Winter Fun

I grew up in western North Carolina. In the winter, ice storms were fairly frequent in our part of the foothills of the Appalachians. An inch of snow, though – for kids, that was like a dusting of pure gold.

Here in Northeastern Ohio, my kids have never known a winter without snow. FEET and FEET of snow. PILES of it. Crazy drifts and swirling clouds and frozen mountains of snow.

And they love it.

They were disappointed when we didn’t have a white Christmas, but now they are making up for it. My role is to help them locate snow gloves, scarves, hats, mittens, boots, earmuffs, snow pants (something I didn’t even know existed until I became a “northern parent”), and their giant poofy coats. Then I help put ON all of the aforementioned equipment. This activity does allow me frequent opportunity to use one of my favorite jokes:

“Mom, will you put on my coat?”
“Nope, sorry, it’s way too small for me.”
“Mo-ooooom!”

As you can imagine, all of this locating and snapping and zipping and shoving and pulling takes quite a while when multiplied by four kids. Most parents know about the maddening “inside-the-glove-search-for-finger-holes” so common with 3, 4, and 5-year-olds. It’s driven me nuts for years now. “Just stick your fingers in the holes! You have 5 fingers, there are 5 holes in there! I promise! Hold them straight! Stop bending! Arrrgh! This is why they created mittens!”

Once they’re trussed up like Ralphie’s brother Randy from A Christmas Story, (“I can’t put my arms down!”) they head out into the cold and (usually) gray day.

They slide around on the ice and stomp it with their boots, breaking it into thousands of glassy shards. They tromp back to the pond in our backyard and ice skate in their snow boots. The girls pull each other by the hand and sling-shot their their giggling little brother across the ice.

They hunt for deer and raccoon and rabbit tracks. They spy on squirrels and the birds that visit our church-shaped bird feeder. They hang up pinecone feeders that they made with stale cereal.

From the garage attic, they haul out their sleds. Since our yard is flat, they have to make do with the big pile of snow the plow left on the side of our driveway. They take turns climbing up the 5-foot pile of snow and zooming down it. Last week as I watched them, I eventually took pity. We packed up and headed over to the city’s Sledding Hill – I love the fact that our city has a designated hill JUST for sledding.

We were the only people there. They trudged up the giant hill, towing their sleds behind them. 10-year-old Sadie held her little brother’s hand and matched her steps to his while Josie (9) and Adelaide (6) raced each other to the top. 4-year-old Jed was super excited to test out the penguin sled he got for Christmas, even though he’d never been sledding (without a grownup on the sled) before.

I kept watch and yelled some safety reminders. The first time down, Sadie held her brother in front of her and they went down together. I love how she takes care of him and the look of determination and exhilaration on her little face. Josie went down next. She zoomed straight down, flipped over face down at the bottom, and jumped up and shouted “Woohoo!” Adelaide, not to be outdone, raced down the hill – a blur of purple in her one-piece zip-up snowsuit. She hit a bump and even got a little bit of air.

Then I saw Jed at the top of the slope, and before I knew it, he jumped on his penguin and started down all by himself. He zoomed down, arms straight out in front of him like Superman. He screamed a bloodcurdling scream the entire way down:

“AAAAAAAAaaaaaaahhhhhhh!” I expected him to burst into tears as soon as his sled stopped, so I took off running across the snow-covered field. Instead, he jumped up and hollered, “Hey, dat was so awesome!” then he grabbed his penguin and headed back up.

On the way home, I heard these post-sledding remarks from my wet, cold children:

Jed: “I am speed.”

Josie: “I love sledding and we are Americans and I love the USA!”

Sadie: “Mom, I refuse to wear a helmet. You’re the only mother in the world who would even think of that.”

Adelaide: “I think I have frostbite on my right foot. And you know that the right foot is the most popular foot.”

Yep, my kids love winter (well, except for that whole right foot thing).

This hill is a little better than the driveway.

This hill is a little better than the driveway.

And since in Ohio winter lasts for 6 months, I guess it’s a good thing they do.

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Long, Lazy Days

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Every year I long for them.

The long, lazy days of summer.

And now they’re finally here.

A friend asked me the other day what I remember most about summertime when I was growing up. I thought about it and it wasn’t big family vacations or camp or anything “big” like that. What I remember most is doing nothing. I mainly remember playing with my cousins, the smell of freshly-cut grass, and baking in the sun with my friend Becky. We slathered down with Hawaiian Tropic and listened to Axl F on my little purple AM/FM/cassette mini boom-box while we talked about boys.

