Saturday, May 31, 2008

Time for a Shower

A baby shower, that is. Good friends hosted, and gathered. This is what happens when the little girls you know grow up!

A new take on shower foods included some of the mother-to-be's food cravings!

The grandmothers-in-waiting.

It's always special when a great-grandmother can be there, and this great-grandma gave the coming baby story books that she read to her granddaugther, the mother-to-be.

Friday, May 30, 2008

all quiet

"Knock- knock" came a soft pounding on our front door. I wondered why whoever was there wasn't ringing the bell. Opening the door I found the kids from across the street holding out a huge tomato. They were dressed in their pjs, ready for a long drive up to the next state. Hopefully they would fall asleep in the car and then be taken right to the waiting beds at their grandparents' house.

This is the weekend their daddy is going to preach at the new church where they are moving. I think Jack and Kayla are beginning to grasp the reality of their coming move. "I know how we will keep in touch," Jack offered, "Letters in the mail,  packages, and emails."  He had thought it all out, obviously. Or talked to his mom.

"And," danced his younger sister, "through our blog. You can read about us and see our pictures  that we put on." (She's beginning to work on her photography skills.)

It's pretty quiet on our street this weekend. I told their mom this would be good practice for us, for when they really do leave in a few weeks. But we'll keep in touch ...

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Double Nickels

Lydia Grace changed ages the other day (she actually told us all she now is double nickels--that's a taste of her sense of humor if you don't know her) and we had a tea party. (Lydia Grace's hands are in the lower left of the photo.) The focus of our gathering was to celebrate LG, her life, and our friendship. It also is just a good chance to get together as friends, and eat some goodies. 

I tried decorating deliciously-chocolate cupcakes and, for a first try, it went pretty well. I dug into my cupboards and came up with a box of "20 Throw-a-way Cake Decorating Forcing Bags with 3 decorating nozzles." They did the job nicely. And it was lovely, when I finished, to guiltlessly throw the sticky bag away. Eldest Son's girlfriend walked into the kitchen and saw the box. "That must be old," she commented.  I asked her why she thought that. "Because of the words 'forcing bag.' It sounds ancient." 

I thought Cara might be right. Upon further examination, I noticed the box was labeled "Hutzler-Gerda C. 1986."  Guess I haven't done much cake decorating in the last 22 years!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Last night I was visiting "across the street."  We were playing with Max, a tiny dog that visits our house. I said good-bye and turned to leave, but as I did my name was quickly called. "Look! Someone wants to say good-bye!" I turned and there was this little guy, standing on the curb, hand curved in a wave, waiting for me to notice. I bid Sam good-bye, he waved his bye, and, mission accomplished, promptly turned to head for the house. 

It's been fun this year to watch Sam grow from a baby into a toddler who delights to ride his little bike backwards down the driveway incline, laughing all the time!

As I listened to the sound of children playing yesterday, I realized how much we will miss this little family when they move soon. Change...augh! 

Kitchen Duty

I was back in my old friend's kitchen. Not much had changed in 20 years except that she had removed a wall from her kitchen.  We drank many a cup of tea there while our young boys played war, built forts, forged streams, caught frogs, and all the other things boys love to do. Now I was back for a visit, and once again at her table having a cup of tea. The two years that we lived near each other were intense as we shared the pioneer spirit of homeschooling our children  when we knew no others doing such a thing. Our friendship because of kindred spirits grew deep and we have stayed connected while separated by many miles. Watching her clean up the kitchen, I was mesmerized. She washed her dishes and pans in a way that seemed so familiar to me--she must have a particular way with her hands that I remembered. I realized that I love to watch someone's hands at work in a sink almost as much as I love to wash dishes. (Washing dishes is one of my favorite things to do!)

The other night, back here in town we had finished dinner and once again I watched as a friend cleaned up her kitchen. (One may wonder, "Why I am always watching, not working?")  I realized she also had a particular way she worked with her hands--wringing out her dishrag and mopping up her countertops; washing and rinsing the wine glasses; setting out a clean towel to air dry them; shining her sink when she finished––I could have watched her work for a long time, it was so relaxing. Maybe it's vicarious, since I really do love to wash dishes!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Gift of May

The first of May, or May Day, was a favorite day when I was a child. I seem to remember fashioning "baskets" out of construction paper, filling them with flowers (dandelions most likely), and hanging them on neighbors' doors. We'd ring the bell, yell "Happy May Day," and run off. Later that day at school we'd dance around a Maypole. That was "up north" where seasons were moderate and May was a month of flowers.

It seems this year, from the first of May until now, the weather has been like a May Day present. Often May here in the south can be cool, and then suddenly blazing hot (with summer arriving in full, just like that). Not so this year. We've had delightful rain showers in good abundance, filled out with mild sunny days. It's as if God remembers the incredibly hot, arid weather last summer and decided to gift us with a beautiful month. And roses seem to be everywhere. They have come into their own in our garden, and everywhere else too. Amazing Grace brought me some beautiful roses from her garden last night.

