Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Missing my babies

On Saturday, Liana was invited to spend the day with her best friend and Fred was showing property, so Arielle and I had time to ourselves. Girls Day Out! First, we went to the church bazaar across the street from our house. Arielle is such a bargain hunter. Her best deal ever was an American Girl doll she found several years ago for a dollar. I don't know if we'll ever beat that. But this day she found a set of the old Polly Pocket toys that sell on ebay for $25 to $30. Again, this one was a dollar. She also found a Josh Grobin Christmas CD and a picture book of Civil War battlefields. She has an eye for these things. We later went to Walmart and then food shopping. Not special in itself, but I so much enjoyed just spending time with Arielle.

Eleven, almost twelve, Arielle is approaching my height. She is a delightful age, but maybe it isn't just age, it is the way she is. She has such a level personality, not swinging up and down. She is calm and gracious, quiet and thoughtful, but out-spoken and opinionated. She's always seemed wise beyond her years. I was proud to introduce her to an old acquaintance at the bazaar. My daughter, my friend, my joy.

Later in the day Arielle got out scrapbooks from long ago. I teased her that she must miss her sister so much that she wanted to look at pictures of her. I used to be meticulous in creating the photo albums, complete with captions and narratives. But I haven't even looked at them in a long time. This day, the pictures stirred in me the feelings I had for my baby girls, my precious little ones, with their sweet faces and chubby bodies. "Remember this?" Arielle would point to one. Yes, I remember. How could I ever forget?

When Liana came home I was telling my friend about grieving for my babies and how sad it was to look at the pictures and realize they are gone. My wise friend reminded me, "Yes, but look at what you have now!"

Of course. It's the way of life. I have Arielle on the verge of womanhood, a girl after my own heart. We prefer so many of the same things, and we're alike in a lot of ways, except I'm lacking her good qualities and she's doesn't have my bad ones! Then my Liana, my little sprite, my fireball, who adds the spice to our family. She keeps me hopping, but I am in awe of her creative spirit and I watch eagerly to see where it may take her. Yes, look what I have now!

Yet my heart is tinged with sadness. These two girls I have now will also soon be gone. Gone the way of my sons, grown with their own lives, apart from mine. The watercolor ponies on my refrigerator rode away. (Remember that song? It used to bring me to tears when my boys were little.)

But I can't let my mind go there now. I need to remember to live in the moment of each day, in the present. I am grateful that at least for today, my girls are here with me. Right now they are asleep in their beds, and right now I can prepare their breakfast and then wake them with a song and a kiss. I am blessed!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Word for the day

I love you, O Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
and I am saved from my enemies.
Psalm 18:1-3

Sunday, September 20, 2009


My friend invited me to attend a quilt exhibition held not far from our homes. I love seeing quilts and sewing quilts and learning about quilts, but I was also just glad to spend an afternoon with my friend. Arielle had a cold and didn't feel well, so she decided to stay home. (Unusual for her.) Liana was tired from our school day and also elected to stay home. (Typical for her.)

What an unbelievable display of the most beautiful quilts in the world! And I do mean world because included in the show was a traveling world quilt exhibit. These certainly aren't the kind of quilts that kids romp on and drag around the house. They are true works of art, absolutely stunning!

I knew the girls would have enjoyed this, so the next day Arielle felt better and Liana wasn't tired, so I took both of them. I told them they could vote for their favorites, as a prize would be awarded for the viewers' choice. They took pen and paper and were busy writing down their favorites. Arielle also wanted to photograph the ones she loved most. I asked a white-gloved attendant if we were permitted to take pictures and she said yes. The girls were drawn to the foreign quilts. They have such an interest in faraway places. We walked among the quilts for two hours before either of them mentioned heading home.

