Mercy Me

I spent last weekend in Utah while my family tried to get by without me.  (They thrived of course.)

While I was there I met these two lovely lambs and we took a blurry self-portrait.  (I offered to hold the camera since I was the newbie, but I was so excited I couldn't hold it still long enough to get a decent picture.  I'm publishing it anyway...proof I am friends with blogging celebrities.)

On Monday morning I remembered how to do this.  (And had Rachel take this picture as proof for David that I look hot in any weather.)

It was a fast trip at the end of a long week, and by the time I arrived home on Monday afternoon I was exhausted and had only enough energy and willpower to start one load of laundry and make a lasagna for dinner.  Everyone stepped over my suitcase and the other ten piles of laundry I left on the floor, sat at the table for dinner, and told me how good it was to have me home.

Tuesday meant digging out.  And class.  And by two in the afternoon I was more overwhelmed than when I woke up.  Which is really saying something.

I knelt down in my sewing room.

Help me, I said.

The doorbell rang.

That was fast, I thought.

I was secretly hoping it was my Aunt Jane in her rubber gloves, who, I hear, is better than any emergency response team when laundry and filthy bathrooms are on the line.

It was the UPS man.  He wasn't wearing rubber gloves.  He didn't want to stay and help me muck out the sink.  He left his package and ran. 

I opened the box.

Inside was a tiny miracle made out of colored paper.  And just the help I needed on a difficult day.

My sister, Emily, did what I could not and made me a paper chain counting the days til summer. 

I stared at the chain, at the box, at the postage, at the thought, at the grand gesture.  And then stretched it out across my family room.

I thought, That is a lot of scissors and glue, That is a lot of time and energy, That is a lot of love and encouragement.

And then I thought, I can do this.  And I went and put another load of laundry into the washer and found the courage to clean out my suitcase.  Which is is proof that simple is not insignificant.  It is also proof

that (once again) my sisters are among the best blessings of my life,

that even when I'm drowning all I really need is a little encouragement (I'm not saying no, Jane)

that when all else fails (especially me) kindness doesn't.

Mercy me.

Instead of That

Rather than bore you with the details of me coming face to face with the realities of The Fall 

of how I spent part of my afternoon yesterday visiting a dear friend just diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer and part of my evening hugging a friend who had just lost her husband

of how afterwards I sent David to pick up Chinese (comfort food) and how in the middle of dinner I could no longer keep putting sweet and sour pork in my mouth

of how then I broke down and sobbed a bit

of how Savannah put down her fork and rubbed my back

of how the children were gentle with me the rest of the night, patting me lightly on the shoulder whenever we met in the hall

and, of how this morning after everyone was off I got back in bed and had another good crying jag,

rather than all that, I am sending in a substitute.

If this were a normal week, I would tell you how I finished my center medallion for this year's round robin project.  And how I was only 26 days late finishing it, but who's counting.

I would tell you how I had a long overdue conversation (the truth is I've been avoiding it) with Berni about our summer vacation to British Columbia and how perfect the beach was and how we ate hotdogs over beach campfires and rode our bikes in search of sand dollars.  I'd ask her how she thought kid's quilt retreat went and if she had any plans for the fall.  And then I'd carefully broach the tender subject of her recent separation from O'Dell and see if she was any closer to forgiving me.

And I'd tell you about round robin itself and how it's just about the most exciting thing in the world to get a quilt in the mail, that's made with bits of fabric from your aunts and cousins and sister-in-law and how I'm lucky enough to know these women and have their art in my home.

And I'm sure I'd point out how I went way out of my color comfort zone and picked the exact same colors for my quilt this year as I have for the last four years.  I'm wild like that.

And knowing me, I'm sure I'd note how I didn't lose a single point on my Corn and Beans blocks and how I really am a wonder and a domestic goddess and more amazing than even you had imagined. 

And how I wish that this was, in fact, a normal week.  And how a week ago, none of my friends' lives had changed.  And how when The Fall seems too hard to endure, a little creation, a little order out of chaos, a little rebellion against entropy, is just the thing to make you feel a little better.

Pajama Party

The Thunells have come from Santa Barbara for a short visit.

