Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Our Contribution

Tomorrow we will be heading to the suburbs to spend Thanksgiving with my brother, his wife, my cousin and her husband, and my parents. My dad is the master of the turkey, so he'll be doing that. My sis-in-law will be doing most of the rest, my mom is bringing the pies, and we got assigned the sweet potatoes.

The girls and I decided to make Pioneer Woman's sweet potato casserole. If you haven't visited her site or made any of her recipes, you are missing out. My favorites are her crash hot potatoes and her orange mini-muffins. But everything she makes looks good. AND she has a new cookbook out, which my friend Toby went to her book-signing in Chicago last week and brought me back a Pioneer Woman t-shirt. How cool is that? Thanks, Tob!

Here are my babies and their sweet potatoes. "Do we like sweet potatoes?" they asked. "They smell kind of yucky, Mom."

Then we added the sugar, milk, vanilla, and eggs and smoothed everything out in the baking dish. I'm not sure why a raincoat is necessary attire for this step, but apparently it is.

They ran off with Daddy to go over to baby Derek's house, so I finished with the brown sugar, butter, pecan topping. I took a picture of the finished product (well, pre-baking...we'll do that part tomorrow), but honestly it did look kind of yucky. I'm assuming it'll taste great though because how can you go wrong with those ingredients?

Then I made banana nut bread and pumpkin scones since we'll be staying overnight, and I thought we should bring some breakfast goods. Our house smells pret-ty good right now if I do say so.

Happy Thanksgiving from our family to you!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Feast Day

Today was the big Thanksgiving feast for the first graders. I responded to the ancient call of motherly guilt and volunteered to help. This is when I really miss my old job when I was busy at work all day. I don't think I'm cut out to work with large groups of first graders. Lucy's teacher roped me into helping on the applesauce team. I was encouraged to see another older looking mom there--until I realized she was actually a grandma.

My usual tool for working with apples is my Chicago Cutlery knife that my mom bought me for my first apartment in 1991. I haven't sharpened it since, and it works great. Today there was some amazing contraption that could, when working correctly, peel, core, and slice apples. The key phrase there is "when working correctly." My job was to secure the apple to this lethal-looking three-pronged spear, position the core ring correctly and keep it in place, and hold down the entire instrument while each uncoordinated first grader took a turn turning the crank, simultaneously spraying all of us with apple juice. I'm surprised none of us lost any of our digits, and I really want to be off the roads when some of these first graders are old enough to get their license. I did discover that the key to getting boys to help in the kitchen is to have some deadly tool at their disposal with which to work.

We completed that task while another team helped the kids make cornbread. In between they decorated their pilgrim and Indian costumes while dancing around and doing politically incorrect war whoops.

Finally, we were ready:

There was turkey; cornbread; corn; the aforementioned applesauce, fortunately sans blood and any fingertips as least as far as I could tell; and pumpkin pie with whipped cream.

Here is Lucy's first grade class...

I may be slightly biased, but here is the cutest little pilgrim ever...

As they were finishing their feast, the Thanksgiving Turkey came to visit...

I also took the time to observe the art and writing projects hanging up outside of Lucy's classroom. They had all made pilgrims and then written about them. My favorite pilgrim woman had foundation, blush, lipstick, and mascara because you know we would have been nowhere in the New World without those.

It appeared that the writing assignment was to describe the pilgrims. I read everyone's essay, and each one was a sentence or two about what color clothes the pilgrims wore. The kids did a nice job.

Then I saw this one:

The spelling needs a little work, so I will translate: "I like Pilgrims! They are very nice. Pilgrims are sensible and they put their special things in the box and they did not complain like the Israelites but they did work a lot." Lucy

All I can say, my girl has got stuff on her mind, and she needs to put it down on paper. She might need some help with run-on sentences, but fortunately she has an editor.

