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Showing posts from 2008

The Fancy Dinner

Come on. You are invited to the fancy dinner.

Place: The Living Room Time: After the children are fed
Dress: Thrift store fare. Formal (women and girls) Flannel (men and boys)

It's become tradition, this fancy dinner. Tonight is the third edition. Women put dinner in the oven, feed the children, exchange jeans for gowns. Doors are shut all over the house as everyone dresses.

Little girl eyes sparkle delight. Lithe bodies swish, swirl. "Look, Papa, Grandpa!"

"Oooh! You're gorgeous! So pretty!"


Mamas appear from behind the closed doors. Mother bodies swish, swirl. Am I still? eyes ask. Am I still your beautiful girl?
Yes. Oh, yes echoes round the room.

And the men, the men that we love, lumberjack men in soft flannel, bubble over with good humor and cheer.



We sit around the table. Velvet. Flannel. Sequins. Flannel. Taffetta. Flannel. And the children serve. "Would anyone like a glass of wine." Six adults coach five young ones through the art of presenting, po…

Door to Door

"Goodbye!"
"One hug more."
"See you in a few days!"

We pulled out of the driveway, weighted down with two car top carriers, honking, waving to cousins.

"Goodbye!"

Over Virginia mountains. Weaving through truck traffic, recording license plates, reading, sleeping.

And when darkness falls, we leave the highway to the trucks and wind over a ribbon of country roads. John navigates, scatters direction-covered Post-Its, shuffles and reoganizes. We grope tentatively through inky night, stop to read road signs.

"We're almost there!"
" This is the road. Look for house numbers." Eyes squint and strain.

"10057. Almost." Headlights seek treasure, family, at 11164 Frog Hollar Lane.

"Come back!"
"Back up! You missed us!" A flock of children crows from porch and yard.

We do back up, thread though exuberant greeters, burst from the car, trailing empty water bottles and stuffed animals.

"You're here!"
"G…

The Snowflakes

Because you asked. Tell us. Did you make the snowflakes? How?
Yes. We did make these curly bits of paper. Charlie wrapped some strips of paper round the quiller and handed them over to be shaped and joined. But the other four pairs of hands measured and cut and curled and glued with no help at all. The best kinds of projects don't need a mother hovering directions. I joined in and worked too while City on A Hill provided Christmas ambiance in mid-November.

These are our tools. And waxpaper to save the table. And toothpicks for the glue. If you don't have a quiller buy the kind with the little slit in the top. Much easier to use than the pointed awl kind. Prevent squabbling. Get enough. The quiller design board is a necessity as it forms identical curls. You may want two or three if there are lots of eager hands at your house. Precut quilling paper is inexpensive and is of even, narrow width. Better than I can do on my Fiskars paper cutter. We used two snowflake kits that came wi…

Of Crops and Christmas

My father is a farmer, no longer one who tills the soil and plants the seed, but a farmer nonetheless, drawn to crops and weather forecasts. I grew up in the corn fields and in the planting and harvest seasons, my five o'clock father came home dusty and tired long after dusk. Memories stirred because a post came across my reading list this week. It my caught my eye as it is of a harvest. The children and I have been following with interest.

"Look at this field of corn. This family's paycheck stands in that field. These are their children. They are all your ages." Internet journals make this big world small and intimate. Tie together the hearts of strangers.

We have been so caught up in this tale I wanted to share it with you. Part One, Part Two and Part Three. Begin at the beginning. Prepare your heart for Christmas.

Searching for the Mark

You miss the mark. A wisp of an idea, a whisper, a breath during these happy, creative days. Cookie baking and Christmas carols. You miss the mark. Stories and puzzles in front of the fireplace. Hot chocolate. Presents...storebought and homemade.You miss the mark.

This unrest grows and swells until, finally "How? How am I missing?" I look into the lives of others and am not found wanting in giving or worship.

Child, look to Me.

I look. I fall short. I miss the mark.

In worship. You attend to many things but only one thing is needed. I have this complaint against your family. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! In giving. You bring buckets of water to full wells and spare only a few drops for me.

My heart breaks and into the wreckage He pours out His plan to finish well this season.

For worship: We put aside Isaiah for a time and begin the Jesse tree devotional. A soothing balm. A right turning for our wayward souls.

For giving: Silver words challenge. Confron…

Goon Shoes

One dollar! Who will buy us for just one dollar? Down here! One shelf below Timmy the Tooth on VHS. Down. Behind the green press-on nails. Yes! Us! The Goon Shoes!



We'll fit all of your children with these handy straps! We're bouncy! We're fun!

No! No, lady! Don't make your boy put us back. We're not junk! You don't know! You, you middle-aged woman with big feet! Please! Pleeease take us home! Don't leave us here under these big bikini bottoms!

