Tuesday, August 31, 2010

In Morning Light

I am not typically the first to wake, my slumber usually interrupted by the calls of a restless babe or movements of a work-bound husband. When God was passing out genes, Early Riser must have been fresh out. But, every now and then, I find myself up before the children are awake, as the sky is pulling back her curtains. Magic falls from the folds of those curtains, and in those early hours as the light stretches and reintroduces herself, stealing across the floors and counters, I think that anything might be possible. Anything may come. The day is ours: to grasp in our hands, to cherish, to call our own - come what may.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

For Posterity's Sake: Week in Review 84

"How are you?" I asked Saturday afternoon, walking into the house with Popsicles and child's Motrin.

"I'm good, but Dad says I'm sick," said the one curled over herself on the couch, hanging tight to a temperature of 103.3.

As a family, we too, have been a good, yet feverish child: taking on the simplified routine of one who needs a gradual reintroduction to his or her normal pace. Our week was one of simple pleasures, surrendering to convenience (spaghetti dinners and cookies with store-bought icing, anyone?), and small, invaluable blessings tucked into every cranny. The children immediately returned to their normal sleeping schedules following vacation, which caused Mama to breathe more than one sigh of relief as Jason boarded an early plane Monday for a four-day meeting in Dallas. New technologies allowed them to speak to their Dad "live" every night and for me to send a video of Nate crawling for the first time in an attempt to grab my glasses Wednesday afternoon. (He performs a military crawl - unorthodox, but very effective and surprisingly fast). Whether calling during a mid-day break or texting a copy of the vows he still carries in his wallet (the guy knows how to make a girl tear up), Jason did his best to show that while he might be a plane ride away, his heart was planted firmly at home.

The children were sweet and helpful, constant reminders of the simple and good and playful, and that the only things that remain constant are the fast pace in which we move (no matter how much we hope to slow them down) and that they are continually changing (and changing the roles of those around them). Our moments from the week past:

Monday began with a bit of an incident. I was walking down the stairs (carrying Nate) in front of Audrey. I turned the corner. I heard a thud, followed by crying. When I asked what happened, Audrey explained that she had tried to "swing" down the stairs (while yelling ah-aaaahhh-ah) and had hit her head on the banister. She calmed down and asked me for a "wonderful band aid," which I granted her. Later that afternoon, the lady working the front desk of the gym asked if Audrey had a mosquito bite on her forehead. "No," I said, just as Audrey piped up, " I tried to Tarzan down the stairs."

"Do you know what my name is?" the lady asked.

"No," said Audrey.

"Jane," she answered.

Tuesday morning, I began making breakfast. "I think I'm going to make a piece of toast," I said.

"Why do you need a piece of toast?" she laughed. "You, silly!"

A little later she said, "You silly goose! You're not a silly goose. What are you?"

"I don't know. What am I?" I asked, not always sure what my role is in her play.

"A crepe! You need to know who you are!"

On Monday, I skinned my knuckle attempting to shove the stroller in the back of the car. By Tuesday, it had scabbed over. Audrey noticed it. "Look at your boo-boo. You're falling apart, little stinker." (I'm still not sure why on Tuesday my name changed from Mama to silly, silly goose, and little stinker).

Wednesday, while playing with Nate, Audrey said, "He loves me. I'm his best person."

Later, I overheard her singing to herself, "I would know how you were made if I was God. I would make all the people if I was God."

Last week, Audrey was consumed with tearing out the sheets of coloring books, decorating them with crayons and stickers, connecting them with pieces of tape, and attempting to stand them up and create houses out of them. She often recruited me to help her fold the paper to make it stand better or cut holes for the windows and doors, which she would then push small stuff animals through. Thursday, I encouraged Audrey to try to build the house on her own while I cleaned. I was sweeping the floors when I heard her yell, "God! Don't try to make it worse for me, God!"

Friday, I asked Audrey to find the basket that her toys get stored in so she could pick them up for the day. She looked briefly before telling me it had "mapeered (disappeared) up to heaven."

Saturday, I had just finished reading the page where the mother bird goes to find something for her baby bird to eat in, Are You My Mother?, when Audrey said, "Hey! I bet that worm didn't want to be eaten!"

Tonight, the fevers are gone. The children are tucked in tight. Jason is home, safe and sound. All is well as we prepare for the week ahead - thankful for the simple pleasures and common joys that even when we're sick, or tired, or a long way from home allow us to say, "we're good."

