“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder without any such gift from the fairies, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in." - Rachel Carson

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Advent is by far my favorite part of the Christmas season. From the time I was a little girl, and before I was even born, my dad's family set aside time each Sunday afternoon/evening for advent activities on the four Sundays leading up to Christmas. When I was younger we used to go to my grandparents house for advent and sometimes my aunt's family and my cousins would be there as well, and then as we got older we started having advent at our own house. My parents assigned each member of the family a certain Sunday of Advent. My brother always had the first weekend in December because he was the youngest, then I had the second, then my mom the third and my dad the fourth.

Our advent activities usually began by lighting the appropriate candles on the advent wreath and reading a passage of the Christmas story from the bible, followed by something fun together. If it was your week of advent, you got to plan what that would be. We did everything from making ornaments to putting on Christmas plays to playing homemade board games to flashlight capture the flag in the snow. Advent always included drinking my dad's homemade eggnog, having some tasty dessert, and usually ended with watching a Christmas movie. We often invited my grandparents to join us, and some advents have been spent decorating their hospital or nursing home rooms as they've aged. I remember even making it a priority in college to try to get home for advent as much as possible, because in our family, it doesn't feel like the Christmas season unless advent is involved.

Once I married Aaron and started own family I was very eager to carry on this tradition. Aaron and I have been doing this for years, but this year is the first that Rowan seems old enough to begin to get the concept. On the first Sunday I explained the wreath and which candle will be hers to light, and let her choose the special activity. She picked making Santa ornaments, and she and I baked a coconut butter cake together to have for dessert. Now every morning she wakes up and asks me if it's advent yet, and if she gets to light her candle again. What fun it is to share these traditions! Last Sunday we made paper snowflakes and then for a snack we folded tortillas just like the paper and used kitchen shears to make edible snowflakes. We drizzled melted butter, sugar and cinnamon over them and baked them in the oven.

Making Santa ornaments

Rowan with her finished ornament

Biting into her tortilla snowflake

Hot cocoa with heart shaped marshmallows, for drinking by the fire while reading Christmas books

In addition to Sunday advent activities, we always have an advent calendar, usually of the chocolate variety. I remember receiving chocolate advent calendars from my aunt and uncle as a child and thinking, "Could there honestly be anything better? For a whole month I get to eat a piece of chocolate every day!" This year, however, with the massive sewing kick that I've been on, I was excited to make the girls an activity-oriented advent calendar, something nice that they could have for years to come. When I was a kid, we had this cloth advent calendar with pockets, with a little mouse that you stuffed into the pocket of the appropriate day. My brother and I had an ongoing annual argument about who got evens or odds on the calendar that year, because the person with evens would get to put the mouse in it's pocket on Christmas Eve, the most special day on the calendar. I wanted something like that for our house, and my friend Nitasia came across a cute idea of making 25 mini-stockings and stringing them up. That way you can put a treat or a piece of paper with a fun activity for that day in each one. She graciously shared a bunch of her wool and cashmere scraps and while recovering from my recent hospital stint I spent a lot of sedentary time at my sewing machine making all these little stockings. We're having a lot of fun doing the activities in each one. Some of the highlights so far have included going for a drive to see Christmas lights, making frosty sundaes, singing Christmas karaoke, and going to the Nutcracker. Things on tap in the next couple of weeks that I'm excited for: ice skating at the rink in town, a night hike up Mt. Battie to see the Christmas star lit up on top, going to the Live Nativity, and a Grinch puppet show.

The finished advent calendar

For me, advent is not only about getting ready and counting the days, but it's about setting aside time from our busy schedules to enjoy each others company, to play together, making memories, and of course, drinking your yearly quota of eggnog.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Hello December

I was so happy to flip the calendar to December this past weekend. This is my favorite month- I love that for one month of the year I have a free pass to geek out over cheesy heart-warming songs, drink way more hot cocoa than a person should, and that it's perfectly legitimate for this brief period to suggest that we all hold hands, snuggle and watch Christmas cartoons. Everyone is so much nicer to each other this time of year, and I love that a lot of Christmas activities center around making gifts, crafts, ceremonial activities and traditions-- all things that I love! Basically, I hope to be reincarnated as an elf in my next life. So hang onto your Santa hats folks, and prepare for a mega-injection of Christmas cheer on this blog for the next month!

