Thursday, May 30, 2013

Feels like summer vacation

It is homeschool month at Hershey Park. Our co-op did a group order of tickets. Shane joined us, and it was big fun.

We did!

Erin measured a Reese's cup, and Lanie was a Hershey bar for ride eligibility. (I know Lanie especially hopes to grow to Twizzler status for next year.) Lanie did lots of roller coasters and water rides. Erin did lots of non-roller coaster rides and frolicked in the water park. Literally frolicked.

I was talking to Shane about how Lanie has a thrill seeker in her that always surprises me. She seems so shy and meek--I don't think anyone expects her to do the stuff she does. It's like Nella's dance--it was always inside her, just waiting to come out. Same with Lanie and how she likes the rush. She rode the Super Dooper Looper.

Lanie and Scout

I didn't go on with her. I rode it back in middle school, and that was enough for me. I did ride the water slides and raft rides with her, one roller coaster, and I also did a number non-coaster rides.

Erin spied whack-a-mole and wanted to play it. She didn't win, but then this awesome teenager comes walking past her and hands her a toy--she was surprised, and we were so blessed by his kindness.

Erin at whack-a-mole

It was fun being there with friends from co-op. Even though we all did our own thing, it was really neat seeing friends all throughout the park. Lanie's music teacher sat behind her on The Comet. We ran into them again and the pre-k teacher on the flume ride. Lanie's pal Scout accompanied her on many of the rides. And we did a water/raft ride with the 4th grade history teacher and her daughter.

I baked some chocolate chip/white chip cookies for part of a picnic lunch--and can I just say the upgrade to preferred parking is totally worth it. We were steps from the entrance, which made picnicking and leaving at the end of the day such a breeze.

Shane dozed a couple of times on the ride home. I stole a few glances his way, at his tanned skin, and the latest gray/white hairs along his hairline--full of good feelings at what a great dad he is to his girls, and how much I love him.

Monday, May 27, 2013

One thousand gifts and still counting (4237-4263)

ice cream scoops to celebrate friends' last day of school

Elmos who accompany
the scent of knockout roses
running into friends in the world

hot days
and cold days
asparagus on the grill
etchings that profess love, in paint
chats with Cindy on FB

and primrose that likes me
pool chemicals
a phone call from David
how he tells me he loves me
a print that reminds me of my family

frog song while I hold it
columbine, my new favorite
hot, creamy coffee
a snake sighting
a day off together, all of us

a cheerier talk with my dad
and for a (different, other) call, mercifully interrupted
another good Bible study
two girls giggling non-stop while we shopped
and the best day ever between them as sisters

how You are in the details
a barter for services
breakfast for a crowd, under budget

Friday, May 24, 2013

We are the champions, my friends

Homemade mac n' cheese. Not my specialty. But it's cold for a holiday weekend, and burgers with cold potato salad didn't seem right when I have on a long-sleeve shirt and secretly wish to start a fire up in the fireplace.

So I decided to make mac n' cheese. Comfort food and summer-like all in one fell swoop.

This turned out to be the best batch I've ever made. Even Lanie, who has held champions of mac n' cheese above me, was won over.

Homemade macaroni and cheese

Cook up about half your box of mac noodles to al dente. Drain. Wait.

In a pot, melt 3 tbs butter. Add some hefty shakes of dry mustard (about 1 generous tsp), a few less hefty shakes of onion powder, and pepper. The throw in 2 tbs of flour. Make a fragrant roux. Add 2 1/2 cups of milk. Let thicken. Add about 1/2 cup, generous, of sour cream. Toss in a very good amount of cheddar cheese, and a good handful of shredded mozarella. Melt. Add pasta and combine.

Add more milk as needed. Top with seasoned bread crumbs if you like. (Or skip that step and eat it right out of the pot like I did this afternoon.) You can bake it off to a lovely golden brown, if you're the patient type. Eyeball it at 350 degrees.

This is my new favorite. And Lanie's too.

Thanks to Beckie, Miss Linda, and my beloved friend Nicole for making this moment possible. I learned from the best.


Erin told me, "I wrote 'I love you mommy' for you. With a nail."

Me: "Huh? Where did you do that?" Imagining it inscribed on the dining room table, and shuddering at the thought ...

She lead me into the dining room, to the bay window. And into the paint, in her very 6 year old handwriting, it read:

I love you MOM. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


Play dates today. Erin's friend Viviana came over. Shortly after, Zoe showed up for Lanie. One of them spied the pack of water guns I had stashed away for warmer days, and since today qualified for one of those, we opened them up.

