Giving Update

We found out our shoeboxes went to children in the Dominican Republic.

And Tania was with us when we got to give out our first Gift Bag to a newspaper vendor.

We said, “We have these gift bags if you’d like one,” showing him the ziplock.

He smiled a huge grin, and said, “That’ll work. That’ll work. God bless you.”

We do feel very blessed.

T-Time

Tania left day before yesterday, but everywhere I look around the house, I see reminders of her time with us. This is a good thing.

She dealt with flight delays on both ends of the trip with good spirit…and knitting.

Here are some of the highlights of our visit:

Our first full day was very relaxed, we hung around the house for the morning, then decided we had to go to The Red Lion Thrift Store/Consignment Shop. (Tania loves thrift stores, too, so I didn’t have to twist her arm to get her to agree.)

The females had a great time strolling around finding our various bargains. The Buster retired to the car after a quick look around and telling me, “There is nothing here of interest to me.”

A partial list of purchases included: A set of doll furniture, 18 new wine glasses, 4 bottles of finger nail polish, many glass jars/vases, a glass pitcher, new stuffed bear, and a wooden doll cradle. All were tickled by their treasures, and the store owners couldn’t have been nicer. Tania and I got to visit with Chris and C.J., Father and Son, and Yessa had her first opportunity to bargain. It was excellent.

Back at the homestead, Tania brought out the knitting needles and yarn she brought as gifts for everyone. Yessa was the first to learn, and she was quickly knitting on her own.

The beginning of knitting lessons.

The beginning of knitting lessons.

Yessa starts to learn.

Yessa starts to learn.

This could be fun.

This could be fun.

Showing her from the side wasn't as effective.

Showing her from the side wasn’t as effective.

Guiding her hands...

Guiding her hands…

...made all the difference.

…made all the difference.

Dad offers enthusiastic encouragement.

Dad offers enthusiastic encouragement.

We made easy meals together, and since T enjoys coffee as much as Buds and I do (Okay, maybe more. Actually, definitely more.), there were many, many, many, many cups of coffee consumed each day.

We put guests to work for their food.

We put guests to work for their food.

The wise woman even praised my cooking!

The wise woman even praised my cooking!

I was second to pick up the knitting, then Yessa and T convinced Buds it was his turn.

Yessa makes a slip knot.

Yessa makes a slip knot.

"Watch, Daddy."

“Watch, Daddy.”

Yessa helps Dad.

Yessa helps Dad.

Everyone had the chance to learn to knit.

Everyone had the chance to learn to knit.

Concentration...Buds to figure out the knitting...T to try and pretend she's left handed.

Concentration…Buds to figure out the knitting…T to try and pretend she’s left handed.

Friday night is Family Movie Night, and the children gave Tania several movie options to choose from. She picked Brave, which she had never seen before. It was a big hit, once again, for everyone.

Then on Saturday, we had big plans. Tania and I went to a class at the Y in the morning. That was fun to do together. Then, in the afternoon, we headed out to see Frozen. Bless Tania, she’d been listening to us sing the soundtrack for her whole visit, then she sat in a theater surrounded by children, and she even bought our tickets! Much conversation ensued about the drawbacks and merits of the movie.

Then, on to dinner at Pucketts before heading home.

Enjoying Pucketts after Frozen.

Enjoying Pucketts after Frozen.

I slept in the next morning, and I awoke to find that Buds and Tania had been practicing their latte art, as well as cracking each other up with repeating the line from Frozen: “Woo hoo! Big Summer Blowout!” It cracked them up every single time.

Pouring from increased height makes a difference.

Pouring from increased height makes a difference.

Buds and T learning to make coffee art...this is their impression of a Rorschach.

Buds and T learning to make coffee art…this is their impression of a Rorschach.

I left for choir practice, then the rest of the crew joined me at church later. It was a great service, especially to share with Tania, and gave us much to discuss about Evolution, Creationism, and Intelligent Design.

