Even before I began to trim down my Stuff in earnest, I had been uncomfortable with how my material possessions gained a non-trivial increase in number at Christmas time. Having been fairly well-off financially as an adult, I had become used to simply buying something if I wanted it or…
This goes pretty perfectly with my last post about gifting and excess.
The holidays are coming. Sounds ominous, doesn’t it? To me, it means good and bad stuff - fire in the fireplace, extra lights that we wish we could leave up all year, and it’s time to fill and use the hot tub. It also means family stress and melancholy, being guilted and yanked into too many gatherings than you can afford the gas or emotional bandwidth for, and some of the worst music ever written being played incessantly in every store you visit. Finally, it means presents. UGH… presents.
I hate presents. I always have. I know it sounds weird. Perhaps it’s a personality flaw, or a genetic quirk - I’m missing the gene that makes me love getting random gifts that I didn’t ask for. When I get something I love, I feel a sense of guilt and a difficulty expressing my appreciation. When I get something I don’t care about, or worse, that I really don’t like, I loathe having to muster the fake enthusiasm that we’re expected to show.
We don’t really give our kids presents, and we especially don’t give them massive amounts of gifts for the major holidays and birthdays. We also ask that our family members cut back on the mounds of stuff that they want to give our kids for special occasions (this is NOT an easy task!) There are several reasons for this.
(We all know that the best part of a gift is the box it came in, anyway…)
For one thing, I don’t want my kids to become those brats that *expect* people to give them lots of stuff the one time a year that we see them. One scene that makes me feel queasy is watching a young person tear into a gift wrapped box, glance at the thing inside, and then toss it aside for the next box. If the people who gave the presents are lucky, the kid won’t say “Is that it?” when the pile of stuff to open is gone.
I ask, instead, that my family members take the money that they had apparently allocated for buying stuff and donate it to a charity. Then we can teach our kids about the charity and what they do… this is killing three birds with one stone; helping someone or something that needs help monetarily, an education in giving and a sense of pride for the kids, and less stuff that we didn’t actually want in our house.
Tyme and I usually get the kids two gifts for holidays and birthdays - something like token gifts. They get one toy and one book. And you know what? They really love it, and they don’t complain about not being showered with gifts… and they certainly never feel as if they are being deprived. They can focus on the new toy and book and get the most out of them, instead of having six new toys and being somewhat overwhelmed with choice and newness. The appreciation for the two gifts is higher, too, and the ”expectation” (and consequent disappointment) is lessened.
(We keep birthday celebrations pretty low-key, too. Obviously, the birthday girl didn’t suffer one bit.)
If people absolutely want to get the kids something, we ask for clothing or gift certificates. These are things that I know that we can use. Amazingly, my four year old shows appreciation for gifted clothing, too; a rare sight in a kid her age, and a sign to me that “we’re doing it right.” Really, both of my kids take the time to unwrap a present, check out what it is, open the box, and marvel at the thing (even if it’s just socks) before moving on to the next box. If we gave them 20 gifts at a time, this would stop happening.
I hate waste nearly as much as I hate to see a greedy kid. If we get a crap tonne of battery operated, cheaply made plastic toys at Christmas, they would last two weeks before being broken or forgotten. Hey… those kids in China worked hard to make those things! I opt for toys that are somewhat minimalist in design, construction, and materials. You know, like a wooden block. Frankly, my kids love playing with rocks, sticks, and a pail, just like most kids. Why spend the money and natural resources to get all fancy? And frankly, they will learn more important skills with those blocks or books than they would with a Bratz doll.
So are my kids deprived? Hell no. They get random stuff all year. If we see something awesome that we would like them to have, we get it right then and surprise them with it as a treat for good behavior or deeds. They especially love books and stuffed animals. And when it’s time to say goodbye to their stuff, I have them help me choose what is going to go to Goodwill or what they want to donate to their school.
