Cakes, Cookies, and Circling Close

Today was our family’s Fall Hootenanny, and this beauty was waiting to greet me when I walked through the door.

LOVE.  100% Pure Tee Love right there.

                                                  LOVE. 100% Pure Tee Love right there.

That right there is a genuine Ten Layer Chocolate Cake.  My Aunt made it because she was thinking of my Granny, her Mama.  It took her a whole afternoon to make it.  What a gift of love, and I swanee, it fairly melted in my mouth.

Oh yeah.  It was inhaled very quickly.

                                           Oh yeah. It was inhaled very quickly. Because #THATGOOD

Funny, isn’t it, the journey that food takes us on?  I make a coconut cake for our Spring Easter Egg Hunt/Wienie Roast for the same reason–because it makes me think of Granny.  Yesterday I baked my Mama’s Lucia Pepparkakor cookies and used her jack o’lantern cookie cutter, and I could almost see her hands rolling out the dough.  I also made a pound cake with a praline/caramel glaze and thought of my Daddy and his love of caramel cakes.

Mama's Swedish Ginger Snaps

                                                            Mama’s Swedish Ginger Snaps

Food.  Love.  Interchangeable really.

I sat at the table today with my cousin’s three children.  The oldest took a bite of a Mint Chocolate Chip cookie that another cousin usually makes and brings to our family gatherings.  As he began to chew, he closed his eyes and said, “Mmmmm.  It’s even better than I remember. It’s just so good.” He looked up very seriously. “I could eat more than three.”

Oh bless him.  He was so precious.  His memories of our family as he gets older will include these cookies as much as the coconut cake and Ten Layer Chocolate Cake remind me of Granny.  (He also has a theory about eating Rice Krispie treats and enjoying them because they aren’t too filling and there’s more room for the cookies–another year and he’ll have this whole dessert management thing down to a science. And with this family and all of our talented bakers, we need it.)

We also had our annual Turkey Egg Hunt.  Our Princess was shocked to discover, upon enthusiastically telling others what we were going to be doing today, that not every family has a Turkey Egg Hunt.  All I can say is y’all are seriously missing out.  Hunting eggs twice a year is kind of our thing.  Turkeys get equal billing with this crew.

Our Princess chasing down another turkey egg.

                                         Our Princess chasing down another turkey egg.

Today was a day of standing around and telling stories, sitting with folks younger and older and shooting the breeze.  It was about hearing all the love in the voices of those who have known me longest (and they still love me anyway–I don’t take that lightly).  It was about missing the ones who weren’t with us and giving thanks in all kinds of ways for those who were.  It was about old traditions and new beginnings and swapping recipes and making plans for future visits again real soon.  It was a day of open doors and windows and scooching over to make room for more.

Because that’s the love language of my people, y’all.  We’re not the most extroverted bunch, but when it comes to scooching over so someone else can squeeze in, we’re good.  We’ve got that part down.  And if it means we can share a cookie and a smile while we’re sitting there elbow to elbow, then all the more joy for everyone.

Tonight after we got home, the littles and I watched an episode of “Girl Meets World.”  That we love this show and why is a whole ‘nother post.  The main character, Riley, shared these words with a group of friends and family on the episode we watched tonight:

“We think that we are the center of the universe, but the truth is… we need to circle the ones we love for as long as they’re here. We need to hold them close, because no matter how far we travel, they are the ones who hold us in place. It’s gravity, and without it, we’d just all float away from each other.”

That’s what today was about, circling the ones I love and giving thanks that they are here.

And cakes and cookies, and all the stories and memories they can hold.

Y’all go find somebody to circle.  Hold ’em close.  Maybe even share a cookie.

Love to all.

Balls and Bicycles and Make-Believe

This afternoon was a joy-filled one on our street.  The weather was close to perfect, and all the children were out playing.  A favorite pastime seems to be bouncing a large ball back and forth to each other or playing keep away with it.  Some of them have started up two or three person football games.  That’s Cooter’s favorite.  He wasn’t sure about it, until one of his friends told him, “Act like he just called you a name, and then you’ll be mad and you can tackle him.”

