Tuesday, October 25, 2011

"Where Are We Going?": Signs along the Journey

Often from the backseat I hear little Ainsley ask "Mama, where we are going?" I love her phrasing and the sound of her little voice as she wonders aloud just where she might be headed. I hear it so very often and truly appreciate her precious turn of phrase and the fearless wonder in her voice. But it was only a few days ago that I realized how profound a question it was. The fact that she knows that it's me, her driver, who determines just where we are going is one thing but there's more to it than that. Beyond our little ventures to the market or orchard it is largely me, her mama who decides just where we are headed in this little life. How we speak and act in front of these lovelies really does help to determine so much of who they are--where they will go. On the very best days this is wonderful enough to make my spine tingle. On the not so good days, it is intensely humbling and sobering. Sometimes the signs along the way give me a little pause either for the unexpected beauty or the unexpected warnings:

We went down to Boston for the weekend and had a fantastic time. It's such a beautiful city filled with amazing history of this great country. Seemed only fitting to see it all again on Columbus Day. When we got out of the car and felt the warm sun on our backs it was Emie who said first, "It's a great day to see somewhere new." It was Dirk who quickly added "You have your mother's spirit." I'm pretty sure my feet didn't touch the ground for the next few steps. I don't always do this mothering bit with elegance and grace -- but I'm nothing if not the eternal optimist in front of the little lambs. I'll find the silver lining in every almost every missed connection, traffic jam, and spilled beverage. But to see this penchant for the positive come from my girls-- well, that's worth a trip to the moon and back for me.

I do adore the way Emie views the world. Each day holds a promise for something magical to unfold. And from her perspective, it pretty much always does. We did see all sorts of amazing if not magical things in sweet little Beantown. The street performers at Faneuil Hall did not disappoint. Though the bare chested nipple-pierced man who put himself into a net-less badminton racquet got props for Most Unique Way to try to earn a buck - Most Entertaining easily went to these two charming blokes. They were winsome, fun, and altogether talented. Extra points for not taking the low-road with tasteless jokes and barbs. Ainsley would definitely call it magic.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Autumn full of fortune~

This turned out to be one of the best early autumn weekends I can remember. The girls were lucky enough to be invited to our new neighbors' (um, they're all new to us) kiddo's birthday party. The family has four children, three of whom are adopted. The older of the group turned two while the younger twins turned one all on the same day. Imagine the odds of being adopted into a family and sharing the same birthday with your new brother. God's so fun with details. Anyway - it was a delightful party and the best part (as predicted) was the cake. Better yet, they served cupcakes - really cute little western-themed love bundles that were very much enjoyed by Emie and Ainsley. Here's the little lovely trying to hang on to her hat while playing outside, and happily playing inside after ditching it.

And I was fortunate enough to enjoy some really good company out in sun with my neighbors who know how to throw a party. I've never been to a toddler party that served adult beverages but I'm thinking this could be a new trend. Why not keep the parentals relaxed and happy? They're such nice people, these neighbors of ours.

Sunday we checked out another new church. This one doesn't have a building and meets in a movie theater. Ainsley, as she was being dropped off into Theater 8 for child care, very matter of factly said, "I'll have a popcorn and drink, pease." There's no one like her. Perhaps the easiest drop-off to a new place we've ever had with the girls. Our transition into our first time visitor space was equally painless. We even passed by the "Free earplugs" bowl without breaking our stride. Whaa? Earplugs? Well, we weren't in there 32 seconds before it became painfully obvious what the reasoning behind those little beauties was all about. They like to make some noise for Jesus, baby! Made me wish I also had popcorn and a drink. But indeed the man could preach and we both walked away challenged to "be the church" instead of continually searching to be extra comfortable in one. Yep, we needed that message.

