Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Happy Birthday!

I have two sisters-in-law who remember everyone's birthdays.  Everyone.  That is no small feat in a large extended family.  I figured that this year I could at least send a birthday card to all of my siblings-in-law.  And my brothers.  And my parent-in-laws.  Whew - we're up to 16, but I should be able to handle that many.  We've got a lot when you factor in my family, Jay's family, and now Trent's, too.  I thought it might be fun lettering practice, too, and it was.  

I say "was" in the past tense because I did really well at sending out cards (February was a killer!) until the summer, then I just forgot.  I think it had something to do with getting a new planner so I didn't have my birthday list to remind me.  But mostly I just got summer-busy and forgot.  Mea culpa.  I'll try to finish out the year better!

I didn't forget my own children's birthdays though, because that would be mother demerits and I have enough of those.  Today, I'm celebrating the birthday of my first daughter-in-law.  I wasn't in a good place when she came into our lives.  I desperately wanted to be warm and welcoming, but I was so wrapped up in a big wad of anxiety that I didn't always reach out like I should have.  Regrets.  I wish I would have been warmer and welcoming-er.  

I still love her to bits, though.  She has the most beautiful smile, and I love the sparkle in her eyes when she's excited about something.  I love how my son loves her, and how she makes him happy.  It was so fun to see him get excited/stressed about getting her just the right engagement ring.  He had a hard time even holding still when he got it, and it wasn't but a moment later that he popped the question.  Happy memories.

Happy birthday, my dear.  Thank you for bringing some light into this corner of our family.  May your day be as lovely as you are, and many more to come!

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Funny Family Faux Talent Show

We were in charge of the talent show for the family reunion.  We have so many talented people in the family, and a few with fabulous talents (I'm looking at you, boys who perform on Broadway!).  We all love to hear them sing and play the piano, but it does make some of the others a little bashful about sharing their talents.  No.  We need all the talents.

A couple of weeks before the reunion, I got all the volunteers I could, and then set out to find talents for the others.  Everyone has talents!  You just might not know about them yet.  So anyone who didn't offer a talent would get assigned one, and I let them know.  Too many people gave the wimpy, "I'm not really good at anything." Maybe this is how they would find out that they were good at something, after all.  Ha!

When everyone knew that I was serious about having a variety of talents, we got some pretty good volunteers.  We had a grocery guru share the secrets of picking produce.  We saw coin collections and home-made arrowheads.  We had singing and piano-playing, knock-knock jokes and skits.  We had a few art displays, as well.  But for the other folks, we had to draw them out and help them find their hidden talents.  

Between the volunteers, I called up family members and had them show us a talent that I picked from a list of possible talents.  They were impressive.  Here are the ideas I came up with, if you want to have your own faux talent show:

Sing a song from a Disney movie (we had soundtracks and props for several)
Yodel (with accompanying music)
Do a rain dance
Do a hula dance (wearing a grass skirt) (or tap dance, belly dance, riverdance, haka...)
Perform a magic trick (we brought a top had, gloves, a magic wand, and cards)
Dance the Can Can (with the appropriate accompaniment)
Play a song on a plastic recorder (of course we had a cheap plastic recorder!)
Walk down the runway (with large heels and a feather boa)
Impersonate a famous person
Pick something up with your toes
Breakdance or do the limbo
Do a puppet show (with socks)
Be a mime
Paint your best Bob Ross happy trees
Do a yoga demonstration / teach a yoga class
Do a dramatic reading from Dr. Seuss (we brought Hop on Pop)
Do a superhero demonstration (with cape)
"Whistle While You Work" while pantomiming chores
Yo a yo-yo
Snap all your fingers at once
Perform a kazoo duet
Do a cartwheel

We did have a bucket full of props (like a long red wig for "Ariel" to sing "Part of Your World," wooden spoons for the Swedish Chef) and soundtrack music for all the accompaniments.  Yes, it was a very long talent show.  But I've never laughed so hard!  Everyone had a great time and we did discover some impressive new talents.  Dr. Suess has never sounded more... impressive than the day Grandpa read it out loud.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Sailing by Ash Breeze

I was up in the night last night.  I like that "up in the night" means that you are not thinking straight, or are just plain crazy, as well as literally being awake in the middle of the night.  It is admittedly harder to think straight when you haven't had enough sleep.

I go to bed at a reasonable hour, think for a long while as my body calms down and relaxes, then finally drift off into a peaceful slumber.  About half an hour later, I'm awake; eye-poppingly awake.  Thank you, menopause.  I realize that my sleep hygiene could be better, but my currently-shifting hormones require that I have an absolutely perfect blend of vitamins, exercise, calm environments, good food absolutely devoid of sugar, no evening screen time, and zero stress before I can sleep well.  The irony is that carefully tweaking so many variables just makes me tired.  Thus, I don't usually sleep well.

Lying in bed becomes increasingly uncomfortable, and boring, so I do what any self-respecting bibliophile does when presented with unexpected spare time: I read a book.  I've been cleaning out my bookshelves recently, and re-reading all our books to make sure I love them and want to keep them.  I have been wanting to make sure that my bookshelves contain friends, like Anne Shirley Blythe would say.  Every book needs to "belong to the race of Joseph" in order to justify its dusting.

Last night, I re-read one of my favorites, "Carry on, Mr. Bowditch."  It is an historical fiction novel based on the life of Nathaniel Bowditch, a renowned mathematician, astronomer, and expert on ocean navigation in early American history.  He was self-taught due to being an indentured servant during his schooling years and not having the opportunity to attend classes.  When others mocked him and said he was "becalmed" and had no further room for growth, he roared, "Only a weakling gives up when he is becalmed!  A strong man sails by ash breeze!"