Good times. Good times.

At least until someone’s feelings or body parts get hurt.

Even then, this crew seems to get over their bruised arms, legs, and spirits pretty quickly.  It makes my heart glad to see them all out there, coming up with different things to play.  I am really thankful for these friends of my children and their families.  I was so enchanted by it this evening that I put off tackling Mt. Washmore (and it’s not because it’s my friend or anything), and I went out to sit on the front steps.  I took Miss Sophie with me, because she enjoys hanging out there too.

She is a pretty timid creature.  She is buoyant and loves our family people, but when it comes to others, she does this jump forward, jump back thing with her tail wagging that gets even more confusing when she starts barking at the new person.  She means well, she’s just socially awkward sometimes.  Much like the rest of us.

As we sat there and she did what she does best, sniffed everything in sight, our new cat who adopted us came up to say hello.  She is beautiful and is about as social as any cat can be, but she has her moments like all cats.  We have given her the moniker of “Luvvy” as in Mrs. Howell (from Gilligan’s Island, y’all) because she has this “fur muff” around her neck.  Very luxurious.  Miss Sophie finds her fascinating and announces her presence whenever she notices the feline through the window–sitting on the outside windowsill, sunning on the back porch, holding court on the front porch, wherever.

While we were enjoying the evening on the steps, Luvvy came up and walked close enough to get Sophie’s attention.  My fluffy girl tried to sniff certain areas as a way of saying hello, and Luvvy had no part of it.  Instead she walked by, tail high in the air, and climbed up on the cedar tree stump from where I grew up, Blackberry Flats.

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And that cat turned her head.  Away. From. My. Pup.

She knew too.  She knew exactly what she was doing.

And poor Sophie.  She kept wagging her tail and inching closer and even making little sounds of “Hey, notice me!  I’m right here. Will you be my friend?”

Bless her.

Luvvy finally had enough and slowly stood up, stretched, and hopped off and wandered away.

Poor Sophie.

She just wanted a friend.

Tonight I’m thankful for the friendships that have formed between the children on our street.  I’ve gone through a similar roller coaster of emotions I did with Miss Sophie with all of my children, “I just want a friend.  I want somebody to play with me.  I wish I had somebody to hang out with.”  Heartbreaking.

But no more.  I’m thankful for the balls and bicycles and make-believe that fill our afternoons and evenings.  I’m thankful for laughter and tumbling in the front yard and dance steps choreographed and dreams created about rooming together at college and living next door to each other many, many years from now.  These friends are the ones that sustain my crew and bring them all so much joy.

May we all find someone who will welcome us and toss us the ball or sit and giggle with us, just enjoying the time spent together.

Love to all.

for the fun of it, another pup looking for a feline friend–

My Anxiety, Real and Without a Filter

Wednesday is trash pickup day.

It is also “Nightmare on Our Street” for our mail carrier.

A cul-de-sac with empty trash cans all scattered hither and yon.

Yes.  A tee-total mess some weeks.

So yesterday morning as Miss Sophie and I had our morning constitutional, I stopped to move a couple of my neighbors’ trash cans out of the way, so hopefully our mail carrier wouldn’t have to leave her vehicle to deliver the mail.  (Or worse, just not deliver it at all–goodness, that would be catastrophic! Ha.)

When I turned back to my little fluffy girl, I saw her sniffing something on the road with intense concentration.

Oh.

No.

There on the ground were not one, but two peanut shells.  One still had a peanut inside it.

*insert expressive WORD here*

Y’all.

So often in this life and on this blog, I/we–okay–I might downplay things.  Someone asks me, “How do you keep up with what’s safe or not?  How do you keep from worrying yourself sick?  How do you know where to eat that is okay?”  I might brush it off with a “Oh we just do the best we can.” Or “I’ve learned a lot over the years.”  Or “It’s not easy, but we keep on trucking.”

But it’s rarely as peace-filled and self-assured as all that.  The reality isn’t very pretty.

