Monday, November 23, 2015

Snow Nostalgia

We (my brother's family and our family) took our annual pilgrimage to our alma mater, Indiana University. 

Of course, touring around the campus with seven little ones in tow is a very different experience from meandering around the grounds as a co-ed.

Youngest and oldest cousins found common ground with food.

This is the exact place where my brother and sister in law met.

My sweet neighbor Sy hosted a sushi-making lunch.

I can honestly say local sushi chefs do not need to worry we will snag their jobs, but pretty good for beginners.

First snow day of the season!

 Chris and I "fancied up" for a Toys for Tots event.

My favorite part of the evening!

One of my favorite people!

It honestly came out of nowhere.  Sure, flurries had been predicted. But, flurries...not the sticky, packing mounds of white.  The (seemingly trustworthy) weather man readied us for flurries that would transform into rain pellets by lunchtime.  I expected to spend an afternoon clutching an umbrella, not a snow shovel.

The flurries began in the morning.  Cooper, mid-breakfast, grabbed his cereal bowl and raced to the window.  He then thrust open the front door and lifted his face to the sky, mouth ajar to capture snow flakes on his tongue.

By lunchtime, the flakes had accumulated to full-blown snow.  Our yard was blanketed in white.  It took the boys about one nanosecond to unearth dusty snow boots and forgotten snow pants. They raced outside and the snowball making, fort building, and snow (literally) cone creating commenced.

Caleb lagged behind the others.  It took him a little time to gage all the fun he was missing.  Finally, he stared out the window and said, "I'm expected to go outside in the snow.  It's our routine."  With that, he layered up and joined in the merriment.

What is it about snow that makes you grateful to have kids and yearn just a little to return to childhood?  I gazed out the window, hesitant to leave the comfort of our warm living room, but desperate to join in the fun.  I finally decided to be a (cozy) observer of my children from the confines of my arm chair while nestled by the fire.

The beauty of snow is that it unites children of all ages.  It entertains and fascinates and delights.  It makes me both nostalgic and cheerful.  

After time in the snow, the boys knew the drill.  Hot chocolate is always part of the snow-fun package.  They pulled up a chair, cradled steamy mugs, and dumped a pile of marshmallows into the hot liquid.  Their cheeks were rosy and (they said) their hands were numb. But, they were happy.

I hope one day when they see snow flakes blanket their windows, they'll be nostalgic for these days too.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

A Treasured Gift From a Determined Son

My third son doesn't want me to be lazy.  He's made me work as a mom, as of late.  Some may (kindly) call him determined.  I would add persistent and lively.  I pray that those innate characteristics bloom into assets.  Determined people are world changers.  The mothers of determined children just need to ensure their son or daughter changes the world in the right way.

This week his determination was at and all time high.  This mother hit her knees and offered up "Lord help him" and "Lord help me" prayers more times than I care to remember.  Every interaction with him required a lot of deep breathes and "happy place" thinking.  By the end of the week, I was wiped and frustrated.

On Thursday, his class traveled to a Christmas craft show to sing for the shoppers.  The students had time to peruse the booths and gaze at all the goodies.  This son had a few dollars and tucked them into his pocket to spend at the fair.  He certainly had his pick of "finds."  There were plenty of chocolates, superhero knickknacks, and even a Lego display.

When I picked him up from school, he greeted me by the car with a smile.  He outstretched his hand and uncurled his fingers.  A bracelet nestled in his palm.

"I bought this for you," he chirped.

I gazed at the bracelet, adorned in black beads with a crystal cross, and choked back tears.

"Did you get anything else?" I asked.

"No," he replied.  "I just wanted to get you something."

I slipped on the bracelet and decided this was my very favorite, most treasured gift.  When I looked at it, I thought about one of the best parts of my son: his generosity.  I needed this bracelet.  I needed a constant visual of the beauty found within my son.  

I prayed for God to let me see my son through His eyes.  I prayed that I would see the good in him.  And when I looked at the cross on this bracelet, I thought about the amazing ways that God answers prayers.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Monumental Marathon: Seventh Heaven

Hometown running friends plus dear friend Jessica from Boston strike a pose before the race.

Caught up with Claudia too.  Had to capture a picture of her pre-race because she is so speedy!

My marathon running partner Nicole and I snapped a picture seconds away from the start.  Going through my mind at this time, "What was I thinking signing up for a marathon!"

