Sunday, December 18, 2016

Our Advent Ritual

We are enjoying Advent here at the Snider household and I thought I'd share a little about what our Advent ritual looks like this year. We've more or less followed this pattern through the years but this year has been particularly rewarding as our kids are older and understanding more and asking questions. The last three years I've attempted to do the daily readings from The Jesus Storybook Bible, which is an incredible resource! But this year I've embraced the fact that it's too much for our evening routine.
So this year we light the candle during dinner. The kids take turns. Then I say "What does 'Advent' mean?" The answer is "Coming!" But so far the answers I've gotten are "Christmas!" "Jesus is born!" "Dessert!" and from Miriam "Butthead!" Advent is long, thank goodness.

After we light candles we sing a song. And by "we" I mean Silas and I sing a song and take turns telling the kids to hush and listen. This week we're singing "Come Thou Long Expected Jesus" every night. We're also practicing the songs the kids are going to sing during the lessons and carols service, which are "Go Tell It On the Mountain" and "Angels We Have Heard On High".

Then we talk a little about waiting, we move the advent marker on the advent calendar, annnnnd that's it! Simple, straight forward, and requires very little prep. Yet, I find these 5 minutes of focus with my kids to be so precious and meaningful. The key to this season has definitely been to SIMPLIFY.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Gingerbread House at the Fairmont!

This week Ezekiel and I went on a little adventure by ourselves. Last year we went to see the two story high Gingerbread house built inside the Fairmont Hotel during Advent season. It was a little out of control, in hindsight, but still a lot of fun.
From our visit to the Fairmont in 2015. Zeke was still struggling with some health and sensory issues and every public outing with him from that time was a disaster.
This year Zeke mentioned several times that he wanted to go again so we made a date with some friends! Unfortunately, we all got sick with a nasty stomach thing and had to cancel. So did our friends. So we tried again this past week and it was great.
Hot chocolate for Z, Holiday Spice Flat White for me!
One of the cool things about visiting the Fairmont is that the cable car goes right past it. Riding the cable car is a pretty touristy thing to do in SF. Busses will get you where you're going much faster and without having to listen to tourists gawk at the $7 price tag. To which I said, try finding parking for under $15 anywhere in downtown San Francisco... But as a once a year treat, it's super fun.
We brought our Ninja Turtle friend along.
Our friend offered to take a non-selfie of us. If you ever see a mom taking a picture of her kids or trying to take a selfie, offer to take a picture for her with everyone in it. She probably doesn't have that many non-selfie pictures of herself with her kids.
If you want to know about my winged eye-liner... I messed up one side and had to make it longer, then I had to fix the other side, and then touch up the other side again. Basically. It looks really good considering how many mistakes I made. That's a lot of wingage.
 Zeke asked ahead of time if there would be any nutcrackers there. I said I didn't know. So when he found this nutcracker collection he asked me to take picture of him with the nutcrackers.
Zeke + Nutcrackers = Love
 This tree! Zeke kept running around it to find ornaments bigger than his head, and there were many! We didn't get a real tree this year because Silas and I are allergic to everything (Pollen, cats, dogs, dust, you name it, we swell up.) so I like seeing real trees NOT in my house.
 At Zeke's preschool they've been reading Santa's Stuck, so when we spotted the animatronic Santa feet kicking up on the roof it made Zeke's day.
Seeing things he's read about in a book makes him so happy!
The whole time we were there I kept thinking "This is so much easier than last year. I'm so glad last year is over."
He was more than happy to take a picture with me this year!
We went with a group of little boys (and their moms) that we know from church and from the Mom's Group I attend every week. It's really fun to do these kinds of trips in groups because someone can help with the stroller on the cable car or watch your kid while you pee. You can go "Oh no! Where's Kid X!" and another mom will spot him with her well trained kid watching eye in 2 seconds flat.
No one stopped moving the whole trip.
 The Fairmont has a rooftop garden where we went for a snack break when we were done inside. The garden was beautiful! And, lest you think everything went too smoothly, I did catch Ezekiel peeing in a tree planter in the garden. And later he declared himself "too hot" for the 50 degree weather and threw off his shirt and ran down the block half naked.
"I need some alone time."
The view from the garden was so great.
Hi, touristy part of SF that I never go to!
The ride back down to Market street was uneventful and from there Zeke and I hopped on the light rail to pick up Miriam from a friend's house where she was playing for the morning.