(One of Carmen’s favorite gifts for her birthday last year was one that Nature delivered)
And when they say “thank you” for a gift, I don’t have to make them do it. I also don’t force them to appear happy over something that they don’t care about (which I can only remember one instance of).
This year, why don’t you try cutting back and toning down on the presents? If something falls on your lap that would be *just perfect* for Uncle Bob, then go for it. Or, if you’re making that knitted hat because you know your Dad will love it, then that’s awesome! But if you’re struggling to figure out what would be the least offensive gift for your mother in law, perhaps she would be happy to know that you gave to her favorite charity in her name. After all, guys, this isn’t a competition, nor should it be a financial or emotional burden. How about getting back to the root of gifting? And, most importantly, teach your kids about it.
I went through a period a few months ago where I was filled with guilt and shame. Why? I actually let these words pass through my head:
"I wish I didn’t have kids."
I was in Seattle when the thought first hit me. I was at SNAG, a conference for goldsmiths, and I was blown away by what people who graduated at the same time than me were accomplishing. Not to mention what people ten years older than me, who had gone to college at the “appropriate” time in their lives. These people basically had 18 of years of practicing skills, traveling, hanging with the masters, and inspiration under their belt, while I still felt like a fledgling.
My story? I went to school seven years after my peers. I was a 25 year old in a room full of 18 year olds. That part wasn’t so bad - it actually had it’s perks. I had also JUST gotten married two months before starting school, and we started trying to have kids right away, because we knew that I would have fertility issues. As it turns out, yes, I did… and it took 3 and a half years of constantly trying (no jokes, please), fertility treatments, and, finally, artificial insemination before I was able to conceive. I was finally pregnant, but in the middle of my Junior year.
Carmen was born during my Senior year, so I took a quarter off, then jumped back in right as she turned 3 months old. This was not easy. I had a baby who was exclusively nursing and three studio classes… one of which was my senior project. Honestly? I don’t remember any details from those ten weeks… just snippets of scenes, like being up all night with her at my chest, pumping milk in the storage closet at school between classes, and many, many hours of working at home to finish my projects. I know I cried a lot, and slept very little.
When that was over, I felt like the world stopped, and I kind of liked it. I finally had the time to smell my baby, sleep, and dream of the future and what I would be doing with my shiny new degree.
Well, the answer to that came in the next few months; we moved to Athens, started a farm, and I did a lot of henna. Meanwhile, my studio stayed in disarray and empty of sweatshop workers. Then, I got pregnant again. And had another baby. Still no consistent studio time.
It wasn’t until this past January, when we had a fantastic housemate (you know who you ar[i]e) who offered to watch both little ones while I got a little something done that things really took off. And like WOW did they! Arie was a fantastic and reliable nanny… the kids loved her like part of the family (so did we) and I felt comfortable enough that I could spend all day in the studio, doing my thing. I had to basically relearn what had been coming so naturally to me before, and it was frustrating at times, but I started to churn out nearly a piece a day. This was using just old scraps of silver and stones I had collected.
Soon, commissions started to come in, I was getting invited to show my art at cons and shows, and there were stores that were asking to carry my lines. I didn’t even have lines yet. I was a bit overwhelmed, but in a good way. It felt *great* to be creating again, and to be paid for it, and be known by people who hadn’t met me.
So, in Seattle, about 5 months after my renaissance, I had this terrible epiphany. Where would my artistic life be if I hadn’t had kids? What could I have accomplished? How many people would know my name… how many galleries could I be in… how many awards could I have won? How many famous people could I have met, or, better yet, studied under? Did having my kids actually slow me down, stunt my growth, or kill the career I could have had?
These thoughts followed me back to Georgia, along with the guilt of having them. It took me weeks to shake the feeling. I was even afraid to tell my husband that I had felt that way at all. I felt like a horrible parent; like I didn’t deserve my amazing two daughters.
I’m working on a balance now, and feeling much more content about my past decisions. My life wouldn’t be nearly as full of love and inspiration if I hadn’t met my children. I will take the work as it comes and enjoy the time I have in my studio - I will learn what I can when I can, and not bemoan the time I may have “lost.” And, most importantly, I will instill the love of creating into my own children, giving them a perfect head start.
