Friday, August 31, 2012

Family chorus

Coloring, cutting, gluing and more cutting out math folder games for kindergarten.

Looking forward to a new school year.

Got away for the day as a family of four to a (relatively) nearby amusement park. Got there when it opened at 10 a.m., and left when they closed at 6 p.m. Swings, burlap-sack slides, twisty rides, roller coaster, (the nauseating) over the park lift. Have I ever mentioned I'm afraid of heights? The things a mama will do for her kiddos. We could have passed the entire day in the water park. Erin barely walked, light on the feet tiptoes and frolics through mini geysers, slip-slidey water slides. Delicious ice cream scoops. Picnic lunch. Shane's face sun kissed, and I noticed the wisps of gray at his temples and thought of how deeply I love him. Lanie a daredevil always, took me with her on adventures and laughed when I sometimes had to close my eyes. Did I mention I'm afraid of heights?

Family portrait.

Cloudless sky, short wait times, sunny day and great temperature.

Hearing mama bird sing again today, then lots of silence. Later replaced by tinsel-thin cries of little babies in the nest. From the window, I watched her nestle deep within the hole of home. Her whole life a song. Exuberant. Joyous.

Good job, little mama bird. So enjoying your family chorus.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Bird song

There are a lot of sounds I'm getting used to in the woods: the Spring Peepers, locusts, crickets, crows, owls, hawks, and the persistent call of one other bird that sings louder than the rest.

This bird has taken up residence in the flower box outside the kitchen window. Sometimes when Lanie or I go out to water the flowers, either he or his mate come flying out and startle us (though now we anticipate it and take steps to avoid watering his nest).

In the morning, birdy perches upon the patio chair and sings. In the afternoon, you'll find it singing from a nearby tree branch or from atop a structure. Sometimes I think it's in the house because it's so loud. And this morning, as I prepared post and pack up a picnic lunch for today's most awesome excursion with the family, that bird is outside the dining room window singing its heart out at 6:17.

I hope I am remembered for my song.

Monday, August 27, 2012

One thousand gifts and still counting (3252-3280)

sunny days
summer thunderstorms
a good push mower
peanut butter

enjoyment at the park
a great day with my girls
a train ride
picnic lunches

hand prints in plaster
soft grasses
places to call home
both of my kids at my old house

a mother of nine
how greatly she was loved
a bird's nest in the window box
snake spotting in the grasses
a quick hello with my dad

gardens to weed
hostas (there was still one my mom had planted at that first house)
a walk around the block
opportunities to serve at church

Holy Spirit tingles when I raised my hand
kind messages in my inbox
a summer playdate with Kellie
Christy's safety

Friday, August 24, 2012

Memory lane--the walk around the block

We used to do Super Surprise Fridays around here, but we stopped because it seemed like every day was a super surprise. I hardly remember last summer with packing and moving and unpacking. And this summer was one long blur of splashes and green fields and friends over.

With just a few weeks left before we start school, I reflected (a bit self-pityingly, ugh) that we didn't really do anything family vacation-y. No beach trips or amusement parks or camping (laughing at the camping, because that is not us!). Oh, boo, first-world woes. I hate them. And I hated feeling sorry for us, however momentary, that there was no vacation for four--when we've had beautiful and memorable weekends poolside to spend together.

I looked at the calendar, and yesterday I took the kids out for a super surprise. These kinds of things make me a bit nervous, because my plans and their imaginations don't always line up. Disappointment can really kill a day trip.

Luckily, the kids weren't disappointed. I packed a big picnic lunch and lots of cold water. I grabbed my camera and the red-and-white-checkered table cloth. And we went off to my (really) old neighborhood--where I lived my childhood. We spent hours at the big park (which was on its third makeover at least!),

and took a train ride through the woods (which hadn't changed at all!),

and then went to the live butterfly exhibit. And this year--it was the absolute best time for all of us. One little girl there was crying and clinging to her mama, which reminded me of Lanie a few years ago. I looked at Lanie, and we remembered. But this year, Lanie was hopeful one would land upon her--and one did, to our delight.

the kids' garden on the way to the butterfly exhibit

butterfly on Lanie

Then we drove to my old neighborhood. I packed the kids' scooters so we could walk around the block. I wish I had walked slower.

my first home

street view

"There's my house!" "That's where my school bus stop was!" "My neighbor Alouise lived here. I used to climb her fence to my back yard." "This is where I trick-or-treated." "That's the house I stopped and had to call my parents to pick me up because I couldn't make the walk home." "That's where the mailman lived." "I used to help Mrs. N do her gardening."