I wonder what my kids will remember and I think it might end up being something like this:

Stopping mid-pedal on a bike ride to watch a roly poly on the sidewalk or to scrutinize “a herd of ants.” Picking a buttercup to put in your hair. Making “tree-tents” and drawing with sidewalk chalk. Making daisy chains. Pulling off the road when you spot the world’s biggest dandelion. Having a popsicle (or two. Or three). Stomping in the creek. Eating dinner outside on a blanket.

Staying up late to catch lightning bugs. Squirting each other with the hose. Sweating profusely and hoping for a breeze. Looking for butterflies. Slicing up watermelon. Looking at dinosaur-shaped clouds in the sky. Retreating to the A/C and collapsing on the cool couch with a big glass of iced tea and the latest episode of Wild Kratts. Staying up after dark. Dirty feet. Swinging on swings. Climbing trees.

And what will I remember about these days with my children?

“Mom, come and play ball with me!” – Sadie, age 10

“Mom, I need a hug from you!” – Josie, age 8

“Mom, wet’s go for a bike wide!” – Jed, age 3

CRASH*BANG!!BOOM* then: “Everything’s fine, Mom! Don’t come and check on me!” – Adelaide, age 6

These little moments, these little arms around us, these tiny dirty feet running through the summer grass. These are the moments we will remember – not the big stuff.

Or maybe we’re getting it wrong – maybe it is the big stuff.

I hope your summer days are long and lazy and full of “nothing.”

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.

Double Digits

Double digits.

My daughter, my Sadie (Sadaroo, as she’s sometimes known as affectionately around here) is going to be double digits this month. TEN.

I can hardly believe it.

My baby, my first real-life-honest-to-goodness-miracle, the sweet little blessing from God who gave me the enormous gift of being a mom – TEN.

It seems like yesterday that my husband and I were speeding down the highway toward the hospital in North Carolina on a bright, cool March morning, talking about how when we next traveled that road the entire world would be forever changed.

And now, a decade later, here we are. I’ve been a mommy for ten years. It’s been many things – days of amazing amazement and other days of awful awfulness. It’s been a roller-coaster of joy and fear and breathlessness and bittersweet, heart-wrenching beauty.

That chubby-cheeked baby girl is now a long, lanky, smart, kind-hearted, precious, spunky, amazing girl. She has a creative spirit, a great belly laugh, a thirst for knowledge, and the cutest little nose-crinkling, eye-scrunching grin ever. My, how she has grown.

And I think I’ve been growing up right along with her.

Being a mom has done crazy things to me. I’m simultaneously the most selfish and the most unselfish person in the world. I’m terrified in some ways, yet in other ways I’m stronger than I’ve ever been. Before Sadie, I didn’t know how deeply I could feel or how much I could love or how much I could handle. I had no idea what it was to love sacrificially.

I’ve worried myself into oblivion. I’ve learned that sometimes, the only thing I can do is pray – and I’ve prayed more in the past ten years than in the other 27 years of my life combined. I pray for help, for patience, for her safety, for her healing, for her future, for her feelings, for her heart and her decisions and her happiness and her relationships.

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My Sadaroo

And I’ve wasted time that I could’ve spent with her. When I think about this, I get a lump in my throat and have a bit of a mini-panic attack. She’s TEN. How much time do I have left with her now? 8 more years at home? 8 more years of her in her fuzzy robe, reading on her top bunk? 8 more years of “Coming, Mom!” and “Got it!” and “Have you seen my Snoopy?” and “How do ya catch a candy cane” songs? How many times have I gone to tuck her in and she’s already asleep so I’ve missed out on holding her hand to say prayers or to sing her special bedtime song?

She is so wonderful. But sometimes I wonder, how present am I really in her life?

I have so many doubts and fears about doing the right things for her and teaching her all she needs to know. I want for her to be able to make a living when she grows up, but I’m more concerned that she has a LIFE. That she’s HAPPY. Have I been training her for that for the past ten years? For happiness? I’m not sure – I’ve never been too good at it myself, honestly. Every day, I struggle with myself. I want to see her through the eyes of my heart instead of with my controlling, micro-managing brain. I can’t expect her to be perfect. I’m certainly not. Will perfect handwriting on that homeschool assignment really make her a better person? Will a spotless bedroom and perfectly folded clothes help her to one day be HAPPY?

I have to remember that every step she takes away from me is a step toward the life that God has planned for her. I have to remember to hold her hand, yet not hold her back.

For me, it’s a difficult (and emotional) distinction to make.

I admit it – I don’t want to let her go. I scrapbook because I have to hold on to how she was! I write because I don’t want to forget how she is right this minute. I want to be able to recall exactly how my life has been with this little person. My (not so) little girl.

