Forty Days

This morning as I lay awake in bed, overturning thoughts that seem so profound while I'm horizontal but lose all significance once I stand upright, I heard it.

In the relative silence of the winter morning sounded a raspy booker-cheeee!

And that's all it took.  I scrambled out of bed,  thoughts tumbling forgotten onto the floor, and ran downstairs in my bare feet.  This is worth noting, because the boards in our upstairs are cold, and though I shun socks for most of the year, January and February temporarily change my mind.
When I ran to the window, a red-winged blackbird stood sentinel above the feeder while another gobbled seeds below.  Red-winged blackbirds are to me the true herald.  Sure, robins and groundhogs get the glory, but the call of red-winged blackbirds sing spring to me.  Spring breezes and summer sun are all wrapped up in that one coarse and homely sound.

Since Christmas, I've been seeking discipline and diligence in the tasks that fill my days-- educating, exploring, cleaning, scrubbing, decluttering-- and, for the most part, I've found joy and small successes in doing so.  Moving through the bumps that will always appear, the girls and I make daily strides in learning, I walk downstairs to a clean house most mornings, and, once in a while, I find the gumption to knock something extra off The Eternal List.  I've had moments, many, when the veil has stirred, and piercing clarity and gratitude have rushed in.  Today, though, after the girls and I finished school for the day, I lost sight of where I was.  Posting snapshot after snapshot after snapshot made me dull and ugly, and by the time tucking-in rolled around, what I most felt, mixed with weariness and a dislike for my blog, was regret for the evening's words and actions.

After a long day following the heels of a longer week, I thirst for something new. Birds that warble and bicker, the wind full of secrets, green spearing skyward, buds bursting into bloom and leaf, color all unruly with a blue stretch of sky...and here I sit, heavy with regret and ice cream in this second week of Lent.

But that's why He came.  Not to save me from sweets in the middle of Lent, no, but to lift me from blinding fog and failings and all that is old.  He brings the New.  New life and a new nature. New hope of reconciliation with a holy Father.  My failings etch both my need and His perfect answer into sharp relief.  There is indeed a balm in Gilead-- for mothers who spend hours foolishly, who spend words carelessly, and who, on dark levels too deep for honesty, need One to pull them out from the muck and into the Light.

Early Winter Morning

...and sun spilling out all over the snow.

Snow Doth Cover a Multitude of Deer Parts

Another reason to be thankful for snow is that it makes our yard pure again. After saving a bone or two for John Wayne, I always give the bones of the deer Andy has given us to my dad, and he disposes of them in his big woods. With so many acres, the bones are only disturbed by wild animals. This foresight is useless, however, when poachers dump two deer carcasses on the edge of our small 18-acre woods.

Good ol' John Wayne has ferried every last shred of hair, hide, hoof, and bone back to our house, and they lie scattered over the breadth of the yard. Wild dog.  He looks fierce with a scrap of deer hide and snowy eyebrows, doesn't he?


Light in the Kitchen

The color purple.
Little fingers.

The sweet surprise of oranges for  breakfast.

Almost Lost In the Cracks

I must have typed these quotes as a draft one day in order to put up a blog post, but I never did.

I don't remember anything about them, except I think they all occurred in a short space of time, making their potency increase.

Annie, wandering through the kitchen, muses softly to herself, "If I REALLY had a monkey tail, then I could use it as a lasso."

Also in the kitchen, Su looked at me thoughtfully and sweetly asked, "What would we do if we met Jesus?" As I tried to formulate a wise and truthful answer, Piper, just as thoughtfully and just as sweetly, topped Su's question with "What would we do if we met a talking robot?"

And, because I have no privacy, even (especially?) in the bathroom...
Me, not at all exasperated, "Who is it?"
Annie: "Annie, may I please come in?"
Susie, a split second later: "Susie, may I please come in?"
Piper, a split second after that: "Pip, may I please come in?"
Me, with perfect goodness and gentleness, still not at all exasperated, "I'll be out in just a minute."
Annie: "Good.  Because we need to fill up the chicken jugs with water."
 Su, because she knows that's not enough to speed me out as quickly as they'd like:
"AND there's a ROBBER in the house!"

Nice try, babe.

The Right Way

There are clearly right and wrong methods for waking up. This one's the right way. (Sorry for the Lucinda glut, but I couldn't stand seeing her undrowsing in that lovely patch of light without taking too many pictures. And, as you know, if I take 'em, I post 'em, discretion be darned, so I guess I'm not sorry, after all.  Sorry about that...)


Sit in a rare patch of morning light.
Rub your eyes.
Make sure you still look sleepy.

2.  Grin the tiniest bit when you see your sister.  (Make sure it looks genuine.)

3.  Rub your eyes again, only with more vigor this time around.


Two words: poochy mouth.
Always throw in a poochy mouth for good measure.

Be thoughtful.
Turn so that if the hard-hearted anyone wants to take a black and white profile, they can.

7.  Toss in a few demure downward looks.

Add another yawn.
Another stretch.
This time, gaze in the general direction of the hard heart.
(This serves to crumble any remaining defenses.)