I'm learning to take notice of the small things and be thankful, as a friend reminded me yesterday. I think God wrapped up this month, tied it with a bow, labeled it "May," and sent it special delivery.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Back Atcha

Every Christmas we get a gift from a particular company we do some work for. It used to be a stack of colorful boxes filled with fruits, candies, and nuts, topped with a worth-saving-to-be-used-again-bow, but the last two years its been a gift card to a restaurant.  You would know it--they all look the same with their beautifully tuscan-style decorations, so that once inside you could easily forget what city you are in.

For some reason we had not used our gift card yet. We decided maybe the reason we hadn't was because we needed to give it to someone else. So we did (with our baby sitting skills thrown into the gift). It would have been fun to use, but it was more fun to give it away.

Not fourteen hours later, the following morning at work, I received a mini-bonus. A gift card, same amount, for the same restaurant if I desired. 

Now, it doesn't always work that way, but when it does, I look up ....

Thursday, May 22, 2008

My Foil's Falling

A friend of my sister's, and a kindred spirit of mine, forwarded an email I will paraphrase below. When Lulu read it, she ran into her kitchen and grabbed her foil and saran wrap to check for the tabs. I did too, and for sure, there they were. All my life using this stuff and never noticing, while complaining about the roll falling out. Not too observant!

The email: "I've been using aluminum foil for more years than I care to remember. Great stuff but sometimes it can be a pain. You know, like when you are in the middle of doing something and you try to pull out some foil and the roll comes out of the box ... Yesterday I went to throw out an empty R*ynolds foil box and for some reason I turned it and looked at the end of the box. And written on the end it said, 'Press here to lock end.' Right there on the end of the box is a tab to lock the roll in place ... the box of Saran wrap ... had one too ..."

But, my sister says, not wax paper.


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Random Rose

I found this rose in my kitchen the other day. If it is meant for me, I certainly am thankful. I am partial to the color.

That same day found me walking on a busy street near our house, thinking about what an ugly part of my walk it was. The sidewalk was overcome by weeds, overgrown shrubs were hanging over a shaky, tall fence, causing me to bend my head to get through, a handful of litter lined the edge of the street ....  As I looked up after climbing through a particular rough patch of overgrowth, I discovered a beautiful flower singley shining its face over the fence. Beauty right there, in the midst of the rest.
It's always good to notice the beauty: "When we view the little things with thanksgiving, even they become big things." (Jan Karon in These High Green Hills.)

Photo of my random rose drinking from my grandmother's oil/vinegar decanter, circa 1910.  P.S.  After this post I found out the rose was not meant for me ... but I have enjoyed it immensely!

Monday, May 19, 2008

The English Countryside

Today is a bright and glorious day. I worked the weekend so I'm home, and with the pollen about gone, the windows are open. The coolness of the air reminds me of an English morning. I'm reading a wonderful little "castle book" and it reminds me of walking through a copse in England a few years ago and seeing these marvelous bluebells. 

"'There'll be bluebells in there before long––you can see the shoots now.'  He stood staring into the wood for a minute. 'What is it about the English countryside––why is the beauty so much more than visual? Why does it touch one so?'" 

That's just how it is.

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (you see here the impact of a neighbor's blog! I wonder if she noticed my light on late last night as I just couldn't put the book down!)

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Back Babies

It's typical in Africa for a mom to keep her baby with her constantly until the baby reaches about age two. Most of the day the baby is carried on the mama's back as she moves about doing her work.  I recently found these photos taken by colleagues in Sud*n. The first one is especially fascinating and shows an interesting makeshift carrier. It looks to me like the strings could be uncomfortable for the mom (who, you see, is fording a river), but the baby is probably loving it. Since youngest son is about to become a father, thoughts fly back to his babyhood when we lived in West Africa. The second photo shows how I carried him on my back, and is the most common way.  Cozy!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Feeling a bit mired down today. Here is something fresh and bright to gaze upon, from Winslow Homer. Can't you just jump into the scene?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Announcing ...

Last month ... or was it two months ago ... when we were in Florida, my mother, my sister, and I visited a dear friend one morning. As we were sipping tea in her bright and sunny kitchen, Anta brought out some family "heirlooms."
Among them were a large stash of birth announcements from children born through the years into her extended family. I believe Anta's mother had saved them all. Since my sister and I were becoming grandmothers soon (Lulu for the third time), Anta thought we'd enjoy a look.

These vintage birth announcements were fascinating to read. Most were from the forties to the sixties and had such cute sayings. It was obvious back then that no one knew the sex of the baby before arrival!  And I wondered at the joy behind each announcement ... the joy of a new family member that rippled to the extended family ... friends ... and community! Yes, the wonder of a newborn! We certainly enjoyed our step back to another time!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

mother's day special

It's not every Mother's Day that your son (youngest) graduates from dental school and becomes "Dr." It was something to give us pause, to make us pleased, and to grant us gratitude this Mother's Day. Youngest son has worked very hard the last four years (and has three more years of a specialty planned) and we are proud of his accomplishments. The raindrops (some torrential at times) dancing around the reception and graduation ceremony did nothing to dampen the spirits of all the family members gathered! This particular class promised to donate a percentage of time every month to care for needy patients--in some fashion or another--so I found it very fitting when the dean quoted Gh*ndi, "To find yourself you must first lose yourself in the service of others." Well said, and something for all of us to ponder.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Wear Your Apron

Today is National Wear Your Apron Day. Seems fitting right after Mother's Day ... can't many of us remember our moms in aprons? I love aprons and wearing them (partly because I'm so messy), and here are two of my favorite "everydays," hanging on the back of the laundry room door.  The blue and white toile was given me by  this little guy's mama, a former writing student of mine, and her mom––both my good friends. Those who know me know how much  I love toile––partly because it reminds me of my grandmother (and the wallpaper in her house.) Wear an apron today!