This photo was taken on March 20th, 2004, at the Hyatt in Savannah, GA.
Tyme and I had been married for 9 months already, but people wanted a party, and who can deny our friends a good time? So we did the big gig, and man was it fun.
This beautiful person next to me is my Grandmother Logan, the lady that I named my second daughter after. She is an amazing individual; the matriarch of our family and one of my few human inspirations.
Fun fact, my daughter Carolyn is the second daughter of the second daughter (me) of the second daughter (my mom) of the Original Second Daughter, which would be Grandmother. This is how I knew that I would have two daughters, and I’m feeling pretty sure that Carolyn will, too. Sometimes I believe in stuff like that.
This is a photo of Union Square. I took the photo and manipulated it in photoshop to make the objects and people in the photo look tiny and fake when, in fact, they are normal sized and real. This technique is called “tilt shift.” It looks best when it’s large and viewed on black, which is what will happen if you click on it.
This photo was taken on April 10th, 2008, in Santa Ana, California. This is a 15 month old Carmen, taking a snooze in the sunlight in our hotel room. I had been on the computer, probably answering emails while she wandered around the room and played. I realized that she was being more quiet than usual, and turned to find her passed out behind me. I let her stay about ten minutes, then gently picked her up, transferred to the bed and tucked her in.
She is sleeping on her favorite sling - a home made denim contraption with skulls and crossbones. This is the sling that we used with her from the time she just a few months old until she was just over two. She absolutely loved it, whether or not it was on our body and with her in it. When it wasn’t carrying her, it became a blanket, a toy, or just something to snuggle on.
Both of our babies were “worn.” They loved riding around on Mom and Dad and seeing the world from the comfort and security of our arms or the closeness of our backs. Wearing your baby will create a happier, more secure, independent and more tolerant child. I highly recommend looking into slings (especially ring slings and tube slings), moby and maya wraps, and mei tais.
This sling went on to carry her sister, too, who is pictured in my icon.
"So if you don't believe in God, than what exactly do you believe?"
I’ve had to write this, or something like it, twice now since coming out as a godless person on the internet. So I’ll put it here, and if anyone asks again, they’ll get a link.
(For the record, I am A-OK with you having a religion. If you like it, and it’s working for you, then great. By all means, keep on keeping on.)
*Instead of God, I believe in physics and chance. Really. We are here because of physics and many, many years of chance. Everything else is here for the same reason. I don’t know how it all began, and perhaps all that stuff I can’t explain is “god” to me. But I do not believe that there is a sentient entity that decided to create all this stuff, and put everything “just so.”
Gravity works. Show me god and I’ll think about shifting my beliefs.
*Instead of Heaven and Hell, I believe in Here. I do not believe in an afterlife. When we die, our bodies decompose, and our “soul” goes with it. The closest I come to believing in heaven is how we lives our lives here, and how we’re feeling in our own head. If we’re jerks to other people, or make our home an unhappy place to be, then we’re creating our own hell to live in.
Ghosts? I don’t know. I have seen and heard things I can’t explain. But I use Occam’s Razor - I am more likely to believe in a strange shift in the wind, or electrical anomalies, than in a human or animal spirit that is trapped between two worlds.
Make your heaven here and enjoy it while you can. Do what makes you happy, create happiness for others around you, and keep your area clean.
*Instead of Satan, I believe in people. Satan, the devil, Lucifer, whatever… does not “make” us do anything. He/it does not tempt us… we are tempted all by ourselves. I certainly don’t need an outside source to blame my greed and sloth on. I’m just lazy and like stuff. So are you. We have a constant internal struggle to keep checks and balances in our daily lives, so that our “wants” don’t overwhelm our “needs.” If I do something I’m not supposed to, it’s my own damn fault, as much as I would love to blame it on a mythical entity.
We cause our own problems. Why is it so hard to own up to it?
