Autumn is upon us, and strange things are happening.
1) Alert the media! Dani is willingly eating fruit! Apples, to be exact. When we stopped at an orchard this week for a half peck (just to hold us over until we could do full-scale apple picking), Dani sampled a mini Macintosh. And since then she's been eating apples as if they grow on trees. And apparently they do.
2) I got the urge to bake banana-apple bread. From scratch. With carmelized apples and everything. And then I actually acted upon the urge. And didn't burn the bread. No pictures are included here because it is already gone. It was that good.
3) Larry randomly and generically announced, "I like your cooking." Friends, we need to pause and just let that one sink in. This is coming from the man who loves telling the story about the time I served him undercooked chicken in what he deems to be an attempt to finish him off. Never mind that I tried to eat the chicken too. Apparently, back then I was neither a skilled cook, nor a skilled assassin. Either way, we've come a long way from "Are you trying to KILL me?" to arrive at "I like your cooking."
The theme this week for You Capture @ I Should be Folding Laundry is "the feeling of fall." And by that, I don't think Beth means the way I felt when I stepped on a lego and then in the owwing-yelling-hopping, fell forward into the door frame. No, I think she means the seasonal feeling. And this week, the fall feeling has been all about the apples--the versatile fruit that Dani eats, I bake and Larry appreciates.
So, how do you like them apples?
I love them. A bushel and a peck.
Autumn is upon us, and strange things are happening.
Note: This post is written primarily in Dani-lish. Please refer here if you need translation assistance.
Mama! Da 'curls go too past!
Dey p'ay peekaboo wid me!
Not weady to go. I say bye to the 'curls pirst.
Haha, dey so punny. Wait! Come BACK HERE 'CURL! I say bye TO YOU!
(Yater, on da way home)
Mama, da 'curls don't yike me to go to deir t'eehouse. Dey p'ay hide n seek. Dey bouncy when I pind dem.
Dat was pun, Mama. I wuv da 'curls. Do YOU wuv da 'curls Mama?
No, not really, Darlin'. But I love the way you do.
I realize it now, only after he's come home.
September spoke in incomplete sentences. It sounded strange, felt a bit off, but I didn't try to diagram the cause. I just kept rumbling forward like a run-on.
After a long month away, he returned home and gave us the subject we were missing in all that going and doing. He even put an end to those dangling participles.
Last week, he walked through the door in time for dinner almost every night, bringing lungfuls of fresh air. He enforced broccoli consumption, hung a mirror, chaperoned a bike ride, engaged in homework, held our hands. He lauded the leek soup, prodded thank-yous from the children.
Subject. Verb. Prepositional phrase. He's home, and life finally sounds the way it should. We are again a family of four.
Yesterday when we walked the trail after dinner and a day of rain, he found Dani's puddle jumps to be just as darling as I did. It meant the same--so much--to us both when the little ones snuggled under each of his arms and soaked in his college football tutorial. (Sorry Papa, seeing as they are our children and we have the final say on fan indoctrination, there will be no more "Go Blue"-ing via Skype.)
I'm out of ways to say it except for the way that Jerry Maguire did. And while I'm admittedly prone to cliche, even I draw the line at the the you-complete-me mush. No. I won't say it. I won't. I won't.
But really, it's the only way to say it. Because he does.
And because he does, he had me at "I'm home."
Unwrapping this gift of homecoming as part of Tuesdays Unwrapped hosted by Chatting at the Sky.
I'm here in our makeshift kitchen, and I must tell you that the banana ice cream is simply to die for. No really. You probably WILL die if you actually eat it, seeing as it's a combination of wood and paint fashioned into the likeness of bananas and a cheese block. I give the kids credit for getting the fruit and dairy combination right. But I'll stick to my coffee, thanks.
Now that Caed is in school, I am loving Saturday mornings. I love that 8:30 a.m. can saunter past with nary a care about where our shoes are, or why the girl took her socks off AGAIN, whether jackets will be required, and without any negotiations about the sudden sentimentality of toys that MUST COME WITH US IN THE CAR TO SCHOOL, OH PLEASE, OH PLEASE, OH PULLLLEEEESE!
