Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Spelling and math

The day's plans got canceled fast with the threat of thunderstorms.

It didn't rain at all.

The house was quiet, so quiet that I sat and listened to it. Lanie upstairs reading. Erin outside adventuring. Here it is, our summer vacation, and it is still. (It was such a tranquil sound. Don't get me wrong, I love the sound of my kids laughing and playing, but this is rare.)

The sun was out and we visited a neighbor and petted her dogs. We came back home and I baked banana chocolate chip bread (a double batch) with the spotty bananas on the counter. While it cooked, I pulled out Erin's spelling book to finish up the couple of lessons co-op left unfinished. I only expected to do one lesson.

She laughed and hugged me after one and said, "I want to do more. I like doing school with you." And I wondered again why we co-op when at-home is so crazy wonderful. "Let's do another one! But only with you," she continued.

We did three. And a math lesson (schooling math through the summer for both kids).

Afterwards, the quick bread was done and I set it out to cool.

I plugged my ears and headed out to the tractor to cut the field. Buttercups everywhere. She ran down to the edge with a note waving as I passed by.

It read: can I tipe?

I nodded yes, and she scampered off in skirt and bare feet. She stopped and turned and smiled and waved.

I smiled and waved back.

(After dinner, we cut into a still warm loaf. Erin asked for seconds, and Lanie agreed. And so we did.)

Banana chocolate chip bread

1/4 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cups flour
2/3 cup sugar (reduced from 1 cup)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2-3 ripe bananas
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup walnuts (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Spray an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch loaf pan with Pam spray (I've switched to coconut oil).
In a large bowl, combine ingredients except nuts and chocolate chips. Mash together thoroughly.
Add nuts and chocolate chips; stir to mix.
Bake for 50-60 minutes. Cool in loaf pan 10 minutes, then turn out onto cooling rack to cool completely.
Make a double batch and stick one in your freezer or gift it to a friend. Enjoy!

Monday, May 26, 2014

One thousand gifts and still counting (5577-5603)

a good pool opening
friends over for bike riding
how they flew down the hill
Nutella brownies

celebrating last school days
windows open
bluest skies
the green season
the little white flowers bundled in her hand

a haircut
the best kiddos
a bagel run at Panera on an errand morning
how it took a minute to recognize her face
contentment (joy and peace) in the now

a friend in Teena
Jiliann over on a Friday night
that Kellie wants to stay longer, as much as her kids do
his help in the garden

the things sacrificed for others
lemon in water
kids on bikes
a fire pit (space)

chatting with Julie
plans for a mom's night
a good night's sleep

Saturday, May 24, 2014

With love

With Erin

With Lanie

Erin picked flowers and we had the smallest vase

maples to raise

David's landscape

Green season

Pool is open

Green season

window boxes

friends' last day of school

Bring on summer

Ready, set, go

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A thousand words

I remember the day I met her; it was in February. She and Joel were heading out while their agent worked the open house. I held my hand out to hers, and I remember she appeared rushed. The next time we saw each other was in July, in the in-between--she was outside pulling weeds, and I swept alongside her and listened as she told me how and when to prune things.

That was the day she showed me the captain's bell under the vines, after I mentioned I wanted to get one.

We've kept in touch through Facebook. We message back and forth in spurts. I've seen her a couple of times when they are in town. I think she's curious about the changes we're making here. A part of me hopes she isn't disappointed.

I post pictures online. Partly because of how much I enjoy the photos. Partly because I want to share them with her. I wonder if she misses the cherry tree blossoms in spring; the yellow blanket of buttercups in the field; the path of marigolds along the walkway; the view down the pasture; the wooded stand of trees in winter.

I snapped a photograph of tadpoles and she HA HA'd how she remembered. Those pictures I post online, they mean nothing to most people, but to us, they conjure up all sorts of things. For her, perhaps it's familiarity and the twenty-plus years she raised a family here. For me, it's the connection (between us) of home and memories being made as we raise our girls here.

Beneath this photo she wrote, "You really make (this place) shine." I was so humbled. She planted all these gardens and worked them all those years. She knew what she was doing. Our agent asked me, "Do you like to garden?" And I replied, "I'm not sure. I always wanted to garden--I just never knew where to start."