Arielle was inspired to make another quilt this winter. She made a small one of bright red and black Asian fabrics a couple of years ago, but she had gotten so bogged down doing the tedious machine quilting that I didn't think she'd ever want to make another. I want to encourage her interest so I allowed her to buy some fabric that caught her eye. It was a little discouraging to see the crowd at the show. The vast majority of people attending were older women. Who will continue the craft of quilting when we are all gone?

I will never make a quilt worthy of display, but I enjoy making practical, kid-friendly quilts. I finished piecing the top to Liana's over the summer. This picture was taken before the borders were added. After I find some good batting for it, I will begin my own winter project of doing the quilting. The girls and I like nothing better than to be downstairs sewing on a cold day with the fire in the wood stove crackling nearby.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


I am not a city girl. I don't remember even visiting a city until I was a teenager, unless my grandmother in San Diego actually lived in the city, but I think her home was more in the suburbs. I'll have to ask my mom.

When I was in 8th grade our school was on double sessions. That meant we started at noon and ended in the evening. Our bus driver would play the radio during the dark ride home and I remember Petula Clark singing,

"When you're alone and life is making you lonely, you can always go, downtown,
When you got worries all the noise and the hurry seem to help, I know, downtown,
Just listen to the music of the traffic in the city,
Linger on the sidewalks where the neon signs are pretty, how can you lose..."

You know the words. The city seemed so exciting and glamorous to me then. When I was in high school my best friend and I skipped school and rode a bus to the big city of St. Louis. I wasn't impressed. It was exciting to be on our own for a day, but the city was smelly with diesel and I still remember the awful lunch I had in a downtown cafeteria.

Since that time I've walked many big cities of the world--Madrid, Paris, Washington D.C., Guangzhou. More recently, the girls and I were invited to a birthday party in New York City and we all had a marvelous time. Big cities can be thrilling with the bustle of the crowds, the skyscrapers, the exotic food, and watching people who live an entirely different existence from ours. They ride taxis all day and have important jobs where men always wear suits and women don't even wobble in the highest of heels. But always in the shadow of the glitz is the poverty and crime. It makes me uneasy, at the same time sad and on guard.

We live near a big city now, but I never drive there. Occasionally we take the train. This year, for the first time in my life, I've seen why people love the city and choose to live there. That's because a friend of mine moved downtown. Twice this summer she invited us for a walking tour, shopping, and lunch. Finally, the city in my own area became more familiar to me, not a foreign, scary place. My friend is so comfortable there that she put me at ease.

Last week we met her at the subway station for a day at the aquarium. The girls and I were amazed by the variety of creatures God has created. We enjoyed the exhibits and also our lunch outdoors along the river, catching up with my friend and our families' news. In the afternoon she dropped us off at a corner in Chinatown. It's rare that the girls and I would be loose on the streets of the big city to do whatever we wanted! Arielle and Liana's big request: they wanted bubble tea. That's what they had last time were in the city with our friend. We wandered around looking into shops and then headed for the train station, the girls quiet on the way home as they considered our adventure. I watched the heavy traffic along the highway parallel to the tracks as we all enjoyed our relaxing ride.

I love the freedom of getting around without a car. I love the history behind our city and the generations of people who made it their home. I love the diversity of people of every race and ethnic group. Kind of like the aquarium, so many different kinds, all swimming together, and for the most, living peacefully with each other.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Carrots, anyone?

