wocket in my pocket

Looking for the unexpected in the mundane.

June Recap

Wow. Two whole posts in June so far. I have missed this creative outlet, but not enough to stop washing lettuce and picking daisies. I want a whole year of May and June sometime. Oh wait, that would be heaven, yes? So I will get it someday. Minus the weeds, but flooded with berries.

Speaking of berries, I promised some people a recipe. Every time I make strawberry jam, I feel shocked at the quantities of sugar. It just seems wrong to use more sugar than berries. Technically that should be labelled “sugar jam” in the freezer. One day a few years ago I got to chatting with my favorite greenhouse ladies over in the Cove. (The same ones who served me rhubarb punch this spring… What can I say, we like each other.) The one with 8 children told me she was making strawberry jam that morning, and when she got back into the house her children had eaten most of it with spoons. She seemed very jolly about it, but my eyes must have betrayed my shock, because she hastily reassured me, “It’s the kind with hardly any sugar! Have you tried that?”

I hadn’t even heard of it, so she filled me in.

Crush or chop berries in the blender until you have 4 cups.

Mix 1 cup sugar with 1/2 cup thermoflo, (the bulk food variation of clearjel that is formulated for canning and freezing)

Mix all together in saucepan and cook until thickened. I always add a splash of lemon juice as well.

It sounded too easy not to try, so I went home and did it. My children love it! I think that is mainly because nobody polices how much jam they put on their toast when they are eating “Kid Jam”. I took this jam along to the school hot lunch. One of the boys sheepishly admitted to eating six bread rolls, just for the jam. And he wanted the recipe. That was the first time ever that a 7th grade boy asked me how I made something. :D Gabe doesn’t care for the texture, almost like a very thick strawberry danish, but I use it to sweeten his Greek yogurt in his lunch, and for that it is great. So I usually try to make normal jam too, for him. We go through a lot of kid jam in a year though. This year we bought cheap berries at Aldi’s for the jam, since we would be cooking them anyway. It isn’t as bright red as usual, but here you are, visual proof in the form of grainy cell phone photos:

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Now that berry season is almost over, I helpfully give you the recipe for Kid Jam. Maybe you can try it on the overflow berries at the supermarket, too.

In the past few weeks so many things have happened that could distress one. The White House spotlighted in rainbow colors, ISIS atrocities, church people mown down with a gun in prayer meeting. More locally, my parents’ neighbor was tied down to a chair with wire ties by a person desperate for drugs. She sat there in her house, alone, for 2 days before her daughter found her. And now the news that my cousins’ Amish grandpa was brutally murdered in his home and his wife beaten severely.

The world is going mad. People are crazy, hopeless, dangerous. I hate the news.

God gave me this in Psalm 33:8-11, 20-22.

  Let all the earth fear the Lord;
    let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!
 For he spoke, and it came to be;
    he commanded, and it stood firm.

The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing;
    he frustrates the plans of the peoples.

 The counsel of the Lord stands forever,
    the plans of his heart to all generations.

 Our soul waits for the Lord;
    he is our help and our shield.
 For our heart is glad in him,
    because we trust in his holy name.
 Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
    even as we hope in you.

We just sang “Shout for Joy” in choir this spring, so this Psalm means more to me than before. I read it and hear the music in my soul. That part about the plans of His heart for all generations, that is the intimate hand of God over the unwitting, stubborn people of all nations. He hasn’t lost track of anybody, even the ones who seem to have lost their minds. My hope is in the steadfast love of the Lord!

I wish I could see the big picture, like, what? is going on here? But since I can’t, I rest in the assurance that God always has the final word.

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You Can Tell a Lot About a Woman By Her Purse

I like a great mystery story, you know the way Sherlock Holmes deduces a life story from the callouses on a finger of the left hand. I really enjoy observing people. I love forming long hypothetical nonsense in my head about things I see. Not that that puts me anywhere near Sherlock Holmes, but my inner sociologist likes to deduce things too. :)

So I am here to suggest that the woman who shoulders the purse tends to the needs of the world. I used to wonder what in creation ladies kept in those cavernous bags, back in the day when I carried a pack of tissues, gum, and a wallet in something like this:

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I graduated to a small backpack in my traveling days, one in which I could safely carry passport, water bottle, facial cleansing wipes, a crossword puzzle book, journal, pens, granola bars, and extra cash.

