Tuesday, July 31, 2012

small things {raindrops}

small things #53 ... raindrops

We live in the desert.

It's hot.  It's dry.  It's dusty.

But right now, at this very moment, I am listening to the pitter patter of raindrops.  Through the screen on my patio door comes the sweet music of a gentle rain.  Little drops that tap dance down the green awning of the gazebo.  Larger drops that plop down from the leaves of the cottonwood tree overhead.  Dripping rain gutters and a smattering of drips and drops along the concrete.

My LeLe poked her head out of her room a few minutes ago.  "Can you turn off my fan?"


As I clicked off the hard-to-reach whirring fan, she smiled from her pillow.  "Now I can hear the rain."

A girl after my own heart.

The rain clouds move on leaving behind pitch black asphalt in the cul-de-sac, pocketed with puddles.  Out front the flower pots are filled to the brim with rain and drippy leaves and flowers cradle the coveted moisture, refreshed by the sudden shower.  Along the back of the house, trickling rain gutters run along the eaves, echoing the recent storm.  I hear the slush and slosh of cars on the road, kicking up spray as they drive on.  A cool breeze blows through the screens, heavily scented with the fresh rainfall.

Is the storm over?

Not yet ... I hear a renewed rumble of thunder and the pitter patter of the rain has begun to build again.  What joy this chorus of drips and drops, slushes and sloshes, plips and plops brings!

Raindrops ... much needed moisture for our desert and a much desired melody in the midst of this hot and dry and dusty summer.

Monday, July 30, 2012

small things {freckles}

small things #52 ... freckles

My big girl sits next to me on the kitchen bench.  She's telling me about her latest exploit on the balance beam.  Something about a leap, a quarter turn and an arabesque to scale.  I'm trying to focus on her words, but I'm distracted.

Distracted by her freckles.

At the start of summer there were several dozen sprinkled across her nose.  But now, at the half-way mark of summer, the sun has kissed her leaving hundreds of perfect freckles scattered across her face.

They cartwheel across her cheekbones, disappearing into her strawberry hair.
They spring from one side of her forehead to the other, tiptoeing among her blonde eyebrows.
They vault across the bridge of her button nose, delicate and dainty.

"Where did you get all those freckles?  You have hundreds."

"Probably thousands.  I don't want them."

"I adore them.  I want to kiss every one of them."

"That would take forever."

"I'd better get started."

Freckles ... just another of those tiny bits of my kids to treasure.  Even if they roll their eyes and back-walk-over out of reach.

Friday, July 27, 2012

small things {ten steps}

small things #51 ... ten steps

Today is our final morning of swim lessons.  We've been thoroughly saturated, chlorinated and hydrated. In celebration of eight successful sessions of splashing, swimming and sloshing around, the kids have been jumping off the diving boards.

This is the first year that Ashley has enjoyed the diving boards without having to have a noodle tied under her armpits or and life jacket cinched around her shivering chest.

This is also the first year that she did this:

Ten steps up, deep breath - splash!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

I Maaade It.

I love the SNL skit with Paul Simon when he's stranded on a desert island with Victoria Jackson at Christmas time.  Paul pulls out his handmade gifts:  potholders made from palm fronds and a few seashells.  Victoria, on the other hand, astonishes us all with her copper watch and hand-carved telescope.  She bashfully tells him about smelting the ore she found in the mountains and the pig she hunted for three days in order to tan its hide for the strap.  Each time Paul asks, "Where did you get this?" And she answers, "I maaade it!"  Click on the link for the transcript ... always good for a chuckle!

I recently maaaade something for my neighbor and it (thankfully) turned out just fine and dandy!

Never mind the windblown look ... 

