Monday, March 28, 2005

polkadots and moonbeams

Clay and I almost took ballroom dancing lessons once. It was a couple years ago when Clayton and Stacie were planning their wedding and reception. They talked of dancing and so I asked Clay if he would take a handful of lessons with me and we would surprise the children with our amazing skills and previously unknown symmetry and grace. He agreed, somewhat reluctantly. Ah ha, he still has gypsy in his soul.

As it turned out, there was no dancing at the reception and we didn't take the lessons. But sometimes,late in the night when I am watching him sleep and the moonlight is splashed across his peaceful face, I think it would have been nice.

This song was on the John Denver albumn Ben bought for me for Christmas....

Polkadots and Moonbeams

A country dance was being held in a garden
I felt a bump and heard an Oh, beg your pardon
Suddenly I saw polka dots and moonbeams
All around a pug-nosed dream

The music started and was I the perplexed one
I held my breath and said May I have the next one
In my frightened arms, polka dots and moonbeams
Sparkled on a pug-nosed dream

There were questions in the eyes of other dancers
As we floated over the floor
There were questions but my heart knew all the answers
And perhaps a few things more

Now in a cottage made of lilacs and laughter
I know the meaning of the words ever after
And Ill always see polka dots and moonbeams
When I kiss my pug-nosed dream

Words by Johnny Burke, Music by Jimmy van Heusen,
Sung by John Denver

when i'm an old lady

Today looks should be in the lower 60's by this afternoon. We have spring break lite this week....a break from some schoolwork, though we are continuing through the Russian Revolution dvd's and Ben will be feverishly reading and writing his term paper. Ha.

I love being the mother of sons....5 of them and now the grandmama of 4 grandsons....thankfully my sweet, precious Penelope gives us hope for some civility, much the way her aunt Mollie did in that generation!

Here is a poem I came across online. I couldn't find an author.

Moving In With My Son

When I'm an old lady,
I'll live with my son,
and make his life happy
and filled with such fun.
I want to pay back
all the joy he's provided
Returning each deed,
Oh, he'll be so excited
When I'm an old lady
and live with my son.

I'll write on the wall
with red, white, and blue
and bounce on the furniture
Ya, wearing my shoes.
I'll drink from the carton
and then leave it out.
I'll stuff all the toilets
and oh, will he shout!
When I'm an old lady
and live with my son.

When he's on the phone
and just out of reach,
I'll get into things
like sugar and bleach.
Oh, he'll snap his fingers
and then shake his head,
and when things get tuff
I'll hide under the bed.
When I'm an old lady
and live with my son.

I'll sit close to the TV,
thru the channels I'll click,
I'll cross both my eyes
to see if they stick.
I'll take off my socks
and throw one away,
and play in the mud
until the end of the day.
When I'm an old lady
and live with my son.

And later, in bed,
I'll lay back and sigh,
and thank God in prayer
and then close my eyes;
and my son will look down
with a smile slowly creeping,
and say with a groan,
"She's so sweet when she's sleeping."
When I'm an old lady
and live with my son.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

resurrection day

It is cold and December-like. I expect snow at any moment. This morning I pulled out warm clothes to wear to church, none of those short sleeved, Easter basket colors today. In Holy Week terms, I still feel like Maunday Thursday and Good Friday.

But it is more than the weather.

The first place I went this morning was to the computer to log on and check the state of Terri Shiavo. I grieve for her as she faces another long day of no food or water. I grieve for her mom who has so courageously fought for the life of her child and for her father, the sight of his face bringing me to tears. I pray for them and for those who have so valiantly stood for the sanctity of human life in this long battle.

We went to church and shared a fabulous break-the-fast meal with our church family. We sang hymns about the joy of the risen Christ, the power of death being cancelled by His blood. There were so many, many children singing, all dressed up in Easter finery. It was a blessed morning.

Then we came home to rest and prepare our own Easter feast to share with Mollie, Aaron, and the boys. The sun came out to warm things up a bit and by mid afternoon Clay took the boys out to shoot off some of their model rockets. Evening came and we ate Mollie's cheesecake-of-the-month delight. All of the feasting and rejoicing in the newness of life in Christ Jesus, of being reminded of the advancement of the kingdom of Christ through the lives of our children and our children's children, all this made for an especially meaningful Easter Sunday.

But in the back of my mind all day was Terri. While we filled our tummies with egg casserole, sausage, cinnamon rolls and fruit slush, Terri had no food or water. While we rejoiced in the resurrected Christ, Terri was a partaker of His sufferings, still living in her moment of anticipation of death. Perhaps she is in a "vegetative state" as the doctors have called it, but I believe the human soul has no vegetative state. We cannot say how the Holy Spirit works, but I believe the reports of her peaceful state belie a peaceful state of her soul as she prepares to meet her maker.

