Wednesday, August 24, 2016

THINKING ABOUT....CREATIVITY




Sloane is now 4 years old which means she is absolutely her own person. Obvious, but none the less surprising when the helpless blob of a baby turns into a very capable human with her very own personality. This happened slowly, with hints and sniffs of independence, but now it's a fast and furious unveiling, every day, apparent in her questions and sense of humor and her creativity. The transformation is so subtle yet stunning it still has me reeling.

Something sbout her being so perceptive recently and looking at everything with her specific point of view, has me feeling more than ever that I want to be living my life in a way that holds true to the things I tell her are worthwhile and noble pursuits. Perhaps most important, I want to like myself and I want her to see me liking myself. So I've been thinking a lot about what it means to be kind to myself, to nurture confidence and a sense of purpose, and what that is all coming down to for me is...creativity. 

I'm mulling through (and have been for a while) all of this and I'm going to continue to journal about it here as I develop more thoughts and projects, but let me plop some stuff down here as a means of forming a thesis.  I want to put it out there that for me right now, at age 33, as a wife and mother of two small children, working full time at an office, a homeowner, and ten other things I might list on here to describe my identity and responsibilities, being creative means something very different than what I thought it meant ten years ago, or even five years ago. The demands of daily life mean that I have to get creative (ah-ha!) with how I engage creatively with the world, and while it still means practicing the traditional means as much as I can - of writing, painting, playing music, decorating a home, planning parties and even open mic nights at our home (so very excited about this!), I want this kind of energy to run through all of my days, not just when I have time set aside.

I heard Rob Bell say in an interview something along the lines of: if you can pay attention in the valley, you will have no trouble paying attention on the mountain top. It hit a chord because, in essence, that is my life mantra that I had adopted several years ago when things got busy and mundane and I realized I didn't want to live the rest of my life for the weekends, exciting trips or events. I wanted to live my life for that day, and so began my quest for being still, being present, paying attention. 

My theory is this - that the habit of paying attention is equal to excercising creativity...which breeds even more creativity. Is that too big of a leap? Are you with me? 

The kind of attention I mean is the kind that requires stillness, mulling over details, inhaling the morning air, inhaling a baby's scent, listening to someone tell a story about a recent experience, listening to a podcast, noticing the sheen of a pepper, noticing your child play, playing pretend with your child, letting the smell of ripe fruit overwhelm you, enjoying a shower, watching your husband as if you are seeing him for the first time, being present in a conversation, and on and on...taking nothing for granted.

In my experience, paying attention feels creative for two reasons. One, it is inspirational. Because I am in the mindset that I am a creative being and that small things around me are meaningful, all of my senses are heightened and ready to find inspiration, and it prompts me to write, blog, reflect, take photos, make a home beautiful, find any reason to celebrate, and work to foster true community. 

Second, it is invigorating (my other theory is that creativity is what invigorates) because this habit compels me to give thanks for every little thing. Once I get started, I am overwhelmed by gratitude, and feel accutely aware that one of the main reasons for existence is to do more  that - give thanks, adore, exalt. Besides, I've found that gratitude drowns out almost all of the soul-sucking demons.

When I feel invigorated and inspired, I am not only filled with a sense of purpose,  I am kinder and more generous to myself and those around me. I want that for myself, I want that for my daughters.  

It feels so good to write this all out!  I'll be back with more of this at some point. Don't be shy about sharing your thoughts.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

EDEN'S THIRD BIRTHDAY PARTY


Last November, friends and I took our children to go watch Mary Poppins, the play. My friend Laura had told us about it (the show was put on by a local youth theatre company called Character Works) and it was incredible. I was so impressed with the quality of the performance and production, and Sloane was completely transfixed. Thereafter, we went to go see Character Works put on Annie and Peter Pan, which have now all become favorites of hers.

Seeing as the kids were all obsessed with Mary Poppins, especially Eden, it was appropriate and totally wonderful of Laura to throw Eden a Mary Poppins themed birthday party. I made the mistake of telling Sloane about it a couple of days before her own birthday party which was a week before, and she could not contain her excitement...for Eden's birthday.  The night before her birthday party I asked Sloane if she was excited for it, and she said, "...mmmm I'm excited for Eden's Mary Poppin's party!!!" She later conceded that she was also excited for her own birthday.  The thought of dressing up brings her so much joy these days, that this was like a dream come true. And all of her friends dressing up too! She couldn't contain her excitement. The afternoon of the party Sloane really wanted Logan to dress up as Michael Banks (Sloane was going as Jane Banks) and she kept bringing me different variations of Logan's clothes that she thought could make a Michael costume.  She also started rummaging around my closet so that she could help me dress as a chimney sweep.  There wasn't enough time to pull together anything for Logan and myself, but I assured Sloane that Logan and I were Michael Banks and a chimney sweep in our hearts, and I sang the song to prove it.  She seemed satisfied.