The canopy for her glider swing came together just as I'd intended ... in spite of my derelict sewing machine that did NOT make me chuckle!  I never remember how frustrating sewing can be until I sit down with my project pinned and ready to go ... and my machine gives me a chugga-chugga-churrrrg. (Which I counter-attack with a "blurgedy-blurgedy-blurg!")  Then I spend the next 20 minutes re-threading, re-aligning and re-thinking my project!  Nothing brings out my almost-curses like a sewing machine on the fritz!  Gratefully, with a lot of super-natural patience, several new needles, a glass of iced, lavender tea and all my kids occupied elsewhere, I successfully sewed the canopy and delivered it to my neighbor all in one afternoon.  Whew!

It was not my finest stitching ever.  In fact there is most certainly a front side and a back side to this canopy.  But ... it is now providing much desired shade over her swing, is washable due to the hand-sewn velcro tabs holding it in place and the Sun-N-Shade outdoor fabric matched her balcony set perfectly.


As for the sewing machine?  Well, let's just say that she will need some serious TLC before my next project ("oops ... I don't think that part is supposed to come off") and hopefully I'll remember that before Halloween rolls around and I have four costumes to make ("why are you in so many pieces?!?").

#4 - When was the last time you made something with your hands and what was it?

Mama’s Losin’ It

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

small things {band aids}

small things #50 ... band aids

The kids had survived yet another mommy-mandated family walk through the neighborhood.  And now they were racing around the cul-de-sac, timing one another on the iPod.

(How is it that they have such boundless energy to frolic and run in a frenzy?  Just a few minutes ago there had been such moaning and groaning about having to walk.  So.  Very.  Far.  Such astonishing recovery!)

Soon the cul-de-sac was transformed into an Olympic arena complete with chalked starting lines and the cottonwood relay baton to pass from runner to runner.  We timed laps, stopped for water breaks and compared neighborhood records.

As the final moments before bedtime ticked by, the kids lined up for one last race around the asphalt.  They stood shoulder to shoulder with their toes on the white line waiting for the signal.  At "Ready!" they crouched toward the ground.  At "Set!" they leaned into their starts.  At "Go!" they took off, bending around the asphalt circle together.

And then it happened.

A little jostling, a little bumping, and a whole lot of slow-motion falling.

Brett and I were half-way across the concrete before poor Norah starting shrieking.  

Oh, the humanity.

I'll save you the details, but suffice it to say that sweet tender skin and unforgiving rugged asphalt do not mix.

As I gently settled her in the warm bath to clean her knees, hip, elbow and shoulder, she whimpered.  And my heart broke.  Her wounds were sharp and painful while my efforts seemed inept and clumsy.  Her tears were fresh and hot and my attempts to sponge away the road rubble only brought a new wave of tears.  She rejected the efforts of her daddy to help - leaving me to face the hard job of dabbing, ointmenting and band aiding.  All while swallowing hard against my own waves of distress.  (Did I mention that I feel a little like gagging around physical injuries?  No?  Well, I do.)

Finally Norah was fully band aided and pajama-ed.  She gingerly sat on the futon, waiting for our bedtime book.  In a tremulous voice she asked about gymnastics the next day.

"Well, we'll just see how you are feeling.  Okay?"

She nodded and sniffled.

Fast forward ten minutes into book time ...

Norah had transferred to the floor and was practicing her candlestick and her splits.

"Feeling better?"

A smile and a cartwheel.

It's a miracle!

I had felt rather helpless in the face of her injuries and yet my fumbling and awkward efforts had actually soothed her sorry little self.  Or at least the band aids had.

In the same way, I often feel at a loss as to what to say when someone experiences loss and pain, and yet even my most heartfelt, sincere, bumbling words can bring comfort.  More than my silence would, at least.

Band aids ... be they camouflaged, Hello Kitty or plain ol' beige - they bring comfort.  And so do compassionate, warm and kind words.

Monday, July 23, 2012

small things {snuggles}

small things #49 ... snuggles

Poor little Lydia was tired.  She was running on fumes.  She was grumpy.  She was a mess.

Much of the day had been spent with me asking her to do things and her saying, "no".  Nothing wears me out more than a too-tired-to-obey toddler.

