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Archive for October, 2008

that was covered with vines lived one little girl in one straight line.

Ava has loved Madeline since the first time I read her the book. By age two, she had the entire book memorized and could “read” it cover to cover.

When she was three, she went with her preschool class to see the Madeline Christmas play. She was devastated that she wasn’t able to be Madeline. This led to a long discussion about the theater process starting with a little thing thespians like to call auditions. It’s kind of like your ticket to the stage.

Shortly after Christmas last year Ava began hatching plans about how she was going to be Madeline for Halloween. While this bypassed any auditions, it certainly created costume drama.

I was raised by a crafty mother who sew bits of this and that and rummaged through thrift shops to outfit her children for trick or treating. So far, I had followed in her path dressing Ava up in what I could find or what I could sew. Madeline, however, presented a far greater challenge than the Fairy Princess Ballerina or Little Bo Peep. I had no interest in sewing a big blue coat and did not where to buy a large yellow hat?

In May, I was dropping off some clothes to consign when I spied a shiny blue coat on a clearance rack. It was perfect. I couldn’t believe it. I bought and then immediately regretted buying it. How was I going to find a yellow hat? It isn’t quite Madeline without the hat. And all the yellow hats on ebay came with blue coats.

Later this summer I found an Easter hats that my mom had saved from when I was a girl. A little yellow fabric spray, a bit of black ribbon and a glue gun turned Easter white into French school girl. And thanks to Grandma Penny, Ava already had a little Parisian smock and black velvet shoes.

Of course after I had finished all the parts of the Madeline costume, Ava announced, “I don’t really want to be Madeline this year. I want to be a butterfly, a sparkly, puple butterfly with gorgeous wings then I can just fly to all the houses!”

She spend the better part of last week dreaming up a glittery, sparkly butterfly costume. I almost gave in. HungryMan, however, could not be swayed. He took one look at the blue coat and one look at Ava and said, “Ava, you’re either going to Madeline or you’re not going trick or treating.”

There’s nothing the promise of brightly wrapped candy to influence a four-year-old’s wardrobe.

This little Madeline has already brought her “bonjour” and “merci” to two preschool parties and the park.

The weather is gorgeous, so were “off to the next one!”

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Me: Who’s there?

Ava: Boo.

Me: Boo who?

Ava: You don’t have to cry about it.

Thanks to Sara Groves and her Station Wagon CD, Ava has discovered knock-knock jokes. With a repertoire of about five knock-knock jokes, it’s been non-stop entertainment. Non-stop monotonous entertainment.

What’s your favorite knock-knock joke?

We are in desperate need for new material. Seriously people, how many times can one mama “cry about it”?

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Ava and I are reading Little House the Big Woods before her rest time. Last week Ava was fascinated (and slightly disgusted) to learn that Pa made a balloon for Laura and Mary out of a pig’s bladder. Of course she needed to know what a bladder was. This led to a 4-year-old anatomy lesson of the digestive and elimination systems.

“They’re playing with a balloon that holds pee? Yuck!”

Yesterday, we read the part in the story where Pa kills a bear who was about to eat a pig. He brings home both the bear and the pig in his wagon much to the delight of his family and Ava.

“Oh good!” Ava shouted, “Now they can have another balloon!”

After rest time, Ava came out of her room with a droopy Trader Joe’s balloon from our shopping trip the previous day.

“Let’s play with the balloon, Mama.”

Up to this point in Ava’s life a balloon was only exciting while it floated in the air. When it came to rest on the floor it met its fate of a scissor snip and a place in the trash.

Now the balloon presented undiscovered possibilities for play. At first Ava wanted to toss the balloon back and forth like she saw Laura and Mary doing in the picture. Then she wanted us to back farther away from each other, throw the balloon, and run to see who could catch it. We spent the next hour taking turns thinking up games to play with the balloons.

Here’s what Ava and I came up with:

  • Balloon toss
  • Balloon toss and run
  • Keep the balloon from touching the ground
  • Keep two balloons from touching the ground
  • Count how many times we could catch the balloon without dropping it
  • Simultaneous catch with two balloons
  • Keep two balloons away from Ava
  • Keep two balloons away from Mama
  • Balloon chase
  • Follow the balloon
  • Creep up and pounce on the balloons
  • Stick the balloons on the wall with magic static powers
  • Say “hot” and “cold” to help the other person find the hidden balloons

What would you add?

And thanks to advanced technology, we didn’t have to wash our hands after playing with our balloons.

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Last week at I was collecting my freshly cut pieces of chenille at Joanne’s, I heard the quick patter of boots and a little voice squeal, “Oh Santa, I’ve missed you!!”

I turned to see Ava embracing an Ava-sized Santa in the premature Christmas display. Seriously, I have hardly come to terms with the fact that Halloween is in two weeks. I’m certainly not ready to start Christmas preparations with the whole costume thing is still up in the air.

