Mojave in my Heart

From a not-so childlike beginning in New York City to my child inspired world here and now

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dim sum for everyone (around the world night)

We have a food theme for each night of the week.


We’ve used this approach consistently for our meal planning for years now- having tweaked it once, two years ago. It helps to focus the meal planning without being too rigid. Sundays – a dish with beans, Mondays – soup and so on. Saturday is “around the world” where we explore different cuisines from…around the world! Most notably Saturday dinners have been Japanese (eating rice with chopsticks was a hit) and fondu in the spirit of the Swiss. It is an opportunity to learn about a different culture, food preparation and style. This last Saturday we embraced the Chinese cuisine of dim sum. It will go down as one of the more popular Saturday nights!

Dim Sum, eating small savory and sweet dishes first began as “yum cha” going out to drink tea in China. While tea is still a part of dim sum, the small plates of food have become front and center.  The waiters walk around the restaurant pushing carts with little plates of food from which to choose. We don’t have food carts, so we improvised.

Where did the inspiration come from? A book! We have been reading Dim Sum for Everyone by Grace Lin since before the girls were 2 years old!  I think the book was out and about last week and it sparked an idea in my aspiring chef, Arlene. She asked if we could make dim sum for our “around the world night” and of course I was intrigued. Mmmmm. Could be delicious and fun!


Friday afternoon we went food shopping and spent time at the library picking out books on Chinese language, celebrations and food traditions. It has been fun to explain that the Chinese language uses characters that stand for things or ideas, while English “characters” or letters, stand for sounds. I love languages! Dim sum and its corresponding characters translates (as far as I’ve learned) “to touch your heart.” We had a fun talk about what that means. Is your heart pointing out the food? Do these h’orderves touch your heart? Hmmmmmm.

A&A helped prepare some of the food, but they preferred making menus and decorations complete with fiery dragons.

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On a side note, we went to an exhibit on mythic creatures last week and the girls noticed that the dragon was a popular mythic creature in general–but especially in Asia where they are in fact important to their mythology.

It was wonderful to break away from the monotony of “making dinner.” We had a party and…it was awesome! We took on this great new challenge together- preparing new foods, enjoying these new foods, and even drinking green tea with our dinner! We listened to Chinese folk music and if know the girls, you know that the night wouldn’t be complete without some dancing after dinner.

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The menu was demanding (and mostly gluten-free),  so there were several moments I had to take a step back and remind myself of the pleasure and toss aside the “weight” of the work. Stephen and I had so much fun cooking together–mistakes and all. The girls were thrilled to set things up and serve us, too– from the red wagon since we don’t have a food cart.  Their attention and appreciation to detail and beauty is unbelievable!

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Ahhhhhh! We forgot the chopsticks!



first day of first grade

The significance of the first day of the first grade didn’t sink in until the night before. Even then, it was just a taste of it. As I was putting the girls to sleep, we talked some about the start of school which was the next day and it HIT me. My girls, age 6, are starting first grade!! Tomorrow! And I’m the teacher! Starting school is as central as the sun around here, with time devoted to planning and organizing, chit-chats and anecdotes, but nonetheless I didn’t know how to absorb the reality that we were here. Still don’t…

The girls naturally asked about my own experiences with first grade. I embraced humor and left a bunch out! First grade with Sister Patricia wasn’t cozy and warm. It was stern and serious, straight back and hands on the desk. It wasn’t colorful and it was indoors. There were scary times and lonely times, but also as the months and years in school went on, a place of refuge. I drummed up the latter- that I loved learning from early on and that school was where I learned new things. I appreciated the order and expectations, the routines and predictability. Naturally I began to think, what will first grade be for the girls?

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With homeschooling being an extension of our home life, it is hard NOT to say that I hope they feel loved and supported in their schooling. I hope this year is fun. I expect there will be challenges and I hope they can work through the frustrations AND remember the successes. I recall reading in the first grade- how draining and slow and HARD it was initially, but then I remember reading my first LONG book in the 2nd grade and telling EVERYONE about it. Bunnicula— what a fun read!  I want there to be lots of downtime, to play and just be together, to bike around our neighborhood, spend hours at the library, play at the creek. I hope we can take naps together, too. I imagine there will be moments of inspiration and I can’t wait to follow their lead (like Saturday night’s dinner). I recall fondly hours at the playground and I look forward to giving that to them, too.