So concludes Feast Day 2009--everyone's full of great food, no first graders were harmed in the process, and the Pilgrims were sensible enough to work hard and wear lipstick--all things to be thankful for.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Orchard House

Edited to add: OK--I have fiddled around with this a million times, trying to get this post to be below the previous one but nothing works. So read that one first, and these random pictures will hopefully make sense.

Here are photos from my trip to Orchard House. The first is from the four girls' gardens.

Here's me knocking on the door (dorky, but true). Forgive the glaring flash--it's a picture of a picture. We'll pretend it's Louisa's spirit. Or something.

Lucy and Mom

This weekend was the opening weekend of deer season (why oh why do I know that?), so Darren went downstate to his parents' to hunt. Elaine went with him. Though she is on constant squirrel watch around our house, she doesn't hunt. She went to spend the weekend with her MiMi and PaPa so she could get thoroughly spoiled and have a diet consisting entirely of doughnuts and chocolate milk.

That meant Lucy and I were on our own. I picked her up after school on Friday, and that night we went to her swim meet. She came in second in almost every heat, plus her relay team. I was so proud of her. On the way home, we stopped by the store to pick up cake slices of her choice (Italian cream) so we could climb in my bed and eat them while watching movies.

We watched Little Women, which I've been wanting for ages to show her, but I wanted to make sure she'd be old enough to like it. I figured since she watches Pride & Prejudice now she'd be ready, and she was. She loved it--especially the part where Jo burned Meg's hair.

I know there are several versions of the movie; we chose the 1995 one, which is my favorite. It's not a flawless version, but it's still excellent, plus they actually filmed in Concord at Orchard House. I told Lucy how I had been there, and she wanted to know all about it.

We went to Boston for vacation when she was about 18 months old. I absolutely had to go see Orchard House of course. We went on the tour of it and had a grad student as our guide. The people in our group (we didn't know them)--well, I couldn't figure out why they were there. They didn't seem to have any knowledge of Louisa May Alcott or be interested in any way. I could tell the guide was discouraged, so while we were in the living room I broke out of my shell and raised my hand and asked, "Is it OK if I throw myself down in front of the fireplace and say, 'Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents?'"

After that, he pretty much conducted the tour personally for Darren and me, and we had a blast. I got to see the props and costumes the sisters used for their plays and, even though we technically weren't allowed to touch anything, he actually let me touch Louisa's desk where she wrote. I touched it. I touched it! So cool. (I've also touched C.S. Lewis's desk AND chair and Charles Williams' bookcase, but that's another post.)

Next dor to Orchard House (which is the Laurence's house in the movie) is Nathaniel Hawthorne's house, and down the street is Ralph Waldo Emerson's. Anyway, after telling Lucy all that, she made me promise to take her there someday.

The next day, Lucy got out her paints and spent most of the morning painting in blissful solitude without any little sister to get in and mess up her stuff or re-paint over her pictures. We also went to the mall to do a little Christmas shopping and then to Camille's Sidewalk Cafe for lunch. We shared a wrap sandwich and cookies and made our own mixed drinks of lemonade, iced tea, and Sprite.

Not too long after that, it was time for the other half of our family to come home. When I went to unbuckle Elaine from her seatbelt, I could see she was encrusted with chocolate frosting (from a doughnut of course). She had had a great time with her MiMi. They went together to buy stuff for Operation Christmas Child and apparently had a good talk about being a missionary. MiMi told Elaine that maybe she could be a missionary when she grew up, and Elaine said, "No, I don't want to be a missionary. But you should talk to Lucy about it--she really loves Jesus."

Lucy and Elaine were thrilled to see each other and began to bicker right away. The last time I tuned in to them, they were arguing about whether or not the ladybug on the car window was indeed Nellie, the ladybug who resides on our bathroom sink, or an altogether different ladybug named Millie.

Then at night when I went to check on them, they were curled up together, both asleep in Lucy's bed.

