Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Day!

Happy leap day! Happy birthday to those special people born on a leap day! Many of us seem confused as to the reason for an extra day on the calendar every four years.

I did a little checking and found this:

Leap Years are needed to keep our calendar in alignment with the Earth's revolutions around the sun. It takes the Earth approximately 365.242199 days (a tropical year) to circle once around the sun. If we didn't add a day on February 29 nearly every 4 years, we would lose almost six hours every year. After only 100 years, our calendar would be off by approximately 24 days!

The ancient Roman calendar added an extra month every few years to maintain the correct seasonal changes. But Julius Caesar implemented a new calendar – the Julian Calendar – in 45 BCE (Before Common Era) with an extra day added every 4 years. At the time, Leap Day was February 24, because February was the last month of the year. (

Both my brother Pat and son Mark were born in February of leap years, 1952 and 1988. If the current year can be  divided equally by 4, you'll know it's a leap year.

If you want to celebrate leap day, check out the adorable movie, Leap Year with Amy Adams. Great scenery in Ireland.

Monday, February 27, 2012

hello, Uncle Dan

If this isn't just the sweetest photo. Our middle son, Dan, was in town for a wedding, though we saw him for just a few hours. He did get to meet his new niece, Lily. You can tell he's a pro at one-armed baby-holding, being a dad himself to two little girls, Ari and Ashlyn.

I watched Dan holding Lily and gazing at her across our Sunday brunch table. He shook his head, saying "wow," and I imagine he's beginning to realize the tininess of newborns and how quickly they grow and change.

Oh my goodness. Dan's wife Jenny sent this bunny hat for Lily. Together, they are irresistible!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

out after dark

It's a crazy Saturday night! We're headed out soon, unusual for us. Our son Dan was in a wedding in Columbus this afternoon, so we're picking him up after the reception to spend the night with us. He's only here overnight, but we'll enjoy the brief visit.

Once back in town, we'll head to Mark and Jill's house so Uncle Dan can see his new niece Lily. Jill's given the ok, it'll be about time for Lily's midnight snack.

Tomorrow we'll have brunch after church before taking Dan to the airport. Bill's mom will try to join us, her first time at our house in many months. At 95, she doesn't like to get out much.

We'll be missing the rest of the family, but treasuring this time with the ones who are here. That's what's up with me, a busy few days. Hope your weekend is a good one!

Thursday, February 23, 2012


Newborn Lily
mixing up nights with days
and days with nights.

Breathless face,
the smallest mouth.
Tiny body, perfectly formed,
a complete miracle.

Spindly legs,
long hands and feet.
Fine auburn hair
in perfect swirls.

Little squeaks and grunts and
Eyes rolling,
then back to sleep.

Intimate with her mother
protected by her father.
As we nestle,
you capture my heart.
Oh you sweet
                                                                                             and breathless

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

2.20.62 and other thoughts

The 50th anniversary of John Glenn's historic mission snuck up on me; it was yesterday. Mom sat me down on the cold floor in front of our black and white television that day: February 20, 1962. I had little interest in watching a space launch since I was just seven years old. "You're going to watch this," she ordered. "Someday, you can tell your children and grandchildren that when you were just a little girl you watched the first American orbit the earth, ." And so I watched .

I'm not sure my children or grandchildren are very impressed by my witness to history but it's special to me. I had a mother, a 1960's traditional homemaker, who thought higher and broader than some. She didn't send me to pre-school, nor was kindergarten offered in the public schools, so she accidentally schooled me at home until I was nearly 7. Mom taught me to read as she hung clothes on the line. She had a crazy curiosity about everything, showing me that learning - and life itself - was an adventure.

Mom drove us all over Detroit, Michigan, our home for 15 months, exploring Polish bakeries and meat shops and other wonders that were foreign to a southern family. She traded her amazing southern friend chicken for homemade meatballs with our Italian neighbor, Mrs. DiPasquale, who spoke no English. Mom bought ice skates for herself and me and we learned to skate alongside teenagers playing ice hockey: the national sport of Detroit.

Look for the wonder in ordinary days and adventure in your neighborhood and share it with a child. It holds the makings of memories and relationships.

Monday, February 20, 2012

happy birthday, Katie

My little girl ... is no longer a little girl.
Katie turns 22 today.
We went through some rough times.
I didn't understand her, and she resisted me.
There were nights I cried over our relationship and thought I was a horrible mother.
But look at her now.
Pleasant and poised and beautiful.
We are good friends and love being together.

