wocket in my pocket

Looking for the unexpected in the mundane.

Sprite

a poem about going to bed and the vice of drinking too much carbonated beverage, by Gregory

“Why? Why? Why?”

said little Billy Fie.

“Why must I be in bed by 8:00 at night…

when I could be up

drinking lots and lots of Sprite?”

“Because, dear,” said the maid Mrs. Piper,

“Sprite would make you hyper.”

But late one night Billy

drank 3 gallons of Sprite

and as he was straining to get the last drop,

Poor Billy went POP!

But it’s Friday night, so we are going to party and stay up late! What about you?

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Thursday in the Life of an Uzzie

You have been waiting for this one, right? ūüėČ

I awoke at three, mind in high gear for some reason. There were about five things I knew I simply could not forget if I wanted to have a successful morning. I could either lie there and run them in a loop in my head, or get up and make lists. All right. Fifteen things. Maybe twenty, if I counted the children’s lessons and chore lists.

I went back to bed once I had it all squared away on paper and I slept a few more hours. Gabe had an early school board meeting, so I fed the children cereal. I knew I had about a 75¬†minute drive to a book party and decided to leave early since it was snowing fuzzily. Addy was going along. The rest got careful instructions as to lessons and jobs that I expected them to be responsible for. Suddenly it was time to leave, and Addy couldn’t find her furry boots. I asked Alex, who is my right hand in so many ways, to help her find them. He had loaded my boxes and supplies earlier, but in the mornings he is just not speedy.

He couldn’t find the boots either and sat down resignedly on the recliner. “Just get other shoes. And socks.” Addy was fussing because she didn’t like his selection and I saw that he had one purple sock and one blue. “Not those socks! And you have got to notch it up a bit!” I did not say it kindly. We got out the door, put our destination into google maps, and it said 1 hour, 40 minutes. Whoa. What? I was going to be late for that 10:30 party. And the snow… But we were excited to be going together, Addy and I. I get into my happy place when I get to show books.

We weren’t driving long until I felt the sting of regret for my hastiness to my son who had, after all, been helping me. Sigh. I will have to apologize when I get back. I practiced my book speech on the way, and Addy said, “Mama, I don’t think anyone is listening.”

A few minutes before 10, my hostess called and wondered if I had trouble finding her house. Suddenly it washed over me. The party was supposed to start at 10! I made all those lists and still got the crucial information wrong in my head. Thankfully we discovered that the GPS was taking me to the wrong spot, and I was only 2 miles out. Some of her guests were already there when I spread my purple tablecloth and arranged the two boxes of books that I had along. They all knew each other and were happy to chat while they waited on me.

The thing I like the most about doing book parties is getting to meet¬†new friends, hearing about their children, helping them find just the books they need for their families. I get a high from it. For real. ūüėÄ

We concluded the party with a snack. I packed up my stuff and set it outside on the patio, then collected Addy who had been having a grand time with the other little preschool girls who were there. Just as I was driving away the hostess came and motioned to me that I had left my boxes of books on her patio. Whatever other impressions she may have gotten of the Usborne Lady, “methodical and coordinated” did not likely enter her thoughts.

We drove close by my sister-in-law’s house, so we detoured a few miles and dropped off a late birthday package for her. I hugged the sweet little nieces, ruffled the nephew’s hair, had a cup of tea called Joy, looked at my talented sister-in-law’s latest projects, pulled Addy away from her Indian play (she was Squanto), and headed home.

It was early afternoon. The Bigs (what I call the older 3) had done all their lessons and were sitting around reading. My husband was working on a writing assignment. The living room was in good shape, except for K’nex scattered to the four corners, and they had cleaned up the kitchen as well as they could with dirty grey water backing up alarmingly from the drain. I had a session with Drano, but it is still not quite fixed. Someone whose identity I shall withhold poured grease down the drain yesterday. “I didn’t know!” was the wailing confession.

