Date Night with my Daughter

Last night my oldest daughter and I had an impromptu “date night.”

Over the past month, she read all of The Hunger Games Books (she’s 11, almost 12.) I waffled back and forth over whether or not she was “old enough” to read them, but I finally decided to let her go ahead. I read them and loved all them – I think it took me about a week to finish all three (the first one I devoured in about 24 hours.)

Anyway, her dad got the first 3 movies for her and they had a little movie marathon over the weekend, much to the dismay of my other children – I’m somewhat adamant concerning my “read the book before you watch the movie” stance.

So last night, he took over dinner and bedtime duties and sent the two of us out on a Mockingjay Date. As we drove to the theater, I explained to her that this was a big honor for her, since usually if a movie is one I really want to see, I go by myself. That way I don’t have to worry about anyone talking, asking questions or ahem, or making fun of (I’m talking to you, dear husband) the story lines, plots, special effects, etc.

She replied with, “Tell me about it! Dad talked through all three movies because he didn’t know what was going on! I had to explain everything!” I cast a sidelong glance her way. “You know why?” Simultaneously, we said, “Because HE didn’t read the books!” Then we laughed. It’s nice to share a love of reading with my girl, who is growing up at a somewhat exponential rate of speed.

Sometimes I feel like I don’t know how to talk to her anymore and it scares me. I know she’s my same little girl in there, but she looks (and acts) so mature. She “gets” things – jokes and puns and metaphors – that a couple of years ago I would’ve had to explain to her. Heck, she “gets” more things than I do these days.

We only whispered necessary information to each other (like “What happened when I was gone to the bathroom?”) and she was a perfect “important movie” companion.

My favorite moviespart of the entire night was when she reached over to hold my hand during one of the scary parts (she knew it was coming – I’d forgotten all about it.) Later she put her head on my shoulder. Snuggling with this one is a rare occurrence… she’s got it in her head that she’s a loner, but I suspect otherwise.

On the way home, we stopped for a milkshake. She’s a Mint Chocolate Chip and Oreo kind of girl. We talked about the movie and the story line in general. We talked about possible meanings and themes and applications in our lives today. I tried to listen more than I talked. She’s such an interesting little person.

Well, not so little. She’s almost as tall as me. She’s strong, she’s thoughtful, she’s helpful, she’s kind, she’s so smart and reflective. I’m so proud that she’s mine… and that she’s her own person, too.

I have to remind myself to enjoy these moments more instead of worrying that they are going by too fast. Sometimes I ruin them by overthinking it. Live in the moment, right? Seize the day!

And also, when your almost-teenage daughter offers to hold your hand and snuggle with you, especially in public, seize that too.

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.

Passover and Butter Sheep

We aren’t Jewish.

But we did celebrate Passover this year.

I’ve always been interested in Jewish festivals and how, for Christians, the New Testament fulfills the prophecies of the Old Testament. A few weeks ago I went to a class about the seven major feasts of ancient Israel. Does it sound dry and boring? Well, it wasn’t – it was fascinating!

We learned some ways to incorporate parts of these ancient feasts at home – I was super excited to try the bits and pieces that would work for our family. It just so happened that this particular Passover was on the same night as the Blood Moon. Since it was also the first time we’d ever done anything like this at home, the whole idea seemed very special.Image

As we got all of the food together (traditionally, every part of the meal has its own symbolic meaning) and spread a special tablecloth on the table, there was a definite air of excitement in our house. We read the story in Exodus – it says that “you should eat with your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste.” We all felt like we should be in a hurry!

And hurry we did.

Sadie, 10, pulled down all the shades (because we weren’t supposed to look out the window), turned off all the lights, and lit lots of candles.

Josie, who is 8, said she had goose-bumps on her arms and butterflies in her tummy. She collected robes and “staffs” for everyone (since we had a shortage of staffs, we ended up using our marshmallow-roasting sticks from the firepit.) 

Adelaide, my 5-year-old, painted a picture for decoration. She also ran around and set the table with real plates and silverware.

Then the girls and their 3-year-old brother, Jed, tried to sweep out every single bit of dirt from the kitchen floor. “This is impossible!” one of them said. “Exactly!” I told them, and then we talked about how the bad things in our lives can be like dirt.  We can try and try to get rid of it all, but it’s just impossible. That’s why we need a savior. Sigh. I love when things come together like that.  