Our girls, and their dolls, are making the most of every minute they're here.  I suspect there will be giggling and whispering into the wee hours.  There's a year's worth of catch-up and elementary-school gossip to talk through.  They're just getting started.

While David and I set up the bedroom for a proper sleepover, the girls took care of the most important thing...dressing the dolls for bed.  They found enough nightgowns and stylish headbands for everyone.

I suspect there may be quite a bit of giggling and whispering going on between these six as well. 

Be Prepared to Covet

And I mean it.

You're going to be all green and drooly after you read this post.  I'm giving you fair warning.

Some of you, with less-charmed lives, may want to stop reading right here.

Two Fridays ago I received this fortune in my fortune cookie:

I was intrigued.

My mailbox has been in a bad cycle of catalogs and grocery store coupons and, of course, the dreaded bills, and so this harbinger of good mail made my heart skip a little.

And then last Thursday, I received a package with this sticker on the outside.

Another harbinger of goodness.

And this is what was inside:

[Prepare yourself for something glorious.  (I know you're already green and drooly that we often have Chinese food on Friday nights and that I got such a fabulous fortune, but we have not even gotten to the good part yet.)]

My reaction was just this:


And then sobbing.

My very good friends, Amy and Kelly, made a book out of my 52 Blessings project from last year.  All that "gold in the sand" captured in a hardbound book for my nightstand.  And it is just as wonderful as it looks.  I cannot imagine the hours of time and creative effort it took to create, and the generosity in the thought of making it in the first place undoes me every time I think of it.  When I imagine them calling each other and making plans to surprise me, I just give up and weep. 

When David saw it, he got me a tissue and then said, "Wow, sweets, your first book.  Can you imagine having a whole shelf of these?"

Which just made me smile and cry all the more.  We sat down and read it together and oohed and aahed over every detail.

Now you might be wondering how you can stop coveting and get yourself some friends like these.

And I would like to tell you that "To have a friend, you have to be a friend."  But that is simply not true.  I have done nothing, ever, to deserve such friends and such kindness.  Really.  (You can read about how even more lucky I am to have them in my life here.)   

Thank you, lambs.

Christmas Stories from My Digital Elph

In an attempt to dump my brain, I am dumping my camera instead. Bear with me. It's about all I can manage in the middle of the holiday season. 

Here are our gifts to deliver around the neighborhood. Gorgeous, no? All ready to deliver. Then just as we were eating that chicken pot pie in the bottom of the frame, two separate families came around and delivered the exact same gift. Really. So we had to start over. For the record I wanted to make Lelly's "House Sparkle" in the first place.  David scrunched up his nose at the idea. When our friends delivered the second bottle I told David that this never would have happened with "House Sparkle." He said there was a reason for that. I ignored that. We ended up making a Christmas CD which was a far superior idea anyway and only took us another three or four days (heaven help me) to make the mix, copy the CD's, figure out how to print CD covers and then finally deliver them.    

Olivia had her Christmas viola recital last weekend. She was beaming at her chance to wow the world with "the Can Can" and "Ode to Joy."  We were all sufficiently wowed.

David and I finished up most of our Christmas shopping last weekend.  I snapped this picture of David in a store that we have never shopped in and are unlikely to ever visit again.  I've said it before, there are a million little universes out there.  How we ended up in this one is a mystery of the season. 

Amy and Kelly and I went to dinner on Wednesday night.  And then Kel and I did some (mostly window) shopping.  Here she is expressing her outrage at the sight of this anatomically correct cologne bottle.  Whatever happened to public decency standards?

My nephew, Luke, had his first birthday party on Saturday, and we played at the park with him and all his other fans.  My kids were good enough to open all his presents for him, and, bless his heart, he didn't seem to mind a bit.  (I think Ethan has secret designs on his Christmas presents as well.)  We had a great time and I can't remember the last time I laughed that hard.

This one is by far my favorite.  I snapped it as the girls and I were leaving the Nutcracker on Friday night.  After a night of gorgeous dance and costumes and music, they are whispering about the magnificence of the Sugar Plum Fairy and picking the parts they want to play next year.  They oohed and ahhed through the whole thing, gasping at just the right moments.  They even raved about our "great seats" up in the balcony.  And here they are reviewing all the best moments:  "Olivia, weren't those gingersnaps soooo cute?"  "Oh, Savannah I think next year you could definitely do the Russian dance."  We hummed and pirouetted all the way to the car.

