Monday, May 30, 2016

Resilience (#SmallWonder Link-up)


Resilience

Across the street winter rye,
tall and green, shimmers and ripples
in the breeze.  Heavy rains bend
random patches, large swaths flattened
like giant deer beds.  A thunder storm
with wind and rain beats down long
rows across the street.  Paths,
not of destruction, but of bending to
a stronger force.  When the sun returns
the bent rye rises and stands again.



Friends, #SmallWonder will be taking the week off as summer begins and my family and I head to VA to farm sit at God's Whisper Farm.  We'll gather again on Monday, June 13th.  

*   *   *   *

I'm super excited to be joining with Andi Cumbo-Floyd and Shawn Smucker to organize a weekend writer's retreat this summer at God's Whisper Farm in the beautiful mountains of Virginia.  Visit Andi's website for more info!


Welcome to the #SmallWonder link-up.  


What if we chose to deliberately look for small moments of wonder, the small sparks of presence, of delight or sorrow, of true humanity in which we meet God?  


That's my proposal - that we gather here each week to share one moment of Wonder from each of our days.  You're invited to link-up a brief post about a small moment of wonder.  Don't worry if your post is too long, too short, or not just right - you're welcome to come as you are.  


While you're here, please do take a look around and encourage at least one other blogger with a comment.   

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Establishing Summer Norms (We Don't Lick Each Other!) #SmallWonder Link-up

This is Isaiah,offering me some of his ice cream cone.  
He must have been about 2 years old.  Check out those sweet curls! 

(I'm re-sharing this post from 2014 as we gear up for summer here again.  The twins graduate from preschool this Wednesday and the older kids are out June 1st.  It's such an incredible time of change and transition for work-at-home Moms like me involving fun and memories as well as a dramatically increased workload.  Lord have mercy!)  

There are times, as a parent, when you need to establish norms. 

Simple things like the appropriate surfaces for disposing of boogers, whether one may or may not fart on other people, and whether spontaneously licking another human being is ever appropriate.     

So when, for instance, I see Levi lick his brother’s check, I make a firm and direct proclamation, “We don’t lick each other!” 

Or when someone picks their nose while I’m reading to them at bed time and proceeds to wipe it on the wall, I say, “We don’t wipe our boogers on the wall!” 

As I said, sometimes you need to establish norms.  While other families may do as they please (Licking? Why, yes, please.   Booger’s on the wall?  Of course, that’s fine art to me!) we here are choosing to dance to a different drum. 

//

“Only 19 and ½ more days of school!” my daughter said.

She may as well have been Paul Revere screaming his midnight warning, so great was my alarm. 

Good God, I thought, where have I been? What’s happened?  The hour draweth nigh!

The British, indeed, are coming. 

The British are coming and they are demanding to be entertained, to be vacation-bible-schooled and swim-lessoned, to be play-dated and day-tripped and, good Lord, I am unprepared. 

Nineteen and a half more days and me without a plan.

//

So I decided to establish some norms.

We are doing SLOW this summer.  We are eating ice cream on the porch and watching storms move through.  We are catching fireflies (if we let them stay up late enough) and getting bored enough to use our imaginations.  We are camping in the back yard because it is FREE and state-parking because it also is FREE. 

We are doing KINDNESS, which is a spacious sort of thing that pairs well with SLOW and the NON-LICKING of other people.  It will take practice and there will be sure-misses, but KINDNESS is also free and I plan to help us all be prodigal in its dispensation by the time fall rolls around.

We are practicing GENTLENESS which, good Lord, is a long enough word to be out of fashion these days, but necessary also for when our KINDNESS slips and SLOW starts to feel like stagnation.  We will not hit when we are farted on, though we may hit (it's reflexive) if we are bitten. 

