Friday, July 29, 2016

A box of happiness

Bravewriter inspired me with the idea of poetry magnets. Everyone has heard of poetry magnets. I've seen them plenty of times at friends' homes. It never occurred to me to get them until Julie Bogart's mention of them as a teaching tool.


Face palm.

What a great idea! So I jumped online and found the cutest little, and I mean LITTLE, box of magnets. I was trying to slow down on purchases because I've already spent a lot getting ready for the school year, and I mentally wish listed the magnets. I told my kids about them in passing, and before I know it, Lanie is slipping me cash to buy them for me as a gift.

"You order them," she said. She is generous. I ordered them.

They arrived yesterday, and I opened the little, and I mean LITTLE, box of magnets.

Ack--I love it all

"Can I play with them?" Erin asked.

Insert laughter because: that was the hope and the point!

She enjoyed making up lovely, happy sentences for quite a while. (Happy heart here.)

When I was heading into the living room after the kids went up to bed, I opened the little box to create my own happy sentences. I went to place my sentences on the fridge by Erin's when I saw this and my heart swelled.

When she was such a wee little thing, and I've told her this story before, I was carrying her downstairs one night to refill her sippy cup and I felt a surge of love for her. I told her, "I love you, Erin."

And in her sweet toddler speak, she replied, "I you." It was the first time I remembered hearing her tell me she loved me.

Thank you, little box of happiness.

Monday, July 25, 2016

And still counting (9113-9150)

Shawn, and a hug
a gift for a friend
a sweet hair tie for Erin

a Monday Panera meeting with Rebecca
gifts between us
tea in a mug--perfect
a read aloud with Erin about butterflies
sweet time with Marshall's Mom

her friendship
and that she takes the time to see us, so far away
a morning with Christy
then lunch
an impromptu swim with Becky P

Ann and Kellie at the pool

fun inner tube races on a hot day
texts with Lisa
a carnival, revisited
that man of mine

nightswim at home
banana chocolate chip bread, gluten free
a really good read ("The Best Yes" by Lysa Terkeurst)
my dad
gifts for friends for back to school

sunset pinks viewed from the top of the Ferris Wheel
sticks for the fire pile
thoughts on home during the new school year
owls in flight through the yard and in the woods
frog sightings

slow days
awards for eager writers
camera 3
pumpkin spice tea in a mug
running in to a neighbor at church

lights around the pool

Apothic Red
a hug with Erica
grape tomatoes from the garden
a friend in Nora

Saturday, July 23, 2016


Carnival season. Taking the kids out to enjoy the lights and sights. They seemed surprised their dad and I didn't want to whip around with them on the jerky rides. (And yet, somehow, we end up with three wrist bands and before I know it I'm wearing one of them! Designated rider.)

The last time we were there was five years ago, just before we moved in here. David and Anita were with us. A lot can happen in five years. David no longer drives; can't manage stairs well; they are downsizing to a condo next month--the man who put his arm around me five years ago and called me daughter, who oversaw the cleaning of the woods.

We talked about Linda a bit, and what activities she does in retirement. Her devotion to her garden and home. I started to think about how old I'd be when the girls graduate--a form of retirement too, as I've invested my life to date to educating them. And what would the days look like without them?

"You could clean up some of your piles," Shane started. I gave a snort. "Or maybe get that last load out to Goodwill."

I was trying to be serious, thinking about options, and this guy ...

"Maybe get that mulch mound finished ..." he continued to muse. "Or sweep under the couches ..."

I guess there will be a day that I get those tasks finished. But for now, I'll continue to enjoy the interruptions to my housekeeping because I'm keeping up with my kids.

"Those eight years will go by faster than you think," he said.

The first eight certainly have.

We wanted to catch the carnival at dusk to enjoy the lights, but got there early. I think we did the high slides with the burlap bags first. Something about that experience was Erin's undoing. So I coaxed Erin out to try a benign attraction. Some surf shack thing that had a turning tumbler to traverse--easy right? Sure. I went first. No problem. I turned back--Erin refused to enter it. I spent several minutes trying to encourage her to come in--we watched batches of kids come through so she could see their footing.

No luck. I had to go back and either go through it with her, or get her to exit. But before I knew it, I was losing my balance in the tumbler, and quite literally tumbled through this tube all in slow motion. I was laughing so hard because I couldn't right myself, and rolled and splat out of the mouth of it. A mom had walked over to where I was so she could laugh with me. We were belly laughing, and then I saw Shane and Lanie through my (laughing) tears.

"That was you?" he asked. "I thought someone's kid was having trouble when I saw the legs tumbling in the air."

"I knew they were your shoes!" Lanie said.

Good times.