All is well.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Answers

Well, it took me some time, let me tell you, to wade through the hundreds of comments on the book title post, but I know you can't contain yourselves any longer, waiting for the answers, so without further ado:

1. Passage to India by E.M. Forster

2. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

3. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

4. The View from Saturday by E. L. Konigsburg. If you haven't read any of her work, you so should. She's the only author to win a Newbery Medal and Newbery Honor in the same year. She also won the Newbery Medal for this one. And her name is Elaine, so how could you not like her?

5. An Episode of Sparrows by Rumer Godden. My mom would be mad if I didn't include this book. That is, if my mom read my blog, which she doesn't. She doesn't really "get" blogs. Then she calls me after she goes to church and asks, "Why does everyone know about my life?"

6. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis. Lucy and Elaine trade off every night who gets to pick which audiobook they're going to listen to while they go to sleep. Lately, each night that it's Lucy's turn, she picks this one.

7. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh. (The "e" is long instead short like we pronounce it in the U.S.) He was a man. Married to a woman also named Evelyn. Their friends called them He-Evelyn and She-Evelyn. That's kind of funny. Until they got divorced. But it's a great book. And mini-series with Jeremy Irons, so...

8. The End of the Affair by Graham Greene. I love The End of the Affair, but my real Greene favorite is The Quiet American. However, that one starts, "After dinner I sat and waited for Pyle in my room..." so--maybe not as compelling.

9. The Brimstone Wedding by Barbara Vine. I knew no one would get that one. I just want someone, anyone out there to read that book and talk about it with me. My dad read it. He thought it was weird. I'm gonna need more than that.

10. Ordinary People by Judith Guest. This is one of those rare times in which the movie almost lives up to the greatness of the book: Donald Sutherland, Mary Tyler Moore, Timothy Hutton, Judd Hirsch...

11. Charlotte's Web by E.B. White

12. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

13. Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier. I really thought everyone would get that one. Huh.

14. A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L'Engle (sequel to A Wrinkle in Time)

15. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler also by E.L. Konigsburg. Ask a bunch of people my age what book they remember from grade school, and a lot of them will say this one. It's awesome. It's about a brother and sister who run away and live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

16. Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce. Darren never reads fiction, only non-fiction. I read almost exclusively fiction. One day, he said he wanted to try some fiction. Instead of listening to my recommendations, he said, "No, I want to read what you're reading," which happened to be Portrait of the Artist right then. He grabbed it up and read that first line about the moocow and baby tuckoo and said (while tossing the book over his shoulder), "That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard." He's not alone--even Joyce's wife asked him, "Why don't you write books people can read?" I still like him, though (Joyce, that is. Oh, and Darren too.)

17. Sleeping Murder by Agatha Christie

18. The Witch Family by Eleanor Estes. Most people know Estes from Ginger Pye or The Moffats or The Hundred Dresses (though we LOVE that one), but this is another one with which Lucy is obsessed. It's about two little girls who sit upstairs in their playroom in a house on Garden Lane with a gingko tree outside their window, drawing pictures of witches. Up on Glass Hill, all the things the girls draw come true. I'm going to get her the audiobook for Christmas. Shhh, don't tell her.

19. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

20. The Diary of Anne Frank

21. (I knew no one would get this one either)--Glittering Images by Susan Howatch. Great book though, about espionage in the Church of England.

So there you go. What are some of your favorite first lines?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Some Great First Lines

Last night a friend sent me an email, wondering if I could identify the quotes in it. They were mostly from Shakespeare. Now I love Shakespeare, but that was a brutal exercise. I think I got one from Richard III, and of course I did also get that most famous of the bard's lines: "Nobody puts Baby in the corner."

But it did make me think about great first lines of novels, so I thought I'd throw some out here. I absolutely will not use "It is a truth universally acknowledged..." because everyone knows that, and also "It was the best of times; it was the worst of times..." Rather, I'll just put down some great opening lines from some books I love. I'll put the books they're from tomorrow, in case you want to guess any. Or Google them, I don't care. Do you like how I nonchalantly threw those options out there, just like it won't matter to me at all if there are ZERO comments on this post? Really. It won't hurt my feelings one little bit. Promise. Not a bit.