She has a heart of gold

And friends of silver.

And a lifetime ahead full of promise as she marches to her own drummer. 
Katie will live life in her very special way.
How honored I am to step back and watch.

Happy birthday, Katie!
I love you so very much.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

brother turns 60: how did this happen?

Mom wrote '1956' on the back, but I think I am older than 18 months in this photo!
If I'm 2 and 1/2, then Pat would be 5. Memphis, Tennessee:
we didn't live in a concentration camp, though it looks like it.
 My older brother, Pat, turns 60 today. Sixty!? When my son David turns 60, I know I'm gonna feel old! But I feel old enough with my brother turning 60, which means I'm following close on his heels.

A favorite family photo of Pat on Halloween, 1960, age 7. For a few years after this was
taken, our mom wore this mask to scare kids at our door on Halloween.

Pat's an avid golfer, and hasn't let knee and shoulder replacements interrupt his game too much. It's funny, because as a kid he was a little chubby and had no interest in sports or exercise of any kind. I don't remember him playing ANY sport. The nerdy, brainy big brother. Then came college and he got serious about fitness. He began to run, lost weight and has stayed trim and fit ever since. Pretty amazing!

Pat and me on Martha's Vineyard, 1975. We were daring and hitchhiked together.
Brother, I wish you a very happy birthday. Golly, 60. How did this happen? 
Pat's on the far left, with his younger siblings and our dad,
celebrating Dad's birthday in December.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Ellie the Entlebucher??

The Cadillac of dog shows was held in New York this week. In scanning stories on Yahoo I saw a vaguely familiar face in an article on the Westminster show. They reportedly accepted six new breeds for the show, including the Entlebucher Mountain Dog. In poking around, I made a startling discovery: I might have identified the breed of our Ellie! The markings and build bear an uncanny resemblance to our, uh, mutt.

This breed of mountain dogs originated in Switzerland and are friendly, loyal, intelligent, good with kids (well lots of dogs are all that) and excellent herders. It's good to know if we ever decide to raise sheep, Ellie's our girl to keep them in line.

a real Entlebucher Mountain Dog

a possible Entlebucher Mountain Dog
 It's funny to me how people always ask your dog's breed, especially if the dog is of questionable lineage. Our first dog, Izzy, resembled a black Irish Setter. "Oh, she's a flat-coated setter!" a man once said. In our family, we just wanted a dog that mom would care for completely the kids could love , so we picked out one at the pound that seemed friendly enough. We weren't too picky about breeds or paternity/maternity. And it's worked out for two dogs over 18 years now.

Even so, I take comfort in knowing that Ellie just might have some Mountain Dog blue blood in her.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

kinder and gentler

I guess it had been awhile since I'd gotten gas at Speedway. In any event, the pump wouldn't recognize my rewards card. Not willing to forfeit the 3-cents-a-gallon savings, I walked inside.

Young clerk: "Do you want me to come help you at the pump, honey?"

Me, slightly startled at her endearing term: "Uh, I don't think so, thanks, my rewards card just isn't working."

When she couldn't get my card to work, either, she said, "Well, you let me know if you need help, dear," as if the problem was my senility.

I've noticed: people are treating me differently. Subtle at times, but definitely a noticeable change. I don't ever remember people being so - nice - to me in the past. Holding doors, "oh, you first." Kinder, gentler. It's funny, I still think and feel young, like in my 20's or 30's. But obviously I don't look so young. Hair, body shape, wrinkles, whatever.

Maybe some would be bothered by this deferential treatment. But I'm not bothered, just humored. I wonder if women my age who, um, haven't yet "gone gray" have a different experience?

There you have it. Aging has its perks so I'm not about to cover it up! Wouldn't it be great if we could all treat each other in a kinder and gentler fashion?

Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained by a righteous life.
Proverbs 16:31

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

our Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day. We do it our way, hubby and me. A late lunch at our favorite Mexican restaurant. A visit with his mom. Stayed home and made baked salmon and wild rice for dinner. Lingered over the candlelight and talked about our dreams and plans. It's not flowers and chocolates for us, but we like it.
And love each other. The Author of love is eloquent on how love should play out.

Love is patient,
[my teenager needs to share a heartache late into the night, past my bedtime]

love is kind.
[someone knocks at my door, uninvited]

It does not envy,
[wouldn't a new house be nice?]

it does not boast,
[I might have some successes in life, but still have much to learn]

it is not proud.
[why do I find it so hard to admit my failings to others?]