Then I became a mother and I resisted the siren call of enormous bags bristling with pockets inside and out for as long as I could. I shuddered at those vinyl totes with pastel elephants and lions, settling instead for a green Eddie Bauer bag that I thought looked at least a little bit smart. After a while I couldn’t fit the stuff in, you know, all those wipes and extra clothes and teething gels and fat cardboard books with somewhere down in the bottom a lone credit card case rattling around. By the fourth child I succumbed. It still wasn’t technically a diaper bag, but it was definitely a Bag to Schlepp Things Around. It was washable, humble canvas, and it expanded beautifully. Like this.

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Then my babies all got potty trained and I quit giving them lollipops in the car unless we were almost home, and just like that I didn’t need to have a box of wipes with me in the quite likely event of emergencies. I have actually downsized. To this:

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I love this bag. When I bought it in a fit of color-starved spring madness, I loved it. Two years later I still do. It has pockets all over, deflates nicely when I am out on my own, is big enough to accommodate a hard cover book and a whole pile of staple mom-purse stuff. I told you I would show you what is in it, just for fun. Now I am squirming a bit, but you can laugh at me if you wish. I can even squirrel away an entire bag of Cadbury mini eggs in it. When I dumped it out on my bed, I counted over 50 things. Missing here are my phone, hand lotion and band aids. After a church service, I get the Bibles, Sunday school books, used tissues and candy wrappers from the visits with the Smartie Man.

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It’s how I roll. Maybe it runs in the family. A cousin of mine once discovered a screw driver in her handbag just as she was about to go through airport security. These days I think she carries duct tape. :O

Now that I have been around the block a few times in the purse carrying department, I have an idea that the svelte wallet carriers either have plenty of money to buy at any time what they can’t carry or else they don’t have people depending on them to produce mosquito repellent, spare undies, extra socks, glasses fix-it kits, phone chargers, or Tylenol. The alternate theory is that they prefer not to visit a chiropractor after jaunts on the town.

At any rate, if you are a woman who routinely has in your bag just what the people need, I say you should carry it with pride!

*These opinions are entirely my own and subject to grave error.*

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Odd Stuff and Owning Your Life

There are a number of quirky things in my life right now. I sort of like anomalies. They keep things interesting. And weird. Of all the things I wrote in my head in the weeks, the two I actually typed to post disappeared in unexplained computer glitches. Isn’t that hilarious?

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One of the library books we checked out in February was missing. We renewed it repeatedly and scoured this house, even going so far as deep cleaning the boys’ room. Finally today I called the library and told them we give up. I will pay for the book, but could they just check their shelves to be sure it wasn’t there. It was. They had missed it when they scanned the returned books. I did all that cleaning and digging and offering of reward money for a book that wasn’t even in the house.

We planted rye in our garden last fall to enrich the soil this spring. It felt so good to till that green manure under this spring and plant our peas nice and early. Until Gabe’s dad, the greenest thumb we know, told us that you have to wait a while to plant after you till the rye under, because it messes with the germination of seeds. I kept hoping he was wrong, but those peas did not come up and he was right. Two weeks later we replanted without that smug glow of earliness. At least it is supposed to be a cool, wet June, so the peas should still feel happy.

Then there was the wonderful feeling that the month of May was deliciously empty of assignments, yet I somehow managed to drag out portfolio finishing and homeschool evaluations until the last week of the month. I did it just because I had the luxury of time, but then it hung over my head the whole time. Silly me.

I am also interested in the fact that we made it through the entire winter, all seven of us, with only one episode of puking, and that with my husband working daily with sick people in the ER. And yet. Here we are, on the 10th day of a vicious stomach bug that is working its way through our family one person at a time. Yesterday I thought we were finally home free until I heard the familiar, “My belly hurts,” in my deepest sleep early this morning. Do you know how fast a mother can spring out of bed with fight or flight coursing through her veins as she grabs a bucket to shove under her child’s nose? It is very speedy indeed.