Ezekiel and Solomon taking in the sights.
The End. Seriously, I never know how to end these sorts of blog posts. On a scale of "Best Ever!" to "Worst ever!" I'd rate it a solid "Top 3 of the season."

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Peace on Earth

I finally did it. I subscribed to the New York Times. A newspaper, like a grown up person! Oh, and I'm stepping away from Facebook for awhile.
Over there, on Facebook, I feel like I'm perpetuating an echo chamber. I post an article and my friends who always agree with me "like" it and then Facebook algorithms show articles that I share only to the people who "like" them. It's an endless loop of people who think like me. My perfectly crafted bubble. Judging from the silence of my friends whose views are quite different, they unfollowed my feed long ago. And, to be honest, I've unfollowed people who consistently post stuff that makes me blisteringly angry. I want to have real conversations with people face to face. You know, where I can get furious to their face. Just kidding! Kinda.
I am throwing myself into my community. Into my family. Into my writing. Into my work. Advent is here and I, you guys, I freaking love Advent. It's a very meaningful time of year for me. Sending out Christmas cards is something I love to do and I haven't done for two years because last year I didn't have time and the year before I had a baby mid-December. And I desperately want to do that this year.
There is sadness too. I love my Facebook groups. My babywearing group, my biking group, my Homeschool Alumni group, the groups where I learn about social justice and how to use my Instant Pot. And, Oh! Special Books by Special Kids!  Facebook was my lifeline during the time of upheaval that followed our move to SF and my fall into post-partum depression. Friends were just a click away during my lowest times. But it's time for a break now.
Life is full and my family deserves all my attention. I need to choose when to consume news. I need skip the buzzfeed listicles and the "Which Jane Austen character are you?" quizzes. (As much as I lurv a good "which character are you" quiz"!!!) Peace on earth starts with peace at home. Peace in my heart, in my family, in my community, in my city, in my country, in the whole earth. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

A Poem to Myself

Go out to a nice restaurant alone sometime.
Feel the pity
They don't know
It is with purpose
You dine alone

Squeal in delight when you get an orchid blossom with your meal.
Enjoy completely
Your mouth full
The silence of your table
The food tastes so loud

Think about all the things that you want to.
No interruptions
No questions asked
By anyone but

Be happy when it is time to return home.
Walk at night
Chasing no one
Kiss sleeping eyes
Go to bed

Monday, March 21, 2016

Today in the Sunset.

The man outside the window at Starbucks is peering in. He's smoking a joint, eating a burrito, and dancing. Can he hear the big band swing that's playing in here? Probably not. He's probably got rhythm in his soul. I'd have rhythm in my soul too if I was smoking a joint and eating a burrito. At least, I think so. I've never smoked a joint, but I HAVE eaten a burrito and it's pretty much the most soul rhythm inducing thing ever.

All the taquerias here in San Francisco are are super sketchy looking and feel grimy but dear baby gophers! They are amazing! Actually, all the food here is amazing. I'm partial to Thai food these days. It is my take-out of choice. But the Pakistani/Indian place around the corner is delicious too and Silas prefers it to Thai. The boys like the deli in the liquor store on the corner. If we ask them they say "The sandwich place!!!"

A woman just gave the man outside the window a to-go box of food. He turned around and shared it with the two other homeless guys sitting on the sidewalk with him. They are all dancing and laughing now. I'm jealous. I'm here pondering solutions to the problems that I need to solve this week. Money problems, transportation problems, scheduling problems, parenting problems, relationship problems, and I will at least take a gamble at listening to NPR to hear about the world's problems. In an hour I'm going to put on my super respectable rain coat and walk home in my super respectable rain coat, worried about all this and more. I will even worry about these guys on the street and where they will sleep tonight.

