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Showing posts from May, 2007

This One's For the Girls

I grew up in a house bursting at the seams with boys. Seven of them. And one tomboy sister. I am all girl. I like pink and perfume and jewelry and makeup and nailpolish. My brothers liked dirt and starting fires and burping . They did not like perfume. Sunday mornings, I would deck myself out in all my finery and brace for the "Uuugh! You stink!" which spilled forth collectively from the mouths of the tribe mashed into the minivan. I was a girl with guts. I smelled good Sunday after Sunday.

When our first little guy was born, I figured I was doomed for a lifetime of testosterone. There would be no one who would share my love of pink. But then, wonder of little girls made their entrance into our lives. One is a tomboy but I can forgive her for this because she likes earrings and necklaces and nail polish. The next two are the sisters I have been waiting for all my life. They like to play house and dolls and dress up. One even screams when she see…

First Impressions

The Colors are here to install a fence around our pool. There are four...grey, black, orange and orange.

Grey has soot covered skin, a mop of dusty curls, dirt streaked clothes and light grey eyes. When he lights up a cigarette...which is often...he vanishes into a cloud of smoke. The kids call him Torchiere Man because he operates the welding torch. He appears to be a hard worker and skilled with dangerous power tools.

Black is in charge. He has black hair with grey at the temples, black eyes and a black mustache. He appears to have leadership qualities. He appears to be competent, conscientious and patient.

Orange and Orange are teen brothers. They could be twins. One an inch taller than the other. Both are stocky and muscular. They have bright orange hair and an orange complexion. They take turns working, drinking gatorade, sitting, spitting, yawning, and leaning. Occasionally they carry something heavy. Combined, they appear do the work of one man...maybe that's a stretch.

I can s…

You've Got Mail

For the past six months, I have been looking for the answer on how to live in a culture that baffles me. I am amazed that a three hundred mile move has pushed my family completely out of our comfort zone and into unfamiliar territory. I have been talking to God about all this. "Where do You want us to go to church? How do You want us to serve? How do You want us to be involved in this community?"

One thought has come time and again as I have been searching for answers. Look outside of church for the work that I have for you.

I am not a seeker of signs and wonders. When I pray for direction I look for principles in God's Word to guide me. I listen for His still small voice and I keep an ear out for those whispers to be repeated out loud or in black and white. Sometimes a friend will voice what I have been thinking. I might read something or hear a sermon that adds an exclamation mark to my thoughts. I am a cautious soul. I have been waiting for my thoughts about our curren…

The Littlest Pet Shop A.K.A. Tiny Box of Aggravation

We have been trying to instill a better work ethic in Faith and Claire. We want them to do their jobs with speed and excellence. We pay them for each completed task that fufills these requirements. There is potential to earn about fifty cents a day. They are in the $1.00 a week range. This is improvement.

About two months ago, they fell in love with The Teeniest Tiniest Petshop in the Wal-Mart toy aisle. This was the perfect opportunity to give them a goal to work toward. "Well, girls, you could earn that in just a few weeks if you put some effort into your chores."

They did. For about two days. Earnings slowed down considerably after that but about six weeks later, they finally had enough nickles and dimes in their banks to make The Big Purchase.

They walked into Wal-Mart yesterday with their little purses loaded with loot and made a bee line for the Littlest Pet Shop aisle. I was given a small glimpse at what yesterday and today would hold as I watched them pick which Teenies…

The Main Thing

An aquaintance stopped by the other day with five books for me and five cupcakes for the kids. The books, all of them, outlined the doctrine of her particular denomination. The cupcakes were vanilla with chocolate frosting and sprinkles.

This acquaintance could easily be a friend because our lives have much in common but she has erected a wall of doctrine between us and there is distance instead. I will not be completely acceptable in her eyes unless I accept her take on Christianity. This is sad. I could use a friend and so could she.

This topic sits atop a great slippery slope and I tred lightly less I lose my footing and tumble to the bottom and end face down in the mud. (Colin says, "Mama, this sure isn't a scribble about something small.")