We are doing HOME this summer, because we’ve waited so long to find one and because having a home means making one which isn’t something that can be done without a little presence.  We will be HOME and unhappy and scraping the boogers off the wall.  Then we will still be HOME and laughing as we tell about the ones who ate their boogers and the ones who used them to decorate.  We will be HOME when the first hail storm tears through and when the first peas are ripe for picking.  We will be HOME for skinned knees and sibling frustrations, HOME for sharing and collaboration. 

We will ALL work hard, because I'm not a martyr in the making and we will knock-off before the work is done because, let's face it, it will never really be done. 

We will do vacation bible school and swim lessons and vacation, but they are not our norms, not the hub that holds the spokes of our summer together. 

The British are coming, but don’t worry, it’s ok.  There’ll be almost no licking, I promise. 
*   *   *   *

I'm super excited to be joining with Andi Cumbo-Floyd and Shawn Smucker to organize a weekend writer's retreat this summer at God's Whisper Farm in the beautiful mountains of Virginia.  Visit Andi's website for more info!


Welcome to the #SmallWonder link-up.  


What if we chose to deliberately look for small moments of wonder, the small sparks of presence, of delight or sorrow, of true humanity in which we meet God?  


That's my proposal - that we gather here each week to share one moment of Wonder from each of our days.  You're invited to link-up a brief post about a small moment of wonder.  Don't worry if your post is too long, too short, or not just right - you're welcome to come as you are.  




While you're here, please do take a look around and encourage at least one other blogger with a comment.   

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Worst Mommy (#SmallWonder Link-up)

(That's my girl.  She turned 10 this Friday!)

I’m up to my eyeballs in laundry when my almost ten-year-old pops into the room.  She’s been outside jumping, running, and playing with her brothers while I whirl between cooking dinner and the endless sorting and folding of clothes. 

“I’m going to try to start calling you ‘Mom,’” she says, “instead of ‘Mommy.’”

My heart lurches as though she’s announced a plan to move to Australia in the morning, to join the circus, to fly far, far, away from me. 

“Oh,” I say, casual as we mothers must be when feelings are on the line, “why?”

I don’t remember her reasoning exactly, but in essence, it’s time to put ‘Mommy’ aside.  Then she hops onto the toilet, continuing our conversation with the door wide open. 

“Remember when I told you to stop calling me ‘Mommy’?” I ask. 

“Yes!” she exclaims, “Why did you do that?!”

It was when we still lived on Franklin Street and she was five, maybe six at most.  I was overwhelmed with All. The. Kids. we had so suddenly, so unexpected.  In a fit of frustration one day I told her to stop calling me Mommy and call me Mom instead.  She burst into tears at the thought and I immediately recognized I was a Truly Awful Mother.  Beginning to relent, I asked, “Why is it so important to you?” Leaning in for a hug, with tears in her eyes, she told me, “It just feels more comfortable.”  

Even a Truly Awful Mother couldn’t argue with that.    

Standing outside the bathroom I’m relieved she remembers the incident, relieved for a chance to explain myself.  “Oh Sophia,” I exclaim, “I don’t know.  I think I was just tired of everyone needing me so much all the time.  I just wanted someone to need less of me."  "You have the Worst Mommy,” I add, grateful for a chance to take the blame.

She laughs and I do too.

  
*   *   *   *

I'm super excited to be joining with Andi Cumbo-Floyd and Shawn Smucker to organize a weekend writer's retreat this summer at God's Whisper Farm in the beautiful mountains of Virginia.  Visit Andi's website for more info!


Welcome to the #SmallWonder link-up.  


What if we chose to deliberately look for small moments of wonder, the small sparks of presence, of delight or sorrow, of true humanity in which we meet God?  


That's my proposal - that we gather here each week to share one moment of Wonder from each of our days.  You're invited to link-up a brief post about a small moment of wonder.  Don't worry if your post is too long, too short, or not just right - you're welcome to come as you are.  


While you're here, please do take a look around and encourage at least one other blogger with a comment.   

