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a banner of thanks

I know that the Christmas shopping mayhem has arrived and that advent begins tomorrow. Even so I wanted to squeeze in one more thought on Thanksgiving before November folds into December.

Like so many people I know, I have been soaking in Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts. I have to drink it slowly, savoring one sip at a time. As Thanksgiving approached I wanted to share her art of thanksgiving, the naming of gifts, with my family.

Thanks to the inspiration from my friend Kari, my children and I went down to our favorite creek to hunt for a stick. We tromped over the footbridge and down to the rocks in search of a forgotten branch cut off from it’s tree and shed with the falling leaves.

We drug the biggest, barest stick we could find home and strung it up with twine in our dining room. It was ugly. It spread it’s brittle bare arms across our window, tapping it’s boney fingers on our panes.

Over the next few weeks, we experienced a reverse autumn. We wrote down each day’s gifts on paper leaves and attached them to the scraggly branches.

Even Jude would scribble with an “pun-shul” on the leaves and hand them over to his sister for translation.

As we poured out our thanksgiving praises the branches grew in richness. The naked, brittle branch filled with crimson and gold, bursting with stories of good things.

We could see how rich and full our lives are. There in our dining room the bounty of His blessings hung above us.

I am grateful that we as a people, diverse and spread across a vast land mark out one day to be give thanks. We pause in our collective business to reflect on the fullness of our lives and say, “thank you.” I am grateful that I believe in a God to whom I can direct those praises. And I’m grateful that in this act of thanksgiving I receive the double blessing of the gift and the knowledge that it was given.

With this simple act, with these simple means of wood, paper, and pencil we have watched how gratefulness transforms the barren into beautiful.

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a high and low

a prologue

In an attempt to ward off the mayhem that has defined these past few weeks I lifted my new tunic dress out if it’s bag.

I would wear a new dress. I would cinch it with a belt. I would pair it with my favorite boots. I would take on this day.

While I was pulling together all levels of fabulous, Ava walked in, “What is that?”

“Blue tights.”

“You can’t wear blue tights.”

“Why not?”

“Mamas don’t wear blue tights.”

the high

Two hours later I carried Jude over a sea of mamas and babies at Tuesday Morning Baby Story Time to an open spot in the back of the bookshop.

I settled him on the floor between discarded mittens and forgotten cheerios and began to take off my coat. The lady to my left stopped bouncing the baby on her lap and looked up at me, “Are you a fashion designer?”

“What? No.”

“You design clothes?”


“But you are some kind of designer.”

“No. I mean, in my dreams. Sometimes.”

There you go, sweet Ava. This mama can wear blue tights!

the low

An hour later I was pushing Jude in a cart through the throngs of Thanksgiving meal shoppers at Trader Joe’s. At some point between explaining to Jude that the buckle on the cart was irrevocably broken and he was going to have to ride freestyle and asking the third friendly Trader-Joesian if they still carry Bistro Bisquit, I sensed that something was slipping.

My blue tights were falling down.

I tried to give them a discreet tug, but my dress was so silky that I couldn’t get a grip.

I hurried along hoping that they would stay put. But the faster I walked, the faster they fell.

I frantically started looking for a quiet little corner in which I could hike them up, but there were cart pushers everywhere. They were coming out of the end caps and holiday displays.

And it was Tuesday, shipment day. It seemed like the entire TJ staff was was crouched down stocking cans and canisters on the bottom shelves.

I made a dash for the bathroom. The line was two deep. It would put my compromised outfit in full view of everyone checking out.

My heart was palpitating. My palms were sweating. And my tights were traveling south.

I escaped to the pasta section. No one is deliberating between marinara and Alfredo on November 22nd. It was in this pause that I realized two things.

One, I was stuck in the middle of a crowded store surrounded by lots and lots of people (yes, I realized that “crowded store” implies lots and lots of people, but I need to be sure we are clear on the crowd factor) from which I could not magically disappear.

And that the hem of my dress, the waist band of my tights, and my knees were all perfectly aligned.

My tights had fallen. To my knees. My knees. My tights were at my knees. My tights were at my knees.

Pride goes for the fall, people. Pride goes before the fall.

Ava was right. This mama cannot wear those blue tights.

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a harvest pairing

As the crimson and gold of fall fade to the crunchy, stepped-on brown, and the world begins to wrap itself in scratchy woolly grays, I store up color. Or ways to bring color into my home.

Fruit with its sun soaked goodness is an edible flower. An economic flower. A flower with a sweet surprise.

I turn the pears over slowly in the produce section seeking the unblemished and unique. One a bit more portly or one with the stem tipped like a hat. One with bright rosy cheeks and another dappled with freckles.

Gone are the mason jars dripping with the clippings of our yard. Now stands the proud pedestal with the offerings of fall. The pecans, the walnuts, the almonds in their dappled browns. And the Anjou in their bright Bordeaux.

After a few days of adorning our table, they are ready to slice and serve. A flower with a happy ending. Enjoy!

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our family circus

Meet Jude the Lion.


He is ferocious.

Meet his trainer, Ava.

She is fantastic!

She has been commissioned to train

this obstinate lion.

She has all the flair, while he prefers to throw things in the river.

Together, Jude the Lion and Ava the trainer have been working hard

to bring you this show!

Welcome to Our Circus!

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what’s on jude’s face?

did you guess?

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or at least the answer to what’s on Jude’s face.

It was quite tasty, so I can’t really blame the computer. I didn’t want to try it at first. Who would? Did you see it? Don’t you find food resembling gray matter rather fishy?

