Thursday, November 29, 2007
"Delicious Mopping"
In my last post I mentioned mopping the kitchen with water that had essence of peppermint in it. I've gotten several comments, and emails with questions regarding it. I didn't even really stop to think - peppermint / Christmas - of course it sounds perfect for the holiday season.

I've heard imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, and in that vein, I copied the idea from my daughter, Sarah, who told me she found it on Anna's blog, at Pleasantview Schoolhouse. I subscribe to her, her blog oozes with peace, and she's full of tips on making your home a lovely place to be. This post, "Delicious Mopping" will tell you all about making your home smell Christmasy while cleaning your floors too.

I'm not sure what brand Anna uses, or where she gets it; I bought mine at GNC, a 4 oz bottle called "100% Pure & Natural Peppermint Oil". It cost $16.99 but will easily last at least a year.

I'm all about sharing the love, so copy to your heart's content! I personally think peppermint smells a heck of a lot better than 'wet dog'....


  posted at 8:08 PM

Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Blessed by Beth
So I've been home for 24 hours. Two loads of laundry (take heart young moms, you won't always have a load a day, I have two a week!), mop water with peppermint essence on the entire main floor, dog licks off the front and back glass, a lick and promise of dusting the furniture, a few errands, and a a three hour lunch/cup of coffee with our daughter and grandbaby who live here. What a great re-entry day.

Then, to top it off, we went to a surprise 60th birthday party tonight. It seemed a bit crazy to commit to going, so soon after getting off the plane. But this is one of my Sew and Sows - a quilting buddy, so I couldn't miss it. Her husband and eight children threw a surprise bash, with every friend she has invited. Husbands came along for good measure, to a wonderful catered meal.

At the end of dinner, each of her children got up and shared a special memory of their mom. Every single one of them told a story of one-on-one time with their mom, time spent on orthodontist trips, or going for physical therapy, road trips to sports practice, etc. etc. etc. Nothing big, just the regular stuff a mom does, but it spoke volumes to her children. We were so blessed to sit and listen, but just as much to watch her face as each of her children shared their hearts. The boys cried more than the girls - what a testimony to her motherhood!

Her children gave her a virtual photoframe, already loaded with photos of all of them, from childhood to weddings, to grandchildren they've blessed her with. Her husband granted one of her life wishes, to go to the Masters and of course she's taking along one of her kids.

So my first day back, caring for our home, then time one-on-one with our daughter and a grandbaby, then dinner with a whole room of friends, listening to stories of a life invested in other people, and it's all coming back at her. I wondered if anyone else in the room thought of this verse:

Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future. She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and bless her; Her husband also, and he praises her, saying: Many daughters have done nobly, but you excel them all. Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she will be praised. Give her the product of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates." (Proverbs 31:25-31)

Being a part of tonight was like watching those verses lived out. Happy Birthday Beth, what an example you set for all you know and love you.


  posted at 9:52 PM

Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Crazy Happy
We're HOME!!!!! And if that's not enough, the "Upcoming Travel" folder is EMPTY! (and of course we have a folder labeled that, doesn't everyone?)

Time with our kids was wonderful, and nobody cried when we hugged goodbye. After eleven days I think we were all ready to re-enter real life. Within hours of us leaving, daughter Sarah reinvented the wheel at her house. After telling myself that eating a Whopper Jr. at 10 am was normal breakfast food, both flights were uneventful, if you don't count patting me down for setting off the metal thing and getting growled at for having too many liquids. I knitted from Texas to Chicago and on to Pittsburgh and got half a stocking hat finished for a blue-eyed six year old's Christmas package. (Which means - be still my heart - Sarah taught me how to knit in n the round while I was in Texas! My crafty soul is doing backflips over this!)

After landing, DH and I kept up tradition and stopped for a quiet spaghetti dinner with a glass of zinfandel, and the best part of the meal was the quiet.

Home - suitcases are unpacked. The mail is sorted and 99% of it tossed, the little remaining pieces put into the bill folder, or a stack to be read over coffee later this week. The marker board is covered with "Go", "Call" and "Do" which includes making lasagna for the Best Neighbors In The World who we fully intend to talk into moving to Texas with us someday, for caring for our pets while we were gone, which included coming over in pjs in the pouring rain, taking the call when the alarm went off and the security people phoned, teaching the puppy to do stairs, taking out our trash and turning lights on and off so our house would look lived in, although two minutes into the front door and the wet pet smell would have convinced anyone the place was occupied, and not leaving me a note to tell me that Miah the cat left her business on the laundry room floor more than once to make her feelings about lengthy travel known to all. Then it's off to the library for books that are waiting, other miscellaneous errands, several fun get-togethers this week with friends here and there, and finally decorating the house for Christmas, which I came home to realize I'm all excited about.

There's coffee first thing tomorrow morning with Leslie and Landon, because I told her she may have gotten even prettier or he may be more cute than he was eleven days ago, so I need to see them. We walked into our doggy smelling house to a little poinsetta, card and welcome home sign on our counter, that they'd left a few hours earlier to meet us.