Saturday, August 28, 2010

So, I Lied...

Or, maybe I didn't. Technically, this isn't another post about Florida. It's a post about a sweet little stop in Clanton, Alabama - just off the 205 exit of I-65 - a place called Durbin Farms.

We discovered this roadside store (and so much more) on our Florida trip last year, and made a mental note to remember to make several future detours there on our drives home. Durbin Farms is a farmers market of sorts with juicy peaches, canned jams and other goods, and farm fresh vegetables. But, around every corner they tuck a little more. You can find trinkets and baby socks. Inside is a restaurant and outside, a few tables and chairs under tall shade trees. We've used the grassy area behind the tables to walk our dog and stretch the legs of a restless child.

This year, I did a little grocery shopping before heading back onto the highway, piling a couple sacks of beans, potatoes, and peaches on top of our luggage.

Did I mention the homemade ice cream (or bakery display case of other desserts)? It's just the thing to get you through that first long section of road that separates you from home.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Little Florida Foliage

Each time we make the drive to Florida, I find myself in awe of the settlers who came before the roads. And, each time, Jason remarks about the changes in the trees as we pass through the states: from full, leafy specimens in the Midwest to their lanky, long-limbed southern cousins whose bare trunks seem to stretch to the roof lines before their leaves catch up, until we graduate to the palms, magnolias, and fruit trees blossoming in the Florida sun. So, before we move on to other things tomorrow, one last glimpse back at some vacation photos and the trees that made us stop and take in their leaves (or their limes).

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

By the Sea

The sea's rumble acts as a set of blinders, drowning out everything but the view before me, centering my focus outward - beyond my chest-deep stance. In one of my first solid recollections of the ocean, I am standing chest-deep in the surf and rumble, holding tightly to the hands of my neighbor (whose family was traveling with us), facing her. I might be in middle school. I am acutely aware that she is anchoring me. That, should she let go, I might drift away. I feel like a grain of sand against wind. So small.

Some things change: the one once tethered to another becomes the anchor. Some things never do. Shoulders submerged at the turn of each wave, peering out into a boundless sea - the only sense of distance an unreliable line of sky - I am a grain of sand swept up in wind. So small. It is the sound - the deep rumble that, like the waves erasing tracks on shore, covers all else. It dares me to just look, to pick out the colors of water and sky. To just smell until the salt fills my nose. To just feel the water cooling me against the licks of the sun as the seaweed slips past my legs. To just daydream about the things I have not seen - the things I do not know. To let go of all other noise and enjoy being this small. In this moment. In this ocean. Drifting in the rumble.

Monday, August 23, 2010

For Posterity's Sake: Week in Reivew 83

On the fourteenth, we strapped both kids into their car seats and made a fifteen-hour beeline to the gulf. We left our environment behind: our work and our routines. We packed as light as we tend to now. We brought our clothes; a stroller and crib; food for the road; and supplies (knitting for mama, books and crayons for Audrey, a computer for Jason). We brought each other and the desire to relax. We brought high hopes (and even higher expectations). We didn't pack as light as we originally intended.

Some places have a weight all their own. Destin is such a place. Some moments, it is light as a single grain of sand: the slap of salty water against my toddler's ankles. Sometimes, it holds like an anchor: the place my husband called home one year that pulls him in like the tide. It is rooted in the deep: friends of such rare make and generosity, they have become a part of our history. It is a surface of shifting sand: adventures that quicken our hearts and send us clamoring for our daughter's hands (or arms or feet) as she throws her hands up touchdown-fashion and exclaims "I've figured it out! I know how to swim!" It's that place. The one you visit, over and over again. Even when you're not there.

We stayed a week. At some point, we realized this was not the vacation we had inked into our minds when we jotted the dates down on our calendar. Work had found its way into our luggage. Our once gold medal-sleeping infant began waking each morning at four. Our wise toddler discovered that by asking every person in the house to read her a couple stories, she could easily postpone her bedtime by an hour. Some of the very things that draw us to this place year after year became cautionary flags: hazards from which to guard the kids. (Luckily, we were blessed with our friends and their careful and watchful - and oh, so patient - extra sets of hands). We crept into our garage at 2 a.m. Saturday, exhausted and questioning (although, the children were extraordinary passengers) our sanity regarding our mode of transportation and choice of a vacation spot for two children with varying ages, needs, and wants that often pulled our family in two directions rather than making us whole.

