Monday, May 30, 2011

One thousand gifts and still counting (1729-1780)

The Goodyear Blimp across a backyard sky

Coffee with Gina
Cleaning windows
A woman in Ohio
Heart cravings
A cheery wave from a neighbor

Board games
Bedtime hopes
Her voice over the microphone
Hope achieved
Fear conquered

Sunny skies
Field day
Dodge Ball
The smiles on faces of friends made over three years

Paths crossed
New ventures
Bittersweet goodbyes
Raspberry chocolate truffle flavored coffee

The best group of second graders I've ever met
Being the class mom to lead activities
Hoffman's ice cream to celebrate
Shared tastes of lemon sorbet, cotton candy, tin roof
The season's first splashes through the sprinkler

Sunlight and shadows across the floor as she plays
A bird's nest in the tree
A first strawberry from the garden
Library trips
Book reading on the couch

Summer's yawn and stretch
Weeds to pick
Coneflowers rising
Relief and rest
Smells of charcoal grills

Great songs and a church band that plays loud enough that I can't hear myself shouting
Lanie's smile
Erin loving me best, forever, enough to marry me--until Daddy comes along
Hugging my niece
Squinty eyes like half moons

Holiday cookout
The ice cream truck
A tasty red wine
Second chances
Family love

Giddy girls and puppy love
M&Ms in a dish, just like I remember
Longer days
David and Anita

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Fa, fa, fa

Erin was in a bubble bath. Lanie was in the shower. Erin had an assortment of colored foam letters and numbers. She covered them in suds and asked Lanie to guess what was under the suds.

"It's a number," Erin said.

"Nine?" Lanie guessed.



"Nope." Erin offered a phonetic clue, "Fa, fa, fa ..."





"I can't guess, Erin. Just show me," Lanie said.

Erin washed it off and revealed the number three. Because when you're four, you still say "free."

Fa, fa, fa.

Friday, May 27, 2011


Allergy season kicked in full force for me this week. Generally runs this week, next week, maybe one more. I became acutely aware of this back in the days when Shane and I would do charity bike rides ... always on some farmy, grassy plain; always around Memorial Day. My eyes would swell shut and I'd sneeze anytime I spent more than five minutes outside.

Some years are better than others. However, that might be related to the time I stay inside during these weeks, enjoying iced tea and air conditioning.

Even Erin and Lanie have been sniffling and sneezing. The girls thought they had a cold. I suggested it might be allergies.

The past few days, I've been outside. Last night after dinner, I sat on the patio reading a book while the girls skipped through sprinklers. When it was time to get the kids ready for bed, my eyes were itchy and bloodshot. I rubbed them.

"I think you've convinced the kids they have allergies," he remarked.

Insert puzzled eyebrow raise.

"I'm serious," he continued. "I don't have allergies because I believe I don't have allergies."

I laughed.

"Then I believe I'm going to have a baby!"

How could I resist?

Out of context

When I tie my identity to this world, my job, what others think of me, if I am not tethered to or held up by Christ the Cornerstone, I am dangerously vulnerable to weakness and wounding. When Jesus is my compass point, I find Him completely out of (and within) context. He permeates every part of life.

Writing today at 66 Books.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The first day of summer vacation

I had to laugh yesterday. After a full morning of field day activities, a packed lunch, a drive for ice cream, sprinklers and other fun, as the afternoon lazed toward dinner, Lanie says, "I'm bored."

On our first full day of summer vacation, I awoke to her big blues staring into my face to wake me up for breakfast. I promised pancakes. Luckily, I had buttermilk. I included a side of super plump blueberries and a cup of milk.

I enjoyed a morning cup of coffee. Then Lanie produced two bottles of nail polish: a shiny purple base and a multi-sprinkle topper. During the school year, she's not allowed to wear nail polish on Academy days. But now, IT'S SUMMER. Two coats of base and a super sprinkle top coat.

The household breathed easier this morning.Cuddles. Book read alouds. Changing Polly Pockets clothing so many times--I had no idea we had so many.