Of course, we would love to have our sails always full of just the right amount of wind, blowing us effortlessly into a calm and prosperous harbor.  But when the wind dies, or is going the wrong way, we break out the oars and row.  Oars were usually made of ash wood, so by paddling you can make your own "wind," or "ash breeze."  It's a good reminder that you can make your own path, no matter what your outside circumstances are.  Now excuse me while I go take a nap.  I mean, ponder this.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Family Funnies

We hear the funniest things at our house.  I only wish I could remember half of them!

Freddie: Dad, do you get backscratches?
Dad: No, sometimes I scratch my own back though.
Freddie: Doesn't Mom give you a backscratch?
Dad:  Not really.  She did give me a good backscratcher though, so I do it myself.
Freddie: Oh.  That must be why your life is so sad.

Heard at dinner: that was so lit-astic!  Loving books as I do, I will insist that the "lit" comes from "literary," and not "literal" or "lit" as used at the turn of the last century to mean someone who is drunk.  Nor will I assume that the speaker was referring to a library that was on fire.  Maybe I should stop.

Angel: there is a dead rat just outside my window and its really gross.  On the bright side, the flies and the bugs are doing a really good job of decomposing it.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Just a Minute

I made the world's ugliest bagels today.  Georgie and I watched a little video yesterday about how bagels are made, and he got all excited about it.  Of course, we make some.

I made the dough and let it rise overnight.  This morning, I shaped the way-too-sticky globules into round-ish shapes and pretended they looked appetizing.  I preheated the oven and set a pot of water to boil.  Checked the instructions again.  I was supposed to boil them, a couple at a time, for one minute.  Flip and boil for another minute.  Easy.

When the water came to a good boil, I slid the first couple of bagels into the bubbling water, hoping they would fill out and look less like grandpa raisin when they came out.  I set the timer and waited.  I have to tell you that 60 seconds is a long time to wait when you are just watching the clock.  Flip.  Wait.  Wait.  Wait.  Want to scream.

It feels so long, but a minute is way too short to actually do anything.  I can't leave the room.  I can't start anything else.  Forget about a quick bathroom break.  After a few exhaustingly long minutes of staring at bursting bubbles in the pot, I was ready to try a different path.  How much could I get done in a minute?

Turns out that a minute is just right for lots of kitchen chores.  I can clean out a sink in a minute.  Sweep one area of my kitchen floor.  Chop a handful of walnuts.  Unload one rack of the dishwasher.  Clean one counter.  It became a game of beat the clock and by the time all the bagels were boiled, my kitchen was looking pretty clean!  I learned not to underestimate one minute, and not to wait to start a project until I have a big block of free minutes.

And I learned that even ugly bagels can be tasty.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Angel Wings

This cutie just had a birthday, and I'm amazed.  After 5 boys, I thought I was getting the hang of the whole "child growing up" thing.  But then Heaven sends me this... girl... and everything is different.  For starters, she's taller than her older brothers were at this age (except for the one brother who is honestly closer to 7 feet tall than 6 feet).  She thinks differently.  She still hates having her hair brushed. She is more gentle.  She goes through a range of emotions at lightening speed, and lands gracefully back at her usual plucky.  The boys didn't go on crying jags.  The boys didn't get offended when someone else would talk over them.  The boys didn't begin puberty until junior high!

So here I am, a mother of boys, a sister of brothers, trying to navigate these growing up girl waters.  They are occasionally choppy.  Mostly, however, it has been a delight.  I didn't expect our "your body is changing" talks to be so heart-felt.  I didn't expect her fierce hugs.  I am loving watching her grow into fierce young lady.  And as she walks down the sidewalk, I marvel.  The metamorphosis from child to woman is beginning, and I am fascinated to watch.

Happy birthday, dear little caterpillar.  May this year be full of growth and adventure for you.  I have no doubt that it will.  I'm looking forward to seeing your wings!

Friday, August 9, 2019


There have been a bunch of things tearing at my heart lately.  A bunch of little things, and several solidly heart-rending Really Big Things.  I've felt unheard, rejected, and abandoned.  It hurts to know that your love - the only thing you really have to give - isn't wanted.  It's devastating to see that people you care about don't care to be with you.  I've cried and stayed up all night and moped about the house.  It didn't help.  If anything, I felt more unloved, more unwanted.  I've been a little lost.

I'm not sure where we were when I took this snapshot of  a white flower.  Plants and nature scenes bring me such peace, and I keep thinking I'll learn to draw them.  My kids laugh at me for taking pictures of "every leaf" as we go for walks through verdant places.  I got this shot because I wanted the head-on perspective so I could see the shape of the leaves.  As I examined the photo later, I noticed the little bug on the top petal.  Can you see him, the tan-colored bug close to the center there?  I have to admit that I'm not fond of creepy-crawlies, and I wished I had seen it before I took the shot so I could pick a different bloom.  But if I had been paying attention that closely, it might have been too close!  

It took me a while to realize that in focusing on the bug, I missed the whole flower.  It is a gorgeous blossom!  So it is with life.  There is so much good and heaps of beautiful.  And some hard and a bitter dose of hurt.  Focusing on one part does not make any other part go away.  I'm not pretending that those hurts are less than they are.  But remembering the goodness of the whole will help us to cope better.