First I want to post some cute photos of our family on our yearly balsam tip collecting expedition. We go into the woods behind our house and collect a giant bag of balsam branches for wreath making and also cut a little Charlie Brown tree to put outside in front of the kitchen window. Of course, we also bring a thermos of hot cocoa and have a picnic in the woods together. This year, Rowan thought we also needed to bring a compass to be on the safe side. Then we return home to make wreaths and do some exterior illumination. Making the wreaths always takes Aaron and I back to the winter we made wreaths and garland for Piper Mountain Christmas tree farm, and it smells so good!

Also, here's a happy list of things I'm loving right now:
  • Rowan calling Retta "Miss Cutie Megquier"
  • The dangerous nightly ritual Aaron and I have fallen into of drinking Trader Joe's Sipping Chocolate--it isn't really hot chocolate, more like hot melted chocolate in a cup
  • Waking up to Rowan running into our room saying, "I wonder where Jingle is today?!" (our Elf on the Shelf)
  • Buying gifts for an angel tree child and volunteering at the animal shelter
  • Rowan's self-proclaimed Christmas nook in the space behind the tree and next to the couch. I see she's leaving her Hello Kitty slippers in there now. Sometimes I look over and just see two legs sticking out from under the tree as she lays in there looking up at the lights on the tree.
  • And this cute picture:

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Retta at 8 Months

Whoa, wait...what's with being all vertical?!

My little love turned 8 months old on Sunday and to mark the occasion she decided to start crawling. I swear that little bugger heard me tell person after person that with Rowan we were so enthusiastic for her to reach every new developmental milestone but with the second one I was not going to encourage mobility, so she decided to crawl 2 months sooner. Once Rowan started trucking around the house, constant vigilance was required...you just sit down for two seconds and then, "Oh no! Sweetie, we don't eat cat food!" Less than a minute later: "Ooops! No, no! Chewing on electrical cords is not a safe recreational hobby!"...and of course, then you find yourself saying, "Shoes are not for licking!" So, that's what we're doing now. Don't get me wrong...I am thrilled and thankful to have a healthy, thriving little lady about the house, but we are all adjusting to this new phase of movement. We are also discovering that Retta has lots of tricks up her sleeve, like her ability to be on all fours crawling and then suddenly she's doing a perfect downward dog yoga pose. Yesterday I caught her stuck in an awkward split, and this afternoon I glanced at her and she was doing plank pose. Future yogi or circus contortionist? Time will tell, but her antics have been keeping us entertained. Over the past month Retta also sprang her first tooth-- a cute little white bump front and bottom center, and she started eating lots more finger foods. This has made us think about the merits of a dog, because the floor crumbs have increased at an exponential rate, and every time I pick her up out of her booster seat she has about 76 pieces of dehydrated apple chunks and cereal puffs stuck to her butt. It is such a fun stage though between the grinning, laughing, babbling, morning smiles, and perhaps my favorite new trick she's learned: playing peekaboo. A couple of weeks ago she was sitting on our bed and picked up a shirt from the laundry pile and lifted it up over her head, then yanked it down with a big grin and did it again...I realized she was trying to play a game with me! Whenever I'd say "Peek-a..." she'd pull the shirt up over her head, and when I'd say, "BOO!" she would bring the shirt down to her lap and giggle. So cute. I don't think I'd ever get tired of playing that game with her. Looking forward to the next month and what cute mayhem Christmas + baby brings!

