Thursday, January 30, 2014

Lady Edith, It Doesn't Pass the Stupid Test

We are well into Downton Abbey Season 4, and I've written nary a word about it.

Sunday night was the first episode I've really enjoyed. My reviews tend to be so nit-pickingly negative, everyone must scratch their heads that I watch the show at all. This week I actually have good things to say. So here it is:

- Anna and Bates -- United once again! Gosh, that Brendan Coyle can act. Carson has the eyebrows, but Bates has the rest of the eyes -- the crinkling laugh lines, the steely glare. Of course, the whole story line is disturbing and doesn't bode well for the Bates family. It's not over. It's not over. As Mrs. Hughes might say, "Oh my."

- Robert at his best -- Being honorable, seeing the potential in someone and going out on a limb for him. Better still was Mary recognizing that her father has wisdom and decency and isn't quite the colossal dolt he's been made out to be for two seasons or so.

- Daisy -- A person at least. I love the warmth between Mrs. Pattmore and Daisy. A nice change from the haranguing cook and the browbeaten scullery maid.

- Mrs. Crawley -- Doing good but in simple, humble ways, her holier-than-thou persona mostly gone (but not so far gone that Violet can't let fly a few gentle zingers). I am totally rooting for a match between Isobel and Dr. Clarkson.

Of course there's bad news:

- Cora -- I think every other season poor Cora gets stuck with just a handful of lines -- Where's Robert? I'll watch the children. Let's plan a birthday party. She's a bit player this season, at least so far.

- Edith - Seen entering a doctor's office. Could she be pregnant? Could she be double-checking Gregson's wife's diagnosis? I watched the episode a second time on (yes, you can do this free if you've got time to waste) and paused at the doctor's office sign. Definitely says Dr. and then there's a string of letters I don't recognize.


I keep thinking about the words of the late Mathew Crawley: Every estranged wife is awful, and every philandering man is just about to divorce her. Or something like that. Edith, Edith, Edith, this just doesn't pass the stupid test (or the decency test).

It's fascinating to think of so many individuals sharing a house, yet wholly ignorant of  the sufferings of the other. Think : Mary and Anna. When Mary faced her scandal in Season 1, she turned first to Anna, the maid, not Cora, her mother, for help and her father was left wholly in the dark for years. Interesting. And fairly true to life even today, I would guess. Anna is positively cracking, but doesn't confide in anyone but Mrs. Hughes. And Lady Mary doesn't press. Hmmmm.

Many of you have probably seen Gosford Park, a film by Downton creator Julian Fellowes that deals with many of the same themes, but on a slightly darker level. Police investigate a local aristocrat who is found murdered during a weekend house party. After investigators question everyone upstairs, someone makes an off-hand comment about interviewing the staff. The inspector makes a flippant comment about the servants having nothing to do with the family. It's all bosh, of course. In fact, the entire story behind the story revolves around the staff and their all-too-intimate relations with the upstairs folk.

What a unique world it was.

Maggie Smith steals the show in Gosford Park as well. When dining conversation turns to an American movie maker and the plot of his current film, Maggie assures the producer that spilling the beans at Gosford won't make any difference because, "We won't be watching that film anyway." Or something equally as acidic.


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Let It Snow

Under normal conditions, it would be difficult to imagine a Great Day that began with dental work and a trip to the Department of Motor Vehicles, but it has been a great day around here. When you live in Augusta, Georgia, and the forecast reads “100% chance of snow,”  let me tell you, excitement runs high. 100% chance! Accumulation of 2-4 inches! The kids, naturally, are over the moon, but, really, most adults are just as stoked.

So after the DMV (not so bad, really) and dental work (more involved than I anticipated. Is there a trend here?), I and the rest of Augusta went to the grocery store. A Facebook meme captured it best: Milk, bread, and eggs? What is it about snow storms that make people crave French toast?

As for me, I was after a little comfort food. School had early dismissal today and no school at all on Wednesday. I pictured leisurely days, playing in the snow, lounging in our jammies, eating chili.

