Bittersweet Symphony

Last night at three in the morning, the car alarm that has been turned off for a year and a half, the one held within John's car that hasn't started for a week and a half, suddenly awoke and wouldn't stop shouting. Using the electronic thingamajig didn't quiet it nor did turning it off manually. Finally, John had to the disconnect the car battery, the same battery that is too weak to start the car but is evidently just strong enough to give the alarm a thrill for an hour or two.

John's had to use the van, so I've been out of the house twice in two and a half weeks, to a party and to church, which were not on the same day, lest you think we party wildly at church. (That makes it sound like we partied wildly at the party, though, which also is not the case. It was a cookie and adoption party day, for Pete's sake!). Christmas shopping is undone, Christmas ingredients for baking are unpurchased, and, until John blessed me by going to the laundromat after work last night, laundry piles haunted my dreams.

Ebay auctions are going swimmingly, though, and today I drew a Christmas card! The root of Jesse, the lion lying down with the Lamb, O Adonai, and the Lion of the tribe of Judah all mixed together. It's not as straightforward as last year's, and I was about to give up on it, but I haven't doodled in a very long time. I needed the excuse. I don't have a way to scan it yet, and I don't know how I'm actually going to print out the cards, but I optimistically hope to send most of them out tomorrow. If you'd like a card but are unsure about whether or not I have your address (feel free to request a card even if we've never met), then please email me your mailing address at my Internet-sticky-business email: fridgefame at gmail dot com.

More to come another day.
Come what may.


The Root of Jesse

A confused pine tree that smells like citrus sprouts from the living room rug, out of place at any time of the year but this; we hardly wonder at indoor trees and needles now. Our tree is not yet a Christmas tree, though it does get decorated each day with a new paper ornament. It serves as our Jesse tree until Christmas Eve, when, anticipating the next morning's fulfillment in a baby's form, we'll deck it out in lights and a tacky array of hodge-podge. We'll also move the shepherds from their hill, take the baby from the box, and a trio of wise men will begin following the star-- a treacherous journey taking them from the upstairs of our house to the nativity scene under the tree.

We've celebrated Advent since Millie was a baby, starting with a pauper's quintet of mismatched candles and, with the extra space provided by last year's move, moving our way to a bonafide advent wreath. This year, we've added a Jesse tree to our celebration of Advent, along with daily scripture reading and ornament-making on top of the nightly scripture and liturgy.

I am so thankful for this. I grew up in a renegade family. We celebrated Christmas but were part of the Meeting in which other brethren viewed it as a pagan holiday. The disparity between sacred and secular was keenly felt by my parents, especially my dad, and Christmas morning always brought with it a solemn scripture reading and prayer after breakfast, to balance out the eventual stocking upending and gift opening. Without a framework in which to properly approach Christmas Day, it was difficult not to be swallowed by the excitement of all the pomp and circumstance and forget the Child for most of the day. Celebrating Advent has unified the two for me. It's hard enough for adults to properly wrap our minds and hearts around the singular happening of the Virgin Birth and what God as Man signified; how can we expect children to properly celebrate it if we distract them for an entire month with nearly everything but that?

We spend the weeks before Christmas refreshing our memories of Jesus's ancestry, the men and women from whom He came, which focuses our attention and points toward one thing only--Christ Himself. Of course, the holiday season is still full of cookies and confections, music and decorations, and there's nothing wrong and everything right with that. The girls shriek to draw our eyes to every decorated house we pass in the night, and we bellow Christmas carols loudly enough for people in China to hear. It's part of the celebration, after all! This is an important distinction, though. It's part of the celebration. These peripheral ways to celebrate Christ's birth sometimes become the only thing we celebrate in practice, though our words speak otherwise.

I am thankful for Advent today. I'm thankful that the excitement building in us is not just about the coming eggnog (!), the tree decorating, and the gift-wrapped mysteries, but about the greatest Mystery this world will ever know. So, yes, let's look forward to fun and family, bright red stockings with oranges stretching out the toes, and eating our once-a-year sugar cereal in fancy, holiday bowls. Yet more, let us look forward to Christmas Day and the birth of Jesus, and greater still, let us look forward to His coming again!

Let it be so.

Some Shoots

Here are some of my favorites so far. Moses in the pineneedlerushes and Joseph in his many-colored coat.

And Millie's take on Isaac. He's stretching out his hand toward his father, she said. If he did so, how Abraham's heart must have broken.

