We spent Thanksgiving nestled in a lodge in the Adirondacks with my mom and dad, my siblings and their families. There were 25 of us, including 14 children. I'll pause so you can let that sink in.

If I was the sort of person to use the phrase, "it was a hoot", I'd probably insert that right about here.

I am not sure which contributed more to this feeling that I might explode--the feasting on turkey or the incredible amount of blogworthyness that went unblogged.

It may take a week. Both to fit into my jeans again and to tell the story of Thanksgiving 2009.

But for now I'll just share a few of my favorite people-less photos. Because I'm lazy and these nature shots require less back story.

On Thursday, there was dew.
On Friday there was snow.
I happened upon this pond on Friday, just as it was unearthing its Christmas colors. This little pond does not believe in Black Friday. This little pond celebrates Green, Red and White Friday instead.And here is the view from our Thanksgiving table--just before we sat down. I know, right?? LuuhhKEE!!!

I'm so very full on thanks.


A Spoonful of Gratitude

Today I felt so very grateful for my children. (I confess I don't always feel this way). They are so very delightful. (I confess they are not always delightful).

And here's the kicker. Well, in this case, Kickers.

"Hey Mom! How do ya like my leg muscle exercises? This is going to help me get ready for playin' real soccer!"

Also, do you know how it warms a mother's heart when her child asks to be buckled in? To the car seat, sitting in the middle of the mudroom? Well.
This impromptu game of "goin' on a twip wid my baby doll" was pure joy, my friends. PURE JOY. Fifteen minutes of strapped-in peace is what it was.


And finally, I just realized this week that the kids have taken after me in that we all have a very strong reaction to peanut butter. Especially when we eat it straight from the spoon.

Is there anything better than peanut butter on a spoon? (Why yes, there is. It's called peanut butter and dark chocolate on a spoon. But we will not be introducing the children to that concept anytime soon. Just because I'm deeply grateful for them doesn't mean I'm in the mood to share my chocolate!)


Seasonal Courage

I wish I was as brave as the last bit of color, wincing not at waves, flinching not at frost, equal parts courage and optimism.
In weeks, if not days, they will be laid bare in bitter cold. They'll steep in snow and sleet, through short dim lit days and long pitch black nights.

But the long-stretched months will snap short in hindsight, and the seaside shrubs will again bloom and flourish under the noon day sun.

Is it this knowledge--this knowing it is just for a season--that makes them so brave?


Consolation Prize

This past week, I picked Caed up from school and we headed straight to the beach. It was cold, but not so cold I couldn't pose them coatless in their Christmas attire. The idea was to get a sweet little photo for holiday cards.

Don't laugh. I really thought I could pull it off.

And I would have gotten away with it too, if hadn't been for those meddlin' kids the sun retreating faster than we could say "good afternoon".

Thanks to the sun's 4:15 p.m. departure, I didn't walk away with the perfect Christmas photo.
But I like to think this sunset photo was my consolation prize.
Does anybody else think it's weird to say "Good Afternoon" in the dark?

This post is linked to the You Capture: Sunrise/Sunset challenge at I Should be Folding Laundry.



The Kindergartener's Guide to Social Media

"You better watch out! I'll facebook you!!" Caed shouted to Dani, pointing his wrist "spy" watch at her.

"Nooo! I don't MANT (want) you to pacebook me!" his sister objected.

"Where did you hear that?" I quizzed. "Do you even know what that means?"

"Of course I do, Mom. It's not mean to say. I heard you and Daddy talking, and you said you were going to facebook him. And I know what facebooking is. It's when you put somebody's face in a book."

{Facebook: When you put someone's face in a book. In context: "Come here so I can smush your face into this copy of Social Networking for Dummies. See also: Literary Faceplant}

I didn't ask Caed for clarification. I just laughed and thought to myself, "I have to remember to post that on Facebook."

As an aside--this morning I discovered one more way we old geezers can use Facebook, besides to constantly overshare the cuteness that is our children or to let 250+ people (who could most certainly not care less) know what we had for lunch and whether or not our headache is gone. Are you ready? To help find a plumber. Yep, thanks to some quick responses to a status update requesting plumber recommendations, we averted a flooding disaster and lived to tell the tale...on Facebook, of course. Where else would we tell it?


Fully Dressed

I need to smile more. Really, I do. I know it's bad when my five year old casts eyes in my direction and asks, "Why are you making that mean face, Mom?"

"What face? I'm not making a face!"