Put down that sweater! Put it down and look at your son sproinging down the aisle of Second Hand Sams in our green and purple majesty. We're made for each other!

Yes? You said yes?! Oh, you won't regret this! I promise!

Watch that first step out of the store, son. We've got bounce but no traction.

Don't fight! You can't all wear us at once. Two shoes. Two feet. That's how it goes. Set the timer. Wait your turn! Wait!

Yes, big brother, we do turn vacuuming into a circus performance. Yes, younge…

Silent Night

Sit with me, here in the dark, in the peaceful dark of my living room. Sink down into the sofa beside the fireplace.
Here. A blanket to throw over your lap and tuck under your feet.

Let the chaos and the busy-ness of the early evening hours fade.

Feel the the warmth of the cocoa mug in your hands. Sip slowly. Savor this moment. Relax. Peace. Breathe.

Be still.

A Windy Day

What does a family do when they wake up on the living room floor to a stormy morning? (We were having a sleepover in front of the fireplace because Stuart is out of town.)


7:30 Lay under the covers and watch the wind bend the trees vigorously in every direction. Enjoy being cozy together.


7:52 The wind blows the power lines down somewhere and the clock stops.


8:00 Send a kid to the front windows to see if the broken branch in the tulip maple has finally blown down.


8:01 Pray that the wind will be strong enough to blow the branch down when the report comes back that it is still trapped out of reach in the tree.


9:00 Have milk and cereal for breakfast because the power is not yet back on.


9:00 Instruct the children on the importance of keeping the fridge door shut.


9:30 Read the last two chapters of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. Wish that it were a little longer. It's such a good book!


9:45 Have a longer Bible time than normal because there are no distractions. Thank God during prayer …

bERGRAMU

Yesterday, Charlie got a letter in the mail. The Christmas activity we were working on came to a screeching halt. Letters for four year olds are not a common occurance here. "For me? A letter for me? Look! A letter for me! I got a letter!" When Charlie was done waving his letter around, he opened it.

He pulled out a sheet of stickers. "Ooh stickers! What is this animal?!"

"Move it back a little, Charlie so I can uncross my eyes."

He did and we identified animals from the African plain. "Mama, do you want a sticker?"

"Sure."

"Which one?"

"I don't care. Which one do you want to give me?"

Charlie smacked a elephant onto my chest and decorated himself with a monkey. But wait! There was more in the envelope. A note and a dollar. A whole dollar.

"Do you want me to read this note to you?"

"I got a dollar! I got this dollar! Is it store day? Can we go to the store rightnow?! (insert much dancing and waving)

"N…

Southern Holidays

1. Stringing up the Christmas lights and raking the yard can occur simultaneously. Today, we divided into two teams and took care of both jobs. These festivities were punctuated every fifteen minutes or so by the reveberation of a shotgun as our next door neighbor scared a flock of Canadian geese out of his back yard.

2. It was cold today as we worked out in the yard so, we bundled up in our sweaters (three or four apiece), our mittens and our toboggans. For those of you who are doing a double take...toboggans are hats down here. I guess the southerners felt left out. What's this, ya'll? A word we have absolutely no use for? I know. Let's change hat to toboggan. We'll show those Yankees.

3. Sometimes it snows. Well, it's only snowed once since we've moved here. The children dashed outside in their pajamas. I didn't call them back in to get dressed. It was a good thing. The snow melted before breakfast.

4. Southerners find innovative ways to create snow. Las…

From Thanksgiving to Now

Stuart came down with a cold the day before Thanksgiving that knocked him out for two or three days.  This is how he he spent all of Thanksgiving Day.  He's a handsome devil.
The rest of us were undaunted.  With Stuart's blessing, we pressed forward with our Thanksgiving preparations.  The girls made sweet potato casserole and green bean casserole and fruit cup (with the bitters).  And all that I needed to do was assemble the stuffing and cook the birds.  We were alone for Thanksgiving.  I really hate that we are so far from family and friends because I would love for my house to be full of company. I suppose it was for the best on this particular holiday. Our guests would have gone home incubating plague germs!  Anyway, it was just the seven of us so I decided to serve Cornish game hens instead of the traditional (enormous) turkey.  The kids were delighted with the size of these tiny birds and christened them ptarmigan.  Perhaps we were the only family in America that celebrat…

Candy Canes

We’ve moved into high gear with our Christmas preparations. The kids are at the age where projects are fun instead of stressful. Usually. We learned quite a bit from today’s project but I doubt we’ll repeat it. It’s never a good thing to be wishing you were done instead of only at the halfway point. We made candy canes to decorate our Christmas tree. Not the pipe cleaner-done in three minutes kind. We made the boil the sugar- stretch the candy- twist into ropes kind.  Oooooh. 
We used this recipe. Here’s our photographic evidence that I was foolish enough to attempt this with a small herd of kids.

