September 25, 2007

Just A Spoon

A book held in her hands as she read "Just one more story?" before tucking me in.
A sharp slap across my mouth because I'd said, "Shut up!"
Endless loaves of bread and dozens of cookies baked from scratch because she loved her children.
The smell of cigarettes.
A dictionary on her lap as she checked the spelling on a word for Scrabble.
Her hands gently holding my head over the toilet as I threw up.
A crochet hook flying through the air making warm afghans for her grandchildren.
Teaching my nephews how to catch crawdads in the crick.
A cool hand on my fevered forehead.
Veins that bulged as she stirred a huge pot of her famous spaghetti sauce with a large wooden spoon.
Arms and hands flailing through the air as she told a funny story.
Watching her carefully style her hair to cover one ear because she only had one earring on. (She'd lost the other one but because she loved the earrings, she'd style her hair to hide the earring-less ear so no one would know.)
Teaching her grand kids how to fly a kite.
Houseplants that were lovingly watered and pruned and grew to enormous proportions.
Interesting rocks and twisted sticks collected and arranged on a table in her apartment.
Drooling as she mounded hot chocolate pudding over a scoop of creamy vanilla ice-cream.
Weeping inside as I watched her hands curl up and harden with arthritis-no longer able to cook or crochet or re-pot a beloved plant.
All these things I see..... because of a spoon.
My brother sent me a gift yesterday that is yanking on my heart. He had a ring made for me from one of her spoons and it arrived yesterday. I recognized the pattern on the ring the instant I opened the box. "It's one of mom's spoons!"
As the minutes tick by, so do the memories.
Dug up from where I'd neatly tucked them deep in my heart. Dug up by a spoon.

September 19, 2007

The 4 Snafus

Over the past 15 years we've had some wonderful camping trips at Muskegon State Park in Michigan. It's a beautiful campground! The campsites are surrounded by trees and are within walking distance of Lake Michigan. Also within walking distance is Muskegon Lake and a large canal that connects the 2 lakes. If you don't feel like sitting around your campsite devouring S'mores, you can fly kites on the beach at Lake Michigan. If you get tired of that you can stroll over to the canal and toss your leftover hot dog buns to the multitudes of swans, ducks, and sea gulls that swim in the canal. Another thing that's fun to do is watch all the boats coming and going along the canal. (The best part of the campground, however, is the fact that it comes complete with actual sinks, toilets, mirrors, and showers!)
Now that I've sold you on the idea of camping at MSP, I'll tell you about our most unforgettable camping trip ever.
After our oldest son had graduated and completed one year of college, we missed him. He'd had a crazy, busy year and hadn't been around much. Our next oldest was busy as well-he was still being homeschooled, but he also had a job and friends etc. It seemed like that entire year had gone by and we'd lost the connection we'd had as a family. We wanted to do something to unite us all again. A camping trip! That was the ticket. I'd prefer a 4 star hotel, but with 4 boys I knew I shouldn't even suggest that. Instead I created a picture in my head of the 6 of us piling into our van, driving and laughing our way to Lake Michigan, connecting with each other, you know?
Early that spring we made reservations at the campground and sent our deposit in. We eagerly planned meals, bought kites and marshmallows and gathered firewood. The first snafu was when our two oldest announced that they would have to work the day we were planning on leaving. That blew the whole idea of riding up there together. They would work and then drive up together that evening. Oh well. There were still 2 boys we could ride with and laugh with and connect with. Plus, we had the whole weekend to spend with all of them.
The morning of the Big Trip came. As we opened our bedroom curtains we noticed that it was drizzly. A quick check of the weather showed us it would be clear and cool in Michigan. Good deal. We loaded the van and started on our way. After a bit the drizzle turned to rain. Not just rain, but pouring rain. No problem. It was clear in Michigan! The closer we got we noticed another snafu. The temperature started dropping.
We arrived at the campground right around dusk. We were hungry and sick of driving was still raining. As we pulled up to our campsite my husband and I looked at each other. What should we do? Set up the tent or wait for the rain to stop? Even as we spoke the rain turned to drizzle, then mere drips. So, we piled out of the van and began setting up camp. Just as we were putting our sleeping bags in the tent it started drizzling again, then pouring rain. Then the temperature dropped a little more. Now we were not only wet, but we were getting chilly. We told the 2 boys to just sit tight in the tent and we'd try and start a fire and get dinner going. After about 10 minutes we gave up on the fire. The wood was sopping. We did manage to get our stove going and heated up some wet slop for the kids. Then, "Hey dad. The tent is leaking right above your sleeping bag."
"It's dripping on my head momma."
"I'm hungry. Can we come out there and eat?"
To make a LONG story shorter, (but not short), we all ate.
After "dinner" we decided that since it was still raining outside and inside the tent maybe we should at least put our sleeping bags and clothes in the van until the rain stopped. All 4 of us, wet and muddy, grabbed stuff and just threw it all pell mell into the back of the van. As my husband closed the doors the rained slowed to a drizzle, then mere drips. We shrugged and looked at the sky. No stars, but with "clear and cool in Michigan" reverberating in our ears we decided to unload the van and organize the tent. Just as we put the finishing touches on our wilderness home it started drizzling again, then pouring. By now we were getting snappy with each other, alternated by bouts of hysterical laughter.
You won't believe we did this, but we did. We quickly pulled everything back out of the tent, this time throwing the kids in the van along with everything else.
"Just sit there until it stops raining!"
We called our older two boys and learned that they were well on their way. They were exhausted from work, and sounded a little testy on the phone, but at least they were coming!