The stories that my Canon Elph could not tell this week (either because they were too sacred or too sad) include a multitude of car problems (for both cars), the worst of which is that David's car needs a whole new engine, and will have to be replaced.  So I am shuttling him to and from work and making due until we can do that.  And meanwhile, I am secretly enjoying this extra time with David every day.  

After grudgingly (yes, even petulantly) making my way through the first couple weeks of the holiday season, I have finally caught the spirit of it.  On Saturday night we watched "It's a Wonderful Life" and I started bawling at the drugstore scene with Mr. Gower and never really stopped.  And then last night we had dinner with some friends and went to a Christmas concert at our church.  (Caleb and Olivia both sang in it too, Olivia with significant feeling all over her face.)  The music was gorgeous, and suddenly I caught the Christmas spirit, and I belted out "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" at the end as loud as I could.  Today is cold (a first this year) and overcast (rare), and it finally feels like Christmas.  David said we could light a fire tonight after Caleb's violin concert.  I think if we open the doors we really can.  There will be hot chocolate.  And marshmellows.  And more Hark-the-Herald-Angels-belting with "significant feeling."  And Dicken's "Stave One" in which we shall meet Marley's ghost.  It's finally Christmas at our house. 

Word of the Week: Sanguinely

sanguinely /adv./  cheerfully optimistically.  assuredly.  buoyantly.  confidently and enthusiastically. expectantly.  lively.  hopefully.  also with reddish or ruddy color, floridly.

sanguinely  /adv./  1.  I think perhaps I had a hard time with this word this week, because the word itself doesn't sound sanguine to me at all.  The middle syllable in particular sounds like you opened a box of something distasteful and reminds me of dissecting frogs in 7th grade.  And so the week did not go sanguinely, at least for me.  There were moments spent in the exact opposite way in fact.  But we woke to rain this morning, sanguinely pattering on the roof and skylights, dark clouds covering everything, and so I am sanguinely publishing this post and hoping for days and days of rain and turkey and games around our kitchen table.

sanguinely  /adv./  2.  Olivia was delighted at her viola lesson this week to be invited to play at the big Christmas recital.  Her teacher has been astounded at her progress and believes she's ready to perform.  Olivia, of course, sanguinely accepted the invitation, beamed all the way home, and has been madly practicing the can-can ever since.

sanguinely  /adv./  3.  Savannah had her second grade "Johnny Appleseed" play this last week.  She wanted to memorize her part and spent a good part of the week pacing the house reciting lines about John Chapman's life.  She narrated beautifully and did her own share of sanguinely beaming.  The highlight of the play, though, came when David cancelled a meeting and surprised her by showing up.  He said when he walked up he had never seen such a grin on her face.  I am including a video of her part for her grandparents whom, I'm sure, will sanguinely applaud me for doing so.  Please notice the scenery that I helped create.  David was duly impressed of course. 

sanguinely  /adv./  4. Caleb and I spent more hours than I care to think about working on his aerospace project this week.  He and his team are sanguinely predicting a big win at the competition next week, but I am nervously worrying about all the "black holes" in our research and plans.  But there is little we can do now.  We have built and rebuilt and typed and retyped and thought and rethought, plus glued and sawed, and drilled, and mod-podged, and watercolored, and scale drawinged, and made a gazillion trips to Home Depot.  All that's left is the bibliography (which is substantial) and securing the solar panels (which are sadly skewampus).  Truth be told, I would find an "honorable mention" downright miraculous.  I keep telling the boys that this is just a learning experience, but their enthusiasm will not be dampened.