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Cooped Up (#SmallWonder Link-up)

(Painting, "Cooped Up" by Lawrence J. Davis)

They were closed in for almost a week.  The new flock, used to living free-range with their former owner, needed time to recognize their new home.  We didn’t want to risk them wandering off.  

“Keep them cooped for two weeks, at least,” a friend said.  “Three, even,” another added. 

So we shut them into the 10x20 room with the nesting boxes and roosting bars, with straw scattered on the concrete floor and food and water readily accessible.  I visited three, four times a day, checking for eggs, changing water, adding food and offering treats like orange slices, stale cereal and popcorn. 

“Peep, peep,” I said, opening the door, teaching them our “call” and to associate coming to me with reward. 

They seemed happy, secure and settling over the first several days. Then the rain set in and hopes of letting them out to wander the yard under a protective eye, vanished. 

The daily egg count dropped.  They broke out once, then again, when we didn’t latch the door securely. 

By day six, they looked pretty desperate.  The mood in the coop was tense and agitated.  When I approached the door one bird, always the same one, flew at the window.  I imagine she was hoping to escape, but it felt like she was flying at my face.  I was irrationally scared entering the coop, like they were a teaming mob ready to turn on me with a moment’s notice.    

They were “cooped up.” 

I thought of how often I’ve said that phrase with no real experience of its meaning.  I thought of the endless stream of snow days, the rainy days and weeks of summer when the kids and I are trapped together at home.  It often seems good and even refreshing at first.  Then, slowly, the atmosphere changes.  We grow tense, desperate.

Tending the chickens, I hear old words and phrases anew. 

I’ve seen a broody hen, how she looks thin and worn, refusing to leave the nest even if the eggs she sits on are unfertilized.  Now I know the word brooding - the way we sometimes worry ourselves sick over things that may never bear fruit - in a new way.  I watch them hunt and peck for grain and bugs in the grass and I see it is exactly the same pause, lunge, repeat method that new typists employ on an unfamiliar keyboard.  I see the marks left by their feet in the dirt and realize the accuracy of describing my oldest boy’s terrible handwriting as “chicken scratch.”   

Every one of these awakenings brings a ping of delight, “Ah-ha!  That’s what we mean.”    

This is what I love about doing new things - this recognition of the way the material world connects, is wedded to, the immaterial and how language spans that gap between the two.  Words strung like beads on a nearly invisible thread connect experiences into a cluster of meaning.  Finding that thread, fingering the beads that line it, is, for me, a source of endless joy and delight.   

P.S. Saturday we built a good sized outdoor "run" over green grass and the girls are no longer "cooped" except at night.  Since our run isn't terribly secure, I get a good bit of exercise chasing escaped birds morning, noon and night!

*   *   *   *

I'm super excited to be joining with Andi Cumbo-Floyd and Shawn Smucker to organize a weekend writer's retreat this summer at God's Whisper Farm in the beautiful mountains of Virginia.  Visit Andi's website for more info!


Welcome to the #SmallWonder link-up.  


What if we chose to deliberately look for small moments of wonder, the small sparks of presence, of delight or sorrow, of true humanity in which we meet God?  


That's my proposal - that we gather here each week to share one moment of Wonder from each of our days.  You're invited to link-up a brief post about a small moment of wonder.  Don't worry if your post is too long, too short, or not just right - you're welcome to come as you are.  


While you're here, please do take a look around and encourage at least one other blogger with a comment.   



Sunday, May 1, 2016

The Birthday Flock (#SmallWonder Link-up)


We stuffed them into boxes marked “Smirnoff Ice” and “Captain Morgan’s,” small boxes, free from the local liquor store.  John cut air holes on the ride across town, slicing with his utility knife in the passenger seat while I drove. 

When we arrived at the farm, the chickens, still cooped from the night before and anxious to range, were furious at being boxed one-by-one.  Four of us worked together - grab a chicken, tuck it in a box.  Press down and close the lid, folding the flaps one under the other.  Repeat.