My Sadie. My love. My blessing. My dancing, twirling, leaping, butterfly-chasing, sunbeam of a child.

I’ve loved you for ten years (plus all of the nine months before we met – and maybe even before that, back when you were just a someday-dream in my heart.)

So much about you (and me) has changed since that life-altering, purpose-giving, direction-changing day all those years ago. And one thing is sure: things are just going to keep on changing. For both of us.

But my beautiful, wonderful, first child – you can be certain that one thing never will: my love for you.

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.

Stuck in a Rut

We watched a lot of the Winter Olympics at our house.

One of my favorites was the Nordic Combined Ski Jump. You know, the giant terrifying mountain of snow that skiers hurtle down at breathtaking speeds? They go faster and faster and faster until all of a sudden they are at the bottom of the jump and then WHOOSH! Out they go. Launched into outer space with nothing under them but air, skis and hard-packed snow.

I noticed that their skis are locked into ruts until they get to the bottom of the hill. 

Hmmm. I suddenly realized that I have something in common with Olympians! No, it’s not the spandex bodysuits. And it’s definitely not the “fantastic athlete” part.   

It’s the rut part. Sometimes it seems like I’ve fallen into the world’s biggest rut.

I am constantly doing the same things over and over (and over) again. Wash the laundry. Dry the laundry. Fold the laundry. Change the sheets. Give the baths. Make the breakfast. Wash the breakfast dishes. Make the lunch. Wash the lunch dishes. Make the dinner. Wash the dinner dishes. Sweep the kitchen floor. Mop the kitchen floor. Let the dog out. Let the dog in. Change the diapers. You know how it is.

Life is going by faster and faster and there is absolutely nothing that I can do to stop it or control it. The gate has been lifted and I am GOING.

(Also, sometimes I feel like a guy in a cartoon that flies smack into a tree.)

I don’t know about you, but I live for the moments when I hit the end of those ruts and am propelled forward out into weightlessness. Those moments – when I twirl my children around in the air as we dance to “Circle of Life” or “Tiny Dancer,” cranked way up high. The spontaneous fits of laughter when someone says something funny, like “Do I need to go get my chop-chop?” Or making up our own song parodies – “If I die young, bury me in breakfast, lay me down on a bed of pancakes…”

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I think I got one!

Or a perfect moment full of nothing more than the sight and sound of a belly-laughing, front-toothless 5-year-old.

Or running through the cold February afternoon, chasing snowflakes with our mouths open and our tongues sticking out. Or when a little body hurtles through the air only to throw tiny warm arms around my neck and giggle slobbery kisses onto my cheek.

Those moments happen when I’m not rushing, when I’m not speeding around like a crazy person, trying to get everything done that needs to be done (and a lot of things that really don’t) – in other words, when I’m not in a rut.

I’m not an Olympian. Far from it.

But sometimes, like when we’re twirling around, it almost feels like I can fly.

Laughs for the New Year

Everyone’s favorite part of our family’s end-of-year newsletter is always the list of “funny stuff” that my four kids come up with throughout the year. To help you start your year with a smile, here is part of this year’s list:

