Monday, July 28, 2008

Scraps of Things

My blogging is going to be sporadic this week. I'm working on a huge project, and it's occupying a lot of my time and the majority of space in my head. I'll reveal it all next week.

This weekend I spent a lot of time working on it, plus deep cleaning my house. If you have little kids, you know you can only deep clean in phases--which, of course, by the time you're done with one phase and ready to move to the next, that one's messed up again. Saturday I tackled the upstairs--cleaning the floors and especially the upstairs bathroom.

As I was on my hands and knees underneath the sinks (apparently I haven't cleaned under the sinks since we moved in three years ago), Elaine came in. In the afternoon, we were scheduled to go to her friend Izzy's 2nd birthday party. She announced, "I tell Izzy about the pieces."

"What pieces?" I asked.

"The broken pieces. I tell Izzy about them."

"Well, why don't you tell Mom about the broken pieces too?"

"Ok, Mama, I show you."

So she took me by the hand and led me into her and Lucy's room where she had dropped a Mickey Mouse snowglobe on the floor. Tiny shards of broken glass were everywhere (and of course we were both barefoot) as well as water, the contents of the globe, and glitter snow. Then I noticed glitter all around Elaine's mouth.

"I drink some of the water there, Mom."

I'm not completely sure what I said at that point, but it was something along the lines of why why why why oh for crying in a bucket why would you do something like that?

"I sorry." (not particularly repentantly)

Later in the evening, after I had given both girls their bath and put their pajamas on, I settled them in my bed to watch an episode of the Waltons and just to wind down. They seemed very content to lie there. It had been a long day, cleaning, a birthday party, no naps, so everyone was glad to settle and I went into another room to read a book. Darren was at the side of the house, talking to a guy about weeding our yard for us.

All of a sudden, the guy looked up and said, "Ummm, oh no, honey, I don't think you should do that." Darren looked to see what he was talking about, and there was Elaine, in the front yard by herself, lifting up the guy's bike. We don't know when or how she got outside or why she felt compelled to lift up a man's bike.

Darren came in and told me that little story, and then I shared the shattered Mickey Mouse globe vignette with him. He said, "I'm probably better off not knowing these things. I'm sure she's a normal 2-year-old for anyone else? Just not for us."

That was pretty much the essence of our weekend, trying to get work done while wrangling Elaine. There were other moments with her in there too, but I'm sort of too tired to write about them.

Also here's an update: you know how miserable Lucy's been at daycare? Well, Alysa read my post on that and promptly invited Lucy to spend the day with her and Maddie and Jackson today so she wouldn't have to go to daycare. And this would have been her last day there, so she's kissed that place goodbye. She was so ecstatic when I told her and has been packing her suitcase full of Polly Pockets all weekend. She kept asking, "I don't have to go back any more ever?" and in her prayers at night she said, "Dear Jesus, thank you that I don't have to go back to daycare EVER AGAIN."

Oh and one last thing. All summer Lucy and I have been anxiously awaiting to receive the packet from school and find out who her new kindergarten teacher will be. Remember the story of Mrs. Blubbers? Anyway, when we got home from the birthday party on Saturday, the packet was sitting on the counter, unopened. (Hello? Does Darren feel absolutely no anticipation at all? Did he not want to see this all-important question settled?)

She was absolutely over the moon to discover that yes indeed, Mrs. Blubbers aka Blevens is going to be her kindergarten teacher. She called my parents right away and shouted to them, "Mrs. Blevens is going to be my new teacher! Mrs. Blevens who I've been wanting with all my heart!"

So I'll check in whenever I can here and I'll be sure to have a big reveal next week...

Friday, July 25, 2008

Update from Tuesday

If you want to see pictures from the birthday party on Tuesday, you can check them out here.

...including one of Lucy and me with our hairnets on. That was the initial stumbling block of the day for her. Maddie came up and sweetly offered to put Lucy's on her. Lucy said quietly, "No, thank you," like it was some optional party hat or something. She had a similar problem when she went to a tearoom for a birthday, and they were required to pick a hat off the wall and wear it. I thanked Maddie for wanting to help and leaned down and whispered to Lucy, "You will put the hairnet on because that is the RULE." She whispered back, "I want you to put yours on first, Mom." I said, "Welllllll, not yet. As soon as we go in the room where we pack the food."

Another case of: apple, meet tree.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Birthday Party Experience

Since starting pre-school, Lucy has been on the birthday party circuit. She's been to all sorts of parties--gym parties, tea parties, parties with clowns, her own fairy party of course--and they've all been great. Birthday parties in America is a whole other topic that I won't get into here, at least not today. But yesterday's was unique and wonderful.