Most amusing of all is my perusal of  Own Your Life, by Sally Clarkson, in just about the most disorganized weeks ever. I did really enjoy the book. Here is why.

I like organization. I like the idea of having order and purpose to life. I like to have a clear vision of my role and a plan to fulfill it. However the reality is that I am a “fly by the seat of your pants” person deep inside. With discipline issues. :/  Recently I had an aha moment when I thought of what would happen to the wife of a nurse with weird working hours if she was incapable of dealing with irregularity, and I embraced my spontaneity a little more. Yet I liked Sally Clarkson’s book with it’s emphasis on calm and sanity.

In chapter one she talks about basic training in our lives: the soul stretching, mind numbing, mundane sameness of faithfulness. In our youthful dreams we don’t think about sagging curtains or ugly carpet or fighting children. We don’t assume that there will be illness or peevishness or cabbage worms. Our dreams are noble, full of greatness, which goes to show that we are meant to rise above the grittiness in life and flourish. Sally is an older woman now, recounting a moment when she realized that she had unhappily succumbed to a life of monotonous drudgery. This became her prayer, (page 9)

“No matter what happens…

 I will be as obedient as I can to

bring joy into this place,

create beauty in this wilderness,

exercise generous love,

persevere with patience.

I will choose to believe that wherever You are my faithful Companion

is the place where Your blessing will be upon me.”

I relate wholeheartedly with that prayer, with embracing the seasons of life, with deciding to like God’s will for me. Anybody out there with me?

I was challenged to identify the things that drain me, sources of life-noise and chaos that produce “sawdust souls”, as Sally describes it.

Chapter seven is titled “Allowing God’s Spirit to Breathe in You”. This, really, is where it’s at if I want abundant life instead of living constricted by human inabilities. When I keep tryst with the Lover of my Soul, I flourish; when I live in my own strength, I become impoverished nigh to death. This is a simple fact. I know what happens with constant activity, becoming preoccupied with all that needs to be done, where pressures cause harsh reactions to the people I love, all for lack of refueling my exhausted soul.

I think that the defining statement of the book is this: “Home is the stage where the play of your life is delivered. As you clarify your vision, accept your limitations, and cultivate grace, you are laying the foundations that will build influence and legacy… Own your home life, right where you are.” (page 201)

So that’s where I am right now, hugging life with all it’s rare oddness and boring sameness combined.

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What’s Up

So I wrote the purse post nine days ago, left it for some finishing touches, came back this morning and it is gone. I forgot to save it. In the meantime, my husband took some paid time off and had ten. consecutive. days. at. home. I say this for all of you kind souls who pity me on the weekends that he has to work: there are perks to the job. :) We filled and filled and filled our quality time love tanks. Wouldn’t it be nice to have overflow tanks to save up for those mandatory call-in days out ahead?

I have been doing random normal things like

  • pulling weeds and mulching
  • convincing my boys that civilized people sleep with sheets on the mattress
  • washing pond water stained swimming clothes every day
  • arbitrating arguments about who has the whitest armpits
  • deep cleaning my boys’ bedroom (whimper)
  • pulling ticks off little people (Tick Twister, folks. That’s what you want.)
  • finishing up my scholars’ portfolios and report cards for evaluations
  • chopping rhubarb and washing fresh lettuce
  • baking the perfect asparagus quiche
  • wearing flip flops
  • singing in choir programs every weekend
  • sewing replacement button eyes onto the most beloved stuffed puppy
  • being mad at the dog for destroying three! pairs of crocs in one day
  • cleaning and painting a house for my brother-in-law’s family to move into
  • learning how to use a French press
  • praying for a quiet heart

That is what happened to the purse post. Time for another go at it. Next time. :) Thanks for being so sweet about my very erratic schedule.

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Meandering Thoughts

Consider yourself warned. With a title like that, this post is going to toddle any which way.

I will start by telling you about my birthday, a day my husband only had a four hour shift. We planned to make a double celebration at the park, one facet being birthday cake and the other being all kinds of junk food for the children’s end-of-school party. They only get cheesy balls, cream soda, and gummy sharks after a Tremendous Effort: an entire term of studying culminated in a wonderful bash of cheetle fingers and sticky pop.