The apostle Paul lived at a time when the Jews and the Gentiles were forming one church out of many backgrounds. Division came more readily than unity. Believers in Christ were also believers in circumcision...or not. They ate food d…


We went spelunking today. It's not as exciting as you think. Around here, spelunking means diving under beds and sofas and removing the accumulated clutter. Three motherships (or laundry baskets to the uninitiated) full. The cleaning frenzy was brought on by the company that we will be having at the end of the week. Not that they will ever look in the laundry closet or under the bathroom sink, mind you. But I will have peace of mind knowing that all is where it belongs.

Stuart's parents are coming for a long weekend. Our first house guests in over a year! It's hard being so far away from family. A supply of grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins was only eight hours away when we were in Rhode Island. The Ocean State is a fun place to vacation and so everyone came. We six (for we were not yet seven) slept in our unfinished attic for six months straight one year. The two bedrooms below were filled with one family after another. I miss them.

The rhythm of our routine wil…

Grocery Shopping

On Thursday afternoons, John and Lauren paint and sculpt with Miss Daphne. I take the middles and the little grocery shopping. I feel like I become a time traveler for these few hours...back to the days when John was seven and Lauren, five. Back to the days when everyone had to hold hands and no one could think for themselves.

"Put your hand on the hood of the car. Wait until everyone is out and all the doors are shut. Charlie, hold someone's hand. Faith, hold my hand. Stay close together the cars can't see you."

We stop at the sliding doors so dresses and hair can be blown by the gust of air in the doorway. Everyone giggles.

The giggles stop when we get to the carts. "I don't want to push the cart. Claire can push it."

"I pushed it last week. It's your turn."

"Girls, you will take turns. Claire, you can have the first turn." We fill two carts with groceries each week. Four gallons of milk go a long way toward filling one of the carts…

Finding Rest

This is my one hundredth post. Blog tradition dictates that I tell you that I like soft chocolate graham crackers and hate mushrooms and was once a flute for Halloween. But enough. I will tell you John's story instead. It is a story of human frailty. Mine. For it is against the backdrop of our frailty that the God's glory shines most brightly.

John adds spice, energy, and texture to our family. His innocence, quick wit, and academic mind are exceptional for a boy of twelve. His personality pours from the pages of our family journal. A few quotes from years gone by reveal his essence. "I fixed the hole in your sheet, Mama. I stapled it." (He put the hole in the sheet in the first place.) Once when instructed to finish his dinner, John responded, "But I ate forty-five minutes of it." (That would be three fourths to the rest of us.) After I asked him to stop talking: "But I have to talk, I'm a Yak-In-The-Box." A boy with a thousand questions, &quo…


"Mama! Mama! Let me in! Somebody! Let me in!" I hear the sound of little fists and feet pounding against a door. Charlie. How did he get outside and which door is he at? I listen carefully. He doesn't sound too far away. I open the door off the kitchen. There he is.

I wipe away his tears and pick him up. "Charlie, you don't go out front without Mama. It's not safe."

"It's not safe? Why, Mama?" And he's off again to join the kids in their play.

Our sprawling ranch has six doors to the outside. I would need crazy cartoon x-ray see-around-the-corner eyes to keep track of the comings and goings of this mob. The neighbors must have been elbowing each other behind their curtains the morning we arrived. "Look honey, the Whac-A-Moles moved in." Before we collected our wits and established sound boundaries, the kids were bursting in and out of every door. We found them riding their bikes in the neighbor's driveway. We heard them runn…

Fairy Forest

One of my favorite parenting books is Mitten Strings for God by Katrina Kennison. Great gems are tucked into this slim volume. The overarching theme of the book is to parent with simplicity and join in the small natural events of your child's life rather than juggle a hectic schedule of extra-curricular experiences.

Three fairies joined our household after I read this book. Moss Pants, Mack and Sterling. They come to visit Faith and Claire. The girls know they aren't real but the fairies are a delight to our imagination. The whole family joins in creating these fairy adventures.

Mack is the papa fairy. He roars around Fairy Forest on a motorcycle made out of broken Happy Meal toys. An acorn helmet protects his little head. Moss Pants is a little boy fairy. He wears moss overalls, nibbles apple bits and rides in the sidecar of Mack's motorcycle. Sterling is the mama. She shimmers in a gossamer gown made of milkweed seed fluff. The family lives in a hole …

Committing to Color

It's fifteen minutes to Wednesday. I am having difficulty falling asleep because of the three children in my bedroom and the biscotti crumbs in my bed.

