04 June 2011

Proud.

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I pondered last year as I raised money, trained and walked, that among the positives (they're all positives) of walking in the 3-Day to fight breast cancer is the fact that Bean and Peabody will see me doing something proactive and selfless - working hard and giving of myself to help other people. It's a behavior I for sure want to model for them, this being ABOUT something outside my own four walls.

Today Bean and two of her BFFs who are the daughters of my friend and neighbor and 3-Day teammate decided that they wanted to have a lemonade stand. In the flurry of preparation, they were in and out of the house about a million times, back door slamming, THUNK, THUNK, THUNK behind them. Cups, table, cash register, pitchers, change, napkins, chairs, all set up with Al's help. On one of Bean's final trips in, she stopped at the kitchen counter, propped her chin in her elbows and stood there, breathing hard with excitement and effort, and she said, "MOM! We're gonna have a lemonade stand. And we're gonna give the money to you for the breast cancer walk."

And those little girls stayed out there in the heat for THREE HOURS and they raised $25, which they turned over to me, and I quickly turned over to The 3-Day, with a happy, proud lump in my throat.

12 March 2011

Held.

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A quilt my grandmothers made for me, held together with stitches, the last of which they carefully sewed well over 30 years ago.

I was lucky enough to know both of them very well. Grandmama FriedOkra died when I was about 11, and Grandmama Clover just died less than two months ago. Both true Southern ladies who wore Southern easily and without pretense - they were Southern in a pervasive, encompassing way that blood-dyed me Southern before I could consider there was anything else to be.

I have memories from childhood of each of my parents' mothers dressed in pastel dresses and hats and white gloves, hoisting me to their laps in their churches, driving my sister and my cousins and me in their own cars, which they drove in their own ways, to pink and linen and peonied lunches with their lady friends, where we would eat chocolate dipped graham crackers and drink iced ginger-ale out of tiny cut-glass goblets, of these softening, big-smiled women who doted on me from their lounge chairs, wearing sandals, in the quiet, humming afternoon shade of their back yards, as faint aromas of roses and frying cube steak filled the air.

Of them tucking me into soft beds under cool, well-worn cotton sheets and satin-trimmed blankets.

And of how I never slept better than within reach of the sound of their voices, and under their solid, trusted roofs.

I can hold this quilt in my hands and trace the work they did, for love of me, with their aging fingers - folding muslin, waxing thread, clipping tiny squares of fabric from dresses (theirs and mine) and aprons and curtains, Grandfathers' ties, each pattern, each snip, tuck, fold a moment in their lives that overlapped and enveloped mine as the sturdy muslin overlaps and enfolds the pretty-colored blocks. Often I would play near them or stand and watch as they worked, mesmerized, or silently examine the wax, the scissors, the piles of squares as they sat sewing, and listen to them talk.

In these panes of fabric my grandmothers linger, near enough to touch, and their careful stitch-after-stitches hold me tightly to their memory.

06 March 2011

Sundae.

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Okay, technically, it's a banana split. Work with me.

Our weekend trickled by on laughing rivers of silliness, joy and peace, and I already miss being able to look up into or across at or over on Al's face whenever I feel like it.

The cozy room lived up to its name and it feels like a family-member in itself somehow, calling to us in different rooms until we wander into its arms and sink into its soft, warm glow like a mama-lap. We read books and watched movies there, and played half a card game and scattered marbles and danced and played horsey and I even got a foot rub from Bean. It lasted about nine seconds, but I'll take what I can get.

I'm filled with joy by these together days, and take not a moment of them for granted anymore. Life's shown me, not-so-gently of late, that times of simplicity and shoulders-unburdened and this happy, careless uneventfulness - which could be mistaken by some (but not me!) for boredom - can and do vanish, and so a family this blessed to just Be, Now, should cherish and savour them for the delicious treat that they are.

And so we do.

03 March 2011

Cozy-room.

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The furniture for the new cozy room arrived yesterday. This is a snuggly little corner of the new sofa... the corner I could see from where I lay a few minutes ago, curled up with Peabody who was taking a nap.