I do not grieve as much for Terri or her eternal state as I do for the state of this nation. I came across these quotes this morning that say it all:

from Peggy Noonan:

"Our children have been reared in the age of abortion, and are coming of age in a time when seemingly respectable people are enthusiastic for euthanasia. It cannot be good for our children, and the world they will make, that they are given this new lesson that human life is not precious, not touched by the divine, not of infinite value.

Once you "know" that--that human life is not so special after all--then everything is possible, and none of it is good. When a society comes to believe that human life is not inherently worth living, it is a slippery slope to the gas chamber. You wind up on a low road that twists past Columbine and leads toward Auschwitz. Today that road runs through Pinellas Park, Fla."

some random thoughts from a blog:

"Explain this. The people who were, a few short months ago, screaming that stem cell research was going to cause the lame to walk, any minute ... are the same ones who are now screaming that Terri Shiavo must be starved to death because she's worthless now, there is absolutely no chance that she'll ever be any better.Guys. Pick one."

"What it ultimately means is if you have a profoundly brain-damaged or Down's Syndrome child, be afraid. Be very afraid. If you or a loved one has an acceptably high IQ but is a quadriplegic on a ventilator, suicide will be a legally protected option. Unless health-care costs become even more of a crisis. Then the state will mandate your killing for "the greater good."

If you or a loved one has an acceptably high IQ but is paraplegic, don't worry until society has killed off all the mentally handicapped, ventilator and feeding-tube dependent and more profoundly paralyzed. Only then will the system come for you."

from Rev. Martin Niemoller:

"First they came for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up, because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left to speak up for me."

And, finally, a poem that seems appropriate:

Crossing the Bar
by Alfred Lord Tennyson

Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;

For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the bar.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

chamomile tea

It is cold, the wind is blustery. All I want to do is to finish schoolwork with the children and curl up with my current book and a cup of hot tea. I came across this poem recently and loved it.

Chamomile Tea
by Katherine Mansfield.

Outside the sky is light with stars;
There's a hollow roaring from the sea.
And, alas! for the little almond flowers,
The wind is shaking the almond tree.

How little I thought, a year ago,
In the horrible cottage upon the Lee
That he and I should be sitting so
And sipping a cup of chamomile tea.

Light as feathers the witches fly,
The horn of the moon is plain to see;
By a firefly under a jonquil flower
A goblin toasts a bumble-bee.

We might be fifty, we might be five,
So snug, so compact, so wise are we!
Under the kitchen-table leg
My knee is pressing against his knee.

Our shutters are shut, the fire is low,
The tap is dripping peacefully;
The saucepan shadows on the wall
Are black and round and plain to see.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005


The Field Museum in Chicago currently has an interesting special exhibit....over 70 outfits that belonged to Jackie Kennedy and were worn during her brief 3 years as first lady.

To say that I enjoyed the exhibit would be an understatement. My dear husband was with me for the entire 2 hours and he had even insisted that we both take the audio tour with headsets, which we did. His patience inspite of the fashion extravaganza allowed for me to be taken back to my junior high school days, a time when the styles introduced by Jackie and her favorite designer, Oleg Cassini, greatly influenced even the girls my age.

I loved the exhibit, case after case of stylish, girly suits, matching hats and handbags, incredible fabrics and lovely, gentle colors. Less than a third of the way through, I frantically began sketching some of the unique touches, the trademarks of au coutoure (made by hand) design. Lavish embroidery work, decorative belts, and fabulous buttons were details I did not want to forget.

At the end of the display, there was a Jackie bookstore where I ended up buying a large book that showed photographs of all the design details I had awkwardly sketched. I will refer to this book often when I think about sewing.

Three interesting things struck me as I came home and thought about Jackie, her influence and her life. The first is that she had a profound influence on how the White House has been preserved since she lived there. This was good for all of us.

Secondly, Jackie was totally committed to her children. She once made the statement that it didn't really matter what you were successful in in your life if you were a failure at raising your children. I would heartily agree.

And thirdly, Jackie must have had a difficult life, one in the spotlight, one where all the painful moments were laid bare for the world to see...the death of an infant, public death of a husband, marital infidelities, the list goes on and on.

The exhibit brought that home to me. The interest in the fashion aside, those clothes are just the shell of her life, left to be looked upon. They were not her. It made me wonder what others will remember of me when I am gone.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

fruit slush

Tomorrow I will prepare fruit slush for everyone who might possibly come to our Easter Breakfast at church. This means I will make about 80 slushes. Yummmmm.