This was the state of my feet on Monday night after a day of helping 11-year-old boys spray paint.  They came clean, but my garage floor will never be the same.

sanguinely  /adv./  5.  On Saturday we drove down to Tucson to visit Daniel (my cousin) and Carol (his wife) and their lovely girls.  We went to watch the BYU vs. Utah game (we don't have any kind of cable) on their large theatre screen and have dinner.  The girls disappeared shortly after our arrival, emerged for dinner, and shed a few tears at our leaving.  When I announced that it was time to go, they said, "What?!" with utter shock and consternation.  BYU lost horribly to their big rivals, but David took it okay.  In fact, when we left to drive down he rather un-sanguinely said, "I have a bad feeling about this." (Meaning the game, not the car ride.)  They live in near some gorgeous mountains covered in saguaros, and this gorgeous specimen is right in front of their house.

sanguinely  /adv./  6.  On Sunday night, David and I attended "Priesthood Preview" with Caleb who will turn 12 this year and receive the Aaronic priesthood.  This was, of course, one of those moments that kind of stops in your tracks and you wonder "What just happened here?"  In the middle of the meeting they asked the boys to stand together and sing "Called to Serve."  Caleb sanguinely belted out his part, regardless of the other quiet, tentative, 11-year-old voices around him.  When the other boys looked at the floor or blushed shamefully at each other, Caleb stood up tall, looked straight at us and sang out his testimony.  I was busting.  I love that he knows who he is.   

Belated Birthday Wishes

I know that most have you have been following Kelly's moving saga like me, with admiration and a bit of cringing for all the unexpected "kumquats" she's been gracefully marmalading.

But there is something fabulous that has come because of all of it...she is back with us.  And we celebrated her birthday together last Friday, something I never could have predicted in January, or even May, and something that feels so close to "living on the same street" that I feel giddy. 

Here's the play by play:

We went to dinner at Bloom in Scottsdale, a brilliant choice by Amy.  The decor was divine,

the food was delish (Amy had the salmon, Kel the chicken and fingerling potatoes, and I had the scallops and "forbidden" rice),

and we all commented that we had never had a bottle of anything chilling by our table, nevermind that it was just water.

After a long dinner, lots of delicious conversation, and a (dark) picture (Kelly taught me how to turn off my flash...just a moment too soon perhaps),

we headed towards Scottsdale Fashion Square for either a movie or window shopping.  We briefly contemplated seeing "my dirty little French film" (as Amy called it), but Kelly reminded us that she doesn't like suspense (perhaps why waiting for the moving truck has been so trying).  Note that neither of them objected to the nudity.  There are so many reasons we are friends.

We window shopped our way through the shoe department at Dillard's,

[Psst....If my husband is reading this, I'm in love, love, love with these shoes.]

stopped briefly by the Clinique counter so Amy could buy mascara, and then headed out into the mall.  We considered stopping at the MAC store so Kelly could have another make-over, but apparently she didn't want to be orange on her birthday and wasn't taking any chances.  Wise in her old age, no?

We all felt ancient at 34 when we saw what "the kids" are wearing (or not wearing) these days.

We went to Claire's and I bought some sparkly things for Savannah's hair (Amy convinced me by saying, "You can always use sparkly things."  Indeed.)  While there, we found a crown for Kelly

and a curly, golden-brown, hair piece.  It might have been the forbidden rice talking, but we quite liked the color and talked her into buying it.  She is now armed with a cartoon picture and a plastic hair piece to take to her next hair appointment.  Why don't I have a picture of this??

We had to walk back through Dillard's on our way to the car and that is when I found the cutest shoes ever (we all tried them on) in "graphite" (could there be a more lovely color?)

and my window shopping suddenly turned into actual shopping.  We almost talked Kelly into buying some leopard shoes to go with her new hair.  Again, why don't I have any pictures of this??

I thought later that night, that we had probably celebrated Kelly's 17th birthday similar to this one (minus the $80 shoes and the discussions of our kids' music lessons) and here we are 17 years later, reunited.  Lucky us. 

And we missed you Tiff.

Happy Birthday, Kel.  I can hardly stand how happy I was celebrating it with you.  I am hoping you slept the first night of your 35th year in your own bed.  How very glad I am that you are right down the street again. 