After six months in this house, I am finally starting to sign my signature on it. I went to Sherwin Williams yesterday and came home with a bucket of Martha Stewart Cameo blue. (Her color chips are not on display but the recipes remain in the computer.) I hate picking out paint. It feels like when I was falling in love with Paul...sick to my stomach and panicky. Lucky for Paul, I have been more committed to him than I have been to some of the colors that have graced our walls. We've been married for WAAAY longer than six hours.

I am painting a hallway. Seven doors, a mile of trim and wainscotting. It takes a lot of Cameo and Extra White to cover up seventies yellow and dark tan. I am compelled to do this during the summer months. I cannot spend another winter wrapped in dark hues.

The children thrive on routine. This painting fren…

Starbucks Simulation

My mom gave Stuart the Totally Coffee Cookbook for his birthday. I took a mental coffee road trip as I flipped through the pages.

Six years ago, we were living in Rhode Island. Rhode Islanders love their coffee. Cars with a Rhode Island license plate come equipped with two standard features... a plastic statue of the Virgin Mary glued to the dashboard (on account of their driving) and a Dunkin Donuts coffee in the cup holder. My cup holder held a Kahlua Coolata...until we moved to Tennessee.

In Chattanooga, a Dunkin' Donuts beckoned on Hixson Pike. The first one we had seen since flying out of New York. We pulled into the parking lot to find an abandoned van parked in front the broken drive thru window. Citizens south of the Mason-Dixon line have different sensibilities. Southerners pick up their sweet tea at Chick-Fil-A. A lit Krispy Kreme light sucks cars from the street and up to the window for melt-in-your-mouth goodness. Dunkin' Donuts is superfluous.

Starbucks moved in abou…

Walking Behind the Mower

Two kinds of grass grow in our yard. Most of the grass is short but there are tall wispy patches that pop out over the lawn causing the earth to have a bad hair day.

From my vantage point behind the push mower, I have noticed something about the relationship between mower and grass. The mower chomps and spits out the short turf but an understanding exists between the mower and the taller grass. As the mower comes near, the tall strands bow down and pay homage to the blade. The mower acknowledges this show of respect and rolls harmlessly over the top of the tall stalks. The strands stand to their full height after the mower passes by. When I am finished the lawn looks like the tops of a hundred heads are popping out it.

I have discovered a trick to give these stubborn hairs a buzz cut...I pull the mower backward. The mower only has eyes in the front it seems. It cannot see the grass kowtowing and so decapitates it without mercy.

Stuart does not understand my technique. "The mower bla…

Late Night Noodles

"Hey Mom, can you come here and tell me if the water is boiling?

I had just spent the last forty-five minutes reading Mara: Daughter of the Nile to the kids. When we came to the end of the chapter they got up and wandered off. It's a great book. I couldn't put it down and so remained on the couch and read on. I was in the middle of Egyptian intrigue and espionage when John's words shocked me into closing my book.

"What do you mean come and tell you if the water is boiling? Are there bubbles?"

"Yes. The whole bottom of the pan is covered with bubbles."

It occurs to me that we might want to focus a little less on algebra and a little more on survival skills with this child.

"The bubbles need to be coming to the surface. The whole pan needs to be full of bubbles." I get up to check why John needs to know how to boil water at ten o'clock at night.

John has a package of Ramen Noodles laying on the counter. He is reading the directions. The water…

Small Town Theater

Stuart and I are on a date...two laps around the block....cell phone in hand. From a distance we see an older person studying the ground. Around here, weeds can bring on an anxiety attack.

"How many grams in an ounce?"

Stuart and and not have an answer. None is expected.

"28 grams. This is 3.6 grams." The little man straightens up and holds out a tiny red radio-controlled airplane. "It doesn't fly right." He works the levers. The plane rises silently to eye level and bucks in a lazy circle. He brings it in for a landing."It's out of balance. I like to fly it slow and I can't because it's out of balance... You'll have to excuse me, I left my teeth in the house... I just got out of the hospital...spent 89 days in there. I'm weak...very weak... Maybe if I cut the wire and slide the engine up a little that might balance it. Hate to do that though...might break it." He studies the plane for a minute.


