I Won!

My friend Daphne and I at West End Bakery

Can you believe it?  My Wheel of Emotion pizza entry won the in the “Best Picture” category.  Wahooo!  My $10 gift certificate will fund a month’s worth of mid-morning coffee and muffin play dates for me and the kiddos.  (Or, perhaps I’ll take Leif on a date some Saturday to choose one of the more delectable items in the sweets case…hmmm…) Thanks to all you lovely folks at the Bakery!

Granny Creek Day

Granny Creek Day is the anniversary of the day my mama became an angel.  On this day we take some time to love and connect with her.  Our tradition has been to take irises and daffodils to a nearby creek and toss them in the river, along with our prayers (and sometimes tears), just as we did when we scattered her ashes in the Columbia river five years ago.

This year was a little different.  Dan and I realized that though we tried, we just couldn’t clear our schedules to get away for a nice family hike and ritual yesterday.  It seemed impossible.  We decided to do the hike today (Saturday) instead. It was a bit sad to me that life can, seemingly, be so demanding that a single important ritual feels impossible to “fit in”.  But, in the spirit of my mother, I let it go and “went with the flow” and embraced the truth that the day isn’t really as important as the ritual.

So, instead of our flower throwing ceremony I planned to have her piano tuned yesterday.  This felt equally fitting as a way to celebrate my mother.  I learned that my mother’s piano (which was passed to her from her mother’s mother) was built in 1912 in New Haven, CT.  And, that it is a magnificent piano.  It was good to hear it was in such great shape.

Fred, fixing the practice foot on my mother's piano

And then our day got busy and filled with errands.  I had to pick Leif up early from school and take him down town to do a quick school-related project.  We met Dan and I had to take him out to a meeting on the other side of town before we rushed to Leif’s first soccer practice of the season.  In the middle of all of this I treated myself to a cup of coffee (Kai is up to his old tricks again…it was a 4:15 a.m. wake up yesterday).  We had about thirty minutes of respite from the rushing around while we waited for Dan to finish his meeting.  Lucky for us, there was a nice little open space with a creek running through it adjacent to where Dan had his meeting.  Happily, the boys and I unloaded from the car. I sipped my coffee and we settled into a very enjoyable time of creek exploration.

Leif had scrambled up the side of the creek bed while the little boys threw rocks into the water.  I heard Leif calling to me to show me something, and when I looked his way I saw what he was so excited about.  He was standing next to a single dandelion blooming on the river bank.  How perfect.  Leif picked it and brought it down to the creek. We stood together and said some loving words about Granny Dorothy.  I closed my eyes and loved her and felt her love for me, and Leif and Kai.  Leif threw it into the creek and we watched it dance away on the current.  Then, as we adjusted our gazes and minds back to where we stood, Leif pointed to something else.  And there, lying have covered by sand, was a rusted old piece of an accordion.  No joke.

the accordion in the sand

Those of you who knew my mom (or have heard enough stories about her), know how relevant this is. She LOVED playing the accordion and did it with immense joy and gusto.  So, in the end, we truly did have our Granny Creek day ritual.  And it happened in the most organic, natural way it could have happened.  Yesterday, instead of us reaching out to my mama, she reached out to us.

This experience reminded of how important the practice of ritual is. To open our hearts to the spirit of love so that we can not only nurture others, but be nurtured ourselves. I am so grateful to my sweet Mama for loving us so strongly, and showing me that she is still with me in all that I do and am.

And, as Leif said yesterday morning when we woke up, “Happy Granny Creek Day”.

If you squint your eyes and use your imagination you can see the dandelion flower floating the in the background. It's there, I promise.


