Books, single parenthood

sifted

We are cleaned up and dried out. The renovations will begin soon. For now, I’m sharing a bathroom with the kids, and my kitchen floor is bare cement. We have no sheet rock on the downstairs ceiling or sofas in the living room, and Jude will sometimes lie on a blanket on the floor and inspect the ducts and wires exposed. It’s the awkward holding moment before the rebuild, where everything is uncomfortable and foreign and weird, but there is something really lovely on the other side of all of this if we just be patient. I know this well. Patience comes easier than it used to.

I’m reading Glennon Doyle Melton’s Love Warrior (along with everybody else, it seems), and it is so hauntingly familiar to me in moments. I find myself nodding and revisiting my own parallel moments as I read along. She speaks about crisis as a turning point, and she explains that it means to sift, which I didn’t know before.

Sure enough, I examine the etymology for myself and see that it is associated with to separate or judge in Greek, to sift or separate in Latin, and even a sieve in Old English.

I can remember visiting the tourist stops in North Georgia as a child and panning for gold, taking the sieve and lowering it in a muddy trough, scooping up sand and mess and shaking the metal sieve back and forth again and again to find the small gold flakes left behind. We’d pick them out and place them in tiny vials filled with water and stare at them all the way home on the drive back. The gold specks I found myself were somehow so much more valuable to me than something I could buy in a store.

Pema Chodron tells me that “nothing goes away until it has taught you what you needed to know.” And I think maybe she’s right. What if all of these moments that first appear to be crises are actually my teachers? If I listen close enough, I think they are.

With each defining moment in my past two years, I see the sieve working to let go of what I never needed to begin with. I am lighter and lighter and lighter with every crisis. It makes me laugh to think about the rhythm of our past week and the way it was remarkably unaffected by my actual ceiling caving in. The ceiling caved; I had the mess cleaned up; and here we are chugging along like always.

On weekends I have the kids, I give them a “kids’ choice” night where they call the shots on dinner, and we huddle together and watch a movie. As usual, they voted for pizza last night, and proclaimed it the Best Movie Night Ever! because we could spread blankets across the empty living room and lie on the floor while watching Ninja Turtles. Where I used to see mess, I now see magic and connection and possibility. Maybe what I needed to know, as Pema Chodron says, is that what matters isn’t going anywhere. No house can hold it. No title can contain it. No half sibling changes it. When I wasn’t paying attention, the past two years of time with just the three of us somehow cemented these threads even stronger than they were before. Ceiling or no ceiling, home is the space between the three of us. I knew that from the beginning, but as it all fell away last week, I learned what safe feels like. It’s all right here.

Jude’s birthday party was today, and I ordered the cake three days ago when he walked into Publix with me and decided he wanted the Godzilla one. I reserved a pavilion at the nature preserve nearby, and he spotted a pinata in Target this weekend. Nothing matched. It was perfect.

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Kids played and explored on the nearby nature trail. (Thanks, Pinterest scavenger hunt printable stapled on a brown paper bag.) They sang and had cake. They played some more. We came home to more play time with neighbors, and Jude dove into his new gifts. I roasted a few vegetables for a light dinner and bathed both kids, and the doorbell rang at 7:30 with a neighbor delivering a slice of pumpkin pie straight from the oven and oozing in that perfect way that happens when you cut it too soon to keep its shape.

How is my busy, overwhelming life with so many unanswered questions about my future somehow actually easier in the present than when my path was straight and predictable in front of me? Everything is simplified. Necessity calls for it when my finances, my energy, and my time are so restricted. But look what happened in the meantime. The strongest stuff remains, and the rest doesn’t matter. I have no one to answer to but the voice inside my own self, and she requires no check boxes.

The good thing about rock bottom – whether that is a life turned inside out or a house stripped of what it once was – is that it gives you a chance to rebuild exactly how you want it and take away all the extraneous mess that weighed you down to begin with. The view from the bottom seems pretty great today. I am the one to set the course. I’m tired and worn and sleepy, but I can see for miles and miles.

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Georgia Love, Holidays and Parties, Jude

Birthday at the Farm

Jude’s birthday is still a few days away, but we managed to snag an October Sunday afternoon at a local farm, so we celebrated a little early. The weather has been up and down and often rainy lately, so I worried a little. But Georgia fall delivered in all its splendor, and it was perfect.

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Jude enjoyed the day with cousins and friends, plus lots of wide open spaces and fall fun.

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a corn pit!