So, without further they are.

1. Except for the Marabar Caves--and they are twenty miles off--the city of Chandrapore presents nothing extraordinary.

2. In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since.

3. When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow.

4. Mrs. Eva Marie Olinski always gave great answers.

5. The Garden Committee had met to discuss the earth; not the whole earth, the terrestial globe, but the bit of it that had been stolen from the Gardens in the Square.

6. There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.

7. "I have been here before" I said; I had been there before; first with Sebastian more than twenty years ago on a cloudless day in June...

8. A story has no beginning or end: arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead.

9. The clothes of the dead won't wear long.

10. To have a reason to get up in the morning, it is necessary to possess a guiding principle.

11. "Where's Papa going with that axe?" said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.

12. "Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents," grumbled Jo, lying on the rug. (sooooo easy)

13. Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.

14. "There are dragons in the twins' vegetable garden."

15. Claudia knew she could never pull off the old-fashioned kind of running away.

16. Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was coming down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo.

17. Gwenda Reed stood, shivering a little, on the quayside.

18. One day, Old Witch, the head witch of all the witches, was banished.

19. No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream.

20. On Friday, June 12th, I woke up at six o'clock and no wonder, it was my birthday.

and for an extra one, the first line of the book I am currently rerererereading:

21. My ordeal began one summer afternoon when I received a telephone call from the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Ta da--there you go.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Redefining Things

Today was a chilly, windy day. In addition to making sure both girls were properly vaccinated, Elaine and I made vegetable soup and apple bread together. The house smelled great. It reminded me of all the times I would come home from school and smell fresh-baked bread or supper in the oven.

In addition to cooking, I straightened up and also made sure Lucy had enough clean school uniforms for the week--you know, mom stuff. Making sure everyone is taken care of and feels secure and safe and clean and well-fed. I like doing those things--it's my job and also my joy. Pretty much all the other moms I know feel the same way.

On Saturday I read a news story about a missing little girl in North Carolina. She was 5 years old. Her mother had sold her to a pedophile and was now reporting her missing. Additional reports said the mother had committed acts of prostitution with her daughter, sold her into sexual servitude, and was charged with human trafficking. The little girl's father--who was not associated with the mother--was pleading for her safe return. The little girl was last seen being carried into a hotel by a man, who was now arrested for kidnapping.

People all over mobilized to search for the little girl. I stopped what I was doing in the middle of the day and prayed for her. I prayed for her well-being and safety. I prayed that someone would rescue her. I prayed that she would not be alone and that angels would surround her; that the terrible fear and agony she was going through would cease. I prayed that she would get to go home to her father.

Today her body was found 100 feet from a roadway in a wooded area. Police were acting on a tip, in their words, "that a body had been dumped in the woods." Something about the word "dumped" hurts me like nothing else.

Here is this precious little girl...

...who lived through unspeakable horrors and was then thrown like so much garbage on the side of the road. Her mother, the one person who was supposed to take care of her, make her secure and safe, and fiercely protect her, threw her to the ravenous wolves who destroyed her.

It blows my mind.

We don't hear about things like this as often in the U.S., though it's getting more and more common, and when we do, we're horrified of course. But this trafficking of little children is happening all over the world as I type this.

I've written at least three endings to this post, and nothing sounds right. I'm just too broken, thinking about that little girl. I take great comfort from Jesus' words in Matthew 18, "See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven."

The prayers I prayed on Saturday weren't necessarily answered the way I wanted them to be. But I know I can trust the ultimate judge to do what is right.

And I do know this: This little girl is now well and safe. Someone rescued her. She was not alone, and angels surrounded her. The terrible fear and agony she went through has ceased and can never again touch her. She got to go Home to her Father.