After about 15 minutes the rain slowed to a drizzle, then mere drips. Giving up on the idea of sleeping in the van, sitting up, we set up our stuff in the tent. Again. By now we were good and wet and freezing. The temperature had dropped even lower. We finally got the fire going and after letting the boys warm up a bit, we sent them to bed. Another call to our older 2 revealed snafu #3. They were lost. They had:

  • A map of America
  • A map of Indiana
  • A Michigan State Map
  • A map of the state park
  • A GPS
  • A map they'd printed off the Internet with detailed directions on how to get To Our Campsite and they were lost.

They finally found us after 13 phone calls, and we all went to bed. ( It was about 1:00am when they arrived at the campground.) Then the temperature dropped. By morning I think the temperature had dropped to the 40's. We were damp and freezing all night. Mike and I could hardly talk because our jaws had been so clenched and shivery all night. It never really warmed up that day and Benjamin, our oldest, created snafu #4. He sprained his ankle but good and had to sit at a picnic table by our campsite all weekend. That meant that any bonding we wanted to do with him could not be done by flying kites on the beach nor feeding the swans, nor by watching the boats.

We froze that day and that night. We had on winter hats for crying out loud and this was June!

Just as we finished loading the van to come home the sun finally warmed the place up enough that we were able to take off a couple layers. We pointed our chins to the sky, let the sun warm our cheeks and left.

We haven't had the heart to camp since.

September 14, 2007

The Good News and the Bad News For Parents with Boys

I was recently reading an article entitled: Suggestions For Preventing and Helping Prodigals at I only skimmed the article, but one thing did catch my eye. I'll just copy and paste the paragraph here for you:

4. Be patient and bear with them and tell them you understand. My children have made some foolish mistakes over the years (car accident in the snow from going too fast and overestimating their abilities, losing driver’s liscenses and wallets, staying out too late or other similar issues) Understand that boys go through a testosterone wash and physicians have actually said that their brains are a bit retarded (slowed down) from 15 to 26 when the frontal lobe finally closes–they don’t have the ability to judge distances, speed or have perspective in some areas like their female counterparts do. Each child will be different, but all of my children have had ups and downs and emotions that were irrational. Sometimes, just patience and love and a cup of hot chocolate have helped to soothe them (A gentle answer turns away wrath!) I just have had to remember my own hormonal times if irrationality to be more patient.

Boy! (Pun intended) Does that explain a LOT. That is the good news. The bad news? I'll be 66 by the time all those "testosterone washing" hormones settle down. By then who knows what condition Mike's brain will be in. Ah life.

(By the way, when I told Benjamin he was temporarily retarded he said, "Wow Mom. Just think...if my brain works this fast now, just think how smart I'll be when I turn 26!)

September 12, 2007

Strange, Sad, Weird, Funny or Wonderful

I love lists. Last night as Alec and I took turns trying to knock over his Lego guys with rubber bands, I started thinking about some of the strange, sad, or wonderful things that have happened in my/our lives over the years. So far, here's the run down of things remembered:

  • One evening when Alec was about 8 we were sitting in our living room and he said, "I wish I could see a bat. I've never seen a bat. I'd love to see a bat!" Not 5 minutes later a bat swooped down out of the chimney and started circling the room.
  • On one visit to the Dr. I happened to peek at my medical chart when the Dr. left the room. At the bottom of the chart were the words: Judy may need psychiatric care.
  • Walking past our oldest son's room one morning I noticed his mattress was flipped upside down. His sheets and mattress pad were between the mattress and the box spring. I called him and asked him what on earth had happened to his bed. His reply: "I have no idea. I just woke up this morning and it was like that."
  • I was asked out by 3 guys in 1 day in high school.
  • I ran over my husband's dog and killed it.
  • Twice, after much prayer, when there wasn't enough money to pay our bills and buy groceries we were anonymously given bags of groceries and some cash. The money equaled exactly, to the penny, what we needed to pay the bills.
  • I had straight hair my entire life. For the last 6 years it's been getting more and more curly.
  • One of our sons was born in a kiddie pool in the middle of our living room.
  • I found an actual arrowhead in a creek.
  • For 8 years we rented a house, a large pond, and 20 some acres. We were allowed to cut down the dead trees for firewood. One afternoon we were out cutting wood and the caretaker wandered by. He saw what we were doing and said, "You really shouldn't be doing that. The people who built this place are dead, but their spirits might wander by and they wouldn't like to see those trees coming down."
  • Our oldest son has 1 key for his truck. One. Uno. This is a kid who loses stuff like there was no tomorrow. He's never had a copy made because it would cost too much and be too much of a hassle. (The key has one of those electronic thingies in it. I'm not sure what it does.) Anyway-one morning last year he couldn't find The Key. It didn't take long before the whole family was pulling the house apart trying to find it. After about a half hour of searching Benjamin suddenly, casually, grabbed a hanger. He straightened it out and scooped it under the dishwasher and pulled out his key. Then he sauntered out the door, acting like he'd known where the key was the whole time and had been testing the rest of the family to see how good we were at finding things.
  • I worked in a nursing home when I was 19. One morning when I arrived at work I was told to go to "Leda's" room. As I walked in her door I saw that she was dying. I held her hand and talked to her until she passed away. I was then told to wash her body before "they" came and took it to the hospital. That was my first up-close experience with death and really made me see that earth is just a passing through place.

20. I got kicked out of youth group in high school.

September 6, 2007


As the holidays quickly approach, I've been thinking about traditions. What are some of your family's favorites? What were some of your favorite traditions as a child? I'd love to hear from you, even if you've never left a comment before. I think our family has a tradition of no traditions. The only one I can think of is an "end of the school year party" held each spring when we've finished school for the year. Sometimes we'll have a "back to school party" in the fall, but not as faithfully as the "end" party. That makes sense though. What kid wants to party when he has to hit the books after a long, relaxing summer?!