Saturday, November 29, 2008


At the beginning of November, we had a Family Home Evening on gratitude and began a new family tradition. This is our "Thankful Box."

Throughout the month of November, we (meaning mostly the boys) wrote down things we were thankful for on slips of paper, and put them in the box. When my family came over on Thanksgiving day, they added some things of their own. After dinner, we opened the box and read the slips. We adults had written things like family, our jobs, our spouses, our children (and grandchildren,) warm beds and blankets, our minivan, scrapbooking (me), help with chores, food, Family Home Evening, financial aid and graduation (David).

The boys' answers were insightful, amusing, and statistically interesting:
(spelling is authentic for your enjoyment)

mom (x2)
famule (x3)
scripshrs (x2)
good helth
cloths (x4)
ocsigin (think phonetic)
shelter (x3)
brothers (Isaac wrote this one on Grace's behalf)
dotee (translation: body)
car (x2)
honeybees (x2)
kele (=Kelly)
costins (=Constance)
drine (=Brittany)
water (x3)
food (x7)

As my brother pointed out, note the ratios: 1 Grandma. 2 honeybees. 7 food.

Guess we know what their priorities are right now.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Pie a la Ode

'Tis the day after Thanksgiving, and all through the house,
I see plates, forks, and pie crumbs; three kids; and my spouse.

The turkey's half eaten, the potatoes all gone.
The kids are wound up since the holiday's done.

The feast - it was splendid. We hosted this year.
We missed Mike and Brittany, who couldn't be here.

We ate turkey and gravy and corn and green beans,
Rolls and fruit salad and homemade ice cream.

After eating (and seconds,) we adjourned to the floor
Where Grace entertained us with puzzles and more.

The boys started wrestling, climbing uncles like trees.
Grace taught Uncle Danny to do ABC's.

After Yahtzee and dominoes, the boys went to bed.
Then the real fun began; (please don't tell them I said.)

We broke out the board games, and had seconds of pie.
We played and we laughed as the hours went by.

Finally, as midnight was closing in near,
We divvied up leftovers and cleared out of here,

Thankful for family and shelter and laughter
And all of the memories we have the day after.

This morning, we traded in turkey and pie
For early bird shopping and Christmas songs {sigh.}

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

29 Candles

Not on the cake (fire hazard) but on the cards the boys made for me.

Marty made orange rolls for breakfast and shrimp scampi for dinner on Sunday. Wow, I must be special! :)

And the five of us enjoyed dinner out at Red Lobster last night, where Grace shrieked delightedly at the fish (fake) on the walls and the lobsters (not fake) in the tank, and I got a dish of ice cream as compensation for being sung to. A successful evening by all accounts.

Oh, and Isaac told everyone at Church on Sunday that I'm now 40. An unfortunate reflection of how he counts: 26, 27, 28, 40! Note to self: increase math practice in preschool.

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Little Farm Girl

{A short autobiographical story I wrote for Enrichment the other day}

Once there was a little girl who lived on a small farm with her three brothers. She was a born tomboy who ran wild in the summertime, climbed trees, and swam in the irrigation ditch. She rarely brushed her long, tangle-prone hair, and only donned a dress when forced to on Sundays. One day this little girl moved away from the farm to the big city. But as the saying goes, you can take the girl out of the farm, but you cannot take the farm out of the girl. While other girls wore flirty skirts and makeup, and tried out for cheerleading, this girl wore secondhand sweaters and jeans and joined the chess club.

And so it continued for several years, until one day, an announcement was made. A pageant was going to be held, and any girl who wished to could participate. Against all reason, this girl picked up an application, filled it out, and found herself in another world. Saturday morning dance practices at 7:00… toe-pointing and ribbon-waving… makeup tips and curling irons and – heaven forbid - nylons… and yes, a dress would be required.

And so, an uncertain mother and daughter ventured out to go dress-shopping for the first time in many years. There was very little money, and this purchase would be a substantial sacrifice for a single mother of four. Together, mother and daughter scoured the sale racks, and one by one, the dresses were held up, scrutinized, admired…. There were satin dresses, chiffon dresses, plain dresses and frilly dresses, in pink, navy, and emerald. Most cost more than they had. At last, the perfect dress was chosen – ivory, with pretty lace and a skirt that flowed just right when the girl twirled.

After many weeks, the anticipated night arrived. This timid tomboy found herself onstage in cheetah print spandex performing ridiculous moves intended to demonstrate physical fitness. And a little later, in a borrowed red dress, fumbling on a grand piano. And finally, in that ivory gown and matching heels, waving her long satin ribbon in time with the other girls, and feeling like she had conquered the world. And for the first time, it didn’t matter that the other girls were much prettier, and more graceful, and obviously had worn heels and nylons before. All that mattered was the sacrifice of a proud mother who cheered from the audience, and the newfound confidence and gratitude of a little farm girl.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Remember This

How Grace points to everything now and says, "Whathis? Whathis?"

