Archive for the ‘the ones about surprises’ Category

During the mysterious blog absence, Ava and I were enjoying a quiet afternoon at home. The doorbell rang and we looked out the window to see who it might be. There was no one on the front steps and no cars parked on the sidewalk.

“Maybe, it’s a package!” Ava shouted running down the stairs to the door. “It’s probably a package for daddy.

HungryMan receives a steady stream of small packages. In fact, he is the recipient of nearly all the packages that come to our house. Ava and I used to open them, but one only has so much interest in cords, adaptors, drives and plastic things for the interior of a computer, projector, and whatever else he keeps in his geeked out man-cave.

As for HungryMan, his interest is unending, as apparently is his need. I mean really there must be an end to the cords. Really, there must.

Curious, we walked down the stair and opened the door. There was no one there. We checked behind the flower pots, but there was no package left by a supersonic delivery man.

Even though there was no note directing us to do so, we decided to walk to the back of the house. And there, propped against the back door was a very large package.

“Is it for Daddy? Is it for Daddy” Ava hollered as she raced toward the tall white box.

There was no sign of a delivery man anywhere. No note. No truck. Not even tread-marks from a frantic Fed-Ex driver.

Together we hefted the Ava-sized box up to our living room to inspect the package.

“Mama, look!”

“It’s a badger! The package’s from the Badgers. Mama! It’s from the Badgers!”

“Ava, do you think there might be a badger in it?”

After much discussion and inspection of the box, we concluded that it would be best to wait to open the Badger package until HungryMan came home. Even if there wasn’t a badger in the box, they may have sent Ava something “very scary!”

As it turns out, HungryMan was hungry. Famished actually, with a hunger only a Chipotle burrito can cure. So we tossed the suspicious looking box in our trunk and drove to burrito stand to meet her daddy.

After munching on chips and guacamole and devouring nearly half of his Chicken Fajita Burrito, HungryMan agreed to take his keys to the seal concealing the mysterious gift.

Inside the box was another white box.

Inside the white box was “the baby carriage I always wanted! Oh, I’m so excited. It’s just like Naomi and Audrey and Cate’s!”

Ava gave the doll pram a big hug and then asked, “How did the Badgers know that I wanted the carriage the Naomi and Audrey and Cate have?”

Sweetheart, I’m nearly as baffled as you are. How in the world did the Badgers know that I ordered that carriage from Target? And how did they get a hold of it?

It appears that the pesky little creatures are waving a white box of truce. Let’s just hope it’s not a Trojan Horse, or we might have to devise bigger badger traps.

Perhaps there’s a use for all those cords after all.

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On Cinco de Mayo, we celebrated Shanel’s birthday with a New Mexican fiesta. Ava taped up balloons and wrote out name cards, while I rolled enchiladas and smashed up avocados.

As I was smothering the corn tortillas with red enchilada sauce, I thought about the first time I brought New Mexican fare back to the college dorms. I remember Shanel and our friend, Kristi examining the freshly made tortillas with great concern.

“What are these brown spots?” Kristi asked as she examined the packaged. Shanel took it from her and declared that my tortillas were moldy. I grabbed the package back, turning it back and forth in my hands in great confusion. The tortillas that had been hand-made at Roberto’s the morning before appeared as flawless and delicious as possible.

I looked back up at their concerned faces and realized that these two Midwestern girls had never seen authentic tortillas. They didn’t know that tortillas spit and sizzle on the frying pan until they are covered with a little brown spots. All the tortillas they had consumed where bleached to a crazy, white perfection.

I’m not sure what they thought of their first New Mexican meal, but I can tell you that Shanel throws back the hot stuff like a seasoned gringa. And her request for her birthday dinner was “your enchiladas!” To which every member of my family said, “Amen.”

Being the little hostess that she is, Ava decorated Shanel’s white-on-white cake with sprinkles, sprinkles, and more sprinkles. According to these too, there is never enough sprinkles.

Ava was on then on-hand to help her blow out her candles.

She also wrapped up a “surprise” present and stashed it at the bottom of Shanel’s gift bag.

Oh, what is it? What could it be?

Ah, a stick of sidewalk. Precisely what every condo-dwelling chica needs.

Oh, wait, Shanel, do you know what “chica” means?

Can anyone help the birthday girl out?

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Today when I saw the short hand nearing the fifth digit, I thought I might be nice to transition from bathroom scrubber and laundress to pretty wife before Hungryman made his appearance.