Pizza Wheel of Emotions

Our neighborhood bakery, West End Bakery, is currently having a pizza making contest.  I had to enter.  I make pizza for dinner at least once a week, so why not?  Everyone who enters gets a free cup of coffee, so really, it was a no brainer…I don’t even care if I win.  It was fun.  And I love coffee.  🙂

So, here it is…the “Pizza Wheel of Emotions”.  For those of you familiar with the simple circular “Wheel of Emotions” chart often used with preschool aged children to teach them about their emotions, you get what I was going for here.  I had one of these charts hanging our refrigerator throughout Leif’s third and fourth year.  And, with Kai cusping his third year, I was inspired to re-visit the concept.

Pizza Wheel of Emotions

As you can see, each slice represents an emotion…happy, sad, silly, surprised, confused, sad.  I used roasted red pepper for the mouths and sliced olives for the eyes.  And, the ingredients were simple enough I could still call the pizza “plain cheese”, which is Kai’s favorite.  It was good fun.  I’ll let you know if I win anything.  I know I’ll enjoy the coffee, regardless.

The sun is warming us up around here.  And just in time…I was seriously contemplating going on a shopping spree at our local toy store because I was feeling somewhat desperate for new inside activities.  A few sunny days and we are all feeling a lot better.  The runny noses are gone. We are dirty.  We are really tired at the end of the day.  And, I am inspired and motivated to get a jump start on things.

baby kale

I got the garden beds all cleaned up this past weekend.  I hadn’t yet raked up from the fall, so it was a big effort to get all of the leaves and sticks cleared away. But, then…ahhh…a clean canvas!  Today, Micah and Kai planted pea starts in the children’s garden and I planted a bed of spring greens, two kinds of lettuce, arugula, and mizuna.

peas line the fence of the children's garden

bed of greens

The most exciting part of the day (for me) was how WONDERFUL our chicken compost is.  I dug down into the bottom of our compost bins and came out with the most beautiful, dark, rich soil to amend my beds with.  It was so satisfying to see the random egg shells, missed rubber band from a bundle of greens, and avocado skin.  To reap the benefits of carrying that rotten, smelly food out to the yard each day was very satisfying.  And, of course, we can’t forget to thank you chickens for their contribution.  Thank you, lady hens!


And, here’s a few other things the sunshine has inspired.

our new patio furniture-children sized, of course

We are desperately in need of deck and (soon) patio furniture, so Dan was a little apprehensive of my desire to get a child-sized table.  I insisted, though…knowing just how much use it would get from all of the kids.  And, how much they would love it being just their size.  The set is from Ikea. The kids made quick use of it.

play dough sculptures in the sunshine

Corinne's pokey love sculpture


I imagine there will be many hours logged at this little table.  And very soon, we’ll get a bigger one so the grown ups have a place to sit too.

Happy sunshine!


“We want a banana”

the infamous "we"

Today, when Kai was hungry he said, “Mama…we want a banana”.  Now, I was sitting right next to these two and I know for a sure that Micah didn’t say a word about wanting a snack, let alone a banana.  It’s just that these two spend so much time together that sometimes, “we” is like “me”, I think.  So, today’s big love moment was this.  And when I replied, “You do?”, they both nodded their heads yes.

Micah & Kai, BFF

The (almost) Sleepover

footie pajamas and a movie

As the boys settled into their footie pajamas and movie, Neil hugged Leif and says,”This is going to be a night to remember for the rest of our lives, right Leif?”  Well, that about sums it up.   Neil is one of Leif’s best friends and they have been talking about having this sleepover for weeks.  Sleepovers are new for both kids, so it is all still so novel…eating dinner with a friend’s family, extending a play date into the after dinner hours, changing into pajamas together, staying up a little later than usual.  The boys (including Kai) were so giddy with excitement that at each phase of evening they would hug one another with joy.

story time

Then it was time for stories and bed…and all of a sudden the “sleep” part of the sleep over felt a little daunting.  The idea of staying up all night talking was quickly thwarted when Leif passed out, as he always does as soon as his head hits his pillow.  As did Kai…and suddenly, Neil was the only one awake and feeling pretty alone.  And so, the sleepover turned into an (almost) sleepover.  Neil headed home to sleep in the comfort of his own bed.  But as he left, he turned to me and asked, “Ms. Marin, can I come back in the morning for the special cereal?”