My blood pressure just spiked a little bit when I typed that last sentence. But what was I saying? Oh yes. I love Saturday morning. I don't care that it begins at 6:00 or 6:30 a.m. because I know I can stretch it out as long as we like. When the kids opened their bagel-stuffed mouths to ask what we were going to do today, I said, "Let's just see where the day takes us (and don't talk with your mouth full)."
So, the day took us downstairs to build the biggest train track ever in our pajamas. Caed's doing all the engineering work, and I'm just chipping in with an encouraging word or two about the banana ice cream and the creative train bridge construction.
Yes, indeed, I like where this day is going. "Nowhere" has such a nice ring to it, don't you think?
So, where is your day taking you?
When the second day of fall feels like the first day of summer, you toss the to do list, phone a friend and make the very most of it.
Dani, repeat after me. We throw rocks to make splashes, NOT gashes.
If you think this next picture looks precarious, you should see the video clip I took of a near noggin miss.
If Kate stops taking my calls, I'll be able to think of at least one reason. Because friends don't let their kids throw rocks at their friends' kids. And they most definitely don't document it and then blog about it later.
Maybe it would be safer if we just run around for a bit.
There, that's better.
I'm happy to announce that the day was seized (held captive on an island, in fact, and pebbled to a pulp).
I'm also relieved to report that no noggins were actually harmed in the making of this post.
The day was soiled before dawn. It started with the stripping of sheets and polka dotted sleepers. The freeing and feeding the dog. Shushing the shaking collars and singing toddlers.
The morning rushed out ahead of me like that dang dog, hurdling over my feet, extending not even the courtesy of a moment to step aside. Sure. Just slide around and remind me that I'm not the alpha.
I am a human doggie door. A shoe courier, the route from the mudroom to the bedroom now an eyes-closed path. A directions dispenser, opening my Pez mouth in the over and over speech. I redress the mattress, collect the trash, check the urine samples (did you really pee in the potty or are you just pretending to get a candy?).
I am anything but alpha.
And to make it worse, today I chose not to believe that it is better to serve. Can't I just serve long enough to be recognized as the mom who does everything around here? Somebody! Look! See how great I am! Tell me you don't know what you'd ever do without me. I'll accept any form of credit. Please, just hand over the card.
So I let the day soak in the soiled attitude. I dressed the hours in wet pajamas and then complained about the stink. It's embarrassing when I step back and see the outfit I wore. Were my inward grumblings really that whiny? That self-centered? That ugly?
I don't have a quick spray solution. I'm not sure in the practical sense how to overcome the stench of this wasted woe-is-me day, to toss aside the what-was-I-thinking outfit and put on patience, kindness and joy.
But in my closet is the promise of a new morning with new mercies, a fresh start, a new outfit. It's hanging right up front, waiting for me to reach out, pull it down and make a wardrobe change.
At the end of my ugly day, I saw this. Don't you love that orange rock, dressed better than any other? It is covered in life, propping life up from underneath. If the rock had feelings, maybe they would be hurt. "No one sees me beneath this pile of takers," it might say. But the rock would be wrong. Because in serving the tiny bits of life that cling to its every crevice, it has become the most beautiful, the most remarkable rock of all.
This well-dressed rock is the gift I unwrap for Tuesday, a visual reminder to choose joy in service.
I'm reminded today of why I took up blogging. Because the events from just a few days ago are already fuzzy enough to blend in with the dryer lint. (I also blog because it gives me an excuse to avoid the dryer and all its lint-filled glory. But that's another story for another day.)
You could argue that Day Two of Birthday Bliss didn't really begin until Daddy showed up to pick Caed up from school. After some hugging and jumping and a month's worth of "Guess what Daddy!", Caed turned to the matters most pressing. "So, is it time yet to open presents!?"
And without further adieu, the unwrapping began. It was impossible to capture the glee on his face, simply because he couldn't take his eyes off his newly acquired treasures.
In the picture below, he is announcing that two of his most favorite things have become one ridiculously cool combination: STAR WARS LEGOS!!!
Oh, and do you see that baseball glove? It's official. He's a lefty.
