Friday, December 21, 2007

Slow Learner

Once upon a time, a very long time ago, in a land far away (I think it was Rhode Island) I was a young wife and mother. Actually I was a very young wife and mother. In fact, I was married, had my first child, and owned a home before I could legally order a drink. But I had the world by the tail, and I thought I knew everything. It was easy to know everything back then. My marriage was new and fresh, my child was healthy and bright, and God provided for all of our needs and many of our wants as well. It is true that we dealt with all of the issues young married couples deal with. Hubby worked a lot of hours, sleep was scarce with a colicky baby, and money was very tight at times. But seen from the perspective of twenty years was peaceful and good.

Back then I had a friend. We became friends in an odd sort of way, but the friendship stuck for many years. Actually, she had a third daughter who was only a few weeks older than ours, so of course that was an immediate bond. When our little punkin' was tiny, we wanted to have a special service of dedication for her, and their family was looking to have a special service of thanksgiving for the adoption of a child...their second daughter who was about a year old at the time. She was a special needs infant adoption, and at the time her development was very up in the air. Much was unknown. Their eldest daughter had also been a special needs adoption, as an older child. She was a sweet big sister, not without her struggles, but a cute kid. The third daughter who was their only "homegrown" one, at the time, was severely handicapped and medically fragile.

So we had the service together, both sets of parents praising God for their perfect little family. And through the years we remained friends. A few years later they had a fourth daughter as well, physically healthy in every way. I used to watch my friend with her brood, and marvel. Of course back then I had only one, and I thought that could be hard at times. I would see my friend struggling with so many issues...older child adoption issues, learning disabilities, endless battles to find services and help for her children, constant runs to the hospital to literally save her child's life. There was a continuous round of therapies and doctors appointments, and meetings at the school. And through all of this my friend remained "normal". She was active in her church, close to her extended family, attentive to her friends. Their family went on vacations, baked cookies, swam in the pool, went to the beach. In fact, we did our fair share of those things with them, and often. Our families were close, and we enjoyed one another's company. I would watch her children every now and then, and not even give it a second thought. I had known them much of their lives, and was familiar with their challenges. Looking back now, I know it should have scared me to try and take on their care. Anything could have gone wrong at any time, and it frequently did. But I was young and I knew everything back then.

I remember listening to my friend talk for countless hours, describing their days, and struggles, and victories. I know now what she was doing. She was indulging me, and educating me. How in the world could someone as young, and green, and stupid as me presume to understand her life? But she was older, and wiser, and much, much stronger. I am grateful she took the time. I always thought I understood, from my vantage point of looking in from the outside. Sometimes I had the audacity to have my own opinions and secretly believe I would have done things differently or better. Only once did I ever catch a glimpse of the truth, and I have never forgotten it.

We were at the beach, late in the afternoon, coming onto evening. Our families were picnicking together, and the children were running about, under the eyes of two Daddies. I was at the picnic table fussing over food, or messes, and my friend got up to comfort her third daughter who was being fussy in her adaptive stroller. She picked her up and carried her out towards the sea wall, bouncing her like a fussy baby. But she wasn't a baby, she was a little girl, who was growing taller and heavier by the day. My friend was a tiny whip of a woman, little more than skin, and muscle, and bone...with a long blond braid trailing down her back. As she walked away from me I noted what a struggle it was for her to hold and carry the stiff body of her child. A few minutes later I looked up to see them in the distance. Her back was to me, her face to the sea, and her daughter lay outstretched on her arms. Their bodies formed the silhouette of a cross, as the wind whipped both their hair.

I remember staring at the image, shaken by the knowledge that I was looking on something I did not understand. I was humbled by the strength I saw. I never told anyone about that moment. I was still too busy back then, trying to know everything.

I've since lost touch with my friend, and I sincerely regret it. Truly, I'm not even sure how it happened, though I suspect it had more to do with me and my inherent selfishness, and less to do with anything she did or did not do. And now I am her age, or the age she was back then I mean. I am faced with a few of the same struggles and sacrifices that she faced with such grace. I am profoundly grateful now, for all of the time she took to indulge me, and educate me. Again, such grace, to take a spoiled child like me under her wing, and broaden my narrow world. Do we ever know the far reaching implications of a merciful, hard working life? I wish she could see her "cross" as it remains in my memory all these years later, and know that her faithfulness reaches so much farther than she could have imagined.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Hot, hot...oh we got it!

I am enjoying a quick moment of quiet , the calm before the storm if you will. Today is dance recital day...the annual Christmas show that was postponed from Sunday. It looks as though the weather will cooperate, so we will be dancing. Well, not me technically, though I seem to have plenty to do anyhow. Back when my big girl danced, I never had to give it a thought. Sure, I altered her costumes ahead of time, but she always got herself together. She did her makeup, made sure she was sufficiently glittery, gathered all her bits and pieces. I had to get her there early as she had usually promised to braid a few girls' hair, and I was usually pressed into service doing the same while I waited with her.

But then there are boys. I have to collect everything they need and make sure it gets there. They manage the snacks and amusements. When we arrive, I have to hunt down the schedule, and hustle them into the appropriate costumes, do hair, and apply (as we call it) "man makeup". Then the other boys begin arriving, and they line up for help too.

But we love it. No one who didn't would spend this kind of money, time, or aggravation on a thing. Isn't that the truth though? Where do we spend our time, money, and efforts? It's pretty easy to see where the priorities lie by taking a quick look at the check book and calendar. And fortunately/unfortunately we will be doing this show twice. Somehow, by rescheduling the original show, it became necessary to do it twice to accommodate everyone involved. So we will go round again, the week after Christmas. But boy, we got it! Hot! Hot!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Titus Helps

Titus always helps. He remembers to put his paws squarely on the computer screen while jumping down. He lets his tail dangle and flick in front of the screen while you work. He scratches you and looks "put out" when you try and move it. He shakes his drool all over the screen. He is my best computer helper ever.