The kids got to enjoy a “corn pit” which was basically a sandbox with dried corn instead of sand. There were also a few bounce houses, playgrounds, and a small petting zoo. It made for such a memorable day. (Make the trip to Warbington Farms if you are in metro Atlanta. They are great!)

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The highlight was a tractor ride where the driver had Jude stand up for a birthday serenade and took us on a scenic drive around the farm, stopping to call for and feed the cows.

tractor birthday song.

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mooooooooo.

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We followed that up with some birthday cake under the tent and a little more playtime.

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making a wish!!

sneaky fingers

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It was a perfect fall day to celebrate Jude’s fifth birthday. Five! I can hardly believe it. His actual birthday is another nine days away, so I’m sure the celebrations will continue this month. There’s so much to celebrate this season anyway. Apples, cooler mornings, pumpkin carving, local fairs, and Halloween dress-up around the corner. I am grateful for all of it – and for the people I get to share it with.

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Happy October, friends! Thanks for reading.

Holidays and Parties

Ballerina Birthday Bash {Norah turns ONE!}

I used to always write party posts with all kinds of details, but I’ve slipped up in the past year or so. I hosted a Mickey Mouse birthday party for Jude last fall, and I’m pretty sure I never shared photos at all.  I also hosted a black-and-white wedding shower for my cousin, and I love the way the tablescape turned out, but again, I am not even sure I took a photo at all!  My party posts are by far my most viewed and most frequently pinned entries, but I don’t make it a priority much these days.

I couldn’t let this one go by without sharing a few though.  It was so much fun to put together!

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A little background on all of this…. I used to dance and spent something like four nights a week in a ballet studio until I graduated high school.  I have dabbled a bit in college dance classes and even adult ballet classes in recent years.  I LOVE ballet, and while I hope that Norah will share that feeling, who really knows if she will.  I figured I’d throw a ballet party before she was old enough to object.  Ha!  I also had her pictures taken a few months ago with my old tutu as a prop for the same reason.

So there was really no question for me when I began thinking of a theme for her first birthday.  The weather was atrocious on Sunday afternoon, and I was so grateful for our guests making the trip in spite of buckets of rain all night and day.  The details turned out beautifully!

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I served fruit salad in disposable champagne flutes I found at Hobby Lobby.

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And we served caprese bites on party picks.  I ran across some fluffy ones while browsing at Target one day and decided they were perfect.  I just used marinated fresh mozzarella and small tomatoes.  I used this handy free printable I found on Pinterest to label all the food, and I bought a few yards of nylon netting (super cheap!) and gave each dish a tutu.

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I thought chocolate-covered strawberries were a perfect choice since strawberries are in season now.  In addition to that, we had finger sandwiches you can see a bit in the background – sunbutter and jelly for the kids, chicken salad, and cucumber.  I forgot to take photos of the drink station, but along with the sodas and water, I made some of this pretty pink punch, and it was a hit.

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I adored these cupcake toppers I found on Etsy, and I stuck them on both chocolate and vanilla cupcakes.  (This Ina Garten recipe, by the way, is my absolute favorite for chocolate cupcakes.)

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I glued a bit of pink ribbon around my cupcake tower, and we were good to go.  Norah loved it!

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On the table in our foyer, I placed treat bags filled with cookies from a yummy local bakery and tags that said “Thanks for twirling with me” with a photo of Norah.  I also bought Tallulah’s Tutu for guests to sign.  I love that this book is all about how ballet is hard work and not just pretty costumes and stage time.  The illustrations are adorable, too.  It made for a nice sentimental souvenir for little Norah to cherish one day, and we got some sweet messages from our guests.

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About two days before the party, Scott got an idea to put together a cd as a favor.  We heard so many nice things when we did this a few years ago for Jude’s train party, and dance songs are everywhere.   So he took this on as his project, and there are so many fun songs on there – from the Beatles to Whitney Houston to the Rolling Stones.

I fell in love with this idea on Pinterest, but when I attached my matted monthly photos, they were too heavy.  Of course this was ten minutes before the party, and I was frustrated, so Scott took over and gave our guests this little way to look at photos.  I wanted to display the monthly quilt pictures I’ve taken, and this worked out well.

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Lastly, we strung some paper doilies and added a ton of pink and white roses (Thank you, Costco!) and it was complete.

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The Birthday Girl had fun, and unlike her photo shoot a few weeks ago, she actually ate the cake!

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Her birthday outfit – which she also wore in her one-year photos – was created by this Etsy shop, and I love it so much.  I intend for her to wear it out this summer.

All in all, it was a fun party with a ton of pink and a lot of family and friends with us to celebrate!