How Isaac said at lunch today: "Remember when Grace was supposed to be a boy but she wasn't and the doctor was mistaking?"

How Jacob said our family prayer last night: "Please bless our mom that she will be able to take care of the kids without any trouble." {Amen.}

Because by next week, these little moments will be replaced by new ones.

Another Sign...

...that Jacob is growing up.

At 8:00 tonight, the phone rang. Marty answered. "Sure, just a minute," he said, heading in my direction, and I reached for the phone.

"Jacob, it's for you."

It was his best friend (this week) Tyson.
They chatted for a few minutes, and Jacob wrote down Tyson's phone number.

Then, "I might hang up now. My mom and dad are waiting for me.... Okay, bye."

"Since when does Jacob get phone calls?" I asked Marty.

He just shrugged.

Jacob grinned. I think he grew two inches tonight.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

One Last Hurrah

Before winter settles in for good, we enjoyed one last day of "warmth" (60s).

One last chance to go outside without a coat on.

One last game of kickball in the front yard.

One last afternoon to hunt for roly-polies.

One last hour to feel the sunshine on our faces.

One last time to wear shoes instead of snow boots.

Okay, Winter, now we're ready.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


{Photo by Isaac. That's right, Isaac.}

Grace is 21 months old today. And this is her life right now:

*She is definitely a girlie-girl and loves to dress up and have her hair brushed.

*You wouldn't know it, but I've cut her hair four times already.

*She can say several dozen words more or less clearly, depending on whom you ask. Her latest are raisins, cookie, airplane, see ya, shoes, door, and stinky. (She learned the word door after hearing me shout it at the boys all summer when they left it open.)

*I cannot take her into the shoe department of any store and expect to walk out again without her loud protests. She is obsessed.

*She barks like a dog and meows like a cat. And she thinks every large animal is a goat and says "maaa, maaa!"

*She loves birds, especially ducks, and points them out emphatically everywhere we go.

*She can sing her ABC's (with a lot of help.)

*She loves to fetch things for me, and throw things in the trash.

*She sleeps with Funshine Carebear.

*She is completely enthralled with books. She would sit and read with me all day if she could.

*She really enjoys dancing with her daddy.

*She unloads the pantry shelves almost every day.

*She won't go anywhere without blankie.

*She is morphing into a toddler and screams full-force when she doesn't get her way.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

In My Shadow

The other day I was running some errands with my two youngest in tow. Except that at one point, toward the end, Isaac wasn't "in tow." He was a step ahead of me as we crossed the parking lot to the office supply store. He was walking rather slowly and I kept tripping over his heels, so I stepped left and forward to walk alongside him, hoping to inspire a slightly quicker pace.
He cut me off, without even turning his head.
I stepped to my right. He cut me off again.
Same story - with each step, there he was. And he never even looked at me. What, is this kid psychic? I thought. How does he do that?

"Mom, look! I'm walking in your shadow!" he exclaimed, and there was my answer.

And it occurred to me that motherhood is a lot like that. When I don't think my children are watching me (or listening to a word I say,) I often find their little feet planted firmly in my shadow. Though their steps are slow and sometimes shaky, they are careful to stay in bounds. And I hope that as they go out into the world, that when I can't be there, they will still see my shadow gently showing the way, and walk in it.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

There is a Season (Turn, Turn, Turn)

My favorite season has always been and will always be fall.

I should tell you, I don't go by the academic definition of fall - solstices and equinoxes and such. No, fall starts on the first day of school and ends on Thanksgiving. Marty and I disagree about this.

Anyway, I suppose there are many reasons for my autumn preference. Marty and I met in the fall, and a few years later our first child was born in the month of September. Then there is the crisp air, the outdoor mural of oranges and reds and purples, and the promise of holidays right around the corner.

When I was younger, I loved fall simply for the start of the school year. (I always was a geek like that. I know you'll back me up on this, Tiff.) I counted down the summer days until I could purchase my books and plan out my assignments. I've been out of school for seven years now and still love it. Some years I make up my own classes and syllabi in September - subjects like Scrapbook Design Essentials, Meal Preparation 301, and The Old Testament. Alas, I'm not kidding.

Now that I have children of my own, my fall favorites are a little different:

Watching Jacob make leaf angels. Breaking out the flannel sheets and fuzzy socks.

Hot cocoa with marshmallows or whipped cream. A really good book to read in bed when it's chilly outside.

The Biggest Leaf Contest. Homemade apple pie a la mode.

Putting up fall decorations to heighten the mood. More time on the computer doing family history.

A new project. And leaves just begging to be raked and jumped in.

But the best part is watching the children relish this time of year and the changes it brings. A new routine. A new backdrop. A new anticipation. Time to gather and read and play and sing and hibernate.

Though I must admit, I'm really hoping to take that imaginary course in Classic American Literature this semester.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Photo Op

This is what happens when you ask boys to rake leaves.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Quote of the Day

Jacob (coming in from outside): Mom, I located an S on my control B 9 9.

Me: Translation, please?

Jacob: I found my shoe.