In the afternoon Emie had an idea for a party. At our house we call this Sunday, or Tuesday, or any day. The girl likes to celebrate e v e r y thing! Love that about her. So she asked for some colored paper and scissors and came up with this. Move over iTunes, iPhone, iPad, and allow me present to you the iTeaparty:

Seriously impressive burgeoning hostess (and lettering skills) of a kindergartner, right? Ainsley was equally excited about the prospect of going to yet another party and especially one with tea cups. A little Newman Pomegranate Lemonade (as delicious as it is pink) added just the right touch and a good time was had by all.

Later we headed out to a nearby apple orchard to snatch up some local flavor. Ainsley, plum tuckered by all of the partying, fell fast asleep before we ever arrived. Dirk snatched his laptop and got to work while Ainsley dreamed happily in the backseat. Emie and I hit the trails (and I do not use that term lightly). There was some hiking involved to get to these beauties. But as the saying goes, "If the prince wants an apple, his servants take the tree." So does this mean I'm a servant to my princess? Kinda. Happy to be when it involves making memories as sweet as these. It was a gorgeous day to hike up hills of apple orchards -- sun glinting through the leafy branches, a cool breeze on our faces. Delightful. And we have a big bag full of gems to make something wonderful. So fun. Here are a few snaps of the love next to the crates of apples the orchard sends out to the local markets.

Once we'd gathered our half-peck (as if I even knew what that was before that day) we drove out to beautiful Portsmouth. They were hosting a competitive and wonderful bike race. So fun to feel the rush of wind they created as they flew past us. Ainsley was overcome with delight at the pace of these athletes. As her mouth made a giant "O" she'd say (each time they passed) "They going so fast. So many bikes!" Maybe she enjoyed it so much because she had the best view on the street.

But truly I've never seen anything like it in person and it was a thrill. I really expected to see a yellow jersey somewhere in the crowd. Great fun!

We were fortunate enough to meet up with colleagues of Dirk's who've become friends. We enjoyed a beautiful evening overlooking the Piscataqua River that divides New Hampshire and Maine. Pretty fantastic. These times are the richest moments - the fortunes in life. To be fortunate enough to be surrounded by lovely people and a lovely God is to be fortunate enough.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Everything I need to know I learned in Kindergarten

Emie came home filled to the brim with excitement from school yesterday. She couldn't wait to tell me what she had learned in music class. "Guess what, mama! Did you know I have an instrument in my heart?" "No," I replied. "I do, it's my voice!" Indeed you do Emie girl, indeed you do.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Look at what we found in our yard. It reminds me of something from a fairy tale. I love the mustard color and display of God's artistry. Ainsley and I have had a good bit of fun wandering through the woods here seeking out other beauties. We found this one which must have been wonderful the day before - but we could still appreciate the rich color even in its split apart state.

It's been quite the little metamorphosis day after day. Look what little Mr. Mustard looks like today.

And these guys just look like fresh loaves of bread to me. Ainsley's little tootsies give you a little perspective on the size of these dumplings - small caps they are not.

I think we'll skip the lesson where we taste each of them to compare their mind-altering effects. :)

Friday, September 9, 2011

Just the highlights

A week in the life:

~ Emie started Kindergarten! She was so ready. I was not. I'm reasonably sure I was the only one with any butterflies on day one. She loves her teacher, the school, and the bus ride there and back. There's nothing like turning the care of your little one over to someone else for a time, a season. Here's to the next twelve years and beyond! So happy with the school's warm philosophy, welcoming ways, and small class sizes. So good for everyone, even me:)

~ Ainsley decided to swallow Emie's "Worry Rock" a gift given to her by her kindergartner to use if she ever felt nervous. Guess Ainsley figured we're not big on worry around here so she may as well put it somewhere unreachable. Though the doctors gave us some spiffy rubber gloves to go looking for it after a fiber-filled meal.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Irene, you got some "'splainin'" to do.

I love how my last post was all about being an early settler and making my way into a new land gracefully only to be faced with the ultimate test of my pioneer spirit a few days later: A power failure. I'm pretty sure I knew this already but now I know for certain that I am not destined to live off of the land in the woods anywhere at any time.