I traded my hooded sweater for a sleeveless top with ruffles and my tennis shoes for open toed heels. I stepped in front of the vanity in hopes of masking the fact that I’d been cleaning all day. My shell earrings jangled as I returned to the kitchen to peel potatoes.

Ava skipped in and took a long sniff in my direction.

“Oh Mama, did you take a shower? I like when you take a shower.”

From the inflexion in her voice you would concluded that this was a monumental occasion.

“No honey, I didn’t”

Another long sniff.

“But you smell good!”

Evidently, Nate’s not the only one who benefits from a little personal grooming.

Speaking of showering, I’ve been asked to work on another educational video.
This one is on personal hygiene. Clearly, I’m the right person for that job.

That was to be the end of my story. Thirty minutes later, however, HungryMan stepped into our home clutching an equally fragrant bouquet of tulips. We were both delighted with our surprises. And I was reminded that a sweet-smelling, pretty wife at the end of the day is as lovely to my husband as a handful of brightly colored blooms is to me.

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was covering our grass with a fresh fleece of snow.

I’m not sure how they managed it, but every spring-hopeful branch was wrapped in white.

Here’s a view of our neighbors back yard which Ava claims is Mr. Mcgregor’s garden.


She loves to watch our neighbor working in there and makes up stories about the bunnies who try to eat his plants. I once told my neighbor this, but he had never heard of Mr. Mcgregor or Peter Rabbit. How is this possible? The man is nearly fifty. Surely mothers read to their children then.

This mama is all about divulging into the world of talking ducks and sewing mice, as well as the foolery of irksome leprechauns.

“Their just nasty!” Ava proclaimed when she saw the chairs on top of the dining table. “Oh, I don’t like those horrible leprechauns.” Then she spied a little green shamrock sticking out of the basket pyramid and and another on the floor behind her. “Oh look what they left me,” she said racing to find another one. “Aren’t they so nice?”


Ava refused to wear green all day because she had apparently snuggled with one of leprechauns the previous night and he told her that if she didn’t wear any green that day he would give her all his gold. He was a pink and white leprechaun and by her description looked like a square.

I told her that perhaps her leprechaun wouldn’t pinch her, but what about all the other leprechaun’s. She threw up her arms at the absurdity of my question and responded, “Well mama, he told all his friends not to pinch me.”

Square or not, this leprechaun’s clearly has connections.

Thus began the day long parade of white and pink ensembles as her closet has an seemingly endless supply of white and pink. After much effort and deliberation, she finally settled on bright red tank top and a “leopard-chaun skirt, paired appropriately with “pot of gold shoes.”


She spent her day clacking her shoes on the hardwood floors and re-hiding the shamrocks, which meant I spent my day hunting for the bits of green paper I cut out late last night and listening to her tap out the morse code for “we need to get out of this HOUSE!”

I made not one, but several plans for outings. Each time we would get close to leaving, I would look out the window, see the snow, and start to pout. Clearly, I am an outstanding role model.

Finally in desperation, I stuck our dinner in the oven, shoved us both in our coats, and threw open the door to the not-so-bitter cold. Ava ran back up the stairs to retrieve a pair of green socks just in case the leprechauns outside our house weren’t of the Good ‘n Plenty variety.

We set off in our matching Uggs for the pond across the street. As we were stomping out our frustrations in the slush that is our sidewalk, I heard a sound that I hadn’t heard in nearly five months.

“Wait Ava, wait,” I said attempting to silence her boots and identify the familiar, yet nearly forgotten sound. “Ducks! I hear ducks.”

We scrambled to the edge of the pond and sure enough there were two duck couples on the pond. On the pond, not in the pond as the pond was frozen.


This by far has to be been the cruelest trick of St. Patrick’s Day.

The two green heads were waddling about the ice poking their webbed feet on the cold surface trying to find a bit of free water. One of the lady ducks was hanging her beak in despair, while the other one was loudly lamenting their poor plight. Apparently gender stereotypes transcend humans.

After sizing up the sorry situation, Ava raced down the hill waving her hands like a flight director and shouting, “Over there! You have to go to the other pond over there. There’ s another pond over across that way. You need to go over there.” She stood there waving her arms in attempt to encourage the wayward ducks to go to the other pond, which was most likely as frozen as this one.

Disgusted with the ducks unwillingness to fly east, she walked back up to me to discuss Plan B.