Anyway, to continue on with the spoiling, we enjoyed a dinner of his choosing and an ice cream cake. But the biggest surprise of all came with the announcement that after dinner, he and his friend Chase (and their respective Dads) would be attending the Demolition Derby at the motor speedway that very evening.
What better way to turn five than to witness trucks and cars crashing, flipping, speeding, racing, and smashing?
He returned home way past his bedtime, eyes heavy yet somehow still twinkling, and proclaimed the evening out as "Awesome." Then added, "And you won't believe it, Mom, but I also got POPCORN!"
Well, if that isn't the buttery crunchy icing on the cake.
It was a very good day. Make that two very good days.
And while we're at it--make that five wonderful years. Here's to many more!
I might have mentioned a time or twenty that my baby was about to turn five. But I might not have mentioned that my husband was out of state for the past month. And that he didn't return until the day AFTER Caed's actual birthday.
But don't feel sorry for Caed. Oh no. He made out quite well thanks to the parental guilt regarding his father's absence. He enjoyed two full days of birthday indulgence with arguably too much sugar on top.
On his actual birthday, we brought cupcakes to school to share with his class. And since my inner bully beat up my inner Martha Stewart ages ago, the cupcakes were the store bought variety. The truth is, I haven't been able to bring myself to make a cupcake since the red frosting episode of 2007.
After consuming an ample amount of frosting, we drove straight to the beach to meet up with friends. The idea was we'd just walk out on the sandbar at low tide and wouldn't "go in the water or get too messy." My friend Kate and I figured if we said it a hundred times, it might actually come to fruition. But alas. Have you met our children?
Yes, hello. I'd like a double order of wishful thinking, and can I get that to go?
(Yes, that is sand clinging to his wet shorts!)
Okay, so it got a little messy. But not so messy that we couldn't pick up and go to the local seafood dive for some fried oceany goodness. About halfway through dinner, Kate and I exchanged a look of "I could so fall asleep right now", while our kids continued to repurpose their ketchup. We gave them points for creativity, docked points for dawdling, and eventually pulled out the ice cream card. Nothing says "finish your dinner" like a little mint chocolate chip, am I right?
And so concluded the first day of birthday bliss.
I must interrupt this regularly scheduled birthday recap program to remind myself (as Kate did that afternoon) that this is where I live.
You can bet I'll be looking at these pictures from late October well into next April to combat those long winter blues. Feel free to call me on it when you hear me complaining in January.
But back to the birthday boy. I didn't realize until now that I took this picture exactly five years (to the hour) from the time my baby boy was placed in my arms. And would you just look at him now? WOW.
Lately, I've been crying at the drop of one of these:
And there are the two little hat-less heads to blame.
Linking up today to You Capture at I Should Be Folding Laundry, where the prompt is "Macro". And a shout out to Melissa at A Familiar Path, for without her, I wouldn't have even known the Macro button existed!
I can't function today, and I blame Babies R Us.
It was the same sort of day in the very same month, five years or maybe five days ago. The early autumn breeze had swept away the heavy humid air, and the sun laid a coat of crisp, short-sleeved warmth across the sparsely-leaved ground.
He was bundled up to his eyeballs, goodness knows why. Didn't his mother know how to dress a newborn?
Of course she didn't.
She didn't even know that hiccups were normal, that they'd go away on their own. And she hadn't even the sense to google it. She just swirled around the house with the wits and direction of a dust particle. Aimless panic.
"We MUST go to Babies R Us!" she announced.
"You mean right now?" Her husband didn't know better either.
"YES RIGHT NOW!" And the tears and reasons poured out.
"We don't have a baby thermometer or a single fall outfit that fits! And he can't wear his sleepers all day! And he's too small for the sleepers anyway, and what if he gets a fever? How will we know? Oh, and there's another hiccup. Yes, I'm going. Right NOW."
And so I, er, I mean she went.
And that was five years ago, not exactly to the day. But close enough to make me weep uncontrollably after perusing the newborn sleepers this morning in Babies R Us. Of course now it is for my friend's baby. And I know now how to handle hiccups and nursing strikes and that my friend will never use that baby wipe warmer she registered for. Yes, I'll be the wise and knowing old lady mom at the baby shower on Saturday.