Addy and I had a lie-down and a story by Patricia Maclachlan. She was soon snoring, because she was definitely not tired. I got up and fried 6 pounds of hamburger to make chili soup for the school’s open house tomorrow. It was what was for supper as well. Times like this I am so happy for my quart jars of tomato juice and black beans.

I remembered my apology to Alex for my hurry this morning, and all was forgiven. The boys finished up cleaning the basement after supper and the little girls again did the dishes as well as they could. It requires a bit more finesse when the sink isn’t functional.

I entered the books into the online order form and contacted my hostess with the amount for her rewards. That is also a lot of fun! I like when companies funnel their advertising dollars into programs that encourage word of mouth recommendations. ūüôā You don’t need commercials and billboards if you have enough very happy customers. And these books make people, especially children, very happy. So that’s why I do it. That’s what I like about being an Usborne lady (she said for the tenth time). It is also good to get out every once in a while.

This being Thursday, it was movie night for the children. We watched Paper Planes and enjoyed the neat Aussie accents. It is rare that we hit a happy medium with something that interests both the Bigs and the Littles, but this one worked for ours.

Well, my husband just submitted his writing assignment. Time to call it a day. A day in the life of a part-time Uzzie.

And here, for your edification, is one more parting shot.

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Fleeting Things

mother-bakes-cupcakes

And while you think on that, I would like to show you the art of David Zinn,¬†who draws on sidewalks with chalk, knowing that it will wash away with the next rain.¬†(If you have Instagram, go follow him. It’s a long gallery of fascination with what is obviously in front of me and what could be there, as well.) His townfolk of Ann Arbor starting noticing charming little creatures peeking at them from cracks in walls and the realistic “sky holes” he would sneakily draw underfoot. Now his work has become quite famous, due to social media and internet reports from people surprised by the unexpected, placed free, for their pleasure. From his website I quote:

“David‚Äôs temporary street art is composed entirely of chalk, charcoal and found objects, and is always improvised on location. ”

I love the impracticality of doing something enchanting just for the joy of doing it and bringing joy to others.

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Love Is…

Today I needed to shuttle Olivia¬†to a dentist appointment, so I took my Little A¬†along too. I gave up on my audio book within a few minutes and just chattered with my girls. “I am SO GLAD that it’s not sloppy-floppy on Valentine’s Day,” Addy said. (She really does talk in CAPITALS.) We talked about love and marriage.

Olivia wants a house with a wraparound porch to entertain visitors, and a creek nearby for her children. That is, if she gets married, but maybe she will try a tiny house first because they are less work and everything is arranged so neatly.

Addy wants a humongous yellow house with pink shutters and golden doorknobs. Also ten horses, but if her husband isn’t rich, then just two horses would be fine. She kind of doubts that she will want to marry anybody, actually, when she really thinks about it. Besides, she is too little.

How can one girl and one boy fall in love and spawn 5 such opposite people? I thought opposites are just two things, like cold and warm, but it turns out that there are a lot more than two opposites when you start categorizing personalities. It can be a little disorienting to think you have a certain facet of parenting figured out, only to discover that you are back at base 1 with the next baby. But it’s never boring. Oh, no, never that.

I asked the children for help with a Love Is… list. I will start with Gregory (Alex was skiing, plus he wouldn’t have ventured a peep if he had gotten wind that I was gathering material for a blog post) and end with Addy, who spouted truisms faster than I could write them.

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Love Is…

  • a penguin fasting for months while incubating an egg. -G
  • a chick nestled under its mother’s wing. -G
  • going on a date with Papa and eating pancakes every time. -O
  • when Mama gives me a cup of tea after my math lesson is done. -O
  • cleaning the bathroom. -O
  • throwing a stick over and over for your dog. -O
  • when a chicken lays an egg for your breakfast. -O
  • Mama showing me how to cook spaghetti and meatballs. ¬†-O
  • a soft flannel quilt that you made for our bed. -R
  • helping me make a doll with fabric scraps. -R
  • my big sister making me a purse. -R
  • when we are allowed to play “rish-rosh” in the house. ¬†-R
  • ¬†a long story at nap time. -A
  • when Mama lets you light a candle by yourself. -A
  • kisses on your cheek. -A
  • when Papa takes me on a canoe ride. -A
  • being allowed to swim. -A
  • looking at the stars. -A
  • when I go along out to the barn to gather eggs. -A
  • Mama taking me on a special date (McDonald’s drive-through) while the other kids are on a field trip. -A
  • letting me pick my nose. -A
  • Papa tucking me in at bedtime and asking me if I had a good day. -A