“Mama, we need to go back to the house to get some warm water.”

“What for?”

“So they can swim”

“In the warm water”

“Mama…so we can put the warm water in the pond and then they can swim.”

“You want to melt the ice with warm water?”

Of course she did as well as get a large supply of bread and cracker crumbs to feed the “homeless” ducks.

I hurried my little Beatrix Potter home in hopes of retrieving said supplies. By the time we rounded the last corner she was so engrossed in on our leap frog version of tag that she forgot about the poor ducks and their bitter abode. Plus I was beginning to suspect that our dinner might be done cooking.

Precision, it’s not my forte.

Sure enough, the smells of a hot tamale pie met us at the door. We slipped off our wet boots and coats, hurried up the stairs, and mashed up some avocados just in time to meet Hungry Man with a bowl of green green guacamole.

Marching around the pond while the oven heated up our dinner was by far the best trick of the day.

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While you are probably counted among the many whose sleepy eyes don’t pop open until they are greeted by the woodsy steam of their morning brew, I don’t fully emerge from dreamland until the sweet tart pulp of orange juice washes away all the sleep from my mouth.

I, like my mother, love orange juice first thing in the morning. And by first thing, I mean I stumble out of bed and lead my slippers directly to the fridge. It’s best not to talk to me until after I’ve had my orange juice. My mouth doesn’t work, my brain doesn’t work, really I’m quite useless.

On Tuesday morning I made my bleary-eyed path to the kitchen with my pint-sized shadow pattering behind me. I opened the fridge and found a large glass of pre-poured orange juice sitting on top of a hand-written note.

“Oh, Ava look,” I said as I lifted the drink towards my mouth, “Daddy poured Mama some juice, and he left me a note.”

The first sweet sip confirmed my suspicion that Nate had woken up early that morning and hand-pressed enough oranges to pour me a tall glass with freshly squeezed orange juice and paired it with a love note.

“Can I try some? Can I have some too?” she asked as she hopped around in delight and pulled her own cup out of her drawer.

Together we drank in the delicious juice as we discussed what a wonderful daddy she had.

Ava was absolutely delighted to discover that in the world of ordinary things, one might open a door a find a surprise. For the past four mornings, Ava has run to the fridge shouting, “Let’s see if Daddy left us a note!”

Each morning she has whipped open the door, taken a peek, and then shut it with a sigh, “No note.”

This morning, her daddy was still home and watched her run through her note searching routine.

“There is no note. I didn’t get a note. I NEVER get a note!” she exclaimed, “When am I going to get a note?” She stomped out of the kitchen, ran into her room and threw herself on her bed.

I did not just make that up.

She reappeared a few moments later and I asked her if she was feeling better. She looked up at me and shouted, “Ehhhh!” and then repeated the previously described scene. Apparently the first time did not achieve the desired response.

I followed her into her room and found her in a face down heap on her mattress. I proceeded to “search” for her in her room. As I pretended to look for her behind her rocking chair and under her bed, more and more giggles erupted from the pouting child.

Finally, I declared that I was too tired to search anymore and needed to sit down. I gently plopped myself down on her prostrate person. Of course, she yelped and I responded, “Oh this bed seems to have a squeak.” I sat back down on her and she quickly squirmed out, laughing at my folly. I pulled her in for a hug and her lip resumed the pouting posture, “Why don’t I get a note?”

“Daddy gave me that orange juice because I’m his special wife.”

I want to be his special too!”

“You are special to him. You are his very special daughter, but not everyone gets the same special things. Daddy does special things just for you, Ava. Does Daddy hold me in his lap and read me books?”

“No,” she replied giggling at the absurdity.

“Does Daddy sit on the floor with me and make puzzles?”

“No,” more giggles.

“Does Daddy twirl me around and do drops when I’m sad?”


“See Daddy does lots of special things for you. Different people get different special things.”

“Like when it’s Henri’s birf-day,” she asked, “and people get special things for him? And it’s for him and not me ’cause it’s his special birf-day!”

“Yes, just like that. And we can be happy for the person when they get special things. You can be happy that Daddy made me a special drink because that shows that he loves me. And it is very special to have a Daddy who loves your Mommy.”

She bounced off her bed, rebounding from her bad mood in a way that only three-year-olds can, and then raced me to the front door to see who would get more goodbye kisses from Daddy.

