Such Singing In the Magnolia

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At our house here in Chicago we celebrate the arrival of Spring with the blooming of our Magnolia tree. This year she flowered early and since we know our time with the blossoms is short we spend every opportunity admiring her pink beauty. One morning I got up at 5:45am and watched how the light changed as the sun rose. One by one the kids joined me and were fully entertained with the view. This morning Canyon got up and went straight to the window and started his day with the tree all on his own.

And when we are outside on beautiful spring days and I hear the signing of birds I think of this poem. And I know the bird in these photos is not a thrush but these are the little ones who chirp madly at me each day demanding that I fill the feeder!

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Such Singing in the Wild Branches
By Mary Oliver

It was spring
and I finally heard him
among the first leaves––
then I saw him clutching the limb

in an island of shade
with his red-brown feathers
all trim and neat for the new year.
First, I stood still

and thought of nothing.
Then I began to listen.
Then I was filled with gladness––
and that’s when it happened,

when I seemed to float,
to be, myself, a wing or a tree––
and I began to understand
what the bird was saying,

and the sands in the glass
stopped
for a pure white moment
while gravity sprinkled upward

like rain, rising,
and in fact
it became difficult to tell just what it was that was singing––
it was the thrush for sure, but it seemed

not a single thrush, but himself, and all his brothers,
and also the trees around them,
as well as the gliding, long-tailed clouds
in the perfect blue sky–––all of them

were singing.
And, of course, so it seemed,
so was I.
Such soft and solemn and perfect music doesn’t last

For more than a few moments.
It’s one of those magical places wise people
like to talk about.
One of the things they say about it, that is true,

is that, once you’ve been there,
you’re there forever.
Listen, everyone has a chance.
Is it spring, is it morning?

Are there trees near you,
and does your own soul need comforting?
Quick, then––open the door and fly on your heavy feet; the song
may already be drifting away.

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Some People Are Worth Melting For

Last night I surprised River with a trip to the United Center for Disney’s Frozen on Ice. She wore her Elsa dress and I braided my hair like Anna and put on an Anna-esque top. We brought our Olaf. Yes. We were kind of adorable.

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And we were on a tight budget so we used the Chicago Public School’s discount coupon for $15 tickets. Which placed in section 315 all the way up in the rafters. The stairs leading up were so steep and narrow that I actually worried for our safety. But we made it to the top-second to last row in our section and made our way to the middle seats. I was afraid River would be disappointed with our view but she was enthralled to be there.

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Yes, these were definitely the cheap seats but the families in our section were not complaining. The row behind us unpacked bags of snacks and drinks and at one point I swear I heard someone say, “pass the sour cream.” The two little girls to our right were so freaking excited and belted out every song and encouraged River to do the same. River and I handed out glow stick bracelets to all the kids we could reach. Such joy , appreciation and gratitude for a gift I bought for 15 for a dollar!

The show was fun, even from such great heights.

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The benefit of that vantage point was that you could see all the projections on the ice and the full view of all of the skaters. River loved loved loved it. I enjoyed singing along with all the kids and laughing at how enthusiastic they were. When the wolves came out the girls behind us were screaming, “LOOK OUT! WOLVES! BAD WOLVES!” There was a lot of cheering and screaming and talking and nobody cared or complained. We were all just having fun with our kids and letting them be kids.

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Then intermission came and River announced that she was done and wanted to come home. I was suspicious of this. I didn’t mind going home but I didn’t want to walk all the way around the building, down to the first floor and then have her change her mind. I asked her over and over if she was sure and she insisted that she wanted to go home and have French fries. So we packed up all our stuff and said goodbye to our friends and started the trek out. It took forever but we got to the parking lot door AND SHE ANNOUNCED THAT SHE WANTED MORE SHOW. No amount of trickery was going to get her to leave so we started hiking back around to our section. I tried to crash the first floor section and we watched from a perfect vestibule for about 8 minutes-just long enough to see the big snow monster and trolls-before we were kicked out by the ushers. We tried one more section and no amount of begging and explaining that there was not that much show left and I couldn’t stand the thought of trying to drag my three year old back to the roof tops was going to buy us any more time.

Getting back up this late in the show was challenging. I was hot, frustrated and almost in tears and now we had to climb back up to the top. We finally got to our section and again I asked an usher if we could just stand there so I didn’t have to climb the treacherous stairs, in the dark, with a three year old in a long dress. No. Either go back to our seats or leave. Damnit. I tried to see in the darkness where our seats were and if they were even still available. And then it happened.

Everyone who we had given the glow sticks to started waving them at us, directing us back to our open seats. They cheered our return, so happy we came back. Nobody complained that we had to climb over them to get back to our seats. It was such a great moment. “You’re back!” “We were sad that you left!”

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When the show was over we were all smiles and every one complimented each other.