Each child chose three favorite things that they would take with them if they had to leave home in a hurry – stuff they couldn’t bear to leave behind in “Egypt.”

Sadie chose her Snoopy, her favorite book – The Penderwicks, and her old, falling-apart quilt. Josie brought her Bear-Bear, her Wolfie, and her stuffed pink lamb. She used her Crunchy Blanket as a belt for her robe so she was able to sneak in a freebie. Adelaide chose two little stuffed doggies and a little red and white bear that Sadie gave her. Jed brought his stuffed Dino, his Mousie, and his fuzzy blanket.

If I were going to choose, I would need a wheelbarrow so I could take all of my scrapbooks with me.

Finally, the meal was ready (and no, I didn’t try to make lamb on my own – I bought gyro meat – this IS my first year, after all!). I did try to stick with what it says in Exodus, though, so we had lamb, horseradish, green onions (bitter herbs), and unleavened bread. We also had other “Bible foods” like olives, dried fruit, and almonds.

Their dad said a prayer and symbolically “killed” our butter sheep (by chopping its head off with a butter knife) and then we put red crepe paper around our doorframe outside.  I know, I know… our neighbors are gonna think we are so weird!) Then we talked some more about the story of Passover – the wicked Pharoah, the horrible plagues, the sorrow of slavery – and the joy of freedom.

To top off the night, the kids watched the movie The Prince of Egypt.

The kids liked the lamb okay – they liked the unleavened bread better, though. And they loved the movie.

And me? Well, what I liked best was bringing the meaning of the Easter season a lot closer to home.

 

It’s Breakfast Time!

I’ve never been a morning person.

Left to my own devices (this never happens), I could easily sleep until 9:30 or 10:00am on any given day.

Since neither my plans nor preferences matter very much to the small people currently inhabiting my home, these days I’m usually up around 7:00am. I’m up, but I’m definitely not “at ‘em.”

Usually 3-year-old Jed sneaks in first. He throws one leg up on my bed and then uses the comforter to pull himself up the rest of the way. He whispers (it’s more of a stage whisper, which you are very familiar with if you’ve ever tried to keep a 3-year-old quiet): “HEY! MOM! I CAN SNUGGLE WIF YOU?” Then he nestles in next to me with his head on my pillow, his hand on my arm, and his freezing cold feet thawing out on my legs. It’s always a rude (yet cute) awakening.Image

As we snuggle (usually he has his two fingers in his mouth, slurping, so I don’t go back to sleep), I hear the pitter-patter of little bare feet running down the hall, down the stairs, and sneaking into my room. It’s always 5-year-old Adelaide, and she is always hungry. “Mama? What’s for bref-tast? I am staarrrvvvving!” she exaggerates. Then she scootches her brother over and squeezes in under the covers with us.

She tells me about her dreams (recently she’s had a series of them about our family going to the grocery store and meeting other people that have our names) then she reiterates her “starvingness.”

I start breakfast while she and her brother snuggle, look at books, and watch Peter Rabbit cartoons. Sometimes they come and help with breakfast (they’re especially fond of cracking eggs) or they let the dog out and scout for birds at the bird feeder.

Their older sisters, just-turned-10 Sadie and 8-year-old Josie, almost always sleep late. They both like to stay up late reading, so unless we have to be somewhere early or it happens to be their turn to make breakfast, I don’t wake them until after breakfast is ready.

When Sadie comes down, she’s usually dressed and already has her nose in a book.

Josie, on the other hand, is usually wrapped up in her fuchsia bathrobe with her “Crunchy” fuzzy blanket around her neck like a scarf. She almost always has an amazing case of bedhead.

Sleepy-eyed, they give me hugs and sit down at the table. We say a morning prayer and read a devotion or some Bible verses (one of my favorites is Lamentations 3:22-23: “His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness.”)

Then I might read a chapter or two from whatever our current read-aloud is (right now we are working on two: Mary Poppins Comes Back and From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.)