And if all this wasn't enough, I get to sleep in M.Y. O.W.N. B.E.D.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I'm crazy happy, just being back home is more than enough. (Although a little mop water with peppermint essence wouldn't hurt. anything.)


  posted at 11:02 PM

Monday, November 26, 2007
Wagonwheel Goodbyes
After being here in Texas for eleven days, tomorrow we fly back home. We've been here long enough to experience every kind of weather - some days were in the 80's and sunny, then down to the 30's and snow flurries, grey rainy days and now back to sunfilled skies. We've eaten too much, slept in, been sleep-deprived, played games, knit, gone to church, hung out as a family, had one on one time with our kids and their families, taken road trips. We've been uptown, downtown, out of town and it's been wonderful in every which way.

But it's time to go home. Back to our real lives, to a slightly empty checkbook and a stack of bills, laundry, pet hair, appointments, etc. - the regular stuff that life is made up of. Back to the next year and a half of DH finishing his career, and time with our daughter and their family there, our church home, friends.

At the end of these visits there's always such a feeling of being torn - telling our son and his wife goodbye last night, I tried not to count up how long it will be til we're together again. Tomorrow we'll hug Sarah and Chris and their sweet family goodbye, hoping they can come for a visit while the snow is falling in Pennsylvania. Back at home another daughter and her family are looking forward to our return. We are looking forward to nights of meals shared, watching football games, going to church together, all the mundane, wonderful stuff that makes up life.

Every time we have to leave one group, and head to another, I find myself wondering how the pioneer women of old did it. How did a mother tell her daughter goodbye, and watch her pull away on a wagon loaded with her husband and all they owned, not knowing if they'd ever see each other again. I can't imagine. Did she go through her own belongings, gathering quilts and table linens, a stone crock or much-used rolling pin, trying to send a part of herself along on the wagon ride? Did she look a little longer at her daughter's or son's face, trying to etch it in her memory for later when they'd been gone months or possibly years? Last night I hugged my son one extra time and drank in what he smelled like. You miss the smells. Tomorrow I will take a last look at Sarah's kids, knowing they will grow too much before we see them again.

Today on the phone, talking to our daughter in Pennsylvania, I gave her a rundown of our visit here - the time with the realtor, where we see ourselves leaning to retirement in the near future. I told her, "I want to come back and not count every minute, not have every single thing we do hold too much weight. I want it to just be normal, everyday." She agreed - let's make every day count, but not so much it takes on a heaviness it shouldn't have to bear.

So we're heading back home tomorrow, after saying goodbyes, and looking forward to time with other family we hold dear. No big wagonwheel goodbyes for us - just savoring this life in small spaces of time.

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  posted at 5:45 PM

Friday, November 23, 2007
Dianne at Bunny Trails tagged me for a fun meme, and since I'm too full from eating turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potato casserole, green beans, broccoli salad, rolls and pecan pie to think real hard, or even move much for that matter, this seemed just the thing!

Eight Things I'm Passionate About:

My faith in God, through Christ, nothing else added to it.
My family - everything about them, all of them.
Health - not taking it for granted.
Food good enough to be worth the calories
Quality sleep
Not taking life too seriously.
Knitting at least thirty minutes a day

Eight Things to Do Before I Die:

Retire with my husband
Play golf with my father
Take a road trip with my mom and sister
Love on our kids, spoil their kids
Learn to follow when dancing
Figure out the whole shoe thing
Visit Tuscany with my husband
Knit a sweater

Eight Things I Say Often:

For pete's sake
I don't remember......
I'll go to bed earlier tonight
I should have paid more attention in math class
I hate computers
I'll exercise tomorrow
What on earth must God think about .....
Life's too short to fuss over .....

Eight Books I've Read Recently:

Mosaic by Amy Grant
Friendship Factor
Conversation Peace
Safe People
Knitting Books (at least three here!)
Thousand Splendid Suns (currently reading)

Eight Songs I Could Listen to Over and Over:

Sweet Caroline
Groovy Kiud of Love
Anything Josh Groban
Daydream Believer
My Sweet Lord
Theme Song from Sound of Music
Anything off a Chris Tomlin CD
Anything David Crowder Band

Eight Things That Attract Me To My Best Friend

His loyallty
His work ethic
His sense of humor
His quiet and soft-spoken personality
Family is always enough
His servant heart
His love for me is rock solid
After 27 years I still think he's hot stuff

Eight Things I've Learned This Year

Don't take good joints for granted
God is blessing us when we're completely unaware of it
God's in the business of making us holy, not happy. It doesn't always feel so great.
I shouldn't have worried so much over raising kids - they turned out great!
The friendships God intends for me will happen, let them. Go slow.
Honesty is worth it, even when it feels rough sometimes.
A Diet Coke doesn't cancel out a Snickers.
Knitting - the perfect hobby. It'll never take up as much room or cost as much as scrapbooking!

Eight People to Tag:

I don't generally tag specific people, but love to open it up to anyone who stops by here. Leave a comment if you jump in.


  posted at 11:06 PM

Wednesday, November 21, 2007
The (LAST) Resort
We booked reservations, online, 3 months ago - the Chamber of Commerce sent us to their site, Lake Palestine Resort and Cabins. The rooms looked a bit dated, dark paneling, old bedspreads, kitchenettes with white metal cabinets, but it would be fine. Advertised as 'every room is feet from the lake's edge', we were going for atmosphere rather than shampoo in little bottles and handy hairnets just in case you'd left yours at home. When I phoned them, they told me Cabin #2 was sort of a 'freestanding apartment'. That's okay - we were happy to have a little space to ourselves for a romantic evening at the lake's edge.