"Something always happens when you're around," Lanie told me. And usually, happens to me. I get that from my mom. I think Erin's a carrier for that gene. (This morning, Shane is still wishing he had videoed the episode.)

As for that attraction--the operator turned off the tumbler so--ahem--Erin could get through safely. Then we stayed until almost closing. Definitely a stiff back this morning, and the kids are sleeping in.

Queue Templeton's song from "Charlotte's Web"

Family selfie fail

Not a fan of the Ferris Wheel, but the view from the top was stunning

Shane's in the white shirt

Gorgeous pinks in the sunset

Still couldn't get a smile out of Erin

Until her happiness kicked in at the end
We talked about how we were at the carnival five years ago.

"I walked this ground when I was four?!" Erin, in awe.

"I was eight," Lanie said.

Yeah, that went fast.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016


I think my kids spent nearly the whole day in the water.

It started with an always favorite at our house--Marshall's Mom and the kiddos. Good, hot July weather. Splashing blue. Erin mustered the courage to stick her head under the water. And then she put her whole body under the water. And THEN she wouldn't stop.

Fishy fishy all day, that girl.

Even after our friends' farewell, I had a quick coffee break and took my kids back out. I floated along in the inner tube, and Erin and Lanie splashed and went under. Erin put on goggles and laughed and laughed at the underwater delight of bubbles, and yelling secrets under water.

Laughed so much.

"Oh! A wishy!" she exclaimed as a floating wish sailed by. "I wish every day was like today!" The joy.

When Shane came home from work, she spoke in exclamation.

"Daddy! Come to the pool!"

She jumped in and went under.

She swam across and was under.

She slid down and went under.

"I knew you could do it!" Shane said. And to Lanie, "She's just like you the first year here."

Lanie smiled.

"We've been at the pool the whole day," I told him.

And guests daily all week. Making up for the lost time.

"I think we should have some celebration ice cream," Erin said, for the fourth time.

That girl.

Monday, July 18, 2016

And still counting (9079-9112)

Kristine over for lunch
a rendez-vous with Erica

books in the mail
and new swim suits for Lanie
her four inches and thirty pounds
a good check-up
evening walks with the girls

fruit salad with peppermint from the garden
berry muffins, delish
daisies in the teapot
the purple salute of hosta blossoms
baby owls hollering in the woods

blue water, crystal clear
planners in the mail for a new school year
happiness here
home sweet home
first day splashes
she wanted to be the first one in and the last one out

frog love

and a next day pool event with eleven kids
Linda's new job
ice cream celebration after dinner
a full fridge
in buckets all throughout Wegman's, $5 a bunch--how could I resist?

Edward Tulane

Erin's love note to me on the school table

fun together

love her!

and my girls' longing to be moms one day too
Cubby and Sammy
Erin's glitter winter scene with the pine trees and the fox

vanilla yogurt with frozen blueberries

evening walks with my kids
fireworks chocolate at Trader Joe's

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Day story

Outside my window, early mornings mean I catch the first glimpse of dawn. The tree silhouette is majestic. Light cresting sings glory. It's my mother's birthday today. She would have been 78.

Giving thanks for 66 Books and Thursday morning scriptures. Reading today about Elijah, a heart that seeks God, and influences.

In the school room, books stacks. New arrivals. Audio books. A movie. A purple blanket. A morning basket (people sized and doll sized). The cheery smell of Satsuma in the warmer.

From the kitchen, a coconut chocolate bread, recipe off the bag of a mighty delicious King Arthur bag of coconut flour:

Chocolate Coconut Quick Bread (King Arthur Flour)

 1/2 cup coconut flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
6 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup cocoa powder
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
6 large eggs
(a handful of chocolate chips, optional)

Combine and sift flour and baking powder. In a separate bowl, blend melted butter and cocoa powder. In a third bowl, whisk sugar, salt, vanilla and eggs. Add melted butter/cocoa mixture. Then whisk in flour blend until mixed thoroughly. Prepare greased bread pan. Let rest ten minutes as oven preheats to 350 degrees. Bake 35-45 minutes and let rest 30 minutes before slicing.

I am creating a home of welcome, safety, love and inclusion for my family, friends and guests.

I don't ever want to forget God's faithfulness.

I am working on the garden and yard. Though these humid days gave me the perfect excuse to stay in air conditioning and read a bit longer ...

I am reading The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo, Carry On, Mr. Bowditch Jean Lee Latham, Balance that Works When Life Doesn't by Susie Larson, The Best Yes by Lysa Terkeurst, Teaching From Rest by Sarah Mackenzie, The Life-Giving Home by Sally Clarkson,  Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child by Anthony Esolen, and The Writer's Jungle by Julie Bogart.

I am praying, yes.

