Tuesday, September 29, 2009

This Makes Me Laugh

1. The idea that someone is still opening emails from Nigeria

2. Facebook IQ tests that have misspelled words.

3. IQ tests

4. Emails with "non-spam" in the subject heading.

5. Hearing someone scream, "Defense!" like a mantra in my ear at football games.

6.Arrested Development

7. A sentence that starts with, "I hate to tell you this, but..."

8. Be Kind Rewind

9. How when our little dog sits between us on the couch, the ear next to me is up, while the ear next to my husband stays down.

10. Blogs about blogs

Monday, September 28, 2009


Having lived away from my family for several years, I try to make the most of being back at my hometown. What a blessing to be able to sit on the patio, drinking lemonade with my sister or in G and P's garage, talking. I have coffee several mornings a week with my dad. Karrie and I call it our "fix." Today she and I did some of my favorite things all in one day: went to a coffee bar and talked, had lunch and talked, watched Serenity while I finished my fake-a-gamo, and we also talked. Could a day be more perfect?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Friday, September 25, 2009

There is a Person Under That Basket

On my list of favorite things about being a mom is that I've got at least 18 good years of hide and seek before me. And I am the master. No wonder the dog is afraid of laundry baskets.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Through My Daughter's Eyes

When my daughter was born everything about my life came into focus. If ever I had trouble sensing the choice and the value of each of my actions, if ever I reacted to life without a feeling of God's eyes on me, then having a little pair of eyes studying who i am and what I did was enough to give me this self-awareness. I wasn't being scrutinized for criticism or correction, but as a guide to follow into the larger world: "This is how a woman looks. This is how a woman acts." Which was infinitely more scary.

But as unqualified as I felt, the colicky baby years were still good for the two of us. I had a secret weapon-complete dependance on God to help me be who I was meant to be. This lay the burden of raising a healthy child partly on Him, where it should be anyway. He'd have to supply the patience I was trying to show but not really feeling inside. He'd help me adjust my attitude, if only I'd listen, and give me the strength motherhood requires. He'd remind me of the gift of parenting so I wouldn't get too caught up in busyness to remember to relax and enjoy my child.

It's been over 14 years since our relationship began. She has my voice and mannerisms, and is taller than I am. I can see that my fumbling example is lived out in front of a more sophisticated audience. These eyes watching me have grown enough to recognize sin, selfishness, and insecurity. They can potentially compare me to the women around me and find shortcomings or, as they are peering from a higher level now anyway, can just look down on me. It can be unnerving to be so "seen."

I still have that one thing going for me: I know I can't be my daughter's good mother without help from my good Father. And now she's old enough to know it too. She hears me ask Him for guidance and for forgiveness all the time. She's a witness to both the smooth moments of submission that I am proud of and the reluctant ones that I cringe to think of. She's heard my voice lift to Him for help finding car keys and for healing. Even if I don't show perfection, I can at least direct her gaze to the Perfect One.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Our Home: Before and After

I am a homemaker, and the home I make is in a small, sometimes cluttered, old house that we love.  I found these photos of it before we moved in.  I had prayed about having a family focused, down-sized life.  We'd moved and were bouncing back from some hard times and needed a "starter" home.  We did not need a place to amass more stuff.  It worked out great because what we got was a very small, inexpensive, home that was almost a hundred years old, where it's easy to focus on each other because we're crammed in here like sardines.

You can see where a front porch was taken in to enlarge the living room, so the living room floor was partially virgin wood.

Floral panelling everywhere.  We visited the elderly couple who'd lived there so many years and I tried to imagine the completely carpeted floors, even in the kitchen, stripped and refinished (sometimes squinting and blurring the eyes helps.)  I was squinting alot- at recliners,  "country" panelling, etc.  But we bought without a clear idea of how we'd make it work, sensing it was the right place for us.

Ah, the bathroom that is almost in the kitchen. Remember, togetherness is our goal! I can envision it as being the neatest little vintage room in the house (lots of squinting and blurring going on here) but for now it's still a dark little cave.

