Saturday, January 30, 2016

Snow hill

My kids have spent hours outside sledding down the front hill. I got outside with my camera today and snagged a few shots of Erin.








There's no place like home.

Friday, January 29, 2016

The cost of things

Two pieces of mail yesterday that stand out. One was a card from the vet expressing condolence over losing Rudy--a poem about a rainbow bridge. I couldn't read the poem until today; the handwritten note was enough for last night.

The next piece of mail was also from the vet--the bill to euthanize our cat. The cost: $48. I wasn't sure how much to expect. I didn't call and ask how much it cost to put down a cat. Forty-eight dollars really didn't seem like much, and whether it would have been more or not, seeing a price attached to life was unsettling.

"I thought I was done crying," I said to Shane. He is so patient with my tears.

"A sympathy card and a bill in the same delivery," I told a friend. She'd been through that before. She'd cried the same tears.

The cost of things.

I had hoped for a few more hours of sleep today, but laid in bed wide awake after Shane left. I got up finally, made a fire and some coffee. Did some work for next week's classes. Resumed reflection on the motherhood study.

Chapter 3--a divided heart.

January feels like an arctic slap with this, that, and the other. One plate keeps spinning while the others wobble, and January sounded like the icy crash of one plate after another falling. Once again, priorities shuffle and I read this chapter on motherhood--the guilt of mothers who put other things ahead of family. I understand it.

A wise woman builds her home,
    but a foolish woman tears it down with her own hands. Proverbs 14:1 NLT

I made a list of words, the difference between the wise woman and the foolish one. 

To build, the words: intentional, nurturing, gentle, joyful, wholehearted, obedient, prayerful, unhurried, patient, godly (godly, by the way, doesn't mean perfect at all. It means someone who is God focused.), available, attentive.

To tear down, the words: careless, disorganized, abrasive, selfish, hurried, divided, worldly, checked out, worried. 

And the difference between the two? My heart. When it is divided, I am prone and predisposed to be the grouchy mom. I heard it taking charge of my tone, just yesterday. These seeds I sow, I reap for generations.

I bought these motherhood books when my kids were so little. I think I read one when Lanie was in kindergarten, but that feels so long ago. It's good to reassess--a heart check for where I am and where I'm heading. We don't get places by accident. The choices we make come with a cost. 

 Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12, NIV

I knew last spring that this splintered schooling would have been foolish to attempt, and while I thought I had steered clear of it, through a series of choices, I find myself here anyway. Now standing in the middle, the only way to go is forward. And right now, I'm watching the tally of costs. 

I study the list of words. I study the questions that prompt and guide. I pick up the fallen plates.

My kids have been outside for hours, and when they ring the doorbell for a fourth serving of water, I answer and serve. Life is a vapor. Hours of sledding. Their rosy cheeks. Chatter from chilly lips. 
27 And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple. 28 “But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? 29 Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. 30 They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’
31 “Or what king would go to war against another king without first sitting down with his counselors to discuss whether his army of 10,000 could defeat the 20,000 soldiers marching against him? 32 And if he can’t, he will send a delegation to discuss terms of peace while the enemy is still far away. 33 So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own.
34 “Salt is good for seasoning. But if it loses its flavor, how do you make it salty again? Luke 14:27-34, NLT.
 The cost of things.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Alright

"When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you." African proverb

Coffee break with a friend.

delish

Kids sledding and building a snowman with friends.



A grocery run after the big dig, and a song on the radio that reminds me:

I'll be alright.

this looks like a smile




I'm so thankful for the friends that God has surrounded me with.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

In the middle

In my twenties, back in the days of pagers (which I had) and brick-like cell phones (which I didn't have), I decided I would bike the C&O Canal trail by myself. It's 184.5 miles long. I had a bike, water, some food, and a tent. I figured it would take me three days. (My dad was going to meet me at designated stops for camping and restoring provisions.)

The first day, I encountered the Paw Paw tunnel. I walked my bike through it. I didn't have a flashlight--it never occurred to me I would need one. Halfway through, there was light at each end, but I was in the middle where it was dark. I couldn't even see what I was standing on. The light at each end was so small, it didn't help.

In the middle, there was no quitting. Not even when I wished I hadn't started. Or wished I had at least brought a flashlight. And, good grief, I hoped there weren't snakes or rats in there. In the middle, to turn back meant being stuck. In the middle, the only way out was through it. I kept my sight on whatever I could see before me, and when I couldn't see what was in front of me, I just kept my pace, cautious, anyway.