The minute I saw those nuts on the ground, I flipped.  I mean, I flipped out.  I started fuming and talking to myself, to the dog, to the air– “Why?  Why?  I was just moving a trash can, WHY?!”  I wasn’t mad at Sophie, I was mad at the situation.  My brain immediately started spinning.  More than likely her snout and beard had touched the nuts, so she was now contaminated, and I had to take care of that immediately.  As our Princess was sick over the weekend, I had kept the two of them apart for a couple of days, and they were so happy to be able to play together again.  But they couldn’t now.  UGH.  Double UGH.

We went straight to the bathroom just inside our front door.  I tossed off her leash and collar and put her right in the tub.  Water running, I sudsed her up good and thoroughly, her face and her chin especially.

This was Miss Sophie’s second bath in three days, and she was not amused.

Miss Sophie Ru

Miss Sophie was not amused with so many baths so close together.  

I hated to do it, but I felt like I had no other choice.  I am sure I got water in places where water was not intended to go, bless her.  She snorted and snorted, so then I started to worry about her.  Had I damaged her?  Hurt her?  Was SHE going to be okay?

After I dried her and cuddled her a minute, all was well.  Then I was back to thinking through everything I needed to do to keep my baby girl safe.

For the rest of the day, I keep them apart.  Which wasn’t easy, as Miss Sophie likes to climb up next to our Princess while she works on her lessons.  She loves to go outside with her and her friends.  If I said “No, you have to get down, Sophie” once yesterday, I said it “eleventy-seven” times, as Cooter used to say.

And that’s a lot.

In the midst of all of this, I meant to go pick up those nuts from the road just a  few feet from our driveway.  I planned it out.  I’d use a bag over my hands like I do with “other” things I pick up from the grass, and I’d quickly dispose of them.

But I didn’t get back to it in time, and I don’t know what happened to them.

Last week was the Fair, and we walked around and had such a wonderful time.  But there were peanut shells on the ground all over the place.  And all kinds of nuts being served and eaten. It was very difficult to feel very comfortable.  Every cough or sniffle or when our Princess got really quiet, I’d pounce on her, “You okay?  You feel all right?” When Mess Cat caught her touching the bottom of her shoe for some reason, I nearly lost my mind. It was a mine field, y’all.  No wonder I was exhausted when we got home.  I try not to let her allergies limit us and what we can do, but it’s not always an easy venture.  So perhaps you can understand why the sight of a Teal Pumpkin brings me so much joy.

It says, “No worries here.”

And, “All are welcome and safe here.”

And, “Solidarity, sister.  I’ve got your back.”

Yes.  Yes.  And YES.

My point is, in this whole drawn out tale, is that quite often all is not as it seems to be.  Folks, for the most part, let you see what they want you to see.  It’s rare that folks are comfortable parading all this anxiety and frustration and discombobulation out in the open.

Because I was so discombobulated, y’all.  Food allergies are nothing to play around with, and for something freaky like this to happen…..it just reset the clock on my overprotective “on guard” status all over again.

Well, there’s good news, says my family.

Some days it just it what it is, and that’s as good as it gets. Yesterday was one of those days.  Today I lifted the ban off my girl and her puppy friend, and they were quite happy.  I still found myself watching closely, and asking that same question I know she gets tired of–“Are you okay?”

I don’t know if I will ever stop asking that one though.

Tonight I’m thankful for baths that clean, for compassionate friends, and for the beginning of a new day.  I’m thankful for the folks who get it, and I long for the day when there will be no more food allergies.

But until then, this is me.  Real and without filter.

Love to all.

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Teal is the New Orange

Last year I shared with y’all about the Teal Pumpkin Project, which can best be described on the FARE website:  “Launched as a national campaign by Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) in 2014, the Teal Pumpkin Project™ raises awareness of food allergies and promotes inclusion of all trick-or-treaters throughout the Halloween season.”