Word of the Week: Gloaming

gloaming  /n./  the period between afternoon and nighttime.  dusk.  twilight.  eve.  eventide.  nightfall.

gloaming  /n./  1.  As I write this post, the gloaming is just beginning here in Michigan.  The kids are downstairs practicing a play they are going to put on after dinner, our version of dinner theatre.  We are having a big celebratory dinner tonight, steaks on the grill and decorations on the table, a sure sign that we have entered into the "gloaming" of our vacation, the final days before we head for home.  David will arrive on Wednesday and then we'll head for Canada and a trip to Niagara Falls.  The kids are starting to panic just slightly at the dwindling days, protesting that I said we'd be here a month.  I assure them that we have will be just one day over a month when we will arrive back in Arizona.  The fastest month of our lives.

gloaming  /n./  2.  This past week we went to a band concert one night after dinner and enjoyed the gloaming accompanied by Sousa.  The kids layed in the grass even though we brought chairs and played on a nearby playground.  The highlight for me was at the end, when we all stood and sang "America, the Beautiful" and the "Star Spangled Banner" just as the sun was setting and using its last rays to light up the flag.



gloaming  /n./  3.    On Tuesday night we had dinner over at Gary and Sara's house.  At the end of the night we had smores, melting the marshmellows over the firepit in their backyard, and sat around the fire in the gathering gloaming and talked.  David was sorely missed.  The kids, who were by now best-of-friends, made up a game of some kind on their hammock and were shrieking with laughter until Gary thought the neighbors might mind.  


gloaming  /n./  4.  We spent the end of the week in Paradise, MI, and left for the Upper Peninsula late on Thursday afternoon.  As I drove up into the wilderness, the quiet gloaming was just beautiful with the sun setting after a bit of rain and a little fog.  I felt completely alone on the road and it was one of those perfect, wistful moments after a fresh rain has stopped and the earth is quiet and damp.  It felt like a dream and I took this picture as I drove my way to the northern end of the peninsula.


gloaming  /n./  5.  I took the kids to see Tahquamenon Falls this week, and spent Friday's gloaming walking the boardwalk to the lower falls.    You just cannot imagine the profusion of nature, the thunder of the water, and the thumping in my heart as I watched my children walk through the "deep woods" (as I called it) with their friends.  The gloaming lasts forever in the Michigan summer and I have loved every one of them, though this one was one of my favorites.


gloaming  /n./  6.  On our way home from Paradise, we stopped just outside of St. Ignace on a beach that has become one of our favorites.  It was the end of the day, the end of the week, and one of the most perfect gloamings of my whole life.  The kids changed into their swimsuits in the car and ran through the waves, which were rolling and high.  The wind was blowing hard and they ran and jumped over the crashing waves again and again, racing the setting sun.  Ethan got out after a bit and climbed on my lap wrapped in his towel, shaking with cold and nestling into me.   I told myself to remember this moment forever.  Ethan's wet hair, the damp towel, the copper bodies of my other three children silhouetted in the sunset, the sounds of the grass blowing behind me and the waves crashing in front of me, as my children shrieked their joy.  They swam until the sun went below the horizon and we ran together for the car.  The kids stripped along the side of the road and changed into their pajamas, flushed and shivery at the same time.  As I turned on the heater and pulled onto the darkening highway, I was overwhelmed by the magic of my life.



Life as an Independent Woman: Part II

My adventures as an independent woman did not end with my brief affair with Henry Ford. 

Last week when I went to yoga, some of the people there were talking about a town "at the end of the road" in the Upper Peninsula called Paradise, MI.  This is the actual name of the town and not just a metaphor.  I told David that I wanted to take the kids up there for a few days and just breathe, play on the beach, and see the wonders of the northern half of the state.  You can imagine his reaction.  First just a smile.  (Charily checking the water for CIM, but she has been pretty quiet this whole trip...I have been blissfully whole.)  Then a careful, "Where exactly is this?" and "Are you sure?"

We left on Thursday late afternoon and headed across the Mackinac Bridge into the UP after 7.  It was raining and a bit dark and I felt like the only person on the road.  We stopped at a little diner in a place called Trout Lake and the kids' eyes were round and large scanning the menu of hot roast beef sandwiches and all-you-can-eat whitefish, instead of Happy Meals.  From there until Paradise, I didn't see another car on the road.  It was dark, with just my lone headlights shining through the spotty rain, and CIM started to whisper about just how crazy this really was.  It was, in a word: remote.


