Thursday, May 31, 2012

school's out!

School's wrapping up if you hadn't noticed.
Friends on facebook, moms and teachers, fellow bloggers ...
all so ready for summer.
One friend said, "I'm tired of being the homework Nazi."
How I used to relate to that one!

I remember my own last days of school as well as my children's.
They tumbled off the bus for the last time, a paper grocery sack under one arm.
It held the broken pencils, half erasers, and crumpled spelling tests from a now-clean desk back at school. On the other arm, a scuffed-up book bag and maybe a droopy marigold planted in a Dixie cup.
The last day of school was always hot
and my children's faces were flushed with damp bangs clinging to their foreheads.
But across that face was the biggest grin of the year.
A smile that said "summer, here I come!"

"I can't wait to go to the pool,
 play baseball, ride bikes, play hockey in the street when mom's not looking,
sell lemonade, play City (my kids can tell you about it),
go to church or scout camp, then forget all the lessons and fight with my brother,
sleep in the backyard, stay up late enough to see fireflies,
play bickerball in the front yard, read books in the hammock,
and GO TO FIRESIDE!" (Our favorite place in northern Michigan.)

Oh, I know that the paradigm of having summers off doesn't fit our non-agricultural lives anymore.
But I can't imagine kids missing out on the lazy days at home,
where sandwiches and mom's homemade popsicles made for a fun lunch on the porch,
or a few weeks with siblings made you wish for school to start. 

Yay, summer!

two brothers off to Boy Scout camp

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

playing hooky

I'm back. I've missed you. Blogging, and those who read and comment. It's funny, but when I miss a few days I feel very guilty. Sort of like playing hooky.

I could blame my busy-ness on end-of-school stuff, but I have no kids in school. May is just bursting! And here it is almost over.

Over the weekend I finished and submitted my next article for Heart of Ohio Magazine. Take a look on page 47 of the current issue if you like. It's a neat magazine and I've gotten to know the editor, Diana Coon. You could even subscribe! Check out the website.

There was Memorial Day weekend, during which we had two college friends of Katie's stop by for two nights. We cooked out good food and I made my mom's potato salad, which I do the day ahead. The grocery store has non-Ohio corn and it's yummy.  The girls made fast work of shucking it.

Over the last three days I made a t-shirt quilt for my friend Karen's (frequent commenter!) son's graduation gift. A fun, intense undertaking.

Then there's the WATERING. Just a week old, new baby grass is peeking up in our back and side yards. Of course, as soon as the seed was in we had a horrid heat wave and no rain. Did someone move Ohio to Arizona?? So I spend a good hour every day running in and out and back and forth and moving sprinklers and hand-sprinkling the tough spots. Whew.

The problem with spring is it's too darn beautiful. Today was gorgeously in the 70's. Who wants to be inside cooking, cleaning (heaven forbid), or writing when there's a perfectly good day to enjoy? I will admit, I sat in the sun a bit and read Bonhoeffer.

I won't abandon you. But please understand if I play hooky now and then.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Where's happy? I'll take joy

My dad has been  placed under Hospice care. They believe he's bleeding internally, and if that would stop on its own, Dad could possibly come off of Hospice. There are many criteria needed for Hospice to be recommended and I don't understand them all.

What I do know is that I feel a large cloud enveloping my heart. Dad is 87 and his health is deteriorating. While none of us knows the future, it's evident that he's declining.

When such a cloud rolls in, I usually get busy. I garden. And work on an article that's due. I plan meals and grocery shop. I cuddle my granddaughter Lily and marvel at new life while an aging one is slipping away. My father's life. I go about my life, but the dread of Dad's condition jerks me back. It certainly doesn't allow for happiness.

The good news is, happiness is so temporal and external.
It's what we can see, touch, taste and experience.
In the long run, despite what the world may say,
happiness really doesn't amount to much.

But joy! Joy is ever-present. 
Joy comes in the deep peace of knowing God is in control.
He works all things for good for those who love and  trust him. (Romans 8:28)  
He uses challenges for his higher purpose of molding me to be more like him and to serve him.
He doesn't leave us, ignore us, or stop caring about us. (Hebrews 13:5) Ever.
We see but a footprint of God here on earth; in heaven we'll realize all of who he is.
(1 Corinthians 13:12)

And so, though I don't like this road, it's one we all must walk.
Sometimes the goodbye is short or long or non-existent.
This one is long and hard, but not without joy.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
Hebrews 11:1

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

we - are - family

Graduation weekend.
Full. Frenzied. Love and laughter.
It was a bit rushed, but we found time for a lot,
like planting flowers with Ari on the afternoon she arrived. 

Love these photos ... thanks for getting them, Jenny!

The bigger cousins, and Jenny, got to meet Lily for the first time!

Once at Taylor, we followed the program, helping Katie move out of her
apartment and attending festivities.
A worship and senior send-off program was Friday evening.
How I will miss the worship at Taylor!
Bri, Katie, Hannah and Christy ...
apartment mates this year. Friends for life.