About 40 of us met at an organization called Feed My Starving Children. There were two other groups there that day as well, one from a Presbyterian church and then another youth mission group, so there might have been 85 of us all together. We first met in a room where a worker from the organization showed us a video. Any time you talk about children starving to death, you know that's going to be compelling. But you really could not fail to be moved by this.

One story that really stuck out to me was that of a missionary walking down the road and hearing a tiny cry from an outhouse. A woman had apparently given birth over a toilet and left the baby in there to die. The missionary tied a rope around his waist and went all the way down to retrieve the baby from the sewage. They showed a picture of the baby, and he was pretty much the definition of bones covered over with skin. He was brought to the orphanage, where the workers there named him Moses. Now he's about three years old, thriving on food and love, and is about the cutest little chocolate drop you've ever seen. The rest of the video showed the difference even a few weeks of healthy food can make in the life of a child. The great thing about this particular organization is that 95% of the money goes into the food. It goes straight to missionaries and orphanages--no politicians involved.

After the video, the woman described the food we would be packing for children just like Moses. It's a mixture of chicken-flavored powder, dried vegetables, soy, and rice with all necessary vitamins added. We all herded in, washed our hands, put on our hairnets, and began to work together.

We set up assembly lines around the tables, someone cranked up the 80s music (which I am completely convinced motivates everyone to work faster AND happier), and got going. It was so fantastic to see a room full of people, especially little kids, working together to bag up this food. Lucy and three other little girls at our table manned all the ingredients while one mom supervised them, one mom held the bags, I weighed them, and another mom sealed them. Every time a group filled a box with food, they would yell out a chosen phrase or word, and FMSC workers would take the box to the warehouse. One group yelled out "Donation!" every time, but ours yelled out "Happy Birthday, Maddie!" each time.

After about an hour and a half, we cleaned up and all went into the warehouse where all our boxes were stacked on a pallet. Each person laid their hand somewhere on the boxes and we prayed over the food. Then we went back into the "debriefing" room and found out our stats. In under two hours, we had packed over 23,000 packages of food, each of which will feed a child for a day. So with the food we packed, 60+ kids will have food for one year! Then we got to taste a sample of the food we packed. I was surprised: it was very good; it tasted kind of like Rice-a-roni.

One of the coolest things for me was that Maddie's mom (my friend Alysa) did not pick this option out instead of the usual kid party just because she's a groovy mission chick from Moody (though of course she is!) Maddie herself wanted to do this. Alysa and Maddie have volunteered at FMSC before, and Maddie, who turned 6 yesterday, was so moved by the fact that 18,000 children die each and every day because they don't have enough food to eat that she wanted to do something. She's been thinking of ways to earn money and wanted to have her birthday party there. And in lieu of presents, we each made a donation.

My own Lucy left a different person as well. Midway through she told me, "I LOVE Feed My Starving Children, Mom!" She was so appalled when she found out that the children would sometimes eat dirt and rocks because they were so hungry. That was the one thing from the day that jumped out at her. She kept saying, "They eat the dirt? On the ground?" She spent the entire ride home, detailing all the things that we could send kids around the world so they wouldn't be hungry anymore.

Don't get me wrong--I love fun birthday parties for kids, and I think everyone should get the chance to play pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey and hit a pinata or whatever. But here in the land of we-have-to-do-everything-completely-over-the-top-and-compete-with-each-other-even-in-our-children's-birthday-celebrations, yesterday was an awesome experience. Because Maddie's heart was touched by the plight of children without food, my own little girl has caught the missions fever as well.

So, happy birthday, Maddie!

Monday, July 21, 2008


This morning on the way to daycare, Lucy was happy for the first few minutes because I had downloaded a Meredith Andrews album on the iPod as a surprise for her. We listened to that, then Elaine demanded, not very graciously I might add, to listen to HER music, which is currently Vivaldi's "Gloria" and "Laudamus Te"--yes, that is a little surreal--and then sang along to it in her basso profundo voice while Lucy stared out the window the rest of the way.

Lucy does not want to go to daycare on Mondays. She loathes it. She's been going to the same daycare facility ever since she was 11 weeks old. Don't get me wrong; it's been a good place for us--nice teachers, wonderful director, clean facilities. I can still feel the stress of that first day though when I left a baby so small in the care of strangers that they had to put her bouncy seat in a crib. That was so she could still see around, but the bigger babies wouldn't maul her. Yeah, note to self: do not wear mascara on first day of work after maternity leave. No worries though, she quickly adapted and adjusted and absolutely loved it. In fact, when she was one of the bigger babies, she used to crawl around to the others and tap on the side of their cribs so that they would wake up and play with her.