Ava does not share this sentiment.

“Oh Santa, Santa, Santa! I’ve been waiting and waiting for you! I’m so glad you are back. I’ve missed you so much. Oh Santa, I love you!”

At this point I think she may have kissed the doll.

She went on to tell Santa how wonderful he is and how she so excited about Christmas. Then she asked him if he was the one who put presents in her stockings. Of course, this Santa is a mannequin only capable of a prerecorded “ho, ho, ho.”

She abandoned the counterfeit and followed me through the silk stems with her trail of questions: “Mama, did you really put the presents in my stocking or did Santa? Santa came to my house, didn’t he? Didn’t he, Mama? I know he did. Didn’t he?”

I played dodge ball with her questions as I’m caught between my desire to uphold Christmas as a celebration of Jesus’ birth and my propensity to encourage her imagination.

“Is Santa really real? Did you see him? Did you help him put the presents in my stocking and that’s why you said that you did it? You saw Santa, didn’t you?”

Apparently, somewhere, somehow Santa heard this unremitting faith in his existence. It appears that he had done a little early Christmas shopping in London and decided to send Ava a pre-Christmas gift.

The boots have been on the move ever since.

Thanks to Santa Ava has a matching mackintosh and wellies that she will not take off.

And thanks to Santa, she’s now determined to “keep my eyes open all night” on Christmas eve.

I predict that we are going to need a large plate of cookies.

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why blog?

On Saturday morning I was invited to be a part of a blogger breakfast. This was a treat on two accounts. First, Hungryman is not a fan of breakfast fares, so a breakfast date is rare and lovely. And, I got to see the faces and hear the voices behind blogs that I read.

Look at what a nice bunch they are.

(Clockwise from bottom left: Heather at Extraordinary Ordinary, Kelly at Love Well, Sara from Greetings from Butterville, Whitney from Baby Tunnel Exodus, Jenny from A Latte Talk and Heidi from Minnesota Mom.

Not an axe murderer in the bunch. And the husbands were so scared.

I stuffed my cheeks with pumpkin pancakes while they discussed all things bloggerly. I tried to contribute between bites, but a plateful of pancakes that I did not make was a temptation that I could not overcome.

After our lovely morning together, I began to question why I blog? Is it beneficial? Is it helpful? What is the purpose? What is my purpose in it?

I was thinking about writing a post to work this all out and then today Kelly, one of the breakfast bunch, tagged me with a meme about how blogging has affected me. Perfect.

Here are the rules:

1. Write about 5 specific ways blogging has affected you, either positively or negatively.
2. link back to the person who tagged you
3. link back to this parent post
4. tag a few friends or five, or none at all
5. post these rules— or just have fun breaking them

So, I’ll just go ahead and break the rules by rewriting them to fit my present conundrum. Here are five reasons why I blog (be warned: I’m working this out as I write the post. I may ramble and I’m not sure where I’ll end up):

1. Stories. For as long as I can remember I have been mesmerized by stories. I love to hear stories and to share stories. If you tell me something in the form of a story, I am likely to remember it forever. Even if it is your story and you have forgotten it.

It’s true. Ask my cousin Heather. We moved to the same town when I was ten and she was twelve. I spent the entire first summer in New Mexico staring up at her canopy enraptured by her tales of Texas. Today, she asks me to fill her in on details about her own childhood.

I’m a storyteller. If you are in my physical presence for any period of time you will undoubtedly be subjected to stories. And all of my stories always leads to another story. In fact I’m known for interrupting my own story to tell another story in the middle.  And I often say, “Oh, I have two more things.” Really, I always have two more things to say. And they’re almost always a story.

Blogging affords a place for my stories, and a place to savor your stories. So many of your stories are so compelling. I am pulled into your stories like I am to characters in novels, but you’re actually alive and in the present.

2. Creative Outlet. I’ve always been drawn to the art of writing. I love how you can string words together to create a picture. I love rhythm and rhyme, alliteration and assonance. I love how sounds create moods and changes feelings. And I love words.

I wait for the perfect word. My blog drafts are full of “Ava BLANK the rosy apple off the branch.” BLANK is my marker to go back and insert the best word. This means that I am not a fast blogger. I’m a fast reader and a slow writer.

This blog is my place to play with plot and setting, irony and surprise. This is the schoolyard on which I’m learning more and more about writing well. Welcome to my rough drafts.

3. Connection. I started this blog to share pieces of my life with my friends and family who live far from me.

I feel akin to the writers of I John when they say, “We write this to make our joy complete” (1:4). While I’m not always writing about the gospel or even important matters, I feel the same way. Sharing an exciting or silly story increases my pleasure in it, especially if I know that you also enjoyed it. This is where those comments become a dialogue, a shared enjoyment over an experience.