I was wondering how it would work to bring the three babies
to the graduation ceremony, one that would last well over two hours.
But Bill and I arrived early enough to claim our own little row of six chairs
with floor space for the girls. The girls didn't last the entire ceremony,
but did remarkably well, especially considering two of them didn't feel so great. 
An adjacent air conditioned lobby was the perfect retreat for moms and babies.

Of course a girl can't miss her morning nap ...

Two of our sons live out of state, so getting all of us together can be tough.
We missed David, our oldest, this weekend. His job keeps him at his busiest this time of year.
But David watched the ceremony via live feed on his computer. In fact, he saw Katie marching into
the field house, and we didn't!

Two of my favorite photos ... Ari and Lily trying out Aunt Katie's cap.

On Sunday we enjoyed a family lunch in Katie's honor.
Corn was on the menu, one of Katie's favorites.
Popsy and Ari were on corn duty
and Ari couldn't resist a little nibble!

Family times ... I cherish them.

Monday, May 21, 2012

mission accomplished

As our children were born, we had great hopes for them, one being that they go to college. Both Bill and I attended small, private colleges and while we would give our children the choice to attend any college, we both have an affinity for small campuses.

As our children approached college age, it was evident that not everyone wanted nor thought they needed higher education. Only about half of our kids' high school classmates headed to college. This shocked me since I was raised by parents who expected us to attend college.

So. Why college? "Today's students can gain life skills and training in other ways. College isn't for everyone. The expense! You can live at home and save money." We heard it all. And most of it rings true. But as our four chose college and left our nest, we began to see that the choice for them was a very good one.

We saw incredible growth in each of our children as they spent four years away from home. Resident hall living shaped them to cooperate in a community. They were on their own to best use their time in order to succeed. It was up to them how and when to eat, do laundry, clean up after themselves and study. Three of our kids went to Taylor University, an intentionally Christian college in rural Indiana. Taylor's about more than academics. They are serious about helping young men and women be prepared spiritually to work and serve others in God's name.

On Saturday, almost our entire family (sadly, David couldn't make it) witnessed our last child, Katie, receive her diploma. Eleven consecutive years of college. Sixteen cumulative. And all four, by God's grace and provision, graduated in four years. We're so very thankful.

Next post: some fun from a very full weekend!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

numbers tell the story

To be one of the most inept students to ever enter a math class, I'm surprisingly focused on numbers.

First, my birth year: 1955. Also in my family ...
paternal grandmother - 1895
mother - 1925
husband Bill - 1945
son Dan - 1985
So how about a grandchild born in another '5' year, 2015? It could happen!

Next, big family events such as graduations, weddings and babies.
It's been a busy ten years:
Graduations - 2001, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010 and this Saturday, 2012!
Weddings - 2007 and 2009
Babies - 2010, 2011, 2012

Finally, and this dawned on me as I drifted off to sleep last night, I am blessed by the number 3 right now. For many years, it was 3 boys and 1 girl and I never really thought much about it evening up someday.
But now!
3 sons, 3 daughters, and 3 granddaughters!

This is super amazing to me and there's a decent chance there will be more.
But even if our family stays this size, I am thankful and blessed for the numbers I have:
1 husband and
9 offspring!

Monday, May 14, 2012

the Kokosing

Friday was a stellar day so after a morning of chores, we loaded the bikes and headed northeast, near Mt. Vernon, Ohio. The Kokosing Gap trail. Maybe you remember this post about one of our favorite trails.

The trail meanders along and over the Kokosing River. We spotted
lots of birds, including a pair of herons soaring over the river.

Bill's the more determined rider and rode another couple miles while I snacked on trail mix,
enjoyed the view at Kenyon College (trail goes right by it) and shot photographs.

An Amish buggy surprised us as it clipped by right near this train.
I was so surprised I didn't have time for a photo.

I'm thankful we have the time and good health for these rides!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

the plainest of days

My daughter-in-love Jenny wrote a recent blog post about the ordinary happenings in life with toddlers. You can read it here. It got me thinking about the imperceptible value in our plainest of days. I think mothers are the most aware of this. Or should be.

Can you remember things from childhood that meant the most? Was it visiting Disney World or making the elite soccer team? For me, it was the smallest things that had the greatest meaning. Once my mother took my hand as we walked up our driveway. She began skipping and encouraged me to do the same, throwing her head back and laughing. And I remember her helping with my reading as she hung laundry on the clothesline.

One summer I gave each of my children a small plot by our deck for their own garden. They chose and planted their seeds. You'd think we'd gone to London! How proud they were of their over-planted plots. Katie even grew corn!

The impact of these fleeting moments can easily escape us. Baking cookies together, playing with playdoh or sidewalk chalk, watering flowers, a picnic supper in the park, digging for worms, even mopping the kitchen floor together ... these are the ingredients of a rich childhood and motherhood well-spent. Vacations are fun, but I believe it's in doing life, the gritty and monotonous day-in-day-out stuff that anchors a child.

And then one day (doesn't every grandmother say this?) those toddlers will be taller than us, get married or land a job, and walk out our front door for the last time.

Happy Mother's Day. Be content with an ordinary day.