We had loaded our trailer with bikes and fishing gear and chairs. I had my new book, the one I bought as a present to the teacher of the children. And I had their year-end presents, always books. Fresh ones, of course. It is the highlight of our year. I put a lot of time into choosing stories they will enjoy. Maybe sometime I can post the list of this year’s picks. They were an exceptional success, according to the boys.

Gabe and the boys fished for hours. I am astounded at the patience that surrounds the art of fishing. While they stayed at one spot, the girls and I went on a walk, then we went to the bathroom. Twice. I took pictures. We rifled through the picnic basket for more snacks. The girls biked and colored and found wild flowers. And the guys just. Fished. Then Rita got into it as well. Gregory was immersed in his book, only surfacing every 10 minutes to ask about when we are going to eat the cake. As long as there are written words and sugary carbs in his life, he is perfectly contented.

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I slipped away by myself for a meditating sort of walk, which was lovely. The trees were madly abloom, and riotous with birdsong. I started out feeling kind of complicated. It is bewildering to find that the years between 28 and 38, which feels like very little time at all, have slipped away. How did this happen? This amazingly convoluted life with its intricacies of relationships and making a living and keeping life graceful? Part of being a wife/mother is losing yourself for the sake of other people, and in the shuffle of it all it is easy to become impoverished in soul.

I struggle with the term “me-time” for various reasons, but it is an undeniable fact that life flows much more sweetly when I maintain a quiet heart, whatever it takes to do that. Lakeside reading helps. :)

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As I was walking, I noticed the Baltimore orioles swaying and drinking nectar out of the blooming trees, then flying to the tip-top to sing their hearts out. There were cardinals doing their dip-dip-dip flight beside the path and bluebirds flashing brilliant blue from bush to bush. I saw herons flapping along and Canada geese bossing everybody who got close. Every one of them was going about the business of family making. The longer I thought about how they just catch their bugs and find the right twigs to reinforce the nest and stand guard over their babies, the more I got the parallels. It appears to be a charmed life, very uncomplicated. I doubt any mother bird goes to bed cogitating about how she got to be 38. She is just grateful to still be alive, wouldn’t you say, as she busily sorts the worms into the right beaks. Gabe thought I may have taken the allegory a little far, but Jesus did tell us to consider the fowls of the air. So I did. :) And it didn’t feel so complicated anymore. Bird-brained. I suggest we begin to use that term for blithesome trust.

I have spent so much time outside in the sun this week that my skin feels crackly. Today I planted ornamentals in the pots on the deck and herbs in my plot in the garden. The baby basil was so little that I will have to coddle it, but it smelled amazing. I can taste Caprese salad already. To my annoyance, the dog deliberately plodded over my parsley plants, but it looks like it will survive. If not, there is a pot of it on the deck, as well as one of mint, lemon balm and yarrow. This is the first year I had the bright idea to fill out my planters with bits of perennials that I already have in my flower beds. I dug out hosta plugs and used the ivy I had kept in the house over winter. All winter my mom babied our geraniums from last year in her sunny windows, so I only needed a few things to round out the containers. Whenever the children get bored this summer I will automatically say, “Go water the plants on the deck.”

They have been swimming in the pond for a week now, these brave little tykes of mine. “It’s not cold! Come on! Join us!” they say. I politely decline and sit on the bank. There are too many fish in there, and too much squishy mud on the bottom.

Yesterday Gabe brought home a beautiful bouquet of cut flowers for an early Mother’s Day, since he is obliged to work tomorrow. The children have industriously followed his lead. Rita practically climbed a tree to break off dogwood branches. She brought me so many that I had to use the juice pitcher for a vase. Gregory found a scarlet trillium and a white one, as well as some pink mallows and other wildflowers that I can’t name. I have lilacs in our bedroom, tulips here and there, a huge jar full of yellow daisies, also gathered by Rita in the woods. I read this progressive article about Mother’s Day, where it was suggested that flowers may not be the most appropriate expression of esteem for a mother. “Here, let me just cut off the reproductive parts of lots of plants and give them to you,” the author stated sarcastically. I am still rolling my inner eyes, but if she prefers chocolate she can have it.