After a while, the light at the end got larger. The path became clearer. I was so excited to see the bigger, brighter trail ahead of me. And the voices of hikers nearby? What a delight. I wasn't alone (even though I was). I asked someone to take a picture of me. Me and my bike. At the mouth of the tunnel.

I biked sixty miles that first day.

Today feels like the middle. In past weeks: a review, Erin sick (twice!), Lanie sick (once), a cat dying and a blizzard. Lots of house work and heart work. Lots of thinking. Lots of catching up to do: laundry, lessons. Just finished quarter two. Right in the middle. The finish line is in sight, but it feels far off. I don't even know what I'm standing on, or where the next step will take me. And in the middle, though I feel alone, I know I'm not.

In his heart, a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps. Proverbs 16:9

Monday, January 25, 2016

And still counting (8217-8246)

for the love of a pet
her place in our family
stories finished
tears caught

Christy, who took my kids
Lisa and her family's condolences
a cat door in life before
texts and love from friends
Hershey Kisses from Denise

Wednesday coverage so I could be home with my kids
friends who understood my tears
and patience from those who didn't
the moms at co-op who reached out to us
milk in the fridge

and that we don't need bread anymore
dog bones for a waggy dog
the writers on 66 Books
the kindness of neighbors
electricity during a blizzard

warm blankets
fires
and dry firewood
a pot of soup
a Sunday nap

messaging with my dad
a Monday snow day off

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Snowy day

Like most of the area, we were digging out from the blizzard of 2016.

Two fires going. Making a path for the dog. Kids sledding. Chains on tires. The winds. My man worked on clearing our driveway nearly the entire day: when you've got 1/8 mile long driveway and more than 2 feet of snow covering it, that is a serious job.

At nearly dinner, he came in and stretched out on the couch.

"Finished!"

"To the end?" I asked.

"Yep," he said.

My hero.

patio

front yard

my helper

she helped too

the novelty will soon wear off

headed front to sled



the driveway




So thankful for food, heat, electricity, and all of us safe at home.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Because we forget

I once interviewed at a place in the morning and Shane told me I should have gotten the last interview of the day so I'd be remembered better. So before I left the meeting, I left them a picture of me and Rudy so they wouldn't forget me. I got the job.

***

Rudy used to leave stuffed toys at her food and water dish. She'd carry them around like they were babies. At our townhouse, she used to take my things and put them in her special hiding place. It was like a shrine to me.
Baby Rudy.

***

That time Joel was over and I left my sandwich on the table to visit with him outside. The kids came running out, "Mom! Rudy is eating your sandwich!"

***

She would howl and scream right around 3 a.m. when Shane woke up. She did this daily for years (on the weekends, she'd wait till about 7 a.m.). And when we'd open up the basement door (she slept in the basement because she used to scare me awake when she'd jump on the bed), she'd walk out with the teeniest meows like she hadn't been making all that racket.

***

Lanie and Rudy would hang out together and watch TV every night. Rudy would nuzzle and purr for Lanie and no one else. They really loved each other.

Lanie would also read aloud for school work, and even though Rudy had gone deaf, Lanie just read anyway and felt comforted having the cat around.

***

On Monday when Rudy was declining, Erin began to think of all they things Rudy wouldn't be able to do anymore. And then, with great emotion, "I never got to finish reading a story to her, and now she'll never hear it!"

"Get me the book," I said. "We'll read it to her now."

Read it to her. The deaf cat. And I read it as the cat lay in my lap. The Mouse Mansion, a favorite of Erin's and we'd gotten her a copy of it for Christmas. Erin showed me where she left off--the part about Friday night dinners, and I felt choked. At the last chapter of the two mice friends getting ready for bed and mama mouse speaking goodnight over them, it was all I could do to speak the word, "goodnight." I hate endings--in books and in life.
Erin's picture of Rudy sleeping

***

The first night without Rudy, Erin slept in bed with me and Shane because she didn't want to be left alone. She brought Rudy's toys to bed with her.

***

When Erin goes up for bed she says, "Goodnight, Mom. Goodnight, Dad. Goodnight, Nella. Goodnight, Rudy. ... I'm going to keep including Rudy until I forget."

***

Lanie wanted to get some books at the library. She still plans on reading out loud to Rudy. Not that she believes Rudy can hear her, but because it brings her heart comfort.

***

Yesterday, Erin said, "Remember the Bible you got me when I started kindergarten? Remember how I drew in the plain spaces?"