Last summer, I gently broke it to her that she'd be going to a different school in the fall. Whenever she thought about it, she'd cry and ask if she could stay where she was or even just stay home with Elaine and me. But then she went to school, took to it like a duck to water, and went on her easy way as she always does. This summer she was looking forward to going back to daycare and seeing her teachers and friends. She couldn't wait for summer to start.

It hasn't turned out that way. She hates it. HATES it. Did I mention that? Hates it. The other children are mean to her. She doesn't have friends. Apparently no one wants to play with her. The boys are particularly brutal. Remember the infamous Anthony who hit her with a book and spit on her? There's another boy who tells her repeatedly he doesn't like her. Last week he said, "Hey, come here, I'll tell you a secret." You know how she loves secrets, so she went right over and leaned in. He said, "Guess what? You're stupid." She said that at the end of the day, the other kids were sticking out their tongues at her, even the little girl she thought was her friend.

Hey, wanna know the absolute worst part about being a parent? Yeah, this is pretty much right up there. Last week she was up 2 1/2 hours past her bedtime, crying. I held her while she sobbed and said, "I want to stop thinking about it, but I just can't." I talked to her about how I was her friend forever and Daddy and her dear sister and remember all her wonderful friends she made this year at school and church. Then I reminded her of Jesus, how He's always our friend and never changes and never leaves. She cried and said, "I want to smile at you, Mama. But these feelings in my heart hurt so, and it pours everything else out so that I forget I have any friends." I know what that feels like.

Today I watched her in the backseat, her yellow headband in place and her big yellow sunglasses with rhinestones, a la Jackie O., juxtaposed with Rabbie and her thumb in her mouth. I knew how much she was dreading getting to daycare. I tried to ask her questions like, "Does your class play outside on the playground? Do you play anything special?" She took her thumb out and said, "No, we just play. And no one will play with me, so I play by myself."

OK, I almost started to cry when I just typed that. I could probably write a whole impassioned post about bullying and how we always are teaching kids to handle being bullied rather than teaching kids not to be bullies. Or whatever, but Ann-Marie's done a much better job at her blog (check out her "Bully Chronicles"). The whole thing just makes me miserable though. And mad. I'm so torn between the "turn the other cheek" principle and just wanting to dropkick these hellions into oblivion. (Just keepin' it real, people!) I would a million times more rather have someone hurt my feelings than Lucy's. Elaine's either, but man, she is different. That is a girl who vociferously demands to sing Laudamus Te in the car. Future bullies of that little girl: beware.

Lucy is my tenderhearted little one, the girl who never wants to hurt anyone's feelings. The girl who, last week at swimming class, knelt down by the side of the pool to help another little girl who had trouble getting out. Who makes sure her dolls and animals are all tucked in at night and never wants anyone to feel lonely. Who, when we play Candyland, makes me move my gingerbread man up by hers, even if it's a lot of spaces, so that we'll be together. This is my girl who loved the dead bird.

So, Darren and I have been talking it over. Oh, and if you think I'm enraged on our daughter's behalf...heh. Watch out. Daddy's ready to gas up the truck. I'm not sure exactly all that entails, but it doesn't sound good.

One thing we didn't want to do though was fight all her battles for her. We've been talking about the book of James, how the first few verses say, "Count it all joy my brothers when you encounter various trials because you know the testing of your faith produces perseverance." We were talking about Kent Hughes' commentary on it and how he went through a very similar situation when his daughter was 6. We can't go out and mow everyone down and smooth her path all the way through life. She has to do some of it herself. We want Lucy to know how to be joyful during trials and how to have perseverance.

However, there are still five weeks left until school starts. Five long Mondays for her to endure, and she's only five years old. So we've decided on a compromise. She'll finish out July, the next two Mondays, at daycare. Then we've asked her dear beloved Mrs. Pope, who watches her on Mondays during the school year if she would mind starting in August rather than September. And we're not going to tell Lucy the plan until that last Monday is over. I can't wait for it.

I really hope we're doing the right thing. We think we are.

Friday, July 18, 2008

A Recent Quote Collection

The setup: I made Lucy a very ordinary peanut butter and jelly sandwich...low fat peanut butter, grape jelly, whole wheat bread (with extra fiber!)

Lucy: Mom, you make the best sandwiches in the whole world. I bet you could win a prize at the fair for your sandwiches.