Let me show you what our ornamental tree looks like right now. And of course, that dreamy garden shed that my husband designed and built.

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And now.

I have a trivia question for you. Take a guess as to how many things you carry in your purse/hand bag/diaper bag/Thirty-one tote if that is how you roll. Then count and see how many items you actually had. I promise I will show you the contents of mine just for fun.

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Growing Up

The conversation at the supper table was all about what we want to be when we grow up. Of course, the children have no idea what I want to be when I grow up, since they hold the erroneous assumption that I have now reached what I want to be and it’s all downhill from here.

Gregory likes art and books, so he may be looking at a life as a librarian or a teacher. Olivia wants to be a nurse and Rita is dithering between being a doctor or an artist, presumably once one side of her brain gets precedence over the other side. Alex isn’t saying, because he is old enough to know that he will change his mind, most likely. The other children say he will be an engineer or a preacher or an inventor or something leaderish. :) As for Addy, she is earnestly anticipating a career as a peaceful Indian. She also has grand delusions about all the amazing presents she will give us all once she grows up, chests of gold and jewels for the ladies, cars for the boys, anything they want. Given her current circumstances, she had better look for lost pirate hoards when she gets big.

I was struck by something. In my somewhat sheltered childhood, I never mentioned any of the things they said they want to be, because it simply wasn’t done. (Actually, I do remember the librarian dream, because I couldn’t imagine any happier place than surrounded by books.) Higher education wasn’t done. People stayed close to their roots and happily raised families very similar to how they themselves were raised. I think the simplicity tended to an almost idyllic peacefulness. Sometimes I wonder what I would have chosen to study if I would have had the option of going to college. But I was much too conventional to push for anything that would have rocked the boat. It was part of the culture and I didn’t really consider venturing outside of the safety of our world.

Did you ever have a moment when you wondered, “This? This… hard work… is what I spent all that effort growing up for?” And you want to tell the children to just slow down and enjoy their Ranger Rick and Legos and being told what to do and when to go to bed. Not to sound negative, or anything, but there are times when I wish to run from responsibilities, to stop being the tired middle-aged person with all this stuff on her mind and this back log of things that need to be done, the passel of grubby children needing attention.

At those times, I hear this voice in my head, (It might be Elisabeth Elliot or Sally Clarkson or Rachel Jankovic or even Marabel Morgan…) “Stop whining,” it says. “This is life, all this stuff that needs to be done today is life, and you get to live it. What did you want? A useful sojourn in a coffee shop, scrolling through social media and posting gorgeous pictures of your outfit and your new sunglasses?” If I don’t feel sufficiently chastened by this inner voice, I want to be sassy and say, “No, but I would take a cook and a maid so I can at least be lazy over coffee and finish this book.” Then I laugh at myself and set myself to the task of learning to enjoy the things that need to be done. I make it a practice to look into my children’s faces, wash the grime off tenderly, feel the different bone structures, sense the miracle of these little people. And I look for things to laugh about.

Last week our blueberries came, the ones Gabe ordered for containers on the deck. Tophat blueberries, they are called in the catalogs. I called him, excited, and said, “The ‘tow-fat’ blueberries are here!” He was quiet in a Huh? kind of way, then kindly said, “Honey. Those are top-hat blueberries.” The resulting fit of giggles grew into near hysteria. It was precisely what I needed to release some of the stresses I was having a hard time dealing with.

Maybe someday I will be grown up enough that it all comes effortlessly. I hope that when I get big, serving others joyfully will have become my default mode. Raising a family certainly should give us enough practice, not?

I mentioned that I am reading Sally Clarkson’s new book, Own Your Life. I am being challenged to identify sources of chaos in my life, things that divide my heart and make me unthankful, interruptions that I bring upon myself. For this season, it is a very convicting read for me. I am taking it chapter by chapter, searching my heart and letting God’s Spirit speak to me. When I am done with the book, I will do a review. :)

Chin up, my friends. The best is yet to come! Oh yes, it is!