They love real bacon (except Josie, who says she can only eat turkey bacon because real bacon tastes like PIG) baked in the oven. They love turkey sausage and corned beef hash. They love pancakes and waffles (Adelaide always gets those two mixed up) covered with whipped cream (sometimes called “sour cream” by Adelaide and her brother). When we are in NC visiting family, they love fried livermush and gravy. Adelaide and Jed love eggs – any kind. Sadie will almost always opt for an English muffin with butter and jam. Josie asks for orange juice or chocolate milk (which is a rare treat at this house!) Everyone tries to steal a sip of my coffee (and Jed will chug the whole bottle of French Vanilla creamer if he isn’t intercepted first!)

Adelaide cleans her plate (and sometimes finishes everyone else’s, too). Jed runs away before he’s finished. Someone spills something. There’s a fight about who gets to take Dad’s breakfast to his home office. It’s all a daily ritual.

Nope, I’m not really a morning person, but breakfast together is almost always our starting-off point for the entire day. I feel blessed to be able to have this time together with my children –

But another forty winks still wouldn’t hurt.

Funnies vs. The Never-ending Winter

To battle my “woe-is-me-ness” brought about by The Never-ending Winter, this week I’ve compiled some of the funny (and random) things my children have said recently. It’s a good thing they’re here to lighten my mood.

 

Sadie to her sister Josie, after watching her eat a burrito: “You disgust me.”

 

Josie at the pet store: “I think I want a chinchilla. Or one of those hot dogs.”

 

Jed: “If I had a baby goat, I would name him Weasel.”

 

Adelaide at the Mexican restaurant: “Oh, I’m not doing anything. Just puttin’ cheese dip upon my beans.”

 

Jed, after giving his dad a Rice Krispy treat: “Here Dad, I didn’t even lick it.”

 

Adelaide: “My legs are going to eat you. They are very hungry.”

 

Sadie, after seeing a Christmas tree still up in March: “Wow! Look at that! Those people must really love God!”

 

Sadie, smelling a stink while we were on the road: “Hey! No poopages allowed in this car!” Jed: “Oh yes there is! Adelaide and Josie!”

 

Jed: “I just not like potatoes very far.”

 

Adelaide on St. Patrick’s Day, after hearing something rummaging through our trash can: “Maybe it’s a leprecoon.”

 

Aunt Sharon, coughing: “I have something in my throat!” Jed: “Is it a bug?”

 

Adelaide: “Jed got a blue race car that goes by itself! It’s a commode control!”  

 

Sadie, confusing her love of jewelry with her love of Christmas songs: “Over the hills we go, laughing all the way… bells on cocktail rings…”

 

Adelaide: “I have a surprise for you!” Josie: “Maybe it’s another me!” Sadie: “That’s one thing I don’t want!” Jed, out of the blue: “Maybe it a penis!”

 

Jed: “Mommy, I grow up?” Me: “Yep, you’re a little boy but you will grow into a man, like Dad.

Do you want to be like Dad when you grow up? Or Papaw, or Grandpa, or Pop-Pop?” Jed: “Nope. I want to be like Jed.”

 

Me: “Sadie, what are you eating? Candy?” Sadie, dramatically: “It’s not just chocolate, Mother – it’s Turkish Delight!”

 

After singing the Oscar Meyer Weiner song, Adelaide ended with the refrain: “Everyone would be in love with me!” Jed: “No! Not wif you, Adelaide!”

 

Josie, after I told her I would pay her to rub my sore shoulder: “Well, it only costs a quarter. That’s a pretty good deal. Yeah, I used to sell hearts for a living, red ones that I cut out of paper. But that didn’t turn out so well. I sold one to you, one to Dad, one to Grandpa, and one to Aunt Lydia. I made a dollar, but you can’t live forever on a dollar. I guess I should probably move on to the next thing.” 

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Has anyone seen Spring?

We Have Seen It! It’s Coming!

Today it was over 40 degrees.

Now, 40 degrees really isn’t that warm, but when you compare it to the single digits we are used to having, it’s virtually a heat wave!

Like most of the country, we are suffering from a common ailment called “Sick Of Snow-itis.”

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What’s that I see?

My kids (minus Josie, who was busy at a Special Grammie Sleepover) and I were so excited to see the blue sky and the sun that we went outside with no coats and no hats and tried to drink in the Vitamin D through our bare arms and heads.

