Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Girls & Dolls

Nothing new under the sun - including girls who need a little time to wake up in the morning.

Annika 2010
Cecilie 2005
Kirsten 1975

Friday, September 24, 2010

Where I'm From

I am from ancient quilts reeking of mothballs, from lemony furniture polish and well-tuned pianos.

I am from suburban bricks on a cul-de-sac, from spaces filled with books and inherited furniture, from darkened rooms with flickering Super8 family movies on Friday night.

I am from the redbud, the azalea, the tall oak and maple - the riotous daffodils, the drifts of cherry blossom.

I am from Friday's meal of potato and beans and from the Family of Righteous Indignation, from Joan and Jack and generations of Klooster.

I am from the corner of Stubborn and Devoted - the two intersect in many places.

From a house where rowdy boys riled a peace-loving sister; where quiet quirkiness was venerated.

I am from a remnant church, a community in the world but not of the world. I am equally from the wider world that then found me. I am from faith, I am from love, and I am from a life that offers grace at every turn.

I'm from Malaysia, from England, from Veja-Links and cucumber sandwiches.

From the steel-grey and ever-elegant piano teacher who guided a crowd with laughter and poise through war, heartbreaks and car crashes, always taking the higher road. From the gifted and also-elegant elementary teacher who is everything and nothing like her mother, who has a heart forty three times her size.

I am from no place - I am from Family, located on eight hearths before I was eighteen. I am the books, the photos, the film reels, the stories: the memories of a host of genetics. At the core is Family.


This post is linked as part of The Red Writing Hood, over at The Red Dress Club. The assignment this week asked us to participate in a long-running writing exercise in which we were all invited to complete the same basic form, delineating our perceived roots: where we are from. You can read more about the exercise here. I'd encourage you to try it, even if (especially if!) you don't see yourself as a writer.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Complicated Fairytale

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who loved stories. She loved stories of families: Little Women, All 0f a Kind Family, Stuart Little. She loved stories of quirky mothers, of steadfast fathers.

As the girl grew, she did not suffer with a wicked stepmother, she did not lose her father to a mystical dragon or a noble quest. It could be argued that she lived an almost-fairytale life. The girl dreamed many dreams, imagined many things for her life, but one future was certain, in her mind: she would be a mother.

She would have babies. She would change diapers, she would wipe noses, she would read stories, she would bake her specialty chocolate chip cookies. She would sit at the table and work on homework, she would cheer at soccer practice, she would get through adolescence somehow.

Sound like a fairytale? Yep.

Once upon a time, this same girl found out her dream would come true. She read the books, she rubbed her belly, and she read Goodnight Moon aloud to the small being in her belly.

Then, one early morning in September, this girl-grown-into-a-woman got her first indication that the fairy tale may have an alternate ending. That dreams come true are complicated. Her tiny daughter made her appearance over a month early: arrived with dark eyes and huge feet, and a serious little face. She fixed those old-soul eyes on her mother, and her mother knew instantly that life would never unfold like it had in the stories, but would reveal itself just as it was supposed to.

I don't quite believe it either. Still.

What the young mother learned, on that stunning September day, was that her fairytale was just beginning. That she had no idea what her story would include, but that it would be full of mystery, of surprises, of uncertainty and magic.

My changeling transformed the narrative completely, as all firstborn babies do. My complex, enchanting and enigmatic child leads the way, is writing the story, and I am delighted - honored - to be part of the adventure.

Happy Birthday to my amazing daughter. Her day is also mine: anniversary of the birth of the real fairytale. We are living: messily, neurotically, busily, noisily, ironically, and yes, happily - happily ever after.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Hit the Trail

Oh, it was a hard bump back to reality. Today the rosy glow of our first weeks of homeschool turned into a harsh glare that highlighted the lack of schoolmates, the absence of a "Real Teacher", and no freakin' bus ride.

There would be no happy lessons today. No grin of satisfaction over a whole page of straight lines well done. No science 'speriments. He was having none of it.

That's it, I said. Put away the pencils. We're going into the woods.

Grumble grumble grumble.... I hate the woods. I don't wanna hike. I only wanna walk on pavement. I'm not going up the hill. I only want to go to the playground. SIGH. [Says the kid who would normally, and happily, play outside for 12 of his 13 waking hours.]