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and now, just for fun… artist unknown.

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Hello, April! Oh Wait, That Was a While Ago

I opted on loading up the children’s bikes for a trail ride/walk this afternoon at Blue Knob instead of collapsing on my bed for a nap. Now that we are back, I have been trying to decide whether to read “Farewell: the Greatest Spy Story of the Twentieth Century” or write. Maybe if I am really efficient, I can do a bit of both. :) Gabe’s shift ends at 9:30 tonight. There should be time before he gets home.

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The weather is just glorious these days. I have real flowers being picked out of my flower beds to put on the window sill! Hallelujah! Our girlies have dragged many of their play things out to the playhouse. Hallelujah again for their room, although not so much for the lawn! When the sun is especially warm they set up camp with blankets and sleeping bags in various places. Rita hauled this slab of moss tenderly down the steep path from the top of the ridge. She is a passionate nature lover, loitering to observe textures and colors after the others have galloped down the trail.

The guys spent a good deal of time outside yesterday, working on a garden shed. Last night they came in with sunburns, and I wished I had just left the cookie dough and gone out to help them. I had asked Alex to make cookies for the weekend, with extras for the freezer. He picked an unfamiliar recipe, one of those ginormous Sugar Cookie recipes that Amish ladies describe as “gma” cookies. Usually he is very efficient and speedily churns out the goodies, but yesterday he stalled and asked me if I would bake them now that the dough is mixed. I was clearing out cobwebs in the bathroom and said, “Yeah, just run outside” without looking at what I was getting into.

I found the Kitchenaid bowl nearly brimful of suspiciously runny cookie dough. Sure enough, the test batch ran out flat, like crepes. I guess the young man had gotten discouraged with trying to incorporate flour into such a full bowl, so I dumped out half, added a cup of flour, did another test batch, still runny, more flour, test batch, finally right. I baked all those, then repeated the adding flour/test batch steps with the second half of runny dough. By the time I had about 8 dozen cookies, I too ran out of stamina and froze the remaining dough. Then I looked at all those flat, flat test cookies and had a lightbulb moment. I would make a light butter cream icing with lemon curd in it for flavoring, then I would make sandwich cookies. All was well that ended well, as Ma Ingalls said so many times. But it took a very long time. When they were wrapped, I felt both satisfied at my brilliant solution for a problem and miffed that the day was half over and I still hadn’t cleaned anything in my house except the cobwebs in the bathroom. At least I would not be watching them all disappear in one day at the “gma”.

I have been making slow but steady inroads on my stores of stuff this past month. There have been books sold on Amazon. (Ouch.) I have cleared out desk drawers and organized old pictures. I have waded through the season change clothing swap for five children, and I survived. (Although I don’t know what I will do if they dig out gloves from the tote one more time.) This week I took my maternity clothes to Goodwill. (I know, I know just what you are thinking. If that happens, I will quickly tell you. :O )My Blessed Big Boy cleared out that freezer I mentioned a while ago, you know the one where the scrapple packs were stuck in ice. He organized it, and now I like to just stand and look in until I remember that I am wasting energy and quickly shut it again.

Of all the things I can already look back and know I did wrong in parenting my oldest, there is one thing I feel blessed to have gotten right, and that was to let the very active, hands-on, please let me try child… try. I tripped over him and his ever present watching chair so often when he was a toddler. I tried hard to bite my tongue when I knew he was going to make a huge mess, and then we would clean up. In retrospect, it was not wisdom on my part so much as a desperation to keep him occupied that led me to involve him in activities that were not really child’s play at all. That, and knowing that if he was right with me, I could see what was happening, even if it was inconvenient to trip all the time. Now I see that he has confidence to try big stuff, really useful stuff. I would stub my toes on that stool by the sink 20 times a day just to have a resident freezer-cleaner-outer.