My children appear to have very homely ideas about love. Houses, eggs, dogs, food, and being allowed to tear around or hone bad habits. And that flamboyant small one… Oh dear, but it is a thrilling ride to parent her!

Our Valentine’s Day was (mostly) that sort of loving. There was sunshine and bike rides in it! There was a supper that was a joint effort, with one person making salad and one setting the table and one cutting lemon wedges and spooning sour cream into a pretty dish, and one snitching bits, and one mother trying to keep her sanity and actually succeeding. We ended with stories and chocolate fondue for all. Also. A BIG ALSO, the man of the house is home this week, and I wish you could have heard how calmly bedtime went down.

Maybe we will get a date later this week, but at any rate we are happy to be doing life together, all of it, ordinary and thrilling alike.

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10 Delightful Books for Girls

Disclaimer: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. You do not pay more when buying from these links, but I receive a small fee for items bought from my links.

Although this is a story about an entire school, mostly boys, it was Lina who asked the important question, “Why do the storks no longer come to Shora?” It was Lina, too, who had an epiphany while staring into her wooden shoe. I love this delightful story, and so will your children.

Jean Fritz has a genius for writing compelling historical fiction. This is a tale of a girl whose family has moved further west in Pennsylvania’s frontier days. Ann misses her friends, but soon finds life exciting in the wilds.

This is a beautiful true story of faith in a terrible time, with a little girl lost in the woods, and God’s provision for her survival. Your children will never forget Sarah Whitcher’s Story.

Another true tale of a small girl in the wilderness. “Keep up your courage, Sarah Noble,” her mother admonished her when she bade her farewell. Sarah and her father went ahead of the rest of the family to build a home in the wilderness. I almost cannot bear the bravery of this child, but if you are looking for a book that teaches about courage in the face of fear, look no further.

Cynthia Rylant wrote this story about the years that Laura Ingalls Wilder skipped in her book series. Rylant did a lot of research and tried to mesh the book with Laura’s writing style. She produced an excellent book that lovers of the Wilder family will thoroughly enjoy.

I pick up any of Caroline Haywood’s books that I find. They are 50’s books, so there are pretty many out there in the library discard piles, with the charming illustrations of the 50’s. Betsy is just one of her irrepressible characters. Go read the reviews and see for yourself. ūüôā

This is such a fun family story. “All-of-a-kind” refers to a Jewish immigrant family of girls and their escapades in turn-of-the-century New York City. The author based the books on her own childhood, which is probably why it feels so real.

I read this when I was young and only recently saw it again. It is the story of strong family ties in the middle of a very difficult time. Janey Larkin holds on to hope (and her blue willow plate) through it all.

This is another book that I read and reread as a child. I felt so sorry for Elaine, and so grateful for her sake when she buried her misery in the mysterious little garden she found. This is a story of redemption and grace.

This is quite possibly my favorite book about a little girl. Elizabeth Ann is dismayed to find that she has to move to the farm of the country cousins, the Putneys. Her life has been sheltered with a pinched ladylikeness, but the first thing that changes is her name. Betsy discovers that she has a lot of strengths and it is fun to exercise them. The link is for a Kindle edition because apparently the book is out of print.

Enjoy!

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He Still Speaks

Ever notice how you can hear things through your own filter that others may not notice through theirs? Your husband can remark, “The door is open,” and the child standing right there on the mat thinks he is¬†commenting about a normal occurrence; the oldest child across the room is sure he is issuing a command to the one on the mat; you figure he is thinking about the heating bill and quickly go shut the door before you help the child on the mat take off her boots.