And so it has been – a slow, lazy day playing with friends, indulging in comfort food, listening to Tim play the piano, taking a nap, baking a few favorites in the kitchen  . . .  and waiting for the snow.

Now, we haven’t actually spotted a flake as yet. There is, however, something meteorologists call Wintery Mix falling as I type. It’s this Wintery Mix that always trips us up – damaging and no fun whatsoever. We’ve been glued to the weather forecast, and we’re now hearing that this sleet will turn to flakes at 7:00.

Just twenty-four minutes to go. 

For the sake of thousands of Augusta area kids (and many, many adults who are still kids at heart), this snow had best start falling.

Monday, January 27, 2014


I wrote this a week or two ago, but never got around to hitting publish. I am especially praying for peace right now as our extended family sits with our cousin-in-law, Wendy, who is gravely ill with complications from flu. She's facing multiple organ failure. She coded last night, but was successfully revived.

Please, please pray for a full and miraculous healing for Wendy and the peace that passes understanding for her husband, Aaron, and the rest of the family.

So I've been reading  Searching for and Maintaining Peace by  Father Jacques Philippe.

And I attended a four day retreat by the author himself.

Peace in two pieces.
And I pulled out a late Christmas gift I had bought for a friend -- a colorful glass ornament that spells Peace.

And John cracked it over breakfast.

And later in the day, Ainsley picked up the broken ornament and sliced her hand open.

And on top of the busted ornament, I was battling a sore throat and congestion, but, sadly, not enough sore throat and congestion to postpone root canal (or so the cheerful woman at the endodontist assured me).

And my dental work was supposed to end with root canal, but no, no, where's the fun in that? I now have to have a crown replaced. And I took a bite of chicken the other night and out came the temporary crown.

Then there was adolescent angst (bad). My reaction to adolescent angst (worse). John's reaction to my reaction (convicting).

And all this while we're reading and praying and focusing on . . . peace. Peace!

I really, really don't relish any more practical exercises related to Father Philippe's sage advice on maintaining our peace.

Let's keep it all theoretical, shall we?

On day three of the retreat, my plan for the night was to leave for church right after getting Ainsley to bed. She asked if she could come with me. We packed up coloring books and a small blanket and off we went. A few minutes into the talk, Ainsley conked out. And then I started nodding off.

Father Philippe shared about Therese of the Little Flower, a young saint who lived  out her vocation in a cloistered convent dedicated to contemplative prayer. According to Father, Saint Therese passed a good portion of her prayer times dozing off.

A woman after my own heart.

Father shared a humorous passage Saint Therese wrote about snoozing during morning prayer. She was just sure God understood. Parents love their children just as much when they're asleep, don't they? They might even love them a little more! 

At the start of Advent, our family attended a wonderful mission at our parish. It was great encouragement to be strong in your God-given call, to call upon the grace of the sacraments, to be faithful to your daily duty. It was good, edifying stuff, meat and potatoes kind of preaching.

And so very, very different from Father Philippe.

Father used an interpreter during his talks. I was initially put off just a bit by this. I figured we'd lose so much in translation, but there he was standing on the altar where we heard his tone, took in his gestures, saw his facial expressions. The interpretation was rather seamless.

If I had to find a single word to describe what Father Philippe attempted to share, that word would be Light.

Light, the adjective; not Light, the noun.

Come to me all who are weary, Jesus tells us, and you will find rest, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Cari at Clan Donaldson is hosting Theme Thursday, and this week's theme is catching people unawares. Here is John catching up on his sleep:

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Way to a Teenage Boy's Heart . . .

Hallie over at Moxie Wife is collecting Five Favorites. As we continue to negotiate the sometimes turbulent water that is life with adolescent boys, we find ourselves turning to creature comforts to smooth the rough edges. Here are five that I recommend.

1. Flavored Creamer

Tim's been a big coffee drinker since a Boy Scout trip to Fort Gordon introduced him to the beauty that is caffeine. He's a prodigy, my boy, developed the habit young. But unlike his mother who takes hers piping hot with just a dash of cream, Tim likes sugary, gooey concoctions. I recoil at the mere sight of flavored creamers; Tim loves it.

