Friday, December 30, 2011


Here we are...mid-vacation, and I have just plumb stuffed myself.
I stuffed myself into a minivan with three other people for 650 miles (and counting).
I stuffed myself into childhood bedrooms, beautifully appointed guest rooms and cramped hotel rooms.
I stuffed myself with beautiful, rich, homemade food as well as poorly cooked, oversalted and overpriced restaurant food. I've scaled the heights of my mother's delicious baked turkey, and I've plumbed the depths of IHOP. I've eaten a lot of chocolate. I've downed countless cups of coffee and glasses of wine.
I've crisscrossed the state, taking in the glorious Atlantic Ocean, the manicured, blue-sky middle, the moss-laden oak trees, the swaying palms and the lakes and rivers that have formed the backdrop of my life.
I've stuffed stockings, suitcases, and gift boxes under the tree. I've stuffed Christmas traditions and child happy-making experiences into every minute of every day.
I've stuffed as much meaningful conversation and lingering hugs and expressions of love as possible into brief, once-a-year encounters with far flung loved ones and friends. I've stuffed 365 days of life into two hours. They call it "catching up."
I've grieved...we've lost people this year. I've been elated...we've gained new people this year. I could cry just thinking about it all.
Today, we're quiet. The four of us stumbled into my parents' house and pretty much passed out. We are veggie-like, lying low in our birth soil, breathing in the nutrients all around us. Recharging. I think my children have watched about 6 hours of Sponge Bob, Square Pants. This will scare me, tomorrow. Right now, I'm so grateful for the quiet.
I'm stuffed full of life and all its messy, beautiful, overwhelming bits. Or to say it more cup runneth over.
I hope yours does as well.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Are you ready?

"Are you ready for Christmas?"
These late December days inevitably lead to that question. And the inevitable answer...nah, still have this to do, that to do... And the sometimes spoken (sometimes not) feeling of, ugh, I just can't wait for all this craziness to be over.
But I think we are ready. In fact, I think we are desperately ready. Today, I declare myself DONE (love those Target commercials) and ready to receive the gift of Christmas. Ponder my incarnation, my devotion read this morning, but not intellectually. Instead, do as the wise men did...follow the leading of the star and fall down in humble worship when you find me.
It's time to get quiet and get out of the stores. I'm pondering my blessings, the grace that God has shown me and all of us. He still performs miracles in our midst! Just look at the two He performed for me. Walking, talking, funny little miracles. Even as He offered the grace of His Son, He still cares about our little happinesses and our everyday joys. This is a mystery that I cannot ponder intellectually, but humbly and with my whole heart.
Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Taking Sides

"Why can't you see my side?"

These are the words I was faced with tonight at the moment, the very moment, when I was so tired I didn't want to see ANY sides except maybe my backside glued to the couch with a glass of eggnog on one side and a quiet, loving husband on the other.

The trouble is...I do! I see both sides of every pancake but it doesn't make it any easier to resolve the trouble. I just don't know the right answer. Do we just enjoy the argument, the spiraling down...("What's a debate team, mom?" Lord, help us.) Or do we truly hope for a bit of wisdom, some nugget that will make everything OK again? Don't I long to make everything OK again for them? God knows I do.

When I run to Him with my list of grievances, isn't that what I desire? Make it all OK again! Ride in on your white horse and smite these bothersome enemies who have unfairly bothered me. TAKE THEM OUT. It's all I want. Didn't David beg for the same thing? And when it doesn't happen, don't I feel slighted, petulant, gloomy and unloved? But how does a mother (or Father) choose between two beloved children? I envy God His perfect justice.

There's something there, something profound, that I'm still trying to grasp. Justice, fairness and dealing in Reality, all wrapped up in unending, unstoppable, Ain't No Mountain High Enough kind of Love. And there is Christmas in a nutshell. Nothing could keep Him from me. Nothing could stop Him from delivering Perfect Justice wrapped in Perfect Love. The ultimate gift.