Today, the suitcases are unpacked. The laundry is stacked in dresser drawers. The children have adapted back to their normal bedtime routines. And I've realized, that we took a vacation in the truest sense - a letting go of our normal days to allow these little ones of ours to do what we had hoped: make this place their own.

Their moments from our week away:

On Monday, we made a trip to an outlet mall. As we passed two women, one said to the other, "I wouldn't eat a frog for a million dollars."

"What would yo do if I ate a frog?" Audrey asked.

In the car leaving the mall, Audrey raised her voice at Nate. "Don't yell at your brother," Jason instructed. "Mom and I can yell at him because we're his parents. When you're a mommy, you can yell at your own kids." (I should note that we were not yelling at the slightly disgruntled baby whose tone Audrey was attempting to match).

"But it's such a long time!" she said.

Our friends have a bird, Packy. Wednesday, Jason was speaking to the bird, getting Packy to repeat "bye-bye."

"Audrey, do you hear Packy saying 'bye-bye'?" he asked.
"Am I going home today?" she said.
"Then why do I want Packy to say goodbye?"

Wednesday morning, I overheard Audrey singing the following made-up song:
Someday, I will be a special mama, but not yet.
Someday, I will be a special mother, but it's a long time.
It's so hard to wait and listen.
It's so hard to wait and listen.

Audrey spent much of her vacation hording band-aids, which our hosts were kind enough to hand out in generous quantities. When Audrey began running out of band-aid-free body parts, our friend told said, "we don't have any more band-aids."

"You don't?" Audrey asked.
"No. That's it."
Audrey disappeared for a few minutes, then came running out of the kitchen carrying something in her hand. "I found a whole other box!"

Wednesday evening Audrey asked, "Where do bees pee?"

Friday, I took Audrey into a gas station bathroom. We went into a stall and a pushed the lever over to lock the door. When a lady opened the door a few minutes later, I realized that the pieces of the lock didn't line up properly. The lady apologized and quickly slipped into the stall next to ours. "I didn't like that lady who came in here," Audrey said loudly.

Apparently, Nathan thrives on vacation. This week, he began saying "day-day-day", which Jason quickly coached into "da-da." He added "ba-ba" to his vocabulary as well.

He waved a couple times and also learned to clap (he holds his left hand still and brings his right hand down to meet it). More impressively, he has picked up on the merits of positive reinforcement. He claps for me after I change his really dirty diapers and when I pick him up when he fusses. I think I need to hide my old college psych books on operate conditioning. It seems someone has been doing a little reading. In the meantime, I'm changing that kid's diaper and picking him up whenever he wants. I love the applause.

Here's to a week of sand under our bare feet, treasured friends, calming rains and roaring waves. To home-cooked meals at someone else's table. To getting off task. To applauding, just because you can. To the adventures that you don't see coming. And, to coming home.

Friday, August 20, 2010

This Week: Outside

We have found our way outdoors again and again this week: to stretch our arms and legs. Our motives have been many: play; distraction; a reprieve from a rainy morning; burning off energy while soaking up the sun's; and savoring these "empty" afternoons while they last. We opened our door, we stepped outside, and found the world at our feet. And fingertips. And we stretched. Our arms, our legs, our eyes, our minds.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


We created a little art today. Off-the-top-of-your-head, unplanned art. I drew silently, while Audrey narrated her work. She drew a round body, then two circles: "eyes." She drew two pointy objects: "these are ears." She sang out something like woosh, woosh as she drew arms and really long legs. Soon, a line protruded from the top of the head. "It has one hair." She made a sphere around each eye. "I'm making glasses. It's you," she said. I just may be an M&M from outer space.

Mama, 2010

Sunday, August 15, 2010

For Posterity's Sake: Week in Review 82

"Don't you love New York in the fall? It makes me wanna buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address. On the other hand, this not knowing has its charms." - Joe Fox, You've Got Mail

I can smell the graphite shavings in the air. The neighborhood children's free form play has taken on the footwork of two-a-day football drills. Mothers are stashing school supplies. Teachers' hands are gloved in chalk powder.
Audrey has yet to start school, but I can feel it all around us: the rush and rumble of one season giving way to another. We have been carried in the tide, our own week of rush and rumble: preparations and anticipation as we carry on our business of squeezing every last drop of summer.
The first time I heard Joe Fox utter that quote, I had a goosebump moment and the urge to tie a ribbon around a handful of pencils. Each year as the summer growing season ends, fall brings on a new kind of growing: one requiring backpacks and binders (that we called trapper keepers) - storage for the artifacts of a year of learning to come. Even as we equip ourselves for fall and the school days to come, I find myself putting other things by - storing the moments left, the moments past, the best of the weeks gone by.
A few of our moments from last week:
On Thursday, Audrey spoke with a friend on the phone. This friend has a pet bird who had laid three eggs. Audrey (enamored with this bird) eagerly shared this news with her Mamaw.
"What color are the eggs?" Mamaw asked.
"I don't know. I don't live there," Audrey said.