I am hearing the evening sound of baby owls calling from the trees lately, and locusts during evening walks, but this morning, the unexpected hum of the air conditioner before the house is awake. Another hot day.

Around the house, preparing shelves for a new school year; purging old clothes and old papers; planning to paint a master bedroom and bathroom.

A view of my favorite things

A few plans for the next week, water check on the pool and then let the splashing begin. Looking forward to summer plans and playdates, a sense of peace and tranquility spending time with people we love. Summer, unhurried.

At the table, my friend Kristine came to visit and, among other dishes, we enjoyed a summery delight of strawberries, peaches and blueberries topped with fresh mint from an outdoor pot. My mouth waters still at the memory. Andrea and I caught up yesterday over glasses of ice water while our youngest daughters played. Tomorrow, Kellie in the afternoon and Linda at the table for dinner.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The difference a year makes

A year ago, she was just out of the hospital--the second trip in her life over chronic issues. A year ago, we thought we were done with the ordeal. The call and the diagnosis that Lanie has Celiac disease changed everything.

I got the call in the parking lot at co-op where I was waiting for Nicole to give me the literature books for Ancients. The kids asked me as we drove away, "What's for lunch?" 

My hollow response, "I'm not sure." The nutritionist was scheduling a month out, and my kids needed to eat that day.

I remember those early days vividly, running and functioning mostly on sleeplessness and nerves. A month spent reading and researching before I could even look up.
first gluten-free chocolate chip cookies
mixes were a life saver in the early days
she was twelve and sixty-six pounds

We gave away a lot of food. I packed up all my former cookbooks. I bought new cookbooks (which I love!). Packed up baking equipment and some appliances. Got new baking equipment and appliances. The fun parts that reflected our new life. New Pinterest boards on gluten-free recipes and other things. The glass jars I love, and the labels made by a bestie. My husband built us a new pantry to hold new things--because now we have coconut flour, almond flour, rice flour, potato starch, tapioca and buckwheat flour.
protein bars, homemade

new space

gluten-free pantry
big (heart) jars

label love

That was the fun part--creating a new space of safety for my girl, so that she wouldn't ever have to question what she could have here. (Welcome, safe, loved, included.) Those pantry shelves were often stocked, and still are, by friends and family. And we are grateful.

There were hard things too. Celiac disease can single you out as the one who is too much trouble. She went from friend to forgotten, and, yes, that was hard. We became acutely aware of the role of food in social situations. But overall, removing the trigger that could lead to serious health conditions later far outweighed a temporary affliction.

I find myself thankful in the losses--as they have made room for something new. My girl? She's strong. She's navigated this like a champ. Her health is important and she looks out for it diligently. She's found new friends, and she's discovered who she is--and she is confident, funny, intelligent, delightful, and happy. In a lot of ways, this diagnosis opened new doors.

"You're a different person," her doctor said to her yesterday. (She is!) Lanie just smiled. All four inches taller and thirty pounds heavier from her diagnosis a year ago. This is thriving. She's got low D, which is not uncommon with Celiac disease, and her transglutaminase IgA is down from over 100 to 6. We're getting there.

a May picture
"Looks like you're doing all the right things. The good news is," the doctor continued, "you won't have to see me for a year." And bigger smiles.

A year ago, all the changes we were going through felt encompassing and undefined. So much unknown. I learned a lot about community, even then, and more so throughout the year.

The heart breaks and breaks
and lives by breaking.
It is necessary to go
through dark and deeper dark
and not to turn.
~from "The Testing-Tree" by Stanley Kunitz

Standing from this vantage point, what a road that was, but look where we are! Counting the blessings--a healthy, thriving child; supportive friends and family; and a horizon sky so beautiful, I don't want to look long at the shadows behind me.

Thank you, God, for your provision, your strength, your guidance and your faithful love. We are also thankful for friends, family and neighbors who walked alongside us this past year, whose love for Lanie wasn't intimidated by the diagnosis, and whose love for all of us was expressed in encouragement, inclusion and precious provision.

Monday, July 11, 2016

And still counting (9036-9078)

salad at lunch
flowering hostas
Erin skipping through the field
plums and peaches at the grocery store
Shane's sense of humor

visits with friends
books in the mail
coffee with Kellie
an afternoon thunderstorm
easy friendships

new recipes
Friday night with Linda
the necklace my dad gave me
sweet wine
good finds at Goodwill

tea party plans
a playdate for the girls that gave me a few hours for quiet thought
and how happy I was to have them back with me
pretty fabrics for bookmarks
order on the bookshelves

air conditioning
my hound dog
found things from their younger years
seeing Lisa this week
mashed potatoes for Aspen

a break in the humidity
a job watching dogs for the girls
weeding in the coolness
ripened peaches
late night chatting with Erin

how she often said, "I love you"
and made a wish on the first star she saw
a tea pot
gifted tea party items from Linda
reading "The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane" aloud

the freedom from subscriptions and social media
and newly found time when a laptop is closed
Aldi's chips
a pool, almost ready
the .45 cent basket perfect for a doll's morning basket

coconut lemon lotion
a gorgeous summer day
improvements in her blood results

Monday, July 4, 2016

Garden and yard

The past few days have been catch up and maintenance in the yard. While Shane trimmed back the neighbor's tree overhang from the driveway, I was push mowing and tractor mowing. Then I did a few hours of mulch hauling.

