Friday, July 30, 2010

Photo Friday: The Beauty Of Small Things

I may have mentioned before that I struggle with a tendency towards control freakishness. (So totally a word.) I try and try to control things that are much too big for me. I try to gain the upper hand over things that I have no right to dominate. I worry over issues that will work themselves out without my interference. And I am trying hard to give up this folly. Because that is exactly what it is--folly.

So instead, I am working at following my heart in finding and being satisfied with the beauty of small things: watching the goldfinches at the feeder, taking a bike ride in the gathering twilight, giggling in bed with one of my children, a glass of wine on the patio, quiet time with my husband, the dance of butterflies in my yard, a text from a friend that makes me laugh, the taste of fresh tomatoes, the smell of the air after a rainstorm.

I'm realizing that my day could be made up of a string of small, yet beautiful things if only I would be mindful of them and be present in the moment. No easy feat, but one which I am willing to try to accomplish.

Mary's shells. Treasures found on our visit to the lake. Photographed with a Canon Rebel xTi 18-55mm lens.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


When you turned five, you had never ridden a bike. Now you are talking about taking off the training wheels from your bike and learning how to ride without them.

When you turned five, you wouldn't dream of putting your head under water in the swimming pool. Now, not only do you put your head under, you float on your tummy and kick your feet. You dive under for pool toys. You don't mind getting water on your face.

When you turned five, you couldn't read. Now you read and read and read some more and--big shocker here, given your dramatic tendencies--you read with great expression.

When you turned five, you wouldn't dream of eating meat of any kind. Now you will deign to eat a chicken nugget or two--but not from a restaurant. Oh no! You will only condescend to eat the "kind from our freezer." (Honestly I'm not sure chicken nuggets actually qualify as meat, but it's a giant leap forward, so I'm not quibbling over details.)

When you turned five, you couldn't climb a tree. Now you are hanging from limbs like a chattering monkey.

When you turned five, you wanted a bicycle and garden tools. Now you have asked for a bean bag toss game (known around these parts as "corn hole"--an unfortunate name for a game, I think) and dress up shoes. This entertains me greatly. I'm considering getting you a beer koozie (sans the beer of course) for Christmas, because the idea of you playing corn hole while wearing princess shoes and sipping a drink from a koozie entertains me even more.

When you turned five, you wanted me to read bedtime stories with you and then waited for a "tickle time" at the end. Now, often as not, you are reading to me. But you still request "tickle time" and have added a zerbert or two as well.
When you turned five, you wanted me with you, near you, all the time. Now you are spreading your wings and testing your independence. You have discovered that you are your own person and are not afraid (HA! HUGE understatement) to make your needs and desires known. You have a little circle of friends that you enjoy and you talk of them often, counting the days until you'll see them again at school.

When you turned five, you liked to sit on my lap and snuggle your head under my chin. Your little body fit tightly to mine. Now, you still sit on my lap and snuggle your head under my chin, but you suddenly seem to be more knees and elbows. I still enjoy it immensely, even after the odd elbow to the ribs.

When you turned five, like each year before, you inhabited a place in my heart that is Mary-shaped. Now, at six, you are still there. No matter how big you grow, no matter what skills you acquire, no matter how near or far you live, you will always hold that spot. And you will fit that spot just right. No matter what.
Happy 6th birthday, Mary Rose! I love you. You are my favorite Mary.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


Nine is you, a jumble in your bed, with your blankets wrapped in a knot around your neck and your bare feet hanging out.

Nine is you, running through the yard, laughing with your friends.

Nine is you, with freckles dotting your face like so much cinnamon floating on cream.

Nine is you, with your infectious laugh, trying your best to make no noise while wrestling your brother when you should be in your bed.

Nine is you, picking peas off of the vine and popping them straight into your mouth and then grinning at me innocently.

Nine is you, red faced and sweaty, with your curls tightly kinked after being out in the evening jumping on the neighbor's trampoline.