Not going on your dumb hike.

Oh FINE, I'll follow Annika just to that tree. Because I want that stick she's holding.

Ooh, this is weird, Mom. What's growing on this dead tree?

My guy triumphing over escaping from the girls again.

But littlest adventurer never gives up the chase.

As one of my Facebook friends commented, "there's a lot to be learned in the woods." Indeed there is. Not least, that sometimes the plans most carefully laid are those best laid aside on a day of I Don't Wanna.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Not Perfectly Thin, but Perfectly Happy

I dropped a fair bit of weight this summer.   (If you saw me in person and didn't notice, that's ok.  These things don't tend to be obvious when spread over six feet of me. And honestly? We're still not talking sylph-like dimensions here.)

It was weight that had hung around since Kid #1:  nothing dramatic, and I certainly wouldn't have made it onto the opening lineup for The Biggest Loser.  But it was a fair chunk of flesh that had over-stayed its welcome. 

Without any real plan for Losing Weight (I am extremely anti-diet), I started running more.  Working out more often.  June and July were spent at the pool,  and snacks were watermelon chunks, roasted almonds, and fresh raspberries.   All of the sudden, my clothes started to fit differently.  In fact, most of my wardrobe started to get really too big:  as a running joke I would tally the number of shorts and skirts that I could pull off without unbuttoning or unzipping.

But here's the funny thing.  I lost weight, and it didn't change my life, making me happy, successful, or, well, perfect. (I know. I was devastated to make this discovery. But there you are.)   The goal weight that I'd fixated on for so long was nodded at on the way down the scale, and passing it didn't change my life one iota:  my husband didn't love me more, my kids didn't find me a better mother, my writing didn't improve commensurately with the dropping numbers on the scale.

In one of those rare insights that Oprah calls an "a-ha! moment" and I call an instance of "well, duh" -  I realized - so freaking late in life! - that the lifelong pursuit of the beautiful body, of the elusive 'perfect' body was so much emptiness.   That having once been spectacularly fit, then not so fit, then outright chubby, and finally kinda-sorta-fit all means.... not much.

So what next?  Do I just stop running?  Do I give up, sit down with a bottle of wine, a slab of cheese and a half-kilo of good dark chocolate?  Because, after all, what we're saying is that being fit doesn't change your life, right?

Au contraire.  This fitness, the weight loss?  It DID change my life.  What changed my life was this:   The outrageous sense of achievement when running five fast miles.  Lifting weights whilst standing on one foot, knowing that my core was supporting me.   Hoisting my 30 pound toddler up and down behind my head in a sneaky attempt at a triceps workout.   Swimming laps for an hour and loving it.

Losing weight did not make me more interesting, more intelligent, or more loveable.  But the path towards losing weight has changed my perspective entirely. What has changed is that once again I know I am strong.  I am taking care of myself.  I'm not giving up and rolling over and getting old.  I'm taking time for me - even if that has to be at 5.30 in the morning.

When I came across this video on Facebook this week, my heart sank.  Because what the speaker - Jean Kilbourne - is talking about here is the opposite of all the things I learned the hard way this summer.  She's discussing the insidious idea that our girls continue to be sold:  the idea that if pretty enough, if thin enough, they will BE enough.

It would be disingenuous for me to pretend that I never dress my girls in pretty clothes, or marvel at the way my 8 year old looks in skinny jeans (the girl's built like a grasshopper:  she was meant to wear this particular trend, even if she hates 'em.)  But daily I pray that I am doing enough to let them know how valuable - how significant they are, regardless of outfit, regardless of accessories, regardless of body type. 

It may be the biggest gift I will ever give these girls.

Or indeed, myself.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Skeered of Skype

I mentioned last week that the lovely editors over there at The Pear Tree have started a meme on Fridays, called A Picture's Worth a Thousand Words.   Now typically Fridays are reserved for my sometimes awesome, sometimes futile efforts at creative writing for The Red Dress Club (this week's effort was a tragic and trainwreck-y affair that I refuse to publish.)  However, I am assured by Mrs Pear Tree that out of the goodness of her heart she will allow me to join up very early on a Saturday morning.  If I'm very sorry and if I tell y'all about the meme.  So DO IT! (But please:  all the rest of you don't get my special dispensations, so really, you need to get your assignment in on time.)