Basically, pick up some non-food items to give out as treats on Halloween, put a teal pumpkin (or sign) to let folks know you have safe treats, and watch the smiles on the faces of children who so often are left out of special occasions.

My child with food allergies has the best attitude.  She knows that I will be sending something for her to eat at birthday parties instead of the party cake.  She gets that we can’t eat at certain places or have to skip certain activities because of risk of exposure.  She has become so proactive in self-carrying her epi-pens.  She smiles when I hand her a snack I brought even though she really, really wants that fresh-baked brownie with icing at the coffee shop.

Bless her.

And until last year, the only treats I let her have on Halloween were the ones that our sweet neighborfriend packaged up especially for her.  (They’ve been gone for two Halloweens.  We are so happy to have them back.)  Last year, another dear neighborfriend read about the Teal Pumpkin Project and put hers out and made magic happen.  The smile on my girl’s face after an evening of make-believe and visiting with friends and calling out “Trick or Treat”–priceless.  Spider rings really can bring sheer joy, y’all.

It’s funny that Halloween has become such a big deal for my children.  It wasn’t for us growing up.  We lived out in the country with no neighbors close by who really trick or treated.  I can only remember going a time or two with my friends.

But these children?  We’ve been talking about who we want to “be” for close to two months now.  I think we are all finally set and ready.  (fingers crossed)  However, our Princess was pretty sad because we really didn’t have anything decorating our yard for fall or Halloween, save our flag by the mailbox and the beautiful mum a sweet neighbor brought by “just because.”  It didn’t help matters when everyone else on our street put out something, and here we were–bare.  When her best bud’s family who have lived here just a few months went all out, my girl begged me to put something out.

Today we had some Out and Abouts, and I wanted to give Cooter one more shot at finding his “perfect” Halloween costume.  He’s found a couple he liked, but they just didn’t fit.  I decided to go by the GW “Bo0tique” (seriously, that’s what they call it–I’ve started something, y’all) where all of the Fall and Halloween things are.  They have marketed this so well that they even have a book of costume ideas you can put together using ordinary things found at your local GW.  AWESOME.  We especially loved the “selfie” one, complete with a phone, selfie stick, any outfit of choice, and an empty frame.  So fun.  (And selfies are Aub’s thing, so we think this should be her costume this year.)

While we were perusing the costumes, the decor along the wall caught my eye.  Y’all.  They had some adorable (and scary) terra cotta and other style jack o’lanterns among so much else.  Nothing was very much at all, it being the GW and all.  SCORE.  WIN.  I’m not into keeping up with the Jones’, but I do enjoy a good bargain and watching my young’uns get excited about decorating.

We all picked out something and talked about where we would put it on the porch or in the yard.  In the end, Cooter found something he liked for Halloween, and we were done.  We were all smiles.

This afternoon after some grammar and math and piano, we headed out to the yard to get to work.  We are still very much a work in progress, so please don’t judge.  Yet.  Here’s a sneak preview though.

This one has plugs in and has a bulb inside and actually works!  I might have to move it inside, as I'm having outlet issues.  But isn't he precious?

This one plugs in and has a bulb inside and actually works! I might have to move it inside, as I’m having outlet issues. But isn’t he precious?

A little scary, but once she is sitting on a bale of hay with a mum or oooooh, a cauldron would be awesome, wouldn't it?  I'm sure we've got something around here.....

A little scary, but once she is sitting on a bale of hay with a mum or oooooh, a cauldron would be awesome, wouldn’t it? I’m sure we’ve got something around here…..

So cute, Mr. Pumpkin with his top hat!  I'm thinking I will get battery tea lights to put inside at night.

So cute, Mr. Pumpkin with his top hat! I’m thinking I will get battery tea lights to put inside at night.

We are equal opportunity vine fruit carving folks.  ;)  Cooter really thought this one was clever.

We are equal opportunity cucurbit-carving folks, y’all. 😉 Cooter really thought this one was clever.

Since our Princess plans to be a witch, very appropriate.....

Since our Princess plans to be a witch, very appropriate…..

With this sweet with bubbling up good fun.....