Sadly, I Have a Degree in English

After the following run-on sentence strung out in paragraph form, you'll find the pathetic collection of snapshots taken since the week before Thanksgiving. They're sparse and twiggy like Charlie's tree. Please embrace them with as much goodwill and lovingkindness as he did his twig.

I apologize for the lacking pictures of the entire first half of December. Though not documented, we did indeed live during this time, enjoying lots of moments and even whole days! December gave us a holiday cookie party that would have made Martha jealous, an adoption party to welcome a sweet girl into her earthly family and into the family of God, lots of ballerina-elves (yes, that's what the girls call themselves now), soggy mittens, hats pulled low, apple cheeks, cookie-making and snitching, icicle eating at the kitchen table, Perfect Porridge and other recipes made from this book, pink eggs, AND I MOPPED THE FLOOR FOR THE FIRST TIME IN...wait. I've never been one to spill my darkness or inner turmoil on a public blog. Never you mind how long it's been.

Mostly, though, the things done are only there to distract myself from things undone, which far outnumber the rest. Yet to do: ALL of the Christmas gift-making (I'll be lucky if I finish two. Or one.), Christmas gift shopping (for our L.I. Owens, you wonderful people who are so stinking hard to shop for!), truffle and candy making, learning to keep an even temper, ebay shipping (if all goes well, we'll have 40 packages to mail off next week. What in the world was I thinking?!?), Christmas card doodling and mailing (hopefully you'll get yours by February), and, yes, thank you for being too refined to ask about Millie's schooling and the state of the house apart from the sparkling kitchen floor.

Yes. Snapshots. Onward, ho!

False Promises

Here are the warm and savory smells of Thanksgiving in photographic form.

Oh, that's right. I didn't take any pictures of Thanksgiving. Instead, here's part of Millie's schooling the week before Thanksgiving. For a day or two, when we reviewed the stories and timeline, she called the Vikings "Hikings" or "Bikings," but by the week's end, she had it down pat.

We also made hand/foot construction paper turkeys while sitting at the laundromat and corncob dolls at the kitchen table, but there are no pictures. They do still cart the overly decorated cobs about, each cob missing a twiggy arm, so maybe there's still hope for corncob doll photos.

On her square of white, Millie replicated the original Thanksgiving Day spread, only she added more gourmet food than the Pilgrims ever imagined existing. Pumpkins and apples were fine, but then she went on to draw a cherry-strawberry pie, a mound of key limes (!), a pile of oranges, and a birthday cake, shaped like a rocket ship and with candles a'flame, for "a little Pilgrim child who is turning four." (When asked, Annika said that she had drawn "the snowy winter" in her square.)

I do have one picture from our Thanksgiving vacation on L.I. A blurry representation of Anna and Susannah. I took an evening picture of Alex and Annika in a leaf pile, too, but they just looked like small dark blobs on a larger dark blob. Cheers to amateur snapshotters!

Half-Dozen More

The week after Thanksgiving, I finally rousted myself outdoors to clear the garden before the next round of snow arrived. The second day that I spent hauling stones, the girls snagged wheelbarrow rides after each unloading. They also ate apples.

I'm partial to this one's apple-eating, so she gets two snapshots.

Annika was showing off the glow of her hair in the sunlight, but all one sees in the snapshot is her grimy face. (Still cute, though, eh?)

Then they made dozens of cookies that baked on stone slabs. A day and a half later, the still-baking cookies were buried in snow, but Millie said it's okay. A fairy gave her some magic, and she can command those cookies to bake as much or as little as she'd like without fear of them burning or being underdone. Since the snow hasn't melted since then, and we're due to get ten inches today, I think they'll have to bake until April.

And here's Annika at my sister-in-law Wendy's cookie party. Everything was perfect, from the decorations to the food, from the company to the cookies, and what did I take a picture of? Annika's bellybutton.



Our children, like all children, say funny things every day of the week. Here are a few recent ones, even though I realize they're really only funny to me because I'm their mama.

One day, I told Millie that John dislikes vehicles. Millie responded, "If you didn't have cars, you could probably ride bikes...OR have a horse and carriage [another pause as she thinks of other viable modes of transportation, then a big grin as she hits on what she obviously thinks is a stroke of genius]...you could ALSO rollerblade!"

Annika: Dod [God] made Eve wum [from] wibbons [ribbons].
Is that so?