We did it!  Marathon #7 done.  Nicole and Jessica rocked the race with PRs and Boston Qualifiers!  I was 7 seconds off a PR, but did get a Boston Qualifying time for 2017.

This picture made us laugh.  We asked this guy to snap our picture.  He jumped into our photo and gave the camera to someone else.  We were a bit confused.  Turns out he is a local sports reporter who assumed we wanted a photo with him.  We had no idea who he was:)

Showered and changed.  We went out to eat to refuel.

Celebratory dinner!

And the refueling continued.  Nothing packs the pounds back on like cake.  Worth every mile run to eat these beauties!

The best word to describe this cake: super sized!

The lady next to us at the cake place was a news reporter.  We shared out story about the picture with the sports reporter.  She laughed and said we should get a picture with her.

Heaven on Earth!

This was part of the race route.  It's a tree constructed entirely of toys.  Amazing!

Post race, we enjoyed time touring around Indianapolis and visiting other friends.

Our visit with sweet Mica was truly a treat.

Just like old times.

When you give birth to your first baby, friends and family members celebrate with gusto.  They want to hear every detail.  They gush over photos.  I've noticed this enthusiastic reception to the news of the birth of a child decreases with the addition of each subsequent child.

The same goes for marathons.

When I ran my first marathon, my family members treated it a bit like graduating from college.  I was doing something monumental.  They relished the stories and bragged to friends.  They developed a picture of my crossing the finish line and enclosed in under glass.  They stood on the race route clutching signs.

Six marathons later, the reception to my race is quite different.
On Saturday, I ran the Monumental Marathon.  It's my seventh marathon to date.  While my family was proud, the whole "marathon thing" has become a bit commonplace to them.

When I returned from the marathon, Connor asked where I had been.  (Hmm...I was wearing a race number, my clothes were sweaty, and a medal slung around my neck.)

"I ran a marathon this morning," I replied.

Connor paused and said, "Oh, I thought it was tomorrow."

He treated the news as if I just ran out for a Starbucks. 

As for my husband.  He texted me while I was at mile 15 to ask where something could be found within the house.

Little busy here honey, I thought.  I decided not to write him back for fear that my response would not be very kind.  (What's that expression:  If you can't text anything nice, don't text anything at all.)

My brother called me during mile 20.

I picked up the call.

"What are you doing," Matt asked.

In between labored breaths, I replied, "Oh, just running a marathon."  

I could almost here the "You still doing that crazy stuff" sort of reception to his response.

"Give me some encouragement," I begged.

Matt laughed, "Just 40 miles left to go."


But we parents know that although second, third, and (more) children may not receive the fanfare the first child earned, that doesn't mean the subsequent children are any less special.

My seventh marathon was just as special as the first.  And like a parent learns more as they become more experienced, I've grown in my marathon knowledge with each race.

This marathon was the one that gave me confidence.  It's the first marathon where I've run a consistent race over the course of 26.2 miles (no drastic time fluctuations).  This is the marathon where I savored each mile and enjoyed the process.

This is the marathon I ran not for the fanfare, but the pure love of running.

It didn't disappoint.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Home is Where the Farm Is

Happy 9th Birthday Cooper!  You have spunk and energy.  I pray you use those things to grow into a magnificently, creative adult.

When cake is involved, they are happy to snuggle up next to each other!

Our pumpkin creations!

Collin with buddy Nathan.

Connor with neighbor buddy Stephen.

Neighborhood Halloween parade.

A soccer player, three morph people, and a hobo.

The gang.

This week I had a first.  For the first time one of my essays will be included in a book!  Woo Hoo!  Can I call myself a published author?  Perhaps:)  The book, to be published in August, includes essays about the unique and special aspects of the Hoosier state.  I wrote about my childhood memories of a Hoosier farm.

If interested.... 

Home is Where the Farm Is

Upon graduation from Indiana University, I knew one thing for certain: I no longer wanted to be a Hoosier.  Other states seemed so much more exotic, warmer too.  I was young, single and without a tether binding me to the state of my birth.

Weeks after I donned the cap and gown, much to my parents’ dismay, I loaded up my meager possessions and headed out West.  I landed in Texas and spent the next two years listening to “ya’ll” and “bless your heart.”

The weather was warmer.  The people were friendly.  The landscape was expansive and diverse.  But, it wasn’t home.

I ached for Indiana.  The days when my heart hurt the most, I was dreaming about a little Hoosier farm that generations of my family have called home.