There is nothing quite like the fruit slush. It hits the spot on a really humid August day in Illinois. It is even better alongside an egg casserole and honey bacon on the Christmas morning brunch menu. Best of all is when you think they are all gone and, low and behold, you find one in the back of the freezer a few weeks after they were first served!

We made 325 of these to serve at Mollie's wedding to Aaron and another couple hundred of them two years later when Clayton and Stacie were married. They are reaching legendary status even outside the family and I am sure will be a big hit on Sunday with the many children we will see.

Here is the is awesome!

2 cans crushed pineapple, undrained
4- 16 oz. cartons frozen strawberries with sugar, smooshed well
1 12 oz. can frozen orange juice, prepared according to package directions
1 12 oz. can frozen lemonade, prepared according to package directions
6 ripe bananas, well mashed.
2 cups sugar

Mix all together and ladle into 4 -6 oz. clear plastic cups. Freeze well.
Remove from freezer 20 minutes before serving.
This recipe makes about 3 dozen slushes.

Monday, March 21, 2005

the hug

Henry came to play with Uncle Ben today. They went to the park while Mollie, Jude, Will, Joe, and I went to K-Mart and Kroger for supplies....diapers, Tide, the usual stuff of life.

When we came in the door, Henry was at our house, all stripped down to the diaper and a little droopy-eyed. I think he and Jude are both coming down with some bug.

Henry wanted a drink of water so I followed him to the kitchen where he gave me a HUGE hug around the waist and said "I love you Grandmama. And I love your big tummy, Grandmama."

All in all, I think it was a compliment. If any of the other family members say it, I will clobber them.

And this after I had to fill out an insurance update for Clay with my weight on it. Of course, I didn't fill that part in and told him to put in whatever he wanted to put. He promised to lie.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

a scottish one, a cuban one

The phone rang at the crack of dawn this morning and it was Samuel, my nearly 5 year old grandson. He was on his way to visit his great-grandma, across town traffic in Miami, which was taking over half an hour when it would take 5 minutes if they lived in Illinois! Oh how I wish they lived in Illinois, 5 minutes from me!

Samuel visted with me, talking in perfect English, telling me all about a video game, wanting to visit his uncles again so he could play on the X-box. Samuel asked if there is snow in Illinois and then he said "Are you really my daddy's mommy?" He remembered being in our house on Christmas, one of the 17 people climbing over mountains of packages, eating turkey and fruit slush and pecan pie.

That seems so long ago and Samuel seems too grown up as he tells me about wearing shorts every day. Samuel's English was perfect,though he has spent the last couple of months with all the Cuban relatives, many who have lived in the United States for 40+ years and who speak little English. Samuel told me "I love you, Grandma, and handed the phone to Ethan.

Ethan chatted away in two-year-old Spanish, calling me "abuella" and giggling. Ethan who is the Cuban version of his daddy at that age, chubby tanned cheeks, dark, straight hair, gentle and sweet and easily pacified, Ethan is charming. Just like his daddy.

Then Janell got on the phone and told me that she had been baking cookies from the King Arthur's Cookie Cookbook I sent her for Valentine's Day. She was surprisingly cheerful for a woman driving herself to a root canal.

They will head back to South Carolina next week, to their home that still has Christmas lights in the windows, and spring will greet them and Sam will join them when he umpires his last game and returns to more familiar surroundings and more games. They have been to the sea too many times to count since Christmas and now they will go home to the wading pool in the backyard of their cozy house.

Samuel will pretend that he is still in the ocean, he will make waves that will rise up and over Ethan's straight black hair and he will be the shark who eats his brother.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

a bruised reed, a smoking flax

“In pursuing his calling, Christ will not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax, in which more is meant than spoken, for he will not only not break nor quench, but he will cherish those with whom he so deals.”
from The Bruised Reed, by Richard Sibbes, taken from Matthew 12:20

Every once in a while you come across a writer who is able to reach right down inside of your heart, a writer who surprises you by discussing just the very things that you have been pondering yourself.