I mostly pull weeds and throw down mulch. I'm learning year to year through a lot of trial and more trial. Some days I'm wondering if I'm making any difference. And every season it feels as if I'm starting from scratch (oh, the life parallels!). Even now I wonder, how did I ever streamline this process? I suspect, though, that what she sees shining through these pictures is the love I have for everything here.

And that speaks volumes.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Working it

We don't give our kids allowance for chores. I've always had mixed feelings about that, because on one hand, I'd like them to have opportunities to manage money. On the other hand, they should be able to help around the house without getting paid--because helping out is being part of a family.

A friend of mine told me how when she had summer vacations, her parents would pull a reading list from Honey for a Child's Heart and she would get a dollar for every book she read. Lanie loved this idea. So this summer, we made up a reading list for her, and she can earn a dollar per book. Erin can too.

This yard gives me lots to do, and I want to involve my kids in it, but they realize how much work it is--meaning they aren't interested in helping for the sake of helping. So I gave them opportunities to earn screen time. For each task, they could accumulate 10 minutes of screen time to cash in whenever they wanted. The tasks were things like: pull weeds for 15 minutes, water potted plants, pick up big sticks and put them in the fire pit, fold laundry, unload the dishwasher, carry grocery bags inside, put groceries away, empty the cat box (I gave double time for that).

On day one, they're running full force. Lanie has already weeded, cleaned the cat box, and now she's cleaning the basement while she's waiting for a load of clothes to finish in the dryer. Erin has picked up big sticks in the yard and is now making her bed. (She did such a great job!)

Their regular chores involve feeding the pets, taking out trash, emptying waste baskets.

What I like is that they are willingly doing these tasks. There is no arguing, complaining or bad attitude. They can either earn the time by picking items from a list, or not. They can choose which things they want to do. (I never thought I'd get Lanie to clean the cat box. For double time, she did it today and said it really wasn't that bad after all.) It's such a huge help to me to have them doing these things, and it's a great chance for them to get some skills under their belts. Lanie absolutely loved digging up maple saplings as part of weeding (we're going to nurture them and then transplant them to replenish some bare areas).

One thousand gifts and still counting (5552-5576)

last days of school
the note from Matthew, with thanks and calling me friend
mulch for the gardens
and, of course, the gardens

roller skating with friends
Michael Jackson's music
a sleepover for Lanie with her bestie
popcorn and a movie
playing Connect Four and memory games with Erin

sleep-in mornings
a rainy morning perfect for sorting through the work of the school season
a sunny weekend
that all the pieces came with this cart
Shane as he zipped around

his birthday
what a great dad he is
and a best friend and husband
worship at church
how the field smells when I cut the grass

kids running and hiding in the woods
how the girls ride bikes all over this place
God's faithfulness
a blanket across my shoulders
crosses wrapped in white lights


Sunday, May 18, 2014

School's out

We had our last day of co-op on Wednesday.

Thursday was a mulch delivery. A friend asked how my first day off was.

"What day off?" I asked. "I hauled mulch for four hours today."

Friday brought rain. I slept in till seven with a backdrop patter of rain and gray skies. I glanced over at my spiral notebook of boxes I checked throughout the year and realized for that, for now, I don't have to fill up my days with so much to-do.

The days, for now, look like this: work in the garden; hang out with my people. And with the exception of get-togethers and books to read, that's all I want to do. (Ok, so we'll keep rolling with math and a delightful summer reading list.)

white azalea

these beauties gifted from Linda


buttercups in the field

I have no idea what this is

8 yards of mulch remaining.

Erin's science project

this gorgeous day


heart caption for Mother's day
wagon ride through the yard

Lanie had a friend sleep over Friday night after skate. We had a yummy French toast bake for breakfast--and I made some sausage up too, for Shane. It was his birthday. Shane assembled the cart he ordered. Next thing he's zipping down to my "fire pit" and carrying off the remaining cinder blocks. With glee. Then he comes driving past with Lanie and her friend. They go around the property. Next they come through and Erin is in the mix. I was cutting the field, so I didn't have my camera on me. I howled with laughter. They were absolutely adorable.

I got a shot of the kids today.