But today I am just a mess. The first day of Kindergarten came and went without a tear from either party. But five? Five YEARS? I can't stop thinking back to when he was five days or five weeks. I can't stop simultaneously grieving and applauding as he walks farther from the womb and further down the path he is making for himself.
I promised myself I wasn't going to do a big gushy birthday post. But I forgot to make myself swear not to fall into an emotional heap next to the exersaucers. Maybe next year I'll be more prepared. I'll write up a contract and make myself sign it, and in no uncertain terms am I to set foot in Babies R Us in September.
So happy, so weepy. Up high, down low. But always (and forever) in love with the boy who turned me into a mama.
Those little feet were tap, tap, tapping. And not in an Irish jig way. In a it's time to get goin', under my feet, baby, grass is growin' way.
Those little legs belong to the girl who shouted at her mother to "go faster!" as she kicked back in the jogger and giggled. (It was a very effective personal training technique, no matter how much her mother complained).
Those cotton-clad toes wiggled while we idled at the stoplight this morning. And when she could no longer stomach the standstill, she bellowed in the deepest tone available in 2T size, "C'MON PEOPLE!!" (And then repeated it about a dozen more times after she heard her mommy snicker.)
Oh yes, she heard the "C'MON PEOPLE!" line from the lady driver up front. More than once, if you can imagine. And don't be fooled by that lady's flip-flops and freckles and babbling on about days at the beach. That lady is not even slightly laid back.
And apparently neither is her little girl.
Again, don't let her pensive, peaceful look deceive you. Had you seen her before or after the snap of this shot, you'd know she was squirming on the door step plotting her escape.
Because C'MON PEOPLE! We have places to go, people to see, and we simply cannot stand a standstill.
She is my little girl, after all.
I'm linking this up to Melissa's Show & Tell Monday. She taught us several weeks ago to attempt portraits in the door frame to make use of the light without it coming straight in the subject's face. As you can see from the photo, my subject was less than cooperative. She scooted right into the sun and promptly began enacting her exit strategies. So I resorted to taking a picture of her feet. Her feet may never stop moving, but at least they don't squint.
And I swear Melissa is a far better teacher than my show and tell posts let on. Really and truly!
We came home from a party last night double-fisting the treats. A cup full of favors and a balloon for each.
Just as Dani won't take her eyes off her treasure, won't let go for a second, I'm holding on to something too.
I'm holding on to the way she calls it a "red baboon", to the way she begs to put on her "swimming soup", and to how she calls me "Mama" like she's still my baby.
They played with the balloons until bedtime and from waking until breakfast, from breakfast and beyond. "Baboon" wars are being waged as I type. But no matter how tightly they clutch the string, the balloons won't be airborne for much longer.
The balloons shrink, and my babies grow.
And soon baboons will be balloons, soups will be suits, and mama will be mother.
But for now, we all hold on to our red baboons.
You know you're getting old when your to do list includes one-liners like "bills" and "weed". And by weed, you mean of course the kind you pull, not smoke.
You know you're getting old when you tell your children that "all you want for your birthday is a clean house and good attitudes." (Thank you, Mother dearest. I finally understand why you said this every stinkin' year.) And tell me, children, why is it so hard to give your mother what she asks, hmm?
You know you're getting old when you spend all your birthday money to outsource your responsibilities. I splurged to hire my friend the Wild Weeding Woman. She's going to show up at my house next week to help me weed and cut back the perennials. (Hey, would you look at that? I know a real gardening word! I used that in the proper context all by myself! Aren't ya proud?). Oh, and I also splurged to hire a babysitter. I know. It's really too much excitement for one paragraph.
You know you're getting old when you wear yourself out just watching your children run rectangles in the driveway. Caed set up a course with four corners, using boogie boards and sidewalk chalk. Of course, Dani refused to fit her circled self into a rectangular race, and instead purposefully crashed her tricycle over and over. And laughed every time. Do you know how hard it is to crash a tricycle? Well, it's a piece of cake for Dani. She laid it out like a beach blanket.
You know you're getting old when things that happened yesterday actually happened five years ago.
You know you're getting old when you can't gaze at her eyes and not feel a tear coming on.