A Baby Brother and the Dreaded Shots

On Saturday, the girls and I babysat for our friends' 9-month-old son, Derek. We got out some of our old baby toys and wiped them down thoroughly with Lysol wipes (kills 99.9% of flu germs!) Lucy and Elaine couldn't wait for him to get here. As soon as he did, they got right up in his face and talked non-stop and showed him all the toys. Then they each wanted to hold him on their laps.

Note the look of quiet desperation in his eyes...

Then, because it was practically a summer day out, we unearthed our old umbrella stroller and took him for a long walk through the neighborhood. Note that we have a NASCAR-sponsored stroller. Darren bought it--surprise. I used to have to wheel my dainty little girls around it. At least now we had something on-hand for a little boy to ride in that's not frilly or pink.

The girls took turns pushing him. Lucy said, "I wish he was our own secret baby brother." Elaine said, "I want a cat."

I gave him his bottle for lunch, Elaine gave him his green beans, and Lucy fed him his applesauce. He ate it all and then obligingly went to sleep until his mother came to pick him up. "Let's tell her she can go on vacation, and we'll keep Derek for the whole week!" Lucy said.

In the meantime, I found out that our county will be holding a seasonal flu shot clinic today, so I planned to take the girls after school. Then I also found out that Lucy's school will be giving the first installment of the H1N1 vaccine today, so she won't be able to get the seasonal one yet. I also discovered that the school wanted all the parents to be there with their kids while they got the shot. Isn't that why we sent them to school? So they can pick up some of those unpleasant parenting jobs?

Anyway, I dutifully showed up in the school gym this morning promptly at 8:45, which had been transformed into a simulacrum of hell. Needles and bawling kids and piercing screams and parents with their heads buried in their hands. I sat down with a book and pretended to read while I waited for Lucy's class to come in.

She finally arrived, and I went over to her. Her bottom lip was already trembling. "I'm so scared, Mommy," she whispered as we got our forms ready.

"I promise it's no big deal, Luce. It'll feel kind of like if you poke yourself with a pine needle. And I just saw something so funny--I saw Mr. Smith (the assistant principal) getting HIS flu shot!" All of this soothing motivation was akin to polishing the brass on the Titanic. We might as well just sing "Nearer My God to Thee" and accept that there's no lifeboat for us.

The two nurses and I held her and talked her through the 5 seconds it took, then she got her obligatory lollipop and Barbie sticker. I gave her a little chocolate too because Dum-dums can't soothe like Rolos can--everybody knows that.

Now I have this afternoon's seasonal shot with Elaine to look forward to. May the force be with me. I'll leave you with our pictures from last week when we visited Emily's kittens as kind of a distraction.

Look, sad, screaming children, cute kitties!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Wishing Well

Today is Veteran's Day. If you've come to this blog looking for some introspective thoughts about veterans, war, the Ft. Hood shootings, or the D.C. sniper execution--all of which I've had introspective thoughts about--you've come to the wrong place today. Sorry. If frivolity annoys you, you should maybe look elsewhere.

Here were our plans for today: get our flu shots, get haircuts, and visit Emily's kittens (as sort of a reward for getting flu shots and haircuts). I checked the county health website last night to get a flu shot location since of course Walgreens, Wal-Mart, and every other pharmacy-type place is out of the shots. We were good to go for this morning, until I double-checked the site to get directions. There was this odd phenomenon--all the dates and days of the week were one off. It took me much longer than it should have to work out that I was looking at a 2008 schedule. Long story somewhat abbreviated, there are no seasonal flu shots available anywhere. Apparently the flu is a big thing this year. Who knew.

