The Zoo Crew Report

News from around the water cooler (or, you know, the kitchen sink):

I spent the ENTIRE trip home from seeing Mess Cat at Blackberry Flats this evening being interrogated–no, I don’t mean just questioned–by Cooter about the lineage of Lucious Malfoy, his wife, and the Longbottoms. (No, I don’t mean Draco and Neville.)  For those of you playing along, that would be some of the folks from Harry Potter.  Only he’s asking about a generation or two back…..before Harry entered the picture, before his birth even.  He also was very intent on figuring out who took Neville to his grandmother after his parents were tortured.  And here’s the kicker.

He’s only seen the first movie.  He hasn’t read any of them.  Princess is on the sixth book in the series right now, and he asks her questions, but she’s shut him down.  She tells him he will have to read it himself.  So these questions are coming from the knowledge he’s gained by playing the Harry Potter Lego game.

Wow.  Those things are spot on and include a lot of detail.  That’s impressive.

Oh y’all.  My oldest grew up with the books and movies and grew along with the Harry Potter characters.  I don’t know if this is real or if I dreamed it, but if JK Rowling comes up with a prequel, that would make me and my little guy very happy.  For him to have the magic come to life as he reads it, without knowing things ahead of time–that would be awesome.  Reading a story such as this for the first time as it is released is a wonderful experience.  One I want each of my children to have with a story that they fall in love with, one that captivates them.  That’s what the joy of reading is all about.


Seen on the tissue box on our Princess’ bedside table tonight–a handwritten sticky note:

“It’s the last day.  Make it big.”

A note of encouragement to herself.  The note refers to her last day of swim lessons tomorrow.  I cannot tell you how much I love that she is encouraging herself.  And she’s not doing it by comparing herself to others or putting others down.  She is simply telling herself to be–and to go and do her best.  In the words of her older sister, “Awww.  She likes herself.”  Yes.  I believe she does.  I hope nothing ever takes that away from her.


Last week my oldest, Aub, was in a situation where she could either sit and listen and stay put OR she listen and then speak her mind.  No one placed any kind of expectations on her.  It was entirely up to her.  And in a moment, she was every bit of her almost nineteen years and then some.  A lot.  She nodded and said, “I’ll do it.  I want to speak.”

Later when I mentioned to her that I was proud of her for doing what she felt was right in the moment, she replied, “I didn’t want to leave anything unsaid.  I didn’t want to walk away wishing I had said something, anything.  So I did.  And I don’t. Regret.”

It made me think of this quote from Mitch Albom:

“Nothing haunts us like the things we don’t say.” 


I am thankful my girl knew this without even reading it.  And so she spoke.  She’s brave, that one.   She’s a pretty awesome and strong young woman–one who can speak up when she needs to.    And I think she just might like herself too.  That is my fervent prayer.


Tonight I’m thankful for these ones I’ve been given to raise.  Most of the time I don’t feel worthy, lots of times I laugh that I even think I might can do this, and every now and then I sit back and breathe a sigh of relief that there is peace in this house and all are well. Tonight is one of those rare and precious moments.  And I am grateful beyond measure for that.

Wishing love and laughter to all.  And may you really like yourself.  That’s the real gift right there.


Watching the Baby Bird Learn to Fly

When did my baby girl grow up?

Lately it has become very apparent that she’s growing up faster than my mind will let her.  As we moved things from Mama’s house to their various new homes over the past couple of weeks, we decided to move the like new twin mattress and boxsprings into our Princess’ room, as her mattress has seen better days.  We got the set into the house, and the next day we started making the move.  We began by stripping her bedding and lifting up her mattress.  As we prepared to carry it and the boxsprings out, I noticed our Princess looked upset.

“What’s wrong?”

She began crying.  “I don’t want a new bed.  I like my old one. Why do I have to be the one to change?”

I was taken aback.  What? I realized I hadn’t discussed it with her at all.  Just with the Fella.  You mean you have a mind of your own about this?  You have a preference?

Wow.  When did that happen?

So in the end we switched out Cooter’s mattress and boxsprings.  Apparently our girl sleeps just fine on her old one.  Our Princess was happy once again.