With an hour until dinner time, I decided to try to distract my baby girl with some snuggle time and maybe a book.  If we could burn up some time cuddling, maybe she wouldn't burn out entirely.

I headed for the futon and invited her to join me.

"No.  I wanna play a game."  Her eyes flashed at me.

"Come here first.  I want to give you a hug."

"No.  I wanna game."  She glared.

I patted my lap and asked her again.  "Come sit with me a minute."

"No!  I.  Wanna.  Game."  She stomped one foot defiantly.

I had an image flicker in my mind of the number of times God has patiently called my name and patted His lap, inviting me to sit with Him for a bit.  And all the times, I've stomped my feet and said, "No!  I wanna do my own thing."  In the same way that God knows what is best for me, I knew my girl needed a cuddle.

"Come here, please," I said more firmly.  Less of an invitation and more of a request.

Liddy's lower lip scrunched up and she squared her shoulders.  She wasn't coming willingly.  Her determined little chin quivered and she shuffled a few steps in my direction.

I softened my words and held out my hands to her.  She hesitated and then leaned into me.  Not quite on my lap, but close.  As I put my arms around her, I felt her body tense and she mumbled something about not wanting to sit with me.

I pulled her onto my lap.   And the screaming began.

For the next several minutes, she writhed, kicked, shrieked, growled and howled.  It was loud and awful.  She yelled, "Stop it, Mommy!" repeatedly as I sat there with one hand across her lap and the other hand rubbing her back.  As I "forced" her to cuddle with me, hot tears ran down her red face and her hair clung to her damp forehead.  I rocked her and whispered to her as her tantrum rolled.  (Yes ... this is the same sweet girl who held my hand as we napped.  ...sigh...)

Her older siblings each peeked up the stairs; worried, curious eyes asked silently, "what's wrong?" I smiled and nodded at them, trying to reassure them that Lydia was okay ... or at least she would be soon.  (I had mini-flashbacks to similar "cuddle" sessions with my other babies and the venomous faces they would make at me as I held them.  Not my most favorite mommy-memories.)

Soon, sweet Liddy's protests quieted, to be replaced by deep, trembling sighs and wet sniffles.  She buried her drippy face into my shirt and let me fill with love all those ugly, angry places she had emptied with her tears.

"You are a sweet girl.  You are kind.  You are loving.  
You are smart.  You are so strong.  
I love you and Daddy loves you.  
You are funny.  You are silly.  You are special.  
You are precious to me."

As she looked up at me with her teary, bleary eyes, we talked about how Mommy was the boss and how much I love when she does the right and helpful thing.  She nodded and answered, "Yes, Mommy."

Finally there was a smile and a giggle as I stole a few more snuggles and kisses.  Then she started in with squealing and laughter as I wrestled her for, "one more zerbert ... one more tickle ... one more smooch!"  As she scampered off my lap, she was a rejuvinated little person with her love-tank topped off.

Again, I was reminded of the renewal and refreshment that comes with putting aside my "I wanna do's" and sitting a bit with Jesus.  Why do I fight Him so?  Why do I dig in my heels and put up my wall?  Why do I throw my own little tantrum when He asks me to obey?

Without fail, my times spent with God produce the same peace and quiet.  He tops off my tank as well with words of love and truth.

"You are a sweet girl.  You are kind.  You are loving.  
You are smart.  You are so strong.  
I love you.  
You are funny.  You are silly.  You are special.  
You are precious to me."

Lydia spent the rest of her day blessing me with kisses and hugs.  She told me all about how much she loves "the people" (us) and how much "the people" love her.  She smiled and giggled shyly when I stole a kiss at bedtime.  The toddle transformation was tremendous!

Snuggles ... sometimes they're sweet and sometimes they're sweaty.  But they almost always yield a special intimacy.  With my kids and with God.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Vacation Snapshots #7

 The last of my Vacation Snapshots.  With a little walk down memory lane ...

