Monday, October 16, 2017

20 Times

When Claire and I got home from dropping off the kids at school this morning, we were still in our pajamas. We wrapped ourselves in blankets on the couch to read for a while. Claire picked up the first book she wanted to read and said that she love-love-love-love-love-love-loves it. (She said “love” so many times.) 
And then, I guess to summarize, she said:
“I love it 20 times.”

Which brings me to this: October is back again. 

There are leaves on the streets and the smell of autumn is here: crisp and changing, brown and earthy.

The tops of the tomatoes are dead with frost and it’s time to pull everything out. 

The mornings and evenings are crisp, sometimes downright cold. 

I’m looking forward to making a batch of apple butter on the stove, filling my house with the scent of cinnamon and cloves. 

I bought spring bulbs to put in the ground so we can enjoy a bunch of beautiful happiness in six months when tulips carpet my small flower bed in front.

We’ve started burning fires, and there’s a sparkly spider and little witch hat on the mantle to show some October spirit. 

That’s all fine and good, and I love it all. 

But when I’m outside these days, I can’t stop staring. You’d think I have never seen golden trees before. But they are my absolute favorite. 
And every time and every day, I am—figuratively, and often literally—stopped in my tracks. Over and over...and over.

It was cool on Saturday when I woke up, and a bit breezy outside. I put my shoes on and went running. I saw sunlight filtering through a tree close to my house that never can decide, every year, if her leaves should be yellow or red. So she is both, and beautiful. And when the morning sun catches her, she is something to behold. 
Seeing her lit my heart right up. 

Life! Joy! Light!

And I know that this autumn will be over in just a minute.

But here’s the thing:
I love it 20 times.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

This Little Sequence

We were lying in bed next to each other and I snapped these photos in succession.

And the thing I keep thinking is that this little sequence pretty much sums her up.
She is funny, inquisitive, smart, verbal, zesty, surprising, articulate, energetic, full of life, laughter, and energy.

She always wants to go and she always wants to do.
She cries if she's left behind, never wants the party to be over, loves to snuggle, and is kind of a boss.
She always has an opinion and she'll let you know what she thinks. 
If you can't find something, ask Claire. She almost always knows where everything is.
She's insightful and has a vocabulary that amazes me.
I could just eat her up.

Monday, September 18, 2017

After School Dancing

You know how sometimes you have a moment that you think of and it just makes you happy?
This is one of mine.
Day 2 of school.
We're out on the back deck after school, eating these frozen juices from Costco (insert: so good!).
He was ebullient, and I was listening as he told me about everything that had happened that day. 
And I was playing one of his favorite songs (K'naan's Coca Cola Celebration's version of "Wavin' Flag") over and over.
This girl fell asleep on me,

and I watched him dance and dance in his happiness.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

First Day

This was the first year where back to school meant going to public school.
I said it.
The night before found me running to the store to buy some treats for their plates the next night at our "back to school" dinner.
I came home and stayed up late at the kitchen table writing them notes and hiding them in their backpacks with bubble gum, along with some notes from their dad.

I woke them up the next morning and made waffles with peaches and whipped cream for breakfast.
Threw a roast and some onions in the crock pot for dinner.
Everyone was out of bed, fast, the nerves and newness evident.
We ate, I made lunches for them and did Mia's hair.
We gathered in the school room before we left and I asked them to think of a story in the scriptures that exemplified courage, and then a time in their lives where they'd needed courage.
Isaiah referenced Daniel in the lions' den.
Benj talked about mountain biking for the first time, how he was simultaneously excited and scared.
Mia referenced a scriptural story where an individual had to go back and admit he was wrong. 

Then I read them a verse that I love in Deuteronomy (31:6):
"Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid...for the Lord thy God, He it is that doth go with thee; He will not fail thee, nor forsake thee."

And we prayed together in that room, with sun streaming in through the east windows.
Then we got up to go and I gave them skittles for their pockets.
They looked so cute.
Then, it was quick:
load in the car, drive to the school, drop them off.
They had balloons in a big arch out front and fun music blaring. 
The principal and several teachers were there to welcome all the kids on the first day and giving high fives. It was really awesome.
I hugged them goodbye and was fine until I could tell that Mia was on the verge of crying.
I called her back to the car and hugged her again and she held tight with teary eyes.

I was so proud watching them walk into school.
They didn't look back.
Even thinking about it now makes me tear up.
I drove away and cried.