2. Taquitos

And  not just any Taquitos. Oh, no, no. We prefer the steak and cheese variety. And no off brands, thank you very much. Well, last week I scored when Publix offered these babies buy one get one free.

3. Bacon

All varieties, served on anything.

4. Ice Cream

Moose Tracks are a favorite, but any port in a storm seems to be the teenage motto.

5. Heated Mattress Pad
Poor Tim. Our weather has been unseasonably cold, and his twin-sized mattress pad doesn't fit his new full-sized bed. If you need a birthday or Christmas gift for a teenager, nothing says I Love You like these cozy, electronic wonders.

Many years ago my good friend went through trials and tribulations with her teenage son. And as she wrung her hands and prayed and cried, an older, wiser mother gave her a simple piece of advice: Bake cookies.

Sometimes we really do want to throttle these kids of ours (and I'd hazard a guess that the feeling is mutual). Life sometimes seems to degenerate into an endless litany of instructions barked from my mouth to Tim's head-phoned ear.

Brush your teeth! Practice the piano! Take out the trash!

A dose of TLC helps.

For us, it helps a lot.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Best Part of Waking Up . . .

Ainsley, at the crack of dawn: I had a bad dream, but then I thinked about you, and it went away.

John, at the crack of dawn: Can I ride my bike?

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Pecans, Weather, and Dental Work

Seven Quick Takes:

1.  When you live in a pecan orchard, money really does grow on trees. Not that I can convince my older boys of this fact. Desperate though they are for cold, hard cash, when the opportunity to earn a little literally lands right in their backyard, they seem completely oblivious.

We had a decent crop, not a stellar crop, but prices were low, low, low. Lots of work for a marginal return. (Please don't inform Tim and Kolbe). John showed a little enthusiasm for picking up pecans and earned some money for his efforts. The nice folks at Atwell Pecan Company cut John his own check. He was thrilled to pieces with the ten bucks he earned. "I don't want a ten dollars," he told me. Nope. All in ones, thank you very much. He promptly spent half his earnings on a collapsible pirate knife because nothing's more fun than pretending to stab someone, right?

2. We have had every variation of weather here except for that most elusive and beloved one -- snow. In between bouts of cold that Augusta rarely sees, we have beautiful days hiking and at the park.

3. The upside of the cold was late school start two days running. The downside is that many friends and neighbors are dealing with the aftermath of burst pipes. Not cheap. Not convenient. I asked Dave about our pipes, and his response was encouraging: When we heat the house, we heat under the house, and, thus, the pipes stay comfortably warm. Occasionally the oddities of our house actually work in our favor.When I was walking around shivering in multiple layers of clothes and two pair of thick socks and lamenting the fact that our house appears to have all the insulation of Ainsley's Dora the Explorer tent, I should have been counting our blessings. Cloud, meet silver lining

4. When the temperatures spike just above freezing, down comes the rain. While there is probably a simple meteorological reason temperatures rise and precipitation follows, we thinks it's a cruel plot. Rain at 42 degrees? What a waste! But the little people manage to enjoy the wet weather as well.

 5. Dry weather means we give the bike another try.

6. And the Penny Board got a four mile ride the other day.

7. The rest of life revolves around dental work which we are undertaking way more than I'd like. Two appointments this week; two or three more appointments next week. If you need to track me down, try the endodontist or the orthodontist or some other tist who is swallowing half my time and too much of my money. Teeth are sort of like tires -- you've got to have them in working order, but who wants to deal with them? After paying for root canal the other day, I wondered if living on ibuprofen for the rest of my life was really such a far-fetched idea.

Head over to Jen's to add your Quick Takes.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Monday, January 13, 2014

Fifteen Minutes

Father Jacques Philippe is in Augusta leading a four night retreat on loving God. Last night was his first talk, and it was awesome – a clear, basic, life changing message on God’s desire to meet us in personal prayer.