I'm trying to sum up these thoughts in a way that makes sense because they feel very connected in my heart. Or maybe there just isn't a good way to sum up these thoughts. Something I love about the city is that it's all with you all the time. The sadness and the joy. The worry and the wild abandon. And at any moment you can walk out your door and witness it and ponder it.

Monday, March 7, 2016

An hour.

I have an hour. An hour! An hour! My very own hour. This hour.

In one hour I'm going to see my counselor, then I'll run out the door and try to make the bike ride from the Mission to Gideon's school in Western Addition in 20 minutes (It takes 35). I love riding so fast.

Then it's lunch for me and the big boy and then a ride to the Embarcadero to the dentist. I have to get a filling. Which means several shots. I comfort myself with the knowledge that I can pay $75 and get laughing gas to ease the needle phobia. It will still suck. But at least I'll be in an altered state for most of it.

In the hours after I'll still have to bike home, help with homework, hug babies (which really is no trouble), make dinner, and try to maintain peace until Silas gets home (he's working late again). Then after bedtimes I will need to clean the kitchen, get donations ready for the JBBP Gala, pack a lunch, and lay our clothes for the morning. But that's not this hour.

I was supposed to be doing our budget during this hour. A date with me and my laptop at a coffee shop with my double espresso over ice. I add course sugar. But my bank's website is down. My children are at school (where I volunteered this morning) or with our sitter. And now I have this surprise gift of my own hour!

What would you do with your very own hour? If I were at home I would clean. Or do laundry. Or organize the garage. I have phone calls I want to make. But I can't really do that from a coffee shop. I didn't bring my ipad to work on my illustrations because I wasn't expecting this hour! But oh, I could write! And oh, I could plan! And oh, I could even pray!

Now if I could just be present enough to take advantage of this hour without thinking about all the hours before and all the hours to come.

Nevermind, the bank's website is back up.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Lake Hike

So, before I moved to San Francisco I assumed that Golden Gate Park was, like, a park. Like, a play ground, maybe a fountain, a dog park. Nope. It is, in fact, 20 percent larger than Central Park. It contains a series of lakes, a bison paddock, a couple of museums, botanical garden, tea garden, and more. I refer you here to the Wikipedia page. And yet, despite my ignorance, I'm lucky enough to live across the street from it.

Today we decided to adventure into the park. We bike through it every day and I always let the kids choose which way we go. Frequently, Gideon will choose to go around the lake (Zeke likes to go the museum or waterfall way) and the kids always ask to hike up the hill island. I'd been promising we'd do the hike since last week so today we locked up the bike at the boat house and headed out!
Miri loved the geese.
 The boys tried to fish with whatever vines and plants they found.
 Had to make Miri get in the carrier because she wouldn't stop throwing herself into mud puddles with wild abandon. 
 It's amazing how isolated it is up here, even in the middle of the city.
 Almost to the top! I was starting to flag at that point and so was Zeke but Gideon remained determined and chanted "You can do it! You can do it!" and Zeke said "My love dat song, tanks Geeyon!"
 When we finally reached the top Miri needed a quick milk break.
 She is impossible to contain! Girlfriend loves to explore.
 I don't know how this big cement castlesque ruin got up here, but the boy dig it. They played knights for quite awhile before raiding my bag for cliff bars and fruit leathers.
 The sun! San Fran has been experiencing some desperately needed rain for the past two months and I never thought I'd miss the sun but I did!
 We took the stairs down the waterfall since Zeke started complaining about having to walk having to walk.
 Oh, hi, Pacific Ocean!
 And hi, bay!
I think I said "Hold onto the railing!" About 25 times. 
Once we reached the bottom of the falls it was a simple hike back to the bike but certain children decided they were too tired to walk so it took about 35 minutes to go a couple hundred yards, crawling, waddling, and crab walking.  But all in all, a fun day was had by all. We live in a beautiful place! 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Hello from the other side.