And then I did a few more hours of it.

Erin joined me today. She wanted to shovel the mulch. I let her.

"This is hard!" she said. "It looked really easy!"

"That's just because my arms have had more practice getting strong. You know, hauling around bags of groceries, carrying a vacuum cleaner and mop bucket around, and all those years I carried you and Lanie!" I said. And it's no joke this place has given me yard arms.

She filled up the wheelbarrow twice. She wanted to push it, and she did. She wanted to spread it, and she did.

Shane came outside carrying a shovel, and my smile grew. The three of us hustled the mulch mound (I think I got twelve yards this year.). Shane loaded the wheelbarrows (we had two going). Erin pushed the wheelbarrows to me, where I emptied them and spread them, gave them back to her, and the cycle continued. We did this for at least two hours, the three of us.

"Ok, two more trips and then I'm done," Erin would tell us. And five trips later (and more!), she was still at it. Maybe because two didn't seem so bad after all. Maybe because there was still so much more ground to cover. Maybe because many hands make light work (AMEN!!!). We accomplished so much.


Earlier in the day I went down to the field to cut the grass.

Erin rode her bike down and parked it at the fence. She asked if she could go into the field, and I said she could if she didn't play where I was cutting. Saw her skipping long and free through the field. Her shirt so bright and pink. She skipped and twirled all over the place.

Independence day.

from last night; she is like a dancer

And still counting (8992-9035)

grilled chicken
how she smells like summer when she comes inside
watching The Waltons with Lanie
how she holds my hand

and she tells me she loves me
lesson planning
Nora's text:
"It's amazing what God can do when you get out of his way."
a copy job at Staples
curriculum for writing for Erin

the August art class
a chat with Anita
Lanie subscribed to 66 Books
Kellie at the table
the years of her friendship

our kids' closeness

making Nathan laugh on the walkie-talkie (ordering pizza)
photos with Christy

a long weekend
Denise, always

Lisa and her crew

a bonfire

lightning bugs by the "hundreds", oh, homeschool math

the Aldi's salad
the last of the journals, shredded

a splat face
and early mornings
this place--a year-round wonderland

Satsuma in the rooms

chocolate in the freezer
play dates
the remnant smell of the vegetable plants on my fingers
fancy fabric lengths for bookmarks
Linda at the table

feta cheese in a salad
bird song in the morning and evening
first berries from the field, picked and delivered by Erin
the gorgeous summer skies (and the clouds!)
a Sunday wake up of hunting hawks overhead

Saturday sunny skies
the soft purple blanket after a full day working in the yard
a working filter

Friday, July 1, 2016

In the course of a day

We ran around a lot today. Lanie had to give blood for labs to see if we have been successful keeping gluten away from her (fingers crossed!), and she was so stressed over the blood draw. It turned out to be much better than she expected. Now we wait to see the specialist.

I spent a crazy amount of time on the phone with the insurance company.

We went by Goodwill and dropped off the closet purge.

Then we went by BJs to buy a whole lot of hot dogs.

After lunch, the kids and I went by Christy's to do a quick food shoot. (Lanie and I were absolutely giddy over the edits tonight!)

my very favorite from the shoot
Library run. Finally home (and a catnap). I had cancelled Linda for dinner because I knew the errands were going to have me out all day, and I didn't have a dinner plan. But she didn't get the message and showed up at five.

"I hope you aren't disappointed! I'm making spaghetti (which she doesn't eat). But I'll make a big salad?!" Lucky for leftover barbecue chicken. She said it was really good. We had such a nice time together that I'm glad she didn't get the message. Love just beamed from her eyes. She gave me the biggest hug goodbye.

She's thinking of joining us for Tuesday tea during the school year.

"You have to bring a poem!" I told her.

"Ok," she said, in thought.

I went upstairs tonight to kiss Erin goodnight. Lanie called out to me. She showed me Erin's latest story. She sat on her bed howling with laughter, holding her sides.

Later on the couch, I remembered to add straws to the grocery list because Linda likes them.

A weekend still ahead, and company around the table again soon.