At first this was between myself and people I physically know. Now it has extended to people I have yet to meet. It is true what they say, I do feel connected to you through your blogs and your comments. And I like you and I’m honored that you come here.

4. Guilt. Okay, so this is not a reason to blog. Nope, this would be a reason not to or at least a issue to overcome. I have to confess I feel guilty, actually guilty when I haven’t blogged for a few days (or, gasp, weeks). It’s a nagging sort of guilt that follows me around tapping on my shoulder. I don’t like this at all.

I am one of the persons who tends to live in the moment. What I am doing in the present is all that I am doing and all that I’m thinking about. Multitasking is not something I do, or at least not something that I do well. Shocking, I’m sure. Isn’t a mother what a multitasker is? Well, that I am not (the multitasker part that is, not the mother part). I cannot watch TV and talk to someone at the same time. This baffles my friends and especially my husband.

So as far as blogging goes, it is either all I’m doing and not at all what I’m doing. I can go for days (gasp) without opening my laptop. There are just too many exciting or pressing things in my present physical world.  And then there are days (gasp) when I can’t get off my laptop. Hello, if it has been days since I’ve opened my Google Reader, there are a LOT of blogs to go through. Those are not Ava’s favorite days. I fear that this puts me on the fringe of the term, “blogger.” I suspect most of you bloggers shift more naturally to and from the keyboard.

5. Encouragement. “Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today” (Hebrews 3:13).

Blogs are a tremendous platform for encouragement. Many of your posts have been a beautiful bouquet of words delivered to my door step. I have come away from many blogs rejoicing in the testimony of God’s love and faithfulness.

Paul writes in Ephesians that we should “speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.” That is what I have wanted this blog to be, a space to share that mercies that God sends me each day.

When I considered whether or not to share our experience of losing sweet, unknown babes, I felt that if our experience could be helpful to someone else walking through that path then it was worth it. However, the overwhelming encouragement that I received through your comments, e-mails, and letters have far surpassed any comfort that I had hoped to give. Thank you for extending yourself to me and lifting me up. I have been blessed through blogging.

So that is why I blog. I think it is good. I’m done wrestling for today.

I’m curious now. Why do you?

Or, if you are a reader, why do you read blogs?

I am supposed to tag five others, so I’ll pick three old friends (Yvette, Kristi, & MckMama) and three new friends (Liz, Leah, & Nikki). Yes, I do know how to count–I’m just breaking the rules again.

Really, I loved to hear from more of you. If you choose to do this meme, let me know in the comments and I’ll post a link here.

It’s time to shut to the laptop. Bye.

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AVA: Mama, have you ever thought about moving to Michigan?

MAMA: No. Why?

AVA: Cause that’s where the unicorns live.

MAMA: Unicorns live in Michigan?

AVA: Yes, Mama, it’s a faraway land. And that’s where all the unicorns live in the faraway land at Michigan.

MAMA: Unicorns?

AVA: Uh-huh. They have the things on their heads that light up and then they change colors. They can change colors lots of times. It’s really true. And they live in Michigan cause it’s a faraway land. It’s like Romania. It’s really close to Romania, isn’t it?

MAMA: No, actually it’s not. Michigan is kind of close to Minnesota. And Romania is kind of close to France where Grandma Penny is. So, they’re not close.

AVA: Yes, they are, Mama. And I know why God gave them the things on their heads that light up. It’s so they know where to go. Cause they have to go to Romania and then if they go the wrong way the thing lights up and then they know they are going the wrong way. See, isn’t it so good that God gave them that?

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raising royalty

Each fall Ava’s preschool sends home a star-shaped questionnaire for the parents to fill out and the child to decorate. In the center of the star is a spot for the child’s picture and each point has a question.

The top of the star reads: “When I grow up….”

Last year Ava responded that she wanted to drink pop and be a good girl.

Tonight she tilted her head to the right and said, “I wanna be queen.”

Perhaps that explains this.

And here I thought she was a wannabe mountain-climber in the land of lakes.

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maker of the mountains

“I lift my eyes up to the mountains

where does my help come home?

My help comes from you

maker of heaven and earth”

–Psalm 121:1-2

The story of my childhood was played out at the foothills and crests of the magnificent Rockies. When my family exchanged the forests of Montana for the desert of New Mexico everything about my surroundings changed except the presence of mountains. Great, glorious mountains. They were ever-present, ever-visible. It as if the giant spires are the bookends of the earliest chapters of my life.

In middle school the landscape of the playground was always changing. Each day, I needed a new map to navigate the fluctuating friendships and relationships. As the circles of friends rotated, there were days when I stepped into our station wagon feeling the strain of a day in the shadows.

And each of those days, I would be lean my head against glass and gaze up at the purple peaks of the Organ mountains. Then one day I realized that the mountains never changed. They never shifted. They never crumbled. They were there before I was and would be after I wasn’t.  They were unaffected by the climate on the playground. They did not reflect the trends of the morning or change allegiance to whatever alpha girl was wearing the crown that day.

