Friday, September 26, 2008

Fall? Already??

Well, J's mom is doing a little better, thanks be to God. Better, as in, her kidneys did not shut down entirely, so they have a little time left with her rather than just a few days.

With this in mind, I was feeling so blessed to be able to write her a letter of appreciation...and while I could never express everything that she has meant to me over the years, I am so glad to have had the opportunity to put at least some of it into words. For Pete's sake, she ought to know just how special she is! Today, then, I am just feeling very thankful that God allowed a little more time for this amazing family to be together, to celebrate the baby shower for the one coming in December, and just to bathe in each others' love. I know that they will treasure fondly the memories that they will make together in the days to come.


Chris came to see me today. She brought her lovely daughter with her, and while Chris asked me all of the routine questions about various things--leg cramps? Check. Swelling? Not so much. Sleeplessness? Definitely--Billie took my blood pressure and did other various things that midwives do during routine home visits. The Little Pumpkin is doing just fine...growing well, doing Olympic-worthy acrobatics several times each day, having hiccups dozens of times each day, and generally delighting us with the "Is it a knee or an elbow?" guessing game.

We had such a nice talk, and they checked out the addition (because they're going to need to know how to get in the new entrance, and how to get to the new bedroom, for Pete's sake!), and we made plans to see each other again in four weeks. Thank Heaven for the blessing of dear midwives who make house calls!


And by the way, I am absolutely stunned and nearly refuse to acknowledge that it is less than a week until October. However, I am not without common sense, and because I love autumn so dearly.....well, we did indeed decorate for fall the other day. We have a few crafty things that have been picked up over the years, and so the girls and I put them out on Monday. We have little pumpkins, with their little leaves on tiny springs. We have brightly colored silk leaves. We have a very cute scarecrow and a few pilgrims--and even though it isn't Thanksgiving season yet, they do look rather fall, so they're out already too. We have some apple-scented candles that I've been burning regularly, and they make the air smell like it wants to be orchardy in my very own living room. If I were not on bed rest, we would be making a trip to our favorite fall market to pick up some pumpkins and apples and maybe even a mini bale or two of straw.

I really do get into the mood to decorate my home for the cooler months. We spend so much time outside in the late spring and summer that I don't bother for those seasons, but when we spend lots of time inside, I'm all about being festive. I have such beautiful decorations for Christmastime that I often pull them out right after Thanksgiving so that we are feeling celebratory all during Advent. This year we are considering beginning the tradition of waiting until Christmas Eve to put up and decorate the Christmas Tree....we're still pondering that one. I would love to hear what other people's traditions are in this regard!

Please continue to keep J's family in your prayers. Also, my dear friend C, whose Grandmother was buried yesterday. She lived a long life, thanks be to God, and is sadly missed by her family.

Thank God for the gift of family, whether they are the families into which we are born, or the families that God surrounds us with through friendships. May we be ever mindful of those whose families are not intact, or who suffer from loneliness, or who have no family to speak of. Lord, allow each of us to remember that we are all family, after all, brought together by Our Father.

Monday, September 22, 2008

I didn't want to know that...

There are some phone calls I'd just rather not take.

I have a dear friend who called me in July, asking for prayers for her mother. This lovely lady, who gave me such wonderful guidance when I was young, had gone through breast cancer several years ago and had survived and thrived. In July, she had some tumors removed from her abdominal area, and things were looking like they were going to be back to normal any day.

But not so much tonight.

Tonight when she called, J. let me know that her mom is critically ill...she had a lot of pain this past week, and now they know that the tumors came back, as tumors are wont to do, and with a vengeance. Apparently they didn't get that particular Scriptural memo about vengeance belonging to the Lord.

The family is praying that her kidneys begin to work again. If they don't, it's only a matter of days. Either way, the prognosis is not good. She is on massive doses of pain medications and is beginning to say goodbye to her family.


She loves flowers--she's a master gardener. Her hands are pretty, but they are the hands of a woman who is not afraid of work. I remember that I gave her a set of hand care products as a thank you one summer day, when our family and J's family gathered at her parents' home for a day on the lake.

She makes the most beautiful quilts--my favorite was a sun-burst cross, with all different colors coming together to create a mosaic masterpiece of the beauty of salvation. She could put together the best Halloween costume or play costume at the drop of a hat. When we were kids, she loved dressing up like a clown.