About a half-hour later, she pulled back the curtain as I was rinsing lemon sage Bliss out of my hair and declared:

“Mama, you don’t have to worry about things, ’cause God always takes care of you. And He gives different things to different people. And you don’t have to worry just like I was worrying about getting a note. And I don’t have to worry about the note ’cause different people get different special things and God knows what special things we need so you don’t have to worry.”

She closed the curtain and pranced off before I had to chance to give her a squeeze and say, “Ava, you are my special thing!”

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I’m taking a quick break from chocolate truffles, Smarty Party, triple chocolate fudge, Cranium, dark chocolates, and Are You Smarter than I Fifth Grader to announce the winners of the Lullaby CD, the giver of the amazing Advent basket, and to brush my teeth.

Before I reveal any identities, let begin by sharing the last few gifts from the wonder basket.

Here’s the candle I mentioned in my last post that I opened the day I smelled my neighbor’s spice candle.

The day after I bought my sister-in-law earrings and thought, “Hmm, maybe I should add earrings to my wish list, I opened

The day that we left for a long road trip, I opened

The day that I realized I forget to pack shower gel for stated road trip, I opened

The day I chewed my last piece of mint gum, I opened

And while many of you thought that mind reading gift basket may have the power to produce Uggs, there were no Uggs in the basket.

And there were no Uggs under the tree.


do not sigh,

because Ava and I now have a matching set of these:

It’s off to the pond we go! Thank you Meme and Papa (for mine), and Grandma Penny and Grandpa Lyle (for Ava’s)!!

As I unwrapped each of the gifts, I became more and more curious about the giver of the basket. How could she have boughten and wrapped all these gifts? How did she know so much about me? Why would she choose me to give so many sweet and thoughtful gifts to? And how did she know what I was going to need each day???

I was both excited and terrified to open the last gift.

The more sweet gifts I opened, the more I wanted to know the gift-giver. Not because I hope that she will give me more gifts, but because I have come to love the person behind the gifts. Through her presents, I have learned that she is thoughtful. She is kind. She is practical. She has good taste. She likes chocolate.

It occurred to me as I waited to open the final gift that Christ’s gifts similarly reveal his character and make me long to meet him. I don’t love Him for His gifts, I love what His gifts reveal about who He is. He is loving. He is kind. He is merciful. He is all-knowing and provides what I don’t even know that I need. Now I only know Him through His gifts, someday I will know Him face to face.

So with great excitement and trembling, I opened this:

and this:Dear Rachel,
I hope that Christ has revealed more of Himself
to you this Christmas season
and pray this basket has been
an expression of His deep love & sweet care.
Love, Christy

Oh Christy, my friend, my sister, thank you, thank you, not only from me but for the sweet readers who have enjoyed the gifts along with me. Thank you for creating this beautiful picture of Christ’s deep love and sweet care for us. I, for one, have been profoundly blessed. You are precious!Thank you feels so small, but this one is very full. Thank you!And now, I would like thank you for entering my contest and to present two of your with the “Moon in my Window” lullaby CD.

The CD goes to:……Kristi



Hurray for Kristi & Sara, your children will sleep more peacefully than they have in their entire lives (and that means you too), thanks to Leah and her lovely voice.Send your addresses to Pretty Leah at backtheroad@gmail.com and she will send you your sleeping pills, I mean, CD.Remember you can buy your own copy of “Moon in my Window” for only $6 (including shipping) by contacting Leah.

And while you are rocking your babes tonight, will you please say a prayer for Sweet Maisie and her family.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

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It’s time to sing again:

“On the twelfth day of Advent, my secret sister gave to me

Coffee for sipping
Cookies for dipping
Cutters for baking
Sprinkles for shaking

tissue for wrapping

Candles for burning
Paper for wrapping
Hot soothing tea
Bows, curling ribbon
Tree gift bags
Bird paper pad
and three shades of shiny lip balm!!

Oh, the song may have ended (thank goodness), but the basket is still bringing forth much fun and frivolity!See for yourself:

I know that I have already told you this, but I must say it again: this basket giver has the ability to read future thoughts.On the day that we are out of tape, I open tape. The day I need to wrap preschool teacher presents in a pinch, I open tissue paper and use the gift bags from a previous day (notice how the bird paper made a table runner).
The day Ava’s nose starts dripping, I open penguin tissue. The day I compliment my neighbor’s spice candle, I open an organic, soy-based “secret spice” candle. The day I’m craving chocolate, I open organic chocolate (Oh, wait that’s everyday).And here’s the whopper–one morning as Ava and I were driving to the store, we spied some children ice-skating. Ava is now the proud owner of shiny used ice skates cannot wait to try them out on our neighborhood pond. As we were discussing future ice-skating plans, I thought wouldn’t it be nice if I had a thermos to bring hot chocolate in. And that day, I opened…a thermos!

