Wishing you the very best of the holiday season, friends, from our house to yours!
Wishing you the very best of the holiday season, friends, from our house to yours!
“Perhaps the cause of our contemporary pessimism is our tendency to view history as a turbulent stream of conflicts – between individuals in economic life, between groups in politics, between creeds in religion, between states in war. This is the more dramatic side of history; it captures the eye of the historian and the interest of the reader. But if we turn from that Mississippi of strife, hot with hate and dark with blood, to look upon the banks of the stream, we find quieter but more inspiring scenes: women rearing children, men building homes, peasants drawing food from the soil, artisans making the conveniences of life, statesmen sometimes organizing peace instead of war, teachers forming savages into citizens, musicians taming our hearts with harmony and rhythm, scientists patiently accumulating knowledge, philosophers groping for truth, saints suggesting the wisdom of love. History has been too often a picture of the bloody stream. The history of civilization is a record of what happened on the banks.”
Soundtrack: Imagine, as performed by Herbie Hancock and friends.
Alex loves to take her guitar outside to practice.
I don't know how the neighbours feel about it, but I sure love hearing the sound of her playing coming through my office window.
My new ecourse Advent of Light is now open for registration, and sale priced until November 15th! It's sort of an audio/visual advent calendar -- daily audio prompts and image downloads, and a date with your journal for 24 straight days in December. It's a commitment to being kind to yourself during the hectic year-end. Join us.
Alex started 6th grade today. Even though at her school, 6th grade is the last year of elementary school (as opposed to the first year of junior high), this still seems pretty milestone-y. Maybe it's because this year will be the last school year before she becomes a teenager. Maybe it's because this year marks the halfway point of her school career, before university.
Or maybe I'm just overthinking this, because maybe I'm just stunned by how fast she's growing up.
Anyway, she had a great first day. And now she's practicing her guitar, while Marcus makes her favourite dinner to celebrate being back at school (lasagna), and I'm just trying to stay present, and not think about how fast time is speeding by.
Even though now she's taller than my mom, we almost wear the same shoe size, and she borrows my old t-shirts when she comes home from school ... because they fit.
Soundtrack: Keep on movin' by Soul II Soul
So last week, while I was away learning about how vulnerability is the birthplace of courage, and that one of the most important things we must do to live wholeheartedly is to cultivate creativity, Alex was living it: she spent her week at Girls Rock Camp.
Girls Rock Camps are held around the world, and are designed to help girls build self-esteem and find their voices through unique programming that combines music education and performance, empowerment and social justice workshops, positive role models, and collaboration and leadership skill building. And as if that wasn't enough, here are their core values:
• We value the power of music as a means to create personal and social change;
• We value efforts that actively expand opportunities for girls and women;
• We value positive approaches to fighting sexism;
• We value integrity, honesty, and respect;
• We value appropriate sharing of resources, cooperation, and collaboration;
• We value using our collective voice to further our mission;
• We value diversity.
So last week, Alex spent every day there with a brand new group of friends. She needed an electric guitar, so she bought herself a second-hand one with her saved allowance -- pink, of course. And during the week her band (the Trouble Clefs!) wrote a song they performed together, at a showcase held yesterday afternoon at a bona fide dive-y club in downtown Houston.
The bands from the camp were epic. The songs ranged from punk rock (like the Trouble Clefs) to pop, and given that they only had one week to write and perform their music, they sounded pretty much as you'd expect. But that was really beside the point. The point is that these girls put themselves out there -- as lead guitarist and lead singer of the Trouble Clefs, like all the lead singers, Alex had to introduce the members of her band to the standing-room-only audience. In every case, the drummers started their sets by clicking their sticks together and shouting "ONE! TWO! THREE! FOUR!" and then their band mates joined in -- enthusiastically. The lyrics of the songs were about heartbreak, and social issues, and happy issues, and hopeful issues. The girls dressed the part, so there was blue hair and purple hair and electrifying makeup and edgy clothes. Without exception, every performer showed up fully, despite any nervousness. And they were all absolutely glorious.
This was a good week. Our little family spent it at the Hyatt Lost Pines in Bastrop, a little town in central Texas. Going to this hotel was sort of a spur-of-the-moment thing: Marcus desperately needed a break from work, and my own work schedule ramps up starting next week. So this past week provided the perfect opportunity to have some concentrated family down-time.
Mission accomplished: we did very little but laze around, stopping only eat and dunk ourselves in the epic pool - a pool complete with a lazy river: a 1000-foot waterway with a slow current, designed solely for lying in a tube and floating. In fact, we relaxed so thoroughly, that I have no links to share with you this week - just a few snapshots from the last few days. Apologies, but I promise to return you to your regularly scheduled Chookooloonks next week.
Here's wishing you a happy weekend, friends. See you next week.
Yesterday, Marcus and I drove Alex up to the Piney Woods for her very first sleepaway camp. Alex has always been incredibly independent (on her first day of preschool, when I was nervous my two-year-old toddler might experience some separation anxiety, she looked at me, waved "'BYE, MOM!" and scampered into the classroom without so much as a backwards glance); so, needless to say, she's been looking forward to this for months.