The setup: I set the girls' lunch down in front of them and before you could blink an eye, Elaine started sampling hers.

Me: Hey, little missy. We usually thank God for our food before we just dive into it.

She gives me a naughty grin.

Me: Elaine, why don't you go ahead and pray first?

Lucy (accusingly): Yeah, especially since you ATE first.

The setup: I had possibly the largest zit ever, in the history of the world, on my chin. One of those dreadful red undergrounders. It was like, a cyst. I searched the Internet for some home remedies. I pressed a cold teabag against it at night and slathered it with plain white Colgate. Hello? Did everyone know about this but me? By morning it was almost gone. Anyway, while I was still sleeping, as usual, Elaine came in and woke me up.

Elaine: What dat on your face, Mom?

Me: I've got a sore on my chin.

She touches the dried toothpaste gingerly.

Elaine (in horrified voice): Da doctor tell you do dat?

The setup: The girls were in the bathtub, playing with all of their Polly Pockets. I was sitting there, reading a magazine. I looked up to see them using the shampoo and conditioner on their dolls.

Lucy: We’re putting conditioner in the dolls' hair. They really need it. But we’re not wasting it all, so you don’t need to lose your chili, Mom.

The setup: I was rocking Elaine before bedtime. Her stuffed cat, aptly named Catty, was lying discarded under her bed.

Me: I see Catty under your bed. Actually I think I hear her crying. Don't you think you should go get her?

Lucy: I hear her crying too. I'll go get her for you.

Lucy retrieves the cat.

Me: Elaine, wasn't that nice of Lucy to get you Catty? She's so caring, isn't she? (I'm always trying to highlight their strengths).

Lucy: Yeah, Elaine. Definitely more caring than you are.

The setup: I'm rocking Elaine after her naptime. Are you seeing any sort of pattern here? This kid loves to be rocked. She loves to just rock in the glider, listening to music. I have no idea where she gets it from. Lucy was in my room, watching a Waltons episode.

Lucy: Elaine, come watch John-boy with me.

Lucy: Elaine, come in here, I'm watching the Waltons.

Lucy: ELAINE, you are missing this! Come in here!

Elaine (roaring): I didn't miss anything! I am having my Mommy Time!

The setup: Darren came upstairs from his office. He was wearing a white t-shirt (fine), denim shorts (fine), and black socks (sound of screeching brakes. Sorry, babe!)

Me: Oh my goodness. WHAT are you wearing? Why do you have those socks on?

Darren: Listen to that, Lucy. Mom doesn't like what I have on. I think maybe she doesn't love me.

Lucy: She does love you, Dad, I promise. She just wants you to dress right.


Happy weekend to all! Remember, dress right and don't lose your chili!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Good Doctor

Yesterday was my annual hope-I-don't-have-cancer checkup. That's really all we need to say here in the blogosphere, right? No other information necessary. I used to dread that day every year. I went to a nice doctor from Northwestern and then I would reward myself with something from the Fannie May store on Michigan Avenue, but still. It was awful.

Then I changed doctors, to one closer to my house. Dr. Mills and I hit it off right away. Then I got pregnant, and she was possibly as excited as I was. She is part of a practice, you know, where you see a different doctor each time so you get used to them all before delivery because who knows which one will be on call when your baby arrives. But not in my case. She was there for all my appointments (unless she had to run off and deliver a baby). She gave me her pager number in case of emergencies and said when the time came, she would definitely be the doctor who delivered my baby--so be sure and page her. She would run the mini-sonogram machine during my check-ups and say, "Hello in there little baby! It's Auntie Dr. Mills!"

When the time did come, she was in the room much of the time. Then, she was right up on the table with her six-month pregnant self, bringing Lucy into the world and saying, "It's a girl!"

Same thing when Elaine came, except by this time we had moved again, so I drove 75 miles one way just to see my favorite doctor. Lucy was born on a busy Saturday, but Elaine was born in the middle of the night so Dr. Mills just hung out in our room during labor and we laughed and chatted and showed her videos of Lucy going trick-or-treating (OK, Darren did that part because I was just a little bit busy). She told me later that when she went out to the nurses' station they asked her, "Why are you spending so much time in that room?" I guess they figured it was the happenin' room because by the time the baby was ready to be born, I don't know how many nurses had come in there to cheer us on.

And of course, I'll never forget hearing her say, "It's Elaine!"