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So for our first day I planned a small ceremony.  After a small circle time, I took them to a special little park (closed eyes on the way) near our home where the creek runs beautifully and there are grassy lawns.

A small bridge crosses the creek, too. I told them a story about two young children and their mother, embarking on a new journey, together. In the story, the children each crossed a bridge on their own and while alone in their crossing, knew their mother was near and waiting for them.  Before they crossed the bridge at the creek, I whispered to each of the girls a wish I have for them this upcoming year. Upon their return from the bridge, they chose a sunflower out of a vase I brought and we hugged.

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It was a stunning day and truly, truly special. Afterward we played hide and seek and just ran around with bare feet. The scent of grass was strong and it stained our feet. It wasn’t that of my first grade stuffy classroom. The sun was warm and the sky right above us.

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all I have

It was an ambitious summer. Momentous, too.  Expansive. Now as the evenings get cooler and we’re back at home, I find myself satiated and ready for the season ahead. Maybe more than ready. Impatient?


Kinsey’s passing at the end of May, the morning after the girls’ inaugural art show; a fun night of levity, art, friends and take-out pizza was auspicious.

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Kinsey was doing well, we were celebrating A&A’s Kindergarten year of art, and her life was coming to a close. The art show was a way of defining the end of the Kindergarten year and signaling the new summer ahead. It was really touching to see friends come out for our little gathering. I learned a lot about the girls’ budding artistic differences through the art-show-process. Arlene even sold a a piece of art to wonderful Marion.

Beginnings and endings. Kinsey’s death left me feeling lost, untethered, without my rudder. It was up and down, but in the days and weeks following, I slowed down to appreciate the innumerable lessons and her very long life with me- through heartaches and blessings, up and down the east coast, miles of trails, hours of frisbee, early mornings and late nights. Long walks with friends. Day after day. Without fail, she was ready for whatever I offered. I can see her eyes so clearly now- asking, what are we doing? I’m ready! I wasn’t ready for that day, but don’t know if I could have ever thought, OK, I’m ready for her to go. Looking back she entered and left our lives at the exact right time. I brought her home on Friday night in May, 9 weeks old and she left us on a Friday morning in May. I’ll keep with me her presence, not her absence, not only because it seems to drift in here so often, but instead of feeling the loss and the grief, I’m so glad for her spirit and welcome it back.


Weeks later we embarked on a cross country trip to the east coast. This was our first return since moving west a couple years ago. We were extremely excited to see friends and family. It felt surreal as we planned and packed. I was thrilled to hit the road and get into our little road cocoon!

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We would hug family, see friends, visit familiar places, visit new places, feel the humidity, feel the ocean, smell the scents of the piedmont, sink back into a place that we love so much.  We were not disappointed. The drive was adventurous (in only the best way), the smells  and sights were satisfying, the ocean stunning, the hugs and time with those we loved, absolutely fulfilling. It was a joyous time. While I’m not from North Carolina originally, it is the girls’ and Stephen’s first home and thereby a home to me as well.  Ah, but home is home. Full of comfort and complexity. We missed it, we loved it and we were saddened by the reality that still, NC could not continue to be our home. It was a hard matter to grapple with during our visit, but one that permeated our thoughts late at night and ultimately ones that maybe we had to work through- again on this first trip back. Endings and beginnings.


Highlights of North Carolina? A perfect 4th of July ( the first that the girls totally enjoyed fireworks),


sand-fiiled days at the beach (watching the girls play with their cousins), making a pizza dinner at Dawn’s, visiting with Madi on the porch (and learning about her year ahead), walks around the pond (the gaggle of geese and the lone duck were beautiful to watch), playing in the Eno River, watching the girls play with old, but so-not-forgotten friends, hugging June and Joe, garden dinner with Cathy, getting caught in one of the most intense thunderstorms while driving from Durham (wow! I wished for a storm, too), seeing the girls with their grandparents and great-grandmother, girls getting Grandmother’s mail and playing with her high-heels, connecting with Mary, the Fairview Dairy, gospel singing, southern dinners (fried cornbread, dipped in butter, each bite, please), live music at the Depot, church with Stephen’s family, playground get together in Durham, walking 9th Street in Durham, visiting our old hen, Tweedie (who let us hold her for so long!), packing up two dozen fresh eggs to drive back home with, a special tea lunch with Mary, Wendy and the girls, afternoons at the pool, the girls shelling peas with Mary…

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Our travels yielded beautiful family time, quiet walks, early nights, playful afternoons, quality time for the girls with their grandparents, time to soak in the sounds of cicadas and the rich smells of North Carolina.