*Instead of prophets, I believe in smart people with good ideas. The day that God speaks directly to me, I’ll start believing in him, her, or it. Until then, I’m not going to believe any one individual who claims that god is talking to them and giving them information to pass along to us. Seriously, if god is all powerful, then surely it can communicate to all of us at the same time if it has something really important to convey.
This is why, if I had to pick, I would be Buddhist. Buddha had some really great things to say; smart things that could make our lives better and easier. But he never claimed to be getting his info from god - he was just a man with great ideas and the balls to pass them around. (Unfortunately, there are situations where I would kill another human being, which would make me a pretty poor Buddhist.)
*Instead of being threatened with burning for eternity, I believe in not being an asshole for the sake of not being an asshole. Sure, many of the commandments make sense - they make it easier to live with one another. I also like a lot of the “rules” from the Bible, Quran, Torah, Principia Discordia, etc… Don’t kill each other, Stop stealing stuff, Don’t screw around with someone else’s mate, Respect one another - these are all awesome things to live by. But we shouldn’t have to be threatened with hell to make us want to follow them. How about just thinking about what life would be like if we didn’t? Well, it would be pretty hellish.
Ethics and morals shouldn’t be beaten into us with threat. They should be taught by example by people of high standing in the community. (Politics, anyone?)
*I don’t need church to create a community of like minded people to hang out with. This should be self-explanatory. I believe that churches were formed because we lost our villages. When people spread out to farm instead of hunt and gather, or when villages got too big for their britches and became cities, our small circle of like-mindedness was lost. Churches helped to fill that void and let us connect again with a number of people comparable to a comfortable, old school human group.
But now we have other ways of making and keeping friends. I have plenty of friends, of all different beliefs and faiths, and I don’t need a church as an excuse to keep them close to me.
*I can make my own dogma, thanks. I already have little rituals that make me feel connected, safe, and content. I hug my kids daily, milk my goats, make music, have sex, and knit.
*I will never mold my life around a book. I don’t care who wrote it. And since you’ll never convince me that god did (unless it shows up and says so itself), then don’t bother trying the whole “this is the way it should be because it was written here” argument. Also, unless you are reading said holy book in its original language, I say it doesn’t count. We all know how much one translation can screw things up, not to mention countless translation from questionable sources.
I have read the bible, start to finish, including the cliff’s notes. I have seen all of the things that don’t make sense for this day and age (or ever, actually). I have a very hard time believing every single story in there as they are written (although I’m open to different interpretations, and I do love historical accounts that parallel the catastrophic events).
I’m actually down with picking and choosing the gems out of these books - “Love thy neighbor” (that would include me, your godless neighbor, by the way), “Stop fucking killing each other” (maybe it wasn’t written just like that, I can’t remember)… those are awesome. Let’s go ahead and keep those. But I think it’s safe to do away with the “don’t eat pork and shellfish” now that we know how to cook them. I also love to read it as a snapshot of a past era. There is some really interesting and cool stuff in there.
But really…I would like someone to find all the contradictions, not to mention just plain weird shit (Lot being raped by his two daughters? What morals do we learn from that?), in their holy book, and then explain to me how they possibly follow the entire thing. Can we make a condensed version or something?
*I believe that religion exists because it is comforting to some. I also believe that it is a fine numbing agent, an easy explanation for things we don’t yet understand, a way to control the masses, an excuse for bad behavior, and for some to bring themselves to an unquestionable power. However, it does make me really happy when religion “works” and people behave themselves better because of it. I would like to think that those same people would continue that kind of behavior if they weren’t being threatened with hell-fire and brimstone… in most cases I’m sure it’s true. Ethical people are ethical, after all. My godless self included.
*pointing to 3 month old sister* “Uh oh! Carolyn’s pacifier fell out of her face!”
*on sharing* “Sorry, you can’t have my butt. But you can have this spoon!”