So, now when it's my annual hope-I-don't-have-cancer checkup, I actually look forward to it. I bring pictures of the girls, and we hug, and then we both get tears in our eyes remembering what two awesome, happy days we have shared together. Yeah. My ob/gyn tears up when she remembers delivering the girls. Is that not cool? She told me that the male doctor in her practice asked her scathingly, "Are you sure you're an OB?"

This time we talked again about how we have to get together outside of her office, and she invited us to spend the day at her lake house (heh, yeah, she's a doctor) in August. We talked about how much our girls love American Girl--her daughter has five of them and loads of outfits, which she brings to the lake--and how they could all play together. So hopefully, that will work out.

Whenever I would ask Lucy what she wants to be when she grows up, she would say, "I want to be a doctor and help babies get out of their moms' tummy, just like Dr. Mills." Now she wants to be a chef, just like Rachael Ray, so...maybe she'll be some sort of combination OB/gourmet cook, right?

Anyway, here is Doctor Mills, the greatest doctor ever, with Lucy...

And here she is with Elaine...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Cooking School #4

Edited to add: Pictures now available!

This is odd. I continually try to upload pictures today, and each time I get the box with the red X through it. Hmm. So, no pictures of the cooking school today. Hopefully this is only a temporary condition.

We haven't had cooking school in awhile because of my birthday and 4th of July and whatnot, but we did last night. Lucy made sloppy joes, cheese fries, and banana pudding. Her sloppy joes were fantastic, and after much study and taste testing, I am here to tell you that the definitive BBQ sauce, the absolute best, in our opinion, is Corky's. Corky's is a Memphis BBQ place, but I am thrilled to discover that they now sell their sauce in the Midwest. We also like Famous Dave's (but only cooked, not as a dipping sauce) and Jack Daniels (what?!), but Corky's is our favorite.

As for the cheese fries, instead of putting the cheese sauce on top we served it as a dipping sauce. (On a side note, did you know that the worst appetizer--for your health, not taste-wise--in the entire United States is the Aussie cheese fries with ranch dressing from Outback Steakhouse? They have 2,900 calories and 182 grams of fat. So yeah, we served our cheese on the side.) Anyway, 50% of our family--members whose names begin with "A" and "E"--loved the cheese sauce. The other 50% pronounced it, in a word, "strange."

The banana pudding, however, was a hit with everyone except Elaine who wasn't allowed to have any because she didn't eat her sloppy joes (she has some meat issues). We used Paula Deen's "Not Yo Mama's Banana Pudding" recipe with just a slight tweak: we use cheesecake pudding instead of vanilla. No disrespect to anyone's mama, but it is the best banana pudding ever. It's Darren's favorite dessert, so he was very happy. He's been asking for some all summer. And yeah, that is a LOT for four people, two of whom are quite small. And's usually gone within 48 hours.

This post doesn't have the same impact as it would with pictures, but maybe it'll be working later today. It's very, very hot here now, and there's a good picture of Lucy standing next to the meal she cooked. Her hair is all wet from playing in the pool, yet she's wearing a faux velvet Sleeping Beauty dress and a heavy red fleece cape from when she was Little Red Riding Hood for Halloween three years ago. Wardrobe is very important in cooking, dontcha know...

And I just added this picture because she's so cute, I could eat her up...

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Naughty or Nice

On Sunday, the girls and I stayed home from church since we'd gotten home from Mississippi at around 1:30 a.m. Since their schedules had been so jerked around, I just wanted them to have a nice quiet day before jumping into the week. We got ready at a leisurely pace, and the girls were playing dolls in their room.

I walked in, and Elaine was sitting on her bed with her favorite doll, Elena.

"Elena is naughty," she announced. "I pull out her ponytails. Then I spank her," she said. "Yeah, spank her!" Lucy chimed in. She began bouncing around, telling me all about the naughtiness of her dolls, too.

Time for a Mother lecture. I explained to Lucy (again, sigh) about leading by example. How if she acts like it's fun and cool and hilarious to be naughty, so will Elaine. "Why don't you play something nice with the dolls?" I asked. "Why don't you put on your hymn CD and get your Bible story book and have Sunday School with them?" They were both all over that idea and were excitedly making plans and lining up the dolls as I went to take my shower. I heard them sweetly singing "Holy, Holy, Holy." That's more like it.

When I got out, I overheard them talking about how naughty all the dolls had been in Sunday School. Jack had slapped Shelley. Shirley Temple had stolen money from the collection plate. Raggedy Ann had peed in her pants, even though she is 8 years old and had to be sent to the toddler nursery. As Lucy explained it, "We didn't make the dolls be brats, Mama, they just WERE."