You know you're getting old when you find yourself happy in a wallflower, white noise, barely notice it kind of way.
Not wild screamy happy like the time your high school boyfriend (no longer yours and off to college) sent you a dozen red roses all the way from California for your Sweet 16. Or nearly falling off the cliff happy like the time the aforementioned high school boyfriend turned college boyfriend asked you to marry him in the shadow of Half Dome.
But messy, sweet kind of happy, like the time you shared a gorgeous view and the best morning buns in the entire universe with your family and then watched them running off the sugar buzz up and down and up the hill.
And if this is what it's like to grow older, well, then growing older is definitely growing on me.
When we woke widely to alarms of morning, squabbling gulls and crows and a squeal from my early bird to enter the fray.
When the sun climbed swiftly the rungs of sky, stepping on fog's fingers until it fell to its demise.
When the tide rolled back the blue tarp, unveiling sand bridges cove to cove, a masterpiece carved by insomniac waves.
When all these joined hands, we were caught in the circle's middle and pulled as willing captives to a morning at the beach.
This was the first day in all our seasons when we saw the sandbar at its highest and the water at its lowest, and it felt like a brand new place.
Wearing the watermarks of every tidal pool we'd passed, my two lined up dripping handed to pull me forward.
"We can get over there to the other side. It's not too deep! C'mon!" Caed tugged.
"C'mon!" Dani echoed.
Not halfway through and the water at Dani's waste, both sister and brother recanted their courage.
"Back! Back!" they shouted. And we all reversed course.
But the appeal of the unprinted sand on the opposite shore was strong, and we'd no sooner turned around, then we were back at it again.
And again we retreated.
And then a third time, but no charm. The tide crept higher to cover markings of morning, and the water grew only deeper.
So we crossed back over sparkled bridges, back to familiar blanket and shore, and eventually home.
A few days later, Caed blurted from the back seat. "Mommy! I thought of something we forgot to try to get us across that water to those other tidal pools."
"We did?" I couldn't imagine what.
"We forgot to pray to God," he offered.
I smiled sideways, lips pursed, a patronizing "how sweet" on the tip of my tongue. Then I pressed, "And how would that have helped us?"
"You know, with power and stuff," he began.
"Like to help us to not be afraid and to do our best?" I suggested.
"Well, more like, because God, well...I think He would have made the water just the right size for me."
He hadn't heard flannelgraphed stories of parted waters or of strides taken above the sea. Yet he already imagined God to be more powerful and personal than my grown-up construct would allow.
He saw no reason God wouldn't resize the Atlantic just for him.
It didn't seem foolish, not to a little boy, that the God who fixed limits for the sea and set its doors and bars in place, who said, "This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt'", that this God could lead him safely across.
I savored his statement of sweet foolish faith, even as I doubted.
Weeks later I still waver between dismissal and belief, all the while knowing I am the foolish one to etch limits around the Limitless. I say "Nothing is impossible!", but retreat to a plausible position, far away from the deep water, as soon as the words escape.
And so I pray.
I pray for faith the size of a mustard seed, or of a little boy, the kind of faith that can move mountains and oceans and a hardened heart like mine.
Just a quick announcement. The Salon de Boudreaux is now open for business. Apparently I let Dani go too long without the necessary beauty treatments, so she took matters into her own hands this morning. She's a go-getter, that one.
When there wasn't a peep from her room at 6:30 a.m., I said a prayer of thanks and made coffee. Fifteen minutes later, Caed came downstairs and wondered if it was still night time. And if not, then why wasn't Dani up?
"Good question," I said. "She's probably sleeping in. But let's go peek in on her just to make sure."
I rounded the corner in time to hear Caed shout, "Oh my goodness! She's into some SEER-ious mischief!"
Let me paint the picture.
I opened the door to find a buck naked two year old, standing on a chair, straining to reach the top of her bookshelf, her bum glistening from the two tons of Aquaphor she had slathered ALL OVER.
But really, can you blame her? With all the societal/marketing pressure put on these toddlers to keep up their "smooth as a baby's butt" skin and maintain that "sweet baby smell", it's no wonder they're creating underground (or perhaps just under-the-bed) day spas. It starts too young. It really does. That said, the answer to the question at the beginning of this paragraph is YES. I could most definitely blame her.