Monday, November 26, 2012


“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” -Thornton Wilder

As many of you may have noticed by now, Wonder Parenting has been rather quiet for the last month. Blogging has taken a backseat to the sickness that cycled around our house from late October until now. After a month of colds, viruses, sinus infection, etc. I had another round of persistent flu-like symptoms recur last week. I couldn't take being sick any longer so I went to walk-in care at the hospital, ended up spending the night in the E.R. and then being admitted to the hospital for 3 days. I was treated for dehydration, and my blood counts were incredibly off. Scary-low white blood cell and platlet counts meant that I was incredibly susceptible to new infection or viruses and my blood pressure was so low I was in danger or passing out every time I stood up. I completely stumped the doctors, and still after numerous tests, they aren't entirely sure what happened or what I have going on. What was unexpected during this time was that I went from thinking I had a routine virus or a reaction to my flu shot, to hearing that I could potentially have leukemia, other types of cancer, or serious immune system disorders. You go along thinking you are young and healthy one day and the next you are completely humbled, knocked off your feet and faced with the very real possibility of fighting a potentially terminal illness. What both surprised and relieved me during this moment was that rather than completely panicking, I felt as if I was emerging from a fog into total clarity, with what is truly important in my life coming into sharp focus. It was the gift of immediate perspective- the silly mundane details that I somehow find time to routinely stress over fell away, and all I could think about was how cute Retta's chubby little hand looks when it reaches toward her mobile in a beam of light, or the piles of love-infused drawings Rowan showers me with each day as she unpacks her school backpack, or the feel of Aaron's hand in mine, or the purr of our cat as he sleeps happily on my blanketed chest, cozy by the fire on a winter's night. I thought about my parents taking care of my kids all weekend and how they continue to be a source of steadfast support no matter how old I get. The strength and happiness I draw from my family and friends is immeasurable.

These are the things I live for, the things that matter, the things that if told my time was short, I would want to fill my last days with. Of course I was lying in my hospital bed thinking about worst case scenarios and making bargains with some higher power about all the great things I will do if afforded more time and continued health. The likelihood that I have some type of cancer is very small. It has not been entirely taken off the table yet, but I am fairly certain that rather than a more serious diagnosis, I ended up in the hospital because of an allergic reaction to an antibiotic. That coupled with the perfect storm of being run down from a lingering cold and depleted from lack of sleep, nursing, and not taking in enough calories to offset my daily expenditure of energy. Regardless of the diagnosis, this week I was given many gifts. I am thankful that this week I was forced to slow down and examine my pace, reminding me that if you don't take time to truly take care of yourself, you won't be able to really take care of anyone else either. I was immediately reminded at the tenuousness of this life and that I should always try to avoid taking my time for granted. I was reminded of my greatest gifts- my family and friends. I was surrounded by people who love me and showered with their love, thoughts, prayers, and gifts. I was blown away by the generosity of others. I was given the gift of good news with an improved prognosis, and told to resume feeding Retta. I've had meals and plants and cozy pants delivered and so many kind offers of help. To have so much love in my life is a blessing, and to know it is yet another. I realized the other day that I would much rather have a life of quality over quantity, and so regardless of how many days I am gifted, I will be grateful to have lived so many days already with wonderful companions and amongst such beauty and grace. There is much to give thanks for every day, and health, family, love and kindness top my list today.

Some of the people I am thankful for, enjoying Thanksgiving dinner

Friday, November 9, 2012

First Snow!

We knew it was coming, and yet, there's always something surprising about the first snow of the season. Yesterday morning when we woke up we weren't expecting to see 3 inches or so on the ground and coating the trees, our brown November yard transformed into a winter wonderland overnight. We were thinking it was just going to be a little dusting. Rowan was so overjoyed about this change in landscape that she and Aaron were out playing by 6:30. By the time Retta and I had bundled up and joined them at 7:00, they had already built a snowman, shoveled out Rowan's name on the driveway, and made snow angels. Rowan was handing out carefully selected snowballs for each of us to munch on, and then she led us to her "secret hideaway," in a stand of pine trees.

I know that many of us are not so enthusiastic about the appearance of the white stuff and the gray, cold days that often accompany it, and I am often among that group. Yesterday however, I found myself grateful for this glimpse of winter- Rowan's enthusiasm was infectious. We rarely venture outside so early in the morning, but there was something great about getting up and immediately going out, feeling the cool air on your face and then retreating to the warm house for breakfast. We were all so awake and happy, all before when we'd normally just be rolling out of bed. As I spent the day with Retta, I embraced the wintry weather, determined to make a roaring fire in the woodstove, drinking tea while looking for the perfect chocolate chip banana bread recipe,  working on homemade Christmas gifts, making time to slow down and enjoy the day playing with my little one. We had an excellent day together and it made me remember the good parts of winter- the cozy house, candles burning, baking, snuggling cute children in fuzzy pajamas, and the turning inward to more quiet and reflective pursuits. Summer is so much about getting out, having adventures outdoors, soaking up as much sun and warmth as you can while it lasts. Then there's winter, where I feel like all my reading, my crafting and my dreaming and good ideas happen. Don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled to see the sunshine and the grass again today, even if it's dead, but I'm also thankful for yesterday's snowy day.

