Monday, May 31, 2010


Friends over this afternoon for a dinnertime visit. Kids in sprinklers. Playing on play set. Enjoying seeing each other after so many months break. Darkness falling on a summer-like evening. Goodbyes. Hugs and kisses.

I took Erin up and got her ready for bed ... jammies, brushed teeth, covers, cuddles, kisses.

Then Lanie. Closed bedroom door.

"Lanie, are you ready for goodnight hugs?" I asked.

"Not yet, but you can come in until I'm ready," she answered.

I walk in to see her quickly writing thanks in her thankful journal. We talked about the afternoon and she continued to write.

"Did you brush your teeth yet?" I asked.

"Not yet. If you want, you can go on out to do other things. I have a lot to write."

I leaned over to hug her and kiss her. Glad to see that thankfulness is so important that she wants to document it. Joy and peace in her sweet face.

"I love you! Goodnight!" she called out as I closed the door.

"I love you! Goodnight," I said.


One thousand gifts (760-777)


An unexpected act of kindness from a least expected source.
Hand picked strawberries delivered by a sweet almost 3 year old and his mama.
Field day.
Girls' slumber party ... watching Mary Poppins ... eating popcorn ... painting finger and toe nails.
A trustworthy friend.
Unwind time.
The picnic umbrella on the patio.
Sunkissed cheeks.
Hopes getting up.
Sunlight breathing through thick trees and lighting up a log home in the woods--and Lanie pointing it out to me.
Little frogs speckling the church entrance early Sunday morning.
Books in the mail.
Email reminders to be thankful for freedoms today by servant hearts who lived and died for its sake; reminders which take me to the first who died for my freedom.

Thank you, Lord.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The return of Super Surprise Friday

Our first official Friday of summer. I didn't mention to the girls we were starting Super Surprise Friday (SSF) this week, especially after yesterday was such a bomb day of three grumpy bears--I didn't want to make promises I wasn't sure I'd feel like keeping if the grumps went unchecked. But glad that each day brings new mercies, we had our hearts in the right place.

Before we left the house, I said, "Do you know what day of the week it is?"

"Friday," Lanie said.

"Do you know what that means?" It has been almost a year since we made a big deal out of Fridays. I received a blank look. "Super Surprise Friday."

The special day in its third year where summer Fridays hold surprise--be it a treat, an outing, a play date, or a special gift. Whatever it is, it's a surprise; and whatever it is, we find a reason to be thankful for it. They tried to get me to tell them what today's surprise was, but I didn't.

I told the kids we needed to go by a bookstore in a mall because I was in search of a book. We arrived at the "mall" in our area, a step back in time by about twenty-five years. Yes, time travel is possible in these parts. We entered the mall by the store I secretly planned on taking them. It's one of those inflatable places, with a moon bounce slide, a moon bounce ball pit and a very large moon bounce for jumping. Lanie went to a birthday party at this place a number of months ago. She recognized the mall and the store immediately.

"Can we show Erin the jumping place?" she asked.


"Look, Erin. I got to go to a birthday party here once. It was a lot of fun!" We walked inside.

"Guess what?" I began. "This is your Super Surprise Friday!"

The kids took off their shoes. We were the only ones there. And we bounced our hearts out.

(Then I got my book.)

The last box of diapers?

My goal was to potty train Erin over the winter school break because I'd have three weeks of no place to be and days dedicated to training. It didn't quite work out that way what with the fever, pink eye and head lice that blew through our house. Ugh. So I decided to wait until the end of the school year, which is now.

I am using the reward (bribery) route: if you wee-wee you get 2 M&Ms. If you poop, you get 5 M&Ms.

We started yesterday. No diapers. Juiced that kid up. She didn't potty. And in typical Courtney fashion, I found myself opening the bag of M&Ms and sneaking a few at a time for myself when the kids weren't looking.

Erin, you need to use the potty before I finish off the bag!

We had success before bedtime (!) just before I diapered her up for the overnight.

I've been diapering for the last seven and a half years, and now I'm nearly done. It goes so fast.

Book review: Battlefield of the Mind

I am drawn to other people's bookshelves. You can tell a lot about a person by what they read. At a friend's house, I asked if I could borrow two books. One of them was called Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyers.