We can be so busy being servants of God, Father Philippe shared, that we forget to be friends of God.

It’s all about relationship.

I have been chewing on this very theme for some time now. This year in the atrium, we had our usual lively discussion as we pulled out my favorite material – The History of the Gifts. We began by talking about how God fashioned everything out of nothing.

If we make a cake or a dress or a garden, we first gather our materials.

God, however, can make something out of nothing. A star, a Dogwood, an ocean, a boy, a girl.

“He spoke it into being,” shared five-year-old  Elena.

I thought back to a Mama meltdown I had had the Christmas before last. It was a typical pre-Christmas morning – my To Do list was long and perhaps my patience was a little short.

Ainsey was into everything. 


Finger paint, yogurt -- can't see much of a difference., really.
First it was the cache of photos she nabbed from a basket. Then she moved on to the Christmas cards I had just sorted. The final straw was the yogurt. I came into the kitchen to find yogurt everywhere – on the floor, in her hair, mostly in her hands. She had two handfuls and was doing this squish, squish, squish maneuver.

And I blew.

I yelled. I stomped. I washed her hands (and not very gently).

And she cried. She squeezed herself into a corner and cried.

By that point, I was crying, too.

I picked her up and started rocking her. I rubbed her back and wracked my brain to find the words that would undo my ugly tirade. I held her face in my hands and told her the truth: I always wanted you. Always, always, always. Before you were, I wanted you. When I was little, I wanted you. My whole life I’ve wanted you.

And I later thought that this is a sliver, just a wisp, of what God experiences with us, His creation.

He always wanted us. 

He spoke us into being.

He spoke, and we were (with a little help from our parents).

I have often thought that parenting brings out both the best and the worst in me. I can parent out of my moods, being oh so petty, so impatient. I can parent out of fear, thinking far too much about an endless list of awful that can befall my kids. I can parent out of vanity, seeing these unique souls as some kind of extension of myself.

But these little souls God has entrusted to me have also brought out my absolute best – my self-sacrifice, my joy, my unconditional love, an ability to simply delight in them regardless of who they become, irrespective of how they perform, of what they accomplish  – I truly and simply and deeply -- oh so deeply -- love them just because they are.

And so it is with God who delights in His creations, who seeks to draw all men and women and children unto Himself, who desires not just our service, but our companionship.

Fifteen minutes, Father Philippe told us, it begins with just fifteen minutes.

Fifteen minutes -- so simple, so doable.

We can be so busy being servants of God, Father Philippe shared, that we forget to be friends of God.

It’s all about relationship.

( Father Jacques  Philippe is a French priest and the author of many books including Searching For and Maintaining Peace. For those in Augusta, the retreat continues tonight at Saint Joseph’s Catholic Church at 7:30.)

Thursday, January 09, 2014


Cari is hosting Theme Thursday, and this week's theme is Bare.

Is your house suddenly feeling bare? Sometimes that feels great, like cleaning up after a big party. Sometimes, for me at least, bare comes with a whiff of sadness that the whole exciting shebang is over until Advent 2014 rolls around.

I've put away everything except this:

The photo doesn't do it justice.

This sparkly bauble is a block of frosted bathroom glass filled with twinkle lights and covered in a bow. My friends Laurie and Anna made this for me a few years ago, and I love it. I'm not an especially glitzy person, so this adds a bit of needed pizzazz.
Grace, peace, and healing to you and yours, Anna and Laurie. I think of you as I pass this.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Living the Liturgy

Hallie over at Moxie Wife is collecting Five Favorites.

So it's a week past the day for New Year's Resolutions. Many bloggers are praying and seeking a word of encouragement and direction for 2014.

This year I'm doing neither.

I have several goals in mind, mostly in the realm of fitness and nutrition, but don't really want to share them. Fear of jinxing my efforts? Don't really believe in that sort of thing. Fear of pinning myself down to specifics? Possibly. The last time I posted some vague thought about "getting in shape or something" my results were about as clear as my announcement.  Keeping it personal? Probably.

I do have a family goal: to live the liturgy more fully.