Since everything was delivered yesterday at 8:30 AM, four of my best friends and I have cozied, Al and I have cozied, Bean and Peabody have cozied, and now Peabody and I have cozied. Three of us ended up asleep in there, but I won't reveal who else it was besides my baby boy! (Wink.)

I think we've hit the proverbial mark with the cozy room!

23 February 2011

Enough.

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PRIMAL SCREAM!

Enough!

I cannot get my children well! This is the windowsill where all the medicines and medicine cups and thermometers and droppers continue to pile up as we fight off one common childhood illness after another. I'm trying very hard to maintain my perspective because of course I know that things could be very much worse.

Sigh.

And I was going to say "But ..." and then whine for awhile.

Instead, I will stop short.

Things could be very much worse. This is my kitchen windowsill. These are just over- the-counter pain remedies and some antibiotics. My children, sick though they are, lie peacefully upstairs in their own beds, tucked in warmly and cozily by their Dad and me. We didn't even have to fight through any tubes or wires or IVs to kiss and hug them Goodnight. And we'll sleep in our own bed, Al and I, tonight, together.

Yeah. That's enough.

22 February 2011

Hibernation.

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Bean has strep now, and I woke up with an aching head and throat, so we shuffled Peabody off to school for the morning and crawled back into my bed together to watch the Food Network and play around on the iPad.

It's good to have a little alone time with my girl, even if we don't feel that great. Snuggling is good for what ails ya.

19 February 2011

Art.

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Hear ye, hear ye: I hereby decree that henceforth and forevermore, children may do cute things only in an abundance of natural light!

Oh, but I loved their concentration. And how they talked to each other. Peabody has learned his colors (!!!) and says their names so adorably, and always wants to paint with the color that Bean's using at the moment. (I'm pretty sure that tactic is outlined in the first few pages of The Little Brother Handbook.) Okay my turn boo! he'd say, just as she'd picked up the blue brush. Wait Bean, Dado nnnt geen now, leeeeeeeeeez!

Dado is how he says Peabody. Yesterday he was on my lap and we were chatting. I'd say a word, and he'd repeat it back to me, very carefully. Finally, I told him, Say Peeeeeeeeeeeeeeeabody.

And he looked at me very seriously for a second and then carefully said Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa-doooooh!

And then we both cracked up.

And this picture doesn't do either of their perfect wonderfulness justice. But I'm trying!

16 February 2011

Rest.

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Another week, another sick little baby! We have strep throat now. Still cute though!

13 February 2011

Kidcentric.

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Actually this doesn't really do justice to the way we spent today, but it certainly captures the mood and sentiment. The lovely heart mug was sent to me by my preciously wonderful friend Melissa, who is a TREASURE to me. I look forward to drinking my morning beverage from it every day and it never fails to make me smile.

Lately we've been spending our weekend mornings in what used to be the dining room, but which is currently in a slow transition from dining room to Cozy Room. By March, it should be complete, with a big cozy red sofa, the zebra print rug shown in a few of my earlier photos, and a huge cushioned ottoman for storage and feet proppage. We took stock back in December and decided that we totally don't need a dining room, but we DO need just a cozy room. This room overlooks the entry hall and our office, all of which gently bracket a nice open space where the kids can spread out toys, listen to music and dance, and occasionally come snuggle up to Al and me as we lounge with our coffee and books or iPads or whatever on the new sofa (when it gets here, for now we've shoved two big comfy chairs in there and we're making them do.) We'll also use this room at night, after the kids go to bed, to watch TV and spend time just the two of us.

Anyway but the point was that today was spent focused on the kiddos. We played together all morning in our jammies, got dressed and had our normal family lunch at our regular spot, an event Bean has dubbed "Soupy Sunday," because we all eat ... soup. Then we shopped for supplies to make Valentines for Bean and Peabody's classmates, and spent the better part of the rest of the day together, tracing and cutting and sticking and creating beautiful pink card-stock butterflies with lollipop bodies (inspired by Anna and Mini) and then watching the kids' first-ever episode of The Cosby Show (one of my very, very favorite shows, ever), which she LOVED. (Yay!)