Me, "Yes."

"I found this picture," she showed me. "That's Rudy getting a book off the bookshelf. And here," she flips a few pages later, "That's Rudy sitting down to read the book."
Rudy picking out the book

Rudy at the table reading a book

***

Back at our former house, (she) wrote to me that they would dedicate the cat door to the laundry room to Rudy.

The sweetness. And how I could have cried at the very ordinary things we leave behind. Like it says, "We were here" long after we are gone.

***

An old friend wrote me how our pets work their way into our hearts. I thought of a former neighbor who had lost her dog and how quiet the house seemed without him. It had been so long since I had known that truth that it was hard for me to imagine. But these days, I know exactly what she meant. How I could be so busy parenting, schooling, housekeeping, yard warrioring, that I didn't sit and cuddle with a cat like I did when she was a kitten. And yet, somehow she was there in all those things and I wasn't even aware until she was no longer there. Places where we were used to seeing her sleeping. How she'd walk through a room or drink from the dog's dish. Her morning song.

When Lanie heads downstairs to watch The Waltons, and I feel the void.

***

I think of her in my arms last Monday, her looking for safety and protection and comfort. Think of the night vigil we kept for her, and the softest meows she made, sometimes not even a sound as she opened her mouth. Holding a dish up to her head so she could drink. How small she seemed and so much older. And still, after the kids had left and Shane and I were going to take her to the vet, I lifted her up upon a folded towel and she growled low and made a swat at me. Still a bit of feisty left in the old girl, and I knew if she'd had any more strength, she would have ripped my face off.

She hated the vet. And I hate the last memories I have of her there. That's been the hardest to shake.

***

My kids asked if animals go to heaven. (People I know say that you have to confess Jesus is Lord to go to heaven, and animals can't do that.) I told my kids that the Bible says the earth is the Lord's and everything in it. From flowers to sunrises, bird song to cat meows, everything does what the Lord has created it to do--and I believe in that way, all the earth sings praise and acknowledges him. Even cats.


***

I look at my dog. I have no idea if she understands what's going on or that the cat is no longer here. But I look at her and know that one day she'll be gone too. I wonder with this horrible mix: why would people ever get pets ... and how can people live without them?

one of Rudy's toy

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Last kisses

Lanie texted me that Rudy had fallen down the stairs yesterday and was limping. I checked her out when I got home, and she was limping slightly. As the afternoon progressed, the limping worsened. And this cat, that we often warned was mean and nasty to guests, limped her way toward me and let me hold her for hours. We think she had a stroke. We kept vigil overnight, Lanie and I.

This morning, the poor cat couldn't walk and we had to lift her water and food to her. By mid-morning, she didn't even move--laid all curled up and slept or watched us. We kept her cozy by the fire.

We had the heartbreak of taking her to the vet. The kids went with a good friend for the afternoon. Held that furry bundle in my arms and she watched the world pass by on the drive. The sun shone down and warmed us both.

I got that cat before I was even engaged. She was my baby before I had babies. Becoming a mom changed a lot between us, and I was ever so aware of the little kitty I cradled in my arms becoming the cat that wanted to trip my feet.
Christmas in Big Sky

She hissed at Lanie when I first brought Lanie home from the hospital, and she treated most others the same--guarding bathrooms with a growl and a swat at any guest passing by. But she loved me and Shane. And she grew to love our girls as well, eventually.
last summer

When we moved here, we all felt a peace and freedom--the cat especially. She loved to lay on the couches in the basement, but roamed the house at leisure. She could often be found asleep on Lanie's bed, and later this year, she took to Erin's bed.

before the move

woods cat

We had lots of names for her: Roo, Roory, Toofles, Lillel Cat, Killy Cat. (When we moved here, she killed a couple of mice. Go, Rudy!)

sweet love

seventeen years

The kids said their goodbyes to her before heading out. Erin drew a lovely picture, carried a picture of Rudy with her, and wrote Rudy a "get well soon" card (with a most touching interior that breaks a parent's heart). Speckled the cat with kisses. Lanie already said her goodbyes and wants lots of framed pictures of the two of them.

Thankful for so many years with a cat who loved us and we loved back. Rest in peace, little love.