December always races by in a whirlwind of festivities, decorating, and food. While we enter into several liturgical celebrations, I'm forever lamenting the ones we miss. St Lucia's Day -- A beautiful tradition is to have the oldest daughter dress in white with ribbons (and candles!) in her hair and serve the other family members sweet rolls early in the morning. Ainsley would flat love that, burning hair and all. The O Antiphons -- This is a beautiful devotion I was sure I would manage to do both at home and in the atrium this year. It's a seven or eight day celebration of the names of Jesus and very much mirrors the type of praise I do in my personal prayer times. Well, the O Antiphons didn't quite happen, either.

So in 2014, I'd like to bring more liturgical celebration into my home, into my own family.

Here are five resources I've found:

1. The Catholic Home by Meredith Gould

Gould describes herself as "a Jew by identity, a Christian in faith, and a Catholic in practice." She was raised Catholic until 1960 when her family embraced Judaism, the faith of her mother. She writes, "Cultural identity was synonymous with religious identity; both permeated our home."

When Gould returned to the Catholic Church as an adult, she was shocked that much of Catholic culture that she remembered from early child was lost to post-Vatican II families. Her book traces the liturgical year and offers detailed, interesting, and fun ideas to live the liturgy at home.

2. The Year and Our Children: Catholic Family Celebrations for Every Season by Mary Reed Newland

This, too, follows the liturgical year and offers ideas to bring what is happening on the altar alive for little people at home. Mary writes, "These delightful things to see and touch and small and taste and hear and make and do are by far the best tools there are to teach of the beauty and power of God, and the richness of life in Christ."

3. Magnifikid, Magnificat

We've subscribed to both of these for years -- Magnifikid for young readers, Magnificat for the adults. Magnifikid allows children to follow the Mass and adds fun, interesting activities.

4. My Planner

Last May, when activity stacked up upon activity, I literally could no longer write them all down in my previous planner. I doubled the size with this number by Michelle Quigley. I love The Angelus depicted on the cover -- simple farm folk pausing to pray. This planner offers lots of room to write and includes daily readings, notes on feast days, which mystery of the rosary is recited on a given day, inspirational quotes -- both functional and inspirational.

5. Catechesis of the Good Shepherd

Catechesis of the Good Shepherd imparts the faith mostly through doing.  I was first attracted to Catechesis of the Good Shepherd when Tim was three or four and obsessed with figures of various sorts -- action figures, Little People, and, his all time favorite, trains. I'd look at catalogs of religious articles and think, "Why don't they make child-sized saints and altars and chalices?

They do. And we use them in the Atrium. Children learn through both hearing and experiencing. Google the name to find a program in your area. Can't say enough about this.

Meredith Gould writes, "Here you'll find rituals and observances for holy days and feast days on the liturgical calendar that just may transform 'doing' into 'being.'"

The Lord alone knows I'm not trying to find one more thing to do, but I do like the idea of being and being together as a family.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Baby, It's Cold Outside

School will start two hours late today and tomorrow because -- now, brace yourselves Northern friends and relations -- it's cold.

There's no ice. No snow. No precipitation of any variety. But it's, umm, 20 degrees or so.

School is delayed.

Augusta's last big snowstorm.
As for me, well, I am of two minds on this. The Northerner in me is scoffing, but she is quickly and forcefully subdued by the mother in me who is, like, whoooo-weeeee!  The opportunity to sleep late two days in row? Hey, by my way of thinking, this is better than a snow day.

My kids have experienced the shock of cold, cold weather on our Christmas jaunts to Michigan. We flew into Detroit one icy evening. I hustled Tim and Kolbe into the airport bathroom to put pajamas on under their regular clothes. I thought we'd freeze just standing at the baggage carousel as every time the double doors opened a blast of frigid air hit hard. One of the kids was crying by the time we reached the car.

One Christmas we headed to Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan. Carolers in colonial costumes, glass blowers, ice skating -- it would have been the perfect way to pass a winter evening except that it was,  like, 3 degrees. I remember pushing Kolbe in an umbrella stroller. I bumped into the curb and a piece of the metal frame cracked in two.