The kitchen was smaller still, with a stove and fridge under the high cabinets, where I look so excited about refinishing floors. The formica counter wasn't and still isn't our most favorite.

Almost every room is an add-on.  It was interesting to see where little rooms had been added with different kinds of wood used on the floors.

The floor in the kids' rooms are in the best condition. My son wasn't exactly thrilled to get the one with little roses on the walls, but they were easily painted over.

Priming and paint were all we did to improve the walls, rather than re- sheetrock.

I minimized the disparity between the old front porch and the rest of the living room floor by rubbing brown paint into the raw wood to dirty it up before finishing them.  Now that we see the effect our beastly lab's claws have on the floor, we realize we should have put down more sealer.  Won't that be fun to correct?

Somehow we fit our table, fridge, and stove in there, moving the gas valve and accepting that the fridge sticks out like a sore thumb.   Well- meaning friends call it "cozy" as they step over the dog to get to the stove.

Small as our kitchen is, everyone gravitates to it.  I realize this "after" photo is almost as cluttered as the before.

I could try to photograph my kids' rooms, but then they'd have to kill me.  So, that's our starter that may be our finisher.   At least I didn't give a tour of the gargae

Making House a Home

This was my favorite summer cottage in Maine. Like the ultimate playhouse, it has so many of the surface elements that I love packed into one camp house: cedar shingles, blue-green paint, texture/detail, trellises and ivy, big inviting windows, a little arch going on, slightly overgrown landscape, and a porch you can actually sit and relax on.

Our home isn't so quaint on the surface. It's plain, with only the plants I brought with me and divided as further outer adornments. But when I open the front door, I feel like the embellishments are inside-out.

Beyond the old home fixtures of hardwood and high ceilings, there's a feeling of warmth inside like a fireplace is glowing in a corner that you won't find.

Our little hideaway is on a forgotten street of old houses and even older trees. Up on piers, we celebrate here, laugh here, settle our disputes, and pile up on the couch together, surrounded by the memories we make.

I can certainly appreciate a beautiful home, and I have enjoyed every visit I make to one.

But I always feel a little relief to get back to our little home decorated by us.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Things I Learned Over the Summer

A reminder for those days when I feel like everything I do is undone in a moment after school, nothings seems accomplished, and I'm going to bed in a messy house...

How to clean an Argus


Full King Pidgeon

How to spot a queen in the making

Side crow split

How to collect coriander for the kitchen

How to making calendula soap

How to make sushi

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Hand-Me-Down Seeds

It's my first time to save seeds from my little garden. The little garden that could. I ordered heirloom seeds and a book on growing and harvesting seeds. When they arrived in neat little packets with old fashioned sounding names like, "Outhouse Hollyhocks" or "Grandpa Admire's Lettuce" I was dazed. Pretty!

Some had stories about the family that had preserved the seeds from an ancestor's beloved vegetable patch, etc. I felt like I would be stepping back in time, sowing a little bit of history with these seeds, nourishing my family like previous with the same wholesome foods of yesteryear, enriching my soaps with more traditional goodness, and feeding our bees the best nature had to offer. So, I settled down in the car to really focus my cool new how- to book in snatches as I drove to pick up my children from school.

I was overwhelmed by the amount of plants and space needed to ensure pure seeds. There was info on a bagging technique, alternate day caging, and roguing. I saw everything I could ever want to know about long term freezer storage and how to set up screens,cages, taping and other such torture devices to prevent cross-pollinating. I'm sure my face took on the "glazed look" with all the scientific overload. By the time I got home, I knew I was about to wing it with my shiny,pretty new seed packets.

How I longed for the wise counsel of a relative who'd carefully saving seeds in the past. I remembered how we found jars of seeds in Adam's grandfather's garage from the large garden he'd given up in his later years. If he were here today he could probably tell me about seed saving. But he passed away a few years ago and other than my grandfather growing transplant tomatoes, there's no one to pass on gardening wisdom. I guess I'm going to have to become that someone in my family.