Irene came through and rustled several things up a good bit, my pride not withstanding. Admittedly, by the time she got here we were wondering, "Is this it?" It really seemed like just a good old fashioned rain storm similar to any number we've weathered elsewhere before. But by morning (after a few quick flickers) the lights (and all things power related) went away for four days. I don't think it would have felt so long had our water not also been tied to an electrical switch. When you live in the woods, sewers are but a distant memory. So that means no flushie, no shower, no rinsing of anything until the power is restored to your septic system. Awesome.

At first we were kind of excited by the challenge to find things for the girls to do that didn't involve electronics but after countless rounds of dress-up, puzzle assembly, Go Fish, and Play-doh we were seriously jonesing for some connection to the outside world. And then at dusk to have no night light and nowhere to warm up the beloved bedtime "milkie" the adventure was getting lost on the girls as well. Truth be told they did so much better with it all than we did. They just kind of took it as a matter of fact. There's no power but we have everything we need right here. We weren't going to starve and never be seen or heard from again. Yet the grown-ups were getting restless.

The hardest part for me was not being able to reach out to anyone on the phone or computer. I was reminded (again!) just how much I rely on these wonderful conveniences to keep a sense of connection to friends and family. I was also reminded (again) how much I have that doesn't ever have to be plugged in or charged up to feel connected. Once again the little lovelies are teaching me how to live well.

To be surrounded by my precious family and know that I have a good all-powerful God always guarding over me is more than enough. But I am singing some new praises for amps and wattage all the same.

Friday, August 26, 2011

"Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself." Leo Tolstoy

Our journey toward making the biggest change for our family so far - a change of address

Oh, little blog how I've missed you! So much time has passed but we press on. I'm inclined to want to recap every little thing that's happened since I last wrote which I know is entirely impossible and is precisely why I've waited until now to even try. Never have six months been so full or so blessed for us.

What a season we're in! When I wrote last (in February!) Dirk was being heavily pursued by several head-hunters for positions all across the country. It was a good time to be a state testing director! Opportunities for our family seemed to abound yet all I wanted to do was sit nice and tight in the comfort of the familiar. In the early days of the process the idea of picking up and going to a new part of the country sounded romantic and exciting. But when the job possibilities started to transition into job offers my feet became increasingly chilly. Turns out I'd become wildly at home in good old Minnesota. Even though it took me such a long time to really settle in, make peace with winter, and connect deeply with true friends - there I was snug as a bug in our little well-oiled life. When...Bam! Time to let go of what had become familiar, tried and true, home.

Dirk was really challenging himself and had been learning so much about how we so often choose the easy way because in the end we worship comfort more than we worship God. It was an odd switch of roles to have him ready to parachute into the clouds while I wanted to retreat under the covers. Yet the nudges to move on got a little stronger and the promptings a little more obvious until it was altogether undeniable that God wanted us to move, to New England in particular.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Love in the Brew Pub

So we went out for lunch last weekend to a fun little brew pub in Saint Paul. Isn't that where preschoolers need to be on a Saturday? Well, we were downtown for a little Scottish festival that was just that: little. So when we'd seen all there was to see we came across this cute little place and thought we'd pop in for a bite.

The girls were giddy as well, girls and were so happy to be in a restaurant. Emie did not fall far from the tree and loves being served in a restaurant as much as I do. So there we were waiting for our meals and Ainsley breaks into spontaneous hugs for her sister. It wasn't just one either. It was one after the other until they both dissolved in a fit of giggles. I'm pretty sure my heart went heavenward at least for a moment or two. It just did me such good to see Ainsley love Emie back so gently and intentionally. She loves her sister. There's no doubt. Follows her like a shadow or the most loyal puppy and very much wants to mirror Emie's every move. But she isn't always so genteel in her expression of affection in her little two year old way. Emie puts up with a lot of pushing and prodding as Ainsley learns how to join in on things without hip-checking her sibling in the process. So to see her initiate a hug and not want to let go was just pure delight.