Oh, hi.  What's that you say? It's been a year? The longest break I've ever taken from this blog. And I've thought about it, oh, so many times! I'd think to myself "I should blog" and then I couldn't bear to. A tweet, a picture to instagram, a slightly longer facebook post, but I hadn't the capacity to write it all. I finally can, so this is what happened.
The week we moved into out apartment. Right before I got really sick.
In March we moved into our lovely little 700sqft apartment. Our stuff from Seattle arrived. I unpacked most of our stuff. The 5 year anniversary of Jason's death come around. Then I had a nervous breakdown and didn't get out of bed or stop crying for a week. After that I was afraid to leave our apartment for another week, two weeks, three weeks. I saw a doctor and got my post partum depression diagnosis. It's such a deceiving title because PPD is so much more than depression. For me it also meant anxiety, paranoia, unexplained rage, and an inability to keep track of time in any form. My brain chemistry was off, I wasn't thinking right. I knew it but I couldn't fix it.
Miriam's first bike ride!
We did everything we knew to do. We found a good doctor and counselor. We hired a once a week babysitter so I could go to dr. appointments, run errands, and just try to get healthy. We decided to eat out as much as we needed to and order our groceries delivered. We only did the necessary. I stopped doing anything except making sure everyone safe, fed, and clothed. Slowly, things got better. Once I got back on my bike things got better faster.
On a trip to the Academy of science.
I started building my village again. We kept exploring the city. I became involved with the local babywearing group, an active member of a mom's group, and church too. I became vegan, both to cope with Miri's allergies and to move towards a simpler diet for me. I caught up on 5 years of dental work. It took months and months, but life got better bit by bit. With every change and every effort. With every week that went by there was improvement.
Light of my life.
Zeke turned 3 and is himself every single day. Gideon turned 5 and started school at an amazing public school here in the city which we all love. Miriam started walking at 8 months old. We got rid of our car and I bike 15-20 miles a day now. And it's wonderful. I struggle with anxiety still. On bad days I find some hills to climb to work it all out. Luckily, there's no shortage of hills here in SF.
On a bike ride to the zoo.
Now that life is manageable again, Silas and I are going out together once a week. We are currently on a mission to visit all the good restaurants and bookstores in the city. Each week we check one off the list. We really love city living and it's so wonderful to explore the city together.
Out and about.
Some pictures popped up from last year. And they brought tears to my eyes. The memories are still a bit raw. Last year was such a difficult year. A painful year. A terrible year. But it was a year of profound growth in our lives. I would not relive it if you paid me and I'm so glad it is over. But it definitely changed me for the better.
On a visit to one of our favorite places, the Japanese tea garden.
Having now experienced days were I could not function. Where I pretty much poured cereal on the floor in front of the tv and crawled back into bed. Where I took my kids to the park and dumped them in the sand while I tried to pay bills on my phone. Where all three of my kids were not only crying, but screaming in the grocery store. Where I put all my kids to bed and then sobbed into my pillow that motherhood isn't fun anymore. If I ever judged anyone for anything, I am sorry. I've probably done almost every thing I ever judged anyone for this year. And that's been good for me and my pride.
Heading out for a day in the city.
We're coasting now. Things are good. God is good. San Francisco is good. We're gonna be ok! Motherhood is fun again and I'm enjoying my kids like I used to before I got sick. Every day that ends and I'm not completely comatose or melting down is kind of a surprise to me now, and a gift. What a gift. To be well. This is the other side. And it's 100x better than I could have imagined when I was in the darkest place, when I forgot it was possible to not feel terrible all the time.
My three.
So that's what happened. That's why I dropped off the face of the planet. That's why you haven't heard from me. And I hope that never happens again. But if it does, I know it gets better. I hope you are well, friends, and if not, I hope you find the support you need. Peace.