Falling Again

IMG_3506I’m ready to hibernate.

Our entire summer was a blur: sleepaway camps, day camps, Bible School, Volleyball Camp, Art Camp, fishing, swimming, the beach, the lake, trips to NC to visit family and the Outer Banks, Niagara Falls….

I don’t even remember everything that we did. Just that it was a LOT. As the mom, this involved a lot of sorting, cleaning, planning (not my strong suit), logistics (also not my strong suit), HOURS of driving (that either), and laundry (ah yes, there it is: laundry is my strong suit.)

But now the trips are done. The boogie boards are back in the attic where they belong. The car is vacuumed. The laundry is all done (not all put away, mind you, but it’s washed and dried, at least).

And now? Now I just want to stay home.

So we’ve finally traded in the beach bag and the flip-flops for hoodies and boots. We’ve tracked down some matching gloves and a couple of hats – just in case. The leaves and acorns are getting tracked into the kitchen, right on schedule. The mums look like they are lighting fires in yards all over the neighborhood.

I love the smell of a bonfire and the crunch of dry, crackly leaves. I love blazing oranges and reds and golden yellow with neon green edged leaves. I love watching the fat gray squirrels chuck acorns at us from high in our giant oak tree. I love the chill in the early morning and how, after the sun goes down, the breeze brings that little whispery message that winter is thinking about us and might just pay us a visit sometime soon. I love falling asleep to the sounds of football on TV. I love how the kids run in and out, trying to decide if they’re too hot or too cold – and sometimes capturing wooly-boogers (their term for those brown and black fuzzy caterpillars.)

We’ve done the Family Fun Fest, gone to a couple of pumpkin patches, attended a build-your-own-scarecrow party (there are now 4 big scarecrows holding a creepy vigil in my front yard), and guzzled down the mandatory 2 gallons or so of local apple cider. We went creek-stomping, explored the woods, and picked some apples.

My fall to-do list is just about done!
The only thing left is to hunker down, light a fire in the fireplace, and do absolutely nothing for the next few months.

Or maybe four.

Big Boy – My Baby is Four!

-from my 11/6/14 article for Lake County Today.

My baby boy turns four this week.
FOUR.
I’m not quite ready for it. Four doesn’t seem very much like a baby, does it? And I’m not ready to not have a “baby.”
He’s my youngest child, and though I don’t think he’s a big boy, he insists that he is.
When he’s sleepy, he still sucks on his two fingers and rolls his “fuzzy” (a little piece of fuzz he pulled off from his blue blanket) back and forth between his fingers, looking like the baby he is – to me, anyway. When he’s asleep (usually on the couch), his long eyelashes seem to almost touch his little cherub-cheeks. He throws his arms up over his head or curls up in a ball on his side, one arm around Dino or Mousie. His blankets are always tangled and one little foot is always sticking out.
He’s an early riser. Nearly every morning, he pads into my bedroom on bare feet and stage whispers, “Hey Mom! Can I snuggle wif you?” Then he climbs in and sticks his cold feet on my legs and scooches down next to me. He pats my cheek and plays with my hair, I rub his little head and say, “You’re my favorite little boy in the whole world.” “Uh-uh,” he says, pulling his fingers from his mouth with a soft pop. “Uh-uh, I am not a widdle boy. I am a BIG boy.”
Well. He’s still my little boy – for now, anyway. Here is a compilation of some of his wonderful-ness as he begins his 4th year.
If you ask him something that he thinks is obvious, he responds with “Why wouldya say so?” e.g.,“Jed, would you like a popsicle?” “Uh, YEAH! Why wouldya say so?”

He likes to play with his “golfing cwubs.” He says, “Hey, do you wanna watch me pway golfing?” He loves going to play Putt-Putt and he’s a great encourager: “Dat was so close, Dad! You almost got it, Dad!”

He likes playing basketball. He shoots and tries to get it in what he calls his “basketball hook.” “Hey, Dad! Hey, watch dis! I got it in da basketball hook! Dat was a good hook! Good score! Boo ya!” Sometimes he plays basketball with his sister Adelaide. She throws it as hard as her little 6-year-old arms can and it bounces off the rim and hits her in the face. Jed says, “Owie! Gimme a dang it five!”

He likes throwing footballs, playing catch with his “baseball mitten,” running full speed wherever he goes, and constantly hitting things with sticks. He likes dirt, worms, dinosaurs, and cows. He loves playing with his three older sisters, which he refers to collectively as The Sisters, e.g., “Whure are Da Sisters?”

He likes to work on stuff. One day he was in his room for the longest time, just working away at the little tool bench his grandma got him for Christmas. As he walked into the kitchen, I said, “Whatcha been doing?” With his little thumb, he motioned behind him toward his room, then hitched up his pants and sauntered over to get a drink. He said, in a low, “manly” voice: “Oh, I was in dere doing some work. Working on stuff. You know, just finishing up some stuff.”

He doesn’t understand time yet. He thinks that anything in the future is going to happen on Tuesday. “Can we go on Tuesday? How about on Tuesday? Are we going to the park? Maybe you can tink about it? You know, on Tuesday?”

Anything in the past, however, is on Monday. Jed told his papaw: “It was on Monday dat I caught a fish. And we went to da zoo on Monday. And also to da beach on Monday.” Then Jed asked Papaw, “When can I swim in da pool at your house? Maybe on Tuesday?”

