Saturday, July 11, 2009

"I have some cake here," said Mma Potokwane, reaching for the bag she had placed at her feet. "I thought that you might like a piece."
She opened the bag and took out a large parcel of cake, carefully wrapped in grease-proof paper. Mma Ramotswe watched intently as her visitor sliced the slab into two generous portions and laid them on the table, two pieces of paper acting as plates.
"That's very kind of you, Mma," said Mma Ramotswe, "But I think that I'm going to have to say no thank you. You see, I am on a diet now."
It was said without conviction, and her words faded away at the end of the sentence. But Mma Potokwane had heard, and looked up sharply, "Mma Ramotswe!" she exclaimed. "if you go on a diet, then what are the rest of us to do? What will all the other traditionally built ladies think if they hear about this? How can you be so unkind?"
"Unkind?" asked Mma Ramotswe. "I do not see how this is unkind."
"But it is," protested Mma Polokwane. Traditionally built people are always being told by other people to eat less. Their lives are often a misery. You are a well-known traditionally built person. If you go on a diet, then everybody else will feel guilty. They will feel that they have to go on a diet too, and that ill spoil their lives."
Mma Polokwane pushed one of the pieces of cake over to Mma Ramotswe. "You must take this, Mma," she said. "I shall be eating my piece. I am traditionally built too, and we traditionally built people must stick together. We really must."
Mma Potokwane picked up her piece of cake and took a large bite out of it. "it is very good, Mma," she mumbled though a mouth full of fruit cake. "It is very good cake."
For a moment Mma Ramotswe was undecided. Do I really want to change the way I am? She asked herself. Or should I just be myself, which is a traditionally build tady who likes bush tea and who likes to sit on her verandah and think?
She sighed. There were many good intentions which would never be seen to their implementation. This, she decided, was one of them.
"I think my diet is over now," she said to Mma Potokwane.
They sat there for some time, talking in the way of old friends, licking the crumbs of cake off their fingers. Mma Ramotswe told Mma Potokwante about her stressful week, and Mma Potokwane sympathised with her. "You must take more care of yourself," she said. "We are not born to work, work, work all the time."
"You're right," said Mma Ramotswe. "It is important just to be able to sit and think."
Mma Potokwane agreed with that. "I often tell the orphans not to spend all their time working," she said. "It is quite unnatural to work like that. There should be some time for work and some for play."
"And some for sitting and watching the sun go up and down," said Mma Ramotswe. "And some time for listening to the cattle bells in the bush."
-from Blue Shoes and Happiness, by Alexander McCall Smith

Thursday, July 9, 2009

We Resist Change

"Parents can be delighted and enthused at the new things their kids can do and simultaneously feel the loss of their child's younger self." (Becoming the Parent You Want to Be, by Laura Davis and Janis Keyser)
The book quoted above is just right for me right now. In general, I bullishly resist most changes, and kids are changing all the time! I do look forward to their new accomplishments, and try to celebrate them. It's hard for me to welcome change. As they grow I see the baby self, that little boy self, leaving, slipping away. I let him go. I must, to love and support the new self as he grows. Always, it is the present child I must love, not the boy of yesterday. Yesterday's Gibbie or Ezra is a figment. Today's child is the one in front of me, the only one who asks for me now, and needs full engagement, the child who is.

Sunday, July 5, 2009


Sometimes I wish I wasn't one of the adults in my famiy. My friend Maggie said she sometimes says to herself, "who's the adult in this situation? Oh no, it's me!"
It's hard to have the presence of mind to pray throughout the day with demanding little ones. Too often, I don't find the time to get alone to pray, and can't seem to spend my day being with God as I go along either. It's then I find myself not my best with my kids, with my husband, friends, with anyone, and even worse inside my head.

But that moment after a child falls asleep is a great time to pray. I brood over the child.
I don't know why, but on days when I can't muster patience, just after his eyes close, love rushes in again. I see him more clearly. I can look back on the day and see it more clearly.

I pray for sweet dreams, for health and safety, for this growing heart, for the trials of the day. Then I can ask for wisdom, bring to my God all my questions, the patterns I can't get out of, my worries and fears and tightly held hopes. Let go of stuff. Grab onto better stuff. Listen. Thank God for this child.

Friday, July 3, 2009

The Art of Picnicing

Okay, we are such picnic-ers we find ways to picnic in the winter even: on a blanket in the snow, for school lunch, a meal after church, on any friendly floor--but the real fun starts when we can have outdoor picnics!
Now that it's really summer, we pack a picnic everywhere we go.This lovely basket, pictured late last fall, was a gift that came filled with small metal dishes and cups as a child's toy set, but we've put it to hard real use. Most often I leave all the dishes at home, pack it with whatever foods we have on hand, and toss in a few of our everyday cloth napkins, maybe a knife to cut up fruit, or a spoon if needed for serving. We bring along a big water bottle or two, and make sure they're full before lunch for drinking and washing up. For our picnic, we use the napkins as plate, tablecloth, napkin, and towel all in one. When biking, the picnic blanket can double as a pillow for the kids, or be snugged around them if it's chilly.
For us, this is a great alternative to the waste of fast food and the expense of a restaurant. It takes little time to put together in the morning, but this small forethought saves us from ending an otherwise nice morning with tears and distress from tired hungry little ones, creating instead a little island of rest and nourishment in our busy day.
Ideas to fill a lunch basket, pail, or bag:
-any kind of leftovers, in a screw-top jar, with a spoon or fork. Paul found tiny wood sporks for a couple bucks apiece at our co-op.
-hummus mix: we get it in bulk at our coop. Stir in the water at the picnic spot.
-dried fruit
-powdered drink mixes: I also keep a few in a corner of our bag always, just in case we get stuck somewhere hungry and need a hold-over to stave off falling apart till a meal.
-cheese, salami, hard vegetables.
-sandwiches. Peanut butter and honey is a family favorite. At one time in my life, I ate tortillas filled with cheese and sprouts every day for a year.
-hard boiled eggs (don't forget the salt shaker or egg slicer!)
-a small jar of soup or yogurt. Hot soup, cider or cocoa can go in the classic thermos, or try a coffee travel mug if you have a convenient holster for it on car, bike, or backpack!
-ants on a log (celery spread with peanut butter, dotted with raisins. kids like to help make)

For more picnic ideas read the fabulous Best Friends for Francis by Russell Hoban.