9.  Tuck your hands inside your shirt to warm them up.
The goal here is two-fold: first, to warm your hands; second, to make your mama grin.

10. Lastly, having seen that your mission is successful, flash a grin right back.

Ninety and Nine

Rejoice with me, for I have found my skunk which was lost!

We discovered Stinker's absence when Mousey had to stand in as hospital bedfellow. Long months lined up, and after scouring the house a few times, I gave him up for lost.

Enter Adelé.

(Remember her?)

Without realizing what a gem she'd dug up, Adelé pulled Stinker forth from the nether regions of a diaper changing dresser at church.  Piper was over the moon, and the next day she didn't let go of him for a second.

Hunting skunks. That, my readers, is true friendship.
So, thank you, Adelé. (Once again, we wish to steal you for our own.)

Birthday Bird

Susannah Wren turned six years old this week.  SIX years old.  I don't know how much more growing-up I can handle, so I've declared a moratorium on birthdays until further notice.  I'll probably lift it on March 31st, though, because Annika turns eight on April Fool's Day.  EIGHT!  (Hm.  Maybe I won't lift it...)

Requested birthday waffles.

Birthday girls aren't allowed to sing the Happy Birthday song

...because it's "Happy Birthday to YOU."

We spread her birthday over two days because John had to work late on the day itself, so here she is the next morning opening a few gifts from Grandma Owen. 

(On a side note, look how chill this girl is.  Why jump over the candlestick, Jack, when you can just sit on it?)

THE DOLL.  Oh, my.  She loves her, McGamma.  Thanks so much!

For the cake, Susannah requested "a lake, with a swan swimmin' in it, with shrubs all around it"...."OR a Pegasus flyin' up high in the air looking down at the ground and trees below."  When I asked, with some trepidation, "Is there anything ELSE you might like?" she answered, "Mmmm.  OR a house.  OR a castle."  Since she had a castle last year, and a house sounded easier, I steered her homeward.

Well, it turned out cute, but it would have been cuter if I hadn't run out of time and frosting. (I made a quadruple batch, though.  C'mon!)  I spent an hour and a half cutting, constructing, and frosting the thing, but when guests arrived I had to slop on some white curlies and call it done. Perhaps those extra touches I so badly wanted to add-- creeping vines! flowers! rose bushes! vegetable leaves!-- would have landed me in Crazy Mother Camp.  It's probably for the best.

The girls set the outdoor scene with items pilfered from the dollhouse.  In the backyard, a peaceful vignette: the children and father relax while watching wildfowl frolic in the pond.

...while in the front yard, the mother labors in the garden.  WHAT?!  I don't know how they come up with this crazy stuff.

 (And I love John and Susie hugging in the left-hand corner.  At least a piece of him is represented!)
Cousin Dakota is one of Annika's best pals. Look at her grin.

Papas play with dolls, too.  The proof is in the pudding.

After cake, she opened more presents to round out the day, only these were from Grandma and Grandpa J. and the cousins.  (Su said that it was her doll's birthday, too, so she had to sit at attention.)

Yes, her toes are sticking out of her tights.
Yes, it's fashionable.

And one last unvarnished picture, to help me remember what these days are REALLY like.  Piper still wearing the p.j.'s she woke up in because I was downtown for half of the day and busy making a war zone of the kitchen for the other half of the day.

I'll miss these times.  I know I will.

Put Her in a Pumpkin Shell

(And there I kept her very well.)

The benefits young children bring to a home far exceed the posts for which I make time, but I share this one freely: walking into the living room to see her:


I store pumpkins in the basement with other winter squashes, but she found the better use.

 She reminds me of John, and her choice of seating reminds me of a quote he scribbled in my sketch book when we were freshman.   It was meant to be...

Davey Jones' Locker

John is the king of bringing home flowers at completely unexpected times but should never be relied upon to bring them home on Culturally Obligatory Buy This Or You Really Don't Love Someone Like You Ought To Occasions for Blooms, such as birthdays, anniversaries, or the dreadful V-day.

So, no, these weren't a token on V********'s Day but rather festooned our table on the Feast of the Three Hierarchs.  Basil!  John!  Gregory!

(Thanks for the roses, beloved Saint in the middle.)

I've found that a good way to prolong the life of older flowers whose heavy heads droop, shed petals, and threaten to fall off entirely is to set them adrift.  Between the trifle bowl and several smaller containers, the girls and I were able to enjoy these for a week beyond their normal demise.

Send them to a watery grave.  You won't regret it.

Enough Hearts to Last All Year

The above post was not to say that we eschew celebrating St. Valentine's Day, such as it is.
The weekend before the Big Day, the girls drew heart people to pass out to local friends and cousins.

They're simple but cute.

At the last minute, I turned the afternoon tea we planned to have into a Fancy Lunch instead, which didn't require any work other than tossing rumpled linens on the table, making a quick batch of pink lemonade, tinting pears pink, turning pb+j into hearts, and heaping bowls and plates with the candy and pastries we'd been given that week (thank you, Grandmas!).    Oh, yes.  And scattering rose petals from Basil, John, and Gregory, of course.

Plus, Annika made a heart on the table.  Voila.