Driving up, I spied a couple of small cabins, next to the water - maybe one of them was ours?! Quaint, but they'd be just fine. After two passes through the RV park, we found the 'office' and went in to check in. Having already paid for one night when the reservation was made, we had some paperwork to do, hand over the credit card for the additional night, then she handed DH some papers, telling him 'this is in case you get drunk and fall in the lake, or get into a fight and beat each other up'. The reservation was non-refundable, so there was no turning back. We were committed whether we handed over the credit card or not.

She told us how to get to our 'cabin', and we headed back through the RV park, hoping against hope that we'd missed one quaint little snugglebug place, right next to the water. After driving through the gate of a six foot wooden fence, nowhere near the water, we saw a building sitting off by itself, and right next to it all the riding lawnmowers were tucked away. How charming, we were staying next to the mower garage.

As I walked into the 'cabin' it seemed strange to me that the room just appeared bare. As I kept walking through the cabin I passed the kitchen, broom and dustpan sitting out, then into the hall where the burber carpet had big runs in it, wide and long. Then I tucked my head into the bedrooms - the 'master' had a bed, no headboard, a table, no lamp, a chest of drawers that didn't really reach the clock so they set it in the windowsill. The other bedroom had two twin beds, a dresser - that was it. I walked back to the front of the cabin. No window treatments except blinds, not a single picture on a wall, no end tables, no lamps. A TV in the corner, and a little table to eat at. The bathroom had a shower stall, tiny sink and potty. There were notes all over the place telling us they'd counted the linens, so don't take them, don't drop anything in the potty, don't leave the water running because of the septic system, etc. etc. There was one note telling us they had high speed internet, which was really weird since the entire place felt like something out of the 50's.

We'd hoped to watch Monday Night Football since our team was playing, and the room had been advertised as having satellite. We found that did not include ESPN. So we cleaned up a bit and headed into town, to the local Applebees where we ate, then sat and had coffee for the rest of the evening to watch the game. No sound but we could see the players and the score. I never realized places like Applebees keep the screen on and the sound off, since the normal patron came there for the ribs, not the game. After halftime we headed back to the cabin, where we hooked up the internet and DH 'watched' the game on our laptop.

The closer bedtime got, the more it creeped me out to sleep there. It was too late to turn back, so I climbed into bed, and laid there thinking and thinking. How could we justify not staying there the next night when the room was already paid for and there would clearly be no refund.

Holiday Inn Reward travel points!!!! Using the one amenity the 'cabin' had, I went online and checked - sure enough we had enough points for a stay at the nearest one, 5 miles away. So tonight, after spending the day with the realtor driving all around the lake, we're nestled into a bright cheery room, pictures on the wall, of all things there are lamps and end tables! There are little packets of coffee sitting next to pretty coffee mugs, the bed has four choices of pillows, down comforters, and a TV that gets all sorts of channels. We're not going to Applebees tonight - just staying here quite thankful for the room with all its amenities that I obviously never paid enough attention to in the past.

Lake Palestine Resort didn't refund our money, but they did give us a credit voucher. I'm pretty sure the males in our family will enjoy coming back with a can of worms to drown, and find it just to their liking. Mars and Venus - DH didn't complain when I told him I could not stay there another night, but I'm pretty sure he slept just fine, sans tables and lamps and pictures and .....


  posted at 10:00 PM

Sunday, November 18, 2007
Thank God for Ipods and Knitting
When I began planning for our trip to Texas, a few weeks ago, I decided to make the switch to Carryon Luggage. No matter the length of the trip, I decided there'd never again be an episode of tossing out makeup, clothing, etc. to try to clear security and catch a flight on time. After a bit of shopping I found a little suitcase and a carryon that I thought would do nicely. As I packed, I threw a big ziploc of my current knitting project, and also my little pink iPod, fully charged into my carryon bag.

When we boarded the plane in Pittsburgh, we ended up at the back of the plane. Right behind us two young women and a man settled into the seats. Most travelers fall into one of three categories, #1 - the chatty, #2 - the silent, or #3 - those who suffer through traveling with small children. The two Category One women, both in sales, were traveling together. The man was flying alone. Before our wheels left the ground, they were diving deep into conversation. It was clear they were going to become fast friends during the course of this flight. The woman next to the window started chattering, at a pretty good volume, and halfway to Chicago everyone within a few rows knew her favorite foods, details of her job, all about her co-workers, that she loved to bake, and she happened to have 45 freshly baked chocolate chip cookies with her.

My husband settled against the window with his book. I grabbed my knitting. She talked. Her girlfriend seemed to play the part of a typical Dean Martin / Jerry Lewis act, setting her up for punch lines, laughing at all the right places, and the man seated with them seemed to find them both fascinating. After about 45 minutes I gave up being able to block them out, and pulled out my iPhone. Playing Chris Tomlin's Arriving CD, and knitting away, I finished a good chunk of a scarf and most of the rest of the flight to Chicago. As we heard announcements begin to come over the loudspeaker, telling us to raise trays, etc. I put away my knitting and iPod. I also heard the loud, chatty woman ask her seatmates if they'd like a cookie. Why, yes they would! Then I heard her ask them, "did you hear that man ask me to turn down my volume? Do you think he thought I talk too loud? I've never been any good at volume, I just can't seem to hear myself."