"Yes you are. And you don't look happy, like you're gonna get us in trouble."

Seriously, kid. What are you? Little Orphan Annie? When did you become the face police? I'll have you know I'm dressed JUST fine with my so-called mean face. And just so you know, I DID smile earlier in the day. Back before you and your sister went all hard-knock-life over the dinner I slaved to put on your plate.

Ahem. So apparently I should save my lectures about the connection between the countenance and the heart, preferably for a day when I'm a tad less of a hypocrite. But what was my point?

Oh that's right. I need to smile more.

And do you know what never fails to make me smile?

When my Dani girl sings:

She's one month shy of three years old, and lately she's all birthday this and birthday that.
After we talked at length about how long a month is (30 sleeps, 4 weeks...), she began announcing to anyone who inquired that her birthday was going to be in "two minutes." And seeing as I could swear she was born only two days ago, I have to agree with her that this month will pass in two minutes flat.

But I digress. The only point was to tell you that over and over, she makes me smile. And in posting her performance from this evening, I'm testing my theory that maybe her effect is universal.

Sharing this gift of my smile-inducing diva with the lovely group that gathers on Tuesdays to unwrap ordinary little gifts that impact us in extraordinary ways.


The Shortest Scavenger Hunt

I'm not a photographer, but I play one on my blog.

Sometimes, when life is on the ugly side, when the kids bicker and foreheads bruise and coffee spills and my thoughts are bottle necking (because they don't have a decent word to wear), I feel like this Grumpy McPricklyton shrub in my front yard.

And when I feel this way, I'm telling you, I want to run away from home. Actually, I just want to go five miles and come back. But today I didn't have the luxury of 45 kid-free, jogger-free, word-free minutes to run my sanity route. Because Larry was at work (and come to think of it, still is), and the kids needed to nap after church.

So at the first chance I found, which happened to be an hour before sunset, I took my prickly, irritable self on a tour of the front yard. And wouldn't you know, even within nap-monitoring distance, I saw enough to remind me....

That I have a kindred color in my favorite tree.

And that though her visits are short, her rays half-hearted, though she wears a thick white winter sweater, she still sheds light on unmissable beauty.
It's likely my neighbors think I'm a few pixels short of a full photo for gallivanting around my front yard like I was photographing Katahdin or something. And they might be right. After all, it isn't normal to ask your poop-laden lawn to pose for a portrait.

But it makes me happy to scavenge for beauty using my regular Jo camera in my regular Jo yard. And it's easier for the day to swallow labels like hum-drum, sea level and suburban, when the final word reads beautiful.


Real Life

How many times I have thought, "It will be so much better when..."

When we find out for sure about med school.
When we can buy a place of our own.
When he's done with med school.
When I can escape my soul-squashing job.
When he gets home from deployment.
When our son is born.
When our daughter sleeps through the night.
When we know where he'll do residency.
When we can move into a bigger house.
When we can get out of this city.
When we're finally done with residency.

And if I kept going, I could fill in that blank for the rest of my life.

But Real Life doesn't start when we're done with this or that, when a dream comes true or a nightmare is simply over. The adventure is right now, when things aren't perfect and hopes aren't met. So today I'm going to look at the difficulty and call it opportunity. I'm going to look at the bend I can't see around and call it possibility. I'm going to kiss the faces I love and call them the best thing that keeps happening to me.

This is real life. The awful, the banged-up and bruised. The gorgeous, the breath-snatching, the limbo-ridden and the scary. The quiet and lonely. The harried and the tired. The sweet and the lovely.

This is my real life. I will own it. And I will live it like I only have one.

This post inspired by Beth's You Capture: Real Life prompt.


He's one of the good guys

You know the kind. The ones who stand in front of harm to keep it from spreading. The ones who believe that peace is not the absence of conflict, but the presence of justice.

Yep, he's one of the good guys. And as much as I'd like to say he's mine all mine, the truth is, I've had to share him with my country. And I might have to again.
And if that's the case, then I'll consider it a privilege. Just as he does.

Do you know a veteran you'd like to honor? Feel free to leave their names in the comments so we can personalize our gratitude for the honorable men and women who have served not just for the US armed forces, but for the Allies of justice and peace around the globe.


I think I'd miss my kids...

So I married a medical resident. Actually, I married him long before med school was even a remote possibility. So really, we couldn't have known what we were in for. And that was probably a good thing.

Let's just say he works a lot and leave it at that. We know it won't be like this forever, and that helps.