Here's the picture this week: 

Now, you faithful readers who've been around for a bit may remember that I'm a little obsessed with air mail letters.  You could go back and read my post on bloggers as the new pen pal, and the art of the long-distance letter,  and my little ode to the aerogramme.

But today, I'm writing about the anti-letter.  Otherwise known as Skype.

There was a little conversation on FB yesterday about Skype - how everyone loves it so much for when their husbands are out of town on business, how the kids are fascinated with talking to daddy on screen.

I have blogger friends who Skyped each other loads before ever meeting in real life, and I'm sure its an incredible way to be friends.  In fact, my friend Jamie tells me he's up for a Skype convo, seeing as email isn't really his thang.

Here's the thing:  Skype STRESSES ME OUT.   I'm not great on the phone anyway.  I feel fragmented, inarticulate, and anxious to get the conversation over with.  Yes, even conversations with my husband or my mother.

Skype, in my view, makes all this worse.  Not only am I twitchy and unfocused, but the person I'm Skyping with has a full view of me in all my ADD glory.  They see me yawn, they see me staring at the ceiling.... I feel the pressure to put on a show.

My kids are obsessed right now with a tv show called Liberty's Kids - a cartoon about various stories from the Revolutionary War:  in one episode, we find out that Abigail Adams got exactly TWO letters from John Adams in his 18 months in Paris.  TWO.  Not two phone calls.  Two letters.  From the man who fathered your 6 kids, who is some big shot in the new American government, and who has swanned off to Paris for almost two years.   So to be 'limited' to "just a phone call" all of the sudden started sounding not-so-tragic.

I'll tell you:  I love my husband, and he is an incredible partner and father when he's here. Participates in pretty much everything.  But when he's away on business, it doesn't help me to chat face to face.  No matter how off-the-wall the kids have been, a little face time isn't going to change it.  I know he misses us when he's away, I know he understands all the challenges of parenting on one's own.  He knows he's missed in a big way. But honestly, to survive the long days & nights on my own, I just have to get stuck in, get on with it, and not spend a lot of time on how I wish I had some help around here.

Is this cold hearted?  Am I on a tragic path towards living in separate homes as old people, because we get along better that way?  I hope not.  Skype is a miracle.  A lifesaver for some.  For me, it is yet another technology I just don't get.

Anyway.  I know I'm a Luddite.  I know I need to get with the times.  I'll figure it out, just like I found my own little way on Twitter.  But I'm just sayin':  nobody wants to see the faces I make when I'm on the phone.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Doesn't Everyone Climb in their own Windows?

This a repost, from days of yore (aka April '09).  Got my day off to a great start by climbing into a window to retrieve my keys after locking myself out of the house.  This brought back such fond memories of a certain episode in my life, I thought I'd share the story with my newer readers.  This is the epitome of Nilsen Life, my friends. 


Suburban Drama #6,793:  In Which I Mortify Myself Entirely

I should have remembered the warm weather before I started swearing.

You may be aware (by Facebook, Blogger, Twitter, Pigeon Post, Chinese Whispers or simply me shouting it from the rooftops) that I have a fine new door. It has a fine Baldwin handset on it, complete with a fine Baldwin Full Mortise Lock. What this means is even when one has opened and shut the door from the inside several times, the handle on the outside remains locked unless you press a tricky little button inside the lock mechanism.
I have been stuck outside on my front porch a fair few times, since the door was installed in March. Luckily, we are the sort of family who throw the sashes open with abandon, and as such I can often find a ground floor window to crawl through, or find a husband with a spare set of keys. But last Thursday, when Cecilie locked me out as we prepared to take off for the zoo and I realized the window right next to the front door was completely unlocked (thereby negating the incredible security of the new door lock), I resolved to be better at locking all the windows. And lock lock lock I did - checked the locks on all 12 of the downstairs windows.