  • Sadie to her friend Dalton: “Hey, you run like a girl! And that’s a compliment!”
  • Jed to his dad: “I a man too!” Dad: “Yep, buddy, you’re a man like Dad!” Jed: “No, Dad! Wanna watch I-ron-Man 2!”
  • We watched King Kong and laughed at his googly-love-bird eyes and giant smile until the girl got away. Then Adelaide shook her head and said, “Welp, I guess this means the smiling part is over!”
  • Jed: “Dere’s cweepy tings in da woods. Wike cwabs and wolfs and sharks and stwollers and soldiers and statues. Us be cwying in da woods!”
  • Sadie to Josie: “If you were the last person on earth and you had the last baby on earth and you were that baby’s mom, what would you name it?” Josie: “Lucky.”
  • When Grandma Beth saw an article in the newspaper about Adelaide going to the Lego Club, she said, “Adelaide! How did you make the paper?” Adelaide replied with a sigh: “Grandma, I didn’t make paper. I made LEGOS.”
  • After a fight over a favorite book, Sadie said: “I had it first!” Josie said, “Didn’t you learn anything in Sunday School? The last shall be first!”
  • Sadie, singing to her pestering little brother: “This old man, he said NO!”
  • Mom to Jed: “Do you know what color this balloon is?” Jed: “Yeah…it’s poop.”
  • Backing out of a parking space, I asked, “Is there anyone behind me?” Jed piped up from the backseat: “Me! Me! I behind you, Mommy!”
  • Me: “I found a gray hair!” Adelaide: “Don’t worry. I’ll still love you when you’re old. I’ll also still love you when you’re DEAD. But that won’t be for a while, right? Wait a second… How old are you again?”
  • Jed, after ‘tooting’ on my leg: “Hey. It ‘tinks in here.”
  • “Jed, how did you get out of your bed?” Jed: “I climb out.”
  • Adelaide, playing airplane: “And now, I will repair for take-off!”
  • Josie to me as I ran alongside her, carrying her brother: “Yah, mule! Yah!”
  • “Sadie, do not pile up any more blankets on the floor!” Sadie: “But MOM, the flord is har!” Mom: “But Sadie, you are a pat rack!”
  • Sadie, in a thwarted compliment attempt: “Mom, you are a handsome woman.”
  • Josie, in yet another thwarted compliment attempt: “You’re like a cow, Mom. You’re a good mom. Like a cow.”
  • Josie, annoyed that someone up ahead of her said that she was a slowpoke: “WELL, I MIGHT BE, BUT I HOPE THAT YOU REMEMBER I HAVE EXCELLENT HEARING!”
  • Adelaide: “There’s a little man that lives inside all of us—and that man’s name is Plaque. I learned that in my Teeth Class.”
  • Adelaide: “To catch a leprechaun, you have to lick him on his eyes.” Josie, laughing: “Not LICK him on his eyes! LOOK him IN his eyes!”
  • “Why does it say TV on that screen?” Sadie: “That’s just its name. Its first name is “T.” It’s last name is “V.”
  • Adelaide: “You don’t look like my mom. You kinda look like a witch.”
  • Josie to her sister: “Can’t you see that I’m INVESTIGATING something? I’ll let you have this when I am done with my INVESTIGATION! This is a serious INVESTIGATION that I am INVESTIGATING!”
  • Jed came into the kitchen with his toy hammer and said, “Hammer time!”
  • Adelaide: “I smell fear.”
  • Sadie: “Which marshmallow is healthier? Pink or white? Neither? Okay. I’ll use both.”
  • Adelaide’s disciples: “Rupert, Simeon, Levi, Judah…”
  • Adelaide singing: “Rocka my soul in da booba da Abraham, oh rocka my soul…”
  • Jed: “Sud-up.” Sadie: “Jed! Don’t say that!” Jed: “You did.” Sadie: “Yes, but don’t listen to me. I’m a bad example.”
  • After I gave blood, Jed said, “Poor Mommy. Dey stuck a noodle in yours arm.”
  • Mom: “Jed, you may not hammer any more nails until you put your pants back on!”
  • Jed to Mom, who is cleaning up a mess: You a good mom.” Mom: “Oh, thank you, my sweet boy. That is so nice to say – that I’m a good mom.” Jed: “No, Mom! You a good MOP.”
  • Jed: Mom! Dere’s somebody here! Dere is PEOPLE here! Me: Who is it? Jed: It us.
  • Mom: “Aren’t you hot in that coat?” Adelaide: “Yes. I’m just wearing it for fashion.”
  • Jed: “I play beanbags. Try and get em in da hole. I gotta pocus.”
  • Sadie, when asked what she’d say to a bully: “Well, first I’d say to stop it and pick on someone your own size. THEN, I’d say, ‘Hey, Buster, why don’t you just go on home now — and re-think your life?'”
  • Adelaide: “Mom, can I sit in the front seat with no carseat?” Me: “Um, NO. What do you think this is?” Adelaide: “Well, a free country.”
  • Mom: “Adelaide, how did I get so lucky to have you as my kid?” Adelaide: “I don’t really know. You’re just lucky. Yep… You’re da luckiest girl in town.”
  • Mom to Jed: “You are such a handsome guy. Where did you get that from? Mommy or Daddy?” Jed: “From de bafroom.”
  • I love the color-blindness and sweet innocence of children. When we were discussing civil rights and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Adelaide said, “Wait… We’re WHITE?!”
  • Adelaide: “I hurt my finger in the door!” Me: “Should I kiss it?” A: “No.” Me: “Should I laugh?” A: “No.” Me: “Should I cry?” A: “No.” Me: “Well, what should I do then?” A: “You should call on The Lord, that’s what! And say, hey, oh Lord, come over here and help me with this finger!”
  •  Dr. Josie to her patient, Grammie: “Don’t worry. Everything’s gonna be fine. You’re just gonna die soon.”
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We’re just wearing this for fashion.

I hope your year is a good one. Oh, and don’t worry – everything is gonna be fine!

 

If you have some favorite funny sayings from your kids, I’d love to hear them.