As you can imagine, the girls were deeply disappointed to hear they won't be getting shots this morning, so they drowned their sorrows in a Strawberry Shortcake DVD until it's time to get the haircuts. I checked facebook and was confronted YET AGAIN with some absolutely ridiculous pictures a college friend had tagged me in. They are all circa 1987, from our dorm, and they are unspeakable. There are so many of them too. I've taken no end of ribbing about them too, including comments such as "Did you not own a mirror?" or "You look like 'Kate' from Jon & Kate, before she had a stylist." etc. etc.

I take back all the times I would look through old pictures of my mom and snicker at her outfits, since now when I look at them, she looks all sophisticated and Jackie O., while I look like, in the words of one of my friends, "the youngest kid from New Kids on the Block."

Then I was reading my friend Kirsten's blog, and she posted this hilarious 80s video from youtube called The Rain. She said she bet none of her readers would remember it, but you know, that cultural moment would never have slipped my memory. I asked her did she remember Terence Trent D'Arby and "Wishing Well" because that was the cut, in my book.

Mentioning "Wishing Well" then forced me to find that video on youtube, and I laughed until I cried. I'll include it below because you have to watch at least the first few minutes. The hair. The clothes. The moves. The fact that he slides into the first frame.

I try to comfort myself that everyone in those dorm pictures looks stupid--at least I am not wearing white-framed sunglasses indoors like most of them were (not that I didn't own a pair, mind you, but at least there's no photographic evidence) but still. If you were me, would you rather look back on pictures like this?

Or this?

Yeah, thought so. At least I have Terence to comfort me (and I still like this song, as you can probably imagine). And maybe someday my girls will look back and think oversized shirts, lacquered hair, and Swatch watches are so cute too. Don't answer that.

Monday, November 09, 2009

A Monday Project

Usual Monday projects include laundry, bed changing, dusting, and the like. Today we decided to mix it up a bit and make these:

They're Cookie-Store Cat cookies. It's a book by Cynthia Rylant (one of our favorite authors--of Mr. Putter and Tabby fame) about a stray cat adopted by cookie bakers. We didn't have any rum flavoring on hand--probably because we use it so much in hot chocolate?--so we substituted almond. That's cinnamon and sugar you see on top. Tres delicious.

And here is my own personal baker (please note the cat shirt)...

Overall, a nice way to enhance a Monday morning.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

What a world, what a world...

This morning before breakfast, I went in the girls' bedroom and made my usual public service announcement: "Get dressed, make your beds, and" The do not talk part might sound mean, but really it's only my feeble attempt to get them down to maybe 300 words per minute rather than 3,000.

Then I heard, from a little blond girl in footie pajamas, "I'm melting, I'm meltingggggg..." >giggle giggle giggle<

I thought about waiting around to hear, "All my bee-yoo-tiful wickedness...what did I ever do to you?" but instead beat a hasty retreat. It's best to know when you're defeated.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

One is Gold

A couple of Saturdays ago, I drove down the route along the river with the autumn trees arching above--they looked like Tolkien's tree of gold--for another "last" to experience with my mom. Let me say that I am grateful for every one of these possible lasts because at the beginning of this year, we thought the end was coming much more quickly than it has. Now the doctors are talking about the fact that the time is probably winding up, and I am starting to feel that urgency of watching the sand dwindle down in the hourglass.

But let me back up before talking about this particular last. Approximately 36 years ago, my mom was sitting in church and saw another young woman, dark-haired and tiny just like herself, sitting near her. I'm not sure what prompted them to strike up a conversation other than the fact that my mom thought this other woman (Barbara) was "just darling," which is as good enough reason as any, I guess.

They discovered that they each had daughters about the same age. It was nearing my fourth birthday, so my mom invited Barbara's daughter, Julie, to my party. I don't have a lot of memories from when I was four, but this one is clear to me--answering the door to a little dark-haired girl, holding a box of brightly-colored candy. She explained to me that her grandpa owned a candy factory. Could Mom have picked any better friend for me? I think not.

