Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Joyful Chaos

For those of you who have read the Harry Potter books, you may remember with horror or fondness--depending on your inner tolerance for chaos--the Weasley's house, "The Burrow."

Coming back to my parents' home in Pennsylvania felt like coming home to The Burrow. My parents live in a large white farmhouse, which looks a bit like one of the large barns the area is known for. As you pull up, you're struck by something odd: tin foil in all the windows. Actually, it's emergency survival blankets, shiny-side-out. It reflects the sunlight and keeps the house cooler, because in an old farm house you don't have central air-conditioning.

When you get inside, there's a big stone hearth in the living room with a wood-stove insert. A spinning wheel usually sits in the entryway beside baskets overflowing with wool and yarn, but knowing how much Cimorene would love the spinning wheel--and not wanting any Sleeping Beauty instances--my mom took that upstairs. She also moved the loose wool, but she left several baskets of yarn, which Cimorene has enjoyed tying in knots.

My mom is a country-style decorator, using things like frilly gathered curtains (which she made, of course), quilts, and those baskets of yarn that I mentioned. Supervising it all are the bears. This happens to be one of Cimorene's favorite parts about my parents' house. There are teddy bears everywhere.

My mom has collected Boyds Bears for as long as I can remember; she always gets one from my dad for Christmas, and sometimes she gets them for other occasions as well. There are bears on the mantle dressed in overcoats and mufflers. There are bears in little summer dresses. There's one next to me now with tweed pants, a tan, chenille sweater, and a black bow-tie. There are bears on the bookshelf, bears on top of the entertainment center, bears on the piano. There are bears in baskets, bears on corner shelves, windowsills, and even one upstairs in a bathrobe. Including her little Boyds figurines, I'm counting 57 in the living room alone.

It's not all country-style, however. The corner shelf is filled with bears on the bottom, but the top shelf is full of asian items, and a Taiwanese painted umbrella hangs from the ceiling above. Somehow, despite these things being completely different, they still seem to fit together.

It's not just the house that reminds me of The Burrow, though; it's the feeling. Joyful chaos. My mom tries really hard to keep everything clean and organized, but somehow between all of us kids (Nate, Neil and I are all home right now, and, of course, Cimorene, who makes more trouble than the rest of us combined) things just stay a little... well, exciting. Heh heh.

Poor mom.

I love it, though. It feels like home to me. As much as I would love my own home to be spotless all the time, it's a good reminder that I don't always feel comfortable in a perfectly decorated, perfectly spotless house.

Like my mother, I will probably always stress about how disorganized I am, or how crazy my house is. But I will also throw awesome parties where I make Chinese food or indestructible pinatas, and I will pick gallons of raspberries from the bushes in my backyard, and I will run my kids to all their activities, and I'll have a homemade windowseat in my bedroom where I can sit and read.

Being here is a good reminder for me of what I really want my home to be like. It doesn't have to be spotless. It just has to be a home. A little joyful chaos is what made Harry Potter fans fall in love with the Weasley's home. It's what will make my children love mine.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Favorite Kids' Books

I've been revisiting childhood as I read to Cimorene some of my favorite kids' books. While she may not yet appreciate the matter-of-fact style of the bizarre-yet-fun "Counting on Frank," or understand just what's so funny about "A Porcupine Named Fluffy," she certainly enjoyed the pictures in the book I got my dad for Father's Day a couple years ago, "Mary Had a Little Jam." Someday she'll even understand the wonderful absurdity of "A Little Pigeon Toad." And it won't be long before she'll join the many other little kids (and adults) who have cried and then smiled with the triumphantly simple book "Hug."

I also want to read her every "Little Critter" book ever written, as well as "Berenstein Bears," "Amelia Bedelia," "Magic School Bus," and so many others.

What are your favorite kids' books? I feel like sometimes I'm so in love with my old favorites that I'll miss the chance to find new favorites, so I'd love to hear some of yours.