Indeed! After 1 1/2 hours in the air, I felt like I knew enough about her to send her a Christmas card this year. The least she could have done was pass the cookies back and forth a few rows ahead and behind her. We'd earned a cookie at least.

We got off the plane, had Chicago style hotdogs and beers in the Chicago airport, then boarded the next plane to finish our flight to Dallas. Completely packed, every single seat sold. I promise, I love my grandchildren, but when the Category #3 - only small child on the plane settled down on her mother's lap, right in front of me, it didn't take me 30 minutes to pull out the knitting and the iPod again. This time I listened to Selah while I got yet another chunk of that scarf done.

I'm not so shallow as to miss all the truly important things to be thankful for this Thanksgiving - family, health, jobs, etc. etc. I just don't want to miss the little things in life. Landing safely 2 hours later, thirty minutes delayed and at 11:30 pm, with the child still awake and fussy, I could only think, thank you God for Susan B. Anderson who inspired my daughter, Sarah to learn to knit and she inspired me to take it up. It helped make an entire day in crowded airports and airplanes bearable. And thank you God too for my little pink gently refurbished iPod bought on Ebay two years ago. I may have given up a bit of future hearing somewhere down the road, but at the time it seemed quite worth it - listening to praise music and clicking needles, rather than gnashing of teeth.


  posted at 11:57 PM

Thursday, November 15, 2007
What's Not to Love....
We hop on a plane tomorrow, flying back to Texas for 10 days. This time DH is along for the ride, we're visiting two of our three kids and their families. We get to sit around a Thanksgiving table together for the first time in many years, and we're headed to Lake Palestine to kick a few tires with a realtor, see what the market has to offer, what sunsets and sunrises on the lake look like, do we enjoy waking up to the sound of water lapping, are the trees pretty there this time of year? After Thanksgiving, we still have almost a week to just hang out together, go to church enough times to make any pseudo-Baptist proud, eat leftover turkey sandwiches, the list of wonderfulness just goes on and on.

So we're really excited about all that.

And this? Just a little bit!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! she screams completely out of control.....

Our Pittsburgh weather forecast:

Tonight - snow showers, high 44, low 32
Tomorrow - snow showers/wind, high 41, low 31
Sat - rain/snow showers, high 43, low 33
Sun - mostly cloudy, high 45, low 30
Mon - partly cloudy, high 50, low 38

The Dallas, Texas weather forecast:

Tonight - partly cloudy, high 64, low 43
Tomorrow - partly cloudy/windy, high 74, low 55
Sat - partly cloudy, high 79, low 60
Sun - mostly cloudy, high 79, low 60
Mon - partly cloudy, high 79, low 65

Did you see that? 79 degrees. Over the moon on that one. Seeing the kids - fabulous. Eating wonderful food - great. The weather - God is outdoing himself, it's icing on the cake.


  posted at 10:13 PM

Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Symphony Serenade
A night at the symphony..... Images of dining that includes white linen tablecloths, a waiter with a napkin over his arm, pouring a bubbly beverage, then stepping onto the curb while valet parking whisks away our car. Sitting entranced by the music, while trying to take in all the finery surrounding us. Leaving full to the brim with memories of amazing music, amazing people, an amazing night.

Here's what really happened.

I'm not really a clotheshound, I don't especially like to shop for clothes, I'm tall, and a bit of a tightwad. I'd scored a lovely outfit at Anne Taylor Loft a month or so back, and set it aside as suitable for whatever the upcoming holidays held. I tried it on in the store, but never at home.

The morning of the Symphony we realized we didn't really have time for dinner out, so I picked up McDonalds and brought it home. We wolfed down dinner, and proceeded to dress. DH put on a beautiful suit, white shirt and tie, was ready in 10 minutes and looked ever so dashing.

I took the outfit out of the closet, put it on, and then came to the dilemma I always hit - oh my gosh what on earth shoes do I wear with this? Being 5'10" it's not unusual for slacks to be too short, or barely okay. They were long enough in the dressing room when I was barefoot. It's too late in the season to wear the open-toed ones I'd planned on. I don't understand shoes at all, but I could tell nothing else in my closet worked. The only option was a pair of boots that went far enough up my calves to not look dorky when I sat down, which is what I'd be doing the entire evening. There was no other recourse. It'd have to do. I'm used to barely long enough slacks and not getting the shoe thing right, so off we went.

We're not good at navigating big cities, and were proud to find Heinz Hall. We found a parking garage, left the car and rode down an elevator. Coming out of the garage we were already lost, and within two minutes I looked so bewildered that some nice man said to me, "You look really lost. Do you need help?" We found out there's a 6th avenue and a 6th Street, right next to each other so DH decided we needed to walk entirely around Heinz Hall so we could get our bearings. I just loved tagging along in my dumb boots that made walking feel like a military experience.

Inside, the building was amazing, we had a glass of wine while some 14 year old piano virtuoso entertained us. He was amazingly talented but I found myself wondering if he ever hangs out at the mall, or plays video games. He looked more serious than I would have wanted my kids to look at that age. His music was amazing in a loud, angry-sounding way.

We had fabulous seats, 10 rows from the front, next to the aisle. We seemed to be in a section of wealthy older people who had season tickets, as they said hello to each other over heads. The conductor came out. He had a bald spot in back with a little circle of hair around it, tuxedo with tails that would flop back and forth, up and down as he conducted. Something in me was reminded of a field of golden retrievers - all eyes were locked on the conductor as he gave the sign - begin. Bows raised, horns up, it was lovely from the moment it began.

