You can find a lot of cool Lego Stop motion videos on you tube. Here are some of my favorites:
There’s been something I’ve been trying to get my head around about this trip, something bigger than travel or experience regarding my big kids and what and why this trip is so worth the risk and effort for our family. I think it has something to do with what Charlotte Mason calls “atmosphere”. As parents and families we can invest so much into all of the “stuff” we think our kids need, but the real thing I think we are trying to achieve is a certain type of “atmosphere” or space for our families to thrive inside of. That’s tricky because you can’t buy it and you have to maintain it, in a way. It’s like character or gratitude or love... it needs care and tending.
I don’t think by any stretch that you need to move across the globe to create it either. But I do think that taking a step out of the rapid flow of your life, even in your own kitchen or backyard, helps you see it (or lack of it) in a much clearer way. My boys are cresting the hill that leads on to adulthood. That means puberty (!) but it also just means that our relationships with them are really becoming solid, walking, moving things. Before we left or this trip we could really feel the uphill gears preparing to lock into place on that whizzing track of life and plans and details and days. We would go to all the practices and get through all the assignments and do all the things for all of the holidays and then- swooooosh, our kids would be grown, out of our house, and into their own lives.
So much of this is inevitable, I know. Life always goes faster than you expect or desire. But somehow, back in our house in Nashville where we were knee deep in the culture and habits that build up around any life, that “atmosphere” that I desired for our family seemed to be something I was constantly having to fight for. I’d knock down one crazy distraction or time sucker and another thing would crop right up in its place. I’d try to minimize and focus but the clamor of “all the must-dos and must-haves” just swarmed around everything else.
A perfect example of what I am bumbling to try and describe my desire for here is what happens so precisely during Advent and Christmas. In some ways, through out the living year, I’d just wanted the ease of Advent to be quiet and clear so we could actually see, listen, and enjoy the anticipation of Christmas but instead we were immediately slammed up against the Target-of-everything-and-holy-moly-Transyberian-orchestra-insanity-makingness as soon as Halloween was over. And Halloween had the same amp up. And it wasn’t just the holidays, it was every thing that could just be a part or a detail of our life was plowed onto our kids as if they would never get enough of it. They were completely being preened to be obsessive consumers in every aspect of their lives. And we even homeschool!
I thought it was my kids. Maybe they are just obsessive about stuff. Like video games or Pokémon or Teen Titans Go! But now that we are here and we are actually physically away from all of that stuff, and all of the pressure there is to be into that stuff...they just don’t seem to be steeped in that constant frenetic energy. Sure they get crazy-pumped to play a video game on some long drive we have to make. And sure we have all sorts of hourly Christmas-list conversations and plans to build LEGO Universes to fill every corner of our home. But the tone is so different. Both for them and for me—The Atmosphere is completely different.
And it is not a French atmosphere-haha! Because I am sure if we plugged in real hard here and got involved we would face the same temptation or culture frenzy. But it is the kind of time this trip has allowed us to side-step into.
I know it can’t last- that’s impossible and my kids would kill me if we stayed outside the fray forever. But I will not let one second go by where I don’t rejoice that we are getting this gift in this season. We may be fighting for other things as we share every. Single. Second. Together (hello no personal space or time for all adults right now!) But we are not fighting for our Atmosphere. Which really just means that we have space around our minutes, space around our minds and our hearts to be curious, to think thoughts, to be with one another without something else rushing right in to claim that space and attention. The Atmosphere of our family is not being crowded out and cluttered with a thousand other things.
Anyways, as we head into the anticipation of Advent I wanted to name this miracle for us. Because it is just the spirit of season- gratitude and that calm space, open in anticipation to the good that will inevitably fill it right up- that we are settling into here. This is our Advent miracle this year. And I am already more grateful then I could ever imagine for it.