Lanie and Erin on sidewalks
The girls enjoyed the day and the novelty of sidewalks and thought my neighborhood was great. (I did too!) We finished the trip around the block, and I wondered if I could do one last thing: take a picture of them in my (old) yard.

I rang (my old) doorbell and waited. A woman answered, and I explained I used to live there a long time ago. She shrugged her shoulders apologetically and mumbled no hablo ingles. So I pulled out my 20+-year-old broken Spanish and butchered (more than) a few verbs and explained who I was and asked if I could take a picture of my kids in her yard. She said yes.

I lined them up to my photo memory of me and Mom on a first day of school over 30 years ago.

my mom and me 1975-ish
Lanie and Erin 2012

The front door opened and a man came out. I recognized him immediately. I turned to greet him and started to say, "Thank you for letting me do this. It means so much to me." And then I was crying (crier that I am) and hugging him. He bought that house 30 years ago this year and has called it home ever since. His (now grown) daughter lives across the street, raising her family.

I told my girls about how I'd play in the front yard. I knelt down and touched the soft grass. Looked at the massive trees still growing, and smaller ones that had replaced the former hulks. I have such a fond connection to that neighborhood. I've dreamed a million times of living there, and even yesterday, I wondered if there was ever a way to go back. (Shane said no.)

 My family moved out of that house when I was thirteen, and it wasn't until my 30s that I ever felt I could call a place home (our last house).

When my friend Pete came out to visit us this summer, he mentioned (our current house) reminded him of his childhood. I learned we grew up in the same area, and I agreed and realized that that was probably one of many things that drew me to this house we're in--and why I feel such a strong and deep sense of home in it.

I'm so glad that that family is still there. So glad for a beautiful summery day to spend with my girls. Glad for that walk around the block. Glad for my (sometimes inappropriate) tears. Glad for the reminder to number days--so that silly pity of first-world woes doesn't rob me of the abundance in a rich and beautiful now.

I would never have traded yesterday for anything.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Snake in the garden

I was out this morning pulling dead leaves from the grassy bladed lilies, removing fairy goblets, weeding. I went from garden to garden (we have a lot here). I was in the pool area, pulling from the beds there and remembered the snake that hid among the bricks of the retaining wall/bench. All along, reaching into these grassy bundles, I'm thinking, "Watch out for snakes."

So why would it surprise me when I found one?

"Snake!" I yelled out. No one heard me and I felt silly, because so what if someone could? I stood there contemplating my next move, thinking it unwise to be sockless in Keds instead of armored with snake-stomper boots.

I got the muck rake, "Come on, Lanie. There's a snake I want to show you."

We went down and I ran the rake behind the grasses to reveal the snake, now climbing along the fence line.

He had orange and brown and white on him.

"Go get my phone," I told her. But so many minutes pass, I knew she couldn't find it. So I got my camera. When I got back to the garden, the snake was gone.

I called Shane and told him the story. He laughed.

"I'm going to go back to eating my lunch now," he said.

"I drew a (mustard) heart in your sandwich last night," I told him.

"I know. I can taste it," he said. Love him.

Good life.