Here is Shirley's fate:

Poor Shirley. One week she's Queen of England, then she's in jail for stealing from the church. Maybe next week she'll be in rehab.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

An End and A Beginning

What a weekend. On Wednesday, July 9, Darren's aunt Fran died. She died on the exact date her daughter Betsy died last year.

We had a lot of figuring out to do--which of us was going to the funeral, we needed to get the day off work, would we get someone to take care of the girls or would we all go, compounded by the fact that it is a 9-hour drive to Mississippi, and we are just operating with a small rental car right now. So Darren got a larger rental car and DVD players (did I mention it was nine hours?), and the four of us piled in on Friday morning to head down South.

The girls were so so so so exceedingly good. Not one fight or fuss the whole trip. They were complete angels. This was especially helpful around about the time we hit St. Louis, and food poisoning hit Darren and me. We spent significant time in a number of gas stations and finally headed back down the road. I attempted to lie down in an upright seat, draping myself across the console. I vaguely remember Darren on his phone and him asking me about flowers for the funeral and me muttering, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death..."

We finally rolled in around 7 p.m. and headed to the hotel where we all did a quick change and teeth brush and headed over for the last 20 minutes of the wake. After that we were feeling well enough to take the girls swimming at the hotel, which I was glad about because that's what they had been looking forward to. We were in an outdoor pool at around 9:30 p.m., and it felt like bathwater so that probably gives you an idea of what the temperature was down there (the next day at the internment, it was 100 degrees in the shade).

Saturday was the funeral. Darren played "Amazing Grace" on his trombone, and his little girls were so proud of him (me too!) Darren's mom said some words (Fran was her sister) and sang as well as Darren's sister. Fran's brother gave the eulogy. It was truly a family event. One of the neatest parts for us was Darren introducing Elaine during the service since she is named Elaine Frances after her great aunt.

Aunt Fran was such a sweet little lady. I'm sorry both girls, but especially Elaine, won't get to know her as they grow up. She had a pronounced Southern accent and called everybody "honey." When Darren was born, she went to help out Darren's mom with the new baby. She took a look at him and said, "Meg honey, now that's the prettiest baby you ever had!" She was also known to go through the Corky's drive-through and announce her order as, "Oh honey, just give me what I had last time!"

She loved to help people, and she was a snazzy dresser. Her brother said during her eulogy how happy Fran would be to see what a nice outfit she had on for her funeral (and she had her nails polished too!)

The only time she was ever able to come and visit us was two years ago--she came up for Elaine Frances's baptism, and we bought her a corsage for the service. I sat next to her at the luncheon afterward, and we had a good chat. She asked me if I was working again, and I said kind of apologetically that I was. With a lot of people, I feel like I need to defend that position, but not Aunt Fran. She said warmly, "Of course you are! You paid a lot of money for that education. And honey, let me tell you. When you've got those little ones? You just need to get out of the house sometimes!"

She brought Elaine a little purple dress and $100 savings bond. She also gave her a baptism card that started out, "Dear little one...," in which she crossed out "one" and put "Elaine." Then inside she wrote, "This is the greatest honor I have ever had in my lifetime. One day I want you to know how much I love you. Love forever, Aunt Fran."

Before we left for Mississippi on Friday, I quickly opened up my email. Remember our friends I asked prayer for a few weeks ago, Brian and Warrie Blackburn? They were the ones who wanted to adopt the twin baby girls but were now facing a lengthy court battle for them. Last week we got an email from Brian saying that the birth mother decided to withdraw both fostering and adoption for the babies. They were devastated; it was the end of their dream. They had already grown to know and love those girls.

Then in an amazing turn of events basically overnight, both biological parents decided to terminate their rights and let the adoption go through. In the email I opened on Friday, there was a picture of a beaming Brian and Warrie, each holding a baby girl with one word in capital letters underneath: "HOME!"

So, it's been a happy-sad weekend. We're going to miss Aunt Fran. A lot. We know we'll see her in heaven someday, but it was hard to say goodbye here on Earth. And then we're so thrilled for the Blackburns, starting out a whole new life with two beautiful daughters. At the risk of breaking into a rendition of "Circle of Life" or something, I'll just say that's how life is. I am so thankful for all of it.

Job 1:21 "The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord."

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Knock, knock

Lucy discovered knock, knock jokes. I hate puns and think they're absolutely the lowest form of humor, but she loves knock, knock jokes and I love her so I listen to dozens of them a day. Here's the funny part though, she has no idea what they are. I told her the classic one first:

Knock, knock
Who's there?
Orange who?
Orange you glad I didn't say banana?