We spent Thursday evening having dinner with my parents. As we drove home, Audrey yelled from the backseat, "All the good prophets run."

When we pulled into the driveway, Audrey said, "Excuse me!" Jason and I paused, waiting in the car for what she had to say. A few minutes passed in silence.
"Yes?" I asked.
"I farted. Papaw said I should say excuse me when I fart."

Friday, the family was snacking on graham crackers that Audrey knew had not been in the house the day before. Normally, Audrey goes with me to the store, but I had run out late the night before after putting her to bed.
"Did you get those when I was asleep?" she asked.
She was silent for a couple minutes. "It's okay if you go to the store when I'm asleep. I don't get scared because I don't know," she said. (After we laughed, Jason and I quickly explained that he had stayed at home with her and we would never leave her by herself, even if she was asleep and wouldn't know).

Fall, and school, and pencil bouquets are upon us, knocking at the door. But before they sweep through the threshold, we're going to cling tightly to these last few days of summer and sun and life unstructured. Because, soon, our littlest one will be pulling himself up and propelling himself forward and our oldest will grab her backpack and go off to be molded in ways we cannot know yet. But, this not knowing has its charms.

*There are a few more moments from the week I have to share with you, but I don't have the paper that I wrote them down on, so when I have it in hand, I'll have to add them in. I will be in and out of this space this week as we try to squeeze in as much summer as we can before it passes.

The ones I forgot:

On Monday, Audrey was holding a barrette. "This hair thing is a part of my life." Later, that part of her life got stepped on and broken after she left it on the floor.

Tuesday morning, she came into my bedroom very serious. "How do I get the ticklish off me?" she asked.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Stack

I have a stack (true be told, I have a stack and a box) of items that need fixing and projects awaiting completion. It's a pile in the worse sense of piles: broken (but, could be useful) or partially-made things are found and stacked where they sit waiting for me to mend or finish them. And wait. And wait.

This week, while searching for a gift I knew I had partially sewn, I unearthed the pile. I walked past the pile today and noticed a couple items that have just been waiting for interfacing to be ironed onto them. The ironing board was already out, so I grabbed the two items and got down to business. That led to two other quick fixes at the sewing machine.

Now, I've started a new pile - of items ready to be worn, again. There's a little something for each of us: a bib for Nate, pajama top for Audrey, swim trunks for Jason, a skirt for me, and a gift to boot. Progress. Ahh...

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Putting Things By

I've had an absent-minded lapse of days. They've gone a little something like this:

On Saturday, I managed to get my family lost twice (going to the church and going to the reception) en route to the wedding to which we were invited. (This is why it's best to assign someone else the role of reading written out directions. I tend to ignore the line that says which direction one should be driving from, choosing to call out street names - and improper turns - instead.) Both locations were less than fifteen minutes from my, ahem, house.

Once we arrived at the reception, I had to send my husband back home for the gift, which I had left sitting on the kitchen counter. (That evening I apologized to Jason for making what was already a busy day - we came home from the wedding to hang/fix blinds and paint - more exhausting. He said, it's okay. I thought it was funny. You know in Good Will Hunting where Robin Williams says that what he remembers about his dead wife is how she used to fart in her sleep? That that was the good stuff? You just gave me a memory, honey. Bless that man.)

On Monday, I was making record time in the grocery store, barreling through the aisles Supermarket Sweep-style with both children in tow, until I got to the checkout line where I realized I had forgotten my wallet. It was still in the diaper bag I used for the wedding, which might be a really good argument for me to limit myself to just one bag.

Those are the major offenses. Minor offenses have filled in the gaps: forgetting the library books were due until after the library had closed and almost letting the baby run out of clean diapers because I got interrupted on my way to put them in the wash and forgot that I had been doing it until I went to change his diaper and realized I had just one left.