Then, we waved good-bye to Buds and Co. while they headed home and we headed to Nashville. Lest this be the most boring vacation in Tania’s history, we had to at least get some time downtown.

We toured Broadway, going in where we pleased, watching people, listening to the musicians on the street and in the bars, going up on the walking bridge, and talking about life.

Our first choice for lunch was Etch, but it was closed.

We tried to eat at Etch.

We tried to eat at Etch.

Second choice was Merchant’s, and we both loved it.

Tania's first blondie brownie. Yum...

Tania’s first blondie brownie. Yum…

After lunch, over which we lingered for at least 1 1/2 hours, we trotted back up Broadway to the Frist. They were installing a new exhibit on the first floor, so it was a short tour through the Rockwell exhibit, then on to our next adventure.

T loved this art installation outside The Frist.

T loved this art installation outside The Frist.

On the way home we decided to stop at McKays since we both love books, and Tania had several suggestions for ones she thought the kids and I would like. We picked up a bunch of knitting/crocheting books, as well as East of Eden, and My Side Of The Mountain. My ‘Mountain was Tania’s favorite book as a child, and Monkey and I both devoured it the day after she left.

Oh, and McKay’s has the coffee camper out front, so we got to have more coffee. So many wins!

The cute coffee camper outside McKays.

The cute coffee camper outside McKays.

It has been such a very, very long time since I’ve gone out with just a friend and me, not having a time deadline for being home, and I enjoyed myself so much. We got to talk about whatever we wanted to, and then it was such a pleasure to head home to see what Buds and the kids had been up to. The kids all enjoy Tania’s company, and especially Yessa loved giggling and talking with her. T’s last night here she and Buds had Yessa cackling so hard she almost upchucked. Good times.

Monkey awoke at 3:30 a.m. to be sure she got to tell Tania good-bye. Then had to nap for 4 hours in the late morning.

Monkey awoke at 3:30 a.m. to be sure she got to tell Tania good-bye. Then had to nap for 4 hours in the late morning.

Still many, many touristy parts of the town to show Tania on her next visit, but we got a great start. Thanks for making the journey, Tania!

Some Not So Unphotogenic Photos

Just to confirm that, unfortunate hair choices aside, I was…and remain…as cute as a bug.

Some of the pictures my mother might have chosen to send to Nonni and Poppi:

Fell out of my wagon the day before the picture.

Fell out of my wagon the day before the picture.

Wearing my brother's Army hat when he was home on leave.

Wearing my brother’s Army hat when he was home on leave.

Always a talker

Always a talker

And if you need to see another impressive indication of what my hair can do: There's a party in my hair, and YOU are invited.

And if you need to see another impressive indication of what my hair can do: There’s a party in my hair, and YOU are invited.

My hair is apparently my super power.

Amazing Matriarchs

Chris’ Mom, referred to as: Little Mother, Mom, Grandma Vermont and Nonni, is in Liberia, helping to lead a cadre of students from Williams College with Chris’ college wrestling coach.

My mom, referred to as: Babs, Grannie Babs, Mom, Grandma Iowa, and Pinkie, is in Mexico, doing mission work with a group of Methodists, including my aunt and uncle.

Pretty impressive role models for our kids…and us…and humanity.

Nonni ready to push off in the winter snow.

Nonni ready to push off in the winter snow.

Babs snuggling Buster despite recent shoulder reconstruction surgery.

Babs snuggling Buster despite recent shoulder reconstruction surgery.

Nonni and The Buster enjoying a stroll.

Nonni and The Buster enjoying a stroll.

Babs helping build the treehouse at Massadoah.

Babs helping build the treehouse at Massadoah.

The Gift Of Silence

I lost my voice on Sunday night. The cold I’ve been fighting for a couple days decided it would no longer be ignored, so it stole my voice. I feel completely fine, just no voice.

It’s now Tuesday morning, and though I can now talk above a whisper, I’m a little loathe to do so.