Monday, January 18, 2016

And still counting (8177-8216)

that field with the geese resting on it
sunsets
mild days for a puffy vest
the pizza slice she bought with her own money

friends on a bench
a hug from Sandy
my kids' friendships
gray skies
clean baseboards

and a cleaned basement
books in the mail
a good review
thoughts about tables
memories with my kids

neighbors who noticed our trash wasn't out
and gifts from their hearts

a sign from Christy

stickers--tied for a double win
a poncho for Lanie made by my dad


and that he showed it off on FB, saying it was for his granddaughter
cold water
warm fires
Chipotle lunches

two quarters down

the happy hope that makes me want to cry
worship while vacuuming
praise reports from friends
the power of prayer
that You hear us from heaven

big, gulping breaths of fresh air
Dad and Linda on a Sunday stop
that he took the time to show me how to knit and purl again
his hands on video
his voice

snowfall
the doctor that looked out for him
an afternoon chat with my neighbor
hugs from a hound dog

heading to a neighbor's for an afternoon visit

waggy dog
Shane

that he'd run out to get me cottage cheese while I'm making dinner

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Sunday

Erin selected a skate day for her win. I took her out to skate as Lanie was at home sick.

The rink was packed. Erin skated and ate pizza. She did the Hokey-Pokey, the limbo and the skate races. 


she didn't know I was taking her picture

 I looked out the great big windows at a snowfall that seemed like a white out.

***

Dad stopped by to drop off the poncho for Lanie. He crocheted it. His mother was very crafty. After his first heart attack, he took up crocheting and knitting to relax himself. He taught me how to crochet when I was in middle school. I can only make granny squares.

He gave the poncho to Lanie and said he could stay a while to help me remember my knitting stitches. He ended up pulling out all of them and starting me over. I filmed him.

His old hands. The big purple marks on his hands. His voice. In some ways it reminds me of Tracey's voice. Every once in a while I would turn the camera to his face, and his glance reminded me of a crocodile's. I laughed.

He gave me a few practices to watch my technique.

He chatted me about a recent visit to have a stress test. How they were getting ready to inject him and put the leads on him when someone did a double take at his chart and put a halt to it.

"I'm sorry," he was told. "We can't do this test on you. I'm afraid it might hurt you."

I watched him as he spoke.

"It would have killed me," he said.

It was only after he left and I told Shane what happened that I felt like my very breath was being pulled out of my body and sucking my own life out with it. How I sat where my dad just sat, and how this past week could have had a very different ending.

My dad told me he's wondered if this will be the year he dies.

The words are so big.

I don't even know what to do with them.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Tie

I tallied up their stickers yesterday.

It was a tie.

Erin picked going skating this weekend.

Lanie picked staying up an extra hour.

They both expressed how glad they were to tie because they would have felt bad (for the other) if they had won.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Never just words

Sitting with her on the couch and the fire out because I neglected it.

I dog-eared the page. Recently she asked me, "Mom, why are all the history books about war?"

And I hmphed at her observation.

***

"What's one word you would use to sum up this chapter?" I asked my Great Books students.

"Brotherhood," someone offered. I wrote it down.

"Baby lump," someone else laughed. I wrote it down.

"War," I said, and added it to the mix. I posed Erin's question to the high schoolers on Monday as we finished up a chapter of war, war, war in Ancients.

"Because that's the only way things get done," a meek one offered.

***

"What was it like when the world was peaceful, Cuffy?"
"Ah," said Cuffy, coming up again. "It seemed like a lovely world; anyway on top where it showed. But it didn't last long." The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright.

We settled into last pages. I felt lost in the ocean with Mona as she swam; felt the waters when she realized how one day she would be a grown up ... that "going on fourteen was pretty old after all." And when she swam fast, churning and reaching, until the knowledge was left behind, I swam faster.

Did she know how these words pierced a mama's heart, this little one cuddled against me? Did she know that any moment, I could cry?

***

A lighthouse. It sat on a coffee table at piano, and I took a picture of it. It made me think of the Melendys at Mrs. Oliphant's lighthouse home that salty, sweltering summer long ago in the pages of The Saturdays.

"Let our home be a lighthouse to our neighbors, our nation, our world."
***

And when I turned to what was the last of the pages and could see the emptiness beyond the last period, I felt as I often do when a story is over--and I read slower and softer so the words lingered in my ears.

Those kids staring up at a summer moon, reimagining the events both good and bad that brought them where they were. I nod and know.

The last of the sentences, spoiler alert, and she welcomes the thought that summer means every day is Saturday, and yawns wide with peace and happiness.

"What a terrible ending," Erin said. "I hate when a book ends like that and you don't know what happens. Who would ever end a book with a yawn?"