These little people are the light of my life. I'm the luckiest woman alive to be their Mama.

12 February 2011

Carwash.

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Peabody's favorite place right now.

Boo car-yah.

(Blue car wash.)

He asks me a thousand times a day: Mama, ah go ah boo car-yah? Leeeeeeeeeez?

Today the boys (Daddy and Peabody) took the girls (Mama and Bean) out for a Valentine lunch. On our way, we stopped by the boo car-yah. And then, for the remaining 15 minute drive to our lunch destination, he cried, Go baaaah! Go baaah boo car-yah!

When I pulled up these pictures I took in the car-yah to edit them just now, he climbed up and sat on my lap and relived the experience over and over again, clapping and bouncing and squealing and pointing Car-yah, Mama! Car-yah!

Guess I captured it pretty well.

11 February 2011

Candid.

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Just me. I played around for awhile trying to get another cute picture of Peabody, but he was too busy eating CheezIts and trying to chee the pictures to pose for long. I did get one cute one of us, but I'll save it for my real blog because he's in the foreground and is a little bit blurred.

It's odd that as I get older, I hate pictures of myself less and less. I see "flaws" and age creeping in, but I know me better now, and I know that inside and underneath lies a heart that is full - one that still breaks maybe a little bit too easily, but loves quickly and earnestly - and a soul growing ever wiser and more patient by the day, honed by her Creator, faded velvet and pliable by the gentle buffeting of her life. I can forgive a few crows feet and a saggy neck on this woman who is as softly becoming herself as she is, inevitably, slowly fading.

Cross-posted to my "real" blog, FriedOkra.

10 February 2011

Big-picture.

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I'm having some ISSUES with the way photos are coming out via Photobucket lately! They look one way until I store them there for use on the blog, and then when I post the stored images, they look very different to the originals. Either more or less saturated, and not as clear.

I had a few minutes of alone time today while both kids were at school, so I took a short drive out into the country with plans to take pictures galore of all the pretty snowy/sunny scenery. So I found this road, Union Road, not too far from home, and got out of the car to start clicking in every direction, and then? My camera battery died. Whoops.

But it turned out I had some time to think about my mission and the photos I didn't get to take, on my way home, and you know what? Here's the thing. I don't think I really enjoy taking scenery pictures. The photos that I love best -- the ones I love taking, editing, looking at and sharing -- are the really extreme close-ups of people and things in my life. I love catching the light and shadows on things, looking at all the details and the contrast of textures and colors. And I guess that's similar to how I think, too. I'm a close-up, in-depth studier, much more so than I am a "big picture" person.

I guess it makes sense that I'd tend to be drawn, visually, to in-depth, up-close studies, as well. So I discovered a passion that I really DON'T have. And the results are? Not a great picture, I don't think, but I did learn something today.

09 February 2011

Cuddle.

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I spent this morning doing a bunch of desk work to start my fundraising efforts for this year's 3-Day, so after lunch and a shower, I've dedicated most of the afternoon building with blocks and reading books and snuggling under a blanket with a certain little cutie-boy.

He'd just wandered off momentarily to drive his car along a sunny windowsill, so I picked up my camera to try to take pictures of the blocks and books, but as soon as he saw me get down on the floor, he trotted right over and crawled up into my lap and said, Nnnnt chee, Mama. (I want to see!) (He likes to examine the pictures I've taken on the camera's display screen.) I explained that I hadn't actually taken a picture yet, and held the camera up over my head to CLICK this one, so he could chee it.

And then we looked at it, and we were both quite pleased with our work.

And now we're going back to cuddling.

Thankyouverymuch, The End.

:)

08 February 2011

Stars.

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Last spring, a box of hand-me-downs arrived from a friend who has a little boy Bean's age. I left the box hiding in the back of Peabody's closet, and re-discovered it in the latter days of summer. As fall approached and the days grew cooler, I pulled out these soft-soled cowboy kicks to ease onto Peabody with a pair of light socks, thinking they'd smooth the transition to hard-soled shoes from his beloved lop-lops (flip-flops) that he wore every. single. day. all summer long.