I was so happy I had my camera with me to commemorate the moment. They love each other so much, these two. I want to help them remember how early this bond started. How much they looked out for one another and looked up to one another even when they were mere babes.

I'll close with my new favorite picture of the Ainsley love. It's just her for a hundred different reasons. I love that Emie's sweet legs are in the background beneath her princess dress up clothes.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Many are the stars I see, but in my eye no star like thee...

Valentine's Day came and went and it did not disappoint. I think that's saying a lot since we often put a lot of pressure on one little day of the year to wow us like no other. I think I did plenty more of this when I was single, projecting my romantic visions everywhere I turned on February the 14th. Every couple shopping at Ralph's market was in full bliss in my mind's eye. Every man a Romeo. And everyone's plans more enviable than mine.

But now Valentine's Day is so much more to me than a day for romance. And maybe there's a wee bit of self-protection in that change of perception. Don't want to be disappointed when the limo isn't out front waiting for me with a nanny on her way to the door to take my job for the day. In any case Valentine's day to me is a day to celebrate the love in my life. And I have two little lovies in my home who like nothing more than a reason to have a celebration that actually focuses on the color pink. It doesn't get much better than that for them or for me either at this point in life.

Emie suggested we make a garland of ribbon to hang from our mantle. On it we would hang (with tiny pink clothespins) all of the Valentine cards we had received and made. It did turn out to be a most inspiring collection and a fun way to display all of the treasures. Em happily dressed in red (as per the Valentine Preschool Party requirement) and headed off to school.

While she was away Ainsley and I made lollipop cookies together. Well, she mostly helped to clean off the frosting from the beaters but it was a team effort all the same.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

"I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine. . ."

Stay tuned for a recap of the Big Love party planned here for my lovies. Hope your day is sweet~

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

I blog for comments. . .

So I learned today that the "comment" option on my blog was somehow disabled before today. Well, I have no earthly idea how to make it come around for the old posts but from here on in you can comment away. I do hope you will. I love hearing from you...

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

These boots are made for walkin'

The girls and I went shopping last night. Seemed like the right thing to do since it was just us girls. Dirk was presenting at a conference in Atlanta so we were looking for something to do before bedtime. As much as the man travels you'd think we'd all get used to his absence but the reality is -- there's just no substitute for him. We sure like him around here. Any old way, shopping's not a bad alternate when in a pinch. So off we went, just us three. We headed to a little shop where I'd seen some awfully cute black riding boots on sale that I thought might work for Emie. They were on sale because winter is almost over here in Minnesota (insert hearty guffaw here).

Knowing she'd still have plenty of opportunity to wear them, we popped in to see if her size was still available. Well they were there for us and it probably would have been some sort of consumer sin to leave such a bargain like that in the store - so we took them home straight away. Well, only after we stopped at the Dollar Tree and bought some Valentine treats for Emie's classmates and each little Mattson peep the balloon of their choice. I thought Ainsley's little heart might burst from her exuberance at finding a balloon that was not only the shape of a star but also had stars on it. It was red, white, and blue like the American flag. And wouldn't you know in early February they just happened to have a huge supply of this design. So she was the happiest little love in the place - even above her big sister who was nearly as happy to see her joy-filled heart at this amazing find. "Stars in da sky" she said repeatedly as she stared up at in wonder. Oh, the joys of the Dollar Store purchases. I love that place!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Big Sister

Beautiful Emerson Hope~
The other day we were on our way into the health club - the three of us girls. It's what we do pretty much every day of the week and we're all the happier for it. Ainsley was glad to walk rather than be carried and I was trying to be happy with this arrangement as well even though it means we are eating the dust of snails. Of course I'm delighted to carry her anywhere at all since she's just a baby. People keep telling me it's not true but they don't see what I see. Anyway, she likes to walk holding my hand just like her big sister does.