I’ve actually been listening so much more. The stretches of silence Tania and I shared on the drive to the airport were comfortable. I’ve been listening to the children at work and play, and I’m better able to hear what they are saying. When Buds and Zach worked in our basement yesterday, I was silent when I went down there to work, instead of feeling the need to announce myself with words as I normally would.

I’m a talker. I think through things with my mouth, either in verbalizing to myself or to Buds or to my friends. That probably won’t change long-term, but I am enjoying this respite from myself.

I’ve always had the gift of gab, but what a lovely gift this silence is.

Picture Perfect

There were two follow up conversations with friends about the Christmas post.

Todd wanted to understand more about the Gemignani Family Pictures I mentioned. I responded:

The Gemignani Family Albums is one of Chris’ parents’ truly inspired ideas. Every year they give each of us 5-7 pictures of family ancestors, pictures from when the siblings were little, pictures from before John and Mary had children, etc, and they write a story about the picture on the back. It’s been a great way to connect our children with the Gemignani family stories, as well as help me learn stories I might not otherwise know.

Todd agreed that was an inspired idea.

And then I got this cheeky email from April: Wafro? Seriously? Pics or it didn’t happen. 😉

Well, everyone, here you go:

Cute, sweet baby Jennie, playing the piano.

Cute, sweet baby Jennie, playing the piano.

No other way to put it...it's a wafro. The poodle and I were a matched pair.

No other way to put it…it’s a wafro. The poodle and I were a matched pair.

The comments I’ve gotten about the “Orphan Annie” photo:

Zach said, “Jennie, why did you let them use that picture?”

Monkey saw the photo and said, “Mom…there’s something wrong with your hair.”

In actuality, I love this picture. Frankly, it fully explains why I can’t care very much if the children have combed their hair or not when we leave the house. I wore the hair in that picture for 3 or 4 months, why do I care if Buster’s combed his mop.

Plus, that sweet girl in that curly mop was part of my path to get to the person I am today, and I like this person very much.

And I’m never getting a perm ever, ever again.

Reaching out…

One of the cool things about Nashville is the Homeless Newspaper. The Contributor is purchased by vendors for $.25 and then sold by the vendors for $1.00. It took me weeks of us living here to work up the courage to purchase our first one, and once we realized what it was, we’ve become regular contributors. Whenever we see a vendor we can purchase from safely, we do so. It’s a great little newspaper, and I love, love, love that it connects all of us in myriad ways. I also love that Monkey, my regular seat mate is the one paying the vendor and having that contact.

It felt like we could be doing more, though, and many months ago my friend, and former neighbor, Jill, had mentioned making “gift bags” to give to homeless people when you see them. Unless we went into D.C., we seldom saw homeless people in Reston, but in Nashville, thanks to The Contributor, they have become a semi-regular part of our lives here, which I am grateful for. So because some of the vendors we see often, we’ve now got gift bags to give them if they’d like one.

We’ve had the supplies for over a week, and finally made time this morning to put them together. Poor Monkey had been up approximately 2 minutes when we got started. She rose to the occasion gracefully. And in a near parenting-miss, The Buster didn’t want to help, and I almost MADE him, but then realized that would defeat some of the purpose. Well, no surprise, he just wanted to decide to help on his own schedule. He jumped in shortly after we got started, but he wanted his lego character to be the one doing the sorting. That lego guy was a great worker.

Ready to sort.

Ready to sort.

For future reference:

For future reference:

I looked at a couple different blogs for ideas on what to put in the bags. For this time around we put in:

A bottle of water
A pair of socks
Granola Bar
Fruit snack
Band-aids
Hand lotion
Baby Shampoo
Toothpaste
Toothbrush
$5.00 Target Gift Card
Pack of kleenex
Tin of mints

Hopefully some fun things, as well as some useful. And they are all items we would be glad to use, which felt important.

What goes next?

What goes next?

Fill up those bags.

Fill up those bags.

The goodies ready to hand out.

The goodies ready to hand out.

After we were done, and it only took about 10 minutes since we only made 6 bags for this first time, the children took some time to make up some stories together. Seeing the three of them laughing and creating together is one of my favorite things.