Um... it's turned out to be a fairly long transition.

Peabody calls these his 'tar choos, and now he wears them every. single. day. As you can see, they're extremely well-loved and well-worn, but still in pretty good shape and will last until lop-lop season rolls around again. Only other choos he'll allow on this feet these days are his snow boots, and lemme tell you, that involves no small amount of convincing.

Keys.

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Oops! I allllllllllmost forgot to take a picture for yesterday because I spent the whole day, which was FINALLY just a normal, standard, run-of-the-mill Monday, cleaning my kitchen. I also did a craft with Bean, read books with Peabody, cooked breakfast, lunch and dinner, washed, dried and folded two loads of laundry, took Bean to dance and a million other mundane tasks, which was actually ENJOYABLE, as it'd been so long since I'd been able to sink into my comfortable routines.

So why the picture of my keyboard (and I love my keyboard EASILY as much, if not more than my camera, to tell the truth, but this is my photography blog, so we'll pretend I didn't just say that) when I could have grabbed some shots of folded towels or the inside of my shiny oven? Because I was so happy tucked into those routines that I never even picked up the camera all day long, and it wasn't until I sat down to check my email one last time before bed that I saw it here, looking a bit forlorn, waiting for me. And I picked it up, snapped a picture, and told it GOODNIGHT. (I may have also kissed it, but you didn't hear that from me.)

We will hopefully have some time together today, my Canon and me, now that I've checked some of the more pressing and responsible-big-girl things off my list!

06 February 2011

Game-day.

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Al's an extremely busy, industrious man, at work and at home. The rare times when he just plops down in front of the TV to drink a beer and watch a game or a man movie, I'm actually a little bit relieved to have confirmation that under all that drive and motivation and productivity, he's still just a normal human guy.

Parallel.

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"Snow and adolescence are the only problems that disappear if you ignore them long enough." -- Earl Wilson

(And also? They both make you dress funny, and tempt your parents to run away to Mexico.)

04 February 2011

Button-push.

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The button-push of sunshine after weeks of grey?

Eyes ache a happy ache, while mouth-corners hike to the peaks of cheekbones and camp there. Dust shows up on surfaces that looked clean in the non-light of yesterday, and I happily wipe away in moments so many days' accumulated dull drabness. I pause by windows, turn my face up, squint eyelash-kisses at the warmth and honey-love of oozing light that can't seem to get enough of me, either.

Laughter erupts, a broken spirit slurps itself back together, puddles of tears dry, fingers intertwine, eyes meet, and I wish-will-wink-demand tulips to bloom in the basket on the countertop.

03 February 2011

Playtime.

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Another snow day today, thanks to yesterday's blizzard, and we are trying our best to stay occupied. We've made cookies and romped in the basement and eaten breakfast and lunch and danced to Alvin and the Chipmunks and Stevie Wonder and of course Beyonce, who is Matthew's favorite. Now I've gotten out a big bag of chess men and checkers and tiddlywinks and that Makin' Bacon game along with some very interesting marbles that I'm dying to photograph sometime. (I forgot about these particular marbles!)

The kids have dumped the bag out and are playing with all the stuff on the floor behind me. Alex narrates her play with such passion ... everything is talking to each other, and everything has a different voice. One of them is the Queen, and my daughter does a fairly good job of mocking a snooty English monarch. She's very good with impressions in general, which doesn't surprise me because Al does amazing caricatures of all sorts of people and animals, and I've rarely met a dialect I couldn't imitate pretty closely given a few hours of listening.


I'm sharing this photo and post via You Capture: Red, which is the brainchild of Beth at I Should Be Folding Laundry.

02 February 2011

Blizzard.

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Yes indeed. Twenty-plus inches of snow, every single piled inch of it hard-won versus a ripping wind that blew all night long. And that same wind -- which sheered and shoved and elicited an octogenarian's creaks and groans from a still-green five year old house as we tried to sleep inside it, and turned a Do Not Enter sign in the school parking lot into a completely flabbergasted weathervane -- also gently curled fine, feather-soft snow into this delicate shape only God could perfect.