One evening I gave it a quick perusal, and I'm so glad I did. After a few pages into the book, I ended up returning it to my friend right away and went out to buy my own copy. I think I underlined half the book. I finished it the other day, and I plan to reread it. What a gem.

I lingered over her thoughts like:

"Bad attitudes are the fruit of bad thoughts."

"Our thoughts are silent words that only we and the Lord hear, but those words affect our inner man, our health, our joy and our attitude."

And how deeply rooted we become in whatever it is we are thinking frequently. "If we meditate on what is wrong with ourselves or others, we will become more deeply convinced of the problem and never see the solution."

Most often, I read non-fiction books regarding parenting, virtue, education, or biography. So it was new territory for me to read something that encouraged me to examine my own thoughts and really question the productivity and fruit of my thinking.

Each page drew me closer and closer to understanding how my inner chatter affects my perception of my environment. And in a surprisingly new way. Like with a long-lasting trial, she suggests that we may find ourselves in these situations because God is doing a good work in us.

She writes of how the Israelites took forty years to make an eleven-day trip. She demonstrates how God used their journey to prepare them for what was ahead, but she also pointed out how their "wilderness mentality" kept them from reaching the Promised Land. Great thoughts to mull over.

She even has a Battlefield of the Mind for Kids. And now, so do we.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Field day

We wondered if it would happen, this day Lanie had been training for since kindergarten: field day and the big race.

This week, battling bellyache and vomiting, I hoped the 24 hours leading to field day would be clear. A phone call from a neighbor prepared me for what I'd find as I hauled kids and cooler into the driveway: my car had been ransacked among many cars on our street during the night. Fortunately, kids' music is not on the thieves' playlist. I suspect they left my car empty handed. We loaded up and went off to school.

I manned the station for "drip, drip, drop", which is a lot like "duck, duck, goose" but with water. Erin was a huge trooper, keeping by my side. Lanie informed me she came in first for dribbling at another field day station. But it was after face painting and popsicles, and with great anticipation, we headed to the big field for the Big Race.

I sat near the finish line with camera in hand, snapping, snapping and cheering, cheering. Lanie informed me well beforehand that cheering her on would make her run faster. When I pulled the camera away from my eyes to see the finish line crossing, my cheers went from, "Go, Lanie, go!" to "GO, LANIE, GO!" I still feel my heart swell for her. She came in third and proudly showed me her ribbon.

"I really wanted to win an award!" she said. "Let's call Daddy."

The rest of our day: sprinklers in the back yard, homemade ice cream sandwiches, reading under a shady tree--all three of us cuddled, a library run for more Beatrix Potter books, play time at the play set, a neighborhood bike ride/walk, and ending most merrily with manicures/pedicures, popcorn and Mary Poppins--us girls under covers in one big bed for a slumber party.

"I want to live in Mary Poppins," Erin said. "Can we go there?"

"Thanks, Mom," Lanie said as the clock ticked towards ten and her eyelids grew heavy. Cuddled against me, one on each side, a perfect end to a really great day.

Monday, May 24, 2010

One thousand gifts (748-759)

748. Beatrix Potter.
749. Limited edition coconut coffee.
750. Recitals.
751. Thank you picture from a tender-hearted student.
752. Car honking next to me and the smiling face of a good friend waving.
753. Angry onions.
754. Happy girl.
755. Ice cream sandwiches.
756. Friends for dinner.
757. A pool invite.
758. Friends to make plans with.
759. The last week of school.

I never imagined when I started this thankful journey that it would work and weave its way through my consciousness. That I would become acutely aware of so many things and my thanks for them. Besides noticing a pattern of thankfulness for kids, chocolate, and friends, I have also learned that some days, happiness isn't jumping out of the margins at me. And that even on those days, I can be thankful. Maybe one day I'll work up the courage to share thankfulness in heartache.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Bugle Boys Duet

Recital. Lanie told me about the two songs she'd play, telling me that one was so beautiful when her teacher accompanied her on the duet. She'd mimic the sound her teacher played while she rehearsed her part.

"You're going to love it, Mom!"