“You’re dress is beautiful!” “Your singing was amazing!” “You made the show!” “What great kids you have!” One of the Dad’s turned to me “You have Anna braids! You need the white streak!” Me-“The streak! How could I forget?!” We all laughed. “I am so glad you guys came back!”

We came to the show, just the two of us, and by the end it was like we left with 20 new friends.

And then we went home and had French fries.

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Message in a Shell

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On the Autumn Equinox Lilo and dropped the kids at school and headed over to Fullerton Woods, a small section of Forest Preserve in Cook County.

I had been to the preserve a few days earlier but the trail to the river was completely washed out and the mosquitoes were so fearsome that we would have been forced to turn back even if the path was clear.

Lilo and I decided to try our luck and we made our way down the trail. The leaves were really starting to turn and I was giddy with the new colors on the landscape. I started creating a bouquet of autumn leaves and was scouring the ground for new additions and looking up into the trees, searching for the source of bird songs and admiring the way the sun filtered through the forest.

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Now the water had receded, leaving the trail covered in soft black mud and a path of sticks and branches caught among the trees. Little Lilo sunk a bit into the mud as she crossed so I moved further up and took my time balancing on the scattered wood to get across. As I was carefully maneuvering through the muck I looked down and saw a large snail shell.

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Something new to gather! How exciting! I carefully placed the shell in my pocket and for the rest of our walk was conscious of it’s fragile presence, adjusting how I moved and bent to pick up other fallen treasures-autumn leaves, acorns, spiky burr oak acorn tops and stones. These precious items would go on display in my home and might make their way into nature crafts with the kids. But this single snail shell? That was special.

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We walked along the river for a bit.

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Lilo Jean the Autumn Queen!

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Then it was time to go and we began to back track through our steps. And as I stepped back through the branches and driftwood I saw another snail shell! And then another! And another! They were everywhere! I started to gather them in a bit of plastic bag I had in my pocket and by the time we reached solid ground I had about twenty. TWENTY! It was the exact same path and I had walked just 30 minutes before. How had I missed them?

Because I didn’t know that I was looking for them.

So here is where I move past “oooh tree pretty!” to “oooh deep philosophical thoughts!”

I didn’t see the shells because I didn’t know I was looking for them. Maybe I was missing other great things in my life because I wasn’t being specific with what I want? I know these are not original thoughts. There is “Law of Attraction”, “The Secret” like attracts like, positive energy attracts positive energy, it depends on what wolf you feed, etc.

And I have this quote framed on canvas in my bedroom-

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”
― Roald Dahl

So what will my magic be? What do I want more of in my life? When I am truly present and happy and engaged what is involved?

That is easy.

My family. Nature. Photography. Being of Service.

These are the things that ignite my soul. I invest a great deal of my energy into my family and being in nature. I take photos every single day. I volunteer quite a bit. Now how to put them all together in to something that will help my family financially. I have not had to have a “real job” since December of 2008 but we can’t sustain that much longer. I need to focus more on my photography business because taking photographs, capturing moments and making people smile is what thrills me. I love the comments I receive on my nature work. I love it when someone sends me a message about how my work and words inspire them. I love visiting a home and seeing my art on the walls. I love getting holiday cards with the images I captured. I love it all.

This is what I am putting out to the Universe. I want to use photography and my experiences as a woman and mother to inspire and support others. I want to help people capture the magic in the everyday and the special occassions. I want to make a living through photography.

Here I go! If you want to follow along please like my photography page-

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(and yes, I really did get excited over a dirty old snail shell!)

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NaBloPoMo

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So Michelle and Carrie have inspired me to dust off the blog and attempt to start writing again. It’s hard. It’s hard to make time. I feel like it is hard enough to get out and do interesting, blog worthy things or think interesting, blog worthy thoughts let alone find time to put those things and thoughts out into the world in a written form. Lately Instagram is where I share my world. I love photography and am very proud of the world I am curating on my Instagram. Wait. What? You are not following me on Instagram? Fix that. Here I am-lviets.
And here’s an example of what I do instead of writing. One day River, Raven and I “wasted” several hours just running around a random forest preserve, playing in the leaves, walking in the woods and creating temporary magic with chalk and leaves. Totally perfect.

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River Trail Nature Center

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If I was keeping up my blog you would know that Canyon and I spend Tuesday and Thursday’s going on adventures. River and Raven have co-op on those days and it makes for the perfect one on one time for me and Canyon man. Usually that means outdoor fun-as long as it is above 19 degrees. We have learned over this beautiful, brutal winter that the children are happy outside as long as it is 19 or above. Below that and it is stay in the van and observe from warm comfort time.

Yesterday I wanted to try something new-always a risky proposition with Canyon. I follow a family on Instagram and they seem very similar to us. Well, they are way cooler than we are but our kids are similar ages and they do lots of outdoorsy stuff. This weekend the Dad posted photos of the kids at a Nature Center that I had never heard of so I mapped it and it was only about 25 minutes away. So we gave it a go.