I have heard God speak to me in a church service, and later when I try to recount what it was, I realize¬†that it isn’t even really what the preacher said, and yet it was exactly what I needed at the moment, even though nobody else may have heard that.

This morning my mind grasped onto a phrase in the old-fashioned hymn “Marching to Zion” that I have sung many times. “We’re marching through Immanuel’s ground…” I wondered what the author meant. Considering that “Immanuel” means “God with us”, it blessed me to remember that the ground I walk is ground He already walked and He is there ahead of me.

In the Sunday school lesson we read the story in Luke where the servant does what his master expects and it is simply¬†his duty, even when it is thankless tasks. It’s a picture that messes with our Western sensibilities of fairness, and I thought about how full of myself I am¬†sometimes, feeling that I am doing God such favors.

The message was on Hope, that power that propels us forward through the mess and darkness we live in. This was especially heartening after the powerpoint presentation of the world so full of refugees and hopelessness.

The friends I visited with after the service described the exact same feelings I get of being stagnant in my house and desperately needing inspiration for freshness.

It all downloaded seamlessly to where I am right now, even though I wouldn’t be surprised if some of you are scratching your heads, going “Huh?”. (I have embraced the typical spaghetti brain of the female, and lucky me, my husband is an awesome listener. ūüėÄ )

When Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled,” He gave us just one simple criteria for being blessed. Be hungry and thirsty. He can do the filling in all sorts of ways, through songs or¬†sermons or panoramic views or words from your own little children. He called His Spirit the Comforter for a reason.

It’s my opinion that getting out of bed on Sunday, getting dressed, and going to a place where other Christ-followers have gathered is a very tangible way of saying, “Speak, Lord. Your servant is listening.”

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What did you hear today?

 

 

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Stalling

We have always been sticklers for early bed for the children, but all the rituals must be properly attended to or disaster would surely befall before morning. In my mind it is Lame Excuse Time. It is not unusual for the huggy child to come to my bedside when I am drifting off and say, “I think we forgot the kiss and the hug,” even though I clearly recall her nearly strangling me earlier. Someone might have a scratchy throat and need a throat drop. The one who chews her fingernails gets painful hangnails that require bandaids so they don’t catch in the covers. Sometimes after bed is when the fear bogeys come out and we need to pray again. The boys are hungry again with frightening predictability. It feels like it can drag on for the longest time, and it makes me so much more tired than I already am.

We have friends who let their children stay up until they drop, then they put them into their beds. “You make it too hard for yourselves,” they say. “We just don’t pick that battle.” I don’t know how long ours would keep going if we let them make their own bedtime, but I value the feeling of¬†everything squared away and everyone tucked in enough to push through the daily dose of small rituals that cannot be ignored.

Today was action packed, with warm sunshine that had the children out shooting targets with homemade bows and arrows, and tea-partying in their play house. They procrastinated on their chore lists because it was “too nice to work”. There were still a lot of things not scratched off the list when supper was over. I had resisted the urge to just do them quickly myself. Instead, I strolled along on Instagram for a while before I balanced the budget with the credit card statement. I too, have my stalling tactics. Then I cleaned the bathroom. The living room wasn’t vacuumed, but the person responsible insisted they would do it just as soon as it gets dark. I can make them feel guilty by picking up the slack, but again I resisted and just stayed in the kitchen, washing the big dishes that didn’t fit into the dishwasher.

After my shower tonight, I saw a text from my husband at work, saying that some friends have overripe produce for our pigs. I went to pick it up, but apparently it had already been cleared away, being so late and all, so I went to the gas station instead and filled up the tank on the Sub. When I got back the smaller boy still had not found his Sunday school book and the middle girl was still playing in the tub with her hair not washed and the small girl was weeping about everything because she was so exceeding tired.

