Ain't No Grave (Gonna Hold My Body Down)

Last night I had a dream about my cousin Dan.  I'm one of those people who recalls dreams vividly and is fascinated by the world unseen that we all hold within.  I enjoy hearing people's dreams, but I sometimes curb the desire to share the details of my own because I know the dreamer finds their night-life more bewitching than others do.

In this dream, my Aunt Sherry and Aunt Carol were present, as well as my Aunt Lamoine-- Dan's mother-- and her daughter Sarah-- Dan's youngest sister.  Annika and Aidan were the only two I remember from my little family, and we were all crammed into a glass-walled hospital room, visiting Dan, who sat upright in a hospital bed with the left side of his face pink from the burn that landed him there. The entire left side of his body had somehow caught on fire in the dairy barn, but his face just looked harmlessly pink, like a baby fresh-scrubbed.

Everyone was visibly disturbed and upset.  Tears and simmering anger spilled as one member unwrapped old family skeletons, and closed wounds opened afresh.  I felt awkward and out-of-place.  They were part of something that I should not be present for, so as I prepared to leave, I hugged Dan and told him I loved him, something I never would have done in real life.  I left the hospital, and then I awoke.

Devoid of the color and detail that linger from having experienced a dream, this retelling falls flat.  I only share it because while sometimes dreams seem to spring from thin air, this one had a solid tie to waking hours.  Yesterday evening, while sorting through a stack of summertime papers, most of which should have already found their way to the recycling bin, I came across Dan's obituary.  My throat instantly tightened, and I put it into the pile of papers to keep.  Anything else seemed irreverent.  The recycling bin seemed a sorry place for those few words that try and fail to sum up a life.

Dan was unique.  He was six years older than me but had a warmth and eye for others that made people feel more connected to him than we might otherwise.  Often at family gatherings, he would make his way over to me and engage in a bit of jolly banter, with a big grin and a laugh.  Looking back with adult eyes, I can see he probably did so because I was lingering on the sidelines, feeling out of my element. He made others feel comfortable.  He had the love of Jesus.

I have 23 first cousins on my mother's side of the family.  Even with distance between, we're all bound up in a big ball-- that potent stew of family pride, heritage, and shared story that you just can't shake-- the one that roots a person to place and people.  My cousins were my closest playmates growing up, even those who lived in South Carolina (then West Virginia) and Delaware.  We saw the out-of-state cousins only once a year, but they were my cousins, and I was closer to them than I was to my friends from school.

I used to unconsciously split all of us into groups according to age and playmates.  Those younger than me didn't fully count, except for my brother Luke, Tim, Melody, and Ray, because they were mostly too young to join the fun during that golden age of play. The Too-Old-for-Play group didn't count, either-- those cousins with whom I had some awed contact but who had matured beyond existence in my sphere.  As I grew older, both the younger and the older cousins entered my orbit, but from my limited vantage point at the age of ten, moving upward but stopping short of the Too-Old cousins, it went something like this: my cousin-neighbor Mike, Christina, Lisa, and I; Leah, Sarah, Cara, Matt, Mark, and my brother Pete; and finally, my sister Becky, Dan, and my oldest brother Andy to round out the bunch.

I've always paired Andy and Dan together in my head because they share a few similarities.  They're roughly the same age and look a bit alike; they each have four children who are nearly the same age; they're both men whose great talents revolve around building, making, and fixing; they love the outdoors; and they're warm and affable and make others feel at ease. One detail of my dream that I didn't mention is that in it, Dan looked more like my brother Andy then he did himself.  Dreams are funny like that.

After waking this morning and while our children were still sleeping, my husband convinced his out-of-shape girl to go on a morning run with him, and as we jogged along our country road, I thought of Dan and Karen running their country road on an early Saturday morning exactly seven weeks ago, unaware that everything was about to change.  The hit-and-run driver that struck them and killed Dan carries the weight not only of Dan's life, but also of Karen's life and their children's lives, now bereft of best friend and beloved father.

This isn't normal shotsnaps fare, but my thoughts today are a bur centered on Dan, Karen, and their children.  A few words stammered to honor a man whose love made him great.  A few words sent like tendrils to his children, the youngest of whom is the age of our oldest.  A few words to remember Karen in her sorrow, for even with the great Hope she has, the truth of heaven and a joy-filled greeting, the grief must seem unbearable at times.  Pray with me-- would you?-- that the Father continues to bolster her for its bearing.

Bare Bones

I wrote the above post last Saturday morning, and before posting it, I thought I might as well catch up on the last three months of snapshots. You know what that means: A Monster Post.

John left this morning and won't be back until Sunday, so I'm not in bed. We're usually in bed before nine, and it's now after one o'clock on the morning. I've been on the computer for the last six hours loading pictures, eating candy, and writing silly words, which has reinforced three things.

 #1. Eating candy is dumb. Completely dumb.

#2. I take waaay too many pictures.


#3.  I really, really, really like my husband.

It might take you a month to slog through all these, but have at it!

Off With a Bang

Even though I've still got the last of the canning to finish, we started the hlearning year on Monday.  Each year the girls get to wear whatever they own for the first day of school, and I put their hair up however they like.  Somehow, this year they translated "whatever they own" as "let's steal Mama's high heels and hats."  At one point during the day, they were all simultaneously wearing a pair of heels, even Ezekiel.  They had to take a few pairs from the bag of clothing set aside to sell at the consignment shop, but no matter.  There were enough for all six.