This morning Cecilie had to be picked up from school at 10.30 and we were heading straight from school down south to Grandma's house, as she & the kids were headed for dentist's appointments in the afternoon. The timing was tricky - had to keep Annika awake until time to go to school, but then knew she'd sleep just enough on the way down. At 10 I got Lars to turn off the 729th viewing of Robin Hood to get shoes on. At 10.10 an extremely chatty acquaintance called to invite us to a cocktail party. At 10.15 I was hanging up the phone, having put all bags/purses/diaper totes/soft blankets out on the porch during the phone conversation. At 10.17 I slammed the door behind me, went to grab the keys out of my purse, and They. Were. NOT. THERE. Not in the diaper tote. Not in the kids bags. Not on the porch floor.

Really, I should have remembered the warm weather before I started swearing. Because dear reader, I hate to offend your sensibilities, but I did swear. And swear and swear and swear.

And then it started to rain.

Here is what I knew: we would now be late to get Cecilie. The extra car key was also inside the house. The other housekey was in a different state altogether, with my husband. All the ground-floor windows were carefully shut and double-locked. Annika was now very tired and would starting weeping any minute. If I got a ladder out to climb in an upstairs window, my 4-yr old and 16-month old would be right up the ladder behind me. And nope, no neighbors have any extra keys. It's a new door! (ish)

Stopped swearing. Called school, let them know I'd be late and hung up quickly before I could hear Cecilie dramatically lamenting whether we'd ever get into our house ever again? Went around the back of the house to get the ladder, with Little Miss Pink PVC Raincoat Jr. close on my heels. Dug out the extension ladder from the pile of rotting autumn leaves, set it up against the house, and considered my ascent.

Luckily, the ladder set-up was as noisy as my swearing. My kindly but very reserved neighbor (who actually grew up in my house), a man of few words, wandered over to the fence, asking now what's all this racket about? I sheepishly explained my predicament, and in his taciturn way commented, well now,  whenever I worked on the roof I always set up on the high side of the house. As in, DUH little lady, you're trying to use your dumb ladder to get in the highest window in the house. So I pick up the ladder, carry it around to the other side of the house, and sure enough, if I set it up against the porch roof, it's a mere ladder & a half high, instead of almost 3 stories. Like physics was ever my best subject.

Meanwhile, the third section of the ladder was left against the side of the house, and I hear my neighbors wife calling through her open window NO ANNIKA! Don't you go climbin' up that ladder! No NO baby, don't you GO up there! Little Miss Raincoat was three steps up in the time it took me to run back around the house and pull her off the rungs. Add that to her list (for the DAY) of narrow misses.

Back to the problem at hand. I have these cute little leather slides on, instead of the usual mom clogs, so I kick those off and bravely insist that I will climb up the ladder, onto the porch roof and attempt to break in to my own bedroom windows. But this then means my neighbor has to hold Annika, who is not at all sure she likes him, no matter that he is our Great White Hope at this point.

So in the rain, in bare feet, I try the first window. Locked. Second window: locked. I start to get a little nervous, and irrationally irritated at our rash & sudden window locking exercise. The third window was mercifully unlocked, and as I folded all six feet of me through the opening and the wood blinds, I thought to myself: surely this scene could not get any more mortifying.

Meet Steve downstairs, he hands over a traumatised Annika, and he says with a dry smile, maybe your first stop should be the hardware store to get some keys cut? I try to be graceful and smile, and he goes around to take down the ladder before Lars can get up on the roof. I thank him profusely, again, and as he wanders up the walk to head home he throws over his shoulder 'yeah, we heard all the swearin' and thought maybe you could use a little help with somethin' or other over here'. I kind of laugh, and then stop short. 'all the swearin'? No. Surely noooooo. But oh yes. Yes indeed. My kindly older neighbors, the ones with grandkids of their own, heard me sharing my own little reading from

And thus completes my mortification.

But you know what Cecilie's take on the day was? I love this. She heard me retell the entire drama on the phone to my mom when we finally got on the road, and she pipes up from the back: "isn't it great Mommy? We got LOTS of people to help us today!" Indeed. It takes a village. Especially if the Village Idiot lives on your street.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

I'm a FEATURE, dontcha know

Well I tried most of today to think of a clever way to introduce the shameless self-promotion I'm about to undertake, but, then I thought, why have a blog if not for shameless self-promotion?