We mired through drinks and teeth brushing and repeated trips to the potty, because “What if I pee myself in the night?” Unfortunately when it was time to crawl in, the bottom bunk needed a complete overhaul because Rita left her bunny on the bed for a few hours while she ran out to play. It is not house-trained and made an astonishingly large puddle that penetrated all the way to the waterproof mattress cover. I told them to strip it and tossed them a clean sheet, then ¬†went to the kitchen to wash the eggs that the late chore-boy had brought in. He finally did his vacuuming, a little apologetically. Ten minutes later the sheet was still not on, because the “corners are impossible” and there were meltdown tears (not mine, theirs) and another potty break.

Tonight the nightlight wouldn’t work and the water bottle was empty and I did not let them listen to My Story Hour because it’s Saturday. The teddies were in the wrong beds and the favorite blankets were in the laundry basket and the hugs got kind of shortened. I wish I knew how to make it all sweetness and light. Sometimes I see those illustrations of a child falling asleep while the parent reads them a story in the serene lamplight and I wonder… Since I am often on my own at night, I could use some tips. Do you make it fun? Have time limits? Discipline dawdling?¬†Please tell me how you do bedtime. I am genuinely interested.

At any rate, we will be delighted to see each other in the morning, all fresh and basking in the new mercies that we count on every day.

 

 

 

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A Chilly Story

Bob the Penguin

 

Bob the penguin lived on the ice. He was happy except for one thing. He only ate icicles, chopped icicles for breakfast, raw icicles for lunch, and minced icicles for supper.

Bob was tired of icicles. So he went to the sea. He looked into the water. Sudenly  he saw something flash past then he saw it agian. After a while he jumped in and swam after it untill he caught it he then eat it. Because all the swiming made him huggry. And to his surprise it tasted good.

So for the rest of his life he eat fish.

-written by Olivia on a cold and blustery day

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(pexel free photo)

 

(Can you tell where she got tired of checking her spelling? ūüėČ )

(Also, Olivia hates fish. I find that doubly amusing.)

 

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Thursday in the Life…

It was a thrill to look out at fairyland this morning after a restless night with a child who couldn’t sleep. Nothing is quite the same loveliness as a sticky snow.

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I packed my husband’s lunch, saw him out the door at 8, then dismissed my scholars for a late start at school, since we can’t seem to count on plentiful snowfalls anymore. It has tended to rain this winter, and the beauty of every surface outlined was inspiring for us all.

Our school started at 10, after morning chores, dishes, and a romp outside. I spent a few hours assembling my Usborne book stash for a party at school. Meanwhile my mom texted me to see if we want to come make donuts at her house. I ended up dropping the four younger children off with her while Alex helped me with my party.

The school children did a fundraiser where they got sponsors for a reading challenge: at least 30 minutes of reading a day for 2 weeks was the challenge. They blew me away with their diligence and tenacity in finding sponsors (suggested donation was 5cents a minute.) I promised prizes for anyone who got either 5 sponsors or raised $100. Out of 22 students, 14 of them hit one or both of those goals. The fun part was when the children got to make book choices equal to 25% of the funds they personally raised. It may have been a little chaotic for a bit, but there were root beer floats and salty snacks to tide over anyone who got tired of waiting while the book lady did the orders. ūüôā

It took me until 4 PM to wrap that up, then Alex and I joined the others at my folk’s place for pizza. The donuts had happened while I was gone. I asked Mom if it was a little nerve-wracking, and she conceded that it may have been. Just a little. Ha. There is a reason I hardly ever make donuts.

We picked up our mess and came home at 6. The roads were still a bit slick in the back country, so I was going quite slowly, maybe 30 mph, when a deer with a death wish tore out and took a flip off the Suburban hood. Bummer. Now we have another crinkled dent and some broken plastic. The deer ran off, seemingly only stunned. I wouldn’t have minded butchering it and chewing it, but maybe tonight it was best if it did survive.

We had to attend to the animals and finish up the household stuff, like folding laundry. I had forgotten about my yogurt straining in a colander in the fridge, which means it was more like a brick than Greek yogurt. After I whisked  some of the whey back in, it came out almost normal.