Our Honeymoon
Memorial Day Weekend 1998

Family Vacation
Just two weeks ago ...

Fourteen years, four kids ... same waterfall.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A New Bestseller!

"In her debut novel, Fruitful Fairytales, Morgan invites us to ask the question, 'But what did they learn from their daring brushes with death, their frightful encounters with fiends and their challenges resulting from bad choices?'  You'll enjoy reading these vignettes about the kindness Goldilocks returns to the Three Bears in their twilight years and how Eric persists in his faithfulness to Ariel, even when her good looks begin to fade and her voice gets a little scratchy.  An intriguing tapestry of familiar fairytales woven together with the Biblical virtues found in the fruit of the Spirit, you're sure to be delighted as you discover what happened following those legendary words 'happily ever after'."

And now the opening pages from chapter one, "Rooted in Love" ...

Gretel paused for moment to push her unruly curls back under her kerchief.  She sat back on her heels to stretch her back and brushed her hands on her apron, leaving a dark smudge of dirt across the fabric.  She was only about a third of the way through the flower garden, pulling out the stubborn bind weed and turf from around the plants.  How long had she been at this tiring task?  She checked the sky and guessed it to be about lunch time.  Perhaps just a few more feet and then she could stop for a bite to eat.

She bent back over her work and felt the hot sun her neck.  Gretel grabbed a handful of dandelions and gave a tug being careful not to uproot the tender buttercups nearby.  She moved on to a tuft of burdock that threatened to choke out her cotton candy colored primrose.  It was a never-ending battle to keep the weeds from taking over her flower garden.  Unbidden, her father's old saying came to mind, "Weeding halts the unwanted seeds we allow to take root in our lives."  With renewed vigor, she seized a handful of flixweed and yanked ... hoping to also uproot the control her father still held over her life.

Turning back to her work, another of her father's phrases sprang to mind.  "Work while you work, play while you play.  A job half done isn't don't the right way."   Gretel shook her head and blinked back tears.  It had been nearly nine years since that horrible day, but it felt like only yesterday she had stood in the middle of this forest, clinging to her brother's hand and searching in vain for the bread crumbs that would lead them home again.

She remembered the first time that wicked woman, her stepmother, had tricked them into following her into the woods.  Gretel had watched her father from under the pine tree as he argued with his wife, but in the end, he had relented.  She had felt his rejection as he had turned back to his wood shop, never looking back over his shoulder to see her standing in the shade of the tree.  At the time she hadn't understood what was going on, but she could sense there was trouble.  That was the reason for her pocketful of pebbles when they set off for their afternoon walk with her stepmother.  Her caution had been their salvation.  

She smiled ruefully as she remembered the shocked and angry look on the face of her stepmother when they arrived back home in time for dinner.  She had been flustered with their appearance and had received them with a stilted, "Welcome home.  Wash up for dinner."  Gretel remembered the fierceness with which her father had hugged her, but she had not hugged him back.  She could not forget how weak he had been earlier that day.  Nor could she forgive him for letting her go.

Knock, knock, knock ... 

Gretel was startled out of her reminiscing by a noise coming from the roof of the cottage.  She squinted against the sun and could just make out the silhouette of Hansel crouched at the edge of eaves.   He was hammering in new gingerbread shingles to replace the ones the crows had eaten.  Hansel had mentioned over breakfast that a woodpecker had pecked a few holes in the sugary mortar between a few of the shingles which in turn had weakened the them enough for the crows to fly off with several prized cookies.  Gretel caught a whiff of the sweet and spicy smell of the gingerbread boy baking in the oven.  She had offered to make a ginger scarecrow for Hansel to mount on the roof, but first he needed to repair the damaged shingles.

While Gretel worked in the garden, caring for the sky blue lupine and the dusty purple field aster, Hansel took care of the red and white candy cane shutters and black licorice lattice of the cottage.  They were a good team and Gretel was grateful they had each other.  She was grateful she wasn't completely alone.