It's official. Isaac can read. Not the kind of "reading" where I've read him a book thirty times and he can recite it back verbatim. The kind where he picked up a book this morning that was completely new to him, opened it up, and started reading: We will follow that bee... We will follow that bee to his honey tree.

Either he has acquired this skill through osmosis, or Jacob has been teaching him behind our backs. Perhaps a little bit of both.

This new-found ability was a revelation to Isaac himself. He read sentence after sentence, excitement (and volume) escalating. Then he said, "Mom, I can read! I can't believe I've already learned something new!!"

And Mommy is so proud.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


I'm not usually very vocal about politics. I prefer to stay out of the boxing ring. However, this post isn't really about politics. It's about respect.

As we announced the election results to our children this morning, Jacob was a little disappointed. (We didn't train him to support one candidate or the other; he made up his own mind, based on his 7-year-old interpretation of the issues. Really the only thing he was concerned about was taxes. Not sure why - he doesn't pay them!) Anyway, Marty and I explained that no matter what candidate we voted for yesterday, we support the new president 100%, because we respect him and the office he will hold. And we respect the election process and are grateful to be a part of it. We will move forward with the attitude What can I do to help?

There is too much criticism, faultfinding, and disrespect in this nation, and too little optimism, humility, and unity. Yes, we have the right to disagree with policies and positions, and as a family, we will do our best to support those issues we believe in. But we will not badmouth those who are chosen to lead us. We love this country, and want our children to grow up to be positive contributors to it, even when not everything goes their way. (Because really, what are the odds of that?)

Okay, that's it. I'll get off my soapbox now and go clean the kitchen. Because that is how I can best contribute at the moment.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

That's One Interpretation...

Little-known fact about me: When I clean the kitchen, I sing. The children often sing along.

Yesterday, as I washed the dishes, I was absentmindedly singing the hymn Did You Think to Pray? (words by Mary A. Pepper Kidder) The second verse goes

When your heart was filled with anger,
Did you think to pray?
Did you plead for grace, my brother,
That you might forgive another
Who had crossed your way?

If you know Jacob, you know where this is going. After the third line, he interrupted me:

"Grace, my BROTHER?? That's silly! Grace is my SISTER!!"

For the Record

And got my hair cut. Both blessings of living in a free country.
(I'm not implying that the two are equal in importance.)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Apprentice

Grace has decided that Elmo is her pet. Here, she is feeding him the letter J.

And teaching him the fine art of blankie-sucking. (Not everyone is so privileged - Grace only trusts a select few with her most prized possession.)

Welcome to the family, Elmo.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Halloween Checklist

Top 12 things to do on Halloween:

1. Gut pumpkins.

2. Play with the gooey stuff and save the seeds for roasting.

3. Carve scary/silly faces.

4. Decorate!! These are the same dollar-store decorations I have put up since our first Halloween as a married couple.

5. Cat Bowling. (Sorry, Mom.)

6. Make a frightful dinner of ghosts, skeleton bones, eyeballs, and frogs' eggs (not pictured.) {Copied from Family Fun.}

7. Concoct a witches brew. Also serve "gutter water" a.k.a. apple cider.

8. Dessert: Dirt-covered cupcakes with worms on top. {Another Family Fun idea - do you see a theme here?}

9. The main event. Visit all the neighbors while disguised as animals, repeat the magic phrase, and voila, collect more candy than you can eat in a year.

Our neighborhood is an awesome place to be on Halloween. People drive their kids here from all around the area. Cars stream in and out all evening long. Our next-door neighbor had 270 trick-0r-treaters. It is quite a sight. The boys had a marvelous time as always. Jacob was a monkey and Isaac was a puppy. This being Grace's first Halloween that she could understand the premise, she was ecstatic. She literally ran from house to house, her little lamb bell dinging the whole way, while chanting excitedly to herself. She took front steps as quickly as her legs could manage, and held her hand out to any adult she came across. Never mind her candy bag - she wanted to hold every piece in her hands. (I've learned you can tell the age of a trick-or-treater by how many melted Hershey bars are in his/her sack by the end of the night.) Grace can't quite say "thank you" yet, but she did say "see ya" after every house.

10. Thank Grandma sincerely for joining us, increasing the fun factor, and evening out the adult-to-child ratio.

11. Half-heartedly pose for photos so Mom will let you get back to the candy pile.

12. The Great Sort and Trade.

We started a new tradition this year. I sewed a Halloween-themed pillowcase for each child, which they got to wear on their pillows for the entire month of October. On Halloween night, their pillowcases became their sacks for trick-or-treating. After the children examined/traded/reveled in their candy stashes, they each got a sandwich-sized Ziploc bag which they could stuff as full as they wanted with their favorites. The remainder of their candy went back into the pillowcases, which the children put on the front porch before going to bed. During the night, the Halloween Witch came, took the candy, and left them each a book in its place. {Idea taken from Institute parenting class.} The candy then went to the troops overseas, but don't tell the kids; they think the witch ate it.