I just have to say, I kept thinking about the last time I whipped out my camera for Eden's birthday, (which was her first year birthday!) and marveling at this thing called time that whips us in the face as it races along and produces these magnificent children who dance and sing along with all of their hearts.


When we arrived for the party, I was astonished at how much thought and creativity Laura had poured into this thing - I mean, the theme appropriate food! the games! the little print-outs of the chimney scape! the adorable food! Did i say that already, the details of the food was show-stopping. It was so much work and you know what the best part of it all was, the kids are now old enough to appreciate it!










The little lady herself! As Mary Poppins!






You guys, I held all of these kids when they were tiny little newborns. And now look at them. 






I love this photo so much. Michael Banks, Andrew the Dog, Lady Suffragette


The sweetest little chimney sweeps!


Right before I snapped this photo, Eden looked at her mother deep in the face and said, with utmost sincerity, "Thank you for taking care of me, chimney sweep." It makes me want to cry thinking about it now it was so sweet, but it made us laugh so hard at the moment and I love Laura's face here, taking all of that in.





Making kites! Sloane was extremely into this. 








And for the grand finale.... MARY POPPINS AND BERT!! The youth actors that played these characters in the play happen to be close family friends of Laura's and they made an appearance at the end of the party, in full costume, and sang songs from the show for all the kids, staying in character the whole time. I was swooning.







Sloane loves them so much she mustered up the courage to go up to them and ask them to take a photo with her, even though she felt a little shy! 


Happy birthday Eden Isimbi! We love you!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

WHAT I'M READING V. 15



It's been 3 months since I did one of these! I've been keeping busy with podcasts and reading things here and there, but I apparently I had lost the rhythm of the thing. Here I am getting back into it.

The Reading Promise by Alice Ozma 

I LOVED this book. This book is about a promise that a seven year old and her father makes to each other to read together every night for 1,000 nights...which turned into them reading together for 3,128 nights! It recounts the journey of that promise, including the story of her mother leaving, the strain of adolescence, all the way up to when she starts college, when it finally comes to an end. I loved the premise, I loved that her father read the introduction for the audiobook, as well as all of the literary quotes at the beginning of each chapter, and I thoroughly enjoyed her recounting the books that they read together because it reminded me of my childhood. Something about this book was so familiar - the relationship with her father? her passionate love of books? her personality? - that it almost felt like I was reading a journal of mine, which is a surreal and lovely feeling to encounter while reading a book.  If you loved books as a child and still do, I can't recommend this book enough.

The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis 

This one I've read before, a long time ago, but a friend who I did a reading panel with last week told me she is rereading this series and it made me want to do it all over again as well. I wanted to read in chronological order this time and so I started with this one, listening to it on audiobook. It took me right back to when I was a kid listening to it all for the first time - feeling the thrill of learning an origin story and of discovering  Aslan. I was captivated every moment, even knowing exactly how it all turns out.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

This is one that sucked me in after the first few sentences, which seems to happen rarely these days. The author describes the setting and actions so well that images of the scene immediately rose to mind and stuck there. I trusted her as an author immediately because of this, and so I found myself happily going along with the plot, which is about an epidemic that wipes out the majority of the world's population and a troop of actors roam around in the altered world performing plays.  I can't wait to find out what happens next.

The House of the Spirits by Isabelle Allende

I am a few chapters in and I am just now starting to get immersed in the story. It took a little while to get used to the magical realism and distant tone (I wonder if this is one of those books that would be better conveyed reading off the page rather than listening to on audiobook?) but once I accepted that the ideology was intentional, and started falling in love with the prose, I found myself nestling in for the ride. It's about three generations of a family, post-colonialism, South American culture and politics, the role of women, and the  interplay between good and evil. In that way, it reads almost like a fairy tale, to which the magic realism fits perfectly.

Monday, August 15, 2016

NYC PART 4: SUBWAY AND UPPER EAST SIDE



Here we come to a close on the NYC series; a short trip but boy am I stretching it out here on ye ol' blog. Recap: I posted photos from my sister's wedding here, and then the rest of the photos to part 1, 2, and 3. This trip will always be near and dear to my heart because 1) it took us out of the norm, 2) all my favorite people in one city! 3) for such a joyous occasion and 4) I don't when the next time a trip like this will happen.