It is not rude,
[have I really listened with quiet respect to my husband today?]

it is not self-seeking,
[I'd love that last piece of cheesecake, but so would my husband]

it is not easily angered,
[does it really matter if he wants to organize the fridge - again?]

it keeps no record of wrongs.
[am I pointing out my child's mistakes once again?]

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
[I always told my kids that they can expect the truth from me, and I expect the same from them.
Real relationship is built on truth.] 

It always protects,
always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
[I know God expects from me what He's given me: love, hope, faith.
When life is gritty and mundane and just no fun,
I will stand up straight and just do the next thing.]
Love never fails.
[Of this I can be sure: God is love and I can trust Him ...
not to give me what I want, but to give me what I need.]

1 Corinthians 13:4-8

And love came in a little five and a half pound bundle
last week. Welcome, Lily Jane. I love you!

Monday, February 13, 2012

arms ever full

with Katie ~ 1990
with Lily ~ 2012

Friday, February 10, 2012

dear Lily

Baba and Lily: 36 hours old
 Dearest Lily Jane,

Aunt Katie and I spent this cold and snowy afternoon with you. I'm sure you're the smallest baby I've ever held. Katie said "she feels like a water baby." (One of Katie's first baby dolls.) Katie and I took turns holding you while your exhausted mom and dad got some sleep.

Your wispy dark hair swirls over her head, very much like my babies' did.

I think your nose looks like your mom's.

Your dainty fingers covered maybe a third of my index finger.

Your little body, under six pounds, is a complete being. A life from God. Incomprehensible, really.

It was lovely to sit with my daughter and newest granddaughter on this day after your birth, marveling at your breathless little face with its perfect features. You may be tiny, my Lily, but I love you in a very big way. Welcome to our family. Welcome to life!

Love you forever,
your Baba

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
Psalm 139:13

Thursday, February 9, 2012

welcome, little Lily Jane!

My new granddaughter came last night,
and she came in a hurry.
Though Jill had labor through the afternoon,
they went to the hospital at midnight.
 Lily Jane came at 3:08 a.m.
with one push from her very tough mom!
She's petite, lovely, perfect.

 Birth. Life. So miraculous.
Welcome, Lily Jane.
You and God reminded me last night
that there's nothing more sacred,
more beautiful or holy
than the birth of a baby.

Lily Jane Haller
born 2.9.12
at 3:08 a.m.
5 pounds, 14 ounces
17 inches

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

happy birthday, Mark: the almost-daddy

Well it would be pretty neat if my newest granddaughter, due TODAY, would actually decide to arrive, because it's her dad's 24th birthday. Some say, "oh, they need their own birthdays." I say it would be so special to share your day with your dad!

Here's Mark at around four. Happy-looking, though he was such a busy, non-stop little guy that by dinnertime he was usually an exhausted mess. He put 100% of himself into each day. As he got older, Mark was the only kid I ever saw who would simply say, "goodnight, I'm going to bed" when he got tired.

He played and worked hard.
He ate a lot.
And liked his sleep.
And that was that.

A favorite memory of Mark was at around age six. A neighbor had brought in a load of flagstones to build a retaining wall. Mark spied the excitement right away and trotted over to help. At noon, Taylor sent Mark home for lunch. But 15 minutes later, having eaten his sandwich, Mark was knocking at Taylor's door. "Ready to get back to work, Taylor?" The guy's a horse, we like to say.

Well, you'll be a cherished horse to your little girl. She's gonna be crazy about you!

I love you, Mark. Have a happy birthday!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

I miss

I miss
coming in the back door,
over the worn wooden floor.

I miss
the beauty of the birches, even when they turn 
into a colossal task. 

I miss
the boathouse.

I miss
exploring in solitude
places where man has met the sea. 

I miss
the sunsets which remind me
that God's still in the business
of wowing us with His creative majesty.