That's cold.

Our last few winter visits have brought the opportunity to sled and snowmobile in relatively warm weather (around the 20 degree temps that closed our schools). Sledding at 20 degrees is so much more fun than attempting to sled at 9 degrees when we feel obligated to take advantage of having fun in the snow even if no one is actually having any fun whatsoever.

I remember playing in the snow at my sister's farm with Kolbe and my nephew, Nate, who were both about three. Nate, bundled like Randy in A Christmas Story, was clearly no stranger to frigid air. Kolbe, similarly dressed, was so totally out of his element. He kept pulling off his mittens and stumbling around on the ice. Dave was pushing him up a little hill when Kolbe face-planted in a snow drift and said, "I wanna go in that farmer's house!"

When it comes to weather, the grass is always greener, the snow is always thicker, on the other side of the lake. As kids we used to watch the weather reports hoping, hoping, hoping to see that magical list of school closings scroll down the screen, eyes pealed for Oakland County Schools. Regardless of our own fate, we figured those lucky dogs in Buffalo never went to school. If we got three inches of snow, Buffalo got eight. If we got nine inches, no one could even find Buffalo.

Ice seems to be the great equalizer. We flew into Boston a few years back and landed in one of the worst ice storms New England had ever faced. Seems Northern power lines fall just as fast as Southern lines. Roads clear up much faster in colder climates which have salt trucks as opposed to Augusta where icy bridges are covered with sand.

(And after I wrote this, I went out to start our trusty van which just barely sputtered to life in air far, far colder than it is used to, poor thing).

Monday, January 06, 2014

We Need a Little Christmas

I love Epiphany, sometimes called Little Christmas.

I always struggle with just a touch of melancholy as Santa 104.7 returns to pop music, as the twinkle lights slowly disappear, as the decorative touches get packed up, as routine life resumes once again.

I love that Epiphany gives us one last chance to celebrate.

I love the three layer chocolate cake I baked Sunday night. (I may love it a little more than usual as there will be precious little indulgence in the near future if my Epiphany resolution comes to pass.)

I love this ornament of the wise men, a gift from my dear friend, Anna.

I love nearly every version of We Three Kings and have been pressing Tim to learn it on the piano.

The wise men sought truth, encountered Christ, and returned by a different way. 

I love that expression returned by a different way.

An encounter with Emmanuel -- God with us -- should involve something different.

So what is different? Exhaustion? Weight gain? Credit card debt? Downton Abbey Season 4?

Good memories?  A renewed sense that God came to Earth? A deeper thirst to abide in His love? A desire to be like Mary, to ponder these things in my heart?

Here is something I wrote several years ago:

As Epiphany Meets Ordinary Time
In the Atrium we are getting ready to transition from the Christmas season back into Ordinary Time.

We just celebrated Epiphany. We pondered the long journey of the wise men; we talked about the fact that they fell prostrate in the presence of their savior; we read about how they returned to their country by a different way.

They returned to their country by a different way.

They had had an epiphany. We said the word. We defined it -- a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something,"according to

As I looked at the faces of these six sweet children who come week after week, I thought about epiphany. As we move out of Christmas and move into Ordinary Time, I thought it was time we revisited the essential meaning of our faith. I looked over to our sheepfold and thought we would go back to The Good Shepherd and The Found Sheep. I began to pray that as we ponder these foundational parables, the children would experience their own epiphany.

Sofia Cavalletti, the founder of The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd,  took the educational methods of Maria Montessori and applied them to religious formation in children. Through decades of observation, she found that the very youngest children are drawn to the parables of Jesus, most especially to the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd.

The Good Shepherd cares for His sheep, knows them, calls them by name. They, in turn, stay close to Him. They won't follow a stranger, but the Good Shepherd alone because they know His voice. The Found Sheep is especially near to a child's heart, as it touches on that universal experience of being lost and then found.