In Step

Stuart brought home a pedometer a few weeks ago. His company is having a Get Healthy campaign. It seems like waists aren't wasting away these days and so programs must be created to encourage trimness. Employees are divided into teams. Steps are counted and tabulated. The team that walks the most steps wins...something. Stuart doesn't know what. He doesn't even know who is on his team. Team spirit abounds.

After a week or so of keeping track of Stuart's steps, I became curious about my own step count. Wal-Mart offers a variety of pedometers. I purchased GOWalkingby Sportline. As soon as I got out of the store I clipped it on. 200 steps around the Mexican restaurant...1000 on the ride home. Driving the Suburban counts as exercise! This is good news for someone who must drive a half hour to the grocery store.

I carried a fifty-pound planter from one end of the yard to the other. I huffed and puffed. Sweat dripped into my eyes. Eight steps read the digital display...Eight s…

The Fridge That Knows What You Want

We have this fridge. It thinks for us. Stuart opens the door to get creamer for his coffee. Something falls on his foot. "Here," offers the helpful fridge, "have some mustard."

John reaches in for the juice to wash down his vitamins. "Oh no. What you need is butter." The fridge drops a stick down on his head.

If we want ice, the fridge withholds it. He is saving the ice up to spit out a few cubes when we really need it... while we are sleeping... or grocery shopping.

I used to get aggravated at this mechanical marvel until Stuart named it The fridge that knows what you want. Somehow this made the food avalanches funny. Now when the fridge says, "Peanut butter is tastier with pickles than with jam." I can put the pickles back without cursing at the fridge.

We live in this culture. It thinks it knows what we want. It cries aloud in the market place and offers its wares. Someone recently put a copy of Seventeen Magazine in my hands. The glossy pag…

Wednesdays With the Herdmans

Growing up, our family opted out of television ownership. We devoured the printed word...books, newspapers, comic books, cereal boxes...milk cartons. During the Christmas season, my mother read us The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson. It was made into a movie by the same name, but as is usually the case, the book is better. It is best enjoyed out loud. I read it to my kids each December. It's a speedy read. Curled on the sofa in their reading blankets, the kids fuss at me when I close the book, "Read more, Mom! Just one more chapter!"

The Herdmans are six kids...Gladys, Ralph, Imogene, Claude, Leroy, and Ollie...left to their own devices. They pillage and burn to pass the time. They learn that the local church gives out donuts and juice during Sunday school so they go. This leads to their participation in the annual Christmas pageant. The Herdmans' shepherd staffs thump and bruise the choir. The Herdman kings lay a Christmas ham at Baby Jesus' feet…

Before Breakfast

The sun is shining through the windows in the bedroom. It's a perfect morning. I put my feet on the floor to begin the day and step on tufts of dog hair. It's a perfect morning to give Henrie a bath. Lauren gathers up the dog brush, the shampoo, the towel and the leash. I gather up the dog and attach her to the leash on the back patio. Claire turns on the hose. Lauren runs water over Henrie's back. Henrie twists and pulls away from the spray. I pull her back. The black carpet that is her fur repels the water. It runs onto the patio. It soaks into my pajama bottoms. The sun is warm so I don't mind the cold water. Charlie comes outside carrying a fork and spoon. "Get me some breakfast." When he sees the hose, he drops the silverware and wants to help. Lauren hands him the hose and he turns me into a contestant for a wet tee shirt contest. I am glad for the privacy of our backyard. Lauren unscrews the top on the shampoo bottle. Faith, Claire and Charlie reach ou…

Good Neighbors

We sit around the table eating ice-cream cake. Mr. Lee and Miss Norma have trekked across their front lawn to join us for Stuart's birthday.
Mr. Lee is an elfin looking man with an easy smile. I cannot guess his age. Old would be a close estimate. He still works full time as a court reporter. He mows his lawn with a push mower and saws wood for the fireplace with a chainsaw. He walks on his treadmill at two in the morning when he has trouble sleeping.

Mr. Lee is walking history. Listening to him counts as school. He worked as a horse exerciser when he was twelve. During the depression, he finished his last two years of high school while living and working full time at a horse barn. He laughs as he tells us that people liked to visit upwind of him. He wanted to make a career out of racehorses. His dad discouraged him because racing was controlled by the mob. Instead, he slept in an Illinois recruiting office for two weeks waiting until he turned seventeen. At seventeen he was old en…