One of the reasons I was so diligently managing my household stuffs was because my husband applied for a travel nursing job early in the year. The agency accepted him and we started looking online at the posts available, and my panicky feeling of needing to condense and simplify spurred me to action. If he applied to a hospital, we could expect a move within a month, with posts lasting 3 months and then another place. It sounded exciting, paid much better, and looked like an adventure. In idealistic youthful times I used to say we should try to get all our worldly goods into a Conestoga wagon, just to keep from accumulating too much chokey stuff. Well. Our house isn’t much bigger than a Conestoga, (just kidding)  but we do have a lot of stuff that would have to litter the trail.

As is turned out, the logistics of finding short-term housing with a family and a dog, as well as switching health care plans, etc. etc. turned it into not a wise move at this time. We were happy when Gabe found a job at the bigger city hospital just 1/2 hour drive away in Altoona. This is a trauma center, where he hopes to get a lot more experience with trauma, I guess. If you say “crisis” or “trauma” to me, I run the other direction to avoid fainting. He runs toward it. I am much happier not thinking about the internal workings of the pipes and tubes in the body. When he sits beside me on the couch and strokes my wrist, I know he is romantically looking for a good IV vein. Haha.

So, we are planting a garden after all this year, instead of gallivanting across the country. Last week it seemed the soil was about ready so I went to Farm Bureau for pea seeds. Enroute it began to pour and I figured we missed our window of time. I bought them anyway, and found that the road was dry a mile from home. Good old sheltering Black Oak Ridge must have hustled the clouds to the east and north of us. It was a great day to plant since Gabe was home to exercise his super straight row making skills. The children and I dropped seeds as fast as he made the rows and we were done in short order. To celebrate, we had peas from the freezer for supper. I got out enough that everybody could have all they wanted because every year… Every year I do this. I get all happy about planting peas and feel smug when April showers fall on them. Then in June I bend and pick and pick and bend and wonder what is wrong with me and I will never grow peas again. But I do it every year because they are just so good.

Okay, I think it is time to return to the spy story before too much stream-of-consciousness spills out. Happy, happy spring to all!

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The Adventures of Silly Billy

We have a very old fashioned book on our children’s book shelf by that title. I picked it up at a library sale because it had cute illustrations, but every time I read it, I feel offended for Billy’s sake. In fact, the only reason I still have it is because it is so much fun to hear Addy request the “See-yee Bee-yee” story.

It goes something like this: Silly Billy wants to prove how wise he is, so instead of eating his bag of popcorn, he plants it. When he proudly tells his mother about it, she laughs and says, “Silly you are and silly you will be as long as you live.” His father says the same thing when he tried to make his hens drink hot water so they would lay boiled eggs.

Eventually Billy goes on a journey to prove his wisdom and all the people he meets and helps think he is amazingly smart when in fact, they are incredibly dull. He comes home loaded with the gifts they have given him, prompting his parents to change their tune and call him Wise William.

The book ends with Wise William dreaming of a way to get cows to make chocolate milk.

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This week my little girl asked me where her boots were. I knew, of course, and then she wanted to know which front porch. I was reminded of my outrage at Billy’s insensitive parents, yet it is so easy to leave an impression of “how can you be so dim?” even without saying a word. I can spot it a mile away when someone else does this to their child. Oh dear, yes.

It seems I am being tested along these lines a lot. The exasperated parental question, “What were you thinking?” is quite useless, because, sorry, they weren’t thinking.

That includes the little boy who puffed talcum powder in thick clouds in the bathroom because the mushroom plume was so fun to watch. It includes the episode of drawing a huge mural on the kitchen floor with a dry erase marker. In his defense, I had used dry erase markers to divide the floor into sections for different children to wash, but it is a different story when you let it dry. Oh, the scrubbing with scouring powder as the little boy sighed, “I am just always in trouble.”

I had to agree with him, since this came right on the heels of the episode where he had sneaked a bit of ginger ale and failed to close the top of the bottle. When the little sister carried it to me for a taste of her own, I grasped it by the top, lost the whole bottle, and we had fizzy pop all over the kitchen. Oh help and bother. Shades of Silly Billy’s parents came out of my mouth, I fear.

Maybe I should keep the book for myself, to remind me that the stench in the girls’ room emanating from a pillow case full of wild garlic shows persistence and creativity. Or that the syrupy concoction of vanilla and sugar and milk on the counter  with the sign “try me. I am good.” may be a great break though some day.