Within two minutes the man to my right went fast asleep. For awhile I thought he was deep in thought, but after many sideway glances I realized he was down for the count. His wife didn't seem to mind a whit - she was enjoying herself. After the first act he woke up, clapped, and appeared ready to stay awake.

The stage was rearranged, a beautiful Steinway piano was moved to the very front, and a young Russian man emerged from the side of the stage. His hands looked like they had never seen sunlight. The Beethoven Symphony he was performing had four parts, each one was over 7 minutes long. This particular symphony is unusual because it's a response between the other instruments and the piano, he'd play his part, then listen to them, then play, over and over. What was remarkable about it was that he had no music. He simply sat and listened then played like nobody's business.

I sat and thought about when I go to the grocery store for an unexpected stop I absolutely cannot remember what's on the grocery list on the side of the fridge. If I can come with half a dozen things we're out of, I have to assign them letters - B for bread, C for chips, etc. - to have any hopes of remembering them. If it's more than six it's hopeless. This pianist played for a total of 34 minutes without a single sheet of music, he not only knew his parts, he knew the entire symphony. I think he's a bit smarter than I am. I also doubt he ever cooks, so he has no need for remembering the grocery list, and that's a shame because boy would he be good at it!

When he finished playing, and we were all sitting there amazed, some older delightfully interesting looking woman two rows up shot up out of her seat and shouted "Bravo!", so we all stood up and clapped too and Mr. Asleep to my right, shot up too - he'd obviously slept through many symphonies and knew the drill.

It was then intermission time, and I thought he'd probably be good for the rest of the concert, that he'd just been really tired. We milled around awhile, they removed the Steinway, and the concert began again. The last part was mostly allegro, and if I remember nothing else from my few years of piano, I know that means "fast", one part was allegro passionata, so I thought for sure Mr. Asleep would stay awake through this. Not a chance. Within minutes of sitting down again and the houselights going down, he was back asleep.

My boots hurt like heck, and my restless legs went a little nuts. When you have restless legs you have to move them, and if you are wearing boots, it sounds a bit like a parade, but that was during the allegro passionata part, so the marching noises I was making sounded appropriate and didn't disturb Mr. Asleep.

When we left the theater, thanks to DH's work ahead of time we were able to find our vehicle, leave downtown, and navigate home. Halfway there I mentioned I was starving. We headed to a semi-trashy little place that stays open most of the night and had pancakes and bacon.

At home, I took off my boots, put away my outfit, made a mental note to lengthen the slacks before our Christmas party so I can wear more bearable/wearable shoes, and climbed into bed. Bad food, getting lost, shoes that hurt, more bad food. It didn't matter at all. That's what really happened - amazing music, amazing people, amazing night.

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  posted at 12:12 PM

Monday, November 12, 2007
I Love You More....
I love to read. Maybe because my mother loves to read, and she read to me. When she couldn't read to me, she made sure I had books to read myself. I hope I passed that on to our three children. Certainly we made reading a priority in our home. Each of our three kids had an old coal bucket, painted to match their bedroom, and it held their favorite books. At bedtime they'd each go grab one, and we'd pick one bed to pile into, where we'd end our day with a story or two. Some of them were read so many times the lines were memorized by all of us.

When Dan went through his 'love of all things dinosaur' stage, the girls threatened to stage a revolt, but fair was fair. He was willing to listen to their girly choices, so they had to suffer through stories of tyrannasaurus rex eating diplodocus. When one went through the fear of the dark, Franklin books were pulled out - again. Leslie loved Pinnocchio so much that we'd check it out of the library, browse awhile then go back to the desk to take it home again. Sarah especially loved the Little House on the Prairie series.

What mattered was not the story so much as the practice, that time spent snuggled up in bed at the end of the day. Everything stopped for just a bit while three little bodies in footie pajamas, covered in the smell of night-time baths, listened to my sing-song voice read them their favorite book. As they got a bit older, they began to read to me, to us.

So I'm happy to recommend to you a book sent to me for review. Titled, "I Love You More", it's unique in that it ends in the middle and begins on both sides. One start is from the parent's perspective, then the other is from the child's. In simple sing-song verse, with childlike chalk drawing illustrations, it's a book that could easily become a night-time favorite. The words are manageable for a young reader, giving them a sense of accomplishment - that "I Can Read!" feeling.

What's unusual about this book is the author - Laura Duksta lost all her hair to a childhood illness, spent years of her life hiding behind wigs, then at her 30th birthday had a coming out party. Known as The Bald Chick, she teamed up with a friend who did the illustrations, in a style that will appeal to kids. Together they call themselves Hippie and the Bald Chick, which tells me they have a healthy sense of humor to get them through life!

You can go here to buy the book on Amazon. You can go here to learn more of Laura's story. Looking back, with my children grown, I'd love to go back and relive one of those nights, snuggled up in bed with three wiggly, footy pajama, soap smelling kids, and this book would be a lovely choice.