Such has been my experience with Richard Sibbes, reading of late The Bruised Reed, originally published in 1630. A Puritan pastor whose writings have greatly influenced men such as Richard Baxter, Charles Spurgeon, and D. Martin-Lloyd Jones, Sibbes was known as “the sweet dropper” because his words were as a medicine for the soul, a balm in Gilead, words of comfort and encouragement to those who were down-trodden.

on bruised reeds:

Every Christian is a bruised reed, bruised from sin, either their own or another’s. He is the man who comes to Christ, poor in spirit, indebted to divine justice. Sibbes says “This bruising makes us set a high price upon Christ. Then the gospel becomes the gospel indeed; then the fig-leaves of morality will do us no good.”

on smoking flax:

“Christ will not quench the smoking flax but will blow it up till it flames….let us not, therefore be discouraged at the small beginnings of grace, but look on ourselves as elected to be “holy and without blame.” Sibbes goes on to talk about the importance of gently leading and teaching new believers and children, and in ministering to those who are struggling. He admonishes us never to use a heavy hand. He points out that their sanctification comes through the work of the Holy Spirit, not by us, and to that end we must be careful and always moderate in our application of the law.

Sunday afternoon there was a large grass fire west of town. 10 acres of prairie brush and weeds and grasses turned to a charred mass with the help of a blustery March wind. This was a good thing for the farmer’s field; the prairie is always the better for such fire. The weeds are destroyed, allowing the burgeoning grasses to flourish.

But, at the edge of that field sits a used trailer park, owned by a man who reconditions and guts used mobile homes. By Monday morning, 15 hours after the first alarm sounded and a dozen or more fire engines later, half of his inventory was destroyed. The man had no insurance.

Such is the lot of the bruised reed who is without the hope of the gospel of grace. In the end, all is destroyed. But the one whose hope is in the Lord, no matter how small that hope, that man is surely under the watchcare of a gentle, compassionate shepherd, one who will preserve to the end.

In a couple weeks, that field will once again be restored, indeed, will be green and fruitful. So it shall be with those of us who come through the fire, clinging to God as He rids us of the stubble!

More from Richard Sibbes later.

you and you alone bring out the gypsy in me

I had Jude to myself, the wonderful “Juders”, the one-little-tooth wonder. He “munched” on a graham cracker while I loaded the dishwasher and cleaned the counters from our lunch mess. On the kitchen sound system I played Rod Stewart, but we won’t tell his poppy about that. The third volume of the Great American Songbook series…how can you not love it? And when the cracker was gone, we danced in the kitchen. Of course I led. There we were, the sun on the wood floor, the dishwasher humming along, wet, smushed crackers between us, and Rod Stewart crooning. I am in love.

And when Jude had had as much dancing as a 9 month old little boy can take, I changed his diaper and we sat down in the rocking chair while I crooned him to sleep with more Rod Stewart. I snuggled him close, looking at his pale skin, his tiny, busy fingers, and his fuzzy little head. Will he have curls, too? Will he love the park and the sand and the bugs and the long walks? Will he hate Rod Stewart? When he gets his selective service card, I will lie in wait for the mail man and I will steal it and hide it and pretend it never arrived. I am trying to keep my eyes wide open this time around. If I blink, he will be grown, too, and I can’t let that happen.

selective service

Mollie had 5 students in a row this afternoon so we got to play with Henry and Jude for longer than usual. Hurray!!!! Since Henry hadn’t had a nap, which could be either a very good thing or a very bad thing, Ben decided that they would walk down to the park. It should only take 3 minutes to walk there, 3 minutes if your legs are normal in length and you are only thinking “I am walking to the park.” But when you are almost 3 and stop for every crawling bug, every interesting leaf, each rock that seems to say “put me in your pocket” it is a long walk.

As they went out the door, I mused at how much they look alike, dark blonde curls bouncing with each step, large-for-their-age bodies lumbering along. It seems like just last week when Ben was the little one walking to the park. I blinked.

When they got home, Ben found his selective service card in the mail. He teased me that he would have to join the Marines if we go to war with China. I told him that there would be an upside to that sort of event….a haircut! We both laughed but inside I died. Just the thought of my son in war was more than I could bare in this beautiful almost spring weather. Then I told him that Wal-Mart will never let it happen anyway and we both laughed again.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

brandon's bargain barn

My daughter and I visited Brandon's Bargain Barn again. It was open this time, though disappointing. The bespeckeld woman who is definately not Brandon was frantically cleaning the mirrors of a 1960's vintage dresser.

Mollie and I were looking for true bargains, the kind you only find when you probably aren't looking. Like the wonderful arts and crafts style rocker I found one day. I only had to hand over $70.00 and it was mine, all golden and oak-grained. The cushion was the original horsehair variety and I promptly covered it with dollar-a-yard Wal-mart upholstery fabric in a shiny olive green stripe. The entire process made me happy and still makes me happy every time I sit in it, rocking baby Jude while his little wiggly body droops on my shoulder, that milky, sleepy smile on his punkin face.