Until the following afternoon. I had brought home Mama’s lovely touch lamp–you touch it to turn it on and off.  I thought it would be nice in Princess’ room and that she’d like to have her Maemae’s lamp.  She’d been using a lantern-type lamp that was actually supposed to be in Cooter’s room.  As I brought it in and told her, she gave me a look, and said, “Mama, I don’t want that lamp.  I like the one I’m using.  Why aren’t you asking me about any of these things?”

Ummmm, because in my mind and heart you are still four years old, just beginning to explore what it’s like to be you…..not nine and pretty sure of your likes and dislikes and who you are.

I get that part of it is that she doesn’t handle change as well as some do…..not sure where she gets that from.  Ahem.

Well, yes, she is my child in that respect.  And I remember nine.  I remember thinking that I was about to be two-digits old.  That nine is the last single digit age.  Yes, I was a bit angsty even then.  And sentimental.

In that respect we are just alike.

But I think it’s likely that I was not as sure of my tastes and preferences at age nine.  At least I didn’t feel as free to share them as she does.  That’s something I’m glad she didn’t get from me.  She is finding her voice a lot younger than I did, and for that I am grateful.

There are still things that she doesn’t get a say in:  how far she can ride her bike, if she can roam all over the neighborhood like she wants, if she can have dessert without eating a balanced meal, if she can have Sprite whenever she wants, and things like that.  For goodness’ sake, I’m letting you dress yourself for the most part child, what else do you want from me?

Autonomy.  To come into her own.  I get it.

My Daddy used to call my children when they were babies–“a puddle of people.”  As they would lay in his arms and stare up at him, he said they were “imprinting.”  And then they started becoming their own little people.

I don’t know if it’s because of her usual sensitive, sweet nature, quirky sense of style, health issues, or simply because she’s my baby girl, but I have not let this little girl grow up in my mind at all.  Until she found her voice and told me what she wanted.  It’s an interesting thing to try to grasp.  That this little one, born in Japan, who smiled and giggled as the cherry blossoms fell down like snow around us as she rode on her Daddy’s shoulders during her first spring, is entering a new phase of her life.  She will be in a different age bracket on her next birthday–a pre-teen.

I just can’t even.

But I have a feeling that this sweet girl who gets her height from her tall Daddy, this baby who is nearly as tall as I am and wears the same size shoes, will always be ready for a hug and a kind word.

Just so long as I don’t go trying to change things without talking with her first.

I guess I’d better make a note of that.

My little bird is trying out her wings.


Another Princess story written by her big sister is here.




When the Redcoats Are Coming…..a lesson from our first President

Red has been the color of the week around here.  And not because of Valentine’s Day either.

We have been reading about the Revolutionary War around here.  After reading from their history books, we have taken a sidetrack to read a fictional account of the war–“Boys of Wartime: Daniel at the Siege of Boston, 1776” by Laurie Calkhoven.  It has been an interesting read.  We take it a couple or three chapters at a time.  It has surprised me that it doesn’t pull punches about some of the realities of war, and it has surprised me that our Princess has not just walked away during our reading time.  She has some delicate sensibilities–certain words have been known to make her feel ill, and she once could not eat any “squishy” foods for days after seeing the petrified remains of a cat that had met its demise.  I’m glad that she seems to be working beyond that phase.  (You’d be amazed at how few foods there are that don’t qualify as “squishy.”)

After we finished our lessons the past couple of days, I heard my littles rummaging around in Cooter’s room.  From my work in the kitchen or the den, I would hear them marching through the house.  When I peeked around the corner, they carried swords and shields, calling them bayonets.   At different times, they were either the Redcoats or the Sons of Liberty or one of each.  I could hear them call out to each other or their other troops, “Hold your ground, men.  HOLD YOUR GROUND.”  They tell me these are the words of General George Washington as shown on “Liberty’s Kids,” a PBS Kids program about the fight for independence.

We’ve had a lot of interesting conversations this week.  From why the colonists who were blocked off from supplies by the British soldiers might be hungry to how Molly Pitcher met her husband.  (He was a barber who stitched her up after she cut herself with a very sharp knife.)  At one point we talked about what might lead someone to eat out of a trashcan.  And how money doesn’t solve all of one’s problems.  We’ve celebrated a birthday and talked about the importance of putting others first, even when it’s your special day.  The one conversation we haven’t had, but one that I’ve thought about since hearing their war cry is about exactly that–holding your ground.