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I was so impressed with the way the girls handled themselves throughout our travels. Meeting new people and experiences daily – handling it with grace and enthusiasm consistently.

Leaving was very hard and hearts were so, so heavy as we packed the last of our bags, the cooler and looked around for books and items from Colorado.  When will we be back? Hopefully next year.  My heart and mind logged the losses as we packed up that last day- still coming to terms with the fact that we live across the country from our families.  Still absorbing all the change.


Ah, but we didn’t go to sleep with grief. I’m forever grateful for the heartwarming gospel sing we ended with – it brought us together again once more, before we parted for the road. Gospel music, the little I know, touches me so deeply. I find it inspiring and full of promise. I’ve been singing “Higher Ground” to the girls since they were babies and hearing it that night was a dream come true!

The heartache was put on hold- temporarily, as we stopped in Texas to visit friends before returning home. There, we caught up with one of my oldest, dearest friends and her family. The young crew was now composed of three girls (and at the time, one on the way). It was a perfect few days with delicious meals, great company and lots of pool time.



We headed out early from Texas to travel NW and aimed to arrive back in Colorado that evening. We pulled out our maps and looked up the states we’d drive through on this route- not the same one when we travelled east to NC. There was excitement in the car- looking forward to returning  home– all while digesting the experiences and lessons of the last month, the last year, too for that matter. For the last year I’ve come to realize that while I’m a friendly person, I have more introverted tendencies than extroverted. Most of my life I thought I was the latter because I was outgoing, however, it has taken age and wisdom to understand that I require periods of solitude — often in short supply in my life and especially so in the last year where I played with this edge.  I took on committee work at the Quaker Meeting, I taught religious education, volunteered with the homeless,  embraced a leadership role in a homeschooling group, put lots of effort into making friends. The social filled July reminded me once again of the importance of “balance” and frankly put, alone time!  After a particularly busy week or two, in NC,  I said to Stephen late one night, I really can’t see anymore people for awhile!! It was an accomplishment to identify my need so clearly. Aknowledgment seemed to help some, all on its own. Looking back I think I need to plan serious quiet time for myself and ourselves, as a family when travelling for a month. I saw too in my own daughter, that her challenging behavior at some points along the trip were no more than HER expression of too much activity and too little quiet or routine.

I have infinite memories of my high school, college years and years beyond (before children) where I’m just doing “nothing.” Leisure time. Drawing, journaling, reading, listening to music, people watching, walking. Alone. Or with one person. So many of us are overcommitted, stressed, too busy! Truly this is one of the reasons we homeschool! We want to move at our own pace, to shirk off the busyness that is so ubiquitous. Stephen and I decided we’d embrace less this coming year, to have more. While a little challenging to initiate, it has been very liberating.


Now almost two weeks ago, a wonderful friend came to visit us for a long weekend. We had an incredible time during her three-day stay.


We hiked, we talked, we ate great food, we shared tea, we soaked (in hot springs!), we did yoga, we shared books and stories…I haven’t had a visit with a friend like this–ever! I’d say maybe since before the girls, but the meaning behind it NOW with children, with a family, makes it a first. She has a wonderful presence and a truly uplifting spirit- it filled me up!


After dropping her off at the airport, I was filled with sadness. Leaving a loved one at the airport is always tough. The early morning skies were pastel and soft and seemed to mirror my feelings of loss. When will we see each other again?

It had been two years this time. We are close friends, but we live across the country from one another. There’s a good chance too, that in the next several years she might move to another country. Then, all of a sudden, all of these thoughts and feelings spun around, flipped and reversed. Unexpectedly I was overflowing with thanksgiving for ALL I HAVE. I don’t NOT have a wonderful friend, I do. I don’t NOT have love in my life, I do. It was an immediate grace and all I could think was: ALL I HAVE instead of all the missing pieces and parts.  I just had an incredible summer with Stephen, the girls, family, and friends, I just had a magnificent visit with an amazing friend, I have, I have, I have. Really all I want, I have.