As a backdrop to the following anecdote, a month or so ago, this is how Annika counted, though she's now improved. Note her efficient merging of eleven and twelve before she skips a few numbers.

one, two, wee, dour, dive, dix, deven, eight, nine, ten, a-welve, dirteen, one hundred and difty-two, a-welve, dour, dive...and so on.

So this morning, Millie in her usual fashion, only borrowing Annie's special number, gave John a goodbye hug and kiss and told him, "Papa, there are 152 magic hugs and kisses in the mailbox for you." (She's done this since she was two. He's expected to retrieve these every morning before he drives down the road, I suppose so that he has enough to sustain him through a long day...?)

Annika, not to be outdone, followed with, "Papa! There are 182 elephants in the mailbox for you!" Yes, we have a very large mailbox (or perhaps very small elephants?).

Sarah C.P., I think you may have a soon visitor. Millie's fixation with California-- the one she's had since she was little....#2 at the bottom, if you actually follow the link-- shows no signs of abating. This morning, I heard Millie singing as she bounced, "We are jumping to California in our rocket ship." Just so you know, she eats just about anything and is easy to please. Bedtime's eight o'clock or thereabouts.

And because I haven't taken any pictures in a couple of weeks, here's a moving picture.

I taped Annie on the sly while she was praying a few months ago. She prayed the same prayer nearly every single day, with minor additions depending on what had occurred before we sat down. The first and last parts are snipped off because I didn't want to be discovered, and here's a transcription for those who don't understand Nixie-speak, "Dear Dod, hank you dor a dood [food] in wont [front] of us, an' hank you dor a birds dat chirp...an' de odder anmals. An' please put one odder belly in my mama's belly. An' Aaamen."

Now that I do have another belly in my belly, she thanks God for the baby. Go figure.


Give Thanks to the Father

We're on the Island, about ready to sit down for a feast together, and I am silently singing.

This may not be the most elegant expression of thanks to Almighty God, but it's the one I sang all day yesterday and that runs through my mind right now, so I share it with you.

Like most lyrics, these words are better sung than read, and even if you're not a Dylan fan, it's worth a listen.

May you and I thank our Father in all places and in all circumstances, for He is worthy.

-Bob Dylan

Father of night, Father of day,
Father, who taketh the darkness away,
Father, who teacheth the birds to fly,
Builder of rainbows up in the sky,
Father of loneliness and pain,
Father of love and Father of rain.

Father of day, Father of night,
Father of black, Father of white,
Father, who built the mountains so high,
Who shapeth the cloud there up in the sky,
Father of time and Father of dreams,
Father who turneth the rivers and streams.

Father of grain, Father of wheat,
Father of cold and Father of heat,
Father of air and Father of trees,
Who dwells in our hearts and our memories,
Father of minutes, Father of days,
Father of whom we most solemnly praise.

And now I have to go make the gravy-- my sole, meager contribution to the luscious smells filling the house.


For You

My faithful few.

I have no good reason for the three month hiatus,
other than the fact that it felt pretty darn good.

We are well.
We are happy.
We are busy.

Fall spurned our advances.
Homeschooling has arrived in earnest.
I stuffed and ladled lots of things into lots of jars.

We warm our hands by the furnace,
from whence heat mysteriously issues from time to time.

We (I) can't write more because I've spent so much time pasting pictures onto this page. I spent a small fortune on glue. (It's good to see you.)

I accept your grateful thanks, and I look forward to visiting this spot again. Sorry for the jumble. The snapshots begin with the most recent and then are in halfhearted, backward, chronological order. This was my way of hoodwinking you into feeling as if I'd been posting regularly since early August. Does it work?

I'll update the other spot someday soon with lots of summertime recipes. (Sorry. You can save them for next year...)

Fresh Ink

In the span of this blog's life, I've only changed the picture next to my name a few times.

Here's the doodle when Millie toddled and Annika was a baby.

Here's the messy doodle when Annika toddled.

Here's the brief-lived doodle when I was pregnant with Susannah.

And, of course, I added the present one almost two years ago when Susannah was born.

It's funny looking back and seeing that the only thing that made me change my picture was either the growth of a baby into a toddler or a new baby within me. Since both are happening right now, I suppose I'd better get cracking on a new doodle...