But Claire and I kept busy that day.
We had two doctor appointments for me, and in between we hit the store to get balloons for our dinner.
At the second appointment we sat in the lobby reading while waiting to get called back.
(And incidentally, this is one of my very favorite picture books. If you haven't read Wilfred Gordon MacDonald Partridge, do it. It's tender and sweet. I love it every time.)

And then, soon enough, it was time to go and get them.
We waited anxiously in the car, watching for them.
And when they rounded the corner and saw us waiting there, they came running!

We drove home and went into the front room and they talked non-stop.
And then it was time for dinner.
Mia was helping with gravy, 
Isaiah was mixing the mashed potatoes (fresh out of the bathtub in his robe), I got out my Grandma Vera's rose china, set the table, and put a candy bar and tic tacs on each of their plates.
Oh, and snuggled this girl.
Menu: fall apart roast and onions, mashed potatoes, scratch gravy, roasted carrots, salad.
And, of course, "Christmas juice."
Here's to new beginnings.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017


They turned 11, and the day was much like the Monday afternoon of the day they were born.
I remember laying there, pushing those boys out of my body, and noticing the bright blue sky outside and the sunshine.
It was a beautiful day.
Funny what you remember. 

We had friends show up at 7:45 this morning with donuts, a sweet and lovely surprise for the boys.
I was already cooking sausage and planning to make scrambled eggs, but it turned out they ate donuts and sausage instead.

When we dropped them off at school, Claire and I ran errands and then came home to do party prep:
making chocolate cake (scratch chocolate cake with scratch peanut butter frosting and crumbled peanut butter cups)
and filling favor bags.

Then it was time to make the relay lists for the party. I split the boys into two teams and explained what they had to do: an act of service, 50 jumping jacks, a round of pictionary, a round of tricks on the trampoline, an egg/spoon relay down the backyard, 2 times around the block, and a scavenger hunt for 4 things. The winning team got full-size candy bars.
They nailed it, it was entertaining, and it kept things from getting too crazy. (You've got to harness the energy of all those tween boys!)
After the party was over, a lazy couple of glorious hours ensued. My sister and I talked on the deck. After she left, I sent friends home and made tacos and we took some pictures and then sat down to eat.
And then we gathered round for a new tradition: drawing words for the birthday peeps from the "oracle" box one of my sisters gave to me on my birthday this year, and writing wishes for the birthday peeps for the coming year. 
I choked up with one of Claire's simple messages:
Dear Isaiah, On your birthday I want to tell you that I love you always. Love, Claire
Mia wished that Benji would get a lego set that would end up being one of his all-time favorites and that Isaiah would make a meaningful friend.
Isaiah capitalized on a family joke when he wished Benji a bowl of salad.

And me? I offered a wish about Benj not letting fear hold him back, and I choked up when I read it out loud. (Isn't that one of those life lessons that most of us have to learn again and again?) And for Isaiah? That he'd make a delectable cake and get some new cologne, among other things.
And tonight, after the sound effects of a "fart in a can" gift Benji got had died down (insert: You should have seen the laughter and fart imitations going down among all those boys while we were eating cake and ice cream and opening presents on the back lawn; I couldn't help it, I could. not. restrain. my laughter.), they read in their beds and then made me laugh with a rendition of "Do Your Ears Hang Low" that references the male anatomy as taught to them by a friend. 
(Insert: "Do you balls hang low?")

Oh. my. word.

And due to party prep, I didn't get to work today. The result? I worked late and looked up from my screen periodically at the three of them that fell asleep in my room. 
And you know what?
Tonight I’m feeling very aware of something as I look at each of them; their lengthening bodies, their peaceful faces, the noise of the day now quiet and still. 
It's that gentle, beautiful ache that reminds me they’ll be gone before I know it.
They have been--and are--the greatest privilege of my life.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Dove Hunting

Benj got his birthday present early this year: a BB gun with extra ammo.
He wanted it in time to take it dove hunting on Labor Day.

When he found it sitting out for him, he ripped it open and immediately started sizing it up.
On Labor Day night, laying in bed, I was watching a video of them cleaning the birds after the hunt.
I couldn't help but laugh.

They're sitting in the truck bed twisting and pulling off bird heads and wings.
My nephew Grayson thinks it's disgusting, but he stands there watching.