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Of Dreams and Syrian Refugees

Gregory has discovered a way to wake up when his dream is not to his taste. He says he figured this out one night when he was riding a motorcycle extremely slowly back and forth until he was so bored that he looked for a ravine to plunge into so that he would wake up and quit the dumb dream. I thought it was a good idea, right up there with how I figured out as a child that if I wanted to keep on with a good dream, I could concentrate really hard on falling asleep again and make it play out how I wanted it. :)

Last week I had a nightmare that haunted me for a long time. I don’t usually pay much attention to my dreams, because I have so many of them, and they are mainly bizarre. But this one was so real that I woke up exhausted, like I had been fighting all night instead of sleeping. It seemed, in my dream, that I was fleeing through hostile territory with my children. My husband had died and we were alone, without a safe place to hide. Over and over evil men would approach us and try to snatch one of the children. I cried out repeatedly for help in Jesus’ name, and we would be left alone for a while in our endless wandering. If I could have found a ravine to drive into to make it stop, I would have. In the end we were all chucked over Niagara Falls because we wouldn’t deny our faith.

I struggle to make sense of this sort of thing. Without over-spiritualizing things, I felt like God was saying, “This is really how life is, and this is the fight you put up for your children against evil principalities and powers. You don’t need to be afraid, because you have the power of Jesus, but you need to be aware.”

A few days later I read an article about the struggle and privations that Syrian women refugees endure in their enforced homelessness in Turkey. It was like someone described my nightmare, complete with husbandlessness and evil men snatching the children. Maybe it was a dream to give me empathy so that I pray more. A few days after that I started a book set during the Spanish Inquisition. I am having a major case of story grip. But what is with this sense of deja vu?

Do you take dreams seriously?

Maybe you can tell me about that Niagara Falls bit? :)

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In Which We Take an Excess of Cell Phone Pics on the First Day of Spring

March is adolescent, I think. She doesn’t know yet what she wants to be, so she tries out winter and spring by turns, without any apparent reason. However, she charms us with her possibilities, and we love her. After all, seasons are amazing. The turn of a season has to be a little dramatic to make us properly thankful. I have been switching out snow boots and rubber boots the whole month, depending on the caprices of the weather. Last Monday Olivia and I took our first bike ride of the season, wearing just light jackets. The boys were begging to take the first dip of the year in the pond. That evening they went skiing up at the Knob. For weeks we have been planning to have a First Day of Spring party, only they call it “Back to Spring” which cracks me up.

Addy confided her not-so-secret aspirations to have lemon cake with tulips on top. She had to make sure we all knew since she is “too low” to do it herself. Yesterday Alex spent a few hours in the kitchen, baking goodies. We cleaned the windows and hung our happy flappies.

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Then this morning we awoke to this:

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We decided to make our own sunshine, since clearly, it was the first day of spring on the calendar. First we did school and started the laundry, of course. Always. (Or not.) Then we spent an hour making these, and it was fun, fun.

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As usual, I had a plan that I quickly scrapped and just let them loose with paper and stapler and glue gun. These are not true-to-tutorial  flowers, but I like them anyway.

Of course, everybody was hungry before we got our decor done. I have long ago scrapped exotic food for parties. Instead we just use ordinary stuff and pretty it up, use our fun dishes, and light some candles. Gregory helped me with the food this time. It was the spring party of our dreams, all but the tulips part, but Addy was okay with candies on her cupcakes instead of yellow tulips. :) The little pepper flower in a cucumber pot was her consolation prize.

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And yes, I ate one of those cupcakes. Solidarity is so important in family life, wouldn’t you agree?

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See out the window there? That is snow fuzzing down at an astonishing rate. But it won’t last long. That’s our mantra. This is my favorite kind of snow, the sticky, fairy-world kind. We dug the snow pants out of the box where I had tentatively stored them last week, and we went out to play in it.

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IMG_20150320_132008630_HDR This may be the result of too much Calvin and Hobbes.

Come what may, we know what we know about the calendar, and the dogwood wreath is staying on the door. (But the skis are going to the attic.)

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