I remember so well my first day of first grade. I stood by the parking lot of Saint Bede's School watching the big, yellow buses pull up. Out of my left eye, I could see my third grade sister Kathy in her brown striped coat. My right eye was trained on Keith, my fifth grade brother, in his blue jacket standing with the "big" kids. Throngs of girls in plaid jumpers and boys in navy pants milled about. I kept my eyes on my brother and sister. Left, right, Kathy, Keith.

Suddenly they were gone. I panicked, eyes darting through the crowd, searching for a brown striped coat or a blue jacket. Kids began pouring onto the buses. I hadn't a clue which one to board. The crowd thinned. No Kathy, no Keith!

I walked to a bus and got on.

The next few moments are a blur, but I eventually started bawling my little eyes out. I was lost! The next thing I remember is sitting on the lap of a long-suffering and very kind bus driver who drove the streets of Southfield, Michigan, asking, "Is this your street, honey?"

Somehow one of the kids (yes, the bus was completely full) told the bus driver that my mother was in the car behind the bus. How exactly this transpired, I will never know. I hopped off the bus and jumped in our red sedan so happy to be with my family once again.

As a mother now, I can well imagine my mother's reaction when her two oldest arrived home from school minus one brand new first grader. I have lost kids, and there are few more frightening experiences. John has proven particularly adept at disappearing as I found out late in my pregnancy with Ainsley.

I was up in Michigan enjoying a little R and R at my sister's house. It's a treat to have so many helpers late in pregnancy, but it's especially easy to lose a toddler because you think someone else has him.  John was outside playing with everyone. And then he wasn't.

We called. We searched. We panicked. We prayed. The search expanded to the next street. I incoherently begged the help of some construction workers. I told my sister to call 911.

And then my niece's voice yelling, "I found him!"

Oh, the relief! Oh, the agonizing "What if? What if?" Parenting is not for the weak-kneed. Toddlers are not for the distracted.

I have been the found sheep, and I have searched for the lost one. How well I can understand the joy of the Shepherd when the stray sheep is recovered. How I can appreciate the celebration that ensues. His desire is that not one be lost. What parent can fail to understand that? Which one of our children would we deem expendable?

In The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, we use the word "essential" a lot. We try to focus on the essential. The Christian faith is about essential relationships; it's about the deep, abiding love we have for God and He for us. We can know the whats of our faith, but it's so much more essential to know the who.

The Good Shepherd and The Found Sheep focus on the infinite value God sees in us. Our Good Shepherd is a source of sustenance, of security, of love. These can remain stories we've heard over and over in church, about as meaningful as a coloring sheet we remember from Sunday school. Or they can become an essential reality, an abiding love, an epiphany.

We will soon begin taking down Christmas decorations, boxing up the glitter that has brightened our world these past weeks. We will embrace Ordinary Time - the largest chunk of our church year - with its cycle of minor feasts and continuous growth in the Lord. But in my heart, in my home, and in my atrium, I hope to hold onto the spirit of Epiphany. I’ll return to Ordinary Time by a different way.

Friday, January 03, 2014

On Found Items and Sky High Estimates

Seven Quick Takes:

1. So I found the remote to our streaming device. And this whole episode is nothing but embarrassing for three key reasons:
  • The fact that I was overjoyed, thoroughly de-lighted, to find it.
  • The fact that it went missing in the first place after I hid it from my children and couldn't remember where I stuffed it.
  • The fact that I found it under a couch cushion. So I actually didn't hide it and forget where I hid it. I never hid it in the first place. But I thought I did. Frightening, just frightening. (Hat tip to Marie who suggested I give the cushions one final look).
Needless to say, we spent the day vegetating.

2. One of the older pair got just a tad agitated the other day because There Was Nothing To Do! Mind you, this was on the first real day of Christmas vacation, at least to my way of thinking. Last week was Christmas, Christmas, Christmas. Loved it all. But it was busy. And on the heels of Christmas came illness. And then a busy weekend. We finally arrived at a slow, lounge around in your jammies, find the box remote and lounge a little longer kind of day . . . and there is wailing and gnashing of teeth.