I'm the Featured Blogger today over at The Red Dress Club, which is an inspiring and powerful blog gathering writers and aspiring writers from all over to stretch their writing wings and learn to 'fly' in different ways.

So being 'featured' is very cool indeed, but in my view being a part of that community is absolutely the larger gift. I have learned a huge amount just by reading the work of others, others who are practicing their craft each and every day.

Anyhoo, go on over and check it out: I've spilled the beans on how the blog got started, and what animal I think my husband looks like, among other things.

Monday, September 13, 2010


Say you're a girl who likes a routine.  Say you're the kinda gal who might run the same route every day for 2 years, just because you love knowing exactly how many miles you've run, how fast you've run it, and knowing right when the hills can be expected.

Say you're the kind of person who loves to know what's happening today, tomorrow, and the next day.  The kind of person who tries not to cringe when an acquaintance casually says, "Oh, we'll just figure it out when we get there."  What? No plan? Ack ack ack ack ack.

You may be the kind of person who is mortified by these tendencies.  You may wish daily that you were a fly-by-the-seat-of-yer-pants kinda gal.  You may wish that it didn't give you an ulcer to be lost in a strange city, or to rushing for a flight, unsure if you'll make it in time.    You may watch people who operate without a wristwatch with envy, wondering if it EVER bothers them not to know what time it is, or if they're late, or how many minutes it is until the next appointment.

It's funny how life works.  Because say you're that kind of person, and you fall in love with a person who approaches life in exactly the opposite way:  someone who always flies by the seat of their pants, someone who never knows where their watch/wallet/keys are, but lives in faith that these items will turn up eventually.  Someone who hates to brush their teeth the same way twice, much less drive the same road, run the same course, or wear the same shoes two days in a row.

These two opposites might get married, might delight in this particular element of opposite-ness, and might make a darn good life from it.

And then might come a cosmic event where the kids had a day off from school, the Farmor would be in town from Norway, and the forecast for the beach would be sunny sunny sunny.

Then the Seat of Pants Man may come up with the bright idea of taking off for the ocean - driving into the night, and then spending tomorrow at the beach.  Mrs OCD might struggle mightily with ditching her schedule, with leaving all of her routines at home, with just "throwing sleeping bags into the car" and driving off towards the coast.

But she will do it.

Because man oh man does she love the adventures that Mr Seat of the Pants comes up with.  She loves that he has passion for possibilities as-yet-undiscovered, and loves that he ignores (in the nicest way possible) her protestations of practicality.

So we're off, dear readers.  Off on our next adventure.  Look for photos of the Not-Plan soon.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Different Kind of Family

This post was written in response to two photographs - the first was over at The Pear Tree's blog, where they featured this image, and asked for our responses to it.  

Shortly after that, I came across the photo below, and decided I wanted to tell you about a family member who shares none of my genetics.  There is nothing else this person can be for me, except Family - Family in the most profound way possible.


We met when I was 13 - a gangly, awkward and - frankly, ugly - 13.  He was 14, newly arrived in the country and at school.  The seventh and eighth grade were all a-flutter over his Australian accent.

We found out we were both into Oingo Boingo and Talking Heads when many of our peers were embracing Bon Jovi and Richard Marx.  And thus began a music geek friendship that would take us to concerts around the world - from outdoor festivals to huge stadium events to tiny grotty clubs in London.  My parents trusted him implicitly, and as soon as I assured them I'd be with Jamie!, I was allowed to go pretty much anywhere.

We commiserated over crushes as well as breakups through the years. He was best friends with my high school sweetheart, and yet he said nothing unkind when we broke up; he found a way to stay friends with both of us.

J and K, circa 1993? 1994?

He went off to England for college, and I missed him.  I'd get the infrequent letter scrawled on pale blue aerogrammes, apologizing for not writing more often.  The next year when I was utterly lost at the University of Maryland, his letter came:  Kir -  You sound really unhappy.  Get on a plane and come to England already.  I'll look after you!

Five weeks later I stepped off the plane at Heathrow and was met by his friend (thanks  again, Brian!).  Jamie had arranged it all for me ahead of time.  We adventured all over Europe - rode silly bikes in Belgium, slept in parks in Paris, stayed out all night in a club in Berlin.  Again, my parents were happy with only the occasional collect call because they knew - I was with Jamie.