It's funny, we have never had a baby in the house when our older boys are actually able to pick them up and carry them around. And so, imaginemy surprise when I give Cosmas a smooch and lay him down in his lamb chair, turn aorund to unload the dishwasher, and turn back to find the chair empty (!). For the first week that this happened I literally almost had a heart attack. And then I heard them cooing from their bedroom where they had stowed him away and were covering him in snuggles....
The whole business lasts about fifteen minutes before he gets pretty ticked that they have him all bundled up and won't just give him a little space already! BUt it is pretty awesome to spy from the kitchen when it happens.
With every single newborn we have had to figure out the "trick" to help them sleep. With Jude it was an elaborate combination of nursing, rolling, holding our breath, standing on one foot...whatever. With Ambrose, well... Ambrose refused to sleep for the first nine months and so it was just a haze of insanity and deep, deep prayer. For Laz, I think it was sleep nursing or what we call "slursing" around here. Coupled with a much more relaxed approach to what we could count as a "nap"-- say he blinked in the car on the ride to the grocery store- NAP. Say he rolled over and shut his eyes on his play mat while we cooked dinner- NAP. Wherever, whatever. That was the rule for infants and parents alike for the third babe.
But Cosmas has slid into home with the most fashionable and fun sleep solution yet- his Super Suit. Somebody gave us this baby blue velour baby sleeper in a box of hand me downs and I really didn't give it a second glance. But on night number four when Skip and I were red-eyed and terrified looking at one another with that same awareness of "oh , right... a NEW BORN!!" I knew we had to find some kind of solution. We learned pretty quickly that Cos hates to be cold. IF we take off his close for bath time he goes from cooing and smiles to bloody-murder shrieks and screams in seconds flat. We have had the upstairs heater pumping at a tight 80 degrees since he entered our nest. And then I remembered the blue suit! We tried it that night and he slept a solid 6 hours! Immediately the boys, in honor of The Incredibles, have named this Cosmas's Super Suit. And Super Suit it is. Within moments of snapping this baby into that suit his lids start to drop and his fists unclench. It is a miracle and we LOVE it. Amen for the Super Suit!
We are in the middle of a snow storm here. We woke up yesterday morning to ice coated trees and snow winds through out the day. There is something wonderful and terrible about an ice storm. All of the anticipation and worry about power and heat in our old house and then the fact that we can only "wait and see" allowing us to clean up all of the stacks of school books I had originally placed across the table for the day and tuck in for boys snuggled in bed drawing in their art journals, lego marathons, hot cider and popcorn in front of Basketball bloopers.
All of our boys have been hit with this cold and so, despite the snowy outside, we had requested that every body just lay low indoors for one more day of healing before piling out into the cold. Around 4:30, however, Skip and I spied out our dining room window all of the neighborhood boys and their dads sledding down the side street hill. Skip was hustling to get his last hour of work done for the day and I had a baby asleep in my lap...but we knew we had to seize the minute.
"We kind of have to don't we?" I asked Skip.
"Okay, fifteen minutes and I'll be all wrapped up here. You bundle everybody up." He smiled and started typing off fast emails.
Ten minutes later all of our kids (minus Cos) were layered and on the front porch. We had six boys, four dads, three mamas, and three sleds all making the most of a very slippery slope before the sun went down. One of the Mamas on the street offered up her kitchen for a crock pot hot cocoa station and little ones drifted in and out of the front door for refuelling before heading back out, fresh with a coca moustache, to body slide or hop on the back of a sled heading down, down, down.
Kids were hollering and laughing as they swooshed past one another and even one of the dads did a run slide onto the front of his snow-bibbed belly, flying past the sledders and speeding all the way down the hill.
Halfway through, Laz and I walked hand in hand back to the house to make "our own batch of that delicious cocoa!" It was cold and lovely and well, well worth it.
Ever find yourself in those kinds of conversations where your spouse and you are discussing birthday present desires or wishes for, say, Valentine's Day, or Christmas...and you are both saying things like, " Oh, I don't know...more time? a full nights sleep? Maybe our house to be cleaned and on the other side of our remodel?"