She turned and flashed a smile, "I p'itty Mama?" She of course meant to say "pretty", but "pity" was a more suitable word. Because who wouldn't pity the mama who had to clean up a widely distributed tub of Aquaphor, half a tube of A&D, and the remainder of the lavender calming cream? Not to mention a very greasy toddler?
And what a rotten time to run out of calming cream. Because YES, we could stand to get a little dollop of calm right about now. Please, just a few drops on my hands so I don't start a fire with all the wringing and clenching.
Luckily, I have a stash of calming cream for grown-ups tucked away in the kitchen for occasions such as this. It's called Baileys.
Oh I kid. I'd never drink Baileys so early in the morning.
At least not without some coffee in it.
Good thing I had already made coffee.
But seriously, I can give thanks that at least the green glitter incident from last Wednesday was separate and apart from today's beauty treatment gone awry. Because can you imagine if she had taken hold of that glitter while she was covered in Aquaphor? Can you say human art project?
And just in case you want to see the look on her face when she was caught, this is TOTALLY it.
Granted, this picture was taken in a totally different context. But if I had tried to snap a picture before the crime scene was cleaned up, I guarantee you this post would have turned into a plea for help on how to remove petroleum jelly from a camera lens....
There is a time to cry and a time to laugh. And Friday? Friday is a time to laugh.
Even if we must resort to laughing about falling down.
My mom taught me never to laugh at the misfortune of others, but I'm going to ignore her just this once because OH MY WORD, if ever there was a reason to make an exception, it's this little video clip:
So when you're done laughing with me, then go laugh with Amber for Friday Funnies. There's bound to be enough funny on Friday to propel us all into the weekend with a smile, right?
But a quick word of advice: When you step out to enjoy the weekend, do it with flat shoes on your feet. Because apparently even the professionals are rendered weeble-wobbly in the ever lovely but terribly dangerous platform shoes. (Oh, and it looks like I get the award for referencing the obscure 70s toy known as the Weeble Wobble three times in just one week. I hope the award is a Weeble Wobble, because those little things crack me up in a mature three year old sort of way.)
No sooner did I write about my weeble wobbleness, then I read this excerpt from Prince Caspian (part of The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis):
"Welcome Prince," said Aslan. "Do you feel yourself sufficient to take up the kingship of Narnia?"
"I, I don't think I do, Sir," said Caspian. "I'm only a kid."
"Good," said Aslan. "If you had thought yourself sufficient, it would have been proof that you were not."
"Therefore under us and under the high king, you shall be king......"
I am coming to terms with the foolishness of my faith. How it makes one so vulnerable and dependent and insufficient and yet so protected and capable and fully equipped.
At 35, I can't say "I'm only a kid." But I often feel like one. My feet seem too small to fill the shoes. My patience, too short to measure up.
"I'm only a failure," I say as I fumble for an excuse not to step forward.
And that's when He reminds me that what I am (a kid, a failure) is not the point. It is what He has made and will make of me that matters.
And this is motherhood.
I pray for a spring in my step
And get a slinky in my shoe.
They look like twins.
But tell that to the mother
Who just fell head over heels
Down the stairs.
I begged for bread, not stone.
For energy, not exhaustion.
Yet I'm twisted and breaking
Like a blasted slinky.
If I define good gifts differently, so what?
Why is His version the only one that counts?
Maybe He adorns me in these ankle wobblers
So I'm forced to hold His hand
All the time.
Whether on wheel-screeched parking lots
Or hop-scotched sidewalks.
So that I might
But not be hurled headlong?
Maybe that's it.
p.s. I didn't really fall on a slinky. Sorry to disappoint. That was just a metaphor or word picture or whatever it's called these days. And that's not really a poem up there. It's just me taking the easy way out so I could post these thoughts without worrying about sentence structure.
p.p.s. Somebody (not me) took that lovely photo:
p.s.(cubed): Okay, maybe it was sort of a poem. It's just that nothing makes me feel more foolish than posting a poem. Except maybe singing a solo or tripping in my high heels, only one of which I've done in the past twenty years. Can you guess which one?