Again, her father's words fluttered through her thoughts, "Blood is thicker than water and family is sweeter than candy."

"Leave me alone," she grumbled to the ironweed she clutched in her hand.  "Why can't you just leave me alone?"  She stood and angrily brushed her hands against her apron again.  She needed a change of scene.  She headed to the front porch and sat in the shade of the cottage.  In spite of her efforts, her thoughts returned to the past and the day her wicked stepmother successfully abandoned them to the woods.

She remembered being shaken awake while it was still dark.  Her stepmother stood over her with her shawl and shoes.

"Get up and get dressed.  We're getting an early start."

"Why?  Where are we going?"

"Shhh... don't wake your father.  Get up and wake your brother."

She had stumbled around in the dark to dress and find Hansel's shoes and cloak.  Her stepmother stood at the door tapping her foot with her arms crossed sharply in front of her.  Gretel could hear her father's whiffly snore from the back room.  She thought for a moment that she might call out to him.  But then the fear that he would turn his back on her again clutched at her heart and instead she walked toward the door.

"I'm hungry," mumbled Hansel sleepily.

"We've no time to eat," demanded the stepmother, "you can find some berries along the way."

Gretel felt panic rising in her chest.  She had not prepared for this early morning exodus.  She had no rocks this time and she looked around the dark kitchen in desperation.  It was then that she spotted the coarse-grained bread on the table, left-over from last night's dinner. She quietly and quickly slipped the loaf of bread into the folds of her shawl and grasped Hansel's hand.

"Let's go."

As they walked through the woods, she secretly dropped crumbs of her father's bread.  He was a baker as well as a woodsman.  In fact, he was quiet famous throughout the forest glen for his hearty breads.  His love of nature found its way into his culinary expertise as he chose unique and flavorful seeds and seasonings to add to his baked goods - sesame seeds, flax seeds, sunflowers seeds and more.

As you well know, those breadcrumbs we quickly snatched up by the birds and squirrels of the forest and when young Hansel and Gretel found themselves hours later deep in the heart of the forest and utterly alone, there was no trace of those precious morsels left to follow home.

Gretel and Hansel wandered for a few hours longer before finding the gingerbread cottage and the old witch who lived there.  Out of desperation and hope, Gretel had continued to drop crumbs of her father's loaf even right up to the cottages front step.

"How about something cold to drink."

Gretel jumped and looked up from her place on the porch.  Hansel stood behind her with two glasses of chilled, chocolate milk.  She smiled and scooted over to make room for her brother.

As she sipped the cold, creamy milk, she looked down the path that lead from the steps out into the woods.  She could see the little blue flowers peeking up from the soft green brush along the edge of the well-worn trail.  Every spring those little buds appeared and every spring she tried to ignore their arrival.  Little seeds nestled in her father's bread and left behind by the birds.  Little seeds that had bloomed and beckoned her to take a walk.

In her heart, she knew those delicate forget-me-nots would lead her all the way home. 

#4 - You've got a book deal ... now what are you going to write?!

Mama’s Losin’ It

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Vacation Snapshot #6

I love that the Ouray fire department doesn't mess around when it comes to the kids' races on July Fourth.  If you are going to go all out and be first across that line, then you deserve some cold hard cash.

No candy.
No Oriental Trading gizmo.
Straight cash.

Here are a few snapshots of our racers in action ... and a few of them came home a few dollars richer.

Ashley getting some pointers from her big sister.
"Run fast."

Aaron eyeing up the competition. "I could take you."

Norah and her friend working together ...
In, out, in, out, in, out.

And then there are the two cutie patooties ...

Please forgive my boisterous cheering and shaky camera-work.  It was pretty intense.

While I love Lydia's enthusiastic jumping and pride at hopping across that line in first place, I absolutely adore Cousin Bethany's potato sack walk/hopping and her "aw, shucks" response at the end.  But more than anything, I treasure what I didn't catch on camera ... Lydia splitting her winnings with her Beffy.

The true winner of the day!