We emailed over a dozen times with the owner who was selling a flock of sixteen at the beginning of the week.  She asked for pictures of our yard, our coop, she delayed making a decision.  Frustrated, we joked she was going to ask for tax returns and references next.  “They’re pets,” she said in the craigslist ad and on email, “These girls are loved.”  One by one, though, her free-range flock was being eaten by predators.  It dwindled to twelve by the time we got there.  One night they watched a fox take one out in the field and her son, twelve, ran to get his pellet gun, but it was too late.  

The birds thrashed and squawked and the boxes, weakened by the overly large air holes, gave under the pressure.  One then another bird toppled their way to escape, so we cornered and dove and the birds’ owner grabbed two by the tail feathers and we figured maybe we didn’t need to be quite as gentle as we’d thought.  Finally we had five birds in boxes and five in a borrowed dog pen.  Two baby polish hens traveled in their own cage.  The adult birds settled as soon as we started driving, but the babies cried a steady stream of peeps. 

With the back seats out, we had a van packed to the gills with chickens and it smelled like it too.  Back home, we stuffed a quick lunch in our faces and went to ready the coop.  Coco sniffed wildly and whined at the van, her tail wagging, eyes pleading.  Then we unpacked the girls, unloading all of the boxes and crates into the coop, and opening them one by one.  They settled in quickly, happy to find their old nesting boxes and piled in two and three at a time to lay eggs for the day.  Because the new coop is big enough to stand in I heard, for the first time, the low purring noise, almost like a growl, they make just before laying an egg. 

The Polish Girls, still in their cage, we tucked into our old chicken coop so they could explore the place.  They’re gray and black speckled with an outlandish white bouffant of feathers on their head.  Later, three of our kids came home and met their newest pets.  That night when Solomon returned from a playdate, he squatted in the dark and rain to look at the Polish hens.  “That one’s mine,” he exclaimed, “I love it with all my heart!” 

Today I’ve had second thoughts and I’m not sure how long this egg production business will last.  There’s a lot of poop involved – that’s the main thing.  But John and I talked about our pets on the way home yesterday, the cats and dog and hens. 

“I really enjoy animals,” I said. 

“Yeah,” he said, “I noticed.”

I told him about watching our tomcat Blackie and the dog, Coco, this spring.  When the weather turned warm for a few unexpected days in March, I felt a sudden pressure to be Out and Active.  But I didn’t know how to be in the yard, what to do, and the twins too seemed at a loss.  Perplexed and discomforted, I watched the cat, though, and the dog, how they sauntered out sniffing the air and pausing every couple of steps.  They laid in the sun, rolled in the grass.  They stretched their way slowly into spring, leisurely shedding winter and opening, as the whole world does in spring, toward a new season.  Watching them, I found freedom to do the same.  

This morning I got to church just in time to hear the tail end of the sermon.  I can’t vouch for the rest of it, but the final slide, the one I saw, was about birds and joy and the songs they sing, the songs we sing.  Chickens don’t sing, per say, but I now know they growl and purr over their nests.  That’s what I thought about when we sang Joy to the World for our closing song, when we repeated the line about “wonders of his love” over and over again in the fourth and final verse.     

*   *   *   *

I'm super excited to be joining with Andi Cumbo-Floyd and Shawn Smucker to organize a weekend writer's retreat this summer at God's Whisper Farm in the beautiful mountains of Virginia.  Visit Andi's website for more info!


Welcome to the #SmallWonder link-up.  


What if we chose to deliberately look for small moments of wonder, the small sparks of presence, of delight or sorrow, of true humanity in which we meet God?  


That's my proposal - that we gather here each week to share one moment of Wonder from each of our days.  You're invited to link-up a brief post about a small moment of wonder.  Don't worry if your post is too long, too short, or not just right - you're welcome to come as you are.  


While you're here, please do take a look around and encourage at least one other blogger with a comment.