We had front row seats in the little studio. An "L" shape of kids sitting prim and proper in the quiet room, waiting for their show to begin. Parents gathered, waiting too. Each child took a turn to play two songs; they'd approach the audience and bow and take their seat when finished.

At Lanie's turn, I heard the familiar chords of Balloons for Sale and smiled. A wrong note, momentary hesitation, I held my breath, and she continued on like a pro. Her teacher joined her for Bugle Boys Duet. I heard her teacher playing the sounds that Lanie always "doot, doot, doot-ed" as she practiced her own part. I heard the notes playing that my daughter loved so much, heard beauty through her ears, finally with my own. Honestly, if there hadn't been other families in that room, I would have cried embarrassingly at witnessing this tender insight into my child's heart.

Fabulous spring evening, wonderful performances, followed by cookies and cake in the backyard.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Stream of consciousness

Birds serenading outside of my window at 5 a.m. (unlike J's who have total disregard for sleep at 4:30 ... must have something to do with getting worms) ... cute little pies here that I want to try making some time ... piano recital tonight and butterflies in Lanie's tummy turning her into a bear and bundle of nerves ... sunny days and open windows, patio umbrellas and lunches at the table outside ... trying new lipsticks with kids in tow ... shoe shopping and Lanie's first pair of heals ... pain au chocolat (read: crescent rolls with dark chocolate tucked inside and then baked) for French lessons ... gleeful greetings and fancy prancey feet ... little children who crave cuddles and kisses ... reading books in the library cuddled on the couch ... little books (thank you, Mrs. Potter, for your mice and rabbits) that fit perfectly into a 3 year old's hands ... piano music playing over and over ... blues and blues.

Tucking Lanie into bed last night, grumbles and fusses gave way to tears over nerves.

"My song sounds like a baby's song! Everyone else is playing something harder!" She named all kinds of piano terms her fingers itched to perform. "I don't want mine to be easy," she cried. Sobbed.

"It's only your first year, honey. The other kids have been taking lessons for many years. One day you'll play the harder pieces too," I tried to calm her. "Besides, it seems so easy because you've been practicing so hard. But I bet it didn't seem so easy the first time you tried it."

Her eyes stared off, remembering.

"How about we snip some herbs from our garden as a thank you to your piano teacher. Maybe you could draw a picture to go with them," I suggested.

"I could draw a piano," she said, smiling. Proof that the cure for everything is a thankful heart.

Somehow even in this stream, thankfulness overflows.

Monday, May 17, 2010

One thousand gifts (737-747)

737. The hot air balloon on the horizon in morning mist; and the two others rising above the treeline like silent giants as I rounded the bend.
738. Good news.
739. Good News.
740. Writer's block.
741. Book studies.
742. Breakfast clubs.
743. French lessons.
744. Pure love and joy in childhood friendships.
475. A heart-shaped cloud at sunset.
746. A family cookout with the in-laws.
747. Shane.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The very good day of the spring program

Lanie sat in my lap this afternoon, all lean and lanky seven and a half years of her. It took some maneuvering for her to get comfy. Her school's spring program was tonight and I knew she was looking forward to it.

"I can't believe you're going to be in second grade next year," I said.

"I know. I'm getting so big. Erin is getting really big too. I was wishing you would have another baby, or that we'd at least stop growing," she said.


I remembered to charge up the video and digital camera batteries today so that I wouldn't be without documentation of the first grade gigs in the spring performance. At the Christmas performance, I totally forgot my camera. At a ballet recital, my battery was dead. Oh, and then there's the beach vacation when I hit every Radio Shack to find a replacement battery because my camera battery wasn't charged. It's taken a few times, but finally, LESSON LEARNED.

When the video camera battery was charged, I was finally able to see what was saved in memory. Lanie, Erin and I sat in full attention of them singing happy birthday to me last September, of Halloween costumes and trick-or-treating, a song and dance routine that was shut off when they started picking their noses to the tune of "If you're happy and you know it", and Erin's third birthday ...