Getting the day rolling, I tidied rooms and vacuumed, pulled out Lanie's backpack to empty it. Finished school books and one we'll continue to use over the summer as it transitions into third grade lessons. Her uniform sweater. Her pencil box--I opened the lid covered in stickers of smilies and super job to view erasers, crayons, pencils with grips. I held onto the little sweater, these things, to imprint them in memory forever, these sweet elementary years.

I put the empty backpack on a high shelf in the closet and closed the door.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The pledge

Last night as I tucked Lanie into bed, she was full of hope for the last day of school.

"I hope they pick me!" she said--pick her to lead the school in saying the Pledge of Allegiance. "I always raise my hand, but I never get picked. I just know they'll pick me this time!"

Then she looked at me and asked, "Could you ask them to let me? This would be the last time."

Last time for the year. Perhaps indefinitely. We decided not to go back to the co-op next year because we aren't sure where we'll be living.

After she asked, she took it back just as quickly, "No, don't. Never mind. Don't ask."

But I would anyway. I would ask the ladies leading devotions if they might look where the second graders sit, and if Lanie's hand shot up, could they consider calling on her? It would mean so much.

I sat next to Lanie during the morning devotions, and without even posing the question, she was called out to come up to the microphone. She grasped my arms, her jaw set, her eyes a flurry of emotion. I think she would have disappeared if she knew how. I wondered if she'd refuse.

"Come on," I whispered. She followed me up to the front, and after the Latin recitation Pater Noster, she was handed the microphone. The collective we turned to face the flag. I stood behind her and as I placed my hand over my heart, Lanie's voice came through the speakers, clear as day. My eyes teared up.

She desperately fought to keep her smile from breaking open upon her face on the way back to her seat. Inside, down deep inside, I cheered and danced and high-fived.

"Why did you do that?" she asked me.

"Because," I said. Because I knew you wanted to; because I knew you needed to; because I knew you hoped for this.

This morning, she left the sanctuary a different person.

More than a few tears will fall in thanks for this. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Person, place or thing

Lanie and I played Mystery Garden today. It's kind of like Twenty Questions, in that you ask "yes" or "no" questions, but you only get fifteen tries. If you get a "yes", it doesn't count against you. A player selects a picture tile and the other player tries to guess what it's a picture of by looking at the big picture. If this doesn't make sense, go get your own game and read the directions. It's actually kind of fun, but mostly because you spend time with someone you super love.

At my house, this is what it sounds like.

Lanie: "Is it a person?"

Me: "No."

Lanie: "Is it a place?"

Me: "No."

Lanie: "Is it a thing?"

Me: "Yes."

She continues asking questions to narrow it down, each time being met with my "no." Finally, she runs out of question chances, which means I get to keep the tile. I show her the picture of a potted plant.

"It's a plant," she said.


"You said it was a thing," she continued.

"It is a thing."

"A plant is a plant, not a thing," she argued.

"A plant is a thing," I explained.

"No, a plant is a plant," she said.

I look at her with barely a smile, as I try to keep laughter from jumping out of my face. The smile grows until a bah-ha-ha slips out. Fortunately, she joined in and we had a good several minutes of giggles. The next time it was her turn to guess, she made sure to specify "plant" as a question.

"Can we play it again tomorrow?" she asked.

"You bet."

Monday, May 23, 2011

One thousand gifts and still counting (1696-1728)

This list was started last week when my breath went shallow and my chest felt heavy from change. I find that when my mind begins to open doors best left closed, I am better off damming the weak places with thanks.

Two pinks running through the grass hope tree canopies tinker bell room hints of woodsmoke dreams imagination copper in the hills Christmas lights on crosses crossroads deafening night sounds faith Joel anticipation expecting the best promises across pages a dream in my heart straddling two worlds piano recital dressy dress last days of school unexpected guest for dinner trust hugs glittery ballet flats a blue sundress friends for the after party red wine later nights cheese and crackers dirty bare feet joy in worship anticipation

Friday, May 20, 2011

The whole world in his hands

A frenetic list of things to do; the ever-present anticipation of a call to show the house; my mind in a steady state of ready … set … These months I’ve felt so small, standing at a vast shore of things that are Beyond My Control. Water around me, I swayed in rhythm, and then waves came. When they knocked, I fell hard but got back up, choking, gasping. Nighttime tears, brute beasts of ignorance railing against the unknown.