So, I blazed on, uninformed, planting too late in the season, and fascinated with pretty packet designs. This is what I got. Not horrible, right?

Maybe I just needed to wet my feet in this whole garden thing because now I find the book an easy read and really helpful for growing, even if my yard isn't suited to heirloom seed harvesting. I can still harvest tainted seed, right? And I am straight into empty flour bags to dry out and be separated fully from petals and whatnot.

I can't help but think of all the jars of seeds in Papa's garage. Why did I throw them away for him? I wish I had a few to grow a Papa plant with my children and tell them how it had come from his garden before he died.
Now that would be an awesome hand-me-down.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Accidental Cantaloupe

This is Garden Magic. I didn't choose to go the melon route, but it chose me. I'm poking around in the last little bits of summer garden and find something growing where cucumber should've (cucumber decided to grow in a different spot altogether.) At first I thought it was a deformed, roundish, late cucumber finally growing where it was intended. Figures. But the next time I checked it was even rounder and had cantaloupe skin.
Is God trying to tell me something? I couldn't get a lot of my planned, sown, and tended desires to grow, but find an unexpected blessing thriving in the middle of a couple of crummy dead corn stalks and stunted bush beans, without any care from me. There are several of them hidden on the vine that grew in when I was focused on school starting. The last pic is of one that is melding with the fence. I swear that last cantaloupe is making faces at me through the fence.

Happy Birthday, Dad

He grew up in a poor family of 11 on what was literally the wrong side of the tracks- the country side. The country kids swam in the city's reservoir for fun, teasing the city kids by saying, "We swim in your drinking water." He remembers a teacher using his clothing as a subject for a spelling word example sentence: " Larry has on different colored socks, and one has a hole in it." Though their father was harsh with them, he always taught them to share what they had with other families in need, families that to this day are very close to my dad and his brothers. He had a lot of what is now thought of as grown up responsibility at a young age on their farm, yet he hid from visitors under the house because he was so shy. And when his older brothers took the beams that went under their wagon in the snow on Christmas Eve and dragged them through the fields, saying Santa had been there- he believed them.

This is his "mafia" look from his early OCAW days. He said to a journalist during a major refinery strike: "There are three things I am: a democrat, a Christian, and a union member."

When my mom's parents were slow to give their blessing to the engagement it was because his first marriage had ended, though he hadn't wanted the divorce. They were concerned, and he understood, though I'm sure he wanted their blessing. He loved her. I saw it and felt it. And though he would do anything she asked, she never took advantage of it. When my mother was sick, and after she passed away, my grandparents were very quick to say there was no husband finer. They grew to love him quickly because he was a good guy. But he grew as dear as a son to them by the way he nursed and watched over their daughter.

I'd love to say the only hardship was circumstances and we all behaved perfectly through them, but that's never true in families. He and I weren't always very close. Lots of misunderstanding and miscommunication. But having kids of my own helped me to see that his distance wasn't a happy choice he made to keep me out of his hair. It was from lack of experience in healthy family relationships, being overwhelmed by the task of navigating them alone,and maybe fear of failing at it.

Remembering my dad the way I saw him as a little girl. How I'd put my whole hand around just his finger instead of his hand to walk down the road to the neighbors'. Or how we literally ran to the front door saying," Daddy's home!" to greet him. He took us to the park to play every Sunday and sometimes he bought us a comic book at the Sak-N-Pak.

I drive to his house a few mornings a week to have coffee with him and usually find him hovering over a junked mower that he's about to rehabilitate and sell (or give away.) Sometimes it's just me, Dad, and the dog. Sometimes he has his posse of older guys hanging out, tinkering with engines, and shooting the breeze over coffee too. I do enjoy it.

I thank God for your 72 Years. I'm remembering the part I was there for. The honest, generous life you lived in front of me and am so thankful that God has given us so much of it.

Goodbye Summer Tunes

These songs were in my head or stereo most of the summer.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Musical Baby

The first two put him to sleep, the rest were some of his babyhood favorites. Happy Birthday, Jess.