Breakfast.  Hair undone.  Heels and hats.  Giant stack of Swedish pancakes on the table, but little else.

Later that afternoon, I finally got around to taking their official first day of hlearning picture.  Immediately before I took this picture, Susannah was telling Millie how strange she was for not dressing in anything "fancy."  This coming from a girl wearing a stained pink t-shirt and stained jean shorts...  But she paired them with heels, a hat, and a purse, so that counts!

I crack up every time I look at this picture because of Ezekiel.  He wanted me to put the barrette in his hair and tie the ribbon around his head.  Clearly, he thinks he looks pretty stylish, but I think he looks like a goofy, old man with a toothache.

Sometimes I think it'd be nice to get a first day of school picture in which they all look well-behaved.  They were too excited to smile sweetly, though, so I accepted reality, instead. 

I have no idea what any of them are doing here, except Millie and Annie.  They're smiling like normal people.

These two wanted a picture of "just them."

This is what I got when I asked if they could "just act normal for one picture."

These two requested I take a picture of them together, but they were laughing so hard they almost fell over.

Millie asked me to take a picture of Zeke.  He kept trying to make her fancy with his toothache ribbon.

He is her baby, and they get along like peanut butter and jelly.

I don't even know what to say.

Luci didn't know I took this picture of her over-the-top reaction to me telling her she could use any color of pencil she wanted.  WOWEEE!

She can use green!

She can use pink!

Tacked onto the end is a picture of the girls opening your package, Molly. It arrived that afternoon and topped off the day with squeals and more excitement.  They finished the thank you notes, and I hope to mail them with the get well cards by this weekend.  Thank you so much!

Boys Are Worth Keeping, Too

When in polite company, Zeke wears clothes.  Also, while at church, Zeke wears clothes.  This past Sunday, in those brief moments after we arrived home but before he realized that we were no longer in polite company, I took a few pictures of him tromping around the yard.  Sometimes he looks just as cute wearing clothes as he does in his skinsuit.

He was trying to feed rose hips to the chickens.

This could be a Frugal Fancy-pants post.
Exhibit A
Shoes: a gift from Grandma
Socks: hand-me-downs
Jeans and white shirt: rummage sale (about a dime for both)
Tie: hand-me-down Nope. I just remembered I paid 49 cents for it at a Long Island thrift store
Three Stooges haircut: free from the worst barber in the world (that would be me, in case you're curious)

The only problem is that the Exhibit B picture would be
Skin: free
Underwear: gift from Grandma

I guess I'll have to wait until winter when he starts wearing clothes again.

Canning and Curing and Drying

Just because they're there.

Reminder: polished pictures always have a crowd of sloppy ones lurking outside the frame.

We use the second dishrack as a carrying rack to ferry jars downstairs to the basement because it's handy, not because we don't have enough dirty dishes to fill both dishracks properly...

The first round of onions cured indoors during a particularly rainy week.

Calendula always produces blossoms with such gusto.  I dry them until we're overrun with petals, and then we enjoy them for their brilliant color in the beds.

I like to freeze most of my herbs for culinary uses, but I usually dry both mint and lemon balm for winter teas.  (Plus, I like the bright shocks of green hanging overhead.)

My Mug in the Morning

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

No Better Place to Sleep

...than in Papa's arms.

Fishy Face in the Light


Just Like Wallace, I Love the Stuff

This picture makes me happy.  It's the first batch of fresh mozzarella I've ever made, and I was bursting with the pride of the accidentally successful.  I showed it off to my parents, to my husband, and now to you.  I know millions of people have made mozzarella.  You may have made mozzarella.

But I never had.

And now I have.

And it's delicious.

And I feel like a rock star.

To give due credit to those who deserve it, in my acceptance speech for First Mozzarella of My Life award, I thank 
-this lovely girl and her husband for a clandestine hand-off of what we now call "dessert milk"
-this gorgeous cow for giving that golden-hued milk with which one can make golden-hued cheese if one is accidentally successful
-this guy on youtube, whose method of cheesemaking I kind of followed.  (Shh.  Don't tell anyone, but I had to use 1 and 1/2 tablets of grocery store Junket rennet instead of the real stuff. The real stuff has since arrived from Amazon, but I haven't used it yet.  Stay tuned.)

Tomatoes fresh from the garden, fresh mozzarella, sea salt and black pepper, drizzled balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and fresh basil.

If only I could eat this all day long.

On the Loo Again

I suppose I should apologize for posting multiple snapshots of
a. Zeke nekkid,
b. Zeke sitting on the toilet
c. Zeke nekkid AND sitting on a toilet with a scooter on the ready for a clean getaway.

Somehow, I just can't muster any remorse.

Fancy Studio Session (on a blanket. on the floor.)

Be warned. I'm a mama with a camera, and no one tried to stop me...except for Aidan, and he's too little to stop me.

It all began when I tried to get a picture of Aidan wearing the sunshine that my friend Rebecca crocheted for him.  Aidan wasn't thrilled with my attempt.

Then he learned that he has hands.  He has HANDS!  This was exciting.

He gave me this look when I told him to smile at the camera.

Then he spit up all over the sweater.  I assumed he was trying to cut my snapshotting short, so, undeterred, I took off the sweater and kept clicking.

Sorry, sweetheart.  You can't stop me that easily.

(Seriously, Mama?  C'mon...)

(Oooooh! HANDS!)

(Having hands makes me HAPPY!)

(So VERY happy!)

(What? EVERYONE has hands?!?!)