Writing today at 66 Books

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Wish upon a star

Yesterday I visited with the doctor who oversaw the delivery of my two girls. I've known him now for over eight years, and I think he's a really great guy.

"I nearly cried thinking about you on my way out here," I told him. "You were one of the first to see my babies. I felt sad to think that that part of my life is over."

Oh, the swell of tears.

"I wanted more babies," I told him.

"I know," he said. He smiled.

I wiped tears.

"My husband turns forty-four today. He tells me he's too old for babies," I continued.

The doctor laughed, "He's not."

I know.

After dinner last night, I cut up four big slices of coconut cake and put a candle in his piece. A tiny and brightly colored blue star candle on a hint of a stick. I lit it and the girls and I sang happy birthday. He inhaled and hesitated over the candle until our song ended--and I watched and wondered as he blew it out if he'd wish for anything at all. The flame went out; a thin wisp of smoke reached up.

Even though it wasn't my birthday, my candle--I wished. I wished anyway.

Hold on

When I was growing up, there was no music. My sisters locked themselves behind closed doors listening to what my mom called drug music during the seventies. After they left, the house was silent.

When my mom died, I moved back in with my dad and was surprised to hear music in the house. He loved country and bluegrass. I felt kind of sad for him, all those years he didn't sing.

When I became a mom, I thought of the silence in my childhood home. This house would have music. But by Lanie's fourth year, we were both quickly outgrowing Laurie Berkner and The Wiggles.

I was happy to find Christian radio. The music is contemporary, positive. After dropping Lanie off at the co-op today, Erin sang along loudly and clearly to Toby Mac's Hold On.

And I felt good in my heart.

Monday, May 16, 2011

One thousand gifts and still counting (1680-1695)

1680. Rainbow pants.
1681. The Spring Program at the co-op, Lanie on stage singing, "Me, a name I call myself."
1682. Her smiles.
1683. Hoppity balls.
1684. Lunch with Marshall's mom.
1685. Country drives.
1686. Frozen chocolate bars.
1687. Lunch with Doris.
1688. Reggie.
1689. A good book to read.
1690. Little girls who can be little girls.
1691. Gifted measuring spoons.
1692. Dinner with Kristine.
1693. Rows of lettuce sprouting
1694. Lots of little green strawberries.
1695. The frog hanging out by the grill.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Erin's picks

If you asked Erin what books she likes, she'd tell you:

The Worrywarts by Pamela Duncan Edwards. Erin made me read this to her at least three times in a row. It's filled throughout with w's so that when you're finished reading, your lips feel like they got a big-time workout. She requests this one nearly every time we go to the library.

Always Listen to Your Mother by Florence Parry Heide. This is a fun one of a little boy whose mother only wants him to make friends with other children who always listen to their moms. A fun little twist. Cute for four year olds, even if the art is a little spooky.

The Story of a Fierce Bad Rabbit  by Beatrix Potter.

We love all her books and snagged the whole collection on eBay for Christmas. Erin is repeatedly drawn to this one. It makes me laugh because the fierce bad rabbit looks exactly like the sweet rabbit.

Life lines and the circle sun

When I drew the circle of the sun, I didn’t know the lesson would be for me. I placed the initial of her friend inside the circle, and drew lines radiating out: church, family, feelings, fun, activities, health. I showed her how giving someone so much importance affected other areas of her life. Hurt feelings, unforgiven, took its toll on how she interacted with others, how she felt about activities she once enjoyed, to even her health and the outbreak of headaches and tummy aches.