With this sweet witch bubbling up good fun…..

Teal is the new orange.  Our teal and cream pumpkins reappear with a new sidekick or two.  We're all a little batty around here with all kinds of things coming out of our heads.  ;)

Teal is the new orange. Our teal and cream pumpkins reappear with a new sidekick or two. We’re all a little batty around here with all kinds of things coming out of our heads. 😉  (She came like that, flowers and all, isn’t she lover-ly?)

Tonight I’m thankful for all the joy of this day.  For littles who spend a great amount of time dreaming about and becoming someone else for an evening.  For my girl who takes all of the seasonal decorating so seriously and who got so excited about making it happen today.  For Cooter whose sense of humor found him howling laughing over a watermelon jack o’lantern.  For the GW where fun things can be found if only you look for them, and for the time and energy to do just that, I am grateful.

Most of all I’m thankful to live in a community where inclusion and keeping children safe is important.  The Teal Pumpkin Project just started last year, and I’ve seen articles and posts about it cross my path numerous times since the beginning of October.  If you are able to make it happen at your home this year, a huge thank you on behalf of Mamas of children with food allergies and other dietary issues everywhere.  If you can’t, that’s okay too.  Just being aware and compassionate is such a huge gift.

For more information and flyers and great stuff like that about the Teal Pumpkin Project, please click here.

Love and Happy Orange and Teal to all.

Telling Folks Where to Go

So there was this sign out yesterday a couple of streets over, advertising that there was going to be a neighborhood meeting tonight.  I texted with my sweet neighborfriend, curious if she or her husband were planning on attending.  I had a question or two, and I’d been trying to figure out how I could make it work so I could go.  But it wasn’t looking promising.

“Probably not,” she wrote back.  “It doesn’t even say where it is.”

Huh.  You know what, she was absolutely right.

Y’all, there I’d been spinning my wheels trying to head in a direction that I didn’t have a clue about.

Not the first time that’s happened on this journey.  I found it ironic that in all of my planning and thinking it all through, the ultimate direction I needed to go wasn’t even part of the equation.

All too often, my friends.  All too often.

This evening I sat at the pool, watching Cooter practice and trying to keep from getting chilled (it was in the 60’s–brrrr!), and I thought about the folks at the meeting.  The ones who planned it and set the sign out, letting the rest of us know about it.

Don’t you know they were sitting over there (Wherever THERE was), wondering why no one else was showing up?

Folks, if you don’t tell people where you are, how are they going to meet you there?

I have friends who are able to speak to their pain, their sadness, their worries, their struggles, and I admire them for that.  We can’t walk alongside them, toting a light to help see the path or help them up when they stumble if we don’t know WHERE THEY ARE, can we?

And yet, how often do we think we’re leaving signs that we are struggling or upset or overwhelmed and get our feelings hurt when no one shows up to say, “I’m here–  I’ll sit with you in this darkness,” when we would be so much better off if we just came out and said exactly how we are hurting?

No?  Just me?  Okay then.

Tonight I’m thankful for my neighborfriend reminding me that if we don’t have directions, there’s no sense in worrying over if we can get there or not.  And I’m thankful for the folks who speak from their hearts and let me know where they are and how I can help.  Most of all, I give thanks for the ones who come to my side when I do speak up about the hard things, when I show them where I am.  I couldn’t keep traipsing along without them.

addmap

Leave a map, y’all.  Folks want to be there, but you have to be brave and let them know where you are.