She got a Sweetie Bell My Little Pony house and pony. She had misplaced her beloved Sweetie Bell many weeks before and we couldn't find it. When I saw that gift, it had her name all over it. Watching her open that present on film was so enjoyable. I could see her reliving each moment, the anticipation of pulling off the gift wrap, the recognition of something wonderful, and munchkin shrieks, "Sweetie Bell! Sweetie Bell!" Like finding a long-lost friend.

In May of 2010, she turns from the camera to me and hugs me hard. "Thank you so much for getting me Sweetie Bell."


I got a front row seat as kindergarten and first grade took the stage to perform, and Lanie beamed when she saw me--her biggest fan and personal paparazzi. They did an instrument and song number, recited a Bible verse and a poem by Robert Louis Stevenson, The Swing.

As we left the spring performance, Lanie asked if we could get ice cream. So we drove to a nearby spot for some scoops. Sharing spoons of lemon custard, cookie dough, cotton candy and tin roof. Some with rainbow sprinkles and whipped cream. Clock ticking towards 9 p.m. Giddy kids, warm temps, summer calling, memories being made. I think of the thankful journal journey started as a list back in September, and I find it overflowing spontaneously from my every-single-day.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The chocolate fix

Early doctor appointment. Nice guy. Sits down to talk to me about findings and cysts.

"I started drinking coffee over the winter," I said.

"One in three women develops cysts from caffeine," he explained.

"Should I give up coffee? It's only one cup a day," I wondered out loud.

"I wouldn't give it up," he said. I was starting to like him, until ...

"I do eat a lot of chocolate. Insane amounts of chocolate. Like if there was a chocolate support group, I'd be in it!" I started to chuckle at myself.

He looked at me dead on. And that's when I stopped liking him. "That's your problem. Chocolate is worse than coffee."

Come again? What about flavonoids and antioxidants? Little did I know when I woke up this morning, that my doctor would suggest I give up chocolate. The sonogram tech looked at me sympathetically when my eyes bugged, "Coffee I can do without, but I totally get what you mean about chocolate!"

"Take lots of vitamin E. We'll give you a list of approved brands, and we'll see you in six months," he walked off.

I called Shane.

"The good news is good news! The bad news is, I think I have to give up chocolate," I said.


"I thought you already gave up chocolate ..." Because laughter wasn't bad enough.

"Um, yeah. Thanks for the reminder."

Monday, May 10, 2010

One thousand gifts (716-736)

716. This day.
717. Pain au chocolat with my girls and Denise.
718. Dress shopping for a recital.
719. Great school days.
720. Strong breezes.
721. Shrinking tumors.
722. Hugs.
723. Sidewalk chalk.
724. Cuddles and kisses under a shady tree.
725. Backyard lunges. With weights.
726. Blogging.
727. Chubby pencils.
728. Market umbrellas.
729. Coffee.
730. Ice cream sundaes with whipped cream and sprinkles and the look on Erin's face when it's placed in front of her.
731. A handmade card from Erin, with people drawings of her family and flower stickers for my garden. "Happy Valentines Day!" she told me.
732. Heated car seats on cold and windy days.
733. Running.
734. Whispers between a dad and a daughter.
735. Herbs in my garden to give away.
736. Homeschooling Lanie and Erin.

Saturday, May 8, 2010


A delivery truck pulled up into the driveway this morning. I thought to myself, "Good grief, have I ordered something and forgotten about it?" The package was addressed to me, but I didn't recognize the sender.

I should have heeded the instructions. Enormous chocolate covered strawberries as big as the wonderment of my children's wide eyes. Enjoyed by all. Other "unforgettable gifts" ...

Outside on a gorgeous sunny day; tulips gifted from a friend's garden for my tabletop.

The view from under the umbrella; the season's first best lemon iced tea; packed lunches and dining al fresco.

Playset; balloon drawing on the driveway; and one really happy mom.

Happy Mother's day!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A mother

She is kind of like a living legend, this mom who found out last June she had cancer nearly all throughout her body. I hadn't met her, but heard of her through prayer requests and updates, scheduling meals for her family, and wondering. Until this week when she sat in the sanctuary to watch the school performance.