3 years old:
Whenever we put Carmen down for a nap, Carolyn scootches down the hall to her door and harrasses her through it. I hear Carmen in there saying “Be quiet, Carolyn! I’m trying to sleep!”
"Stop, please!" me: "I can’t beep your belly button? Then why do you have one?" She looks down at it, and contemplates for a moment… "Because I need to dance!"
"Momma, can we have Chik-Fil-A for lunch, please?" me: "I think they may be closed today…" Carmen: "Why? Is it Sunday?"
"Carmen, do you know where we’re going today?" "Yes." "Where?" "WAFFLES!"
*After walking for about a mile and a half, up and down San Fransisco’s hills* “Carmen, are you doing ok?” “No, my knees are a litle disappointed.”
I guess our impromptu anatomy lesson two weeks ago stuck. Carmen was impersonating a zombie and growling “BRrraaiiinnzzz!” I asked her if she had any brains, and she said “Yes, they’re right here in my skull,” as she tapped on her noggin.
Talked to Carmen about “has penis - boy. Has vulva/vagina - girl” this morning and REALLY regrets it. Now she points at men and says “Does he have a peanut?” Hahaha… could be worse, I suppose. She could be pronouncing it right.
*Overheard during storytime* “But, Daddy, I need to pet your nipple!” “No, Carmen, you don’t need to pet my nipple. Pet your own nipples. You have two of them.”
3.5 years old:
"Carmen, do you like your lollipop?" "Yes! It smells sweet. And it tastes like stars and hearts and love and wagons!"
"Momma, is this pocket for rocks? And some dirt and maybe snails?"
"Mama, I really need a piece of chocolate." "You do? Why is that?" "Because my knee hurts."
"I like cuttlefish, Momma. They like to cuddle me all the time. And we can eat crab legs together at Chinese Buffet!"
"Carmen, time to get ready for bed!" "But I’m hungry!" "Do you think that’s going to work?" "….. Yes?" *Hope springs eternal.*
"Mom, can we go hunting today after I put socks on my feet and purple flower shoes?"
4 years old:
*To Arie* “It’s ok, it’s just jelly beans. Don’t be afraid.”
I pulled a splinter out of Carmen’s foot, then set her free. On the way out the door, she says “Bye, Arie… I’m going to go and die now.”
Today, in the car, I turn on the GPS just to see if it’s working. Carmen wants to play with my phone. I tell her that I’m using it right now. She says, “You don’t need to navigate, you know how to get to the YMCA!”
"How long will it take to get to GranMaria’s house?" me: "How long do you think it will take?" Carmen: "It won’t feel like very long, because we all love one another here."
"Carmen, let mommy be mommy to Carolyn, so that she thinks that you’re just a sweet big sister." …longish pause… Carmen: "No thank you!"
"Where will the baby come out of Dottie?" Me: "From her vulva. Do you know where her vulva is?" Carmen points at the correct portion of anatomy, then squats and sticks her face about six inches away from it. "I think I see a baby coming out right now!!"
*Asking the hard questions* “If the chickens have free will, why do we keep them in a cage?”
*Carefully applied redirection* In the car today, Carmen was interested in how babies are made, so we start discussing needing a boy and a girl animal or plant…. there is a lull in the discussion, during which Carmen exclaims “Hey! Look! A squirrel!”
On the way out of the YMCA today, Carmen said “Mom, you’re lookin’ pretty buff.”
4.5 years old:
*On nationality* “Mom, is Jesca Hoop made of French?”
"Carolyn burped." Carolyn: "No, you burped." Carmen: "No! It was you that burped!" Carolyn: "No, I did’n burp; you burped!" Carmen: "I’m done with this argument. I’m leaving the table and going away from you."
*On gender equality* “Girls can do everything they want to do. Boys can do everything, too, except lay babies.”
This photo of Carolyn was taken on June 10th, 2011, in one of the squares of Downtown Savannah, GA. She was two years, two months, and two days old, and is accompanied by her best stuffed friend, “(S)nowman.”
