(What are we up to these days?)
I have been teaching myself the violin. I was never any good at playing by ear when I learned the piano; but since picking up the guitar I have learned to trust my musical sense much more. Thus my method of learning the violin has been to simply play what comes into my mind. Hymns, mostly. "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" and "Amazing Grace" and "I am a Child of God." "Shenandoah" and "You'll Never Walk Alone." It appears to me that the violin is built most easily to play in the key of D, and so right now I play everything in that key, which is why it is easier to play without any sheet music at all. One day I will find someone to show me some technique - how to properly hold the violin and bow, how to ensure a rich sound, how to play legato, staccato. But for now I just play.
Juliette has cut her third tooth. She has a voracious appetite, for vegetables. Fruit she will eat reluctantly. She seems to have a sensitivity to wheat and oats, so no cereals at all yet. She had her first taste of chicken today and enjoyed it, although I'm not sure if it was the chicken itself or the fact that she could feed herself by picking up the little pieces scattered across her tray. She also adores the little handheld netting that holds a large chunk of food which she can munch and suck away on. She is days away from crawling, I'm sure. She somehow maneuvers across a room already, a combination of turning and shifting and rolling.
I have an excitement burning inside, in anticipation of warmer weather, summer vacation, time with the kids to get out and turn off the darn television. We don't even have a television or cable signal, and yet the big black box still haunts me. I have a plan to sit outside this summer and read aloud to Juliette, in hopes that the boys will also wander over. I feel a slight regret at all the things I haven't been able to do with the boys as they grew. I have spent all the years of their childhood pregnant (sick, bedridden, in pain) or nursing babies who didn't sleep through the night until I was pregnant again. It's been a bit of a haze these past 8 years. Nevertheless I will start now. Juliette will grow up not knowing a time when I wasn't reading aloud to her. We will hike so long we will need to bring lunch. We will paddle on the stillness of the lake. We will gather around board games. We will cheer on each other in sports. These are the cherished memories of my own childhood and I want so badly to foster the same in my kids.
A trip is in our future. This year James and I celebrate ten years of marriage. Next spring I am planning a vacation: two weeks in France. I know there are so many places in the world I still want to visit, and yet I am pulled back again and again to the same place. Five days in Paris, five days in the south, and a few days driving through the French countryside down and back. My heart is soaring just thinking about it.
Caleb dreams like I do: big, long, detailed, involved dreams. Dreams with an unmistakable tenor of reality. He comes down in the morning and sits at breakfast, launching into a description of what he dreamt during the night. His story goes on and on, through the preparation of the meal, through the eating of it, until it is time for him to get ready for school. (I can recall doing the same thing to my mother so many times.) It worries me, also, because some of my dreams were exciting, and some were horrific. When you dream in such great detail, the terrible things are truly terrible. I shelter my children from images (movies and video games) more than most in an effort not to feed the nightmare machine.
Benjamin learns on his own, internally, and then just comes out with an entire lesson learned. I can remember thinking it was time to teach him to count to ten. He counted effortlessly without any instruction on my part. Two weeks ago it occurred to me that while I had made sure he knew his numbers, I never proceeded onto letters. We sat together in front of the fridge with the magnet letters in hand. "a...b...c..." I found the letters, he repeated them, put them in order. We sang the Alphabet song. Nothing was sticking. He could only identify B (for Benjamin, which he did on the first day of preschool, and I had never taught him that either.) We never got around to another lesson. No problem. Today I find him playing a handheld electronic game and he's typing in every letter it asks for.
Colin is as inquisitive as ever. More than anyone else he has taken to the map I mounted on the kitchen wall. It's funny how almost every lesson relates in some way to geography. They are having a Western Day at school. "What's the Wild West?" he asks. We look at the map, see where England is and why the boats landed in the easter US. I show him how people settled along the shore, and were slowly pushed inland as more people arrived. He sees how the "west" wasn't a western portion, just west of the eastern seaboard. Nearly every day the map serves as teacher for us in some way.
I am finding a peace in my rhythm of life I haven't had in such great measure before. I heard the other day that "If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present." I try not to dwell on the past which cannot be undone. I try not to get anxious for the future, especially the 5 or 10 minutes in the future when my children are taking their time getting shoes on or cleaning up. I can only live in this moment right now, be with my children in what they are doing now, not where we want to be next. If I spend 10 minutes zipping coats and pulling snowpants over boot tops, if it takes 30 minutes to walk what should take 2 minutes, if making muffins means each child wants a chance to stir: these are not lost minutes in inefficient work methods, they are moments with my children. There is great peace in letting go of the depression and the anxiety.
Balance. As these days go by, I feel as though I have finally found balance. I follow my cleaning schedule and make meals, I contribute to the family company work, I play the flute and piano and guitar and violin, I read books for pleasure and for learning, I study and pray and think, I run errands in the moments when James is home to watch the kids. Peace + balance = beauty.