Absentee

Aside

Why haven’t I written in a while? I have a few good excuses and a few lame ones. Lack of inspiration? Not really. Lack of material? Not at all! Having little kids in your home and living in an urban setting? Unusual stories and great material abound. Laziness? Perhaps. Busyness? Definitely. Self induced busyness? Absolutely! 

 

This has been my year of realizing that I keep myself busy with stuff that needs to get done but I’m not at all making time for the things that I actually enjoy doing. Ask anyone….there’s NEVER enough time! Right? If only we had just a few more hours in the day to get done what we really want to do. I’m a firm believer that if we had a few more hours we would all die of heart attacks by 26 and also, we’d still never make time for real living. 

 

I’ve been reading a lot of Wendell Berry lately and I appreciate his approach to modernity and his commitment to living a slow and enjoyable life. From what I’ve read he doesn’t own a computer and types all of his poetry and manuscripts on an old-school typewriter, when he’s not using a pen a paper. A what? Pen and…what? He doesn’t really email and he’s likely not on friggin’ Facebook. He moved away from NY and left a potentially successful career as a writer to move back to KY and work on his farm with his wife; to work the land and write. Not for everyone, sure, but man! Doesn’t it just sound dreamy? It does to me. 

 

So I’m realizing that I’ve let myself get busy with so much ‘stuff’ over this past year and it’s left a bit of a hole inside. You’ll always find ways to fill your time but you really have to MAKE time for the things that you  want to do. 

There you have it. Brunette!

I’ve been highlighting the hair in strips of blond during the summer. It gets blond FAST when the sun comes out. I really wanted a change though. So here, I went all Autumny and stuff. What do you think?

I want a lush garden

Tracie Bonjour 2011

Yesterday we headed to Seattle for a family get away and ended up taking the kids to the Arboretum just off the highway. It was amazing to be in this lush, fragrant space in the middle of a concrete jungle. You could hear the faint sound of the cars on the highway and could also smell pine in the trees. It was a moment that I wished I could come back to, sans children, for a bit of quiet time. When you have children life takes a new twist on moments of solitude. Basically, there is no solitude! I was strolling through thinking, “I should come back here some day after the kids are grown and married and then I’ll stroll through the garden and just think, or read or smell things. We ended up picking and eating berries and pretending the willow tree was a tent. It was a good time….after the boy stopped complaining about how much we had to walk.

We hit Capitol Hill for an Indian Buffet where the man charged us for four plates even though my daughter only ate a bite of chicken and three chunks of watermelon. That’ll be $8 each, please! My kids aren’t completely use to the city where anything goes, in terms of fashion and apparel. We passed two “girls” holding hands (one was a large man dressed like a woman-complete with lace up boots, make up and a wig) and Chloe said, “Those two were really silly, mama”. My kids also kept staring, wide eyed, at most everyone on the streets as if we were a Tree House family that lived outside of civilization. It was amusing.

We then went to B&O espresso and Matt took three sips of his double espresso before it fell to the ground. We found a little vintage clothing boutique that sold a dress for $185 yet it had a large tear down the back. I let my voice be heard!

Lastly, we found a cute little community garden in the middle of the city where we walked through with the kids and I pointed out to them all of the flowers and veggies that were growing. They are super interested in how things grow so this is actually where we spent most of our time yesterday. It was a lovely, lush getaway in the center of the crazy city. Sunflowers, tomatoes, cosmos, strawberries…..We walked through pathways and I felt a little like I was in a jungle. Maybe this is the imaginative child in me; the one who still pretends I am on a tropical adventure whenever I get around a garden that grows flowers as tall as myself.

It made me think about how I’ve been taking back my own yard bit by grassy bit this year, and so far I have three raised beds in the back and two, large patches in the front where the grass has been overtaken by veggies, berries and flowers. Slowly but surely I want that wretched grass out of there and a haven of gardening goodness in it’s stead. I want pathways and stones for the kids to step on and winding ways for them to walk through as they pretend they are in the forest or Eden or something like that. It’s one of the ways I find rest in our urban jungle.