Monday, August 20, 2012

One thousand gifts and still counting (3222-3251)

Bless the Lord, O my soul
O my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before
O my soul
I'll worship Your holy name

The sun comes up, it's a new day dawning
It's time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes

coffee pods
company for dinner
a grandma neighbor who chatted my ear into the night
bags of vegetables, gifted

and ham
candlelight around the table
black-eyed Susans, cheery in a vase
good talks
family-style dinner around the dining room table

kids running around
a wayward rooster
new (to us) kids on the block
a Saturday play date
gifted toys

Happy Winter chocolate cake
Sunday errands
finding butcher block wood conditioner
lesson plans plotted out
worship on a Saturday night

books on hold at the library
craft ideas and prep for our first day back to school
which doesn't start until September 10
long-sleeve shirts

wind rustling treetop leaves
a frog on the door
mum blossoms
cozy rooms
a comfy bed

this life

You're rich in love, and You're slow to anger
Your name is great, and Your heart is kind
For all Your goodness I will keep on singing
Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find
from 10,000 Reasons.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Beautiful mess

big drip-droppy milky splashes out of my coffee cup onto the counter
cinnamon cereal on the floor around her place at the table
bed covers all disarray and sleepy
crayons and markers and paper snippets awaiting the artist's return
fingerprints on the front of the fridge
pyrex dish soaking in the sink
laundry room tectonics moving mountains from dirty to clean
sugar sprinkles against dark granite
scattering of books in every room

Enjoying the view as I drink the last of Jamaica Me Crazy coffee, and we get on with the day.

Monday, August 13, 2012

August views

Erin, my joyful mini me

Work of art, chalkboard table doodles

assembled play set and boarder finished

crazy love, black-eyed Susans, everywhere

Lanie swimming under water

Erin in the pool

Hydrangeas from Reggie's garden; I'm trying to root some in soil.

Husky seed pods, the fairy goblets

Stella de oro seeds

the miscellaneous snake on the driveway

Rudy, snake hunter

The best-ever potato salad

I'm pretty plain when it comes to potato salad: potatoes, celery, mayonnaise, salt and pepper. I tried to branch out with a different recipe that called for relish and some other things. It was ok. Nothing worth repeating. But one of my friends made this for the 66 Books cookout, and I haven't been able to stop thinking of it. I would have made it yesterday, but didn't have parsley. So my potatoes got mashed and mixed with the yummy boursin cheese in the fridge (which is worth repeating).

The best-ever potato salad

about 2 lbs of potatoes
1 cup HELLMANNS real mayonnaise
2 T vinegar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
ground black pepper
celery, onion, parsley

(Her) notes:  I always at least double the recipe; it holds well in the fridge for a good 2 days.  Use white vinegar please - my mom has had a habit of using apple cider vinegar and it's gross, in my opinion, so just use good old white vinegar.  I use good salt too - a nice sea salt is great.  And I admit that I usually get a little sloppy on measuring my vinegar - so I usually end up with a dash more vinegar that the actual recipe calls for.  I only ever use Hellmanns, or when in the South I've used Duke's which is Hellmanns under a different name.  I figure if you are going to eat potato salad, enjoy it so I don't use any of the low fat or other brands. I also use a good amount of parsley.  I mix the dressing in a clear glass measuring cup, grind in pepper until the dressing is mildly flaked with pepper and then throw in parsley until I like how it looks.  Not much science to it - I really have no idea how much parsley I use but it's usually a smallish mound in the palm of my hand.  I often use red potatoes and sometimes white but I don't use baking potatoes. . .

One thousand gifts and still counting (3195-3221)

friends who live minutes away and drop plans to help

a neighbor's checking up
meditations on making days count
good talks with Lanie
cuddle love with Erin
my man

Christy watching my girls all day
carpooling with Reggie
Elliott from World Relief
conversations on grief
front row seats at the Summit

Pranitha Timothy
lunch guests at my table
southwest chicken soup
bags of ice to cool the fridge contents
neighbors to keep our foods cool

a next-day fridge delivery (totally unexpected, happily received)
excitement for a new school year
new friendships forming
30-day dedication prayer
God talks with Shane

hugs at church
Sunday swimming
emails with Cindy
a tractor ride in the field
skies signalling fall's approach

the pinkest sunset glimpse through trees

Friday, August 10, 2012

The new fridge

I never really liked the fridge here.

One day I had some ladies over and jokingly mentioned, "And if you want, say a prayer this thing goes up so I can get a new one."