I drew the red arrow so you could see how close to the border we were...up in the middle of nowhere.

But I needn't have worried.  It was glorious.  And beautiful.  And I am completely brilliant.


The skies were clear and blue when we awoke, and we quickly dressed and headed down to the beach for playing and swimming in Lake Superior, which is the coldest and deepest of all the great lakes, but which did not bother my children at all.  They swam and played and built a giant sand castle and a big "bathtub" on the beach.  The back of our hotel backed up to the beach and we had the whole thing to ourselves.

My good friend, Sara, and her kids came up about lunch time and after playing with them on the beach for a couple of hours we decided to head over to Tahquemenon Falls.  We managed with all our kids (her 5, including a newborn, and my 4) mostly thanks to Olivia and Savannah who tenderly and patiently helped Sara's girls with whatever they needed. 



There was only one near tragedy when Olivia lost one of her flip flops over the side of the barrier at the Upper Falls.  I helped Caleb under the guard rail, he retrieved the lost slipper, and I helped him back up before the park rangers caught us flagrantly breaking state law. 

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We finally fed the kids lunch and dinner at 5:30, and then went down to see the lower falls, which were just beautiful.  The walk out to see them was just stunning with trees of every variety: birch, hemlock, maple, cedar, banyan, aspen, and I hundred more I couldn't remember from my botany days at the Y.  We were going to take a couple of row boats out to an island between the falls, but the place where you rent them was just closing.  That could have been quite an adventure with the two of us managing a couple of boats and 9 kids.  Perhaps it was a tender mercy that we arrived too late to "merrily" row our boats to the other shore.  Our husbands are nothing but grateful about the timing.



And as if all this wasn't enough, the next day was even more spectacular (day 51 of our summer).  We drove up to Whitefish Point and saw the lighthouse, the Great Lake Shipwreck Museum, and a movie about the Edmund Fitzgerald which sunk just off the coast. 


We got lunch and spent the rest of the day out on the beach at Whitefish Point, the kids flying kites, gathering rocks, walking the beach, playing in the sand.  We headed for home about 6, but got sidetracked when we reached St. Ignace and decided to go play in Lake Michigan at one of our favorite beaches not far from there before heading home.

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I wrote David an email afterwards and told him, if he were with me, I would lay in bed and whisper to him about my day, my perfect and beautiful day, my little-bit-of-heaven day.  It was just that.  Day 51 was, indeed, a very good day.

Word of the Week: Effulgently

Editor's note:  I intended all last week to do a proper Mackinac post, with more pictures and lots of details, but here I am doing another word-of-the-week post with only a little SPT and holiday good wishes separating this "wow" and last week's.    A bit of vacation lag, I suppose, but I have more good intentions for this coming week.  (Ugh...I started this post two days ago and am watching all my good intentions die a slow, sad little death.)

effulgently  /adv./  shining forth brilliantly.  radiantly.  giving off light readily or in large amounts.  brightly.  luminously.  resplendently.

effulgently  /adv./  1.  We spent the week at David's parents' house, enjoying their little town and all of its charms.  David was born and raised here, but he never talked very effulgently about it, though I find it nothing but delightful.  I went to yoga at a little studio downtown on Tuesday afternoon and took a much-needed class.  On Thursday evening, we went to a concert by the Tridge (which is a 3-sided bridge) and then walked around Main Street window shopping and had pizza and the best ice cream I think I've ever had at Pizza Sam's.  We went back for more ice cream on Friday night and closed the place down.


effulgently  /adv./  2.  David and I went to dinner with our very good friends, Gary and Sara, on Wednesday night.  David and Gary grew up together and have been friends their entire lives.    Sara moved in during high school, and I happened along last and just feel lucky to know any of them.  It doesn't matter how long it's been since we've gotten together, it is instant joy to be reunited.  When we're with them, I laugh until the endorphins are just charging through me, and I feel crazy in love with all of them.  It really makes me just incredibly happy, and I left dinner smiling effulgently and wishing it wasn't so late so that we could talk for a few hundred more hours.