Well, she thought that was the height of hilarity, so the next morning she excitedly told me she had a knock, knock joke for me. Here's how it went:

Knock, knock
Who's there?
Banana who?
Banana you glad I didn't say grapes?

I thought that was so funny on so many levels so I burst into laughter. I have created a monster. Now throughout the day, she'll say, "Can I tell you a knock, knock joke, Mom?" "Yeah, hit me with it!" I'll say, and I'll hear something like:

Knock, knock
Who's there?
Toothbrush who?
Toothbrush you glad I didn't say horse rover?

The whole concept that she absolutely doesn't get it is funny, until the 4th or 5th or 32nd knock, knock joke that makes no sense. And she's very hurt if I don't laugh. She tries them out on her dad who almost never laughs at them because maybe he's teaching her that real life just isn't fair.

This morning she asked me, "Mom, will you get me a knock, knock joke book sometime?" so maybe that will help. I think I'll miss these very random ones though, and then I really will have to start listening to and laughing at puns. Hey, at least she isn't telling dead baby or cross-the-road jokes, so I can count my blessings on that one.

Update: I went into the living room just now and said:

Knock, knock
Who's there?
Lucy who?
Lucy lastic lets your pants fall down!

She did not laugh AT ALL. Then she said this:

Knock, knock
Who's there?
Alice who?
Alice you glad I didn't say banana?

Then I said:
Knock, knock
Who's there?
Marsh who?

She looked at me gravely and said, "Mom, that's not really funny. If you said, 'Marsh I didn't say banana,' then it would be."


Tuesday, July 08, 2008

It's a mystery to me...

Lucy loves mysteries, secrets, and surprises. Every since she was a baby, I would say, "Let me tell you a secret," and then whisper something in her ear. Most of the stuff she does (and wants me to know about) she'll usually lead me to and say, "Close your eyes first!" and will then do a big reveal.

She loves the Boxcar Children mysteries and the Strawberry Shortcake Sea mystery movie (say that three times fast). [Side note: Here is yet another difference between boys and girls. Once we were visiting my in-laws, and our three nephews were there also. Lucy wanted me to read from the Strawberry Shortcake Treasury, and since the boys love books too they wanted to get in on the story. The mystery builds--well, as much as a Strawberry Shortcake mystery can--who is stealing the seaberries from Coco Calypso? The friends keep catching a glimpse of a mysterious figure in the water. "It's a SHARK!" yelled Ryne, my 5-year-old nephew. "Nooooo," said Lucy reprovingly. "It's a little mermaid named Seaberry Delight." Yeah, those boys totally lost interest after that.]

When Lucy was still in school the class learned about pirates, made secret maps, and had a treasure hunt. That really set her off. Since then, she busily gets out paper and markers and makes secret surprise pictures for me and hides them on my pillow or writes out secret soup recipes and painstakingly wraps them up for my mom.

One day she sat down with her supplies and made a treasure map for Darren. I helped her with some of the words. "X Marks the Spot" it said (and then was covered with Xs). Then she wrote a note and slipped it under the door to his basement office. "I have taken your treasure box. Elaine did it. You will need this map." I ran down to whisper what was going on. "I have a treasure box?" he asked. "Just go with it," I hissed. He then got the map covered with Xs, followed it with her guidance through the house, and finally found the surprise she had hidden for him--a paper cone with silk flowers hung behind our bedroom door.

It's a funny little quirk she has, and it's actually very fun to indulge (usually). Her imagination is always running away with her, which is what everyone used to say about me when I was little so I get that. It can, however, occasionally be a little disconcerting as I discovered the other night. It was dark, and I walked around the bed to my bedside table to turn on the light. This is what was waiting for me. Let me tell you first, it's 90% less alarming in the light, in a photo, when you're expecting it:

Yes. That's Shirley Temple, barefoot, wearing a Cinderella crown and waving at me. In the dark. I'm not sure why. It pretty much scared the pants off me. Darren found it absolutely hilarious. "You have to take a picture of that for the blog," he said.

So there it is. There hasn't been any explanation of why or how she got there either. I will let you know whatever I find out.

Edited to add: This afternoon I asked Lucy why Shirley was on my bedside table. "Because she is the Queen of England." "Well, what is the Queen of England doing on my bedside table?" "She's overseeing things in the prison." Alrighty then.

Monday, July 07, 2008

I think this technically counts as a missions trip...