And some late morning story making.

And some late morning story making.

If someone had told me that frequent connection to homeless (or formerly homeless) people would be one of the things I would be grateful for in Nashville, I would have had no clue what they were talking about. Life certainly hands us unexpected gifts.

New Resource: Teaching Tolerance

I just learned about this website on Facebook, so I’m putting it here so Mia can learn about it too.

Teaching Tolerance.

There you go, Mia.

Always looking for ways to help our family understand and empathize with others in the world. We are so amazingly, amazingly, stunningly blessed.

And from Eddie at church, I learned about these books for future reading:

Parenting Beyond Belief – a collection essays on parenting kids without religion. Essays are grouped by subject, written by a diverse group – actors, doctors, teachers, etc. More anecdotal than instructional.

Raising Freethinkers – a great book with much more practical information.
The main thread of the book revolves around ideas like:
Encourage ever-wider circles of empathy.
Promote ravenous curiosity.
Teach engaged coexistence.
Encourage religious literacy.
Invite the questioning of authority, etc.

UU Update

It’s Official! Buds and I are now members at our new church in The South, and we’re thrilled. We went to the membership class yesterday, and we signed the book.

I have such fond memories of the people we joined UUCF with, mainly Connie and Lars, so I look forward to seeing what our “joining class” will undertake at our new church home.

I did realize something about our recent UU Churches when The Buster and Yessa and I were sitting on the couch this morning.

At the Methodist Church growing up, we always had pews. In fact, all the churches I attended up until UU churches had pews. None of the UU churches we’ve visited, except for the one in Boulder, CO, have had pews. Oh, wait, maybe the other UU church here in town has pews. I forgot that.

Anyway, I realized how much I miss sitting in a pew with my crew. I have such fond memories of snuggling up to my mom during a church service, and chairs just don’t have that same snuggle-ability. It’s a little thing, but it does change the feel of the space.

Of course, you couldn’t hold an auction in the middle of your sanctuary if you had pews, so I understand the benefits.

Finally, I’m just tucking this in down at the bottom of this post, for my future benefit.

In July of 2012 I was named as the “Congregational Treasure” at our church. While that was certainly a kind thing, I was very touched today when I was searching the UUCF website for something else, came across the forgotten piece below, and realized that someone, probably Mary Lareau, took the time to add a note at the bottom that we had moved away. That seemed like such thoughtful, full-circle closure. My story at UUCF has ended, but we’re not forgotten.

Congregational Treasure

Jul. 17, 2012

If you’ve encountered a seemingly endless bundle of ideas, energy and enthusiasm at UUCF, it’s probably Jennie Gemignani. Most visible in her role as Auction chair the last two years, Jennie has also contributed lasting results for our Religious Exploration (RE) program and our 300+ children.

Jennie, along with Mia French, co-chaired the RE Committee from 2010-2012. Mia credits Jennie with spearheading the effort to bring RE teacher training to the digital age. Now, teacher materials, forms and other resources are all online and UUCF has “a YouTube video tour of the RE supply closet,” says Mia. Mia calls Jennie a “tremendous co-chair – so organized and efficient with innovative ideas and fearless optimism – such a great leader.” What’s even more remarkable about these contributions is that Jennie served as RE Committee co-chair while she also chaired the Auction – one of the most demanding volunteer roles at UUCF.

UUCF Executive Director Rich Sider says the UUCF Coordinating Team has been impressed with Jennie’s energy and commitment to keep improving the Auction. “Every year she would look for new ways to bring in more people and more Auction items. We have been so lucky to have someone with Jennie’s abilities leading the Auction team,” says Rich. This year’s co-chair, Marlo Nash, calls Jennie a great leader and mentor. With the Auction and RE Committee stints behind her, we can look forward to finding out where Jennie’s talents will land next. Wherever that is, UUCF will be lucky to have her.

Editor’s note: Jennie and her family moved to Nashville in 2013.

– See more at: http://uucf.org/jennie-gemignani/