We went to Wal-mart again today and to Mabel's, the other wonderful old treasures store. We came away with little to show for our efforts. This wasn't the day for treasures, at least the purchasing kind. Spending Saturday morning hanging out with your grown daughter, knowing she is your best friend, and tickling and giggling with a grandbaby while he rides in the shopping cart, those are the real treasures methinks.

Friday, March 11, 2005

little birds on the prairie

I used to think that bird watching was just for old ladies and then I started watching them (birds, that is) and became obsessed with it. We have had a feeder for the past several years but this year I added thistle seed to the mix and now the west side of the house looks like a miniature aviary, a feast for my cat if I am not careful.

I picked up a copy of Stan Tekiela’s Birds of Illinois and have identified 18 different birds just this year. Well, there are 19 really if I can include the red-tailed hawk that sat in my neighbor’s tree, not 8 feet from the feeder, watching and barely turning his magnificent head. The field guide says that he doesn’t eat grains so I could only imagine, in my wildest dreams, his great outstretched wings, all 4 feet of them, swooping down and carrying off a couple of the squirrels that just won’t leave the feeder any other way.

So far we have seen cardinals, rosy finches, gold finches, juncos, 3 or 4 varieties of sparrows, blue jays, red and white-breasted nut hatches, mourning doves, both red-bellied and downy woodpeckers, European starlings, grackles, crows, Carolina wrens, black-capped chickadees, horned larks, and bob whites. This year I will continue feeding them through the spring and hopefully I will see their babies, too.

the children's hour

Do you ever wish you could be a child again, just for a little while? Whenever I read this poem, I long for my dad, who would recite the last stanza to me every single night when he tucked me into bed.

Oh that I could go back to that precious time, if only to one bedtime moment in the whole history of my childhood bedtimes. I would savor his voice, the roughness of his evening whisker stubble, the pinkness of my room. I would beg him to stay, to linger and hold me ever so tightly in the round-tower of his heart!

Tonight I will pause as I say good night to my boys still at home, the handsome and gauky teens who are usually too busy to hug for very long. And I will make a memory, if not for them, then for me.

The Children's Hour
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Between the dark and the daylight,
When the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day's occupations,
That is known as the Children's Hour.

I hear in the chamber above me
The patter of little feet,
The sound of a door that is opened,
And voices soft and sweet.

From my study I see in the lamplight,
Descending the broad hall stair,
Grave Alice, and laughing Allegra,
And Edith with golden hair.

A whisper, and then a silence:
Yet I know by their merry eyes
They are plotting and planning together
To take me by surprise.

A sudden rush from the stairway,
A sudden raid from the hall!
By three doors left unguarded
They enter my castle wall!

They climb up into my turret
O'er the arms and back of my chair;
If I try to escape, they surround me;
They seem to be everywhere.

They almost devour me with kisses,
Their arms about me entwine,
Till I think of the Bishop of Bingen
In his Mouse-Tower on the Rhine!

Do you think, o blue-eyed banditti,
Because you have scaled the wall,
Such an old mustache as I am
Is not a match for you all!

I have you fast in my fortress,
And will not let you depart,
But put you down into the dungeon
In the round-tower of my heart.

And there will I keep you forever,
Yes, forever and a day,
Till the walls shall crumble to ruin,
And moulder in dust away!

from the prairie

This is the first day of my blog, though I have spent days thinking about having a blog, of pondering joining the ever-growing ranks of those who pour out their souls to those like me who only read and click “close."

There is just something about putting words to paper, typing and re-typing and thinking to your self and out loud about what is important enough to record for posterity.

Such has been my dilemma for nearly 6 years. 6 years. It hardly seems like it could be so long ago when we boarded the plane bound for Miami, all 8 of us, traveling into unknown territory to stay with people we had never met, all of us sniffing the anxious air of a wedding about to take place, a wedding of two mere children, two families, alas, two cultures. We spent 4 days eating Cuban food, food with lots of garlic. And that was the beginning of adding to our family tree, of anticipating the new spouses and new babies yet to join us. And of the almost panicked need to write down those things that are dear to me.

Now, three new children-in-law and 5, nearly 6 grandbabies later, what can I share about life, about my own life that is important enough for them to all know? What can I tell them about being a young girl growing up in the 1950’s, the age of the Kennedys and bomb shelters, of no pants allowed in school unless it is below 0 degrees outside? How can I tell them about the wonders of the Illinois prairie, the grandparents they never knew but who have profoundly influenced my life, making me the “grandmama” I am today.

Perhaps this journal will be the beginning of such things. We shall see.