Of course, the answer was “yes”.  And he did.


Here come the rocks

As many of you know, the addition on our house and the subsequent re-landscaping of our backyard has been the primary focus of many of our weekends for the past year.  Slowly, slowly, it is taking shape.  This week we made a huge leap of progress…the rocks were delivered.  Dan has spent hours creating the plan for our backyard patio space and now the work can begin.  Truly, I know we will we overjoyed when this project is finally complete.  But, in the meantime all of piles of dirt and rocks provide some good entertainment.

Kai and Micah ascending the rock pile

First things first, the rock pile must be conquered.

The sitting rocks

Then, the best rocks must be claimed.

When you need to go, you need to go.

And, finally, “marked”…as any wild animal would do, yes?

For real, though, the rocks will be moved, stacked and precisely placed to create a patio and surrounding retaining wall.

Setting the first rock

Ryan, our nine-year old friend from next door, helped Dan throughout the day yesterday, clearing and leveling, laying out the weed cloth and marking the shape of the wall with spray paint.  Then, some other folks came and helped set the first rock.  A big accomplishment!

Ryan watches on while the first big rock is moved.

Patio "before" picture

I imagine you will all be seeing more of this project as it evolves, as it will be the focus of much of our time this spring and summer.  If you would like to contribute, please send gift certificates for back massages and chiropractors…I imagine Dan will need them.  🙂

My Newest Little Love

my new little niece

Finally!  I get to be an auntie…and how perfect that I get to be an auntie to a little girl.  Here she is, just one day old.  All sweet and pink and perfect.  I just couldn’t help myself but to make something in her honor.  So, just hours after her arrival, I set to it…something practical and impractical, because isn’t that just so perfect?  All girls have a few impractical things in their wardrobes, don’t they?

Valentine's Day onesie and skirt set

The Valentine’s Day onesie is the practical part of the outfit, obviously.  My friend, Jean, a fabulous artist/crafter/mama invited me and my kids over to her house for a fabric-art, doily print making party in preparation for Valentine’s day.  I knew baby E was on her way, so I printed one on a teeny tiny onsie just for her.  I couldn’t resist making something to go with the cute little onesie…hence, the newborn-sized skirt.  Think I’m crazy about having a girl to sew for???

Tweet Tweet Skirt

I used Valori Wells Designs Tweet Tweet Skirt pattern to make this.  Amy, shop owner of Kitsch, my favorite local fabric shop, helped me out with some tutoring and the awesome fabric.  It was so easy and fun to make that I have plans (and material) to make more for other special little girls in my life.  Unfortunately, this one will probably be worn more by Baby E’s dolls than by her.  My brother-in-law told me they tried to put it on her, but that it sat just where her umbilical cord nub is attached.  Bummer.  Maybe it will still fit her this summer?

To best love a six year old

To Leif, the ultimate expression of someone else’s love for him is their enthusiasm (and commitment of time) for building, creating, & exploring WITH him, in his world.  Of course, what Leif is into changes as he does.  Currently, this could mean enacting scenes from Disney’s Swiss Family Robinson (his new FAVE movie), playing spy, drawing or building legos (and rough housing, of course…this activity never leaves the top five list).

Dan and the boys busy building legos

So, here’s Dan…who is so very good at the art of connecting with Leif just where he is at, regardless of what it is.  I know that mama’s and dad’s play very different roles in our children’s lives, but I have to admit that I envy Dan’s ability to do this.  It’s so hard for me to ignore my magnetic pull towards the undone dishes and unprepared meals and to just STOP, sit down, and play.