Lauren, Faith and Claire are reading the candy thermometer. This was a good lesson for Claire as she had never used a thermometer that wasn’t digital before.


Once the sugar was ready I added concentrated food paste to one of the batches. This paste is neat stuff. It makes vivid colors. I like to use it when I make playdough. You can find it in the craft section at Wal-Mart in the cake-decorati…

Warm Ups

The weather is cool. We've pulled out the candles and the slippers and long johns. My sweats-clad children do their school work wrapped in reading blankets in front of the fireplace. Afternoons are spent raking heaps of leaves and mulching them into bits for a vegetable garden in the spring. Our cheeks are rosy red from the cold but we shed out of our jackets. Raking is hot work.

The children work with enthusiasm. In the long term, they are earning money for Christmas gifts. A sizable amount for each child. We have a forest of leaves to contend with. In the short term, they look forward to a mug of hot apple cider with whipped cream or hot chocolate topped with a large homemade marshmallow. The kids put away the rakes, the tarp, and the push mower while I head inside to prepare our afternoon warmth.
Hot Cocoa
I adapt the cocoa recipe off the side of the Hershey's cocoa canister:In a saucepan, mix:1/4 cup sugar (this is half the amount of the original recipe. I like my cocoa on th…

Playtime

We have boxes full of Stuart's childhood toys. Matchbox cars and antique trains with hardly a scratch on them. He was such a gentle child.

Not me. All my stuff ended up in the trash. When I was a child, I played with my toys like Toy Story Sid. I gave my dolls haircuts (crew cuts, really) and pierced their ears with straight pins. Poor little darlings. I drew on their vinyl faces with pen. Once I put a plastic handpuppet on a lightbulb, just because. It gave off a lovely smoldering smokey smell as he met his doom.
My children have inherited my destructive gene. They build Barbie catapults out of K'nex and fling Island Barbie off the island. There are dents up near the ceiling of the little girls room that attest to this creativity. We have had Barbie crewcuts and amputations at the knee.

You might think there is only one way to play with a puzzle. Put it together. Take it apart. Put it in the box. Nope. Not if it is a puzzle of the map of the earth. There's the problem of tec…

Screeming Mice

Stuart brought home an electronic mouse repeller that emits a high pitched noise. Apparently mice do not find this sound pleasant and will not take up residence anywhere near the device. Our cat is a mouse-hunting sissy and so we resort to mouse deterrents of the manmade kind.

Naturally, the children were curious and we explained how it worked. They let this bit of information sink into their brains and take root. At this very moment, four of them are rolling around with their hands over their ears in front of the little electronic speaker squealing in agony over this deadly painful sound that their human ears cannot hear.
However, their squealing is deadly painful to my ears. And it makes me wonder. Is this the kind of creativity that Mary Grace refers to when she worries about the future employability of our children?
(In case any of you are wondering if my spell checker is AWOL...The child who took these photos loaded them onto the computer under the heading Screeming Mice. This shows…

October 31, 2008

The kids carved pumpkins last night. Stuart cut open the tops and the kids took it from there using a pumpkin carving knife that we found at the thrift store. Charlie insisted that he wanted his pumpkin to look just like the one on the package that the little knife came in. Lauren spent an hour fulfilling his little heart's desire.
Claire carved her pumpkin with two front teeth as her own mouth is void of any at the moment.
We've run the gamut when it comes to Halloween... from homemade costumes and trick or treating in the neighborhood...to fall festivals at church. But these both added up to the same thing. Waaaay too much candy and children who turned into fussy, begging urchins until the sugar finally ran out. It turns out when it comes to creating family traditions that the less is more philosophy works best for us.
We finally hit on the perfect way to make the evening special a few years ago. I pack the kids in the car and meet Stuart for dinner at a local restaurant and th…

The Applesauce Classroom

We took a few days off from school last week to make applesauce. I'm not much for gardening or canning but I just can't tolerate that watery jarred stuff that passes for applesauce at the store. I was starting to panic because our freezer was almost starving. A couple of bags of frozen kidney beans, a few loaves of bread and the last two quarts of applesauce from our last extravaganza. It looked like we were going to have to drive for hours to find an orchard but I finally found an apple orchard just one short hour's drive on the back country roads. We came home with five bushels and got busy.

Here's a clean pile of Arkansas Black apples. They make a good thick sauce and a pretty decent apple pie as well.

John and Charlie on apple washing duty. Charlie helped a bit but mostly he assigned himself the job of taste testing. Lauren was my girl Friday during the four days in the kitchen. Without her help, I'd still have four bushels of apples in my closet waiting for …