Nine is you, stealing into my bedroom as I'm getting ready for bed, shyly telling me that you are frightened.

Nine is you, with trust in your eyes, listening to me explain away your fears.

Nine is you, gripping me tightly in a hug and whispering "you're the best mommy ever!"

Nine is you, stomping into your room and slamming your door, crying and yelling that I'm "so mean! The meanest mom ever!"

Nine is you, playing with your younger sister, even though you don't want to, because you told her you would.

Nine is you, begging your older brother to come outside and play because it's "more fun with him."

Nine is you, looking forward to school--but not so that any of your friends can hear you--so you can hang out with your buddies again.

Nine is you, tucking your hand into mine as we walk into church.

Nine is you, snuggling up next to me on the couch and asking me to run my fingers through your curls.

Nine is you, goggles on and nose plugged, doing cannonballs into the pool.

Nine is you, growing and moving and stepping away from me, but not too far--just as it should be.

Nine is you, full of laughter and love and joy and curls and freckles and fear and anger and generosity and trust.

And nine is me, marveling at you and all that you have become.

Happy birthday! I love you. You are my favorite Sean.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Photo Friday: Creating And Receiving Beauty

"I don't care how a person sees beauty. I just care that beauty is beheld. Created...Because when we're creating beauty, we align ourselves with our Designer. When we're receiving beauty, we're receiving "the kingdom" in its best form."
Laura Munson, This Is Not The Story You Think It Is

Queen Anne's Lace in my back yard. Photographed with a Canon Rebel XTi 18-55 mm lens.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

That's Entertainment?

My children have been known to get, um, creative when they are bored. The other evening, Mary got out our homemade balance board (an old Cub Scout project) and was playing around with it. Then she had an idea. And it was an idea that when put into motion cracked me up. Every time.

What can I say? I'm easily amused.

First Tomato Sandwich

This is what became of that first tomato.

A drizzle of olive oil, a bit of smoky cheddar, a pinch of kosher salt, a little fresh basil, and the first tomato, all combined on some crusty bread and put under the broiler for a minute or two. The result? The delicious taste of summer in my mouth.

Oh. That and two boys who smelled the resultant goodness and clamored for one of their own. Care to guess what I did with the second tomato?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

First Tomato

I harvested the first tomato from my garden today. (Listen to me--"harvested"--like I'm all hip to the agriculture lingo.) Isn't it gorgeous? I have big plans for it. I think it is going to get sliced and placed on some delicious bread along with some smoky cheddar cheese and possibly some fresh basil (also "harvested" from my garden) and placed under the broiler. It's only 9 a.m. and I'm already eyeing the oven and dreaming about lunch.

I have lots more coming on that will be ready to pick within the next day or two. Mmmm....

How do you like to eat your tomatoes?

Monday, July 19, 2010

I Found The Cure

You know what's good for the blahs? Having a good friend with a lake house who not only invites you to spend the night but also asks you to bring your four super bored, needy children (plus one child's friend so that child will have someone to hang with) along with you. Because for some reason that for the moment you cannot fathom, she likes your children. She asks you to come and beat the heat with her and her children. (Perhaps she likes your children for the companionship they will provide for her own children. Hmmm...that must be it!) She makes you an offer you cannot refuse. And those blahs? Well, they've been left somewhere by the side of the road as you head south.

You know what's good for the blahs? Taking a raft out to the middle of the lake and screaming as much and as loudly as you can while getting there.

You know what's good for the blahs? Finding tiny, tiny beautiful pebbles.

You know what's good for the blahs? Playing sardines.

You know what's good for the blahs? Walking with good friends.

You know what's good for the blahs? Fishing. With fake bait.

You know what's good for the blahs? Playing a game that occasionally requires ridiculous poses and sometimes even dancing with the player to your left.

You know what's good for the blahs? Blackmail photos.

You know what's good for the blahs? Canoeing.