As I lifted my mind to it’s peak and I realized that the God that made the mountains is greater than the mountains. They were strong and unshakable, because he is strong and unshakable. My help came from one who is vast, transcendent, and not shaken by the storms that brew in the valley. And while the mountains could not see me, their maker knew me and loved me. I did not need to place my hope or security on the shifting sands of the desert play yard, but could build my hope on the one who made the mountains.

The misty melodrama of seventh grade has long since evaporated and I have passed through much greater storms. The truth, however, that was pressed into my heart as my head pressed a pane of moving glass has risen high in my soul. There is a God that promises to be my keeper, my guard, my protector.

Each time I see the mountains, I find that they are an altar leading me upward to worship that one that made them. The Lord, the maker of heaven and earth, is my protector. Blessed be his glorious name.

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fashion faux pas

Yesterday, when I picked Ava up from preschool, her teacher glanced up from the line of children and said, “I’m sorry. Ava and her friend got a bit carried away with the paint today and I didn’t get a chance to clean them up.”

The fact that my daughter was sporting blue whiskers had already tipped me off to this point.

“That’s okay, ” I said, happy to know that she had been painting and thinking that a warm washcloth would wipe all evidence of this creative experiment.

Oh, I was naive.

As we walked out to the car, I asked Ava what she had been painting that had turned her hands and face so blue.

“This Mama, look,” she said holding out her skirt.

I look down and gasped. Ava’s dress looked like it had been in a paint ball tournament and has lost. Badly.

How was I supposed to know that the art project WAS Ava’s dress?

“See, Mama, the blue paint made my red dress purple. I think it’s so pretty, don’t you?”

Hmmm, no.

I distinctly remember not looking for a dress designed by Jackson Pollock while shopping at Land’s End last fall.

When we got home she quickly shed her altered dress as she is always game for a costume change. I sprayed Shout on the wearable art and sent it down the shoot to await it’s fate. Then I leaned against the wall, crossed my arms, and contemplated how best to handle this situation.

I want her to have the freedom to play, to experiment, to get dirty, but I also want to teach her to be a good steward to what has been given to her. Flinging paint on a dress crosses the line from accidentally dripping paint on a dress while flinging it on paper.

I know that the conventional wisdom of parenting suggests that consequences should be given in close proximity of the offense. We talked in great length about the importance taking care of our things. And lest any of you assume that she didn’t know that she shouldn’t paint on her dress, let me assure you she was most adamant that she knew that this was the wrong thing to do. However, I couldn’t think of a fitting consequence and so the day wrapped up with little less than a scolding and a still disgruntled mama.

This morning when she came marching out into the kitchen in a pink twirly skirt and a purple shirt with ruffles, it became all too clear what needed to be done. I sent her back into her room for some uglier clothes.

As I handed her a plain gray t-shirt we use for painting projects and a faded pair of jeans, I explained that she couldn’t wear her pretty clothes to school because she painted on her dress yesterday.

“Not ever in my whole life?” She gasped as she fell into a heap of despair and then quickly crossed her arms and declared, “When I’m eight I’m going to wear this everyday!”

Because clearly, every consequence I dole out has an eternal value. And by eternal, it ends at age eight.

“Well, Ava if you are still painting your clothes when you are eight then you still have to wear ugly clothes. But if you learn to take care of your clothes and paint on paper, then you can wear pretty clothes to school.”

“But I can’t wear that! It’s so uh-guh-ly!”

I put the clothes on her bed and explained that if she wanted to go to school this is what she was wearing.

“Well, then, I’m not going to ever paint on my ugly clothes, at all!”

Perfect. That’s precisely what I was going for.

I have to admit it felt strange sending her into school in an outfit previously reserved for wall painting and worm relocating.

Then I remembered that this was preschool. And those activities could very likely be today’s activities.

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I love to cook. I don’t love to knock over every jar in my cupboard to shake out a little rosemary and thyme. And I am slight of stature, which make it difficult to see in the back spaces of upper cabinets.

For years, I tried different spice organization tips. I tried the stair-step tray. I tried the spinning wheel.  These both required either a step stool or arm extenders. Then a neighbor recommended stashing the spices in a drawer and taking a sharpie to their lids. That work fine until we moved to a home with too few drawers.

Two Decembers ago, I was peeling a Christmas clementine while staring at it’s crate. I don’t know what it is about those little wooden boxes, but I love them. I always want to find some good purpose for them.

Before I had finished spitting out all the seeds, I was loading cumin and coriander into the crate.

Now instead of trying to reach the unseen spices, the spice rack comes to me.

The spices are arranged alphabetically. So even if the name’s not written on the lid, they are easy to find.

Works for me!

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