Writing today at 66 Books

Thursday, May 12, 2011

I took a picture of spoons

My friend Doris came over yesterday for lunch. It was a treat in itself to see her, because I think it's been about three years since we last visited. But then she brought treats for us. The girls got a Klutz book for playing string games like Cat's Cradle. Then Doris handed me a rectangular box and I pulled these out:

I gushed. The cutest measuring spoons ever. Little kitty handles. Paw prints. Meows and food bowls. Adorable. Today, the girls and I will be baking cookies and I know whenever I pull those spoons out, I will think of Doris.

Yeah, definitely making cookies today.

The new do: bangs, which I haven't had in about five years or more.

Monday, May 9, 2011

One thousand gifts and still counting (1651-1679)

1651. For bedtime truth talks with an 8 year old, and a glimpse into how she sees the world
1652. Answered prayers
1653. Thunderstorms
1654. Cool temps and slow-growing grass
1655. Panera Rewards cards
1656. Running hugs from a 4 year old
1657. Stripey jackets
1658. Tamed eyebrows and a new do
1659. Kids on best behavior
1660. Backyard birthday parties
1661. Wooden seat rope swing hanging from a mature tree
1662. GPS
1663. Country roads
1664. Hope surges
1665. Lollipops after kids' haircuts
1666. Fever hugs
1667. Piano practice, music throughout the house
1668. Bulging canvas tote of library books
1669. Boxcar Children
1670. His and hers tractors
1671. The older man who delivered (the tractor), who loves the country better than anything else
1672. Sunny forecasts
1673. Handmade cards
1674. Drumstick ice cream cones in the Walmart parking lot with my people
1675. An opportunity to honor women in my life
1676. Hand-delivered strawberries with cream cheese and chocolate shavings
1677. Hoppity ball races with Erin in the backyard
1678. Mother's Day texts, emails and phone wishes
1679. A Scooby-doo lunchbox and her arms around me

Sunday, May 8, 2011

On mother's day

My mom died when I was twenty-two. She'd had a long battle with breast cancer. I was holding her hand when she breathed her last breath, and minutes before that I gently spoke in her ear, before my voice would fail me, "I love you, Mom. And I know you love me."

I would graduate college without her. I would have my heart broken many times and cry in a heap by myself. I would do things so unexpected because, well, no one expected it out of me. I'd meet the man who would be my husband. And I would have a home, have children, lose a child, and try to make sense of this life, without her.

The years between then and now were filled in with other women whose examples I would study, deciding what to keep, what to leave behind. Life's hard knocks keep swinging. I still encounter those who hold grudges, condemn, don't forgive, gossip, criticize, ignore and wound ... intentionally.

But I am grateful for women, other mothers and daughters, who inspire and encourage me today. Through them, I've learned how: to cook, to comfort, to be creative, to nurture, to be a good friend, to live life joyfully, to encourage, to persevere, to forgive, to be vulnerable, to be positive, to be gentle, to be prayerful, to serve, and so much more. I've learned of and seen generosity, compassion, closeness, loyalty, tenderness, support, and how to walk with strength and dignity during extreme trials of addiction, death of a loved one, divorce or disease. Some of them taught me how to be a better mother, and many of them taught me how to be a better friend. (I'm still learning.)

I honor these women today. And I wonder how many other lives their quiet and caring examples have touched ...

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Parent on patrol

At the homeschool co-op we have attended the past three years, you are either a tutor or a POP (parent on patrol).

POPs clean up after these kids in the cafeteria, vacuum and sweep up the church's floors, plunge clogged toilets (or mop up over flows), monitor kids at recess, take out trash, clean tables and counter tops, put on band-aids to wounded kiddos, make copies, assist tutors when needed (usually younger grades), file copies, and all other duties as assigned. If a POP can't make it in on their day (for any reason), they have to pay someone to fill their spot.

I just served my last POP day on Monday.

The other night, I handed over a handwriting (reproducible) book to Shane and asked if he would make several copies of the marked pages so Lanie would have some practice sheets. He gives me a look.

"What, am I a POP now?" he asks. Actually, he's just the one with access to a copier.

I laughed.

"I might not do a good job," he joked.