My shortcomings will continue to pain me. But I just keep hoping that wrapping them up in Love will make everything OK again.
Linking up with Chatting at the Sky for Tuesdays Unwrapped here:

Friday, October 21, 2011

Words with Friends

We were discussing Words at supper the other night. I didn't bring it up, I swear. But I do so love a Word discussion.( Reminds me that they are really mine.) We were talking about how certain Words give a sentence extra meaning just because they are awesome words. Small Fry says - Yeah, it's like if you were trying to say you really, really want something...a good word to use would be yearn. Oh yeah, she's 7 (you can't see me, but I'm doing the cabbage patch dance whilst biting my bottom lip).
Yearn is a really good word. Because yearn is different from want, isn't it? It sounds different. It feels different. Want is utilitarian. It's salt and pepper, it's the bathroom sink. Yearn, however, is full of intensity. It spills over with desire. It sounds like you are grasping for that one shining thing that is just out of reach. What do you yearn for?

I yearn for plenty of shallow things. Plenty. Like winning a tennis match (so far out of reach). A full-time housekeeper and personal grocery shopper. A dog that doesn't need to go out at 4 a.m. every morning, yes every. An annual trip to Italy. No, no here is the yearning: a second home in Italy. With my own vineyard and wine press and a cheese market next door and the smell of the sea pouring into my open windows.

Also, I yearn for time to stand still. I yearn for more connection with small people who are always one step ahead of me. I yearn for that intangible sense of stopping.
These yearnings seem just beyond my grasp. But I try to remember past yearnings that indeed panned out, even though at times they seemed outlandish and impossible.
I yearned to fall in love. I yearned to have babies. I yearned to see the world.
I've done some serious rose-smelling, but I yearn for more.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Looking Up

The pace of life can be frustrating. With so many options, how do we select the right path? With so many ways to bear fruit, how do we dig through the abundant piles to find the perfect seed to plant? I'm so easily discouraged when my attention is diverted from Heaven to the imperfect earth. I'm like the 2-year-old boy I held on Sunday...he was crying and unable to focus on anything except his grief at being separated from his daddy. I held him and tried all my tricks -- rocking, patting, reasoning, reassurance. He allowed Big Stuff to dab at his tears, but they continued to fall unabated. Nothing worked until I remembered that oh-so-effective 2-year-old tactic: Distraction!! As I held him close, I directed his eyes up, to the shapes on the wall...friendly squares and smiling circles, hearts that held up their hands as if to say "What's up, little dude?" His eyes traveled away from all the unfamiliar not-daddy faces to the fascinating information that he was learning, step by tiny step. Looking up mitigated his grief and helped him look forward. It's so hard to look up sometimes. Our heads and gazes gravitate to the ground, our necks pressed hard and bent by trials and suffering. Sometimes we can only see a few inches around our own feet. That is when we must ask to be carried, patted, reassured and shown the way to look up.
2 Corinthians 1:3-7: Love that.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Severe Case of ADD

I think I may be a victim of focus deficit or information overload. ADD? Who DOESN'T have it in this world we live in? I may have said yes one too many times. I'm usually so good about that. No tends roll easily off my tongue, and (I'm sure you're shocked) I almost never feel guilty about it! I can say no to other people but I think, lately, I've been saying yes to ME too much!

It goes something like this: Yes, I will get utterly organized and on top of everything in my life. Because I never again want to lose an important document or piece of paper that costs me 45 minutes to find. Yes, I will eat healthy. I will reduce my portions and eat mostly fruits and vegetables. Except for cantaloupe. Because apparently you can't even eat a dadgum piece of fruit anymore without sending it through a biohazard removal machine. I will scrub my fruit and vegetables. That reminds me...Yes, I need to plant and grow my own food. Yes, I will play tennis because that is good exercise and a great mind-clearer. Except for when you lose five matches straight, and it starts becoming one more reason to feel inadequate. Yes, I will show up more at my kids' activities and at their schools. I'll be more involved. I will know their friends. I'll monitor their texts and filter everything they see and hear. I'll protect their hearts. Yes, I will declutter, I will wash the dog, I will reorganize my closets, I will start dusting and washing more often so it won't pile up, causing me to cry when I consider the sheer enormity of the pile. Yes, I will hunt down and remove allergens so my kid can sleep at night without a Breathe Right strip on her little freckled nose. Yes, I will make dinner because it is cheaper and more nutritious and when kids have dinner with their parents more than five times a week, they are unlikely to get involved in sex, drugs or rock n roll (who has the time to do these studies is what I would like to know). Yes, I will track down every last stinking coupon I can find for toothpaste, even if it's not the kind I like, saving me vast amounts of nickels and dimes, and I will stock up, make room for massive hoarding and as God is my witness, never run out of toliet paper again. Yes, I will watch the news and be informed, and I will read quality fiction, and I will not be distracted by Facebook and interesting blogs that make me feel like an unproductive slug who lacks ambition and I will WRITE and I will get published (hooray!) and I will help children learn long division and math facts (blech!). And yes, I will make time for myself, and I will pray and I won't forget about Cutie Pie and I will check in and make dates and take the dry cleaning that has been piled in my closet for who knows how long. Yes, I will give generously to well researched causes. Yes, I will make my kids do chores so they can learn responsibility and how to handle money and one day they will be financial geniuses who can afford to take care of their decrepit parents in the style to which they have become accustomed (beachfront, that is). Yes, I will drive myself into an early stint at the institution.