You know what's good for the blahs? S'mores.

You know what's good for the blahs? Telling your children to go jump in a lake and having them joyfully follow through.

You know what's good for the blahs? A good friend who is walking the same road and knows every step you are taking and encourages, moans, laughs, cries, and pushes right along with you. It's even better if that road is located by a lake.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Blah Blah Blahs

When Mary was two or three years old and she couldn't find a way to amuse herself, instead of saying "I'm bored," she would say "I'm boring." That expresses my feelings right now exactly. I have nothing to report. I have nothing to write about. There is no drama in my life; great for day to day living, but not so great for blog writing. If I were a government administration, I'd be the Carter administration--just barely functioning amidst feelings of general malaise and ennui.

My kids are all healthy. A blessing, to be sure, but it leaves me no tales to tell of long doctor's office waits or six degrees of separation stories. Our vacation is over and I made you all sit through the bloggy equivalent of watching your Great Aunt Tessie's slides in the family rumpus room--and miraculously you came back and want to keep reading stuff I put on here! I am not making anything or crafting anything. I can't seem to even get up the gumption to cruise by Goodwill. I can't even find the interest in surfing Craigslist for overpriced crappy furniture--and that requires nothing more than sitting on my ever-expanding butt and moving my finger on the mouse! Usually I can at least do this and comment on how many people are on crack with the prices they are asking for furniture that looks like what you sat on in the family rumpus room when you watched your Great Aunt Tessie's slides. Usually this brings me out of a funk. What? You don't look at the online equivalent of the classified ads--but with much funnier misspellings--to feel better? Huh. Oh well. I never claimed to be normal.

My point is, there this log and I am a bump on that log.

And these people I live with? They keep expecting me to do things like feed them when I just did it, like, yesterday! And they keep wanting clean clothes. Gawd, they're sooo needy! And some of them even tell me they're bored. Barkin' up the wrong tree, there, kid.

So it is with my apologies that I have nothing of interest to fill up this space. And it seems that I can't summon the interest to find something of interest. And yet here I sit rambling on. Blah, blah, blah. Sigh.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Writing Is On The Wall Window

Okay. I am convinced. It is not me. I am not the crazy one. Nope. That honor belongs to one of my neighbors. I mean, I sort of new that she was a nutbar, but I thought that I might have contributed in some way--through something I did or failed to do-- to any drama that may have occured. Now I know. It's her. It's not me.

One of our neighbors is selling their house (thanks be to God). It has been on the market for a while. They have reduced their price, but as far as we know, they haven't had any serious interest. Interestingly, the For Sale sign coincided with a marked increase in my prayer time. Every time I see it, I offer up a little prayer that it will sell quickly and that a normal family will move in. (I know we are not normal. But it would be good if the family moved in understood that no one is really normal. Also, it would be good if they didn't think they cornered the market on mad parenting skillz.) My prayers have even gone so far as to include a neighbor that we could, oh, I don't know, be neighborly with. I may also have requested a little girl Mary's age so that she doesn't continue to think of me as her Cruise Director--solely responsible for finding her fun.

Anyway! While I was off getting a hair cut on Saturday, the Nutbar's husband, who isn't really a nutbar himself--who does, in fact, seem to be a nice guy, albeit a rather spineless one--knocked on our door. When my beloved answered, the Nutbar's husband (henceforth referred to as NH) rather sheepishly stated that he had a favor to ask, and further stated that he wished he didn't have to ask it.

Now, it is my opinion that if you wish you didn't have to ask something, well, you probably shouldn't because A) you are not convinced about the thing which you are asking and will wind up looking like a wishy-washy fool, or B) you really don't have any right to be asking in the first place.

So NH asked if we would mind wiping off the writing on our windows because even though we "made our own way in this world, as had they," evidently the people coming for a showing of their house had not. Whatever that means. In my case, I took it to mean people that would be just as high maintenance as the ones living there now. Who knows, really? This was all Nutbar's doing poured through the filter of her husband's mouth.