Harvesting root vegetables after a heavy rainfall is the easy way to do a difficult task. Fred and I went out to the garden early on a drizzly Saturday morning and pulled the last of the carrots from the mud. It rained so much I sank to my ankles in the muck. The carrots don't look very pretty, but they are quite tasty and so nutritious!
The growing season is about over. We have a few sad tomatoes, a couple of little eggplants and some brussel sprouts left, but that's about it.
Fred and I tore the tops off the carrots while we were still outside and then Fred washed them off with the hose. Arielle and I cut them and washed them several more times. I saved the tiny ones to eat raw and to keep handy, and all the rest I peeled and cut up for the freezer. We now have six quarts lined up next to the corn, green beans and tomatoes, put away to keep for soups and stews this winter. I'm on the lookout for good carrot recipes.
We pulled the last of the beets a couple of weeks ago. We plant the beets for Fred. His Polish mom made beet soup when he was growing up and he loves it. I've tried her recipe and don't like it too much. But I found another GREAT recipe that even Arielle and I both liked, and we're not even beet-lovers. It's too good not to share:
4 cups water or beef broth
1 pound good beef stew meat
6 small or 3 large fresh beets, peeled and sliced in strips
1 large onion, chopped
3 potatoes, peeled and chopped
4 cups chopped cabbage
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 T. plus 1 tsp. vinegar
1/2 tsp. dry dillweed
sour cream
Brown the onions and beef and put in a big pot, along with the beets. Add water or broth and cook covered until beef and beets are nearly tender, about an hour or so. Add potatoes to the pot, cover and cook another half hour. Add the cabbage, vinegar and seasonings. Cook covered another half hour. Top with a dollop of sour cream after it is served into bowls. Good winter soup! I love having good soups in mind when it's cold and dreary outside.
"Let our sons in their youth be as grown-up plants, and our daughters as corner pillars fashioned as for a palace, let our garners be full, furnishing every kind of produce..." Psalm 144:12, 13.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Labor Day

I am a week behind on things I would like to write. If I don't have early morning time, forget it. But the girls' school work is top priority. We did have a fun holiday weekend. We attempted another bike trail and this time Marissa went with us.

This trail was safer but much more strenuous. We climbed steep hills huffing and puffing and we flew down curvy slopes. I was very proud of the little girls. No one fell and they both kept up.

At one point the path led us into an area very familiar to us in earlier times. Fred and I had taken our big kids to play in this wildlife refuge years ago when they were the age of Arielle and Liana now. We came here often because we lived in a development right next to the park. We hadn't been back here in the woods in a long time and were surprised to see paved bike roadways where before there were just dirt foot paths. Suddenly we were all alone. The trail was so steep I guess most cyclists avoid it. Marissa and I kept pointing and saying, "Remember that?" We found a drop-off through dense vegetation where we once slid down on our bottoms, covering our clothes with mud and our hair with dry leaves. (I can't believe I really did that, or why. Wasn't I worried about poison ivy?) I looked over the edge down into the hole and was amazed at my foolish younger self. What fun we had though! Funny though, Arielle and Liana could never be enticed to do that.

We found the old path where Fred and Marissa used to race each other, Marissa trying hard to beat her old man. And then there was the place we once made a fort in the woods with Jon, Anthony and Marissa. We played some kind of pursuit game there, I remember. There was the grassy field where deer slept at night, and I guess still do, and where we once found our lost cat after he was missing for days. Later on, I got off my bike and looked through the overgrown brush to the apartment building where we used to live. Fred asked, "Going back in time?" Yes...but the present is so much better. It's not good to look too long at the past.

We were all in a thoughtful mood as we rode our bikes back to the car. I noticed people gathering in the pavillion. It looked like it was set up for a wedding reception. The last time we were in that pavillion was in February for the memorial service for our hometown soldier. Today the park is green and lush and warm. It's hard to believe it was once a place of sorrow and tears.

As we approached the parking lot, we heard music. Three people were singing, one playing a guitar. Their voices clear and sure sang, "Come thou fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing thy grace, streams of mercy never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise..." God's hand was on us this day, the beautiful music a gentle reminder of his constant presence, in times of heartbreak and also on a perfect day like this.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009


Damien's band had a show Saturday night and so Jon and Chrissy could go, Lana came for a sleepover. Years ago I would have loved to sit in a smoky bar and watch my son all fired up on the drums. We have gone to see him only once, I'm ashamed to say. He's fantastic! Naturally talented with no drum lessons ever. But the girls can't go to bars or stay up late, and the last time we went I got a severe asthma attack from the smoke. So I do my part by babysitting so Jon can go and see his brother play.