(Alex and I are complete opposites in this regard: camping, summer or otherwise, has never been my thing. While the setting of this particular camp is beautiful [see above], the area where the rustic cabins are situated was muddy yesterday because of recent rains, and as she eagerly ran over to the registration to sign in and find her cabin, I picked my way around soupy puddles muttering to Marcus, "Even at 11 years old, this would've been my idea of hell.")
So Alex is now happily ensconced at camp, where there'll be swimming and horseback riding and even a dance -- all things she adores. And I'll be obsessively refreshing the camp website every day for images of her having a whale of a time over the next week.
(I'll also be obsessively refreshing this website to keep an eye on the storm that's threatening to develop in the Gulf. Hopefully we won't have to pick her up early from camp on our way out of town!)
Around the web, it's not uncommon for people to celebrate "Throwback Thursdays" (or #tbt, for short), where folks share a photograph or a story from years gone by. I often participate solely on my Instagram account, but a few weeks ago I was digging back in my archives of Chookooloonks, and found many stories of Alex as a toddler that I'd totally forgotten. So today, for Throwback Thursday, I thought I'd republish them (with her permission) -- mostly because I don't want to forget them again.
I hope you enjoy them. If stories of toddlerhood aren't your jam, I promise we'll be back to our regularly scheduled Chookooloonks tomorrow.
SCENE: Today, about 2 in the afternoon. Karen is crawling around in the bottom of her closet looking for a matching pair of shoes. Enter Alex.
Alex: Hello, Mummy!
Karen (muffled): Hello, Alex.
Alex (suddenly hugging Karen's bottom, enhanced by a little hand-pat): I lahve you, Mummy.
Karen (melting, stopping to return the hug): I love you too, Alex.
Alex pulls out of the embrace, and smiles beatifically at her mother. Karen's eyes tear up, just a little. Alex turns away, and starts to walk out of the room. Suddenly, she stops, facing the wall in front of her.
Alex: I LAHVE YOU, WALL!
SCENE: Home, morning. Karen is busy getting Alex ready for the day.
Karen (kissing Alex's bare tummy): OOOOH, I LOVE this tummy. It's so yummy! It's so tasty!
Alex (smiling a knowing smile and nodding): Tastes like chook-a-lit.
So last night, I was lying on Alex's bed while she was playing with her MegaBloks (sort of like Legos on steroids). Suddenly, without warning, she hurled one of her blocks at my leg, bouncing it neatly off my shin.
The blocks are too small to hurt; however, I couldn't let such behaviour go unaddressed. I looked at her, all prepared to give her my "we don't throw things" speech. As I opened my mouth, my little cherub of a two-year-old looked at me, grinned, and said quietly:
I have no idea where she got that word -- it's certainly not something I say, nor have I ever heard her father say it. All I do know, however, is that This Does Not Bode Well.
Marcus just came in from a 4-hour bike ride, reeking of sweat and funk and smelling to high heaven. "Oh my GOD!" I exclaimed, sincerely horrified, and directed him immediately to the hose outside.
Alex looked at me seriously.
"Mummy, not 'oh my GOD,'" she said, frowning. "Oh my GOSH."
Ever since Alex has been potty trained, she's been a little disconcerted as to how to relieve herself when we're on the beach, due to (a) the scarcity of public facilities, and (b) the general nastiness of public facilities. And so, like any good mother would, I've been showing her how to go to the water's edge, dip her bum into the small waves, and pee (oh stop, you'd do the same).
On Saturday, while we were at the considerably populated beach in front of our hotel, Alex had to go. I took her to the water, sat her down on her haunches, and she did her thing.
Inspired by her performance, I took her back to her father, and said, "Stay with Daddy. It's Mummy's turn." I returned to the ocean, swam past the breakers, did my business and eventually returned to the shore. When I reached the lounge chairs, Marcus was smiling at me.
"Did you hear your daughter calling you?"
"No, I didn't."
His grin widened.
"While you were out there, your little cherub was screaming loud enough for everyone to hear:
'SQUAT, MUMMY!!! YOU HAVE TO SQUAT!!!'"
Last week, when we were making final plans for our spring break holiday, our friend Carl suggested that we bring our kids' bikes. Alex apparently hadn't ridden her bike for longer than we remembered, because once we got to Galveston and she climbed up on her trusty two-wheeler, both Marcus and I were a little surprised that it was clearly far too small for her. It was time for her to graduate to an adult bike.
Luckily, there are two things about our family that makes the fact that she's outgrown her bike not a big deal:
1) Marcus builds and refurbishes bikes as a hobby; and
2) in a fit of optimism about 13 years ago, he bought me a really lovely bike; one that I've ridden exactly once. (Unlike Marcus, bikes are not my jam.)
So once we returned to Houston, Marcus got my old bike and got it in tip-top shape for Alex. And yesterday evening, as the sun was setting, she took it out for a spin.
It was a simple, no-big-deal moment ... and yet, somehow, it felt a little bit like a milestone.