We came down to participate as henna artists at the Savannah Asian Festival, as we do every year. With our family, however, Savannah is never a hit and run situation… we savor our time there and always make the effort to walk the squares and visit our favorite haunts.
Let me start by saying that I’m aware of the ironic nature of this post…. Ok, now that that’s out of the way:
There is a pretty major difference between my non-believing self and the non-beliefs of other people that I’ve met or have read about… I am not a rabid anti-religion dickhead. I do not care what you practice or believe, so long as you are cool with me, I’m cool with you. Seriously. (Unless you eat babies or rape people because God said so… then we’ll talk.) 99% of the time, I express tolerance. I am most interested in how someone acts… not what they believe.
If I am in a public setting, and somebody brings up their beliefs, they almost always assume that you are inline with what their religion. Most people either assume that I am a Christian (because I’m caucasian, I guess) or that I’m pagan (pagans are the ones assuming this). Actually, I’m not either, nor do I follow any other religious beliefs. The closest thing I can find to what I believe, or don’t believe, is Secular Humanism. If you ask me outright if I am x, y, or z, I’ll tell you, in as few words as possible, what I do and don’t believe. Otherwise, I’m just likely to smile and nod and just go along with the conversation as pleasantly as I can, unless something is mentioned that I’m really not ok with (like the aforementioned baby-eating).
For example. Lady who is ringing up my groceries says “Did you hear about the tsunami in Japan? I’ll be praying for them.” Is this the time to debate religion or treat her like she’s a moron because she thinks that praying will help the people suffering after a tsunami? Hell no. What good would that do? Smile and nod. Keep your comments to yourself.
Example two: At a family dinner, Grandmother asks us to bow our heads to say grace. Will I flat out refuse, make a big deal out of being forced to follow their religious procedures, protest my rights to keep my head up, or leave the table in disgust? No, I’ll probably bow my head and listen to what they are saying, and take that blessing and apply it somehow to my own beliefs. After all, I *am* thankful for the food and company. When it’s done, I’ll quietly skip the Amen.
One thing that annoys me about some religious practices is that they try to make more of their members by attempting to convert people. So, I always made it a point to not try to force my beliefs on others, no matter how “wrong” I thought they were. If you are interested in hearing what I think, I’ll tell you. I might even have a casual debate, if you’re into that and it’s consensual. But I won’t argue with you or get caught in circular reasoning (“My religion is the right one because that book says so”). It’s boring, frustrating, and fruitless.
If people have decided to put their faith in something, whether it be a God, a person, or a rock or something, then I will probably not change their mind in the course of a conversation. I can guarantee you that they will not hear anything past the words “see, this is why I think you are wrong…” Also, why bother? How does it hurt you if the person believes something different? Will converting them to atheism really make your life so much better? Or do you just enjoy arguing with people or trying to make them feel inferior?
Even worse, blatantly making fun of their religion, their jewelry, their garb, their customs… what is the point of that? Do people who do that just want to look like assholes? I’ll admit, I’ve said some pretty snarky things about people and their belief systems. But this is behind closed doors and not in the presence of anyone who may be offended. Which is good, because I can be pretty damn offensive when I want to be.
I have friends who are Jewish. I have Christian friends. Pagan ones. Muslim ones. Hindus, Buddhists, Baha’i, Shakers, Quakers, Santerians, Deists, Theists, Atheists, Subgenius’s, and those who believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster. My friends know what I am and am not. They also know that I don’t give a crap what they are, and that I think that it’s fun to share information and learn about culture.
Expressing tolerance will help me travel the world. It will help me teach my children to be open-minded about all kinds of cultures and practices. That will help them get along better with people (which is, funny enough, something that is very important to my ethics and morals). Tolerance will help me keep my sanity, as well. Could you imagine the internal struggle of someone who desperately wants to tell everyone around them just how wrong they are?
