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Little by little

Updated: Sep 26, 2020

Today I swept one corner of the kitchen at 8 AM, and another corner at 9:30. Maybe I’ll sweep the other two before bed.

Today I swept one corner of the kitchen at 8 AM, and another corner at 9:30. Maybe I’ll sweep the other two before bed. I have clean laundry that was washed one day, dried the next, and pulled from the drier the next. Little by little.

(My life is much different than when I lived in Costa Rica and did not have a drier, and bolted at the sound of rain to pull clothes in from the line.)

Today I put four addresses on envelopes for a campaign I’m working on to make a change at Valparaiso University, my alma mater. I’ve written 29 letters, addressed and stamped 16 envelopes and put them in the mail. Well, now I’ve addressed four more. Little by little. (Note in the photo below how I also clean the house little by little.)

I’m not exactly sure how many others have written letters, painstakingly pushing through the hand cramps (who writes by hand anymore?), and I know that our efforts over the past week, big as they might seem in the moment, are but a tiny step in a long process of achieving our goal.


About five minutes into writing this post, my four-year old came out of his room to ask me a question. This is our new bedtime routine: brush teeth, use the bathroom, put on pajamas, read books, say a prayer, I sit for 1 minute in the chair (“1 minute” means the time it takes for his index finger to “fill up” like a battery charge symbol on a laptop, or the “next episode” box on Netflix). And now, the routine ends with “I have a question for you.”

Tonight the questions were most certainly to postpone bedtime. But the point is that he goes to bed “little by little.” And I type this post “little by little.”


One of the books my eldest loves to read before bed is the one whose photo is at the top of this post: Poquito a Poco, by Helen Roxana Valverde Limbrick. It’s from the Costa Rican National Distance Learning University Publishing House (EUNED), generously shared with us by a friend who works there. It is a simple book, with very few words on a page. It shows how a mango seed grows from large kidney-bean-shaped ball of potential into a mango tree, over the course of many days, nights and seasons, through sunlight, rain, pests and pollinators.

Valverde Limbrick points out that our biggest dreams come to fruition through both big and small efforts. As we are steadfast in our projects, they grow from ordinary every day moments to extraordinary accomplishments that make us happy and proud.

I love that my son loves this book. It’s also the only one that he lets me read to him in Spanish – he usually insists that Mommy speak and read in English and Daddy speak and read in Spanish. Except that I get to read Poquito a Poco in Spanish.


My son is learning how to use his “pincer grasp” at preschool. The children are practicing this by ripping paper, and by squeezing clothespins with letters of their names glued to them, to practice spelling their names, and also, as the teachers pointed out, to strengthen their fingers for one day holding a pencil correctly. I was astounded, as I have been at most of the milestones my sons achieve through babyhood. My son will one day hold a pencil because he practiced skills and gained strength, doing other things, little by little.

Oh, I forgot to mention that his younger brother has ripped the letters off of the clothespins, so the learning will now slow down even more until I have the time to glue them back on.

This same younger son of mine has been teaching himself to walk down the stairs (rather than crawl backward, feet first). I have held his hand a few times, and other times he hangs onto the wall. After a number of weeks, he seems to have mastered it. These boys (like all of us) do not one day wake up and hold a pencil or spoon, or get along with each other and share their toys. They learn a little each day, until one day they have made a crowning achievement. And then comes the next challenge.


I wasn’t going to publish this post today. I was going to publish a different one, a story my grandfather wrote that I would like to share with you. But the text needed some pruning and it was in the wrong format. I wanted to find a good photo. I also want to translate it. And I realized that the post I am dreaming about from my grandfather to you will come into being little by little. Like all the good things in life.

I suppose we are all learning this lesson in this year, 2020. Even as we hope for things to go “Warp Speed,” we have all slowed down a bit this year. We have noticed when the spring birds arrived to our lawn, and we are now noticing the wind and rain that bring in the fall. We stand still and watch the long sunsets and we grow yeast and bake bread. We take the long way home from the bike ride to the playground, because we can. We will get home. Little by little.

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