What’s the motto with you?

In the early, emotional, confusing, chaotic weeks of life with Norah A. Babysaurus, I bought and started reading Organized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living by Tsh Oxenreider, desperately seeking some way to bring peace and order back to our lives.

Oh, how I laugh at that me.

Because her methodology for simple living is based on living with intention — that is to say, everything you say, do, or add to your home is focused on bringing you closer to a core set of principles and goals — Oxenreider suggests that you develop a family purpose statement that clearly identifies those core values. Makes sense.

So when Keith and I finally had our very first baby-free outing to celebrate our eighth anniversary (eighth!) in July, we used it as an opportunity to talk about what kind of family/life we want to build. After eight years of marriage, Keith and I are completely on the same page when it comes to our core values. Neither of us was surprised that it turned out to be an easy conversation, but I’m glad we took the time to have it. If there’s one lesson I’ve learned after eight years and a baby, it’s that it is better to know absolutely what’s on another person’s mind than it is to make assumptions.

At the end of our discussion, we were left with a hodge-podgey list of adjectives and ideals ready for me (the wordsmith) to condense into a tangible thing.

The concept of a purpose statement was a good first step at tying together our thoughts, feelings, and vision, but we wanted something even shorter and sweeter, something easy to remember, something that could live at the very heart of our home. Something that I could hand letter on canvas board and hang on the wall. Something that I wouldn’t have the urge to revise for style and mechanics every six months.

Something like a motto.

I picked at it on and off for several weeks. And then the Olympics came along and we were obsessed and then I had it! The whole point of having a family motto was to have a few timeless words that would inspire each of us to work toward the ideal that we had envisioned together, like Olympic athletes striving for the gold. Faster, higher, stronger. After a little concentration and creative license with comparatives, our family motto was formed, ready to be inscribed on canvas and prominently displayed — which I finally got around to starting (and finishing) a whole week ago.

Kinder, Curiouser, Creativer

There it is. So what does it mean?

Kinder: We try to cultivate a loving, open, and supportive environment for friends and family. We believe in the power of treating others — people, pets, and planet — as we would choose to be treated.

Curiouser: We encourage self-directed learning and exploration. When we have questions, we search for the answers. Each of us deserves the opportunity to learn for ourselves.

Creativer: We believe that creative thinking and reasoning is as important as analytical thinking and reasoning. We are happiest when we’re free to make, invent, and innovate.

Kinder, curiouser, creativer.

It’s now hanging on our living room wall where we can see it every day: when we leave, when we come home, when we’re editing photos, crocheting, feeding Norah A. Babysaurus, or watching a movie. Ready to guide us to a more peaceful, orderly life.

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Thanksgiving

Turkey

It’s eight o’clock in the morning, and the house is all but silent. Keith is still asleep in bed. He’ll still be sleeping an hour from now, I’m sure. The oven clicks every now and then, trying to stay hot enough to work its science on the batch of cranapple baked oatmeal I’ve just put in. The clacking and clanking as I put away dishes must be loud to someone sitting quietly in another room, but there’s no one, and I hardly notice the noise.

It’s Thanksgiving morning, and when I look at the clock, I can’t help but think about the sounds and smells of a childhood that doesn’t seem so terribly distant, although by the calendar it’s long gone. By the time I’d wake up in the morning, the kitchen and living room would already be alive — although mom was the only one awake. She’d have the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade tuned in, and she’d take a break every now and then from her dinner preparations to enjoy a marching band or dance performance, to see her favorite balloon characters.

The sweet, yeasty scent of toasted bread was prevalent, as she diligently cubed an entire stack of toast to make the stuffing. Dad putting down his cup of coffee to help lift the turkey into the oven. The scraping of her knife as she peeled potatoes for boiling and mashing. All of us joking about eating the pies for lunch. And then, after hours and hours and hours, it was ready: turkey, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, dinner rolls and pumpkin pie — that’s the Thanksgiving dinner I know. Simple. Unfussy. Homely, even.

Which was fitting for us. Except for a few occasions, it was always just the four of us on Thanksgiving — and every other holiday of the year. With our family so spread out across the country, and my dad in the Navy, it wasn’t usually possible for us to travel to anyone else, nor for anyone to travel to us. Without aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents to play with, my brother and I would keep ourselves occupied, maybe with quiet play in our rooms, or a craft activity that mom encouraged, watching the parade in the living room with a bowl of cereal, and helping in the kitchen when we could.

So when I got married and we were expected to go to other people’s houses — per the in-laws’ family traditions — it was a foreign and frustrating thing. For almost all of our Thanksgivings together, I’ve stood in a nearly silent house on Thanksgiving morning: the kitchen cold and dark, the TV switched off, nothing to do or make or play. Worrying about what time to leave, what to wear, will we remember everything we’re supposed to bring? And Thanksgiving never really feels like Thanksgiving.

But with children entering the picture, it seems like the perfect …leverage to start making new traditions. Unless we move halfway across the globe, we’ll never have the kind of Thanksgiving that’s most familiar and normal to me. But I can get used to something different. I can get used to children stumbling out of their bedrooms in the morning to the smell of cranapple baked oatmeal baking in the oven. I can be content with their questions and curious looks and giggles, knowing that they’re looking forward to some craft project or game to play or songs to sing (and helping to taste-test this year’s assigned dish) before it’s time to go to Grandma and Grandpa’s house for dinner.

Or whatever. I know that traditions are most often shaped by necessity and circumstance rather than sheer will. But after seven years of “What are we doing for Thanksgiving?” I think it will be nice to settle into something routine and familiar, something that — one day, when it all changes — this child will reminisce about the old familiar sights and sounds and smells, and wish that Thanksgiving could just be the one he or she had come to know as normal.