Ode to Rural Living

This picture has nothing to do with the content of this post, but it was cute and I wanted to use it somewhere!

Anyone who knew me 10 years ago would probably be surprised by my current lifestyle.  The life I imagined for myself was very urban, very modern.  I would be living trans-continental and married to my work.  Maybe saving the world teaching in a jungle somewhere or making art for the betterment and preservation of our culture...or something else.  But, whatever the specifics, I can assure you that none of these dreams involved a family or a town with farmland.

So how did I stray so far from what I thought I wanted?  Was I always destined for this?  My parents spoke openly about their wish to leave the city and return to the Midwestern farming communities they came from.  Perhaps, I unconsciously agreed.

All of these things - marriage, children, rural living - happened without any "plan" on my part.  Everything just clicked together, piece by piece, until one day I looked around and realized that this is good.  Only recently have I been able to let go of the image I held onto of myself, worldly and independent, and truly accept the reality that here I feel fulfilled.

All the years I spent living in the city and chasing after my imagined self, I felt excited but never complete.  I don't know if that ever made me happy.  In the city it was so easy to look outward for satisfaction.  With endless options for shopping, entertainment, etc. emotional voids can easily be filled with quick fixes.  The isolation of living in a rural community has forced me to look inward for comfort.  And that has a made a huge difference in my life.

I still love the city.  The lights, the museums, the skyscrapers!  But, inevitably the charm wears off and I am exhausted, overwhelmed, and ready to return to my quiet little town where I can hike a trail, snorkel in the ocean, or play cards with my family over a hot cup of tea.


Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

Christmas Eve this year did not disappoint.  We started the morning with some volleyball and beach time down at Kawaihae Harbor.  Nothing says "mele kalikimaka" quite like 80 degree weather, sand and surf.

Then we ate lunch, took naps and unwrapped a few preliminary gifts before heading out to Children's Mass.

During church service, Ikaika set a new standard for embarrassing family moments by setting off the fire alarm right before communion.  Lights flashing, recording saying "please exit building", Mr A desperately trying to push the white lever back in, the priest frantically calling for someone to call the fire department and let them know not to come - it took almost 3 minutes for the entire fiasco to end.  Then Father Bob announced it again at the end of service, and many a middle aged man clapped Ikaika on the back and told  him "I've wanted to do that my whole life.  You are my hero."
Certainly a Christmas memory that we will talk about for years to come.

Koa still isn't quite there with the holidays.  He picked at some wrapping paper and seemed to like his gifts, but it wasn't the sheer, unbridled excitement of his brother.  Ikaika is a Christmas fiend.

Granny's gift theme this year was Transformers.  After dinner and the rest of the gifts, we snuggled down on the couch in our new jammies (hat, gloves, slippers, underwear, and socks) to watch the Christmas movie.  This year, I chose Miracle on 34th St. complete with hot chocolate and Grandma Liz's frosted molasses cut outs.

I have a feeling that as the boys get older, Christmas is only going to get more fun.  Its hard for me to believe that this is my family.  I'm at the helm of this ship!  I'm doing all these things that will shape who my children are for the rest of their lives.  I've been blessed with such an amazing family - my guys are so cool!

Oh the family picture that would have been so cute but just wasn't meant to be...
Note to self: always ask people to take two, just in case.  Because asking Mark if it 'turned out' was clearly not direct enough.


Holiday Cookies

Growing up, holidays meant tradition.  More than doing the same thing the same way year after year, we relied on certain things that were only done during the Advent season.  One of these traditions is my great-grandmother's molasses cut-out cookies with hard sugar frosting. 
My sister and I used to paint them with colored frosting and cheap plastic paint brushes.  It was a highly anticipated project that we did with Granny.  Last year, my older sister made the cookies while we were all home in Seattle.  This year, I made them with Ikaika.

He had so much fun rolling and cutting the dough.  He's still too young to decorate the cookies, but someday I will bust out the food coloring and pass that tradition on, too. 
I've been all jacked up about these cookies - they taste exactly the way they are supposed to - and Mr A asked me the other day if they are my favorite type of cookie.

Interestingly, no.  Certainly, they are delicious cookies and, since my fav are ginger snaps, they aren't a far cry from the taste I love.  But, what makes these cookies irresistible is the nostalgia.  If you asked me in December, I would beg for these.  If you made them in July, I could take em or leave em.  Its the tradition I love more than the actual recipe.
**the original recipe calls for bacon fat (I used shortening).  I'm pretty sure that would be amazing and I'm seriously debating making them the authentic way next year (and eating exactly ONE!)