It should go like this: STOP IT! One thing at a time.

What do you HAVE to do today? Breathe in and breathe out. That's it. Let's all take a moment.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


Image: Pixomar /

I love Fall in my town. Yesterday we had our first cool day, after several brutal weeks of 90+ degree heat. It takes me back to the autumn when we first moved here, away for the first time from the state of our births where the seasons are not exactly prominent. It also reminds me of when we moved to the house where we now live...also a cool week in autumn five years ago, one week before Halloween. I knew we had found the right place when I saw all the kids in our neighborhood and their parents out trick or treating on that festive night. I don't know what it is. The warm colors, the fine quality of the air, the excitement of a new school year and college football... The taste of apples, pumpkin bread, chili and cinnamon on our tongues.. Fires in the fireplace and blankets on our bed...

Funny how a simple drop in temperature and a smell in the air can bring back such strong memories.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Reminiscing...aka a good way to avoid the gym

First Days

What promise they hold....

1st day of preschool 2006

What excitement....

1st day of kindergarten 2006

Maybe even a tear or two? (for mamas alone)

First day of school 2011

First days remind me of how far we've come, and how fast. Is it actually possible to grow a whole inch in a single month? (Yes, yes it is!) Is it really true that baby teeth drop away and young lady smiles come into their own? It is possible that miraculous, super hero brains add new pathways and connections every day? Is it accurate that little beings who were once woven into my very DNA could be becoming people with their own opinions, perspectives and lives? Could it be that these girls are growing up? Say it ain't so!! But at the same time, Thank You, God, for letting it be. Healthy, happy, lovely girls that I haven't screwed up too much. Yet.

We are blessed beyond measure.

What do First Days make you think about?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Happy Times

I just returned from a week at the beach with friends. It was a repeat of a trip we took together in 2007…same people, same house (aptly dubbed Happy Times), same beautiful views. We looked at pictures of our 2007 trip and noticed: We are four years older… which, to the adults, seems like no time at all. (Some of us even recognized hats and bathing suits that made encore appearances at the beach). However, 2-year-olds have transformed into 6-year-olds and those who were merely 6 have suddenly become 10. The youngest will be starting kindergarten, while three will be ending their elementary school days in a few short months. Our list of Things to Bring in 2007 included strollers, play-doh and highchairs. This year we had to discuss ahead of time whether we’d be allowing iTouches, texting, DS games or the Wii. (We decided, with the kids’ leadership, that none were needed at the beach). Last time, we had to consider diapers, water wings and naptimes. This time, we could watch from afar as six children moved as a herd between riding the waves, digging holes, building sprawling fantasy forts in the sand, throwing their lines into the creek and pulling back fish after tiny fish, digging for clams, making tie dye and chocolate moustaches, playing board games and foosball, preparing their own snacks and trekking back to the waves to do it all over again.

They were a sight to behold.

Sometimes we joined them in their adventures. Sometimes we buried ourselves in those rarefied times called Reading for Pleasure. Sometimes we reconnected with spouses and treasured friends with whom we never have enough time to converse. We took naps, we slept until we woke naturally in the morning, sans alarm clocks or rushes to feed rapidly melting children. (They made their own breakfasts!) We took long walks. It was an entirely different experience from 2007, so much better in some ways, but one that tugged on the old heartstrings too. We understood with each memory shared, each tradition relived, that we are moving ever farther away from those little kid days we used to know. It is such a rich season though. It’s a wonder to experience their independence – which brings us greater independence as well – while still enjoying their need for us. We loved the glimpses of who they are becoming. Who will be the entertainer, who will be the leader, who will be the mother hen, who will be the outdoorsman, who will be the creative one? They reveled in the freedoms afforded to them. They smiled big smiles. They gave us beautiful views.