Her house always smells like freshly baked muffins or cookies or breads, and her refrigerator holds perpetual meals for whomever happens by. She always keeps a "Herman" starter on her counter, faithfully stirring it and adding to it when necessary. When something happens in a family, dozens of mini-muffins are immediately forthcoming from her stock.

Her Bible is well-worn and well-loved. It sits in her living room on a table next to the sofa. She and her husband have their time together every single day, and it doesn't stop there for her. She is a woman of unbelievably strong faith, and I would wager there is not a single moment of her day that does not include a prayer. She prays unfailingly for her friends and family, for those who have no one else to pray for them, in supplication for those in need and in thanksgiving for those who are not.

Her guitar and piano were rarely silent when I was a child. She often sings in her garden or in her kitchen, piecing together snatches of hymns and songs here and there to make musical quilts. She passed this love of music on to her children. Her daughter, my friend J., is a music teacher herself.

She is an author, penning everything from the occasional letter to the local newspaper to children's books to articles for national publication in devotional monthlies.

She is a grandmother to three vibrant boys. She has had more than a small hand in raising them, helping them understand the importance of the littlest things of creation: bugs and seeds. She helped to shape their first days and years, and continues to be a strong guiding force in their lives.

She will likely not live to see her first granddaughter born in late December.

She kept me safe when I was a kid. I ran away to that home more times than I can remember. When things were really bad at my house, their home was almost always the place I'd end up, and it was because I knew I would be safe and loved there.

I walked there almost every morning before school, and then J. and I would go on together from there, always with something freshly baked in our hands to munch on the way.

She loves trying new things, always enforcing the rule at the table: everyone has to try everything. If you don't try it, how do you know you don't like it? Imagine what you'll miss if you don't try something that you have a chance of liking!

She has always been a care taker and nurturer, a prayer warrior and a lover of all things beautiful. She taught her children to be compassionate and loving, and with the help of her husband and by the grace of God they have raised three fine people.

I am sick in my heart for my friend, because although she says she is fine Right Now, I know that the stealthy knowledge of loss will shake her to her core. I thank God for J. and all the years of friendship that she and I have been blessed with...and more so for her mom and everything she gave from her heart to me over the years.

Please keep this family in your prayers: for God's will, and for His everlasting peace in their hearts.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Watching Daddy Vroom Away

Our latest routine change has come because the mornings have been so beautiful that we open the front door almost immediately. Let the fresh air pour in here, I say!!

My Monkey loves his Daddy. This is a beautiful and tender thing to behold, not in the least because I identify completely with it: I love him, too.

The time between Monday morning and Tuesday evening is a bit of a challenge. My Darling is in a leadership role in the Father/Son ministry which he and the Pickle are a part of. Consequently, My Darling takes the Pickle with him on Monday mornings and they don't get home until late evening--and sometimes this means the Monkey is already in bed and fast asleep. Then on Tuesday mornings, My Darling leaves rather on the early side so that he can get in an hour of Adoration before he goes to work. This makes my Monkey sad for pretty much all of Tuesday morning...So when Daddy comes home from work on Tuesday evening, my little Monkey goes, well, ape.

But the mornings that are now the "norm" look like this:

My Darling gets up way early. He does this because he is a good man who loves his family, and takes good care of the dogs, for Pete's sake. They walk together, and he runs into the same crowd at the park every day. He gets the neighborhood news, and brings in the paper upon his return. At the appropriate hour, he comes and wakes me up.

He fixes me a cup of coffee (two scoops of hot chocolate, no sugar, lots of cream!) and comes to sit with me. I read the paper, and he proceeds to decimate the crossword puzzle. In pen. Twerp.

We talk about what the day will likely hold for each of us. We talk about the kids, the addition, work and school, and whatever else happens to crop up.

At some point, if the night was a good one for the Monkey, a little face pokes through the lattice work of the stairway. A little voice proclaims, "I-I-I-I-I-I'm awake!" and sometimes, "I-I-I-I-I-I found my Brown Monkey!" (his most beloved stuffed friend, along with Purple Bunny and Duhdoh...which, as everyone knows, is a turtle.).

The Monkey takes his mark and leaps directly for the lap of his loving Daddy, who scoops him up and loves on him in that fabulous Daddy Way. They usually head for the kitchen, where I hear quite a little dialogue. I am absolutely loathe to interrupt this time, which I recognize as sacred.