!!!
Let me also interject here to share some things on my mind as we are back to the day-to day, of no particular import or theme, just that they are things I am itching to jot down somewhere:

I am filled with dread about summer ending. There's nothing I can do about that except brace myself. I'm also starting to make a list of things to combat the onset of blues that inevitably come with the decrease of daylight. Is this the year I get some sort of light therapy lamp?? 

I have about 18 things that I need to do in the evenings in the house to get ready for the week and then a solid eight or nine routine things each night for the next day, and as I patter about the kitchen being efficient and intentional and all that, I'm also checking off to-do lists and doing things like thinking about that text I'm going to send, thinking about it so hard that at the end of the thought I'm sure I've already sent it, and come to find out five days later that I never had.

I employ my stern voice with Sloane, reminding her about this and that, and hating myself when I hear the annoyance creep out, already feeling the weight of how much I am going to miss her five minutes after I put her to bed that night.

I think my heart will break into a thousand pieces when I think about how I can't get back these days with this amazing four year old and adorable one year old, ever again.

The other day Logan waddled after Sloane as fast as she could wanting Sloane's juice box, which Sloane would have gladly shared (she had immediately asked me upon receipt of juice box, "Mom can I give some to Logan?") but I said Logan wasn't allowed, and of course Logan was distraught about it all.  After a few minutes of this, Sloane couldn't stand that she couldn't share her juice with Logan so she asked me to put it away for a little while, out of sight, and then asked for something else that she could give to Logan instead to soothe her.

I still listen to podcasts whenever I can and once in a while there is a story that moves me to tears, gives me pause, and I look up from the work on my desk smile into the air at nothing in particular and feel all the feelings.  These can arise from a funny story, two unlikely people connecting, the glory and mystery of science, personal journeys, a well-crafted sentence. How rich I am to exist here on this earth, I think at the top of my lungs. 

The exhaustion of the end of the day cannot be overstated. Neither can the joy of seeing my girls when I pick them up at said end of the day.


On our last day in NYC, we decided to take the subway to church, which ended up being a hilariously bad decision with all sorts of mishaps but we don't regret it one bit: Sloane loved the train, Logan got her morning nap in the stroller.  It was a disastrous and delicious morning.  


After we checked out of our Airbnb we headed over to my sisters apartment on the Upper East side to meet with family and gaze at each other happily.  Their apartment was beautiful! I didn't want the weekend to end! I missed my family terribly even being in the same room with them!


This is me taking respite in Sharon's room to nurse Logan. I nursed Logan all weekend long, all over the city. I had thought that I would have weaned her off by this weekend (I weaned Sloane around this time, at 13 months) but after a couple of sicknesses here and there and the traveling schedule, I was glad for the ability to nurse her.  I am still figuring out how and when is best for both of us to wean, taking it a day at a time.





And then some random photos that I had on my phone from afternoon that I thought I should unleash here: Ken and Paul, my dad, my baby.  We walked over to a nearby sashimi place after leaving the apartment and put sushi in our bellies to fortify us for the drive home. Amazingly, the drive was free and clear (the only time this has happened in recent memory!) and we tumbled back inside our house late in the evening, with armfuls of sleeping babes.

That's that.  I'll leave you all here with a photo that Sloane took of Ken and myself at the Airbnb before we left NYC.  She was really proud of it.



Saturday, August 13, 2016

NYC PART 3: STUMPTOWN AND WEST VILLAGE


That's right, more NYC trip photos. Indulge me! this is me reliving the weekend.

On Saturday morning, Logan woke up early, as she is fond of doing (except at 6AM instead of 5! hurray!) and with both Ken and Sloane still in slumber, we ventured out just the two of us in search of coffee and found our way to Stumptown Coffee. I'm a fan of their cold brew and I'm an even bigger fan of being able to walk to a coffee shop.  The streets were quiet and the air foretold of a hot day.  Ken and Sloane, my parents, my sister, and my aunt all met us there a little while later and we did coffee like the Kims do, which is often, and with lots of conversation. 




There were a TON of dogs everywhere we went and Sloane was delighted by them all.



Sloane and her faithful companion. 


We met up with friends from Richmond who now live near the city and had lunch (Joe's pizza and by Chloe) together in a nearby playground.  This is when I was full-blown imagining what it would be like to live in the city with kids.  I'm all about it.




Sloane was all about it too. The playground had a splash pad and she went at it fully clothed...and had no regrets.



I love the West Village and I loved hanging out with friends there. I wish it was longer than an afternoon, but I'll take whatever I can get.  Before heading back to our Airbnb, we made a stop at Ice & Vice for ice cream - their flavors are so unique and they have different flavored and colored cones. I can't stop thinking about their pink guava ice cream.