So, what *do* I do to “promote” my beliefs? I act like me. Pretty normal, open minded, kind when I can be, and honest. I let people guess or assume what I am, until an opportunity comes up to discuss it. Then I lay it on them… shocking! I’m not Christian/pagan/whatever they thought I was! By this point, they know me and they know what I’m about, and they can’t not like me just because I’m not what they are. That’s a great way to open their mind a little and try to accept more people that don’t fall into their category of safe or normal.
Sure, I have thoughts about religion and its place in the world. No, you won’t hear them here. I really don’t feel like alienating huge percentages of the population. I will happily tell you what I believe in, but you’re not going to hear why everyone else is wrong. (If you want to sit with me and commiserate on why the world would be better without gods, then let’s have lunch… you’re buying.)
This photo was taken on December 5th, 2009, at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California. As my friend, Riffat, puts it, “No wonder sailors thought they saw mermaids.” Watching these sea lions dance and dart underwater was mesmerizing. We could have watched them all day.
About a week ago, I posted about Carmen, our daughter, who has shown an interest in photography. Here are some of her recent photos from our trip to Taccoa Falls and Halloween… click on the photo to enbiggen:
This photo was taken on April 3rd, 2005. This is the street view of the Singing House; the home that we own in Savannah and lived in from May 1st, 2002 until October 26th, 2007. We were married (in the kitchen), Carmen was born, I got a degree, and Tyme went from working at SCAD to being lured away by Evisions while we lived here. We made a myriad of friends, drank a lot of great beer, and collected too many memories to count.
We named it “Singing House” because we had five tuned windchimes all around the exterior which were constantly making at least a small chiming each minute. On windy days and storms, the music was fantastic and delightfully inescapable.
Savannah will always hold a special place in my heart, and I’ll forever think of it as one of my “homes.”
This photo was taken on April 4th, 2009, at Carrell Farms in Monroe, GA. Click for a bigger version.
We take our alpacas, Machu and Picchu, to be shorn once a year. Carrell Farms is a beautiful place where about 65 alpacas live the good life, as well as water buffalo, giant jack donkeys and some seriously spoiled exotic birds.
We usually take the time to explore their acres while there - This is Caitlin leading a two year old Carmen around one of the enclosures (the alpacas are to the left, off-camera).
I can’t pinpoint when or where this photo was taken.
I am pretty sure that it was at an aquarium somewhere, or maybe a natural history museum… perhaps in Atlanta or Chicago, but probably in California (LA or Monterrey). My kids love aquariums, and we spend a good deal of time staring at the marine life and trying to decide what is edible and what might see us as lunch, instead. I’m pretty sure I would not want to meet this mouth in the open ocean.
Your father and I were talking tonight about our role models for parenting. It seems like we both had a mixed bag while thinking back on our own experiences growing up… In some cases, it was easier to list anti-role models and things we would have wished we had from our own parents, rather than ideals. However, as we sat there, we ended up creating a list of quite a few of our hopes for ourselves as parents to you two.
Carmen and Carolyn, as parents, we promise to try our damnedest to…
More than that, our intent is that you would have a life a little less hard than we had it and be better people than we are/were. That you, in turn, will do the same for your kids (should you choose to have any) and your world. “Every Generation, just a little bit better.”
This photo was taken on November 11th, 2007, three weeks after we had moved into HoneyWine Hollow, and one month before Carmen turned one.
The bookshelves were one of the first things that we set up in the house. Our family believes that reading is absolutely imperative for a person, young, old, or in between. Both Tyme and I remember devouring books as young people, which enriched our lives in so many ways - learning about the world, learning about ourselves, gaining a vocabulary, escaping the drearies, and gaining new perspectives.
We read to our kids every night, at least. They choose a book each, and we sit on the couch in their playroom. I don’t remember them ever not having the attention span to sit through a book, even at the typical squirmy age. Carmen, now four, is starting to have a burst of speed in her learning to read and spell phases, which delights us completely.
We already have a great collection of books for the girls, and plan on adding to it as they grow and their interests expand. The internet is cool and all, but there is something about a physical book in your hands that just can’t be replaced…