A Nine-Month Ramble

If that was too oblique for some of you, here's another picture, this one captioned, "Now I don't have to feel guilty when I park here." Because I did. Park there. And feel guilty. (Though, if interpreting the sign literally, I was an expectant mother because I expected to someday be pregnant and I'm a mother. Shabby justification, but it worked.)

John and I believe that God's will is perfect in our lives, though not always easy or understood, no less so in the matter of children than in the areas of financial gain, job opportunities, illness, or the like. Most of you know this. Because we have never used a form of contraception to manipulate when He might or might not give us a new child, it's easy to assume that those children are always imminent. When John and I were first married, I had a few friends who were adamantly opposed to our decision, calling it irresponsible, foolish, and just plain stupid. As evangelical Christians in the West, they ignored not only the Biblical support for doing so but also the simple fact that the Christian Church--Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant-- had been united in opposition to birth control until Ms. Sanger and contemporaries entered the scene in the early part of the twentieth century. This is a strikingly recent phenomenon in the long history of the church, which most seem to have forgotten or view as irrelevant.  (I write this not to debate or poke but only for those who are baffled by the reason for this choice.)

You know what, though? Just as God can display His presence as Almighty Creator by giving a child to a couple who does practice contraception, He can display that same presence by not giving children to couples who don't. Susannah's twenty months old now, and after a likely early miscarriage, I am now pregnant. A space of twenty-nine months between children is often considered an "ideal" spacing for those who plan pregnancy as much as one can plan, and yet God, in His perfect will, has given us our baby now, rather than months ago when we expected him or her. He could have chosen to not give us another baby at all, and with His help, we would have learned to accept that, also, as a gift from Him.

There is no room for smugness or self-righteousness. We don't deserve children simply because we are open to them, and we shouldn't ever feel we are entitled to the gift of children because of it.  They are not a reward for good behavior nor is their lack a sign of disfavor.  Though not deserving, we do rejoice that He has given another! We pray that this little one grows strong and big (but not too big) until it's time to meet in the Great Wide World.

We have a new baby! Give us a handshake!

She Wears the Sky like a Dress

Two days ago, the girls received a stuffed gift box from Grandma Owen. The highlight was a dreamy poof of blue that Millie would wear to bed if I'd let her. Annie and Susannah both received Alice in Wonderland frocks, and they love them, but I have no pictures yet.

The next morning, Millie came downstairs very early with her gown covering her nightgown. She must have slipped it on immediately after rolling out of bed, and she hasn't tired of it yet. I covet it, myself.

Pajama Princess looking at her "Very first broach." (She alternately calls it a "bresh" until I correct her.)

And here she is, looking for squirrels.

A Welcome Feast

John had to go to a conference last week. He was gone for three days, being paid to lounge in a $120-a-night room in Saratoga and using meal allowance money at fancy restaurants (hard life, that). We missed him dreadfully, and the girls made a crazy sign to welcome him home.

They also wore their party dresses. Literally one minute before John walked in the door, Millie told me that I should also dress up for Papa, so I threw on my party dress and Becky took a picture of the reunion.

Bird in the Belly of a CAT

On Hallowe'en Day, I tried a few outfits from our overflowing stash on the Wren. She was cute as an angel, but the costume was a bit big, the mermaid costume didn't seem to suit, and then we tried the kitty costume. She immediately dropped to all fours and began caterwauling her way around the house.

I then made The Funny Mistake. I took off the cat costume to try on just one more. A lady this bug is not, and she clearly voiced her despair. After I took these pictures, I asked her to say "please," after which she returned to the cat's belly and resumed her meowing.

She even slept in it.


In the weeks leading up to Hallowe'en, Millie and Annika frequently discussed what costumes they would wear. Millie remained nearly consistent with her choice of Snow White (no surprise here) or, in moments of weak indecision, perhaps a ballerina. I've mended her Snow White costume literally dozens of times over the past two years, so I mended it again in preparation, thinking that she would most likely choose it. Annika, on the other hand, waffled among a Beauty and the Beast (her name for her Belle costume), a ballerina, a lion, a tree monster, a tree fairy, etc., etc., etc. On Hallowe'en Day, Annika decided upon a lion (for which we had no costume) and Millie, following suit, decided to be a swan (for which we also had no costume). I easily convinced Millie to settle for a butterfly and Annika to settle for a bear, and spent the next two hours slapping makeshift costumes together, re-covering wings, stitching a felt belly and bear/mouse ears, and making antennae. A few minutes before we left, I was sewing the straps on Annie's costume, so you can imagine the quality of my sewing. Actually, please don't.