So there we were making our way across the slushy parking lot. You could actually see asphalt which, since about November it's taken nothing short of spectacular faith to believe was really still there under inches upon inches of snow. Any old way... bare asphalt was visible on this particular day which meant so were many sloppy puddles. And somehow with the uneven surface and unfamiliar pavement the little lovely took a tumble. It wasn't terrible. But it was one of those both-knees-down-hands-out-in-front *splat* moments. Poor dearest. What came next was the sweetest surprise. Ainsley stood right up and started to brush the wet from her hands. Her pants were not only wet and dirty (fashion foul for choosing cream pants that day) but they were also torn in two places. When Emie saw this her eyes filled with tears straight away. She looked right at Ainsley and said, "Oh, I'm so sorry, Ainsley. We'll get you all cleaned up. It'll be okay. Mama'll change you when we're home." She just wanted nothing more than to make it all better for her. I sure had a proud mama's heart in that moment. Of course it was nothing I could take credit for. It's just so Emie. Her heart of compassion for others is such a beautiful thing to see.

Ainsley settled right into Emie's care and concern and was smiling and happy within a moment. She didn't seem a bit bothered by her tattered clothes and I wasn't the least bit embarrassed to be sending the lovely into child care in dirty torn clothes. Okay, well I did explain that she'd had a tumble outside but I knew that those torn clothes were nothing but a reminder of her big sister's great love for her. I hope they'll always love one another well. Even before Ainsley was born I prayed that my two kids would be exceptionally close. And now that they're both here and they're both girls I'm especially vigilant in my prayers that they'll speak encouragement over one another before ever thinking to point out shortcomings. I'm not about to buy into the notion that sibling rivalry is a non-negotiable. That meanness and cattiness between girls is just how it is. Of course there isn't a beautiful soundtrack playing behind each and every one of their interactions but for the very most part they are so lovely one to another.

If ever I don't know what the matter is with Ainsley I know exactly what to do: ask Emie. She almost always knows. Even today I asked her what it seemed was upsetting Ainsley in her little car seat behind me. Emie said that Ainsley didn't want the sticker that someone put on her jacket. As soon as I reached around and took it off she was quiet as a mouse.

May they always know just what would delight the other's heart and be the first to extend that blessing.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Baby love~

Ainsley the lovely from Summer '09
Can't sleep but not for the usual reasons. I'm a sleeper! Love my rest and the only time I'm ever up is because I'm thinking and re-thinking things way too much or I've had some caffeine deliciously disguised in chocolate treat. Today, it's the latter.

Ainsley love is on my mind. We sure had some sweet moments together today. She didn't nap long or really at all if anyone was counting...maybe a 45 minute snooze which is just amateur for her. So when I heard her calling for me mid-afternoon I was at first a little bummed to find my alone time cut short, but secretly I was elated that we'd have some time just we two. This love is growing so fast. Her baby looks are muted now, trumped by her budding preschooler appearance. But she's just all baby to me. My baby. I guess when you know it's your last one you just hang on for dear life. At least that's what it feels like to me. So much of me wants to bottle her tiny-ness and keep her little. But I don't know why exactly. It's not like I don't positively adore mothering a five year old anymore than her. Each stage has its own rewards... but there's nothing like a baby love. No one like Ainsley.

So we cuddled a good bit today. Her long legs wrapped around my waist. I gladly made dinner with one hand, refusing to forfeit my prize for a nap-less day. More hugs from the girl. Her downy hair smells so good. Her skin so silky. I love how she wants to *help* me with things. And sometimes in her desire to help she'll hand me things I have absolutely no need for in that moment -- such as a jar of pickles as I'm mashing up potatoes. But I can't resist the way she says "You're welcome" after I graciously thank her. Her lilting voice goes up so high at the end of her phrasing like she's the happiest southern belle in Texas... but of course we live in Minnesota - which makes it all the more endearing.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Right on Target

So last night we took a family trip to Target before bedtime. Don't hate us for our cosmopolitan lifestyle. But there we were, cart full of all manner of items, and ready to head home...when Emie got an idea. Now this is not altogether uncommon, for the girl to get an idea and certainly not uncommon for her to have an idea for fun. She suggested that we all head to the Target cafe for some refreshment. You can probably guess that this was not something that Dirk or I would readily file in the fun category... but the girl is persuasive and it is hard to resist unmitigated cuteness. Emie sees a bistro, a chophouse, a bar and grill where the rest of the world sees a hot dog stand.