They share a grapefruit. This came about because my Monkey really likes to suck on lemon wedges, which I often have in my ice water, and that got me to thinking that he might enjoy the taste of grapefruit. And I was right. This morning, he ate the entire thing himself. His loving Daddy had been very conscientious about things, and had sectioned it into a bowl--and was then able to drain off the juice into a glass. The Monkey consumed every drop.

They talk about nonsense and good sense. They look at fliers for home improvement stores and farm feed and supply stores and point out the tools and the things that my Monkey associates with his Daddy. "That drill is just like yours!" my Monkey might exclaim.

Sometimes they sing together. Monkey's latest love is, "Glory to God in the highest....and peace to His people on earth...." Oh yeah, it melts my heart.

Sometimes it's just goofy banter. "What are you doing, Daddy?" Monkey might ask. Daddy replies, "Goin' crazy. What are you doing?" "Goin' nuts," answers the Monkey.

Sometimes they head out to the addition to poke around and see what supplies Daddy might need to pick up for his time out there when he gets home from work.

At some point, a cup of hot chocolate is consumed, complete with the obligatory marshmallows.

And when It's Time, they come back into the living room to sit with Mama and pray. We have our daily prayers that we say together, with Daddy leading the first three and then Mama and Monkey joining him on the others.

And then Daddy says, "It's time for me to vroom away." And the Monkey says, "Okay, Daddy.

There is a Squeezy Hug and a smooch.

Daddy says goodbye to Mama and the Pumpkin.

Daddy goes to the back door. Monkey runs to the front.

And momentarily, the Monkey hollers, "BYE, DADDY! I LOVE YOU! GOD BLESS YOU! HAVE A GOOD DAY!!!"

And then our day has begun.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Is there no balm in Gilead?

It was definitely one of those weeks. The kind that begins well but kind of goes downhill as it progresses. Not my favorite.

It was the kind of week where the children are resistant to obedience and prone to bickering and quarreling. The kind of week where I want to spend as much time in a hot bubble bath in a darkened, silent room with candles glowing gently, but instead I feel like I'm standing barefoot in a snowdrift.

It was the kind of week that brings on a migraine. On Thursday. The day of our bi-weekly study group. I needed that group this week. I needed to get out of the house, for Pete's sake.

It was the kind of week that sends me into a tizzy of desperate prayer, searching for the balm to soothe my sin sick soul.

Why do I allow myself to continually think that I am in this thing alone? That He is not providing--allowing--for every breath I take? One of my favorite lines from Anne of Green Gables is when Anne asks Marilla, "Do you ever find yourself in the depths of despair?" Marilla answers her very plainly: "No. To despair is to turn your back on God."

Such a thought should be the furthest thing from my mind. He has so gloriously and abundantly shown His hand to me that despite my humanness, despair should be impossible.

Enter satan and his little imps, who come about seeking to weaken my faith. They come in disobedient whinges from the mouths of my children. They come in jabs to my heart, seeking to misconstrue words spoken by My Loving Darling. They come in weakening little pings to my spirit, attempting to disengage me from the ones who love me, pray with me and pray for me.

And thank God for my Guardian Angel, who comes stronger. Thank God for those who love me and pray with me and pray for me! Thank God for My Loving Darling, who takes things graciously, knowing that my heart does not wish for separation and discontent, but for the balm that only He can give.

I was once accused by an anonymous relative of My Darling of craving drama in my life. Ha! It is the calm peace of the heart that I long for. Drama finds me often, as I'm sure it does many others, but it is not relished here.

The Psalmist says, in Psalm 63:

"O God, you are my God, for you I long; for you my soul is thirsting. My body pines for you like a dry, weary land without water. So I gaze on you in the sanctuary to see you strength and your glory. For your love is better than life, my lips will speak your praise. So I will bless you all my life, in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul shall be filled as with a banquet, my mouth shall praise you with joy. On my bed I remember you. On you I muse through the night for you have been my help; in the shadow of your wings will I rejoice. My soul clings to you; your right hand holds me fast. But those who seek to do me ruin shall go down into the depths of the earth; they shall be given over to the power of the sword, they shall be prey for jackals. But the king shall rejoice in God; all who swear by Him shall exult, for the mouths of liars shall be stopped."

There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole...there is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin sick soul.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Happy Birthday, Mama Mary!

It's a gray, rainy day. It may or may not get up to 60 degrees. What a blessed relief! We need the rain, and the cooler weather we've had in the past week has been such a blessing. At this point, the only fans used are in the bedrooms to circulate air at night!

