparkly castle invitation.  The seller left the inside blank so that I could complete the wording.  The best part? Not only did I save time and money, but the purple and silver tones of the invite set the color theme for the party!

I will admit that I'm one of those crazy, creative, crafty people, and this party ignited a flame within me.  And like my mother, I wanted to put my personal touch on every detail - all because I have a girl that is so grateful for the handmade.  On the list of items created: Rapunzel hair wig, unicorns (from stick horses), treasure stones, knights costumes, gift boxes.  Dude, I was burning the creative candle on both ends. My kid was gasping daily.
I saw a page in Parent's magazine that suggested alternative Easter baskets including one that was crafted to look like a castle.  So I experimented with $.60 gift boxes from Michaels where I hand-cut the top edges to look like a castle, painted them grey and finished them off with a faux stone design.  I filled them with shredded purple fill, chocolate coins, handmade treasure stones, ring pops, and Tobos thematic figurines.

I found these books at Michaels and scattered stacks of them around the tables.

And I used tea cups on the tables filled with silver gum balls in lieu of apothecary jars.  (I think every child asked if they were gumballs and then slinked off with one or two in hand.)
And then my friend Shannon lent me this ridiculously funny frog prince for the table just because.

As for the children's area, I wanted everything to be at their level - the tables, the dress up area, the moon bounce - creating the fantasy from their vantage.  I placed two low 4'x8' tables  together and surrounded the perimeter with smaller chairs; it was not a round table, but at least a setting for a feast.  The table was decorated with white and pink linens, silver chargers (Michaels $1), and golden goblets filled with sparkling cider.

I surrounded the table with a staked canopy that was covered in ribbon, tulle, flowers, and butterflies punched out of vintage children's books.

I had another crazy thought to paint a mural for the background; understand that I don't paint and the project made me sweat.  I sewed 2 twin sheets together and then used basic acrylic craft paints to create the scene.  And knowing my girl, I added details like purple flags at the top of the castle, Rapunzel's hair flowing from a window, and flying lanterns drifting away from the castle.
Witness the power of prayer.  Booyah, I can paint!

And lastly, the cake.  It was based on the book "The Princess and the Pea." 

Now for the important details…the children.  At this point, I will use very few words and let the images speak for themselves.

I feel so grateful to be in the presence of children.  I cherish their ability to find the joy in the basic.

I have a feeling that she will not forget this celebration for a long time.  And that my dear friends is what it's all about - carving deep grooves into her childhood.

I am grateful to my friend Cindy for helping to staple up not only a million butterflies, but for also capturing many images.

And she lived happily ever after.  The End.



And suddenly my little girl is 4. 

Count those fingers.  She's so big, yet still so small.  Tucked under our wings, but someday I know that Alex will be ready to soar. She's Innocent and full of stories and possesses the largest imagination.  And oh Alex is so loving.  I need to bottle her to up to remember the intensity of her love.  It's pure and meaningful. And I'll need to open up that reserve one day when she's 15 and I'm simply the stupidest thing Alex has ever know. 
Alex's birthday fell mid-week this year, so without hesitation,  I took the day off to celebrate her birth.  We celebrated in the morning with the preschool classmates, sharing songs and ice cream cups. I sat in one of the little chairs, watching my knees avoid my chin, negotiating at least 6 little conversations directed my way.  But all the time, I beamed with pride, letting my heart surf the swell of  love.  I thought "that's my girl" as I caught glances and monstrous hugs from her.

After school, I decided our celebration would entail a proper tea.  Our first tea together.  Just us girls.  I think about how much my mother would have loved to have joined us. Silly, but true.  Having high tea was just so Florence.

We dressed appropriately (me in a dress and Alex in her new sparkly Cinderella dress) and headed to Reynolds Tavern.  We ordered tea, finger  sandwiches, and scones.  

The room was filled with other ladies and the space buzzed with conversation, but Alex sat quietly fascinated, dropping cubes of sugar and pools of milk into the tea.  And she declared how much she loved Earl Grey at least 5 times.  That's my girl.

Sallie joined us too because it was special day. (however the phone was removed at one point because Sallie could not stop playing Word with Friends).

And when Alex stepped away from the table, the other ladies in the room made a fuss over her dress and realized that it was her birthday.  And next thing you know, this proper tea room boomed with voices singing "Happy Birthday" to her.  And that was just more pixie dust on top of our day.

Four years later, I still have these "pinch me" moment where I cannot believe that she's ours, that my heart has grown a thousand times, and that I am her mommy. I have learned more from this little person in 1,460 days than 30+ years on this earth ever taught me.  And I am mindfully aware and grateful every day that Alex is our child. Thank you God.

There's no denying it was a special day for us.  A birthday. A birth day.  Happy Birthday my sweetest bunny.