No joke, a couple hours later, we come back inside and the fridge is moaning and groaning so loud there was no mistaking it was in death throes. I found myself pleading with God, "I was just kidding about it, Lord. I mean, a new fridge would be great, but not right now."

Turns out all it needed were several jabs with a butter knife to break up mounting ice chunks from a disconnected water line. Shane reconnected the water line. Whew!

So last night I do a big grocery run and, because I didn't feel like running a couple loaves of bread to the basement freezer, I stuck them in the kitchen freezer. Unbeknownst to me--yes, unbeknownst--the bread didn't allow the freezer door to shut completely. I went to bed. Shane woke do a dripping ice maker and water on the floor. When I came down, everything but rock-solid meat had defrosted. What was worse, the fridge side didn't feel so cool either. The fridge was dead.

We headed to Lowe's to shop (after running newly purchased milks, cheeses and meats to a neighbor's house). Erin cried in my arms because we wouldn't get an identical fridge (and because we'd spent the whole day apart and she was ten minutes from bedtime). She wanted one just like the one we had, the one where she had charted her growth with the cute little chicken magnet.

I sat and cuddled her and remembered how when I was little, I used to feel sad about replacing things. At five, she doesn't see the luxury of replacing a fridge that is old enough to start college in the fall.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


Played several games of "Don't break the ice" with Erin.

The first round she says, "Mommy, you go first." So I did. She broke the ice.

Second round she says, "Mommy, I'll go first." So she did. She broke the ice.

Third round she says, "Mommy, let's trade sticks." So we did. She broke the ice.

Love her.

Monday, August 6, 2012

One thousand gifts and still counting (3167-3194)

a note in my inbox from a sister
talks with Tracey
an unexpected hello in the parking lot
God at work in the happily ever after

juicy peaches
frogs to catch
a prayer partner in Kellie
nearly-year reflections

new perspective
the 66 Books cookout
lights around the pool
swimming into the night
starry skies

serving at church
a cleared afternoon
swimming races with Lanie
Erin's rush down the slide
trust strengthened

Crystal's hugs
Julie from India
hydrangeas from Reggie's garden
potato salad

the letting go of expectations
thankfulness in the here and now
this life
two bags of veggies--the double blessing

Friday, August 3, 2012


It's been a meaningful few weeks. VBS for the girls a week ago took us down old roads, to an old church, with familiar faces--like an embrace. I sat in the pew and enjoyed the light through stained glass and felt the surge of emotion.

Though hoped-for friends couldn't join us that week, I felt God-thanks when after that first day, Erin and Lanie both declared new-found friends. Sat with Pete on a bench in the barn of the pick-your-own, a bag of peaches in hand and a cold black-cherry soda in a brown bottle. We chatted a good chunk of a morning away. (Thank you, Pete!)

The nearly-year ... and from time to time, I get lost in before and after. A note in my in-box tugs at my heart, and I write back happy. And I am.

I shopped today for tomorrow's cookout, and in the parking lot, an old friend drives up behind my car and calls out. We look at each other and smile, and I run to him and we hug. He was such a fixture of my former landscape. I think we both said it at the same time, "I thought I'd never see you again!"

The 66 Books cookout is tomorrow, and I think of the timing: I stepped first steps into this house the same day as a 66 Books cookout two years ago. I didn't know then the slate floors would one day be mine. But God did.

I think of friends who journeyed with me, who caught glimpses (and tears) of what we went through to get here. Friends who rejoiced when we rejoiced, and mourned when we mourned. We were looking for a change, for many reasons we've kept private, and we got it.

(Insert photo of Courtney in do-rag; snake-stompers; wearing 20+ -year-old ex-boyfriend grunge shirt that Shane wishes would finally fall apart; holding chainsaw, muck rake and chalkboard paint. Oh, wait, I don't have a picture like that: thankfully!)

Here we are now, nearly a year (on August 5), and this is home. A cookout with writers tomorrow, so fitting on the eve of an anniversary. Especially this one. 66 Books played a crucial role in my life. God walked every step of the way with me during this move. And he continues (by my side, as a guide, and finish line) as I run the race he marked out for me--and in that, there is peace.