For you weary parents, still in the thick of it, who would love a grandparent to show up at bedtime and take over the nighttime duty just once, you'll be happy to know this book, start to finish from both sides, could easily be read in fifteen minutes. Just right for the child who doesn't quite want the day to end, and the weary parent who feels like it's never going to.


  posted at 8:19 AM

Saturday, November 10, 2007
What's Love Got to Do With It?
Anyone who's been spending time visiting here for awhile knows my knees hit a roadbump recently. Doctor's orders were to take it easy for a bit, so I laid off of lawnwork, painting, etc.

But it's fall - here in Pennsylvania that means leaves out the wazoo, to be dealt with on a weekly basis, and in spite of dropping into the 20's this past week, we're still mowing grass too. Our lawn crew at it's largest swell only numbered two, so when it shrunk by one, manpower was down 50%. For the past month I've watched my husband head out every single weekend to fight the battle - rake leaves, haul them off to the back of the property, then mow the entire lawn, only to have to do it all again the next Saturday. He did it week after week with no complaint or comment.

At my knee checkup this past week the Doctor's orders involve a very bizarre shooting up of Rooster's Comb, but that's so rich as to deserve it's own post. Bottom line the doctor told me I could proceed with caution, and he'd see me once a week for five weeks starting in three weeks, after which I may become someone's wake-up call! Since I've been useless for the past month, DH just assumed he was on his own again, slaying the leaf monster for yet another weekend.

I could have stayed inside on the sofa. I even spent a few minutes justifying it in my mind. I'm busy knitting him a beautiful charcoal-colored scarf for Christmas out of Alpaca Wool, and could have convinced myself it was okay to sit there knitting away, while he worked all afternoon by himself.

Alpaca Wool with recently purchased beautiful circular needles, sipping tea, listening to some nice music - or put on my beat up sweats, long sleeved t-shirt, stained hoody, the tennis shoes that are so nasty they never come inside the house, and fire up the Toro? Hhmmmmm - hard decision - which to choose?

So I, being over thirteen, and at least more than 50% of the time being mature enough to make the non-selfish decision, pulled on my lawn attire and headed out. I asked him, "so where can I start, to help you the most?" We ended with me poop-scooping (two ponys make that a regular party around here), then mowing the lawn. While I was mowing the back, he'd be busy gathering the leaves in the front. When I was done, I headed back inside the house, and checked the clock. I'd been outside for two hours, he was there when I started and was still at it when I finished. When he came inside he told me, "Man, I really appreciate you helping today. I thought it would take both days this weekend, and we got it all done. It was such a big help. Thanks."

How easy it would have been to lie to myself, tell myself what I wanted to hear. That my "gift" justified staying inside, taking the easy out. He would not have questioned me not helping. But I would have known.

Being the mother of a boy, sometimes I'm struck by the thought that my husband is someone's little boy, someone a mother dearly loved, had such hopes for - of a full, rich life that held all he was dreaming of. I'm a part of that package, and I need to respect the preciousness of his life, his one shot at it all. He married me knowing there would be responsibilities, the drudgery of day-to-day chores, concerns, but it's okay if that mother's little boy has someone to join him on his journey who will love him beyond making a scarf. Rather she will fire up the Toro and work outside for a measly two hours when she knows it's the right thing to do.

Scary how easy it is to almost miss the important stuff in the little moments of life. How easy being self-serving comes to us all. God, keep my eyes open - my mother had hopes and dreams for her little girl. Help me remember that his mother had the same for him. Help me honor that one life that he's dedicated to me and us. When Christmas morning comes, and I hand him the gift that holds the Alpaca scarf, I want to do it with a happy heart. Today it meant two hours walking behind a Toro and wearing dirty sweats and a hoodie.


  posted at 9:16 PM

Friday, November 09, 2007
In My Own Little Corner....
Most of today has been spent in pjs and slippers, mopping, scrubbing, vacuuming up pet hair, cleaning the catbox, and paying bills. Lunch was oh so fancy - peanut butter and jelly with a bag of cheetos, and the cheetos alone made it a fabulous lunch but that's not the point of this post so I'll keep moving.

Tomorrow plans are to do a bit more cleaning, rake leaves and mow the lawn, go to church, and finish the evening with turkey reubens and something yet to be determined to round it out enough to call it dinner. We live a fancy life, yes we do.

But just for one night - tonight - here's where we're going to be!

To hear this: Mellon Grand ClassicsBeethoven Piano Concerto No. 4
Friday, Nov. 9, 2007 8:00 PM Heinz Hall
Marek Janowski, conductor Nikolai Lugansky, piano
Brahms: Hungarian Dances
Beethoven: Concerto No. 4 in G Major for Piano and Orchestra
Brahms: Symphony No. 4 in E minor

So for one night, I'm going to clean up, dress up, and enjoy every single minute of being in this fabulous place, with a handsome man to escort me. That's my seat, Center section, Row L, seat 101 - a wonderful place to spend an entire evening listening to beautiful music. I imagine this is how Cinderella must have felt, after those mice made her a pretty dress, zapped that pumpkin and sent her on her way. It's nice being married to Prince Charming. No glass slippers, but some very pretty black ones fit me just fine.


  posted at 3:32 PM

Thursday, November 08, 2007
Another Letter Home From Camp
Hey Dad and Mom,

I could try to come up with excuses for why I haven't written a note for awhile, but the honest truth is that when I find a scrap of paper around here, I can't help it - I eat it. Actually I also eat the plant leaves, the toilet paper, baseboards are good but they usually catch me there pretty darned quick. They've learned to pray with their eyes open, so it's harder to steal food off plates. Did I tell you about the time Woman made some chicken with a gooey sauce all over it, and noodles underneath, and I shoved my snout right down into the middle of it? Too wonderful for words, but they seem to have wised up.