Before I know it, they're convincing me to turn on the sprinklers. Erin shared an extra suit with Vivi (her nickname for Viviana). And Zoe brought her own (apparently, Lanie had this all planned out ahead of time). I planted marigolds along the walkway.

Even after the older girls had their fill, the two younger ones continued jumping and squealing. Later, I catch them wrapped in towels walking through the yard. Viviana's mom showed up to get her and I met her out on the back patio, just in time to catch Erin and Vivi running as fast as their little legs would carry them down the field, princess pool towels like capes around them.

I love the memory of those two littles, dashing down a field, a colorful blur of a precious friendship.

I love when no one wants the fun to end.

Monday, May 20, 2013

One thousand gifts and still counting (4211-4236)

kindergarteners around me during a show
last days of homework
and a last day of school--whoo-hoo
and tadpole catching in the pool

how their mama held one son on the hip and another by shirt tails
kids riding bikes down a steep hill, grins a mile wide
"monkey" hunting in my back yard
matching "home sweet home"s
how her little one finished her sentences when she read to him

the thread that wove our lives together (You, God)
and Lanie giving glimpses of her now, even if it doesn't seem as pretty as before

Julie's baby falling asleep in my arms
chocolate in the freezer
the green season

a frog to hand to Erin
and summer dreams of field picnics and read-alongs under walnut trees

summer roommates--Lanie and Erin
a piano recital
and Linda with us

summer, stretched out long before us
table chats with Nicole as a dance season wraps up
a trophy for Lanie
singing next to Linda
worship at church, 4 rows back

a butterfly in the weeds

Sunday, May 19, 2013


butterfly emerging from its chrysalis

I was pulling up weeds along the back hill and this butterfly caught my attention as it fought its way out of the chrysalis. I watched it for a few minutes and then went back to work. Some time later, Shane and Erin came around and I showed it to them. Then Lanie joined us. Of the four of us, I'm probably the sappiest one to think of the life implications--the metamorphosis and the struggle to be free. I sort of kept those thoughts to myself and continued pulling weeds.

We are now fostering about sixty tadpoles.

"You're taking them to the stream, right?" Shane asked.


Saturday, May 18, 2013


He didn't want a cake or presents. But we celebrated him anyway. Made burgers and got him a cold beer on a summer-like evening. Had a mini cake. Lanie wrote him a poem, and Erin wanted to gift him his favorite--vanilla. She got him a cookies-n-cream candy bar.

I laughed a little when we sang to him and wish time arrived. The girls both chimed in:

"Wish for American Girl dolls for us! Wish for American Girl dolls!"

(Secretly, I wished for a baby.)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Last day of K

end of kindergarten

first day of school
Lanie's headed to fifth grade, and Erin is going to first. But before that, it's the first day of summer vacation! We've got a date with friends today, and NO HOMEWORK! Ahead of me, my own gluttonous summer reading list, frisbee flying, pool splashing, cookouts, read-alouds in the field under a walnut tree, and day trips.

We'll still keep up with some light schooling stuff probably ... ok, maybe ... ish. I'll think about that--tomorrow. Piano recital this weekend, and dance recitals in June.

However, first things first.

So glad for this year.

I loved teaching kindergarten.

Loved. It.

Driving out of the parking lot, I remembered Lanie's end of kindergarten. And now it's Erin's turn. Window rolled down, I gave a wave to friends on the playground and chatted Nate's mom a bit. Then we just merged onto the big road to head off to more celebrations (Shane and his sister's birthday dinner). My kids were only thinking about freezer pops.

Hello, summer. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Table talk

We went to an end-of-year performance last night at the co-op. Shane, Erin and I got our seats. A friend came over, "Can Sage sit with Erin?"

"Of course!"

Katie across the aisle saw us, and before I knew it, she's on my lap by her classmates.

"Where's Nate?" Erin asked. I got up to get him.

Nate and Katie on my lap. Erin and Sage to my side. Our nearly complete kindergarten class. Shane looked at me and smiled, and I can't help but think--see, I told you I wanted more kids!

After the performance, we were getting ready to go home and Shane took the girls to get cookies in the reception area.

A woman approached me. I had seen her in the sanctuary.

"Didn't you go to (the other co-op)?" she asked.

"Yes," I said. Brow furrowed. "You saw me?"

I served about eight times a year there, and didn't really hang around. I never expected that anyone would actually see me. I said as much, "Most of the time I feel like I'm invisible."

She looked sad for a moment. So I corrected, "No, really, it's ok. It's a superpower." (I later found out she was a psychiatrist. Great.)

Me, behind the scenes and comfortable in anonymity.