The farm sits in Danville, Indiana, 40 miles west of Indianapolis.  Visitors traveling from Indianapolis pass by dozens of retail stores and fast food restaurants before the landscape changes.  The busy highway transforms from commercial overload to small town charm.

The farm is located a few miles past Danville’s quaint downtown.  It’s perched amid the cornfields, and commands the attention of passersby.  The house is stately, handsome even.  One may call the home elderly; it has stood on that same patch of farmland since the Civil War.  I prefer to call it mature.  Red bricks cover the sides; ornate, historical touches add character. 

At one point, a dilapidated log cabin shared a piece of the land.  The history of the log cabin?  No one quite knew.  But, for a while it was interesting to gaze at the cabin’s sagging sides and wonder about the families that once called it home.

The farm did not lack in acreage.  The landscape was expansive and unobstructed.  An endless supply of cornstalks took the posture of guards protecting a fortress.

My great grandparents were the first ones in our family to occupy the farm.  My grandparents followed.  My father, my mother, and my siblings lived in suburban Indianapolis.  I was used to manicured lawns and abbreviated play areas.  Traveling to the farm was like walking onto the set of Little House on the Prairie.  Instantly, I transformed into Laura Ingalls.

Our favorite part of visiting the farm was Grandpa’s tractor rides.  He would jump into the driver’s seat, and the grandkids leaped into the wagon trailing the tractor.  Grandpa snaked the tractor around the property.  We traveled along a dusty trail that sliced through the cornfields, and then encircled the murky pond dressed in cattails. 

My Grandmother preferred to walk us about the property.  She’d stop, and point to wild flowers and plants.  I vividly remember her motioning to a dainty white cluster and calling it Queen Anne’s Lace.  It was beautiful.  The white buds fanned out in an intricate design that could best be described as lovely.  I deemed it my favorite.  Still today, the sight of Queen Anne’s Lace brings back memories of those hikes and my Grandmother’s careful explanations.

The pond provided endless fascination.  In summer, Grandpa fastened squiggly worms to the ends of hooks.  He cast the line under the water, and we plopped down on the grass and waited.  Our goal was not to land a fish (even though we swore it was); the fish were just tossed back into the water.  I was there to hear my Grandpa’s fish tales, ones he told with a twinkle in his eye and a laugh in his voice.

In the winter, we laced up ice skates and timidly stepped upon the frozen pond.  Skating on a pond made the artificial rinks seem lame and unimaginative.  We would glide upon the pond with snowflakes drenching our face and covering our smiles.

A tire swing hung on a tree branch by the pond.  Upon arriving at the farm, it was my first destination.  I spent hours swinging back and forth.  With each rotation of the swing, I would inhale childhood, and exhale happiness.  When my Grandmother passed away, my father cut down the tire swing.  Safety reasons, he explained as he chiseled at the rope.  As the tire thumped to the ground and the fractured rope landed on the grass, I felt like a little piece of my childhood had detached with the tire.

What I remember the most is the holidays, birthday parties, and even the funeral dinners held at the farm.  Relatives from all over “tarnation” descended upon the property.  The farmhouse seemed to swell to accommodate all the family.  Everyone had a signature dish, the item they were expected to bring to all family functions.

But, Grandma’s dishes were always the stars of the show.  She treated butter and lard like food groups.  She lathered up naked vegetables, stripping them of their title as a health food.  Her cinnamon rolls earned her family fame.  More than one relative begged for the recipe, but Grandma seemed a bit like a baking savant.  She created masterpieces without the constraint of instructions listed on a 3 x 5 card.

I loved when my Grandmother whipped up persimmon pudding.  She plucked the persimmons from the trees next to the house.  The pudding was best served with a fistful serving of whipped cream.  Somehow Grandma infused love and family into every spoonful.

Every family dinner began with a prayer.  All the relatives formed a circle and clutched hands with aunts, uncles, and siblings.  The senior most family member did the honors.  Little children found it comical.  They squeezed the hand of their neighbor so hard that the relative would wince in pain or let out a giggle.

I remember little of what was ever said during a prayer, but I do recall the feeling I had while standing amid the group.  It was a feeling of being loved and accepted.  It was a feeling of being at home.

When I lived in Texas, I never felt this feeling.  The farm sat in Indiana, states away.  Relatives lived nowhere close.  Within two years, I packed my bags and rented a U-Haul.  Once I crossed the state lines, I breathed a sign of relief. 

I was home.