Those of you who've seen our glorious costume selection can laugh as hard as you'd like. Grandma Owen has provided the girls a dream dressup wardrobe, and on the dress-up night of the year, they wore these. Ah, well. We had a blast, and I can't imagine they'd have had any more fun in anything else.

Even though you've all guessed by now what Susannah became for Hallowe'en, here's a picture of her running away from the camera.

Chubby Little Bear. (Her belly's stuffed with loose cotton batting-- so much for tidy costumes!)

Solemn Butterfly. The fun part is that Millie channeled her high excitement into constant flittering and fluttering when we hit the streets and sang flitting, fluttering songs while her arms moved through the air.

Frog and Toad

That morning, John called me to tell me about an article he read in the paper. The Cider Mill Playhouse, a local theater to which I've never gone (culture is expensive!), is promoting their playhouse through a "Build the Buzz" opportunity. On final dress rehearsal nights of the plays they are producing this year, all seats are open....for free. Hurrah!!!

I was so happy. Those of you who know me are aware of my dabbling in and love of theater. Plus, who doesn't love Frog and Toad?! Honestly! With no breaks, stops, or blatant mistakes, what we saw was the show itself, without shelling out $28 dollars apiece for a non-matinee show. It was perfect. While it was a musical, with live musicians hidden in front and spontaneous bursts of comical song, it remained faithful to Lobel's books and fully expressed the spirit of the characters. The actors were superb, particularly those who played Frog and Toad-- brilliant!!! The girls and I loved it and had such a wonderful time. The only regret I have is that my selfless friend couldn't have also enjoyed it. He took Susannah home and put her to bed while we laughed and cheered. (Thank you, John. You're the greatest.)

Waiting for the show to begin seemed to stretch interminably for two little girls (and one mama) who love Frog and Toad.

It's nearly impossible to have only one favorite story from the Frog and Toad books, and we don't, but the part where Toad shouts at his seeds to grow is a definite favorite.

And at intermission, the girls sat on a red seat in the bathroom.

Even Superheroes Take Walks

Here's our last trip to the park before the snow fell.

They were collecting cookies from The Cookie Tree.

And wrapping them up in Millie's cape (Annie didn't relinquish hers) to store for later munching. Such wise, little ants they are.

Culture is Expensive

The week before we paid for this culture, we spent a nickel on Ferdinand the Bull at a book sale. I sat on the grass outside and read it to the girls while we waited for John, and it was an instant hit. Then John read an article in the paper about a play showing at the newly opened Firehouse Stage. The same story of Ferdinand was going to be told by the dancers and actors of Hudson Vagabond Puppets who manipulate and move larger than life wooden puppets in the telling. It sounded very cool, and John asked that I take Millie and Annika to the play while he watched Susannah for the afternoon. Needless to say, I was happy to oblige.

This was the girls' first paid performance (we paid the performers) as well as a bonafide girl date, so they dressed for the occasion in their fanciest party dresses.

The sun shone brightly.

Ferdinand came to life through the movements of two dancers. He lumbered, blinked, talked, and was quite convincing. And BIG!!! The story was well told, and we really enjoyed the experience. I was especially impressed by the intricacy of the wooden machinations that the actors employed--large puppets, fighting bulls on wheels-- and the gorgeously rendered backdrops.

The vain matador made me laugh.

Three girls in the bathroom. They gave us lollipops! Even more exciting, each of the girls received a brand-new book copy of Ferdinand the Bull, which made our yellowed and tattered one obsolete.

The Last Great Pumpkin

On our last walk to the pumpkin farm for the season, we took all the tuzzins with us, except for the twins. We also took our own slippery, little Pumpkin.

A slippery Pumpkinhead who is suspicious of all the other Pumpkinheads.

She also stares.

Millie kept calling from the pirate ship, "Who wants to sail to California?!" No one, apparently, as she peered from the ship's bow for a good five minutes before giving up. It reminded me of her attempt at selling pickles.

Susannah raced with no hands on the wheel or eyes on the road.

Hannah swashbuckled. (I've never seen a more petite or terrifying pirate.)

Candida led a rousing chorus with the aplomb of a seasoned conductor.

Tommy and Cassie ran around inspecting and leaping and climbing, and Annika...well, Annika had a wee bit of misfortune in the stocks.