I could probably fill a lot of space discussing either Barbara and Lois's 36-year friendship or Julie's and mine. Maybe I'll just say that Barbara and Lois's has involved a lot more missionary teas, flower gardens, recipes, and raffia while Julie's and mine has involved a lot more driving, loud music, Magnum, P.I., and Twizzlers. And Julie and I have bonded considerably in dealing with what we affectionately term as our "SSMs" (Small Swiss Mothers).

Either way, there have been close to four decades of unbreakable friendship and yes, always, the lunches. Many times we've gotten together in each other's homes for lunch and tea or gone to the Little Traveler in Geneva--through Julie's and my childhood, teen and college years, and now that we're both married.

And now the time has come for what will most likely be the last lunch with all four of us together. Barbara and Julie brought food over to Mom's house, and we all met there. We sat around the table, just like all the other times, and talked and laughed together--four teachers, which thinking back on Julie's and my completely uninspired educational years, is nothing short of miraculous.

"Our family has never been very good at math," my mom said, "so I tried to understand when Alice came home with a 'D' in algebra. But never, NEVER, has anyone in our family gotten a 'D' in English! I was mortified!" (insert much laughter at my expense)

"And Julie," Barbara took up the daughter annihilation, "every day when I would ask what she did in school would say, 'Nothing.' I'm a teacher! I know you did not do 'nothing' all day!" (insert laughter at Julie's expense)

"And now here they both are," they hooted, "telling high school teachers the best way to teach their students!"

After lunch, we adjourned to the living room to talk and laugh some more and look at some old pictures. Here are Mom, Barbara, and Julie, looking at a picture of all of us (from 10 years ago), at the tea party my mom gave for my 30th birthday.

Then Julie and I got up to take some pictures and leave our moms to talk one more time. I overheard my mom say, "Barbara, I heard Julie was at your side every minute while you were in the hospital and then recuperating,"--because this past summer, Barbara went through breast cancer surgery and recovery, too.

"She was, just like Alice is right here with you. We have been blessed with wonderful daughters, Lois," Barbara answered.

"Just think," Mom went on, "if we could have dreamt up forty years ago what our daughters would be like: this is what we would have wished for."

At the end of our time together, we all gathered by the door to say goodbye.

"Oh, Lois," said Barbara, with her hand on my mom's arm, not wanting to tell her goodbye.

Mom reached out to touch her, too. "There are worse things than dying of cancer," she laughed, "I could be going of Alzheimer's--that would be awful. Now I lie awake at night, remembering verses I learned as a child, verses that didn't mean much to me then, but now their truth is so real to me and sustains me as I go. I think--it won't be that long before I see my husband again. And you too! We'll be reunited again soon."

"What a reunion it's going to be!" answered Barbara through her tears.

Mom reached out to Julie and me with a benediction. "It'll probably be longer before we see you girls," she smiled. "I'm so glad both of you have each other to walk through life."

After we wiped our tears, said our last goodbyes, and Barbara and Julie left, Mom and I put the dishes away. "Now there are two remarkable women," she sighed, and I agreed.

As I drove home under those golden trees I thought of those remarkable women and that old adage, "Make new friends, but keep the old--one is silver, the other is gold." Maybe one of those verses that comes back to Mom at night says it better though: "Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the Lord, saying, 'The Lord is witness between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants...forever.'" (1 Samuel 20:42)

It may have been a last for the time being, but I know that particular gold will last forever.

What a reunion it's going to be!

Sunday, November 01, 2009

The Weekend in Pictures

This (long) weekend was intense. Lucy's school gets around the whole Halloween-450-kids-hyped-up-on-sugar-and-fun mayhem by cancelling school on the 29th and 30th and scheduling parent-teacher conferences instead.

Elaine's pre-school, however, had a Halloween parade on Thursday morning, which we all attended. (I don't have pictures of that because I took video instead.) It was somewhat surprising to me to discover that Elaine is very shy and low-key at school. She seems to fade in the background and not get noticed very much.