These are not really fair things to ask for. Not only because they are not really always possible but because they are not really very fun to give or get. It is fun to talk about them but sometimes it misses the point. And even if the point is that the reason you are requesting all of these practical, impossible things is because you are each up to your ears in so much love and fun and noise and work, well, it is essential that we do take pause and truly SEE all of the love and noise and work and Mess that is our life right now. And so, Happy Valentines from two very sleepy, dopey, happy, arm-filled, hour-thinned parents. Wooosh.
I know it has been a long time since I have written here. For a while there I wasn't sure if I would use this space again. When I started writing on this blog seven years ago (wow!) I was a newish-mama with two little ones. Skip and I had just moved into our very first house in Nashville. I was spending long days navigating little lives, trying to participate in our musical life, trying to let the new world of familyhood settle aorund me, and yet still find the mental/spiritual space to suss out what it meant to be myself in the midst of it all. The blog was a way to sit and think about it for a second, focus my energy for more than five seconds, remember that I was living in the midst of all the lack of sleep and immediate needs and evaporating minutes. I was so very grateful to be able to have some "room" I could sit down in and write. It was here. And it was an immeasureable comfort and practice.
I know that I felt it then. But now, looking back as a mother of almost four, a bit more seasoned in the split role of mother/artist and just enough more wrinkly and strong, I can only wonder at how much of a saving grace it was to have this place. Writing here reminded me that- even if it was for just a moment- writing was my vocation. It also reminded me that through writing- even if it was just here-I was able to see life, to slow time, and maybe even have a few thoughts or words to type about it. As usual, a little thing that is a large thing.
As time has moved forward and our family has grown it has definitely become more difficult to find the minutes to sit down and write here. There were the practical reasons like the fact that I started homeschooling the boys (hello to NO free time where I am not passed out or looking for a glass of red wine).
But there was also this other new and wonderful reason which was that whatever few seconds I did have to maybe sit and write on the blog I was using for other writing (!). There were "Drinks With" interviews, a review, a novel, a handful of short stories, and an unexpected triplet of children's books (!).
As my boys went off for two days a week at tutorial I focused my energy into a discipline of nap-time writing. As soon as the morning's work was done (errands, groceries, bills, house-running types of things) I would read a few books to Laz, tuck him in, turn off my phone and sit down upstairs to write until school pick-up. This became my new "room". And it has been a good room indeed.
For a while now, however, I have been wanting to fit this space back into my practice. Foolishly I had been thinking about it too much- What kind of blog do I want to have? How do I fit my new writing into his space? Do I even want to have a public space that speaks about our family? It all just seemed like a vision I couldn't settle on. And so I didn't make the time for it. And the days slipped by.
But one afternoon I was walking in our back yard with my Dad and he asked me if I had given up on writing here. I mumbled through some reasons and thoughts and he said something that kind of boiled it down for me, "You know...the person who is really going to miss the document of that blog is not just all of us,... but you."
And then I kind of remembered why I write here at all (other than the writing room, blah, blah, blah)--it is to remember the days in bits and pieces as they happen. And yes to share them with our family and friends across the globe. But moreso to just preserve some of this beautiful nonsense while it is all whizzing past us.
Like that uncapturable light of the sun, just before it sinks completely down.
How it bloomed around those two beloved faces as they laughed and talked about the bushes and the birds heading to bed.
How Skip was working so hard for all of us and was tired but grateful to sit for a second. How restored he was by how incredible Laz is at this age. How pleasant the weather felt on that deck. And how beautiful they both looked to me; how full my heart was to watch them.
I knew then that--unless my camera had a magic scoop on it which could collect the senses we count and cannot count- that that moment would be one thing then and another thing now.
And still...somehow sitting here months later on my couch in winter with the cold, leafless trees outside and the fleece blankets piled high around me, I am restored too.
Remembering. Reminding myself. Seeing our life as we live it and being allowed to step outside of time enough to do so.