Since this weekend was a holiday, Darren somehow extracted the promise from me that we would all sleep in the tent one night. We got up Friday morning and went out to my parents who live in the country. Darren set up the tent and the air mattress while my mom and dad snickered (at me).

Then we left and went to a church picnic. I hadn't had much sleep the night before, so I was really tired by the time we got back to my parents'. So were the girls. Lucy was sort of whimpering, and I washed her face and brushed her teeth for her, put her in her pajamas, and she went out and flopped in her bed in the tent where she slept until morning like the awesome little trooper that she is. Elaine? Not so much. She was in full Princess Puff mode. (Princess Puff was my grandma's toy poodle, one of the snippiest little dogs ever to roam the earth. She's in dog heaven now, rest assured on some pink silk pillow.) Elaine wanted to be rocked. "Daddy, wock me!" she wailed. She wanted to sleep in her regular bed. She wanted more pillows and toys and stuffed animals. This girl takes after her mother.

Darren finally got her settled down. I sat inside, reading a mystery about an abusive husband who was killed by his wife because he made her sleep in a tent. Well, all except for that last part. By 9:30 I was done and didn't want the girls out there by themselves anyway, so I went out and got settled.

The next part was the longest night of my life. Possibly Fourth of July is not the night to sleep out in the open. Firecrackers and M-80s went off all around us. Dogs barked. Big dogs, little dogs, dogs on skates and dogs on skis. Go dogs go. Plus all around were people drag racing or something. Who knew so much went on in the middle of the night in Pump Handle, Midwest? Then the arthritis in my hip was killing me. Please don't laugh. It's true. And it was freezing. Freezing, I tell you. It was like lying on a mattress filled with dry ice. And everything was clammy. And oh, the crickets. They were deafening. It was like the Chinese water torture in chirp form. Another huge firecracker boom, and Elaine started to cry. Basically, my life passed before my eyes at that point. I was like, "I am so out of here. It has to be at least 4 o'clock in the morning by now. I have fulfilled my commitment of sleeping in the tent."

I carefully unzipped the opening so as not to wake the girls, but the cover over the tent was so firmly in place that I had to try and squeeze through until I just fell out onto the ground, losing one of my flip-flops in the process so I had to hunt around for that in the pitch black. I made my way back to the house where my dad had thoughtfully left the door unlocked. (He knows me well.)

I looked at the clock to confirm that it was indeed 4:00 a.m., and lo and behold it was 12:30. I'd made it three hours in the tent. I went upstairs, fell into a real (warm, blissfully quiet) bed and slept until 8:00 the next morning.

That was my tent experience. Darren claims it's not all bad and that he's bringing the tent to family camp in August. We'll see exactly who ends up sleeping in it.

Here was the best thing about this weekend though...

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Welcome, July!

Yesterday our neighbor Ms. Jan came over for her annual 4th of July visit. (In case you're wondering, she also has an annual Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, Easter, May Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas visit too.) Here she is in her groovy Statue of Liberty glasses.

She brought homemade sugar cookies and snickerdoodles, plus gift bags for the girls. This year the gift bags had water bottles, stickers, pinwheels, star necklaces, straws, and little battery-operated hand-held fans that light up red, white, and blue. I'll of course take pictures on Friday, but here are Lucy and Elaine all kitted out from Ms. Jan last year.

I am not uber-patriotic, but my concession to this holiday has been playing Aaron Copland's music non-stop.

In addition, yesterday my mom brought over summer dresses she had made (patterned with Suzy's Zoo--I finally remembered, Melanie!) After I finished work, the three of us went for a long walk and smelled the summer scents of clover and linden trees.

To celebrate the first day of July, in the evening we had these (I had to take two pictures because the first shot had someone's hand grabbing for one):

We ate them on the front porch and enjoyed the warm summer evening...

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Miss Malaprop

When I was talking about Elaine singing yesterday, I did not mention that, in addition to some standards, she has her own unusual repertoire of songs. A few months ago, I wrote about overhearing her sing, "Jingle bells, jingle bells, for the Bible tells me so!"

Recently I have heard, "The B-I-B-L-E, yes, that's the book for me, I stand alone on the word of God, and Bingo was his name-oh!"

Then Friday Darren called me at work to tell me her latest. She and Lucy have been watching "Mary Poppins" this summer. Not much else. Just "Mary Poppins." That morning, Darren heard Elaine singing: "I sing the mighty power of God, who made the mountains rise...Up through the atmosphere, up where the air is clear, oh let's gooooooooo, fly a kite!"

I'm starting to see her as some sort of lounge singer now, like in "The Fabulous Baker Boys" minus Jeff Bridges and the piano.