But I nod and know ... of summer stretched out, and field fragrances, and the splash-splash-splash of blue, and picnics with red and white checkered blankets spread out beneath the feathery ferny leaves of a walnut tree.

Cheese and cheese

We had our county homeschool review today. This whole morning has flown by. I can't believe it's as late as it is.

The kids did great. Afterwards, I took them out to Chipotle for lunch. Lanie and I got burrito bowls and Erin got a quesadilla kids meal.

"What two sides would you like with that?" the prep person asked.

I looked at Erin and said, "That would be cheese and cheese."

The women prepping the food giggled. Erin laughed.

the lunch to celebrate (Marshall's mom: check out Lanie's shirt!)

I still don't know where to look. Neither does Erin.


***

Lanie offered to share her lemonade drink with Erin. One of the things I noticed in this whole stickers experiment is that instead of cultivating a cutthroat competition between my kids, it has actually fostered a gentle kindness.

When I asked who would get me a bag of walnuts from the pantry, both kids came into the kitchen holding onto the bag--because they didn't want the other to be left out.

When Erin drew a double dare card to clean her room, I said to Lanie, "It might be really nice if you helped her." And then she did.

A little fun-for-me was when the kids asked if there was anything else they could do to help me (!?!), I said, "It would be helpful to have the baseboards wiped down ..."

Both kids were up and at it by 8 this morning, and it took them less that fifteen minutes each to do a level. They were both so happy, and I was especially blessed--because I don't really remember the last time I cleaned the baseboards upstairs.

Win-win-win.

Monday, January 11, 2016

And still counting (8136-8176)

what sitting at the table revealed to me
a better path
good books
my family
coffee

a new schedule
the sweet lady who comes after our lesson
peace
tears
prayer

focus
community
time spent with Marshall's mom on her birthday
honest talks with Nora
people I can be real with and know they have my heart

time with my kids
hand lotion
the kids in Great Books
books on hold at the library
a book to read on the hard bench

the limbo
a night out with Erin
things that matter
and the things that will matter five years from now
Shane

coffee with Kellie
encouragement
the writers on 66 Books
Jesus, Esther, Job, Abram and Peter
gloves

wood to burn
heat
cherry pit warmers on my leg
Anita
Lisa

Denise
Psalm 23
a waffle iron
messages with my dad
a Jody sighting at church

Becky's yes to help

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Game on

The kids needed a motivation. Lately, I have noticed a lot more banter and back talk and complaining. Less helping out and a lot more demanding. It's been kind of yucky. I found I'm not immune to yuck.

Making dinner tonight, I called down to Lanie to bring up some rice from the pantry. When she did, I said, "That's great! Thanks! I caught you helping out. You get a sticker."

Funny that a sticker can still pique a teen's interest.

On the fly, I created a chart and made up the rules as I went along.

One column was for Lanie and one was for Erin. Whoever was caught "doing good" would get a sticker in their column. At the end of the week, the most one with stickers could pick a reward, like:

  • stay up an extra hour Friday or Saturday night
  • have a game night and get to pick the game
  • pick a movie from Red Box for a family movie
  • have a friend over for Friday night dinner
  • pick dinner for one night the next week

These are all pretty positive incentives that, fortunately, don't revolve around sugar. Or purchasing toys. And, mostly, they encourage time together as a family, which is always a win for all. (Ahem, community.)

Both girls were asking how they could help. Lanie wiped off the kitchen table so it would be clean for dinner. Erin made sure it was dry and set the table with (folded!) napkins. 

The volume was cranked up at the dinner table as I read off the rewards they could pick from. Erin could hardly wait. She was already planning the order she would do things. Lanie was pretty stoked for staying up later. She liked other things too, but staying up late made her feel like a grown up.

"Except, you're asleep like at 7," she said to me, laughing.

There are bonus cards too. Each morning, I'll put a card at the kids' seat and they can choose to accept the challenge for two stickers or not. Things like: clean up your sister's room; eat a new food; do not complain for the whole day, etc.

"Can we do this THE WHOLE YEAR?" they both asked.

"Let's get through the school year first," I suggested.

Lanie told me I was a fun mom, a welcome switch after some of the looks I got after lecturing today. Erin gave me lots of hugs.

We'll see how it goes. I really want to give them stickers. I really want them both to win. I kind of hope they tie. A lot.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Impressions

I took some lotion to school with me yesterday. Put it on after I got into my class and took off my gloves. One of the students asked if she could use some and I said yes. Next thing I know, I look up from my papers to see nearly all the students smiling and rubbing their hands together.