Then one of my children (I won’t name names) thought it would be a good idea to take off her boots and walk around on the sun-warmed pavement in her socks. I informed her that no, it was not a good idea.

Since no one in Northeast Ohio is ever really sure about the weather (Lake Erie turns Mother Nature into a highly unpredictable, crazed lunatic), you have to take advantage of the sun whenever you can. So we went to the park.

In the snow.

Well, some of it was melted.

What can I say? We were desperate.

We headed for the playground. It was wet and mushy, but we didn’t care. It wasn’t covered in two feet of snow, and that was a vast improvement. Adelaide scrambled up the top and yelled, “I am King of the Mountain! Well, actually, I am QUEEN of the PLAYGROUND!”

Jed stomped in snow. He stomped in puddles. He stomped in mud. He stomped in dog poop (my least favorite park-related hazard).  

Sadie spotted a turkey vulture in the sky (she’s been learning to identify birds by their airborne silhouettes) and she and Jed watched a falcon as it was hunting in the woods nearby. It was “BIG and PWETTY” according to Jed. He was very impressed.

Adelaide tracked a chipmunk to his little hidey-hole on the forest floor. She chased him down into his tunnel and we saw his “door” made out of bark.

We saw what appeared to be “wolf scratches” on a giant stump. We counted squirrels. We listened to the birds chirping from high up in the trees. We discovered some really cool leafy “ice fossils” that were formed when dead leaves sank down into the melting snow. Adelaide swung herself on the big swings (with no pushes from me!)

Yes, our little outing may have ended on a bad note involving a certain potty-trainee and some no-longer-usable Superman underwear, but we have seen the sun.

THE SUN.

It’s coming, people! And we just can’t wait.

Reading the “Hard Stuff”

I love a good movie.

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Sisters reading together

My kids do, too. They love marathon nights of Star Wars, Lord of the Rings or any super hero movie that they are allowed to watch (they think Iron Man is hilarious. I’m pretty sure it’s because of his ridiculously sarcastic sense of humor – which happens to be exactly like their dad’s.)

But this post isn’t about movies.

In today’s fast-paced world (complete with amazing special effects), sometimes it might

seem like plain old black-and-white books are downright boring.

But they aren’t.

Every few years I re-read one of my favorites – Wuthering Heights,

Tess of the d’Urbervilles or Tom Sawyer. A couple of years ago, on a whim, I read part of Tom Sawyer to them. They adored him (now whenever someone tattles in our house, they get called Sid), so we followed it up with Huckleberry Finn. I’ve realized that they aren’t big fans of Bible story books – they’d rather hear the real thing from the New International or the King James versions. So now I’ve started reading “hard” literature to my little kids. We read other great books out loud, too – The Trumpet of the Swan, Stuart Little, Heidi, Charlotte’s Web, and The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (my all-time favorite.)

We all have a lot to do – life is busy. Life is hectic. Life is hard.

But let me encourage you to take a few nights this week to read aloud to your family – it doesn’t matter how old they are. A story – a real story can bring your family together like nothing else can. Even if you read something that you think might be too hard for them, they might surprise you – last year we read The Odyssey. I hesitated to even start it – after all, it was The Odyssey, for Pete’s sake. And my oldest kid was 8 then! Much to my surprise, they loved it – the heroes, the adventures, the monsters, the battles – and they understood a lot more of it than I thought they would. What they didn’t understand turned into a great learning experience as we figured it out together.

Last week we finished reading a book called Sounder that won the 1970

Newbery Award. It’s a 44-year-old, dusty old paperback that has few chapters and fewer pictures. And consider yourself forewarned: don’t read it if you’re looking for something light-hearted and funny. But wow, did it tell a story.

No, it’s not a feel-good book – not at all. But let me tell you, when you have three little girls sitting spellbound at the kitchen table and all four of you have to put your heads in your hands and cry… well, THAT, my friend, is the power of the written word.

Reading a great book together is a shared experience of the mind and of the heart. Maybe you won’t remember all of the characters’ names or your favorite quote, but one thing is for sure:

You will never forget the way it made you feel – and

neither will your children.