Benji is totally interested and engaged, actively cleaning and gutting the birds. I think he was stoked to be using his pocket knife on something legit, and when I asked him how it was to clean and gut a bird, he gave me one passionate "awesome". (And it wasn't the little-boy-gleeful-shout version of awesome; it was the older, collected-but-punctuated-and-emphatic awesome. 
Turns out...these boys are growing up.)

Isaiah is completely grossed out and it shows on his face. He is repulsed, but drawn to watching anyway. My favorite line from him that makes me bust a gut every time?
"I could do the feather pulling, but I can't do the decapitating body parts."
Bella, my almost-seven-year-old niece, is clapping with joy at the prospect of taking off bird wings. 
("Okay, okay, I'll do this! I'll do this!")
Oh my gosh, I love her.
Super funny video. 
I laugh every time I watch it.
 And even if Isaiah didn't love that part, he did enjoy shooting at "tweety birds" late that afternoon, 
and Benj loved shooting cans and hearing them PING.
Oh, and the dove hearts. He wanted to keep them.
When they got back, Isaiah promptly told me that he wanted a BB gun and ammo for his birthday present, too.
 So, friends, that's how we're going to end up with two BB guns in the house, and target practice going down in the backyard.
Good times.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Must Be Late Summer

It must be late summer and almost fall.

We are eating from the garden.

(Picture peek-a-boo p.s.: If you haven't read The Penderwicks, it's a must. So, so good. We just read it together and absolutely _loved_ it.)

The black-eyed-Susans are blooming in the backyard.
Monsoon-like weather is coming to a close with its deep indigo clouds that roll in just about every afternoon.
I went to the first football game last Saturday, and made a peach pie with fresh peaches from the orchard the night before.
School has started again, with big changes in our house. (#hardbutgood)
And...the canning has begun.
Jamming and canning, to be precise.

Two weeks ago found the girls and I in the kitchen one night.
I was washing fresh raspberries and dumping them into a container where the girls were crushing them.
Mia was busy mixing the pectin mix with the berries, filling jars, and labeling them.

Benj came up in the middle of it and exclaimed, 
"I love when there's cooking going on in the kitchen at night!"
(My sentiments exactly, actually. There's something about the quiet of night time, an open back door with fresh air (or not), background tunes or just listening to crickets, and spending time together. It takes me to some fond places in my childhood and many, many conversations in the kitchen, late at night, with my dad. It's kind of strange, really, to be the parent now, and not the child.
What happened? How did it all go so fast?)
Benj pulled out a bowl, filled it with salsa, grabbed some chips, and ate while reading Calvin & Hobbes while the girls and I worked. 
Oh, and photo bombed.
And this week? 

When Claire and I dropped off the kids at school on Monday morning, we came home and watered the pots outside and cleaned up the kitchen.
But afterward, we went out to the garden because I knew we had tons of tomatoes in that happy mess of green.
We didn't even pick the vines clean, and this is what we came away with.
Had to get those done, too.

 So yeah...the kitchen has been a hot, steamy, sticky place this week as we've bottled quarts that we'll pull out for spaghetti sauce and soups during the rest of the year. 
They're getting older, and it's fun to be side by side, doing whatever.
Like last night. 
The kitchen was warm, more quarts of tomatoes were processing, 
made dinner, made cookie dough, 
had friends stop by unexpectedly and we ended up out on the deck as it got windy and started to rain.
It. was. lovely.
We ended up piling them in our car to drive them home, listening to the Indigo Girls. 
And when we got home? Those two girls and I went for a run.
It was raining, thundering, and lightning was occasionally torching the sky.
But we ran, even Claire, with her (comparatively) shorter legs.
She kept right up.
We talked and laughed and ran as it got dark.
The best.

Tomorrow is September 1st. 

I'm going to put fall on my mantle this weekend:
owls, nuts, a little glass pumpkin from Cape Cod that was a gift from my dad, golden yellow and orange ginkgo leaves, coppers and golds and browns, a sparkly black spider and small little witch hat to offer a Halloween tease.


I'm gonna make a wreath for my front door out of dried putka pods, and then I think? I'll hang it with burlap ribbon.

Welcome to my favorite time of year.

(I've already been burning a cider candle, melting apple jack wax squares to fill my kitchen with that apple cinnamon smell, and I can tell the heat is on the brink of retreat.
All good things.)

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