I do. It was quite horrifying, and not any better when I learned what it actually was.

I said, “pass,” sat back and watched Jude and Ava eagerly devour their portions. Somehow in my state of unaffected, indifference my finger ended up in my mouth after one of the many times I wiped off Jude’s chin. This prompted the request of an actual bite.

It was silky and rich and wonderful.

If there hadn’t been such a terribly long line for the concoction, I would have ordered one of my own.

And now the computer has not only had one sweet, salty lick, but has taken the whole darn thing. And he’s not sharing. Every time I try to open the folder, he straight up freezes. Frozen rock solid.

Hungryman tried to take a crack at him this morning before dashing off to work.

It did not go well.

A water bottle may have been thrown. Tires may have squealed. I may be exaggerating.

I’ll tell you one thing, that computer is going down.

And hopefully not with his hands wrapped around my story.

It doesn’t break free this evening, I’ll ink out the answer in BOLD FACE old school style tomorrow morning just in time for the Sunday News.

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double dare


i dare you.

i mean, i double-dare you

to guess what is on jude’s face.

it’s not scary, i promise.

okay, well maybe it’s a little scary at first,

but not for long.

can you guess?


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(who is that boy? and where is my baby?)

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the wind blows

Two nights ago, I wiped the day’s crumbs off the counter and reached for the lights, glancing once more at the kitchen. Clean. Ready for the morning’s crumbs.

I tiptoed towards my room careful not to wake my slumbering family and slipped into a bed already warmed by my husband. And then I began the task of falling asleep. It was late and I had to awake early.

It started with the creaking of the hall door. The wind was pirouetting through our home, pushing into my dreams and knocking at my eyelids. The door became a timpani thudding again and again as the sprinto soprano added the whish and whoosh of a not-quite-lullaby.

In my dreams curtains were flying, books were falling, and we were spinning to Oz and the Tin Man.  Only the cyclone was in our house twirling from room to room.

At some point in the whirling night, I pulled my weary self out into the hallway to fortify the banging door. All I could find in the dark was throw pillows. And so my dreams continued with a slightly muffled percussion.

My alarm greeted me three minutes after I had opened my eyes confirming that the too few hours that I had allotted for sleep had come to an abrupt stop.

I repeated my tiptoeing of the previous evening, which didn’t feel as far away as it should, and set off to dispel what was dream and what was wind.

I picked up the shuffled pillows and opened the door to discover a rainbow of dinner napkins spread the length of my dining room floor. I stood under that rainbow and tried to piece together where they had come from.

I didn’t remember leaving a stack in the dining room. I stepped through to the kitchen and spied an empty napkin holder.

The wind had snuck in through the window and gathered up the napkins with his blue-tipped fingers. He whisked them through the side door, spun them about, bowed, and left them fanned out in a perfect arc. One right after the other. Some bent. Some curled. Some stacked stair-stepped with others.

I stood in wonder.

I thought about our summer. How the coolness of this breeze carried the hints of autumn, the end of our warm, blissful days. How I feel changes blowing and shifting our family.

How in the course of three month a little boy that I know has gone from


to this

to this.

My little babe with tousled curls swings his bat. He hits. He cheers. The ball flies. He drops his bat and runs. He knows not where.

And my girl, she runs too, sprinting into second grade.

We’re caught up in this whirling, this forward motion.

And I could pass off these scattered napkins as the aftermath of a peculiar gust that spun counter-clockwise in one room and clockwise in another, drawing tissue up into its vortex and dropping them as it dissipated.

Or I could believe in a purposeful God’s whose fingerprints appear in every aspect of my day. A God who knows where we are spinning to and is laying out our days in a particular pattern.

I choose the latter.

And from where I’m standing now, I see snapshots of this summer spread out like Polaroids in a beautiful arc of memories.

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Updated: The video is public now, so you should be able to view it.

I wake in the morning early
And always, the very first thing
I poke out my head
And I sit up in bed
And I sing, and I sing, and I sing!

by Rose Fyleman

This is Ava. And that is her story. For seven years, I have been the primary benefactor of Ava’s songs, the songs of her heart.

She wakes up singing; she goes to bed singing.  She sings to her stuffed animals and to her crayons. She sings to keys on the piano and to the produce in the store. She sings to cars passing by and to people eating nooodles.

When I first met her seven years ago this morning, my very first thought was “Hello Ava.” Until that moment, she was going to be Evelyn. Her dad had the very same thought and so, she was Ava. We knew that Ava meant “life,” but soon discovered that it also meant “bird.” It was as though she said, “Hello Daddy. Hello Mama. I sing!”

And oh, what a song bird she is. She has songs for getting dressed and songs for folding laundry. She has songs for wearing tap shoes and songs for cleaning the bathroom. She has welcome home songs for daddy, love songs for mama and lullabies for Jude.

This morning on our ride to school she sang a little ditty about how her doll’s hat’s name was Joey. And wasn’t Joey such a beautiful name.

Even her artwork sings.

She marks all special occasions with her own spontaneous songs. You know that feeling when something is so wonderful that you wish that you could break out into song–she does it. They burst out of her filling the air with her jubilee.

Today on her seventh birthday, I thought I would share one of those moments with you. During her brother’s first birthday party, after the candle had been blown out and the presents had been opened, Ava saw a room full of guests with nothing left to do. She disappeared  for a costume change and reappeared with her own gift.

Happy Birthday my beautiful song bird! May you always sing and sing and sing!!

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