"Did you all put lotion on?" I asked. And they had. It made me laugh. I told them how I saw them: smiling, hand rubbing. We laughed.

***

I see his green light on in the chat bar. I've known him going on nine years. He's got stage four cancer. He's on his last hope of chemo. He's been fighting fevers lately. He might have to stop this course because his body can't handle it, and that knowledge carries weight. I looked at his green light. Thought of him and his family at our table over the years. Cried. Thought of the things bent on stealing my joy, and thought of my friend holding each moment precious in his grasp. Cried some more. Reached out and invited him to dinner. He said, "Yes. Let's get a date on the calendar or it won't happen."

***

Thoughts on Jesus, Esther, Job, Peter and Abram. So glad I know their stories.

***

A great read for 66 Books. A Thursday birthday hang-out with a friend. An early Saturday morning coffee with another close friend. A Friday morning video chat with a third as we look at community, identity, motherhood. And an online study by Angie Tolpin: The Quiet Fight Between Women.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

(everyday)

It was laundry folding. And fire starting. And homework doing.



We managed to get it all done, and a piano lesson too. Erin and I headed out to the grocery store. It was later in the day than we've gone lately.

She and I walked the aisles. Milk. Cheese. Crackers. Produce. I got a few boxes of coffee pods. And we tried a new (and gluten free) brand of hand lotion. So many scents, and we tried almost all of them at the same time and couldn't tell one from the next.

It was just us.

We shop every week. Sometimes she goes with me. Sometimes Lanie does. Sometimes both.

And it was really, really nice to connect with her in the everyday.

A community focus. A reflection on things that lead me to my goals and on things that lead me from them.

I let her text with Lanie while I was driving home. The sunset was so pretty through the winter trees. She took pictures of traffic.




In five years, this will still be the stuff that matters--the time I spent with my kids living a life. Not so much the challenging year, or the homework days or the laundry days or the shopping days, but that we made it through together.

Monday, January 4, 2016

(gifts)

She complained last night that she didn't want to go back to school today. Spoke about a class that I wished would be her favorite but is her very NOT favorite, and my heart felt sad and frustrated (not because it wasn't her favorite, but that it truly could have been her favorite).

I got up this morning and looked over the list I made last night: pray, light fire, start laundry ... had gone through cookbooks to plan out meals for the week's grocery run. Found a recipe for a rich and decadent hot chocolate. Looked for some breakfast and healthier treat ideas. Got up and packed Erin's lunch, put together the hot chocolate (using coconut milk instead of rice milk so that the fat would satisfy a back-to-school belly) and baked up a pumpkin bread.

I woke Erin up. It was still dark. She gave a groan.

"Would you like some hot chocolate with breakfast?" I asked.

Not a resounding yes, but it did grab her interest. Seemed like hot chocolate would win over Monday complaints.

"Lanie, do you want some hot chocolate with breakfast?" I asked.

"Yes!"

The kids came downstairs, and I sliced up servings of pumpkin bread, pulled out the fun little winter mugs and whipped cream. I sat at the table with them as they ate.

"I thought it was a dream when you said hot chocolate!" Lanie said. "I could smell something good, but it didn't smell like hot chocolate."

And then suddenly, Erin got up from her seat and climbed into my lap and wrapped her arms around me.

"Are you ok?" I asked.

She nodded she was. And then I made the connection--gifts being her love language, and that I had served her with foods she really liked--she saw it as a gift. And that spoke love to her.

Happy Monday, little one. Happy back to school. Sad that our family is still splintered, but making the very most of the time we are together.

And still counting (8105-8135)

Nora and her girls for lunch
that See's chocolates are gluten free
gifts from neighbors
night rides with Erin
a foggy detour that leads us home (and truly home)
music throughout the house

guests on New Year's Eve
Siri
the $12 vest
and a free (to us) ham
home

Rudolph's Shiny New Year
ice cream scoops
chasing after my man
fun friends
thoughts on prayer

community and the people in mine
a good message at church
friends around the table to send off a year
good, hot coffee to start a new year
a new focus





God's goodness in all things
texts with friends
one of the writers at my table on a Saturday afternoon
her story
a birthday celebration with another writer that night



colorful cake
delightful company
encouragement from a sister in Florida
a drop-in visit from Dad and Linda


a poncho he made for Erin