You might say I'm a little out of sorts - or just really showing my true form this week. I can't seem to keep up with myself. And, now things are following suite. Tomatoes have been piling up on the counter for days. I had the best of intentions to find recipes in which to use them now, but when your brain hands you a week like the one I'm accumulating, well, sometimes the best thing to do is just put things on hold. So, here I am. Putting things by. Today I froze those tomatoes to use another day - in a black dress that I sometimes wear out with my husband or to church, because the laundry has been piling up as well and I'm down to my dress clothes. Sometimes, days are like that: a little bit fancy and messy at the same time. Just like those good, good memories.

*If you are interested in freezing tomatoes, I followed these instructions.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Little Summer Sweetness

Yesterday, while Jason took Audrey to the playground to practice her Tarzan yell and monkey bar skills, Nathan and I sat down to the table with a fresh mound of peaches. I put on music that reminds me of ocean breezes, sand sifting between my toes, and sunsets that fool one into thinking the day has just begun again. The skins piled up, striped in scarlet, pits the color of plums stacked at their edges. A cup of sugar, a little cornstarch, cinnamon, lemon juice, butter, and pie crust later, and we found ourselves here. With this peach cobbler. Somewhere between salt water and jungle vines: on summer's edge. Where goodness comes bubbling with peaches.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

For Posterity's Sake: Week in Review 81

Audrey ran across a tape measure this weekend (we have been doing some minor projects around the house). As she pulled the yellow tape the length of her brother and over shoes missing their mates, I found myself thinking upon the tools we use to measure our lives: humanity's scales. Easily, we measure in years: birthday cakes consumed. But, this weekend, I found myself the guest of a childhood friend's wedding: a boy from the neighborhood whose swing set and mother's cookies I knew well. As I spoke to his mother we talked not of years, but events shared - the neighborhood kids now grown, several wed. My weekend was also spent in the company of an "always friend": a woman I knew as just a girl whose friendship helped me grow into the woman I've become. We wore matching high school caps and gowns, celebrated as bridesmaids in each others' weddings just months apart, and seem to move our families as jobs require at the same frequent pace. And, while we never seem to live in the same place at the same time, during those moments we find ourselves together, it is as if we're back at our middle school lunch table. This weekend, as our girls - three sweet stair steps - chased each other through the house, we talked not of past events shared, but possible events to come.

Last week, I found another way to mark time, with a few laughs, courtesy of Audrey:

On Wednesday, while playing with Jason, Audrey said, "Let's play Noah's ark. Noah built an ark."
"He did?" Jason asked.
Audrey looked at Jason indignantly, "You know that!"

Wednesday evening, Audrey ran in from the backyard. She frantically explained that Ginger (the neighbor's dog and Audrey's self-proclaimed best friend) was in the pond nearby. Jason followed her outside where he coerced Ginger out of the pond and, after a quick game of chase, got her back inside her fence. Audrey came inside. She was out of breath and her eyes were wide. She threw her arms up in a touchdown stance. "Daddy saved Ginger!"

Sometimes, Audrey likes to pretend a ribbon is a river and jump over it. Sometimes, she uses objects other than ribbons - a doll, a sock. Thursday, she used her brother. When she refused my first request that she stop, I asked, "Audrey, do you like having a brother?"
"Yes," she said.
"Then stop so he doesn't get hurt."
Then, after a pause, "What if I don't like having a brother?"

After any kind of boo-boo, no matter how minor, Audrey begs for a band aid. Once given one, she refuses to take it off. Thursday, one such band aid had worked itself free to reveal a wrinkly white band around her finger. "It's bleached!" she said.

Our lives can be measured in many ways: years passed, treasures acquired, positions held or places visited on our way to somewhere else. But with little ones at our knees who (at least for now) warm our hearts with their trust and celebration of our small "heroics," we're measuring our life in smiles. And gratitude.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Audrey: Explorer

Yesterday, we went to the park. We perused a picnic table laden with free books and fished out The Story of Columbus. We took him for a walk. As I explained who Columbus was and what exploring meant, we struck out on an adventure of our own. Our path was paved, but the stops were not. With each new page, our expedition leader discovered a new spot to dwell and take in the words until the next page turn. Then we were off with new points to plot, our course set, until our brave commander announced, "I don't want to be an explorer anymore." So she hitched a ride atop the back of a new vessel (her brother's stroller) and rode in steady to the playground and the treasures that awaited.