We've seen each other at our our happiest, our saddest, our most inebriated.  I attended his eighth grade graduation, his high school graduation, his college graduation.  He once changed a tire for me, I cooked a fair few dinners for him. We've watched each other get into dustups with friends and partners, but I can't think of a single time we've fought.  (Of course, sarcasm and snide remarks don't count in that tally.)

I sat in the car with him the day he decided to leave America for good.  We knew it meant he'd miss my wedding two weeks later. We also knew we wouldn't see each other for such a long time.

I've only seen him once since then. And every minute of that visit was like having all of our teenage years back again, only better.   That visit he brought with him the beautiful Justine, who was (and is) perfect for him.   The day it was time to take them to Heathrow, my heart broke all over again - knowing it would again be years before we would hang out.

Jamie has taught me much, but most important is this:  he taught me that family can be many things beyond shared genes, the same blood.  Jamie is my family, just as surely as my brothers are, and he owns his very own place in my heart.

Miss you, my friend.  Miss you so very much.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Letter to Kirsten, Age 21

Dear Kirsten

You live and die by the contents of your little mail cubby, and I'm delighted to offer a few minutes of distraction whilst you endure another mandatory chapel. I know that you love nothing more than a good juicy letter, and boy will this one be a corker.

It's funny, writing to you now, because there is so little I want to tell you to avoid. You have a pretty solid head on your shoulders, and you seem instinctively to make some smart choices - ones that keep your future wide open.

But this word - instinctively - it's something I really have to talk about with you. You need to start paying attention to your gut. (And no, not that completely-invisible-to-everyone-except-you-belly-pooch. Stop with that - its time will come.)

You come from a long line of strong, smart women. At 21, you fancy yourself a strong, smart woman. You're old enough to know you don't know everything, but you're still pretty confident in what you do know. So let me just tell you this right now: life is not so much about what you know in your head. Life - and living - is very much more about what you know in your gut.

Ms 21, after a muddy flag football game

You gotta start listening. 'Cause I'll tell you - right now you're getting into a relationship that you know, you KNOW isn't going to work for you. One of your very closest friends has given you the best warning he knows how - "be careful, Kir. I'm just saying... be careful." Even as those words sound a hollow echo in your heart - your heart that knows the words to be true - blithely, confidently you'll persist in pursuing this one to the ends of the earth. All I can say, because you won't be able to even wrap your head around the details of how badly you will get hurt, is that in your gut, right now, you know the right answer. It is all wrong for you.

In a few years, as the wounds from this heal into angry scars, your instincts will be refined. You will know that you should have listened to yourself. And still you will ignore your intuition - time and time again.

I am writing to you to say trust yourself. Listen to yourself. You know the answers - the intuition engraved deep in your DNA is yours to tap into, and if you are able to somehow start listening earlier - not waiting until your mid-30s to start trusting this sense, you will save yourself repeated disappointment, hurt, and frustration.

Intuition will guide you in early marriage, will guide you in career choices, will guide you in parenthood. Listen - train yourself to be still and to listen. Not everyone is born to this gift, but you are. You are.

Finally: I say with some authority that you are now as hot as you will ever be. Ditch the grunge threads immediately and buy yourself something cute. You are not now nor will ever be everyone's cup of tea, but if you're going to work the whole tall blonde thing, now's the time.

Signed with so very much love (and jealousy of your 21 year old thighs)
Kirsten, Age 37


This post was written for Friday's Red Writing Hood, the prompt being "write a serious letter to your younger self." Luckily for me and my younger self, letter writing is something I love with all my heart.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Happy New Year!

It seems I tempted fate by telling the world I was feeling hopeful. The Universe is harshing on my hopefulness in a big way.

Got a brand-new washing machine installed yesterday, and found myself wading into lake of standing water early this morning - drain hose had un-installed itself. Darling homeschooled son wandered down at 7am with sleep still in his eyes and wanted to know if he could play the computer. Or watch a movie. Because, Mommy, I haven't had any screen time yet today. At all. [Homeschool crunchy-living fail. Bah.] Never mind the crown I'm getting next month, or the fridge that's slowly dying, or or or or....

