By the time we moved into our present home, Shane and I were overdue for a new mattress, and at least one of us had long been dreaming of a king-sized bed. A trench formed each time we shared the old queen-sized one, into which we’d fall captive, Shane often throwing a leg over me just to get the space he needed for his long limbs. I rested (but didn’t sleep much) in the sliver of space that remained — something like eight inches wide. Happily, our new bedroom allowed us to spread out a bit, so we indulged in a “hybrid” mattress — traditional coil springs topped with a thick layer of memory foam — that is flat, firm, quiet, oh so comfortable, and big enough to invite our kids to snuggle with us from time to time. I’m very thankful for such a cozy spot to rest our weary heads and bodies at night.
I find that a big mug of coffee + milk is about the best reason to come downstairs in the morning. Then again, a late-morning latte can make a meeting at work something to actually look forward to. In between meals but still wanting a little something warm to cradle in the hands while chatting with a friend or catching up with kids after a day apart? Coffee or tea (best in the afternoon for a light sleeper like me), coming right up!
There’s just something about a hot drink that soothes, and I’m thankful for the enjoyment I get from regular concoctions, whether caffeinated or not. Even the routine of the brewing and steeping has a calming effect, and doing so for a loved one becomes a sort of sacred gift — the transformation of water and dried leaves or roasted beans into something else altogether that is flavorful, healthful in its delivery of antioxidants, and filling without a lingering heaviness.
Since Molly’s surgery, I’ve been helping her do lots more than I typically have for some time — like washing her hair over the side of the tub, delivering her meals on a tray, dispensing medicine, and simply get around the house. It makes me recall the intensity of our first years together, which blurred into the first years of Finn’s life. Sometimes then I wanted to cry out of self-pity, because it seemed that someone needed something every single second — or worse, two or three people needed something from me at the same time!
Eventually, we teach our children how to take care of their own needs, and we can once again tend to nearly one thing at a time. But the process tends to be so gradual that we don’t realize the easing of the burden until we are called to service again. When it’s for short periods, though, it is so much easier to be thoughtful, patient, and cheerful in delivering help. It’s been so nice to be close to Molly as she heals, as she’s been forced to stick close to home. We’ve gotten to have lengthy conversations and lots of loll-on-the-couch family time.
I’m so pleased and thankful to be Molly’s and Finn’s mother. Watching them learn new skills, share their creativity, nurture younger children, make each other laugh or snuggle together — even better if it’s with me!… Every day there is something they do or say that makes my heart feel full.
We are so blessed in always having food in our cupboards, fridge, and freezer — for not having to put much thought into where our next meal is going to come from, barring some disaster. We’re fortunate to not be forced to make tough decisions at the grocery store over what brand or how much is purchased and to be able to indulge our whims in deciding what we’ll have for dinner most of the time. We do not know what it’s like to suffer from real hunger or malnourishment.
There’s never a day when I don’t thank God for this, although much appreciation is also due to Shane and his hard work to earn a good living for us. I try to steward this gift well by clipping coupons, buying staples where and when I can get the best prices, cooking at home and packing lunches most days, varying our meals so that we don’t overindulge in meat or desserts, trying to use all leftovers before the food spoils. I also try to supplement our offerings with homegrown herbs, fruit, and vegetables when possible.
It seems like meal planning and shopping is a really big focus in our home. We all savor good food, and we’ve raised the kids with the intention of knowing where food comes from and what meals taste like when prepared with love, from scratch. Our goal is that they will both always be comfortable in the kitchen and that deciding what and how to feed themselves and their future families will be a fairly simple and fulfilling — albeit still a demanding — task.
Our Thanksgiving Menu
smoked turkey breast
mashed potatoes and parsnips
green beans with bacon
cauliflower with brown butter, pears, and hazelnuts
pumpkin pie with cranberry-pecan praline
Today we were so fortunate to celebrate Thanksgiving at home and with my parents as very welcome company. The food was plentiful and came together without any hitches. Table talk was punctuated with laughter and smiles. Whispers of snowflakes fell while we dined, turning into a powdered sugar dusting on the ground by the time we claimed seats in the living room to watch Molly’s and Finn’s improvised puppet theater performances. Internet radio was tuned to folk music, playing a lazy alternative to the kids’ Christmas jingles on the piano.
I know many people count their blessings in the November days leading up to Thanksgiving; I would like to note one of mine here every day until the new year arrives. When we begin making lists for Santa and shopping for presents, the many gifts we already possess can easily become overlooked or taken for granted.
I know there is nothing I wish for more than keeping my family well and close. There is really so much wrapped up in that big wish. I know that in my childhood I gained an understanding and experience of family and loving relationships that was a beautiful and immeasurable gift, and I thank my parents, grandparents, and siblings for that. They taught me how to love the family I would one day create. You all love me despite my many shortcomings, and I am grateful for your patience and constancy in my life.
Last week, Molly went under the knife to have an extra bone in the arch of her right foot removed, the tendon there attached to the correct bone, and a notch cut in her calf muscle to improve foot flexion. The extra bone the doctor photographed for us shows a sizable rock-like piece that illustrates why Molly has certainly suffered a lot of pain over the past couple of years while participating in sports. In fact, she has said the pain during this recovery period is actually less than what she was experiencing from a workout. Poor girl.
While Shane, Finn, and I were in the surgical waiting room, I read aloud to them some sentences from a magazine article about the possible negative consequences on a child of the mother’s being overweight/obese during pregnancy — things like increased risk of diabetes, asthma, cognitive shortcomings. In response, Shane said, “All I know is when a mother eats right during pregnancy, her child can grow extra bones.” Well!