I love the city and all of the buildings; the sounds of horns and sirens, close housing proximity, accessibility to cafes, restaurants, museums, libraries, parks, pubs and bakeries. Yet, in the midst of my urban life, I want quite; beauty, refreshment, color and scent (good scent). This year I am on a mission to take back more of my yard and turn it into a place of rest for myself and my kids who still play-pretend they are on a tropical adventure every time the neighbor’s grass grows over two feet tall. How does your garden grow?

Tracie Bonjour 2011

The End of Summer

This summer wasn’t completely what I had hoped in terms of the weather. It’s really hit or miss here in the Pacific Northwest. Some years it hits the high 80s for three months and that’s when everyone’s grass turns a crackly brown and it feels like you’re walking on tiny spikes when you go into the yard barefoot. The smell of sunscreen is ubiquitous and the spray grounds are packed to maximum capacity. In fact it might even be a good idea to invest into a harness just so you can locate your child amongst the mosh pit of swimsuits.

Then there are years where you find yourself sitting near a quiet beach with a single tear streaming down your face as you try to suck the life out of a day in the high 50s, gray clouds hovering above as you pretend it’s summery outside by eating juicy peaches (that were NOT grown here this year) and donning sunglasses in hopes that the day will actually require them to be worn. You day-dream of trips to hot and sunny places like Arizona or Utah because honestly, would you ever go there in August otherwise?

This was my summer:

Green tomatoes in July….AND August!

Tiny butternut squash on the vine because the heat didn’t help them

Cold days at a local beach

And gray skies in July!

BUT….

August sent me outside with a tan, camping all over our amazingly, lovely state, and it lathered me with sunscreen for an entire month.

I have freckles on my face that show proof of those sunny days, a handful of red tommys that are truly the underdog this year, and kids with sun kissed highlights in their hair. We had a rad summer, even if it took a while to come. She finally graced us with her presence and then, just like that, she was gone.

Welcome the yellow leaves and orange pumpkins; sweaters that itch your neck, socks, spiders coming in from the cold; firm butter in the cupboard, heated house in the morning and feather duvet at night… all of this I’m not yet ready for but, in the end, what I can do? Here’s to fall!

All photos by Tracie Bonjour

Finding the time to create

Daisies in my garden

 

Today I came across this article  by Carey Wallace on making time to create art. In this article he’s talking about writing, which I feel a strong connection to but feel like I’m utterly dropping the ball since I just can’t seem to find/make time these days. I even commented on his article in that I was encouraged and discouraged in the same breath. In some ways I do believe it’s easier to make time for things when you are either single or sans little children.  I do find there are a lot of mommy bloggers out there who write for fun (that just sounds so ‘cute’-they write for fun), maybe write because it’s a passion is a better way to phrase it. Then there are some who write to try to make money off their blogging. I understanding why the latter would carve out significant slots of time if they are trying to be home with kids and make some serious cash from their writing.

It’s the former, the ones who make time to write because it’s their passion, that just kills me. Maybe it’s the season I am in, life with three small children who have a lot of needs. I have a one year old who is just learning to walk for goodness sake! There are days where I feel like I’ve completely failed in making time to write, take photos or read and I really don’t understand how these women who stay home with kids do it. Maybe it will mellow once mine get just a titch older “and then (she says) I’ll find the time to make art” (end quotes). Or maybe I just need to bite down and carve out some serious time to create the things I want to create. I miss telling stories with my photos and getting out the stuff that’s in my head. Lord knows there is a ton in there these days. I feel I’ve been going through some major life transitions in the past six months and there is so much swirling around in there that wants to come out. Not that I need to write so people will read but there is something about the process that helps me to learn and to decompress a bit. It’s the creative process that we all need to churn in ourselves to feel we are spinning properly, like the cog that drives the wheel (thanks for the definition, Biker Husband).