"Then you can pay me $60 and I will do it for you," I replied. He laughed.

Mind trick

I call to Erin to get her dressed this morning. She begins to walk into the room, and I sing out, "Runny bunny, runny bunny, run, run, run!" She smiles and runs into my open arms. I pick her up and momentum swings her legs between mine. I scoop her and cuddle her and carry her over to the clean pile of clothes folded.

"You won't remember this tomorrow," she begins. "But for Mother's Day, I'm going to give you lots of hugs and kisses instead of a card."

"Ok," I smile. But I don't think I will forget.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Doing it anyway

I think of Noah building an ark, the sweat and labor he poured in, the puzzle stares and questioning comments of neighbors … and the soaring of his heart in thanks as the animals boarded and the doors closed and the first raindrops fell.

Sometimes stepping out in faith doesn't make sense, or leaves us scared, or an object of condemnation or judgment. Do it anyway. 

Writing today at 66 Books

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Harvest moon

Things that are tucked away in filing cabinets ... in a search for Leapster game cartridges that were placed and replaced in this constant shuffling of things to accommodate house shows, I fingered my way past old calendars, baby pictures and inky footprints, birthday and mother's day cards. I picked up an old cassette tape, expecting it to be an anti-anxiety relic. Instead, it was a copy of "Harvest Moon."

I held it, and didn't have much to say.

I didn't find the Leapster cartridges.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The ice cream sandwich kindness and generosity test: FAIL or PASS?

Warm day. Grouchy. Wishing grouchy self didn't feel so irritable. Spied two remaining chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwiches in the freezer.

Two sandwiches.

Two kids.

One mom.

Scratch that: one CRANKY mom.

One child leaves for piano lessons. One child left in the play room. I sneak a bite of one ice cream sandwich while on the phone. I sneak another bite. Then later I stole off to the laundry room to finish it.

Sneaky eating. Boo!

And I came to these conclusions:

An ice cream sandwich tastes really good on a warm day. But it is not as enjoyable when rushing and sneaking to eat it before children catch me.

A less cranky mom would have split it with kids.

I suppose I could let them split the last one ... 

Monday, May 2, 2011

Eight point five

Rush and bustle to get out of the house and keep it picked up and "show" ready. I was serving at Lanie's school today. And in my preoccupation, I forgot to take anything out of the freezer for dinner tonight. So we stopped by the store on the way home.

Rotisserie chicken, some rosemary focacia bread, paired with leftover veggies and noodles from last night. I fixed the kids' plates, with the encouragement they could have a slice of bread after they ate what was on their plates first.

Lanie did. All of it. With compliments. Then she went back for seconds. Wow in itself. What got me most was this:

"Thank you for dinner, Mom."

She is growing up.

This big girl, playing with hair styles in the mirror before bed, still asks me to brush her teeth at night. While I brushed, I asked her, "What was your favorite part of the day?" I used to ask her this all the time, but I can't recall when the routine stopped. When she was much younger, the answer was always, "You." I remembered it fondly as the question rolled off my tongue. What would she say at eight and a half? My heart tightened with mother-love at her response today, in 2011:

"Seeing you."

One thousand gifts and still counting (1622-1650)

sunrise sky on the road to Panera
a nap on the couch
her drawing of the two of us, rounded cheeks and big, happy grins
new clothes for Lanie

gifted school materials
admittance into friends' grief
a friend to mall walk with
the free chocolate at Godiva

free movies on demand
popcorn snacking with the kids
headaches that go away

22 kids in the backyard--that was so much fun!
extending hospitality
chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwiches
storms that pass
a call from my dad

garden dreams--the potager
a hot air balloon ride across a morning horizon (as seen from our backyard)
Lanie's smile
a 4 year old's tears at goodbyes (watching Toy Story cuddled on the couch)
holding her close with kisses and comfort till she fell asleep

garden planting with Denise (rosemary, basil, cucumber, mint, tomato, sweet peas) in the rain
buttered noodles with salt, pepper and thyme
sleepiness gaining
socks on my feet
clean clothes