My current treat - cow hooves - and they keep me supplied in them. Almost as good as a smelly shoe. They have the most wonderful odors all over them.

What have I learned this past month you ask? For a little slice of vienna sausage I will sit, or run to my den when the Woman says 'kennel up', and sometimes, when I'm really in the mood, and there's nothing better to do, I will come when they call me. That's if I'm not in the middle of chomping on the dry leaves at the bottom of the yard, or counting squirrels, or eating grass or watching the sky.....

Guess what?! I saw the most amazing thing - little flakes of cold, white stuff starting falling out of the sky, and it tasted good when I licked it up off the deck. Very fun! By the way, that deck got covered with slick stuff about a week ago and I went flying down the stairs. Scary! The Humans called and called, but I was just too afraid, so I sat at the bottom of the stairs, with everything in me wanting to go up but I just couldn't. Finally the woman put little slices of vienna sausage on every step and it was still scary, but at least it was worth it. I'm doing better at noticing the shiny stuff, and stepping more carefully. When we came inside the Woman pinned me to the floor with her legs (she's stronger than she looks!) and trimmed the hair on the bottoms of my paws since it was like walking on swishy brooms. I didn't like the haircut much, but I do have better traction now.

I'm getting hairy, my big boy teeth are coming in, my tail is all fanned out and if you ask me I think I'm getting to be quite handsome. I'm almost as big as Brother. When the little kids walk by the front door every morning to get on the long yellow machine I talk to them, and my voice is very big and deep! I like it, but the Woman keeps telling me, "No Barking!" I like how it sounds in the big open room, and when I'm outside and talk, you can see fog coming out of my mouth - very cool!

My den is a nice place, and I'm glad it's so big - there's lots of room for stretching out. When the Humans leave me for a long time, I get better treats to keep me busy.

They moved Brother's bed next to it, so I don't get so lonesome. Brother and I spend a lot of time there head wrestling.

I'm still trying to win over the one they call Miah, she's just so fascinating, but being teensy she can squish into places I can't fit anymore. And she's fast! Her catbox fascinates me and I like her food the best. Sometimes I sneak into the laundry room and scarf it down as fast as I can before they catch me. Yummy!

So camp is good, I'm having fun, and Woman tells me next month we're going to learn to walk nice and stay put for more than five seconds, which seems awfully picky to me, but I'm all for anything that gets me outside. I still like the mailman because he brings treats, the indoor stairs are still really scary. Maybe when you come see me you can help me with that, and if there's more of the white cold stuff we can play in it. That would be great fun.



PS You should see the awful face Woman makes when I steal those balls of yarn with the sticks in them. Seems a bit stingy to me, I just want to gnaw on them for a bit but she yelled at me and told me never to touch them again or I wouldn't see the light of day! As long as I don't eat anything except my own food, her face stays pretty normal looking.


  posted at 4:51 PM

Wednesday, November 07, 2007
First and Last
It seemed pure perfection -

BLTs for supper, made with the last little tomato from our plants, picked while still green, and ripened on the kitchen windowsill til it was a bright red, not to be seen again til at least next July,

and this:

first flurries of the season, on the deck this morning to greet the dogs and me. Much more is sure to come over the next four or five months.

On the same day. Savoring the last of one season, and beginning of another.


  posted at 8:23 AM

Monday, November 05, 2007
Love Does Not Scream 'Woman, You're Making Me Crazy!'
Those of us married to an engineer understand they are a unique breed that (to my limited exposure) is tidy, on time, sees little need to rearrange the furniture, and would just as soon throw their laundry on the floor as cut off their own right arm. Engineers would never venture out to a new place without having visited MapBlaster, even printing out the return directions. Rather than driving off in a convertible with the top down for unknown destinations, family vacations are thoroughly researched, sometimes years ahead. Airline reservations are secured months before, and we generally sit and enjoy a meal before our flight, having arrived a good two hours before takeoff. This couple doesn't do the O.J. sprint very often. (If other engineers are contrary to this please let me know so I can tell God I am even more thankful for him than I already was.)

In keeping with that, the "Honey-Do" list on the side of the fridge is a happy place for my husband to live. Rather than being annoyed by it, it clearly sets forth what is expected or needed from him. He not only does these chores, but does them correctly. No standing back watching disaster take place, then calling the repairman on Monday morning. Once chores are done he will carry his ever so neatly arranged toolbox back down to his workshop, put each tool back in it's proper place on the peg wall, head back up the stairs, grab a cold one, and settle in the family room, immediately hitting the lever on the side of the recliner and grabbing the metal bucket of peanuts, staying there the entire day if it suits him. He's lived up to expectations and doesn't need to feel guilty. No drippy faucets or running toilets in our humble abode.

If you ask me to do something, I likely grab files, magazines, books off my shelf, or run down to my creative den and grab bolts of fabric, etc. I'll get it done, but it'll take me three times as long, and I'll likely make a mess in the process, a mess that might hang around awhile afterwards. I might not even get it all done, but rather the first three (of fifteen steps) that were exciting and fun. Not only do I stink at math, if I'd chosen a career, rather than engineering it likely would have been a high school Literature teacher, or interior decorator, or maybe owning a bookstore, fabric shop, or my new creative bent, a Yarn Shop - that would have been fun!