So we ordered up some fruit (and I do use the term quite loosely) smoothies and gathered around the formica. Well Emie was probably the only one who wasn't surprised to find that it was incredibly fun. Staring across the table into those precious faces was enough to melt me to a puddle. And they looked back at us with the joy of lottery winners as they sipped their treats through plastic straws looking into the faces of some of their favorite people: us their lucky parents. Life is rich indeed.

Well Dirk seemed to be feeling the joy as well since it wasn't long before he had made his way up to a poster size print of a glass of bubbly pop. And, to rave reviews he stood sideways next to it pretending to drink it down in big gulps. I thought I might need a bathroom run I was laughing so hard. Now it doesn't seem that funny right now but in the moment it was the greatest. Emie, not be outdone made her way up to a poster size print of popcorn an pretended to shovel it into her mouth by the fists-full. Ainsley love was laughing so hard I thought she might slide right off of her little stool.

I will remember that night for a long time. The kind of night that makes the sometimes long days especially full. The kind of day that makes you eager for tomorrow. But what I hope I don't ever forget is what I learned from the resident five year old. The lesson that plans are best held loosely. That sometimes for all of our adherence to schedule and routine we often miss the most hilarious fun of the spontaneous.

This is why...

Cracked up last night when I found these two dolls. I picked them up before Christmas as stocking stuffers and wasn't sure which cherub to give them to. I was leaning toward Emie because she's a bit more genteel (shall we say) in her handling of toys. But Ainsley does love a dolly so I hadn't decided.

As I unpacked everything on Christmas eve once the girls were well into REM and visions of sugarplums Mary and I had the following exchange:

Me: Aren't these the dollys cute?
Mary: Sooo cute!
Me: Maybe I should give both of these dolls to Emie instead of Ainsley - she'd love them.
Mary: (Ever the advocate of the underdog youngest child) Why not give some to Ainsley so she can also have something special?

This is why!!!


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

New Year

First post of the year... twenty days in. As much as I love to write and love to mother I can't seem to find the time to do both. Or at least find the time to write about doing the other. In any case...here I am.

Christmas seems like a long time ago. Sweet memories in my heart. The girls are at the ages where it's pure magic. Finding their stockings filled really is like looking at a burning bush to them...or something equally supernatural. They make me want to be young at heart. Make we want to believe. And I do, I am.

Last night I attended the local Kindergarten round-up. Time to send my precious Emie off to school. Sniff. I know I'll be a hot mess on the first day of school in the fall... missing her wildly. She's so ready and so excited so truly I shouldn't have an ounce of concern for myself. Once again, it's not about me. Dang it any old way. Our district only has a half day option - at least that's the only free option. There is a full day "experience" available for the cost of a decent used car. I'm actually considering it. There's an additional option where resident pupil goes a full day a couple of days a week and half days the remainder of the week...also for a fee. This is something I'm considering as well. I think the additional structure could do us all a world of good. We'll see what comes.

Ainsley will go to preschool as well two days a week. Crazy to imagine but indeed it's true. She's still my baby girl though her third birthday is seven months away. When people guess her age at three I'm quick to retort "She's only two." Don't grow my baby up too fast now. It happens fast enough without anyone's encouragement.

Yesterday Emie and I had this exchange which I found so endearing:

Em: Mommy, when I'm all bigger will I have babies?
Me: If you want them then I do hope God blesses you and you will.
Em: Oh, I want them!
Me: (Smile)
Em: But how will I know who to pick for the daddy?
Me: Well, that's the best part. You don't have to pick. God picks the daddy for you and sends you just the right person to be your husband. Just like he did with me and your daddy.
Em: But I think I'd like to pick Wyatt.
Me: I think that's a great choice. (smile)