And the
feast day....what a day! Just listen:

I've included information about the Angelus
before, and that's the text used here. The choir is stunning, and makes this sound so reverent and beautiful...what a fitting tribute to Our Lady.

We celebrated this morning by making muffins, and then putting birthday candles in them and singing, "Happy birthday, Mama Mary!" several times (it's one of Monkey's favorite songs!).

Please keep the following prayers close to your heart today:

Dear M, who is so very young and inspiring, and who needs hip surgery to correct issues stemming from being in his wheelchair every day. We also pray for his family--for his parents who care for him so tenderly and love him so well, and for his siblings who show such patience and compassion for their brother.

Dear H, who is fighting a true spiritual battle between right and wrong, good and evil in her quest to become a midwife. She has been attacked for simply stating the truth in regards to life and the teaching of the Church, in defense of lies spoken about by those who have no catechetical background whatsoever.

All women, who bear the incredible dignity in their very souls, having been created by God in such a beautiful way--and especially for the vocations of all women and their acceptance thereof.

Especially for all mothers, who have known the pure joy of carrying a soul, created by God, nourished by her, and brought forth in love.

And most especially for the mothers who do not recognize the miracle that is life.

May God bless each and every one of us, and if it be His will, may He grant us even a sliver of the favor He bestowed on Mama Mary.

Friday, September 5, 2008

I finished Tuesday...

I'm working on embroidering a set of days-of-the-week kitchen towels. I made a set of them for one of My Darling's sisters for Christmas a couple of years ago, and now I'm finally doing a set for the other one.

The ones for D. were adorable--cute little puppies with various kitchen tools...very adorable, and apparently discontinued. The ones for S. are of animated kitchenware, and I'm considering getting the companion patterns as well.

The time is passing. The Pumpkin (because we are bigger than a Bean now, you know!) is growing. The children are learning. The belly is contracting......

I'm not bored--Heaven help me if I ever utter the phrase, "I'm bored!"--but I am a little stir crazy. That's silly. I have at least 10 more weeks of this inactivity business, for Pete's sake. I have just fewer than two dozen flour sack towels at my disposal, and a whole passel of heat transfer patterns and scads of embroidery floss. I have tubs full of fabric and patterns galore.

I also have a rather social nature...and the urge to go out in the absolutely-gorgeous-nearly-fallish-weather for a walk...and the urge to go visiting or picnicking or hiking or anything but sitting in my living room. It's getting stale in here.

But I finished Tuesday's towel, and it's darn cute. And I don't make them monochromatic, like the one on the website...I make them colorful and lively and personable, as any dancing sugar bowl should be! This last one, little Miss Tuesday, had me cracking up. She's a sauce pan with her lid at a rakish angle, and she's grinning and winking. I never knew spaghetti sauce could be so, well, saucy!


I revamped our household chores the other day. The way it used to work was like this: The Frog was in charge of the kitchen. She loaded and unloaded the dishwasher, kept up the floor, kept the counter clear, and helped out with clearing and setting the table at mealtimes. The Pickle was in charge of the laundry room and bathroom. He loaded and ran both the washer and dryer, sorted laundry into the proper baskets, and kept the bathroom nice and clean. And the Reepicheep was in charge of the living room. She did Garbage Patrol (scraps, newspaper to the paper recycle--that sort of thing), Monkey Toy Patrol, and general straightening up of the couch and love seat. She kept Monkey's toys put neatly away in his little areas, and made sure that there were no stray dishes or anything of that sort out and about.

The thing is, the kids got tired of the repetition. The kitchen is demanding. The other rooms are, too. The grass is always greener. Two of them decided to trade...........which led to my bathroom and laundry room sparkling like the Hope Diamond, and my kitchen looking like...a river rock.

I broke up the rooms into levels of chores, and assigned three or four tasks in each room to each child. Now the Frog feeds the dogs and keeps the washer and dryer clear of "stuff" on top. The Pickle still runs the machines, but the Reepicheep takes the clean laundry to sort it. Reep sprays the bathroom sink with vinegar each morning and wipes it down, and puts a new hand towel on the ring. Frog keeps the bath towels and toys straightened up and put away. Pickle takes out the trash and cleans the toilet.

Like that. In each room. I made color-coded charts. I laminated them.

Maybe I am bored...............