 

Personally I was born to communicate in a variety of forms so when I spend most of my day answering what the difference is between a bunny and a rabbit (which, by the way, I really don’t know) I feel deflated and tired in the end, if that’s all I have done. If I haven’t engaged in something that makes me also feel alive as a unique human with a unique expression of life I feel like I lost a bit of the day. I’ve felt this way for months now. This is why, I think, a lot of stay at home moms struggle with depression, addictions, and horrible loneliness.

 

This excerpt, which hopeful isn’t breaking some sort of copywrite, is incredibly profound to me and seems to strip away a lot of my excuses for not making time to create, whatever it is that I need to create:

 

“This is what undergirds my discipline in my best moments: the dazzling beauty and variety of the things God wants to speak into this world, the honour of being able to repeat some of them in my own voice, and the shortness of my life relative to the size of the task. It requires discipline to stay tuned to these truths in the crush and noise of each day, but when the division between creative and spiritual disciplines is removed, the reward becomes not just another page written, or another lonely hour stared down, but a meeting with God himself, who restores us even as He leads us on.”

– Carey Wallace

 

 

Things are coming together at the house. My carpal tunnel is kicking into high gear these days since I’ve been painting like a trooper. “Show me paint-a-fence”. I often feel the need to throw in 80’s movie quotes when my sanity is hitting a low. Our friend Gabe helped us move and then Josh came over to look at our plumbing. We have a few places where the hot water comes out in a trickle and that was concerning. I was picturing us running a hose from the basement, where the hot water flows like milk and honey, up the upstairs and sitting under a flow of piping hot water coming out of a green garden hose. True ghetto fashion.  We found out the water is not really an issue so my ulcer is settling once again. Yet one more small issue has popped up in regards to our floors….

I’ve always wanted a painted floor, I’ll start with that, and when we pulled up the nasty, rental looking carpet after we had the keys in hand we noticed the floor has already been painted a dashing brown with speckles of white where they used a spray gun on the walls but failed to drop a throw down on the floor. We decided to paint the floors a fetching stone gray and the finished result was indeed fetching. I LOVE IT!

I’m always waiting for affirmation when people see our floors. I’m funny that way. I want them to drop to their knees into a state of shock and breathlessness when they see the beauty of a painted floor that usually only resides in sites like Dwell or Martha Stewart magazine, so I always ask, “What do you think of the floors?” So far most of the people who have come to see the house aren’t really in line with our specific taste of decor so I get that they wouldn’t be super into how they look. I just don’t want them to think we did this because we had no choice and then feel sorry for us. Again, I’m funny that way. Why care? I know, right? I can just see a couple coming over and saying, “Yeah, looks….nice” then getting in the car after they leave and shooting the pity look at one another, mumbling something about, “Remember the days when we were poor too, honey?” So far no one has lost their breath when beholding our stone, gray wood floors. Gabe came over and I asked what he thought and his reply was, “Um…is that…common?” Ok, fine. You don’t like it either.

The issue with the floors, unfortunately is that the paint is coming up if we scrape something across the floor, like say a bed frame. I was gutted when I saw that dark brown paint underneath a scuff mark. I felt the stomach acid churning inside as our lovely floors started to look ugly again. My first thought was, “What are we going to do? This is just going to get worse after one scrape! It’s going to keep coming up. All of this hard work…” The woman at the store, which woman and store I will refrain from naming, told us what we needed to do to paint a floor and which paint we were to use. No poly necessary. Well, after the floor incident I got online and found out that you indeed need to throw down at least three coats of poly to keep it finished and strong. Curses!

We’re moving our family in tomorrow and the thought of my kids growing a third arm or six nipples due to toxic chemical exposure is frightening indeed so we’re trying to work out how we can finish our floors without causing serious harm to our kids. If it were just myself and Matt I’d say, “Heck, load us up with tumor growing chemicals….it’s just like a night out at Denny’s!” But it’s not just us and I want to be careful of our cherubs and what they inhale. I’m actually getting on Matt’s nerves by how often I toss the comment, “We just need to let the place air out”, into conversation. Dads just don’t get it.