Molly’s podiatrist says that 4-11% of the population has an extra bone in the foot, but the bone’s location and form of development (attached or unattached to other bones) can vary. Our girl’s “accessory navicular” is particularly large and would have caused increasing pain and problems throughout her life, so we were pretty comfortable with the plan to get it out now. Unfortunately, Molly has the same issue in her left foot, so we’ll be re-living this experience in 4-6 months.
Molly has been an exemplary patient at home, fairly happily confined to the couch with her leg elevated. This is not that much of a hardship for an avid reader, really! She’s tearing through a stack of books piled as high as the sofa — Green Glass House, Graceling trilogy, House Divided (the most enormous novel I’ve ever seen), The Wolves of Willoughby Chase series, and more. Molly has become as much of a chai aficionado as I am, so I brew tea for us a couple of times a day, varying our choices from the box of sample-sized pouches I recently ordered from Townshend’s Tea Company, which offers a big selection of spicy concoctions. We regularly deliver ice, water, doses of antibiotics, and companionship. I’d have to say the “aerie” (as I prefer to call our upstairs “bonus room”) is seeing the most use since we moved into this house almost three years ago. Best of all, our girl seems to be healing well and getting through this challenge with her typical grace.
These photos are not great, but it is really hard to capture the fast-paced court action with a very average camera and from way up in the stands! Finn is number 11. His teammate who looks like he could be his brother (remember him from cross country?) is number 12, and I caught them both on the sidelines in the next-to-last photo. Finn would also probably like me to mention here that he is not wearing leggings; those black bands are knee pads!
Finn’s 6th grade team has played only a few games thus far this season and had just one win, but they are listening well to their great coaches and learning a lot. Being part of the school team is a big commitment, as practices and games take place typically five days a week. The pay-off, though, is fantastic conditioning of their bodies, discipline of their minds, and steady improvement of their individual abilities and team capabilities. Athletes at St. Matthew School must maintain grades in every class of at least B+, with a tighter grading scale than public schools have. Shane and I really favor this approach. While the policy may mean a greater likelihood of pending ineligibility for a week or so during the season, it also reminds kids that sports come after school in terms of their priorities.
Molly has been enjoying the service and social aspects of Finn’s games, readily helping out in the concession stand with me when I’ve taken my volunteer turns and chatting it up with friends in the bleachers later.
No photos of our dressed-up kids this year… Finn was a burglar (or, possibly, “burger” if you use Finn-speak), dressed in a black & white striped shirt, black pants, a black ski mask, and with a pillowcase for his booty. Molly was planning on making her rounds with friends, all dressed in Alice in Wonderland-themed costumes. However, blustery weather and missing costume pieces (and, most likely, their early-teen ages) inspired a last-hour switch to sweatshirts and pajama pants, in hopes that they would be seen as a slumber party crew, I guess? No matter. Fun was had by all, especially when visiting cousins arrived for an overnight stay and no adult monitored the candy trading and eating that happened over the next hour or so. Ah, well. You’re only a kid once, right?
Molly and our sweet young friend Caroline spend time together regularly, and I was so pleased to capture this shot of the pair just before they parted ways a few days ago. Miss C is always pleased as punch to have a creative partner and playmate and never wants to say goodbye. I think she believes Molly is a little bit magical … Just look at the crown and “purses” M helped craft!
For years now, Molly has had “little sister” on her birthday and Christmas wish list. In this last year, she has upped the ante: “I don’t want just one; I want a whole bunch of small people! I just like them so much!” But I know that she partly feels this way because she’s privileged to know such good kids like Caroline. She realizes that children aren’t such a joy to be around just because of their chubby cheeks, quick grins, and tight hugs but also because of their honesty, innocence, and good natures when they are raised with love, affection, and the best of intentions.
We are living under a cloud of weirdness … It began with Crazy Sock Day at school. Then, I had a trunkful of pumpkins — thankfully, all delivered for work (i.e., special events) purposes before
THIS happened. The kids and I were on our way to school/work last week on a busy road full of drivers intent on getting to their destinations across town. I was stopped behind a line of traffic for a red light, turned in my seat to scold Miss Molly for always causing us to run later than I’d like, when my face was suddenly slammed into the coffee mug I was holding in my left hand (before it flew, splattering coffee all over me and the windshield). Droplets of liquid blurred with bits of glass, plastic, and metal. Molly was crying, and all three of us wondered what had happened. The driver of the pick-up behind us hadn’t noticed all the stopped vehicles ahead and was looking into his rearview mirror, accelerating to put more distance between him and the car he’d turned onto the road ahead of, when he was forced to a brutal and abrupt halt.
Our van is totaled. But the more important part is that we’re all okay, aside from a few bruises and the sore neck Molly had for a couple of days (and the SwimEar I had to use to get the coffee/milk out of my inner ear!). We’re driving a rental vehicle until everything is sorted out. (Photos are compliments of Finn, who jumped out shortly after the accident to begin documenting with his iPod!)
Of course, when these kinds of things happen, it’s usually when one feels like the plate couldn’t get much fuller before things begin falling off, right? U of I’s Homecoming was just a couple of days later … I missed Molly’s last park district soccer game (ever!) due to work on Saturday, but my crew stopped by for lunch and a little silliness.
Sunday offered some sweet spots: Two of my old Student Ambassadors, Jimmy and Annamarie, came over for lunch before departing C-U and so kindly brought flowers with them!The kids had an end-of-the-season cross country party with their teammates and coaches in the afternoon, and just look at this: One of the younger girls on the team made Molly’s day with her thoughtful card, and Coach Rose presented her with a running top and guardian angel pin. He also had printed letters for every single kid on the team in which he documented their slowest and fastest running times of the season, their individual strengths, and offered “prescriptions” for becoming an even better runner in the future. We already thought the world of him.
What sweet frosting. Now we’ve just got to keep the cake from crumbling!