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Happy Birthday, Big Stuff

"If there is a tomorrow when we're not together, there is something you must always remember... you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think...but the most important thing is, even if we're apart, I'll always be with you."
-- Winnie the Pooh

10 years ago today, I fell in love....

Monday, May 2, 2011

April 29, 2011


My friend hosted an English tea party (with real scones and lemon curd - oh, the wonder!) and wedding-watching extravaganza on Friday. I care not how shallow it may was an AWESOME wedding. Loved the dress, loved the uniforms, loved the yellow, loved the tiara, loved the long walk down the aisle, loved the look of relief on their faces afterward, loved the flyover, loved the flower girl with her hands over her ears, and the two kisses. Lovely all the way around. Later I watched it on the internet with three of Princess Catherine Elizabeth's namesakes. We pulled out pictures from our 1999 trip to London, pointing...there we are at Westminster Abbey, there we are in front of Buckingham Palace! They asked to see my wedding gown (under the bed? what's it doing there, Mama?), which we pulled out, gently touched and ooohhed and ahhheed over. I was not brave enough to try it on...I might have broken down in tears if I wasn't able to zip it up (a most likely scenario). Big Stuff queried whether she could wear it at her own wedding one day. Talk about breaking into tears! Of course she had to throw in "IF I get married..." I think she and her sister have made some kind of pact about growing old together as spinster sisters/farmhands on their own farm, where they have already named all the horses and dogs and divvied up the daily chores. What need have they of husbands? To kill the bugs, I wonder? Nahhhh, peace and harmony will reign supreme on Biggie Small's farm. We hope the same is true in the English cottage housing two sweet newlyweds. Bless their hearts!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Happy Wedding Week

Pip, pip...Let's go all out, I say...this week, I shall be boycotting any news of Congress, budgets, war criminals and the state of public education. I will accept any news of wedding gowns, jelly molds, Corgies, guest lists, Bucklebury, tea, the line of succession and mementos bearing the British flag. Bad news is like the laundry. It'll still be there next week.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Swift Justice

I'm being very bad tonight. I'm playing hooky and also making these evil and yummy little guys for my children's dinner. Instead of a nutritionally balanced, homecooked family meal (the usual, I swear), I'm letting everyone fend for themselves.

I remember when I was a little girl, my babysitters took me to the store once to buy some cans of Sketti-gos for our dinner. They tried to get me to eat them cold right out of the can, saying it's how all the cool kids ate them. I refused. My mother worked for a doctor, and I well knew that you should not eat things without cooking them first. Bacteria, you see. Quite the square, even at the age of 8. Of course I had no idea of those wonderful things called preservatives that miraculously keep canned items edible 100 years thence. Later, in the safety of my mother's kitchen, I asked her if I could eat Sketti-gos out of the can. She said yes, and I tried it for the first time. So sublime it was I may have refused to eat them any other way for awhile.

As I made them for Big Stuff and Small Fry tonight, I guiltily wondered if half a can would be enough for each child's sad little supper while at the same time sneaking a big yummy spoonful for myself right out of the pot. Justice is swift, however. I totally burned my mouth, thereby destroying every last taste bud and my own leftover bowtie pasta dinner, which I had intended to eat cold right out of the tupperware. So bad.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Recovery of the Heart

I almost lost this picture. When my computer crashed in the summer, along with it went pictures taken over three years. Long story short, Cutie Pie is my hero and the Saver of This Picture. Look at those cheeks, look at those sweet pudge-alicious arms. Ahhhh. That is my aunt, by the way, smooching on Small Fry. That is my parents' backyard. The occasion was Big Stuff's 4th birthday. The other picture saved from this day shows her in a Snow white costume licking the icing from her birthday cake.

See how well I remember it? But memory is faulty, and you can't show it to your kids when they grow up. You never know when the memory hard drive in your head will crash. Better to have the pictures. Backed up. In four different places. Baby smooching and Snow White backyard birthday parties will never happen again, you know. Thanks for the memories....

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Southern Snow Bunnies

Rain boots, pajamas under blue jeans, sleds of all varieties + a big hill = southern-style snow days. Now this is something we won't soon forget.