Let me back up. A few weeks ago, I finally got around to cleaning up and organizing the mudroom. In that time, the children discovered that we had Crayola window markers. These write on windows and come off easily. We haven't used them much--mainly during football season. Anyway, they were spirited away with much whispering and planning. Sean had his name written in big letters on his two windows. Maggie had drawn flowers, rainbows, and other things of that ilk, along with a few sayings and several names (including those of her friends and cousins) drawn in fancy, curlicued handwriting. If I had my druthers (control freak that I am), they wouldn't have done it (because that sort of thing, even though easily cleaned, gives me hives), but they are kids, it was harmless, and that is, in fact, what the markers were designed for. There was nothing offensive on the windows. And nothing was going to stay up there forever. Most things had been up a week or less. While you could see the writing on the windows from the outside, short of being able to read Sean's backwards name, you couldn't really tell what the rest was. Mostly what you saw were hearts and flowers and rainbows.

So. Enter NH on our doorstep asking my beloved husband if we would clean our windows off because they have a showing. My husband asked NH if he thought our windows detracted from the appearance of his house and NH's response was "no." My husband--who it should be noted, has a very good spine and is in no way wishy-washy--replied that our daughter would have a fit if we cleaned off her windows while she was gone. After all, her cousins had just written their stuff only a few days earlier. He stated that he would be willing to open the blinds so that the writing wouldn't be seen as easily. A nice option, I thought, considering we didn't have to do anything. (Let's not even get into the fact that we couldn't imagine asking something like this of neighbors ourselves when we were selling our house.)

When I got home, Patrick debated about whether he should tell me because he feared that my brain my ooze from my ears I might get upset. In fact, I laughed. I was so taken aback by the request that at first I thought he was joking. My next impulse, and the impulse I acted on, was to take the window cleaner and some paper towels and go clean the windows.

"No way am I letting them blame the loss of the sale on me!" I muttered. "Boy howdy does Nutbar ever have some brass ones," I thought. Although I probably didn't say "boy howdy" and I'm fairly certain that whatever I might have called her in my head, "Nutbar" would have been a very large step up.

I cleaned off Sean's windows and then headed for Maggie's room. And there I stopped. I refused to clean off the flowers and rainbows and hearts and names. The more I thought about it, the crazier and ballsier the request seemed. I furrowed my brow, scratched my head, listened to my conscience, and then I turned around and left Maggie's room without touching her windows. They'll get cleaned in a few days. When we're ready.

It did enter my head, because I am evil, to take the markers and draw a giant arrow using all the upstairs windows and have it point to the neighbor's house. On the downstairs windows I thought I might write "Nutbar!" Of course I didn't, but it has been fun to contemplate...

It's been a long time since I've had any neighborhood blog fodder, which, while not so great for the blog, has been pretty nice for, you know, living. We have sort of kept our distance from certain folks, which has kept any drama to a minimum. I can only hope that my prayers will be answered in short order.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Photo Friday: 19 Years And Things Are Still Coming Up Roses

My sweet husband gave me a dozen roses for our anniversary. Actually he gave them to me before our anniversary because he was leaving town on our anniversary. They are stunning. They are not quite pink and not quite lavender. I don't know what color to call them, so I am just calling them lovely.

My husband, he's a keeper.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Photographic Evidence Proving That Insanity Is Familial

Remember last year's Fourth where we celebrated in mustachioed style? This year brought something new.

Elvis (Elvis' sister?) sighting!!!

Uncle Sam wants you. His redneck nephew wants you--to go away.

Grumpy redneck or grumpy redneck Amish guy?

I don't think rednecks drink Rolling Rock, do they?

Baby redneck in training.

He's got a big hat to fill. Heh heh heh.

And then there's the family luggage elf.

She came in quite handy. She's kinda cute too. And unlike her mother (Elvisina), she doesn't sport facial hair. Lucky girl.