For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible ... all things were created by him and for him.
Colossians 1:16

Monday, February 6, 2012

my brain is mush

Awaiting a grandchild, right here in town, seems much different from those
out of town babies. I am on pins and needles. My day goes something like this:

Get up.
Check to make sure no messages are on my phone. 
Go to work for the morning.
Keep phone in my pocket and every time it vibrates I grab it quick.
Head out to the Y. Or on errands.
Phone does not go into the pool, but as soon as I get back to my locker,
I'm fishing for my phone.
And on it goes through the afternoon and evening, waiting and wondering.
And thinking I should defrost some meat sauce and make up a lasagna.
Just in case tomorrow is THE DAY.
But what if it isn't?
I would've wasted an easy meal on a day I didn't NEED an easy meal.
I get ready for bed. Put the phone beside the bed. On ring or vibrate, which is it?
Just as I'm dozing off, son David sends me a silly text at 11:30 p.m. and I jump,
sure it's THE call. We could have a baby in 24 hours!
Not that a baby is literally on the way with the first call.
But then, she could be! Oh, probably not.
My brain is mush!
Baby girl due on Wednesday. Stay tuned!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

today's laugh

This text-messaging isn't always reliable. A couple of days ago, my son Mark, the soon-daddy-to-be, sent a text out after he and Jill had a doctor's appointment. Well. Somehow it missed me AND Bill and we didn't hear from him until several hours later. He's a reticent guy anyway, coming forth with only the essentials. I'm hoping I'll get the memo when his baby's on the way.

This morning I texted Mark and asked, "is baby girl stirring at all this morning?"

The answer came. "Oh yeah, forgot to tell you, she's in the crib sleeping, wanna come see her?"


Friday, February 3, 2012

modesty overboard!

Swimming in February, dare I? We have a beautiful new YMCA in town, filling a long-standing need for recreation. Its two pools are gorgeous!

So, with a new membership card hanging from my key ring, off I go for a dip. I chose a great time: right after lunch, with few people around. First thing I see is a notice: "leisure pool closed for hygienic reasons." Hmmm, any mom knows what that means.

That leaves the lap pool which, rumor has it, is kept several degrees cooler than the leisure pool. Pulling on my very worn swimsuit, I tiptoe to the pool's edge. At 57, I feel grossly more self-conscious in a swimsuit than 30 years ago. But hey, fitness is the reason I'm here, right? And so I slip into a lane (brrrr) and swim.

For 30 minutes, I swim slowly. At times with a kickboard, but I keep moving. It feels marvelous! I love the water and though I'm in and around it a lot in summer, I'm not exactly doing sprints. Yesterday, some soreness. But back I go. This time only the leisure pool is open, with fewer lanes but a more welcoming temperature. Sharing a lane with another swimmer, I repeated my 30 minute swim. Feelin' pretty proud.

Then. This morning. Calf muscles, hip muscles, shoulder and arm muscles: all yelling at me: "What have you done to us?! We are too old for such foolishness!" Well, get over it, you muscles and joints. We're in this together and will press on and it can't get any worse. I'm giving you today off, but we'll be back at it soon.

Have you been swimming in a while?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

welcome home, Jill

Yesterday I wrote of my daughter Katie's homecoming from a mission trip to Paraguay. Today I write of another of my girls, my daughter-in-love Jill. She and Mark have chosen for Jill to stay home with their baby, due in one week!

When I chose to stay home with our son David 28 years ago, I had little idea what it entailed. My own mother stayed home, but since she was gone, I had few mentors to call on. In fact, most of the women around me were career women and the super-woman mentality was prevalent.

I imagined PJ'd toddlers sweetly lined up on the couch, hands folded, at Christmas. If I applied discipline just right, they would never misbehave, always eat what I served and love me because I was their mother: an ideal mother at that.

No one told me that I could kiss a solid night's sleep good-bye for a very long time. That a croupy toddler would need mommy to hold him all night long. That just because a 15-month old eats carrots on Monday doesn't mean he'll eat them on Wednesday. That little children make lots of noise. Incessantly. That at times my tears would come from sheer exhaustion and frustration. That my relationship with my husband would change, not always for the better. And that I would sometimes swim against a tide of others' opinions regarding how best to spend my life.

Jill with her niece, Ashlyn
But coming home meant more. It took me to a level of selflessness I'd never known. It gave me the time to fall in love with my baby. It taught me to slow down and realize that babies learn and grow at their own particular pace. I relished nursing him in the same rocker my mother, and grandmother, had nursed.

I was free to stroll with my son on warm Florida days, lie on a blanket in the sun, and laugh at ourselves in the mirror. I remember him calling me "Baba" and wanting to turn off the "yite" in his room at bedtime. We read dozens of books together. I witnessed his language explode in discovering the world. It was an absolute wonder to me.

Being at home full-time was the toughest job of my life. But now at the other end, I see it was also the most rewarding. What I gained far surpassed all that I gave up.

Welcome home, Jill. May your home be a space for nurturing new life, the most precious of gifts: your child, your daughter, your new love.

And when exhaustion sets in, you can call on Baba.