I told the story of that woman tonight at the dinner table.

"Do you want to be invisible?" Lanie asked.

Hmm. I'm not sure I ever thought about that.

Monday, May 13, 2013

One thousand gifts and still counting (4188-4210)

field fragrance
lunch with Anita
cookies gifted

her hugs
her time
her example
for every woman who has influenced me
and all who live by example (even the what-not-to-do's)

mother's day wishes and messages
an early morning greeting by Erin
sweet gifts from my kids
camera 3
the end of a Bible study

and new friendships made from it
a picnic to plan
and hope for a closer relationship with a sister
Chipotle for dinner
a picture of Shane, his sister and his mom

a friend to take Lanie overnight
great, thought-provoking talks with Shane at the kitchen table
running into Amy at church
a playdate at Kellie's

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Two women

Anita came over for lunch Friday. Beautiful day. Warm and sunny. I cut the grass Thursday because I wanted to make things nice for her. Grilled a lovely cilantro-lime marinated chicken and made salad. She arrived dressed in pool blue and white, bearing a container of chocolate chip cookies. The kids were all over them.

We sat and ate grilled chicken and salad, drank sweet tea and she listened intently and remarked on all the changes we made here.

"This place is you," she said.

"If I ever move, I would move deeper into the woods," I told her. This place has changed me.

We walked the grounds and talked about so much--tree forts and trees down, changes and moving on, and the poison of hatred. I told her about the dark days and the suffocating days. I told her about peeling wallpaper and raking vines and perseverance. I told her about joy. 

We went up the root stairs, and surveyed the steep hill, and walked through the garden. We talked about azaleas and apple trees and fig trees and scripture, of desert wandering and promised land.

She explained the differences: of being barren and being fruitful; an old life, a new one; before and after.

"Everything is blooming and fruitful here," she said. She said it with love and I couldn't believe my ears and I never want to forget the sound of it, "This is you."

My mother died when I was in my early twenties. But since then, every woman is my mother. Every woman teaches me and encourages me and corrects me. They can be friends or mentors and not my mother, and yet like a mother.

And this one comes alongside and asks why I never shared my burdens with her. ... looks at me and sees something good and sees something better, and calls me fruitful--says, this is you ...  this one, at times more like a mother than I had ever known. She held me close and squeezed me tighter and kissed my cheek, looked at me like a daughter, and I never want to forget the look of it--that kind of love.

I am grateful to know her.

Monday, May 6, 2013

One thousand gifts and still counting (4161-4187)

that you make beauty from my heartache
every good thing, life is so sweet
that I can trust you when I stand before Goliath
spice cake

busy days and the panting pace of back-to-back everything
mulch, completed
herbs to plant
interval training with the push mower up the hill
azaleas in bloom

fragrant air
blue, blue sky
nature sounds all around me
sunburn across our noses
tanned hands

a wheelbarrow
ice cream scoops at a very nearby creamery
offerings burned up, gifts to you
dogwoods in bloom
coffee and scones with a neighbor

and her honesty and hugs
and for being here, now
snake stomper boots
every breath

the rich perfume of lilacs
tadpoles on the pool cover

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Spice cake and hospitality

My first real steps into hospitality, outside of hosting family for holidays or neighbors for cookie swaps, was when I organized meals for our former co-op. I don't remember the first meal I made, but I do remember including our favorite white chip/chocolate chip cookies.

When the mom thanked me, she told me how her husband's cancer treatments left him so sick that he couldn't eat any foods--except the cookies. She wanted the recipe. And sometimes when I made them later, I made extra and gave them to her.

This past week, I had a tender honor to serve a teammate at church by helping coordinate food for after the funeral service of her husband of 50+ years. She's been on my mind these weeks as I learned of her husband's failing health, and last Sunday he died.

This move has meant so much to us personally, as we are in a great spot for serving our church better. I am amazed at the number of people I've met just because I live here. Oh, the difference here makes.

I put myself down to make potato salad and a spice cake for after the funeral. I received this note in my in-box:

Courtney, I don't know how I missed it before but thought you should know there is a sweet history with "spice cake" not only is it Frank's favorite but in fact was the very thing that wooed Frank in his courtship to Freda.  It was then his decision to marry was cemented.  What a treasure this will bring his beloved bride.

I just smile and delight in how The Lord is knitting all the details for this gathering.  A big smile :-) and gentle hugs.


While a 7-year-old guest rather recently criticized the overall cleanliness of my house, this note underscores that hospitality is about service and love. It's about opening house or heart, and letting God do His work in that offering. Even if there's dog hair on the furniture.