... I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.
Philippians 4:11
my boys having a plain day in 1989

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

weed & feed

We've been busy bees, hubby and me. Nothing like visitors and graduations and weddings to light a fire under us. Next week we'll welcome Dan, Jenny and the girls and head off for Katie's college graduation!

Last week we commenced to dig and pull barrels full of weeds from our shady pine tree patch out back. Our son (the landscaper I don't hug) will be giving the backyard a facelift but we're preparing it by pulling the worst of the weeds.

It's weird, but I find tasks done with hubby kind of romantic. I am sure he doesn't see it this way. But shared chores are more fun and of course get done more quickly. Anyway, we weeded for several days.
My never-ending to-do list included a good housecleaning and of course I enlisted hubby's help. (I absolutely detest housecleaning.) First up today: our bedroom. Fan-dusting, window-washing, woodwork and under-the-bed vacuuming. We were quite the team.

Of course, any wife knows that a weeding and vacuuming husband needs food. In fact, he'll probably work better if he's fed. So that's what I'm off to do now: fix something to feed him.

Monday, May 7, 2012

May 7, 1979

Mom in her early 20's
(Dear reader: If you were the only reason I write this blog, I wouldn't write today's post. I think maybe I write too often about the past and my parents and who wants to read about love and loss? But aside from God, loss has been my greatest teacher. Writing helps me sort it out. So today I write about my most profound loss.)

Early on a Monday morning, May 7, 1979, the phone rang in our two-bedroom house in Florida. I was up early to take three visiting high school friends to the airport. Knowing the call was for me, I answered. "Your mother is gone," said my dad. Mom had lost her battle with cancer in a few short months. I am a healthy 57 now and she was dead at 53.

I've shed a lot of tears in these 33 years without her. She died the week of Mother's Day. No one should lose their mother around Mother's Day. She loved little children and big ones too and never held a single grandchild. She laughed and lived well and stayed home to raise us. She died just months before her nest emptied. That was very hard on my dad.

But as the years roll on, as I live through the seasons of life, the sting of these should-have-beens has lessened. In fact, I wonder if I'm a stronger mother for having lost mine. In the 24 years I knew my mother, I inherited a rich legacy. Only now do I realize that.

While I didn't have her with me as I raised four children, by her example I learned to manage toddlers and teenagers on my own.  To use child psychology. To be a good neighbor and love the unlovable. To give blood regularly! Mom was a get-it-done sort of woman, feeding us well, supporting Dad, and home-making (I just love that term). I heard her say "oh, it'll do" countless times, her way of going with the flow of life and not sweating the small stuff.

I guess you could say that May 7, 1979 was the day I began to grow up. I missed Mom terribly, especially as my children were born. But I knew exactly what she'd say to me. "Just do what you need to do. Love your husband and children. Listen to them and laugh with them. Enjoy them. You'll do fine, dear."

And I have. More than that, I try to make the most of the time I spend with my kids. I hope I've taught them the important stuff. And, God has shown me women who need a mother and I try to pass on what Mom taught me.

I miss you, Mom. But thanks for teaching me most everything I needed to know, even before I needed to know it.

... do not forsake your mother's teaching. Proverbs 1:8

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

the things we say

I love words. It fascinates me to hear unfamiliar expressions ... then I begin to wonder how they came to be. I learned a new one just today and it's an oldie.

Jenny posted a hilarious "I'm a stinker" photo of Ashlyn on Instagram. Jenny's caption: "This girl is full of p & v today." Never having heard this, I asked my wise husband, Bill. "Oh, that's piss and vinegar!" Apparently this was a common expression among grandmas of long ago. Pretty funny!

"I need to rid up this house." I first heard this from Bill. It means to straighten up the house but I think it makes no sense at all.

"Leave the dog out." OK, this is a grammar peeve of mine. I remember as a kid in school, my English teacher warned against mixing up "leave" and "let." I wondered who would confuse them, until I met my husband's family. They do it all the time. The only way to LEAVE the dog out is if she is ALREADY out. Right?

He calls a vacuum cleaner a "sweeper" and he sweeps the floor with it. I use a broom to sweep and vacuum with a vacuum.

Bill's a midwesterner and I have solid southern roots and it shows in our expressions. He'd never heard the expression I grew up hearing as my mother put dinner on the table: "I'm taking it up!" Bill thought maybe we were eating upstairs. It means serving up the food.

"I'll just be in the road." I first heard this from Bill's mom, now 95. It has nothing to do with the road. It means being in the way. If there are too many people in your kitchen, then someone's in the road!

"Yes ma'am, no ma'am. Yes sir, no sir." This is pure southern courtesy. Growing up, I knew these expressions were the expected way to answer anyone older or in authority. Teachers, store clerks, neighbors, grandparents and certainly parents. I could expect a stern look and a "yes, WHAT?" if ever I forgot the "ma'am" or "sir" in answering a question. Even as a young adult, I continued to answer my father this way.

"Bless your heart." Maybe it's not so regional, but I don't hear it as often in the north. My grandmother said it often. And how I miss hearing it from her.

What expressions catch your ear?