Friday, May 09, 2008

Letters of Love

Just a few minutes ago--or a few blinks of an eye ago--on a spring evening, at a small college tucked along the Hudson River, the date being May 2, 1968, a lanky basketball player invited me on a date. On that day, two years later, our legs dangling over a cliff overlooking the same river, he asked me to marry him. And on that day this year, so many minutes later, we happened to be in his hometown. 

We were visiting Spouse's niece and nephew, who, after losing both parents in recent years, were beginning to clean out the family homestead.  The house had been in the family, there along the Delaware River, for several generations. Their mother, Spouse's sister, was birthed, and 64 years later died, in the same room in that house.

"We got something for ya," they announced as they produced a box crumbling with age. It was full of letters ... letters we forgot we wrote ... letters we hadn't thought of in years ... letters assumed gone to the trash decades ago. There they were. All of mine to Spouse during our courtship, and some letters from his sister and college friends as well. He actually saved them! What fun the kids had watching my face as we opened letters and read excerpts aloud. Sometimes I wanted to crawl under the couch. A real treasure, good memories––a gift on this the anniversary of when it all began! 

We found a stronger box, packaged them up, overdid it on taping it up, and mailed the box home to ourselves. How should we tiptoe into this bit of history? A letter a day? A long evening of laughing together while reading a bundle aloud? Well ... to be read, or not to be read, or how to be read ... at our leisure. 

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Grrreat Dinner!

Spring cleaning has come to my pantry. I'm really poor at menu planning, so I shop to stock the pantry with general things that can be made into recipes. Stuff tends to gravitate to the back of the cupboards and rest there indefinitely. Occasionally I try to clean it out and such a time has come.

Digging deep. I pull out whatever is there. My goal is to put ingredients together and figure out a meal. I could think of it as sort of a game. So on this particular night, I pulled out cans of white beans, chopped tomatoes, and black beans. I sauteed onions and a sweet red pepper with garlic. Then I added the beans, tomatoes, and a can of chopped chicken breast. A good scent filled the kitchen.  I served it over brown rice seasoned with curry and onions. Spouse, unaware of the "Clean It Out Campaign" commented, "Great dinner!" I just wish I had added some spinach leaves for the color, if not for the nutritive value!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Grown Beautiful with Age

Forty years does not feel like that long of a time to be "together," though there was a time when that number seemed ancient. Finding this old teapot in a overstuffed thrift shop at the edge of Sussex (NJ) farmland seemed a fitting way to celebrate the milestone anniversary (of our first date). Old and worn, its finish lacking a bit, it still holds a good pot of tea. And with some work, it could gleam again. But I prefer the old patina. I'm sure there's some analogy here, but we'll leave it that it's simply a new favorite of mine, and I'll be seeing a lot of it around the tea table!

Sunday, May 04, 2008

thanks for the memories

Sensory overload just might be where I'm at right now. In the past seven weeks we've traveled to five different states and thereby returned to important places that have had a part in making us who we are. Memories abound. We arrive, drive around, reminisce, exclaim over how things have changed, and eventually get used to how the place is today, just before it is time to leave again. It's all starting to be a little overwhelming.

This past weekend we were in northern states––primarily the one where a huge part of our lives took place: high school, college, courtship, and early marriage. Flip the screen and find our early days working as youth pastor; then flip the screen again and find us freshly returned from Africa, with two little boys, and beginning our home schooling adventure.  All taking place within a 10 mile radius. (We also went back to Spouse's hometown this weekend!) As we drove around sometimes things were clear, sometimes vaguely familiar, and other times we became totally confused as to our whereabouts. When trying to find our old house, we stopped in a little Italian "hole in the wall" eatery. We knew we were close! We studied the map as we ate our sandwiches––and made a memory. 

It's always good to go back and remember. But the past is past; the present is, and the future promises. I am glad to be back  home to start clearing my head. I'm thankful for the memories, but now I need a stretch of time at home again. Working on new memories.

We finally got our bearings and found the house we lived in the early years of our marriage (first floor flat). The tall shade trees are gone, but we could almost hear the sounds of laughter and singing. Those were the years we poured our lives into students and our house was regularly filled to the brim with them!

I found the railroad tracks––the shortcut a friend and I walked home from high school. Spouse asked, "Did a train ever come?" 

The last time we lived in the area we had two little boys.  We used to walk here on Saturdays to buy bagels for the week.

Up north Spring was in full rainy bloom. What a treat to experience it for a second (or third!) time this year.

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