Anyway. I'm still feeling the butterflies, believe it or not. The hope hangs in there, refusing to let go in the face of all beat-downs, kind of like Wayne's ex-girlfriend Stacey.

You see, it's my New Year.

September 1 of every year is the Beginning, for me. It may be a result of way too much schooling, may be the way that lots of book nerds think, but I'll tell you it's been my New Year as long as I can remember.

Traditional year-end New Year's Resolutions? No thank you. Honestly, who can think about self-improvement or ditching bad habits in the midst of too many drinks and a dark slushy January night outside? All I want to resolve to do is put the hurt on that crab dip and kiss MrNilsenLife at midnight.

Nope. Give me September any time. Yes, it comes as a shock to the system after a long lazy summer. Yes, it feels inhuman to send people to school with midday temps reaching 90 and the evenings still stretching so long. But you know the light has changed. You know the early dark is coming. And now it's time: time to buckle down and get serious about what you're gonna make happen this year.

The crisp morning air fills you with can-do energy like no summer morning does. There is a slight bounce of invincibility in your step as you contemplate the year ahead. The school year calendar stretches before you, and you see only possibility.

Look at this girl! That's the kind of First Day hopefulness I'm talkin' about!

You have 8 weeks until Halloween: what a great, timebound deadline! You will get it done before Thanksgiving. There's time to make a big change before the weather shifts - lose 20 pounds, pay off the credit card, learn to make your own yogurt. There are the long months of winter that give you the ideal chance to stay inside and finally sort those papers, to really start that novel, to re-organize the kids toys without the slightest guilt about 'wasting' the good weather. And then, to reward all that hard-core nesting, spring leaps upon you and offers early-morning runs with chirping birds, lengthening evenings, and the first ice-cream cones.

Yep, September is where it's at. I am filled with hopefulness for all that I will get done, all that will BE in the coming year. Go on - admit it: when you wake up and feel that nip in the air, rousing the kids out of bed in time to make the bus, you feel it. You feel that extra energy.

Go out there and make some resolutions. Have some passion about the possibilities. I promise you, it'll go better than it would in January.

Monday, September 6, 2010


Hope is passion for what is possible.  -Soren Kierkegaard

So I finished my first week of homeschool, and am staring the start of the second right in the eye.  As is my wont, I spent a large part of the week in pointless and soul-sucking introspection, wondering if in fact I was doing the right thing - especially when the whine of I'm BORED! sounded on the first afternoon. Let's be very clear, my dear readers:  it is not without conflict and drama-filled trepidation that we decided to go this route.

But it was a happy week when Madam Teacher forgot her navel-gazing for a few minutes here and there.  We found an easy pace: a cheerful energy of busy-ness, with workbooks, dry erase boards, and a few Dick & Jane stories.  We searched high and low for rectangles and squares in the house, we added [and subtracted! mmm..] cookies at snack time, and we learned about surface tension with a giant-sized bubble wand. 

At the end of every school day, I was filled with butterflies-fluttering nervous energy - very much like the feeling of riding a two wheeler on your own the very first time.  I'm doing it!  I'm really truly doing it!

Tonight I came across this video, and it stopped me short.  In it, Kirsten Dirksen talks about her slower-paced childhood, her constant conflict of busy-ness and stillness in parenting, and the critical importance of achieving a pace of life that fits for your child.  She uses terms like 'slow parenting', 'free-range parenting,' and 'idle parenting' - all of these phrases intended to describe the idea that perhaps our children need less - less scheduling, less focus, less playthings - rather than more.

When I finished watching this, I had the same butterflies-fluttering feeling again.  And I realized that what I was feeling was the fluttering of hope within me.  

Hope that as a parent I may be finding the path towards what Dirksen calls "a good pace."  Hope that we are creating the space to find the right speed.  Hope that my children will see more of me reading - reading to myself.  

Hope that by diverging from the Official Path in this small way, I will find a trail that is a good match for my little tribe. 

I am full of hope, all of the sudden, and that?  Is no bad thing for a teacher.


I'm posting on Hope as part of Bridget Chumbley's One Word at a Time Blog Carnival. But keep your eyes peeled - hope is going to be a theme for the blog this week.  There's a fair amount I'm hopeful about these days. Again, no bad thing.
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