We made a few other cookies (Norwegians, ting-a-lings, choco-oat bars), packed them all in little decorated cans and then took them to the neighbors.  Ikaika seems to be "getting it" more this year, and I want to be sure that he "gets" the giving part more than he "gets" the present part! 


Green Day at Tutu & Me Preschool

Today was "color of the month" day at preschool.  The boys chose green shirts, we packed at bag with holiday makana (gifts) for our teachers, and even got to school on time!  Go Tuesday!


Oh brothers.  I remember doing this to my family members when I was young (practically attacking them with unsolicited and largely unwanted affections).  I bet they miss it now!

Koa was making stacks of blocks.  Although he's becoming more defiant now, he's also becoming more engaged with the things he likes.  I often wonder what he would be capable of doing, what he would be interested in doing, if I didn't have to simultaneously give my attention to his 3 year old brother.

Said brother worked on puzzles.  Of course, I helped him put this together, but he was able to indicate the general area where he thought the pieces should go (based on similar colors, patterns, etc) and fit them together once we found the proper spot.  Here he is answering the question "which planet do we live on" with an enthusiastic "EURFF!"

Getting an acceptable posed picture of Ikaika is near impossible, which - come to think of it - reinforces my choice to not spend money on professional portraits.  I say "smile for the camera!" and this is what I get.

Then I tried to really persuade him by saying "Oma want to see a nice picture, honey.  Smile for Oma!" ...and he gave me this.  So there you go, Oma.  Enjoy.


My Kids + God = A Match Made in Heaven

Why raise kids with religion?  Why am I imposing my beliefs on my children? 

I'm sure anyone that raises their kids to believe in God (esp Jesus) encounters this question at some point.  It's frustrating because an essential characteristic of 'faith' is believing something even without proof, explanation, or reason - which doesn't facilitate "easy answers"

There are a lot of reasons why I chose to pass on Roman Catholicism to my children.  But here's the biggie:

If a parent knows something that has made their life easier, their body and mind healthier, their life richer; wouldn't they go out of their way to pass that onto their children?  I began taking vitamins and eating less processed foods several years ago.  I'm not always as good about it as I should be (or wish I was), but when my kids were infants I began shovelling Shaklee in their little mouths because I believe it's good for them.  I'm going to encourage my kids to go to college because I believe that is good for them, too.  And the list goes on and on...

Why would I sit back and say "oh yes, this thing changed my life dramatically for the better, but I think I'll let my kids figure that out on their own.  I'll just keep taking the vitamins myself and not really talk about it with them or teach them what I know and one day, when they are older, they can figure out what they want to do."

Seriously?  So my kids might grow up thinking that Doritos is a food group since that's what TV is willing to tell them.  I should be willing to speak up and let them know what I know to be the truth about food...

...or God!  There is an entire world out there that is willing to teach my kids about faith if I'm not.  And I don't like what some of those people are saying.  I want my kids to to learn about God and to know all the good things that come from a relationship with Him. 

I don't think that raising children with religion needs to be an oppressive act.  I think it can be spiritually healthy, emotionally enriching and intellectually enlightening.  These are the gifts I should be giving my children to prepare them for the day when they make their own choice.   


The New Social Network Lets Us Pray

This morning I logged onto Facebook and discovered that a college classmate has been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer and she was asking that we pray for her and pass it along so more people could do so - the more prayers the better, right?

Katie wasn't my best friend in college; she wasn't a roommate or even a teammate.  But she was active in athletics so I saw her in the locker room and sat with her in the cafeteria.  We had many mutual friends and she was always active in school clubs, programs, etc. There were plenty of opporunities for me to get to know her.  In the time since college, she has moved back to Galesburg, staying closely connected to Knox.  Every year at Homecoming she extends the invitation to her classmates, her friends...me, to come and stay at her house, have dinner, etc. 

The point is, even though 10 years ago I knew her and liked her, we - like most of my classmates - have lost touch.  Without the 'modern miracle' of social networking via Facebook, I probably would not have heard from her about her diagnosis.  Unless she wrote about it in the class update section of Knox Magazine...which she probably won't. 

I'm happy to know.  Despite the scary "c-word", I'm glad that she can call on the support of friends (even if they are friends from another time in her life) to help her in the present.  Sometimes it's comforting to know that you aren't alone, that people are cheering for you, and that is what gets you through the tough times.  No matter how she asks, I would offer that support without question.  So, in that sense, I'm thankful for Facebook.

I go back and forth about how useful social networking is for me.  This is one circumstance where I feel like the pros outweigh the cons.  Please join me in praying for Katie and Cory's (her husband, also a classmate) strength and faith during these trying times.