I’m sure it will work out fine with the floors and we’ll be onto our next adventure as we settle into the Hilltop. Tomorrow night is our first night sleeping in our new home. There’s so much more room than we’re use to and it’s fun to let the kids scream indoors again without fear of disturbing the neighbors in our apartment living situation. Hurray for Hilltop, yo!

More from Free Range Kids

I was with an old friend today and we took our kids to the Children’s Museum. Her and I chatted and caught up while our kids played in the sea of children at the loud and kinesthetic museum. My son was, of course, always on the move and there were a few times I hadn’t seen him for many moments. I’d go off to look for him after I had a bit of that, “hmmmm….I hope he’s still in here with us” moment. He was always there, safe and sound, having tons of hands-on fun.

While my friend and I chatted, the topic of fear and letting our kids roam a bit came up in our conversation. I told her about this site and I’ve also been catching up on it recently. Now I’m not ready to let my 5 year old wander down our busy street to get some change from the gas station all by himself, but I’m challenged again to continue to deal with my fears and believe in the decency of humanity in their love and care for children.

I’m a typical mother that wants to protect her children and at times can be overprotective. I hate to see my kids sad, hurting or fearful. I do have to deal with the vibe in our fear-based culture that screams out mistrust in how adults view children (we’ve come to believe that it’s common for adults to want to hurt children and actually rare for them to nurture). I’ve been reading crazy articles, written by intelligent adults, that fear things like decals on their mini vans of figure-drawings of a family. The fear is that a predator will see these decals, know there are children in the car (as if the mini van wasn’t a dead give away), follow them home and abduct their children in the middle of the night. Well, maybe they don’t fear it WILL happen as much as it COULD happen so best to avoid potential danger.

Let me say that I would NEVER forgive myself if something bad happened to my kids while they were away from me but statistically speaking it is actually more likely to get struck by lightning than for your child to be taken and never returned. Usually abductions happen to children by someone they KNOW rather than a stranger. Yet, from the media attention given to these topics, you’d think this kind of thing happens ALL THE TIME!

Again, I understand the fear to protect our kids. It’s actually our responsibility! But I do agree that this really gets taken too far and it creates a fear and mistrust within our culture. It also creates children who fear and mistrust and are unable to be independent from their hovering parents. I do understand the fear but I also agree that our kids need to be given portions of age appropriate independence, freedom and room to roam.

Our current housing doesn’t allow for huge amounts of freedom outdoors but I still love to get my kids to parks playing with other children, climbing trees and hanging from bars, even if they may fall. I also enjoy posting photos of my kids on my blog because I believe it is my friends that read this and they love to see my kids grow. I occasionally let my kids go in the buff at the beach if there aren’t many people around. Usually the only people that have a problem are those that think I’m exposing them while ‘there may be a predator around’. Well, I have thought of this and I’ve never felt someone staring at my kids bodies. If I ever felt funny we wouldn’t do it. People should trust my judgment as a parent. I’m there with them, watching, taking notice. But I’m also letting my kids have a childhood. They will remember times swimming in icy water, climbing trees, falling from trees and playing with sticks and rocks. In fact I think it’s good for them to do so.

As they get older more challenges and fears will come. I’ll have to deal with giving them more amounts of freedom even if I want to hover and shelter them from danger. But it’s not healthy to teach our kids to fear. Caution is a must and it actually teaches our kids independence; they can problem solve (but the key is to teach them how to problem solve on their own). As my kids get older I’ll have to deal with personal fears that come up in my mind but I know I don’t always want to live in the ‘what if?’ zone.

I remember what my friend Dan B. said in regards to fear. “It’s not that I don’t have fears anymore. I still have them but I continue to face them until I’m not afraid anymore.” Raising kids is a courageous endeavor and is not for the faint hearted. But it is also my responsibility to teach my children courage and to give them the freedom to learn, explore, grow and live. I’d love to hear any thoughts on this site and some of these articles. They are very thought provoking, indeed!

Here’s to raising children and facing our fears!