Love to all.

the rest of October

October comes blazing in
with orange and pumpkins and bales of hay
everywhere

mums adorn porches and storefronts
and the smell of funnel cakes and
barbecue is in the air

and then suddenly the month is two-thirds gone
and the caravan of trucks move down the interstate
taking away the sights and sounds that had folks
talking and riding and laughing and screaming
with delight

ribbons are won and the quilts are folded
and put away
the cows go back to the barn
and the newly hatched chicks find their new homes

and suddenly, I’m tired
and worn out
like the leaves on the peach trees,
spent
and drifting

with the first chill that seeps into my bones
I am reminded of that October
when every moment was so very precious
and I sat by his bed and hoped–
I was still hoping in October

how could I not with the calliope music
and the lights
and the pony rides and rock walls
and the laughter he still shared when we spoke of such things

but then November came
and I knew,
I knew it would not be long
before this world would change forever
leaves would fall
as would the tears
and the days would grow shorter
and the shadows longer
and our hearts would be broken in bits

because he would leave us

and now when October is two-thirds over
and the Fair folk pack up and leave
a part of my heart goes with them
as I turn to face the
October that is left,
pregnant with sad anticipation

of all the remembering
November brings

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Absolutely Worthless, My Foot!

“I’ve been absolutely worthless today,” my oldest commented from her position on the couch, wrapped snugly in one of my rescued afghans.   “Folks are going to say, ‘What did you do all weekend?’ and I’m going to have to reply, ‘Oh I don’t know, slept in, took a nap, watched Netflix, pretty much nothing worth anything at all.'”

Oh my heart.

My oldest and I had plans for Saturday.  Big plans.  Big girl, driving out of town a far piece and spending the day listening to important things and then coming back home changed and awesome people kind of plans.  (Well, that was the plan–if you’re going to dream, dream big, y’all.)

Instead we were grounded.  Both of the littles fell victim to some kind of vicious bug that had Cooter not able to eat anything and our Princess the same, only with a big ol’ fever to go along with it.  No one needed to come in here and be exposed to that, even if I had been able to muster the wherewithal to leave my sick babies.  Which I couldn’t.

So we were home.  A day that we had prepped for by tidying up a bit and trying to get organized somewhat (y’all who know me well can stop laughing now, I said tried).  Our Princess stayed in her bed and slept most of the day, while Cooter slowly came back from an exhausting night of not being able to stomach anything.  He watched movies and played games and rested.

While I alternated between caring for the two, I also took a breather and had some quiet time during the day.  My oldest though?  She sat in her sister’s room at our Princess’ request, so she’d have company and wouldn’t feel quite so lonely.  She sat and watched videos with her brother.  She made a Ginger Ale/Sprite/Noodles/Frozen Waffle run (like you do) as we were out of all of those healing things.  She picked up magical healing serum in the form of Chick-Fil-A Sprites-to-go for her siblings, and she listened to my worrying over what was best to do for our Princess.  She reminds me of my Mama the way she can ease my concerns with compassion and commonsense.

And so her words broke my heart.  Yes, she relaxed and watched a couple of her favorite shows.  She took a nap.  She didn’t work on her paper or clean her room.  But that she didn’t see the value of what she did, the love she shared, the help she was in all the little moments all day long?

I need to take her to the eye doctor.  Or soul doctor or something.  I think she needs a new pair of lenses.  A kinder, gentler pair.  Ones filled with grace, which can see the little details for what they are.   The million ways she blessed all of us all day long.

She might not have changed the world yesterday, but she changed our world.  She made things better just by showing up.  By her willingness to sit and be.  By her willingness to go and do.  By being her.

The one we love.  And sharing that special person with us for the day.

Baby girl, if ever you doubt the value of what you do, I want you to remember your brother’s face as he grabbed you this morning and exclaimed, “You’re the second person I hugged today!”  Or the way each of your siblings told you with their weak little voices very early yesterday morning, “Go.  I’ll be okay.  I don’t want to ruin your day.”  Or me.  As you changed out the lightbulbs in my closet today.  You couldn’t see my face while you were up on the ladder, and that’s probably a good thing.  As I was teasing you and trying to take your picture, I was teary-eyed.  This little one whom I fell in love with from the first moment I saw her twenty years ago, is making a difference in our world.  One hug, one smile, one teasing gesture, one CFA drive thru trip, and one moment at a time.  Never doubt that.  Thanks for lighting up our world, literally and figuratively.

Love and light to all.

My girl helping shine light in our world.....and my closet.

My girl helping shine light in our world…..and my closet.