We love when Lana is here. She and Liana go off to their fantasy world of play. Arielle mothers Lana, making sure her teeth are brushed and pjs are on, and Grandma gives Lana strawberry ice cream and makes her pancakes and lets her know how special she is to us.

This time all three girls wanted to sleep in the living room. So we made a big bed on the floor. I asked if they would like me to read a book before bedtime, but Lana and Liana were so into their play they didn't want to stop for a boring old story. They had taken last year's Easter baskets and turned them into homes for tiny stuffed animals. The baskets were complete with beds, pillows, blankets, food and toys for their pets.

I love to see this kind of creative play. Too bad Liana can't market the idea. It's like the old Polly Pockets on a larger scale. The two of them finally fell asleep, but the minute their eyes were open in the morning, they had their baskets out playing again.

I hope these three girls grow up close and become great friends when they are women. Lana is not their cousin (a niece) but they are like cousins. I never had cousins nearby when I was a child because my parents had no brothers or sisters, but I think it would have been a great fun!

Sunday, September 06, 2009

In the moment

Time flies. Because that's such an overused cliche, it shows that many people have this experience. Of course time moves the same for everyone. But many of us feel we are rushing through life, especially people my age. When I was in high school and it was January, I sure didn't feel like time was flying. Maybe other people equally imprisoned by circumstances don't think it to be true either. But this has been bothering me for awhile. I look at my little girls growing up so quickly. It's frightening to think summer is over already, and this year is on it's way out!

When you're young you know you have a limited number of days on this earth, but there are just so many of them (you think) that you don't need to analyze this reality, and it's okay to waste some of these days. But I often think now about the finite number of years I have left and in the words of a song, "I don't want to miss a thing." I don't want to throw even one day away. So how do we put the brakes on a life careening ahead to its final destination?

I need to be in the moment. Not thinking about what is happening next week or that night or even the next hour. I tell myself to slow down! I practiced this on Friday. I am a task-doer. I have things to do and all day long I do them. Always thinking about the next task and how to efficiently complete it. I miss so much that way. My kids will remember me as busy, busy, busy, always doing. So last Friday, this is what we tried instead:

I sat next to Arielle at the computer while she did math and instead of looking ahead to see how many more problems she had left so we could get on to the next task, I enjoyed watching her work. What a gift to have my daughter beside me, helping her grasp the concepts and work the problems. I took the moment, pondered it, held on to it.

We walked to the mailbox and I noticed the the cool breeze that has come with September and what a perfectly heavenly day it was, sunny, with the late summer chorus of cicadas. On the back porch I found a perfectly whole, dead cricket, a female with an ovipositor, and I brought it inside to show Liana since she is studying insects and had just learned about the ovipositor!

Later, Marissa came over and I had laundry to fold and dishes to wash, but I just sat at the table with her and the girls and talked. I made her some gazpacho to try but mostly we did nothing but enjoy the evening. (I feel like I'm becoming my mother. She loves to sit and talk and, come to think of it, she used to be so busy too. But she has learned to slow down.)

Liana set up a Polly Pocket town and she wanted to show me who lived where and what each little house was for. These toys are very old. Marissa had given Liana her childhood collection. I didn't look for a way out of the doll talk but engaged in it. Liana wondered why there were no black haired dolls and I couldn't adequately answer that. (Toy companies weren't concerned about political correctness back then.)

At night I got both girls to bed, an accomplishment no matter how old your kids are, and then I noticed there was a full moon with a very bright star next to it. I went on-line to see what that "star" was. It was Jupiter! So I got the girls back out of bed so we could look outside at God's wonders.

One day of being in the moment. Not rushing, just holding and examining the treasures of life. The past is full of regret, best left alone. The future is uncertain for us all. But we have right now and this was a perfect day. I need something to remind me to stop when I'm tempted to DO rather than just to BE.