Monday, May 12, 2014

One thousand gifts and still counting (5529-5551)

a tractor to ride to cut the grass
marigolds and impatiens

a pot of flowers and sweet words and wishes from Linda
Anita's generous love and hugs
a call from David, to wish me happy Mother's Day
breakfast prepared by a great husband (and ordered by a dear daughter)
how she couldn't sleep because of the anticipation

early morning greetings
heavy rains and thunderstorms
a delightful, sunny day
big salads

the variety of birdsong in the yard
lessons learned when things don't go the way I'd like
kids getting along great
weaving crafts
gifted scented oil and the oil warmer so my house smells like hers

Erica next to me at church
the sweet text message from my brother-in-law
my family
Lanie playing piano at the recital

how far she has come

Past the stone fence

My mom has been dead half of my life. I hardly knew who she was outside of being my mother--this woman who did the motherly things like fix dinners, clean the house, make cookies and jam, tuck notes in my school lunches, tell me when the seasonal TV specials were on, and laugh too loud. I didn't know her as a woman, didn't know the types of struggles she faced or how she overcame them--if she did.

I didn't have a mom when my college love broke my heart. I had friends.

I didn't have a mom to help me plan a wedding. I had amazing sisters-in-law-to-be who took care of every detail.

I didn't have a mom to tell me what to expect with pregnancy and babies and raising kids. I had a lot of books and a fabulous sister who had had three children before I started my own family--and though she was many states away, she was as close as my phone.

I didn't have a mom to turn to for advice. But I had friends and friends with moms who knew what they were doing to help me navigate things where my mom fell short, where I fell short. 

I didn't have a mom to lean on when I experienced the sometimes-struggle. I didn't have to her ask, "Has this happened to you?" There were times when I hid what felt like shame, times when all I wanted was the unconditional love of a mother, those open arms--I have not known that. But I can be that to my own children and to my friends.

I have had precious friends who have walked beside me during deep trials in life--women who encouraged me to hold my head high and reminded me who I am in Christ. Women who loved me when others didn't and showed me that true friendship is worth fighting for and holding close.

A friend loves at all times. 

I have had women love on my children as if they were their own grandchildren, and me like a daughter (or sister). Today I was especially honored when Anita first, and Linda later, drove down my driveway for hugs and gifts.

Erin woke to make me breakfast: Cheerios with a sliced banana on top, because she knows that's how I like it. And a cup of coffee on the side. Gifts from my daughters that were so thoughtfully selected.

A card in the mail from a great friend, which makes me value deeply these love languages we speak. And texts to and from people I treasure.

We packed up an insulated tote full of drinks and snacks and headed out an hour's drive to catch a medieval encampment. It was a delightfully unhurried day, walking around museum grounds, learning about medieval times, and holding Erin close, or Lanie's hand.

a weaving craft, under the shade of a tent and brushed by a cool breeze

a fighter's vest

before the fight

the 200 year old stone fence, part of the museum grounds
A lovely day, and sweet memories.

Half a life ago, I watched my mother mourn lost opportunity and lost health. The sadness of that time was more than we could speak of. What stands out: to number days, to fight for joy.

On, on.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014


rainbows everywhere

sunny selfie

blue sky

hound dog
Morning surged and we went along with it. Piano lessons, a cookie delivery to a friend, a library run and then bread samples--oh lavender rosemary. Delightful. We bought extra loaves and delivered them to neighbors. Bike riding. Book report. Robert Frost. I read the poem out loud to Erin, and whether to her or myself, tears at the end of that road he chose.

We warmed ourselves in sunshine, and she picked dandelions and blew their seeds across the lawn. I caught their flight by phone. 

The last days of school approaching and I'm counting down. Three co-op days left. I will miss Rachael sitting next to me during spelling; kids making a running break for the playground during intermission. I will remember how Lauren lost her hum and we found it (along with her smile); Matthew's bravery and how his hand always shot up to answer a question; the giant box of donuts Grant brought in; Cody's stories about his grandma; Lindsey's tenderheartedness; Emily's friendliness; Kaitlyn's smiley button gift; Thomas's happiness; and how Zach would surprise me with his insights when I wondered if anyone was paying attention. I will treasure the friendships made, especially with Jennifer and Sandy.

Thankful for poetry.

Monday, May 5, 2014

One thousand gifts and still counting (5513-5528)

the change in her heart
her prayers, faith and thanksgiving
the work of the Holy Spirit

marshmallows to roast over the "fire pit"
chairs around in a circle
nighttime laughter
a good hamburger

two more weeks of co-op
Friday skate
apple blossoms
clean clothes

Dad and Linda stopping by
his good mood
Sandy's friendship