After that, I went over to church to meet Sarah and set up for the Family Fun Fair, which we do together every year.

Then on Friday morning, I went to Lucy's parent-teacher conference. She had just brought home a great report card, so I knew there wasn't any bad news coming. We did talk about how we could work together to get her more organized. Her teacher said that instead of pulling her stuff together at the beginning and end of the day, she tends to just "wander." Imagine that. I told her that I fully expect to have "Make your bed/brush your teeth/fasten your seatbelt/do you have your lunchbox?" engraved on my tombstone (either that or, "She was tired.")

On Friday night, we all headed to the family fun fair (oh, and I have no pictures of that either--begging the question of why I entitled this post "the weekend in pictures.") We all had a great time at the ring toss, duck pond, face-painting booth, cookie-decorating table, cakewalk, etc. etc. Lucy won best costume, which I was happy about, since Elaine won last year. Since they usually dress alike, I'm glad they've both won something. They also scored bags of candy and at least two plates of cakes each from the cakewalk.

Darren rushed them home, showered them, and got them into bed because early on Saturday morning the girls and I, Sarah and Isabella, and Isabella's abuelita headed to Chicago to the American Girl store for Isabella's birthday.

Lucy has been to the store once, but it was a couple of years ago and she had forgotten it. Elaine has never even been to Chicago, so she was pretty pumped about everything. We entered the store by the Bitty Baby department, and she was absolutely overwhelmed. She could have stayed in there all day.

We went into the historical displays (Lucy's and my favorite) and then headed upstairs to the Just Like Me department. Isabella's doll is one of those, and she had birthday money to buy some outfits. She and Lucy had a great time running around and choosing things. Elaine got a little bored during that part so I took her over to some benches. She started to roll around, but I stopped her and said, "That's behaving like a rowdy boy, when in fact, you are a nice lady." She replied, "I'm not really a nice lady. I'm a naughty cat!"

Then we went to the cafe for lunch--pardon the pink overcast of this next picture...I think it's because there was no natural light, and the walls are red.

When we got inside the cafe, the waiter gave each girl a highchair plus a birthday tiara for their dolls...

Here are the three friends (Lucy is excited about the napkin because the napkin ring is a hair scrunchie that they also got to keep)...

First, they brought us little cinnamon rolls and an appetizer platter of cheese rolls, strawberries and cheese, and vegetables and dip. Then all the girls ordered the American Girl picnic lunch, which was a mini-hotdog, mini-hamburger, and little cup of mac-n-cheese, plus a fruit skewer. The moms and grandma ordered adult food (which was delicious).

Here is the sweet birthday girl, blowing out her candles...

Two best friends...

After Isabella blew out her candles, they took the cake away to slice it and brought it back like this (that's peppermint stick ice cream in a little flowerpot w/ a silk daisy):

Then came the gift bags with little notes, a book, stickers, and a necklace for each...

Here's a naughty cat (who was actually very good), enjoying her ice cream...

Before leaving, we said goodbye to the Bitty Babies.

Here's the birthday girl with her mama and abuelita:

...and mama/auntie Alice with all the girls and dolls...

After getting home, I quickly changed the girls into their costumes in order to head over to my parents' for dinner. We checked our messages first though, and one of our neighbors said to be sure that the girls stopped by to trick-or-treat because their little cat Emily had just had kittens. So we went over there first (also no pictures!) to see the tiniest little kitties imaginable. They had just been born on Thursday, so they can't hear and their eyes are still closed. Emily wasn't too sure about two costumed girls reaching for her babies, so she jumped in the box with them. She soon realized no one was going to harm them though, and she let them each gently pet a kitten.

After that, we went to Mom and Dad's so they could see their girls. This last picture pretty much sums up three days of late bedtimes and unbridled sugar consumption:

And that is it! Tomorrow is back to school and the ordinary world where we don't wear costumes or party with our dolls or get a mini-Twix every few minutes. And we have to be organized. How sad.