In his own words: “I wike twactors. I wike pickup twucks and I want a pink one when I gwow up. I wuv worgurt. And going at da Flo-Yo. My favowite is vee-nella.”

He informed his grammie that he is less than impressed with my cooking skills. She asked him, “What does your mom cook that you like to eat?” He said, “Nuffin’! It is dee-scusting. But my dad cooks and dat is dee-wicious.”

He points at things with his middle finger (much to my dismay) and he answers the phone “Who it is?” When he has a bad day he groans and says: “Uuuuuurh! I don’t like ANYBODY!”

After I tucked him into bed tonight while I was typing this up, I heard his little voice outside my bedroom door:

“Mom? I wuv you.
“And Mom? I will be your little boy for a long, long time.”

Me: “Are you sure?”

“Uh, YEAH, Mom! Why wouldya say so?”

A (Great) Great-Grandma

-from my 5/13/15 article for Lake County Today.

My 82-year-old grandmother is a world-traveler.

Well, not exactly a world-traveler, but she’s traveled farther (from the mountains of North Carolina all the way to Northeast Ohio) in her 8th decade of life than she ever has before.

She has 3 children (including my mom), 5 grandchildren, 9 great-grandchildren, and a multitude of people who think of her as their mom or grandma. (Most of my friends grew up calling her Grandma, too.)

She’s here in Ohio for the time being, and over Mother’s Day weekend it suddenly hit me: I am so very blessed that my children not only were able to meet their great-grandmother, but that they have actually gotten to know her.

Not many children have that opportunity.

My grandma has been a constant fixture in my life. Until I was an adult, she never lived more than 5 minutes away. I used to stop by her house after school for a glass of cornbread and milk and to chat with her and my grandpa, her husband of 53 years.

There are so many things I love about that woman: her little hands, wrinkled with the wear of living for 82 years, yet still so soft and smooth. She’s always quick to mend a tear with her needle and thread (kept conveniently in a blue cookie tin along with her aqua-colored “clips,” as she calls her scissors.) She’s always made do with whatever she had and though she’s never had much money, she’s always been content with her modest possessions. She’s a pro at peeling apples for any waiting child (using a dull knife that has to be at LEAST 38 years old, since it’s been in her kitchen drawer since before I was born.)

She fusses about:

  • Kids’ hair (“Honey, get that hair out of your eyes! I can’t see your pretty face!”)
  • Lack of slips – the only proper undergarment for a southern church-going young lady (“Gracious sakes, where is your slip? I can see straight through that skirt!”)
  • Incompetence at dish-washing (“Well, I might as well just do it myself.”)
  • Clutter placed just so (“There’s a place for everything and a thing forevery place, you know.”)
  • Half-hearted dusting of furniture (“If you don’t do it right the first time, you’ll just have to do it again!”)

But any time I can’t sleep because I’m anxious or nervous, other words of hers somehow always pop into my head. It’s been 12 years since my grandpa died and she recently told me that for a long time, it’s just been her and the Lord. She said that He’s always been there for her and that He’s always been her best friend.

And even when she’s far away, I can close my eyes and see her sitting there in her chair with her glass of water (no ice), her cup of coffee (black, please) and her big Bible on her lap. She says, “Dear child, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.” I’ve never known her to be worried or hopeless. Even when my grandpa died, she was one of those people who said, “Trust in the good Lord, and lean not on your own understanding.”

She’s lived through so much. The Great Depression (I’m pretty sure this is why she saves EVERYTHING – she has a collection of Tupperware that would blow your mind), World War II, growing up poor, floods, raising 7 younger siblings when her mama died… more than 8 decades of changes and births and deaths and happiness and heartache and life.

She’s the kind of grandma who invites strangers over for Sunday dinner after church and feeds them copious amounts of pinto beans, biscuits, and chicken and dumplings. Who, when you’re trying to leave, chases you out to your car with a paper bag full of fried squash and barbeque chicken in case you might need a snack later. Who says, “Y’all come on in here and gitcha somethin’ to eat. And here’s some bread. Can’t eat without bread, you know!”

She’s the kind of grandma who makes you go outside and break your own switch for her to swat you with when you’ve been sassy. The kind who – horror of horrors! – makes you sit on the couch holding hands with the cousin you’ve just had a fight with until you hug and make up.

Oh, and she’s also the kind of grandma who always buys you and your cousins underwear for Christmas.

She’s the kind of grandma who can’t sit down, can’t be still, and she always has to be busy doing something: picking up dirt off the floor (dirt that’s invisible to the naked eye), messing with her plants, cooking, writing, watering her flowers, reading, looking at pictures of her grandchildren, rearranging things, re-washing dishes, re-making beds (because you didn’t do it exactly right the first time).

Between what she taught me – and what she taught my mom – I’ve learned so much:

Have a good work ethic. Be faithful. Go to church. “Do” for your family. Love your sweetheart. Don’t let anyone go hungry. Trust. Do things right the first time, but give second chances. Be kind to everyone – even invite them over for dinner.

She trusts in the Lord with all her heart – and I so hope that one day I’ll be able to say that I’ve followed in her footsteps.

No, she’s never had much money – but the legacy she’ll leave behind her one day is worth more than gold.