One of the women I volunteered with at the co-op struck up a conversation with her ... one I had wanted to have but didn't know how to start. I'm glad she was bold and asked how this mom was doing, and I stood and listened as she described how the tumors in her belly had been shrunk away from radiation. I listened as she explained the ones in her lungs were also shrinking. And one tumor going from ten to six centimeters. She explained the number of treatments she's had and how tired she gets and how thankful she is for meals sent to her so she can feed her family (Six kids? Or is it eight?). She talked about other side effects and I admired her measured words and peace.

I offered to help her out to her car as a family had dropped off a meal for them. She accepted my help, but first wanted to swing by a classroom to tell her son (who was shadowing a class) where his lunch was. I stood in the doorway as she spoke. Her son, then, got up from his chair to thank her and give her a hug. There was a beautiful unhurriedness in their embrace and I felt so blessed to witness this.

We walked out to her car and she thanked me for the help ... thanked me for asking about her ... and I wanted to thank her for being so strong, so faithful, so loving. I wanted to thank her for her great witness and peace. I held out my hand to her and told her my name. Her handshake was firm and intentional. And me, changed.
The rest of that day I couldn't shake the image of mother and son--frequently fighting off tears. I felt an odd empowerment over all the worthless, stupid junk that nips and bites at me and normally taunts my thoughts. I wanted to bite it back--all of it--shake it off, stomp on it ... because none of that stuff really matters.

But more than that, I wanted to hug my kids.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Many uses for strawberry syrup

A couple of weeks ago, I did a quadruple batch of strawberry jam, but only one of the batches actually set. The other three were runny. I tried remaking a few of the jars, and they jelled up, but because the remake required extra sugar it seemed like they were too sweet (and lost their fresh and light strawberry flavor). These days, we're finding uses for strawberry syrup.

Strawberry syrup is good for drizzling over ice cream or plain yogurt. It's also good for dipping biscuits or waffles. These days, I'm adding it to smoothies.

Smoothies with strawberry syrup

Some plain yogurt (plain for less overall sugar intake; or use vanilla yogurt)
a banana
strawberry syrup
frozen blueberries (or a handful of ice cubes)

Put all in the blender and blend until smooth.

(One of my kids has got poopin' issues again, so this morning I snuck a few prunes into the mix. Not even detectable if processed until smooth.)

Monday, May 3, 2010

One thousand gifts (674-715)

674. Friends who generously share chocolate.
675. Friends who generously make food runs on rainy days.
676. Chipotle chicken sandwiches.
677. Friends who generously offer to share their last dual pretzel/cracker.
678. Sunny mornings.
679. A husband who bites the bait of "how is your day?" and returns with "how's your day?" and then listens to my rant and offers suggestions, even though he's super busy.
680. Glimpses of Renee. How I wish she lived next door. Fortunately, I hear there are some great chocolate shops in her area. So the drive is doubly worth it.
681. Enormous strawberries.
682. Ballet flats.
683. Meditations on peace and the plenty of occasions that have helped reinforce that it is indeed a pursuit.
684. Wednesday playdates.
685. An invitation into someone's grief--and the resulting friendship that has grown these past three years.
686. Some of the richest gifts aren't found in the happiest days.
687. Songs that make me cry.
688. Having to sail out deeper to let down a net.
689. A good book. Currently reading Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyer.
690. Garden gift from a neighbor.
691. Wine under stars.
692. Firepits.
693. Hold-me hugs from a 3 year old.
694. Forever whispers with a child.
695. Gooey smores.
696. Piano recitals and fancy dresses.
697. Impromptu visits from favorite friends.
698. This very good life and abundant blessings.
699. A friend who follows me doing walking lunges across the yard. And back.
700. Better thoughts.
701. Visuals in my pursuit of peace. Bird on a branch.
702. Windows open.
703. Laughter.
704. A friend I can get teary-eyed with.
705. Tulips.
706. Races to the playset.
707. Lunch guests.
708. Free books.
709. Sharing spoons at Rita's. Cotton candy, cookies and cream, vanilla with choc. sprinkles, and fruit fusion.
710. The sound of cards shuffling.
711. Shorts and flip flops.
712. Sprinklers.
713. A cool house on a hot day.
714. Pretending it's Christmas with the My Little Ponies.
715. Tea with lemon.