I snapped this picture on Sunday afternoon after the baptism of Sara and Gary's second son.  They blessed their fifth baby in Sacrament meeting this same Sunday.  We felt so lucky to share in all their joy.

effulgently  /adv./  3.  On Thursday we went to the Chippewa Nature Center and saw a whole lot of nature.  I kept throwing my arms out and saying, "Look at all this nature!"  To which David only indulgently smiled.  It really is quite astounding though.  The kids wanted to find frogs and armed with buckets and a fishing net they headed through the tall grass near the ponds.  Luckily, they didn't end up covered in poison ivy and actually found two very tiny frogs.  The girls effulgently carried them around in their red, plastic buckets, naming and mothering them, and sniffing a bit when it was time to let them go.  (We found out later that you have to step in the muck and wade through the nature to find the big frogs, but the girls were happy enough with their tiny ones.)  We saw cardinals and blue jays and other birds I've only read about or watched play baseball.  It was just incredible to see them in real life. 

On our way out we stopped by the Chippewa River and I told the kids to take off their shoes and wade in the river.  They said, "What's wading?"  Okay, there are some serious gaps in their childhoods here.  So I demonstrated and Caleb and I waded out to the middle of the river, just for fun.  The girls waded out and found some freshwater mussel shells and Olivia reverently declared them, "The most beautiful thing I've ever seen" and proceeded to fill her bucket to the brim.



effulgently  /adv./  4.  Our plans for the 4th of July  changed a bit mid-day, and we ended up staying in town for the fireworks.  We had a spectacular show on the grass near the Tridge and didn't even get eaten by mosquitoes as the city sprays the park really good in the days leading up to the show.  My favorite part of every show is watching my children's faces light up effulgently as the "bombs burst in air." 


(Incidentally, we had sparklers a few nights later as it was after midnight when we got home from the "big fireworks."  Of course Ethan burned his hand on the sparklers and cried anytime his hand was out of cold water the rest of the night.  My just desserts for bad-mouthing the Arizona legislature, I presume.)

effulgently  /adv./  5. We made it out to Wixom Lake on Saturday and had a great time tubing and jet-skiing...there was no waterskiing as the lake was busy and choppy, but my back was grateful for the reprieve.  Savannah was completely terrified of tubing, as last year she had a bad experience on the lake and wasn't about to forget it.  (One of the things my girls do best is remember their sufferings and/or tragedies.)  After a bit of prodding, I talked her into going with me on a "nice, slow ride" on an "easy tube," and she reluctantly got on with me and placed a white-knuckle grip on the tube.  We had a bit of trouble at first because she wanted to go so slowly that the tube couldn't plane on top of the water and we kept going under which completely terrified her.  But eventually we found a speed she could handle and she grinned effulgently at me and said, equally surprised and chagrined, "I like tubing.  I didn't know that." 


This was a "before" shot...Savannah is still uncertain about the decision to trust me.

effulgently  /adv./  6.  This week we also got to see David's brother, Jon, and his sister, Cyndi, and their families.  We spent most of the 4th together and then went to the lake with Cyndi and Jason (her husband) on Saturday.  My kids loved playing and swimming with their cousins, and I love that they get to spend these rare moments enjoying each other.  On Sunday we went to church with Cyndi and Jason and their kids, and Caleb sat with them in the row ahead of us next to his cousin, Tyler.  I had to swallow hard against the rising lump in my throat as I listened to these two, sitting side-by side, effugently and loudly singing out the words of the hymns, especially as they belted out, "the veil o'er the earth is beginning to burst."


Ethan and Caleb on the lawn with their two "Michigan" boy cousins.

effulgently  /adv./  7.  My in-laws are so good to let us come and invade their sanctuary for four weeks (can you believe this kind of hospitality?!), and are so generous to the kids with their time and hugs and care.  David's mom has MS and so she is down in bed a bit, but the kids just love to climb on her bed and get their one-on-one chat time.  The kids guard these moments jealously and sneak up to see her whenever they can.  Both of David's parents have such of gift of really listening and the kids just soak it up.  They emerge from these impromtu sessions beaming effulgently and busting with pride and self-esteem.  Bless them.