It’s starting to feel like a genie-wish basket!

There is only a few presents left, and I’m more eager than ever to find out who made this incredible basket.

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After two consecutive weeks of sub-freezing temperatures and after hearing more than one raving review of the australian sheep-skin boots (including Christa’s here), I decided that I wasn’t up for thawing out my toes after coming home anymore and that I would very much like a pair of Uggs.

And so I let it be known that all I wanted for Christmas is Uggs.

Overpriced, trendy, but oh-so-toasty Uggs.

On Monday after a weekend of scouring the local shopping establishments and a day searching the internet, my good Nate informed me that Uggs were sold out everywhere. Apparently, I’m not the only one with Uggs on my wish list.

And so Shanel came over to console me and my toes,

and to show me her brand new Uggs.

Thanks Shanel! You’re the best.

She also brought a bag full of beautifully wrapped gifts from her and her happy boyfriend, Mike (who likes to read this blog occasionally, but don’t tell anyone. It’s a secret).

Ava got to open her present from Mike first.

Let’s see what she got.

Knives? Are those knives? She loves to help in the kitchen, yes, but knives. Come on Mike. You read the blog. You know she’s only three.

Oh wait. There’s more. Phew, Mike, I was worried there for a minute.


NO! Uggs! Ava gets Uggs!
My Ava gets warm, adorable, snuggly Uggs.

Santa how could you let this happen?

Ava was hoping you would bring her a candy cane, and I, I wanted the sold-out, unavailable, frostbite-preventing Uggs.

It was very simple Santa. Little candy cane: child. Expensive boots: mama.

Look at these two: Matching ponchos, matching boots, matching smiles.

A huge thank you from Ava for the leopard skirt, sparkly poncho, and of course the Uggs.

Am I the only mama whose three-year-old dresses better than they do???

P.S. Look what Shanel wrapped up for me.

The Pioneer Woman’s calendar! If you haven’t read her blog yet, now would be the time. She is giving away a $500 gift certificate to Amazon books tonight!

If I don’t win that at least I’m due for a candy cane.

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okay, and the seventh too.

Sing with me now:

“On the seventh day of Advent, my secret sister gave to meCandles for burning

Paper for wrapping

Hot soothing tea

Bows, curling ribbon

Tree gift bags

Bird paper pad
And three shades of shiny lip balm!!!

“Mama, you get to open another present!!” Ava calls out every morning as she digs through the basket to find the number that corresponds with the number she opened on her advent calendar. She hands me the present and is nearly as excited as I am to see what lies beneath the gilded paper. I say nearly because honestly I love opening presents. The opening process is so exciting it often eclipses the actual present–I love the anticipation, the surprise, the hidden treasure.And what a treasure trove this basket has been! How could this dear friend know that I would have bronchitis and be sick of every tea in my cupboard by the fifth day of advent or that on the eight day I would have red candles on my shopping list? How could she predict that on the sixth day of advent, I would replace all the pictures on my mantle with Christmas pictures from the past several years and need red wrapping paper to matte 4 x 6 pictures in 5 x 7 frames. It’s like each gift is perfectly appointed for each day.

(Is that not the cutest Christmas baby you’ve ever seen!)

These well intentioned gifts remind me of one my favorite verses. I keep this verse neatly folded in my back pocket and pull out some part of it almost every time I pray: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning (just like my advent gifts). Great is your faithfulness, Oh Lord. [Lamentations 3:22-23]

I love the promise that each morning there are fresh new mercies for that day. And it never ceases! There is never a day that the God of love does not lay out some mercy of some kind for you. They don’t always appear wrapped in shiny paper and neatly tucked into a basket, but they are there just the same. God is faithful to his name and his promises. Some mornings I have to say to myself, “Rachel, there are mercies for you this day. It doesn’t look like it yet, but there are! You know that God is faithful, so now go and find them.”

During this Advent season as we wait for the greatest mercy of all, I encourage you to go and find the gifts that are wrapped up and laid out for you each morning by your Savior. I promise you that if you acknowledge them, your advent song will surpass the one here.

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my secret sister gave me
bird paper pad:

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