Question of the Day

How many times can three children say the words "booby trap" in the space of about fifteen minutes?

I don't actually know the answer but my educated guess is 1743 times.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Blustery Day

Since I have been so diligent to post updates on the weather here, I figured I would finish up my series of reports. We really never got much snow...a little bit, and then some scouring ice. Scouring, because it was driven by gale force winds. What does the wind speed have to be to rip the shingles off the roof of your house and break a tree in the front yard in half? Because that's the speed we had last night and well into the daytime hours today. Hubby and I spent over an hour this morning deicing the gates to the goat pens, thawing water buckets, "coating up" my old lady goat in her purple winter jacket, and building a wind break for the goat house. By the time we blew back in the door we were frozen stiff and ready to crawl back in bed. Fighting that wind is exhausting!

Otherwise it has been a quiet day. Church was canceled for obvious reasons. I spent the afternoon finishing that mountain of sewing and mending, and I can finally say that the mountain, ironing board, and sewing machines are all gone! My living room looks downright empty! The children made a big mess and a lot of noise, so I guess they were happy for the most part. Now we are ready to tackle what was supposed to be a quiet week, except with all the cancellations, it is now quite full. Uggh! And I still have to shop too. Here's hoping the weather cooperates!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Snow, then ice, then snow...

Well the weather report is firming up, and it looks as though we will be putting off our singing and dancing. Tonight begins with snow, turning to ice, then back to snow. Since we are on the mountain, it will likely stay cold enough to never turn to rain, and we will hold onto more of the mess. Yeah! More shoveling!

So tomorrow will be a quiet day at home, and I am hoping to get some extra rest and a lot of odds and ends done. There are always plenty of odds and ends around here. They seem to trail all over the house in little piles. I truly believe that in heaven I will be relieved of all these disorderly little piles, and I will actually get to the bottom of a "to do" list before twenty more items magically appear!

And speaking of heavenly, we had a wonderful evening last night, with a dear friend who is home from her missions work, on furlough. It was such a delight to pick her brain and hear all about what she has been up to for the last couple of years. She is such a joy to love and support as she is so brutally honest about her work, struggles, and self. Plus she brought chocolate fondue, which of course made her a total hit with the younger set. We "seized" the first pot of chocolate, but salvaged it in a mighty way by turning it into hot fudge sauce. Here's how we did it:

Microwave a 12 ounce bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips until melted. Add milk and watch the chocolate turn into a brick.

Turn out into a pan. Add a can of sweetened condensed milk, 2/3 cup water, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir forever over medium low heat, being certain it will never stop looking greasy and lumpy, but refusing to transfer to a larger pan with a whisk (to save on dishes). Transfer to larger pan with nice whisk and see sauce get glossy and thick. Whisk in 1 tablespoon of vanilla. BE AMAZED.

So now the weather outside is frightful, but there is hot fudge sauce in the fridge, so how can I possibly go wrong?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Winter Afternoon

The snow is swirling and blowing down, at the rate of about two inches an hour. I have been out to shovel twice, and the last time I went out I shoveled the porch and the walk, went to shovel out the goats, and then came back again to reshovel the porch and walk. Spellcheck is telling me there is no such word as reshovel, but I definitely know there is! My back and bad knee are assuring me of it.

Actually, I love to shovel on a day like today, when everything has been canceled due to snow. I checked the temperature before I went out. It said it was 26, but that it felt like 17. At first it did, as the wind whipped down the front of my coat. Actually hubby's coat, which is why it was gaping at the neck. But as I got moving, it began to feel like 86. By the time I came back indoors, my hands and face felt frozen, but the rest of me was downright toasty.

I stood in the shower and marveled at the wonder of running hot water. I suppose you could survive in a hot climate with just cold, but on a day like today, nothing beats a hot shower. So now I am squeaky clean, sporting a dripping head, and tired and achy enough to lay down and go right to sleep. Not that I will. What I really need to do is get back outside and shovel. My porch and walk are nearly filled up again, and the snow is still coming down hard.

I will probably have to go out and shovel the goats out again too. Their gates and water buckets are bogged down in snow. Plus they are sissies about walking around in the deep snow. Unless they think you have food. Goats are so incredibly charming. They always think you have come to visit them, and that you must have treats. They follow you about as you try and do mucky jobs, putting their noses into whatever you are doing, and nibbling on you.

I had to make a note to myself today, not to trust my dear baby boy. He does a very nice job with his chores, and is very reliable when it comes to feed and water. But when I ask him questions like, "Do you think there is enough bedding in Darcy's house? It's going to be cold tonight." Well, I am talking into the wind. He looks into her little house and sees hay. He does not notice that it's black with wet, and swimming in two inches of mucky water. I spent about half an hour just scraping the mess out, so I could put dry, fresh bedding in. But now everyone is dry, and fed, and happy.

Now it's on to the humans. I wish they were as easy to keep as goats. We had hot lunch today since everyone was home, so I can get away with a light supper. After that there is mounds of sewing to catch up on. There are Christmas gifts to finish up and wrap, pants to hem, mending to be done, and dance costumes to be finished. The pile is huge, and I really want to plow through it and get the whole mess put away as it is really cluttering up the living room. I actually left it out in plain view so that it would annoy me enough to finish it quickly!

Tomorrow the snow will have ended, and we can finish shoveling out from under it. Then a day or two of clear skies, and another storm to come...on the day of our dance recital and church Christmas concert. I wonder if we will sing and dance...or put off to another day?