I shoveled for hours this morning, and as I tried to take this picture my hands trembled and dipped uncontrollably until I climbed up on the kitchen counter, stuck my feet in the sink, and propped my elbows on my knees.

Girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.

The neighborhood shovels out
in the waning storm;
a band of anonymous forms
in dark, hooded parkas,
scarves obscuring faces,
but all still familiar to one another,
and quietly, good-naturedly united
against ton after ton
of the billowing white enemy.

Robert Frost would write a poem -
a sequel of sorts, I'd think.
We don't mend walls;
we move snow,
and we do it together.
And this is friendship
drawn in muscle
and boots
and frosty breath.

01 February 2011

Warm.

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Okay so maybe it's "Two pictures a day in 2011..."

Day One of February, and we're apparently on the front-side of what may be the worst blizzard on record for Chicago in 50 years. I tried my utmost to capture these early hours -- a fairly brutal, whirling snowstorm -- with my camera, but it's crazily hard to figure out where to focus because it seems as if EVERYTHING is moving out there. High winds, blowing snow, falling snow, thunder (!?), you name, we've got it. Even Al threw in the towel and came home from work at one o'clock today, which I hasten to report that he's NEVER done before, in five years of living here. So we're all together.

I've lit a fire and everything that matters to me glows safe and still and warm.

31 January 2011

Inside.

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One more day of being stuck inside, as Alex continues to battle the dreaded virus. We'll all be crazy by the end of the week, because there's a blizzard on the way that will presumably close schools for a day or two. I don't try to take photos of the kids very often, at least not "real" photos - usually just candids. They don't care much for being my models, usually, but today I think Bean's hit an all new level of boredom. She didn't flinch when I asked her to let me pose her and play portrait photographer. Peabody's shot was simple - I just waited for the garbage truck to arrive, and then I got my camera and followed him to his usual post by the windows along the side of our front door. Voila!

They are very lovely little people, even if I'm honestly getting a teeny bit tired of looking at them. (Grin.)

30 January 2011

Touch.

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She had a few days off between, but Bean has been sick again this weekend, with a fever. She's a tough cookie and an unusually good, cheerful patient, but this time she's clearly felt quite bad, and for several days. Makes a Mama sad to see that, and elevates my need to touch and hold and fuss over her, which she accepts readily. I remember my own Mom and how she always made being sick a special thing for my sister and me, and I always felt especially well-loved and cared about in those times. I'd love my children to remember that about their childhood, as well.

29 January 2011

Friends.

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Last weekend, the day I was sick, Al walked a package into our bedroom and plunked it on the bed beside me, grinning.

"Oh wow! For me?" I asked, excited even though I felt like plough mud. Worse than plough mud.

"Yep."

I opened it, and inside was this pretty little reminder of friendship from my secret sister. She's holding daisies, which are a symbol of friendship and love. I keep her on a table by the window in my room, and she's among the first things I see when I wake up every morning. What would I do without my friends?

28 January 2011

Cracked.

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Clay jars get used metaphorically a lot. I'm pretty sure this one is just a clay jar, though. (Smile.)

27 January 2011

Happy.

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Last week I was struggling to make the decision about whether or not I could honestly commit myself to fundraising and training for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure this year. I cried and prayed and looked at pictures from the 2010 walk, and finally, I opened up to my teammates and asked them to help me decide. And they listened, and waited for me to finish crying, looked me in the eyes, smiled and hugged me and said, "Yes." And so I am. And I'm happy with that decision. So, so happy.

This post is featured as part of You Capture: Happy, hosted by Beth at I Should Be Folding Laundry.

26 January 2011

25 January 2011

Bleak.

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I'm sad and tired and when I look up and around, as I did when I went to take this picture, to figure out exactly where the sun hangs in the sky, I can't see it anywhere. It's just nowhere, only still everywhere, diffused for now with this thick, heavy bleakness. But, inevitably, there. It is there.