Retta is curious about the snow

Rowan in her secret hideout

Little Lulu all bundled up--that fleecy suit is like a sleep machine

And here's a video, but for some reason the sound isn't working for me, so it's probably not that interesting, but it's kind of cool, like the old home movies that didn't used to have sound...

Friday, November 2, 2012


Winnie the Pooh and Piglet, the best of friends (let's hope right?!)

I love Halloween so much more now that we have kids. I can't think of much in this world cuter than little kids in Halloween costumes, and getting to make parts of their costumes really appeals to my inner craft nerd. This year Halloween felt especially big because we had been cooped up fighting some nasty virus for nearly 2 weeks and we were all so cagey that getting out and about for trick or treating felt like a major social event. Also, when we woke up on Halloween morning, Retta was sitting up in our bed cheerfully babbling when we ALL heard her say, "Mama!" Music to my ears. Not that I'm jealous that she had already said "Dada" or anything, but it was definitely my most memorable Halloween treat this year.  Before getting costumed-up my mom and I also took Rowan to see Sesame Street Live for the first time, which was a banner experience for Rowan. It was really cool to see her even wider-eyed than usual trying to take it all in. She was super impressed by the cannons that shot streamers out into the crowd during the big finish. Then we got Rowan into her Winnie the Pooh costume (2 minutes) and Retta into her Piglet costume (20 minutes of squirmy rangling) and we were ready to go. We visited grandparents, great-grandparents, family friends, and our neighbors the next day for round two. Rowan got loads of candy and cool toys while Retta enjoyed baby food, a teddy bear, some money and glow-in-the-dark pacifiers. She also hauled in a lot of candy for her parents. Not bad for a baby's first try at this whole trick or treating gig. Here are the pictures...

Trying to figure out how to bust into her treat baby food at my grandfather's apartment

Attempts at taking a photo where both girls were looking at the camera were futile, but these are still cute

She barely fit in her car seat!

The little pig trying to crawl across the floor while also gumming a jar of baby food...

Feeling a little 11'oclockish!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Molly Monarch Emerges

We never thought it would happen, but Rowan's butterfly, Molly Monarch finally hatched out of her chrysalis yesterday. She made her chrysalis about a month ago, and monarchs usually only take about 14 days before they come out as a butterfly---so this one took her sweet time. I was just about to take the lid off of her container and set the chrysalis outside because I thought something had gone wrong and it was never going to hatch out, but she surprised us just in time. It was a great thing to discover late in the afternoon yesterday. Since we're all currently sick and spending waaaay too much time at home, this constituted a big event and really turned the day around! Rowan was mesmerized by the new butterfly and jumping up and down and giving everyone in the family congratulatory hugs. We realized there aren't many flowers left in our yard for it to find food, so we cut what was left and put it in her container last night while she got used to flexing her new wings. This morning she seemed ready to go, so we took her down the hill to our neighbors for the big release (our neighbors have a far superior flower garden with a few things still blooming). Rowan proudly carried the butterfly down the hill and then got to hold her for a few seconds before she flew off and perched on a birdhouse in the yard. It seemed quite content there, so I'm not sure how far this slow butterfly is going to get before the next stretch of cold weather, but maybe with the coming winds of the hurricane she'll get blown around and pushed far enough south to catch up with some other monarch stragglers! This was a really simple yet magical fall activity--bon voyage Molly!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Retta at 7 months

 Yesterday my sweet little Retta turned 7 months old! What a big month this has been for her--she is now sitting up, almost crawling, waving, making the sign for "milk" and saying "Dada!" So much has happened in a month. She has also decided that sleep is not a hobby of hers- last night she was up literally every hour on the hour, but the night before she woke herself up laughing so hard in her sleep, which was one of the most adorable things I've seen. She may be getting the nasty cold that is methodically working it's way through our family, or her first tooth might be finally coming to the surface, but as I manually forced my eyelids open this morning I just kept trying to remember that these sleepless nights won't last forever. So, at 7 months we are tired, but happy!