Caed adores his Dad, and for the past two years has imitated his every doctorly move. Whenever Dad makes it home before bedtime, Caed asks for a repeat of grand rounds. "Was there anybody really bloody?" He inquires. "How did you fix his heart from beeping too fast?" He wonders.

But after a week of falling asleep long before Dad arrived to plant goodnight kisses, Caed began to speculate. "I think Daddy might be on another far away rotation. Because he is just working and working and not coming home."

Dani, who is in the habit lately of getting up at 4:45 a.m. both to see Daddy off and to preemptively exhaust her mother, piped up to bear witness to Daddy's existence. She'd reportedly seen Daddy that very morning before he left for "da hopsittle". (I will strike from the record the part where they bicker for five minutes about who saw Daddy last and where Daddy is and who is copying who and....Lord have mercy, would the two of you knock it off??)

Even after we established that Daddy was, in fact, making it home occasionally, Caed's enthusiasm for the medical profession continued to wane. So I wasn't surprised when on the way home from school, he shared his new life plan.

"I used to want to be a fireman or a doctor," he started. "But I don't think I'll do those things. Because fire fighters have to stay all day and night at the station, and I think I'd miss my kids. Like Daddy misses me. So maybe I'll be something else. Laahiiiike.....Lemme see....Hmmm.....I think I'll be a school bus driver! Just think of all the fun I'm going to have doing that!"

His career change announcement might make me totally sad if it wasn't so cute.

(But did I mention it won't be like this forever? It won't. And that helps.)


You say potato...

This week we dumped out every last piece of play dough apparatus, threw colors and caution to the wind, and played until the dough was a lovely purplish black.

Dani learned the hard way that the stray grape-flavored Nerds from Halloween and the straggling remnants of play dough look exactly alike against the backdrop of the kitchen floor.

And ever since the ill-fated day I said yes to the mess, no less than five times a day, I hear these words. "I want to p'ay potato, Mama. We get out da potato now?"

She says potato. We say play dough.

Po-tay-toe, po-tah-toe.


We All Fall Down

It's actually a bit embarrassing. I didn't realize my infatuation with Autumn was so obvious. Last month's photos alone are enough to catapult me into the stalker category.

But it's not as bad as it could be. I could have posted a video montage with Natalie crooning "These Are the Days" in the background.
But I didn't. Even though these really are the days.
I'm lucky enough to have friends who are as seasonally smitten as I am. So when play group day rolls around, it is not a question of what we will do, but where we will hike.
And how far we will run.
And will we choose the leafy playground or the grassy meadow?
Duck-duck-goose or ring-around-the-rosy?
Oh, really, why make us choose. Let's do it all.

Linking this post in the free-for-all week at You Capture, hosted by Beth at I Should Be Folding Laundry.


Nature Rarer Uses Yellow

Nature rarer uses yellow
Than another hue;
Saves she all of that for sunsets,--
Prodigal of blue,

Spending scarlet like a woman,
Yellow she affords
Only scantly and selectly,
Like a lover's words.

-Emily Dickinson

The photo above is untouched, taken several years ago with a cheap, ancient camera, en route to Vancouver. This photo used to stand watch whenever my computer slept. Sometimes when the M&A lawyers called, I'd click away from the piles of PDF due diligence long enough to steal a glance. It was my "serenity now" when I sat hours on end in an ergonomic roller chair.

These days, I find more and more of these moments in real life. I don't have to stare at a screen to see them. Like this morning, when I ran under a moon so bright it cast my bundled shadow onto the pavement. I ran past Halloween remnants of a sheeted ghost and picked up the pace when the peripheral glances at the fire hydrant flags made me wonder if it was actually the face of a skinny person poised to yell "boo!". Then the sun set off yellow flares on the horizon to announce its arrival, and the bare branches turned into the claws of a black cat against the brightening sky.

These are moments so majestic they need no editing, no adjustment. The master Artist has already seen to everything. So effortless, He could do it in His sleep, if indeed, He ever slept.

I'm not sure I can agree with Emily, at least on this one point. Nature doesn't seem to be hoarding yellow anymore. In fact, she's outright licentious with these golden splays. And I love her for it.

As for the other Emily, the host of Tuesdays Unwrapped at Chatting at the Sky, I couldn't agree more with her encouragement to find gifts in the messy, lovely and unexpected. This week, I'm celebrating nature's generosity with yellow and the gift of seeing it firsthand.

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