First cool thing-we saw a coyote as we were turning into the area. I love coyotes. Second cool thing. WE FOUND A HARDEE’S! I can easily resist fast food from the typical establishments but Hardee’s is my favorite. Up until yesterday I thought we had to drive to Wisconsin or Indiana for the pleasure but now I know that they are making a move into the Chicagoland area! When I turned the corner and saw the restaurant I gasped, “HOLY. SHIT.” And from the backseat I heard, “SHIT.” Have I forgot to mention Canyon is starting to use more words? Well add that to the word count! So we ordered lunch and enjoyed it down by the Des Plaines River. Canyon is not a big meat eater but likes the occasional cheeseburger. Well he LOVED this one and was sitting in the backseat munching away and smiling and showing me how happy he was with this food. I was happy too. Hardee’s!!!

So we finished lunch and headed to the River Trail Nature Center. It is wonderful. I can’t believe I did not know about this place. Situated right on the river with lots of hiking trails to explore.

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The center itself is beautiful. You walk in and to the right is a huge, light and airy room with fish, snakes, a brain damaged squirrel, a screech owl and an American Kestral. I kept giggling and saying, “American Kestral Maneuvers In The Dark”. Canyon didn’t get it. All the animals and birds that live at the center have injuries that make it impossible for them to be returned to the wild. Poor things.

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But the greatest thing in the live animal part was the huge pond of turtles.

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Red-eared Sliders, Painted Turtles, Aquatic Turtles, False Map Turtles and Musk Turtles.

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Canyon was mesmerized. Also a little frustrated that he couldn’t splash in the pond. Which is totally understandable since so many kids play areas now have water ponds and splash areas. How do you explain the difference? I kept saying “this is a looking toy, not a touching toy!”

The turtles seemed as fascinated with Canyon as he was with them. I always wonder what Canyon’s autism superpower will be. I like to think he communicates telepathically with animals.

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The second favorite thing was the ceiling fan up in the skylights. I took a video of it so he can watch it anytime he wants. I am going to admit I like it too! This kid is rubbing off on me.

The other side of the center is perfectly designed for toddlers. A huge play area with nature books and stories, art supplies, games, a felt board and a giant Eagle’s Nest to sit in and a Fox Den to climb around and hide. So much to do and see!

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When we left the ranger guy said, “Bye Bison Boy!

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Tuesday we barely scratched the surface of all the preserve has to offer. I look forward to exploring it more!

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Getting Dirty, Meeting Deer-Part Two Of Our Maple Syrup Adventure!

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Small crowds for the Maple Syrup Festival meant room to roam and make new friends!

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Canyon tried to join the herd. Maybe he should have worn antlers instead of his bison hat.

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I love places where I feel safe letting Canyon, River and Raven have space and freedom to explore on their own.

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I also don’t care about mud or dirt. That is part of the beauty of hand me downs and buying used clothes and boots. You don’t have to worry that your kid just destroyed something expensive! I let my kids dress cute and splash in the mud!

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This was by far the best outing we have had as a family without the safety net of the stroller. It gives me hope that someday I will be able to take all three of them out by myself! Sigh. That is a long way off but a Mom can dream!

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Cold Temps But Warm Syrup!

Sunday we ventured out into the chill for one of our favorite traditions, The Maple Syrup Festival at North Park Village Nature Center!

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Saturday was a good 12 degrees warmer so I bet the crowds were huge then, but Sunday was about 26 degrees and an inch of snow had fallen that morning so we rewarded for our cold hardiness with room to roam and not having to shove people out of the way to keep tabs on our fast moving children.

Our friends Kelly, Letham, Owen and Viv joined us too!

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Canyon loves it when they fire up the big outdoor stove so he wanted to sit and watch them make the syrup.

And River and Raven wanted to lick the syrup! River would have just sucked down the whole test tube if we had let her. Syrup junkie!

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We made little necklaces. I managed to let River decorate hers without also decorating her face. I might question the wisdom of letting children draw with Sharpies. But all well that doesn’t end up permanently on my child’s face.

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It was also a great day to watch the trails…

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Preserving My Sanity

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This fall I started exploring some new forest preserves and wild spaces in Chicago. Fullerton Woods Forest Preserve was near enough to Canyon’s school that I could drop him off in the morning, drive to the cheap gas Costco in Melrose Park and still have time for a good walk in the “woods”. I use the quotation marks because while I get trees and sky and the Des Plaines River I also get roads and traffic. I do my best to pretend I am alone.

This forest preserve is also on the way to Loyola Medical Center where my mother was. It was the perfect spot to stop and ground myself before my visits. It was hard to see her in the Intensive Care Unit and taking a moment from myself before my visits was a wise, wise choice.

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