The children watched a movie while I entered the school children’s book order and¬†got happy feelings about how much they will enjoy their rewards. Now I have a headache and sore shoulders, (it’s that deer’s fault) so I will hie me off to bed with some peppermint oil on my temples. If we are fortunate, my husband will be home soon! His shift is longer than mine.

Just another Thursday. Good night, all.

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Growing up House-Humble

All those houses I lived in had two¬†common things. We made do with what we had and they were home. Until we moved to PA, my parents moved about every 2 years from rental to rental until the new house was done, and then we only lived in it two years. When I look at it now, 30 years later, I realize that it is actually a very modest¬†size compared to the norm for Amish homes. It was not extravagant in any way, except that the floors didn’t sag and the drywall was brand new.

Not once do I remember my mom consulting decorating magazines, to figure out how to make it a homelike place. I know she gave it a lot of thought and effort. She was always working on some project. She made her own curtains and throw pillows and even reupholstered our disreputable looking couch that still had a sturdy frame. The afghans were handmade and nobody worried if they “went” with the rest of the decor. They were for keeping us cozy when the cold winds blew, duh.¬†We could use those afghans to make tents over upside down kitchen chairs and stretch them out as much as needed.

The only criteria for replacing a piece of household furniture was that it had to be thoroughly worn out. Think actual holes, broken springs, falling apart. We could do experiments on the table and not worry if something spilled or scratched a little. Nobody panicked when we tore around the house or bounced off the couch. In fact, our Saturday night tradition of playing bear with my dad and roaring around the house is among my fondest childhood memories. Sometimes stuff crashed off the walls, and mom would shake her head kind of helplessly until we wound down.

Oh, Mom was always cleaning windows and shining her cupboard handles and she ran a tight ship in the kitchen, with nourishment appearing at regular intervals. The mashed taters tasted just fine on the old-fashioned¬†Correlle dishes with little green flower borders. We had to change our sheets every week and were not allowed to throw clothes or towels on the floor. Little things did matter, but it wasn’t so much for looks as for comfort or cleanliness. It was unloving to leave¬†shoes right by the door for others to trip over, so we had to put them away.

Once we got invited to a fancy house for dinner. The lady was so kind and gracious, but she had deep plush carpets that were white, and her house really did look like Better Homes and Gardens. I felt anxious about breaking her China or ruining something the whole time we were there. I know it’s because we were little country bumpkins, but we were happy bumpkins.

Let me quickly say that I believe wholeheartedly in home-making. A house is a habitat, and the atmosphere in it matters. The attitude of the one making the home infuses whatever goes on in the house.

  • If the air is slovenly and muttery with unhappiness, it wafts around and affects the other inhabitants with its poison.
  • If the prevailing desire is for more and nicer stuff, the dissatisfaction permeates the home and nobody ever has enough.
  • If the homemaker is always fussing about not getting this dirty and not touching that fragile thing, the tenseness in the home drives the ones away that are supposed to feel at home there.

This is what I learned as I was growing up:¬†Our houses served us. We didn’t serve them.

That long round-about way is just to give you permission, if you need it, to scorn the idea that your home isn’t right unless it is swathed in the latest of styles with a few pots of succulents on every sunny windowsill.

  • If your guests feel welcome and happy in your living space,¬†they don’t mind if your carpets are a bit squashed down in high-traffic areas.
  • If you are glad of their presence and pour the coffee generously, they could care less that your mugs are all shapes and sizes.
  • If there are some cookies in the jar, your children don’t notice if the kitchen counters are made of concrete or granite or cracked formica.
  • If the little people are allowed¬†to splash clean in the tub, that matters more than the towels¬†matching the stripes in the shower curtain.
  • If you tuck the children in with hugs and kisses, I can guarantee that you won’t ever be accused of neglect because their dresser didn’t match their¬†bed.

 

Because the story is only a little bit about the stuff and the rest of it is the relationships.

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( free photo source:pexel. text:mine.)

 

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