My sweet babies. I love hearing you act out the story of the war that gained the colonists independence from the British rule.  I love that you are learning about it, and that you are making it your own.  It is your own.  This is how this country began.  Good things can come from holding your ground.  Like having independence from things and people who seek to oppress.

When all around you seems to be falling apart, hold your ground.  Don’t lose faith or hope or give in to the foolishness surrounding you.  When your friends decide to leave someone out or make fun of someone, hold your ground.  Do what you know is right, and don’t doubt what you know.  When someone is taking something from someone’s bag or yard or car or house or store, hold your ground. Don’t follow.  In the words of your Cap, “Is that yours?”  If not, don’t touch it.  Don’t even think about it.  When life throws you a curveball and you just want to throw your hands in the air and give up, leaving behind all that you have done to get where you are, don’t.  Hold your ground.  When your heart says you should reach out to someone who needs help, but everyone around you is whispering that he is no account and not worth your trouble, remember the story of the Good Samaritan and hold your ground.  Do what you are called to do.

One day recently while Mess Cat was over visiting, our Princess came running through the front door.  She’d been playing a few houses away with all of her friends here on our street.  She came in saying her friend needed a paper towel.  I looked at her for a moment, puzzled, and I’m sorry, I just had to clarify.
“You were in her front yard, yes?”

“Yes ma’am.”  She reached for a paper towel.

“And she sent you down here to get a paper towel for her?”

“Well, no, I offered.”  She frowned up a bit.  Maybe she knew what was about to happen.

We’ve had a problem with her letting others tell her what to do to the point of her being in tears, because she finds it hard to say no.  She doesn’t want to disappoint or have someone mad at her.  I felt a lecture coming up.  Again.  I want to empower her, for her to be strong.

She spoke first. “Mama, can I talk to you in private for a minute?”

We walked into the other room and she whispered in my ear what was going on between a couple of the other children.  She wanted to know what to do about it.  I quickly encouraged her and made a suggestion on what would be the right thing and how she could handle it.

With a hug, she and the paper towel were out the door and back up the street.

I went back in the room with Mess Cat.  “Well that was really smart,” she said.

“Yeah?  How do you mean?”

“She needed to ask you about what was going on up there, and so that she could, she offered to come home and get the paper towel that was needed.  That was smart.  She wanted to talk to you without all of them knowing and accusing her of tattling.”  She went back to what she’d been doing.

Yeah?  Yeah.  Wow.  What had looked like submission had really been an act of strategy and strength.

So, my precious ones, sometimes holding your ground looks like retreating and regrouping.  And finding someone you trust to help lead the way.  It was a lesson that I needed to learn too.  Holding your ground is even more powerful and sustainable when you have others standing beside you.

Hold your ground.  Words of wisdom and a life lesson from our first Commander in Chief and President.

I think I just figured out what we’ll be discussing on Monday.  Just in time for President’s Day.

Prom Night

My girl.  Her Junior/Senior.  No, really, it’s her first and last prom.  It’s a long story but this is her junior and senior year, so this is it.  THE PROM.

She hemmed and hawed as we do about whether she would go or not.  In the end, she wrote her own check and bought her ticket.  Let me just tell you this is HUGE.  I am so proud of her.  She was intent on going and having a great time.  With friends.  I love that.  I didn’t have her courage or grace when I was her age.  The jury is still out on whether I have as much as she does now.

So we went shopping.  In the end she chose a beautiful dress that was just perfect.  From the GW Boutique.  I’m telling you, we love shopping there and can get the best bargains ever.  I was proud of her choosing to shop there and then so thrilled that she found THE DRESS.  (Aub, are you saying yes to the dress?  Why yes, yes I am.)

THE prom dress.....Take 1

THE prom dress…..Take 1

She then planned out her shoes, found them at a different location of the GW Boutique.  Yesterday she got some inexpensive stuff to do her nails and today she did them herself.  I am telling you, this girl can make a party out of nothing.  She just has that gift.