And possibly the world's only grandfather/grandson piano playing duet that uses baby feet as a means of making music. I just have to say, that baby? He's a prodigy!

Oh, let's just call this post what it really is: future blackmail material.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

It's Much Too Quiet In The Aftermath Of All The Commotion

The party is over. It is very quiet here. After 4 days of extended family togetherness, we have retreated to our separate corners. My husband has hit the road--on our anniversary, no less! In other words, life is back to its normal routine.

We had a great time--despite some snippiness during an outdoor family photo session. (In our defense, it was extremely hot and humid.) There was more food than I care to see for a long time. Our favorites were potato salad, monkey bread, sausage and egg casserole, lasagna, more fresh fruit than you can imagine, birthday cupcakes, and sundaes in a jar. Those were just our favorites. That list doesn't even contain the food that we deemed really good. What I'm sayin' is that we did some eatin', my friends. I don't think I need to eat for at least a week. Anyone seen my elastic waistband pants??? Gah!

There was also a lot of celebrating our country's independence by blowin' thangs up. Or watching things "explodiate" as my 8 year old says. When did he start channeling George Bush and making up his own words? In fact, we spent a very long time after a very long walk standing on a very hot bridge with at least 5 bajillion strangers to watch a fireworks display that was good, but not good enough to be worth the hassle of at least three very tired young children nearly melting down into salty pools of their own sweat and tears and then being forced to march a "death march" in the dark to where we parked our cars--about a mile away--only to have to sit in our cars in crazy traffic. At least our vehicles had air conditioning. By the way, all of this took place a mile from our house. If there had been decent sidewalks to get us from our house to the bridge, we would have walked, but we didn't really want to risk our lives walking alongside the hilly road busy with holiday traffic.

Somehow, the air conditioning revived one of my very tired, very sweaty children and he pitched a royal fit when he found out that it was too late once we arrived home from the fireworks display to light off our own fireworks. How does the old adage go? "It's not a holiday until your offspring tells you that you are the meanest mother ever?" No wait. That doesn't sound right...

There was also swimming. It was crowded, but refreshing. And is there anything--anything--better than the smell of sunscreen and chlorine on your children? No, no there is not. Totally worth effort of suiting up and rubbing sunscreen on wiggling young children who do not wish to be sunscreened and rounding up enough towels for 15 people. I truly believe that the whole sunscreen/chlorine smell would be marketable. You can bet that I would buy it in the dead of winter when summer is but a memory.

And then there were games. There were several rousing games of SCAT with its betting of nickels, and card golf, with its horrible parallels with real golf (in scoring, I played this game much as I would "real" golf. In short: I sucked.) There was the shared agony of watching the Cubs on the telly. And there was the World Cup. I started out knowing nothing about it, but after watching with my brother, I rather came to enjoy it. And finally, bocce. Because no family get-together is complete without an utter schooling from my parents in this game. I don't think I had enough to drink. I always play better after a glass or two of wine. Or, maybe I just care less...hmmm....something to ponder.

The cousins all had so much fun being together again and getting reacquainted after a year apart. They had a great time playing with Thomas, the youngest member of the clan, who at this time last year made his presence known by making my sister-in-law feel horribly nauseated and tired. We like him much better in person. Heh. They played capture the flag and ghost in the graveyard. They goofed around and stayed up late talking. And several of them spent time playing two Coldplay songs on the piano. As much as I enjoy Coldplay, by the end of the visit, I was ready to declare a moratorium on any and all Coldplay songs.

There was also this phrase: "Keep your pantalones on, Erik Estrada!" Every time someone said it, everyone else cracked up.

See these people? I love them all.

We managed to get ourselves all together for a photo using the timer on my camera. We are all jumbled together, not standing as separate families. That feels right to me.

It was a good weekend that went by much too fast. I am already looking forward to next year but it just seems too far away.