But, this post isn’t really about that.  I’m actually feeling pretty good about my special time with Leif these days.  We began taking piano lessons together, which has been a joy.  We do lots of art and sewing together (Check out those cozy pants he’s wearing!  My first ever item of clothing made from a real pattern.  Material recycled from the scrap bin with waist band and cuffs made from some fabric Dan brought back from his travels in Africa-Leif’s choice!) This post is just to say that I noticed how thrilled Leif was when Dan spent hours this past weekend building legos with him.

The star wars space ship, reinvented

Leif covets the space ship he and Dan created together.  It sits on the shelf above his top bunk along with the other “Kai can’t touch” items.

Searching for just the right piece

And, even though Kai can’t touch Leif’s space ship, he’s learning to build ones of his own…

Kai's little space ship

Later in the day, after the major lego-building event took place, Leif was on a play date with a friend.  When I checked in to see how things were going, Leif asked if Dad was home, because if he was, he wanted to come home too…to play more legos together.

Super Sad Sunday

Just Really Sad

Some days begin and end like this, with a lot of this in between, too. Today was one of those days. And it wasn’t just Kai.  It was Leif, me…and maybe Dan, too.  Although, I’m pretty sure Dan didn’t cry.  He was just REALLY bummed when he got woken up at 7:30 on his sleep-in morning.  I was crying, oh yes.  On days like today, it’s just hard to keep it together.

On Super Sad Sunday’s like this one it is hard to remember that this challenging time WILL pass.  Kai really will sleep past five a.m. some day.  He won’t need to sit o my lap while he eats his cereal.  He won’t insist on drawing on Leif’s piece of paper (while Leif is trying to draw on it himself) while doing an art project.  He won’t walk around the house dumping baskets of toys when he is tired, he’ll just go lie down and chill out or take a nap.

Leif won’t always have so much drama about getting dressed to go somewhere any time before ten in the morning.  He won’t freak out about bananas in the pancakes.  He won’t worry so much about being the only boy in a pack of girls riding their bikes around the neighborhood.  He’ll stop squishing someone’s body into the couch when they are screaming at him to stop.

And me…well, I won’t always be this sleep deprived, for one.  In of itself that will make everything much better.  I won’t always be so grumpy when I get up in the morning (because I won’t always be so sleep deprived…).  I won’t always be picking up the same fifty little pieces of lego, playmobile, pretend food, truck parts, random craisin, smashed pretzel, and tinkertoy (and tinkertoy and tinkertoy and tinkertoy….) over and over throughout the day.  I imagine that some day I will be wishing my boys would act like they need me more, even if they really don’t.

This day is almost over.  The kids will be resting their minds and bodies in their cozy little beds very soon, as will I.  Before this happens, I insist on letting it all go. To take a moment of reflection and recognize that regardless of the prevailing sadness of this day, it was a day shared together.  We were nothing but ourselves today, completely, honestly, truly ourselves.  These are the days that test us as a family, they are the low notes that create the harmony for the high noted, super sweet and wonderfully melodic times we share.

With that in mind, let me leave you not with the image of Kai shedding his tears, but of some other, not-so-sad, images from today.  I am so filled with gratitude for the three boys who help me to practice breathing deeper & loving more each and every day.


Dan & Kai

one of those sweet moments


(a poem by our dear friend, Jed)

If I am to have a goal, let it be that five in the morning is not too early to be inspired.     JM

In between hooded eyes and the new day,
come dreams, and a dance.  The courtly men
and modern women who seek future’s desire here
are led instead to this, the independence of rhythm.

The beat of freedom carries with it
the contradiction of the creek, for in the rapid
convergences of water over rock, a body belongs
solely to wild movement; yet, it is in the stream’s
stilled eddies, beyond the whitewater, that travelers
gather together for the safety and tipped-over stories.
Along these banks, time is counted, but also lost,
to the sweep of the sun.

Lives will walk out of rivers,
and wake from morning dreams,
to greet goals and the children
they send to us to learn from.
For them, let us reach for
tomorrow with today’s bathing turtles,
snakes catching waves,
gorges and gravity,
and the pull to grace.

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