This afternoon she visited our sweet neighbor friend and talented hair stylist, and she got her hair did.  It was beautiful.  So we had all the puzzle pieces together, time to put them in place.  She started getting dressed and came to me to help her zip up.  Oh y’all.  I just about cry when I think back on it. Just a few hours ago.  My girl.  Beautiful.  I tried to zip but I didn’t have my hands in the right place.  So yeah.  This happened today.

This zipper is broke.....and so was my heart.

This zipper is broke…..and so was my heart.

I just pulled wrong and too hard.  I tried y’all.  Really I did.  We got out the needle nose pliers and I opened up the zipper to slide the other side back in.  Oh what a mess.  My heart sank as each minute ticked by.  She was about to miss her prom.  Because I.  Messed.  Up.  If I had been my Granny or my Aunt or my cousin even, I would have ripped that zipper out, HAD the right one here to replace it, and stitched it back in, and she still would have been on time.  Ahem.  No.  I heard my girl say, “It’s okay.  I just won’t go.  It will be all right.”

Not.  On.  My. Watch.

I love this child.  I try not to spoil her.  But I’ll be a monkey’s uncle if I’m going to let her miss her prom, after she made the decision to go and got her outfit together with such a good attitude and open heart.

I started barking orders.  Rare for me.  (Never mind, I can’t even type that with a straight face.)  So I said, “Get your dress shoes, take your boots just in case, throw on clothes, we’re going to a store, and this is GOING TO HAPPEN.”

And you know what?  It did.

We had a twenty minute ride to the closest store that might possibly maybe have a dress in stock.  She had called them, and we were hopeful.  In the meantime she was texting our other dear and treasured neighbor friend who was pulling dresses from her closet and texting pictures in case the shopping trip was for naught.  Have I mentioned I have great folks all around me?  Love my neighbors.  Yeah, these folks make that an easy commandment to follow.

We laughed as we made a game plan for our dash-in-try-on-buy-and-dash-out mission.  Failure was not an option.  Despite the rain, she kept her cool and her hair in place.  We walked in and saw a beautiful selection of dresses right away.  My eyes went to the chartreuse immediately (yeah, it’s kinda my thing) and Aub’s went to a cute black and white number with BLING. (And she can pull off some bling!)  She did indulge me and try on the chartreuse.  She thought she looked eight years old.  I thought she looked like Tinkerbell, and it was very cute.  But the black and white one…..her eyes lit up.  The price was right, and the pashmina wrap was on sale (needed–the rain had dropped the temp to 55 already!) and there was a cute pair of earrings to match.  And with that we were at checkout right on time.  We asked the cashier for a pair of scissors to snip the tags off.  (Remember my broken filter? Yeah, I told her about the zipper.)  “Oh when is your Prom?” she asked.   I checked the time.  “Ummm, now.”  Sweet young woman.  Headed to the same college as Aub next year–for nursing school.  She’ll make it.  I saw it in her eyes.

Aub changed in the car–avert your eyes people.  She kept it decent, and we were on our way.  She was only fashionably late, thank goodness.  And all was well.  I am so proud of her for turning her back on a bit of a rough start and setting off for an evening of fun with friends.  I love this girl.

My girl, turning her back on the past, and headed for the future.  You go girl!

My girl, turning her back on the past, and headed for the future. You go girl!

After seeing her off, I called my cousin.  I shared with him the evening’s events.  I told him how bad I had felt about not being able to fix the zipper.  “Eh, it’s good to know what you can and can’t do.”  And he is right.  I could have tried.  But many broken relationships and a month later, Aub might have had some semblance of a dress left.  When it comes to stitching and sewing up something that delicate when it’s that important with serious time constraints…..”ain’t nobody got time for that.”

Tonight I am thankful for a girl who dreams big, who is strong and wise and beautiful inside and out.  I am thankful that we were able to go to a store and get a backup dress.  I am thankful for our conversation and laughter and meeting a new person and hearing her story.  I am thankful for kind and gracious neighbors who are a part of the village helping me raise my children.  I am very thankful for great hair spray that withstands major humidity and many dress changes and tremendous stress.  Finally I’m thankful for the words of wisdom from my cousin–trying to make myself into something or someone I’m not…..yeah, FOR SURE ain’t nobody got time for that.

And just for fun, and with much appreciation, the original “Ain’t nobody got time for that.”