Our marriage is solid evidence that opposites attract. That's either because God had a sense of humor or just wanted to drive us a wee bit crazy down here, payback for being the pain in the patoot we are. We've been married long enough that we've fondly reminded each other one or a thousand times that those habits that so annoy our better half used to be seen as charming and delightful.

So yesterday the list was taken down and perused. There were hoses to put away, leaves to rake and discard, which meant going on a search mission through the yard for what looked like leaves but, being left by the dogs, was much squishier. The lawn needed a last mowing too. When he was done with the lawnwork, he said, "please go look at the lawn so you can tell me it looks good." The dogs and I went to the deck and surveyed, noticed every leaf that was no longer there, the even blades of grass, how neat and precise everything was for the moment. It was not the time to speak of how pretty the fallen leaves had looked. I kept my mouth shut on that.

Last on his list - "hang curtains in nursery". It should have said "again for the gajillionth time". During the eleven years we've lived in this house, the 'nursery' has been many things - an office, several people have claimed it as their bedroom, and finally the nursery. We've thrown some stuff at it to make it so, a crib, changing table, etc. but the curtains I put up were actually remakes of what was on our bedroom windows when we moved in. A nice exorcist green, fat and puffy stuffed with tissue paper, yes they were lovely. There were also custom blinds. Once in awhile a grandchild slept in there, but not often enough to fuss over the room too much. Then Leslie moved back, and we have a more frequent sleepy guest. One year old grandson Landon has some issues with sleeping in a light room, and since he's the most constant resident in that room we cater to him. Down came the blinds, up went a room darkening shade, but the light crept in the sides. Down came the puffy window treatments and up went blankets and afghans over the curtain rod - yes it's a regular House Beautiful around here. Finally I decided that was it - the room had to be 'fixed'. I went to Babies 'R Us and spent a wad of money on new bedding, a cute little rug, and window treatments, which I snuck into the house, hoping he would not spot them immediately. It wasn't the money, it was who would have to hang them. I jotted 'nursery window treatments' on the Honey-Do, and slunk away. The recently purchased $40 shade needed to come down, the blinds needed to go back up, and the curtain rod up there would most certainly not work, because I'd chosen a different style of window treatment. So another curtain rod hanging event.

As he trudged back up the stairs yesterday, toolbox in hand, ladder, measuring tapes, drill, etc. and didn't say a word, I knew what he was thinking. "For the love of God, will this woman ever quit redoing the windows in this house?" Down came the shade, up went the blinds, down came the rod, up went the brackets and rod, and finally the curtains were hung. Again. I said, "honey, don't you think they look so much better?" He was gracious enough to say 'I guess so' and nothing more.

As we chatted last night, the day over and the weekend being put to bed, I told him I was sorry he'd have to go to work, and when the men asked what he did, he'd have to tell them his team lost 44-7, he mowed, raked, poop-scooped, put away the hoses, and then hung up window treatments for the gajillionth time. That I appreciated him providing my food, my home, taking care of our lawn and all the flower beds we can't live without, but that I'm no fool. Those were all dandy, but putting up those brackets and rod one more time, while strongly suspecting he may have to do it again, and not speaking that it was annoying as the dickens, THAT spoke love to me. I just wanted to be sure he knew I knew.

Indeed this cobbler's children have shoes, and Mrs. Cobbler fully recognizes the love expressed, one window at a time.


  posted at 6:45 AM

Saturday, November 03, 2007
Everyone Wants to Knit, Apparently!
After 183 comments, I went into the Random Number Generator and gave it a twirl, and it came up with Paulette at My Life Shifting. Looking over her blog, sounds like she might enjoy learning to knit.

I did manage to find exactly the same kit I used, at Michaels, so I'll be sending that to Paulette. Girls, being completely honest here, I have to tell you, it was $9.99 (less expensive here than in Texas at Hobby Lobby), and I used my 40% off coupon, so if you'd really like to learn, or give the gift of learning to someone else, it's very affordable and I really did learn using it. It has everything you need except a skein of yarn, which can be had for $1.49. Of course, I also had a personal knitting coach sitting right next to me, and I'd highly recommend, if you do decide to learn, that you find someone who knits more proficiently than you do, so you can run to her when you get stumped. (Thanks, SarBear!)

How's my scarf coming along? Thanks for asking - here's where it's at.

Shaping up nicely I think. I chose something that had knit and purl in it so I would remember both stitches, and decided to make myself something first, so I can keep it to look back at and hopefully see some progress, but also I won't be offended by a missed stitch or two. If I can learn, Paulette can learn, and so can the other 182 of you, give or take a few, who wanted to learn. For the record, a few of you mentioned being left-handed. Knitting isn't either one or the other, it's both, you use both hands, so it makes no difference. I actually use my left hand more because of the style I chose, and I'm right-handed.

I've also got a few secret projects in the works, after going to Knitting Night this week - I bought a beautiful charcoal wool to make my husband a scarf for his stocking, there's a pretty red skein of yarn in my knitting box too. I'm having a blast with it - hope a few of you dive in also. So as they say on Knitty Gritty (DIY), "Knit On!"

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  posted at 2:37 PM

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    Girl Raised in the South

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