And I just wasn't up to hearing the whining and kvetching and threatened to start homeschooling bright and early the next morning. While some of the boys cowered under this dire threat, Ainsley responded, "I wanna homeschool tomorrow!"

Oh, how I love having goody-two-shoes in the house.

3. So after Ainsley pleaded and begged, I pulled out Teach Your Child How to Read. Can't say enough for this book whether you have a child who struggles or one who takes to reading like a duck to water. We got to page 30, and Ainsley implored me to continue. About 80 pages in, she was reading simple words and three word sentences. Thrilling!

4. And then there's John. John rode his bike for the first time on Saturday. Dave gave the bike a little tune-up and called John out back. I was in no hurry to come watch, figuring I'd just skip the warm-up and the careening and the falling and the crying, but, no, John got on the bike and rode.

Also thrilling.

And I remember when my second or third child hit some milestone, not especially early, not new for us, and being overwhelmed by the thought that I could have seven children or seventeen children and the first lisped word, those halting early swim strokes, that missing tooth, that initial wobbly ride on the bike -- each and every First would be captivating and heart-rending and full of expectation.

Doesn't even begin to capture the mess that is his bottom jaw.
5. And speaking of lost teeth . . .  John lost another tooth on Christmas Eve. His mouth looks, well, cuh-razy. Missing teeth, teeth of vastly different sizes, one tooth coming in on a 90 degree angle. We're taking Tim to the orthodontist this afternoon, but, really, the good doctor ought to take a peek at John' s mouth if for no other reason than so he can begin to plan a sumptuous retirement.

Update: Tim's trip to the orthodontist was illuminating. First, he needs oral surgery to yank his wisdom teeth. Second, the estimate for his braces  -- was -- words elude me -- staggering. Staggering! And his treatment involves simple cosmetic work, mere tweaking compared to John who is a darn mess, dentally speaking, and Ainsley who has a cross-bite. So the comment about "sumptuous retirement", the comment I thought was nothing but hyperbole? Maybe not. Maybe not.

If you see me on the street wearing a sign that reads "Will write for orthodontic care", don't be too shocked.

6. We woke up one morning with children stacked like cord-wood at the foot of our bed -- John, ramrod straight against the foot-board with Ainsley by his side. This morning I woke up literally dripping sweat because Ainsley is not content to share our bed, oh no, no, she wants to share my pillow as well. Try sleeping next to a three foot long hot water bottle and that is a night spent with my hot-natured daughter by my side.

She's the baby. Yes, she is.

7. And there's nothing like little people at Christmas . . . or the rest of the year either.

As I've been cleaning and sorting all the Christmas haul, I keep moving a large cardboard box from room to room, but can't summon the nerve to pitch the darn thing. I can't seem to look at an empty box without picturing a spaceship or a fort or a Tardis.

They bring so many possibilities, these little people of mine. I'm glad I have them.

Head over to Jen's to add your Seven Quick Takes.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

needle & thREAD

needle and thREAD

Linking up with Elizabeth Foss and needle and thREAD . . . but now I realize my "sewing" project didn't technically involve a needle . . . or sewing for that matter. But here it is, the antique chair I redid for Ainsley. I bought the fabric, and Dave staple gunned it together. One coat of spray paint and new chair!

My second project, an applique snowman apron, went by the wayside when I substituted a weekend in Florida taking care of my parents for a weekend at home blazing through my To Do List.

It was a good exchange to make.

And there's something about these cold, wet days that makes me want to read and sew. The apron will be a nice winter project.

And on the reading front . . . Ainsley started reading yesterday. I'll tell the tale another time. It was pretty much as fast as it sounds. Wild. For Christmas John received Grasshopper on the Road which he is enjoying. Kolbe got Wreck This Journal which he finds hilarious. Great twelve-year-old boy gift. He's also reading Pulling Off Your Shorts, a book for teenage filmmakers.Tim is rereading Lois Lowry's series that begins with The Giver and ends with Son. Interesting, thought provoking books for early teens.